Tuesday, May 28, 2013

1846 - Smash: season two

I have to be quite honest - I can't really explain why I watch this series, or better yet, while it's kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.  But I do.  I'm a musical fan and so that's largely why.  On the whole this show does more wrong than it does right.   I don't have a favorite characters - in fact they're all, largely, unlikeable.  A lot of people who review this series slag on Katherine McPhee - I don't mind her so much outside of her being seemingly "pure" yadda, yadda - but I really can't stand Angelica Huston.  I think she's fine in something like.... The Witches, but I really just find that she kind of plays one-note characters a lot - the characters are often different, but she doesn't seem to know how to shade them with variance - it's puzzling.  I want to like her, I just have difficulty. 
I can't really recommend nor not recommend this.  I'll say this - if you're a music theatre geek, watch it - you'll get a kick of the melodramatic behind the scenes stuff - any one else is probably best to just steer clear.  It's hard to say if I'd have come back for a third season, but I think the show was best to get out now - I think it would be hard to sustain this  much longer.  Get out while the getting's... well... not terrible :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

1845 - Picture Day

For those of you who don't know who Tatiana Maslany, you really need to.  She's emerged as one of Canada's darlings and rightly so.  Outside of this and other other fantastic film work, she's also the star on the series Orphan Black and it's a tour-de-force performance.  She's easily one of the most talented Canadian actors who hasn't skipped over the border, and we're lucky to have her.
Full disclosure - the producer of this film is a buddy of mine.  I'd heard about this flick and wanted to see it before I really knew him though.
Picture Day tells the story of a loaner in high-school who reconnects through his old babysitter and the the subtle, but important, difference they make in each others lives.  It's a dual coming-of-age story and it's a pretty damn enjoyable one.  It's playing at TIFF's Bell Lightbox for the next week, and I believe there's a Q&A following Monday's screening - otherwise I believe it's coming to VOD sooner rather than later as well.  You should support Canadian film regardless, but even more so when it's such a lovely little thing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

1844 - Save the Date

I randomly found this on netflix and the instant I saw that Alison Brie, Martin Starr, and Lizzy Caplan were all in it - that's all I needed to know.  Count me in for that casting party!
This tells the story of two sisters, predictably opposites, going through some major changes in their lives.  There was a really refreshing quality to this.  The dialogue and acting was very subtle and beautiful - it's not really a comedy, but it's also not a drama - so by default it's lumped into the rom-com category since it's about relationships.  We really do need to find a new name for this genre...  It seems a bit big to just throw so many things together.
So without giving away too much here, if you dig character stories with great characters and realistic relationship issues then you'll likely enjoy this - the cast was delightful.

Monday, May 20, 2013

1843 - Zack & Miri Make a Porno

I haven't seen this in forever and wanted to revisit it.  Seth Rogen is pretty great here, but the stand-out for me is Elizabeth Banks.  The chemistry they've got is pretty damn sweet and you damn well believe that she's into him.
It's not my favorite of Smith's films - the story feels a bit more formulaic than others, and luckily he's got the cast to sell the moments that don't feel quite as organically earned as others.  I sound like I'm shitting on this film, but I swear I do really adore it.  Justin Long has a cameo that's pretty goddamn amazing.  If you haven't seen it and enjoy things in the vein of Kevin Smith, it's absolutely worth checking out.  Do it!

1842 - The Office: season nine

And so it ends.  I know a lot of people that jump out of this series shortly after Steve Carell's departure.  Some people felt that the show stopped being interesting following Jim & Pam's wedding in 'Niagara'.  I'm one that believes the show had a hard time finding it's legs after Carell left, and I wasn't quite sure why - but having thought about it I think now I know.  The show's heyday was really it's first four-five seasons because of the focus on the Jim and Pam relationship - it was one of the most interesting and best told sitcom love stories - easily up there with Sam/Diane, and any other - but once they became a solid couple they had very little do what - was was left was the emptiness inside of Michael Scott to play with - that was the heart of the show after Jim & Pam - now the problem was that once Michael rode off with his true love the show had no emotional core left.  All of the cast is great, it's solid, but they are all comedic foil and so there was nothing really to ground into emotionally as far as stakes were concerned.  When Greg Daniels returned for the final season he fixed that by throwing a big wrench into the Jim & Pam relationship and giving us something to root for.  And I loved how simple and real their problems were.  It wasn't some new person for either of them to fall for - it was real life stuff - and being similar to their situation where you've got two little kids and your own personal desires - let's just say it hit home pretty deep.  My wife and I's lives have coincided with JIm & Pams in an interesting way, so it's been fun to have that and it'll be missed for sure.  
So to speak more specifically about this season - it's easily been it's strongest in a long while - although the show never quite knew what to do with Ed Helm's character despite it trying really really hard, I like where they ended up with him.  Ellie Kemper was the bright spot of the second half of the Office's life span and she brought a much needed energy to the show, and Clark Duke was a great addition into the final season - I wish he'd been there prior.  Alas.  
I like the way the show wrapped itself up, I appreciated seeing old friends in the final episode - and people moving on or staying behind felt natural and realistic.  There was some great sentiment in the closing minutes, and although I strongly believe that the show needed to end it's run, I can't say that I won't miss checking in on the employees of The Office.  It's a bit surreal that it's over - but now I can allow myself to catch up on other sitcoms I've put on the back burner.  If you've never check this series out, start from the beginning - or at least from the second season - the first season is a bit rough, if I'm being completely honest…  Goodbye Dunder Mifflin - you will be missed!

1841 - The Big Bang Theory: season six

How did this series get to six seasons?  There was an article posted the other day talking about how this series keeps getting better and a writer friend who had bowed out early asked me if that were true - and it absolutely is.  What the show has done extremely well is turn into, essentially, the new Friends.  By bumping up the female parts they've struck some kind of universal chord.  The writing team finds freshness in running gags that few shows can.  It keeps finding ways to stretch and pull the characters in new directions without changing who they've always been.  This isn't my favourite kind of show by any means, but it's always enjoyable.  There's a reason why it's the most watched show in Canada.

1840 - Despicable Me

It's been a lot of fun to rediscover old films with my son, but it's just as enjoyable to experience things for the first time with him as well.  Outside of the voice actors this didn't really seem that interesting to me from the advertisements, but we watched it anyway.  It's the story of an evil villain who is in danger of losing his evil corporate funding to a young hot shot unless he steals something amazing - The Moon!  It's Steve Carell vs. Jason Segal and it's pretty damn enjoyable.  In terms of the quality of writing it's not quite up there with the Pixar team, but it's not bad by any means.  Worth checking out if you haven't, and i'm sure my little guy will drag me to the sequel that's coming out.

Friday, May 17, 2013

1839 - Blackbird

I've been wanting to see this film for a while since I'd heard nothing but amazing things about it.  For those that aren't in the known, this film is about a highschool boy that's been bullied and ends up writing a story about taking revenge on those who torment him - the wrong people find the story and assume that he's planning a Columbine-esque attack and suddenly he's sent to juvee where the people are far worse and realizes the only way out of that hell is to plead guilty to a come he didn't commit.  
Simply told, it starts off with almost a Citizen Kane thing going as we're brought into the backstory through flashbacks following his initial arrest.  The performances in this film really are quite something else.  This is a film that's, sadly, very timely and I think a film that needs to be seen by as many people as possible.  It's currently doing the rounds in Canada so please, pretty please, give it a shot.  Jason Buxton has made a bold first feature give it a shot when you get a chance as it's easily one of the best Canadian films I've seen in a very long time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

1838 - New Girl: season two

This is a series that more-or-less had me from the very start and hasn't let go.  I'm not a huge fan of things that are overtly quirky, but for some reason it works here and it does so again and again.  Week after week we're introduced to what feels like a never ending well of character ticks that each of our heroes have, which ultimately exist to serve the story-of-the-week, but I always let it slide because the characters are solid and I believe these ticks exists within their world, and also the writing is so goddamn good, 
I'm going to get into minor SPOILER territory here, so proceed with caution.  From the very beginning you'd have to be an idiot not to figure out that at some point the writers were going to play with the idea of Nick and Jess as a couple - the question was how long would they drag that out and how would they sustain it once they do.  We're not partly into that.  I have to say that the execution under which they became a couple was pretty fantastic.  The entire cast is fantastic, and that's how you get a sitcom that sustains (or any show for that matter) people that you want to keep coming back to.
I felt like the end of this season got a tinge repetitive with Jess and Nick's push and pull, but I also bought the hesitation - it's a big move for them and the show.  I love where Max Greenfeld's character was left off, and now we just need something exciting for Winston!
If you're not watching this show you're making a big mistake.  It's easily my favourite sitcom currently on air.  I still argue that it has a terrible name for an ongoing series, but I can let that slide.  Please - check it out!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1837 - Vegucated

It's hard for to write about food documentaries like a regular review on here.  I'm a pescatarian, which is a vegetarian that eats fish - and I tell you, after watching something like this I start to strongly question that choice as well… so much about what we eat and why is tied to closely to tradition for tradition's sake.  No one who lives in any kind of civilized place can make a solid argument for why you need to consume animal products - you just can't outside of choice and desire.  This is a pretty fresh take on the subject and it's director introduces the ideas with humour and then gets you comfy before pulling out the more uncomfortable stuff. 
If you're reading this and you're a meat-eater - I get it.  I was a meat-eater for a long time, and it's only been five years since I've drastically changed the way I eat.  Here's the thing - even if you don't care about animals, even if you don't care about what the meat and dairy industry does to the planet - you should at least look at what reducing some of the stuff can do to your body.  Over the last 5 years I've lost around a hundred pounds without really trying all that hard.  I'm still trying to lose more, and that's tougher once you plateau - but I definitely feel a shit-load healthier.  It scares me to think what I'd look like if I hadn't changed my diet.  So there's that.  Do or do not, but make an informed decision before dismissing something like this.

Monday, May 06, 2013

1836 - Iron Man 3

Marvel has really done something quite amazing with the Marvel cinematic universe.  If you're a fan of the DC superheroes you can bow in and out of them as you please - like Batman but not Superman - fine - watch one and not the other.  But with Marvel, to get the full experience and all the references, you really need to show up each time - especially to get the benefits of the Avengers when they all team up.  It turns it into a really interesting and integrated series. 
So that brings us to the third (or I suppose 4th) outing for Tony Stark.  Tony easily has the most interesting arc of his entire series here.  The events of the Avengers fucked him up.  Iron Man started off as something very grounded in reality, and so it works nicely that as we expand the Marvel universe we discover other heroes with different powers - Tony is merely a human being, and intelligent one, but just a human.  Up to this point he's truly believed that he needs his armour.  And that's not untrue.  So what's really great about this storyline is that just when Tony needs all his toys the most, he's stripped of them and forced to be enough just as he is.  Much like Thor not being able to use his hammer for the majority of that film, Tony doesn't really get his powers back here until he's worthy of them.  It's great storytelling.  Add to that Shane Black's trademark jaded humour and you've got the kind of summer flick that most should aspire to. 
It's hard to imagine and fan of this franchise didn't run out to see this opening weekend, but if not then do so - this could be the best so far - and if you're new to the Marvel universe - start from the beginning.  It really is a ride worth taking.

Friday, May 03, 2013

1835 - Garden State

I haven't revisited this film in a long time and I did, I'm sure like many this week, on the cusp of Zach Braff's crowd funding campaign for his new film WISH I WAS HERE.  This film has a cult following and there's no surprise why - it's charming, full, sweet, and full of heart.  If I could make one change in this film it would simply be not to make Zach's character a struggling actor.  Outside a running-gag it just feels to me like a story that in infinitely more relatable if he's more of an everyman.  But there's not much to be done about that at this point.
This is likely one of the films that helped coin the term Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, but I could care less since Natalie Portman is so damn adorable here.  If you watch this and don't fall for her, you're dead inside.  That's right.  I said it.  The film has a killer soundtrack, and Big Bang Theory fans keep an eye out for Jim Parsons - if you remember the film but haven't seen it for a while, he's the knight.  (RIGHT?!)

Zach Braff has been taking some shit for raising money to make his film on Kickstarter, but I really don't understand why.  I can see the complaint that places are like that are for people who can't raise money traditionally - but I'd argue that we have no idea what Zach's situation is - sure he made a cult film - but that was almost ten years ago. (I know… sep).  Also, celebrities like he and the Vermonica Mars people attract new people to websites like that, those of whom might not had went there in they first place.  Indie filmmaking is the wild west, and if you can tap into a fan base to raise your money, then right there you've got proof that yours is a film people want to see.

If you haven't seen Garden State, it's absolutely worth checking out.  I don't praise it to the mountains like some do, but I do love it.