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Ghost Town

Dear Madonna:  THIS is how you do Ghost Town.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Trailer)

Welp, there's a ton of shit to talk about, so it's time to start the blog up again.  Why not get going with a bang?  Here it is, the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Careful, nerds.  You might want to be alone when you view this. 


Is It Over Finally?

Welp, I gave American Horror Story: Freak Show about five or six episodes this season before I forgot to keep watching.  Apparently the finale aired this week.  Apparently this was the biggest messiest most-disjointed season yet.  I am officially giving myself permission not to care about this show anymore.  You should too.


Nobody's Watching The Comeback

My boyfriend and I have been watching The Comeback every Sunday night since it -- ahem -- came back.  But it turns out we may be the only ones who are.  Ratings are pretty dismal, which is just a gawddam shame because the show is really brilliant.  I mean, I will be the first to admit it's sometimes difficult to watch, but that's kind of the point and what makes it so fantastic.  

It's hard not to be disappointed, but I can't say I'm surprised.  The Comeback is challenging us with the sad, shallow truth of a popular culture that we fuel with our lazy, couch-potato tastes.  Nobody wants to see the reality behind reality, especially when you're being asked to laugh at the very ridiculousness of what you secretly enjoy.  In a way, the show is pointing a finger back at the viewer:  you did this, you make this shit important by the choices you make when you spend your money and change your channels.  People aren't self-aware enough or secure enough to admit their part and still find it funny. 


If You Haven't Read Gone Girl, You May As Well Get It Over With

I started reading #GoneGirl three days ago, and now it's all I can think about. I haven't been getting a lot of sleep these past couple nights. My boyfriend was nagging me to hurry up and read it so we could go see the movie (which hello, David Fincher!).  What is that nagging reflex I have that causes me sometimes to casually ignore that which is almost universally heaped with praise and garnering massive attention?  It's some sort of childish ego thing, always needing to be early to the party, not wanting to be a sheep following along at the last minute going, oh, yah, it IS really good.  Anyway, it doesn't matter, you just gotta read it and get it over with.  Do it quickly, like a bandaid.  Ignoring is not an option.  


If You Don't Watch Veep, They'll Stop Making Good Shows

If you've ever complained about the formulaic spoon-fed comedies found on network television like The Big Bang Theory or Mom, if you've ever mourned the premature cancellation of intelligent, sophisticated entertainment like The Comeback or Arrested Development, and especially if you appreciate the cynical yet playful tone of workplace humour portrayed in The Office or 30 Rock, you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself if you're not currently watching Veep.   

And you know what?  I get it.  Veep is one of those critically acclaimed, award-worthy shows that you tell yourself you really should watch, but for some reason doing so feels like a chore.  Everybody has a list of shows they feel remotely guilty for not watching, shows they know they would probably love, if they could only get into them.  I'm talking about show like Nurse JackieGetting On or Web Therapy.  You may have even watched a few episodes and thought, ugh, I'm too tired to think, let's just find a Friends rerun. Well, I'm here to encourage -- no, "insist" is a better word -- you to make the effort and commit to this show because, man, you will not be sorry.  Veep is hilarious, and each new season is better than the last.  And if we don't watch the really good high-brow stuff, then have no right to whine about all the crap out there.


Hang On Just a Minute

We all spent a decade making fun of Renee Zellweger for having a puffy face.  We do not now get to step back and act surprised that she's had plastic surgery to change it.  Come on, people, this face is on you.  Anyway, she looks fine.


Season 5, Episode 1: Not Bad

Looks like we've thankfully sidelined another potentially tedious half a season's worth of our crew held up at Terminus by a bunch of predictably one-dimensional bad-guy cannibals.  I will reluctantly admit the season 5 opener seems to have learned from its critics.  They don't go overboard on the shootouts, there's a good balance between action, gore and drama, and just when you think the characters are resorting to inexplicably stupid choices in order to force the narrative, the show flips it around and has it make sense.  We even had one or two antagonists who showed a tiny flicker of humanity for a change (which in a world with an ever-lowing humanity bar should be the norm). Overall a tad too tidy and convenient to have everybody (except Beth) reunited and on the road with an open slate for storytelling all in the first episode, but I'm not going to continue criticizing a show that keeps pushing itself to new and different heights ... or lows, depending on how you feel about death, torture and extremely poor hygiene. 

Gay Daryl Clues:  Does not kiss Carol upon long-awaited and extremely emotional reunion.


Welcome to the Freak Show

As usual American Horror Story looks gorgeous, is weird and disturbing with fascinating, fun, campy ideas and great performances (not to mention cutting edge special effects).  But as usual, it's just not scary.  Ryan Murphy doesn't seem to understand the difference between "disturbing" and "scary."  There's no suspense being created here.  We see the murderous clown doing his thing, and he's creepy and violent and upsetting, but instead we should be wondering about his existence, building up to it.  What we don't know about him (or the entire Freak Show for that matter) should be far more scary than what we do know.  It feels like there is a real missed opportunity to hint at an underbelly of darkness that isn't worn so brazenly on its sleeve (see Carnivale or Twin Peaks).

I'll keep watching for the fun and the entertainment value of this level of creativity and art in production, especially visually, but I have exactly zero faith in AHS's ability to sustain any kind of a narrative arc over the entire season.  The show always veers off into "making it up as we go along" territory and never feels like it has a solidly planned storytelling path.  That is the series' biggest failing.  So many great ideas mined and drained almost instantaneously for their visual payoff, without proper thought being expended towards how the overarching story brings all those ideas together into a worthwhile conclusion.  Also, was I the only person not entirely but somewhat confused as to why they performed for the first time for only two audience members and referred to it as a "sold-out show"?


The Pinnacle of Visual Cinematic Evolution

It dawned on me as I watched the kinetic thrill-ride that is Guardians of the Galaxy, putting all opinions of creative worthiness aside, that we truly have reached a point in cinematic evolution where we can believably recreate absolutely anything on film.  Movies have now achieved the same limitless pinnacle as comic books in terms of having zero restrictions creatively on what can be visualized on the screen.  

The height of technical precision required to seamlessly splice live action filmmaking, advanced makeup artistry and physical stunts with artificially created and infinitely imagined motion pictures is on proud and preening display in this movie.  For those of us who have been reading comic books for decades, it is an exhilarating prospect to realize.  Comic books have always been a wealth of storyboards just waiting to be exploited by Hollywood, and Guardians of the Galaxy's flawless visual execution rests firmly on the past trials and errors of all comic-book movies that have come before it.

As for narrative and character-driven content, Guardians succeeds quite spectacularly as an unqualified summer popcorn blockbuster.  The tone is light, the humour is plentiful and the characters deftly push their one-dimensional boundaries in the right direction.  The story submits itself respectfully to the action, and so it should, because the action is nonstop and mind-blowing.  To sit through such a fully realized artificial joyride of this magnitude without having your suspension of disbelief being challenged even once is something for director James Gunn and the entire technical and creative production team behind this film to be extremely proud of.  I don't do this often, but I will probably go see it again.


Unsentimental & Abrasive To Her Last Breath

It's been over 24 hours and I'm still trying to process why the death of comedy legend Joan Rivers has left me feeling so sad.  At 13 years old while babysitting I stumbled upon her album "What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?"  Hearing a brazen, intelligent woman standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people loudly cracking jokes about her own ugliness without a hint of shame or guilt was inspiring to me as a still-closeted tentative gay boy filled with self loathing.  I will always be drawn to the most sarcastic, fearless and boldest person in the room no matter how offensive they are, as long as they are funny.  And that was Joan Rivers.

Her detractors have a point, though.  She did sometimes cross the line of good taste and often waded into the waters of nastiness.  But it was always in search of a laugh, never coming from a place of true meanness.  Sure, you can pick out a handful of poorly chosen zingers that fell flat and made her look horrible, especially in the later years of her career, but her schtick was far more self-deprecating than it was about attacking others.  Nothing was off limits, which is what I found so freeing about her, and she always put herself at the top of the hit list.

If there was ever a perfect poster child for the healing power of laughing in the face of adversity, she was it.  Having had major career setbacks and personal tragedies, Joan understood more than anyone the idea that by laughing at our most painful truths, we chip away at their ability to hurt us.  For this reason, I found her liberating, empowering, and holy shit she could deliver a one-liner like nobody else in the business.  She was really, really funny, and I felt safer in the world knowing she was out there, a huge LGBT ally and trailblazer for women, saying what no one else would say even though everyone was thinking it.  RIP Joan Rivers.  You are irreplaceable.  


Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful is the most exciting new series to come out this year.  A film-quality period piece that combines 19th Century fictional literary characters and drips with Gothic visual storytelling, it feels like a series ahead of its time yet steeped in history.  It's the Mad Men of horror series.  This is what American Horror Story was aiming for, but somehow got sidetracked by extraneous campy ideas and a pretty much non-existent narrative structure.

PD doesn't make that mistake.  The show's pacing is beautifully deliberate, and the entire project just feels like the work of extremely talented, intelligent and creative individuals.  Eva Green has been balancing on the edge of mainstream mega-success for a while, and her attachment to a project as sophisticated as this, even on the small screen, lifts her profile as well as that of the show itself.  Josh Hartnett pulverises my impression of him as a cookie-cutter leading man.  And if, like me, you'd never heard of Harry Treadaway before, he's reason enough to watch right there.

Her Will Touch You

The delightful thing about Her is the gentle deceitfulness of its premise.  You sit up and pay attention because it's a story that takes places in an Instagram-filtered future with gorgeous urban architecture, beautifully decorated apartments and where everything, including the artificial intelligence, is designed at the most evolved and intuitive level. 

But seamlessly, and ironically given it's a movie about falling in love with a computer, it grows into an eye-opening and enlightening study of the complicated emotions that exist inside human relationships.  This is an intimate and heartbreaking film that will cause you to reflect on your own loves and may even leave you feeling reflective about the way you say goodbye to someone who has moved on.  


Mindy Is Funny But Annoying

It's not that The Mindy Project isn't funny.  Because it is.  And Mindy Kaling, it's titular actor, creator, writer and producer has a sharp, snappy sarcasm that lends itself well to rapid-fire one-liners.  And it's not that the show's characters are one-dimensional and its situations are far-fetched.  Because they are.  No, it's not those things.

The biggest problem with this otherwise plucky, entertaining show is that the character of Mindy herself is just annoying as hell.  We all know people like this in real life.  At first they seem sympathetic.  They are clever, attractive and successful.  But the reason they are single has little to do with society's unattainable standards of beauty and more to do with their desperate, entitled mission to find a perfect prince to save them.

Mindy makes every situation about her.  And yes, I realize she is the main character on a show written from her perspective.  Almost every episode culminates in some sort of immature temper tantrum directly stemming from Mindy's overbearing "why doesn't somebody super hot and perfect LOVE me?"  She is confusing "romance" with "Cinderella syndrome."  To turn this ship around, Mindy's project needs to be about learning to love herself.


Congratulations Are In Order

Today Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman ever nominated for a major American acting award (as far as I can Google anway), in this case the Emmy for guest actress in a comedy series.  Though she was woefully underused in OITNB season 2, her character, Sophia Burset, had quite a compelling arc over the course of the first season, on which the 2014 Emmys are based.  Fun fact:  Jodie Foster is also nominated for directing the same episode, "Lesbian Request Denied."  Foster returned to direct the season 2 opener, which I might have known except it's pretty standard to fast-forward through opening credits when you binge-watch a show, right?

The nomination is one of those hopeful events that should inspire anyone who's been a victim of discrimination due to sexuality and/or gender issues and those who support them.  IMHO transgender acceptance and awareness is the next major step in the fight for equal rights, civil rights and human rights in the contemporary first-world social consciousness.  It's exciting to be witness to history unfolding.  Cox is intelligent, talented, well-spoken and completely deserving of the nomination.  Congratulations, Laverne!     


The New Cliched Credibility Fail

The CW is airing an Arrow spinoff in October this year based on DC Comics' A-list Justice Leaguer #TheFlash.  You can watch the trailer for The Flash here.  Aside from a lame costume, it looks okay I suppose, if you can get past what is quickly becoming the new cliched lazy credibility fail for so many TV shows and movies today:  every important, powerful, authoritative or pivotal character is a 22 year-old model.  

It's true.  Even video games are getting in on it.  Need an well-trained expert in almost any field with skills that would take any normal human being a lifetime to attain?  Cast a 22 year-old model.  Everybody's doing it.  Epic credibility fail, Entertainment Industry.  Do I want to see young, beautiful people on the screen?  Of course I do.  But stop making them brilliant scientists, doctors, detectives or authoritative military personnel with any kind of advanced combat skills.  Unless those skills are magically gifted or supernaturally acquired, you've already lost me. 


Watch Rectify

Rectify is different than other sophisticated cable dramas in that it doesn't attempt to bombard you with a complicated narrative or huge cast of characters.  This is a show that finds density in its silences and gently played-out emotion.  It's about a man who is released back into the world after spending 19 years on death row for a rape and murder he may or may not have committed at age 18.  

The show develops so much conflict and appeal out of this singular premise, I feel a host of other shows could take note and learn a thing or two about having faith in simple, honest, streamlined storytelling.  If your central idea is strong enough, the show will play out organically, you don't need to force it.  The performances are great, the characters are real and it has that melancholy small town rawness that works so well as a setting for these kinds of heartbreaking themes with dark underbellies.  Rectify peers unflinchingly at both the horror and beauty of life, and specifically in the places where those two extremes intersect.


Captain America Is Huge

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is about as finely crafted and well-executed as a predictable and serviceable film can get.  Marvel has got the formula down and is now kicking it into overdrive.  What I liked about the movie is that it manages to be an enthusiastic crowd pleaser without feeling dumbed down.  And what a spectacle.  I went in expecting to be just slightly embarrassed for the A-list cast, ready to forgive them for cashing in, hunkering down and getting this over with.  Instead I was impressed to discover the film itself is encouraging the actors to meet it halfway and the result is a sexy, smart, adrenaline-infused high-five of a good time.  We truly have reached an era where films can match anything dreamt up in a comic book, and this one weaves its imaginary ideas into a familiar military world with joyful eagerness to please.