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.

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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.

Wild (Film Review)

Wild (Film Review)

New to the Netflix Canada’s film lineup is the highly acclaimed Reese Witherspoon film, Wild, which in a way serves as the female counterpart to the excellent Into the Wild.

The story is about a bright, but very troubled young woman, who suffers after the loss of her mother to cancer. Once her mother dies, Cheryl goes off the rails, ruining her marriage through a number of meaningless sexual encounters, and a dark path towards heroin use.

wild3Needing to clear her head, Cheryl decides that she is going to hike the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the most difficult and lengthy trails in the United States. This gives her the chance to think about her life, about her self-destruction, and about the memories of her mother, that will keep pushing her feet forward on the arduous journey.

Wild is an excellent, and calming, film. It is sedate, allowing the viewer to undertake the harrowing journey with Cheryl. It is extremely well directed, and well edited. I will not often notice the editing in the film, but the way the flashbacks to her life are integrated with her journey is seamless, and manages to add realism and drama to her quest.

Pushed by the strong direction, Witherspoon gives a tremendous performance, which is more about her reactions and facial expressions than it is about the minimal dialogue that she mutters. Wild is a film, after all, where she spends the majority of her time on her own, so her dialogue is infrequent. It’s not about the talking, it’s about the walking, and the journey. She was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, and rightfully so. It is subtle, and introspective.

wild2As for the journey itself, it is filled with beautiful scenery and the fact that Cheryl is not an accomplished hiker. She makes many mistakes, including carrying a pack that she can barely lift, the wrong kind of fuel for her stove, and hiking boots that are the wrong size, causing her feet to appear out of a horror movie. We feel bad for her, at times, knowing that she is making a ton of rookie mistakes, but that is a part of it: to learn as she goes, just as it is with the recovery and acceptance of her mother’s death, and the stopping of her downward spiral.

It is quite the transformation to go from a sophisticated scholar, to a girl having heroin injected into her legs, to having sex with multiple men in alleyways, to taking off, alone, on a dangerous hike that has been able to make many experienced hikers call it quits. Her journey is a tough one, but her goal is simple: make it to the end, so that she can start all over again, even if that is a scary proposition.

Wild is a very good film. It is calm, and quiet, and allows us to see and understand the introspection needed by our main character in order for her to simply be okay. Definitely worth watching.

Bloodline (TV Review)

Bloodline (TV Review)

Netflix keeps churning out solid original programming as the on-demand company continues its quest to take over the world. Bloodline is the latest offering from Netflix, and it is a show that features a stellar cast and a story about a renowned family whose past its dragged up and ripped apart with the return of a prodigal son and the death of the patriarch.

The Rayburns rule the Florida Keys, and when their hotel is celebrating its 45th anniversary, older brother Danny, the clear black sheep of the family, returns to the Keys to see the rest of his siblings (another two brothers and a sister), things are really shaken up, and the dark secrets of the family slowly get exposed, focusing mainly on the long-ago drowning death of their other sister.

blood4The cast here is a definite strength of the show, led by the always strong Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, ER). Chandler plays John, the good brother, who has grown up to become an important law man in the area. Cardellini is the lawyer sister, and Ben Mendelsohn plays the evil, yet kind of good, but definitely evil, Danny. Each of the actors in the show are able to create characters with depth and story to them, as the past is dug up and they need to face who their family really is, when memories and truth about the drowning of Rachel begin to come to light. The events of her drowning, and the aftermath, shook the family to the core, and now the adult children must deal with a past that was based around lies, manipulation, and the ostracizing of the bad seed: Danny. It is not only the central characters that are portrayed by strong actors, but there is an excellent supporting cast as well, filled with actors that are well known, or at least recognizable, bringing their roles to life.

The narrative of Bloodline is interesting, as it provides us with flashbacks to the younger days of the Rayburn children, as well as little hints of events to come. From the early episodes, we know everything is going to hit the fan with Danny, and that John is going to be playing a major role in the whole ordeal, but the show still manages to make it very interesting on how we are going to be getting to that final, culminating point. It makes for an interesting method of story telling, and for interesting TV.

blood3Bloodline isn’t a perfect show, and it actually moves quite slowly at some points, almost having too many good characters and secondary story lines to focus on. At times it feels like it is taking us away from the central plot, and there is no real reason why, but in the end, it does allows us to see a richer version of the characters had there not been the meandering secondary story lines. Aside from that, there is really a reason for everything, and all the minor events of the lives of the Rayburns that is exposed is for the greater good of the story. Even if an event feels minor, it plays a role in the complex construction of the family, and of the events that will befall them.

BloodlineSince the plot is far more character-driven, it does not lend itself to the traditional binge watching that Netflix is best known for. Bloodline is a show best taken in over a little bit more time. A couple of episodes here and there, instead of planting yourself on the couch until the whole adventure is over with (like something like House of Cards).

blood5My only complaint about the show would be the ending…literally the last line of the season. I get it that Bloodline deserves another season, as we really do want to see the continued fallout from the climactic event, but it created a bit too much of a random cliffhanger that kind of felt out of place in the scheme of the show. It is obvious how it will create havoc when Netflix decides to bring us Season 2, but I thought it could have been left for now, and brought up in the early episodes of the second go-round.

Even with that minor blip, Bloodline is a good, intense show, that gives us very layered and strong characters that we can easily cheer for or against as the episodes progress. Well worth a watch.

House of Cards: Season 3 (TV Review)

House of Cards: Season 3 (TV Review)

Frank Underwood is the President of the United States.

And he is still just as vicious as he has always been.

In the third season of the Netflix original series, House of Cards, we go into the Oval Office to see how Underwood handles the responsibility of being the most powerful man on Earth, and one half of the most powerful couple in the world.

cards2Although something has changed in this season: people are starting to stand up against him. Finding it difficult to get things done with the bureaucracy of the White House and Congress, Frank needs to go to different lengths to get things done. Only now, every move he makes is very visible in the media, and he is constantly questioned about his actions. It provides us with a new look at the way he deals with things with a ton of problems in his face.

Season 3 provides us with some continuing story lines, some of which aren’t completely necessary. I could have lived without the story of Doug trying to hunt down Rachel, to get revenge for the attack in the woods. While it really created and rounded the character of Doug, at times it felt like it was filler, as we waited to get back to the good stuff with Frank and Claire.

Some of the best scenes revolve around Underwood and his meetings with the Russian president as they try to negotiate (several times) over issues in the Middle East, a UN mission, problems in the United Nations Security Council, and with near constant manipulation of one another. It makes for good TV, and it provides us with someone who is not afraid of Underwood, and is not afraid of using his own tactics against him.

cards3We also get a continued look at the media, this time with Frank allowing a book to be written about him that is supposed to promote his idea for America Works, an all-inclusive plan to eliminate unemployment in the country. Here we are provided with an almost sensitive side to Frank, along with perhaps the weirdest scene in the entire series, during one of his late night meetings with the author he has hired to write the book.

New competition rises for Frank, as the primaries begin before the upcoming general elections. This creates the usual back alley deals and tricks in order for him to get where he wants to be. It also exposes us to one of the better characters on the show, Jackie, played extremely well by Molly Parker.

cards4House of Cards provides us with the entertainment that we are used to: a ruthless power couple constantly trying to expand and maintain their grip on power. This season is a little different than usual, in that Frank has now achieved everything he had wanted. He sits in the most powerful chair, so what could be next for him?

Legacy.

The third season is easily watchable, with a consistently strong script, good acting (highlighted of course by the lovably evil Kevin Spacey), and excellent directing. While not every part of the season is must-watch TV, the central story line remains exciting and entertaining, and we are always left to wonder how this man is able to get so many things done. He is good at what he does, and still is not afraid to stomp on whoever gets in his way.

The Killing: Season 4 (TV Review)

The Killing: Season 4 (TV Review)

I have to admit that the shine wore off of The Killing once the killer of Rosie Larsen was revealed. Season 3 provided some thrills, and then Netflix decided to release the final, concluding season, in an abbreviated run of episodes that would bring the show to a close. As incredible as the first couple of years were, something was lost along the way, to the point where the fourth season of the show sat in my Netflix queue for a very long time.

kill2The basic gist of Season 4 is that there is a new killing, this one of an entire family of a kid who attends the local military academy. Our two intrepid detectives, Linden and Holder, are on the case, determined to crash through the walls created by the school, and the crusty colonel in charge, played very well by Joan Allen.

As far as the murder goes, it was pretty interesting. In no way was it as all-encompassing as the Rosie Larsen killing and subsequent chase for the killer, but it is still pretty good as far as murder mysteries go. It never seemed as though it was able to keep us guessing like the first murder on the show did, but it was still entertaining, and stuck with the traditions of The Killing, in that it is quiet and violent, haunting and morbid.

The main issue that I had with the season was Detective Linden, who had been brilliantly portrayed on the screen over the course of the show by Mireille Enos. She became annoying. As her life is constantly unraveling, and she fails to deal with the issues in her real life, I felt that while she had always come across as a strong, determined woman, she degraded into a whiny nuisance. I felt far less sympathy for her, as we begin to see that all of the things that befall her life are her own poor choices and decisions. A secondary plot of Season 4 centers around the murder that Linden perpetrated on her boss at the end of Season 3, and the cover-up that she engages in with Holder to protect herself. Her new boss is on her tail, trying to uncover facts about the disappearance, and it was unfortunate the way she had fallen from grace from the way her character was initially written. Not that there was a massive difference in her character, just that we just stopped feeling bad for her.

kill3While The Killing was still a great source of entertainment, it definitely was starting to show its cracks by the end of its run, in my opinion. I understand that many will disagree, and argue that Season 4 created a fitting ending for the series, but I didn’t see it. The very ending of the show, once the murder was wrapped up, was odd, and out of place for the way that the entire series had been created and run. It came across as cheesy, and something that was not fitting of either Linden, or Holder.

Perhaps I didn’t love the final year of the show. This does not mean that it is bad television, not by any stretch. The Killing is still a compelling drama that leads us through some interesting twists and turns. Perhaps it was a victim of its own success, not being able to live up to the first couple of years of the show. Still worth watching, as there are plenty of shows that were worse than this finale. It would still rank quite highly on my list of murder dramas that are out there. I just wanted more, and I didn’t want to start disliking a character that we had rooted for over the course of a few years.

BoJack Horseman Christmas Special (TV Review)

BoJack Horseman Christmas Special (TV Review)

For fans of the Netflix series BoJack Horseman, of which there are many, there was a nice little surprise this week when a Christmas Special of the show appeared on our “Featured” menus. BoJack was back, if only for one more episode, while fans wait for the second season to arrive.

boThe premise of the Christmas Special is very basic. BoJack wakes up in one of his hungover stupors, being hassled by his not-really-house guest Todd, who wants nothing more for Christmas than to watch one of the Christmas Specials from BoJack’s 90’s sitcom, Horsin’ Around.

Begrudgingly, BoJack accepts, and we are able to watch a full episode of the show that made the horse famous back in the day, with the occasional cuts to present time, where Todd and BoJack comment on the episode.

bo3In the episode of Horsin’ Around, it pretty much follows what we would have expected from a 90’s sitcom Christmas Special: kids don’t believe in Santa, learn about him, try to make the holiday special, learn the true meaning of Christmas, etc.

Even for playing the show-within-a-show as tongue-in-cheek, it is pretty average. The best parts come from the randomly yelled out comments from the “live studio audience.” They provided the show with the best laughs in the episode.

While it is nice to see another episode of BoJack Horseman, it is not up to its usual quality, mainly because none of the secondary characters that we enjoyed so much from Season 1 make an appearance. The show-within-a-show idea is quite clever, but for much of the episode, it comes across as hastily put together, and could have been darker, or more in-depth, as the series has been known to be.

Worth a watch, since it is only 22 minutes long, but definitely not BoJack at his best.