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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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REVIEW: “Dumbo” 2019

dumbo posterDisney 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.

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“The Twilight Zone” Reboot is Every Bit as Inconsistent as the Original Run

mv5bnznknjm0ytety2mwni00otjmlwfhmjatn2m0ztmwotmxoty1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjiwmjy2mzu40._v1_sy1000_cr006861000_al_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.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E04 – The Greatest Story Ever Told

American Gods Season 2 2019American 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).

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REVIEW: NBC’s “Abby’s”

Abby's - Season PilotI really enjoy the shows that Michael Schur produces. All of them manage to do this thing where the jokes aren’t coming at the expense of any of the characters, but rather comes at the expensive of whatever ridiculous thing they’ve just done. Any time I watch a Michael Schur show, I always leave the episode feeling happier – even if something sad has happened. That’s the joy of Michael Schur’s shows. So, when NBC announced that another show, produced by Schur, would be premiering, I was over the moon. Add in a starring role for Natalie Morales and I’m even more sold. Created by Josh Malmuth and executive produced by Michael Schur, Abby’s is a delightful throwback sitcom, filmed in front of a live audience on (mainly) a single set, that features great writing, even better characters, and a whole lot of laughs.

From Michael Schur and Josh Malmuth comes a hilarious new comedy about the best neighborhood bar in San Diego –– home to low prices, good company and, of course, Abby (Natalie Morales). This unlicensed, makeshift establishment in Abby’s backyard is the perfect gathering place for locals to find camaraderie and sanctuary. To maintain the perfect bar ecosystem, all patrons must abide by a specific set of rules. This includes no cell phones (not even to look something up), understanding that earning a seat at the bar takes time to rise through the hierarchy and knowing that losing a challenge may have some unpleasant and unpalatable drink-related repercussions.

As bar owner, Abby has found her true calling, hosting friends and newcomers alike. No nonsense, Abby is ex-military, having served two tours as a Staff Sergeant in the Marines. Her world is shaken when new landlord Bill (Nelson Franklin), who recently inherited the house from his deceased aunt, unexpectedly shows up citing all kinds of reasons why the whole venture is illegal. Newly divorced, he is a cautious worrier and definite non-risk-taker who eventually warms to the place and agrees to let the bar remain open, provided Abby makes some changes.

The cast of regulars also includes Fred (Neil Flynn), a fixture at the bar who is grateful for a place to enjoy a beer and conversation – and refuses to allow some bureaucratic busybody to disrupt his perfect refuge; Beth (Jessica Chaffin), a harried mom living next door who can escape the madness of her home life while still keeping an eye on things from her perch atop a bar stool; Rosie (Kimia Behpoornia), the bar manager who prides herself on having memorized all 162 rules and regulations; and James (Leonard Ouzts), the gentle scaredy-cat of a bouncer who crumbles in the face of confrontation.

As any regular patron of Abby’s will attest to, hanging out there is a coveted honor. And once you’re in, you’re family.

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“Miracle Workers” Ends its First Season With a Satisfying Conclusion

107CSo, I really dug the first three episodes of Miracle Workers and I really dug the book, What in God’s Name, that the show was based on. With all that said, I was immensely curious as to whether or not the show would stick the landing with its final four episodes. Would it end in a satisfying way or would it just sort of fizzle out? Thankfully, it managed the former, with each of the four final episodes being better than the last, all culminating in a finale that brought all of the plot threads to a nice, satisfying close while also concluding many of the character arcs that had been set up. While different from how the book ended, the finale of Miracle Workers worked perfectly for what the TV series had set up.

Episode 104 – “6 Days” – Written by Heather Anne Campbell, directed by Ryan Case
Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) helps God (Steve Buscemi) recruit a prophet while Sanjay (Karan Soni) heads to the basement to help save Earth.

Episode 105 – “3 Days” – Written by Mitra Jouhari & Gary Richardson, directed by Maruice Marable
Rosie (Lolly Adefope) meets with a competitor while Craig, Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sanjay try to dupe God.

Episode 106 – “1 Day” – Written by Lucas Gardner, directed by Dan Schimpf
God meets with potential investors for his groundbreaking new restaurant.

Episode 107 – “1 Hour” – Written by Dan Mirk, directed by Maruice Marable
Craig risks it all in a desperate attempt to save Earth and all of mankind.

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REVIEW: “American Gods” S02E03 – Muninn

American Gods Season 2 2019Man, this episode is exactly what I wanted to see coming out of last week’s episode. While, on the whole, I liked last week’s episode quite a bit, I did feel like it didn’t progress the overall plot forward enough, instead focusing most of its time developing Shadow’s backstory some. Muninn, thankfully, does the exact opposite; quite a lot happens in this episode and much of it is really exciting. We’re introduced to New Media, Sam Blackcrow, and Argus and a whole lot of pieces are moved around the metaphorical chess board as the season continues down its current path. I really, really, really dug this episode. A lot. (NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE WITHIN THIS REVIEW!)

Episode 2×03: Muninn (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Deborah Chow)
As he is tracked by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), Shadow (Ricky Whittle) makes his way to Cairo, thanks to a ride from Sam Black Crow (Devery Jacobs). Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) slyly gains Laura’s (Emily Browning) help in forging an alliance with a powerful god. Mr. World introduces Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) to New Media (Kahyun Kim) and assigns them a very important task.

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