Whiskey Cavalier is a show that has to be a lot of fun to make, and a lot of viewers could easily end their own reviews there. This is a show that asks a lot of its audience, but isn’t quite clever enough to broach the subject until you’ve already shown up.
Purporting to offer up a somewhat irreverent spy extravaganza with the FBI and CIA clashing, and starring easy draw actors, Whiskey Cavalier is actually much closer to live-action Scooby Doo that nevertheless suggests it has “a badass CIA operative.”
Will Chase (Scott Foley) is an FBI agent, and we enter the show with him on the trail of Edgar Standish (Tyler James Williams), who has apparently stolen classified information. While on Standish’s trail in Russia, where he has been taken captive by nefarious people who want said information, Will meets Frankie (Lauren Cohan), a CIA operative who is also after Standish and takes the pair of them captive until she can turn Standish over to her superiors.
It sounds good on paper, even when you throw in the constant “my government agency is better than your group of idiots” banter. Paper, however, doesn’t quite relay the lunacy of Frankie blowing up a window in a bar, apparently for no other reason than she doesn’t like doors, the utterly impossible appearance of Frankie on a train that’s straight out of a cartoon, or the repeated “Aha! Now you’re my prisoner!” antics that are part Marx Brothers and part Gilligan’s Island.
The real problem with the show is that it won’t pick what it’s doing. A spy series that has some laughs and doesn’t exactly take things as seriously as the situation might normally demand could be a hit, especially with this cast, but the show bounces around so frequently that there’s no solid ground at all. You can’t throw together a story that wants even a mildly serious tone and then Get Smart your way out of danger, or offer up characters who would obviously off everyone in the room at the first sign of danger and have them laze their way through a lot of dialog because it’s joke time.
The result of this waffling approach, especially through the pilot’s establishment, makes for something that’s hard to sit through unless you can steel yourself to leave all expectations at the door for an occasionally humorous ride with some of your favorite actors. Just when you think the show might have gotten it out of its system, the pilot ends with a guy who is all but required to say, “and I would have gotten away with it too!”
All that said, this feels like a show that was pitched with a hard push toward where we end up after 6-8 episodes, and we’ll figure out how we get there later. Once we figure out our team, and the initial “mine’s bigger than yours” is behind us, this could settle into a semi-comedic procedural worth the time. It’s going to need a bigger divergence from what it seems to be after, or from the appearance that it doesn’t seem to be after anything, if it really wants to win over fans though. The constant shift in tone makes audiences ask questions they don’t want to keep asking, and distracts from what fun there is getting involved with this crew.
The fact that Mary Poppins Returns managed to land as one of the year’s best films was probably as much a surprise to many as it was a joyous relief to others. You would be hard-pressed to imagine a sequel with more potential to fall apart, or a bigger cultural identity to live up to.
Rob Marshall at the helm helped alleviate some fears, but this was a film that made it impossible to get comfortable going in for fans of the original.
Now, the must-see family film of the year is headed your way as the must-own release of the year, with a slew of bonus materials adding to the film that is going to be watched again and again.
The best part of the release is that the bonus features, though in some sense perhaps the standard fare, match so well with the film and what fans will be looking for. Not only is there a sing-along version, which seems like a no-brainer, but the behind-the-scenes explorations pull fans into the movie in a way that is far beyond the norm.
This one hits on March 12th on Digital and Movies Anywhere and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD March 19th, so mark your calendars.
Catch the full list of bonus features below.
Mary Poppins Returns | On Digital Mar 12 & Blu-ray Mar 19 - YouTube
Mary Poppins Returns Bonus features include*:
BLU-RAY & 4K ULTRA HD:
Deleted Song—“The Anthropomorphic Zoo” – In this early song sequence, Mary Poppins and the children visit a very special zoo where the humans and animals trade places.
The Practically Perfect Making of “Mary Poppins Returns” – Join filmmakers and cast on an amazing journey to embrace the legacy of the original film while making a fresh modern sequel.
Introduction – Filmmakers and cast remember the first Mary Poppins movie and share the thrill of working on “Mary Poppins Returns.”
“(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky” – Discover how the team mined PL Travers’ books for a fresh perspective on a much-loved character. Plus, meet the Banks children!
“Can You Imagine That?” – Be on location for Mary’s iconic entrance from the sky, and explore the movie’s original songs, inspired by the Sherman Brothers.
“Nowhere to Go but Up” – Experience being on set with the legendary Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury, and celebrate the joy of choosing the right balloon!
Seeing Things From a Different Point of View”: The Musical Numbers of “Mary Poppins Returns” – Go behind the scenes and experience the film’s production numbers from a new angle.
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” – Led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast performs the film’s biggest production number, with dancing lamplighters, bicyclists and more!
“The Royal Doulton Music Hall” / “A Cover Is Not the Book” – Find out what it takes to create two musical extravaganzas inside an animated world, highlighted by dancing animated penguins!
“Turning Turtle” – Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy Turvy, played by Meryl Streep, has an unusual house that turns this musical number upside-down.
“Can You Imagine That?” – Dive under the bubbles with the cast and crew to see how this exuberant number was created.
Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns – Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert and Mr. Dawes Sr. in the first film, returns after 54 years to Cherry Tree Lane as Mr. Dawes Jr.
Practically Perfect Bloopers – There’s nowhere to go but up with the cast and crew in this lighthearted collection of flubs, goofs and prop fails!
Leaving Topsy’s – After their visit to Cousin Topsy, Mary, Jack and the children pause to take a look back.
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” – The leeries light up the screen in this extended clip from the movie’s biggest musical production.
Play Movie in Sing-Along Mode – Sing along with all your favorite songs as you watch the movie.
Play Movie with Audio Commentary – Watch the film with commentary by director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.
photo courtesy Disney
Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” the irresistible, timeless sequel based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers, has had audiences dancing in their seats and critics singing its praises, earning Academy Award® nominations for best original song, best original score, best costume design and best production design. Directed by Academy Award winner Rob Marshall, who helmed screen adaptations of “Chicago,” “Nine” and “Into the Woods,” and starring Emily Blunt, Golden Globe®-nominated for her role as practically-perfect nanny Mary Poppins, and award-winning composer, lyricist and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda as charming lamplighter Jack, the fantastical film arrives into homes instantly on Digital 4K Ultra HD/HD and Movies Anywhere March 12 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD March 19 — with a sing-along version and never-before-seen bonus features.
Graphic novels always make for difficult adaptations, but they are an undeniable draw for those hoping to snare audiences. Not only do they have a starting base of fans, but they frequently provide the kind of storytelling that hooks people with complicated (if odd) characters and arcs that defy guesswork.
Truth be told, if comic book movies got a more authentic treatment, as opposed to a mix of generic “Hollywoodization” and an attempt to appeal to the expectations of people who don’t read comic books, they would look a lot more like The Umbrella Academy than The Avengers. Though that covers a lot of ground, it largely comes down to inverting the ratio of fight scenes to plot progression.
The Umbrella Academy, only because the simplicity of the comparison is unavoidable, is something like a darker, slightly more bonkers, version of The X-Men. There are actually few similarities between the two, except that a bunch of kids with powers grow up under the tutelage of someone extremely smart… and there’s kind of a Beast, but it feels a lot like The X-Men, because everyone is screwed up and they wander the halls trying to figure themselves out all the time.
On the same day in 1989, 43 children were born to women who showed no signs of being pregnant the day before. Billionaire industrialist, and all-around weirdo, Sir Reginald Hargreaves adopts seven of them, learns they have powers, and proceeds to train them into a force to help protect the world. As we enter the show, the now estranged, adult, brood returns home when Hargreaves dies, and it turns out that they may need to save the world after all.
photo courtesy Netflix
The show’s tagline is “Super Dysfunctional Family,” and just as we step into figuring out why this is the case, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) inexplicably returns home as well, after having been missing in time for the last 17 years. That’s its own long story, but the relevant point is that he knows the world is going to end in about a week, because he’s been there, and people are after him because they want to stop him from stopping it.
Where The Umbrella Academy really shows off its belief in its source material is in the fact that it takes very little notice of its characters powers, despite showing them off. Luther (Tom Hopper) isn’t the guy with superhuman strength, he’s the loyal, older brother who can never really figure out his place in the world, because he defines himself by his relation to others. Diego (David Castañeda) isn’t the guy who can move objects he throws at will, he’s the guy who can’t get out of his brother’s shadow and tries to break free from his father’s will by doing the very thing his father tried to force him to do. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) isn’t the woman who can control people’s minds, she’s the woman battling the loss of self that comes with the realization that she has never really done anything in her entire life.
Now, Klaus (Robert Sheehan) actually is just the guy who sees dead people, thus spending his entire life with the siblings’ dead brother Ben (Justin H. Min), but that isn’t really a superpower that gets you out of a jam… and will mess you up. Number Five is also the guy who can teleport and time travel, but he’s also a cranky, old man. Finally, there’s Vanya (Ellen Page), the one who never developed any powers, which perhaps gave her the weirdest upbringing of them all.
Sure, the end of the world is coming, but it isn’t because of the devious machinations of a lunatic. Our siblings are ultimately fighting against the people who are simply trying to make sure what happens is what’s supposed to happen, and the world is supposed to end. The premise is a little goofy, and the things this group of overseers travel through time preventing don’t make a lot of sense, but the result is that all we’re really fighting is fate. The consequences of actions that have set in motion a chain of events.
The struggle becomes mind-bending, and though this odd band of irregulars are faced with the weirdest events in history, they can hardly get through all the family drama and secrets that come to a head just by being around each other.
Amid the goth setting of a house that becomes a character and the surreal revelations of powers, robots, and hyperbolic parental craziness, the characters have to pull you in, and not only does The Umbrella Academy manage a cast that delivers, you almost hope everyone gets their own spin-off.
At a time when everything related to comics or graphic novels are especially hit or miss, and have largely gone for spectacle over substance, The Umbrella Academy is a fun, engaging showcase of what the medium is about.
Acorn TV continues to bring fantastic new options to American audiences, and in March there are some very special additions. If you aren’t familiar with Acorn TV, and even if you are, the streaming service is a must for fans of British television, new and classic, but also offers an increasing selection of hit shows from points further afield.
Head over to Acorn TV to keep up on the full list of their offerings, and what’s new and upcoming, but here are some highlights.
ACCUSED, Series 1-2 (BBC One Drama Series) Hitting March 4th
Accused is a solid addition for fans of crime drama, especially as it features several actors that American audiences are now familiar with.
International Emmy-winner for Best Drama Series and two-time Best Performance by an Actor (Sean Bean and Christopher Eccleston)
Murder, arson, and other deadly offenses all have a flash point, when a person loses control over something, or someone, in their life. This star-studded, acclaimed anthology series turns the classic crime drama on its head and takes a compelling look at the true nature of guilt and innocence. Each episode follows a different character and reveals the crime through the eyes of the perpetrator, revealing how—and more importantly, why—it happened. Some characters are guilty, some are innocent, and others fall somewhere in between. But they’re all ordinary people whose lives have quickly gone sideways—and they all stand accused. Series 1 and 2 stars Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Mackenzie Crook (Detectorists), Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who), Andy Serkis (Black Panther, Lord of the Rings trilogy), Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown), Stephen Graham (Line of Duty, Boardwalk Empire), and Sean Bean(Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings). Each hour-long episode is a separate story about how one ordinary individual ended up in the dock to face his or her fate. Written by Jimmy McGovern (Cracker) (10 EPS, 2010-2012)
Based on the critically acclaimed memoir The Boy with the Topknot by journalist Sathnam Sanghera and starring Sacha Dhawan(Iron Fist, Mr Selfridge). Born to traditional Punjabi parents and growing up in Wolverhampton, Sathnam moves to London after graduating from Cambridge University. Living with his English girlfriend in London and excelling in his career as a columnist for The Times, he keeps his life very separate to the one he has in Wolverhampton with his family. This is a touching, humorous and emotional story of a second-generation Indian growing up in Britain and how he juggles his family, love life and career. (Feature-length, 2017)
The Boy with the Topknot: Trailer - BBC Two - YouTube
MY WELSH SHEEP DOG (Documentary)
BBC documentary with Kate Humble setting out to learn more about the endangered Welsh sheepdog breed. (3 EPS, 2016)
MURDOCH MYSTERIES, Season 12, Ep 12/18 (Exclusive U.S. Premiere) Also March 4th – new episodes premiere weekly throughout March
If you aren’t like me, one of the few Americans lucky enough to get CBC, Murdoch Mysteries is likely all you need to sell you on Acorn TV. While the show’s most recent seasons have wandered down some strange roads, and seem overly fascinated with annoying side characters, it’s a show to binge.
A new season 12 episode from one of Acorn TV’s and Canada’s most popular series. Garnering an amazing 45 Gemini® and Canadian Screen Award nominations, Murdoch Mysteries has found a huge audience in North America for its period charm, entertaining mysteries, and likeable characters. Set in Toronto in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the age of invention, the mystery series centers on Detective William Murdoch, a methodical and dashing detective, who enlists radical new forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s murders.
MANHUNT(Acorn TV Original, Exclusive U.S., Canada and Mexico Premiere) Hitting March 11th
Manhunt will hopefully serve as a catalyst to help send Acorn TV to another level. With fantastic ratings on ITV and the incomparable Martin Clunes, if this incredible police drama (review soon) doesn’t pull you in, nothing will.
Earning the highest ratings for a new ITV drama in more than six years (since Broadchurch) and 9 million UK viewers, new British crime drama MANHUNTstars Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as former London Metropolitan police detective DCI Colin Sutton who determinedly and tenaciously pursued serial killer Levi Bellfield. Written by Ed Whitmore (Silent Witness, Strike Back) and directed by Marc Evans (Trauma, Safe House, Hinterland), Manhunt is the real-life story of how the murder of French National, Amelie Delagrange, on Twickenham Green in August 2004 was eventually linked to two other murders. With no forensics, motive or witnesses, DCI Sutton’s painstaking approach and the diligence of his fellow officers gradually led to breakthroughs in the case and to suspected serial killer Levi Bellfield. But now the hunt is on for enough evidence to arrest him and make sure he’s found guilty at trial. (3 EPS)
Acorn TV Original | Manhunt | Premieres March 11 - YouTube
Detective Peter Wendel’s goal of creating a new, super-group cold case team encounters a set-back when an unknown killer leaves a message for the police. It states that Sweden’s most notorious serial killer is actually a fraud. In order to uncover the truth, Peter has to pull his cold case group together quickly, limited to the misfits of the police force – the only officers currently available in Stockholm. His newly formed team find themselves at odds with the powerful group of people who got the serial killer convicted in the first place. (8 EPS)
If you aren’t a big fan of Stephen Merchant (you should be) you might not be aware of the comedy potential he brings to anything, even when he isn’t writing and directing. If you are a big fan of Stephen Merchant, you might wonder how the hell he got involved in a movie about professional wrestling that’s based on a true story.
Either way, audiences are about to be in for a surprise treat with Fighting with My Family, a curious, little underdog story about a girl who grows up in a wrestling family and ultimately tries to make her own way in the family business… or whatever.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a heartwarming comedy based on the incredible true story of WWE Superstar Paige.
Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone.
Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.
We weren’t looking forward to Glass, and with good reason, but after Split, we thought there might be hope. More importantly, there was a chance that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson weren’t simply forced into the thing by some sequel clause.
Alas, it just wasn’t the movie for us, and despite having some fun with the actors, the movie didn’t amount to much.
Luckily, we had other things to worry about and caught up with some other films as well.
We’re running headlong into the end of awards season, and people have been asking us about our lists – they’re coming. You may know that Shane and I have different rules with our lists, which is why we’re trying to cover as many things as we can before we start letting you know how our best and worst lists came together.
Give us a listen below and remember to share, subscribe, and otherwise trick your friends into listening to us!
The crew that brought you Spider-Man: Homecoming is back for more with Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it looks like the team may have upped their game.
While the current trend in comic book films suggests that audiences aren’t especially paying attention to who writes or directs the latest installments, the Spider-Man team may be on the way to changing that, despite being part of said trend.
Going into Homecoming, Jon Watts had directed Cop Car, Clown, and not a lot else. Despite Cop Car being a solid film, he was a choice that was at least a bit odd, and definitely telling (if you’re a bit of a cynic). As with several other comic features of late, it didn’t seem like anyone cared who was directing, as long as we had a superhero on the poster.
But, if we’re trying to make great teams and/or take the opportunity to give underappreciated talent a chance to prove themselves, it looks like we might be onto something.
The Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is a mix of everything you might hope for in the continuation of the franchise, and also gives an indication that maybe we are taking things in a direction that is closer to some of the earlier “big” wins of the latest era of comic book films… only perhaps “lighter.”
Here’s Peter Parker, just looking for a vacation with his friends, when who shows up but Nick Fury. Ahhh skunked again. Weaving together High School angst with new supervillains is Parker’s tragic lot in life, and he’s just going to have to make do.
While this one is going to come down to efficient use of gags and effects, and the overall sense we make of Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) within the new world order of superheroes the various film franchises have been putting forward, this is a trailer that at least sells the idea that we’re in for a good ride. It may even provide some evidence that Tom Holland has more in him than the “quipy sidekick,” we’ve seen thus far, or at least, might get a chance to prove it.
Mysterio, by the way, of no superpowers and a somewhat odd backstory, is going to take some work, or is going to get ruined.
Take a look above, and stay tuned for the plethora of marketing sure to hit soon.
When it comes to the merging worlds of “popcorn film” and “comic book action” you have to be forgiving when the plot starts clawing its way out from under the spectacle of flash and often wacky kineticism. There’s also something to be said for allowing some leeway when it comes to fleshing out a world if you’re allowing superheroes their full due.
For DC comparison, Wonder Woman manages to walk a difficult line, embracing the suspension of disbelief requirements while holding onto reality and logic.
Aquaman, however, is a film that seems made by people who believe this means nothing has to make sense, and no two scenes necessarily need to be part of the same story.
The tragedy is that Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe are a lot of fun to watch. Well, during the rare moments when it’s possible to stomach what you’re watching them do.
We’ve already met Aquaman (Momoa), but the film floods us with details of his origin anyway, and that’s because this is a film that is going to move us to Atlantis for our conflict. It turns out that there’s a massive underwater world populated by survivors of the original Atlantis, and now that world threatens to retaliate against the rest of us, largely for crimes against the oceans at large.
King Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is really just another psychopath as pseudo-villain, is going to unite the Seven Kingdoms of Atlantis so that he can amass an unbeatable army and take over the world and/or just slaughter the surface dwellers… or whatever.
courtesy Warner Bros.
Connecting us to these events is the fact that unwitting and unwilling Aquaman is a half-breed, the product of the union of Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and a humble lighthouse keeper in Maine. With Orm on the warpath, a few people are on the side of not being crazy, and Princess Mera (Heard) finds Aquaman, hoping to convince him to find a mythical trident and overthrow Orm before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, Orm has a pirate on the payroll, and he kits him out with what are basically magic weapons that said pirate inconceivably reverse engineers to create a super suit and become Black Manta.
This all sets us up for a plethora of excuses to dive into any action sequence our effects company might have already come up with, and there’s little reason to suspect the entirety of the film wasn’t itself reverse engineered, so to speak, from a variety of spec clips of underwater battles.
These action scenes are sometimes impressive, and coupled with some of the more interesting breaks for dialogue, might be spun into a story. Here, the overall product is so nonsensical that paying any amount of attention makes the commendable effort by the actors a struggle with futility.
Aquaman is almost immediately revealed as not merely bulletproof, but nigh indestructible by any means. This leads us into a challenge, because we want our protagonist to have some sort of difficulty, with King Orm, a milquetoast fop if ever there was one, and we’re given to understand Aquaman has no chance to win, because by Atlantis standards he’s a wimp.
In the almost furious charge toward every superhero story being about a threat of total destruction of everything, and the upscaling of powers of everyone involved, Aquaman hits the point where godlike power comes full circle, and we’ve lost touch with what’s going on altogether. It’s one thing to have Kryptonite as your reverse deus ex machina-esque plot device, it’s quite another to have, “I dunno, some magic metal or whatever. Oh, and, like a plasma gun. Say, ‘plasma’.”
courtesy Warner Bros.
Given the world we’ve created, built almost solely around slick hydrocars, a really whizbang suit of armor some guy in marketing knocked out, and a demand for a final battle with “more shit flying around than in that Black Panther one,” none of it makes sense anymore. At any point in the film Orm could pick four Atlanteans at random and tell them to go kill everyone on the surface, and nothing could stop them. Except that Aquaman can stop the Atlantean cannon fodder time and again. Except that he doesn’t have anything that should be able to hurt them.
Meanwhile, King Orm wants to unite the Seven Kingdoms, except he doesn’t actually mean that, doesn’t need anyone to follow him, and has a force that is already unstoppable. Hopefully, Aquaman can retrieve the magic trident, which doesn’t seem to do anything, so that he can again battle Orm in a one-on-one fight that amounts to little beyond yelling that Orm’s monkey style is no match for his improved tiger style.
Even all this would somehow be moderately excusable if not for the fact that the visual effects are at times painful, at others sad and dated, and occasionally include giant octopi playing drums.
If not for the fact that Mamoa and Heard are almost freakishly charasmatic, and Dafoe is somewhat mesmerizing as he tries to inject a sense of reality into the buffonery around him, the film would be a total loss.
We’re trying to catch up as award season officially moves into high gear, and this week we’re looking at Aquaman, A Star is Born, and more.
We also look at The Golden Globes, and the wins that set the internet on fire.
The awards actually set us up for our look at these films, because the trend of odd appreciation continues through to, at least, the first two films we cover. Aquaman is certainly making money, and director James Wan has much to say about the film not receiving a visual effects nomination, but it didn’t deliver for us.
A Star is Born pulled us in a lot of directions, and we didn’t exactly agree on the film’s overall merits. Whatever the final assessment might be, it’s a film that had positives and negatives piling up every which way. The result is that it’s hard to hate everything, and rather understandable if those less jaded than ourselves enjoyed it.
Give us a listen below and remember to share, subscribe, and otherwise trick your friends into listening to us!