August 29, 2021

Review: Mando and his Fan-Favorite Ward Return in “The Mandalorian” Season Two Premiere

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

Even if you’ve never seen The Mandalorian, you’re undoubtedly familiar with its most iconic character: Baby Yoda, known in-franchise as ‘The Child,’ swept the nation with his cuteness and proved how unprepared Disney was with merchandising for the show. Star Pedro Pascal even described the Child as an “incredible scene partner,” showing he’s just as beloved on set as he is in our hearts.

Unfortunately, if you’re watching The Mandalorian solely for your Baby Yoda fix, you might have to wait a little while. The record-breaking series is back with a new season that will continue through to the end of the year. The titular Mandalorian (played by Pascal) returns, this time with a new mission that relegates Baby Yoda to a mere McGuffin, a plot device to drive the story forward. That’s definitely not a bad thing, though; it means we get more of Pascal and his ever-growing comfort in the role fo the Mandalorian.

August 23, 2021

Review: “The White Lotus” is an Intriguing Character Study

There’s a lot of weird TV out there, some fantastical and completely unrealistic, and others that feature strange and hard-to-believe characters, yet feel completely down-to-earth. HBO’s The White Lotus is a fantastic example of the latter.

Running only six episodes, The White Lotus is perhaps the most perplexing series I’ve had to review thus far. In the premiere, we meet a group of diverse guests who all happen to be staying at a Hawaiian resort called (you guessed it) the White Lotus in the same week. Throughout the season, we get to know these characters closely and intimately, though the brevity of the season leaves a lot to be desired. We’re seeing snippets of these characters’ lives, but I wish we got to dig a little deeper.

August 21, 2021

Review: Derivative “Reminiscence” Offers Nothing New

Have you ever heard the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice? It certainly has more to say than Reminiscence, in which Hugh Jackman, in the lead role, mispronounces the name of Orpheus’s wife on more than one occasion.

Written, directed and produced by Westworld EP Lisa Joy, Reminiscence is a science-fiction thriller that features Hugh Jackman as former soldier Nick Bannister, now running a facility where people can revisit their memories in a tank filled with water, fantastical technology explained away with a throwaway remark. Like in so many futuristic films, the “how” doesn’t matter here.

Does Reminiscence decide on a genre? Absolutely not. After some vague, nonspecific world-building at the start, it could easily be a buddy dramedy if the story focused more on the relationship between Nick and his colleague, Watts (Thandiwe Newton, desperately trying to disguise her accent). But no — enter Mae (Rebecca Ferguson, with a surprisingly excellent singing voice). She begins a fling with Nick, which culminates in her mysterious disappearance — hence the main conflict.

August 18, 2021

Review: “Titans” is Back, and Better Than Ever

If there’s anything that the first two seasons of Titans had, it was far too many comic book characters to keep straight. So of course, the natural course for the third season premiere is to introduce a whole host of new characters to contend with.

These include a post-Killing Joke Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch), now taking her deceased father’s place as Commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department; an incarcerated Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow (Vincent Kartheiser), who works as a consultant for the GCPD; and the mysterious Red Hood, a new crime figurehead emerging in Gotham.

The first three episodes of Season 3 are largely dedicated to a single arc, which means that some characters are sidelined to make way for the narrative. Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), Conner (Joshua Orpin) and Kory Anders (Anna Diop) don’t get a lot to do, and Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) is conspicuously absent entirely from the opening episodes.

August 17, 2021

Review: “Stargirl” Season Two is Off to a Rocky Start

After a successful and impactful first season, the CW’s Stargirl had nowhere to go but up. Its leads are captivating, the villains are creatively brought to life, and there's enough to satisfy comic book fans and casual viewers alike.

The second season premiere, the first in a “Summer School” arc, sees Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) obsessed with maintaining peace in Stargirl, even after the defeat of the Injustice Society of America. Courtney’s friends, though, are slightly burnt out after numerous night patrols and useless defending from an enemy that isn’t even there. I feel like this is a common trope in superhero shows and movies — the protagonist is obsessed with being a hero, and needs time off. Courtney’s “time off” comes in the form of summer school, which she is being forced to attend because of a sharp drop in academic quality.

Before all that, though, the episode starts off with a creepy, slightly anachronistic cold open set sometime in the mid-20th century. Aside from an easily missable name reference, the contents of the intro have no application in the episode, so I’m interested to see how (and when) it gets incorporated into the actual story.

August 14, 2021

Review: “Free Guy” is Unadulterated Video Game-Style Fun

If there’s anything Free Guy could’ve benefited from, it’s even more Ryan Reynolds.

In the film, Reynolds plays Guy, an NPC (Non-Player Character) in a hit video game character called Free City. If there’s one thing NPCs aren’t supposed to do, though, it’s wander off their pre-programmed daily script. That’s exactly what Guy does, much to the surprise and chagrin of the game’s programmer, Antoine (Taika Waititi). Despite some great Reynolds-isms (and renditions upon them) peppered throughout the film, he still oddly feels a bit restricted. As fun as Free Guy ends up being, I think there’s a case to be made for more of Reynolds’ signature charm.

That charm, by the way, is all over this movie. Even though he’s doing an innocent, happy-go-lucky, Will-Ferrell-from-Elf-type performance, the Ryan Reynolds we all know and love shines through, comedic sensibility and all. He’s easily one of the best parts of this movie — he has to be, as one of its main selling points.

August 7, 2021

Review: “The Suicide Squad” Shows Just How Great Comic Book Movies Can Be

One thing writer/director James Gunn is excellent at are conversations between intentionally quirky characters that come off as awkward at first, but end with a witty comment that make you smile and think that was amusing — what a clever dialogue that informs both characters involved. His new DC Comics film, The Suicide Squad, is absolutely chock-full of moments like these.

Keep in mind, I’m not complaining about these — they’ve been a Gunn staple since 2006’s Slither — but never have his style been so omnipresent than in The Suicide Squad. This is what happens when a director is given complete creative freedom on a no-holds-barred comic book film, and it’s absolutely glorious.

The cast of The Suicide Squad (which acts as a sequel/reboot to the 2016 film of a similar title) is littered with colorful characters, cherry-picked from the DC Comics by Gunn for their particular, oftentimes wacky, skills. TDK (Nathan Fillion), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Savant (Michael Rooker) and Javelin (Flula Borg) are among the supervillains recruited by big-time government suit Amanda Waller (a returning Viola Davis) and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen) to liberate an island that recently experienced a violent coup and a change of leadership. No one is safe, and anyone could die at any moment — so don’t get attached.

August 2, 2021

Expanding the Universe: July 2021

Another month has come and gone, and the summer is drawing to a close. Blockbuster theatrical releases picked up in July 2021, but I still found plenty of time to revisit some old favorites. Here are succinct reviews of what I watched in July 2021.


By all rights, this movie should not have worked. Take the main characters: silly yellow talking fire hydrants who speak a nonsensical, hodge-podge language. How would you be able to stand 90 minutes watching them travel the world and romance actual fire hydrants? Somehow, though, Minions pulls it off, giving the titular characters motivations and *shudder* personality. Pierre Coffin does wonders as both director and the voice of the Minions, and there are entertaining visual gags aplenty. [Grade: A-]

The Boss Baby: Family Business (2021)

The Boss Baby: Family Business manages to top the original, cramming more inventive ideas in addition to an absolutely insane villain reveal. I can describe it as nothing more than typical action-packed family fun; there is always something happening onscreen, oftentimes too much. The themes cover family and growing up -- nothing new there -- but something about Family Business feels fresh. Perhaps the charm of a returning Alec Baldwin carries the film, but it is quite possible Family Business is simply a better film. [Grade: B+]

The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

One advantage of the Fear Street trilogy, released by Netflix over three weeks and based loosely on novels by R.L. Stine, was that all three of the films were made sequentially with a singular, interconnected story in mind. Every revelation is intricately set up, references carry over and pay off, and the viewers are rewarded for catching little, seemingly superfluous details. Part One: 1994 is a stylized nostalgia fest undoubtedly made with a ‘90s ‘to do’ list side-by-side with the script. It introduces us to the mythology of the Sarah Fier, the so-called Witch of Shadyside, a town with increasingly bad luck and a growing number of bodies. Part Two: 1978 brings us back in time to show us a massacre at a summer camp, with awesome performances from Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd. Part Three: 1666 shows us the necessary context behind Sarah Fier and her curse, and does a great job of answering almost every question we have. The Fear Street series also has the benefit of being rated R, which means each one is a no-holds-barred gore fest. And to top it off, each one is better than the last, in a rarity for horror movie franchises. [Grade: A+]