Review: “This Is Us” – Season 1

Between life and death lies an infinite amount of moments. And there has never been a show more able to portray them than NBC’s “This Is Us”.

Last night, the finale of the first season aired and showed once again the magic in ordinariness.

“This Is Us”: A unique show

In “This Is Us”, the viewer gets to explore the lives of the Pearson family. It is not just a drama series, it goes way deeper than that: it is a life series, exploring different kinds of lives at the same time thus making it possible for each viewer to find a way to identify with the characters. Its title even reflects its uniqueness, as it literally applies to everyone – “us”.

Renewed for two seasons, we can gear up for more tears and laughs in the two years to come. But for now, we can reflect and think about the great moments we encountered in the past six months.

Pro of “This Is Us”: Great characters

For one, we met the Pearson family with Rebecca and Jack as single adults, couple, married couple, parents and obviously separated by death/remarried; Randall Pearson as the adopted black son fighting for perfection in his life when realizing he is living the perfect life; the twins Kate and Kevin Randall who are total extremes in appearance, but share much more anxieties than they are ready to reveal – even towards their loved ones. Thereby, the viewers get to see on the one hand, very simple characters, which on the other hand seem to bear much more depth in them than one realizes at the beginning of the series.

Then, we have amazing supporting parts like Randall’s other half Beth, his biological father William and Kate’s boyfriend/fiancé Toby. They fit perfectly in the picture, completing the apparently ordinary with the extraordinary.

Flashbacks in “This Is Us”

But that’s not all. Besides great characters and ensuing plotlines, “This is Us” uses time jumps to keep things interesting. In a lapse of almost 40 years, the viewers can uniquely travel through the timelines of the characters – better than Facebook could ever provide them with.

Whether it is an episode which fully plays out in the 1980s or one whose scenes jump between past and present like a ball in a ping-pong game, the last thing the viewer gets confronted with in this show is boredom.

“This Is Us”… or this is too much drama?

However, the drama is real and intense – sometimes way too much. This is a con, because the show has the ability to create a new genre instead: a series about human life, everyday-life and all the moments which make it special, but sometimes also hard to live. Therefore, some plot twists appear too forced, too much. For example the way too long and artificial extension of Kate revealing what happened to her father – which actually still did not take place. Obviously, the show plays with that and uses the suspense to keep the viewers excited for the following seasons. But the whole reveal took way too long and did not leave enough space for other interesting storylines including for instance Beth, Toby or even Miguel’s life stories which have not been explored yet at all.

Another example for those “too much drama”-twists would be the storyline of Jack becoming jealous of Ben who is playing with Rebecca in the band. The basic concept is interesting and as we have seen: It opens up possibilities for new stories, for instance to see Jack and Rebecca separated (even if we do not want to). But the way it actually turned out and that Ben really tried something with Rebecca was just too much of it all. The effect of Jack’s jealousy having its roots in his dissatisfaction with Rebecca and her life choices would have been much greater, if there had not been any reason to be jealous of someone in the first place (and it would have been much more realistic too, by the way!).

But being in the drama business, the series did not have much of a choice.

A duckling’s review of  “This Is Us” Season 1

Thus, for all of you ducklings who have not watched “This Is Us” yet – it is worth your time. But only, if you are really into drama and do not start crying easily, because even though the show gives you tons of moments to laugh, it opens up double as much possibilities to cry.

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Boring Bourne instead of Jason Bourne – all you need to know about the new blockbuster

Whoopie! That´s what some of us may have thought when the news on a new Jason Bourne production got out. But the result is much more likely to sound like “boo”.

Don´t get me wrong: the movie is not bad, it´s just not a true “Jason Bourne” like movie. It totally lacks Bourne´s motivation to find out more about himself, his aspiration to understand what´s going on around him and his to the viewer transparent motives.

This time, it rather seems as if Bourne got bored over the years and just wants something to chase after. Most evidently, I won´t spoil too much of the movie for you in case you want to see it, but let´s say that some specific events that should provoke some kind of a reaction even in Jason Bourne, don´t seem to bother the (ex-?)-agent at all.

So, while the super killer agent finally gets to have a little action, the 12-year old looking true protagonist of the story makes it her goal to catch Bourne (what a new plotline! *sarcasm*). Heather Lee (played by Alicia Vikander) seems to represent in a rather negative way the new generation of the 1990s and 2000s: techno-freak, way too ambitious and too sure of herself. The fact that sooner or later she is double-crossed by Bourne only puts her in an even worse light. Of course, it´s great that women get to play roles as leaders – but not if they get mocked.

Therefore, how can I best sum up this compulsively composed new addition to the Bourne series with a plotline lighter than a feather? Well, I think I just did.

My tip for you, little ducklings: Don´t go to the theatres and see it, it´s a waste of your money and time. Just wait until one of your friends throws a movie night and decides to watch the whole series (including the newest “Jason Bourne”)! Then, at least, more will agree that it probably would have been better to not do a movie at all instead of trying desperatly to find a way to bring back Matt Damon as Jason Bourne.

Sherlock, The Abominable Bride, Review

First of all: Happy New Year, dear little ducklings! And with the new year comes a new episode of one of BBC´s finest television series,”Sherlock”. Not only is it the first special holiday episode, it is also set in the 19th century – beware, now comes the spoilers – at least, partly.

“The abominable bride” can best be described as a sherlock-centric inception-like adventure. Switching between a 19th-century decor and where the viewers were last left off, reality or fiction aren´t the most appropiate terms to be used here. Instead, the episode begs to differ between the ordinary and the extraordinary as Sherlock falls deeper and deeper into the latter, only to discover that what he thought to be ordinary might possibly be still in the extraordinary.

On the one hand, a very elaborate, artistic way of implementing the simple idea of using a cold case to solve an ongoing one and on the other hand, a confusing and existential-philosophical visual essay about the realms of Possibility, this episode can be summarized in one concise sound: Hm.

While one-third of the drama balances a psycho-horror-crime story with…no story at all, the rest of the remaining time is spend dwelling on “What is actually the point here?”. It is clear that this special episode wanted to offer more insight into Sherlock´s mind, though digging into the past might not have been the best choice. Even though visual adaptations of Sherlock Holmes´ character have been countlessly undertaken, “Sherlock” always remained unique as it placed the iconic characters and storylines in the 21st century. Taking away the core of the show makes it hard for the viewer to recognize it, yet alone familiarize with it.

What I personally missed the most was the fun, the humour, the wit. There were a few lines which might have curled the lips just slightly, but overall the only thing I can truly say is: It was pretty boring.

For all those of you who profoundly know “Sherlock”, it is clear that is has never been about what´s real or not, but much rather about what´s possible or not. And for all I can say, this episode was impossible.

My rating for you ducklings: Wait until the next episode. Perhaps, it will be able to repair the damages made to such an iconic and authentic image.

The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2 Review

After years of following the tragic, suspenseful fight against tyranny and inhumanity, the dystopian series based upon Suzanne Collins´ trilogy comes with “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2” to an end as true as the first part of the whole franchise.

Overall, the mega-blockbuster is a hit. It has everything that theatre audiences love: the action, the love-triangle and of course the happy ending. Though, through the brilliant acting job by Jennifer Lawrence, admirers of the art of visual storytelling won´t be deceived. Her anti-heroism does not losen up until the very last scene – which very different and somehow better than in the book – seems to highlight her true, but deeply hidden motive of her fight and to finally crown her with a heroism which is much more personal and everyday-like: to love.

However, let´s not forget some incoherences in the story-telling of the motion picture. While in the first part of “Mockingjay” Katniss seemed to be more obsessed about Peeta than anything else going on around her, his presence in the second installment made her mostly want to kill him until she suddenly changes her mind and loves him. Their difficult relationship was rather poorly portrayed and explained and is only sustained by the fact that the audience knows they´ll end up together. This is enhanced by the way Gale is changing from the strong, powerful hunter to the vulnerable, weak and coward-like soldier. Especially the scene where Katniss appears to be a reenactement of President Snow displays the shift of power.

In contrast to the previous films, “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2” features multiple perspectives instead of focusing on Katniss´s which at multiple occasions makes it difficult to fully identify with the hero and thus understand her deep motives and feelings. Expect her one and only outburst towards the end, the “Mockingjay” seems to be getting colder and harder every second, only displaying emotion as a way to make a point instead of really feeling the pain.

But one element has been brilliantly achieved with the last part: the paradoxic parallel opposition between Katniss and Snow expressed through their gradual approach in their thinking-patterns. While they are very different from each other in their way of being – good versus evil, hero versus tyrann, human versus cruel – they each represent one pole of morality which comes to a final meeting point during the scene in the rose garden. Katniss is the expression of the other extreme of Snow, thus filling his place for the better and thereby realizing that she or anybody else is not better than he is. Instead, she finally sees the similarity and understands that those who want to be better than him, don´t want to be different, resulting in her decision to assasinate President Coin.

This episode which is thinly described in the book is greatly shown in the visual adaptation making “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2” a honorable end of the franchise.

To conclude, my tip for you is: Go see it and feel it. May the goosebumbs always remember this great cinematic achievement.

The Dark Too/Two – Once Upon A Time, Season 5, Episode 8 and 9 Review!

Normally, I wouldn´t write about one specific episode of a season as it is much to detailed and would reveal a lot of spoilers. But I guess by now (be careful now comes the spoiler), everybody knows that during the double episode (episode 8: “Birth” & episode 9: “The Bear King”) in the fifth season  of ONCE UPON A TIME, a lot of appearently “juicy” infos were revealed.

There comes my review: Coming from the creatores of “Once upon a time” and their previous fantastic double episodes, this one was a very big disappointement to me. The revelation of Emma having turned Hook into another Dark One in order to save his life (may I remark here that even though he might be dark, he is alive, but he´s still complaining?) is somehow a little bit out of the ordinary, but nothing which made my heart beat faster. It´s evident that everyone would choose drastic measures to keep their loved ones alive and I am sure that Hook would have done the same thing for Emma (he just doesn´t want to admit it).And plus: What´s so dramatic about it? I mean, okay, it´s maybe not that wonderful and sweet to be dark, but wouldn´t it be awesome to see Captain Swan as the Dark Duo being crazy villian and all (after all, what are TV-series for if not showing us the things we actually wouldn´t really like to see in real life!). Anyway, the whole over-the-top drama made the episode “Birth” look more like a failed attempt to keep the “Dark-Swan”-plotline interesting – which for the moment is not really a burner – than an actual revelation. The only good thing about it all was probably seeing Zelena back as the Wicked Witch from Oz, because, let´s be honest, she IS the best villian the show has ever had!

Now, let´s move on to “The Bear King”. Not that I don´t like Merida and her story, but the plot of this episode was pretty shallow and actually, Merida hadn´t played that much of a part in the overall storyline. To get a whole episode for yourself…well that´s something to be jealous about, Zelena! However, the comebacks of Mulan and Red and their women-power were pretty great (though the scene between Mary-Margaret & Red was not that good) and produced enjoyable scenes to watch. But that thing with Arthur and the helmet…how irrational was that please? He took it from Merida´s father and it didn´t work and now he stil comes back for it…even though it didn´t work? I mean, could he be anymore contradictive? (see that “Friends”-reminiscence here?)

To sum up: If you haven´t seen the double episode yet, don´t put your hopes up too high. Let´s just hope there will be either some juicy, awesome Dark Duo scenes…or wish that the midseason finale arrives ASAP.

PS: In case you have been wondering, if they are not running out of ideas (appearently Cruella de Vil is coming back), what about the whole Aladdin-story? Just hit it in the comments, in case you would enjoy to see the evil Dschafar with his parrot in the TV-series!

The rise (and fall?) of “Supergirl”

Hello, little Ducklings! I´m back with a new post about the latest newcomer in the world of superhero-TV-series: “Supergirl”. Airing mondays on CBS, the show tells the story of Superman´s cousin, Kara Zor-El who – when danger threathens the life of her sister – becomes Supergirl.

What you might expect from a show produced in the 21st century about a grown woman being a superhero is probably not the personification of a barbie doll in a short skirt and over-knee-boots. But, as it is very well explained in the pilot by Kara´s boss: A woman can be powerful and simultaneously a girl (what? Did anyone actually get that absolutly non-sense explanation of why Supergirl is not called Superwoman?). This example precisely shows the lack of quality in the dialogue of “Supergirl”, as Kara constantly oscilliates between overenthusiasm and euphoria or self-consciousness and depression.

As the is based on the comic books, the producers might not have been able to change the name or costume of “Supergirl”, though they could have done a better job integrating the very stereotypical portrayal of women in supertight clothes in today´s societal and cultural structures. Maybe skirts are better for flying. Or being called a girl instead of a woman is conntected with Kara´s young and sligthly rebellious character. Anyway, there are many ways to have better persuaded the viewers of “Supergirl”´s earnestness.

So, my tip for you: If you like superheroes and don´t mind the whole 1950s comic book-portrayal of women, then go for it! Though, I hope that a few things get better along the season such as 1. the dialogue (I kind of have enough of Kara´s childish arguments with her sis´), 2. the plotline (which is kind of repetitive, see arguments!) and 3. the special effects (which are pretty good but compared to “The Flash” a little bit weak!).

 

Feel-Good-Movie-Time!

Hello, little Ducklings! After having watched the new Disney-Pixar production “Inside Out”, I just couldn´t resist to write a little bit about it!

“Inside Out” tells the story of our emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy and sadness. They direct our feelings and our perception of other people´s words and actions. In this case, we as viewers get a closer look on young Riley´s emotions (and yes, it is a girl – weird name though). Even though the introduction to how it all works and who is who takes up a felt eternity of the movie, it´s still worth the attention in order to understand the whole concept “Inside Out” is based upon.

We do not get to see  well-balanced, ethically good and heroic characters we might know from other movies – no, we get to see the actual emotions and thus only them. Joy is bossy and very egoistic, Sadness is annoying and disregardful, Anger is very sensitive, Disgust is Miss Know-It-All and Fear is pretty realistic. And we come to think about it, it adds up! When we feel happy, it´s mostly all about our own accomplishment or maybe the ones from our closest friends and family. In sad times, we do not care about what other people say and even annoy others around us. Especially on sensitive subjects, we may tend to get quickly angry and when we feel disgusted, we are always 100 % sure that only WE are right. And when we´re scared…well, we would never argue with reality.

This means that the real heads behind “Inside Out” analysed all those emotions and made real characters out of them in order that we could reach identification and even the classic moment of catharsis (I won´t spoiler that for you!). All the little details and the whole base on which the story is based upon just shows how much creation and imagination the creators had to bring up and makes “Inside Out” even more authentic.

So for those of you who thought “Frozen” was awesome and new and shiny, here comes “Inside Out” with a beautiful new perspective of Disney´s and Pixar´s future (as well as how boys appearently react when they see a girl – a must see!).

My tip for you, Ducklings: Go to the next movie theatre or wait for the DVD/VoD-version to enjoy “Inside Out”!