Jul 28, 2014

The Legend of Korra: "The Terror Within"

By Nico Danilovich 

As I’ve discussed at length in my previous reviews, Book 3 of The Legend of Korra has so far been a pronounced improvement over the show’s first two seasons (especially Book 2). “The Terror Within” cements this idea by providing what is the strongest installment of the season thus far. Unfortunately, while Korra seems to be thriving creatively right now, the show is faltering in other regards.

Jul 21, 2014

The Legend of Korra: "Old Wounds" & "Original Airbenders"

By Nico Danilovich

Book 3 of The Legend of Korra is moving ahead at breakneck-speed. After a three-episode premiere, the network has chosen to air two new episodes each week. As a result, we’ve already reached the middle of the season. Thankfully, the show continues to demonstrate positive signs of change, focusing less on complex issues and more on straightforward storytelling. The advantages of this are clear to see, as Book 3 is currently shaping up to tell a much more cohesive story than previous seasons. However, there is an obvious downside to this decision: the stories that Book 3 is telling are starting to feel simplistic and ultimately less compelling than they have the potential to be. This effect was felt in “Old Wounds” and even more so in “Original Airbenders,” two solid episodes that moved the story forward in concise ways, but failed to achieve a powerful effect.

Jul 20, 2014

On Boyhood

By Josh Oakley

This post discusses Boyhood, and my personal life in full. Consider yourself warned.

“I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.” – Russell, Pixar’s Up; my high school senior yearbook quote

“The moment seizes us.” – Nicole, Boyhood

If first grade Mason constantly has his eyes locked outside the window, mine are firmly set in the direction of the rearview mirror. I've always been obsessive about the past, the way my story is shaping up to be. It's an unpleasant way to live, constantly feeling the need to contextualize even the most minor experiences. It’s certainly not the healthiest outlook, the present and future curbed by expectations from and comparisons to what once was. Even when I daydream of what is to come, it's in relation to people I’ve known or places I’ve been. Context is there for everyone, but I become jammed in a need to consider all of my life to this point.

Jul 14, 2014

How The Legend of Korra has Seemingly Changed for the Better; "In Harm's Way," "The Metal Clan" Reviewed

By Nico Danilovich

The Legend of Korra seems to have indeed changed for the better. The three-episode premiere from two weeks ago indicated just as much. However, given the show’s history of two seasons with strong beginnings and then unsatisfying conclusions, it was difficult to put much stock in the Season Three premiere. Now that we’ve hit the five-episode mark, though, it seems safe to say that Season Three’s goals are relatively clear. Gone are the days when The Legend of Korra would pretend to be interested in themes such as inequality and spirituality, only to ditch these ideas last minute for the sake of plot convenience. These types of deeper themes are still present in Book Three. Thankfully, however, these ideas are not put on center stage; plot is.

Jul 7, 2014

Moving to LA & The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail

By Josh Oakley

I’ve always felt that there was something more. It’s an impulse intrinsic to human nature, to a certain extent, though it affects some more than others. I am, unquestionably, one of the “some”. That isn’t to say that I’m ungrateful for the life I've lived or the people I’ve met or the experiences I’ve had. But none of them have made the yearning subside. Perhaps, I both fear and hope, it is a thing that never truly fades.

A piece of that forward-driven persistence stems from wanting to be around a tidal wave of culture. My hometown, Wheaton, a nice suburb that I’m happy I was able to grow up in, lacks that sort of active drive. I’ve resided in Chicago, and though it contains a powerful alternative theater scene, and provides the rest of the country with plenty of talented individuals, it doesn’t feel like a tipping point, at least in the way I’ve been able to utilize it. I long for something to rival the New York scenes of punk music in the 70's or literature in the 90’s (as captured in this, one of the best pieces I’ve ever read). I’ve always wanted to be somewhere that felt unpredictable.

Second Quarter of 2014 in Music

By Ian Cory

You can find Ian Cory's "Best Songs of 2014" playlist here.

If you read my last quarterly recap, you’ll know that I spent the first three months of the year alternating between pining for the warmth of spring and wallowing in the despair of winter. Thankfully, after what seems like an eternity, the cold receded and spring finally sprung, bringing with it livable weather conditions and a whole bunch of new music. Now normally by the time a year reaches its midway point, an overarching narrative starts to become pretty clear. But six months into 2014, very little has proven to stick. In some ways, the narrative of 2014 is that there is no narrative of 2014, especially in comparison to the star-studded releases from 2013. But despite lacking in a zeitgeist grabbing tent pole record, the high standard of quality set by the year’s first quarter has yet to drop three months later.

Jun 30, 2014

Obvious Child, They Came Together and the Rebirth of the Romantic Comedy

By Josh Oakley

The romantic comedy never fully died. Like all things, it came in waves, positioning itself in the right frame for the right time. But if we take the modern era of the genre as beginning with When Harry Met Sally… (seems as good of a place as any), the current decade does begin to throw some red flags up. In the twenty years after that film’s release, only 1991, 1994 and 2001 failed to allow a romantic comedy to break the top twenty in the box office. Since The Proposal landed at #16 in 2009, only Bridesmaids has managed to crack into a top position (#14). That’s three years out of four hitting as many strikes as the previous two decades combined. There are still plenty lingering in the margins, but if 2013 is any indication on its own (and it likely is not, as these sorts of things go), the financial collapse of Harry and Sally’s New York may finally be upon us. Taking out animated films that may loosely earn the title of rom-com, the highest grossing entry is The Best Man Holiday at… #50. From a monetary standpoint, 2014 doesn’t seem much better in its offerings at this point. But there may be a different answer, one that speaks to an artistic rebirth rather than an economic one.

The Legend of Korra's Season 3 Premiere: Change?

By Nico Danilovich

The Legend of Korra’s third book, entitled Change, premiered Friday night with three new episodes and, based on those three episodes, it may seem as though the show is taking the idea of change to heart. Over the past two seasons, the show has suffered from shallow content (despite trying to come off as a more mature version of Avatar: The Last Airbender) and weak storytelling. Friday’s three new episodes—“A Breath of Fresh Air,” “Rebirth” and “The Earth Queen”—however, give the impression that the show’s creators have learned from their past mistakes and are now laying the groundwork for an improved third season. Frankly, though, this shouldn’t come as a great surprise. The Legend of Korra hasn’t yet had a problem setting up a strong story. It’s the execution of that story and the delivery of a satisfying conclusion that The Legend of Korra has yet to master.

The Leftovers: “Pilot”

By Josh Oakley

Loss leaves a crater. More than just a hole, it is the result of an impact, whether sudden or drawn out. Shock is temporary, at least for most, but loss is a cancerous crater. It is the grave you dig for a dog, filled but never the same. You can plaster over loss with platitudes, religion, alcohol. And those things can help, some of them can even heal you, restore some sense of balance to your world. But what they can never do is return you to person you once were. Loss changes everything, from your plans for your future to the way your morning coffee tastes. There is a shift. No matter how hard you push, you can never truly get back into place.

Jun 23, 2014

Are We Still in the Army?: Goodbye, Enlisted

By Josh Oakley

Enlisted was kind of a miracle of a show. Making military life both humorous and honorable in 2014 seems like an impossible task. Creating a network sitcom that finds its voice immediately and flourishes that tone within only thirteen episodes is a rarity in any era of television. Assembling this cast, the precise balance of established voices and promising lesser-known actors is a stroke of both luck and genius. Yet Enlisted managed to overcome all of these obstacles. I hope that somebody has the wisdom and money to recover this show and keep it running for years to come. But as it stands now, Enlisted will be remembered as a triumphant, often powerful and constantly hilarious season of television.