Review by Dan Skip Allen
I'm a fan of Awkwafina. She has voiced a lot of animated characters and she's had a lot of other performances in many films since breaking into the scene with her rom-com on Comedy Central, Nora From Queens. She showed that her weird oddball girl routine was exactly what the world was looking for, and has this aura about her that people can relate to. Her latest film, Quiz Lady, doubles down on all the things she's become famous for.
Anne Yum (Awkwafina) is a single woman who has watched the game show “Can’t Stop the Quiz” every day since she was eight years old. She had a rough upbringing, as her mother was a habitual gambler who didn't take care of herself and her sister Jenny (Sandra Oh). Jenny became a screw-up, resulting in her and Anne falling out. When their mother leaves her nursing home, it sets off a series of events where Anne has to fulfill her destiny as a trivia guru, proving her bond with her sister in the process.
I have a sister and two brothers, and we haven't always gotten along with each other. The sister duo in this film are a little different than my brothers and sister, but also similar in many ways. Awkwafina and Oh have palpable chemistry with each other as sisters. They bicker and argue, but when it really matters, they truly love each other. The same goes for my siblings and I — they know I try my hardest, as my life wasn’t as easy as theirs was.
With Awkwafina being one of the main characters in the movie, you know there will be some laughs. As expected, she creates some zany moments regarding running from each other in one scene, and the ad-libbing between them in various other scenes in the film had me in stitches. Awkwafina can turn the most normal sequences into laugh-out-loud moments. Her banter with a returning champion on “Can’t Stop the Quiz” (Jason Schwartzman) and the show’s host (Will Ferrell) cracked me up. While this wasn't the funniest movie of the year, it had its fair share of laughs.
This movie was somewhat nostalgic for me. I remember watching Jeopardy! with my father, and I know many other people did the same. Since the passing of Alex Trebek, watching the show is a bit bittersweet these days. This movie has a vibe of Jeopardy!, especially since Ferrell is channeling Trebek with everything from his ties and hair to the way he speaks. Schwartzman is also trying to be people we have come to know on the show from the past. It's just funny how this film intentionally attempted to mimic that sensational and long-running game show.
Director Jessica Yu and screenwriter Jen D'Angelo craft a funny two-hander with some familiar tropes in their movie. The trope of estranged siblings coming together for a common goal has been done to death before. Thankfully, this pairing of Awkwafina and Oh made it tolerable. More compelling, though, was the Jeopardy! parody from Ferrell and Schwartzman, and Awkwafina’s funny ad-libs.
Quiz Lady isn't going to blow anybody away this holiday season. However, it has some heart to it, which is more than I can say for other comedies this year. The family dynamic between these two sisters was the main draw for this movie, and I'm sure many siblings can relate to the bickering and arguments between these two. Throw in the game show aspect, and you have a decent little comedy the whole family can watch together. With all the awards contenders coming out, this is a good change of pace for people this season.
Quiz Lady streams on Hulu beginning November 3.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
I would be lying if I said I wasn't a fan of Milli Vanilli as a teenage kid. Sure, I wasn't a young teenage girl smitten with these two good-looking European guys with electronic voices. I was just an average white kid from an inner-city Massachusetts town. I just knew what sounded good to my ears. I loved all their hits, including "Girl You Know It's True" and "Blame It On the Rain" are two of their biggest hits. Little did I know they didn't actually sing these songs.
I lived in an era where there were many pop stars I loved, like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cindy Lauper, and Whitney Houston. Milli Vanilli seemed like they were going to be just another artist like these… until they started talking and doing interviews. Even as a kid, I heard something in their voices that didn't vibe with their singing voices. Although there can be a separation between speaking voices and singing voices, this duo took it to the extreme. These guys had European accents, but sang like they couldn't speak fluently in English. There was something wrong with this, I could feel it.
Eventually, the news broke that these guys were a fraud. I felt better, but a lot of people didn't feel so good. The Grammy Nominating Committee felt slighted and investigated this, and found these guys guilty of not singing these songs. They said the duo had to return their Grammys. This is the first and only time this ever happened. They have lived in infamy ever since.
The documentary effectively dives into how this duo fooled the world before their lie came crashing down. These two guys, Fabrice Morvan and Robert Pilatus, met while they were both struggling musicians in Europe. Frank Farian was a music producer in Germany, and he had success with one band, who he also had lip-syncing their songs to good results. They weren't stars outside Europe, though. That's the difference between them and Milli Vanilli. The latter achieved massive stardom across the pond and around the world.
Like many documentaries, this one has a lot of talking heads. Filmmaker Luke Korem gives a lot of butt-hurt people the opportunity to voice their opinions. Farian isn't among those, but Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren, Timbaland, and the men and women who actually did record these songs and didn't get the credit for them had their moment to get the credit they deserve. These people had a lot of informative, in-depth things to say. It was eye-opening even for me, who already knew about this story. Imagine what it's like for those who didn't know about this scandal.
We live in an era of the 24-hour news cycle, and stories like this one had their fifteen minutes of fame before news stations moved on to the next OJ Simpson, Tonya Harding, or Richard Jewell from the Atlanta Olympic bombing. Thirty-five years have gone by since this worldwide scandal took place, and the true story has yet to come out until now. Yes, these guys had a press conference confessing their guilt, and Farian broke the story to European newspapers and television stations telling the truth of who actually sang the songs, but the whole truth hasn't come out like this. This film documents everything from the horse's mouth — well, some of them, as one half of the duo tragically passed away due to a drug overdose years ago.
The documentary Milli Vanilli is a good one. It delves deep into the true nature of the cost of fame and fortune. These two poor guys from Europe would do anything for fame, and they bought into the scheme by Farian, even though at first they didn't want to. Farian wasn't stupid — he knew these guys couldn't sing fluently in English. They could barely speak the language, let alone sing in it. This film documents the true story behind this fraud, but as we see, it's not all the fault of these two aspiring singers. Nevertheless, the cost is high, as the original singers didn't get their due either. This documentary effectively shows all the sides of this crazy story from the ‘80s.
Milli Vanilli streams on Paramount+ beginning October 24.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
I'm a big fan of foreign films because there are plenty of gems hiding within the sea of international cinema. One recent gem is Thunder, the Swiss submission for the Best International Feature Oscar at next year's Academy Awards. Writer-director Carmen Jaquier has a legitimate contender on her hands.
Elizabeth (Lilith Grasmug) is a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in a convent in turn of the century Switzerland. When she gets word that her sister has passed away, she is told she must return home to work for her parents on their farm. The death of her sister is a mysterious one, and she starts to ask around about what happened.
Jaquier has made a beautiful film with breathtaking views of the Swiss countryside and adjacent mountains overlooking the village in the film. The beautiful cinematography by Marine Atlan is perfect. In one sex scene, the wind blows the hair of the main girl as the sounds of crickets and water flowing lull in the background. I'm amazed at how all of this was captured so effortlessly. It's one of the best-looking films I've seen all year.
This story was a difficult one to watch unfold, despite how beautiful it was to look at. There is a dichotomy there that is fascinating to me. While the main girl is acclimating herself back into her old life, she starts to discover what is going on in this community. Three boys who are always around start to make themselves noticed by her, so she starts to explore their relationship with her sister. There was more going on than she thought while she was gone.
With this being about boys and girls, there is an underlying storyline of sexual repression. This town is in the middle of a world of ideals about Christianity and strong religious beliefs that make it hard for the boys and girls coming of age, as they get more mature, wanting to explore their sexual urges — even if they are told it’s wrong. With this being in such a location and time, you’d expect the boys to be crossing the line, but the elders are on top of things because of the last death.
There are two things in this film — besides the cinematography — that stood out to me quite a bit: the score, which had beautiful sounds that reflected the incredible surroundings, and a hidden notebook that provided narrative information for those watching the film. The director used the notebook in a way I hadn't seen before. The deceased sister narrated her own words in it and expressed her desires for sex and male companionship. This was her undoing, though.
Films about the past or foreign lands can be a bit hit or miss. Sometimes, things can get lost in translation. That isn’t the case here, though. There is a clear storyline based on various factors that let the viewer come to their own conclusions on the situation in the film. Writer-director Carmen Jaquier does a great job portraying this story on screen using a couple of different techniques, including extraordinary cinematography and score. Thunder is a well-done movie with difficult subject matter. This has a good chance for awards consideration.
Thunder hits theaters on October 25.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Persian Version, as the title suggests, is about a Persian family that is vastly different from American families. Whether you are from the Middle East, Africa, or South America, the American Dream is very alluring to foreigners. Yet, no matter what walk of life you come from, religious background, or race, everybody has the same domestic problems. In many ways, this has similar issues to a lot of American families. That's the crux of this story.
Leila (Layla Mohammed) is like any young woman. She goes out partying, drinking herself into a stupor, and sleeping with whoever she meets that night at the local bar or club she went to. The problem is she wakes up the next morning feeling sorry for herself and what she has done. Combine that with her not having much of a future and an overbearing mother who wants her to have a successful life and not waste her life away, and you get the idea of what this story is about.
Leila wants to straighten her life out, but sometimes things happen you don't foresee. You just have to make the best of a bad situation if you're a young woman in her shoes. Her parents — mainly her mother, in this situation — need to stand by her. And while I felt for this girl, I also felt bad for her mother, who had her own arc in the film. She, who is Iranian just like her husband, is having a hard time making it in America and trying to raise a family. Add in some political connotations that arise because they are Iranian immigrants, and it's not easy to sympathize with the family at the center of this story.
I had a rough upbringing, and my mother struggled to raise four children without much help from my father because he was an alcoholic. The mother in the film, played by Niousha Noor, had a determination to succeed. That's where her daughter gets the determination from. Both women are a bit stubborn in their own way, though. They need their space and they need to succeed on their terms, and that's what they do despite being part of such a powder keg of political strife during this time in New York/America.
There have been other films about Chinese culture, Mexican culture, or even Asian culture that have told similar types of stories, but none of them have had such a realistic take on the family dynamic as The Persian Version. I have been constantly thinking about it ever since I saw it. It hit me in a way I didn't expect. It’s also interesting to see the cultural differences and similarities in the Iranian-American community, especially as politics get in the way of how they are perceived by Americans, particularly post-9/11.
The Persian Version is a strong film about strong women who are trying to be respected in their community and the eyes of America. The two main women in the film who play mother and daughter are both very good. Maryann Kesharvz, the director, captured the struggles of an Iranian family in America perfectly. She also created a story that is relatable to quite a bit of Americans. Driven single mothers are becoming more and more prevalent in this country, and that's what the movie is trying to say about this country and women in general. This was a terrific look at these subjects.
The Persian Version hits theaters on October 20.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON -- Excellent Production Values and Performances Make This Another Achievement by Scorsese
Review by Dan Skip Allen
I don't think anybody can debate the fact that Martin Scorsese is an auteur director. He has done some interesting films in his career. He's tried some things that haven't always worked, but most of the time his films are considered masterpieces of cinema. In Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the David Grann book of the same name, he uses every trick in the book as a filmmaker to get the story across to the viewer in the most informative way possible. Even though everything he tries doesn't always work, it's still another achievement in cinema.
David Grann's book is mainly from the perspective of the police in Pawhuska County on the Osage Indian Reservation and FBI agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons), but this version of the story by Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese is from the perspective of the Osage nation, mainly Molly Kyle-Burkhart (Lily Gladstone). She is what they call “oil-rich.” Her people were considered the richest people in the world per capita at this time in history because they struck oil on their land. This didn't sit well with everybody, especially the King of the Osage Hills, William Hale (Robert De Niro)
Hale hatches a plan to try and get his nephew Earnest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) to befriend Molly and try to become romantically linked to her. Unbeknownst to Ernest, there are numerous killings of the Osage people, often labeled as suicides or illnesses.
History isn't always defined by the victors — it's often defined by those who lost. In the case of the Osage people, they lost a lot at the hands of a greedy businessman and racially-charged intentions by white people looking to get rich from the deaths of these innocent victims. De Niro's Hale was disguised as a white knight, when in reality he was the perpetrator of quite a bit of the pain, suffering, and deaths of these people. It's a typical trope in films like this.
There are a lot of things about Killers of the Flower Moon that worked for me. One of them is the cast — from the biggest-name actors to the extras in the background of many scenes, often Osage and the townspeople. Scorsese has assembled a talented group of actors to round out this expansive cast. The three main actors — Gladstone, DiCaprio, and De Niro — are all standouts in their roles and should garner awards contention. Gladstone shines opposite two of the heavyweights of the industry in the past and present. She goes through so much as this woman who sees everything she knows being torn away from her. She emotes extraordinarily well by using just her eyes and very little facial movement. She doesn't say much but when she does it's very powerful. She is a surefire contender for a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.
As mentioned before, Scorsese uses some tricks of the trade to get across a lot of information about this story. First off, he uses what looks like old pictures to show various Osage people and the ones that died already as this story starts. Those pictures are in black and white and are framed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Another trick is the narration by both Gladstone and DiCaprio. DiCaprio's narration is while reading a book about the Osage people and turning the pages so the viewer can see images of what happened to these Native Americans and their history. Scorsese is truly a master filmmaker, and he used every trick up his sleeve for this film.
However, what didn't sit well with me were the length of the film and the editing. This movie has a big story at its center, but is no different than any other story in that it could have been condensed down a little bit. There are some redundant scenes and other scenes that don’t make much sense if you didn't read the book. Thelma Schoonmaker is a great editor, and she does as well as possible with what she's got to work with. That being said, this film was too long and dragged in the second act especially. I know Scorsese had a blank check, but the story needed to be a little tighter than it was.
Furthermore, there was often a sense of humor in the movie when I felt it shouldn't have had this sort of vibe. DiCaprio’s character was a bit of a dunce, and while he was very good as the character, he got people laughing at him. I don't think he should have been a laughing stock. Other moments also made my audience laugh at the wrong times, and that didn’t seem to be the intention. This isn't a comedy — it's a drama. I didn't want to laugh at the absurdity or moronic nature of this story. I felt like I should be mad at what happened to these people.
Scorsese has been a director of some of the most iconic films of the last fifty years. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas are among my personal favorite films. He has made character pieces that say something about specific groups of people — mostly Italians. In the case of this film, though, it's about the persecution of the Native American people. I don't think he took the material as seriously as he should have. Even though the performances were very good by the big three and a lot of the production was done thoroughly, I just can't get my head around the comedic moments.
Killers of the Flower Moon was my most anticipated film of the year, and now that I've finally seen it, I was let down a tiny bit. The production design, cinematography, and acting, by DiCaprio, De Niro, and Gladstone specifically, were all impeccable. It was just the length of the film and the odd script choices that threw me off a bit. Scorsese, like all directors, was trying to make an entertaining film. He didn't go out trying to make a movie where people were laughing at such a tragic time in American history, but people were laughing at the misery of others. That isn't something I can abide by regarding this story. Sure, drug-fueled craziness and opulence in The Wolf of Wall Street can get people to laugh, but that’s not so appropriate here. Other than this problem, I loved the movie and its execution by Scorsese and company.
Killers of the Flower Moon hits theaters on October 20.
BOSCH: LEGACY (Season 2) -- Another Stellar Season of Television Featuring the Tough PI, Harry Bosch
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Michael Connelly has created quite a legacy during his writing career. Having created a big connected universe as part of his literary world, that world has spilled over onto streaming services as two of his most popular literary characters, Mickey Haller (aka “The Lincoln Lawyer”) and Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, have had successful series in the last handful of years. Bosch: Legacy is the extension of the latter’s story.
Season 2 of Bosch: Legacy starts out a bit ominous, as LAPD officer Maddie Bosch (Madison Lintz) gets kidnapped by a man in a lucha libre mask and held captive as a ransom for his past crimes of rape and kidnapping of various women. Her father gets wind of this, and nothing can get in his way to try and get his daughter back from her sandy underground prison, which could become her tomb if he doesn't get to her in time. He has to use all his experience to help rescue her.
This follow-up series relies on many characters from the previous 7 seasons of Bosch on Prime Video. Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers) is a close friend of Harry and Maddie now, and she has a big case she has gotten herself and Bosch embroiled in, besides a case from the past that has come back to haunt them as well. She has to use all of her courtroom tricks and lawyerly ways to help herself, Bosch, and her client convicted of a murder he didn't commit.
Welliver has played the character of Harry Bosch for quite a while now, but he and his blue Jeep Cherokee are ready for what comes their way. Harry can't do all the work himself though, so he also relies on Maurice (Stephen Chang) — "Mo" for short — his trusty hacker friend. Together, occasionally with Crate and Barrel and Detective Jerry Edgar, they have quite their work cut out for them.
With this series — and the same goes for the past series — the writers, directors, and creators of this show have infused it with plenty of realistic police and law enforcement jargon. The show details procedures of all the various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and other Los Angeles police departments. This is what makes this show and its predecessor so good.
As mentioned, the first two episodes dealt with the kidnapping of Lintz's character, but the rest of the show settles into what audiences are used to in these series. There are action sequences and quite a bit of cat and mouse games, as Welliver's character and his allies have their hands full with the FBI, circling an old case with a controversial ending to it.
Bosch: Legacy has many twists and turns from the start of this series. Ten episodes were barely enough to contain it. The main story was brought to life immersively, and the subplots were all fleshed out very well. The stellar cast — including Welliver, Lintz, Rogers, and Chang — are all quite good this season. There is even a cameo from the late Lance Reddick, who played a major part in these shows. That was a nice touch from the producers and showrunners. The writing and direction of the show are so realistic to law enforcement and how the police and various other agencies work, making it one of the best shows in this regard. And this season is even better than the last.
Bosch: Legacy streams on Freevee with two episodes on October 20, with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. All ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The MonsterVerse has had a few starts and stops over the years, but the purchase of these characters' rights from Toho about a decade ago by Warner Bros. was the beginning of something bigger and more connective for this massive franchise. Now they've spun it off into its own streaming series on Apple TV + called Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. This show ties together some of the loose ends from the films.
This series deals with multiple time periods. It starts in 1972, when John Goodman's character Bill Randa from Kong: Skull Island is running from a giant spider who ends up fighting a giant crab. Before it cuts away, he throws a waterproof package in the ocean, where it was found by a fishing boat in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. The story then focuses on a young girl looking for her father. Instead, she finds her illegitimate brother and his girlfriend. There is also a flashback to 1959 Kazakhstan, where a couple — a seismologist and cryptozoologist — are tracking a signal they found in an abandoned radioactive facility. Fast forward back to the future, where, unbeknownst to them, the relatives of these people would all end up meeting each other and finishing the job their parents started: learning what's going on with the monsters and why they are here on Earth.
The series refers to the day Godzilla fought the MUTOs as D-Day. Everything after this day is considered the time of the Monarch. They even have an agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, like the FBI or CIA. They are now the main authority on all things monster-related. Kurt Russell plays Colonel Lee Shaw. He has secrets that he knows about the monsters he's not sharing with Monarch, but he did try to help these young people who approached him about helping them figure out why these monsters exist and why they keep popping up around the world. Maybe their father's notes or Bill Randa's package can lead them to the answers they seek.
Even though the MonsterVerse is mainly about monsters attacking or fighting other monsters, there are occasionally good human characters. This show allows the writers to build on the human characters from the past and their pregnancy from the present. One story I thought was quite fascinating was how one character had two families — one in San Francisco and the other in Tokyo, Japan. Even in a series like this, there are still domestic issues. The writers, Chris Black, Milla Bell-Hart, and others, did a great job of infusing reality into this fictional world.
One of the best things about the MonsterVerse is that it is a globe-trotting series of films, and the same goes for this show. In just five episodes, characters go from the past to the future in Eastern Europe to the Far East and various places in America, including the Western United States, where the first attack happened in this iteration of the MonsterVerse. With the movies, we already know that monsters exist everywhere, but this series continues what the filmmakers and writer started almost a decade ago. It just shows the series and shows are very far-flung, and this affects the entire world. It is a worldwide threat.
This series doesn't have a big cast, but it does have a good one. As mentioned, Kurt Russell and John Goodman are in it, but there are some other recognizable faces to complement the new ones, too. Kiersey Clemons plays a hacker, May, who helps the brother and sister duo of Cate and Kentaro (Mari Yamamoto, Ren Watabe). Also, Wyatt Russell plays the younger version of Kurt Russell's character. I'm sure filmmakers won't miss another opportunity to use these two in a situation like this again in the future. The real find in this series is Yamamoto, though. She brings all her emotions to this character and more. She is a bonafide revelation to me in this show. I am completely transfixed by her and her performance in this series. I can't wait to see her in more films or series in the future.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters shows how the films and shows are connected in so many ways, but also how the attacks are connected as well. This show makes Monarch a key to everything going on from the first film until now. The writers and directors have infused many elements into this show to make it fascinating to those interested in this world Legendary and Warner Bros. have created. The human characters, though annoying at times in the film franchise, are very interesting in this show because they have domestic problems like the rest of us, and we can relate to them, making this different from an average sci-fi show. Add in the monsters, and you have another very good addition to the MonsterVerse.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters streams on Apple TV+ beginning November 17 with two episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was Cheers, about a Boston watering hole where everybody knew your name. One of those people who drank there regularly was Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). He wasn't like the other more mundane patrons, though. He was a little classier. He drank wine and had much more intellectual things to say. Like all shows, Cheers would eventually be canceled, but to capitalize on its popularity, the network spun off Grammer’s popular character into his own series, where we were able to see more of his family life and more of his psychiatry practice. Fast forward thirty years, and Frasier is back in his old stomping grounds of Boston, Massachusetts, beginning a new era in his life.
In the reboot, Frasier comes back into town to attend the funeral of a family member and decides to visit an old college friend who is a professor at Harvard University on a whim. While they were talking, he got the idea to visit his son, who lives in town as well. They don't hit it off that well, and that doesn't sit well with Frasier. He decides to stay longer than he anticipated to try and make up for lost time with his son. Frasier also meets his nephew, who becomes his liaison at Harvard, helping him reacclimate to the community he left behind so many years ago, while also serving as a nice bit of comedic relief.
Although Frasier is an iconic character, it would have been easy for the creators of the reboot to fall back on his old ways, causing viewers to get sick of him and his shtick. I didn't, though. His new story is funny and enjoyable. This show creates a new group of supporting characters and locations that make this man's life different than before. Sure, he has fame from his talk show, and that brings a certain notoriety wherever he goes, but it also brings a different dynamic we haven't seen with this character before. Once he gets more involved with his son, his friend, and brother's nephew at Harvard, it's like we've been watching these people for years. The sense of nostalgia it creates will take fans of the original show back to their childhood, even though most of them are new characters. Frasier is just that familiar to me, and I'm sure it will be to many others when they see the show.
What I love about sitcoms is they make me laugh, whereas dramas don't. Watching Frasier and the character’s specific kind of straight-man humor was delightful. He is like a fish out of water in many situations. In one instance, he was trying to get a spot in a prestigious group at Harvard, but was a bit over-ambitious and didn't see all the scenarios involving himself acting superior to others around him. He has a lot to learn regarding social cues, even though he is a world-renowned doctor who has had a radio show and television talk show for fifteen years, and this creates some excellent fish-out-of-water scenarios.
Kelsey Grammer made a huge career for himself in the sitcom realm with Cheers and Frasier. He tried to parley that fame and notoriety into a career in movies, but it didn't work out so well for him. He got the occasional role in the X-Men franchise as Hank McCoy/Beast, or guest spots in other shows or cameos in movies, but his film career didn't take off that well. So when I heard Frasier was coming back, and he was going back to Boston, I was ecstatic. That was my favorite iteration of the character when he was an intellectual at a bar in Boston full of normal people. Grammer has used this character and brought a whole new angle to him, which makes this show all the more interesting.
The writers of Frasier play off on many of the tropes of this character, which is why the series is so funny. His various interactions with his son, neighbors, colleagues, and others he comes in contact with are why this is such an enjoyable iteration of this beloved television character. Frasier has been on television for 20 years between the two hit shows he was on, and the twenty-first year will be another milestone for this character. I, for one, would watch this character for many more years to come — especially if he continues to be in Boston for a while longer.
Frasier streams on Paramount+ beginning October 12 with two episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Thursdays. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Goosebumps is a new show on Disney+ and Hulu based on a popular series of children's books created by author R. L. Stine. These books were a worldwide phenomenon for a certain group of people when they came out. About eight years back, a movie came out starring Jack Black, and it had a sequel that came out a few years later. Now, Disney has gotten the rights to the popular IP and has created their own series that I'm sure kids and adults will love.
This show takes place in the small town of Port Lawrence and focuses mainly on a group of high school students who go there. There is a lot of high school angst that goes on. There is also a flashback that shows a teenager named Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell) and he ends up dying in a horrible fire in 1993. Fast-forward to the present day, and these aforementioned tears end up going to a party at the old Biddle House, and weird things start to happen to them, and the new owner.
There is an overall mystery to this season of the show that the kids have to solve, but there is also a past aspect involving their parents. Add in a specific episode storyline involving each character, and you have a pretty good show.
This show, mainly geared toward a younger audience, has some decent scares and creepy elements. It’s spooky in a way that will allow audiences of all ages to like it. There are specific story elements — such as a creepy mask that turns its wearer into a troll, a cuckoo clock that has a time warp thing going on, and a camera that takes pictures of the future with bad results — that get brought into the main storyline involved with Harold Biddle.
There is a big cast of characters attached to this show. Most of them are the teens focused in the series, Isaiah (Zach Morris), Isabella (Anna Yi Puig), Margot (Isa Briones), and James (Miles McKenna). As mentioned, their parents also play a big part in the series as well. Nora (Rachel Harris) is the mom of Lucas, another high school teen, and store owner by the Cove. She has a lot of info about Harold Biddle. She's having an affair with the school guidance counselor Colin (Rob Huebel). The biggest name actor in the series is Justin Long. He plays Mr. Bratt, the new English teacher and owner of the Biddle House. He gets neck-deep in this whole mystery involving the house he bought and Biddle.
Part of what makes Goosebumps so good is that it has a throwback feel. Even though it mostly takes place in the present, there is a period vibe to it. One of the things that makes it that way is the music. Songs like “Connection” from Elastica, “Terrible Lie” by Nine Inch Nails, and “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers are used alongside the occasional newer song, such as “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish. The music plays a big part in showing the tone the creators are going for.
Quebec, Ontario stands in for Port Lawrence, the fictional town in Goosebumps. It has a distinctive northern look, with beautiful mountains and a cove adjacent to the town. It's always nice to see horror movies or shows set in these types of sleepy locations. Then all hell breaks loose, and these little towns are haunted by something scary or afflicted by something bad, like in this season of the show.
Each episode of the series has a distinctive element that brings visual effects that make these elements come to life, such as in “Go Eat Worms,” in which the worms form a big monster that attacks a group of the cast and has to be destroyed. While the effects aren't the level of a big-budget sci-fi film or anything, they are sufficient for the stories being told in this show.
One particular episode of the series sets this show apart from the average teen angst action-adventure or horror series: “Night of the Living Dummy,” which brings back a popular R. L. Stine villain, Slappy, in a flashback storyline. It also sheds light on what happened to Harold Biddle, and how he became the kid who was bullied by his high school classmates, who would become the parents of the kids in the present time. This is the best episode in the series, and it shows how difficult high school life can be, as seen from the perspective of the young man who seeks revenge for his past in the future.
Goosebumps is a fantastic update to this IP. The show creator Nicholas Stoller, the directors including Steve Buynom, and writer/director Rob Letterman, along with R. L. Stine himself, bring this series to vivid life. Audiences of all ages will surely watch and love this show. The cast, mostly young actors, is well complemented by the older, more experienced actors like Long and Harris. I really enjoyed this series and how the overall storyline fits into each separate episode arc. They mesh well together. I hope this is a successful series for Disney+ and Hulu. They need a win right now.
Goosebumps streams on Disney+ and Hulu on October 13 with five episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Fridays. Eight out of ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
S1E8: "Part 8: The Jedi, the Witch and the Warlord"
Star Wars: Ahsoka has brought some of the best characters from the past — whether from books or animated series — into the live action canon. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have given Star Wars fans what they are looking for. There have been a few filler episodes in the series, but most of the show has been fan service. Fan service keeps the fans like myself on Lucasfilm's good side. If they produce good films and series like this one, we stay happy
Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) rewards his loyal ally Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) with a membership in the Red Sister order, but he still hadn't gotten his mission accomplished. Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson), Sabine Wren (Natasha Bordizzo), Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi), and their trusty droids Huyang (David Tennant) and Chopper have to fend off an all out assault from Thrawn's troops before he escapes back into the main Star Wars galaxy.
Filoni and company have saved the best for last. The season finale has brought an entirely new element to the show previously unseen. The writers have saved some tricks for this final episode, and they were worth the wait. Without giving spoilers away, there are forces that have not been seen before in this series or other for that matter. A darkness swells to the surface, which doesn't bode well for the future of the galaxy.
Like some previous episodes, the season finale of Ahsoka doesn't leave out the action or the lightsaber battles. We wouldn't want it any other way. The forces of evil must battle the forces of good, and as viewers, we hope the outcome is favorable for the forces of good. Fioni and Favreau have upped their game in this show, and it shows in every level of production — from the music to visual effects and everything in between. This series has been an upgrade from The Mandalorian season 3 and The Book of Boba Fett.
Star Wars: Ahsoka has been a joy to watch from week to week and episode to episode. The villains like Thrawn and the other Jedi turned Sith have been worthy adversaries to Ahsoka, Sabine, Hera and others. This show is destined to get a second season, and who knows who might pop up in future episodes. With the time this series is already being established, Filoni and Favreau can connect it to some things we already know exist and happen. It's going to be fun to see what happens next. For this season, though, it's been incredible in every sense of the word.
Star Wars: Ahsoka is now streaming on Disney+.