REVIEW: ANDOR – Season One (2022)

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Series Created by Tony Gilroy — Available on Disney+ now.

Since Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, it has been somewhat of a bumpy ride. Their so-called sequel trilogy features a safe-but-satisfying opener (The Force Awakens), an excellent and thrilling second film that divided the fanbase and revealed toxicities (The Last Jedi), and a conclusion that, in trying too hard to satisfy toxic fans, went back on what the previous film had set up and ended the trilogy on a whimper (The Rise of Skywalker). Even the spin-off films have divided opinions due to them over-explaining things that needed no explanations. As live-action Star Wars has embraced streaming, it has been with similar ups and downs. The Mandalorian is a bonafide hit (but in its most memorable moments it has still clung to fan service). The Book of Boba Fett was good in glimpses but its best episodes are essentially episodes of The Mandalorian. Finally, though richly satisfying, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a safe and fan-service-laden limited series that was yet another reminder of how insular Star Wars storytelling can often feel. As a huge Star Wars fan, it pleases me greatly to be able to affirm that ANDOR, a prequel spin-off series of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is a breath of fresh air in that it is a mature, dark, and gritty series that makes the Empire and the Rebellion feel real again.

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REVIEW: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities – Season One (2022)

Tim Blake Nelson and Sebastian Roché in ‘Lot 36’ from GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES — PHOTO: Netflix.

Series Created by Guillermo del Toro.

Just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, Netflix released a spooky four-day event with eight episodes (two released each day) of the brand-new horror anthology series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has assembled eight directors and had each of them direct their own hour-ish-long episode. Admittedly, not every one of them is an outright hit, but, as a collection of horror curiosities, del Toro’s anthology series definitely does its job, and, if you follow the two-a-day release schedule, then you may find that their spot in the season wasn’t entirely random. Horror aficionados gather around because this one is for you.

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REVIEW: The Bear – Season One (2022)

Tensions can sometimes reach a boiling point in THE BEAR, in which a star chef takes over a dirty Chicago family restaurant — PHOTO: DISNEY+/FX.

Series Created by Christopher Storer.

In Christopher Storer’s The Bear, we follow the employees and cooks at the dirty, failing Italian beef sandwich shop, the Original Beef of Chicagoland, as its owner has died by suicide and his brother, Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (played by Jeremy Allen White), takes over. Carmy, an experienced chef with fine-dining experience, wants to change the way things are done in the restaurant much to the frustration of some of its employees, including the de-facto manager of the shop, Richie (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who is the most unruly of the bunch.

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REVIEW: House of the Dragon – Season One (2022)

Emma D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra standing close to the Iron Throne in HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — PHOTO: HBO

Series Created by Ryan Condal & George R. R. Martin.

If I am being totally honest, I didn’t really miss Game of Thrones. Its final season made some missteps that soured me on it to an extent that I didn’t really think much of the spin-offs in development. Still, out of this idea that I like to at least try to complete what I’m following along with, I gave it a go (also because I quite liked the cast). And I am happy to report that it didn’t take long to hook me. The first season of House of the Dragon is Game of Thrones at its very best. It is an outstanding first season of television that well and truly won me back.

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REVIEW: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – Season One (2022)

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in THE RINGS OF POWER — PHOTO: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Show Developed by J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay — Season Directed by J. A. Bayona, Wayne Che Yip, and Charlotte Brändström.

Late next year we’ll be twenty years removed from the release of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. That means it’ll also be twenty years since ten-year-old me sat in a theater and sobbed as Frodo said his goodbyes. Peter Jackson’s first three films in the Tolkienverse fully got me. I remember asking my mother if movies would ever get that good again, and she assured me that they would. She was right.

However, you wouldn’t know it from Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien trilogy, the prequel films, The Hobbit trilogy. Those three films disappointed someone so deeply emotionally invested in the universe so much that I chose not to see all of them immediately as they were released in theaters. So, I was skeptical when it was announced that a return to Middle-Earth was on the horizon at Amazon Prime Video. However, while it suffers from some notable problems, I think the first season of The Rings of Power mostly works. In any case, I’m happy to say that I loved being back in a universe that I didn’t realize I had been missing for quite some time.

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REVIEW: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – Season One (2022)

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Show Created by Jessica Gao — Directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia.

The first Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series, WandaVision, was released in early 2021. Now, in October of 2022, Marvel Studios has fully released eight different Marvel series on the Disney streamer. While I’ve enjoyed watching all of them, I really do think that many of them would’ve been better as films, as these shows — like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — still swear by the classic Marvel template. Honestly, I think only WandaVision, Loki, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel were right to be made into series rather than films. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, however, is the kind of story that feels appropriate for the streamer as a series. It doesn’t take the overarching Marvel storylines all that seriously and, even though I’m a fan of the MCU, that feels really refreshing.

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REVIEW: For All Mankind – Season Three (2022)

Scene from “For All Mankind,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Series Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi — Available Now on Apple TV+.

For All Mankind is my favorite Apple TV+ show, which is saying something considering how much I absolutely love Ted Lasso. Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi’s historical fiction series started as ‘what if the Soviet Union had reached the Moon first and, as a result, the United States continued and accelerated the space race,’ and the second season explored this alternate history science-fiction by having the Cold War take place in outer space, essentially. If the first season was a ‘small step,’ and the second season a ‘giant leap,’ then this third season cements that the previous season wasn’t just a fluke. For All Mankind is still one of the best ongoing shows on any streaming service.

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REVIEW: Black Bird (2022 – Limited Series)

Ray Liotta and Taron Egerton in “Black Bird,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Series Developed by Dennis Lehane.

Apple TV+ is starting to pick up steam as a serious streamer with several fantastic shows. Black Bird, from award-winning novelist and screenwriter Dennis Lehane, is one of its latest solid series. Unfortunately, since Apple TV+ is yet to have a massive subscriber count, shows like it, For All Mankind, Severance, Shining Girls, and so on and so forth will probably struggle to find an enormous audience. Black Bird should be an easy sell for many people in this day and age where true crime adaptations are all the rage. The mini-series is based on James Keene and Hillel Levin’s autobiographical novel In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.

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REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Nippy”

The following is a recap and review of the tenth episode of the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers.

In the tenth episode of the sixth season of Better Call Saul — titled Nippy — “Gene” (played by Bob Odenkirk) tries to convince someone to take part in a con job with a very brief time window. Nippy was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Michelle MacLaren.

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REVIEW: Better Call Saul – “Fun and Games”

The following is a recap and review of the ninth episode of the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers.

In the ninth episode of the sixth season of Better Call Saul — titled Fun and Games — Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) meets with Nacho’s father, while Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn) makes a definitive decision about her future. Fun and Games was written by Ann Cherkis and directed by Michael Morris. The episode is dedicated to Julia Clark Downs.

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