Andor Review

There are two arguments when it comes to a prequel. One is that it allows a formerly minor character to get a little bit of time in the narrative spotlight. The other is that it is a cheap copout by the studio. Instead of giving voice to new stories, they are relying on a known (and perhaps too reliable) IP.

Andor premiered last Wednesday on DisneyPlus. In short, it is a prequel of a prequel. Five years before the events of A New Hope, it follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as he becomes the rebel that we know him to be in Rogue One.

While getting on the bad side of bureaucrat Syril Karn (Kyler Soller), he joins the rebellions by way of Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) and Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona).

So far, the first three episodes have been released. The connective tissue between the boy he was and the man he has become is starting to come together in a way that feels right for the character.

My favorite character so far is Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), Cassian’s adopted mother. She is not blind to what is happening and though she does not appear to have one, she has a spine made of steel.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

New episodes of Andor are released every Wednesday on DisneyPlus.

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All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Mrs. Pumphrey

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

I apologize for not posting last weekend. The family came first.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Every town or neighborhood has an older person who might be seen as oddball or weird but is accepted for who they are.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name) Mrs. Pumphrey (first played by the late Diana Rigg and then by Patricia Hodge) is a wealthy widow without children. In place of human descendants is her beloved Pekingese, Tricki Woo. Trickie is one spoiled dog.

This is to the chagrin of James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph), who is referred to as “Uncle James”. He is the veterinarian of choice when it comes to taking care of her furbaby. While James tries to convince Mrs. Pumphrey to feed Trickie healthier food, it takes a while for the suggestion to sink in.

To sum it up: Mrs. Pumphrey may be a little too indulgent of her dog, but it is out of love. She is a generous person who gives to those who she cares for and believes in sharing her emotional wealth with others.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Flashback Friday: Boy Meets World (1993 to 2000)

Our adolescent years are not easy, as anyone who is or has gone through those years knows/remembers. The emotional experience of growing up, learning about the world, and who you are often come out of hard lessons and difficult experiences.

The classic (at least in my mind) 1990s sitcom Boy Meets World (1993 to 2000) followed Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) as he slowly changes from a boy to a young adult. Along the way, he deals with love, loss, heartbreak, etc, and learns that the simplicity of childhood does not last forever.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this show is one of the best of my generation. I grew up with Cory and feel a kinship with this character. Granted, it was television and not exactly reality. That being said, I can look back at BMW and parallel my preteen/teenage years with Cory and company.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The US and the Holocaust Review

There is a famous quote about history. As cliche as it sounds, it is the truth

If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The new PBS three-part documentary series, The US and the Holocaust premiered this past weekend. Co-created and co-directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, actor Peter Coyote narrates the story of the near destruction of European Jewry from 1939 to 1945.

Within the film, there are interviews with historians, survivors, and readings from respected actors such as Meryl Steep, Paul Giamatti, and Liam Neeson. It does more than share what the events in our history books have already told us. It takes the viewer back in time to show what led the Shoah and repeats what most of us (hopefully) know. Though it’s been nearly a century since World War II, it is clear to me that we have not learned from the experiences of that generation.

The thing that hit me immediately is that there are far too many parallels to what is happening now both in the United States and around the world. Xenophobia and hatred have once again become the norm. We have a former President who has authoritarian tendencies, refuses to accept the results of the previous Presidential election, and has convinced many that he is the victim.

What made me angry was the spoken and unspoken complicity of a majority of Americans at the time. Though this country is supposed to be the land of immigrants and freedom. Instead, it became a land of isolation and hypocrisy. That hypocrisy was clear in the first episode when the connection was made between the Nazi’s racial laws and Jim Crow.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say that it is required viewing for every American.

The first two episodes are available for streaming on the PBS website. The third will air tomorrow night at 8PM.

P.S. After I watch or read anything about the Holocaust, I can’t help but think of what the victims or the descendants might have given to the world. The late performer Olivia Newton-John was Jewish on her mother’s side. Her maternal grandparents got out while it was still possible to do so. If they hadn’t, it is very likely that she would have never been born and therefore, not entertained multiple generations of audiences.

Throwback Thursday: Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol (1999)

Though it may seem that the concept of the teen idol is an old one, it is actually rather new in terms of cultural history.

The 1999 TV movie, Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol, tells the story of the late actor/singer Ricky Nelson (Gregory Calpakis). The younger son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson (Jamey Sheridan and Sara Botsford), Ricky was a performer from a young age. Starring with his family first on radio and then on television on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, he was sold to the then young audience as a heartthrob. Then as he aged (as many young performers experience), his name fades from the headlines and he has to deal with no longer being in the spotlight.

Though the narrative is by the book, the story is familiar to anyone who has seen the trajectory of many young actors and singers. After being in the limelight and dealing with everything that comes with that while growing up, they become an afterthought or a piece of nostalgia when the newer model comes along.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Serpent Queen Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that for most of human history a woman in a seat of power has had a precarious position. She is either beloved (i.e. the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II) or reviled as a temptress and viewed as unworthy of the title (i.e. Cleopatra).

The new Starz eight-episode miniseries, The Serpent Queen, tells the story of Catherine de Medici. Based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, by Leonie Frieda, the first episode tells the story of the French Queen. Played by Samantha Morton, she tells her story to Rahima (Sennia Nanua), a servant girl who has been sent to bring the Queen her dinner. Through backstory, we learn about the young Catherine (Liv Hill) and her traumatic path to the throne.

What I like is that so far, is the younger Catherine breaks the fourth wall. She is also cheeky, intelligent, and driven. As an adult, she is also not above using underhanded methods to retain power.

So far, I have mixed feelings about the series. It’s compelling but has yet to completely suck me in as a viewer. As a character, Catherine breaks the mold in an unsettling way that makes me curious, but also sends warning signs to my brain. This woman is not one to be ignored to taken lightly.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

The Serpent Queen airs on Starz on Sunday at 9PM.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Hugh Hulton

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

If we are lucky, we find the one we are meant for when we are young. But as romantic as that ideal is, being with one’s childhood sweetheart forever is not always possible.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name) Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis) is a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire in the 1930s. Growing up with Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), their relationship changes as adulthood approaches. Youthful games turn into mature love. An engagement follows and it seems that their future is sewn up.

But just because we make plans does not mean that they turned out exactly how we want them to be. The arrival of James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph), the new assistant of Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) develops a crush on Helen. That crush turns into affection, which Helen eventually returns. Instead of following through on her promise to marry Hugh, Helen follows her heart.

It would not be surprising if Hugh used his power and influence to wreak havoc on James and Helen. Instead, he accepts that Helen has found love with another and moves on with his life.

To sum it up: Hugh could have been easily written as the wealthy baddy who uses his power to get Helen back and take revenge on James. Instead, he takes it like a man.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Flashback Friday: Feud (2017)

For every great movie, there is a great behind-the-scenes story.

The F/X 2017 miniseries Feud tells the story of the making of the 1962 movie, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Playing the film’s leads are Susan Sarandon (Bette Davis) and Jessica Lange (Joan Crawford). Manipulating the actors while directing the film is Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina).

As the series goes on, it becomes more apparent that the feud between Davis and Crawford has been partially manufactured by the press and the male heads of the movie studio as they play the aging actresses against one another.

Wow. Though I’ve never seen the film that the series is based on, I might be tempted to watch it. Lange, Sarandon, and Molina are fantastic in their roles. One of the points that were made was that while men are allowed to age, a woman has a shelf life. Once she is on the figurative shelf, she is automatically replaced by a younger model. The number of older women that are still allowed to be active is often limited and pitted against one another because G-d forbid a woman of a certain age is active and vital as her male counterpart.

Like other Ryan Murphy-headed projects, there is a message built into the story. There is also a subtle level of campiness that allows the audience to laugh while observing that the superficial bullshit that is the backbone of the narrative is still alive and well today.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hoarder House Flippers Review

There is an old saying:

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Though this phrase is usually used when referring to people, it can also be applied to property. In the world of home renovation, when the average person sees trouble, a flipper sees possibility.

The new Hulu home renovation show, Hoarder House Flippers, takes this concept to the nth degree. The program follows three teams of flippers who buy homes that have a double negative against them: they are in need of desperate repair and formerly owned by hoarders. The goal is to fix up properties and sell them for maximum profit. Along the way (which is par for the course), there will be unforeseen problems and disagreements.

I admire the people who take on projects like this. It takes guts and creativity to see through the mess and the challenge. Though this show is thoroughly predictable, what I take away from it is the vision of a home that needs a family to fill it with love and memories.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hoarder House Flippers are available for streaming on Hulu.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Tristan Farnon

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

When we are young, we are often young and stupid. We think that we know everything. Maturity and learning that you don’t know everything sometimes requires a few mess-ups along the way.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name) Tristan Farnon (Callum Woodhouse) is the much younger brother of local veterinarian Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) in 1930s Yorkshire. Like many young men, he is foolhardy, does not always think through his decisions, and is more about the present than the future.

He is the yin to James Herriot‘s (Nicholas Ralph) yang. James is serious, quiet, and takes his duties seriously. They are a nice balance to one another. Tristan brings out the fun in James while James encourages Tristan to put a little more effort into his job.

As the calendar moves on, he starts to grow up and wants his brother’s approval. But Siegfried is very hard to please. He has no expectations that Tristan will be up to snuff. When Siegfried makes a mistake and blames his brother (and is eventually proven wrong), their relationship starts to change. Siegfried also smudges Tristan’s academic record, which does not go over well when he finds out. When they finally get to talking, the elder Farnon reveals that he was jealous of the easy relationship Tristan had with their late father.

What he does not know is that further change is around the corner. World War II may force Tristan to make decisions that he may never have considered before.

To sum it up: Being young, fearless, and carefree is great. But it doesn’t last forever. Growing up comes whether we like it or not. Like all of us at that age, Tristan makes a few mistakes. But he does eventually start to mature and become an adult.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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