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The Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015 — Part Three!

Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen.  Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.  Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)

This week I began listing my Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.)

And now, my Top Five Episodes of TV in 2015:

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5. Daredevil: “Cut Man” (season one, episode two, released on 4/10/15) — I really, really loved the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil show.  It was a bold announcement of the type of Marvel show that Netflix would be creating, something far darker, more complex, and more adult than almost every other super-hero TV show out there.  This, the show’s second episode, is filled with greatness.  I was particularly taken by the conclusion in this episode of the flashbacks, begun in episode one, of the death of Matt’s dad Battlin’ Jack Burdock, and the repercussions of the accident that blinded Matt but gifted him with super-normal powers.  I love this show’s depiction of the relationship between Jack (wonderfully well-played by John Patrick Hayden) and his young son Matt.  This enhances the gut-punch of the moment we all know is coming when Jack gets killed.  I like that the show takes the time to develop Jack, as his presence will continue as a shadow over Matt Murdock for the rest of the season.  I also enjoy the way this episode introduces Claire (Rosario Dawson) and begins to develop her relationship with Matt in the present day.  But the reason this episode is on this list is because of the magnificent one-take action sequence that closes the episode.  This incredible action set-piece absolutely blew me away.  In one long, slow take, the camera slowly glides down a long, dingy corridor, as Matt Murdock battles his way to rescue the young girl being help captive in the room at the end of the hall.  The sequence is a triumph of staging and stunts, as Daredevil and an array of bad-guys crash in and out of rooms, in and out of doors, sometimes in view of the camera and sometimes not, as Daredevil fights his way down that hallway.  (It’s also a triumph of sound-editing as there are times when we can’t see what’s going on in the rooms beyond the corridor, but the soundtrack tells us everything we need to know.)  … [continued]

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Josh Bids Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Last week Parks and Recreation signed off after seven pretty fantastic seasons.  I can’t believe how sad I am that the show is over.  It has hugely grown on me over the years, to the point that it is now one of my very favorite TV comedies of all time.

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I barely made it through Parks and Rec’s first six-episode season.  It launched back when the American version of The Office was in its prime, so I was excited to see what had originally begun as an Office spin-off.  What aired was not a direct spin-off of The Office (Rashida Jones transitioned from The Office to Parks and Rec, but she was playing a new character), though both shows felt cut from the same cloth.  Both used the fake-documentary style, and both focused on a clueless main character who was a source of ridicule for his/her co-workers and the audience.  I was not taken with the new show.  The episodes were more painful to watch than they were funny.

But then, interestingly, Parks and Rec made exactly the same type of course-correction that The Office did after its first sub-par six-episode season.  The tone of the comedy shifted from laughter centered around awkward/painful moments to more heartfelt humor.  More importantly, they shifted the character of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope from someone who was pathetic and socially oblivious and pretty much a failure to someone who was actually damn good at her job.  She was still something of a weirdo and a social outcast, but suddenly we liked Leslie because of her incredible good nature and her drive to do good.  Leslie’s force of personality began to cause her co-workers to look up to her, rather than ridiculing her, and just like that the seeds for the show’s magic were sown.  In the early first-season episodes we’d hear Leslie describe her aspirations of being a great leader who would stand with the great women of the planet, and those dreams were pathetic because of how inconsequential Leslie actually was.  But gradually those dreams became to seem not nearly so far-fetched, and we the audience saw Leslie as easily standing among those great women she idolized, even though she just worked in the parks department of a small Indiana town.

The season two premiere was an immediate and powerful announcement of the show that Parks and Rec could be.  Leslie performs a fake marriage of two penguins at the Pawnee Zoo as a stunt to promote the zoo, only to cause a huge uproar because it turns out both the penguins were male, and thus Leslie had performed a gay marriage.  It’s such a great hook for the episode, and immediately … [continued]

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This is a great article revisiting Stephen King’s final three Dark Tower novels.  I absolutely adore these books, and I am not at all in the camp of Dark Tower fans unsatisfied with the ending of Mr. King’s magnum opus.  I spent quite a while reading and writing about the Dark Tower series a few years ago.  Feel free to follow these links to revisit the journey with me: Entering The Dark Tower — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three – The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands — The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass — The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla — The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah — The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower — Return to the Dark Tower — The Little Sisters of EluriaMarvel Comics’ Adaptation of The GunslingerThe Wind Through The Keyhole.

If you, like me, are starting to get very sad about the impending end of Parks and Recreation, then it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole of this epic Twitter exchange of great Parks & Recs clips between Alan Sepinwall & Linda Holmes.  Here’s just a tiny taste:

Oh my god I am going to miss that show.

Holy cow: a Wet Hot American Summer sequel is happening — with all of the original cast — as an eight-episode Netflix series???  That is bonkers!!

This is a terrific article about the central “text” of Star Trek, and the challenges that must be conquered in terms of making future good Star Trek stories, on the big-screen or (hope hope hope) back on TV.  I don’t agree with all of his points, but this piece was written by someone who gets and loves Trek, and I think he has the right idea.

Speaking of Trek, I sure wasted a lot of time watching these old trailers!

We just recently passed the tenth anniversary of the airing of the pilot episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, “33.”  Wow.  I remember watching that when it aired.  (I also watched the mini-series when that aired, about a year-and-a-half before the series kicked off in the States.)  I can’t believe it was that long ago!!  Here is a great, in-depth look back at the greatness of that pilot, and here is a nice Q & A from show-runner Ronald D. Moore.

This is a great list of twelve Simpsons characters who actually evolved.

This concept art for an Alien sequel, developed by Neill Blomkamp, is ludicrously tantalizing.  Ripley and Hicks together again??  … [continued]

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I hope you’ve all been enjoying my journey back through the great TV of 2014!  Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.

And now, the conclusion.  Here are my five favorite episodes of TV of 2014:

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5. Sherlock: “The Sign of Three” (season 3, episode 2, aired on 1/5/14) — Each hour-and-a-half-long installment of the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock series is an event in and of itself, as each episode is really it’s own movie.  All three episodes of the show’s third season (or series, as those in the U.K. prefer) were strong, but it was the middle one, “The Sign of Three,” with which I was particularly taken.  The set-up is pure gold: it’s John (Martin Freeman) and Mary’s wedding, and Sherlock Holmes is the best man.  Combine Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)’s usual discomfort in normal polite society with a mystery regarding an attempted murder and you have a classic episode.  I love the structure of the episode.  Almost the entire run-time is structured around Sherlock’s bizarre, weird, funny, awkward, rambling Best Man toast to Watson.  In addition to the main mystery, we get tantalizing glimpses into a number of Sherlock & Watson’s other cases; we get an oh-so-brief return of the wonderful Irene Adler; we get suspense and comedy (I adore the flashback reveal of Sherlock’s intimidation of Mary’s friends and family) and so much more.  I was pleased by the balance between mystery/suspense and the show’s joy in exploring its characters and watching them play.  This episode leans more strongly towards the latter, and it works because of how sharply written the show is, and the incredible talent of all the performers, most particularly, of course, the incredibly talented duo of Mr. Freeman & Mr. Cumberbatch.  Gold.  (Click here for my review of Sherlock series three.)

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4. Game of Thrones: “The Lion and the Rose” (season 4, episode 2, aired on 4/13/14) — Game of Thrones episodes usually jump all over the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, usually only spending a few minutes at a time in one location, and with a certain set of characters, before leaping elsewhere.  As the show has gone on and its cast of characters has grown ever more sprawling, this narrative structure has begun to chafe with some fans.  I’m not one of them, but I do nevertheless cherish the show’s habit of using the penultimate episode of the season to tell an important story in just a single location.  (This was most notably done in season two’s “Blackwater,” though this season’s “The Watchers on the Wall” was also … [continued]

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It’s interesting that the only two network half-hour comedies that I watch these days… happen to be run by the same individual, Mike Schur.  He made his bones on The Office (where he also played Mose), and he’s one of the show-runners of both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Here’s are two wonderfully detailed interviews with Mr. Schur, the first of which looks back at the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the second of which looks back at season seven of Parks and Rec, with a focus on the season finale.  These are great interviews and well-worth your time if you’re a fan of either show.

This is a terrific, in-depth interview with Mel Brooks, discussing Blazing Saddles.  Get comfy and enjoy.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger.

I was sad to read of the passing of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.  He had many great roles but for me he will always be the iconic voice of Alfred from Batman the Animated Series and many subsequent DC animated projects.  He was absolutely perfect as Alfred, and when I read the character’s dialogue in any comic book I always hear Mr. Zimbalist’s voice.  I am really heartbroken that we’ll never again get to hear him voice Alfred in any future DC animated film or show.

Speaking of Batman, I’ve gotta say, this first official glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman (in Zack Snyder’s upcoming untitled Superman Vs. Batman film) is pretty great.  Love the costume.  Love the small bad ears.  Love Ben’s Batman chin.  Love that classic look of the Batmobile.

So, I bashed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my review.  I’ve been glad to see that I’m not alone in my disappointment with the film.  Click here to read Film Critic Hulk take the film apart.  Click here for io9’s very funny list of Amazing Spider-Man 2 FAQs.  (Their one-sentence answer to the question “What is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 about?” is hysterical and 100% spot-on.)  Finally, this article No One Cares About Peter Parker’s Parents is also 100% spot-on and echoes a point I made in my review.

This is cool: apparently back in the day, Criterion released the first three James Bond films on laserdisc, with commentary tracks featuring candid comments from many of the people involved in the making of the films.  When Bond producer Albert Broccoli objected, the discs were recalled from stores.  Here’s the full story.  Now the commentaries have re-surfaced and are available to download for free here!  I have downloaded them all and look forward to giving them a listen soon.  Should be fun!

This is a cute article, tracking the many appearances of … [continued]

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Is a TV-show adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic-book series Powers finally going to happen?  This project has been developed for YEARS, most recently at FX, but now it seems there’s a 10-episode order from Sony Pictures TV for Playstation, whatever the heck that means.  Powers is a phenomenal comic about cops in a world of super-heroes (click here for my detailed thoughts on the series) and, if done right, this could be a fantastic TV show.  I hope this actually comes together.

Is the new 24 twelve-episode mini-series going to be more like seasons 1-2 of 24 (good) or seasons 3-8 of 24 (not-so-good)?  Dunno.  Nice to see this first trailer, though there’s not much here to get me excited, just yet:

We also, at last, have our first glimpse at the long-in-the-works Sin City sequel.  The trailer is good but not great.  Here too, I need a little more to really get me excited.  I desperately want this movie to be good, but I think the time for a sequel may have passed.  Crossing my fingers on this one.

Each year, when I read about Paleyfest, I am insanely jealous and wish I could go to all of the panels.  Here’s a phenomenal rundown of the Parks and Recreation panel.  This is required reading for fans of Parks and Rec.  Lord I love that show. I can’t believe it’s survived cancellation as many times as it has, and it was just renewed for another season!

So, they’re really truly going ahead with Ghostbusters 3?  Without the participation of Bill Murray?  With Harold Ramis having just recently passed away?  With Ivan Reitman now saying he WON’T return to direct the film?  You know, for years and years I wanted this movie to happen, despite the huge risk that, so many years later, it’d be impossible to recapture the alchemy and make a film that was any good.  But now I’ve really soured on the whole idea.  Is it in any way conceivable that a Ghostbusters 3 could be any good?  Not to me.  This lengthy interview with Ivan Reitman is a fascinating look at the process behind this eons-in-development sequel, but I just think it’s a totally misguided notion.

Now, Brad Bird working to develop The Incredibles 2?  That is a sequel I can get behind!!!  I would love to see that come together.

I am absolutely tickled at the idea of Marvel Studios moving to a pattern in which they’d release one new movie each quarter.  That is an awesome dream!

Then there’s Fox, who still owns the rights to several Marvel series, including … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 — Part Two!

Last week I posted my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.  Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013!  Click here for part one of my list, numbers 10-6.

Claudette has rules. Janae does not appreciate them

5. Orange is the New Black: “Imaginary Enemies” (season 1, episode 4, released on Netflix on 7/11/13) — Piper Chapman has a new roommate in prison, Miss Claudette, and the stern Claudette is not happy that Crazy Eyes has just peed on their floor (at the end of episode three).  Chapman attempts to adjust to her new living situation at the same time as she does her best to fit in at her new work assignment in the electrical shop.  But when she foolishly leaves the shop with a screwdriver still in her sweatshirt pocket, she sets off a prison-wide incident as the guards search frantically for the potential-weapon that is unaccounted for.  In flashbacks, we see a glimpse of Claudette’s life, from her childhood up to the incident that landed her in prison.  The present-day stuff with Chapman is great, and we get some tense drama (as Chapman wonders how the heck she is going to be able to get rid of the screwdriver without anyone knowing that she took it) and also some nutty comedy.  But it’s Miss Claudette’s sad story that made this one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the first season.  (Click here for my review of Orange is the New Black season one.)

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4. Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” (season 3, episode 9, aired on 6/2/13) — Game of Thrones has shocked me before (most notably with the death of you-know-who in the penultimate episode of season one), but I was dumbstruck by the craziness that went down at the climax of this episode.  I managed to get to the Red Wedding without being at all spoiled for what was going to go down, so the events of this episode were a huge shock to me.  But while the shocking death in season one made me fall in love with the show, the brutal killing-off of numerous beloved main characters in this episode made me deeply angry.  Which was of course the point.  This episode HURT, so much so that I am not at all eager to ever watch this episode again.  Just thinking about it makes me deeply angry.  That George R.R. Martin and show-runners David Benioff & D. B. Weiss could affect me so deeply with the goings-on in their fantasy show is a mark of how extraordinary this series is.  My … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

I’ve enjoyed reading Howard Kurtz’s writing — about politics, and about media — over the years.  He screwed up big-time in his reporting about Jason Collins’ coming out as gay.  But hoo, boy, this video of him getting mercilessly grilled — on his own CNN show — about the incident is pretty brutal.  Click here to see a very uncomfortable fifteen minutes.  I was like a deer in the headlights — I couldn’t look away.

Another great season (thank goodness it’s not the last!!) of Parks and Recreation has recently wrapped up, and so once again Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall has another great post-season wrap-up interview with Parks & Rec’s show-runner (who also has been playing Dwight’s cousin Mose on The Office for the better part of a decade).  Click here to read the full interview.  (Fortunately, soon after that interview was conducted, the news broke that Parks and Rec has indeed been renewed for a sixth season.)

Is Star Wars the most over-rated franchise ever??  Click here for another fantastic opinion piece from Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci.  One fantastic film and one very good film out of six?  It’s sort of hard to argue with that…

Speaking of Mr. Faraci, here is a great interview with Iron Man 3 director/co-writer Shane Black, and Marvel Studios head-honcho Kevin Feige.  (If you missed it, my review of Iron Man 3 is here.)

If you’re a comic book fan and you don’t know who Len Wein is, it’s time to learn.  Click here for a wonderful interview with the man who had his hand in creating the All-New X-Men back in the ’70s.

I’ve been waiting for Alfonso Cuaron’s next film for a while (I think Children of Men is pretty much a masterpiece), and this first look at Gravity has me drooling:

Jack Bauer might return — but not in the long-talked-about movie, but rather in a new 24 TV series?  That is a wild idea!  I loved 24 when it began, but the series’ formulaic story-telling caused me to lose patience by the end, and I didn’t actually watch the last season.  But with better writing, I definitely think there is still life in the character and the franchise.  I am bummed the movie never happened, but I’d definitely check out a new 24 TV series.  It’ll be interesting to see if this goes anywhere…  UPDATE!  It’s happening!  24: Live Another Day will run 12 episodes and premiere next May.  Wow.  Could it be good?  (That spin on the Die Another Day Bond title doesn’t impress me.)  Chloe, open a socket!

So they’ve finally made a movie of Ender’s Game?  Feels like this … [continued]

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At last!  Our first glimpse at footage from Game of Thrones season three!

This is a very funny article: Six Horrible Aftermaths Implied by Movies with Happy Endings.

Here is a terrific, in-depth interview with the show-runner of the phenomenal Parks and Recreation, Mike Schur.  It’s no coincidence that the first half-hour of last week’s Parks and Rec double-episode felt like it could have been a series finale — that’s because it was designed to have served as such, had NBC not ordered nine additional episodes for this season.

Kristen Wiig will be appearing in the new episodes of Arrested Development??  And she is playing a young version of Lucille Bluth?  Brilliant!!

I just wrote about Layer Cake the other day, and I am excited that Matthew Vaughn — who also directed Kick Ass (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) — in addition to producing the next X-Men film (the adaptation of the seminal Days of Future Past that will be directed by Bryan Singer, returning at last to the franchise he began) has also signed on to produce Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film (which will thankfully be a total reboot, scrapping the two lame films directed by Tim Story).  I love that crazy comic book writer Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book Kick Ass, which Mr. Vaughn directed as a film) will be overseeing Fox’s upcoming super-hero films (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) and I really love that his frequent collaborator Mr. Vaughn also seems to be stepping into a larger supervisory role.  It’s obvious that Fox is attempting to shamelessly imitate the success of Marvel Studio’s crossover Avengers film, but if it results in more great super-hero films for us, then I have no problem with that!

Speaking of Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men film, Days of Future Past, I really hope he’s serious about fixing what Brett Ratner did to the franchise in the catastrophically disappointing X3.  If they’re playing around with time-travel and alternate timelines, this is a golden opportunity to at long-last course-correct this franchise back to what worked in the first two X-Men films.  I home Mr. Singer can pull it off.

Sticking with super-hero movie news for a second, this is an interesting comparison of the Spidey-Suit in this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the far superior, re-designed look for the sequel.  (And I agree with the author of that post — MY cooler of haterade for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man ALSO runs deep!  Here’s hoping the sequel is better.)

And here is an AWESOME look at Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3!  I … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012click here for part one, listing numbers 10-6!

And follow these links to my other Best-of-2012 lists: my Top 15 Movies of 2012part one, part two, and part three, and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012part one, and part two!

OK, let’s dive into the rest of my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012!

5. Treme: “Promised Land” (season 3, episode 7, aired on 11/4/12) — David Simon’s criminally-underwatched series about post-Katrina New Orleans reached new heights of magnificence in season 3, and this episode embodies everything that is great about the show: the enormous, phenomenal ensemble of characters, each of whom is complex and compelling in his or her own right; the balance of comedy and tragedy; and above all, the spectacular music that is woven into the very fabric of the show.  It’s carnival time again, and “Big Chief” Albert struggles to march with his Indians despite his cancer, though for the first time we see his son Delmond fully suited up and a part of the tradition.  Davis hooks up with Janette; Colson struggles with his corrupt Homicide unit; Annie gets a high-paying but unfulfilling gig in Washington DC; Antoine tries to improve his skills on the trombone; LaDonna is threatened not to testify against the man who raped her; Sonny focuses on staying on the wagon despite the drunken Mardi Gras festivities surrounding him and receives unexpected support from his potential father-in-law Tranh; and Toni confronts her daughter Sophia’s older boyfriend, only to discover that Sophia had already dumped him a week ago.  Meanwhile, we get the double guest-star delight of Janette chatting with Emil Lagasse about the perils of moving from a small-time-chef into big business, AND her appearance on a Today Show cooking segment with Al Roker!  All this and DJ Davis (who began in series one as my least favorite character on the show, and is now one of my favorites, the compelling “every-man” character on the show) quotes The Wire! When he declared that “all the pieces matter,” I just about went to heaven.

4. Parks and Recreation: “The Debate” (season 4, episode 20, aired on 4/24/12) — The second Parks and Rec episode on my list!  In this installment, the climax of Leslie’s run for Pawnee city council approaches as all the candidates appear in a live debate.  There is so much comedic magnificence in this episode, I hardly know where to begin.  There’s Chris’ jovial declaration, in support of his amazing abilities to spin anything positively, that … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012 — Part One!

I hope you’ve been enjoying my Best-of-2012 lists so far!  Follow these links to read my Top 15 Movies of 2012: part one, part two, and part three, and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012: part one and part two.

When writing my Top 10 Episodes of TV list last year, I wrote that I’d considered not doing a best-of-TV list anymore, and the same thought crossed my mind this year.  My life has gotten so busy these past few years, and as a result I watch far, far less TV than I used to.  I manage to do a pretty good job of still seeing lots of movies, but I am much more of a niche TV viewer these days.  There are not that many new shows that I watch, and much of the TV that I see is actually old stuff in the form of DVD season sets.  But I do still love me some great TV, and so here is my list of the most wonderful television I watched this year.  One last caveat before I begin: know that I have not seen seasons 2 or 3 of Louie or seasons 2 or 3 of Boardwalk Empire, or any episode of Breaking Bad and Community. All of those are shows that I would love to catch up on, and I actually have DVDs of all of those shows sitting on my to-watch shelf.  Someday!  OK, enough delay, here’s my list:

10. Mad Men: “The Phantom” (season 5, episode 13, aired on 6/10/12) — This was a spectacular season of Mad Men, possibly my very favorite season.  The year was stuffed with memorable moments and fantastic episodes.  I thought about including on this list the season 5 premiere, “A Little Kiss,” for the Zou Bissou Bissou scene; or “Tea Leaves” for the fantastic comedy of Harry and Don Draper back-stage at a Rolling Stones concert; or “Signal 30” for the hysterical and awkward dinner party in which Pete and Trudy host Ken and his wife and, of course, the fantastic moment in which Lane punches Pete.  But, instead, I opted for “The Phantom,” the fifth season finale.  There’s a lot of greatness in this episode, moments both comedic and very sad, including the connections between Lane’s suicide and that of Don’s brother , Adam (from season one); Peggy and Don at the movies; and Roger on acid again.  But what earned this episode a spot on my list is its closing shot, that iconic image of Don Draper, in all his James Bond badass glory, walking away from his wife on a brightly-lit soundstage and into the darkness of … [continued]

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Back in 2010, I had a hard time coming up with ten movies I liked enough to put on my Top 10 Movies of the year list.  Last, year, in 2011, I thought there were so many great movies that I had a Top 15 list (and I even squeezed in a few extra movies by including several ties).  I thought 2012 was another fantastic year at the movies.  I could have easily had a Top 20 list this year, but I thought that might have been excessive.

There were a lot of great films I saw in 2012 which didn’t make this list, including: Silver Linings Playbook, Wanderlust, Skyfall, This is 40, Ted, Chronicle, Paul Williams Still Alive, and many more.

As always, I also like to make mention of the many films that interested me that I just didn’t get a chance to see in 2012.  These include: Killing them Softly, Flight, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hyde Park Hudson, Butter, Hitchcock, Wreck-It Ralph, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Holy Motors, Smashed, Detention, and Savages.  So if you loved one or more of those films are are wondering why they’re not on my list, well, now you know.

Here now is my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2012:

15. The Five-Year Engagement This film has really grown on me since I first saw it, early this year.  I love how unusual its structure is — whereas most romantic comedies keep the two main characters apart until the very end, this movie starts with Tom (Jason Segel) proposing to Violet (Emily Blunt).  Things go downhill for there.  For a romantic comedy, this film goes into some grim territory — since much of the movie is about the happy couple slowly growing apart, there are certainly some parts of the film without a lot of yuks.  That threw me a bit the first time I saw the film, but I have come to really love and admire this film for its weird structure and premise.  And while there certainly are a few serious moments in the film, everything else is is pretty much jam-packed with big laughs and wonderful, very memorable characters.  Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) and Alison Brie (Mad Men, Community) steal the film as Tom’s best-friend and Violet’s sister, who meet at Tom and Violet’s engagement party and quickly fall in love, get married, and have kids before Tom and Violet even make it to the altar.  (Chris Pratt singing to Alison Brie at their characters’ wedding is one of my favorite moments I’ve seen onscreen all year.)  But wait, this film also has substantial, … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Yes, this really is an enormous oil painting depicting The Death of Jennifer Sisko at Wolf 359.  Love it.

I’ve really been loving the first season of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls. For anyone out there who is similarly digging this weird, funny show, allow me to direct you to this fabulous in-depth interview with Ms. Dunham and her fellow show-runner Jenni Konner.

I agree with pretty much every selection on this list of 15 superheroes who deserve a great reboot.  I’d have the Fantastic Four as number one on  my personal list.

Speaking of super-heroes: this is old, but somehow I just recently stumbled across this wonderful depiction of Peter Dinklage as Wolverine.  Genius.

Parks and Recreation is my favorite comedy on TV right now.  The show just wrapped up a great fourth season, and I’m pleased it was renewed for a (short) season 5.  Here’s a great interview with show-runner Mike Schur on season 4.

I think it’s super-cool that, to promote the upcoming release of season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, they’re screening two season 1 episodes in theaters around the country.  I love that idea, and I wish it was something studios did a lot more of.  But why oh why did they choose to show “Datalore” and “Where No One Has Gone Before”???  Urgh, those are two very weak episodes.  Ordinarily I would jump at this sort of thing, but I don’t think I’m that interested in seeing those two episodes.  Two bad.  (For the record, if we’re picking first season Next Gen episodes — which is tough, because that first season is VERY rough — I’d have gone with “Hide and Q” and “Conspiracy.”)

Here is a terrific post from Devin at badassdigest.com on how to Take Back  the Nerd: Five Ways to be a Good Fan.  It’s a great piece, and I agree 100%.… [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2011 — Part Two!

OK, we’ve arrived at the final installment of my look back at 2011!

Click here for my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three.  Click here for my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one and part two.  Click here for my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011.  And, finally, click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2011.

Now, let’s wrap up my list!

5. Treme: “What is New Orleans?” (season 2, episode 9, aired on 6/19/11) — As the second season built to a climax, everything started to come together in this powerhouse of an episode that encapsulated everything I love about this amazing show.  So many of the story-lines that had run through the entire season come to a head in this episode: The talented young rapper in Davis’ new group begins to upstage him; Lt. Colson gets transferred (against his will) to Homicide; Janette really begins to flower under her new chef in New York City, and so much more goes down.  But the episode’s two highlights come from opposite extremes of the emotional spectrum.  There’s the hilarious sequence in which Antoine steals an audience from Kermit, luring them into the club where his new band is playing… at least until Kermit turns the tables on him.  Then there is the shocking, horribly tragic death of a main character in the final moments.  (I almost selected the Game of Thrones episode “Baelor” for this list — that’s the amazing episode that also climaxed in the death of a main character.  I absolutely adored that episode — it reminded me of the way I fell in love with 24 when they boldly killed off Jack’s wife in the season one finale, a shocking display of anything-can-happen — but ultimately I selected a different episode of Game of Thrones, “You Win or You Die,” for the number ten spot on my list.  “Baelor” was amazing, but it’s testament to the power of Treme that it’s this episode that left even more of a mark on me.)  I am dying for season three of this marvelous show to arrive.

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm: “Mister Softee” (season 8, episode 9, aired on 9/4/11) — Curb Your Enthusiasm is pretty much always great, but every now and then an installment comes along that shoots right up into the level of genius.  My friends, I would postulate that “Mister Softee” is just such an episode.  There’s so much greatness on display in this episode that I hardly know where to begin: With Larry’s condescending, loose-lipped psychiatrist (played by Sy Abelman himself — A [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2011 — Part One!

Well, we’ve finally arrived at my last Top 10 list for 2011.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous lists!  (Follow these links to check out my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, part three, my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two, and my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011.)

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to put together a Top 10 Episodes of TV list this year.  For a whole host of reasons, I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to.  I’m super-busy, and there just aren’t that many shows that interest me enough to want to watch religiously these days.  And a whole heck of a lot of the TV I watched this past year was OLDER TV — in the form of DVD box-sets (of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Party Down, etc.).  There’s a lot of current TV that interests me that I just haven’t had time to watch: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Community, Homeland, Louie (season 2 — I have watched season 1 on DVD and LOVED it — I’ll be posting a review soon), Bored to Death (I also just finished season 1 on DVD and loved it — I’ll be posting a review of this soon, as well, and I’m hoping to get to seasons 2 and 3 soon).  All of those shows look interesting and I do hope to eventually sink my teeth in them all via the magic of DVD.

So I felt weird putting together a list, seeing that there’s so much probably-great TV out there that I haven’t seen.  But when I sat down to start to compile the list, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the top ten choices manifested themselves.  I guess I DID watch some great TV this year!  But keep the above list of TV-I-haven’t-yet-seen in mind when perusing my choices.  OK, enough intro, let’s dive in:

10. Game of Thrones: “You Win or You Die” (season 1, episode 7, aired on 5/29/11) — I’ve never read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin, and I wasn’t immediately taken by the first few hours of the HBO adaptation.  But after a few episodes, the complex fantasy story started to get its hooks in me, and by the time I arrived at this stand-out episode I was loving this show like few other things on TV.  Pretty much all of the show’s continuing story-lines jumped to the next level in this installment, which left me absolutely desperate for the next episode … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010.  Here now is the rest of the list, numbers 1-5!

5. 30 Rock: “Reaganing” (season 5, episode 5, aired on 10/21/10) — Jack boasts that he has reached a 24-hour state of perfection that he called “Reaganing,” in which he is unable to make any mistakes.  But his perfect game is challenged when he’s faced with helping Liz sort out her latest sexual hang-up.  The episode is packed with terrific moments: Kelsey Grammer helping Jenna and Kenneth scam a local bakery; Tracy’s incredible inability to deliver a single line necessary for a commercial; and the revelation of the origin of Liz’s sexual problem.  (Hint: it involves Tom Jones.)  Very funny stuff.

4. The Pacific: Part Ten (aired on 5/16/10) — I’m a big fan of the final chapters of The Return of the King that chronicle what happened after the victorious destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron.  I also love the voluminous appendices, that detail the final fates of all of the main characters.  Most stories choose to end at the moment of our heroes’ triumph, but I find something powerfully sad about exploring what happens in the days afterwards.  This might help to explain why I was so taken with the final episode of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s HBO mini-series The Pacific. This episode is set after the end of the war, and we see our characters — most notably Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie — return home and attempt, each in their own way, to rebuild their lives which were forever changed by their experiences in combat.  I found the whole hour to be devastating, particularly the moment when we see Sledge’s father standing quietly, helplessly, outside his son’s bedroom door as he listens to the wails of his son who lies within, unable to sleep because of the haunting effects of the conflict.  The series could have easily ended after Part Nine, but it’s the events of Part Ten that, to me, raise The Pacific to the level of greatness.

3. Parks and Recreation: “94 Meetings” (Season 2, episode 21, aired on 4/29/2010) — Yep, I’ve got a second episode of Parks and Recreation on my list.  Ron Effing Swanson is threatened with actually having to do some work when he discovers that April has scheduled all of the meetings that he’s put off all year-long for one single day.  The wonderfully rich ensemble of the show (which has been so beautifully fleshed out during the show’s second season, after a shaky start in the six-episode first season) gets to shine, when Ron solicits everyone’s help in … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part One!

All right!  So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).

Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD.  Just need to find the time!!)  These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!

OK, here we go:

10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble.  Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him.  Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child.  Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her.  Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged.  And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business.  It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.

9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson.  There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that … [continued]