Category: TV Reviews


Gotta get back, back to the past. And back to the past we certainly went. One of the most beloved shows on Cartoon Network’s action-heavy “Toonami” block, Genndy Tartakovsky‘s Samurai Jack, has finally gotten its fifth season after eleven years of nothing, airing exclusively on Adult Swim, where Toonami now resides. Thus, you can imagine that it ups the grit and unsettling visuals this time around.

Samurai Jack was known for its cinematic feel, subtlety, mostly-serious tone (especially compared to Tartakovsky’s previous work, Dexter’s Laboratory, and other shows on the network at the time), heavy atmosphere, minimalistic dialogue, and stilistic influences drawn from the likes of Kirosawa, Miyazaki, Frank Miller, 70’s avant-garde and countless more – all while maintaining a distinct half-futuristic-half-ancient look. It was one of those shows I loved watching and wouldn’t be ashamed to revisit in my adult years – which, admittedly, goes for a lot of the weird stuff CN gave us.

It focused on a fearsome samurai voiced by Phil LaMarr, trapped in a distant future where the demonic overlord Aku (Mako Iwamatsu) rules all. As XCII begins, fifty years have passed since Jack was sent here and began his quest to return to the past and undo Aku’s apocalypse. Everything seems right; Jack’s voice, the art style, the sound effects, the imagery, the masterful color choices, you name it.

In spite of all this, I cannot help but feel a little underwhelmed. I get the impression that this season will be more serialized than previous seasons (where almost every episode played like a self-contained short film) and I feel like it could have taken its time when it comes to Jack realizing he needs to put his mind back on his quest of returning to the his time. Seeing him break down almost immediately after we’re reintroduced to him seems, I dunno, not entirely consistent with the slow but effective pace this show has been known for. Also, the Jack we know would not just abandon his sword for good like that, nor would he be quiet so emotional, nor would Aku miss out on a chance to destroy his worst enemy now that said enemy no longer carries the only weapon that can kill him.

I’m sure I’m in a minority when it comes to these thoughts, though, and the episode is generally succesful. I am especially intrigued by the Daughters of Aku – demonic babies who rapidly age into masked warriors – and also to see who shall replace Mako. We’ll see if anyone can do “evil from the belly” quite like he could.

3/5

‘Westworld’ Review (TV)

Highly recommended.

Highly recommended.

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Highly recommended.

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‘Stranger Things’ Review (TV)

† H a p p y   H a l l o w e e n †

strangerthings

Highly recommended.

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The premise of the sixth season of American Horror Story, subtitled My Roanoke Nightmare, has been revealed at last. I luckily wasn’t expecting all that secrecy and mystique to actually result in anything but intriguing marketing, although I must wonder if fans will be satisfied with what the crazy build-up was for. I don’t know that the Roanoke Colony disappearance was deserving of such hype.

Another question is whether or not this will be the story for the whole season. I gave American Horror Story a raving review way back when but it has steadily decreased in quality over the years, much of it having to do with its inability to carry a coherent storyline for a full season – subplots would come and go without warning or end abruptly, the story developments from one episode would be retracted or ignored by the very next, and so on. By now, it seems they’re gonna make a change to the formula of having one semi-self-contained story per season and shake things up a bit. We’ll see how that goes.

In some parts of the episode, which is “based on true events”, we see Lily Rabe and Andre Holland as the “real-life” versions of Shelby and Matt Miller. They retell their dreadful experiences at a mansion they purchased in the vicinity of Roanoke, as their memories are re-enacted by Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. (whether these two are playing themselves playing Shelby and Matt or are fictitious actors who inhabit the same universe I know not, but maybe we will learn this in a  later episode). Basically, a good 60% of the episode is composed of in-universe actors re-enacting an event that the characters involved will obviously survive, given that we see their real-life selves in the interview segments, which leaves us with little tension. It didn’t work in The Fourth Kind (unless the purpose was to make more people fall for the tagline “based on a true story” when attached to horror movies), so why would it work here?

The stuff Shelby sees in and around the mansion includes two spooky twin girls straight out of The Shining, creepy straw dolls straight out of The Blair Witch Project, deranged rednecks straight out of real life, and some kind of pig creature (I think). I guess it’s nice that sound designers for monsters are finally relying on stock “squealing hog” sound effects in a context that makes sense.

For now, I am mostly perplexed by the new season. I don’t know if they’ve given up on trying to make it seem like all the seasons are connected or if they’ve taken the anthology element to a new level by giving us multiple new stories per season (which would be just as well, given how increasingly unfocused each new season has been). For what it’s worth, the fact that they’re changing things around a bit has me interested, as does the interaction between the actors so far (particularly Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett). I won’t give the episode itself a high rating but take that with a grain of salt and a candy apple.

2/5

Unspeakable.

Works as punishment.

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‘Rick and Morty’ Review (TV)

Must-see!

Must-see!

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‘The Neighbors’ Review (TV)

Unspeakable.

Unspeakable.

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After making a comeback to the big screen with two fun movies, with only the sequel getting a couple things about its characters wrong, The Muppets are now back on TV as well with ABC’s straightforwardly titled The Muppets. Fans were excited to hear about this and so the entire Internet celebrated the news. Then the first episode came out. Then we saw it. Then we wondered.

What is this? Is this okay? Is taking something sweet and innocent with occasional winks at adult viewers and turning it into something dark and harsh with constant in-your-face grimaces at the adults acceptable? Why is ABC airing a show that has the same style and type of humor as The Office when the characters are those we grew to love in all those classic Muppet movies and Sesame Street? Is it even okay for us to laugh at this when it genuinely is funny? Because it is – often. It just, hum, feels so strange and wrong when the jokes are not-so-subtle references to sex and alcoholism, especially when, oh you know, it’s Kermit and his friends.

I suppose the joke might be that things are a lot more grim and adult behind the scenes of family shows like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, but the premise of this show isn’t that the Muppets are producing another show like that. Instead, it’s a late night talk show where they would probably be saying all this dirty stuff anyhow, so the joke doesn’t really work, if that even is the joke.

Who knows, maybe I just need to watch more episodes and let the show grow on me? As it is now, though, I know people who have switched off last night’s episode because they were watching it with children. I am at least 90% sure this isn’t what Jim Henson would have wanted to come of his creations.

2/5

Works as punishment.

Works as punishment.

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