Bank Heist with a Twist

September 22, 2019 at 6:21 PM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains mild spoilers of La Casa de Papel (a.k.a Money Heist). Read at your own risk.

 

It’s not uncommon to hear about people who are named after a city – Paris, Florence, Geneva, etc. But it’s not common to see almost an entire cast of characters in a TV show who are named after global cities. And that’s part of the attraction of La Casa de Papel, the Spanish TV show that took the world by storm last year. Most of the characters on the show are named after a city – Tokyo, Berlin, Denver, Nairobi, Helsinki, Moscow, Rio, and Oslo.

I admit that I hadn’t heard about this show in 2018 but it eventually caught my attention this year because of the worldwide publicity it’s getting and word of mouth on social media. At first I thought La Casa de Papel was just another mushy telenovela so I didn’t pay much attention to it. But when it was heavily promoted by Netflix (under an English title called Money Heist) and a lot of people were tweeting about it, I got curious and checked it out. And I instantly loved it.

I didn’t mind that the show was in Spanish as I’m used to watching foreign films with English subtitles. Netflix had the show dubbed in English but I preferred the original Spanish version because I loved hearing the actors’ actual voices. Besides, the characters’ emotions couldn’t be captured perfectly by the English dub.

One of the things that drew me to the show was its unique premise. It’s not a typical story about a bank heist. It’s more than that. It’s about a bunch of brazen bank robbers who decided to rob the Royal Mint of Spain – by printing their own money while holed up inside. Each robber had their own personal reasons for taking the job, and viewers got to see their emotional journey throughout the show’s three parts (the show is written in parts, not seasons as is the standard in US shows).

Another major draw for me was Raquel Murillo, the police inspector assigned to negotiate with the robbers during the bank heist. I’m always drawn to strong female characters on a show and Raquel is no exception. She has that commanding presence that pulls you in with her personal back story. She’s strong, smart and able to stand her ground against her male counterparts, and even against the mastermind of the heist who preferred to be known only as “The Professor.” But behind her strong persona also lies a vulnerable side, and this gave her character more depth.

Speaking of the professor, he’s one interesting and intriguing character as well. In part 1 of the show, the professor was somewhat of a mystery. Viewers only knew him as this dorky, awkward but brilliant man who hired and trained the robbers to commit the biggest bank heist in the country’s history. There wasn’t much back story given except for the fact that he was a sickly child who spent most of his childhood and teenage years in a hospital. But later on in part 2, viewers got a glimpse of his personal life and how he’s related to his fellow robber Berlin. More of that relationship was explored in the show’s part 3, which ended in a cliffhanger.

I must say that the show’s parts 1 and 2 were their strongest. Part 3 was a bit underwhelming for me, with several loopholes and unnecessary scenes to beat. Now that the show recently wrapped up production of part 4, I’m hoping that the latest edition will be as gripping and action-packed as the previous parts and that the characters will be fully fleshed out and developed further, especially the professor.

Woke

August 25, 2019 at 3:18 PM | Posted in Musings, TV | Leave a comment

I grew up at a time when society’s perception of women in general was still traditional and backwards. Even in the media and on TV back then, I was used to seeing women being portrayed mainly as housewives who do all the household chores while the men work or play sports. That, or women were portrayed as only sex objects to be played around by men.

Growing up in a traditional household and with strict Catholic upbringing, I was taught that women should do all the housework and that they should know how to cook, sew and mend clothes, and take care of children. I grew up in a big house living with extended family members, with aunts, uncles and male cousins around the house. They used to hold parties every now and then and I would observe that women would stay on one side sipping punch while the men drink hard liquor and smoke cigarettes on the other side.

Back then, my extended family and I would also often watch TV together. So early on, I was exposed to so much sexism on TV and movies – from James Bond films to beauty contests. My family thought it was amusing to see James Bond sleep with so many women and just discard them easily. To them it’s okay because “he’s a man.” They also thought there’s nothing wrong with men ogling women in bikinis in a beauty contest.

But now that I’m an adult, I realized just how much women were at a disadvantage back then, and how they were wrongly perceived and treated by society. That’s why I stopped watching beauty contests and James Bond movies because of how they treat women.

It’s rare to see strong female characters on TV and movies back then. But we’ve come a long way now and women in the media and in the entertainment industry are now well represented compared to 30-50 years ago (maybe not completely yet but we’ll get there).

That’s why I’m very thankful for shows like The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess for having strong female characters that changed television. These strong female characters taught me that women are just as smart and capable as men.

Good Omens is Immaculately Divine

June 12, 2019 at 4:49 PM | Posted in Books, TV | Leave a comment

What if an angel and a demon band together to stop Armageddon?

This is the premise of Good Omens, a new TV miniseries on Amazon Prime. Good Omens is based on the 1990 book written by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett.

I’ve read the book years ago and since then I’ve been waiting for it to be adapted on screen. There have been plans on making it into a movie years ago but it didn’t push through. Thankfully, this time it finally got made as a miniseries. The six-episode TV adaptation was written by Neil himself so most of what’s in the book remained intact, apart from a few tweaks here and there. The humor in the book was not lost in the adaptation either.

Good Omens is about an unlikely friendship between an angel named Aziraphale and a demon called Crowley. They’ve known each other since the beginning of creation (i.e., since Adam and Eve were created). Aziraphale first started as the angel guarding the Eastern Gate of the Garden of Eden while Crowley was the serpent who tempted Eve. Eventually they were sent to Earth by their masters to do their respective jobs – Aziraphale doing God’s work and Crowley tempting humans into committing sins. They’ve been on Earth for so long that they’ve come to love the world.

But their love for the world was about to come to an end with the arrival of the AntiChrist, who was expected to start a war that would lead to Armageddon. Not wanting for the world to end, Crowley and Aziraphale formed an alliance to stop Armageddon from happening.

On the back of that premise were a milieu of characters, celestial beings and hilarious scenarios that added flavor to the story.

Good Omens_Aziraphale and Crowley

Generally, TV and film adaptations tend to lose some of the magic of a book’s story but the Good Omens adaptation was so right in the mark that I’m fully satisfied with the outcome. The performances weren’t bad either. David Tennant was brilliant as the fun-loving, rebellious demon Crowley while Michael Sheen was ever the finicky angel Aziraphale. They played off on one another so well that it’s hard not to love the budding friendship between their characters.

Jon Hamm nailed it as the Archangel Gabriel. His character’s addition to the show despite not being in the book was a good choice. He perfectly fit the description in the book as a “pompous jackass.”

I also love the fact that the series’ choice of background music consisted mostly of Queen’s greatest hits, which was obviously a nod to a specific humor in the book.

Since the book was first published in 1990, it’s interesting to note that in several scenes in the TV adaptation, the show seamlessly mixed old technology with modern conveniences that didn’t exist during that period. Smartphones could be seen in some scenes alongside with vintage tech like rotary phones and answering machines. In the series, heaven was depicted as a modern skyscraper with glass walls and pristine interiors, while hell was a dank basement of the same building.

There were other contemporary touches in the show that made it quite timely and inclusive: God and Archangel Michael were played by women and Adam and Eve were played by black actors.

There were several scenes in the series that really stood out for me, such as Crowley and Aziraphale dancing, Crowley riding through the M25 ring of fire, Aziraphale and Crowley’s friendship depicted through spanning centuries, and of course The Beginning. The twist in the end was also a surprising delight.

There are speculations around the internet that there might be a second season of the series but for me, the fact that it got made in the first place is good enough. And well-made it is.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Series Finale Review: A Situation More Nuanced Than the Last Six Words

April 10, 2019 at 12:09 AM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers of the series finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Read at your own risk!

“This is the song I wrote.”

The last six words uttered by Rebecca Bunch before our TV screens faded to black. That’s how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ended its fourth and final season.

It’s been one hell of a crazy rollercoaster ride for viewers like me who watched the series through the years. From the moment we saw the show’s main character Rebecca Bunch sang and danced her way to West Covina, California up to the time when she finally found love in an unexpected place, it had been a joy to watch her grow and become a better person. Her journey to personal development had been the best part of the series for me, and the final season delivered that perfectly.

The show’s series finale culminated in Rebecca finally finding love – not in the form of romantic love – but in something else. Throughout the entire series, fans had been rooting for Rebecca to be with either Josh, Greg or Nathaniel. When I started watching the show, I didn’t ship Rebecca with anyone at all. I was more interested in her crazy antics – how she would find ways to manipulate situations to her liking and how she would get out of the mess she created. But when Nathaniel came into the picture in season 2, I started shipping her with him.

But this final season, I came to realize that she didn’t need a romantic partner at all. I was more concerned about her mental well-being. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and it’s more important for her to take care of herself first and be better than have a boyfriend. So I was glad that in the finale that she didn’t choose any of the three men. Instead, she found love in songwriting. I wasn’t surprised by this at all.

In the second season, it was revealed that most of the musical numbers in the show were just all in Rebecca’s head. That’s the way she lived and how she arrived at decisions sometimes. She just made up all the songs in her head. So all that hidden talent finally burst out and with Paula’s help, Rebecca was able to take the first step and write the songs that’s been in her head for some time. That’s her ultimate love. I had an inkling about this after I saw the episode where she joined a community theater. I predicted that she would become a songwriter in the end and I was right.

What resonated the most for me from the final episode was the scene where Rebecca was studying to become a songwriter and she said, “When writing songs, it’s important to tell your own story.” I couldn’t agree more. As a frustrated writer, I’m constantly faced with this predicament. I’m a copywriter by profession and I write stories for other people. But I have my own stories to tell and they’re something that need to be written eventually. But I digress…

While the finale was fitting for Rebecca, I couldn’t say the same for the other characters. When it came to time jumps, the show struggled to make the story tight. I had a problem with the show’s first time jump in the previous season mainly because there was not enough build up on the storylines, especially with Valencia’s story. She was straight in earlier seasons and now she’s suddenly gay? How did that happen?! I wished there was a backstory on that.

This season’s time jump saw Darryl and her girlfriend (I don’t remember her name) having a baby. Nathaniel quit his job and went volunteering to a foreign country. Josh had a new girlfriend as well and Valencia and Beth got married. I’m fine with these overall but when it came to Heather and Hector as well as White Josh’s story, it was pretty lame. I would’ve wanted for them to have something more substantial than Heather and Hector getting a new hot tub and White Josh’s house being burned to the ground. And what was that all about George’s ponytail? I don’t get it. For me, that was unnecessary.

Overall, the finale was good as it tied up Rebecca’s story perfectly. The last six words were also fitting as the fade-to-black ending was immediately followed by the concert special where the cast performed select songs from the show. The ending meant that the songs in the concert special were the songs that were in Rebecca’s head. The first song played in the concert special (“West Covina”) was the first one she wrote. So it had that seamless transition.

I only wished the concert special was longer. But oh well, I could just settle with listening to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend soundtrack…

My Top 5 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Songs

October 27, 2018 at 9:23 AM | Posted in Music, TV | Leave a comment

I’ve been listening a lot lately to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend original soundtrack. I guess I’m enjoying the show’s music as much as I can since season 4 is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s final season before it goes off the air for good.

I admit I was rather late when I started watching this TV show. I started watching it when season 2 was already airing on TV. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a musical TV show this good. Since watching the first season, this has become one of my favorite shows on TV.

And one of the main reasons I love it is because of the musical numbers in the show. The songs featured in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are all original and co-written by the show’s co-creator Rachel Bloom. I have a lot of favorite songs from the show and it’s really tough to pick just five. But I managed to come up with a list of my top five favorites (in no particular order).

 

  1. JAP Battle

This rap song is absolutely fantastic and infectious with brilliant lyrics. It’s about a face-off between a small law firm in California and a large Manhattan law firm.

 

  1. You Stupid Bitch

There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than making mistakes and blaming yourself for them. And this song perfectly sums up what Rebecca Bunch (a.k.a the crazy ex-girlfriend in the story) is going through at the time.

 

  1. Santa Ana Winds

This is kind of a throwback to ‘60s music with its catchy tune. I never thought a song about wind can be this funny. Also, this was right about the time I’m starting to ship Rebecca with Nathaniel.

 

  1. Strip Away My Conscience

With a sound reminiscent of Chicago, this song is flirty, sexy and raunchy. Lots of shippy feels about this scene between Rebecca and Nathaniel.

 

  1. Where’s Rebecca Bunch?

This is an ensemble musical number which I really love, partly because of the period costumes featured here. I also love the contrast between the old and the new, with lyrics about Twitter hashtags while the cast were in a period setting.

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