The Great British Baking Show: Season 5

August 20, 2018

Season 5 of The Great British Baking Show (Brits Series 3) continues the feel-good nature of the series making this my all-time favorite competition show ever produced. Paul and Mary are back as judges with Mel and Sue as presenters. Twelve contestants start off the 10-week challenge with only one of them being crowned Britain’s best amateur baker. Lovely group of contestants once again. Sort of shocking the final three which I suppose proves the show is not altered for balance. I was very happy with the winner, the sweetest one of all. PBS streams the show free online and through their app. The episodes don’t last for long, but a membership to Passport – PBS’ access to all their streaming content is the same as making a yearly donation to the channel. Think of all the baking you can watch 24/7 along with news, nature programming, and those addictive Masterpiece Mysteries. Meanwhile, I’m chomping at the bit for Season 6. The Great British Baking Show is the Calgon of television series. It “takes me away” from all my worries and strife. Thank you! 5 out of 5 for this perennial favorite.


A Very British Scandal

August 18, 2018

It’s often unsettling for me to watch a gay-themed program marketed for the masses. I’m constantly waiting for the shoe to drop. A Very British Scandal created by the Brits and imported for America by Amazon doesn’t contain too many surprises for seasoned LGBT film and television viewers. Adapted from a book by John Preston and it should be noted this is John Preston the British film and television critic for the Telegraph and not John Preston, the American author who wrote gay erotica and died of AIDS in 1994, A Very British Scandal was adapted by Preston and Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk) and directed by one of my favorites, Stepen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity, My Beautiful Laundrette). The pedigree alone for the adaptation made me want to watch. I waited a bit because the previews alluded to silly over substance. But I’m glad I finally did watch. The quality of acting from Hugh Grant and Ben Wishaw, Frears effortless directing and a story so absurd, it has to be based in truth make the 3-part mini-series a lot of fun to watch. Still that pesky concept of more straight sex scenes than gay sex scenes in a gay show makes me scratch my head – especially in 2018. Yes, I know both characters dabbled in heterosexual marriages, but it was clear from the writing that these were not bisexuals, but men hiding in or using the closet and women to their advantage. The writing clearly embraced the desperation most gay men felt living in a time period without support from the law and society. For that and more, I enjoyed A Very British Scandal. It is well-crafted, light enough to watch on a Friday night after a long week, and sports an amazing soundtrack. 3.5 out of 5.

Orange is the New Black: Season 6

August 13, 2018

I have loved Orange is the New Black since the very first episode back in 2013. Click on the links below to read my reviews of previous seasons:

Season 1 (5 out of 5)
Season 2 (5 out of 5)
Season 3 (5 out of 5)
Season 4 (5 out of 5)
Season 5 (5 out of 5)

It’s rare the luster holds its magic for that many seasons. But it did and I am grateful to have gone through the experience with creator Jenji Kohen, the show runners, producers, directors, cast and crew. Many criticized Season 5 for using an unnecessary death in order to make a point. Poussey’s demise not only felt too easy, it reinforced a bad TV trope – killing off lesbian and bisexual female characters. See the story, 62 Lesbian & Bisexual Female Characters Killed Over Past Two Television Seasons for more detail on this disturbing phenomenon. Season 6 had to take a sharp turn. I came to Litchfield Prison’s new season hoping for more great stories. Unfortunately splitting up the main characters into different cell blocks and adding nearly 50% new characters just didn’t work for me. I missed Big Boo and Sofia who only had cameos. I missed the cohesiveness of the original cast. I didn’t connect with the Barb and Carol sisters. Boring. Badington with her horribly clichéd Boston accent didn’t scare me. And Daddy was too much of a sweet baby dyke to earn that nickname at her age. I certainly connected with Taystee’s story line, but I felt it got buried in all the other confusion of a show whose story lines were at best scattered. The guards were more realistic this season, scarier and unpredictable. You felt more of the reality of an actual prison, as much as I can imagine. In the end, the season didn’t work for me. I counted the episodes left to watch and fell asleep during too many to count. I still love the show, but it might be time to end it. Or spin-off a couple of the gals outside of prison figuring out if it’s possible to re-enter life. And bring back freaking Big Boo. 3 out of 5.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2 Trailer

August 11, 2018

Have you watched Season 1 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime Video yet? If not you are in for a rare treat. A smart, sophisticated, funny American television series with over the top production values – sets, costumes, hair, make-up. If you are already a fan, heads up: Season 2 airs “later this year,” ugh! Meanwhile catch the sheer joy of Season 2’s trailer:

Watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2 trailer on YouTube.
Read Reel Charlie’s review of Season 1.

Your Friday Dream Team: Cher covers ABBA

August 10, 2018

Ok, it’s been a rough week. There have been moments I’ve wanted to cry. There have also been wonderful moments. So let’s end this one on a high note. Cher’s first song from her cover album of ABBA hits via Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again just hit YouTube today: GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (A Man After Midnight). Cher is the only singer I smile with glee when I hear her auto tune. 72 years old. Serving major diva club anthem realness. All hail.

Listen to Gimme! on YouTube.
Visit Cher’s Dancing Queen site.


Orange is the New Black: Season 6 moments

August 5, 2018

The new (sixth) season of Orange is the New Black landed this past week on Netflix. I’m in the middle of it. It’s really dark. I miss the constant humor but appreciate Jenji Kohen and company taking me on a new journey. One of the funny sidebars is how many film references characters make. And not just any film. Pretty sophisticated stuff. The first one I noticed was an exchange between Red and Berlin. I screen grabbed the comment so I’d get it correct.

Berlin: it’s complicated.
Red: Our affection for Roman Polanski films is complicated.
Whoever wrote that line should win an instant Emmy.
Also there’s a moment when new male CO Stefanovic (Josh Segarra) gives an explanation of how to correctly microwave popcorn and why it’s a perfect snack for people trying to keep gains on at the gym. He was channeling me 100%. Now that’s good writing.

Balancing Act

August 3, 2018

I’ve been trying desperately to catch up here on Reel Charlie since returning from vacation two weeks ago. My new job at the library is wonderful, but it takes up more of my time and energy because I’m doing my old and new job simultaneously. Hopefully not forever. Meanwhile, I am getting anxious about the blog which has been a labor of love going on nine years now. So a heads up, I may not post every day for a while. I will post several times a week or at least once or twice a week. I’m going to try and focus on reviews since that’s why I started Reel Charlie in the first place. I’m watching the new season of Orange is the New Black and hopefully will have some movie reviews this weekend. I’m posting this mainly to give myself a break, since according to everyone who knows me, no one is harder on me than me. That said, I love to watch film and television and love to blog about it. Just need to cut myself a break during this transition. XO and happy viewing.

The Fosters: Season 5 (The Final Season)

August 1, 2018

Spoiler alert: Saying goodbye always hurts, but saying goodbye to a sweet-natured, ground-breaking, full of realness family drama such as The Fosters always feels bittersweet. I’m certainly glad they went out with a bang. Prolonging a series, as American television tends to do (Supernatural: Season 14!) never ends pretty. Leaving a show when there’s still room to love and admire is always a sure bet. Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg’s beautiful drama about a blended family of foster, adopted and biological children headed by a same-sex female couple proved to be a wonderful five-year journey full of love and laughter, heartache and tears, and joyful celebrations of growing up in a brave new world. The Fosters gives me hope there is still time left for humans to come together and repair the damage we’ve done to the planet and each other. The Fosters gave us another Darren in the form of Jesus, complicated and beautiful examples of loving your exes, all sorts of trouble teens can get into, cancer, death, and everything in-between. The final season gave us immigration center stage and a big nod to Six Feet Under. But instead of seeing how each character dies in the future, we instead witness the high school graduations of each of the characters. Then fast forward five years to the final three episodes setting up the arc for a spin-off series. Yes, The Fosters creates its own Rhoda and Phyllis in the form of Mariana and Callie. Lovely and fun, The Fosters proved major comfort food for me since 2013. I wish the girls well on their spin-off. 4 out 5.

Ready Player One

July 31, 2018

I am most definitely not the demographic for the adaptation of Ready Player One. That said, a car chase 14 minutes into the film doesn’t ring as very creative, even for fluff entertainment. The blatant use of pop culture references should have felt like homage. Instead it felt like the writers lacked creativity. I get that the tech guru had a thing for cheesy pop culture, but that just seems too easy. It’s so cool that the earth will be destroyed and people won’t care because everyone will have virtual reality to live in. Ok, what? Still I’m glad Blondie and Earth, Wind, and Fire got some royalties. I left after about 45 minutes. Felt like the people holding the money made too many creative decisions on this one. 2 out of 5. Next.

Spike Lee Reacts to Never Winning an Oscar, Asks ‘Who’s Still Watching’ 1990 Best Picture ‘Driving Miss Daisy?’ (Indiewire)

July 30, 2018

I’ve always loved Spike Lee and am constantly in shock at how underrated his career has been. Now that the past year plus has transpired, I can’t help but realize how much this has to do with racism and the white stranglehold on Hollywood. If you haven’t seen the follow Spike Lee films, you’re in for a real treat:

Do the Right Thing (Spike’s breakout film)
Malcolm X (his biopic)
Crooklyn (he nailed my childhood)
He Got Game (sports and kids)
Summer of Sam (NYC love fest)
Bamboozled (crazy good)
25th Hour (post-9/11 NYC) 
Inside Man (crazy good)

Read the article referenced in the post title over at Indiewire.

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