Fall-Winter 2015 Mini Movie Reviews

If you caught my last installment of mini movie reviews, you already know a bit about my movie-going habits. (If not, click here.) If you’re looking for things to Netflix in the coming months, hoping for a couple of decent RedBox rentals, or if you’re just wondering if The Force Awakens is worth all that hype, check out my next batch of reviews below. 

MOCKINGJAY PART 2 | 11/20/15

Key Players: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Mockingjay Part2This was inevitable, as I’ve been following the Games since their first trek to the big screen in 2012. I was a huge fan of the books and eager to see them come to life on the silver screen. The first film was a masterpiece, beautifully true to the book, and wonderfully casted. Same for Catching Fire, my favorite of the three. Mockingjay Part 1 was plodding and slow and started to falter, however, as I sort of expected. Mockingjay is admittedly my least favorite book in the literary trilogy turned film tetralogy, as I felt the climax was glossed over and wrapped up far too lazily to give justice to the story as a whole. I wondered if they would be able to rectify that in the film version.

So, my sister and I continued our tradition of heading to the theater on her first night home for her Thanksgiving break from college and went to witness the “epic conclusion” of the saga that catapulted J.Law into superstardom. It just didn’t feel so epic. It felt harried and disorganized, plotless and tired. Jennifer lacked the conviction and determination that Katniss displayed so indignantly in the first installment. It was, by most counts, a disappointment … but one you have to see to give yourself closure.

See it? If successfully overthrowing corrupt government appeals to you or if you’ve ever wanted to share a pizza and a bottle of wine with Jen. (Who hasn’t, amirite?) Continue reading

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Fall 2015 Pilot Tests

When I start hearing buzz about a new fall drama or comedy, I usually wait before diving right in. It needs to reel in some great reviews and ratings first, maybe an article here and there in Entertainment Weekly. After I read up on it and watch a trailer or two, I give it the ol’ pilot test. If the pilot episode hooks me, I stay with it for a while. If it doesn’t keep me interested, I try to rough it for a few episodes, given that some shows just take longer to really get underway, which I get. And even though I usually have a full fall roster every year ready to jam up my TiVo, I still try a couple new ones, just because. So this year, here’s what’s new to my ever-growing line-up and whether or not I think I’ll keep them …

Best Time Ever
Tuesdays at 10 on NBC

Best Time EverAs mentioned in my last PSA, I’m a huge Neil Patrick Harris fan so imagine my surprise when his hugely touted variety show, new to NBC this season, appeared to flop miserably. I found myself with a puzzled look on my face throughout much of the first episode, even fast-forwarding entire segments. The second episode did not fare much better. It’s as though he’s trying to cram much too much into every second and the pressure of performing it all live puts a strain on the easy-going, natural charmer that we know NPH to be. The audience participation in the first episode leaned more toward stalking and the second—an on-air proposal—seemed odd and out of place. His celebrity guest announcers falter awkwardly and “The End of the Show Show” runs the gamut from chaotic to sloppy. The only parts worth sitting through are the pranks and the physical obstacle course, which changes from show to show. But even so, after two episodes, I removed this from my TiVo to-do list. Sorry Neil, it just didn’t live up to its name. Continue reading

Welcome To Jurassic World

This past weekend, I was all about the pop culture phenom-of-the-moment: I binge-watched season three of Netflix’s prison dramedy “Orange is the New Black” and sat enRAPTORed (ba-dum-BUM) throughout the record-breaking dino juggernaut “Jurassic World”—twice.

1907492_10100414465579958_262451441502663559_nI’ll get to OITNB later, but for now, #RaptorSquad4Lyfe!

Jurassic World exceeded all expectations, not only mine, but at the box office as well. It shattered opening weekend statistics, earning $524.4 million worldwide. (It’s the first film ever to make more than $500 million in one weekend!) Domestically, it was lagging only behind Avengers: Age of Ultron before finally smashing it down with $208.8 in U.S. sales. So, uh … wow.

I wanted this movie to be so good so badly (it is). I wanted to learn to like Chris Pratt (I did). I wanted to be amazed (I was). Most importantly, I wanted to know that all the years spent waiting would be worth it; for a while, it seemed a third sequel would never happen. We last saw the residents of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna back in 2001 and perhaps the long wait was needed to refresh and hit us hard with a brand new concept. It’s been said that Jurassic World is intended to be direct sequel to the 1993 film, safe to pretend that the other two—The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park 3 (2001)—don’t even exist. Probably wise.

Hats off to director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg (director of the legendary original); the film was both an homage to and brilliant reimagining of John Hammond’s innovative vision. The park is open!

Here’s how Jurassic World rates against its predecessor (IMO): Continue reading

To Watch or Not to Watch: Younger

Soooo, I was watching Friends last week and I kept seeing commercials for this show. The third new episode was airing right after, and I noticed that the pilot and second ep were after that, so I TiVo-ed all three, watched all three, and I have to say, it is really cute. It’s from the creator of Sex and the City and stars Sutton Foster (Bunheads), that cute not-actually-gay guy from The Following, Lizzie McGuire herself, and the mean lady from Beethoven’s 2nd. Millennials to moms will probably get a kick out of it. (Based on my two latter cast descriptions, I’m clearly in the right age group.)

It would be easy to catch reruns and get up to speed in time for the next episode, so I recommend doing so! Continue reading

To watch or not to watch: How To Get Away With Murder

HTGAWM

In September, I mapped out my fall TV schedule. What I failed to mention, of course, was the fact that I also tend to pick up a new show or two every year. I try to resist, lest my DVR blow a gasket, but television dramas are at the top of their game lately and it’s hard to ignore the buzz.

That is especially true this season with the addition of the Viola Davis law/crime thriller “How To Get Away With Murder” to ABC’s Thursday night line-up, now dubbed #TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday). HTGAWM caps off “Shonda Rhimes night,” at 10 p.m., following Grey’s Anatomy at 8 and Scandal at 9. Rhimes is arguably one of the most influential showrunners of her era, using powerhouse black actresses to create strong female characters. But she doesn’t take kindly to those two identifiers, as illustrated in this late October excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter:

“In early August, Shonda Rhimes read a draft announcement for an event where she was set to appear. It called her ‘the most powerful black female showrunner in Hollywood.’ She crossed out ‘female’ and ‘black’ and sent it back […] she didn’t believe either modifier was necessary—or relevant. ‘They wouldn’t say that someone is ‘the most powerful white male showrunner in Hollywood,’’ she contends […] ‘I find race and gender to be terribly important; they’re terribly important to who I am. But there’s something about the need for everybody else to spend time talking about it […] that pisses me off.’”

She instead allows her shows, particularly her characters, to speak for themselves. Annalise Keating (Davis) joins the ranks of Scandal’s no-nonsense Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), Grey’s Anatomy’s tough cookie Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and many other key players from her primetime dramas.

Peter Nowalk, straight out of Shondaland as producer for her two current juggernauts, seems to be one of Rhimes’ most promising protégés as the creator of the show everyone’s talking about.

And everyone is indeed talking about it. I’ve been a fan of Viola Davis since her heart-breaking—but electrifying—performance as Aibileen Clark in 2011’s “The Help.” The promos looked interesting. I hesitated to invest in yet another ensemble drama, but because I’ve never had a decent crime or courtroom drama in my repertoire, I gave it the pilot test. It was clear within the first five minutes that I made the right choice to follow the buzz—and my instincts about good television. Continue reading

To watch or not to watch: “Orange Is the New Black”

o-ORANGE-IS-THE-NEW-BLACK-facebook

This is my first Netflix original and I think it’s a brilliant concept. Consumers like it because of the lack of annoying network regulations and censorship, plus no commercials, and the ability to devour episode after episode without waiting a week in between. Showrunners probably appreciate the flexibility and innovation. And Netflix, well they get to see their numbers start shooting up because no one wants to be left out when the buzz starts circulating about an awesome new show, so they hurry to sign up.

It seems like everyone has been talking about Orange is the New Black since its July 11 release. Now I can see why. In my last “To Watch or Not to Watch,” I wanted you to tell me whether I should continue with The Americans. Well now I’m telling you, if you haven’t tried out the pilot of this awesome prison dramedy, you need to do so. Or at least the trailer, which I’ve included beyond the jump. Now. Go on, I’ll wait. Continue reading

To watch or not to watch: “The Americans”

The Americans

I like TV that makes you think. Too often shows just pander to their lazy audiences, especially comedies. After all, who wants to come home from a long hard day at work and think? I, however, have always been partial to shows with a heavy-hitting undercurrent. I want to be taken for a ride.

As a senior in college, I took a course in television criticism. It was the first journalism class that actually allowed me to feel like I was doing something other than just taking notes on lectures about AP Style and the difference between slander and libel. We watched pilot episodes of several shows and analyzed them. I wrote term papers of ten or more pages on shows like Gilmore Girls and Boy Meets World. It re-wired my brain by giving me a fresh perspective on one of my most beloved “hobbies.” It helped me in the long run, particularly where entertainment journalism is concerned, into really letting the theme of a scene kick in and noticing nuances in character development. This isn’t to say I spend every moment dissecting the plot of what I’m watching—it just means that when I want to, I can flip a switch and really delve into the heart of a storyline with a keener eye.

Something tells me this will come in handy when watching FX’s new spy drama “The Americans.” Continue reading