How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Series Finale

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March 31, 2014 12.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the HIMYM finale, and many were left disappointed. To be honest, I was one of them.

As the credits rolled out, several questions ran through my head, ‘Why did they kill off The Mother?’, ‘Why did they spend the entire season building up to Barney and Robin’s wedding and then made them get divorced?’, ‘How come Ted got together with Robin again? and ‘Wait, what about the pineapple?’ I felt what many people felt: I felt I was cheated on.  I was totally pissed.

I also have to confess: I could not help crying. Crying over a sitcom, really? Not many movies or books can make you cry, not to say alone a TV show. But it was a sign of something done right.

The next day I was still thinking about it, and the day afterwards (and yes…

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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized



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Transparent is the biggest surprise of the fall TV season. It’s not on any major networks or any cable channels, but rather this 10 episode dramedy comes to us courtesy of Amazon, with all episodes available steaming to Prime members. This is their House of Cards; this is their Breaking Bad. Transparent will put Amazon streaming on the map.

It’s a good thing that the show is just so damn good, and stars Jeffrey Tambor in the role of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Tambor stars as Mort Pfefferman, who comes out as transgender to the rest of his family. The show revolves around Mort’s transformation into Maura, and how it affects himself and his family. But the show doesn’t completely revolve around Maura. We are also introduced to his gang of misfit children, 30-somethings living in Los Angeles who all have secrets of their own.

There’s Ali (Gaby Hoffman), the youngest who hasn’t quite got her life figured out. Middle son Josh (Jay Duplass) is a douche wunderkind who has his own record label and sleeps with anything that moves. Then there’s the oldest Sarah (Amy Landecker), whose relationship with her husband Len comes under fire after an old lesbian flame resurfaces. All three kids are so well-written and rounded characters that you feel like you know them simply after the first episode ends.

Transparent isn’t exactly familiar territory, but it’s not unfamiliar either. The excellent writing keeps you hooked and it has just as many affecting moments as it does “oh shit” moments. You become invested in this family’s life, and all of their baggage comes with it. It doesn’t help that it’s insanely binge-worthy, even more so than Orange is the New Black. 

Writer and creator Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under) knows how to get the best out of these performers. None are better than the other, but the acting in Transparent is so pitch-perfect at times that it’s like watching your real life play out on screen. Tambor is passionately sympathetic as Maura, and as he comes out to each of his children individually, it’s a wonder to watch their relationships unfold. Maura Pfefferman is about as a career-defining role as they come, and it’s about time Tambor got his due. Hoffman is also a joy to watch on screen. Known from her roles on Girls and Obvious Child, Hoffman finally gets to stretch her legs in a versatile role that feels tailor made for her. Duplass and Landecker are also fantastic as the two oldest, and it’s amazing how a small show like this can get such a great cast. Supporting roles from Kathryn Hahn, Carrie Brownstein, and an almost unrecognizable Melora Hardin also stand out, which is a testament to the brilliant casting and writing for such secondary characters.

As the show jumps between past and present quite delicately, we come to learn more about the Pfeffermans and how they came to be where they are today. Transparent is such an affecting and adult drama for sophisticated viewers that at times is hard to watch. With beautiful cinematography and a perfect theme song, Transparent is the dramedy that mature viewers have been waiting for. It deals with such relevant issues today, and shines light on the transgender movement that couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. While shows like Orange is the New Black have paved the way for well-written transgender characters, Transparent takes it to a whole new level.

Without feeling too quirky or indie, Transparent beautifully straddles the line between comedy and drama. There are so many shows nowadays that could fall equally under both categories, but Transparent stands out because of its sophistication and outstanding writing. I can’t stress how important a show like this is, both to the LGBT community and for Amazon in the new era of television. I can only hope for a just-as-excellent season two, as Transparent is a victory on so many levels.

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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in TV Reviews


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How to Get Away with Murder


How to Get Away with Murder is cut from the same cloth that makes other Shonda Rhimes-produced shows so damn good. A well-written main character is balanced out with some excellent supporting roles, and the intense plotline, albeit unrealistic, is so entertaining that you won’t want to look away.

Headed by the very excellent Viola Davis, Murder portrays the law class of Davis’s Professor Annalise Keating, who challenges her students to solve cases for her law firm’s clients. Yeah, it’s an unrealistic premise, but believability has never been at the forefront of Rhimes’s creations. Right from the get-go, you’re hooked into Murder’s addicting pilot episode, as four of her law students are shown in flashbacks disposing of a body. Besides that, we see Wesley Gibbons’s (Alfred Enoch) first day in Keating’s class and his adjustment to this crazy school.

Murder would be nothing without Davis, and she is simply outstanding. Cunning and impossible to read, with an intense demeanor and an intriguing personal life, Annalise Keating is one of the most promising new characters of the fall season. The students themselves, hand-selected by Keating to work in her firm, are all interesting in their own rights, with Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) stealing the spotlight this episode. I’m sure down the road we’ll learn more about what makes these students tick.

Easily the most exciting and auspicious show of the fall season, How to Get Away with Murder is the perfect cap on a night full of Shonda Rhimes greatness. More riveting than Grey’s, and better written than Scandal, Murder is an outstanding ride, thanks to Davis and the supporting cast, but also because of its unmistakable confidence in itself, something we need a lot more of in new television pilots.

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in TV Reviews


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The-Gotham-TV-show-7The Gotham premiere is a good enough start for a series that should be interesting to watch unfold. Focusing on Detective James Gordon, in the pre-Batman age, Gotham grips the viewer with stunning cinematography and mostly interesting characters.

Gotham revolves around Detectives Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) in the GCPD. After the murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne, the detective duo investigate their killing and uncover conspiracy and corruption in the city of Gotham. Right now, it’s hard to be invested in Gordon’s life. He’s the plain, straight cop with little expression and benign ignorance to the world of the GCPD. McKenzie performs well enough as Gordon, but it’s Logue who shines as Harvey Bullock, in a role that I’m interested in seeing develop as the show progresses. He’s more experienced, and he seems to understand the city of Gotham at a level that Gordon does not. Most of the episode’s humor comes from him, and while the writing goes from cornball to extremely serious at times, Bullock gets the best of these lines.

As the pair go from lead to lead investigating the murders, they come across an array of “villains” that Batman fans will recognize. Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin is the most interesting of the bunch, and while these villains might spread thin, they’ve nailed the casting so far. Of course everyone is awaiting the eventual Joker reveal, and until then, Cobblepot fits the bill. A new character Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), created especially for the show, is another surprise. Smith hasn’t really impressed in the past, but seeing her as a Batman villain is genuinely terrifying, and she seems like one of the show’s secret weapons. Of course, Bruce Wayne himself makes an appearance, and I hope this is the last or one of the few times we see him in the show. The show is about Detective Gordon after all, and while throwing Batman in the mix seems tempting, I’d rather the show focus on Gordon and Bullock than the caped crusader himself (played by a boring and stoic David Mazouz).

So where does Gotham go from here? While I’m not exactly “hooked,” the action scenes are playful and tense, and the cinematography seems inspired by Christopher Nolan’s take. The show seems to be hinting at something greater at play here, and I commend it for doing that so early in the season. Sure, sometimes it plays like a weak police procedural, and some of the characters are uninspired (why again is Catwoman important?), Gotham is the highlight of Monday nights, as I’ll be tuning in the next few weeks to see where the engaging plot takes me.

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in TV Reviews


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Madam Secretary



Right now, Madam Secretary is the perfect lead-in to The Good Wife, in what stands as a great two-hour block of political drama on CBS. Starring Tea Leoni in her first role in three years, Madam Secretary’s premiere episode is a solid star-vehicle for an actress in need of one.

Obviously somewhat inspired by Hilary Clinton’s tenure, Madam Secretary features Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, a perfectly bland name for the Secretary of State. In the premiere episode, she is asked to take on the role of Secretary of State after the current’s plane goes missing. McCord was a university professor and things are shaken up as her family moves to D.C. to take up her new job. Her husband, Henry (Tim Daly), plays a Georgetown religion professor in a role that should offer some interesting cross-sections with Elizabeth’s job. Her children provided some humor amidst the mostly serious tone of the first episode, with her son Jason providing some laughs as a grade school anarchist.

McCord’s cabinet has yet to provide interesting, fleshed out characters, but given some time we could be looking at a great workplace staff. Chief of Staff Nadine offers little but walk-and-talk segments through the office, and McCord’s “stylist” gave some cornball workplace laughs, something we’ve seen plenty of from shows like Veep. Typical “out-of-touch” in the workplace jokes are thrown in, with McCord’s ineptness with social media being represented by her young press secretary Daisy (Patina Miller).

Still, Madam Secretary‘s pilot episode had a bit too much going on. Granted, it is a pilot episode, but a few too many things were thrown in to the episode that offered little impact. The pilot revolved around 1) Elizabeth settling in as Secretary of State, 2) Balancing things at home as well as at the office, 3) Investigating into the disappearance of her predecessor, and 4) Helping to rescue two teenage blogger activists captured in Syria. It felt a bit like Scandal meets Homeland meets The Good Wife and not everything came together very neatly. Her conflict with the White House Chief of Staff (Zeljko Ivanek) Johnson gave some tension to the episode in what should be an interesting rivalry to watch unfold. At this point, I’d say give Madam Secretary a try. You’ll be charmed by Leoni’s performance, and while the pilot episode may be a bit too crowded, I’m still looking forward to tuning in on Sunday nights.

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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in TV Reviews


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This is Where I Leave You



A cast full of great names doesn’t necessarily equate to a great movie. Based on Jonathan Tropper’s best selling novel of the same name, This is Where I Leave You boasts an impressive cast, but the compliments stop around there. TIWILY is an easily digestible family dramedy, with quick dialogue and a predictable format, that never quite turns into something great.

Judd Foxman, recently divorced, has just returned to his childhood home after the death of his father. He reunites with the rest of his siblings, as their mother forces them to sit shiva for seven days in honor of their father. Yes, the plot is about as Zach Braff-y as they come, but we’re more concerned with the characters here.

Jason Bateman plays Judd, the “straight man” of the family, with his typical cynical tone. His character isn’t as developed as the Judd in the book, but on the whole he captures Judd’s “Jim Halpert”-ness with great accuracy. His sister, Wendy, is played by Tina Fey, who unfortunately seems cashing it in this time. A great comedic actress, her character is relegated to quick wips and curse words who never really develops into anything more. I could list each cast member and explain where things went wrong, but instead I’m going to praise the only role they got right: Adam Driver as youngest brother Phillip, the dark horse. I’m a big fan of Driver’s work on “Girls,” and here he’s the only cast member with legitimate chemistry with anyone else. His delivery is perfect, and Driver is shaping up to be a great comedic actor, in addition to his more dramatic work.

TIWILY falls into generic sitcom territory, and while that couldn’t be a bad thing, the script on the whole is fairly weak. With some mostly witty banter, the dialogue obviously isn’t trying to sound real at all, something that Tropper should have focused on in making the transition from page to screen. Besides dialogue, the film seems so meticulously laid-out, with no thought to taking any twists or turns. Every comedic scene is balanced out by a sad emotional one, with a score from Michael Giacchino that seems weirdly out of place. Ironically, the movie is so perfectly plotted and predictable, unlike how Judd wants his life to be. Had the screenwriters spent more time crafting a less generic script, we might have been looking at something good here.

It’s unfortunate that, despite big names, TIWILY comes up short. It’s still quite funny, with biting dialogue and some quick work from Driver and Fonda, but this mostly forgettable adaptation (of a brilliant novel, I might add) ends up in the growing pile of book-to-film translations that shouldn’t be identical copies of each other.

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Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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The Skeleton Twins


A pair of SNL alums team up for this great dramedy that took me by surprise. The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as siblings who reunite after 10 years after they both attempt suicide. Twins is an above-average, late summer sleeper, but it never has the confidence to tread over any new ground. However that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this affecting and beautiful drama.

We all know by now that Kristen Wiig can act. With her great roles in films like Bridesmaids and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Wiig has proven that she can balance both comedy and drama on a delicate scale. She knocks it out of the park once more in The Skeleton Twins. Her performance as sullen sister Maggie is excellent; she’s vulnerable, caught in a marriage that never lets her feel complete, as she sleeps around and contemplates motherhood.

But The Skeleton Twins’s real star is Hader. We know he has comedic chops from his SNL days (Stefon, anyone?), and those are certainly on full display in Twins, but he hasn’t really been known as a drama actor. That should change, though, as Hader gives his best performance as Milo, the gay brother whose past keeps catching up to him. He steals the show in a performance that I think warrants significant awards attention. His performance sneaks up on you and becomes one of the film’s greatest pleasures. Wiig and Hader are rounded out by a solid supporting cast that includes Ty Burrell as an old acquaintance of Milo’s, and Luke Wilson, who plays Maggie’s overbearing but lovable husband.

The Skeleton Twins would be nothing without a good script, and for the most part, writer Mark Heyman and director Craig Johnson deliver. The dramatic scenes are never overshadowed by the comedic tone, and the writing on the whole is on point. A visit from the siblings’ mother feels a bit out of place amid the self-reflection of the two characters, but besides that the film throws enough twists and turns to keep you indulged. The best scene belongs to Milo and Maggie’s perfect lip-sync to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which one can’t resist smiling during.

Unfortunately, Twins never feels confident enough to throw you for a loop. The estranged family dramedy genre has seen film after film in which the screenplay is never challenged by letting it go into unknown territory. Twins follows a similar format to almost every film in this sub-category, from Rachel Getting Married to August: Osage County, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it would’ve been nice to subvert the conventions that this genre possesses. Still, Twins is an uplifting and enjoyable film that is definitely one of the year’s best; it’s worth seeing for Hader and Wiig alone.

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Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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