‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Welcome back to the Arconia, Only Murders in the Building fans! This time the mystery-solving trio gets a sequel to their podcast as they try to solve Bunny’s (Jayne Houdyshell) murder. The cliffhanger in season one worked well and now poor Mabel (Selena Gomez) is at the forefront. Everyone is accusing her of being the murderer. So in this season, Mabel, Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) have to clear their names. Charles kicks off the season by narrating what it’s like to live as a famous person in New York City, and then as an infamous person that people can’t stand to look at. It sets the tone for how each episode is structured, which makes for a very engaging season two. 

Season two introduces some new characters: Mabel’s love interest, Alice Banks (Cara Delevingne), Bunny’s mother, Leonora Folger (Shirley MacLaine), the new building manager, Nina Lin (Christine Ko), Charles’s daughter, Lucy (Zoe Colletti), and Amy Schumer moves into Sting’s apartment. All of these new characters come into play and are used as red herrings throughout the season. The beauty of season two is that John Hoffman and Steve Martin know how to construct a story within an episode, while also having it flow into the larger scale of the story. As the trio attempts to clear their names, the new people they meet have them blinded by the charm of someone new.

Not only do they focus on the murder of Bunny, but Hoffman and Martin also highlight how New York has changed. The world doesn’t value these old monuments in the city, it’s always about reconstructing the history. And isn’t that what we all do in our minds when memories get a little foggy? In a way, there is a parallel in the world surrounding the Arconia and the characters. Each episode explores an event from a character’s past that can be used to play into the investigation. The writing is strong this season because we get more of a backstory on Charles and Oliver. They both have been through so much and they are starting to deal with their past this season. The tactics that they have both used in the past prove to be useful for their podcast.

Only Murders in the Building consistently surprises viewers in every single episode because of how well it’s crafted. It’ll present a new idea at the beginning of the episode, give some backstory on the characters, and then tie it all together in the end with the investigation. It is such an entertaining show and the chemistry between Martin, Gomez, and Short has just grown stronger this season. Be prepared for a wild, hilarious, mystery in season two because this series is just getting started. There are many cameos and endless possibilities as to where this show can go. The show is unique to the whodunit subgenre, all while modernizing it with a podcast. Such great work all around. Make sure to check out new episodes every Tuesday on Disney Plus! 

‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Vol. 1 Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Heading back to Hawkins is no easy feat considering what happened in the previous season. Even though it feels like a while back, and the kids have grown into mini-adults, the grief from season three lingers at the beginning of season four. The Duffer Brothers throw the audience right into the mix with a little catch-up with Jane Hopper (Millie Bobby Brown). This season takes place six months after the Battle of Starcourt. She explains everyone’s living situations and how divided they all are. To recap, Hopper (David Harbor) is dead, Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Jane are all living in sunny California now. While the Wheeler’s (Finn Wolfhard and Natalia Dyer), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Max (Sadie Sink) are in Hawkins. This cast is massive and they all play a huge part in this season, but you could also sometimes feel the disconnect between the characters.

Season four of Stranger Things is truly the best yet and it’s because The Duffer Brothers decided to go back to basics. It felt like they stripped down the excess from the last season with the upside-down and showed how these characters are processing their grief. Out of everyone, Eleven is taking everything the hardest. She lost Hopper, she doesn’t have Mike by her side, and she has to start at a new school in sunny California. Even though Will is with her, Eleven feels lost and everything seems hopeless without her main two sources of support. We see her struggling to come to terms with everything that has happened to her. In this season, Eleven is tested in every way and it can be considered more of a rebirth for her spirit. The Duffer Brothers set the tone for the season within the first episode and it does send chills up your spine. 

Courtesy of Netflix

Each season of the series has gotten darker, more thrilling, and a bit more graphic. Season four shows the extent of all of these things through a new, compelling monster from the Upside Down. The thrills come from a new villain named Vecna – a ghoulish, powerful lich that slithers out of the Upside Down to wreak havoc on Hawkins. This monster preys on everyone’s worst fears and can destroy them from the inside out. What Vecna is capable of is much scarier than anything they’ve faced in the past and the journey to uncovering the truth about him makes this season incredibly interesting to watch. Everyone in Hawkins is in danger, and the only ones who know how to try and stop Vecna are Steve, Dustin, Nancy, Robin, Lucas and Max. They work together using their detective skills and extensive knowledge of the Upside Down to uncover the truth. The core characters are together in Hawkins, while the rest of them are scattered all over trying to add different pieces to the puzzle.

The way The Duffer Brothers structured this season works for the most part because each section of characters has to go on their journey. But, they still find a way to connect all the layers. The promotional posters show that there is some connectivity and they all work together like a well-oiled machine. However, the one thread that didn’t work for me was the Russian connection. Of course, it is a piece to the storyline that is necessary, but it felt too drawn out to fit the pacing of the other two. Out of the three sections going at once, this is the one that was lacking because it wasn’t that interesting. There are surprises throughout and some great emotional moments. Sadie Sink is the standout of this season, we see that Max also has to process her grief after losing Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Sink was able to develop her character a bit more and The Duffer Brothers let her scenes breathe for fans to connect with her on another level. 

Courtesy of Netflix

Season four of Stranger Things is some of the best television that you will watch this year. The Duffer Brothers pick up on all the 80s nostalgia and add a wicked soundtrack to the madness. Their camerawork has always been impressive, but in this season they almost matched the filmmaking style of the 80s. The quick cuts, the camera moving swiftly from character to character, and some epic transitions to dive into the horror elements. None of it felt jarring or out of place when going on this journey with these characters. The episode lengths are warranted because of how much development goes into these characters and that every minor detail is relevant to the big reveal in episode seven. Volume one is a whirlwind of information and horror being thrown at the audience, but the connection to these wonderful characters makes it possible to process everything with them.

‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Legal dramas are always entertaining to watch, just as long as the story is engaging. Whether it’s a television series or a movie, the storyline has to be interesting enough to keep the audience invested. The Lincoln Lawyer offers a bit of everything in regards to a strong, fun, engaging legal drama series for Netflix. The series movies pretty fast and allows for multiple storylines to be used effectively throughout. Surprisingly, having smaller trials in the first half and then diving into the bigger trial in the last half worked. Viewers get to know Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) through those smaller trials and then root for him in each episode.

When we meet Haller, he is an iconoclastic idealist, who runs his law practice out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. He takes on cases big and small across the expansive city of Los Angeles. It is based on the series of bestselling novels by renowned author Michael Connelly and this first season is based on the second book in “The Lincoln Lawyer” series, “The Brass Verdict”. What’s so interesting about Haller is that he has a past of his own that he tries to work through in the first half of this season. He wants to get back on his game and rise to the top like he used to be. We see him overcome his trauma and rebuild relationships in his life, while he gets his practice back together.

In the first half of this season, Garcia-Rulfo is a bit stiff and doesn’t really do much as Haller. It takes a bit to warm up to him and by the time you do the season is over. He is good in the role of Haller, but something still feels off and it’s hard to put a finger on it. Once we see Garcia-Rulfo in the courtroom his energy changes which does help his performance a bit. The supporting characters, especially the women, Maggie McPherson (Neve Campbell) and Lorna (Becki Newton) made each episode even better. Even though Maggie is in the middle of her own case, separate from Haller, their shared past gives the storyline a bit of an edge. Then Lorna, who is Haller’s ex-wife and is working with him, adds some humour to the show.

The Lincoln Lawyer is your generic legal drama with a solid cast to bring this all together. The storyline is the most important thing and it draws the viewer in. It’s intricate and the character relationships add so much to Haller as a character. It is funny at times just because of the way Garcia-Rulfo delivers his lines, especially in the courtroom. There are some emotional moments as Haller dives deeper into the case he’s working on. Even though the show has many moving parts, the episodes feel cohesive and not overstuffed with legal drama that viewers won’t be able to understand. It’s very surface level for Netflix viewers so that they can understand the layers of this character and the trial.

‘The Dropout’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When we study history and look at the idealists that bring forth something new, they genuinely believe in their idea at first. And many of them lose themselves in greed instead of their original idea. What was so interesting about Elizabeth Holmes’ story is the fact that she just kept pushing to prove everyone wrong and that is what cost her, her credibility as a scientist. This series shows the tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) developed a healthcare technology that put millions of patients at risk and she managed to lose everything in the blink of an eye.

The one thing that impressed me the most about this series was the pacing of each episode. There are only seven episodes and it feels like each hour is packed with so much information and drama. The series begins with the deposition as they asked Holmes important questions about her time at Stanford, prior to dropping out. Then there’s a flashback showing how eager of a student she was and how meeting one person, Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews) changed her perspective on how to move in this business. The editing for the deposition and the flashbacks became inconsistent, as they got lost in the actual story, but that’s just a minor issue.

While watching the series, I also gained a new appreciation for Amanda Seyfried as an actor because she completely lost herself in this role. As each episode went on, Seyfried fully formed into Holmes and it was interesting to watch. There are moments when Seyfried is speaking to herself in the mirror and dropping her voice to seem more authoritative, which would be empowered on a surface level, but it was just questionable because of what Holmes was doing. If you don’t know her story, then this will be an eye-opening experience to see how poorly the healthcare system works in America. Greed in pharmaceuticals will be the death of so many and it’s so clear to see why people dropout of college with a simple idea.

The Dropout is a slow burn series with steady pacing that will keep you glued to the screen. Seyfried is incredible in this role and she will constantly surprise you with how deep she goes to embody Holmes. The supporting cast is strong and towards the second half of the series, there are many moving parts that take spiralling out of control to a new level. What starts out as a simple, helpful idea, turns into a million-dollar idea, with no concrete project that works. You can pour money into anything and have it fabricated it; thus presenting that money doesn’t truly exist and it’s just based on how well you manage it.

‘Cowboy Bebop’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

3, 2, 1… let’s jam!

One of the most beloved anime has been given the live-action treatment on Netflix. If you haven’t heard of Cowboy Bebop or you haven’t dived into the extensive anime catalogue, then this series will definitely get you interested. Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese science fiction neo-noir anime television series created and animated by Sunrise and André Nemex for Netflix has adapted it. We see a ragtag crew of bounty hunters (in space), chase down the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals; they’ll save the world for the right price. So yes, they are heroes, but they also gain some coin in the process.

The opening credits sequence that was released had everyone sold even before watching the actual series. The one thing that can be said about Cowboy Bebop is that it has a fun style and there is vibrancy to the atmosphere on each planet. When we first meet Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) they are on a mission to collect a bounty. Within that first sequence, Cho completely embodies Spiegel and the fight choreography that follows will have you locked in for the rest of the series. The directors, Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman have so much fun with the fight sequences, as they fuse together western genre conventions and anime tropes.

Spike Spiegel has a past that he has been trying to get away from and he has adapted to his new life as a bounty hunter quite nicely. Spiegel and Jet Black are fairly comfortable with each other but it seems like they don’t know the extent of each other’s lives before they met. As the story unfolds, we get flashbacks to Spiegel’s past life and how it suddenly merges with his encounters on different missions. There are plenty of characters that come into play like, Julia (Elena Satine), Vicious (Alex Hassell), and my personal favourite Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda). They all bring something different to the table and change the dynamic of the story.

Without spoiling anything – even though this is an adaptation of an anime that has been around since the ’90s – this story tends to get lost a bit throughout the series because of the surface level ‘bounty hunting’ in each episode. Even though the story does get a bit jumbled, and the main storyline gets slightly off track, the series is just filled with so much style and excitement, that there really is never a dull moment. It’s a lot to take in, but once you understand these characters and get to the meat of their story, you’ll want to see more of them. Cowboy Bebop has impressed me and if the live-action does anything, for anyone, it’s that it will make you want to watch the anime from the beginning.