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.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (TV Review)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (TV Review)

The whole premise of the new Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is pretty funny, and the success of the entire show is based on the likability of star Ellie Kemper.

She has always been a goofy, enjoyable character, from our previous times seeing her on her years on The Office and in films like Bridesmaids. That continues on her new show, and makes it worth watching.

kimmy2Kimmy is one of the “Indiana Mole Women,” a group of girls who had been held in an underground apocalypse bunker for 15 years, because they were told by their cult leader that the world outside had ended. Finally found, they are released into the world, and the plucky Kimmy decides to give life in New York City a shot. She quickly gets a job as a nanny, and from here we are able to see her try to reincorporate herself into the normal world, of which she has missed so much.

The initial season provides some good laughs, and doesn’t rely too heavily on the fact that Kimmy is definitely out of the loop. If you think of the advances and changes over the past 15 years, she definitely gets on her feet pretty quickly, and is able to adapt to the new world fairly seamlessly (this can be irritating at times, but it generally works for the show). There could have been several episodes where she is discovering new things, but the writers hold back, almost putting it in the background at times that this woman lived underground for a long period of time.

The show was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, so there is a definite sense of humour that is parallel to what we witnessed on the often great 30 Rock, including the use of Jane Krakowski again, in a role not terribly dissimilar to her one on Fey’s previous series. Unbreakable, like 30 Rock before it, is very watchable, and it shouldn’t take too long for viewers to pour through the first season of the show. It is easily digestible, and generally fun as we watch Kimmy, the Mole Woman with the heart of gold, try to make it in the world, while at the same time trying to rectify her own questionable past.

kimmy3One of the best roles in the series has to be John Hamm, who plays the Preacher/Cult Leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (one of the best character names ever), in his own brand of goofy and hilarious.

Kimmy Schmidt doesn’t really offer high brow comedy, but it is a good little sitcom that hopefully has some legs and is able to produce a couple more entertaining seasons. Most of the episodes are fun to watch, and it never gets too bogged down in the emotional side of things, instead, thankfully focusing on the quirky and silly. That is what makes the show an entertaining watch. It never really takes itself too seriously, and the primary focus is always on having a good time, instead of going through the emotional hell it would have actually been for a character in Kimmy’s situation.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (Film Review)

Celeste and Jesse Forever (Film Review)

Here we’ve got an indie romantic comedy that features two actors (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg), most known and loved for their purely comedic and sitcom work, showing off their chops in more dramatic roles. And it works very well for both of them.

Celeste and Jesse were best friends from a young age, ended up getting married too young to one another, and decided to separate after six years of marriage. Even though they aren’t going to be married anymore, they want to remain friends, which they do; almost too well. Despite the separation, they still spend all of their time together, which is frustrating for their friends.

celeste3It is also difficult as they try to move on from one another, but keep going back to each other. We have to wonder if they really want to be apart from each other at all.

As the film progresses, we see the two characters doing their best to move on with their lives, while sort of trying to hide that fact from the other. That makes things complicated for them, and for the new people that have entered their lives.

The script, written partially by Rashida Jones is well done, and provides Celeste and Jesse Forever with some good characterization, some humorous scenes, and a strong cast of secondary characters, including the pretentious and unlikely friend of Riley, an up-and-coming pop star played really well by Emma Roberts (who herself is becoming a bit of an indie-film queen while trying to shed her Nickelodeon image).

Both of the titular characters are fun enough and likable enough that we want them to both succeed in the film, even if we know that means that they can’t be together. Or can they? Rashida Jones, known for her role on The Office, and Andy Samberg, known for Saturday Night Live and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are both excellent in this movie. We enjoy both of them, making it hard for us to cheer for one over the other when all is said and done. We want them both to be alright in the end. The both play their roles realistically and enjoyably.

Celeste and Jesse Forever offers a unique insight on the idea of marriage for people currently in their 20s and 30s. It is a different viewpoint than was held by our parents, and it is seen as something less permanent than it used to be, something that no doubt contributes to the astronomical divorce rate. But it also does a good job of looking at how people of that age look at life in general. There certainly are people that are very driven, but they are opposed by those who take a very laid back approach to life. Oftentimes, there is very little in the middle, and this is what causes many of the problems with these relationships.

celeste2The film, while being a romantic comedy, probably focuses more on the romance and the drama than it does the comedy, but it does so well. We are provided comedic relief in the form of the meltdowns of the main characters, the awkward situations they (more often Jones) get themselves into, and the strong secondary cast.

While Celeste and Jesse Forever might not be the most romantic of romantic comedies, or the most comedic, it is one of the most real, and that is what is usually being sought after in an indie film. Realism. We are provided with likable characters, strong acting, and a story that is engrossing enough to keep us entertained to the end.

A strong film, all around.

Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve: Season 1-2 (TV Review)

Twenty Twelve is another pseudo-documentary from Britain’s BBC, that is, of course, pretty solid. It seems like every TV show out of Britain is at least pretty good, going all the way up to excellent. They are simply different from what we are used to, and there is generally always success.

The story of Twenty Twelve is quite simple: a group of people are in charge of organizing the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and they are being filmed while trying to get things done, while avoiding humorous crisis after humorous crisis. The gang in charge, all with their own level of British silliness and foibles, are generally enjoyable, as they do their best not to muck up what is to be the largest sports spectacle in the world. The characters range from the head of the whole thing, the PR lady, the head of legacy and sustainability, the traffic guy, the doting assistant, and the poor former athlete, who is generally confused with what is happening the whole time, while delivering some of the worst motivational speeches you will ever see. The actors here, as with many British shows, have been seen before: there are people from the gamut of UK television and film, like Downton AbbeyShaun of the Dead, and the hilarious Peep Show. It provides the show with an instant sense of familiarity, and allows us to instantly like the characters, even if they are annoying at times.

2012Twenty Twelve is typically British, in that it really does use the typically sedate and dry sense of humour in order to push the show forward. There are some spectacular scenes, including the discussion on the bathroom situations in the athlete’s village, and the double-entendre discussion of how plumbing works for men and women. Something lovable about British TV shows, is that we can honestly ask ourselves if something was meant to be funny, or just was, or that’s just the way they are. As usual, as with most TV series from across the pond, it feasts on our ability to watch awkwardness, and Twenty Twelve is another solid producer in this. Not to the extent of the original The Office, but there are still scenes that are able to make our skin crawl, because it is just painfully awkward.

As usual, I stumbled across this show on Netflix, and it is a decent watch. The two seasons are short, only a few episodes each, so there are not significant demands on your time to pour through the two seasons of the whole thing. The stories themselves are pretty engaging, and manage to provide some decent entertainment. The leadership group getting lost in London due to the miserable traffic and construction delays is excellent watching.

2012-3This show does not belong among the cream of the crop of British TV. It is consistently good, but never really great. As with these mockumentary-type shows, it is partially about the humour, and a little bit about the drama. There is that blend here as well. Neither are exceptional in Twenty Twelve, but neither are bad, either.

I wouldn’t rush out to watch the show, but if you have nothing else going on in your Netflix queue, there are worse things you could be viewing than Twenty Twelve.

The Mindy Project: Season 1 (TV Review)

The Mindy Project: Season 1 (TV Review)

Another new release to the Netflix selection are the first two seasons of The Mindy Project, the brainchild of comedy writer and The Office alum, Mindy Kaling.

The premise of the show is that Mindy is a successful OBGYN in New York, but highly unsuccessful at her love life. Her age is creeping up on her, she drinks too much, is too concerned about her weight, is obsessed with celebrity lives, and bounces from poor relationship to poor relationship.

mindy2The Mindy Project is a show geared towards women, as she embodies so many cliched aspects of the approaching middle-aged single woman, and the majority of the laughs are focused around the calamity that is her love life. She is clumsy and awkward, and manages to choose the wrong person for every one of her relationships. Mindy wants her love life to be like a romantic comedy, but this obsession with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan films causes her unrealistic expectations in what reality will be like.

Although I never watched it, I feel that this show can somewhat slide into the void left behind when Sex and the City went off the air. Mindy provides a beacon for women who struggle in the love department. She is aware of her faults, and struggles with the balance of who she is, and who she feels others want her to be. Mindy struggles with being herself, and she has issues with being too self-centered. But these are issues that normal people face, despite them being dramatically blown up for the purpose of the entertainment.

Mindy herself is a likable character, which is able to make this show as solid as it is. There are laughs that are missing in this show, and it frequently flirts with becoming a drama, but it does create numerous humorous situations that make it worth watching.

The Mindy Project is pretty charming, but might not be as binge-worthy as other new sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The rest of the cast is pretty respectable as well. They don’t garner as many laughs as they could, as is often expected from the supporting characters, but they do provide the occasional comic relief, specifically the male nurse, Morgan. They also provide some obvious plot features that we simply know are going to happen. The story is not entirely original or unpredictable, but it maintains enough freshness to keep us watching.

Overall, The Mindy Project is worth a watch. It is nothing life-changing in the sitcom genre, but it provides enough charm to make it decent viewing.