Posts Tagged ‘drama’

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My problem with Leonardo DiCaprio is that every time I watch his latest movie, I immediately think it’s his best performance to date. And the Wolf of Wall Street is no exception. 

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true story about Jordan Belfort (based on his book), with a script written by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, the Sopranos), and directed by Martin Scorsese (think of a gangster movie besides Godfather, it was probably made by him.)

The movie begins with Leonardo DiCaprio telling us that he made 49 million in a year, and he was really pissed off because it was three million shy of a million a week. He has a white ferrari, a huge yacht, an amazing house, and an equally amazing wife. 

He’s living the dream, really, and then he recounts how he got there. Earlier this year, I reviewed American Hustle, written and directed by David O. Russell. I mentioned how much he channelled (truth is, he copied) Martin Scorsese, and this movie proves why directors like David O. Russell can’t replace Martin Scorsese yet. I feel like Martin Scorsese saw American Hustle, and decided to make a movie to show David O. Russell how it’s done.

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I’m not even the biggest Scorsese fan. I liked Goodfellas and the Departed, but I’m definitely not a huge fan by any means. Wolf of Wall Street has made me want to watch more of his movies.

All right. Let me explain a little bit about the plot. Jordan Belfort is an ambitious young guy looking to make money quick, and he sees Wall Street as the way to do that. On his first day at work, he’s already hooked on the adrenaline in the room. I have to interject with a warning. If you find cursing uncomfortable, it’s safe to stay away from any Martin Scorsese movie. The first fifteen minutes of the movie feels like it’s warning you about what’s to come, so I just thought I should mention that to anyone that’s squeamish about that sort of thing. Moving on… He’s taken as a protege by Mark Hanna (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey), and he quickly learns the ropes. Matthew McConaughey’s performance really is more of a cameo, but man, it’s a great cameo.

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He teaches Jordan an anthem that comes up throughout the movie, and I have to say, it is really catchy. You can hear it in the trailer, I think. 

Right after Jordan’s promotion, he’s loses his job (because of Black Monday), and he’s forced to look for a new job. His wife suggests that they sell her engagement ring, but his pride does not allow such a thing. From this scene alone, you could probably guess that his pride will come back later to bite him in the ass. He finds a job at a small business dealing in penny stocks. Penny stocks belong to the companies that aren’t big enough to qualify trading at Wall Street, and because of this, the traders get a 50% commission. Belfort picks up the phone, calls a random client, and the room quiets. Another stockbroker takes out a notepad and begins writing down what he’s saying, and by the time the phone call is over, he’d made over a thousand dollars. 

He gets a new car, and while eating at a diner, meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). With phosphorescent teeth, a voice that sounds like gravel being poured through a garbage disposal, he provides much of the movie’s comic relief.

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He becomes Jordan’s selfish, crack addicted sidekick after he quits his job when Jordan shows him proof that he makes over 70k a month. 

Jordan starts a new company called Straton Oakmont, and pretty soon, he has a huge office and too much money to spend. (It’s a different kind of money problem…)

DiCaprio addresses the audience directly, saying: “The question is… was any of this legal?”

He smiles, and says: “Absolutely not!”

It isn’t long before his private investigator learns that he’s being investigated by a straight arrow FBI Agent, and Jordan stupidly invites him to his yacht to bribe him. Thankfully, he was at least smart enough not to mention an exact figure, but not smart enough to listen to his PI. 

It reminded me of another Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can. He played a gifted young con artist being hunted by a dedicated law enforcement agent (played by Tom Hanks). It isn’t much of a spoiler to tell you not to expect the same amount of… playfulness between Belfort and the FBI Agent. 

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Sure, they fake politeness in their initial meeting, but there’s no interesting banter here. There’s just plain animosity between the two of them, and it was refreshing to see this done after watching so many movies doing the Catch Me If You Can formula. (I loved that movie, by the way.)

DiCaprio is my favorite actor. I think he’s the best actor of my generation (well… technically it’s my sister’s generation), and I love all of his movies. However, I’ve come to expect a little something from his roles. His movies are generally serious, and while his acting for each character varies greatly, they all have the same feel about them. They all had the sense that the entire world was on their shoulders.

In this movie, he shows that it was all intentional. When Jordan Belfort parties, he parties. He’s superficial monster that doesn’t care about the people he steals from. It’s also DiCaprio’s funniest performance to date, and one of his most dramatic.

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After flying a helicopter drunk on alcohol and pills, he wakes up to his wife (played by Margot Robbie) tossing a glass of water in his face. His reaction here is just brilliant. I have two other favorite scenes, but I won’t even hint about them. You should just watch the movie and see it for yourself. They’re too good to spoil. (Even for a huge spoiler like me.)

In these types of movies with a criminal protagonist, it’s always the same. It shows the rise, the peak of all their achievements, and inevitably, the fall. It’s unavoidable. *coughs Like A Certain Scorsese movie coughs*

People need to see the bad get their comeuppance, and I always thought that this was the most enduring formula of movies. So, it isn’t a big spoiler to tell you that things do start to go awry for Jordan Belfort. He has to make a deal with the SCC, and still face criminal charges from the FBI. His relationship with his wife starts to go downhill. 

I don’t believe in karma, but even I have to admit that karma finally caught up to him. He left his loving wife for Naomi, and you can see that he really loves her. He cheats on her… but he really does love her. And maybe it’s karma that his wife doesn’t love him as much, if at all. 

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The ending, though, is really good. I won’t describe it to you, but it’s one of my favorite endings of all time. (Coincidentally, my other favorite ending is the ending of the Departed.) Now, I hope Leonardo DiCaprio gets an oscar for this, but considering the hype of the other performances, it’s not likely. I think this is the best Martin Scorsese movie I’ve seen, and having watched a few of the other nominees for Best Actor and Best Picture, I really do think this movie deserves to win. (Don’t let me get started on Gravity…)

I just hope that Christian Bale doesn’t beat DiCaprio for Best Actor. Yes, he gained a lot of weight, but come on. I guess I’m biased when I say that DiCaprio’s acting in this movie beats almost everything Bale did in American Hustle. Just saying. That’s what I think.

In conclusion (do you like how I suddenly became very professional?), this is an amazing movie. My favorite of 2013, and probably going to be one of my favorites for 2014. It’s already earned a place in my Top 15 Favorite Movies, and it might even rise in my list after viewing it a few more times. If you like great black comedy, great performances, great writing and directing, you’ll like Wolf of Wall Street.

If you hate watching an evil man get a lot of money, a huge amount of cursing, drug abuse… You probably won’t like this movie. It is not for everyone, but if you don’t mind any of that, then this is worth a watch. 

 

6 out of 6

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~Jian

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American Hustle is David O. Russell’s newest movie, and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner. It is a movie about two con artists (Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld and Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser) who are forced by Detective Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to help him catch other criminals in the act of bribery. The plot is actually a lot more complicated than that, made all the more complicated by the eccentric characters which populate the movie. 

Let’s talk about the characters, then. Christian Bale has always dedicated himself to his movies… to the point that it’s rather unhealthy. In the Machinist, he lost sixty pounds for the role, and then gained it all back within a year for Batman Begins. 

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Yeah, looks pretty drastic to me. In American Hustle, he’s taken to gaining a lot of weight. And unlike in Batman Begins, he did not use that weight to build muscle. That isn’t the only thing he does in this movie, of course, and his acting here is just amazing. Sure, it can feel a bit fake at certain points in the movie (mostly during the beginning), but you’ll forget all about that when you watch a scene of his with Jennifer Lawrence, who plays his crazy wife. 

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I know, people overuse that word nowadays. But she is crazy, and Jennifer Lawrence pulls it off magnificently. It’s so believable, which is why Christian Bale’s performance is enhanced whenever they’re in a scene together. It’s hard not to believe that this woman isn’t nuts, so his own reactions seem authentic and… rather comical with a dramatic overtone. 

You’ll know what I mean when you watch it. Let me talk about the plot again for a moment. The movie begins with Christian Bale making an elaborate combover, and immediately throws you into the middle of a sting operation. Oh, and Bradley Cooper messes up Christian Bale’s combover.

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David O. Russell is nothing, if not brave. It takes a lot of guts to just do that, and trust that whatever you’re watching is interesting enough that you don’t shrug and walk away. 

It’s here that you truly see Martin Scorsese’s influence on David O. Russell. The beginning reminds me of Goodfellas, although a lot funnier, and pop songs from the 70’s undercut a lot of emotional scenes. This can get a bit annoying, if I’m being honest. At times, it’s really awesome. Especially if you like the song, and think, “Exactly! That’s what I would’ve chosen!”

But, the soundtrack feels… impatient. There are plenty of scenes in the movie where you felt like an emotional punch was delivered to your gut, but the scene was disturbed by some obnoxious song. Why not let Amy Adams just act? The actors are too great to be dubbed over with music, and it brings me to my next point. American Hustle is entertaining, fast-paced, dramatic, and funny. 

And a little empty. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try to do my best. Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell’s previous directorial feature, was an amazing movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It was simple, really. It was about a guy that beat up his boss, who was having an affair with his wife. He gets out of a mental institution, and ends up training for a dance competition with a nymphomaniac. (In retrospect, it doesn’t sound that simple.) It also cost very little to make (especially in comparison to American Hustle’s budget), and garnered some awards. (Jennifer Lawrence got an Oscar for it.)

And it’s better than American Hustle. Yes, I normally like movies with some violence, some intrigue, and some con men. The Sting is one of my favorite movies of all time, but American Hustle just feels hollow in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook. I feel like David O. Russell was pressured to up the stakes, rightfully so. But the music, the unreliable narration, the elaborate outfits… They’re all supposed to be icing. They’re not supposed to make up the cake entirely. 

That isn’t to say that this isn’t incredibly entertaining. Like I said, the acting here is incredible. Bradley Cooper essentially plays the villain, and I’m not going to say: “But he makes you feel sorry for him.”

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Not at all. He wasn’t written to be sympathetic, or even realistic. Almost none of these characters are realistic, but he plays his role with such relish and unpredictability that I can’t help but hope that he was the protagonist. Louie C.K. plays his superior in the movie, and you’ll see in their scenes together why I think that.

When Bradley Cooper asks for 2 million dollars, his boss tries to tell him an ice fishing story from his youth. He interrupts him halfway through, and guesses what the ending is. Flustered, his boss tells him that he’s wrong, and he doesn’t deserve to hear the story. Later on in the movie, Cooper asks Louie about the ice fishing story, and again, interrupts him to make up his own ending for the story. It tells you everything you need to know about this character. He’s a control freak, and with his fast-talking personality, he gets away with it most of the time. He can’t stand it when someone else is talking, and he tries to show that he’s smarter than everyone. 

If you’re looking for a sympathetic character, you could look to Jeremy Renner. His character is one of the more realistic portraits of the movie. He plays Mayor Carmine Polito, and Christian Bale is tasked with the difficult job of piling evidence against him to put him and his colleagues behind bars. He’s a corrupt politician, but he does what he does for the city of New Jersey. It made me think of something Christian Bale’s character said to Bradley Cooper. 

I’ll paraphrase, since my memory isn’t good enough that I can remember it perfectly. But, it went something along the lines of:

“The world isn’t black and white. It’s extremely grey.”

Pretty much every antihero in movie and television shares the same view (I do, as well), but I think what makes this morality speech stand out from most is that it doesn’t really refer to Bale. Or Adams. Or Lawrence and all the others. It refers to Carmine Polito. He’s a good guy that does illegal things for good. He’s a big slap to the face of Bale, and I thought it’s one of the smarter things in the movie. All these characters are grey, but Polito’s character is the only one that seems realistically so. 

That’s probably the downfall of this movie, but don’t let this movie’s little faults scare you away. It’s ridiculously entertaining, and I was laughing throughout the movie. If Cooper, Bale, Adams, and Lawrence win awards for it – I won’t be surprised in the least. They acted their asses off, and they deserve them.

But I just don’t think the movie really deserves any more awards than Silver Linings Playbook received.

~Jian

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Saving Mr. Banks is amazing. I know that, as a reviewer, I should first summarize the whole thing for you, and then tell you my thoughts on it in a detailed and intelligent way. But, there’s just no denying that – for me – this movie is awesome. 

So, now that we have that out of the way, I’ll summarize the movie for you. Saving Mr. Banks is a behind-the-scenes biopic of how Mary Poppins was made. P.L. Travers (the great Emma Thompson), the author of the Mary Poppins books, received offers for the movie rights of her beloved books for twenty consecutive years until she was finally convinced by her agent to give Walt Disney (the brilliant Tom Hanks) a chance. That’s the basic plot of the movie, and with those two actors working together, it was already a guarantee for me that it’d be a great experience.

However, one of the biggest surprises was Colin Farrell’s performance as Travers Goff, P.L. Travers’ father. Her childhood is told in a series of flashbacks, normally starting when P.L. Travers is annoyed by a section of the script, and the flashback then shows why she’s annoyed with it. It’s pretty interesting, and it’s easier than some voiceover narration or a lengthy conversation where Emma Thompson is forced to explain every one of her choices. The rule, “Show, don’t tell,” was clearly taken to heart by the writers and director.

Back to Colin Farrell. I thought he was great in In Bruges, but it wasn’t one of those mind-blowing performances that you tell your friends about for months until they forcibly stop you from telling them any more. His performance in Saving Mr. Banks, however, is one of those performances. He plays an alcoholic that dotes on his daughters very much, but seems to be unable to escape the urge to drink. The character is both haunted and happy, angry and contemplative. 

There’s a great scene in the movie where his children are chasing a hen, and he tells them, jokingly, that it’s no hen. It’s their evil Aunt! Later, when he’s about to go to bed with his wife (Ruth Wilson, Luther), it’s revealed that she’s been pleading for him to let her ask her sister for help. There are a few more surprises in the movie, but I won’t spoil them for you.

Back to the present. (Or the 1960’s.) The first scene where Walt Disney appears in the movie is a favorite of mine. The scriptwriter, Don, tells Travers it’s not a good idea to call him Mr. Disney. He likes to be called Walt. Disney then rushes out of his office, and in the background, you can see an entire shelf of oscars, polished as can be. They go out of focus, and you see Tom Hanks’ best smile. 

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I think it was then that Travers decided to do her best to make his life miserable. She calls him Mr. Disney, and continues to do so even though he keeps insisting he call her by his first name. In a masterful scene, Travers lists her demands, and you can see the look on Hanks’ face as she insults his life’s work. Tom Hanks version of Mr. Disney is very interesting. Unlike a lot of actors, he never overdoes it. When he becomes angry near the middle of the movie, you know it. But he doesn’t fly off the handle. After all, you don’t get your own theme park if you throw a temper tantrum every time someone is being unreasonable. 

Emma Thompson, however, has the most difficult role of all. She has to play a difficult, cold… hag. There’s really no other way to put it. I mean, even Emma Thompson admitted that Travers was a bit of a hag in an interview on Graham Norton. But, despite that, she manages to put a lot of heart into the performance. This is a woman that’s seen things, as a child, that she never should have seen.

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As such, she spends her life writing books for children so they won’t have to see the horrible things around them. She uses the joy and wonder that she still possesses in her heart on her books, while putting on a facade of detachment and bitterness when interacting with other people. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie where she starts letting her guard down around her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti). 

When she first met him, she made it very clear that she did not want to be there. When they see some beautiful scenery on the way to Walt Disney studios, Ralph cheerfully says: “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“If you like that sort of thing,” she replies promptly.

“Well, I do,” he says slightly crestfallen.

But he ends up her only friend, anyhow. I can talk for much longer about this movie, but to do so would mean telling you about some really interesting scenes and I want you to discover those scenes for yourself. The score is beautiful, and the main song is both happy and somber, just like Disney and Travers.

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~J.A. Romano

Let me explain the new series I just started, Classic Thursdays. I write a review of a classic movie every other week of the month. I review movies given the status of classics by more than a few individuals, and write whether or not I think they deserve their classic status. There will be some spoilers, but I’ll be sure to write a warning before a massive one. So, for the first post in the new series, I decided to take on a relatively new classic called No Country for Old Men.

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That was taken from the late Roger Ebert’s ten best films of 2007. And if he called it a perfect movie, I think No Country for Old Men counts as a classic in the sense that it received almost universal critical acclaim. In fact, there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to what it all means. There’s also a notable film critic that chose No Country for Old Men as the #1 movie of the decade, and MSN chose it as best film of the decade as well.

So, hopefully, that explains why I’ve chosen it as the first movie for Classic Thursdays. I remember a good friend of mine recommended it to me a year ago, and told me that it was his favorite movie. So, I watched the first eighteen minutes, and wasn’t impressed.

At the time, I really wasn’t in the mood for something so serious, so I decided to watch it another time. Then I watched it maybe a few months ago, and I gained perspective on the movie. It is a good movie, but I don’t consider it a classic. Let me explain.

In the first thirty minutes, you’d think that the main character is Llewelyn Moss (portrayed by Josh Brolin). But, the real main character is Anton Chigurh (portrayed by Javier Bardem). He is also the antagonist. Josh Brolin plays a hunter that stumbles upon the aftermath of a bloody shootout between two different drug cartels, and finds a suitcase of money. He takes it and hides it at his home. It isn’t long, of course, before the cartel finds out that it was him who took the money because he visits the scene of the crime again just as they arrive.

It’s at this point that you realize that his character isn’t very bright. I mean. Let’s face it. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. But, he does know how to fight back and run. I can give him that. Eventually, the drug cartel sends Anton Chigurh (don’t worry if you can’t pronounce his name. No one else in the movie can, either) and a game of cat and mouse ensues.

I’m reminded of an exchange between two characters on the sitcom, That 70’s Show.

Michael Kelso: “Let the game of cat and mouse begin!” 

Fez: “What happens to the cat if the mouse is retarded?”

And at times, you can get frustrated with Josh Brolin’s character. I discovered a good way to stop being frustrated with him, though. I came to terms with the fact that Javier Bardem’s character is the main character. So, I simply started rooting for Anton Chigurh. I know, horrible of me. But, I enjoyed the movie immensely once I started to think of Anton as the protagonist.

Warning. There will be spoilers from this point on. Look away now.

Looked away? All right. Now I’m going to do my best to “analyze” this movie. Though I’m horrible at proper analysis..

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A lot of people have complained about the last thirty minutes of this movie. Why? Well, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) gets killed by the OTHER cartel offscreen. Yup. Anton Chigurh kills Llewelyn’s wife, and lives to kill another day. It ends with Tommy Lee Jones’ delivering a staggeringly awesome performance as he tells his wife about his dream. Now, in an attempt to give you a fresh analysis, I didn’t read the entire Wikipedia page on it. I’m going to give you my take on it, and if it lines up with the take of all the other people.. well, good for me. If not, well, good for them, I guess?

Anyways. Llewelyn Moss reminds me a lot of sheep. And I’m reminded of the idea that humans are really smarter sheep. I think the reason why a lot of people have complained about Josh Brolin’s character is because it feels so familiar. He’s a normal guy, right? And it makes people wonder how they would act if they were in his situation.

And what truly makes people dislike his character is simply because there is a chance that they would panic just like him. Anton Chigurh, in that sense, is more like a wolf. This feels really cliche, I know, but this is what I felt when I watched this movie. Anton Chigurh is an unstoppable force, and everyone knows it. Josh Brolin, however, is not the immovable object.

I think the Old Men are the immovable object. (Going off the wayside a bit there, Jian.)

Well, I was thinking about the paradox about the unstoppable force and immovable object, right. And while I’m not the best informed on this theory (hardly), I do think that the character of Anton Chigurh fits as the unstoppable force. And I think that the pedestal that the Old Men (basically, our ancestors) reflects a lot of what people think nowadays. They will always look back to the past, and romanticize it. For the majority, it’s part of our nature. Every generation thinks that the world is going to end with them.

Anton Chigurh’s job is to mock them for hero worshipping the past so much. Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes look to the past, and think, “Well, everything was good back then. No psychos like we have today.”

And I’d be completely wrong! One of todays biggest misconceptions among the populous is that crime has gone up. In reality, crime has gone down by 25% since the 1950’s. Crimes went largely unreported back then because we didn’t have the technology to really do anything about a lot of crime.

Now, if someone sneezes and wipes the snot on a handbag at a store, the police know about it. The media, in part, helps feed this idea. The media wasn’t as well-informed in the 1950’s, and crime reporters didn’t hear that much about crime. (In fact, L.A. Confidential represents the end of the era where the police didn’t tell the media about practically every crime.)

I’m part of a good generation. Sure, we have our own little problems (don’t get me started about our celebrities), but it’s not as bad as the Middle Ages, is it?

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Okay. Two of ’em. Both had my father. It’s peculiar. I’m older now’n he ever was by twenty years. So in a sense he’s the younger man.

I think it was that particular line which gave away the fact that this was a satire of modern culture. Or, at least, that’s how I view it.

Now, I could be wrong and I could be misinterpreting the movie. But that’s the point, I think, of this movie. To make up your own opinions on it. I remember a scene from Life of Pi where Pi’s father tells him that animals have no souls. What you see in their eyes is your own thoughts and emotions reflected back at you.

I think that’s what movies are, really. And this is what was reflected back at me when I watched it.

So, is this a classic? I don’t think it’s earned that, yet. Is this a great movie? It is. I enjoyed this movie immensely, and I like the fact that I had to think about a lot of its themes. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first post of my new series. Comment if you have any thoughts to add, or if you completely disagree with me on every level. I would love to hear what you guys think.

~Jian

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I recently started reading Under the Dome, and I’m maybe four hundred pages into it. Out of all the Stephen King books I’ve read, Under the Dome has to be the best so far. It is grand in scale, and I love the characters. So, the moment I found out there was a Tv show, I was giddy with excitement.

I’m going to spend the rest of this review telling you all whether or not it lives up to Under the Dome, or if it’s a good show in general. Like I said before, I have not finished the book. I’m still in the process of reading it, but I just really wanted to review this Tv show. So, please excuse me if I don’t know all the characters, or I can’t tell you all the differences. I’m not a very attentive reader, so there’s your warning.

I will mention this right now. This isn’t an ultra-faithful adaptation of Under the Dome. This is obvious within the first six minutes. (I took notes while watching it.) But you can skip the next nine paragraphs if you don’t want to hear about the comparisons I made with the book and the show. Afterwards, all I’ll discuss is whether or not the show is good. So, feel free to skip to 10 paragraphs from now.

They changed the characters a lot, and I think that they took an interesting change with the characters. For one, Dale Barbara’s/Barbie’s character (portrayed by Mike Vogel) is rather different from the book. In fact, most of the characters are different from the book. Rusty Everett, the physician and husband of one of Chester’s Mill deputies, is a fireman in here. And Chief Duke Perkins actually called him a meathead.

Considering the fact that he was my second favorite character in the book – next to Barbie – I was really surprised by this choice. But knowing Brian K. Vaughan (who’s written for Lost, one of my favorite shows, and also wrote a TON of amazing comic books that I love) was handling this, I had faith it was for a good reason.

I think the changes they’ve done with the antagonists, however, was really for the best. Okay, we all know Big Jim and Junior Rennie were the bad guys. So, I’m not spoiling anything. But, in the book, practically everyone knew they were the antagonists. And they were made out to be amazing fakers and that’s what made them dangerous. I didn’t get the impression of that in the book. Maybe this is because I got to see what they were actually thinking, but this wasn’t aided by the fact that 90% of all of the characters saw Big Jim and Junior for what they were.

In the Tv series, on the other hand, I was very impressed with the way they’ve handled their characters. I could see why people thought they weren’t a threat, and why Big Jim would be a successful car dealer. Big Jim is portrayed by the talented Dean Morris, and I think they casted him perfectly. Dean Morris ( from Breaking Bad ) is one of those actors that can be charming and deadly all at once. I think he should get a lot more lead roles, since he’s one of the few actors I think can hold his own next to Bryan Cranston. (Which is saying something.)

Perhaps the two biggest changes in character, though, is the change in Barbie’s and Angie’s character. Let me explain. Barbie, in the book, is a drifter who became a short order cook at a local diner in Chester’s Mill. He’s former military, highly trained, but when the girlfriend of one of the town’s infamous jerks tries to make a move on him… things start to go by the wayside of things. The friends of said jerk (including Junior Rennie) ambush Barbie as he’s closing the diner, and he manages to kick their ass despite the unfair advantage.

Junior cries to his Dad about it, and his Dad makes life miserable for Barbie. So, the book starts with Dale about to leave Chester’s Mill. His plan goes awry when the Dome drops into place, and a plane crashes into it. And he was so close to leaving the miserable town!

In the Tv series, Dale is… well, he’s not so innocent. The Pilot episode begins with Dale burying a dead body, and we see him yelling into a phone, worried about Chief Perkins catching him. That’s as different as it could possibly be, if you ask me.

The other change is the fact that Angie McAlister is not killed in the first few minutes. In the book, Angie’s killed by Junior Rennie pretty quickly. It appears like she’ll be a main character here, and I thought it was an interesting change. It’s not a bad one, but at the same time, I’m wondering if this is the show’s way of showing the viewers from the get go that it’s definitely not the same as the book.

And I think it’s a good way of doing that. Her character certainly seems more interesting than in the book, and I guess now people have an attractive young woman to look forward to seeing.

Okay. Now I’ll write about the actual show. I’ll try to keep the comparisons to the book out, but no promises. I like it when people adapt books into movies or Tv shows. I know they fail often, but the thing is, they make it a lot faster paced.

And Under the Dome is no exception. Within the first eight minutes, the Dome drops, and most of the main cast knows about it by the twenty-four minute mark. I thought this was a smart decision, and the tension feels truly real here. Since this isn’t an ultra-faithful adaption, I had no idea what could happen.

Another nice touch made by the show is making everyone completely silent from the other side of the Dome. I thought this really ramped up tension, and made everything feel surreal. I mean, you can see people on the other side mouthing words, but you don’t actually hear it. It’s a very creepy feeling, and it only enhances the claustrophobic feeling of being a bug in a jar. (Which is essentially what they are.)

The characterization in this show is honestly quite something. In the first episode, I know these characters. I’ve read the first 400 pages of the book, but you should believe me when I say that most of these characters have been put through the ringer and changed almost completely. And I think they improved some of them. I especially liked the fact that they combined the role of First Selectman Andy Sanders and Chief Duke Perkins. Only readers of the book will understand this. But, it feels a lot more… tight?

I think the director of the first episode, Niels Arden Oplev, knows what he is doing. Everything is perfectly timed, and everything is clear. Precise. And unlike a lot of the modern directors, he doesn’t rely on expository dialogue too much. Tv shows and movies are a visual medium, and it honestly makes me cringe when the director and writers feel that they need to dumb it down for the audience.

I thought that this is a fine example of that, and it was definitely something to smile about. The final ten minutes, to be exact, was absolutely perfect. You’ll see if you watch it. I loved the ending.

Let me talk about the acting now. The two standout actors has to be Dean Morris, Jeff Fahey, and Alexander Koch. I already talked a little bit about Dean Morris, so let me talk about the other two. You may recognize Jeff Fahey as Frank Lapidus from Lost. I have to say, his portrayal of Duke Perkins is pitch perfect. Duke Perkins in the book was very interesting, but there’s subtlety and layers to Jeff Fahey’s acting that I thought was really great. Alexander Koch plays Junior Rennie, one of the two aforementioned antagonists from the book. (Mind you, Brian K. Vaughan could still throw us a curveball and make one of the teenagers the villain. He could pull it off, too.)

I think that Alexander Koch’s portrayal of Junior Rennie is awesome. As with the character of Big Jim, I think they changed his character for the better here. He’s a really bad guy. Disgusting, even. However, the thing that makes most people disgusting… is the fact that they could put on a facade and fool you. It’s what makes serial killers terrifying. They could be the guy/gal organizing the charity, he could be the guy/gal that serves you your food. You just never know.

And that’s what I like about this character now. I hated this character in the book. Absolutely hated him. But here.. Well, I still don’t like him. But the fact that it made me think twice is really something. The episode starts out with him confessing his life to a girl he’s held a torch for since he was in the 3rd Grade. And he’s dismissed immediately.

I’m not condoning his violent nature or anything like that. But I thought that this made his character a little more… realistic. I don’t think people are inherently evil. I just believe that there are “triggers” for every person, and for certain people, that trigger can be exactly the same as Junior Rennie’s trigger. And let me tell you. It gets pulled all right.

So, I think that portraying this character would be difficult for pretty much any character, and Alexander Koch pulls it off swimmingly. It’s fantastic to watch, and I look forward to future episodes to see how he takes the role to the next level.

So, let’s see the list.

1. Story: Interesting.

2. Characterization: Intriguing.

3. Acting: Top notch.

That’s the main check list I use when I watch anything. There are a few laughs in here, but I’m going to flat out tell you right now that this isn’t a comedy. Maybe a very dark, DARK comedy. But it’s important to know that this is a straight up drama. I came in expecting a drama, and that’s exactly what I got back.

Now, it looks like it’s only going to be a miniseries. After seeing this, I was kinda disappointed. It’s difficult to pack a thousand page novel into thirteen episodes, after all, and I’m afraid it might end up being rushed. There’s fast paced and there’s tripping over yourself and falling down the stairs. I really hope this show doesn’t trip over their shoelaces on this one.

So. This is definitely a show worth watching. It’s important that you know it’s rather different from the book, but really. It’s still quite good. That’s the point. Considering the show selection for summer ( I.E. Keeping Up with the Kardashians ), this is the Holy Grail of television shows right now. (Mostly because I’m not up to date with Mad Men. Catching up, though!)

I’m giving this show an 8.5/10. It’s a spectacular show. Not without its flaws, and I was really annoyed at certain changes from the book, but it is still worth watching. It was easy to forget about the annoyances and just enjoy the show. And that’s what shows are for, aren’t they?

So, if you have some spare time, Under the Dome could be the new show to watch during your summer vacation.

~Jian

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Hannibal is the type of show where people already kind of know what to expect from the name alone. They would be wrong, though. At least, I was proven wrong. I came in expecting a story about Hannibal Lecter. Sure, the summary kind of said otherwise, but the name leaned into my expectations. However, Hannibal is about a genius FBI agent who can empathize with serial killers as easily as we… well, scorn serial killers.

Obviously, there are some pretty nasty side effects from his unique ability to understand the ‘design’ of the serial killers. He’s haunted every night by dreams of the serial killer’s victims, and he also cannot handle human interaction very well.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’m going to break one of the Reviewer’s Rules of Thumb , and start it off by saying that I like this show.(Think there’s a rule where you first have to list the reasons before saying you love/hate it.) I’ve stopped watching as many shows as I used to because they ceased being interesting. This show, however, keeps things interesting.

It is, at its core, a game of cat and mouse, but it also shows the very thin line between a hero and a villain. At least, that’s the way I see it. The way Hannibal Lecter first meets Will, the main character, as portrayed awesomely by Hugh Dancy, is very interesting. I will try not to spoil anything for you, but Mads Mikkelsen takes on the difficult task of standing in Sir Anthony Hopkins’ shoes head on. He brings a rather different Hannibal than is shown on Silence of the Lambs. He’s quiet, introspective, but you can sense there’s a storm underneath the surface. Three episodes in, I have yet to see Hannibal really “loosen” up, and that is one of the many factors that keep me coming back.

I’m not really doing the show justice by describing to you the plot, though. It’s the type of show where you need to watch it to judge for yourself. All I can do is tell you what I like about it. And we all know how much I like to gush about things I love.

I’ll keep it to a short list.

1. The characterization. Every character feels fully fleshed out, and the dialogue between each character is very good. I haven’t seen dialogue like this in a Tv show since House of Cards’ season ended.

2. The atmosphere. Okay. I like mysteries, especially murder mysteries. I love shows like Castle, and my favorite movie of all time is Zodiac. That should tell you how much I like murder mysteries. The atmosphere of mystery and macabre murders portrayed in this show is just fantastic. In scenes of suspense, I wanted to skip the scene and find out who survives. In scenes of fear, I wanted to look away from the screen. And in scenes depicting murder… well, I couldn’t look away from the screen. It’s a very good show that way.

3. Plot. Yeah. It’s good. I can’t really say anything more than that. It’s good, I like it, and it keeps me at suspense. I want to both thank and strangle the writers. Trust me, that is a compliment.

What didn’t I like about it, you ask? Wait, you didn’t ask? Well, I’m still gonna give you my list.

1. Oh, the scenes of murder I was talking about? I was serious when I said I could not look away, but they’re rather excessive on the blood. I don’t normally have a problem with that, but with the combination of their awesome characterization, amazing atmosphere.. It can be very disturbing. As such, I sometimes just go: “Oh, c’mon. I’m about to go to sleep!” or “I’m eating my cereal!” The show is good enough without the excessive use of blood, if you ask me. I’m okay with blood, and this problem was only really an issue in the first episode… But yeah, that’s just a small nitpick for you.

2. Uh…. Can’t think of anything.

Yup. That is how much I like this show. Perhaps, I can add that it’s not really funny… but really, if I wanted funny, I would not be watching the prequel to Silence of the Lambs. So, I have to say, I was very much impressed by this show.

I would recommend it to anyone that likes the Following, or murder mysteries. I would suggest that you go in expecting to see some creepy stuff. Go in expecting a full blown horror movie, and you won’t be shocked at all. Unless you want to be shocked. In which case, I congratulation you on your bravado.

I’m a fraidy cat, and I can’t really handle stuff like that. I watched the Shining a few days ago before going to sleep. Ha! I know! Well, I’ll tell you about THAT experience later.

All in all, this is a spectacular Tv show. If this is cancelled, I will be very disappointed by NBC. First, they cancel Smash… if they cancel this, too, I’d probably lose faith in their executives.

I’m going to try to pick an adequate number for this show, and that number is… (drum roll)

8.9/10

There are only two shows that have a 9/10, for me, and those two shows are….

… something I will tell you in my reviews of them. Yup, I am devious like that. Anyways, I do hope you give this show a try. I really hope you do.

Please remember to Like, Follow, and Comment. Hopefully all three. And… Thanks. A lot.

~J.A. Romano

What? A man can’t review a show about singing anymore? Oh, you’ve never heard of this show? Well… It’s about this elite Navy SEAL team that sing while parachuting into hostile territory. Obviously, there are new characters each episode because they don’t last very long… seeing as how every enemy literally knows where they are because they’re singing Yellow Submarine while trying to rescue some PoWs.

Are there still PoWs?

-coughs-

Moving on. Smash made a big WAVE. Get the pun? Oh, damn. I meant SMASH. Yeah. It’s funny now.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825133/

There’s the IMDB page. It’s honestly one of my favorite shows. It’s completely manly, don’t worry. Steven Spielberg produces it. So, I have a perfectly good reason as to why I watch it. Loophole~

Anyways. You’re probably only reading this if you’ve watched the first season already and you’re wondering if season two is just as, if not more, good. I’ll start with the story. Slight spoilers, if you haven’t watched the entire first season.

Karen’s become ‘harder’ in a way, because of all the things Ivy had done in the first season that so affected her. In the previews, a lot of people mentioned how she seemed like a bit of a bitch. To be honest, I think it was the right and logical move. She started out a naive girl, and she’s simply become stronger. If your main competitor for the biggest role in the first musical you’ve ever been in slept with your fiancé, wouldn’t you be a bit of a bitch toward Ivy? You wouldn’t? Wow, you’re a really nice person…

Skip the last two sentences if you would. They’re for the good people reading this, not the…

Ahem. Moving on. Bombshell’s funds have been frozen because Eileen’s ex-husband exposed her boyfriend Nick’s sordid dealings. Apparently, he was a drug lord. Yeah. He’s not a very good one, to be honest. Ivy’s character has improved a lot, actually. She’s sympathetic, and she actually looks like she feels bad about what she’s done to Karen. She may even be likable.

The reviews have come in, and the critics loathe Julia’s (Debra Messing) writing, while loving her partner Tom’s musical numbers. To be fair, what can you do with a Marilyn Monroe story? It’s not really something you can make a comedy out of, and if you do make a drama out of it… Pretty much everyone already knows her story. (If everyone is an American Theatre critic, of course)

So, in all fairness, she’s doing the best with the cards she has been dealt with. There’re no scenes involving her son, by the way. I think the writers realized that they didn’t want to make her any less sympathetic by showing how bad of a mother she is… I mean, dude, she was part of a list called, ‘Television’s Top 10 Worst Mothers.” You would HAVE to be horrible to be on that list. One of the women on the list tried to kill her own son. So, yes. Horrible.

With Bombshell frozen in stasis, Karen ends up drinking at the local watering hole. Well, not really. In the words of one of the characters, “You’ve been watching your ice melt for the past twenty minutes.”

But anyways, she gets kicked out by a bartender after he gets her to sign a pamphlet from his collection of failed musicals. Yeah, I thought it was both inappropriate and amusing at the same time as well. She leaves, but returns because she forgot her phone. The first bartender (who was so rude to her near the beginning of the episode) is playing a song he wrote, and damn. It is good. He’s playing it on the piano. She calls Derek (or is it Derrick? I can never tell with the Brit spelling of things) and lets him listen to the song.

I won’t spoil the rest of the 1 hour episode (Yes, one hour), but you can imagine the drama and all that come after that. The show succeeds in putting the right amount of comedy, as well. It’s surprising, actually. Most shows I see either devote themselves completely to comedy or completely to drama. They’ve achieved the right balance considering the stuff they’ve been dealt with.

Now, the singing… I play the piano, and I like music. But I’m not a musical genius, or anything, so I can’t tell you if Karen was a bit flat thirty seconds into the song, or if Ivy was sharp at the one minute mark. By the way, those two musical terms are the only things I know.

I play the piano, but I didn’t really listen to all of that other stuff. Anyways. The music is honestly AWESOME. Love it. It’s not just the singing by the characters, even. In an earlier post, I talked about how old movies used music to enhance the apprehension of a character when a suspected murderer is climbing the stairs.

Smash uses it to lighten the mood, and it succeeds. It’s pretty awesome. I would watch it based on the music alone, honestly.

My sister doesn’t care for the show much… and I’m trying to convince my parents to disown her for her blaspheme. But, yeah. The show isn’t perfect. Some characters (Karen in season 1) were a bit daft here and there. It’s still a great show, though. Give it a shot.

To Smash fans feeling a bit hesitant about watching season 2, you will not be disappointed. It’s suuuuuper great.

If I were forced to give a rating to this show, it would have to be an 8.7/10. Pretty great.