25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: LET IT SNOW

Let It Snow (2019)

Starring

Isabela Merced (Sweet Girl)
Shameik Moore (The Get Down)
Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Mitchell Hope (Descendants)
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)
Anna Akana (You Get Me)
Odeya Rush (Lady Bird)
Mason Gooding (Booksmart)
Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Joan Cusack (Addams Family Values)
Miles Robbins (Halloween 2018)
D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place)
Hallea Jones (Locke & Key)

Shameik Moore and Isabela Merced in Let It Snow (2019)On Christmas Eve in Laurel, Illinois, Julie Reyes runs into rising pop star, Stuart Bale, on a train. He mistakes her as paparazzi when she tries to return his phone to him, to which she takes offense, despite his apologies. After the train is stopped by snowed over tracks, Julie gets off to walk home, Stuart joins and offers lunch at a local diner called Waffle Town. She reluctantly agrees and also saves Stuart from a group of fan girls cheerleaders. She reveals to Stuart she got accepted in Columbia University in New York and her mom is also deathly sick, but if she delays leaving, she’ll lose the scholarship.Odeya Rush and Liv Hewson in Let It Snow (2019)The pair ended up going sledding and meet Julie’s mom, Debbie. They go back to Julie’s house where Stuart is introduced to Julie’s grandpa and they bond over Mick Jagger and everyone dances to one of his songs. During which Debbie throws a coughing fit, causing Julie concern. Stuart offers to get her a nurse for her mom, but Julie sees it as a charity case to which Stuart dismisses, stating he offered it cause he cares about Julie. The two almost kiss when Stuart’s publicist shows up to take him back to his hotel. Stuart offers for Julie to come with him, but she declines, feeling a need to stay with her mom.Kiernan Shipka in Let It Snow (2019)Across town, Waffle Town employee, Dorrie, tries to juggle her best friend, Addie, who’s worried that her boyfriend is going to break up with her and telling a cheerleader she hooked up that she likes her who visits Waffle Town with her friends. She receives a cold response from the girl, Kerry, and Addie makes a scene with her boyfriend in the diner. Dorrie tries to calm her down, but she storms off. Meanwhile, Tobin plans to tell his best friend, Angie, nicknamed The Duke, that he likes her. The two are invited to a party by Duke’s friend, JP, who Tobin sees as competition. The three end up stealing the keg from the party and ended up in a ditch. They wait for the tow truck in a nearby church where Duke has Tobin play “Whole of the Moon”, but when JP and Duke start dancing together, Tobin leaves. Duke attempts to talk to Tobin about it, who brushes her off, angering her.Isabela Merced in Let It Snow (2019)Tobin’s friend, Keon, attempts to arrange a party to impress a big time DJ, but his parents shut down the party attempt at his house and gets called into work at Waffle Town. His friend and fellow co-worker, Billy, offers Waffle Town as a party spot, provided he get the necessary supplies. Back at home, Julie’s mom convinces her to go to Columbia, stating “when life offers you something special, you take it”.Let-It-SnowEveryone ends up at Keon’s party after Tobin arrives with the stolen keg. Duke arrives and Tobin confesses his love for her, to which she admits the same. Addie returns to Waffle Town and apologizes to Dorrie for her rude behavior. Kerry apologizes to Dorrie for her hot and cold behavior, kisses her in the open, and the two begin a relationship. Dorrie and Julie tell each other about their day when Stuart returns, wanting to see Julie again before he left town. The two kiss and make plans to meet in New York when Julie moves to Columbia. Keon’s party ends up a success, despite the DJ not coming anymore and everyone dances all night long.tmp_hqzVfr_ee7f23718d575e17_edit_img_image_original_46799927_1571861248It was very interesting and engaging all the time. Like, there was no time when I felt that it’s way too long or slow. I guess it was perfect in everything like the cast and all but yeah, the film could have been better. It had good comedy and romance which I was expecting from it. So, in that scenario it was up to my expectations. It’s a nice film to watch this Christmas.

 

 

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 3

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

MAIN CAST

Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Liv Hewson (Inhumans)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Santa Clarita Diet (2017)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Natalie Morales (Powerless)
Goran Visnjic (The Girl In The Dragon Tatoo)
Leo Howard (Conan The Barbarian)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Maggie Lawson (Two and a Half Men)
Joel McHale (Happy Time Murders)
Jonathan Slavin (Speechless)
Ethan Suplee (The Ranch)
Shalita Grant (Bones)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Thomas Lennon (The Order)
Matthew Glave (Argo)
Ramona Young (Legends of Tomorrow)
Linda Lavin (Wanderlust)
Malcolm Barrett (Swimfan)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (New Girl)
Kerri Kenney (Anger Management)
Eric Nenninger (The Flash)
Matt Shively (American Housewife)
Artemis Pebdani (Son of Zorn)

17362723_340606059674192_6261011132851321202_nThere are few things more joyful than the sight of Drew Barrymore having fun. I always feel she’s earned it. And never does she seem to have more fun than as undead suburban mum – or “mombie”, if you will – in zombie sitcom – or “zomcom”, if you will – Santa Clarita Diet, whose third series has just dropped with a bloody squelch on Netflix.santa-clarita-dietFans will recall that we left Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) Hammond after they had just blown up the clam farm responsible for turning Sheila and others into undead flesh-eaters and had been discovered harbouring a still-talking decapitated head in their basement by their police officer neighbour Anne. That’s Gary, whom Sheila killed when she was still learning to curb her new murderous instincts, but who came back to life, because, well, it’s a zomcom.17800340_348027332265398_4751450473229260878_nThe third series expands the Hammonds’ and the show’s universe. Anne is cleaving close, having decided that the resurrected Sheila is a divine instrument and that Anne’s purpose is to help her to murder Nazis. For her, it’s God’s work, news of which is to be shared with her church. For Sheila, it’s the most ethically securable lunch, and very much to be kept to themselves. Rival realtors Chris and Christa Caldwell – magnificently vicious creations both – are back, Gary’s decomposing head (they forgot his serum) is full of ideas for the Hammonds’ estate agency, and the relationship between Abby (Liv Hewson) and Eric (Skyler Gisondo, who has all the command of Michael Cera without the tics) is deepening without losing any of its almost heartbreaking charm or laughs.993877_493271127545501_7030441332169042474_nThe Hammonds are still on a fairly tight murder schedule, but rather than it forming the centrepiece of every episode, this season is letting the Serbian mythology, which seems to hold the key to explaining Sheila’s predicament, take a more prominent role. I hope it takes a while to unlock, because one of the people from that vampire-’n’-assorted-other-lore-rich country who has arrived in California to track Sheila and her ilk down is played by Goran Višnjić, displaying the kind of comic chops you never dreamed of when he was poor, tormented Dr Luka Kovač in ER.9244cf84-fa2c-4528-9492-20fabb04d5aa-scd_108_unit_00291_r_cropSo there are changes (the gore remains a constant, and still not quite cartoonish enough to stop me needing a sick bucket), but Santa Clarita Diet’s core strength remains: the portrait of a marriage under comic but emotionally resonant strain. It’s played for laughs – and one-liners, visual gags, callbacks and fleeting asides abound (“And there’s so many more of them around these days!” says a delighted Joel as they rejoice briefly in their Nazis-as-lobster-tank-for-Sheila idea) – but it asks us what we’d do for love and how far we’d go for our partners. Joel has just about got used to his new husbandly role as accessory to multiple murder, but in season three the couple begin to realise the other ramifications of Sheila’s condition. Her immortality means she will outlive her entire family – unless she bites them and they join her in her bloodthirsty ways. Santa Clarita Diet remains a gorgeously flavourful one. Fill up.

 

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 2

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)

MAIN CAST

Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Liv Hewson (Inhumans)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)

scd_201_unit_00282_r

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jee Young Han (Why Him?)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Maggie Lawson (The Ranch)
Ramona Young (Z Nation)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Joel McHale (Spider-Man 2)
Andy Richter (Elf)
Natalie Morales (The Grinder)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Sarah Baker (The Campaign)
Jonathan Slavin (My Name Is Earl)
Matt Shively (American Housewife)

santa-clarita-diet-season-2-joel-mchale-castSeconds are seldom as good as the initial meal. You’ve already eaten. Your stomach is beginning to fill. The mystery of the menu is gone. And because a food analogy isn’t strong enough to encompass a television show, the same thing about seconds can also be said with zombie films. There are rare occasions where the sequel is stronger than the original movie, but there’s usually a diminishing return the more you see zombies. These are areas where the “second course” is inevitably disappointing in comparison to the first, however Santa Clarita Diet season 2 rises above these expectations. If anything this new season will leave the audience hungry for more rather than feeling full from these undead antics. When the last season of Santa Clarita Diet ended, the series started to finally find a fitting groove and the tone. Santa Clarita Diet’s second season overpowers season one in practically every way possible.t5sbiwdabipjop4ures7The biggest strengths from the first season of Santa Clarita Diet came from Victor Fresco’s (Better Off Ted, Andy Richter Controls the Universe) irreverent, fearless comedy that was allowed to inject itself into an outrageous premise. All of that is still present and some of the rougher patches from the series’ freshman year like Barrymore’s broad performance or the show’s inconsistent tone during its beginning are now smoothed out. The series also benefits from everyone going into “rescue mode” over Sheila and her condition rather than the whole “let’s hide the central story” aspect that dominates so much of the first season. The training wheels are now off and this show really starts to get creative and have fun with its premise.6ccb292a-6ab9-4760-8a4d-dbdcec443b43Much of Santa Clarita Diet season 2 focuses on the Hammond family’s attempts to normalize their situation. For instance, if Sheila is chained up in the basement, then why not dress up the basement and slap a fresh coat of paint on the ugly situation? Right from the jump of the season there may be people who are anxious that Sheila should just be murdered, but clearly the family is in for the long haul. Joel, Abby, and even Eric are all blissfully hopeful towards their unique situation. Curiously enough, in spite of all the high stakes life and death undead material, Joel and Sheila still worry about their real estate job and it occupies a reasonable part of the season. That might seem like a considerably less important aspect of the series, but it’s encouraging to see the show try to embrace this normalcy, for better or worse. Meanwhile, Joel and Sheila’s murder-happy misadventures still go down under the nose of Deputy Ann, who’s only a few doors away. The ways in which they both squirm out of conversations with Ann and proceed to make matters worse for themselves is always the best kind of awkward mess. Sheila and Joel also find themselves in the weird situation where murder seems to be the best way to handle their problems, but they don’t just want to resort to murder whenever they’re caught in a bind, regardless of how good they may have gotten at it.Skyler Gisondo and Liv Hewson in Santa Clarita Diet (2017)At the same time, these middle-aged parents also realize that without these adrenaline-pumping murders in their lives they’re pretty boring people who don’t have much game. At one point Joel laments, “We’re realtors, so killing people and stuffing them in our fridge doesn’t come naturally.” That’s basically this show in a nutshell. Sheila’s “condition” is an obvious problem, but this season is just as interested in the fact that that Joel and his wife haven’t been able to have a date night, build a bookshelf, or write a yelp review since all of this undead business started. Santa Clarita Diet season 2 also starts to expand the show’s world in bigger ways. There are more undead individuals that are out there in addition to organizations that are on the hunt for a cure or a means to exterminate this epidemic. These secret factions begin to come out of the woodwork this season and it’s a good creative move on the show’s part. Joel and Sheila’s secret life continues to intersect with their job and social lives in interesting ways, all of which make the two of them continue to ponder whether they’re good people or not. It’s great to see Joel and Sheila use death and horror as a prop for comedy. You really don’t see that perspective anywhere else in this context—it’s almost like a suburban Dexter or The Walking Dead. Sure there are programs like Ash Vs the Evil Dead or Stan Against Evil, but this is so deeply entrenched in its family dynamic and is a comedy first and horrorsecond.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-netflix-feature

This season also digs into the bigger questions, like how Sheila became infected in the first place. Joel and company assume that if they figure this out then they can reverse engineer the rest of this mystery. The show’s mythology explodes in a big way here and the story turns into something that’s so much more interesting than simply a comedic take on zombies, which the show could be guilty of during its first season. The show’s lore goes to some fascinating places that touch on territory like the Knights of the Templar and all sorts of things that you wouldn’t expect. One of the best things about Santa Clarita Diet is its phenomenal cast and in the show’s second season everyone’s only more comfortable in these roles. There’s seriously such chemistry between the reluctantly murderous Hammond family. Their dynamic really clicks this year and they all feel more natural in a way that was absent last season. Timothy Olyphant’s Joel continues to play unhinged and flustered in the best way possible. The wide-eyed, beleaguered way in which he does comedy is perfect for this universe.santa-clarita-diet-season-2-trailerDrew Barrymore does an even better job as Sheila this season now that she’s acclimated to the role a little better. She plays the role with the glee of a puppy who’s just found a new toy. The show also really explores the beauty in how becoming undead can allow people to finally become the people that they wanted to be in life. It just happens to be something that comes with the awful side effect of needing to consume human flesh. Some of the best work from this season comes from the younger half of the show’s cast. Skyler Gisondo really gets to step up his game as the hapless Eric Bemis and he finds himself overwhelmed in a whole new way this year. His burgeoning relationship with Abby continues to make for believable tension between the two of them as well. On that note, this season is also a real showpiece for Abby’s Liv Hewson. The character goes through a metamorphosis that is a lot of fun to watch. Abby redefines who she is in both school and real life and it’s a fascinating arc for her character. Sometimes your mom turning into a zombie can be just as life changing as turning into the zombie yourself.20190221-PAGEONE-SANTA-CLARITASanta Clarita Diet’s second season features strong storytelling and performances, but it also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the extreme visuals and gore. This season features gruesome sights like broken thumbs, the lesson of what microwave settings to apply to frozen body parts, spider balls, and explosions of blood that make it seem like humans are carbonated soda that are just waiting to burst. In this sense, the show’s humor is still particularly on point and many conversations should make audiences laugh out loud, such as the prospect of sprucing up a kill room so it doesn’t so obviously look like a kill room or the debate of whether it’s discriminatory to kill a Nazi who’s in a wheelchair and the moral relativism of such a murder. Santa Clarita Diet proves that it has a sustainable vision and that this show is more than just some one-season fad. If anything the show is only getting better and it doesn’t suffer from the usual problems that can afflict Netflix shows, such as the season’s pacing. Admittedly, some of the show’s fight scenes play out a little awkwardly and look low budget, but it’s hardly a big deal. This isn’t Daredevil. The show’s second season snowballs and culminates in an impressive way where the year ends on a huge note that once more questions the status quo of the series. The bottom line here is that it’s consistently compelling and enjoyable to see if Joel and Sheila can continue to keep all of their blood-soaked balls in the air.

 

REVIEW: INHUMANS: THE COMPLETE SERIES

MAIN CAST

Anson Mount (Safe)
Serinda Swan (Smallville)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Eme Ikwuakor (Ink)
Isabelle Cornish (Home and Away)
Ellen Woglom (April Showers)
Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Mike Moh (Street Fighter: Assassin’s fist)
Sonya Balmores (Soul Surfer)
Henry Ian Cusick (Lost)
Jamie Gray Hyder (Voltron: Legendary Defender)
Chad Buchanan (Star)
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Marco Rodríguez (Nightcrawler)
Tom Wright (Creepshow 2)
Krista Alvarez (Wawaii Five-O)
Bridger Zadina  (Bosch)
Ptolemy Slocum (Westworld)

… And Finally: Inhumans is done. Not officially, mind you — there’s always a chance that this sucker will scrape through to renewal somehow, so until you see a headline confirming its cancellation, assume nothing. Still, whether Marvel’s underwhelming series gets a second go-round or not, the series we saw at the end of September is done for. No more moon city. No more quiet room. No more magic wall face. No more minimalist, uncomfortable throne, at least until it’s revealed what the squiggly blue letters mean. That reveal will never come, because seriously, Inhumans is probably done.It’s tempting to dive into this review by cataloguing the miscalculations, wrongs turns, and missed opportunities that have plagued Inhumans since the beginning. It’s a total buffet of bad judgment, with options ranging from ‘takes the entire premise far too seriously’ to ‘spends too little time with the giant teleporting dog,’ but a roster of missteps isn’t particularly useful or interesting. Still, there are chronic problems worth digging into, because the issues that have most troubled this series are the same ones that sink what was surely meant to be a gripping finale. As it turns out, when you don’t invest at all in your characters, their motivations, and the consequences of their actions, you wind up with a dismal, easily forgettable slog.Some of the failure in this area comes down to casting. The Inhumans ensemble isn’t uniformly bad — despite being given basically nothing of sense to do, Ken Leung, Iwan Rheon, Ellen Woglom, and a few others work their asses off to make a few individual moments work. It should also be said that even highly capable performers can’t do much when they’re desperately miscast. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that Anson Mount’s apparent inability to emotionally engage with the other actors, with the story, with the camera, and with the audience tanks pretty much any scene in which he plays a part. That’s been a problem from the get-go, but it’s a more significant issue here. It’s right there in the title: this is meant to be the Black Bolt variety hour, and yet it’s likely that the biggest response he’ll get will come courtesy of the moment he taps Maximus right over his heart, and said response will probably come in the form of a snort.Mount’s fighting an uphill battle no actor could possibly win. Viola Davis couldn’t make this stuff work. “… And Finally: Black Bolt” centers on a relationship in which the show has not invested, made up of two people the show has taken no time to develop. As the episode meanders toward the scenes meant to make up its climax, it drops information by the wayside, hoping a confession to a crime might help up the stakes. It seems to hope that time spent wandering empty hallways can trick an audience into suddenly caring about the fates of people about whom they know almost nothing. If Inhumans aims to make Maximus a sympathetic character, that ship has long since sailed. If it wants to give Black Bolt some kind of emotional journey, the point at which we’re all supposed to begin to care remains unclear. And if it thinks Black Bolt choosing to break his silence is a powerful moment, its writers should probably have done more to set that up than simply having an actor stay quiet for seven long episodes.The moment Black Bolt whispers “Goodbye, brother” falls flat for any number of reasons. As stated above, there’s no reason to care about the relationship between the two brothers, and that failing alone pretty much dooms the scene. But there’s more to it than that. In fiction, the destruction of one’s home is often symbolic, representing a loss of identity or links to the past, or signalling a future in which old wounds and baggage are left behind. That seems to fit, but because there’s no sense of what Black Bolt’s journey has been, how his perspective has changed or how his beliefs have shifted, there’s no reason to believe the crumbling of that building is anything more than an easy way to block some doors. He doesn’t want to kill his brother, but he’s willing to condemn him to a life that will be lived entirely alone uncase some creepy space invaders show up. That’s a choice that could make sense for the character, but even if it did, we’d have know way of knowing, because Black Bolt lacks any kind of internal life. He’s just a guy who’s a king, a man with a wife and his own sign language. That’s what we’ve got.That’s one example of many — “And Finally” treats the motivations of its characters with a similar level of disinterest throughout its too-long running time. Why does Medusa ask Louise for help, and what’s the help she needs? The answer to the former seems to be that Louise is the only human she knows; the answer to the latter is most likely something along the lines of “oh who cares, just write the scene.” Why does Karnak want to keep Gorgon alive, despite Gorgon’s obvious misery and lack of control? Because it’s better than than Gorgon being dead, one assumes, despite some evidence to the contrary — and the emotional effect of that evidence on Karnak is unclear. Why does Auran make any of the choices she makes here? Absolutely no idea. It’s not even all that clear what those actions are. Medusa smashes the crystal, because that seems dramatic. Maximus reveals his role in the death of his parents, because that was something on the episode checklist.What all this stuff — the lack of development, the unanswered questions, the unexplored ideas, the plot holes, the inexplicable choices — what all these things have in common is total lack of thoughtfulness. It’s there in the uneven effects and the inconsistent tone and the lack of any kind of cohesive written or visual story. It’s evident in the lack of planning that leads to casting Henry Ian Cusack, giving him almost nothing to do for eight episodes, then killing his character to solve a plot problem that doesn’t actually even matter because of other developments to come. It’s even clear in the relative lack of Lockjaw. Failing all else, one should at least try to make a finale entertaining. Even if Inhumans doesn’t give a damn about the people in “… And Finally: Black Bolt,” the show could at least have given half a damn about the dog.

REVIEW: SANTA CLARITA DIET – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Drew Barrymore (Charlies Angels)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Liv Hewson (Before I Fall)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Masterminds)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Joy Osmanski (Samantha Who?)
Natalie Morales  (Wall Street 2)
Thomas Lennon (Balls of Fury)
Grace Zabriskie (Drop Zone)
DeObia Oparei (Moulin Rouge!)
Portia de Rossi (Scream 2)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Andy Richter (Elf)
Kaylee Bryant (Legacies)
Patton Oswalt (Agents of S.h.i.e.l.d.)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Derek Waters (Hall Pass)
Ravi Patel (Grandfathered)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Ramona Young (Z Nation)

Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix is an odd and yet oddly simple series. Its creator, Victor Fresco, made his name with Better Off Ted, which played fast and loose with the conventions of the office comedy. In Santa Clarita, he attacks the family sitcom with the same stylized absurdity and mock naïveté. And zombies. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as Sheila and Joel, married real estate agents with a teenage daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson). That changes when Sheila dies after an epic fit of vomiting and comes back to life full of energy, sexually supercharged and very, very hungry for human flesh.
drew-barrymore-timothy-olyphant-santa-clarita-dietIt’s a clever idea — zombification as the route to midlife rejuvenation. Rather than grow bitter and have affairs, Sheila sips human smoothies and gets happier. Her new joie de mourir even recharges her marriage with Joel, a former jock who has receded into a suburban ineffectualness symbolized by the flip-flops he wears around the cul-de-sac.
santa-clarita-diet-staffel-1-01-rcm992x0The first few episodes of “Santa Clarita Diet” do have a good amount of gore and the last third of the season fills out as the mystery and thriller. But there’s a stretch in the middle where Mr. Fresco and his writers have a lot of fun subverting the formulas of the suburban comedy. Family dinners require finesse (because Mom eats people). Abby is angry that her parents keep secrets (because Mom eats people). When told that a pedophile has moved in down the street, Sheila perks up, because she’s on the lookout for undesirable people she won’t feel guilty about eating.screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-10-05-38-amA funny premise and appealing performances take Santa Clarita Diet far. There are enough laughs to make this show bingeable.