Review: Shadow and Bone is a worthy adaptation of the Grishaverse novels

A lowly orphan and military cartographer in a war-torn world discovers she may be the key to her country’s survival in Shadow and Bone, a new Netflix series based on young adult author Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling “Grishaverse” novels. Those YA roots are mostly hidden in this lavish, entertaining adaptation, which boasts strong performances, terrific production design, and compelling mythical storytelling. Think Cursed meets The X-Men, with embellishments from Doctor Zhivago.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As we’ve reported previously, Bardugo published Shadow and Bone, the first of a trilogy, in June 2012, followed by Siege and Storm in 2013 and Ruin and Rising in 2014. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that she deliberately avoided the usual medieval fantasy motifs and drew inspiration for her fictional kingdom of Ravka from the Russian Empire in the early 1800s. In 2015, Bardugo published Six of Crows, followed by a sequel, Crooked Kingdom, the following year. This duology is set in the 17th-century equivalent of the Dutch Republic, a town called Ketterdam. Ravka is also bordered to the north by the Scandinavian-inspired Fjerda and to the south by Shu Han (inspired by Chinese and Mongolian cultures).

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #grishaverse, #netflix, #shadow-and-bone, #streaming-television, #television, #tv-reviews

Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier aims high, but falls a bit short

Confession: I wanted to like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more than I ultimately did. The various trailers seemed so promising, giving off vibes of a “buddy cop” action flick, with a bit more room to flesh out the character development and themes. What we got was a show that was trying to do too many things at once—including setting the stage for the Phase 4 films coming down the pike—and as a result, it never did any of those things as well as it could have done.

(There are a few major spoilers below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

F&WS picks up in the wake of Avengers: End Game, when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) handed his Captain America shield to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier), having chosen to remain in the past and live out his life with Peggy Carter. Sam and Bucky must grapple with losing Steve and the burden of his legacy. Meanwhile, the US government has named their own new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a decorated veteran and ultimate “good soldier” who thinks he can better embody “American values” than Rogers. (The nerve!)

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#disney-plus, #entertainment, #falcon-and-the-winter-soldier, #gaming-culture, #marvel-studios, #mcu-phase-four, #streaming-television, #television, #tv-reviews

Review: Don’t call it a comeback—The Boys returns better than ever in S2

Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its second season.

In my review of The Boys S1 last year, I called the Amazon Prime series “a wickedly funny, darkly irreverent adaptation” and “ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies.” I wasn’t alone in my love for the show: The Boys was a massive hit, and that success has continued with S2, which was the most-watched global launch of any Amazon series to date, pretty much doubling the show’s worldwide audience. S2 is even better than its predecessor, deftly tackling timely themes and hot-button issues, while never sacrificing all the biting satire and good, gory fun that we loved about S1. And can we just give Antony Starr an Emmy already for his stunning performance as Homelander?

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, headed up by Homelander (Starr), a truly violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero, who mostly bullies his supe team into compliance. The other members include A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who boasts super-speed but has also become addicted to the experimental performance-enhancing substance called Compound-V. The Deep (Chace Crawford) can breathe underwater, thanks to having gills—voiced in S2 by Patton Oswalt during a hallucination sequence—and converse with marine creatures.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#amazon-prime, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #streaming-television, #the-boys, #tv-reviews

Review: Smartly satirical Teenage Bounty Hunters is a perfect weekend binge

Fraternal twin sisters Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) join forces with bounty hunter Bowser Simmons (Kadeem Hardison) in the new Netflix series Teenage Bounty Hunters.

Twin sisters juggle the demands of high school, their Christian youth group, and raging hormones with a side gig working for a local bounty hunter in the new Netflix series, Teenage Bounty Hunters. Creator Kathleen Jordan’s delightful comedy-drama definitely brings the laughs with its razor-sharp satire, but it is also a smart, nuanced coming of age story with some genuinely surprising twists and turns. One of the executive producers is Jenji Kohan, who also worked on WeedsGLOW, and Orange Is the New Black, and Teenage Bounty Hunters shares a similar sensibility.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Per the official premise:

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #streaming-television, #teenage-bounty-hunters, #tv-reviews

Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

TKTK in the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year’s debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a “found family” of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series’ potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can’t really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a “negative energy entity” inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#dc-universe, #doom-patrol, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #hbo-max, #streaming-television, #tv-reviews

Family affairs: Everyone learns they can’t go home again in Killing Eve S3

Killing Eve burst onto the scene in 2018 to rave reviews, as viewers and critics alike were enthralled by the sexually charged cat-and-mouse game playing out between MI6 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and expert assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Alas, while S2 had some powerful moments, overall it lacked the same taut, addictive focus. But the series came back strong for its third season, fleshing out the story in some fresh, fascinating ways. Small wonder it’s already been renewed for a fourth season.

(A couple of major spoilers below for first six episodes of S3—we’ll give you a heads-up when we get there—but no major reveals for the final two episodes.)

As S3 opened, we learned that Eve survived being shot by Villanelle in the S2 finale (duh). She is keeping a low profile, working in the kitchen of a dumpling eatery in London, and living on a shocking amount of junk food in her dismal flat. Her long-suffering math teacher husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) also survived his encounter with Villanelle in S2 (although his fellow teacher, Gemma, did not). He is now an in-patient being treated for PTSD, and unreceptive to Eve’s efforts to reconnect.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bbc-america, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #killing-eve, #streaming-television, #television, #tv-reviews

Review: Kingdom is better (and more relevant) than ever in S2

Part historical political drama, part supernatural zombie horror, the South Korean series Kingdom proved to be a smart, heady, addictive delight when it debuted last year, easily earning a spot on our year’s best list for 2019. It boasted stunning visuals, memorable characters, and a juggernaut of a plot, with the occasional moments of comic relief. If anything, S2 is even better. Honestly, between this outstanding series and the Oscar-winning Parasite alone, South Korea has firmly established itself at the forefront of global film and television.

(Spoilers for S1; some spoilers for S2 below the gallery.)

The series is based on a popular South Korean webcomic Kingdom of the Gods by Kim Eun-hee, who also adapted it for television. Set in Korea’s Joseon period, ), Kingdom begins as the current king has succumbed to smallpox. His conniving young wife, Queen Cho (Kim Hye-jun), and her family have kept him artificially alive—via a “resurrection plant” that turns the king into a flesh-eating zombie—until her son is born. Her son would inherit the throne over the current Crown Prince, Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who was born to a concubine.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #kingdom, #netflix, #streaming-television, #tv-reviews, #zombies

Review: Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord returns to classic Doctor Who form

After taking pains to set Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor apart in his first stint as Doctor Who showrunner, Chris Chibnall took a different tack with series 12, upping the stakes and giving us more of the classic tropes that have made this long-running series so enduringly appealing. The season included the revival of a well-known nemesis and a classic monster, plus an entertaining cameo by a former ally. And the finale dove deep into Whovian lore to give us a pretty big final twist.

(Mild spoilers below until the second gallery; some major spoilers after. We’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

Last season, the Doctor landed in Sheffield, sans TARDIS, right after regenerating. She teamed up with some locals as her new companions (aka her “fam”): Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh, Coronation Street); his grown stepson Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole, Hollyoaks); and Ryan’s old school chum, Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill, also from Hollyoaks), a rookie police officer eager to prove herself.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bbc-america, #doctor-who, #doctor-who-review, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #jodie-whittaker, #reviews, #tv-reviews