Never has such a short book title filled so many pages. (1,138 to be exact) Remember when flipping past the old TV version would fill your nightmare quota for a month or two? Well, on September 8th you’ll have to drive all the way to a theater to get scared for 14 bucks (plus another 10 for the worst nachos you’ve ever eaten). To better prepare you for a night of thrills and chills, here are the Top Ten Fake Spoilers for IT…
“I’ll see you again in 25 years,” Laura Palmer promised Special Agent Dale Cooper in the Red Room. That was 1991, the end of the second season of Twin Peaks. Since then, there has been a prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me, and multiple books to expand on the mythology of the series. But this year, creators David Lynch and Mark Frost returned to the small screen with Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime.
The small screen has gotten bigger in the intervening years. TV has become more cinematic, with series like Game of Thrones. CRTs have given way to 65-inch flat screens. Video production technology has made special effects cheap and seamless. And streaming services have changed the TV business model by trying to attract subscriptions from niche audiences. So it’s only natural that Lynch and Frost would revive their legendary television show.
I first watched the trailer on the same day the first episode aired and was instantly intrigued. The history buff inside me initially took it as a historical series due to Elizabeth Moss’s hood and petticoat. As the video went on I realized that the plot was much more complicated than meets the eye.
Of course, this was all happening in the middle of finals week, so I decided to postpone watching the series until after my exams were done; until then I did a reasonable amount of research. To be brutally honest: prior to watching the promo, I had never heard of Margaret Atwood’s feminist novel. The plot immediately blew me away—set in New England, a Christian fundamentalist group overthrows the U.S. government, replacing the Constitution with a very strict, Puritan-esqe version of the Bible. Bit by bit modern working women are stripped of their jobs, bank accounts, and identities. They are reduced to their fertility and levels of obedience. The fertile ones become “handmaids” forced to bear children for the new society’s elite and their barren wives.
Jimmy McGill is my favorite character on television.
There. I said it.
But throughout season one and two of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s wildly successful Better Call Saul, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why.
Was it the fact that I used to work at a law firm as a legal assistant and had the satisfaction of stumbling through the legal world with Jimmy, fully able to agree that yes, Interstate Commerce is a bitch? Perhaps. Was it the fact that he’s loveable, despite his centrifugally flawed nature? Also possible. Hell, maybe it was that nose thing I mentioned earlier. Either way, I comfortably went along, aware of my not-so-specific reasoning. I mean, I could always divert by talking about how brilliant the show was in other aspects.
Full disclosure, I fell in love with Pete Holmes the moment I saw him show up on my screen like some gangly white ray of sunshine. I stumbled onto his show Crashing by accident, scrolling along the homepage of my HBO GO app until I saw a photo of a man sitting on a couch in the middle of the street mock-screaming directly into the camera. “I don’t know who this guy is,” I thought, “but I have a feeling he gets me.” Long story short, it was a show about a comedian, I’ve done stand-up a handful of times, and I’m a regular sucker for guys whose noses are of the Adrian Brody variety. I gave it a go.
My love of comedy about comedians started with Jerry Seinfeld. For me, he was the first comic to use serialized television to tell an audience the ins and outs of being a working comedian. Yes, I realize this dates me as a ’90s child – I’m sorry about it, too.
Jason David Frank – or maybe you better remember him as Tommy Oliver – has to be credited as one of the driving forces behind the new Power Rangers movie. After the internet hyped some really great Power Ranger shorts, JDF approached series creator Haim Saban about the possibility of a mature Power Ranger movie following the Green Ranger (which would have been awesome to watch). Instead of limiting the film to just the Green Ranger, we get a full cinematic reboot of the series in the new film Power Rangers (2017).
These Rangers are very different from the ones we remember. While in the series Zordon instructs Alpha to recruit “teenagers with attitude,” the original Power Rangers severely lack the attitude. They are essentially “squeaky-clean” kids with martial arts skills. These new Power Rangers – screw ups, trouble makers, and even bullies – are edgier, bringing a certain amount of depth and realism to the characters. While the purists might see this as tainting the beloved heroes, to true intention is to sever the “campiness” which defined the series in favor of something more “realistic”.
Despite the surprising maturity that Hannah found in the first half of “Girls’” final season, episode six proves trying in familiar ways. Hannah gets a ridiculous idea in her head: that she has no obligation to tell Paul-Louie she is bearing his child.
Kudos to the even-handedness of the writers for including characters that think this is an extremely unfair and unreasonable decision on Hannah’s part. Thankfully, towards the end of the episode, she starts to come around and she even tries to contact him. Hopefully she follows through.
So much happened in episodes 4 and 5 that it’s hard to know where to start. I resort to a list:
- Hannah interviews a female writer that tells her “childlessness in the natural state of the female author.”
- Hannah finds out (via an embarrassing encounter with a previous love interest/doctor) that she is pregnant from her rendezvous with the surf camp instructor in episode one.
- Hannah decides to keep the baby even though she has a mounting list of reasons why she probably isn’t ready.
- Jessa and Adam decide to make a movie together about their past with Hannah. Jessa doesn’t like Adam’s representation of his previous relationship.
- Marnie is still seeing Desi, but in therapy. And her narcissism is at peak Marnie. She declares that she has bruises all over her body from the two-hour massages that she needs in order to deal with the stress of Desi’s addiction.
- Ray realizes that Marnie is cheating on him and he eventually breaks up with her.
- Ray’s friend Hermie dies suddenly, leaving Ray to reevaluate his own life.
- Elijah does not take the news of Hannah’s pregnancy very well because he’s feeling particularly left behind compared to the life achievements of his friends. He tells Hannah that she’ll be a terrible mother.
- Hannah’s mother, Loraine, also doesn’t like the news of the pregnancy and she tells Hannah, “Every time I look at your baby, I’m going to see my own death.”
On March 3rd, Nintendo released their newest gaming console — the Switch — and it looks like it is on track to be another failure. Do not get me wrong here, I have nothing but love for Nintendo, but sometimes Nintendo irks me more than a crying baby in a movie theater.
The first problem is: March…? Seriously, why on earth would they release a gaming system in March? Especially since the Switch will be hitting shelves with only nine games available. Instead of releasing the system immediately, why doesn’t Nintendo wait until November 2017, when most gamers are in the market for new systems, and the number of games accompanying the system break double digits? The news first broke about the Switch in October, 2016, and this would offer Nintendo an additional nine months to promote and manufacture hype.
Continuing the “bottle episode” theme, this segment shows only Hannah in the apartment of a literary idol, Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys). Hannah wrote a piece for a feminist blog about Chuck’s alleged probably-not-consensual sexual encounters with college-age girls on his book tour. Seeing the article, he invites her over to his apartment so he can prove her wrong.
Where “Girls” characters sometimes amount to cartoonish impressions instead of believable humans, this episode defies expectation. We expect Chuck to be portrayed as some obviously bad person that forced himself on an innocent girl. But we quickly see, through Rhys’ charming performance, all the difficult intricacies that surround issues of consent. He is portrayed more wholistically than we might expect: a man with a deep fatherly love for his daughter, a complicated history, and what seems like the capacity for vested interest and affection in women he likes.
As I was watching the latest episode of “Girls” I couldn’t help but assume viewers all across the country were engaged in a collective slow clap. For the first time in five years, the characters start to say what the audience is thinking. The two most poignant examples are a paramount “GROW UP!” from Jessa to Shosh, and Hannah says to Marnie, “It can be pretty hard to have observations about other people when you’re only thinking about yourself. I would know.”
The creators made a fun and effective exploration into a genre-style episode that mirrored a horror film. Hannah follows Marnie and Desi on a trip to Poughkeepsie because the ex-spouses are sleeping together but they don’t want Marnie’s steady boyfriend, Ray, to find out. Hannah tags along so Ray won’t be suspicious. Super romantic.
The sixth premiere of “Girls” started off its final season on Sunday with a special 40 minute episode and guest appearance from Riz Ahmed. The episode reaffirms exactly what we’ve known for the past five seasons: that these characters are, well, girls. This first episode focuses mostly on Hannah’s story, and a little on Marnie’s—a continuation of a stylistic change we saw last season in which the friends spend most of their time away from each other.
Hannah starts off the episode with relative professional success, a Modern Love column resulting in a paid writing assignment from a magazine. She is expected to write about a surf camp in Montauk but she Hannahs the opportunity in about half a day by immediately hating the entire experience and functionally abandoning the project to hook up with the camp counselor and “find herself.” Again.
An Amazon Prime subscription is a bit like a closet with too many clothes in it: every once in awhile you discover some new thing you forgot you paid for and are pleasantly surprised by it. Among these things is a video streaming service that features a variety of tv and movies, including some originals. There’s also a nifty thing called a pilot season. Viewers can watch a bunch of different pilots, fill out a survey, and Amazon uses the info to determine which ones will become a full series. Essentially, Amazon has turned their entire subscriber pool into a focus group, a market innovation that gives us one more thing to love about the streaming economy.
The concept already has a few success stories to boast, most notably Transparent, which earned Amazon 10 of its 16 Emmy nominations this year, and it won five last year. The show’s lead, Jeffrey Tambor, not only won the 2015 Emmy for Best Lead Comedy Actor, but the equivalent titles at the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards as well. (I would argue this show shouldn’t be competing in the “comedy” categories based on its content, but I won’t waste your time with that soapbox right now.) There’s also one of my new personal favorites, Mozart in the Jungle, which won the 2016 Golden Globes for Outstanding Comedy or Musical Series and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy or Musical Series. (Transparent was also nominated in both categories).
Warning: The following post contains Orange is The New Black spoilers.
If you are a fan of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, you already know that far too much of Season 3 was spent telling the tale of Piper’s Prison Panties. As a fan of the show, I was a bit sad that the screen time invested in this plotline was not spent on some of the more interesting ones. But as a libertarian, I must say that the way this story concluded in Season 4 provides a great parable for how regulation hurts people in the real world.
Let’s start with a quick recap of what happened in Season 3: The fictional intimate apparel company Whispers made a deal with Litchfield Prison that allowed them to use inmates as cheap labor. As one of the inmates selected to sew the sexy underwear together, Piper figured out that by cutting the fabric differently, she could actually make more panties than what Whispers asked of her. This inspires a new business venture: wearing the surplus underwear for a few days and then selling them to people who are into that sort of thing. By the end of Season 3, Piper has established an entire supply chain: numerous inmates wear the underwear, a naive prison guard sneaks them out, and Piper’s brother sells them on the outside.
Silicon Valley’s (the place, not the show) not-so dirty little secret got its moment under the Hollywood spotlight on this past Sunday’s penultimate episode of Silicon Valley’s (the show, not the place) third season.
Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, is perhaps the most honest portrayal of what work and life is like in California’s digital gold mining community. And if the antics of Richard and team’s Pied Piper start-up company seem sometimes a little far fetched, the final scene of this episode, titled “Daily Active Users,” represents an all too honest peak behind the curtain. Audiences are finally brought face to face with human beings in a third world country (think Bangladesh or India) who wake up each day and go to work in a large office filled with dozens if not hundreds of others who do nothing all day but click on ads, download apps, log into sites, and various other tasks that real everyday users of the internet engage in purposefully.
Here is that final scene…
However, these people do it simply to get paid on average, the equivalent of $1 a day. Their “work” can be worth millions to their employers and sometimes billions to the tech companies of Silicon Valley like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, What’s App, etc.. Really, any company that bases its value to investors and potential buy-out suiters on a high DAU count. That’s Daily Active Users to us laymen. In contrast, a company like Uber may not utilize these click farms because they are providing an actual real world service – connecting people with cars and nowhere to be, to people with no cars and somewhere to be. So it’s kind of hard to fake actual people getting rides in actual cars. Although I do admit to a possible future where people, or AI robots, could be paid to book Uber rides around town just to boost their DAU count.
Facebook, for instance, now claims that it has a DAU count of over 1 billion. That’s one billion people everyday, logging into Facebook and engaging. How many of them are actually using it for its intended purpose of connecting with friends and family, sharing stories, photos and life events? Well considering that over 1 billion of Facebook’s total 1.59 billion user accounts exist outside of Europe and North America, I imagine it is fair to say that a plethora of those accounts are are bogus. Read this account published by Business Insider three years ago which details some of the fakery behind all those likes, views, and followers that social media giants rely on for their billion dollar evaluations. Emphasis mine.
Trigger warning: There are actual triggers and warnings ahead. Please proceed with extreme caution.
Driving around any major boulevard, ride any busy subway, walk through any mall and you will notice them. Movie posters, billboards, bus and train decals promoting the latest Hollywood action movie. Photographic collages filled up with recognizable beautiful celebrities in sharp outfits and perfect poses. Here are some popular examples. And pay attention, there will be a quiz afterwards. See ya on the other side.
So other than the fact that it’s sad how boring most movie posters have become over the years (the motif of the early Bond films is a lost art form) what is the one thing all these film poster have in common?
Netflix recently debuted a brand new traditionally produced sit-com series that is sitting pretty with a 4 1/2 star rating from their subscribers. Having recently finished watching this first season’s ten episodes, here are three things the series gets right:
1. Ashton Kutcher is front and center.
Ashton Kutcher stars as Colt Bennett, a washed-up college football QB, who is forced to move back home to the ranch he grew up on with his never-satisfied father, Beau (the great Sam Elliot), and smart-mouthed brother “Rooster” (Kutcher’s former That 70’s Show co-star Danny Masterson.) Mom, Maggie (Debra Winger) is living in her own Airstream behind the bar she owns due to her estranged relationship to husband Beau.
Ever since he debuted on That 70’s Show in the late 90s, Ashton Kutcher has proven himself to be a natural comedic actor with leading man looks. In television land, this is hard to come by. He’s maintained relevancy in pop-culture ever since we were introduced to him with stints like MTV’s Punk’d, a bunch of hit (and miss) feature films, as a successful venture capitalist and angel investor (AirBnB, Foursquare), stepping back into TV and into Charlie “Tiger’s Blood” Sheen’s shoes on Two & a Half Men, and bringing it full circle with this second outing co-starring to his former 70’s Show co-star Masterson. Through it all he’s been married to Demi Moore and now is married-with-children with another former 70’s co-star, Mila Kunis, yet somehow has seemingly maintained humility and stayed true to Chris.
While Ashton is clearly the lead of the show, Masterson, Elliott, the re-emerged Winger (Urban Cowboy) as Beau’s estranged wife, and Elisha Cuthbert (Kim “Kidnapped” Bauer from 24) as Colt’s corn-fed country-girl former high school sweetheart, round a solid cast. The first few episodes take minute for everyone to gel, but once you know everyone and it feels like they know everyone, it’s a welcome sight when any one of them pops on screen with Kutcher who brings chemistry to each interaction. The biggest surprise comes from the amount of depth that begins to percolate as the these honest familial relationships start to surface. Sam Elliott and Debra Winger have both had long careers filled with terrific dramatic performances, that cache helps bring balance to what could easily have been a Duck Dynasty style sitcom. (I contend Duck Dynasty masquerades more as a reality show, when in reality it’s more situation comedy without the acting talent.)
I intended to watch only the first episode of Fuller House, treat it as a reunion special, and stop there. But the unexpected happened—whenever one episode finished, I found myself clicking on the next one.
Why? It’s not good. Critically speaking, this Full House sequel/spinoff is a bad show. It’s cheesy and predictable, loaded with unsubtle “wink wink, nudge nudge” references to its late ‘80s/early ‘90s heyday, not loaded with any kind of original comedic style, and occasionally downright dumb. (There’s a wrestling episode whose climax is the height of ridiculous stupidity, or perhaps “nadir” is the more appropriate term.) The show’s 31 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes comes as no surprise…and yet, neither does its 81 percent audience approval rating on the same website.
Despite Fuller House’s legion of faults, it’s actually kind of nice. It’s the television equivalent of catching up with old friends you haven’t seen since grade school. Sure, on the surface level, you’ve grown apart during the intervening decades, but you’re still peers with a shared history that leads to a sort of unconditional acceptance. A new show with new characters could never get away with all these flaws.
If the show chose to focus on the original adults, then this probably would have felt like nothing more than a cheap rehash, and it would have gotten old very quickly. From what we see, none of them have changed since the ‘90s. Danny’s still got a clean streak. Jesse’s still vain. And Joey’s still clinging to his man-childness.
But the focus wisely shifts to the girls who have grown up since the original series. Yes, it’s absolutely contrived that the premise is a gender-reversed version of the original show, with recent widow D.J. raising three boys with the help of sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy, and yet it feels appropriate, even without youngest sister Michelle. (I certainly can’t blame the Olsen twins for not wanting to re-utter their old catchphrases that pre-date their memories. The show has a little too much fun picking on them about it, though.) (more…)
The beloved holidays, perfect for spending time with friends and family. So naturally, I saturate mine with all the series I failed to keep pace with during the rest of the year, among them Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. I caught the pilot when it premiered back in the beginning of 2015 and was anxiously awaiting November for the release of the rest of the series. I wasn’t disappointed. The shows premise is a simple one – imagine the Nazi’s had won the Second World War. Interested yet? You should be.
The show is based upon a novel with the same name by Phillip K. Dick. Now, there are a variety of difference between the book and the show, and I am not really interested in contrasting the two mediums. I will however add that I have found the shows creation of the character the SS Obergruppenführer John Smith (played by Rufus Sewell) is really a brilliant addition.
The show is very different from most of the other shows on television. The show is deliberate, in its decisions to create characterization and unravel the plot, something that is a real treat in this era of ADHD inspired storytelling and contrite characterization that is modern television. The period nature of the show, makes it different and memorable.
What I found most I enjoyed most from the show, was the not-so-subtle political dialog unfolding on the screen. The show presents three separate interpretations of the United States as it could have been and in doing so forces the viewers to consider many of the most pressing political issues of today. Characters find themselves living in a surveillance state, robbed of their right to bear arms, and deprived of their freedoms of speech and assembly. Some of these themes are concepts which Dick explores in his original work; but liberty minded individuals cannot help but recognize that many of these issues are the same political issues with which libertarians currently grapple. The show is worth a serious look (if you have seen it already it is worth watching again) as it has just been renewed for a second season. For liberty lovers everywhere, defenders of natural rights and the rule of law, you cannot afford to miss it.
My previous ranking of every modern Doctor Who episode had become out of date…until now. Series 9 wrapped up earlier this month, and this year’s Christmas special was the last new episode until probably next fall. Time for an update.
I’ve inserted the new episodes into the overall worst-to-best rankings, which debuted in four parts early this year:
But if you just want to focus on the newest season, I’m including the Series 9–only list below (same text I’m inserting into the full list). Note that this was a more serialized season than previous years. It featured a mix of conventional two-parters (The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, Under the Lake/Before the Flood, and The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion) and episodes that directly continued into each other while each maintaining its own flavor (The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived and Face the Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent). The episodes in the latter category are separately ranked because their different flavors merit individual attention.
This was an excellent season on the whole, a big improvement over the past few years, with no real clunkers in the mix. But, as always, some are better than others.
The Internet clearly doesn’t have enough lists, so here’s another.
Many have attempted to rank the movies comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fewer have dared to add the four complete seasons of MCU television and Netflix series into the equation. I shall somehow rise to this challenge to ensure the Internet does not experience a shortage of lists. This was not easy, Internet. I swear, the top six were all neck-and-neck, and it came down to a photo-finish.
This ranking is from worst to best, not horrible to great. I’ve enjoyed all of these to varying extents, and the “varying” is what I’m measuring. None are bad. Conversely, none are works of towering artistic genius either. But it’s all damn fine entertainment worth revisiting.
So, with that warning out of the way…
In the wake of the horrific and senseless murders in Charleston, SC last week, national debate has sprung up once again about a flag. The Civil War era Confederate Flag. Not unlike the German Third Reich’s Nazi flag, for many, seeing the South’s Rebel Stars & Bars conjures up equally horrific memories of the vile treatment of scores of innocent human lives. I get it. Perhaps there are those that would seek to re-redefine the symbol of the swastika with the pre-Nazi factoid, that due to its original use as an ancient decorative symbol in eastern cultures, we shouldn’t allow the Nazis to commandeer such a worldly historical symbol. Those that may make that argument will lose. We will never be able to bring back those ancient glory days of when seeing a swastika was pleasing to the eye. Unless you are a nazi sympathizer, Hitler & Co. have ruined the swastika or any incarnation or variation of it forever. You can’t “un-see” the horrors its appearance summons, so to speak.
To many, the Battle Flag holds the same sad memories of murder, enslavement, and loss of human dignity. However, because some Southerners (white or black) are simply proud of being from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina or any other of the former confederate states, they like the image and feel proud to display it as prideful modern day Southerners. This does not immediately qualify them as a racist. Sadly, some opportunists use the flag as a political weapon to paint broad strokes on those who fly it to cause divisiveness for their own benefit. If you make such judgements you are part of the problem, not the solution and not a very intelligent person. Outside of the personal use, if you ask me, the flag does not deserve to fly above any State building of these United States of America for the same reason we would never fly the Union Flag (or Union Jack) above a government building. All y’all lost the war. ‘Merica!
We caught Gunga Din with an informative and humorous introduction by two special effects guys, Craig Barron and Ben Burt, who showed us video of the real-life Southern California locations that stood in for India. (The comparison of the movie’s precarious bridge over the chasm to the actual place was especially revelatory.)
We saw Too Late for Tears, a “lost” noir classic about the most cold-blooded killer you’ve ever seen (played by Lizabeth Scott). We saw Earthquake at an outdoor poolside screening introduced by one of its stars, Mr. Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree.
And we reveled in the classic screwball comedy The Philadelphia Story with a packed house at the fabled Chinese Theater — you couldn’t ask for a grander movie experience.
But our favorite moments of the festival weren’t particular screenings. They were meeting some of the more prolific members of one of Twitter’s most entertaining hashtags — #TCMparty..
Firstly, let me apologize for taking a break last week. But honestly, the show was too boring to spend much energy on. As it is, this show is becoming a little too stretched out for 2 hours of programming. We could easily fit everything into an hour, and it would be so much more enjoyable. I’m basically falling asleep by the end of the 2 hours… at this point, I’m reconsidering my commitment to watching this season in real time. What I would give to fast forward through commercials and all the unnecessary mishegoss.
Quentin went home, which was expected, and Rayvon won the fan save, yet again…
So here we are this week, with our Top 5 being dwindled to the Top 4 (without the fan save this week). Before we get into the contestants, let’s discuss our favorite judges. First, let’s talk about J Lo’s outfit. It’s a little rough with the glittery leopard print – but if anyone can do it, she can. That is all.
The themes for this week are 1) songs from the Judges’ home state (even though this show is not about the judges) and 2) the contestant’s “soul” songs – or, as Harry likes to put it – their “gravy” song.
So, we have New York for J Lo, New Orleans for Harry, and, naturally, Nashville for Keith… really? Don’t you think we should be bringing in some classic Australian anthems here?
Lastly, Harry performed this evening (yummm… so dreamy.)
Now for the AI go getters…