Over-Seasoned and Undercooked

Start with a charismatic ‘bad boy.’ Add a dash of troubled past. Sprinkle in former enemies, and simmer in some old flames. Fill to top with food close-ups. Mix vigorously. With an all-star cast and an established director, Burnt should have been a recipe for success. Instead, this predictable redemption story is a disappointing flameout.

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The White American Man in the High Castle

Television has long ceased to be a regional form of media. One would think that Amazon Studios, a purely online broadcasting platform owned by a global company, would be conscious of the international reach of American television. One might also think that, when tasked with producing an alternate history drama in which the Axis powers win World War II, measures would be taken to be inclusive of contemporary international audiences. Or at least, not to offend them.

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South Park and Satire’s State of Affairs

Trey Stone and Matt Parker are now, without argument, American television’s foremost satirists. With Colbert gone the way of national late night and Stewart the way of retirement, we’re left with a crude cartoon about 4th graders to poke fun at an entire nation’s hypocrisy. Aptly, this season, the show’s 19th, is preoccupied with the function and relevance of its own genre: satire. With the national climate becoming growingly politically correct, the show asks: where does satire–thriving on the impolite or the outright offensive–fit in? And South Park, an equal-opportunity offender, answers with its unique brand of irreverent, sharp comedy.

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Joy Meets World

Have you been wondering when someone would finally make a film about the inventor of the Miracle Mop? This reviewer certainly hasn’t. A comedy-drama loosely based on the life of single mother and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, David O’Russell’s third and most recent collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence tackles a subject few, if any, would consider prime material for a big-budget Christmas film. While I remain somewhat skeptical of her ability to believably portray a mother of three in her late thirties, Lawrence is predictably charming and magnetic as she introduces the film via monologue. For all the enigmatic appeal of its principal actor, however, Joy’s trailer commits the familiar fault of dragging on a little too long and giving away a little too much. Upon watching the trailer one may as well have seen an abridged highlights reel of the film, complete with the most memorable lines and moralizing subtext. If only for a strong performance by Lawrence already receiving Oscar buzz, Joy will likely still be worth your time. That said, the choice to not only cast but purposefully create roles for Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro alongside one another again so soon seems questionable at best. With Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle both fresh in recent memory, a palate cleanser may have been in order. 

D – Joy’s trailer is no masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be. People will watch the film for its star-studded cast even if O’Russell can’t seem to move on.

The Lion’s in the Cradle and the Sonic Spoon

What could be bad about living forever? Most of us mortals don’t even get to contemplate immortality in the first place. But in the latest season of Doctor Who, two back to back episodes—“The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived”—grapple with this question. Naturally, we assume it would be better not to die. In “The Woman Who Lived,” however, we get a less than rosy picture of what an eternal life might hold; of what it might drive any reasonable person to do. As the Doctor eloquently puts it, “Immortality isn’t living forever. That’s not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying.”

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Despite Jeb Bush’s commentary, there is more to “Supergirl” than the fact that Melissa Benoist is “pretty hot.” “Supergirl,” CBS’s newest Monday night attempt to capture a young adult audience, is far from super. But the mere fact that it has a female lead, in a genre where they are about as common as quality Nicholas Cage movies, makes it culturally significant. We spent much of our childhoods watching cartoons like “Superman: The Animated Series,” “X-men: Evolution,” and “Batman: The Animated Series,” as well as movies like Christopher Reeve’s Superman (and unfortunately all of its sequels). Later on we enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and even watched a bit of “Smallville,” before it turned into a soap opera. Yet throughout our superhero-filled childhoods we personally never once saw a superhero movie or TV show with a female protagonist. Why?

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Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

The first season of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s new comedy series Master of None has just premiered in its entirety on Netflix for your binge-watching convenience. And binge watch you will. Following the misadventures of Dev Shah (Ansari), a thirty-something small-time actor struggling to make the leap from Go-gurt commercials to feature films, the offbeat comedy addresses the idiosyncrasies of millennial love and life in the Big Apple. In a pilot aptly titled “Plan B,” we watch as Dev holds priceless conversations with friends (single and otherwise) in a desperate effort to confront the existential crisis of his generation: to breed, or not to breed. In a series of stylized silent film montages, we become privy to Dev’s hilariously absurd imaginings of life as a family man, both idyllic and nightmarish. Ultimately, we come to suspect, as Dev does, that the reality probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. Continue reading Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

Steve Jobs’ Overvalued Celebrity

We have a cultural obsession with Steve Jobs. We quote Jobs like we do philosophers or poets. And now, we have another movie about him. This newest biopic, uniquely structured and well written, tackles Jobs’s inflated celebrity and corrosive personality, only to prop it all back up at the end. Admittedly, deeper commentary on celebrity is a peculiar issue for a biopic. After all, it’s a movie that hopes to sell as many tickets as possible by exposing us even more intimately to Jobs—an approach which only feeds his already mammoth celebrity. But by showing us a broken, albeit brilliant, Jobs, Danny Boyle takes us well past idolatry.

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How Does a Doctor Deal with Death?

Has “travelling with the Doctor changed you, or were you always happy to put other people’s lives at risk?”

The relationship between the Doctor and his companions plays a much more central role in Nu Who than it did in Classic Who, a pattern that certainly holds true for “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood,” the recent two-part episode of “Doctor Who,” Season 9 (on BBC and BBC America). Will the Doctor put the lives of his companions at risk? Will he put other people’s lives at risk? How are the companions changed by their travels with the Doctor? Like many of the episodes Toby Whithouse has written (from the rather underwhelming “Vampires of Venice” to the enjoyable but less than legendary “School Reunion”), the character development and the relationships between characters form the best part of these episodes. Peter Capaldi (The Doctor) and Jenna Coleman (Clara) deliver impassioned performances, as usual, but it’s a new villain featured in these episodes, played by Neil Fingleton (known for playing White Walkers in “Game of Thrones”) who embodies the two-parter’s creepy tone. The new nemesis, called the Fisher King, looks amazing and sounds terrifying, even if his villainous plot comes across as contrived. Overall we are happy to report that, thanks to intriguing character development, Season 9 stands alone in Nu Who for its consistently above-average episodes, making it well worth your time to watch.

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A Film and Television Review