Michael’s Top 5 TV Shows of 2016

2016 was an incredible year for television. Between AMC, FX, HBO, and Netflix, there’s so much great television it’s impossible to catch everything but I did my best, only missing Atlanta and The Night Of as I was too obsessed with some of the other shows on this list. I also have personal issues with shows that feature flat cinematography and a lack of color so I’ll probably never get around to seeing The Night Of but thanks to the recent Netflix drama The OA, I got to see just how fantastic of an actor Riz Ahmed is because Rogue One clearly didn’t do him justice.

Now before I dive in I want to give an honorable mention to Better Call Saul. It was just barely edged out by number 5 on the list but I feel the need to express my love for the series which focuses on Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) back when he was Jimmy McGill, Esq. vying for the love and acceptance from his brother Chuck (Mike McKean). Being a prequel to Breaking Bad, it does a great job standing on its own as a completely different series. It took the first season to find its legs but quickly hit its stride early on in season two becoming one of the best shows on television. The series also features incredible performances from Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, and Patrick Fabian.

 

5. The Crown

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The Crown is absolutely superb. The show manages to capture the reverence and majesty of the royal family with its tremendously talented cast, incredible direction and cinematography, breathtaking production and costume design, along with an epic score from Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams that captures the power and emotion of the choices made by Queen Elizabeth II. It is the most expensive television series produced in history due to its lavish sets and on-location shoots in the UK and Africa. The series also features exceptional performances delivered by Claire Foy and John Lithgow as Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill.

 

 

4. Fargo

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FX’s anthology series based on The Coen Brothers film Fargo returned for a second season that turned the clocks back to 1979 when a butcher’s wife has an accident that thrusts her and her husband into the middle of a mob war in the Midwestern United States. The series features standout performances from Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson as well as a chilling performance from Bokeem Woodbine.

 

 

3. The Americans

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The FX series The Americans has been the most under-appreciated show on Television since it’s debut back in 2013. The series follows a family of Russian spies posing as a Suburban American family living in Washington, DC. In the beginning, the series focused on the parents as their love for one another seemed challenged by a deteriorating loyalty to their homeland after becoming comfortable in the United States and wanting to keep their children away from their life of espionage. But as the series has gone on, their daughter has (spoiler alert) been brought into the fold per orders from “The Center”, fostering a level of tension that rivals that latter seasons of Breaking Bad. Living across the street from an FBI agent doesn’t make things any easier either.

 

 

2. Game of Thrones

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The book series on which the show is based has the most incredibly realized milieu since J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. What is most impressive is how it manages to pack so much in without feeling overstuffed. The writing on Game of Thrones is so great it makes the writing of most other shows on television look mediocre, even in one of its weakest seasons. The final two episodes of season 6 featured some of the most incredible filmmaking on television including the greatest medieval battle sequence brought to screen whether it be large or small. The final episode brought us the culmination of years of developing storylines with a sequence that hearkened back to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather.

 

 

1. Stranger Things

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As soon as Will (Noah Schnapp) rolled the dye and that warm and fuzzy synth kicked in, it was like the show reached out and grabbed me. I knew it was an homage to Spielberg but did this show actually possess that old movie magic on its own? By the time Will and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) were racing on their bikes there was no doubt that it absolutely did.

The Duffer Brothers managed to blend 80’s nostalgia into an exciting and heartfelt supernatural thriller. The series doesn’t just echo the classic films of the 80’s, it’s DNA is made up of them. What is most impressive might be how it all blends together into something unique and refreshing.

Stranger Things biggest strength is its characters. Winona Ryder and David Harbour lead the series with fantastic performances but the series’ core is the friendship between the group of children, most notably the connection between Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). A relationship that mirrors E.T. and Elliot without becoming a rehash.

Winona Ryder and David Harbour lead the series with fantastic performances but the series’ core is the friendship between the group of children, most notably the connection between Mike and Eleven. A relationship that mirrors E.T. and Elliot without becoming a rehash. Brown delivers an extraordinary performance that steals the show and your heart. She packs a powerful and emotional punch into every word she speaks and is able to express more emotion through her eyes than even most adult actors are capable of.

The series is thoroughly engaging from start to finish and spoke to all of my sensibilities as far as what I love about filmmaking and storytelling. From the directing to the music to the production design, Stranger Things captivates the mind and the heart taking you back to the simpler times of the 80’s when movies were hopeful and full of adventure.

 

Michael’s Top 5 Films of 2016

First, I have to start by saying I had an incredibly busy fall which prevented me from getting out to the theater as much as I would have liked to. Unfortunately, I have not seen many of the films which have garnered the most oscar buzz including Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or Highwater, Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Arrival, Silence, The Edge of Seventeen, and Moonlight. Therefore, this list will be vastly different from the lists of many others although I’m sure it would be comprised of much of those titles had I seen them.

 

5. Kubo and the Two Strings

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From Laika studios and first-time director Travis Knight comes a passionate love letter to storytelling itself. The film is an absolute must-see for all movie lovers and writers. Kubo features an incredible blend of CGI and stop-motion animation that will most likely be overlooked at the Oscars but deserves all the awards and praise it can get.

 

 

4. Deadpool

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After a decade of championing the project, Ryan Reynolds finally brought Deadpool to fruition with director Tim Miller. The film which ended up becoming the highest grossing Rated-R film of all time was made on a modest budget of 58 million dollars and felt just as large as any Marvel or DC feature thanks to Miller’s VFX house Blur Studios doing much of the visual effects for free.

 

 

3. Sing Street

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An incredible coming of age story of a young boy who finds his voice (pun intended), leading him to become a man and conquer his world. The film set in 1980’s Dublin features an incredible soundtrack of original songs written by director John Carney and singer-songwriter Gary Clark, sung by the film’s star Ferdia Walsh-Peelo.

 

 

2. Captain America: Civil War

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The Russo Brothers once again prove themselves as the best Directors in the MCU. They do an incredible job balancing out both Team Cap and Team Iron Man throughout the film. The motivations are clear and the characters are provided equal screen time to support their sides of the argument. It doesn’t matter whether your Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you can absolutely understand the opposing side. What makes it so compelling is that both sides are right.

 

 

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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No, Rogue One isn’t perfect. It suffers from a lack of characterization and some pacing issues but it still manages to come together in the end and serve as an incredible lead into A New Hope.The third act is a borderline masterpiece which delivers some of the greatest moments in Star Wars history. Never again will we look at the original Star Wars nor the Rebellion in the same way. The film itself opens the door to the limitless potential Lucasfilm has with standalone Star Wars features separate from the Skywalker saga.

 

Listen to Emma Watson Sing as Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Disney has released a snippet revealing Emma Watson singing “Something There” as Belle in the upcoming live-action remake of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. At first listen, Watson sounds absolutely fantastic and it seems returning composer Alan Menken has the potential to outdo his Academy Award-winning score. The new adaptation will also feature three new original songs which Menken previously revealed the tracks titled as: “Days in the Sun”, “For Evermore”, and “Our Song Lives On”.

The remake brings to life all of the characters from the original plus a new character: a harpsichord named Cadenza created just for the film, voiced by Stanley Tucci.

Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17, 2017.

The film stars Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as Le Fou, Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Kevin Kline as Belle’s father Maurice, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, with a script penned by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Stephen Chbosky, directed by Bill Condor.

In this live-action re-imagining of the fairy tale, a young woman (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as prisoner in a beast’s castle, only to fall in love with her beastly captor (Dan Stevens), who turns out to be a prince.

Oscar Isaac Shares an Episode VIII Set Photo of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

After the tragic and untimely death of Carrie Fisher due to a major heart attack this past Tuesday, many actors, celebrities, and fans took to social media to outpour their heartache and support for Carrie’s family. Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe Dameron, the greatest pilot in the resistance led by Fisher’s Leia Organa in The Force Awakens reprises his role next December alongside Fisher and Mark Hamill in the next episode of the Skywalker Saga, the untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII. While it is still unknown whether or not Fisher and Hamill will share a scene, Isaac has shared a photo of the two huddled in costume on the backlot of Pinewood Studios that gives hope the space twins Luke and Leia will be reunited on screen come next December.

Isaac captioned the photo with some loving words of which he remembers Fisher and the impression she made on him in the few years he was lucky enough to know her:

“She had no patience for pretense or small talk. She saw through things, at a different angle, with the gritty wisdom that comes from the hardest lessons. And, man, did she make me laugh. Will miss you dearly, Carrie.”

Kathleen Kennedy Teases Future Saw Gerrera Development

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(SPOILER WARNING FOR ROGUE ONE)

The Star Wars character of Saw Gerrera who first appeared in The Clone Wars animated series and most recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — played by Forest Whitaker — is set to come full circle this January as he makes his debut on the DisneyXD animated series Star Wars: Rebels. But it seems Lucasfilm has further plans to develop Gerrera beyond Rebels in the future.

While speaking with Empire, President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy revealed we will see even more of the character in the future to come:

“To be honest, we originally thought we were going to develop Saw into something much larger, but we couldn’t accommodate it. So he is not in the movie as much as we would like to have him in the movie, which creates the opportunity to explore his character even further in our future development.”

Whitaker added:

“I’m curious about what else they’re about to do. Because they seem to really like the character, which is great!”

Whether it be a novel, comic, or some form of animation, there are several interesting points in Saw’s life that myself and surely many fans would like to see explored, one being the point in time (again, spoiler warning for Rogue One) when Saw is raising Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Jones, who has a sequel clause built into her contract, is still locked into the franchise for a future appearance if Lucasfilm comes calling. While there is no chance of her magically returning from the dead, Lucasfilm still has the opportunity to go back and tell an animated story of how she was essentially raised as a soldier by Saw only for him to abandon her at the age of 16 for her own safety.

Another interesting storyline for Gerrera would be to see the downward spiral of his health unfold. In Rogue One we see him in good condition when he rescues Jyn but later when she is taken to him on Jedha he relies on a ventilator to breathe and sports a robotic foot.

Hopefully, we will also get to see Saw’s extremist tactics and how he became a public relations nightmare leading to him splintering off from the rebellion with his own faction.

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SOURCE: EMPIRE

Debbie Reynolds Dies at 84

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Debbie Reynolds, who became a Hollywood icon after her role in Singin’ in the Rain has tragically passed away at 84 years old just one day after the death of her daughter Carrie FisherVariety reports.

Debbie was rushed to the hospital earlier this afternoon around 1 p.m. after she reportedly suffered a stroke while discussing funeral plans for Carrie at her son Todd’s house in Beverly Hills, CA. Debbie is survived by her son Todd and granddaughter Billie Lourd.

Just yesterday, Debbie posted on Facebook thanking fans for their thoughts and prayers for her daughter:

“Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carries Mother”

My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to her family at this unimaginably difficult time.

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FILE: Debbie Reynolds Reportedly Hospitalized

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Carrie Fisher Passes Away

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The world mourns today as Star Wars’ most iconic heroine — the glue that held the rebellion together — Carrie Fisher, has passed away today at age 60 after suffering a major heart attack while on a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday.

Fisher’s death was confirmed at 8:55 a.m. PST by her daughter Billie Lourd in a statement released to both EW and People Magazine.

“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning. She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”

If I wasn’t so deeply saddened by the loss of Carrie I could go on and on about how much I love her but that isn’t what matters right now anyway. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to her family and friends.

RIP Carrie, to us you will always be royalty.

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