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Little Fires Everywhere

Admittedly not a die-hard Reese Witherspoon fan, I was skeptical on how I’d feel about this one. However, with characters as engaging and as intriguing as these, it was almost impossible not to come back for more. Based on a book of the same name by author Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere holds true to its namesake through and through. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Joshua Jackson and more, let’s take a look at the plot.

With a setting in suburban Ohio, LFE places it’s viewers directly in the living room of a picture perfect family, the Richardsons. With not a struggle in the world (or so it seems), the 6 piece family find themselves surrounded by fire as the series opens in flames. Someone had in fact set their home ablaze, and flipped everything these folks knew on its head. But, the “fires” only began just there.

This show follows a deliberately consistent theme of “small fires” being started in each and every episode, all by someone new each time. It tells an unfolding narrative of two mothers, Witherspoon and a Washington, as they rage against each other for ways I just can’t reveal. What I can say, is that the series explores themes of racial injustices, of motherhood and the sacrifices within, and sets the record clear that with money does not always come a life of happiness and well-being.

The show’s leads in Reese and Kerry do a stunning job of playing two mothers, both hellbent on doing what they believe the “right” things to do are. It is fierce, gripping, and places us in so many situations where a concept of black and white is much more so one with “grey all over”. We follow characters who make moral decisions, some we agree with some we might not, that truly create the divide (and ultimately the demise) between a family that seemed altogether just so happy. For a drama capturing my attention from the first frame to its sheer remarkable performances, Little Fires Everywhere gets a clean 9/10 from me. This does indeed wrap up my “TV Reviews” piece, but not to worry. I will be back soon enough, with more movies to make sure you all don’t miss. As always everybody,

Peep, out👋🏼

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Outer Banks

There are those shows that people pull your arm to watch, and after a certain amount of time you just cave and try an episode or two if you’re generous. Then, there are shows that you have so much hope for, and they fall flat on their faces. But then, there are the shows that you fire up on Netflix (or the streaming service poison of your choosing) and next thing you know, your teeth are sunken in and there’s nothing you can do about it. This was the recipe for Netflix’s “Outer Banks”.

Now, I’m not going to say this was the hands down best show I’ve watched during this crisis; but, it was certainly the one my wife and I killed the quickest. Essentially, Outer Banks follows the lives of a handful of teenagers who are..out playing a bit of “National Treasure”. Have you ever played any of the Uncharted video game series? If so, imagine this game molding itself with our massive pre-teen spectacle that is “Stranger Things” and you’ve gotten yourself this show.

At its heart, it’s about a friend circle that’s as tight knit as they come, focused on one common goal- treasure hunting (I won’t spoil why, for the record). I know, it already sounds cliche. But in some strange Breakfast Club kindof way, all of it just works. It’s a teenage love story, a coming of age story of 5 young teens, and a blood-pumping treasure/action saga all meshed in together. A few of these young actors and actresses, namely Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline in the role of our two “love birds” will potentially be becoming household names in the next 5-7 years.

Outer Banks reigns in action, comedy, and a surprising amount of damn good thrills in its 10 episode span. The plot unravels at just the right pace for my liking, and by the end of all the chaos, it surprisingly left me hungry for more. For a ton of heart, character pieces, and a fistful of well-played teen romance, Outer Banks bags an 8.5/10 from me. As always, thanks so much for dropping by. Only one more left in this TV series mashup charade. We’ll be sure to make it count.

Peep, out👋🏼

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The Outsider

This one is long overdue. Just a matter of weeks before the pandemic struck, my wife and I discovered The Outsider on HBO. Some of you may know this to be a series based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, but for myself, the series was my first look into the world of Detective Ralph Anderson and company. It is eerie, it is unsettling, and it never ceases to release; not even in its final moments. So, what’s it about?

The Outsider begins promptly with a murder, one that seems at short glance to be an obvious solve. However, this just begins the long-standing premise of the series; that nothing is so simple. Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) and Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo) are tasked with what seems to be an absolutely impossible case. A murder that seems unreal, if only to assume that one single person cannot be in two different places at the same moment in time. This lies the premise of the show, without giving too much away. Honestly speaking, I worry anything I say here could spoil some of what was simply an outstanding story line.

The team responsible for tone setting, however big or small, I cannot commend you all enough. The Outsider delivers extensively on thrills, twists, and characters with enough emotional depth they could easily carry several seasons of content. While it does bring its fair share of violence, it’s more than appropriately balanced by a mountain of mystery and (by extension) a bit of folklore. While personally a big fan of Ben Mendelsohn, this was my first outing with Cynthia Erivo (Harriet). All I can say is, this woman will have a long and beautiful career ahead. Her work here as Holly Gibney commands attention, and blends beautifully with Mendelsohn’s more gritty/painfully realistic persona.

So, do I recommend it? With certainty. Weighing in with 10 episodes, The Outsider is worth a binge. Hell, set a weekend aside; you simply won’t regret it. For spectacular tone, script and an ensemble cast, this one scores a flawless 10/10 from me. Oh and by the way, I truly hope King provides more source material to deliver a second season to the masses. No complaints from me! Anyways, thanks for stopping by as always.

Peep, out👋🏼

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Dead To Me

Netflix, you continue to outdo yourselves. Now, Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini of course need no introduction. But, if you were looking for a female duo to absolutely crush a comedy series, look no further. Dead to Me follows its two lead females through a labyrinth of murder, lies, deceit and redemption. As it pays homage to its namesake, a consistent theme in this show is quite up front. It tells of people dying, people pretending to be dead, and a couple of badass women covering up a little bit of everything.

With now 2 seasons released, the plot line of Dead to Me has only gotten wilder and more chaotic with each passing episode. Now, despite a decent amount of violence and “adult content” if you will, it can’t be overstated that at its core, the show is a dark comedy. It will make you laugh, make you wince, and maybe make you ask yourself why we haven’t seen more of these two in killer roles like this? Cardellini brings a character so ditzy, so unique, and arguably wholesome to life in a way that often has you love and hate her all in the same few minute span. Applegate plays the tough, rough-around-the-edges mom hellbent on keeping her family up and running despite an onslaught of crazy circumstances.

Enough rambling, because I could praise this one for hours. If you’re into the comedy/drama/action tri-blend or ever felt like a Velma fan, my God check this one out. For its witty charm and ever-growing maze of dark comedy, Dead to Me scores a 9/10 from me. As per usual, thank you for dropping in. And as always,

Peep, out 👋🏼

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DEVS

If you’re as big of a Sci-Fi nerd as myself, or you’ve seen some of the previous works of one Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) and found them just a bit more than good filmmaking, this 2020 FX on Hulu exclusive “DEVS” may be worth 7 or so hours of your time. Oh and yes, that is most definitely Nick Offerman of Parks & Rec fame just above; and he’s absolutely excellent here. So, what exactly is “DEVS”?

This series renders itself damn near impossible to describe without setting off a domino effect of spoilers, and potentially ruining what I found to be one of the most immersive TV experiences I’ve had in quite a while. At a glance, I can say that the series explores themes centered around human free will, determinism, and what it truly means to be “alive”. But beyond this, DEVS smothers its viewer in a world as complex and layered as something Christopher Nolan or Denis Villenueve of Bladerunner 2049 status would conjure. From sound editing to his visual prowess, Alex Garland (writer/director/producer) seems to command himself at the table of sci-fi kings of this generation.

Again, I find myself struggling on how to describe this series without being too cryptic or too spoiling. I will simply say this: if you think you may be interested in a mini series on the scale of something like Nolan’s “ Interstellar”or Villenueve’s “Arrival”, please look no further. DEVS’ cast leaves little to be desired, and carries a tone as eerie and gripping as anything I’ve seen all year. Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno deliver performances that are rich, and powerful. The soundtrack and visuals are rivaled by few, and I can’t give enough praise to the consistency in tone.

For being able to capture my attention from its first frame to its last, and for challenging its viewers to think critically at every turn, DEVS stole my full attention. While I’d absolutely love a second season, I’m not so sure this 8 episode arc needs a single second more to be said. Its score- a whopping 10/10. Here’s to more from Alex Garland, and thank you as always for stopping by.

Peep, out👋🏼

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What We Do In The Shadows

Any Taika Waititi fans out there? Vampire comedy fans? Better yet, die-hard “Office” fans? I thought so. If you’ve somehow not yet heard of FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows”, let me tell you why it’s absolutely worth giving a shot.

Based on a film of the same name released in 2014, Shadows tells the story of a quad of vampires and a “vampire familiar” living their everyday lives in Staten Island, NY. The series is created by Jermaine Clement (also co-creator of the film of the same name) which he did alongside Taika Waititi (Thor:Ragnarok, JoJo Rabbit). It is a truly laugh-out-loud comedy shot and told in the style of a “mockumentary”, same as you’d see on the likes of Parks & Rec and The Office. A typical episode could range from our vampire roomies fighting a group of werewolves, to being hunted down by some amazing guest stars from the likes of Nick Kroll, Craig Robinson, Tilda Swinton, Mark Hamill and loads more. It’s vulgar, it’s ridiculous, and I absolutely love it.

As of writing my review, What We Do in the Shadows has just wrapped up on season 2, and has more than doubled its viewership since its debut season. Confirmed for a season 3 with all cast members returning, I’m already chomping at the bit for more from these nonsensical vamps. With TV comedy already being a particularly picky genre for me, I leave What We Do in the Shadows with an 8.5/10. PS- I promise you the theme song will play in your head for hours. Hope you all enjoy it, and per usual,

Peep, out👋🏼

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Schitt’s Creek

When it comes to comedy, especially TV comedy, I’m not necessarily the easiest to please. In fact, the only TV comedy that I’ve ever watched front to back (numerous times, in fact) was the hit comedy “The Office”. That said, my wife and I had heard several people talking and raving about this wonderfully titled Netflix comedy called “Schitt’s Creek”. Admittedly skeptical, I gave the first episode a shot and thought it was decent, but by no means was I floored. Then I gave it a season, and another season. What felt like just a week or two later, I had finished the entire 6 season story that is Schitt’s Creek. So, what’s the fuss?

For starters, the show tells the story of a wealthy family (the Roses) who through a series of unfortunate events lose everything they have. A millionaire family shrunk down to nothing. Well, almost nothing. It turns out the father, Johnny Rose (played by Eugene Levy of American Pie fame) at some point jokingly bought an entire town by the name of “Schitt’s Creek” that he and his family are now forced into living in. With absolutely nothing, our family of four find their stay in a hotel room with nothing but the clothes on their backs and damn near nothing else. So, what’s the premise?

Well, Schitt’s Creek is at its roots a family comedy about an immensely wealthy family who is forced to learn on the fly how to adapt and “live as the poor folks do”. But beyond this, it is much much more. Written and directed largely by Daniel Levy (who plays David Rose) and his father Eugene, the show tackles a number of feats in its 80 episode span. It smashes stigmas of homophobia, gender roles, and pansexuality without so much as blinking an eye. In fact, I can confidently say that this was the first time in my life I felt strongly connected to an on-screen gay relationship, that did an amazing job of telling their story. The show makes leaps and bounds for the LGBTQ community, and star/ show writer Daniel Levy continues to be an inspiration for so many who’ve watched. The cast is all around excellent, with particular praise to the wonderful Catherine O’Hara (Moira Rose) as one of the most entertaining “TV mom” roles I have ever seen.

Ultimately, if you are looking for a show that will have you laughing out loud and possibly crying all in the same sitting, this one’s for you. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s kid friendly, just due to some occasional drug use/ sexual themes, but for teens on up, Schitt’s Creek just so happens to stand as my second all time-favorite comedy series to date. All the praise to Daniel Levy and this team of outstanding writers and acting ensemble, as Schitt’s Creek bangs out a 9/10 from me. Thank you all for stopping by, and as always,

Peep, out👋🏼

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Defending Jacob

Well, it has admittedly been a time since my last review here on the blog. The country and of course the world, for that matter are in quite a rut. I lost a bit of inspiration, but like most of us, I found myself some spare time. Some time to (unfortunately) not spend in a theater, but to spend in front of a television. Some of you may know I am typically “not much of a TV guy”, but I had to get over this during this whole stay at home madness. So enough about the absence, I’m back and ready to get the creative juices flowing; this time, with a handful of shows I’ve watched over the course of the past 2 months that I think you just might enjoy. Surprisingly, all of them for very different reasons. To kick off, we’ll be taking a deep dive into Apple TV+ series “Defending Jacob”.

Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect as Apple’s streaming service hadn’t necessarily caught my attention yet, but Jacob came out stellar from Ep1. The series tells the story of a family and their son, 14-year old Jacob Barber accused of murder. Chris Evans (Captain America, Snowpiercer) plays the father of Jacob (played by Jaeden Martell) and Michelle Dockery (The Gentlemen) as his mother, respectively. Right away, the tone of this series reminded me of The Outsider (which we will be reviewing here very soon). Ominous, intense, and nail-biting. The cinematography here is outstanding, and the soundtrack locks down the deliverance of a slow build up that pulses against its viewers all 8 episodes through.

So, what makes Defending Jacob worth a sit through? Quite simply, you’ll be hard pressed to find a crime drama/ murder story that executed on the level that this one does. Despite the series being based on an existing novel of the same name, it takes a couple of distinctly different paths for the show in its final hours. Chris Evans as the father of our accused murderer provides a performance only someone with outstanding versatility such as his could achieve, and Michelle Dockery as Jacob’s mother beckons herself to be a household name in the next year or two. This series demands we think not only about the morality behind what is “good” or what is “innocent”, but that we understand these concepts have so many seeming lines of grey. It is in these lines of grey that Defending Jacob dances freely through, around and within. While I understand its frequent critiques for spreading its source material too thin, I could not disagree more. Each episode commands attention, and a mind that is open to all sides of this story. Overall rating- 9.5/10. Thank you all for reading, and I can’t wait to share more of these with you guys in the coming weeks. As always,

Peep, out 👋🏼

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Remember how much everyone loved Suicide Squad? No, I’m kidding. Margot Robbie is back as the psychotic fiasco that is Harley Quinn, and this time she’s brought company. And, despite many early precautions, critics seem to be enjoying it? Well, I’ve got a few hunches about why; this one will be brief.

David Ayer’s Suicide Squad back in 2016 didn’t do so much to thrill newcomers or the villains’ previously existing fan base, but with an insane soundtrack and a good chunk of help from Margot Robbie, Leto, and Will Smith, the film managed to do at least decent in the box office. But who asked for this sequel? The answer is, really no one! But, assumption is DC thought this could be a big way to scoop up some easy money in and odd, near- Valentine’s Day release.

So what do we end up with in this film? It’s very, very simple. We get DC Films’ attempt at a female-led Deadpool, (notable resemblances even to the plot of Deadpool 2) that leaves quite a lot to be desired. Margot Robbie is excellent as Harley Quinn, and there’s no doubt in my mind she was born to play this role. But, her whimsical spirit and ridiculous on-screen activities don’t make enough for an interesting, or meaningful second act for her character. The villain, played by one of my favorites Ewan McGregor, ultimately feels super one dimensional. He’s intimidating, he’s vibrant and he’s brutal; but he is given very little motivation to be “believable” as the man who should end Harley Quinn and her band of misfit killers.

What is meant to be ultimately an ensemble movie does build to becoming one, but it is not until the final 20-25 minutes that we finally see this group of assassins come together in a big (and pretty fun) way. The highlights of the film were clearly the action sequences, Robbie’s performance in the title role, and damn near not much else. So, why do I think critics are loving it? Well, the film pushes a major agenda, and it’s apparent from damn near beginning to end; and I’ve gotta say it, I think the critics are a little bit afraid to tread against that grain right now. Is it a bad movie? Not at all. Is it going to revive DC films beyond Shazam and mark the beginning of their comeback? Oh, I highly doubt that either. But hey, maybe you’ll dig it. Birds of Prey” nets a score of 6.5/10 from me. Thanks for reading,

Peep, out 👋🏼

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1917

It goes without saying that when a film scoops up 2 Golden Globe Awards just being released (limited, until Jan 10th) a week prior, it had to pack something of a punch. Now, I had seen the trailers and thought “wow, with a cast like that, I’m at least somewhat interested?”. Regardless, let’s quickly talk why 1917 ended up being well-worth it’s burst of hype.

The film, on the surface level, looks to be massively star-studded; but what’s crazy, is the film really only follows the story of two young actors, George MacKay ( as Will Schofield) and Dean-Charles Chapman (as Tom Blake). Given an extremely important message to deliver in a WWI era landscape, the film feels like an experience from the very start. Without touching on the plot at all, which is simple but altogether vastly entertaining, this film should become instantly admired by its sheer cinematography talent and shooting style.

Cinematographer on the film Roger Deakins and his team took extreme caution to shoot with extremely long takes to give the viewer the notion that the entire film had been shot in one very long take. And to be fair, the largest amount of this film is in fact one large shot. Aside from this, the acting power of the film’s lead (MacKay) and the attention to detail in every single frame are enough to admire for hours and hours on end. But truly, it could not have reached award-winning status so quickly without a story as believable, raw, and real as the one delivered here with 1917. It isn’t even a war story, honestly; it’s more a story about a man and his commitment to a brotherhood. 1917 earns a truly elusive 10/10 from me. Hope you guys dig it, and thanks for reading!

Peep, out👋🏼