Orange is the New Black

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I like TV. Not like I like summer days or the smell of baking cookies. I mean, I’m IN like with TV (I wouldn’t say love because I fear commitment). I’m excited to experience new shows,watching new storylines unfold makes me happy, and when I find a show that has that perfect blend of brilliant writing, deep and honest character development, captivating actors and a fully developed vision, it makes me excitement pee a little.

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He’s excited peeing right now. 

So far, I’ve tried to keep my blogs about newer-ish shows, the oldest being Jane the Virgin at the beginning of its third season.

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Not so virginal anymore… 

However, since tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year, the premier of the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I’m making an exception.

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Whoa big guy, wrong day. Back to hibernation for you, see you around Halloween. 

You guys. Have you even seen this show yet? If not, go do it now. I mean, let me finish, but then go! This show is the greatest (except for Piper, no one likes Piper except Piper)!

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Ugggghhhhh….. 

I love how just about every character gets at least one episode to fully flesh out a back story. I love how there is no one that is just inherently evil, just characters that have been shaped by their circumstances. Like that phrase mom’s are fans of, they aren’t bad people, they just made bad decisions. Or several consecutive bad decisions in some cases. I’m a firm believer in getting to know people’s stories. Their traumas, their suffering, the things that made them who they are through their eyes. Once you do, it’s harder to hate them. This show does just that perfectly.

All of the characters have their irritating times because they’re human, but ultimately, we get to see what is redeeming about most of them eventually. Except Piper, who is never not annoying.

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Yep, still hate her… 

The show hooked me from the very beginning and I never looked back. The drama is addicting, the storylines are compelling the acting is gorgeous. In short, we hate Piper, we love everything else, we are definitely against privatization of the prison system, God bless America.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
    King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the latest interpretation of the classic Arthurian legend. Here, we find a much different Arthur than we are used to; this is a more modern, street wise take than that of Nigel Terry in Excalibur (1981), Richard Harris in Camelot (1967) or even Clive Owen in King Arthur (2004) 

  With Guy Ritchie at the helm, this movie has a very unique feel. The movie ends up being a mixed bag; it feels like a cross between 80’s sword and sorcery flicks and Snatch (2000) in one scene you have castle sized elephants and magic mages laying siege to Camelot; and in the next you have a snarky, comical back and forth between Arthur and the Captain of the Guard. These two genres and tones rarely gel, leaving a film that feels disjointed.


   Ultimately, it is a fun, harmless film that won’t leave a lasting impression. Charlie Hunnam does a fine job as Arthur; while he doesn’t feel like King Arthur, he has a fun, sarcastic personality that’s enjoyable to watch. Jude Law does a good job as the villain of the movie, but doesn’t end up having too much to do. And is it me, or do the villains costumes remind you of the villains in Willow (1988)?


The rest of the cast is fine, Aiden Gillen and Djimon Hounsou are both likable and play their roles well. The only miscast in my opinion, is the Mage, a Merlin stand-in played by Astrid Berges-Frisby. I think they were trying for a mystical, disconnected feel, but it came across as bad acting and delivery.

    By far the best part of this film is everything involving the sword Excalibur. From the swords design, the way the sword wound up in the stone, and the way they showcased the swords power. This is by far the most powerful we’ve seen Excalibur on film, and it’s fun to watch.


   Overall, this film is a fun popcorn flick that’s a tad disjointed. It’s the perfect redbox rental, but don’t set your hopes too high. 
-Topherious 

    

The Handmaid’s Tale

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Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m an alco… Wait… Wrong meeting, sorry.

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Tequila leads to memory loss and confusion and also a lot of fun sometimes.

Hello, my name is Sarah and I am a giant nerd. Especially when it comes to the urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic genres. I’ve been so excited to watch and review The Handmaid’s Tale but, as I’ve mentioned before, I always like to wait for the first 3-4 episodes to go by before I really assign an opinion to a TV show. So, let’s do this. Let’s talk about this new Hulu original!

The premise, in case you’re not aware, is that at some point in the not at all distant future, a crazy conservative religious faction manages to overthrow the US government and plunges the whole country into puritan times with a little twist (think 1984 meets The Scarlett Letter). There is a strict code of law enforced, women are property and no one is allowed to be gay, but they DO get to keep cars and machine guns, so that sort of balances the scales for all those poor white, straight men that are always so persecuted in today’s society.

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Note: I don’t sports, but I DO sarcasm! 

Infertility plagues most women and, even those that can conceive are usually not able to produce a healthy child. The ones that can conceive are forced to become handmaids, which means are assigned to a married couple for whom they conceive a child (in as completely demeaning a way as possible for all parties involved). Once the child is weaned, the handmaid is reassigned to another family.

I was hooked on the premise immediately. The timeframe of the change in the country strikes me as awfully quick and fairly unreasonable, but I suppose it’s necessary to the storyline as a whole.

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I mean I never thought this would happen either, but here we are… 

The main character is meant to be a modern woman of childbearing age that had been a free American at one point in time, so it’s easy to understand the quick progression of events. I also believe it’s stupid to expect everything in post-apocalyptic fiction to be completely reasonable.

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Fetch me some coffee, will you Peggy? 

The acting is pretty stellar with Elizabeth Moss lending her immense talents in playing the strong, quiet, intelligent characters she is beginning to be known for (ie Peggy Olsen in Mad Men and Sophie in The One I Love) and of course the incomparable Joseph Fines as the Commander. Also, a happy shout out to Samira Wiley as Moira!

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I was so sad to know she wouldn’t be on Orange is the New Black anymore, it was delightful to be her face and attitude clearly represented here.

So far so good with the story. It’s definitely enough to keep me interested for at least a season. It isn’t extremely fast paced, but there is a lot of story to cover and I’m looking forward to watching it all unfold. Though it’ll probably just get refolded and put away by a Martha. Don’t worry, you’ll get that joke when you watch the show. It still won’t be all that funny, but at least you’ll get it.

The Lost City of Z

Imagine a time where the idea of a lost city of gold was still a possibility. Places like Atlantis, El Dorado, Libertalia, Shambala, Iram of the Pillars… ok, at this point I’m listing the lost cities featured in the Uncharted video game. Still, the idea is quite enticing. The pull for most explorers are the ideas of vast wealth, unlimited power, immortality, etc. Spanish explorers scoured the Florida peninsula(before it was the U.S. of course) in hope of finding the fabled Fountain of Youth. Stories and myths from explorers and conquistadors has inspired countless stories that still sparks the imagination of people today.

At the dawn of the 20th century, a British explorer, Percy Fawcett discovers evidence of a previously unknown civilization and returns again and again in hopes of actually finding this lost city. This is the premise of The Lost City of Z.
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This movie is not your typical adventure story. This is nothing like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, etc. I wouldn’t even classify it as an adventure. Not that it is boring, since it’s anything but. It’s the drama that unfolds giving us insights to the mind and the heart of Percy Fawcett.

We find early on that his father has tainted his family name through drunkiness and gambling. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) has been presented with an opportunity to redeem the family name by undertaking an expedition to explore unknown territories of the Amazons. Leaving his wife (Sienna Miller) and children (Tom Holland plays his oldest) behind, Fawcett joins his army friend Henry Costin (an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson), a native guide, and additional men from a rubber plantation and journeys up an unexplored river in the jungle. After what seems to be a peaceful journey, the group is encounters hostile natives but before being forced to return Fawcett stumbles upon shards of pottery indicating the possibility of a highly developed ancient civilization, a place he refers to as Z.

Fawcett returns to home to present his findings only to come against ridicule from the scientific community who regarded the the indigenous people as savages. With the support of his wife and his companions, he is able to make more returns to the Amazon in hopes to be able to dig deeper into the Jungle and prove his naysayers wrong. The real Fawcett actually went on 7 expeditions whereas the movie only shows 3.

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The focal point of this movie is the drama that unfolds between each exploration. The separation of family and personal ambition. Percy is driven almost to the point of madness to find Z, but he leaves behind his growing family. By being gone for extended periods of time(years). He even leaves again because of a short stint of serving in the first World War. All this culminates the tension he feels between being with his family and discovering Z.

The movie is well shot and well acted. Not a single talent is wasted and that is refreshing. I’m expecting big things from Tom Holland. He continues to impress me with his emotional range. With a compelling script and an unhurried pace, Writer/director James Grey takes us on journey of curiosity and obsession.

I can’t imagine most people enjoying this at the theater. There was one moment where my mind drifted off. However by the end, I wanted to see more. I do have to iterate that this isn’t Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stones. Despites a couple intense moments, there’s no major action set pieces. Except for the few intense momentd there’s no adventurous thrills. Nobody is swinging from vines. No hidden traps triggering shooting poison darts. Just the dramatic indepth look at Percy Fawcett.

13 Reasons Why

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It became clear to me several weeks ago that there were going to be times I would need to choose to watch a show because it needed to be reviewed rather than just for the sake of my own entertainment. 13 Reasons Why is my first example of such a decision. I usually stay away from shows about teenage drama because, well honestly, I just don’t care about it. Usually it’s bad acting about problems I can’t relate to set to terrible music, and not just because I’m a crabby old person.

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Salty Sue, my inner old lady

I didn’t like teenage dramas when I was a teenager either. I knew this has been a book, which always garners a little more respect from me, and then Googling revealed that it was a show about suicide. My decision was made. It was too important to not watch.

Television is just like any other art form; some pieces are flippant and fun, some are interesting and mind bending, and a very few are important. They aren’t necessarily made to be enjoyed, they are made to educate, to shed light in an area overcome with darkness, to jar us out of our ignorance and expose us to truth. Make no mistake, I didn’t enjoy watching 13 Reasons Why, but I needed to see it.

We have two main characters to follow in this story: first is Hannah, played by Katherine Langford, the character who throws everyone’s life into chaos when she leaves behind tapes for 13 people to listen to, listing their actions that have lead her to debilitating hopelessness and ultimately suicide. Then we have Clay, played beautifully by Dylan Minnette, the usually sweet, quiet, social nobody that loved her. We follow Clay on his journey through Hannah’s story and through his grief-stricken responses to each tape.

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I don’t want to give away much about what happens, because I think that just about everyone should watch this at some point. I mean, I think it might even need to be played in schools. Just be prepared: there is something, at least one thing, in this story to which you will react viscerally. The rest of it you’ll watch and think, “That’s so terrible! This poor girl!” or maybe, “Okay, that sucks, but it will pass, just hang in there.” But then it will hit you, a scene that hits fairly close to home for you or that you can relate to with stunning clarity and you will cry. It will be messy. You will not feel better afterwards.

For me, it was the scene where her mother finds her dead in her bathtub. I didn’t realize they would show her actually committing suicide, so it took me a little off guard, then to watch her mother walk in on it was just… Pain. I’ve never lost a child, but I’ve lost both parents and several close family members and I know the initial feeling of helplessness when you realize you can’t try to make anything better for them ever again.

The dialog can be a little stilted and unbelievable at times, there are a couple of characters who’s existence I don’t understand (which could honestly be blamed on the transition from book to show) and there’s not a lot of character development except for Clay, the transition of Hannah from decently happy to angst-ridden-to-the-point-of-suicide is a little glossed over. These are very small complaints, honestly. I’m just a critiquer. Watch it anyway. It’s important. To borrow a line from the show, make sure you’re in the right head space for it and if you have some fairly sensitive triggers, maybe don’t watch it alone. Once you do, you will, hopefully, be reminded of the importance to love better, learn faster and connect fully.

Fate of the Furious

Has summer blockbuster season begun or is this a tease of what’s to come?

I’ll admit that the Fast and Furious franchise is not really the kind movies I’m super excited about. I’m not a car guy for one thing, nor do I get a kick out of (illegal) street races. However, as the series went on, it evolved into a more ridiculous “what kind of crazy stunts can we do with cars” sort of film surrounding Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker and their ragtag crew. Add in Dwayne the Rock Johnson and Jason Statham then you have an action franchise that is basically pure adrenaline or nitrous I should say. Just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride. What makes this franchise work is that the films know how ridiculous they are and uses that as their platform.

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8 movies later, after Vin and crew promised this story will continue on after the passing of Paul Walker. If anything, they do it for him.

The primary theme of the FF franchise is built around the idea of family. With constant reminder from Dominic Toretto (Vin) that you don’t turn against family. Fate of the Furious has him breaking the very rule that pretty much kept him alive. Of course, it’s far deeper than that and for spoilers sake, you’ll have to watch the movie to know why.

Let’s briefly talk about the real reason why people come to these movies, the crazy stunts and the wise cracks between the leads. Last movie had them flying out of an airplane and jumping between skyscrapers. Let me just put, briefly, 3 of the insane ideas that they have put into this movie. A monstrous wrecking ball, a big ass submarine controlled by a ghost plane, and zombie cars. Yes, zombie cars. Trust me. It’s pretty insane and a pretty cool action set. Definitely kept me engaged through the whole movie.

 

Amidst all the insanity that the FF series bring to the big screen, it’s the returning cast plus a few new additions, as well as the antagonist(s) that keeps the franchise going. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez continue their drama as Dominic Toretto and Letty carrying the emotional weight of the movie as newlyweds. Dom has gone rogue leaving Letty and his family behind, drama ensues.

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It seems you can’t have these movies now without Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and his wisecracks. Roman, I feel, is the one character who brings a little sense of reality. The idea of being chased down by a submarine is pretty ridiculous, and Roman lets us know over and over with each ludicrous stunt they find themselves performing.

Speaking of ludicrous, Ludacris returns as wise crackin’ techie. Usually paired up with Roman cracking jokes with each other and admiring the ladies. It’s interesting to see his character evolve from 2 Fast 2 Furious as an illegal street race aficionado and tech geek, especially when it pertains to cars, to full on tech genius/hacker with tech skills good enough to rival Anonymous. However, he has Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) who takes up most of the hacking job.

The villain of this movie is Cipher (Charlize Theron) who you can probably guess by the typical name is the world best hacker with a bone to pick. She recruits Dominic and turns him against his family. Her character here runs in the same vein of her evil witch queen, Ravenna in both The Huntsman: Winter’s War and Snow White and the Huntsman. Instead of magic, she hacks computers.

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The real scene stealer in F8 belongs to both Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Jason Statham. Hobbs, the Rock, is the ultimate muscle of the group. He takes on a superhuman persona wiping out anyone who stands in his way by a simple punch. And when I say punch, I don’t mean like a boxer’s jab. I mean, a punch to the chest will send you flying through the walls. With him paired with Statham, it makes for great eye candy. They talk smack to each other while performing their stunts. Without getting into spoilery details, Deckard (Statham) is brought back this time to help the team take out Cipher and Dom. I will say that it’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main bad guy of the previous movie who caused quite a bit of mayhem and even kills Han to being accepted, sort of, as part of the team. But like I said earlier, just leave your brain at the door. I will say, Statham has what is probably my favorite scene out of the whole movie.

Seriously though, if you’re looking for a good time? Go see Fate of the Furious. It’s exactly the kind of action comedy to see on the big screen. Plenty of laughs and thrills to be had. That’s my Noble Opinion.

Big Little Lies

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I wasn’t going to review this originally because HBO kept saying it was a miniseries and those aren’t really my review bag. I like to try to get people interested in shows that are still going and will be back for another season, rather than limited engagement TV. It’s just who I am, I’m not a love ’em and leave’ em kind of girl. In a world of baby daddies, I’m the guy that gets you pregnant and then marries you.

Recently, however, Liane Moriarty, the author of the book Big Little Lies, confirmed that she was in talks with HBO about a possible season 2. Which… I am INCREDIBLY excited about! HBO has a helluva reputation when it comes to TV. I mean, Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos? These aren’t great shows, these are iconic! I can’t say that Little Big Lies is necessarily on par with those shows, it’s only been one season after all, but it has a lot of promise.

The first thing that stuck out to me, and honestly the best thing about the show, was how wonderfully developed the female characters are. So often I watch shows, shows that I even enjoy, where so much is put into developing the male characters and making them different while the female characters are more like decoration. They generally fall into one of three categories: uptight, rule-following worrier, damsel in distress that likes to feign independence or bad-ass loner and they get NO development beyond their archetypes. In BLL, there are no categories with the female characters. They could be actual women that you know and are maybe even friends with. I feel like I got to know each of them on an intimate level, every strength and weakness, every mistake and motivation. It was… Refreshing!

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Meanie Face

Madelyn, played by Reese Witherspoon, could very easily just be cast as the shows resident mean girl, and she definitely makes some mean girl type decisions, but her character doesn’t stop at that. Instead, we’re shown a woman who would do anything for her friends, who is loyal and open and artistic. Who is conflicted and pulled between love of her husband and family and her need for excitement.

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Nicer Face

Celeste, played by Nicole Kidman, is more than just your average abused woman character. She is a strong, independent, highly educated woman who just has her eyes shut very tightly to her circumstances. You see the pattern of abuse displayed, it’s clear that she is a victim, it’s just as clear that she sees her husband’s actions as wrong but thinks he just needs a little help. I specifically enjoyed Celeste because of her several dissonant characteristics.

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Wine Face

Renata, played by Laura Dern, doesn’t get quite as much development as the others since she isn’t a central character and is more used as an opposing force for Madelyn. Even this woman, however, isn’t just a run-of-the-mill character. She is the working mom of the ensemble, a CEO of a large company that feels constantly judged for choosing to work and have a family and is so concerned that her daughter may be missing out on something or being mistreated because of it.

The other female characters are just as well developed and intriguing, though the male characters are sort of your standard, go to male character types. It’s very clear that they are the minor characters on this show. I would say that I’d like to see some more character development from the male characters next season, but I won’t be extremely disappointed if that doesn’t happen. This is definitely the best new show this year I’ve seen so far. I would highly recommend this show, especially to anyone that is an avid reader. The attention to detail and reality of the characters are two things that I love about well written books, and those things abound in this series.

The drama is intense, the story is compelling, the acting is, obviously, incredible, and the perspectives of the different characters are gripping. If you’re a fan of dramatic shows, you’re GOING to like this and, honestly, you may still like it even if you’re not.