Netflix Review – 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' Part 3

All those who have invested in Sabrina and co.’s adventures for the last two years, will finally get an answer as in whether or not our beloved gang will succeed in rescuing Nick out of the depths of Hell. Part 2 was ten times darker than when we first started hanging out with the Spellman-family, and you better get ready for an even darker ride of biblical proportions, and hope everyone survives this part in Sabrina’s story.

Part Three of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina kicks off exactly where we left. Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) has defeated her father Lucifer (Luke Cook), yet the Dark Lord remains trapped within the human prison of her beloved boyfriend, Nicholas (Gavin Leatherwood). ‘Brina and her loyal mortal friends Harvey (Ross Lynch), Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Theo (Lachlan Watson) – aka “The Fright Club” – embark on an emotional mission to free Sabrina’s love from eternal damnation, before he burns in Hell under Madam Satan’s (Michelle Gomez) watchful eye. However, the Dark Lord’s unseating has sent shockwaves through the realms – and, with no one on the throne, Sabrina must assume the title of “Queen” to defend it against a challenger, the handsome Prince of Hell, Caliban (Sam Corlett). Meanwhile, in Greendale, a mysterious carnival rolls into town, bringing with it a threat to the Spellmans and the coven: a tribe of pagans looking to resurrect an ancient evil…

If you thought Sabrina’s journey in the last season was dark, when she wore a crown made out of thorns and condemned a group of Christian devil hunters (aka Angels) to the deepest pits of Hell – you better close your eyes now, because shit’s about to get DARK! This third season is more of the same, yet more elevated, more developed and goes deeper than you ever thought was possible. Harvey and Rosalind’s relationship grows at a steady and very steamy pace, while Theo finally gets noticed by a mysterious young man, who arrives at a most unusual moment, to conquer his heart. The romance in this season is passionate. When their virginity becomes an important part in whether they’ll survive the Apocalypse or not, these tender relationships get put under a lot of pressure.

More magic, more myths and legends and a lot more creatures inspirit every episode. Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) is a force to be reckoned with. Her on screen presence and chemistry with literally every other character is not just powerful, but godlike. This is an actress who developed her character on screen so gracefully, without ever letting down the energy that is clearly needed to convince an audience into believing she is Sabrina. A very important part of this season revolves around Prudence Night (Tati GabrielleThe 100), who’s even more badass than in the previous two parts, yet it feels like she’s just there to “slice and dice” and bring an extra layer of emotion in what’s already a rollercoaster of shocks and thrills.

A crossover between Riverdale and Greendale – which takes place in the same universe – seems imminent and fans of the other “dale” will definitely pick up on some references and even characters that visit the town. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does confidently stand on its own and doesn’t need to cross paths with anyone from the other town. It might not have as big of a fanbase as Riverdale, but it’s clearly the superior and less melodramatic show of the two. We do get a bit more of a Riverdale-vibe, with Sabrina as a cheerleader, and “The Fright Club” performing famous pop-rock numbers – such as Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”, in their garage. It is however, the inventiveness and originality of the series’ (developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa – who also created Riverdale) screenplay, that really knows how to keep a steady pace and never shows signs of slowing down.

Part Three of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an addictive hell-bent thrill ride from start to finish, you’ll have to make sure you don’t find yourself dreaming about pagans, banshees or voodoo priestesses. What’s actually an eight hour long film, will have you laughing maniacally at how demonically delicious this season turns out to be. You’d be crazy not to sell your soul to the devil – that’s how wicked it is!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Part 3

Reviewed on Netflix, Sydney, Jan. 14, 2020. Australian Classification: MA15+. Running time: 8 x 1 hour.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an Archie Comics Publications, Warner Bros. Television production. Producers: Jennifer Lence, Ian R. Smith. Co-Producers: Carl Ogawa, Joshua Conkel, Amy Myrold. Elle McLeland. Executive producers: Lee Toland Krieger, Jon Goldwater, Sarah Schechter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Greg Berlanti.

CREW: Directors: Rob Seidenglanz, Alex Pillai, Viet Nguyen, Roxanne Benjamin, Michael Goi, Craig William MacNeill. Screenplay: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Ross Maxwell, Oanh Ly, Donna Thorland, Matthew Barry, Joshua Conkel, Lindsay Calhoon Bring, Daniel King. Developed by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Based upon the comic book by: Archie Comics. Camera: Stephen Maier, Craig Powell, Stephen Jackson. Editors: Amy Stuvland Parks, Elizabeth Czyzewski, Leigh Dodson, Joseph Hatton. Music: Adam Taylor.

WITH: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez, Jaz Sinclair, Lachlan Watson, Gavin Leatherwood, Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, Richard Coyle, Miranda Otto.

Review – 'Underwater'

Sci-fi thrillers have a bad reputation when it comes to making money at the box office. They’re either extremely well made and praised by critics all over the globe, some also get totally crushed by the competition in the same opening weekend, others are just complete and utter trash. ‘Underwater‘, bringing absolutely nothing original to the table – although it thinks it does -, isn’t all bad.

A crew of aquatic researchers work together to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear. What has been sort of spoiled in tv-spots and other promotional videos, is that something is hunting these researchers. We follow mechanic Norah (Kristen Stewart), who’s survival skills are put to test, when these tremors and whatever lurks outside their “safe space” relentlessly keeps trying to kill what doesn’t belong belong this deep in the ocean. Six-point-something-miles-deep to be more specific. As many might or might not know, the bottom of Earth’s platform has so many secrets, and that’s exactly what ‘Underwater‘ uses to try and scare its audience.

Writers Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan) have trouble bringing anything remotely interesting to the big screen. Clearly inspired by sci-fi classics like ‘Alien‘ and ‘The Abyss‘, Underwater doesn’t even try to stand out. The only standouts here are K-Stew and co-star Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) – who do a phenomenal job at showing fear while kicking ass. Another standout for the film is its cinematography. Bojan Bazelli (A Cure for Wellness) has an eye for angles and dives into that fear of claustrophobia with impressive closeups of the desperate crew’s facial expressions. Although the sets are quite limited, the costume design of the diving suits is something worth mentioning.

What’s so problematic with Underwater, is its build up to something exciting and thrilling, yet as soon as that tension is underway to get you covered in goosebumps and burst into a series of hot flashes, it cuts away to a black screen and time jumps to another location. This doesn’t only make it very confusing for the viewer to keep track with where our survivalists are at that given moment in time, but it also pulls you out of the story completely. For a 95-minute long film, Underwater feels much longer than it actually is and when the second half dives into a sea of CGI-creatures (and water – it never really looks like as if these actors are actually underwater), it turns into a total ‘Alien‘ rip off – subaquatic Ripley included.

Unfortunately Underwater is just a bit blasé. Loud screeching jump scares and an uninspired screenplay, turn William Eubank‘s $80 million sci-fi thriller into another genre-film forever stuck at the bottom of the bargain bin at your local Kmart. Director, cast and most of the crew will for sure get back to shore in given lifeboats, while yet another post-Fox-merge-title has been thrown to the sharks.

⭐⭐

Review – ‘Underwater’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Jan. 17, 2020. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 95 MIN.

PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture release of a 20th Century Fox presentation of a TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment production. Producers: Peter Chernin, Tonia Davis, Jenno Topping. Executive producer: Kevin Halloran.  

CREW: Director: William Eubank. Screenplay: Brian Duffield, Adam Cozad. Camera (color, widescreen): Bojan Bazelli. Editors: Brian Berdan, Willliam Hoy, Todd E. Miller. Music: Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts.

WITH: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright.

Netflix Review – 'Next in Fashion' Season 1

Next In Fashion is a high-stakes competition series coming soon to Netflix featuring some of the world’s best and quietly innovative designers who compete for a chance to become the next big name in fashion. Project Runway who?

Hosted by fashion designer and TV personality Tan France (Queer Eye) and designer, model and global style icon Alexa Chung, Next in Fashion begins with eighteen designers who face challenges revolving around a different trend or design style that has influenced the way the entire world dresses. These talented contestants have worked for major brands and dressed A-list celebrities, and will now compete head-to-head to see who has the skill, originality and determination to win the grand prize: $250,000 and an opportunity to debut their collection with luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter.

What really drives the entire first season, which counts 10 x 50 min. episodes, is its hosting duo. Tan and Alexa are fun, quirky and so full of life, you’ll even forgive their horribly awkward styling tips segment in the middle of each episode. Unlike other fashion designer competitions, Next in Fashion is very focused on showing exactly what goes on into designing and making each garment, without too much “reality-drama”. Sure, on two occasions there is some drama with one of the contestants, and on another episode a guest judge’s elimination indecisiveness seems a bit scripted, but this doesn’t take away from the main subject – fashion.

The workroom and styling room is next level. Everything takes place inside the studio, with all the equipment and fabrics present. When the time has come to finish the challenge, the studio gets transformed into an incredible runway, that breathes life into the room with graphics and visuals that go above and beyond. Incredible, yet simple production design.

Knowing that all of the contestants have a background in fashion, some even run very well known brands or work for them – take Marco Marco Underwear owner Marco Morante, or Kianga “KiKi” Peterson, New York City-based designer who helped launch Fubu – everyone’s on some sort of a level that is far beyond that of a beginner’s, and the contestants are from all over the world. What’s fun is that we get to see very mixed runways in regards of sexual fluidity and genders, and so many flawless designs, that don’t look crafty and instead, exude luxury. From having to design a red carpet look, to designing a suit and activewear – for which Tan gladly dresses up like Ariana Grande – high ponytail included.

Next in Fashion is a welcome fresh breath of air in regards to competitive design series. The stakes are high, with different motivations for each contender and guest judges such as top model Adriana Lima and Public School-owners Dao-Yi Chow & Maxwell Osborne, push everyone into a design frenzy they rarely experience in their day-to-day job. Netflix has a hit on their hands. Highly bingeable, great to watch with a group of friends and informative while never becoming boring. Keep the hosts, change up the challenges and contestants and you have a successful formula that can’t be beat. THIS IS FASHION!

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘Next in Fashion’ Season 1

Reviewed on Netflix, Jan. 10, 2020. Australian Classification: PG. Running time: 10 x 50 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Netflix Worldwide Entertainment, The Old School production. Executive producers: Robin Ashbrook, Yasmin Shackleton.

CREW: Director: Ivan Dudynsky. Backstage camera (color, widescreen): Markos Alvarados. Editors: Ryan Dawson, Jay Gammil, Brian Kim, Karl Kimbrough, Aimee Durrant, Masa Matsuda, Ryan Tanner, Brian Forbes, Greg Cornejo. Music: Jeff Lippencott & Mark T. Williams.

Hosted by: Alexa Chung, Tan France. Contestants: Adolfo Sanchez, Claire Davis, Angel Chen, Minju Kim, Ashton Hirota, Marco Morante, Charles Lu, Angelo Cruciani, Daniel Fletcher, Carli Pearson, Hayley Scanlan, Julian Woodhouse, Isaac Saqib, Nasheli Ortiz-Gonzalez, Kianga “KiKi” Peterson, Farai Simoyi-Agbede, Lorena Saravia Butcher, Narresh Kukreja. Guest judges: Eva Chen, Monique Lhuillier, Elizabeth Stewart, Prabal Gurung, Jason Bolden, Phillip Lim, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Jason Bolden, Adriana Lima, Beth Ditto, Christopher Kane, Josefine Aberg, Dao-Yi Chow, Maxwell Osborne, Tommy Hilfiger, Elizabeth Van Der Goltz.

Review – 'Bad Boys For Life'

After 17 years, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are back for one last ride. The original Bad Boys launched Michael Bay‘s (Transformers) career as a director of highly explosive action blockbusters, but it’s Belgian directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who get a shot at directing their first big budget Hollywood film.

One last ride, but the stakes are higher than ever. They gained a bit of weight, their hair lost its colour and they’re ready to retire. When we meet our bickering partners in crime, Miami P.D. detective duo Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) are on their way to the hospital to meet Marcus’ first grandchild. At the same time, Isabel “La Bruja” Aretas (Kate del Castillo), violently escapes from prison and takes control over a Miami-based cartel, pulling the strings via her son Armando (Jacob Scipio). What happens later that night back in Miami, all links back to the Miami police force and will change our buddies’ lives forever.

Bad Boys For Life has been in the works for over a decade. The script was never good enough for our stars to sign up for, but in hands of Joe Carnahan (Narc), Peter Craig (The Town) and first time screenplay writer Chris Bremner, we get a fast paced, action packed and to the brim filled with jokes story that keeps your attention for the full two hours. Even when not every joke lands, the chemistry Smith and Lawrence bring back to the screen, that feels particularly nostalgic to fans of the previous two films, is endearing and smile inducing.

Lawrence hasn’t been in a lot of films for the big screen in the last 10 years, after his own Big Momma-franchise bit the dust in 2011. Seeing him come back to form in a graceful way that reminds us of his comedy heydays, is a warm reminder of his talent, that will make you want to rewatch his older hits. It’s great to see Smith back in an action comedy, when it also looks like he’s having a lot of fun on set. His Mike is the main star of this story, who also gets an eye-opening third act that hints at a possible fourth film. And if this chapter does well, why wouldn’t the studio try and make this into the franchise it so desperately always could have been.

A bunch of new side characters get introduced, most of them in the form of younger team members on the squad. Each one of them has a well rounded personality, yet lacks a bit of background in why they act the way they do. Besides VikingsAlexander Ludwig as bouncer-turned-IT-pro, which comes across a bit awkward – but that’s part of the gag – and team leader Rita (Paola Nuñez) who’s had a romantic past with Mike. Joe Pantoliano is back as the foulmouthed loud Captain Howard, stealing every scene he’s in, while the fresh new British actor Jacob Scipio, who plays bad guy Armando, knows how to command your attention with his piercing eyes and stand tall next to well known actors such as Smith.

What especially stands out is how different yet classy the action sequences are compared to Bay’s typical style of explosive car wrecking highway car chase kind of “Bayhem”. Particularly the whimsical yet stylish cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert (Adil and Bilall’s ‘Black’) combined with Lorne Balfe‘s (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) rousing score in one scene that starts of in a club, to then evolve smoothly into a car chase to then turn into a gunfight and motorbike-explosive-neon-lit-extravaganza, is extremely well choreographed and reminiscent of last year’s John Wick 3‘s horse riding motorbike chase through New York. The thrilling action pieces blend well with the enormous amount of one liners and throwbacks to earlier chapters. A few shocking unexpected moments will have you gasp for air, while surprising cameos are there to amp up laughter.

Bad Boys For Life is a successful international feature debut for Adil and Bilall, who – after witnessing this – could possibly revive a franchise like Beverly Hills Cop any day now. All thrills and gags, without ever toning down the gore and profanity, this chapter is without a doubt the strongest and most engaging one out of the trilogy. An action comedy that delivers on every level.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – ‘Bad Boys For Life’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Jan. 15, 2019. Australian Classification: MA15+. Running time: 123 min.

PRODUCTION: A Sony Pictures Releasing release and presentation of an Columbia Pictures picture in association with 2.0 Entertainment of a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Overbrook Entertainment production. Producers: Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, Will Smith. Executive producers: James Lassiter, Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Barry H. Waldman, Bill Bannerman.

CREW: Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. Screenplay: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan; story: Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan; based on characters by: George Gallo. Camera: Robrecht Heyvaert. Editors: Dan Lebental, Peter McNulty. Music: Lorne Balfe.

WITH: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio, DJ Khaled, Nicky Jam.

Netflix Review – 'You' Season 2

The first season of ‘You‘ became a sleeper hit for Netflix. Based on Caroline Kepnes‘ 2014 thriller novel of the same name, ‘You‘ follows the life of a dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man who will go to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by. Season 2 has just been released in its entirety and is loosely based on the follow up to Kepnes’ novel ‘Hidden Bodies‘.

After the horrific events at the end of the last season, Joe (Penn Badgley) has switched coasts and has been spotted in Los Angeles. Trying to fit in with society and not attracting any attention to himself, “lonely boy” has taken a new identity, rents a place with a nice view and finds work at an eco-friendly bookstore. Manager of that bookstore is Love (The Haunting of Hill House‘s Victoria Pedretti), a friendly young woman who quickly catches Joe’s eye and as you can probably guess – everything starts all over again. While Joe tries not to obsess too much, he now also has to deal with former lover Candace (Ambyr Childers) trying to destroy his life and exposing him as the true monster he really is. And if that wasn’t enough, former – now dead – girlfriend, Beck, still haunts his every day life.

The second season of You is more of the same, yet feels different and at times a lot lighter. There’s more puns, jokes about living in the “City of Angels” – it’s basically a satire on psychological thrillers, without ever losing focus on what’s really going on. Joe is basically a modern day Ted Bundy, with his charismatic smile and good looks he attracts plenty women and uses all his guile to get out of tricky situations. Badgley (famously known for portraying Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl) is perfectly cast and gets to show more of a dramatic side of his talent this time. In flashbacks to the relationship with his mother, we discover where his obsession with women really came from. As it was already the case in the first season, the show wants us to feel for him, to believe he’s a good guy, but in a with wellness-obsessed L.A., it becomes even more clear how crazy this guy really is. Joe doesn’t fit in, and he never will. Clear signs of someone who’s a psychopath, but are we really surprised by that conclusion after witnessing everything he did in the first season?

The writers definitely didn’t hold back on the gore or campiness this season. With lines such as “What would Mama Ru say?“, clearly pointing at the iconic tagline of Drag Queen Royalty RuPaul, and the constant use of pop culture references, the show feels mighty real as if this all takes place in our own world and even real life celebrities make a cameo at a certain someone’s funeral.

But what really distinguishes this second season is how much stronger and smarter the women are this time – not saying that these characters don’t make any classically dumb mistakes anymore. Joe’s neighbour and building manager/journalist Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) and her little troublemaker sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega) are a nice side story that keeps interweaving with Joe’s. Their story is the warm heart of this season as it deals with sisterhood and growing up, getting over horrific events without letting them define you. Zumbado (Need for Speed) and Ortega (Jane the Virgin) are both a welcome addition to the show.

Love has her own secrets, and her group of LGBTQ+ friends are all multidimensional characters, although a bit underused to be frank. Love’s clearly troubled brother and co-manager of their bookstore/cafe, Forty (James Scully), brings some extra spice to the story and has a real arc that shifts throughout the entire season, making him one of the most versatile characters on the show. Scully (Heathers) does a perfectly fine job at establishing himself in the show as a typical wannabe-famous-LA-douchebag-rich-kid, but tends to become a bit one note when his scenes stretch out for too long. Luckily his stronger counterpart this season is Pedretti, who already has proven herself to be one hell of a talent as The Haunting of Hill House‘s Nell Crain, in which she hauntingly got under every viewer’s skin. Pedretti, soon also to be seen in the second season of Hill House – ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor‘ – gives a sad and tormented feel to Love’s character. If you thought Badgley was great, wait until Love walks into your life.

With a third season definitely already in the pipeline, what can we expect? And is Joe ever really going to change? As long as the writers can keep this from becoming a ‘Dexter‘ copy, this series has a long life to live. ‘You‘ is really that show, pushing our viewing habit in how much we believe what we see on the surface and not delving deeper into what could possible be a psychopath, ready to lock you up in his plexiglass cage. You’s follow up season is a bewilderingly glum continuation that is most of all absorbingly compelling and oh so perfect for your next 10 hour binge marathon. Bring on season three!

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘You’ Season 2

Reviewed on Netflix, Sydney, Dec. 26, 2020. Australian Classification: MA15+. Running time: 10 x 49 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an A+E Studios, Alloy Entertainment, Berlanti Productions, Warner Horizon Television production. Producers: Adria Lang, Jennifer Lence. Executive producers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Foley, Sera Gamble, Gina Girolamo, Lee Toland Krieger, Leslie Morgenstein, Sarah Schechter, Silver Tree.  

CREW: Directors: Silver Tree, DeMane Davis, Harry Jierjian, Shannon Kohli, Meera Menon, Cherie Nowlan, John Scott, Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Developed by: Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble. Screenplay: Caroline Kepnes, Kelli Breslin, Amanda Johnson-Zetterström, Kara Corthron. Camera (color, widescreen): Cort Fey, Seamus Tierney. Editors: Felicia Mignon Livingston, Erin Wolf. Music: Blake Neely.

WITH: Penn Badgley, Ambyr Childers, Victoria Pedretti, Jenna Ortega, James Scully, Carmela Zumbado, Charlie Barnett, Marielle Scott, Adwin Brown, Elizabeth Lail.

Stan Originals Review – 'The Commons: Season 1'

Set in a very familiar future, the Stan Original Series The Commons is a gripping character-driven relationship drama and a story about motherhood as the ultimate act of faith in humanity. If it wasn’t for the futuristic technicalities, this somewhat too frighteningly realistic series could take place in today’s Sydney, going through climate change.

Taking us into a technologically advanced world where every household is still trying to adapt and survive in an ecologically challenging environment, is Eadie (Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt). This brain doctor is desperately trying to become a mother, but with time running out for her, she reaches for the most desperate ways to get pregnant. Brave as she is, she’ll come face-to-face with border patrol and those that don’t have legal papers to stay in a capitalist country, and a new incurable disease, transmitted by the tiniest bugs.

Written and created by AACTA Award-winner Shelley Birse (The Code), The Commons is refreshing and exceptionally relevant, tackling today’s ecological climate, never overlooking human nature and the great lengths we go to for any sort of compassionate connection. Birse knows what will linger with today’s tv-watching crowd and mixes it with authentic brave drama that might be all too familiar for some of us. Slowly but surely, the story develops into a more character-focused family drama with the climatic danger from the first two episodes lurking in the background. The tonal consistency is there, although those that hope for more of what gets presented in the earlier episodes, might come out of this somewhat disappointed.

The focus lies mostly with Froggatt’s character Eadie, who is struggling with her age and the difficulties that come with it. Her husband (played by Safe Haven‘s David Lyons) is a scientist running-out-of-time to find a cure, to an ever-expanding epidemic of a by-bug-transferrable disease that’s slowly killing communities. Right by his side is good friend and co-worker Shay (played by Ryan Corr). Froggatt, well known for her role as maid Anna Bates in Downton Abbey, gives one of the finest dramatic performances of her career. She seems confident in her role and gives it her all. Co-star Corr, is turning out to be more than just a rising star, clearly establishing himself as a well-rounded talented actor, surprising us here with a more nuanced side we rarely see of him. Damon Herriman plays a character with PTSD, who eventually has an important part to play in the first season’s final episode.

The Commons‘ story gets supported by a wonderful score, and Earle Dresner‘s (Glitch) tremendous cinematography captures Sydney in a futuristic style. Many shots with what is clearly edited with some incredible special effects, look as realistic as the real bushfires raging across Australia at the moment. This series couldn’t have come at a better time – reminding us of the daily struggle we face with changing climates, capitalist governments and the challenges of keeping humanity strong within our own communities. The Commons is a new breed of top-notch Australian drama for the more sophisticated viewer.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stan Originals Review – ‘The Commons: Season 1’

Reviewed on Stan, Sydney, Dec. 26, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 8 x 45 min.

PRODUCTION: A Stan release of a Playmaker Media production. Producer: Diane Haddon. Line-producer: Ross Allsop.

CREW: Directors: Jeffrey Walker, Jennifer Leacey, Rowan Woods. Creator/writer: Shelley Birse. Camera (color, widescreen): Earle Dresner. Editor: Geoff Lamb.

CAST: Joanne Froggatt, Ryan Corr, David Lyons, Inez Currõ, Simone McAullay, Dominic Ona-Ariki, Rupert Penry-Jones, John Waters, Fayssal Bazzi, Andrea Demetriades.

Netflix Review – 'Messiah: Season 1'

“You are what you believe.”

The religious-based thriller series, Messiah, is one of the first new Netflix Originals of 2020. Created by Michael Petroni, known for writing films such as, The Book Thief and The Rite, the story unfolds from the points of view of multiple narrators.

When CIA officer Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) uncovers information about a man (Mehdi Dehbi) gaining international attention through acts of public disruption, she begins an investigation into his origins. As he continues to cultivate followers who allege he’s performing miracles, the global media become increasingly beguiled by this charismatic figure. Geller must race to unravel the mystery of whether he really is a divine entity or a deceptive con artist capable of dismantling the world’s geopolitical order.

It’s interesting to see a series about politics and religion, and the criticism on both subjects being made by a platform like Netflix, in the way they present it like they do, with Messiah. Not only do they cover different religions and similarities between them, but also the locations in which the entire story takes place, is on a more international level, to which at least one third of the series is subtitled, due to different languages (in this case Hebrew and Arabic) being spoken by our main characters. This way the series reaches a broader audience, and discussion leads to word of mouth, which leads to more viewers checking out the series.

As the story unfolds, multiple perspectives are interwoven including that of an Israeli intelligence officer (Tomer Sisley), a Texas preacher (John Ortiz) and his daughter (Stefania LaVie Owen), a Palestinian refuge (Sayyid El Alami) and the journalist (Jane Adams) who covers the story. All of these very diverse characters have an important role in how the “Messiah”‘s actions will develop and in to which extent the world will try and stop or encourage his message. This influences the viewer to go either way in believing this mysterious man’s vision, when more and more weirdly inexplicable phenomena take place all over the world.

A sandstorm of biblical proportions is the start of a political, military and religious shift in the world, but with social media and videos/news going viral in no time, what is real and what has been altered to entertain and push the masses into believing what governments or criminals want you to believe?Messiah makes you think about religion and politics, without ever judging anyone’s beliefs.

One of the stars of the series, Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), as the driven CIA officer Geller, brings us a composed and strong female character with her own personal problems, who’s constantly worrying about her sick father and questions everything she’s ever believed in. She’s here to ask the real questions and investigate if this isn’t all just part of a cult or some sort of apocalyptic propaganda. Monaghan gets to showcase some of her dramatic talent early on in the series. She does seem to be presented as the poster child of the series in earlier news articles and trailers, but this isn’t the case. She shares most of her precious screen time with other international actors who have a big part to play in the whole of the story. Tomer Sisley (We’re The Millers) is one hell of an actor, he plays a seriously troubled Israeli intelligence officer, who has to deal with some personal issues. His performance is pretty typical for the character he’s playing, but with his accent and rough looks, it gives him that extra edge at being tough and menacing, ready to shoot anyone that looks in his direction.

The real star of the show is Mehdi Dehbi (Tyrant). The man he plays is smart, he’s highly educated and knows everything about everyone – he sees you like you really are. Dehbi, with his piercing eyes, is perfectly cast as the main character. The looks and somewhat arrogant confidence, make him seem dangerous, when he tries to portray himself as someone safe and someone you can confide in. He makes mistakes, but this could all be part of a bigger plan he has in his mind. Dehbi embodies his character and steals the spotlight in each scene he’s in, even with the most established actors, such as Monaghan herself.

The writing isn’t as focused as one might hope for. It’s confusing at times, while jumping between different locations and following several different main characters at the same time. This does get better later on in the series, when everything starts to come together and settles down. The writers do make an effort at keeping everything eventful and exhilarating, with a few spectacular special effects heavy scenes, which are designed wonderfully.

Messiah is an incendiary thriller that explores the power of influence and disbelief in the age of social media, made to provoke and look beyond what’s right in front of you. A geopolitical scam or a miraculous resurrection?

⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘Messiah: Season 1’

Reviewed on Netflix, Sydney, Dec. 22, 2019. Australian Classification: TBC. Running time: 10 x 45 min.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an Industry Entertainment production. Producers: Brandon Guercio, David Nicksay. Executive producers: Mark Burnett, Andrew Deane, Roma Downey, James McTeigue, Michael Petroni.

CREW: Directors: James McTeigue, Kate Woods. Creator: Michael Petroni. Screenplay: Michael Petroni, Bruce Marshall Romans, Michael Bond, Brandon Guercio, Amy Louise Johnson, Kelly Wiles. Camera (color, widescreen): Danny Ruhlmann. Editors: Martin Connor, Joseph Jett Sally. Music: Johnny Klimek, Gabriel Isaac Mounsey.

WITH: Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Adams, Sayyid El Alami, Melinda Page Hamilton, Stefania LaVie Owen, Tomer Sisley, Barbara Eve Harris, Rona-Lee Shim’on, Iqbal Theba, John Ortiz.

Netflix Review – 'Lost in Space: Season 2'

Seven months after the events in the exhilarating ending of Lost in Space‘s first season, the Robinson family got stranded with their Jupiter 2 on a mysterious ocean planet without their beloved Robot. The Robinsons must work together to stay out of danger, lurking around each corner, and even from within their spacecraft in the form of Dr. Smith (Parker Posey). With the help of the ever charming Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), the family is racing against time to make it back to the Resolute and reunite with the other colonists. A series of new threats and unexpected discoveries emerge as Will vows to find Robot (Brian Steele) and finally make it safely to Alpha Centauri.

After a somewhat more episodic solid first season, this second season builds towards a more emotionally driven series that excels in spectacular sci-fi action. There’s an equal amount of time spent with each character, sometimes even an entire episode, that follows past events of one particular person a bit more than others. What’s different from the first season, is that this one is even more action-packed and tells a linear story, in the search of Robot and finding a safe haven for the entire colony on the Resolute to build a new life.

We still get to explore the galaxy, by visiting different planets, but we’re also spending a lot more time on aircrafts to give everything a more claustrophobic feel and not so much deal with an alien threat as to dealing with real human villains in outer space. Maureen (Molly Parker) and John’s (Toby Stephens) relationship grows stronger with each day, when both find their loved ones in constant danger and their survival instinct gets put to the test. Will (Maxwell Jenkins, who’s grown a lot taller between shooting the first and second season) struggles with loneliness and the loss of his best friend, Robot. Judy (Taylor Russell) is growing into an adult woman and taking her role on the ship very serious. Her character arc is the most emotional one this season, when we look back at how she became part of the Robinson family, in a very emotional episode showing her love and bravery towards her father, that will have you in tears. Penny (Mina Sundwall) is that feisty teenager who isn’t the easiest to deal with, but you can always count on. She’s mostly supporting her brother this season, keeping him safe and helping him deal with his emotions.

June Harris aka Dr. Smith, played by a deliciously evil Parker Posey, is the true MVP as she tries to gain control over everything, erasing evidence that could reveal just how wicked she really is. Posey was already the best part of the first season, and we don’t know how she did it, but she’s even better in the second season – what a treat! It becomes clear not just the Robinsons are in danger, but everyone who crosses her path. In a new and clever way, she’ll try to get into everyone’s heads by playing the part she so eagerly took from the real Dr. Smith, while also dealing with her own personal demons from the past.

Filmed on location in Vancouver and Iceland, making the landscapes seem as if you’re following the family between extra terrestrial dusty canyons, the production design team worked very hard to make everything look as realistic as possible. New challenges and dangers arise in the form of intergalactic nasty toxins, evil robots who don’t always seem who they are and alien velociraptors. The special effects this season are highly detailed, looking realistic and better than most blockbuster sci-fi spectacles you see on the big screen. From realistic enormous translucent guppy-like creatures flying through the atmosphere, to mysterious metal trenches surrounded by beautifully rendered waterfalls. Composer Christopher Lennertz, who also wrote the music for the first season of Lost in Space, is back for this season and delivers something magical, lifting the emotions brought to the screen by the cast and getting under your skin with his majestic new score, that feels bigger than ever.

New characters get introduced with mixed motives, making you question every step they take, begging to give you the answers you need for you to finally start trusting them. A.I.-specialist Ben Adler (JJ Feild) knows how to control the Robots and helps Will to find his lost friend, hiding the origin behind scars he shares with the boy. The newer characters seem a bit underwritten as they turn into your typical filler extras with obvious hidden agendas. No shocking revelations here, unfortunately.

Lost in Space: Season 2 takes us onto an entirely new journey, filled with adventure, heart and mind-blowing new settings. If you loved the first season, you’ll probably finish this continuation to the Robinson’s story in one weekend. Netflix clearly knows how good this show is, hinting at a third season, going out with an enormous bang, that’ll have you jump out of your seat in shock. Lost in Space claims the top spot as best sci-fi show currently on television.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Review – ‘Lost in Space: Season 2’

Reviewed on Netflix, Sydney, Dec. 22, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 10 x 1 hour episodes.

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Legendary Television, Synthesis Entertainment, Applebox Productions, Clickety-Clack Productions production. Creator/Showrunner: Zack Estrin. Executive producers: Zack Estrin, Jon Jashni, Kevin Burns, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Alex Graves, Brad Van Arragon, Neil Marshall, Marc Helwig.

CREW: Directors: Alex Graves, Leslie Hope, Jon East, Tim Southam, Jabbar Raisani, Stephen Surjik. Screenplay: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Daniel McLellan. Camera (color, widescreen): Sam McCurdy, C. Kim Miles. Editors: Jack Colwell, Emily Streetz, Joe Talbot Hall, Mark Hartzell. Music: Christopher Lennertz.

WITH: Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Parker Posey, Brian Steele, JJ Feild, Raza Jaffrey, Douglas Hodge, Amelia Burstyn.

Review – 'The Gentlemen'

The rather unconventional visionary Guy Ritchie has been stuck in a Hollywood rut for the last ten years, ever since he committed to big budget, visual effects heavy films, such as Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and this year’s underwhelming live action version of the classic Disney, ‘Aladdin‘. The British director goes back to his roots with the highly entertaining gangster film ‘The Gentlemen‘ and surprisingly nails every bold punch he makes.

Although his ‘Aladdin‘ made a ton of money, critically the film was a disaster. His return to the underground world of bribery, drugs, money-laundering and blood-covered-class, is as refreshing as it is entertaining. The film’s script deals with two storylines at the same time, almost breaking the fourth wall with a tongue-in-cheek commentary on today’s Hollywood and how big movie studios are hungry for some original yet overly mainstream basic content, to lure people into cinemas to go watch their films.

Beginning with a quick flash forward that ends with a bang and a pair of brains splattered all over a pint and a pickled egg at a typical British pub, we dial it back to a quiet evening at Raymond’s (Charlie Hunnam) cosy house. When private investigator and intrusive sly fox, Fletcher (Hugh Grant), turns up at his house, he explains he has been keeping an eye on the different gangs around town for quite a while. Narrating most of the film and making some stuff up to make things more spectacular for himself, he reads his mostly finished movie script to Raymond, bribing him into funding his little project, or else he’ll leak all the information he has on Raymond’s boss Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), a white trash American expat who has build himself a marijuana empire.

Mickey is tired of the business and is trying to sell his highly profitable company to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires. But when one of the underground weed-plantations gets raided by a group of British lads, filming the entire thing and posting it on YouTube as some sort of fight-porn-music-video, it quickly becomes clear some mobster bosses haven’t been exactly honest about their meetings and loyalty towards each other. This is when the real war begins – while keeping it classy.

Ritchie co-wrote the story with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, who haven’t written anything before. The idea of the entire film is prodigious, but the screenplay and dialogue is simply unprecedented by Ritchie himself, bringing joke after joke, while taking you on a thrilling ride full of genius twists and new ways to incorporate classic gangster cinema – Ritchie-style. Composer Christopher Benstead is debuting his very first score for a feature film with The Gentlemen, and knows exactly how to set the tone and drive it up to an eleven. A promising talent that won’t go unnoticed.

Ritchie introduces new characters throughout the film, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat, surprising them with actual cinema, getting the best angles and money shots, thanks to his cinematographer Alan Stewart (Aladdin). When adding layer after layer to the story, going deeper into the underground scene, adding a new protagonist who’s into human trafficking and Mickey’s queen and wife, the cockney Cleopatra, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), who owns a sanctuary for the ladies as some sort of business coverup to her husband’s weed-empire, it becomes clear every role has a purpose and there are no extras involved in this story. One of the best acting ensembles in recent cinema history, and a welcome reminder from McConnaughey as to why he won an Oscar in the first place. But it’s Colin Farrell (as the highly entertaining ‘Coach’) and Hugh Grant who steal every scene they’re in with their remarkable wit that’ll for sure land them some BAFTA-nominations.

The Gentlemen‘ is a ruthless first-class kick in the teeth. Do not let the failures of Ritchie’s recent career choices scare you, as this is actually one of the best films he’s ever made. Who knew Guy Ritchie could raise the bar not just for himself, but for everyone out there trying to brush him off as a has been. 2020 is off to a great start!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – ‘The Gentlemen’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas Boutique, Sydney, Dec. 2, 2019. Australian Classification: MA15. Running time: 113 min.

PRODUCTION: A Roadshow Films release of a Miramax production. Producers: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Bill Block. Executive producers: Bob Osher, Matthew Anderson, Andrew Golov, Alan Wands, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson. Co-producers: Max Keene, Matthew McConaughey.

CREW: Director: Guy Ritchie. Screenplay: Guy Ritchie, from a story by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies. Camera (color, widescreen): Alan Stewart. Editor: James Herbert. Music: Christopher Benstead.

WITH: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan.

Review – 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

After more than 40 years and eight chapters of Star Wars, the Skywalker-saga comes to an end with episode IX. J.J. Abrams is back to direct this final chapter, after passing the torch to Rian Johnson in 2017, who divided the fandom with his ‘The Last Jedi‘. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is an epic conclusion to the saga, which will please many fans and brings back familiar faces, to join forces in the battle against former Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who’s back from the dead.

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order, while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will stop at nothing and travels all over the galaxy to find Rey (Daisy Ridley), who’s only getting stronger and becomes an undisputed threat when slowly uncovering the truth behind her parents’ deaths, conflicted between good and evil.

J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) has a very distinctive style of directing, using his trademark flare in one too many scenes, though he knows like no other how to direct mind-blowing action sequences – such as a lightsaber collision in the middle of the ocean, with enormous waves crashing into the ruins of the destroyed Death Star. Tying loose ends of the final trilogy’s previous chapters, he services established Star Wars-fans and tugs at plenty of heartstrings, since all bets are off in the final instalment. Tears are never far off, when well known characters make a final appearance, while new and beloved characters say farewell, finally embracing their destiny.

What’s truly remarkable is how much the chemistry of this new generation of characters has developed over the course of three episodes. Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega‘s comedic timing and bantering on screen is focused and refined to perfection. While Carrie Fisher gets top billing, her Leia Organa has the smallest amount of screen time, after her passing right before filming commenced. The use of older footage of her doesn’t go unnoticed, when there’s clearly almost no dialogue that could’ve been used, and her character just stands in the distance without ever really interacting with anyone else.

The production design is amazing. The different planets and inventiveness of new worlds are awe-inspiring, from dangerously snowy alleyways reminiscent and breathing the style of ‘The Mandalorian‘, to desert landscapes, in which a colourful tribe celebrates an age-old tradition with joyful music, and magnificent animatronics and puppets are used for realistic effect. The visual effects of Lucasfilm are (as usual) out of this world, but big set pieces that remind you of other sagas, such as ‘The Lord of the Rings‘-trilogy, do look a bit “videogame-y”, when a budget this big – $200,000,000 to be precise – can provide better graphics and even real life sets to give a more polished look to very important and grandiose scenes. John Williams‘ score brings life and emotion to everything on screen, re-mastering and re-inventing previously used themes and blending them with new and iconic tunes, specific to his sound.

With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the Skywalker-saga reaches for the stars, concluding a historic piece of storytelling, with its own highs and lows, for future generations to explore and embrace the legendary pop culture phenomenon that is “Star Wars“.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review – ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Dec. 21, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 142 min.

PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Bad Robot, Lucasfilm Ltd. production. Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Michelle Rejwan. Executive producers: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin.  

CREW: Director: J.J. Abrams. Screenplay: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams. Camera (color, widescreen): Dan Mindel. Editors: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube. Music: John Williams.

WITH: Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Vee, David Chapman, Brian Herring, Joonas Suotamo, Domhnall Gleason, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Keri Russell.