tv shows

REVIEW: “Stranger Things” Season 3

StrangerThings_S3_Illustrated_Vertical_FINAL_RGB_Digital__ENI was late hopping onto the Stranger Things train. I tried watching the first season back when it was initially released in 2016 but I just couldn’t get into it. It featured all the things that so many Spielberg movies (many of which the series is clearly trying to emulate) have that annoy me – too much focus on the adolescent drama and not enough focus on the actual spooky stuff. So, I never got into it. Fast forward to December 2018, when I finally sit down to watch through the first two seasons of the show. I still stand by a lot of my initial thoughts, but it’s hard not to get into the show. It fetishizes the 1980s to the point where it almost feels masturbatory, never having anything interesting to say about its time period and merely mining the era for as many nostalgic references it cram into the show as humanly possible; it never explores its mythology with any of the depth you’d want it to; and it often gets too caught up in the kids’ needless drama and odd side stories, but it’s a mostly fun show. The two novels and comic series that have been released in the downtime between season two and season three have gotten me far more interested in the universe of the story than the show ever did, so, naturally, I’m interested in seeing what season three does with the storyline. Will it finally explore some of the more interesting elements of its mythology or will it just be more of the same frustrating balance the first two seasons had? Spoiler alert: it’s the latter. Season 3 of Stranger Things is more of the same stuff we’ve already seen and not much new. (Mild spoilers ahead!)

It’s 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, and summer’s heating up. School’s out, there’s a brand new mall in town, and the Hawkins crew (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, and Sadie Sink) are on the cusp of adulthood. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger looms. When the town’s threatened by enemies old and new, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends are reminded that evil never ends; it evolves. Now they’ll have to band together to survive, and remember that friendship is always stronger than fear.

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REVIEW: “The Umbrella Academy – Hotel Oblivion”

81wb6js-mflIt’s been a decade since the second volume of Gerard Way’s wonderfully weird superhero series, The Umbrella Academy, hit stores and it’s been almost as long since the title of this third volume was announced. Since that initial announcement, there had been a lot of radio silence as Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá got busy with other projects. Thankfully, though, this third volume of The Umbrella Academy has come out and, in many ways, it feels like no time has passed. It’s very much the third installment in this ongoing series – and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. (Mild spoilers follow)

Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance, Doom Patrol) and Gabriel Bá (Two Brothers, Casanova) have earned awards and accolades on their separate projects, and finally return to their breakout 2007 hit, for the latest chapter in the bizarre lives of their former teen superhero team.

Faced with an increasing number of lunatics with superpowers eager to fight his own wunderkind brood, Sir Reginald Hargreeves developed the ultimate solution …

Now, just a few years after Hargreeves’s death, his Umbrella Academy is scattered. Number Five is a hired gun, Kraken is stalking big game, Rumor is dealing with the wreckage of her marriage, an out-of-shape Spaceboy runs around the streets of Tokyo, Vanya continues her physical therapy after being shot in the head–and no one wants to even talk about what Séance is up to …

The award-winning and best-selling superhero series returns, stranger than ever–And their past is coming back to hunt them.

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REVIEW: “The Nice and Accurate Good Omens Companion” by Matt Whyman, & “The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book” by Neil Gaiman

good omens booksCompanion books to movies and TV shows are always a bit of a dice roll when it comes to their quality. While they’re usually filled with interesting anecdotes and tons of pictures, they have a habit of feeling little more than a fluff piece used as an advertisement for that film/TV series. Luckily, this isn’t the case with either of the two books released as tie-ins for Amazon Prime and BBC’s recent adaptation of Good Omens. Both books – a traditional companion and a book featuring all of Neil Gaiman’s scripts for the series – are excellent reads, managing to be both informative and worthwhile reads even for those who know everything there is to know about the series and its creation.

“The Nice and Accurate Good Omens Companion” by Matt Whyman
Following the original novel’s chronological structure—from “the Beginning” to “End Times”—this official companion to the Good Omens television series, compiled by Matt Whyman, is a cornucopia of information about the show, its conception, and its creation. Offering deep and nuanced insight into Gaiman’s brilliantly reimagining of the Good Omens universe, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion includes: A foreword from Neil Gaiman, A profile of the director, Douglas McKinnon, Neil’s take on the adaptation process, in which he explains his goals, approach, and diversions from the original text, Interviews with the cast, including Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Nina Sosanya, Jon Hamm, Ned Dennehy, Josie Lawrence, Derek Jacobi, Nick Offerman, Frances McDormand, Miranda Richardson, Adria Arjona, and many others, More than 200 color photographs. And much more!

“The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book” by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s complete original scripts for the highly anticipated six-episode original series, adapted from the classic novel he wrote with Terry Pratchett. Collected here are Neil Gaiman’s original scripts for the Good Omens television series, offering readers deeper insight into Gaiman’s brilliant new adaptation of a masterwork.

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REVIEW: “Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Comic”

MST3K00In news that should surprise absolutely no one, Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes for a really funny, really enjoyable, and really good comic. I reviewed the first issue back when it came out and found it to be a pretty enjoyable read. Now, I’ve finished the final issue of the run and I can confirm that it remains an enjoyable read throughout its run, intertwining the signature MST3K humor with the world of public domain comics.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic by Joel Hodgson, Harold Bucholz, Matt McGinnis, Seth Robinson, Sharyl Volpe, and Mary Robinson; illustrated by Todd Nauck, Jack Pollock, Mike Manley, and Mimi Simon

The riffing hilarity of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to comics when Kinga Forrester pairs her Kingachrome Liquid Medium with her latest invention–the Bubbulat-R! Jonah Heston, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo find themselves thrust into the 2-D world of public domain comics, with riffing as their only defense!

From its humble beginnings on a tiny mid-west TV station in 1988, through its years as a mainstay on The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central and the SciFi Channel all through the ’90s, to its spectacular resurrection on Netflix in 2017, Mystery Science Theater 3000 has had a transformative effect on television, comedy, and the way old, cheesy movies are viewed. Now creator Joel Hodgson has set his sights on the comics medium, and the four-color pamphlets will never be the same!

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REVIEW: “Good Omens” (2019 TV Series)

good omens posterI love Neil Gaiman’s books. Obviously. I talk about them all the time. I write religiously about the American Gods TV series. One of the first Gaiman novels I ever read was his collaboration with Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame), Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. It was one of those books that felt akin to Douglas Adams’ novels and it was a book that I really loved. Naturally, I’d heard rumors of it being turned into a film for years, though nothing ever seemed to come of it until Amazon Prime and BBC announced they were co-producing a six-episode adaptation, written and executive produced by Gaiman, himself. I’m a big fan of authors getting to adapt their own stories for various mediums – though, often, many authors don’t do such a great job with those adaptations as they don’t understand the constraints of whichever medium the story is being adapted for. Gaiman, however, has plenty of experience writing for film, TV, comics, and prose, so if any author could successfully translate their novel into a visual medium, it would be Neil Gaiman. Thankfully, that’s exactly what he did with this adaptation, too. These six episodes of Good Omens are so delightfully accurate to the novel, so immensely entertaining, and so well put together that it is just so joyous to watch. This is one of those shows that I might revisit yearly just for the hell of it. (Mild spoilers for both the novel and the show ahead!)

Good Omens (written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Douglas Mackinnon)
Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), of Heaven and Hell respectively, have grown rather fond of the Earth. So it’s terrible news that it’s about to end. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing. The Four Horsemen are ready to ride. Everything is going according to the Divine Plan…except that someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist. Can our heroes find him and stop Armageddon before it’s too late?

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REVIEW: “Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Adam Christopher

91geul5xcolStranger Things is returning to screens this summer for its third season and it seems that Netflix is pulling out all the stops to promote it. With multiple novels and comic mini-series, the Stranger Things universe just seems to be growing and growing. And, here’s the thing: these Stranger Things novels are really turning out to be pretty enjoyable reads. I loved the first one, Suspicious Minds (written by Gwenda Bond) and I quite enjoyed this second one, Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s not quite as spectacular as the first one – and it doesn’t quite reveal anything as shocking or interesting as that book – but it ends up being a pretty solid crime novel with a Stranger Things twist. (Mild spoilers for the novel follow.)

“Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Adam Christopher 
Christmas, Hawkins, 1984. All Chief Jim Hopper wants is to enjoy a quiet first Christmas with Eleven, but his adopted daughter has other plans. Over Hopper’s protests, she pulls a cardboard box marked “New York” out of the basement—and the tough questions begin. Why did Hopper leave Hawkins all those years ago? What does “Vietnam” mean? And why has he never talked about New York?

Although he’d rather face a horde of demogorgons than talk about his own past, Hopper knows that he can’t deny the truth any longer. And so begins the story of the incident in New York—the last big case before everything changed. . . .

Summer, New York City, 1977
. Hopper is starting over after returning home from Vietnam. A young daughter, a caring wife, and a new beat as an NYPD detective make it easy to slip back into life as a civilian. But after shadowy federal agents suddenly show up and seize the files about a series of brutal, unsolved murders, Hopper takes matters into his own hands, risking everything to discover the truth.

Soon Hopper is undercover among New York’s notorious street gangs. But just as he’s about to crack the case, a blackout rolls across the boroughs, plunging Hopper into a darkness deeper than any he’s faced before.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E08 – Moon Shadow

American Gods Season 2 2019I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this second season finale of American Gods but I can pretty confidently say it wasn’t this. And I mean that in the absolute best way humanly possible. The summary provided for the episode was just vague enough that all anybody really knew when going into this episode was that many of our characters would be reeling from the events that happened at the end of the previous episode and that Mr. World and New Media would launch some kind of attack on the nation at large. Aside from that, it was really anybody’s guess. There were certain things that could be inferred based on a basic knowledge of the novel and from events from earlier in the show’s history, but much of this finale was genuinely surprising and very satisfying. (Spoilers for the season 2 finale of American Gods, as well as the novel, follow!)

Episode 2×08: Moon Shadow (Written by Aditi Brennan Kapil and Jim Danger Gray, directed by Christopher J. Byrne)
In the aftermath of Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) death, Wednesday (Ian McShane) has disappeared, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is tormented by the night’s events. Those that remain witness the power of New Media (Kahyun Kim) as she is unleashed, and the nation is enveloped in a state of panic brought on by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), who cunningly illustrates the power of fear and belief.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E07 – Treasure of the Sun

American Gods Season 2 2019I’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.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E06 – Donar the Great

American Gods Season 2 2019The 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.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E05 – “The Ways of the Dead”

AGS2_205 Mr Nancy (Orlando Bloom)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).

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