Fleabag (2016)

I watched this Brit show (on Amazon Prime) last weekend; there are 6 eps (about 30 mins long). It’s NOT for everyone (TV-MA), BUT does have some interesting/unique components. We’ve ALL seen angry/unlikable/complicated men as protagonists (incl. in comedies) over the past 10 yrs or so. However, there aren’t many female characters like Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a 20ish working woman living in London and dealing w/ grief (incl. that of her BFF/business partner). “Fleabag” is the real-life nickname of Waller-Bridge. She also created a play on which this show is based. Fleabag breaks the fourth wall (as seen prominently on House of Cards); this brings the viewer in closer to the story.
Fleabag struggles to keep her small cafe open, breaks up w/ her sensitive/songwriter BF- Harry (Hugh Skinner), then hooks up w/ different men (one of her coping mechanisms, she admits). Waller-Bridge can be BOTH beautiful and awkward at the same time; she has a flawless face and is tall and slim. Yet she also has a somewhat long/big nose (which gives her an unique look). One of her men is played by an unusually handsome actor (Ben Aldridge). Sidenote: The way others reacted to their pairing reminded me of when Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) dated character played by a soap actor on SATC.
Fleabag has an awkward relationship w/ her father (Scottish actor Bill Paterson) and hates her godmother turned step-mom (Waller-Bridge’s close friend-actress Olivia Colman). Talk about step-mom from Hell- Colman portrays a self-absorbed artist and villain V well here (a departure from her usual roles)! The MOST interesting/complicated relationship is between Fleabag and her seemingly “perfect” older sister, Claire (Sian Clifford). Unlike Fleabag’s aimless approach to life, Claire (Sian Clifford) has to control everything (incl. her own “surprise” b-day party). There is deep love between these women, though they have such different personalities. Both women wonder if they sre “bad feminists”- something V rare for a TV show! Claire is married to an American art dealer, Martin (comedian Brett Gelman), who comes off as creepy and pathetic. I think Martin provides some of the more (obvious) humor.

Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 11) – “The Wolf Inside”

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the most recent episode of the sci-fi series streaming on CBS All Access. 

We are still in the Mirror Universe, where the black/gold uniforms are FAB, killing your fellow Terran officers is commonplace, and Saru’s race are kept as nameless slaves. Capt. Lorca is able to withstand torture and STILL keep it together. Here the Klingons, Vulcans, and few other races (who get new looks) are the resistance, fighting against the Terran Empire. This ep starts out a BIT slow w/ a voiceover from Michael Burnham, who is complaining re: how she has to struggle to get through the days. We see her and Tyler cuddling and talking together; he refers to her as his “tether.” What did you think about this? Was Tyler being TOO needy? Or is this a sensitive and romantic thing to say? 

Sarek is called a “prophet” by the rebels, which includes Voq (called “the Fire Wolf”). As Sarek (who has a goatee a la Spock in the TOS Mirror Universe) does the mind meld w/ Burnham, we see him become fascinated w/ the alternate world he glimpses. He declares that Burnham means no harm. When Tyler sees Voq, he gets flashes back to his past, then attacks Voq w/ no provocation. Voq wonders how Tyler knows the “forgotten tongue” of his people (the Klingons). This fight isn’t that well done; it also comes off as awkward and no one intervenes to assist Voq.

As MANY of us knew, the albino Klingon warrior, Voq, and the human, Lt. Ash Tyler, are the SAME person! Actor Shazad Latif played BOTH parts, too, as others suspected. (Latif ‘s middle name is “Javid” and the actor recently explained that “Iqbal” is his  Pakistani father’s first name). I thought Latif did VERY well in this ep, incl. w/ the Klingon language (which a linguist on Facebook noted has sounds found in Arabic and Urdu, the main language of Pakistan). 

What did you think of Tyler’s big reveal to Burnham? I was really hoping for more! I was expecting her to kill, or at least shoot, Tyler/Voq right away. After all, he was acting ;ike he loved her. I liked how Latif was able to do the quick, yet subtle, shift from Tyler to Voq at various points in this ep. 

The final reveal- Michele Yeoh is back (YAY)- was rather unexpected! It turns out that the mysterious “Emperor” looks exactly like Capt. Georgiou. How will this affect Burnham (who saw her first captain as a a VERY close friend/mentor)? This show keeps on getting better and better! 

Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 10) – Top 10 Moments

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for Episode 10 (Despite Yourself) streaming on CBS All Access. 

10) Burnham (Sonequa-Martin Green- getting better w/ time) explains how the Terran Empire works, her description echoing what’s going on in modern-day U.S. (w/ the resurgence of white nationalists). 

9) In the Mirror Universe, Tilly (Mary Wiseman- nerdy/quirky/funny) has a few nicknames (incl. “Capt. Killy”)- LOL!

8) The Discovery (and its crew) go through a makeover to fit into their new surroundings. I liked the black and gold colors, esp. the bustier Tilly wears (hey, it’s great to see a woman w/ curves in the media these days).

7) Lorca (Jason Issacs) wears a leather jacket (V cool) and bloodies himself up (ouch!) to play the prisoner role.

6) Lorca speaking in a Scottish accent (a call-back to Chief Engineer Scotty from TOS) during the call w/ a Mirror Universe ship. 

5) Tyler (Shazad Latif) suffers (another) ep of PTSD while out on a mission, BUT it rescued by Burnham. 

4) L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Tyler face-off (and nearly kiss- ewww) during their argument in the brig. L’Rell says a Klingon prayer, which deeply upsets Tyler, BUT fails to activate his sleeper-agent personality. This (almost) confirms a  V popular fan theory- Tyler and Voq are the same! 

3) Culver explains to Tyler that his body was modified, incl. his his bones and internal organs. Ooooh, and his mind was changed, too! 

2) Tyler snaps Culver’s neck in sick bay, BUT is the doc really gone for good? (FYI: No, b/c actor Wilson Cruz has hinted that his story is NOT over yet.)

1) The fight between Connor (Sam Vartholomeos) and Burnham in the turbolift is really well-done (shout-out to this ep’s director, Jonathan Frakes, who MANY of us loved in TNG).

Re-watching Top Rated Episodes of Black Mirror (Seasons 1 & 2)

Season 1: Episode 3

The Entire History of You 

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on,” the diabolical Iago warns insecure new husband, Othello, in Shakespeare’s tragedy. In this ep of the British sci-fi drama series, Liam (Toby Kebbell), suspects that something more than just a fling before they met went on between his wife, Fi (Jodie Whitaker, the next Doctor Who) and her old friend, Jonas (Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey). Not unlike Othello (a military man), Liam (a lawyer) seeks justice. Liam almost violently demands that Fi rewind her memory chip (“grain”), so that he can see exactly when and what happened w/ Jonas. Liam doubts the paternity of his baby daughter, though a few astute viewers noticed that her eyes are blue (like Jonas’); both Liam and Fi have brown eyes.

Though this ep (like almost every ep of this show) has some element on futuristic tech, at the crux is the (deteriorating) marriage between Liam and Fi. Since he keeps replaying moments of his life, Liam is socially awkward and insecure (perhaps more so than Fi’s friends at the dinner party). We all know folks like this, right? Jonas (perhaps named after the main character in The Giver) is a catalyst; he holds the memories that could unlock the truth. Liam’s obsession and jealousy drives him to attack Jonas in his own home, then force him to erase all memory of Fi. What did you think of the ending? Did Liam pull out the grain b/c his (positive) memories were too painful? Or did he want to simply erase Fi b/c of her betrayal?

The proposed film version, which is being put together at studio Warner Bros via Robert Downey Jr’s Team Downey production company… is set in the near future, and it will centre on a widower who uses similar technology to reconstruct his relationship with his dead wife until he unwittingly uncovers a vast conspiracy.

-The Guardian

[1] While I enjoyed seeing the worst of humanity being magnified by the satire of the previous episodes, here it was done with sense of humanity – a heart rather than a sneer. The relationship drama is quite engaging and he use of the technology seamlessly becomes part of that.

[2] What makes this episode so painful, is that we witness the end of a once loving relationship, in all its sad, pathetic and all too human frailty and weakness. The technology that seemed so useful and essential now becomes a curse and enhances our cruel nature. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Season 2: Episode 4 

White Christmas 

This is the Christmas special (yet NOT cozy and comfy like a typical one) of Season 2 in 3 acts, all of which feature American TV icon, Jon Hamm.  On IMDB, it’s noted that this episode uses a similar concept as Inception (which I haven’t seen yet), layering realities making the viewer question if what the character is experiencing is actually real or not. We see a kitchen in a cabin where Matt (Hamm) is preparing dinner for himself and Potter (Rafe Spall), the nearly-silent man w/ whom he’s been living for 5 yrs. Matt tries to draw his companion out w/ his warm tone and friendly manner. Potter is very reluctant to talk, so Matt tells him about his past.    

You’ve heard of the PUA (pick-up artist) culture, right? In the first act, Matt was part of a futuristic version of this, helping socially awkward young men get a date or simply hookup. These types of coaches rely on cheap pop psychology and think they can read people’s minds. One of Matt’s clients, Harry, meets a dark-haired “outsider” woman, Jennifer (Natalie Tena from Game of Thrones) at a holiday party. At first, he’s comforted by the fact that Matt (and a group of other men) are virtually there (“inside my head”) to help him out. Later, as the night goes on, Jennifer misinterprets Harry’s words and moves much faster than he expected. At her apt, Harry learns (too late) that she does have voices in her head, and wants to commit suicide with him! Horrified, Matt and the other men watch as Harry is poisoned by a drink that Jennifer pours down his throat. When Matt’s wife finds out about this event, she blocks him, then leaves w/ their baby girl.

The first guess Potter makes about Matt’s occupation is “a marketing person.” This is a reference to his character in Mad Men, who works at an ad agency. In the second act, a young woman named Ash (Oona Chaplin- also from Game of Thrones), has her consciousness (“cookie”) extracted and put into a small egg-shaped machine which will run her home. However, this cookie is very disturbed by her new situation, thinking that she’s alive and real (though considered “only code”). Matt’s job is to break down this cookie’s resistance (torture is a word some critics/viewers used), so that she will perform the duties that she was removed for in the first place. Is this “slavery,” as Potter declares w/ disgust?

In the final act,  Joe Potter’s life story is finally revealed! He was a regular guy (though maybe w/ a drinking problem) who loved his gf, Beth, who became pregnant suddenly. She was distraught about this fact, which confused and saddened Joe. (It’s rare to see a modern drama tackle such controversial issues such as abortion and paternity rights.) Beth blocked Joe, w/o much discussion, yet decided to keep the baby. Joe became obsessed w/ knowing anything re: his child, even driving each Christmas day for 5 yrs to the remote cabin the the woods where Beth spent time w/ her father. This little girl was also blocked, since she was the offspring of Beth, until Beth died suddenly in a train crash. Joe went back to the cabin, saw the girl, who looked East Asian (so NOT his child)! He realizes that it was Beth’s married co-worker, Tim, who was the real father. Tim was in the background, or side of the screen, in several scenes (BUT you won’t notice until you see this ep twice). Joe went in the cabin, very distraught, and ended up hitting Beth’s elderly father on the head- killing him. May, the girl, was hiding upstairs; she later walked out into a blizzard and died (awww). Joe was captured, BUT refused to talk until he met Matt (who was helping the police get a full confession). Well, Joe’s cookie talked, as the real him was in a jail cell. Matt is released from his sentence, though he is blocked (from everyone)- whoa! He won’t be able to have basic human interactions. 

[1] The idea of cookie is appalling. I always believe that physical existence is not the way to describe a person-human beings are their memories and minds. …It is just utterly cruel, while this episode apparently succeeded in demonstrating how technology can dehumanize people. 

[2] The episode really makes you think, its such a chilling experience. Charlie Brooker really does create some crazy worlds.

[3] The most disturbing thing, in my opinion, is how easy the technicians are able to accelerate the time for the clones, which are not really human, but react like ones: suffering, getting crazy, locked for the eternity in an egg…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

 

 

 

She’s Gotta Have It (2017)

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the Netflix comedy series. 

[1] The soundtrack to this series is amazing! Spike really did his thing with the song selection. Second, the shots and cinematography were great. Spike and his crew really make Brooklyn come alive in this series. 

[2] Nola is getting a steep discount from her godmother to stay in the gentrified neighborhood she grew up in, and she still doesn’t manage to get the rent on time. They constantly talk about her hustle, yet she really isn’t ever truly desperate or truly hustling.

Gentrification is a legitimate issue, and I see the commentary Spike was going for, but it fell quite short. 

[3] The characters remain mostly undeveloped and the story, while it has its high points, is largely pointless and unresolved. 

[4] The infamous American director and producer always stood strong by telling the stories of minorities in all his films. Nola Darling doesn’t like labels and she doesn’t like to be owned…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Do you remember the black and white 1986 film of the same title directed by 29 y.o. unknown Spike Lee? I saw it about 10 yrs ago, and wasn’t that impressed; lead actress (Tracy Camilla Johns) looked rather uncomfortable in front of the camera. Lee (who also played Mars Blackmon- to save money on actors) was memorable; he had the catchy phrase: “Please baby, baby, baby, please!” Lee refers to Mars as “the original sneakerhead” (someone who collects, trades, or admires sneakers as a hobby). Critics complained that the film was too much from a man’s POV (which Lee admitted; he was inspired by male friends who dated several women at the same time).

As a more mature man, as well as a husband and father, Lee re-imagined the story of Brooklyn artist Nola Darling (the gorgeous DeWanda Wise, recently seen on Shots Fired and Underground). Lee is aided by a cadre of strong, successful African-American women: his wife Tonya (a producer), his sister Joie (who plays Nola’s supportive mom), Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, as well as other female writers and directors. Wow, this is an impressive group! And I MUST note how well Joie Lee is aging, too. 

The three men in Nola’s life (NOT to be referred to as “boyfriends!”) are played by some fine (and fine looking- LOL) up-and-coming actors, most notably Anthony Ramos (Mars), who was in the original cast of Broadway’s Hamilton. Ramos (who is of Puerto Rican heritage) brings an innocence, sense of fun, and lightheartedness to his part of the story.  Though he still lives w/ his older sis in the projects, Mars has a job fixing bikes at a hipster coffee/bike place. I was also impressed by Lyriq Bent (who plays the slightly older/wealthy/married father- Jamie Overstreet); this actor hails from Canada and is very believable in the heavier/emotional scenes. Without Jamie’s (financial) support, Nola wouldn’t be able to support herself as well as she does. We also get a sense that Jamie is the one that will fall for Nola in the end; he’s in a (now loveless) marriage, but a good role model for his preteen son.  Rounding out the main male leads is Cleo Anthony (biracial, French-speaking, model/photographer Greer Childs). This seems like the man that gets Nola’s lifestyle the best; he is focused more on his career and playing the field, not finding a serious relationship (unlike Mars and Jamie). But wait, there aren’t ONLY men involved w/ Nola!

Opal Gilstrap (Ilfenesh Hadera) plays a slightly older woman, who is also an entrepreneur (running a nursery) and single mom (by choice). Nola (who is in her late 20s) looks up to Opal, feels close to her emotionally, and is very attracted to her as a person. As their relationship goes on, we see how Opal has her life together; Nola is a BIT of a mess in many regards. They make a great couple, though ONLY for a short time. The other women in Nola’s life are her close friends: artists’ rep/yuppie Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham), cocktail waitress/single mom Shemekka Epps (Chyna Lane). and the redheaded/Afrocentric white woman Rachel (Elise Hudson).

Nola decides to go to therapy w/ Dr. Jamison (Tony winner Heather Headley); this is someone who can be objective re: Nola’s (complicated) life. Not ONLY does Nola juggle lovers, she has several jobs (incl. a dog-walker and part-time art teacher at a junior high school). I esp. liked the scenes w/ the school kids and their no-nonsense/loving principal, Raqueletta Moss (De’Adre Aziza); I used to sub in NYC area. She has to hustle (though some viewers felt NOT too much) b/c she doesn’t want to end up like her high school friend/war vet, Papo (Elvis Nolasco). This man also grew up in Fort Greene, had a LOT of potential, and fought in the Middle East for Uncle Sam. Papo was never the same after he came back; he still creates art, BUT out of trash (which annoys Nola’s gentrifying/new white neighbors). The long-time residents of the block call him “The Mayor” of the neighborhood (this is a call-back to the iconic Ossie Davis’ role in Do The Right Thing).  Nola’s understanding landlady/godmother is played by Pauletta Washington (wife of Denzel); I can’t believe that it took me a few mins to figure that out! 

There are MANY things to admire, such as the color (the hairstyles, costumes, and accessories are really cool), diversity (of black individuals and their experiences), and the tacking of MANY timely issues (hmmm, maybe too much?) Yet, there are also disjointed things, such as the use of hashtags for ep titles (after all, Nola is NOT much of a social media user or internet dater, unlike MANY millennials). This is NOT a show for everyone, BUT I’d recommend it for Spike Lee fans.