The Pilot Project ’17 – Me, Myself & I (CBS)

The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…

THE PILOT PROJECT (Fall 2017 Edition)

Me, Myself & I (Mondays on CBS)

Me Myself and I

One of the best things that I can say about Me, Myself & I is that it doesn’t feel at all like a CBS sitcom. CBS is known for 3 things – procedural dramas, reality shows, and traditional multi-camera sitcoms. They’re the home of The Big Bang Theory, Kevin Can Wait, Man with a Plan, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, and King of Queens. Me, Myself & I is nothing like those. Like Young Sheldon, it’s a single-camera setup, and it’s the sort of high-concept sitcom you’d find on a network like NBC.

Me, Myself & I stars Bobby Moynihan, Jack Dylan Grazer, and John Larroquette all play inventor Alex Riley. Grazer plays young Alex Riley in 1991, whose mother movies him from Chicago to LA to live with his new stepfather and stepbrother. Bobby Moynihan plays middle-aged Alex Riley in 2017, who lives in his best friend’s garage with his daughter after catching his wife having an affair. John Larroquette plays old Alex Riley in 2042, after he’s just retired from his position as the head of his own company. Yeah, it’s a lot to take in. It’s not that confusing in the actual show, I promise. It’s a fun premise and I enjoyed seeing the little things that echoed across the three different time periods.

It would have been a problem if I wasn’t genuinely interested in what was happening in the three different stages of Alex Riley’s life, but thankfully that’s not the case. I enjoy all 3 actors immensely. Grazer was one of the best parts of It, I’ve always enjoyed Moynihan on SNL, and Larroquette is always dependable. Also, Jaleel White plays middle-aged Alex’s best friend! If the answer to “Did I do that?” is “You made me keep watching Me, Myself & I”, then yes Steve Urkel, you DID do that. Well, that was a bit of a stretch.

I have no idea how sustainable this premise is – as fun and unique as it is at the moment, there’s always the issue that you basically know the outcome to two of the three stories. You know that middle-aged Alex will never have any real success with women, since older Alex is still single. Hopefully they can come up with creative ways to keep the viewer on the toes. Apart from that, I can’t think of much that I disliked about it. It wasn’t all that funny, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think most sitcoms are all that funny; they’re more like television comfort food – they don’t require much of a commitment and they’re pleasant and easy to watch.

It’s my hope that one day, when you tell me that you watched Me, Myself & I, I’ll be able to reply with a hearty “Did I do that???” (I’m going to keep experimenting with this joke until I find a version that lands).

Recommendation: Watch It

Advertisements

The Pilot Project ’17 – Young Sheldon (CBS)

The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…

THE PILOT PROJECT (Fall 2017 Edition)

Young Sheldon (Thursdays on CBS)

Young Sheldon

I hate The Big Bang Theory. I absolutely abhor it. I hate most of what Chuck Lorre creates, but I have a special hate for The Big Bang Theory, I think in part because of how much everyone else seems to like it. I don’t think it’s funny. I don’t think it’s clever. As a self-professed geek and lover of television, I find it downright insulting. And most of all, I hate Sheldon.

So here’s the thing about Young Sheldon – it’s actually not bad.

Young Sheldon is not at all what you would expect from a prequel to The Big Bang Theory. First off, it’s not a multi-cam sitcom like its parent; it’s not shot in front of a live studio audience on a soundstage, and there’s no infuriating laugh track. Whereas The Big Bang Theory seems to both celebrate and vilify the idea of “nerds” in equal measure, Young Sheldon is more about what it’s like to grow up different, surrounded by people who don’t understand you. It’s a common sitcom trope, but that speaks as much to its effectiveness as anything else. Many family sitcoms have used utilized this idea well, such as The Goldbergs, Fresh off the Boat, and Speechless, just to name a few currently airing examples. What makes Young Sheldon different is that, well, it’s a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory, and frankly, I think that hurts it.

I’m not sure how much of an overlap there will be between people who like The Big Bang Theory and people who would like Young Sheldon. The shows are very different, not just in style, but also in humor. The Big Bang Theory goes for cheap laughs whenever it can, whereas Young Sheldon doesn’t even feature that many jokes. It’s as much a family drama as it is a comedy. The writers have replaced punchlines with amusing observances. These characters aren’t so much telling jokes as they are just relaying their experiences. It’s impressively subdued for a show called Young Sheldon. My concern is that the people who would actually appreciate this show are going to be driven away by the fact that it’s associated with the more over-the-top, abrasive Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Every time I felt myself being drawn into the show, Jim Parsons’ voiceover would come on and I’d immediately be reminded of what this show has been marketed as.

It’s too bad, because Iain Armitage is great as a young Sheldon Cooper, as are Zoe Perry and Lance Barber as his parents. The real standout to me, however, was Raegan Revord as Sheldon’s twin sister Missy. She delivered all the best lines in the episode and got the most semi-amused smirks from me (I rarely actually laugh out loud at television – sitcoms make me smile, more than anything else), and she’s probably the reason I’ll check out episode two.

If you’re looking for something that is not at all like The Big Bang Theory, or you’re looking for a nice, comforting, surprisingly poignant family sitcom, then maybe give Young Sheldon a try.

Bazinga?

Recommendation: Try It

The Pilot Project ’17 – Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…

THE PILOT PROJECT (Fall 2017 Edition)

Star Trek: Discovery (Sundays on CBS All Access)

Star Trek Discovery.jpg

Online streaming: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Discovery. Its five-year mission: to keep CBS All-Access afloat, to help CBS compete with Netflix, and to meekly get cancelled once CBS abandons CBS All-Access.

Much has been made about the fact that Star Trek: Discovery is being created exclusively for CBS’ All Access streaming platform, but I live in Canada, and I can watch it every Sunday on Space, so that doesn’t affect me at all! I do think that ultimately, airing on a streaming service will hurt the show. I think CBS’ is overestimating how much people are willing to pay to watch a single show week-to-week when there are easier, free alternatives. But what do I know? Not much.

Usually when I’m working on the Pilot Project, I try not to watch past the pilot episode of each show before writing about them. The whole point of this project is to judge each show based solely on its pilot. I’ll make an exception when a pilot is specifically branded as a two-parter, but Star Trek: Discovery’s pilot was not. At least, that was my understanding. It appears I may have been wrong. The reason for this is that over the course of the first episode of the show, you never even see the USS Discovery. It’s never even mentioned. You don’t meet its captain or its crew. So I can’t tell you how any of that stuff plays out, or how Jason Isaacs or Rainn Wilson are, because I haven’t see them yet. Could I stop writing this review right now and watch the second episode? Yes. Am I going to? Probably not. This is the kind of quality coverage you can expect from the Pilot Project!

Speaking of quality, I watched the pilot for Star Trek: Discovery immediately after watching the pilot for The Orville, so all I could think while watching it is how much better it looked than Seth MacFarlane’s show. The sets, the costumes, the makeup, the effects – everything is just top notch. An argument can certainly be made that aspects of The Orville are intentionally made to look cheesy, but the point still stands – Discovery is a good looking show (as well it should be, considering that each episode costs between $5-8 million, making it one of the most expensive shows currently being produced).

Apart from looking great, Star Trek: Discovery also carries the weight of being the first Star Trek series to air in 12 years, and that makes it something of an event. I obviously can’t speak to what I haven’t seen, but I was encouraged by the episode that I did watch. It feels like Star Trek, which is probably all anyone could ask for. This first season is going to cover the events of the war between the Klingons and the Galactic Federation, which feels a bit more serialized to me than Star Trek has been in the past (full disclosure – I am not a Star Trek superfan, so this statement could be false, but when I think of Star Trek, I tend to remember self-contained episodes). I’m a fan of serialization, and these seem to be the seeds that were planted by Bryan Fuller before he left the show, so I’m excited to see what comes next (although I’m still disappointed that we’ll never get to see Fuller’s Star Trek anthology series that covers different time periods every season).

Another big change is that for the first time, the series’ lead isn’t a captain of a starship. Sonequa Martin-Green plays Michael Burnham, a first officer, which lends the series a bit of a different perspective than what we’re traditionally used to. It’s an interesting change, and I’m excited to see how the show explores the different dynamics among Starfleet employees.

Have you zoned out yet? Listen, if you’re not already sold on Star Trek, Discovery probably isn’t going to do much to change your mind, but if you’re itching for some good sci-fi action, then I’d encourage you to boldly go ahead and watch this show. Do you… see what I did there?

Recommendation: Watch It

The Pilot Project ’17 – The Orville (FOX)

The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…

THE PILOT PROJECT (Fall 2017 Edition)

The Orville (Thursdays on Fox)

The Orville

After over a decade without one, we somehow ended up with two Star Trek shows this fall. One is actually Star Trek (more on that later), while the other is The Orville.

The Orville is Seth MacFarlane’s hyped up Star Trek homage/spoof/rip-off, and that’s, well… exactly what it is. It’s not shy about it. There’s a galactic federation, starships named “USS Whatever”, weird alien crew members, Klingon stand-ins,  and different colored uniforms with insignias. This is a sillier, lighter Star Trek from the creator of Family Guy, although the humor is a lot more restrained than you’d expect coming from a guy like MacFarlane. There is some potty humor, but not a ton. The show actually isn’t all that funny. That’s not to say that it’s not entertaining, but you probably won’t audibly laugh out loud too much while watching it. If MacFarlane had wanted to, he could have just gone for jokes in every scene, but he seems to genuinely want to make a legitimate Star Trek homage, which is admirable.

Beyond writing and producing the show, MacFarlane is also the lead actor, so if he’s someone who bothers you then you might want to steer clear. The rest of the cast is serviceable – there don’t seem to be any real standouts yet, although it’s always nice to have Adrienne Palicki on my screen, and I’m glad to see that Halston Sage is branching out beyond “hot blonde high school friend”.

One odd thing I did notice while watching the pilot is that occasionally the pacing feels… off. There are scenes that run on for far too long, meandering and ending up nowhere. Sometimes jokes seem to end without a punch line. There are other scenes that feel like they serve no real purpose at all. I don’t know whether it’s the script’s fault or director Jon Favreau’s, but I’m leaning towards the script. Whether or not these oddly paced instances continue, I couldn’t tell you, but it was something that bothered me in the pilot.

I feel like I’m running out of things to say about this show, which is too bad, since this is the very first installment of this year’s Pilot Project. It’s… a decent show. Three episodes have aired so far, so I don’t know if it gets better or worse, but there are definitely worse things you could be spending your time on. I think I’m having such a hard time recommending it because I’m not entirely sure who it’s for. If you’re someone who likes Star Trek, you’ll probably just watch, you know, Star Trek. If you don’t like Star Trek, then I’m not sure why you’d be interested in The Orville. I suppose The Orville is for people who LOVE Star Trek and need more than one episode a week, as well as for people who like the idea of Star Trek but find the actual thing itself to be too boring and serious. Or maybe The Orville is just for people like me, who watch everything. I almost said that it’s a show for Seth MacFarlane fans, but it doesn’t really feel at all like Family Guy or American Dad, so that’s probably not the case. Regardless, I’m going to give The Orville a definitive “try it”. If it’s “for you”, then let me know so I can finally solve this mystery.

Recommendation: Try It

Opinionado!!! (03.26.17 – 04.08.17 Part 1)

I’ve got a lot of opinions. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter or in real life knows this. I constantly want to talk about things that are going on in the world of entertainment, but I need an outlet. That’s what this is for. Every week, I’ll give you my thoughts and impressions on the biggest pieces of entertainment news, from trailers, to promotional images, to breaking news stories. I’ll even provide short reviews or impressions of the things I’m watching, reading, playing, and listening to every week. So sit back, relax, and get swept up in the swirling vortex that is… Opinionado!

Film:

Justice League (Trailer 1)

Whoo boy. Starting off with a doozy, huh? This was probably the most anticipated trailer on the planet. Even before Batman v Superman’s release, fans and critics alike have been wondering “What the hell is that Justice League movie going to look like?” Turns out, the answer is “Like a Zack Snyder film”. It’s got the incoherent action, the muted colors, overall grimy texture, and the copious amounts of slow-mo. The only thing this doesn’t have is Malick-like shots of wonder and Christ imagery. I’ve watched this thing a few times now and tonally it’s just all over the place. The film LOOKS exactly like a sequel to BvS would be expected to look, but they’ve sprinkled in a bunch of “light-hearted” attempts at humor (some of which works and some of which doesn’t) and layered the whole thing in a cheesy, rock-version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” because apparently Beastie Boys’ “Unite” would have been too on the nose. Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of how Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have handled the DC Extended Universe. I want them to succeed, because I actually like DC Comics and their characters and storylines, but I also want them to fail so that they can just start the whole thing over from scratch and do it the right way. I have no idea if Wonder Woman will be good (although the skeptic in me says to not get your hopes up), but I’m almost positive that Justice League will not be a good film. I hope I’m wrong – I actually like what they’ve done with Aquaman and the Flash, and I think Cavill, Affleck, and Gadot are actually a great central trinity – but man, some parts of this trailer look really bad! Cyborg is just awful on every level (is his costume still rendering?) and the set pieces in this thing just look so dreary. It’s like someone took Return of the King and turned down the saturation. And really, “Come Together”? Damn.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Trailer 2)

“If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” CHILLS. Man, I am so ready for a good Spider-Man movie, and I really hope that’s what this is. It’s not the Marvel film I’m most excited about this year (that honour goes to Thor: Ragnarok), but I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker, and I’m geeking out that Spider-Man will get to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, could anyone else sell that “Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” line the way that Robert Downey Jr. sells it? I don’t think so. I love the whole “John Hughes with superpowers” thing, especially since I just saw the same thing done quite effectively in Power Rangers. We haven’t see much from the extended cast yet (remember that Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Kenneth Choi, Tony Revolori, and Logan-Marshall-Green are all in this movie and I think we’ve seen glimpses of maybe2 of them in the two trailers released thus far), but I love the chemistry between Holland’s Peter and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. I’m even excited for the Vulture, and I don’t like the Vulture as a villain. I haven’t been a big fan of any of his iterations, be it revenge-seeking engineer, youth-sucking vampire, acid-spitting mutant or whatever, but I think this works. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Michael “Birdman” Keaton himself, and they’ve actually designed a Vulture suit that looks appropriately badass, especially when paired with that vintage military flight jacket. I’m excited to see where they take this whole thing.

A Ghost Story (Trailer 1)

Every now and then, there are movies that I hear enough good things about that I decide to abstain from watching their trailers. I did this for Arrival, I did it for Split (after seeing the initial trailer), I’m doing it for Colossal, and now I’m going to do it for A Ghost Story. So no, I haven’t watched this trailer yet, but I’m been assured that it’s a good one. Watch it, or don’t. Your choice.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Trailer 2)

Man, I have no idea what to make of this movie, but I think I love it? It’s like Terry Gilliam, Baz Luhrmann, and Guillermo Del Toro got together to direct a pastiche of Star Wars, Jupiter Ascending, Moulin Rouge, Guardians of the Galaxy, John Carter, The Fifth Element, and Doctor Who. It’s so wacky and colorful and fun. I have absolutely no familiarity with the source material, but even if it fails completely on a plot and/or characters front, I need to see it on the biggest screen possible on opening night.

A Dark Song (Trailer 1)

I don’t have much to say about this one other than, uh, creepy. This looks to be right up my alley. I believe we’re going through a bit of a horror renaissance right now, and this looks like a strong contender to join the ranks of It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, and the rest.

It (Trailer 1)

Nope nope nope nope nope nope NOPE. That was my initial reaction to this trailer. Actually, I think my initial reaction was “holy shit”. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this looks absolutely terrifying. I’m haunted by the image I saw as a child of a clown in a sewer grate, and this brings that right back to the surface. I get chills watching this thing. I know people are upset that Cary Fukunaga walked away from this project because they wouldn’t let him make the movie he wanted to make, but that doesn’t necessarily damn the movie. We were all upset about Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, but that movie turned out great. I’m not saying that Fukunaga’s It wouldn’t have been better, but that doesn’t mean that this one will be bad. Pennywise looks insanely creepy and the movie looks like it has been very well shot. I even kind of want to read the book now, which is insane, because I’m pretty sure it’s like, 8000 pages long.

Tomb Raider (Promo)

I mean, she looks great. That’s my opinion on this. She looks good. That’s really all we know, but it’s a good sign, right?

Sony Is Making Their Own Marvel Cinematic Universe (News)

1490633823035

If you haven’t already heard, this past month, Sony announced plans to release two new comic book movies in 2018 – an R-rated Venom film and a Black Cat/Silver Sable team-up film. If you don’t know who any of these characters are, that’s okay – most people who aren’t Spider-Man fans wouldn’t recognize them, which is why it’s weird that Sony is betting hundreds of millions of dollars that people will flock to the theaters next year to see them. Back when Sony was still producing those decidedly not-amazing Amazing Spider-Man films, they had plans for a grand web of interlocking Spider-Man films – a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, if you will. They were in development on a Sinister Six film, a Venom film, and a female-led Spider-Man film. And then the Sony hack happened, and all of these details leaked out, and Sony began to tank. They ended up teaming with Marvel Studios to produce a new series of Spider-Man films that would tie into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the first of which, Spider-Man: Homecoming, comes out in July. We all assumed that Sony’s dream of a Spider-Man cinematic universe had died, because it just doesn’t really make sense to do that without Spider-Man. Well, you know what they say about assuming, right? As it turns out, Sony is charging full steam ahead of producing a number of Spider-Man spin-off films that will be, in no way, associated with Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s certainly… a choice. This is… this is maybe one of the more misguided decisions I’ve seen a studio make recently. I mean, I think DC is making a ton of mistakes with their cinematic universe, but at least they have access to all of their characters. Venom was designed to be Spider-Man’s foil. Black Cat was introduced as a love interest for Spidey. What are these characters without their shared history with Spider-Man? Imagine if DC made a Catwoman movie that had nothing to do with Bat-what? Oh, they did that already? Well how did it do? Oh. OH. Well… yeah. Then I expect these to do about as well as that did. Good luck Sony. You’ll need it.

Joss Whedon is Directing a Batgirl Movie (News)

636268974516956473-whedon-batgirl.png

Chances are if you know me, you already know how I feel about this news. My feelings towards the DC Extended Universe can be summed up with one Shania Twain song:

As I’ve said before, I’m torn on the DCEU – on the one hand, I’d love to see good movies based on DC characters, but on the other hand, I don’t want to see future movies saddled with the garbage continuity they’ve established thus far. I want a fresh start. Rebuild it from the ground up. Don’t build your home on a dubious foundation like Batman v Superman. Alas, Suicide Squad made enough money to keep this failed experiment afloat and I’m sure Wonder Woman and Justice League will help matters, regardless of their quality. With each passing day, I’m more and more convinced that we’re stuck with what we’ve got, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything Warner Bros. is doing is misguided. Did you know there are currently 18 DC films in various stages of development? Of those 18, only 6 have dates, and only 3 of those 6 have officially entered production. It’s absolutely bonkers. There is constantly so much drama going on behind the scenes of these things – the rumor mill is constantly churning, and it would be easy to just disregard it all if Warner Bros. didn’t have a history of driving talent away from their DC franchises (I’m looking at you The Flash). I’m not even sure it’s worth formulating an opinion over Whedon’s Batgirl film because the chances of a) it actually happening and b) Whedon being involved are so slim that it feels pointless. Will I watch a Batgirl film directed by Joss Whedon? Absolutely. I’ll watch anything by Joss Whedon. Would I rather he not make a Batgirl film and do something else instead? Absolutely. Will I get my wish? Probably! Who knows? Come see me in a year if Whedon is still attached to this stupid thing.

Review – Ghost in the Shell (2017)

gits_trailer

Look, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this anime adaptation and the whitewashing it contains. I won’t defend it, but I also understand the decisions that lead to this point. I’m not going to say anymore on that here because frankly, I have no authority to do so. I also don’t have the authority to speak on this film as an adaptation. I’m not a big anime guy. I haven’t seen any of the source material. In fact, I skipped out on watching the original film specifically because I wanted to judge Ghost in the Shell on its own merits. So what did I think? I thought it was good! Not great, just good. I enjoyed my time with it. It’s not going to win any awards for plot or characterization – it raises some interesting questions that it never gets around to answering – but it sure looks nice. The production design is just fantastic. The effects, the sets, the cinematography – this is a nice film to look at it. I kind of want to see it again in IMAX for that reason alone. If you’re looking for some entertaining eye candy, you could do a lot worse than Ghost in the Shell. If you’re looking for a deep, philosophical sci-fi film that’s going to blow your mind, look elsewhere.

 

Television:

Black Lightning Gets a Costume (Promo)

BlackLightning

In case you weren’t aware, The CW is getting a fifth (FIFTH!) DC superhero show in Black Lightning. It’s unclear as of now whether or not Black Lightning would exist as a part of The CW’s Arrowverse, as it was initially developed for Fox, who passed on the script. The pilot is currently filming in Atlanta and we now have our first look at Cress Williams in costume as Black Lightning, and it’s… busy. Aesthetically, it actually fits in well with the rest of The CW’s superhero shows. They continue to go in a completely different direction than Marvel Television, who seem intent on downplaying as many costume elements as they can (just check out the leaked set photos from the Inhumans). Many have remarked that this would be a better costume for the Inhumans’ Black Bolt, but… we’ll get to that when we’ve got an official still from that production.

ReBoot Reboot is Official (News)

reboot_reboot.0.png

As a kid, I adored Reboot. The first computer animated TV series, ReBoot was revolutionary from an industry standpoint, but it was also revolutionary to me from a storytelling standpoint. ReBoot, along with its sister-series Beast Wars (or Beasties, for us Canadians) showed me that kids show didn’t have to be dumbed down. Both series’ featured dark, mature storylines, with character deaths and plot twists. A lot of my storytelling proclivities were formed during this period and they greatly influenced me. So it’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that ReBoot is returning as a CGI/live-action hybrid. Who is this for? People have been clamoring for more ReBoot for years, and every now and then we’ll hear something about an eventual ReBoot reboot, but now it’s officially official and I don’t think it’s what anyone wants. Instead of a straight sequel or a re-imaging, we’re getting some weird thing about teens who play an MMO and get tasked with protecting… cyberspace or something. I don’t know. It sounds really stupid. One of the character’s names is “Goog’z”. GOOG’Z! Apparently the original characters will play some sort of role, but I just don’t really have any interest in seeing human characters. Am I the only one? I hope I’m wrong! But I’m never wrong. My opinions are always right (re: DCEU).

Legion Season 1 (Impressions)

legion-banner

I recently finished the first season of FX’s Legion, and… y’all should watch Legion. It is such a unique, gem of a show. I don’t want to spoil any of the weird, little things that make it so special, but I will say that the acting, the music, and the production values are all top-notch. It quickly became one of my favorite currently airing programs. Things start off weird and only get weirder, but the payoff is worth it. This is a Noah Hawley (Fargo) show based on the X-Men franchise. I shouldn’t have to convince you to watch it.

Attack on Titan Season 2 Premiere (Impressions)

attack-on-titan-s2-social.jpg

It’s time. Time… for anime! I’ve never been a big anime fan, but one of the few shows that I had actually watched was Attack on Titan. I go to anime for weird, crazy things that I can’t get from American films and TV shows, and Attack on Titan fits that bill. It takes place in a world in which humanity has been driven into near-extinction by a race of mindless, titanic, naked men. Yeah, you read that correctly. The remnants of humanity hide behind 3 massive, concentric walls that protect them from these titans, but they’re forced to fight when a colossal titan breaks through the gate. They fight using these aerial maneuvering devices that utilize gas-powered harpoons attached to ropes to swing through cities and forests like Spider-Man. It’s as crazy as it sounds. It’s ridiculous, intense, disturbing, and graphically violent. I love it. After a 3+ year wait, season 2 has finally premiered, and the insanity has continued. There are a couple great twists in the first episode and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

 

Games:

Destiny 2 (Worldwide Reveal Trailer)

I, like many others, have a love/hate relationship with Destiny (both the game and the universal force). Prior to its release, I had it in my mind that we were getting something along the lines of “epic space opera of Mass Effect meets combat of Halo”. What I didn’t expect was “first-person sci-fi Diablo with less story”. It’s a very nice looking game with interesting art design, it’s got a good world with plenty of lore to discover, and the gameplay actually feels great – it’s just that none of that ever coalesced into a really great whole. The pieces are (mostly) there, but they were never arranged properly. The fun was mired by confusing systems and weird restrictions. I think there is a great game lurking somewhere in Destiny (and I’ve certainly sunk enough hours into it), so I’m hopeful that Bungie figures things out with Destiny 2. I think I like this trailer? The tone is a little off though; it feels like it’s trying way too hard to be whatever it thinks people want. I’m holding off judgment until we learn more about what the game actually is and how it differs from the first entry.

 

Music:

Kendrick Lamar – “Humble”

Okay, first of all, the song is straight fire. Second, does anyone else feel like Kendrick watched Beyonce’s Lemonade and thought “I can do that”? Not that this 3-minute video necessarily stands alongside Beyonce’s opus, but it certainly seems to be inspired by it. The video is filled with fascinating imagery and interesting camera shots. I’m not smart enough to begin to understand what any of it means, but it sure looks great, doesn’t it? It inspires hope in me that I’ll actually enjoy Kendrick’s new album after feeling let down by To Pimp A Butterfly. Yeah, that’s right. Come at my haters.

Broken Social Scene – “Halfway Home”

I was a huge Broken Social Scene fan back in high school, and they, along with Arcade Fire, basically shaped my taste in music during the mid-to-late 2000’s. I was a fan of just about anything the Arts & Crafts label released, and at one point I was basically buying all of it (even though I ended up with many CD’s I disliked and would never listen to again). I thought that I had outgrown Broken Social Scene, but it sure brings a smile to my face to see them all performing on stage again. BSS concerts are a special experience, because it’s literally just a group of friends playing music together on stage. There’s a purity and an intimacy to it that you don’t get from big, packaged concerts. I’m not sure I really dig the song all that much, but I’m glad that Broken Social Scene is back regardless. “Friendship ladies and gentlemen, friendship!”

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Pure Genius (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Pure Genius (Thursdays on CBS)

pure-genius

One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to Pure Genius.

The brilliant author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke had three adages that were known as “Clarke’s three laws”. The third, and most renowned, of these laws is that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Procedural dramas too often take this idea to heart. One of the most common complaints about television procedurals is that the technology used may as well be magical. Watch any episode of CSI, Bones, or Scorpion and you’ll see what I mean. Procedural technology is capable of literally anything. How many episodes of television have you seen where someone tells a guy at a computer to “enhance” an image. Now there are actual ways to enhance an image, but these programs always take it to the most ridiculous extremes. “Do you see that? It’s his reflection. See if you can zoom in on it. Ah, what’s that in his eye? It’s the reflection of his killer. See if you can enhance the reflection of the reflection. We’ve found our man”. There’s actually a name for this phenomenon – the CSI effect. In an academic journal analyzing the effects of this phenomenon on actual juries, authors N.J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks state the following:

In recent years, the television program CSI and its spin-offs have portrayed forensic science as high-tech magic, solving crimes quickly and unerringly. Of course, CSI is only fiction. One forensic scientist estimates that 40% of the “science” on CSI does not exist, and most of the rest is performed in ways that crime lab personnel can only dream about.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Television is, after all, an entertainment medium and it’s used by many as a means of escapism. What’s the problem with a little magic technology? There is no problem with magic technology… in science fiction. But that’s not what Pure Genius is. It’s billed as a medical procedural, and in an attempt to distinguish itself, it incorporates “sufficiently advanced technology”. It is the television embodiment of Clarke’s third law.

There’s a scene in the episode in which the team, led by brilliant Silicon Valley billionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew), try to bring a young girl out of a coma. They’ve grown tired of waiting for her to come to them, so they decided to go to her. With the vast resources that he has used to fund the cutting-edge Bunker Hill Hospital, Bell purchases an experimental piece of equipment that allows for brain-to-brain communication – mind-reading. They throw the helmets on the patient and her mother, and sure enough, as the father speaks to his daughter, the mother utters the words “hi daddy” through tears. Now, if this were an episode of Fringe, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Fringe was a sci-fi procedural that dealt with fringe science. Pure Genius is not. In fact, showrunner Jason Katims actually told his writers’ room that he didn’t want to make a science fiction show. That means that apparently, the writers have done some amount of research into real experimental medical practices that they believe could be utilized some day. If this episode is anything to judge by, however, those practices are still a long ways off. Everything important in this show takes place on a high-tech computer screen or holographic tablet. Every impossible problem is solved through magical technology that’s too advanced to fail.  This is House without the ingenuity – or the characters.

Every character in Pure Genius falls flat. There are no distinct personalities. The only character less interesting than Bell himself is Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney), who is at first reluctant to join the hospital before being wowed by the miraculous power of all the expensive tech. There’s a whole team of medical experts that frankly aren’t worth elaborating on here – trust me, this show isn’t doing anything you haven’t seen a hundred times before. If you’re going to have boring characters, then you at least need to have an interesting plot. If you’re going to have a boring plot, then you at least have to have interesting characters. Pure Genius lacks both. ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy were compelling because you were watching interesting characters push themselves to solve problems and save lives. In Pure Genius, the technology does most of the heavy lifting.

It’s unfortunate, because Jason Katims is the insanely talented individual who brought us Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, two shows which were known for their loveable characters and authentic emotional beats. Those shows elevated the family drama, but there’s nothing that sets Pure Genius apart from other shows of its ilk. Maybe one day Katims will have his show explore the complexities that surround sufficiently advanced technologies, but until then, I can’t recommend Pure Genius.

It kind of sucks to end The Pilot Project on such a low note, but… what can you do? I didn’t ask CBS to premiere half of its new fall schedule later than everyone else. Go forth, skip all CBS shows, and be blessed.

Recommendation: Skip it

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – The Great Indoors (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

The Great Indoors (Thursdays on CBS)

the great indoors.jpg

One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and the format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to The Great Indoors.

The Great Indoors, like most CBS comedies, can be boiled down to a simple, singular premise, which in this case is “millennials are funny”. Like Two and a Half Men (“men are funny”), The Big Bang Theory (“nerds are funny”), and Mike & Molly (“fat people are funny”) before it, The Great Indoors places all of its bets on this one joke.

Joel McHale plays Jack Gordon, the “aging” adventure journalist at the now-defunct magazine, “Outdoor Limits”. Due to the fact that print is dead, “Outdoor Limits” is shuttering its print division in favour of going fully digital. Jack is horrified, because now that “Outdoor Limits” is just a website, it apparently means he can’t go explore the world outside anymore. In fact, when you switch from being a magazine to being a website, you also have to switch from posting articles to posting memes. Like I said, everything has been overly simplified in order to beat you over the head with a singular joke. You see, Jack can’t do his previous job anymore because he’s now in charge of supervising the millennials that make up the magazine’s online team. There’s Clark (Christopher Mint-Plasse), Emma (Christine Ko), and Mason (Shaun Brown). All three are so VERY millennial. They post content such as “Best Outdoor Gear for the Zombie Apocalypse”, because while they work at an outdoor magazine, they actually know nothing about the outdoors. Because they’re millennials. And iPhones. And such. Clark hosts a podcast where he interviews Mason about his podcast. Emma is upset that she’s been working 8 weeks without a promotion. Mason keeps accidentally (?) sending people dick picks. Do you get it yet? There are frequent jokes about participation trophies. I’m not making this up. At one point Jack is referred to as “the human version of dial-up”. I haven’t cringed this much since I watched the only episode of The Big Bang Theory that I ever watched (bazinga!). Will Jack and these crazy kids ever be able to work together to create something meaningful or are they doomed to continually fall into the same old clichés? Both, probably.

I suppose if you’re old enough to find millennials perplexing (although aren’t we all?), maybe you’d get something out of the jokes involving Instagram accounts and podcasts, but if you are that sort of person then surely you’ve heard it all by now, right? In fact, you’ve probably already MADE the same jokes that these writers are being paid to think up. Doesn’t that just infuriate you? Writing isn’t even a real job though is it? Maybe they should get out of their parent’s basement and make an honest day’s living for once. You know, back in my day, we weren’t special. Siiiigggghhhhh… I just can’t even right now. :$

Recommendation: No