The Best TV Shows in 2014

I realize I have been AWOL from blogging for the past two weeks, thanks to a busier work schedule, a cold, and getting ready to go on a mini-vacation tomorrow. That said, I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read the posts I’ve published, as well as who have left comments and feedback. My goal is to get back to my now 200+ feed first thing next week . . . so expect a flurry of likes/comments from me in the upcoming weeks, folks.


Now let’s get back to this post . . . last week I wrote about my favorite books I read in 2014. Now I’m going to mention the best TV shows – some old and some new – that I watched last year.

Best Returning Show

24- Live Another Day

Despite it’s sad and open-ended finale, I totally dug 24‘s (2001-2010) return to the small screen. I think everyone was hoping for some more Jack Bauer, so it was nice to see Keifer Sutherland give in and share some of his alter-ego with us. The idea of the show returning in a mini-series format worked well, offering the same cliff-hanging episodes that kept us on the edge of our seats. Switching the location added to the freshness of the show’s return, and a cast filled with vetted actors and actresses (which included three familiar faces from previous seasons) made longtime fans of the show like myself that much more excited to tune in. And if there’s every a takeaway from 24, it’s that you shouldn’t get close to Jack . . . because you’ll probably end up captured, tortured, dead, or all three.

Best Comedy

While the final season of Arrested Development (2003-2013) arrived on Netflix in 2013, I had never seen a single episode until last year. It’s probably the most off-beat show I’ve ever watched, and yet the writing keeps me coming back for more. Even for a show where multiple characters are unlikable, Arrested Development still knows how to make people laugh. The show runs on a continuous gag reel, forcing new viewers to start from the beginning of the show if they want to appreciate the ongoing jokes. What makes the show work so well is its ability to subtly hint at being funny without announcing the punch line. The fourth season surely received its fair share of criticism for its format, but for me, I felt like the storyline suffered more by not returning to what made everyone laugh about it in the first place. Regardless, I think the first three seasons are worth multiple viewings.

Best Drama

The Killing‘s (2011-2014) final season hit Netflix in 2014, after the streaming service picked up the original AMC show. Perhaps it was all just luck that I discovered the show one day while I was looking through Netflix titles, and I’m so thankful I did. Rarely do crime dramas feel as rough, believable, and original as The Killing. Although it’s based off a Danish show with the same name, this American re-make works as if it was wholly original, at least for American audiences. While I enjoy The Walking Dead (2010-) more than most shows, it was The Killing that had me binge-watching (to my shame) until I completed it. The two leads – played by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman – is what makes The Killing, particularly the latter. It’s certainly some of the most compelling TV I have seen in a long time. If you want to watch a great crime show, check out The Killing. It’s that good.

Best British Show

So there’s a good chance I created this category just to throw a little of Sherlock into the mix. The third series arrived on Americans’ TV screens in January of 2014, a long two-year wait since the previous series. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat fail to disappoint, attempting to top the series two finale that left everybody’s mouths gaping. There are always shocks and thrills in Sherlock, but never the cheap kind. We find out what’s happened since Sherlock’s fall, and we get to witness Sherlock and Watson’s bromance grow deeper, while yet another one of their major nemeses reveals himself in the third episode. Most everyone is familiar with the show’s lead, Benedict Cumberbatch, who has recreated a modern-day Sherlock whom everyone loves, despite his sociopathic tendencies.

In regards to British shows, I also thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Broadchurch (2013), which appears to have a second season in the works for later this year. I was not the biggest fan of Doctor Who‘s (2005-) latest outing, despite the actors’ best efforts. I am also a newbie to Orphan Black (2013-) this year, so I’ll get to see what all the fuss is about.

Best New-to-Me Show

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what category Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) ought to go in, given its balanced mix of drama and comedy. So I created a category for this show, because it’s absolutely one of my favorites from 2014. (Note – I’m not finished with the show yet [middle of season 5], so please don’t include any spoilers in the comments.) Where to start? The pop culture references, the offbeat townspeople of Stars Hollow, Kirk?!, Lane’s hilarious bandmates . . . Gilmore Girls seems to have that perfect balance of intertwining multiple storylines while still keeping its focus on the two main girls: Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). Netflix has given the show a brand new generation of fans just discovering it. I highly recommend Gilmore Girls, especially if you want to see a show that has Alexis Bledel’s, Lauren Graham’s, and Melissa McCarthy’s best roles-to-date.

What were your favorite shows you saw in 2014?

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AEOS Review: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Hey guys! It’s been a very busy few days, so I am just now getting to posting. I got to see two movies over the past few days: The Maze Runner (2014) and This Is Where I Leave You (2014). I’ll be posting a From Page to Screen review on The Maze Runner soon, since my sister is co-authoring that post. But until then, here’s my review of This Is Where I Leave You.

I really wanted to like this movie. I purposefully went by myself to the theater to enjoy and soak in the humor and warmth I was expecting the film to emit. Unfortunately, those feelings were not what I experienced as I absorbed the material. There were bits of humor, and about two total times I actually laughed. There Is Where I Leave You is a movie that isn’t exactly sure what what tone it should take, and that’s what the viewers are left with: a confused movie.

Getting a confused audience was probably only partially purposeful when they adapted This Is Where I Leave You into a film, because after all, the story is about a messed up family trying to sort themselves out when the father passes away. It’s only natural to expect some chaos when you place complicated characters in one space. What I think director Shawn Levy failed to communicate to audiences was the actual direction and goal of the movie. What lesson can we take away from this movie? What character moved forward, changed, or accomplished a goal?

Shawn Levy actually has multiple directing credits, two of which probably most influenced him for This Is Where I Leave You: the remake Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Date Night (2010). Cheaper by the Dozen has one too many characters, and I think the same could be said for This Is Where I Leave You. Too often crowded movies lose their impact when there are too many characters to focus on. Date Night and This Is Where I Leave You both share Tina Fey, giving each film a similar humor every time the comedian opens her mouth in both films, even if she’s playing different parts.

Overall, This Is Where I Leave You is probably Levi’s most character-centric film. So of course, I expected the characters to progress, change, or at least do something. The movie has a large star-studded cast, its four protagonists playing the children of their just-widowed mother (Jane Fonda). The movie aims to focus on its lead character Judd (Jason Bateman), but it darts between him, his three siblings (played by Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), his sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn), and a few other supporting cast that included Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shephard.

This Is Where I Leave You‘s plot isn’t original, as I felt like I saw bits of Elizabethtown (2005), Dan in Real Life (2007), and The Family Stone (2005) at different moments, just to name a few. The cast seemed mostly well chosen, although it seemed like Kathryn Hahn had little to do in her role. Jason Bateman played the same character he played in his Arrested Development (2003) run, being the middle sibling in a crazy family trying to make sense of everything. Dax Shephard seems to get himself typecast into douchebag/bastard roles that only further hinder him from getting offered other roles. Tina Fey’s character, Wendy, was the most believable for me, even when there wasn’t much she could do despite the script. Her chemistry with each of her brothers, especially Judd (Jason Bateman) seemed genuine, and they happened to look like they could be related, unlike Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. After What If (2014), This Is Where I Leave You is only the second movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in, and I think he’s absolutely hilarious. That being said, I wonder if he knows how to play any other character other than an immature man-child who has a few good jokes up his sleeve every now and then.

What I found most disappointing with This Is Where I Leave You is that the writing seemed to plummet, it’s lowest point when [SPOILER] Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda) starts kissing her neighbor in front of her children and half the neighborhood. It’s not so much that she’s kissing a woman as much as it’s at the mourning of her just-deceased husband that she chooses to announce she’s coming out, and that she’s been having a relationship with someone outside her marriage. It’s at this point in the movie everyone realizes why four adults have an impossible time sorting out their own relationships: not only did they lack a positive relationship model to look up to, but they’re also witnessing their only living parent promoting cheating near the deathbed of her spouse. I credit the writing behind the story if that was the goal of that scene, yet I feel like the screenwriters did the movie an injustice presenting this major turning point the way they did.

Speaking of the script, that’s what brings me back to the main problem of That’s Where I Leave You: the characters never make progress or learn. Phillip (Adam Driver) remains the hilarious, immature man-child; Paul (Corey Stoll) retains his boring persona as the mean older brother. Wendy (Tina Fey) plays the sister with all the good one-liners and advice to dole out, even though she’s incapable of taking any herself. Hillary (Jane Fonda) is the selfish mother who places her own sexual desires above her passed husband and living family. Judd (Jason Bateman) is the only character who experiences any possible change by actually dealing with his now complicated life instead of hiding under a blanket and pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t.

One of the pleasant unexpected surprises of the movie is how the soundtrack captured the essence of the movie. My favorite track, “On My Own” by Distant Cousins started when the credits rolled; however, there are multiple good songs off the record worth listening to.

While This Is Where I Leave You certainly disappointed, I give the movie props for a solid cast with good chemistry, somewhat realistic responses to a family death, and an appropriate soundtrack to match the film’s tone. I give This Is Where I Leave You 

Eye Art1Eye Art1  ON SCREEN.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of This Is Where I Leave You? If you haven’t seen it, do you plan on seeing it? Please join the discussion below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

RIP Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Just three days ago, I was watching an episode of Arrested Development (2003), where Tobias (David Cross) decided to dress up as “Mrs. Featherbottom” to get closer to his daughter. It was his version of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), a movie that has become a classic, a character that has become a household name for the past 20 years (can you believe it’s 21 years old?!).

As a kid of the 90s, the Robin Williams I knew best was Peter Pan (Hook, 1991), Genie (Aladdin, 1992), Mrs. Doubtfire, and the guy stuck in the board game (Jumanji, 1995).

I always thought he was entertaining. He was one of those comedians who established what was really funny, and early on, Williams represented hilarity in the movies to me. I won’t pretend to be his biggest fan, but I did have a lot of respect for Williams as an actor, and I appreciated his humor, warmth, and dramatic skills that he brought to many of his characters. He was exceedingly talented, and he brightened many of my childhood evenings with fun and laughter, voicing or starring in some of the best ’90s hits.

Perhaps my favorite role of Williams was in Good Will Hunting (1997), one of his first films I saw where he wasn’t funny. Here is my favorite line of his, and probably his most well known line, from that film:

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you . . . I don’t see an intelligent, confident man . . . I see a cocky, scared s***less kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f****** life apart. You’re an orphan, right?

[Will nods]

Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally . . . I don’t give a s*** about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some f****** book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

RIP Robin Williams, an acting legend who will live on in the movies and in the hearts of family, friends, and fans. Keep an eye out for him in theaters for when Merry Friggin’ Christmas (2014), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), and Absolutely Anything (2015) are released.

I was very moved to see the tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trending . . .

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.12.55 AM

 

What was your favorite Robin Williams’s role?