Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cold Takes: GameFace

Hi internet,

It's Cat again. This time I watched a TV show.

Streaming Service: I found GameFace on Hulu. You can watch all 6 episodes of series 1.

Temperature: Lukewarm. Series 1 aired from October to November 2017.

I quite liked the show. I wouldn't claim it's without flaws but I found it a pleasant diversion and in half hour increments, it never overstays its welcome. The show was created and written by Roisin Conaty. I enjoyed her appearance on Travel Man but I wouldn't say I'm a fan. However, it didn't take her long to win me over as Marcella, the protagonist of the show. GameFace certainly isn't treading unfamiliar ground with 20- to 30-something messiness framed by life coaching sessions that are essentially unhelpful therapy. Where GameFace stands apart for me is its affably casual demeanor. Characters are able to make bad decisions without the show grinding your face in misery and watching someone you've grown to like be repeatedly fail and be humiliated. (Looking at you, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.) Marcella's life isn't fixed overnight but she isn't constantly sliding backwards either because the show is afraid of letting her make progress. Progress is just slow because life is difficult. There's a balance between drama and comedy but I have to admit, most of the jokes don't land for me. However, there's at least one thing an episode that makes me laugh and for me, that's pretty decent for a half hour comedy. For example, in the pilot, I just cringed at the Friends guy but they got me with the guard who tackles her off the roof. If I had a criticism, it's that the show doesn't feel grounded enough. I don't need every lie to lead to an exposure or confrontation but the show lacks stakes when we know she has money problems but hasn't done anything to earn money and yet continues using services (life coaching, driving lessons) that require money. One character's drug addiction seems so well-managed that you wonder about the urgency of rehabilitation. That said, if there is a series 2, I hope they find a way to keep Jon her (currently unpaid?) driving instructor on the show. I would miss his lovely soft voice and reluctant but sweet supportiveness. I'm glad she has girlfriends and roommates as well but there's something that warms my heart about Jon always being there for her with his car... even if it's because she keeps forgetting her appointments for driving lessons.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cold Takes: Chloe

Hi internet,

Cat here. I watched another movie.

Streaming Service: Chloe was on Netflix but it was about to expire so it was a now or never kind of thing for me.

Temperature: Chilled. This movie came out in 2009. I remember reading a positive Roger Ebert review at the time. Spoiler: I did not see what he apparently saw in it.

WARNING: Spoilers for Chloe

What can I say? I have a certain affinity for bad movies. I'm one of those people who likes referencing Showgirls. I thought this movie was very middle of the road. As a philosophical drama musing on marriage and womanhood and people, I thought it was mostly a failure. There are a couple of okay monologues saved by the queen, Julianne Moore, but that's about it. As a trashy, scandalous addition to the canon of crazy stalkers (who these days are mostly relegated to Lifetime movies) I also found it to be a disappointment. You get to see Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried naked if you're into that but this movie's project isn't even really the objectification of female bodies.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cold Takes: The Founder

Hi internet,

Cat here. I'm not sure what the format of this series is going to be but I hope you'll stick with me as I figure it out. Today I'm just going for stream of consciousness. Light discussion of the movie but no major spoilers.

Streaming Service: You can find The Founder on Netflix.

Mood: I wasn't feeling great when I sat down to watch a movie but I didn't want to force myself to cheer up with a comedy, romantic or otherwise. And I also didn't want to have to engage with something intellectually challenging or emotionally intense. And so I settled on The Founder. For better or for worse I'm generally good at gauging what I need to program for myself in a given mood so I'll keep my eyes glued to my laptop and The Founder felt like just the thing I wanted in that moment.

Temperature: The Founder was released in December 2016 so it's not as cold of a take as some of the other movies I have planned for this series. I'd call it Lukewarm.

My thoughts on the movie evolved as I watched it. At first I was just taken in by Michael Keaton's performance and the look of the film. From the first sales pitch that opens the movie, you can instantly tell that Keaton is operating on a higher level than most as an actor. He makes the kind of smart acting choices that communicate so much about the character beyond what's in the script. For example, both he and the screenwriter are aware that this is not the story of a great man or a charismatic huckster. And so time and time again, Ray fails at bamboozling his targets. He doesn't get what he wants through charm or force of personality though a movie star like Michael Keaton should be more than capable of conveying that should the role require it. Also, this is my bias, but I enjoyed the pleasantly washed out colors at the beginning of the movie. It looked like the real world. I avoid a lot of bigger movies because I just can't stand all the orange/blue high contrast and blue filters.

My opinion shifted as the movie increasingly made more obvious directorial and visual storytelling choices and the script became more predictable and more of a Hollywood gloss came over the proceedings. When Ray meets the McDonald brothers for the first time the movie almost morphs into a commercial/documentary style that feels borderline cheap. But from that point on, things start to look more familiar. The color palette of the movie becomes more recognizable until the feeling that you've seen similar scenes in other movies is inescapable and that suspension of disbelief starts to dissipate. Cues that something notable is being communicated are very apparent. The movie tries its best not to knock you over the head but you can feel that it really wants to. It's hard to miss the introduction of Fred Turner. They play up every time Ray lies about his ideas for McDonald's or founding of the company. The contrast between his relationship with his wife and other marital relationships in the movie is very apparent. One of the more egregious choices is when Ray is tempted by both the wife of a franchisee and a scheme to cut costs with an inferior product. The scene ends with a close up shot of the powdered mix milkshake, framed so that you also get a direct look at the woman's cleavage. Her chest is slightly out of focus. See, subtle.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Series: Cold Takes

Cat here. Sorry for the unexpected hiatus. My attention was elsewhere.

Much ado is made about the divided TV landscape. There are too many things to watch! Programming is targeted so specifically to individual consumer groups! We don't all gather around the TV at the same time and discuss it at the water cooler the next day! Horror of horrors.

Well, sadly I don't have a solution to remedy all of that. But I do find myself watching more Netflix and Amazon Prime these days and wanting to discuss it and so we have the birth of a new series on this blog... Cold Takes.

I don't know what this is going to be yet. I could be watching TV shows or movies or stand up specials. These might be formal reviews or they might just be scattered thoughts. But I will be finding these pieces of media on Amazon Prime and Netflix and I will most likely be watching things long after they're relevant to the cultural conversation. Thus... Cold Takes.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Underthinking Pilot Season: 2016 Good Trailers

Hello there,

Cat here. As your reward for returning we finally get to talk about the trailers that I did like. In another post we can discuss the remaining shows that didn't put out trailers. Yes, I know there was a big delay in between this post and the last few. Sorry about that.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (the cw)
God bless the crazy people who haven't given up on musicals on TV. Santino Fontana is in this. Why am I even still typing? Of course, I'm watching this. I hate the name though.

Angel from Hell (CBS) 
I can't say that I watch a lot of CBS shows or that this looks that great to me but I can be pretty loyal. Maggie Lawson pretty much got me from Model Behavior and even though I eventually gave up on Psych (after 5 seasons you're pushing it) I'm probably always going to be interested in her next project. We've also got Liza Lapira in this who I've followed from Traffic Light to Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 to Super Fun Night. You're great, Liza Lapira. Please find a show that doesn't get cancelled after a season. There's also Kyle Bornheimer from Perfect Couples and a brief stint on Agent Carter. And of course, Jane Lynch. I watched all six seasons of Glee and I love Hollywood Game Night though her banter on that show is awful. I don't see this show having a long life but I'll probably tune in as long as it's on the air.

Supergirl (CBS) 
So opinions are divided on Supergirl. Again, I'm very biased. I have no attachment to the character or the canon but I like too many of the people involved in this show to not watch. It feels like even more of a girl power show than Agent Carter and I'm not as put off by the supposed gendered storytelling. We'll see where they go with it. I mean, let's not pretend that Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash don't spend a fair amount of their running times on romantic foibles and somewhat frivolous concerns. We have Melissa Benoist, who was bland but relatively charming as Marley on Glee, the goddess Laura Benanti, and the fabulously talented and most likely to be wasted in this Jeremy Jordan. They've also included Mehcad Brooks (The Deep End), Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie), and David Harewood (Selfie). The only cast member who is really throwing me off is Calista Flockhart. I'm really not sold on that character at all.

The Grinder (FOX)
The trailer made me chuckle which is more than I can say for a lot of comedic trailers. The cast is solid and I like the guest stars/character actors. I'm in.

Wicked City (ABC)
Look, I watched every episode of Gossip Girl. #ChairForever. As soon as I saw Ed Westwick, I knew I was going to watch this show. He looks like he's doing a great job in this. I'm really not into the idea of another show with vulnerable women being murdered all over the place but I will give it a chance for him.

Best Time Ever with NPH
I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this but I will give it a shot. Will it be Maya Rudolph's show or another Hollywood Game Night? Again, who knows?

Minority Report (FOX)
This reminds me of Person of Interest and maybe a little bit of The Flash and you know, just a lot of other shows. That said, of the high concept show trailers that were released for this kind of show, this is the one that jumped out at me the most. Also, I like the team aspect. One day I will find my next Leverage. One day.

Lucifer (FOX) 
I cannot justify this one at all but I was kind of into this trailer. The leading man seems charming enough. I don't mind supernatural shenanigans on similar shows like Reaper or Deadbeat or Charmed. I don't like that it seems like another crime solving show with a Brit but yeah, I liked this trailer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Underthinking Pilot Season: UnReal

Hello there,

Cat here. Let's talk about UnReal. Yes, I know it usually takes me ages to talk about a pilot now but the ratings for UnReal weren't great (not that the hits for this blog are fantastic either) and I want to see this series through to the end. A bit of background first. I haven't watched that much of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. I can't remember watching any of The Bachelor actually. I tried to watch some of last season (Andi's season) of The Bachelorette but I quickly became bored and hated everyone too much and got distracted by other things. What I have watched is every available episode of Burning Love and a lot of other terrible dating reality shows so I do have some inkling of what's being satirized and analyzed here.

UnReal, in case you were one of the under a million people who caught the pilot, is a show about the world behind the scenes of a show called Everlasting. It's pretty much The Bachelor but with even more emphasis on the fairytale romance. The Bachelor doesn't try this hard. So I guess more like "I Want to Marry Harry" if they took it seriously? I don't know. The series seems like it's going to focus on Shiri Appleby's (Dating Rules From My Future Self) character Rachel Goldberg but there's a nice ensemble dynamic happening. There's a lot of shorthand in the pilot but I'm willing to move past that as long as they find the depth in the characters during the rest of the season. Right now, Appleby makes the show. I can't remember seeing a female character like this for a long time... maybe ever. She's almost the opposite of most male antiheroes/geniuses who are running around solving crimes and diagnosing illnesses. She's smart and warm and empathetic and she's using her powers for evil. She feels bad about it but there's still a ruthless streak in her that's very compelling. She does drink a bit in the pilot but so far we've gotten no sign that she can't handle herself (in spite of her having to ask her boss to sign something saying she was sober and showed up to work on time). It's what she has to do at work that's actually taking a toll on her physical and mental well-being.

Other than the fantastic casting of Shiri Appleby, I think the best part of the pilot was the behind the scenes machinations. I came into the show expecting soapy trash. The kind of fix you get from Empire or Devious Maids. UnReal tries for that a bit but I don't think the humor or the dysfunction quite lands because you're held at such a distance from the action. You're not watching The Bachelor. You're watching The Bachelor sometimes two or three steps removed as the people in the control room watch Rachel watch the contestants. No, what's most interesting is not the tough-talking boss who is being played a little too over the top right now. It's seeing how the pieces are choreographed and coordinated and seeing those final pushes from Rachel that seal the deal.

Of course I do still have concerns. I'm hoping the show doesn't play too much into cliches and stereotypes. In addition to the unnecessarily brash boss who's secretly caring we have a workplace rival who can't match up and a quiet intern who they lingered on way too many times for her not to be important in the future. Even then I'm encouraged by the diversity of this cast in terms of gender, ethnicity, and age and the fact that they tackled the lack of the diversity on The Bachelor franchises in one of the first lines of the show. My other big concern is avoiding a romance, unrequited or mutual between Rachel and Adam Cromwell, the bachelor character. I can feel them pulling in that direction and I really wish they wouldn't.

CONCLUSION: Watch this show. This was a very solid pilot. I think it's a show with something interesting to say. It falls into that nice middle ground between a show that tries so hard to shock you that you're left with a ton of filler episodes and a show that never shoots for the fences but puts out a consistent product... that you can skip for a bunch of episodes and not really miss. I can't sell it any more just from the pilot but I have faith in it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Underthinking Pilot Season: 2016 Meh Trailers


So you came back. Yes, we're continuing to analyze the trailers for the 2016 TV pilot season. This round is a kind of nebulous grouping of all the shows that fall in the middle. The trailers weren't so boring or uninformative that I completely wrote them off but they also weren't enough to guarantee that I'd watch the show. There were things in all of these trailers that I liked. And also things that I didn't.

Quantico (ABC)
So I know I rejected Code Black which is a similar shows about a group of newbies plunged into a competitive environment, blah blah, formula. There's something about this ensemble show that grabbed me a little more. Maybe it's just that it's not in a hospital. Granted, there's not a lot that I'm drawn to right now but if it's done well, I could see myself liking this one. Certainly more than Covert Affairs.

Scream Queens (FOX)
So the good news, at least for me, and you if you like reading my thoughts on TV shows, is that the horror doesn't seem gory enough to make this a hard pass. It feels more like Pretty Little Liars than American Horror Story. The bad news is that this trailer was not that impressive and there's a lot of, erp, not quite A level talent, that are making me question the quality of this project. Oliver Hudson from Nashville? Nasim Pedrad? All the stunt casting? Why is Lea Michele in headgear?

The Real O'Neals (ABC)
I'm cautiously optimistic about this one. I won't jump to saying it as good as the family comedies that ABC delivered last season but it feels like one of the better family comedies... maybe one of the ones I never watched like The Middle or Raising Hope. Were those good? Obviously I don't know.

Uncle Buck (ABC)
This trailer was fine. I don't think I'll get far past the first few episodes but it seems like a decent TV movie or a lower tier feature.

Life in Pieces (CBS)
They put together a good cast including Zoe Lister Jones (Whitney), Colin Hanks, James Brolin, and Dianne Wiest. Yes, I watched Whitney. Don't judge me. This is what I imagine Parenthood was like never having watched it. I don't think I'll watch this show either.

Of Kings and Prophets (ABC)
I'm not a big fan of Biblical dramas and I still haven't watched Rome or Game of Thrones, epic ensemble dramas in this vein. Nothing in the acting or story I can see in the trailer is compelling to me. So why is this in the "meh" group? Look, this could very well be that ancient Egyptian (?) show from last season that they cancelled before it even aired. But it does look like they spent the money to bring a pay cable style epic ensemble drama to network so I'm at least a little interested.

The Player (NBC)
Why isn't this show about Wesley Snipes? If this show was just about Wesley Snipes I would have put it in the good category. It's not even about a team including Wesley Snipes and that lady with an accent. Instead it's about another capable white guy and his dead prop wife and... nope. It looks good for what it is but what it is isn't a show I'm going to watch.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow (CW)
There was no way I was going to watch Arrow but I fully intended to cover at least the trailer for The Flash. It got away from me. I saw it. My general impression was... this is very conventional and somewhat lacking in depth and heart. Legends of Tomorrow looks like more of the same except I do like the fact that there's a clear team and not just a star and all his sidekicks. My heart hasn't forgotten Leverage and apparently I haven't lost hope that I'll find another team show again. I got my hopes up for Alphas but that didn't pan out. And it's nice to see a team with diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age (shout out to Victor Garber). I will try to cover the pilot but I doubt that it'll be a show I keep up with.

The Frankenstein Code (FOX) 
Is it wrong that I don't hate this? I feel like I should hate this. That's not to say that I like it either but yeah, I could watch it.

Heartbreaker (NBC)
This is another perfectly fine trailer. It doesn't look awful. I'm sure someone will like it. But I've definitely seen this show before and I'm not interested in watching it again.

Grandfathered (FOX)
I think I like Josh Peck and John Stamos but this premise is entirely uninteresting to me. Otherwise, it was a decent trailer.

Rosewood (FOX)
These crime-fighting male-female team-ups live and die on the actors they cast and I'm not feeling it from the trailer.