Brideshead Revisited (1981, Directed by Charles Sturridge) English 8

Starring Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick, Anthony Andrews, Simon Jones, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Phoebe Nichols

Classic TV series - Boston.com

(8-Exceptional Film)

Comprehensive. Wistful. Alluring.

‚ÄúSometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”-Evelyn Waugh

Listening to Jeremy Irons’ distinct, mellifluous voice dole out the prose of the great Evelyn Waugh is one of life’s higher pleasures, and one worth even the imposing running time of this 11 episode production. That it comes as almost a bonus on top of a fully formed, deeply compelling character and performance speaks to why this adaptation of the classic novel is so fondly remembered. Irons plays Charles Ryder, an intelligent, brooding, rather passive young man at Oxford circa 1922 who falls in with the lively, attractive Sebastian Flyte (Andrews) and his group of friends; then, later, his family, eventually, falling in love with Sebastian’s married sister, Julia (Quick). Just about 11 hours long, this version of Brideshead Revisited certainly isn’t in any hurry, nor is it at any point suspenseful. It trusts the material. The characters are interesting, their relationships even more so, and the performances are sterling all-around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(993)

The Last Dance (2020, Directed by Jason Hehir) English 8

Featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, John Stockton

ESPN Last Dance audience up 128% via VoD; Netflix success |

(8-Exceptional Film)

Expansive. Thrilling. Compelling.

Following Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls teammates through the 1997-1998 campaign (what would be his final season as a Bull), The Last Dance weaves across the careers and upbringings of several of the key contributors, showing what made that team and that season so special. If someone contends that they don’t understand why people care about sports, let them watch an ESPN documentary, and The Last Dance is one of ESPN’s finest. Epic in length and coverage, it will likely be a new standard setter. It’s not a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It’s clearly shaped mostly around Jordan, and though it does reveal a little of his vulnerable side, his sociopathic side, what-have-you, it is still told largely with him as the protagonist. As a result, you might have heard other players complaining about certain things being depicted and other things left out. That’s a creative choice. That’s a story-telling choice. Michael Jordan is a sports hero for the ages, and what I think The Last Dance does best is reveal the human side of MJ that makes his superhuman athletic triumphs all the more impressive. In any case, it is massively entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(959)

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019, Season 1) English 8

Voices of Taron Edgerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Harris Dickinson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jason Isaacs, Mark Hamill, Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, Simon Pegg, Helena Bonham Carter, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Theo James, Alicia Vikander, Lena Headey, Eddie Izzard, Natalie Dormer, Caitriona Balfe, Andy Samberg, Ralph Ineson, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Keegan Michael-Key

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(8-Exceptional Show)

Stunning. Absorbing. Grotesque.

The legendary puppeteer, Jim Henson, was a true visionary. Getting close to forty years ago, he devised a serious film, a dark fantasy, told entirely with characters rendered by puppetry. The result, The Dark Crystal, is infamous as one of the creepiest movies ever made; certainly among the creepiest kids’ movies. This brand new prequel series takes seriously his vision but also expands the works and updates the technology. It’s as breathtakingly beautiful as it is grotesque. The world of Thra is held captive by the evil, sadistic Skeksis, led by the tyrant Emperor (Isaacs). A castle guard named Rian (Edgerton, a gelfling-which is the oppressed species that makes up the majority of Thra’s population-witnesses something that he wasn’t supposed to and from then on, he becomes a danger to the Skeksis dominant way of life. Now a fugitive, he teams up with Princess Brea (Taylor-Joy) and Deet (Emmanuel) to expose the Skeksis’ plans.¬† This show sacrifices none of the original film’s creepiness. It’s over-the-top gross, violent, dark, and ultimately deeply absorbing. It’s even superior to the film in storytelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(889)

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (2020, Season 1) English 7

Voices of Karen Fukuhara, Deon Cole, Coy Stewart, Dee Bradley Baker, Sydney Mikayla, Sterling K. Brown, Dan Stevens

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(7-Very Good Show)

Bright. Engaging. Unique.

To my mind, Dreamworks Animation has been complacent for over a decade now when it comes to film. They’ve given us nothing but sequels. Thankfully though, their television offerings have been excellent, specifically She-ra: Princess of Power and now Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts. The titular character, Kipo, is an altruistic teenage girl who’s lived her entire life underground. After her home is suddenly attacked by a giant creature known as a megamute, she’s flushed out into the surface where megamutes and talking animals reign. She teams up with Wolf, a tough young girl, Benson, a resourceful teenage boy, and Dave, a mutant bug that can regenerate, to find her home and her dad. Beautiful, vibrant animation, strong story, a unique sense of humor, fun, oddball soundtrack. This is a fantastic first season. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(869)

Veronica Mars (2019, Season 4) English 8

Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Clifton Collins Jr., Patton Oswalt, Max Greenfield, Dawnn Lewis, Ryan Hansen, J.K Simmons, Mido Hamada, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Izabela Vidovic

Image result for veronica mars season 4

(8-Exceptional Show)

Engrossing. Fast-moving. Frustrating.

Veronica is back, 12 years removed from her last appearance on television and 5 years removed from her big-screen come back. Originally starring on the CW, Hulu takes over this season and seems to be a great landing spot. There’s no rust. Season 4 kicks off fast and speeds through to an overall satisfying end. Veronica (Bell) and her dad, Kieth (Colantoni), get wrapped up in a local mystery as someone is killing off the spring-break crowd. Seeing as their city, Neptune, California depends on the spring-break crowd for business, a bit of a Jaws situation occurs where the authorities don’t want to take the proper precautions out of fear for local commerce. It’s an involving case and all of the new characters are welcome additions. Perhaps taking a page out of the phenomenal series, Fargo’s book, Veronica Mars season 4 is a sprawling saga with a lot of interesting characters and strange moments. J.K Simmons, Patton Oswalt, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Izabela Vidovic, and Clifton Collins Jr make strong impressions. Unfortunately, much of the original cast is short-changed. Wallace is barely a part of this season, Mac doesn’t show up at all. Worse for me than that is my memory of Veronica not matching what she’s like in this season. She’s often the least likable character. That turns out not to hurt the show too much. It’s only the very end and I mean the last few scenes that had me scratching my head and apparently many fans up in arms.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(765)

The Dain Curse (1978, Directed by E.W Swackhamer) English 8

Starring James Coburn, Paul Stewart, Jason Miller, Nancy Addison, Hector Elizondo, Beatrice Straight, Jean Simmons

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Sterling. Intricate. Lurid.

Faithful adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op novel starring James Coburn as the shrewd detective. He’s investigating a jewelry theft, but, true to the noir style, that quickly expands to much more nefarious crimes. He can’t help caring for the emotionally unstable Gabrielle Leggett, leading him down a spiral of one mystery after another. Not as crisp and expert as Hammett’s masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon, it’s still good viewing thanks to Coburn’s effortless cool.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(439)