TV Review: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)

Original Run: March 20th, 2020
Created by: Chris Smith, Fisher Stevens, Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
Directed by: Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, John Enroth, Albert Fox, Robert Mothersbaugh
Cast: Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, Bhagavan Antle, John Finlay, Rick Kirkham, John Reinke, Saff Saffery, Jeff Lowe, Howard Baskin, Travis Maldonado, Dillon Passage

Netflix, 7 Episodes, 41-48 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I knew all about Joe Exotic and even though he’s a weird eccentric zoo keeper and wannabe politician that tried to pay someone to commit murder, I wasn’t super excited to have to sit through an entire documentary miniseries about it.

Being that everyone and I mean everyone is talking about this damn show, I figured I’d just give the first episode or two a watch to see if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be. Well, I’ve got to say, it sucked me in.

Granted, this could be due to not having a whole lot to do during the COVID-19 pandemic but the real reason this latched onto my mind is due to all the other characters in this story. The majority of these people are all eccentric, batshit crazy and have major skeletons in their closets.

Sure, I knew who Carole Baskin was but I never really deep dived into her past, as this documentary does. I was also aware of Bhagavan Antle but I didn’t know that he basically ran a fucking zoo harem. Add in all the other colorful weirdos and criminals and this becomes one of the most intriguing and weirdest true crime sagas that I’ve ever seen unfold.

This is compelling television and it tries to tell all sides of the story. It appears to be mostly fair to all parties involved but I can see how almost all of them will have a problem with how they were portrayed here, as it doesn’t paint a nice picture for nearly any of the participants. Point being, this doesn’t seem biased in one direction or the other and maybe these are all just shitty people.

Only a few of the key or even minor players here came out looking kind of okay. And if anything, this exposes just how insane this world is and it certainly doesn’t do any favors for the big cat and exotic animal industries. But I’m okay with that, as these places really shouldn’t exist and humankind should work towards not keeping wild animals in captivity, unless it is to actually help and study animals without using them as attractions or personal pets.

In the end, none of these people really seem to give a shit about the animals they claim they’re doing this for.

But I’m also not here to rant on about the politics of this.

So as a show, this is pretty effective and informative entertainment. Now I can’t say that this is effective because of how it is presented, I just think that the story itself is so fascinating on its own that it made the documentary filmmakers’ jobs easier. Granted, I’m also not saying their not skilled, this is just a unique and bonkers story full of strange, oddball, dark personalities that the show just sort of sells itself without any need for extra frills and post-production or narrative trickery.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Joe Exotic’s crazy campaign videos.

TV Review: The Witcher (2019- )

Original Run: December 20th, 2019 – current
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski
Music by: Sonya Belousova, Giona Ostinelli
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Mimi Ndiweni, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer, Mahesh Jadu

Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films, Platige Image, Sean Daniel Company, One of Us, Cinesite, 8 Episodes (so far), 47-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As someone who has never read any of The Witcher books or played any of the video games, I went into this pretty blindly. But I really wanted a dark fantasy television show that worked for me, as I was never a fan of Game of Thrones but have always loved the genre apart from that show. Also, I like Henry Cavill and he seemed pretty excited for the world to finally see this.

I wasn’t too keen on the first episode, I thought it was alright and I might not have watched beyond that if the first season wasn’t a short run of just eight episodes. But I’m glad I did because about midway through, everything sort of clicked and I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

The show starts off with a weird pace, as different characters exist in different timelines. That’s not made clear until episode four or so but once you come to that realization, things flow better.

I thought that the world created for the show was pretty cool. The environment changes quite a bit as they travel and it doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the same place.

The acting is superb, especially the scenes that feature Henry Cavill. However, Anya Chalotra steals just about every scene that she is in, which is impressive as she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen experience and frankly, I didn’t know who she was before this.

It’s hard to say how good this will be going forward but the first season does a good job of setting up the universe for these characters to play in. Plus, it’s made me want to try out one of the games.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy action television shows. Some would say Game of Thrones but I never liked that show and this is superior.

Comic Review: Stranger Things: Six

Published: May 29th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Edgar Salazar, Keith Champagne, Marissa Louise, Aleksi Briclot (covers)
Based on: Stranger Things by The Duffer Brothers

Dark Horse Books, 98 Pages

Review:

I was pretty happy with the first Stranger Things comic miniseries. With this second attempt at making a comic book tie-in, I still left pretty satisfied. However, this one lacks slightly in that I didn’t feel as connected to the characters or their personal peril.

In the first miniseries, we got to follow Will Byers, as he was trapped in the Upsidedown during the events in season one. It gave us Will’s perspective and the horror he lived through, which we weren’t able to really see on the television show.

This comic follows a new character named Six. She is like Eleven in that she has grown up in the same lab and mostly just has Dr. Martin Brenner as her only parental type of figure.

The story is a prequel, as it shows some of what happened in the lab before Eleven’s story really started for the television audience. Although, you do get to see glimpses of a very young Eleven even though her story isn’t central to the main plot of this arc.

My only real issue with this miniseries, is that it is less engaging overall because it doesn’t directly tie to the larger story. Sure, it happens within the show’s universe but it’s basically just Six’s story and she isn’t someone that we will meet on the show. And I’ve kind of mentally put the Brenner character to bed, unless there is going to be more of him in the future. Although, I’m not sure how that would work.

I prefer the approach of the first comic series. I think that these should be tied more directly to the show and give us other perspectives or events that happen parallel to what we already know. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have wholly original stories with new characters. It all just depends on how well the comic book part of the mythos develops.

So far, I’m pretty happy with what Dark Horse, specifically Jody Houser, have been doing with the IP.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the previous Stranger Things comic book miniseries, as well as the show and mobile RPG game.

Film Review: Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018)

Also known as: Gojira: Hoshi Wo Kû Mono (original Japanese title), Godzilla Part 3: The Planet Eater (full title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2018 (TIFF)
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuki Kaji

Toho, 90 Minutes

Review:

Well, I wasn’t too keen on the first two chapters in the Godzilla anime trilogy but I watched those pictures, so I thought I should watch the finale in an effort to see if this brought all of the movies together in a meaningful way.

Sadly, this was pretty much as dull as the other two.

I still can’t get behind the animation and how it is a mish mash of traditional hand drawn animation and CGI. The mix of the two never works for me. I get why they do this but it just makes a project feel rushed and cheap. Sure, the CGI is of good quality but it is still cheaper than having skilled animators draw out every frame of the more ambitious action sequences.

Also, maybe they had to rush this because they thought people would lose interest if it took Toho ten years to put out a solid hand drawn trilogy. But with that being said, people can’t lose interest in something if the first release doesn’t generate any interest to begin with.

I’m not saying that these films don’t have their fans, they do. What I’m saying is that they could have had more and these films could have been something exceptional with the time and care put into them.

Now having seen the complete body of work, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that this is just a superficial project used to capitalize off of an existing (and lucrative) IP that will just waste away on Netflix without much real fanfare. Other than having the distinction of being the first official Godzilla anime in history, this is pretty damn forgettable.

I’m a massive Godzilla fan. I love old school tokusatsu and kaiju franchises pretty immensely. But I don’t think that I’ll ever have the urge to revisit any of these ever again.

But I also can’t ignore the skill and craftsmanship that went into this, even if it wasn’t created in the way that I would have preferred.

Also, the villain monster was pretty cool and creative but that doesn’t carry the film.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of this trilogy, as well as Netflix’s Knights of Sedonia.

TV Review: The Umbrella Academy (2019- )

Original Run: February 15th, 2019 – current
Created by: Steve Blackman, Jeremy Slater
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman, David Castañeda, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Colm Feore, Adam Godley, John Magaro

Borderline Entertainment, Dark Horse Entertainment, Universal Cable Productions, Netflix, 10 Episodes (so far), 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When the first Umbrella Academy story came out in 2007, I was instantly captivated by it. It sucked me in, it was a lot of fun, it borrowed heavily from a few different things but ultimately, it was refreshing, unique and helped to reinvigorate my interest in comics at the time.

For years, I have heard that the comic was going to be adapted for live action. I just never really liked the thought of that, as it isn’t something that seems like it could be adapted in a good or effective way outside of its original medium.

Fast forward to late 2018 when I finally saw a trailer for its live action incarnation, this Netflix show. It didn’t get me enthused about it but I thought that there might be a chance that it can work, despite the obvious alterations that I picked up from that trailer.

Well, I don’t want to call this a bad show. It’s really just about what I expected it to be. It has good production value, good special effects for television and it fits well within the genre style. But it just feels like the same ol’ shit in a world where we now have superhero TV shows like we have soda options.

This may be your flavor, this may not be. While I love the comic’s flavor, this just seems like the dollar store generic version of that flavor.

The show has an identity crisis. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be or what it should be. It’s like Tim Burton and Wes Anderson had a baby in the worst way possible. The show also tries so hard to be cool that it isn’t. The humor doesn’t stick, the characters aren’t likable and it spends more time trying to wow you with its pop music selections than constructing a scene with any real craftsmanship.

A lot of the shots are done with a wide angle lens to the point that it’s as annoying as J. J. Abrams’ use of the lens flare effect in Star Trek. It’s like a high schooler that dreams of one day going to film school was given a camera and a budget and was told to go make his art, without any knowledge whatsoever of mise en scène.

The acting is also problematic for me. Everyone is just so emotionless and boring. Even when characters argue, it’s stale. The kid who plays Number 5 is pretty good though but he’s also not likable, so it’s hard to latch on to him and let him pull you through the muck.

I got about halfway through the first season and I gave up. Maybe it ends on a good note but time is precious and Netflix likes to drag its shows out to ungodly lengths. This is why I stopped caring about their Marvel shows outside of Daredevil.

This may appeal to some but I’m not sure who it is for. If you’re a fan of the comics, this probably won’t work for you. But that also doesn’t mean that the damage I see isn’t salvageable. Sometimes shows need a season to learn from their mistakes and move forward in a better way.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern comic book television adaptations.