Movie Review: The Last Five Years


I was genuinely nervous that Richard LaGravenese’s film version of Jason Robert Brown’s beloved ‘The Last Five Years’ was going to dilute the original source material for a more general audience. I was admittedly scared that it was going to be dumbed down and cut to pieces in order to serve the perceived needs of American movie goers. Thankfully, this is not the case at all. It still stands as one of the most detailed dissections of a relationship that I’ve ever seen.

The film sticks true to its fully sung and structurally out of order premise, so, as you can guess, ‘The Last Five Years’ is not for everybody. It doesn’t pretend to be either. It is made for lovers of musical theatre. With its fun cameos, inside jokes, audition situations, and rehearsal scenes, the movie plays to a theatre loving audience. Despite all of this specificity, it is still remains a story about heartbreak, the choices we make, drive, how moments define you, and the evolution of love in a relationship. It is a universal story told through two specific characters, Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan).

If you aren’t familiar with Robert Brown’s show, ‘The Last Five Years’ tells the story of Jamie, a newly successful writer, and Cathy, a struggling actress, and their relationship from beginning to end. (And end to beginning.) Fully sung, their time together is told from Cathy’s reverse point of view and Jamie’s chronological perspective with the story weaving the two memory tapestries together.

This is Jordan and Kendrick’s best work to date. Their raw talent is on full display here. They are the reason the movie works so well. They are the movie. The actors’ chemistry is TheLastFiveYearson point, even when they aren’t on the same page character-wise. There’s always a sense of love present. Cathy and Jamie are fully realized people with flaws and positive attributes that we can all connect with and understand. Every choice they make is justified, whether it is the right one or not. They both sound great. Vocally the two voices are mixed well together and the depth they bring to every choice in every song is natural, real, subtle, and piercing. The humor they infuse throughout balances the soul crushing nature of the material well.  Anna Kendrick’s “A Part of That” and “Summer in Ohio” are absolute highlights. As for Jeremy Jordan, his “If I Didn’t Believe In You” and “Nobody Needs to Know” are both beautifully authentic, layered, and haunting. Together, they both capture the empty façade of their relationship in “See I’m Smiling”. Enough can’t be said about their work in this piece, as they ARE this piece.

Most of the singing was done live onset and that organic aspect of the scenes show, but ultimately, I can’t say much for the sound design of this movie musical. The screening was at the Minetta Lane theatre, the space where the original NYC Off-Broadway production opened in 2002. (In his introduction, Jason Robert Brown mentioned that he was having an intensely surreal evening.)  For the premiere, the space was converted into a movie theatre, so the sound quality we heard wasn’t top notch, but got the job done.

Richard LaGravenese’s adapted screenplay translates pretty well (with some curses left last5bigout), especially now that the characters interact throughout. (In the musical, Jamie and Cathy’s only direct interaction onstage is midway through the show when their timelines cross.) There is very little dialogue from the “non-singing party” in each scene–it’s mostly reaction shots and sporadic lines. This allows the focus to fall on the singer and their point of view. Jamie and Cathy are listening to what the other has to say, but not truly listening to each other at all. Their communication is all one sided, a clear sign of things to come. Amazingly, to the director and casts’ credit, the middle sequence, “The Next Ten Minutes,” still feels incredibly special.  (This is that direct interaction song I mentioned above.) LaGravenese’s ‘Hitchcockian’ camera spin in the Central Park gazebo works to isolate these characters and highlight their importance to each other in that intimate timeline moment.

Elsewhere, his visual direction leaves something to be desired. Sure, the happy moments are bright and the downhill moments are dark, but some of the intimacy he attempts to create with sharp close-ups feel claustrophobic. His shaky-cam techniques work as distractions instead of highlighting the raw tension and pure love in sequences.  In contrast, some numbers seem extremely blocked for the camera, that they verge on inorganic. (They never get to that point though.) The cinematography was oddly inconsistent, even with a score that is perfectly all over the place, style-wise. It felt sloppy in places. Overall transitions from song to song work with the use of white outs and pans. The mid-point, when the story flips, seemed to beg for a stronger visual choice, but the timeline redirection still reads. (On another note: I’m not so sure about the random ‘almost dance’ in “Moving Too Fast.” You’ll know it when you see it.)

This all being said, his work with the actors and clear passion for the piece is plastered 1.170427everywhere. That’s a huge part of why the movie works. LaGravenese clearly loves musical theatre, this show, these characters, and the audience for whom this move was made. His eye for how this relationship worked and then didn’t, and how to highlight that in an in-depth musical study is on point. As an audience, we are allowed to take a peak into these character’s minds, hearts, and outer masks to make our own decisions about what went wrong with out an overwhelming bias one way or the other. The core of Jason Robert Brown’s truth-filled deconstruction of Jamie and Cathy is well served on screen by all parties involved.

This type of musical is an acquired taste, especially on film. I have a DNA-based taste for it. Kendrick and Jordan are stars in their respective mediums and the two powerhouses come together perfectly in the exact right movie musical. I understand that adapted musicals like this are incredibly subjective. As you’ve read, this movie really worked for me. I genuinely hope it works for you too.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

‘The Last Five Years’ opens in limited distribution and VOD this Friday, February 13th.

Marvel’s Daredevil Teaser Trailer

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Today Marvel released it’s trailer for ‘Daredevil’. It’s below for your viewing pleasure.

Coming to Netflix on April 10th, this new iteration ‘Daredevil’ stars Charlie Cox (‘Stardust’), Deborah Ann Woll (‘True Blood’), Elden Hanson (‘The Mighty Ducks’), Rosario Dawson (‘Sin City’), and Vincent D’Onofrio (‘Men in Black’). It’s the first series in a collection of Netflix based Marvel TV shows leading up to a ‘Defenders’ series. ‘AKA Jessica Jones’ (starring Kristen Ritter) is up next, followed by Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (TBD) based shows. Too much info? Sorry. Just watch the trailer and then we can discuss below.

I have to say, this trailer gets me way more excited then the footage I saw at NYCC last fall. That footage, while “cool” to get a sneak peek, was underwhelming. The acting was a bit stiff and the action, despite looking gritty and raw, was too fast in poorly lit shots. The best scenes we saw were wonderfully written existential art conversations involving Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin. Vincent D’Onofrio is going to be freakin’ great. As much as I enjoy Charlie Cox, I’m really looking forward to what we get with D’Onofrio’s Fisk. (You can see him standing in front of a white painting in the above trailer.)

I find that this trailer really captures the raw grit in the action sequences and makes the footage look more complete than what I saw in October. I guess, for an official trailer two months before the release, that’s the point. The lighting seems to have been adjusted in post-production. I’m digging the Frank Miller black costume in action, but hope that they jump to the suit we know and love sooner than later.

We only got a taste of how his powers will be creatively executed in this version of The man Without Fear, but I really enjoy how well Marvel holds back in how they release images and information. There’s so much to be surprised by and absorb in April. We’re living in a fanboy (and girl) dreamland! Daredevil is one of my favorites and since I have a lot of faith in Marvel (as we all do at this point) I’m still quite excited for this one. I’m definitely all in. If this Netflix experiment ends up anything like their big screen success, I’ll be a happy fan.

All episodes of ‘Daredevil’ come flying into your home on Netflix April 10th, 2015. Game of Thrones, Season 5 and Silicon Valley, Season 2 both start that Sunday, the 12th. What a busy weekend!

All Over The Map: Movie and TV News

There’s been a ton of fun movie and TV news in the past few days, so I’ll just lay it all out for you.

‘Jurassic World’ Trailer and Website

Aside from pretty good Super Bowl spot (above) that centered around the new dinosaur created for the park (oh humans, when will we learn?!), the ‘Jurassic World’ website went live the other day. No, no, no: I mean the site for the fictional park. Take the time to look through it as it displays island temperature, ride wait times, live feeds, group rates (aka links you out to Fandango), and more. It’s pretty impressive. Check it out HERE.

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 The park is open on June 12th, 2015.

Felicity Jones Cast in ‘Star Wars’

Felicity Jones at Burberry Body Fragrance LaunchMs. Jones, like Hansel, is so hot right now. She’s potentially on her way to becoming Black Cat in Sony’s messy ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ series, earned an Oscar nomination for her incredible work in ‘The Theory of Everything’, and now has been cast as the lead in Gareth Edward’s ‘Star Wars’ spin-off. I personally love this move, as Jones has shown what a great presence she has on screen. The idea of a female leading the charge in a ‘Star Wars’ film is potentially great. Even with the likes of ‘The Hunger Games’ and other current high grossing female-centric action adventure films, we need genuinely need more. First we have an African-American start of ‘The Force Awakens’ and now a female ‘Star Wars’ lead. Good on Disney for making thing happen! Princess Leia is such a bad ass hero for girls (and boys) to look up to, so hopefully Jones’ character will follow in her bunned-hair filled shoes. So far, Disney hasn’t disappointed in casting our new “Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

The first ‘Star Wars’ spin off will tentatively be released in December of 2016.

First Image of Brandon Routh in A.T.O.M. Gear

The CW’s ‘Arrow’ is getting a new hero! Below is our first look at Brandon Routh in his tech gear. In the comics, The Atom can  shrink down to a teeny tiny size to fight crime. I’m digging the outfit and wonder if the clear face shield will contain some sort of digital dashbard ala Iron Man. If anything, it could obscure his face for his identity hiding needs. Since the CW’s ‘The Flash’ has been doing so well (for good reason), giving Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) his own A.T.O.M. show has been discussed. Regardless of whether ‘Arrow’ creates another superhero spin-off, I’m looking forward to a triple team up of DC heroes in some crossover form on the CW.

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 Palmer is THE ATOM in this season of ‘Arrow’.

New ‘Minions’ Trailer

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‘Minions’ will be released this July.

 

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

IMAX Game of Thrones – The Watchers on the Wall (S4, Ep9), The Children (S4, Ep10), & Season Five Trailer and Pictures

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When tickets went on sale to see the two last episode of season 4 of ‘Game of Thrones’ in IMAX, I couldn’t help myself. I had to attend. I was more excited to see the cinematic quality of the show translate to the huge screen than the season 5 preview trailer. (It’s embedded below for your viewing pleasure.) FYI: SPOILERS

Boy was I right! I haven’t seen these episodes since they originally aired last year and I’m glad for that because revisiting them in IMAX was quite the experience. It began with the usual HBO static, a “previously on” segment, and the opening credits, which were pretty giant-shootspowerful on the big screen with the bass booming. The sound and picture quality held up, while not as crystal clear as something that was designed for a theatre of that size. What surprised me the most was how well the special effects came off on an IMAX screen. The giants, green screened backgrounds, and mastodons looked incredibly authentic.

Episode 9, ‘The Watchers on the Wall’, is pretty straight forward, as are most of the penultimate episodes of each season. It only focuses on the Wilding attack on The Wall and Castle Black, so the single narrative episode was the perfect hour to start the IMAX experience. Itjonanigif felt like a mini film and I appreciated it more on a second viewing. It’s not my favorite episode of the season, but it read and played incredibly well on the massive 42nd street IMAX screen. All of the fight scenes, especially the lowering of the scythe, were pretty excellent to watch in a large group. The epic cheers of the crowd made me want this to be a reoccurring Sunday night event once season 5 starts in April.

My major issue with the episode still stayed the same: we didn’t spend enough time with all got-imax-2-1422620710of these characters throughout the season to truly be affected by their deaths, but it’s all relative because how great the show is overall. The spectacle of the IMAX battles helped too. The Ygritte/Jon Scene was still pretty moving, if only slightly, due to the palpable decision making moments before her death. (Surprisingly, it actually received a few laughs from the crowd when her pre-pubescent murderer gave Jon a head nod.) Rose Leslie isn’t given enough credit for her portrayal of Ygritte because her early scenes, as well as her death scene, in this episode are really well done and full of subtext and agony.

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Varys’ “Welp, I can’t go back now” moment is probably the best 20 seconds of the episode.

The season finale is all over the map (literally), tying up loose ends here and there, while setting up season five starting points for our characters. Tyrion takes his revenge, The Hound and Aria run into Brienne and Podrick, Stannis shows up to impose his will in the North, Bran and company reach their final destination, and Daenerys is faced with leadership issues.

The Hound and Brienne fight scene was a pleasure to watch (and the highlight from the episode in general) in the IMAX format with its intensity juxtaposed with the gorgeous tyrioncraggy hill scenery. This theatre experience re-proved  just how good all of the actors are because the intimate moments (ie: Tyrion’s murder rampage on Shea and Tywin/Arya’s “goodbye” to the The Hound) translated beautifully in giant detail. There were no false notes. Here, again, the special effects were fantastic. Daenerys’ dragons were better than some effects designed for actual theatrical releases. (Their screeching was horrifying in IMAX.)

We’re lucky that Emilia Clarke is so engaging as Dany because her storyline feels like one big stall until she starts making her big moves. While I appreciate her slow, gradual  rise to chains1power and understanding of leadership, it feels overly redundant. On the other hand (on the other side of Westeros), the Bran story, while interesting narrative-wise, evokes no sense of feeling. Except to maybe Hodor, there is absolutely no loyalty or empathy for those characters. It’s a good thing that their ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ skeleton fight scene was really exciting (and extremely loud) on the big screen because they are the weakest link in the final hour.

We were then treated to the season 5 trailer (all the way above), which after the two episodes directly before were welcomed with a tremendous fanfare from the crowd. Even post-45999-The-Children-Throwing-Fireball-JkvDthough most of us in the audience had probably seen it online already, we were over the moon with excitement for what’s to come in April. I wasn’t blown away by the footage, but it did what a trailer is supposed to do, get us excited. (It was also a perfect follow up to what we had just seen.) What a fantastic experience that I would suggest it to any ‘Game of Thrones’ fan. I really could have sat in that theatre all day watching the entire fourth season, not just these two hours. I wanted to see ‘The Mountain vs The Viper’ on the big screen, all of Tyrion’s trial, the Purple Wedding, and more.

Before I sign off, here are some official season 5 photos from HBO.

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Arya Stark
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Brienne of Tarth and Podrick
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LIttlefinger and Sansa
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Daenerys Targaryen
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The Boltons and a Frey
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Melisandre
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Jon Snow
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Varys and Tyrion
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Tormund
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Cersei
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Cersei and Jaime
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Jon Snow, Stannis, and Davos
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Missandei and Grey Worm
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Tommen and Cersei
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Margaery and Cersei
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Ellaria and Areo
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The High Sparrow
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Doran Martell

Season five of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins on Sunday, April 12th 2015, but you can catch all four season on HBOGO or the last two episodes of season four at an IMAX near you.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

Parenthood Series Finale – May God Bless You and Keep You Always (S6, Ep13)

54cb14fc5d2d2.imageI started watching ‘Parenthood’ day one because I love show-runner, writer, and producer, Jason Katims. The incredible cast, wonderful Ron Howard movie, and hole in my schedule for an hour family drama are all secondary reasons I flipped to NBC on March 2nd, 2010. The show-running ability that Katims displayed on “Friday Night Lights” had me looking forward to his next project, regardless of who or what was involved. I currently watch ‘About A Boy’ because his name on it, regardless of its debatable quality. Fortunately, we all lucked out that ‘Parenthood’ turned out to be one of the better series on TV.

I believe the reason it has permeated itself into the lives of those who watched it is not because we couldn’t wait to know what would happen the following week. It was the execution of moments. The family and friend moments that we could all relate to on a weekly basis. The way the siblings interacted with each other when all together or in smaller groups and how each parent had a different relationship with their children was real and believable. The little life moments, that we may not remember in our own lives, are displayed in each and every episode. Even the larger moments, some of which Katims took from his own life (his wife’s breast cancer fight and their autistic son), we see ourselves in and wonder how we would handle these situations. All of these little and large moments are earned and that is extremely rare for a TV show. Katims wrote the finale and it continued his sentiments wholeheartedly. But enough of that: onto the final hour.

I cried for an hour. I cried for a full hour. I didn’t cry because “sad things” were happening. I cried because it was beautiful and I will genuinely miss these people. The closing montage 150121_2841664_Coming_Up__Parenthood_Series_Finalewas incredibly satisfying in the way that ‘FNL’ or ‘Scrubs’ was way back when. Here, our favorite family spread their patriarch’s ashes on the little league field ,as they played as a family, bringing the whole series full circle. This show started with baseball and ended with baseball. Baseball, an individual sport played in a team setting, is a great metaphor for this family. They are carving out their own individual paths, but are much stronger as a unit.

Weave this in with flash forwards of what each Braverman family tree branch is up to in the future and you’ve got family television gold. After adopting Victor’s half-sister, the Graham branch not only adds a fourth child, but an adorable puppy. (Communication saved that marriage.) The Luncheonette reopened with the Braverman-Trussells at the helm, Aida with full afro, and another one on the way. Hank and Sarah have cemented themselves at the top of their branch with Ruby, Ryan, two grandchildren, and Amber’s husband (a fatter, balder Jason Street [Scott Porter]) joining the crew. Kristina moves on to working for a non-profit, as Adam takes over as headmaster of Chambers Academy, handing Max his diploma in front of the family. (Adam seemed to be more suited for Chambers Academy than Kristina anyway.) As they walked off into the distance, family both smaller and bigger, we got to say goodbye to them with happy endings and tears of joy.

Sarah moved in with her parents to raise her kids. Now they have a stable and strong nuclear unit. Crosby lived on a boat, unhappily dated Katie (Marguerite Moreau), and did his laundry at his parents’ house with no game plan. Now’s the man that Zeek knew he could be all along. Adam and Kristina were lost in how to raise their autistic son and dramatic daughter, but became great community leaders for many causes. Uptight Julia had a seemingly perfect life, but needed to learn how to be flexible and open after it all fell apart. As we witnessed the relatable trials and tribulations of the Braverman siblings and their families, the believability that all of these characters’ changes were justified always came across as genuine. When Zeek peacefully passes away, having held on to walk his daughter down the aisle, the opening moments of Hank asking for her hand, as well as telling him why the wedding is so soon are all the more poignant, especially knowing how far this family has come since day one. That’s when I realized something that had never truly hit home before.

“Boy, we did good, didn’t we, Camille?” This show was always about Zeek. Everything about this hour and the six seasons was about Zeek. It was a comprehensive snapshot of the legacy that he and Camille put together and help grow. Through bad times and good, they were the trunk to the Braverman family tree. By being told the the stories of Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia, we were essentially seeing his story. In a way, the season 2 scene Parenthood - Season 6with Zeek and Amber in the junkyard is this show’s most important. You don’t mess with somebody elses dreams when they are of the highest importance. His family going down the right track with their roots firmly planted in the family he has grown with Camille was always his first priority. I by no means am calling him a saint. He was a stubborn man, who was unfaithful to his wife, and a chronic conversation avoider, but had the biggest most understanding heart of all of the Bravermans. Symbolically, once Sarah walked down the aisle into Hank’s arms, Zeek’s job was done. All of his children were the trunks of their own trees and his heart could no longer go on. When Camille called for him and he didn’t answer, the moments of silence were deafening.

One of the reasons that Zeek didn’t want the surgery is to spare his family the grief of watching him “die.” He went out the way he wanted: peacefully without his kids worrying. I’m glad that there wasn’t a funeral sequence.That somber mood wouldn’t have reflected what the show brought to us every week. His life was celebrated in the final montage by his family’s successes. Some will complain that it was too happy of an ending for mostly everybody. The Braverman’s all getting exactly what they wanted isn’t realistic. Say what you will, but I love watching characters get what they want. Especially ones I love. They all changed enough to have the courage to go out and get what they want for themselves and for their families. Sure, at points the episode felt a little rushed, some conversations seemed inorganic because it was a ‘final episode’ (Haddie/Max), but they were justified in the larger sense of their pre-existing relationship.The thing is, that didn’t matter at all because overall it was an excellent finale for a show that consistently produced great episode, moments, and multitudes of tears.

My intention was that I was going to list all the moments I cried during the finale, but I realized it would be too tedious to list every moment in every scene. (I even teared up during the “Forever Young” opening credits sequence.) The absence of ‘Parenthood’ leaves 1422590399532.cacheda gaping hole in my weekly programming and my Braverman heart. It was the show I have most looked forward to for years. This type of show is a dying breed that we may never see the likes of for a while or ever again. It may have been about an upper middle class liberal white family just outside of San Francisco, but its focus on the importance of family is universal. Jason Katims let us be all be Taylors and now a Bravermans. I guess I should start watching it from the beginning again, yes?

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

The 20 Best ‘Parenthood’ Moments (Top 10)

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Tonight is the finale of NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ and I couldn’t be more excited to see the episode, yet devastatingly sad to see the show go. In anticipation for one of my favorite shows on TV to go bye-bye, my mom, sister and I listed our top 20 best moments. Braverman favorites from my family to yours. You can see #20-11 HERE, but without further ado, our Top Ten. WARNING: TISSUES NEEDED (also, spoiler alert).

10. Adam and Kristina’s Cancer/Wig Fights – S6, Ep12 “Keep On Rowing”

deddb41b7249def9_TWOAdam can only keep a smile on for so long. He’s been a huge source of Kristina’s strength and normalcy and as she suffers the fallout from chemotherapy. When he tries to help with her wig selection, Kristina snaps. She can’t take his comforting tone because everything isn’t okay. Adam then drops his guard and in a moment of vulnerability, we get to see past his ‘perfect husband’ facade, learning what he’s actually feeling–fear. A tender moment from a great character. (He then picks her up in a limo for a night out!)

9. Max Finding Out He has Aspergers – S2, Ep17/18 “Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist” & “Qualities And Difficulties”

0AcjYgMax overhearing Crosby and Adam yelling about his autism was only the jarring precursor to the moment that really takes the #9 spot on this list. Adam and Kristina sitting Max down in an attempt to explain to him243679_512x288_generated what he has convey’s the weight of the moment within the episode and in the course of Max’s life. In their careful spin on his issues they both change his life and break their own hearts.

8. Haddie’s Off To College – S4, Ep1 “Family Portrait”

After Haddie casually say goodbye to her parents at the airport, the underscoring begins and we know the tears are about to follow. She looks back, hesitantly forward, and then breaks from the line for one final hug. As the camera swings away from the three hugging in the middle of the airport, I just want to join them. We’ll miss you too, Haddie.

7. Max’s Student Council Speech – S4, Ep6 “I’ll Be Right Here”


He owns it. Max comes out of his shell a little bit more by explaining what he has and how it hinders and ignites him. As Haddie watches on in place of a surgery ridden Kristina, the pride in her eyes (especially after scenes like “yelling at Max” in S3, Ep11’s “Missing”) and in our hearts is unmatched in Max moments. Cheesy? Yes. Awesome? Yes. This is all followed by Kristina asking Adam ‘How it went?’ when she wakes up from her operation. She isn’t referring to herself. Kristina wants to know how Max did in the election. He won! That’s her first thought and the tears roll on.

6. Adam Begins To Come Terms With Max’s Aspergers – S1, Ep2 “Man Vs Possum”

parenthood102-swing1It actually happens progressively in this episode. Adam deflecting all of Zeek’s questions. Dr. Pelican confirming Max’s diagnosis. Adam not really understand that it isn’t a temporary issue. He and Kristina then have a lovely conversation about how this is going to take their all. When the episode closes, Adam has dressed up as a pirate to play with his son. It isn’t a tearjerker, per say, but in only the show’s second episode it sets the stage for years to come.

5. Max’s Car Ride – S5, Ep18 “The Offer”

max5“Why do all the other kids hate me?” Oh, Max. It’s hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies for Max over the year, but recently it had been getting a little better. When Kristina and Adam finally allow themselves to let Max go on an overnight, they have to pick him up because Trevor peed in his canteen. Max’s break down in the car ride home, coupled with Kristina climbing in the back to comfort him is incredibly painful to watch. He may not want the hug, but we’re sure glad he got one.

4. Adam and Haddie’s Phone Conversation – S4, Ep5 “There’s Something I Need To Tell You”

It’s not just that Haddie steps up and demands to be treated like an adult. No. No. No. It’s when Adam tells her what’s actually happening. When he tells her he’s okay and hanging in there. It’s the tear that falls as he’s saying goodbye to Haddie. It’s the pain behind both of their eyes because the future is uncertain. It’s everything about everything.

3. Zeek’s Junkyard Speech – S2, Ep22 “Hard Times Come Again No More”

“I dreamt you, Amber. And Haddie and Drew and Sydney, Jabbar and Max. We almost lost you, Amber. I know you had some bad breaks; not feeling good about yourself; didn’t get into Berkeley. Well, boo-friggin’-hoo. You got a suck it up, girl. You’re a Braverman. You got my blood in your veins. You ever do something like this again. You even think about doing something like this, I will personally kick your little butt all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. You do not have my permission to mess with my dreams. Are we clear?” Don’t EVER mess with your grandfather’s dreams.

2. Kristina Tells the Family – S4,Ep5 “There’s Something I need to Tell You”

As Kristina looks around at her family, she knows at some point her news will break their status quo. She’ll be the family member with cancer and not Kristina anymore, but it has to be done. When Haddie surprises everybody, there’s a sense in the air that something is wrong. “I love you all so much and I just wanted to say that. Um, and there’s something that I need to tell you.” Then the dialogue cuts out and we are treated to and pained by the silent reactions of her family. It really doesn’t get much better than this scene.

1.The Video – S4, Ep11 “What To My Wondering Eyes”

There was never a question of what the number one spot was going to be. Not only was this moment a cry-fest, it was a truly earned tearjerker and that makes all of the difference. Just watch the video.

Conclusion: Season 4 was the best and Monica Potter’s lack of an Emmy Nomination is outrageous. I will be tragically upset on Thursday. The Braverman family will be dearly missed. Stay tuned for my finale review tomorrow morning!

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

The WORST of ‘Parenthood’

parenthood_67511Friends, my ‘Parenthood’ tears are not always brought on by great moments. Later on I’ll post my top 10 list, but in the meantime, I’m going to break your hearts in another way. While there was nothing equivalent to season 2 of ‘Friday Night Lights’ and “Lance: Serial Rapist Killer on the Run,” our beloved Braverman family and their writers aren’t always perfect. Below is my list of worst moment and story lines for all six seasons. Once again, Spoiler Alert!

7. Adam and Kristina Not Moving Haddie into College – S4, Ep1 “Family Portrait”gw5a9The moment Haddie comes back to hug her family is beautiful. It really is a wonderful sequence. One of the best the show has ever done. It also makes no sense. Haddie is going from Berkeley, CA to Ithaca, NY to attend Cornell University. It’s a one or two connection trip at the very least and the small Ithaca airport is not that close to campus. That’s even if she flies to the Ithaca airport! She could be getting into Syracuse or a surrounding airport and have to commute. I know this is overthinking it, but there is no way that Kristina or Adam wouldn’t be going with her to help her move in on the first day of college. After three seasons, it’s so out of character for Haddie to be going alone. They’re lucky they nailed the sentiment because the details make absolutely no sense at all.

6. Sydney Acting Out – S6, Ep2 “Happy Birthday, Zeek”

tumblr_mg0a1igc0z1qe4wc7o1_500When Sydney starts to bully others at school in season 6, Joel and Julia (and the writers) blame her behavior on their own separation. The continually argue that, “this isn’t like Sydney.” Really? Really?! I beg to differ. The Sydney Graham I know treated her new brother like a criminal, repeatedly locked herself in her own room, yells at her parents regularly, and has shown over and over again how spoiled her parents have made her. I would argue that this behavior is exactly like her and needs to be corrected another way

5. Braverman Finances – S1, Ep8 & S3, Ep18 “Rubber Band Ball” & “My Brother’s Wedding”

parenthood318-napkin-rip1The writers have written themselves into a few corners concerning the financial situations of the Braverman clan. Early on in the series Zeek came to Adam about a bad real estate investment that became a dire issue. That situation fizzled out and Zeek’s money problems were never brought up again.  Later in season 3, Adam and Crosby have to make the decision on whether to sell The Luncheonette or not. Adam, with Max in private school, Haddie at Cornell, a giant house to make payments on, and a toddler, was under a tremendous amount of stress when he decided to rip up the deal at Crosby’s wedding. The following season, add some medical bills to the mix and we still never heard a peep about his woes. While it doesn’t need to be brought up on a regular basis, it felt abandoned when it was a major issue. Hopefully Adam and Crosby will have learned some sort of lesson and make smart decisions in the finale.

4. Sarah’s Job Evolution – S1-6

dreyfuss2Remember when she was a bartender? Remember when she was a graphic designer? Remember when she was a playwright? Remember when she was a building super? Remember when she was a photography assistant? I mean, at least she found her calling, as a photographer–right? I understand that her search for a passion only came second to her role as a mother, but these job opportunities are all over the place and never had any follow through. Most of Sarah’s story lines revolved around love triangles and fighting with Amber, but her jobs verged on comical. I think the playwright phase is still what gets me.

3. Julia and Joel – S 5-6

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Over the long haul of the Joel and Julia’s split plot, I would probably agree that it worked, if not executed well at all times. However, I do think that it started from a disingenuous place which has tainted most of it for me. Since Julia is a Braverman, she is looked upon in a relatively positive, yet biased, light. Realistically, almost everything that has gone wrong with their marriage can be attributed to her because the show only showed her actions that lead up to the Ed “affair.” A marriage is 50/50 and we were only getting half of the story–following her troubles with Victor and not working. These were also her choices. Then, when, Joel walked out, it was so out of character that it didn’t read or feel like it was earned in the slightest. It was an unjustified character move that forced a dramatic story line rather than organically moving something forward. I’m not saying that Julia was 100% at fault. What I am saying is that since her side of the story and mistakes she made took a large amount of spotlight, her incessant blaming of Joel didn’t make any sense. I get that there are no black and whites when it comes to a messy relationship and Joel and Julia clearly had communication issues. Even though the writers have tried to course correct (the season 6 scene at the Italian restaurant and last week’s car fight), early on this was a convoluted, poorly executed, and forced mess.

2. Kristina’s Mayoral Run and School Creation – Seasons 5-6

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…but you lost just more then the race. You lost my attention.

These plot lines came from a great place of strength and “YOLO” after Kristina’s cancer scare. Unfortunately, they fell so far outside of the writer’s comfort zone, that they never landed. Not only was Bob Little written as a straight up bad guy, even the emotional moments didn’t work because everything else was so ridiculous. The school (which seemed to take an incredibly short amount of time to get up and running with no teachers in sight) is so all over the place and has put Adam and Kristina in an unflattering light as of late. They aren’t educators and a lot of things at Chambers Academy would never fly at any school–regardless of the good they are doing for the community. Granted nothing was going to live up to the season 4 cancer plot, but these didn’t even hold a candle. ‘Parenthood’ is on its best game when the writers are writing intimate family moments. These Kristina stories started to lose track of why the show is called ‘Parenthood’.

1. The Haddie Cancer Lie – S4, Ep6 & S4, Ep11 “There’s Something I Need To Tell You” & “What To My Wondering Eyes”

tumblr_mbwga6dsac1rw0h9zo1_1280Haddie asked Adam to treat her like an adult, so he relayed the details of Kristina’s cancer in a tear filled scene. She then surprises her family by flying cross country to be with her mom as she goes through the hardest time of her life. Finally, after Adam and Kristina learn that the cancer has spread and chemotherapy is needed, they lie to Haddie about it, so that she will go back to Cornell to focus on school. Okay, fine. This just means that they’re setting up a confrontation when Haddie finds out they’re lying because Kristina has taken a turn for the worse, right? Nope. It is never addressed at all. The anticipation of the argument is for naught. Haddie just shows up at the hospital during Christmas and their lie, which was used as episode cliffhanger scene (denoting that it was important) is just left out to dry. In such a high stakes situation, I don’t believe that their wouldn’t have been a discussion at all. To this day it really bothers me, as it is a small, but sour point of an incredible season.

Well there you have it folks. A worst of the best show list. Stay tuned for my TOP 10 LIST coming soon…

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

The First ‘The Fantastic Four’ Teaser Is Here!

fantastic-banner-new-1-27Today, we got our first real glimpse of Josh Trank’s (‘Chronicle’) vision of ‘The Fantastic Four’. Starring Miles Teller (‘Whiplash’), Kate Mara (‘House of Cards’), Jamie Bell (‘Billy Elliot), Michael B. Jordan (‘Fruitvale Station’), and Toby Kebbell, ‘Fantastic Four’ tells the orgin story of our favorite band of Marvel heros. It’s been a long time coming as the film opens this summer and has had a ton of different negative reports surrounding the production–including reshoots. Well, let’s take a look:

It’s only a teaser, so while I, of course, would like to see more, it gave me the perfect taste for now. We caught of few glimpses of Mr. Fantastic (Teller), The Invisible Woman (Mara), The Human Torch (Jordan), and The Thing (Bell), while being introduced to some of it’s themes and aesthetics. By setting up an attempt to make this story feel to raw, will it fantastic-image-10-1-27succumb to being too generic by not going all the way with it’s ideals? Do you like the rough edges? Was that the negative zone featured? While there weren’t any villain sightings, Dr. Doom or Moleman, I saw enough content to keep to start a conversation and keep me genuinely interested in what Trank and writer/producer Simon Kinberg will being to the mainstream comic book mix together.

It’s incredibly hard to be rebooting a series in an attempt to create something new, as well as erasing something that came before. If anything, I appreciate Fox not leaking anything and letting us judge without jamming marketing down our throats…yet.

‘The Fantastic Four’ opens on August 15th, 2015. Josh Trank’s next project is the untitled ‘Star Wars’ spin-off.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

The 20 Best ‘Parenthood’ Moments (20-11)

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As we count down to the final episode of ‘Parenthood’, this Thursday at 10pm on NBC, my family, friends, and the internet (in general) have started to recount the best and “tearjerkiest” moments from the run of the show. Like the Braverman need to reminisce of times past, below is my sister, mom, and I’s list of the best moments/things from ‘Parenthood’. From my family, about their family, to yours. I mean, we all are a part of the Braverman family. WARNING: TISSUES NEEDED (also Spoiler Alert)

20. The Addition of Ray Romano as Hank – S4-S6

Whenever a show adds a new, stunt casted, character as a clear pawn for some sort of love triangle, I automatically think it’s a quick grab for ratings or forced plot. I am both shocked a_560x375and pleased with how Hank has fit in with the Braverman clan. His humor, insecurity, relationship with Max, love for Sarah, and ability to learn and grow have been a welcome addition to a show with characters that we’ve loved (and hated) for so long. To finally see the Braverman family through a third person point of view, after years of being tired, fed up, and worn out by some members was and is a real treat. He’s stolen many of the scenes recently in season 6 and I’ll be just as sad to say good-bye to him as I will be the rest of my TV family.

19. Camille in the Hospital – S6, Ep10 “How Did We Get Here?”

She hasn’t had a ton to do over the years as Camille, the Braverman matriarch, but when PARENTHOOD_612x380called upon, Bonnie Bedelia knocks it out of the park. Her sadness, fear, and love throughout the episode permeated through the screen. I wanted to be there to comfort her, but alas, Adam had to come to the rescue instead. Every moment for her in this episode is tear inducing.

 18. The Casting of Monica Potter and Sarah Ramos

I know this may be a lame addition to include on a list of best moments, but the two actresses have so many physical and vocal traits in common that it sells everything about MV5BNTM4MTU3Mzc1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQ4OTY5Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_this branch of the family tree. To believe that I’m actually watching a mother and daughter pair go through life’s trials and tribulations adds so much to the show. You can see a little bit of Potter’s Kristina in Ramos’ Haddie. This tiny little thing has stuck with me for all six seasons, which is why I may miss Haddie more than most people.

17. Haddie Coming Out – S5, Ep22 “The Pontiac”

In one of Haddie’s few appearances after her season 4 college departure, she arrives home for summer vacation with a “friend.” While a little rushed and out of the blue, the wonderful coming out moment between characters is still a series highlight. This was an untouched area of exploration for the writers, and since we know the Braverman mindset, it was going to be okay. It was still a great moment for a missed character. It was a throw back to the early days of ‘Parenthood’.

16. Amber Breaks Up With Ryan – S4, Ep 11 “What To My Wondering Eyes”

When Ryan shows up outside of the Braverman Christmas, Amber’s recognition that she wasn’t going to allow herself to make the same mistakes as her mother, despite her pure love for him, was absolutely beautiful. Of all six seasons of Amber Holt moments, this shows such a surprising amount of growth and maturity. If you’re not crying over Ryan’s broken heart paired with Amber’s strength, then you just can’t be helped.

15. Jasmine and Crosby’s Rain Reconciling – S3, Ep17 “Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You?”

tumblr_mr705qbVdQ1rbgu1so8_r1_250I mean, even the title gives me goosebumps! After sleeping with Gaby, Max’s behavioral aid, Crosby ruins his relationship with Jasmine and does everything in his power to correct it. While the healing and forgiveness process may have been sped up to TV time, the rain soaked cliche of an engagement is a moment that doesn’t get washed away so quickly. If only Jabbar had gone on a camping trip earlier that season!

14. Drew Breaks Down in Front of Sarah – S4, Ep 13 “Small Victories”

This may be Drew’s only appearance on the list, but it’s a doozy. Drew, dealing with the stress of girlfriend Amy’s pregnancy and abortion, comes home to talk to one person: his mom, Sarah. All of the tension that he’s held in, trying to be an adult, is finally released. The mom hug that turns this high schooler into a crumbling baby boy is the importance of family in a nutshell.

 13. Max and Kristina Dance – S4, Ep9 “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

parenthood409-dancing1Maybe I’m just a sucker for season 4 and Kristina, but the thought of this being her only time seeing her boy go to a dance is already heart breaking. When she starts to dance with him–I mean, come on. Max doesn’t understand the complications of this moment, but Kristina and Adam sure do. Have you no soul!?

12. Zoe Decides to Keep the Baby – S3, Ep17 “Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You?”

ParenthoodWe knew it was coming. It was completely inevitable that this would happen. But it did and it was just as heartbreaking and it could have been. The back and forth of Zoe, Julia, and Joel led to this powerfully sad moment.

11. The Chemo Shirt – S4, Ep7 “Together”

Camille’s gift of the chemo shirt grounds Kristina’s cancer in a reality she hadn’t felt before. When they begin to discuss the first time Adam brought her home and how much they love each other now, the waterworks begin.

The Top Ten coming soon…

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards Thoughts

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Well that was an interesting night! I went 8 for 13 (which isn’t that bad), the sound guy and clips supervisor will probably be fired, and we learned the crazy apple doesn’t fall far from the insane tree (Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds). I kind of love when my predictions are wrong because the night is way more fun when it’s full of surprises. Well, at least the TV categories were a ton of fun.

What I like about the SAGs, aside from how quickly they move and how fast it gets to the award-giving, is that they make their non-award-giving time worthwhile. During tonight’s production flawed broadcast, the clips montage of the history films dealing with social issues was a highlight. During a night of trivial, narcissistic award giving (don’t forget: I love this stuff so much), we were reminded why we make art. It demonstrated the significance of actors being vessels to instill change, discuss idea, bring attention to rights, and educate the masses. All of this through nostalgic film clips that we know and love. These types of things should be shown at Oscars instead of modern dance pieces to film scores that lack poignancy and elongate an already bloated running time.

debbie-reynoldsOn that note, the two hour SAG awards went by in a flash (minus the absolutely wacky Debbie Reynolds tribute). Overall the surprises kept it engaging early on in the TV categories and the film awards allowed us to really foresee what the Oscars may bring in February. Below are the winners and my specific thoughts.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture – Birdman

I’m probably wrong, but I still think ‘Boyhood’ has an Oscar shot, but after winning this and the PGA, ‘Birdman’ winning Best Picture is probably a done deal.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Lead Role – Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

eddie-redmayne-sag-awards-2015-ftr-1Redmayne now has a Golden Globe and a SAG for this role. Keaton is still in the Oscar race, but it’s going to be tough to blow past Redmayne’s true story disabled British genius in a period piece performance.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Lead Role – Julianne Moore – Still Alice

An Oscar lock. Lovely speech.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role – JK Simmons – Whiplash

He’s an Oscar lock.jk-simmons-800

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

rs_560x415-150125174221-1024.Patricia-Arquette-SAG-Awards-Winner.ms.012515_copyAnother Oscar lock. The Oscars are gonna be pretty boring again, aren’t they?

 

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Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series – Downton Abbey

Called it! How cute is everybody!?

UZO ADUBA OF THE NETFLIX SERIES "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK" ACCEPTS THE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES ALONG WITH HER FELLOW CAST MEMBERS AT THE 21ST ANNUAL SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS IN LOS ANGELES

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series – Orange is the New Black

Not only did they deserve it, ‘Orange’ dethroned ‘Modern Family’. When Uzo won and Burrell lost, ‘Orange’ had the wide open opportunity to take the statue. So happy they won. Moving into the

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series – Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

I get so giddy when he wins, even though I really don’t enjoy the show. I’m actually surprised that McConaughey didn’t win one big award for his ‘True Detective’ role during awards season. Then again, he won the Best Actor Oscar for it–I mean ‘Dallas Buyers Club’.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series – Viola Davis – How To Get Away with Murder

The combo platter of Davis and Shonda Rhimes is unstoppable. Great speech. rs_560x415-150125184350-1024.Viola-Davis-SAG-Awards-Winner.ms.012515

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series – William H Macy – Shameless

I have to say, this one was a total surprise. Nice to see ‘Shameless’ get some love. It’s funny that this show switched from the drama to comedy category (like ‘Orange’) and the first award it wins is for it’s most dramatic season. Awards Season is funny like that.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series – Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black

1422235851_winners-467As the first award of the night, this set the mood for a few nice surprises here and there. I’m thrilled that Uzo won. She’s excellent on the show, but I still question her inclusion in this category based on quite a few factors. Regardless, she and the show got some deserved love and her genuine surprise was incredible to watch.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries – Mark Ruffalo – The Normal Heart

Let’s just say I was just as surprised as Billy Bob Thornton.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries – Frances Mcdormand – Olive Kitteridge

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. She wasn’t going to lose this award.

Now, my friends, ONTO THE OSCARS!!!!!

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan