Friday, August 22, 2014

Must See TV: Emmy's 2014

With the Emmy's on the horizon, I've decided to talk about TV for a minute!

For the second straight year, I'll be giving you my list of best TV shows and a snippet telling you why I love each show. If you want, you can check out my list from last year here.

This year, my list has been expanded to a "top ten" list, while last year's list featured only my top five shows. With the quality of today's television series, I figured you would be interested in seeing what all I tuned in to, rather than just seeing five shows. The TV season runs from June to May, which means that this year's list includes TV shows released between June 2013 and May 2014... just so you know!

Here is my top five list from 2013:

1 - New Girl (Season 2 - FOX)
2 - The Newsroom (Season 1 - HBO)
3 - American Horror Story: Asylum (Season 2 - FX)
4 - The Celebrity Apprentice (Season 13 - NBC)
5 - The Office (Season 9 - NBC)

While reading this year's list, keep in mind that I am not listing these shows from a critical perspective, like I do in my movie best-list. Instead, this list simply consists of the shows that I enjoyed watching the most, over the past year. On the same note, there is no way that I could possibly watch every TV show that is made, meaning that this list is far from exhaustive. It's more of just an opportunity for you guys to see what I watch when I'm not at the theater.

Final note: I've put every TV show (of any kind) on the same playing field, which is much more fair than the current division of categories at the Emmy's, in case you wanted to know my opinion.

10. MasterChef Junior
(Season 1 - FOX)
Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of reality TV, which you should be able to infer from the lack of any other reality show in my top 10. However, when reality TV is done right, it can be spectacular. Last year, The Celebrity Apprentice landed at the #4 spot on my list, and, had it aired this season, it might have found itself in the top 10, yet again. Thankfully, the super-fun show that was MasterChef Junior was there to pick up the slack. If you enjoy cooking shows (I LOVE them) and children (some of them are alright), you will have a blast with this show, which I believe only aired about 10 episodes. Upon completion, MasterChef Junior certainly left me wanting more, and I can't wait for season 2, this fall!

9. The Colbert Report
(Season 10 - Comedy Central)
I have long been a fan of Stephen Colbert and his crazy antics, and, as a moderate, I just love watching him and his writing staff brilliantly pick apart the flaws of both the left and right. Unfortunately, The Colbert Report will soon come to a close, but I am so pumped for Stephen and his crew to have the opportunity to move on up to CBS. There is no doubt that the last few months of The Colbert Report will be an absolute blast.

8. The Americans
(Season 2 - FX)
Season 1 of The Americans was a bit slow and repetitious, and, without the brilliant acting, who knows if I would have taken the time to watch season 2. But, boy, am I glad that I did! Not only did the show start the season with its most exciting episode ever, but the storyline continued to unfold into an awesome season of drama and suspense that I think almost anyone would enjoy. Although it's a hard time to cheer on the Russians, The Americans easily convinces me to do so.

7. The Writer's Room
(Season 2 - Sundance)
As someone who is continuously keeping up with both the television and film industries, I often find myself reading about TV shows and movies that I have never even seen. In the long run, I may be wasting my time, but, to be honest, I don't care, because I just love being in the know! For those of you who don't know, The Writer's Room, hosted by the hilarious Jim Rash, takes television writers and actors and allows them to talk a little about the process of creating the stories and characters that are found in our tube. If you've never had the chance to watch the show, I would greatly encourage you to do so, even if you only check out episodes that feature your favorite show. Of all the shows on this list, I don't know that there is another that left me wanting more quite like The Writer's Room, and that's saying something!

6. American Horror Story: Coven
(Season 3 - FX)
If I had made this list two years ago, American Horror Story (Murder House) would have likely found itself at the top of my list. Last year, Asylum moved AHS down to #3, and, this year, Coven brings AHS down to #6. However, the quality of American Horror Story has not gone down hill, AT ALL. I absolutely love the show! Every single episode! Instead, the shows slipping down the list can be attributed to both the newfound numbness to the insanity of AHS and the success of new TV shows, which you will certainly find as you move down this list. Don't worry... I will be tuning in for Freak Show, come October, and you should, too!

5. The Newsroom
(Season 2 - HBO)
Aaron Sorkin is a genius among geniuses, and, regardless of what many critics may say, The Newsroom is amazing. Unfortunately, season 2 wasn't quite as good as season 1, but I was absolutely hooked, regardless. Particularly, kudos are deserved by Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, and Sam Waterston (who was robbed of an Emmy nom, although no one is talking about it). All hail Aaron Sorkin!!!

4. The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon
(Season 1 - NBC)
Ever since I became hooked on Jimmy Fallon's Late Night, I was hoping that the day would come where the most likable man in late night television would be on before I went to sleep. However, I never expected that day to come this quickly. The build up to the launch of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon was executed brilliantly by NBC, and, thus far, the first year of Jimmy's reign has been spot on. I can't wait to tell my children of the day I went to New York to see him on Late Night. Oh, the memories...

3. The Big Bang Theory
(Season 7 - CBS)
After a season 6 that I thought was the worst of the series, The Big Bang Theory rebounded brilliantly in 2013-2014 and is actually the only true comedy to make this list. With the return of Bob Newhart and a finale that brought out emotions that I have never felt for these particular characters, season 7 was absolutely perfect! As someone who started watching Big Bang before it was cool, I really love the fact that this genius show has become TV's number one comedy. But, nothing excites me more than seeing a great comedy be a great comedy, regardless of how many people are watching. Kudos to the Big Bang crew for sticking to what got them to their current level of success!

2. True Detective
(Season 1 - HBO)
As someone who doesn't care much for detective dramas, I was hesitant to check out True Detective, but thank God I did! Not only is True Detective the most brilliant cop show ever brought to TV, but it also caught me a bit off guard. While I did enjoy the first couple of episodes, I never anticipated to become as engulfed in the series as I was by the end of it all. With season 2 on the horizon, I can't wait to see what's in store for the new cast.

1. Orange is the New Black
(Season 1 - Netflix)
Where to start?!? Orange is the New Black had me hooked in the first 10 minutes or so, and I remained hooked for the entire 1st season. Not only does OITNB feature the best cast on television, but it is also one of the most uniquely dramatic and hilarious shows ever created. This show was created to destroy Emmy award categories, and I would not be surprised if we see a few big changes after this year's awards are handed out, considering how hard it is define current television in specific categories. Regardless, Orange is the New Black absolutely rocked my television world, this year. If you've yet to watch the show, go now! I'm sure that you will love it, even if you don't think that it's the best television show of the 2013-14 season!

As you might have noticed, only two of last year's Top 5 made it onto this year's list. However, The Office went off air and The Apprentice did not air this season. That only leaves New Girl, which topped last year's list. While it pains me to leave one of my favorite shows off of my list, season 3 of New Girl just didn't work, at all. Anyway... I'm hopeful that we will see New Girl return with great success this fall! Also, I just finished watching the first season of Silicon Valley, which was absolutely hilarious! I did not include it on my list, because I haven't really had time to digest it, but I could see it landing somewhere in the 6-10 range. Go check it out and see what you think!

Chime in with your comments, below, including suggestions for shows that I should check out (NOT The Walking Dead and NOT Game of Thrones). Also, as the new shows start up this fall, tell me what you'll be watching. I would love to know!

Finally... For entertaining bantering on Emmy night, be sure to follow me on Twitter @TheTan_Man. I promise to entertain!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Let's Be Cops

New Girl is one of the funniest shows on television. In fact, the second season of the Zooey Deschanel comedy topped my list of the best television from the 2012-2013 season (here is that list). Unfortunately, so many potential male viewers are turned off by the poorly constructed title of the show, because it has the world "girl" in it. Fortunately, the show features four hilarious male characters that are guaranteed to make you laugh, regardless of your gender! Two of those characters (Nick and Coach) are played by the stars of Let's Be Cops, Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. Now, I'd like to be able to say that the trailer for Let's Be Cops was hilarious and engaging, but, to be honest, the only reason I went to watch this film was to see Nick and Coach in movie form. So, needless to say, my expectations were quite low...

With comedies of the caliber of Let's Be Cops, you don't expect much from a plot-perspective! As expected, Let's Be Cops was quite shallow and lifeless, with pretty much nothing to accent its jokes. Thankfully, the jokes weren't all that bad. In fact, I laughed at the stupid humor, throughout, but I will say that many of those laughs were brought on by my familiarity with the actors. I think most of you would agree that, if you like a comedic actor or actress, you are likely to enjoy the majority of their work, regardless of its depth or success. That said, Let's Be Cops had very little to offer anyone who doesn't enjoy the humor of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.

However one-dimensional lead characters Ryan and Justin turned out to be, I still liked them. If only the filmmakers hadn't added the emotional, best-friend moments to this goofy, stupid film, it would have been alright. Why do comedic filmmakers feel the need to add dull emotion to films that are engulfed in fart and sex jokes?!? It's so dang frustrating!

It was quite evident that this film was intended to be THE film that turned Nina Dobrev into an ADULT movie star (like grown-up... not pornography), and she totally bombed. Sure, the character (Josie) was absolutely horrible, but the only part of Nina that did any actual acting in this film were her legs. Additionally, Natasha Leggero's Annie was an awkward addition to Let's Be Cops, with her crack-head mentality. Ryan's attraction to her was quite unreal, leaving me baffled.

As I've already said, the humor of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. just connects with me, particularly that of Johnson. As for Wayans, I actually enjoyed his Let's Be Cops character more than his character on New Girl. Johnson played his typical couch-potato, but Wayans played the nerd, contrasting his character on New Girl, who is an actual "Coach." However, the best performance of the entire film was given by Keegan-Michael Key, who played some sort of Hispanic(?) drug-mover named Pupa. The character was entirely over-the-top, but I laughed in spite of those issues.

Let's Be Cops was about as bad as expected, but it could have been much worse! Hopefully, for the sake of Johnson and Wayans' careers, the film will be a monetary success, but I'm not counting on that, either. Unless you watch New Girl, like me, I would suggest steering clear of Let's Be Cops. Instead, take those couple of hours to watch a few episodes of New Girl. You will love it! Even if you are a dude! Also, check out Jake Johnson in the Aubrey Plaza-led Safety Not Guaranteed. It was definitely one of my favorite films from 2012, and I think you will enjoy it as well! I give Let's Be Cops 1.55 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Get On Up

The Help was one of my favorite movies of 2011. Add to that the fact that the film did so much to "help" the Mississippi film industry, and you better believe that I'm going to be checking out director Tate Taylor's follow-up, Get On Up... also filmed in Mississippi. Add to all of that the fact that Chadwick Boseman really impressed me with his performance in 42, and, at this point, I'm just pumped to see Get On Up! After watching the trailer, I was quite impressed with the brief glimpse at Boseman's portrayal of James Brown, one of the most eccentric men that I have ever witnessed existing. So, Get On Up had the chance to be the perfect storm of success for a guy from Mississippi who enjoys the lead actor and great music. It was certainly enough to "Get Me Up Offa My Thing" and head to the theater!

While the film was quite discombobulated, jumping through time, from beginning to end, I was almost always entertained and couldn't wait to find out more. I just can't imagine what a pain it had to be for the filmmakers to put this thing together. Never, in a million years, would I have been able to establish the random order of events that engulfed this storyline. That said, the film never really peaked, emotionally, as there was never a true moment of revelation or understanding, on the part of Boseman's James Brown. For that reason, I truly hope that the film is fairly historically accurate. I'm willing to sacrifice emotion and excitement for the truth, but, if the film was uber-dramatized, I was not impressed. Either way, Get On Up was completely consistent in its portrayal of James Brown as a selfish prick who was never able to overcome his past.

The cast of Get On Up was pretty good, and, if you liked the characters in The Help, I think you would similarly enjoy these characters. However, it was easy to see that a few of the actors couldn't quite figure out how to truly embrace the real-life people that they were portraying. Unfortunately, some of the characters felt fictitious, like the ones in The Help.

Octavia Spencer was spot-on in The Help, giving one of the most hilariously dramatic performances that I have ever witnessed. But, her Get On Up character just didn't have a huge impact on me or the film, and that was quite disappointing. Honestly, her character had very little impact on the development of James's character, and the film could have done without her or this entire period of his life. We probably wouldn't have even missed it, considering how much the film jumped around.

Chadwick Boseman can act! And, he certainly deserves credit, after being left out of the Oscar-talk, in 2013. Going from cool and calm in 42 to eccentric and crazy in Get On Up could not have been easy, but Boseman made me forget that I was watching a movie. I thought I was watching James Brown himself. Similarly, the character of Bobby Byrd, played by Nelsan Ellis, was an absolute pleasure to watch. From an emotional standpoint, Byrd was much more developmental and fun to watch, in comparison to James Brown, who never really changed, matured, or made me care about him.

While Get On Up came nowhere close to the greatness of The Help, I was still quite satisfied, and, if you are interested in learning about the life of James Brown, I believe that you would be too. My praise and thanks go out to Tate Taylor for bringing both of these films to Mississippi! Maybe there is one perk to the fact that we are behind the current time... Movies set in the past fit right on in! Also, I know a lot of people have yet to watch The Help. So... go watch! I promise you will enjoy, particularly if you are one of my readers from Mississippi. I give Get On Up 2.89 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Here, in our "Age of the Superhero Film," many moons have passed since Marvel's last bomb. Disney has taken a film franchise and turned it into THE film franchise, and no one expects anything but greatness from this point forward... including me. Sure, Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be different, but, unlike many, I never saw the film as a risk for the Disney's Marvel franchise. With Kevin Feige behind the curtain and Disney's marketing abilities abounding, Guardians was destined to be a hit! At this point, Marvel studios has the power to do absolutely anything that they want, as long as it's connected (however vaguely) to the Avengers' universe. With all that said, I expected Guardians of the Galaxy to be different from your typical Avengers flick, and, at the same time, I expected more of the same humorous, action-packed, mass marketable, superhero mumbo-jumbo that we are all hooked on!

For some reason, the serious opening scene of the film did not quite fit with what was marketed to me as a fun, goofy superhero flick. As a result, I was quickly worried about the things to come. But, thankfully, the film jumped back into what I expected and never stopped entertaining me, from that point on.

I've heard so much about the differences of Guardians, compared to the other Avengers-related, Marvel films, but I must say that I disagree, to a certain extent. While there is no doubt that the jokes and dialogue were a bit more mature and clever, the characters and the storyline were really no different. There was a bad guy, who was threatening the universe. There were some good guys, who couldn't quite get along. There was a forced (and obvious) love interest for the main character. There was action. There was death and revival. There were forced connections to the Avengers-world. I mean, if you take out the dialogue of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), you have absolutely nothing left to call unique! There's no doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy was one of my favorite Marvel films, to this point, so I'm not hating on what was done here, AT ALL. I just don't know why everyone believes the film is so unique...

Kudos to the folks at Marvel for having the guts to make a film that featured a talking raccoon and a tree that could only say three words! Sure there were some predictable traits and quirks among the cast, but, Guardians is not a film that would have been financially successful three years ago. Impeccable timing is the key to Marvel's success, and I think the world had to get ready to see these types of characters, in this light, because we have already seen different versions of most of these characters before. Drax (played by Dave Bautista) was just a better version of Thor (100% better). Groot ("voiced" by Vin Diesel) was just a happier version Hulk. John C. Reilly's Corpsman Dey was a perfect clone of Agent Coulson. And, finally, Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt) was a dumber version of Tony Stark. Let me know if you disagree!

Guardians' two leading, female characters were quite disappointing to me. First, Zoe Saldana's Gamora just didn't impress, in comparison to the other Guardians. She lacked the comedic element, which is what made the film work, and her storyline just didn't interest me. Add that to the fact that she belongs to Star Trek, and it just doesn't work for me. Additionally, her (un)sister Nebula (played by Karen Gillan) was absolutely useless. Remove her from the film, and nothing changes, at all!

I'm going to use this space to praise the greatness that was the relationship between Groot (the tree)and Rocket (the raccoon). Basically, it was a mirror of that dude and his reindeer in Frozen... but it was interesting. Rocket absolutely made the movie and was probably the only super-unique character that came out of the film. I'm already hopeful for a Rocket spin-off (probably won't happen until Phase 45). I would watch the heck out of that!

Although I ranted a bit about the lack of uniqueness, Guardians of the Galaxy deserves every bit of praise that it is receiving! Marvel continues to impress (minus the Thor stand-alones), and I don't see any end in sight. I mean, bringing in Paul Rudd certainly won't hurt! While I can't wait for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, I'm now even more excited for the second Guardians film to hit in a few years. If you happened to miss out on Guardians' opening weekend, go watch! Today! It's cheap ticket day, here in Hattiesburg! I give Guardians of the Galaxy 3.78 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Closure: July 2014

With a slow month at the theater and Orange is the New Black behind me, I actually had a good bit of time to watch movies, this month. You'll see the exhaustive list below, but two films that I really want to bring to light are The Grand Budapest Hotel and Annie Hall. If you've yet to see either of these films, I want to encourage you to check them out. Of course, Woody Allen's Annie Hall is a classic, and Wes Anderson is well-known, at this point, but, for those of you who aren't film buffs, you might find something nice in each of these uniquely quirky comedies.

For some reason, I'm having a hard time grasping the fact that August is actually upon us, so I apologize for this post being a little late. Fret not! I will be on time, next month!

Movie Watched Year Format Did I Enjoy? Would I Watch Again?
Transformers: Age of Extinction 2014 Theater > Matinee Some Yes
42 2013 Church > Yes, really  Yes Yes
Annie Hall1977TV > NetflixYesYes
The To Do List 2013 DVD > Redbox Yes Yes
Kill Your Darlings 2013 DVD > Redbox Yes No
The Social Network 2010 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Gravity 2013 Church > Yes, really  Yes Yes
Begin Again 2014 Theater > Full Price Yes Yes
(500) Days of Summer 2011 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Adult World 2014 DVD > Redbox Yes No
Frozen 2013 Church > Yes, really  No No
Big 1988 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Big Trouble in Little China 1986 Blu-ray > Borrowed Yes No
The Purge 2012 TV > HBO Yes Yes
The Avengers 2012 Blu-ray > Own Yes Yes
The Purge: Anarchy 2014 Theater > Matinee Yes Yes
Easy A 2010 DVD > Borrowed Yes Yes
Submarine 2010 TV > Netflix No No
The Grand Budapest Hotel2014DVD > RedboxYesYes
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 2013 Church > Yes, really  Yes Yes
50/50 2011 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Out of the Furnace 2013 DVD > Borrowed Yes No
The Other Guys 2010 DVD > Own Yes  Yes