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Charlize Theron Kicks Ass in “Atomic Blonde”

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Charlize Theron is the super-sexy, super-talented female spy that movie audiences have always wanted. In every scene in which she appears in “Atomic Blonde,” she dominates the action – whether she’s fighting off groups of bad guys with a dazzling array of action moves or slinking around in some impossibly sexy outfits. In short, Charlize Theron kicks ass in “Atomic Blonde.”

Charlize Theron’s character is James Bond meets John Wick

Some have tried to compare Charlize Theron’s character, MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton, to a female James Bond. Yes, she’s employed by Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Yes, she’s impossibly cosmopolitan and suave. Yes, she’s trying to outwit a rival group of spies and double agents. And, yes, there are scenes where she’s downing shots of her favorite vodka drink (not shaken, and not stirred, by the way).

But the real inspiration for Charlize Theron’s character is really John Wick. And that’s not just a coincidence – David Leitch, the co-director of the first “John Wick” film, is also the director of this film. As a result, we get a character very much like John Wick – this is one badass woman you don’t want to mess with. She doesn’t need a gun to kill you, she’s just as adept as using the stiletto heel of one of her glamorous pairs of shoes. She’s perfectly willing to improvise, using a common garden hose as an unlikely form of strangulation. She’s able to stab someone with a set of car keys or shoot them straight up with unerring ease.

Charlize Theron is stunning in perfectly choreographed fight scenes

And where Charlize Theron really shines is in her fight scenes. Make no mistake about it – she’s perfectly willing and able to take on all comers. She’s in peak fighting shape, and employs a unique form of “lethal creativity” (according to one film reviewer) in devising new ways to take out her opponents. That’s what makes the action in this film so irresistible – every action fight scene is almost balletic in motion, with bodies moving to a perfectly choreographed beat.

And despite the frenetic pace of the action, Theron is always in control. Whether she’s careening through the streets of Cold War-era Berlin, where much of the action takes place, or fighting off Soviet assassin spies, you know that Theron is going to jump, kick, shoot and maim her way to victory. She’s always ready to kick ass, even if she’s just arrived in a foreign city and is trapped in traffic. “Trust no one,” she’s told. But there’s no real need to tell Charlize Theron that – she’s not the trusting type.

And what makes it all so badass is that Theron always looks better after fighting off her assailants. Even blood spatter in her hair looks more like funky pink highlights than any sign that she’s just been in a bloody battle. And the non-stop action is all synced to the pounding pulse of a 1980s soundtrack, in which songs from the likes of Depeche Mode and New Order help to highlight the action. At times, the movie feels like just one badass music video: Who really cares about the plot line and narrative, as long as our Atomic Blonde is out there, shooting up the place and killing all the bad buys?

“Atomic Blonde” perfects the cartoon-style violence of a graphic novel

In fact, sometimes Charlize Theron kicks so much ass on the big screen that it almost seems like the violence we’d expect from a superhero cartoon. And that’s no mistake – the movie sometimes attains a comic book aesthetic as a result of all the action. The movie is actually based on a graphic novel – “The Coldest City” – and so it’s no coincidence that some of the fights are so ultra-violent and ultra-bloody.

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Charlize Theron is a stone-cold killer (literally) in “Atomic Blonde”

And what makes Theron so deadly is that she’s so cool, calm and collected throughout. She’s a stone-cold killer, feeling little or no remorse for all the bloody victims left in her wake. As if to emphasize that point, David Leitch films scenes with Charlize Theron, naked in an ice bath, as she sips an icy cocktail. She’s an icy blonde you don’t want to mess with. She may be dressed to the 9s in a slinky dress and impossibly high stiletto heels, but she’ll take out any baddies just as easily as if she were dressed in full military camo gear. She’s just that cold of a killer.

Charlize Theron exudes a type of savage sexiness

If you’re used to Charlize Theron film roles in which she deliberately disfigures herself (the role of Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road” comes to mind), then you’re in for a real treat in “Atomic Blonde.” This female spy-assassin-killer is as savage as she is sexy. It’s a rare combination on the big screen.

And perhaps one of the sexiest scenes in the movie is one in which Charlize Theron describes her impossibly hot tryst with a French intel officer (played by Sofia Boutella of “The Mummy”). Her handlers at MI6 literally can’t believe what they’re hearing – and they don’t want her to stop. It’s just that hot and sexy.

This is one “Atomic Blonde” you don’t want to double-cross

The true mark of any badass is that you don’t ever want to cross him (or her). And Charlize Theron is very clear in this film that she’s not someone you want to double-cross or triple-cross. It can be sometimes hard to follow all the plot developments, but one thing is clear – Charlize Theron is more assassin than spy, and she’ll always get the person she wants.

**

No doubt, the summer of 2017 has been very good to us. We first got Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman” as a female superhero who kicks ass. Now we have Charlize Theron as a female super-spy who kicks ass. If given our choice, we’d take Charlize Theron. There’s not a single one of her scenes in “Atomic Blonde” in which you can’t take your eyes off her. This film is so good it almost makes us long for the good old days of the Cold War, in which spies and super-spies played out an epic cat-and-mouse game in European capitals. Forget James Bond, though, we now have Charlize Theron as Agent Lorraine Broughton.

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What To Expect From “Justice League”

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The upcoming superhero film “Justice League” from DC Comics, set for a nationwide release in cinemas on November 17, has already started to generate buzz among moviegoers. If anything, all the excitement about “Wonder Woman” earlier this summer has only intensified anticipation about this film, which will include Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Here’s what we know about “Justice League” so far…

#1: “Justice League” is a direct sequel to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

With franchise Hollywood blockbusters, it’s never really clear until the last minute whether a film is a prequel or a sequel to previous films. And, even then, it’s never immediately obvious how long of a period of time has elapsed between the original and the sequel. But “Justice League” is different in this regard. We’re being told right from the outset that “Justice League” is a direct sequel to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

What that means for moviegoers is that the action in “Justice League” will take place just a few months after “Batman v Superman.” It’s not clear what has happened to Superman, and the thinking is that Superman has sacrificed his life for the greater good of humanity. That’s how the film starts – but not necessarily how it ends. Based on what we’ve seen in the trailers for “Justice League,” it now appears that Superman (played by Henry Cavill) is going to return at the end of the film to help save the day. The return of the Man of Steel is going to be a major subplot of the film.

#2: “Justice League” is going to be a movie about friends and teamwork

After the latest trailer for the film dropped at San Diego Comic-Con earlier in the year, it now appears that this DC Comics superhero blockbuster is going to be a “Super Friends” movie, in which an all-star cast of superheroes led by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman save Planet Earth from evil intergalactic aliens. Other superheroes in the film will include Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), Flash (played by Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher).

Unlike previous superhero blockbuster films, which have pitted superheroes against each other (most notably, “Batman v Superman”), this film promises to be much more of a “Super Friends” movie. The superheroes rally together to save Earth from an existential crisis. This time, the enemies are Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

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#3: “Justice League” is going to be much more cheerful and optimistic than expected

If there’s one thing that DC Comics learned from “Batman v Superman,” it’s that movie audiences don’t want too much grim, dark, gritty action. And that’s why, judging from the advance trailers and marketing promotion, “Justice League” is going to be much more cheerful, upbeat and optimistic.

Here’s just one example: the trailer features a lot of the lighter lines of dialogue. And the character of Flash is being positioned as more of an endearing, comic figure than a full-fledged superhero. (In the trailer, he jokes about participating in his first battle and seems slightly nerdy.)

To see the more optimistic look for the film, just check out the movie posters – the marketing for the film is positioning all of the superheroes as friends rather than rivals. And the tagline – “You Can’t Save the World Alone” – is meant to emphasize the role of teamwork and coordination amongst all the superheroes.

#4: Wonder Woman is going to be the real star of “Justice League”

After the remarkable success of “Wonder Woman” earlier this summer, DC Comics obviously did a lot of re-thinking about “Justice League.” Take the new main trailer, for example. The first superhero we see is Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), who foils some kind of robbery taking place.

It looks like DC Comics is really going to be playing up the chance for fans to see their new favorite superhero in action yet again. And that’s not all – the trailer also hints that we’re going to see more of the Amazons from “Wonder Woman,” including Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope.

So, even though this film is being pitched as an ensemble cast movie, Gal Gadot might actually end up getting first billing, ahead of Ben Affleck (Batman) and Henry Cavill (Superman). Wonder Woman might end up stealing every scene she’s in, and so we hope that she plays more than just a supporting role here.

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#5: “Justice League” will introduce us to new characters in the DC Extended Universe

One new character that fans are buzzing about is Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), who looks like he’ll be getting an enhanced role in this movie. In the trailer for “Justice League,” we see him in his underwater domain, and then again, as he destroys a villain and an entire apartment building in the process. And there’s more superheroes we’ll meet as well, such as Flash and Cyborg. (Oh – and don’t forget about the new villain, Steppenwolf, who is the general of an alien race, the New Gods, from the planet Apokolips.)

The reason why all this is important is because DC Comics has been working hard to build what it calls the DC Extended Universe. This film is actually the fifth installment of that DC Extended Universe. What it means for fans is that DC Comics is trying to unite all the various threads and worlds of its superheroes, so that they can all co-exist and all the narratives and plot lines make sense.

So look for more clues in this film about how the “Justice League” originates, and what its mission is going to be. One interesting side-note here is that the original director of the film, Zack Snyder, left the film in May 2017 due to a family crisis, and that means all the post-production was handled by Joss Whedon, who was brought in at the last-minute to finish up the film. Whedon was also responsible for filming some additional scenes needed to round out the action, so that might be a way to help tie up any loose ends.

Overall, “Justice League” looks like a fantastic new action-adventure movie featuring our favorite superheroes. It looks like DC Comics has really learned its lesson from “Batman v Superman,” and is doing everything possible to guarantee that “Justice League” is going to be a major success that’s well-received by fans.

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What to Expect From “Star Trek: Discovery”

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For more than a year now, Star Trek fans have been waiting for the upcoming TV series “Star Trek: Discovery.” After being announced in November 2015 as the first show specifically created for CBS All Access, there have been a number of twists and turns that have delayed its debut. So what can we expect from “Star Trek: Discovery” when it finally comes to CBS?

Right now, we don’t even have a firm date for the release of the show. The original release date was January 2017, but that was moved back to May 2017, and now CBS executives are saying that it’s far more likely that there will be a fall 2017 release. But they won’t even commit to a specific date. Meanwhile, filming continues in Toronto. But all of these delays are making fans anxious, as they are getting concerned that the latest “Discovery” could be a complete disaster like the doomed “Enterprise.”

In terms of what we know about the show, we know that the action will take place a decade before the events of the original “Star Trek” series. And we know that the show’s producers are being very careful to separate this TV show from the “Star Trek” films. In a teaser video that CBS released, we just got some boilerplate information about the show, saying that it would feature “new crews, new villains, new heroes and new worlds.”

The first-ever serialized “Star Trek”

If you think about the other “Star Trek” TV shows, they have always been episodic in nature. In other words, you could watch Episode 5 of a season without the need to watch Episodes 4, 3, 2 or 1. Each show took place in a different place in the universe, with a different problem or villain. One episode it might be the Klingons, another week it might be someone else.

But the producers of “Star Trek: Discovery” are saying that this is going to be a serialized “Star Trek.” That would make it more similar to shows like “Game of Thrones” that you might watch on cable TV, where there is a single narrative arc connecting each and every show.

Right now, the best guess about that narrative arc comes from hints that the “Star Trek” producers have dropped. The first hint is that the series will be connected to “an incident and an event in ‘Star Trek’ history that’s been talked about but never been explored.”

Further hints and clues suggest that the incident might be related to the “Balance of Terror” story from the original “Star Trek” series that appeared back in 1966. The “Balance of Terror” episode introduced us to the Romulans, and featured a cat-and-mouse game between the starship Enterprise and the Romulan Bird of Prey ship, which was protected with a cloaking device.

And here’s where things get interesting – that episode from 1966 featured Sarek, Spock’s father, and we know that the new “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature Sarek as a Vulcan astrophysicist. So there might be a tie-in somehow.

A very diverse cast led by an African-American woman

We already know that the lead character for “Star Trek: Discovery” is going to be Sonequa Martin-Green (best known for her TV role in “The Walking Dead”), who will play the first officer of the USS Discovery. In the show, she will not be a full starship captain. Instead, she will be referred to as “Number One,” which is a reference back to the “Star Trek” pilot episode called “The Cage,” which also referred to the ship’s captain as “Number One.”

According to producers and showrunners, there will be a real emphasis on showing minority and female characters. And there will also be LGBTQ characters. In fact, the thinking now is that one of the main characters is going to be outwardly gay. Other top characters to keep an eye on include Nambue (played by Maulik Pancholy), chief medical officer of the USS Shenzhou, and Sarek (played by James Frain), Spock’s father.

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A new kind of starship that looks way too retro

While the entire series appears to be nearly a year behind in production, we did get an early preview of the USS Discovery at last summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego. There was a big unveiling of the USS Discovery, including a brief teaser trailer. The Discovery is golden hued and has a very different look than other “Star Trek” vessels. That has fans complaining, saying that the starship looks “too old and industrial” and not futuristic enough. Given that the action of this CBS show will take place only a decade before the first “Star Trek,” it’s hard to see how the Discovery eventually made way for the Enterprise we know and love.

A darker version of “Star Trek”

One aspect of “Star Trek” that fans have loved for more than 50 years is the optimistic message of the whole show. It’s all about exploring the universe, going where no man has gone before, and interacting with all the remarkable specimens and races of the galaxy in a way that unites rather than divides.

But it sounds like the plan for this new “Star Trek: Discovery” is to create a darker vision for the series. In fact, there have been suggestions that it could be united by a more post-apocalyptic story line. That makes sense, if you take into account that “Balance of Terror” episode, which featured the Earth-Romulan war and the ability of the warlike Romulans to destroy intergalactic space outposts with incredible weapons.

But that has fans concerned – they’re afraid that the optimistic, upbeat mood of the original Gene Roddenberry series might be lost. And, if that were the case, then it would lead to serious concerns that the show is headed in the right direction.

What’s most interesting about this new CBS show is what can best be called “the Netflix effect.” That means that CBS is specifically ordering a show that can become part of their All Access streaming service, and that’s what perhaps led to this being a serialized show. The whole reason people binge-watch is because they want to find out what happens next, and that’s why serialized shows are so popular.

There are some who say that, ever since “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was released in 1987, each successive Star Trek series has been less and less popular. There’s still hope, though, that more than 50 years after the original “Star Trek,” we’re going to have a new series that’s better than anything we’ve ever seen before.

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Why “Glow” Is the Netflix Show of the Summer

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Think about what makes a great summer TV show – it has to be fun and entertaining, of course. It has to be binge-worthy. And it has to feature themes and topics that are light enough for the carefree days of summer, when many of us are heading to the beach (or, at least, the local neighborhood pool). So that’s exactly why “Glow” is the Netflix show of the summer – it delivers on all of this, and more.

#1: “Glow” is just good nostalgic fun

There’s nothing that says nostalgia more than ‘80’s music, big hair, and Jane Fonda leotards. This show has it all, and it’s just good fun. There are LA skate punks, seedy California motels, and plenty of hair spray.

Critics have called it “shameless summer fun” – and why not? If you’re sitting at home during the summer, you probably want to stream something on TV that’s not going to require a lot of mental effort, and that’s “Glow.” Just sit back and soak in the outrageous outfits and beautiful women in the wrestling ring.

The basic plotline of “Glow” is that a group of washed-up actresses from Hollywood during the 1980s are going to unite to form the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). The movie itself was inspired by the original cult TV hit of the 1980s, which covered the rise of the women’s pro wrestling league in the 1980s.

And that’s what makes us so nostalgic – there seemed to be an era not so long ago when it was perfectly OK to enjoy shows just like this. Back then, professional wrestling was still a very underground, amateur sport and that’s what gave it so much fan appeal.

#2: “Glow” features a great ensemble cast and sharp character development

The real goal of “Glow” is to show us how these out-of-work actresses suddenly became wrestling stars. In this Netflix series, we meet them from the very beginning, when Sam Sylvia (played by Marc Maron) comes up with this outrageous concept. Maron himself is excellent in the role of the GLOW promoter, and special mention has to be made about Alison Brie, who plays the role of actress-turned-wrestler Ruth Wilder.

While Alison Brie is the official star of the show, the unofficial star of this show are the other 12 ladies. Each one of them seems to have a unique story, and it’s all very compelling. The character development in this series is top-notch, and encourages you to keep on watching. By the end of the 10 Netflix episodes, you will really care about these women.

#3: “Glow” is light and binge-worthy enough for a summer escape

You can watch “Glow” however you want. It’s a Netflix show, so the initial urge is to binge. And that’s what many people did as soon as the show came out. But here’s the thing: “Glow” is only 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. That’s a total of 5 hours. You could theoretically binge on this during a long summer afternoon. And that’s why “Glow” is really so much fun. It doesn’t require as much focus or attention as a typical 10-episode or 12-episode Netflix binge.

#4: “Glow” is the perfect mix of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black”

The one movie that took cinema box offices by storm this summer was “Wonder Woman.” That movie was so special because it was a superhero movie made by a woman for women. It reflected a real female mentality and point of view. And, in many ways, “Glow” shares some of those characteristics. It’s also made by two women – Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch – and it also reflects a uniquely feminine point of view. In short, “Glow” seems to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist.

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And there’s one more thing – the same team behind “Glow” is also behind the Netflix cult favorite, “Orange Is the New Black.” If you love OITNB, you’ll love “Glow.” It’s also a story of strong female characters. Only this time, these characters are not in the Litchfield prison facility, they are in the professional wrestling ring.

So “Glow” manages to combine the very best of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black.” These female wrestlers may not be traditional superheroes, but they are heroes to many (including many teenage boys). And the show delivers the same type of dynamic character development that we’ve come to expect from “Orange Is the New Black,” but without all the heavy commentary about socio-economic conditions in America.

#5: “Glow” is not afraid to explore gender and racial stereotypes

Yes, “Glow” is a light, entertaining TV series for the summer. But it also has range and depth to it. The show is fearless in exploring gender and racial stereotypes. There are plenty of scenes where the wrestling promoters are trying to come up for identities for these girls – “the Arab girl” or “the Big Black Beautiful Woman” – where we vividly glimpse all the stereotypes floating through American society at that time.

But there are also all the stereotypes within the Hollywood acting community. There’s a reason why these women are out of work or under-employed – they are fighting against entrenched prejudices in the industry. In fact, many of the characters talk about “justice” during this TV show.

#6: “Glow” is the perfect origin story show

Deep down, we all love origin stories. We all want to know how something started, and why. And that’s why people love “Glow” so much. In many ways, this Netflix series is the perfect origins story, showing us how a pop culture phenomenon of the 1980s came to be.

And this is also a story of underdogs. And who in America doesn’t love a good underdog story? To give the series as much authenticity as possible, the female actresses even agreed to do their own stunts on set. So we are seeing real women being transformed right before our eyes into pro wrestling divas. This is really exciting stuff.

Thus, for so many reasons, “Glow” really is the Netflix show of the summer. It’s lightweight and entertaining – but comes packed with enough punch to make it truly binge-worthy. You’ll love following along as these women, led by Ruth Wilder, reinvent themselves as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

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How “Okja” Will Change Your Life

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As soon as “Okja” started streaming on Netflix on June 28, it started to generate intense online discussion about genetically-modified food, animal abuse and the virtues of a vegetarian diet. It is, in short, the type of film that gets people talking. Here’s how “Okja” will change your life.

#1: “Okja” will make you more aware of genetically modified foods in your local supermarket

The fundamental premise of “Okja” is that an evil corporation called Miranda Corporation is breeding genetically-modified superpigs. As part of a 10-year experiment, the company has placed 26 GMO superpigs around the world, to see where the most conducive environment is for breeding and raising these superpigs in the future.

But that’s where things go terribly wrong, because “Okja” – a superpig residing in South Korea with young Mija – is destined to become meat in the local supermarket if someone doesn’t save it. Miranda Corp. is ruthlessly breeding these superpigs as part of a broader strategy to solve the world’s food shortage problem. The superpig – which tends to resemble a really cute hippopotamus more than a pig – is a source of sustainable protein that “just tastes f***** good.”

Of course, that raises a bigger question about the role of genetically modified foods in today’s world. Do you really know what’s being sold in your local supermarket, and why? As we see in this really thought-provoking film, corporations can come up with an upbeat, positive marketing campaign for just about anything – and that includes pigs that are being bred to huge proportions as part of a master plan to solve the world’s food shortage.

#2: You’ll become a crusader for animal rights after watching “Okja”

One of the sub-plots of the movie involves the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a group of radical animal rights activists that are determined to free these genetically modified superpigs from captivity. Along the way, there’s even an epic scene where young Mija rides her superpig through the streets of Seoul, South Korea in an attempt to avoid Mirando Corporation.

As we’re shown time and time again in the movie, the Mirando Corporation often resorts to cruel and unethical treatment of animals in order to advance its corporate goals. No wonder PETA has become a champion of this film. And actor Paul Dano, who plays the role of the ALF activist Jay, has given interviews about the way the film has really affected him. Talking about Okja, he noted, “She’s beautiful, and feels real to me… and very emotionally real, too.”

Even pigs, it turns out, have emotions and thoughts. As PETA points out, pigs are social, playful and form emotional bonds. They can learn tricks, like sitting for a treat, and can often recognize their own names. And in the film, Okja is just so adorably sweet and wonderful – she’s like a hippopotamus that learns little tricks and is very loyal to little Mija. Who would possibly want to harm that wonderful creature?

#3: You’ll stop eating meat after watching “Okja”

The film also takes us behind the scenes to see how the meat is made at slaughterhouses. Your stomach will go sick from seeing these scenes – you’ve probably never seen what a mass killing factory looks like, and how little animals are ruthlessly slaughtered in the most inhumane way possible. The director of the film, Bong Joon-ho (who also directed “Snowpiercer”), himself visited a pig slaughterhouse in Colorado before making the film. And that experience alone completely turned him off meat.

Some, like foodie blog Eater, have declared that “Okja will turn the world vegan.” That might be overstating things – especially since BBQ is such a national pastime in South Korea, where the film was made – but it does suggest that people will re-think the role of meat in their diet. Some have also compared “Okja” to the 1905 masterpiece by Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle,” which chronicled the unethical and sickening behavior of Big Meat in America.

If you want to get started with a vegan diet after watching this film, PETA has you covered. They’re currently offering a “vegan starter kit” to help wean you away from meat. Every time you pass the meat section of a supermarket, you’ll be reminded that every beef burger is the byproduct of a cow that’s been murdered in some horrible way.

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#4: “Okja” will make you yearn for your youthful days of innocence and purity

One of the real highlights of “Okja” is the very young Mija, played by South Korea actress Ahn Seo-hyun. Some have suggested that “Okja” conjures up the feelings and emotions that we felt a generation ago, when we watched Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” That movie, too, had a certain innocence and purity to it, reminding us that even strange alien beings can possess human-like emotions and thoughts.

And just as young kids rescued E.T. from harm, it’s the youngsters in “Okja” who must rescue the superpigs. It’s that scene of young Mija riding a superpig through the busy streets of Seoul that will leave an indelible mark on you. You won’t be able to get that vision out of your head.

The exact opposite of this innocence is represented by Lucy Mirando (played by Tilda Swinton), the evil CEO of Mirando Corp. Whereas the children are innocent and delightful, Lucy Mirando is ruthless and calculating (and just a little vulgar about the way she describes the superpigs). It turns out that the real “pigs” are the humans like Lucy Mirando and her evil twin sister Nancy Mirando (also played by Tilda Swinton).

Overall, “Okja” really packs an emotional wallop. When the movie first premiered at Cannes, it received a four-minute standing ovation from the audience. People loved the movie and it how it told such an important story in such a clever way.

This film will really change your life. You’ll become much smarter about topics like GMO foods and the perils of a world food shortage. And you might just decide to give up meat forever. Okja the superpig is more than just a cute pet – she is a symbol of something much more, and that’s why this film is so powerful and will resonate with audiences everywhere.

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“Orange is the New Black” Season 5 Is the Worst One Yet

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Maybe long-time Netflix viewers started to expect too much from “Orange Is the New Black,” and they were inevitably doomed to be disappointed sooner or later. After four magnificent seasons, in which “Orange Is the New Black” made us re-think what’s possible in a TV series, Season 5 just never lived up to expectations. It’s safe to say that “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

Bizarre tonal shifts

While “Orange Is the New Black” has always shifted between genres, often interposing scenes of tragedy and comedy next to each other, there’s something distinctly “off” about this season. It’s almost like the series has lost its bearing, veering wildly from comedy to tragedy and then back to comedy, and viewers really don’t know what to think.

The New York Times has compared Season 5 of OITNB to “a speeding vehicle with a wheel missing.” With this season, the show is going too fast, the steering is unsteady, and it’s clear that there’s no slowing down. And this lack of focus can be disjointing – especially since all the action of Season 5 takes place within a very concentrated period of 72 hours. The mood swings are just too intense.

Plotlines and narratives just don’t add up

By now, you probably know that the dramatic narrative of Season 5 involves a prison riot and its aftermath at the Litchfield prison facility. The inmates rise up, take over the facility, take hostages, and reorganize themselves. One prison inmate, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (played by Danielle Brooks), tries to negotiate with the private company that runs the prison, urging them to change the living conditions within the prison.

So far, so good, right? This is the type of compelling story that “Orange Is the New Black” is known for. But then comes an episode smack dab in the middle of Season 5 that just doesn’t make any sense. Online fans have referred to this as “an homage to slasher films,” and it involves one of the prison guards (Piscatella) acting like he’s a villain from one of the “Friday the 13th” movies, abducting and tying up inmates.

What’s so bizarre about this whole plotline is that even the show’s writers don’t know how to play this. As a result, you get an episode that’s part horror film, and part comedy. It’s campy and cute and also horrifying. At some point, viewers don’t really know what to think. “Are they just messing with us?” is a thought that’s going to come to you during Season 5.

And that’s not all. There’s also the plotline of the prison inmate Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (played by Taryn Manning), who winds up getting married to the man who raped her in Season 3. The show tries to make this into a bigger story of forgiveness and redemption, but it just comes off as a mess.

“Orange Is the New Black” fails to deliver on Shakespearean-sized ambitions

After four seasons of being an “important” series, “Orange Is the New Black” seemingly overdoses on its sense of self-importance. The website Vox.com has called Season 5 “staggeringly ambitious” and “a huge mess” – in the same sentence. That’s because the whole series starts to take itself too importantly.

Here’s just one example: the effort by the prison inmates to reorganize themselves into some kind of new women’s commune. There are all kinds of “important” socio-economic issues raised here, such as the possibility of building a society anew so that it is fair to everyone. But “Orange Is the New Black” constantly interjects its Shakespearean ambitions here, almost as if the show’s writers were trying to combine the very best of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies into one TV show for the ages.

And here’s another example: the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (played by Uzo Aduba), who has a role very much like that of the Fool in “King Lear.” She’s been taking medications for her mental illness, but the more addled she becomes, the more capable she is of speaking truth to power. But when it all comes as a rambling monologue, it just doesn’t add up.

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“Orange Is the New Black” has a final cliffhanger scene that may have driven too far off the cliff

The big cliffhanger scene of Season 5 – the one that has already sparked debate and discussion about a Season 6 for “Orange Is the New Black” – is a microcosm of what’s both right and wrong about the series. In that final cliffhanger scene, the riot police have stormed the Litchfield facility to restore order. And the 10 key characters are standing together in one room. For one of the first times in the five seasons of the show, the dramatic action has seemingly transcended racial and tribal lines.

This is supposed to be a big, important moment. It is supposed to be a moment when we imagine what’s possible when people rise up and reorganize into a better, more just society. But instead, the cliffhanger comes off as a tired ending to the season after the show has already careened out of control.

It’s almost as if many of the main characters are being prepared to be sent in new directions (or perhaps written out of the show entirely), and the easiest way to do this is just to gather all of them in one place (the abandoned swimming pool-turned-bunker at the prison) and then have the writers spend the off-season debating what to do with all of them. Next season, when some characters disappear, there will be a good reason why.

In addition, two of the main stars of the show – Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) – seemingly no longer have a primary role to play in the series. In Season 5, they are often reduced to offering snarky commentary on the prison’s living conditions, but do not play a heroic role in changing those conditions. Some fans have even speculated that these characters won’t even be coming back for Season 6.

Ultimately, the problem may be that “Orange Is the New Black” simply raised our expectations too high. It was always one of the Netflix poster children for the “golden age” of binge-watching, but it’s clear that binge-watching (just like binge-eating) can have some pretty negative consequences. You don’t feel so good, and you suddenly can’t stomach the idea of one more episode of the series.

Hopefully, that feeling of a bad binge will wear off and we’ll be just as excited for Season 6 as we were for Season 5. But one thing is certainly clear – “Orange is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

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“Wonder Woman” Inspires Women Worldwide

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The hype about the big screen debut of “Wonder Woman” on June 1 had been growing for weeks. Initial box office estimates for the film’s opening weekend continually grew – from $65 million to $75 million to $90 million and now $98 million. Everywhere, it seemed, little girls were looking for Wonder Woman costumes to wear to the premiere. And feminists embraced the film, too, given the strong female superhero lead (played by Gal Gadot) and the female director (Patty Jenkins).

As a result, “Wonder Woman” looks to be the type of film that changes our notions of what superhero films can be. If you hadn’t noticed, superhero films had been getting a lot darker recently. The line between heroes and villains seemed to be blurring, and too many superheroes were tormented by inner demons that gnawed away at their souls and personality. The trend had been towards the creation of flawed superheroes struggling between good and evil.

But that’s hardly the case with “Wonder Woman” – this female superhero is a shining beacon of hope filled with innate goodness. Gal Gadot is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and could become into the type of female role model that women have wanted for years. Almost unanimously, it seems, reviewers were calling this the “most inspiring superhero movies in years.”

Moreover, the box office success of “Wonder Woman” might just break the female glass ceiling for directors, too. Of the top 1,000 films in the decade-long period from 2007-2016, only 4% of them had a female director. That’s a staggeringly low figure. The highest-grossing box office weekend by a female director had been “50 Shades of Grey” at $85 million, and this new “Wonder Woman” film looks like it will decisively smash through that record. From here on out, Patty Jenkins will be able to direct any film she wants – not just the inevitable prequel or sequel to “Wonder Woman.”

The main reason why “Wonder Woman” is inspiring women worldwide is clearly the character of “Wonder Woman.” This is not just a sexy woman in a sexy costume. She is someone who will not be upstaged by her male co-leads. This is a movie where the woman is clearly the strongest character. And she does more than just fight the bad guys with her strength and courage – there’s an overriding sense of goodness about her.

The one line from the movie that everyone is talking about is when Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) says in a voiceover, “The closer you get to humans, the more you see the great darkness simmering within.” This is when you realize that we are about to see the world from an entirely new set of female eyes. Diana Prince is naïve, the result of living in an isolated Amazonian world filled with a community of female warriors. Now she is about to see “the war to end all wars” – and she alone is convinced that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The character of Wonder Woman has poise and beautiful feminine grace. At times she is naïve, but she is also filled with a sense of purpose. She can be funny and sexy. And, best of all, she understands that her own unique power is “fueled by the power of love.” That is the major difference between Wonder Woman and other comic superheroes – her power is not fueled by revenge, or a thirst for power, or a desire to avenge some wrongdoing in the world – it is just fueled by love.

And that fundamentally changes the way she approaches the world. Unlike the men around her, she is not willing to let a single person become a victim. She is not willing to write off a single life, and is firmly convinced that “only love can truly save the world.”

This film, then, is almost certain to reinforce society’s belief in the need for strong women – not women who are hardened and cynical and behave like men – but women who are beautiful and strong and good. This is a remarkable role model – and a good reason why Wonder Woman merchandise seems to be flying off the shelves. Girls and women (and even some guys) want to wear Wonder Woman T-shirts emblazoned with the “double W” and sass it up with Wonder Woman leather jackets.

Here’s just one indication of how popular Wonder Woman has already become – eBay sales of Wonder Woman-related merchandise literally doubled from April to May. The numbers for June are not yet in, but it’s almost a certainty that they will be at record levels.

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On the premiere weekend, girls and their mothers showed up at the cinema in their Wonder Woman outfits. Guys showed up in drag as well. The positive word of mouth reviews are only going to create more demand for this “Wonder Woman” movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 94% freshness rating – an almost impossibly high score for a blockbuster summer film.

Everything about the film seems to have a unique female sensibility to it – much of I driven, no doubt, by the fact of having a female director. Take the fighting style of the Amazons, for example – it is a fighting style that is based on precision and agility rather than overwhelming force and violence. In the movie trailer, you can see this close up, as the Amazon warriors elude bullets or use perfectly-timed balletic movements to overwhelm their foes.

In other superhero films – such as the recent “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in which Wonder Woman had a cameo role – women have always been secondary characters. At best, they have been the Lois Lane to Clark Kent’s Superman. In short, women have either been glossed over in these films, or just given secondary billing. In “Wonder Woman,” though, women are given first billing, and it’s a joy to watch.

Already, Hollywood insiders are predicting a sea-change in how the big studios think about superhero films. “Wonder Woman” has inspired them and showed them that “good” heroes are not “boring” heroes, that a story that is optimistic and full of hope about the future is more exciting than a story that is negative, cynical and full of dystopian story lines.

Truly, “Wonder Woman” inspired women worldwide – and this is just the start. After a mega-blockbuster opening weekend, this film could become the biggest hit of the summer. Get ready to see lots of people dressed up as Wonder Woman wherever you go this summer, as young girls and women embrace this new superhero role model.

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What To Expect From the “Will & Grace” Revival

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The good news for TV fans everywhere is that “Will & Grace” – one of the most successful, Emmy-nominated comedy series in the history of primetime – is coming back to NBC in 2017. In January, NBC studio executives announced that they had placed a 10-episode order for a “Will & Grace” revival – and then later upped that order to 12 episodes in April. So what can we can expect from this star-studded comedy when it comes to TV in 2017?

#1: The same great cast, just ten years older

What’s remarkable about this “Will & Grace” revival is that NBC has convinced all four stars of the show – and all the show creators – to come back for the revival. That means fans of the show will get to see Debra Messing (who plays Grace Adler), Eric McCormack (who plays the gay lawyer Will Truman), Megan Mullally (who plays Karen Walker) and Sean Hayes (who plays Jack McFarland) reunited again.

From what we’ve seen from all the late-night TV shows where these stars have appeared, they all look almost exactly as they did back in May 2006, when the series ended after 8 wildly successful seasons. For example, Sean Hayes was on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” saying how excited he was to see everyone again, and that nobody seems to have aged in 10 years.

That leads to an interesting question for the show’s creators: Do they acknowledge that 10 years have passed since the comedy was last on TV – enough time for everyone to grow up and grow apart, perhaps with new families or new significant others – or do they create a fictional narrative that picks up just 12 or 24 months after the events of the comedy from 2006?

With most revivals, this would be a no-brainer – usually the characters look so much older, that it’s impossible to pretend that things are still the same. But in the case of “Will & Grace,” that’s not necessarily the case.

#2: A series updated for the sensibilities of the Trump era

What convinced NBC studio executives to give “Will & Grace” a revival was the spectacular success of a YouTube video that the cast created back in September 2016 by the cast. The video was a 10-minute special that urged Americans to vote in the upcoming presidential election. The YouTube video contained a lot of jokes about Trump and his team, and was directed against his treatment of both ethnic minorities and LGBT citizens.

For example, Megan Mullally came back as a flag-waving Trump supporter, utterly oblivious to Donald Trump’s worst attributes. That was in sharp opposition to Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes, who let go a barrage of anti-Trump jokes. So it’s quite possible that we could see an updating of “Will & Grace” for the sensibilities of the Trump era. Maybe “Will & Grace” will feature story lines of how the LGBT community is trying to resist Trump and his policies?

#3: More attention on LGBT issues

Not only was “Will & Grace” one of the smartest and funniest comedies on NBC ever, it was also one of the most successful TV series with openly gay characters as the main characters. The LGBT community has picked up the show, and even American politicians have heaped praise on the show for its courage in depicting gay and LGBT characters. So it’s perhaps to be expected that the revival of “Will & Grace” will continue to depict and portray issues that are central to the LGBT community.

For example, we might see episodes featuring protest rallies for the LGBT movement, or we might see some issues such as HIV/AIDS explored in greater detail. Maybe issues like gay marriage will be explored in greater detail.

#4: More great writing and scripts

As noted earlier, NBC is bringing back all of the show’s original creators. This is critical for so many reasons, most importantly because it means the show will continue to have some of the best scripts and dialogue on primetime TV. Over its spectacular eight-season run, “Will & Grace” actually picked up 16 Emmy wins and 83 Emmy nominations.

So we can expect to have more of the same great writing when “Will & Grace” returns in 2017. That means plenty of great dialogue, lots of great jokes, and plenty of the same fluid interaction between the show’s four stars that we’ve come to expect.

This is what will separate the revival of “Will & Grace” from other revivals. Usually, shows lose their focus over time, and bring in some celebrity producer or director to “update” the show in some new way. But that’s not what hard-core fans really want.

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#5: Knowing winks at show nostalgia

Consider the election-themed video that the cast created in 2016 – the reason why it became such a viral hit is because it tapped into the deep nostalgia of TV viewers. When the show first debuted back in September 1998, we were on the cusp of a new century, and it seemed like a very unique time period in American history. And so viewers are naturally very nostalgic about that time period.

It’s almost a given, then, that the show will try to wrap up all the loose ends from the series. As in most revivals, we’ll see cameo roles from some of the characters that were nearest and dearest to us. And we’ll learn how they’ve moved on with their lives.

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It’s almost a certainty that the “Will & Grace” revival will be a slam-dunk hit starting on the first night of viewing. The fact that NBC was so ready to green light the revival – and that all the star cast members immediately signed on – is further proof of just how much pent-up viewer demand there is for this show. This was simply one of the best shows on TV a decade ago, and it looks like the show has aged remarkably well, just like all the cast members. Most viewers will no doubt be eagerly awaiting all the funny scenes and dialogue featuring Will, Grace, Karen and Jack.

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How “House of Cards” Season 5 Stacks Up

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By now, viewers know what to expect from Netflix’s “House of Cards” – a bleak portrayal of the American political landscape in which the only constant is the relentless ambition for power. And that’s exactly what Season 5 of “House of Cards,” which debuted on Netflix on May 30, delivers.

1. Raw political ambition and the lust for political power

If anything, Season 5 of “House of Cards” is bleaker and more nihilistic than any of the preceding four seasons. We’re already used to the raw power ambitions of U.S. President Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), but now we’re convinced that nothing is ever going to change. In fact, if anything, it’s clear that America’s timeless traditions and institutions may be no match for the current powerbrokers in Washington.

There are scenes in Season 5 that have deep symbolic meanings – such as when Claire Underwood appears to trample an American eagle underfoot on a rug in the White House, or when Frank Underwood appears to wander the White House alone, almost like a ghost, while music plays at some party he has no intention of joining. The message is clear: America is now a waning power on the world stage, and there’s no idealistic young up-and-comer who is going to save the day.

In fact, one of the trademark plot twists in “House of Cards” is how even idealistic newcomers are quickly brought up to speed on how things happen in Washington, D.C. The people who survive are not those that have an ideology or who want to change the system – it is the people who spend all day thinking of ways to subvert the system to their own whims. They study constitutional law, not to understand how to protect the Constitution, but how to subvert it.

Even the war on terror becomes just another tool for political power consolidation. In Season 5, the Underwoods are intent on inflaming public fears about ICO (the show’s version of ISIS) in order to steadily erode constitutional rights and find loopholes to increase their own power.

2. An underlying pessimism about American institutions

“House of Cards” almost seems to celebrate the men and women who have no ideology and no guiding political philosophy. That, perhaps, is why so many critics have called this the bleakest “House of Cards” yet. There is a sense that any vestige of dignity has departed the office of the Presidency, and all we see, in episode after episode, is yet another lesson in how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The goal of power, it appears, is simply to get more power. In doing so, all the political actors in “House of Cards” go about their nefarious ways.

What is most disturbing about Season 5, perhaps, is that it is not just the men and women who are flawed – it is the very institutions keeping them in power. There is a sense that all the ideals, principles and careful checks and balances that the Founding Fathers had the foresight to create are nothing more than tools now in the hands of the wrong people.

And Frank Underwood has no shame whatsoever in rubbing this in our face. At one point, he turns to the camera and says, “You voted for me, America.” Thus, as easy as it might be to blame a single person (or power couple, as in the case of the Underwoods) for this low point in American politics, we only have ourselves to blame.

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3. The Trump context

Of course, you can now see why so many people are trying to make this season’s “House of Cards” a pointed commentary on the current political environment in Washington. The Trump presidency, in many ways, is a mirror image of the Underwood presidency. You have an egomaniac in the White House, using the Oval Office simply to advance his own ambitions and business brand.

The way that Frank Underwood humiliates his underlings, too, has an analogue in the way that Donald Trump likes to punish and humiliate his underlings – whether it’s forcing Sean Spicer to go out and give a press conference at the most inopportune time, or when it comes to directly contravening statements made by one of his inner circle via a late night Twitter outburst.

And, of course, the way that many say that President Trump has degraded the office of the presidency with his constant half-truths and reckless Executive Orders have a clear precedent in the Underwood presidency.

But here is the thing – whereas Frank Underwood has absolutely no underlying ideology or values, one could argue that Donald Trump is at least following some abstract notion of “making America great again.” In the case of Frank Underwood, it’s not so much a case of making America great – it’s about making himself great.

And many people fail to point out that Season 5 of “House of Cards” actually started production BEFORE Trump was ever elected. Thus, even though the show debuted almost exactly four months after Trump was sworn in, it actually had already been in production long before.

For liberals, Donald Trump is just a slightly more odious version of Frank Underwood. For conservatives, though, the double-dealing and corrupt Underwoods are a slightly more odious version of the Clintons. You can see why we’re at such a political impasse in America these days – both figures are so polarizing that there’s little or no opportunity to meet in the middle.

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So what to make of “House of Cards,” then? Many would argue that it has simply become too repetitive. The characters may change, but the plot does not. There is more scheming, more shifting of alliances and more egomaniacal attempts to subvert the system. Even the newcomers to Season 5 – Patricia Clarkson (as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade) and Campbell Scott (as a top adviser to the President) – do little to change the underlying dynamic of the show.

But something very distinct has changed in the way that we view “House of Cards” in 2017. If, back in 2013 when the show first premiered, we thought that the Underwood presidency was pure fiction and too insidious to ever become true, we now realize that it is, indeed, possible. In fact, it may now be the case that fact is stranger than fiction. The naked power grab of the Trump presidency and all the inflamed rhetoric about making America great again may actually have the opposite effect – it may reveal just how low the American political system has fallen, and how the lust for power has become all-consuming on both sides of the political aisle.

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“Master of None” Season 2 Sparks Social Commentary and Conversation

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When Netflix signed up comedian Aziz Ansari to do a special original comedy series, they couldn’t have possibly expected that “Master of None” was going to spark so much social commentary and conversation. But Season 2 of the show has just absolutely changed the national conversation on so many topics, including LGBT issues and what it means to be a Indian-American.

The show, of course, is a fictional account of Aziz Ansari’s life in which Aziz plays Dev Shah, a 30-year-old New York actor. The show is “loosely based” on real-life experiences, including his travels abroad, his experiences in New York, and the friends and family members who have influenced him.

And here’s where things get really interesting. “Master of None” (the title of the show is a reference to the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none) was really meant to be more of an itinerant series, moving from here to there at whim, showing some funny scenes from Aziz’s life. (In Season 2, for example, Aziz winds up in Italy.)

That approach was a remarkably successful formula for Season 1 back in late 2015, when the show routinely made the list of “Best TV Show of 2015.” Critics loved the show, and ranked it as one of the Top 10 shows of the year. There was a lull, and then in May 2017, here came Season 2, fortified with 10 new episodes.

On the surface, perhaps, viewers weren’t expecting the series to become such a spark for social commentary. After all, one of the key plotlines of Season 2 was the character of Dev Shah going to Italy to learn how to make pasta. There were some funny scenes – like the one where Aziz Ansari and his friend accidentally get their car stuck between two buildings in Italy. But then came “Thanksgiving”…

In “Thanksgiving,” Dev shares the story of how he likes to celebrate Thanksgiving with his childhood friends since his parents do not celebrate the holiday. And one of his best friends from childhood (Denise, played by Lena Waithe) happens to be both black and queer. That led to the idea that the episode would feature Denise talking about her decision to “come out” and announce that she’s queer. The episode also featured Angela Bassett as Denise’s mom Catherine, and that’s where things became explosive – the mom is not so accepting of Denise, and that sparked a major conversation about LGBT life.

In fact, that one episode attracted so much buzz that Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe did a special feature for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, in which they broke down, scene by scene, how and why they decided to do the “Thanksgiving” episode. Lena Waithe is also gay in real-life, and was willing to share her own experiences and ideas about what it was like to come out on TV.

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And there have been other episodes that have also sparked social commentary. For example, Episode 3 (“Religion”) features Dev and his decision not to be a devout Muslim. He can’t possibly tell his parents that, so he has to fake it in front of them. That led to a lot of discussion in the media and entertainment blogs about Aziz’s “pork-fueled feud with his parents.”

More generally, it gets to the root of what it’s like to be Muslim in America. That’s a particularly sensitive topic right now, especially with all the discussion about a “Muslim ban.” How are Muslims assimilating into America? How are they reacting to the Muslim ban. Aziz is such a funny comedian, that we sometimes don’t even think that he’s thinking about these issues. But he’s only human, and it’s clear that all of his hilarious “brown people jokes” are really meant to be a biting commentary about America and its unwillingness to accept Muslims as equals.

And then, in another episode of the show, Aziz Ansari explores how it’s possible that everyday people can actually be racist in their own way. In Episode 4 of Season 2, for example, he dates a number of different girls, and the one he ends up sleeping with actually has a figurine in her home that the character Dev Shah interprets to be racist.

That raises an interesting question – especially from a social commentary perspective – and that’s how people can claim they have “brown friends” or “black friends” and yet still be racist. It could be that these feelings and emotions are so deep under the surface that they don’t even know that they are there. But the appearance of something seemingly as innocuous as a figurine can bring them to light.

Finally, there was one other issue raised in Season 2 that has started to get traction on the blogs and social media, and that’s the very difficult topic of sexual harassment. Despite all the claims that women are equal to men in America, it’s still the case that sexual harassment in the workplace is rampant. And that’s a topic that “Master of None” hasn’t been afraid to tackle.

So, as you can see, “Master of None” is really more than just a Netflix original comedy. It’s more than just funny insights into Aziz Ansari’s life. No – it’s really an increasingly important platform to discuss important social issues that show up again and again in daily life.

Take the example of LGBT issues. That’s something that Aziz Ansari rarely – if ever – tackles in his standup comedy routines, but it’s a topic that suddenly shows up in “Master of None.” Or take the issue of sexual harassment. Aziz may make a lot of jokes about how he is “human garbage” for the way he acts around women sometimes, but his show takes a deeper, more critical look at the issue.

Ultimately, comedy is a great tool for exploring these issues. And, as we’ve seen with Aziz Ansari and his amazing Saturday Night Live (SNL) hosting gig after the presidential election, he’s increasingly willing to take a stand on tough issues. That’s what makes “Master of None” such a great Netflix show. Even as we’re laughing, we’re also getting incisive takes on deeply important social issues.

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