‘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! 

Interview: ‘The Quest’ On Disney Plus Presents A New Prince With Elliott Ross

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Quest on Disney Plus offers fans of the Fantasy genre to dive into the world itself. It is a ground-breaking immersive competition series that drops eight young people into the fantastic, fictional world of Everealm, where they must save a Kingdom by fulfilling an ancient prophecy. Audiences have fallen in love with the fantasy genre because it is the truest form of escapism. When playing video games, reading a book, or watching a series, any fantasy world that is created can become a haven for so many. Disney has made a show for teenagers to believe in their power within to become a warrior on their terms. 

When Elliott Ross came across The Quest it was one project that he wanted to work on. As someone who is a diehard Lord of the Rings fan, he needed to be part of a fantasy television series. Ross plays Prince Cedric in the series and lights up the screen in every scene he is in. He has been honing his craft for over 12 years in London, until recently when he relocated to LA. He has a strong theatrical background, having worked at The RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe and on London’s West End. Ross has been passionate about studying his craft and exploring every avenue in the acting industry, “I think I just felt like the work didn’t feel like work, and I enjoyed being consumed by it.” Sometimes work is more of a calling and that’s what it feels like for Ross. 

This series presents a new concept that allows fans of the fantasy genre to be more interactive with it. It fuses the fantastical realm of Everealm with regular teenagers who have always wanted to be part of that world. To be able to add the twist of a competition show, while structuring a narrative that fits the fantasy genre on top of that is impressive. Disney Plus has been able to construct new, interesting concepts that can have fans of any genre come together to work on something different. Ross loves the fantasy genre and when he found out that he was working with producer Mark Ordesky (Lord of the Rings), it was a dream come true,

“I was riding through the forest during a night shoot and I just kind of, I just took the moment in. I looked at the forest and I looked at the armor I was wearing and it looked like I was in Lord of the Rings. And I was like dude, this is my dream. I’m living my dream.”

– Elliott Ross, The Quest

It has been known that Disney always makes dreams come true for so many children all over the world. But little do people know, that actors who make-believe for a living also get the chance to fulfill their dreams in the projects they produce. Even though Ross plays a Prince in The Quest, he carries the same poise and kindness in his own life. When talking about his future and how he wants to grow his platform, he wants to share his resources to help others. He has had a passion for writing and in his next step, he is currently developing a TV comedy series script that explores modern patriarchal masculinity. Ross wants to use his platform to have an open discussion with his fans and others who have struggled with the process. He wants to be able to touch upon all of the sensitive topics while having a respectful dialogue in his series. 

Courtesy of Disney Plus

Ross has been able to explore every avenue of this industry and he has gained some wisdom as he creates this pathway for himself. After going through many projects and auditions, he has some advice for upcoming actors trying to make their way in the industry,

“I would say to young actors is it’s to not worry so much about the conventional way, because it doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s not easy to get into drama school and it’s, you know, not everyone gets to audition for all the projects. You have to make your own path through it. And I think with that in mind, it’s very important that young actors don’t get carried away in focusing on the big dreams. So my main piece of advice is focus on what is in front of you and focus on the next step.”

– Elliott Ross, The Quest

By creating your own path in life and not comparing yourself to others, you will be more fulfilled. Social media has also affected everyone’s mental health and motivation because of this constant comparison to other people. Ross believes that if you take it one step at a time and focus on what’s in front of you, you will be able to achieve anything. More importantly, you must surround yourself with people who will uplift you and support you while you navigate your life. Similar to the series The Quest, even though you’re in healthy competition with others, they’re all in the same boat trying to reach the same goal, but everyone is different. Ross has been working on his craft for some time now and his hard work has paid off because he now has a platform to help others.

All eight episodes of The Quest are available now on Disney Plus

‘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.

‘Pam & Tommy’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In the early 90s, the accessibility to women and the treatment of women from the tabloids had gotten worse. As someone who grew up in the 90s, high-profile women like Pamela Anderson were considered idols to young girls like me. We worshiped them and wanted to be exactly like them. Women who were free to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and have their own identity presented to the world. Pamela Anderson was a woman who knew who she was and adapted to situations around her. She exuded this fearlessness, this power when she was Pamela Anderson for the cameras. Whether it was through her photos, her performance on Baywatch, or even in interviews, Anderson had such a strong spirit and knew how to handle herself in an industry that eventually turned against her. In Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, we see Pamela Anderson for who she truly is and if this series does anything, it will give you a new appreciation for the woman behind the star persona.

Pam & Tommy begins with Pamela Anderson (Lily James) on Jay Leno having a conversation about the sex tape. It was very noticeable that Anderson was uncomfortable with the topic and within those moments, we get a sense of how this story will be presented through different lenses. Before getting into Pam and Tommy’s relationship, director Craig Gillespie has us sit with Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) to build up the motivation for stealing the sex tape. Gauthier was Tommy Lee’s (Sebastian Stan) carpenter, while he was renovating his home. Gauthier had many uncomfortable, and quite frankly, scary moments with Tommy Lee. After a few scuffles about payment, Lee made an enemy out of Gauthier. The importance of these specific encounters is to see how Tommy Lee had two very different sides to him.

Pam and Tommy Trailer: Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman Steal the Sex Tape -  Variety
Courtesy of Hulu

As the series goes on, we get an in-depth look at Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s explosive relationship. The one thing to note is that Anderson loved, love. She was a true romantic at heart and would connect with someone on a different level. It’s more of a feeling than checking off boxes for Anderson and that is how she ended up with Lee. Was it love at first sight? No. Instead, it was a vibe; an instant connection, like a current running between the two of them. The chemistry between James and Stan was off the charts and they were both perfectly cast to bring this story to screen in the most accurate way possible. Their love was palpable and even as a viewer you could feel the genuine connection they had at the very beginning of their relationship. But, as we see with Gauthier, Lee did have a dark side.

Two very important matters run simultaneously in this series. The first was the dawn of online sex work through the popularity of the sex tape itself. Gauthier had an idea to place the information about the sex tape on a website to drive sales. He charged $60.00 for one copy of the tape and made a profit. But like all good things, they only last a short period. The 90s was the transitional period for technology and this shift came with a price. The media turned into a cesspool because of what this sex tape did for clicks on websites and generating buzz about a top celebrity couple. Paparazzi photos were at an all time high for Anderson and Lee, which were probably sold for hundreds of dollars. Privacy did not exist in the 90s and it is all because of Gauthier uploading one intimate, romantic, sex tape between husband and wife.

Pam & Tommy: People Can't Get Over Lily James' Pamela Anderson Voice In New  Trailer
Courtesy of Hulu

The second is Pamela Anderson’s loss of agency and being slut-shamed for a private video of her and her husband. The sex tape, combined with the distasteful jokes from late-night talk show hosts, and tabloids printing the photos from the tape, completely ruined her acting career that she so desperately wanted to evolve. There are multiple times in Pam & Tommy where it was incredibly emotional to watch Anderson go through so many terrible moments in her life. Anderson wanted the industry to look past that she was this beautiful, blonde bombshell and recognize her for how talented she was. This industry praised her as a sex symbol but never took her seriously as an actor. The 90s were very cruel to Pamela Anderson and after watching this, we see how kind, sweet, and driven she was, even if they didn’t deserve it.

Craig Gillespie completely captures the essence of the 90s in Pam & Tommy. The story is so much more than Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s relationship; it really dives into how the media operates and how it became more of an invasion of privacy. Anderson had to deal with a toxic, misogynistic industry just because of the way they labelled her as a sex symbol. The labels that were given to women in the industry place them in a box and don’t allow them to grow outside of it. The focus shifted from Gauthier and his side of the story, to Pamela Anderson’s side of the story, and Tommy Lee was shown for who he truly was. This was such a brutal look at how women lose who they truly are because of how the media constructs a persona for them.

The first episode of Pam & Tommy will drop on Hulu on February 2nd.

‘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.