Only Murders In The Building: Performance Review

2.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

People from Mabel’s past come out of the woodwork to accuse her of past misdeeds and the world of Only Murders In The Building is further explored and built upon.

Frankly again I am slipping back into struggling to care for this season which is sad as the last couple of episodes seemed to be heading in an interesting direction. I think the big issue here is the same it has been throughout this second season, in that the mystery itself is paper thin and then the show is trying to stretch it out for as long as possible stuffing it full of needless side lots in order to try and keep people engaged. It is so blatant it might as well be written in neon.

I think the Mabel, played by Selena Gomez, heartbreak subplot was at least well-acted even if it was not needed. I do think that Gomez often has to do a lot of the heavy lifting for this show in a dramatic sense and luckily for the show she can hold her own in this regard.

To be perfectly upfront with you dear reader I am struggling to finish this season or to find any excitement for new episodes, to be of service to you I will stick it out until the end of the season but I won’t be coming back for the next season.

Overall, this season is being dragged out and dragged out beyond any semblance of a good show.

Pros.

Gomez

It is watchable

It was nice to Charles’ sort of daughter return

Cons.

It is getting long in the tooth

Too many subplots

Awful pacing

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American Horror Stories: Aura

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young couple’s life is turned upside down when their doorbell camera start allowing them to commune with the dead.

I actually think this was better than the first episode and am pleased to say that it shows a positive progression for this season of American Horror Stories. The premise has a lot of creepy potential that I think this episode explores well, tapping into that Black Mirror space surrounding the horrors of technology. The idea of someone showing up on your door camera and banging on the door when you are alone in the house only to seemingly disappear moments later is inherently unsettling.

The performances from both Gabourey Sidibe and Max Greenfield are both strong, with Greenfield particularly coming alive in the last ten minutes. I thought for sure this episode was going to end up with Sidibe’s character revealing to be her witch character from Coven, but it didn’t go there.

My main issue with this episode is that once it allowed the ghosts inside, which a lot of the first and second act of the episode built up to, the tension mostly went away as the ghosts didn’t do anything scary. The first bled from the eyes and collapsed the other killed one of the characters in a fairly generic way, this didn’t feel scary.

Overall, another good episode but still with some noticeable flaws.

Pros.

The performances

The premise

The ending

The horror of technology

Cons.

The ghosts feel like a let down

The twist is incredibly obvious

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American Horror Stories: Dollhouse

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of women find themselves forced into a competition for who can be the best real life doll bride/mother.

After the frankly insulting ending of the last season of American Horror Stories I was  a little remiss to watch this, however, it was better than I was expecting it to be.

Dolls are inherently creepy, porcelain ones more so, so the idea of women being kidnapped and forced to dress up as human dolls and do the bidding of a rich maniac is a chilling concept. I liked the ideas of the contest though I will admit it was very predictable in terms of the outcome, the plot amour was strong on this one.

Denis O’ Hare’s return is very welcome and he plays the crazed dollmaker well, being both darkly comedic and frightening in equal measure. The rest of the cast leave far more to be desired and fail to match O’ Hare. Additionally, in the closing moments of the episode wherein the witches were again brought back I thought the episode missed a huge opportunity by not having back any known faces leaving the reveal sorely lacking.

Overall, better than a lot of the episodes from last season giving me hope for this new season.

Pros.

It feels creepy

The doll theme works

O’Hare

Cons.

The ending

It is very predictable

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Under The Banner Of Heaven: True Detective This Is Not

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A murder in small town America, how fresh.

I know this series has got a lot of good reviews from other people and outlets but honestly I found this tedious to get through.

I think my issues with this show come from a mixture of the fact that each episode felt about 20 minutes too long and that I am incredibly checked out of the whole small town America murder plot and feel it has been done to death. Maybe it is because I am not American but to me this series just felt like many other crime shows and the plot was so generic that it could not keep me interested.

I think Andrew Garfield is one of the best actors working today but even he couldn’t prop this show up. Moreover, I would daresay that I think Garfield may have been miscast as his boyish looks didn’t really fit the kind of character he was playing.

Overall, this felt incredibly samey to me and didn’t have the right lead to keep me engaged throughout. By the midpoint of the series I really was just trying to finish it so I could give a complete review, I was otherwise checked out.

Pros.

Garfield is trying his best

It is well shot

Cons.

Garfield is miscast

It is badly paced

The mystery feels incredibly generic and samey

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Only Murders In The Building:The Tell

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The trio continue on their hunt for the murderer, which leads to a very tense game of Son of Sam.

I think this episode continued to build on the positive momentum of the last and actually does go to some interesting places. I am not saying that this is a perfect episode or anywhere near the same level as the first series, but it is a hell of a lot better than the earlier episode of this current season.

In large part the improvement here can be placed on two keys scenes and performances. Firstly, the Son of Sam scene is very good as it transports everyone back in time and gives them period attire, moreover, Charles, played by Steve Martin, and Oliver, played by Martin Short, go after Alice, played by Cara Delevingne, suspecting her to be the murderer not just for the game but for the wider mystery of the series. Delevingne gives her best performance yet during this scene, possibly the best of her career, and she really falls into the character. Secondly, the other strong scene here is the one in which Charles talks to Jan, played by Amy Ryan, on the phone. During this conversation the two have such strong chemistry that it becomes palpably hard to look away from. Hopefully we will get more Charles and Jan throughout the remainder of this season.

My major issue of this episode is the final twist in which Oliver learns he might not actually be his son’s biological father. To me this just feels like more needless drama that doesn’t really serve the story but instead acts as filler to pad for time, In addition as far as twists go this one feels quite cheap and manipulative.

Overall, the second season seems to be trending upwards after a shaky start.

Pros.

Charles and Jan

Delevingne

The mystery is getting better

Good costume work

Cons.

The ending

The pacing is still far too slow

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Only Murders In The Building: Here’s Looking At You

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Charles’ sort of step daughter, played by Zoe Colletti, arrives and adds some further layers to the mystery.

I will give this episode props it was certainly better than the last and it did, to a small degree, get me interested in the murder mystery again. I think adding in Colletti’s character helped to give the episode a new perspective and helped things to feel a little bit fresher than they had previously been. It will be a huge shame if the character doesn’t return.

Likewise I thought the return of Teddy Dimas, played by Nathan Lane, was also quite welcome as it presented the group both with a threat, something they have been sorely lacking this season, as well as with the consequences of their actions. I thought both brought new dimensions to what in my mind is a struggling second season.

Despite my praise so far it is by no means a perfect episode and there is a lot of filler on display here to pad out the runtime. Moreover, I remain resolute in my belief that the central trio seem to have lost most of, if not all, of the charm they had last season and come across more as angry passive aggressive jerks a lot of the time.

Overall, better than last week’s episode but still far from the previous season.

Pros.

Returning faces

New characters

It livens up the mystery a bit more

Cons.

The central trio still feel unlikeable

Filler   

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Ms Marvel: No Normal

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, and her friends face off against the forces of Damage Control and a character I have named Agent Karen, played by Alysia Reiner.

So let’s get the big talking point out of the way first, do I like the fact that Kamala is the MCU’s first mutant? Not really, I am one of the few people who actually like the Inhumans, at least in the comics, and I think that this would have been the best time to have brought them into the fore. However, the author of the original run and creator of Ms Marvel as a character has said that she always wanted Kamala to be a mutant so I guess that it makes sense to make her one here.

Moving on, for the most part I really enjoyed this season finale I thought it was a smart move to focus on tying up emotional arcs rather than trying to shove in a huge CGI fest final battle, we do sort of get one but it is over with pretty quickly. I believe focusing on the characters is far more in-keeping with the type of show this is, which fundamentally is coming of age.

I also liked the fact that Kamala finally got her comics accurate costume and that we got a big time MCU cameo in the post credits, I thought that both things helped to give this finale episode a satisfying sense of payoff.

My two small complaints about this final episode would be that it entirely ignores the Nor dimension for the most part and that it brings back the incredibly bland Damage Control baddies that feel painfully uninteresting, I would have much preferred them to have brought back the Clandestines for one final scrap.

Overall, this series has proven itself to be the best Marvel Disney + show so far.

Pros.

The feeling of satisfaction

The emotions

The costume and the cameo

The teases for the future

Vellani

Cons.

Generic baddies

Ignoring the Nor dimension

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Ms Marvel: Time And Again

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kamala, played by Iman Vellani, learns about her family’s history with the Djinn and the Nor dimension.

Despite this being one of the shortest episodes of the season I also thought it was one of the best. I really enjoyed the interpersonal family relationships here, such as between Aisha, played by Mehwish Hayat, and Hasan, played by Fawad Khan, as well as between Kamala and her mother, played by Zenobia Shroff. I thought in the case of the former their love story was incredibly sweet and effecting and in the case of the latter their mother daughter relationship finally felt satisfying as the two come to an understanding.

I thought the ending of the Clandestines, was perhaps a little premature as their final battle with Kamala felt a little rushed. However, I am sure the ending will right this and might even bring them back once again. I am still resolute that the weakest part of this otherwise great TV show is its villains, as they continue to be woefully underdeveloped, but that is par for the course with Marvel Studios productions.

Finally, I just want to once again say what a great job Vellani is doing in the lead role. She radiates charm and genuine enthusiasm throughout and it is almost impossible to not instantly warm to her character, she may be the best new character Marvel has introduced anywhere in the last two phases.

Overall, another strong episode.

Pros.

The history

The relationships

The ending and tease for the finale

Vellani

Cons.

The Clandestines continue to be weak villains    

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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: A Quality Of Mercy

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Captain Pike, played by Anson Mount, must come to terms with his future or risk the lives of his crew as he partakes in a journey into the future.

I am not denying that this season finale had some great moments, it did. Nor am I saying that the reintroduction of the Romulans was unwelcome, it really wasn’t. However, what I found to be the central issue with this episode was that it was trying to do too much. It was expanding the Pike future plot line from the first episode, it introduced a new version of Captain Kirk, played by Paul Wesley, it reintroduces the Romulans and it advances the Una, played by Rebecca Romijn, genetic modification storyline from earlier in the season. All that happens in one hour long episode, to say it is overstuffed would be an understatement.

Though these plot elements do give us a lot to be excited about with the show going forward, here and now they just feel forced in as they are not really fleshed out and instead seem to only serve to set up the second season.

Another thing that bothered me about this episode is that it mainly focused on Pike. Now I think Mount is doing a terrific job as the character of Captain Pike ,however, I think the character is at his best when he is bouncing off of the other characters on the Enterprise, whereas here he gets a lot of focus with barely any of the supporting characters stealing attention away from him but this just leads to the flaws with his character’s writing and personality becoming ever more apparent.

Overall, the first season ends on a mixed bag but teases an interesting tomorrow for the show.

Pros.

The return of the Romulans

A few great moments

The tease of what’s to come

Cons.

It feels overstuffed

The second season set up feels a little heavy handed  

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Only Murders In The Building: The Last Day Of Bunny Folger

2.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The last day in the life of Bunny, played by Jayne Houdyshell.

Honestly I am not really digging this season of Only Murders In The Building, and I think that it is just being stretched out for the sake of stuff to put on Disney +. As I have said in earlier reviews the mystery this time around is not particularly interesting and unlike with the first season you don’t care about what is going on. To be frank I could stop watching this show right here and not miss it at all.

However, something that I will give this episode credit for is that it at least takes a chance and tries to do something new. Rather than focus on the central trio we get to see a day in the life of a fairly important side character, and not many shows would dedicate a whole episode to a supporting character in this way so that was pretty cool as it helped to flesh out the wider world of the show.

Although through this focus on another character this episode highlights our central trio in a less than stellar light. I do understand that the point of this episode’s shifted perspective is to reframe things, but it does this a little too well and clearly illustrates all the worst traits of our lead characters and makes them unlikeable. The charm of the show is really gone after this episode.

Overall, I might stop watching as I don’t want to continue watching a once promising show continue to drag itself through the mud.

Pros.

Be brave enough to focus on a smaller character

It is watchable

It makes you care more about Bunny

Cons.

It is fairly dull

The mystery doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere

The leads are unlikeable  

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