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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Set It Up

SetItUp

Set It Up

Directed By: Claire Scanlon
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Joan Smalls, Meredith Hagner, Pete Davidson, Jon Rudnitsky, Tituss Burgess, Jake Robinson, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: B

Harper and Charlie, a pair of overworked assistants working in the same office complex, decide to set their bosses up for romance in order to gain a little bit of personal freedom. As their bosses grow more serious, the two spend more and more time together devising schemes to keep their bosses happy and distracted, while also forming an unexpected friendship. This newfound friendship, as well as their respective jobs, however, are compromised when it’s revealed that the motives of one of their bosses isn’t as quite what they originally thought.

Another of Netflix’s recent spate of original-content rom-coms, this one is fairly average. The storyline is a Parent Trap-like scheme, and while the motivations are somewhat understandable, tricking two people into beginning a relationship so you can have more time off is a fairly crap thing to do. The only thing that keeps that aspect from being a complete turnoff is that the bosses aren’t much better people themselves, though one does get a small bit of redemption by the end. The actors playing Harper and Charlie have decent chemistry, and one nice thing is that they initially become friends before realizing they have feelings for each other.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

Anyone who likes rom-coms should enjoy this. As stated before, while the initial setup is done for selfish reasons, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie. It’s a simple story that’s easy to follow, so you don’t need to remain glued to your seat while watching.

Set It Up is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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To All The Boys

ToAllTheBoys

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Directed By: Susan Johnson
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Andrew Bachelor, Trezzo Mahoro, Madeline Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: A-

For 17 year old Lara Jean Covey, skating through the real world nearly invisible and thriving on a steady diet of romance novels and fantasy is as close to a real relationship she believes she’s going to get. However, after a series of love letters she’s written to various crushes over the years, including her sister’s newly exboyfriend, are mailed to the intended recipients, she finds herself suddenly visible to those around her. When she’s approached by Noah, one of the boys who received a letter, with a plan to make Lara Jean’s current crush jealous, as well as get back at Noah’s exgirlfriend for publicly breaking up with him, Lara Jean agrees, and soon learns that reality can be much better than fantasy.

Over the years, Netflix original content has become more diversified and has delved into nearly every genre. This movie, which is a teen rom-com based on a YA novel of the same name, is an easy-to-watch, fluffy popcorn movie that reminds you of the heyday of these type of movies. The story is simple, without being overly so, and characters and actors all work well together. The teen actors (or the actors playing the teens) are especially charming, and the leads don’t feel like their chemistry is forced.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

If you have a Netflix account and like cute rom-coms, then you’ll like this movie. As stated before, the storyline is simple and easy to follow so you don’t need to be glued to your television to enjoy it. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, so I can’t say how closely it follows that, but even those who haven’t read it should find the movie enjoyable.

To All The Boys I’ve Love Before is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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Deadpool 2

Deadpool2

Deadpool 2

Directed By: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Stefan Kapicic, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

After the love of his life is killed by people seeking vengeance on him, Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool) spirals into a suicidal mania, complicated by his mutant ability to heal rapidly. Eventually taken in by his X-Men friends Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Wade attempts to join their team in an effort to give purpose to his life. On his first outing, Wade connects with a young mutant who is angry and lashing out at his abusers, causing Wade to attack the men and get both Russell and himself arrested and sent to a secure mutant prison. While there, an assassin from the future named Cable arrives to stop Russell from becoming a powerful supervillian called Firefist who winds up killing Cable’s family. Wade then decides to form his own team of heroes to find and rescue Russell and the future is show Cable that people can change by persuading Russell that revenge isn’t always the best answer.

The original Deadpool movie managed to revive Fox’s dying superhero franchises. With the X-Men slowly losing steam and failures to launch from Fantastic Four and Daredevil, the much-awaited Deadpool was seen as a way to renew interest in the characters the studio still held the rights to. Its self-aware, self-referential humor was a breath of fresh air compared the increasing seriousness of its counterparts. This sequel continues with that brand of humor, keeping its tongue firmly planted in cheek, and still manages to have an emotional through point. In many ways, Deadpool 2 is better than Deadpool. One of them being that the storyline is slightly stronger, and the fact that there are actual emotional stakes and reasons behind the action. And, while Reynolds and company manage to find the humor in most scenes, it doesn’t detract from the message about acceptance and forgiveness.

The effects in the movie are great, and on par with the quality of the previous film. There are several explosions and displays of mutant powers. The background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who was a fan of the first movie should like this one, too. The humor is on the same level and there’s a better story. It’s also something you can watch without getting lost, as is typical for most action/comic book movies.

Deadpool 2 isn’t available anywhere to stream at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased at a participating store or online retailer.

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Snowman

Snowman

The Snowman

Directed By: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jonas Karlsson, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, David Dencik, Toby Jones, Chloë Sevigny, James D’Arcy, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C-

As the first snowfall of the year hits Oslo, women begin disappearing from their homes, only to be found later having been murdered and gruesomely displayed. Homicide detective Harry Hole, who has been contacted by the perpetrator, races against time as more women go missing, eventually being found murdered, all the while attempting to battle his own personal demons.

Normally when a book, or series of books, is turned into a movie, they start with the first in the series, which isn’t what happened here. Instead, we’re dropped into the middle of a universe with little to no explanation as to what’s going on with the characters, resulting in a movie that’s choppy, strangely paced, and has characters and subplots that seem to go nowhere. There are also, apparently, a number of flashback sequences that are presented as real time, including an entire character who is revealed to be long dead, despite appearing in what seem to be present day scenes. Despite the movie taking place in Norway, the standard of using an English/British accent in place of anything foreign is used, with the handful of American actors using some muddled hybrid of vaguely British and vaguely Scandinavian.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond some practical uses of severed limbs and blood spatter. The background filler isn’t really noticeable

This movie could, and should, have been better than it was. Nearly all of the actors involved are known talents, but most of them are underutilized here. Those involved in post production also should have spent a little more time trying to create a comprehensive story, instead of the rambling mess we were given. Unless you really want to watch this, it would probably be best left to waiting until you don’t have to pay, as it likely won’t be worth the cost.

The Snowman isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Rampage

Rampage

Rampage

Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, Joe Manganiello, P.J. Byrne, Jack Quaid, Will Yun Lee, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C+

After an orbital research station suffers a malfunction and begins to crash to Earth, the specimens onboard are jettisoned and land in different areas across the US, infecting local wildlife with a virus that causes them to rapidly grow and mutate, all while giving them a nearly uncontrollable violent streak. When one of the specimens lands in a zoo, infecting a normally gentle albino gorilla, the zoo’s Primatologist, Davis Okoye, joined by disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell, sets out to find a cure for the pathogen from its source at Energyne Labs in Chicago before the mutated animals can tear the city apart.

Turning video games into movies is notoriously hit and miss. The biggest hurdle they face is finding a good reason for the plot of the movie to be taking place, which can be difficult depending on the game. Unfortunately for Rampage, a little research tells us that the mutated creatures are the “heroes” of the game, and the destruction of various cities is the main goal. Despite all that, Rampage does maintain a sense of fun. Dwayne Johnson is Hollywood’s leading go-to action/comedy man, and for good reason. It’s easy to tell that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which usually translates into his characters looking as though they’re having fun. Most of the other actors also seem to be having fun with the movie, which is one of the reasons it’s not a total bust.

The special effects are all relatively well done. The giant monsters don’t look too cartoony, but they don’t look terribly realistic, either. The destruction of downtown Chicago, including a skyscraper, looks like it could have been using miniatures and set pieces, though there were a few sequences done with CGI. There are also a couple of death scenes but they’re either blink and you’ll miss it, or played off for laughs.

Anyone looking for fun, semi-mindless popcorn flick should find this enjoyable. As stated before, the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves, though Malin Ackerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan lean towards scenery-chewing every now and then. If nothing else, it’s worth the price of a rental, and shouldn’t wear too thin on repeat viewings.

Rampage isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Night Manager

NightManager

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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Tag

Tag

Tag

Directed By: Jeff Tomsic
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Rashida Jones, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

For the last 30 years, five lifelong friends have devoted one month out of every year to a no-holds-barred, anything goes game of tag. After learning that their best player and friend Jerry, who has never been “it” in all the years they’ve played, is planning on quitting once the current game is finished, Hoagie sets a plan in motion to finally see their friend tagged. Joined by a reporter who is inadvertently made aware of the game while interviewing Bob, one of the players in the group, for a magazine article, they use increasingly elaborate ruses in an attempt to catch Jerry off-guard in the days leading up to his wedding.

Although loosely based on a true story, the actual plot of the film, and the characters used, are all original to the movie. That said, the actors are all believable as a group of lifelong friends, with all of them sharing similar personality traits while remaining individual people. The actual plot itself could be a bit more fleshed out since the “let’s tag Jerry” motive doesn’t hold up to some of the massive lengths the characters go to in order to corner their friend and finally tag him. And, while the ultimate motivation for one of the characters is eventually revealed, it’s almost too late to redeem the movie, though the final sequence makes up for it partially.

There are no obvious special effects outside of background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

This is a fun movie that will appeal to most people. Despite some clunky bits of plotting, the general story is amusing, and the trap sequences in which the group tries to tag Jerry are interesting to watch. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was a minor plot point in which Jerry’s fiancée fakes a pregnancy, and eventually a miscarriage, which detracted from the overall light tone of the film. Overlooking that minor hiccup, this should stand up to multiple viewings, and it doesn’t require a ton of effort to follow. It should be worth spending the money to rent or buy.

Tag isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Infinity War

AvengersInfinityWar

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War

Directed By: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johanssen, Chadwick Bozeman, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elisabeth Olsen, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klemintiff, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A+

Thanos, an evil genius, is bent on collecting the six Infinity Stones so that he can enact a plan to wipe out half the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. Using a select group of his “children,” what he calls the young orphans he’s taken off of the planets he’s conquered over the years, he attempts to recover the remaining stones needed to finish his gauntlet and enact his plan. The only ones standing in his way are the Avengers, or what’s left of them anyway, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the few heroes the two groups have managed to find along the way. As the groups cross paths on their missions to stop Thanos, they learn they must all band together to defeat him as he razes a path of death and destruction across the galaxy from Knowhere to Earth in order to complete his mission.

As I’ve stated before, Marvel has used the last ten years or so to perfect the fine art of a fleshed-out, fully populated comic book universe. Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th movie in the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe, brings together nearly every hero introduced up to this point in a massively ambitious crossover event that is unlike pretty much anything seen before it. Due credit should be given to the casting directors, as they’ve managed to assemble (pardon the unavoidable pun) a group of actors that all work amazingly well together, even though many of the groupings include characters that are meeting for the first time. Since about 90% of the characters have been previously introduced over the last decade of movies, and Thanos has more of his back story filled in, only his Children are left a mystery, since we don’t learn much about them in their limited screen time.

The special effects are top notch, which is to be expected. With everything from ships traveling through space and alien planets, to the slightly futuristic technology of Wakanda, it all blends well and has a realistic quality. There are also several fully CGI characters and creatures, which also have a realistic quality. The background filler is unnoticeable.

Despite the fact that several of the characters from the comic book story line don’t appear in the movie because of licensing issues, the movie is still really good. Viewers may need to watch the previous 18 films in order to know what’s going on, but it’s worth the time spent since much of the series is above-par, with only one or two missteps. And, as long as you don’t let the cliffhanger ending get to you, it’s one that can be watched more than once without getting too old.

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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