Hello readers – long time no write!
While I have been busy working on other projects, I have managed to make time to watch all of Season 9 of The Walking Dead and follow Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. And now that “Winter Is Here”, you can check out my reviews for the new season of Game of Thrones.
The link to my youtube page is at the end of this article.
There´s nothing quite like hunkering down to write, however. So here are three other things I have watched recently.
The OA: Season 2
The OA was my favorite show of the year it came out, 2016. Although the pilot episode was excruciatingly slow, it took a mind-bending hard left turn in its last fifteen minutes and then kept adding on to its bizarre plot which involved near-death experiences and mad science experiments. The finale was slightly disappointing, yet, I was still itching with anticipation for more story. It took a while, but a second season finally arrived in March of 2019.
Season 2 of The OA not only matched the show´s first year but it also exceeded it to a level I could never have imagined. It took near-death experiences and added some inter-dimensional travel, a haunted house, a missing-persons cop procedural, a talking octopus, and quite possibly even some very sentient trees (I won´t spoil anything further than that – just watch!).
Beware, though! If season one´s main issue was the plodding first episode, this season´s issue is a plodding first three episodes that while not bad, didn´t offer many clues as to what direction the story was going to go. If I was able to sit through Twin Peaks: The Return, though, (and this show has plenty of Lynch splattered all over it) I figured I could handle a little bit of molasses speed storytelling – I am glad I did.
From episode four onward (where we get to revisit the first season´s cast) the dispirate threads start to show their first signs of coherence – and the seeds that had been sprinkled along in the first three hours begin to germinate. Once those seeds begin to sprout – the flora is wild, exotic, and unpredictable. I found myself completely immersed in the concepts, visuals, and the characters, as they try to navigate through the murk towards some sort of clarity.
The first season of The OA at times felt like a version of Stranger Things for older teens and adults (there is even a name-drop and joke about Stranger Things in an episode this season). While I liked that aspect of it, I think season two´s strongest point is how much more it matured and became its own creation. Sure, this takes away some “ease of viewing,” but if you are willing to take your time with the show and allow it to ease itself onto your senses, at its own pace, you may come away very happy.
In all, despite nearly nodding off a few times through the first episodes, I was very satisfied by the end. Now, I feel that little itch again as I await a possible third season – especially considering the absolute mind-fucking shenanigans of the much better finale episode we were gifted with this season.
I have only seen M. Night Shyamalan´s Unbreakable once, and it was in the theatre back in 2000, so my memory of it might fail me. What I do recall is that, despite being an extremely slow and melancholy movie, I completely bought into its “real” take on superheroes and Bruce Willis´broddy interpretation of its lead character.
In many ways that movie was very far ahead of its time. It was a clear inspiration for the television show “Heroes” and the darker tone of a lot of comic book movies that followed. The only criticism I have of the movie is that I felt that the climax could not compete with the build up.
Enter, 2017s Split, a career-restart for director M. Night Shyamalan. I thought it was a decent movie despite some over-acting and curious plot holes. Its best moment was the end, where we found out that it was set in the same universe as Bruce Willis´ Unbreakable. The countdown was on for the movie sequel nobody knew they wanted that badly.
Glass takes place only a short period after the events in Split and sees Willis´ character, who has now fully accepted his superhero status and is called, “The Overseer,” try to find and stop McAvoy´s evil “Horde” from attacking and killing any more young girls. Thrown in the mix is Samuel L. Jackson´s, Glass, who wants to still prove to the world that superheroes are real, regardless of the stakes.
I did like the starting premise of the movie, but then M. Night tried to do something which I don´t believe he has much talent for – create a character study. We spend 80% of the movie´s run time with our three main characters locked away in a mental institution with a doctor who is trying to “prove to them” that their superhero abilities are nothing but a figment of their imagination and a psychological disorder.
The glaring problem with this, other than the fact M. Night spent way too long on this plot thread, is that we, the audience, have already seen two movies which prove that exactly the opposite is true!!! While there are some lines of dialogue which are meant to throw us off (the bullets that hit you were old and so were the metal bars you bent) none of it is evidence strong enough to put real doubt into our minds as to the super-human abilities of our main protagonists. So then we are left with a motivation void. “Why exactly do I care that these characters are locked up in a mental hospital for an hour-and-a-half?”
To compound matters, the movie´s namesake barely speaks for much of the run time. When he does finally explain his “master-plan” all suspense or mystery is removed as we are made to wait for the inevitable fistfight (the second thereof) between Willis and McAvoy. And since this is a “realistic” take on superheroes, prepare for a choreographed street fight just above the level of skill and excitement of Rocky V.
What Glass needed more than anything was a good editor. The movie moves at a pace that tries to force us to believe that the material is deeper and more important than it truly is. It´s the sort of pace that worked for Unbreakable (although it teeters in parts) and even The Sixth Sense, but that works against the acting chops of its three very dynamic and explosive actors. McAvoy looks like he wants to break out of this movie more than the hospital ward (Split was neck-break speed pacing compared to this film) and Willis and Jackson wallow in a whole lot of “nothing to do here but stare at the camera” – what a waste of three great talents.
The movie does do its best to assure us that it knows what it is doing, but it does so in the worst possible way – Samuel Jackson has dialogue explaining the movie to us. Of course, M. Night adds a twist at the end but it was also tired and forced and doesn´t tell us anything we didn´t already know from the moment the title sequence came up.
I was very much looking forward to what this movie could have been but, sadly, as I watched Glass at home, I had to keep running my mouse over the computer screen to find out how many more minutes of torture were left before the closing credits. And yes, I wept a little when I swiped once and saw the there was still an hour left and all three of the main characters were still sitting talking to their shrink (well, all minus, Glass).
I do really like what M. Night tries to bring to the screen, but, for me, this was a clunker of a high order.
DC has been course correcting every since Batman v Superman. They started by lightening up Suicide Squad (which felt jumbled but was not unwatchable) and made it official with the highly enjoyable Wonder Woman. At the end of last year, and the release of Aqua Man, DC proved that they could not only repeat the entertainment factor, but they could also even improve on it.
So now comes Shazam! a movie about the original Captain Marvel (the name change saga is long and boring). It was sold in the trailers as slightly comedic and goofy and had many fans, including myself, unsure as to what to expect. My verdict is that DC is full control of their course correction and it is paying off. Shazam! is easily their best movie to date.
What made Shazam! tick for me is that the DC-Studios is dropping the ultra-broody tone with which they began their cinematic universe. While I do like the darker, solitary style of DC-comics, this vibe doesn´t always translate well onto the big screen outside of Batman movies (and I actually liked the super depressing Man of Steel).
As a general rule, audiences want to be wowed – they want to laugh and swoon like they did when Superman first flew across the screen in the Donner classics. There can still be time for self-reflection in all this Hollywood magic, but we need our heroes to smile (except Batman, he should never smile – looking at you Justice League). As someone with zero superpowers, I would like to think that being gifted with a few superhuman abilities can´t be all existential hell all of the time.
Shazam! takes this baton and runs with it. While the movie certainly has its dark side (think Gremlins or Goonies level dark), it treats the audience to laughs, giggles, and wonderment. It understands that the main character is a kid stuck in an adult´s body (watch for a reference to Big! in this movie) and it doesn´t shy away from the hilarity and ridiculousness of this.
This is a movie that invites you to turn your brain off, but not in a brain-draining fashion, as it is both a cohesive and well-paced piece of work. The cast of kids is also brilliant and add even more flavor to an already spiced up script.
Most importantly, Dr. Shivana, the movie´s villain, is the best antagonist to come out of DC-Studios thus far. He is well realized, clearly motivated, and absolutely evil (as in we actually see him indiscriminately kill a lot of people).
DC-Studios still has a lot a long way to go to catch up to its rival Marvel in the live-action movie arena but whoever is taking charge of the course correction has been doing a great job so far. I recommend this movie for kids and adults alike – take the family and enjoy.