TV blog extravaganza! (part 1 of 2)

So here’s the online chat Steph and I had about some of our favorite TV shows. During this discussion, we cover story arcs, characters–particularly the anti-hero, and a crapload of spoilers for the following shows: Castle, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, The Originals, Person of Interest, Psych, Revenge, and The Vampire Diaries. So… don’t read too far in if you don’t want to know some of what’s happened!

Also, we admit this is a pretty long blog post, so Steph and I split it into two parts. Read the first part below, and head over to the Vindicator Artists blog to get the rest of it!

Stephanie is in blue. I’m in red.

 

Hello, Steph!

Hello.

So I know that we had talked about doing this last week, but you had an exciting shoot to do!

Which was great for me, too, since it gave me a chance to do some last minute catch-up on some of the shows I’ve slacked on.

Yeah, it was a great shoot. Really excited about it. Martial arts film. Woo-hoo! It was great to be back on set with my film family. I’ve really missed it. I love writing and enjoy my solitude, but I’m always glad to be back on set. I really miss it when I don’t get to be on set.

That is exciting. I’m extremely jealous.

Yeah, it’s really hard, when you first get out of film school, where you were so busy with more projects and schoolwork than you could handle, and then you graduate and your classmates that you’ve been making movies with for the past three years scatter all over the country, and everyone is trying to make ends meet and still do what we love which is telling stories on screen.

Matching up content with funding is ridiculously hard. Especially in an economic environment in which nobody is really excited to invest in anything.

True. Wow, yes we could even spend a whole blog about that topic and Kickstarter, Zach Braff, Spike Lee, and Veronica Mars and what it means for indie filmmakers like us. And maybe we’ll do that, too! But this evening we’re going to focus on television–a topic which as you know, Steph, is near and dear to my heart. Much more, in fact, than feature filmmaking.

Did you ever see Veronica Mars when it was on TV?

No.

I saw an advertisement at Walmart and got it confused with Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent series.

That was my bad.

Huh. Yeah. No. Totally different… everything. I’ll spare you my opinion of Veronica Roth and her trilogy, though.

That’s what I get for staying too much in my writer’s solitude. I have no idea with what’s going on with the rest of the world that I’m supposed to be writing about.

We need to boost your television literacy!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

But it’s funny, since when you and I first talked about doing this dual blog thing, we discussed what shows we watched.

About how many shows did you say you watch? Religiously?

I watch about eleven throughout the year. Some of them have short seasons.

And I spend time catching up on some shows on Netflix.

For example, I just finished Dr. Who episodes that are available on Netflix. Picked up the first season of Fringe and working on fourth season of Sons of Anarchy.

And a couple of episodes of Into the Universe with Steven Hawking.

Ahh. So you like a little education with your entertainment.

Yes.

It makes me feel better for the hours I spend, haha.

Well, I remember I started listing off the shows that I watch, and then we discovered that I may watch a lot of TV. Maybe more than is healthy for a sane human being.

At the close of this spring season and as we head into summer, I watch about forty-eight shows, of which thirty-seven will be continuing sometime next fall, winter, or spring.

And it never really seemed like a lot to me, but apparently I’m a couch potato/TV junkie.

Let’s be clear, though. I don’t have a problem. ūüôā

Haha.

I just think there’s a ton of great content out there now. In fact, I daresay that television is the place to be if you want to write, create, produce, or even act really compelling stuff.

Exactly. I mean, I’m not diminishing film at all. I still enjoy the big summer spectacle and the Oscar darling. What I mean is that TV was once considered a stepping stone toward a film career, but I’d say it’s really become part of the cultural consciousness just as much as features, maybe even more. You’ve got Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, True Detective.

Yeah, I still love movies, but I think in television you have a greater opportunity to develop long character arcs and develop more subplots and have more of an ensemble of compelling characters than even franchise films where you only get the audience for two hours a year or every other year.

It seems like communities are built around TV shows more so than films that have a few weeks in the theater, and then in a few months they are out on DVD and there are so many choices on Redbox and Netflix that it’s hard for a film that doesn’t have a community behind it to compete with the other content.

I think Marvel is trying to fix that for themselves, but they are having to spend so much money to pull it off and so much depends on the audience keeping interest in superheroes.

That said, I would be heartbroken if I didn’t get to go to the movies.

I might feel that way, too, if I hadn’t spent almost two years working at a movie theater. That almost killed my love for films. But you’re definitely onto something, pointing out TV’s ability to do longer story arcs, to really build and deconstruct fascinating characters. I feel like this TV season has been especially brutal, though, to some of our favorite characters. What do you think about that?

Brutal, downright cruel. I understand the need to up the ante to maintain audience interest, but I don’t know. I think some of the shows have pulled out too many stops.

At this point, I’d like to warn the readers that we will be diving into some of the specifics of this past season’s TV shows.

So… SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned.

I know that you watch more than a few shows I haven’t really gotten into, Steph. Any particularly painful moments you’d like to share/relive? ūüôā

I have been dying to talk to someone about The Vampire Diaries!!

I have to emphasize the word dying.

Alright. I’ll be honest. I have not been keeping up with that show this season. But I did read some articles a couple days ago and essentially spoiled myself. Go ahead.

Depending on whether or not Damon is actually dead or not, I am either really excited to see how they are going to bring him back or I am ready to burn down the studio which is in Georgia, so not too far from my clutches.

Don’t get me wrong. I like most of the characters but there is no way Enzo can replace Damon.

You little pyro. So are you saying you didn’t see this coming?

I had heard that Damon dies in one of the books, but I never dreamed they would write him off, so I’m assuming there is a way to bring him back from the “dead” or “undead dead.”

I don’t think the show would survive without Damon.

If they were wanting me to totally believe that Damon was really dead, I don’t believe it.

It seems to be the curse of the onscreen/offscreen romance. But you seem to think they didn’t actually kill him… permanently. Which is already weird to say, since he plays a vampire on the show.

Well, they’ve been building toward Damon accepting the ultimate act of heroism which is to die to save everyone else, but he was acting under the belief that Bonnie could bring him back. So I knew that when he went to the Other Side, I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to make it back.

Also, it seems nobody on TVD ever really stays dead.

I know. So I don’t know how they could really make Damon and Bonnie and Lexi stay dead forever.

Especially now that Alaric is back. Damon is his drinking buddy. So of course Damon is coming back.

Now, I did watch TVD from the beginning up until about halfway through this season. In some ways, he’s really developed a lot as a character. Four+ years, and I guess a character should show growth, or they start to get a little boring, right?

Damon has come a long way.

Stefan even makes the comment when Damon dies that Damon had just gotten everything he wanted and he was happy.
So I guess the moral is as soon as you get everything you want, you die.

Misery is the secret to life, is that it?

I guess you can’t be accepted into whatever the other side of the Other Side is if you still have unhappiness holding you back. The other side of the Other Side can’t be contaminated with the tragedy of human experience.

Bottom line: if the studio has made Damon dead to me, then TVD is dead to me.

Amen and Amen. I agree, Damon is the lifeblood (har-har) of that show.

Haha.

Now, this isn’t the first show that’s tried to pull a death-that-is-not-death on you, is it? I heard something similar about Castle…?

Well, the network kind of spoiled that one when they went to commercial break and said Kate and Castle will return next season, so obviously he’s not really dead. And pretty much the only way to kill a main character is to show the body with the eyes open in the death stare. Even then, I still held out hope that Matthew Grantham could possibly still be alive.

Matthew, no. Ugh. Why’d you take me there? The pain is still too near.

Damn you, Downton Abbey!

But, and I feel bad about this, but a new romance for Mary sounds fun.

True, but in a way I feel like maybe they should’ve retitled the show this season to The Many Men of Mary. But Matthew’s death was last season, not this season. Not a single death for the Granthams this year (which is the UK’s last year, but whatever), proving that TV is not all doom and gloom after all.

At least Psych ended on a somewhat good note. Jules’s engagement ring got stolen just as Shawn finally proposed, but that led into a fun car chase.

Shawn and Gus are still together.

To be fair, though, Psych never really went to much of a dark place, did it? I don’t know. I didn’t catch the last season and a half.

Yeah, it never got too serious. A couple years ago, we thought Henry may have died, but he survived.

Shawn and Gus almost die every episode, but we always know they will get of it by some bizarre occurrence in the universe.

Or Shawn’s smart mouth.

Well, clearly they couldn’t kill Henry (Shawn’s dad). It would’ve irrevocably changed the characters of the show.

Yeah, the show is more about how unchangeable the characters are.

It’s one of the key differences between Psych and The Mentalist.

I mean, that and the fact that Psych is pure awesome, and The Mentalist is obnoxious and should be put out to pasture. ūüôā

(Okay, that’s not fair of me. I’ve never watched a whole episode.)

Haha. well, some people like the show even if they think Jane is a jerk.

Jane is good and highly entertaining as a jerk, so it works for him.

He fits well with the rest of the characters, kinda like Gibbs on NCIS. Gibbs is a jerk sometimes but you can always depend on DiNozzo to lighten the mood.

Yes, and like Jane, DiNozzo is also obnoxious–but in a much more lovable way.

Exactly.

So what we’re really saying is Jane is a combination of Gibbs and DiNozzo…

Hmmm. I guess you could make that suggestion.

I love DiNozzo, so I’m very protective of him, haha.

Okay, now I haven’t watched this show much since the fourth season. Did I miss anything? ūüôā I didn’t, right?

Well, Ziva isn’t there, but I don’t remember which season she came in. Pretty much the characters are the same. DiNozzo has matured at infinitesimal increments, and he has had some serious moments.

What season is it in, anyway?

11, I think.

But the success is not because of the change in the characters or the storylines. It’s because we can depend on the NCIS team to be the same every week. We know what to expect. They never let us down by changing into someone else. I would be devastated if Tony DiNozzo got all serious and stopped being an overgrown frat boy.

Funny you mention that. Now if I remember right, NCIS got in pretty much at the beginning of the forensic drama craze, didn’t it?

Yes, I think so.

One thing that helped the show was that it was in the same universe as JAG, which was a popular courtroom drama that had similar who-dun-it aspects to it and a good ensemble of characters.

In fact, if I may add, I have been waiting for years, for NCIS to have Harm and Mac make a guest appearance, haha.

Hm. I never watched JAG, except for the backdoor pilot that introduced Gibbs. Long time ago. And like I said, I gave up on NCIS years ago, mostly I guess because I sorta lost interest in the procedural thing. But maybe you can speak to that. What do you think separates NCIS from other shows with a similar premise, like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order?

 

go to Vindicator Artists to read the rest!

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perfection revisited

WARNING: spoilers for¬†X-Men:Days of Future Past¬†and Iron Man 3 will be marked in red when I get to them. So… just scroll past the red if you want to avoid the spoilers. Also, this post is going to be super long.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of film podcasts lately. (The Golden Briefcase, Filmspotting, The /Filmcast, Slate’s Spoiler Specials, How Did This Get Made?) I don’t go to movies much anymore, not since I left my job at the movie theater, but I’m always interested in knowing about good and bad movies, and why they’re good or bad. The podcasters often discuss movies they loved (or thought were good) while at the same time highlighting the issues they had with the movie. Some films have a vast range of problems. And lately it’s made me wonder. How do these people–how does anyone, really–love a movie if it has so many issues? How can those movies be good movies? Continuity, character development, plot points, logic problems… aren’t these all signs of a¬†bad movie? Okay, so I guess I’m facing two different questions, really, between loving a movie and thinking it’s a good/great movie. So I’ll tackle them both.

And yes, I will talk about the new X-Men movie in some detail later on, because my experience with that movie yesterday inspired me to write this post.

Loving a good movie. Alright. I think I talked about this before. It’s okay to love a bad movie. I love plenty of them. Hell, I¬†loved Tom Cruise’s¬†Jack Reacher. I even enjoyed¬†Knight and Day. That’s right. I loved¬†Transformers, too–but only the first one. (The second and third ones can suck it.) I enjoy bad television:¬†The 100,¬†Once Upon a Time (sort of),¬†2 Broke Girls. (If it makes anyone feel better, I also love some very good television like¬†Downton Abbey and¬†Longmire. If you’re interested, check out my¬†previous posts for more favorite shows and movies.) So I can understand why these podcasters can say they love films like the new¬†X-Men,¬†Godzilla, and even¬†The Amazing Spider-man 2. I’ve only seen¬†X-Men. I was planning on checking out the latter two, but Rotten Tomatoes and word of mouth has discouraged me from spending my money. Alas, I’m not always willing to admit those bad ones are actually bad. But I will recognize that critics and the general public probably think so. And I understand that movies and television make for a very subjective experience. One man’s¬†Hamlet is another man’s¬†Phantom Menace and vice-versa.

I watched¬†Iron Man 3 when it came out. Opening night, too, so I saw it with an energetic crowd. I. Hated. It. Why? Well…¬†okay. Nerd rant with spoilers incoming–though I’m not really a comic book nerd.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

The buddy-buddy thing going on between Tony Stark and James Rhodes didn’t work for me, and I think that’s a big part of the film, part of its draw. I didn’t enjoy their banter. I found it tiring, and it tried too hard to be buddy-buddy.

The Iron Man suit itself–everybody was putting it on. I mean¬†Pepper wore it. The¬†President wore it. Hell, the¬†bad guy wore it. You know who didn’t wear it that much? Tony Stark. Way to go, keeping Iron Man out of the Iron Man suit. You’ve turned a superhero into an overgrown child with a remote control.

And then the battle at the end, where bad guys and Iron Man suits were dropping like flies. How many suits did Tony go through to finally put down Killian? Oh, and Pepper has the extremis? No, wait, Tony figured out how to remove it in about five minutes. Never mind. And¬†he destroys the suits? Why? I don’t know. He’s obviously going to need to have at least one for The Avengers 2.

Oh yeah… and if he could remotely summon them to do their own thing in that last battle, why didn’t it occur to him to summon them during the Air Force One attack? Sure would’ve made it a lot safer and smarter to have more than one suit rescuing people.

And I’m not the foremost expert on Iron Man mythology, but I’m pretty confident that Mandarin is his greatest enemy. The Joker to his Batman. Then you go and turn Mandarin into a fraud? An actor with questionable gastrointestinal issues?

And why, exactly, did we need Rebecca Hall in this movie? And having a history with Iron Man? She contributed nothing but one more death.

Don’t get me started on the little boy.

I think the movie started out with such promise, too. The return of Yinsen was awesome nostalgia. And then it went downhill from there. I want to be clear. I love the¬†Iron Man character. I was a¬†huge fan of the first film. The second film was… eh. This one. Let me put it this way. At no point during¬†Iron Man 3¬†did I get excited. About anything. Zero nerdgasms. At least with¬†Iron Man 2 I got excited when he put on the suitcase suit at the race track. Anyway. Rant over.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

This leads to the second question. Believing a movie is good/great even when it’s bludgeoned with plot holes. My distaste for¬†Iron Man 3 is directly tied into the problems I had with the film. At what point do the plot/character problems make it a nonsensical hot mess? Again, I suppose it’s subjective. I loved¬†Inception and truly believe it was a fantastic movie. But yeah, it had some problems. I think the problems with that movie, though, are part of its genius.¬†The Matrix Revolutions, however, not a good movie–mostly because of its plot and character problems. I think it has been a really long time since I saw a movie at the theater that was good. I’ve seen a few DVDs that I thought were pretty good, I guess.¬†The Wolf of Wall Street was good. Not great, but good. I liked¬†Ender’s Game, though I’ll admit it wasn’t very good. At least it was entertaining.¬†Frozen–a great movie. I have a few more DVDs I’m hoping to try out tonight and tomorrow, like¬†Veronica Mars the movie and¬†Homeland. I hope they’re good. Well, I guess¬†Homeland¬†will be good, whether I like it or not.

Obviously, the issue crosses over into books as well.¬†Ender’s Game is a great book. I had a lot of trouble actually liking it, though. The first¬†Guardians of Ga’Hoole¬†book was cute and kinda fun. Not very good. The World of Warcraft novel¬†Vol’jin was absolute crap, and I hated it despite being a huge WoW nerd. Jaina Proudmoore and¬†Thrall were also pretty bad. The¬†Percy Jackson series. Fun, but not that good, clearly a direct derivative of¬†Harry Potter and not nearly as good. I’m currently working on¬†The Black Company and I’m not getting into it. Though most critics and readers will agree that it’s a fantastic fantasy series. I guess, but I’m not feeling it.

My point is, our preferences are highly subjective. Even standards are somewhat fluid, depending on the genre or reviewer. Not every top critic was in love with¬†Godzilla. Most critics hated¬†The Amazing Spider-man 2, but that didn’t stop it from earning a ton of money. I didn’t see that one, either, so I can’t comment on it. So I’ll point back to¬†Iron Man 3 as a truly excellent example of a really sloppy movie coasting on goodwill and past successes. I once stated that the movie could’ve been Tony Stark picking his nose for two hours and it still would’ve earned a billion dollars. Which is too bad, really. I think RDJ is a great actor and Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter. (I loved¬†Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.)

So this leads into my experience with X-Men. And now we head back into spoilers.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

Again, it started off well enough. A battle against the Sentinels that ends in multiple X-Men deaths, some of them fan favorites. I was even okay with it rewinding the clock. Unfortunately, seeing this plot device at work in the beginning completely took away the jeopardy and pathos I felt in the final battle (in the future) at the end of the movie. With all but two X-Men dying, I just didn’t care because I knew time would be reset again. In fact, the more X-Men that died, the more sure I became of a positive outcome. So did it matter to me when Storm died? Or Magneto? Not really, no. Hell, I laughed when the Sentinels pulled Colossus apart. (Admit it, though, that was just silly-looking.)

And yes, I understand that a new X-Men movie obliges us to see brand new mutants with interesting new powers. Fine. But only one of them mattered to the plot. It’s really unfortunate that Quicksilver was the most entertaining character of the film and he was in and out of the movie within fifteen minutes. Also, Wolverine’s knowledge of him came out of nowhere. At no point during any of the previous X-Men movies was Quicksilver mentioned, not even in the movie I was watching. So yeah, that came out of nowhere.

Also, I am a huge, huge James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender fan. Atonement¬†and¬†12 Years a Slave are among my favorite films ever, and in no small part to those actors’ performances.¬†Those guys are phenomenal actors, and their portrayals of Xavier and Magneto is great to watch. But the characters went nowhere. Though we get the feeling that Magneto is about to turn a new leaf, we discover he’s still the same old megalomaniac pro-mutant Magneto. Though I suppose we could argue that young Xavier gets his groove back by the end of the film, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.¬†Characters are meant grow.

Speaking of. I really hope Ellen Page got paid a lot of money. She spent 99% of her screen time on her knees, holding her hands over Hugh Jackman’s head. A really stupid use of an arguably pretty-talented actress. (Addendum: how the hell does Anna Paquin get higher billing over Ellen Page for a three second, non-speaking cameo? Someone explain that to me–without referring to the supposed deleted scenes of hers that’ll be added in the DVD.)

Beast–superfluous. He wasn’t even a foil for anyone.

Havoc? Toad? The other ones and the entire Vietnam sequence? Pointless.

Mystique became little more of a MacGuffin than anything else, with only one real moment to shine at the very end of the movie.

And Wolverine, the biggest badass of them all, does the least amount of fighting in the film. One quick fight when he first transports into his young body against some mafioso-like thugs and very briefly in the final fight at the end of the movie. He spent the rest of the movie playing the unlikeliest cheerleader in the world to young Xavier. (Side note, if Wolverine doesn’t age–as Kitty Pryde pointed out–why does his older self actually look older?)

Then there’s the final outcome of the movie. So… Magneto attempts to kill the President but is stopped by Mystique. If things had ended there, I could easily understand how the future turns out better. But then Mystique turns around and prepares to kill (ostensibly) Trask, though the officials clearly believed the President was also in danger. Why this¬†still results in a better future for mutants is what I don’t get. Seems like Nixon would still think the mutants are a threat when a gun is waved at him by a sexy blue chick. But eh, whatever.

The action was pretty hit or miss, too. The future battles are all entertaining, but as I said, the second one lost its emotional power after watching Kitty Pryde’s power at work in the first one. Prison breaking Magneto from the Pentagon was great, but this was all Quicksilver. He was hilarious, and watching him slow-mo sabotage a wave of guards was priceless. The fight in Paris was not that interesting, mostly because it was mired by frequent cuts of Wolverine having a mental breakdown. (Why did we need William Stryker in this? The movie had¬†nothing to do with¬†Wolverine or his past/future at all, and it ultimately went nowhere.) The final fight started off okay with the Sentinels falling under Magneto’s control, but then the fight loses focus as we just sit back and watch him¬†Independence Day a baseball stadium across Washington DC except at a snail’s pace. It was impressive for about five seconds, then it was just meh.

Lastly, I want to touch on the stinger. First of all, if you’re going to throw just one stinger in there, don’t save it for the end of the scrolling credits. My god, who wants to stick around for all that when almost every stinger is at the end of the splash credits? I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t already Wiki’d the movie before going. But all that aside, again, I would probably not have guessed we were seeing Apocalypse. It was vague. It came out of left field. It was set in the past and literally had nothing to do with the movie at all. Why did we have to go thousands of years back in time? I don’t know, except Bryan Singer really wanted to shoehorn in a reference to the sequel. Fine. Then at least make Apocalypse, I don’t know,¬†look like Apocalypse! He looked like¬†Powder, except prettier. I knew what I was watching, and I¬†still didn’t recognize him. Way to go.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

I was really looking forward to this movie. Its Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% with a 98% top critics score only cemented my opinion that the movie was going to be awesome. But it was not awesome, at least not to me, and I tried really hard to get into it. Too many problems, though, and I mentioned them all above in the spoilers if you want to read them. The Metacritic score of 74 is much more appropriate, in my opinion. I didn’t hate the movie. I think it was good. I think… I’m not really sure. The only thing I can say for sure is I thought it was okay, and that it wasn’t a terrible movie. So I began to wonder if I had lost my ability to appreciate a good film, despite its many issues. I don’t know.

All I know is it’s been a long time since I walked out of the theater a satisfied customer.