Why “Young Sheldon” Will Never Measure Up to “Big Bang Theory”

young-sheldon-iain-armitage

It’s fashionable among TV critics and viewers to immediately hail any new prequel or sequel as superior to the original. As a result, it was almost predictable that after just a single episode, TV critics were rushing to proclaim “Young Sheldon” as better than “Big Bang Theory,” an all-time great CBS sitcom. But here are all the reasons why “Young Sheldon” will never measure up to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Reason #1: “Young Sheldon” is a spinoff with nothing new to say

Yes, “Young Sheldon” has been touted as an “origin story.” And, yes, it promises to shed light on how the older Sheldon Cooper grew up to be who he is. But let’s face it, “Young Sheldon” is a spinoff with nothing new to say. It is, to be quite cynical, just a cash grab by the folks at CBS.

Even TV critics appear to be baffled by what exactly “Young Sheldon” is trying to be. It’s not a true sitcom (more of that later), and it’s not a family drama, either. What we have is a show based around the antics of a 9-year-old kid (Iain Armitage, playing the young Sheldon Cooper) and a voice over by Jim Parsons (who plays the older Sheldon Cooper in “Big Bang Theory”). But is this really capable of becoming a mega, 10-season hit like “Big Bang Theory”? At some point, the cuteness wears off.

Reason #2: “Young Sheldon” isn’t even the best single-camera comedy on TV

The one thing that’s important to note is that “Young Sheldon” has the look and feel of a made-for-TV movie, and less of a true network sitcom. It all has to do with camera angles and how it’s filmed. “Big Bang Theory” was a classic multi-camera sitcom filmed live in front of a studio audience. There is laughter from the audience, and the show has the quality and feel of a play or staged drama.

Contrast that to “Young Sheldon,” which employs a single-camera format. This might not sound like a big deal to non-cinema buffs, but it has a huge impact on how you process the show. The pacing of the show is different, and the look and feel is different. It has much more of the look of a film. And that was intentional – show creator Chuck Lorre said it was because he didn’t want to subject his young child stars to the potential trauma of a live studio taping.

But, as one TV critic has pointed out, that results in “Young Sheldon” looking like “an episode of ‘One Life To Live’ that’s trying to be funny.” Yikes! That’s not exactly going to make “Young Sheldon” one of the all-time best shows, is it? Moreover, as other TV critics have pointed out, there are at least two other single-camera shows that are superior to “Young Sheldon” – “The Goldbergs” (on ABC) and “The Middle” (also on ABC). In other words, what chance does “Young Sheldon” ever have of measuring up to “Big Bang Theory” if it’s not even the best comedy of its type currently on TV?

Reason #3: “Young Sheldon” falls flat when it tries to joke about science

Let’s face it – the reason why everyone loved “Big Bang Theory” was because of the nerdy characters and the jokes involving science. Remember the scene where Sheldon and Leonard are trying to push a piece of furniture up a flight of stairs, and are making jokes about physics and gravity? And the nerdiness of Sheldon and his friends was what made the show work – it was amusing to see how they dealt with every day concerns like dating, relationships and being an adult.

With “Young Sheldon,” though, we lose all that. The funniest jokes thus far have involved a toy train set and Newtonian physics. But there’s nothing really funny about a 9-year-old kid with punch lines involving physics – it just sounds like a lot of forced humor from a really overworked scriptwriting team and a cute kid memorizing his lines. Really, how hard did they have to work to set up a joke involving trains and physics?

young-sheldon-show

Even worse, little Iain Armitage has admitted in an interview that he’s never really watched any episodes of “Big Bang Theory.” WTF? When asked which of the episodes was his favorite, he couldn’t even name one. Later, he claimed that he enjoyed hearing Jim Parsons (as the older Sheldon Cooper) use the word “Bazinga!” a lot. So we’re asking a young kid who has never watched the show in his life to really give us the true Sheldon Cooper?

Yes, Iain Armitage is fabulously cute and wears a bowtie quite nicely. But this is really a show for a certain type of audience that likes “cute family comedies.” It’s not for fans of “Big Bang Theory.” It might win over a new type of audience, but it’s hard to see hard-core fans of “Big Bang Theory” hanging around once they see how CBS has essentially pulled a bait-and-switch with them.

Reason #4: “Little Sheldon” lacks the freshness and inventiveness of “Big Bang Theory”

Ten years ago, if you had asked anyone whether a TV sitcom featuring nerdy Cal Tech scientists and no proven star was ever going to be a hit, how many people would have raised their hands? All “Big Bang Theory” really had going for it at the time was a fresh, inventive premise and the track record of Chuck Lorre. Other shows might had a lone scientific genius, or some nerdy character. But an entire show built around nerds and nerd jokes? That was fresh and new.

In contrast, “Young Sheldon” is much more in the vein of “The Wonder Years.” It’s been done before. It’s just a nice family comedy. Seen there, done that. It might get some nice ratings for a few years, but it’s unlikely to become a decade-long comedic favorite.

As a result, “Young Sheldon” will never measure up to “Big Bang Theory.” It’s really just a spinoff that CBS is hoping to mine for ratings gold. (They ordered a full series after just one episode!) Yes, the iconic photo of a cute kid wearing a bowtie has been a big hit, but will the show really turn out to be a big hit as well? Long-time fans of “Big Bang Theory” know the answer to that.

young-sheldon-cooper

Categories TV

What Amazon Gets Right With “Brad’s Status”

brads-status

It’s easy to mistake “Brad’s Status” as just another movie about a white, privileged male having a mid-life crisis. But this new film from Amazon Studios is far more than that – indie filmmaker Mike White has transformed a deceptively simple story – a father takes his son on a tour of East Coast colleges and begins to question every aspect of his own life – and transforms it into the story of an entire generation. Here’s what Amazon gets right with “Brad’s Status.”

Amazon absolutely nails Ben Stiller in the role of the neurotic Brad Sloan

Quick, name a 50-something male actor known for playing a neurotic navel-gazer or a lovable loser. You’d probably name Ben Stiller, and that’s why the choice of Ben Stiller to play the neurotic, navel-gazing Brad Sloan is perfect. In many ways, Brad Sloan seems to have made it – he’s happily married, he lives in California, he enjoys his job, and his 17-year-old son Troy (played by Austin Abrams) just might end up getting accepted by Harvard.

But when he starts comparing himself to others, that’s where the problems start. He’s essentially going through a mid-life crisis, all while being forced to endure the (perceived) humiliation that four of his college classmates are all fabulously wealthy and successful. Everything seems to come easy to these four (one is a hedge funder, one is a Hollywood film mogul, one is a political commentator and writer, and one is a tech entrepreneur) – but nothing comes easy for Brad. And that leads to him moping around for much of the film, trying to make sense of his life.

Amazon sets up a great father-son dynamic to drive the narrative forward

The focal point of the movie is the father-son tour of East Coast colleges, including a visit to Harvard. And it’s here that the movie really shines. Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams turn in remarkable performances, and their interplay is what moves this film forward. In many ways, Ben Stiller’s character begins to view his son as a mirror into his own life. And that, in turn, creates all kinds of complications – like when he finds himself falling for one of Troy’s new female friends. It also forces him to reassess how successful his life was, and how he should even begin to measure success.

In many ways, it’s hard not to think of another Amazon Studios movie – “Manchester By the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck as a washed-up loser tormented by deep memories of his past. Casey Affleck’s character only begins to put his life together when he becomes the guardian of his deceased brother’s teenage son, who also happens to have an attractive girlfriend as well as an affinity for music. And, in many ways, “Manchester By the Sea” was a similar kind of uncomfortable film in that it made you dig into the meaning of life and see that there are no easy answers.

“Brad’s Status” explores each generation’s fixation on status

Some film reviewers have rolled their eyeballs at the premise of this movie. They have noted that it focuses too much on “white male entitlement” and “white privilege.” After all, it’s hard to feel too sorry for someone who has a nice home, a nice job, and a loving family.

But there’s something very profound going on in America right now. It’s no longer expected that your kids will lead a better life than you did. It’s no longer a given that you will have a job for life, a nice home and plenty of career success. The world is much more complex right now – and it’s easy to see how the discontent felt throughout middle America is starting to seep its way to the two Coasts, where Brad Sloan and his wonderful friends hang out. For every tech boom, there’s a tech bust. For every bull market rally, there’s a profoundly shattering market crash.

Until recently, people who hadn’t “made it” (as Brad’s friends certainly have) kept it to themselves. Brad is continually humiliated when his friends can’t even remember what he does – they just call it his “little thing” – and leave it at that. For more than two decades, Brad has been able to keep his status to himself. He wasn’t forced to define it, or even think about it.

But in today’s digital era, your status follows you around constantly. As a result, “Brad’s Status” perfectly gets the current zeitgeist, where “status” is something that we broadcast every day on Facebook with status updates. What’s your status? Why aren’t your photos getting enough likes? You see, status is all around us – and it’s there for all to see.

As a result, it’s wrong to see “Brad’s Status” as merely a focus on the status of the older generation – it’s also a referendum of sorts on the current, millennial (and post-millennial) generation, If guys like Brad Sloan are having mid-life crises right now, just imagine what’s going to happen to their kids.

Amazon’s “Brad’s Status” shows us the complexities of real life

The reason why viewers will love “Brad’s Status” is because it will force them to re-assess and think about their own lives. It can be uncomfortable, and more than one film has referred to this film as “squirmy.” Yes, you’ll squirm in your seat as you watch it because, most likely, it will cut a little too close to your own life.

The film will make you consider: Are you living out your adult dreams through your children? How exactly are you dealing with the everyday envy you experience? For Brad, even boarding an airplane can become an issue, when he sees that others are enjoying first-class status and he’s not. The same is true when he goes to an upscale restaurant and is denied a seat.

In many ways, Brad Sloan is just like you or me, whether you choose to accept that fact. It’s easy to dismiss Brad Sloan as an egocentric, narcissistic, neurotic white guy – but all of us have to deal with the “unfairness” of life around us. Why are some promoted and others not? Why do some people get to live in huge McMansions and others don’t? Why are there still class divisions in America?

**

Brad’s Status” is just the latest evidence that Amazon is making its mark on Hollywood. In many ways, this film is cut from the same cloth as “Manchester By the Sea.” It has the feel of an indie film, but boasts an A-list actor like Ben Stiller. So don’t be surprised if people are talking about this film long after it has disappeared from the box office.

brads-status-ben-affleck

4 Things You Need To Know About the New “Star Trek: Discovery” Universe

star-trek

Even the casual “Star Trek” fan is well aware of the assorted heroes, villains and alien species that inhabit the Star Trek universe. Vulcans and Klingons are now very much a part of our everyday vocabulary, and even the mission statement of the Star Trek Federation – to boldly go where no one has gone before – is something that has become a part of the pop culture mainstream. But here comes “Star Trek: Discovery” and it already looks like it is going to change some of what we thought we know about this Star Trek universe.

Klingons are a lot more complicated than you ever imagined

Let’s start with the Klingons, since they appear throughout the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery.” In fact, the pilot begins with a Klingon point of view. We see them as different kind of antagonist. If, in earlier iterations of the Star Trek series, they were uniformly presented as evil, war-like and obsessed with values like honor and tradition, here we see a much more nuanced type of Klingon.

In many ways, it starts with how they look, which some critics have described as “Afro-futurist.” Others have described them as having a “gothic” look that wouldn’t be out of place on “Game of Thrones.” They definitely come with a new look, everything from their faces (both their nostrils and mouths) to the armor they wear (which looks much more impressive, filled with spikes). And the language they speak is also different. It used to sound much more Slavic, but now it has the rhythm and cadence of a tribal language.

Moreover, we see their battle against the Federation as being motivated by much more than just martial aggression or avarice. It has become almost a holy war, in which they are avenging the loss of one of their spiritual leaders. We still do not want to root for the Klingons, but we also realize that they might be more complex as a species than we ever gave them credit for. It’s hard not to think of them as a modern-day version of Islamic extremists, only set in outer space.

The Federation is not exactly a shining beacon of democracy and freedom

One linchpin of every Star Trek film and TV show is that the Federation is some kind of monolithic entity dedicated to bringing peace and understanding to the universe. It is a force of optimism and hope, and full of the wonder of mankind exploring the cosmos.

But “Star Trek: Discovery” seems to ground the Federation in much more of a contemporary ethos. From this perspective, the aims and motivation of the Federation might not be as pure of heart as we would like. And it is not monolithic – it is filled with tension, conflict and doubt. And it is also polyglot, no longer offering a single view of mankind and what its goals should be as it explores the universe.

You can think of this as the difference between a Star Trek for the Cold War world and a Star Trek of the post-9/11 world. In the Cold War world, America was a dominant superpower, bringing peace and prosperity to the world. It was very easy to discern the power of good and the power of evil.

However, in the post-9/11 world, the whole element of Islamic radicalism, combined with the rise of multi-polar world and emerging markets, has changed the equation. In many ways, “Star Trek: Discovery” is grounded in contemporary geopolitics, showing us how all of the fundamental tensions and conflicts in today’s society will inform, ultimately, how we explore the universe.

The Vulcans are no longer a purely rational species capable of perfect decision-making

Perhaps one of the most fascinating and most compelling characters ever to appear on Star Trek was Dr. Spock, the legendary Vulcan. He came to symbolize pure scientific rationalism. He was able to think and reason about emotion, and with limited exceptions, never let these emotions influence his decision-making.

But now it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” is willing to challenge some of what we thought we knew about Vulcans. For example, consider the “Vulcan hello.” This term quickly becomes shorthand for acting very emotionally and irrationally when meeting someone – as in the Vulcans opening fire on the Klingons before ever trying to establish rational, diplomatic contact with them. It is offered up as a symbol of the hypocrisy found within the Federation.

star-trek-klingons

And there’s another angle here, and that’s the role of First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), who herself has a Vulcan past, being raised on the planet Vulcan by Spock’s father Sarek. Part of the two-part pilot episode, in fact, has shown us her struggling with this Vulcan background. You might expect her to be calm, rational and un-emotional when making decisions (especially since she attended the Vulcan Science Academy) – but nothing could be further from the truth. This is clearly a new take on the Vulcans.

“Star Trek: Discovery” shows us a brand new alien species

One of the new characters in “Star Trek: Discovery” is the Discovery’s chief science officer, Lt. Saru. As a Kelpien, he has hoof-like feet and is also biologically capable of sensing impending death. We are told that the Kelpiens are largely raised like cattle on their home planet, and that they are essentially a race that’s been doomed to become food for a more dominant predator species. There’s a whole plotline in the pilot episode, in which Saru senses the impending death and destruction brought on by the Klingons. He also reveals the tragic back story of the Kelpiens.

**

And that’s not all – this new “Star Trek: Discovery” offers plenty of new characters (including the first openly gay character), plenty of high-tech Hollywood special effects, and plenty of fascinating back stories to bring us up-to-date with the first ever version of “Star Trek,” which appeared in the 1960s. It’s futuristic and yet retro at the same time, and that means there’s a good chance that “Star Trek: Discovery” is going to absolutely blow your mind if you’re a Trekkie.

star-trek-klingons

Categories TV

Have “Grey’s Anatomy” Viewers Had Enough?

greys-anatomy

It’s hard to believe, but we’re getting ready for the 14th season of the primetime medical soap opera “Grey’s Anatomy,” which will officially launch on September 28. The show is still going strong after all these years, and still ranks as the #1 ABC primetime drama. Show creator Shonda Rimes and star Ellen Pompeo (who plays Dr. Meredith Grey) have said repeatedly that there are no plans to wind down the series, but there are starting to be signs that the “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers have had enough.

“Grey’s Anatomy” is an anomaly in a Netflix world

Keep in mind, “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered way back in 2005, before the whole idea of binge-watching shows on Netflix became popular. Back then, primetime TV – and especially primetime TV on a Thursday night – was just about the biggest thing that could happen to a show. 14 years ago, it was perfectly normal for a big primetime drama to order 24 episodes and pace them out over a full season.

Flash forward to 2017, though, and the rules of the game have changed. Netflix has made “the binge” a huge part of the cultural mainstream. Shows are meant to be consumed over a lazy weekend, not as “must see TV” during the week. The newest shows coming out of Netflix these days are all 8-, 10- and 12-episode shows. That makes “Grey’s Anatomy” an anomaly in a Netflix world.

Of course, ardent fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” would debate this. Fair enough. There have been plenty of stories documenting how “Grey’s Anatomy” has gotten a second wind after being picked up for streaming by Netflix. The demographics of the show had started to skew older, but the embrace of the show by younger female fans on Netflix has been a godsend. “Grey’s Anatomy” is now the #2 series among viewers 18-to-34, suggesting that the “Netflix effect” has been very real.

In short, viewers who might have been too young to watch the show back in 2005 have heard all the hype and buzz about the show and decided to become fans. With past seasons available on Netflix, it was relatively easy to get “caught up.” Thus, even if “Grey’s Anatomy” had been losing viewers due to general show fatigue, it was more than making up for it by gaining new Netflix viewers. But that leads us to another very important point…

Show creator Shonda Rimes just signed a major new deal with Netflix

See? It is impossible to ignore Netflix in today’s TV world. And that’s exactly what happened in August 2017, when Netflix locked up “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rimes in an exclusive multi-year contract. According to the terms of the deal, Shonda Rimes has agreed that any new shows she creates will be for Netflix as a Netflix Original series. Not only that, but also Shonda Rimes has said in recent interviews that she really likes the idea of creating a 10-episode show, and not a full 24-episode show.

Watch out, here come the “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-offs

The surest signal that a show might have reached its “sell by” date is when the spin-offs start coming. It means that viewers are getting tired of seeing all the old characters and all the old settings over and over again. They want something new. And that’s exactly what’s coming in 2018, with a “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off featuring Seattle firefighters. The show (“Firefighters”) is already attracting buzz, and could be a telling sign that “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers have had enough.

But wait! Haven’t we seen this happen before? Back in 2007, there was a spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Private Practice” that ran surprisingly strong from 2007 to 2013. Yes, but that was before actors started to defect from the show. Some of the big-name departures from “Grey’s Anatomy” have included Sandra Oh, who left after 10 seasons, and Patrick Dempsey, who was killed off after 11 seasons.

From what we know, even the show’s actors think that the current version of “Grey’s Anatomy” is getting too “dreary.” Yes, that was the word dropped in an interview about “Grey’s Anatomy” by one of the show’s actors. The idea is that the show is starting to get too focused on death and loss.

From this perspective, the finale of Season 13 – when Seattle Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital got partially destroyed in an explosion – is going to serve as the perfect way to “refresh” the set so that things look younger and lighter. There is a growing realization that the only people who are going to be watching the show very soon are going to be older people with their own medical problems and situations, and that’s something “Grey’s Anatomy” needs to avoid.

“Why walk away from a hit?”

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pop culture (or for just about anything, for that matter). One is that you should keep things going as long as possible, as long as things are working. The other is that you should always try to go out on top.

Think of it from the perspective of professional sports – yes, it’s nice to see the graying 40-year-old hang on for one last season in baseball, but it’s also sad to see the deterioration in skills. From that perspective, it’s better to hang up the spikes when you’ve just had a stellar, MVP season. That’s the way fans want to remember you – not as some injury-riddled part-time player riding out a long legacy.

The same thing is true of “Grey’s Anatomy.” This show is still a primetime juggernaut. It’s still #1 in so many ways. But all the telltale signs are there that things might be falling apart. There are the big star departures (god, we still miss Katherine Heigl!), the upcoming spin-offs, and the changing TV landscape created by Netflix.

Star actress Ellen Pompeo has publicly questioned, “Why walk away from a hit?” Well, the answer is simple: it’s better to go out on top. 14 years is an incredible run, and huge props go to show creator Shonda Rimes for creating one of the best shows ever to appear on primetime TV. But “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers are starting to disappear, and some of them have simply had enough.

greys-anatomy-season-14

Categories TV

Why We Don’t Need Another “Fuller House” Season

fuller-house-john-stamos

The first thing that you need to know about the upcoming Season 3 of “Fuller House” on Netflix is that it has almost been 30 years since the premiere of the original “Full House” on ABC. Netflix, of course, is turning this 30-year anniversary into a cause for celebration, even going so far as to time the release of Season 3 for exactly the right anniversary date (September 22). But here’s why we don’t need another “Fuller House” season…

“Fuller House” is trying too hard to press the nostalgia button

Of course, everyone loves a small dose of nostalgia. It makes us remember the past fondly, and it helps us create a sense of context and structure around our lives. But Season 2 of “Fuller House” was just crammed too full of early 1990s nostalgia, including a cameo appearance by New Kids On the Bock.

And the word on the entertainment blogs online is that Season 3 is also going to dig deep into Netflix’s bag of nostalgia tricks. There will be more cameo appearances, more meta-references and more people talking about those Olsen Twins. But, really, wasn’t two full seasons of the show enough?

“Fuller House” is no longer as relevant as it once was

When “Full House” premiered in 1987, the concept for the show was unique: out of all the shows on television, this was the only one that focused on men and parenting. And so it was very unique to build a show around Bob Saget, Dave Coulier and John Stamos: “Full House” brought out the comedy of a household of men trying to raise kids. You could argue that “Full House” led to a whole new genre of comedies involving men trying their hands at parenting.

“Fuller House” just doesn’t seem as fresh or new – it swings the focus back to women and parenting. Yes, it touches on the difficulties of raising kids as single moms, but that automatically turns “Fuller House” into just a standard melodrama you could find elsewhere on primetime TV. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how Netflix even gave the green light to Season 3 unless…

Netflix wants us to over-binge on TV with “Fuller House”

There’s something rewarding about binge-watching a TV show in a single weekend, but “Fuller House” is taking this to extremes. Is Netflix trying to turn us into a couch potato with this show? Consider that Season 1 had 13 episodes. Season 2 had 13 episodes. OK, so far, so good. But now comes Season 3 and Netflix has commissioned 18 episodes for the season. Eighteen! “Fuller House” is getting even fuller!

And, making matters even worse, according to actress Candace Cameron Bure (who plays D.J. Tanner-Fuller), the entire season will be dedicated to one entire theme: “summer fun.” This strains credulity. Other episodes have tackled the holidays and vacations, but is it really possible to build 18 seasons around summer fun?

There’s something strange going on here – especially if you consider that the show will debut in the fall and extend into the winter. Unless – and this is just speculation here – Netflix is taking the long view on this and planning to build up a vast archive of Netflix Originals that people can binge on during the summer when there’s nothing really new on TV. From this perspective, Season 3 of “Fuller House” is not really about developing programming for Fall 2017 – it’s all about developing programming for Summer 2018!

“Fuller House” makes us depressed

If you think about the original “Full House,” it was a fresh take on comedy and it made you laugh. But there’s something about “Fuller House” that makes us sad. After 30 years, people are still living in the same childhood home they grew up in? A generation of single dads gave rise to a generation of single moms? And so the cycle repeats itself. (Wipes away tear)

Let’s face it, we all appreciated the big stars of “Full House” when they were young and spry. We still remember John Stamos when he was a sex symbol on the cover of magazines like “People” and “Us.” Now, nobody reads magazines, and it makes us depressed to think how old Stamos must be these days. (He’s 54, if you’re keeping track.) Lori Loughlin is 53. Bob Saget is 61. Heck, even Mary-Kate Olsen is 31! Unfortunately – and it really pains us to even think of this – but John Stamos is old enough to start appearing in Viagra commercials these days.

fuller-house

“Fuller House” makes us realize how Netflix Originals are just like regular TV

Just 24 months ago, it seems like every time Netflix created a Netflix Original, it was time for celebration. The vaunted Netflix content studio always figured out a way to create a show that was far superior to anything you’d find on network TV! Shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” were truly game-changers, and unlike anything you’d find on ABC.

But now we’ve reached a point where Netflix is spending so much on “originals” that it is starting to resemble the broadcast TV networks. Instead of leading us forward into the “golden age” of TV, Netflix is creating the type of television that people in their “golden years” (age 55+) will enjoy watching on the couch.

“Fuller House” was only intended to be one season, not three!

The exasperating thing about Netflix is that they don’t release ratings for their shows, so nobody really knows how various shows are doing at any point in time. You have to keep your ear close to the ground of social media to get a sense of the ratings. After Season 1, Netflix was so pleased with the performance of the show that it commissioned a Season 2.

But here’s where things get interesting, because the rumors are out there that Season 2 completely bombed. According to data from Symphony Advanced Media, total viewers from Season 1 to Season 2 were down a spectacular 60%! Of course, Netflix won’t admit it, but it now looks Season 3 is hobbling to the finish line. We’re going to get 9 episodes to binge on in September and then another 9 seasons later (date TBD). So it all boils down to the following: Netflix could really have a mess on its hands if Season 3 doesn’t turn it around quickly in September. That second set of 9 episodes could be dead-on-arrival.

**

For all of the reasons listed above, we don’t need another “Fuller House” season. Thank you, Netflix, it was great to relive the nostalgia in Season 1. And it was nice to binge-watch Season 2. But we were already getting “full” – and now Season 3 is shaping up to be the “fullest” yet. That might not be a good thing after all.

fuller-house-bob-saget

Categories TV

The Very Best Graphic Sex and Nudity Scenes from “Game of Thrones”

Game-Of-Thrones-Cersei-Jaime

In just seven seasons of “Game of Thrones,” there has been an incredible amount of nudity and sex – some of it merely titillating and some of it bordering on the pornographic. And these weren’t just your run-of-the-mill sex scenes, either, with many of them at least tangentially touching on some very taboo topics (incest, anyone?). So here are the very best graphic sex and nudity scenes from “Game of Thrones.”

Jaime and Cersei Lannister have sex on a tower wall (Season 1, Episode 1)

The best place to start, of course, is Season 1. If nothing else, this was the season that introduced us to the very sexy milieu of “Game of Thrones” and gave us a good idea of what was going to come over the next six seasons – like the ongoing incest theme involving Jaime and Cersei Lannister. In the first episode of Season 1, we see the twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister having sex high atop a tower wall in a little love nest. Their fun and games are spoiled, however, when little Bran Stark catches sight of them making love. That, of course, ends with Jaime walking over and throwing little Bran over the tower wall, to his almost certain death. “The things I do for love,” he tells Cersei.

Viserys and Doreah have sex in the bath (Season 1, Episode 4)

Whores and brothels play an important role in “Game of Thrones,” so it’s perhaps no surprise that some of the sexiest scenes in the show involve prostitutes doing things that, well, most people only fantasize about. And who wouldn’t want to be having a hot bath with a beautiful woman, as she gets so completely turned on by your power. Doreah rambles on and on about dragons, and how turned on she is by the power of Viserys to command them. Hot girls and dragon talk – very nicely done, “Game of Thrones.”

Daenerys learns to make love and seduce a man (Season 1, Episode 2)

Daenerys, eager to learn the deeper arts of seduction, asks the prostitute Doreah to teach her how to pleasure a man. That, of course, is something that Doreah knows very well. She proceeds to get on top of Daenerys, pinning her hands to the bed, and starts to talk about how important it is to look a man in the eyes directly. She tells Daenerys how it’s possible to “finish a man” simply with her eyes, and then tells Daenerys not to “make love like a slave.”

At which point, Daenerys suddenly plays the role of woman on top, flipping Doreah over. Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any hotter, guess who enters? Yes, it’s Khal Drogo, completely naked. He tries to take Daenerys from behind, but she slaps away his hands. Tonight, it will be her who will be on top, riding the great Drogo.

Daenerys shows full frontal nudity in a giant fireball (Season 6, Episode 4)

Speaking of Daenerys, has their ever been a hotter, dragon-loving blonde on TV? So it’s understandable that a lot of the hottest and kinkiest scenes involve her. One of the best scenes is when Daenerys has been imprisoned by the Dothraki warlords, and they are debating whether or not to trade her for 10,000 stallions.

She’s brought in to a room lit only by torches, and all the powerfully built Dothraki men start to comment on her body. Rhalko says, “I’d like to know what a khaleesi tastes like” – at which point, it starts to look like this is going to be a mind-blowing gang rape scene, especially when one of the warriors refers to her as a “cunt.” The men, dressed in what could easily pass for bondage gear, say that they will each take turns having sex with her, then they will give her over to their horsemen, who will each have sex with her. Then, they will give her to their horses, “if there’s anything of you left.”

That’s when we learn that “fire cannot kill the dragon.” Daenerys goes berserk, setting the whole area on fire. We see the whole place burning to the ground, in a giant fireball. After a few seconds, we see her emerge, completely naked, with full frontal nudity. She’s been untouched by the fire, and all the men and women in attendance bow down deep to the ground. Wow, mind blown, right?

 

Daenerys and Daario make love (Season 5, Episode 7)

Most people point to this scene as the only real “romantic” sex scene in the entire show, so we’ll be brief here since we need to move on to the spicier sex scenes. But the gold satin sheets are a nice touch, and the tenderness that Daenerys and Daario feel for each other is almost palpable. As far as nudity, we mostly have to content ourselves with bare backs and shoulders, and the rest is left to the imagination. It’s artistic and tasteful.

game-of-thrones

Stannis and Melisandre have sex on a table (Season 2, Episode 2)

One of the kinkiest characters on all of “Game of Thrones” is Melisandre, otherwise known as the Red Lady. In fact, British GQ has referred to her as the “Queen of Kink,” partially due to that twisted scene in Season 3 where she ties up a guy in the bedroom and proceeds to apply leeches all over his body in some kind of bizarre ritualistic sex scene.

But back to the table… Melisandre is ready to seduce Stannis by telling him “I will give you a son.” And what better place to do it than on a giant war planning table, where he has laid out all the positions of his men in battle. It looks like a giant Risk board, and she’s obviously turned on. She’s dressed in nothing more than a very sheer red robe, which she soon discards. All we see are her beautiful breasts and curvaceous figure. As you might imagine, the sight of that turns Stannis into a sex-crazed fiend. He doesn’t even wait to take off his coat or shoes, and takes her right there on the table. That steamy sex scene, of course, is what leads to the Shadow Baby.

Daenerys and Jon Snow have sex on a boat (Season 7, Episode 7)

Just about the only sex scene in what has been described as a strangely “sexless” Season 7 is the famous one involving Daenerys and Jon Snow. On YouTube, people are calling this the “boat scene,” and we seen plenty of skin and nudity here as Jon Snow and Daenerys make love. The bonus here, of course, is that we find out who Jon Snow really is during this scene. For seven seasons, we thought he was a bastard son. But here we find out his true identity: he is Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

That’s pretty awesome, right? But then you have to think to yourself: Daenerys is also a Targaryen… so that would mean that a Targaryen is having sex with another Targaryen. So… Did Jon Snow just have sex with his aunt? Oh, hey, this is “Game of Thrones,” so it’s just one more controversial sex scene. At this point, who’s really counting?

Lord Baelish instructs prostitutes how to pleasure a man (Season 1, Episode 7)

This has to be one of the best brothel scenes in the entire seven seasons of “Game of Thrones,” especially because it lasts for so long, getting hotter by the minute. Lord Baelish is somewhat distracted, and we see two girls in the background. But he finally can’t take it anymore, and gives them a quick lesson on how to pleasure a man. He wants them to fake it so well that men will keep coming back to them, again and again, at the brothel. So he watches them talk dirty to each other and get it on at the same time, offering some sagely advice.

As these scenes make clear, “Game of Thrones” has delivered, season after season, a rare mix of nudity, sex and sexual violence. It’s a hot, steamy combination that’s plenty spicy – and it might just be one of the best parts of “Game of Thrones.”

game-of-thrones-jon-snow

Categories TV

Film Review: “The Dark Tower”

the-dark-tower-idris-elba

“The Dark Tower” is the film adaptation of Stephen King’s series of 8 novels that fans have been long anticipating. The only question, though, was how any Hollywood director was going to take eight very dense and complicated novels and transform them into a seamless 90-minute movie experience. Unfortunately, this film adaptation of “The Dark Tower” from Danish director Nikolaj Arcel often fails to hit the mark.

“The Dark Tower” struggles with its adaptation of Stephen King

The problem, quite simple, is that you can’t satisfy both Stephen King fans – who obviously wanted a very faithful adaptation of the novels – and the typical summer moviegoer who wants plenty of action and adventure with a minimal amount of exposition. So Arcel did what he had to do – he combined several characters from King’s novels into composite characters. He tried to explain the whole back story of the Gunslinger and the Man in Black in a way that a popcorn movie audience could understand.

As a result, the film often comes off as a Cliff Notes version of “The Dark Tower.” Another review has referred to this film as “The Dark Tower for Dummies.” It’s almost as if a team of writers and directors quickly read through all of King’s novels and tried to pull out the most salient plot points and characters. But it sometimes feels like a strange mash-up of King’s work.

Moreover, the psychic child at the center of the film (Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor) seems to have the same kind of “shining” that’s famously the subject of the King novel and film “The Shining.” Still other reviewers have complained that the movie reminded them too much of Steven Spielberg, and not enough of Stephen King. The drawings of the Man in Black, the Dark Tower, and the Gunslinger might remind you of scenes from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” So purists are bound to be at least a little disappointed.

“The Dark Tower” is a gunslinger Western sci-fi fantasy with plenty of action

Where Arcel does succeed, though, is turning this film into a fun, sci-fi fantasy with a Western saga feel to it. The role of the Gunslinger, played by a world-weary Idris Elba, is one of the highlights of the movie. In his barren wasteland of the world, he comes off as a Western-style hero from the 1970s. He’s a loner and short on words – but he’s a master of his craft. He’s also full of aphorisms on how to shoot and kill.

And it’s these action sequences that give the film its life. At times, the Gunslinger must fend off the henchmen who have been sent by the Man in Black (played by Matthew McConaughey). At other times, he is pitted, head-to-head, with the Man in Black himself. According to mythical lore, the only person who can destroy the Man in Black is the Gunslinger. His gun has been forged from the same steel as King Arthur’s Excalibur. It’s no wonder, then, that the Man in Black wants the Gunslinger dead.

“The Dark Tower” is the ultimate story of good and evil

The basic plotline of “The Dark Tower” can be broken down into just a single sentence: The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower and unleashing unspeakable evil and destruction on the universe. And it’s here where things get really complex, because there are at least two worlds involved here – the barren wasteland inhabited by the Gunslinger and then the modern, contemporary world of New York City. There are portals between worlds, and that sets up the final ending of the movie, in which the Gunslinger and Jake must find a way into the Dark Tower from these portals. If they fail to do so, the universe will basically come to an end, so there’s plenty of motivation.

the-dark-tower

“The Dark Tower” squanders the talent of Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black

The Man in Black obviously is central to the whole film – he is seemingly hell-bent (literally) on destroying the Dark Tower, but it’s never completely clear why. At many points in the film, it seems like he is doing all this just to antagonize his historical rival, the Gunslinger. But aren’t there better ways of revenge than destroying the Dark Tower and bringing about the end of the universe?

Moreover, it often seems like Matthew McConaughey’s main role is to appear every now and then and utter a few throwaway bad guy lines. We want to believe in his utter villainy – and there’s one scene where he does his best to wish a dark fate upon everyone he encounters in New York City – but there’s something about his character that doesn’t ring true. If you’re not a “Dark Tower” fan, the whole idea of kidnapping psychic children and using them to bring down the tower will be confusing at best.

“The Dark Tower” is going to be the perfect movie to stream on Netflix

There are two types of movies these days. One is the epic blockbuster film that everyone is going to see and that is best enjoyed in the movie cinema. “Dunkirk” and “Wonder Woman” are great examples. The second is the type of movie that’s best for streaming on Netflix. And “The Dark Tower” is one of those movies.

It’s a movie that, in previous decades, would have been called a B-movie. It’s competent, well-directed and well-acted, but it just doesn’t measure up. There’s plenty of action, but the dialogue and exposition can weigh the film down at times. And some of the plot lines can be hard to follow, so it might be a movie that’s best viewed twice on your favorite streaming device.

Trying to adapt a Stephen King novel for the big screen has always been a challenging task. It’s hard to capture every nuance of his work and still make it something that’s worth paying for in the movie cinema. “The Dark Tower” will be talked about and may end up being a cult hit, but Stephen King fans are almost certain to be disappointed. “The Dark Tower” deserves more than 90 minutes – it would almost be better as a miniseries on Netflix that you could binge on over a weekend.

the-dark-tower-matthew-mcconaughey

Does “The House” Bring the Funny?

the-house-film

Any time you bring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler together in a film, you’re going to have some laughs. The problem with “The House,” though, is that those laughs don’t come nearly as often as viewers would like. At some point, “The House” stops being a raunchy comedy and, instead, becomes a dark (and surprisingly bloody) commentary on the failed American middle class dream. It just doesn’t bring the funny.

#1: Even Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler can’t make “The House” funny

For most moviegoers, the idea of combining Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler together in one comedy is going to be worth the price of admission. And, for the first 20 minutes of the film, there’s the faint glimmer of hope that the two characters they play – the married couple of Scott and Kate Johansen – will turn this into a funny suburban farce. The two are desperate to raise enough money for their daughter’s college tuition, and have stumbled on the idea of running an underground casino in a neighbor’s house.

But then something happens – the film stops being a silly movie about suburban parents with first-world problems and careens wildly off the track. The whole premise of turning a giant suburban house into a casino is not funny in and of itself, so director Andrew Jay Cohen amps up this premise by turning this casino into a version of suburban hell. Moms in yoga pants face off in Fight Club-like duels. Dads start snorting cocaine. And, of course, there are the inevitable prostitutes and other hangers-on that you’d expect at any seedy casino.

And it all happens so fast – before you can blink, the whole house is outfitted with gambling tables and the action starts. Along the way, there are lame math jokes (you see, Will Ferrell is a smart, successful suburban dad but can’t do any math!) and jokes about living in the ‘burbs. But don’t blame Ferrell and Poehler – the material is weak, and even two gifted comics can’t turn this movie around.

#2: “The House” becomes a bleak, bloody ode to suburban rage

At some point in the movie, it’s almost as if director Andrew Jay Cohen had an epiphany – let’s make this film much darker and much bloodier. At some point, the two goofy suburban parents transform into hardened criminals – Amy Poehler has a dope habit and Will Ferrell becomes a mafia-style enforcer called “The Butcher.” As if to reinforce this point, theme music from “The Sopranos” plays in the background.

And it turns out that all the people who lived in this nice, genial suburban neighborhood (“Fox Hollow”) are actually a bunch of debauched libertines. At a moment’s notice, they turn into gambling, drug-using, sex-addled fiends. The local police seem, at best, inept. The local politicians are corrupt and untrustworthy. And normal, everyday people turn callous. Violence – and blood –seemingly courses through this version of suburbia.

Describing this dark turn in the movie, The New York Times called “The House” a “dark, startlingly bloody journey into the bitter, empty broken heart of the American middle class.” And that’s exactly what you have – a tale of social despair. This is what happens when the system no longer works. What once might have been just farce turns into dark, biting satire.

At which point, you have to ask: Is this really what director Andrew Jay Cohen had in mind? Presumably, people wanted to see a quirky, goofy movie with lots of laughs. They might not be prepared for this dark turn – and certainly not for Will Ferrell calling himself “The Butcher.”

#3: “The House” tries to wing it on acting talent alone

Of course, critics can be forgiven for going overboard on their negative assessment of the movie. After all, newspaper film critics are experiencing a bit of white-collar, suburban rage themselves these days. One day, they are world-renowned film critics, the next day, they are scrambling to get more likes on their film review website than some teenager writing about movies in his (or her) parent’s basement.

And, in this case, the film critics weren’t even invited to an initial screening. Thus, some critics were making some snide comments about the film being “sneaked” into cinemas, while others went into the film fully expecting a dumpster fire of a movie.

And, in some ways, the mainstream media critics are right. “The House” boasts some fine acting talent (including Jason Mantzoukas as Frank, the neighbor with both a gambling and porn addiction), but seems to lack everything else for box office success – like a script. The characters are never fully formed, to the point where you don’t even know their names.

There are a lot of different directions this film could have gone. It almost seems like it was rushed to the big screen, because many of the plot elements were never fully fleshed out.

For example, why exactly are Scott and Kate having so much trouble handling the college tuition when they seem to be living in a gigantic house? Just sell the house, pocket the money, and move somewhere cheaper. And how is it possible that two suburbanites just snap so completely – we’re never really given any narrative framework to understand how and why Scott and Kate turn into pot-smoking, violence-prone suburbanites.

Maybe it was all meant to be very, very funny in some twisted way. But here’s the thing: you can’t wing a movie on acting talent alone. The movie clocked in at less than 1 hour and 30 minutes, and even that time seemed stuffed with comic outtakes at the very end. There’s just very little here. Characters come and go, and we don’t really know why. It doesn’t matter, though, since it’s the composite picture that’s supposed to be funny, of suburban life gone very, very wrong.

What we do have is very dark – lust, greed, corruption, cocaine and brawls. “The House” will bring you face to face with the dark underbelly of American middle class life. Behind all the nice houses and all the fancy cars, there’s apparently a lot of suburban rage, just waiting to be let loose on the world. It’s safe to say that “The House” doesn’t bring the funny.

the-house-will-ferrell

Why “Transformers: The Last Knight” Got Terrible Reviews

transformers-the-last-knight

There some movie franchises that are seemingly critic-proof. The “Transformers” franchise is one of them. The latest “Transformers” film – the fifth in the series if you’re keeping track – was savaged by critics, but still turned in a fairly impressive box office showing, pulling down more than $450 million worldwide. So here’s why “Transformers: The Last Knight” got such terrible reviews, even though audiences seemed to love it.

#1: “Transformers: The Last Knight” was hollow and meaningless

Now at the helm of his fifth “Transformers” film, director Michael Bay seems to have little else to say as a filmmaker. This was simply a movie that was made because it could be made. As a result, critics have used terms like “unnecessary” and “unsatisfying” to describe the film.

At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s fighting who, or which metal robots are fighting which other metal robots. It’s all just an excuse to have hours of CGI fun, watching big metal creatures do battle with each other on the big screen. As a result, everything about the film seems to be hollow and meaningless.

#2: “Transformers: The Last Knight” includes some ridiculous plotlines

Ok, you’re probably not expecting strong, dramatic storytelling with a “Transformers” movie. But at least treat the audience with a little bit of respect when it comes to developing the plotline!

Case in point: there’s a plotline in which Vivian Wembley (played by Laura Haddock) plays an Oxford professor. And it turns out that she’s more than just a professor – she’s also the last direct descendant of the magician Merlin. That means she is the only person capable of using the magical staff that Merlin had buried next to him in his coffin. At which point, you’re probably wondering, “What in the world does Merlin have to do with the Transformers?”

And you’d be right. Critics were quick to point out that this amounted to nothing more than “mystical medieval hokum.” It was almost as if the screenwriters were hunting and searching for something that would make the movie seem bigger and more important, and the idea of King Arthur and Merlin suddenly struck someone as a good idea. Other critics have said that this plot line essentially turned the film into a mash-up of “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Terminator.”

#3: The movie was too long and too hard to watch

“Transformers: The Last Knight” clocked in at an impressive 3 hours and 9 minutes. If you’re paying $20 for a movie ticket, you can say that you got your money’s worth, right? Not so fast. Those were an interminable 3 hours of non-stop explosions, chases and fights. The movie could have ended an hour earlier, and movie audiences wouldn’t have been disappointed.

Instead, it’s almost as if Michael Bay was determined to make this the biggest, baddest “Transformers” yet. And so he over-stuffed the movie with action. It was all so chaotic and messy, though. There were quick jump cuts and throwaway lines. No time for dialogue and meaningful plot development, when the goal is to create a massive, soaring CGI masterpiece!

transformers-mark-wahlberg

#4: “Transformers” squanders some top-quality actors and actresses

There was another miscalculation from the “Transformers” team, and that was replacing Shia LeBeouf with Mark Wahlberg (as Cade Yeager) as the new face of the franchise back in 2014. Granted, Wahlberg is the bigger star these days, but it also fundamentally changed the way that critics viewed the movie franchise.

In short, there could never be just another fun, robot-clanking movie that didn’t take itself too seriously. This was, after all, the film franchise that was founded back in 2007 on the basis of toy trucks created for 10-year-old boys. But when you add Wahlberg into the mix, it’s clear that “Transformers” wants to be more than a film for adolescent boys – it wants to be something that grownups will go see. Sorry Michael Bay, but Mark Wahlberg is no Shia LeBeouf.

Who, exactly, wants to see this kind of movie? It’s just explosions and battles, anyway. Even a legendary actor from Hollywood’s golden age couldn’t save this movie from itself. Better yet – why even include real actors, anyway? Just create some CGI-generated avatar and let them wreak havoc for a few hours.

And there’s a deeper problem here – “Transformers” squanders some great acting talent here. It’s almost as if these actors signed on for a big pay day, and then just mailed it in. They realized that nobody really cares about them, anyway, it’s all about the Decepticons and Autobots. Just check out some of the names involved with this film (in addition to Mark Wahlberg and Laura Haddock) — Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, Jerrod Carmichael and Josh Duhamel. There was obviously room to make this film more of a character-driven narrative, but that’s something that Michael Bay clearly had no intention of doing.

#5: What ever happened to Optimus Prime?

If there was one defining element that united all the “Transformers” movies, it was Optimus Prime. But the fundamental premise of this movie is that Optimus Prime is gone, leaving humans and robots to fight it out on Earth. There’s some back story involving a grand bargain that Optimus Made, essentially handing over Earth to the bad guys.

But here’s the thing – Optimus Prime finally returns to his old self in the movie, after about two and a half hours! After more than 150 minutes of robot vs. robot warfare, we’re finally spared. This was supposed to be the big dramatic moment in “Transformers” – the moment when audiences gasp with wonder and awe. But, instead, audiences just offer up a groan of approval: “Thank goodness, maybe this means this film is finally coming to an end…”

**

There’s one line from the studio trailer that now rings true. In it, there’s the voice of Anthony Hopkins asking, “Why do they keep coming here?” It’s a question very much on the minds of studio audiences with regard to these “Transformer” films. Why do they keep coming back? The only possible answer is that there’s money to be made, and this is all simply a ploy to get moviegoers to part with their hard-earned cash.

transformers

Did “Rough Night” Hit the Comedy Mark?

rough-night

After nearly 40 years of “guys behaving badly” films, it’s now time to see how the opposite sex behaves when nobody is watching. Last year’s surprise comedy hit – “Bad Moms” – was just the beginning of a new type of film written for women who want to celebrate being women. The new film “Rough Night” takes what might be a throwaway storyline – a bunch of hard-partying girls go to Miami Beach – and turns it into something both funny and meaningful. Female director Lucia Aniello has hit the comedy mark on this one.

“Rough Night” is more than just a “Hangover” for women

In many ways, “Rough Night” heads down the same narrative road as the “Hangover” films. A bunch of college friends reunite for a bawdy adventure in a party town (usually Vegas, but now Miami Beach), and bad things proceed to happen at a dizzying pace. And, in between, there’s plenty of scenes of strippers (male, not female) and gratuitous drug use (cocaine, the hard stuff, not legalized marijuana).

But what makes this film so hilarious is that it’s completely directed with what some might call the “female gaze.” In other words, in the same way that Patty Jenkins changed what we thought superhero films could be by presenting “Wonder Woman” from a female point of view, Lucia Aniello has changed what we thought buddy-bonding movies could be by re-imagining everything from a female point of view.

In other words, this is not a male fantasy of what a woman’s “Hangover” film would look like. Yes, there’s gratuitous drug use, and lots of references to male anatomy – but it shows us what a role reversal can look like in the movies. As they say, the tables have been turned.

In “Rough Night,” it’s the women – played by Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell and Kate McKinnon – who have the wild, bachelorette party while the guys settle for a very uninspiring wine-tasting party to celebrate the end of being a bachelor. And it’s the women who are sex-crazed and looking to party, not the men.

rough-night-scarlett-johannson

“Rough Night” has hilarious comic nuances, thanks to Scarlett Johansson

The real shining star of “Rough Night” is Scarlett Johansson, who’s playing a very grown-up and respectable woman (Jess) who’s running for political office. But, back in the day, she enjoyed a good party, just like anyone else. And her friends back in the day were true partiers.

Who knew that Scarlett Johansson could do comedy? So it’s here that the particularly deft hand of director Lucia Aniello is felt. Just a few years ago, the only comic roles for women were those featuring larger-than-life personalities like Roseanne Barr or Melissa McCarthy. Serious actresses, we were told by the (male) Hollywood establishment, didn’t do goofy comedies.

And so the role of Scarlett Johansson, in many ways, is culturally and socially liberating. Here we have one of the most accomplished actresses in Hollywood, someone who has worked and played alongside the biggest names of the industry, and she’s “slumming it” in a female version of a frat party movie? Except that she’s not slumming it – she’s making a statement here about the types of roles that women get in Hollywood. If Robert De Niro can do comedy, then why not Scarlett Johansson? This is the new cultural zeitgeist, so get used to it.

“Rough Night” takes all the standard formulas, and gives them a twist

Yes, some critics have called “Rough Night” a bit “derivative” and “formulaic.” Yes, it’s easy just to label it a female “Hangover” or a female “Weekend at Bernie’s” and be done with it. But there are plenty of elements here that get a nice, comedic twist.

For example, it’s easy just to fall back on comic stereotypes for the roles of the college friends. But this film goes one step further. The LGBT rights activist is also a cokehead. The girl we thought was going to be so successful back in college turns out to be a drunk narcissist. And the person we thought was going to be our BFF throughout life turns out to be very needy, viewing the relationship in the most possessive manner possible. In short, these aren’t a bunch of stereotypes being tossed out there for viewer consumption.

And we should have expected as much. Lucia Aniello, with her co-writer Paul Downs, is also one of the creative forces behind the web series “Broad City,” which fully blossomed into a Comedy Central series starring Ilana Glazer. Guess what? She also stars in this film. And where “Broad City” was so powerful was in adapting a slightly off-kilter female humor dynamic for today’s web audience.

As a result, it sometimes feels in “Rough Night” that we’re experiencing more than just a formulaic comedy. Instead, we’re viewing a new type of webisode-inspired comedy that’s tailor-made to appear on “Comedy Central” at some later date. We can’t wait for this film to go straight-to-web.

“Rough Night” appeals to a wider audience than just women

Judging by the mixed reviews on IMDb (5.5 out of 10.0) and the 48% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it would be too easy to say that “Rough Night” missed the comedy mark. But that does not embrace the bigger idea here – that this movie is not a film about women for men, it is a film about women for women. And that’s why it’s so powerful.

Once you begin to see “Rough Night” as more than just a female romp for male consumption, you begin to appreciate all the comic nuances. Topics that were once only seen from a male perspective – such as what married life feels like at a certain age – are given a new filter and a new lens.

There are just so many funny lines of dialogue and sight gags in “Rough Night” that you’ll be laughing through the whole film. The first time you see Scarlett Johansson on screen – all serious-looking with short hair  — you might be tempted to ask yourself, “Does this girl really get it?” And she does.

It’s so great to see the likes of “ScarJo” dipping into the comedy genre, alongside comic veterans like Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Kate McKinnon. It’s proof that a female comedy doesn’t just have to be a derivative male version of a film. Instead, it can be something meaningful, fresh and new – and still deliver a bunch of laughs. So, yes, “Rough Night” did hit the comedy mark.

rough-night-kate-mckinnon