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Monday, December 5, 2016

The 10 Best Television Episodes of 2016

10) "Shut Up and Dance" Black Mirror (Netflix)
Season 3 / Episode 3
Premiere Date: October 21, 2016
Starring: Alex Lawther & Jerome Flynn
Directed By: James Watkins

Brief Description: "Shut Up and Dance" mainly follows a young man named Kenny (Lawther) who is being blackmailed by an anonymous hacker to do horrendous things after getting caught masturbating. Along his journey he meets up with Hector (Flynn), and the two are asked to do one horrific act after another.

"Shut Up and Dance" may not be the best Black Mirror episode that premiered in 2016, but it's certainly the one that elicited the biggest emotional reaction from me. That reaction was mostly horror and anger, but at least it made me feel something. A lot of what Charlie Brooker and company did this season was to show the downsides of technology, whether it was how horrible it is to get your self-worth from online ratings or how terrible technology can be in the hands of the military amidst mass hysteria, but that's all most of the episodes did. We all know technology and the device you're reading this blog post on is bad for us, but so what? That's why the best Black Mirror episodes bring a human element and a very specific story (which in turn creates a broad audience) to the downsides of technology, and "Shut Up and Dance" did that and then some. This episode was Black Mirror at its bleakest, and I loved it.


9) "Master Slave" Mr. Robot (USA)
Season 2 / Episode 6
Premiere Date: August 10, 2016
Starring: Rami Malek & Christian Slater
Directed By: Sam Esmail

Brief Description: My personal  favorite moment of Mr. Robot was in the second half of the premiere when Scott Knowles takes a suitcase full of money and then lights it on fire while "Take Me Home" by Phil Collins plays, but this is a list of the best episodes, not the best moments (sort of). Therefore, I had to go with the best and weirdest episode of the series- the one were Elliot is stuck in a 90's sitcom with Alf. Mr. Robot has always been a show that's clearly, and for the better, different than any show on television. Creator, writer, director, producer Sam Esmail proved that once again with "Master Slave" where he used his main character's mental illness in order to tell the most creative stories possible.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Robert Zemeckis Proves He Can Direct With Allied

I didn't know what to expect before I saw Allied. I didn't really know much about the film except that it looked like a more serious version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Brad Pitt plays a spy who is ordered to kill his wife who he also believes is a spy. We were even treated to the same media tabloid story surrounding Brad Pitt's person life with Marion Cotillard swapped out for Angelina Jolie (albeit the story is not true in the present instance). So when the film ended, I was shocked to see the name "Robert Zemeckis" emboldened in huge white letters across the screen. Not only is Allied not your typical Zemeckis film, but it's actually very good.

Now obviously the title of this blog post is excessive and a tad click bait-y, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Allied is a Robert Zemeckis joint. It's almost like finding out that The Social Network was directed by David Fincher. Both films are very good and directed by someone who clearly knows their stuff, but don't contain the typical tropes and visual stylings of the director. And very obviously Robert Zemeckis can direct. Not only is he responsible for the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but he directed one of the greatest films of all time: Forrest Gump.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ranking The 10 Most Anticipated New Shows of the Fall 2016 Season

1) Atlanta (FX)
Created By: Donald Glover
Starring: Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield, & Brian Tyree Henry
Premiere Date: September 6

Brief Description: For the longest time, people have been championing for diversity in Hollywood. Atlanta is what happens when those championing voices get heard. What the people really want is for different voices to be heard; we want to see a different perspective on things. Donald Glover and Atlanta deliver on those expectations. The show, created by a black man, starring almost exclusively black actors, and directed by a newcomer Asian-American, gives us a unique and engaging experience into a world that has not been heavily explored. While the plot of the show is about Earn (Glover) helping his cousin Paper Boi (Henry) make it in the rap game to get them both rich (mainly Glover's character), in its execution, Atlanta is just an excuse to bring character together so we the audience can get a peak into their lives. Donald Glover has always been a gifted storyteller, whether its in his stand-up or in his songs, and he gets to share those gifts with us again in Atlanta.


2) Speechless (ABC)
Created By: Scott Silveri
Starring: Minnie Driver, Cedric Yarbrough, & Micah Fowler
Premiere Date: September 21

Brief Description: As with Atlanta, Speechless proves what joy can come with diversity. For a while, network sitcoms became stale. It was basically a Michael Schur production or GTFO. But thanks to ABC and some different perspectives, sitcoms are back. Thanks to Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat, traditional sitcoms become both funny and entertaining again. While both shows used tired sitcom tropes, they don't feel tired as we're seeing these tropes through a new lens. The same holds true for Speechless. In the ABC comedy, we have the same comedy family we've seen before- mother, father, and three kids (two boys and one girl). The "hook" in Speechless is that the eldest J.J. (Fowler) is wheelchair bound and needs an aide (Yarbrough) to speak for him. This premise (along with Driver and Yarbrough) turns the traditional sitcom on its head. Plus, it's really funny.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

6 Great Shows That Had The Revolution Pass Them By

Television right now is in a vastly different space than it was when the 1990’s ended. Thanks to shows like Oz and The Sopranos on HBO to House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black on Netflix, T.V. has gone through a drastic revolution. The Golden Age of Television and the spark and cause of this revolution is detailed in the incredible book The Revolution Was Televised by Hitfix.com’s TV critic Alan Sepinwall. I recently wrote about the shows responsible for television’s second revolution in this current Silver Age of Television. However, during the past 16-20 years or so, television has given us some incredible shows that haven’t risen to the level of transcendent. Mr. Sepinwall discusses shows like Lost, The Shield, and Deadwood and I discussed shows like Game of Thrones and True Detective. Shows that are both incredible on their own and helped define a generation of programs. But in a tier underneath those programs are a handful of shows that are excellent in their own right, but didn’t quite rise to the level of revolutionary. These are the shows that we would be speaking more about if it weren’t for the Golden and Silver Age shows. These shows deserve a lot more respect than they’ve gotten so far, and I’m going to give them their just due.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Lobster Movie Review

What’s worse: to die of cold and hunger in the woods, to become an animal that will be killed and eaten by some bigger animal, or to have a nosebleed from time to time?”

This is a question posed by The Limping Man, played by Ben Winshaw, to the main protagonist David, played by Colin Ferrell in the Indie film The Lobster. The film itself, written and directed by Greek film maker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), is an odd, satirical take on relationships, and is summed up perfectly by the question posed by The Limping Man. It’s weird, it doesn’t quite make sense, yet it’s truthful to how we should view courtship and love.

In the film, all adults must be in a committed relationship, and if you’re not, you are sent to a hotel where you have 45 days to find a mate. If you fail to do so, you get turned into an animal of your choice. Some people refuse this model, and live as loners in the woods, only to be hunted by the people in the hotel in an attempt to earn extra days staying at the hotel. Desperate to find a mate, The Limping Man gives himself nosebleeds in order to connect to a young woman who naturally gets nosebleeds often. Based upon this physical attribute, the two are set up as a match to be paired together forever. When questioned about his lie by David, The Limping Man gives the aforementioned response.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where Did All Of The Quarterbacks Go?

On August 4, 2016, the Kansas City Chiefs signed free agent Nick Foles, a player who has proved that his incredible, Pro Bowl worthy 2013 season was a fluke more than talent. Foles signing came in an off season where the New York Jets tried to play chicken (and lost) with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and saw the much maligned Cleveland Browns sign first-round flame out Robert Griffin the Third to be their starter. In an era where it’s easier than ever to complete a pass in the NFL, we seemingly cannot find 32 competent men who are up to the task.

While there has always been bad quarterback play in the NFL, now more than ever seems to highlight the notion that if you don’t like the quarterback you have now, you’re screwed. We used to live in a time where if you didn’t like your quarterback, then you could trade for a team’s back up. The Seattle Seahawks had great success with Matt Hasselbeck who was the back up for the legendary Brett Farve- a man who himself was traded from the Atlanta Falcons. Speaking of the ATL, they not too long ago traded away their back up Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans. Growing up in Chicago, myself and fellow Bears fans used to hold the back-up quarterback in high regard- sometimes higher than the starter. Bears fans used to be so devoid of QB hope that we loved it when 31-year-old Brian Griese came to play in 2006 to be our back-up.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why Are We Ruining National Treasure Christoph Waltz?

The opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 masterpiece Inglorious Basterds is a thing of beauty. In it, a local French farmer played by Denis Menochet is having a conversation with a high ranking Nazi who we later has earned the nickname “The Jew Hunter”. The conversation and scene clocks in at almost 30 minutes, yet it flies by as the farmer and the Nazi are having such an intense and engaging conversation. The Jew Hunter is charismatic and charming and the life of the scene. While the Farmer always keeps his guards up, the audience get sucked in. Despite his name, he doesn’t seem like he’s that bad. He seems like an everyday bloke just trying to do his job. He could be wrong about his mission, but he needs to investigate anyways. Then the scene turns. Not only does the audience later figure out the Farmer is hiding a family of Jewish people under his floorboards, but The Jew Hunter knows this as well. He gets the Farmer to admit his “crimes” and eventually orders his men to kill the entire family. One of the daughters, Shoshanna, escapes, and The Jew Hunter points his gun at her back and she runs away- carefully following his prey. Then… he gives up. He admits defeat and walks away.

And this is how America was introduced to the great Christoph Waltz.