ZACH’S ZANY TV SPECIAL REVIEWS: FRIENDS – THE REUNION (HBO MAX)

If you are a die hard Friends fan like I am, and you can’t really see through the glitz and glamour of what the producers of this special have given you…if wool is constantly covering your eyes and you don’t nitpick shit to death just so that your vision of “crystal clear” is happening while you are watching something you were eagerly anticipating, well then, feel lucky, because FRIENDS: THE REUNION is right up your alley. And if you aren’t fans of the show, well, you already know this isn’t for you.

Let this review come with a warning. Not only are my wife and I die hard Friends fans, but we could kick any of your asses in a trivia contest of the show. We have watched the entire series maybe 6 to 7 times over and can quote lines that don’t come up for another couple of scenes. We have the Lego sets of Central Perk and the recently new released one of the Apartments. We have Funko pops of them, we have trivia games on the show that are so tedious and boring because it doesn’t challenge us. So needless to say, if you tried to one up us on your knowledge of the show, you better bring your A plus game.

But I digress, I’m back to one of my rare longer reviews today (the last one I did was maybe the best & worst films of 2020 5 months ago), but hopefully not too long, to tell you that I didn’t think the Friends Reunion was all that special. And it wasn’t because of our six famous friends, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, & Matthew Perry. They were great, and whenever they were all on screen, just telling stories & reminiscing, it was wonderful. That alone is why I’m giving the whole thing a passing grade, because those parts (and the interviews with the shows creators, behind the scenes footage, and the tales of how they got cast for the roles in the first place) are wonderful. It’s the bullshit filler, it’s fucking annoying James Corden as the host, it’s the blink and you’ll miss them cameos from recurring guests like Maggie Wheeler, Tom Selleck & Elliot Gould (they are literally there for less than a minute), it’s the random celebrity cameos WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FUCKING SHOW WHEN IT AIRED & it’s the complete absence of PAUL RUDD EVEN BEING MENTION LET ALONE NOT SHOWING UP…that made this thing an only one time watch for me.

This could’ve been 5 to 6 hours of just the cast (& special guests and recurring cast members that were on/had to do with the show) on the set of Central Perk, or in their apartment sets, or even the fountain location, or a mix match of them all, just talking and reminiscing, and it would’ve been better than what we got here. Sure, there are highlights like the cast actually playing the game again from the episode “The One With The Embryos” (my personal favorite episode), but it is short lived and doesn’t go on for very long. Instead, there were was too much filler. There was too many old clips of the show that I’ve seen a dozen times before. Now don’t get me wrong, showing takes that didn’t make it (for example, Matt LeBlanc’s arm coming out of his socket in the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready) and seeing them react to old bloopers was great, I’m talking about the parts where they are re-doing scenes from classic episodes in a new round table. Instead of just letting the cast do their thing and watching them try to become these characters again on their own (but much older), they inter splice their new performances w/old clips from the show. Hey dumbass producers, any Friends uber fan would know how they performed it back then, we just want to see them solely perform it again now. We don’t need those old clips spliced in as member berries, it ruins their performance that they are trying to complete now. (By the way, Lisa Kudrow was the best of them all, able to slip into character with the high pitch noises so easily even though she’s 57 years old now).

But what was most annoying was the bullshit filler. I’m talking about either:

A. Celebrities like David Beckham or Mindy Kaling, who were never on the show and had nothing to do with its production, telling us what the show meant to them

B. Random fucking people around the world who were never on the show and had nothing to do with its production, telling us what the show meant to them

C. Dumb fucking cameos from Cara Delevigne, Cindy Crawford, or Justin Fucking Beiber (WHO AGAIN HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOW! The only extended interview cameo they got right was Reese Witherspoon)

When put together, all those stupid interviews and footage probably consisted of 20 to 30 minutes of the 1 hr 40 minute special…where instead we should’ve just got another 20 to 30 minutes of the core cast just shooting the shit. Listen, I DO NOT GIVE TOO SHITS OF WHAT DAVID BECKHAM, MINDY KALING, OR SOME RANDOM WOMAN FROM CHINA THINK ABOUT THE SHOW OR HOW IT IMPACTED THEIR LIVES. I care about the fucking core cast and how they all got along so well without any drama for 10 straight years. You don’t hear about that shit happening anymore…well that’s not true, I heard The Office pulled off that feat too, and the Seinfeld cast did it, and the It’s Always Sunny gang are still going strong…but still. We still have all 6 core cast alive, and you have them in a room together again? And for the last time? STICK WITH ONLY THEM!

And why fucking James Corden as host? Hasn’t he been controversial as shit lately with his choice of roles and outside fame behavior? Why him? You know what would’ve been the icing on the cake? Fucking Paul Rudd being the host. I guarantee you if the producers would’ve paid him the same amount of $ that they paid the core cast to come back here one last time, he would’ve fucking done it. And you don’t have Janice, Richard, Gunther, Mr. Heckles, or Monica’s parents just to show up for two seconds to say hi. You bring them in for about 10 minutes each to discuss what they love so much about being on the show and share stories as well. I do not care about someone that is currently fucking Posh Spice to say why he rewatches the series every now and then. I DON’T GIVE A FUCK. It should’ve been Paul Rudd as host and the just core cast, recurring special guests and creators in a multi set sit down, just reminiscing. God damn it that would’ve been something spectacular.

And I know some of you were wanting a true reunion special. What I mean is a scripted hour or two hour long episode, with a story line that updates their characters and where they are at (although the reunion briefly touches upon what the cast think their characters would be up to now, which was brief but nice). But we don’t need an episode like that, because the Friends ending was perfect. And to those Gen Z’ers that said that Rachel gave up her dream job for a man, go fucking fuck yourself. She gave up her dream job for HER FAMILY to be together. Not just her, Emma and Ross, but Monica, Chandler, Phoebe & Joey as well (let’s pretend that Joey didn’t move to California and have a shitty two season abysmal spin off series). Rachel, as a character, truly transcended those 10 seasons where she could’ve gotten any big job she wanted back in New York. Fuck your whiny ass woke shit. I’m tired of it.

But if there were an episode, pray tell me, how would it work? They all moved out of their respective apartments, save for Ross and Joey (if you don’t count the spin off series), so you couldn’t really have them in Monica’s Purple apartment again. I don’t know, I’m just glad they left well enough alone. I had an idea if they did do a true reunion special, and I’ll go ahead and share it since I’m just blabbing at this point. If they did a true reunion show, it should’ve went “Bo Peep, Toy Story 4 style”, and maybe had given the character of Joey a proper ending. Although the episode couldn’t have happened now, but instead maybe 7 years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the show ending. It could’ve have Joey still in show business but just getting these odds and ends supporting roles that didn’t really give him anything to do. But suddenly, he’s offered the role of a lifetime that could use his acting talents to his advantage for once, there is only one problem. The movie script is about an older male going through a mid life crisis, and Joey still feels like he has enough youth left in him that he doesn’t want to leave younger roles behind & be type cast as an older actor. So the Friends get together in New York to push Joey to just accept the role and move on from the past. He accepts the movie, and he gets nominated for a bunch of awards & finally gets taken seriously as an actor, even though he hasn’t lost any of his charm. And without ruining any of the other characters, you could have had minor side stories with the other core cast. You could have Monica & Chandler try to visit whoever is living in her purple apartment now, and when they get a look inside, it is messy as fuck and Monica, Chandler, and their 10 year old kids clean it up but they remodel it to basically look like it did before. You could have Mike and Phoebe with a couple of kids of their own, and maybe he or she has some kind of a job offer where they would move out of New York. Maybe the same for Ross & Rachel, but instead where maybe Carol, Susan & Ben are going to move across the country and whether or not they should keep their whole family together. It all has to do with letting go of the past to move onto something new. Something simple, and nothing that completely alters the ending of the original series, but to just give Joey a proper ending, and some other side characters too like Carol, Susan & Ben.

But I digress, that was a pipe dream of mine and it will never happen. I’m here reviewing the reunion special we got and will just conclude my rant by saying that while I was disappointed in it (quite a bit at certain points), I still enjoyed watching it for the most part…but I just wish it was better planned out. I mean, the whole thing was fucking delayed a year by the God damn fucking pandemic…you are telling me they couldn’t have looked at what they had planned and made a couple of changes? This seemed a little last minute put together. Oh well. The special didn’t ruin the original show, it just made me want to watch it all over again for the 7th or 8th time and isn’t that what truly matters?

6.5 out of 10

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE UNICORN SEASON 1

My wife Diane and I just happened to come upon THE UNICORN SEASON 1 while perusing Netflix a week or two ago. This show is originally on CBS, and we do not have cable nor are we signed up for CBS All Access, although my father had mentioned that he and my mother watched and enjoyed it when they had CBS’s streaming service for free for a month back in June. We ended up pressing play based on that recommendation and also due to the fact that my wife and I are huge fans of anything Walton Goggins. If you don’t know who he is, it’s a real shame, but I’m sure that you do. He was one of Vic Mackey’s crew in the series The Shield, and he was also the main antagonist throughout the series of Justified and Vice Principals. He’s also been a supporting player in movies such as Shanghai Noon, The Hateful Eight, Tomb Raider, Ant-Man And The Wasp, Predators, Maze Runner, Words On Bathroom Walls, the list goes on and on, as he’s had a hell of a lucrative career. And to me, he’s an incredible actor that needs to win an Emmy or Oscar sometime in his career. He has yet to be the leading man in a movie though, but at least CBS is finally taking a chance with him as one on The Unicorn. And while this show is a typical sitcom that IMDB describes with the following, “A widower is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life, only to realize he’s utterly unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and equally unprepared for the dating world where he’s suddenly a hot commodity,” he makes the show rise above it’s done before premise and churns out very funny and endearing half hour episodes. The first season just ended a couple of months ago and it has been renewed for a second, which is due to film and premiere who knows when because of the asshole that is this country and COVID-19. But I very much am looking forward to it, and maybe we even wait for the episodes to hit a streaming service I do have, as this is a fantastic binge-able series.

A unicorn to a lot of women are men who are straight, attractive, single, monogamous, funny, employed, communicative, caring and interested in her. Walton Goggins character, Wade Felton, is the perfect example of one. He’s even more sought after because he is a widower and not a divorcee. The sitcom has a great supporting cast of characters, two other families that all became friends awhile ago because of Wade’s wife. They consist of known faces such as Rob Corddry, Maya Lynn Robinson, Michaela Watkins, and Omar Benson Miller, and in each episode they each have their side B and C plots that correlate and sometimes intertwine with Wade’s A plot. Thankfully, the show isn’t a multi camera sitcom and doesn’t have a laugh track, which proves that it is confident in its ability to make its audience laugh, which it does. Walton Goggins and co. provide a lot of laughs throughout the first seasons’s 18 episode run. The only thing I was disappointed in involving the show was a stronger season ender (I did my research and am pretty sure they got done filming before coronavirus hit). Yeah, they do a full circle character arc wise and they all reflect on how they have done the past year with the anniversary of Wade’s wife’s death and they all deal with Grace’s, one of Wade’s two kids, dance and there is a potential mystery woman that Wade meets up with and hopes to see again, but usually sitcom’s pack more of a punch with a bigger cliffhanger, especially in a premiere season. But that’s just me trying to find something to complain about as no television show is ever perfect or has the perfect season (Except maybe Breaking Bad). The creators of the show are also the creators of such classics like 3rd Rock From The Sun and Grounded For Life, so they know they’re comedy shit, even if they had misfires such as Cavemen. If you are reading this, don’t have anything to watch, and wanted something light and very funny to pass some time binge-ing wise, then you definitely should not miss The Unicorn. Can’t wait for Season 2 and hopefully it doesn’t get a renewal reversal because of Cunt Covid.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: MOST DANGEROUS GAME (Quibi)

Unlike the shit show last night during the debate, Quibi’s MOST DANGEROUS GAME is certainly not a shit show. In fact, it takes The Stranger’s place as being my favorite thing I’ve watched on this quirky little app to date. I’m starting to come around on Quibi as I’m finding more and more things on there that peak my interest. Thank God it’s free or I never would’ve discovered it. And no, I’m not a fucking shill, it’s just that all three webisode series I’ve watched, I’ve been constantly entertained, even when the content was only okay (The Fugitive). Sometimes much more entertaining than a lot of the stuff Netflix just sputters out every day. Yes, yet again I’m reviewing this as a movie than a webisode TV series. Especially Most Dangerous Game, as it is easily the best shot, best looking, best acted, and most cinematic of the three that I’ve blazed through. It has a fantastic performance by Christoph Waltz, who was nominated for a supporting Emmy for this (when doesn’t he get nominated though?), and probably the best performance of Liam Hemsworth’s career, yes, he can do more than just look wooden during The Hunger Games (even though this is similar to those movies, kind of, he even cries in this and is believable!). I was unbelievably entertained by this and would even watch it again down the line, presuming that Quibi is still here in six months and my free subscription doesn’t completely go to waste.

I’m not telling you to get Quibi to watch this shit, I’m just saying if you happen to have it, you might want to give these webisodes a shot. Most Dangerous Game is basically a modern version of The Most Dangerous Game with several twists. Per IMDB, it describes these webisodes as: “Desperate to take care of his pregnant wife before a terminal illness can take his life, Dodge Maynard accepts an offer to participate in a deadly game where he soon discovers that he’s not the hunter – but the prey.” He has to survive a full 24 hours, stay in Detroit, and follow a whole list of rules that could get him disqualified. Money is deposited into his bank account every hour, and if he survives the whole night, he gets 24.5 million. If this were a movie that actually debuted in theaters, it would’ve been a wonderful little treat. And not that expensive as well. For as low budget as these Quibi webisodes are…they are wonderfully cinematic in scope sometimes (not so much The Fugitive). They all play out like a very enjoyable 90 minute to 2 hr film when put all together. Maybe if Quibi is sold whoever buys it up will release them as films? That remains to be seen. But this one was a true winner. It was tense as fuck, the action was half way decent, the acting was serious yet fun, and it was also fun trying to identify the 5 hunters after Hemsworth, even though they were easily identifiable.

Christoph Waltz is in this much more than you would think and while we’ve seen him excellently play a villain and excellently play a sympathetic character (he won Oscars for both), here we get to see him play a morally grey one, which he of course pulls off in spades. Everybody here seemed like they wanted to be in this, and not just for a paycheck. The 5 hunters, who I won’t spoil who they are but one or two of them might have a recognizable face to you, are quirky yet dangerous. I really enjoyed the big warehouse climax yet also enjoyed the smaller and more intimate moments. Sarah Gadon, who plays Hemsworth’s wife in this, isn’t just a ignorant character, but actually goes about to try and find her husband in the correct ways once he disappears. It’s just a well made tight thriller, the only thing hampering it from its true potential are ad breaks and the cuts to black after each ‘webisode.’ This one was also created by Nick Santora, who did The Fugitive (review was posted yesterday), but you could tell his heart was more into this one, as it shows in the meticulous quality of the production. I would like to see more of these “hunt” games with Christoph Waltz coming back to play the host, but let’s face it, Quibi’s in trouble and there probably won’t be any follow ups to this. But maybe that is a good thing as more of the same could screw up the charm that this one has. It’s sad that the most dangerous game for Quibi is getting more subscribers…but you can’t win them all. At least it has a winner or two on the inside.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE FUGITIVE (Quibi)

Yet another Quibi mini webisode television series that if put all together would be a 90 minute to 2 hr movie (closer to 1 hr 45 here). So that means yet another review from me treating it as a movie and not a webisode series. I didn’t think I’d watch anything else on my free 6 month subscription, however I forgot about this little remake that stars Kiefer Sutherland basically playing a toned down Jack Bauer with an in and out southern accent. Which is kind of funny because most of this plays out in real time. It’s like Quibi almost got the rights to 24, but then it slipped through their fingers at the last minute (evidence of this later)? But the real question should be: Do we honestly need yet ANOTHER iteration of The Fugitive? I mean, if you popped the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones classic into your media player nowadays it still holds up tremendously (it was rightfully nominated for Best Picture as well back in 1993). And didn’t we have a remake tv series not too long ago that stumbled and fell right out of the gate? So why again? Because Quibi needed some kind of content and everyone is out of original ideas? That’s probably always going to be my go to answer for the rest of 2020: that everyone is out of original ideas but when Christopher Nolan comes along and makes a unique blockbuster spy adventure everyone is scared to go to a theater because of a dumb virus that 99% of the world’s population survives even if exposed to said virus. Pfffft. This remake remake remake shit is all on some of you cowards (ranting again I know, I’m just passionate about movie theaters).

Anyway, is this reiteration of The Fugitive any good? Kind of. Yes and no. Do the mini webisodes with constant ads, starts and stops, stop it from being decently good? Absolutely. Does calling this ‘The Fugitive also stop it from being decently good? Abso-fucking-lutely. If this were a movie with no stops and recurring ads of any kind, it would be a very decent one time watch. Other than that it is entirely forgettable, The Stranger on the same service being more worth your time (I reviewed that last week). I guess you could call this go around more relatable to our times as both Kiefer Sutherland’s police squad and the news rush to conclusions and put out ‘fake’ news about our main protagonists character, instead of taking a breather to analyse all the facts. Per IMDB, it describes this The Fugitive iteration as: “With the city in a state of panic and misinformation traveling at the speed of social media, Mike’s life and family hang in the balance as he becomes – The Fugitive.” The city of Los Angeles is in a state of panic because a bomb just exploded in the rail system, and cameras happened to record this Mike character on his phone in a black hoodie while exiting (the real bomber is wearing a black hoodie just like his coincidentally). The reason they jump to this Mike so fast is because he got out of jail 6 months ago because he was involved in a DUI accident that left two people dead…but of course the movie reveals all is not what it seems. This was just so that Mike can be a very, very innocent character everyone can relate to. You can’t have any dark spots character guy, it’s either you are completely innocent after 2017 #MeToo or you are guilty for life! Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator) does his best as Mike, the totally innocent man on the run, but I mean, how hard is it to look exasperated and talk in frantic tones while you are running?

What we really need to talk about here is my theory that this was supposed to be a 24 sequel/prequel but Quibi couldn’t get the rights. Kiefer Sutherland’s character works for the CTB here, Counter Terrorist Bureau, instead of the Counter Terrorist Unit, which was what it was called on the program he is most famous for. He yells the way Jack Bauer does when stressed here, but add on more realistic curse words and a comes-and-goes southern accent just so that Fox/Disney wouldn’t sue. Most of the events play out in real time. His wife in this is said to have been killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11…Teri Bauer was killed at the end of season one of 24 by a terrorist, which coincidentally, the show premiered in 2001. The director of this entire series, Stephen Hopkins, was executive producer and even directed episodes of…you guessed it…24. The numbers add up. I just ended up pretending he was Jack Bauer and that he had somehow escaped his capture from Russia, headed back to the US under a different guise or went into witness protection and somehow still got a job working for the new organization CTB that rose from the ashes of CTU. The only thing that was really missing here was a mole, ha! (inside TV series joke). If they had gotten the right this could’ve been called 24: Fugitive or something like that. Anyway, the acting is fine for what it is, and this movie/webisode show somehow didn’t just keep hitting you over the head with fake news/police incompetence messages, it was more subtle than just yelling in your face of how and why this show is timely. And anything that has Glenn Howerton, Dennis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, in it gets a pass in my book, especially if he isn’t playing his character from his show. Which he wasn’t.

You get your cheese-y one liners here, Jack Bauer…err I mean, Kiefer’s characters has this whole dorky thing of getting his fellow officers below him to say, “Copy, sir!” which in turn, too many times to be honest, he replies with, “Music to my ears.” The action and running are fine for what it is, the direction is adequate, and to be honest, I was entertained for the short 14, 7 to 9 minute, “webisodes.” This would’ve worked better as a television movie no doubt. Other than calling this show The Fugitive, my one other complaint is that it seems like the real villain comes off as really stupid all at once, as Mike puts together what he saw when trying to help victims after the bombing before he was chased off by the police, combined with the fact that the villain stupidly reveals himself to Mike when if he would’ve just stayed silent it he would’ve gotten away with it. And then at one point Mike leads the cops to the real villain’s house and the evidence of the bombing is just laid out all on the table. A little too many plot conveniences just to move the story along wouldn’t you say? But hey, people get caught all the time for stupid shit that they do in the real world so who am I to say? None of this surprises me seeing as the main writer and creator of this revitalization is Nick Santora, who is executive producer and writer on other plot convenience shows (yet I still watched them and love them still to this day) such as Prison Break, Vegas, Law & Order, and Breakout Kings. He’s just going by formula and when a paycheck comes your way once you get that formula still going like clockwork, can you really blame the guy? So, before I’m caught ranting again, I’ll run out of this review by saying this is a half way decent entertaining one time watch, but forgettable as convicted small time con artists.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: JURASSIC WORLD – CAMP CRETACEOUS

How…in the Jurassic Park…can a young adult animated television show be better than the 3rd movie in the original trilogy and the abysmal Fallen Kingdom of the new trilogy? How? I mean, the first several episodes of JURASSIC WORLD: CAMP CRETACEOUS have kind of a “we’ve seen it all before” meh set up…yet still surprisingly serviceable…yet once it hits that halfway point, the story really takes off. And once you realize that this show is actually canon and takes place a little before, mostly during, and a little after the first Jurassic World, somehow…this show found a way…to become masterful. Especially episodes 4 – 8 and especially especially the last 3. THIS should’ve been the live action 2 to 2 and a half hour SIDEQUEL we should’ve gotten in 2018, and not the awful, just awful Fallen Kingdom sequel that became so dumb and stupid during the 2nd half, with that dinosaurs run amok in a mansion subplot, that I wanted a Velociraptor to gouge my eyes out with that foot toe claw of theirs. And this show isn’t really for kids, kids, people die and get eaten (mostly off screen though, they aren’t that bold with a YA show), and I even thought some parts had quite the ramp-ed up tension and were a little scary for some. We watched all 8 episodes in a day. I loved it, my wife loved it, and my little boy loved it, so I thought I’d do a little review for you all since it is something great that is streaming that can pass a little bit of time by. Especially when you aren’t watching your favorite sports team lose in what I wouldn’t count as a real championship even if they did win because of all the factors that are being attributed to this blurry and confusing year.

**WARNING: GIANT RANT OF ME SHITTING ON SPORTS** Yeah, that’s right. I hate sports right now and I’m going to stand on my shoe box for a moment or two to scream out my frustrations. You all need to get out of your fucking shells and go and see something in the theater. It doesn’t even need to be Tenet, just support your local theater so I…errr I mean we, can get our new blockbusters back and ready to roll with no more bullshit fear mongering delays. I, and many others, are burnt out of this fucking virus, and in my opinion, it isn’t fair that you little sports freaks are still getting new games to watch every week. The numbers of positive cases have to be skewed at this point. Whether it is democrats trying to fear monger until the election for votes against Trump or republicans for some other agenda, this virus went completely political since week 1 and I’m tired of fucking hearing about it. I’m tired of the pointing fingers. The ones that are still gung-ho about not leaving their bubble, I’m tired of hearing that you get to watch your fucking sports in the comfort of your own home. I don’t give a shit if you can’t physically go to the games, you are still getting new shit to watch and, when you win, good new shit to watch. So in the meantime I refuse to watch or be in the same room where sports are being viewed by your morons that feel “safe” and secure at home. Go out, wear a mask, physically distance, and see a movie. These theaters aren’t God damn petri dishes where you are guaranteed to get the virus. They have good ventilation with fantastic air filters and wonderful cleaning protocols. Fuck you sports and leave your home assholes. **END OF GIANT SPORTS SUCK MY ASSHOLE RANT**

**slaps my own face** Where were we? Ah yes, this wonderful little 8 episode Jurassic World tv show. Yeah, it’s pretty damn good. Per IMDB, the show is described as follows: “Six teens attending an adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar must band together to survive when dinosaurs wreak havoc on the island.” The animation is solid, the voice casting is superb, and it even has emotional and investing side plots that are more than just running away from dinosaurs and trying to survive. The main protagonist, Darius, has flashbacks to when he was wanting to visit the park when it eventually opened with his Dad, who was on his deathbed with cancer and one of the other teens may or not be working for a rival company to InGen. The first one made me shed a couple of tears and I found the second to be an interesting twist I didn’t see coming. I even tried to predict a conventional ending, seeing as this took place during and would end just a little bit after the first Jurassic World movie, but the show again surprises by being unconventional and warranting what I’m sure will be a green lit season 2, seeing as this has been in the top ten Netflix list ever since all episodes were available starting September 18th. I mentioned earlier how this should’ve been the live action SIDE-quel (meaning it takes place during the events of the first film but still was released after it) and not Fallen Kingdom. I stand by that statement.Look, I know that the filmmakers don’t want to get rid of the star power of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, but sometimes, creatively, you need to look elsewhere or otherwise you are just going end up with the same old shit, and if it isn’t the same old shit, it might be some weird new shit that people will find too…awkward (aka the whole second half of that movie).

But this should be something to tide us all over nicely until we get to the third movie that is expected to come out next summer (crossing fingers, fuck you COVID). The ending action scene is quite simple and compact, it takes place inside a closed dock tunnel. And it actually made me say “whoa” a couple of times to the places it went. Two episodes before that, the movie takes a breather for character development and has the teens talk on a monorail for a bit (followed by a harrowing, emotional, and riveting action sequence of course). I was quite surprised by this development…as I figure a lot young adults have ADD and sometimes for them, it just has to be “action now now now, and lots of it or I’ll get bored.” Clearly these show runners were wanting something more. Or it could just be the fact that I heard that Steven Spielberg himself was creatively in the development for this show more than he normally would’ve been and said it shouldn’t be dumb-ed down and too “kiddie.” Boy I wish he was more hands on with Fallen Kingdom and hope that he is for next year’s Dominion. Any little bit helps and makes a difference it seems. I think everybody involved with this show needs to get some sort big credit. It’s not every day that you make an animated television show that is canon to the live action movies and is better than some of them. This series had me roaring for more, and with several juicy cliffhangers, I think it’s safe to say that the series to be renewed should be a walk in the park for Netflix.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE STRANGER (Quibi)

Well, today’s news explains a lot. My cellular service is T-Mobile and on their T-Mobile Tuesday App, every…you guessed it, Tuesday, has some cool little deals that you can tap and get, just for being a T-Mobile customer. Last Tuesday, a FREE 6 Month Subscription to Quibi was offered. Right when I saw that, I chuckled and predicted, “wow, they really must be desperate.” And yesterday, Quibi announced that they don’t have many subscribers at all, around only 77,000, and are looking to “explore strategic options” including a possible sale. Yikes. Anyway, I did take T-Mobile Tuesday up on their offer knowing that I can cancel before it renews, but let’s face it, it sounds like my free subscription won’t even last six months at this point. But I took it knowing that there was one, just one Quibi “show” that I wanted to check out ever since I saw who the filmmaker was that was making it, the two stars of it, and the subject matter: THE STRANGER. Now, the reason why I’m counting this as a movie review and not a “webisodes” one is that if you put all of these 13 episodes together, each being about 6 to 9 minutes long, you have yourself a feature length film, somewhere between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour an 47 minutes (I’d guess this is around 90-95 minutes). Since the whole story takes place over one night and all the events string together, no matter how long or short the episode, if you were to cut out the cut to black parts, you’d have a movie. And I really wish this was a movie, one that played in theaters, because I quite enjoyed it.

It’s tense, it doesn’t waste anyone’s time, it’s very enjoyable, well directed, shot, and the performances are top notch. Maika Monroe (always underrated to me even since her star turning performance in It Follows), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, unfortunately Amazing Spider-Man 2 probably botched his career a bit), and Avan Jogia (Zombieland 2) star in what IMDB describes as: “An unassuming young rideshare driver (Monroe) is thrown into her worst nightmare when a mysterious Hollywood Hills passenger (DeHaan) enters her car.” The movie doesn’t waste any time getting into what is essentially a cat and mouse chase movie intertwined with a strong message about how our online presence make us very vulnerable. (this, The Social Network, and The Social Dilemma would make for a very interesting triple feature). Veena Sud wrote and directed all of these “webisodes” and when seeing a small preview for this I recognized her name immediately because she was the show runner on a great show that lasted several of seasons on AMC before being uncanceled twice and the last season being bought and aired on Netflix: The Killing. After that and this, I consider her already a great master of tone in dark realistic tales, because The Killing was depressing and somber as fuck, and The Stranger has a pitch perfect dreadful tension to it.

Somehow the tension never lets up and you gradually get to know about the characters back stories in realistic and unforced ways. The only complaint I have that keeps this movie/these “webisodes” from being perfect is that it has kind of the hammy, unrealistic, awkward ending. Even though some of it was set up near midway through, “they” probably shouldn’t have been brought back at the end even though it was brutal karma for one of the characters. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers. The rest of it, is very solid. The film doesn’t hold any punches as no one in the cast is safe, there are some fantastic bait and switches, solid set ups with some solid pay offs, and the despair never lets up until it cuts to black on webisode 13. Maika Monroe is fantastic as the mouse and Dane DeHaan is masterful as the cat in this very tight and brisk chase. I’ve always liked both of them as actors and I wish that they’d get more projects that would showcase their talents and not have one smudge spot on their careers (Monroe’s is Independence Day 2). But the true star of this, again, is writer/director Veena Sud. I wish she’d get some big theatrical dark noir type project. She’s an incredible storyteller and filmmaker. The Stranger might be the only thing I watch with my six month free subscription to Quibi…and if it is…that’s not too shabby.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. FINAL SEASON 7 (& series as a whole)

Ah, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. what an interesting journey, both on screen and off. The real question remains: is it canon or is it not? I mean, the first several seasons, particularly the first and second, connected directly to Captain America The Winter Soldier and Thor The Dark World. Nick Fury and Sif even showed up for an episode or two! But then from each season on, the world outside the television show it took place in, started getting mentioned less and less, and even though Thanos was mentioned near the end of season 5…we never saw the series link to any of the later Marvel Cinematic Universe films, especially Infinity War or Endgame. After those movies went by before the shows’s sixth and seventh seasons premiered, the show runners and producers couldn’t even answer simple questions as to when all their events exactly took place. Is it still canon, or if not…is it now it’s own thing…it’s own timeline? Because with the last 3 seasons, we aren’t given any exact dates or years, any time that passes, it is just casually mentioned with a title card or two ‘one year later’, no big deal. So, that brings us to a new question: in SEASON 7, the final season at the very end, is everything connected? Does it concretely establish itself as MCU canon? My concrete answer: even if it does or doesn’t (it kinda sorta does and doesn’t), it doesn’t really matter. After the first three seasons, the show became its own thing, and without the constructs of having to adhere to the MCU theatrical timeline, its storytelling exploded with rich exposition, imagination, and character development. When it became it’s own thing, it was absolutely riveting. And although season 7 does have a couple of nods to the MCU, ESPECIALLY the last two episodes, at the end of the day, who gives an ultimate shit? Us still loyal viewers, we wanted an ending for the CHARACTERS, and not just placating fan service to Infinity War, Endgame, or even Spider-Man Far From Home. Did we get that character ending? Abso-fucking-lutely we did.

Not only do I feel safe in saying that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a fantastic series finale, but I’m quite confident that it was the best season out of the seven, a truly rare accomplishment indeed. Out of 13 episodes, maybe only one lost my attention a couple of times. The other 12? Some of the best episodes of the entire series, especially one directed by series regular Elizabeth Henstridge, that pays homage to Groundhog Day to absolute perfection. Most of the series maybe had about only half a really great season, and half a so-so season. Let’s do this in order shall we? The first half of the first season is absolutely fucking abysmal. But those last 11 episodes, especially when it ties itself to Captain America The Winter Soldier…solid. Season 2 takes season one’s momentum and ups it a notch, showing how Sky (Chloe Bennett) finds her lineage and her real name (Daisy), along with her superhero identity (Quake). It lagged a bit in the middle though. Season 3 takes the Inhuman story line and steps it up yet a tiny notch further, especially since the references to the MCU become smaller and smaller and smaller. Again, it lagged a bit during the middle though. Season 4 stumbles a bit with the Ghost Rider introduction, but once it gets to Life Model Decoy’s about half way through the season, not to mention almost no other connections to the MCU, the storytelling gets very, very good. Season 5 is the last 22 episode season that was my favorite until this last season. I couldn’t believe that almost each and every episode mattered, considering I think any show that goes over 13 episodes now per season is tiresome. But season 5, dealing with the team going way into the future and facing the ‘Destroyer of Worlds,’ was an excellent, excellent storyline.

And the ending of that season? It honestly could’ve been the end, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Season 6 was just a notch below, but that is mainly because I didn’t like how they made Clark Gregg (usually Agent Coulson) play a different character that also happened to be the villain of those 13 episodes. But the show now being only 13 episodes instead of 22 made it have more of a solid foundation and didn’t become tiresome. And it was still entertaining because the rest of the characters flourish, especially one that was introduced in season 5, Deke, shines here. Season 7 ties everything up, and without giving too much away, Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson, everybody gets a fitting ending, and the time travel to the past story line is fun and exciting. Even though the actor that plays Fitz was mostly absent, it made up for it when he finally appeared. Oh…and they pick up a character that was on Agent Carter, and actually give him an arc and an ending story line, which was nice considering that show was (rightly) cancelled abruptly after two seasons. If feels as though season 7 was completely pre-visualized before they even starting writing dialogue or full scripts. This final season has a very nice and tight arc, that while being extremely fun, especially the first 7/8 episodes, makes sure that the final 5/6 don’t rush everything. It plants seeds in the first half of the season that steadily grow into a flower that blooms the last 4 when it’s still fun, but taken more seriously, story line wise. It is hard to talk about without revealing anything, but I can say that the story involves the characters going through several different time periods in the past, and trying not to fuck up the main timeline, especially when the evil Chronicoms (you’ll have to watch the series to get what I’m even talking about), are intent on ending S.H.I.E.L.D. and possibly all of mankind in the process.

The villains this season are good, and although I could get into who they are, it is best not to give any of the reveals away. So what I can talk about without giving much away is how I felt about the series character and acting wise, focusing on the main cast only. Chloe Bennett turns Sky from an ‘aw shucks, what is happening to me’ kind of one dimensional character, and transforms into ‘Quake,’ a bad ass heroine that rivals any of the female superheroes we have gotten in the MCU theatrical films. Clark Gregg was a side character in those films as Agent Coulson, but he and the showrunners took the several glimmers of personality we got in those films, and turned it into a full and satisfying emotional arc in these seven seasons of television. Ming-Na Wen, who played Melinda May, is yet another heroine, but without any powers, that rivals most if not all of the female superheroes in the MCU. She constantly surprised us every season with how deeper her initial one-dimensional hardened character could go. Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Fitz and Simmons were the true emotional heart of the series. Their friendship and maybe more than friendship was the one constant the entire seven seasons had. It never wavered once in its storytelling, even though Ian is mostly nowhere to be seen this final season (for a good reason it turns out). I don’t know whether he didn’t want to be in this final season as much because he got tired of being on the show, or if it was a creative decision. Either way, his arc here worked. And his arcs in the other seasons and acting were fantastic as well. Elizabeth’s really worked. She took a geeky girl scientist nerd and turned her yet into another strong and emotional bad ass heroine. And like I said before, she directs Episode Nine of this season titled, “As I Have Always Been,” that is easily my favorite episode of the series.

Henry Simmons as Mack was always the strong brute that could’ve also been just a two dimensional character, but in later seasons he got his emotional moments and brilliant one-liners enough to branch out on his own. And then finally Brett Dalton, Natalia Cordova- Buckley, and Jeff Ward, who were only in a third to almost half of the series episodes as Grant Ward, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, and Deke, all shined in whatever screen time they did have. Especially Brett after Grant Ward’s big reveal near the end of the first season and when Jeff Ward got to cut loose with Deke in season 6 and made him the comic relief. It was also nice to see that during these whole seven seasons, there was never any showrunner or writer shake up. They stayed put and got to do their vision their way, which is always commendable in the day and age of studio interference. The only thing the studio interfered with here was the uses of any character that the films maybe wanted to use down the line, which actually benefited the show, seeing it didn’t have any chains to weight it down. In summary, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of those very rare shows that just got better and better as time went on. It will be known more for the second half of its life than its first, which is astonishingly unbelievable. Once the connections to the MCU went away, everybody got more creative and more time to play. And it shows. So in the end, who really cares if it is canon or not? I certainly don’t (even though in my mind I can argue and provide proof for both ways). When I just finished the series over lunch, the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t whether or not canon even mattered because of the confusing nature of where exactly this took place in the MCU. No, the first thing that came to my mind was how emotionally satisfying the arc of all the characters ended and how the storytelling really did become its own…Pandora’s Box, if you will. And it was all very…very satisfying and I loved that I got to open Pandora’s Box for seven years. Now if only they would let the two showrunners, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen…write their own MCU script. Just imagine…

My personal rank of seasons of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. :

  1. Season 7
  2. Season 5
  3. Season 6
  4. Season 4
  5. Season 3
  6. Season 2
  7. Season 1

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: PERRY MASON SEASON 1 (HBO)

Before you ask, no, I have not seen one episode of your great-grandfather’s or just grandfather’s old Perry Mason series that starred Raymond Burr. And I know that PERRY MASON SEASON 1 on HBO isn’t your great-grandfather’s/grandfather’s Perry Mason, as this one has a shit ton of adult content that couldn’t air on network television, even at this more forgiving time let alone back in the 1950’s. All I know, is that this is supposed to be a soft reboot/prequel series of the old show, but giving everything a very hard and dark edge. Per IMDB.com, HBO’s new Perry Mason is described as: “In booming 1932 Los Angeles, a down-and-out defense attorney takes on the case of a lifetime.” The original series is described as such on IMDB: “The cases of a master criminal defense attorney, handling the most difficult of cases in the aid of the innocent.” So needless to say, this is about what happened right before he became a criminal defense attorney, where he is a private investigator. This new series has the detective noir time period look and feel down. This series looks and feels amazing. The thing that is disappointing though is that half of the seasons 8 episodes are very mediocre in terms of story telling and character development. Very, very basic writing that doesn’t challenge the audience. Especially the awful, awful, awful, awful subplot involving the usually great Tatiana Maslany’s church leader character (and the subplot ends anti-climatic as well). But whenever the show focuses on Matthew Rhys and him alone, it shines brilliantly. Knowing that Maslany won’t be a part of next season, I might give it a chance, but I’m extremely on the fence about it.

It just seems like it the whole thing wasn’t conceived very well or at least half of it wasn’t. Episodes 1, 6, 7, & 8 really focus on Perry Mason as a character…and since the show is named after the titular character, he should be the main presence in every single episode. However, in episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5, the show treats him like a 4th or 5th fucking background character, focusing way too much on a crazy church lady and her mommy subplot that is so poorly written that I almost wanted to plug my ears either time Maslany or Lili Taylor opened their mouths. The season’s story goes like this, a couple’s child is kidnapped and killed, and the mysterious events around it lead to such a big conspiracy that the child’s mother ends up being put on trial of the crime, where Perry Mason is convinced she had nothing to do with it, with not only the evidence provided, but with some of it even tampered. A subplot involving high up church leaders trying to not only lend a hand to the mother on trial, but promising that her dead child will somehow be resurrected in the coming days…yeah, the first part sounded interesting didn’t it, and it almost lost you there at the end, huh? The church arc was absolutely pointless (except for a little detail that ties it in a different way to the kidnapping & murder), and the ending of those characters was rather…odd to say the least, you’ll see what I mean if you check this out. And the last episode was great in terms of Perry Mason’s arc, and his closing speech to the ladies and gentleman of the jury was powerful, well written, and well acted, but the conclusion to those events, and the fates of some of the characters that were perpetrators to the kidnapping and murders, felt out of place and kind of cliched to other, better tv shows & movies that have done it before. Especially when it came to certain karma.

Another problem I had with the program, is that the central story didn’t really have a mystery. We know who the perpetrator of the kidnapping and murder is from the very beginning. And knowing who it was, I was able to put two and two together on what exactly took place. It was kind of disappointing. On a lighter note, the television show though gets the look and feel of the 1930s detective noir time period though, and other than Maslany and Taylor, every one gives a fantastic performance. You feel really sorry for John Lithgow’s character, you want to strangle Stephen Root’s, Chris Chalk as a black police officer could score him a supporting nomination, but the man of the hour is easily Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason. He plays the character to perfection and completely melted away any fear I had of him just copying his masterful performance that won him an Emmy for The Americans. Every time Rhys showed up on screen, the show started to get a little bit better. I do have a suggestion for next season though, and instead of just focusing on one case, Perry Mason should focus on 3 or 4 at the same time, challenging the writers to make a compelling story/mystery without convoluted cliches or coincidences. Get them to write a perfect weave that doesn’t get confusing or sluggish. Write an actual mystery, and have the reveals saved for late in the season. Don’t just show your cards right from the beginning, it leaves absolutely no tension for the rest of your season. With a story like this, you gotta have tension and the fear of the unknown or you’ve completely failed as a narrative. The only way I will consider watching Season Two is if the trailer blows me away like Season One’s did, but if Season Two has a typical sophomore slump, with an already ‘only okay’ season one, Perry Mason will not have me joining him on another case.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY SEASON 2 (Netflix)

The sophomore slump. It happens to 95% of television shows. The second season of almost anything is usually not as good as the first. For example: 24, Lost, Alias, Homeland, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Westworld, to name a few. There is the occasional exception when you think of shows such as Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Friends, and The Americans. Well, the 2nd season I’m about to review of a newer popular Netflix series has just reached that rare 5% where it not only doesn’t have a whiff of a sophomore slump, but completely destroys that cautious train of thought. If THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY Season 1 was the series’ A New Hope, then SEASON 2 is its EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Season 2 eclipses Season 1 in every way imaginable: character development, plot structure, acting, pacing, twists, turns, visuals, and its entertainment value. I couldn’t believe how perfect the second set of ten episodes were. It starts off with a bang and does not let up, the final three episodes being some of the most perfect hours of television I have seen in 2020 along with the entirety of Better Call Saul’s 5th season. This season is a masterpiece, and it doesn’t matter if Season 3 is not up to snuff (which if there isn’t a season 3 after this Netflix is out of their fucking minds), there is no way in hell it could ruin the perfection of what I just witnessed. To put it in a better metaphor: the show’s umbrella did not let a drop of rain ruin the cashmere fabric that is these ten episodes.

I won’t be digging into Season 1 all that much on here, so if you are looking for an in depth analysis on it, I suggest you look elsewhere. I will just say that Umbrella Academy’s first season is a fun, if not flawed first 10 episodes, where the first couple of them are great and the last couple are great, but the middle of the series lags a bit. Only do the acting and characters pull through that slog to reach its grand epic conclusion. If you haven’t seen any of this show…what the fuck are you waiting for? The Umbrella Academy is about a family of 7 former child superheroes, who have grown apart, one of them even dead, that must now reunite to continue to protect the world. Well, that’s the first season in a nutshell. Minor spoiler alert for that season (but don’t worry, won’t spoil the big stuff of Season 2), they end up failing in the end and have to use one of their time traveling abilities to go back in time and try again. The first season ends right as they time travel, right before everything blows up and dies around them. The only thing I will reveal about the 2nd seasons story is at the beginning it is revealed that they went a little too far back into time, the 1960’s to be exact, and they have to prevent another and different kind of apocalypse, this one much sooner than what they had experienced in April of 2019. That’s all I’m going to say. Needless to say, when watching a trailer tease for this 2nd season, I was worried at first about the story line having a copy cat apocalypse angle from the first season and just doing more of the same. Boy, was I dead wrong.

The names of the seven characters are Vanya, Klaus, Allison, Luther, Ben, Diego, and Number Five. Their arcs and screen time were kind of uneven last season, focusing a little too much on just Ellen Page’s Vanya, but this season, everybody gets the exact same amount of screen time, all of them have full, interesting arcs and densely developed story lines. One villain that was uninteresting and in the background too much in the first, Kate Walsh’s Handler, is front and center this time and much more interesting, and a new character Lila, played extremely well by Rita Arya, has a fantastic dynamic with Diego and her own interesting reveals. Plus you have little mini arcs with some interesting characters from last season including Hazel, Pogo, Grace and Reginald Hargreeves, but nothing too distracting that takes away from the main seven. Episode 7 is easily the best of the ten, providing a new look at a list of time paradox ticks that are used perfectly and hilariously (you’ll see what I mean when you get there). I can’t reveal much more, so I’ll end this by saying that the series has a fantastic climax that is perfectly plotted over the course of the last three episodes (making the climax of season 1, that really just took place in the last 15 minutes of the final episode, feel rather tame), the visual effects are much more striking, the characters have a shit ton more to do, and Robert Sheehan’s Klaus and Aiden Gallagher’s Number Five, much like last season, steal every scene they are in. It’s just a fun and engaging second season that is perfectly structured narratively, directed and shot to perfection, and the character development is crisp and acted to new heights. It’s a perfect season of television, an unbreakable, sturdy umbrella if you will, that is sure to make you weather this COVID-19 bullshit of a storm for a bit.