Chicago Series Is A Shared World Of Real Feels

Dick Wolf is one of the most successful TV producers in the history of the medium with his critically acclaimed series of Law and Order shows that span dozens of seasons and an array of diversity rarely seen onscreen.  His new endeavor is just as successful if not more in that it combines all of the different aspects of each show into a shared universe for the characters to seamlessly crossover into.

chicago fire

Chicago Fire hit first, documenting and following the adventures of a single firehouse and the types of dramatic rescues they pursue as well as the day to day procedural issues that made the Law and Order franchise a hit.  Every character has their own baggage in the typical drama way, but the show’s heart shows in times of peril.  Stories culminate into moments that make their average people bullshit seem frivolous in the face of a raging inferno and that’s refreshing.  It’s also terrifying, but the inspiration you gain from watching these feats when knowing that this is as real of an account of actual firefighting as you can possibly get without being one makes this really riveting.  It didn’t take off as well as the shows to come, but it caught their tailwinds and is making it up to their level pretty steadily.  In the shared world between shows, the main bar that everyone in this part of Chicago goes to is run by a fireman and he has other firemen who work their part-time to help out.  You better bet that you’ll see some people from the other shows in there and not just as background fodder, but as actual conversating and interacting characters.

chicagopd

Chicago P.D. was the second to appear in the new set of Chicago-based stories.  Like New York, Chicago boasts hard-nosed police against a city that is filled with crime at every corner, but beneath it all lies a caring set of people fighting the good fight against all odds.  The main difference in Chicago P.D. is that the grit level is turned up and the violence is more prevalent.  These aren’t your goody-two-shoes cops you expect.  Every one of them would like to bash in the heads of every child killer they apprehend and it’s so believable when they have to hold back that the tension level becomes palpable.  Every scenario still follows the same “ripped from the headlines” formula that the other shows use, but Chicago turns it up a notch with high-octane action and some nice cinematography that lends itself to more thriller/suspense than it does typical TV drama.  Honestly, in my house we call it the Batman show.  The main Sergeant Voight is Batman—harsh, brutal, unforgiving, but noble and guiding toward his team.  There are few right hand men that are your Robins and Nightwings and Batgirls and it really feels the same as Gotham in the comics as it would be in real life.  Fighting against crime and shitty people doing shitty  things to others with no rhyme or reason.  No surprise when these guys show up at the bar after a long shift on the job.

chicago-med-season-1-teasers

Lastly came Chicago Med and this one surprised me.  We have Grey’s Anatomy and E.R. to thank for the stereotype of medical shows being overdramatic love-fests in the style of soap operas, but Chicago Med doesn’t feel that way.  Yes, it’s characters have issues and drama between them, but all of that is overshadowed by the fast-paced issues that hit the trauma ward of their hospital.  We become invested in not only the characters, but in wanting the characters to succeed in diagnosing and treating their patients—not for them, but because the show paints an all too real picture of what real trauma looks like.  “Ripped from the headlines” medical issues are jarring and shocking in a way that makes you uncomfortable, but really just hopeful that these victims recover and can be saved.  That’s the human part of the show and it carries through to the actors who give great performances that show they want the same thing.  Again, after a stressful day in Trauma it’s no surprise they end up at the bar too.

chicago series

There’s a new show on the way too, Chicago Law that will no doubt follow in the Law and Order procedural fashion and honestly, I can’t wait.  I’m invested in this world that spans different shows because I’ve bought into the characters and the investments they’ve made in the world itself as representations of everything I hope is true about the jobs that protect the people.  Add to it the amount of diversity that all of these shows have in their cast and it honestly feels like the most representative TV show of the real world.

You can catch all of these shows on Hulu or you can watch them as they air on NBC.

THE MUPPETS: FOREVER FUNNY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to start the music. It’s time to light the lights. And if this is your first time, then it’s time to meet the muppets on the Muppet Show tonight!

We live in such a nastalgiac age that often we find ourselves looking back on certain entertainment properties and asking ourselves why they endure. And for the muppets created by Jim Henson and his beloved Muppet Show that ran from ’76 to ’81 with various movies to follow, it is a question easily answered by the latest movie titled simply The Muppets. Kermit the frog and his friends have been entertaining the masses for decades and their experience shows as they put on a comedy spectacle like never before.

It’s very easy for our cynical generation to look down on modern comedy and compare it to everything we’ve ever seen. Sure we like our serious jokes with our foul language and adult content, but whatever happened to the universal humor? Whatever happened to the joke that everyone could laugh at? Where did they go? Nowhere; and that’s exactly what The Muppets set out to prove. From the very beginning we are drawn into a spectacular musical endeavor of ridiculous proportions that makes every attempt to let you know that they know just how ridiculous they are–that’s the joke! With infectious stars such as Amy Adams and the lovable talent that is Jason Segel (also the co-writer of this work) heading up the live action portions of the movie, The Muppets showcases broad strokes of genius in humor, singing, brilliant writing, and great classic lines from all your favorite Muppet characters.

The story follows a muppet named Walter and his human brother Jason Segel as they and Segel’s fiance Amy Adams embark on a trip to Muppet Studios to experience and meet the muppets that Walter had admired his whole life. Finding the muppet property in shambles and abandoned, Walter and Segel strike out to bring the gang back together for one last show in order to save the Muppet Theater from an oil tycoon bent on the idea that a huge profit rests below their property. This movie explores not only the human dynamic involved with loving and enjoying the muppets, but also the legacy of the muppets themselves. As we progress with Kermit, we find that the other muppets have gone their separate ways and begun new lives–some successful like Gonzo’s million dollar business and some not so much like Fozie’s knock off muppet show called the “Moopets”. Each of them bring a powerful amount of emotion to their characters that pull you from your seats in a way that most real humans have a problem evoking from an audience. Whether it be Kermit singing sadly as he walks past all the photos of all his friends over the years or the moments he sits alone staring at an old photo of Miss Piggy, this frog deserves the highest acting praises and awards.

This film has all the laughs you missed growing up and all the laughs for any first timer to the Muppet Show. It will warm your heart with musical prowess as well as just have you slapping your knee over the audacity of Fozie’s bad puns that still for some reason get you giggling. And let’s not forget the plethora of cameos ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Neil Patrick Harris and much much more. Young and old; all genders; all races–The Muppets is for everyone. And long after we are dead and gone the Muppets will be here. They will warm the hearts of our grandchildren and their grandchildren, because that’s what timeless characters do. Jim Henson left us with a legacy that sings loudly and demands to be heard no matter what popular trends in entertainment may say. Treat yourself and anyone else you know to something truly astounding.  A real universal comedy.

Thor: Four Times Viewed

How could you say "no" to that face?

by Alex Tisdale on Friday, May 27, 2011 at 7:41pm

I don’t normally write movie reviews, but seeing as how it’s expected of me as both a writer and as a comic book reader to do so for this movie and others like it, I guess that it can’t be avoided.  However, I would like to make it very clear that my desire to write this is simply that–I desire to and there is no degree to which I am being forced to do so.  In fact, I’ve seen the movie four times now with each experience being the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

I’ll begin this how it should–with mythos.  In both comic book lore and Norse mythology, Kenneth Branagh has managed to take seemingly silly or impossibly lame aspects of both sides and create in them a new world full of spectacle and logical progression of modern ideas.  Instead of a literal rainbow bridge as seen in both mythologies, a solid bridge of rainbow quartz is used and each step upon it lights up like a rainbow.  Brilliant.  Whoever came up with that idea needs a raise, because they single handedly came up with a solution to a seemingly impossible problem in terms of badassery.

Asgard is a realm of castles and mysticism, but Branagh makes it modern with futuristic metallic covers and shiny otherworldly architecture befitting a science fiction world; tying together the aspects of magic and science so often mentioned throughout the film.  The task of making their ridiculous clothing as close as they could to the comic was easily mastered, and though some may question my resolve I’ll explain why.  In the scenes taking place in Asgard the wardrobes match the world and all of the scenery therein.  The metallic armor and capes blend in with the bright and exciting world created there.  And when they are seen out of that context–it surely does throw our gaze and make us question the validity of what we are seeing.  Which by the way is the purpose.  By juxtaposing Asgard from Earth, Branagh makes it brutally clear how different their world is from ours.  They don’t fit in and they stand out as ridiculous costumes, but in their own realm they perfectly blend in with the surroundings and hold our eyes with the sheer beauty.

The characters are spot on to the mythos with the Marvel side taking precedence over the Norse continuity.  A few minor changes were made, but none that would scour the characters in any way for avid Nordic fans.  Loki evolves from his mischief to true chaos as Thor learns humility and becomes both mighty and noble for the first time in his life.  Odin strikes fear into his enemies and even his own sons.  His horse has many legs and the two birds picking at his brain, Idea and Thought, are seen by his thrown.  Yggdrasil the World Tree is mentioned as well as the names of the 9 realms—even the correct pronunciation of Mjolnir is used.

On to the actors to which I will begin with a simple truth:  There is no movie in which Anthony Hopkins is bad, mediocre, or good.  He is simply amazing in every regard and as the Allfather he stuns the viewer with his silent observation and lightning quick animosity.  Chris Hemsworth, the bright new star, is a beacon of likable manliness that can be appreciated on any level.  Women will adore his charm and his godly physique; men will admire his wit and tenacity for battle; and children will look up to him as he earns strength through humility and puts others before himself.  As an actor in his first really big role—it’s a homerun.  He is a truly enjoyable treat for any viewer.  Natalie Portman carries her own weight as a genius astrophysicist and brings her usual witty charisma and beauty without being left behind by the stellar performances around her.  Idris Elba, Heimdallur, just wow.  A cold and fearless warrior with the most human characteristics in the film.  He acts as a bridge himself between all realms and carries the plot with ease.  Every moment with him is full of interest.  But really, when I look back on the four times I’ve seen this film now…the true star is none other than Tom Hiddleston, Loki.  At times you love him.  You are on his side and you fight with him.  Then you question him and hate him terribly.  You despise every word he speaks.  Then you agree with him and understand his pain.  You are back on his side and you want all to be well.  And then you feel his sorrow and you mourn for him. Then you hate him all over again.  Brilliant performance and cunning portrayal of the mischievous god.  He truly stole the show and gave us the reason Branagh was chosen for this movie—experience with great drama and spot-on line delivery.

Now the only critiques I had for this movie were in the effects.  A scene where Thor falls from the sky, yet his cape doesn’t follow suit and stays down as if not moved.  A scene where he is struck and is obviously thrown upward and then pulled back by a line.  But these things are small and easily missed in the quick paced battle sequences that Branagh has never done before.  Experience will be kind to him and I have no doubts that his next feature will be flawless if this was his first attempt.  His choices for shots are well thought out and clever concoctions of subtle filmography.  Many diagonal shots help frame the characters and build their scale, while close ups of Hemsworth’s beautiful blue eyes in true pain keep us wanting.  Even cleverer, I thought, was the use of only 2 songs in the movie’s conception.  The instrumental theme song is used so appropriately that the viewer only feels the song in moments—experiencing the scenes while the music flows through their emotions.  A truly remarkable feat that few films accomplish without seeming lazy.

As a tie-in feature to the upcoming Captain America film and then The Avengers, Thor gives us every tether we could ever need.  Stark, Banner, Hawkeye, The Cosmic Cube, and Loki’s involvement make Thor the true first step in the right direction to solidifying a universe and its continuity.  Marvel should be very proud of the efforts put forth here and I hope that Captain America delivers the next step up toward a climactic Avengers film that is sure to pack the ultimate punch for fans and regular audiences alike.  As for Branagh..I wish with all my heart that the Shakespearean scholar continue his work and treat us again with another fine taste of his knack for all things dramatic.