HBO’s ‘The Sentence’ — A Gripping, Powerful Documentary

HBO Documentary, The Sentence ‘The Sentence,’ a new documentary by Rudy Valdez airing today on HBO, is one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in years. The documentary focuses on Cindy Shank, a woman who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Though the cocaine belonged to her boyfriend at the time, she broke the law by not reporting it. Her boyfriend was later murdered.

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The ‘Girls’ Series Finale — A Full Review

I remember my twenties as a narcissistic blur that badly represented the dreams of my teens. It entailed bad sex, bad relationships, and even worse jobs that kept me on the constant fringe of being fired. ‘Girls’ quietly captured those common themes with its appropriately underwhelming last season. Gone is the girl who is rescued, the tearful group dinner, and the sudden self-awareness. Instead, things got real. Friendships were fractured, Hannah Horvath had a parental meltdown, and Marnie traded her personal happiness for once.

The penultimate episode of ‘Girls’ was more of an ending than the last, which was more of a beginning for Hannah’s new journey as a mother. Clues suggest that she’ll struggle, as most new mothers do, and though her tight circle of friends is nowhere to be found, that’s okay, since most of us lose contact with the besties of which we vow die-hard loyalty.

When ‘Girls’ first began, I didn’t get it. I wanted the pretty filters, Manolo Blahniks the characters curiously can’t afford, and the aspirational New York life that never really exists for anyone. When Lena Dunham aired her gratuitous nudity for the world to see, I attacked her, an action of which I’m now ashamed. She had a master plan, and I was too one dimensional to spot her depth. She’s a body warrior, and she changed the game. We’re used to the sexualized nudity of rock-hard bodies, and she instead offered the reality of prancing around one’s apartment naked for no good reason. When others, like myself, questioned her, she turned up the dial, so as to say, “It’s my party and I’ll prance around naked if I want to.” She also wasn’t going to sensationalize the reality of her youth, give the girl a standard love story, or portray life as easy. Because life isn’t easy . . . for anyone — money or not.

Goodbye, ‘Girls’. It was certainly fun while it lasted.

HBO’s Big Little Lies Finale — Full Review (No Spoilers)


While laying beside her husband and William Morris big-wig agent Jim Toth, Reese Witherspoon complained about the lack of substantial roles for women in Hollywood, and her husband pushed her to make a change. He reminded her that she loves to read, and she has a production company, and she’s perfectly capable of carving her own path. And that she did. What began with Wild, soon became Gone Girl and now . . . Big Little Lies — her best yet.

Big Little Lies proves something very powerful. Women are perfectly capable of leading the pack, and they can do it sans testosterone. In fact, though the men in the story have a minor contribution, they are mere pawns for their female players. Those players include, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Saldana. Nicole plays Celeste, a victim of abuse at the hands of her husband, with whom she can’t seem to leave. Of all the performances, hers is by far the most nuanced, proving once again why Kidman deserves endless praise and also why movie actors should flee to television. Cinema isn’t the same, and this is the role of a lifetime. Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline, an all-too-perfect type A divorcee whose new husband found happiness with her zen-like opposite, and even a sweet new spouse and child of her own can’t contain the scorn. Laura Dern is at her best as Renata. Though Dern has less scenes, she steals them. Her mamma-bear insanity is deliciously alarming. Shailene plays Jane, and I can only imagine that it’s a play on her plain Jane performance. While her dull demeanor was likely intentional, I couldn’t help but think she was punching above her weight beside these powerhouses. Zoe Saldana was also understated as Bonnie, but unlike Shailene, she played well inside her lane.

With a beautiful backdrop of Monterey, captivating characters, and a murder mystery, we’ve got a deeply addictive masterpiece. This could have easily veered into Bad Moms territory and made us say #WhitePeopleProblems, but instead–we identify with these deeply flawed women whose quest for perfection is so penetrable. With each episode, we learn more about their hidden lives, and since I’d like you to watch it, I’ll withhold more details, except to say — that was one hell of a finale.

Lena Dunham Covers Nylon Magazine — Talks ‘Girls’

Photo by: Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello

When ‘Girls’ first began, I wrote a piece about Lena Dunham’s off-putting use of excessive nudity, and now, years later — I finally welcome it. She defies traditional standards of beauty, and if you don’t like it, you better get over it. There’s something to be learned from her unapologetic attitude about nearly everything, especially given that most people, including myself, won’t wear a bikini in public let alone show my boobs on national television. As ‘Girls’ approaches its final season, Dunham sat down with Nylon Magazine to reveal what you can expect. Some choice quotes are below. Head on over to Nylon for the entire interview.

On Public Critique: “I used to think the worst thing in the world could be for someone to have a thought about you that you didn’t have yourself. Now I’m like, ‘Have at it, guys!’”

On Changes She Would Make To Girls: “I wouldn’t do another show that starred four white girls…When I wrote the pilot I was 23…I was not trying to write the experience of somebody I didn’t know, and not trying to stick a black girl in without understanding the nuance of what her experience of hipster Brooklyn was.”

On how the 2016 Presidential Election is reflected in the final season of Girls: “…we wrote in a climate where we were thinking a lot about this election, and the election was heating up as we shot the show, and that energy for sure made its way into how we tackled topics. I don’t mean to be demurring, but there are some big female issues, more than maybe ever before.”

On Donald Trump: “It’s going to be interesting promoting this show right after Trump is inaugurated. The final season definitely tackles some topics that are complicated and wouldn’t be beloved by the incoming administration. Hopefully it’ll bring up important conversations, and not just become the worst Twitter abuse storm in history—or it will.”




#Curb Your Enthusiasm Returns to HBO



Fans of HBO’s most beloved show can breathe a big sigh of relief today because Larry David will return with the ninth season of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ No other details have been divulged, but David is notorious for his ebb-and-flow excitement for his signature show, signing one year contracts each year for fear he won’t be in the mood to return. He leaves even his actors in the dark, who often inquire as to whether they should keep their schedule open for a possible return. When asked what motivated his decision, David said, “In the immortal words of Julius Caesar, ‘I left, I did nothing, I returned.’” Here’s to another season of David’s socially awkward antics.

‘Project Greenlight’ — Did ‘The Leisure Class’ Fall Flat?

IMG_4664-0.jpgAfter intensely watching Jason Mann’s meticulous approach to his Project Greenlight movie,’The Leisure Class,’ I had high expectations of the final film. After watching the movie, I can’t help but wonder if Jason’s notorious attention to detail was misplaced, given that a film lives and dies by its script, and this one doesn’t survive. Furthermore, HBO’s truncated timeline and pressure to produce a revised script just days before production began is also at issue, because even the best of writers could blow it. To be fair, Jason’s inability to accept criticism and clearly uncomfortable reaction to his test screening indicates that he might not have listened to the additional notes he needed. Perhaps he would be better served directing another writer’s script, therefore eliminating the biased view of his own product.

The biggest issue with the script is that the conflict is introduced before we get to know the characters, making it far too early for a genuine interest in the result. For instance, without proof in Act One that William loves Fiona and their romance is real, why should it matter if his brother Leonard’s surprise entrance breaks them up? And is William actually interested in Fiona, because he seems a little low-energy for a man about to spend his life with someone. Do we even know what made William lie about his family’s true class? Isn’t some semblance of a backstory key? Additionally, does it make sense to accept such a disheveled, strange “best friend” into the family home without more of an explanation or argument? Without more story in Act One outside of the conflict, the interplay between the conflicting characters becomes exhausting. This dueling-duo formula can only work with the tightest of writing and the strongest of jokes and that doesn’t happen here. Moreover, when William’s true identity is revealed, the ensuing, Act Three events take a bizarre turn. The father’s excessive cursing and physical abuse of his co-star seems off character and strange, especially for his social status. The transition just isn’t believable without peppered hints in the previous acts.

It’s also worth noting that many of Jason’s complaints in the behind-the-scenes episodes leading up to this film were spot on. The location is not elevated enough to seem as expensive as it should, and the infamous car scene that didn’t quite land to Jason’s request ultimately didn’t serve its purpose for Act Two. If it’s a fender bender instead of an alarming, flip-car collision, then what exactly pushes Fiona’s revelation about their romance being an ill fit? And again, why is William so low-energy after being rejected by the woman he loves? That’s a director’s decision, and Jason should have dictated that William exhibit more light and shade to his approach. Jason was also correct about the creative value of shooting on film instead of digital, and the result is noticeably more beautiful. One might suggest an audience’s eye can’t tell the difference, but that’s a drink-the-juice adaptation to the changing market, and it’s simply untrue.

Despite all of the aforementioned notes, I must say that for his first feature film, Jason Mann likely has a great career ahead of him. We don’t all creatively land upon our first try, and this movie has enough impressive elements to learn from and use in the next. My only hope is that he begins to compromise and accept the view of others. There’s a notorious struggle between the big studios and their creative hires, and no director wants to take notes from the powers that be. But it’s inevitable. Lastly, I’d have pulled a ‘While You Were Sleeping’ and had the lead end up with the sister. But that’s just me.



Ben Affleck v. Bill Maher: Battle of Radical Islam

Ben Affleck graced the stage of ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ as part of his ‘Gone Girl’ press run, and the actor further affirmed that the ‘Politically Incorrect’ panel booking was far superior than Maher’s current HBO roster. Maher often books intellectuals, authors, pundits, and talking heads, instead of the everyman actors and comedians that used to appear on his ABC show. As a result, the panelists are often too polished to delve into deep issues. On Friday’s show, Ben Affleck reversed course and took Maher and Sam Harris to task for his “racist” generalizations of the Muslim religion. Watch below.

John Oliver v. Miss America: Is the Money a Lie?

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver is at it again, and this week’s well-deserved victim is the Miss America pageant and it’s over-hyped claim that the Miss American Organization makes “$45 million available for scholarship money.” After rigorous research, Oliver’s team of titans discovered that the pageants bloated number was largely hypothetical, given that they’ve only awarded $4 million total. Here’s the catch: If a $54,000 scholarship is made available to one student at a specific university, for example, Miss America multiplies that by the total number of people eligible to win that ONE scholarship, thus multiplying it by 48 and grossly inflating the scholarship money the pageant claims to grant. And if that’s not enough, they also use butt glue for bathing suits. Watch below.

‘Girl’s’ Episode 7 Recap — Hannah’s Infected — So Is This Show

girls-hbo-1Girls has gone bad, and if this trajectory continues, my devotion will die. First, I fundamentally object to Lena Dunham’s excessive nudity. Though it seems to be politically incorrect to suggest that overweight chicks should not be naked on screen, allow me to be politically incorrect. It’s disturbing and unenjoyable to watch. Furthermore, she accentuates her flaws by finding every undesirable pose and clothing choice possible, as if she’s swimming in the criticism. And before I get attacked for this, I’d like to point out that I also object to Laura Linney’s consistent boob-reveal in every movie, so as to prove that my outrage is not just about the weight — it’s about the gratuitous choice to assault the audience with some free-nudity movement I never signed up for. Lastly, what on earth would justify filming yourself on the toilet while trying to avert the pain of a urinary tract infection? I’ve heard of telling life-truths, but if I won’t even pee in front of my significant other, I certainly don’t want an actress to pee on screen in front of me.