Review by Dan Skip Allen
A League of Their Own, the Prime Video series, isn't just based on the 1992 film of the same name — it's based on the true events and people involved in this woman's baseball league of the 1940s. The series is a little more true to life than the film, and that's something that can be looked up on Google. The film is exaggerated, especially the Jimmy Dugan character played by Tom Hanks. It's good to see a more realistic version of this story and these women's legacy they left behind.
This show is a more in-depth series of events involving the All American Women's Professional baseball league. It deals with Carson Show (Abbi Jacobson), an Idaho farm girl married to a WWII soldier, Greta (D'Arcy Carden) and her friend Jo Deluca (Melanie Field), who are looking to travel and meet men/women, the manager Casey "Dove" Porter (Nick Offerman), who is annoyed by being around all of these women and their female issues, and Max (Chante Adams), a Black woman trying to prove herself in a world that doesn't respect women or African-Americans in this day and age.
This show deals with many women's issues that are prevalent today and back in the '40s, such as acceptance of the gay and LGBT community and still civil rights in this country. These parallel storylines fit nicely within the context of the film. I feel this show was more authentic to these women's true stories than the film. The movie seemed to go for laughs even though that famous line "There's no crying in baseball!" is still in the show.
The cast is pretty vast besides the handful of members I've mentioned already. There is Lupe (Roberta Galindez), Jess (Kelly McCormack), Maybelle (Molly Ephraim), and Shirley (Kate Berlant), as well as Beverly, played by Dale Dickey. All of these women supplement the main characters very nicely. They all have various subplots accentuating the main plot with the main characters. The show doesn't get bogged down with any side plots, though. It knows where the bread and butter of the story is.
One aspect of the show I felt could have been better is the baseball. It felt forced and not very real when it should have been a central focus of the show. The series got more into baseball playing as it went along, but the said playing of the game felt amateurish. The Negro leagues baseball seemed better, though. Maybe that was a conscious effort by the showrunners. Who knows? I just thought in a show about baseball, the baseball should be performed and portrayed better.
All my foibles about the show aside, I very much enjoyed it. The main storylines involving Jacobson, Carden, and Adams's characters were quite engrossing, and their performances drove the series forward from episode to episode. They kept me interested throughout. I learned a lot about these women that the film didn't talk about. The film detracts from the actual events in these women's lives. That makes this show relevant in the overall context of things.
The production value, costumes, and hairstyling were pretty cool because authentic-looking shows are easier to get invested in. The showrunners covered all their bases, pun intended, with this show. It was nice to watch an updated, more authentic version of this story. People who haven't seen the film can now see the definitive version of this story instead of the fictionalized version. The family members of their relatives surely will be happy with this part of the show.
A League of Their Own streams on Prime Video beginning August 12. All eight episodes reviewed.
Review by Tatiana Miranda
Mindy Kaling's Netflix coming-of-age series Never Have I Ever is returning for its third season. The series tracks Indian-American teenager Devi Vishwakumar as she navigates high school after the unexpected death of her father. While that seems to be a heavy and emotional topic at the show's center, Never Have I Ever is more comical than depressing. Yet, it allows room for heartfelt moments as Devi grieves and grows closer to her family and heritage. Even more so, the driving force for many of Devi's actions revolves around her love life, with season two ending as she finally gets with her dream guy.
This seemingly perfect relationship is what sets the stage as season three begins, yet it is quickly lost in the chaos of the show's fast-paced storytelling. Never Have I Ever's quick jumps through time are nothing new. Still, this season, they feel especially jarring as Devi continues to move from problem to problem in swift succession, never entirely slowing down in order to let the audience or characters process what is going on.
Similar to the show's previous seasons, the primary characters in Never Have I Ever seem to jump from one relationship and character-building moment to the next, never taking time to let the dust settle. In season three, this bleeds into the actions of secondary characters as well as the main ones, as is the case with two of Devi's best friends, Aneesa and Fabiola. The fast-paced nature of the character development of these two characters in this season is especially striking since they take the back burner, so any abrupt shifts in their attitude or storyline feels unwarranted because they never had time to develop properly.
The cast of Never Have I Ever grows bigger in season three, with the new addition of private school student Des and his mom, who each get close to Devi and her mom, respectively. Along with Des' introduction, the show also introduces his friends Parker and Addison, who is the show's first confirmed nonbinary character. The addition of these characters brings a whole new world to Devi's life, providing plenty of mishaps for her to navigate.
Season three of Never Have I Ever ends on the perfect note to prepare the audience for the next and final season. With Devi's upcoming senior year and the promise of newly kindled relationships, season four will likely be the ideal end to what has proven itself to be a one-of-a-kind teen drama.
Never Have I Ever season three begins streaming on Netflix August 12. All ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Adam Donato
As Marvel fanboys still find themselves inundated with the bevy of Comic-Con news regarding their favorite cinematic universe, I Am Groot arrives on Disney+ not long after. The content is a short series of bits starring everyone’s favorite vocabularist from the Guardians of the Galaxy. Including credits, the entirety of it lasts just over twenty minutes as there are about five episodes at four minutes a piece. With the Guardians franchise coming to an end with their third movie, it is quite opportune for Marvel to capitalize on their brand while they’re still around. The real question is, how will a show like this fit into the MCU?
I Am Groot seems to be going the same route as fellow Disney+ series, Dug Days and Baymax! Take a cute, funny and animated side character from one of your iconic films. Give them a short, standalone, and episodic series showcasing their independent shenanigans. While it’s easy to be critical and cynical about Disney’s conveyor belt of content to maintain the necessity for audiences to subscribe to their streaming service, this seems to be the least divisive direction to go with these intellectual properties. It’s cute, fun, and full of heart. You’re in and you’re out. The show is short enough to be binged in less time than it takes to watch a movie, but can be spread out into individual bits. Unlike Baymax and Dug Days, there is zero connective tissue tying the I Am Groot episodes together.
More so than the Disney+ shows, I Am Groot is quite like the Disney Animation or Pixar shorts that play before their feature films. Which begs the question, why not do this more frequently and put these shorts before MCU films. Marvel die hard fans will see every movie, but not everyone will go to the theater for a Black Widow or Eternals or Ant-Man standalone movie. That being said, everyone loves Baby Groot. Just look at the obscene amounts of Baby Yoda merch and say that a percentage of casual moviegoers would not go see a movie they normally wouldn’t see because there’s a Baby Groot short. Why limit it to just the one series? Regularly produce one shot shorts like Marvel used to do with their blu ray releases and show them before the feature. It would be a fun and low risk way to experiment with smaller characters and weird ideas.
The character being limited to three words and not having any English-speaking characters to fill the void presents an opportunity for visual storytelling to take priority. With the critical disappointment that was Thor: Love and Thunder largely being due to the cringe humor, having a show where the comedic focus isn’t cheesy one liners like “Eat this hammer!” helps make the MCU feel fresh. The level of animation and special effects doesn’t feel obnoxiously different. Many fans of Monsters, Inc. were disappointed with the show Monsters at Work because it looked like a downgrade, but here, it’s not a problem. They’re harmless and goofy shorts. Hopefully Marvel takes more opportunities like this since a problem Disney recently had with Obi-Wan Kenobi was that it felt stretched out. Groot doesn’t need a big epic series. Sometimes it’s nice to just hang out with these characters.
I Am Groot is the best MCU content since Avengers: Endgame. With all these other shows feeling like such an elongated commitment, it’s nice to have something that feels like a nice little appetizer. This show is exactly perfect for what it is. Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy are sure to be satiated. It’s not a must-see, but that’s what makes it work so well. Definitely check this one out exclusively on Disney+.
I Am Groot streams on Disney+ on August 10. All five episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Experimental films usually can do two things: they can create an existential view of what the filmmaker is seeing and wants the viewer to see or tell a pretty straightforward story in a vastly different style. El Gran Movimento is the latter. It is the straightforward telling of the story of these people in Bolivia.
The film mainly focuses on a handful of Bolivian citizens who start in Oruro and end up in La Paz. Three men who were miners leave their home in Oruro when the mine they worked for shuts down due to a work stoppage. The miners go on strike for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. While they work in another town, one gets sick in the mine. That's where the other two main characters in the film come in: an old hermit lady who walks around talking to people and is also a friend to the guys and an old medicine man. He travels around as well, but he tries to help the sick elder.
This film does a few other interesting things. Between the narrative story of the film, Kiro Russo shows the country and how it works from the standpoint of the various aspects of the industry. Camera shots showing crumbling buildings, rainy shots of the city from afar, and the hustle and bustle of the people who work in a grocery alley help maintain the working environment in the area.
Also, out of nowhere, similar to a Bollywood film, there is a dance number right in the middle of the film. Why? I have no idea, but it was set to electronic music, and it broke up the monotony of the rest of the film. Russo did a few strange things like this but didn't hinder the overall narrative much. If anything, they made the film a little more understandable and easier to watch.
The filmmaking style was a bit muted, though, probably because he didn't have the best technology to work with. It looked like it was filmed a while ago and took a long time to come out. It just didn't look new like most films do. Even period piece films look newer than this. The budget was probably pretty small, and this may have been a guerrilla filmmaking crew since these actors seemed like natives from Bolivia he just followed around and created a narrative film with. Who knows, though?
El Gran Movimento was a solid film. There have been bigger named filmmakers to make this type of film, but this had an interesting style and narrative that made it work. Besides oddities in the overall production, it wasn't an awful film. It wasn't great either, but I give the cast and crew the benefit of the doubt because they made a solid effort.
El Gran Movimiento hits theaters on August 12.
Review by Sean Boelman
The opportunity to see two of the most internationally acclaimed Korean actors working today in a film together makes Han Jae-rim’s Emergency Declaration one of the most anticipated movies of the summer for cinephiles. Even though Han does not take advantage of his talented cast, the film offers enough solid thrills to be worth watching.
The movie depicts a terror incident occurring midflight in which a deadly viral pathogen is released on a plane, causing a team on the ground to investigate and find a cure as the passengers struggle to keep everyone alive. It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill disaster film, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, its viral storyline rings even more true.
Unfortunately, the movie clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes and undoubtedly could have been cut down. Both sides of the story are things we have seen before, and the film takes far too long in the build-up to explain the context. Beyond that, the procedural aspect of the storyline is almost entirely unnecessary.
There is some interesting commentary in the movie about the ethics of responding to an international tourism situation and the implications that a crisis like this could have, but the film raises more questions than it provides answers. Thankfully, this means that the movie doesn’t fall into the overly jingoistic trappings typical of the terrorism thriller genre, but it still could have spared to take a harder stance.
The film’s two main stars are Song Kang-ho (Parasite) and Lee Byung-hun (The Good the Bad the Weird), each of whom leads one of the storylines. Lee gets the more compelling portion of the movie as de facto hero on the plane, while Song’s portion of the film effectively could have been cut out with no impact.
Surprisingly, the real highlight of the movie is Yim Si-wan, who is downright intimidating as the film’s villain. For someone whose claim to fame was being part of a K-pop group, the performance he delivers is astounding. It’s on the level of Alan Rickman or Gary Oldman in terms of great villain performances.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is undeniably very impressive, but that is typically the case with Asian disaster films. This type of high-concept storytelling tends to be a massive hit with international audiences, and so they can afford to go all-out with the effects. The result is a high-octane, edge-of-your-seat viewing experience.
Emergency Declaration suffers from being too long and not knowing what to do with its talented stars, but its high production value makes it a very watchable entry into the genre. It’s a solid, if somewhat forgettable popcorn flick.
Emergency Declaration hits theaters on August 12.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Locke & Key is based on the popular comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez from IDW Publishing. The first season premiered on Netflix in 2020, and now it is in its third and final season, so all the storylines have to be sewn up. Season two had a few cliffhangers that bore fruit in season three. The new season took what fans of the show already knew and expanded on it. It takes this world to an entirely different level.
Eden Hawkins (Hailee Jones) thought she had an ally in Captain Fredrick Gideon (Kevin Durand), but it ended in her demise. Tyler chose to forget the past and move out west. Ellie and Rufus Wheadon (Sherri Saum and Coby Bird) have returned but don't know if it was good for them. Of course, Kinsey (Emilia Jones, CODA) is still involved with The Splattering 2 and using her singing abilities. Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) finds a new key that causes some problems for the Lockes, and Nina (Darby Stanchfield) is trying to find her footing with her memories back in her relationship with Josh (Brendan Hines).
Season three of Locke and Key is slightly more subdued than previous seasons. The first few episodes deal with the wedding of Uncle Duncan (Aaron Ashmore) and a Snow Globe in which two women, Dorothy and Ada, were stuck. These were just distractions from the main story involving Capt. Fredrick Gideon and his men, Coffey and Bolton, trying to open up a new doorway into their world and combine the human world and demon world. The other stories are also continued as the season continues forward. As the series ends, these subplots must end so the show can conclude. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up.
Locke & Key mixes fantasy elements and young adult-type storytelling to create a dramatic show with suspenseful and interesting concepts. Netflix has invested in creators like Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel, Colony, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan) to write and be the showrunner for this amazing show. The elements of all the different things in the series work well together. It makes sense that people of all ages love this series so much.
The acting of all the main characters in the series is fantastic, and it's nice to see them progress as the show progresses. The mystery involving the keys keeps the show continuing to be fun, going in different directions each season. Kevin Durand has embraced his larger role this season like Layla De Oliviera, as Dodge, and Griffin Gluck, as Gabe, have in seasons past. He is a good character actor but thrives as a villain once again.
Some older characters, such as Geordie Shaw (Michael Therriault), also get a larger role. Seeds from previous seasons finally come to light and show how this series has been handled properly. These types of shows and series can be done right, and they don't have to go on forever. They have a finite ending that makes sense, and the fans can have a satisfying conclusion to a beloved IP/comic book series like this.
Locke & Key season three starts slowly despite the episode "The Snow Globe." Older characters like Ashmore's character get a good send-off, but it's Kevin Durand who gets to really shine in a larger role this season. Plot lines involving the rest of the Locke family get sewn up, and the fantasy elements and storytelling become more extensive as the season progresses. The last few episodes are pretty action-packed and have a lot of set pieces. The showrunners and writers saved the best for last regarding these parts of the series.
This was a very satisfying series conclusion, and fans will hopefully be happy with how the show ended. I've been with it since day one and have thoroughly enjoyed the show since the beginning. I'm glad the creators aren't trying to keep this series going forever. Most shows need to know when it's time to end, and it's definitely time this one did, but it ended on a high note.
Locke & Key streams on Netflix beginning August 10.
Review by Camden Ferrell
Neil Gaiman is one of the most versatile and prolific writers around today, being the person responsible for such works as Coraline, American Gods, and Good Omens to name a few. Arguably his most known and acclaimed work, The Sandman is finally receiving its long overdue adaptation as a television series. Often thought to be “unfilmable”, this adaptation is strong, entertaining, and feels very well connected to its source material even if it does falter in other areas.
Dream aka. Morpheus is the personification of Dream who over sees his own realm. However, he becomes imprisoned for many decades and finds himself in a completely changed world when released. From there, he must reclaim what he has lost and deal with the fallout of the many threats the world and his realm face. This first season adapts the first wo arcs of the series Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. Those who are familiar with the source material are aware of the unbounded potential this phenomenal and mesmerizing comic book series has to offer for a live-action adaptation, so its creators definitely have a lot to work with.
The writing does a great job of honoring the style of the books while still making it feel natural in live-action and also adapting for a modern era. Like the book, this show offers some great meditations on universal themes and ideas that give the scenes more subtext and meaning. There are a handful of moments that feel slightly out of place with its dialogue and narrative, but it’s a pitfall of trying to adapt such an ambitious work.
Surprisingly, one of the more underwhelming aspects of the show is its cast. Nobody is bad in this vast ensemble, but very few actors make a lasting impression. Tom Sturridge leads the series as Dream, and his dark and brooding performance is sufficient to carry the episodes, but it’s not as complex or nuanced as one would hope. The two actors who truly standout in these episodes are Kirby Howell-Baptiste and David Thewlis who play Death and John Dee respectively. Both are able to deliver unique and memorable takes on iconic characters with ease and emotion.
Even though fans of the comic book series will probably get more mileage out of these episodes, the show does an amazing job of being accessible to all viewers, so reading the source material is not required whatsoever. The show is a very faithful adaptation that makes small changes to help the narrative flow better.
The show is hit or miss with its technical achievements. The cinematography wavers between gorgeous and well-shot to sometimes passionless and generic shots that don’t fully do justice to the rich visual source material. The effects can also be inconsistent in quality and use with a select few effects being quite weak for a show of this caliber. However, the show does have some truly amazing VFX work and cinematography throughout that help elevate certain episodes.
Fans of the series will look forward to episodes 5 and 6 which adapt 24 Hours and The Sound of Her Wings respectively from the series. I’ll admit that albeit great, the 24 Hours episode is not as unsettling and brilliant as its literary counterpart. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that the sixth episode is utterly beautiful and nuanced in its complex story and themes, and it is by far and away the highlight of the entire series that I think will be the one episode that is unanimously loved.
The Sandman is a faithful, creative, and overall strong first adaptation for the iconic series. It’s not without cosmetic flaws throughout, but these 10 episodes prove that this series is adaptable and will hopefully find a fanbase to keep this series running for years to come. Plenty of fun for new and old fans alike, this is a series you’re definitely going to want to give a chance this August.
The Sandman is available on Netflix August 5. All 10 episodes are reviewed.
Review by Paris Jade
What do you get when you match a man who has trouble keeping a girlfriend with a girl with multiple personalities? Starring Tyler Johnson and Bonnie Piesse, My Perfect Girlfriend answers that question with some of the most awkward acting you've ever seen.
The film starts with narration from Conrad's best friend Will, played by Keston John. This is where the awkwardness immediately begins. Will is barely in this movie, and for some reason, the creators decided to have him narrate the love story of Conrad and Molly even though he only gets one or two interactions with the couple. Bonnie Piesse does a great job of playing multiple characters and is a good actress; however, Tyler Johnson feels way too awkward when it comes to playing opposite Piesse. It sometimes seemed like it was just the character, but a lot of it felt way too forced and made Johnson seem like a bad actor, and you can't really feel the chemistry between the two leads.
Other than the awkward interactions, the actual story itself is a cute one. As unnecessary as Will's narration feels, it brings you right into the story and immediately grabs your attention, primarily because you're questioning why there is narration in the first place. It throws you off, but after that, you start to get into the actual story. It seems this film does an okay job at its representation of people with dissociative identity disorder. They use the correct terminology and treat it normally in the movie instead of treating it like it's a terrible thing, and any person with it can be a killer like many Hollywood tries to depict. Showing how the real disorder could be and how Conrad deals with his partner having it was well executed, and hopefully, people with DID can appreciate it.
My Perfect Girlfriend isn't for everyone, but I believe the casual moviegoer could enjoy it if they like a simple romance with a bit of a twist. If it weren't for the lack of chemistry between the actors, you could genuinely see this as a real couple. They go through real issues and feel like real people, and at times you do feel like you could be watching an actual couple's journey through their relationship. They both go through mental struggles and learn to find their way around them. It's a cute film and will probably make you smile, but it's not a must-see. If you have the time and feel like seeing a nice romance, give it a gander.
My Perfect Girlfriend is now in theaters and hits VOD on August 9.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Cave Rescue is the second film about the Thai soccer team stranded in the cave system that came out in a matter of days. That doesn't include last year's documentary, now streaming on National Geographic and Disney+. The two narrative films start the same, but they are distinctly different from each other after that.
Cave Rescue is a much faster and more linear version of this story. It comes from the Thai side of things more than the British or outsiders' side. One aspect is the point of view of the boys and their coach stranded in the cave. The film shows how malnourished the boys are and how scared they are to have been in the cave system for 18 days. It also shows the perspective of one newscaster broadcasting out to the world.
Where the two films differed the most is the subtitles and the foreign side of the story. The Thai farmers and Thai Navy SEALS were shown exclusively as the primary focus going into the first part of the film until the actual rescue shifts to the more British side of things. And the rescue effort to bring the boys and their coach out. One particular character was Jim (Jim Warny). He is the only one of the Brits that the film mainly focuses on, unlike Thirteen Lives.
This film uses pop-up graphics on the bottom left of the screen to inform the viewer about the timetable the film takes place in, but the way Thirteen Lives does it is better. Also, the camera work isn't as good as the style Ron Howard used in his film. The fast-paced storytelling is indicative of a smaller budget which shows in the end product. This film feels like an inferior version of this story to me.
The technical aspects of the film, from the camera work to the cinematography, aren't that great. They use a ticking clock to represent the pressure the divers are under, but it felt forced here. The other film just showed the difficulty of the situation and each moment that passed seemed to bring up the pressure as the movie went along. There is a clear difference in the quality of these two films.
The main reason I feel this film lacks in quality was that quite a bit of the story was typed out on a black backdrop for people to read instead of filming these scenes. This was a cop-out way to do a film. I know the budget couldn't have been very big because of all the ways this filmmaker cut corners. The other film didn't do that, and it showed in the end. It was a much better version of the harrowing tale of rescue and survival.
Cave Rescue tried being a good version of this story, but it felt lacking in quality from the beginning. The acting seemed second-rate, and the technical aspects from filmmaker Tom Waller, including mainly the camera work, weren't that good. It was unfocused and somewhat blurry at times. The film looked too dark where there should have been light, and the camera pushed in too much. Even though the film tells a very compelling story, its execution drags it down.
Cave Rescue hits theaters and VOD on August 5.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Jo Koy is a stand-up comedian of some note in the Filipino community. To be honest, I hadn't heard of him before seeing Easter Sunday, a film that is supposed to be about his family and friends. Every story isn't always exactly the way it unfolds in the real world. Filmmakers take some creative license with the stories they are telling. I think that is the case with this film to make it seem more fun than the actual events that transpired.
Joe Valencia (Jo Koy) is a stand-up comedian. He is estranged from his wife, and she is with another man. When his mother (Lydia Gaston) calls and asks him to come to the San Francisco area of Gateway City for Easter dinner, he sees it as a way to bond with his son, who has been struggling in school. Joe hasn't had much time to spend with him due to his burgeoning acting career. He may get a role in a sitcom, but it hinges on him being similar to his family. He moved away to Los Angeles for a reason. This trip up north could help family relations, though. So he's torn between family and his career.
In the past, there has been more than one film depicting family drama in a comedy setting. Easter Sunday is the latest that has used this familiar trope. Crazy Rich Asians was a similar type of film that came out a few years ago. All you have to do is take out the rich and substitute suburban Asians, and you have this family. This film has the overheating mother figure, the troublesome brother, the supportive sister, the long-lost love, and a couple of subplots. The subplots led to some pretty hilarious moments with fantastic cameos from Tiffany Haddish and Lou Diamond Philips. These two added a nice touch to a film with enough humor from the start.
Jo Koy, as I mentioned, was a stand-up comedian I wasn't that familiar with, but he really surprised me. From the very first scene of him doing stand-up, he controlled the film. He even took over at an Easter Sunday church gathering which was hilarious. He did what every comedian does and used his dysfunctional family as canon founder for his stand-up routine. It was fantastic how he weaved his routine into the story from the bible. It was brilliantly written and acted by him. He's going to be one to watch from now on for me.
Besides the hilarious comedic moments of the film, it actually had some heart to it. Sure there were a lot of box-checking moments, but it didn't matter because the film had me with the story of the dysfunctional family who came together in the end. One group of characters was shoehorned into the story but ended up working out in the end, giving the story a happy ending. Still, there were also a couple of stereotypical characters that the film got away with because of the film's overall charm.
Easter Sunday, coming out in early August for some reason, turned out to be the perfect counter-programming for Bullet Train and other streaming films that are coming out this weekend. Not knowing anything about the film proved to be a blessing in disguise because it helped me enjoy the movie more. Jo Koy is a star in the making, and this film proved that. It had many comedic moments from the stars of the film and cameos from other established stars. The subplots worked in the context of the film, and in the end, this film was a pleasant surprise. If you're looking for something different this weekend, this might be the thing for you. It was funny and heartfelt and had some action to boot.
Easter Sunday hits theaters on August 5.