Sunday, April 15, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

Early spring horror with surprising success at the box office could become a recurring thing and I'm all for it. This latest horror from John Krasinski starring his wife Emily Blunt has a unique concept that elevates the terror but I found the fast and easy resolution and lack of many hints at a bigger world a little underwhelming even though I was pretty entertained throughout the movie. The film goes for a more straightforward kind of story and the exemplary box office success is amplified by the low production budget. There are no other major characters beyond the family of five that is shrunken in the first horrific scene of the film. The apocalypse has arrived, shown through an abandoned town where the Abbott family searches a store for medicine for their son Marcus Abbott (Noah Jupe).

Their youngest son has an idea of a taking a rocket away from this horror and the thought makes him desire a rocket ship toy that the parents Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) take the batteries out of, but their daughter, the eldest child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) gives him back the toy. A monster kills their son away and the film flashes forward hundreds of days. The Abbott family has settled into a farmhouse with habits that keep their movements quiet. Through a conspiracy wall, the information shows that the monsters are armored and they have not figured out what their weaknesses are. One reason that the family has been so effectively silent is that Regan is deaf and the family knows how to communicate with sign language. 

Lee builds hearing aids for Regan but they never seem to work. Evelyn is pregnant and worries about the upcoming birth that will definitely not be silent. Lee and Marcus had out on an expedition where they can fish and speak amongst a waterfall without attracting the monsters. However, they run into an old man who just lost his wife and screams attracting a monster. Evelyn steps on a nail and falls down the stairs bringing several monsters. Her water broke so she must sneak up into a bathtub which serves as one of the major promo images. The monsters come after her but Marcus sets off a fireworks display that distracts them so that Lee can make it to her after she has the child. The parents hide in the basement while Regan and Marcus run to the grain silo. Regan's hearing aid affects the monsters somehow, making them run away but she doesn't realize it. 

Lee goes out after the other two children as Evelyn stays behind in the basement that has begun to flood. The kids fall into the grain and nearly drown. The noise brings a monster but Regan's hearing aid scares it off. Evelyn quiets her baby with an oxygen mask and a loud noise distracts it. Lee sends the kids away to hide and screams to attract the monster to him as Regan and Marcus watch. The kids use a truck to roll away and hide with their mother but the monsters encroach. Regan finally realizes that her hearing aid hurts the monsters and she amplifies it through a microphone and speaker. Evelyn uses a shotgun to kill one and is prepared to fight more as the movie ends.

A Quiet Place appears to be a huge success and I hope this means plenty more horror as that seems to be the growing genre these days. For a low price, films can be made that dominate the box office when superheroes aren't flying high. Krasinski excels at directing with this unique concept that demands the focus of a theater and the excellent use of sound. Emily Blunt is the veteran actress but stellar performances from the young cast of Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds really make the film enjoyable. I hope there are plenty more films just like this one. 

Movie Review: Ready Player One

Steven Spielberg adapts the nostalgia-filled novel of Ernest Cline about the future of virtual reality. I read the book a few years ago when I first heard about the movie and liked the plot of it enough to be curious as to how they would adapt. There are a lot of changes made during the transition to the screen but the film is still a fast-paced ride, though it backs off the action until the finale. The references were numerous in the book too and I wasn't always able to understand who they were. Some of these references are updated in the movie and some are still brought over. The obsession with the 80s time period is not as prominent and the film seems to incorporate more modern video game characters. I'll have to watch it again see all of the crazy things they packed into this movie.

The story follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) whose parents died when he was young leaving him with the superhero alter ego name. He lives with his aunt in the stacks of a trailer park but escapes into a hideout amid trashed cars. There he can strap on a headset and suit to enter into a virtual world known as the Oasis. The creator of the Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) left behind a secret game when he died and players have to seek out three keys to find an Easter egg. Wade works with Aech (Lena Waithe) to solve the first challenge, a wild car chase that includes King Kong and a T-rex. A big corporation IOI also tries to find the Easter egg so that they can control the Oasis led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Wade meets Art3meis (Olivia Cooke) who is willing to risk everything to find the key and he becomes attracted to her.

Wade solves the first mystery by going backward and finds the first key. He spreads the word to his friends but eventually the corporation figures it out too. Sorrento tries to convince Wade to help him but Wade refuses so Sorrento sends F'Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) after him in reality and I-R0k (T.J. Miller) after him in the Oasis. Wade escapes but then he is brought to a hideout where Samantha, Art3meis real identity, is leading the resistance against IOI. Together they find out about the second challenge in The Shining hotel after they search the archives with the help of a butler. Wade delves into the history of Halliday and his co-creator Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) and Halliday's failed attempt at a relationship.

After they find the second key by surviving the horrors of the Shining hotel, their base is raided and Samantha is capture. Wade escapes and uses some special technology created by Aech to trick Sorrento to make him think he is in reality when he is still in Aech's warehouse in the Oasis. Wade frees Samantha who is in the slave labor area of the IOI headquarters. The final key is in a castle on the gamer shooter planet and the task is to beat an old game. Wade knows what he needs to do but Samantha has to destroy the shield the IOI but around the castle first. A giant battle with all the characters ensues but Sorrento blows everyone up. Wade survives with an extra life and finds the secret before gaining control and living happily ever after.

In between this movie and Spielberg's other release, I tried to watch all of the master director's other films but I came up short. So does this movie in several ways but as I managed to watch quite a few, this movie does not fail to be really entertaining and fun. The concept of new technology was really intriguing and the world is so vivid thanks to all the character cameos. The acting and dialogue weren't great but the spectacle made up for it. I was glad that so many properties were willing to share their ideas and look forward to seeing this technology become available in the future. 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (First Round)

The NBA returns for what has been a predictable tournament for the last few years. There are plenty of exciting games, excellent players, and only the best teams make it far but the dominance of the last few years by certain teams has made this somewhat routine. The last three years have had the same teams in the Finals and that doesn't look to change this year. I've been running into several people who believe the NBA is either boring, rigged, or completely fake. I find this observation unbelievable and usually espoused by casual viewers or people who pay little to no attention to the NBA. There have been a lot of changes in this league and I think this year is the start of tons of new stories that will play out over the next decade. 

Eastern Conference
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards
I wasn't able to really follow the Toronto Raptors much this year but they have pushed themselves to the top of the NBA East. Drake's favorite team won't have it easy in the first round as the Washington Wizards have their best player John Wall returning from the disabled list. Still, the Raptors have a winning formula and they should be able to get out of this round but they might run out of luck soon after. The Raptors took the first game 114-106.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers look to head their third NBA Finals in a row and Lebron James looks to go to the eighth NBA Finals in a row. The reigning runner-up tried to rebuild their team, losing some unhappy players and adding some supposed new talent but disagreements and upsetting losses caused a midseason rebuild. This year may be different for Cleveland and their first opponent can be sneakily tough. The Indiana Pacers have had a mediocre season but they have rebuilt after losing their star so they have young players looking to prove something. 

Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
The process of the Philadelphia 76ers has finally started to pay off. Their top draft picks from years of tanking has made them a solid 4-seed but moving any further will take true talent. The Miami Heat have had a long recovery after losing two all-stars. One returned but age has caught up with him. I'm leaning towards the Sixers but there could be an upset. The Sixers took the first game with a resounding win 130-103.

Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks

At the start of the season, I thought the Boston Celtics would be the team to upset the status quo and with their giant legacy, it looked like that could happen but an opening day game injury and a late-season injury have taken out two of their best players. The Milwaukee Bucks have been rebuilding to get here but their young players still might not have enough to get past Boston. 

Western Conference
Houston Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves
The best team in the NBA has a lot to prove in these playoffs. The Houston Rockets may have the best record in the league but without a title, it means very little. Plenty of teams let the regular season slide when they can dominate in the playoffs but we've yet to see if the Rockets, who made some big additions, will be able to make regular season magic into playoff magic. James Harden seems like a solid MVP candidate and dispatching the scrappy Minnesota Timberwolves with their final game entry into the playoffs shouldn't be too hard. 

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had two years to recover from losing their best player but they worked to build a new superteam this year. That did not pay off as much as they would have liked and they are taking on a new refreshed team in the Utah Jazz. I don't get to watch these West Coast teams but I think the Thunder are a safe bet.

Portland Trailblazers vs New Orleans Pelicans
A surprising pair of teams that have built their teams into solid performers which have put them in this position. I am leaning towards the Portland Trailblazers but the New Orleans Pelicans could definitely pull off the upset with plenty of star players that have just not gotten it together. The Pelicans took the first game 97-95.
Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs
The Golden State Warriors have appeared seemingly unstoppable for the last three years and the addition of Kevin Durant to Steph Curry's shooting sealed the deal last year. This year, the Warriors still seem awesome but not as strong as last year and injuries have sidelined Curry for the first round. The once great San Antonio Spurs have fallen and almost didn't make it into the playoffs as the competitive West fought for positions. This series looks to be lopsided as the Warriors crushed San Antonio 113-92

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sports: NHL (Stanley Cup Playoffs - First Round)

Last year was the first year that I followed hockey somewhat closely but I had always kept my eye on the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year I watched hockey off and on throughout the season following three teams as they all made it into the playoffs. I'm excited to see how the series plays out as it has already gotten underway. The reigning champs are back in it but the runner-up from last year's finals is a top seed this year. I'll make a few predictions but I really have no idea how these games will play out. 

Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils

The Lightning come into this series as a top seed in the East. They were around the top all season long but only made it to the top spot by one point. They will face the wild card New Jersey Devils who I don't imagine will put up much of a fight, having also just made it into the playoffs by one point. I've got Tampa taking this series and moving only to the next round before elimination. They already took the first game 5-2.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Bruins nearly had the top seed but came up short by one point. I think that they will be able to capitalize on their impressive performance and make it to the conference championship but they didn't have a great record in April. The Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn't give them too much trouble in this series and may only take one game or two. The Bruins already took the first game 5-1.

Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The only upset I'm predicting is because I'm a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and have followed their decent season since the start of it. The Washington Capitals were one of my picks for last year so I'm used to seeing their inability to move forward in the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Blue Jackets took the first game with an exciting overtime goal to win 4-3.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning for their third shot at the title in three years. The reigning champions had a pretty decent and have grown better near the end of the year to have one of the best records going into the series. They face their interstate rivals the Philadelphia Flyers who have struggled somewhat this season. The Penguins had a resounding win in the first with a shutout score of 7-0. The Flyers bounced back in the second game to win 5-1.

Western Conference
Nashville Predators vs Colorado Avalanche
The Nashville Predators are one of my favorite teams and my pick to win it all. Starting out as a much lower seed last year, the Predators made a run to the finals. This year they have snagged the top seed so their path to the finals should be easier. It won't be but their chances are returning are high. The Colorado Avalanche won't just roll over for the Predators and have something to prove as the underdog. The Predators took down the Avalanche 5-2 in the first game and 5-4 in the second. 

Winnipeg Jets vs Minnesota Wild
The Winnipeg Jets used to be the Atlanta Thrashers long ago so that's my biggest motivation for picking them, plus they're favored. The Minnesota Wild have been pretty good but missed some games so I don't think they'll be pushing on to the next round. The Jets beat the Wild 3-2 and then 4-1 in game two.

Las Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings
The newest team to the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have had a charmed season. They've risen to the top of their division and have the players to take them far into the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings find themselves the rivals of this new team and the underdog in their first series. The Golden Knights should be challenging the Predators for the Western Conference championship. The Golden Knights shutout the Kings and won 1-0 and then took an overtime win 2-1
Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks
I don't get a lot of chances to watch these teams during the season because of the time difference but I've picked up some solid play in the West. I think the Anaheim Ducks should win but I probably won't get to watch many of their matches. The San Jose Sharks used to be my go-to pick but I'm not sure they'll make it out of this series. The Sharks shutout the Ducks 3-0 in the first game.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Sports: College Basketball (Final Four & National Championship)

My post for this is coming late as my hat for the winner has already arrived making my collection that much more outrageous. The Final Four had two games, one between two relatively surprising seeds and one between two top seeds. Villanova has been at the top all year so there was never really anyone stopping them though I didn't see that on any of my brackets. My bracket is such a mess this year and I should have known that with the wild way this season was playing out. I'll look at the Saturday Final Four games and then the unimpressive blowout Nation Championship. My television reviewing got a little out of hand so I'm further behind that I thought I would be. By this point, Villanova's blowout is somewhat forgotten in my mind already turning to other sports. 

Michigan Wolverines vs Loyola Ramblers
Michigan halted the Cinderella run of Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. The games started out as a close battle with Loyola's solid three-point shooting managing to hold up but Michigan persistent defense finally wore them down. Loyola had made it this far against some really difficult teams but exhaustion finally got them as the Wolverines stuck with their formula putting them in the championship.
Kansas Jayhawks vs Villanova Wildcats
I was shocked when Kansas just got crushed by the Villanova Wildcats. For a Villanova fan, which I now am sort of, this must have been awesome because Kansas comes from the Big 12, a much more competitive conference, but they could not withstand the amazing three-point shooting and incredibly play of the Wildcats. Villanova had the momentum and looked ready to go from the beginning as they did almost all season long.
National Championship
Michigan Wolverines vs Villanova Wildcats
Villanova continued to dominate into the National Championship for a game that was so boring I forgot to blog about it until much later. I thought the game would be somewhat competitive at first but with lethal three-pointers and amazing play from the bench player Donte DiVincenzo, the Villanova Wildcats won their second title in two years. Next year, I'll be favoring them again as I don't think a lot of their players are leaving. 

Here is my main trash bracket though I filled out a few more of these that were also pretty bad.

TV Show Review: The Mick (Season 2)

This hilarious dysfunctional wealthy family comedy continues for a brilliant second season that lives up to the first and grows the great characters. Mackenzie "Mick" Murphy (Kaitlin Olson) is still trying to live the high life after the Pemberton mansion burned down but the hotels have realized they are out of money. The rest of the Pembertons are not ready to give up their cozy lives either. Mick works with her niece Sabrina (Sofia Black-D'Elia) to blackmail the financial advisor who has restricted their spending while Jimmy (Scott MacArthur) teaches Chip (Thomas Barbusca) how to stay under the radar though Chip tries to go it alone and gets caught. Alba (Carla Jimenez) has an exorcism performed on him by the youngest Pemberton Ben (Jack Stanton). A solid first episode for what turned into a pretty outrageously hilarious second season.

The family has to move back to the burned-out mansion for a few episodes as the kids cope with their parentage and Mickey tries to make friends. Jimmy has a brief foray into financial advising before it all goes wrong. Ben is one of the funniest parts of the show as he befriends inmates and goes off his ADHD medicine. Sabrina tries to regain her popularity by throwing a Halloween party but it goes awry. They finally get out of the burnt-out mansion when a distant relative passes away leaving the house for Mick and the kids. Jimmy and Mick's relationship is strained by revelations from the past but they can hardly get away from the kids to go out on a date. 

Mickey also pushes Sabrina hard to go to college because she wants the moody teenage girl out of her new mansion. Alba has to cover up that she never cleans around the house when one of her relatives arrives still believing she was a maid. The show jumps from various topics like religion, gambling, and bullying with irreverent fashion. The physical humor is amazing especially from Mickey and Jimmy as they get in fights or get locked in a car. Chip has various schemes that always work out to embarrass him and Sabrina tries to remain cool even as she has doubts about her future. 

Mickey tries to keep the family out of trouble but Ben steals things, Chip throws parties, and Sabrina declines her acceptance to Yale. Mickey, with the help of Alba who is always having fun in these scenarios, tries to direct Sabrina to college, help Ben make friends, win the science fair, and stay out of trouble while Jimmy tries to mentor Chip and his wealthy friends through the wild lessons he learned in his own rough childhood. The finale has Mickey trying to finally convince Sabrina and deal with her own regrets only for a lightning strike to throw her plans into chaos for what should be a great third season.  

The Mick continues to be wildly amusing in its second season with scenarios working out into hysterical conclusions and the actors pulling off some great comedic moments. The FOX network has impressed me with a lot of their comedies recently and The Mick fits right into those shows. It is nice to see Kaitlin Olson branch out from the show that made her famous though I hope she stays on that one as well. I don't know if I'll have the time to continue reviewing these thirty-minute comedies but they are some of my favorite shows to watch so I'll definitely be tuning in when The Mick returns.  

TV Show Review: Santa Clarita Diet (Season 2)

Netflix zombie comedy continues to be hilarious in a gory second season. This streaming service does a decent job with the previous season recap but I still couldn't remember everything that happened,  I just remember it being really funny. The second season has Hammond family having barely escaped exposure for who they truly are, murderers, but Joel (Timothy Olyphant) is stuck in an asylum trying to prove his sanity. Sheila (Drew Barrymore) is chained to a post while their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) and her friend Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo) try to discover a cure by gathering vomit from a Serbian. Joel is finally released and works with Sheila to solve problems without murdering and eating the people that cause them.

Sheila has a desire to hunt animals and a group of rival realtors try to steal their business so Joel uses Sheila's newfound instinct to win the deal. When Joel and Sheila learn that the body of Sheila's first victim Gary (Nathan Fillon) is buried on property that is about to be developed they dig up Gary only to find his head is still alive and talking a lot. They decide that they will end Gary's undead existence and Gary agrees only if they do a few chores for him like signing over a deed to his niece. Gary's niece leads Sheila to a group of Nazis, which she uses as a ready supply of meat. Eric develops a crush on the drug store girl Ramona (Ramona Young) and is happy about their growing relationship until he discovers that she is a zombie too. 

The couple continues to investigate how Sheila turned into a zombie even as they advise Ramona to cover up her murders. Joel traces Sheila's and Ramona's infection to a restaurant known as Japapo's but because he is an avid Yelp reviewer, the owner notices him and refuses to give him the receipts of the same night unless he edits his review. It sounds as silly as it is but Joel takes his review seriously but makes the sacrifice finding another person who might be infected. Sheila works her way through the Nazis and even blacks out when she gets hungry and recklessly kills another. She worried that she killed her rude and sexist boss Carl (Andy Richter) but he turned up fine. 

After Joel survives an old man zombie attack, he learns from Eric that the clams were supplied by Ruby (Sarah Baker) but Ruby believes that Joel is part of a clam rival. The couples learn to work together but their trouble doesn't give them time to pay attention to Abby who is going through a crisis. Abby gets a bit too into environmentalism and plans a terrorist attack against a fracking company. Everything comes to a head when Eric's mom Lisa (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) has started a relationship with Anne Garcia (Natalie Morales) whose investigation leads her to Sheila and Joel but they reveal Gary to her and her religious zeal plus Abby's explosion make her a convert.

Santa Clarita Diet is another excellent show from Netflix that utilizes great one-liners and topical humor alongside cheesy zombie gore. Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore play off one another well while Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo provide youthful subplots and young romantic attention. The short thirty-minute episodes make it easy to binge the whole show in a weekend and the growing troubles and recurring cliffhangers make it hard to stop watching. I am looking forward to seeing where the show goes in the third season. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

TV Show Review: Godless

I had passed on the Netflix Western for some time but when I got around to watching it, I was blown away. The streaming service continues to use its budget to increase its catalog of original shows and this gun-slinging limited series is a wonderful addition. The show starts out slow letting the pieces fall into place. Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) lives on the outskirts of the troubled town La Belle with her son Truckee (Samuel Marty) and his grandmother when an outlaw Roy Goode (Jack O'Connell) stumbles on their land and gets a bullet in his throat. The town of La Belle is unique in that most of the men died in a mining accident and the population is mostly women. The sheriff Bill McNue (Scoot McNairy) begins to go blind and wants to reassert his authority even as Mary Agnes (Merritt Wever) takes responsibility at home.

The killer Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his posse go on a killing spree through towns where they believe Roy Goode is hiding out after Roy Goode shot him forcing him to cut off his arm. Rumor of Frank Griffin's rampage reaches La Belle and McNue decides to set out and find the outlaw to bring him to justice. Agnes tries to take the lead in the town but the other women out vote her to sell the mine to a mining company. Before McNue left he rode to Alice's farm and arrested Roy Goode but his deputy Whitey (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is unable to keep Roy imprisoned when Alice frees him at gunpoint. Alice recruits Roy to train her horses so that she can sell them and leave the cursed town of La Belle behind her. The other women believe Alice is a witch that cursed the town. 

The mining company brings in their own security led by Ed Logan (Kim Coates) who kicks Whitey out of the sheriff's office. Whitey has fallen for a young woman Louise Hobbs (Jessica Sula) who he asks to teach him violin lessons despite the deputy not having any musical talent. Louise lives in her Blackdom with her parents including her father Elias (Erik LaRay Harvey) who was part of a lethal group of Buffalo Soldiers before he became a simple farmer. The show moves steadily towards the final confrontation dragging at times but I was able to watch most of it while exercising so I didn't mind the steady plotting as much as I would have if I had just been watching the show. Still, the finale is worth it. The newspaperman A.T. Grigg (Jeremy Bobb) sees Roy Goode, whose past with Frank is laid out in flashbacks, and writes a news report knowing Griffin will find it.

Roy Goode tries to leave La Bell just as McNue is returning but Roy stops to prevent Ed Logan and his gang from making off with Alice's horses after she sold them to the townspeople. Mary Agnes and Alice Fletcher prepare the women for the oncoming attacks as Frank Griffin and his gang kill most everyone in Blackdom. There are many deaths and I'm trying to write fewer spoilers so I won't state who but plenty of them are shocking. Frank Griffin repeatedly states that he knows how he will die but even he is shocked by a spectacular standoff at the end. 

Godless was an incredible show that I put off watching for longer than I wanted. I was lucky that I found time exercising to catch this show because it has been one of my favorites, which is also why I am reviewing months after its debut, not a common practice for me. I believe the finale is one of my favorite episodes of television that I have seen in a long time and made the slow Western build up that much more enjoyable. It's too bad that this is a limited series but it shows the potential of Netflix in various genres. The acting was superb with recognizable starts led by Daniels riding around and gun-slinging and I also liked the increased roles for women with the clever plot twists. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

TV Show Review: Counterpart

One of my favorite shows of the year so far adds a sci-fi twist to classic espionage for an extraordinary first season. Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) works a dull yet mysterious job reading dialogue across a window at another person. He is not supposed to have any other interactions and finds himself in trouble after he mentions a stain to the man across the glass. He keeps to a routine playing a game with a man before visiting his wife in the hospital. His wife Emily Burton Silk (Olivia Williams) was injured in a car accident and her family wants to move her unconscious body back to their home away from Howard. His life is suddenly changed when an assassin Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) crosses over from another dimension with a list of people to kill; on that list is Howard's wife.

Howard is brought into a room by Peter Quayle (Harry Lloyd) and Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen). He comes face to face with himself from another dimension. Howard from the other dimension is a secret agent who has been running missions to keep things from spilling over. The two Howards switch places to protect Emily but Howard Prime, the secret agent, continuously lies and misleads Howard, who he sees as a bit of a disappointment. Baldwin does try to kill Emily but she escapes when they spring the trap on her because of a small mistake. Though Howard lies about it, Emily is still alive on the other side and she receives orders to take out Howard Prime, who uses his skill to kill them and get away. 

Alexander Pope (Stephen Rea) is a shadowy leader of the Prime spies and he arranges for Howard Prime to head back over to the other side. Howard works with Quayle and Aldrich to trap Baldwin who tries to kill her counterpart a violin player. The Howards agree to switch identities and have to discuss their identities but Howard goes over to the other side he finds that things are not as he was told. He has a daughter and is estranged from his family but his nice attitude starts him on the road to making amends after Emily is poisoned by agents. The biggest twist is discovered in the search for a mole when Aldrich's wife Clare (Nazanin Boniadi) turns out to be a plant from years before. The Prime dimension has a rogue group that was raising children up to replace others and causes leaks.

The Prime side sends over agents as they believe that the Alpha side caused epidemics on their side. The Prime citizens are afraid of disease and will ostracize anyone who doesn't have the correct inoculations. A lot of crazy stuff happens as each Howard adjusts to their life in the opposite world. Howard Alpha is disgusted when he finds out about the kids and he learns that his wife was a spy the whole time. Howard Prime tried to help Aldrich deal with the mole but he finds that there is not a lot of cooperation there. The Prime side agents stage a massive shootout that alters the course of the season as both sides seal the Howards in the other dimension. 

Counterpart is my favorite show of the year and I wish I had more time to study it and watch it again. This review does not do it justice and the twists and turns were truly shocking as they take entire episodes to play out with major consequences. I love the idea for this show and really want to see where the show goes from here as it never fails to have some shocking scenes. J.K. Simmons carries the whole show but I sometimes forgot that the two Howards were played by the same person but the supporting is also great so even the few scenes without a Howard are entertaining. I am impressed with this new Starz series and hope it continues for many seasons.  

TV Show Review: The Alienist

TNT is working to makes its way into the prestigious television business with better hour-long dramas. This limited horror series could help this channel more known for basketball and movies to make the leap into appointment viewing. A stellar cast elevates a standard murder mystery beyond a forgettable show into something that was fun to watch but still not easy to follow what was happening. The story begins with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) being called to a crime scene. He finds a brutal murder of a boy on a high bridge. He seeks out his friend the alienist Dr. Lazlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) who sent him there and shows him the horrible pictures that he drew. Kreizler is able to connect the murder using the clues of the forensic scientists Marcus Isaacson (Douglas Smith) and his brother Det. Sgt. Lucius Isaacson (Matthew Shear).

The show starts to explore the growing practice of fingerprinting and using other forms of science to help solve crimes. Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) assists the commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) but becomes involved in the case and finds important clues. The group joins forces to solve the case centering a man who supposedly has a silver smile due to an illness. John Moore investigates the brothels where one of the victims is from and ends up being drugged. The city of New York is growing restless near the end of the 19th century as the murders mount up and Roosevelt has to deal with the political fallout. He faces criticism from Thomas Byrnes (Ted Levine), a police department leader and his officer henchman Captain Connor (David Wilmot). 

Kreizler has helped various people throughout his career and kept some of them around to help him including Cyrus Montrose (Robert Wisdom) and Mary Palmer (Q'orianka Kilcher) with whom he begins to have a romantic relationship. Sara Howard also sees him as a romantic interest but their disturbing discussions about the ability to murder put her off somewhat. Sara enquires into Kreizler's past which angers him. As the group profiles the killer, Sara grows closer to John and continues her investigation of Kreizler. The group tries to set up a trap to catch the killer but things go wrong and the killer evades them.

Thomas Byrnes tries to cover up the proclivities of a wealthy family's son that Kreizler suspects so Captain Connor tries to shut him up by sending him away but goes too far with the effort and murders the young man. Connor continues his rampage bringing it to Kreizler house where he injures Montrose and kills Mary Palmer in a part where I actually started paying a little more attention. The group travels to various areas. The Isaacson brothers go to South Dakota where they hear disturbing stories of a crazed soldier while Moore and Kreizler go to D.C. to learn more about the suspected killer. Somehow the clues come together just as a boy's life is in danger. The climax is disappointing as the conclusion adds no real twists and the killer is not someone I recognized from early plot deals though admittedly I did not pay attention. Connor turns out to be a bigger villain and Sara takes him out.

The Alienist looks to be TNT's biggest attempt at jumping into prestige television but this limited series has a lot missing from an entertaining show even as the topic intrigued me. I wanted to get lost in the period piece with the great costumes and sets but even the great actors Brühl and Evans and actress Fanning could not bring the plot out of the convoluted episodes. Plenty of things happened but they never seemed to matter until important characters were murdered later though that hardly made up for the slow pace of the show. I don't think I'll revisit the show but I would like to read the book it is based on one day. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

TV Show Review: Baskets (Season 3)

Being a clown isn't easy and this FX comedy captures the outrageous absurdity of the make-up dream of bringing smiles to people's faces. Zach Galifianakis pulls double duty as he plays twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets while Louie Anderson continues to steal the show as Mrs. Christine Baskets. This show never fails to create awkward situations that are brilliant for comedy. The second season ended with Christine deciding to bail out Chip by buying the rodeo so that Chip can perform there. Owning a rodeo seems fun for Christine at first but she soon learns that things are a little more complicated as untamed horses run wild and expenses mount up. Christine prepares for a television interview to bring some publicity to the new rodeo. 

While Chip searches for new clowns to help the rodeo, he seeks out his old rodeo boss Eddie (Ernest Adams) who is stuck with a woman holding him hostage. Eddie has a drinking problem which causes a lot of issues for the rodeo as it tries to put on their first few shows. Chip tries to recruit his old hobo friends but they have moved on to their life at Arby's. This show is one of the rare shows that incorporates the corporate sponsor within the narrative of the show and they usually do it in a silly way. Christine wants to host a major opera performance at the rodeo to impress her group of old lady friends. Dale warns against using too much money on the fireworks but Christine moves forward with the huge display but the fireworks go awry and set the place on fire.

Dale sues Christine after his finances are thrown off and he is unable to impress his daughters to one-up his ex-wife's new boyfriend. Dale calls in Christine's brother who runs a Quizno's but things do not go well. The family drama causes Christine to be alone on Thanksgiving as Chip goes to see Martha's family but the French clowns show up to cheer her holiday though they insult Chip's character making him start to think of changes. Christine takes Martha to a women's conference and comes up with the idea to film a commercial. However, Martha's boyfriend Ken (Alex Morris) slaps Dale during the filming forcing a confrontation. 

Dale starts a spiral meeting a woman at a bar who he asks to marry and lying a ton about his ownership of the rodeo. Chip starts to build a new character but takes Martha on a birthday celebration that complicates her strange romantic life. After the controversy, Ken tries to make it up to Christine but wants the blessing of both Chip and Dale to propose. Dale holds out as they go to a cabin to have a family New Year's celebration. Dale gets lost and Ken saves him while Christine talks with Ken's family about their relationship and settles her doubts.

Baskets continues to be a hilarious show that features great performances from a solid cast. Galifianakis is brilliant with the two characters switching from awkward Chip to confrontational Dale. Anderson takes a lot more scenes of this season as Christine becomes the main characters. Martha Kelly is also great with her deadpan delivery and the awkward way she hangs around the Baskets family. The FX comedy could go through some changes with one creator probably dropping off but I think it will continue to be one of the funniest shows on television. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

TV Show Review: The Detour (Season 3)

Hilarious and charming, this TBS comedy continues to deliver laughs through the third season of adventures for the Parker family. The third season sees the Parkers settling into a new life in Alaska, a place where they believe they can stay hidden. Their obvious lies are easily exposed but most people in Alaska are hiding from something so they don't really care. The daylight never ceases so it starts to drive them crazy. Robin Parker (Natalie Zea) takes a job at an oddly themed strip club while Nate (Jason Jones) stayed home with Delilah (Ashley Gerasimovich) and Jared (Liam Carroll). As Nate suspects Robin has met someone, Delilah goes through puberty and gets a boyfriend while Jared deals with a gender fluid relationship. The postal service agent Edie (Laura Benanti) continues to keep the family under surveillance searching for the stupidest member to flip.

Jared runs for mayor against a llama which brings more attention to them but he manages to win. She determines that Nate is the dumbest and goes undercover as the assistant coach for the kids' hockey team. Delilah discovers her recordings and starts to suspect that Edie has a crush on her dad. Hurting for cash, Nate decides to take a trip on a fishing trawler after misreading how much they paid. Kevin (Roy Wood Jr.) helps him through the rough trip and he does win money in a fight. He returns home to find Robin preparing for a wedding and the FBI closing in. Nate has doubts about his marriage as he reflects back on their honeymoon and the awful way that turned out. 

Robin's sister Vanessa (Daniella Pineda) ratted them out and Nate grabs the family and they flee. They hire a pilot name Sleepy (Gordon Pinsent) who falls asleep at the wheel midflight and the plane starts to descend. Nate takes over the plane and, while they all think they are going to die, he manages to land it. They are lost in the woods and try to hike back to civilization eating magic mushrooms along the way. Edie chases after them hiring a militia group to help her.

The Parkers stumble onto a live action roleplay Western and Nate thinks he's a big hero. Throughout the episodes, their lawyer interviews them about everything that happened and this slowly reveals a very complicated and outrageous story. Edie catches up with them and the militia takes the attack a little too far by launching a rocket into a house. They are taken to the police station and it catches up with the lawyer's interview. Edie reveals that she is Robin's sister which explains her die-hard mission to catch Robin's father. The final reveal shows Delilah long scheme to escape the craziness of the Parker family and set out on her own.

The Detour remains one of the funniest shows on television and it always feels like the thirty minute episodes are just too short especially if you watch them one episode a week. It does feel like the show lost a little steam with it being in one place but then jumped back into a funny scenario with the family on the run again. With the big reveal, I don't know where the show will go from here but I do hope it continues for more seasons because this show has continuously brought plenty of laughs with the antics of the Parker family. Jason Jones and Samantha Bee have created something great. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

TV Show Review: Jessica Jones (Season 2)

The Marvel Netflix television series continues after the team up series with a return to the solo series. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is just doing her job as a private detective when a greater mystery starts to unravel. She is denying her label as a hero and rejects the publicity of her fight with her first villain even as her best friend and adoptive sister Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) tries to garner some publicity for Jessica's actions. Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville) assists Jessica with her private investigation business even as Jessica constantly fires him. She runs into her new apartment super Oscar Arocho (J.R. Ramirez) who is wary of living near a woman with super powers.

A rival private detective Pryce Cheng (Terry Chen) tries to steal her clients even as she has a host of terrible clients including a seemingly crazy client who refers to himself as the Whizzer (Jay Klaitz). Upon further investigation, it turns out that Whizzer had some hint of truth in his paranoia. When the Whizzer ends up dying right in front of Jessica, she suspects that Will Simpson (Wil Traval) might have something to do with it. Trish is as concerned about her ex-boyfriend as she is about uncovering the mysteries of Jessica's past. When Jones discovers an abandoned clinic, horrible memories service that reminds her of her creation as a superhuman. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) returns with new trouble from her colleagues and a deadly diagnosis. She set Pryce on Jessica which ends badly when Jessica lashes out and beats Pryce up. 

The main mystery revolves around a secret corporation known as IGH. Jessica is forced into anger management while Trish is the focus of tabloid rumors. Trish is dating a newscaster but rumors swirl around her and Malcolm. She confronts a man who used his position to manipulate her into a relationship to get inside information into IGH. Simpson confronts them but then he is brutally murdered. A strange woman is responsible for the murders and even kills one of Pryce's henchmen. It turns out that the woman is Jessica's mother Alisa (Janet McTeer). She was also saved from the accident by the scientist Dr. Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie). Jessica wants revenge for her life being destroyed but Alisa has fallen in love with Karl and will protect him at all costs.

Mother and daughter try to reunite and form a new relationship but things get in the way, like how Alisa killed Jessica's first serious boyfriend and Alisa's temper that is out of control. They kidnap Pryce and try figure out where Karl is hiding but as things grow out of control, Alisa ends up imprisoned. Jeri comes around to help Jessica even as she is scammed by another IGH employee. Trish continues to research Karl and she gets hopped up on the drugs Simpson was taking and demands that Dr. Malus operate on her. Jessica saves her but Alisa is distraught about Karl's death. She breaks out and goes on the run with Jessica finally being shot by Trish on a Ferris wheel.

Jessica Jones returns with a season that isn't as great as the first season. It set the bar high with the villain Kilgrave and the addition of Luke Cage, but the second season focused on Jessica's origin and the transformation of Trish into a crazed anti-hero. Krysten Ritter is still great as the smartmouthed private eye and it was nice to see a romantic relationship for the character. Netflix superhero shows have a tendency to drag out and its the same case here. Thirteen episodes can easily contain multiple villains but the focus of IGH and Jessica's mother just wasn't enough to keep it entertaining. The show still had high points and plenty of great characters so I'm curious where it will go for a third season. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

TV Show Review: High Maintenance (Season 2)

The stoner television series continues with tons of eccentric New York characters that have interesting lives that are all tied together by a single drug dealer. The Guy (Ben Sinclair) bikes around the city providing marijuana to various people whose lives play out in each episode. The second season has more episodes which allow the creators Sinclair and Katja Blickfeld to go into more stories and flesh out the Guy's life as well. The story begins with a tragedy that is never revealed but characters cope with the endless news updates and really want to get high causing the Guy to travel all over the city. One especially weird revelation comes from a woman who finds out she's been having a threesome with two brothers when they call their mom to assure her they are fine.

The Guy goes all over the place and deals with all sorts of people from parents visiting their daughter in college and staying at a strange AirBnB and a women's group planning political activism. The Guy starts to rethink where he is living as he still has an apartment across from his wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) who left him for a woman. Another couple tries to start over in a new place only to find that they are treated as less than for receiving financial assistance. Two dramatically different lifestyles collide as a performer intersects with an orthodox Jewish man who renounced his conservative lifestyle as both of these stories somehow intersected with the Guy. 

The Guy's job doesn't ensure health insurance so when he gets into a terrible accident and breaks his arm, he goes to the cheapest hospital. Luckily, his divorce from his wife hasn't gone through so he is still on her insurance. She visits him in the hospital and steals his weed pen but denies being high later with her girlfriend. With his arm broken, the Guy has to work with a partner Abdullah (Abdullah Saeed), an Uber driver. The Guy takes advantage of his time off by taking mushrooms and walking around though things go awry. The Uber driver works well but The Guy still has to move back to his old school ways. The Guy provides a service that helps marriages and ambitious individuals achieve their goals, like a woman who tries to break the continuous dance marathon record despite physical limitations that can be deterred by marijuana.

The internet is another source of comedy as one customer of the Guy tries to disconnect only to have a candle burn his apartment and another woman is harassed on the internet for making an insensitive joke until she makes an apology. The eclipse from last year serves as the event of the finale that sees a couple plan a marriage proposal. The Guy has a chance to start over with his life with an RV but as he starts his journey the vehicle breaks down leaving him stranded. One of the funniest parts of these shows are the credits scenes as the Guy finds himself in some strange situation that plays out in slow motion. 

High Maintenance is always a funny show but I never know what to expect from one episode to the next. Some episodes are really funny while others go more in-depth into an issue. I find sometimes that the show can be a little slow but I also really like how it gives a picture of New York City that I would never see. Ben Sinclair's The Guy is a great anchor and gives a unique perspective and access to tons of different lives that are not shown on other shows.