I love a good time travel based show – I mean, I’m in an eternal love affair with Doctor Who for Pete’s sake – and Timeless is a pretty good time travel show. It has its ups and downs, for sure, but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty enjoyable show. From Eric Kripke (“Revolution,” “Supernatural”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), Season 2 of this thrilling action-adventure series will pick up right where we left off with our heroes in the explosive Season 1 finale. We continue to race throughout history with our beloved team: Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), a scientist; Wyatt (Matt Lanter), a soldier; and Lucy (Abigail Spencer), a history professor, in an attempt to prevent the destruction of our world as we all know it. This season they’ll find an unlikely ally in their quest to ruin Rittenhouse, a deadly organization with plans to change history and reshape reality — even though Lucy’s family has been a part of Rittenhouse for centuries. Still making every effort not to affect the past themselves, they will visit 1692, 1917, 1941, 1981 and more. We’ll be introduced to the likes of Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, William Randolph Hearst and a multitude of other influential people throughout history. (This review will contain spoilers for all of season 1 and the first episode of season 2) (more…)
I don’t know that I, Tonya (written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie) every fully comes together as a film, but it’s a massively enjoyable two hours, for sure. It’s mainly due to extraordinary performances from the cast – especially Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding and Allison Janey as her mother, LaVona Golden – that the film ends up being as good as it is. Narratively, it’s a bit all over the place. Both the framing of the story – as though the filmmakers are interviewing the people involved in the plot – and the occasional literal interruption of scenes by the various characters breaking the fourth wall to address the audience are very clever and give the film a sense of humor and narrative thrust the whole film. I wanna be clear that I, Tonya is a very enjoyable film. The actors are great, the dialogue is witty and sharp, the script is often very clever and very funny, and the cinematography is frequently stunning – especially during the scenes reenacting one of Tonya Harding’s figure skating performances.
I just don’t know that the actual plot of the film ever fully comes together. I’m not sure what the movie was trying to say about the whole Nancy Kerrigan incident. I think the film was operating under the assumption that Harding, herself, was mostly innocent, and the whole thing was the fault of her ex-husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan) and his idiot friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser). This thesis would make sense in the context of the film as a frequent, recurring theme is how Tonya never takes responsibility for her own actions. Her poor scores are always someone else’s fault; anytime anything goes wrong, it’s never her fault. So, maybe the film is extending that theme to cover the Nancy Kerrigan incident. It’s not Tonya’s fault that it happened, even though she knew about it. I just don’t think the film really makes that clear. Still, even if the film doesn’t ever completely come together narratively and thematically, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s funny, beautiful to look at, filled with impressive performances from talented actors and actresses, and it’s a good way to spend two hours.
(3.5 out of 5 wands)
Disney and Lucasfilm have released the first trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story and it doesn’t look all that good. It’s kind of a mess, to be honest. Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t feel remotely like Han Solo in this trailer and it’s easily apparent why Disney reportedly had to hire an acting coach for him for this film. The visuals are nice, and Donald Glover as Lando looks like a lot of fun, but otherwise, it just looks kinda meh. Star Wars has gotten great at producing great trailers and mediocre movies and nothing in this trailer gives me the impression that Solo: A Star Wars Story is about to change that. I’m not sure if the film is setting out to be a comedy or an action movie (or both), but if it’s a comedy, it seems even stranger that Lucasfilm fired the original directors of the movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, given their comedic background. I dunno really what to make of this trailer or the movie. The movie utterly failed at piquing my interest or making me excited for the movie. Unless the quality of future trailers increases dramatically, I won’t be seeing this film in theaters.
A more in-depth review of the trailer can be found on my YouTube channel or in the video below:
The Hollywood Reporter is now reporting that Jesse Alexander (Hannibal, Star Trek Discovery) will be taking over showrunning duties from Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for the upcoming second season of American Gods. It’s nice that we finally have a new showrunner for the show, at least. That being said, there are some worrying aspects that have been revealed through this report. For starters, it seems that the departure of Fuller and Green was a lot more contentious than previously believed. (more…)
The thing I love the most about The Good Place is how it manages to constantly surprise me each and every week. Every time I think I know what the show is gonna do, it pulls the rug out from underneath me and goes in a completely different, narratively earned, direction. From executive producer Michael Schur comes a unique comedy about what makes a good person. The show follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), an ordinary woman who enters the afterlife, and thanks to some kind of error, is sent to the Good Place instead of the Bad Place (which is definitely where she belongs). While hiding in plain sight from Michael (Ted Danson), the wise architect of the Good Place (who doesn’t know he’s made a mistake), she’s determined to shed her old way of living and earn her spot. The first season featured surprise after surprise and twist after twist, all leading to a world-upending finale that throws everything up in the air for season two. Helping Eleanor navigate her surroundings is Chidi (William Jackson Harper), her kind, open-hearted “soul mate” who seeks a philosophical solution to every problem; her seemingly perfect neighbors Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto); and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), the go-to source for any and all information in the Good Place.
(This review will feature major spoilers for season one and most of season two – and minor spoilers for the end of season two) (more…)
It’s actually kind of amazing just how boring Darkest Hour (written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Joe Wright) is. It takes over an hour for this film about U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) to actually really get going, and even then it never elevates itself above made-for-tv biopic levels. Gary Oldman is truly stunning as Winston Churchill; he’s nearly unrecognizable! Between the makeup and the clear effort he’s put into not sounding like himself, Oldman completely loses himself in the role of Churchill, and his performance is probably the best part of the film. As I said, the pacing of the film is dreadful. The first hour of the movie moves by at the pace of a snail, doing nothing to really help you connect with any of the characters nor introducing the true central conflict of the film. The only reason the movie even comes close to succeeding is that all of the actors are enormously talented and play well off each other, especially Oldman and anyone who interacts with him.
It’s sad, though, because at the edges of this film is a much more interesting story just itching to be told. Every now and then, the film will cut to one of the two female characters – Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), Churchill’s assistant, and Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill’s wife – and explore how Churchill’s actions impact them and the impact they, in turn, have on him. Those elements are the most interesting elements in the film – aside from Oldman’s performance – and a film that explored how the people Churchill surround himself with – men and women – impacted his tenure as Prime Minister, and the decisions he made, would’ve been a far more interesting story than the one we were presented with. As it stands, Darkest Hour is a boring film. It takes forever to get going, and once it does get going, it never amounts to much of anything. It’s mostly competently directed, even featuring some fairly interesting camerawork by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, but Joe Wright’s directing is unable to make up for the sheer dullness of Anthony McCarten’s script. The film is mostly saved by the performances of the actors – chiefly Oldman, James, and Thomas – but even they can’t make this film truly interesting.
2.5 out of 5 wands
Portkey Games and Warner Bros. recently released an early access/beta version of the upcoming mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Set in the decade before Harry Potter attended Hogwarts, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery allows players to create their own characters and experience life as a student at Hogwarts while living their own adventure – featuring a new story set in the universe of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – and encountering familiar characters along the way, such as Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Bill Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and more. The game is the mobile game equivalent of a touch-and-click adventure where players tap various items on the screen to advance the story forward while collecting experience and other materials all under the confines of an energy meter system.
Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – which he wrote and directed – is a film that seems to be about life in small-town America where a woman – Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand – feels that the local police department, led by Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), hasn’t been doing enough to solve the rape and murder of her daughter, so she rents three billboards just outside of town to broadcast a message she hopes will kick the police department into gear. The film explores the fallout from those billboards and how this unsolved murder and how Mildred’s actions affect the town as a whole. The problem with the film, however, is it doesn’t seem to have anything to say about the issue it tackles. The cops are all presented in fairly unsympathetic light throughout the film – and no amount of charming Woody Harrelson performances are able to change that; Mildred Hayes has a complete lack of any kind of a character arc – she starts off the film being angry about the police’s lack of progress and ends the film in pretty much the same spot, having learned no lesson and feeling no remorse for any of the events that have occurred throughout the film that are a direct result of her actions; and even goes so far as to try and get the audience to sympathize and forgive the cop that Sam Rockwell plays – a cop who is incompetent, sexist, and so racist that he actually tortured a person of color who was being held in custody. The film goes so far to try and redeem his character but offers no actual reason for the audience to forgive him. He doesn’t feel any remorse, so why are we supposed to suddenly forgive him just because he overheard something at a bar that caused him to actually to the bare minimum requirements of his job as a policeman? He doesn’t even do those bare minimum requirements well! His redemption arc consists of him mediocrely attempting the bare minimum of a decent cop and I’m supposed to root for him now? It just didn’t sit well with me.
Three Billboards isn’t a bad movie. It’s fairly funny at times and features a lot of really good performances from some really talented actors. As much as I want Sally Hawkins to win the Oscar for Best Actress, if she has to lose to anyone, Frances McDormand in this film is a good person to lose to. The directing is mostly competent as well and the pacing moves along at a fairly brisk pace. The problem with the film is the script and the poor storytelling it contains within it. Apparently, Martin McDonagh is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter, but having seen nor read anything else that he’s written, I’m confused by that assessment of his talents. He’s a fine director, sure, but in Three Billboards, he doesn’t seem to have anything to say about what he’s chosen to write about and he puts no effort into giving his characters any kind of arc or development. His script fails on almost every level. The film isn’t bad, but it doesn’t deserve the awards it’s getting. Some of the actors do, but the film itself is nowhere near the best film of 2017.
3 out of 5 wands
In a way, this latest season of The X-Files is a return to form for the show. From week to week, it goes from a really problematic episode to a really enjoyable one, to a mediocre one, and, finally, to a new classic for the show. Equally interesting is how the best episodes of the season so far have been the ones that weren’t written by Chris Carter. Picking up where 2016’s tenth season left off, Season 11 of The X-Files follow FBI Agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) as they work to stop an impending apocalypse, seemingly caused by the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), and continue to investigate the titular X-Files, a collection of cases that defy conventional thinking and explanation, while searching for their missing son, William, a boy who may just be the key to averting the apocalypse. (Mild spoilers for the first four episodes of Season 11 follow)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a remarkably well made Batman film. It’s even more impressive that said amazing film is a straight-to-DVD animated adaptation of a short Elseworlds graphic novel – a series of graphic novels from DC Comics that takes popular characters and places them in new situations/settings/etc. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, originally written by Brian Augustyn and featuring art from Mike Mignola, placing Bruce Wayne/Batman squarely in the late 1800s in Gotham City, where it seems that the infamous Jack the Ripper has relocated to continue his spree of terror by murdering women. Written by James Krieg and directed by Sam Liu, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight follows the Caped Crusader as he works – from the shadows – to stop Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror before it can get any worse while dodging the ever-suspicious Gotham police. If ever there were a crime from the world’s greatest detective, this would be it. (Mild spoilers follow.) (more…)