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Saturday, October 20, 2018

My Thoughts on. . .



Tales From Alternate Earths 2
“Imagine a world where...”

How often a really good adventure has started with those words. Well, in “Tales From Alternate Earths 2” we have a selection of stories that do just that, bring us the “what if” history – reality – folklore and myth had turned out that little bit differently. In doing so, we are presented with a medley of philosophical and moral dilemmas that make you realize, “Wow, I never thought about that!”
Some are clever, witty and amusing; others, poignantly insightful. A few, downright disturbing and provocative . . . and all the more so when you appreciate that all it would have taken for those alternate realities to exist is a little pinch of circumstance here or a twist of fate there.

Overall, an entertaining collection of alternative realities you need to experience.




Ozark
The latest series of Netflix's gritty Missouri-based crime drama – Ozark – is back with a darker and much stronger attitude permeating the script. Needless to say, events soon force the money-laundering Byrde family to the brink of collapse, as they struggle to not only cope, but also survive in a criminal underworld filled with drug cartels, deranged hillbillies, crooked government agents, and narcissistic politicians.

Picking up where last season left off, Marty and Wendy Byrde continue to try and hold their heads above the water while navigating as safe a course as possible with a remorseless drug cartel on their backs. The thing is, they don’t just expect Marty to launder money for them, he’s now got to build them a casino too. Because of this, season two sees Marty working much closer with the Snells – gun-toting rednecks who own the land on which the casino will be built. They epitomize all that can go wrong, for they demand allegiance, respect and “making bank” above all else. Oh, and they murdered one of the cartel’s leading generals at the end of last season . . . so don’t expect things to go any smoother this time around.

A recipe for disaster?  It sure is, especially with the addition of a formidable threat in the form of the cartel's top lawyer, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) who watches their every move. The Byrdes’ children, Jonah (Skylar Gartner) and his sister Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) develop their own arcs. A sensitive little boy, Jonah goes on to reveals a talent for following in his father’s footsteps in a rather ingenious way – you’ll see. His sister, however, becomes something of an aggravating pain in the ass, whose behavior starts putting the entire family in danger.
Marty reacts in his usual stoic way, bottling everything away while juggling million-and-one pieces of an every increasingly unstable jigsaw. Of course, he starts to crack. Step in Wendy, who manages to take charge of an increasingly erratic situation. Drawing on her experiences as a political campaigner back in Chicago, she skillfully manipulates local kingpin Charles Wilkes into exercising his influence on the Missouri movers and shakers.

It’s true to say that successful shows can often stumble with the difficult second season. But not here. Ozark has remained spellbinding thanks to some fresh new faces on the lake, and Wilkes is one of them. Nevertheless, its Janet McTeer’s vicious portrayal of Helen Pierce who stands out in my book. Sweeping in and out of everyone’s lives, her clinically cold and callous application of simple cartel logic helps her cut through all the crap the Byrde’s have managed to surround themselves in, to lay down the law and steer them toward the only course open to them if they want to stay alive.
And as you’ll see, she is ruthless. Not everyone survives this second season!

An outstanding, captivating and vivid story that keeps you glued from start to finish. And even better, the acting is so good, it makes you feel as if all the melodrama and bloodshed is eerily plausible.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week's Review Of. . .


Successor’s Promise
Five years have passed since the death of Valhan and the worlds have found it difficult to adapt to the absence of the enigmatic magical overlord. While some have fallen to ruin – their magic depleted – others have managed to form some semblance of peace and prosperity.
But always, the specter of war lingers, with some sorcerers looking to capitalize on the vacuum Valhan’s absence has left. So much so, that Rielle and Tyen’s efforts are threatened in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
I rather enjoyed this third installment of the Millennium’s Rule series, particularly the dilemma faced by Rielle and Tyen as they struggle to do what’s right in the face of overwhelming odds pressuring them to go against their better judgment. And keeping secrets! Here we see the consequence of holding things in – even if it is with the best of intentions. Accusations and counter accusations fly and the bitter repercussions are hard for them both to deal with.
My only criticism was the fact that the two main characters tended to procrastinate. A lot! Repeatedly questioning their every decision and then second, and sometimes third and fourth-guessing the outcome of their choices. In the end, I felt like reaching into the pages and throttling the pair of them. “Just do it already!”
Regardless, it’s an entertaining and enthralling story and I do love the magic system incorporated into this particular universe. You could imagine “that’s how real magic would work!”


Disenchantment
Disenchantment is the latest animated fantasy sitcom created by Matt Groening. This time for adults. As we know, he previously created The Simpsons and Futurama for 20th Century Fox Television, and this is his first production for Netflix.
We travel to the medieval fantasy setting of Dreamland, where a rebellious nineteen year-old alcoholic princess – Bean – struggles to find direction in her life. Her father doesn’t help, of course, as he tries to force her to conform to a “royal” way of life she can’t stand, and to a series of arranged marriages with artfully presented and clearly unsuitable princes. She’s joined by two companions: the dimwitted Elfo – who has renounced his place in a sickeningly happy homeland of always-singing elves to seek out feelings of melancholy and despair, along with Bean’s personal demon Luci – who encourages her to acts of wickedness for which she seems to have a natural inclination.
First impressions? I loved it! Elfo’s homeland in particular made me smile, as the elves there are so annoyingly happy all the time. They even sing a jolly song when they’re attempting to hang Elfo for daring to get up close and personal with the elf princess, Kissy. Luci is laid–back cool with a series of sharp one-liners that ring so profoundly true, you wish he was your own best friend. And Bean herself? She’s the typical girl next door trapped in the body of a princess. Her personality often reminded me of the character Vala Mal Doran – played by Claudia Black in Stargate SG1 – which can’t be bad, as anything with someone remotely Vala-ish in it is delightful in my humble opinion (sigh) . . . though I digress.
Our troublesome trio set out on a series of mischievous – often disastrous – adventures, helping us appreciate the zany folk of Dreamland and all the fantastical creatures they meet in a more “adult” setting.
Great visual and verbal humor is guaranteed – and it gets funnier the longer it goes on. For a new series finding its feet, a welcome addition to the Groening stable.