Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Roseanne - Season 3

A few days ago I finally wrapped up season three of Roseanne (s3 highlights) and that means it is time for another entry with my key takeaways from the season. Click here for my recaps of previous season.

-As I mentioned in my previous recaps while I liked the first two seasons, they do not feature a lot about what I originally remembered of the cast. Season three is where a lot of the key character and plot traits I originally identified with the cast started to take shape.

-That first trait is Roseanne (Roseanne Bar) working at the diner. She inexplicably is jobless again at the beginning of the season, but winds up employed at a diner in the mall. I always remembered Roseanne and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) working together at a more traditional diner and not in a mall though, but I am presuming that is to come in later seasons. We do meet Roseanne’s co-waitress Bonnie (Bonnie Bramlett) who nails the role of an old-shool truck stop waitress who does not take crap from anyone. Needless to say, she and Roseanne gel well. We also meet their boss Leon (Martin Mull). We learn a few episodes after his introduction that he is a homosexual, and the waitresses are perfectly accepting of him. I do not know my TV history that well, but I am presuming this is one of the earlier cases of a respectful portrayal of a homosexual character in TV history.

-I recall Dan (John Goodman) mostly working in a bike shop throughout the show’s run, and at the very end of season three we find out how he starts up the bike shop in a must-see show-defining season finale. Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is the character who evolves the most this season. She is still rocking her tomboy look and is still all about sports at beginning of the season, but as season three progresses she switches up her hairstyle to the long, wavy perm look I always associated her character with and she starts to deepen her voice more too and embrace her first couple of boyfriends this season too. She is not quite all the way their into her dry wit/super emo self yet, but she is well on her way.

-There are a couple seeds planted for DJ (Michael Fishman) being the stereotypical ‘weird kid’ this season. One is where he collects the heads of Darlene and Becky’s old dolls. DJ is primarily in the backdrop this season and is featured in a handful of episodes. Season three sees introduction to Becky’s longtime boyfriend Mark (Glenn Quinn). He is only in two or three episodes this season, though I imagine he will be more prominent later on. The Conner’s are not fans of Mark’s bad biker-boy demeanor and ban Becky (Alicia Goranson) from seeing him. Obviously that did not work out.

-I do not know if the third season featured a transition with some new writers that took awhile to mesh well together or what, but the first several episodes of the season are lackluster and feature a lot of sitcom clich├ęs and/or gimmicky themes in a series that established itself up until this point as that being anything but the case (minus the annual Halloween-themed episode). I was starting to get worried about the show going for a turn for the worse, but the writers eventually started clicking and getting their act together several episodes in.

-Odd story arc this season goes to Roseanne’s friend and former factory co-worker, Krystal (Natalie West) marrying Dan’s father and the two having a child together by the end of the season. It provoked quite the reactions from Dan & Roseanne, and watching those two go haywire from learning the news and come to embrace them was a fun journey to embark on. Jackie had a bad break this season as she lost her boyfriend and job early in the season and remained jobless for the rest of season three. She did remain as affable as ever though.

-My favorite episode in season three is an easy choice and goes to the episode “Scenes from a BBQ” where the Conner’s throw a Mother’s Day BBQ where all their friends and neighbors attend. It brought back memories of the chaos and fun of my old family BBQs with the family going nuts getting all the food ready, but eventually enjoying each other’s company by the end of the night. Unlike Mr. Connor however, my dad was not a master strummer of the guitar as the episode concluded with a delightful family sing-a-long.

-Like the past seasons, there are two bonus interviews that make up the extra features. They are interviews with Laurie Metcalf and Lecy Goranson. Both are a little under 10 minutes, and both are by-the-numbers interviews where they give their key memories of the major cast members and what it was like first coming on the show.

-Season three started off stumbling over itself for the first several episodes, but found its footing a third of the way through. It seems by the end of the season Roseanne is pretty close to solidifying its foundation for what I mostly remember it being, and I am anticipating starting off season four!

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
Adventures of Briscoe County Jr: The Complete Series
Angry Videogame Nerd Volumes 7-9
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
OJ: Made in America: 30 for 30
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Roseanne – Seasons 1-9
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
Superheroes: Pioneers of Television

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy

We are mere weeks away from the release of the latest Marvel Studios film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so naturally it felt right to pull 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy (trailer out of the backlog box. I specifically remember thinking that this was going to be the first full-on flop from Marvel Studios. The comic it was based on was around off and on over the years but I never considered it a top-tier book from Marvel by any means and could not name a single character by the time the film arrived.

GotG was certainly going to be the first Marvel film to focus on a character that was not in the upper-echelon of Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor. I also despised the original trailer for the first film. For whatever reason it played before nearly every film I caught at the theater for several months before the movie hit. The preview gave me all the wrong vibes that this was going to be full of bad jokes from a bunch of unknown heroes in the cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe that will go right over my head. I could not have been happier to be so wrong.

GotG centers around one Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt). The film starts off with him as a young child at his mother’s deathbed, when all of a sudden a mysterious spaceship abducts him and the film immediately jumps a couple decades ahead where Quill is now a ‘junker’ (futuristic treasure hunter?) residing in a intergalactic community somewhere in another universe. A routine quest for a mysterious orb goes haywire and lands Quill in prison. It is here where Starlord teams up with some unlikely allies. His new comrades consist of Gamura (Zoe Saldana), Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the monstrous brute Drax (David Bautista) and a full sized animated tree capable of speaking only five words Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Ronan (Lee Pace) is GotG’s lead villain. He is a lieutenant of the high and mighty Thanos, but breaks off from him after he finds a new source of power.

Minus Groot, Marvel did a tremendous job with the casting. I will give props to Quill for this being his big motion picture breakout performance after several years on the ensemble mockumentary TV series, Parks & Rec. Saladana proved she is already capable of sci-fi greatness in the latest line of Star Trek films and went on to double down on that expertise in another sci-fi franchise. Bautista went above and beyond what anyone expected out of a pro-wrestler. Bradley Cooper shows all kinds of range with his voicing of Rocket, but Marvel could have saved a good chunk of money on the budget by having anyone voice Groot. Vin probably commanded a high dollar since he is in the midst of riding the success of the Fast & Furious money train.

Watching the GotG unwillingly come together to break out of prison in a fantastic scene and transition into a well-oiled machine by the time they take on Ronan in the final act is simply an awesome experience. Part of the reason on how they got there is a stunning job in the CG department. GotG got nominated for two technical Oscars for Best Visual Effects & Best Costume Design. After witnessing a few of its dazzling-yet-intense spaceship duels and watching the behind-the-scenes feature on the multi-hour process of what Saladana and Bautista had to go through in makeup justifies the film as being a Oscar contender in those departments.

What also helped round off this sublime audio/visual package is a five star soundtrack consisting primarily of 1970s pop hits such as “I Want You Back,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” and “Cherry Bomb.” Director James Gunn stated in the commentary for the film that Disney got every single song he requested approved for the soundtrack, and I am presuming Gunn must have spent a great deal timing when each and every song would kick in at just the right moment to add that extra dose of impact. A couple of my favorite examples of this are when the Guardians are planning their final assault on Ronan to “Cherry Bomb” and the opening title screen where Quill is dancing away to “Come and Get Your Love.” I remember being super giddy the day Google generously released the soundtrack for free on its Play Store and it has been in a consistent rotation in my running playlists ever since.

There is only one noteworthy qualm I have with GotG and it is the fact that it is too lighthearted. Do not get me wrong, nearly all the jokes and zingers in here are clever and witty and each character has several standout lines/moments in the film that cracked me up. That there is the problem however! Unlike other past Marvel films that know when to cut back and get serious, this one never lets up on the jokes, so the few times that GotG attempts to have a pivotal, meaningful moment in the movie I found myself waiting for the surprise gag to come from out of nowhere to steal the scene, and in a couple of those moments that is exactly what happened. Again, that qualm is not a deal-breaker by any means and when you are dealing with a talking raccoon and tree as two of your main actors, I could see why Marvel felt like they had to dial up the jokes to help the audience suspend their disbelief. They just dialed it up a bit too much.

There are a few extras on the BluRay you can easily cruise through in no time, but are worth consuming. There are four minutes of deleted scenes with or without commentary from James Gunn. If you have watched past Marvel films on video, you know they have some of the best produced gag reels out there, and GotG does not disappoint with a killer array of bloopers that culminates with a spectacular dance-off you have to see to believe. Intergalactic Visual FX is a seven minute look at the costume and makeup design that made me get sympathetic for what Saldana and Bautista had to go through every day on set. Guide to the Galaxy is a 21 minute all-encompassing behind-the-scenes look at the film hosted by Gunn where he explains the world lore, interviews the cast and goes into what it took to pull off the huge final battle scene. Finally Gunn goes solo for a commentary track on the film, and it is a decent solo commentary where he has a lot of notes filling everyone in on the backstory of the universe from the comics and a lot of recollections about the casting for the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy made me feel like a fool for doubting it as it went on to be both a critical and commercial success. It is one of several movies I have seen in the theater twice. If you somehow had my original premonitions on this film being a flop and avoided it because it featured a lot of characters you were unfamiliar with then go ahead and put those reservations to the side and watch this immediately so you can be ready for the sequel in a few weeks. I recommend watching it solo so you can avoid others judging you as you jam out and get your dance on to the songs throughout the film!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Creed
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
Wild
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Fast and the Furious

Yesterday I caught the latest film in the worldwide hit Fast & Furious franchise, The Fate of the Furious. To get a little a little bit it in the right mindset for it, I went and watched the original 2001 film, The Fast and the Furious (trailer) a couple days prior. I own all of the films, but the second installment which I detest, and as luck would have it all but the last couple were still in my backlog. I may as well cover them all(minus 2Fast) for the blog, and I think I will try and knock out a couple of the earlier movies right away before revisiting the later films down the line. Additionally, since I always kind of embraced these films in a lighthearted ridiculous kind of way, I will be a little looser with my entries for these films and will run down my highlights from each film in a bulleted list kind of way.

-Quick plot synopsis for those unfamiliar with the first film: The late Paul Walker portrays undercover cop Brian Connor. There is a street car gang stealing hot ticket Apex DVD players from trucks, so Connor goes undercover and joins Dominic Torreto’s (Vin Diesel) gang that also consists of his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), his tough-as-nails girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) computer hacker whiz Jesse (Chad Lindberg) and lifetime meathead bro Vince (Matt Shulze).

-I vividly recall my sister treating me to this film at the theater for a graduation present since it hit theaters a Friday or two after I graduated way back in 2001! Initial memories of the film were that it seemed like the coolest thing ever with all the crazy special engine closeup/NOS turbo special effects and all the bedazzling of the street cars with neon and underglow.

-I also specifically remember thinking coming out of this thinking that Vin Diesel was the coolest dude ever with him having the silent, deadly charisma and perfect chilling delivery of classic lines such as “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winnings’s winning!” and the quintessential “quarter mile at a time” speech of the film which transpired in my favorite scene in the picture. Those thoughts quickly changed when Diesel skipped out on the sequel in favor of duds like The Pacifier. I also recall Paul Walker’s BS wavy hair and as the ultimate cornball with his epic so-bad-its-good delivery of classic lines such as “I need two cans of NOS…tonight!” He gets much better in later films thankfully. This is also the only film series I can tolerate Michelle Rodriguez in since she goes on to play the same badass stereotype in all the other films she is in and is insufferable as a result. This was the first time I was exposed to her here however and she is the perfect complement to Vin Diesel’s character.

-Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) is the stereotypical Asian gangster for the film. He has history with the Toretto gang and it all comes to a head in the film’s last act after some deadly fallout after a race that transpires at the Race Wars event. He is actually a pretty compelling villain and one of my favorite antagonists from the series. Speaking of races, if you have not seen the earlier Fast films, than I have to be the one to break it to you that the earlier films primarily revolved around the underground street race scene and it was not until Fast Five when the films fully evolved into “best drivers in the world pulling off insanely unbelievable heists.”

-The truck heists were only a small backdrop to the street racing in the film, but the final truck heist scene features a lot of great stunt work and practical effects. Watching the extra feature interviews it was cool to see that a lot of the street racing and truck scenes were primarily shot with practical effects and very little CG work. Obviously that would flip with the latter films in the series.

-I got a good feeling the younger crowds are going to scoff at the soundtrack for this film, but for me this film hit during my coming of age years and thus a lot of it resonates with me still today. Reliving it does have a really good blend of (then) modern rap, hip/hop and metal. Fans of Ja Rule, Saliva and Limp Bizkit will not be disappointed! The SWAT montage scene being accompanied by Dope’s “Debonaire” is another favorite scene in the film of mine, which has a great culmination of Tran’s father giving the ever-dreaded “disappointed parent hand-slap of doom!”

-I forgot to mention I am reliving these films with a special commentary track. Giant Bomb is my favorite videogame website and they occasionally do movie commentaries. Longtime readers here may recall that is how I re-watched Rocky IV. Experiencing this film again with the Giant Bomb crew was an ideal experience for me, since they re-watched all seven films over the past few months leading up to F8. Host Alex Navarro is the well-versed lore-master of the Fast franchise and provides plenty of wisdom for casual Fast fan Vinny Carravella Fast-newbie Dan Ryckert. Dan bombards Alex with too many questions, but Alex wisely knows what to clue him into as the movie progresses. Also experiencing Dan state why he avoided the movies all these years only to make a complete 180 and end up loving this film about an hour in was very entertaining to listen in on. As always the GB guys are a riot and have plenty of wise cracks along the way that made rewatching this a lot of fun. If you want to give their commentary a listen then head here to download the track.

-The BluRay is jacked with a ton of extras. Most of them are carried over from the DVD release but there are a couple new HD extras too. Dom’s Charger is a quick four minute look at Dom’s ride and how they found that model for the film. Quarter Mile at a Time is a 10 minute-eye opener on the origins of drag/street racing and how it lead to NASCAR/F1 and modern street racing. That is all for new extras. There is a little over an hour worth of assorted extra features carried over. Of them I would suggest checking out the deleted scenes, as there are a few good ones that director Rob Cohen justified why they did not make the final cut. Making of Fast and Furious is a thorough breakdown of the cars, races and cast for the film and provides a lot of detail on what I referenced earlier on how the stunts were done. Make sure to check out the six minute short film, Turbo Charged Prelude which has no dialogue and is essentially Connor going rogue from the cops and travelling across the country to Miami to setup for the sequel, 2Fast, 2Furious. Finally, Rob Cohen is on hand for a solo director’s commentary, but as I previously mentioned I opted for the Giant Bomb commentary instead.

-I highly recommend watching the original film whether you have seen it or not. It was awesome experiencing it again and seeing how far the series has evolved over the past 16(!) years. Even if you prefer sticking with the newer films, if you are one to pay attention to all the nitty gritty details you will likely pick up on a few references and characters that stay dormant until the later movies that will give you a new look into their origins with the franchise. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, check out this incredible guide from The Ringer that ranks the Fast films along with several supplemental rankings of vital elements of the films such as “Best rapper cameos” and “Best Dom one-liners.” Very thorough, but is well worth your time to take in. Now if you pardon me, I am going to go off to a corner in my room and jam out to Saliva and Limp Bizkit.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Creed
Dirty Work
Faster
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
Wild
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past