OB-EWAN’S KESHOWBI (2022)

Nice to look at, fundamentally pointless. The embodiment of all the the things wrong with modern Star Wars.

Rather than take this opportunity to tell smaller, self-contained stories within the broader universe (ala the first season of The Mandalorian), we’re instead given the same tired runaround of connecting every arbitrary object and event to something that already existed in the other films. It’s fan-service at its flattest and most uninspired.

VFX are excellent, but performances are mixed, some of the action sequences have absolutely horrible geographic logic and choreography, the plot meanders and then goes nowhere important.

How can it?

Given that this takes place between Episodes III & IV, nothing of the conflicts it chooses to explore can have any consequence, and therefore there are zero stakes. Why have Vader and Obi-Wan meet and fight now, since we all know that both will survive? Why have Obi-Wan and Leia go on adventures when they’re barely acquaintances years later?

If anything, forcing all these characters to meet up now undermines any of the impact of the later films, and in many ways directly contradicts pre-established story beats. They actively make the good parts of Star Wars worse by this incessant need to only ever revisit the same handful characters and locations.

For a franchise with this much (very much strained) goodwill and financial backing, it’s a shame that it’s so utterly allergic to doing anything interesting with itself.

Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with it, and would be highly skeptical of anything Star Wars yet to come.

A waste.

ATLANTA // s03

Another cracking season from one of the best shows on television.

It’s surreal, hilarious, meandering, thoughtful, unexpected, harsh and subtle, often all at once. Whenever you think you have a handle on things, it just zags around you in really wonderful and creative ways.

This season has the primary cast (Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakieth Stanfield, Zazie Beetz) on tour in Europe — this time tackling new success and the same old bizarre tics of humanity. There seems to be even less of a focus on Glover’s Earn this time around, which only gives the rest of the cast more time to shine.

Every episode is its own self-contained story, every one of them is a strange little gem. There’s no real moral lessons: it’s just odd and messy and human.

Oh, and there are some fantastic unexpected cameos throughout.

Really, the worst part about this show is that there’s only one season left.

Highly, highly recommended.

MOON KNIGHT // s01

More of an archeological adventure with superhero elements than a straight superhero show.

Definitely draws some influence from the 90s version of The Mummy, and the globe-trotting adventures of National Treasure and Indiana Jones. As such, it feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, but this only works to its own benefit.

Oscar Isaac is really giving everything to his performance, split between two distinct personalities at odds with one another while in the service of the Egyptian god of vengeance.

It’s this focus on character, while using the capes and magic stuff as set dressing, that puts this a cut above the rest. It’s short too, coming in at just six episodes, so it packs everything in without overstaying its welcome.

No prior knowledge of any other Marvel stuff required, just a fun standalone little adventure. Hopefully more of the Disney+ shows work to this kind of structure.

RUSSIAN DOLL // s02

Unfocused but nonetheless enjoyable followup to a stellar first season.

Natasha Lyonne puts in an absolutely killer effort to a strange, meandering season of an overall great show. She’s a treasure.

The emotional through-line resolves itself much later and less clearly than the first season, choosing instead to reach for a broader scope and losing some of it’s razor edge as a result.

Still, it’s quick and punchy and all the performances are excellent at holding up a messy time-travel concept.

Loved it, even if it didn’t have the same kick of the first season. Third season welcome.

Recommended.

OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH // s01

OR: Rhys Darby & Taika Waititi’s Gay Pirate Show

It’s great. Takes a few episodes to properly reveal the true premise as a warm, ensemble comedy with strong queer undertones that turn to overtones of self-acceptance.

Once it gets going it’s a very sweet sort of romance set against a backdrop of classic pirate hijinks, but one of the captains is foppishly terrible at their job.

The whole cast is excellent, even if they’re slightly overshadowed by the charisma and chemistry of Waititi and Darby.

Highly recommended.

Hope this gets a second season, it’s a breath of fresh sea air. Kinda feels like an inevitability with all the (well deserved) positive buzz, so fingers crossed.

SEVERANCE // s01

Brilliant.

Four people work in an existentially unsettling office, following a procedure that severs their mind into two separate personas: one that exists within work and one that only exists outside of it.

A paranoid thriller that absolutely nails impersonal, hyper-polished corporate aesthetics and culture. The person who made this has clearly worked some awful office jobs—the satirical element feels horrifyingly true even at its most absurd and strange.

It’s nightmarishly calculated in concept, sleek and precise in execution. Surprisingly stacked emotional stakes, fantastic production design and cinematography.

AppleTV is really coming out ahead as the streaming service with incredibly high caliber projects, and this is one of the most intriguing, darkly hilarious shows in years.

Highly recommended.

PEACEMAKER // s01 (2021)

James Gunn has an inimitable talent for elevating rejects and burnouts into some of the most compelling, complex characters in modern pulp fiction.

Even indicental characters get more development than half the leads of modern blockbusters, in a mix of deep pathos and hilarious irreverence.

Peacemaker is no different — an anti-hero at his heart, John Cena brings a gravitas to this sad asshole that makes him much more fun than your standard comic fare.

Ultra-violent, frequently disturbing, and leaning into Gunn’s penchant for visceral body horror spliced with dark humour, it’s a wild ride and a tonne of fun.

If you liked the recent (and also excellent) The Suicide Squad, you’ll like this.

Recommended.

THE WHITE LOTUS (2021)

Social satire at luxury resort in Hawaii, where we know that by the end of the week one of the cast will be dead.

You’ve got bratty rich, workaholic rich, insecure rich, newly married rich, naive rich… and all the staff stuck keeping their vacations as pleasant as possible.

Naturally, that goes off the rails.

There’s enough red herrings and misdirects to keep you on your toes working out who the cadaver will be right til the very end, and the cast all put in solidly charismatic and likeable performances.

Gorgeously shot, regularly hilarious and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Oh, and the soundtrack is great.

Recommended.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT (2021)

It’s fine?

Weirdly drops its title character entirely in the back half to become The Mandalorian s2.5, and then pulls back to the main plotline in the finale.

Star Wars is kind of its own worst enemy — the best parts of it are the things that aren’t really connected to the original trilogy, yet it constantly finds itself afraid to stand on its own without somehow tying back into the same handful of characters.

TBoBF unfortunately succumbs to these bad instincts, going for recogniseable and familiar places, tropes and characters instead of really doing something all its own.

It’s a mixed bag of great and terrible design choices, excellent VFX and horribly shot/staged action.

Finishes up not really doing much more than setting up the next Mando season, which is itself straying away from the self-contained vignette style that made it so appealing.

Maybe Obi Wan will be better, but I don’t have high hopes.

Watch it or don’t.

THE WITCHER // s02

Solid fantasy/action, benefitting from a more coherend (read: linear) arrangement of timelines than the first season.

Interesting spins on all sorts of legendary monsters give it a distinct and grounded flavour of high fantasy.

Cavill proves again he’s the perfect casting, and the love he has for the role oozes off the screen.

Nice to revisit painting the charater too, since the illustration I did for the first season kicked off the habit of adding them to reviews.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll enjoy this one. If you weren’t totally sold but thought it had potential, this season might change your mind.

Recommended.