In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I give my thoughts on the second season of the major Apple TV+ series The Morning Show, but I have also taken a look back at Steven Soderbergh’s latest film. And then, at the end of the article, I will finally reveal what my thoughts are on the sequel to A Quiet Place.
- 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.
The Morning Show: Season Two | Series | Created by Jay Carson | Release Year: 2021 | Season Length: 10 Episodes | Seen on: Apple TV+ | Recommended?: No.
Back in July of 2020, I wrote a bite-sized review of the first season of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. I remarked that I had had a bad experience watching the pilot, but that the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had given me more time to watch shows like that one.
While I never truly fell in love with the show in the first season, it did grow on me as it went along. I liked the idea of the show. I thought it was interesting that the show was essentially about so-called ‘cancel culture’ and morning television in the aftermath of the #MeToo-era. It all sounded interesting on paper, and especially so when you considered the caliber of actors on the show, like Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon. But the primary thing that kept me interested through that first season was Billy Crudup and his lively performance.
I don’t know what I expected from the second season, but it certainly wasn’t what I was given. The writers of the show decided that they were going to continue to follow real-world developments relatively closely, and this meant that the second season, pretty much from start to finish, existed in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think this was a bad decision. Not only do I think that nobody wants to relive the pandemic on television right now, but I also think the show ought to focus on its characters instead of letting real-world developments dictate their arcs.
The writers, with the second season, decided to write off one of its major characters, and I think it was just a massive shame that they did that (and how they did that), as it, in a way, threw the show into a bit of an identity crisis. The brunt of the show was suddenly about Aniston’s Alex and her nervousness about being ‘canceled,’ herself. I got tired of watching people obsess about where she was (when she was blatantly ignoring her workplace and safety restrictions). I thought her character often felt oblivious to other characters’ feelings and sometimes even the show’s filmmakers felt oblivious to audiences’ perception of her character.
I really think that the second season does Carell, Aniston, and Crudup a massive disservice, as their characters are either sidelined, written off, made less sympathetic, or saddled with storylines that don’t do much for their characters. There are some really poorly written scenes here, and the season, in general, is too on-the-nose and predictable. Frankly, the one thing I thought worked fairly well about the second season was Witherspoon’s plotlines. In the second season, The Morning Show became the type of show that I only watched because I had followed along this far, and, I guess, I wanted to see what would happen even though the show had, frankly, lost me along the way.
No Sudden Move | Film | Dir. Steven Soderbergh | Release Year: 2021 | Seen on: HBO Max | Recommended?: Yes.
I am so fascinated by the recent turns Steven Soderbergh’s career has taken. After the underappreciated heist flick Logan Lucky, he experimented with iPhone films (e.g. UNSANE) and then let himself be enveloped the streaming machine first by Netflix (e.g. High Flying Bird) and now by HBO Max. Not all of his films have been great (I really dug High Flying Bird, whereas The Laundromat did nothing for me), but they sure have been fascinating films to watch insofar as they help to define this phase of his career and, indeed, moviemaking.
No Sudden Move, a well-cast crime period piece, was right up my alley. It is a cynical and bleak time thriller about corruption and the automotive industry seen from the perspective of a couple of gangsters that have been hired to blackmail someone and hold his family hostage. Seeing Brendan Fraser in this was so nice, and I really enjoyed following the drama that ensued between Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, and David Harbour as the film went on. The film is at once both oddly comedic and serious, with the film including some extremely tense hostage scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. It certainly doesn’t feel like a straight-to-streaming film, which is a big win for HBO Max.
It isn’t perfect, though. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with the pace of the film (some will, though), even though it’s not exactly brisk. Rather I thought the film felt unnecessarily intricate eventually, and it is easy to lose interest in the overarching plot as it goes along. All in all, though, No Sudden Move is a nice surprise from Steven Soderbergh.
A Quiet Place Part II | Film | Dir. John Krasinski | Release Year: 2021 | Seen on: Paramount+ | Recommended?: Yes.
It made me glad to see that the magic hasn’t just disappeared in the second film. Picking up right where the first film left off — though after a gripping opening flashback — this second part still follows the remaining Abbotts, as they are trying to transport their family to a new safe space. Their journey brings them in the direction of someone that John Krasinski’s character apparently communicated with via signal fires in the first film.
This second film is most definitely a survival film about grief whereas the first film’s focus on parenthood takes a bit of a step back, just as Emily Blunt’s subplot plays second fiddle to the A-plot spearheaded by Cillian Murphy’s new character and Millicent Simmonds’ Regan.
As a filmmaker, Krasinski hasn’t lost a step, but the film is mostly repeating the same tricks that made the first film work. The music and sound work is quite good, Krasinski builds tension well and he does a good job of pulling off these painfully shocking memorable moments yet again, with the bear trap sequence being really tough to watch. I also thought that the film was willing to show much more of its alien antagonists and their simple (and perhaps somewhat generic) character design.
Although the aforementioned A-plot goes in a direction that I thought was quite thrilling (though, again, perhaps not extremely original), I was, however, disappointed by the B-plot. Blunt doesn’t get to do all that much here, and the film relies much more on her two oldest children — Regan and Marcus. But Noah Jupe’s Marcus also doesn’t have a terribly exciting arc or story. Krasinski builds tension in his and Blunt’s scenes, but I was just annoyed by the illogical decision-making by one of the B-plot’s characters.
There is a lot of good in Part II. I thought the opening flashback was flat-out fantastic. I thought Cillian Murphy was a nice addition to the cast. I liked the A-plot quite a bit. But Part II doesn’t live up to the first film. Sidelined characters and contrived decision-making frustrated me in Part II, and I wish it didn’t end as abruptly as it ultimately does. I wanted a couple of additional scenes at the end there.
Home Sweet Home Alone | Film | Dir. Dan Mazer | Release Year: 2021 | Seen on: Disney+ | Recommended?: No.
Right, okay, so maybe I’m misremembering the original film, but I don’t think this one lives up to the original at all. There was definitely a Bart Simpson-esque joy in watching ‘the kid who is home alone’ fight back against burglars, but this new reboot just completely loses that joy by having so much of the film be from the perspective of a sympathetic and undeniably relatable couple going through hard times.
They are the film’s burglars (though they’re trying to steal something back that has apparently been stolen from them), but even though these characters are often annoyingly cartoonish and completely refuse to communicate their problem to the kid whose home they try to break into, you absolutely do not want to see them get hurt. On top of that, I thought that ‘the kid who is home alone’ was just incredibly rude in this film. You don’t root for him. You just don’t.
It is a joyless and poorly written reboot with contrived plot developments and dialogue, and a plot revelation towards the end of the film that just made me roll my eyes due to exasperation.
– Reviews Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.