What Makes “Archer” So Good?

Every now and then I get asked if I watch television shows in between all the various movies that I view. While I don’t love television and will often get bored with many shows after a season or two, there are a handful of shows that I really enjoy. I love watching “Breaking Bad” any chance I get and think “Game of Thrones” has the same entertainment and production value as most quality fantasy films. I will choose to watch a movie over a television show when given the option and most shows I watch are anthologies like “Black Mirror,” but there are always exceptions. While the two shows I named above are my two favorites, I will always hold a special place in my heart for “Archer.”

Everything about “Archer” is so perfect to me. The running gags, brilliant premise, amazing voice cast and outrageous situations combine everything you could ever want for a James Bond comedy spin-off. The show never takes itself too seriously, much like the titular character, and it’s the better off for it. It is definitely an acquired sense of humor that most people would equate with being geared at 16-28 year old males, but I think there are moments that most people could relate to and find amusing.

The show started off being about the adventures of Archer and the other employees at the spy agency ISIS. Naturally, no mission ever went how it was intended, leading to a variety of amusing situations. But after season 4 the creators realized that their material was in danger of running dry. So for season 5 they decided to change things up and have them be drug dealers for a season. When they realized that they were selling cocaine for the CIA, they ended up being CIA contractors for a season until that came crashing down in a blaze of glory. When we last saw Archer, he and his colleagues were working as private detectives in a Chinatown style situation.

It is amazing to see how a simple spy show has been able to develop their running jokes, character’s personalities, and plot over the course of seven years, and this year sees them excelling even more. Archer finds himself in a coma at the beginning of this season, so the creators decided that they would take advantage to place the characters in a 1940’s LA Noir Dreamland setting. Again, Adam Reed and the rest of the “Archer” writing team manage to change the scenery to keep things interesting and prove that they can place this group of characters in any situation and have it work out for them.

None of the comedy is lost in this new season after the premiere. All the beloved characters are still in the story. But most importantly, the noir style is executed rather well for a series that was initially meant to be a spy show. The versatility of the past four seasons has proven that “Archer” has a talent that few other shows have: it can keep the same characters while constantly changing the situations each season to keep things interesting. It’s become a sort of anthology in a way and it guarantees that the show will never become stale, as each season from here on out will continue to be interesting and engaging with each change of setting. And there’s no reason to doubt that Adam Reed and his writing team won’t be able to choose any theme and have it work for their characters.

They could go futuristic like “Blade Runner”/“Minority Report,” turn the show into a heist series like “Ocean’s Eleven,” or go back in time even further to the bootlegging era and it would still be a success. No other show on television can succeed as a regular sitcom while also being an episodic anthology in its own right. That’s something that other shows could learn a lot from, but I don’t ever see a series pulling this off as well as “Archer.” “Archer” may not have the quality as some shows like “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos,” but I would still consider it one of my favorite shows for its undeniably successful adaptability.

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Burning Sands Review

Netflix’s newest released film, “Burning Sands,” tells the story of a young, African-American college student who is pledging Lambda Lambda Phi fraternity, one that his father had dropped during the pledge process. The centerpiece of the film is the intense hazing that the main character and his fellow pledge brothers have to endure in order to gain initiation into the organization.

This isn’t the first film that has handled the topic of hazing, and many audiences, especially amongst the Greek community, may have an immediately negative predisposition to the film since the assumed lesson condemns hazing and the Greek system as a whole. While hazing is the main action that helps the film move forward, condemning the actions as a whole is not the ultimate message as film. The hazing does provide some shock factor and more emotional connection the characters in the film, but it manages to handle these scenes in a more mature way than other films, such as “GOAT,” which came out last year.

The themes of the film are hidden within the pledge class as a whole, as shown through the constant wide shots that always focus on the group rather than just one individual. It is rare to find a close up of someone’s face except during extremely emotional moments, such as the movie’s ending. The focus is on the group as a whole rather than the individual. It’s a well-directed film that has a better attention to detail than I initially anticipated. This ending and the emotional resonance through the director’s cinematic choices add great impact to the story that can’t be displayed through any scenes of hazing alone.

Interwoven throughout this story of pledging are quotes and ideals of Frederick Douglass about anti-slavery mentalities. The references to this great historical figure do help make the messages about standing up against an oppressive group (in this case the oppression is coming from the already initiated fraternity brothers) have another layer of depth to consider. In some ways, the inclusion of these continuous references proves bittersweet for me. On the positive side, it does bring about an increased level of education and self-awareness that other films of this nature lack, but at the same time I feel that the film didn’t quite reach the level social commentary it was aiming for.

I thought the social commentary of this film could have been slightly improved, and despite the short run time, I think there were some scenes that didn’t add much to the overall story. But those are the only complaints I really have for this film. I was impressed with this work as a whole, and I applaud its mature direction and attention to subliminal themes that make the audience think more than relying on pure shock factor. Also this film manages to paint a portrait of the African American man that is more realistic and relatable than other films such as “Straight Outta Compton.”

And that point is something that can’t ever be overstated. Too many films that want to contribute to the social commentary about a racial divide in America want to use historical stories that cause a rift for contemplation on modern life. This film manages to provide the modern setting, with realistic and relatable characters that the film industry doesn’t have enough of.

Burning Sands: 3/4 stars

Logan Review

The “X-men” series has always been a difficult collection of films for me to appreciate. There are some brilliantly constructed action films such as “X-2” “X-Men: First Class,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” But at the same time, there are some unbelievably bad entries throughout the series, most notably being “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “X3.” While I think “X3” is a shameful excuse for a piece of entertainment, the film I’ve always had the most issues with was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

So much about this film annoyed me. The pacing was terrible, the script was rather unbearable and the film was extremely violent but very cheesy. This was primarily due to its desire to have a PG-13 rating for the sake of the box office numbers. Hence no blood was included in the film, even though Wolverine, with his metal claws, is a hero that warrants large amounts of blood when he fights bad guys. It was a wasted story that was a slave to the box office and ruined what could have been a riveting storyline for the series.

There was another stand-alone film for Wolverine titled “The Wolverine” that was definitely an improvement on its predecessor, but was still in no way a quality film. The biggest problem with the second entry was its forgettable nature. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was so bad that at least people still remember and talk about it, potentially making it better than the sequel because, like the saying goes, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

With “Logan,” though, there was a revived sense of hope that this film would be different. The preview showed a film that seemed more like a western road trip film than a cliché superhero entry. But ignoring that, this film was always going to be interesting because of its R rating (it seems we’re already seeing the influence of “Deadpool” permeating through the realms of summer blockbusters). Because of these somewhat unique cinematic traits, I had high hopes that this film would be the closest thing to “The Dark Knight” that Marvel has ever released.

But despite my optimism, I still had a lot of issues with this film. The beginning is fine as we see an older Wolverine and a deteriorating Professor X struggling to get through life. Seeing these two characters deal with old age in a very human way was an intriguing part of the story and the opening 45 minutes was the perfect set up for the rest of the movie. But it never felt like the movie got into its stride in the later stages of the film with action and violence being balanced out with more humanized moments. I appreciate what the writers were trying to do by giving even minor characters a more humanized persona, but it was done in such a way that the film never felt like it was going anywhere. It’s still a better story than your generic superhero film, but I expected something a little more balanced and nuanced.

But what surprised me most about the film was my reaction to the R-rated violence. I was initially relieved that this film was going to get an R-rating to feel more authentic, but the blood and gore is so over the top and unnecessary that it makes it feel just as cheesy as a slasher film.

After the film went to black, I couldn’t decide if I enjoyed it or not. There were some undeniable positives to take away from it, but there were too many pitfalls to allow me to feel truly satisfied. In a way, this film is the perfect summary of the X-men series as a whole. There will always be some high points but at the end of the day, the drawbacks will prevent me from truly feeling content with this film and the X-men series as a whole.

Logan (2017): 2/4 stars