“Chappaquiddick” — A Movie Review by Liz Warner

 

 

Back in 1969, on a small island in southern Massachusetts, just off the southeastern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, a terrible event took place that would have a profound impact on two American families.

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HBO’s comedy, Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, still delivers the goods on Sunday nights. Below is my review of Season 5 thus far. SPOILERS through Episode 3.

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‘Rocktopia: A Classical Revolution’ — A Broadway Review by Liz Warner

‘Rocktopia: A Classical Revolution’ opened to a full house at the Broadway Theatre on March 20, 2018, entertaining the audience with its mash-up of classical and rock music. The co-creator, Rob Evan, would say it’s what happens when classical composers and rock legends inevitably collaborate, and perhaps he’s right.

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“Dunkirk” — A Movie Review by Liz Warner

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Image: IMDb

“Dunkirk,” written, directed, and co-produced by Christopher Nolan (with Emma Thomas), is the best theatrical release in a long time, premiering on July 13, 2017 in the UK and USA.  It has been amply rewarded with an impressive take at the box office and deserves the critical acclaim it has received.

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Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2017?

 

It’s that time of year when the Television Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen.

No predictions from me; I’m known to not get a true or false question right until the third try, so I’m sure I wouldn’t know.

Interesting is just how many nominations went to shows on Netflix.   Also noteworthy is the renewed love for Saturday Night Live, ostensibly due to the comedic opportunities provided by our new President.

*This is just a wish list for selected categories.

Best Drama Series:

*Better Call Saul/AMC

The Crown/Netflix

The Handmaid’s Tale/Hulu

House of Cards/Netflix

Stranger Things/Netflix

This Is Us/NBC

Westworld/HBO

Some good picks, but I’d easily choose Better Call Saul for its tight writing, good casting, great character arcs, and overall story.  Noteworthy absences are FX’s The Americans, Showtime’s Homeland, and USA’s Mr. Robot. (Twin Peaks didn’t air enough episodes to qualify.)

Best Comedy Series:

Atlanta/FX

Black-ish/ABC

Master of None/Netflix

Modern Family/ABC

*Silicon Valley/HBO

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/Netflix

Veep/HBO

I have to admit I have not seen Atlanta, but of the others, Silicon Valley is far and away the easy choice here, for it’s tight but wonderfully funny writing, great characters, and farcical look at the tech industry.

Best Actor in a Drama:

Sterling K. Brown/This Is Us

Anthony Hopkins/Westworld

*Bob Odenkirk/Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys/The Americans

Live Schreiber/Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey/House of Cards

Milo Ventimiglia/This Is Us

This is another of the categories where any of the nominees is well-deserving, however, Bob Odenkirk delivers dialog so well as a morally challenged lawyer in Better Call Saul.

Best Actress in a Drama:

Viola Davis/How to Get Away with Murder

Claire Foy/The Crown

Elisabeth Moss/The Handmaid’s Tale

Keri Russell/The Americans

Evan Rachel Wood/Westworld

*Robin Wright/House of Cards

Best Actor in a Comedy:

Anthony Anderson/Black-ish

Aziz Ansari/Master of None

Donald Glover/Atlanta

Zach Galifianakis/Baskets

William H. Macy/Shameless

Jeffrey Tambor/Transparent

No real favorite here, even though I haven’t seen Atlanta.  I consider it a snub Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch and T.J. Miller was omitted.

Best Actress in Comedy:

Pamela Adlon/Better Things

Jane Fonda/Grace and Frankie

Allison Janney/Mom

Ellie Kemper/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

*Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Veep

Tracee Ellis Ross/Black-ish

Lily Tomlin/Grace and Frankie

I can’t honestly say any of these are my favorite shows, so I’d just go with Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Veep here.

Best Supporting Actor in Drama:

*Jonathan Banks/Better Call Saul

David Harbour/Stranger Things

Ron Cephas Jones/This Is Us

Michael Kelly/House of Cards

John Lithgow/The Crown

Mandy Patinkin/Homeland

Jeffrey Wright/Westwood

This is an easy pick.  All are good shows, but Jonathan Banks was excellent in Breaking Bad, and even better in Better Call Saul.  That said, this was the year to honor the contribution of Michael McKean, and his omission is nothing short of negligent.

Best Supporting Actress in Drama:

Uzo Aduba/Orange Is the New Black

Millie Bobby Brown/Stranger Things

Ann Dowd/The Handmaid’s Tale

Chrissy Metz/This Is Us

Thandie Newton/Westworld

Samira Wiley/The Handmaid’s Tale

What can I say?  No huge favorites for me in this category.

Best Supporting Actor in Comedy:

Louie Anderson/Baskets

Alec Baldwin/Saturday Night Live

Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Ty Burrell/Modern Family

Tony Hale/Veep

*Matt Walsh/Veep

Here, I have to confess to just liking Veep.

Best Supporting Actress in Comedy:

Vanessa Bayer/Saturday Night Live

*Anna Chlumsky/Veep

Kathryn Hahn/Transparent

Leslie Jones/Saturday Night Live

Judith Light/Transparent

Kate McKinnon/Saturday Night Live

Again, I’ll go with Veep.

Best Limited Series:

Big Little Lies/HBO

*Fargo/FX

Feud: Bette and Joan/FX

Genius/Nat Geo

The Night Of/HBO

Fargo has some great moments, though I confess to liking most anything on Nat Geo.  In full disclosure, I never saw Feud: Bette and Joan.

Best Television Movie:

*Black Mirror, “San Junipero”

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Sherlock: The Lying Detective

The Wizard of Lies

Another easy pick.

Best Actor in Limited Series or TV Movie:

Riz Ahmed/The Night Of

Benedict Cumberbatch/Sherlock: The Lying Detective

*Robert DeNiro/The Wizard of Lies

Ewan McGregor/Fargo

Geoffrey Rush/Genius

John Turturro/The Night Of

DeNiro was masterful in this role of Bernie Madoff.

Best Actress in Limited Series or TV Movie:

*Carrie Coon/Fargo

Felicity Huffman/American Crime

Nicole Kidman/Big Little Lies

Jessica Lange/Feud

Susan Sarandon/Feud

Reese Witherspoon/Big Little Lies

True confession, I didn’t see Feud.

Best Supporting Actor in Limited Series or TV Movie:

Bill Camp/The Night Of

Alfred Molina/Feud

Alexander Skarsgard/Big Little Lies

*David Thewlis/Fargo

Stanley Tucci/Feud

Michael Kenneth Williams/The Night Of

Again, with my disclosure of not seeing Feud, I’d easily pick David Thewlis in Fargo.

Best Supporting Actress in Limited Series or TV Movie:

Judy Davis/Feud

Laura Dern/Big Little Lies

Jackie Hoffman/Feud

Regina King/American Crime

Michelle Pfeiffer/The Wizard of Lies

Shailene Woodley/Big Little Lies

No preferences here.

Best Writing for Drama:

Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of WillByers” by The Duffer Brothers

The Americans, “The Soviet Division” by Joel Fields,  Joe Weisenberg

Westworld, “The Bicameral Mind” by Lisa Joy,  Jonathan Nolan

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred (Pilot)” by Bruce Miller

The Crown, “Assassins” by Peter Morgan

*Better Call Saul, “Chicanery” by Gordon Smith

All of these are laudible, but Gordon Smith’s episode really delved into the inner mind of Michael McKean’s character, Charles McGill.

Best Writing for Comedy:

Master of None, “Thanksgiving” by Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe

*Silicon Valley “Success Failure” by Alec Berg

Atlanta, “B.A.N.” by Donald Glover

Atlanta, “Streets on Lock” by Stephen Glover

Veep, “Georgia by Billy Kimball

The scripts in Silicon Valley are exceptional.  It’s again my comedy writing pick this year and I’m sticking to it.

Stay tuned to see who wins.

“Better Call Saul” — Season 3: A Television Review  By Liz Warner

 

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I’ve previously previewed and reviewed the early episodes of Better Call Saul’s Season Three here and here. The season wrapped Monday night, and lived up to my lofty expectations, but beware: spoilers lay ahead if you have yet to view the dark finale, “Lantern.”

Jimmy [Bob Odenkirk] and Chuck McGill [Michael McKean] are the two characters who understandably advanced most this season.  Jimmy’s document fraud caper from last season catches up with him, and Chuck intends for him to pay for it–specifically, with his hard-earned license to practice law.  As he very well should.

Despite all the social media hate for Chuck (“#F&%@Chuck!” being the clarion call in the Twitterverse), the fact is, what Jimmy did to Chuck was absolutely unconscionable and an intentional and particularly egregious violation of professional ethics. Chuck may have his peccadillos, but he was within his moral right to react as angrily to Jimmy as he did.  And, as is slowly revealed in the occasional flashbacks of the show, Jimmy’s had moral ambiguity since childhood.  You won’t find much Chuck-hate with me, I’m afraid.

But yeah, I get it. Jimmy’s a real charmer. He’s funny. He does sweet things sometimes. Those with sociopathic personality disorders typically do.  Jimmy does manage to show empathy or compassion several times this season, but it’s always falls in the “too little, too late” column after he’s committed a purely selfish and usually despicable act.  Electromagnetic sensitivity aside, Chuck really isn’t wrong, at least about his brother, the man who we shouldn’t forget we will come to know as Saul Goodman.  (And yes, Gene, but that’s another story altogether.)

The disciplinary proceeding by the New Mexico Bar against Jimmy were among the best scenes of the season, with some fairly heartbreaking exchanges between the McGill brothers. Chuck realizes at long last that there is a psychosomatic component to his electromagnetic sensitivity and with this self-awareness, he makes considerable progress in his recovery.

We re-meet Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca; a thinner and younger Huile; and the early incarnation of Jimmy’s/Saul’s receptionist, Francesca.  A strength of the writing in this show is the integration of minor characters from “Breaking Bad” into the world of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman. Jimmy is suspended from practice for a year. Idle hands, one would be well-advised to remember, are the devil’s workshop.

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Kim Wexler [Rhea Seehorn] is determined to keep her separate practice going nonetheless. Jimmy tries to sell television commercial air time, as Saul Goodman, which he bought prior to his suspension, while picking up trash in his community service gig. He hires the production crew from the local university to help him produce spots for his new TV clients, reminiscent of a kind of “Lone Gunmen” in terms of comedic relief.

Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut [Jonathan Banks] patiently makes progress towards becoming the man we know he becomes in “Breaking Bad.”  His patience is his perennial strength as much as Jimmy’s impulsiveness is his weakness. Madrigal Electrical and Lydia make an appearance to launder not only Fring’s, but Mike’s money.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 11.15.57 PMKim toils away, crossing T’s and dotting I’s, only to get in an automobile accident as a result of being overtired and impaired behind the wheel.  Jimmy feels guilty for overworking her.  Kim seems to bring out bursts of empathy from Jimmy at times, and one can’t help but wonder if at some level, he realizes it is she who brings out the best of him as a human. Recovering from her auto accident, Kim gives up the office, at least for a while.

Oh, and so does Chuck, although it took some work (and bank) on Howard Hamlin’s [Patrick Fabian] part to get him out the HHM door.  Turns out, he ain’t such a bad guy, and by the way, the other “H” is Howard’s father. Why they didn’t just cut a deal to make him “of counsel” after the E&O insurance rate hike was a bit befuddling.  It would’ve gotten him into his own insurance category by curtailing his actual work, allow him to save face by keeping his name on the letterhead, and prevent the necessity of a hefty buyout.  But oh well.

#PoorChuck!

Those space blankets?  It doesn’t appear they did Chuck much good at the end of the day.  But until you see the corpse, everybody’s a star in TV, so maybe all that tinfoil draped around him somehow prevented Chuck from the being burned to smithereens by his fallen lantern.  We’ll have to wait to see.  Or not.

One thing we shouldn’t have to wait to see for very long is an award season packed with nominations and wins for McKean’s positively outstanding portrayal of Chuck McGill.  As he very well should.

“The Circle” — A Movie Review by Liz Warner

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Techno-thriller “The Circle” gets the techno part down well. It’s the thriller part it lacks. That said, I’m a big fan of the sub-genre and enjoyed this film more than its iffy reviews and disappointing opening weekend box office might suggest.

RECOMMENDED: WITH CAVEAT

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