Saturday, March 31, 2012

The show that desperately wants to be edgy: A review of 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23's' pilot

I really wanted to like Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 because the premise, while not the most original concept, is really fun, and I've been a fan of Kristen Ritter since Veronica Mars. The commercials for the show looked somewhat lame, but after the Breaking Bad reference in one of them, I was willing to give the show a shot. Unfortunately, it blew that shot.

One of the strangest things about Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 is its marking strategy. Most of the commercials try to portray the show as a super-edgy and scandalous. However, I found that the pilot just came off as trying way too hard to be this and failing. I think the show might fare better if it didn't try so hard to be shocking and embraced that it's a network show being paired with Modern Family. I'd enjoy if it more if it focused on being witty rather than being scandalous.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Orphan

Most of us have had it happen to us. You're browsing online when you accidentally come across a spoiler for a movie you've been looking forward to. Typically you're disappointed, and your desire to see that movie may even fade away. Then sometimes you come across a spoiler for a movie you have no plans to see, and it's so ridiculous that you decide that you need to see that movie. The latter is what happened to me with the movie Orphan.

I suppose my need to see Orphan really wasn't that urgent because I read the spoiler when the movie came out in 2009, and I didn't see the movie until three years had passed. Still, when I saw that Orphan was airing on TV, I didn't hesitate to record it to my DVR (although it still took me another month or two to watch it).

Orphan focuses on Kate and John Coleman, a couple who are dealing with the miscarriage of their third child. They decide to adopt a child and come home with Esther. At first Esther seems like the perfect child, but because this is a horror movie rather than a Hallmark movie, Kate soon starts to suspect that Esther's not quite as perfect as she appears to be.

I think that the mindset with which one approaches Orphan plays a big role in the way he or she will view it. If I had gone into Orphan expecting a serious, scary thriller, I probably would have thought it was terrible. Instead, I expected a ridiculous movie about an evil orphan that I could laugh at, and I was thoroughly entertained.

While I was probably more laughing at the movie than I was laughing with it, Orphan was at least a little bit higher in quality than I expected. The acting was nothing amazing, but it was decent. The little girl who played the daughter of the family was especially adorable and well cast. The back story wasn't particularly original, but it worked well for the movie.

Before watching Orphan, you should be aware that it's really not scary at all. There are a couple moments that might be described as creepy, but they're campy enough that they'll probably just make you laugh. There are a couple jump scenes, but most of them fall flat. In fact, the photography as a whole was kind of wonky. Some of it worked, but there were several instances of strange shots that almost felt like student experimenting.

Overall, Orphan is a hard movie to take seriously, but with the right mindset, it's a decent little thriller. I wouldn't recommend going to much trouble to watch it, but if you catch it on TV, you might want to give it a shot. Personally, I think knowing the twist made the movie ten times more fun to watch. So I'm putting a spoiler in this review (just click the button below), but I'll leave it up to you if you want to read it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Masochistic Viewings: Whitney "The Ex Box" 1x19

There's a fair amount of television shows that I love to scorn and mock that I've never actually taken the time to watch. Perhaps it's unfair of me to do so, but I've had a hard time subjecting to myself to these shows that appear to be so atrocious. That changes, at least in part, today. In Masochistic Viewings, I'm going to subject myself to shows that I've ridiculed but never actually watched. Who knows? Maybe I'll prove myself wrong and find a new favorite show, but it's more likely I'll just grow stronger in my hatred.

For my first victim (or I suppose you could say torturer), I've chosen Whitney. I've showered hatred upon Whitney for a while and cringe every time I see the commercials, but I've never actually watched an episode until now.

Source: Screencap
I'm going to assume that the episode I watched, "The Ex Box," was a fair representation of the show because two of the Hulu reviews mentioned that it was much better than the earlier episodes. "The Ex Box" was bad enough that I shudder to think what atrocities would lay in store if I were to turn to the pilot, but before I go further into that, I'll give a quick recap of the storylines.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Artist

Credit: The Weinstein Company

As of late, this blog has been a lot more focused on the small screen than the big screen. That's probably not going to change any time soon, but I thought it would be nice to write a post that fits into the movies portion of the blog. I finally saw The Artist on Monday; as it is not only a movie but also this year's Best Picture winner, I thought a review of it would be a suitable topic.

Most of you are probably aware that the The Artist is a black-and-white silent movie. Those of you who've only seen the trailers may not be aware of the film's plot. Going into the movie my knowledge of The Artist didn't go much farther than that it is a black-and-white silent movie with a largely-French cast and Uggie. For those of you who's knowledge falls somewhere along those lines, I'll start with a brief synopsis.

The Artist begins with a focus on George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent movie star in the 1920s who becomes enchanted with aspiring actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). When "talkies" or talking pictures start to replace silent movies, George feels out of place in the new era of cinema, but Peppy's career takes flight.

When I think of The Artist, the first word that comes to mind is charming. From the bouncy music to the adorable dog, the film brings charm in spades. It's the kind of movie that made me want to smile as I watched it. Without this charm, I don't think the The Artist would have worked well at all; although I was surprised at how much of a story The Artist was able to convey, it was still a film with a good deal of fluff. With this charm, however, it was quite enjoyable.

One of the biggest sources of this charm was the cast. While there were a few familiar faces in the cast (John Goodman and Missi Pyle, for example), most of the cast, including the leads, were relatively unknown actors, at least in the United States. This was a wise choice because recognizable leads, even likable ones, would have taken away from the nostalgic feel of the movie. Additionally, Dujardin and Bejo were perfectly cast, and it's hard to image anyone else doing a better job in their roles. Dujardin is dashing as George and Bejo is utterly endearing as Peppy.

As great Dujardin and Bejo are in The Artist, the true breakout star of the film is Uggie. Uggie plays the role of George's faithful canine companion. He's absolutely adorable, and his scenes are the ones that brought the most laughs. I'm not the only one who's been enchanted by Uggie. There was even a tongue-in-cheek campaign to "Consider Uggie" for an Oscar.

Although I found the movie charming, there were a few times during The Artist that my mind began to wander. The lack of voices was a bit jarring, and I have to admit that I'm used to having both audible dialogue and visuals to hold my attention. Additionally, there were a couple of small moments near the end of the movie where I felt it began to drag slightly. Still, for the majority of the film I was entertained.

The Artist is a fun, fluffy film that stands out due to its presentation and charm. If you're willing to watch a black-and-white silent film, I'd recommend giving it a shot. If nothing else, you'll probably come out with a new-found or renewed appreciation of Uggie.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

ABC Wednesday Night Comedies: "Leap Day" and "Cocktails and Dreams"

I'm starting to feel that my feelings about Modern Family and Happy Endings have an inverse relationship. The better Happy Endings gets, the worse Modern Family does. I loved Modern Family from the beginning, and it still manages to pull out a good episode now and then. However, it's truly been on the decline lately. On the other hand, I hated Happy Endings' pilot, but it has slowly become one of my favorite current comedies. While I'm not planning giving up on Modern Family, it's episodes like last night that make me wish for the glory days of season one.

Modern Family 3x17: "Leap Day"

I'll be honest; I think "Leap Day" was one of Modern Family's weakest episodes to date. Usually Luke's and Phil's storylines (particularly when they have one together) are the saving grace of even a less-than-stellar episode, but their storyline last night was perhaps the worse of the three. The whole storyline pretty much consisted of one unfunny joke: girls are so crazy when they're on their periods. Yes, that one joke was repeated over and over in a completely unrealistic manner. Watching this storyline, I thought there was no way that a woman wrote this storyline because it was so unrealistic. In fact, it's almost as if the writer who penned the episode has never actually met a woman and used only cliche depictions from other television shows as the basis for the storyline. I understand that comedies often use exaggeration and I'm sure that's what they were going for here, but I felt it just came out as a really cliche and one-note mess. On a positive note, I did chuckle at Luke's attempt to fake an injury with the fake blood.

The Cam and Mitchell storyline didn't do much for me either. It consisted of Mitchell planning Cam's 10th or 40th (depending on how you interpret leap year birthdays) birthday party. Cam really wasn't very likable in this storyline and threw a tantrum when he felt like an inadequate amount of effort had gone into his party (even though he claimed he didn't want one). The whole storyline felt kind of tedious, but it did contain my favorite moment of the episode: an oddly-relevant, clever The Monkees joke.

The last storyline, Jay and Gloria's, never really seemed to have much direction. It pretty much consisted of Gloria wanting Jay to punch someone and was sprinkled with "Jay is old" jokes. It felt under-baked at best and seemed to be another iteration of a storyline we've seen plenty of times on the show.

With three mediocre storyline, I found "Leap Day" to be a pretty bad episode. It was sprinkled with a few good moments, but as a whole, I'd definitely give it a thumbs down. It looked particular bad in conjunction with the a-mah-zing episode of Happy Endings that followed it.

Happy Endings 2x16: "Cocktails and Dreams"

Honestly, how great was "Cocktails and Dreams?" It was probably one the funniest episodes yet in a very funny show. Typically, even in a good episode of a show, one or two moments might stand out as hilarious. "Cocktails and Dreams" was so full of great moments that each comment I read about the episode online seemed to point out a different one. Just to name a few of the moments, I enjoyed Penny's almost suicide (I don't know why I found this so funny, but it was executed perfectly), the Colin Hanks guest appearance (and Dave worrying about calling him Tom), Penny hiding her non-detox food, and Jane and Brad waking each other up after their dreams.

Even though I haven't been particularly rooting for Alex and Dave to get back together, I think the idea works pretty well. While the show starting by revolving around their failed relationship, it had been pretty much pushed to the side other than a few moments of foreshadowing here and there. As long as they don't put too much focus on Alex and Dave, I have faith that Happy Endings will handle the relationship well.

All in all, it was a fantastic episode, and I look forward to Happy Endings more and more every week.