TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015- )

Also known as: Tooken (working title)
Original Run: March 6th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jeff Richmond
Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski

Little Stranger Inc., Bevel Gears, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television, Netflix, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, 45 Episodes (so far), 22-36 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a television show that was created by the team that bought you NBC’s 30 Rock. Originally intended to be aired on NBC, once the network pretty much abandoned comedy (see how poorly they handled the final season of Parks & Recreation) it was sold to Netflix with a two season order. So far, only one season has aired on the streaming service.

The show stars Ellie Kemper from The Office and a slew of other actors who appeared on 30 Rock in some form or another. The main cast is comprised of Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski. There are also a ton of cameos: Tina Fey (one of the co-creators), Jon Hamm and Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men, as well as Tim Blake Nelson are some of the most notable.

If you are a fan of 30 Rock, which I mostly wasn’t, the show will delight you as it captures the same tone and humor. Personally, I found this to be a better show overall than 30 Rock but it was too similar in style and felt like more of a spin-off or extension of that show creatively, as opposed to being something fresh and unique. It was littered with a lot of Tina Feyisms and almost thought itself to be too clever, witty and quirky.

The show is very lighthearted and positive all around. Despite the fact that the premise is about a young woman who is freed from an underground cult bunker after fifteen years, it doesn’t focus on that dark subject matter too deeply. It shows a strong and powerful female character, robbed of a decade and a half of her life, taking on every challenge in an effort to live the life she was denied. In a nutshell, it sends a positive message to all that life is something to be cherished and enjoyed and that the relationships we have with people are precious.

However, the show also kind of pushes the envelope too hard with its positive message, as on multiple occasions we see Kimmy meddling in the lives of others. Yes, it is in an attempt to help them and to push them in a better direction but ultimately, she oversteps her bounds more often than not. While her intentions are always good and noble, she is like a helicopter mom to every character on the show. Maybe season two should deal with the potential negative consequences of her good intentions. Where this show gives a template for a great role model, it is counterintuitive for the fact that she is an overenthusiastic busybody.

To give an example, there is a point in the show where Kimmy takes it upon herself to get the angsty teenage daughter she is a nanny to, to go live with her other parents against the girl’s wishes. She uses some trickery in her plot. In the end, she isn’t the girl’s parent and if this isn’t overstepping some moralistic bounds, despite her good intent, I don’t know what is. Just because someone thinks they know what is right for someone else, doesn’t give them the right to force fate against that person’s wishes.

This also ties into the fact that Kimmy pretty much pushes her employer into divorcing her cheating husband. While the husband is a scumbag, it is the wife’s decision and although Kimmy can give her two cents, as a friend, she went beyond that.

I’m not attacking the show, I found it really entertaining and a good choice for some weekend binge watching. These are just the thoughts I had, as I watched each episode unfold. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as it is just a sitcom.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a show worth your time for the most part. There isn’t a lot of good comedy airing on television these days. I just hope the extreme positive nature of the show doesn’t breed a new generation of busybody know-it-alls.

I will certainly watch season two when it starts streaming. Besides, it is kind of hard to deny myself the magic that is Tituss Burgess. And I love everything that Carol Kane does. I also hope that Jon Hamm reemerges, as well as Kiernan Shipka. Tina Fey can leave her Marcia Clark impersonation behind though.

Update:

Couldn’t get very far into the second season. I pretty much abandoned the show, as it just started to get really redundant and had already ran its course for me.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: NBC comedies of the ’00s: The Office30 RockParks & Recreation, etc.

TV Review: The Last Man On Earth (2015-2018)

Release Date: March 1st, 2015 – May 6th, 2018 (original run)
Directed by: various
Written by: Will Forte, various
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Sudeikis, Boris Kodjoe, Mark Boone Junior, Kenneth Choi, Kristen Wiig, Keith L. Williams, Chris Elliot, Fred Armisen, Will Ferrell (cameo), Alexandra Daddario (cameo), Jon Hamm (cameo), Laura Dern (cameo), Jack Black (cameo), Martin Short (cameo)

The Si Fi Company, Lord Miller Productions, 20th Television, Fox, 67 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Oh, farts.” – Phil Tandy Miller

*Written in 2015.

Now that the first season is over, I can give a proper review to Fox’s The Last Man On Earth.

In short, I really like this show.

Will Forte is great as the lead character Phil Miller. Kristen Schaal is fantastic as the fairly neurotic yet very lovable Carol Pilbasian. Add in January Jones, Mel Rodriguez and as the show progresses further, Mary Steenburgen, Cleopatra Coleman and Boris Kodjoe, and you’ve got a pretty diverse and enjoyable cast.

The show starts with Phil traveling the country in search of other human beings. He paints “Alive In Tucson” on billboards throughout the United States and as the show progresses, characters start to show up every few episodes.

Due to the title, I was wondering how Fox would make an ongoing show out of a single character but I’m glad it has expanded. While it isn’t a post-apocalyptic world per se, it has similar themes as The Walking Dead. Sure, there aren’t zombies and the feeling of danger around every corner but it shows human beings trying to govern themselves and reestablish their place in the world.

Forte’s Phil Miller is mostly unlikable but there is a quality to him that has you siding with him and pulling for him, even though his dastardly deeds cause him to continually lose favor with other members of his tiny community despite the fact that he is the reason everyone has come to Tucson. Miller’s faults are easy to understand and relate to and even though he gives into them, he ultimately just wants to find his place and has a need to feel useful and loved – understandable for someone who was alone in the world without human contact for so long.

The show is entertaining, the cast is amazing and without spoiling anything, it looks like the show isn’t afraid to reinvent itself along the way. Based off of some things that happened in the finale, it will be interesting to see how things pan out in season two.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Well, it’s pretty unique. If you have any ideas, post them in the comments.

Documentary Review: Center of Attention – The Unreal Life of Derek Sanderson (2015)

Release Date: June, 2015
Narrated by: John Slattery

NBC Sports Films, 47 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Recently I read Derek Sanderson’s autobiography Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original. While reading it, I was wrapped up in his tale and thought it would be a great story for a documentary. Luckily for all of us, NBCSN agreed and made a one hour film about Sanderson, which premiered this week after a Stanley Cup Finals game.

The documentary interviewed friends, family, coaches and former teammates – most notably the legendary Bobby Orr. It went on to highlight his career and his trouble with drugs and alcohol. Granted, I felt that Sanderson’s story could’ve been more fleshed out and presented over two hours instead of one but NBCSN still did a great job of hitting all the highs and lows of a man that went from the top of his sport to rock bottom in life.

While Sanderson’s story, at face value, isn’t unique, it is the character that Derek Sanderson was that make’s his tale compelling. He was the king of cool, often times referred to as the “Joe Namath of Hockey”. He was, at one time, the highest paid athlete in the world. And where so many of these stories end in tragedy, Sanderson’s had a happy ending, as he overcame his problems, turned his life around and dedicated his remaining days to helping those with substance abuse issues.

Still alive and kicking, when many thought he was on a quick trip to an early grave, Sanderson is a shining example of perseverance and a real man, who overcame adversity, conquered his demons and turned it all around for the better.

I hope NBCSN does more documateries like this, especially in the world of hockey. It was refreshing and engaging, especially when ESPN rarely showcases hockey stories in their great 30 For 30 documentary series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Last GladiatorsKing’s Ransom and Big Shot.

TV Review: Heroes Reborn (2015-2016)

Release Date: September 24th, 2015 – January 21st, 2016 (original run)
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman
Cast: Jack Coleman, Zachary Levi, Robbie A. Kay, Kiki Sukezane, Ryan Guzman, Rya Kihlstedt, Gatlin Green, Henry Zebrowski, Judith Shekoni, Danika Yarosh

Tailwind Productions, Imperative Entertainment, Universal Television, NBCUniversal Television, NBC, 13 Episodes, 42-43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

Heroes was a good show. Well, the first season was good. After that, each season got worse and worse and eventually got fairly horrible. It was cancelled after four seasons.

Many of the characters were interesting, some of the stories were engaging and there were several unresolved plot points when it met its end.

Several years later, we got the miniseries: Heroes Reborn. It was an attempt to continue the story, albeit a little bit further into the future.

Zachary Levi is in this. I like Zachary Levi. Also, Jack Coleman returns. He was one of my two favorite characters from the original series. And that is about it for the good points of this show. Granted, other Heroes characters return, it just isn’t as impactful as you think it would be and they’re mostly just small flourishes scattered over an ugly canvas. Also, in the original Heroes the timeline altered so much, I didn’t remember where many of these characters ended up, so their involvement was a bit confusing in this series.

The show is just a piss poor attempt. Granted, so were the later seasons of the original show. The thing that hurts this even more is that it was once a one-of-a-kind show but today, there are several superhero shows that are better than what Heroes was at its best. It is glaringly obvious that the Heroes franchise has been surpassed.

The new characters aren’t that interesting and it is hard to invest any emotion in them. The new plot isn’t interesting either and the villain is weak. It is just a dull piece of shit, to put it bluntly.

There are two episodes left (I think and I hope) and I will finish the series but I’m glad that NBC has decided to pull the plug on doing a sequel miniseries.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Well, obviously Heroes. Also, the CW superhero shows starring DC Comics characters.

Film Review: American Ultra (2015)

Release Date: August 18th, 2015 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Written by: Max Landis
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale, Lavell Crawford

The Bridge Finance Company, Circle of Confusion, Likely Story, Merced Media Partners, PalmStar Media Capital, PalmStar Entertainment, Tadmor Entertainment, Lionsgate Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

“If I die, I’m going to do it stoned and smiling in my bed.” – Mike Howell

*Written in 2015.

I went into American Ultra with no expectations. Although I did like the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Adventureland and thought that it was Stewart’s best performance that I had seen.

So maybe their having worked together so well before is why they felt very comfortable in this movie and with each other. Their relationship felt natural and nothing seemed forced or out of place. As the two leads, Eisenberg and Stewart shined.

As far as the plot goes, this film doesn’t really tread new territory but it doesn’t need to. It is about a “fish out of water” sleeper agent for the C.I.A. who has woken up in an effort to save himself from the agency director who thinks he’s a dangerous dog that needs to be put down. In this film, the agent is a stoner with a lot of phobias. Of course, the phobias are all stuff that the agency put in his head in an effort to control him.

Eisenberg and Stewart are backed up by a great cast. Topher Grace plays the C.I.A. asshole that wants Eisenberg’s character dead. Then there is John Leguizamo who plays a friend and drug dealer. The great Walton Goggins shows up as a psychotic agent named Laugher. Bill Pullman plays a high ranking C.I.A. official that mixes things up in the end. Tony Hale a.k.a. Buster from Arrested Development plays another C.I.A. agent that is caught between doing good or doing evil. And then Connie Britton rounds out the cast as the C.I.A. agent who is trying to save the main characters.

The film was well shot, well edited, perfectly paced and came off as a lot of fun. It wasn’t a flawless film but it wasn’t littered with issues and even the unbelievable elements felt believable, in the moment, and that is what a director should strive for.

American Ultra was entertaining. It ends the summer movie season and it was at least a refreshing end to a summer full of a lot of crap. This wasn’t a big budget CGI fest yet it achieved much more than most of the other summer movies I had to sit through this year.

I guess it is left open for a sequel but one isn’t necessary. This isn’t a forgettable film but it doesn’t warrant any more installments. I liked it for what it was and the filmmakers should let it stand on its own. Besides, I don’t anticipate this being a sleeper hit.

At this point, I think a lot of summer moviegoers are suffering from tent pole fatigue. While this is a good contrast to the tent pole feature, it will probably suffer for the date it was released. If this were a late September or early October film, it may have had more of a chance for success. Instead, it shares the docket with Sinister 2 and Hitman: Agent 47 – all three of these will probably underwhelm at the box office between coming out on the same day and following a slew of mediocre summer movies.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Adventureland for having the same leads, as well as the Kingsman movies for some similarities.

Film Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Release Date: August 2nd, 2015 (Barcelona premiere)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson
Based on: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant

Ritchie/Wigram Productions, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, Warner Bros., 116 Minutes

Review:

“There are only two masters in this world: fear and pain.” – Uncle Rudi

*Written in 2015.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was the latest attempt at Hollywood trying to remake an old popular television show into a movie. In a sea of remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels and spinoffs, this film is just as forgettable and unimportant as most of the others. Now, it’s not a bad film, it just isn’t anything memorable or fresh.

The best thing about this movie, is that it is one of those rare films where style actually is substance. Everything about the film’s style makes this movie better than it would have been without it. Guy Ritchie, the director, talked about how in some ways it wasn’t just a tribute to the 1960s television show it was based on but that he also drew inspiration from the original James Bond films starring Sean Connery. I wouldn’t say that he succeeded in capturing that old school Bond magic but the homage was still satisfying.

However, the Bond style that Ritchie tried to recreate here made this film feel more like a wannabe ’60s Bond movie and less like the original version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I feel like this was just a vehicle for Ritchie to make a Bond picture without having the rights to do so.

This movie benefitted from having a pretty good cast. Finally, Henry Cavill showed some personality as the American spy Napoleon Solo – a stark contrast to his almost lifeless performance as Superman in The Man of Steel. Armie Hammer was the scene stealer as the Soviet KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin. Where the character of Napoleon was supposed to be the suave charismatic one, it was Illya that actually was. Alicia Vikander was perfect as Gaby while Elizabeth Debicki was a bit robotic as the villainous Victoria. The Gaby character was definitely the more engaging of the two female leads. Hugh Grant and Jared Harris also show up. Grant is a British spy and becomes the commander of the group while Harris plays the American spy boss with a fantastic accent.

The action is pretty good throughout the film, although some of the more stylistic editing techniques make certain sequences seem rushed. There could be more action but the film never feels too slow. The final showdown between the hero and the villain is more comical than anything and feels like a wasted opportunity in an action film. The comedic death of the villain is ineffective and a letdown.

This is a fun movie though. While sitting through it, it is pretty enjoyable. There just isn’t much to take away from it that would leave you wanting more in the future. Like all attempts at summer blockbusters these days, it sets up a sequel at the end. Everything has to be a franchise now but The Man From U.N.C.L.E. doesn’t have the legs to stand on its own.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The Kingsman movies and some of the hokier James Bond films.

Film Review: Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Release Date: October 1st, 2015 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Music by: Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Sean Young, Michael Pare

Caliber Media Company, Realmbuilders Productions, The Jokers Films, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Say goodbye to my wife. I’ll say hello to yours.” – Sheriff Franklin Hunt

*Written in 2016.

From the moment I saw the Bone Tomahawk trailer, I thought it looked really interesting and I was a bit hyped to see it. Plus, it starred Kurt Russell.

The film is a western with horror mixed in, which makes it a pretty unique package. A sheriff and a posse head off into the wilderness to find a woman who was taken by Indians. The catch is, these aren’t normal Indians, they are cannibalistic and bizarre. Think The Hills Have Eyes meets The Searchers.

Kurt Russell is fine enough in the role but it isn’t a great or special performance. He looks to be enjoying himself but he isn’t doing anything exceptional. He certainly doesn’t project the magic he had in Tombstone or the more recent The Hateful Eight. The film also stars Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox with brief appearances from Sid Haig and David Arquette.

Overall, the film was underwhelming. There wasn’t a whole lot of terror and dread, even once the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. The action was mediocre, the acting was average and the plot wasn’t anything spectacular. In fact, it was fairly boring.

The uniqueness of the film’s plot was spoiled by the trailer and the movie itself didn’t do much to expand on it. It also played it safe. With the subject matter and the intensity of the trailer, the movie just didn’t have the balls I was expecting it to.

Now I don’t think the movie should have been a gore festival but it was pretty uneventful and the horror element wasn’t remotely scary. There was just a lot of cannibal Indians grunting and walking around making weird noises because they have whistles in their throats. And the whole whistle throat thing was probably employed to make them seem supernatural and scary but it was kind of goofy.

Bone Tomahawk is okay enough for a single viewing on a rainy day but it isn’t a classic by any means. It has its fans out there but it will most likely fade into obscurity fairly quickly.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Ravenous, Four of the Apocalypse and The Burrowers.