Television Fall 2013: The Best Returning Shows (So Far) Pt. 1

Prior to the summer of 2013, I was very disappointed  in my returning favorite shows. None of them quite lived up to their past glory.  However, I am happy to say many of these shows have rebound.

A few of the shows returning to, or exceed,ing their past glory are:

The Best Returning Shows of Fall 2013 (so Far):

Once Upon a Time gets the best returning show award. I didn’t hate last season as much as some, but it just felt not quite there. However, the show seems more focused this season. It has a solid story arc goal. Because Once Upon a Time is divided into two-halves this year, the production team have given the series new life.  The season may have only had two episodes thus far, but they’ve been two of my favorites of the entire series.  I have a feeling that this season of Once Upon a Time will just get better and better. I’ve even boldly called it my favorite seasons so far on my coverage of it.

LANA PARRILLA

Once Upon a Time’s  writing, acting and overall message has been stronger than it’s ever been in the past. This season feels like it’s getting  back to the heart of the show. The strength of Once Upon a Time really falls in the reinterpretation of Peter Pan. That imagination has sparked some really  admirable storytelling.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

The Vampire Diaries and Revenge seem like the most improved showsBoth series were terrible last season. But something changed  during production this year to give both series much needed makeovers.  Nevertheless, they both still needs lots of makeup to fix their issues. The Vampire Diaries has a little too much going on to fully develop each and every storyline. Despite my general hatred for the coupling of Damon and Elena, they are not that problematic this season (at least so far). The writers have wisely chosen to focus more on the supporting characters than their romance. I’m happy to see that Matt has become a major player now that the Original vampires are gone.

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Revenge hasn’t quite accomplished regaining the fun spark it had during season 1, but, like Once Upon a Time, the 11-episodes arcs  make the episodes more focused and driven towards a big eleven episode finale. However, the show is becoming a little over the top soapy. If it can tone that down a little, it could be a great series again.

The Voice - Season 5

I’ve watched The Voice every season, but this is the only one that  I can actually say I have multiple favorite acts in the competition. Therefore, I’m more invested in the contestants than I’ve ever been. Hopefully some of them stick around long enough to keep me invested in the series.

Kathy Bates American Horror Story

One series that didn’t let me down last year, and looks like it won’t this year is American Horror Story. The new season seems just the right amount of dark, with a blend of fun in there. It’s still too early to tell if it’ll be a knock out season for the show. But I have high hopes for it.

Misfits Series 4Freshmeat 2-1The Walking Dead

Many of the shows I’m looking forward to this year have not yet  returned. A few of them include The Walking DeadMisfits and Fresh Meat. Therefore, I will do another post on the best returning series at the end of November to include other shows. I will also do reviews of each of the premiere episodes of The Walking Dead, Misfits and Fresh Meat. 

For now, I just hope that these returning series continue to improve, and don’t get tripped up by the 20, 22 or 24 episodes a season problem.

Coming Up soon…the worst new shows of fall 2013.

Television Fall 2013: The Best New Shows (So Far) Pt. 1

The fall 2013 television season has begun. This year, like previous years, there are way too many shows competing for guts and glory. However, most won’t get glory.  And only a few will even survive. The Hunger Games season for television has left many shows on their last breath (it’s only week 3 for many of them). While a hand few are clearly becoming victors.

Here are those victors:

The Best New Shows of Fall 2013 (So Far)

To me the most intriguing, best acted and written show so far is The Blacklist.  James Spader (Red) was the selling point for me on the series. However, the writing is what keeps me tuning in each week. There is something so fascinating about a series following the destruction of super villains. Though this show isn’t a superhero one, it definite has those elements.  The characters on The Blacklist have dimensions often not shown on serial cop dramas like Law and Order. 

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The most interested thing with The Blacklist is the mystery surrounding Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). We now know her life isn’t what it seems. But what does that mean? I’m really hoping the reveal is a big pay off, and not an obvious one like  Red being her dad and her husband, Tom (Ryan Eggold), being a plant in her life.

Each week’s mystery is fun and exciting. So the show works on two levels. The first is a mystery of the week/criminal of the week show, and the second is an overall story about a woman trying to figure out her life. If the Blacklist continues on this path, it could be the best new show NBC has produced in a long time.

AgentsOfSHIELD

A Close second for me is Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.  Because I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon, definitely part of the cult, I had huge expectations for this show. The pilot episode didn’t quite work. It felt cheesy, awkward and didn’t really have the Whedon goodness I love. However, as the series has increased, it’s gotten better. It’s still not perfect, but I think with time it might get there. Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D has great characters, but it just needs to get its writing tighter.

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Also tied for second is Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is what would happen if Grimm and Fringe had a baby. I’m not intrigued as much by the overall mystery/monster of the week, but I am loving the main characters. The acting is very well-done, and the one-liners warm my heart with their cleverness.

Pilot

On the comedy front, I’m surprised to say that I kind of love Mom. I didn’t expect to, but it’s one of my favorite new shows and comedies. The writing and jokes get stronger weekly. I hope that it has the staying power of lesser comedies like Two in a Half Men. Because if so, it could be a great series.

THE CW UPFRONTS 2013 Once Upon a Time In Wonderland Season 1 Episode 1-9

In the shows that could be great category is Once Upon a Time In Wonderland and The Tomorrow People. Both shows just premiered this week, so it’s hard to judge them thus far. Nonetheless, they both had really strong pilot episodes. So I have high hopes for them.

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In the shows that should have been great category is Super Clyde I saw Super Clyde a couple days ago on CBS.Com. And it was one of the best pilots I’ve seen all season. Therefore,  I’m really disappointed and surprised that CBS didn’t give it a full series. However, it does not quite work for the CBS brand, but would have been great for Fox.

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There are still a couple of series yet to premiere, and some of them  seem like they have the potential to be really good shows. Almost Human and Dracula rank high on my hopes for new fall TV  series, among a few others.  So I may do another best shows of  fall 2013 post at the end of November when all the shows have premiered.

However, generally I am happy with the new series (I’ve seen) this year. They’re definitely stronger than last year.

Coming Soon…the best returning series of fall 2013.

Pop Culture Pains: The Love Triangle

Pop Culture pains are the things in television shows, movies or books that make me want to pull my hair out. 

You find yourself invested in a television show or a movie. You’re loving all the characters. Then you see two characters who seem so perfect together. But wait…someone else enters the picture. Then you scream with horrible. No, no, no. It’s a love triangle.

The Vampire Diaries

I hate television show love triangles. I hate movie love triangles even more.  The ones in movies are huge disappointments. They usually end in one side of the triangle revealing themselves to be a horrible person.  Therefore, wasting viewers’ time, because they take the easy escape route in the end. The ones on shows just cause unnecessary drama. But the main reason I hate love triangles in television shows and movies are love triangles are so unrealistic.  How many people do you really know in a love triangle? And if this person is in a love triangle, how much does that make you dislike them? It makes them seem really slimy, because what kind of person keeps people strung along while they figure things out. It’s the ultimate sign of a selfish person.

So how are we supposed to like characters too fickle to decide who they want to be with? I think most people aren’t torn between two people. Their relationship problems are more internal. Their insecure about themselves and/or their partner. They argue too much.  Their kids are killing the romance. Very rarely is a relationship broken up because someone is conflicted about who they love. So why should we accept this in our television shows and movies? I would much rather see relationships have conflict because there are so many internal things hurting their romance. Take the other people out of it.  They just cause fangirls to argue over who’s hotter.

If television show and movie writers really want to show the problems of relationships, especially young ones, focus on what happens when people who are not completely aware of themselves start dating. Show people who really only love each other, but their past keeps making them do damaging things to their romance. How about even showing someone be unfaithful, and then that person try to repair the pain of that.

I have never watched a show and said “I’m glad there is a love triangle. I love, love triangles!” I have watched a movie with a complicated relationship and admired the depiction of all the stress and pain that comes with love.  So dear pop culture, please stop the love triangles. I don’t care how many people want to rock those stupid team whatever t-shirts.  I rather see complex stories about love that don’t involve someone else coming in the picture.  Love stories are more interesting when they’re realistic. Love triangles are not realistic.

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Music Monday: Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth feat. Emeli Sandé

The first time I heard Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth feat. Emeli Sande, it was a cover version. I tend to prefer covers of songs because they’re more stripped down and organic. However, when I searched on youtube for the original, I was pleasantly surprised.

Everything about Beneath Your Beautiful works. The vocals are mesmerizing,  Labrinth’s voice blends so effortlessly with Emeli’s voice. Their voices are almost made for one another.  Next the technicality of the video makes it a spot on tribute to the song.  I love the idea of someone being projected on a screen, like a movie star, while another sings to them. It totally captures the idea of someone being beautiful, but unable to see it. In your eyes, they’re a star. In their eyes, they’re a mere mortal.

Beneath Your Beautiful is pure, musical heaven. This is what songs and videos should be.

Movie Review: 5 Reasons Pacific Rim Is Cooler Than You Think, And 3 Reasons It’s Not

Warning this post may contain spoilers on Pacific Rim. Please do not read this until you see the movie.

When Pacific Rim was released, I had no interest in seeing it. Big budget, action, robot films rarely excite me. Additionally, the marketing for the film lacked momentum.  Not until the week of release did I hear about  Pacific Rim. However, through the power of social media,  my curiosity became piqued.  People reblogged gifs of it on Tumblr all the time.  Twitter chirped with articles about Pacific Rim. Therefore,  I took to a trusted friend for more information about this movie:  IMDB.  I discovered that Pacific Rim was highly rated by IMDB users, and directed by Guillermo del Toro. Because Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all-time, I am naturally inclined to see any movie directed by del Toro. Another selling point was  Robert Kazinsky. Kazinsky made this season of  True Blood  enjoyable. Therefore, all the social media buzz about the film, the cast and the director made its DVD release date an important time for me.

PACIFIC RIM

Tonight I watched Pacific Rim.  I now understand the cult behind it. However, some glaring problems with the film kept me from drinking the cult Kool-Aid.

So here are five reasons why Pacific Rim is cooler than you think, and three reasons why it’s not.

Cooler Than You Think

1. Movie Genre-Hybrid-Baby Film 

My movie genre expertise does not correlate with the ones that  influenced Pacific Rim . However, even non-experts, like me, easily can understand how certain film genres inspired elements of this movie.  Pacific Rim partially sources monster movies, hero origin tales and even a few  buddy cop/romance ones.

The film draws heavily from  Japanese monster movies. Some of the best moments of Pacific Rim involves the mimicking of Godzilla or King Kong movies. Pacific Rim clearly loves, knows and appreciates all the genres referenced, and because of that, it’s an admirable production.

2.  How Casting Should Be Done

It unsettles me when casting directors go for big Hollywood names instead of acting abilities. With that being said, the majority of the cast of Pacific Rim has little name recognition to an American audience.  Nevertheless, everyone in the cast radiates acting talent. Along with Kazinsky, I am a fan of Idris Elba and Charlie Day. Additionally, Rinko Kikuchi‘s performance on Babel is unforgettable. The only actor I was unfamiliar with, going into this film, was Charlie Hunnam. However, upon further research, I discovered how crafted he is at creating characters.

Overall, the Pacific Rim’s cast is what dreams are made of.

3. Diversity, Yeah! 

The film needs a bit more racial diversity.  Nonetheless, the multi-racial casting represents what the future of film casting should look-like.  Besides being racial diverse, the Pacific Rim cast is globally diverse.  Americans are the minority in this movie.

Pacific Rim‘s casting choices helps convey the idea that films need more diversity with leading roles.

4.  Pretty Colours 

Despite the sea monsters destroying it, Pacific Rim‘s version of Hong Kong looks breathtaking. A major reason for this involves the films consistent use of contrasting red and blue. A whole analytical piece for the film could really dive into the interesting patterns with the red and blue scenes in Pacific Rim.  For example, I’m sure some film student could do a whole reading on the scene when Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) carries her  little red shoes while being chased by a huge robot monster. They could argue that the red shoes in this totally demolished place symbolizes hope. Then they could say something about how red often shows hope in the film, and also tie that in with the important of red to Hong Kong.

The red burns bright while the city turns grey and dark.  It’s just such a beautiful visual.

5. Sign Me Up For This World

While watching Pacific Rim,  I started wondering about evolution. I wondered if  these creatures could actually happen one day. Then I started wondered if we should prepare now. I also wondered where would I get a cool robot suit.

I respect and admire how effortlessly del Toro created a world I fully believe.

Why It’s Not

1. You Can Fight Him, But You Can’t Stand Up For Yourself! 

A major problem in Pacific Rim is the characterization of Mako. She gives in too much to her emotions and is almost entirely submissive.  Essentially, Mako, as the only female character, classifies on the same hero level as the men. However, her fragile mentality makes her weaker than them.  The most disturbing display of Mako’s fragile nature shows when she cannot control her memories and almost kills everyone at the lab.  If the film had any other character behaving this way, it wouldn’t have felt like a jab against women. Because Mako as the only woman seems so emotional, it feels like the film is saying, “women: too emotional for heroics.” No other character in Pacific Rim displays lack of emotional control in this way. Becket (Charlie Hunnam) faces similar distress but he remains calm.

Another point of concern is Mako’s relationship with Pentecost (Idris Elba). Until his death, he controlled her completely, and she submitted to him easily.  Just because he was her father figure does not excuse their concerning relationship. Even daughters rebel against  controlling fathers. I do not believe Pacific Rim intended to express sexist ideologies, but  sometimes the intent does not match the reality.

People can argue it is an Asian culture thing. However, I will prove those stereotypes incorrect.

2. I’ll Take That Without All The Cheese

As a robot film, I expected robot film dialogue. Therefore, I did not expect Shakespeare in the park. Nevertheless, sometimes the writing became so cheesy that I cringed. Other times, the film felt so formulaic that I could predict the lines and storylines.

One moment that almost made me want to turn away, because it was too painful (in a laughable way) to watch, is the tearful goodbyes between Chuck (Robert Kazinsky) and Herc (Max Martini). That scene’s writing ranks  on the same level as soap opera cheesy.  Aside: No offense is intended to soap opera fans or writers. Soap operas, despite their bad reputation, can have very captivating storylines and scenes. However, when soap opera writers fail to write something believable, they really fail.   End Aside.

Like soap operas, when Pacific Rim‘s writing lacks believability, it really does.

3. Know The Rules of Textbook Characters, Then Break Them

Despite the talent of the cast, at times the characters are one-dimensional and unrealistic. Pentecost’s angry screaming almost discredited Elba as an actor.   It just didn’t feel natural. Both Kazinsky and Hunnam fall into character stereotypes. Kazinsky embodies the jerk, with a daddy issues,  cliche, just as much as Hunnam represents the All-American hero one.

Their acting was fine, but neither actor attempted to take these characters to another level. A textbook character can still have dimensions to make it more than that(See: Joss Whedon characters as reference).

Dr. Geiszler (Charlie Day)  and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are the most fascinating characters in Pacific Rim. Both of them are reinterpretations of very classic character stereotypes. They took weird scientists characters to new levels.  Dr. Geiszler’s quest storyline is so interesting that it easily could have been its own film.

Pacific Rim definitely has a lot of inspiring qualities: the homage to monster films, the perfect casting and the subtle usage of colors. However, there is a lot of room for improvements.  So if there is a sequel someday, work on the problems. Therefore, it can truly become a monster of a film.

Grade: 6.9/10

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Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus (Covered by James Arthur)

After hearing Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus, I immediately loved it. I’ll admit that the main reason I listened to the song was because of the controversy surrounding it and the video. However,  the controversy does not overshadow the beauty of the song. Yes, it’s beautiful in a simple, pop way. But for a pop song, it’s very well done.

I kept my love for the song a secret. Well, because I didn’t feel justified in loving it. That is until I heard the cover by James Arthur. I have been a James Arthur fan, basically from the beginning. I loathe the American version of X Factor but I love the UK version of it. I know they’re basically the same thing, but the UK one just works better for me. The same applies for The Voice. I love the American version of The Voice, but something about the UK version just doesn’t work as well as it does here.

I watched James Arthur become the champ of X Factor last year, and I have been following his career since. When he posted a link to this cover on Twitter, I finally felt like someone interrupted Miley’s beautiful song correctly. It’s not my favorite James Arthur cover, but it’s raw emotions give the lyrics a life that Cyrus never did.

Listen to James Arthur’s Wrecking Ball cover below. Better than the original? I think so.