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: HANNA – SEASON 2

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Starring

Esme Creed-Miles (Mister Lonely)
Mireille Enos (World War Z)
Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad)
Yasmin Monet Prince (Nocturnal)
Dermot Mulroney (The Wedding Date)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Áine Rose Daly (Jack Ryan)
Gianna Kiehl (Still Standing)
Cherrelle Skeete (Doctors)
Anthony Welsh (The Girl With The Gifts)
Khalid Abdalla (United 93)
Katie Clarkson-Hill (Guilt)
Natasha Atherton (Get Even)
Emma D’Arcy (Wanderlust)
Ellen Evans (Victoria)
Pia Hagen (We’re Okay)
Severine Howell-Meri (Casulty)
Mia Jenkins (Soy Luna)
Clea Martin (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword)
David Avery (Starred Up)
Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
Claudia Trujillo (Terminator: Dark Fate)
Valene Kane (The Fall)
Jill Winternitz (Good Omens)
Ria Lopez (Eastenders)
Óscar Casas (The Orphanage)

Image may contain: 1 person, close-upThree years ago, when it was announced that Amazon would be adapting 2011 action thriller Hanna into a series, enthusiasm was understandably measured. What does work about that film—namely, Saoirse Ronan’s lead performance as the titular teenage super soldier and the brutal beauty of Joe Wright’s directorial style—are specific to that intersection of time, place, and talent; they’re not necessarily inherent to the story itself. As Amazon prepares to launch the second season of the Hanna TV series, however, creator David Farr proves this grounded and gorgeous teenage assassin series has legs.Image may contain: 1 person, close-upHeading into Hanna season two, we are well past the plot depicted in the original feature film. At the end of season one, Hanna (Esmé Creed-Miles) freed fellow genetically-enhanced super soldier Clara (Yasmin Monet-Prince) from the Romanian Utrax facility. Erik died in the effort, and Hanna carries that loss with her, protecting her new family in the ways that her father taught her, which is to stay: by moving it deep into the wilderness.Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorWhen we catch back up with Hanna and Clara in the first episode of season two, they are living in the Romanian forest where Hanna feels she can best keep Clara safe. Much like Hanna circa season one, Clara doesn’t particularly want to spend her days cut off from the rest of civilization. She longs to find out where she belongs—most of all, she wants to find her birth mother. Ironically, Hanna takes on much of the role Erik had in the first season. Now, she is playing the role of the overbearing parental figure and Clara is playing the role of the restless child forced to rebel in order to get the chance to find herself.Image may contain: 1 person, standingElsewhere, we begin exploring the repercussions of Marissa Wiegler’s (Mirielle Enos) shifted motivations. At the end of last season, Marissa killed Sawyer and let Hanna, Erik, and Clara escape. In the aftermath, her relationship with The CIA and Utrax remains fraught. Marissa may have shot herself in the leg to cover up her actual role in the Utrax massacre, but the new leader of the program, an old colleague named John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), isn’t buying it. Lucky for Marissa, he doesn’t care much where Marissa’s allegiances lie—as long as they don’t interfere with his goals.Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, outdoor and natureMarissa would no doubt be an excellent ally for Hanna to have, but can Hanna trust her? In exploring this question, Marissa plays a similar role as Erik did in season one, claiming to want to help but often keeping the whole truth from the younger character. While it’s riveting to see these two intense and complex characters interact on various points on the friend-to-foe spectrum, their relationship doesn’t hold the same weight and complexity as Hanna and Erik’s daughter-father relationship did, and therefore can’t emotionally ground this story in the same ways. In season one, one of Hanna’s chief journeys was coming to understand that Erik did love her and to recognize him as her father. Hanna season two is never able to frame the driving questions of the Marissa/Hanna dynamic, nor the Clara/Hanna relationship for that matter, in equally emotionally-resonant ways, and the season doesn’t hit the same emotional heights when it comes to Hanna’s character in particular because of it.Image may contain: 1 person, close-upBut Hanna season two doesn’t put all of its storytelling eggs in one basket. We see a significant broadening of the scope of this world and story in season two. What was merely hinted at towards the end of the first season—i.e. an interest in the girls who, unlike Hanna, didn’t escape the Utrax program as babies—becomes a full-blown story line in season two, as we follow the future assassins to the next phase of their training. This takes place at a well-landscaped estate in northern England called The Meadows, which reads like X-Men‘s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters or Vampire Academy‘s St. Vladimir’s Academy. The Meadows may look like a swanky boarding school filled with privileged teens chafing against the perceived and/or actual rigidity of adolescence, but it’s not. It’s a baby-abducting, CIA-run assassin program that is brainwashing a group of captive teen girls into becoming obedient killers.Image may contain: 1 person, child and outdoorSome of the season’s best stuff comes in this setting, which effectively blends the coming-of-age boarding school drama genre with the espionage thriller genre. The juxtaposition is brilliant and, as the trainees receive the character profiles meant to become their lives (complete with names, fake families, and and a new wardrobe), there is room to reflect on the nature of identity performance in teenagehood, as well as the unique pressures put on teen girls even when they, you know, aren’t super soldiers. It’s a particularly effective examination when you compare the intentionally performative ways the trainees engage with expectations of modern femininity with the wonderfully feral quality of Hanna’s exploration of identity in season one.Image may contain: 2 people, close-upIn the process, Hanna season two becomes much more of an ensemble story, keeping the series fresh by slowly expanding its scope. While Hanna may still be figuring herself out, we’ve already seen this character make her first steps into a larger world. Now, we get to see Clara, as well as fellow Utrax trainees Sandy (Áine Rose Daly) and Jules (Gianna Kiehl), do it too—albeit in a much different way, as Utrax doesn’t give them much choice as to which path they will walk. If you’re in it for the ambience, Hanna continues to look and sound beautiful. (This show’s soundtrack slays.) The series brings on all new directors this season—French director Eve Husson and Icelandic director Ugla Hauksdottir, as well as series creator Farr—and they meet the high aesthetic bar that was set in season one. Even when Hanna feels reminiscent of TV series we have seen before (most notably in season two, the severely-underrated CW spy drama Nikita, another adaptation of a feature film), its visual style sets it apart. From the undomesticated depths of the Romanian forest to the bright possibilities of Barcelona, this is a rich and immersive world to spend time in.Image may contain: 1 person, close-upWe are living in a time when it is popular to discuss the blurring of lines between the film and television mediums, and there is value to that discussion. But there are still things that TV can do that film cannot. Most notably, TV has the narrative space to follow character, theme, and plot in expansive directions and, in the modern TV era, a series doesn’t necessarily have to trade a cinematic aesthetic to do so. The Hanna TV series is taking advantage of the space, and it makes for a hell of a ride. Looking back on the 2011 film from 2020, it no longer feels like a fair fight.

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: HANNA – SEASON 1

Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)

Starring

Esme Creed-Miles (Mister Lonely)
Mireille Enos (World War Z)
Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad)

Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
Lyndsey Marshal (The Hours)
Phaldut Sharma (Gravity)
Andy Nyman (The Commuter)
Katharina Heyer (Volt)
Benno Fürmann (Babylon Berlin)
Narges Rashidi (Aeon Flux)
Justin Salinger (Everest)
Félicien Juttner (Ben)
Khalid Abdalla (United 93)
Rhianne Barreto (Dixi)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Yasmin Monet Prince (Nocturnal)
Áine Rose Daly (Jack Ryan)
Gianna Kiehl (Still Standing)

Joel Kinnaman in Hanna (2019)Over the past 5 years, there has been an influx of TV shows based on popular films: FX’s pulpy Fargo, YouTube’s hilarious Cobra Kai, and A&E’s creepy Bates Motel. All of the previously mentioned series are entertaining and worth checking out, but before you do, consider binging all eight episodes of Hanna on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, March 29. The streaming provider’s gamble to develop this show based on the 2011 film of the same name definitely paid off. Helmed by the film’s co-writer – David Farr – Hanna on Amazon is more laser-focused than its predecessor, allowing for deeper character development and extra thrilling action sequences – which is always a good thing. Hanna is a genetically (we think) modified ass-kicking teenager who lives in the woods with her special-operative father, Eric (Joel Kinnaman), after he rescued her from a clandestine government facility when she was was a baby.Joel Kinnaman and Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)The show’s frenetic pacing (the total runtime is under 8 hours) doesn’t allow for much on-screen time with daughter and father early on in the season – which is a shame, because they’re a dynamic pair to watch. At its narrative core, Hanna is a coming-of-age story with way more violence and tragedy than your typical teenage fare – just imagine Hanna in Mean Girls or The Perks of Being a Wallflower… Ouch!Joel Kinnaman and Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)Even with all of the enhanced abilities and her training in the deadly arts, Hanna’s character remains grounded. Showrunner Farr accomplishes this by taking her out of the woods and away from her father, so she can interact with other teenagers. Watching Esme Creed-Miles’ Hanna awkwardly flirting with boys at nightclubs and struggling to adapt to suburban life is very charming. Her insatiable curiosity about the world outside of the woods she was raised in is palpable.Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)When Hanna isn’t running around killing the government agents sent to capture her, she’s usually spending time with her newfound bestie, Sophie (played by newcomer Rhianne Barreto). Sophie is an important character because she is that teenage girl you expect to see in this kind of coming-of-age story, and it’s enjoyable to watch Barreto and Creed-Miles interact: laughing, fighting, and crying over boys and controlling parents. There are moments in Hanna when you forget that she’s being hunted by a sinister government agency.Esme Creed-Miles in Hanna (2019)Speaking of the baddies… Hanna boasts an imposing villain in Marissa Wiegler (portrayed by Kinnaman’s The Killing co-star Mireille Enos). Unlike Cate Blanchett’s interpretation of the character in the film version, Enos brings a welcome bit of nuance. While she’s not a “good guy,” per se, she’s definitely less overtly evil this time around. Wiegler is the figure behind many of the mysteries surrounding Hanna’s birth and unique abilities, and even though she’s the primary antagonist, it’s easy to get the sense that there’s a bigger threat just looming around the corner. There are plenty of stories left to tell if Amazon gives Farr more seasons to play with.Whenever Wiegler’s henchmen attempt to apprehend Hanna, the fight choreography on display is impressive. To their credit, Farr and his team use the fights for more than just showing off – they’re also telling a story with kicks and punches. Kinnaman’s Eric uses brute force to cripple or kill his opponents. Hanna, on the other hand, utilizes her speed and agility to compensate for her size. Together, they make an efficient killing duo. And while it’s nice to see them spending some quality time together, Farr never lets you forget the tragedy of it all. When some teenagers’ biggest worries are social media and high school dances, Hanna’s concerns are far more imminent and deadly. Hanna’s showrunner David Farr effectively expands the movie he co-wrote back in 2011 with engaging character development and thrilling action. Esme Creed-Miles and Joel Kinnaman excel in their respective roles, making this short, but compelling 8-hour journey a must see on Amazon Prime Video.

REVIEW: HARLEY QUINN – SEASON 2

Harley Quinn (2019)

Starring

Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
Lake Bell (The Secret Life of Pets)
Alan Tudyk (Doom Patrol)
Jason Alexander (Shallow Hal)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Ron Funches (Powerless)
Tony Hale (Chuck)
J. B. Smoove (Spider-Man: Far From Home)

Wayne Knight and Kaley Cuoco in New Gotham (2020)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Jim Rash (Sky High)
Jacob Tremblay (Good Boys)
Matt Oberg (Sisters)
Sanaa Lathan (The Cleveland Show)
Rachel Dratch (Click)
Tom Hollander (Gosford Park)
Andy Daly (Semi-Pro)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Vanessa Marshall (Final Space)
James Adomian (Storks)
Brad Morris (Cougar Town)
George Lopez (The Smurfs 2)
Briana Cuoco (The Lydia Bennet!!)
Michael Ironside (Highlamnder II)
Jessica Walter (Archer)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Will Sasso (Mom)
Justina Machado (Scoob!)
Scott Porter (Speed Race)
James Wolk (Watchmen TV)

Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell in Riddle U (2020)While the first season only wrapped up a short while ago, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is back for more, and it couldn’t be a better time for it to return. The animated series has stolen fans’ hearts with its all-star cast, hilarious approach to the DC canon, and adult-oriented approach to humor and violence. Season Two  absolutely keeps up its momentum in the episodes, while also evolving things forward in a necessary way. Kaley Cuoco and Alan Tudyk in All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues (2020)The premiere picks up a few weeks after The Joker’s (Alan Tudyk) apocalyptic attack on Gotham City, as Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) navigates the aftermath as only she can. Without getting into spoilers (which, if I’m being honest, would sound ludicrous out of context anyway), the episode gradually expands the rogues that are causing trouble in Gotham — a movement that gives Harley a new vendetta without feeling forced.Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell in There's No Place to Go But Down (2020)Part of what’s made modern-day Harley Quinn so effective — from the comics to the recent blockbuster Birds of Prey movie — has been her approach to and subversion of feminist issues. Season One of Harley put that at the forefront, as she tried to prove her worth and agency among the male villains of her life. While there’s only one episode to go off of, Season Two seems to tackle that misogyny from a slightly different angle, one that will hopefully be incredibly satisfying to watch unfold.Kaley Cuoco in Inner (Para) Demons (2020)Of course, one of the standouts of the series is the rapport between Harley and her “crew,” something that remains the beating heart of the Season Two premiere. Cuoco is somehow even more energetic as Harley, and there’s a sense that she’s legitimately comfortable bringing the character to life. Each of the supporting cast members — from Lake Bell’s Poison Ivy to Jason Alexander’s Sy Borgman — are as great as ever and get their own moments of hilarity within the episode.Kaley Cuoco in Bachelorette (2020)The other villains of the series are as pitch-perfect as ever, between James Adomian’s scene-stealing Bane and Jim Rash’s delightfully-obnoxious take on The Riddler. Spider-Man 2 alum Alfred Molina joins the roster as Mr. Freeze, but manages to weave himself into the ensemble as if he’s always been there. Plus, the Season Two premiere rectifies one of the first season’s few flaws, which was that there wasn’t nearly enough of Andy Daly, who voices Two-Face and a handful of other characters in the episode.The Runaway Bridesmaid (2020)Harley Quinn’s sophomore is a  genuine hit — it somehow manages to outdo its stellar first batch of episodes. The cast and crew are clearly having fun bringing this new adventure of Harley’s to life.

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)

the-order-season-2-episode-2-free-radicals-jack-hamish-lilith-randall-knights-netflix

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)

6a01348361f24a970c014e6088c71b970c-320wi

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: ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO – SEASON 2

Trevor St. John, Nathan Parsons, Amber Midthunder, Michael Trevino, Heather Hemmens, Tyler Blackburn, Jeanine Mason, Michael Vlamis, and Lily Cowles in Roswell, New Mexico (2019)

 

Starring

Jeanine Mason (The Archer)
Nathan Parsons (The Originals)
Michael Vlamis (VlamCarter)
Lily Cowles (Enchantments )
Tyler Blackburn (Pretty Little Liars)
Heather Hemmens (Hellcats)
Michael Trevino (The Vampire DIaries)
Trevor St. John (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Amber Midthunder (Legion)

Carlos Compean, Heather Hemmens, and Jeanine Mason in Stay (I Missed You) (2020)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Karan Oberoi (Overruled!)
Carlos Compean (Contraband)
Sherri Saum (Sunset Beach)
Claudia Black (Stargate SG.1)
Rosa Arredondo (Still Alice)
Kiowa Gordon (The Twilight Saga: New Moon)
Dylan McTee (The Wind)
Justina Adorno (Grand Hotel)
Riley Voelkel (The Originals)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire Diaries)
Cassandra Jean Amell (Arrow)
Jason Behr (Roswell)
Gaius Charles (God Friended Me)
David Anders (Izombie)
Bertila Damas (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Christian Antidormi (Spartacus)
Madison McLaughlin (Arrow)
Jamie Clayton (Sense8)
Cleo Anthony (Extant)
Tanner Novlan (Mohawk Girls)
Peter Diseth (Better Call Saul)

Michael Trevino and Jeanine Mason in I'll Stand by You (2020)I loved the original Roswell. I feel like the Writers, Directors, Producers and Actors have taken Roswell into a place where not only are the main characters older at the beginning of the series but the events that surround Liz finding out that Max and Co are aliens (and all the emotions and challenges that brings) are much more mature.Heather Hemmens and Tyler Blackburn in I'll Stand by You (2020)Additionally the music score is brilliant. It’s definitely a nod to my youth and I feel like it reflects the age bracket of the viewers who will really enjoy this show. I’ve seen some pretty terrible reviews on here, typical “die hard” fans who refuse to allow the content to grow up and move forward. I have to say, I’m really enjoying season 2 It takes the good things about season 1 and intensifies them to another level. Amber Midthunder and Jeanine Mason in Como La Flor (2020)Lily Cowles has somehow managed to create a deep complex Isobel who is less childish Diva then the original character and more of a deeply complex woman. Michael Travino has continued to be a solid addition to any cast. I do feel that the true stand out of this show is Michael Vlamis, his ability to portray an equally frustrated, loyal and broken man in this show is so masterful that I won’t be surprised if I see him in other shows / movies soon.Nathan Parsons, Amber Midthunder, Jeanine Mason, and Lily Cowles in Como La Flor (2020)This is an amazing show and must watch for people who love the original and for those who love good Sci-Fi.

 

REVIEW: YOUNG SHELDON – SEASON 3

Young Sheldon (2017)

 

Starring

Iain Armitage (Scoob!)
Zoe Perry (Scandal)
Lance Barber (Gangster Squad)
Montana Jordan (The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter)
Raegan Revord (Wish Upon)
Annie Potts (Ghostbusters)
Matt Hobby (The Grinder)
Jim Parsons (Hollywood)

Zoe Perry and Iain Armitage in Young Sheldon (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sarah Baker (Tammy)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Valerie Mahaffey (Sully)
Brian Stepanek (Green Book)
Ryan Phuong (Shameless)
Danielle Pinnock (The Undertaker’s Wife)
Mary Grill (Father Figures)
Isabel May (Alexa & Katie)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Richard Kind (Gotham)
Doc Farrow (The Good Place)
Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist)
Rex Linn (Rush Hour)
Melissa Peterman (How High)
Bob Newhart (Elf)
Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Wyatt McClure (The Fault In Our Stars)
Mckenna Grace (Fuller House)
Andrea Anders (Mr. Mom)
Jim Beaver (Breaking Bad)
Ava Allan (Pretty Little Liars)
Amanda Payton (Trial & error)
Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Katherine Von Till (Sofia The First)
Ryan Stiles (Two and a Half Men)
Jason Alexander (Shallow Hall)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)

Iain Armitage in A Broom Closet and Satan's Monopoly Board (2019)I was very hesitant before watching Young Sheldon because the Big Bang Theory was an iconic and loved show. I was surprised at how much heart the show had though and how great Iain Armitage is as a young Sheldon Cooper.Annie Potts and Iain Armitage in Hobbitses, Physicses and a Ball With Zip (2019)The show does many things correctly. Sheldon does not deal with authority well just like BBT and he is very blunt. Sheldon is far more innocent though and is far more gullible making some of the storylines fascinating and emotional.Lance Barber, Zoe Perry, Raegan Revord, and Iain Armitage in A Parasol and a Hell of an Arm (2019)A key part of the show are the emotional relationships that Sheldon has with his parents. Sheldon’s mother played by Zoe Perry is especially touching. She deeply cares for Sheldon and her overprotectiveness is very funny throughout the show.Iain Armitage in Pongo Pygmaeus and a Culture that Encourages Spitting (2019)Another heartwarming aspect is of the relationship Sheldon has with his father. His father in BBT is described as a horrible adulterer and person, but the show makes him kind and sweet to his family, albeit very lazy. Sheldon’s dad played by Lance Barber is responsible for some of the more heartwarming scenes of the show.Annie Potts, Lance Barber, Raegan Revord, Montana Jordan, and Iain Armitage in The Sin of Greed and a Chimichanga from Chi-Chi's (2019)I was happily surprised when I started watching Young Sheldon. I suggest it if you need something simple, dumb, or you just need to laugh. It is perfect for a rainy day or if you are sick. Season 3 continues shows just how good a spin-off this show really is and that I am sure it will on the air for mamy more seasons.