Catastrophe (Amazon): Season 3

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A poster for Season 3 of the series.

NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers.

…“Singles in America” study that I do with Match.com, we ask them, “What must you have in a relationship?” And, “What’s very important?” And they must have somebody they can trust and confide in. They must have somebody who respects them. They must have somebody who makes them laugh, which actually is very important biologically.

-Dr. Helen Fisher (Biological Anthropologist)

…Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney can communicate so much with raised eyebrows or a sour expression.

Catastrophe has given this couple so many chances to wash their hands of one another, but one of the show’s underlying strengths is that they so clearly don’t want to. Because they’re connected in so many different ways…

-AV Club

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Sharon (Sharon Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney) with their son in the ER.

Rob Morris (Rob Delaney) and Sharon Norris (Sharon Horgan) are back for Season 3 of their irreverent, funny, yet still romantic, comedy. By this time of life- Rob is 40, while Sharon is 44- the romance is in the commitment; this something that Dr. Helen Fisher noticed from an esteemed Chinese relationship expert, NOT unlike herself. In America, we value falling in love, BUT in China, they focus on the long-term. 

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Mia (Carrie Fisher) talks on the phone with her son Rob.

Fisher appears in only a handful of episodes overall, her appearances are extremely memorable.

-Collider (on actress Carrie Fisher’s last performance)

The themes and events in this season are the darkest yet, though there are still laughs to be had (no matter if the viewer is single, married, or something in between).  In the first episode, Sharon wonders what exactly happened w/ that younger man in the Season 2 finale. She thinks of returning to her teaching job. Rob is still a stay-at-home dad, BUT financial reasons could compel him to get back work. 

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Rob (Rob Delaney) is shocked by his own behavior to one of the other parents.

Their families and friends are going through some issues of their own. Sharon’s younger brother, Fergal (Jonathan Forbes), moves his family to Spain (where his wife is originally from). Sharon’s close friend, Fran (Ashley Jensen), is feeling lonely and insecure re: aging. Fran’s ex-husband, Chris (Mark Bonnar) is one of the MOST quirkiest, BUT also most loyal/dependable, friend characters in modern TV. I esp. LOVE how he is there to listen to Rob, BUT doesn’t judge. There is a LOT more going on (including some notable guest actors), so do check this show out yourself! (FYI: Season 4 has been confirmed.)

Stranger Things: Season 1 (Netflix)

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

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We looked at 1,000 kids. Most kids, you can turn off their auditions after five seconds, because there’s nothing authentic about it. -Matt Duffer, co-showrunner (w/ his twin brother, Ross)

There’s this idea of this Cold War, this looming threat, and everyone’s going about their business with their families and living their lives.  When we were kids, the reason we responded to this stuff so much is because we could relate to these characters, these families, the kids.  -Ross Duffer, co-showrunner

I wanted to see this show for a LONG time; I finally binge-watched ALL 8 episodes today (w/ my little brother).  I highly recommend it, even if you’re NOT a big fan of sci-fi!  It’s mainly a character drama, BUT w/ doses of suspense and danger.  The actors did a GREAT job, esp. the pre-teen boys (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin) who go out looking for their close friend, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), after he goes missing in the wood of their small Indiana town. (FYI: The show was shot on location in Jackson, Georgia.) 

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It was cool to see Winona Ryder (who plays distraught single mom, Joyce Byers) after a LONG time; she’s now 45 y.o. BUT still a petite dynamo of an actress.  The actor who played Joyce’s responsible, quiet, older son Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) was a standout among the older (high school) kids. 

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I liked the character development of the town’s police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour); before I’d seen him in Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit playing shady/villainous guys. Veteran actor Matthew Modine has a pivotal role, too.  

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The Showrunners: Twins Ross & Matt Duffer (NYT)

…tribute to classic ’80s fantasy, sci-fi and horror, with nods to “Alien”; “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial”; “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; and Stephen King’s 1986 novel, “It.”  -New York Times

If there is one word to describe this show, it’s be “authentic”- note the hairstyles (yikes), clothes (pastels, cords, etc.), bikes, and houses.  The kids/teens are dealing w/ real-life issues (bullies, confidence, dating, parties, parental/school rules), yet also deeply concerned re: the disappearance of one of their peers in such a peaceful, tight-knit community.  Try and check it out SOON, b/c there are spoilers everywhere out there re: this show!  I heard MANY positive things this Summer/Fall (on Twitter and several podcasts), BUT I wasn’t spoiled much.      

Luke Cage (Netflix)

NOTE: This review contains MILD SPOILERS for the series.

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Pops (Frankie Faison) talks with Luke Cage (Mike Colter)

Intro

Do YOU need a hero?  You may have seen Luke Cage (Mike Colter, in a breakout role) as the V strong FWB of the title character in Marvel’s Jessica Jones last year. The events of this series occur about a year afterwards. Luke has been working in Pop’s Barbershop in West Harlem and generally keeping a low profile. When a pretty single mom/law student takes an interest in him, Luke thinks he’s NOT good enough.  Pop (Frankie Faison) says that Luke is “hiding” from relationships and has so much potential.  He could be “out there helping people.”

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Show creator Cheo Hodari Coker with Colter

Characters

It turns out that Luke is NO ordinary man, striving to make rent. He has bulletproof skin (thanks to an experiment which we learn about later in the series).  Luke is a man of FEW words, BUT we get to know some verbose (and well-developed) villains is this show.  There is owner of The Paradise club, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali from House of Cards), a man who speaks well, dresses impeccably, yet is prone to violent outbursts.  He is a noted gangster who has stayed clear of the law.  His older cousin, Mariah Dillard (veteran actress Alfre Woodard), is a calculating councilwoman who is trying to stay clear of her grandmother’s criminal legacy.  However, she is NOT against using the manpower/money which Cottonmouth can provide. 

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Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick)

Aside from Mariah, there are several other capable, single, professional black women in the story. (HOW rare/refreshing is that!?)  Det. Misty Knight (Simone Missick) flirts w/ Luke at The Paradise when we first meet her, BUT she’s not looking only for fun.  She has been staking out the club to get some concrete evidence against Cottonmouth.  Later in the series, I was esp. glad to see nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson- also guest star in Daredevil).  Inspector Priscilla Ridley (Karen Pittman) plays a smaller (yet pivotal role). 

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Luke walking with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson)

There are several characters w/ different jobs and backgrounds (white, latino, black) who operate in shades of gray.  They are trying to make money easily, protect themselves, etc.  Go see the show (don’t want to reveal TOO much here)! 

Diversity in MANY forms is built-in on this show.  Luke’s landlady (Connie) and her hubby are Chinese immigrants operating a restaurant.  Claire’s (Latina) mother is played by Sonia Braga, an internationally-renown veteran actress originally from Brazil. (HOW cool is that!?) Braga co-starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman (w/ William Hurt and Raul Julia) in the ’80s; younger viewers may know her as Samantha’s gf in SATC.

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Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) is one of the fascinating villains on the show

Setting

Yes, this show is set in West Harlem, which serves as a character in itself.  We also get to learn about some of its history (MOST of which I didn’t know about).  This info is  passed on via the characters in the story, so (in MOST cases) it seems organic.  

The Crown (Netflix): Coming NOV 4th

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Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) wearing her famous coronation jewels , sash, and gown.

The Crown focuses on Queen Elizabeth II as a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with legendary Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. The British Empire is in decline, the political world is in disarray, and a young woman takes the throne….a new era is dawning. Peter Morgan’s masterfully researched scripts reveal the Queen’s private journey behind the public facade with daring frankness. Prepare to be welcomed into the coveted world of power and privilege and behind locked doors in Westminster and Buckingham Palace….the leaders of an empire await. -Netflix Summary

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Matt Smith, Claire Foy, and John Lithgow

Lead Actors: Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth II), Matt Smith (Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh), & John Lithgow (Sir Winston Churchill)

Supporting Actors: Jeremy Northam, Eileen Atkins, Victoria Hamilton, Harriet Walter, Ben Miles & Alex Jennings

Director: Stephen Daldry

Writer/Producer: Peter Morgan

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Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and the real queen in wedding clothes.

This highly-anticipated series will be available on November 4th. Two seasons with a total of 20 episodes are planned (so far), as noted in Variety.  Daldry was the director of Billy Elliott and The Hours.  In 2006, Peter Morgan wrote The Queen (starring Helen Mirren).

Rather than finding this woman and this predicament less and less interesting it becomes more and more interesting.  The Queen’s story is a good way to examine the modern history of England because she is so intertwined with the British constitution and the British soul. -Peter Morgan

I’m excited to see Foy in a starring role; she was great in the miniseries Little Dorritt.  Matt Smith (best known for Dr. Who) can handle both comedy and drama.  Maybe he will get a chance to do both? And it’s so cool to see the film/stage veteran, Lithgow, in good shape and working regularly!  The official trailer (below) gives us some hint, BUT not too much, re: the crux of the series- how a young woman manages different roles (daughter, queen, wife, and mother).       

 

What To Watch Now

On Netflix:

BroadchurchVeteran Brit powerhouse actresses (Charlotte Rampling; Marianne Jean Baptiste) join the strong ensemble cast as dueling barristers (lawyers) in S2 of the crime drama set in the quiet, beautiful, close-knit town. It’s time for the trial, BUT there is still suspense. We learn more re: another crime from the past of DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant). I’ve seen the first 3 eps so far.

Orange is the New BlackThis show continues to grow (new guards and inmates come in, incl. a young/hijabi/black/Muslim woman and a celeb akin to Martha Stewart, played by Blair Brown). How will Sophia deal w/ being in isolation?  What will Piper do next now that she has the rep of being a badass?  Will Crazy Eyes ever find real love?  The jail is overcrowded now, w/ a large pop. of  Latinas bused in.  I have only seen 3 eps- need to get back into it soon!  

In Theaters:

Finding DoryMy mom (big fan of Finding Nemo) & I saw this yesterday afternoon (TOO hot to be out)- we LOVED it! The short film (Piper) was SO cute/well-made/touching!  The octopus, Hank (Ed Oneill) was my fave; it was esp. cool how he blended into the environment around him (like a chameleon).  Gorgeous Brits Idris Elba & Dominic West play two seals. Veteran comedy actors (Eugene Levy & Diane Keaton) voice Dory’s kind/encouraging parents.

Free State of JonesThe McConaughssaince  continues w/ this (based on a true story) historical drama set during the Civil War. But I must admit that the first 5 mins are tough to watch (bloody/gory/realistic); the diverse audience I saw it w/ gasped and cringed at some scenes. There is absolutely NOTHING glam re: war, and boy does this film show us that! The pitch-perfect Matthew is joined by luminous Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) and Mahershala Ali (who MANY will know from House of Cards on Netflix). In his role as Moses, an escaped field slave separated from his wife and young son, Ali gets to show us a LOT more of his talent. Even in the quiet moments, he is a strong screen presence.

No man outta tell another man what he’s gotta live for or what he’s gotta die for!  Newton Knight declares to his small band of followers- runaway Confederate soldiers, poor white farmers (including widows w/ children), & runaway slaves

I can’t believe that history like this is NOT taught in schools!  I’m SO glad that I got to see it for free at a pre-screening. Unlike what Col. Robert Gould Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick in Glory) said in one his letters to his mother (“I do not know these men, their jokes, their songs”)- Knight can relate to the blacks around him. He lived in the swamps w/ them, foraged for food/fished w/ the men, etc.  Check this film out if you can!

On TV:

The Night OfThis is an HBO limited series starring British-Pakistani actor, Riz Ahmed, and veteran actor, John Turturro (who had to take over after the death of James Gandolfini). The story centers on a Pakistani-American college kid from Queens, Nas Khan, who is questioned, then arrested, for the murder of a young woman he picked up in his father’s cab one night while on the way to a party.  The original story comes from across the pond (England), where the accused suspect was played by boyish/waifish Ben Whishaw; that story was focused on class from what I’ve heard.  This version doesn’t shy away from the fact that the suspect is a Muslim male, or the inherent suspicions that come w/ that in post-9/11 era.