August 26, 2020

“The Witcher” Season One Review: Dive Deep into a New Fantasy World

Up until recently, I’d never played a video game, and I’ve never been knowledgeable of the subject, but I knew some of the major ones; and one that I’d always heard of but never paid much attention to was the Witcher games, adapted by the Polish fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. As with any other game, they never interested me…until Netflix announced a big-budgeted episode series based on the stories of the novels and games.

Now, this didn’t exactly catch my fancy, but I saw news about it. It was given a massive budget, Henry Cavill (known to me then exclusively as the DCEU’s Superman) campaigned for the lead role of Geralt of Rivia, and he eventually got it. Until its release, I put it on my radar.

The week that it was released, a bunch of my friends had already binged the entire series. It was winter break, and so everyone had more time on their hands. On the first day of the new year, I watched the first episode to see what all the fuss was about.

August 20, 2020

“Lovecraft Country” (Pilot) Review: A Timely Tale of Racial Terror

You’d think that a story apparently based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft would be mostly horror-oriented. When Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams are involved, though, it turned out to be quite the opposite.

Aside from a signaturely weird HBO opening sequence and the final scene, the premiere of Lovecraft Country is entirely focused on a timely and important real-life horror: racism, in particular the injustices of the 20th century.

Set in 1950s white America, Black sci-fi fan Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) sets off on a road trip with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), the publisher of the Safe Negro Travel Guide, and his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) to find his missing father and claim a birthright he never knew he had. It’s a basic premise, but one that lends itself to a number of potential paths. If the rest of the series is anything like the pilot, I very much like the one it settled on.

August 11, 2020

“An American Pickle” Review: Defying All Sorts of Expectations

Despite being a comedy, An American Pickle manages to defy Seth Rogen’s genre.

How, you might ask? How does this new streaming film challenge the typically-R-rated actor’s method of entertainment?

To start off, most of his films are “rooted in realism.” This doesn’t mean their contrived conflicts and insanity could (and would) actually happen, but they’re set in a familiar time, or political climate, that the audience can relate to.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Sausage Party and This is the End, among others, don’t exactly scream ‘relatable.’ However, An American Pickle isn’t a part of that group, but it wouldn’t find a place among his other films either. Instead, it’s in a league of its own.

August 4, 2020

“The Umbrella Academy” Season Two Review: The Seven Stages of Fun

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in August 2020.

by Rowan Wood

Time travel is a tricky business, that arrives, much like the heroes in the latest season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, with a whole host of questions: how do you avoid cliché time travel pitfalls? How can these characters grow and evolve, beyond their first-season selves? Most of all, how do you keep things original, and unique to the world you’ve created?

Thankfully, Netflix’s big-budget, ten-episode format is the perfect medium to tell the story that the show needed to tell. After the massive cliffhanger of the first season, the superpowered Hargreeves siblings are stranded at different points in the early 1960s, and must reunite to stop a world-ending apocalypse on November 25, 1963.