Brain Games: Show Review

Jason Silva headshot - BrainGames_FSG from NGC (2)
So get this, I was happily channel surfing last night when I stumbled upon this show on National Geographic called Brain Games. The show is actually premised on engaging viewers into a series of activities that will boost their brain power, of course, while explaining how the brain works in the first place.

I actually liked the show mainly because it was not only informative, but very fun. The idea itself of challenging one’s brain into performing better by activating mental shortcuts and understanding how one’s brain processes information is pretty interesting. When the show puts it to the test, one can’t help but give the challenges a try. And when the show tries to play tricks on the viewers’ brains and it works, its also awesome and causes a HOW DID THAT HAPPEN type of reaction. When I looked into the show this morning, I was surprised that the first episode aired in 2011, so it wasn’t a new show at all. Hmmm, where have I been all this time?

Brain Games is great for kids but even adults would be amazed by the stuff they would learn from this show. Jason Silva is a great host because he has a very casual way of explaining complicated concepts to the viewers thus making learning a more interactive experience. But basically, the show itself is great. It’s like Dora for adults because after a question, the show gives viewers time to try out the challenges for themselves, making them part of the program.

Its crazy how easily the show hits the mark on how people respond to situations by breaking down their response using science.

All in all, I’ve instantly become a fan of this show. I don’t know if the show has been using my brain to manipulate my reaction to it, but I don’t really care. Its a fun and educational watch. A great way to spend 30 minutes. :D If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out these awesome sample games.

HIMYM: A bittersweet end to a nine season wait

How-I-Met-Your-Mother-Season-9-Episode-12From the minute that it was announced that season 9 of How I Met Your Mother was going to be its last, fans of the show, including myself have gone sentimental, because really, it was hard to say goodbye to a show that made your weeks complete for nine years. And there was only one word that came to mind to describe these final 24 episodes — it was bittersweet.

Season 9 basically revolved around Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding weekend at the Farhampton Inn, with flashbacks of the gang’s antics from the first eight seasons mixed with some stories that related to Barney and Robin’s wedding. It was also revealed how Ted (Josh Radnor) finally met the kids’ mother Tracy (Cristin Milioti), and how Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and the rest of the gang met The Mother in separate incidents way before Ted finally mustered up the courage to go up to the girl with the yellow umbrella at the train station.

From the first episode of the season, it already felt like a farewell. Ted was already packed to go to Chicago where he would start afresh without having to deal with Barney and Robin’s wedded bliss in New York. Of course, he has never completely gotten over Robin, and his sacrifice meant that he would be able to keep his friendship with the gang without things getting weird. Marshall and Lily have their own fresh start to look forward to, as with the newlyweds. The weekend is filled with a lot of legendary antics and the final season is a mix of the humor that made HIMYM such a guilty pleasure from the beginning — and sentimentality for having to let go of this group of people that seemed like a regular part of each week. Because everything happened in a space of two days, the format seemed different, yet familiar, which is a credit to director Pamela Fryman, who has been with the show from the start.

The flashforward to the future where Ted finally finds the girl of his dreams and how it is interwoven into the story was a great reward for all of the heartbreaks that Ted had to go through in the season’s nine year run. The fact that the mother was just as goofy as he was was an added bonus. When Cristin Milioti was first cast as The Mother, I had reservations because she wasn’t exactly what I had pictured for Ted after meeting all of the girls that he got involved in. But when she gelled so well with the gang, I knew she was going to blend well with the group’s chemistry. When she sang La Vie En Rose, she totally got my seal of approval. See, in the show’s nine seasons, one can’t help but root for Ted because he is such a pure soul. He loves his friends and he loves completely. The innocence in which he falls in love with women and the pureness of his belief in happily ever after connects him to the viewers so well that they feel like he is their brother — or in Barney’s case, Best Bro. I’ve always been Team Barney and Robin though just because there is no one in the world who gets Barney like Robin does so when they decided to get married, I was over the moon. Lily and Marshall also got their fair share of closure. The issue of Marshall’s judgeship and Lily’s dream job in Italy totally made viewers take a look at their own marriages and deal with their own imperfections.

I liked how HIMYM closed out the stories gradually — especially Marshall and Barney’s Slap Bet, which has been a running storyline for many seasons (and one of my favorites). I liked how everybody seemed to get their happily ever afters, despite the fact that they were going to be apart. And just when I thought that everything was going well, the last two episodes had a major bombshell waiting for me (and the millions of fans). It was filled with heartbreak.

In a way, I would have wanted the series to end on a happy note for everyone, and I would have been happy if they had just stopped at that. But HIMYM, despite its silliness, is a series about the realities of life and friendship, and love. And while it didn’t exactly end the way I wanted, the ending totally made sense. And it ended with a hint of hope, which is the core of the show after all. In the end, it went full circle and everyone ended up where they should be — happy to have been part of each others’ lives. As for me, I can always watch the gang on DVD anytime I want to revisit their adventures, and that makes me happy too. It was a legendary nine seasons, and I would not have missed a minute of it.

Medical Top Team: Kdrama Review

Medical Top Team Episode 1 (RAW)Its been a while since I saw a Kwon Sang Woo drama and when I saw that he was starring in Medical Top Team along with Ju Ji Hoon (Princess Hours), Jung Ryeo Won (Which Star are you from?), and Choi Minho (To the Beautiful You), I immediately had high hopes for this medical drama starring an all star cast.

Kwon Sang Woo stars as maverick doctor Park Tae Shin, a skilled general surgeon with impeccable commitment to his patients. During an event, he crosses paths with cardiothoracic surgeon Seo Joo Young (Ryeo Won) for an emergency case which sparks off a relationship of mutual respect and rivalry between the two, especially when they are both recruited by Han Seung Jae (Ji Hoon), the chief of Kwanghye University Hospital’s Internal Medicine Unit to become part of the Medical Top Team, a group of elite doctors whose aim is to make medical breakthroughs in patients suffering from diseases with less than 50 percent survival rate. But politics gets in the way as the hospital’s Vice President Shin Hye So (Kim Young Ae) starts a power struggle with Chief Han over the operation of the Top Team. Things take a turn for the worse when family ties become involved in the struggle.

The powerhouse cast behind this drama is enough of a reason to tune in. But I was surprised to find out that the drama did not fare too well against strong competition during its airing. Perhaps, it was because Medical Top Team failed to establish its genre early on, a problem that seemed to persist through the series’ entire run. It started off strongly as a medical drama and set the stage for a possible romance between main stars Kwon Sang Woo and Jung Ryeo Won, but as the drama went further, it seemed that the writers had a change of heart, and paired off Ryeo Won with Ji Hoon instead with Sang Woo shifting to Oh Yon Seo, who played Choi Ah Jin, a resident doctor who was also part of the Top Team. I had no problem with this development because it made sense given the storyline, plus Kwon Sang Woo’s character was very flexible and charming that it did not seem off putting to pair him up with a slightly younger character. The problem with MTT was actually its failure to make up its mind about its focus. There was stuff about family. There was stuff about politics. There was bromance, which was my favorite part of the series and some backstory elements that seemed to be aborted sometime into the series. It seemed like a hybrid of sorts, dabbling at various elements that made it confusing for the viewers at times.

The doctors of MTT, at first seemed like they were inspired by characters from American TV series like Grey’s Anatomy and House. During the first episodes, it seemed like Dr. Seo was being groomed to be the Korean version of Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) but as the series progressed, she lacked the tenacity and feistiness of Grey-Sloane Hospital’s cutthroat heart doctor. Dr. Park on the other hand, seemed like a version of Dr. House but as the series progressed, it was revealed that he was too emotional and attached to the patients to think clearly when things got tough. Doctors seemed to focus more on the politics, responding sluggishly to emergencies, which was a shame and negated their top team status.

Acting wise, this series was top notch. Episodes 6 and 17 which showcased Dr. Park and Dr. Han’s torment truly tore at my heart and affected me, and this level of acting made me stick with the series despite some of its lapses. And this alone, is certainly worth spending hours to watch the series. It also alances out the funny and the serious adding characters like Kim Ki Bang as romatically awkward neurosurgeon Dr. Jung Hoon Min, and Park Won Sang as veteran anaesthesiologist Jo Jeon Hyeok with their respective love stories and bromances with radiologist Dr. Bae Sang Kyu (Alex) and Dr. Park. Oh and did I mention how adorable Choi Minho is in this series. You just want to give him a big hug whenever he appears on screen.

All in all, Medical Top Team is still a series to watch if only for the great chemistry among its stars and the cliffhanger medical cases that the Top Team handles throughout the series. The ending is a bit open ended but it can be interpreted as an opening for the next step of the Top Team or the actual end to the series. Whichever the case, its still a good watch at 20 episodes.

Heirs: Korean drama review

fullsizephoto357321When Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), a poor student working three part time jobs learns that her older sister is getting married in America, she takes out her savings to buy a ticket to the US in the hopes of trying for a better life abroad. Upon arriving in the States, however, she not only finds out about her sister’s deception, but also loses her mother’s hard earned money to her sibling. She is left in the foreign country where she hardly speaks the language, with no place to go, no friends to call, and no passport to book a ticket home. She is rescued by Kim Tan, the illegitimate second son of Korea’s multi-billion group, who has been “exiled” to California by his elder brother Kim Won (Choi Jin Hyuk) who hates his guts and does not trust him not to steal the company from under his nose. When their brief adventure in the US ends however, they unexpectedly meet again in Korea, where their lives are intertwined by circumstance and fate.

It may be surprising to some that this is the first Lee Min Ho drama that I have completed. I like Lee Min Ho. I think he is gorgeous and is a fine actor, but somehow, I have high standards when it comes to his leading ladies. I want him to be paired off with actresses who are as charismatic and charming as he is and I believe that after seeing Park Shin Hye in three dramas, she is a perfect foil to Lee Min Ho. The Heirs is one of the most complicated Korean dramas that I have seen mainly because the plot is so complex. Each of the characters is connected to some other character and it takes a few episodes before the series finally lays out the entire relationship wheel fully. And a rich man having two wives for some dramas is enough but Heirs goes the extra mile and adds another to the mix, with a set up that is so whacked that I would be hard pressed to believe that it would happen in real life.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. This is just part of the complex web of relationships in this series

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. This is just part of the complex web of relationships in this series

Despite the complications however, this drama manages to hook viewers to the series because of the richness of the characters, especially Kim Tan. Its hard not to fall in love with this character simply because of his innocence and vulnerabilities and his desperate need to be loved. He wears his heart on his sleeve even though his family and friends trample all over it in every encounter. Yet, he is strong enough to offer his love again and again at every possible opportunity. When he falls in love with Eun Sang, he confesses immediately and does not hold his feelings in. He shows strength and determination in the face of adversity and stops at nothing to protect the ones he loves, a trait that even his older brother could not match. His sheer determination in liberating his mother and his conviction in staying with Eun Sang — definitely swoon worthy. Shin Hye is a marvelous actress and I loved her portrayal of Eun Sang. Their sweet moments were the reason why I stayed up late at night to finish more episodes of the series. However, Shin Hye needs to loosen up when it comes to the kissing scenes, especially since this drama is addicted to prolonging the kissing scenes and shifting to multiple angles before the actors move again. When they embrace, cuddle or hold hands, it seems more natural and these were my favorite parts of the series.

BROMANCE. These two couldn't stand each other but they used to be besties.

BROMANCE. These two couldn’t stand each other but they used to be besties.

In terms of supporting characters, I especially loved Kim Mi Kyung and Kim Syung Roung as Eun Sang and Kim Tan’s respective mothers. These two were really hilarious and the camaraderie they established in the drama became highlights of the series. Kang Min Hyuk and and Krystal as the lovebirds Chang Young and Bo Na were also fun to watch. They had great chemistry and I would definitely like to see more of them in future series. Kim Woo Bin as the hotel heir Choi Young Do is equal parts annoying and endearing as his back story is unveiled in the drama and he makes for a really good third person in the love triangle. I was a big fan of his love hate relationship with Kim Tan in this drama. There are also a lot of familiar faces — Woo Bin’s co-stars in To the Beautiful You Kang Ha Neul as Kim Tan’s senior and Kim Ji Won who plays his spoiled fiance from another rich family.

Another thing that was great about this drama was the make up. When Kim Tan was at his low point, he looked so thin and haggard that viewers would just want to hug him and make the pain go away. The conflicts in this series were so irritating but effective that people just want to cheer on the star crossed lovers who are, after all just 18 year old high school kids in the series. I would have wanted for them to bring the pace forward at some point but as it stood, the scenes were distributed well and developed in such a way that the ending took its time to set up so that it did not become awkward.

All in all, I’ve heard a lot of raves about this series but there were also some complaints in casting Min Ho in yet another teenage role. I agree that Min Ho should also take take on more mature roles in the future but his charm works whether he is playing a teen or an adult and I for one, am thankful that he paired up with Shin Hye for this one. I hope this will not be the last I see of them because they are so cute together. The Heirs, like many other series, has its strengths and weaknesses but I personally loved it and would recommend it to anyone who wants to fall in love and relish the possibilities of youth. It also talks about struggle and fighting for what you want, and in the end, I think everybody got what they deserved. 

Breaking Bad: Series Review

breaking bad wallpaperStraight out. I’m going to say that Breaking Bad was one of the best television series I have had the opportunity to see. And this was not because of all the awards it garnered at the Emmys throughout its six year run. I think it was brilliant because of the depth to the story and the portrayal of flawed characters  in a reality that was so closely rooted to our own that it resonates with each viewer at some point or the other.

Walter White is a brilliant chemist stuck teaching high school Chemistry, working part time as a cashier at a carwash just to make ends meet.He endures abuse day in and day out from his boss and deals with general lack of respect for his brilliance to provide for his family — his pregnant wife Skyler, his 15 year old son, who suffers from cerebral palsy. As if his life is not miserable enough, he finds out one day that he is suffering from lung cancer and that without treatment, he is left with only a few months to live. With their finances in dire straits, he comes up with a plot to leave money to support his family after his death. He goes on a ride along with his DEA brother in law Hank and connects with Jesse Pinkman, a former student and small time meth cook, who becomes his partner in producing the purest quality meth product that becomes the subject of a growing network of distribution. Breaking Bad is five seasons worth of Walter and Jesse’s evolution from small time ‘cooks’ to big time criminal masterminds.

When I first started watching Breaking Bad, I immediately became fascinated by the characters. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) were polar opposites and as partners, it was interesting to see how they lived with their differences to make their small time operation work. On paper, Walter White was the lead character of the series, but from the get go, Jesse Pinkman stole the show for me. Aaron Paul’s consistency in his performance and his ability to endear his character to the audience was top notch. Throughout the show’s five seasons, he was able to draw deep and morph himself into different versions of his character — a meth junkie/street dealer, a sensitive young man shunned by his family, a softie who loves kids, a loyal partner, just a good guy forced into doing bad things. For a relative newcomer, this guy was awesome. I was sold on Team Jesse all the way. He was so good that his character should have been killed at the end of the first season, but instead, he became integral to the story and lasted until the final episode of the last season. Bryan Cranston, on the other hand, also deserved all of the accolades for his portrayal of Walter White. Imagine this guy transforming himself as the doofus dad from Malcolm in the Middle to this tormented soul, this desperate father, and his evolution to become Heisenberg, the ruthless head of the biggest drug empire spanning New Mexico, to Mexico and even the Czech Republic.

As far as supporting characters go, my favorites were Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Hank Shrader (Dean Norris). I loved how Dean Norris transformed his character from an overzealous overbearing DEA agent/brother in law to Walter White to an intense, serious and intelligent law enforcement officer playing a cat and mouse game with Heisenberg. I originally saw Dean Norris as Jim Rennie in Stephen King’s series Under the Dome and character wise, Jim does not hold a candle to the character of Hank Shrader. Dude is a total badass. Jonathan Banks on the other hand, as the skilled security professional Mike Ehrmentraut, was pure gold. I liked his efficiency and preciseness but what I loved best about him was his concern for Jesse Pinkman and his love for his granddaughter Kaylee, risking everything to provide a future for his little angel.

Kudos to series creator Vince Gilligan for coming out with characters and a story that is identifiable to the viewers. It seemed like the show always gave dimensions to its characters and it speaks of the creator’s and the writers’ respect for the story to always present various sides to each storyline. I think that the show’s biggest success is actually the consistency in the plot and the gradual evolution of the series and its ability to involve audiences emotionally from the onset. I liked that the series took its time to establish the characters and flesh out their backstories, thereby explaining their motivations. I was a big fan of how they all made sense. I loved the cinematography and the stylishness of the presentation. I got curious each with each opening montage and waited until the last minute of the show for it to make sense. The series was well thought out. From Walter as a down on his luck family man, Jesse as a deadbeat meth head, always trying to stay one step ahead of the law– the intelligence in which it was all crafted and executed made for great, thought provoking television. The chemistry aspect and the way Walter was able to Mcgyver his way out of tough spots because of his scientific skills made the show doubly interesting. Although the bombs and corpse disposal may have sent a wrong message to criminals, learning about the abilities of the elements is always cool. 

All in all, AMC was able to hit it out of the park with Breaking Bad. From Episode 1 until the finale, the show made for a compelling television drama that I am sure that I will watch over and over again. I felt bereft after seeing the last episode and wanted the show to never end. But on the other hand, I salute the team for not being greedy and sacrificing the quality of the show by extending it even if the story should have come to a close. The way it ended was perfect. Everything came full circle. Great job to AMC for producing this show. With Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, I think AMC is slowly establishing itself as a contender against HBO in terms of original programming quality.

5 most hated characters from Under the Dome (series)

I just finished catching up on Under the Dome last night and boy, that was literally a hanging ending. Actually, I keep wondering after seeing the last four episodes if I made the right choice at all in sticking with this series because Chester’s Mill surely took its fair share of stupid townspeople. And what worse agony than to be trapped underneath a mysterious upside down fishbowl with people whose brains well and truly need a jumpstart? Well, as a viewer trying to digest the sheer stupidity of 80 percent of the lead characters, I think is a fate that can rival that of Col. Dale “Barbie” Barbara, the only sane member of the community.

Take note that in the interest of fairness, I have opened my IMDB page on the next tab to show the list of the entire cast so I don’t miss anybody in my scrutiny. After much thought,  here’s a rundown of my five most hated characters in the television version of Chester’s Mill:

POWER MAD DICTATOR. Big JIm can weasel his way out of any situation because in the Mill, he is  a god.

POWER MAD DICTATOR. Big Jim can weasel his way out of any situation because in the Mill, he is a god.

5. Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) — As the series’ main antagonist, you would think that the town’s tyrant of an assemblyman would rank higher than #5 but perhaps this would illustrate my frustration at the rest of the characters of this darned town. My beef with Big Jim is actually not that he is so evil but that Dean Norris’ portrayal of the town’s consummate politician is lacking in terms of intensity.

4. Chester’s Mill Townsfolk - Yes, I am including the entire population of Chester’s Mill in this entry because of their lack of brain and willpower to even question the decisions made by one man — even feeding his already bloated ego by agreeing with all his decisions, even though they are obviously wrong. I understand that they are in a crisis but still, shouldn’t people be more proactive in a situation dealing with survival?

PRETTY DRY. There is no doubt that Rachelle Lefevre is gorgeous but her portrayal of a leading character leaves a lot to be desired.

PRETTY DRY. There is no doubt that Rachelle Lefevre is gorgeous but her portrayal of a leading character leaves a lot to be desired.

3. Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) – As one of the bigger stars cast for this series, and kicking ass as the original Victoria in the Twilight series, I had expected Lefevre to do well as the big city journalist who transplanted into a small town. I don’t know if her ineffectiveness is entirely her fault because there is really no indication of being a journalist in the progression of her character except for that one scene where she was following Junior around at the beginning of the series. There is no sense of urgency in even the direst of circumstances and in the moments where she should be following up on her leads, she seems ‘lackadaisical’ (a word I learned from Stephen King’s book) at best. I don’t know. I just don’t know about her. I’m very disappointed about her one dimensional approach to the character. And for someone who is supposed to save the town, she is more often than not in the receiving end of the saving (courtesy of Barbie).

I AM NOT AMUSED. With this expression perpetually pasted on her face, there is no wonder why I hate her character.

I AM NOT AMUSED. With this expression perpetually pasted on her face, there is no wonder why I hate her character.

2. Angie Mcallister (Brit Robertson) – I think I don’t really have a problem with the Angie McAllister character but rather, my problem is the portrayal of Britt Robertson. The character seems to be doing stuff that makes sense (for the most part) but her facial expressions just gets on my nerves. She isn’t very smart but she acts like she knows everything plus , she’s such a jerk to Junior, who, while admittedly psychotic, is a sweetie. way to provoke somebody who is mentally disturbed. I hope Junior kills her soon. Scr*w you, Angie. It doubly sucks that we share the same name.

and last but definitely not least…

DUMBASS. Nuff said.

DUMBASS. Nuff said.

1. Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) – If given a chance, I would respectfully submit a new definition for the word dumbass in the dictionary and I will move that the picture of this dense, clueless police chief from the town of Chester’s Mill be placed beside it. There is no wonder Cote de Pablo of NCIS rejected the part when it was offered to her because this character sucks big time and no amount of money can compensate for the humiliation that will go along the actor’s resume for playing this role. Not only is this girl gullible, but she consistently makes wrong choices at every turn. Case in point, after finding out that Big Jim is involved in illegal activities, she still seeks and heeds his counsel, doing nothing at the face of his tyranny. If the fate of the town rests on her shoulders, apocalypse will come sooner than two seasons in the Mill.

So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me?

For my review of the series, click this link: http://cineramaetcetera.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/under-the-dome-series-review/

Under the Dome: Series Review



o-UNDER-THE-DOME-TV-facebookSeven episodes into the Steven Spielberg-produced series based on the Stephen King novel, I am still on the fence about Under the Dome, a series about the sleepy town of Chester’s Mill, which one day was cut off from the rest of the world by the giant dome-shaped force field whose origins remain a mystery from the town’s residents and the government. Outside the dome, world leaders try to figure out what caused the phenomenon while inside, residents struggle to cope with panic about the imminent shortage of resources. All this while, town selectman Big Jim Rennie tries to keep things under control, while holding on to a secret which threatens not only his reputation but the welfare of the entire town. I must say, while there were some exciting episodes, there were also some clunkers. And this leads to a lopsided feeling of appreciation on my part as an audience.

I’m currently reading the book and straight off the bat, the series is almost completely different from the literature. From the characters to the story progression, the book is darker and speaks about the evils of man, while the series has more of an apocalyptic vibe with a little bit of drama thrown in. I think the biggest problem with the series is that the characters seemed to be watered down versions of their literary counterparts.

For example, the Jim Rennie in the series is a milder version of book’s second selectman who is manipulative and will stop at nothing for ambition. The TV version is more human, seeming to be pushed into evil acts because he wanted to save his town. Barbie , on the other hand, seemed more hard core and competent in the book than in the series. There are actually times I really think his TV self acts like a jerk–  a cute one but a jerk nonetheless. This is a shame because I think that Mike Vogel is one of the better actors in the show.  Still, I think showrunners are setting up for a big reveal for his character so I’m holding out hope for Barbie.

barbie and julia

A DSLR DOES NOT A REPORTER MAKE. Rachelle Lefevre needs to work on her sense of urgency and intensity if she wants any chance to portray a reporter effectively.

I also question the casting of Rachelle Lefevre, who plays Barbie’s love interest and town journalist Julia Shumway. Lefevre’s portrayal of a former reporter from a big city can be described as shallow and mediocre at best. She also lacks a certain spark that would draw people to her.  And promoting Deputy Linda (Natalie Martinez) into a leading role? Don’t even get me started. Natalie Martinez does not have any edge to pull off the character but she seemed really lame and weak as the town’s remaining law enforcer. With her in charge, it comes as no surprise that the town is in chaos.

DON'T CARE IF HE'S PSYCHO. Junior may be a psychotic SOB but I think he's adorable.

DON’T CARE IF HE’S PSYCHO. Junior may be a psychotic SOB but I think he’s adorable.

On the other hand, I have developed a soft spot for Alexander Koch who plays Big Jim’s psychotic son Junior, whose portrayal of a vulnerable, yet obsessive lover to Britt Robertson’s (Secret Circle) is so effective that there are times that I just want to give him a big hug in spite of his violent and irrational tendencies. I think that the development of this character is really one of the series’ major successes because they were able to connect him with the audience despite him being a villain in the piece. The teen cast members also contribute to the series’s plus column. Colin Ford (Supernatural) as Scarecrow Joe and Mackenzie Lintz as his Norrie Calvert who share an uncanny connection with the dome are also endearingly effective as budding young lovers in the midst of chaos. Other secondary characters of note — Phil Bushey (Nicholas Strong) and Dodee Weaver (Jolene Purdy) as the town’s deejay and telecom engineer. This unlikely duo are so fun to watch.

To this series’ credit, the effects utilized for this show is outstanding, and the setting was able to capture the essence of a small town. The adjustments made to original material, while there were some hits and misses also held a lot of merit when they worked.

I understand that when books are adapted into series or movies, one should expect deviations from the original material. I have no problem in this aspect. However, what I’m actually missing from this series is the central message at the core of the book. The dome is not just about the mysterious phenomenon that affected a small town in Maine but rather , it is a commentary about the nature of people and what they are capable of doing in the face of threats to their survival. There is a great potential in this series but it needs to be more consistent in presenting the material in a more exciting manner to keep the audiences well and truly hooked for its upcoming second season. I think that series producers were trying to limit the material used in the first season because they wanted to expand to another chapter (due to high ratings) but this is no excuse to dial down the suspense in a series of this ilk. The material has huge potential to go further. I would suggest that the producers re revisit the book to find more inspiration rather than make things up as they go along.

 

 

Happy Endings: Series Review

happy endingsOne of the worst news I have received of late is that Happy Endings has not been renewed for a fourth season. Boo ABC! (The network also didn’t renew Jane By Design) In my opinion, this is easily one of the best shows I have followed and I’ve actually grown quite attached to these six kooky characters. I really thought that the show deserved at least two to three more seasons.

At first glance, one would think that Happy Endings is another generic Friends knockoff show. Well, one would be justified in thinking that given the marketing for this comedy series. But after seeing an episode or two, its pretty easy to figure out that this series has a unique charm all on its own.

Happy Endings is a show about six friends —  power couple Jane (Eliza Coupe), the control freak and Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.), the vain black dude; Jane’s sister Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), the ditzy blonde who just happened to pull a runaway bride on Dave (Zachary Knighton), the romantic nice guy. There’s also Max (Adam Pally), who is gay and best friends with Penny (Casey Wilson), the serial dater. The series revolves around how they move past the Alex incident and go through the drama of their intertwined lives in Chicago.

When the series opened with the runaway bride episode, a lot of viewers were immediately drawn to Dave, the sensitive guy. What he went through totally sucked — a fate one wouldn’t wish on one’s worst enemy. In truth, it would seem hard to forgive someone who runs out of her wedding with a guy in rollerblades, but as the series progressed, it’s pretty hard to stay mad at Alex, who really seemed like she was just confused at the time all the brouhaha happened. But for a series that starts off with a dilemma that heavy, Happy Endings never lost a beat and transitioned to the comedy seamlessly.

I like that although Happy Endings have created characters based on stereotypes, the actors have somehow owned the characters and gave their own brand to their alter egos. It just seemed like even if there was a certain way Max is a total standout in these series because he is not the typical gay guy. He just doesn’t fit into any box and no matter how sloppy or bitchy or lazy or fat he gets, viewers will still have a connection with his wacky antics because he is just nuts. Elisha Cuthbert is a revelation because her comedic timing is impeccable and her commitment to her dimwitted but sometimes brilliant character Alex is just commendable.  The cast had great chemistry and they really seemed to be having fun with the show. They were very comfortable with each other  and seemed to take whatever drama any one is going through, in stride — a fact that was clearly illustrated when Penny was hanging out with one of her boyfriends’ gang and she was comparing how staid they were compared to her group.

Speaking of drama, one of my favorite recurring characters in the show is the gang’s adopted friend Derek, who is so gay he could be shooting rainbows. Seriously, this dude brings the party wherever he appears in the series. And the logic in which he explains the most mundane of things? Say it with me — DRAAAAMMMAAAA!

END GAME. I would have liked for the show to develop the relationship of these two more. They are super cute.

END GAME. I would have liked for the show to develop the relationship of these two more. They are super cute.

What’s great about this show is the writing. Its so contemporary, fresh and the wordplay is simply brilliant. There are plenty of pop culture references especially for the 80s and 90s so that should be fun for twenty somethings and thirty somethings that were part of this era. I could even say that the show is similar to Friends because of the wit and the humor that each line evokes. However, Happy Endings delivers a different brand  of humor. It is sharper and sometimes, taken in the wrong context, borders on mean, especially with the pileons.  But as viewers get to know the gang, they will understand that this is part of their friends dynamics and this is how they roll. At the end of the day though, what gets viewers hooked on the show is the development of the relationships with each other and how they grow stronger.

I am actually a Dave/ Alex shipper, and I really like how these two interact with each other. They are super cute together and they have this chemistry that seemed to shout that they were end game, but there was also the Penny/Dave ship being pushed in some of the episodes which the writers didn’t get much opportunity to break out. I guess it would be kind of weird if this happened but the way the show ended, I guess, we will be forever kept guessing, or believing in whatever ship we were sailing.

All in all, I shared a lot of laughs with this sometimes juvenile, sometimes deep but consistenly well written series. I maintain that it was too soon to pull the plug on this show. I will surely miss the gang but then again, its great that I can still use their episodes as a pick me upper whenever I need cheering up. And for those wondering what would’ve happened if the show had been picked up for a fourth season, check out this scoop from TV Line’s Michael Ausiello,

Falling Skies: Series Review

falling_skies_ver20-movie-posterI’ve often stumbled upon Falling Skies on the SyFy network but I didn’t really follow the show because I didn’t see the beginning. Still, everytime I saw a plug, I would wonder about it and finally, I broke down and sat through it on video. My take on this Steven Spielberg produced sci fi series?  – not bad, and certainly worth a watch.

When the aliens attack the earth, key cities fall to the invaders and children are used by the aliens for slave labor using organic mind control devices called harnesses. But still, what remains of mankind band together to survive. Among them is Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a former history professor who is now second in command of the 2nd Masssachussets (2nd Mass) , a unit of 200 civilians and 100 fighters who despite all odds try to keep the resistance alive. Aiding Tom in the fight is his commanding officer Captain Dan Weaver (Will Patton), Mason’s eldest son Hal  (Drew Roy), and former pediatrician turned combat doctor Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood) while Tom’s nine-year-old Matt (Maxim Knight) does what he can for the resistance. When Tom manages to save his middle son Ben (Connor Jessup) from the control of aliens they call Skitters, they discover that the connection shared by the harnessed children and their guardians run deep and Tom is afraid that he may completely lose his child, as well as the other children to the aliens after all.

For a television series, Falling Skies is pretty well made. It follows a very strong main storyline that progresses with each episode although I must admit that there were really subplots that were fairly predictable. There were also dramatic elements that seemed forced and this seems to be the weakness of the series in some points — falling for the cliches such as long speeches on faith, unity, heroism, et al. There are also many actions undertaken by the characters that make no sense at all leaving viewers to wonder whether or not they are thinking at all. And the timing in which some of the series regulars were killed off seem kind of off. I think that these were the real moments that the series could have milked for drama because viewers have become invested in the characters but at most, their deaths seemed abrupt with no set up whatsoever. Shame.

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THE MASONS. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle, left) asseses the situation with his boys in tow.

However, because of the strength of the main plot, these lapses still seem forgiveable. The casting is a major factor of this success. The Masons are the heart of the series and Tom Mason’s interactions with his boys are phenomenal. For a family of guys, Mason’s strength as a leader and his vulnerability as a father, conveyed with each hug, each handshake, with every shoulder tap with his boys speak for the direness of the situation, as each look is filled with a sense of desperation and helplessness that could melt even the hardest of hearts. I think Noah Wyle has really evolved as an actor from his ER days. My favorite of the Mason kids is actually Ben.  He manages his fear really well, and in each scene, he is able to show off his strength and at the same time uncertainty about his future.

The season finales are always strong with the cliffhangers that keep viewers guessing until the next season. Actually, what keeps the  series interesting is the development of the resistance and the unveiling of new alien forms. Whereas in Season 1, there were only Skitters and Mechs, fisheads or alien overlords make their debut in Season 2 and they pose even more danger to the resistance. The element of suspense is also commendable as it gets increasingly difficult deciding who is batting for the side of the resistance and who is not,  with new characters introduced while others resurface out of the blue, their loyalties unclear.

All in all, I don’t think Falling Skies is the best Sci Fi series out there (I still think Fringe is the best) but with its great execution, and promising hints of the future, Falling Skies deserves to be watched and followed for a few more seasons.

Phineas and Ferb: Why I’m addicted to the show

Phineas-and-Ferb-phineas-and-ferb-4039536-1024-768After a tough day at work, nothing beats turning on the boob tube and watching something fun and entertaining. In my case, I’ve recently zoned in on the Disney original series Phineas and Ferb, which features two charismatic lead characters — Phineas Flynn (Vincent Martella), and his stepbrother Ferb Fletcher (Thomas Sangster) who spend their entire summer cooking up different ideas and building complex projects in their backyard. Their sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale) meanwhile, lives to bust them. There is also a subplot on the secret life of their pet platypus Perry, who is an agent of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym) and his mission to stop the evil schemes of Dr. Doofenschmirtz, which in most cases don’t really work out quite as well as he would like.

As I may have mentioned in the title, I am a big fan of this show and these are the reasons why:

1. There’s something for everybody. What I really love about Phineas and Ferb is that the show is about kids, but it would appeal to children and adults alike. For kids, it inspires them to be creative and to give their imagination free reign. Although most of Phineas and Ferb’s inventions are complicated and really almost impossible to accomplish for children of the same age, it still pushes them to explore their possibilities and have fun doing it. For adults, it is just awesome to see a show that is so light and yet packed with excitement and good natured fun. It really appeals to memories of childhood summers spent with friends and cousins doing a bunch of stuff.

2. Nothing beats family. I’m a sucker for family oriented shows and I’m happy that there is a kids’ show like this that promotes the same values. I love that even though Candace always tries to bust her brothers, they are always thoughtful of her and want to include her in their adventures because they love her. When push comes to shove, Candace for the most part, has shown that saving/protecting her brothers when they are in trouble is more important than proving that she was right in trying to bust them.

PUPPY LOVE. Jeremy tries to impress Jeremy

PUPPY LOVE. Candace tries to impress Jeremy

3. The love stories. The main love story here obviously is of Candace and Jeremy. Its very cute to see Candace try so hard to get Jeremy to like her even though its obvious that Jeremy already does and she is just oblivious to it because of her many hang ups (and her obsession with busting her brothers). Speaking of oblivious, Phineas shares the same quality with his sister because no matter how Isabella tries to get him to notice her as a girl, he just doesn’t seem to get it and treats her just like a pal (ring a bell, anyone?) Meanwhile, Ferb’s crush on Vanessa is just so British (I mean that in a good way). He’s just so calm and collected and he is adorable.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. The gang waits around for P&F's invention to work.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. The gang waits around for P&F’s invention to work.

4. Befriending a bully. Bullies are often depicted as harsh, uncaring, unfeeling and violent, but Buford, a self declared bully and adopted member of Phineas and Ferb’s gang, is depicted as a tough kid who participates in the gang’s activities, even going so far as to enjoy it, He also makes friends with Baljeet, who in most cases, has the highest tendency to be bullied. I like that in some episodes, people are given insights as to why Buford is tough and why he is sometimes mean to the other kids and this balances out how people in general view the dynamics of children.

5. Perry vs Doofenschmirtz. I love the subplot of a secret agent platypus and an evil archrival. But most of all I like the fact that Doonfenschmirtz only plays at being evil, being more talk than substance when it comes to carrying out his evil plots to conquer the world, or maybe just the TriState area. While their face offs are a bit routine (sometimes, Perry ties himself up to a chair to listen to Dr. D’s monologue), their scenes are still very funny.

6. Musical numbers. Now this is something that any episiode of Phineas and Ferb cannot do without. There are great songs, okay songs and sort of meh songs that always has something to do with the adventures at hand but I’m always up for a colorful production number.

All in all, series creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh (who also worked on Rocko’s Modern World) did a fantastic job with this smartly written, adventure packed Disney series. No matter how far out Phineas and Ferb’s ideas are, no matter how you wonder where they get the money to finance their “projects” and no matter how you ask a million adult questions as to how they are able to pull off the things that they do at just the right time, you will surely be hooked to this show after seeing them at work in one or two episodes. The fun is just infectious.