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When Series Finales Work (And When They Really Really Don’t)

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

This past Saturday, the series finale of “Orphan Black,” the woefully under appreciated clone show where Tatiana Maslany has played like at least 12-15 different people flawlessly, aired. (I feel like I describe things as “woefully under appreciated” a lot. People need to appreciate things that deserve appreciation more!) It was a very satisfying finale, and it got me thinking about what makes a great series finale and what can cause a series finale to fail.

 

(Obligatory warning that there will probably be some series finale spoilers for various shows in the coming paragraphs. Proceed with caution.)

 

What made the “Orphan Black” series finale work is that it tied up some key loose ends (like killing off all of the baddies trying to make the lives of Tatiana Maslany’s many characters difficult) but left a few things open, so that we’d all have something to think about once the show had ended. How will Helena be as a mother? Will Cosima and Delphine be able to find all 270-something clones and inoculate them from the illness that plagues their kind? We don’t know! And that’s fine. (Although, it seems like the show’s creators might be on board for a movie continuation down the line. Not sure how I feel about that.) We don’t need to know everything. We just need to know enough to feel comfortable that the characters we love will be okay.

 

The same could be said about the perfect series finale of “Parks and Recreation,” although that one literally went into the future to show us most of the key moments of each main character’s life. Even though they did do a lot to wrap up not just current plot lines but future plot lines as well, they still left us with a big, fun question: Does Ben or Leslie become President? It seems like one of them may have taken the most powerful position in the country (at least, other than being one of Beyonce’s children), but it’s unclear who. That leaves room for fun speculation. Everyone can have their own idea of what happened, just like at the end of a great book. A finale obviously needs to have elements that are clearly final, but a good finale also has elements that can be up to the interpretation or imagination of the viewer.

 

But not all finales are good. Take, for example, the end of “Gilmore Girls.” (For the record, I consider “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” the end of “Gilmore Girls.” Unless, of course, they end up doing more. I doubt they will though.) Never before had I seen a finale end with such a cliffhanger. Rory is pregnant? Who’s the father? (Logan, probably. Although it could be someone else!) How is all of that going to go down? That’s not a small loose end or a question that can be left to the interpretation of the viewer. That’s question that needs to be answered…like, now. And the craziest part of it all is that those final four words, that big reveal, was reportedly part of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s plan all along.

 

That’s where I think series finales can veer into dangerous territory. Deciding down to the most specific details how you will end your show when you’re just starting it seems to set yourself (and, as a result, the viewers) up for disappointment. Even if you have every single moment of the series mapped out from beginning to end, things can still change and mutate based on current culture and the views of a show’s fans. Series creators and writers shouldn’t be beholden to the views of fans, of course, but it feels like a disservice to completely ignore their hopes and wishes for the end of a series they’ve been watching for years and just focus on some idea you had a long time ago.

 

And that brings me to what I consider the worst series finale I’ve ever seen. So bad that I haven’t watched a single frame of the show since the finale aired and have gone so far as to only refer to it as “the awful show I will not name.” It rhymes with “Shmow Shmi Shmet Shmour Shmother.” The final moments of the series completely eschewed every thing leading up to it, the whole premise of the show really, to service an ending that had been thought of many years prior. While some people (insane people, if you ask me) were fine with it, many others were horrified and upset. It’s hard to find a list of “Worst TV Series Finales” without this one being prominently featured. Sure, it ties up just about every loose end (in the worst ways possible), but the only questions it left its viewers with were Why? and How could you? and What was the point of anything that led up to this? It proved that just because you have an ending in mind from the beginning doesn’t mean you should stick to that ending when all is said and done. Much like “Gilmore Girls,” this show got too far in, and the ending they had imagined didn’t make sense anymore.

 

Making a good series finale is challenging. Stuck between maintaining a creative vision and at least somewhat catering to the fans, shows can either find the balance and succeed (like “Orphan Black” and “Parks and Rec”) or fail (like “Gilmore Girls” or that…other one). At least we can all agree on the fact that shows largely benefit from having a set finale that they can prepare for, not one that just happens because a show was cancelled. Like “Pitch.” Did you think I forgot about “Pitch”? I’ll never forget about “Pitch.” Bring back “Pitch”!

 

What do you think makes a good series finale? Have any other finales that you loved (or hated)? Did you also attempt to watch the Teen Choice Awards last night but gave up after the 5th tween you didn’t recognize? We can figure it out together in the comments. And of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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‘Hot Rod’ Is (Quietly) One of the Best Comedies of the Last 10 Years

This past week the wonderful (and woefully under appreciated, until quite recently) “Hot Rod” celebrated the 10th anniversary of its release. It follows the totally normal story of Rod Kimble and his mission to do dope stunts and raise enough money for his step-dad’s heart surgery…so he can finally defeat him in their regular wrestling matches, of course. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time and it’s crazy to think that its been 10 years since it first came out.

 

I ended up happening upon it a year or so after its release when my mother brought it home for me from Blockbuster (RIP Blockbuster, the best place ever), saying “I saw this and it looked like something you might like.” Luckily, she was right and I spread it amongst my friends like wildfire, so that when I said “cool beans” in weird voice they wouldn’t look at me like I was an insane person.

 

My experience with discovering “Hot Rod” and falling in love with it seems to be the way many of its most ardent fans found it. When it was first released 10 years ago, it didn’t receive the most positive of responses from critics and viewers alike. It was, in a way, ahead of its time. Starring Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, among others, and directed by Akiva Shaffer, it was basically a Lonely Island movie before The Lonely Island was even a thing (or, at least, a thing people knew about).

 

Much like the best Lonely Island songs and sketches, what set “Hot Rod” apart from the other bro-y comedies it might be grouped in with was that it took already funny premises and pushed them to the most absurd extremes. Take, for example, the scene above. It starts out as a somewhat stereotypical scene from an inspirational sports movie, with the whole town rallying behind one man. It quickly evolves into a musical and then devolves into a riot. The absurdity of it all isn’t lost on the characters, who immediately call out how crazy it was. It’s executed so well, equal parts clever and silly.

 

While many comedies now are big and brash with their jokes, they don’t necessarily do it well. “Hot Rod” had those big and brash qualities, but it didn’t feel like any of it was forced. It all felt natural and right for the characters, their personalities and their situation, which is probably why so many people have gravitated toward the movie in recent years.

 

If you have somehow missed out on the joy that is “Hot Rod” in the last 10 years, what are you doing? Go watch it! NOW. Seriously, whatever you were doing before you started reading this can wait. You’ll be happy you did. I know I was.

 

Have you seen “Hot Rod”? Have any other under appreciated comedies that you love? Still mad that “Pitch” got cancelled? Me too. Why, Fox, why????? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Cool beans? Cool beans. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Judging the Possible New ‘American Idol’ Judges

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

With the “American Idol” revival definitely happening at ABC (and ya’ll know how I feel about that) and auditions set to begin August 17 in Florida, rumors are beginning to swirl about who will join the previously announced Katy Perry (and her reported $25 million paycheck) at the judges table.

 

“American Idol’s” success as a show is largely defined by the quality of its judges panel. Just look at the doomed from the start season 13, with its distracting Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey feud or the season that Ellen Degeneres was inexplicably a judge. A healthy dynamic between the judges means that they will focus less on themselves and what they have to promote/gripe about and more on finding people who could actually have a successful music career if they were to be voted to the top. As a result, the viewers at home will pay more attention to the contestants and will be more inclined to follow their post-“Idol” paths. It’s why you probably can’t name any winners of “The Voice,” but you can describe in detail the relationship dynamics between whoever was a mentor that season. The focus there is on the mentors/judges, not the contestants and it’s reflected in the winner’s success after.

 

I still believe that the best group of “Idol” judges were the original three: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Sure, they had their tiffs and attention-grabbing moments, but at the end of the day they were still the B-story to the contestants’ A-story. You liked them as a group, you liked how they interacted with one another, but they didn’t take away from what we were all actually there to see. Later judges groups didn’t always have that quality (see Nicki/Mariah, any group that included Kara DioGuardi), but I would say that the last trio on Fox, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, got the closest to the original group’s quality. They were all bigger and more current stars than the original three judges, but they didn’t pull too much focus from the contestants. (Other when they all just had to perform during the once-believed series finale. Still don’t get that.)

 

So with all of that in mind, let’s look at who The Hollywood Reporter is claiming could be in talks to join that oh so illustrious group of “Idol” judges past and present, starting with Lionel Richie. Richie, according to the THR piece, is most likely to join the panel, as he is liked by all of the producing parties involved. I imagine him fitting into the Randy Jackson/Keith Urban slot as the judge that is largely chill and complementary, but could give a thoughtful piece of criticism from time to time. Also, given his longevity in the industry, he might be able to look more objectively at whether or not a contestant could really have a long and successful career post-“Idol,” a challenge that many more recent “Idol” winners have faced. I actually don’t think I’d mind him being a judge.

 

Another rumored judge is country singer Luke Bryan. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about country music or the people who sing it (I tend to avoid it like the plague), but I fear that this is ABC trying to find their own Blake Shelton-esque figure, since Shelton has become such a star outside of the country world from his time on “The Voice.” If he would fit anywhere on the judges panel, I feel like it would also be in the Randy/Keith slot, but since I’ve already put Richie there I kind of hope this one just remains a rumor.

 

The third possible judge according to THR is singer Charlie Puth. I also don’t really know much about him other than that he was on that song from “Furious 7” that everyone was obsessed with for a summer and that he really awkwardly made out with Meghan Trainor at the AMAs, but I think I read somewhere at some point that he went to the Berkeley College of Music? If that’s true, then he could fit into the Simon Cowell/Harry Connick Jr. slot as the judge who can give educated criticism on the actual musicality of a performance (not that Simon Cowell really did that, he just fits into the “criticism” part of “educated criticism”). That’s a valuable tool when trying to explain to a contestant why they didn’t sound that great in a performance, although it can veer into pretentious territory somewhat quickly. He also isn’t a giant household name, so he hopefully wouldn’t pull too much focus from the contestants themselves.

 

As for Katy Perry, who is already fully on board, I see her fitting into the Paula Abdul/Jennifer Lopez slot of being largely kind and benevolent, but maybe a little more critical like Lopez was as opposed to Abdul. She might also have insight into how marketable a contestant would be in the current, social media-fueled music industry, since she clearly knows how to self market on social media.

 

(TMZ is also reporting that Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue is also in talks to judge, but I have a really hard time believing that to be true. If it is, I imagine him in the Steven Tyler slot of someone who’s just there to say weird stuff and make everyone laugh uncomfortably.)

 

We’ll probably find out who officially gets the other “Idol” judges gigs within the next week or two, and it could be all or none of the people above (except Perry, she is a definite). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the latest iteration of the “American Idol” judges panel stacks up against the others. I know I’ll be (begrudgingly) watching.

 

What do you think of the latest rumored “Idol” judges? Have any other people you think could join the panel? Are you also going to watch the premiere of “Siesta Key” tonight because much like Jennifer Hudson’s character on “Smash,” you “can’t let go” of “Laguna Beach“? (More on that next week, probably.) Let me know (Or don’t, haha more “Smash” jokes!) in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

The Podcast (And Soon to Be TV Series) ‘Homecoming’ Is Just What Your Ears (And Eyes) Need

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Amidst all of last week’s big San Diego Comic-Con news, another bit of information came out that has the potential to be pretty exciting. Amazon announced that it has ordered two seasons of “Homecoming,” a scripted series adapted from the scripted podcast of the same name. If you’re not familiar with the podcast, and there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t, then get to listening. You will not be disappointed.

 

“Homecoming,” the podcast (and presumably the TV series), tells the fictional story of a woman working with returning soldiers at a secret government facility…and that’s about all I can say about the plot. To give anything else away would be to deprive you of the satisfying way that podcast creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg reveal more and more details and insight with each new episode. The story reveals itself through phone calls and recorded conversations and feels like a classic radio play of yesteryear.

 

The voice cast for the podcast is a who’s who of talents, including Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer and Amy Sedaris. It seems somewhat unlikely that any of them will join the Amazon series’ cast (Julia Roberts has already signed on the play Keener’s role), which is a shame, but it also means that you’ll get to see (or, at least, hear) different people taking on the same role, a rarity outside of the superhero genre.

 

The Amazon series will also be helmed by Sam Esmail, the brilliant mind behind “Mr. Robot.” Hopefully that means that the “Homecoming” series will be infused with the same mystery and ambiance (but maybe a liiiittle more clarity) as Esmail’s other works. I certainly have high hopes. Now all I need is an Amazon Prime account.

 

There’s not a set premiere date for the Amazon series, so for now dig into the podcast. It just started its second season this past Wednesday and now has a companion novel with even more detail available on iBooks. That might make it sound like I’m on the “Homecoming” payroll, but I swear I’m not. (I wish I was though. Call me, guys!) I’m just a big fan from the beginning who’s excited to see this story grow. Do I wish it was growing on Netflix, where I already have an account? Of course I do. But in this new world of a seemingly endless variety of different streaming services, I guess I have to get used to it. We all do.

 

What do you think? Have any other lesser-known podcasts you love? Did you also binge-watch the entire first season of “Insecure” yesterday thanks to HBO putting it all on YouTube? Share in the comments. And of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

A Look at the 2017 Emmy Nominations

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

It’s mid-July, which means it’s time for us to find out who and what will be battling it out (or, at least, pretending to battle it out until the inevitable people who frequently win do) for a nice and shiny 2017 Emmy Award. The nominations were announced last Thursday, and included lots of long-standing nominees, some exciting newcomers, a great surprise or two and several glaring omissions that filled me with rage. But hey, what else is new?

 

Comedy

The Outstanding Comedy Series category looked a lot like it did last year, with “black-ish,” “Master of None,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and yes, for some truly unknown reason, “Modern Family” all getting nominations. The one new addition, FX’s excellent “Atlanta,” was not exactly surprising, but it did knock out the only-a-comedy-because-it’s-a-half-hour “Transparent.” I’m hoping that “Atlanta” might beat “Veep” (if “Master of None’s” brilliant second season doesn’t do it) and take home the big prize, but we’ll have to wait and see. As for “Modern Family’s” insane ability to continue to get nominations despite the fact that it’s just so formulaic now continues to frustrate. Why not use that slot for something more interesting or different, like FXX’s woefully under-appreciated “You’re the Worst” or The CW’s consistently great “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend“? There’s great work happening in comedy on TV; it’s just not happening on “Modern Family.”

 

As for the acting categories, Donald Glover (for “Atlanta”) and Zach Galifianakis (for “Baskets“) joined Anthony Anderson (for “black-ish”), Aziz Ansari (for “Master of None”), William H. Macy (for “Shameless“) and Jeffrey Tambor (for “Transparent”) in Lead Actor, and in Lead Actress Allison Janney (for “Mom“) moved up from Supporting, Jane Fonda joined her “Grace and Frankie” co-star Lily Tomlin as a nominee, and Tracee Ellis Ross (for “black-ish”), Ellie Kemper (for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (for “Veep”) all got nominated again. Rounding out the Lead Actress category was one of the biggest and best surprises of the nominations, Pamela Adlon for her excellent FX series “Better Things.” Her chances of beating Julia Louis-Dreyfus are likely slim, but it was still exciting to see her nominated. Hopefully that’ll draw people to her lovely show. Supporting Actor was more of the same, with Louie Anderson (for “Baskets”), Ty Burrell (for “Modern Family”), Tituss Burgess (for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Tony Hale (for “Veep”) and Matt Walsh (also for “Veep”). The only change was the completely unacceptable replacement of Andre Braugher (for his consistently great work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) with Alec-freaking-Baldwin as the president on “Saturday Night Live.” Completely ignoring the fact that his impression is not even that good (Anthony Atamanuik is doing a much better job on Comedy Central’s “The President Show“), it’s insane for Baldwin to be nominated like a cast member when he technically ISN’T ONE. Luckily the Supporting Actress category featured three great “SNL” cast members, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones, alongside Kathryn Hahn (for “Transparent”), Judith Light (also for “Transparent”) and Anna Chlumsky (for “Veep”).

 

On the Writing and Directing sides, all I’ll say is “Atlanta’s” brilliant “B.A.N.” episode got nominated for both, and if you haven’t watched any of “Atlanta” yet, you should at least watch that episode. I mean, you should really watch the whole thing because it’s great, but you should really watch that episode. It’s my favorite.

 

Drama

The drama side was a little more open to new things, since “Game of Thrones” was ineligible this year. And so they nominated “This Is Us.” I mean, they also nominated “Westworld,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards” and “Better Call Saul,” but “This Is Us“? Over “Mr. Robot“? Yes, “Mr. Robot’s” second season wasn’t perfect, but “Mr. Robot” at its worst is still better than “This Is Us.” “This Is Us” is a good show starring Sterling K. Brown‘s Randall and Ron Cephas Jones‘s William trapped in a bad show starring basically everyone else on “This Is Us.”

 

Luckily, Brown and Cephas Jones both got nominated in their respective categories. Brown was joined in Lead Actor inexplicably by his “This Is Us” co-star Milo Ventimiglia, as well as Bob Odenkirk (for “Better Call Saul”), Kevin Spacey (for “House of Cards”), Liev Schreiber (for “Ray Donovan“), Matthew Rhys (for “The Americans“) and Anthony Hopkins (for “Westworld”). Lead Actress included Robin Wright (for “House of Cards”), Viola Davis (for “How to Get Away With Murder“), Keri Russell (for “The Americans”), Claire Foy (for “The Crown”), Elisabeth Moss (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Evan Rachel Wood (for “Westworld”). Lucky for all of them, reigning champ Tatiana Maslany won’t be eligible again until next year due to “Orphan Black‘s” later premiere date. As for Supporting Actor, Cephas Jones was joined by Jonathan Banks (for “Better Call Saul”), Mandy Pantinkin (for “Homeland,” which I didn’t even realize was still on), Michael Kelly (for “House of Cards”), David Harbour (for “Stranger Things”), John Lithgow (for “The Crown”) and Jeffrey Wright (for “Westworld”). On the Supporting Actress side the world went against what I thought was its better judgement and nominated one of those gosh darn “Stranger Things” kids with Millie Bobby Brown getting a nomination alongside Uzo Aduba (for “Orange is the New Black“), Ann Dowd (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Samira Wiley (for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Chrissy Metz (for “This Is Us,” which, don’t even get me started again) and Thandie Newton (for “Westworld”).

 

Looking at the Directing and Writing categories is when I realize that I must not watch a lot of drama series, or at least not prestige drama series. Frankly, I’m still mad about “Mr. Robot.”

 

Limited Series/TV Movie

Sure, other things (like “Fargo,” “Genius” and “The Night Of“) got nominated for Limited Series, but if we’re being honest it’s really a fight between “Big Little Lies” and “Feud: Bette and Joan.” As someone who has seen both, I can say that they are both excellent depictions of the complicated ways women interact with one another and the ways that men can be really, really awful… and that I’m not entirely sure who I want to win. As for TV Movie, the only thing I’m really excited about is that “Black Mirror‘s” wonderful “San Junipero” episode got nominated. How it snuck into the TV Movie category with “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” “Sherlock: The Lying Detective,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and “The Wizard of Lies” is beyond me, but I really hope it wins.

 

I truly have no opinion on Lead Actor nominees Ewan McGregor (for “Fargo”), Geoffrey Rush (for “Genius”), Benedict Cumberbatch (for “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”), John Tuturro (for “The Night Of”), Riz Ahmed (for “The Night Of”) and Robert De Niro (for “The Wizard of Lies”) as I haven’t seen any of the things they are nominated for. I’m much more interested in the Lead Actress category, as it pits Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (from “Big Little Lies”) and Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (from “Feud: Bette and Joan”) against each other. Sure, Felicity Huffman (for “American Crime“) and Carrie Coon (for “Fargo”) got nominated too, but it’s really a battle between the big four. The Supporting categories are a little more open, with Alexander Skarsgard (for “Big Little Lies”), David Thewlis (for “Fargo”), Stanley Tucci (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Alfred Molina (also for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Michael Kenneth Williams (for “The Night Of”) and Bill Camp (for “The Night Of”) on the guys side and Regina King (for “American Crime”), Shailene Woodley (for “Big Little Lies”), Laura Dern (also for “Big Little Lies”), Jackie Hoffman (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”), Judy Davis (for “Feud: Bette and Joan”) and Michelle Pfeiffer (for “The Wizard of Lies”) on the ladies side. Although, it really is stacked in “Big Little Lies” and “Feud: Bette and Joan’s” favor. As it should be!

 

As for Writing and Directing, I’m rooting for “Black Mirror: San Junipero” for writing and “Big Little Lies” for directing. But “Big Little Lies” will probably win both, if “Feud: Bette and Joan” doesn’t win for its Oscars episode.

 

I don’t care about Reality so we’re just gonna skip that, okay? Cool.

 

Variety

Much deserved nominations for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in the Variety Talk category, alongside a sure, okay for “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and some ugh, really? for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” As for Variety Sketch, “Billy on the Street” finally gets some Emmys love alongside “Documentary Now!“, “Drunk History,” “Portlandia,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Tracey Ullman’s Show.”

 

On the Writing side, it’s pretty hard to lose with any of the nominees. They’re all great, so let’s just give them all a piece of the trophy, Cady Heron style.

 

So there’s a basic rundown of things from my obviously very important perspective. Here’s the full list. The Emmys themselves aren’t until September (the 17th, to be exact), so there’s plenty of time to ruminate and make your predictions. Get to work!

 

What do you think of this year’s Emmy nominees? Have any disappointing omissions of your own? Were you also excited to discover that Chance the Rapper is now an Emmy nominee for the “Jingle Barack” sketch he did with Kenan Thompson when he was a musical guest on “SNL”? Amazing, right? Before you go back and watch it, remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

2 Lesser-Known Movies You Should Definitely See This Summer

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

While summertime can be great for many things, like going to the beach, eating outside and seeing hunky men jog shirtless, it can be a bit of a rough spot when it comes to interesting movies. Since all of the darling little kiddos are out of school and mom desperately needs something to do with them so they don’t destroy the house with their sticky hands and excessive questions (can you tell that I just loooove kids?), most of the big movies that come out in the summertime are aimed towards families. Superheroes, “beloved” franchises and animated films dominate the theaters, which can be frustrating when that’s the absolute last thing you want to see.

 

(And I don’t want to shade all movies that fit under the tentpole umbrella; I absolutely loved “Wonder Woman” and so far I’ve heard pretty good things about the latest iteration of Spiderman. But other than that, yikes. “Cars 3“? The Mummy“? Really?)

 

It takes a little more digging this time of year to find movies that don’t feature minions, robots in disguise, or Johnny Depp trying to salvage what’s left of his career, but it’s definitely possible, as evidenced by the two great movies that I’m about to share with you. You might have to step out of your movie theater comfort zone to get to them, but I can assure you that it’ll definitely be worth it.

 

Baby Driver

I briefly mentioned last week how good “Baby Driver” is, so I thought I’d take this time to elaborate on that more. The film tells the story of a young getaway car driver named Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) who coordinates all of his action-packed getaway scenes to music. He’s trying to get out of the game, but his boss (played by Kevin Spacey of all people) isn’t ready to let him go. It’s like a bunch of awesome music videos packed into one film, and while that might sound a little silly in theory, on screen it works so well. Plus, it confirms my (probably unpopular) opinion that Jon Hamm doesn’t need to be a leading man, he should just be that one absurdly handsome character actor that everyone loves. It was definitely the most fun movie I’ve seen so far this summer, so get into it.

 

The Big Sick

Look no further, romantic comedy lovers, the next great one is here in the form of “The Big Sick.” It’s got all of the great romantic comedy beats: boy meets girl when she heckles him at a stand up comedy show, boy and girl face challenges in their relationship because boy is expected to fall in line and marry a fellow Pakistani woman as arranged by his parents, girl gets really sick and is then put into a medically induced coma…y’know, all the tropes. It might sound wildly unrealistic until you find out that it all actually happened to the film’s co-writer and star, the excellent Kumail Nanjiani, and his (spoiler alert, sort of?) wife and the film’s other co-writer, Emily V. Gordon. She’s played by the great Zoe Kazan, and her parents are played wonderfully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. It’s a seriously lovely film that’ll make you both cry and laugh, sometimes in the same scene.

 

What do you think? Have any other lesser-known movies from this summer that you loved or are excited to see? Did you also look up the lyrics to Blue Ivy Carter’s “4:44” freestyle on Rap Genius so you could fully appreciate its greatness? Boom shakalaka in the comments. And before I leave you to come up with my Emmy nomination predictions (they’re announced later this week!), remember…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Make This “Hamilton Mixtape” Song (And Its Awesome Video) Your 4th of July Soundtrack

Sometimes I worry that I’ll accidentally write a similar piece twice on this blog, so I go back and double check that there isn’t potential for a duplicate. In going back to see if I had written about this song off “The Hamilton Mixtape” before, I discovered that while I had written about the mixtape before, I wrote about a different song. (I also wrote that post the day before the 2016 presidential election…but we don’t need to get into that again.)

 

“The Hamilton Mixtape,” in case you aren’t aware, is a really fantastic album composed of covers by current artists of songs from the musical “Hamilton,” as well as songs inspired by the show and its themes. (If you don’t know what “Hamilton” is, then I am very concerned for your well being.) One of the songs that really took off from the album is the above one, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)”.

 

Inspired by one of the biggest applause-getting lines in the show, the song features artists (like K’naan, Residente, Riz MC and Snow tha Product) rapping about their immigrant experiences and the experiences of immigrants as a whole. It’s an excellent song with a very important message, made even more important by some not so great decisions and events following the 2016 election.

 

They just released a music video for the song, in conjunction with “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition, and it’s pretty awesome. The video has a very “Snowpiercer“-y vibe, which is interesting given that Daveed Diggs, a former “Hamilton” star (who appears at the end of the video), is now set to star in an upcoming TNT series based on the film.

 

So be sure to blast this song at your 4th of July cookout. Not only is it a definite jam (Did that sound cool? I highly doubt it.) but it has a very relevant message for the Independence Day holiday. Never forget who really made it all happen for the great U.S. of A.

 

What do you think of the song and video? Have another favorite song off “The Hamilton Mixtape”? Did you see “Baby Driver” yet? If yes, wasn’t it soooooo good? If not, what are you doing? Go see “Baby Driver”! It’s great! And, as always, don’t be like the new Ken doll with a man bun, instead…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers and I All Have Thoughts on Daniel Day-Lewis’s Reported Retirement From Acting

Everyone’s favorite actor who only shows up in a movie every once in a while but always straight-up kills it (and has three Oscars to prove it), Daniel Day-Lewis, announced last week that he is officially retiring from acting. His final movie, a Paul Thomas Anderson film reportedly called “Phantom Thread,” is set to come out sometime within the next year.

 

It’s a somewhat disheartening thing to hear in a time when all we can hope for is that our greatest performers will take to the screens and stages to give us a brief respite from the horrors of reality. But, it could also be a Cher (or JAY-Z, depending on your musical inclinations) move, where he’s “retiring,” only to come back in several years with another great movie (or album or tour, in the case of Cher or JAY-Z).

 

It isn’t the first time he’s stepped away from the screen for an extended period of time. After “The Boxer,” Day-Lewis disappeared for about five years before resurfacing in “Gangs of New York.” He reportedly spent at least a portion of that time learning to make shoes, y’know like any average person trying to take a break would do. Perhaps he’s taking another break, this time to learn the art of making those really detailed sand sculptures at the beach. It’s summer, so now would be the perfect time to learn!

 

He’s also known for going super deep and method with his roles, not breaking character for even a text message. Perhaps he’s beginning preparations for a new role, in what I’m imagining as a “Somewhere“-esque Sofia Coppola movie about an actor stepping away from Hollywood to take stock of his life. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched, at least not for someone who would decide he wanted to learn how to make shoes as a fun casual activity or would choose to text Sally Field in character as Abraham Lincoln.

 

Or, as Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers have proposed in the above video, the whole big announcement was done in error by a publicist who misinterpreted something Day-Lewis said while finishing up a bag of chips. That certainly seems the most plausible. I mean, who doesn’t love eating chips and making grand announcements when they have finished a bag of them? I know I do, much to the chagrin of just about everyone in my life.

 

Man, now I really want to eat a bag of chips and watch “There Will Be Blood.” That’s a normal thing people do, right?

 

Why do you think Daniel Day-Lewis decided to retire from acting? Do you think he really means it? Are you also suddenly craving a bag of chips? Tell me your thoughts, theories and favorite chip flavors in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

4 TV Shows I’m Watching This Summer to Fill The Void

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

Summertime is essentially here, and that means that most, if not all, big TV shows have finished their seasons and are taking a break. A lot of networks use this time to air game shows and reality competition shows that don’t necessarily need to be followed on a week-to-week basis, or they burn off scripted shows that just didn’t turn out that well, hoping they’ll go gently into that good night.

 

Why would they ever decide to be this stark in terms of their offerings? Because they think everyone is out in the evening, enjoying the “summer nights” that those horny kids in “Grease” wouldn’t stop singing about. But not me! I have a decades-long hatred of hot weather and have been known to be violently attacked by mosquitos the instant I put one foot outdoors, so inside I shall stay.

 

While it might seem like there’s nothing to watch, with a little know-how (and a little research) you can find some actually good programming to fill your summer nights. (Although, to be fair, I actually find it kind of relaxing to not have something on every night that I just have to watch. I can read a book! I can talk to loved ones! I can watch baseball! I like baseball! It’s great. And yes, I know that I don’t actually ever have to watch anything. That’s not the point.) Here’s four shows that have already begun or will begin soon-ish that’ll likely keep us indoor kids entertained all summer long.

 

1) “People of Earth – TBS Mondays at 10:30/9:30c (July 24)

Part of TBS’s surprising comedy renaissance, “People of Earth” debuted last year and follows a support group of people who believe they have been visited by aliens. It stars my favorite former “Daily Show” correspondent, Wyatt Cenac, and has a very thoughtful, interesting and yes, very funny, take on the alien-abduction genre. I feel like it didn’t get its due when the first season aired last year, so be sure to check that out before the second season premieres at the end of July. And then tell your friends about it so it’ll become super popular and beloved, as it should be.

 

2) “Playing House” – USA Fridays at 11/10c (June 23)

I feel like I’ve written a bunch on this blog about how much I love “Playing House,” and after what feels like forever, it’s finally coming back! Created by and starring the incredibly funny and awesome Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, the show follows their two characters as they work together to make it through life and raise Parham’s character’s child. The new season will reportedly delve into St. Clair’s real life battle with Breast Cancer (which she beat, yay!), so it’ll be interesting to see how the more serious elements of that play into a super funny show like this. Plus, if you’ve been missing “Key and Peele” (and really, who hasn’t), Keegan-Michael Key is on the show in the romantic lead he was born to play. I mean, seriously, what more do I have to say? Binge watch the first two seasons this week before the new season premieres on Friday. It’ll be a great way to spend your time, I promise.

 

3) “Orphan Black” – BBC America Saturdays at 10/9c

To be honest, it would be pretty difficult to catch up with this show now, given that it just started its fifth and final season and jumping in without any prior knowledge would be like jumping into surgery without any medical training, but if you’re looking for something to watch in its entirely over the course of the summer, this would be a great pick. An endlessly fascinating series about the ethical and moral implications of cloning and what it all means for the clones themselves, the show’s big claim to fame is that it’s star, the incredible and Emmy-winning Tatiana Maslany, plays all of the clones. And there are a lot of them. If you’ve been with it since the beginning, settle in for the final ride. If you’re new to the clone club, then get ready for something wild.

 

4) “Claws” – TNT Sundays at 9/8c

The only show on the list that’s entirely new, “Claws” stars always-great Niecy Nash as the owner of a Florida nail salon who also does some super chill money laundering on the side. I’ve only seen the first episode of this new series, but going off of that it seems pretty crazy and could be a fun show to escape into this summer. I could, of course, end up being totally wrong but sometimes you have to take a little risk, you know? Anything is possible if you just believe.

 

What do you think? Have any other shows you’re diving into this summer instead of diving into a pool? Do you wish you could dive into a pool and watch a great TV show at the same time? Me too. Maybe someday. Until then, always remember…

 

Keep it classy.

Jenn

 

P.S. If you get a chance to see John Mulaney on his Kid Gorgeous stand up tour this summer, DO IT. I saw him recently and my jaw still hurts from laughing so much. He is truly my favorite comedian and he should be yours too. I think the tour is essentially sold out until the fall, so jump on them fall tickets guys!

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