fall tv/film: in review (contains spoilers)

Being sick this weekend, I found myself watching a lot of television and movies (on the Internet, of course) and thought I’d review what I’ve watched so far.  I’ll post similar reviews as I watch other shows and films.  This week, I’ll be reviewing a few returning shows and some brand new ones along with a film I watched last night.  These reviews will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Before I get started, I wanted to share a great British show that aired in August and September.

whatremains

What Remains only aired four episodes, but each one was really well-done.  The show centers around a body of a woman found in the shared attic of an apartment building.  It’s unclear what actually happened to the woman, a resident of the building, whose disappearance goes completely unnoticed for years.  A detective just about retired responds to the scene and becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of what happened when everyone else just shrugs it off.  This show was extremely character driven and brought up some interesting questions about life.  Are we all so disconnected from each other that we don’t see what’s right in front of us?  All of the neighbors living in the building have crazy storylines that could stand on their own, but the heart of the show was the detective and his struggle to put his career to rest.  The ending wasn’t what I expected and didn’t really wrap up a lot of things, but I still highly recommend the show itself.

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Last night, I watched a film called Wish You Were Here that I thought was pretty good (4/5 stars, for me).

wish

A husband and wife team wrote, and co-starred, in this offering from Australia. The movie focuses around a married couple expecting their third child.  The two leave their kids with grandma and go on holiday to Cambodia with the wife’s sister and her boyfriend.

Of course, crap goes awry.  That’s why there’s a movie.  But figuring out exactly what happened in Cambodia is a bit harder to figure out.  We know that the couples go out partying.  Everyone (except the pregnant wife) gets drunk and takes X, provided by the boyfriend.  We get the impression boyfriend is not exactly your typical business man.  He ends up disappearing.  Hubby ends up despondent on a beach.  The couple goes home, leaving the sister to deal with local authorities.  But the problems follow them to their beautiful life back home.  We immediately know hubby is hiding something.  When interacting with his children, you can tell he’s on the brink.  Eventually, we find out some things happened between hubby and sister–which drives his wife to drink and drive.  The truth is actually pretty sad.

I thought the movie was beautifully shot and well-acted.  While the wife is super annoying mid-way, in the beginning, she is beautiful and every bit the good life.  The story itself isn’t that Earth shatteringly creative and does plod along getting to the resolution.  However, the movie really got relationships right.  Despite only being on screen for a few scenes, we end up caring about this missing, shady guy.  Definitely a good little film that deserves a view.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the epitome of the types of television shows I try to avoid.  It’s basically a buddy cop comedy with some Andre Braugher.  Now, let me just say that I love me some Andre Braugher.  He’s a bad-ass, always, and helps make this pretty cheesy show palatable.  Andy Sandberg (you know–that guy) provides an interesting counterpoint.  Terry Crews also is decent here.  Overall, I was shocked that I didn’t hate this show, but it’s worth checking out.

I watched Dads because I heart Seth Green.  I had reservations because I’d heard a few things, but decided to give it a shot anyway.  For a comedy, this is one joyless sack of shit.  Not only does it manage misogyny, racism, and ageism, but it also manages to insult men everywhere and make Green pretty much a cluster of unlikeability–while being incredibly boring.  To say I hate–loathe–this show would be the understatement of a lifetime.  This stinker can die in a fire, as far as I’m concerned.  I want my half hour back, with interest, and may never forgive Green.

The Goldbergs tries to do for the ’80s what That ’70s Show did for my birth decade…only it does it with much less aplomb, and the actors are far less talented here.  The Mama is a less quirky version of Eric’s Mama, though she is somewhat likeable.  You’ll recognize veteran character actor George Segal as the grandpa, who–for me–is the gem of the show.  Decent, but not hysterically funny.

I wasn’t expecting to like Hello, Ladies, but gave it a chance solely because it’s connected to HBO and is created by the people who gave us The Office.  Stuart is this tall, awkward Brit who has no idea he has zero game.  Along for the ride–his beautiful (I guess) roommate and sensitive friend.  All of this is set in LA, so it pokes a lot of fun at Hollywood culture.  I loved the Hell out of this show.  Stuart is basically a flesh version of Stewie from Family Guy, if he grew up and became British.  Kevin Weisman, an actor I’ve adored for a long time, also appears and challenges stereotypes about people in wheelchairs.  It’s good stuff.

ladies

I actually cheered when I heard Lucky 7 was cancelled after two episodes–because, boy–was it deserving.  The show centered around a bunch of people who work in a store who win the lottery.  But, oh wait–before that happens–two of them decide to rob the store and accidentally bonk the boss in the head in the process.  Poorly done, meaningless drama.  A shitshow, all around.

I watched Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. solely because I was flipping channels and saw GUNN from Angel.  I freaking love that guy–and all of the Whedon crew–so I was pretty happy to see him on television again.

I can’t remember how I started watching Masterchef Junior.  I generally hate the three judges and the original show, so I didn’t have high hopes for this.  The kids are mostly annoying, though there are one or two that stand out.  They are impressive as cooks, for the most part.  I’m just wondering if it’s a bit too much, too soon.  Kids cooking is great and all, but I still think kids should be kids and shouldn’t be wading in such adult waters.  In any case, the kids win it for me–which is why I got sucked in again this week.  The judges rarely say anything worthwhile because they’re trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  But Ramsay continues to be a bit of a dick.  And it is a competition, so kids cry.  A lot.

I wish I liked Mom more than I do–mostly because I normally like the two leading ladies.  However, while I feel like dark topics absolutely make for amazing comedic opportunities, this show is a bit over its own head.  It pokes fun at things that are uncomfortable, but doesn’t do it with much grace or heart.  Its humor feels forced, most of the time–like a nurse stabbing you with a needle, telling you it doesn’t actually hurt.  The weighty topics themselves aren’t explored enough in other ways to make them interesting.  I felt like I was watching some flimsy version of a tv movie of the week–which was already flimsy–but really wanted to be funny.  I think a lot of that has to do with the amount of time given.  If it was an hour-long sort of thing, it might work better.  I think it would also work better as a drama that happens to have some dark comedic moments rather than a comedy with some despair tacked on.  Having grown up with alcoholic parents, it’s a very tough subject to breach without saying some offensive things.  From my own experience, the humor that exists in an alcoholic home isn’t easily translated to a mainstream audience–and probably comes across as too mean-spirited.  This show never even approaches that boundary.  It deals in cliches and tiptoes.  Basically, the writers on this show need to figure out what they’re doing and then do it rather than trying to be everything to everyone.  That actually means taking real risks.

I only watched the first episode of Sleepy Hollow, but I actually didn’t mind it.  I didn’t remember much about Ichabod Crane or the story that made him famous, so that gave the writers a little more rope to play with.  I like the female cop as lead as well as the dude playing Crane.  The supernatural aspects of the show are also sorta cool.  Not Earth-shattering tv, but a decent option when you have nothing else to do.

I don’t really enjoy Rebel Wilson and expected to hate Super Fun Night, but I was actually pleasantly surprised.  It sort of reminded me of Ugly Betty.  You definitely can see Conan O’Brien’s brand of humor here–which is a good thing for me.  I suppose, the reason I enjoyed this show is because–like Ugly Betty–it seems to have a good heart.  I also like that Wilson’s character isn’t exactly a stereotype.  She actually has a chance at the guy and isn’t someone we pity, for the most part.

Trophy Wife is just…well, honey, it’s been done.  And a lot better.  (See: Big Love, StepMom, etc).  There’s really nothing all that interesting about it.  At all.  It’s not funny.  None of the characters are even likeable.

For years, I maligned the idea of Glee.  I’m normally not a fan of musicals, and every synopsis I read of the show left me wondering how they continued to stay on the air.  But, then, I decided to give it a chance.  To my utter shock, I loved the show.  Not for the storylines–they’re terrible.  But, really, for the characters and the amazing productions.  Glee was that show that I could turn on after a crappy day and feel better.  Who knew?

My favorite characters?  Sue Sylvestor, Brittany, and (of course) Finn.

I started watching more intermittently after the core class graduated.  I’d still watch here and there, but the new characters felt like tired rehashes of prior characters.  The ones that weren’t rehashes just weren’t interesting.  The performances seemed to go downhill, and I just wasn’t all that interested in Rachel’s move to NYC.  That entire plot just tasted bad.  Then Brittany left; Sue got mean-spirited; and Finn disappeared.  (Now, for good).

I watched this season out of loyalty, I guess.  The loss of Monteith had to have been difficult, and as a fan of the show, I wanted to support them–and also watch how they handled it.  Unfortunately, they’ve handled it with a big dose of denial…as in absolutely nothing–which is incredibly distracting as a long-time viewer.  It’s like we’re all dancing with pink elephants while the cast sings poppy Beatles songs.

Sure–they’re supposed to address it by episode 5, but I am so disinterested in the storyline right now that I probably will bail until that episode and then probably won’t come back to the show after.  It feels superficial, though the music is still good.  Unfortunately, this latest development has just highlighted what has been wrong with the show since the original cast graduated: a lack of heart.  Which–for a show about performing and passion–is kinda the most important thing.

And, finally, Homeland: easily my favorite show of the last two seasons.

I gotta say: I’m disappointed in season 3, so far.  I adored the first 1.  I admired season 2, even when it made crazy leaps into la-la land.  But I always respected the risks the show took with its characters and plot.

The season opener felt a bit hollow.  The opener focuses on the months after the bombing that wiped out a number of characters and brought a lot of crap down on the CIA.  Brody, if you recall, seems to have been set up and leaves.  Carrie chooses to stay with the CIA rather than going with him–a strong choice and a brave move by the writers.

Welp…Carrie certainly does get to face the music.  This entire episode, Carrie is basically being questioned by self-righteous assholes.  Meanwhile, the press is leaked info on her affair.  While the finale showed Saul and Carrie as close as ever, it’s apparent in the opener that there is a definite Brody-related rift between the two.  Saul is now in charge of the CIA, at least temporarily.  He’s forced to make some terrible decisions.  He seems to really be going through a crisis.  His decision to throw Carrie under the bus marks a real shift in Saul’s character.  It’s the right move by the writers, but man–that sucked.  Saul has always been my favorite character.  I love him so much, so it was hard to see him devastate Carrie that way.  It makes me sad, too, because Carrie will never forgive him.  It does set-up an interesting arc for Carrie; however, I’m worried we’ll see more mania than bravery from her this season.  We also see what’s become of Brody’s family.  Without Brody around, and in the aftermath of his betrayal to his country, his family is paying the price.  His wife can’t find work.  They’re broke because they can’t even get his pension.  The very annoying daughter has attempted suicide.  I’ve never much liked Brody’s family…except when his wife was involved with his best friend.  That dude seems to have disappeared.  I wish these characters were used better.

I think the absence of Brody was a big distraction this episode.  There was too much manic Carrie and political bullshit to pack the emotional punch Homeland’s so great at delivering.  Brody is easily the most interesting character on the show, so his absence sort of gutted the power of this episode–given how central his character is to the show and how the last season ended.  The show is interesting because it blurs the lines between right and wrong.  It makes you question what you actually believe while also keeping you guessing at every turn.  It’s hard to know who anyone really is and why they’re doing what they’re doing.  Well, everyone except Carrie.

I still love the show and will keep watching, but I hope we get back to the roots of what made this show amazing.  Let’s leave Congress out of it.

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