Archive for September, 2009


Those who love The Office and Arrested Development will have no trouble enjoying one of ABC’s newest shows, Modern Family. It utilizes the mockumentary format to explore the ennui and awkward mishaps of suburbia, and while this is rather derivative of the aforementioned hit shows, Modern Family surprisingly manages to be comically fresh and appealing.

In the pilot, we were introduced to three families. Their lives are simultaneously sedate and chaotic, mirroring the Midwest lifestyle I’ve grown up to cherish. Behind each humorous squabble lies a group of people who do rely on each other to live. This concept, which has been examined in several other shows, is still a healthy serving of optimism for us regular Joe’s who sometimes feel brought down by the mundaneness of everyday life.

The prominent use of the mockumentary gave the pilot several instances of blatant humor, but the nuanced performances actually provided some of the episode’s best moments. Subtle delivery permeated through the outrageous comedy, displaying a great magnitude of confidence in the show’s material.

Some characters, while hilarious, appear to be replicas of individuals we’re so familiar with in The Office, Arrested Development, or even movies like Best In Show. This will undoubtedly invite backlash, but the pilot displayed some distinctions amongst each character; hopefully the rest of the season will allow them to diverge from the Michael Scott’s and Michael Bluth’s of the world.

I encourage those who have affection for The Office or Arrested Development to give Modern Family a try. The milieu of the show might be scathingly familiar, but there’s an amount of hilarity that aims to distinguish itself from the shadows that easily overcast it. The pilot was an overall success; it captured us with a foolproof model. Now, it has to prove itself as a worthy successor to the shows that inspired its very being. I’ll be tuning in next week to see if it can do just that.


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A Hiatus

With the amount of stress that’s overcome me these past few weeks, I’ve barely had time to watch anything. Brief windows of free time are dedicated to resting and worrying about what’s next on my agenda, and unfortunately, movies and television rarely seem to be on it.

I have a feeling that parts of this semester will be like this, so my posts will be more scarce and compact. I hope that this is just for a little bit, but promises can’t be kept. So without a proper farewell, I’ll leave you with some poorly written, laconic opinions.

The Office-Season 6 premiere

The premiere has rekindled some lost intrigue. I jumped off the fan base halfway through season five, but I’m now interested to see where it goes. Despite the episode’s standard procedure, it was still filled with great comedy that made for a fairly strong start to the season.

How I Met Your Mother-Season 5 premiere

A decent premiere. However, I had a smile on my face the entire time because I loved spending more time with some of my favorite characters on television. I like what they’ve done with Barney and Robin, but I hope the show actually starts dissecting Ted’s story (and the whole premise of the show).

House-Season 6 premiere

I absolutely loved it. In such a short amount of time, they introduced new characters that I cared about completely. The episode exploited some cheap sentimental tricks, but it delved into Gregory House with a beautiful amount of honesty. Seeing him get through an arduous experience was cathartic because he truly feels like a friend to me. Surprising as it is to say, Hugh Laurie delivered some of his finest acting, and the supporting cast was just as impressive.

So it might be a while before the next post…Goodbye until then!

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The credibility of my opinion just might go down with the promulgation that I watch Gossip Girl. However, there’s no shame behind it. The show satiates my need to watch good looking people do morally questionable things. It’s forty-five minutes of promiscuity that I wish could someday enter my life. Until that day comes, I have this, and boy, is it pretty fun.

The series, which premiered in 2007, highlights the Upper East Side of New York City and its affluent inhabitants. This clear disconnect¬† I have with the premise (I’m a kid from a Midwest suburb) allows me to enjoy it as escapist pleasure. The characters’ stories, while at most times hyperbolized, are extremely entertaining.

Despite my positive reactions to Gossip Girl, I’ve always had a few criticisms, and this new season is already reminding me of them. So very much.

I don’t really have any interest in the show’s main character, Serena van der Woodsen. Ever since her relationship with Dan Humphrey in season one, her character has become bland. Part of this can be credited to Blake Lively who, at times, lacks chemistry with the other female leads. My sister says this is because she’s always been a guy-friend type of gal, but I think her wealthy status has given her plenty of opportunities to spend time with girls like her.(She was once queen bee. She has to have had several girl-friends). She’s even had a best friend for several years, but Lively can sometimes lack the charisma that her counterpart, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), so easily hones.

While Blair Waldorf’s character has more meat, Serena has been given a few chances to show some depth. In the season three premiere, we saw her struggling with her father’s neglect, but her handling of the situation, not to mention the awkward acting from Lively, made her look like a complete idiot. It was difficult for me to sympathize with her, even though her issue is one of the series’ more relatable problems.

Another annoyance is the petty drama that’s used as filler material. Aside from the great dramatic arcs that span over the season, most of the tension that fills single episode springs out of mis-communication between characters. We saw this in the most recent episode with Vanessa and Dan, concluding with Vanessa saying something like “I don’t think we’re even friends anymore.” The way that these characters jump to exaggerated ends can sometimes bug me. As an audience member, it’s easy to diagnose their problem. Just talk about it without blowing up in each others’ faces.

The premiere managed to accentuate one of the show’s strongest points-Nate’s identity as an Archibald. He began questioning himself after his family’s debacle in season two, and it’s great watching him grow. Although he’s still the sluttiest character, he’s trying to prove himself as an individual, not as a product of his family’s name. What’s to come should be interesting.

Blair and Chuck, Gossip Girl’s most magnetic characters, started off season three with a usual bang. Their relationship will divide fans; some will find it strange, while others will think it’s hot and kinky. I happen to dig it. I really enjoyed the amount of heartfelt intimacy the two achieved, and their mix of plotting here and there never goes wrong. Their balance right now seems perfect. Wherever their relationship goes, I will follow with undivided attention.

While Gossip Girl is a pretty good show, season three’s premiere was mediocre. The episode highlighted the hindrances of the series, but it exhibited promise in newer areas the show will most likely explore in this upcoming season.

(I’m a nerdy kid from a Midwest suburb)

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In two minutes, this trailer delivers sentiments of sorrow, joy, astonishment, and isolation. It reveals almost nothing about the movie, but it provokes so many thoughts. Its quick, sweeping cuts placed me in a mentality that life is as fleeting as the preview is. It’s over just like that.

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My tardiness to the series Lost is a travesty. It’s been five years since the pilot aired, and I’m just getting around to it now. My reasons for neglecting the show were never hostile; I simply had no desire to see a televised recreation of Lord of the Flies. This ignorance of mine eventually deflated as friends began praising the ingenuity of the series. My apathy gradually turned to interest, and now, after five years, I have finished season one of Lost.

I’d like to stress that my late arrival really is a travesty. The show is brilliant. I wish I could have been there from the beginning, speculating with friends week after week. Having to wait in the dark for so long is both excruciating and exciting, but that’s the wonderful nature of television. My experience with the series has been sedate since I’ve had the pleasure of watching episode after episode on Netflix. There’s no dreadful week of waiting; instead, I just click a button, and I instantly know what happens next.

Also, my friends who watch Lost are completely caught up. I’m four seasons behind, so when I discuss character development and crucial plot points with them, my naivete shines because there’s still so much I don’t know. Most of their thoughts are even censored out of fear of spoiling the show for me.

So I’m trying to go through every episode before the final season airs in January. I’m already busy with school, but Lost at least keeps me sane.

Season one was very impressive. Despite having a large cast, the show was able to give me very clever insight into the characters’ lives. Each episode has a structure of duality; one half pertains to what’s happening on the island, and the other features one of the main character’s past. Because of this, I was able to unravel the layers of each character and understand why they were the way they were.

Thematically, the show hasn’t been that unique. Despite executing its themes perfectly, it hasn’t really had anything profound to say so far. However, I’ve heard that the later seasons go much further into the supernatural, so perhaps more interesting ideas will emerge.

What is groundbreaking, though, is the mythology of the world. Fascinating and mysterious, the life force of the island brings a shade of realism when its very existence is fantastical. How this is achieved is beyond me, and my hats go off to the writers. I feel like the world of Lost does exist somewhere. It contains every mind bending incident, every threat, every character.

So yes, season one was lovely, and I was able to get through it in about two weeks. Almost every episode, I thought, was terrific; only a few lacked in quality and balance. Towards the end of the season, I wanted to know more about events on the island, but flashbacks to characters’ pasts kept interrupting crucial moments. While this is the dramatic concept of television, the flashbacks were not on the same level of insight or entertainment.

The imbalance that started hindering the show eventually evened out, and the season ended with a great three part finale. The very last shot was so haunting, and I was left with a sense of emergency. I’m now so eager to start season two, and I’ll get around to it once I have some free time.

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Quentin Tarantino’s filmography is like a shoebox of personal belongings. In it are homages to classics, sequences of unrelenting violence, plentiful conversations poked by sharp wit, colorful characters, and nonlinear storylines. Some might say he is a geeky manchild, hoarding every testosterone driven fantasy there is (samurai, gangsters, Nazi killers) into this little shoebox. Yet, without his passion and audacity, we may never have had the opportunity to peek into his personal and meaningful collection of films.

Tarantino’s most recent work, Inglourious Basterds, is his most subdued film I’ve seen (I haven’t seen Jackie Brown or Death Proof). Of course, it has its share of ultraviolence, but drawn out illustrations of tense dialogue are what comprise most of this smart World War II spaghetti-western.

The film follows three specific arcs over the course of five chapters. We follow the titular Basterds, a group of Jewsih-American soldiers dropped behind enemy lines to kill Nazis. They are led by the cartoonish Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a vengeful native of Tenessee. With his troops, he strikes fear into the Germans with the cruel disassembly of several Nazi servicemen. We also follow Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish French girl on the run after escaping the massacre of her family. As she recreates her life as the owner of a movie theater, she coincidentally comes closer to the Nazis and is given the opportunity to destroy those in the highest ranks. Finally, we follow Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the calm and cunning “Jew Hunter” who gets in the way of both the Basterds and Shoshanna.

I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers were bored or irritated with Inglourious Basterds.¬† The film is very talkative. Some say it’s too talkative. The well known fact that Tarantino loves himself and his dialogue is quite apparent, but I enjoyed every goddamn minute of it. His precise editing and seamless conversations strangle you with utter suspense. Each line, be it in English, German or French, has its own purpose, and as draining as it might feel when reading subtitles for a long time, the pacing is chopped up due to the episodic nature of the film.

Unfortunately, this uneven momentum does makes the film a bit aimless at times. The two plus hour movie is illustrated in vignette form, and while these few individual scenes are brilliant, the overall narrative is not as powerful as any particular sequence. However, this isn’t really a distraction because each scene carries its own weight to add satisfaction to the climax at the very end.

Tarantino manages to sprinkle bits of self indulgence, and they do feel out of place. While these moments are designed to let the viewer breathe and nervously chuckle, they are a bit tawdry; but I guess it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without the the B movie milieu.

The beauty of Inglourious Basterds lies within the characters. Hans Landa is perhaps Tarantino’s best written character. Perfectly played by Christoph Waltz, Landa’s chameleonic nature makes him the quintessential villain. Underneath his innocent smile lies a black heart, and this makes him the most difficult character to read. With charm and precision, Landa¬† hangs all of his victims by a thread of suspense, and we are simply at unease.

It is ostensible that Hans Landa is the antagonist, but what’s most surprising is that the rest of the cast is dishonrable as he. Almost every single character in this film is a bastard, and this is a testament to the excellence of Tarantino’s playful construction of “good” vs. “evil”. While we expect to have some catharsis when we see Nazis die, we’re just disturbed. The Basterds’ brutality mirrors that of the Nazis, and we eventually have no one to support. The eventual massacre of Nazis at the end of the film might bring some to delight, but this is the question that Tarantino leaves us with. Is killing always wrong? Or does it warrant cheer when done against evildoers?

The abundance of immorality challenges the viewer in a startling and unique way. There is a reason for this violence, and it tests our beliefs in humanity and the distasteful history we have. Inglourious Basterds is a work of art, and it’s bound to procure a huge following. I walked out of the theater with no immediate qualms, and that hasn’t happened in a while.

9.5 out of 10

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