Is 13 Reasons Why Important? (and any good…)

18-13-reasons-why.w710.h473

For the love of Jeff, if this show wasn’t already polarising after season one, season two just took a even bigger broader swing at possibly pissing a lot of people off. Now to be clear, I really do love the first season of 13 Reasons Why, and I do for many reasons. This second season however is a really different story, in almost every way I could mean that. Season one was intense, and it was emotional, it was at times very hard to watch, but it did in my opinion, a lot more right, than it did wrong. Now I don’t say all that to say that the second season does more bad than good, because I still think what this show it trying to do is the right thing, where I think it fall downs in comparisons to season one, is in its execution.

800px-autopx-scale-to-width-down

Season one, more or less, had a singular focus. It set out a narrative about a girl who, like most young people, had a difficult go at life, and ended up taking her life, and leaving behind 13 tapes outlining the reasons why she did so. And boom, we have a full season of tv, and a lot we can learn and talk about. Season two however, starts to pull the camera back, it starts to give us a look at a bigger picture, and in trying to do that, it has to paint its narrative with a much wider brush, and that means a lot of the newest issues it raises, can’t be treated with the same fine detail as the first season. That being said, it also does allow them to do some good things also. For one, this show makes a point of really trying to give us complex characters, and then round of the edges on those characters, to try and keep them in areas of grey, and almost never in straight black or whites.

13-reasons-why-season-2-photo005-1525372146374_1280w

The focus of season one however, massively helped the writing, because they could be much more subtle when and where they needed to be, this season however, falls off most I’d say in the writing. So many times the dialogue we get here has to be really “on the nose” or “hitting the nail on the head” because they have to, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get to the end of this seasons story. Now this does help the show in its advocacy, but this isn’t a PSA, its a tv series, and the story telling still has to matter. It allows the show to have these stand out moments of “you’re never alone”, or “it will get better”, but takes away some of the dramatic impact those moments could have it they were allowed to exist as they would have in the first season. This season also is going to come under fire for what messages it is believed to be sending. And it should, these are tricky issues, and sometimes creating a discussion alone isn’t enough, and this show definitely does create some discussions it might not have planned to, or just ones that it handled poorly.

579ad0d5-a5fe-492e-9a90-de79e9bf62c4-13rw_208_00393r

So what does this all mean for 13 Reasons Why (season 2)? Is it an important show, and is it any good at all? Well I think the answer for those questions is mostly yes, but with some definite caveats. This is an important show, because shining a light on the darker parts of life I think truly is an important thing, and I think some of the discussions its creates are very important. I do think however, that season two tries to reach beyond its grasp, and thats where the biggest let down of this season is. It feels like the show itself almost became self aware of what it created socially with its first season, and as such, felt like it had an obligation in season two, more to creating conversation and trying to raise awareness, than it had to story telling, and the actual entertainment side of things which is a massive reason it became so popular in the first place. This season also does end on a note that, while no one can ever predict the event of real life, is tragically close to recent real life tragedies. So is 13 reasons why important? Yes it is. Is it any good? It is, but its definitely not as good as season one, and I think only really people who have strong connection to that first season and those characters will really stick through all of the episodes in season two.

#BELIKEJEFF

Advertisements

In Case You Missed It!

Annihilation :

annihilation-ed

Annihilation is a film from the same writer and director as one of my favourite movies in Ex-Machina, and thats Alex Garland, this time though based of a Novel by Jeff Vandermeer. The simplest way I think I can describe this movie, is imagine if some kind of life-form crashed on Earth, creating this “Shimmer” zone as its called, causing the inevitable exploration of it. I know that sounds really vague, but honestly so is this movie.

annihilation

This movie at its core, is about a concept, a theme, a motif, whatever you want to call it, its about a solitary idea, that it spirals out into and throughout the narrative. That is to say there is a definite story here, and a genuine plot, character development and all that. Thats one of the strong point of this movie actually, as it does a really great job with its female characters, because it uses them as just characters, gender irrelevant. Each character has a unique and genuine reason to go into the “Shimmer”, and each has a certain level of expertise that prevents this all female team from just being solely a play for diversity.

annihilation-new-0929.jpg.1125x0_q71

This movie also toes a psychological, and physical line, in terms of its tension and the actual danger it puts these characters in. It also helps that this movie is absolutely gorgeous, and I mean that truly. Every frame of this film is super well thought out, framed up, and executed. There is so much attention to detail here, that you can see that every single thing there is to notice, is there for some purpose or meaning, and that kind of detail is made even more rewarding with the way this movie ends, and the conclusions it forces you, the viewer to draw upon. This is by no means a passive movie going experience.

annihilationmovienatalieportman

Annihilation is one of those movies that people are going to love, to hate, and love to hate. The one thing however they can’t deny this movie of, is its ability to create and discussion, and to stay with you long after seeing it. Wether you “get” this movie or not, there will be so much for you and whomever you see this movie with to debate after, that even if you didn’t like it, its more than worth watching, even if its just for the theories of what the end means, and the looking online for sources that back up your side of the argument.

Devilman Crybaby, a deeper look.

bSHrvOnZsY2JG3uIn9vIN7rh6rO

So to be fully clear from the start, Devilman Crybaby is 100% an R or I guess NC-17 rated anime series, that is 100% made for people 18 years and over, and as we will discuss, there is more to it than just violence and nudity, but there is a lot of that so if you can’t get past that don’t even waste your time. With all that out of the way, what exactly is Devilman Crybaby? Its a new anime series on Netflix based on the original manga “DevilMan”. It tells the story of a world invaded by ancient demons who start regaining power in the world by possessing people in an attempt to take over control of the world It follows Akira and Ryo, who devise a plot to fight back against the demons by becoming half devil and half man (a devilment) to try and fight on equal footing.

343e4590a5e23232a0e5c5bfa02107a2105d6ef3

So that all sounds standard enough about a fantasy, action type anime, where’s all the controversy? Well, like I referenced before, this is DEFINITELY made for adults. The first half of the series especially, is filled with copious amounts of nudity, sexually content, drug use, murder, violence, gore and all that stuff, and on the surface, I can see why people would have a problem with it. And if that was the only purpose of those things then maybe it would be an issue, but like a lot of anime, the purpose of many things is kept hidden till its needs to reveal itself. That in a nutshell, is probably one of the best ways to describe this series.

Devilman-Crybaby-01-11

It starts by hitting you over the head with loud and out there imagery and actions, but it does so to prove a point, a point though, that it proves later on in the series. And this time delay, is where the series works the best, but is also what could put people off of this show. The shock and owe of the first few episodes, only becomes apparent when you get into the real meat of the story, and then you realise you’re hooked, and when you realise you’re hooked, everything comes into to focus. What this show does, is actually trick you, and by tricking you, it can have a more profound affect on you later on, and that makes what does happen later on, so much more impactful. There is a brilliance to that, that I don’t think should go unnoticed.

Devilman-Crybaby-Season-1-Episode-8-I-Must-Know-Myself-Jenny

Best of all though, the true brilliance of Devilman Crybaby, is that it manages to take you on a roller coaster ride from such a seemingly vulgar beginning, to a very surprisingly beautiful and poignant ending. And to be able to take the viewer on a ride like that, makes this show really worth seeing. If you’re a fan of anime ( and you really probably have to be for this one) Devilman Crybaby is a rare combination of things. It has an interesting and unique animation style, it uses a non traditional arch of story telling, it goes from seemingly one type of show to the polar opposite, and it manages to do all of this in 10, 20 some odd minute episodes that are as compelling and fun to watch as anything recently.

Review : Bright

Netflix-Bright-Will-Smith-Joel-Edgerton

“Set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans. A human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.”

This has been a huge year for Netflix, and one of there big projects was the movie Bright. A decently large budget movie, with some big name talent in front and behind the camera, and more hope from Netflix to become serious players in the movie business. So is Bright the answer to that question? Not really, but it shows a lot of promise. Bright as a concept, is really good and really exciting. Bright as executed however, isn’t all sunshine and magic wands. To start with, the two leads here in Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are both perfectly cast, and excellent in their roles. Joel does a great job of acting through his make up, still delivering an honest performance that made him seem extremely natural as an actual orc. We also see here why for a decade or so, Will Smith was the biggest blockbuster movie actor that money could buy, because he has an effortless way of being funny, entertaining and charismatic when needed, but while also having the range to give us the feels when thats needed. The rest of the cast here are also very solid and its nice to see their commitment to their roles. That being said, the characters is a good place to get into some of the issues. A lot of the characters feel real and lived in here, but many of them seem to have strong motivations that we don’t get to see develop, or where they really stem from. This can make some of the characters seem caricaturish, which is compounded upon by some of the script dialogue here. Thats not to say this is a bad script, its definitely not bad, and maybe a lot of the dialogue here is ad-libbed, but a lot of it comes off as something someone told a person to say, rather than what that person would actually say. This movie really and truly, is a lot of promise, and not a lot of pay off. They build an entire world here for us and these characters, but they only have so much time to delve into it, and that leaves a lot of interesting information on the sidelines and surplus to requirements. If this was a series, I feel like it could genuinely fulfil that promise, but as is, Bright is a great fantasy cross over movie in theory and concept, but just a fun watch it at home for “free” type of movie (which isn’t what Netflix is paying for this movie to be).

Review Score : 6 out of 10

Wrap Up : The Punisher

When you think about The Punisher, you probably think about a gun toting, skull vest wearing, everyone killing, shootemup action type movie or series….what we got however, is so much more. We have now gotten the full compliment of Marvel Netflix character series, and the one thing they all have in common, is that when they work best, they work because they go the route of character study. And thats what The Punisher is, its a 13 episode character study, on Frank Castle, and what it takes to forge such a man. This series accomplishes this, by giving us multiple characters that are pulled from the same crucible, and giving them time and space to see how each reacts, and why. If what you wanted from The Punisher was 13 hours of full auto weapons and head shots, go watch Punisher War Zone like 6 times in a row. If you just like really good content, keep reading.

The Punisher is a real thoughtful series (never thought I’d say that), and its one of the series I think actually benefitted from the 13 episode run, unlike some that should have been cut to 8 or 10. This full 13 hours also gives the time these characters need to become fully developed, and thats really the thing that makes this so good. Both Frank, and other characters like Micro are given time to develop, but more importantly, the villains (yes plural) are given just as much time to be fully fleshed out and allow them to have meaningful motivation and an actually dangerous skillset. All of this means we really care about what happens to who and when. There are some characters here that I don’t really care for, but the show did definitely do a great job of having those characters grow on me, so even if I still didn’t like them by the end, I at least had some more respect for them and their motivations.

There is action here though, I mean there had to be, and its the kind of real and gritty, hands in the mud kind of action I wanted and expected. Frank is just a man of course, and its nice that even though he might be better than his foes, he still is only capable of the things a human can do, and he’s made to bleed. There are some scenes further down the series that I can describe only as “graphic”, so if thats an issue, just be on the look out. This series also does really really well to give the punisher his own little world, and the rules of that world make sense and things happen as a result of other things in a way that also makes sense. That does make the punisher feel at least like the most insulated of the Marvel Netflix shows, and we do get some cross over character work, but really only because of previous character building from Daredevil season 2. Its nice that they didn’t force more cross over, but it would have been nice to have some more nods maybe to the larger Netlfix universe this series finds itself in.

The Punisher is definitely not what I expected it to be. To get all these themes that come with war and being a soldier and ptsd and the works, wrapped so nicely and intricately around a comic book character is really a nice surprise. Jon Bernthal gives us such a layered, damaged and complex character that he will definitely become the embodiment of what people expect from this character going forward. His supporting cast does a great job here also, and I’m sure much praise has to go the writing of this show, for giving these characters so much room to grow, and the time to do it. I think I would rank The Punisher currently as my second favourite of all the Marvel Netflix shows, and I can’t wait to hear about season 2.

Wrap Up : Stranger Things 2

stranger-things-2-970

Success sometimes, isn’t the best thing for movies and TV shows. Especially when that success, comes out of nowhere, and becomes huge, massive success. Thats what happened to season one of Stranger Things. That success means a few different things. One, it makes the expectations of season two that much more inflated. Two, many times more success means more people who want to able to claim some of that success and quality which adds more cooks to the kitchen. Three, everyone expects any sequel to be bigger and better than before. And four, you usually don’t have as much time to create as you did before. Most if not all of these things I’m sure were a part of the creation of Stranger Things season two, that ┬ábeing said though, this season of Stranger Things definitely comes out swinging a nail filled bat of quality.

Screen_Shot_2017_10_28_at_11.49.08_AM.png

Everything about ST2 that needed to be bumped up, has been, and everywhere that should have been kept smaller and more tight knit, has also been. Thats the real success of season two. Things pick up right where they left off, even though this takes places about year after the events of season one, it honestly feels like we never left these characters. The entire gangs back, plus some new faces that are expertly woven into this sci-fi, adventure tapestry. The story picks up like I said one year after season one, and meets our party trying to live a normal life after the life changing events of a year before. And at first, all does seem well, and we don’t have to wait long before we get our first look at fan favorite 11, as many fans were worried we might have to wait a long time to see her return.

stranger-things-2-natalia-dyer-joe-keery-700x380.jpg

Then things start to get, well, strange. New comers Dacre Montgomery, Paul Reiser, Sean Astin, and Sadie Sink are all welcomed to the cast, and they all have sizable roles. Then just like season one, ST2 does an amazing job of setting up its narrative, and setting all of its characters on a collision course to its ultimate end. This all isn’t to say also that this season is safe, as it does make some bold decisions, and sticks to them for better or worse. One of the things that worked best about season one, was the team, and when the team was together on screen. ST2 takes a typical trope of team up movies, and breaks up the team for the majority of the narrative, only to bring them back for the finale. It actually takes many common tropes of the genre ( sci-fi, adventure, 80s, horror), and twists them around on themselves to allow for much more character development than would usually come from said tropes. Some of the best characters on the show are actually the ones that start out as much less likable, but that allows for them to have the most growth.

stranger-things-season-2-ep-9-recap.jpg

ST2 also benefits from a clearly, and sizably increased budget, and it definitely shows on screen. From episode one straight on, we get to reap the fruits of that increased budget, and it just allows for the elevation of the material. I do have some minor gripes as with most things, but they really are mostly just personal issues, and they don’t at all pull down the material, or the show itself. After season one I had really high expectations for this season, and of the creators, the Duffer brothers, who write and direct most all of season one and two. I also was, and am continually impressed with the level acting from the entire cast here, especially the younger actors who prove again they are no one hit wonders. All in all, Stranger Things season 2 is a wonderful return to form for the Duffer brothers, the cast, the crew, and everyone involved. I think it reaches most of the heights of the season one, and it most definitely eclipses season one in terms of the spectacle here, and the quality of acting and directing doesn’t let off ever. It might not have made me cry like season one, but it had me on the edge of seat for sure, and its worth the watch and the binge (just clear 9 hours and get it out in a one).

Wrap Up : American Vandal

american-vandal-trailer

When you hear the name “American Vandal”, the first thing you think of is probably some gritty new movie or series, or maybe even a series about a true crime story that needed telling….you don’t probably think about a “mockumentary” style take on one of those aforementioned series. That is however, just what American Vandal is, its a satirical take on documentary-serieses yes, but it doesn’t deprive itself of the same level of drama, with a narrative that twists and turns across all 8 of its episodes. It leaves no stone unturned, it leaves no thread unpulled, and it doesn’t miss any details.

American-Vandal-1-e1501778555520

This series on a whole shines across all boards. The writing to start with is absolutely excellent. It pays so much attention to detail, with every hint and bit of information it releases over time. Even details as small and simple as the credits in the intro being the names of the characters because they are making this faux documentary-series shows the kind of attention to detail the writing shows from start to the very end. Each of the characters is given a deep, thoughtful, and totally believable back story and story line, which gives the characters enough weight to have you invested in them, and where they each stand in the narrative.

american-vandal-s01e04-web-x264-strife-large

The acting here is also spectacular. Not only are the roles incredibly cast in their age and diversity, but because the series takes itself and its character seriously, the actors themselves are given so much to work it, and are allowed to play out the roles in a full dramatic fashion. This series is both hilarious and emotional, and it can be both these things without trying to be either because it is simply portraying real life, and people with real lives. You believe everyone of these characters, and what they are going through at all times, and while the writing gives these actors a great base, their acting itself was needed to make and maintain that emotional connection.

American_Vandal_title_card

All in all, American Vandal is one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time, and one of those shows where I feel like many people would over look the quality of things like the writing and production here. If you have any free time at all, give this series a watch. It only about 4 and a half hours total, and makes a great binge.