‘Koala Man’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In the age of superheroes, everyone seems to want to be recognized for doing some good. Even if it’s a backwards way of being helpful. We have become so used to the formulas being recycled. So when something fresh like Koala Man is released, there’s an appreciation for the change, which makes it unique to the character. The series follows a family father with a not-so-secret identity as the ritual hero with a burning passion for petty crime. The creator Michael Cusack also stars in the show alongside Sarah Snook, Demi Lardner and Hugh Jackman. Apart from this being a family superhero show, it also takes place in Australia, so the humour is entirely different. The episodes are compact and have an obstacle each family member must face. Each episode adds another layer to the family and Koala Man creating a nice balance between the two.

The family unit is quite similar to other adult-animated shows, but they have unique personalities that make them stand out. The actors who voice the characters all add a little piece of themselves. Michael Cusack brings out his full Aussie as the father figure and everyone’s least-favourite hero in his local city. His wife Vicky (Sarah Snook), has an alter-ego as she plays the line between motherhood and her individuality as a woman. His daughter Alison, voiced by Demi Lardner, adds some spunk and a young girl trying to find her way in high school. And lastly, his son Liam, also voiced by Michael Cusack is a bit lost and needs a bit of a push to find himself. They’re all different from each other, but the little anecdotes they share and the obstacles they go through bring them closer together in the finale of this season.

No adult-animated series is complete without a strong voice cast to make you feel close to the characters. That’s why having an actor like Hugh Jackman as Big Greg was a lovely surprise. The animation style for Koala Man is a bit softer than Rick and Morty. It is nice to see them expand their skills into another show. Australian humour is a bit different because of the slang, but once you stick with these characters long enough, you’ll find them hilarious. You get a slice of daily Australian life while being served a brand new hero who will grow on you. Each episode has something wild and unexplainable that happens. But of course, there is a life lesson that comes with it. The series explores individuality and family quite well. These characters all have room to grow, and there’s a natural progression to their changes. 

Koala Man is a very refreshing adult-animated series for Hulu that will put a smile on your face. The episodes are short but deliver action and humour. Each character does something wrong in each episode, but they learn and grow from it. The Aussie humour and love for the community are shown effectively, which makes viewers feel included. All it takes is one episode to hook the audience because it’s a show that knows exactly what it is. It’s engaging, witty, vulgar, and incredibly fun to watch. It takes superhero programming to another level with what Koala Man goes through as a man in his local community. Michael Cusack has created a balanced series about parenthood and being the best version of yourself that you can be. The series premieres on Hulu, on January 9th!

‘Willow’ Series Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In 1988, Ron Howard and George Lucas teamed up to make one of the most underrated fantasy films. Willow was about a young farmer chosen to undertake a perilous journey to protect a special baby from an evil queen. Val Kilmer was at the top of his game in the 80s, so to have him as a romantic leading man in a fantasy film was perfect casting. Joanne Whalley and Warwick Davis made it worth watching because of their characters. Now, decades later, Howard’s small, beloved film has been turned into a Disney Plus series. Since world-building was done a bit differently in previous eras, television shows can build the foundation of the world in a more detailed manner. Fantasy shows have been all the rage in 2022 because many viewers want to be transported to another world. It’s almost as if we’ve been deprived of different escapes. 

This new series created by Jonathan Kasdan captures the same magic as the original film, but of course, in a modern way. The most important takeaway from the new series is the inclusivity of its cast of characters. Kit Tanthalos (Ruby Cruz) is the princess and daughter of Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and wants to learn how to fight and be involved with the townspeople. She wants to make her own choices, especially in marriage. Her brother, Airk (Dempsey Bryk), is the golden boy, heir to the throne, and is in love with a kitchen maid named Dove (Ellie Bamber). The siblings have gone in two very different directions, and in this series, they explore their individuality and whom they are destined to be. Kit has the strongest journey in this series. She learns how to fight and to love with her swashbuckling trainer, Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman), by her side. The relationship between Jade and Kit makes for an interesting dynamic as they go on this journey with Willow. 

In this series, twenty years after vanquishing the wicked queen Bavmorda, the sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) leads a group of misfits on a dangerous rescue mission into the unknown. Kasdan refocused the story and the lore with the new characters without leaning on the nostalgia of the original film. It was lovely to see Davis back in that element by also giving him a bit more to do with his character. The cast worked together well, and some stylistic choices worked for the modernity of the piece. There are some humorous moments and some song choices to bring these characters into a new generation. It felt refreshing to see a fantastical world highlight a queer romance and characters struggling with their individuality in a kingdom that has expectations for them. This series places women at the forefront and has a unique twist that makes for a compelling story in this first season. Audiences will connect with these characters. And understand what they’re struggling with, which is the importance of representation on screen. 

If you have been a long-time supporter of Ron Howard’s Willow, you will appreciate the world-building in this new series. And if you’re a newcomer, who hasn’t watched the original film, then get ready to dive into a brand new world with characters you will love. Kasdan brings together a cast that works together through their individuality and their knowledge of the realm. Each episode brings new lore and magic that pulls you into their world. Cruz, Bamber, and Kellyman are the standouts of the series, and the always-lovely Tony Revolori adds another layer of charm. The pacing is strong as well, nothing feels rushed, and the characters evolve naturally over the length of the episodes. It is a fantasy show that Disney Plus needed on their platform, and each episode will be streaming weekly on Wednesdays. 

‘Welcome To Chippendales’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

During the 70s, women began to feel a bit more sexually liberated with the surge of the adult film industry. It was no longer a time for only men to express their sexual impulses, but women too. Of course, at that time, strip clubs were reserved for men to watch women take their clothes off for money. After breaking ground, sex workers are finally taken seriously in an industry that has been shamed for years. It’s a profession like any other, so when Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) created the male version, ‘The Chippendales’ became a phenomenon. What should have been a safe space for queer men and women to feel liberated from societal marginalization became a prison of greed, notoriety and status for Banerjee. Sometimes power can consume someone and they spiral down a bad path to keep their dream afloat. Ambition is always a good thing to have, but not when there is no morality or making tough decisions. Welcome to Chippendale’s is a sprawling true-crime saga, that tells the outrageous story of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, an Indian immigrant founder who became the unlikely founder of the world’s greatest male-stripping empire – and let nothing stand in his way in the process.

Banerjee worked at a gas station for seven years and saved enough money to start a business of his own. He wanted to open a Backgammon Club in Los Angeles. At the beginning of this journey, Banerjee was a simple man who just wanted a nice place for people to feel like they were living a posh lifestyle. Little did he know, that his obsession with fame and money would ultimately consume him and make him a terrible boss. He trusted a stranger who called himself a club promoter to turn his dud of a club into a “happening” place on a Friday night. After heading to a gay club with two strangers and seeing male dancers with straight women cheering them on, Banerjee put two and two together and came up with a male strip club for women. The series is created by Robert Siegel, who completely captured the essence of the late 70s. Everything came together nicely, from the costuming to the music to the make-up and hairstyling, to make it feel authentic to the era. Each episode added something more to the club itself, until it became too much to control.

The cast works together extremely well, but the standouts were Nanjiani and Murray Bartlett, who plays Nick De Noia, an Emmy-winning choreographer. As the club received more attention, Banerjee needed to polish off his show for it to grow even bigger. One night, De Noia walked in and left him his card; perhaps it was fate that brought them together, but as the series goes on, it seems like their meeting did more harm than good. This series pits ego against ego and a businessman against a choreographer with status. There is plenty of flashy dancing and fun moments in the club, but the intense business negotiations and backstabbing are what made this compelling. No one ever fully understands what it means to build a business, and Robert Siegel made sure to show every inch of the mayhem. Nanjiani gives one of the best performances of his career as he descends into the madness of becoming the best in the world. He loses himself in this role, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen him do. 

Welcome to Chippendales is an entertaining, vibrant, and dark look at the entertainment industry. It shows how cutthroat people can be and how important a creative idea can be when it comes to the bottom line of business decisions. Nanjiani and Bartlett have incredible chemistry and work together well to make this story even more convincing. Watching De Noia and Banjeree’s relationship grow over the episodes was interesting because they have different perspectives on the business and which aspects to focus on for the Chippendales to grow. The first half of this series sets up Banerjee’s life and his constant need for the next best thing, while De Noia focuses on what’s in front of them with the dancers in the show. We see two different focuses that ultimately alter the Chippendales and their impact. The series will begin streaming on Hulu on November 22nd, and it is worth a watch if you want to know more about the creation of the Chippendales.

‘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