July 13, 2016

68th Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions: Final Predictions

1. Game of Thrones
2. House of Cards
3. Downton Abbey
4. Homeland
5. Better Call Saul
6. Mr. Robot
7. The Americans

1. Veep
2. Transparent
3. Master of None
4. Silicon Valley
5. Modern Family
6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
7. The Last Man on Earth

1. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2. Fargo
3. American Crime
4. Roots
5. Show Me a Hero

1. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
2. Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
3. Jimmy Kimmel Live
4. Late Show With Stephen Colbert
5. Late Late Show With James Corden
6. Real Time With Bill Maher

1. Saturday Night Live
2. Inside Amy Schumer
3. Key and Peele
4. Portlandia
5. W/ Bob & David

1. The Amazing Race
2. The Voice
3. Top Chef
4. Project Runway
5. So You Think You Can Dance
6. Dancing With the Stars

1. Aziz Ansari, Master of None
2. Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
3. Don Cheadle, House of Lies
4. William H. Macy, Shameless
5. Anthony Anderson, black-ish
6. Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley

1. Bobby Cannavale, Vinyl
2. Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
3. Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
4. Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
5. Matthew Rhys, The Americans
6. Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

1. Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2. Bryan Cranston, All the Way
3. Idris Elba, Luther
4. Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
5. Bill Murray, A Cery Murray Christmas
6. Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
2. Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
3. Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4. Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
5. Ilana Glazer, Broad City
6. Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat

1. Robin Wright, House of Cards
2. Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
3. Claire Danes, Homeland
4. Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
5. Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
6. Keri Russell, The Americans

1. Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2. Kerry Washington, Confirmation
3. Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
4. Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
5. Felicity Huffman, American Crime
6. Rachel McAdams, True Detective

1. Tony Hale, Veep
2. Adam Driver, Girls
3. T.J. Miller, Silicon Valley
4. Ty Burrell, Modern Family
5. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
6. Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

1. Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
2. Christian Slater, Mr. Robot
3. Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
4. Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
5. Mandy Patnkin, Homeland
6. Kit Harington, Game of Thrones

1. Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2. John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
3. Martin Freeman, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
4. Jesse Plemons, Fargo
5. David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
6. Greg Kinnear, Confirmation

1. Anna Chlumsky, Veep
2. Allison Janney, Mom
3. Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4. Julie Bowen, Modern Family
5. Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
6. Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

1. Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
2. Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
3. Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
4. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
5. Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
6. Maura Tierney, The Affair

1. Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel
2. Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel
3. Regina King, American Crime
4. Jean Smart, Fargo
5. Charlotte Rampling, London Spy
6. Olivia Colman, The Night Manager

1. Master of None
2. Transparent
3. Silicon Valley
4. Veep
5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

1. Vinyl
2. Game of Thrones
3. Game of Thrones
4. The Good Wife
5. House of Cards

1. All the Way
2. The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
3. The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
4. The Night Manager
5. The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
6. American Crime

1. Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo
2. Lemonade
3. The Kennedy Center Honors
4. Grease: Live
5. 58th Grammy Awards

1. Master of None
2. Veep
3. Silicon Valley
4. Transparent
5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

1. Downton Abbey
2. The Americans
3. Game of Thrones
4. The Good Wife
5. Mr. Robot

1. All the Way
2. American Crime
3. The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
4. Fargo
5. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
6. Luther

1. Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo
2. The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards
3. 69th Annual Tony Awards
4. The Kennedy Center Honors
5. The Oscars

July 11, 2016

Of Money Monster and Other May Releases

            It’s been a while since my last post here so unfortunately this will just be a quick post on the few new films I was able to see during the month of May.  The best of the new releases I was able to see during May was definitely Money Monster.  Money Monster is the George Clooney-Julia Roberts film about the corruption taking place in Wall Street.  This film has received some criticism for just retreading on things that were already widely known, but in reality this is an exciting and interesting piece of entertainment.  While a lot of the advertising has focused on Jack O’Connell’s average joe turned to extreme measures in order to bring attention to his financial woes (and rightfully so as his character is one of the main ones), this does draw away from the interesting portrayal of present day media.  This is definitely much more of a cautionary tale on what the media does to American society rather than a cautionary tale on what Wall Street does to American society, and the film is definitely better for that.  It allows the film to go in much more expansive directions and allows the film to have a sense of wit that will remind you of The Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove at times.  While the main trio of Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell are serviceable in their roles, it’s the supporting cast that makes this one of the more memorable ensembles of the year.  Caitriona Balfe and Dominic West do a lot with little to work with, and Emily Meade is quite memorable in her one scene.  The way that Jodie Foster is also able to balance the intricate mood swings of this satire also reveals that she has a lot of potential as a director.  Between this and The Beaver she has two good films that are really difficult to place into one genre.

            My most anticipated film for the month of May was Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.  The original film starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne is still one of the most memorable comedies of the last five years, so it would be a tough task to live up to that film.  As such, Neighbors 2 has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment.  It still has a great use of biting social commentary while still finding room for laughs, but it is just missing the heart of the original.  The adventures of Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) just seem a slight bit repetitive this go around, and the film is just missing an antagonist on the level of Teddy (Efron).  In fact, the best parts about this film generally revolve around whenever Efron is onscreen, and his ongoing problems are much more interesting than the ones the new villains, a sorority led by a stoner played by Chloe Grace Moretz, encounter.  Moretz and the new characters give admirable performances, but the creative crew just isn’t able to conjure up any skits as memorable as the ones from the first film.  Once again, though, this film deserves your attention for the commentary on present day society that it brings a long without it ever seeming intrusive on the plot or comedy of the film.

            The final new release I was able to see during the month of May was the latest edition in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.  Apocalypse picks up with the God-like mutant, Apocalypse (who is just a more powerful version of Magneto as they both share the same world views), planning to take over the world.  It’s a silly plot that’s just as silly as the appearance of Apocalypse.  In fact, Apocalypse as a character is just a complete waste of time.  Fortunately, the rest of the film is the most comic book-y a film has ever felt onscreen before.  As someone who really only ever got into comic books briefly with the Uncanny Wolverine series, I found the appearance of the fan favorite character to be truly memorable.  Meanwhile, the film seems to correct the storylines of many characters that it failed in previous films.  This is never more the case than with Jean Grey, who gets one of the better plot lines in the film.  Additionally, it was great to see Quicksilver (this version still played by Evan Peters) become an actual character rather than a one scene gag while still retaining the innovative visual style of the character that made him something to remember in the first place.  It also seems like this film establishes Magneto as a main character of the X-Men series on the same level (if not an even higher one) as Wolverine.  Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the character is just as memorable as Ian McKellen’s iteration of the character.  Fassbender just makes everything about this intricate performance look easy at this point.  While this film ultimately feels like a minor addition in the franchise thanks to its unmemorable plot and silly additions, the film does more than enough right to overcome its shortcomings.

Money Monster=8/10
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising=7.5/10
X-Men: Apocalypse=7.5/10

June 4, 2016

Of Everybody Wants Some!! and Other Spring Releases

            While the blockbuster slate for this past spring was somewhat subpar, the independent film slate was anything but.  With intriguing concepts and some genuinely great films the spring 2016 season was certainly one to remember for independent films.  The first film I was able to watch this spring was Eye in the Sky.  The film features an all-star cast and crew, and it’s pretty much everyone involved working at the top of their game.  The concept of the film, a drone strike operation from the perspectives of everyone involved, isn’t exactly innovative but it’s the sort of simple concept that would allow the work of every individual within the film to really flourish.  Gavin Hood (after a brief and failed stint in blockbuster filmmaking) brings the intensity and his team of editors makes sure every element of the story gets its chance in the spotlight.  However, it’s the strong acting that really makes this film work.  Helen Mirren gets top billing as the closest thing to a villain in this film.  As an extremely militaristic colonel that will do anything to get her way, Mirren delivers a fiery performance that feels unlike anything she has done before.  The supporting cast also sees some strong performances from Aaron Paul, the late Alan Rickman and Monica Dolan (who more than holds her own against Rickman).

            Earlier this spring I was also able to see Jeff Nichols’ latest film Midnight Special.  Jeff Nichols has quietly become one of America’s stronger directors and 2016 is a huge opportunity for him to have a breakout year (with both this and Loving, which just debuted at the Cannes Film Festival).  Midnight Special is unfortunately the weakest of the three Nichols films I have seen (the others being Take Shelter and Mud).  A lot of the film deals with supernatural occurrences that happen around a young boy, and the plot is just constantly referred to by the characters through pronouns.  As such the mystery just becomes annoying rather than intriguing.  However, once the big reveal happens it does raise some interesting questions about who we are as humans and what are place is in the world.  Like Take Shelter, the ending that Nichols delivers is ambiguous in all the right ways.  Once again Nichols also gets a knockout performance from Michael Shannon who has quickly become his muse.  Nichols just has a way of tapping into Shannon’s lovable nature and the ferocity that always seems to be hiding just behind his face, and here this combination delivers a performance that matches the rest of the film for both the better and the worse.  Midnight Special is definitely an infuriating film but the ending is good enough to make what becomes before it worth it.

            The third indie film of the spring that I saw was easily the most distinct of the set.  Hardcore Henry is definitely one of the most unique cinematic experiences that has come to a theater in recent memory.  Love or hate the plot (which tends to be a little weak but is for the most part a genuine and solid adaptation of a video game plot), the concept of the entire film being shot in the first person is something that hasn’t really happened before (sure a lot of Enter the Void is shot in the first person but that film will never get the audience that this film can).  Director Ilya Naishuller and his team of cinematographers make the most of the concept and deliver a visually stunning film that features numerous memorable action sequences.  As mentioned above, I can definitely see many people believing that the barebones plot fails this film, but to me it makes it feel more like a video game (once again the mixing of formats may make some uncomfortable).  The only real problem I have with this film is that Naishuller really struggles to direct his actors.  Everyone is just overacting and that’s really annoying when Danila Kozlovsky is onscreen as the villain or Tim Roth shows up for an odd cameo.  However, Naishuller’s freestyle relationship with his actors does allow serial overactor Sharlto Copley to really go for it.  And he REALLY goes for it as Copley delivers a bonkers performance that is hard to forget.

            The final indie film I was able to see this spring was by far the best of the bunch.  Everybody Wants Some!! certainly seems like a much more minor film than Richard Linklater’s last two films, but it is just as good.  Linklater’s take on college during the 80s is another amazing coming of age tale from the acclaimed director and screenwriter.  Linklater is able to capture a fun style throughout the film, and the film’s emphasis on the style in the first half of the film may make this film seem minor.  However, there is some great philosophical dialogue (the type of stuff that Linklater is a master at) in the later half of the film that really makes this film great.  It also helps that Linklater once again shows there is no director better than him at making you feel like you were dropped into a real life world filled with real people.  Linklater is just able to capture realness in a way that hasn’t been done on film before.  While Linklater’s ability to get good performances out of unknowns wasn’t really noteworthy in Boyhood (Ellar Coltrane would have really struggled in that film if he wasn’t able to play off of Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke), it is here as Blake Jenner is able to make the most out of an audience cipher role (the type of role that rarely generates a good performance) and Zoey Deutch is quite charming as the main love interest.  With Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater has quietly delivered the best string of films by a director since Christopher Nolan’s 1-2-3-4 of Batman Begins-The Prestige-The Dark Knight-Inception.

Eye in the Sky = 8/10
Midnight Special = 7/10
Hardcore Henry = 8/10
Everybody Wants Some = 9.5/10

May 27, 2016

Top 10 TV Programs of All-Time

            Considering I don’t have as much time to update this blog as I’ve used to I will unlikely be able to do much television coverage anymore.  Before I completely stop my coverage of television altogether though, I would like to post my top 10 shows of all-time list.  My list only includes shows that have aired in their entirety (although there are two entries in which that is debatable thanks to recently announced continuations) so while shows such as Game of Thrones, The Leftovers and Better Call Saul would certainly be in contention for a list such as this they will not appear on it.  So without further ado here is my top ten list:

10. Damages (2007-2012)

            Nonlinear storytelling is an amazing narrative device when used correctly, and the KZK trio (Daniel Zelman, Glenn Kessler and Todd A. Kessler) are masters of it.  While their new series Bloodline is currently airing on Netflix, their best show to date is Damages.  While the mysteries behind the nonlinear storytelling didn’t always work, the show always found the way to get the most out of Glenn Close as ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne as her protégé, Ellen Parsons.  The show also makes my list for having a late run renaissance, in which it switched networks from FX to DIRECTTV.  The show’s fourth season features its most compelling mystery since the first and features standout performances from John Goodman, Dylan Baker and Chris Messina.  Also, like most shows on this list, Damages manages to come to an ending that is not only memorable but fits the show well.

9. 24 (2001-2010; 2014)

            There is no show as inconsistent on this list as 24, however, 24 always had the ability to reach highs that 99% of television could only dream of.  Many parts of season one, season two, the first half of season six, the first half of season seven, the first half of 24: Live Another Day and the entirety of season five are a case of a show taking a unique concept and making magic out of it.  Kiefer Sutherland gives an all-time great performance as an all-time great character, and the show itself has some of the best production values you have ever seen on television.

8. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)

            Boardwalk Empire was born as HBO’s flashy new toy for its next golden generation.  While critically acclaimed, the show suffered early on from being overstuffed.  That’s not to say it wasn’t a good show, it had a talented ensemble (whether it was Kelly Macdonald’s mature performance as a single mother or Stephen Graham’s mesmerizing portrayal of Al Capone) and the production values were unlike anything television had seen at the time it had debuted.  Yet an odd thing happened to Boardwalk Empire as it aged.  Critics and fans began to turn their attention to Game of Thrones, and the pressure of being HBO’s flagship completely left the show.  Later seasons featured a much more confident show that still had everything you loved about it in the first place.

7. Walking With… (1999-2005)

            This expansive BBC produced series contains Walking With Dinosaurs, Walking With Beasts, Walking With Monsters and numerous specials (BBC’s Walking with Cavemen is also sometimes included within in this series, but while the format is similar, the filmmaking style makes it certain it was made by different filmmakers).  While the science and much of the other information contained within these programs are outdated, the programs still survive as some of the most entertaining nonfiction programs ever created.  With a unique format of filming the show as if we could just go back in time and record a nature documentary about dinosaurs just as we do know with gorillas, elephants and all other currently existing animals, it was hard not to be entertained.  Additionally, it was nice to see that most of the stuff produced within these programs was able to maintain its quality even after it used up most of the dinosaur related content in the first program, Walking With Dinosaurs.

6. The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009)

            Ken Burns is an all-time great filmmaker, and his shows are some of the best television has to offer.  So at least one of them had to make my list.  I choose The National Parks: America’s Best Idea because it’s the one I end up re-watching the most.  It’s astounding how much information Burns and co-writer Dayton Duncan are able to pack in for what is seemingly such a limited subject.  It was also interesting to se such a subtle but strong political message be built throughout the entire series.  The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is also Burns’ most visually stunning show to date too.

5. Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)

            Television has oddly become a popular format for space operas, and none of them is better than Ronald D. Moore’s reimaging of Battlestar Galactica.  The gritty space opera came at a time when television could actually handle the effects work that would really make a show like this look good.  While the visuals were great, it was the intricate plotting and a strong cast (Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnall and James Callis leading the way) that made this show one to remember.

4. Extras (2005-2007)

            Not many people had as big of a decade as Ricky Gervais did in the aughts.  Most of Gervais’ recent output (whether it was his Netflix series Derek or his Golden Globe hosting stints) has been enjoyable but unmemorable.  However, in 2005 Gervais delivered one of his television masterpieces: Extras.  I have rarely laughed as much at a show as I have with Extras, and its commentary on show business is still sadly just as relevant today (if not more so) than it was when it was first released.

3. The Office (2001-2004)

            In 2001 Ricky Gervais released his first masterpiece and the one that spawned numerous remakes including the more famous American version starring Steve Carell.  Never has a show been as hard to watch as The Office and that is for all of the right and hilarious reasons as we watch David Brent go from one awkward situation to the next.  Ricky Gervais also shows in later episodes that he is just as good of an actor as he is a writer.

2. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

I have fortunately been able to write a lot about this show on this blog already.  Suffice to say, if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet you are in for a treat when you do.

1. Lost (2004-2010)

Once again I have already wrote as much as I can about Lost on this blog (for my in depth review of the show look here).  It’s the show that got me invested into television as a medium, and my life is legitimately way better off because I watched it.