7 Reviews
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Hello Ladies (2013– )
A really funny, cringey, modern, but formulaic show.
1 February 2014
The title says it all. The humor is spot on and very much so in the vein of Merchant's past work. If you can handle cringe humor like Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office (UK), Peep Show, Todd Margaret, etc. you'l enjoy this. Merchant's character is barely likable for most of the series, but he brings a charm to the role and an earnest naivety that reflects the struggle of a British man from small towns trying to adapt to LA life. The arching plot is very formulaic unfortunately. He chases stunning yet vapid women with whom he has nothing in common while there's the perfect woman for him right under his nose. There are plenty of subplots that make up for this, and there's a nice theme that ties these plot lines together. There were a couple recurring characters that could have been explored more in the first series. Overall it's worth your time if you have it. Don't move it to the top of your list, however.
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Her (2013)
Jonze's best work - don't miss it.
11 January 2014
I trust Spike Jonze. When I first heard about Her's concept I imagined, due to the indoctrinating effects of the perpetual excretion of "smart" Hollywood rom-coms, a nice little quirky love story with a really socially relevant gimmick. I thought that could work, or, in another's hands, fail miserably. But I trust Spike Jonze. He's never fallen within creativity's first standard deviation, so I was cautiously optimistic that I'd be blown away. This project was clearly much more to Jonze than a rom-com with a twist. It's not a hard concept to conceive of, and people have probably imagined it well before Jonze. Those people probably couldn't have committed to pursuing the concept with such emotional, philosophical, technical, and creative intelligence.

Spike Jonze created a deep world for his characters and his plot in which to interact, and the society the characters occupy interacts dynamically with the characters, as another character might, as they make their way through the plot. The society Theodore lives in isn't far from how it is today. It's still the age of the tech toy. We worship the tech gods year-round waiting for patent leaks and ratings and awards and conventions. The top tech companies devote development to incorporating more and more technology into our lives, and they do it because it's exactly what we've proved we want. This may sound disconcerting, but it's happening regardless. Eventually, according to Her, we make our way to consumer AI: OS 1. "My OS . . ." "Do you have an OS?" It's a product, the new thing; it probably swept CES. Suddenly, for a whole society, the ability to own a fully-conscious AI is a reality, and Jonze doesn't forget to use that vital dynamic to help tell his story. The social implications of technology people can actually develop relationships with are handled with incredible insight from Jonze who explores a person and society's willingness to change and proclivity to love and accept.

I'll touch on a couple conventions or concepts Jonze tackles in the film, but bear in mind that these explorations are never out of place and contribute to completing the story:

Her is sexually fascinating. Jonze asked honest questions about the nature of sexuality in a relationship between a human and an AI, and he even considered the AI's potential insecurities over the inability to interact physically. From there he dives into considering how people might circumvent the issue and what complications might arise from such a situation. Jonze is entirely honest about the spectrum of sexuality and applies it to the story well.

Jonze explores the isolating effects of technology, especially for Theodore, who escapes into entertainment and information after a separation from his wife. Samantha seemingly brings him out of his technology cocoon, but, considering that she herself is technology, we wonder if he's isolating himself or not. Is she a companion?

Beyond these social ideas explored through the film's concept, Jonze greatly expands upon the implications of AI, especially the potential for AIs to form communities.

The acting was all around excellent as can be expected from such a capable group of actors and actresses. Joaquin Phoenix is impressive and nuanced as always. He plays timid, heartfelt, odd, and sad very well. This role is so entirely the opposite of his last performance as Freddy Quell in The Master which, while being maybe the greatest performance in a decade, doesn't overshadow the emotional depth and authenticity he displays through Theodore. Scarlet Johansson brings a lot of energy and life into her role. Her job here goes beyond what most voice acting requires since there's no animate analogue (as there would be in most voice acting situations) to lend to expression. This movie simply would not have worked as well if the actress voicing Samantha didn't bring the necessary humanity and emotion into the character. Luckily Johansson knocked it out of the park. The supporting cast was excellent. Most movies have that one miscast in the secondary, but you won't find it in Her.

Beyond the well-developed concept and the keen observations was just plain old great writing. You can have a great concept and cool ideas to explore, but if the dialogue is s**t you're done. Every conversation is developed with great care and that special quality that makes for interesting writing. Writers like Jonze, Noah Baumbach, David O. Russell, Woody Allen, et cetera have that gift for interesting writing and Jonze pulls out his best writing by a considerable margin. Every bit of it is that 10% of gold found in most films.

There's a ton more to analyze and critique, but I don't want to give any spoilers and that sort of stuff is better suited for an essay or something anyway. Hopefully something I said was enough to get you to experience this film. 9.7/10
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Derek (2012–2014)
Stop comparing it and let it be, a fantastic show.
6 October 2013
Derek is one of those rare shows where you smile throughout every episode and occasionally laugh deeply - like you do when you're with friends, not watching a TV show - and cry quietly and get angry with the characters. For me, I was pulled in emotionally and quickly became heavily invested in the lives of the characters. It really speaks volumes about what Gervais and the cast were able to achieve here. The writing is tight, and every scene of every episode adds to the characters in some way. As much as Gervais focuses on plots and subplots and antics and uncomfortable situations, he spends an equal amount of time deepening his characters and shaping them as unique people.

The acting is excellent, as is typical of Gervais's work, and feels spontaneous and authentic (there are exceptions, but nothing's perfect). Its unfortunate that Gervais can't get away from his other work with this one.

It seems that everyone reviewed Derek under the lens of Gervais's previous work. Expecting something you're already seen before when someone offers to show you something new is nonsensical.

Gervais has always been successful at poignancy when he needs to be, but he knocks it out the park here consistently without ever getting "cheesy." It shows his writing and directing abilities have improved (even if he might be leaning on the mockumentary format a bit too much), and I'm anxious to maybe see more dramatic work from him.

Overall, Gervais's best work to date in its own right. 10/10
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Breaking Bad: Granite State (2013)
Season 5, Episode 15
Expertly written penultimate episode.
22 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Ozymandias" was the greatest episode of Breaking Bad so far, but "Granite State" solidified Breaking Bad, for me, as the greatest work of episodic cinema ever.

Most TV shows miss the concept of pacing (the one's with continuity). They tend to sprint towards the finish in an effort to keep the audience as pleased as possible. They see a final season as, perhaps, the grand finale of a fireworks display. Breaking Bad doesn't do this. Vince and the writers take their time. They know how to pace a proper story.

"Ozymandias" is the total destruction of the protagonist as all he cares about is gone, his enemies seize the upper hand, and he's forced to sanctuary. "Granite State" is the calm before the storm, the protagonist nurses their wounds, they grieve their defeat, they plan their retaliation, they go to the brink of surrender. Then something happens to them. They hear something, they see and then they think something. Something deep within their character, something which drives everything they've done so far, emerges from what was broken and takes it's place. For Walter White it is a legacy, an empire. "Felina" will be the final act prepared perfectly by "Granite State."

This episode used the Jesse scenes to continue the spirit of "Ozymandias" while setting up Walter's scenes (or should I say Heisenberg's) for the finale. They delivered expertly crafted build mixed with shock, disgust, and excitement while maintaining status as the most maturely plotted show ever.

10/10. If you expected an explosive episode topping "Ozymandias" going into "Felina" you got it. Sometimes an explosion can be more subtle than you'd expect.
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House of Cards (2013– )
Captivating, smart, and vindictive.
3 February 2013
House of Cards is the first of several upcoming original series offered exclusively by Netflix to compete with other internet TV services, and - - hopefully -- the way we watch episodic film (which at this point in its evolution deserves that title). House of Cards as follows Frank Underwood, the Majority Whip in the US House of Representatives, as he is betrayed by his party's president-elect, and he sets out on a ruthless vendetta to come out on top. Kevin Spacey plays the South Carolinian Congressman brilliantly, and he commands the show as a brilliant, deceptive, and sometimes disturbingly omnipotent central character and narrator.

The show uses a classic narration style borrowed from dramatic theater in which a character will talk directly to the audience as scenes unfold. I was skeptical at first. I thought the style would draw from the immersion, take me out of the scene, remind me I was watching TV, but I could not have been more wrong. You are Frank Underwood's confidant, and he guides you through his exploits and reveals to us his cunning and deep-seated wickedness. And it's delightful. It isn't easy to write an antihero, but they've succeeded in delivering one that is so likable we often can't help but want Frank to win it all. No one wants a crook in the White House, unless it's Francis Underwood.
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Louie (2010– )
Louis is one of the most honest and creative works to grace television.
30 July 2012
I've waited two and a half seasons to write a review of Louie. I watched it from the beginning, and re-watched each season during each hiatus. Every time I was engrossed and wildly entertained. It made me think and it made me wonder about how and why people do the things they do.

We're all used to this artificial portrayal of human life when we watch TV or movies. Every person is utterly fascinating and clever and somehow always seem to drive a plot with every sentence. This is not like that. This is human interaction and life in its most honest form. You won't find fast-paced witty dialogue or 23 minutes of one-liners. If that's what you're looking for in a series, tune into the other comedies on TV, you'll be thoroughly entertained. Louie captures what is truly hilarious, interesting or profound about life, and he presents it organically. It all appears to happen by a series of infinitely numerous and infinitely improbable outcomes. And its because that's how life is. Life doesn't have a plot or a story-arc. Life is usually disappointing and uneventful, but its always interesting, there are always hilarious moments, and it always leaves you wanting more.
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Veep (2012– )
Contrary to popular belief, this show is hilarious.
28 May 2012
I waited until after the sixth episode to review the show so it had time to germinate and really show the audience its potential before I made judgment. I liked the show from the start, mostly because I love The Thick of It and In the Loop. Now I love this show.

Its smart, the dialogue is rich and full. You don't get the crappy, tepidly funny one-liners you get from most comedy series nowadays, you get incredibly intelligent situational humor that really makes you wonder about politics in the US and around the world. The show really highlights the humanity that people often dissociate from politics, a quality Armando Iannucci has always brought to his political humor with wit and vulgarity. Highly recommended.

This show is only funny if you actually pay attention to the plot of each episode, you simply won't get it if you pay half attention, because every line has a twist of humor, and every line builds on the last, which is so rare in comedy in the US.
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