REVIEW: JU-ON: ORIGINS

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Starring

Yoshiyoshi Arakawa (Hard-Core)
Yuina Kuroshim (Strobe Edge)
Kana Kurashina (Tokusatsu Gaga)
Tokio Emoto (Q10)
Ririka (Same Old, Same Old)

Image may contain: one or more people, child, night and close-upJu-On was one of a gateway film to Japanese horror for me, like many American fans of J-horror. This one film created by Takashi Shimizu became a long franchise with multiple American adaptations and even a crossover with another international J-horror sensation, Ringu in Sadako VS Kayako. Now, with JU-ON: Origins, Netflix Japan has released its first-ever original horror series and is tackling the “true events” the 13-film franchise is based on.Image may contain: 2 people, childDirected by Sho Miyake and written by Hiroshi Takahashi and Takashige Ichise, JU-ON: Origins focuses on the events that inspired Shimizu’s original story. In this series, we get an exploration of the beginning of the “curse” and a raw look at the chain of terror that befalls all of those who come into contact with the infamous house. Each episode of the series weaves interconnecting stories across various years. But, it all starts with Haruka, who after hearing strange sounds in her house, calls upon a psychic researcher to investigate the problem.Image may contain: 1 person, night and close-upNow JU-ON: Origins as a concept is familiar territory for horror fans. That said, prequels about iconic hauntings are a dime a dozen. Because of this, I entered this series with quite a few worries, especially after the latest American adaptation left me taxed and not wanting to see more of the story in Japan or America. That said, Ju-On: Origins quickly took all my preconceived ideas of what it would be and threw it out the window. With atmospheric storytelling, mystery, and truly frightening frames, this series is set to become a must-watch for horror fans across the globe even if the last episode has a different aesthetic than the previous five.Image may contain: 1 person, selfie, close-up and indoorAt 6-episodes in length and each one around 30-minutes, each episode feels like a complete story consistently growing darker and bleaker than the last. While the time jumps and change of characters can feel out of sorts at the start of the series when they begin to converge the magic of Takahashi and Ichise’s storytelling comes to life. The horror that they breathe into every scene and the way Miyake sets up each frame, you get to truly understand the meaning and pain of the J-horror ghost stories.Image may contain: one or more people and people sittingFor me, the J-horror films that came about in the 1990s and 2000s have been the closest to seeing my culture’s concepts of ghosts and vengeful represented, and it was Ju-On that brought me them. If you’re unfamiliar with the J-horror sub-genre, these stories often revolve around a spirit that has been transformed by its violent death and influenced by powerful emotions like hatred, sorrow, love, and the like. Now vengeful, they serve as the moral core of the stories and bring violence with them. And it’s on this note that Ju-On: Origins excels but can also be a hard watch for some viewers.Image may contain: one or more people and close-upOften, these ghost stories are deeply rooted in the physical trauma of a woman. Her murder, her suicide, her rape, and sometimes a mixture of traumatic circumstances all set the stage for J-horror’s formula. And in a way, JU-ON: Origins is no different. More specifically, it uses trauma to explain the violence that surrounds the house. In the second episode, one of the characters we follow is raped. It’s a shocking scene that shakes you. In another scene, a child is presumably beaten to death. While these scenes come early on in the series, the director takes his time to only ever show the beginning of the act, allowing the camera cut away. Screams to fill your speakers, but your imagination fills in the rest. Now, this series, especially the first three episodes should come with a large trigger warning. That said, it never once did it feel gratuitous. Every act of violence in JU-ON: Origins has a purpose and each of them gets increasingly more visceral.Image may contain: 1 person, sittingWith all of that said, if you go into this horror series with an open mind and ready to be unsettled, you’ll fall in love with the dark world of JU-ON: Origins. For the majority of the series, its grounded in practical effects, the use of darkness, a few jump-scares, and traditional J-horror imagery. Because of this, each episode pulls out deep emotional moments and ultimately makes every act of violence all the more intense for those watching. Sadly, the last episode begins to rely heavily on CGI special effects that don’t fit the emotion of the story beforehand.Image may contain: 1 personOverall though, JU-ON: Origins is a phenomenal horror series that captures the essence of the Ju-On franchise while maintaining its own unique identity among the 13 other titles. In six episodes, the series is able to make every single of them both feel like contained stories and connect them to a larger one. This is one to watch but be warned the violence may be too much for some.Image may contain: one or more peopleJU-ON: Origins is a phenomenal horror series that captures the essence of the Ju-On franchise while maintaining its own unique identity among the 13 other titles. In six episodes, the series is able to make every single of them both feel like contained stories and connect them to a larger one. This is one to watch but be warned the violence may be too much for some.

REVIEW: WARRIOR NUN – SEASON 1

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Starring

Alba Baptista (Madre Paula)
Tristán Ulloa (Terminator: Dark Fate)
Toya Turner (Using)
Lorena Andrea (No Man’s Land)
Sylvia De Fanti (Those Happy Years)
Thekla Reuten (Red Sparrow)
Kristina Tonteri-Young (The Swan)
Emilio Sakraya (4 Blocks)
Joaquim de Almeida (Fast & Furious 5)
Olivia Delcán (Drug Squad: Costa del Sol)
Lope Haydn Evans

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Melina Matthews (Mama)
May Simón Lifschitz (Wild Witch)
Liam McMahon (’71)
Dimitri Abold (Die Inselärztin)
Sinead MacInnes (The Fairy Faith)

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing and nightThe title of Netflix’s new action adventure series Warrior Nun just about dares you not to take it seriously. Set in contemporary Spain, the series follows a young woman (Alba Baptista) who rises from the dead armed with holy superpowers thanks to an angel’s halo that’s been placed in her back. Did you get all that?Image may contain: 1 person, close-upAs schlocky as the concept sounds, the series itself is a breathlessly fun joy ride. There are battles with demons, morally ambiguous scientists, wild twists that will make your jaw drop, and a secret sect of — you guessed it — warrior nuns. Ironically enough, Warrior Nun is also a terribly philosophical show that tackles some of the most bitter moral debates raging within the modern Catholic church with wit, courage, and above all, soul. Warrior Nun is not the show you think it is: it’s 1000% better.Image may contain: one or more peopleWarrior Nun is based on the graphic novel series Warrior Nun Areala by Ben Dunn. When the previous Warrior Nun is killed in a mysterious set-up, her holy allies attempt to give the halo that had empowered her to the next in line, Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea). Fate intercedes, and a desperate nun attempts to hide the halo in the body of a paraplegic orphan’s corpse. What this means is that the power of the heavens is in the hands of a teenaged girl riddled with angst and feverish for freedom.Image may contain: 4 people, people standingFrom there, Warrior Nun follows the basic beats of Jospeh Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. A nobody is called to greatness, they then resist the call, and finally, with the help of a wizened mentor, they decide to embark on a perilous quest for good. Many modern hero stories struggle to explain why someone of noble heart would run away from a righteous fight, but Warrior Nun roots Ava’s whole being in her trepidation. Ava is as much a victim of the Church as she is its chosen champion. While she was living confined to an orphanage bed, she was horrifically abused by the nuns tasked with her care. Ava’s antipathy towards the Church is wholly justifiable as is the fact that she is initially more thankful for the newfound ability to walk, run, and dance than she is about any of her God-given superpowers.Image may contain: 1 personIn fact, the moment I fell hard for Warrior Nun was the sequence where Ava, newly risen from the dead, gets to revel — literally — in her situation. Unaware of why this “miracle” has occurred, she takes advantage of it to dance with abandon and run along a picturesque Spanish beach. Star Alba Baptista plays these scenes with an infectious bliss. It’s not merely that she has control over her limbs; for the first time ever, she has control over her life. Baptista’s Ava is a new kind of innocent: a babe in woods with a potty mouth and adorably horny sex drive. She’s as likely to jump head first into a pristine swimming pool as she is to awkwardly blunder her way through a conversation with her handsome admirer, the conveniently named J.C. (Emilio Sakraya). So it doesn’t feel strange that our heroine is torn between duty to an institution that mistreated her and a life of excitement. It feels right.Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and nightIt’s that inner battle between sticking to the rules of a doctrine and question its inherent morality that made Warrior Nun so fascinating to this lapsed Catholic. While I still feel culturally tied to the traditions of the religion, my own moral conviction is to stick to kind-heartedness and the most basic teachings of the New Testament over the often oppressive screed of a millennia-old institution. Warrior Nun ultimately deals with this moral debate head on. Is it better to lead with love, forgiveness, and humility, or do you simply have to fall in line with what your local Cardinal says? And are there good reasons to do the latter that you can’t see at first glance? These are heavy questions for anyone raised in any religious institution, and Warrior Nun doesn’t let the Catholic Church off the hook.Image may contain: 4 people, people standingIn many ways, Warrior Nun can best be summed up as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but ultra Catholic.” It’s a rip-roaring adventure full of gorgeous young women fighting demons. You could say it’s nothing but silly fun. But it works thanks to a star-making performance from leading lady Alba Baptista. The Portuguese actress (who boasts a seriously spot-on American accent) is effervescent, incorrigible, and downright lovable as Ava. You don’t root for her because she’s fighting for some ancient order, but because she wears her heart on her sleeve and hides her past traumas under a goofy grin.Image may contain: 3 people, textWarrior Nun is the rare pulpy fantasy show that knows when to lean into its silly side and when to slow down and get serious. That makes it incredibly addictive for a specific kind of action fan.

REVIEW: EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

Starring

Will Ferrell (Elf)
Rachel McAdams (Game Night)
Pierce Brosnan (The Ghost)
Dan Stevens (Legion)
Demi Lovato (Smurfs: The Lost Village)
Graham Norton (Fatehr Ted)
Natasia Demetriou (What We Do In The Shadows)
Bobby Lockwood (Dunkirk)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)There are a fair few things that we Brits are particularly protective of; the correct way to brew a cup of tea, obviously, ranks highly as does our staunch belief that UK comedy series will always be superior to the American equivalents. Then there’s the Eurovision Song Contest which has served as a shining beacon of collective fun and self-deprecating pride in the UK ever since the annual music event began in 1956. So one could hardly embark on a viewing of Will Ferrell’s latest comedic offering, centered on an Icelandic musical duo’s journey through the competition, without some underlying feeling of skepticism.Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)For not only has Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga been written, directed and produced by a team of Americans, whose country has had no vested interest in the singing event in its 64-year-history, but the last time Ferrell dived into British popular culture it resulted in the critically-panned Holmes & Watson. The 2018 film wasn’t screened to critics before its release but after, its Rotten Tomatoes score sank to 10% courtesy of damning reviews.Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)Fortunately, the Eurovision Song Contest has less in common with that insult to the memory of Arthur Conan Doyle and more with the likes of Blades of Glory and Talledega Nights. The Netflix film centers on Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams ) who grew up together in their remote fishing village and have been dreaming of competing in the annual event ever since they saw ABBA singing their way to victory with “Waterloo” in 1974. Several strokes of luck, or maybe elves (Icelanders are big believers in them), means their act Fire Saga is selected to represent Iceland, and so this Ferrel film once again follows the exploits of an oddball couple navigating a niche competitive arena.
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)The pair’s Nordic impressions are pretty impressive and Ferrell still has that singular ability to catch you off guard with seemingly ad-libbed one-liners and silly instances of physical humor. Even Lars’ rotating wardrobe – sourced, one assumes, from Instagram #OOTD hashtags – raises a smile but these moments are far too rare and padded out with lackluster cliches and obvious jokes. McAdams offers earnest support as Sigrit, who is hoping to make sweet love as well as music with her singing partner, but whose affections have thus far gone unrequited. It’s a shame she’s never really given the chance to be as comical as Ferrell so her best moments are limited to when she’s singing but even the actress can’t take full credit for that – Swedish singer and former Junior Eurovision contestant Molly Sandén provided Sigrit’s belter of a singing voice.Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)It’s heartening that Ferrell, who co-wrote the script, has a clear affection for the competition. He might be an American but thanks to his Swedish wife he’s been watching the show for over 20 years. The film refuses to mock the Song Contest, instead, it affectionately teases the idiosyncrasies that make Eurovision such a campy, poptastic affair while celebrating the vibrant musicality that is delivered annually by the 50+ countries who compete. There are more than a few parody bops that deserve repeat listening after the credits roll, “Double Trouble” and “Volcano Man,” in particular. There’s also a lovely sing-off scene featuring several past Eurovision winners belting out a medley of pop classics as they dance around a Scottish stately home that Outlander fans might recognize underneath the garish decorations and well-endowed statues. The film even got the UK’s Eurovision host Graham Norton to play himself and deliver commentary during several scenes, though he’s far less cutting than usual.More ardent fans might find themselves pulling an Alan Partridge by screaming at the TV, “stop getting Eurovision wrong!” every so often. In one scene, Russian contestant Alexander (Dan Stevens) jokes that everyone hates the UK because they get “nil points” each year, which is fair, but as the event is being hosted in Scotland that would mean the UK are the reigning champs. This nonsensical error is furthered when the ceremony is hosted by a pair of non-Brits, which seems like an odd thing to get wrong given how much effort went into making this movie authentic in other places. It’s admirable that the film doesn’t shy away from the recent Eurovision controversy involving Russia’s homophobia and clearly the film champions the competition’s campaign for inclusivity by delivering several LGBTQ cameos. But that message is somewhat dampened by the fact that nearly every speaking character is white while people of color serve primarily as window dressing.te6y9kxg-1592964216567Adding these things up, Eurovision Song Contest becomes a film of inconsistencies. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of Will Ferrell’s early buddy comedies but still delivers enough heart and merriment to earn a viewing from the public.

REVIEW: THE POLITICIAN – SEASON 2

The Politician (2019)

Starring

Ben Platt (Broken Diamond)
Zoey Deutch (Zombieland: Double Tap)
Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Bob Balaban (The Monuments Men)
Julia Schlaepfer (Charlie Says)
Laura Dreyfuss (Glee)
Theo Germaine (Work in Progress)
Rahne Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Bette Midler (The Addams Family)
Judith Light (Ugly Betty)
Ryan J. Haddad (Love, Repeat)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Sam Jaeger (Lucky Number Slevin)
Jackie Hoffman (Birdman)
Kelly Fulton (Hail Mary Country)
Heather Burns (Two Weeks Notice)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

David Corenswet (Hollywood)
Krystin Goodwin (Bumblebee)
Teddy Sears (The Flash)
Ava Eisenson (The God Committee)
Nandita Chandra (Badmaa$h Company)
Clark Carmichael (Ocean’s 8)
Susannah Perkins (Snakeeater)
Daryl Edwards (Defending Jacob)
Michael Simon Hall (Sisters)
Robert James Hickey (Shady Pines)
Chris Kipiniak (The Black Donnellys)
Sandra Landers (School Ties)

the-politician-netflix-ben-platt-1572161062Between Black Lives Matter protests, coronavirus and the constant sense of impending doom, it’s easy to forget that 2020 is a presidential election year. But over on Ryan Murphy’s comedy The Politician, which returns to Netflix, an even bigger political battle is taking place: who will win the Albany state senate elections?Politician_108_Unit_01192_RC-882f415-scaledThe show picks up three years later as he attempts to become state senator. In moving to the big(ger) leagues. Payton is no longer an obnoxious fish in a small pond, but a 22-year-old upstart taking on established liberal candidate Dede Standish (Judith Light) in the seat she’s held for more than 30 years. Payton is continuously underestimated by Dede and her right-hand woman Hadassah Gold (Bette Midler), but sees things swing his way as, like an excessively privileged AOC, he inspires young people to register to vote for the first time.the_politician_ben_platt-d1fe8dbIt’s a smart move that opens The Politician up to another world and breathes new life into old characters, with Payton’s friends no longer his lackeys, but people with their own motivations. And then there’s Light and Midler, who are a delight. While we watch Payton tiptoe around trying to prove that Dede’s views are “outdated” without being accused of ageism towards a woman in her seventies, they’re having threesomes, scheming and playing with “spicy lube”, frequently outshining Platt in what should be his story.AAAABRGfAFyf4IabeOAKQCf1ituWbkwXYtMZjOtq_TiBdiWOy5YMDakoY_fE07_sJ45Wc8ZqdFq5cSovDExpyf3y99K0bcBJ-YZPZMQ0IHPHlboN4uozThese are some of the series’s strongest moments. The show has always excelled at satirising people who exploit “woke” culture for their own personal gain, with cultural appropriation, zero-waste living and sex positivity all flitting between being Payton’s campaign platform and his biggest downfall. But these concepts are never mocked with actual cruelty. Sure, it’s a bit ridiculous to always carry around a glass bottle to avoid using plastic packaging and yes, cancelling an adult for a fancy dress costume they wore when they were six might be a bit OTT, but the big ideas they represent are presented in a positive, respectful light.the_politicians_-season_2_-_publicity_still_-_h_2020_As Payton moves up in the world, old friends are naturally given less to work with, which is a shame in the case of his high-school running mate Infinity (Zoey Deutch). I don’t feel the same loss when it comes to Payton’s always oddly underwritten mother Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow),  After his revisionist history Hollywood was met with a lukewarm reception, it’s good to see Ryan Murphy back at what he does best, garish colours, obnoxious characters, power suits and all.

REVIEW: THE ORDER – SEASON 2

The Order (2019)

Starring

Jake Manley (Heroes Reborn)
Sarah Grey (Power Rangers)
Max Martini (The Town)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Louriza Tronco (Make It Pop)
Adam DiMarco (The Magicians)
Thomas Elms (Spiral)
Matty Finochio (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Devery Jacobs (Cardinal)
Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Françoise Yip (Aliens vs Predator 2)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Sam Trammell (The Fault In Our Stars)
Diana Bang (The Interview)
Jedidiah Goodacre (The Originals)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kayla Heller (Snowcoming)
Grace Dove (How It Ends)
Francesca Bianchi (Drive Hard)
Madison Smith (Cult)
Alison Chang (Gal Pals)
Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
James Marsters (Buffy: TVS)
Ian Ziering (Swamp Thing)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)

the_order_season_2The Order is one of those shows on Netflix that tends to escape notice due to scant publicity and an inability for word-of-mouth to adequately explain how good it is without sounding ridiculous talking about werewolves and secret magical organizations on a college campus. Fortunately, season 2 pivots away from its revenge plot for male protagonist Jack Morton and focuses on one of the most surprising successes of the first season: the Knights of St. Christopher. Despite the fact that the werewolves spent a few episodes regaining their memories and feeling sore about it, their eventual place as the Order’s enforcers was a central role they very much deserved. At first it seemed like the acolyte handlers manipulating Jack, Randall, Hamish, and Lilith were misguided but harmless. Most fans didn’t love the memory wipe of the season one finale in the first place, but as a delay tactic for allowing Alyssa to believably persuade Grand Magus Vera Stone to induct the Knights, it was pretty solid. The Order often takes jarring narrative leaps that don’t always make sense at first, which can be to its detriment, but in this case, the difficulties with the rogue practitioner and the initial decision to rob the reliquary seem like a logical progression in retrospect.AAAABZNM1C_NroSZ-8C0XBb1MvqOxXOR6sHWATY8en9LEVQCilXTjhLaN8a72nQI8Hm7Xi16bT8i9glkxMKcGtsakBi_gen9_BqAH3BOUb4dMcdNIxiKBut even with later clarification, some plot threads in The Order season 2 seem painfully convenient for a disturbing amount of time. For example, the fact that a demon stole the Order’s artifacts for the Knights and then stole them again along with the treasures of the Sons of Prometheus right afterwards for someone else felt like an implausible coincidence until Salvador’s off-the-cuff remark about the predictive powers of necromancy. Given that the season, like last year, is broken up into two part mini-adventures (the werewolf revenge, the rogue practitioner, the emperor demon, the Sons of Prometheus, and so on), the fact that Praxis eventually is revealed to be the common thread linking them all adds clarity but doesn’t completely erase the disjointed experience along the way.i-7That being said, there’s a lot to love about this second season of The Order. Of particular interest are the addition of demons to the supernatural lineup. Dark Matter fans could be forgiven for not recognizing the thief demon played with gleeful mischief by Jodelle Ferland, but she sported a distinctive eye sigil carved directly into her flesh that became the wickedly cool distinguishing characteristic of her kind. It was seen again with Rogwan the fear demon and in the climactic moment when Lilith returned from the hell dimension. Lilith’s absence elsewhere in the season was difficult to bear, but the setup for drama in the future was infinitely better than last season’s finale, especially with details like the fresh look of her new facial markings.The-Order-season-2-Netflix-episodes-2523646The mention of other magical organizations of which the Sons of Prometheus was just one was also appreciated. We hear of eight chapters worldwide with “Adeptae” field agents, and the idea that they could have such different ideologies and methods like those displayed by the naturalist, potion-brewing hive mind of the Prometheans is quite intriguing and well illustrated by the Egregore storyline. This was an important factor considering the Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose was missing much of its season one strength with Vera doing all the heavy lifting and little for others to do besides clean up after Respondio rituals. Even Kepler had to carry the full menace of the Council, a group that was so much more intimidating in season one.unnamedAnother aspect that was less prominent here in season 2 was Alyssa and Jack’s relationship, although in this case, the blunting of that sharp edge only made their brief moments of reunion that much more powerful. Alyssa’s broken magic was a mystery that unfolded in brilliantly unexpected ways, especially when The Order tricked us into thinking her love of Jack was to blame — how boring would that have been? Instead, Alyssa’s evolution from someone desperate enough to welcome a hive mind to the person in charge of a loose collection of free-thinkers is as magnificent as it is ironic.the-order-alyssa-and-vera-1024x682Of course, she’s only in charge because Salvador, the brilliantly conceived hidden leader of Praxis, was supposedly killed by Vera, but anyone who believes that she’s actually dead should remember that, among other factors, she was the champion of Alpha, the mysterious hide mentioned in the first season of The Order. Praxis’ magical “tourists” are somewhat reminiscent of The Magicians’ hedge witches, but they are distinguished by the threat posed by the Tartarus explosions and the added push to eliminate the need for sacrifice with the “forisfactorum,” and the setup for a third season and the possibilities for broader storytelling are very exciting.5-1-3The werewolves were a bit all over the place this season, but fortunately, Randall provided the unrelenting skepticism that the audience was likely feeling all season long having to watch their beloved Knights kowtow to the Order. Jack is always playing the long game working for change from within, and Lilith at least had the burgeoning relationship with Nicole to explain her acquiescence, but Hamish’s infatuation with Vera, while admittedly quite charming at times, felt like too big a compromise. The struggle between Midnight and Silverback was as compelling as always, however, and credit must be given for The Order’s continuing ability to make Midnight’s new champion, Gabrielle, simultaneously obnoxious and sympathetic at the same time.5-1-3The overall impression created by the full run of The Order season 2 is one of increased stakes and the welcome focus on the Knights of St. Christopher, and while some fans may be hurting over the impact Alyssa’s rebellion has had and will have on her relationship with Jack, it’s exactly these sorts of consequences that make a series worth watching. Whether viewers applaud the series for avoiding the “bury your gays” trope by sacrificing Kepler instead of Nicole or for indulging in humorous guest appearances from celebrities playing themselves, the end result is the same: they’re appreciating the unique aspects of this most unusual show.

 

REVIEW: THE ORDER – SEASON 1

Sarah Grey in The Order (2019)

Starring

Jake Manley (Heroes Reborn)
Sarah Grey (Power Rangers)
Sam Trammell (Imperium)
Matt Frewer (The BFG)
Max Martini (The Town)
Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Devery Jacobs (Cardinal)
Louriza Tronco (Make It Pop)
Adam DiMarco (The Magicians)
Jedidiah Goodacre (The Originals)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Françoise Yip (Aliens vs Predator 2)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jewel Staite (Firefly)
Ty Wood (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Aaron Hale (Miss Sloane)
Dylan Playfair (Descendants 2)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Emily Holmes (Snakes on a Plane)
Julia Benson (Stargate Universe)
Kayla Heller (Snowcoming)
Thomas Elms (Spiral)
Alex Diakun (Friday The 13th Part VIII)

a4763c55-70a8-4acf-a9c2-4b41593fd64d-screen-shot-2019-03-06-at-31130-pmNetflix shows like The Order have an advantage that series that release episodes a week apart don’t have. Potential audiences can give a new show a quick opening binge right away rather than only viewing the always tricky pilot to prove that it’s worthy of being added to their viewing schedule. The Order is definitely a supernatural show that stands alongside The Magicians or The Vampire Diaries, but the true twist to the witches versus werewolves premise doesn’t show up until third episode. College campus drama tropes bog down the first episode a bit, but the central conflict is wholly unique with plenty of humor and well-written dialogue to smooth out the rough edges.MV5BZjZmYjQ2ZTktY2NjOS00NTg5LWJlYWMtNDE5ZDhhNjg5ODYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQW1yb3NzZXI@._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_On the one hand, The Order should be commended for not holding the viewer’s hand during key parts of the opening narrative. Jack Morton (Jake Manley of iZombie) and his grandfather (Matt Frewer of Orphan Black) clearly have some sort of ulterior motive for getting him into Belgrave University as a freshman, but the audience has to figure out why on its own, and the details that unfold go from simple to complex pretty quickly. On the other hand, the manner in which Jack is admitted and his almost immediate encounters with frat boys and townie-hating rich kids is meant to be accepted with a hand wave and does feel a bit rushed.the-order-netflix-season-2-4-1551991441704Given the hurry to establish the campus atmosphere, it’s remarkable how quickly chemistry forms between Jake and sophomore college tour guide Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey of Legends of Tomorrow). Despite moments of overt flirtation on Jake’s part and even briefer flickers of mutual attraction, The Order is not in any rush to bring these two together or create any weird love triangles. A level of respect is built between them based on intelligence and an understanding that some of those around them, both magic users and regular students, are jerks with poor judgment.ty5y54yIt’s interesting that The Order pokes fun at ritualistic fraternity initiations immediately before bringing us into the pledge process for the titular Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, which includes — you guessed it — the presentation of a magically appearing blue rose to the potential Neophytes. Even those established in the Order, such as college chancellor Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle of The Arrangement) and the higher level students like Alyssa, indulge in the use of robes and masks, but somehow the secret society comes across as neither haughty nor ridiculous. It’s just Hogwarts or Brakebills with a dash of alumni politics, and it works.the-order-e1551988902714The question is how many viewers will stay tuned in long enough to realize that the initial conflict that’s presented in which Neophytes are supposedly being killed by werewolves is not nearly as Saturday B-movie as it may sound nor is it in fact a true representation of the nature of the animosity between witches and werewolves at all? Jake’s place in the Order may have a lot to do with the mission imposed upon him by Grandpa Pete, but by episode three, it becomes so much more than that. And again, the friendships that Jake makes along the way (some of which lie in direct opposition to each other) are a bit rushed, but the humor that comes from the Neophytes playing with magic way beyond their understanding or Jack’s R.A. (Adam DiMarco of The Magicians, oddly enough) trying to figure out what to do with his new resident is definitely worth overlooking the artificially acclerated bonding. Fellow Neophyte Gabrielle (Louriza Tronco of Spiral) is especially delightful and will quickly remind The Magicians fans of an early Margo, and she and Brandon (Aaron Hale of Pure) importantly add some much needed diversity to the lily white cast.the-order-season-1-on-netflix-ofSo ignore the loglines and stick around until The Order shows you what it’s really all about. With engaging characters and with several compelling paths set before its protagonist, this show has legs if it plays its cards right. Characters whom you assume are good might not be so honest, and those portrayed as evil aren’t necessarily so. Achieving that level of complexity so quickly is worth the sacrifice of a little exposition. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have seven more episodes to binge.

REVIEW: 13 REASONS WHY – SEASON 4

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MAIN CAST

Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe)
Alisha Boe (Paranormal Activity 4)
Ross Butler (Shazam)
Devin Druid (Louder Than Bombs)
Brandon Flynn (BrainDead)
Amy Hargreaves (Wonderstruck)
Miles Heizer (Rails & Ties)
Christian Navarro (Bushwick)
Grace Saif (Doctors)

13-Reasons-Why-Season-4-The-Buzz-Paper-3
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Inde Navarrette (Superman and Lois)
Jan Luis Castellanos (Runaways)
Jackie Dallas (Stranger Things)
Gary Sinise (Ransom)
Juliana Destefano (Porn Soup)
Mason Guccione (Capone)
Deaken Bluman (Fall Into Me)
Keon Motakhaveri (Urban Country)
Renny Madlena (Gold Mountain)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
Moises Chavez (Mayans M.C)
YaYa Gosselin (FBI: Most Wanted)
Justin Prentice (Izombie)
Timothy Granaderos (Runaways)
Katherine Langford (Knives Out)
Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural)
Brenda Strong (Supergirl)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Benito Martinez (American Crime)
RJ Brown (The Carrie Diaries)
Josh Hamilton (Ray Donovan)
Yadira Guevara-Prip (See)
Brandon Butler (Trinkets)
Anne Winters (The Orville)
Brandon Scott (Dead To Me)
Michele Selene Ang (Elementary)
Parminder Nagra (God Friended Me)
Tommy Dorfman (Fluidity)
Andrea Roth (Ringer)

cebbe4c0-a9f7-468c-9932-75ae0e40a96b-13rw_408_unit_05036rClay and gang’s final year at Liberty High, the final season of 13 Reasons Why, and finally the shit is over. With slow storyline, not much to show, the makers have narrowed down the final season with 10 episodes, unlike the previous seasons which had 13 episodes each. So what do we have in box for the final season? Let us say we have, a certainly  slow storyline.13-reasons-why-season-4The final season of Netflix’s controversial teen drama ’13 Reasons Why’ answers the questions from the previous seasons which certainly didn’t require any answers. The series that started with the story of Hannah Baker, had no references for the ‘dead’ character until the last 10 minutes of the series finale. The tapes are back, for like 5 minutes, a character who had just cleaned himself up is forced to die, and Winston who wanted to take revenge does nothing apart from flirting with Tyler and Alex throughout the show.13-reasons-why-688eea9Though the final season has a loose storyline there were a couple of moments that stabbed the fans right in their hearts. Alex kisses Zach but falls in love with Charlie, Justin goes and returns from Rehab but breaks up with Jessica, he then after some time realizes he loves Jessica and dies as soon as he starts dancing with her. Clay on the other hand has developed into a person who in ordinary terms is referred to get some mental therapy or even a checkup. Clay’s annoying habit of seeing dead has not gone, he still sees Monty, but this time Jessica has also got the powers to see Bryce, who is also dead.159165Is it worth watching The answer to the question is pretty clear, investing 10 hours in 13 Reasons Why Season 4 is something that only fans would be interested in, if only tosee how the show comes to climax.

REVIEW: FULLER HOUSE – SEASON 5 – PART 2

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MAIN CAST

Candace Cameron Blue (Puppy Love)
Jodie Sweetin (Farce of The Penguins)
Andrea Barber (Days of Our Lives)
Michael Campion (Finding Eden)
Elias Harper (Riviera)
Soni Bringas (Beautiful & Twisted)
Dashiel and Fox Messitt
Juan Pablo Di Pace (Mammia Mia)
John Brotherton (The Conjuring)
Scott Weinger (The Family Man)
Adam Hagenbuch (Switched at Birth)

fuller-house-season-5-netflix

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Bob Saget (How I Met Your Mother)
Marla Sokoloff (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Landry Bender (The Sitter)
Noah Alexander Gerry (Family Reunion)
Dave Coulier (The Real Ghostbusters)
John Stamos (Scream Queens)
Josh Peck (Red Dawn)
Eric Allan Kramer (American Pie 3)
Ashley Liao (The Kicks)
Isaak Presley (Stuck In Teh Middle)
Virginia Williams (Charmed)
Mckenna Grace (Annabelle Comes Home)
David Lipper (Mutant X)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Gail Edwards (Get Crazy)

fuller-house-final-seasonWhen Season 5 of ‘Fuller House’ began, Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) and Jimmy Gibbler (Adam Hagenbuch) came back home with their baby girl after Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) gave birth to Stephanie’s baby after being a surrogate for her. With the end looming, the first part also saw the heartwarming and beautiful proposal DJ Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure) arranged for herself (she thought she was doing it for Kimmy) when Steve Hale (Scott Weinger), DJ’s high school sweetheart, asked her to marry him.1c0b3a5e-a84f-437c-a1e8-82638c434fa1-fh_508_unit_00203_rWith all three ladies finally engaged, the agenda for the final episodes were set — a triple wedding. As one character says in one of the episodes in Season 5B, pleasing one bride is hard enough — will they be able to pull off pleasing all three? If there’s one thing the ‘Full House’ reboot has shown, it’s that all three ladies — DJ, Steph, and Kimmy — often work as one unit, even with wildly differing tastes. Their mutual planning leads up to a beautiful wedding that’s put together at the last minute after plenty of things go wrong in the series finale.02tvcol-fuller-mobileMasterAt3xWe also get to see the return of the legacy cast, Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier), and Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) — with the noted exception of Jesse’s wife, Becky (Lori Loughlin) — in multiple episodes. All three of them walk the brides down the aisle and even give fitting toasts to end the series — something they did not get to do in the original series. Then there are the men of ‘Fuller House’, Steve, Jimmy, and Kimmy’s beau, Fernando Hernandez-Guerrero-Fernandez-Guerrero (Juan Pablo Di Pace) who get to spend more scenes together this time around as the men have their tuxedo fittings and their bachelor party in an ax-throwing club. More seasons might have meant further exploration of the “he-wolf pack.”Screen-Shot-2020-05-29-at-8.17.00-PMThe five seasons of ‘Fuller House’ have also seen the kids growing up — both the characters and the actors. Jackson Fuller (Michael Campion), Max Fuller (Elias Harger), Ramona Gibbler (Soni Nicole Bringas), and Tommy Fuller Jr (Dashiell and Fox Messitt) grow up to be pretty close siblings, and considering how they started out, it was sweet to watch. While fans of the ‘Fuller House’ series might be satisfied with the final episodes, perhaps fans of ‘Full House’ may not have felt the end was as befitting — after all, this is the second time we are bidding farewell to the Tanner household and even if it may be more than twenty years later, the impact of ‘Full House’ on viewers is evident as the reboot featured multiple throwbacks.1_Q8ZXsFJZk4wXjxTcwdqlrAEven so, the final episodes manage to do ‘Fuller House’ justice. Even if the reboot won’t be as beloved as the original, we still got to see DJ, Steph, Kimmy, and Steve all grown up and living their adult lives — something we don’t often get to see with many favorite childhood television shows. Perhaps Netflix might revisit bringing back the Tanner-Fuller-Gibbler families for another run to give these families a farewell with more closure.

REVIEW: SPACE FORCE – SEASON 1

Starring

Steve Carell (Welcome To Marwen)
John Malkovich (Red)
Ben Schwartz (Sonic The Hedgehog)
Diana Silvers (Ma)
Tawny Newsome (Spies in Disguise)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Jimmy O. Yang (Fantasy Island)
Alex Sparrow (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For)
Don Lake (Zootopia)
Noah Emmerich (Jane Got A Gun)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Jessica St. Clair (Life As We Know it)
Lisa Kudrow (The Girl On The Train)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Chris Gethard (Ghostbusters)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Dan Bakkedahl (Trumbo)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Kaitlin Olson (The Heat)
Ginger Gonzaga (Kidding)
Alan Blumenfeld (Heroes)
Janina Gavankar (The Vampire Diaries)
Aparna Nancherla (Mythic Quest)
Nicole J. Butler (Hart of Dixie)

Lisa Kudrow, Steve Carell, Dan Bakkedahl, and Diana Silvers in Space Force (2020)As frivolous as it is political, new Netflix sitcom Space Force sees the duo behind the US remake of The Office prove there’s plenty more workplace hilarity where that came from. Actor Steve Carell and creator Greg Daniels (this time sharing executive producer duties) take a handful of winning ingredients – an enigmatic cast, tautly-written physical comedy, ever so slightly daring jabs at those higher up – and puts them in a zany, compelling new setting.Ben Schwartz in Space Force (2020)As General Mark Naird, the newly appointed Chief of Space Operations in the newly created sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces, Space Force, Steve Carell is delightfully ridiculous. It’s a branch that didn’t, and maybe shouldn’t exist, led by a man who was hellbent on heading up the US Air Force – and, of course, has no idea what he’s doing.Diana Silvers in Space Force (2020)But the show doesn’t just laugh at Naird. It strikes a balance between mocking this fictional character’s lack of expertise – and teasing the (definitely not based on anyone real, honest) President, who goes by POTUS and is only heard from via his tweets. To the 2020 viewer it’s crystal clear who the target is, but Space Force is never so vulgar as to say explicitly. Naird’s character, buffoonish but ultimately kind-hearted, contrasts brilliantly with the head scientist of Space Force, Dr. Adrian Mallory. In this role, John Malkovich proves his unique talent yet again. Exasperated as well as sophisticated, the acting veteran matches Carell stroke for stroke in comedy and charisma.Steve Carell and Ben Schwartz in Space Force (2020)Space Force gets the most from its peripheral cast too, which offers a revolving door of high-profiled, energetic cameos. There’s the late Fred Willard in his final role, minor but always dissonant enough to deserve a laugh; Lisa Kudrow as Naird’s wife; and Jane Lynch (Glee) as the Chief of Naval Operations. Ben Schwartz and Diana Silvers do fine work too, the former as F. Tony Scarapiducci, a note-perfect caricature of the woke social media wiz; the latter as General Mark’s daughter Erin. Silvers, seen previously in Booksmart, plays her role smartly, moving what could have been a clichéd displaced teenage girl far beyond the character’s trappings. She brings both wry self-awareness and much welcomed sincerity to proceedings. We watch as Erin fights to find a place in her father’s bizarre new world, having uprooted his daughter’s life to take the job.John Malkovich, Steve Carell, and Jimmy O. Yang in Space Force (2020)Season one’s episodes often play as sketch vignettes – it makes you wonder whether they could each make sense individually as The Office did – and have a lightweight feel to them. There’s a brilliant roster of directors to thank, including Dee Rees (Mudbound) and Jeff Blitz (Spellbound), but most curiously, the director of Paddington and Paddington 2, Paul King, helms a couple of episodes – and even has a producing credit.Steve Carell, Ben Schwartz, and Jimmy O. Yang in Space Force (2020)When you think about it, this makes sense – the story of a lost Peruvian bear coming to London had plenty to say about the sorry state of British politics, hiding its rhetoric under a veil of wholesome, family-friendly comedy. Space Force is on a similar mission: they might be detailing preposterous situations, governed by a keyboard warrior of a politician – but it’s how much these smart, but also very silly, people make you laugh that is most important.

 

REVIEW: SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER – SEASON 5

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018)

CAST (VOICES)

Aimee Carrero (The Last Witch Hunter)
Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad)
AJ Michalka (Super 8)
Marcus Scribner (The Good Dinosaur)
Reshma Shetty (Blindspot)
Lorraine Toussaint (The Night Before)
Keston John (The Good Place)
Lauren Ash (The Disaster Artist)
Christine Woods (Flashforward)
Genesis Rodriguez (Tusk)
Jordan Fisher (Teen Wolf)
Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
Sandra Oh (Sideways)
Krystal Joy Brown (Castle)
Grey DeLisle (Paradise PD)
Merit Leighton (Alexa & Katie)

AAAABS-evQywrlFcF4ls3lbnJOtFodpyTeFRLYd-sifnMSdGj7cBs-CeZBvnDR4WquYU-cEa_Ys5zP3k6w5CsommLb1gK-DlIt hasn’t even been two years since Netflix and DreamWorks’ animated series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, created by Noelle Stevenson, premiered on November 13, 2018, and yet, we’re already at the series’ fifth and final season. It’s bittersweet in that the final season of this beloved series is incredibly satisfying (at least, the ten out of thirteen total episodes that were released to the press are), but it’s also difficult to say goodbye to a show that has made such an impact in the short time it’s been on the air. After fifth season drops on Netflix on May 15 (an auspicious day for animation on Netflix, as Avatar: The Last Airbender gets added to Netflix the same day) and we’ve all binged all the episodes, what are we going to do without more She-Ra to look forward to? I, personally, am hoping Stevenson decides to do a spin-off series, but for now, let’s discuss season 5.she-ra-season-5-images-catra-1536x864-1We left off season 4  with Etheria being brought out of its pocket dimension, and now at the mercy of the planet-conquering Horde army, lead by Horde Prime (Keston John). The sword is broken, which is too bad because the rebellion could really use the powers of She-Ra right now. The princesses face all out war this season in a way they never did when they were fighting Lord Hordak (John). Because of that, the pacing of the season runs at breakneck speed as it burns through plot (I mean this in the best possible way). Each episode has at least one “oh-my-God” epic moment, as the show puts the pieces in place needed to end the story. Every word and moment of this season has a purpose, contributing to a masterful puzzle.
she-ra-season-5-images-catra-horde-prime-1536x862-1Even with everything going on though, the show still finds time give all the characters the time and development they deserve. In fact, I would say that the character-work drives most of the plot. Adora (Aimee Carrero) has to learn how to be of value without her powers, while Bow (Marcus Scribner) tries to take care of her…and everybody else. Catra (the fantastic AJ Michalka) gets probably the most attention, and for those wondering how the show is going to resolve the arc for the fan-favorite villain, I can only say that it’s very satisfying. Catra’s relationship with Adora is put in the spotlight, and it reminds viewers that this show started with them, it’s only fair that they end it with them too. Catra and Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) get a lot of scenes together this season – they were both captured by the Horde in the season 4 finale – and their dynamic is great. Oftentimes it seems that Glimmer understands Catra better than Adora does. After all, both Catra and Glimmer share the constant strive for value and approval. What’s great about this series is it never makes the mistake of neatly wrapping up character arcs. It knows that true character development takes work, and it never takes the easy way out.MV5BMTUyMzE5Mzk4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk0MjUyMDI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,942_AL_The other princesses also get some time and attention. Mermista (Vella Lovell), Frosta (Merit Leighton), Perfuma (Genesis Rodriguez), and Scorpia (Lauren Ash) all get mini arcs. Mermista learns how to step up and be a leader, while Perfuma and Scorpia deepen their friendship, and Scorpia continues to realize her own worth. Entrapta (Christine Woods) gets a lot of screen time as she learns to balance her love of machines with her desire to connect with people. She is entirely adorkable, and gives us some of the most touching moments in the show, as well as the funniest. Two characters that get big upgrades this season are Spinnerella (Stevenson) and Netossa (Krystal Joy Brown). Introduced, it seemed, purely to be the butt of jokes in season 1, they finally become fully fleshed out characters this season. Their relationship (one of the few romantic couples on the show) plays a crucial part in the plot, and you’d be surprised just how powerful net and wind powers can be.MV5BMzI2NDNkODYtZjZmOC00MmVlLTllMDctY2U5YTcxN2JhZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM5NjkxMzM@._V1_The Horde, and Horde Prime, meanwhile, play the classic über villains. All this time we’ve been dealing with the B-team – Lord Hordak, Catra, Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint) – but Horde Prime is the true big bad. While previously, as evil as they were, all of the show’s villains still had boatloads of humanity, Horde Prime’s desire is to suck all the humanity right out of people. To him, feelings are the enemy, and his goal is to make the entire universe the same, completely uniform. In a show that espouses love and friendship, the fight against Horde Prime, and his army of robot clones (all voiced by John), is the chance it has to prove that love is truly the most powerful of all.she-ra-s1There are so many things I would love to elaborate on, but for the sake of spoilers, I’m going to end it here. It’s so hard to end a series satisfyingly, but She-Ra accomplishes it here (assuming those last three episodes of the season are as amazing as the first ten). The season is powerful, passionate, incredibly exciting, alternating emotional and hilarious. It is well written and plotted, ascribing purpose to every move it makes. I’ll be sad to say goodbye, but so, so grateful we got to go on this journey in the first place.MV5BMTY1MDI3OTI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzc0MjUyMDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_P.S. Pay attention to the theme song pictures each episode, because it changes as events in the show changes, just in case you were wondering about the level of detail put into this season.