The Umbrella Academy


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,
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)


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,
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.




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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Discovery of Witches Season 1


A Discovery of Witches: Season 1

Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Valerie Pettiford, Malin Buksa, Owen Teale, Edward Bluemel, Aiysha Hart, Alex Kingston, Greg Chillin, Trevor Eve,
Rating: TV-MA
Network: SkyOne/Sundance
Grade: A
Diana Bishop, a witch descended from a powerful line, travels to Oxford as a guest lecturer and to continue her research into history and alchemy for an upcoming academic papers she’s writing.  While there, she comes across a book called Ashmole 782, which, unbeknownst to her, has been missing for centuries.  After receiving a powerful burst of magic from the book, creatures around the world (witches, vampires, and daemons) all felt the strange burst and many become determined to figure out where it came from and why.  Among them is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and professor of Biochemistry at Oxford, who begins following Diana in order to learn how she was able to summon the book and persuade her to do it again.  However, the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to deny their growing attraction, which would be a violation of Conclave Law, as well as Diana’s growing power.  As more and more creatures seek out Diana for the knowledge they believe she possesses, she and Matthew fight not only to protect their lives, but their love as well, and attempt to unravel the secret behind the missing text and what it means for the future of the creature species.
I’m a bit of a sucker for fantasy, so this immediately appealed to me.  Not only was the storyline compelling, but it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.  I have yet to read the book series it’s based on, but based on what little I’ve read, the show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book.  The acting is well done, and Goode and Palmer have excellent chemistry.  A handful of the actors use accents that aren’t their own, but they do a fairly good job of it.  Although it was a bit disconcerting for me to hear actors I know to be British speaking with an American accent.  While most of the show was filmed in Wales, there were some scenes filmed in England and Italy, which added some nice touches of realism.
The special effects were all well done, and any background filler wasn’t noticeable.
While not all of the creature abilities are outlined, it doesn’t detract much from the storyline, as some things can be surmised just by watching the show and others are likely to be explained in upcoming seasons.  It’s a serialized show, so you do need to pay a little bit of attention, and there is a large, prevalent romantic story so anyone who doesn’t enjoy romance mixed with their adventure stories may not like that aspect of the show.
A Discovery of Witches is only available to stream from SkyOne in the UK and Sundance/Shudder in the US, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.
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Take Two


Take Two

Starring: Rachel Bilson, Eddie Cibrian, Xavier de Guzman, Alice Lee, Aliyah O’Brien,
Rating: TV-PG
Network: ABC
Grade: B+

After being released from a stint in rehab, Sam Swift, disgraced former star of a hit TV cop show, is looking for a job, any job, in order to get back on her feet. Her agent suggests she shadow a private investigator whom the agent once had a relationship. After meeting Sam and thinking she’s doing research for a role, PI Eddie Valetik isn’t interested in what amounts to a job babysitting a freshly rehabbed celebrity, but begrudgingly agrees to let her follow him as a favor to his ex. Despite their differences and initial clashing, Sam and Eddie discover that they work remarkably well together, and decide to partner up for real as Private Investigators.

A mix of RomCom and Buddy Cop, this show is a light, fluffy way to kill time when there’s nothing else to do. Bilson and Cibrian have a decent chemistry, though the romance aspect for their characters seems to be a bit rushed towards the end. All the actors work well together, and everyone seems to be believable in their roles. The writing occasionally leaves something to be desired, but anyone expecting 100% solid stories in a Summer Series should probably look somewhere other than network television.

Some of the special effects, usually when characters are in cars, aren’t that great, but the background filler seems to be okay.

As stated before, if you want something light to watch to kill some time, this series is a good candidate. It’s an episodic format, which means you don’t need to pay strict attention to the story, and there’s no over-arcing storyline carried throughout the show. There’s no word as to whether they plan to make a second season at this time.

Take Two is only available to stream from or digital app, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

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Starring: Stana Katic, Patrick Heusinger, Cara Theobold, Neil Jackson, Angel Bonanni, Bruno Bichir, Paul Freeman, Ralph Ineson, Christopher Colquhoun, Patrick McAuley, Amber Aga, Borislava Stratieva,
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Amazon Prime
Grade: B

Five years after disappearing while investigating a serial killer, FBI Agent Emily Byrne is found miraculously alive. As she tries to adjust to the new world around her, in which her husband is remarried and her son thinks of her as a stranger, someone begins murdering those involved with her kidnapping and leaving evidence that it’s Emily doing the killing, and that she may have been involved with the serial killer she was investigating. Unable to trust those around her, Emily takes off and begins investigating the crimes herself, racing against the clock to find a killer that has ties to her past.

This intense crime thriller has a great premise, and spends the first three quarters of the series crafting a believable “Is she or isn’t she?” scenario, only to have it all unravel towards the end, which only makes me think that the original idea was to have Emily be the one behind the killings, or at the very least, have her be involved somehow. The acting is well done all around, with Katic giving a wonderful performance as someone who is unsure of themselves, as well as someone who believably has PTSD. The actors playing her family also do well, giving happy but conflicted performances.

What little special effects are used are done well, and are mostly used as background filler.

Despite a few too many red herrings and a bit of stumbling towards the end, it’s still an interesting, fast-moving storyline that should hold a persons interest until the end. It’s a serialized story that requires you to pay a little more attention than the average show, but I don’t see where that would be a problem unless you’ve completely disconnected from the story.

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

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Killjoys Season 1


Killjoys: Season 1

Starring: Hanna John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore, Luke MacFarlane, Tamsen McDonough, Thom Allison, Rob Stewart, Morgan Kelly, Sarah Power, Mayko Nguyen, et. al.
Rated: TV-14
Network: Syfy
Grade: B+

Dutch and John are Reclamation Agents, called Killjoys, operating out of a city called The Quarter for an agency simply called The Company on the planet of Westerley. After John takes a Level 5 contract with a kill order, Dutch must save both him and the person the contract was put out on, who happens to be John’s estranged brother, D’avin. After John and Dutch try to find a way to release D’avin from his kill order by recruiting him into the Killjoys, they start looking for the person who put the contract out on him in the first place, which is complicated by the fact that Dutch’s past comes back to haunt her shortly after the kill order is taken. Caught between wanting answers about her past and wanting to protect her friends, Dutch tries her best to pretend nothing is wrong while searching for the man who raised her to be a killer.

This show is probably best described as Sci-Fi Lite. Yes, it takes place on an alien planet in an alien star system, but there aren’t any actual aliens. At least not the intelligent, humanoid kind popularized by other sci-fi series. The show itself has a light-hearted, buddy cop feel to it, and plays out more like an action adventure series that happens to take place somewhere other than Earth. There are cases of the week interspersed with subplots revolving around the first season’s main story of trying to protect Dutch from her past and the people who want to use her as the weapon she was raised to be.

Considering this is a mid-budget science fiction show, the acting is pretty good. Occasionally characters get a tad bit over dramatic, but the main cast the regular supporting characters manage to keep from chewing on the scenery too much. John-Kamen, Ashmore, and MacFarlane all work well together and have decent chemistry, and Ashmore and MacFarlane are believable as siblings. All of the actors appear to be using their natural accents.

There isn’t much to be said about scenery. Despite the fact that it takes place on alien worlds, what few landscapes we see are Earth-like. The scenes that take place in The Quarter make it look like a run-down warehouse district with the buildings having been reperposed to fit the current needs of the population. What few special effects are used are done well. There are instances of futuristic technology, and a few shots of space.

This is an enjoyable series. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but isn’t too heavy on comedy either. The mostly episodic format keeps you from needing to be glued to your television, but it’s entertaining enough that if you need to leave the room, you may find yourself pausing the show anyway.

Killjoys is available free to stream through SyFy, and can be rented through Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Jack Ryan


Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Starring: John Krasinsky, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, John Hooganakker, Ali Suliman, Dina Shihabi, Haaz Sleiman, Karim Zein, Timothy Hutton, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Network: Amazon
Grade: A-

CIA analyst Jack Ryan gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse with an Israeli terrorist named Sulieman after uncovering the existence of a radical cell laundering money throughout Europe. After realizing that a man rescued from a CIA interrogation site is actually the terrorist leader he’s been looking for, he becomes determined to see the cell wiped out and their plans for an attack on American soil stopped. Despite needing to convince his superiors that the threat is immediate, Jack, with the help of his supervisor, continues his investigation and slowly works to unravel Sulieman’s terrorist network.

Of all the incarnations of Jack Ryan that have appeared on screen, John Krasinsky’s portrayal of the iconic character feels more believable than others. While he has put on more muscle mass in recent years, he’s still lithe, and despite being attractive, he has a boy-next-door quality that makes you believe he would be a data analyst. The other actors seem to be well-cast as well. Everyone has decent chemistry, and the relationship between Krasinsky’s Jack and Cornish’s Catherine is believable.

The acting is fairly decent. I’m unfamiliar with most of the actors on the show, so I can’t really compare with pervious works. Those I was familiar with seemed to be on the same caliber as what I’d previously seen them in. Krasinky seems a tad bit uncomfortable with action scenes, but that could just be done as part of his character. Cornish handles her medical jargon rather well, and despite her being British, her accent doesn’t noticeably waver (at least to my untrained ears). Hutton and Pierce do well with the authoritarian roles, and Suliman, Shihabi, Sleiman, and Zein seem to have a decent handle on their characters as well.

The majority of the show takes place in either an office building or in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries, and while I’m sure that many parts of Saudi Arabia are beautiful, the rural parts that are shown are mostly sand dunes, military bases, or terrorist strongholds, which don’t offer much of a view. They do travel to France briefly, but most of the scenes are either indoors or at night. The special effects are well done, with a number of explosions, as well as any background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

If you don’t mind a slow-burn spy thriller, then you’ll probably enjoy this series. It moves along fast enough to remain interesting, and while it does require a little more attention than your average action show, you don’t need to remain glued to your television the entire time. There is a subplot that didn’t really seem to fit, but it doesn’t take up too much of the viewers time, and it’s finished with over the course of two or three episodes.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is only available to stream through Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether they plan to release it on video.

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Night Manager


The Night Manager

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Coleman, Elizabeth Debicki, Alastair Petrie, Michael Nardone, Hovik Keuchkerian, Adeel Akhtar, Tom Hollander, Douglas Hodge, David Harewood, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Network: AMC/BBC
Grade: B+

Jonathan Pine, the night concierge at a Cairo hotel, is unwittingly placed in the middle of a MI-6 investigation into Richard Roper, an internationally renowned businessman, philanthropist, humanitarian, who has been using his status to run weapons smuggling ring around the world. After a guest places a list of weapons being sold by Roper in Pines hands, he anonymously hands the information over to British Intelligence and attempts to keep woman who gave him the information safe. After he fails and she is killed, Pine leaves his job and seeks employment elsewhere, eventually landing in a remote Swiss hotel, where he encounters Roper himself. Fueled by a need for revenge, Pine offers himself to MI-6 as a possible mole in Roper’s group of friends and associates. As Pine gets closer to Roper’s inner circle, lines get blurred, and Pine’s motives become less clear, as he becomes dangerously close to losing his life in order to get justice for Roper’s victims.

This slow-burning spy drama, based on the novel by John le Carré, is a serialized show that takes its time in unraveling. While you are presented with the knowledge that Roper is a backroom arms dealer early on, the real test is if and how the evidence will get into the hands of the agents Pine reports to. Roper himself is possessive and paranoid, to the point where he doesn’t allow anyone but his young son have a cell phone unless absolutely necessary. The story itself holds enough interest to keep you watching, and the one-hour episode format gives viewers a chance to walk away and process information without overwhelming them.

The acting is we done. Laurie seems to be having fun playing the bad guy, which isn’t something he seems to do very often. Hiddleston’s performance is superb, with him infusing a bit of barely-contained rage into nearly every scene he shares with Laurie. Since the show was originally filmed for the BBC before being picked up by AMC, a few of the actors are Brits playing Americans, though the accents are spot-on. Everyone else appears to be using their natural accents.

The scenery is beautiful. Filmed mostly on the Mediterranean coast, there’s a sunny warmth in most of the scenes, which is a nice counter to the grim dealings of the characters. There are a few noticeable special effects in the form of rather impressive explosions, with anything else being background filler or practical blood effects for the few gruesome death scenes.

I would recommend this series. The story is interesting, and there are times when you wonder if Pine was won over by Roper’s charm and the luxury of his lifestyle. It is something you’d have to pay attention to, but it’s worth the time and effort. It does end on a bit of an odd note, however, with little actual closure given to most of the characters.

The Night Manager is available to stream through Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Directed By: Paul Hoen
Starring: Meg Donnelly, Milo Manheim, Trevor Tordjman, Emilia McCarthy, Kylee Russell, James Godfrey, Kingston Foster, Naomi Snieckus, et. al.
Rated: Y7
Network: Disney
Grade: A-

In idyllic Seabrook, everything – and everyone – is perfect, and if you’re not perfect, you’re either forced to conform, or you’re hidden away. When an accident at a nearby chemical plant creates a toxic green fog that turns all it touches into brain-hungry zombies, the citizens build a wall to keep the hungry hoards away. Decades later, the zombies, aided by technological advances, are able to curb their impulses and lead normal, productive lives, and eventually the teens living in what’s known as Zombietown are allowed to attend Seabrook High School. Once there, zombie students Zed and his friends Eliza and Bonzo are excited to finally be included in a real school and possibly join extracurricular activities like football, computer club, and band, only to find out that they’re stuck in the basement away from the other students. After Zed is caught wandering the school and a shutdown is in place, he meets Addison, a pretty blonde cheerleader who was raised to believe that all zombies are evil, but also wants to see the good in everyone since she carries a secret of her own. Together, Zed and Addison try to erase the lines between humans and zombies and finally get the two groups reintegrated.

Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is a fairly typical DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie), with a standard boy-meets-girl/Romeo and Juliet story. Despite the standardized format and rather predictable ending, the movie is actually very entertaining. As long as you like musicals, that is. Like most DCOMs these days, this movie features several song and dance numbers, which vary between surprisingly good and laughably cheesy. The acting is about what you’d expect from a TV movie aimed at kids. Most of the supporting characters get a bit over the top, but the main actors hold their own. Since most of the actors in the movie are relative unknowns or are just getting their first major role, nothing should be held against them for being a tad bit over dramatic at times.

Since this is a made-for-TV movie, there are very little special effects used. When they do use them, though, they’re not that bad. There are some zombie transition effects at one point in the movie, and a couple of the dance sequences have some stage effects, and what little else is used is background filler.

If you like DCOMs, or just cheery movies with happy, although slightly predictable, endings, then you’ll like Z-O-M-B-I-E-S. Despite the fact that half the characters are zombies, there’s no real sci-fi or horror elements used, and the movie is entirely bloodless. It’s also a good movie for kids to watch to help teach them about tolerance and accepting those who are different from what society deems as “normal.”

Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is available free to stream from the DisneyNOW app, and purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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