Diana Vacc finally sees “Pitch Perfect 3”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

The final film in the Pitch Perfect Series, Pitch Perfect 3 is out on DVD and on on-demand.  On a rainy Saturday night I snuggled up in my blanket and decided to watch this film.  It follows the choral group the Bellas after their win at the accapella world championships.

The Bellas have moved on and living separate lives.  But they all decide to reunite for one last performance at an overseas singing competition on the USO Tour.

THE GOOD:

  • I was a fan of the first two movies and could not wait to watch and enjoy.  However, in spite of not only my expectations but my great desire to enjoy this one, I have to tell you right here and now: I didn’t like Pitch Perfect 3 in the slightest.

THE BAD:

  • The script was absolutely terrible. I’m not a “formula writing” lover by any means, but that formula worked in the first two films in the series, and without it this one had absolutely none of the magic of its predecessors. All three movies are credited to Kay Cannon, so why I don’t absolutely know why they switched up the story structure I suspect it had something to do with the change in director from Elizabeth Banks to Trish Sie. Poor Ms. Cannon had a whole new boss to please!
  • The film starts off as an acapella group competition and quickly veers into a hostage situation. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, how about this: Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) becomes a virtrual action hero, using gadgets and tools Tom Cruise would use in Mission Impossible to save her fellow Bellas. In other words, WTF?
  • Compounding things further is the fact that the chemistry between the actors, which more often than not is the reason a film is a hit, is totally lacking this time. Especially damaging was the loss of Skylar Astin as Jesse. Previously, he and Anna Kendrick as Beca had fantastic chemistry, creating a relationship that was the very essence of lifelong soul mates.

THE REST:

As unhappy as I was in my last review – of The Alienist – my heart is even heavier now because I have to once again recommend that readers not go anywhere near Pitch Perfect 3. Sorry, but every single note it hits is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Kathryn Graham Sees Netflix’s ‘Everything Sucks’ (And Loves It)

 

by Kate Graham

All I knew about Netflix’s Everything Sucks going in was that it contained a hefty dose of 90’s nostalgia. And boy does Everything Sucks love the 90’s. Especially its music.

Anything after that was a surprise for me, and I love that, as it’s increasingly harder to walk into a show and not have a good idea of what’s going on. So let me give you the vague review first.

If you love: the 90’s, heart-warming content, sincere storytelling, humor, fun characters with good hearts, adorable actors, and queer stories, then put Everything Sucks at the top of your queue.

Want a little more? Here’s the basic start:

It takes place in Boring, Oregon, which is, this is true, a sister city to Dull, Scotland. World’s cutest high school freshman, Luke O’Neill, develops a crush on the principal’s daughter: Kate Messner, and he pursues her with the help of his mad A/V skills.

Now let’s get into **spoilers!**

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

Turns out that Kate’s a lesbian, and navigating this, and her friendship with Luke forms the backbone of the first season. Both Luke and Kate are a breath of fresh air in the high school dramedy scene in just how realistic they both are, as well as the fact that Luke is a nerdy black boy and Kate is unapologetically gay.

Luke, Kate, and Luke’s friends Tyler and McQuaid team up with drama king and queen Oliver and Emaline to produce Romeo and Juliet in space. Which is exactly as amazing as it sounds. Kate’s dweeby sweetheart of a father, Mr. Messner, gets closer to Luke’s mother, Ms. O’Neill, and Luke, aspiring director, deals with the fact that his father abandoned him so many years ago to chase a Hollywood dream.

When it comes to the supporting cast, there’s so much to love. Like the fact that Tyler is a nerd who has trouble in school. Yes, that’s right, not all nerds are super smart! Leslie, Kate’s sort-of-friend, is an especially realistic kind of awkward and judgemental. McQuaid’s confusion about social cues is played with greater depth than is most often seen. Kate’s crush, Emaline, is at first a ‘psycho drama chick’, but by the end, I’ll bet you love her almost as much as Kate does.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the nostalgia. It hits you pretty hard up front. But very quickly I found myself singing along to every song. So if you remember jamming out to artists like Oasis, Tori Amos, and Ace of Base, or if you still do, then I’ll meet you at the living room karaoke bar.

And that finale? It made me so happy I was smiling all damn day.

This show is like a glamorized version of my high school years. I had a Luke and an Emaline. I knew a McQuaid and a Leslie. I wore the flannel. I had the dumb posters of guys up in my room until I realized I didn’t give a damn about any of it and tore them down. And yes, my name is Kate. (Though I went by Kat most often back then). It makes it so much more personal than any high school show I’ve ever seen, and so it holds a place in my heart like very little else.

Thank you, Everything Sucks. You’re my wonderwall.

If we get a second season, here’s my wishlist/predictions.

**Bonus Mega Spoilers!**

—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—

Even if Kate’s dad is okay with who she is (if he isn’t at first for some reason, he will be), Emaline’s might not be. I get the sense that Emaline’s family is not particularly supportive or kind given the way that she so desperately needs attention and love.

In season two (should we be so lucky), I want to see them address the fact that Emaline feels the need to tailor herself to her partner. Kate-Emaline is infinitely sweeter than Oliver-Emaline, but she’s still making herself into the person she’s dating. She’s still trying on an identity that she thinks will appeal to a person she needs to love her. Frickin’ cute as that is with Kate, because Kate actually adores her, it’s definitely something that she needs to work through. If that leads us back to Emaline’s home life, I will personally be riveted.

I’m sure Leeroy’s return will be a major storyline. Although it doesn’t grab me initially as a concept, especially since Luke seems to have already dealt with his father issues/rejected his father’s philosophy, I trust that they can do something interesting with it. Perhaps it’ll be much more about Leeroy growing as a person than his son.

They’ve thrown out threads for Leslie’s utter isolation. A potential return of Oliver (hopefully he’ll get his for being such a jerk). Tyler still can’t read. There’s plenty to explore, and if there’s a second season, above all, I hope that they don’t fall into the trap of a lot of second seasons: please introduce new storylines instead of re-treading old ones, let the characters grow and deal with new issues. Past that, give me the same sincerity, lots more lesbian romance, compassionate characters, and an f-ton of 90’s songs, and I’ll stand by you.

And I’ll never desert you. I’ll stand by yoooooouuuuu…


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and a Fine Writer Of All Things. Learn more about Kate HERE

LB: 2 TV Shows I’m Binge-Watching Right Now

by Larry Brody

I’ve been getting emails asking what I’m binge-watching on TV these days.

Interestingly, no one’s asking for recommendations as such, as in “I’ve got some time on my hands. What should I be binging on my big screen, iPad, Galaxy S8, et al.?”

Which is just as well because I feel awkward recommending any series to anyone these days, especially since the most recent PEOPLE’S PILOT, during the judging of which I learned that no matter how intelligent, talented, and perceptive any two people (or in the case of the judges, any 10 people) are, you can never be sure any of them will agree on what the simple phrase “good TV show” means.

So, with that in mind. I’m going to answer the question as asked. I’ve done more than my fair share of binging in recent years, so a lot of my favorites are no longer in use, you might say, and now that I’ve finished Supernatural (meh), New Tricks (fantastic for all but the last couple of years of its run), and Game of Thrones (sorry, but I couldn’t make it past the first season), here are the two series I’m binge-watching as we “speak.”

ENDEAVOUR
Created by Russell Lewis

This UK series on ITV is a prequel to the long-running (and mostly riveting so I recommend it as well) albeit now defunct police procedural/mystery series INSPECTOR MORSE shows how the Morse character, originally played by the touchingly irascible John Thaw, became the brilliant, cynical, lonely, and depressed crime solving genius he was in a series that lasted 13 years.

(SPOILER: He started out even more brilliant, cynical, lonely, and depressed, but younger and trimmer and better looking as played by Shaun Evans. So it goes.)

Currently, my binging coincides with where the series is right now – halfway through ENDEAVOUR’s 6th year on the air. Throughout the run, I’ve enjoyed the well-told and intelligently presented stories and characters, the great music (well, it’s basically the same music as on INSPECTOR MORSE, but greatness doesn’t wear out, you know?)

I’ve also enjoyed sense of time and place the show has had as it’s moved through the recreated 1960s, and the way the political turmoil of the day is presented with the multiple perspectives of past and present. Yesterday’s “radical” youth looks so innocent, and the entrenched establishment reacts with such shock over what today wouldn’t make anyone but John Pence even blink that I’m actually thinking of what I’m seeing as being part of the good old days…even though the crimes and the reactions are as serious as anything happening in the world now.

The best part of Endeavour though, is in the dynamics of the relationships between the characters, which are not merely understated but actually function entirely as subtext, via a look here, a twitch of the mouth there, showing a faith in the actors seldom seen on U.S. TV. Is Endeavor Morse in love with his boss’ daughter? Is that unrequited feeling the key to his later personality on the earlier Inspector Morse? Or, OMG!, am I just overreacting and completely wrong about the whole thing?

Will I ever know?

One more big positive about this series. And an admission:

The Anglophile in me is absolutely head over heels in love with the spelling of Endeavour’s name.

DEATH IN PARADISE
Created by Robert Thorogood

In many ways I find Endeavor sublime, and in just as many ways the most popular series on UK TV, BBC’s Death In Paradise, is its totally mundane opposite. Story-driven and having absolutely no intention of making any kind of statement about anything other than “Wow, we’re on a tropical island. Beautiful, yeah?” the series is insipid, banal, and loaded with clichés.

How loaded? Let me put it this way. Death in Paradise uses the “How the heck (and I mean ‘heck’ because the current protagonist would never even think of giving us a good ‘hell’) was this guy murdered when he was all alone in a room locked from the inside?” trope two out of every three times it’s on…and it just finished its seventh year.

It’s also structured so that in the last ten minutes of each episode the detective gathers all the subjects in a room and explains, with flashbacks that highlight every detail, exactly how he figured everything out, even though we just spent 40 minutes watching him do it.

As a binger, I’m only at the beginning of year 7 now, but I’ve already watched three different stars play the lead.

The first leader of the team on the mythical Caribbean paradise of Saint-Marie was played by Ben Miller as a transplanted London detective so uptight that he sweated his way through three seasons in a suit and tie before dying on the job. The second boss man, another London detective played by Kris Marshall, was a lot looser, a kind of party boy trapped in an unending Spring break for two and a half seasons, after which he left because, hey, he found a really hot babe back in the UK.

Everything about the show up to this point was so insipid that it fitted right into the “so bad it’s good” mold. I watched and watched and wondered and wondered, “How the hell – not heck – has this been such a hit?” Was it the all-pervasive ’70s telly feeling? The cultural insensitivity that either ignored the native population or relegated its members to comedy sidekick roles? The interchangeable gorgeous French-accented detective sergeants who nodded at the leads’ brilliant deductions while their eyes seemed to say, “Hold on, cheri, I’ll be in my bikini in a second,” but always remained fully dressed?

I never figured it out. But it stopped mattering last week because – wonder of wonders! – the third and current UK detective “stuck” on Saint-Marie is played by the most lovable actor since Peter Falk. His name is Ardal O’Hanlon, and UK TV aficionados may remember him as the perplexed priest star of Father Ted or the equally perplexed alien superhero star of My Hero. This time around, O’Hanlon does in fact play Peter Falk, and although he keeps his trademark perplexed attitude, it’s clear that he’s every bit as much in control as Columbo was.

Along with O’Hanlon came another couple of pluses. This year the writers are giving us a more grounded view of island life, exploring the supporting characters’ personal lives, giving them their own crime-solving moments, and the current beautiful French-accented sergeant actually looks and acts intelligently. She still isn’t a real person, but she’s almost a real TV cop, with no bikini-teasing in sight.

As for the Everyone Gathered in the Room So the Hero Can Screw with Them scene, it’s still a big part of the show. But thanks to O’Hanlon it’s now genuinely fun.

Because it’s absolutely clear that regardless of our hero’s befuddled facade he really is screwing with everyone, and, even better, enjoying every second of it.

I’m enjoying too, but I can’t help wondering. Will making the show better mean its ratings go down?

Diana Vacc sees “The Alienist”

Nothing is happening here, which doesn’t change the fact that this could be the most exciting image in the series!

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

This winter TNT premiered The Alienist, a 10 episode series that showing what police work was like before the turn of the 20th Century

Set in 1896, this psychological thriller centers around the murder of a young prostitute boy. The event brings together an Alienist (at the time the term for certain experts on mental illness), a newspaper illustrator, a secretary, and Theodore Roosevelt in the job he actually had at the time, New York City Police Commissioner, all working to solve this brutal crime.

THE GOOD:

  • I always find something good about what I view. But while I was attracted to the show after learning of its historical premise and use of real people like Teddy Roosevelt as character, once I started watching I could not find one single thing to enjoy.

THE BAD:

  • First, the way the show is shot is ugly, murky, and so difficult to see that it seems deliberate.
  • Much of the “action” is similarly ugly but, unfortunately, not murky enough to keep me from seeing it.
  • The performances are very disappointing.  With a cast led by Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, I was anticipating fascinating characters with meaningful development arcs. At the very least, I hoped to find something about each character to I care about. But that was not to be. The acting is dry, dull, and monotonous, with none of the actors exhibiting the slightest hint of emotion, or eliciting any emotion in me.
  • Based on a best selling series of books by Caleb Carr, and billed as an “Event Series, The Alienist is probably the most uneventful TV series since The Arthur Godfry Show” back in television’s infancy. Writers Hossein Amini, Caleb Carr, E. Max Frye, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Gina Gionfriddo wrote scripts that are dull, boring, and did not move the story along. Watching The Alienist was like watching a caterpillar making its away across a leaf in slow motion, except that caterpillars are at least fuzzy and cute. These episodes drag on and on and on. It got so that I gave up on wanting anything exciting to happen and just hope that something would happen, period. And no, that too wasn’t to be.
  • Gina Gionfriddo produced Law & Order, one of my all time favorite shows.  Having her on board was truly exciting for me, however, the show fell short of any expectations I had.

THE REST:

With a heavy heart I find it hard to recommend that anyone watch this show. The Alienist has left me totally alienated.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Munchman sees ‘Altered Carbon’

Holy crapoly, guys ‘n’ gals. We live in a dystopia where every new show being presented to us on TV and its hangers on is being labeled “dystopic” and “about a future dystopia where…”(fill in the dots – it’s easy cuz all you have to do is look at just about any new description of just about any fiction just about anywhere).

Except that it’s all bullshit, with the in, hip, trendy, and in and of itself totally dystopic buzzword of the day being used when it absolutely doesn’t apply. By which yer friendly neighborhood munchamatic magilla here means, CHECK OUT THE GODDAMN DEFINITION, OKAY MOTHERFUCKERS?!

Cases in point:

“Dystopia. Relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

And “An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.”

With that I mind, munchamoneybags has to say, “Sorry, misreading, misinterpreting, misogynist momos,” but while yes, this is a dystopia if ever there was one:

As is this:

And this back in 2016 when we were all certain it could only be a fictional future:

This is not:

It’s just another interesting science fiction novel about a future civilization that has its good sides and bad sides and exciting sides and terrifying ones and everything in between, just like just about every civilization just about anywhere and anywhen.

And this:

Netflix’s Altered Carbon TV show is just another overblown, pompous, self-important, hideously violent, unconscious parody of every ridiculous trope used in every other science fiction show and film that totally misinterpreted what made the book interesting.

Oh Christ! The voiceover! Puh-leeze! And the music! Turn them off, turn them off, turn them off! For the love of God, montresor!

In other words, nope, munchikins didn’t really get much of a kick out of watching this abomination. But I sure liked writing this review.