TV Review: Knights of Sidonia (2014- )

Also known as: Sidonia no Kishi (Japanese title)
Release Date: April 11th, 2014 – current
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Sadayuki Murai
Based on: Sidonia no Kishi manga by Tsutomu Nihei
Music by: Noriyuki Asakura
Cast: Pete Sepenuk, Ryôta Ôsaka, Takahiro Sakurai

MBS, TBS, CBC, BS-TBS, AT-X, Aniplus Asia, Sentai Filmworks, Animatsu Entertainment, Netflix, 24 Episodes (so far), 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

After really enjoying Attack On Titan, I decided to watch other modern anime series. Interestingly, Netflix just debuted an anime series under its own banner. That show is Knights of Sidonia.

What turned me onto this show initially, is that it seemed to have a Robotech vibe to it. Although set in deep space and not primarily set on or around Earth like the original run of Robotech, this series presents the all too familiar anime staple of following the lives of badass pilots in badass mecha. That is a compliment, as this is a formula that I doubt I will ever grow tired of and in a way, shows like this and Robotech give me what I always wanted in a Rogue Squadron film or series, which the Star Wars people have never given the masses.

The premise of this show reminds me of Attack On Titan except this takes place in space, as opposed to walled in villages on Earth. Also, the gigantic threat to humanity isn’t hungry man-eating Titans, it is gigantic humanoid rock creatures called Gauna that can shapeshift and rip things apart with massive tendrils. Gaunas can also grow to immense size like some sort of outer space kaiju.

Overall, this is a beautiful show and it was enjoyable. It is short, only having twelve 25 minute episodes, so it is a quick watch. Although from what I hear, there is a second season in the works.

The art, the style and concepts explored on the show are the selling point here. There is nothing exceedingly exceptional about the overall package of Knights of Sidonia other than it is pretty solid and well-balanced and the Gauna are a sight to behold. The mecha are pretty cool too but ultimately they make me miss the Veritech fighters of Robotech. Sorry, it is hard not to keep comparing this series to the one just mentioned again.

The weak point of Knights of Sidonia is that they spend quite a lot of time developing characters. While this shouldn’t be a problem, it does seem to be a waste when character development is such a focal point but all the characters feel one dimensional and stereotypical.

In the end, this was an engaging show. It is awesome visually and some sequences within the series were impressive.

I just hope that the second season fleshes things out more and that they speed things up story-wise.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: RobotechMacross stuff from Japan, VoltronNeon Genesis Evangelion.

TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015- )

Also known as: Tooken (working title)
Original Run: March 6th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jeff Richmond
Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski

Little Stranger Inc., Bevel Gears, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television, Netflix, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, 45 Episodes (so far), 22-36 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a television show that was created by the team that bought you NBC’s 30 Rock. Originally intended to be aired on NBC, once the network pretty much abandoned comedy (see how poorly they handled the final season of Parks & Recreation) it was sold to Netflix with a two season order. So far, only one season has aired on the streaming service.

The show stars Ellie Kemper from The Office and a slew of other actors who appeared on 30 Rock in some form or another. The main cast is comprised of Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski. There are also a ton of cameos: Tina Fey (one of the co-creators), Jon Hamm and Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men, as well as Tim Blake Nelson are some of the most notable.

If you are a fan of 30 Rock, which I mostly wasn’t, the show will delight you as it captures the same tone and humor. Personally, I found this to be a better show overall than 30 Rock but it was too similar in style and felt like more of a spin-off or extension of that show creatively, as opposed to being something fresh and unique. It was littered with a lot of Tina Feyisms and almost thought itself to be too clever, witty and quirky.

The show is very lighthearted and positive all around. Despite the fact that the premise is about a young woman who is freed from an underground cult bunker after fifteen years, it doesn’t focus on that dark subject matter too deeply. It shows a strong and powerful female character, robbed of a decade and a half of her life, taking on every challenge in an effort to live the life she was denied. In a nutshell, it sends a positive message to all that life is something to be cherished and enjoyed and that the relationships we have with people are precious.

However, the show also kind of pushes the envelope too hard with its positive message, as on multiple occasions we see Kimmy meddling in the lives of others. Yes, it is in an attempt to help them and to push them in a better direction but ultimately, she oversteps her bounds more often than not. While her intentions are always good and noble, she is like a helicopter mom to every character on the show. Maybe season two should deal with the potential negative consequences of her good intentions. Where this show gives a template for a great role model, it is counterintuitive for the fact that she is an overenthusiastic busybody.

To give an example, there is a point in the show where Kimmy takes it upon herself to get the angsty teenage daughter she is a nanny to, to go live with her other parents against the girl’s wishes. She uses some trickery in her plot. In the end, she isn’t the girl’s parent and if this isn’t overstepping some moralistic bounds, despite her good intent, I don’t know what is. Just because someone thinks they know what is right for someone else, doesn’t give them the right to force fate against that person’s wishes.

This also ties into the fact that Kimmy pretty much pushes her employer into divorcing her cheating husband. While the husband is a scumbag, it is the wife’s decision and although Kimmy can give her two cents, as a friend, she went beyond that.

I’m not attacking the show, I found it really entertaining and a good choice for some weekend binge watching. These are just the thoughts I had, as I watched each episode unfold. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, as it is just a sitcom.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a show worth your time for the most part. There isn’t a lot of good comedy airing on television these days. I just hope the extreme positive nature of the show doesn’t breed a new generation of busybody know-it-alls.

I will certainly watch season two when it starts streaming. Besides, it is kind of hard to deny myself the magic that is Tituss Burgess. And I love everything that Carol Kane does. I also hope that Jon Hamm reemerges, as well as Kiernan Shipka. Tina Fey can leave her Marcia Clark impersonation behind though.

Update:

Couldn’t get very far into the second season. I pretty much abandoned the show, as it just started to get really redundant and had already ran its course for me.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: NBC comedies of the ’00s: The Office30 RockParks & Recreation, etc.

TV Review: StarTalk (2015- )

Original Run: April 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: StarTalk podcast by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Music by: various
Cast: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, various

Curved Light Productions, National Geographic Studios, 60 Episodes (so far), 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Last night I watched the series debut of StarTalk, a TV version of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast of the same name.

For those who know me, you know I am a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and have read all his books, watched just about all of his television specials and listen to his StarTalk podcast regularly. I have to admit, I still haven’t watched his version of Cosmos because I still find Carl Sagan’s original version to be perfection – even if it is now outdated.

Nat Geo decided to take Tyson’s podcast and make it into what they describe as a “late night talk show”. Having now watched it, I don’t really think it fits that category and it is bad marketing on their part. Sure, Tyson does interviews with celebrity guests but based off of the first episode, the interviews are prerecorded and shown in clips throughout the show as he and a few panelists discuss the interview. It’s not really a late night talk show format and is more of an interview recap show. Going forward, StarTalk would benefit from having guests actually appear on the set for a sit down interview à la The Tonight Show.

The content of the first episode was a bit weak. George Takei of Star Trek was the first celebrity guest for this inaugural episode and while it was a good interview, the show itself expanded into talking about the science of Star Trek and what is plausible and what isn’t with the knowledge we have today. While an interesting topic to some degree, it has already been done to death on multiple science shows across multiple networks. Additionally, there are countless books on the subject. I feel that for this show’s first outing, the subject matter should have wowed the audience. Give us your best foot forward and not a rehash of something that has already been debated more times than I care to count.

On the positive side, Tyson is a charismatic individual and the perfect successor to Carl Sagan’s throne of being the face and voice of astrophysics. He can explain complex things simply and has a knack for solid communication and a great sense of humor.

Neil deGrasse Tyson truly is the “star” in StarTalk. Without him however, the show would just be an average science show that would probably fail to engage audiences in the long run. Hopefully it is going to improve with time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Neil deGrasse Tyson shows and TV specials.

TV Review: Documentary Now! (2015- )

Original Run: August 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: Rhys Thomas, Alex Buono
Written by: Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, John Mulaney, various
Music by: Josh Moshier
Cast: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Helen Mirren (host)

Broadway Video, IFC, 14 Episodes (so far), 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

Probably due to the immense success of Portlandia, IFC allowed Fred Armisen to do a second show on their network, Documentary Now! Like Portlandia it is also produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

Each episode of the show parodies a well-known documentary film from history. Each one is shot in the same style and presented in the same way as the work it is parodying. This makes each episode feel unique and sort of timeless. They did a pretty outstanding job at recreating the essence of the films they’re emulating.

Armisen is joined by another SNL alum, Bill Hader. They act out the main roles in all of the films and have a great supporting cast full of cameos of a lot of recognizable people.

Each episode of the show is a half hour. On Netflix without commercials, they’re around 23 minutes. I think that this show could easily run for an hour and be just as engaging and entertaining. In the end, it is pretty damn hilarious.

The show is hosted by Helen Mirren who brings a level of class and legitimacy to this series. Seth Myers, also from SNL writes the show alongside Armisen and Hader. Sometimes John Mulaney contributes to the scripts as well.

There is only one season of this show, which has just seven episodes, but so far, I love it. I don’t know if it can maintain its quality level as it rolls on into the future but we have at least two more seasons to find that out, as IFC renewed the show through season three.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Armisen’s other IFC show Portlandia.

TV Review: Inhumans (2017)

Original Run: September 29th, 2017 – November 10th, 2017
Created by: Scott Buck
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Inhumans by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Sean Callery
Cast: Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, Ken Leung, Eme Ikwuakor, Isabelle Cornish, Ellen Woglom, Iwan Rheon

ABC Studios, Marvel, Devilina Productions, IMAX Entertainment, Walt Disney, 8 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Well, this show has been trashed by just about anyone and everyone who actually took the time to give it a watch. Being that I have seen everything within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, I couldn’t just ignore this and knew that I’d have to give it an honest shot.

It’s pretty damn bad but it isn’t as horrendous as many have claimed. I saw that it was expiring soon on Hulu, so I figured I had better binge through this quickly before losing the opportunity.

To start, this should have really excited me. It stars Mr. Bohannon from Hell On Wheels a.k.a. Anson Mount. He also plays Black Bolt, a character I have loved in the comics for years. Sadly, Mount can’t speak in this part because his voice is like getting bitchslapped by God. He spends most of his time talking in sign language as Medusa translates for him. When Medusa isn’t around, he just gives very intense stares that make me think he is going to crack my television screen.

Medusa is pretty terrible and unlikable but then so are all the heroes. Crystal is damn cute but she always has this look on her face like she just sipped on a cup of tea and noticed a cat turd floating in it.

Speaking of Crystal, her story is the worst thing about the show. It is a little teenage love story that comes off like one of those Miley Cyrus Disney movies before she cut all her hair off and got her boobs out a lot. Crystal’s boyfriend is some Hawaiian surfer brah that tells her to “hang ten” all the time. In fact, Crystal is lost and trying to locate her family and surfer brah says, “Hang ten! Jump in the water with me! We’ll look for your family later!” Dude’s a total Disney Channel douche nugget and he probably calls his mom “brah”.

Iwan Rheon who was a big deal on Game of Thrones, a show I don’t like or care about, plays the bad guy but he’s just a human being. Actually, he’s a sour, jealous bitch that didn’t get magic powers like the other Inhumans and he somehow kicks them out of the kingdom and takes over the Moon. I loved Rheon on Misfits though and that was, by far, an infinitely better show than this or Game of Thrones.

I don’t know, the more I think about this show, maybe it is as bad as all the detractors are saying.

On a positive note, it was filmed in beautiful Hawaii. So all the scenery was breathtaking and amazing but I’d rather just watch LostHawaii Five-OMagnum P.I. or Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: The other MCU TV stuff but this was so bad and short-lived that I’d imagine it will be ignored in the future and that Disney will revisit these characters in a completely different way, years from now.

TV Review: The Last Man On Earth (2015-2018)

Release Date: March 1st, 2015 – May 6th, 2018 (original run)
Directed by: various
Written by: Will Forte, various
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Sudeikis, Boris Kodjoe, Mark Boone Junior, Kenneth Choi, Kristen Wiig, Keith L. Williams, Chris Elliot, Fred Armisen, Will Ferrell (cameo), Alexandra Daddario (cameo), Jon Hamm (cameo), Laura Dern (cameo), Jack Black (cameo), Martin Short (cameo)

The Si Fi Company, Lord Miller Productions, 20th Television, Fox, 67 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Oh, farts.” – Phil Tandy Miller

*Written in 2015.

Now that the first season is over, I can give a proper review to Fox’s The Last Man On Earth.

In short, I really like this show.

Will Forte is great as the lead character Phil Miller. Kristen Schaal is fantastic as the fairly neurotic yet very lovable Carol Pilbasian. Add in January Jones, Mel Rodriguez and as the show progresses further, Mary Steenburgen, Cleopatra Coleman and Boris Kodjoe, and you’ve got a pretty diverse and enjoyable cast.

The show starts with Phil traveling the country in search of other human beings. He paints “Alive In Tucson” on billboards throughout the United States and as the show progresses, characters start to show up every few episodes.

Due to the title, I was wondering how Fox would make an ongoing show out of a single character but I’m glad it has expanded. While it isn’t a post-apocalyptic world per se, it has similar themes as The Walking Dead. Sure, there aren’t zombies and the feeling of danger around every corner but it shows human beings trying to govern themselves and reestablish their place in the world.

Forte’s Phil Miller is mostly unlikable but there is a quality to him that has you siding with him and pulling for him, even though his dastardly deeds cause him to continually lose favor with other members of his tiny community despite the fact that he is the reason everyone has come to Tucson. Miller’s faults are easy to understand and relate to and even though he gives into them, he ultimately just wants to find his place and has a need to feel useful and loved – understandable for someone who was alone in the world without human contact for so long.

The show is entertaining, the cast is amazing and without spoiling anything, it looks like the show isn’t afraid to reinvent itself along the way. Based off of some things that happened in the finale, it will be interesting to see how things pan out in season two.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Well, it’s pretty unique. If you have any ideas, post them in the comments.

TV Review: Heroes Reborn (2015-2016)

Release Date: September 24th, 2015 – January 21st, 2016 (original run)
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman
Cast: Jack Coleman, Zachary Levi, Robbie A. Kay, Kiki Sukezane, Ryan Guzman, Rya Kihlstedt, Gatlin Green, Henry Zebrowski, Judith Shekoni, Danika Yarosh

Tailwind Productions, Imperative Entertainment, Universal Television, NBCUniversal Television, NBC, 13 Episodes, 42-43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

Heroes was a good show. Well, the first season was good. After that, each season got worse and worse and eventually got fairly horrible. It was cancelled after four seasons.

Many of the characters were interesting, some of the stories were engaging and there were several unresolved plot points when it met its end.

Several years later, we got the miniseries: Heroes Reborn. It was an attempt to continue the story, albeit a little bit further into the future.

Zachary Levi is in this. I like Zachary Levi. Also, Jack Coleman returns. He was one of my two favorite characters from the original series. And that is about it for the good points of this show. Granted, other Heroes characters return, it just isn’t as impactful as you think it would be and they’re mostly just small flourishes scattered over an ugly canvas. Also, in the original Heroes the timeline altered so much, I didn’t remember where many of these characters ended up, so their involvement was a bit confusing in this series.

The show is just a piss poor attempt. Granted, so were the later seasons of the original show. The thing that hurts this even more is that it was once a one-of-a-kind show but today, there are several superhero shows that are better than what Heroes was at its best. It is glaringly obvious that the Heroes franchise has been surpassed.

The new characters aren’t that interesting and it is hard to invest any emotion in them. The new plot isn’t interesting either and the villain is weak. It is just a dull piece of shit, to put it bluntly.

There are two episodes left (I think and I hope) and I will finish the series but I’m glad that NBC has decided to pull the plug on doing a sequel miniseries.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Well, obviously Heroes. Also, the CW superhero shows starring DC Comics characters.