Arrested Development Lives (or ‘The Phoenix and the Ostrich’)

arrested_development

I promised it. You ached for it. So here it is.

My review of Season 4 of Arrested Development.

This has been a long time coming for me. My family and I quote the old series of Arrested Development back and forth relentlessly. If you haven’t seen Arrested Development before, go out and watch it right now. For those of you that have indeed done this, you will notice that the end of the 3rd season falls a bit flat. This is because Arrested Development was cancelled during its 3rd season. As a result, it’s has been off the air for close to 8 years… until last week, when the prodigal show returned.

For more information on why you should care about this fringe-dwelling cult television series, feel free to check out the article I wrote for Warhol’s Children on this subject (‘Arrested Development Released and Why You Should Care‘). In the mean time, the question hangs – is Arrested Development, the show about the family everyone loves to hate, still reconcilable 8 years after its violent and bloody assassination?

After watching one or two episodes, it quickly became apparent that this was not the show we left behind those many moons ago. The format is changed to the point that it’s nearly unrecognisable, favouring a more modern, realistic style of cinematic development as opposed to the quirky sitcom-y leanings of the old show. The jokes reflect this too, favouring plot development instead of over-the-top humour and repetitive gag jokes. Truthfully though, I was ok with the fact that they branched out. I feel like I might have been disappointed if they’d tried to duplicate a formula that was nearly a decade old at this point. As the premise of this new series is the ‘evolution’ (or possibly the ‘devolution’) of the Bluth family, a more serious tone really does suit the story-line while also distinguishing the series from its predecessor.

Every episode we watch deals with one (or two) members of the Bluth family at a time, while weaving the other family members’ interlocking stories in and out of the on-going arc. It’s an ambitious endeavour, especially since there are 15 episodes and each episode is 35 minutes long (15 minutes longer than the most U.S. sitcoms). For the most part it works, though once or twice I had to wrinkle my brain to try and remember who did what when, and how it connected. Apparently, part of the reason the story-lines unfold this way is due to scheduling conflicts between the actors, hence why there is only one scene throughout the entirety of the series where they all appear simultaneously. I did find myself missing the Bluth’s interactions as a family for this reason (“Look at banner, Michael!”). Still, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, in the form of a feature film which we will hopefully see before 2015. So, all hope is not lost for a full blown Bluth reunion

Even with this slightly confusing, puzzle-like format that is so different from what I’ve known, I can’t help but love season 4. It’s like seeing a group of old friends get back together; none of them are quite as you remember them, and observing that change is a reward in itself. Aside from which, there’s a lot of rewatch value in the 4th season of this heavily nuanced show, ripe for being slowly dissected and analysed at length.

I think I just blue myself.

Final score; 4 eyEs and 1 socket. Check it out. 🙂

GAME-OF-THRONES-ARRESTED-DEVELOPMENTSpeaking of reviews, friend of eyE Justin Bog has just released a novella (which I’ve had the pleasure of beta-reading and can whole heartedly recommend), titled ‘The Conversationalist‘. Honestly, Justin’s dark, pensive rhetoric really brought this thriller to life for me; a thought provoking, macabre mental journey. Head on over to Amazon and get yourself a copy, kids.

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5 Easy Steps to Channeling the Force

I’m sure we all know by now, but Star Wars – Episode 7 is coming.star-wars-iv-a-new-hope-nei1b

For those of you who have been squatting under rocks, chomping on maggots like Timon and Pumba, Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas a few months back and have set to work breathing fresh life into The Saga.

I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. Though I was not old enough to see the original trilogy in cinemas, I’ve spent my fair share of time watching poor quality VHS recordings of New Hope whilst making Luke and Han action figures duel to the death with Skeletor. And, like most Star Wars fans, I left ‘Revenge of the Sith’ feeling a little violated.

The wound Lucas has gouged into the Jedi mythology will not be an easy one to heal, of that there is no doubt. And so, philanthropist that I am, I shall list the ways to ensure a successful return to a galaxy far, far away.

Gosh, I’m a good human being.

  1. Cast Returns – there’s a lot of talk about getting the cast from the original trilogy back in, and I’m all about it. Good sequels always hinge on maintaining the link between installments. Replacing or writing around characters has proved to leave gaping holes of dissatisfaction and remorse in the mass consciousness – it don’t work guys, don’t try it! They may be able to get away with missing one, maybe two, of the main actors from the original trilogy, but they really need to get as many of them back as possible for this thing to be a success. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Luke and Leia’s matching trailers in a Tattooine caravan park at the ripe old age of 60? I know I do.
  2. Bigger Isn’t Always Better – a classic big-budget mistake is thinking that if you have cash you should put it to use. There is a culture of one-upsmanship prevalent in action movies these days, and it grows tiresome. Think about the prequel trilogy. The prequels were meant to set the scene for the awesome three movies that followed them. If we see nothing but colossal CG droid fight scenes, expensive and extravagantly budgeted sets, and entirely unnecessary fight scenes between core characters (cough-Emperor-and-Yoda-cough), what’s left to follow? I think the fact that the original trilogy shines so much more so than the polished turd of the prequels tells us that bigger and better are not synonymous. Also, well-made puppets will always look better than the best CG. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Story, Story, Story – this may be the writer in me, but I can’t stress the importance of a good story in film. A good, well-planned story is absolutely key to making it work, especially when you’re making a trilogy (and I’m certain Episodes 8 and 9 will follow all too soon). While it’s true that audiences these days are a bit more sophisticated in what they expect than they were in the 70s and 80s, I think that everyone will be happy with something that matches the tone of the original movies in a well-thought out way. Remember the last rule; bigger isn’t always better. Keep it simple to start with, gently remind us why love this franchise, and lay the foundation for an epic story arc in the last two movies.
  4. Grit – I must confess, the Disney label on this scares me a little. The original trilogy were infamous for some really gritty scenes, like the death of Obi-Wan, Han and Greedo’s shoot-out, Luke losing a hand… Don’t fluff this out too much, Disney. The temptation will be there though, since Star Wars has a ‘cross-generational’ appeal (because fans of the trilogy are now parents who want to share the experience with their kids) and movies that gross the highest tend to be ones that all age brackets want to see. Keeping it light and fluffy ensures a high-grossing movie at the potential cost of artistic integrity. I hate being able to observe decisions that have obviously been made based on production-end meddling, but there it is. Of course, Disney’s influence doesn’t scare me quite as much as my last point…
  5. J.J. Abrahams – is slated to direct Episode 7, and words can’t express how overrated I think this guy is. Now, I’m sure a lot of people will leap to defend him, so lets look at this logically – what has J.J. Abrahams ever done for me? Alias? I enjoyed the first season or two, before it flopped. Lost? Another show that flopped due to lack of planning. Cloverfield? Super 8? Not terrible movies… Not great movies either. Truthfully, the only 2 movies on J.J.’s IMDb profile that I don’t mind are Regarding Henry, which he produced in ’91, and the new Star Trek movie (and even that didn’t have a great plot). Am I missing something? Why do people think this guy’s so great? He’s a modern day Spielberg, sure… But Spielberg’s big-budget, grandiose style have become par for the course in modern cinema. You might as well say Abrahams is a modern day Karl Marx in Communist Russia. But I digress… By the same token, J.J.’s mediocrity hasn’t gone too far against him, so I’ll hold out hope. But in all honesty, I’d rather see Joss Whedon behind this project.

Disney for the win.

Here’s hoping for cybernetic Ewoks.

(image credit to nei1b)