The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2


And thus ends the Hunger Games franchise, not with a bang but with a somber, reflective finale. The young adult series has managed to be more than above average among its peers, and Part 2 of Mockingjay is no different. Apart from a few missteps, Part 2 is a fitting send off, with some of the series’s best action sequences with characters we’ve come to know over three great films.

I was one of those who cried wolf when Mockingjay was to be split into two parts, and perhaps I can still see a case for it, but this would work much better as a three-hour film including bits of Part 1. Regardless though, we pick up right where we left off, with virtually no room to breathe. The rebels of District 13 and their mockingjay, Katniss Everdeen, are planning to storm the Capitol and overthrow President Snow. Complicating things is Peeta, under the influence of the Capitol after his torture in the previous film.

I’ve always admired the Hunger Games franchise’s ability to show the not-so-glamorous effects of war. The series always manages to remain topical, and Part 2 of Mockingjay explores the most relevant stuff to date. Gone are the Hunger Games, a deathmatch between tributes of all 12 districts, only mentioned in passing in this film, but their everlasting effects resonate all over Panem. Here is a nation that has had enough of tyranny, and its citizens are willing to go to desperate measures to end it.

In its depiction of the war-torn Capitol, Part 2 feels like a completely different film from the others. Katniss and her squad attempt to invade the Capitol, but are thwarted right and left by “pods,” little traps set by the Gamemakers (in a little mini-Hunger Games). These scenes give us most of the action, and boy is it good. One trap sets off a pool of black sludge that obliterates everything in its path, leading to some exciting sequences. Director Francis Lawrence has gotten confident in directing his team of young actors, and he can trust them to deliver in these scenes.

Unfortunately, Part 2‘s finale leaves a bit to be desired. After the consistent first half, ending in a brilliant wade through the sewers of the Capitol where our heroes are attacked by mutts (the clear highlight), the film sort of fizzles out. It’s here where most of the faults of the novel Mockingjay are really felt, as the film doesn’t have the impact that it should. There are many deaths throughout the film, many of them our favorite characters, but the film doesn’t seem interested in exploring the impact that these deaths have on our characters. I get that there isn’t much time to grieve, war isn’t pretty, etc. But this blasé attitude leads to a finale that just burns out. It all culminates in one of the most predictable final scenes I’ve ever seen. In reading the books, what Katniss does is unexpected, yet in the film it’s all too obvious. Leading dialogue and poor writing end up making what should be a shocking scene into one you’re just begging to be over.

None of this is the fault of the actors, though, who continue to flesh out these characters and make them well-rounded. Principally is Jennifer Lawrence, who has grown just like her protagonist. She goes from timid District 12 worker to defiant tribute to rebellious victor, and the transformation shows in Lawrence’s performance. She doesn’t exactly have “that scene” this time around, but Katniss has been beaten down by war, and Lawrence’s face shows that. Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson flesh out Katniss’s love triangle, and they continue to give solid performances, with Gale providing as Katniss’s sounding board and Peeta her rock, but they’re hardly the most interesting of the bunch. But Part 2 belongs to Donald Sutherland through and through. He sinks his teeth into President Snow, making a villain you love to hate. He’s so vile, so malicious, and an outstanding scene in his greenhouse (beautiful by the way) reveals new shades of his character.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is an uneven film, but it’s a fitting finale. Despite a weak final thirty minutes and an epilogue mainly designed to be fan-service, Part 2 is a culmination of the themes explored over the last four films. They’ve become commentaries for society in very accessible and teen-friendly ways. Great performances have given us new stars who we’ll definitely be seeing more from, and the Hunger Games’s legacy will definitely be paying dividends for years to come.

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Posted by on November 23, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Steve Jobs


It’s not hard to see why Steve Jobs himself makes such an interesting subject. I don’t need to reiterate the impact he had on society, but our inherent curiosity in seeing how men like him function has resulted in works both good and bad that attempt to get a grip on the Apple legend. Danny Boyle’s is the latest to attempt to understand the man, and it’s a resounding win. Steve Jobs is more than a career best for everyone involved, t’s a creative epiphany, a rare film of both ambition and nuance. I hate using words like ‘masterpiece’ on this blog, but for Steve Jobs I’ll make an exception.

The film is based on the 2011 biography of the same name, published just shortly after Jobs’s death. That massive tome that everyone’s mother was reading is a difficult one to trim down, but Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have made it work. Creative and strategic cuts had to be made in order to present a cohesive film, one that preserves Jobs’s image but also functions as an entertaining movie.

The entire affair is presented like a three-act play, beginning in 1984 with the launch of the Apple Macintosh and ending in 1998 with the launch of the iMac. In between we see Jobs’s firing and rehiring from Apple, as well as his work on the NeXT Computer in 1988. On top of the failure of the Macintosh and the NeXT, Jobs also struggles with a paternity case, as he claims his former girlfriend Chrisann’s daughter Lisa is not his own.

This three-act structure is risky, and would not simply work in any other director’s hands. Danny Boyle’s direction elevates the production, making something that could come across as repetitive instead come across as novel. It’s nimble, quick on its feet, with signature Sorkin dialogue to boot.

Recurring characters appear in each of the three “vignettes,” including Jobs’s former coworker Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who perhaps has the best lines as he berates Jobs for failing to give their Apple II team any recognition. He jabs at Jobs continuously, asking him “what do you do?” with lines speaking of their rivalry but also mutual respect for each other. In a similar vein, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), CEO of Apple at the time, is featured in the best climactic scenes alongside Jobs. Daniels does incredible work, and the two bicker about if Jobs was actually fired, the truth of which we see in intermittent flashbacks. It’s all filmed with gusto, the score building and building until the tension can be felt, until it all comes crashing down like dominoes. The filmmaking is electric, my palms were sweating all throughout.

The heart and soul of the film however, belongs to Jobs’s daughter Lisa. She’s symbolic for everything Jobs believes in, acting as a literal representation of his success. When the paternity case is finally settled and he finally accepts that she is his daughter, it’s a turning point for both Jobs and the company. The film employs a similar device in Apple’s creations, with the three impactful moments in Jobs’s life obviously not chosen at random. Nothing is constant in Jobs’s life, except his marketing assistant Joanna, played by Kate Winslet in one of her best roles to date. More than just a behind-the-scenes girl, Joanna is Jobs’s confidant, probably the only person who understands him, and even then she struggles with his abrasive personality.

I haven’t yet touched on Fassbender’s performance, and that’s because it’s everything you’d expect it to be. He may not look the part like Ashton Kutcher did in 2013’s astronomically bad Jobs, but Fassbender delivers a performance so rigid, so rock solid, that you’ll feel tightened by his grip just like the supporting characters in his life did. When he gets mad, he gets mad, and he can deliver a burn unlike anybody else. Jobs is the same person with Joanna as he is with Lisa and Chrisann, he doesn’t make compromises. Fassbender matches Jobs’s personality to a T, nailing the reflective scenes but also the showy ones. It’s one of the best performances of the year.

I’ve seen comparisons of Steve Jobs with last year’s Oscar winner Birdman, and while I think those comparisons are completely just (both films are backstage dramas with kinetic filmmaking and troubled leads), I think the filmmaking here matches Jobs’s personality better than it did Riggan’s. Symbolism is all over in Steve Jobs, but it’s never overt, with unexpected lines of dialogue stemming from unexpected places. These unorthodox storytelling strategies allow the what-might-be-familiar story to overcome obstacles that so many other biopics struggle to surpass. Jobs’s legacy is fully in tact here, and we couldn’t have gotten a better film from a more talented team of artists – it’s a triumph.

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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Master of None Season 1


The weakest part of Master of None is probably its acting. Aziz Ansari is such a competent stand-up comedian that often he struggles to sell the emotional beats of the show, despite nailing the funny stuff. The same can be said for the good-but-not-great supporting cast. But Master of None isn’t the kind of show that demands an A-list cast of performers. It’s much more interested in being an authentic character piece, where characters are so thickly drawn that they feel like friends we’ve known for our entire lives.

This is a credit to creators Ansari and Alan Yang, who have managed to make a brilliant modern situational comedy that says so much about society as it does about young ambition. Dev (Ansari) is a 30-year old actor struggling to make it big in New York City, instead doing commercials all while trying to navigate his love life and figure out his future. This premise could work for essentially any sitcom, yet Master of None takes an unexpected route, experimenting with format, structure and character.

We see Dev make his way through various relationships and friendships throughout the show, and one of the biggest successes of Master of None is its modern take on companionship. People float in and out of Dev’s life, some only popping in for one or two episodes; just like in real life, you might have your main squad – Dev has Denise, Arnold and Brian – but you also have friends from work, your family, new people you meet, etc. – nothing is set in stone. That’s perhaps the moral of Master of None – nothing is set in stone, life is what you make of it.

Rarely have I seen a sitcom so ambitious yet so grounded. Master of None is a mix of high concept humor (one episode finds Dev hooking up with a married woman, played by Claire Danes) and social commentary, and the best part is it works. Ansari is so adept at understanding how millennials communicate, how they date, and how their lives are formed by the decisions they make, or more importantly, the ones they don’t. Ansari has clearly taken a page out of his own book Modern Romance, a brilliant study of modern relationships, and the show explores many angles to modern dilemmas. Dev thinks of how to text his new girlfriend, as well as how to look for tacos on Yelp. It’s a refreshing take on technology where instead of berating it, the show celebrates it. It’s almost Woody Allen-esque with its playful atmosphere dealing with not so playful topics.

The writing takes all of this to the next level, and Ansari and Yang offer some biting but most importantly funny satires about our culture. A brilliant episode “Indians on TV” looks at exactly that, and the result isn’t preachy or ostentatious, rather it’s reflective and thought-provoking, while never forgetting to make you laugh along the way. Another, “Ladies and Gentlemen” looks at male privilege in an approachable way, and the result is brilliant. When the show plays with format, with episodes like “Nashville” and “Mornings,” its production is cranked up a notch and makes each moment stand out.

The cast of characters here is beyond remarkable, and by the end of season one, it feels like such a tight-knit and well-developed group, similar to how tight Friends felt after season one. Dev is relatable but not whiny or self-aggrandizing. Instead of wallowing, he does something about his life. Then there are the brilliant friends that pop in and out, but they make quite an impact. Denise (Lena Waithe) is the standout, as she challenges Dev and the way he thinks, all while being a good friend. Arnold (Eric Wareheim) and Benjamin (H. Jon Benjamin) also support Dev, although sometimes they can come off as being too prophetic, as if they’re stand-ins for lines to spark Dev’s thinking that could have been said by anyone else. Rachel (Noel Wells), Dev’s girlfriend, is also great here, and the two have good chemistry, in the way cute young couples do. When they argue, it feels authentic and responsive.

There’s so much I could say still about Master of None. The choice to cast Ansari’s real-life parents as Dev’s pays off handsomely, as they deliver in the series’s funniest moments but also its most heartfelt. A few montages and breakups in structure are also much appreciated, as they break up the monotony but also allow for unique presentation, especially in the brilliant finale. Ultimately, Master of None is a gift. It’s the best modern relationship study, the best the best Netflix original, the best a lot of things. What Ansari and Yang have on their hands is something special, and the 10-episode series is one of the best I’ve seen all year.


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Posted by on November 15, 2015 in TV Reviews


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Brooklyn is a beauty. It’s as classical as they come, telling the story of a young Irish immigrant torn between two worlds, but it gets remarkably complex despite seeming like yet another romantic drama. Bolstered by beautiful production design and a perfect cast, Brooklyn is one of the year’s best.

The film is all about our cultural identity, and for Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), hers has been shaped primarily by Ireland. When a chance at a job in an upscale department store in New York arises, Ellis jumps at the opportunity, leaving behind her family and friends in search of something new in 1950s Brooklyn. She shacks up in a boarding house for girls headed by the ostentatious yet hospitable Miss Kehoe (Julie Walters, a standout), and must adjust to life in the United States. Meeting Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) sets the sparks flying for a romance, as she quickly falls for him, but Ellis soon finds herself immediately drawn back to Ireland after a series of events.

Ellis is a dreamer, and it shows. Actress Saoirse Ronan is no stranger to complex roles like these, and she brings the practicality yet wide-eyed enthusiasm to Ellis. Initially reserved, she quickly grows to love the city of New York, but Ireland always remains a part of her. She’s ambitious, with dreams of becoming a bookkeeper, yet not closed off to new experiences. Ronan (who holds dual citizenship in Ireland and the U.S.) has found her muse in Ellis, and this is a performance we’ll be hearing much about this winter, I’m sure of it.

This dichotomy of cultures gives Brooklyn its central conflict, and screenwriter Nick Hornby manifests this in Ellis’s two admirers, Tony, whom she marries before returning to Ireland, and Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), who pines for her affection back in her homeland. She doesn’t dislike Jim, but her admiration for the big city and her hatred for small town gossip piles on the pressure, and she finds herself at a crossroads. Her mother (Jane Brennan) isn’t helping either, as Ellis must hide her marriage to Tony from her old friends and family out of fear that they might think she has departed from her Irish identity.

Brooklyn is brilliant at getting at how where we come from shapes who we are, but it doesn’t trap us forever. The themes of immigration are explored in two excellent scenes with Ellis aboard the ferry to New York – just look at how much she’s changed from her first trip out of her country. Upon returning, she helps another young girl who reminds her of herself. The development here is outstanding, and the writers made great use of the run time. The film also surprisingly possesses a Woody Allen sense of playfulness, with the humorous beats and momentary lapses stemming primarily from cultural divisions. What seems like a straightforward romantic drama has quite a few jokes up its sleeve, and this is a refreshing pleasure.

Brooklyn goes the extra mile in making not only a well-written piece of escapism, as it’s easy on the eyes as well. Meticulous attention to detail is present in the costume and production design, and they all reflect how Ellis has changed in this impressionable period of young adulthood. The film makes great use of colour, especially in Ellis’s various outfits. Normally these aren’t things I notice in films because little thought has been given or they fail to stand out, but Brooklyn pulls out all stops to make you feel invested in the story with this added emphasis on production. Cinematography from Yves Belanger makes it clear that this is Ellis’s tale and Ellis’s alone, and the camera lingers on her for extended periods, highlight the most significant moments in Ellis’s life. The production is beautiful, drawing you in with the dreary claustrophobic streets of Ireland and contrasting with the open air of Brooklyn, and the score from Michael Brook hits all the right notes.

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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Downton Abbey Series 6


Although we may have stopped talking seriously about Downton Abbey ever since series three, maybe it’s time we rethink the acclaimed British series, which has had a renaissance of sorts in its sixth and final series. While we’ve still got one more episode to air in the form of a Christmas special, the crossover American success of the Crawley family drama represents how universal their stories are, and series six gives us Downton at its very best.

As the series winds down and enters the end of the 1920s, the aristocrats and servants of Downton are moving on, both professionally and personally. Mary Crawley, perhaps to everyone’s delight, has moved on from the death of her husband Matthew and is now ready to settle, but will her pride get in the way? Meanwhile, her sister Edith has pursued a new romantic and professional life in the city of London, and finds herself butting heads with Mary as everything comes to a dramatic head. Also upstairs, the Dowager Countess butts heads with Cora and Isobel in running the local hospital, and Lord Grantham battles an illness of his own. Downstairs, Carson retires as head butler, Thomas and Molesely are looking for future employment, and Miss Patmore starts her own bed & breakfast.

This time around, the drama remains primarily upstairs. Gone are there schemings of under butler Thomas, to be replaced with a rather depressing arc this season. Also gone is the police drama of Anna and Bates, which many will be glad to hear. Unfortunately this has been replaced with a weak plot for scullery maid Daisy, who obnoxiously stirs the pot upstairs with her father figure of local farmer Mr. Mason. And I’m not quite sure how much I can take of Hughes and Carson, while for every tender romantic scene we get three of their bickering.

But Downton Abbey has never been much about the end game, and more interested in getting there, as we know what happens to most of these country houses in this era. This final series tackles themes of moving on with history, but the biggest exploration comes due to the generational divide between the younger Crawley sisters and the elderly Dowager Countess. How do they reconcile being liberated women with agency while still living up their name? It’s moments like these that give the series its tender beats, but also the more frustrating ones. Thankfully Mary finally does makes up her mind with the charming Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). The very emotional penultimate episode found Mary and Edith’s feud reaching its peak, but the development of Mary as a young woman this series has been tremendous.

Showrunner and creator Julian Fellowes has thankfully stopped messing around with our favourite characters, and this will come as a sigh of relief for those whom have grown tired with the more outlandish elements. As seasons four and five felt like Downton going through the motions, series six has put these characters at a crossroads, as they face the most difficult decisions to date. Branson returning to the estate in episode three was also a much appreciated move, as the season got significantly better with Tom’s practical wit present. Death still hangs over the estate however, and with one more episode remaining I can see not every Crawley making it to next year. Certainly Robert, whose illness came to an explosive and gruesome climax in episode five (it was almost Tarantino-esque), would be an all-too easy target, as would Violet. Maybe we’ve come to expect these shocking moments from the series, and the final Christmas special will be one of simply saying goodbye.

One can only hope, as the series has been labeled as too much of a glorified soap opera to have anything serious to say, yet I’ve always admired Downton‘s ambition to be understated yet on-the-nose about Great Britain in this period of transition. Class distinctions are all too easily explored in almost all of TV’s prestigious period pieces, from The Knick to Mad Men, but Downton has the more literal challenge of exploring it in the juxtaposition of servants and masters, where issues like these took root. That’s always been Fellowes’s goal from the beginning, and if the drama has taken us off course for a bit, so be it. We’ve still got brilliant production design and spot-on performances (this is Michelle Dockery’s season through and through) to feast our eyes and ears on.

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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in TV Reviews


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If Skyfall rebooted the franchise with a fresh set of faces and a modern tone, there’s an expectation that Spectre might seem like Bond simply going through the motions. Sure, the 24th film in the long running franchise hits all the hallmarks we’ve come to know and cherish, but Spectre goes the extra mile and has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Here is an uncompromisingly confident action film, that works not only as an engrossing spy thriller, but as another grand entry in Daniel Craig’s string of hits as the British agent.

Spectre reunites director Sam Mendes with screenwriter John Logan and team Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, and this winning formula has made another homerun. After the attack on MI6, the agency finds themselves at a crossroads. M (Ralph Fiennes) is under pressure from a new security agency headed by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), who wants to shut down the 00 program. We find our favorite 00 agent following a trail of clues that leads him from Mexico City to Rome to Austria, where, after revisiting his past, Bond must protect Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). She leads him to the elusive group known as SPECTRE, headed by villain Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

While the script might not be as tight as Skyfall’s, the characters are what keep the momentum going. Daniel Craig has fit the character like a glove, and it’s hard to imagine the series going on without him. His physicality and charisma bring charm and wit to the dialogue, and he shines in his scenes with Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Miss Swann. Speaking of, Lea Seydoux is simply remarkable, as she matches Bond in more ways than one. The most memorable Bond girl since Vesper, Madeleine gets under Bond’s skin and sees how he functions, giving us some excellent chemistry and steamy scenes.

Spectre recalls previous Bond films even moreso than Skyfall did, and this might be the film’s biggest strength and weakness. All of Craig’s films have been connected quite loosely – every film seems to have a scene in which a villain says “you really don’t know anything, do you?” as if to imply something bigger at stake. This keeps the audience wondering if the top villainous organization of the week will ever be toppled, and it gets a bit rote at times. The villain this time around, Franz Oberhauser, portrayed by the brilliant Christoph Waltz, is a bit of a mixed bag. He certainly brings the charisma and poise and meets all the requirements in the job description, yet his character falls flat. His evil plan is a bit hazy, and bottom line there simply aren’t many scenes with him that make an impact, apart from a merciless torture scene. The same can be said of Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), a widow who leads Bond to Spectre. Bellucci received high billing, only to have a total of four minutes on-screen – it’s quite disappointing considering the talent on display here.

But when Spectre works, it fires on all cylinders. The globe-trotting environments lend themselves well to remarkable sequences, and I think there are a few here that will be all-timers. The opening sequence, while not as lengthly as Casino Royale‘s, is a doozy, as Bond grapples with a helicopter above Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. The tight camera work from Hoyte van Hoytema coupled with the brilliant sound mixing make it an unforgettable sequence. Another one aboard a train in North Africa finds Bond putting up fisticuffs with the brute henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista). You can feel the weight of their punches as the uneven match escalates, and you’ll be on edge throughout.

Mendes knows when to pull back from the action and give emphasis on the quieter moments as well, and they’re no less thrilling. A great scene in the mountains of Austria features Bond and Q (Ben Whishaw) visiting Madeleine at her clinic, all while being pursued by Oberhauser’s men. These scenes aren’t as showy as the outlandish production of a Day of the Dead parade (rumor has it the budget ballooned past $250 million), but they serve a greater purpose and have the signature Bond flair. Additionally, the side plot with M and C launching a new global security initiative works well and has ties to the main plot, all while feeling increasingly relevant to today. In a year overflowing with espionage films, from Kingsman to Spy, it can be tough to stand out, yet Spectre manages with grace.

If Spectre will only be remembered as Bond by the numbers, it might seem like it belongs in a rank of middle ground Bond films, ones that serve only to push the series to its next installment rather than stand on its own. Yet Spectre isn’t that film. The smart script keeps you invested throughout the entire 150-minute run time, and Mendes and team ensure that you’ll never get bored. Daniel Craig has kept the series breathing with his trademark quips and pulse-pounding thrills, and the supporting cast has definitely staked their claim in the franchise’s future. Whatever happens to the Bond franchise after Craig, Spectre is a reminder that not every entry must reinvent the wheel, at its core it must simply be a good film.

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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Fall TV Roundup: Best/Worst New Shows

Fall TV is in full swing, and although we’ve still got a few shows left to premiere (looking at you, Supergirl), the networks have debuted their heavy hitters for 2015-2016. There hasn’t been a clear homerun hit, or a total bomb, rather most of these shows have had quiet pilots, and are now settling into their regular routines. Full season orders are coming soon, followed by cancelations, so I thought I’d chime in with what I think are the best and worst of the bunch.


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend


Although it just aired two days ago, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the only one of the fall shows that will stick in my head and make me eager for next week’s episode. Featuring the irresistible Rachel Bloom, Ex-Girlfriend is another great addition to the fantastic “new” CW, and a great follow up to Jane the Virgin. Its mix of brilliant musical comedy and potent relationship blues are perfect for anyone brought down by love, but ready to get back in the game.



A Hulu original, Casual shouldn’t be glossed over because of its unoriginal premise. Unlikable characters are everywhere on these kinds of “sadcoms,” but Casual stands out thanks to clever writing courtesy of creator Zander Lehmann and director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). With Michaela Watkins’s Valerie anchoring her more outlandish brother Alex (Tommy Dewey) and daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), Casual won’t break any barriers, but stick around for its wit and charm.



I debated putting this one under ‘best’ or ‘mixed,’ but the Homeland lover in me got the best of me. ABC’s Quantico has the best pilot of any new fall show, hands down. The mix of CIA school drama (think Gossip Girl or How to Get Away with Murder) is contrasted with a giant terror attack on New York City, and its flashback structure will hook you immediately, and you’ll be begging to know more. The charismatic Priyanka Chopra is the fall’s breakout star, and she shines in an ensemble cast of mostly forgettable characters. Its twisty writing will draw Shondaland fans in but you’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting show this fall.


The Muppets


As much as I adore The Muppets, ABC’s new comedy is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s always fun to hang out with the Henson crew, and I’m all for giving some of the lesser-known Muppets their chance to shine. But celebrity cameos can only take your show so far, and the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Double down on the winning formula straight out of The Office, drop the “Kermit straight man act” and The Muppets could bring a bit more zest to my Tuesday night.

Life in Pieces


Sure, the structure is something new – four separate stories each night featuring the zany Short family – and the cast is bonkers, with Colin Hanks and Betsy Brandt going toe-to-toe with James Brolin and Dianne Wiest. Honestly, the cast alone is reason enough to tune in. But the writing is a bit cliche for my tastes, and it’s exactly what I’d expect from the family friendly CBS. I’ve had my fill of precocious kids and guys acting like children, but I can think of worse CBS sitcoms to spend your evening with.



The third sitcom to make the ‘needs time’ list, Grandfathered certainly boasts the heart. But John Stamos, Paget Brewster, and Josh Peck can’t bring the heat. The laughs are hit or miss, and the show is a bit too watered down. I’m not sure I could ride along with 22 episodes of this one, as I can call the plot developments five minutes before they occur. Additionally, the supporting cast needs work. But like the previous two, sitcoms are under extra scrutiny to hit the ground running right out of the gate, and I’m sure Grandfathered has a few more tricks up its sleeve.


The Grinder


I can only imagine the network pitch for this one. Being “meta” is all the rage now, but The Grinder comes off as a complete joke. Rob Lowe – bless his heart – can’t save this trainwreck about a TV lawyer who decides he wants to practice law for real. Co-star Fred Savage looks like he would literally rather be anywhere else than on this poor excuse for a comedy. The writing never lands, and the three episodes aired are practically complete clones. It’s a shame, because this one had me really excited. Pick FOX’s Grandfathered instead.


Blindspot - Season Pilot

Oh man the hype for this one was unreal. I’m sure given time this one could be a sleeper hit, but I’m putting it in the ‘worst’ column until its predictability comes to a halt. A Jane Doe is found in Times Square with no memory of where she is, yeah cool but how is this any different from The Blacklist, Person of Interest, Castle, need I go on? Throw in a weak and uncharismatic cast and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster. Pick ABC’s Agents of SHIELD instead.

The Bastard Executioner


I’m not quite sure where this one went wrong. Clearly taking a page from HBO’s book on how to make the most popular program on right now, The Bastard Executioner is a good example of what not to do when crafting an edgy medieval period drama. Creator Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) seems too focused on making a lasting impact from the brutal violence than crafting a half-decent story. Adding in far too many characters and not enough I should care about, and this Bastard is dead on arrival. Pick BBC’s The Last Kingdom instead.

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Posted by on October 14, 2015 in Other


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