Television Show Review: Preacher: Season 2

Preacher Season 2

Preacher: Season 2 created by Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen (AMC, Short Drive Entertainment, Point Grey Pictures, Original Film) Starring Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga, Ian Colletti, Graham McTavish, Pip Torrens, Noah Taylor, Julie Ann Emery, Tom Brooke, and Ronald Guttman. *Spoilers for Previous Seasons* Beauty and Meaning Style and substance = nirvana. You need them both for perfection. Thinking about plotting, it seems so easy to see how writers picture an ending and organize story toward that end. Problematically, if someone isn’t involved in the main storyline, acting contracts and financial arrangements demand involvement. So, key characters enter side quests to keep them busy and more importantly for the actor, on the screen. Only until the… Read More →

Film Review: Green Room

Green Room

Green Room written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (A24, Broad Green Pictures, Film Science, R, 95 min) Starring Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Imogen Poots, and Patrick Stewart. A Tough Genre to Master When it comes to uncomfortable viewing, the horror/suspense genre takes the cake. The viewer knows most of the characters aren’t going to make it; the question becomes the “why” and the “how” of the demise. The difficulty of the genre lies in replicating realism. Most days, killers aren’t stalking groups of friends a la I Know What You Did Last Summer. The writer and director must think carefully about the best possible way to conjure a scenario… Read More →

Book Review: Moonglow

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon (New York: Harper, 2016. 448 pp) One of the most celebrated writers of his generation according to The Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Chabon was born in Washington D.C. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.F.A from the University of California, Irvine. Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh, from his master’s thesis at the age of 25. His third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won Chabon the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. Hiking Mount Constitution A decade ago and an era far far away, I took my wife—then girlfriend—to the oasis known as the… Read More →

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2016. 320 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Victors Write History History: Written by the Victors. We discuss such a phrase most often around our… Read More →

Television Show Review: Master of None: Season 1

Master of None Season 1

Master of None: Season 1 created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (3 Arts Entertainment, Netflix, Universal Television) Starring Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells, Lena Waithe, Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, and Todd Barry. Literary Comedy Upon hearing the question, “What is it about?” how often are you able to give a concise summary of a show? The plot, more often than not, drives such a discussion. The chemistry teacher turns to cooking meth. A handful of families wage war against each other to take hold of the iron throne. Comedy, though, tends to abstain from plot-heavy storytelling. Some shows tell stories in long narrative arcs, but many also use a handful of situations to generate comedy. These sitcoms remove character complexity,… Read More →

Film Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Jurassic World written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and directed by Colin Trevorrow (Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, PG-13, 124 min) Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, and Nick Robinson. On Nostalgia Nostalgia can be a dangerous influence on art. Let me unpack that. Our Google overlords define nostalgia as, “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Running with this definition, nostalgia predisposes the average person toward something; it causes us to think fondly of what came before and create positive associations with the thing that creates the connection. So nostalgia is dangerous for art because it can exist as… Read More →

Television Show Review: Silicon Valley: Season 2

Silicon Valley Season 2

Silicon Valley: Season 2 created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky (HBO, 3 Arts Entertainment, Judgemental Films Inc.) Starring Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, and Matt Ross. *Spoilers for previous seasons… You’ve been warned!* 30 Minutes of Funny When we collectively think comedy, the 30-minute sitcom immediately emerges from the simmering sea of consciousness. Thumb through the channels on any given night and you’ll find comedy, whether new programming or syndication. No matter the show, the average viewer can board and depart the comedy train at any point. The average episode of comedy blends three plots—1 major and 2 supporting—into something funny and enjoyable. Certain narrative structures exist from… Read More →

Television Show Review: Bloodline: Season 1

Bloodline Season 1

Bloodline: Season 1 created by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman (Netflix, KZK Productions, Sony Pictures Television) Starring Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbet Leo Butz, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shepard. A New Kind of Show If you haven’t logged on to Netflix lately, you’ll be surprised at the amount of Netflix-specific programming. The manner in which content releases creates new viewing experiences. The first hint at this new frontier occurred with House of Cards as the whole season released at once caused binge watchers to… well… binge. The release-the-season-all-at-once strategy allows the writers and producers to reconsider how to approach a show. While Bloodline isn’t the binge-watching cocaine addiction of its Netflix brethren, the medium provides… Read More →

Book Review: State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett (New York: First Harper Perennial Olive Edition, 2014; originally published in 2012. 448 pp) Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. Notably, she has won the Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books. The Power of Story Classically, the power of story resides in its ability to present a character that overcomes the odds. It might be the lowly knight that slays the dragon, the outcast in high school that gets the girl, the hard-working genius that pulls herself out of the standard stereotypes to be a… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Walking Dead: Season 4

the walking dead season 4

The Walking Dead: Season 4 created by Frank Darabont (American Movie Classics, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures) Starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney, Scott Wilson, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad L. Coleman, David Morrissey, and Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. *Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons* Characters Wanted In previous reviews on The Walking Dead, I’ve worried about the fine line between compelling television and “death pornography”—the tendency for the writers to navigate the show from death to death where the only thing in between that matters is building the tension before the next kill. The inherent danger in such a strategy is its desensitization of the characters. What’s the point in pulling… Read More →