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.

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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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Discovery of Witches Season 1

discoveryofwitchess1

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, et.al.
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

TakeTwo

Take Two

Starring: Rachel Bilson, Eddie Cibrian, Xavier de Guzman, Alice Lee, Aliyah O’Brien, et.al.
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 ABC.com or digital app, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

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Absentia

Absentia

Absentia

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, et.al.
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

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

JackRyan

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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