“Stranger Things” Provides Lingering Confusion and Mystery

Stranger Things an original Netflix series has sparked a lot of hype across the web during the summer.

The show marks the return of Winona Ryder and brings back the 80s esthetic and mystery genre. Those are all important factors that help to propel the show into an actual cultural phenomenon. I bet many will disguise themselves as some of the characters this Halloween.

If it may seem dark and scary on the outside looking in, I would say the suspense is greater. There is a real eerie and confused feeling that follows throughout the storyline.

The show centers on the search for a missing young boy named Will (Noah Schnapp) in the small town of Hawkins. There is great mystery surrounding Will’s strange (to say the least) captor, a monster in the Upside Down which happens to be in another dimension…Sherriff Hopper (David Harbour) leads the investigation with the help of the boy’s mother played by Winona Ryder.

One of the unexpected core to the story is friendships between childhood friends and Eleven, a young girl with telepathic powers that holds the key to finding the missing Will Byers. The bond between the characters is very strong. They are in this peculiar journey together until the end, no matter what happens.

It is also refreshing to see that a large part of the cast are children, resourceful and smart characters who infuse comedy and bravery in this compelling series. Millie Bobby Brown who plays Eleven is a standout in Stranger Things. She manages to convincingly add many nuances to her portrayal of a young girl who has been experimented on by a group of governmental scientists while maintaining innocence.

Stranger Things is an experience and a worthwhile experience that can draw in even people like myself who aren’t big fans of the horror genre. The intrigue and the mystery is what keeps the viewer wanting more. The show blends investigative drama with science fiction and a side of disturbing (Dr. Brenner and The Monster notably).

With only 8 episodes it is easy to binge-watch and definitely worth it. I give the first season of Stranger Things 4.5 out of 5 stars.

A second season of Stranger Things has been confirmed with a trailer including the episode titles. It should be released in early summer 2017.

 

 

This Is The Start Of A Promising Dramedy

This Is Us is part of this fall’s new lineup and premiered on Tuesday. It centers on the celebration of the 36th birthday of different characters that are connected to each other somehow. The show explores the lives of strangers as they intertwine at a transitional time.

For instance, there is Kate (Chrissy Metz) who hits rock-bottom and decides to join a group to help her lose weight and her brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) a handsome up and coming actor who dramatically quits his job. Small screen sweethearts Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia also star in this comedy/ drama. They play a loving couple expecting triplets.

Sterling K. Brown portrays a well-established man who looks like he has it all. It is revealed that he is looking to reconnect with his father who abandoned him at a fire station when he was a baby. He finds his dad after receiving his information from a detective and impulsively invites him to meet his grandchildren at his home.

One thing this pilot does great is to leave you intrigued as to how it is possible that these seemingly very different people are linked together. A certain air of mystery remains at the last few minutes of the episode.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see how This Is Us grapples with a dual timeline, as it is shown that Moore and Ventimiglia’s characters are living in the 1980’s. They represent the birth and the upbringing of the main characters. It also seems that Kate, Kevin and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) are siblings, a dynamic that is yet to be explored.

I think it will grow to become a family drama, a show were the relationships are front and center in the likes of Parenthood or Gilmore Girls with a (not comparable but still there) Sense 8 level of intrigue and mystery. Maybe these characters are linked in a supernatural manner, it’s doutbful but for now it could be a possibility.

This Is Us is promising, I bet there will be more than one season with a lot of drama and heartwarming moments ahead.

Get down with “The Get Down”

Last Friday, August 12th Netflix dropped part 1 of The Get Down of the anticipated series co-created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis. Set in the late 1970s in the South Bronx, the storyline centers on a teenage boy named Ezekiel (Justice Smith) with raw talent for poetry and a desire to pursue music. He and his friends band together to chase their musical dream and create an innovative sound. As they jam together, they discover and combine each of their talents. With practice new music emerges incorporating raping, singing and writing as well as a DJ which create the groups unique style.

An ode to New York the show never the less explores political and social issues including racial profiling, discrimination, sexism and power. The show explores the explosion of disco music and the tensions that arise with the Church notably. This issue is shown through Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola) a young girl with big disco dreams and an amazing voice who is fiercely discouraged to pursue her passion by her father Pastor Ramon Cruz (Giancarlo Esposito). On the other hand, her uncle Francisco ‘Papa Fuerte’ Cruz brilliantly played by Jimmy Smits cherishes his niece’s dream and helps her become a recording artist. He also plays an important role in the community and believes that South Bronx can become a proud city and that poverty will be addressed.

As soon as you start watching the show you can recognize Baz Luhrmann’s signature, there is great attention to detail and esthetic, especially for the settings and colors used for the lighting and the wardrobe. The visuals feature sometimes grainy film and clips from that period such as news reports. I also found it interesting that street art was explored and showcased mainly through Jayden Smith’s character “Dizzee”.

The Get Down is for music lovers especially of soul, disco and hip-hop. It feels true to the 1970s, the costumes and the music are groovy and fitting of the times. The show is a drama and a musical.  It’s music history with an uplifting as well as at times harsh plotlines. This demonstrates how New York grows and how the Bronx is changing drastically at that time. The last two episodes are particularly good as the drama builds and Ezekiel and the boys get ready for a DJ battle and Mylene gets her first on-stage performance.

The soundtrack alone makes The Get Down worth watching as it is incredible featuring both classic and contemporary artists from Donna Summers to Christina Aguilera. Herizen Guardiola’s vocals are also exceptional, a great discovery higlighted by the song “Set Me Free”.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, get a glimpse by watching the main trailer.

 

 

Comfort television, a thing of the past?

There is no denying the craze for shows such as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. These shows reach people (myself included!) all over the world who share the bloodshed, the killing off of characters and the violence that are common occurrences. Plot twists in the like, although they keep us on the edges of our seats, file under one common tread: instant gratification. Violence becomes a commodity when all you see is the slaughtering of the king and his family or repeated fights through hordes of zombies by slashing them open. We get used to these portrayals of brutal and senseless murders, ‘biter’ guts exposed and the not so occasional revenge-driven blood baths (cue the Red Wedding or almost anything Ramsey Bolton related). Of course these instances arguably serve the story and intensify the drama but sometimes it’s overkill.

There is a case to be said about watching shows where you are not worried that your favorite character might die after every episode. Shows where you grow fond of the characters and get to see them evolve through each season.

A few weeks ago it was officially announced that the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix would be available for streaming on November 25th. The news of the return of this series drew me back to it, I immediately started re-watching. It’s as relatable nay more relatable than when I first watched it when I was younger. The show is really character driven focusing on the mother and daughter relationship between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). When watching it’s as if you are reconnecting with old friends who talk fast and LOVE coffee. Gilmore Girls equals getting cozy and eating comfort food.

About at the same time, I started watching The Walking Dead which are from two completely different universes. I wondered if watching these shows simultaneously has an objective such as procuring an appeasing cycle: zombie attack and slaughter followed by Lorelai and Rory’s witty repartee then repeat. Maybe I’m just an avid watcher of a plethora of different genres but it feels like I am subconsciously trying to balance out the gore to heartwarming ratio. This got me wondering if the top watched shows of the hour still are able to bring an innocence or center on modern relationships? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both genres of entertainment but has one gained the upper hand? Apart from some long standing sitcoms such as Friends, How I Met Your Mother or The Office, in the last decade, it feels like the coming of age or character centered shows have become less mainstream on the networks. A genre that maybe has become more easily accessible on streaming like Grace & Frankie and The Mindy Project. It seems like once you’re up to date with your sitcoms you have to wait until the next season airs to get that comfort vibe, but if you’re looking for crime or suspenseful shows you have plenty of choices…

Do you have trouble finding shows that aren’t on the gory or murderous spectrum? Or rather, do you go through the counter violence balancing act?

‘Quantico’, A Melodramatic Battlefield

This drama and crime series is frontlined by Indian actress Priyanka Chopra. ‘Quantico’ comes from the mind of  former ‘Gossip Girl’ writer and ‘Smash’ executive-producer Joshua Safran. Although themes such as crime and mystery might seem left-field for him, the show succeeds. The network even added more episodes to its first season, now totaling to 19 episodes. Some things are evidently done right.This show has undoubtedly Shonda Rhimes qualities and characteristics. It presents strong female characters who are non apologetically bad-ass. It has universal appeal, with a wide range of diverse characters coming from different walks of life. As recruits for the FBI, each trainee has to prove themselves and show their strengths to impress officers O’Connor (Josh Hopkins) and Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis).  They also have to make strides to preserve their spot in the famous institute.

‘Quantico’ is a who dunnit with a twist, as each episode operates in a two-time narrative. First, there is the present day where Parrish (Chopra) is accused of leading a terrorist attack from inside the FBI during her training. Second, are flashbacks which give insights on the other trainees: their personal histories and their relationships. These provide background and complementary information aiding the viewer to try to figure out who was the mastermind behind the devastating attack. In that sense, everyone is a suspect and may have a motive that prompted them to orchestrate this devilish plan.

Indeed, after each episode, another recruit appears to be incriminating. I have to admit that the first episode which premiered last September hadn’t completely convinced me to stick around. Although it had good moments,it hadn’t made me long for more. Upon recommendation and because of Chopra’s charm on screen, I decided to give the show a second chance. ‘Quantico’ grows better as each episode unfolds, more drama, twists and turns make light of day and nourishes the storytelling. If at first it seemed predictable and unauthentic (law enforcement proceedings-wise, the last moments of the first episode come to mind…). What I mean to say is that in ‘Quantico‘ dramatic sometimes prevails over realistic. In that first episode were jammed-back hints of every recruit’s backstory to instill in the viewers the notion that, once again, every single one of them could of done it. On the other hand, this also makes place for a lot of character development and many layers to one’s story. Gradually, the series does get breezier. It focuses on a number of story lines, without becoming overwhelming.

Overall, the FBI Academy in ‘Quantico’, as a whole is aesthetically appealing. Beautiful people and up to date facilities and exotic locations are set in order for each recruit to try to better themselves. Every episode brings an exercise to be completed and an ability to be learned. It’s a race against time as well as competing against their colleagues; knowing their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses. Some of the missions include: safely freeing hostages, finding evidence and creating a persona to go undercover. Knowing how to  play nice and work under pressure becomes essential. There is also glamour and flings behind the though job they are preparing to enter.  The show sometimes seem soap opera-esque, especially the lust and the banter between characters in certain scenes. An important redeeming quality of ‘Quantico’ are supporting roles namely Simon Asher (Tate Ellington)whose intentions are never clear and has many layers to his personality. Chopra as the leading lady is also refreshing as she brings a certain sincerity. Both of their portrayal are complex and multifaceted which is one good reason you might find yourself coming back to the show.

Are you looking for something entertaining but not too intricate and a likable and fierce heroine? Then, ‘Quantico’ might be your next favorite show of this fall’s lineup. It currently airs on Sunday nights on ABC.

My rating of ‘Quantico’ five episodes-in: 3.5/5

Brooklyn Nine Nine, ‘New Captain’ Recap

In the season three premiere, the elevator doors finally open and revealed the new captain played by Bill Hader. Capt. Dozerman has a fragile heart; he has at least two almost-heart attacks in under 10 minutes! He is also obsessive about numbers and stressed out of his mind. Dozerman definitely does not compare to Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher).

Meanwhile, Holt and Gina’s(Chelsea Peretti) reassignement to the PR departement takes effect, to Wunch’s great amusement. However, the pigeon (the precinct’s new mascot) does rise, thanks to a pep talk by Gina.

Concerning matters of the heart, Jake and Amy are  trying  to define their new romantic relationship.”Light and breezy” is Jake and Amy’s relationship motto. As they go on their first date, they navigate extreme awkwardness. It leaves them weirded out at first, but then things speed up (or rather heat up!). In order to try to make sense of things, Santiago laid down the rules including ‘no sex’ which they rapidly broke. Boyle is heavily shipping Jake and Amy as a couple and probes both of them, until they come clean to the team. Not long after, Amy shares to Jake that she wishes they remain only colleagues because of the complicated nature of their romance. Peralta is visibly disapointed but agrees.

At the end of the first episode of season 3, Bill Hader’s character suffers from an actual heart attack upon seeing Jake and Amy make out in the evidence room. Santiago and Peralta decide to give their romance another chance. Aditionally, a new captain is introduced, none other than the canniving detective also know as ‘The Vulture’.

Emmys 2015: The Top Moments

Sunday September 20th were held The 67th annual Emmy Awards. The show hosted by comedian and actor Andy Samberg had some great comedic moments as well as emotionally charged speeches. Below are a few of the standouts which already to set a blaze the Internet .

Some of the night’s most memorable moments:

  1. The opening musical number in which host Andy Samberg sang a tune including every title nominated as he binge-watched every show to prepare for his Emmy gig.                                                                                                
  2. Ricky Gervais brilliantly parodies winning an Emmy by accepting a fake one…
  3. Jimmy Kimmel realized the power Emmy presenters have and decided to eat the envelop and declare Matt Leblanc the winner.
  4. Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) wins for best supporting actress in a drama series and delivers an emotional and joy-filled speech.

ALL THE TEARS, UZO! ALL THE TEARS.                                                                     Kevin Winter / Getty Images

5. Tatiana Maslany and Tony Hale appear in a skit on the red carpet fighting over a can of beans.

6.Viola Davis wins lead actress in a drama series. A snippet of her powerful speech:

“You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” she said in her acceptance speech. “So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.”

7. Tracy Morgan triumphantly returns to television after a year of absence do to a serious accident.

To watch a video recap of these moments:

http://moments.fox.com/c/emmyawards/2WjmnwG9oe?p=1

Get Ready For Season Four Of The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project fans were heartbroken when FOX announced it was cancelling the show earlier this summer. Soon enough, Hulu stepped in and picked up the Mindy Kaling created show. Thus promising a longer fourth season with 26 episodes and a broader creative freedom. Since the new season starts tomorrow, September 15th, you might want to get caught up. If you haven’t binge-watched the third season of The Mindy Project already , it was loaded with firsts including: meeting Danny’s mom, moving in, lessons in confidence, falling in love and having an unplanned pregnancy…

Indeed, things got real serious. Especially, when the lovable friends turned couple Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) and Dr. Danny Catellano’s (Chris Messina) relationship soared to new heights, heading for a joy-filled and unforeseeable future.

Mindy rapidly expands her horizons which leads to hints of a more fulfilling career when new opportunities arose. She gets a fellowship at Stanford University and eventually opens her own fertility clinic in New York. On the love front, her relationship with Danny brings talks about the long-term while still not being set in stone. The couple is excited but also apprehends a future together which will include their surprise baby who will be born in the upcoming fourth season. This joyous spirit does not come without its dose of doubt, fears and questions. Both are scared of not being ready nor fit to be parents.  They even unsuccessfully tried to change each others’ habits for the sake of the baby. Danny attempted to convince Mindy to abandon her junk food ways, while she insisted he stop smoking. Needless to say the result wasn’t great. The couple also starts to think more seriously about marriage, religion, their families as well as moving in together.

To Mindy’s content, she finally becomes part of the Castellano clan with her little one on the way. Indeed, Annette ‘Ma’ Castellano (Rhea Perlman) finally gives Mindy her approval and accepts her in the family. Danny’s mother ends up giving him some much needed tough love. Perlman isn’t the only famous guest-star who made an appearance on the show’s third season. Stephen Colbert and Lavern Cox respectively played Danny’s new priest and Tamra’s cousin. Cox played cousin Sheena who gave some advice to boost Mindy’s moral when she struggled with her baby-bump showing.

In the last episode of the season ‘Best Man’, Mindy questions the strength of her relationship with Danny, when he fails to show up at a dinner with her parents. Elsewhere, Dr Jeremy Reed potentially finds love (Christin Milloti), when he gets back in the dating game. Milloti is set to return in season four as the straight-laced and opinionated Whitney. Peter on the other hand moves to Texas and pursues Lauren while Morgan and Jessica’s (Julia Stiles) relationship is short-lived. In the last episode of the third season, Mindy is reunited with her exes by Morgan who misinterprets a conversation. This leads him to think that Danny is not the father of Mindy’s unborn child.The season ends with a glimpse into Peter’s wedding to Lauren and seeing Danny traveling to India in order to finally meet Mindy’s parents and tells them he is in love with Mindy. In other words, he is definitely all in!

Mindy Kaling and Ike Barinholtz who are writers for the show have repeatedly said in interviews that they will keep the essence of The Mindy Project and will not drastically change its tone while it changes distributor. After all, the show’s fanbase is composed in good part with teenagers and young adults, who look to Kaling as a role model (forever known as Beyonce Pad Thai). Hence, they wouldn’t want to completely scratch the vibe and destabilize the audience they established when the show aired on FOX.

Season four of The Mindy Project is sure to bring a lot of new problems and realities for Mindy and Danny as they navigate through parenthood as well as the Lahiri Fertility Clinic. We will additionally have the chance to meet Mindy’s parents and see them interact with Annette Castellano. Banter, the unexpected and even new love connections are to make their way into this new installment of the adventures of Mindy and Danny. Dr. Lahiri and Dr. Castellano are still maneuvering the waters, as they try to get along and make a mends with their  opposite views and temperaments. This means we can expect hilarity to ensue and life-changing experiences.

Photo:The Mindy Project (Hulu)

Spotlight On: Orphan Black

If for some reason you haven’t yet found the gem that is Orphan Black, please do yourself a favor and start watching! Orphan Black is a hybrid mixing suspense, science-fiction, thriller, romance and even comedy. A combination which is absolutely worth watching. It showcases Emmy-nominated actor Tatiana Maslany who portrays an array of different women-clones actually- with each their own diverse backgrounds, interests and motivations.

Season 1 opened with Sara Manning (Maslany) witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks strikingly like her. That woman happened to be a detective named Beth Childs. Being down on her luck, London-born Sara assumes the stranger’s identity. She views this ‘opportunity’ as an easy way to solve her problems and salvage her estranged relationship with her family, that includes her brother Felix and her young daughter Kira. She makes a mends with them whilst getting to grips with the mysteries that began the moment she warily took Beth’s home and husband Paul (Dylan Bruce). Her stint impersonating Detective Childs also brings her to work with her partner Art Bell who was close to the deceased. They eventually become allies of sorts and help each other out when in need.

Sara Manning discovers that other women share her face. A startling fact that brings her to meet and develop a great bond with diametrically different people. Sara is introduced to: Cosima, a scientist; Allison a suburban mom, and Helena, who simply does her own thing with (most might say) psychopathic tendencies coupled with a heart of gold, or at least loyalty to family… Although the clones share a same physique, they are by no means identical spirits or personalities. Each has their own struggles, voice, gait, traits and style. They form an unlikely bond or rater a sisterhood, as they find out some people are hunting them down.The women quickly come to realize that they are not the only ones sharing identical genetics. By working together, they come to discover others like them. The clones additionally learn that they were part of  a scientific experiment led by an organization whose people have their own disturbing agenda. Finding and understanding the reasons that explain their existence results in an ongoing, ambiguous and very tumultuous mission. It leads to mind-blowing connections, implications and gives them a glimpse into the grand-scale nature of their conception.

This is the kind of series that sucks you in from the first moment you watch it. Addicting , mysterious and thrilling, the 10-episode seasons are fast-paced and deliver the goods. By that I mean, you will find everything sure to keep your attention. Each episode ranges from drama, action sequences, humor (especially from the ever-so dynamic Allison), touching moments as well as betrayal and revenge. It is unequivocally a recipe for success and guaranteed entertainment and intrigue. The show keeps you on your toes, bringing you to frequently question yourself on the character’s intentions and loyalty. Thus it is a suspenseful tale that never stops to captivate the viewer.

The show constantly adds new faces to the mix whether it be clones, love interests or even dangerous enemies menacing Sara and her sisters.The third season of Orphan Black did all of that by introducing new male clones portrayed by Ari Allen, who is briefly seen in season 2 . Most of the clones he portrays are clearly up to no good and shed light on a revealing truth about the organizations that brought all of them to life. A predominant theme in the show is the importance of family and doing everything possible to keep the ones you love safe from harm. Happiness often appears as an illusion, or rather something most characters long for. They each get moments of joy, only the storm is never far behind.

Rating Orphan Black (including the recent third season): 4/5

The release of the fourth season is set in Summer 2016, the show airs on BBC America and Space (Canada).

Feature photo: Orphan Black Official Facebook

A Short Guide To Fall TV Premieres 2015

Pilot season is upon us, this means that a handful of shows will bask in glory while others will dramatically end as quickly as they appeared on our silver screens.Here are some recommendations to help guide anyone who is perhaps looking for something knew to add to their “To Watch List” this fall. I have also indicated some shows that I will return to as they will offer a fresh new season  starting in these upcoming weeks.

New shows to look forward to:

Heroes Reborn (Thursday September 24th)

Heroes Reborn is a sequel to the ground-breaking series Heroes (2006-2010). It will feature some of the original cast including Jack Coleman (Noah Bennet) and Masi Oka (Hiro). Even though the last season of the original show was a let-down, Heroes Reborn promises action and suspense. In the trailer, heroes are being hunted down after a terrorist attack for which they are blamed for. One of the titular villains or bad guys will be played by Zachary Levi’s character. The series will also introduce new people with special abilities including Robbie Kay (Once Upon A Time) and Danika Yarosh (Law & Order: SVU).

Quantico (Sunday September 27th)

Established actor and former Miss India, Pryanka Chopra heads Quantico, ABC’S newest drama. The show centers on FBI agents that are being pit against each other, when a terrorist attack appears to have been orchestrated by an insider. Alex Parrish (Chopra) is the prime suspect, to her bewilderment.

Shows to return to:

The Mindy Project (Tuesday September 15th)

The cast of The Mindy Project attending at the Hulu TCA panel in August.

Having been  recently cancelled by FOX and then picked up by Hulu, the upcoming forth season of The Mindy Project opens the door to change. An important growth and evolution is to be expected of hot-headed Dr Castellano and the fierce Dr Lahiri who will give birth as the shows creator Mindy Lahiri confirmed via Instagram. We can expect more hilarity and heartfelt moments as the show will have 26 episodes on Hulu  whilst it had 22 at FOX.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Sunday September 27th)

At the end of the second season, we were left with a cliffhanger, a new captain was joining the precinct. Bill Hader was announced as the man to replace Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) ,who left for a PR job. We can expect his return to his rightful role of captain to take time,at least the beginning of the season. We will also get to see Amy and Jake explore their new romantic relationship and their never ending banter to continue.

iZombie (Tuesday October 6th)

You can expect more murder solving and brain eating from doctor turned zombie Liv Moore. She will continue to aid Detective Babineaux  with her “psychic visions”. We can also look forward to know what the future holds for Liv and Major’s relationship, now that he is aware of her being a zombie.