Archive for the ‘TV Review’ category

The Wizard of Lies HBO Review

June 29, 2017

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Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) puts forth an impressive and thrilling story in this recent HBO original drama film The Wizard of Lies, which tells the true story of the aftermath of Bernie Madoff (Robert De Niro)’s infamous Ponzi scheme.

De Niro is perfectly cast as the slimy Madoff, in a role that will likely earn him an Emmy nomination (if not a win). The film introduces his character already locked in prison for his crime.

Here we see a New York Times reporter interviewing Madoff about the events surrounding his scheme. This serves as a framing device for the non-linear story which they present through flashbacks.

The story here is presented well. The film goes all out with the realism by using actual archive footage of TV journalists and comedians reporting and commenting on Madoff’s pyramid scheme.

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A little later, we get to see a bit of Madoff’s extravagant lifestyle before he got caught. We see him as the kind of person who views himself as superior to others. The thing is, at times, the film attempts to portray him as somewhat sympathetically.

It’s similar to 2015’s The Big Short where they try to portray it like he didn’t really know what he was doing and how much harm it would cause. It was effective in that film and it works pretty well here too.

Then about half-way through the film, we get a particularly emotional scene where something big happens. This scene is expertly elevated by its use of ironic music. This is easily the strongest part in the movie. Speaking of music, Levinson makes good use of an intense score coming from composers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine.

There’s a lot of powerful, well-directed, well-filmed and well-acted scenes here that make this TV film a real treat to watch. For instance, one clever scene a little later into the film uses drums to play with diegetic vs. non-diegetic music.

Overall, this movie is definitely worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. It gets an 8.5 out 10 from me.

Master of None Season 2 Review

June 13, 2017

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Netflix’s original dramedy series Master of None is one of the best shows currently airing and season 2 definitely brings back everything you enjoyed about the first season. The show repeats a lot of the same kind of plots dealing with friendships and relationships in the life of struggling actor Dev (Aziz Ansari). Having said that, this season throws a few changes our way when it comes to style.

The season premieres with a bang with the entire first episode taking place in Italy. Writer/director Aziz Ansari really emphasizes the old-fashioned, simplistic feel of Italy in this one, partly with the clever choice to film the whole episode in black and white.

We get a lot of interesting experimentation this season. One episode is presented from the point of view of three separate never before seen characters who just happen to live in New York City. And in another that may have just been the greatest of the season, we get a story that takes place over about 20 years of Thanksgivings with Dev and his childhood friend Denise.

As far as running plotlines throughout the season go, the most intriguing of them was likely the potential romance Dev has with his friend Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi). Mastronardi plays the role very convincingly. There’s a lot of good chemistry between the two of them. And it’s easy to see why the characters care for one another.

The best of the episodes that focuses on this would have to be the hour-long special “Amarsi Un Po,” which actually plays out more like a movie. The episode even begins with its own unique opening credits sequence with the cast and crew’s names displayed over establishing shots of New York City.

Speaking of good performances from new characters, two-time Emmy Award winner Bobby Cannavale gives a really fun portrayal as Chef Jeff, Dev’s new boss, and eventual friend. Overall, you get pretty much the same level of quality this season that you got from the first season. It’s all definitely worth checking out.

Watch the series on Netflix here: https://www.netflix.com/title/80049714

‘Bordertown’ Pilot – Unoriginal, Unfunny Adult Cartoon

January 8, 2016

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Imagine if you took Family Guy and American Dad!, meshed them together, and took out anything that made those shows likable. You’d have FOX’s new animated series Bordertown.

Okay, to be fair, I’m just judging this based on the first episode. Maybe it’ll improve as the show continues. But honestly, I’m not sure if I plan on coming back again to watch.

So Bordertown focuses on two Southwestern families living on the border between Mexico and California. Our protagonist Bud Buckwald is a middle-aged man and an open racist. This is where a lot of the humor in the show comes from.

And I often really like this kind of racial humor. All in the Family did it well. South Park has been doing it well for years. Family Guy and American Dad! have also done it well in the past. The problem here is that this episode doesn’t really do much new with this kind of comedy. And it’s not really going to be that funny if we’ve heard these jokes before.

So the main plot of this episode is that Bud’s daughter Becky gets engaged to J.C., the son of the Mexican family living next door. And of course, Bud isn’t happy with this and does everything  he can to try and stop it.

But what else doesn’t work about this pilot? Well, as you might have been able to tell by the above photo, the animation here just has a very unappealing look to it. I feel like they animators went out of their way to make everything to look as ugly and bland as possible.

The voice acting isn’t very good either in my opinion. Most of of the characters voices are just really annoying to listen to.

Then there’s the characters themselves. One problem I have is that some of them are kind of underdeveloped, at least at this point in the series. In particular, I’m talking about Bud’s wife. I feel like I know hardly anything about her. Hopefully she’ll get some more development in later episodes.

Is there anything here to enjoy? Well, despite the comedy not being very good overall, this episode did get a decent amount of chuckles out of me. Some of the jokes are a little clever and amusing. And there were a couple of genuinely funny jokes, mainly towards the end of the episode. But overall, I just didn’t like this very much.

I give this pilot a 4 out of 10.

Red Band Society: Pilot Review

August 31, 2014

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I always appreciate a well-made dramedy. And lately I have been thinking about how there aren’t really any on TV anymore (at least not any that I personally enjoy all that much). The only one that I could come up with is FX’s Louie (but I kind of think of that as a whole different genre in of itself).

But anyway, I think I may have found a solution in the new FOX series Red Band Society.

A quality dramedy series should have two main goals: to make the viewers laugh, and to make to viewers feel something. And while this show could try a little harder in the comedy department, it mostly accomplished the aforementioned goals.

The show centers around a group of teenagers who live in a hospital, along with some of the people who work there. The show has a good cast of likable, interesting characters. But the standout character here is young Charlie, played by Griffin Gluck, who also acts as the show’s narrator.

The episode had a few of those touching kind of moments (especially towards the end); the kind of moments that, while you’re watching them, make you pause and think “yeah, that’s some good stuff right there.”

Is the show without flaws? No. There are aspects that just come off  as cheesy and unrealistic. For instance, there’s this one character who is often portrayed as a total stereotype of a snobby, popular high school cheerleader. We do get to see a little more depth to the character later on. But a lot of the time, she felt like something out of a cartoon from the 1990s.

But despite some of it’s flaws, I would still like it if people would go and give this show a chance.

So make sure you watch the premiere of Red Band Society on Wednesday, September 17th on FOX.

The Knick: Pilot Review

August 15, 2014

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So I just watched the series premiere of the new Cinemax drama The Knick.

The Knick tells the story of Dr. John Thackery, a surgeon living in the year 1900. Thackery is portrayed by Clive Owen, who turns in a very good performance, which could earn him an Emmy nomination come next summer.

Throughout the episode we discover a few interesting things about this character that I can only imagine will make for some very compelling stories down the road.

Something that should be known before watching this show, is that it features some very graphic and disturbing surgery sequences.

I won’t get into detail, but I will say that what I saw in the early scenes of the episode may have been the most graphic thing I have ever seen on television. So if you’re like me, and you’re not used to seeing that kind of stuff, I would just be cautious going in.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t let this discourage you from watching the series, but you just need to know what you’re getting into to. And if you’re squeamish, I would recommend covering your eyes a little during the surgery scenes (there’s really only two of them by the way; one at the start of the episode, and one at the end).

Garfunkel and Oates: Pilot Review

August 7, 2014

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So I just got finished watching the series premiere of the new IFC sitcom Garfunkel and Oates. And it’s definitely something that I can recommend.

In this episode, our protagonists Riki and Kate, go on a double date and try to see how long they can go without saying a word. What unfolds from this is a very unique plot which carries the episode very well and makes for a lot of good laughs.

Ricki Lindhome and Kate Micucci both do a good job here. They’re funny, they’re likable, and they sing well.

So check out the show tonight on IFC at 10 pm. Or you could just do what I did and watch on YouTube right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bla7z9odhc0&list=LLAJrsPWHNeQBbuCHnxWXv4w&index=1

By the way, I would also recommend checking out Garfunkel and Oates’ YouTube channel if have not already done so: https://www.youtube.com/user/rikilind/videos.

The Case Against 8 Review

June 25, 2014

So I’m back to blogging again. I’m going to be doing it a little differently this time around. That’s all I have to say about that for now. Onto the review…

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So I just got finished watching the new HBO documentary The Case Against 8, which tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court case which led to the eventual overturning of Proposition 8, a law which had banned same-sex marriages in the state of California.

The film primarily follows the two gay couples who were fighting in favor of the repeal of Prop 8, along with their lawyers.

The aspect of this movie that impressed me the most was the way that it increased my understanding of how much this issue really matters to these people.

Don’t get the wrong idea; I’ve always been a supporter of gay marriage. And obviously I’ve always understood to a degree that the right to marriage is very important to homosexuals. But by watching this documentary, I actually got the opportunity to witness the real reactions of these real people throughout the whole experience.

Seeing everything that these couples went through whether it was good or bad was very emotional, and inspiring. When the movie was over, I starting thinking to myself, “I want to help gay marriage! I got to go find an online petition to sign or something!”

I think that it would be difficult for someone to watch this film with an open mind and then come out of it not at least reconsidering their position on gay marriage (assuming that person was not already for it).

So if you’re interested in the topic and you don’t mind sitting through a 2-hour documentary, I’d say check out The Case Against 8.


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