Penny Dreadful (♦♦♦♦♦): Several months ago, I discovered the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, featuring archetypal horror characters such as Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Van Helsing, Dr. Jekyll, a werewolf, witches, and vampires. Season 1 was about devil possession and the harboring of dark secrets. Season 2 was based on witchcraft and its power to do evil. Season 3, the one currently available, deals with vampires. All evil forces aim to win the soul of Miss Vanessa Ives—a young woman conflicted about her past and her belief in God. Will Vanessa surrender this time to the charms of no other than Dracula? Or will her friends be able to save her?
I started binge-watching the first two seasons of Penny Dreadful towards last year's end, and couldn't stop until I digested it whole. As you may have realized, it is very dark, gothic, but also mouth watering addictive. It isn't exactly scary, though there is a lot of gore sometimes, with just the right dose of evil to make you shudder and ask for more. If you like suspense with a good dose of the supernatural, like I do, then this show is for you.
Silicon Valley (♦♦♦♦): In Season 2, the guys deal with a lawsuit that ends up in arbitration. And Richard outgrows his good guy persona and starts making cutthroat business decisions to save his company.
In Season 3, Richard has been fired as the CEO of his own company, and as CTO, he is consulted on possible products to market, but Richard is convinced that the current CEO of Pied Piper doesn't know what is best for the company.
There was a point early on in Season 2 in which I started to wonder if the edginess of Season 1 had been lost. I needed not have worried; Season 2 and 3 of Silicon Valley are as hysterical and edgy as the freshman season. And just as crazy.
And now the movies...
The Great Gatsby (2013) (♦♦♦♦): This remake of the 1974 classic star Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan, as Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Daisy Buchanan, respectively.
If I thought that the 1974 movie was a little subdued in acting and mood, this one is very emotionally charged. All the performances are top notch, particularly DiCaprio’s and Joel Edgerton’s as Tom Buchanan. This 2013 remake was revamped with skimpy costumes and cabaret inspired choreography at Gatsby’s parties, music courtesy of the latest and among the greatest stars in today’s musical scene, such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys… Glitter, excess, jazz, and shady characters, it’s all there.
This movie version follows the book very closely, even the dialogues, thus I felt sad in the end. Very good watch!
Big Eyes (♦♦♦♦): Margaret, a divorcée painter with a child to support in the 1950s America, marries another painter—or is he?—to have an uncontested steady income to avoid losing custody of her small daughter. Soon enough, Margaret and Walter are painting side by side. Walter is business savvy, a fast talker, and one thing leads to another and next time we know, Walter has taken credit for the paintings of children with big, soulful eyes, his wife paints.
Big Eyes is directed by Tim Burton. As Burton’s movies go, this one is atypical. Not the usual quirky, oddball characters; these characters are more earthy, and real. It helps that it is a true story of sorts, and helped all the more by the wonderful performances of Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in the leading roles—the latter so funny as the con painter that I found myself laughing out loud at several times during the movie.
Begin Again (♦♦♦½): I had a good time watching Keira Knightley as a song writer/singer who gets an opportunity to record an album in the streets of New York City, after her famous boyfriend cheats on her.
Keira Knightley is not much of a singer really, and none of the melodies are catchy enough to transcend the movie, but it didn’t seem to matter much for enjoyed the story and the evolution of the characters through it.
Inside Llewyn Davis (♦♦♦): Llewyn Davis is a folk singer with ambition to make it in the music world but without a good, catchy repertoire to get him there. His album, Inside Llewyn Davis, is sitting in boxes for lack of sales. Surely everything would be different if his duo partner hadn’t taken his life, would it? Homeless and crashing on his friends’ couches for a few nights, he gets gigs that barely cover his living expenses.