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Popular Culture

‘Black Bird’ Review: A Dark Trip to the Depths of Human Depravity

Few, if any, of us know what it’s like to stare into the eyes of a killer. The cold, dead gaze of someone with no regard for another human’s life and, in the case of serial killer Larry DeWayne Hall, enjoys taking that life. On AppleTV+’s upcoming limited series Black Bird, we dive into Hall’s life and view it through the eyes of James Keene, another convict who has been sent to elicit a confession from Hall.

Similar to shows like MindhunterBlack Bird focuses on what makes serial killers do what they do and why they are compelled to do so. Even though it’s a dramatized retelling of actual events, Black Bird is a compelling look into the mind of an absolute monster and how doing something as simple as talking to him can nearly destroy someone in the process.

Per AppleTV+, “Inspired by actual events, when high school football hero and decorated policeman’s son Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) is sentenced to 10 years in a minimum security prison, he is given the choice of a lifetime — enter a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane and befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), or stay where he is and serve his full sentence with no possibility of parole. Keene quickly realizes his only way out is to elicit a confession and find out where the bodies of several young girls are buried before Hall’s appeal goes through. But is this suspected killer telling the truth? Or is it just another tale from a serial liar?”

For anyone familiar with a Dennis Lehane story—Mystic River, Gone Baby Goneand Shutter Island are among the most notable—you know that he has a talent for creating stories that keep you guessing until the end. Lehane, who developed Black Bird, does the same thing here. Serving as the writer and one of the executive producers, Lehane took this story and molded it into what is one of the best real-life adaptations in recent years.

It’s no secret that prison, especially a maximum security prison, is somewhere no one wants to be. In this story, Lehane paints a picture of what the day-to-day is like in this facility and how someone like Taron Egerton’s character is forced to adapt to a place where he doesn’t belong.

AppleTV+

The story is told through two lenses: One in the prison where Jimmy Keene tries to buddy up to Hall, and the other that follows two detectives (Greg Kinnear and Sepideh Moafi) as they also attempt to garner evidence that will keep Hall in prison. Moafi’s character, FBI Agent Lauren McCauley, also serves as Keene’s handler while he’s in jail.

It can be a bit of a clunky narrative device, especially at the show’s beginning when there are two timelines, but once things settle in, the two stories are almost perfectly in sync. Their investigation helps provide some clarity and backstory to Hall’s murders, and, in essence, we live part of the story through the eyes of his victims.

These scenes can be tough, as most of Hall’s victims were teenage girls, and even though he was only convicted on two of the murders, he was suspected of up to 20. It’s a heartbreaking story, especially considering that it’s all perpetrated by another human being.

What makes someone do this? Why do they seem to hate the world?

Rather than sympathize with someone like Hall, we try to learn what makes him tick. As mentioned above, it’s remarkably similar to Mindhunter, which didn’t make us care about the serial killers or empathize but got to the heart of the psychopathy that lies beneath the surface.

AppleTV+

The real highlight of Black Bird is the acting, most notably a powerhouse performance from Paul Walter Hauser. He is a terrifying villain, one who, in the beginning, you feel a shred of sympathy for due to his upbringing. He speaks with a high-pitched and soft voice, where he doesn’t seem threatening at first.

As you listen to him talk and describe his life and crimes, that’s when you see the man for what he is: a beast beyond redemption. Hauser’s performance is perfect for the role, as you rarely see his true persona bubble to the surface, but you feel a sense of genuine fear when it does. His facial expressions can change on a dime, further hammering how chaotic his personality is.

As he talked about when he was a grave robber in his youth, he said a line that stuck with me throughout the show: “The dead are pleasant; looking into their faces gives me hope that the next world is the good one.” Hearing him saying it is different than reading it, and Hauser nails it.

AppleTV+

Opposite Paul Walter Hauser is Taron Egerton as Jimmy Keene, and he is also fantastic as the co-lead. Keene is the polar opposite of Hall: Charismatic, handsome, well-spoken, and well-liked. You can tell that while he is buddying up to Hall and conversing with him, he struggles to identify with his life.

Even talking with someone like Hall affects Keene’s mental health and well-being, and it’s easy to sympathize with him here. Egerton’s confident swagger mixed with the inner torment of interacting with a psychopath is a true test of his talents as an actor, and he pulls it off incredibly well.

Sadly, the world lost Ray Liotta earlier this year. In his final television performance, he portrays Jimmy’s father “Big Jim” Keene in Black Bird. Part of the reason Jimmy takes the job investigating Hall is that his father suffers a stroke, and he’s unsure if he will live beyond Jimmy’s prison sentence.

Liotta is incredible as his father, and his tragic performance is only made all the more somber given his passing. Big Jim is remarkably similar to his character in Blow, in which he also plays the father of a drug dealer. Both love their sons and try to accept the fallout of their actions and still help them through it all.

AppleTV+

Shows like Black Bird are not for everyone. They are heavy watches that require you to examine a side of humanity that we’d all prefer didn’t exist. And even though they are fictionalized accounts, they are stories that must be told. Not to glamorize the killers but to give their victims the remembrance they deserve.

Black Bird premieres on AppleTV+ on July 8th.

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Popular Culture

‘The Boys’ Season 3 Review: Glorious and Violent Chaos Reigns Supreme

If there is one thing that any viewer can expect from the third season of The Boys, it is chaos.

Glorious and violent chaos.

And season three, premiering on June 3rd, is no different than what you’re probably already used to. The Boys has never been for the squeamish, and you’ll be seeing plenty of blood, gore, violence, and nudity this season that you’ve come to expect on this show.

Even with that, The Boys has always managed to balance that insanity with a ton of emotion. Billy Butcher’s relationship with his wife Becca took center stage most of the time in the early seasons, but after a year without her, the other characters get their time to shine now, and it pays off in a big way. Season three is the show’s darkest and most personal one yet, and it is also might just be its best.

Per Prime Video, “It’s been a year of calm. Homelander’s subdued. Butcher works for the government, supervised by Hughie of all people. But both men itch to turn this peace and quiet into blood and bone. So when The Boys learn of a mysterious Anti-Supe weapon, it sends them crashing into the Seven, starting a war, and chasing the legend of the first Superhero: Soldier Boy.”

Underneath all the blood, guts, and mayhem, The Boys has somehow maintained a sense of realism. These ordinary people are forced to live in a world dominated by superheroes who are self-absorbed celebrities rather than crime fighters (come to think of it, it’s hard to remember the last time we saw them actually stop a bad guy.) How would the world react if superheroes were real? It’s more than likely that it’d be closer to The Boys than The Avengers.

The flawless public facade of superheroes in this universe was shattered in the show’s first episode with Homelander shooting down a plane, and it has only gotten worse as the series has gone on. In this season, we find Homelander at his lowest: alone, betrayed, and disliked by many who used to love him. It’s here where he is also his most dangerous.

Billy Butcher and the Boys have successfully gone legit in their work for the government. While they aren’t killing Supes anymore (or at least try not to,) they do keep them in check. Butcher still sees this as a half measure, but if it means keeping Ryan (the son of his wife Becca) and the world at large safe, then he’ll play ball.

The conflict between Homelander and Butcher remains simmering beneath the surface, and Billy has been looking for a way to end his mortal enemy once and for all.

Prime Video

It’s funny to call a season of The Boys to be its darkest yet, considering all the gore involved, but it’s certainly true here. Homelander is not the only one struggling with their current situation, and you feel it in almost every scene. Butcher is fighting his demons; Mother’s Milk is still dealing with family issues; Frenchie and Kimiko’s relationship is constantly under pressure; Hughie and Annie’s bonds are tested throughout the season too.

One of this season’s biggest strengths is its ability not just to skim the surface of these problems but to dive deeper and get to the root of the issues. While seasons past have put Butcher in the spotlight, the other characters, yes even Homelander, are getting more of their backstories fleshed out now.

Many of these stories would be less effective if the acting behind them weren’t strong but thankfully, that’s not the case with The Boys. You can tell that Karl Urban and Antony Starr remain the show’s stars, and they’re more than deserving of that. Starr’s Homelander is legitimately one of the best villains that television has seen in quite some time, with Urban’s Butcher being the perfect counterbalance to him.

They are in a symbiotic, very much a “one cannot exist without the other” scenario that will only end with one or both of their deaths. Any scene they share is among the show’s very best, and that trend continues this season.

Jensen Ackles’s Soldier Boy is a welcome addition to an already stellar cast. To get an idea of his character, he’s basically the evil Captain America, a lot like how Homelander is the twisted version of Superman.

His confusion over the modern day also provides some of the season’s best humor. He plays the character brilliantly, being the perfect combination of old-world values and over-the-top machismo, two traits that are his biggest follies.

If you were ever looking to see the show finally crack the shell that is Black Noir, then you’re in luck. The silent, masked assassin of The Seven gets his time in the sun too. Nathan Mitchell shows off a masterclass in showing and not telling, giving depth to a character who had long been relegated to the background.

Does he have a dark past? Did he do some pretty awful stuff in the first two seasons? Yes, and yes. This season you’ll undoubtedly learn why he is who he is and does what he does.

Prime Video

Without a doubt, Tomer Capon’s Frenchie and Karen Fukuhara’s Kimiko continue to be the show’s heart and soul. Their relationship delivers the season’s most touching moments, and I’m not ashamed to say that I teared up watching these two act the hell out of some of their scenes.

They are both trying to escape their past and put it behind them, and they lean on one another to do so. It’s impactful, and you can’t help but hope that these two will one day get a chance to be happy.
Hughie and Starlight’s connection is real, and the audience should care about them too, but there’s a feeling that their path is set and that they’ll somehow be okay in the end. With Frenchie and Kimiko, that’s less certain and makes caring about them that much more real.

The same applies to Mother’s Milk’s story, as he tries to maintain a presence in his daughter’s life. He’s retired from hunting Supes, but the pull to get involved again is strong, and his ability to be a parent is affected.

He deserves justice for the crimes committed against his family, but at what cost? Laz Alonso has become an expert at this dynamic, attempting to be the rock that both his family and The Boys can rely on.

Prime Video

Where the show tends to stumble this season is its tackling of social issues. The Boys has never been afraid to look at real-world problems and what the discourse around them would look like in a universe such as this.

However, this season, it doesn’t seem to be handled as delicately as it could have been. It shares the same issue that Don’t Look Up did, in that it lacks the subtlety that would have made the commentary more impactful.

Vought and Vought News are clear stand-ins for Fox News and the right-wing media; Homelander and his fans are the Trump and MAGA faithful in this world, and so on. 

Parodying the absurdity of the modern-day culture wars isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes the idea less effective when you’re beaten over the head with the message.

Prime Video

If you’re a fan of The Boys, the good news is that you’ll more than likely love season three. It is funny, dark, and as violent as ever but has more heart than the first two seasons. By the end, you find yourself rooting for characters like Black Noir and A-Train, who are given more depth than ever before. Surprisingly, you’ll even have some sympathy for Homelander as well (just a little bit, though.)

It’s a testament to the writing team and the performances of all those involved that you can care this much about a show that features an episode titled “Herogasm.” Yes, a Herogasm is exactly what you’re now picturing in your head.

They also have plenty of fun with the “Thanos/Ant-Man” memes that came out of the lead-up to Avengers: Endgame, so take that for what you will.

This show truly deserves as many seasons as it needs, and hopefully, Prime Video gives them the chance to tell its full story.

The Boys premieres its first three episodes on June 3rd, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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Popular Culture

‘Better Call Saul’ Season Premiere Recap: “Wine and Roses”/”Carrot and Stick”

It’s over two years since we last saw a new episode of Better Call Saul, and I think we can all agree that it was a long two years. Since the attack on Lalo’s home that saw everyone involved—attackers, defenders, and innocents alike—get killed, except for Lalo and Ignacio, we’ve pondered what would happen next.

Our wait is now over, with the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul premiering on Monday night and giving insight into what fates await our favorite characters.

“Wine and Roses,” the first of a two-episode premiere, serves as a flash-forward to events post Breaking Bad, but not how we’re used to. Typically, the flash-forwards look at Gene Takovic, aka Saul Goodman, aka Jimmy McGill, as he lives in seclusion in Omaha, Nebraska, working as the manager of a Cinnabon. However, here we get a look at Saul’s mansion as it is unpacked and dismantled by the authorities, following the events of Breaking Bad.

His house looks pretty much how we probably all imagined, pieces of art, cardboard cutouts of Saul, and every other thing you’d expect to find in a rich person’s gaudy mansion, gold toilet included. As the camera pans away to the moving truck, we see one thing fall to the ground—the bottle cap of the Zafiro Añejo tequila bottle cap, a memento of Kim and Jimmy’s.

Nacho on the Run
AMC

We then cut to Nacho Varga, who is on the run after allowing the hit squad to enter Lalo’s house on their assassination mission. He runs until daylight, hoping to escape unharmed when he makes a call to Gus Fring’s people hoping to be saved by the people he helped plan the murder mission. He’s told to go to a seedy motel and wait for further instructions.

He’s become extremely paranoid that both sides—the Salamancas and Gus’s crew—want him dead, which they both do. The Salamancas for betraying Lalo and Gus for tying up loose ends. Trapped in a dark and hot motel room for days on end, Nacho eventually realizes that someone is watching him from a shack outside in the parking lot. Who that person is actually working for remains to be seen.

Here we see that Mike Ermantraut, everyone’s favorite grumpy hitman/fixer/intimidator/lovable grandpa, finds himself out of sync with his boss, Gus Fring. Fring wants Nacho dead so that no one can tie the attempted killing of Lalo to him, but Mike believes Nacho should have a chance to leave town and fade into obscurity.

Mike and a crew of goons go to Nacho’s house and tear it apart, looking for any clues they could use. Mike replaces the safe in the house with an identical one, planting evidence in there that would point to Nacho’s betrayal and give the cartel clues as to his whereabouts. So, it seems that Gus won out in the end, and Mike was forced to implicate Nacho in the crime. He does, however, remove any hints to Nacho’s dad, recognizing that his father is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

As the days go by and Nacho slowly loses his grip on reality, he decides enough is enough. Breaking the “air conditioner” attached to his wall, he jumps out of his room (on the second story!) and sneaks around to the shack where his watcher awaits. He holds him at gunpoint, demanding to know who sent him, and calls Gus’ people to try and figure out if it is them. After receiving no answer and ignoring a phone call, they call the man watching him, confirming Nacho’s suspicions.

After the cartel discovers the planted evidence in Nacho’s house, they send a crew led by the Twins to kidnap him from the Motel. A shootout ensues, resulting in the deaths of two of the Salamanca hit squad, but Nacho escapes in a stolen truck.
Nacho calls Mike, who was in the middle of having a tense exchange with Gus regarding Nacho’s fate. After briefly speaking with him, Nacho asks to talk to Gus.

Lalo Plots His Next Move
AMC

After surviving the massacre at his house, Lalo has escaped and is on the move and plotting what’s next. He first arrives at the home of innocent homeowners Mateo and Sylvia and, after convincing Mateo to shave his beard and style it like Lalo does, murders them. He uses Mateo’s corpse as a means to maintain the believability that Lalo was killed during the assassination.

Lalo then makes his way for the border, aiming to catch a ride with men sneaking innocent civilians across the border in the back of a disguised hay truck. He calls his uncle, the wheelchair-bound Hector, at the Casa Tranquila to see what he should do next. Lalo informs Hector that he is alive and asks him for advice on what he should do next. Through his signature ringing of the bell, Hector directs Lalo to find proof that Gus was behind the attack.

He has a brief moment of hesitancy, but Lalo leaves the scene and heads back into Mexico in search of the evidence he needs to prove Gus’ guilt.

Kim and Jimmy Stay Scheming
AMC

For much of Better Call Saul, Kim Wexler has been Jimmy’s moral compass, attempting to keep him on the right track when he teetered in the wrong direction. Even though we know that he eventually succumbs to the dark side and becomes, as Jesse Pinkman put it, criminal lawyer, we still held out hope she would help prevent Jimmy’s fall.

As the series progressed, it became more apparent that while Kim was still a good and moral person, she was no longer wary of helping Jimmy in his schemes.

At the end of last season, Kim began to plot with Jimmy on how to bring about Howard Hamlin’s downfall. This thread picks up almost immediately as Kim and a hesitant Jimmy meet at a restaurant to discuss their plans for Howard. It’s a great scene as their nefarious plans are juxtaposed against Kim’s story of helping an innocent kid against armed robbery charges.

Kim is very gung-ho after proceeding with their plans, while Jimmy seems surprisingly hesitant. After breaking down what her ideas are, they head to a country club where Howard and Clifford Main are members. Jimmy poses as someone looking to join the club in order to get in.

One of Jimmy’s now mortal enemies, Kevin Wachtell, exposes Jimmy as a man of less than suitable moral fiber and prevents his tour from continuing. Jimmy puts on a show as Saul Goodman but manages to sneak into the club’s locker room.

After he clogs a toilet as a distraction, Jimmy finds Howard’s locker and places a bag of “cocaine” in it. The bag is then found by Howard and seen by Clifford Main, who is clearly concerned.

AMC

After discussing how to use Howard’s new-fake cocaine addiction to their advantage, Kim comes up with the idea to use characters that we haven’t seen in quite some time: Betsy and Craig Kettleman.

One of Jimmy’s first real antagonists, the Kettlemans nearly hired him to defend Craig in an embezzlement case in which he was accused of stealing funds as the county treasurer. After some back and forth in which Betsy adamantly refused any deals for Craig, she relented, and Craig was sentenced to a prison stint.

After that affair, they were forced into a much more meager lifestyle, to Betsy’s horror (“My children have to attend PUBLIC school!”). Jimmy arrives at their new place of business, a trailer in the middle of nowhere, to inform them that their original attorney, Howard, may have been under the influence of drugs when he defended Craig. This would allow them to sue Howard and possibly get Craig’s conviction overturned and his record expunged.

Of course, there is no real evidence of Howard’s supposed wrongdoings, but Jimmy is convincing enough that the Kettlemans go to Clifford Main to see if he would represent them. Main refuses to take the case, recognizing that given the lack of evidence and his association with Howard, it would be a mistake for him to do so.

Jimmy receives a frantic phone call from the Kettlemans, and he agrees to meet with them the next day. Jimmy pulls out the duffel bag from the closet and grabs a wad of cash, prompting Kim to ask if he will use “the stick” on the Kettlemans. Jimmy says that they are more “carrot types.”

Kim and Jimmy drive to the Kettlemans’ office, and they tell him that they went to four different lawyers who all said to them that their case was bunk. They refuse the bribe from Jimmy and accuse him of using them to smear Howard’s name.

Upon hearing this, Kim has finally had enough and resorts to using “the stick.” She calls her friend at the Albuquerque office of the IRS and says she has evidence of tax preparer fraud at a “mom and pop shop.” Despite protests from Betsy, Kim is connected to an investigator, and just as she’s about to go into the evidence of the Kettleman’s crimes, Betsy hangs up the phone.

Kim demands the Kettlemans make restitution to all of their victims, of which there are many, and also forget about Howard. If they don’t, Kim threatens to ruin them. They take the money Jimmy offered to stay quiet.

Jimmy, like the audience, is shaken by Kim’s actions as it’s a force we haven’t seen from her before. Still, it’s good to see the insufferable Kettlemans get taken down a notch.

As Jimmy and Kim drive away from the Kettlemans office, they are followed by a gray car, and the camera fades to black.

Final Thoughts
AMC

It’s so damn good to have this show back. While I thought the premiere was a little slow at points and the Cartel storyline a little hard to keep track of, Better Call Saul is what we needed right now.

The cast has not missed a beat in their performances, with Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk jumping right back into their roles as Kim and Jimmy seamlessly.

The show is excellent at building tension and keeping us on the edge of our seats, and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds going forward.

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Culture Movies/TV

The 10 Best Moon Knight Comics to Read While You Wait for the Next Episode

The first two episodes of the new Moon Knight show just dropped on Disney+, and if you can’t wait for the next one, there are plenty of Moon Knight comics out there to give you your fix and give you more insight on one of Marvel’s most bizarre heroes.

Like Wolverine and Punisher, Moon Knight started out as a minor villain in a book called Werewolf By Night. It’s an appearance that, spoiler alert: won’t be featured on this list. It’s fine, but unless you’re a completionist there’s really not much of the modern character in this appearance. He’s a standard mercenary named Marc Spector and has some moon-themed gear. That’s about it.

How that character evolves, from battles with other agents of his god to his own alternative personalities, is what’s helped make the character a staple of Marvel’s lineup, starting with:

1. Moon Knight: Bad Moon Rising (1980)
Marvel Comics

Alright, here’s where the good stuff starts. This collection includes the start of the first solo Moon Knight series. Launched in 1980 with writer Doug Moench and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, it’s a marked change in the character and introduces Marc Spector’s origin.

Spector’s start here is interesting and pretty unusual for a Marvel hero. He’s a henchman for a mercenary called Bushman, but he has a sudden attack of conscience a few issues in, when Bushman is about to kill innocent people and himself gets struck down by his boss. He’s brought back by the Egyptian god Khonshu and starts his work as a superhero enacting the god’s wrath.

So how is it as a book? It’s fine, but there’s much better ahead. And skipping ahead a little bit…

Buy Comic Here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Epic-Collection-Rising-ebook/dp/B00NTB40PS/ref=sr_1_15?crid=2BL2NBH3QDTGS&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648857957&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C50&sr=1-15
2. Moon Knight: From the Dead (2014)
Marvel Comics

If you read one Moon Knight book, this is it. It’s a fairly short run by writer Warren Ellis and artist Declan Shalvey, only 17 issues, but it’s one of those character-defining runs that’s outstanding both for longtime fans and newcomers. Each issue acts mostly as a standalone story, playing around with panel layouts and genre storytelling in ways evocative of greats like Grant Morrison’s Animal Man or Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

It’s the series that introduces “Mr. Knight”, a costume redesign featured fairly heavily in the show’s production.

Buy Comic Here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-1-Warren-Ellis/dp/0785154086
3. Moon Knight (2005)
Marvel Comics

Second only to the 2014 run, the 2006 series with Charlie Huston writing and David Finch, Danny Miki, and Frank D’Armata on art should also be the go-to for anyone looking for good Moon Knight stories. In the mid-2000s, Marvel really ran some of its heroes through the wringer. Like Bendis’ Daredevil, Huston’s Moon Knight is a hero at a real low. He’s lost his friends, love, and the patronage of Khonshu. It’s a pretty brutally rough series and lavishly gritty if that’s what you go for.

Buy Comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Omnibus-Vol/dp/1302933809/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2BL2NBH3QDTGS&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648857939&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C50&sr=1-3
4. Moon Knight (2010)
Marvel Comics

Controversial opinion among Moon Knight fans: I like the Bendis and Maleev Moon Knight mini-series. It doesn’t have the most sterling reputation among fans, marking the start of Bendis’ star fading from his acclaimed Daredevil run to his pretty derided Guardians of the Galaxy run, but there’s enough of the creative spark from Daredevil that makes this run worthwhile. Also, Maleev doesn’t miss, and his work on Moon Knight is no exception.

Spector is back on the West Coast and is, seemingly, in the big leagues as he teams up with some of the A-list Avengers to take down a criminal operation. Without spoiling anything: it’s not as simple as that.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Bendis-Maleev-Collection/dp/1302933620/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1PHZD07OAXQO2&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648856608&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C52&sr=1-4
5. Moon Knight (2016)
Marvel Comics

Following the Warren Ellis run is a tall order, but the series by writer Jeff Lemire and artists Greg Smallwood and Jacob Thomas handles the task admirably. Moon Knight has a reputation as one of the more mentally unstable heroes, and Lemire capitalizes on that by having Spector institutionalized in a facility where he’s unable to separate his grimy surroundings from Khonshu’s fantastical visions. The story is good, but the way that art seamlessly blends mundane New York and a cosmic vision of Egyptian mythology is the real star.

Buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Lemire-Smallwood-Collection/dp/1302933639/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1PHZD07OAXQO2&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648856637&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C52&sr=1-2
6. Moon Knight: Crazy Runs in the Family (2017)
Marvel Comics

Following Lemire’s run on the character, writer Max Bemis and artists Jacen Burrows and Mat Lopes lean in on the mental health angle with a new villain that acts as a dark mirror to Spector. Moon Knight struggles not only with the conflict between his personalities but also with a new villain called The Truth, a mental patient able to peer into others’ minds and drive them to madness. Bemis handles the topic with more care than some others on this list, and the result is an arc that feels poignant. Almost as impressive, Bemis manages to set up some significant changes to Moon Knight’s life that open up new opportunities and challenges for Spector.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Legacy-Crazy-Family/dp/1302909371/ref=sr_1_12?crid=24MSB0T5JLFSI&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648857243&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C61&sr=1-12
7. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976)
Marvel Comics

It’s not the first Moon Knight team-up with the good guys, credit for that probably goes to Defenders #47, but this arc is a lot less messy than that issue. The story is a pretty boilerplate “good guy who doesn’t kill, fighting a good guy who does kill” story commonly seen with crime-fighting contemporaries like Daredevil and Punisher, but it’s an effective setup that helps sell Moon Knight as a fairly gritty opposite to Spider-Man in spite of his outlandish costume.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Masterworks-Spectacular-Spider-Man-Vol/dp/130290356X/ref=sr_1_7?crid=2SMNPMXIKLG8&keywords=peter+parker%2C+the+spectacular+spider-man&qid=1648857900&s=books&sprefix=peter+parker%2C+the+spectacular+spider-man%2Cstripbooks%2C41&sr=1-7
8. Marvel Knights (2000)
Marvel Comics

As aforementioned, there are earlier Moon Knight team-ups, he was even on the West Coast Avengers in the 80s, but he really finds his footing in this totally-not-Defenders group up of various street-level heroes like Punisher and Daredevil. Recent series have pretty wisely not emphasized Spector being loaded with cash, but here Spector acts as the financier of their operation and the gadgets guy. It’s a niche role he fills pretty well.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Knights-Dixon-Barreto-Defenders/dp/1302912135/ref=sr_1_1?crid=T34SDZECTL8K&keywords=marvel+knights&qid=1648858655&s=books&sprefix=marvel+knights%2Cstripbooks%2C57&sr=1-1
9. Avengers: Age of Khonshu
Marvel Comics

A supermoon amps up Khonshu’s powers and the god seemingly has his sights on world domination. As his earthly agent, Moon Knight is beholden to follow the Egyptian god’s will, which obviously sets him on a collision course with his friends and allies in the Avengers. It’s Moon Knight at max power, taking on the likes of Thor in some wild fights.

Is it good though? Eh, not really, but it’s still a pretty fun and unique set-up for a Moon Knight story even if it squanders some of that potential.

There’s a concept called “blue-orange morality”, where a character’s moral spectrum is so distinct from “normal” that what’s good or bad for them isn’t comparable to anything on the black-and-white spectrum. Age of Khonshu is at its best when it leans into the Egyptian god not seeing good and evil the way modern superheroes might, but it loses some of that as it inevitably has to wrap up in a restoration of the status quo.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Avengers-Jason-Aaron-Vol-Khonshu/dp/1302924869/ref=sr_1_1?crid=8K796FB63M7&keywords=age+of+khonshu&qid=1648856672&s=books&sprefix=age+of+khonshu%2Cstripbooks%2C45&sr=1-1
10. Moon Knight: The Midnight Mission (2022)
Marvel Comics

Trying to right some of the wrongs from Age of Khonshu, the Mr. Knight personality opens a shelter for those in need and starts to take on the “duties” of the wayward Egyptian god, but the new mission leaves Moon Knight contending not only with gangs and other traditional enemies but with rival worshippers of Khonshu who view this new imperative as heresy. Like the eponymous hero, writers Jed Mackay and artists Alessandro Cappuccio and Rachelle Rosenberg also work through the unenviable task of rehabilitating the scorned hero, and it makes for a quality series.

buy comic here
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Knight-Vol-Midnight-Mission/dp/1302931105/ref=sr_1_6?crid=2BL2NBH3QDTGS&keywords=moon+knight&qid=1648857957&s=books&sprefix=moon+knight%2Cstripbooks%2C50&sr=1-6
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The Best TV Accessories on Amazon

Getting a brand new TV is a great experience in itself, but the experience can be heightened with the right accessories. Even if you’ve had a TV for years, getting the right accessories for it can make a lot of things easier. With the way technology advances, it’s incredible what you can do with some extra add-ons and to help you through it; we’ve listed some of the best TV accessories that money can buy.

How to pick the best TV accessories for you:
  • Consider your TV – Knowing what will actually be compatible for your TV is certainly the most important aspect of buying accessories. For example, if you already have a smart TV that has access to the only streaming platform you’d like to use for example, streaming devices like Roku won’t be necessary.
  • Consider your set up – Similarly to acknowledging what TV you have, knowing your set up is key. For example, if you only have one remote in your whole living room, a remote control holder isn’t needed. More crucially, you’ll know best what kind of accessory could make life easier for you. Perhaps a wall mount would be great or if you’ve compiled multiple DVDs or games and need space, you need a media console.
1. Roku Streaming Stick
Top Pick
Amazon

If your TV isn’t a smart TV or you want some more options in addition to what comes pre-installed, then grabbing a Roku streaming stick might be the best option. It boasts Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu and many more popular services which are at your fingertips with just a few pushes of some buttons. It also allows you to stream in 4k and it supports Dolby Vision and HDR10+. It also works with most popular voice assistants, so you might not even need the special remote that it comes with. Keep in mind that the remote, if you do use it, can get through batteries quite easily.

Pros:

  • Multiple streaming services
  • Supports 4k and Dolby Vision

Cons:

  • Remote uses a lot of batteries
Buy now, $43.99
https://amzn.to/3s4AxtC
2. SITHON Remote Control Holder
Very Efficient
Amazon

This remote control holder by SITHON is a slick way to store any remote controls you might have for appliances in your media console, whether they’re for your TV, a DVD player, your streaming platform and more. It can also be used to store eyewear, stationary or anything else you might need. It’s made from faux leather and although the above image shows it in black, it comes in a wide range of colors like red, purple, brown, yellow, sky blue and many more. There are 5 compartments, which should cover most households these days without a problem. Keep in mind that if your remotes weigh differently to each other, it can topple over at times.

Pros:

  • Can be used for a little
  • Made from PU leather
  • Comes in many colors

Cons:

  • Might topple if weights are different
Buy now, $13.99
https://amzn.to/3IaxuFE
3. ROCKPOINT 70inch TV Stand
Best Storage
Amazon

This MDF media console has a really slick design and is incredibly spacious, with six open storage slots. These are quite easy to assemble and depending on what’s good for you, you can actually separate one third of the console to be its own piece, making a matching set in your living room. There are also holes so that you can manage wires if you please, to clean your set up up a little. It comes in different colors, like dark black, charcoal, driftwood and more. Due to the wooden construction, keep in mind that this can chip easily if you’re rough with it.

Pros:

  • Great looking
  • Very spacious
  • Wire management option
  • Different colors

Cons:

  • Can chip easily
Buy now, $199.99
https://amzn.to/3p6siv7
4. BASON LIGHTING TV Backlight
Amazon

If you’re looking to spruce up your set up a little, then a backlight for your TV could be a great option. This one from BASON LIGHTING has 8 levels of brightness and 6 dynamic flashing modes. With all of that power, it requires just 5V to work, so it won’t use up a lot of energy either. It’s powered by USB port, so as long as your TV has one in the back, there won’t be a wire showing. There are also different options based on the size of your TV, but the one linked works for 32”-58” TVs. Overall, the backlight adds some flare to your setup and keeps it fresh without any effort from you. Keep in mind that the remote could be a little more responsive and you can’t control how quickly the colors change.

Pros:

  • 8 levels of brightness
  • 6 dynamic flashing modes
  • USB powered

Cons:

  • Can’t control speed of color changes
  • Remote isn’t especially responsive
Buy now, $14.99
https://amzn.to/3sZKUhk
5. Mounting Dream UL Listed TV Mount
Amazon

Finally, if you currently have your TV on a stand on a media console or even on the ground, perhaps it’s time to take things up a notch and purchase a wall mount. This one has a center design that will fit most TVs from 26”-55” that weigh up to 77lbs. This mount also tilts up 5 degrees and down 15 degrees, swivels left and right and pulls out 16.7” and retracts 2.7”, so the movement is great. It’s made from heavy-duty aluminium and steel, meaning it’s sturdy and safe so you don’t have to worry. Some have complained that the assembly instructions aren’t particularly clear though, so if you want to avoid a struggle with putting it up, this might not be the right option for you.

Pros:

  • Great adjustability
  • Durable design

Cons:

  • Instructions can be unclear
Buy now, $29.99
https://amzn.to/3sUU4M7
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

‘Halo’ TV Series Early Review: A Rough Start With The Potential To Be Better

When you’re talking about a television show, the words “Who is this for?” is probably not a great sign for the future of that program. In the case of Halo, it’s a question I kept asking myself as I watched the first two episodes of the adaptation of the beloved video game franchise.

However, it’s not the worst thing since Halo is trying to please longtime fans of the games and introduce the universe to a general audience at the same time.

The games follow the adventures of John-117, the Master Chief, a genetically enhanced super-soldier whose mission is to defend humanity from all threats. The majority of those threats have been the alien soldiers of the Covenant, who in the first three games sought to destroy humanity, no matter the cost.

Most of the games in the series revolve around Master Chief and his A.I. companion Cortana discovering and fighting the Covenant and other enemies on giant space structures known as the Halo rings. Master Chief saves the galaxy on multiple occasions, and that tradition continued in the latest entry in the series, Halo: Infinite.

After sitting in development hell for years, the franchise finally got its TV series, with Pablo Schreiber taking on the role of Master Chief.

Halo will follow the characters introduced in the series in a separate canon from the games’ storyline. Described as “an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant. Halo will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure, and a richly imagined vision of the future.”

Joining the cast alongside Schreiber will be Natascha McElhone playing Dr. Catherine Halsey, Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha, Charlie Murphy as Makee, Bokeem Woodbine as Soren-066, and Olive Gray as Miranda Keyes.

Jen Taylor reprises her role from the games as Cortana, the aforementioned Artificial Intelligence that accompanies Master Chief on his missions. Their relationship breaks down as Cortana devolves into madness as each game progresses, whether the TV show explores that storyline remains to be seen.

Paramount+

If there were one word I would use to describe the first two episodes of Halo, it would be: uneven. In the opening 20 minutes of the first episode, “Contact,” the Covenant unleashes an attack on a human colony of rebels who are at war with the UNSC (United Nations Space Command.) As the rebels are slaughtered, the Spartans led by Master Chief arrive to save the day.

The intense, surprisingly visceral action keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Master Chief is as great of a fighter as you’d expect, tearing through aliens left and right. While the violence is not quite on the level of Game of Thrones, viewers can expect quite a bit of blood and gore during battle scenes.

There are easter eggs abound in this sequence, everything from the classic sounds of Master Chief’s shield recharging to an Elite using his invisibility tech; there’s no doubt that Halo fans will crack a smile here. The action does switch to a first-person view for a few moments to try and give players the sense they’re back in the game, but it comes off very awkwardly and, thankfully, doesn’t last long.

Fans of the Halo games will likely take issue with some of the storyline decisions including one moment at the end of the first episode. It will, to put it lightly, have people talking.

Unfortunately, it is here where the story grinds to a crawl, as it is the only action setpiece in the first two episodes. Master Chief and silver team (the other three Spartans present) discover an artifact that gives John back some of his memories suppressed during his training.

This is an unfamiliar storyline from the games, and it cannot be stressed enough that the plot of the series is not following anything from the games. Familiar places will be present (the planet Reach, the Halo ring, and others), but this is a new storyline.

Master Chief trying to discover his humanity and break free of his robotic conditioning is an intriguing idea, presenting John with a moral conundrum that he has rarely faced before. He’s been used to carrying out orders without question, but now, when asked to do something particularly brutal, he goes against command.

Paramount+

The artifact is key to finding a Halo ring and stopping the Covenant’s plans for human extinction. In the games, the Covenant is a theocracy of different alien races who wish to activate the Halo ring as a means of embarking on the “Great Journey.” Unfortunately, this journey will wipe out all life in the Galaxy.

It sounds like another “find the thing that will save the galaxy” plotline will be the focus, but the original Halo games were able to make that enjoyable by putting a new spin on it. Hopefully, the show’s writers (Kyle Killen and Steven Kane) are up to the task.

Schreiber will undoubtedly be a good Master Chief when the series ends, but speaking as someone who played the games, it will take some time to get used to his voice rather than Steve Downes. Of course, this is not the fault of Schreiber, but it will certainly be something fans notice almost immediately.

One particular scene in the second episode where Master Chief interrogates someone jumps to mind as a showcase of his talent. The prisoner knows something about the artifact and how it plays into John’s past. Schreiber is intense, and you can feel his fury come through as he demands to know what the prisoner knows; not only is he angry, but you can also tell he is confused and scared as well.

Playing Master Chief is no easy task, as he is, well, a relatively robotic human super-soldier that has been psychologically and physically broken down to be a one-man killing machine. Getting any sort of emotion out of a character like that will be a challenge, and Schreiber has succeeded thus far. His struggle with embracing what his uncertain future holds is painted on Schreiber’s face, and you know how scared he is of it.

Yerin Ha’s character seems to be the show’s other primary focus, playing the human rebel turned Master Chief companion, Kwan Ha. Yerin is a relative newcomer, with only a few acting credits to her name, but she plays off Schreiber well. She is a fish out of water attempting to fully grasp the fact that she is roaming the galaxy with a Spartan, someone responsible for the death of her mother.

Natascha McElhone, as Dr. Catherine Halsey, is the person responsible for the Spartan program and believes in them wholeheartedly. She wants to protect them at all costs, and in a scene that she shares with John, she scolds him for his actions since they could be perceived as a threat to her and the program. Halsey has a different agenda planned for John, and McElhone’s portrayal is one of the show’s strengths.

Noticeably missing from the show has been the iconic theme music of the franchise. Outside of a sampled version present in the intro as well as the end of one of the episodes, we don’t hear any of it.

Come on Paramount+, give the people what they want!

Hopefully, it plays into it at some point but for now, feels like a serious missed opportunity right now.

We’ve only dipped our toes into this version of Halo and there is plenty more to come. The show has had a decent start but has for every up it has had, it’s had plenty of noticeable downs.

There are eight episodes of Halo this season with a ton to explore, and we’ll definitely be along for the ride.

Halo’ premieres on Paramount+ on March 24th with new episodes dropping weekly on the streaming service.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

‘WeCrashed’ Is a Story of Corporate Greed and the Couple At the Center of It All

“Do what you love.”

“Hustle Harder.”

“We are elevating the world’s consciousness.”

These philosophies (if you can call them that) are the ethos of what Adam Neumann believed would make WeWork a trillion-dollar company. He would say that WeWork was not a shared workspace company, but it brought people together and focused on changing the world.

Per Apple’s description, WeCrashed is “Inspired by actual events — and the love story at the center of it all. WeWork grew from a single coworking space into a global brand worth $47 billion in under a decade. Then, in less than a year, its value plummeted. What happened?”

Neumann (Jared Leto) and Rebekah (Anne Hathaway) attempt to turn WeWork into a company dedicated to not just turning a profit—something they rarely do—but try to change the way the world thinks, acts, and lives. If you think that sounds a little cultish, don’t worry because it does.

As someone says to him in the series, “Dude, you’re renting fucking desks,” so it seems not many people shared his belief, except maybe his wife and “co-founder” Rebekah.

The series bases itself on the podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork by Wondery. That show detailed the meteoric rise of WeWork, an almost unprecedented level of growth, and catastrophic fall down to Earth, almost singlehandedly caused by the two narcissists at the center, Adam and Rebekha.

AppleTV+

WeWork wasn’t the first company to embrace the “Millennial” approach to working if such a thing exists. WeWork was a commercial real estate company, but they wanted to be the cool commercial real estate company.

As it gets off the ground and builds out its first few spaces, Neumann emphasizes that he wants bars, kombucha on tap, music blasting, etc., he wants people to come to WeWork because it’s the cool place to work. Nowhere is this better exemplified than when Adam interrupts a meeting to join his employees in making a “Harlem Shake” video, a scene that is horrifyingly cringeworthy.

Leto’s Neumann runs around as an agent of chaos and demands that the builders around construct things with money he doesn’t have, sinking the company into debt before they even have a single customer. He orders the builders around and is controlling over the company’s co-founder Miguel McKelvey (Kyle Marvin.) Despite being partners, Neumann makes all the decisions even with Miguel’s constant protests.

Scenes such as this are the show’s strength, in which Leto and Hathaway’s performances are the foundation. If you find these characters insufferable, just remember they are based on real people. Some scenes in the show are ripped straight from real life, including Rebekah’s podcast interview and Adam’s attempt to make an informational video.

Perhaps the show’s real star is Hathaway, the self-help and lifestyle guru, who is also a yoga teacher that becomes the Chief Branding Officer of WeWork, only after orchestrating the firing of her friend who had been in the role.

Hathaway portrays the role exceptionally well, almost to the point of parody, which generally would be a bad thing, but Neumann is so comically aloof and oblivious in real life that she’s beyond parody. One need only watch this interview with Neumann to get an idea of what she is like.

She began a school for children (that charged tens of thousands of dollars in tuition), with the stated goal of “unleashing every human’s superpowers,” whatever that means.

Neumann also comes from wealth, a characteristic that carries over into Hathaway’s portrayal. She is ignorant and callous in how she interacts with other people but comes off as someone that cares. One scene, in particular, emphasizes this, when she is leaving the WeWork summer camp and going back to her “cabin” with the head of the company’s communications, Neumann tells her to “bring the bags in.”

And after she makes a comment on stage that proves to be controversial and nearly upends the entire summer camp event, she blames the Head of Communications for the resulting firestorm. Instead of taking the blame, Neumann fires her.

There are numerous other instances like this throughout the show, with Hathaway performing them fantastically.

AppleTV+

Playing off her is Jared Leto, who is also perfectly cast as Adam Neumann. Leto shows a particular talent for portraying the sort of man that sees himself above the rest of society and is in a position to elevate them all to his level.

Keep in mind he owns and operates a commercial real estate company. His main issue is his desire to become the next Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk, but he does not have the patience to become those men. In most scenes, Leto towers over the other actors, not physically but most definitely in ferociousness and belief in what the character is trying to achieve.

AppleTV+

The show’s most glaring issue is with its pacing. It moves at breakneck speed, with the title cards informing the audience that years have passed by, and they quickly roll by the company’s growth.

As fast as Adam Neumann tried to grow WeWork, it is as fast as the series moves along. They go from one office to 10 offices to 100 offices and on and on before you get a chance to get your bearings. Once you settle in, you can pick up where they are in the timeline, but a bit of a deeper dive into specific aspects would have been welcome.

Also, the show suffers from a lack of character development outside of Adam and Rebekah. People are hired, laid off, and shuffled around so much that it becomes difficult to keep track of who they are and why we’re supposed to care so much about them.

AppleTV+

As with most stories of corporate greed, it is the employees of the company and not the actual perpetrators who suffer the most. The failure of the IPO and the fact that WeWork never posted a profit while Neumann was in charge, led to layoffs and the loss of massive potential earnings for employees when the stock value tanked.

We see employees go from thinking they are about to earn millions one day only to lose their jobs the next, all due to Adam and Rebekah’s actions.

WeCrashed is the story of just one company’s downfall but is a tale that has happened many times over. Hopefully, it does not repeat too often in the future.

The first three episodes of WeCrashed premiere on AppleTV+ on March 18th, with new episodes following weekly.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 4: A Story of Revenge and Going Your Own Way

“You know how there are times in your life when things seem to be going great and then, out of nowhere, BAM! You round the corner, and someone steps in and fucks it the fuck up. You never saw it coming because you were so busy being happy,” Midge Maisel proclaims within the first minute of season four of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. On stage at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, Midge sets the tone for what will likely be the overarching theme this year.

When we last left her and manager Susie, they were standing on the tarmac at the airport watching in disbelief as an airplane carrying Shy Baldwin, who Midge had been opening for, took off into the night sky. After a great performance at the Apollo Theater, in which she had seemingly made some jokes that nearly outed Baldwin’s status as a closeted gay man, Midge had been fired, and her life and career were held in limbo.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s biggest strength has always been the acting of its cast. Led by Rachel Brosnahan as Midge, the cast is full of stellar actors and actresses, most notably Brosnahan, Tony Shaloub, and Alex Borstein. The three of them have been nominated and/or won the Primetime Emmy Awards for acting in a comedy series since the series has been on the air.

Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause them to miss a beat at all. Through the season’s first few episodes that were available to the press, the cast shines once again, with Brosnahan and Shaloub being particular standouts. Towards the end of the second episode, there is a scene that immediately jumps to mind as being some of Brosnahan and Shaloub’s best acting in the series.

Speaking of Shaloub, his storyline picks up on last season’s thread of Abe embracing a new career path as a theater critic for The Village Voice. As he looks to continue his transition from a college professor and researcher to a writer, he comes to a stark realization that most in the creative field do at some point: Money shouldn’t be the end all be all. Rather, focus on what makes you happy and let the money come after. (Although he does admit that the money certainly doesn’t hurt.)

It’s a great character moment for him and serves as an excellent affirmation for Midge as well; sometimes, you just need to do things your own way.

When the writing started to become predictable and not as interesting in the show’s third season, the cast was there to lift the show up.

Prime Video

While seasons one and two were fantastic and some of the best TV in 2017 and 2018, the show sputtered a bit in 2019. It started to become painfully evident that Midge, determined as ever to succeed, was never really running into any serious obstacles or issues along the way. For every step backward she took, she moved two steps forward.

In life, we would say “that’s great!” as no one roots for conflict in the real world but in television or the movies, it does not make for an interesting watch.

As season four begins, it seems as if the writers heard some of these critiques and aim to address them. Midge and Susie are at the lowest points of their professional lives, and, like a breath of fresh air, the show becomes interesting again. This all isn’t to say that we should be rooting against our heroines, but seeing them overcome obstacles with relative ease caused the show to stumble.

The show is able to deftly address those problems and, finally, make it seem as if they won’t be solved by the Mrs. Maisel version of a Deus ex machina.

Whatever that might be. A brisket, perhaps?

Prime Video

We see a return to form in season four and become reminiscent of what made the first two such a fun watch. The stand-up scenes still provide some of the series’ best moments, and character interactions feel natural as ever, if not a bit over the top at points, which is, almost certainly, the point.

Both sets of parents, Midge and ex-husband Joel’s, provide some of the best comic relief in the show, and the interactions with their kids are painfully relatable for everyone in their 20s and early 30s.

They’re at their absolute best when they are embarrassing their kids, Midge and her ex-husband Joel, with one of the best scenes this season occurring on the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island.

Prime Video

In the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge found her start in The Gaslight Cafe, and that’s where her new journey in season four begins.

The locations and look of the show have always been vital to Maisel‘s success and, even when it faltered, you can be sure that it looked great. Whether it’s the dark stage of The Gaslight or the bright hallways of her Upper West Side apartment building, the aesthetic has always been on point.

The bright, vibrant colors of Midge’s outfits are on full display and contrast with Susie’s dark tones, forming an interesting color palette that serves as a reflection of both characters perfectly.

Prime Video

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has always been a show about finding your own way and not letting others dictate how to live your life. You may be a housewife one day and a successful stand-up comedian the next, life always has a way to keep things interesting or as Midge says “fuck it the fuck up.”

While this new season of the show finds our main characters at their lowest, they seem as determined as ever to bounce back.

If the first few episodes are season four are any indication, that is the plan, and let’s hope they are successful in doing so.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Eris Baker Talks to ONE37pm About the Final Season of “This Is Us” and More

Eris Baker is a young star determined to make her mark. Starring in the sixth and final season of NBC’s critically acclaimed, award-winning series This Is Us alongside Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, and Chrissy Metz, Baker has grown into a fan favorite on the show, portraying Tess Pearson, the eldest daughter of Randall (Brown) and Beth Pearson (Susan Kelechi Watson).

Audiences and critics have raved over Baker’s standout performance as Tess comes out to her family, then navigates being a teenager who is exploring her sexuality in today’s society, and the young actress is currently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Performance By A Youth.”

Aside from working on This Is Us, additional credits for Eris include Comedy Central’s Drunk History and Disney Channel’s hit action-comedy series K.C. Undercover, starring Zendaya, both of which showcased her ability to easily cross into comedic roles. Baker is also a true fashionista and hair guru in every sense of the word, expressing herself through her clothes and natural curls.

Baker’s unique sense of style and individuality has already caught the attention of the fashion world, as the starlet has already been featured on best-dressed lists for outlets including Vogue, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Allure, to name a few.

ONE37pm caught up with Baker last week to discuss this final season of This Is Us, fashion, and more.

Getty Images
Eris Baker

ONE37pm: Thanks for chatting with us Eris! How has the last season of This Is Us been?

Baker: It’s been great! I love it so much. I got the part when I was very young, and growing up with it has helped me so much. I’ve been learning as I go.

ONE37pm: How does your role on this show compare to others you’ve done?

Baker: Compared to the other roles, those were more fun scripts and a lot of improv. With This Is Us—it’s an NBC drama compared to let’s just say Disney Channel with KC Undercover. Getting into the character of Tess has been so much fun!

Getty Images
This Is Us Season 6

ONE37pm: You are also a fashionista. Could you tell us more about that?

Baker: I’m honestly still in the process of finding my own style. I’ve been playing with different clothes, and when it comes to fashion, I express myself through clothes, and my style changes according to the kind of mood I’m in.

ONE37pm: How about your natural hair journey? Any advice for others on the natural hair journey?

Baker: I’ve learned a ton about my natural hair over the past couple of years, and I’ve gotten a lot of confidence with my natural hair. It’s a journey, and my advice would be to love yourself and your hair and learn more about it in its natural state.

ONE37pm: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Baker: I’m very passionate about writing and producing. In the future, probably the next five years or so, I see myself putting out my own work in terms of production. I’m excited about the future!

And so are we. You can keep up with Eris via Instagram and Twitter.  

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Prime Video’s “Reacher” Is Heavy on Clichés and Light on Substance

Most movies and TV shows fall victim to using clichés, and as a viewer, you have to hope that the entire story isn’t forced to rely on those platitudes to support the plot.

In Prime Video’s Reacher, that is unfortunately not true. The show is so overly dependent on them that it’s hard not to feel that you’ve seen this entire story before by the time the first season’s eight episodes have finished. Based on the “Jack Reacher” character from the series of novels written by Lee Child, Reacher borrows elements from the first book titled Killing Floor.

Per Prime Video’s description: “When retired Military Police Officer Jack Reacher is arrested for a murder he did not commit, he finds himself in the middle of a deadly conspiracy full of dirty cops, shady businessmen and scheming politicians. With nothing but his wits, he must figure out what is happening in Margrave, Georgia.”

As you can see, a “rogue enforcer/ex-cop takes on small-town corruption” is not a novel concept, but it is possible to put an interesting spin on it. Reacher fails at that, and when the twists arrive, you can see them coming from miles away.

Prime Video

Jack Reacher, or just Reacher, as everyone (including his mother!) calls him, is played by Alan Ritchson, who is perhaps best known for his roles on Smallville where he played Aquaman/Arthur Curry, and as Thad Castle on Blue Mountain State. 

Ritchson, an already large human, bulked up and gained over 30 pounds for the role. He aimed to look more like the Reacher envisioned by Child in the novels rather than the version that Tom Cruise embodied in the two film adaptations where he portrayed the character. In being faithful to the character in the books, Ritchson succeeds wholeheartedly.

The dialogue is extremely clumsy and, as you probably guessed, riddled with clichés, but Ritchson can maneuver past it and deliver a solid performance.

However, when the character itself isn’t great to begin with, the viewer’s first instinct might be to blame the actor rather than the writer. In the case of Reacher, that is unfair to Ritchson and Lee Child.

Ritchson is particularly great in the action scenes, delivering the moves with shocking brutality and force, which I’m sure was met with Child’s approval.

Word of warning for those who are a little squeamish: Reacher is a bloody and brutal show with plenty of bone-crunching and killing to be found.

Prime Video

Supporting Reacher are the two honest cops in Margrave, Detective Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin) and Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald). Similar to Ritchson’s take on Reacher, both Fitzgerald and Goodwin play their roles as well as they can, given the script.

Finley is a Boston detective who recently moved to Georgia to escape the memories of his deceased wife, and Conklin is one of the newer members of the small-town police force. Both recognize that there is something wrong in Margrave but, until Reacher arrives, they are unable to do anything about it.

Without spoiling anything, Fitzgerald is particularly shortchanged by the script, being boiled down to Reacher’s love interest. She does have some stand-out moments but is never truly given a chance to shine.

It works to the show’s strength that the protagonists are the best performances because the villains are so easily forgettable that when it’s revealed who is behind it all, you’ll say to yourself, “oh yeah, they’re in the show as well.”

Prime Video

If you’re in the mood for a straightforward, action-heavy TV series that, at times, is very fun, then you can do a whole lot worse than Reacher.

However, when there are better options available and ones that are far more memorable such as HBO Max’s Peacemaker, Disney+’s The Mandalorian, or even Prime Video’s own Jack Ryan, it’s easy to skip Reacher.

Reacher premieres on Prime Video on February 4th, with an eight-episode first season.