In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I take a look at a couple of shows that I have watched a lot in the first months of 2021 — specifically Your Honor and For All Mankind. But I also give you my thoughts on a documentary that everyone talked about in February.
- What are Additional Bite-Sized Reviews?
– My monthly movie and television catch-up review series ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews‘ is an evolution of the Overview-article section previously titled ‘What I Didn’t Write About.’ I was originally inspired by film critic Peter Sobczynski’s article series ‘Films I Neglected to Review,’ wherein he writes short, or brief, reviews of films that he hasn’t had the time to write full reviews about. Therefore, in articles such as this one, I will provide my readers with my thoughts on select films, shows, and even classics that I feel like giving my thoughts on, even though I don’t have the time to dedicate thorough reviews to them.
- Why do the bite-sized reviews not include either a letter grade or a review score?
– In my full and thorough reviews, I like to score or grade what I watch. But since these reviews aren’t as detailed, I think it is fairer to the films and shows to simply just decide whether or not to recommend them. I guess you could say this is the only type of review that is basically ‘scored’ with the classic thumbs-up/thumbs-down-method on my site.
Your Honor | Limited Series | Developed by Peter Moffat | Release Year: 2020-2021 | Season Length: 10 Episodes | Seen on: HBO Nordic | Recommended?: Yes.
Peter Moffat’s Your Honor is a limited thriller series that follows a New Orleans judge, Michael Desiato (played by Bryan Cranston), as his life is turned upside down one afternoon after his son, Adam (played by Hunter Doohan), gets in a car accident that kills the son of a New Orleans mob boss named Jimmy Baxter (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). Although Michael wants Adam to do the right thing, the judge quickly realizes that it would be incredibly dangerous for his son to turn himself in. So, now Michael Desiato must ask himself exactly what he is willing to do to save his son.
I wasn’t going to watch this series at first. But then, one night, I decided to watch the first episode on a whim, and then I was instantly hooked. When people asked me if there was anything good to watch on TV recently, this would be what I would immediately recommend to them. I had a lot of fun with this show, but, I have to say that, as the series got closer and closer to the end, it lost me. At the very end, I have to say that the show disappointed me quite a bit. While the ending is perhaps fitting, it is also so rushed, silly, and a complete letdown that it reminded me of the disappointing ending to Susanne Bier’s The Undoing (which is another show that I enjoyed quite a bit until the ending disappointed me). It felt like there was an episode missing in-between the penultimate and final episodes of the series, and, since they didn’t have that episode, it felt like the show had to speed up its plotlines.
But, as you see, I am still recommending the show. So, why is that? Well, I’ve got two names for you. Bryan. Cranston. Although not all of the performances or characters worked for me (it was particularly disappointing how illogically the Adam Desiato-character acted and behaved throughout the show), Bryan Cranston is the show’s linchpin and he really buoys up the show as a whole. His is not the only performance that worked for me (I thought Carmen Ejogo, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. were all quite good), though. The lengths that his character is willing to go through to help his son are memorable, and, when you pair this performance and character with Cranston’s performances in Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, Cranston has once again proven that he may be his generation’s most memorable television ‘dad.’
As a show, there is a lot to enjoy here, even though the series, in my mind, hobbles across the finish line. I think the show’s twists are thrilling, and I thought that Cranston managed to sell almost every plot development convincingly. I think this show may perhaps be even better on a binge-watch since I do think the relatively long wait for the plot developments in the final episode soured my experience with it slightly. Let me know what you think if you binge-watch it!
For All Mankind | Season One | Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi | Release Year: 2019 | Season Length: 10 Episodes | Seen on: Apple TV+ | Recommended?: Yes.
I love space and science fiction. I mean, how can you not? The idea of space being the final frontier has always been an idea that has worked for me. I was obsessed with pretty much every science-fiction show I could watch when I was young, I adored and, still, absolutely love Star Wars as well as Stargate, and I started to grow fond of Star Trek when I was eventually introduced to it. Films like The Martian and Interstellar are right up my alley, and if I ever see Ron Howard’s Apollo 11 play on the television, I tend to finish the film. I once got into a somewhat heated argument, when an acquaintance suggested that he was more interested in a new iPhone than space exploration. What I’m trying to say is, I really love space. So, it didn’t take too long for For All Mankind to get its hooks in me.
I am a sucker for alternate history premises if the premise twist at the heart of the story isn’t ridiculous, so this show was right up my alley. The Apple TV+ space series raises the question: “What if a Soviet Cosmonaut was the first person to land on the moon?” Ronald D. Moore and the rest of the series’ creators have thought up some pretty interesting alternate history plot developments. Essentially, what this means is that, in the show, America decides to continue the Space Race in an effort to match the pace of the Soviet space program and possibly contend for control of the Moon.
I binge-watched the first season of the series in a couple of days in the third week of February, and I got more and more invested in the show the more I watched it, in spite of the show’s slightly slow main plot (though I really do appreciate whenever the show time-jumps so that you don’t have to wait for a base or a rocket to be built) and the sometimes soapy earthbound drama. However, this does make me think that it may have been slightly more difficult to enjoy if you watched the first season week-by-week.
Though the show is led by Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, who plays a disgruntled astronaut (Edward Baldwin) that, in this alternate history, was on the Apollo 10 crew, the series features a pretty sizable supporting cast (the ensemble cast is solid), and I think most of the subplots are at least somewhat interesting and done fairly well (with one exception). Baldwin’s story didn’t really hook me at first, but, once he was given a new mission, I was completely engrossed by every aspect of his story. I think that the entire story about female astronauts is also exciting, and I really liked the way it was executed. However, the subplot involving a character named Aleida didn’t really work for me. It feels like the show is setting up that character to be important in the future of the show, though.
If the first couple of episodes don’t work for you, then maybe the show just isn’t for you. But, I must say, I think the final two episodes of the season are gripping and extremely exciting, which means that I am now very interested in the second season of the show, which I will probably review when the second season comes to an end. So, if you like alternate history plots or shows involving space exploration, then I really think you should give the first season a chance (or another chance, if the first episode didn’t hook you back in the day).
Framing Britney Spears | Documentary Film | Dir. Samantha Stark | Release Year: 2021 | Seen on: TV2 Play | Recommended?: No.
Free Britney Spears. This New York Times produced documentary communicates that Britney Spears hasn’t just been mistreated by the media over the years, but that she may, allegedly, actively be mistreated by her guardian. The relatively-short documentary reexamines her career in the spotlight and then, later, becomes a discussion of her conservatorship. In general, the documentary makes some persuasive points, and asks some valid questions, about the, perhaps, sexist way women of all ages are treated by members of the media, the press, and the paparazzi. It specifically reexamines Britney Spears’ time in the spotlight and takes a retrospective look at her career. However, I have mixed feelings about some of the points the documentary tries to make, in part due to the fact that the people who have been interviewed for the documentary almost exclusively have an outside perspective.
For example, at one point, the documentary seems to take aim at Justin Timberlake because of his so-called ‘revenge’ music videos and songs that had suggested that she had cheated on him and broken his heart. While I do think it is probably right for some of the people in the documentary to suggest that Timberlake should take some ownership of the relationship and how it ended, as well as acknowledge his own mistakes, I do think the interviewers willfully ignore the fact that we don’t know the truth here. We don’t know what really happened. Perhaps that one line from Britney Spears’ song “Everytime,” actually was an attempt at a ‘mea culpa,’ but perhaps not. We just don’t know, and the fact that the documentary doesn’t actually get a new interview with Britney Spears becomes extremely frustrating in cases such as this one. In any case, so-called revenge songs were certainly nothing new with Carly Simon having made a similar song in the past and Taylor Swift having made similar songs since then, but I digress.
Ultimately, while I do think the #FreeBritney movement is probably good for the now-39-year-old popstar, the documentary doesn’t do its subject, Ms. Spears, justice. It is difficult for this documentary to feel pivotal when the discussion is being had by talking heads — mostly fans and random journalists — that don’t seem to have the unique inside perspective that may have made their contributions matter more. Perhaps the most memorable thing about this documentary is the fact that it ends with a long list of individuals who declined to take part in the documentary, including the titular subject. But while I don’t think this speculative and superficial documentary is very good, I am happy that it seems to have made more people aware of an alleged problem that its subject, Ms. Spears, may have. I hope Britney Spears gets the help she needs.
– Reviews Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.