Roswell, NM

RoswellNM

Starring: Jeanie Mason, Nathan Parsons, Michael Vlamis, Lily Cowles, Tyler Blackburn, Heather Hemmens, Michael Trevino, Trevor St. John, Karan Oberoi, et.al.
Rating: TV-14
Network: CW
Grade: B

After the research lab she works at is shut down, Liz Ortecha moves back home to Roswell, New Mexico and takes up her old job as a waitress at her father’s restaurant. There she learns that her high school crush, Max Evans, is still in town and working for the local sheriff’s department. When Liz is shot one night after work, Max appears and mysteriously heals her, and he later confides in her that he, his sister Isobel, and his best friend Michael Guerin are all aliens that crash landed in Roswell in the 40s. As strange things start happening in town with several people, including Isobel losing time, Liz helps her alien friends investigate the possibility of a fourth alien residing in town, and what this person might want from Max, Isobel, and Michael.

A reboot of the 90s series, which itself was an adaptation of a popular book series, this show is another of the CW’s surprisingly not awful new takes on a classic (of sorts) series. This version of the series seems to add in characters and bits of storyline from the book series (from what I could glean off of the free sample of the first book I was able to find). This version drops the overly saccharine, dewy-eyed school girl heroine for one that seems to be able to hold her own, and the high school drama is replaced with actual issues and real stakes. The actors all seem to have decent chemistry and all work well together.

The special effects all seem to be well done from what I can tell, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

This show should appeal to older teens and young adults (like most CW shows nowadays). Fans of the original series (like myself) may be hesitant to watch, though they shouldn’t be. It’s very well done and actually a bit more interesting than the original (or perhaps that just me looking back with a slightly matured perspective). Anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of sci-fi added to their romance should like it as well.

Roswell, NM is currently available to stream through Netflix or one of the CW apps (CW or CW Seed), with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on DVD.

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The Boys

TheBoys

Starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jesse T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Capon, Karen Fukuhara, Elisabeth Shue, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Amazon
Grade: A

When Hughie Campbell’s girlfriend is accidentally killed by the superhero A-Train right in front of him, all he really wants is to know why. Shortly thereafter, Hughie meets Billy Butcher, a cynical former cop who wants to enlist Hughie in his crusade to take down the superhero team known as the Seven, who also happen to be the most famous group of supers in the world, and Vought, the company that finances them. Agreeing to help, Hughie soon finds himself caught up in Billy’s vengeance-fueled quest as they uncover web of corruption, lies, and the disheartening reality that the world’s favorite heroes are nowhere near as righteous as they make themselves out to be.

This bleak, hyper-violent, and darkly funny take on the superhero genre takes most of its cues from Zak Snyder’s Watchmen, in which the heroes are more violent and dangerous than the people they claim to be protecting the public from. It also adds in the concept of corporatizing and franchising heroes into a for-profit business. Most of the heroes are portrayed as jaded, selfish, and slightly amoral. For the most part, the Seven are a take on DC’s Justice League, with many of the members having abilities that mirror those heroes. The actors all do well in their roles, and they all have decent chemistry.

The special effects are all very well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

As stated before, this show is incredibly violent, so anyone not liking that kind of thing probably won’t want to watch this, but anyone else who also likes comic book adaptations and superheroes should enjoy this.

The Boys is currently only available to stream on Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

Unicorn Store

UnicornStore

Directed By: Brie Larson
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Hamish Linklater, Martha McIsaac, Karan Soni, et.al.
Rating: TV-PG
Network: Netflix
Grade: B-

After failing out of art school and moving back in with her parents, 20-something dreamer Kit decides it’s time to grow up. After getting an office job through a temp agency, she receives an invitation to a place known only as The Store. There, she meets the Salesman, who tells her that she has an opportunity to buy the one thing she’s always wanted to have: a real, live unicorn. As Kit makes preparations to house and care for her unicorn, she meets Virgil, a hardware store employee who’s intrigued by her quest, as well as her unwavering belief that she will actually be acquiring the mythical creature. When she’s also presented with an opportunity to advance at her job, Kit is torn between abandoning her childhood dreams and finally becoming a responsible adult.

This movie is very much What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. Aside from an almost painfully obvious lesson that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of your dreams or losing your sense of whimsy, there isn’t a whole lot of depth and hidden meaning. That said, the acting is fairly decent. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having a ball playing the Salesman, and Brie Larson, who pulls double duty as both the star and the director, seems incredibly comfortable with Kit’s unendingly idealistic nature. Cusack and Whitford, who play Kit’s parents, do a great job of hovering between wanting their child to be happy and just wanting them to finally grow up.

What little special effects are used are pretty good, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone looking to relax their mind with harmless fluff for 90 minutes or so will probably like this. The ending is relatively happy, and, as stated above, you won’t be taxed with hidden meanings. While the movie’s humor and somewhat nonsensical storyline may not appeal to everyone, anyone still in touch with their inner child should like it.

Unicorn Store is currently only available free to stream through Netflix, with no word as to whether they plan to make it available commercially.

Charmed Season 1

Charmed 01

Starring: Melodie Diaz, Madeleine Mantock, Sarah Jeffery, Rupert Evans, Ser’Darius Blain, Ellen Tamaki, Nick Hargrove et.al.
Rating: TV-PG
Network: CW
Grade: B

After the sudden death of their mother, sisters Mel and Maggie discover that they not only have a half-sister, Macy, they never knew about, but that their mother was powerful witch. Shortly afterward, they are approached by Harry Greenwood, a coworker of their mothers who claims to be a Whitelighter sent to help them learn to harness their powers and keep them safe, informing them that they and their new sister are a prophsied trio of witches known as the Charmed Ones. With this new information, the three attempt to adjust to their new reality and fight the evils that seem determined to rid the world of them.

This reboot of the popular 90s television show isn’t actually that bad. While some plot points are lifted from the original series, for the most part they try their best to make the show their own and try to respect the memory of their source material. They also seem to be angling for a more expanded universe with the introduction and recurrence of different types of magical creatures, both good and evil. The actors playing the sisters all have decent chemistry and look like they could be related, and Rupert Evans does a good job of toeing the line between close friend and authority figure.

The special effects are fairly well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable for the most part.

Die-hard fans of the original series may not enjoy the reboot, but those in the target audience (teens and YAs) should like it. I tuned in mostly out of a morbid curiosity and was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn’t hate it. The only real issue I had with it was the heavy-handed way they dealt with feminist and equality messages. I don’t mind having a feminist or equal rights moral to a story, but I do mind being whacked over the head with them in nearly every episode. It got a bit tiresome, and may turn some viewers off to an otherwise pleasantly not terrible show.

Charmed is currently available to stream on Netflix, and will be available to purchase at participating retailers as of October 1, 2019.

The Martian

Martian

Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

After a storm forces an evacuation of a Mars-based research station, Mark Watney, who was believed to have been killed in the storm, wakes up to realized that he has been stranded on the barren planet. Realizing he needs to survive, he relies on his skills as a botanist to grow food, and also attempts to signal Earth that he is still alive. After several months of believing him to be dead, a low-level engineer manages to discover that base-camp for the research crew has been disturbed in a way that storms wouldn’t be able to, and soon finds proof that Watney survived the storm. After alerting Watney that they know he is alive, he and NASA scientists, come up with a crude means of communication. As time passes, Watney and NASA try to figure out a way to get him off the planet using a shuttle meant to supply an upcoming mission.

A different take on a sci-fi/survival story, The Martian is an interesting what-if story that has the potential to actually happen at some point in the future. From what I can tell, the science is fairly accurate, though I can’t say for certain. Matt Damon does well with his scenes, especially considering he spends most of the movie talking to himself while doing video journal entries. The other actors all work well together, and it was interesting to see some comedy-based actors take on more dramatic roles.

The special effects are all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

This is an interesting movie that should appeal to most people. The drama isn’t too heavy-handed, and there’s enough comedy and action sequences interspersed throughout to hold the attention of people who don’t generally enjoy science fiction, even if it is on the lighter side of the sci-fi spectrum. It may be a little too dense to watch repeatedly, but I think an occasional viewing wouldn’t drive anyone too nuts.

The Martian is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Good Omens

GoodOmens

Starring: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Frances McDormand, Sam Taylor Buck, Adria Arjona, Jon Hamm, Jack Whitehall, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Amazon
Grade: A

At the beginning of time, both God and Lucifer sent representatives to Earth to monitor humanity and report back on how things were progressing. Over the course of history, these representatives kept running across each other, and eventually developed a friendship. When Crowley, Hell’s representative, is told that the apocalypse is coming in the near future, he informs Aziraphale, Heaven’s representative, and together the two of them attempt to stop the end of days from occurring.

Adapted from the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is a hilarious, and oftentimes absurd telling of just what might happen if an angel and a demon developed a friendship and became overly-fond of the place and people they were sent here to keep an eye on. The cast is top-notch, and they all seem to be having fun, especially Sheen and Tennant, who shine as Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively, and having Frances McDormand as the voice of God is absolutely delightful. The story itself, while not overly complex, is fun to watch, and, while it does have its basis in religion and the bible, that theme isn’t something that hammer in to the point of taking away from the ultimately humorous story.

The special effects are all very well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

The cast alone is enough to garner the interest of nearly anyone who might be curious about it, though the premise might be a bit much for the hard-core religious and people who typically don’t enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, but I will note that my mother, who usually doesn’t enjoy the ‘weird’ stuff I tend towards loved this series, so I would definitely recommend at least giving it a try. The story is handled well enough that it shouldn’t get boring or tiresome on repeat viewings.

Good Omens is currently only available to stream on Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

Russian Doll Season 1

RussianDollS1

Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Charlie Barnett, Greta Lee, Elizabeth Ashley, Rebecca Henderson, Jeremy Bobb, Ritesh Rajan
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Netflix
Grade: A

On the night of her 36th birthday, Nadia Vulvokov is hit by a car and dies, however she soon finds herself still alive and back at the party her friends have thrown in her honor. Disturbed by the memory of her death, Nadia again leaves the party, only to die again then find herself back in her friend’s bathroom. As she investigates the phenomenon, she meets Alan Zavari, who also claims that he is repeatedly dying and resetting to earlier in the evening when his girlfriend breaks up with him. Curious as to why they’re the only two people who seem to be reliving the same night, they try to retrace the steps they took before dying to try and figure out what caused the loop, and what is causing people they know to begin to vanish as the loops continue.

While I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this show when I started watching, it quickly pulled me in. The strange, dark humor is well-paced and never feels forced. Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett have decent chemistry, and as it starts to become clear why they’re the only ones affected by the loop, and while the basic plot is something of a cosmic Missed Connections, it’s still compellingly done. Nadia and Alan are well-rounded characters, and you come to genuinely care about them.

What few special effects there are were all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Despite the science fiction-like aspect of a time loop, this show should appeal to just about anyone, and it almost comes off like a dark-humor version of Groundhog Day. Like with most streaming-service exclusives, there aren’t a lot of episodes, though they are planning a second season. You don’t need to pay strict attention to the plot in the first few episodes, however, by the end of the season, you may want to.

Russian Doll is currently only available to stream on Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

The Umbrella Academy

UmbrellaAcademy

Starring: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Adam Godly, Sheila McCarthy, Justin H. Min, Colm Feore, et.al.
Rating: TV-14
Network: Netflix
Grade: A

On one day in October 1989, 43 women across the world all gave birth at precisely the same time, despite the fact that none of them were pregnant when they woke up that morning. Eccentric scientist Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of these children and trained them to be superheroes at what he called The Umbrella Academy. Years later, when the five remaining Hargreeves children reunite after their father suddenly dies, their ‘missing’ brother returns stating he is actually a 58 year old man trapped in his teenage body, and tells them they only have a week to prevent the apocalypse from happening. As they attempt to figure out what triggered the apocalypse, secrets are revealed and their bond as siblings is tested.

This is a somewhat refreshing take on the superhero genre, showing the consequences of raising superpowered children in relative isolation from the world, particularly when one of those children is raised to believe that they are the only ‘ordinary’ child amongst extraordinary siblings, as well as showing how growing up with powers affects them into adulthood. The acting is well done, and the actors playing the Hargreeves children all have decent chemistry. Aidan Gallagher does a good job playing someone older than they appear to be, and Ellen Page shows the thinly-veiled bitterness of being the only ‘ordinary’ sibling and the desperation to be thought of as an equal by her siblings.

The special effects are all well done, as is the background filler.

While this show won’t appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys comic adaptations and superhero stories should enjoy it. The storyline is solid and there’s not much in the way of filler. It should hold up to repeat viewings without getting too old too quick.

The Umbrella Academy is currently only available to stream through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

Kim Possible (2019)

KimPossible

Directed By: Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein
Starring: Sadie Stanley, Sean Giambrone, Ciara Riley Wilson, Todd Stashwick, Taylor Ortega, Alyson Hannigan, Connie Ray, Erica Tham, Patton Oswalt, et.al.
Rating: TV-G
Network: Disney Channel
Grade: B+
Teen hero Kim Possible, who overcomes any obstacle in her path, finds herself unusually out of her element upon beginning high school.  Despite having her best friend, Ron Stoppable, tech whiz Wade, and new friend Athena by her side, Kim’s continues to slowly lose control over her once-perfect life.  When her nemesis, Dr. Drakken, is broken out of prison by his henchwoman Shego, Kim discovers that it’s not just her personal life that she’s out of step with, but when one of her friends is put in danger, Kim does everything she can set things right and rescue her friend and stop Dr. Drakken’s evil plot.
The plot for this movie – What happens when the intrepid hero loses their special spark? – was surprisingly original for a children’s made-for-TV movie.  It’s not often franchises, existing or potential, are willing to not only admit that the main character is flawed, but to actively show them make potentially disastrous mistakes and learn and grow from them.  The actors themselves work well together, and the ones playing Kim and Ron have a wonderful platonic chemistry.  It was also nice to see Todd Stashwick get to have fun with a role, instead of the straight-up bad guy he usually plays.
Some of the bigger/more prominent effects falter to scrutiny, but this is on par with other DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies).  Most of the background filler isn’t really noticeable.
We didn’t have cable growing up, so I was largely unfamiliar with the original cartoon that this DCOM is based on, and though I have seen a handful of episodes since watching this movie, the cartoon doesn’t have much bearing on the movie’s plotline.  That said, this is a cute movie that should appeal mostly to the younger crowd, although adults who don’t mind kids movies should find it enjoyable as well.
Kim Possible is free to stream through the DisneyNOW app, and is available for purchase or rental at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Polar

Polar

Polar

Directed By: Jonas Åkerlund
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Fei Ren, Ruby O. Fee, Matt Lucas, Robert Maillet, Anthony Grant, Josh Cruddas, Richard Dreyfuss, Johnny Knoxville, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Grade: C+

Duncan Vizla, a haunted expert assassin nearing a mandatory retirement that comes with a multi-million dollar final payout, decides to take on one final job for his employer, a company called Damocles. In the course of attempting to complete the assassination, Duncan learns that there was more to the job than he had been told, and eventually deduces that it was a setup intended to get him killed. Upon returning to one of his homes, this one located in a remote Montana town, to quietly wait for 50th birthday, he finds himself becoming enthralled with his nearest neighbor, Camille, a quiet, vulnerable young woman. However, his employer has sent an elite group of young assassins after him to ensure that they won’t have to make the payment. After the initial attack fails and Camille is taken, Duncan does everything in his extensive skill set to get her back.

This movie should have been much better than it actually was. Despite having several better than average actors and an interesting, somewhat original plot. Toward the beginning of the film, the action is often interrupted to splash a character’s name across the screen manga-style, and the pacing seems off. All but a handful of characters spend the entirety of their screen time chewing on scenery and hamming it up. The only explanation we’re given for Damocles wanting to kill off its retiring assassins is pure greed, which doesn’t hold up to the level effort put into eliminating Duncan. There’s also a plot point revolving around Camille recounting a story of being raped by a mall Santa while working as an elf, which is never really cleared up as to whether she made it up after her true motivations for moving to the town are revealed.

The effects are all pretty good. There isn’t too much CGI used, and the background filler isn’t obvious.

This movie is probably best saved for when you need background noise while working on another project. Despite having the potential, the movie doesn’t really find it’s feet until the last 10 minutes or so, but by then, you may be wondering if you can request your time back. Mikkelsen and Hudgens do a great job with their respective roles, but then again, they seem to be the only ones taking anything seriously.

Polar is currently only available though Netflix, and can’t be viewed through any other service. There is no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase/rent.

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