Friday, April 28, 2017

Weekly Round-up: April 23-27

There’s not enough time in the week to write feature reviews for all 70 of the airing shows that I force myself to watch, so I’m testing out this Weekly Round-up format, with hopefully new posts every Friday. However, for great weekly coverage of The Leftovers, be sure to check out reviews like this one every Monday from the stoic Chris Moore. It’s a show so nice we have to review it twice! Sorry, that was terrible.


The Leftovers – “Don’t Be Ridiculous”

Last week’s season premiere provided a wondrous and fatal (that fucking domestic drone strike) return to this bleak, off-kilter, immersive world through the eyes of its profoundly fucked up male lead, Kevin Garvey, and this week, now through the eyes of its adjacently fucked up female lead, Nora Durst, the barrel keeps on rolling. Nora has long been the show’s most complex and sympathetic character (thanks to both Carrie Coon’s amazing acting abilities and the incredibly tragic past she’s been dealt by show creators Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof) and it’s no coincidence that every Nora showcase episode – “Guest” in season one, “Lens” in season two, and now “Don’t Be Ridiculous” in season three – always winds up as a season highmark. This episode was as much as ever about (as all Nora episodes are and really every episode of this show but rarely as much as this one) the extreme ways in which people cope with loss, grief and insurmountable pain, and in Nora’s case, in the face of both the unexplainable (the loss of her departed children) and now as we learn the explainable (the loss of Lilly at the hands of her aggrieved biological mother, Christine). With Nora and Kevin and whoever else that follows about to set sail for whatever the hell crazy shit that awaits them in Australia, it would appear things are about to get even more preposterous and exciting and sad. Definitely sad.

Episode grade: A

Veep – “Library”

What an emotional rollercoaster to turn from the tragedy and bleakness of The Leftovers to the relentless wit and hilarity of Veep; although it could be argued that in the tragedy department the two shows have never had as much in common. As the premiere made very clear, this season is going to be a rough ride for former (never elected) President Selina Meyer, and this episode continues hitting home that very point through her exhaustive efforts to construct a Presidential Library as prestigious and glorified as her predecessor’s. But of course that can’t be; she stumbled upwards into the job and then had it embarrassingly torn away by a younger, elected fellow woman a year later. As Selina tries desperately to reclaim some form of relevance in the public sphere, most of her former team continues scattered across the country. The Jon H. Ryan/Kent/Ben trio shows the most promise, but I’m not sure what to make yet of what’s going on with Dan and Amy’s respective storylines. Those two are at their best when together, as is much of the rest of the team. I hope we’re nearing a (permanent?) reunion of sorts in the next couple episodes.

Episode grade: B


Better Call Saul – “Sunk Costs”

It’s been five long years since Mike Ehrmantrout and Gustavo Fring occupied the screen together on Breaking Bad, and their long awaited reunion on season three, episode three of Better Call Saul did not disappoint. These two men are titans of their respective crafts and it was such a joy just sitting back and watching these grisled professionals size each other up and unite, however reluctantly, towards bringing down a common enemy. And the Jimmy/Chuck/Kim half of the episode was equally compelling, too, just in an entirely different way. The Jimmy/Chuck relationship is the axis on which the world of this show rotates and that conversation the two share in the episode’s first act, and the conversation Jimmy and Kim share in its final scene, cemented a significant turning point. Chuck wants Jimmy out of law practice, and Jimmy (with Kim’s help) isn’t going down without a fight.

Episode grade: A-

Bates Motel – “The Cord”

Bates Motel capped off its psychologically daring, often-frustratingly plotted five-season run this past week in I’d say appropriate, albeit similar fashion. As a deep-dive through the mind of a criminally disturbed and unstable “psycho”-path, this show and this season and episode in particular thrived. But arriving gracefully at those various points of emotional and psychological exploration was never easy for this show and this final stretch of episodes were no different. Romera had to clumsily bust Norman out of jail just like he had to stupidly turn his back to Norman for a prolonged period of time with his gun sticking out of his back pocket because… it’s what the plot required. And the White Pine Bay sheriff’s department had to be incompetent enough to leave the Bates residence and motel unmonitored for a half a day long enough for Norman to recreate the timeline of the show’s pilot in his mind and for Dylan to intervene in the final moments because… you get the point. But that final scene between the two brothers and especially that final image of the two deceased Bates side by side in their graves was perfect, as was so much of this final season when it opted to lean into that emotional well. It wasn’t always pretty, but when it was, it was pretty great.

Episode grade: B+


The Americans – “Immersion”

The lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are spiraling, however slowly and painstakingly. Their fatherly spy handler has abandoned them, their daughter is emotionally destroyed as a result of all they’ve shared with her, and their commitment to the Cause is… waning. At least in how far they’re willing to make secondary their family and marriage in service to their spycraft. They do not like participating in the wheat crop operation, and in this episode they, subconsciously even, appear willing to destroy their involvement in it because of the wedge they perceive it to drive in their relationship. There hasn’t been a whole lot of forward momentum flowing from episode to episode in the way that other, better seasons have had, but as long as Philip and Elizabeth and their familial struggles continue to remain the heavy focus (which of course it will, that is The Americans), my commitment to this show will remain firm.

Episode grade: B


Fargo – “The Principle of Restricted Choice”

The plot is kicking into high gear in this second episode and I’m just genuinely thrilled to be along for the ride. Yes, the characters and story (at least to this point) feel a tad on the thin side but those weaknesses are overwhelmed by the first-class performances from literally every actor involved and the unique, familiar aesthetic sensibilities of this world. The Stussy brother feud is obviously the driving force behind all we’ve seen to this point and it’s certainly been ratcheted up to ten with Ray and Nikki’s latest move – I love that pairing by the way, Ewen McGregor is great in both brother roles but so far Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the season MVP. I’m pumped to see where that goes along with Gloria’s investigation of the murder of her step-father. That both her step-father and the Stussy brothers share a last name cannot just be a coincidence.

Episode grade: B+

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Offred”

Wow. This premiere blew me away in 30 more ways than one. From Elizabeth Moss’s intimate, bare-bones performance, the masterful world building, the tense, artful pacing and direction – it’s all there and it’s all great. Even though you still walk away with far more questions than answers, the shadings of answers you do get are enough to paint the picture of this bleak, dystopian version of an imagined future in which women exist on this earth to serve men and bear their babies. Or most women at least; there are some in the premiere that remain in positions of power (chief among them, the goddess Ann Dowd who’s amazing here) that I’m really curious about the how of it all. But damn. So good, so haunting; I’m as excited for more as I am dreadful.

Episode grade: A


Grey’s Anatomy – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

I still watch every episode of this damn show and I ain’t never stoppin’!

Episode grade: A++++




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by Michael Lang
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Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.2 – ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous “

Don’t Be Ridiculous has a sense of forward momentum and revelation that I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of in the final few episodes of The Leftovers. This makes sense, in order to have a satisfying ending to the show the viewers need some answers. The answers might not be what we want or to the specific questions we want resolved, but something needs to give. We see a glimpse of that in this episode. We’re clearly building to something. I don’t think it’s the 14th (or the 15th in Australia), rather we’ll either see our characters be content in life or die trying.

That is what this episode was really about, Nora trying to find closure. She thought she found closure about her departed children through Lilly and her family but as we come to find out that family dynamic was blown up as well. Now she’s flailing in the wind trying to move past her heartbreak while at the same time never wanting to forget her departed family. It’s an intricate and extremely deep form of heartbreak that Carrie Coon plays fantastically. Her performance highlighted by her heart to heart with Erika. That scene encapsulates what makes Nora’s wounds so hard to heal. When mourning those that have departed, there is no closure. You can grieve as long as you want and accept the loss but deep down in the back of your mind you know there is a chance they could come back. They left without any explanation or meaning, who’s to say they couldn’t come back in the same fashion? I’m thinking this radiation device is a not what it claims to be, but at this point all bets are off. One thing is for sure, I cannot wait to find out.

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.2 – ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous “ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.

by Christopher Moore
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.1 – ‘The Book of Kevin’

I come to The Leftovers after finishing up the 7th season of one of the most inconsistent shows on television today (The Walking Dead). The exact opposite of The Leftovers, which has had two phenomenal seasons. Of course, you can’t forget to mention that during its short run, the show had one of the best episodes of television to date with season 2’s International Assassin.

What I’m trying to get at is that there aren’t many things harder for a television show than to try and match the quality of a second season which was better than the first. While at the same time trying to bring a satisfying conclusion to one of the most open ended premises for a show ever. Luckily, I trust the show-runners and The Book of Kevin didn’t disappoint.

I know a large chunk, if not the majority of this season will take place in Australia. It was smart to have at least the first episode pick up in the same place. Albeit three years after a DOMESTIC DRONE STRIKE. I couldn’t believe that strike, but they pulled it off realistically and it was treated with the right amount of conspiracy that would be needed to pull off something so crazy within the United States. It also served as a sign that we are moving forward, to hopefully bigger things. The past, and many of our old antagonists are literally rubble.

What I really liked about this episode is the through line of the “confirmation bias”. From the fantastic opening flashback, to the return of Dean, and even John’s psychic scam. We as humans want to believe the lies we tell ourselves that make us feel better. We are attracted to others that allow us and encourage us to indulge in those delusions. But when we go too far into our own biases we lose sight of reality and can lose what is really important in life. We see this when Matt’s wife explains why she is leaving him as well as the flashback cold open. Then again, it wouldn’t be all for nothing if the delusions are true… right?


Quick Thoughts:

  • I liked the flashbacks to International Assassins it gives that episode even more importance than it already had. It wasn’t just a vision to Kevin.
  • “He thinks the New Testament is getting a little too old.”
  • Gotta love Kevin back in uniform.
  • That ending!!!!!!!!

The post Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.1 – ‘The Book of Kevin’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.

by Christopher Moore
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’

I came upon Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell in college like it seems a lot of people did. I almost never watched anime growing up, save for a few episodes of Dragon Ball Z at my friend’s house in the late 90’s. What the 1995 Ghost in the Shell did was open up the idea of anime as serious art for me. Seriously cool stories set in seriously cool worlds could be told in this medium. If nothing else, Oshii’s version of this story is dripping with style. The 2017 version accurately translates that hyper-real (almost) Neo-Tokyo style into live action. The set design and CGI all add up to a phenomenally technicolor “cyber-punk” world.

Beyond nailing the style, this remake doesn’t bring much else to the table. It is simply a watered-down version of the 1995 original. In almost every conceivable way. I was shocked when I looked down at my ticket stub to see that the film was rated PG-13. I knew what I was in for from that moment on. A movie full of fights scenes pulling their punches and people getting “shot” off screen who seem to not have any blood in their body. Major moments from the original play out, and it is certainly fun to see them in live action, but it only made me want to watch the original again.

I will say Scarlett Johansson is great as Major and I really enjoyed her stilted take on the character. Michael Pitt did an admirable job as the villain. (who I guess is from the spin-off series?) They did some work with his voice that gave him a sinister timbre that I really enjoyed. There is a good movie to be made in this world, and hopefully they’ll get a shot at a sequel. But if those opening weekend numbers are any indication, we might have seen the last of ScarJo as Major.

Rating: *** out of five

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano

Runtime: 107 minutes

The post Review: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.

by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on on

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.16 – ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’

On this week’s episode of The Screening Club Podcast I refer to The Walking Dead as a roller coaster of quality. Through the years, the show has gone from some of the finest stuff on TV to some of the most inane filler in recent memory. Right now we are in a small plateau of quality. The fun is still there, the characters are charming, but it isn’t shot or written particularly well.

This episode should have been a triumphant show of force for what this show can do when it has a budget. The battle for Alexandria should have been something akin to The Watchers on the Wall. Instead, it was a mediocre gun battle punctuated by some fun moments. For every cool lion attack, we got a handful of shots of people shooting at things off-screen and missing. Boring.

The main string through this episode was Sasha. Being in the coffin, having those flashbacks, dying, then starting the war with her zombified body. Those flashbacks with Abraham were the emotion core of the finale, but they fell completely flat because the writers clearly made up the scene to fit perfectly with the arc of the episode. It would have been so much more impactful if that scene was a real scene that happened last season. I would have marveled at how well they did with foreshadowing. This ended up feeling lazy.

Despite the laziness, the show has done a good job giving The Saviors the time they need to really become vilified. Negan is so likable and so fun to watch on screen that at times you can kind of see where he is coming from. (In some very limited cases) I’m glad this season finale started the war, it was time. I just wish it was done in a more well thought out fashion.

Quick Thoughts:

  • The Scavengers “twist” this episode was so stupid and just a way to turn the tables on our characters without doing and storytelling legwork. Lazy.
  • Some people think King Ezekiel is cheesy, but I think Khary Payton plays him pitch perfect. I loved his speech when he charged in to save Alexandria. Let’s get some more of him next season.

The post Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ 7.16 – ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ appeared first on ScreeningClub | Insight Into the Media You Love.

by Christopher Moore
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