Current Mini TV and Series Reviews (Loki, Ted Lasso, Virgin River, Hacks, Big Shot)

Hey everyone! I hope you all are doing well. I had grand intentions to do full reviews for all of the films and series I’ve watched recently but as more is opening up I got more behind. I am afraid my mini reviews will have to do. I am going to start with all the series reviews (yes I’ve watched a lot of series lately! I don’t know how I’ve become a TV person but here we are).

Make sure to also check out my review of Schmigadoon Season 1

Loki Season 1

Loki season 1, episode 3 review: Lamentis

I loved Wandavision but I think I might like Loki Season 1 even more. What an inventive, unpredictable, engaging show! I have always been a huge fan of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and he is in top form here. I loved I never knew where the series was going. I loved his chemistry with both Owen Wilson as Mobius and Sophia di Martino as Sylvie. It was weird in just the right ways with immersive world-building and production. Are we sure this is the MCU? It’s like Marvel meets Brazil and I’m here for it. So excited we are getting more!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Ted Lasso Season 2

Ted Lasso Season 2 review: Jason Sudeikis' Apple show is a beacon of decency; the best comedy on TV right now | Web Series - Hindustan Times

When everyone else has seen all of season 2 of Ted Lasso I may do a more detailed review but this show is just great. Everything you’ve heard about it is true and more so. I loved season 1 and season 2 has kicked it out of the stadium once again. I know many will disagree but the highlight for me was the Christmas episode (episode 4) that will go down as one of the best holiday episodes of any show ever made. I adored it.

Aside from obviously Ted (Jason Sudeikis) and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) Higgins (Jeremy Swift) was a real highlight of the season. Also whenever you see Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) with his niece Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield) it is so charming. There is a new cast member, a therapist, played by Sarah Niles that brings out much of the heart of the season. My only real criticism is I want more! The season is too short!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Virgin River Season 3

Virgin River' Season 3 Finale: [Spoiler] Pregnant — Who's The Father? | TVLine

I have to admit if I had written my review of Virgin River Season 3 right after I watched it I would have been a little bit higher. I like being with these people and it’s pleasant enough entertainment to watch. However, the more I’ve thought about it more asinine a lot of the decision-making is for season 3.

The positives are the chemistry between Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge) and Jack (Martin Henderson) has gotten really good. I actually wasn’t sold on them at first but they’ve grown on me. Also we have less of the Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley) drama than last season. In general the town has a lived-in feel to it and whenever they have group scenes it feels natural and authentic.

However, I have never been a big fan of the conflict in the show and that doesn’t change here. The whole drug ring plot is dumb and I don’t love the plotlines for Preacher (Colin Lawrence) or the young lovers Ricky (Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey) and Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale). I won’t give any spoilers but the cliffhanger was completely unbelievable and didn’t work with the character in question as we’ve come to know him or her.

Also obviously they had COVID problems with Annette OToole but the plot they came up with for Hope was bad. It wasn’t believable and the town missed her presence.

I’ll still watch season 4 since I’m invested, but I wish the writing was better.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Big Shot Season 1

Big Shot' Review: John Stamos Stars in Disney Plus Basketball TV Show - Variety

When I first saw the preview for Big Shot it looked like a throw-away show on Disney Plus. Something similar to the comedies we see on Disney Channel which are fine for their demographic but not for me. However, over the last few months a number of friends recommended the show so I decided to give it a try and color me surprised how much I enjoyed it!

Big Shot stars John Stamos as Marvyn Korn, a college basketball coach who is sent to a private girls high school to coach after he embarrasses himself getting angry at a game. Naturally the girls are something different than he is used to but they all eventually warm up to each other and the team begins to improve. As we watch the season all of the girl’s characters are fleshed out as well as the coach.

The writing is solid here and all the actors are up to the task. Veteran TV producer and writer David E Kelley brings his expertise to the program and it really shows. I hope it gets renewed for a second season. A hidden gem!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Hacks Season 1

Hacks Season 1 Soundtrack | Tunefind

I’m normally not a big fan of the HBO type of raunchy shows but I heard enough good buzz about Hacks that I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

It’s greatest standout is Jean Smart’s performance as an aging comic in Vegas named Deborah Vance. She has been coasting on her old material for a while when in walks Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young hipster writer forced to work with Deborah because of some bad publicity.

If I’m honest sometimes Ava was a little too grading for my taste but she fits the role of the entitled millennial perfectly. Jean Smart is the best as Deborah. She’s funny, relatable, sad, and engaging all at the same time. Kaitlin Olson from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia also puts in strong work as Deborah’s daughter DJ.

All in all, Hacks is a well written, engaging show with an incredible lead performance.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There are other shows I’m caught up on but I haven’t finished airing yet like HSMTMTS S2, Monsters at Work, Good Witch S7, The 100 Ft Wave, and more (seriously how am I this TV person!)

What about you? Have you seen any of these shows? Let me know what you think?

I have a bunch of movie reviews coming to you tomorrow so much more to look forward to!

[REVIEW] ‘Schmigadoon!’ or Sing Out Musical Parody

If you are following me on social media you know not only am I huge fan of musicals but since I got vaccinated I have had a goal to support local musical theater as much as possible. I currently have seen 18 shows since April including everything from The Music Man to Next to Normal and loved all of them. (Here is my ranking of my first 10 shows)

Evidently I’m not the only one who has been on a musical kick in 2021 because movies and series have embraced them to an unusual degree. In fact, I have deemed 2021 as ‘The Year of Musicals’. The latest entry is from director Barry Sonnenfeld and can be streamed on Apple Plus: it is an enchanting and hilarious parody series called Schmigadoon!.

The first 2 episodes lands today but I have been able to watch the entire first season. It tells the story of a couple Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) who in a weak spot in their relationship stumble upon the magical town of Schmigadoon.

The name of the town and show is an obvious homage to Brigadoon (which I have always felt is a very underrated classic musical!). But the series takes shots at many musicals with everything from Carousel, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, The Music Man and even La La Land. Sometimes the jokes are a little on-the-nose but I was consistently laughing throughout.

Naturally the traditional values of classic musicals get a brunt of the jokes with Alan Cumming being particularly funny as the closeted mayor Aloysius Menlove. Fred Armisen plays the town reverend and gets a lot of laughs while Strong’s doctor bristles up against the traditional Doc Lopez played by Jaime Camil.

The rest of the cast is loaded with Broadway’s best including Kristen Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski, Aaron Tveit (so great!), Dove Cameron and more. I’m not sure how they are going to continue this concept into a second season but the cast is having a blast and their joy is contagious.

The original music is written by Cinco Paul who mainly has an animation background. The songs are a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed every time Key tried to avoid bursting into song. Another highlight is a The Music Man inspired number (especially ‘Trouble’ ) sung by Chenoweth about the danger these big city folks are to Schmigadoon. Whenever Tveit sings it is also perfection! I love his voice so much.

I don’t think Schmigadoon! will appeal much to non-musical fans but I don’t think it has to. It’s made for those of us that love the genre and will both appreciate the jokes and the actual musical numbers. It both laughs at and embraces musicals at the same time.

All I know is Schmigadoon! won over this musical-lover’s heart. Delightful.

8 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘Kim’s Convenience’ So Good I Binged Watched 4 Seasons This Week

I am not a binge watcher. It is probably my least favorite way to consume content. However, every once in a while I find a show where I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it so much I have to devour it! The CBC show available on Netflix Kim’s Convenience is such a show. There are currently 4 seasons with 2 more coming, and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s funny, sweet, authentic and just great.

Kim’s Convenience is about a Korean Canadian family that owns a convenience store in Toronto and is based on a play of the same name by show creator Ins Choi. I’d love to see the play someday because it creates a setting for the show that feels authentic and true (it reminded me of Lin Manuel’s similar set up with his In the Heights musical).

Paul Sun-Hyung leads the cast as the father or Appa of the Kim family and owner of the store. What I appreciated about his character is he is a funny loveable curmudgeon who is set in his ways, but he also is a flawed character that is estranged from his son. This makes him more than just the butt of jokes but someone we can relate with and become invested in his journey.

Jean Yoon is equally strong as the matriarch of the family. She is famous for her pokes when people are frustrating her and her sneak attacks when she wants to get her way. But again she’s not a cliche character because the separation of her family is quite devastating for her throughout the show. I loved her character so much.

All the characters are great. Andrea Bang as Janet is fantastic as the daughter of the family. Simu Liu (who is about to blow up in Marvel’s Shang-Chi) is wonderful as the estranged son Jung who is trying to rebuild his life after a rebellious youth. I absolutely loved his relationship with his boss Shannon played by Nicole Power. She’s just weird enough to be charming and funny.

The supporting cast is wonderful with people like Jung’s best friend and roommate Kimchee (Andrew Phung) and the whole cast at the car rental place Handy that Jung, Shannon and Kimchee work at. You could honestly have an entire show just at Handy.

I think what’s most important about Kim’s Convenience is the writing. There honestly isn’t a bad episode. It’s so funny and it creates a family I cared deeply about. Sure it pokes fun at Korean stereotypes but that’s not the main source of the humor. Mostly it is about relationships and everyday problems anyone from a family can relate with.

The entire cast has chemistry together and even small roles like Amanda Bruget as Pastor Nina are so well executed. With weaker writing such a role could have been a bland overbearing religious figure but she’s not. She’s funny, flawed yet sincere and that’s the way all the characters are.

I can’t recommend Kim’s Convenience highly enough. It goes along with the recent Ted Lasso as a fantastic comedy with a big heart. I adored it and can’t wait for 2 more seasons!

Have you seen Kim’s Convenience? What did you think of it? What other hidden gems are out there I might have missed?

9 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘TED LASSO’ or a Smile Means a Lot

During the peak of Christmas season watching, my friend Jen told me about a little show she loved called Ted Lasso. I’m normally not much of a TV person so I put it in the back of my mind and didn’t watch it until this last week. I needed a break from the heady nature of Sundance films, so I decided to give it a shot. Now after watching it, I can add my recommendation to the many, like my friend, who love this charming, sweet and funny show. Ted Lasso is a delight!

In some ways Ted Lasso reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite. Now if you are someone who hates Napoleon Dynamite: hear me out. It doesn’t have the dry humor of NP. The style of comedy is very different. However, they are both carried on the back of extremely likable lead characters who are a weird mixture of both confidence and naivete.

Jason Sudeikis plays Ted as a man who is clearly over his head coaching a sport he’s never played (He is hired as a football coach for British football, which is soccer) and yet he is absolutely convinced that optimism and team spirit will make the team great and win matches. And you know what? He might be right.

After all, these professional players know the game. They’ve been playing it their whole lives. What they need is someone who is going to believe in them and keep them practicing each day. In that regard, Ted Lasso is an ideal candidate for the job!

Sudeikis is so great as Ted, and he brings a vulnerability to a role that might otherwise be a joke. I also loved the rest of the cast including all the players and Nick Mohammed playing the shy Nathan who works for the team and Ted calls ‘Nate the Great’.

Ted builds relationships with every single member of the team and crew and that makes it easy to root for him. We want someone to succeed who cares so much about others. It’s similar to watching Napoleon dance for his friend. We root for him because he is serving others with such delightful abandon.

I also really enjoyed Hannah Waddington as Ted’s tough but sweet boss. She knows hiring Ted is a joke. This is by design to hurt her ex-husband; however, his cheerful ways start to wear even her down. It also doesn’t hurt that Ted brings her delicious biscuits each week for Biscuits with the Boss (biscuits are shortbread in England).

I also really enjoyed Juno Temple as Keeley Jones a model and struggling actress dating the star player. I particularly liked her interactions with Rebecca as the 2 are very different types of women but they learn a lot from each other in the first season.

The most important part of Ted Lasso is its heart. I know I say things like that a lot but it’s true. This show is so good-natured it would be difficult to not love. I am sure there is someone out there who dislikes it but not this critic. I loved it!

Have you seen Ted Lasso? I would love to hear your thoughts. It’s also a quick binge. Only 9 quick 30 minute episodes. You can easily knock it out in one evening. I look forward to season 2!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There is some language in the show and a little bit of sensuality.

[REVIEW] ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ (2020 Netflix) or How to Adapt Nostalgic Properties Right

Back in the old days when I was in middle school there wasn’t much of a YA reading scene (at least to my knowledge) but there were several popular authors (ala Cynthia Voigt and Judy Blume) and popular series (Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew) with my favorite being The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M Martin. What I loved about the series is the independent spirit of the girls forming their own business and also becoming a strong group of friends. It satisfied both my youthful needs for independence and connection in one set of novels. My friends and I even started our own club inspired by the books!

With this history you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the new series on Netflix coming this year. Well, excitement mixed with trepidation after what Netflix did with my beloved Anne of Green Gables in the abhorrent Anne with an E, which I hated. That show lost all the spirit of the novels and the characters in a weird mixture of melodrama and supposed grittiness. What would they do with my Baby-Sitters Club?

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

Well, I am delighted to reassure you all that not only is The Baby-Sitters Club a worthy adaptation of our beloved novels but it is one of the best live action family series I’ve seen in a long time. I absolutely loved just about everything they did in this series and I don’t see any reason why other fans won’t also be very pleased with it.

The biggest strength to the series is the writing. Taking inspiration from the novels each of the 5 main girls is granted their own episode or chapter where they are the lead narrator. Kristy played by Sophie Grace is the brainchild behind the club and a very independent young lady that bristles at the thought of her mother remarrying.

Then you have the artistic Claudia (Momona Tanada), free spirited Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), shy Mary Ann (Malia Baker), and sophisticated Stacey (Shay Rudolph). They all face their own unique challenges that feel authentic and real without resorting to unnecessary and overbearing trauma like Anne with an E did.

The conflict is especially impressive when we consider the writers have only 23 minutes to get their lead character’s story across as well as building the over-all narrative of the group.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

I also really enjoyed the casting including Alicia Silverstone as Kristy’s Mom. She walks the tricky balance of defending her own choices while still giving her daughter space to grow and accept the big changes in their lives. Again, it was real and authentic and something anyone can relate with.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

The show is also sweet with great chemistry on the part of all of the girls. You don’t have to be a teenage girl to love this show. If you ever were a teenager or ever faced the toils of growing up you will enjoy it. It’s honest and heart-felt without resorting to the cheap gags or sitcom antics of shows typically made for this age demographic.

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There are also characters for younger kids like little Karen Brewer (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) who would go on to receive a spinoff series in the novels and I can see that happening here in The Baby-Sitters Club Little Sister series (they also have graphic novels of the main and Little Sisters series). She’s a funny, strange and superstitious character that smaller children will really enjoy.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

What’s great about a show like The Baby-Sitters Club is it can be appreciated on many different levels. It tackles different issues teens are facing from having your period, to parents splitting up, to bullying but it also can be enjoyed on a basic entertainment level. This is because they took the time to write dynamic interesting characters we can relate to. I can think of so many family home evening discussion you could have with this show while still being very entertained.

As far as flaws the 2 episode arc at the camp was a little more over-the-top and less grounded than the rest of the episodes but I was with fine with it. A few of the side characters dipped into caricature like Claudia’s sister Janine. But in fairness she comes right out of the books and was based on Ann M Martin’s actual relationship with her sister, so I’ll allow it (one classic novel this episode is based on is literally called Claudia and Mean Janine). I also thought Mary Ann’s Dad (Marc Evan Jackson) took me out of the realistic tone and was a bit silly in his neurosis for the show.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

Other than that I absolutely loved The Baby-Sitters Club. It was clearly made with love and I hope that families embrace it and it becomes the hit it deserves to be.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

smile worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Today I am back with another round of my mini reviews of films I don’t have time to write a full review of but wanted to log my thoughts on. Some of them are current to me but not to the world at large. That’s the nice thing about quarantine is a chance to catch up (I’m about caught up to be honest!). So here goes! Enjoy!

Da 5 Bloods

da5bloods

Spike Lee’s new joint Da 5 Bloods has been getting a lot of buzz lately and part of that is undeniably due to its timely themes and character arcs. Overall, I enjoyed the film but I do not think it is nearly as strong as his last film Blakkklansman. Delroy Lindo is excellent playing a conflicted wounded man who is tired of dealing with all the garbage he’s been thrown in his life.

Unfortunately the film also has problems: most of which lie with the direction and script. The narrative is a bit sloppy with it trying to pull off ‘old guy reunion comedy’, gory war movie, political documentary and outdoor survival story and more- sometimes all within the same scene. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed Da 5 Bloods and recommend it as a springboard for learning more about this pivotal time in our nation’s history and the brave Black men who served without the recognition they deserve.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind

'Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind'; Photograph by Bill Ray/Courtesy of HBO

It’s hard to be too tough on such a sweet and affectionate documentary but as Natalie’s life, or at least the ending of her life has a lot of controversy Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind does feel disappointing. It feels very managed by the family to give the best impressions of all of their members including Robert Wagner. This ends up as a standard famous person documentary, which is fine but underwhelming (and a little boring to be honest).

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

pauline kael

There is nothing extraordinary about the filmmaking in What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael but as a female film critic I loved learning about Pauline Kael and her groundbreaking career. Pauline’s voice in her reviews is so bold and unapologetic. I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of that in the last year or so and I’m determined to find it again. I love film and love writing about film and nobody was better at it than Pauline Kael.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Artemis Fowl

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spelling the Dream (Breaking the Bee)

Spelling the Dream

We have had documentaries about the National Spelling Bee before but what makes Spelling the Dream interesting is it is from the Indian/Pakistani- American perspective and so it covers the entire immigrant experience not just the kids and their spelling. It’s basically a 30 for 30 for the spelling bee and I’ve never met one of those I don’t like. This film is charming and heart-warming and definitely worthy of your time.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Long Gone Summer

long gone summer2

Speaking of 30 for 30 films we had another good one air last weekend called Long Gone Summer about the 1998 race to beat Roger Maris’ home run record. While this film does address the steroid fallout that came years later it’s more concerned with documenting the moment in time when the nation got caught up in excitement of the game. I love that kind of thing and in this time of isolation it was just what I needed. I could have used more on Sosa but it was still a very enjoyable watch.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Stranger Things Season 3

stranger things 3

I finally got caught up with Stranger Things Season 3! When it originally aired last summer I was too busy with my podcasting schedule to get to it and once the hype had died down I kept saving it for a rainy day. Well, that day finally came and I ended up enjoying the season. I wish they had gone the more scifi route over the monster route but that was decided back in season 2 so it’s fine. At least we don’t have any bizarre entries into Eleven’s backstory to deal with this season but a few of the characters felt a bit undercooked like Cary Elwes’ Larry Kline.

Still I love this cast so much that it feels like going on an adventure with friends while watching. The show is also so well made with such a well-used sense of nostalgia (all the callbacks to Terminator were very well done) that it is very entertaining. I don’t only care about the teen characters but also Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Jim (David Harbour) as well. I particularly loved new editions Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Robin (Maya Hawke) and what they added to our Hawkins, Indiana family.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[SERIES REVIEW] ‘The Chosen’ or Getting to Know Christ and His Followers

One of the greatest challenges is to make an effective faith-based film. The reason is because faith and particularly conversion are intensely personal experiences. What is powerful and profound to one human may come off as cloying and false to another. This makes telling a universal story very difficult. However, it also makes the successes all the more meaningful. One such success can be found in the new series based on the early ministry of Jesus Christ called The Chosen. I highly recommend it for anyone of faith that is looking for quality storytelling.

Chosen-Jonathan-Roumie

The Chosen is created by the company VidAngel and had the honor of being the top crowdfunding film/TV project in history. Now you can find the show on the series app/website with the first episode being free to watch on youtube and other platforms.

The series then asks you to ‘pay it forward’ by making a contribution which will allow other people to enjoy it. Indeed, when you are watching the app tells you who’s contribution helped you. It’s a pretty nifty model and hopefully one that will pay off, as the creators have lofty goals of being a spiritual version of Game of Thrones.

No matter how you watch the series, it’s the storytelling that makes it special. I’m not sure who the writers are but they deserve a ton of credit for taking a story we all know and bringing new life to it. Some may feel they take too many liberties with the Bible stories but I felt they took the known stories and told them accurately while elaborating on stories and characters we don’t know much about.

chosen

Naturally all the apostles have important arcs but Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) and Matthew (Paras Patel) get the most to work within the script. For example, we get to dive into what life might have been like for Peter and his wife Eden (Lara Silva) and how ostracized Matthew was because of his work as a publican for Rome.

Erick Avari also does a great job as Nicodemus giving the ruling Jewish classes a warmth and humanity not typically found in a telling of the Christ story. He is astounded by what he see’s Jesus do but struggles to give up his entire life’s work as a rabbi to follow Him and His new teachings.

chosen3

All the casting in The Chosen is strong including Jonathan Roumie as a very casual and laid back version of Jesus. They even spend an entire episode with him becoming friends with a group of children who visit his camp before his ministry begins. Some may see this episode as a waste of time as it doesn’t further the story much but I loved having the luxury of spending time with Jesus and imagining what he would be like to eat a meal with and work on chores together. It was really sweet!

As far as flaws, the pacing of the series won’t be for everyone but my main problem was with the dialogue. While I admire the storytelling and plotting of the script there are times where the conversation feels a little too modern for its setting and characters. This is particularly the case in the scenes with Matthew as the Roman characters surrounding him are too glib and American sounding. Most of the time I was able to ignore it but sometimes it did take me out of the show.

Other than that, I really enjoyed The Chosen. It humanizes the characters of Jesus’ ministry in an effective and powerful way that I really enjoyed. I hope they are able to get funding for season 2 as I am looking forward to seeing what they do next.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

I was paid to watch and provide feedback to the producers of The Chosen but the review was not required and the opinion is entirely my own.

smile worthy

[REVIEW] ‘McMillions’: Oh What an Entertaining Web we Weave

 

mcmillions

So you might not have heard but recently I’ve found myself with a little bit of time on my hands. The movie theaters are closed, screenings are cancelled and most films are postponed, so what’s an aspiring film critic supposed to do with herself? Well, I have a lot of fun stuff planned but to begin with I watched the new documentary series on HBO called McMillions and boy is it entertaining!

McMillions follows the $24 million fraud perpetuated behind the McDonald’s Monopoly game sweepstakes between 1989 and 2001. The story has almost nothing to do with McDonalds but it is a many tangled web of all kinds of characters who become involved: ‘from Mobsters to Mormons’ as the ads promise.

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Even the agents investigating prove to be very entertaining. This is especially true for agent Doug Mathews who was born to be on television. He is funny, charismatic and probably a little bit nuts but it makes for great TV. In fact, the series suffers a bit when it goes to long without him. What makes him so appealing is his innocent enthusiasm for every part of the investigation. He doesn’t want those boring old cases. No way! He wants to be where things are happening and he can go undercover and do crazy things. It’s the best.

Aside from Matthews there are a ton of different personalities on both the investigator and criminal side and the scheme is very well executed. In fact, it may have never come to light if there wasn’t a mysterious informant who tipped off the FBI. It brings up the interesting question if someone came up to you and offered you a million and all you had to do was turn in a game piece that you didn’t organically find would you do it? I think a lot of us would.

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Also in the end who is really hurt in this whole scam? McDonald’s isn’t. They would have given the money out regardless of who won. The American public? I guess they had no chance to really win but the chance was so small to begin with that it is hardly a large wound. The marketing firm went under after it was revealed one of their employees did this but that’s about the worst it got. Is it a victimless crime?

I suppose that is for the courts to decide and not me but I do know this documentary series was very entertaining especially agent Matthews who should totally have his own show. He’s got that secret sauce for television you don’t see every day. So fun!

Have you seen McMillions? What did you think? I would love to hear in the comments section.

Even though this is on HBO it’s pretty clean minus some language.

Stranger Things Season 2 Review

Even though season 2 of Stranger Things came out just under 2 weeks ago I feel like I am woefully late in logging this review. Most of the world binge watched it in the first weekend but I didn’t have the time and I hate binge watching so I just finished today and I thought I would share with you my response. First, I loved the original because of the intriguing story, nostalgic atmosphere, and the strong performances. This second season was entertaining but for me it fell short of that first season.

Let’s talk about the strengths first. The biggest one is the performances. The kids are all so great and have amazing chemistry with each other. These feel like real kids with unique personalities, bonds and conflicts. As a child of the 80s I can’t help but think back to my friends while watching and the adventures we would have in our neighborhood riding our bikes and pretending in our backyards. Noah Schnapp as Will does a particularly nice job portraying a child trying to sort out his time in the Upside Down. Millie Bobby Brown is fantastic as Eleven and Gaten Matarazzo couldn’t be cuter as Dustin. Sadie Sink is a nice newcomer as Maxine (or Madmax as the boys call her). All the kids are great and completely adorable.

The returning teens are also all good with Natalia Dyer as Nancy, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan and Joe Keery as Steve (he steals the show as the assistant for Dustin hunting down a monster). The one miss for me was Dacre Montgomery as Billy, Max’s racist brother. I didn’t really see the purpose of his character except to just be racist and not take care of Max. I thought he might get eaten by the monsters in some humorous way but no such luck. He was just there to be an unused bad guy from what I could see.

The adults are all good with the nice addition of Sean Astin as Bob Newby (the boyfriend of Winona Ryder’s Joyce). Paul Reiser is also fine as a government doctor keeping tabs on Will’s recovery.

The atmosphere is also really good with terrific music and dialogue that works. The one exception of that was episode 7 that focuses on Eleven and her sister Eight. These characters remind me of the gang in Chappie, which if you know me that is not a good thing. They were very annoying, and I feel like the episode didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know about Eleven aside from giving her a chance at revenge and not taking it. It felt superfluous to me.

Now let’s talk about the parts I didn’t like as much. In the first season the Upside Down is a total mystery. We know Will is gone and all of these strange things keep happening, so when for example Joyce is making an alphabet wall with Christmas lights to communicate with her son it is tense and we as a viewer have no idea what is happening. She could be insane or it could be leading to something sinister? We must keep watching to find out.

There are so many elements of mystery in the first season that kept me engaged and excited. Who is 11? What happened to Barb? What is the strange government facility etc? For the first 3 or 4 episodes of season 2 they do a good job continuing to build mystery by having Will’s character experience new fears and pain. They try to have a similar scene to the lights on the wall by having Will draw a puzzle that gets put together all over the walls and it mostly works if a little repetitive. They also have Nancy and Jonathan looking into Barb’s disappearance and Dustin finding a new mysterious life-form. All of this works pretty well and is entertaining. The problem is eventually Dustin’s life form turns into a monster called a demogorgon and the narrative changes to a standard monster movie.

It kind of reminded me of the movie I am Legend, which is so fantastic for the first 45 minutes when Will Smith is alone and the unknown surrounds him. It is scary and full of surprises. Then the zombies appear and it becomes pretty generic and lame. That’s how I felt about season 2 of Stranger Things

Part of the problem is we get too much of the monsters (as in I Am Legend). Creatures are more scary when we don’t see them and I think you can tell from the image above these monsters are pretty cheesy looking and they are in packs so we see a lot of them. I can enjoy a monster hunting people scene. I love Jurassic Park after all, but it just felt less special than the mystery of the first season. Monsters on the prowl in a hospital with intermittent electricity is fun but not something you speculate about for weeks amongst your friends.

So all in all, I had a good time watching Stranger Things 2. The acting alone makes it worth a watch, but I don’t think it will be something that will stay with me like the first season did especially the last half of the season that got monster-heavy.

I seem to be in the minority with this view but what else is new! LOL. What about you? What did you think of Stranger Things season 2? Which season do you prefer?

Overall Grade- B