Why We Don’t Need Another “Gilmore Girls” Revival Season

Last year was wonderfully, deliciously nostalgic as the “Gilmore Girls” came back after nearly a decade’s absence. The revival season of the popular show was a surefire winner on Netflix, with fans soon clamoring for a second season of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” However, that 4-part revival season did such a wonderful job of tying up all the loose ends that have been lingering for what seems forever, that we simply don’t need another “Gilmore Girls” revival season. Here are five reasons why.

Reason #1: We finally got the closure we wanted for so long

For years, fans had been asking the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, to tie up all the loose ends. They wanted to know what eventually happened to Lorelai (played by Lauren Graham) and Rory (played by Alexis Bledel), and they wanted to know what happened to all the residents of Stars Hollow. Well, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” delivered all that we wanted and more.

In that one season of four 90-minute installments, Sherman-Palladino created wonderful storylines for each of the characters. We found out what happened to Luke, Sookie and Taylor. And most of all, we found out what happened to Rory. There were moments for her to get closure with each of her former boyfriends, and for us to see how the relationship between Lorelai and Rory developed.

Reason #2: There was simply no better way to end a show forever

Fans of “Gilmore Girls” will never forget those final four words that ended the “Gilmore Girls” revival season: “Mom? Yeah? I’m pregnant.” That has to be the best ending ever for a show. Better than the finale of “Cheers,” or “Friends” or “The Sopranos” or any of the most cherished shows on TV.

With those four words, Sherman-Palladino both closed the door to the show forever, and yet gave fans enough to come up with their fan theories of who might have made Rory pregnant, and what it really all means. It’s like the ending of a really great novel – you want a certain amount of closure, but you also want enough creative freedom to make the characters your own. And that’s what the “Gilmore Girls” revival season did.

Reason #3: Even the actresses aren’t sure they want another revival season

If the two lead actresses – Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel – aren’t sure they want to come back for a second revival season, shouldn’t that be a clue to fans? After so much talk and speculation about a second season, Lauren Graham came out and said, “I don’t know if there is a need to do more.” And, echoing this sentiment, Alexis Bledel said that her involvement would be conditional – only if she fully buys into “what story [they’re] telling.” In other words, both of these wonderful actresses recognize that this one Netflix season was enough. They put their hearts and souls into those roles. Could we really bear to see two other actresses in these lead roles?

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Reason #4: It’s important not to overdo the nostalgia

For all the people who grew up watching “Gilmore Girls,” it was such a wonderful gift to get another season after such a long absence. But it is possible to overdo the nostalgia, and try to reboot an old series too many times. There are some memories that are better left the way they are. We will always remember “Gilmore Girls” in our own special way, and treasure all those special moments. We can always re-watch the original series or the revival season, the way we do with all of our favorite film and TV classics.

Reason #5: The revival season was almost a jarring jolt of reality

For many “Gilmore Girls” fans, it was bittersweet to find out what happened to Rory. She was no longer the over-achieving superstar. Instead, it was as if reality finally caught up to her. When the revival season ended, she was 32 and alone in the world. She didn’t have a real job or career, and she didn’t have her romantic life figured out. In fact, it looked like she would need to raise her child alone and become a single mom. This was really just too much reality for us to handle. That first revival season almost took things too far.

Reason #6: It’s time to retire the iconic Stars Hollow forever

When we think back to all the iconic destinations in TV, we’ll always have Stars Hollow. It was such a magical place in the original “Gilmore Girls.” However, in the revival season, it was clear that we’ve almost outgrown Stars Hollow. It was great to see all the new diversity (the first LGBT character!) in Stars Hollow, and to see how many of the characters who populated this fictional location evolved over the years. But now it’s been a decade. It’s time to retire Stars Hollow forever.

Reason #7: Another revival season would make us all feel even older than we are

That first revival season was just the right size – four episodes, for each season of the year. It was a perfect length to develop a few storylines and bring everything to a close. And that’s what closure is all about. We found out how everything ended. Adding another season would just make us feel older. We don’t want to see the beautiful Rory get older! We don’t want to see our favorite characters pass away or move onto other projects. The four seasons of the year was a perfect way to capture the cyclical nature of life. There’s no need to over do this.

Even super-fans of “Gilmore Girls” and “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” would probably admit that there’s not much left to tell in another season. Seeing Rory as a middle-aged young mom would probably make us all more depressed. We couldn’t bear to see any of our favorite characters age any more.

We should be thankful that we had such a wonderful experience, and that we finally found out how everything ended. We got so many of our questions answered, and we learned all there was to know about Stars Hollow. We got treated to a bonus season. Let’s not be greedy. We don’t need another “Gilmore Girls” revival season.

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Why Kids and Adults Will Love “Smurfs: The Lost Village”

 

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Another “Smurfs” movie? Yes, please. “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is set to hit the big screen on April 7, and it’s almost guaranteed to be a real crowd pleaser with viewers of all ages. “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is a fun digital animation experience that kids and adults will love. Here are just some of the reasons.

Those lovable Smurfs

Let’s start with all those lovable Smurf characters. There’s Jokey, Nerdy, Grouchy, Brainy, Clumsy, Heft, Nosy – they are all there. And your kids are going to absolutely love them. They are, as some reviewers have pointed out, the “mascots of cute.” It’s sort of like the Seven Dwarfs – where the name of each Smurf perfectly describes the character and temperament of that Smurf.

Just think of how easy that concept is to explain to your kids. It’s a great way to talk with your kids about personality and character, and how our actions show our deeper character.

Girl Smurfs, unite!

If you have a daughter or young granddaughter, you absolutely have to take her to this new “Smurfs” film. That’s because we’re going to meet the new girl Smurfs! We already have Smurfette, of course, but as the trailer tells us, all the current Smurfs are “dudes.” In a world where girls need positive role models, we also need female Smurfs!

And this film really delivers. The big plot narrative of the film revolves around the search for the “lost village” – which turns out to be an all-girl Smurf enclave called Smurfy Grove. And guess who plays an important role here as Smurfwillow? Yes, probably, one of the most beloved female actresses of all time – Julia Roberts. Is there really a better symbol of girl Smurf power?

A fun time for everyone

This is a film that’s designed to be a fun time for the whole family. So what if some of the critics have called the animation “bland” or the plot line “uninspired”? Remember – the target audience for this film includes the little ones in your family who may not even be in pre-school yet. So as long as you go into this film with a positive mindset, you’re almost certain to enjoy it. It’s not meant to be a “challenging” film.

So you don’t have to worry about violence, sexual situations, or any bad language. Everything has been cleaned up, and delivered in a family friendly way. This is like one of the classic animated films of a generation ago, when going to the movies was just wholesome and fun.

A classic story of good and evil

One of the main plot points involves the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), who sort of looks like a monk more than a wizard. But he’s concocted a grand plan to destroy all the Smurfs in pursuit of his grand plan to become more powerful. This, of course, leads to a classic story of good and evil, all delivered within the context of the Smurf universe.

In contrast to other animated films, which try to use convoluted plot twists and complex narrative arcs, this is a fairly easy movie to explain to your kids. You can sit back and relax, without worrying that your little toddler is going to lose track of what’s going on.

And this film – unlike the previous two “Smurfs” movies – is completely animated. There’s no combination of a live-action universe with animated characters. Again, this is just Old School animation, delivered on the big screen.

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Hip and relevant for older viewers

OK, so maybe you can’t imagine going alone to “Smurfs: The Lost Village” – but don’t worry, the film’s producers have added enough elements to make it enjoyable for older viewers. There’s a wink-and-a-nod to Smurf selfies, as well as a Smurf with a tattoo who goes around calling his fellow Smurfs “bros.” Those are just a few of the way that this Smurfs movies adds in a few extra goodies for adult viewers.

The pop music soundtrack

Oh yes, we haven’t even started to talk about the music yet, have we? Well, the whole film features a pop anthem soundtrack. And did we mention that the role of Smurfette is voiced by the very talented musical artist Demi Lovato?

Magical adventures await

Some of the best scenes of the movie involve the Smurfs and their adventures in search of the Lost Village. There’s the Forbidden Forest, the whitewater rapids, fire-breathing dragonflies and, yes, Smurf-eating flowers! But it’s all done in a way that your little ones won’t be too scared. In fact, it’s even sort of cute how all the action goes down.

Take, for example, those Smurf-eating flowers. One second, you see the Smurfs lazily strolling around, and the next – oops! – the Smurf has been swallowed up by a colorful, gorgeously animated flower. And then – wait – the next second, the Smurf has popped back out, covered in yucky flower juice.

It’s better than “Trolls”

So you liked “Trolls”? Well, this new Smurfs movie is even better. Both movies feature lovable characters. Both films feature great music (even if you don’t care for Justin Timberlake, you have to admit that his music is definitely catchy). Both films feature a fun, magical village. And both films feature an adventure-style quest.

But let’s just answer one basic question: Do you really think that a Troll is more adorable than a Smurf? No way. And while “Trolls” won over movie-going audiences, it was often psychedelic trippy while doing it. We’ll take our lovable, blue and white Smurfs over those complicated, rainbow-colored Trolls any day.

It looks like Sony Pictures Animation has a real winner on its hands with this new “Smurfs” movie. It’s time to make Smurfette part of your life again, and time to dial up the cuteness factor. This is just good, wholesome family fun that everyone – even someone as young as a pre-schooler – can enjoy.

Both kids and adults are going to walk away from this film, tapping their feet and feeling optimistic about life. It will make you feel nostalgic for the good old days, when life just seemed easier, less complicated and less filled with hidden messages and hidden agendas. The Smurfs really are the symbol of cute family fun, and you will love this film.

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Trevor Noah and His Rise to Comedic Fame

It almost seems like comedian Trevor Noah has skyrocketed to Internet fame out of nowhere. For more than a decade, he was a largely unknown South African comic, and now he’s one of the highest-profile stars in the American comedy world, complete with his own one-hour Netflix comedy original (“Afraid of the Dark”) and a full-time hosting job on “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. Here’s what you need to know about Trevor Noah and his rise to comedic fame.

South African roots (1984-2010)

Noah’s rise to comic fame started in South Africa, of all places. At age 18, he starred in a South African soap opera, and that led to a number of other comic gigs, including his own radio show (“Noah’s Ark”). He was headed on a promising career in stand-up comedy, and became one of the young headliners anytime a big-name international act like Russell Peters showed up in Johannesburg as part of a South African tour. He began to hone his unique brand of humor with a series of stand-up comedy shows.

From there, it was a series of diverse TV shows in South Africa that probably best prepared him for his star turn on “The Daily Show.” He helped to host a gossip show (“The Real Goboza”), a sports show, and a dating game reality show (“The Amazing Date”). That led to more comic gigs, more stand-up comedy acts, and more exposure in his home country. But that couldn’t possibly have predicted what happened next.

A rising star in the U.S. comedy world (2011-2015)

In 2011, Noah moved to the U.S. and that’s when his career really took off. In January 2012, he became the first South African stand-up comedian to ever appear on “The Tonight Show.” Almost a year later, in May 2013, he became the first South African stand-up comedian to ever appear on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

From those early breakout performances, he started to gain a much bigger following within the United States. In 2012, he recorded a one-man comedy show (“Trevor Noah: The Racist”) and in September of that same year, he led a rousing roast on Comedy Central. The bigwigs at the comedy network took notice and by December 2014, he was a recurring contributor to “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart.

At that time, Jon Stewart was on his way out, and the show was looking for a successor. The rest, as they say, is history. In March 2015, Comedy Central tapped Trevor Noah to replace Jon Stewart. And on September 28, 2015, Trevor Noah officially became the host of “The Daily Show.”

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Comedy in the era of Trump (2016-2017)

In many ways, 2016 saw a perfect storm of events for Trevor Noah – you had the arrival of a relatively youthful comedian (still only 32) new on the national scene, you had the new Trump phenomenon looming on the political horizon, and you had the end of the Obama administration and the departure of the nation’s first-ever African-American president.

Noah – with his frequent riffs on race and his mixed-race ancestry – seemed to be the perfect voice of the people who were concerned about Donald Trump’s impact on how America viewed matters of race and diversity. He was young enough to connect with the young millennial generation, but also experienced enough to present a truly compelling and global look at what the Trump phenomenon might mean for Americans.

And by the end of 2016, Trevor Noah had become a must-watch comedian. If you were a fan of late night comedy, “The Daily Show” was the place to be. On his late night show, he delighted in taking on issues like globalization, nationalization and immigration. His scathing (but hilarious) critiques of Trump and his administration suddenly started showing up as viral video clips that were passed around on social media. The presidential election campaign was surreal and unprecedented in almost every regard and Noah – as someone born outside the nation – seemed to have a fresh, witty take on just about everything that happened.

And that, of course, led to his first-ever Netflix Original comedy special – “Afraid of the Dark,” which was filmed at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. In this hour-long show, he takes on globalization, immigration and nationalism – all while riffing on the Scots, the Brits and the Russians.

Noah as a national figure

In 2017, TIME magazine recognized the 33-year-old as one of 10 “next generation leaders” who were changing the way the nation talked, thought and discussed matters. TIME specifically pointed to Noah as the “master of the eloquent Trump takedown.” So Noah had become more than just a comic in 2017 – he had become much more of a media critic, political critic and an influential thinker.

It’s Noah’s diverse background – growing up in South Africa, growing up in a mixed-race family, and learning about race and ethnicity from a very different perspective – that seems to make him so fresh and witty. He numbers among his influences Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, but his brand of humor is much different. He’s willing to take on matters of race and inequality, but not so much out of his outrage with the system, but more of a humorous detachment of someone who just can’t quite figure out how things have become so surreal in America.

What to expect from Noah in 2017

Most likely, the new Netflix Original comedy special is going to make Noah even more of a star than he already is. He has limited film experience, but one animated feature film coming out in late 2017 – “Ferdinand” – will feature his voice. His background as writer, producer, actor, media critic and TV host will serve him well as he takes on other artistic projects. He’s surely very much in demand these days.

Who knows? He might even get a chance to host an award show like the Oscars sometime soon. He may not quite have the same name recognition as fellow late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel right now, but it’s somehow very entertaining to think of how Noah might have handled the truly epic ending (and comedic mix-up) at this year’s Oscars.

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Why “Moana” Lost to “Zootopia” at the Oscars

Of late, Disney has been following in the footsteps of its younger competitor, Pixar’s strategy – make animated movies for adults. Even the Disney’s princesses have taken a modern turn. They are empowered, can take care of themselves, and do not wait for the prince charming of their respective stories to save them anymore. Moana follows in this new path Disney has set for itself. It is without a doubt one of the best movie to ever come out of Disney’s stable. Yet, it lost the Oscar to another of Disney’s productions, Zootopia. Did Moana get snubbed at the Oscars? Did the jury find something really special with Zootopia? Read on to find answers to these questions.

To be fair, both of the movies are really good. In fact, Disney has been consistently delivering masterpieces as part of its new strategy, which has spawned the likes of Big Hero 6, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and so on. All of these movies have really good stories and characters that are memorable. More importantly, the characters are so well thought-out that the audience can easily relate with them. Moana and Zootopia both embody these characteristics and are a great watch for all ages. But, they are two very different movies.

Moana is a tale of an adventurous girl, who defies the orders of her father “to stay within the island” and embarks on a lifesaving mission to save the failing ecosystem of her island. She is a strong female character who would not let men to define her world view for her. Oh, and she is also absolutely adorable while doing all of this.

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There is no doubt that the theme and the story of Moana are great. But, they are far from being anything groundbreaking. If anything, having a strong female character in the lead role has become a pretty dependable formula for Disney. Tangled, Frozen, and even Zootopia have strong female leads. Not that there is anything wrong with it. But, featuring such characters does not guaranteed a free pass to the Oscars anymore, if at all it ever did.

On the other hand, Zootopia took a previously tried and tested formula – cute, talking animals – and infused it with a fresh take on multiculturalism, and the stereotypes that go with it. The movie follows the story of a fresh recruit to the Zootopia Police Department, Judy Hopps. Now Judy has a ‘small’ problem. No really, her problem is that she is small. She is a bunny, and the first bunny to make it to the police force. Her boss and others have a stereotypical view of her as a fragile, powerless animal (or person is it? What is the right word here…), who cannot take on the big baddies of the outside world. Out officer Judy has to overcome those stereotypes to firmly establish that she is second to none, and can be an exceptional police offer, if only given an opportunity. And an opportunity she gets.

Judy gets 48 hours to solve the puzzling case of missing animals. To assist her in her mission, Judy enlists the help of a scam artist Nick Wilde, a fox. Nick is also fighting his own lifelong battle to overcome the stereotype against his species. Together, they manage to solve the case, and shed a number of stereotypes about various animals.

This whole thing was a completely fresh concept. Of course, talking animals were nothing new. But, the movie explored the bias in the minds of the audience when they see animated animals on the screen. As the movie rolls on, and the audience suddenly becomes self-aware of the bias within themselves, it makes for a superb cinematic experience. It is not only the animals in the movie that recognize that the stereotypes do not hold any water, but even the audience is made aware of it. This learning is very relevant today in Donald Trump’s America, where racial tensions are on the highest setting. The movie makes a case that the acceptance of each other’s individualities is the only way to progress as a society.

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When all said and done, there is no doubt that Moana and Zootopia are both amazing movies in their own right. However, Zootopia’s comes at a time when it is most needed. It is more than just celebrating a character’s individuality. It carries a strong message for the entire society as well. What is really exemplary about Zootopia is that it puts across its message in the most relatable way, using adorable characters and superb animation. Enough to melt the hearts of the even the biggest of racists. That is why it ended up winning an Oscar.

Coming to the question – did Moana get snubbed? The answer is straightforward – no. Moana would have been snubbed if the Oscar had gone to an inferior movie, which is anything but true in this case. Zootopia is a refreshing, original, and well executed movie that deserves every accolade it has received since its release. To be honest, few people had any doubt about its win. Even before it bagged the Academy Award, it had already taken home sex trophies at Annie Awards, and even managed a Golden Globe. As for the audience, they threw more than a $1 billion at it. This movie was loved by everyone – the audience, the Academy Awards jury, and the critics. It deserved the win.

Let’s just hope that the commercial and critical success of the movie drives Disney to pursue more of such projects in the future.

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What To Expect From Season 2 of “The Get Down”

If you would like to know what it is was like to be in New York City in the 1970s and witness the rise of disco, hip-hop and the urban graffiti movement, there’s perhaps no better way to caught up immediately than by watching the Netflix Original series “The Get Down.” After six episodes in Season 1, fans are now looking ahead with excitement to the premiere of Season 2 on April 7.

At the end of Season 1, when we last parted ways at with the three key members of “The Get Down” crew – Zeke (played by Justice Smith), Shaolin Fantastic (played by Shameik Moore), Mylene Cruz (played by Herizen Guardiola), we knew they were on the cusp of greatness.

So many trends were coming together – the rise to prominence of Zeke as a musical artist and DJ, the development of the singing career of Mylene, and the realization of the artistic ambitions of everyone from Dizzee (played by Jaden Smith) to Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) to Boo-Boo (Tremaine Brown Jr). Netflix promised to show us the beginning of a musical revolution, and we weren’t disappointed. So what can we look forward to in Season 2?

#1: Do Zeke and Mylene finally get together?

The precociously talented Zeke and the equally talented Mylene seemed to be a match made in heaven. Zeke was becoming a famous DJ and a pioneer in New York City’s music scene, while Mylene was showing signs of becoming a real disco diva.

But there’s just one problem – at times, they seemed to have more problems than the star-crossed lovers of “West Side Story.” After all, they’re both from the rough, gritty South Bronx and those types of neighborhoods have a way of keeping people down rather than helping them to rise up.

Moreover, Mylene’s family doesn’t approve of her disco career — they’d far more prefer her to sing in the school gospel choir than hang out in New York’s notorious disco clubs. And, of course, there are the reservations of Mylene herself, who remains unconvinced that Zeke really wants to leave his career and life in the South Bronx behind forever. In Episode 1 of Season 1, Zeke resolved to get the girl, but it turns out that he may not be willing to sacrifice everything to do that in Season 2.

#2: Artistic rivalries between members of “The Get Down” crew

Netflix bills this as a story of 6 gifted kids, and for good reason. We have a vested stake in all of them achieving their artistic ambitions – whether it’s becoming the next big DJ, the next big hip-hop star, or the next big graffiti artist. They’re young, talented, and resourceful – but there are sure to be rivalries along the way. And perhaps even jealousies.

We were already given a foreshadowing of what’s to come during Season 1, when it looked like Shaolin Fantastic might try to convince Zeke that he should pursue his artistic career at the expense of Mylene. And we’re not really sure about the intentions of Grandmaster Flash (played by Mamoudou Athie) – we know that he’s going to tutor and help Zeke as much as he can, but that’s when there’s no money at risk. What happens when the hip-hop world needs to anoint a new legend to take his place?

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#3: The backstory of how 1970s New York City emerged from its squalid glory

The New York of the 1970s looked nothing like the New York of today — and especially not the South Bronx. Back then, even the men in blue of the NYPD were afraid to go into the worst precincts of the Bronx. And we’ve already seen plenty of scenes in “The Get Down” of New York City at its worst – like the citywide blackout and all the widespread poverty and violence. In Season 1, this struck a raw nerve, as the directors inter-cut live drama with real footage and newscasts from the 1970s.

Since the story is being told to us from present day (well, almost — 1996), we might see more scenes showing us how New York City transformed in those two intervening years. For example, that’s exactly when the most famous New York City graffiti artists of the era were getting their start. We might see people like Dizzee riding the New York City trains, tagging them with their own unique artwork, or the rise of the great downtown street artists.

#4: More of the hip-hop and disco music that captivated an era

The real star of the show, of course, is the music. It’s a music-driven drama, and with the involvement of Baz Luhrmann (perhaps best known for his Parisian-themed movie “Moulin Rouge”) we know we’re going to witness the simultaneous blossoming of both the hip-hop and disco genres. It was almost as if a great creative storm started forming in New York City, taking everyone along with it.

With the involvement of MC Nas and Grandmaster Flash in this Netflix original series, it’s almost a certainty that we’ll start to meet even more of the figures who were deeply responsible for the rise of this vibrant new art form. At the very least, we may get more scenes like the famous “purple crayon” scene in Season 1, when we learned how the first hip-hop artists learned how to mark their vinyl records (with crayons for the prime grooves).

#5: Family drama at its very best

We still don’t know the full backstory of Shaolin Fantastic – he seems to be a child of the streets with no real family or home. Will we meet the people in his past who left him behind? And, speaking of family, one of the most important angles involves Mylene’s family. Jimmy Smits, who plays Papa Fuerte, would seem to be one of the keys to the story. He’s a powerful South Bronx political boss who’s in charge of doling out jobs, healthcare and political favors — but he’s also someone who doesn’t seem to approve of Mylene’s decision to embrace disco rather than a conservative religious background.

There are so many figures that seem to be on verge of greatness – like Zeke, Shaolin Fantastic and Mylene – as well as so many figures that seem equally determined to hold them down – like the dangerous gangster Cadillac and all the shady characters that hang out at the after-hours clubs in the South Bronx. As Shaolin proudly tells us in Season 1, “This isn’t Disneyland, this is the South Bronx.” We can’t wait to find out what happens in Season 2!

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Movie Review: “Fist Fight”

When it comes to films about high school teachers and rowdy high school kids, there are two basic options for Hollywood film producers these days – the upbeat, uplifting and inspirational tales about teachers who overcome all odds and help their students achieve greatness… and then all the others. Unfortunately, “Fist Fight” falls into that latter category. “Fist Fight” been almost unanimously panned by critics for its distinctively lowbrow approach to humor that seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator in American society.

That being said, there’s at least one reason why you could find yourself laughing your way through this hour-and-one-half comedy – there’s a cast that’s just too unbelievably wacky, incompetent and off-kilter to be anything other than hilarious. There’s Charlie Day (of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Horrible Bosses”) as Andy Campbell, a whiny, sniveling English teacher who knows that the school is about to make budget cuts that involves firing all the teaching staff on the last day of school. He’s basically the stereotypical “spineless white guy” and it’s hilarious.

And then there’s Ice Cube, who plays Mr. Strickland, the toughest and most feared teacher in the school. And then there’s all the loony and slightly out-there teachers who seem to be either misfits and incompetent (like Tracy Morgan, who plays Coach Crawford), or Jillian Bell as the guidance counselor who has a meth habit and is also plotting how to get into the pants of a high school athlete she’s advising.

Of these characters, the one that people are talking about is Ice Cube. The problem is that he’s basically a flat, one-dimensional racial stereotype. It’s almost like he’s been airlifted from his days with N.W.A. and turned into a caricature of a tough high school teacher who would rather duke it out on the schoolyard rather than in the classroom. And the other characters aren’t much better – although there’s something darkly humorous about a 3:00 pm fight in the schoolyard between two adults who should probably know better.

And there’s the whole premise of the movie. It’s almost like the directors have taken every well-worn high school stereotype and tried to include it in the mix. Some critics have referred to it as basically a shameless copy of comedies like “Three O’Clock High” (the 1987 film featuring a nerd and a bully) and “Vice Principals” (the HBO comedy) and perhaps they’re not far off the mark.

This isn’t meant to be a highbrow comedy — but you already knew that heading into the film. You know exactly what you’re going to get  — a “regrettable schoolyard showdown” featuring a weasel-like white guy and a hard-as-nails black guy. I guess you could call that situation a racial stereotype if there ever was one in today’s racially-charged society.

The good news is that you’ll probably be too distracted by all the Senior Day pranks that occur all through the movie — like a mariachi band that follows around the principal, a bunch of NSFW images mowed into the school’s grass, and the appearance of pornography in places where it shouldn’t be. There’s also plenty of the F-word, which may or may not offend you. Odds are, even several years ago, hearing the F-bomb dropped over and over again within an hour would have offended you. But not now. This is a new era, in which there’s no better way to deal with misfits, psychotics and buffoons than to hear the F-word fly.

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The question really becomes: What redeeming features did New Line Cinema plan to include in the film? If the answer is “none,” then our national educational system may be in much worse shape than anyone thought.  When you think of all the misfits, goofballs and incompetents at the school, one wonders how high school kids learn anything these days.

The moral – as much as there is one – is told via the story of Andy Campbell the English teacher. Panicked at the idea that he might be losing his job, he’s decided to take matters into his own hands. In his mind, it’s either him or Strickland, and the school is going to have a much easier time getting rid of Strickland. To make that as easy as possible, Campbell descends to some truly epic lows – like trying to plant drugs on him. All that eventually leads to Strickland getting fired, and that’s really what leads to the whole epic showdown on the schoolyard scenario.

What Hollywood movies try to do these days is cover up a lot of juvenile pranks and jokes with some kind of moralizing. The plot – as much as there is one – has to do with all the problems that appear to be overwhelming Campbell – his financial problems, his wife who’s about to have a child at any moment, and his fear about his own future job security. Clearly, he’s been pushed to the breaking point.

In many ways, the “fist fight” can be a metaphor for the situation where many schools find themselves these days. They’re out of funding and out of ideas, and the very best talent in America no longer wants to teach. Schools are hollowing out, neighborhoods are hollowing out, and everyone is looking for some kind of solution that’s going to save the day. Against that backdrop, the only real solution is physical, real and immediate. Hence, the fist fight metaphor.

Film critics may have been a bit too tough on this film. And people who have seen it since it was released on February 17 haven’t been too upbeat, either. After all, “Fist Fight” only has a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.9/10.0 rating on IMDB. People have slammed it for the lack of a plot, for the lack of meaning, and for the lack of anything really redeeming at all. It’s a bunch of pranks, actions that seem to happen in random order, and just non-stop anarchy and chaos.

But maybe, just maybe, that’s all the film wanted to be. It’s essentially what you’d get by binge-watching three 30-minute sit-coms, back-to-back-to-back. There’s not meant to be any real meaning, other than maybe some of these characters might get show spin-offs of their own at some point in the future. One can almost imagine an HBO or Netflix or Showtime special starring Ice Cube as a comic version of himself, trotting out a bunch of F-bombs about the police and still getting people to laugh every time.

At the very least, Charlie Day will be able to roll on in a similar type of film based on a mash-up of “Horrible Bosses” and “Fist Fight.” After all, wherever you look, there are always horrible people doing things they shouldn’t. Somebody needs to get a good laugh out of it.

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Natalie Portman Shines as Jackie Kennedy in “Jackie”

There have been many actresses who have previously played the role of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy – Jaclyn Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jacqueline Bisset and Katie Holmes among them – but none of them have come close to the brilliant and emotionally riveting role played by Natalie Portman in the 2016 biopic “Jackie.”

The critics have unanimously recognized the range of acting talent and expression of Natalie Portman in her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy. She won a Golden Globe award for “Best Actress” and she’s now in contention for a “Best Actress” award at the Oscars.

When watching “Jackie” it is almost impossible to keep your eyes off her – literally. She is in almost every scene, and her presence throughout the film makes us realize how iconic Jackie Kennedy was in her era.

The wonderful film by the Chilean director Pablo Larrain focuses on only a few days in the life of Jackie Kennedy – the time between the assassination of her husband, former President John F. Kennedy, and his final burial.  But the sweep is epic and breathtaking. Through interview answers, flashbacks and Natalie Portman’s dramatic responses to what’s going on as her life is collapsing around her, we see the full dramatic sweep of the Kennedy presidency, the creation of the Camelot myth, and all the burdens of presidential power.

Where Natalie Portman really shines is in her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, down to the very mannerisms, traits and voice. Heading into the role, Natalie Portman said it would be “daunting” because so much was known about Jackie already. It would not be the same as playing an unknown character of an unknown era. Jackie Kennedy belonged to all Americans, and we all have a very specific image of her. Natalie, for example, said she really only knew of Jackie as a fashion icon.

But after long study and preparation, Portman discovered the full dramatic scope of Jackie’s life. As Natalie Portman told interviewers after the film premiered in Venice, she studied everything she could about Jackie – she watched videos, she watched White House tour recordings, she read books and she listened to audiotapes. She even worked with a voice coach to get the dialect exactly right.

And she absolutely nailed it. What Portman shows audiences is that there were two very different Jackies – there was the slightly girlish and flirty Jackie and then there was the steely, calculated Jackie who was very aware of her place in history.

And, in fact, it was thanks to her desire to get history right and establish the myth of her husband and Camelot that she famously gave a long interview to LIFE magazine reporter Theodore H. White that stretched over several days. (In the film, this journalist is played brilliantly by Billy Crudup.) What’s clear is what might have seemed like a long, rambling, unscripted interview was anything but. In fact, Jackie took full editorial control of the interview, making sure that nothing got published that didn’t reinforce the honor and glory of her husband and the myth of Camelot.

And, yet, for all that, she was also weakened and traumatized beyond all compare with dealing with the death of her husband. We see in flashbacks how her and her husband JFK lived a life of love and almost mythical splendor. And now, she was left with nothing, only a sense of dark loss and tragedy.

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Sometimes Portman uses just her eyes to express everything she’s feeling and thinking, and that’s what makes her performance so expressive. There’s a scene on Air Force One where Lyndon Johnson is being sworn in as the next U.S. President, and someone uses the term “Mr. President” to refer to him and not her husband. It’s then that she knows everything has changed forever.

Special mention should be given to the Chilean director Pablo Larrain – this is his first English-language film, his first biopic, and his first introduction to the world of the Kennedys. Perhaps it was his outsider perspective that makes the film all the more powerful. An insider would not have been able to capture so many of the nuances.

Clearly, Natalie Portman turns in an Oscar-worthy performance. Whether it’s roaming the seemingly infinite corridors of the White House, or just standing stoically, she seems to radiate strength, dignity and courage.

And her use of mirrors and windows is masterful. Sometimes what matters most is not the head-on image, but one caught sideways, or only in passing. It’s then that we see the expressive features before they have hardened into a desired look. This gives us a unique insight into Jackie’s mind.

Ultimately, what Natalie Portman does is deliver a probing psychological portrait. Too many biopics suffer from the problem of trying to be neat, tidy historical set pieces. They almost feel like visiting a museum.

But Portman makes us realize how history is not a museum – it is something that is constantly changing, morphing and developing. And Jackie recognized that. She realized that facts were the raw ingredients for history, which in turn, was the raw ingredient for a new myth.

And, thus, we see so many sides of Natalie Portman. We see her laughing and clapping and dancing. We see her disconsolate, stoic and harrowed. And we see her as calm, calculating and focused – even in the worst of circumstances.

And, so, Natalie Portman brilliantly makes us see the divide between public life and private life. Our public life is a façade, a role that we are playing in some cosmic theatrical production where we don’t know the ending, or if even if it will be a comedy or a tragedy. Our private life is much different. It is there that we try on new roles, and see what makes sense.

On that fateful day in November 1963, the private and public lives of Jackie Kennedy collided. A lesser person would have disappeared entirely, unable to bear the heavy burden of history. But as Natalie Portman shows us, Jackie Kennedy stood tall, with dignity and poise. At a time when tragedy and legacy were impossibly mixed together, Jackie found a way to make history. And for that reason, it is just incredible watching Natalie Portman’s portrayal in “Jackie.” Even when the ending is known, what is truly fascinating is the journey that led to that ending.

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What to Expect From Season 4 of “Broad City”

Ever since the first season of “Broad City” premiered in January 2014 on Comedy Central, it’s been fun to look ahead to the next season to think of what misadventures the very wonderful Abbi Jacobsen (who plays Abbi Abrams) and Ilana Glazer (who plays Ilana Wexler) will have next season. And so what exactly can we expect from Season 4 of “Broad City”?

#1: Further development of the friendship between Abbi and Ilana

It seems like nothing can come between Abbi and Ilana: throughout three seasons of misadventures and mishaps, they remain true to each other. They are best friends as well as a true comedy couple. New Yorker magazine has even called them the “Id Girls” – a funny reference to the traditional “It Girls” who usually occupy the social fascination of New Yorkers.

In Season 4, it’s almost certain that this friendship is going to grow and mature even further. It’s a forever relationship, and even though they had problems in Season 3, they still ended up together. The wildcard factor, though, is the transition to adulthood. Just how much longer can they keep up their wild antics, living month-to-month with very little in the way of career or job prospects?

For that reason, many people have compared “Broad City” to the HBO show “Girls.” Both feature twenty-something women trying to make it in New York City. But “Girls” is about stagnating characters, about characters that can be outgrown, and about character that leave each other at the end. So that’s the choice that “Broad City” has to make: Is it going to risk becoming another “Girls” or is going to develop the narrative arc even further?

#2: New love interests for Abbi and Ilana

One factor that could bend the narrative arc significantly is romance. Throughout Seasons 1-3, both women barely make it from one relationship to another. By Season 3, the best chance for Abbi to find someone is Trey, her manager at the Soulstice gym, and the best chance for Ilana is the dentist Lincoln Rice. But will Abbi and Trey get back together? Will Lincoln return in Season 4?

One clue that we have is a photo that the comedic duo recently released on Instagram after Season 3 – it shows them wearing floor-to-length gowns standing next to a luxury bathtub in a swank New York bathroom. The post described the photo as “very elegant.” So is this a clue that the two are finally going to “grow up” and meet sophisticated guys in New York?

One option for Abbi might be Jeremy Santos, the across-the-hall neighbor who she continually obsesses over. In Season 3, it seemed at time that she might finally find a way to connect with him, but always seemed to bungle it. Is the fourth time a charm? Or will she stumble upon someone different, maybe someone she meets at the gym?

#3: New political themes

Well, Hillary Clinton made a guest appearance in Season 3, and Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer have made no secret that they support the cause of Muslims, immigrants and the political left. So, with a Trump administration, will that lead to a politicizing of the plot line?

One character to keep an eye on is the gay roommate Jaime, who is from Guatemala. At a time when Trump is talking up immigration and deporting people, is Jaime going to take on a more active role next season?

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#4: Winter in New York

Here’s one detail that a lot of serious fans of “Broad City” are talking about – this is going to be the first season filmed during winter. This is going to open up new plot narratives for Ilana and Abbi. Summer is a time for hedonism, for slacking off from work, and for just living like a twenty-something. But you can’t do that in fall and winter. That might be why they’ve teased those elegant, full-length gowns. We might see more of the best friends exploring New York in winter.

#5: New career options for Abbi and Ilana

So much of Seasons 1 to 3 have been wild and freewheeling. It’s been about doing the absolute minimum at very bad jobs, whether it’s the Deals Deals Deals sales company or the Soulstice gym.

But as both the real-life Abbi and Ilana have pointed out, these two characters are essentially “younger, poorer, less competent versions of themselves.” In short, they play two people scrounging around, coming up with absurd ideas, and still not sure how to make it. As one reviewer has pointed out, they have been living in a “beautiful, pot-hazed Neverland.”

So Season 4 could finally be the time when they get some more structure into their lives. Abbi is an illustrator who has always wanted to pursue art full-time. This could be a great way for her to finally pursue her true passion in life instead of trying to just get by at the Soulstice fitness center. Ilana has less going for her in terms of a future career, but she could finally make a decisive leap in a career within sales or advertising.

#6: New details about Bevers and Jaime

One of the oddest characters on the show is Bevers, who seems to be perpetually just hanging out, playing video games, and doing not much of anything. Season 4 could be finally when we find out more about him and his girlfriend. That could add a new dimension to how the two roommates relate to each other. The same thing is true of Jaime, who might emerge into a more fully dimensional character.

Whatever happens to Abbi and Ilana in Season 4, we know that we’re going to love them just as much as we did in Season 3. They are such inseparable friends, the kinds that we all wished we had growing up. Season 4 could be the final transition to adulthood, the time when they begin to think more about what happens next in their 30s than their recent post-university days.

And if “Broad City” is able to show us that in Season 4, it’s just going to be awesome.  As Abbi and Ilana would say, “Yas, queen.” Or, even better (if you’ve seen the “Broad City” YAS Supercut on YouTube), “Yaaassss Queeen!”

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What Can We Expect From Oscar Night?

On Sunday, it will be Oscar Night in Hollywood. All of the biggest A-list actors and actresses will be hitting the red carpet, and social media will be abuzz with reasons why this actor or that actress was snubbed this year. So here are a few things to look for on Oscar night. All of the nominations will roll in on January 24, but here’s a best guess at what to expect.

Who will become the new Hollywood superstar?

Right now, the leading candidate to take home “Best Actor” is Casey Affleck for his riveting performance in “Manchester By the Sea.” Affleck, despite his famous last name, has never picked up an Oscar for anything before. So this win would be huge. Right now, he’s the big favorite to win, given his Golden Globe win and all the critical buzz surrounding the film, which could pick up a Best Picture nomination as well as a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Michelle Williams.

Which film will sweep all the awards?

Every year, it seems, there’s one film that absolutely walks away with all the awards. This year, that film could be “La La Land.” This is the type of film that the Academy loves to reward, and the buzz surrounding it has been at a fever pitch recently. Moreover, there are so many ways for “La La Land” to win – you’ve got Ryan Gosling with a good shot at winning Best Actor and Emma Stone with a good shot at winning Best Actress.

How will Jimmy Kimmel handle the hosting gig?

Every year it seems, the Oscars experiment with a new host who can deliver the right demographics. Anyone still remember that collaboration between James Franco and Anne Hathaway, largely considered one of the worst Oscar hosting jobs in recent memory? (Although, Anne, we still love you!) This year, we get Jimmy Kimmel, one of the most popular late night talk show hosts.

The hope is that he will deliver the young demographic – the kinds of people who stay up late at night, hitting the Twitter hard. In fact, the way he announced his Oscar hosting gig was via Twitter with a simple, albeit humorous tweet: “Yes, I am hosting the Oscars. This is not a prank. And if it is, my revenge on @TheAcademy will be terrible and sweet.” That was at the beginning of December.

He followed that up with the first “commercial” for his hosting of the Oscars that he called “Brooklyn.” The punch line of the 30-second clip involves Kimmel asking a guy from Brooklyn: Who is hosting the Oscars? The guy looks puzzled, so Kimmel gives him a big hint, while holding out an Oscar award: “I’ll give you a hint… He’s from Brooklyn too.” The guy finally quizzically looks at Kimmel and asks, “Oscar?”

So, as of now, that’s the kind of humor we should expect from the host. If this were Jimmy Fallon, we might expect some kind of musical number, but probably not from Kimmel. Maybe he’ll bring some East Coast-West Coast rivalry this year.

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Denzel Washington: Mending “Fences” on diversity

In past years, the Academy has come under intense scrutiny for its failure to reward men and women of color for their role in film, and it’s unlikely that this year will be any different. In past years, in fact, even hosts got into the act, mocking the Academy for nominating men and women of color, but not actually voting for them. Some big Hollywood names have even boycotted the Oscars, so we’ll see if that’s the case this year.

The sentimental favorite would be Denzel Washington, who will most likely be nominated for Best Actor for his role in “Fences.” In fact, “Fences” could do a lot better than anyone expects. “Fences” will most likely pick up a Best Picture nomination, while Viola Davis will most likely be nominated for a Supporting Actress role. So this could be big.

The other film that could help with the diversity problem is “Hidden Figures.” Until the official nominations come out, we won’t know which of the stellar cast members could win, but there’s a lot of momentum building for Octavia Spencer. (If Kevin Costner wins for anything for his role in “Hidden Figures,” then we’ll know for sure that something’s just not right in Oscar land)

The Trump factor

Oh, and don’t forget – this is going to be the first Oscars under the new Trump administration, and you just absolutely know that Hollywood is not going to give up a chance to embarrass Trump on national TV. So the embarrassment could come in several different ways – it could rest on the shoulders of Jimmy Kimmel, who might be expected to get all the Trump laughs. (And we know The Donald will be watching and tweeting, so get ready for a massive Twitter-storm if this happens)

Or, it might be the case that the winners manage to turn their acceptance speeches into brief anti-Trump diatribes. Just look at what Meryl Streep did at the recent Golden Globes. Oh, and guess what? Streep will most likely be nominated for Best Actress for her role as “Florence Foster Jenkins” – so she will most definitely be in the audience, and she might even be on stage.

Random “50 Shades of Grey” references

We all know that “50 Shades Darker” is hitting the big screen in February (just in time for Valentine’s Day), and that’s just two weeks ahead of the Oscars. And, get this, one of the two producers of the Oscars this year, Michael De Luca, is also the producer of “50 Shades of Grey” and “50 Shades Darker.” So that could be interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing.
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Big shout-outs to fan favorites that win minor awards

The Academy likes to reward big, heavy serious films like “Fences” or “Hell or High Water” or “Hacksaw Ridge.” And the Academy likes to reward films like “La La Land” since they celebrate the “Old Hollywood.” But what do you do with films like “Rogue One”?

That’s right, you give them all kinds of minor award for special effects, sound editing or cinematography. So look for “Star Wars” to play a big role here at the event. The same thing might be the case for “Arrival,” a sci-fi film winning major acclaim for potential Best Actress nominee Amy Adams. She probably won’t win, but her film might take home some awards.

It will definitely be an interesting night to see who wins the big awards, which new stars emerge, and whether or not Hollywood decides to politicize this event. We’ll know the final nominations on January 24, and from there, the buzz and speculation can really begin to build. So many great actors, so many great films, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely be great TV this year.

Is “Rings” Better Than “The Ring”?

There are remakes of originals, and remakes of remakes. But “Rings” is essentially a remake of a remake of a remake. And that’s why audiences – even hard-core “The Ring” fans – have been so unanimously negative in their reviews of their film. It’s almost impossible to find a lower score (6%) on Rotten Tomatoes these days, and even the rating on IMDb (4.6/10) is hardly encouraging. So it’s clear that “Rings” is not the reboot of a legendary horror classic (“Ringu”) that Paramount Pictures was hoping for when it released the film on February 3.

It’s now been twenty years since the release of the Japanese horror classic “Ringu” in 1998. Since then, we’ve had “Ringu 2” (1999), Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” (2002), “The Ring Two” (2005) and now “Rings.” Unfortunately, “Rings” has very little left to say.

“Rings” has a major problem with new technology

The first major problem is that the horror thrills provided by the “The Ring” were predicated on a now obsolete technology: the VHS tape. “The Ring” was all about “the videotape that kills.” And that worked, because back in 2002, people still watched tapes from Blockbuster. But now most people wouldn’t even know what to do with a VHS tape if someone gave one to them. Part of what made “The Ring” so spooky was that, every time you put a VHS tape into a home VCR after watching the movie, you thought that you might somehow be summoning the cursed demon Samara.

“Rings” tries to adapt for the technological obsolescence of the VHS tape by updating videos for the digital era. Now, the curse of Samara can be spread by anyone watching a digitized version of the old VHS tape. In “Rings,” a college professor (played by Johnny Galecki) converts a cursed bootleg version of the videotape into a digital version that can be watched by his students on their smartphones and laptops.

But there’s another problem here with technology – right after watching the videotape, you’re supposed to get a creepy phone call from Samara with the cryptic warning “7 Days.” Well, nobody has landline phones anymore. Part of what made so many teen horror films of the 1980s so terrifying was the use of this telephone ploy – some creepy villain huskily whispering into a landline phone that represented your only link to the outside world. But, flash forward to 2017, and everyone knows that some demonic child can’t really be lurking in an iPhone!

“Rings” suffers from a real lack of acting talent

It’s easy to say that the script and dialogue for “Rings” leaves much to be desired. But the problem goes deeper than that – the problem is that the level of acting talent in the movie franchise has taken a steep nosedive. Most importantly, the wonderfully talented Naomi Watts from “The Ring” has been replaced by the teenager Julia (played by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz).

In “The Ring,” we really cared about Naomi Watts and were rooting for her to defeat Samara at the end. But in “The Rings,” we’re not really invested in the success of what some reviewers have referred to as the “bland nothings” (Julia and her boyfriend Holt). Julia and Holt only exist to push the narrative forward, but they are empty vessels that we never get to explore further.

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“Rings” uses the same recycled scares as “The Ring”

The makers of “The Rings” seem to think that, just by recycling some of the scares from “The Ring,” they can also make moviegoers jump out of their seats, some 15-20 years later. For most audiences, it’s just the same scare over and over again – some demonic beast seems to be slithering out of a screen.  There are pools of blood, or some creepy signs (insects buzzing around!), but it’s all stuff that we’ve already seen in “The Ring” and even “The Ring Two.”

This even goes for the look and feel of the film. When Gore Verbinski came out with “The Ring” back in 2002, he opted for the washed out look of blues, grays and overcast skies that existed in “Ringu.” And he used some scary images – snakes, insects, and doomed children – that made audience tingle with fright. But these images and effects haven’t been updated at all in “The Rings.” Even the plot structure is the same. You feel like you’re watching the exact same film, and it just doesn’t work.

In all fairness, though, there’s one new scene – the airplane scene – that’s somewhat new and fresh. At the beginning of the film, an airline passenger is bragging that he’s almost made it to the very end of the cursed 7-day period – just minutes to go! – before all hell breaks loose. Insects appear, black sludge starts oozing from the airplane door, and the plane goes out of control, headed for a fatal crash.

“Rings” feels like it’s about 45 minutes too long

Most horror films keep you on the edge of your seat, filled with a sense of dramatic dread that makes it impossible to look away at what’s happening. But that’s not the case with “Rings” – you’re secretly hoping the whole film will end as soon as possible. The film suffers from weak pacing, weak dialogue and a weak script. The film limps to a finale, but by then, it’s already lost the entire audience.

Sure, there are a few thrills along the way, but we all know how this thing is going to end. Remember – it’s a remake of a remake of a remake. Absolutely nothing is going to be different this time around. In fact, some critics have said that this sense of knowing what’s going to happen next makes the film “unintentionally hilarious from start to finish.” It’s so bad it’s almost a parody of a horror film.

That’s too bad, because there are some film franchises that are worth a reboot. “Ringu” was fresh and original when it first appeared in 1998, and even the English-language version of “The Ring” was fresh and original for American audiences in 2002. But this reboot just suffers from too many flaws – a weak cast, a weak script, and little or no desire to shake things up and try to make this reboot a little more terrifying.

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