Movies and Television Reviews

Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate

Directed by: Tim Miller

Written by: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Action / Science-fiction

Score: 3/5

There is always hope surrounding a new Terminator release returning to past glory, but with the cooperation of many of the original cast and crew who made the first two so great, Dark Fate seemed primed to make good on this elusive promise. Then they chose Tim Miller to helm it, immediately tempering these expectations. Still, I was excited about this film for a number of reasons.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Directed by: Joachim Rønning

Written by: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, and Linda Woolverton

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, and Robert Lindsay

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Fantasy, Action

Score: 2.5/5

Maleficent was a nice surprise, a movie that not much was expected of but which delivered an enjoyable tale. I would even say it is the best of Disney’s recent remakes, probably because instead of being a direct retelling, it’s more a reimagining. Thus I was curious and, against my instincts, a bit excited to see how this sequel turned out.

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기생충 (Parasite)

기생충 (Parasite)

Directed by: 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho)

Written by: 봉준호 (Bong Joon-Ho) and 한진원 (Han Jin-Won)

Starring: 송강호 (Song Kang-ho), 조여정 (Jo Yeo-jeong), 박소담 (Park So-dam), 최우식 (Choi Woo-sik), 박서준 (Park Seo-joon), 이순견 (Lee Sun-kyun), 정지소 (Jung Ji-so), 이정은 (Lee Jeong-eun), 장혜진 (Jang Hye-jin)

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Black Comedy, Drama

Score: 5/5

기생충, which means Parasite, is one of the most powerful movies about wealth to arrive this century. From 봉준호 (pronounced Bong Joon-Ho), the director of Snowpiercer (설국열차), Mother (마더), and The Host (괴물), this film eclipses an already-great catalogue of creations.

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Joker

Joker

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Written by: Todd Phillips and Scott Silver

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Leigh Gill

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama, Comic

Score: 3/5

Relying on shock value and great acting, Joker feels like more than the sum of its parts, but you’re left feeling like something is missing, unfulfilled. Let me explain.

Phoenix is great, but he feels too restrained, which is the opposite of what the joker should be. His actions certainly aren’t, but his laugh, while in character, seems too prevalent; his most joker-like moments are while dancing, staring at someone, awkwardly conversing, and using his body’s great physical comedy and acting, but Phillips overuses the simplistic laughter.

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Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Dakota Fanning, and Al Pacino

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Score: 4.5/5

Viewing Mindset: Very late showing on opening night, excited but always tentative with expectations at Tarantino films.

Tarantino is one of the most divisive directors out there; as such, I might be the only person who is luke-warm on him. Most either love him or hate him or love to hate him, but I’m torn. On one hand are such true masterpieces as Pulp Fiction and Hateful Eight, and to a lesser degree the Kill Bills; while in the other hand we hold overrated films such as Inglourious Basterds and Resevoir Dogs; and still leftover, unable to decide quite how good they really are, we have Jackie Brown and Django Unchained.

And now we have Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, something completely different, something wholly un-Tarantino.

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Ad Astra

Ad Astra

Directed by: James Gray

Written by: James Gray and Ethan Gross

Starring: Brad Pitt, LisaGay Hamilton, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Science-Fiction

Genre Score: 5/5

Score: 5/5

Viewing Mindset: Eager to watch but tempering expectations

Quick, name a movie with no useless scene. Bet you can’t, or at least that you struggle to do so. Even some of the greatest films ever made fail in this regard: 2001’s longer-than-necessary dialogue in the opening, Return of the King’s epilogue, The Matrix’s romance. But Ad Astra qualifies.

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Angel Has Fallen

Angel Has Fallen

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Lance Reddick

Genre: Action

Reviewed by: Rob Leicht

Genre Score: 2/5

Score:  1.5/5

Angel Has Fallen is the third installment in Gerard Butler’s action franchise following Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016). Stamped with the same general action movie template as the two previous films, the conclusion to the series now has Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning on the run after being framed for attempted assassination of the POTUS. I actually enjoyed the preceding movies for what they were, mostly forgettable action flicks, but Angel Has Fallen fails to meet that already low standard.

 

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Atlanta Seasons 1 and 2

Atlanta Seasons 1 and 2

Created by: Donald Glover

Starring: Donald Glover, LaKeith Stanfield, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Khris Davis

Genre: Music, Comedy

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score: 4/5

Score:  3.5/5

Neither sports nor sci-fi, this show cannot be ignored. At its heart a very simple tale: Atlanta’s underground rap scene.

But the charm of this show is the side of rap rarely portrayed: usually non-violent, sensitive, poverty even following shows and deals, families and children, mental illness, and everyday life. Also, the acting is some of the best on television, while the writing is some of the absolutely funniest.

Not much more to say: Go watch, now.

 

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Dark Season 2

Dark Season 2

Created by: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

Starring: Louis Hofmann, Karoline Eichhorn, Jördis Triebel, Maja Schöne, Stephan Kampwirth, Tamar Pelzig, Lisa Vicari, Deborah Kaufmann

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score:  4/5

Score:  3.5/5

Dark is a show with a premise that shouldn’t work on the screen, but somehow it does so majestically: time travel is possible in 33-year increments, and the same characters become older and younger embodiments of themselves due to the nearly-perfect generational time slip. With a core of around only ten characters, the cast nevertheless grows into the dozens without ever introducing new personalities. You’re never unfamiliar with anyone, even if it’s their first appearance, because you know them from the past or future, or both. 

 

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Midsommar

Midsommar

Directed by: Ari Aster

Written by: Ari Aster

Starring: Florence Pugh. Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia

Genre: Horror, Cult

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score: 3.5/5

Score: 3/5

Viewing Mindset: Sober and excited to see the follow-up to “Hereditary”; watched immediately after “Spiderman: Far From Home”.

This is the second full-length feature from the exciting new horror director Ari Astor, following his controversial but undeniably spectacular “Hereditary”. With “Midsommar”, he remains firmly entrenched within the horror genre, and even within the cult sub-genre, but we begin to see his true leanings and inspirations here; as so often happens, following a successful mainstream (mainstreamish in this case) debut, the director is given more freedom with the second offering. Less mainstream, more shocking, much slower, and more environmental, this film seems like something cobbled together between Wes Anderson, Lars von Trier, and George A. Romero.

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Spiderman: Far From Home

Spiderman: Far From Home

Directed by: Jon Watts

Written by: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei,Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon

Genre: Action, Comic

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score: 3/5

Score: 2.5/5

Viewing Mindset: Sober and slightly pessimistic regarding Marvel films in general; watched back-to-back with “Midsommar”.

I’ll start with this: outside of animations, this is, without a doubt, the best Spiderman film ever. It isn’t the best at any one aspect, but as a whole, the sum of its parts adds up to the best. Though still not reaching the upper-echelon of comic book films, it firmly asserts itself into that respectable second tier.

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Stranger Things Season 3

Stranger Things Season 3

Created by: Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard,Millie Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Cara Buono, Gaten Matarazzo, Dacre Montgomery

Genre: Comedy, Monster

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score: 3/5

Score: 2/5

For those who have viewed previous seasons, the tone, plot, and themes will feel familiar because, well, not much has changed. However, this safe familiarity manages to be more charming than stale. Still, this season is not without both its great moments and major flaws.

 It starts by asking whether or not everyone truly wanted Eleven to close the gateway, or at least it seems like that is the question being posed with the tentative story telling. After all, maybe we could use the upside-down as a…as an energy source? This scene immediately raises many more questions than answers, and is the major downfall of the season: while some of the questions are answered (kind of?), so many more are left unaddressed. How did these mysterious Russians get here? The scenes with the mayor explaining he was threatened are insufficient to explain such a strange situation.

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Zone Blanche Seasons 1 and 2

Zone Blanche Seasons 1 and 2

Created by: Mathieu Missoffe

Starring: Naidra Ayadi, Brigitte Sy, Renaud Rutten,Camille Aguilar, Samuel Jouyk, Laurent Capelluto, Hubert Delattre, Suliane Brahim

Genre: Episodic Crime, Fantasy

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre Score: 3/5

Score: 2/5

A French show with a pagan premise, Zone Blanche shines with its unique episodic structure while also maintaining a larger one.

Their little town has an astronomically high death rate, but no one knows why. When a disgraced DA shows up to find answers, he finds much more than he bargained for.

Each episode examines another death or gruesome situation and as they examine these–which always end up having earthly causes yet remain oddly unreal–the truth uncoils in the form of a god of the forest that has been murdering since the Romans invaded France in order to protect its land and animals. But that can’t be true, can it?

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