Movies and Television Reviews

Dark: Season 3

Dark: Season 3

Directed by: Baran bo Odar

Written by: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese, and Marc O. Seng

Starring: Louis Hofmann, Karoline Eichhorn, Lisa Vicari, Maja Schöne, Stephan Kampwirth, Jördis Triebel, Andreas Pietschmann

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Science-Fiction / Mystery

Season Score: 3.5/5

Show Score: 4.5/5

The third and final season of Dark leaves none of its many questions unanswered, is well-made in nearly every facet of production, and is one of the most philosophically interesting pieces of art created this century; it is also strangely disappointing.

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Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Directed by: Paul King

Written by: Paul King and Simon Farnaby

Starring: Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Ben Whishaw, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Hugh Grant

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Adventure

Score: 4.5/5

It took me six years to watch Paddington because I didn’t know what I was missing, but I learned my lesson and it only took me six minutes to start Paddington 2 after the credits rolled. 

I’m glad I didn’t wait this time.

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Paddington

Paddington

Directed by: Paul King

Written by: Paul King

Starring: Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Ben Whishaw, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Tim Downie, Madeleine Worrall

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Adventure

Score: 4/5

In my mind Paddington is forever paired with Hugo. Both movies were unexpected treasures that I asked nothing from but which absolutely blew me away.

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Tusk

Tusk

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Johnny Depp

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Horror / Thriller

Score: 2.5/5

Tusk is one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever tried to score, because the good is so good while the bad is really bad. What do you give a movie that has perfection and genius mixed with horrible comedy, bad editing, and misused themes? I originally thought the good slightly outweighed the bad and considered rating Tusk a 3 or even 3.5, but after some thought, the bad is just too bad, and the movie results in an average score. Still, it is definitely not an average film, and here’s why:

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Better Call Saul: Season 5

Better Call Saul

Directed by: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

Written by: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, Kerry Condon, Mark Margolis

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama / Thriller

Score: 4.5/5

As Better Call Saul goes on, it only gets better. With every season, episode, minute, and scene, the plot constricts and the tension rises. And season 5 is no different. If you ever doubted that a Breaking Bad spin-off could live up to the original, don’t worry; my bold take here is this: Better Call Saul actually surpasses Breaking Bad.

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Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga

Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga

Directed by: David Dobkin

Written by: Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele

Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Mikael Persbrandt, Pierce Brosnan

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Comedy / Musical

Score: 3.5/5

I’ll start this review with a note: I’m from the United States, live in South Korea, don’t know much about mainstream popular culture, and had never even heard of Eurovision until I watched this movie. Now then…

Aside from Lalaland, the opening scene of this film might be the most sensible, musically entertaining, and downright hilarious introduction to any movie in recent memory.

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Onward

Onward

Directed by: Dan Scanlon

Written by: Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin

Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Animation / Fantasy

Score: 4/5

Set in a magical land yet mirroring our own society, Onward is equal parts parody, action, family drama, and epic fantasy. Though not quite peak Pixar upon first viewing, it is very, very good, and I think it might be one of those films that only improves over time, the true mark of greatness.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Zombieland: Double Tap

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Dave Callaham

Starring: Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Comedy / Parody

Score: 2/5

Zombieland: Double Tap is a direct sequel to 2009’s hilarious parody, Zombieland, but maybe it shouldn’t have been made. While I love the entire cast and enjoyed snippets of the film, it didn’t have much purpose.

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Spenser Confidential

Spenser Confidential

Directed by: Peter Berg

Written by: Sean O’Keefe and Brian Helgeland

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Hope Olaide Wilson, Wilson Bokeem Woodbine

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Action / Comedy

Score: 1.5/5

I wanted to like this movie and the acting was, in general, decent, but it was very far from a good film.

Arkin, Wahlberg, and, despite her brief screen time, Hope Olaide Wilson were very good (I would unabashedly call her the film’s standout), everyone else was acceptable, and Shlesinger got dealt a bad hand.

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Altered Carbon Season 2

Altered Carbon Season 2

Created by: Laeta Kalogridis

Written by: Nevin Densham, Richard Morgan, Alison Schapker

Starring: Chris Conner, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Anthony Mackie, Torben Liebrecht

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Action, Science-Fiction

Score: 1.5/5

As a huge fan of science-fiction, I can be shamelessly entertained; much as I enjoy them, I don’t need the next Blade Runner, Dune, or Space Odyssey to love a futuristic tale. Still, Altered Carbon fails in almost every aspect.

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1917

1917

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Written by: Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: War

Score: 5/5

From beginning to end, 1917 is a flawless film; it’s also a beautiful contradiction. A war movie without severe violence, a single two-hour shot that never lulls, all with a tiny cast, 1917 is a special experience.

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Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems

Directed by: Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie

Written by: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, and Benny Safdie

Starring: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, and Eric Bogosian

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama

Score: 2/5

Uncut Gems is one of the most confusing movies I’ve ever seen, but not because of its plot structure, philosophy, cinematography, or character development. It’s confusing because I don’t know if I loved it or hated it, if it’s a masterpiece or a dumpster fire, if it’s a drama or a comedy or a horror film.

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Bad Boys for Life

Bad Boys for Life

Directed by: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Written by: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan

Starring: Will Smith, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Martin Lawrence, Paola Nuñez, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Action, Comedy

Score: 3/5

It’s almost impossible to believe Bad Boys came out in 1995; that was 25 years ago. At the time of its release, Will Smith could still be seen on new episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

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The Witcher: Season 1

The Witcher: Season 1

Created by: Lauren Schmidt

Starring: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Mimi Ndiweni, Eamon Farren

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Fantasy

Score: .5/5

Rarely have I finished such a bad show, but I wanted to review this, so I gave it a fair shot. And I’ll never regain that lost time.

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Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari

Directed by: James Mangold

Written by: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller

Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Biopic / Sports

Score: 3.5/5

I usually write my movie reviews soon after watching the film in question, but Ford vs. Ferrari presented a perfect storm of uncertainty.

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The Endless

The Endless

Directed by:  Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Written by:  Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Starring:  Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, & Callie Hernandez

Genre:  Science Fiction, Thriller

Reviewed By:  Joe Bones

Genre Score:  3.5/5

Score:  2.5/5

What if someone you cared about saved you from what they perceived as a horrible fate, but then you came to realize your new life is pretty awful? Would you try to be content with the life you have? Or seek out the life you once lived? These are the questions Aaron faces in The Endless. When he was a child, Aaron’s older brother Justin facilitated their escape from a UFO death cult. Years later and now adults, they receive a video tape showing that the cult members are still very much alive.

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The Two Popes

The Two Popes

Directed by: Fernando Meirelles

Written by: Anthony McCarten

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujín

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama, Biopic

Score: 3/5

As a story this film succeeds wonderfully, but as an entertaining movie it falls short of greatness. Still, it’s one of Netflix’s very best offerings to date. Though heavily doused with Catholicism, you don’t need to be Catholic, or even religious, to feel the power of this tale.

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Marriage Story

Marriage Story

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Written by: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama

Score: 2.5/5

Simply put, this is a misleading title. A better representation would have been, “A Divorce Story.”

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The Irishman

The Irishman

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Steven Zaillian

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Drama

Score: 1.5/5

I have no problem with long movies or slow movies. Boring movies with no good story to tell, however, are nothing more than a waste of time. And while I don’t quite consider this film a waste, it wasn’t far from it.

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Frozen II

Frozen II

Directed by: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

Written by: Jennifer Lee

Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Alan Tudyk

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Animation

Score: 3.5/5

I waited a week to see Frozen II to avoid the crowds, but I also avoided spoilers, and I’m glad I did because it was completely different than I expected. While this is mostly a good thing, the movie wasn’t perfect. It’s also a difficult movie to assess, and especially to score, because of the music. How much should the soundtrack—good or bad—affect the score of a regular movie? And how much is this affect magnified in a musical?

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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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