Netflix’s Bloodline is a Slow Burn

Bloodline 1Netflix has been on a bit of run lately.

The streaming service dipped its toe and made some noise in the last few years with original programming hits like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that made clear Netflix was another viable outlet for viewers.

They have stepped up their game in 2015 though as it seems every weekend over the last month or so has been punctuated by another series dropping online.

The third season of “House of Cards” dominated pop culture conversation when it premiered in late February and then a few weeks later, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a “30-Rock”-esque sitcom created by Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper was eagerly binged. And wait just a few more weeks and the eagerly awaited Marvel series “Daredevil” will show up in April.

In between though, Netflix has just released yet another new series, the family potboiler drama/mystery “Bloodline” and if anyone needs an indication of Netflix’s pedigree as an original programming player, just take a look at the cast and creators of this series. Continue reading


Better Call Saul Living Up to Its Predecessor

Bob OdenkirkIn a desolate New Mexico desert a desperate man uses all his cunning and intelligence to plead for his life to a ruthless criminal bent on eliminating him in an extremely violent fashion.

For any fans of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”, this is a familiar scenario. That show’s protagonist, high school science teacher-turned drug manufacturer Walter White, found himself in that exact situation numerous times over the years. It’s also a scenario being revisited in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” but this time with White’s sleazebag lawyer Saul Goodman at the center of the action.

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5 Things to Watch at The Oscars

neil-patrick-harris-oscars-02092015-600x450It’s about time the awards season wrapped up. Since the arrival of the new year, it feels like every Sunday has been dominated by a three-hour plus ceremony, from the good (Golden Globes) to the tedious (Grammys). Even this past weekend’s SNL40 celebration had the feel of an award show, stretching out over three and a half hours and with more celebrity appearances than most red carpet blowouts.

Fortunately or not, the season culminates at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night with the 87th Academy Awards, usually the best and always the most significant awards ceremony.

This year’s event could have a number of intriguing elements so here are five things to look out for on Sunday night.

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Top 10 Films of 2014

BoyhoodNo one could make a convincing argument 2014 was an outstanding year for films. That’s not to say it didn’t feature several outstanding films, but piecing together a top 10 list was much more difficult than it might have been in 2013 and would’ve been literally impossible if the output from the last three months of the year was not included.

Much of the year in film catered toward blockbuster action films and sequels, a trend that will continue through the forseeable future. Modern Hollywood is on the precipice of a major turning point. As in years past, the list of top box office performers was littered with new franchises and sequels.  With 25 sequels in various franchises scheduled to be released in 2015 and the film branches of Marvel and DC unveiling plans for numerous franchises and sequels over the next five years, we’re entering deeper into a world where studios bankroll projects that require the absolute least amount of risk. That’s not to say some of these films aren’t well done, but for every “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” there are 10 variations on the mindless drivel Michael Bay produces. Continue reading

Top Ten TV Shows of 2014

There have been many who have referred to the current era as a golden age for television and whether or not that Fargois true, it is almost certainly the most saturated with quality programming. Years ago the big three networks maintained a monopoly and even 10 years ago, premium cable was the only alternative. Now nearly every network imaginable has delved into original programming and sometimes shows aren’t even coming from a network, with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon branching out into serialized comedies and dramas.

It’s impossible to keep up with everything that’s out there, but there are a number of shows that stand out ahead of the pack. There was no program like “Breaking Bad” in 2013 that stood far and away as the very best, but several made 2014 a memorable viewing year. Continue reading

The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games and the Apocalypse

The-Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part-1-1In America we love a lot of things. We love football, fried food and drinking beer (I’m guilty of at least one or all of those). We also love films and TV shows, and in recent years we especially love films and TV shows where some sort of apocalypse has occurred and the world is reduced to a gray dystopian mess where normal rules no longer apply. And if at the center of this gray dystopian mess stands a teenage girl who is REALLY good at taking people out with her crossbow, well let’s just say, folks are going to see your film in droves over the holidays each year.

Unlike most people, I’ve yet to see the most recent “Hunger Games” film so I have no opinion to offer on how it stands up in quality to the previous two entries. I’m guessing about the same. The first two films, which begin to tell the futuristic story of Katniss Everdeen and her effort survive in a world where children are forced to fight to the death in a made-for-television event created by a set of totalitarian leaders, are well-done action films and further proof that Jennifer Lawrence is probably the best actress of her generation. Continue reading

Interstellar is Visually Impressive, But Ultimately Disappoints

interstellarfilm5For more than 30 years, the gold standard for directors with vision, imagination and the ability to create compelling worlds that transport the viewer was Steven Spielberg. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” are just a few of his most memorable creations over the years.

In the last 20 years or so, Spielberg has veered away from more fantastical subject matter to making films like “War Horse” or “Lincoln,” leaving it up to younger filmmakers to follow in his footsteps.

Probably the best young visionary directors today are J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan. Nolan drew attention with smaller films, like “Memento” and “Insomnia,” but it was his reboot of the “Batman” films that established him as a one of the most formidable talents in Hollywood. Not content with simply remaking the films, Nolan reimagined the “Batman” series by taking a more realistic look at what the world would look like if a city was protected by a masked vigilante. The second film, “The Dark Knight,” is probably the greatest action film of the 2000s and its sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises,” is not far behind.

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David Fincher’s Gone Girl Lives Up to the Hype

Gone GirlGillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was an immediate sensation when it was released in the summer of 2012, spending eight weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and permeating the culture in the way few books do anymore.

Part of its popularity likely stems from it very much being a novel of our time, touching on the media’s penchant for sensationalizing crime while also asking relevant questions about male-female relationships and whether we can ever really know the people with whom we choose to spend our lives.

Almost immediately it became clear the novel would be ripe for a cinematic adaptation, which finally arrived this past weekend in theaters around the country. Continue reading

Are “Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” Still Funny?

It’s late September and wThe Junior Professor Solutionhile we’re in an era when television shows premiere throughout the year, this is still the point when the broadcast networks begin the new season with a slate of new and returning shows.

Along with a host of other shows, two of the most popular sitcoms on the air, CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and ABC’ “Modern Family,” began their new seasons respectively this week. Despite their advanced ages (“Big Bang” is beginning its eighth season, while “Modern Family” is kicking off its sixth),  both shows are still wildly popular, thanks in no small measure to the fact both are in heavy rotation in syndication.

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2014 Fall Movie Preview

Contrary to the opinions of some, theFOXCATCHER beginning of fall offers little reason for enthusiasm. The weather gets colder, the days are shorter and the days of endlessly scrapping ice off your car’s windshield are coming fast.

One positive though is we’re entering the point on the calendar where if you’re a film fan, this is the time of year to get excited. For nearly as long as the film industry has existed, the fall and winter months have been when studios role out the best they have to offer, mostly in the hopes of staying fresh in the minds of award voters.

There are of course instances of films being released earlier in the year and still gaining Academy Award attention, but it’s very difficult for a film to stay fresh in people’s minds when it’s released in May and nominations aren’t released until January. Since 2005, only 14 of 67 films nominated for Best Picture were released before September and only two of those films (2005’s “Crash” and 2009’s “The Hurt Locker”) went on to win the big prize.

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