July 31, 2020

“The Umbrella Academy” Season One Review: Addictive, Fantastical Hero Drama

Weird is the new norm for television. And while the first season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is certainly not as outlandish and far-reaching as the comic series it’s based on, it certainly (rather gleefully) buys into the strangeness that the world offers.

Set contemporarily (though the timeline is ambiguous, and full of anachronisms), the superbly styled first season picks up thirty years after a number of women around the world mysteriously gave birth, despite having never been pregnant in the first place. Eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) manages to purchase seven of the children, and he raises them to be a profitable team of superheroes (given that, aside from one of them, the children all have extraordinary abilities).

July 29, 2020

“Deadpool 2” (2018) Review: Maximum Effort

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in June 2018.

Typically, when people think of superhero movies, they think of an action-packed thrill ride packed with shocking moments and witty one-liners. In 2016, Deadpool stunned audiences as a superhero flick that somehow contained all the foul language, sexual references, fourth-wall breaking and gory violence that it could fit under two hours, while also managing to be a heartfelt tale of true love.

Now, in 2018, a rather unimaginatively-titled sequel has been released (you guessed it, Deadpool 2) and it’s just as graphic and awesome as the original.

July 28, 2020

“Little Women” (2019) Review: Some Stories are Truly Timeless

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in December 2019.

Greta Gerwig, writer and director of 2017’s critically-acclaimed Lady Bird, has thrown her hat into the ring and adapted Louisa May Alcott’s classic 19th century novel Little Women for the big screen for the seventh time.

Gerwig’s adaptation stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen as sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth March, respectively. The film follows them at two different points in their lives: once during the Civil War, as they come of age, and then seven years later, as they’ve matured and are moving into the next phase of their lives. The non-linear style of storytelling is a strength of the film, and it’s very interesting to watch how the different timelines complement each other by answering some questions, but raising others.

July 19, 2020

“Shazam!” (2019) Review: Wholesome Superhero Family Fun

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in April 2019.

Have you ever wondered what Big might have been like if it had been a superhero flick?

Well, that’s more or less the premise of Shazam!

Foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is recruited by a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) to become his “champion” for righteousness. Transformed into a powerful older version of himself (Zachary Levi) every time he says the wizard’s name, Billy turns to his foster brother, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a self-confessed superhero fan, for help in controlling his newfound abilities. While they’re busy with that, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a man who was rejected by Shazam years ago for being too easily tempted, teams up with demons that are the physical forms of the Seven Deadly Sins to attain Billy’s power.

And so we have ourselves a superhero movie.

July 17, 2020

“Mary Poppins Returns” (2018) Review: A Spoonful of Nostalgia

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in January 2019.

“Close your mouth, Michael, we are still not a codfish.”

This remark is just one of the many callbacks that comes from Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who returns to the home of the Banks family from Disney’s classic 1964 film Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns to help Michael (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer), who are trying to save their family home from the greedy bank that Michael works for, spearheaded by William Weatherall Wilkins (played deviously by Colin Firth).

It seems like a by-the-numbers plot, but it’s enough of a story to create a thread to connect the many extravagant musical and dance numbers that this film contains; unfortunately, while the original’s iconic songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” are classic Disney tunes, the music of Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t resonate with the viewer as much as it should; however, it does contain a number of jolly tunes that will have you humming as you exit the theater.

July 15, 2020

“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) Review: Doing a Legend Justice

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in December 2018.

Queen is one of the most recognizable names in the music industry — they have brought to life such classic songs as “We Are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” and, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Every member of the band is still alive except for Freddie Mercury, who was the lead vocalist, and one of the most flamboyant performers the world has ever seen. He died at the age of 45 from the AIDs epidemic of the late 20th century, and his story has been immortalized in the biopic, also titled Bohemian Rhapsody.

July 7, 2020

Doctor Who Rewatch: S7E6 “The Bells of Saint John”

The reintroduction of Clara in “The Snowmen” proves to be a more than adequate springboard for “The Bells of Saint John,” the midseason opener that is just a little confused about whether it wants to be a clever social commentary or a straightforward action/mystery.

Allow me to explain.

After an unsettling pre-credits sequence, “The Bells of Saint John” begins with Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) trying to access the internet in a family friends’ house. Not understanding how Wi-fi works is a good gimmick for about thirty seconds (thank goodness they didn’t try to make her lack of technical expertise a major part of Clara’s character), but luckily, the Doctor (Matt Smith) soon arrives, ready to save the day.

July 4, 2020

“Hamilton” Review: Say Yes to This!

“What’s your name, man?”
I don’t know of a single musical theatre fan that has never either longed to, or has been lucky enough, to see Hamilton live on stage. And the only thing more exciting than seeing a live performance of Hamilton is seeing the show with its original cast.

Now, finally, the latter is possible again, nearly four years after the cast’s exit. A professionally recorded version of a few 2016 performances (all spliced together) has debuted on Disney+, and even if you’ve seen the show once, twice, three times before, this is a completely new way to experience the show.

July 2, 2020

Doctor Who Rewatch: 2012 Christmas Special “The Snowmen”

Some say that Doctor Who is only as good as its guest stars. If that were true, then “The Snowmen” is golden — a perfect segue from Amy and Rory’s sudden exit to the fun mystery of the Impossible Girl.

Not only does it have fantastic guests, its setting is chillingly gothic. The wintry atmosphere of Victorian London not only perfectly communicates the Doctor’s depression at losing Amy and Rory, it also provides a great environment for a genuinely scary Christmas special, perhaps the first in the show’s history.