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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grading The Spring Season Of 2012 Television Shows

Normally I would would do a top 10 list for television shows and how they have fared during the first season of the year. However, considering how terrible 2012 has been so far this year, it would be a great disservice to do a top 10 list. So I will just give out grades for the shows I have seen this year.

Parks and Recreation (NBC) Season 4
Grade: A
Thursdays 930/830c

NOTES: The Office (U.S.) is one of my favorite sitcoms of all time and Parks and Rec is the new (and improved) version of The Office. While Season 4 of The Office is one of the greatest comedy seasons of all time, Season 4 of Parks and Rec is not far behind. Creators Greg Daniels and Michael Shur followed an amazing season of Parks and Rec in 2011 with another amazing one in 2012. Far and away the best comedy of 2012 as well as the best show of 2012

New Girl (FOX) Season 1
Grade: A-
Tuesdays 9/8c

NOTES: New Girl had an amazing pilot but struggled to find itself in the early goings. But like every great comedy show it found its stride and once it did it became one of the best shows of 2012. It's only flaw is that's it does not have as many memorable moments as I would like it to have so I can't give it an "A" rating. That being said, I can't wait to see where the show takes Nick and Jess in Season 2.

Mad Men (AMC) Season 5
Grade: B
Sundays 10/9c

NOTES: While Season 5 is not yet complete, the vast majority of the season is. And based upon what has aired so far Season 5 of Mad Men is its worst season to date- which is a shame because it is one of the greatest television series of all time. As bad as Season 5 has been it's still Mad Men and a "terrible" year for Mad Men is still better than anything most other networks can put on

30 Rock (NBC) Season 6
Grade: B
Thursdays 8/7c

NOTES: I don't think the show will ever be as good as it was in its first three seasons but this new ceiling of Season 6 is fine with me. I like Liz Lemon's new relationship with Criss and I like how the Jack and Liz relationship is working out but the show still doesn't know how to properly use Kenneth, and the new page (Hazel Wassername) is awful.

Archer (FX) Season 3 
Grade: B
Thursdays 11/10c

NOTES: Despite Archer coming off of its best season to date, it's hard for me to truly love Archer like how many of my friends do. An Archer season will have some great episodes in it but also a lot of "eh" episodes as well. Season 3 didn't have as many memorable episodes as it has in seasons past like "Mole Hunt" or "Swiss Miss" but it was more consistent from episode to episode this year.

Justified (FX) Season 3
Grade: B
Tuesdays 10/9c

NOTES: Season 2 of Justified can almost make my Mount Rushmore of television series and if I ever do a follow up (which I plan on it) it will most likely make that. But that being said Season 3 was a huge let down. They had one too many bad guys (Boyd Crowder + Robert Quarles PLUS Ellstin Limehouse) that spread the show out WAY too thin. That and Raylan was much less of a bad ass in this season than he ever was in the previous two and I need to have my Raylan Givens shooting people (or at people) every other episode.

Modern Family (ABC) Season 3
Grade: B
Wednesdays 8/7c

NOTES: Seasons 1 and 2 of Modern Family are excellent but Season 3 fell very flat of the potential that we have seen Modern Family reach.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS) Season 7
Grade: B
Mondays 8/7c

NOTES: How I Met Your Mother is also one of my favorite sitcoms of all time and it's first five seasons are amazing. But Season 6 was sub par and the 2011 version of HIMYM was just awful (I would have stopped watching if I didn't love the first five seasons so much). But the second half of Season 7 (the part of the season that aired in 2012) was very classic HIMYM and it reverted back to the goofy style it had when it first aired. While I still need to meet the damn Mother already, single Ted helps this version of How I Met Your Mother get above a "C-" rating.

Up All Night (NBC) Season 1
Grade: C
Thursdays 930/830c

NOTES: The show earns its "C" rating- it's just average. It's a show I only watch to bridge the gap between The Office and Archer and it's just filler at most. There's potential with a great cast, but I just haven't seen it yet.
Community (NBC) Season 3
Grade: D+
Thursdays 8/7c

NOTES: I'm happy that creator and showrunner Dan Harmon is being forced off of the show. The show imploded into itself and was way too clever for its own good. There were some great moments in Season 3 but overall it needs to go back to its simple Season 1 days

The Office (NBC) Season 8
Grade: F
Thursdays 9/8c

NOTES: It's a shame that NBC, from an economic standpoint, is in the crapper and that The Office is one of its highest rated programs because we'll be forced to deal with the dribble that is passing for The Office these days for at least a few more years. Original showrunner Greg Daniels left a few years ago to run Parks and Rec so then he was replaced with Paul Lieberstein (who plays Toby on the show). But now he's gone so this show will be in further disarray going into its fall season. The logical new showrunner would have been Mindy Kaling (who plays Kelly Kapor) but she left this season to create her own show: The Mindy Kaling Project.

Anyways, I'm off on a tangent. This show just needs to die already

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Entourage Is Coming To Life With The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann's (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rogue) trailer of his version of The Great Gatsby was released on Tuesday. You can see the trailer below:

After watching the trailer (which BTW looks AWESOME and as much as I have not enjoyed any of Lurhmann's work sans his song "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" I'm looking forward to Luhmann's version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic) I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Entourage.

I will say right now that if you have not seen any episodes of Entourage then 1) please stop reading and revel in the fact that you saw an exciting trailer and 2) go out and watch the first seven seasons of Entourage (although you can skip seasons 4 and 6 and also stop at season seven because its eighth and final season is awful)

One of my favorite seasons of Entourage was Season 5. Vinny Chase's career is in the toilet and he spends his entire season trying to regain his fame and make an awesome movie. All looks lost and terrible until the very end of the season finale when Martin Scorsese calls Vinny Chase and offers him a part as Nick Carraway in his upcoming movie: Gatsby.

Well, some three odd years later, a new Hollywood version of The Great Gatsby will be released. My first reaction to the news was, "Holy crap, this is life imitating art in relation to Entourage." After watching the trailer, here are the following similarities between what little we know about Gatsby from the scene in Entourage and what we learned from the trailer:

1) Are you sure this film is directed by Buz Luhrmann and is NOT Martin Scorsese?! I mean, this film does star Leonardo DiCaprio and as we all know, Martin Scorsese can not make a film without having DiCaprio nowadays.

2) Instead of Nick Carraway being played by Aquaman (aka Vinny Chase) he is actually being played by Spiderman (aka Tobey Maguire).

3) In Entourage, Martin Scorsese stated that he is adopting the novel into a more modern version. While, Luhrmann's version is certainly not modern and is set in the early 20th century, hot damn does it look like nothing of what F. Scott Fitzgerald envision when he originally wrote his masterpiece.

I can not wait to see his film

NOTE: Here's what little evidence we have of Baz Luhrmann's music career:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Best Movies From "The Avengers"

1) Iron Man (dir. Jon Favreau) (2008)
RATING: 3.5 stars

I almost literally had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see Iron Man. When I was in college my friend Jeff wanted to see Iron Man and took me to go see it with him. I refused based on principle. The trailers made it look stupid and Robert Downey Jr. hadn't done anything good in years. Boy was I wrong. Part of it was that my expectations were very low before I went to see the movie and part of it was that Favreau, Downey Jr, and company did a great job with the film.

Not only is Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) just a fun character in general (and the role Robert Downey Jr. was born to play) but the story was mainly centered on him and his character growth and development. Part of the problem with superhero movies (as we'll see later in the post) is that they can be very paint-by-numbers; they can be very generic. There's a good guy, a special event happens to him, we meet the bad guy, the good guy and bad guy fight, and good guy wins. The end. Iron Man is not like that. Well it is, but it is more. We see Tony Stark grow and mature and develop. The story mainly centers around Tony Stark and any character we get to know is because of Tony Stark.

What also helped Iron Man was that the villain, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), is a compatriot of Tony's and his "evilness" comes from the fact that he wants to take over Stark Enterprises (well, that and become an Iron Man also). His character stems from his relationship with Tony Stark and because of that it makes the movie better rather than just a random villain terrorizing the city.

You always have to suspend your disbelief for superhero films but the best ones are the ones grounded in reality. And despite the giant robot man, this story is believable and when you combine that with the great acting of Downey Jr. and Bridges and company, you get a damn good superhero flick.

2) The Incredible Hulk (dir. Louis Leterrier) (2008)
RATING: 3.5 stars

2008 was a great summer for superhero films. In early May Iron Man was released which was a surprising success. In Mid-July, The Dark Knight came out and changed the landscape forever for superhero films. And in Mid-June, The Incredible Hulk came out. People tend to forget how good 2008's The Incredible Hulk really is. It didn't help that it was the third best superhero movie during its summer release and fans had a bad taste in their mouth after 2003's Ang Lee / Eric Bana's version of The Hulk. But Edward Norton's version of The Hulk was vastly superior to not only every other Hulk movie / TV show but most super hero movies in general.

For starters, the movie didn't waste any time focusing on how Dr. Bruce Banner (Norton) became The Hulk. As the opening credits rolled we saw a montage of how Dr. Banner's work went out of control and forced him to become this green creature. This let the entire film explore what it was like to have this thing inside of you instead of wasting at least half an hour introducing characters and actually seeing the botched experiment.

Unlike most superhero movies, The Incredible Hulk has a small cast which works in favor so the audience gets to see true character development. We explore not only Bruce Banner's struggle with dealing with The Hulk, but actually his relationship with the love interest Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and we actually get to spend actual, quality time with the film's main antagonist, Emil Blonksy (Tim Roth). It also helps that the small cast includes some great, Oscar-nominated actors like Norton and William Hurt and (still a great actor sans an nomination) Roth.

3) Captain America: The First Avenger (dir. Joe Johnston) (2011)
RATING: 2.5 stars

Captain America is the definition of a paint-by-numbers superhero movie. Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) (Chris Evans) is not well developed, Evans can't act very well (although he does look like he should be a superhero), the film doesn't even TRY to develop the main villain Johann Schmidt / Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) which is a huge waste of Weaving's talents, and the action sequences are "meh" at best.

If this movie had come out 15 years ago, before Spider-Man II and The Dark Knight were released, and when people thought Michael Bay movies were the norm for action flicks, then Captain America would be a really good movie. But superhero movies aren't the same nowadays as they were a decade ago. We expert and should expect more from our films.

Captain America: The First Avenger was a blatant attempt to make money and to promote The Avengers. The plot used in the film does help set up the plot for The Avengers but really that's the only thing it is good for.

4) Thor (dir.Kenneth Branagh) (2011)
RATING: 2.5 stars

Thor was really doomed from the start. First of all, Thor is not a superhero, he is a demi-god. By his very existence and definition he is better than mere mortals. Now Superman was also not human but there was also a distinction between human and alien/superhero with Superman. At least Clark Kent tried to be human. Thor does not.

The second thing that worked against Thor was that the title character came from outer space / a distant galaxy. This is a problem, because like I said earlier, superhero movies need to be ground in reality to be effective and being an alien / from outer space is incongruous with good superhero films and this notion of reality.

Look at how terrible Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal was when you found out there actually were aliens. It's believable that the holy grail exists but it just isn't believable that aliens do (Obviously the Indiana Jones franchise are not superhero films but they follow a very similar mold). Look at how terrible The Green Lantern was. Hal Jordan's power came from an alien ring and he can fly into space and meet with his magical outer space friends. Thor is more like the alien superhero movies than it is like the "reality" superhero movies such as Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, or Iron Man which makes it harder for the movie to be good.

Lastly, the main villain in Thor was a weird robot creature thing. Sure, the true villain was Loki but most of what Thor was fighting were just agents of Loki. Thor follows the same vein of Captain America where the characters are underdeveloped, the actions sequences are weak, and it was made solely for The Avengers film so it doesn't stand well alone.

5) Iron Man 2 (dir. Jon Favreau) (2010)
RATING: 2 stars

Not only were we expecting big things because of how good the original Iron Man was but the characters in the sequel were not developed well, Mickey Rourke as the main villain was just too weird and out there to be truly effective (it's nice when you have a crazy, eccentric bad guy ala The Joker in The Dark Knight but the way Rourke's character was written and portrayed just fell flat), and the plot was thin. Again, this felt more like an excuse to make money slash set up The Avengers than actually create a good superhero film.

The one bright spot of the film was Sam Rockwell who played Justin Hammer. Rockwell is just a great actor who's charisma always pops on screen and stole every scene he was in in Iron Man 2.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Best Movies (Per Year) Of The Past 25 Years

2012: Chronicle (dir. Josh Trank) [The year is obviously still young]

2011: Drive (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)
     Close Runner Up: Young Adult (dir. Jason Reitman)

2010: Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)
     Close Runner Up: The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)

2009: Inglorious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

2008: The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan)
     Close Runner Up: Wall-E (dir. Andrew Stanton)

2007: There Will Be Blood (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

2006: Little Miss Sunshine (dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
     Close Runner Up: The Departed (dir. Martin Scorsese)

2005: Sin City (Robert Rodriguez)

2004: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (dir. Michel Gondry)

2003: Mystic River (dir. Clint Eastwood)

2002: Minority Report (dir. Steven Spielberg)

2001: Memento (dir. Christopher Nolan)
     Close Runner Up: Black Hawk Down (dir. Ridley Scott)

2000: Requiem For A Dream (dir. Darren Aronifsky)
     Close Runner Up: Gladiator (dir. Ridley Scott)

1999: The Matrix (dir. The Wachowski Brothers)
     Close Runner Up: The Sixth Sense (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

1998: Saving Private Ryan (dir. Steven Spielberg)

1997: Good Will Hunting (dir. Gus Van Sant)

1996: Fargo (Joel Coen)

1995: Toy Story (dir. John Lasseter)

1994: The Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont)
     Close Runner Up: Pulp Fiction (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
     Close Runner Up: Forrest Gump (dir. Robert Zemeckis)

1993: Schindler's List (dir. Steven Spielberg)

1992: My Cousin Vinny (dir. Jonathan Lynn)
     Close Runner Up: A Few Good Men (dir. Rob Reiner)

1991: The Silence Of The Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme)

1990: Goodfellas (dir. Martin Scorsese)

1989: Batman (dir. Tim Burton)
     Close Runner Up: Glory (dir. Edward Zwick)

1988: Die Hard (dir. John McTiernan)
     Close Runner Up: Rain Man (dir. Barry Levinson)

1987: Full Metal Jacket (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

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