Feelin’ TV: February 6, 2018

Of the 5 largest comebacks in NFL playoff history, the Kansas City Chiefs have been on the losing end of two. In 2014, Andrew Luck, the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, recovered a fumble by running back Donald Brown and ran it for a touchdown en route to a 28 point second half comeback. Just last month the Chiefs were defeated by the Tennessee Titans, overcoming a 21-3 deficit. At one point, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariotta threw a pass that he then caught when it was batted back in his direction and proceeded to run it into the end zone for an unlikely (and unprecedented) playoff touchdown. The last time the Chiefs won more than one playoff game in the same season, I was 12. They’re 5-14 in the post season in my lifetime. It’s hard to dispute this fact: the Kansas City Chiefs are cursed. I root for a cursed football franchise. Because there’s very little chance that I’ll ever be able to experience championship joy, I find my enjoyment of Super Bowl Sunday in tasty food and in the commercials.

Something that I find interesting is that if you look at all of the Super Bowl ads in a year, you’ll often find that a theme emerges. The 2017 Super Bowl found America at the tail end of the 2016 vicious election cycle that divided the nation in ways that we had never seen before. In response, last year’s ads were quite a bit more subdued than normal and advocated things like unity, tolerance and service. It was fine. Honestly, I don’t remember one of them. This year though, the theme that I saw emerge was one of self-referential parody that aimed to just have a little fun. From Mountain Dew’s decision to give us Morgan Freeman without actually giving us his voice (besides the little stinger at the end) to the weeks long set up of a Crocodile Dundee reboot that was actually just a tourism spot, most of these ads just wanted to cut loose and have some fun. My two favorite commercials/sets of commercials that played around with its format are the Chris Pratt Michelob ads and most everyone’s pick for best commercial(s), the Tide ads.

The Michelob ad campaign is one that I haven’t heard mentioned much in the reading I’ve done about the best commercials since the game. While the first commercial isn’t anything special on its own (unless, like me, you have a large man-crush on Chris Pratt), the payoff is pretty funny as Pratt’s beer commercial training ends up with him being cast as an extra in a beer commercial. What makes the campaign stand out though, is the second ad where we see the actual commercial referenced in the first ad, complete with Pratt in the background of every scene. I like a campaign that rewards you for paying attention the whole game, and this one definitely did that in spades.

 

The easy winner of the night was Tide, which is good because they need a PR win with all of this Tide Pod Challenge nonsense going on. 33 years ago, Apple aired it’s famous 1984 ad during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII and it’s a commercial that is still talked about in marketing classes to this day (well, at least it was in 2016, the last year I was in a marketing class). I have a feeling that this Tide campaign could be one that is talked for years to come as well. What started out as a funny-ish send up of stock Super Bowl commercials then became an unpredictable series of shorts that made you think that any other commercial could possibly be a Tide ad. It’s completely brilliant. I watched every commercial for the rest of the night, regardless of the product, thinking about Tide.

 

And as a bonus, here’s a commercial that I’ll probably forget by next week, but I found it to be really, really funny when it first aired. Kudos to Sprint for breaking out of the mundane tendency of cell phone ads to simply try and up the ante of situations in which it can put a spokesman.

 

What were your favorite Super Bowl commercials? Sound off in the comments or in the Facebook group.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • Did you keep watching after the Super Bowl to see This Is Us? I waited until Monday because I was too busy enjoying the thought of Tom Brady having a good cry to have one of my own. Once I got around to it, the tears started flowing early and often as we finally saw the heroic way in which Jack Pearson died. It was a great episode and the final scene gave us a glimpse into where the show might go from here. This season has been great, but there has also been a long shadow cast by the inevitability of Jack’s death. With that particular plot point having been revealed, I’m excited to see what’s next.
  • I watch a lot of TV, so I can be a hard viewer to surprise. That’s why I’m such a big fan of The Good Place. After a first season finale that caught me completely off guard, the show disrupted the status quo time after time in season two in ways that I didn’t see coming at all. The season two finale was one of my favorites so far (Ted Danson behind a bar? Yes, please!) and set itself up for a hell of a season 3.

That’s all for this week! As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. 


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: January 30, 2018

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal…People know me…I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” – Anchorman

Sometimes a show or a movie comes along that transcends its own entertainment value and achieves a level of importance based on its subject matter and the time in which it is made. A lot of films (or TV, music, etc.) fall short of the so called “important” label either by abandoning all subtlety and beating you over the head with its message or, like the great Ron Burgundy (quoted above), by coming off a bit too proud of itself for being so damned important. A recent example of the latter is Steven Spielberg’s The Post. The Post is a really good movie with some really good performances by a really, really good cast. It’s also a really important movie in a time when the reliability of the press is constantly under fire. I very much enjoyed it. If you listen closely, though, there’s this little voice, not a loud voice but it’s a persistent voice, whispering “I’m very important” into your ear in every frame. The fact that The Post is a film starring two of a generation’s greatest acting talents and made by one of our greatest living directors serves to illustrate my point that making entertainment that is “important” is not at all simple.

Onto this razor’s edge between relevance and afterthought comes The CW’s Black Lightning. Packed with conflict taken straight from the front pages, Black Lightning tells the story of Jefferson Pierce, an inner city high school principal and retired superhero forced back into the world of vigilantism when the crime and corruption in his city of Freeland knocks on his front door. Through two episodes, the show adeptly straddles that line between preachy and self-aggrandizement to tell a story that is both entertaining and, I’ll go ahead and say it, important.

Black Lightning achieves this balancing act with a combination of solid performances and real-world complex drama. Cress Williams is perfect as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning. His physicality commands every scene he’s in. He’s an imposing character who is absolutely believable as both a tough-as-nails inner city principal and as a masked crime fighter to be feared. Aside from Williams, the bulk of the drama has been adeptly handled by China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams and Christine Adams who play Pierce’s two daughters and his ex-wife, respectively. Adams has been particularly good as the concerned spouse for whom Pierce gave up the Black Lightning mantle in the first place. If she’s the anti-vigilante angel on his left shoulder, James Remar’s Peter Gambi is the superhero enabling devil on his right. Remar hasn’t had much to do through the first couple of episodes, but he’s the kind of actor who you can count on making the most of what he gets and his turn in Black Lightning is no exception. The tug of war on the soul of Jefferson Pierce’s soul between those two perspectives has carried more heft than most anything else being put out there by comic book shows now days (and this is coming from a guy who watches/loves them all).

Bottom line: The heroes are virtuous, the threat of evil is tangible, and the answers to what the city of Freeland needs are not easy solutions. It’s only January, but Black Lightning is already setting itself up to be one of the best new shows of the year. Give it a shot for yourself to see what you think. I’m sure this won’t be the last that we talk about it this season. Old episodes of Black Lightning can be viewed on The CW app and new episodes air on Tuesday nights on the network.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • Great News ended it’s second season on a high note this week with an episode that may end up being not only the season-capper, but also the series finale. It has not yet been renewed by NBC and it’s looking more and more like it will not be back. Thursday’s show provided a satisfying end to the major arc of the second half of the season while getting off a few biting jabs at the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world. A series that started out as a poor-man’s 30 Rock really stepped out of that shadow to become it’s own thing this season and it would be a shame if it doesn’t return. So go watch it! I’ve never steered you wrong before. Season two of Great News can be streamed on Hulu. 
  • It’s been a good couple of months for Psych fans. First, we get Psych: The Movie in December and January saw the series become available to watch in its entirety on Amazon Prime. It’s not a great show, but it’s a whole lot of dumb fun. Sometimes that’s just what you need at the end of a long day.
  • The Paramount Channel (formerly known as Spike TV) launched their six part miniseries Waco this week about the infamous 1993 standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians. Starring Taylor Kitsch as the cult leader David Koresh and Michael Shannon as Gary Noesner (the real life FBI hostage negotiator on whose book the series is based), the series looks to be one that will attempt to tell the whole story without merely playing the blame game. There will be more coverage here of this one in the coming weeks.

That’s all for this week! As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. 


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: January 14-27

OSCAR NOMINATIONS EDITION

LESSON #1: THREE YEARS LATER, THE SHAME FROM #OSCARSSOWHITE IS WORKING— Led last year by Moonlight, Fences, Loving, and Hidden Figures, a boost of respect for minorities led to historic wins.  This year, it’s Get Out and Mudbound.  Behind the scenes, the Academy invited nearly eight hundred new members—39% of which are female and 30% non-white.  That’s the bigger wake of change from #OscarsSoWhite that shows legitimate progress.  Recently, a piece in The New Yorker posed the question of whether or not the #OscarsSoWhite era is over thanks in part to such gains.  I don’t think so.  The movement is working incrementally for black performers, but more can be done for Hispanic and Asian performers as well.  Oh, and there’s that other new hashtag…

LESSON #2: THE #METOO MOVEMENT DESERVES TO ADD MORE SHAME AND CHANGE TO THE OSCARS— The state of respect and equality for women in the film industry has arguably needed the turnaround push it’s getting now from #MeToo movement longer than minorities have from #OscarsSoWhite.  The writing and directing nominations for Greta Gerwig are excellent and the formal nod to Mudbound‘s cinematographer Rachel Morrison is historic as the first woman in that category, but, again, more could be done.  I know I was rooting for Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman to receive nomination honors.  Like #OscarsSoWhite, let’s come back in 3-5 years and see where the industry is at after this cataclysmic year.

LESSON #3: DON’T BELIEVE THE GOLDEN GLOBE AND SCREEN ACTORS GUILD HYPE FOR THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI— The Shape of Water led all films with 13 nominations, one short of tying the record of 14 shared by All About Eve, Titanic, and La La Land.  Dunkirk is a distant second with eight.  In third, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has seven.  That’s a great haul, but it’s missing one important one that makes it a genuine threat to win Best Picture.  Its celebrated director, Martin McDonagh, was left out of the Best Director raise.  Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, only four films have won Best Picture without a corresponding nomination for Best Director (Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, and Argo).  I don’t like the film’s chances.  Looking at the data on my 2018 Awards TrackerGet Out has won more Best Picture awards than any other film this season, followed by Lady Bird and then The Shape of Water.  You can virtually narrow the final vote to those three.

LESSON #4: COMEDY CONTINUES TO GET LITTLE RESPECT AT THE OSCARSLady Bird is carrying the flag for comedy at this year’s Oscars.  Greta Gerwig’s film stands far above the subtle dark comedy within Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out.  In my opinion, there’s always room for more comedy representation at the biggest awards show of the year.  The Big Sick received a lone nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but was ignored in the acting categories for Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.

LESSON #5. THE ACADEMY APPARENTLY DOESN’T PLAY WITH LEGOS— This lesson is one of two repeats from my Oscar nominations reaction post on Every Movie Has a Lesson because it fits perfectly here this week.  A few years ago, the overwhelming Best Animated Feature frontrunner was The LEGO Movie and it was snubbed from being nominated in shocking fashion.  The LEGO Batman Movie doesn’t have Coco-level pull, but, gosh darn, it’s better than Ferdinand and The Boss Baby.  Expect one Alec Baldwin Trump joke and a tuxedoed stage appearance for WWE star John Cena as a presenter.

LESSON #6: NETFLIX HAS BROKEN THE GLASS CEILING WITH MUDBOUND— Here’s the final repeat.  Dees Rees, Virgil Williams, and Mudbound have made Netflix a new and legitimate player for quality film.  Their efforts mostly remain undiscovered treasure as the newfangled digital arthouse.  For every high-profile Bright, there are five other films like MudboundFirst They Killed My FatherOur Souls at NightWin it All, and War Machine.  Mudbound deserves this love and Netflix is just getting started.  Give it time and they have the money, talent draw, and ability to invade the Oscars the way they’ve already invaded the Emmy Awards for television.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

Feelin’ TV: Top Shows of 2017

Feelin’ TV is back for 2018! Before we get too far in to the television of the new year, I wanted to take my first week to look back at my favorite five shows from 2017.

5) The Crown

If there is one thing that I hate more than British costume drama, it’s the obsession that a large portion of American society has with the comings and goings in the British Royal Family. The fact that The Crown manages to be both while also being one of my favorite shows that I watched last year is absolutely astounding to me. It succeeds because of its performances (John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is astounding) and the way the writers include significant historical intrigue into their telling of the story of the longest serving British monarch. My favorite episodes thus far have been “Assasins” (S1E9) in which Churchill befriends an artist painting his portrait and “Vergangenheit” (S2E6) that sees the Queen consult a young Billy Graham as she weighs her personal desire to forgive against her positional responsibility to the appearance of justice. The first two seasons of The Crown can be streamed on Netflix.

 4) Better Call Saul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Better Call Saul could have easily and lazily coasted to several seasons of solid ratings based solely on the success of Breaking Bad and it’s built in fan base. That Vince Gilligan and his crew have instead created a show with rich, fully realized characters, intricate stories and a lived-in setting is a remarkable achievement. Bob Odenkirk anchors the show as the sad sack Jimmy McGill who really did just want to go straight. Michael McKean steals every scene as his arrogant and cold older brother Chuck. My favorite episode from season three was “Chicanery” (S3E5) which managed to be satisfying and heartbreaking at the exact same time. The first two seasons of Better Call Saul can be streamed on Netflix

3) The Leftovers

One gets the impression that with The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof explores all of the things he wanted to with LOST without the restrictions put on storytelling in a network show. The Leftovers, much like LOST, provided many more questions than it did answers. Unlike LOST though, viewers of The Leftovers were never led to believe the answers were there to be had. The Leftovers is a show about moving on when there are no easy answers. It’s about coping with grief when the answers are unknowable. The Leftovers ended its run with one of the greatest series finales ever as characters resolved to love each other even in the mess. The Leftovers can be streamed with your HBO subscription.

2) Big Little Lies

There’s not much I can say about Big Little Lies that hasn’t been said elsewhere. It is deservedly one of the most awarded and critically acclaimed shows of 2017. The cast is fantastic. Reese Witherspoon is as good as she’s ever been. More than any show I’ve ever watched, the relational conflicts feel real because they’re rooted in actual, real-world issues. The central murder mystery, which not only leaves the viewer guessing about the perpetrator but also the victim, is never less than edge-of-your-seat tense. In a year that saw so many strong women stand up to inequality, harassment and abuse, Big Little Lies was the perfect show of 2017. Big Little Lies can be streamed with your HBO subscription. 

1) The Good Place

If I had been writing about TV in 2016, this would’ve been my #1 show back then as well. Here’s the thing, I’m an unashamed Michael Schur fanboy. Parks and Recreation and The Office are my two favorite sit-coms of all time. I’ve watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine from day one. I listen to his podcast about baseball every week. Shur’s work just speaks to me. I was predestined to love The Good Place no matter what. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Good Place is the best sit-com on TV whether you’re a Michael Schur fan or you’ve never heard of the guy (I’ll bet you have, in addition to being a writer and one time show runner on The Office, he also played the role of Dwight Schrute’s cousin/roommate Mose). The Good Place arrived with a completely realized setting in a way that you don’t see often. Most shows take a bit of time to figure out what they are or what they want to be, but you get the feeling that the writers of The Good Place knew everything about the world they built from the word “go” and anything we don’t yet know is because they don’t want us to know it, not because they haven’t figured it out yet.  On top of the setting The Good Place boasts two solid main characters in Kristen Bell and Ted Danson who are every bit as great as you’d expect them to be. And then you get to add the four other members of the main cast (William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto), each of whom have emerged from relative obscurity to breakout character status, as the cherry on top. Season one ended with a twist that I thought the show could never top. Season two has shaken up the status quo every week to the point that I have no idea what is going to come next. It’s my favorite show of the year, and it’s number one on my list of shows you should be watching if you’re not already. Season one of The Good Place is currently streaming on Netflix and season two episodes can be found on Hulu.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • Runaways has been renewed by Hulu for a second season after a solid freshman debut. In my opinion, it fizzled a bit at the end, but there’s still quite a bit of promise for some good stories to be told in the future. I think later episodes showed some of the limitations of the young cast members, but the older members of the cast and the intriguing source material make it a show to continue to keep an eye on while the younger actors find their footing. Season one of Runaways can be viewed on Hulu.
  • Black Lightning premiered on The CW this week and it was a hell of a debut. The major theme of this superhero drama is racial injustice and it doesn’t appear to be interested in easy answers and mustache twirling villains. With plot lines ripped straight from the front pages of 2017 news, it’s a show that’s always going to be in danger of being soapbox-y, but the premiere managed to sidestep that pitfall. And even if it does slide to the preachy side of the pendulum from time to time, Black Lightning‘s point of view is one that we can always use more of. Give it a shot. Black Lightning airs on Tuesday nights on The CW

That’s all for this week! As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. 


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: January 1-13

LESSON #1: EITHER BUSINESS IS BAD OR PEOPLE ARE FINDING THEIR ENTERTAINMENT ELSEWHERE— I have found that in the box office business, trends rarely lie.  Looking past inflation and price changes, the reported actual ticket sale counts are alarming according to the year-end news reported in several places.  A six percent drop is telling but not drastic.  “Lowest in 25 years” is a whole other thing.  To me, as I’ve stated in this column frequently, it’s all about the price point for family dollars.  The wave of unlimited TV and streaming options available at high quality and far lower costs than it takes to bring the average family of four to the multiplex with refreshments is becoming a no-brainer for those cost-minded folks.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, APPLE MIGHT HAVE A COUNTERPUNCH TO DISNEY— Once Disney bought 21st Century Fox, they gained controlling percentage of Hulu Plus at the same time as they’ve been positioning to launch their own dedicated streaming platforms.  The target was placed on Netflixes back, especially after the Mouse House pulled all of their content off the platform to bring under their own roof.  Netflix might have found a benefactor and powerful one.  According to reports sourced by Citi, Apple is angling to buy Netflix with a billion dollar price tag.  Throw Amazon’s power in there, and this WWE triple threat match in a streaming ring just got big

LESSON #3: SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, KEEPING ADVOCATING FOR EQUAL PAY ACROSS GENDERS— You can try to slice it, refocus the points, or pretend to justify the reasons however you want, but the Mark Wahlberg/Michelle Williams All the Money in the World compensation disparity story that broke this week is kind of sh-tty no matter which way you play it.  It just flat-out looks bad.  I’m glad it’s getting investigated by the union (Screen Actors Guild).  I keep the benefit of the doubt going that good faith is out there or that contracts are this and other contracts are that.  For that to remain, a positive outcome (with a rolled head or two) must arrive or this will only incite more from an already fractured female demographic, and rightfully so.

LESSON #4: WE HAVE TO CONSIDER THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI A FULL-FLEGED OSCAR CONTENDER NOW— To me, the Golden Globes have been a joke, are a joke, and will remain a joke with some of their category distinctions, silly nominees, and oddball choices.  That said, the Golden Globes aren’t the only awards Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, and Martin McDonagh’s film are sweeping up.  The two actors have been surging and now stand as legitimate co-frontrunners with Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) who have dominated the Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress categories.  These dark horses aren’t so pitch black anymore.  By the way, you know which Golden Globe winner is not a real contender?  James Franco.  Via con dios, dude.

LESSON #5: THE STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI HATERS ARE GOING TO BE BUTTHURT FOR A LONG TIME— …and it’s going to be agonizing to deal with them.  Most of the haters are just harmless snobs and sub-trolls.  Their rants and forgettable and carry weak traction, like silly petitions to remove the latest film from canon.  However, some of them take it too far.  This recent story of Kelly Marie Tran dealing with racist and sexist comments is a prime example.  That’s the kind of crap that goes too far and isn’t “fansmanship” nitpicking over water cooler talk anymore.  That’s the hurtful garbage that needs to go and get a life.

LESSON #6: CIRCLE BACK TO THE BEST OF 2017— Rotten Tomatoes closed the 2017 calendar with their list of 100% Tomatometer films.  Seven titles never received a bad review.  Use JustWatch to seek them out in this boring and empty annual moviegoing wasteland known as January.  Liam Neeson flicks can only keep your attention so long.  If you want more films after those seven, you’ve got five top-ten lists right here on Feelin’ Film from your hosts and contributors.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

What We Learned This Week: December 3-9

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— Barring any final hang-ups, big media will be getting bigger.   The entertainment universe is abuzz with the prospect of Walt Disney buying 21st Century Fox (more than just parts or assets of it as initially rumored), a $60 billion deal that could be done as early as next week.  Word is Fox would retain its sports and news properties (dammit), but the film wing is what has folks dreaming.  Fanboys go straight to the fantasies of seeing the X-Men/Fantastic Four worlds merged with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I cannot blame them for those tingles. I have them too, but circle back to some of the little things we’ve seen Disney do over the course of the year (many reported in this column): the blackout of critics from certain publications, the price hikes for theater dividends, taking their ball to their own convention and streaming service, and more.  There is something to be said for healthy competition and not a one-stop shop that is the size of an empire.  For example (and I bet you didn’t know this one), buying 21st Century Fox would give Disney controlling interest in Hulu.   Combine that potential with Disney’s ESPN service and their own streaming platform coming in 2019 and Disney could have the power to squeeze the life out of Netflix like a corporate anaconda.  Plainly put, I hope the deal doesn’t go through.  If Disney wants to use X-Men and the Fantastic Four, broker a sharing deal with Fox the way they did with Sony for Spider-Man until the rights run out and the properties are free agents again.  Share and play nice together instead of bully with a takeover.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BIG BUSINESS, LET THE JUSTICE LEAGUE AFTERMATH BEGIN AT DC/WARNER BROS.— I have been one of the vocal minority to tip my hat at Warner Bros. going the bolder and more adult direction with their superhero properties as an antithesis to the sunny and safe market cornered by Disney’s MCU.  They had the balls to be different.  The bottom line, unfortunately, is that even the cajones have to sell.  I wouldn’t say Warner Bros. is losing money from its DC films, but you can tell a boardroom somewhere looks at their receipt and then looks at Marvel’s receipts and sees lost earning potential.  They’re making money, but they think they should be making even more money.  Go figure.  Justice League is being seen as a business failure and a rumored producer and operational shake-up made headlines this week.  Adding salt to the wound for many (even though I saw this coming as soon as the Flash solo film was titled Flashpoint, implying the out clause for a reboot), there is strong desire to recast Ben Affleck as Batman in the future Matt Reeves-directed film.  You had to know they were going to need to go younger at some point and it’s reading this was according to plan for Affleck too.  As much as I admire their attempt to be different, I’m fine with a shake-up and some changes to normalize these characters and their potentials.

LESSON #2: “STANDARDS OF CONDUCT” ARE NOW NECESSARY TERMS TO HAVE ON THE BOOKS— The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing and voting body of the Oscars, have enacted a “standards of conduct” requiring members to “behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”  In this day and age, what should be common sense for personal behavior now has to be spelled out in specifics and put into print because of how flippant and rampant those unwritten rules have been broken.  It’s never pretty to need this measure, but it’s one that should be applauded.

LESSON #3: LOS ANGELEANS ARE DIFFERENT THAN NEW YORKERS— The critics’ groups from the two largest and leading cities have spoken with their year-end award picks.   Both are trendsetters, yet both are different.  As reported here last week, the New York Film Critics Circle stumped for Lady Bird for Best Picture and Best Actress.  This week, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association went in the direction of Call Me By Your Name for Best Picture and Best Actor with equal love shown to The Shape of Water for Best Director and Best Actress.  If those three non-conformist films are your Oscar frontrunners, this is going to be a feather-rustling awards season with bold independent film leading the way.

LESSON #4: RYAN REYNOLDS HAS NOT TURNED THE CORNER FROM MAKING BAD DECISIONS–Before Deadpool resurrected his career, Ryan Reynolds could not have put together a trashier resume if he tried.  Just when you thought being enlivened striking gold with the “Merc with a Mouth,” here he goes signing on to be the lead voice in a Pokemon movie named Detective Pikachu.  Come on, man.   You’re back.  You’re better than that crap now.  Did you not learn your lesson? Stick to the good stuff, Ryan.

LESSON #5: QUENTIN TARANTINO’S INVOLVEMENT WILL EITHER BE FUN OR A HOT MESS— News bounced around this week that J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino are meeting to hash out some ideas for a Star Trek film.  Word around the campfire is Tarantino pitched an idea to Paramount and Abrams they thought was awesome and now the two filmmakers are putting together a team of writers to develop the screenplay.  If all goes well, Tarantino, a self-professed Trekkie since the original TV show, could also direct.  Follow-up word says that an R-rating has been given a green light.  I don’t know what to think about that potential.  I don’t think you need profanity and R-rated violence in a Star Trek film, in any shape or firm.  Would it spice things up?  Sure, but it’s out of character, even for this rebooted universe.  I’ll grant that Tarantino has panache like no other.  He could take an old TV episode premise like “City on the Edge of Forever” and jazz it up well for the big screen.  However, unchecked Tarantino is silly and excessive when not reined in.  I’m glad other screenwriters are involved to keep the chatty Cathy Tarantino grounded.  Hire a crack editor while they’re at it to keep it from being a 170-minute yak-fest.  I don’t see a middle ground between awesome and disaster when it comes to a guy like Quentin.

LESSON #7: THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI SPOILERS— Folks, next week is the week.  It’s finally here!  Star Wars: The Last Jedi!  I humblebragged this week that I have yet to watch the supposedly spoiler-ish final trailer and I’m pleased as punch that I made it this long.  If you’re avoiding stuff like me, be ready for radio silence next week right around Tuesday morning (hint, hint).  Be cool.  Don’t be a troll.  Don’t ruin it for people.  I promise a spoiler-free review, as always.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

Feelin’ TV: November 20-26, 2017

Whenever a new movie/TV show is released based on a comic book property, the conversation about super hero fatigue begins. It gets louder every time, especially in months like this where the discussion around Thor: Ragnarok had barely died down before Justice League arrived in theaters. It’s completely understandable. A lot of people are burned out on the genre.
I do not suffer from that affliction. Give me more. I love the oversaturation. There is enough room in my heart for all of it. When I hear of something new, I’m all over it like white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snow storm. I may not keep watching (Inhumans), I may quit watching and go back later because I have nothing else to do (Gotham), I may even hate watch (The Walking Dead) but more often than not, I watch and enjoy and put it securely in my regular rotation. It should be no surprise then, that I took the opportunity this week to check out (and fall in love with) Hulu’s new comic book series, Runaways.
Runaways is based on the Marvel comic of the same name. It’s set in the MCU along with the popular films and shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Inhumans, Daredevil, etc. It’s about six teenagers who find out that their parents are super villains who make up a team called Pride and begin to work together to thwart their plans. Along this journey of discovery, they also begin to develop powers of their own. I haven’t read the comic, so if you have, you probably have a better handle on what’s going on than I do at this point. From what I’ve read, fans of the print version have been pleased with the way the show has remained faithful to the source material. In the three episodes that have been released, creators Joshua Schwartz and Stephanie Savage have succeeded in crafting solid characters, both in the teens and their parents, not sacrificing the development of the villains in favor of the heroes. They’ve done so by taking their time to introduce characters and the world that they live in.
Hulu has been putting out some solid programming over the last few years. They seem to be a bit more concerned with quality over quantity in contrast to fellow streaming service Netflix. Thus far, Runaways continues that trend. It feels like more than an attempt to capitalize on the superhero craze. They’re laying the groundwork for a pretty intriguing story that I’m excited to add to the queue moving forward. Runaways is available on Hulu.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Arrowverse has a pretty big week coming up with their annual week of crossover episodes, so I had assumed that this week would mostly be table setting for that event. I was wrong. Supergirl saw the bittersweet return of Mon-El, The Flash came face to face with this season’s big bad The Thinker, Legends of Tomorrow had maybe the best Mick centered episode of the series and Oliver got arrested and vigilantes were made illegal in Star City on Arrow. But all of that will be on hold this week when all of the gang gets together for Barry and Iris’ wedding. Will everything run smoothly? Given that the whole ordeal is called Crisis on Earth-X, I’m guessing it won’t. It’s a tough thing to balance 4 shows into one storyline, but last season it was the best week of the year. Hopefully they can keep it up. Arrowverse shows can be seen on The CW.
  • This Is Us made me cry again this week. Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore (Kate and Rebecca, respectively) play the two characters that get under my skin the most on that show (in a good way, like how members of your own family get under your skin). This week though, the story gave them both a chance to absolutely shine and they knocked it out of the park. I’ve heard people say that maybe the show leans a bit too heavy into sadness territory, and I think that’s a valid criticism, but I think the way it was portrayed this week was sensitive, thoughtful and accurate. Also, I’m going to start a petition to get NBC to give Toby his own show. I don’t care what it’s about. I just want more Toby. This Is Us airs weekly on NBC and past episodes can be seen on Hulu.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Next week, we’re going to spend the bulk of our time talking about the Arrowverse crossover event and I’ll probably have a thing or two to say about the season premiere of the new season of Agents of SHIELD as well.


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: November 13-19, 2017

Just when things were starting to look pretty bleak for Netflix’s Marvel shows (Marvel Streaming Universe? Daredevilverse? Defendersverse?), Frank Castle arrived on the scene to single handedly put things back on track. After an unfortunate spring and summer that saw both Iron Fist and Defenders widely panned (I thought both were merely fine), there were legitimate questions about whether or not the universe had lost its magic. But The Punisher, released this past Friday on the streaming service, returned to not only prove that there were good stories yet to be told in this world, but that the best might still be yet to come. After Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the brutal vigilante became the breakout character of Daredevil’s sophomore season, fans were pleased to hear that Netflix granted the anti-hero his own show. Recent deficiencies in storytelling had me apprehensive about the quick turnaround from breakout character to main player. Those fears proved to be unfounded. Not only did creator Steve Lightfoot create an intense and compelling season of television, they managed to find a cure to some of the ills that have plagued all of the other Netflix Marvel series.

The story is pretty straight forward. Just when Frank Castle believes his quest to avenge the death of his wife and children has ended, as he’s settled in to live a life of anonymity, he discovers that the plot that ended with the destruction of his world goes deeper than he imagined. Along with a few allies that he picks up along the way, Frank sets out on a mission to finish the job. There are two things that really set this simple revenge story apart, the themes and the performances.

The Punisher is brutal. The combat is up close and personal. But the story doesn’t revel in the violence (mostly). It uses the violence to speak to issues like gun control, PTSD and the difficulties our veterans face when they return home from war. It doesn’t simply pay these issues lip service nor does it provide easy answers. No punches are pulled in the series’ attempts to show the miserable care that our soldiers receive when they return home from our country’s perpetual overseas conflicts. The effects of PTSD are seen in the lives of Frank and others in heartbreaking detail. It refuses to provide simple solutions to the issues of gun violence and gun control, but weighs both sides without being didactic.

Jon Bernthal leads a stellar cast that slide into their roles with ease. Castle is the role that Bernthal was born to play. He’s believable in his intensity in focus but also in his portrayal of Frank’s special brand of compassion. Ben Barnes is an actor I’ve never been very impressed with, but he’s outstanding as Castle’s old military buddy Billy Russo. Barnes plays Russo in such a way that you’re never quite sure if he’s friend or foe. He’s charming and slimy all in one. Ebon Moss-Bachrach portrays Castle’s ally Micro (the comic’s Microchip) with an exasperated desperation as he helps Frank to settle a score of his own. Amber Rose Revah mirrors Castle’s driven and obsessed personality as Department of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani. Deborah Ann Woll returns to the universe as Karen Page and is probably as good as she’s ever been. The breakout performance in my opinion belonged to Daniel Webber, a young vet struggling to readjust to life after war. His story exists outside of the main conflict, but it helps the show avoid the midseason lull that fans of this world are used to at this point. Almost every other season could have afforded to have 2-3 fewer episodes to cut the fat and make their stories tighter, but I never felt that way with The Punisher and a lot of that is due to Webber’s solid performance. He was one of the brightest spots of Hulu’s 2016 series 11.22.63 as Lee Harvey Oswald, and I’m hoping that this role will give him bigger opportunities in the future because he’s really great.

To reiterate, The Punisher is not for the faint of heart. It’s absolutely brutal. But if you can stomach it, you’ll find a surprisingly thoughtful and poignant show that entertains while also having some thoughtful reflection on issues ripped straight from current headlines. If you’re a fan of the character or the universe he exists in, I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy The Punisher. The Punisher is currently streaming on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • I’d like to take some space and talk about the Arrowverse, but I really can’t even remember what happened this week. Slade Wilson came back to Arrow, but it was a pretty bland story that didn’t really go anywhere. The door is open for his return, so maybe there’s more to come with Deathstroke. And Diggle finally came clean with Team Arrow about his shoulder issues. I’m guessing Curtis will have a microchip that fixes the issue installed in his armpit by the end of the next episode.
  • I don’t normally give up on TV shows. Sometimes if I do, I end up catching up anyway (looking at you Gotham) but I’ve got two shows that are on life support. I’ve never hidden my disdain for The Walking Dead in this space, and I’ve decided to give it until the mid-season finale to do something interesting before I quit altogether. I’m not holding my breath. The other show I’m about done with is Riverdale. The first season was outstanding but season 2 has been a total slog. I’m struggling to care about any of the characters and the story is an absolute bore. It’s saving grace at this point is that it’s on Wednesday nights and I have very little to watch on Wednesdays.
  • The Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg penned Future Man starring Josh Hutcherson dropped this week on Hulu and I thought it was pretty good. It’s really funny and has a lot of fun easter eggs for the lover of sci-fi movies. It’s not a show for kids. But you should’ve guessed that when I told you who the creators are.
  • I’m hearing good things about Netflix’s Alias Grace. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll try to catch up with it over the holidays.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Next week we’ll get a chance to talk about Marvel’s The Runaways! Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for all of you who read this every week!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: October 30-November 5, 2017

I think that a mark of a good show is its re-watchability. Sometimes I’ll love something the first time, but when I have a chance to watch it over again, I have little to no interest. Some shows, like The Office, Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock for example, are shows that I can watch and enjoy, start to finish, over and over again. Then, there’s the rarest of rare shows that get better every time you watch. I’m talking about Arrested Development.

I watched AD for at least the 5th or 6th time this week and I’m still blown away by it. There are set ups in season one that aren’t paid off until season three. There are gags that run further than any other gags in television history. There are things that make me laugh that I can’t even tell if its intentional or not (is it weird to anyone else that they refer to jelly beans as “candy beans”?) In previous viewings, I’ve been blown away by the intricacy of the story, enamored with the ability of Will Arnett and Jessica Walter to take over every scene they’re in as Gob and Lucile, the awkward existence of Michael Cera as George Michael and the creepy energy of David Cross as Tobias. This time though, I couldn’t stop admiring the straight man, Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth.

The Bluth’s are wildly un-relatable. They’re rich, oblivious, and as characters, they’re ridiculously broad. I love each and every one of them, but I don’t think I would have been able to put up with them for more than an episode or two without Michael Bluth there to keep the show grounded…sort of. Through 3 seasons and 53 episodes (the Netflix season doesn’t count), whenever the rest of the Bluths threatened to take the show too far over the line into Crazy Town, Michael was there with a look or a perfectly timed quip to bring us right back down to earth. One of the biggest failings in Netflix’s attempt to bring the show back for a season four in my opinion is that Michael was as nuts as the rest of his family, losing its tether to normal people altogether. In a show full of perfectly cast characters, there may have been no one more perfectly suited to the show than Jason Bateman. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to give it a shot. If you have seen it, watch it again to rediscover its brilliance. Season five is coming in 2015 with a promise of episodes in the vein of seasons 1-3 and less season 4. Here’s hoping that’s the case. Arrested Development is available to stream on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Arrowverse had a great week with a crazy fun episode of Supergirl involving Kara and Jonn flying a convertible to Mars, a Legends of Tomorrow that wrapped a tale about Ray Palmer’s childhood into an homage to ET and The Flash introduced Elongated Man into its universe. The best news this week though? MICHAEL EMERSON IS A BAD GUY ON ARROW! His character at this point seems to be the master of manipulation that we saw in Lost’s Ben Linus combined with the tech savy expertise of Person of Interest’s Mr. Finch. There may have been an audible squeal of glee in my living room when he showed up. This has been a stellar season all-around for the Arrowverse, and with Emerson around, it looks like it will continue trending up. The current season of Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow can be viewed on The CW app.
  • Thursday night NFL football is the worst. The games are always subpar because of the quick turnaround and the matchups are typically pretty lame. The worst part though, is that because of NBC’s commitment to Thursday Night Football, we don’t get to see any new episodes of The Good Place or Great News until the new year. Maybe it’s just sour grapes, but I hate TNF. Well, unless the Chiefs are playing. If you’re like me and you can see The Good Place withdrawals in your future, check out this video taken by Kristen Bell of the rest of the cast finding out about season one’s epic twist (spoilers, obvs).
  • I was remarking to a friend this week that out of all of my friends with kids, I don’t know anyone who has ever had a baby without making it to the hospital first (not counting my slightly crazy friends who have had their kids at home on purpose). But if my calculations are correct, roughly 90% of TV children are born that way. A This Is Us flashback added Randall’s oldest child to that statistic this week. It’s a pretty worn out trope, but overall, it was a strong episode that made me cry so I’ll forgive them for going to that well.
  • Oh, and The Walking Dead was awful. I’m going to need someone to spend some time in the Facebook group telling me why I should still be interested in this show.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Happy viewing!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: October 29-November 4

LESSON #1: SCOUTING THE RIGHT TALENT IS KEY TO MARVEL’S SUCCESS— How does this low-risk MCU blueprint keep coming up with winners? One way is by scouting comedic talent in front of and behind the camera. Look first at the casting of Marvel’s core leads: Robert Downey, Jr.Chris EvansChris PrattPaul RuddBenedict Cumberbatch, and, in Thor: Ragnarok‘s case, Chris Hemsworth. Each of them (follow the links) bring an easily-activated range of humor to not take themselves so seriously. If you’re shooting for overall levity, you call on the nimble and agile.  The same search for farce can be said for many of Marvel’s directorial choices: Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Anthony and Joe Russo, James Gunn, and Peyton Reed. All have witty and wisecracking credits on their resumes. Add director Taika Waititi’s name to that list. The peppy New Zealander behind Hunt for the Wilder People and What We Do in the Shadows merges his wholesome storytelling sensibilities with a frisky and playful side of sarcasm to sharpen the camp of the comic book content of Thor: Ragnarok.

LESSON #2: NETFLIX CAN STILL BE A BIT OF A BALLHOG— Jeff Huston of “I Can’t Unsee That Movie” has an excellent editorial piece recently talking about the day-and-date release strategy of Netflix.  Thanks to their deep pockets to win some distribution bids on prominent international film festival performers like The Meyerowitz Stories, First They Killed My Father, and Our Souls at Night, high caliber independent films are available on their streaming service at the same time as a soft and limited theatrical release.  The article calls into question how this practice actually does a disservice to the theater end of things and I happen to agree, though I celebrate Netflix plenty (see next lesson) for getting the “gets.” While it’s nice that the arthouse theater scene is being filled with something, the Netflix availability dramatically shortens any helpful effect of attendance the arthouse could really use.  There’s got to be a middle stagger of compromise in there.  Give the arthouse 4-8 weeks of exclusivity and then Netflix gets it forever, something to that effect where both benefit.

LESSON #3: NETFLIX IS ALL-IN ON ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING— We’ve been seeing Netflix’s not-so-quiet surge all year with their self-financed original feature film offerings and have been amazed.  They keep getting bigger, especially with Will Smith’s Bright around the corner.  Now the ambition and push have a target number and it’s bigger than we thought.  Recently, the streaming giant said their 2018 goal is 80 original films.  That is an astounding number that runs circles around Hollywood studios that maybe put out a quarter of that into the multiplexes.  Love them or hate them, Netflix is quadrupling down on being a big-time player.

LESSON #4: DEMAND-BASED PRICING IS GOING TO BE AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT— We filmgoers don’t often see the business dealings happening behind the curtain and multiplex doors.  For a taste of it, read the strict details Disney is placing on theater chains for the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi and you’ll get an idea of the bitter competition for the almighty dollar.  All we see is ticket prices going up and wondering why while we shake our heads and still open up our wallets.  In an effort to earn a little extra, the Regal Cinemas chain recently announced a trial of demand-based/surge pricing where the hits will cost more than the flops on your receipt.  Seeing the business end of that Last Jedi example, I get theaters trying to squeeze, but one has to wonder if such practice will work.  I don’t like its chances.  All I see are movie studios then asking for a bigger cut on top.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.