TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2: Stormborn

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Okay, lets talk about this weeks Game of Thrones episode Stormborn. I think last weeks review/recap was a bit too full of plot details and a bit light on my actual thoughts about the episode so I’m going to try to give more of my thoughts on the episode from here on out. Overall, I was pretty disappointed, Stormborn felt to me like it had a some good moments but there were definitely some I didn’t like especially the ending. I’ll sum up the episode pretty quickly and then move into my thoughts.

Stormborn begins with Daenerys and her crew beginning to formulate their plan to take control of Westeros without destroying it all and leaving Daenerys to be “Queen of the ashes”. Cersei attempts to rally some of the lords from the rebelling kingdoms, including Randyll Tarly, to her side by playing on their xenophobia of the Unsullied and Dothraki, and Maester Qyburn reveals that they are developing a weapon to combat dragons. Sam at the Citadel attempts to heal Jorah from his greyscale despite the Archmaesters objections. Arya, after meeting back up with Hotpie, learns that Jon is alive and the Starks control Winterfell. While traveling she comes across Nymeria and a pack of wolves that reveal themselves to her and then disappear.

In Winterfell Jon decides to accept an invitation to meet with Daenerys at Dragonstone in order to attempt to secure the dragon glass beneath the castle. When he leaves, over the objections of the lords of the north, he leaves Sansa in charge of the north. Back at Dragonstone Daenaerys and Tyrion reveal their plan to Elleria, Yara, and Olenna, a strike on Kings Landing by the Westerosi forces and an Unsullied attack on Casterly Rock at the same time. Grey Worm and Missandei reveal their feelings to each other before they are separated. Yara and Elleria are attacked by Euron on their way back to pick up the Martells army, and Yara’s fleet is destroyed while Theon flees and is left floating in the ocean on debris.

euron1.1500866247  Okay, so a lot happened in this hour and it did move the plot set up in the previous episode along. First the good stuff, the opening scene with Daenerys et al is great. After only having a few silent minutes of Varys and Tyrion in the previous episode we get a scene devoted to them, I love when Game of Thrones touches on political intrigue and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is just such a joy to watch. Furthermore Varys explaining his shifting loyalty by saying his loyalty is to the people was such a great monologue and a great moment between Daenerys and him. I also really enjoyed the scene with Missandei and Grey Worm, which is perhaps the most touching sex scene this show has ever produced and really a nice breath of humanity in between what was a really exposition heavy episode.

As opposed to last week I enjoyed Sams storyline, Broadbent as the Archmaester is a joy as he plays the character in such an academic way, and the beginning of the surgery to remove Jorah’s scales was genuinely hard to watch. I loved the match cut from that scene to the man eating the meat pie, and like Arya in that scene as she come to resemble the Hound more and more including gulping down a flagon of ale. Finally I really enjoyed Euron once again as he shows up to destroy Yara’s fleet. Euron is just such an over the top character and he is a joy to watch on-screen, it’s so much fun to watch him just be crazy. It also helps that he rid of us of at least most of the Sand Snakes.

Cersei-Qyburn-StormbornOf course bringing up the Sand Snakes means we have to talk about what didn’t work. While the Winterfell scenes are crucial to the plot and well acted, they’re kind flat and predictable overall just sorta okay. But my true ire is reserved for the scene where Qyburn reveals what his weapon is to kill dragons. This is built up with Qyburn saying if they can be injured they can be killed, something we are all aware of having seen said injury to a dragon previously in the series. With a swell of ominous music he reveals his weapon and it isn’t some sort of magic or anything, it’s just a ballista, that’s it. It’s not even a particularly large ballista and with the level of military technology present in Westeros it boggles the mind that this is a new invention. It bothers me that we will invariably see this weapon take down a dragon at some point because to be honest the entire moment felt a bit silly.

There is also the sea battle that finishes the episode. I’ve never been a huge fan of Theon and Yara’s story and them getting attacked and destroyed by Euron was pretty predictable. It could be seen from a nautical mile away, especially after the previous episode where Euron promises to return to Cersei with a gift. It should have been treated as a big moment and yet to me felt very small.The direction was awkward and seemed to minimize the battle taking what was a big naval battle and shoving it into a small corner of one ship. It just really didn’t work for me tonally and outside of Euron the scene was utterly forgettable.

That describes a lot of the episode to me, forgettable. Some good moments in the episode and a lot of setup for storylines that feel like they’re going somewhere cool. However, there are only five episodes left in this season and so far the show has yet to reach the breakneck pace it should have to reach the ending.

Rating: 7.5/10

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2: Stormborn

Directed by Mark Mylod

Written by Bryan Cogman

 

Why I Love Movies.

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Writing an essay about loving movies isn’t very original, I’m pretty sure there are hundreds of essays online with this exact same title. So consider this just one more leaf on the pile, one more essay talking about the joy and emotion that come out of the world of film. You can also look at this a sort of mission statement for this site, for how I look at movie and art in general. At it’s core reviewing art is trying to put into words the gut feeling we get when that art is consumed, its not a science. I know how I feel about art, even if that feeling is not knowing how I feel about it, reviewing is filling in the why. To understand my reviews and to see where I’m coming from when I write them, I think it’s important to know my connection to the medium. Specifically here I’m going to write about film, mostly because it’s the one I write the most about and because it’s my favorite.

I think everyone has a movie, usually that they saw at a young age, that was “the movie”. The one that made them stay up at night thinking about what they saw. The one where something clicked in their mind and made them want to see every movie they could. For me that movie was Garden State, Zach Braff’s 2004 ode to sad, quirky, awkward, white dudes everywhere. Perhaps in retrospect it isn’t that good but from the moment younger me saw the movie I was hooked. There was something about Garden State that made it the right movie at the right time, something about it that made me feel something that I don’t think I had felt before. I think it was longing, longing for a world that didn’t exist, that you could only reach through this film. So it stayed with me.

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I haven’t watched Garden State in years, I don’t know if I would even like it now, but I do remember the way it made me feel the first time I saw it. It isn’t my favorite movie anymore, as the years have gone by and I’ve seen more films I’ve replaced it with movies I think are better. Every single one of those films has made me feel something, not the same thing I felt with Garden State but each unique in the emotions and memories they elicit. But a movie doesn’t have to be my favorite to have and impact. Ultimately I think there are three reasons why I continue to love movies. First, movies are entertaining, they’re cool, they’re fun and they provide an escape from our lives. Second, movies widen the world, they expose us to new ideas, and they create new universes to explore. Finally, I believe that film is a unique medium that provides that is the best at making us feel.

I think the entertainment values of movies is something we all take for granted, but it isn’t one we talk enough about. Yes, movies are an art form, and many movies are made for the sole purpose of being artistic. It’s a noble goal, and one I support. But, at least in the United States, the majority of movies people will see were created with the purpose of entertaining people. This can take a variety of forms, from an action film such as Speed to a murder mystery movie like Murder On The Orient Express. There’s something fun and relaxing about leaving your current situation behind and melting into the symphony of action or the story of whatever your watching. Creating good entertainment, the kind people will want to revisit, isn’t easy, and it is something to be admired when that is created.

For me, perhaps the genre that best exemplifies this is action. Now of course action movies can tell us about the society we live in or makes think about new ideas, in fact the very best ones do but at their heart I believe that action movies are about giving us thrills. There’s a lot to admire about a movie like Die Hard, the way it’s expertly plotted, the acting, but what I like the most about it is just how much fun it is. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say about a movie about a terrorists taking over an office building but it really is fun to watch a movie about a hero taking on a group of bad guys. We want him to succeed, we root for him, we marvel at the explosions and stunts, and we’re happy when at the end the good guy wins. There’s something beautiful in the action of these films, something incredible about the way they take us into a fantasy where these things can happen.

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In their own way, every movie creates its own world. It’s sort of an intrinsic fact of creating a film, that by having a camera and showing things on it that it becomes a world of its own. In creating these new worlds movies bring us new things to think about, new ideas, and introduce to cultures that aren’t our own. I think that’s a beautiful thing about movies, that they can tell me a story about someone who’s life, upbringing, and culture are different from mine and that I am able to see it from their perspective.

In this thread are documentary films that allow people to be exposed to new ideas and to have realities revealed to them. There’s something about being shown real moments and real events that make documentary films such a rewarding experience. In this vein we also have films that push new ideas through fiction. In particular those that combine this with new worlds to create places that people may truly want to inhabit.

There’s something clichéd about wanting to live in a science fiction or fantasy world. I think it’s because it’s something everyone has dreamed about, few people imagine themselves living in the crime-ridden world of The Godfather, people may want to be the main character or observe their world from the safety of their home but not live in them. However, who hasn’t dreamed of living in the world of Star Trek, going to Hogwarts, or even the Hollywood high schools of the 80’s. Movies allow us to create new universes and in doing so allow us to dream of them.

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In the end I feel that the greatest strength of film is this, films are the best catalyst for allowing us to access and magnify those memories, moments, and emotions that live deep in the back of our mind. When the sound, images, editing, and acting that make up a movie come together in just the right way they help us to experience emotions we may not have thought about in a long time. I think every good movie does this, accesses some forgotten part of our brain and make us feel in a way that other mediums just don’t.

Let’s take something as simple as the first time you kiss someone. I’m sure most people could explain to someone the way they felt the first time they kissed someone, whether they were nervous or excited, confident or shy, and when they did it how it was. If you read a passage of a book about a first kiss maybe that might remind you of that moment. A song might play that brings back that memory, and yet for me all of those only bring back the memory, not the emotion.

But when I watch the “Kiss the Girl” sequence from The Little Mermaid there’s something about the combination of the song, the visuals, and the whole film making package that does more than just bring back the memory. It makes me feel like I did the first time I kissed someone. Of course that was years ago so I don’t really remember exactly the way I felt, only that it was some mixture of fear, excitement, nervousness, adrenaline, and joy. However watching that part of The Little Mermaid makes me feel the way I feel that I felt during my first kiss.

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The best movies make us feel this way, in a vague, hard to describe, they make us feel the way we imagine we do about things we imagine about. That is the real power of film, helping us to draw the emotions we store away and don’t think about. Movies can do so much, entertain, give us new worlds, but at end, at their core, movies are like all the best works of art. They work as lenses, lenses that focus the deeply human emotions we all feel and project them on a screen for us to marvel at.

Film Review: Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is a disaster movie disguised as a war movie. The goal of the characters we follow is only to survive and help others survive the terror that lurks just out of sight but that is slowly closing in. The Germans are only referred to by name once or twice, and are only seen once at the end of the film. They are a force of nature, more like the weather in The Day After Tomorrow rather than the Wehrmacht of Saving Private Ryan. Christopher Nolan’s newest film cares more about looking at fear and survival than it does heroism and battle. In doing so Nolan has created something truly special, and perhaps the best film of his career.

Dunkirk is a story told from three different perspectives covering three different periods of time, each following a different group of characters as they participate in the evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk. The first part, The Mole, lasts a week and follows a group of soldiers looking to get off the beach. The second, The Sea, lasts a day and follows a small civilian boat and its crew as they assist in the evacuation, and the third part entitled The Air follows a British spitfire squadron as they patrol over Dunkirk and lasts an hour. Dunkirk takes a non-linear approach, cutting between these perspectives until they come together at the climax.

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Nolan’s characters are archetypes, most don’t have names and those that do are never given full names. They are almost mythological figures, representing a very British view of national identity, stoic and ready to do their duty. There are long stretches where no one speaks, instead Nolan allows the sound to do a lot of the heavy lifting, with the sound design pushed to the front. Gunshots are loud, the rush of the sea and the howl of the wind feel oppressive and threatening, and the sirens on the German dive-bombers add an extra element of fear to every bombing. The score by Hans Zimmer, is ethereal and by incorporating a ticking watch serves to highlight the race against time inherent to the film.

The film also looks amazing, with the claustrophobic tightness of a packed ship hull or an aircraft’s cockpit contrasted with the vastness of the English Channel or the wide open beach. Nolan reverses our expectations with these tight closed spaces becoming a symbol of safety and home while the wide open spaces of the sea and land are threatening, home to the danger that they seek to escape. Each actor conveys their fear and determination in different ways, with particular praise for Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy who portray a boat captain and a shell-shocked soldier respectively. Unfortunately these are the only two actors who are given anything of substance to do, with some characters, such as Kenneth Branagh’s Commander Bolton especially feeling superfluous at times. If there are failures in the film it is that by making these characters so broad it is hard to care about them, although this is often countered by the strong acting.

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My only other small bone to pick is with the ending, which may seem a bit clichéd, and yet still worked for me. This is because unlike with many of Nolan’s other films, this film is deeply moving and emotional without ever seeming manipulative. Every moment of emotion, all the fear, and triumph feel truly earned in this movie, something that is hard to say about his other films. Dunkirk pulls together all of Nolan’s talents to create a film that, like the best in its genre, reveals human nature in the face of disaster. Dunkirk is something truly special, and deserves to be seen.

Rating: 9/10

Dunkirk (2017)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring:  Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

Rated: PG-13

TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone

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“Shall we begin?”

Daenerys Targaryen utters these words at the end of the Season 7 opener of Game of Thrones, Dragonstone, marking the start of what is the shows final act. Dragonstone acts as stage setting episode, and after over a year away it’s pretty welcome. The episode begins with what at first appears to be a flashback to a feast held by Walder Frey at The Twins. But, quickly the mood of the scene shifts and it is revealed to be Arya Stark using faceless man magic to impersonate Walder and poison the Freys. In one fell swoop she eliminates their whole house, just another part of the culling of characters and plot lines Game of Thrones has been undertaking as it nears its climax. As Arya leaves she tells one of the survivors to let people know “Winter came for House Frey”. It’s an exciting way to start an episode and a season, and hearing the theme music right after was a great way to get sucked back into the world of Game of Thrones.

From there the story slows down a lot, a necessity when we have to catch up with TV’s largest ensemble. We check in with Jon Snow and Sansa Stark as they hold court in the newly reconquered Winterfell. The seeds of disagreement between the two begin as they differ on how to handle the lands controlled by houses that had betrayed them and fought against them. In the Jon decides to make them swear fealty and allow them to retain their land, over the protests of Sansa who wants to give their land to people who had been loyal to the Starks. After Sansa and Jon talk about how they face trouble from both the north in the form of the army of the dead, and from the south from Cersei. Sansa and Jon reveal their differing views on ruling, with Jon having seen the example of Lord Commander Mormont and trying to model his leadership after him.  On the other hand we have Sansa who has had her worldview shaped by living in Kings Landing and seeing Varys, Cersei, and Littlefinger work their plans. I’m excited to see these two philosophies play out through out the rest of the season.

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In Kings Landing Cersei begins to formulate her plan to take back the rebelling kingdoms now that she is queen. It’s a couple of very strong scenes, especially one where Jaime attempts to have a conversation with her about the suicide of Tommen and what her end game is. Cersei appears to be unraveling, declaring Tommen’s suicide to be a “betrayal” and telling Jaime she is attempting to create a long-lasting Lannister dynasty. That Jaime and her are the only Lannisters left, as Jaime reminds her, doesn’t really seem to cross her mind. In her quest to defeat her rivals she invites Euron Greyjoy to Kings Landing where he proposes marriage to her, she refuses but he promises to go and bring back a great treasure to prove his loyalty and importance. Euron is a lot of fun to watch in this scene, dressed like a pirate and completely bonkers. It’s nice when Game of Thrones leans into its occasional pseudo-soap opera atmosphere, and Euron as a megalomaniac over the top bad guy is perfect for what appears to be our last human antagonist of the show.

In the newly shown Oldtown we are treated to a montage of Sam going about his tasks in the Citadel as he learns to become a maester, this thing goes on way too long. The first time soup is match cut to a used bed pan it’s a little funny but by the third time its gotten a little tedious. In fact the entirety of Sams storyline seemed like a big journey to get to the knowledge that there is dragon glass under Dragonstone. Plus, it kinda wastes Jim Broadbent who shows up for one scene to deliver a great monologue about how the maesters are the institutional memory of Westeros and how they’ll still be here after everything. Hopefully he’ll continue to show up but this is the one part of the episode that really didn’t do much for me.

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We then come to the Hound, in what is probably the best scene of the episode. The Hound along with the rest of the Brotherhood without Banners arrives at the cottage of the family he had previously robbed in a previous season. There he finds the corpse of the daughter and her father, bloodied and with a knife, Beric Dondarrion deduces that the father murder-suicided them rather than freeze or starve to death in the winter. As Thoros builds a fire in the hearth he asks the Hound to look into the fire where the Hound has a vision of the army of the dead marching on the wall. That night the Hound buries the dead while the snow falls in one of the striking visual moments of the episode. Rory McCann continues to be one of the best actors on the show, imbuing his character with little moments of humanity and continuing to build a complex and deep character.

In the other standout scene we humanize the Lannister soldiers as Arya comes across a group of them cooking dinner. Here we get the oft-mentioned Ed Sheeran cameo that to be perfectly honest wasn’t much of a big deal. After singing a song and getting a few lines he moves to the background. Instead it is the other soldiers who tell Arya how they miss home, want to see their wives and children, it may be a bit clichéd, but it’s an important reminder that even though we mostly follow nobles and people of privilege the fighting is done by regular people. It’s quiet moment that doesn’t end in a speech or violence but is content to just be that, quiet. It’s a moment in an episode that has to cram in a lot of information where the show just takes a breather.

Finally the show finishes on a wordless sequence that features Daenerys arriving to and entering Dragonstone. All told visually, and with stunning visuals at that, the sequence is stunning. At the end Daenerys walks past the carved map of Westeros in Dragonstone, mirroring the painted map that Cersei and Jaime Lannister look at in their scenes. At the end of a strong, albeit not perfect, season premiere Daenerys turns to Tyrion and says her only lines of the episode, kicking off what promises to be a great season of TV.

“Shall we begin?”

Rating: 8.5/10

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone

Directed by  Jeremy Podeswa

Written by  David Benioff and D. B. Weiss

Music Review: Haim – Something To Tell You

Haim_Album-Cover-Something-To-Tell-You-2017-billboard-EMBEDSomething To Tell You is the second album from Los Angeles sister rock trio Haim, and it’s just sort of fine. Granted after four years it was always going to be hard to live up to their first album 2013’s Days Are Gone. In that album Haim channeled their many musical influences, ranging from Fleetwood Mac and Wilson Phillips to Timbaland, into creating a pop-rock album that was varied and musically interesting and boded well for their future efforts. On Something To Tell You the band has evolved some but at times seems stuck in a bit of creative rut.

The album starts with the catchy and slick “Want You Back”, a fun drum and guitar driven song that mixes in some synth pop and Passion Pit style electronic flourishes to create one of the better songs on the album. Unfortunately , this Fleetwood Mac with modern pop influenced production style carries through the first half of the album. Each song adds something a bit different, “Ready For You” has a bit of a tropical house influence in the first half, and the title track has a cool pulsing guitar on it, but in the end all the songs up through “Kept Me Crying” tend to blend together.

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Luckily on the second half of the album Haim bring in a ringer, Rostam Batmaglij, who is a fantastic producer and who seems to push Haim out of their comfort zone into a bit more of an interesting sound. “Kept Me Crying” has a noticeable guitar solo that isn’t hidden away behind layers of sound as on previous tracks, and “Walking Away” at times sounds like 90’s boy band song combined with modern minimalist beats. Finally the two closing songs are some of the best with “Right Now” combining simple but evocative lyrics with excellent production to create one of the years best pop-rock songs and “Night So Long” a dark moody ballad that is some of Haim’s best work.

Something To Tell You has some really interesting musical ideas for the band to explore but the problem is they only find them on about half the album. The first half of this album is, outside of “Want You Back”, forgettable at best and at worst it sounds like a collection of Fleetwood Mac outtakes with modern production. When Haim drop the slick and overdone homogeny of the first half, they manage to create some really interesting and memorable music. Even then however, the lyrics are mostly forgettable and I still wish their music would do more to showcase what good musicians they are. The standout tracks of “Want You Back”,”Found It In Silence”, “Walking Away”, “Right Now”, and “Night So Long” demonstrate what an interesting and enjoyable band Haim can be. It’s just a shame it’s buried under stuff that all sounds the same.

Rating 7.5/10

Something To Tell You (Polydor, 2017)

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TV Review: GLOW Season 1

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At one point during the penultimate episode of the first season of GLOW, Netflix’s new show from creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive, a character states about wrestling that they’ve “come close to getting what all the fuss is about”. That’s how I felt throughout the shows strong freshman effort. I don’t watch wrestling, I don’t know much about wrestling, and I don’t think I’ll ever be a wrestling fan. It’s not because I dislike wrestling, it’s just not something that holds much interest for me. But when the wrestling truly begins in earnest in GLOW it is genuinely captivating and exciting. Mensch and Flahive, along with executive producer Jenji Kohan create wrestling scenes that manage to be funny while also informing character and advancing the plot. It’s just a shame that it takes so long to get to them.

GLOW the TV show is loosely based on real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a women’s professional wrestling league begun in 1986 and lasting in some form or another until the present day. It begins with struggling actress Ruth Wilder (Allison Brie) receiving an invitation to audition in 1985 for an all women wrestling show. Directed by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a sleazy former exploitation film director and produced by Sebastian “Bash” Howard (Chris Lowell), a trust fund kid paying for the league with his parents money, the fictional GLOW gathers together a bunch of misfits and follows them as they struggle to launch their wrestling league.

If a group of misfits try to do something unique and struggle to overcome outside barriers while also learning to accept the others in the group sounds like a bit of a sports film cliche, that’s because it is. However, GLOW uses this setup as a springboard to showcase a variety of captivating and compelling supporting characters. Characters such as Sheila “the She-Wolf” (Gayle Rankin) who always appears dressed as well, a she-wolf, or Carmen “Machu Picchu” Wade (Britney Young) who simply wants to follow in her wrestling family’s foot steps feel like they have real reasons to want to wrestle, to fit in somewhere. Maron hilariously steals every scene he’s in, and Lowell adds depth to a someone that could have been a stock rich kid character. It’s a real joy to watch these actors play off of each other and this interaction provides many of the shows plentiful laughs. When GLOW wants to be funny, it can be really funny.

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It is when GLOW wants to be more dramatic that it can grind to a halt. Chief among these is the shows most annoying subplot, the fallout between Ruth and her best friend Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) after Ruth has a brief affair with Debbie’s husband Mark (Rich Sommer). Debbie, a former soap drama actress, eventually joins GLOW as it’s lead wrestler and main draw while also attempting to reconnect with her estranged husband. While Gilpin’s performance as Debbie is great, managing to be both funny and heartfelt, the scenes devoted to her attempting to save her marriage feel like something that has been done a million times before.

That is the one main problem with GLOW, that the dramatic beats of the story aren’t anything new. The league will need money, certain people will have a falling out, friendships will need to be mended, and at the last minute someone will bail them out and they will succeed against the odds, learning something about themselves through wrestling. It’s something that’s been done before. These characters are so good it does them a disservice to put them into cliched dramatic moments. It also takes time away from one of the shows real strengths, watching these characters behind the scenes of creating a wrestling show. We don’t see much them learning to wrestle until episode 5, and there isn’t a training montage until episode 7 which is also when the first real wrestling event occurs. The scenes of them learning to wrestle and wrestling in front of a crowd are such a joy that you wonder why it took them so long to get there.

That isn’t to say to that every dramatic moment the show has is bad. A late season abortion story line manages to be both funny and grounded, it feels in character and never become preachy. Another solid dramatic moment is when a character reveals that she is Sam’s daughter, a move which reveals new things about both of them and creates a new interesting character dynamic that can be interestingly explored in a future season. Even the more dramatic interactions between Ruth and Debbie can be good, with both Gilpin and Brie showcasing real dramatic skills that make you feel and empathize with both of them.

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But where GLOW really shines is when it devotes its talented actors and strong characters to wrestling and comedy. While never treating the act of wrestling itself as a joke it creates situations within the ring that manage to be very funny with one notable moment being a match involving KKK members and a welfare queen. This is also one of the moments that touches upon the ability of wrestling to perpetuate negative stereotypes by showcasing them, an interesting thread that is hopefully expanded upon in further seasons. GLOW also leans into it’s 1980’s setting, never becoming a parody of the 80’s, but mining it for some really funny jokes such as a house party a drug toting robot butler.

When GLOW is firing on all cylinders it is a genuinely great show that can bring a smile to your face and make you laugh while also making you wish you could spend more time with its characters. When it’s off it can feel like a prequel to a much better show that appears right around the corner, where it isn’t bogged down by cliched dramatic beats. Luckily for us, GLOW is firing on all cylinders far, far more often than not. GLOW season 1 may be uneven at times but it creates compelling characters, memorable scenes, big laughs, and ensures that you’ll want to get back in the ring for season 2.

Rating: 8/10

GLOW Season 1 (Netflix, 2017)

Starring:  Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young and Marc Maron.

Rated TV-MA

Film Review: Baby Driver

baby-driver-3For many of us music is an essential part of the way we live our lives. Music comes out of speakers at the mall, from street corners, from our headphones, and from our computers. It’s probably not surprising that I’m listening to music as I write this review. In a world where music can easily become part of the background it’s often refreshing to have a film push its music to the foreground.

Baby Driver, the newest film from British writer and director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), takes that idea and ramps it up to 11. Not only does the music serve to advance the story and reveal character, as it does in Wright’s previous work, in Baby Driver the music is woven into the very fabric of the film demonstrating why Wright may be our best working technical filmmaker. Wright’s spectacular direction, expert choreography,  on beat editing, and beautiful sound come together to create what is most likely his greatest technical achievement. Throughout the film music played by the eponymous main character, a mostly silent but expressive Ansel Elgort, serves not only as the soundtrack to the various heists and action scenes but also syncs up to the movement on screen of the actors and camera. Wright has previous explored this idea in a music video for “Blue Song” by the band Mint Royale and in several scenes through out his films, most notably a scene in Shaun of the Dead where a fight with zombies is synced up to “Don’t Stop Me Now”. If this sounds like a cool idea and is one you enjoy, as I did, than you’re almost guaranteed to like this film.

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But what happens in the movie itself? Baby Driver is the story of a getaway driver called Baby and follows him through a series of heists as he tries to clear his debts to Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, and tries to eventually leave his life of crime with Debora, a diner waitress played by Lily James. Through a rotating cast of criminals, including Jamie Foxx in a truly insane role, Eiza Gonzalez and Jon Hamm in one of his best film performances, Wright showcases some truly great action scenes and car chases to rival any in the past decade. These heists also serve to inform the character of Baby and his relationship to both Doc and Debora. While ultimately the plot of the film may not be anything special or new, the “one last heist” trope isn’t exactly unknown, Wright does play enough with genre conventions to make it interesting.

Where Baby Driver falls a little flat is in its characters and relationships, while Baby is a fully realized and compelling character, Debora is a flat love interest who isn’t given much back story or really a reason to fall for Baby. The same goes for several of the criminals that commit the heists, luckily Wright has enlisted great actors for theses parts with Lily James and Jon Hamm in particular saving the characters of Debora and Buddy with their considerable acting chops and charm. This is the first film written solely by Wright and perhaps it would have benefited from the having some touch ups done by his frequent co-writer Simon Pegg. That’s not to say that it’s a badly written film, far from it, Wright’s dialogue crackles with wit and provides many of the films considerable laughs. Along with Jordan Peele’s spectacular Get OutBaby Driver goes to show that there is a place for directors to mix comedy with other genre fare while still preserving the core appeal of the genre, in Get Out horror and in Baby Driver action.

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Ultimately Baby Driver is a great film, blowing past its plot and character faults with its wonderful visuals, inventive use of music, strong performances, and playful style. Wright’s use of scene transitions to further the story remains second to none and his command of the camera and frame to tell a story, add comedy, and display an action scene are exceptional. Adding music into this mix creates an incredibly memorable film that is well worth watching in theaters. It may not be Wright’s best but it’s still pretty damn good.

Rating: 8/10

Baby Driver (2017)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

Rated R