New Articles for the Week of June 24th: Glorious Return Edition

Well, I guess it's been a little while, hasn't it? I should really consider just live-updating this thing with links instead of getting into a big rigamarole over doing a whole write-up just to say, yes, Mad Men happened this week, here are some thoughts. Then again, it's been a pretty busy month, one spent sampling, digesting, and then regurgitating thoughts on a whole host of things not strictly related to TV. Let's start with old business first: -Mad Men: The season finale is tonight, so if you've been using my reviews as a guide to the season, then my humblest apologies for dumping not one, not two, my God, not even three, but four recaps mere hours before Don Draper and company take their bow for 2013. Then again, that's a pretty odd way to be involved in one of TV's best shows, so don't judge me for working up a review backlog.

-Hannibal: I had the pleasure of reviewing a third episode of this year's biggest surprise, as well as share some thoughts on the season as a whole with the finale that aired a few days ago. The short version is that Hannibal will likely show up on my Top 20 for the year, based on its haunting aesthetic, terrific performances, and total commitment to being the most twisted and Goddamn insane network TV show since Twin Peaks. I have been legitimately more creeped out and frightened by Hannibal's 13-episode first season than any other piece of media I've viewed in the last 5 years, and the fact that it's often a really compelling drama doesn't hurt either. NBC left the show to die during the spring burnoff season, but they at least had the decency to pick it up for a second season, the time until which will hopefully involve many people discover this bloody little gem on streaming and DVD.

That's all from the world of TV recapping, and you can expect a Mad Men finale review in the evening hours tonight, as well as a review for CBS's Under the Dome pilot tomorrow. For now though, let's move on to a few odds and sods.

-Orphan Black: Got 10-hours to spare watching one of the most gleefully insane, and best acted TV sci-fi series in ages? Well you're in luck, because I caught up with the cult BBC series a couple weeks back and can now say I see what all the fuss is about. I won't get much into spoiler territory, but the basic premise allows for Canadian-born actress Tatiana Maslany to give five of the best performances on TV,  and with that in mind, you can probably guess that Orphan Black isn't your average cup of tea. It's a complete tonal fruit salad, shifting from sci-fi, to thriller, to mystery, to comedy and back between and within scenes, and is a BBC production shot in a Toronto masquerading as New York. Needless to say, those expecting the production values and laser focus of an HBO drama should look elsewhere. Those, however, looking for an exceptionally fun, thought-provoking, and blisteringly-paced little series should go out of their way to seek this out.

-At the Movies: Haven't spent much time in the local theatres lately, though when I tell you that the TIFF screening of "R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet Sing-Along" was the best thing I've seen in cinemas the last month, it's confirmation that this summer has been pretty awful for movies. This is the End, a surprising critical high-water mark for the season, was packed when an attempt to see it was made this week, so a viewing of Now You See Me was had instead. Seeing as the trailers made it look one of the year's most obnoxious and irritating offerings, it was unlikely this would ever be my jam, and sure enough, it wasn't. I can't remember the last time a film so completely fucked up the idea of identifying someone to root for, as in this case, my options were the asshole magician thieves, the asshole Interpol detective, or the asshole millionaires and shysters funding them. It's reductive, and more than a little mean to call it Ocean's Eleven for stupids, but that's the movie they made. At least I wasn't disappointed by it, unlike...

Man of Steel. Oh man, this one hurt. That's not to say that it's abhorrently awful, but, after resisting it for so long, I got swept up in the zeitgeist (read: marketing) for the film in the last weeks before its release. Based on what had been shown it really, really looked like Snyder and Nolan might have cracked the Superman nut. This was the movie that was supposed to save the summer, which is an unfair expectation on my part (I can really only blame myself for going to tentpole blockbuster films lately). Turns out, what we got was a movie more dour and joyless than even Nolan's Batman pictures, which could afford to be so. Superman, on the other hand, can fucking fly and lift mountains over his head: he's the last character that should be weighed down with a script so leaden with ponderous dialogue, pacing so manacled by the obligatory origin story, and a structure that weights all the action toward a numbing and concerning third act. Again, it's not reprehensible, or utterly awful, but Man of Steel is perhaps the biggest misfire in a summer season that's all but been dedicated to them.

Finally, just thought I'd mention I managed to finish The Last of Us yesterday, and I'm already planning another big ol' essay/bout of thought-diarrhoea about it like I did for Bioshock: Infinite, and what Sony's latest tentpole release says about how storytelling works within the framework of a videogame. Bottom-line: while it shares many of Infinite's faults, The Last of Us attempts (and often succeeds at) the kind of bold gameplay design, and narrative focus I was begging for in my last video game diatribe, and for at least trying to do so, I'm kinda in love with it. Even bottom-er line: I have never cried because of a video game, but within 15 minutes, The Last of Us nearly had me bawling like an big dumb baby over a bunch of pixels. That's some straight up Pixar shit right there, and I can't wait to dig deeper into what's made this game something special.

That's all for now. Play me out, wistful, and depressing video game soundtrack!


New Articles for the Week of May 6th: Playoffs Edition


You know it’s been a while since you added an update to your blog when actually making one gets delayed further by forgetting your Wordpress login info. Here’s what I've had time for writing up in the last couple weeks, in between stuffing myself on the smorgasbord of hockey that is the first round of NHL playoffs:

-Two Arrows, no waiting. With the season wrapping up a week tomorrow, the recap load each week is about to get a lot lighter. The rest of May is barren for new show premieres, but June should pick things up, so their might be something worth covering weekly around that time. In the meantime, I might have to start popping in for check-in reviews, like the one I did for…

-…Hannibal, which, surprisingly, is turning out to be one of the best new shows of the year. You wouldn’t think a series based off a successful novel and film franchise would be an underdog, but considering it’s the umpteenth serial killer drama in recent memory (and on NBC no less), Hannibal entered the scene with bomb bunker-low expectations. Leave it to wunderkind showrunner Bryan Fuller, a strong cast, and the show's capacity to be legitimately creepy, to make this 2013’s most pleasant surprise. My review catches up with the show midway through its first season, and I’d recommend you do the same. Seriously though, despite being on network TV, this is not one for the squeamish. The jury’s still out for me on whether the show is making a commentary on senseless and gratuitous violence that you'll find in drek like The Following, or if Hannibal is just better at making said violence entertaining, but check it out for yourself, and see how it settles your stomach.

-Mad Men manages memorable moments mourning Mr. MLK, and major movements are made, as magnificently manic merger melts away morbid motifs.  I’m now realizing almost no one on this show has a name that starts with “M”, and I think that’s to prevent sentences like the last one from being even more tempting to write. 

This goes against my proven policy of improving productivity (okay, fine, I'll stop the alliteration) by not making any promises, but expect a big ol' hashout post about a number of series I just happened to finish within spitting distance of one another. Nothing super in-depth or all that analytical, mostly just a little baggage unpacking. The shows? I'll leave it a surprise, but the article's working title at this moment is Snakes, Lakes, and White-Male-Antiheroes. Now if you'll excuse, I need to get back to watching the Canucks lose. 

New Articles for the Week of April 22nd: Vide-ya Games Edition

[youtube=] Sorry every other contender for the title of Summer Jam 2013, but we already have a winner.

A week late, but it's time for another portfolio dump, this time with more video game-ary in one batch than pretty much ever. I don't get around to playing many games these days, mostly because the average playtime to clock-in a complete title is well over a single season of television. When you start breaking down the numbers, and you don't have a lot of free time at your disposal, the only thing I'll get out of bed for when it comes to games is a really good story...or something that's free. Both of which are present this week, so let's jump right in:

-The mystery project I teased two weeks back is out and about, and it's yet another sprawling think-piece, the informatively titled essay, Bioshock: Infinite, Choice And The State Of Storytelling In Game. Like my Bond article from last year, this was a case where the predicted length and time investment for the piece was a gross underestimate. Luckily, that let the article hit right around the time a lot of other really thoughtful analyses of the year's biggest game were coming out. I've been meaning to hash out some thoughts on the gaming industry's continued inconsistency in storytelling, and Bioshock: Infinite was the perfect catalyst for getting all those thoughts out in the open. Check it out if you've played the game, want to know what exactly is so wrong with video game storytelling, or see both those things made all the nerdier by an extended analogy based on the "Han shot first" meme.

-A decidedly less ambitious new addition to the site is my more meat 'n potatoes review for Injustice: Gods Among Us, a new comic book fighting game that I was fortunate enough to get a review copy of. This was only my second game review, and I really enjoyed both playing the game, and writing about it. And the review confirmed a lot of what I suspected about certain, let's say, more vocal, parts of the gaming community. Whereas to me, a 3 out of 5 says "fun, but flawed," to others, that can apparently read like "THE THINGS YOU LIKE ARE TERRIBLE AND YOU SHOULD HATE YOURSELF." Getting into a whole "Scores as a Review Metric is Fucked" article is something for another day, but sometimes the gaming community can really bum me out. Guys, video games are pretty well accepted in this day and age, so criticism of a single game is not damning of you, or your interests. The war for whether video games can be respectable or not is over: we won. Now start acting like it.

-And finally, it's a Mad Men, Mad Men, World, so here's a double dose to tied you over until next time. I gotta say, I'm loving this assignment, despite literally having nightmares about watching episodes, and coming away with nothing to say. Luckily, that hasn't happened for real just yet; in fact, it's been easier to spit out 1500+ words on Mad Men within 2 hours of its airing than anything else I've written under a time crunch. I'm pretty happy with how the reviews for weeks 2 and 3 turned out. I mean, I got to spend all last Sunday comparing the show to Game of Thrones, and even forced in the word "genuflecting" again. Plus, I hit the minor milestone of 1,000 views on a recap in under 24 hours. What's not to love?

That's all for this week. Slate is looking pretty clear at the moment, but we'll see what the new week brings. Sundance's Rectify is picking up some good buzz, and Amazon just clusterbombed the internet with about three dozen pilots, so there's probably something to review in all that. Or maybe I'll just go see Pain and Gain this week. I may not be a huge fan of the guy's catalogue, but I feel like Michael Bay is finally using his powers for good, instead of Transformers.

Oh, and just for good measure, here's the link to that Daft Punk song again. Mankind doesn't deserve something this joy-inducingly groovy, so it's a good thing we have French robots to make it for us.


New Articles for the Week of April 8th

Ain't no party like a Jenkins-Whitford party, cause a Jenkins-Whitford party don't stop! Whooooooooo! Break out the champagne everybody: it's the second update in as many weeks! What'd I tell you: zero promises=unstoppable productivity. Alright, well, admittedly it doesn't look like much has changed; there are only two recaps to spotlight this week, but one's a new addition to the weekly rotation, and it's a biggie. And in between all that, the groundwork for a much bigger, rambly-er article was laid, on a topic transcending genres, mediums -the very fabric of time and space! Prepare to be dazzled, and set expectations to genuflect!

Shit. Now I've gone and promised too much...Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. On to the update!

-Old business first: the weekly Arrow recaps keep on keepin' on...except this coming week, and pretty much the rest of the month, thanks to a brief hiatus for new episodes.  That's for the best though, because I need focus every iota of critical juice I've got right now on...

-Mad Men: Yeah, this was a bit of a surprise for me as well, seeing as I thought someone at the site was already going to be covering it. But in a dramatic turn of events, the big red phone rang Sunday morning, and coach put me in! As a lover of both mixed metaphors, and drinks, I was ecstatic at the chance to review Mad Men...and then legitimately kind of terrified that most of the practice I'd had in TV recapping was from covering a CW superhero soapopera. Considering Mad Men is in the running for All-Time Best Drama of Ever and Always, this was like deciding to try your hand at cracking Saturday's New Yorker crossword after months doing the word jumbles on the back of Cap'n Crunch boxes.

Or at least that's what I was worried about, as the actual writing turned out to be less of a struggle than initially feared. It was surprisingly fun to take a run at, and I actually think my recap for the premiere turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself (and I do). We'll see how that enthusiasm holds up for the rest of the season; I mean, jumping into the Mad Men review game is basically setting a weekly reminder for yourself of how decidedly not hot your shit is compared to the dozens of amazing recaps being done elsewhere, but it feels good to be a part of the conversation.

And finally, one conversation I won't be getting in on is the passing of Roger Ebert. Don't get me wrong; the guy embodied everything about the career of "critic" that makes it legitimate, and the worlds of cinema, critical thought, and general human spirit are lesser places without him in them. But you can't look both ways crossing the street without spying another deeply heartfelt, and moving tribute to the man from critics and writers more skilled than I. I'll simply let my condolences join their's in celebrating Mr. Ebert's life, by doing my damnedest to live up to the high-bar for productivity, insight, and passionate love of shared experiences that he set for the rest of us.

Roger Ebert

New Articles For Week of Rest of 2012

Happy New Year's Eve everybody, let tonight's celebrations be merry, and your holiday hangovers brief. Last update for the year, with final 2012 episodes from both Arrow and Parks and Recreation. But as a special year end send-off, I also threw together a Top 20 TV shows of 2012 article for Wegotthiscovered last week, part 1 of which can be found here. Part 2, which has the Top 10, as well as a video top 10 I cooked up, is right here. The video portion was a real learning experience, in that I learned when I do a Top 10 list, my writing patterns ape Alan Sepinwall, but my voice sounds like Dan Fineberg, two very fine TV critics I hope to learn more from in 2013. 2012's been another fruitful year of this little experiment, one that I assure you will only be getting weirder, more refined, and more refined in its weirdness, next year. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year!