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Showing posts from 2021

What Lea Seydoux's Role in No Time To Die Means for the James Bond Franchise

It seems impossible that a franchise 25 films in could still be having firsts, but the trailers for the upcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die , preview a big one. The shakeup to the patented Bond formula comes in the form of James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) love interest, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who returns to the series after making her debut in 2015’s Spectre . The Bond girl is a staple of every film in the franchise, but never before has a Bond girl been a major character in more than one film. The No Time to Die trailers make it clear that Seydoux’s not coming back for a mere cameo, but rather Bond and Madeleine’s relationship provides the emotional momentum to the film’s story. This subtle but important innovation provides the decades-old franchise with a chance to change its historically poor reputation when it comes to female characters. The fates of a Bond girl are typically revealed within a couple hours after her introduction. They either ride off into the sunset w

A Great Show Rushes to its End: "Mom" Finale Review

It's never easy to end a TV show, especially a long-running, beloved show like Mom . "My Kinda People and the Big To-Do," the last episode of Mom that aired May 13 on CBS, was a good episode. It was maybe even a great episode. But was it a satisfying series conclusion? No, not really. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before we talk about what didn't happen in the episode, let's talk about what did happen.  The episode begins at an AA meeting, as many episodes have. The ladies - Bonnie, Tammy, Jill, Marjorie, & Wendy - all share. They're all happy and in good places in their lives, much to the annoyance of newcomer Shannon (played by Melanie Lynskey, independent film mainstay whose sitcom credits include Chuck Lorre's Two and a Half Men ). Bonnie wants to help Shannon, as she had been helped by others when she too was new to the program, and even chases Shannon in the rain when she leaves the meeting. Later in the episode, we see Shannon'

Paramount+ Review and Breakdown

  Paramount+, the rebranded CBS All Access streaming service from ViacomCBS, launched today. It got me thinking about this photograph. Are you familiar with it?  If you aren't, perhaps you're wondering why Tom Cruise is standing next to Charlton Heston who is standing next to Penny Marshall who is standing to Bob Hope who is standing next to Victor Mature who is standing next to *squints* Elizabeth McGovern who is standing next to Robert De Niro. The whole photo is full of weird combinations like that - Shelley Long next to Jimmy Stewart, Molly Ringwald next to Dorothy Lamour, Gregory Peck next to Debra Winger. This photograph was taken in celebration of Paramount's 75th anniversary in 1987. But you're forgiven if you didn't guess that, because who looks at all these people and thinks immediately that what they all have in common was working for Paramount at one point? Certainly not I.  And therein lies the problem with Paramount+'s marketing strategy. Paramoun

"The Muppet Show" Finally Comes to Disney+: Five Episodes to Stream

Muppet fans have been begging Disney to put The Muppet Show on Disney+ since the streaming service started back in 2019. It's finally happening on February 19, when all five seasons will be available to watch! While the first three seasons got DVD releases when I was a kid, the final two seasons have never been officially released until now, so it's very exciting ("officially" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that season).  To many fans, the variety series which originally aired from 1975-81 remains the high point of the franchise, which has since grown to include numerous feature films, specials, other TV shows (including the not very good Muppets Now ), internet videos, and much more. I'm sure there are folks out there who know of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest, but aren't really sure why they are famous. The answer to that question is The Muppet Show - the wacky brilliance of Jerry Juhl's writing combined with Jim Henson and Frank Oz and Jerry Nel

"My Mind Turns Your Life Into Folklore": Why Taylor Swift's "Gold Rush" Is a Song About Songwriting

"My mind turns your life into folklore." That line, from the song "Gold Rush," is the only time the word "folklore" is spoken on either of Taylor Swift's 2020 records, Folklore and Evermore , the latter of which is where the song appears. The presence of the line indicates that "Gold Rush" is a pivotal song not only in Swift's lockdown duology, but in her maturation as a songwriter.  Swift's early albums often drew heavily from her own experiences, with fans and the media scouring her lyrics for clues as to which ex-boyfriend her numerous breakup songs referred. Her tumultuous dating life made as many headlines as her music, in part because it informed so much of the music. The discourse was often ridiculous and reductive, and thankfully, that period of her career is over (Swift has been in a relationship with the actor Joe Alwyn since 2016).  Both of her 2020 albums have their fair share of autobiographical songs, but they also see

Every Julie London Album Ranked

Last month, for school I had to write a long research paper about 17th century Flemish flower paintings, which was a bit outside my comfort zone. So, I needed writing music and a lot of it. After listening a bit to Amazon Music's playlist "Big Band Christmas", I came across the song "Warm in December" by Julie London. It was a name I'd heard before, but I knew next to nothing about her. But the song was good enough to send me to Wikipedia, where I learned that London released 30 albums in the 14 years between 1955 and 1969. Most of the material she recorded was standards, the kind I spent most of 2020 listening to, so I decided that listening to London's entire discography (in order) would be perfect for writing my paper. Now, the paper's done ( I got an A), and I'm left with many, many thoughts about Julie London.  A film actress before releasing her first album, Julie is Her Name , in 1955, London had a mega-hit single with "Cry Me a River

The Ten Best Films of 2020

2020 was an odd year for movies. Many of the ones scheduled to come out in 2020 were delayed due to movie theaters closures brought on by the pandemic. And many of the ones that did actually come out were released digitally. In 2019, I saw 44 films in a movie theater. In 2020, I saw only 11, all during the first two and a half months of the year. While watching movies at home on my laptop or TV is far from the ideal cinematic experience, I still saw a number of great films. Here are 10 of them.  10. I'm Your Woman  It took a few days after watching this crime drama, directed by Julia Hart, for me to really appreciate the sly magic it worked. Starring Rachel Brosnahan as the wife of a criminal in the 1970s who, after her husband goes missing, learns more about the criminal world in which he lived. It finds a unique perspective on a generic story and upends the tropes of the genre by focusing on the moments that would happen offscreen in a typical crime drama. Available to watch on P

The Ten Best TV Episodes of 2020

As I mentioned in my list of the ten best shows of 2020 , there was a lot of great TV this year. So, I've decided to list some of the best episodes of the year, to spotlight some shows that perhaps weren't strong enough overall to make the other list, but that had a really good episode.  10. "In the Belly of the Whale" ( Hunters episode one of season one, Prime Video) This show premiered back in February, which feels like a lifetime ago. But I liked it! It definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but you'd know whether or not it is by watching the 90-minute first episode, which is probably the high point of the series (it gets very twisty toward the end). Al Pacino is in it! 9. "Elizabeth, Margaret, and Larry" ( Curb Your Enthusiasm season ten episode eight, HBO) Curb Your Enthusiasm has done ten seasons in twenty years, and when the latest premiered, I thought it was stale and out-of-touch, a poor imitation of its former self. But the back

The Ten Best TV Shows of 2020

Was 2020 an unusually great year for television, or did I just watch more things than I usually do? Probably the latter, but I had an exceptionally hard time choosing just ten shows to spotlight for this list. So, before I get into my picks, here are a few that I wish I could have included as well: I May Destroy You, A Teacher, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Dead to Me, Never Have I Ever, Love Victor, The Masked Singer, Love Life, B Positive  and Search Party.  10. The Undoing (HBO)/Big Sky (ABC) David E. Kelley has had a pretty busy fall, between miniseries The Undoing and his new drama Big Sky . I can't really say whether I find Big Sky to be a particularly good show, but I've seen every episode so far and haven't given up yet. The two shows are actually kind of inverses of each other; one a prestige premium cable miniseries with movie stars that turned out to be pretty pulpy, the other a lowly network show that's slowly letting more and more substance seep in. From