I’m on record as not loving last season’s A Prayer for Mad Sweeney. It’s not that it was a bad episode or anything, but it was the penultimate episode of the season and, instead of focusing on setting up the finale in any meaningful way, it spent all of its time on a flashback sequence that was only tangentially connected to one of the characters. It was the story about how Mad Sweeney came to America – but the character didn’t actually appear in the flashbacks until the very end of the episode. Instead, it was basically thirty minutes of the story of Essie McGowan – an interesting story but the definition of padding out an episode. Had this not been the penultimate episode of the season, I might not have been as disappointed by it, but since it was, I really didn’t dig it. So, hearing that the penultimate episode of season two was going to be another one that primarily focused on Mad Sweeney’s backstory, I was a bit skeptical about it. I went in expecting it to be another episode full of padding that didn’t really set up the finale at all. Boy, I was wrong. This episode perfectly balances the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, making sure the flashbacks actually seem related to what’s happening in the present day scenes – and then using those present-day scenes to raise the stakes for the finale in surprising and exciting ways. (MAJOR spoilers follow)
Episode 2×07: Treasure of the Sun (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Paco Cabezas) In Cairo, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) entrusts Shadow (Ricky Whittle) with the Gungnir spear. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), plagued by the cries of Banshees, recalls his journey through the ages as he awaits his promised battle. Once again, he warns Shadow about Wednesday. Meanwhile, Laura (Emily Browning) receives sage advice from Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey), and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) finds an audience.
I love the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. Like, really love them. They’re so damn stylish and well made and well-acted. So, with that in mind, it was always gonna be hard for any Hellboy film not made by del Toro (or starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy) to truly succeed for me. That being said, I really didn’t except this remake of Hellboy to be so unenjoyable. It can’t seem to figure out what it is – it’s not really a new take on the character as it’s basically the same tone and look as the del Toro films but it’s not a continuation of those films, either. It’s not an origin story, but it kind of is one at the same time. It’s just a really big mess of a movie – and it’s a shame because there were some really good moments in the film.
Hellboy is back, and he’s on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola’s seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, “Stranger Things”) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil series), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world. (Written by Christopher Golden, Andrew Cosby, Mike Mignola; directed by Neil Marshall)
Stephen King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. For every decent one (the It miniseries from the ’90s or the It movie from 2017), there are at least two bad ones (nearly every other Stephen King miniseries, The Dark Tower, and the Carrie remake from a few years ago). It seems that what often works for King in his prose work doesn’t work very well in visual mediums. And that, unfortunately, is the case for this remake of Pet Sematary. Based on his original novel, and the 1989 film of the same name, Pet Sematary is a perfect example of all the reasons a lot of Stephen King stories don’t work in film. The first half of the movie is dreadfully boring, filled with characters who go undeveloped and are uninteresting, leading to a climax that, while often scary, isn’t particularly dramatically satisfying because the film has never made you care for the characters. King’s novels do a better job at establishing the characters and making them likable as he threads the spookier elements into the story. This film tries to do that but ultimately fails. (Spoilers ahead!)
Pet Sematary (written by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg; directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer)
Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
The moment I heard that Rachel Talalay would be directing an episode of the second season of American Gods, I grew really excited. I loved Talalay’s work on Doctor Who during the Peter Capaldi years, so I was extremely excited to see how her style would be applied to the world of American Gods. I’m happy to report that this episode totally feels like an episode that’s directed by Rachel Talalay – and I mean that in the best possible way. She has a distinct style and it’s very much on display here – while still staying true to the style of American Gods as a series. Add to all of that the fact that much of this episode takes place in a 1930s burlesque run by Mr. Wednesday, himself, and you have an episode that’s equal parts delightful, deeply emotional, and visually sumptuous. (This review features spoilers!)
Episode 2×06: Donar the Great (Written by Adria Lang, Directed by Rachel Talalay) Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) seek out Dvalin (Jeremy Raymond) to repair the Gungnir spear. But before the dwarf is able to etch the runes of war, he requires a powerful artifact in exchange. On the journey, Wednesday tells Shadow the story of Donar the Great (Derek Theler). Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and New Media (Kahyun Kim) harness the power of her worshippers to prepare for the coming storm.
After what feels like ages of anticipation, the title of Star Wars: Episode IX has been revealed as The Rise of Skywalker. Today was the first day of panels at this year’s Star Wars: Celebration and, naturally, the whole shindig kicked off with a panel for Episode IX, complete with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, and Naomi Ackie, where Stephen Colbert asked the cast and crew a bunch of questions about the film that none of them could really answer. The closest thing to any real information we got is that 1) some time passes between the ending of The Last Jedi and the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, 2) Naomi Ackie plays a character named Jannah, and 3) The whole gang would be going on an adventure together. The really good reveals didn’t come until the last few minutes of the panel when the teaser trailer was finally shown, revealing the title of the film at the end of the trailer.
Who would have thought that Shazam, of all movies, would end up being not only one of the best DCEU movies in years but one of the best superhero origin films in quite some time? Perhaps it’s down to my lack of familiarity with the character and, subsequently, my lack of any real expectations for the film, but I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam. It’s not particularly unique, or anything, but it is the most fun I’ve had with a superhero movie since Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s worth celebrating. Combining lots of humor, great visuals, solid acting, and genuine pathos, Shazam is a superhero movie that will bring out your inner kid as you watch it. It’s a whole lot of fun. (Mild spoilers for the film follow.)
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word–SHAZAM!–this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart–inside a ripped, godlike body–Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong). (Written by Henry Gayden, directed by David F. Sandberg)
Season two of American Gods seems to be establishing a pattern in which one episode moves the plot forward quite a bit while the next episode slows things down for a more introspective look at the characters. This episode is an example of the former. It’s another episode where a whole lot happens, but it also leaves plenty of room for some truly beautiful character moments. If you’ve been waiting for this second season of American Gods to reach the heights of its first, I think you’ll be very pleased, indeed, with this episode. It’s an absolutely stellar one – and it might be the most visually impressive episode of the season – aside from the premiere, of course.
Episode 2×05: The Ways of the Dead (Written by Rodney Barnes, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield) Steeped in Cairo’s history, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) learns the ways of the dead with the help of Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) and Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). In New Orleans, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) introduces Laura (Emily Browning) to old friends who share their world of voodoo healing. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) embarks on a road trip with Salim (Omid Abtahi) and the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), and they have a challenging discussion about faith. Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) discovers an opportunity to draw new worshippers that might give her the power to break free of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
Disney just keeps remaking their animated movies, huh? It all could be traced back to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland – fittingly directed by Tim Burton, the same director helming this latest live-action remake. From there, Disney just kept on going down the proverbial rabbit hole with remakes. Their latest trip down said rabbit hole – one of no less than three live-action remakes due to be released theatrically this year (with a fourth expected to premiere on the Disney + streaming service by the end of the year), Dumbo is a live-action remake of the classic 1941 Disney cartoon of the same name. This time, helmed by director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger, Dumbo expands that fairly short animated film into a nearly two-hour long Tim Burton extravaganza. The problem is: nobody was really asking for a Dumbo remake. So, is it actually any good, or is it just another mediocre film from Disney, a company that seems to specialize in releasing mediocre films all throughout their various film studios? Answer: it’s the latter.
From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is widely considered a beloved show from TV’s first golden age. And rightfully so. Serling, famously annoyed at the neutering many of his previous projects had gone through at the hands of network execs, managed to blend the serious subject matter he wanted to discuss with elements of science fiction/fantasy/horror, thus allowing his radical ideas to slip by a bit less noticed by the network brass. It was a genuine work of genius that brought science fiction into the mainstream lives of many Americans who, otherwise, might not have been exposed to the genre in such a sophisticated way. What is often forgotten, however, is how wildly inconsistent the original run of the series could be. For every brilliant, memorable episode, there was at least one episode – if not multiple – that was utterly forgettable. That’s the dice roll you get with anthology shows and The Twilight Zone was no exception. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to hear that the first two episodes of CBS’ newest reboot of the series are just as inconsistent as the originals were. (There will be spoilers for the first two episodes of The Twilight Zone.)
The original “The Twilight Zone” premiered on Oct. 2, 1959 on CBS. The series took viewers to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. As the godfather of sci-fi series, the show explored humanity’s hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices in metaphoric ways conventional dramas could not.
In 2019 viewers will enter another dimension with Jordan Peele and Simon Kinberg’s modern re-imagining of the classic. CBS All Access’ THE TWILIGHT ZONE anthology series will bring the original show’s legacy of socially conscious storytelling to modern day audiences, exploring the human condition and holding a lens up to the culture of our times.
American Gods continues its second season with another very good episode. While last week’s episode moved the plot along at a pretty speedy pace, this week’s episode slowed things down a bit more with a more introspective episode, filled to the brim with conversations about religion and faith, as well as renewal. Like I said, it was a pretty good episode. (There will be spoilers ahead!)
Episode 2×04: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Written by Peter Calloway and Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by Stacie Passon) While Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) take a secret meeting in St. Louis, Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) arrives at the funeral home in Cairo, where she engages in a debate with Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes). Laura (Emily Browning) rejoins Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Tech Boy (Bruce Langley) pays a visit to his first worshipper (Andrew Koji).