Movie Review: Lilo & Stich (2002)


Title: Lilo & Stitch
Release Date: 2002 June 21
Director: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Summary/Review: A big leap forward in time from Dumbo, but coincidentally this movie was actually inspired by Dumbo in that the filmmakers wanted to make a low-budget experiment and is also the first Disney animated film to use watercolor backgrounds since Dumbo.  The story involves Stitch, a genetic experiment designed to cause mayhem who escapes and crash lands in Hawaii.  There he meets Lilo, a young girl being raised by her older sister after the death of their parents, who is an outcast among the other kids and tends to lash out violently, not unlike Stitch.  The movie takes some chances in setting it in Hawaii and incorporating Hawaiian culture as well as a starkly honest depiction of a sisterly relationship.  The movie is laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking, and I can’t believe I waited 15 years to see this genius film.
Rating: ****1/2

Movie Review: Dumbo (1941)


TitleDumbo
Release Date:  1941 October 23
Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

A baby is born with a physical feature that leads him to be ostracized by his kind, but after discovering that that physical feature affords him special powers, he is celebrated. Dumbo is essentially the same story as Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.  The animation style is different from Pinnochio.  The former tried to recreate reality in intricate animation, while Dumbo is more cartoon-y.  But the elephants are lovingly-executed and given characteristics to make them both elephantine and anthropomorphic.  And Dumbo is just so darn cute.  Timothy Q. Mouse is the hero of this story and is much like Jiminy Cricket, taking Dumbo under his wing and helping him find his greatness.  Like Pinnochio, there’s a lot about this movie that is just plain weird – like how Dumbo and Timothy discover that Dumbo can fly after consuming champagne.  The scene with the crows is uncomfortable because of the racial insensitivity of the obviously African American characters, but the crows also have the most memorable lyrics of any song.  After nearly an hour of bullying and ostracizing our protagonist he gets the happy ending he deserves, but this sure is a sad movie.
Rating: ***

Movie Review: Pinocchio (1940)


TitlePinocchio
Release Date: 23 February 1940
Director:Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

Pinocchio is one of those movies where you feel like you know the story even if you’ve never seen it.  But actually watching it fills in some gaps and reveals some misconceptions.  The most famous part of Pinocchio is that his nose grows when he lies.  And that lasts less than a minute.  Still there reasons why the film is so familiar because the scenes of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo dancing have been shown in a gazillion formats, most memorably to me edited into the DTV music videos that were always shown on The Disney Channel when I was a kid.  And they’re worth showing off, because the Disney animators made some remarkable advancements in the depiction of the movement of bodies as well as shadows and water.  Nothing prepared me for the nightmare fodder that was Pleasure Island and the children turning into donkeys.  And the film carries such a heavy-handed middle class morality that it makes it seem like they want us to think that the kids deserved that.  The final act seems tacked on where Pinocchio learns that for some reason Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo are in the belly of the whale Monstro, but it does give Pinocchio the chance to be a hero.  A strange and remarkable film.
Rating: ***1/2

TV Review: The Race Underground (2017)


Title The Race Underground
Release Date: 31 January 2017
Director: Michael Rossi
Summary/Review:

The American Experience documentary adapts a portion of the book by Doug Most relating to Boston’s effort to create America’s first subway.  As a Boston partisan myself, why not leave out the portion of the book about New York City, even if they built a far more extensive subway system very swiftly after Boston’s first tunnel opened?  Kidding aside, it is a dramatic figure focusing on key figures such as Frank J. Sprague, who invented the electric trolley car, and Henry Melville Whitney, who consolidated the trolley lines into the West End Street Railway Company and persuaded city officials to approve the first tunnel.  There are challenges along the way including negative popular opinion, graves of Revolutionary War era soldiers, and an explosion, but the subway is completed and convinces the doubters.  The documentary is well-illustrated with photographs and vintage film, and is a delight to watch.
Rating: ***

 

TV Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)


TitleA Series of Unfortunate Events
Release Dates: 2017
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 8
Summary/Review:

The adaptation of the Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) novels is a great success, capturing the humor, tragedy, and pedagogy of the Baudelaire orphans sad tale.  It’s been over a decade since I read the books, but the tv show appears to be largely to the books with the exception of the introduction of some characters and the themes of the VFD that actually play a bigger role later in the series (not a bad idea for the tv show).  Neil Patrick Harris gets a lot of attention for his performance as the evil Count Olaf, and he chews the scenery in a way that will delight most viewers (although I can also see how he could irritate some).  The thing is, NPH isn’t even the best thing about this show.  The main cast of young actors includes Malina Weissman as Violet, Louis Hynes as Klaus, and the greatest baby actor ever in Presley Smith as Sunny.  Patrick Warburton offers a dry delivery of the narration as Lemony Snicket and K. Todd Freeman is the forever clueless, and coughing, Mr. Poe.  The guest cast includes spectacular performances by Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Alfre Woodard, Don Johnson, Catherine O’Hara, and Rhys Darby. And kudos for the diversity in the casting decisions not necessarily indicated in the source material. The surreal sets and the brightly-colored costumes lend an unworldly effect to the Snicketverse.  This is a brilliant show, and despite the warning from the opening title song to “Look Away,” this is definitely a show to watch and enjoy.

TV Review: Sherlock (2017)


Title: Sherlock
Release Dates: 2017
Season: 4
Number of Episodes: 3
Summary/Review:

Since 2010, the BBC has presented the reimagined adventures of Sherlock Holmes set in modern-day London starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.  It may sound facile, but after watching this fourth season, I wish the show had stuck with telling stories of two men solving mysteries.  It seems that this show has gone from being about a man with remarkable abilities in gritty, everyday London to being a show about a man with superpowers in a fantasy world paralleling our own.

The purpose of each episode in this series seems to be to put a character through emotional and physical torment and see how they react – Mary (Amanda Abbington) in “The Six Thatchers,” John in “The Lying Detective,” and Sherlock in “The Final Problem.”  It’s a credit to the acting talent of these actors (and others in supporting roles) that the show remains compelling to watch, but the absence of story (and mystery and adventure) is clearly missing in this series.  That the series is a set of three 90-minute “feature-length” episodes doesn’t help as the emotional and character arcs would be developed better over a longer series.

The end of the series appears to be resetting Sherlock to its original “Holmes/Watson solve a mystery premise,” while at the same time rumors are swirling that the show is now at an end.  I do hope it returns, because it is still a compelling show to watch, but I hope the showrunners and writers take some time to rest and reconsider before creating another series.

Movie Review: Sing (2016)


Title: Sing
Release Date: 21 December 2016
Director:  Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings
Summary/Review:

Zootopia used a city of anthropomorphic animals as the setting for a socially-conscious police procedural, and Sing does essentially the same thing for the musical comedy, albeit not as sophisticated. Koala Buster Moon is a show biz impresario who decides to save his decaying theater by staging a talent competition.  Cue audition scenes followed by rehearsals with quirky core group of ambitious talent: a soulful gorilla who does not want to be part of his father’s bank-robbing gang, a punk rock porcupine more talented than her self-centered boyfriend, an overworked mother of 25 piglets looking for a chance to express herself, an exuberant, Teutonic pig in sparkly dance leotards, and a shy, teenage elephant with a strong voice.

The movie is full of gags and generally funny enough to entertain both children and adults.  But it also contains some serious undertones and cynicism about show business that seems a bit heavy, especially a terrifying scene in which the theater is destroyed.  The movie has it’s flaws, among them a soundtrack that switches frenetically among popular songs (the licensing bill must’ve been huge) and is a bit a bloated at nearly two hours in length.  But it’s better than the sum of it’s parts with some joyous musical performances, especially in the final performance at the end of the film.
Rating: ***

Movie Review: Moana (2016)


Title: Moana
Release Date: 23 November 2016
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Summary/Review:

The latest Disney offering is a delightful combination of Polynesian folklore with gorgeous visuals and musical numbers.  Moana, the heir to a line of chieftains of her island, must save her people from blight and disaster by seeking the demigod Maui and have him return the heart he stole from the goddess Te Fiti.  The movie has a lot of great humor and tells a story of friendship and finding confidence within oneself, with support from those who love you.  And since representation matters, it is great to have a story with a girl protagonist, who is not a princess (even if she has a dress and an animal sidekick) and does not have a romantic subplot, be the hero of the story.  Highlights of the movie are the dumb but heroic chicken Heihei, Maui’s tattoo with a conscience, Moana’s eccentric Gramma Tala, and a musical number by the crab Tamatoa that is an homage to David Bowie but also clearly the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda.  I loved it, but opinions vary.  My five-year-old thought it was scary at parts.  My nine-year-old thought it was okay.
Rating: ****

Movie Review: Dolphins (2000)


Title: Dolphins
Release Date: 14 April 2000
Director: Greg MacGillivray
Summary/Review:

Watched this at the Mugar Omnimax Theater at the Boston Museum of Science.  It kind of falls into every cliche you’d expect of an animal-themed IMAX film, but who can complain  about seeing larger than life dolphins leaping and diving?  Pierce Brosnan provides the narration but often yields to the featured scientists who share their knowledge and passion regarding these aquatic mammals.  On the odd side, the soundtrack is by Sting which makes me wonder what dolphins did to deserve this (especially since most of the music is reggae-tinged instrumental arrangements of Sting’s hit songs which have nothing to do with dolphins).
Rating: ***1/2

TV Review: Stranger Things (2016)


TitleStranger Things
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 8
Summary/Review:

The hit of the summer is an homage to horror and thrillers of the 1980s, mixing the film aesthetic of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter with Stephen King’s “kids and monsters in Maine” formula transferred to Indiana.  There are also elements of later works like Twin Peaks, Donnie Darko (itself a 1980s pastiche), and Broadchurch among others.  Despite the effort to emulate the eighties ethos, Stranger Things is not a remake or a ripoff but a highly original work of its own.  I don’t think a show this sophisticated would be made in the 1980s and the movies of that time would not have the time to develop the characters and the relationships so well.  Movies in the 1980s would also rely on wowing the audience with special effects, but Stranger Things creates suspense by keeping most of the supernatural elements offscreen and in the imagination.

What’s great about Stranger Things is that it has three concurrent plots with different themes.  A 12-year-old, Will Byers, goes missing and his best friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas go looking for him to be joined by the mysterious Eleven who has telekinetic powers, learning about friendship and forgiveness.   A teenage story features Will’s brother Jonathon forming an unlikely alliance with Mike’s sister Nancy to hunt down the monster with Nancy’s boyfriend Steve acting as antagonist and sometimes ally.  Finally, the adult story focuses on Will’s mother Joyce and police chief Hopper realizing that  Will’s disappearance is not a typical runaway or abduction case and involves malicious behavior at the government’s Hawkins Lab.

The whole series is 8 episodes of brilliance – great acting, plotting, pacing, and dialogue –  with a few scares thrown in.  It’s worthy of the accolades it’s receiving and I recommend watching it if you haven’t checked it out yet.

TV Review: BoJack Horseman (2016)


TitleBoJack Horseman
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 3
Number of Episodes: 12
Summary/Review:  This is the third series of the animated Netflix show that is laugh out loud funny, acerbically satirical, emotionally raw, and thoroughly depressing.  Two plots are intertwined through the series: BoJack making the circuit of appearances in hopes of getting an Oscar nomination for the biopic of Secretariat and flashbacks to 2007 when BoJack helped create a tv show that flopped (kind of eerie how the show makes 2007 feel like a long time ago!).  Both plots deal with BoJack’s inability to feel happiness, his capacity for self-sabotage, and his unreliability to friends and colleagues.  Looking back on the season it seems so glum, it’s hard to remember that there was a lot to laugh about, but BoJack Horseman is all about using humor to peel back the most painful wounds.  The highpoint of the season is episode 4, “Fish Out of Water,” where BoJack goes to a film festival in a community under the sea and thus there’s almost no dialogue in the entire episode as the undersea world is brought to life with fantastic visuals, sound effects, and music.  It’s a tour-de-force in what is a really well-done season of television.

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Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)


Title: Ghostbusters
Release Date: 15 July 2016
Director: Paul Feig
Summary/Review:

When I heard a new Ghostbusters movie was being made I was hoping it would be 30 years later and due to turnover they had a new crew, mostly because I’m tired of reboots.  But what I think about things doesn’t really matter because the makers of this movie have managed to make a Ghostbusters film (and a Ghostbusters origin story) that is totally fresh and original. There are lots of moments that pay tribute to the 1984 original – such as the firehouse, the Ghostbusters logo, Ecto-1, Slimer, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man – but after the first moment of recognition these things are subverted in humorous ways.  The original cast also all appear in cameo roles (even the late Harold Ramis appears as a bust). But  despite all the nostalgia this Ghostbusters stands on its own with original ideas, a terrific script, and laugh out loud lines.

What really makes Ghostbusters terrific are the characters and the actors who play them.  There’s Erin (Kristen Wiig), the academic who appears alternately awed and enthused that her lifelong belief in ghosts is vindicated.  Abby (Melissa McCarthy) is an unabashed nerd.  There’s a special place in my heart for Patty (Leslie Jones) who brings her encyclopedic knowledge of the history of New York to the team.  But pretty much every scene is stolen by Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and her blasé weirdness. The main plot involves a villain who is using the ghosts to extract revenge on people  who made fun of him growing up, which is wonderfully contrasted with the Ghostbusters who also have tortured pasts but come together in solidarity and use their “outsider” traits to benefit the common good. It also can’t be overstated how important for girls and women to see themselves represented as funny and heroic in a movie like this.
Rating: ****

Movie Review: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)


Title: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Release Date: 22 July 2016
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Summary/Review:

“Oh god, I can’t believe you’re still…alive!” sputters Jon Hamm  to Patsy Stone at a party in this film adaptation of the long-running BBC comedy.  In a way it’s kind of an appropriate response to the continued existence of Absolutely Fabulous.  The premise of a pair of aging baby boomers deluding themselves into believing that they are popular, fashionable, and can party non-stop was delightfully absurd in the 1990s, but it seems inconceivable to continue the same story 25 years later. Luckily, the movie takes on aging and mortality – as well as the human connections lost while trying to grasp youth – as one of its theme, but this is still AbFab so they don’t get too mushy about it.  The basic plot is the Eddie kills model Kate Moss by pushing her into the Thames and she and Patsy have to go on the run.  Hijinks ensue with a number of one-liners and visual humor (I particular like when Saffy is forced to sing Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” to a club full of drag queens).

There are numerous celebrities appearing in cameos and small parts including Lulu, Gwendolyn Christie, Mark Gatis, Hamm, Rebel Wilson, and Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna) as well as lots of fashion models and designers I’ve never heard of before (apparently Paul McCartney has a daughter named Stella who is a fashion designer and she gets one of the best quips in the movie when she implies that Patsy broke up the Beatles, not Yoko Ono).  Ultimately, this is an extended length AbFab episode with higher production values.  Fans of AbFab will enjoy it,  but there’s nothing here for anyone who doesn’t like AbFab and anyone who’s not watched the show will be out to sea. It’s no comic masterpiece but I got a few laughs and a chance to renew my long-time crush on Julia Sawalha.
Rating: ***

TV Review: Game of Thrones (2016)


TitleGame of Thrones
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 6
Number of Episodes: 10
Summary/Review:

In the brutal winter of 2015, I idly decided to give this Game of Thrones show a chance (my wife is a huge fan of the books) and ended up binge-watching all four seasons then in existence.  Medieval fantasy is not usually my thing and the violence on this show can be overwhelming, but I got sucked into the stories and the performances, particularly by Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Rory McCann, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, Jerome Flynn, Liam Cunningham, Gwendolyn Christie, and Natalie Dormer.  So then I listened to all five of the audiobooks, and was ready just in time to watch season five as it was broadcast.

And I was disappointed.  The show not only went off-the-book, it went off the rails.  The Dorne plot – a dull tangent in the books – became even more pointless in its tv adaptation.  Ramsey Bolton was repeatedly depicted as senselessly cruel turning a menacing character into a caricature.  And interesting characters like Brienne, Arya, and Daenerys tread water for much of the season.  So I was not looking forward to season six.

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised.  Season six sees an improvement in writing, several startling revelations, and most impressively some really fantastic directing and cinematography.  This is particularly true of the final two episodes, “Battle of the Bastards”  and  “The Winds of Winter,”  both directed by  Miguel Sapochnik. This season also re-introduces the Greyjoy story on the Iron Islands and the story of Bran and his companions north of the wall, although both stories felt rushed, it was good to see these characters again.  In retrospect, I think it would’ve been wiser of Game of Thrones to spend more time with these stories sprinkled over seasons 5 and 6, rather than their half-assed attempt at the Dorne story (which they literally killed off in season 1.

Some highlights of season 6:

  • The rise of the High Sparrow in King’s Landing (Jonathan Pryce does a great job of making a religious fanatic seem to be the most reasonable person around)
  • The return of Jon Snow
  • The reunion of Jon and Sansa
  • Bran’s visions of his family’s past
  • Theon reuniting with Yara and supporting her as Queen
  • Daenerys victory over the khals
  • The death of Hodor – “hold the door!” – <sniff>
  • The return of The Hound and the Brother Ray’s pacifist community
  • Lady Mormont in every single scene she appears in
  • Arya recognizing her identity and purpose
  • The “Battle of the Bastards” is an amazingly filmed and choreographed with scenes unsettlingly reminiscent of the Hillsborough Disaster but with swords and pikes.  It was amazing work of film, but so disturbing I don’t think I’d ever want to watch it again
  • The building tension of the scenes leading up to the destruction of the Great Sept and the heartbreaking simplicity of the depiction of Tommen’s suicide
  • Sam’s joy at seeing the library at the Citadel
  • The revelation of Jon’s parentage
  • Daenerys making Tyrion the Hand of the Queen

There are still moments of the season that missed the mark, with some poor leaps of logic, but overall this season showed the best of what Game of Thrones can be and established the setting for the climactic final seasons.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Dope (2015)


Title: Dope
Release Date: 19 June 2015
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Summary/Review:

Growing up in “The Bottoms” of Inglewood, California, Malcolm and his friends Diggy and Jib get good grades, play in a punk band, and are obsessed with 1990s hip hop music and fashion.  As geeky misfits they have to navigate themselves around bullies, drug dealers, and gang members on a daily basis.  When a young woman invites Malcolm to a drug dealer’s party at a nightclub, they find themselves in the middle of a shootout and with a backpack filled with Molly and a gun.  All sorts of hijinks ensue as the trio attempt to get rid of and then sell the drugs. It’s reminiscent in many ways of teen comedies of the 1980s updated with contemporary references. It’s probably most analogous to Risky Business, but since I always hated that movie I’ll point out that it shares commonalities with Real Genius in the ways the young protagonists use their smarts to outwit and outsmart everyone else.  While this movie is laugh out loud funny, grim realities are close to the surface and it does not shy away from depicting gun violence, drug use, and the frequent use of the n-word.  This is a pretty spectacular movie on all levels – script, acting, cinematography, and the brilliant use of music.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Zootopia (2016)


Title: Zootopia
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Director:   Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Summary/Review:

Set in a world of anthropomorphic mammals where predator and prey have agreed to live together, Zootopia is a comic, animated film that smartly takes on issues of inequality that appear ripped from the headlines touching upon women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and prejudice against Islamic peoples.  The story is about Judy Hopps, a country rabbit who comes to the big city as the first rabbit on the police force.  Made unwelcome by her police chief, Judy ends up working with a hustler, a fox named Nick, to investigate the disappearance and apparent reversion to wildness of several predators.  The movie has fun with the clichés of police procedurals and revels in exploring the fantastical world of a city made up of different mammalian habitats.  It’s a funny and clever movie, and enjoyable for old and young alike.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Heima (2007)


Title:  Heima
Release Date:  5 October 2007
Director: Dean DeBlois
Rating: ****

Review:

Not your average concert film.  Sigur Rós returns to Iceland after a world tour (the title means “At Home”) and conducts a thank you tour of their island nation.  The band performs in community halls, an abandoned factory, on hillsides, and on a dam where protestors are encamped.  The cinematography and the editing are so gorgeous, pairing the music with the Icelandic landscape and the people in the audience (you get the sense that a good portion of the Icelandic population appear in this film). A local choir, brass band, and traditional chanter join in the performance to add to the Icelandic cultural milleiu.   It’s really a movie one can immerse oneself in and get a sense of a country’s national identity.

 

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008)


Title: Kung Fu Panda
Release Date: 6 June 2008
Director:  Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Summary/Review:

Another family movie night, inspired by a visit to the zoo.  Po is a clumsy panda working in a noodle shop who is a big fan of the Furious Five kung fu warriors.  He somewhat accidentally finds himself selected as the Dragon Warrior to defend the Valley of Peace against the vengeance of the evil Tai Lung.  There’s a lot of humor playing off of martial arts film clichés, pop culture references, and Po’s roly-poly silliness.  But it’s also an inspiring film as Po manages to be a hero in his own way.  The animation is also pretty spectacular.  I’m still wondering how they made two sequels out of this, though.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Despicable Me (2010)


Title: Despicable Me
Release Date: 9 July 2010
Director: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Summary/Review:

By my daughter’s request, I caught up with popular culture by finally seeing this animated family film.  Gru is a supervillain who is embarrassed by a younger and more successful villain’s heist.  As part of a plot to get back on top, Gru adopts three orphan girls.  As would be expected in a family film, Gru develops paternal feelings for Margo, Edith, and Agnes that slowly usurp his supervillainous tendencies.  There are a great number of verbal and visual gags that keep the laughs coming, and this isn’t one of those “message” movies that make everything end up syrupy sweet.  I also like the little social commentary bits like the sign for the Bank of Evil saying “Formerly Lehman Brothers” or that Gru’s rival Vector is totally Bill Gates.
Rating: ***1/2

TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2016)


TitleUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 2
Number of Episodes: 13
Summary/Review:

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is  the type of tv comedy that if you explain the premise it sounds like it would be absolutely awful, but somehow it works. In the first season Ellie Kemper’s titular character is rescued from an underground bunker where she’s been held for 15 years after being abducted as a child by a doomsday cult leader.  With the naivete of a child from the 90s in a woman’s body, she decides to move to New York where she successfully finds a place to live, a job, studies for a GED, and even finds love (although most of this falls apart by the end of the season).

In season 2, Kimmy’s characteristic cheerfulness and optimism begin to break as she’s unable to suppress the trauma of her childhood and the stress of trying to hold her new life together.  And yes, as I said above this is a comedy, but one that deals with deep and dark issues hilariously, in a manner that is just dense with jokes. Part of the success of the show is the ensemble cast of Kimmy’s friends and colleagues.

There are three standout characters.  Jane Krakowski plays the Manhattan socialite Jacqueline Voorhees having divorced on Kimmy’s advice is now trying to work her way back into wealth and power but with a nagging sense of conscience thanks to Kimmy.  Krakowski has always played funny characters in the past but she brings a lot of depth to Jacqueline who could otherwise easily be a vapid caricature.  Kimmy’s landlady Lillian Kaushtupper is played by Carol Kane who has a much bigger role in this season and just may be favorite character.  Throughout the season Lillian tries to stop gentrification in her neighborhood but only ends up making matters worse as incoming hipsters consider her charming local color.  Finally, a new character Andrea portrayed by show creator and writer Tina Fey is a straightlaced therapist by day and an obnoxious drunk.  Again, it’s a premise that sounds ridiculous, but Fey provides a realistic portrayal of addiction while keeping it funny, and provides a foil to Kimmy dealing with her own inner demons.

Not everything works. The episode “Kimmy Goes to a Play!” is a mean-spirited response to critics of the show who objected to casting a white actor as a Native American in the first season.  Kimmy finally consummates her relationship with on-again/off-again boyfriend Dong in episode 8, and then his character is deported and never mentioned again.  But overall this a sharp and unique comedy that will have you laughing but also keep you thinking.

Rating: ****