Full disclosure: I originally intended for this to be a very short article, just a brief list of everything I watched this weekend as a conversation-starter inviting you to recount your own weekend viewing in the comments section. Then next thing I knew it had morphed into over 1,000 words. So, here’s my list which turned into a couple of mini-reviews:
The Lego Batman Movie
What Is It?: Um, that seems fairly self-explanatory.
Is It Any Good?: “The Lego Movie’s cheeky send-up of conformity ‘Everything is Awesome’ told us in its opening lyrics that ‘everything is cool when your part of a team.’ Lego Batman Movie takes this as its mantra, the lesson the hero has to learn, just stripped of any of the irony inherent in that lesson in Lego Movie. However, it beats us over to the head with it the point of annoyance, but it is a small fault in an otherwise joyful film. Lego Batman may lack the depth of The Lego Movie, but it’s as perfect a celebration and lampooning of everything Batman as you’ll ever find.” Here’s a link to the full review.
John Wick 2
What Is It?: Just when Keanu Reeves’ John Wick thinks he’s out a bunch of henchman show up and kindly ask that he kill them in increasingly clever ways. Of course, that’s not actually the plot, but it might as well be.
Is It Any Good?: “John Wick: Chapter 2 does exactly what you want from a sequel. It ups the action, elevates the stakes but not to a ridiculous extent, invites us deeper into the criminal underworld so tantalizingly glimpsed in the original and invents a dizzying number of new ways for John Wick to kill people. Seriously, there’s this one thing he does with a pencil…actually, it’s best if I just stop there. The gun fu and kung fu choreography in this movie is so endlessly inventive and perfectly executed that it demands to be seen, not described. The chief question, really, is simply whether or not Chapter 2 is better than the original. The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes!’.” Here’s a link to the full review.
No Tomorrow on Netflix
What Is It?: A CW rom-com series about an adorkable Seattle woman named Evie (Tori Anderson) who meets free-spirited British guy Xavier (Joshua Sasse) who inspires her to finally start living her life to the fullest by more actively pursuing everything on her bucket list. Small problem: Xavier might be crazy, convinced as he is that the Earth only has several months left before apocalypse-by-asteroid. Think of it as “My Crazy New Boyfriend.”
Is It Any Good?: It’s not terrible, at least depending on your tolerance level for CW acting (looking at you, Anderson) and an overabundance of saccharinely “I’m so happy that I’m finally starting to live!” moments.
What really interest me here, though, is the business model behind this. Prior to the start of the new TV new season, the CW signed a lucrative new contract with Netflix allowing the streaming service to post full seasons of CW shows two weeks after they’ve aired. As such, while No Tomorrow wasn’t a ratings hit during its broadcast run (which concluded halfway through January) the CW is officially waiting to see how both it and Frequency do on Netflix over the next couple of months before making a decision. It’s thus the first time I’ve felt that my streaming of an active series on Netflix (other than any of the Netflix Originals, of course) could actually impact a renewal or cancellation decision.
I’m only six episodes in, but at this point I would vote for renewal, if only because Joshua Sasse is so unfailingly charming, coming off like a mixture of Russell Brand’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall character and Tom Ellis’ version of Lucifer. To be honest, though, No Tomorrow occasionally annoys with how cute or clever it clearly thinks it is, such as one cold -open which tweaks the title of the show via a forced conversation about bone marrow (e.g., “So, you’re saying no to marrow?) or the sledgehammer symbolism of Evie working as a middle-manager in an Amazon-like fulfillment center when her own life has been anything other than fulfilling (until meeting Xavier, of course). However, there is a playfulness and good-natured quality to this show which endears as well as a surprising commitment to surrounding Evie and Xavier with likably strange co-workers, friends and family members. This is ultimately a thin sitcom expanded to an hour-long format, but it’s an unabashedly feel-good comedy with two charming lead performers.
Humans on Amazon
What Is It?: A British series (transplanted to AMC and Amazon in America) providing the latest spin on the old Asimov-esque story about robots gaining consciousness and what that means for the future of humanity. In this particular telling of this familiar cautionary tale, synthetic robots who look like humans are gradually replacing the working class (insert immigration metaphor here), leading to growing unrest and unease. We view this through the eventually intersecting narratives of a family adapting to their new synth maid, an old, disabled man (William Hurt) clinging to his old synth rather than upgrade, a local police unit specializing in synth-related incidents and the mysterious actions of a man and his synth on the run from unseen forces.
Is It Any Good?: Based on the first 6 episodes, it’s so good it deserves a full review. Here’s a link to it.
Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special on Netflix
What Is It?: A collaboration between Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Lonely Island and Michael Bolton in which the latter conducts a telethon with the stated goal of inspiring viewers to conceive babies so that Santa will have plenty of new kids to make toys for come Christmas time.
Is It Any Good?: As with Comedy Bang! Bang!, it’s real hit and miss, with some sketches you’ll want to fast-forward through and others which are so funny you’ll wish they were longer. For example, I could have done with less of Fred Armisen’s frustrated chocolatier and more of Casey Wilson awkwardly trying to read cheery Valentine’s Day cards while a morose Bolton stares out a rainy window and sings an ode to his newly broken heart. It is notable that Bolton, mostly cast throughout Big, Sexy Valentine’s as the straight man in a sea of insanity, is actually far funnier than you’d ever expect. However, his overly rigid body language (stiff as a board comes to mind) and limited facial expressions (death by Botox) hold him back as a comedic performer, which is ultimately okay since the stars of the special are actually the cavalcade of comedy all-stars starring in the various sketches, with Andy Samberg’s insane impression of Kenny G being my personal favorite.
What about you? What did you watch this weekend?