Archive

Author Archives: jgangi88

Well last night was the finale to one of my all-time favorite dramas, Breaking Bad. It’s the only show I can remember that actually got better with age. Each season raised the stakes and built our expectations. Last night’s payoff was well worth the commitment (which is far more than I can say for Dexter). 

Series finales are usually a tough maneuver to execute. When a story becomes so captivating and person, each viewer has their own version of the right way it should all end. Lucky for us, Vince Gilligan is no ordinary show runner. I heard some complaints about last night’s finale being a bit too predictable. That may be true to a degree, but I think the ending was far more satisfying than a cliffhanger or a “draw your own conclusion.”

Here are my favorite things about “Felina” :

  • “I did it for me.” It took five seasons, but Walt finally admits that he did it all for himself. Its a powerful moment of clarity that really brings the whole series full circle.
  • Uncle Jack gets a bullet to the face as he pleads for his life. Polar opposite of Hank, who died with honor. The blood spatter on the camera helped reinforce the power of that moment in a Django-kind-of-way.
  • Glad that Walt gave up the coordinates so that Hank and Gomie can get a proper burial. I liked Gomez, and he didn’t deserve to die.
  • Lydia gets the ricin in her tea cup. Drink up.
  • Jesse got to kill Todd, which was rather cathartic to watch. Remind anyone of Walt and the bike lock from season one? The crunch at the end was a tasty little detail.
  • I’d say the biggest surprise of the night was the scene involving Gretchen and Elliot. Vince really knows how to play with our expectations. Instead of murdering his ex-business partners,  Walt blackmails them into laundering the money for his family. The icing on the cake is a fake sniper lasers. I was also really happy to see Skinny Pete and Badger one more time.
  • Walt and Jesse share a final moment. It always felt that their father/son dynamic was always more important than Walt and Flynn.
  • Jesse has a touching day dream about life as a carpenter. Despite all that he’s been through, Jesse still has something to live for. In a series full of darkness, Jesse has always been a small ray of hope.
  • Love the camera angle as Walt dies. You can feel his soul leaving his body. Definitely feels like a callback to “Crawl Space.”

I could go on and on, but those are my highlights. I find it admirable that Breaking Bad is so elaborate, yet so concise. In only five seasons, Vince took us on ride of complete transformation. Although we’ve arrived at our destination, the journey will stay with us forever.

 

Also, Breaking Bad has helped me realize how much Dexter sucks. I’m sorry, but its true.

Advertisements

Dexter, Season 8 (Showtime)

Dexter Season 8

It’s been a long road for everyone’s favorite serial killer, but we’ve finally reached the end. This summer brings the final season of Dexter. After last season ended in the surprising (but welcomed) death of a major character, it’ll be interesting to see where this season will take Dexter.

We’re already three episodes in, and it seems like the primary story will focus on the rocky relationship between Dexter and Deb. I personally think the series finale will end with the death of either one of them. I don’t think they’ll both be sailing off into the sunset on the Slice of Life.  The writers have quickly introduced a new character from Dexter’s past who conveniently already knows a ton of information about him. We’ll see how that plays out. There’s also the loose end of Hannah McKay.  

The Killing, Season 3 (AMC)

The Killing Season 3

It’s a rare thing when a TV series can successfully reinvent itself. For two seasons, AMC’s The Killing dragged out a single murder mystery and risked losing my attention span. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to cruise through the two seasons within a week or two. If I was forced to wait two years to see the outcome, I doubt I would have stayed with the show. But, now that the Rosie Larsen murder case has been resolved, the show now has the freedom to explore new territory.

Linden and Holder are still the most interesting part of the show, but the addition of a death-row subplot creates an extra level of suspense and urgency. This season also trades in the old hat political drama for an interesting look into the secret lives of homeless teenagers. Some of the most compelling scenes take place between Holder and Bullet, a street girl in search of her missing friend.   

Orange Is the New Black, Season 1 (Netflix)

Orange is the New Black Season 1

Ever since Netflix released their first original series House of Cards, I have eagerly awaiting the streaming site’s next hit. Well, Netflix has proven themselves once again. Orange is the New Black is the latest creation from Weeds show-runner Jenji Kohan. Keeping alive the same sense of dark humor, Orange follows Piper Chapman as she navigates the complexities of a female prison.

The show is full of uncomfortable moments which help to illuminate day to day prison life. What surprised me most is how well-rounded each supporting character is. Like Lost, each episode focuses on a different inmate and shows us their backstory through a series of flashbacks. We see everyone’s secret motivations and develop a full understanding of why and how the prison politics operate. So far I’m four episodes deep, but I already can’t wait until season two is released next year. Hopefully this starts a new wave of quality streaming content.

I still can’t believe they got back together. Honestly. I started listening to Ben Folds Five in 2005, at a time in which a BFF reunion seemed impossible. I had to cherish each new Ben Folds solo album because I knew it was the closest thing I’d ever get to new Five material. And believe me, I was more than okay with this reality.

But then last year, the unthinkable happened. Full-on Ben Folds Five reunion. And not just some “the gangs back together” select city tour. No. We got an entire new album! The crowd-sourced phenomenon called The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind was mana from heaven to hungry BFF fans.

After months of touring, the reunited band is now releasing a live album, simply titled Ben Folds Five Live. (If the link is still working, you can stream the full album here.) Ben Folds Five songs always seems to have a life of their own during live performances. Because the band is only a trio, the limited instrumentation forces them to strip down each song to its bare essentials. As an audience, we get to hear each song at its most raw and honest state.

I was lucky enough to see Ben Folds Five on tour last fall and I can attest that this collect of songs is an accurate portray of the variety showcased in their live set lists. Almost every album is represented here. Noteworthy tracks include:

  • “Landed”- I was definitely not expecting a Ben Fold’s solo song on this album. But “Landed” is a great choice. BFF really makes it their own and adds some great accents to the jam at the end. Great stuff.
  • “Draw a Crowd”- My favorite song off the Life Of The Mind. Its a fun angsty song that reminds me of old school BFF.
  • “Narcolepsy”- This song is always powerful live, but this time the guys end it with a great jazz inspired jam.
  • “Song for the Dumped”- They rock this shit. Hard. Awesome moment towards the end when the audience sings a final chorus.

 

It was my freshman year in college when I first developed my appreciation for all-things-Abrams. Here was a visionary who truly understood the realm of sci-fi. Through works like Lost, Cloverfield, and Super 8, director J.J. Abrams has demonstrated how a skilled filmmaker can pay tribute to the “rules” of the genre, while simultaneously re-write them. We see this idea at work once again in Abrams’ latest film Star Trek Into Darkness.

I never classified myself as a Star Trek fan, and certainly not a Trekkie. However, I’ve always been aware of its importance and had a basic understand of its mythology. I enjoyed Abram’s 2009’s Star Trek reboot, but I wouldn’t say I loved it (the side plot with new Spock and Spock Prime was needlessly confusing and not worth the price of Nemoy-nostalgia). Despite these small issues, I was still interested in seeing Into Darkness. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in looking at the movie like as a test-run for the future Star Wars films.

Overall, I was very pleased with Star Trek Into Darkness. The movie definitely succeeds in building upon the ideas established in the first film. Kirk and Spock’s relationship is put to the test and the crew encounters interesting ethical question that seem very relevant to our post-9/11 world. At what lengths should you go to eliminate a terrorist? When is it justifiable to bend the rules?

I enjoyed this movie so much that I actually went back and watched 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. It was fascinating to see how that film inspired Abrams’ interpretation. But it’s even more interesting to see how Abrams takes those original scenes and makes them his own. Despite how different the special effects are, the two movies still share the same powerful themes regarding friendship and self-sacrifice.


Abram’s shows his brilliance once again with the casting choice of Benedict Cumberbatch. Like most of the world, I was first introduced to the British actor in BBC’s Sherlock. (If you haven’t seen Sherlock yet, I highly recommend you check it out on Netflix.) Cumberbatch has developed a reputation for playing his roles with a passionate intensity and quick-wit style. In this movie, Cumberbatch plays the film’s villain with an icy calm that commands your attention. Zachary Quinto also gives a noteworthy performance and continues to make Spock his own character. As far as paying tribute to the original cast, I’d vote for Karl Urban as most convincing. Urban perfectly captures the grit of Dr. McCoy.

Unlike Star Wars, Gene Roddenberry’s universe deals less with “light vs. dark,” and more so with what it means to be human. This idea is usually played out in the philosophical struggles between Kirk and Spock–one representing emotion, the other logic. Star Trek approaches each problem through two sets of eyes. The first asks, “What is the logical thing to do?” and the second asks, “What is the right thing to do?” We learn that the answer is usually somewhere in between.

This week, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor released a new single off her up-coming called “All the Rowboats.” The track manages to sound like traditional Regina and cutting edge all at the same time. It begins with a dramatic electronia-esque fade in and a pounding drum machine beat. But then the recognizably elegant Regina Spektor piano comes in to ground the song. Overall, “All the Rowboats” is pretty dark. It feels like journey through a haunted art museum. Regina sings, “Masterpieces serving maximum sentences / It’s their own fault for being timeless.”

The track is the first taste of Regina’s new album entitled What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. No word yet on a release date. Until then, check out this live set from 2009, courtesy of NPR.

 

Yesterday, Philadelphia/DC band Jukebox the Ghost announced via Twitter exciting news about their upcoming third studio album.

If you haven’t listened to Jukebox the Ghost yet, then you really need to start (think early Ben Folds Five engergy). In addition to the title and release date, Jukebox the Ghost also announced the tracklist. Check it out:

Jukebox the Ghost Safe Travels

01. Somebody
02. Oh, Emily
03. At Last
04. Say When
05. Don’t Let Me Fall Behind
06. Dead
07. Adulthood
08. Ghosts In Empty Houses
09. Devils On Our Side
10. All For Love
11. Man In The Moon
12. Everybody Knows
13. The Spiritual

I’ve been following the progress of the album very closely for months and enjoying the Twitter updates from band members. You can tell that they’re a group of musicians who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

 

Finally, there is a reason to celebrate. This afternoon, it was announced by the show’s creator, Dan Harmon, that Community will return to NBC on Thursday, March 15th at 8 p.m. Things were looking grim when it was announced last fall that Community would be taking a hiatus. Thanks to the outpouring of support, the show is back… for now. This means that if we want the show to return for a fourth season, we need to actually watch it and improve the ratings. Watch The Big Bang Theory the next day on CBS.com or something. Sheldon isn’t going anywhere. Help save Greendale! #sixseasonsandamovie