TV – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review

June 30, 2015

Sometimes people will exaggerate for effect when they review comedies and say that they didn’t laugh once.

So I won’t do that in this review of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I did laugh once.

Once.

I’ll even tell you the joke; it was in the second episode and it was a visual gag of a very crap Miss Piggy costume.schmidt

But apart from that, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – a Netflix exclusive comedy starring Ellie Kemper from the US version of The Office and created by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame – didn’t even raise a smile.

Though it seems to get critical acclaim and generally favourable reviews, I just didn’t personally understand the appeal.

Based around the premise of a girl who has been freed from 15 years trapped as a prisoner in a Josef Fritzel style bunker and has moved to New York to experience life for the first time – an interesting and original idea for a show to be fair – the humour seemed very childish, the acting over the top and the characters ludicrous.

I get that sometimes comedy has to involve exaggerated characters, but there are limits to what I will personally find credible or even funny, and the sheer stupidity of almost every character – probably designed to make the quirky Kimmy seem normal – just took it beyond those limits.

The last two episodes for example, where Kimmy goes back to Indiana as a witness in the trial against her former captor is just stupid. Not ‘stupid haha’ which I’m sure was the intention, but rather just stupid. And the dialogue – like “What the ham sandwich is going on” and “Oh Em Jeepers” – I think is supposed to be charming but is just cringe-inducing.

For me, this show is just too over the top.

To give it some credit, Ellie Kemper is good and plays her character with charm and likeability, but it’s just not enough to convince me that it’s worthy of the praise it gets.

I did manage to sit through all 13 episodes though, and that might count for something in that at least it had a narrative worth following, but on the heels of having just caught up with the brilliant seasons 8-10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, this just didn’t cut the mustard.

So I recommend you avoid The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Calls to Action

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c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


TV – Orange Is The New Black Season Three Review

June 20, 2015

Saturdays in June and July – especially on odd-numbered years when there are no summer tournaments to watch – are always a bit of a dull chore for a football fan.

I mean, what do we do without football? Go out for a walk? Go shopping? Watch some other sport? No thanks.

Instead, I occupied my time today indulging in some binge TV watching, and having spent a few days getting through the first seven episodes, today I sat down and watched the final six of the third season of NetFlix’s Orange is the New Black.

And while I’m tired and probably should go to bed, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on it while they are fresh.

TV – Orange is the New Black Season Three Review: Thoughts – It Takes A While To Get Going

First off, I’d like to make it clear that I think binge watching TV is the way to go. I’d far rather watch a season of a show in bulk than wait to see one episode per week. I just think it works better that way, and basedoitnb on the success of NetFlix and the demand for seasons of shows to be released in a oner, I think a lot of people would agree on that.

But for binge watching to work, it’s got to start off with episodes strong enough to make you want to binge.

For me, this season of Orange is the New Black started off too slow. For a good few episodes it seemed as though it didn’t quite know where it was going and what the main plot-lines were going to be. Perhaps that was because they had to give certain characters – who shall remain nameless for those of you who haven’t seen it yet – reasons to depart the show and to wrap up or at least put to the sidelines some of the loose threads from the previous two years.

Once it got into its groove though with the three main stories – the private company owning the prison, Chapman’s underwear empire and everything associated with the Church of Norma – it settled in to providing hours of quality entertainment.

Like I say, I’ve just finished watching six episodes in a row, and they aren’t short, so it definitely had some appeal to it.

There Are No Villains

While not a criticism, one of the main things I noticed about this season of Orange is the New Black is that there weren’t really any villains.

At the beginning of the show and through to the end of Season 2 it seemed as though villains were part of what made Orange is the New Black tick, whether it was the evil V, Doggett, Fig, Pornstache or even the likes of Red.

Yet the final scenes of the season show that those days are gone. It seems as though pretty much all the inmates are good people who we should empathise with (which is bizarre considering it’s set in a prison) and that everyone – even the bosses of the private prison company – have reasons for doing what they are doing. Well…perhaps the exception to that is the guy from the doughnut shop, but he doesn’t count.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I don’t think it’s a particularly realistic thing, put it that way, but considering the show has moved to be far more of an ensemble effort than when it first started, you could argue that it probably had to be that way.

It’s Not About Chapman Anymore

And on that note, I think it’s quite clear that this is a show no longer about Chapman.

When it started, this was a show about her. The rest of the cast seemed to exist to offer her – the protagonist – obstacles in getting through prison life.

Whether it’s because she isn’t a very likeable character, or whether it’s because other members of the cast are better actors and more deserving of the spotlight than the rather one-dimensional Taylor Schilling (who I cannot believe I am two years older than), poor old Chapman has been relegated to equal billing or perhaps even a lesser character in this season than most.

That’s not something I have a problem with, but considering the show is about her and will likely finish when she leaves prison, it may have to become more Chapman-centric in the next season.

Oh and by the way, I thought it was great that we got an episode dedicated to Chang’s back story.

I HATE The Theme Tune

I love a good TV Theme Tune and have even written an article on my Top 20 (which you can read here) but I must go on record and say I absolutely hate the theme to this show.

It’s an ear bleeding song played over a terrible opening credits sequence. I mean…why not at least have the actual cast members’ faces in the titles rather than random people with bad skin?

And why do they go on for so long?

The solution is to skip to the 1.20 mark of every episode, but I shouldn’t need to.

TV Themes shouldn’t be that bad!

TV – Orange is the New Black Season Three Review – Final Thoughts

So on the whole, while it took a few episodes to hit its stride, Orange is the New Black Season Three is another success for NetFlix.

There’s more than enough scope for another season and possibly even more.

If you’ve yet to see any of it, get binge watching immediately!

Calls to Action

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c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


Movies: Entourage Review (or “Lighten Up Film Critics; What Else Did You Expect This Movie To Be?”)

June 19, 2015

When I sit down to write my reviews, I tend to do a bit of homework and check out how well received the subject matter has been by the masses, to see if the generally held opinion differs from my own.

Most of the time what I find doesn’t surprise me, but on occasion it does.

I’ve just come home from watching the Entourage movie, which I’ve enjoyed, but it appears to have been slated by almost all critics.

If you do a quick google search you’ll note that it gets 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, 38% on Metacritic and a host of one/two star reviews with taglines such as “Smug, Unfunny LA Bromance”, “Awash With Delusional Confidence” and “Entourage is so bad it puts us in a terrible mood”.

The thrust of the criticism is that it’s a poor plot, that it’s overloaded with pointless cameos, that the characters aren’t likeable, that it’s Hollywood at its most self-indulgent at a time when it should be focussing on Entouragemovies with worldwide appeal and that it feels like an extended version of a TV episode.

Now fair enough, some of those criticisms have merit – particularly the last couple – but surely any review of Entourage should ask one single and simple question to anyone who is thinking about going to see it…

Did you like the TV show?

If you did, then go and you’ll like it. It’s a worthy follow-up to the HBO comedy.

If you didn’t, don’t bother because it’s more of the same, and you still won’t like it.

If you’ve never seen it, you’ll struggle to appreciate it one way or the other, even if it does try to fill new viewers in with some expository scenes offering a potted history of the show at the start.

But that’s the problem with movies that continuations of TV shows; when the papers and entertainment websites send someone along to review them, these people might be turning up with a negative mindset. I mean, I don’t like Mrs Browns Boys, so I was never going to see the movie. If I did, I’d go along to it knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy it, and so my review would be a foregone conclusion.

So anyone who didn’t like Entourage the TV show – and based on the content of some of these reviews, I’m guessing plenty of these writers didn’t – will not like this.

The same criticisms of the TV show will apply here. I mean, there are parts of it I don’t like. I’ve always found Vince to be a dreary, one-dimensional character played by an actor more wooden than Pinocchio, while Eric always seemed miscast and mildly unlikable. If you ask people what they like about Entourage the TV show, the chances are they’ll say Ari Gold and Johnny Drama. That’s where the humour was then and that’s where it is now.

Yes, this is basically an extended episode of the TV show with more cameos than ever, but why would anyone who actually spends their money to go to see a movie about Entourage want or expect anything different?

It’s bizarre to think otherwise.

So while the critics shit upon it from a great height, perhaps take some advice from the cast, who have said “Lighten up; it’s not Citizen Kane”.

You get what you pay for.

Calls to Action

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a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

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Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review (or “What The Hell Was That?!”)

June 18, 2015

Ok, so I didn’t publish two reviews in one day.

Mainly because if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write this as an introduction, and I was struggling otherwise.

So with that in mind, here’s The Midas Plague review.

Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: What’s This One About?

It’s about a future society (that looks an awful lot like 1965) where free energy and robot labour result in an over abundance of goods that need consumed. The lower you are on the social ladder, the more pressure there is for you to consume these products by law.

But one man – who believes that giving robots emotional circuits would result in them wanting to consume and therefore take away some of the burden put on the ‘working class’ – rebels against the order of things.

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

Thoughts – What Am I Watching Here?

It seems that usually my summation of an episode of Out of the Unknown is “It’s a good idea, but it’s let down by execution or running time”.

I can’t say that about The Midas Plague.

Why? Because it isn’t even a good idea, it’s just daft.

If there’s an overabundance of supply, then stop supplying it. Episode finished.

Instead, we’ve got to put up with this ludicrous notion that is bizarrely presented as some kind of pantomime-like comedy.

Maybe that’s the point, and if it was actually funny I’d give it some credit, but it’s not; it’s horrendous.

It could be that this type of humour just that hasn’t aged well and was actually popular at the time, but it does absolutely nothing for me.

Moreover, the general presentation is shonky, from the over the top mannerisms and expressions of the actors to the played for laughs dialogue and whimsical, screwball-esque incidental music.

Overall, it was terrible.

And People Criticise Doctor Who’s Budget?

People say classic Doctor Who looks cheap. But what is cheap? If you’re comparing The Keys of Marinus to Star Wars, then yes, it does look cheap, but what’s the point of making such a comparison?

Doctor Who from the 60s should be judged against a show like Out of the Unknown. And while from time to time Out of the Unknown has looked ok, generally it looks pretty bad in comparison, with actors wearing

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

cheap rubber/tinfoil outfits, wandering around sets that look like they belong on the stage of an amateur theatre.

The Midas Plague takes things to a whole new level of cheap though.

If I was going to defend it, I’d say the robot costumes are deliberately made to look bad because of the ‘comedic’ nature of the episode, but even then they’d still be crap. It’s the sort of thing you don’t laugh with, but laugh at, and that’s never a good thing.

Then, despite being set in the ‘future’ there’s no effort whatsoever to make it look like it is, which is bizarre because the show usually goes out of its way to make things look ‘Space Age’.

I can honestly say this is the worst looking piece of television I’ve ever seen from the BBC. It’s horrific.

The Old British Actors Checklist

Apart from Richard Davies (Burton from Delta & The Bannermen), the main attraction here is the guy who played the Empire State Building Tour Guide in the Chase who was a lot like Columbo.

Great…

Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: Final Thoughts

Like my last review, I can’t really think of much to justify a Random Thoughts section.

In part this is because I watched these episodes a week or so ago, and my thoughts have faded.

But it’s also because there’s just not much to comment on beyond what’s already been said.

The Midas Plague is crap. It’s a bad idea for a story, it looks pitiful, it’s acted terribly and it goes on for too long.

Maybe I’m missing the point or maybe it’s just a form of entertainment that has been lost to time. As much as we talk about what TV was like by then, the TV we do talk about tends to be the stuff that is timeless. There’s plenty of crap that likely was forgotten about a week after transmission.

And this could be an example of that.

Hopefully things improve with the shorter episodes of Season 2, because really, if this first season is anything to go by, it’s a mystery to me why Out of the Unknown is remembered with as much fondness as it is.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 


Out of the Unknown – Thirteen to Centaurus Review (or “Let Down By The Running Time…Again”)

June 16, 2015

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Out of the Unknown is hit and miss in terms of quality.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering its format. When you change the writers, actors and stories every week, you’re unlikely to find a level of consistency.

With that said, I’ve fallen slightly behind on my reviews of the show and find myself in a situation where I have to do two in one afternoon.

And as you might expect based on the intro, my feelings on them both are mixed.

The first of those episodes is Thirteen To Centaurus. 

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review

Usually I would start this with a ‘What’s This One About’ section, but I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to quote the synopsis – from the keyboard of ‘Hutch48’ – written on imdb for this episode.

It says…

“Interstellar travel at sub-light speeds: the enormous distances, isolation from human culture and the aching loneliness of space are enough to drive the strongest personality insane. Better to block all memories of human contact and to program the 12-strong crew to accept only the reality they can see and touch within their spacecraft. But a child born on “the Station” becomes insistent on learning the truth about ‘Outside’.”

But here’s the thing; it isn’t really about that at all.

Oh my god!!! They aren't really on a spaceship!!! Let's spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

Oh my god!!! They aren’t really on a spaceship!!! Let’s spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

For the first 18 minutes of this episode, you could be forgiven for thinking that was an accurate synopsis, but the swerve – the sort of swerve that would happen at the end of a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan – comes very early. You see, they aren’t on a spaceship at all. Instead – much like in The Invasion of the Dinosaurs – the people on board that ship are actually still on Earth, but are made to believe they are in space as an experiment.

I liked the swerve of course, but I think they shot their load too quick by revealing it almost as soon as the episode began.

This caused a problem because there was another 42 minutes left in the episode. So what happened? Well it became something of a political/human rights story based on the government pulling the funding for the Centaurus experiment and the debates and discussion on what they should do with the people on board the ‘ship’. In the end, the plot takes another twist when it turns out the boy looking to learn the truth about ‘Outside’ realises he’s in an experiment, brainwashes the guy controlling it so that he stays on board under his control (hence why it’s called ‘Thirteen to Centaurus’), and decides to stay on as the ruler of his own very small colony.

 

All of that is fine in theory, but the middle section went on for far too long and at such a slow pace that I ended up losing interest.

That’s a general problem with episodes from this first season of Out of the Unknown; interesting ideas hindered by an overly long running time. It should come as no surprise that from season two onwards, the episodes were cut to 50 minutes.

If this was shorter, it would have been better. I had high hopes for it, but they were let down.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

The Old British Actors Checklist

We’ve hit the jackpot on former Doctor Who actors, as this episode includes Noel Johnson (The Underwater Menace & The Invasion of the Dinosaurs), Robert James (Power of the Daleks, The Daemons & The Masque of Mandragora), John Line (Colony in Space), Robert Russell (Power of the Daleks & Terror of the Zygons), John Moore (The Myth Makers & The Frontier in Space – though to be fair he only played an extra in these stories) and best of all, John Abineri (Fury from the Deep, The Ambassadors of Death, Death to the Daleks & The Power of Kroll).

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review – Final Thoughts

I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t think of a single Random Observation to add to this.

Ultimately, I think I’ve said it all; it’s a good idea and it should have been better, but the pacing and overly long running time prevent it from living up to its potential.

Though it is one of the better episodes I’ve seen so far, for what that’s worth.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 


Movies – Jurassic World Review (or “They’ll Never Learn, Will They?”)

June 11, 2015

 

When I saw the trailer for Jurassic World, I was concerned that it gave away too much of the plot. Sadly that’s what trailers do these days; they just put all the good bits out in front to get you to go along and leave nothing for the paying customers once they are in.

Thankfully, having seen it today, I found that wasn’t the case. Much of the stuff in the trailer actually happens early on and doesn’t ruin the flow of the film at all.

Phew.

But that relief aside, was it any good? (There will be spoilers)

Movies – Jurassic World Review: What’s It About?

Evidently learning nothing from the three previous occasions dinosaurs were involved in incidents where many human lives were lost, a dinosaur-based theme park once again falls out of human control because of a lack of planning and foresight. Many lives were lost.

Also, a handsome man and a hot woman initially have a dislike for each other, but end up having sex after the final credits roll.jurassicwold

And children are once again shown to be the noblest and most resourceful of us all.

Oh yeah, and the Hulk Hogan or the dinosaur world, the Tyrannosaurus Rex ends up going fucking over, brother!

Movies – Jurassic World Review: Who’s In It?

Former fat sitcom goofball turned Hollywood leading man Chris Pratt stars, assisted by Bryce Dallas Howard and irritating children Ty Simpkins and Nick ‘Not The Guy Off The BBC’ Robinson.

Movies – Jurassic World Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

It gets mixed reviews, with some critics thinking it’s the best thing since sliced bread, while others have panned it. Kings of Arbitrary Number Based Scores – IGN – have somehow worked out that it deserves a very specific 8.3.

My Thoughts

I think it’s fair to say that Jurassic World goes as you would expect it to.

The set-up is excellent, with the different plot strands being well explained, the characters seeming full-blooded and the tension building up well. On top of that, the environment it’s set in looks fantastic, though I guess you couldn’t expect anything less in this day and age (although I would say that the fight between the hybrid and the T-Rex is a let-down because not enough was done to distinguish between the two, so you didn’t know who was winning).

But once the proverbial dominoes of the plot were set up, the fell in a mundane and entirely predictable way.

What I mean by that is that once the hybrid killer dinosaur had escaped – and may I say that it did so in a nicely dramatic fashion – the movie just slipped into an unimaginative sequence of events that lacked originality and were riddled with Hollywood clichés.

For example…

  • Wave after wave of highly trained soldiers are massacred by this seemingly unstoppable monster, yet two annoying teenagers are able to outwit it time and time again.
  • Also, though the younger of the two broke down in tears at the prospect of his parent divorcing, he didn’t have the slightest emotional problem with coming so close to death on numerous occasions.
  • Despite being in a highly traumatic situation, the suspiciously young manager of the park and the ex-Navy hunter she’s stuck with (and had gone on one date with before the movie started) are able to devote time to wise-cracking and heavily flirting with each other after initially having nothing but contempt for one another. While people around them are being mauled to death by velociraptors, they take a moment to share a kiss.
  • Neither of those two suffer any injuries or even have a hair out of place. Indeed, the woman instead takes the opportunity to become more sultry as the movie progresses, exposing an increasing amount of cleavage and sweating almost exclusively around her chest to give it that extra glisten. She also never has to remove her ridiculous high heeled shoes in spite of the terrain and considerable amount of running she has to do.
  • With one exception, all the people presented as being nasty die.
  • All the good people survive.
  • Nobody thinks to shoot the dinosaur with a weapon strong enough to cause it any damage, at any point throughout the movie.
  • Ultimately a T-Rex – who, I might add seems to have turned into one of the good guys for unexplained reasons – jumps in to help out in the end.

So it’s daft and it doesn’t really hold up to critical analysis.

But really, you should know what you’re in for when you turn up to see the fourth instalment in a movie franchise like this, and I suppose on that score, it doesn’t disappoint.

Jurassic World is fun and though it’s ludicrous, it keeps your attention surprisingly well for a movie that lasts over two hours.

There are some nice nods to the past for fans of the series and there’s clearly the potential setup for further sequels in the future.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and assuming you aren’t looking for anything deep or genre-changing, you’ll enjoy it too.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


TV: Hindsight Review – Non Spoiler (or ‘The Best New Show You Haven’t Heard Of’)

June 3, 2015

I read an article the other day about the best US TV shows not to have found a home on a British station.

Some of them looked quite interesting and I certainly intend to give them a try, but the one that stood out the most for me was Hindsight.

Hindsight Review (Non Spoiler): What’s It About?

Broadcast on VH1 – a station you wouldn’t associate with TV drama – Hindsight is a show about a woman in her 40s who – on the eve of her second wedding – realises she’s lived a life filled with regrets. She wisheshindsight she could go back and change things to make her life more fulfilled.

A weird trip in an elevator results in her being transported back to 1995 into the body of her younger self on the day of her first wedding and before she fell out with the best friend she’s ever had.

Given a second chance in life, will things turn out differently this time or is she destined to repeat the same mistakes all over again?

Thoughts

So I’m not going to spoil this for you by giving away any plot details.

Instead I’ll just tell you why I think this show is fantastic.

I mean, I guess you all know that I love Doctor Who, and so any show about time travel is going to peak my interest, but what works so well with Hindsight is that it presents this sort of thing without feeling even slightly ‘science-fictiony’. As a result of that, people who generally don’t like sci-fi will be able to enjoy it without feeling like it’s something outside of their own wheelhouse.

A decent outline for a series isn’t enough though; it has to be well written, and again, I think it is.

The characters are realistic and multi-dimensional (and played by good, if less well-known actors who do them justice), the plots are varied and interesting and the season long story arc bubbles away nicely while building to a great cliffhanger that makes you want to come back for more.

There’s also the added attraction of that ‘Life On Mars’ style retro feel where a character from a contemporary setting is flung back into the past. There are plenty of nods to how dated certain aspects of the 90s are – like fashion and technology – but it also celebrates other parts of its culture. And because this is a show that airs on VH1, the music of the age takes centre stage a lot of the time.

Basically if you’re old enough to remember the mid 90s you’ll appreciate it, but even if you’re not you’ll enjoy the show anyway, I reckon.

So yeah, track down Hindsight and give it a go; it’s fun, it’s enjoyable, and unlike quite a few shows I’ve tried to watch lately, it has that ‘just one more episode’ appeal to it.

 

Remember to buy my books, focusing on my reviews of Doctor Who from the 1960s through to present day. You can read more about them here

Also, on a completely different note, if you’ve got any friends who post the crappest Facebook status updates in the world every day, you might get a kick out of my piss-take Facebook blog, ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’