Films that are “Based on a True Story” are made for one of three reasons: 1) they have a clear message that someone feels passionate about; 2) they tell an unbelievable or truly remarkable story; or 3) they uncover and/or showcase incredible tests of strength, honor and heroism. Going into Battle of the Sexes, I knew nothing about the events that transpired between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). To be perfectly honest, like a lot of people, I’m sure, I didn’t even know who these people were. Because of the subject matter, I figured Billie Jean King would be triumphant, but the actual match happened before I was born, and I don’t watch tennis, so there’s really no reason why I would know what transpired between these two stalwarts of the sport. After seeing it, it’s clear that directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris had something to say with Sexes, but the execution of those messages — including equality for women in all aspects of life as well as equal rights for the LGBT community — got a little lost in translation. Read Full Review
When studios decide to make a sequel to a beloved (or financially successful) movie, they are walking a fine line. To make a successful sequel, you not only have to bring back all of the elements that clicked with audiences to begin with, but to keep it from feeling stagnant, you have to up the ante by delivering bigger and better ideas, struggles and character development. Often, these decisions fail — either the movie doesn’t go far enough and the film feels like a repetitive money grab, or they go too far, and it doesn’t feel anything like the original… it becomes too over-the-top or silly for its own good. But when you’re able to find the right balance between heightening the story, expanding the lore, and giving fans what they liked with extra bite, fans will continue to follow the characters wherever you take them. Kingsman: The Golden Circle falls into the latter category, as it brings back everything we loved of the original in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a tedious retread. Read Full Review
I’m not quite sure what to make of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!. On the one hand, I was intrigued by what the writer/director was attempting to do and how he navigated the first half (or two-thirds) of the film. On the other hand, the last third is so bizarre and so disjointed and removed from all semblance of sanity, it’s hard to understand the point of the whole thing. To say the end comes out of left field would be an understatement; it felt like an abandoned child who appears out of nowhere and claims to be related to someone who just won the lottery. Aronofsky has the right to make whatever movie he likes, and he certainly has pushed the boundaries over the years with bizarre, sometimes sickening character studies. This time, though, he may have gone a bit too deep into his own head where he wasn’t quite able to find his way back from the edge of his own self-indulgences. Read Full Review
Best Cross-Over: Supergirl/TheFlash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow
Now this is how a crossover is done. Taking the kernel of an idea, Greg Berlanti and his team developed a four-hour (well, technically three-hour) mega-episode that gave us some incredible new team-ups and fresh interactions between characters that may never talk to one another again. Though the episode of Supergirl can’t really be considered a part of the crossover (since the part that included Barry and Cisco arriving on Earth 38(!) was only part of the last two minutes, and then repeated in The Flash), the other three episodes took the crossover idea to new heights, doing its best to include everyone while building on the mythologies of each individual show. Though it could be argued that the episode of Arrow diverged a little too far out of the crossover aspect, taking too much time inside the “fake” world and not enough time showing the team attempting to get them back, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow shined bright with action, intrigue and enough comic relief to leave you in stitches. With Cisco providing Kara a way to jump back to Earth 1 whenever she needs to, and each major character having gone through some transformation by the end of the event, we could already see what the repercussions of this major battle would take on each series moving forward, setting up not only future major crossover events, but mini one’s as well.
This season’s most noticeable trend: Movie to TV Adaptations
Television adaptations of movies is hardly a new concept. But over the last few years, it seems to have grown into a normal form of inspiration, one that will churn out half a dozen new shows based on movies every year. And just like any idea, for every adaptation that builds upon its source material in a terrific way (12 Monkeys, Bates Motel), there’s one that fails to come even close to living up to its predecessor (Rush Hour, Minority Report). Unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, what with there being around 35 adaptations currently in the pipeline, even though the statistics continue to hold true. Four new movie adaptations hit the small screen this fall and all three were executed with just the right amount of flair. Lethal Weapon was the leader of the pack, doing what Rush Hour couldn’t — teaming two great actors to build on the mythology set up by Shane Black. It doesn’t try to be the movie; it just borrows the best ideas and runs with them in a funnest, most emotional way it can. Frequency also took this route, using the first half of the film to set up the show, then diverting quite well into it’s own must-see mystery. The Exorcist was at first an adaptation in name only… until they revealed that Geena Davis’s character was actually Regan from the original film, which only added some great dimension to an already scary, riveting show. And on cable, Shooter showed its might by staying true to the essence of the film while providing some good action among the mystery and intrigue. Alas, on the other side of the spectrum we had Taken, a feeble attempt at giving us Brian Mills’s backstory; Training Day, where, aside from the late Bill Paxton, the acting was mediocre at best and the vibe was completely lacking in energy; Uncle Buck, which never found a stable voice; and The Mist, which yes, is also another adaptation of the Stephen King short story, but never manages to find any semblance of the claustrophobia of either the book or the much superior film.
Coming Into Her Own Award: Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong), Scorpion
Three years ago, when Scorpion first premiered, I commented that Happy Quinn was the worst character of the new year. I’m happy to say that over the last season and a half, Jadyn Wong has finally won me over. The more the show has come into its own, the more each character has found their place on the team, and the chemistry between everyone has become so easy and relaxing. But more to the point, Happy’s story arc involving her false pregnancy, her fake marriage to Walter (Elyes Gabel), and her real marriage to Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), though somewhat contrived for drama’s sake, truly took Happy’s character in a new direction, one that helped her evolve into someone I could get behind.
Creepiest New Character: The Tooth Monster (Channel Zero: Candle Cove)
When he first appeared, I wasn’t sure what to make of the this thing. Then you realize the creature is made up of human teeth. And I thought the Candle Cove puppet show that mesmerized (hypnotized) the kids was the creepiest thing on this show. Nope. Then to find out this is how Mike’s (Paul Schneider) twin brother Eddie (Luca Villacis), who Mike killed when they were kids, is able to manifest himself in the real world until he can take over his brother’s body, the whole scenario is just one big weird and bizarre experience.
Characters in need of a spinoff: Castiel (Misha Collins) and Crowley (Mark Sheppard), Supernatural
Supernatural has tried to do the spin-off thing before without success (and will try again soon with their planned Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) spinoff). One reason being, Supernatural stems from the chemistry between Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles), so without them, it’s hard to watch another generic Supernatural copy. However, if there was any characters that could be viably spun-off into their own show, it would be Castiel and Crowley. I know it was only a few short episodes, and the ramifications of the recent season finale would keep it from happening, but their team-up to search for Satan throughout this past season has turned out some of the funniest moments on the show. It would be a hoot to watch them become the new Sam and Dean, and because they are already established favorites in their own right, fans would no doubt tune in to see what crazy, scary and ultimately obnoxious cases they would take on. Heck, I like the idea so much, I made a poster.
Actor who’s better than the show: Barry Watson, Date My Dad
You know an actor is good when they leave a show and the quality sharply declines. For example, when Barry Watson left 7th Heaven, the show became so much soapier, it was immediately apparent he was the glue that help the sacchrine in place. After battling — and beating — Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I’ve wanted him to make a great comeback in a show worth his talents. Alas, when Watson returned to television, he’s strandled with a show that’s so over the top and pathetically lazy that you can’t help but feel for him. Whenever he’s on screen, there’s a quiet energy and lightness about him and his surroundings; whenever he’s not, everything feels forced and hits with the thud of an anvil on Wyle E. Coyote. The overall writing and acting isn’t much better, cramming messages down our throats with labored performances and setting up situations even Lifetime wouldn’t touch. Barry Watson deserves so much more.
Best Halloween Episode: Last Man Standing
Holiday episodes can either come off extremely cheesy are become instant classics, especially on a sitcom. Usually, holiday episodes for a long-running show start to get tired (see Roseanne), as all of the best jokes are utilized early in the runs and the writers don’t quite seem to know where to go with them after a time. However, in its sixth season, Tim Allen and his team of writers came up with a Halloween idea that could have went horribly wrong, but was ended up being executed perfectly. As each member of the Baxter family dressed up as someone else in the family, it was clever to see each of the characters portray another in a cool meta sort of way, giving a fresh perspective on the characters while not overdoing the parody.
Most Surprising Death: Heather Pinkney (Jillian Murray), Code Black
Aside from The Walking Dead, most shows refrain from killing off their major characters unless their a sci-fi show where no character death matters because they always bring them back to life (and why Alice’s death, though surprising, isn’t at the top of the list). So it was very surprising to see one of the main doctors on Code Black succumb to a major outbreak at Angels Memorial. In a show like this, you tend to believe that any main character will be miraculously saved by a last minute realization of a cure. but Heather Pinkney became a major casualty when the virus took her before a cure could be found. Completely shocking, yet so in tune with the overall vibe of the show. RIP Dr. Pinkney. You will be missed.
Oddest threesome: Eliot (Hale Appleman), his Fillory wife (Brittany Curran) and a one-night stand, The Magicians
It may not sound odd on paper when Fillory’s newest high King, Eliot has a threesome with both his arranged wife and some new hookup he met when returning back to Breakbill’s. Here’s the rub: Eliot can’t physically leave Fillory now that he’s high king, so his fiendish friend, Margo (Summer Bishil) helps create a doppelgänger for Eliot that can travel back to the real world, one in which Eliot can control, but only when his other body is asleep. So, when he decides to hookup with some random guy at a party at his dorm in the real world, his Fillory wife decides to have some fun at the same time. As Eliot’s consciousness jumps back and forth between bodies, the man enjoys a threesome that the other two participants are unaware of. Yeah. That just happened.
And with that, we close out the 2016-2017 season. Come back next year for more chaotic television awards.
You’ve seen some of the more prominent awards (read Part 1), now let’s move onto some of the specialty awards.
Best Twist: This Is Us
This Is Us spent the summer months advertising a new drama that revolved around four people who happened to share the same birthday. How these characters would be connected, if at all, was still unknown. As the premiered episode progressed, and we grew more invested in each character’s emotional baggage, we learned Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) were twins and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) was adopted. That in and of itself would probably have been enough to keep you interested for at least a few more episodes as the character’s grew. But it wasn’t until that last five minutes, when a firefighter joins Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who earlier lost one of his triplets, at the baby viewing window in the hospital saying he brought in an abandoned baby, and then they cut to some random dud hangin’ out in seventies clothes and smoking inside the hospital that everything came into focus with a twist this side of Lost, — Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are everyone’s parents!! — sealing the deal that this show was going to be must-see TV.
Best Non-Series Finale: Once Upon A Time
In what probably should have been the series finale of Once Upon A Time, everyone got their happily ever after: Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) are happily married, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) have a happy family, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) finally finds happiness with Belle (Emilie De Ravin)…. heck, even the evil queen (Lana Parrilla) gets to run off with Robin (Sean Maguire). The end was also a nice nod to the opening scene of the series when the little girl (Alison Fernandez) who’s been tasked by her father to protect the storybook finds her way to now older Henry’s (Andrew J. West) apartment, claiming to be his daughter and saying his family needs his help. It’s a terrific close to the loop of a fantastical series. But no, even with six main departures, the show will continue with this new story line. Where it goes, how they explain why Belle and Emma aren’t around even though Hook and Rumple are still regulars, I’m not sure. But my guess is, it would have been a much happier ending the show where they started instead of trying to milk some final cash out this waning property.
Best Milestone Episode: Arrow
Arrow‘s 100th episode had a goliath task: not only did it have to appease fans of the series by delivering the right amount of nostalgia and call backs to what made the show so good from the start, but it also had to bring in elements from the super CW-Arrowverse crossover. In writing the episode so that the team members that were all originally from Arrow (including Oliver (Stephen Amell), Thea (Willa Holland), Diggle (David Ramsey), Sara (Caity Lotz) and Ray (Brandon Routh)) were abducted by the Dominators, the team behind Arrow was able to accomplish both quite nicely — although it could be argued that in relation to the crossover, the episode felt more like a distraction. For fans of Arrow, it was great seeing all of the characters from the past in what amounts to Oliver’s own Flashpoint, in which he got to see life as it would have been had he and his father were never shipwrecked. It gave us all enough callbacks to the first few seasons with quick flashes from different characters as they learned they were being manipulated, and moved the show forward at the same time it settled into the crossover and pushed toward the conclusion in Legends of Tomorrow.
Most Insane Producer: Max Landis
If you have ever seen Max Landis in an interview, no explanation is needed for the ideas that seem to generate in the man’s head. With being a co-creator and occasional writer on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and a producer on Channel Zero: Candle Cove, Max Landis brought the weirdest, creepiest, most bizarre characters to life this season — and it was mesmerizing to watch. He may seem like an odd duck, but his imagination is one magnificent, original hell. I can’t wait to see what genius he has in store for the future.
Most Sentimental Moment: Gibbs (Mark Harmon) hugging Palmer (Brian Dietzen), NCIS
Leroy Jethro Gibbs has never been the sentimental type. Yes he has shown his affection in different ways, such as kissing Abby (Pauley Perrette) on the cheek like a daughter or slapping DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) upside the head like a son, but he’s never shown true, loving affection. This revelation came out during the episode titled, “Keep Going”, which focused on lovable Medical Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). When Palmer attempts to talk a kid who just lost his father from jumping off the ledge of a building, insights into how Jimmy sees all of his co-workers, including the harder than nails Gibbs, come to light. Palmer even goes so far as to talk about Gibbs’s wife and child, still a sore subject for Gibbs even after all this time. At one point he mentions that Gibbs has never hugged anyone, even when they sort of expected or needed one. But that’s Gibbs. So what a powerful moment it was when Palmer tries desperately to apologize for some of what he said, and Gibbs in true Gibbs fashion doesn’t say a word; he just pulls Jimmy in for one of the most sentimental hugs on television.
Best Homage: Joe (Jeremy Maguire) Modern Family
In an episode that saw little Joe trying to prove he’s just like his dad, Jay (Ed O’Niell), we also get a very subtle, blink and you miss it homage to another long-running Ed O’Neill sitcom. Sitting on the couch, watching television with his hand in his pants, little Joe just may have some Al Bundy in his blood as well.
Best Cameo Appearance: Lucille, Supernatural
Fans of Supernatural have been clambering for the return of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John Winchester ever since his final passing in season 2. Fans got a small taste this season as the actors payed homage to not only the character but the actor this season when a very special guest showed up for a quick scene. Ever since Morgan took the reigns of Negan on The Walking Dead, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padelecki and the producers of Supernatural ribbed Morgan by claiming that Big Daddy Winchester has used Negan’s most prized possession — his barbed-wire-laced bat, Lucille. On episode 15 of season 12, Lucille made her first appearance on the show, where Dean (Ackles) and Sam (Padelecki) come home after a battle carrying the bat. “Dad would have loved this thing,” Dean says. Ah, the metaness of it all. If we can’t have Morgan back on the show, this little wink was a nice surprise.
Too Soon Award: Michael Weatherly, Bull
Michael Weatherly’s departure from the still hit show, NCIS, hit a lot of fans hard. After all, what’s Gibbs without DiNozzo? I understand that actor’s sometimes need to move on. Just like any ordinary job, spending over a dozen years on the same show can become rather stale, and if you’re starting to phone in a performance, it might be best to move on. But to know that Weatherly already had a new show lined up even before the dust could settle on DiNozzo’s story was a little jarring. Had he taken a year off to revitalize his energy, I could see it; jumping right back into a hour-long procedural seems a little excessive, and didn’t allow viewers to properly say goodbye to such a beloved character. Because of this, although his new show was another winner for CBS, it was hard to distinguish Weatherly’s Bull from Weatherly’s DiNozzo, and that may have done more harm to the show than good.
Most Devastating Tribute: Nashville
If the death of Rayna James (Connie Britton) wasn’t enough, Nashville took her mourning to a whole new level. After frenemy Juliet Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) passes her tribute song over to Rayna’s daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella), the young rising star breaks down after seeing pictures of her and her mom on stage. Rayna’s husband Deacon (Charles Esten) and youngest daughter Daphne (Maisy Stella) run to her aid and immediately begin singing the rest of the haunting “Sanctuary” to a standing ovation by the hundreds of fans, relatives and friends in the audience. If you weren’t crying, you have no heart.
Come back tomorrow for the last of the 2017 television awards, including the creepiest character, the most noticeable trend and the oddest threesome. (Check out Part 3)
It’s that time again! The Emmy’s are right around the corner, so herewith are the best of the best of the 2016-2017 television season. Remember, these are NOT picks for who should win the Emmy’s — that show is so biased, I can’t watch! These are awards I give for the best and worst moments of the television season from the shows I actually watch (so no Game of Thrones or Empire moments; sorry). So please, leave your comments and choices in the comments section at your leisure. (For more fun, check out 2015-1016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014 and 2012-2013 awards.) Check out the full list of awards!
Back in the early 2000s, Reese Witherspoon was the go-to girl-next-door. She was adorable sweetness wrapped in a fun, lovable piñata of joy. Her rise to fame was quick, beginning in the late nineties and culminating in 2001 with her breakout film, Legally Blonde. For several years more years, she starred in a number of fun, lightweight romantic comedies with a few dramatic parts thrown in for good measure. But as fame tends to do when actors grow older — and new rising starlets started to take roles she normally would have secured — Witherspoon fell off the blockbuster map for several years, occasionally appearing in mediocre Hollywood tripe or small indie films where she could show off her Oscar-worthy talents.
As she continued to become yesterday’s news in Hollywood’s eyes, many probably forgot how lovely she is when she’s allowed to blossom with the right material. Enter Nancy Meyers, who also found some great success in the early twenty-first century as a writer, director and producer with romantic dramedies. Now, with the help of her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who wrote and directed Home Again, the two romantic stalwarts have teamed to bring together a fun, lighthearted romantic comedy that does everything it’s supposed to do while never taking itself too seriously. Read Full Review
Science fiction has always been a vehicle for giving a twist to other genres. Whether it’s fantasy, drama, comedy, action or horror, science fiction has elevated these genres into a different realm by infusing aliens, spaceships, advanced and future technology, and time travel into those basic genres. In other words, if you to remove the “science-fiction” element, you’d still have a story to tell. When you’ve developed strong, relateable characters, created an intriguing plot and written smooth prose that flow across the page like butter across popcorn, you become invested enough to forget you’ve been transported to a different world and accept the weird things that come along with it. With her book Transmuted, Robin Praytor does just that – transports you to a world beyond our galaxy but keeps makes it fun enough to keep it grounded in a bizarre alt-reality.
Labeled as a sci-fi mystery, Transmuted takes place in the year 2519 on Dark Landing, a space station built upon an asteroid in the Zeta Quadrant. Due to the ability to travel through the vastness of space via wormholes, it’s not clear where Zeta Quadrant is, but it’s an outpost for traders from every galaxy to hang. The chief security officer of Dark Landing is Drew Cutter, a somewhat disgruntled man who seems to be fed up with everything around him, but still does his job with fierce determination — and a laxness for those he knows get in trouble but aren’t harmful to anyone. He runs the show with all the decorum he can muster and keeps his team, including Mattie, Curtis and Doc, in check and up-to-date on everything happening under his watch.
One day, there’s a massive explosion inside one of the docking bays. Drew and his team are on it, but there are dozens of questions, the most important of which is who planted the bomb and why. At the same time, Drew meets a wayward vagrant who happens to be an attractive young lady in disguise. She claims to be Letty, the daughter of a very important person in the intergalactic community who owns the company that basically built the systems the universe uses across its outposts as well as the security teams that run them. Letty tells Drew she was sent her to Dark Landing because Drew was the only person her father said she could trust. Unable to reciprocate that trust, he locks her up until he discovers some news that requires her help in sorting out.
The relationship between Letty and Drew is strong from their first meeting to the last page. Robin sets up a brother/sister relationship that stems on incest but clearly isn’t, as their is a soft spark regardless of how both ignore and/or refuse to acknowledge it. I think Robin may go on a little too much and harp on a little too often, though, about how Drew finds Letty obsessively attractive. After the first ten times, it’s like, all right, we get it; he’s infatuated with her. At the same time, this bombardment of fixation shows just how invested he is in her and plays well toward the end of the book, even when it starts to speed up a little too much and begins to spray the book with ex machina after ex machina to wrap things up.
It comes after Drew and Letty figure out what’s happening, and have basically solved the mystery, one which I did find pretty compelling, yet not complete… it’s as if Robin sort of gave up on her own mystery in order to keep the book from getting too long. She sets up several things three quarters of the way through that are never developed the way they could have been, and by the end, these developments sort of just dissolve away due to reasons that come off a little too easy and superficial. T the same time, the speed of the the last few chapters kept me from getting super involved, wherein the emotions that should have been brought out in us as readers are subdued because the stakes don’t seem as high as they should.
However, because of the interactions of the characters and the way Robin has developed them throughout the book, this quickened pace can be in a way forgiven. I like how each of the relationships grows and evolves, bridging the events with the heart of the book, which is the mystery. Robin does a good job at pacing the reveal of the answers, sprinkling them about at just the right times and just the right moments to keep us interested in the mystery itself and what’s happening and why. Because of this, the book moves at a pretty quick clip and does exactly what science fiction should do— make you forget that hooker monks, nanobots, wormholes and lifeless alien armada’s are at the core of a mystery surrounded by plenty of fun, intense action.
My Grade: A
Robin got into writing as a way to distract herself from the barrage of deadlines and to-do lists of her corporate life creating training materials and drafting legal documents. These stories demanded to be written, and like any good writer, she headed the call. Born in Michigan, Robin now lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her patient (and long-suffering) husband, and is in the process of completing her second novel.
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If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.
The one thing animation studios must do in order to give their characters life is create emotion within the eyes of those characters. It’s not easy to do; even some real-life actors are incapable of producing any type of energy within their facial features. But they say the eyes are the window to the soul, and if you aren’t able to capture that essence, audiences are unable to connect with the character because they feel fake. And giving them a strong voice doesn’t help if their eyes feel like glass, or the features in their face don’t allow for strong, true emotion. This is the main problem with Leap!, a new animated film distributed by The Weinstein Company — no matter how fun the movie may be, it grows bland because the characters all feel too plastic. Read Full Review
If they were to accurately title The Hitman’s Bodyguard, it would actually be called The Hitman and His Bodyguard. By making the title possessive, as they do, you would assume the focus of the film would be on bodyguard as opposed to the hitman, and though the bodyguard does have the stronger character arc, director Patrick Hughes tends to steer focus away from Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce (aka the bodyguard) and onto Samuel L. Jackson’s Darius Kincaid (aka the hitman). It makes sense; Kincaid is the funner character, and this is a buddy action comedy reminiscent of eighties action comedies (a little Lethal Weapon meets Midnight Run), so by keeping the two characters equals in the title would have given a better sense of the film from the get-go. Read Full Review