Why’Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ is the Modern Day Seinfeld

When I first started watching ‘Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ I had a tough time marathon watching a show so loud, so obnoxious, and so ripe with vial personalities. As time went on and the show gained more confidence-I began to see what all the fuss was about. I felt a familiar and comforting edge to this wacky production.

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‘Its Always Sunny’ is well loved for its obtuse and often self contained episodes, its cast of top shelf narcissists and its expert ability to make something from a show that is really about nothing. Sound familiar?

The show centers on a group of friends- Dee and Dennis Reynolds, Charlie Kelly and Mac- “running” an irish pub in Philadelphia with the help of their eccentric patriarch and financier- Frank. Imagine if the gang from Seinfeld had children and those children decided to wallow in their despicable, drunken laziness together for the rest of their adult lives.

The Seinfeld comparison doesn’t stop there either. Its not such a far stretch to compare the deranged Danny Devito to an aged George Costanza- formerly successful but brought down by his own transgressions. He wants to run the show at all times but he can’t seem to keep himself away from the gang-the only family that he really has. He doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks of him or his actions-whether it be his perverted views towards women, his disgusting and dirty lifestyle, or his strange friendship with Charlie.

Dennis-who believes himself to be some kind of lady killing genius- has a definite Jerry-esque quality to the way that he holds himself above his friends. (He might be an actual lady killer, as well. I’m only on season 10 so I don’t know if they’ve confirmed that yet.) In reality, Dennis is arguably the most intelligent one in the gang-but the fact that he knows that makes his dynamic all the more arrogant. He believes that he is capable of mastering anything that he tries, but he is just as lazy and self involved as his friends and therefore his conquests are always a failure.  Although Mac is technically the Jerry Seinfeld of this show, his attempts to be the alpha male are often overpowered.

Mac and Charlie are just…really dumb. So dumb. They are the most dangerous brand of stupidity in which they have no self awareness whatsoever. Granted, Charlie often shows signs of being a genuinely good person, but he is rather psychotic. Mac simply refuses to admit that anything but his beliefs are valid. He is like a living embodiment of a twelve year old internet troll.  Both of these guys could pass for very inflated versions of Costanza-ism from their sheer lack of intelligence to their delusions of grandeur, but I would akin Charlies physical humor and business prowess to Kramer and his high pitched yelling fits to George.

Dee might not have herself together quite as much as Elaine ever did, but she certainly has her flighty and egocentric tendencies. She holds her own amongst the boys, though it is well established that she is their collective punching bag. She suffers from unrealistic expectations in all aspects of her life, assuming that she is deserving of the highest quality of companionship and lifestyle despite the fact that she is a horrible human being herself. Unless you’re hot and rich, you are not spongeworthy. Though she often has storylines that would only be possible because she is a woman, over time she has been given more and more content to play with on the show. In fact, I would argue that she has done some of the most risky material. I can see Kaitlin Olsen herself going down the path of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her future. Shes that good.

The gang spends every episode ruining the lives of the people around them- as the Seinfeld crew did with their romantic partners, business owners and friends. What really drives ‘Its Always Sunny’ into overdrive is the simple fact that its main characters have absolutely nothing to lose but their false senses of pride. Everyone (aside from Kramer) was regularly employed in fairly serious jobs in the Seinfeld gang, so the most dire of consequences normally centered around their employment. The ‘Sunny’ gang own very little aside from their pub- which they never actually seem to be working in- and it is still unclear how any of them have money at all. The stakes are low and there is very little to lose- making the obscene nature of the show completely plausible.

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While Seinfeld touched on subjects like abortion, masturbation, birth control and the many facets of sex- ‘Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ has taken this cue and run it into the extreme. We’ve seen at least two characters in blackface, we’ve seen Dee have a baby for a transgender woman who Mac was in love with and still might be, and we’ve seen Frank and Dennis both have sex with the drug addicted waitress that Charlie obsessively stalks. Mac is homophobic but is quite possibly very gay. Dee dated and then dumped an army veteran. Everything that most shows might be afraid to approach- they knock you over the head with it-and it works. It is without fear. The same could have been said for Seinfeld in its time. It was edgy, a little silly and a portrait of white people problems.

All of this is pulled off by a cast and crew of amazing writers and improvisational wizards. If you’re not already watching it, get on it.

Album Reviews: Katy Perry, Lorde, Portugal the Man

Katy Perry – Witness

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Had I listened to this album based solely on the singles ‘Bon Appetit’, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ and ‘Swish swish’ I would have been take aback. However, I was ultimately brought to listen to Katy Perrys new album because I spent a half sober night watching her have a one hour therapy session in a live YouTube video. Through listening to her spill her guts about the pressures of functioning as a human being in the chaos of international stardom, I have come to understand her better. Though I almost let the YouTube comments alter my judgement- it struck me as very sincere and very brave-so much respect to you, KP!

‘Witness’ hits a sweet spot between 80s and 90s dance pop, but somehow manages to sound modern. Though even the most upsetting song lyrics are backed by a catchy beat, it embodies the essence of Katy Perrys best assets-her unique voice and her clever, versatile songwriting. Her lyrics have taken a turn from the goofy and become more about urban slang (Swish swish bish?)-but her ability to capture and convey an idea in a song is still strong.

‘Witness’ shows its greatest strength with its soul-as it is also Katy Perrys most relatable piece of work. With songs that cover everything from self love to lost love, it feels mature. It feels open. It feels honest. There is plenty of fun and playful, but there is a lot of human behind all of that.

I may be gushing, but I really fell in love with this album in its entirety moreso than any of her previous. It speaks to me at this point in my life-and I’m sure that it will speak to many others as well.

Lorde- Melodrama

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Not to be silly, but Melodrama is a perfect title to define the vibe of this album- mellow and dramatic.

Lorde gracefully rides the hype train to an album that maintains her unique sound and boasts a maturity and class that justifies her recent once in a lifetime compliment from David Bowie in which he was quoted as calling her “the future of music”. No pressure!

‘Melodrama’ is a moody, vibrant portrait of a hot summer night in the throws of young relationships. It is poetic without being pretentious and it is wise beyond its years without losing its youth- which is a perfect description of the woman herself. Songs like ‘Sober’, ‘Green Light’ ‘Supercut’ and ‘Perfect Places’ are groovy dance anthems that meld perfectly with the brooding, introspective songs like ‘Liability’ and ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’. It is a journey through the ups and downs of love that is guided by Lordes soothing tones and funky beats.

If you were a fan of ‘Pure Heroine’ and the independently released songs that she has released since then-like ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ from the Hunger Games-you will take to ‘Melodrama’ right away. There is growth here, but there is no mistaking that you are listening to a Lorde record. She is such a rare talent who utilizes her deep vocals in a way that feels natural-and it rides the line between alternative and mainstream pop music in an interesting way. ‘Melodrama’-much like its predecessor-is a knockout.

Portugal the Man – Woodstock

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It was a breath of fresh air to finally have a new record from Portugal the Man-since our household has been playing their 2013 album ‘Evil Friends’ half to death in the past few years. Since then, we have seen a couple of random songs popping up-like the deliriously infectious ‘Noise Pollution’ and the equally as addicting single ‘Feel it Still’-both which made their way onto the album. With a short 10 song tracklist filled with their trademark falsetto vocals and hypnotic indie rock style-‘Woodstock’ is less rebellious than their 2013 album, but it is a perfect record to bring into your summer rotation.

While this blend of high vocals and upbeat tempos with an alternative rock edge is barely unique at this juncture-with bands like Foster the People sounding nearly identical-there is something special about Portugal the Man that I cannot quite put my finger on. Their sound has become more refined over the years-arguably leaning more towards the mainstream-and they have really nailed down their offbeat approach to putting together a song. ‘Woodstock’-like ‘Evil Friends’ is solid all the way through and keep your interest piqued with catchy riffs and choruses. You’ll feel good listening to this one.

Review: Wonder Woman

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Still buzzing from viewing Wonder Woman last night, I find myself in the rare position of being seduced by a film even after sleeping on it. The magic that I had hoped for in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and (slightly) Suicide Squad was finally realized in the passion project that is Wonder Woman.

Yes, of course, as a female as I went into this experience with a far different perspective than what studios may consider to be the “audience” for these films. Yes, of course I entered with my girl power flag flying. However, I went in as a woman scorned by a couple of disappointing entries in this ever growing universe of DC films. My feelings were very conflicted.

The great news here is that Wonder Woman was everything that I wanted, and more. It is a story of a woman sculpted from (genetic lottery winning) clay and brought to life by Zeus who leaves her utopian homeland of amazon warrior women with a strange man to help end Earths great war by killing Ares-the god of war. This mix of Greek mythology, historical drama and fantasy proves to be a winning combination in the hands of Patty Jenkins-known widely for her Oscar winning film ‘Monster’.

The film spends a generous amount of time in the hidden paradise of Themyscira showcasing the rigorous training, impressive agility and compassionate society that the amazon women embrace. Their culture is one of love, support, dedication, loyalty and respect-but it is also one that teaches every member of its community to be strong enough to fight for themselves. Literally. In this environment Diana is drawn to be a warrior like her mother and auntie Antiope (say that 10 times fast). Though she faces conflicting support from her family, her strong will and fighting spirit proves to be her most defining trait.

When Steve Trevor-a British spy escaping from a pack of German soldiers with incredibly important intel in tow-crash lands in Themyscira, Diana learns for the first time that there is a world outside of her own, and one that needs her help. Her motivation to rid the world of Ares evil influence is her driving force throughout this film-while love gives her the strength to carry it through to the end.

Though her relationship with Steve Trevor is certainly central to the story, it is not the type of love story which causes the lovers to sidestep their initial motivations. It gets tiresome to hear every man who she comes into contact with telling her how beautiful she is- but it reflects on the time period. Nobody wants to hear her, only to look at her. Despite all of the obvious jabs at her beauty, Dianas most beautiful and emotional scenes come when she faces evil directly in its face. Every combat scene is expertly shot, expertly choreographed and rivals anything else that I’ve seen on screen in a fantasy setting. Her physical capabilities are displayed with absolutely nothing held back-and it makes for some of the most intense and heart pumping fights in any superhero film to date.

Wonder Woman certainly has its flaws, but I was very impressed by the attention given to every aspect of it. From the accurately devastating portrayals of ground and biological warfare, to the care that went into its characters. Everyone in this diverse cast has an identity and everyone has their contribution to the big picture. Only the villains of this tale are one sided in their beleifs. The story is well paced and never dull, and it gives little screen time to the “fish out of water” tropes that it could so easily have fallen back on. Diana doesn’t learn how phones work, or learn how to walk in heels. When it comes to quality acting- Chris Pine was the star for me here. His portrayal of both a fearless and passionate soldier, as well as a man lovestruck by a woman with unflinching independence-is convincing on all accounts.

Of course, my most beloved takeaway from Wonder Woman was the woman herself. Her compassion is not weakness, and her heart is not her Achilles heel. She persists in the face of opposition and she will be silent for no one. She stands in the way of any danger-gunfire, gas or genocide. She is driven by the idea of peace and inspired by the women who made her, but she is never blinded by the past. She looks to the future.

She is a woman, and a hero, that every woman would love to be. I walk away from this film wanting to be a better woman for this world.
Sidenote: Wonder Womans theme music is LIQUID GOLD

A Beautiful Bubble

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Being a mom is harder than I ever thought it would be. It is a test of your patience, of your resilience, and your ability to deal without adequate sleep. It is a full-FULL time position that doesn’t get you paid. It is baby germs, stains, headaches and cereal for supper. It is immeasurable responsibility, it is a catalyst for change and it can be an isolating bubble to live within.

But what a beautiful, intimate, delicate bubble it is. It is full of laughter, discovery and unforgettable moments.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms, grammas, aunties, teachers, mentors, sisters and ladies that influence with their maternal senses. To anyone left feeling alone on this day because they lost a mother or a child- keep love in your heart.

PS. My son is saying real words now-and he loves the word “bubble” right now.

I finished ‘Fables’ today!

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The first five volumes of ‘Fables’ was lent to me months and months ago, and I left the series untouched as I reworked my old excuse that I “have too much to read already”. A few weeks back I finally decided to pick it up, and I rarely put it down since then.

I can’t remember the last time that I felt so completely enamored with a story-let alone a graphic novel-as I am with ‘Fables’. It continues to blow my mind a bit that a story stemming from the literal roots of fantasy storytelling-fairytales-could become a dark, complex, intelligent war drama starring Snow White, the “big bad wolf” and Little Boy Blue. Besides that, the art is a gorgeous melding of bright and rustic at the same time-very reflective of this epic tale.

If you need something to shake up your reading and to give you a strange realm of inspiration, this is where you should start. It is worth the eleven (at least) volumes. You won’t even notice the time go by!

Album Review: Paramore – After Laughter

After a group restructuring of sorts for Paramore’s self titled 2013 album, fans were left slightly taken aback by the new direction of their beloved free spirited rock band. Though I count myself in that camp, I have grown to love and appreciate the bold, pop centric persona brought forward-as it continues to showcase the groups signature energy and catchy hooks in a new way. In another surprising twist, on todays new release ‘After Laughter’ Paramore hones their unique blend of pop and rock with an 80s flair that takes you back to a time of neon colors and milkshakes.

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From its first two singles “Hard Times” and “Told You So” it was safe to assume that ‘After Laughter’ was poised to become a perfect summer soundtrack. A blend of nostalgic, synth-centric music behind Hayley Williams crystal clear twang results in something that rejuvenates a group that could easily have been lost in the mid-2000s emo rock movement that has since dissipated.

Although ‘After Laughter’ may have you believe that it is an escape to a rock disco wonderland on songs like ‘Told You So’, ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Idle Worship’-its central theme seems to be the darker side of life behind a smile. ‘Fake Happy’ is one of many chilled out tracks with a morose edge to its simplistic approach to songwriting. It asks just how many of us are pretending to be happy to keep up appearances-much like the tone of this entire album.

The groups evolution from moody, emotional, rebellious stadium rock that began to turn its head on ‘Brand New Eyes’ has certainly landed in a place that many longtime fans did not expect, but some things have not changed. As it is with many bands who are lucky enough to live through more than one “phase” in music, they are trying new things to stay fresh, but there has not been much growth in terms of maturity. In all honesty, in a musical landscape where highly skilled,creative, fearless songwriters are putting out music that is highly accessible at a moments notice- a general lack of substance in Paramores music keeps me at a distance. At the end of the day, Paramore is still fun, and they still wear their heart on their sleeve-love it or leave it.

If you’re a new or old fan, its definitely worth a listen to figure out how you feel about it.

A Rogue One Review – Spoilers ahead!

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To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Rogue One. It definitely didn’t have that same buildup, that same magic, that same air of mystery that The Force Awakens did. That is no fault to the marketing of the film-it is simply inevitable. We already know how this movie ends. Period. Like any “based on a true story” film, Rogue One bears the burden of transparency. We know that the Rebels succeed in stealing the plans to the death star-so this film is all about the journey that the rebels and the Empire take leading into ‘A New Hope’.

Herein lies both the strongest and weakest points of ‘Rogue One’-the treatment of its characters. This film is also burdened with the unique task of incorporating well established characters with a batch of fresh ones who we never knew by name until now. I strongly feel that the films use of its classic character roster was very well done-from the epic Darth Vader scenes, to the appearance of Jimmy Smits, to the pitch perfect recasting of Mon Mothma and yes…even Tarkin.

I understand the general beef with the treatment of deceased actor Peter Cushing as an entirely motion captured CGI character. I totally get it. However, we cannot discredit the bold decision to incorporate such a prominent character whose absence would be sorely missed. We also shouldn’t discount how good it really looks. I definitely noticed it-because I knew that it was happening- but there were times where I simply forgot that it wasn’t the man himself. With the level of quality animation in modern video games, why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to utilize that in modern cinema?

When it comes to the new cast of characters-the Rebels-I felt a little detached. Even with its 2.5 hour run time this film had no chance in Hoth of establishing a connection to this large group of characters while setting up its plot. Jyn Erso’s background was covered with moderate detail, but once we learn how Forest Whitakers eccentric character Saw Gerrera saved her, thats where it stops. They throw us back to him as an old, fragile man and try to pull at our heartstrings by prodding at the lost connection between Jyn and the man who saved her life. Unfortunately, since we didn’t see any of that time on screen, it was very hard to feel its impact.

Mads Mikkelsen expertly pulls off his character in no surprise to anyone-but his screen time is short lived. Jyn and company spend most of the movie talking about him, about his notoriety and his importance, but once again we see little of it. Of the group of rebels I felt the most connection to the dynamic duo of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus-the blind Jedi and his juggernaut soldier buddy. Their dynamic brought some focus back to the themes that surrounded the original films-about the spiritual influence that engulfs everything and those who question its very existence. K2-SO is likely the standout character for the majority of viewers, seeing as they ran with what worked for C-3P0 and dialed up his sass factor by about 100%. Every instance of comedy (Stormtroopers having casual conversation, droids being droids, etc) was well used and lightened up what would otherwise be a very dark film, making it more appealing to a broader audience.

I’m sad to say that I found Jyn to be a disappointment-not because of the strength and fortitude of her character but simply because I was not impressed with her delivery. It felt wooden and lacked the genuine appeal that a lead character needs. Captain Cassian (Prince Caspian, as I call him) felt much the same. Since we spent the entire movie questioning his loyalties in a “seriously what is up with this guy” way, I did not feel a thing for him. They took little to no time to build back our trust in him, yet Jyn seemed to gravitate towards him in a pinch. I just didn’t feel her passion.

All said and done ‘Rogue One’ is a visually stunning homage to everyones favorite Star Wars films and it takes great care in respecting them. They plant little moments to make passionate fans squeal in their seats while offering a whole new atmosphere to the franchise. Rogue One is not about the Jedi vs the Sith, but it is about the ugly face of war. People sacrifice themselves, people lose their friends, people lose themselves-all to mark the way for the next big step towards ‘balance’. It can be truly painful to watch how politics and people make their mark on war-and this is where ‘Rogue One’ really excels.

P.S. Why did Jyn tell Krennic that her father installed a vulnerability? Why would you do that? Let that be a surprise, damn!