Category Archives: TV

Twin Peaks (1990-1991) TV Review

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Twin Peaks

Cast:
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson
Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs
Richard Beymer as Benjamin Horne
Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward
Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne
Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward
Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings
James Marshall as James Hurley
Everett McGill as Ed Hurley
Jack Nance as Pete Martell
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Joan Chen as Jocelyn “Josie” Packard
Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell
Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran
Eric Da Re as Leo Johnson
Harry Goaz as Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan
Michael Horse as Deputy Sheriff Tommy “Hawk” Hill
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer and Madeline “Maddy” Ferguson
Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby
Kenneth Welsh as Windom Earle
Creator: Mark Frost and David Lynch

An FBI agent, Dale Cooper, is assigned to investigate the murder of a 17-year old schoolgirl, Laura Palmer, in Twin Peaks.

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Twin Peaks was one of those shows I had been hearing about for a while. It’s a show by David Lynch that seemed to have an significant impact on pop culture and heavy influence on various forms of media following it. It also spawned a movie called Fire Walk with Me, and a revival series called The Return in the late 2010s. I was curious about it and wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or whether I was going to like it at all. Eventually I checked it out and it quickly became one of my favourite shows.

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As discouraging as it might sound, Twin Peaks is something that you’ll have to persist at when watching it. Not that it starts out bad, in fact the first episode is very well handled. Its just that you have to get used to the slower pace, large amount of odd characters and storylines, and the weird tone. Within the first three episodes however, I got on board with the show. The mystery itself is intriguing, initially focussing on the death of a girl named Laura Palmer. There’s a lot that is unclear, not there’s plenty of things aren’t explained, and in some instances you’ll have to theorise an answer or just accept it and move forward. You’ll get used to that eventually though. I found myself being quickly addicted to the show, slower paced as it was. The handling of tone is great, it is strange how weird how well it balanced the grief and camp elements. There is this level of ironic soap opera to it and it is weird in that David Lynch way, yet it is funny with the quirky dark humour. It also does a good job at conveying grief and how people would react to a death. The show takes the time to really focus on the grief and emotional responses of the people who knew Laura. Its very sincere and does this very well. Season 1 is fairly short at 8 episodes, and it is abrupt in how it ends. But at the very least, it gets you on board to check out season 2.

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Season 2 is where a lot of people are somewhat mixed on the show. From what I could tell, at a certain point, original creators Mark Frost and David Lynch becomes less involved with the show, However I liked it for the most part. There’s a lot there that I liked more than season 1, it definitely picks up the pace more. Then after a particularly major episode where a lot of things have been resolved, the movie really winds down and staggers onwards. People who have watched the series know about this section. It stretches the mystery further and adds plenty of plotlines that were hit or miss, some of them feeling like timewasters (one of them not even taking place in Twin Peaks). It felt so weird for this show to become a grinding experience. At a certain point however, it picks up and I became interested again, and it culminates in an incredibly memorable finale. The final episode is one of the most shocking and haunting episodes in a show I’ve seen, especially considering that it ended on the most gripping cliffhanger in a show of cliffhangers.

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There are plenty of memorable and strange characters in this show, too many to list them all. There are definitely some characters who are better than others, some really fall flat and are either annoying or boring. More often than not though, they work, same with the acting. However, the highlight for me and many people is Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper. Watching the first episode, it quickly becomes clear why Cooper became one of the most iconic characters of all time. As the FBI agent looking for who killed Laura Palmer, he’s charismatic, likable, smart, enthusiastic and confident. Even in the show’s lowest points, it picks up whenever he’s on screen. There’s some other great performances, including Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, and Ray Wise. Even David Lynch gets to make an impression, and he is entertaining whenever he’s on screen.

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Twin Peaks quite strong on a technical levels, everything from the cinematography (even the aspect ratio), environments, locations, use of colour and shadow, all of it really works. I wouldn’t say that the show is strictly horror, but it is definitely a notable part of it. The moments of horror are incredibly effective and creepy. The editing and visuals could be off kilter and quirky or surreal and off-putting. The Black Lodge is an example of everything being made to feel strange. The music is fantastic, Angelo Badalamenti has composed some fantastic themes for the show. From the title theme to Laura Palmer’s theme, all of it is excellent and adds to the atmosphere of the show.

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Some have call Twin Peaks one of the greatest tv shows, and I can’t disagree. Mark Frost and David Lynch has made an iconic show. It is very flawed in parts, some storylines are messy or don’t hold up, and there is a decent chunk in season 2 where the show meanders aimlessly. But I can’t help but love Twin Peaks, flaws and all. The characters, performances, tone, and writing all work together to make a satisfying experience and one of my favourite TV shows.

Moon Knight (2022) TV Review

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Moon Knight Season 1Cast:
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Moon Knight, Steven Grant/Mr. Knight
May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly
Karim El Hakim and F. Murray Abraham as Khonshu
Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow
Ann Akinjirin as Bobbi Kennedy
David Ganly as Billy Fitzgerald
Khalid Abdalla as Selim
Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart
Antonia Salib as Taweret
Fernanda Andrade as Wendy Spector
Rey Lucas as Elias Spector
Sofia Danu and Saba Mubarak as Ammit
Creator: Jeremy Slater

Steven Grant and mercenary Marc Spector investigate the mysteries of the Egyptian gods from inside the same body.

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I was interested in the upcoming Moon Knight show. I had no knowledge of Moon Knight except that he’s a major character in the Marvel comics. Oscar Isaac would play the titular role, and Ethan Hawke was cast as the villain. Also from the trailer, Moon Knight looked very different from the rest of the MCU, even just stylistically. So I was going into it open minded despite the mixed reactions. I have to say that I was disappointed, even thought I liked the show overall.

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The previous MCU shows were heavily linked in with the wider MCU simply by being led by a notable MCU character, Hawkeye, Loki, etc. This is however Moon Knight’s introduction into the MCU and doesn’t feature any side characters that return from the established cinematic universe. I don’t recall many references to the wider MCU either. So I for one at least appreciated that it was different and felt unrelated, it was very much its own thing. Even the tone is quite dark and different from the entries that came before. It has a portrayal of dissociative identity disorder (which the show’s subject has) and while I’m not an expert on the topic, it does have a sensitive take on it at the very least. As for the writing itself, it has to be the most unevenly written MCU show thus far. It has some strong moments and well done sections, and then it has some very messy parts with some sluggish or rushed pacing. The highlight of the show for me was episode 5 in which it goes into Marc Spector’s (Moon Knight) painful past and we learn how the split personality came to be. It was much like the penultimate episode of WandaVision in which Wanda is shown her past. There are some incredibly effective stuff in this episode, with the right amount of emotional impact. By far the best episode of the show, and it didn’t even have Moon Knight doing any Moon Knighting. A typical failing of the MCU shows (aside from Loki) is that it fails in the finale, especially with a rushed and a typical climax. That’s very much the case with Moon Knight; it was mostly just action with no room to breathe and felt rushed despite the 6 episodes. The ending itself is very abrupt, even when taking the credits scene into account. Its particularly sad because right after the amazing stuff in episode 5, it snaps back into formula for the final stretch. Much like most of the other MCU shows, Moon Knight feels like a show that really could’ve been a movie, and probably would’ve been much better as such. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like enough time was given to it. There aren’t many moments where I’ve outright disliked it, but I wish I liked it more. By the time it reached the end, I felt let down.

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One of the biggest selling points of the show is Oscar Isaac in the lead role. His character has DID and plays two separate personalities, Steven Grant and Marc Spector. Isaac has had better performances, but he’s really good here and carries much of the show. The show starts out following Steven and despite the very rough start, he makes the show watchable. He’s likable to watch and easy to root for, even Oscar Isaac’s over the top British accent made him endearing in a way. I especially liked the contrast between the two roles, the Isaac does well at making them clearly different beyond the accents. If nothing else, he’s is clearly committed to the roles, and that goes a long way. Ethan Hawke is also in this show as the main villain, a cult leader named Arthur Harrow. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of his best performances and the show could’ve been given him more to work with, but its more than a lot of other MCU villain actors are given. It helps that Hawke is pretty good here too. The rest of the performances are pretty good too, including one of the major characters Layla, played by May Calamawy.

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The direction is a bit of a mixed bag from beginning to end. The action scenes are fun to watch, and makes use of Moon Knight’s abilities quite well. The suiting up scenes for Moon Knight are very satisfying and fun to watch. I like the design of the suits (Moon Knight/Marc Specter and Mr Knight/Steven Grant). I also quite like the musical score from Hesham Nazih, especially the main theme. On the other hand, the CGI can vary, occasionally looking pretty good, other times bad and distracting like it is from a 90s comic book movie. Even on a visual level, it can look disappointingly bland at points.

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Moon Knight is down there with Hawkeye as one of the worst MCU shows. The writing is messy and uneven, with a story that isn’t that compelling, as well as some flawed CGI and visuals. It’s unfortunate because there’s some good stuff here, and things that make me want to like it more. I liked the performances, especially Oscar Isaac as the lead, and it has some genuinely great moments. I guess if you like the MCU, you’ll probably want to watch it regardless. I do like the show, but I wish I liked it more than I did.

Wes Anderson Films Ranked

Wes Anderson Ranked

With his latest movie The French Dispatch out now, I thought it was the best time to rank director Wes Anderson’s filmography.

No one makes movies like Wes Anderson, very few directors’ works are as instantly recognisable as his. From the symmetrical framing, colour palette, eccentric sense of humour, blending melancholy and humour, and large casts full of A list acting talents, he is undeniably distinct as a filmmaker, and one of the most compelling working today. Even in his weakest efforts, there’s something to love in each of them.

Here’s a ranking of his 10 feature films, from worst to best.

10. Bottle Rocket

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I think I’m confident in saying that most people who’ve seen Bottle Rocket would consider it one of if not the weakest movie from Wes Anderson, and I’m in this group of people. It is his first movie and feels the least like his other movies. With that said, I do think that it is worth watching, it’s interesting to see how it started, and it’s a good movie in itself.

Much of the movie isn’t what you’d expect from a Wes Anderson film (the dialogue for instance). However, if you’ve seen any of his other movies you can pick up on certain elements that would evolve into his trademarks, with the comedy, quirky characters, and even the use of colour. The character driven story is decent for what it is and is mostly paced well, but the plot probably the weakest part of the movie as it’s only mildly interesting. Despite some of the flaws, like the slower second act, there’s good stuff here. The movie is reasonably entertaining and funny throughout, and the cast are good, especially Luke and Owen Wilson. Wes Anderson hadn’t figured out his style at this point, but from this movie it still clear that he’s talented, and his work here is pretty solid for a first time filmmaker. Really good directorial debut overall.

My review of Bottle Rocket

9. The Darjeeling Limited

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The Darjeeling Limited is likely Wes Anderson’s simplest movie, it was okay, but by the end I felt like it was really missing something from it. While it does contain some of the familiar Anderson aspects including the quirky dialogue and the comedy, they don’t work quite as well in this movie. I do appreciate the smaller and more personal scale that the movie takes, but it does feel a bit bland in portions. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was outright bored while watching, but I was close to it. The writing and story were the weakest parts for me, which is quite unfortunate really since its usually pretty strong in Anderson’s movies. I was paying attention to what was happening with the story and characters, but I didn’t feel particularly engaged or invested.

Not to say that this movie is bad by any means. The movie is about three brothers with grief travelling with baggage (both physical and emotional), it was heartwarming in parts and there are some moments that are strong. The acting is also great from Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, all delivering on their parts. The direction is also pretty good from Wes, even though it is definitely more scaled back compared to his other movies. The cinematography and use of colour particularly makes it a stunning movie to watch. I think The Darjeeling Limited is still decent enough, and it has some solid moments. However, I still think it’s one of his worst movies, and it’s not one that I’m particularly inclined to revisit.

My review of The Darjeeling Limited

8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of Wes Anderson’s more unusual movies, one which initially was a box office flop and gathered a mixed response, but now is viewed more positively by critics and audiences. I do feel mixed on some parts of the movie, there was something that prevented me from being fully invested in what was happening. The script could’ve been tighter, the plot being loose isn’t a problem but it really only works if I’m invested in what was happening. Unfortunately I just wasn’t, and it wasn’t helped by the slow pacing. I also felt that something felt quite empty to the characters and story, at least on this first viewing. There are definitely some moments of the story which worked greatly but I wouldn’t say that it worked on the whole.

Despite all that, I really do admire the ambition on display. Wes Anderson went wild with the budget and put it to great use, especially with the production design. It does have Anderson’s familiar style and strengths, it was eccentric, quirky and visually pleasing, and the dialogue is good. The cast is massive, and while some of them aren’t seen as much as you’d like, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe stand out as being particularly great at the very least. There are some entertaining moments and again some character and story moments which genuinely work. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a bit of a mess at times, but when it’s great, it’s really great. I don’t feel inclined to watch it again, but I get the feeling that I might ease into the movie more upon repeat viewings.

My review of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

7. Moonrise Kingdom

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While it wasn’t the first Wes Anderson movie I watched, Moonrise Kingdom was the first movie I watched from him when I was aware of him as a director. It’s pretty good, even if I do have some issues with it. It is a straightforward and simplistic coming of age story, and I was generally entertained, though I wouldn’t say I was invested with the story or characters. Tonally its inconsistent (not in a good way), and the pacing is all over the place. I find that I’m really only invested with the story and characters in half of Anderson’s filmography, and I just couldn’t get into them with Moonrise Kingdom.

As expected, it has all the Wes Anderson aspects, quirky, funny, and deadpan dialogue, and unusual characters. Clearly though, there was a lot of passion put into it, even if I didn’t care much for the story or characters. The large cast are all great, including the child actors who do a good job in their parts. The highlights of the cast for me were Edward Norton and Bruce Willis, both unexpected yet fantastic fits for a Wes Anderson movie. The movie is shot well and is visually stunning, with vibrant colours, and familiar shot compositions for the director. The lower budget adds a lot to the feeling of being a relatively smaller movie. I do think Moonrise Kingdom is worth watching, it is pretty good. I just don’t have much to say about it, and I don’t love it as much as other people. I will say that if you’re looking to get into Wes Anderson as a filmmaker, I wouldn’t recommend watching this first.

My review of Moonrise Kingdom

6. Isle of Dogs

The second of Wes Anderson’s animated movies is Isle of Dogs released in 2018, which was really good. There were some slight issues I had, there were an overuse of flashbacks, and a lot of the side storylines and supporting characters, which the movie occasionally focused on, weren’t nearly as interesting as the main storyline and characters. On the whole though, I enjoyed watching it.

Once again, Isle of Dogs is an original and unique story from Wes Anderson, filled with quirky characters and deadpan humour and dialogue. The story itself surprisingly gets dark at some points, despite being a kids animated movie, and one involving dogs. There’s a great voice cast in Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murry, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig and more. Of course another highlight of the movie is that of the animation, which manages to be even better than Anderson’s work on Fantastic Mr. Fox. Like that other movie, despite being an animated film, it still felt like something made by Wes Anderson, even just looking at the direction from the framing, editing, shot composition and the like. Overall, a very good time.

My review of Isle of Dogs

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox

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It’s rare that live action filmmakers who make the shift to an animated movie make said animated movies with the exact same style. Anderson pulls it off however, and in fact delivers one of his best movies.

A common theme amongst most of these movies in this list is that they are distinctly Wes Anderson movie, and Fantastic Mr. Fox is no exception. There’s a great cast involved (including George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Willem Dafoe), who give their respective characters distinct personalities and traits with their perfect voice performances and comedic timing. The story is fast paced and full of energy, it’s witty, charming, funny and all-around entertaining. And of course, the movie is incredibly well animated, with Anderson’s style perfectly translating into stop motion animation. Even though Isle of Dogs from an animation standpoint is better, FMF’s animation still holds up pretty well over a decade later. Fantastic Mr. Fox is also a movie that both children and adults can like but honestly, I think that adults would like it more and get more out of it. I might be stretching a bit, but I think this might be among my favourite animated movies.

My review of Fantastic Mr. Fox

4. Rushmore

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Rushmore is Wes Anderson’s second movie, and it put him on the map as someone to pay attention to. While he’s still forming his own style with this coming-of-age movie, he is more confident in his direction over his last movie. As someone who never saw it until somewhat recently, I really liked it.

The script is finely tuned to near perfection. It is funny and entertaining yet deeper than it initially appears. It jumps between being comedic, pessimistic, hopeful, sad and more, and it is all balanced out well. The characters are eccentric and quirky, yet endearing and memorable. Jason Schwartzman shines in the lead role, and Bill Murray is also great in his supporting role. Anderson’s directing style is still finding itself, but you can definitely recognise some of the elements which would go on to evolve to that point, very well made. As far as coming of age movies go, Rushmore is probably among my favourites in that subgenre.

My review of Rushmore

3. The French Dispatch

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Wes Anderson’s latest film made it into the top 3 of this list. This is quite possibly the most Wes Anderson movie ever and that’s saying a lot. While it might be on the more divisive end of his filmography, I honestly think he delivers some of his finest work here.

An anthology movie made up of shorter stories, I found all of them compelling to watch. It is messy and disjointed especially in tone, but that’s to be expected of an anthology movie. The French Dispatch is very delightful to watch with some great humour. Not only that but it feels very passionate, and it’s also very tender and heartfelt across all these stories. The movie also has by far Anderson’s largest cast yet, and while some of the actors like Christoph Waltz and Saoirse Ronan are regulated to mere cameos, they are all welcome additions. All the actors (especially Benicio del Toro and Jeffrey Wright) are great, with not a single weak link. The direction from Anderson is so much his style that it almost borders on self parody. He even does things that he hasn’t done before playing around with looks and filmmaking styles (including aspect ratio changes and switching between animation and live action). All in all, The French Dispatch is firmly one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, and was even better than I was expecting.

My review of The French Dispatch

2. The Royal Tenenbaums

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The Royal Tenenbaums has often been called one of Anderson’s best movies, and for very good reason. This family drama was one that hooked me as soon as it started, and I was consistently entertained and invested in it from beginning to end.

The Royal Tenenbaums has one of Wes Anderson’s best scripts, and it features a lot of his trademarks. It is quite entertaining and funny at times, however it is more of a drama than a comedy, and in fact was sadder than expected. The most surprising aspect was that it works really well on an emotional level, with there being an underlying feeling of sadness amongst most of the characters, and it even touches on some serious themes and topics. There is a great tonal balance between comedy and drama. You are engaged with what’s going on with the plot, as well as with the very well realised characters. The ensemble cast as expected are all great, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Luke Wilson and especially Gene Hackman. Wes Anderson directed the movie excellently with his distinct style, it’s aesthetically pleasing and with a lot of attention to detail. I thoroughly loved The Royal Tenenbaums, and I can see myself loving it more the more I come back to it.

My review of The Royal Tenenbaums

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of the earliest movies I’ve seen from Wes Anderson, I really liked it when I got to watch it in cinemas in 2014. While I was catching up with watching Anderson’s other movies, it still seemed to remain my favourite of his. A rewatch confirmed it as being not only firmly my favourite of his films, but also one of my favourite movies of all time.

As expected, the movie feels quite original, the story is heartfelt, charming and endearing, and it features quirky and entertaining characters. It had me invested from beginning to end and was endlessly entertaining. It really gave a sense of adventure and escapism, while having melancholic and darker qualities and themes that you don’t expect at first. There is also a large and talented cast as expected from Wes Anderson, with the likes of Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan and more delivering on their parts. The standout among them however is the pitch perfect acting from Ralph Fiennes, who gives one of the best performances in an Anderson movie. The direction and style are instantly recognisable and are some of Wes’s best work. It is visually stunning from the top-notch cinematography, to the beautiful and vibrant and production design, the great costume designs, and the many well filmed sequences. Wes Anderson took the best from his past movies and put it all into this one movie, I think this is his magnum opus. It honestly is a great place to start if you haven’t watched any of his past movies yet.

My review of The Grand Budapest Hotel

What do you think of Wes Anderson? How would you rank his films?

Hawkeye (2021) TV Review

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HawkeyeCast:
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop
Tony Dalton as Jack Duquesne
Fra Fee as Kazimierz “Kazi” Kazimierczak
Brian d’Arcy James as Derek Bishop
Aleks Paunovic as Ivan
Piotr Adamczyk as Tomas
Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton
Simon Callow as Armand Duquesne III
Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez
Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Creator: Jonathan Igla

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop shoot a few arrows and try to avoid becoming the target themselves.

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Hawkeye is the latest series of the MCU put on Disney+. It looked fun and deliberately Christmas themed as it was ending just before Christmas Day. It did have many flaws but I’m prepared to say that I liked it.

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Right out of the gate I quite liked this refreshing approach for an MCU series. It felt very small scale and grounded, and its essentially a heartfelt buddy comedy between its two lead characters. The plot is definitely predictable, but I think that’s fine for this sort of show. There are even disposable and low level threat villains called the Tracksuit Mafia which are definitely meant to be absurd and lower threat, and I think that it fitted the lower stakes of the show. The humour is mostly funny and I really liked the quieter moments between characters, which were usually the best moments oof the show. There are definitely some dramatic elements, the main part being with Clint’s PTSD, him potentially missing Christmas with his family, and especially feeling the lasting effects of being Ronin after The Snap before Endgame starts. I do like that they address all that, although I feel like it is a little out of place in this show tonally, and Clint does get off pretty lightly considering he pretty much went on a global killing spree as a vigilante. Around halfway through or two thirds through the show I was enjoying it as a light show that didn’t need to do much. However over time it just brings in too much characters and storylines that almost could’ve fitted in other shows. By the time it brings in Yelena and introduces the show’s “mystery man”, it just feels too much. Speaking of the mystery man, literally every live action MCU tv show had some reveal of a villainous character near the end, and Loki so far has been the only one which has pulled it off. Ultimately, I feel the show might’ve benefited being without him. Not to mention that the reveal is left way too late without any development, and he almost feels like a last minute and tact on addition. Somehow Loki is also the only Disney+ show that got the length of the season right. Wandavision was a bit too long while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t not long enough, and Hawkeye is on the ‘not long enough’ side of it. 6 episodes should be long enough for a light hearted show like this. However it introduces so many notable plotlines and characters (which they don’t really need) that it doesn’t have enough time to resolve their stories in a satisfying way. It felt like at least 2 episodes were cut from this thing. As for credit scenes, there is one for the finale, but its really not worth checking out.

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Jeremy Renner reprises his role of Hawkeye/Clint Barton and for what its worth, this is his best appearance as the character, mainly because of the attention and material given to him. He’s very witty and more fun to watch, while still giving an emotional performance especially as he shows regret over the events from Avengers: Endgame. One of the notable additions from this show is the co-lead in Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and she’s a great addition. She’s really energetic, charming, likable yet vulnerable in the role and stole all the scenes she was in. I’m looking forward to seeing her in more MCU projects. The dynamic between Kate and Clint are the heart of the show and they share believable chemistry.

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Alaqua Cox is a secondary antagonist of sorts as Maya Lopez/Echo, the deaf commander of the Tracksuit Mafia who is really good in her part. Definitely noteworthy is the fact that she’ll be getting her own show. She definitely has a good amount of build-up at the beginning but by the end of the show, her character doesn’t have much to do.  Just as well this isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing her but her ending in this show just felt rushed. It doesn’t help that there is a good amount of her arc which could’ve been handled in her own show with more attention, but it was shoved into the finale here. After her introduction in Black Widow, Florence Pugh returns as Yelena Belova as she is hunting Clint Barton. She is funny and entertaining yet ruthless and she is one of the highlights of the show. She particularly shares great chemistry with Steinfeld in their scenes together. With that being said, her whole revenge arc could’ve been done in another show or movie, in Hawkeye it felt rather stuffed and shoved in. Thankfully Pugh’s performance made up for it. Now about this show’s ‘mystery man’ villain, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to see it. However the character is Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his role as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin after playing him in Netflix’s Daredevil, and I was happy to see him again. Now as expected he’s a bit different here compared to Daredevil, not nearly as dark or menacing. However my main issues stem from his very inclusion just feeling pointless. If the point was to establish that Kingpin is in the MCU, they could’ve had him appear as a cameo rather than the supposed person behind everything. While I’m sure we’ll see him again despite his final scene, he did feel kind of wasted here.

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On the whole the show was directed quite well. The cinematography was pretty good, its all well shot, and the visual effects and other technical aspects were on point. The action doesn’t rank among the best of the MCU by any means and it ranges between middling to actually exciting, but I had fun with it, they particularly do a lot with arrows. The song choices and score were great too. The show does very well at having a Christmas feel and atmosphere to it.

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Hawkeye is by far the worst live action MCU show but I still had fun with it. I think Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye definitely benefited from this show, Hailee Steinfeld shines as Kate Bishop and it’s a nice light hearted low stakes story. The problem is that it keeps bringing in new characters and plotlines that this short light hearted show can’t maintain them all, and leaves them quite unresolved. So by the finale it just feels disappointing. That aside, I do think that the show is decent and worth checking out.

Loki Season 1 (2021) Review

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Loki Season 1

Cast:
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer
Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15
Eugene Cordero as Casey
Tara Strong voices Miss Minutes
Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius
Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie
Sasha Lane as Hunter C-20
Jack Veal as Kid Loki
DeObia Oparei as Boastful Loki
Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki
Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains
Director:
Kate Herron
Creator: Michael Waldron

Loki, the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston), steps out of his brother’s shadow to embark on an adventure that takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”

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Loki was yet another show from the MCU which would be releasing on Disney+. Out of the shows that Marvel initially announced, I was wondering about what the point of this one was, especially after Loki had his death in the opening of Avengers: Infinity War. From the trailers I reckoned that it would be just filling the gap of the Loki who disappeared with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, and would generally just consist of him getting into shenanigans involving time periods. Some of that was true, but it ended up being a lot different than I thought it would be.

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There’s some aspects of the show worth experiencing for yourself, so I’ll try to be light with spoilers and details. Loki starts out with a whole lot of worldbuilding in the first episode with the TVA, an organisation that preserves the current timeline, and I thought it was quite interesting learning about all this. Like with WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki also explores its lead character and the show is character focused. The lead character certainly goes through a change, even when it’s picking up with the Loki from 2012’s The Avengers. The show is definitely slower paced and for some that might get a bit dull. However I appreciated the slower pace and what it was going for. There are some action scenes in the show but it never feels like it is reliant on it. It does take a while to get into what the story is really about, the first couple of episodes takes its time to develop things and while I was invested, I know that some will find that its just meandering. After the first three episodes though I think you’ll get into it. There is some humour but unlike some other MCU projects it doesn’t interrupt anything and actually works well for the tone of the show.

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Usually the finale is where the MCU shows have an issue. WandaVision changed from what it was trying to do and just devolves into a very typical Marvel climax with large special effects. The Falcon and Winter Soldier was more consistent but the way the finale played out ended up highlighting the issues that the entire show had. However, Loki actually nails the ending quite well. Without spoiling anything, it doesn’t end with a traditional climax, and once again I really appreciate that. It is staying true to itself and being more about the story and characters rather than just ticking another box in the Marvel formula. I will say this however, unlike the other two shows, it ends in a cliff-hanger. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say this since its been announced that Loki has been renewed for a second season. Some character arcs haven’t been quite completed and story plotlines weren’t quite fully resolved, as a result some aspects feel less satisfying compared to the other Marvel shows because they haven’t been finalised yet. So much critical stuff happens in the last episode that I’m surprised that it was happened in this show as opposed to one of the bigger Marvel movies. I know that not everyone watches the MCU shows, even people who watch the movies, and some will probably look over Loki because it seems like a one off show just about Loki. However for what it’s worth I think the show is worth watching if only because of the roll on effect it will have on the other movies and shows. In terms of credits scenes, surprisingly there’s only one in episode 4, and just a little tease in episode 6, which are worth watching.

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The cast were also great in their parts. As expected, Tom Hiddleston reprises his role of Loki. Not only does he get to have a lot of fun as Loki, but Loki goes through a change of his own over the course of the show. To put this in context, this is the Loki from The Avengers (2012) finding out what happens to him (including his death in Infinity War). So he goes through his own change and development, like the lead characters in the previous Marvel shows. However, there’s something even more fascinating about a character like Loki going through the change, and this show makes me like Loki more as a character. Sophia Di Martino plays a vital character named Sylvie, and she’s great in her part too. Her onscreen dynamic with Loki was great to see, especially considering the connection the two of them have (won’t get into it more than that). Another notable character is that of an agent of the TVA named Mobius played by Owen Wilson, and this might actually be one of my favourite roles and performances from Wilson. He has great chemistry with Hiddleston and I loved seeing the two of them interacting, especially in the earlier episodes. Other supporting actors with the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku are also good in their parts. There are two guest performers in this who stand out, both of them are particularly great in their screentime. The one actor whose name I can mention is Richard E. Grant, and while I won’t go into what his role is, he pretty much stole the entire episode that he was in with his performance. The second performer is a critical role, and who makes me very excited for what’s to come next in the other movies and shows.

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This show is directed by Kate Herron, and she’s done a great job with it all. The show is visually striking and nothing like what the MCU has done before. The set designs, environments and CGI are great (the look of the TVA alone was immediately distinct), those and the cinematography came together to form a gorgeous looking show. As said previously, there is action here and to be honest they aren’t that spectacular. They usually just consist of Loki and other characters involved with hand to hand combat with maybe some weapons. They are filmed okay and are solid enough, they are good enough for the purpose of the show. There is one large set piece involving a lot of CGI in one of the later episodes but even that’s handled very well. Another standout is the score from Natalie Holt, which is incredibly distinct and really gives the show a unique tone and feel. One of my favourite scores from the MCU.

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Loki has ended up being one of my favourite instalments in the MCU. As someone who almost begrudgingly likes some of the MCU projects, I was thoroughly surprised by it. While it is still in the MCU, it remained true to itself and didn’t feel too constrained by some of the formula that some of the movies and shows have to follow. The performances were all solid, the direction was great, and I was invested with the story and characters. If you are interested in the MCU I think it is worth checking out.

Mr. Robot Season 4 (2019) Review

Mr. Robot - Season 4

Mr. Robot Season 4

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Elliot Villar as Fernando Vera
Ashlie Atkinson as Janice
Creator: Sam Esmail

Set during the 2015 Christmas holiday, the fast-paced season will be one filled with answers, hacking and blood. Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) are getting back to work and down a path that could prove endless. But have they crossed a line?

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Mr. Robot was already a fantastic show, Season 1 was a great start, Season 2 was solid while having its issues, and Season 3 took the show to new heights. However, much of how a show is eventually perceived depends on how well it finalises its story and characters at the end. With that being said, Season 4 is not only possibly the best season of the whole show, it’s one of the most memorable and satisfying conclusions I’ve seen to a TV show.

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It goes without saying, but there is a spoiler warning for the previous seasons leading up to this one in this review. An interesting aspect to note is that the whole show is stuck in 2015, this season picks up with having only advanced to just before Christmas 2015. As America recovers from the Five/Nine Hack, the focus of the narrative shifts to a somewhat heroic Elliot as he sets his sights on taking down Whiterose and her Dark Army. The show ups its game to deliver one very eventful season, one that raises the stakes for every character whilst delivering some of the best television in recent years. Season 4 really does feels like a true send-up of the first season everyone fell in love with, and everything that first season promised the show could be is what the final season is. Mr. Robot’s final season can be best described as incredibly emotional and heartbreaking; the opening moments of its first episode really does establish how much of a gut punch the whole season is. Season 4 runs for 13 episodes, making it the longest in the show’s history, and unlike say season 2, its time is not put to waste. I blasted through the episodes back-to-back, it was incredibly riveting and intense, even the slower paced episodes worked appropriately for the story and characters. As said previously, the main drive of this season is Mr. Robot taking down Whiterose, however there’s also plenty of other things happening at the same time. For example, there are episodes that focus heavily on the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot, which shows them more closely aligned in their goals compared to the past couple of seasons. This new dynamic is interesting and the writing definitely takes advantage of that, for instance, the narration to the audience that was done by Elliot is mostly done by Mr. Robot in this season. Additionally, as the season progresses, a lot of the sub-plots from the past and present interweave with Elliot’s journey. I won’t give too much away for fear of spoilers but suffice to say the final few episodes turn everything we’ve learnt up until this point completely on its head, delivering a shocking couple of plot twists to round out a thrilling and intense final season. Even on its last season, there are plenty of surprises that a lot of audiences won’t have expected. These plot twists are so good that it actually paints the entirety of Mr Robot’s early seasons in a completely different shade and I’m sure this will be a show that will be completely different to watch a second time through.

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The acting from everyone as usual is fantastic. Rami Malek and Christian Slater remain as brilliant as ever, and the change in their dynamic will be a treat for many. Rami Malek has always owned his role as Elliot Alderson but in this season in particular, he really shows his diversity and range with an absolutely stunning performance. There is particularly one episode (if you watch the episode you already know which one) in which Elliot learns something significant, and Malek’s performance is nothing short of spectacular and heartbreaking. This season also gives Christian Slater a lot more material than he has had since the first season. Slater is excellent in the role of Mr Robot, and his shift in character this season makes him much more intriguing than ever before. Many of the other actors playing the major roles of Price, Whiterose, Darlene and Dom all bring their A-game here and are given enough screen time to really flesh out their characters. Some characters get more attention than others, for example I would’ve liked to have seen more of Tyrell Wellick, but on the whole everyone’s stories were handled well, and as usual they were performed greatly. Outside of the main cast, one of the standout performers was Elliot Villar as the character of Vera. Vera had a small supporting role in the first season before he disappears from much of the show, only to return for this season. While he has a smaller role in this season, he’s great in his scenes, and especially shines in one particularly significant episode.

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All 13 episodes of this season are excellently directed by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot is on a technical level is in a league of its own when it comes to tv shows. The cinematography and visuals remain outstanding, and the sound design and score are top notch as ever, with composer Mac Quayle as usual somehow managing to top his work with every season. In its third and fourth seasons, the show has taken its stylistic ambitions to new heights. In season 3 it has a whole episode that was filmed and edited to seem as if it was taking place in a long, continuous single shot that darted and weaved in and around a massive skyscraper. I won’t go into season four’s own stylistic achievement of filmmaking, but just know that it only features two lines in the entire episode, and considering the stuff that happens in that particular episode, it’s incredibly impressive that that pulled it off.

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Mr. Robot’s fourth and final season is nothing short of outstanding, not only managing to produce its best season yet, but also able to wrap up the storylines and characters in such an impactful and satisfying way, while providing so many unexpected surprises throughout. Everything from the writing, directing and acting is at the show’s best. If you loved Mr. Robot from the past few seasons, I think you’ll really love how the final season turned out.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) TV Review

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier/White Wolf
Wyatt Russell as John Walker/Captain America
Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau
Danny Ramirez as Joaquin Torres
Georges St-Pierre as Georges Batroc
Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson
Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter
Florence Kasumba as Ayo
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Director: Kari Skogland

Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are a mismatched duo who team up for a global adventure that will test their survival skills — as well as their patience.

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Following immediately onwards after WandaVision, Disney and Marvel released their next MCU series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I didn’t know what the plot was about, I just knew it was going to involve Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up to deal with something, simple enough. Overall I liked it, much more than I was expecting to, even if looking back on it there are at least a couple of notable issues.

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There are going to be a lot of comparisons between WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a number of times in this review. With regard to overall quality though, WandaVision has higher highs and does more special things, but The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more consistently good and generally doesn’t really have a notable drop in quality throughout. Compared to WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is much shorter at 6 episodes instead of 9. However, each episode also lasts between 50 to 60 minutes. That means that you have enough in each episode, so you actually feel like things are happening. There are no points where you feel cheated when an episode cuts to credits. To a degree, it does feel like a Marvel movie just at 3 times the length. So in a way like Wandavision, it’s a show that really could’ve benefited from having all the episodes released all at once and watching a number of them at a time, but in a different way. For WandaVision, it is because the episodes are short and for Falcon and Winter Soldier, it’s because they are all part of this one story and so they all felt continuous (not to mention every episode follows on directly from where the previous episode finished). That could lead to the question of “why didn’t they just make it a movie?”. However, if it was a movie it wouldn’t have gotten into much depth as it did, whether it be the plot, the characters, or the themes. The plot was stretched nicely across all 6 episodes, something is always happening, and it also makes sure to slow down for important character moments and development. The plot had me quite invested, every week I was looking forward to watching the next episode of the show.

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The first episode is really more setting the stage of things to come, with a glimpse of the antagonists, and establishing the current lives of the lead characters. After that point though, it really picks up, and you’re locked in with this story. It doesn’t do anything special necessarily as far as the MCU goes, it’s mostly familiar territory. Many of the twists weren’t that surprising, but I learned to not place too much stock or anticipation into those twists and just follow the story for what it was. There are some surprise appearances from other MCU characters that actually gelled well with the story instead of just being there to remind you that they exist. The actual conclusion as to be expected is another MCU climax, but this actually feels in line with the rest of the show. Something worth noting about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that it actually touches on topics. including politics and racism. The results are a bit of a mixed bag (see the Flag Smashers for more on that), and quite often it just dances around the politics. There are some moments where it does work, mostly when they stop and actually be direct about it instead of being vague. Looking at the series as a whole, it doesn’t really say anything meaningful by the end, and its own politics is pretty confused. Generally, it didn’t bother me and again some parts were done well, it’s just something where you notice more issues the more you think deeply about it. The tone is a little over the place, at times quite dark, and at times very humorous. It’s not terrible but it is noticeable from time to time. I am actually curious to see where many of the characters and the plot continues on from here. Just so you know, the last two episodes have mid credits scenes that are worth sticking around for (or fast forwarding to at least).

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The acting from the cast is quite strong. First you have Anthony Mackie as Falcon/Sam Wilson, and Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes, both of whom are showcased much better here than in their past film appearances, and you get to learn much more about them. In the first episode alone, you get to see more of their lives and it does a great job at showing you that these characters have a lot more to them than just being the sidekicks of Steve Rodgers. With Sam Wilson you get to learn about him and his family life, and you also see his conflict after the end of Endgame in which Steve Rodgers gave him the Captain America shield. It’s in the first episode so it’s not much of spoilers, but he gives up the shield, and as a result someone else is made Captain America. You can probably tell what happens with him by the end of the season, but I think it was a great arc for him, and it was probably the show’s strongest aspect. I liked him much more as a character after seeing him in this show, and I’m actually looking forward to his next appearance. As for Bucky Barnes, you also learn more about him as a person. You actually see that he’s still haunted from being the Winter Soldier and trying to make amends, at the same time he has much more personality now beyond just being ex-Winter Soldier. I also liked Bucky much more as a character after this show. Mackie and Stan play off each other quite well. They have the quips and banter that you would expect in an MCU project, but by the end of the show, you do buy the friendship between the two characters.

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Daniel Bruhl returns to the role of Zemo from his last appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Zemo in Civil War was a decent enough albeit underused villain, unique in just being a normal human without any powers but still being able to break apart the Avengers. Getting this out of the way, he’s not the villain of this series and he’s in a different sort of role. His dynamic and interactions with Sam and Bucky are great, and Zemo himself turns out to be an entertaining and interesting presence, especially with his mindset and perspective. He definitely steals just about every scene that he’s in. There’s definitely potential for him to have future appearances in other MCU projects, and I’m looking forward to them. Wyatt Russell plays John Walker (also known as US Agent in the comics), the new Captain America, who is surprisingly one of the most interesting characters in this show. While at first it seemed like the show would have him as just Evil Captain America or something else cartoonish, this show actually shows him as a complicated person and more someone who is not right for the role rather than being the absolute worst. Russell plays the character quite well, and in the hands in a lesser actor he could’ve come across as rather 2 dimensional. I’m interested to see more of him in the future too. Emily VanCamp also returns as Sharon Carter from the previous two Captain America movies. She’s not in this show a ton, but enough to play an important part. She was a decent inclusion, and it was nice to see her actually be somewhat relevant to the plot, interested to see what role Carter plays next in the MCU.

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The biggest standout problem with the show is the villains. The villains are a group called the Flag Smashers, and here they are yet another one of those villains who have good intentions, but use bad methods to do them, Disney particularly likes using that trope a lot. Honestly for the first few episodes I thought there was going to be some twist in which it turns out that they aren’t really the main villains of the show but no, they’re the antagonists after all. The Flag Smashers don’t have a clearly defined ideology, just vaguely leftist and anti-government. It honestly does feel like the writers were trying to position them as the Antifa stand-in (which doesn’t work on multiple levels never mind them not even being an organisation or group really). In the first episode, Sam’s military friend gives some exposition about what the Flag Smashers believe in, and it’s something about how they believe in a world without borders (which was written with the intention that this is somehow bad?). Literally the only thing about the Flag Smashers that are bad is just that they are violent and take their stance “too far”, it’s nothing inherently about their ideology. A lot of their actions especially towards the end of the show that result in the harm, death, or danger of innocent people seems very contrived and forced, and were just hard to buy. The random acts of violence really did feel like the writer’s wrote themselves into a corner by making their goals too reasonable and so just added them in just to make sure that we don’t like them too much. Erin Kellyman plays Karli, the leader of the Flag Smashers, she does perform the role quite well and the character did seem to have some complexity and conflict especially with the interactions with Sam in the middle part of the season. However, she and the rest of the Flag Smashers are kind of held back by the writing. I was willing to give them a pass for most of the season because I thought there would be some kind of further development in them or the plot, but when it got to the finale it was pretty clear that they weren’t going to change. By the end, the Flag Smashers were by far the weakest part of the show. As it turns out, supposedly a lot of their plot got re-written and edited because it originally revolved around a bio weapon or virus… and given COVID they changed it. It is quite unfortunate, because I’m pretty sure that keeping that aspect might’ve at least added some further depth or development to these characters that are meant to be the antagonists to the main characters.

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On the whole, the show is directed quite well, with Kari Skogland being the director for all the episodes. It is shot like a big budget Marvel movie, which was actually quite distracting when watching it at home on the small screen. The action sequences are great, and actually more intense than expected, certainly on the higher end of the PG-13 rating. Henry Jackman who composed the scores for the last two Captain America movies return to compose the score here, and once again its pretty good.

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There’s some faults to be seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier thinking back on it. Some of the themes and topics it doesn’t quite nail the landings on, and the main villains weren’t handled the best. However, on the whole I quite enjoyed the show. I enjoyed most of the characters and performances, I was engaged with the plot, and there were some thrilling and satisfying moments. With the ending, unlike WandaVision, it seems like the show could have another season. Whether it be through a second season, a different show, or a new movie, I’m looking forward to seeing the story and these characters progress further.

Mr. Robot (2016) Season 2 Review

Mr. Robot - Season 2

Mr Robot Season 2

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Stephanie Corneliussen as Joanna Wellick
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Creator: Sam Esmail

Series 2 of Mr Robot follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) as he comes to terms with his mental health issues. Along with the other members of ‘fsociety’, he must cope with the hackers’ impact on Evil Corp.

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I loved the first season of Mr. Robot, its first season quickly had me hooked, so immediately afterwards I jumped to Season 2. I liked it quite a bit, however it doesn’t quite work as well as the first season. In fact I’ve noticed that for most people, season 2 is easily the worst of the 4 seasons. It had some visible flaws, but I liked it overall.

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Early disclosure: this review will contain spoilers for season 1, so I’m now more free to talk specifics. Season 2 starts off fairly soon after the end of the previous season. Elliot is now isolated away by himself as he’s coming to terms with his mental state (i.e. Mr. Robot being an personality of himself). Then there’s plenty of other multiple plotlines happening including Angela at her new job at E Corp, the members of fsociety after the hack, the FBI investigating, and plenty more. The writing is still mostly solid and I was invested throughout, even with its slower moments. It is a darker season for the show and continues its delving into interesting ideas. It shows that there’s plenty of story left to be told in further seasons after the end of the first season. It was also quite interesting to watch how the world reacts to the big hack at the end of the last season. The first season was pretty straightforward. With season 2, it feels like there’s so much going on while not much is actually happening, if that makes any sense. I’ll dedicate Elliot’s story for a whole paragraph because there’s a lot to get into there. The rest of the plotlines are a bit all over the place, and they don’t always progress a considerable amount. Some bits are interesting like the worldbuilding, for example we get to learn more about Whiterose and The Dark Army. At the same time other aspects aren’t so great, especially when it comes to focus. For example, the show even spends so much time with Tyrell Wellick’s wife. They easily could’ve reduced the amount of screentime on that plotline, and having watched the whole show, I still don’t know why it was as prominent as it was. Even that one plotline aside, they all feel restrained and held back. Not only are there so many storylines and characters in this season, but they are mostly separated from each other, which didn’t do the season any favours. In season 1 their stories are interwoven, and they are always interacting with each other. All these storylines being separate made the season feel disjointed. Something clear is that this is a season of mystery building, with many questions floating around. What happened to Elliot’s 3-day blackout? Where is Tyrell Wellick? What is this phase 2 that’s being talked about? It really does seem determined to not give the audience answers right away, like show creator Sam Esmail deliberately held back a lot of the answers towards the end of the season.  So you’d think that Season 2 would hopefully reveal something significant by the end. Unfortunately without getting into it too much, there’s not a lot of answers you get. There’s maybe one reveal that matters, the rest of the reveals were underwhelming, predictable, we don’t care about them, or we still don’t know the answers yet. A lot of the show spent more time asking new questions than giving answers to questions that we had from the last season. It does get the vibe of stalling, especially considering how well tuned the rest of the seasons are.

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A large reason of why there’s issues with this season is how they handled Elliot’s plotline. Elliot is keeping himself isolated while he deals with his multiple personality issue with Mr. Robot, and there’s a mental battle between the two as the former is trying to get rid of the latter. Something to note is that neither of them are in this season as much as they were in the first season. Elliot and Robot are far too removed from the rest of the cast for far too long. Keeping the main characters separated from the rest of the cast for the first half of the season created a new dynamic status quo that I was happy to roll with for the first 2-3 episodes, but after that you really feel the greatly reduced pace of the narrative. This particular story arc takes place over 7 episodes, over half of the season. Now there is a twist that does explain things, but it does link into something from season 1 which is so inconsequential to the overall story. It actually feels something of a waste of time looking back at it. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. This plotline is meant to be more of a character study for both characters. I really liked their interactions, and I enjoyed some of the interactions he made with some of the introduced supporting characters. However it just wasn’t handled the best.

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Something that hadn’t changed between the seasons of Mr. Robot was that the acting remains great as always. Rami Malek is once again excellent as Elliot Alderson, and gets plenty of time to shine. Christian Slater is also again really good as Mr. Robot, there’s a mental battle between him and Elliot and that’s really the driving force for the first half of the season (if there is one). Some characters from season 1 gets to have more to do in this season. Darlene Alderson played by Carly Chaikin (recently revealed as Elliot’s brother towards the end of the last season) is now the leader of fsociety now that Elliot isolated himself. Angela Moss played by Portia Doubleday has a more interesting role as she now finds herself working at E Corp. Two new characters who were briefly in the last season also get more presence here. One of them is Phillip Price played by Michael Cristofer, the CEO of E Corp. The other is played by BD Wong, who is Whiterose, the leader of the shadowy hacking group the Dark Army, who also happens to be China’s Minister of State Security. Both characters and performances are great and scene-stealing, and Whiterose is a particularly intriguing character. A new character to this series is Grace Gummer as Dominique DiPierro, an FBI agent investigating the E Corp hack. This plotline gives the perspective from the FBI, which is to be expected but DiPerro’s character and her performance makes it feel more than just an obligatory procedural. Gummer does a great job at making her character feel as isolated from the rest of society as Elliot, just on the other side of the law. Additionally, there’s other supporting characters who shine even with less screentime, mainly Joey Badass and Craig Robinson during Elliot’s plotline.

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Mr. Robot is still fantastic on a technical level, it’s shot incredibly well and has a very distinct style and a unique look. The score from Mac Quayle is still amazing and the sound design is effective. The editing choices continue to be great, it even goes further psychological, especially now that it’s established that Elliot is an unreliable narrator. The film really takes advantage of this greatly to result in some fantastic sequences. Speaking of unreliable narrator, the narration from Elliot to us, his imaginary friend, is here again, and once again it’s handled well.

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Mr. Robot Season 2 for sure has some issues, mainly with the writing. The attempt to slow the story down and ask more questions, whether it be to stall or to genuinely build intrigue, doesn’t quite work effectively. With that said, the acting and characters are fantastic, on a technical level it is perfect, and as someone who was hooked on the first season, I was interested to see where the story would go next. Out of the 4 seasons it’s my least favourite but it’s still really good, and no doubt if I rewatched it would probably have a better opinion of it. If you really liked the first season, you’d probably be able to get through it even if you have issues. However if you just got through the first season of the show, and you’re not hooked yet and hope that season 2 will be the point where it clicks for you, unfortunately you might have to wait till season 3 for that.

Mr. Robot Season 1 (2015) Review

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Mr Robot Season 1

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Carly Chaikin as Darlene
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Michel Gill as Gideon Goddard
Creator: Sam Esmail

Elliot (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer suffering from anxiety, works for a corporation and hacks felons by night. Panic strikes him after Mr Robot (Christian Slater), a cryptic anarchist, recruits him to ruin his company.

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I had heard of Mr. Robot for the longest time, the show started back in 2015 and I just knew that it involved hacking. A couple of years after the show finished in 2019, I finally checked it out, and watched it all within exactly one month. I decided to wait to review the show only after watching the whole series, which turned out to be the best decision. Mr. Robot was fantastic and has now positioned itself as one of my all-time favourite TV shows. As for Season 1, it’s really great, and gets you invested in the show quickly.

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I do think it’s best going into Mr. Robot not knowing a whole lot about it, so really you could just jump into the show immediately. The pilot/first episode is among the best first episodes of a show I’ve seen. It establishes the setting, the situation, the style of the show, the tone, and most importantly the main character. It’s incredibly well written throughout, it’s engaging, the dialogue is great, and it is paced well. The storytelling was great throughout, over time presenting you with information and details that you might not understand straight away, and revealing pieces around it before you figure it out. It’s really not a show you have on in the background, it’s a show that deserves a lot of your attention and energy. It’s also very unpredictable with plenty of twists, and has moments where it gets weird (to vaguely put it). There’s a lot of great worldbuilding on display too. On paper the plot just sounds like it’s about a hacker group (named fsociety) hacking and taking a corporation down (named E Corp, also referred to as Evil Corp by the main character). While that’s part of it, it’s so much more than that. There’s a lot of complexity to it, and even moral ambiguity surprisingly. It’s not all plot focused, it does have some slower moments to add some depth to the characters, which really does elevate things a lot a lot. As I said earlier, the show does involve hacking. There are plenty of movies and shows about hacking and they seem far fetched and unrealistic. Here though it’s actually somewhat accurate to real life, at the very least in contrast to other representations of hacking in pop culture. While the hacking is more realistic, it still manages to be incredibly thrilling in some sequences. With that said, the hacking is a plot device and isn’t what makes the show. It’s not a show purely about hacking, it’s about lead character Elliot and his life, his struggles and the story that surrounds him. It’s a character driven psychological thriller with a technology theme to it. It is a very dark show and isn’t very cheerful, it doesn’t have many light moments, however at the same time it remains an entertaining show. It’s also more complex than you initially think it is at first, and it is very thought provoking. There are some revelations that make you look back at the story and characters in different ways (which will be frequent for the whole series). With that said, there are still plenty of more things that needed to be answered especially at the very end, but just so you know, the next few seasons will give all those answers to you, so stick with it.

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The acting is great all around. Rami Malek plays the lead character Elliot Alderson and this has to be the best performance that I’ve seen from him, portraying the character incredibly well. The character himself is great. Elliot also a very easy protagonist to follow and is very compelling, and we enter the world through his eyes. We can really relate to his feeling and awkward interactions. By day Elliot is a socially awkward coder working for a cybersecurity company, but night he’s a morphine addict who hacks people’s lives, taking down paedophiles and drug dealers. That first episode really captures the essence of him really well, and at the very least, it does a great job at hooking you into the show even just for his character. On a performance level too, Rami Malek is a powerhouse. Whether he’s performing rambling and emotional internal monologues or having larger dramatic moments, he’s fantastic. His range and nuance contributed to Elliot being likable. Even some of the way he delivered some lines – even when they are a little stilted – they added to the character and story. Another prominent character is Mr. Robot, the anarchist who brings Elliot into his hacker group named fsociety to take on E(vil) Corp. The character is played by Christian Slater, and he is quite a strong screen presence, bringing such an energy to the role, and is really entertaining to watch. Mr. Robot contrasts heavily from Elliot as a character, and it is compelling to watch the two of them interact on screen. Those are really the two main actors. There’s also other performances and characters from which includes Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss (Elliot’s childhood friend), Carly Chaikin as Darlene (one of the hackers at fsociety), and Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick (Senior Vice President at E Corp). Those performances and characters are good and interesting, but a lot of these supporting characters really get more chances to shine in the following seasons. With that said, they are written interestingly enough that you want to learn more about them. Some of the other reoccurring cast in this season are great too, including Frankie Shaw’s Shayla (Elliot’s morphine supplier), Gloria Reuben’s Krista (Elliot’s psychologist), and BD Wong’s mysterious character.

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It’s all directed great, with a very distinct style from the way its shot to the way its edited and the soundtrack fits the tone perfectly. It really is visually striking, the cinematography is comparable to what you would find in a big budget movie. While much of the colour palette is muted and dull, it fits with the lead character’s headspace, and the palette does change (even subtly) to fit the respective situations. The editing choices particularly are also some of the bests I’ve seen in a TV show, whether they be for montages, tense moments, etc. Additionally, when Elliot is in a scene, it does very well at putting you in his headspace. Not only that, but we are an active participant as well, at least when Elliot is on screen. Narration plays a big part in this show, and narration can be hit or miss in movies and shows, but it’s handled excellently here. Elliot is narrating directly to us, his imaginary friend. The show really did a great job at using music appropriately. The original score definitely fits the techno-cyberpunk thriller world that was built very well, but the show also did a great job at using music from other sources to perfectly fit their respective scenarios and situations.

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Season 1 of Mr. Robot was a great start to a fantastic series. With amazing acting, a compelling story, twists and so much more, it’s a show that you should go into it as soon as possible. Watch the first episode to have a hint of it, watch the whole first season in fact. If you think that’s great, the show goes way further and larger than that, and is well worth continuing.

The Undoing (2020) TV Review

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The Undoing

Time:
336 Minutes
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Grace Fraser
Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser
Édgar Ramírez as Detective Joe Mendoza
Noah Jupe as Henry Fraser
Lily Rabe as Sylvia Steinetz
Matilda De Angelis as Elena Alves
Ismael Cruz Córdova as Fernando Alves
Edan Alexander as Miguel Alves
Michael Devine as Detective Paul O’Rourke
Donald Sutherland as Franklin Reinhardt
Noma Dumezweni as Haley Fitzgerald
Director: Susanne Bier

A therapist’s (Nicole Kidman) life unravels after she learns that her husband (Hugh Grant) might be responsible for a widespread disaster.

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I heard about The Undoing for some time, that it’s an HBO mini-series in the murder mystery thriller genre that starred Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the lead roles. I didn’t think much of it or have a particularly strong interest in it when it was released, but after it received some TV award show nominations, I thought I might as well check it out. Having watched all the episodes, I’d say overall that it’s decent, but not nearly as good as it could’ve been.

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David E. Kelley, who previously created and wrote Big Little Lies, is the writer and creator of The Undoing and you can definitely feel it. However, it’s not nearly as strong as that other show. The faults mostly lay in the writing, which is the weakest part of the show, though I wouldn’t say it’s bad. It’s decent enough and was enough for me to pay attention to what was happening. Some episodes played out on the slow side, particularly the first two, but I was never bored. This series doesn’t add anything new to the whodunit genre, nor does it do anything better, but it is alright for what it is. As to be expected in this kind of show, there are twists and turns, however I found most of them to be rather lacking in impact. There were maybe 2 twists that I didn’t expect, the rest didn’t really surprise me that much. The ending really sticks out at being very out of place. The last 10-15 minutes were tonally different and felt like they belonged in a completely different movie or show. Much of the story was already a bit far fetched, but it somehow manages to top that. It’s almost like they didn’t know how to really end the show, so they just threw in some random contrived and overblown climax which does nothing but leave the story on a very confused note.

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The Undoing is 6 episodes long and on one hand that sounds alright as that’s not too long (certainly made the idea of watching the show more appealing). At the same time, given how little ground they cover with the story and characters, it does feel like it could’ve just been one feature length film. With it being a 6 hour long mini series, I just expected more from it. The characters aren’t the most interesting or have the most depth, they felt rather thinly written. Another thing to note is what the mystery is building towards, mainly what happened with the murder at the centre of the show, as well as who the killer is. While I won’t spoil anything, the reveal was rather underwhelming. There were plenty of other more unexpected directions that they could’ve taken instead. With that said, even if they were to stick with the direction that they chose (possibly to be faithful to the book), they really could’ve added stuff to that to make it more interesting than it turned out to be. That also applies to the approach to the story, as a whodunnit it’s entertaining but not really surprising or unpredictable despite how hard they try. It’s a show build on red herrings, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the show doesn’t develop those well enough to have them leave an impact or keep you guessing. Potentially it could’ve had a more of a psychological approach, in fact the show is sometimes regarded as a psychological thriller. Although it starts off seemingly like a psychological thriller, by the time it reaches the halfway point that’s not what the show is. Alternatively, it could’ve leaned more into the campiness, as at times it felt like a pulpy thriller (though it unfortunately mostly seemed to be unintentional). That would’ve at least been more entertaining. Either of those approaches could’ve made the series more interesting or more entertaining, as a whodunit though, it’s just fine.

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Essentially, it’s the performances from the cast that carry this show. Nicole Kidman is in the lead role and she is really good. I do think that there are some problems with her character, it feels like there should be more to her character considering that the story is mostly told from her perspective. With that said, Nicole Kidman conveys the emotions necessary, and is quite good here. Hugh Grant is great as Kidman’s husband and a suspect in the murder at the centre of the story. Grant was his usual charming self at times, but also was a darker and more unlikable character compared to most of the role he’s known for playing. It’s the best performance I’ve seen from him, and he displays his immense range in this. Donald Sutherland is also great as Nicole Kidman’s father, he gets some moments to really shine. Noah Jupe also deserves some praise as the son of Kidman and Grant, really getting plenty of chances to stand out among the cast. Another performance worth praising is that of Noma Dumezweni as the defence lawyer for Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, she was a standout in every single scene she was in.

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All 6 episodes are directed by Susanne Bier, and overall she did a good job with them. It’s good on a technical level, it is well shot and are mostly edited well. There are sometimes flashbacks from when characters imagine what happened, and I think the use of them were a little inconsistent and confusing, especially when it’s meant to be characters’ thinking about events which they haven’t seen themselves.

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The Undoing does enough to entertain for 6 episodes even if it’s not anything special in the genre. However, by the end it’s pretty evident it could be much better, mainly with the writing, and it’s a little underwhelming and disappointing in parts. With that said, it interests and entertains enough, it’s well made, and the performances are great and keep you on board. If you generally like these kinds of plots, then you’ll probably at least enjoy watching it.