From ‘The AP Party’: With Only One Foot in the Digital Distribution Door, Amazon Fails Where Netflix Succeeds

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Last week, I examined Amazon’s non-committal nature when it comes to the culture surrounding digital distribution in a piece for The AP Party. Link to the full article below.

The digital revolution isn’t coming; it’s been here for a while. For many, the decision to watch a movie or TV show hinges on whether they can find it on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Video. Now, each service is making sure that we can ONLY see shows and movies on their service by producing their own content.

Almost two weeks ago, Netflix released the Aziz Ansari dramedy Master of None, to both critical and audience acclaim. On Friday (Nov. 20), Amazon will release its most ambitious series to date, The Man in High Castle, based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. Yet it’s unlikely Amazon’s show, predicated on the idea of “What if the Nazis and Japan won WWII?” will garner the same attention as Ansari’s collection of relatively small, short films. Read More…

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From ‘The AP Party’: Grantland’s Podcasts Brought Diverse Perspective to Those Who Might Have Missed It

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Last week, I took the time to reflect on the diversity of Grantland’s Podcasts in a piece for The AP Party. Link to the full article below.

Media consumption is now a niche-based activity. Whether it’s television, online or print, if we don’t like the way something is presented or the lens through which it’s packaged, we find a different website, change the channel or put away the newspaper.

Sometimes this is for our benefit. Why listen to film a critic with different tastes and waste $12 on a film that we know we won’t enjoy? Other times, this method of consumption is detrimental to our own understanding of any issue that might have real-world importance like U.S. relations with Russia or something relatively innocuous such as whether or not Don Draper actually told us “to buy the world a Coke.” Read More…

The Videos: Pegglin’ About Girls Season 3

Last week my friend Vanessa and I had a discussion about the third season of Girls over quite a few rounds of Peggle 2. The discussion was broadcast live on my Twitch channel and now the video is online for all to see. Apologies for the video going in and out a bit.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the season and this video. You can follow Vanessa on Twitter at @v_hue and as always you can follow me at @TylerLyon

 

The Recaps: About A Boy – “About Total Exuberance”

“About Total Exuberance” is the worst-case scenario of the struggles of turning a drama into a comedy. Jason Katims successfully did the opposite with “Parenthood” but I can’t help but think that was due to getting more time to work with than if that show was a pure sit-com. We are only one episode past the very promising pilot so it is very easy for the show to pick up again but tonight doesn’t live up to that standard.

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After Will and his evening guest discover that Marcus has been sneaking into his apartment through an old dumb waiter, Fiona convinces him to babysit while she goes off to a job interview. During their play date, Will’s best friend Andy, tells him that they’ve been invited to charity fundraiser hosted by Lil Jon. In an attempt to fill obligation and desire, Will brings Marcus to the party.

Once they go to said party, the episode exposes it’s main flaw – that Will is an asshole. A complete turnaround after the pilot would be well below the Katims standard but whereas there was little moments of redemption sprinkled over selfishness. All that is saved for the final three minutes when Will motivates Marcus to literally take the plunge for a chance at catharsis and when it’s revealed that Fiona got the job thanks to Will’s advice that lying would be better than the truth – though I think we can all agree that including a “sabbatical period” on resume isn’t a job-grabber. Fiona and Marcus’ cartoonish performance of “I’m Yours,” only added to the groans.

Rather than re-tell the story from the pilot – which i know is common for second episodes – it would be much more interesting for a faster approach to building their  relationship which is essential in a shortened eleven-episode season. Katims’ previous shows have successfully taken existing characters and made them much more compelling. They can’t all be first round picks. Hopefully it picks up from here.

The Recaps: About a Boy – “Pilot”

Pilot’s are tough. Half-hour comedy pilots are tougher. Even more difficult, are half-hour comedy pilots based on a dramatic film. If anyone is up to the challenge though, its creator/showrunner Jason Katims who has become the go-to movie-to-series producer with both “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” oh his resume. He set’s solid groundwork for “About a Boy,” despite changing genres.

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The biggest challenge for the pilot is cramming the plot of the film into 25 minutes and hits most of the broad beats of the film. Will (David Walton lies his way into a single-parents support group and hooks-up with attendee Dakota (Leslie Bibb), meets his new neighbor Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her sheltered son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and has Marcus pose as his son to validate his story for Dakota.

I apologize for spoiling the majority of the episode but all these beats are taken from the film and book which I don’t anticipate the rest of the show resembling – especially if it get’s a second season. Like “Parenthood,” it looks as though “About a Boy” will focus on what happens to the characters after the plot of the movie which makes it hard to give a definitive judgement on the series but there’s a lot more going on than one would expect.

The key relationship in this story is that of Will and Marcus. We have to believe not only that Marcus would find Will incredibly cool but that Will would want to become a father figure for Marcus. The former is rather easy. Will is rich – albeit for writing a hit Christmas single – is successful with women and can eat barbecue ribs whenever he wants. Marcus is a tougher case. He’s a “good kid” and is willing to pose as Will’s cancer-surviving son to score points with Dakota but that’s about it. Maybe sympathy is enough for now but we need to see him give Will life perspective.

It looks like we’ll get plenty of time for that though. According to the show’s IMDb page, Bibb only appears in the pilot episode of the nine-episode season. Maybe she was only supposed to be a one-time surrogate for female viewers but based on her having Rachel’s (Rachel Weisz in the film) position in the talent show audience – not to mention Katims’ reputation for bringing back characters – I have a feeling we’ll see her back in a hypothetical second season. As far as Will’s personal growth goes, I am concerned the addition of Al Madrigal as Will’s married with two kids best friend Andy who is the source of wisdom in this week’s episode.

All these questions mean that the pilot episode of “About a Boy” is..well…a pilot. It’s far from perfect but what is there has promise and I wouldn’t trust anyone more than Katims to fulfill those promises and then some.

The Recaps: Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias”

I have recently been trying to decide where Walter White registers as a villain. Not in terms of how memorable or fully fleshed-out (he’s near the top in both categories) but exactly how evil he ranks. If we’re to us Hitler at the top of the curve as someone who took advantage of an at-the-time run down country to fulfill his desire to wipe-out multiple groups of people, then Mr. White would be just below Anton Chigurh – Uncle Jack and crew being Nazis rinds us that Hank isn’t there – yet as he has done everything for his family.

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That all changed at the beginning of “Ozymandis,” when Walt saw his brother in-law gunned down and lie in shock as the crew dug-up his earnings. Maybe he blames Jesse for Hank’s death but the look on Walt’s face as he uttered “Pinkman,” topped the “Empire Business,” in letting us know where he stands on the morality scale though it’s strange to think even Walter White could lose any more faith in humanity now that he’s entirely on his own. He can really only look out for number one – at least until he returns, presumably to rescue Jesse who should take anything he can get as he remembers to put the lotion on its skin.

Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) continued the streak of the series most notable directors getting behind the camera one last time by delivering another episode with excellent direction, especially when it comes to the White family knife fight. Hand-to-hand combat has been pretty scarce and Johnson continued to bring his skills from his film work here.

The other big development was Skylar revealing to Flynn – I’m sure he’ll want to drop “Walt Jr.” at this point – that she and Walt are behind the Albuquerque meth industry. Again, Skylar’s biggest fear is when work comes home whether she’s condoning murder after Jesse spread gasoline on the carpet or Saul coming to get the A1 treatment. If it wasn’t clear before it is when she explains the situation to Flynn. It breaks her. Walt taking Holly away nearly destroys her.

Walt still won’t cause any serious physical harm to his family especially when he could have stabbed Flynn and Skylar. He’s willing to make them think he’s capable after taking credit for Hank’s murder. It was also just last episode he referred to Jesse as family and he through him to Uncle Jack without any thought.

I still expect the final episode to take place entirely in the flash forward and the penultimate episode should take us there. I said last week that I was disappointed the journey to the end was all too clear. Now, thankfully, I have no idea how we will get there.

The Recaps: Breaking Bad – “To’hajiilee”

Sorry for the tardiness this week. I make it a point to get these out by noon on Monday’s but unfortunately some personal obligations got in the way. Thankfully there’s a lot to talk about this week

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“Branding” was thrown all over this episode. Lydia gave a lecture to Uncle Jack and crew about the importance that Todd’s slightly improved – albeit still bellow standard – product is blue, Walt Jr. learns to tell everyone he sees to have an “A-1 Day,” and Saul makes sure he’s our “one call” when we get a DUI. However the best brand this week was that of series-veteran Michelle MacLaren who directed one of the most memorable episodes and sequences of the show’s five season run.

While it was obvious the cell phone photo was a fabrication – credit to production for using flip phones because we are only in roughly 2009 – Walt’s drive to his secret stash is one of the most exciting sequences the show has ever done. It was surprising to see Jesse continually drop his catchphrase during his conversation was surprising as the character’s catharsis didn’t carry through the audience thankfully it was still riveting.

Vince Gilligan is emphasizing that the end is near and we only have making it very clear there are only three episodes left. The final sequence of this rang very similar to “The Red Wedding,” the penultimate episode of the most recent season of Game of Thrones. We’ll have to wait till next week to see what happens in the gunfight but Hank finally catching Walt, his phone call with Marie and my theory that the final episode will be all flash-forward put strong odds on Hank sinking to the bottom of a hydrochloric acid barrel.Audiences being trained to expect the worst for good people who achieve their goals hurts the cliffhanger here. The show hasn’t ever bothered me with the way it creates cliffhangers in the middle of big events even though I’m more partial to game changers that emphasize the changing of the game board like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos or The Wire but here it only seems like a matter of minutes into next week’s episode when we are mourning the loss of Hank Schrader.

Last week I had issues with the coincidence in Hank and Jesse leaving the White residence just before Walt returned. Uncle Jack’s arsenal showing up at the end avoided that by planting the proper motivation. While Todd’s skills have improved, he won’t be appearing on Bravo’s “Top Meth Chef” anytime soon they need Walt’s skills – it looks more and more like they’re going to have to settle for Jesse though. This again show’s the skill of MacLaren’s direction in hiding the clues like Saul wearing a bulletproof vest.

At this point the rest of the series is laid out fairly clear. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little disappointed. I can’t decide if any show can live up to the expectations for its ending or if it’s an issue with this specific story. For some reason, I want something more grand than Walt saving Jesse from Uncle Jack in the same way the “cork,” analogy was underwhelming on “Lost.” This time though, I have no doubt it’s going to be exciting. While the path for the final three episodes seems fairly laid out in front of us I wouldn’t put it past the show to put another trick or two past us.