TV Review: Fuller House (2016- )

Also known as: Untitled Full House Revival (working title)
Original Run: February 26th, 2016-current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay, Carly Rae Jepsen (opening theme)
Cast: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas, Dashiell and Fox Messitt, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Scott Weinger, John Brotherton, Ashley Liao, Adam Hagenbuch, Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier, Lori Loughlin, Mckenna Grace, Marla Sokoloff

Jeff Franklin Productions, Miller-Boyett Productions, Warner Horizon, Netflix, 44 Episodes (so far), 25-36 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

It was a pretty eventful weekend full of binge watching for fans of the old ABC sitcom Full House, as it’s follow-up/sequel series finally hit Netflix.

This is definitely a show for those fans and really, those fans only. It really isn’t something to just pick up and watch without being familiar with the original series and honestly, that is perfectly fine. The producers and actors knew exactly what they were making and they succeeded in doing what they set out to do.

I consider myself a fan of the show, as I used to watch it during my childhood and then in syndication throughout my teen years. I still even catch an episode from time to time if I stumble upon it while flipping channels.

As its own show, standing alone from the original series, Fuller House doesn’t work. It is full of too many in-jokes and references to the original series and actors that it may be hard to follow for new viewers. And, at times, those references get to be overkill. The show is certainly holding on to nostalgia and to what came before but it is holding on to those things a little too hard. There are a few cringe-worthy and awkward moments here and there, which serve to hurt this show instead of help it.

Pop culture, as of late, has become obsessed with nostalgia and Fuller House is a product of that. Again, it works for fans of the old series but it doesn’t offer up anything new, worthwhile or engaging for a potential new fan who is just discovering the Full House universe.

It is too similar to the older show’s format and it just relies on it too much, instead of being daring and stepping outside of its 29 year-old box.

I like it for what it is but I don’t know if I am interested in a second season. I know that most people, other than the hardcore fans, will probably be over it once getting through the thirteen episodes.

But it was nice seeing the family together, meeting the new kids – who were fairly entertaining and experiencing the genuine feeling of love between these cast mates.

It is a show strictly for its fans and that’s about it. Although, I do like that the producers realize that the fans are older and they were able to sneak in some adult jokes.

If comparing this to the dozens upon dozens of previous reunion attempts from other famous shows done over decades, this is certainly in the upper echelon. My brain still hurts with how bad that Growing Pains reunion was years ago.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Full House and then other revival sitcoms Girl Meets WorldRoseanne (2018), etc.

Documentary Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

Release Date: January 20th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
Music by: Brocker Wa

Netflix, 73 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a Netflix exclusive that just dropped this past weekend. It is the story of the short-lived Portland Mavericks minor league baseball franchise that was started and ran by Bing Russell, actor and father of Kurt Russell.

The Mavericks were pretty big in the ’70s. In fact, they were getting more press coverage than a lot of the major league teams. They also set some minor league attendance records during their existence. They were scruffy, tough and not your typical clean cut all-American team. They brought a hardened edge to baseball and a level of competition that not only surprised the City of Portland but also surprised the team.

This was a thoroughly entertaining, informative and enjoyable documentary. As a baseball fan that was born in the late ’70s, I’ve heard the stories of the Portland Mavericks but I wasn’t alive to witness it. This gave a lot of the stories I’ve heard, more insight and depth. It also added in a bunch of stuff I would’ve never known otherwise.

It was great seeing Kurt Russell and his mother adding their two cents to the documentary, as well as the interviews with all the old Mavericks and key people. The movie was well edited, well put together and seemed to fly by with ease. The short 73 minute running time may have something to do with that.

This is one of the better baseball documentaries that I’ve seen come out in the last few years. If you’re a fan of the sport, check it out. If you’ve got Netflix streaming, it’s free.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: No No: A Dockumentary and Ken Burns’ Baseball.

TV Review: Knights of Sidonia (2014- )

Also known as: Sidonia no Kishi (Japanese title)
Release Date: April 11th, 2014 – current
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Sadayuki Murai
Based on: Sidonia no Kishi manga by Tsutomu Nihei
Music by: Noriyuki Asakura
Cast: Pete Sepenuk, Ryôta Ôsaka, Takahiro Sakurai

MBS, TBS, CBC, BS-TBS, AT-X, Aniplus Asia, Sentai Filmworks, Animatsu Entertainment, Netflix, 24 Episodes (so far), 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

After really enjoying Attack On Titan, I decided to watch other modern anime series. Interestingly, Netflix just debuted an anime series under its own banner. That show is Knights of Sidonia.

What turned me onto this show initially, is that it seemed to have a Robotech vibe to it. Although set in deep space and not primarily set on or around Earth like the original run of Robotech, this series presents the all too familiar anime staple of following the lives of badass pilots in badass mecha. That is a compliment, as this is a formula that I doubt I will ever grow tired of and in a way, shows like this and Robotech give me what I always wanted in a Rogue Squadron film or series, which the Star Wars people have never given the masses.

The premise of this show reminds me of Attack On Titan except this takes place in space, as opposed to walled in villages on Earth. Also, the gigantic threat to humanity isn’t hungry man-eating Titans, it is gigantic humanoid rock creatures called Gauna that can shapeshift and rip things apart with massive tendrils. Gaunas can also grow to immense size like some sort of outer space kaiju.

Overall, this is a beautiful show and it was enjoyable. It is short, only having twelve 25 minute episodes, so it is a quick watch. Although from what I hear, there is a second season in the works.

The art, the style and concepts explored on the show are the selling point here. There is nothing exceedingly exceptional about the overall package of Knights of Sidonia other than it is pretty solid and well-balanced and the Gauna are a sight to behold. The mecha are pretty cool too but ultimately they make me miss the Veritech fighters of Robotech. Sorry, it is hard not to keep comparing this series to the one just mentioned again.

The weak point of Knights of Sidonia is that they spend quite a lot of time developing characters. While this shouldn’t be a problem, it does seem to be a waste when character development is such a focal point but all the characters feel one dimensional and stereotypical.

In the end, this was an engaging show. It is awesome visually and some sequences within the series were impressive.

I just hope that the second season fleshes things out more and that they speed things up story-wise.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: RobotechMacross stuff from Japan, VoltronNeon Genesis Evangelion.

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: Lilyhammer (2012-2014)

Release Date: January 25th, 2012 – December 17th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: Anne Bjørnstad, Eilif Skodvin, Steven Van Zandt
Music by: Frans Bak, Steven Van Zandt
Cast: Steven Van Zandt, Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Steinar Sagen, Marian Saastad Ottesen, Sven Nordin, Kyrre Hellum, Anne Krigsvoll, Tony Sirico (cameos)

Rubicon TV, Renegade TV, NRK, Netflix, 24 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I’ve loved Steven Van Zandt since I first saw him on The Sopranos, as the character Silvio Dante. On Lilyhammer, he plays an almost identical character. I’m not complaining, I actually quite enjoy it. In fact, this feels like it could be a sequel to The Sopranos and in a spiritual sense, it is.

The plot, in a nutshell, is about a top mob guy giving up his new boss in exchange for witness protection. He requests to be sent to Lilyhammer in Norway because he loved the ’94 Winter Olympics and he feels that it is the last place anyone will look for him. What happens is an awesome series of events that makes this show one of the best new shows of the last few years.

The cast of characters in Lilyhammer are unique and thoroughly entertaining. There is the sidekick and partner Torgeir, who thinks his new life is a Tarantino movie, his brother Roar, who is stupidly hilarious, Jan, the king of bad luck, and several others who round this thing out.

At first glance, this show doesn’t tread on new territory but once you get into it and see this Sopranos-like world unfold in Norway, the situations that follow are great. In fact, out of all the Netflix shows that are streaming now, I’d have to put this in the top three. It is a perfect balance of drama and comedy and Van Zandt shines as the focal point of this series: no longer being one of many secondary actors like he was on The Sopranos.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The Sopranos

Documentary Review: Kicking It (2008)

Release Date: January, 2008 (Sundance)
Directed by: Susan Koch, Jeff Werner
Written by: Susan Koch
Music by: Barry Cole
Narrated by: Colin Farrell

Liberation Entertainment, ESPN, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

In my string of soccer films that I’ve been watching to curb my World Cup fever when the games are over at night, I came across Kicking It. This film is hosted and narrated by Colin Farrell and is about the Homeless World Cup.

For those who don’t know, the Homeless World Cup is like the regular World Cup, as it takes soccer teams from various nations and pits them against one another in a big tournament.

The difference is, this is street soccer and the players are homeless. This concept was created to help rehabilitate homeless people throughout the world and it has had much success. Many players kick drugs and alcohol, find a sense of self worth and belonging and go on to better their situations.

Kicking It follows several players from various countries on their quest to play in the Homeless World Cup in South Africa. It told some pretty powerful stories and had you cheering for all these people because you wanted them to succeed. Unfortunately, like the regular World Cup, only one team can win. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone who participated in the tournament walked away a winner regardless.

The film was inspirational and it helped remind the viewer that even when someone has fallen or done bad things, it doesn’t mean that they can’t redeem themselves and make their own quality life. That was the real message of the film and it came through with gusto.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The ESPN Soccer Stories documentary series.

TV Review: Orange Is the New Black (2013- )

Release Date: July 11th, 2013 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Music by: Regina Spektor (theme), Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, Gwendolyn Sanford
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Jackie Cruz, Lea DeLaria, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Pimentel, Mary Steenburgen, Ruby Rose

Lionsgate Television, Tilted Productions, Netflix, 65 Episodes (so far), 51-92 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to watching Orange Is the New Black. I’m really glad that I did. I am on a mission to watch all the Netflix shows, in order to rank them for a future countdown post and finally I got to this one, which just may be the cream of the crop.

I had heard nothing but good things about this show and had planned on watching it for a while. Time passed, I was busy and all of a sudden, the second season was out and I hadn’t yet watched the first.

This show is pretty remarkable. The plots aren’t overly complex but they are well thought out and pretty layered, which is probably due to what I hear is great source material, which was the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m not sure how closely the show follows the biographical account but the characters and plots feel incredibly real. Which is a testament to the creators, producers, directors, writers and most importantly, the actors.

In fact, the acting is stellar. Taylor Schilling (who plays the lead character, Piper) is really good and I can’t say anything bad about her work here but she is often times overshadowed by the brilliance of those around her. Kate Mulgrew, who was amazing as the lead on Star Trek: Voyager, is even more amazing on this show. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, may be one of the best actresses I have ever seen and that is something I don’t just throw around. Laura Prepon, who starred on That ’70s Show, is a welcome addition to the cast and gives her best performance to date. Other spectacular presences on this show are Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Vicky Jeudy. Yael Stone is also fantastic and incredibly adorable as Lorna. Then there is Michael Healy, who brings a great dynamic to the show, as he goes from a caring sort of father figure to a complete tyrannical douchebag.

There are few, if any shows, as well acted as Orange Is the New Black. In fact, the only thing right now that comes to mind is Netflix’s other big hit House of Cards and AMC’s Mad Men.

Now I don’t know if this is a show that can sustain beyond a few seasons but while the ride is good, I will certainly stay on. I know that a third season is coming and I can imagine that several people on this show are now getting good work elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and if they can get the cast to stick around, assuming this stays a hit and goes on well into the future. Then again, prison is a revolving door of characters, so why should this show be any different.

And to make a point, I have often times heard this described as the female Oz. While both shows take place in a prison, this is no lady Oz. It is a great balance of comedy, drama and just life. It brings a charm to the table that the extremely hard-edged Oz didn’t have with its brutal and gritty ambiance. I would also go on to say that Orange Is the New Black is the superior show out of the two.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WeedsOz… simply because of similar themes but there is real contrast in the tones of these two shows.