Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE GREAT SEASON 1 (Hulu)

HUZZAH!!! Get used to that word, you are going to be hearing a lot of it if you check out the great new television show on Hulu called…well…THE GREAT. If you are a constant reader of my reviews, you know I’m not too fond of period piece movies, any kind of that kind of content in general…I hated history class in school. But The Great, very much a period piece, is different in many, many ways, one of which is that when the title card comes up on each episode, it has an asterisk above the t, and then below it says “an occasionally true story.” Very much a fictionalized true story then, because this television show has all the characters almost talking, and especially cursing at each other, like we do today. There’s even loads of dick and fart jokes for me to enjoy! The Great stars Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in what and Wikipedia describes as “A royal woman living in rural Prussia during the 18th century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor. It is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. The series is fictionalized and portrays her youth and marriage with Emperor Peter and focus on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.” That woman is Catherine The Great (hadn’t heard of this historical figure until now), but whatever category it decides to enter when Emmy nominations come about (either drama or comedy) both Hoult and Fanning much deserve to be in the lead actor and actress categories. They have never been better, their performances alone worth checking out the show. I have a feeling though that it will enter the drama category, kind of like Better Call Saul does, even though I found myself laughing much more than being shocked or awed or sad at either of these two shows. If you are still in quarantine and not one of the fucking idiots heading out to un-social distancing like beaches and parties this past Memorial Day weekend, I highly suggest checking this one out, you will have a shit load of fun while also sort of semi-experiencing a nice, yet very fictional, history lesson.

This review is probably not going to be that long, as I don’t know much about the history of Catherine the Great to do a comparison, but then again, if something is as entertaining as this, you shouldn’t really care and just take in the overall jist of what happens as semi-true and about the other 90% with a grain of salt. If you are a stickler as a history buff, this might not be for you. While there is some drama, in this there is tons of sex, sex jokes, fart jokes, dick jokes, squabbles that will remind you of a lot of the bullshit millenials fight over these days, etc. etc. etc. That’s about 40% of why you should watch this, the overarching story of the attempted coup of Peter (Hoult) is 10% of why you should watch this, and then the last 50% are the performances, especially from leads Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. They are hilarious and have never been better, and hopefully the Emmy’s recognize that come eventual award season. This series I think is what the film The Favourite tried to set out and accomplish but ultimately failed. I know that film was critically lauded, but I just didn’t care for it. When going to the theater, I was expecting a modern take on the period piece movie formula. I got some of that, but mostly weirdness and dread that I couldn’t explain the basis for that overshadowed it. This show, which coincidentally Nicholas Hoult has roles in both, succeeds 100% of the time and then some. And I just did some more research before finishing up this review, and come to find out that the screenplay writer Tony McNamara, who had a direct hand in all 10 episodes of the series, also co-wrote The Favourite. Maybe he did The Great because he was unsatisfied with how that turned out personally? Maybe the weirdness from The Favourite came from the other co-writer or director Yorgos Lanthimos? Who knows? It doesn’t matter, the fact of the matter is that I would watch period piece films every day if they were like this. However, I do know not to expect that, as most want an accurate depiction of the times. This was just set out to capture audiences’ attention with a fun and different take on it all. And in that regards, it is great. Huzzah!!!


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES (Netflix)

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES on Netflix, which was just released this past weekend is actually not bad at all, if you can swallow that it is basically just The Fault In Our Stars but instead of cancer/disease it is depression/suicide. Don’t worry, this is not going to be me on another rant on how nothing is original in Hollywood anymore, because I managed to look past the fact that this was just another play on an age old tragedy, and find the good, decent, and most importantly, original inside. The music in this movie is incredible, I’m still humming the instrumentals out loud as I type this. The acting is perfection from Elle Fanning (per usual) and Justice Smith (his career best so far). And I think it displays the themes and issues surrounding depression and suicide well albeit in only a few new unique ways, mostly messages we’ve heard of before. Be warned, this movie is very sad and you will probably cry (probably like you did with The Fault In Our Stars), but it is entertaining and tells a good story and some might even say it could be inspirational for those suffering from depression. If you just go into it with an open mind and try to keep the similar films comparisons at bay, it’s a solid Netflix film.

The film (based on a book, like The Fault In Our Stars was) is about a girl named Violet who is about to jump off a bridge where her sister died tragically in a car accident months earlier, when a boy named Finch just happens to be doing his usual exercise routine of running, notices her and gets her to step off. He then tries to help her by seeing the bright side of life, and inserting himself into her life as much as possible, including making her be his school project partner where they have to wander around, visit and report on random places in Indiana. Suffice to say, they fall in love and if you’ve seen The Fault In Our Stars, and switch the cancer element out with depression, you’ll know exactly how it ends. So…I guess I should’ve put a spoiler alert warning? Anyway, even with the similarities, the characters don’t do all the same things in their time together, and the acting and characters are definitely different and more unique from each other to keep things fresh. I’ve kept my eye on Elle Fanning as an actress ever since her excellent debut in Super 8, and it is just a matter of time before she gets a huge big break in the theater and possibly snag an Oscar. Justice Smith gives us his career best performance so far as Finch (you might know him from his turns in Detective Pikachu Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Paper Towns, Every Day and the TV series The Get Down) and proves that he might be a force to be reckoned with. He just needs bigger and better roles and hopefully isn’t just reduced to Netflix films in the future.

Anyway, this is going to be one of my shorter reviews, as there is not much to say about the film without truly spoiling it all. The movie is heartbreaking yet inspirational and entertaining to say the least. Make sure you have tissues handy. The film is directed by Brett Haley, who I’ve only seen one other film which was The Hero starring Sam Elliott, and that was pretty good, even though it was basically Crazy Heart. I do need to check out Heart Beats Loud that stars Nick Offerman, I’ve heard that is excellent. The film was co-written by the author herself Jennifer Niven, so I’m assuming that the film doesn’t stray too far from the novel, and more surprisingly, Liz Hannah, who co-wrote the excellent Steven Spielberg film The Post, and the most recent comedy Long Shot with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. Those films had excellent dialogue and it is no exception here. The number one thing that can make or break these YA dramas is sometimes the dialogue. I have seen great concept after great concept being ruined by what is coming out of the actors mouths. Thankfully, that is not the case with All The Bright Places, everything said feels realistic and true. So yeah, if you need a good cry, definitely cue this up on Netflix, just know that you might be watching The Fault In Our Stars as somewhat of a copy cat double feature.