Archive for the ‘TV reviews’ Category

Review: Don’t call it a comeback—The Boys returns better than ever in S2

October 17th, 2020

Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its second season.

In my review of The Boys S1 last year, I called the Amazon Prime series "a wickedly funny, darkly irreverent adaptation" and "ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies." I wasn't alone in my love for the show: The Boys was a massive hit, and that success has continued with S2, which was the most-watched global launch of any Amazon series to date, pretty much doubling the show's worldwide audience. S2 is even better than its predecessor, deftly tackling timely themes and hot-button issues, while never sacrificing all the biting satire and good, gory fun that we loved about S1. And can we just give Antony Starr an Emmy already for his stunning performance as Homelander?

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, headed up by Homelander (Starr), a truly violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero, who mostly bullies his supe team into compliance. The other members include A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who boasts super-speed but has also become addicted to the experimental performance-enhancing substance called Compound-V. The Deep (Chace Crawford) can breathe underwater, thanks to having gills—voiced in S2 by Patton Oswalt during a hallucination sequence—and converse with marine creatures.

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Review: Smartly satirical Teenage Bounty Hunters is a perfect weekend binge

August 17th, 2020

Fraternal twin sisters Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) join forces with bounty hunter Bowser Simmons (Kadeem Hardison) in the new Netflix series Teenage Bounty Hunters.

Twin sisters juggle the demands of high school, their Christian youth group, and raging hormones with a side gig working for a local bounty hunter in the new Netflix series, Teenage Bounty Hunters. Creator Kathleen Jordan's delightful comedy-drama definitely brings the laughs with its razor-sharp satire, but it is also a smart, nuanced coming of age story with some genuinely surprising twists and turns. One of the executive producers is Jenji Kohan, who also worked on WeedsGLOW, and Orange Is the New Black, and Teenage Bounty Hunters shares a similar sensibility.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Per the official premise:

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Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

August 7th, 2020

TKTK in the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year's debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a "found family" of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series' potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can't really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a "negative energy entity" inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

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Family affairs: Everyone learns they can’t go home again in Killing Eve S3

June 2nd, 2020

Killing Eve burst onto the scene in 2018 to rave reviews, as viewers and critics alike were enthralled by the sexually charged cat-and-mouse game playing out between MI6 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and expert assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Alas, while S2 had some powerful moments, overall it lacked the same taut, addictive focus. But the series came back strong for its third season, fleshing out the story in some fresh, fascinating ways. Small wonder it's already been renewed for a fourth season.

(A couple of major spoilers below for first six episodes of S3—we'll give you a heads-up when we get there—but no major reveals for the final two episodes.)

As S3 opened, we learned that Eve survived being shot by Villanelle in the S2 finale (duh). She is keeping a low profile, working in the kitchen of a dumpling eatery in London, and living on a shocking amount of junk food in her dismal flat. Her long-suffering math teacher husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) also survived his encounter with Villanelle in S2 (although his fellow teacher, Gemma, did not). He is now an in-patient being treated for PTSD, and unreceptive to Eve's efforts to reconnect.

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Review: Kingdom is better (and more relevant) than ever in S2

March 22nd, 2020

Part historical political drama, part supernatural zombie horror, the South Korean series Kingdom proved to be a smart, heady, addictive delight when it debuted last year, easily earning a spot on our year's best list for 2019. It boasted stunning visuals, memorable characters, and a juggernaut of a plot, with the occasional moments of comic relief. If anything, S2 is even better. Honestly, between this outstanding series and the Oscar-winning Parasite alone, South Korea has firmly established itself at the forefront of global film and television.

(Spoilers for S1; some spoilers for S2 below the gallery.)

The series is based on a popular South Korean webcomic Kingdom of the Gods by Kim Eun-hee, who also adapted it for television. Set in Korea's Joseon period, ), Kingdom begins as the current king has succumbed to smallpox. His conniving young wife, Queen Cho (Kim Hye-jun), and her family have kept him artificially alive—via a "resurrection plant" that turns the king into a flesh-eating zombie—until her son is born. Her son would inherit the throne over the current Crown Prince, Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who was born to a concubine.

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Review: Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord returns to classic Doctor Who form

March 4th, 2020

After taking pains to set Jodie Whittaker's 13th Doctor apart in his first stint as Doctor Who showrunner, Chris Chibnall took a different tack with series 12, upping the stakes and giving us more of the classic tropes that have made this long-running series so enduringly appealing. The season included the revival of a well-known nemesis and a classic monster, plus an entertaining cameo by a former ally. And the finale dove deep into Whovian lore to give us a pretty big final twist.

(Mild spoilers below until the second gallery; some major spoilers after. We'll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

Last season, the Doctor landed in Sheffield, sans TARDIS, right after regenerating. She teamed up with some locals as her new companions (aka her "fam"): Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh, Coronation Street); his grown stepson Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole, Hollyoaks); and Ryan's old school chum, Yasmin "Yaz" Khan (Mandip Gill, also from Hollyoaks), a rookie police officer eager to prove herself.

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See on Apple TV+: Less Game of Thrones, more unintentionally funny Syfy

October 29th, 2019
Jason Momoa's character in <em>See</em> would like to axe you some questions. They're mostly about what the heck things look like, because his character is blind. So is pretty much everyone else.

Enlarge / Jason Momoa's character in See would like to axe you some questions. They're mostly about what the heck things look like, because his character is blind. So is pretty much everyone else. (credit: Apple)

When Apple TV+ launches on November 1, it brings with it five original titles: four TV series and one movie. This seems like a modest start, but it's four more titles than Netflix had when it first started hocking original programming in February 2013.

The difference is Netflix's first release, House of Cards: it was an out-of-the-box critical hit (and landed in a cozy bed of other familiar TV and film options). For Apple TV+, things aren't so clear cut. Of the four series on offer, the most ambitious is the science-fiction story See. Apple never came directly out and said this show was its Game Of Thrones-like series, but the size and scope (and the casting of Jason Momoa) draw natural comparisons. Of the three episodes screened for review, that ambition is absolutely on display.

But See is no Game of Thrones. It's closer in nature to the campy fantasy of the 1980s or a SyFy Saturday night movie like Zombie Tidal Wave, albeit with a much larger budget.

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Review: Fight scenes are the only bright spot in grim, joyless Wu Assassins

August 19th, 2019

Iko Uwais stars as Kai Jin, a Chinese-Indonesian chef in San Francisco's Chinatown who is granted a mystical power in the new Netflix series Wu Assassins.

A humble chef is granted mystical powers to hunt down five powerful warlords in Wu Assassins, a new supernatural action drama from Netflix. Unfortunately, a talented cast and terrific fight choreography can't keep the show from sinking under the weight of its leaden, uninspired script. No martial arts series should be this much of a slog.

(Some spoilers below.)

Indonesian martial-arts star Iko Uwais (The Raid, Stuber) stars as Kai Jin, a Chinese-Indonesian chef in San Francisco's Chinatown who finds himself chosen as the last of the Wu Assassins, a long line of fighters tasked with killing the five Wu Warlords. The warlords all possess elemental supernatural powers tied to fire, wood, earth, metal, and water. These powers were conferred upon them by the Wu Xing: five shards that are absorbed into the body when touched. Kai's task is to kill the current crop of Wu Warlords, reassemble the shards, and send them back to heaven where they belong, thus ridding the world of their influence. Not that the Wu Xing are necessarily evil: we learn they reflect the character of whoever possesses them. It just so happens that bad people tend to crave the immense power they confer.

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Review: Jessica Jones S3 is flawed but packs a powerful payoff in the end

June 24th, 2019
Last Defender standing: Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) ponders what it means to be a hero in the final season.

Enlarge / Last Defender standing: Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) ponders what it means to be a hero in the final season. (credit: YouTube/Netflix)

Jessica Jones makes its final bow with an imperfect but ultimately powerful and thought-provoking third season. The series finale—canceled before it even started streaming, along with the rest of the Marvel/Netflix Defenders series—expertly explored conflicting notions of justice, the possibility of forgiveness and redemption, and what it really means to be a hero through the lens of Jessica's fractured relationship with her adoptive sister, Trish Walker.

(Spoilers for all three seasons below.)

Along with the first season of Daredevil in 2015, Jessica Jones helped launch the Defenders shared universe on Netflix to broad critical acclaim. The show earned praise for its gritty noir tone (perfectly captured in the main title sequence), complex characters (shout-out to Carrie-Ann Moss's Emmy-worthy turn as Jeri Hogarth), and unapologetically frank depiction of a woman struggling with PTSD in the wake of an abusive relationship. It's hands-down my favorite of the Defenders series, although Daredevil's arch-villain Wilson Fisk will always hold a special place in my esteem.

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Review: Teenagers must ward off mischievous supernatural beings in Jinn

June 23rd, 2019

Supernatural creatures threaten a group of high school students in the new Netflix series Jinn.

A high school field trip to the ancient archaeological site of Petra turns tragic, and supernatural creatures are unleashed to prey on the living in Jinn, the first Arabic language original series from Netflix. Forget the Westernized concept of genies found in our popular culture, like Aladdin or I Dream of Jeannie. This series draws on more traditional Arabian/Islamic mythology for its portrayal of the jinn, and it's all the richer for it.

(Mild spoilers below.)

Mira (Salma Malhas), a high school student in Amman, Jordan, is struggling with the recent loss of her mother and brother, and her mixed feelings for her jealous boyfriend, Fahed (Yasser Al Had), who is pressuring her for sex. When the high school class takes a field trip to Petra, tensions emerge, largely driven by Tareq (Abd Alrazzaq Jarkas), your typical high school bully with a broad misogynistic streak for good measure. He and his cronies torment the shyly anxious Yassin (Sultan Alkhail) because they think he ratted them out to the teacher for their many misdeeds.

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