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Archive for the 'Peter Paras' Category

‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ Is Perfectly Respectable (Movie Review)

Focus Features’ Downton Abbey: A New Era is the second full-length feature of PBS’ beloved series of the same name. Creator Julian Fellowes’ 21st century take about a fictional early 20th-century family, the Crawleys (and the people who serve them) has legions of fans. Each episode featured period-appropriate attire and just the right amount of stiff-upper-lip Anglofied mannerisms. All of it is (mostly) set at the lush estate, Downton Abbey. Plenty of the cast has returned: Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Imelda Staunton, and more. Three years after the last film and seven years since the last episode aired, do we still have time for Lady Mary’s attitude, butler Thom’s shenanigans, and Duchess Violet’s wit? Clearly, we’ll always have time for Dame Maggie Smith’s one-liners. Either way, Old Hollywood (well, “new” back then) has arrived at Downton’s doorsteps…

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Hulu Delivers More Sally Rooney with a Solid ‘Conversations With Friends’ (TV Review)

Hulu’s twelve-part original series, Conversations with Friends, is based on millennial author Sally Rooney’s debut novel. The story centers around two aimless Dublin college students who begin an unconventional relationship with an older married couple. Although leading cast member Alison Oliver is relatively unknown, Sasha Lane, Jemima Kirke, and Joe Alwyn have been in several high-profile indie films in the past decade. Kirke is probably the best known of the bunch playing Jessa on HBO’s Girls. However, stars aren’t the big draw of Hulu’s latest limited series. Viewers interested in a more grounded take on the ups and downs of Irish twenty-somethings will find much to discuss. With that in mind, speaking of Lena Dunham’s seminal show, Conversations with Friends is a kind of generational shift compared to that New York-centric series. This isn’t Euphoria, but the keyword for Gen Z’s as “aimless” certainly applies.

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Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch Battle In A Multiverse of Madness (Movie Review)

This weekend the summer movie season begins with Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although expectations are high, with some outlets predicting the 28th entry in the MCU to rake in the dough, becoming a cultural juggernaut like 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home is doubtful, even for the Sorcerer Supreme. The top-notch cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, and new to Marvel, Xochitl Gomez. However, the big news is that this film marks director Sam Rami’s return to superhero antics since his Spider-Man trilogy from the aughts. Did the Drag Me To Hell maestro concoct a new kind of experience for the MCU? Can he top his web-slinging masterpiece, Spider-Man 2?

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‘The Northman’ Is Brutal, Basic Mythology (Movie Review)

Robert Eggers’ The Northman is the third major release from the artisanal director. He has been granted his biggest budget yet with a different studio, Focus Features, footing the bill. His previous features, The Witch and The Lighthouse, were A24 productions. The premise: a young prince’s father is killed by his uncle, and he vows revenge. This might seem like a Viking take on The Bard’s Hamlet, but Shakespeare’s play starring the most indecisive hero ever was inspired, in fact, by this Scandinavian legend. Thankfully, in terms of decision making, that leads to much violence, as Amleth (rhymes with Hamlet) isn’t on the fence when it comes to dismemberment. Alexander Skarsgård stars as the broody axe-wielding prince alongside a supporting cast including Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Defoe, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, and everyone’s favorite Icelandic pop star: Björk. How does an authentically shot Norse tale fare in an era where Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding superhero is the closest most audiences get to a Viking? It’s certainly not as funny as a Thor/Hulk team-up, but it’s way bloodier, so that’s something…

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‘Ambulance’ Is Bay’s Best In Years (Movie Review)

Looking past his Netflix venture, 6 Underground, Ambulance marks director Michael Bay’s first true return to the big screen since 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. No longer partnered up with Optimus Prime, this action-thriller is a remake of a Danish film that clocked in around 90 minutes. True to form, Bay’s version is over two hours to make room for some much-needed Bayhem. Set in Los Angeles concerning two bank robbers and an unlikely paramedic, the film features high octane thrills, real-life stunts, and impressive camerawork with Bay’s latest gizmo: drones. Does the native Angeleno’s return to the City of Angels mean more of the same, or does the hands-on blockbuster auteur have new tricks up his explosive, kinetically-edited sleeves? Did I mention he has drones now?

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Halo: Season 1, Episode 3 – “Emergence” (TV Review)

Paramount+’s Halo series has been an uneven yet nevertheless thrilling ride. Whether viewers are lifelong fans of the best-selling Xbox shooter or newbies who’d be fragged in a slayer deathmatch shortly after hitting start, the premiere was the new streaming service’s biggest debut ever (take that 1883), thus proving once and for all: space rangers are cooler than cowpokes. Like the franchise, which has spawned games, toys, comics, and novels, the television series hits that sweet spot for “meat and potatoes” sci-fi. Kinda dumb? Absolutely. But never boring. After all, a twelve-foot Convent Elite with a quadrant of jaws can never really be boring. This weekend’s third episode, “Emergence,” is overstuffed with three galaxy-spanning plot threads, a creepy spaceship hijacking, and finally, for fans, the arrival of everyone’s favorite A.I, the quick-witted Cortana. For real this time…
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‘Morbius,’ The Living Vampire, Sucks (Movie Review)

Three years after filming began, two years after the first trailer, Sony’s latest “In Association with Marvel” feature, Morbius, finally opens this weekend. Based on one of Spidey’s legendary Sinister Six, Dr. Michael Morbius is a “living vampire” (much like star Jared Leto), which might make you think of the Blade trilogy. Is this how the MCU gets the Day Walker? No, since this is exclusively Sony’s property, but as it’s been nearly two decades since the last Wesley Snipes outing, there’s an inherent curiosity for how our current era will handle the balance between bloodsuckers and superheroes. The cast also includes Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson, and another Jared… Harris. Was Morbius worth the wait? Grab a pack of blue-colored artificial blood and drink up! Continue reading ‘‘Morbius,’ The Living Vampire, Sucks (Movie Review)’

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Elle Fanning Reveals There’s More To ‘The Girl From Plainville’ (TV Review)

This week, Hulu releases the first three episodes of the limited series The Girl From Plainville, based on the real-life “suicide texting case.” At the center was high schooler Michelle Carter who was found guilty of manslaughter in 2017. Elle Fanning stars as the troubled teen who may or may not have convinced 18-year-old Conrad “Coco” Roy (Colton Ryan) to take his own life in 2014 via texts. Looking back, it’s easy to see why social media blew up with tweets, podcasts, and even an HBO documentary, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter. It was inevitable a limited dramatic series would happen, and one assumes the new Hulu series delivers more than the made-for-TV movie, starring Bella Thorne, did in 2018. The Girl From Plainville aims to shed light on a young woman who appeared so opaque in public. Continue reading ‘Elle Fanning Reveals There’s More To ‘The Girl From Plainville’ (TV Review)’

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Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ Offers Promise & Problems (TV Review)

Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, Moon Knight is a six-episode season, opening up a new side of the MCU. Critics were given access to the first four episodes before the first episode premieres on March 30 on Disney+. Going in, I knew zero about the split-personality superhero. However, I was intrigued by the London to Egyptian settings and the strong dual leads (Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke). I’ve (mostly) enjoyed all the MCU television outings, both on D+ and Netflix, and was ready to look myself in the mirror and say, “let’s go, cool grey-outfitted hero dude!” Having seen two-thirds of the season, did it reach the highs of Loki or the unevenness of Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Time to find out! Continue reading ‘Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’ Offers Promise & Problems (TV Review)’

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A Trip to ‘The Lost City’ is Overlong but Still Fun (Movie Review)

Paramount Pictures’ The Lost City hopes to be the kind of adventure/rom-com that would easily score at the box office during the 2000s. Times may have changed (even without a pandemic), but movie stars should still be able to open a Romancing the Stone-type film for the modern era, right? The Sandra Bullock vehicle was even originally pitched with her co-star from The Proposal, Ryan Reynolds, in mind. Mr. Deadpool certainly would have had a different kind of character than the hunky but not exactly witty one Channing Tatum plays, but the truth is it wouldn’t matter either way. Bullock has always had great chemistry with pretty much anyone: Clooney in Gravity, Kidman in Practical Magic, and the cat from The Heat, to name a few. Plus, a scene-stealing Brad Pitt and a heel turn from Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe are fun bonuses. The action might be less than what Disney showcased in last year’s Jungle Cruise, but the laughs are certainly better. The Lost City hopes to discover an audience more interested in jokes than explosions anyways, although there are plenty of big booms too.

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‘Deep Water’ Offers Shallow Thrills (Movie Review)

During the 80s and 90s, erotic thrillers were a sound investment for any major studio. Films like 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and Indecent Proposal were events. All but one of those films was directed by Adrian Lyne. Hard-R, adult-skewing movies were an active part of the cultural conversation. In the past two decades, Lyne has only directed one other film, 2002’s Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane. Lyne’s particular brand of highly charged sensual kicks could be considered a relic of a bygone era if they weren’t so well made and, frankly, memorable. Still, in an age overwhelmed by audience-friendly superhero flicks, could a simple story about a jealous husband and his promiscuous spouse top the box office like the movies that made household names out of Glenn Close, Sharon Stone, and Demi Moore? We’ll never know… okay, so actually we do, and the answer is no. Lyne’s latest will be debuting this weekend exclusively on Hulu. Deep Water pairs Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas: two stars ready to raise their body heat.

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‘Halo’ Is Combat Evolved, Story Still Convoluted (TV Review)

Since development as a series was announced way back in 2013, Halo has miraculously kept Steven Spielberg on board as executive producer. There was never a chance The Beard would direct but keeping the live-action version of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time at Amblin Entertainment was enough to keep yours truly hopeful. Now that the 26th-century sci-fi tale has arrived on Paramount+, home of Star Trek, is there enough streaming space in the universe for another hero who (mostly) keeps his helmet on? Time will tell, but who needs Grogu when an assault by the Covenant boasts one of the most brutal openings in television. Suit up, Master Chief, you’re gonna need a weapon. Continue reading ‘‘Halo’ Is Combat Evolved, Story Still Convoluted (TV Review)’

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‘The Batman’ Begins… Again! (Movie Review)

With The Batman, Robert Pattinson is the seventh actor to play the Caped Crusader, thereby eclipsing the number of James Bonds to hit the silver screen. Both made their live-action debuts in the 60s. Of course, there are way more Bonds films (26 official) than Batman (13), yet each new iteration has been an event. Director Matt Reeves (Dawn of and War for the Planet of the Apes) had been eying Batman: Year One for years, and while this 2022 feature is technically the Bat’s second year as Gotham’s vengeance-driven vigilante, that’s certainly close enough. Thankfully, that means we get to skip the overly used death of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s parents. If you’ve seen the trailer, you might have noticed that the dream of the 90s/early 00s is alive and well in Gotham City. To be fair, the character has always been kinda moody, so an emo Bruce Wayne isn’t the stretch one might have assumed. Think more My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge era, less Tobey Maguire’s dancing fool a la Spider-Man 3. So, let’s apply guyliner and tussle our carefully curated locks. After all, we have a city to save, Mr. Wayne! Continue reading ‘‘The Batman’ Begins… Again! (Movie Review)’

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Sony’s ‘Uncharted’ Film Lacks PlayStation’s Fun (Movie Review)

Sony Pictures’ Uncharted looks to be Spider-Man star Tom Holland’s next box office hit this weekend. Based on the beloved PlayStation series by developer Naughty Dog and directed by Venom’s Ruben Fleischer, this mid-budgeted adventure flick leans more towards pleasing fans of Holland (and, to a lesser degree, co-star Mark Walhberg) than fans of the videogame. Arguably, this is a smart move for a new franchise looking to appeal to anyone, although, in the end, the quality of the thing is still the thing. In other words, is this modern day adventure debut any fun?

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Old School Star Power Elevates ‘Marry Me’ (Movie Review)

Just in time for our second pandemic Valentine’s Day, Universal Pictures is releasing a love letter for fans of Jenifer Lopez and, to a lesser degree, Owen Wilson. Marry Me, a high concept “will they won’t they” rom-com, debuts in theaters as well as exclusively on Peacock during this time of romance. Over twenty years ago, the same studio delivered a massive hit with Julia Roberts playing a movie star who smiled like Julia Roberts and fell in love with an affable Hugh Grant playing an “ordinary” version of the English charmer in Notting Hill. Will a 2022 offering with J. Lo starring as a pop star who marries a down-to-earth stranger played by Wilson have audiences saying ‘I do’? I’d bet for most, the answer is probably more a “maybe,” but for diehard fans of Hustlers’ leading lady, this lightweight rom-com is an easy “yes!”

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Hercule Poirot Investigates Stylish ‘Death On The Nile’ (Movie Review)

Five years later, Kenneth Branagh dons the ‘stache once again as Inspector Hercule Poirot. Following the 2017 hit, Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh’s Poirot is back for the Egyptian-set sequel, aptly named Death on the Nile. The third filmed adaption of Agatha Christie’s bestselling 1937 novel features a large cast, including Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, along with Branagh, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Letitia Wright, and more. Murder on the Orient Express took in an impressive $352 million globally. Hopes are high that this non-comic book studio release entices audiences ready to figure out whodunit. Set (mostly) on a luxury steamer ship, Branagh shot the film in 70mm as he did with Express. Will fancy costumes, wide compositions, and a strong ensemble be enough for another go at an old-fashioned murder mystery?

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The 5th ‘Scream’ is Fiendishly Brutal (Movie Review)

Over a decade since the fourth installment became the late Wes Craven’s final film, Scream returns to the sleepy albeit bloody town of Woodsboro. New directors and writers are ready to take a stab at the ultimate metaseries that changed the game for scary movies in 1996. Legacy actors Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette have returned alongside newcomers Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, and Jack Quaid. Twenty-five years after Sidney Prescott defeated not one but two Ghostface killers, can she still make with the stabby stabby? In 2022, will Ghostface have their own TikTok? Is #GutYouLikeAPig taken? One of the biggest horror franchises of all time has lasted three generations: from the slacker days of the nineties to the entitled millennials of the aughts. Now, the time has come time for zoomers to answer the call…

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Peter’s Tremendous Top Ten Video Games of 2021

2021, amirite? We’re now over a year into the current generation of consoles, yet being able to actually purchase a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X/S is still nigh impossible. Proving what we already knew: scalper bots are truly the worst. The shortage of chips and other factors have made the supply fall far short of demand. Fortunately, many of the year’s best were playable on the older PS4s and Xbox Ones too. Meanwhile, Nintendo released an OLED version of their Switch alongside the first Metroid in years. The year in games saw plenty of highs, although nothing hit the masterpiece level of 2020’s The Last of Us Part 2. Instead, 2021 spread the love with different kinds of experiences: an incredible shooter that heralded the return of Master Chief, a colorful Pixar-level tale featuring not one but two Lombaxes, and plenty of abominations courtesy of the Umbrella Corporation.

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