Jessica Jones (TV Review)

Jessica Jones (TV Review)

I am in the minority that found that the Netflix-original series Daredevil was dull, repetitive, and overrated. Therefore, I was somewhat leery to delve into Jessica Jones, another comic-book adaptation that exists in the same universe as Daredevil.

This one is one worth watching.

The titular character is a Private Eye with some unique powers, including super strength and the ability to jump/almost fly. One thing right off the bat that I liked about this TV series is that the superpowers aspect isn’t really thrown in your face too much, and it plays a subtle part of the story line.

The central conflict of the series is that Jessica is forced to deal with her past, and a powerful nemesis who has the ability to control minds. Kilgrave is a very cool villain, and he is definitely evil. His controlling of minds knows few bounds, and he isn’t cursed with something like a conscience to slow him down. His elaborate scheme is to do what it takes so that he can reunite with Jessica, the one that got away, as he once had her under his control. It makes for a compelling battle, between the two of them, and provides a full seasons worth of entertainment. His abilities play with the conscience and morality of Jessica, and he is always able to fight off her attempts to eliminate him by putting “failsafes” in place, just to be sure she doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want her to. Jessica Jones provides us with a fresh look at how mind-control can be used for the powers of evil, while at the same time making him a very difficult villain to best.

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Another strength of the show are the side plots. Oftentimes, the secondary story lines are dull or uninteresting, simply there to provide viewers with moments they wish they could fast forward until they got back to the good stuff. In Jessica Jones, all the stories are pretty interesting, including the love story with Luke, the sister relationship with former child star Trish, and the divorce story of Hogarth, the tough lawyer that Jessica works for on occasion. All of them blend together nicely, not making them frivolous side stories that get lost in the shuffle.

There is some cool fighting in the show, and thanks to the powers of Kilgrave, there are some pretty interesting deaths and ways that people are controlled, essentially torturing themselves, such as not blinking for hours because they have been told to do so.

Any show is defined by its acting, and Jessica Jones does a pretty good job of it. From all of the strong secondary characters, including a very good performance by Rachael Taylor as Trish, right up to the central protagonist and antagonist, the acting is pretty good and believable. There are a few slips here and there, and some clunky dialogue at points, but as the show gets rolling, it seems as though the writers really found their stride, and were able to provide something that we, as the audience, could buy into.

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Jessica Jones is definitely worth watching. For the many people who were fans of Daredevil, it is a cool continuation of that universe, where the two actually exist together. There is even a little bit of a cross-over later in the season, for those who are really into it. It is a dark, entertaining show, about troubled people just trying to be somewhat decent, and it is fun to watch.

Master of None (TV Review)

Master of None (TV Review)

This is an excellent show.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Aziz Ansari. I find his standup to be loud, and kind of annoying, despite being pretty funny. My views have completely changed after pouring through the first season of the Netflix original series, Master of None.

master3The show stars Ansari as Dev, a commercial actor in New York, who is sort of trying to make the leap to film, and his questions about life and love. The show tackles many different concepts, including the portrayal of Indian actors on TV, the guidelines of texting, the role of women and the sometimes subtle problems they must deal with, the relationships between parents and kids, and the stories that led them to where they are, the desire to make something of one’s life, and the struggles that come with relationships when people enter their 30s. It is all poignant, and there is solid humour that runs through the entire show, so that it is not too depressing, but a fun journey through the life of someone, who like so many people, feels a little lost, and doesn’t understand the world around them.

So much of what Dev comes to understand through his adventures in Master of None is that people simply need to be nicer to one another. If that could happen, the world would be a better place. But we have all of these rules in place, and people can be very selfish. It is interesting to have someone of that age group take a look at the world around them, and wonder where things changed.

master2There are so many very strong episodes in this season. Ones that will speak to viewers on different levels. Whether it is about the need to talk to your parents, and to learn about them, instead of always being focused on yourself. Or the problems with the dating world, and the missed opportunities that lay behind us all due to timing, luck, or situation. Or the problems with careers, and the desire to make ourselves happy, no matter who is around us. They are all interesting, they are witty, well-written, and simply put, good.

There could be definite comparisons between Master of None and Louie C.K.’s opus show, Louie. Both are about funny people who have a serious side, and are simply trying to negotiate the world around them, with the blessing/curse of being too observant and understanding too well the way that things work. And well Louie is a highly-revered and amazing show, I would dare say that Master of None is in the same ballpark as it, in terms of general excellence.

master4One of the focal points of the series is Dev’s relationships. He is a single guy, out dating in the world, before meeting someone who is pretty damn perfect for him. From there, we are able to see the tendencies of a relationship, the highs and the lows, between two people that seem so good together all of the time. It provides a very good, and realistic portrayal of the way that two people are able to, or aren’t able, to exist together. It can be funny, and it can be sad. This is one of the gifts of Master of None: the ability to elicit both feelings, often at the same time. It is a fine line for a show to toy with, but Master does a very good job of it, right from the very start.

There is very little to dislike about this show. Every episode is well-written, and explores something that is interesting to people who exist in this world. whether they are in their 20s looking forward, 30s realizing that it’s go time, or older, looking at the world as it is now, and getting to be thankful that they don’t need to exist in the mess of it that we have made. Dev and his group of friends are interesting and likable, and his interactions with them are always of interest as the show progresses. The advice that he gets, the conversations that they have, the way that they discuss the world around them. It’s a great coming-of-age show.

Master of None comes with my highest recommendation. Truly, a very good show.

Garfunkel and Oates (TV Review)

Garfunkel and Oates (TV Review)

This series was an interesting find on Netflix Canada, and became a quick favourite of mine. Not someone who watches anything on YouTube, I had no idea who the musical comedy duo of Garfunkel and Oates were before watching their show. What I was treated to was a very good opening season, full of excellent comedy, great, catchy songs, and two very lovable lead characters.

go3Garfunkel and Oates, the show, is about the two girls that make up the band, and their lives off the stage. Riki and Kate go about their lives as minor celebrities, known for their online videos in which they sing songs on a wide range of topics, all hilarious. Pregnant women being gross, friends that are insanely forgettable, being bad at giving hand jobs, they cover all of the bases. They even have to experience Rule 34, where they become a porn parody.

The plots of the show are very much Seinfeld meets Flight of the Conchords, but the female version. And it makes for a lot of fun through the first episodes. The humour of the girls is quite observational, and things that they encounter in every day life end up becoming their songs. And most importantly, when it comes to the jokes, and to the songs, they are funny. During my binge watching of this season of Garfunkel and Oates, I definitely laughed out loud on several occasions, and have already recommended this show to several people who would like their brand of humour. Another comparison could be that it is the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt making music, at times, given the sweet innocence of Kate.

goUnfortunately, there will not be a second season of the show as of now. IFC, a channel that provides us with some good, independent laughs, has decided not to renew it for some reason, despite largely strong critical reviews of the series. This is definitely no good, but at least the duo will live on online. I would have definitely liked to have seen another eight episodes of these girls and their unique sense of humour.

Garfunkel and Oates is a very good show. It is very funny, and really, when looking for a lighthearted comedy, is there anything more than can be asked for? Check it out.

Dreamland (TV Review)

Dreamland (TV Review)

Originally called Utopia when it aired, the Australian series Dreamland follows the lives and projects of the folks at the National Building Authority, as they try to make Australia a better place with their grand projects for nation-building.

Naturally, it is the collision of big dreams and massive bureaucracy that provides Dreamland with the central conflict, and main comedy of the series. Right off the bat, there are many similarities between this show, and the British comedy Twenty Twelve, where they are trying to plan out the London Olympics (read my review of it here: Twenty Twelve).

With so many large projects on the go, it is the endless small things that continually get in the way for our likable nation builders at the NBA. Trying to keep everybody happy, while at the same time actually trying to get something done, provides for the humourous tension that we see throughout the series. It could also be compared, at points, to The Office, where incompetence provides a constant stumbling block for the characters actually determined to do their jobs.

dream2Dreamland serves as a political satire, and provides plenty of humour throughout. There are characters that are there to throw wrenches in all of the plans, and the seemingly endless issues that come up with each and every thing that the competent characters try to get done. It is fun to watch them struggle around, as their company is constantly spinning its tires, coming up with over-the-top new ideas, while simply trying to get to Stage 2 on any projects that they have actually been able to get green-lighted.

While every city has its troubles with planning and design, at times it feels like Dreamland ventures into the realm of reality. It could be easy to see planners in any place having to jump through the same hoops in order to get a project underway. Even the smallest project could be derailed by some fringe group that has one complaint or another about how it will be developed, or executed.

Dreamland is a fun watch. It is light, and full of enjoyable characters. From battles over the company logo, to appeasing bikers, to the prospect of building a massive bridge from Australia to Tasmania, the show is full of the ridiculous bickering that manages to stall good ideas and continue to contribute to the cycle of bureaucracy that helps get nothing done when it comes to government issues. Here, we are provided with a light look at how it all goes wrong, and are able to enjoy the ride. Dreamland doesn’t require a heavy viewer investment, and with an 8-episode season, it is easily digestible on Netflix.

The show is a good in-between when you are stuck in Netflix purgatory, and cannot decide which series will be next for you. A few enjoyable hours of watching bumbling Aussies just trying to get something done. Dreamland is fun.

How to Get Away with Murder (TV Review)

How to Get Away with Murder (TV Review)

Annalise Keating is a charismatic and intimidating lawyer and professor who teaches the notorious college course that she entitles, “How to Get Away with Murder.” Students cower in her presence, and do their best to not make fools of themselves on the first day of class. Keating is bold, determined, and damn good at what she does.

Each year, she selects a small group of her finest students that will help her out as members of her law firm. Here, they will work together to solve difficult cases, all the while revealing the dark secrets of their own.

murder2How to Get Away with Murder provides a nice combination of an episodical crime series, where there is a new mystery to be solved each week, all the while focusing on the background problem that ties the entire first season together: her law students have murdered someone, and are trying to cover it up.

A sorority girl ends up dead, and she is known to the group because she was friends with one of the students neighbors. Here we undertake a story where Keating’s husband is involved in her death, as he was having an affair with the dead girl. Eventually, he ends up dead, at the hands of the law students, who begin their quest to cover up their own dirty deeds, using the knowledge they are learning from Keating, both in and out of the class.

murder3While is seems tricky, it comes across very well on the screen, and makes for an intriguing show. It is non-linear, and will skip around in time frequently, to provide backing information on the central murder, all the while barreling the plot of each episode forward.

One thing that makes How to Get Away with Murder so entertaining and watchable is the cast. Led by Viola Davis, who has won a number of awards for her role as Annalise already, who plays her character with a fierceness rarely seen in a female lead on TV. As the series progresses, we see chips in her steely veneer, and Davis is able to bring an intense vulnerability to her character that makes her more fragile, real, and endearing. It is difficult to dislike Annalise, despite her being strongly set up as a dislikeable character from the beginning. She seems to care only for herself, and will stomp on anybody or anything that stands in the way of getting what she wants. While she acts as an anti-hero, it is intriguing to see what lengths she will go to to protect those that she cares about, keep her promises, and keep her own secrets in the dark.

murder5The rest of the cast is rounded out by strong performers. The five law students are strong (aside from Alfred Enoch, who plays the meek Wes of the group…he starts off as being pretty annoying, but gets better as the season moves along), and the rest of the supporting cast is good as well. The other people closest to Annalise include another lawyer, played by Gilmore Girls alum Liza Weil, and the not-sure-exactly-what-his-job-is Frank, played by Charlie Weber.

murder6The cast is rounded out by a character that becomes the focus of much of the story, Wes’ neighbor Rebecca, played by Katie Findlay, most famous from her time as Rosie Larsen on The Killing, and from roles in small films such as Premature. Findlay provides a solid backbone to the story, and she is an increasingly strong actor, even though she sometimes seems slightly miscast as the tough-as-nails, uncaring goth drug dealer Rebecca. Still, her acting is very good throughout, and her importance to the show cannot be denied.

murder4How to Get Away with Murder provides a ton of twists and turns, easily hooking the viewer into the plot of the show. A good backing murder, along with interesting cases along the way in each episode, and a cast that is able to create their own unique personalities when they could have just been lumped together (a credit to the solid writing), makes HTGAWM a very solid show, and well worth a watch on Netflix.

There are plenty of cliffhangers here, including the final episode, which will lend itself to what could end up being a very interesting second season of the show. I, for one, will be sure to watch once the second season rolls out, to see what has happened to the delicate circle created by Annalise, and to see if everything can be held together, as a bunch of students to their very best to get away with murder.

Narcos (TV Review)

Narcos (TV Review)

Narcos is the TV series that we have all been secretly waiting for ever since Vincent Chase took the risk to make Medellin on Entourage.

Here we are provided with an excellent 10 episodes of historical drama that outlines the life and times of Pablo Escobar, perhaps the richest, and greatest, criminal of his time, if not all time, as told through the view of the DEA agent that helped play a role in his hunt and capture.

narcos4To put it mildly, Narcos is fantastic entertainment.

From the very beginning, the Netflix original show provides grit and drama, taking us from the humble beginnings of the man that would become the greatest, and most feared, man on the planet, the most wanted man on earth. It truly is an incredible story, how one man developed the idea of exporting cocaine, a relatively new drug at the time, to Miami, and how he was- for better or worse- able to change the world.

Escobar went through many changes in his life as a crime lord. He began humbly, but incredible vision allowed him to create the largest drug empire the world has ever seen, where he was making upwards of $60 million per day, actually having more money than he knew what to do with. It got to a point where he literally gave money away to the poor of Columbia, trying to improve their lives with the exorbitant amounts of cash that he knew he would be unable to launder. He even buried money all over the country, creating for himself millions of dollars in an actual treasure map, just trying to hide the endless flow of money that was coming in to him from the cocaine trafficking trade. Eventually, he craved more power, even taking a brief turn in the Colombian house of representatives as an elected official, starting off a time of butting heads with the government that would last for the rest of his life.

NARCOS S01E06 " Eplosivos"

The story of Pablo Escobar speaks for itself, and stories like that manage to just write themselves. Sometimes the truth really is more interesting than any fiction that can be invented. His story is unbelievable, but it is always thrilling to watch. We get to see as he becomes more paranoid, as the law closes in on him, yet we continually see his genius, especially when it comes to creating the deal that would lead to turning himself in. What other criminal in the history of the world got a deal where he could build his own prison for himself, and ensure that government officials weren’t allowed within three miles of the place? Only Escobar.

The story itself provides 10 hours of great entertainment.

Narcos is such a strong show, and not only for the reasons of the story that was already there, ready to be told. It is a show buoyed by strong acting performances throughout, starting with the portrayal of Escobar himself by Wagner Moura. He embodies the man, making him the likable monster that he was in real life. He manages to create a sympathetic character in Pablo, despite the numerous atrocities that he commits over the course of his life of crime. He brings out the man of the people, and the family man, behind the killer who would be willing to sacrifice hundreds of lives in blowing up a plane just to kill one man, or start an all-out civil war on the streets of Bogota, just to ensure his power is maintained, and the fear of him is constantly on the minds of all Colombians.

narcos5A successful element of Narcos is that we get to see the story from both sides. This is not a pro-American show, where the good guys from the States come riding in to save the day in a poor country gripped in the ravages of a drug war from an all-evil man. We see the views of the cops being run out of the US Embassy, the Colombian military, Escobar and his confidantes, his enemies, and his partners. Narcos provides us with many views, which helps us to understand the story that much better. It really does give us insight in to not only the characters of the story, but the story itself, by providing these alternate viewpoints.

This is a very well-written and well-directed series, from start to finish. It is also mostly in Spanish, which helps in not taking away from the dialogue by having actors struggle through a second language, or having American actors put on weak Spanish accents. It contributes to the grittiness, and the reality, of the story. And it never feels cumbersome, having to read a good portion of what is being said over the course of the series.

NARCOS S01E03 "The Men of Always"

I instantly fell in love with Narcos, and can’t wait for there to be a second season in order to conclude the story that they have started here. The story of Pablo Escobar is so unreal, that it warrants more than a fake movie from an HBO series: it warrants its own TV series, where it can take its time in developing all the intricacies of the plot, and the many characters who in reality, brought to life the story of Escobar, and his virtual ruling of the world during the 1980’s. I would say that Narcos goes beyond a strongly recommended series, to one that is basically a must see. One of the best that Netflix has produced.

Archer: Season 6 (TV Review)

Archer: Season 6 (TV Review)

For always burning through each season of Archer as it is released on Netflix Canada, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written anything about it.

Hands down, Archer is one of the funniest shows on television, always able to elicit some laughs with its perverted humour, or now classic and highly quotable running jokes. Who doesn’t a little bit of “Danger Zone,” or Archer himself reminding us of how you get ants.

ARCHER: Episode 7, Season 6 "Nellis" (Airing Thursday, February 19, 10:00 PM e/p) A rescue mission turns into an out-of-this-world visit to Area 51. Pictured: (L-R) Dr. Krieger (voice of Lucky Yates), Cyril Figgis (voice of Chris Parnell), Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin), Ray Gillette (voice of Adam Reed), Cheryl Tunt (voice of Judy Greer), Pam Poovey (voice of Amber Nash). CR: FX

The sixth season of the show, which follows in the footsteps of the less-than-stellar fifth season, Archer: Vice, does something that I never suspected the show would do: they move away from the running jokes. While there are several references to the use of the jokes, including Archer’s disdain that they aren’t using “Phrasing” any more, they are largely absent from the show for the entire season.

And it takes away from it all. Archer is so great because it creates something that provides the familiar for the die-hard viewer, as well as new jokes each episode. This is not to say that S6 is not funny anymore, but it definitely seems like something is missing. It still provides us with some very solid episodes, including the one where the gang is stuck in an elevator, and unable to escape.

archer2Much of the story line revolves around Lana, and her having had Archer’s baby. This has added a new wrinkle to the story that doesn’t always work, and the kid seems to be an inconvenience to the plot in the same way Ross and Rachel’s baby was on the final years of Friends. It is just sort of there, mentioned now and then, and rarely adds to the humour.

As usual, all of the characters in the show are awesome, and they all have their specific moments to shine. The beauty of Archer is that it is not one person who is able to always provide the punchlines, but all of them. Each character brings something to the table, and this is continued through S6. There are still plenty of laughs, and they are provided by different characters throughout. This diversity simply adds to the entertainment of the show, as it doesn’t always have to be focused on Archer and his (mis)adventures as a spy.

archer4Archer has often been a 1-2 sitting endeavor for me, and this season is no different. With a few 22-minute episodes to pour through, it takes very little time before you realize that another season has been completely eaten up, and that it will be about another year before the next one is released.

Well worth it, and despite the general end to the running jokes, Archer is still a damn funny show.