Monday, February 27, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Get Out', 'I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore', 'Girlfriend's Day' and Remembering Bill Paxton


The Breakdown reviews three movies this week including Jordan Peele's directorial debut in the horror feature, Get Out. As well, the awards season has just been capped off with the 89th Academy Awards, so it seems like a good time to debate the value of awards shows. We also had some sad news with the passing of the great actor, Bill Paxton and we both have fond memories of his storied career, so we pay tribute to him. As always, if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie fans.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Breakdown Outline:

2:43  I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore review
19:06 Get Out review
37:05 Girlfriend's Day review
52:45 Bill Paxton tribute
1:06:04 Do awards show actually have value?
1:22:22 Review rundown

Rating Rundown:

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore *** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Get Out *** (CS)
Girlfriend's Day** (CS) & *** (SM)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Predictions of Who Will Win the Oscars


The Oscars are this Sunday, and there are a few things that I am confident will happen. The Academy will fix the #OscarSoWhite hubbub of the past two years by giving some significant wins to non-white nominees, though the nominations themselves probably did a lot to solve the issue for many. We are also set to have one of the most political shows in a long time, with their being weeks of push for acceptance speeches be used as a chance to speak out against the current American administration and the numerous issues that have arisen. I assume some will play it safe, but I expect some pretty electric speeches and it will turn out to be one of the most memorable shows in years. I'm looking forward to this show and maybe even more, writing about all that happens after.

Before we get to the show this Sunday, it is time for some big predictions on who I think will win this year.

Best Picture: La La Land
Damien Chazelle's homage to the 1950s musical is an awards juggernaut with a massive 14 nominations, which ties the record with All About Eve and Titanic. It isn't a small thing to note both those movies won Best Picture. It has also been described by some as a "love letter to Hollywood" and the Academy tends to like to award movies that celebrate the place the majority of the voters live and make their living. There has been a bit of a backlash against the movie being "too light" and lacking substance (something I am in a huge disagreement), and there has been a late surge for Hidden Figures (winning the SAG Outstanding Performance by Cast was a huge boost), and there are also several vocal champions for Moonlight (which won the Golden Globe). Despite those challengers, La La Land has been hot for months now and I'd say history is strongly on its side.

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
There is a chance history will be made with Barry Jenkins becoming the first Black director to take home the statuette, but instead, it looks more likely we will have the youngest ever Best Director winner. When you have a close race, sometimes the beloved movie that didn't get Best Picture gets the Best Director, and this would be a year for that except a lot of the praise for La La Land is due to the direction of Chazelle. I get the feeling Hollywood wants to declare him as one of the next big things in the movie industry. Even though my predictions have nothing to do with who I think actually deserves to win, Chazelle does an incredible job of recreating a classic old school musical but blending it in a very modern world with emotional character-driven drama. It is a feel-good, toe tapping movie with a plot that is actually bit of a downer when you think about it, but Chazelle pulls it off with his meticulous direction.

Actor in Outstanding Leading Role: Denzel Washington (Fences)
For most of the road to the Oscars, Casey Affleck has been the heavy favourite with him picking up awards at most of the shows. He was one of the clear sure thing winners, but then Washington won at SAG, which has predicted the winner in this category for the last 13 years. Plus Screen Actor Guild members consist of the largest group of voting Academy members, so there is a strong chance Washington derails the Affleck train this Sunday. This would be Washington's third Oscar, which would tie the record for most actor awards for a male. I admit this is one of my bigger swings and one of the most likely that I could strike out on in the big categories.

Actress in Outstanding Leading Role: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Much like Affleck, she has been the sure-fire winners since the nominations were announced, with the big difference being she has remained on the road to the statuette. She has gobbled up all the major trophies and even though there may be more deserving winners, there isn't anyone else that has the buzz going into the show. Plus Academy likes using this award as a signal for the next big starlet and Stone fits that description perfectly.

Actor in Outstanding Supporting Role: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
This category became a bit of a free-for-all when Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor Johnson didn't even get an Oscar nomination. There was some early buzz for Jeff Bridges' role in Hell or High Water, but Ali has got the most vocal praise and been a critical darling. He also picked up SAG, which again is usually a good sign of who will take home the statuette.

Actress in Outstanding Supporting Role: Viola Davis (Fences)
Davis has picked up almost every award and has been a favourite before she was even nominated. If I am right on my predictions, we are looking at three non-white Oscar winners, which is pretty cool. Davis is definitely winning here, and it is well-deserved.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
The screenplay category is often used as the consolation prize for a beloved movie that didn't win the Best Picture, which is where Moonlight fits. It won for WGA, but oddly enough, it was under the original screenplay category instead. Hidden Figures has to be considered another heavy favourite, but I really think the Academy wants to honour Moonlight and this would be its best category. If Moonlight wins, this means it is the third and fourth time a black screen writer won in this category with Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney as the recipients.

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
A musical hasn't won this category in over 60 years, probably due to filmmakers thinking such movies are great due to their music rather than their words. This is a category they tend to like to honour something dramatic and has emotional heft, and that is something Manchester by the Sea is loaded. It is also a critical darling that I am sure the Academy wants to celebrate and this is its best category.

Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia
In a perfect world this fun but thoughtful feature would have been nominated for a Best Picture. But the Academy seems stuck on the idea the animated movies remain in this category and that is enough for them. The competition is pretty tight with Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana being really worthy winners as well (sadly, I never saw Red Turtle or My Life as a Zucchini). This was a critical darling that spoke into the modern zeitgeist, but also was the highest grossing of all the movies, plus for the last decade a Disney/Pixar feature always wins when nominated.

Best Animated Short: Piper
Pixar hasn't won in this category since 2011, so there is a feeling of it being due. Plus this is an expertly crafted and gorgeously animated feature. The story of a bird leaving the nest and going on his own isn't very deep, but it is inspirational and feel-good. This seems like a year where those type of works are resonating.

Best Original Score: La La Land
The score is not only catchy and a huge part of the movies' personality, but there is a chance the Academy voters may believe a score to a musical is a greater challenge than one to a typical movie. Traditionally, the winner in this category goes to one of the big Best Picture favourites, so that would slide it towards a win too. On top of that, the score has already dominated most of the awards shows leading to this one, so it has all the momentum, Plus repeat after me, "sweep, sweep, sweep, sweep."

Best Original Song: "City of Stars" (La La Land)
I personally have a soft spot for "How Far I'll Go" from Moana, but this is the one that I've been hearing all over the place and since Sunday is about crowning La La Land as the king, as a musical it should probably win here. There is talk that the fact it is also competing against another song from the movie, "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" that they will cancel each other out, but Lionsgate has smartly been pushing this song as its centrepiece. An upset wouldn't shock me, but this song has the most attention right now.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
This is a case of the voters choosing a movie as a way to rebel against the Trump administration. Director Asghar Farhadi stated he will boycott the Oscars due to Trump's travel ban, and this has caused several Academy members to say they will vote for this movie as a form of protest. It also helps this is a critically acclaimed movie, and probably had a strong chance to win even before the Trump lunacy. If it wins, Farhadi will join elite company as only the fourth filmmaker to direct more than one winner in this category (A Separation won five years ago) along with Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, and Carlos Saura.

Best Feature Documentary: O.J. Made in America
It was a bit of a long shot to get nominated due to its 7.5 hour run time, which made it more a docu-series than a feature. Some argued the Academy may be scared of the precedent it set if it allowed this documentary in, but now it is in, so they might as well go all in. It does have some heavy competition with Netflix making a huge push for the terrific 13th and I am Not Your Negro being a massive critical darling. But in the end, this feature is about celebrity culture and Los Angeles, which the voters have a soft spot.

Best Short Documentary: The White Helmets
This is another one of the picks that can make a huge political statement, as this short is about the volunteer civil defense organization in Syria. This movie shows some of the great good that is being done during that country's civil war, and I can see votes landing this way to speak out against the "not-a-ban."

Best Live-Action Short: Sing
I sadly did not see any of these shorts, as such things are hard to legally track down in the small city of Brantford. I went with the one with cute kids and music.

Best Cinematography: La La Land
I'm expecting La La Land to dominate the awards this Sunday, and this will likely be one of the categories considering how beautiful and vibrant this movie looks. The biggest competition is likely Lion, because it won the top award from the American Society of Cinematographers, but La La Land took home the prize from BAFTA.

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had some pretty impressive special effect like bringing back Peter Cushing, but The Jungle Book created an entire jungle full of living and breathing animals. Its effects were cutting edge and changed the standard of what CGI can do. If you weren't aware all the animals were CGI and it was filmed entirely on a sound stage, you'd think you were in a real jungle with living animals that just had voice over work. On top of the fact it really is the most amazing visual achievement in decades, The Jungle Book has dominated most of the special effects awards prior to this show.

Best Costume Design: Jackie
Academy tends to lean towards period pieces when giving out this award, which is why I think this may be one of the few categories that La La Land loses. Natalie Portman looks great in several classic duds as Jackie Kennedy and the wardrobe are from a time brimming with nostalgia, so I can see this catching the voters' eyes. Plus it already won at BAFTA and the Critics' Choice awards for this category.

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
This is likely the winner due to the smaller Swedish feature, A Man Called Ove being passed on by a huge portion of the voters and Suicide Squad was critically torn apart. Based off that, Star Trek has the most positive buzz and momentum going into the awards. Yes, I know none of this actually has a thing to do with the quality of the make-up or hairstyling -- welcome to awards predictions.

Best Film Editing: La La Land
A favourite mostly because I'm expecting it to sweep a large part of the categories, but it also won at the ACE Eddie awards (for the musical/comedy category), which is voted by editors. The strongest competition comes from Hacksaw Ridge that won at BAFTA and Arrival, which picked up a win at the ACE Eddie awards in the drama category. Musicals or movies about music tend to do really well in this category, so I'm going with history again.

Production Design: La La Land
Contemporary set movies don't win here and the Academy tends to go for showy and extravagant for this category, but I'm pretty sure the narrative of the night will be La La Land running away with as many awards as it can get its dancey hands on. Plus it is a very stylized version of Los Angeles and sets designed to recapture the nostalgia of old musicals. This is another area where it could lose especially with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Passengers taking wins elsewhere. It is hard to bet against La La Land in almost any category.

Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Traditionally, big loud war movies win here, and Hacksaw Ridge fits that description perfectly. There of course is a strong change La La Land snags another here, or Arrival with a quieter but haunting sound could sneak in too. I think this is where the Academy decides to share the love with some other movies.

Sound Mixing: La La Land
This is the sound category where the winner is often a musical if it has been nominated, and guess what, La La Land is a musical. Arrival could be a strong contender as well, as it won best sound at BAFTA. I am guessing most voters just go with the movie that they have been heaping accolades on all night.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A New Form of Torture


I haven't read a single Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. I have not seen a single Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. Up until today, I largely slotted it in the "maybe someday" category, with the full understanding it isn't a piece of entertainment created for me. But I really hope this trailer for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is even a soul-crushing disappointment for the biggest and most die-hard fans of this franchise. This can't be an example of what this series offers, right? This looks like a trailer to a movie that is designed to be played in interrogation rooms across the continent in order to beat out a confession from a perp. It is torture without any visible bruising. But there will be deep emotional scars that can never heal after seeing this trailer. This makes last year's Vacation look like the feel-good thrill ride of the summer.

One big questions that is nagging me about this trailer, why would they use Spice Girls' "Wannabe"? The target audience was born more than a decade after it was a hot song, and there can't be a single adult that wants to sit through this movie. Who is that song appealing to in this flick? Wouldn't it have made more sense to use Katy Perry or Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

'Alien: Covenant' Prologue Trailer Shows a Creative Way to Build Anticipation That More Studios Should Follow


20th Century Fox dropped what they are calling a prologue teaser to Alien: Covenant, or essentially a movie short, called "Last Supper" directed by Ridley Scott's son Luke Scott (Ridley is directing the full length feature). I really love the idea of having a character-driven short to introduce the major players and to tantalize us for what is to come. It reveals the personality of the crewmembers and it garners some excitement without spoiling all the plot and giving away the major scenes. It allows for some connection to the characters before entering into the theatre for the big feature. I recognize probably 40% of the movie going audience at the absolute most will see this short beforehand, but that probably isn't any different than the two and half minute spoiler-filled ads that are promoted as major events at Comic-Cons and YouTube. This is far more creative and a better launching point going into what should be the real event. This is for the hardcore fans that are salivating for some details of Alien: Covenant, and even without showing a single scene of the actual movie, I think delivers some goods.

I understand that not every movie can do this something like this, and in some cases doing it would reveal more than a trailer. It costs money to make a mini-movie and you need to have the cast available, but I'd love to see something like this for more of the "event" pictures.

The short does give some answers, such as who all the member of the ship, Covenant (we also now know where the movie got its title), I love that there isn't any "blow your own horn" but rather just matter of fact progressiveness with a gay couple and a mixed couple. Nice to see Danny McBride willing to play the character he always plays, so I have one character whose demise that I'll anticipate. It wasn't until this short that I learned James Franco was in this movie, though I am guessing we shouldn't get used to him since he wasn't in any of the past trailers. Plus he seems to be sick, which I think hints something nefarious is already on the ship. As for the rest of the cast to be excited about, there is indy darling Amy Seimetz, character actor Billy Crudup (who based off trailers may be this movies' John Hurt), and Empire star Jussie Smollett.

The most notable thing about the crew is the absence is Noomi Rapace who at the end of the last movie was off to the engineer's planet. There was talk she wasn't returning, which made no sense, but when she was finally added to the cast, there is more mystery that she isn't with this group but David (Michael Fassbender) is back with his head safely fastened to his body. Why is David around yet Rapace's character is missing? Is her addition to the cast only in the role of flashbacks? Does David have some insidious plans with this crew and is he aware once again of an evil alien presence on the planet they are heading? What happened between Prometheus and this movie? These are the kind of cool questions and intrigue that you couldn't get from a trailer.

I also really appreciate the callback to the original where it looked like the poor girl was going to give a nasty alien birth but instead, it was just revealed she was choking. It does a good job of teasing there will be a sneak peek of an alien. Of course, this is better for the move, and things are going to get must worse than food going down the wrong pipe.

The Unshakeable Stink


There is that moment for every dog parent when you walk down your stairs and you catch that putrid whiff of threats and taunts that you now have an unplanned chore for the next ten minutes. The panic sets in and you hold to the optimism that tricks are being played, but then you turn into the family room. Before you is the nasty business of either the not-quite-house trained puppy or the old jealous dog rebelling against the current structure of the house. You quietly let out your expletive if the kids are home or allow it to raise a few decibels if you're alone for the moment, then you grab a plastic bag and move the business to a much better home. Then you go through the typical routine of vacuuming and wiping down the carpet, because even if you have very little carpet, they always find the one spot it still remains. Then you soap up the paper towel and scrub until the spot changes a shade.

During this little exercise, the odours snake their way into your nostrils, clings to the nose hairs, and camp out for the night. The smell then conspires with your paranoia, so no matter how much soap you gloop in that spot, how much Febreze gets sprayed, and how hard you scrub away, the stink still faintly taunts you. It now owns your nose and mocks you that it now rules this spot. And if this happens to be a day that you're having company over, then brain and nose work even harder to convince you there is a stink that now lives here. A stink that every single person coming into that house will smell and then leave to spread the word that today was the day they visited Poo Palace.

You may ask your spouse or kids if they smell anything, and when they say no, you jump and holler about how the stink is here if you smell hard enough. Your rant and raving is convincing enough that they now believe the stench has permeated the room and there is no escape. All because those little stink fiends are partying up in the nostrils and your brain likes to freak out every few days. This is the burden of having a dog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Crushed by Ambition

Over the last few years, I've come across a few film bloggers who make their entire living from their one-writer sites by posting seven to eleven short 200ish words to long thousand-plus word pieces that largely are about movies but also contain some politics and personal anecdotes. It didn't take long for me to proclaim to myself, "I could do this," and form a vision that this site would become that. As is pretty clear to anyone looking at it, it has not become that at all. What I failed to clue in on, was that the majority of these successful professional movie bloggers had twenty to thirty plus years writing for major magazines and web sites where they could pluck a loyal readership for their site, which in turn gave them leverage to land some lucrative sponsorship for their sites. In my case, I've been in the game for only a few years and while I am appreciative of everyone I have written for, it hasn't snagged me the same size of audience.

I had a goal of trying to churn out seven quicker little movies news related pieces a day along with three or four movie reviews a week, every few days give a short recounting of my adventures with children, some occasional political or non-movie news thoughts, and three or so big think-pieces a week. This is ambitious if this was my one way of making a living, but it is emotional suicide when I am also trying to complete a novel, write several short stories, make my money providing several thousand words a day for paying clients, and stay at home with an rather mischievous but oh-so-cute 2 year old.

My biggest failure has been to forget my own emotional make-up that means when my lofty goals miss their mark that I tend to crash into a stew of anxiety and depression. This is obviously an issue that I should try to resolve, but it also means my swing-for-the-fences approach to this little blog (that to be fair, is what has landed me some of my best jobs) needs some major restructuring.

I do believe it is entirely fair to want something more out of this blog and have eyes on this being something I can monetize, but the reality is still that I need to write for other (paying) outlets as well. This means I only have a small amount of time a day to devote to this space. That may change some day, but if I am honest, I am not entirely sure if I want to eliminate writing for others, especially when it comes to my dreams of traditionally published books and novels. At the moment, I now need my every few months exercise of breathing, telling myself to calm down, and live in my current moment.

My current moment is being the father who is always alert that disaster strikes when the house gets quiet, has a long gestating novel that I hope to shop in the spring so it needs to be finished, make my living by producing thousands of words a day for clients, and has a little site where I can share my various thoughts on life along with my movie reviews. I do want to build an audience on here, but it is more likely to happen by staying consistent and letting the roaring lion of ambition to get locked in the zoo for a bit.

My new goal is to stick with my start of the year resolution of posting at least one thing on here a day, though length and value will depend on what else I need to write on that particular day. Be open to writing more than one thing on days where that works, but the victory comes from just keeping up a daily piece. For now see this as my personal outlet that may become something more depending on my ability to grow a following. Focus on making sure what I write for this site to be of high quality and return to making The Breakdown podcast a professional show. But also don't shy away from being creative and trying out some new stuff, which is why once I get my current transport truck of projects completed, I want to begin that serialized story that I talked about on here. Most importantly, I want to have fun on here, which I hope means it is a bowl of cherries for my readers as well. Or if you prefer, a nice cold, tasty bottle of pop.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'The House' Trailer Shows It is Time for Will Ferrell to Move On


Mainstream comedy is in a bit of a rut the last few years. There has been a few sparks like Sisters, Keanu, and Neighbors, but more than often it is unfunny stories that try to overcompensate with 'shocking' raunchy jokes that are just reworked from the last comedy before it. Will Ferrell is one of those comedian stuck deep in the ditch by playing the same sweet, oblivious doofus that worked in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but has now become tedious. The House reminds me of a previous Ferrell misfire, Get Hard, by having a seemingly edgy premise but resorting to easy gags rather than exploiting its potential for something new. It seems like the powers to be decided that white guy being suckered into prison training before going to jail or dullard family opens a casino in basement to pay for kid's college are comic gold on their own and there is no need to actually come up with some fresh jokes. Hopefully, Amy Poehler can bring some laughs to elevate it, because she is the one with the more recent critical hit.

I Have Some Questions for 'Sandy Wexler'


The new Sandy Wexler trailer leaves me with some questions. How long will it take before I want to hit the mute button thanks to Adam Sandler doing his "funny voice"? How thankful am I that it being a Netflix movie means that I have that option? But then how much am I crushed realizing as a reviewer of the movie, I am expected to hear the dialogue? If this is set in 1994, why are we getting comments from less than hot 1994 commodities like Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock, and Judd Apatow? Is the flat top haircut going to be the height of 1990 nostalgia humour? Will all 1990s mood setting be such obvious caricatures? Why did I have any optism for this movie? Will Jennifer Hudson get to do a full length original musical number? Will this graceful and beautiful woman actually add some class and quality to this movie? When Netflix made this deal with Sandler was there any notion that they would be getting funny movies?

All that said, I really hope that I am shocked and this becomes Sandler's best movie since 50 First Dates, because that movie is becoming more and more distant memory.

A 'Colossal' Return to the Star Powered B-Movie


I lamented on The Breakdown that the rise of studios putting out less movies in exchange for releasing a few big budget spectacles has meant the fall of the big studio B-movie. Last year we got the wonderful Blake Lively vs. a shark movie in The Shallows, but those odd ball and not quite mainstream friendly premises are becoming rarer. So, I am absolutely over the moon that this year we will be getting a movie that if it came out in the 1980s would have been released by either New Line or Cannon with glee in Colossal. It is a story about a down-on-her-luck slacker type who returns home because she has no money and to make matters worse, suddenly realizes she has a psychic connection with a giant kaiju that is destroying Seoul, South Korea. This premise is absolutely ridiculous, which is what makes it now one of my most anticipated movies of the year. The even great part is that is has some star power in Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, and Dan Stevens, and Hathaway is gloriously playing way against type as an alcoholic slacker. The marketing team deserves some praise too, as this movie has already been screened at a few festivals and the word is this trailer shows exactly what the movie is about but leaves out some significant plot and story details. I am guessing this is monster mashing with some dramatic heft, but I am happy someone realizes surprises are nice. Voltage Pictures isn't really a huge studio, but this one has enough star power that it may get decent theatrical distribution (Don Jon made it to Brantford in 2013) or should at least find its way on Netflix before year end.

Folksy Canadian Charm with Star Power


I remember as a kid if there was ever a low-budget movie with sub-par performances by unknown actors that my dad would mutter "must be Canadian" and then turn the channel. That kind of reputation for Canadian movies had stuck in the back of my mind for years and years until I saw movies like The Sweet Hereafter, Videodrome, Leolo, Black Christmas, Scanners, Black Robe, Ginger Snaps, Eastern Promises, Room, Meatballs, and The Grand Seduction. And no, I didn't just list every decent Canadian movie; despite those 1980s utterances, the list is long and proud. The above list shows that Canada has produced a pretty diverse slate of movies through the years and some of those are held up as classics.

Despite the fact that I know Eastern Promises boasted a Naomi Watts or Room has a Best Picture nomination, I still got a shiver down my spine from surprise and joy when I discovered a biopic of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis was going to star big heavyweights like Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Of course, both actors don't shy away from small independent fare and this will likely not be a huge deal even in Canada, but I have a small patriotic thrill to see a very Canadian figure get some star treatment.

If the biopic train needs to keep on chugging, I'm glad we're getting a movie with a folksy, small town vibe that is more about intimacy than life-changing genius with the feature Maudie. Maud Lewis was one of Canada's most popular folk artists with her depictions of outdoor scenes from her small town in Nova Scotia. This looks to have a nice and quiet charm, and with it being a Canadian production, it might even make its way near me before the year is out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Remembering Stuart McLean: A Great Canadian Storyteller and Observer of Family Life


Stuart McLean was one of the great Canadian storytellers. The Vinyl Cafe was a one hour variety show on CBC Radio but I think most associate it with the short stories about his fictional characters Dave and Morley that McLean would read about each week. We actually have at least one of his short story anthology books that are a collection of those radio stories, and even though they aren't target towards kids, I've used as a bed time story for Everett in the past. There is a folksy warmth about the tales that made perfect for a young child to curl up in bed and be provided some comfort before drifting to sleep. McLean told stories that could resonate with a lot of people and felt like peeks into the average Canadian family. The stories were brimming with humour but also had a tenderness and a sincerity. They were close inspections and observations on what it was to be a North American (and especially Canadian) family.

A great writer and storyteller is one that has their ear to the ground and their eyes grasping every details. They examine and gobble up every conversation and daily action. They are intertwined with the heartbeats of society and have an intimacy with strangers. A writer looks at the mundane tasks of washing the dishes or taking the dog out for a walk and sees an inspirational, humorous, thought-provoking and valuable story. A storyteller knows everything can be entertaining or has some deeper message to share. This was what made McLean such an enduring storyteller that had captivated many about his tales of a fictional couple since 1994.

His stories were so authentic and astute, that for a while I had believe they were non-fiction. I am sure like every great storyteller, he has incorporate elements and experiences from his own life and those who he knew. A great storyteller is so connected to the world around them that they can turn their stories into something that is living and breathing and real. McLean was a humorist and an entertainer, but he also revealed the truths of everyday life.

My condolences to his friends and family, and my thank you for the many stories and inspiration he provided over the years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

'Dean' Trailer Shows Demetris Martin Going an Atypical Route for His First Starring Feature


I heard about Demetris Martin for a long time before ever seeing him. My brother-in-law made it a priority for most family-gatherings to let me know that Martin was his favourite comedian and he would then rattle off a few jokes to prove his point. I finally did get around to seeing his Netflix special, Demetris Martin: Live (which I have a sneaking suspicion was not when I got around to seeing it). His style is unique compared to many modern stand-up comedians, who usually tell stories and build up to the big punchline, because Martin instead just rattles off a series of one or two line jokes that are often funny observations on social and human behaviour. The fact he does it with a low level of enthusiasm and seems almost dead serious in his delivery makes it all the more funny.

Dean is Martin's first feature where he is the star, and it is interesting that he going for less non-stop laughfest and more of a dramedy. It is about an illustrator that is trying to cope with the loss of his mother and repair a fractured relationship with his father. The trailer definitely has some funny moments but it is coated with melancholy. The fact Martin also directed and wrote this feature shows he is passionate about the material and doesn't want his emergence on the big screen to be the typical comedian route. This is an independent comedy through and through, so it won't be any kind of box office monster like a Ride Along or Identity Thief, but it may earn him some critical credibility. He is also backed by pretty strong cast with Gillian Jacobs, Kevin Kline, and Mary Steenburgen.

This has potential to be a sleeper hit, and even if it doesn't reach its potential, Martin deserves respect for trying to make a comedy that actually has something to say and dares to mix in some drama and tears.

Might as Well Just Complete the Trilogy


Jemaine Clement is best known as one of the stars in the cult musical comedy series Flight of the Conchords and a decent selection of independent comedies after that. I actually wasn't as aware that he also has a pretty solid resume for voice work in children's features that include Rio, The BFG, The LEGO Batman Movie, and Despicable Me. His voice is most popular among the Spicer clan as the golden-backed crab, Tamatoa in Moana. Both Danika and Everett like to spend a few minutes a day pretending to be the giant crab and singing how shiny they are. For a one scene character, Tamatoa is one of the most memorable and lot of that is thanks to the humor and charm of Clement.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Shouldn't Need Valentine's Day But. . .


I should and I wish I could say that I let my wife, Emily, know that I love her every day. I think, I say, "I love you" almost every day and that is a fine start, but it isn't the same as letting her know that I absolutely adore and love her every single day. After almost nine years of marriage, I would still consider her the most beautiful, intoxicating, and interesting person that I know, and the person that I strive to be my best friend every single day. Kids kind of complicate things and my own mental quirks and insecurities complicate it even more, but I can say with great confidence that the best things in my life are due to Emily. Of all the things that I hope to achieve and accomplish this year, the two greatest successes will be to continue to raise my children to be amazing little people and to ensure my wife knows that I appreciate and love everything she has done.

I love you, Emily. I vow to try my hardest to prove that every single day for the rest of my life, even on those days that my tendency leans towards self-involved idiot, I still will be loving you. I am flawed and awkward and foolish and sometimes a little smelly, but I am a blessed man to have been in a relationship with you for over a decade. Thank you for our marriage, family, and friendship. I can't wait to see what comes next.

No Reason to Thank Me for Posting the Catchy "You're Welcome"


Disney had an amazing 2016, but I think one of their biggest achievements was the critical and box office success of Moana. Along with Zootopia, it showed a much more progressive Disney, but it was also able to keep many of the elements that worked in the past like a beautiful princess and catchy musical numbers. Disney did a great job returning to the animated musical and its soundtrack is one that won't stop bouncing in my head. I already declared my love for "How Far I'll Go", but I think the Dwayne Johnson sung "You're Welcome" has even more bounce, energy and charm. It's a classic Disney song that perfectly highlights and showcases the personality of Maui. It also shows that Dwayne Johnson is multi talented and can sing a dandy of a tune.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Your Story Idea Sucks


There is that moment for every writer where their pristine and golden idea becomes reality on paper or screen, and the once thought to be majestic treasure chest is revealed to be a plastic bag of the dog's business tied to a ceiling fan on the highest speed setting. Realizing the first draft is splattered pet feces is a flaming bowling ball to the gut that every writer experiences. In the head of the writer, the story is majestic and magical and destined to be a massive best seller that every movie studio will want the rights. Then the writer types out that idea and forms it into a story and the smell of decay seeps out. It sucks. It always sucks. Every single respected and successful writer tells you and promises you that the first draft of that masterpiece is roadkill on a golden platter rather than a lobster feast. Whatever greatness is in your head will never turn out exactly that way once you start to write it. It is something that I've read countless times and didn't start to believe until my own "epics" were given life and halfway through I wanted run them over with the lawn mower.

What I am learning and what those successful writers figured out, is that what you end up writing will never equal what you have in your head. But if you persevere and remember a manuscript goes through several drafts, you can shape that story into something special. It may even exceed whatever you had hoped when that idea first popped in your head. A writer learns that creating a story is a journey and the path always takes you somewhere unexpected. You just need to trust that journey and be willing to suffer through those haunted woods and blizzard covered mountains.

The first step is to realize you do not a fully formed and billion dollar story in your head. You just have an idea. An idea that has lots of work before it ever becomes something readable. But you got to pack those bags and embrace that hard journey.

'Ghost in the Shell' Trailer is Heralding a Visually Stunning Year for Sci-Fi


2017 is promising to be a golden year for sci-fi with a diverse slate of movies like Life, War of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Alien: Covenant, God Project, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Blade Runner 2049. One sci-fi actioner that has the anime and manga fan's salivating is the Scarlett Johansson starring Ghost in the Shell. Director Rupert Sanders and his special effects team have crafted a visually stunning world that stirs up memories of the scale and gorgeous style of the original Blade Runner. The themes, stories, and styles are snatched and reconfigured from sci-fi favourites Total Recall, Moon, Matrix, and Minority Report where she is seeking her identity, discovering she may not be who she was led to believe, and forced to rise up against the malevolent corporation. Most of the elements are pretty typical and common sci-fi, but the key will be how the movie weaves all those story elements into its visuals and action sequences. Everything in the trailer looks spectacular, and the hope is it channels some John Wick with fully choreographed action sequences that have substance and can be easily soaked up rather than ripped to shreds by caffeinated editing.

The Breakdown of 'The LEGO Batman Movie', 'John Wick: Chapter Two', 'Lion', 'David Brent: Life on the Road' and 'Journey to Greenland'


This week on the Breakdown we review five movies, including two hotly anticipated sequels in the animated adventure, The LEGO Batman Movie, and the throwback to old school action, John Wick: Chapter Two. I also went with Everett to see the LEGO movie, so I recount some of the fun of seeing it with a very excited five year old. We also discuss a Best Picture nominee in the based on a true story, Lion. Scott and I have been huge fans of the original The Office, so we discuss if David Brent: Life on the Road lives up to our anticipation to the return of that world. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Breakdown Outline:

The LEGO Batman Movie 1:20
David Brent: Life on the Road 21:23
John Wick: Chapter 2 36:40
Journey to Greenland 58:36
Lion 1:11:34
Review Rundown 1:30:50

Review Rundown:

The LEGO Batman Movie *** (CS)
David Brent: Life on the Road ** (CS & SM)
John Wick: Chapter 2 *** (CS)
Journey to Greenland *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Lion *** (CS)




Technology Strikes Again in Delaying Breakdown

The Breakdown was recorded and formatted and ready for uploading last night. The site I use to host the podcast, Internet Archive, decided to do its ocassional reminder that you get what you pay for with a free service. The podcast missed my preferred 5:30 am posting and right now, it is up to the Archive stopping its temper tantrum and release my files from its dark grasp. I've had several issues with the site since using it from the start of the Breakdown, but at this stage, free still means more than the majority of those issues. If it ends up being another of those don't get it posted until Tuesday morning weeks, it may be worth shopping around again. My time definitely has some value, but it is hard to justify paying for a podcast host site when the Breakdown currently isn't putting any money back in the pocket. I hope the Breakdown will be up shortly but it is right now all up to the tempermental but free hosting site.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"How Far I'll Go" Never Leaves My Brain


There is a guaranteed moment in the day where my daughter, Danika, will point towards my pocket and then start doing a little jig in front of me. This of course is the universal message for "daddy, can you please take out your iPhone and play Auli'i Cravalho's 'How Far I'll Go" from the movie, Moana." When I eventually fulfill those wishes, she then throws her arms in the air, runs around on every piece of floor in the room, and shakes her little body to her own rhythm. So, this song is now pretty burned into my brain and will be hummed at any moment throughout the day.

It doesn't seem to have captured the imagination the same was as "Let It Go" but I'd argue is just as catchy and uplifiting. I look forward to the day that Danika will be old enought to see Moana, because it has a strong message for girls to stand up for themselves and dare to dream big. Alonh with Frozen, we have princesses that don't dream about having a man or have an end goal of getting married. These new princesses show young girls there is more to the world than that. You throw in movies like Zootopia and Inside Out, and Disney has become pretty progressive and created stories that encourage girls to be indepedent and strong-willed. Each of those movies has females leads that I'd happy for my young girl to love and aspire to be like. Disney also still knows how to make some fun, toe-tapping tunes.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Building Blocks of Preventing Franchise Fatigue


When the first The Lego Ninjago Movie trailer dropped, I was all ready to write a riff on how the franchise was risking some building block fatigue with two movies in a year. But then I watched the trailer and my whole tangent was spoiled by loving it. It has beautiful animation, oodles of fun pop culture references, and a charming self-deprecating sense of humour. Sure that is more of the same when it comes to the franchise, but it is tackling some fun new things like martial arts movies and big robot battling monster features. It also has one of the fresher and funnier Empire Strikes Back gags. Plus Jackie Chan is pretty spot on casting, and James Franco has unique charisma to make for a fun lead. The best way to fight oversaturation is to deliver high quality and fresh entertainment, and the Lego franchise seems to be able to keep pulling it off. I'd say two movies a year has to be the max in keeping up those creative standards.

Key to Comedy is the Right Team


Two of the best comedies in the past few years was the action comedy Keanu and the Amy Schumer starring Trainwreck. During a time where most recent comedies have been a collection of forced jokes and way over used potty/sexual humour that have made viewing sessions a war of attrition, the mix of Schumer with action comedy in Snatched is enough to rile up excitement. On top of that, she will playing off Goldie Hawn who was one of the comedy gems of the 1980s and has proven to be willing to do anything for a big laugh. As proven in solid comedies like The Heat and Neighbors, the leads having a sizzling chemistry and an ability to set up fun gags is enough to elevate a pretty formulaic story. Even though we've had way more than enough pairs lost in a foreign land comedies, this one looks like it will have a fun energy and some pretty funny people, including supporting roles from the very funny Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz. Plus director Jonathan Levine has a pretty good track record for funny movies in The Night Before and Warm Bodies. Hilarious women from two generations colliding feels like a movie worth getting excited about.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Repeat After Me: Trailers Aren't Supposed to Provide Answers


It has happened again, a trailer that is designed to elicit excitement and motivate me to trek off to the theatre has instead knocked down a movie that was once pretty high on my most anticipated of the year. It isn't that Life looks worse as it still has the very appealing cast (Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson), the initial premise of the sci-fi horror remains intact and the visuals brew up an unsettling atmosphere. The problem is the mystery of the movie has been squeezed out.

I blame this on the Comic-Con types that pay money to watch ads for movies, or the numerous movie sites that hype trailers as breaking news, or anyone that hopes that a trailer will reveal a crucial story point or spectacular scene. Trailers first goal isn't to entertain and it sure isn't to provide answers. It should tantalize, tease, and intrigue. It should leave you with several questions and an appetite for the feast that should be the big screen feature itself. But now marketing divisions are trying to feed the social media beast and sites make their money on the traffic that movie hype provides, and there is now a need to deliver the goods weeks the release date. Real movie fans need to show a little patience and recognize less is so much better when it comes to a movie trailer.

Trailers can be art. A good one is masterfully crafted. But in the end it shouldn't harm the entertainment value of the movie it is hyping. It still just an ad. One that should get people clamouring for the real goods.

I get a feeling that the third Life trailer (and why do we need so many trailers???) just went Terminator: Genisys on us all and revealed all the big story points. Before this latest trailer, I was aware some astronaut discovered a life form on Mars, an experiment on the life form turned out badly, then it would be a tight-spaced thriller where the humans now mistrusted each other, and it was influenced by the original Alien. This was enough for me to mark it down as one of the March movies that I wanted to review.

After this trailer, I now know the guy who I expected got killed by the organism actually just got a nasty hand injury, the organism grows in a large tentacle like creature, the backstory of creature on Mars, what its intentions are for Earth, and all this information would have been better saved for the actual movie. I may be wrong and there might be some fun surprises still in store for this. Despite being deflated, I will still be giving this movie a shot. I can't shake the feeling that if they needed a third trailer that it would have been way better to just switch around some clips and play it to some trendy music instead.

Who cares if a trailer actually gets huge views from curiosity over big plot reveals because it still doesn't mean people will pay for it? Does a trailer that just restates the same things as the first really dampen excitement?

Part of me wonders if the problem was that with a month out that the movie wasn't buzzing the way Sony executive had hoped and so if they showed this was more creature feature rather than crew member paranoia that it would bump up the tweets. I'm not sure if there is any evidence that a big story reveal suddenly sparks big interest, and instead, it is more likely to annoy those that believed they would get to see a story unfold for the first time when they actually saw the movie.

This is Several Days Late But Melissa McCarthy is Brilliant in Sean Spicer Press Conference Parody


Melissa McCarthy proved this weekend that when she has good material to play off then she is one of the superstars of comedy. She is hilarious in the Sean Spicer press conference parody. Saturday Night Live, which has largely lacked relevance or consistent humour for years, showed it can still squeeze out a few truly masterful pieces of comedy that are subversive and timely. Comedy is one of the best ways to critique politics and social events, and even though this is obviously absurd and over-the-top, it nails many of the issues with this administration like their hostility towards media, everything being about placating a thin-skinned man's ego, and their quick conjuring of alternate facts. Even if one happens to know nothing about current American politics or the joy of a Sean Spicer run press conferences, this is just a really energetic and funny sketch.

The best part of it is that apparently the fact a woman played his Press Secretary really crawled up Donald Trump's pant leg and caused a searing burn. So hopefully, SNL finds roles for Leslie Jones, Jillian Bell, Rosie O'Donnell, and Meryl Streep (so she can prove how overrated she is) to get Trump dancing around.

I need to mentions that Kate McKinnon's performance as Betsy DeVos is more proof that the woman is a marvelous comedian and deserves a lead role in a big studios comedy. She has such a bizarre and captivating charisma that makes everything about her funny and the right script would make for a classic comedy.



I couldn't figure out how to embed the video from Global TV for my substantial Canadian readers but here is to the link to the video from their site.

Monday, February 06, 2017

'Stranger Things' Teaser Makes Me Want Halloween to Come Early


This is how you do a teaser trailer properly. It doesn't reveal any of the plot and provides way more questions than I had before watching it. It does give enough images to make it clear that the second season of Stranger Things will follow the path of being a deep and meticulously crafted homage to 1980s sci-fi and kids on adventures movies, especially conjuring up memories of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg from the time period. What made the first season work and what the teaser promises too, is that even if it is influenced by pop culture of the time that it twist and manipulates its references into something completely new. There is a scene in the teaser of a boy standing in front of an open door with light pouring out that is a homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind but then makes it much more sinister with some giant spider-like creature being revealed through flashes of light.

The teaser does reveal the return of Eleven, which I am sure everyone assumed was a formality. Millie Bobby Brown was fantastic in the first season and I loved her chemistry with the boys, so it is good to see she should be a crucial part of the second season story. Based on the flipping of the Netflix logo, it is clear that the Upside Down will continue to be a major part. That dastardly corporations with their hideous experiments is either back at it or there will be some flashbacks. But then again what is a 1980s homage without sinister agents that kids need to avoid?

Speaking of kids, the quick clips of the boys biking and being at school dressed as Ghostbusters only shows three of them. Does that mean poor Will goes missing again? Or is he still suffering from the side effects of too much time spent in the Upside Down? Will he be coughing up more slugs? The teaser doesn't tell you much.

What it does tell me is that Netflix is playing a cruel trick but tantalizing us with a second season, but not delivering until Halloween. I guess it gives lots of time for needless speculation.


The Breakdown of Things We Miss


This week we have a special episode called "The Breakdown of Things We Miss." We look at things from cinema's past that we still have fond nostalgia like the video store, the 1980s style action hero, big budget adult movies, wide release B-movies, Roger Ebert, and more. It is a great episode for remembering those thing we loved about movies and we debate the chances of some coming back or adapting to modern times. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie fans.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Two Weeks and Deep into American Politics Fatigue


My plan was to write something on politics on Friday but I was then hit with a pretty nasty bug that demanded several sweet hours in bed and lots of sips of hot tea. Then my Saturday was the kick-off to a weekend of partying with the kiddies (and trying to get better in-between) as Emily was on her yearly Winter Getaway with long-time friends. But my planned political writing was not the obvious about the numerous two weeks' worth of material provided by the Trump administration with their alternate facts and public addresses that are actually poorly disguised temper tantrums and self-promotion. Instead I was going to write about the very irritating trend of absolutism and hostility when it comes to liberals and conservatives. I intend to still have that up this week if the venom is still boiling.

As my new resolution of jumping back into being a pop culture critic, it is inevitable over the next few years that I will have to write my army of thoughts on one of the most powerful and recognized people in the world. But then again I had countless things to discuss these past two weeks, but my soul and heart has taken a bit of a shellacking over an administrations that has turned out far worse than I was already panicking about back in November. Trump has turned out to be the most incompetent, unprepared, volatile, unfiltered, reactionary, self-obsessed, lying, graceless, antagonistic, crude, bigoted, petty, cruel, childish President in my lifetime and I assume some of those attributes would outdo any president ever.

I see a mix of Revenge of the Sith with a Mel Brooks movie coated over the premise of 1984 and Idiocracy, and I am not just too worn out to write anything after hyperventilating and ranting about it to my poor wife. So for my own sanity I have bailed out for now, but if this site is to become what I want it to be and if I am to regrow my audience, I'll be forced to at least throw in the occasional riff on Donald Trump going forward.

I am having absolute fatigue over the news lately, because it hasn't been just Trump that has been a disaster lately. But despite recent tragedies and oodles of controversy, the last two weeks has also had almost just as much stories of inspiration. Despite being what hyperbole demands that I call "dark times," the majority of Americans have risen above the alt right bullshit and shown mountains of compassion and love. People are rising above and proving there is still a lot of reasons to keep hope and optimism. I can still cling to this being a great world to raise my children. For now, that is the news I'd rather see more often.

Friday, February 03, 2017

'Superior Donut' Stuck in the Past


The Superior Donuts (based on play by Tracy Letts) premiere gets points for having a timely issue of a small business owner having to adapt to the gentrification of his Chicago neighborhood and trying to make changes by hiring an entrepreneurial minded black young male. During the Trump era where there are promises of turning back the clock on progress and inciting old hatreds for the "other", there is an important message stuck in this ensemble sitcom about living in modern society and the importance of generational understanding. But the message gets lost in a formulaic and dated story structure with jokes that lack any organic delivery but rather just a rattling of easily set up punchlines.

It is unfortunate because I enjoy sitcoms set in a place that has a regular stream of diverse customers that prattle on about the challenges of their day and interact with a likable store owner. I really think this concept has the potential to appeal to those that may have voted Trump but be able to swallow this sugar coated message about understanding (i.e. the non-fiery racists). Besides that, it has a pretty great cast in Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Dear John, Independence Day: Resurgence), Katey Sagal (Married with Children, Futurama, Sons of Anarchy) and David Koechner (Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Office), but they all feel like cookie cutter characters that have been transplanted from a 1980s sitcom.

I get this on CBS that has its target audience and one with fond memories of Cheers or Taxi. Those series were pretty ground-breaking at the time and had vibrant and eccentric characters. This plays it rather safe and lacks real punch to it jokes, which is unfortunate for a series that really had a lot of potential.

'Powerless' Premiere review: Super Start to DC Comics Take on Office Sitcom


Rating: ***
Season: 1
Episode: 1
Original Airdate: Feb 3, 2017
Director: Mark Buckland
Writer: Justin Halpern & Patrick Schumacker
Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi, Christina Kirk, Ron Funches, Jenni Pierson Channel: NBC & CTV
Genre: Comedy

The Powerless premiere has most of the common ingredients of many classic work-place sitcoms with the optimistic and energetic new employee coming to manage a team that doesn't like her and learns her hire was with plans for her to fail rather than succeed, a boss who is a lovable imbecile, the company at risk of going under unless our plucky hero can come up with that winning product, and broad characters to represent the types the typical workers one sees at their office job. The one significant twist and what makes the premiere a load of fun is it is set in the world of superheroes and the company, Wayne Security makes products that are designed to help the average citizen from supervillain attacks or being collateral damage during an epic super hero battle.

The likable and warm Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical series, Spring Breakers) plays go-getter and new team manager Emily Locke who is coming from a "fly-over State" which means a place where she just saw super heroes fly over them but never land to fight evil doers. Her first day during her commute on the train in Charm City, she is quite a thrilled to see super hero Crimson Fox (Atlin Mitchell) do battle with her evil nemesis, Jack-O-Lantern (Kimani Ray Smith). The gag is that while Emily is enthralled with half the city exploding, the train track being destroyed and Fox catching the off the rails train with her bare hands, none of the other passengers even raise their heads from their iPhones, books, and video games but rather just see it as the usual inconvenience on their way to work. It is a fun gag on how if super heroes and super villains existed as depicted in the numerous comic books, TV series, and movies then it would be just as typical and humdrum as getting a, incoherent text from your grandpa asking how to get into his emails again.

There are a great deal of funny little nods and jokes about the DC Comics universe that keeps up the energy in a premiere that would otherwise be considered pretty routine. When Emily asks if they have any great ideas to help keep the company afloat, one employee talks about a great idea he has but it needs a piece of the sun to power it but that is just impossible to get (that pesky sun triggers all kinds of super powers when their isn't any gamma rays or radioactivity around). They also talk about how they not only need devices to protect them from the villains, but also when the super heroes are fighting each other over vaguely defined reasons, which is a fun little knock on a recent DC comics blockbuster. Another fun scene that plays on secret identity with a casual discussion in the break room about how it is a crazy coincidence Batman now has a similar type of invention to combat Joker as the one they presented to Bruce Wayne that was designed to detect the location of Jack-O-Lantern. The mater fact delivery of most of the invention ideas or how they discuss their super hero/villain filled city is a big part of the gag.

I haven't seen much of Hudgens' work, but this series has more potential to be her big break out from children's series than the ill-conceived Sucker Punch. She is really likable and makes you want to root for her to succeed. Even though she is the typical "fish out of water" type character, she adapts quick, is incredibly smart, and proves herself before the episode even ends. Hopefully, her keeping the company afloat and winning over her co-workers means the series can move away from typical work place stories and try some directions that are as inventive as the twist on the super hero genre.

Hudgens also has a nice chemistry with her cast that includes Alan Tudyk (Suburgatory, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Serenity), Christina Kirk, Ron Funches, Danny Pudi (Community series), and Jennie Pierson. Tudyk is especially great as the boss, Van Wayne, and the cousin of Bruce Wayne, who is desperate for love from his more recognizable relative, calls Bruce by the name B Dubs, and desperately wants to do anything to get out of Charm City. Tudyk is an awful boss but he has a charm and energy that makes him endearing despite his incompetence. He will likely play the role of antagonist and comic relief, and hopefully, the show has the guts to allow him to develop bit as it progresses. Pudi plays another nerd type but different from his Community character, Abed, as he is less socially awkward, and this time is more obsessed with pretty colours for the inventions. The character dynamic is pretty strong and everyone seems comfortable in their roles already.

The key is for this series to continue to try to be original and not just rely on Easter eggs and nods to the comic book universe. I do have some hope with them already moving past friction with those she works for and the company clearly now in the good graces with Bruce Wayne. A good sign about the series' actual ambition is if they avoid some contrivance where Emily has to prove herself again and the company is still in trouble in episode 2. One of my favourite new series this year was the really terrific The Good Place, which started with a cool premise of what would happen if a not so good person ended up in a heaven-like place by accident but the series was brazen enough to blow past it in mere episodes to become something very different and by the end had a killer twist that entirely changed the initial premise. The series approached near greatness because it didn't stick in a holding pattern, and Powerless hopefully, has the guts to also keep trying some new thing in what is a pretty fascinating world.