TV Review – The Best of Amazing Stories Part 2

Remote Control Man (Season 1, Episode 10)
Original airdate: December 8, 1985
Written by Douglas Lloyd McIntosh & Steven Spielberg
Directed by Bob Clark

By 1986, Bob Clark had directed films like Black Christmas, Porky’s, and A Christmas Story. Quite an eclectic filmography. He was brought on to helm this comedic entry into Amazing Stories. Walter Poindexter is a paper pusher at the bottom of his corporate ladder, put upon by a shrieking housewife and two rotten sons. All Walter wants to do when he gets home is watch some television, but his wife sells the set while he is at work. Driving through the city, the man comes across a strange store that seems to grant the person’s ultimate wish. In this instance, Walter is given a magical television whose remote control brings the people out of the shows and into his home. 

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TV Review – Wandavision Episodes 1 & 2

Wandavision (Disney+)
Episodes 1 & 2
Written by Jac Schaeffer
Directed by Matt Shakman

Many people genuinely love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I am glad they have movies they can rewatch and enjoy like that. I wouldn’t count myself as someone enamored with superhero movies of any kind, though I do always give them a viewing. I am entertained by them, but I don’t think too much about the films when they are over. The most I revisit them is with my niece and nephew, who they honestly are intended for. The people who should get the most excited about superhero movies, Star Wars, and the like are little kids. 

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TV Review – The Best of Amazing Stories Part 1

I am surprised how little I could find about the creation of Amazing Stories on the internet. It wasn’t the most popular television series, running for two years, from 1985 to 1987, and doesn’t often come into conversations about 1980s pop culture. Having rewatched many of the episodes now, it feels like an imperfect but completely perfect encapsulation of how the Spielbergian 1980s felt. I noticed that story credits often go to the filmmaker, who was a co-creator, producer, and sometimes directed episodes. You can feel his influence on American films at the time, with each episode centered on a sense of wonder and often humor. Unlike the later Tales from the Crypt, which had its own stable of 1980s directors in producer roles, the stories here are very in line with E.T. or The Goonies’ tone.

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My Most Anticipated Television of 2021

Blossoms Shanghai (directed by Wong Kar-wai)

This is one of the rare projects that moved over from my most anticipated films to television shows over the last two years. Wong Kar-wai hasn’t directed anything since 2013’s The Grandmaster and is returning with this series based on a novel set in 1990s Shanghai. The story follows a mysterious self-made millionaire, Mr. Bao, and his path from rags to riches. In his life are four women that play crucial roles at different points, and it is those relationships that will be the focus of the narrative. This is also a way for Wong to showcase the city he was born in, and I expect the plot will take some more complicated detours than the premise presents. Wong’s In the Mood for Love is one of the best films ever made, so he always has my attention when a new project rolls out.

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My Favorite Television of 2020

Tales From the Loop

From my review of Episode 8: Tales From the Loop is a show that demands your patience, and if you aren’t willing to offer that up, it’s okay. Not all media is for all audiences. Shane Carruth makes a significant appearance in “Homes,” and I think that signals to savvy viewers who know his work as a director what Tales From the Loop is. You don’t binge-watch the series; you savor each episode and meditate on it. What you get out of one story might not be the same as someone else. That’s mostly how life is, we all go through the same primary path, but the beauty and tragedy we experience is going to vary wildly. Tales From the Loop, despite its 1980s, aesthetics is not a mimic of Stranger Things or Dark, and that is a good thing. It exists as its own unique creature

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season Two

The Mandalorian Season Two (Disney+)
Written by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Rick Famuwiya
Directed by Jon Favreau, Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Dave Filoni, Robert Rodriguez, and Rick Famuwiya

I was not a massive fan of the first season of The Mandalorian. Once I realized it was more a procedural Western than a serialized story from the Star Wars universe, I became a lot less interested. I was curious to uncover the mystery of “Baby Yoda,” and the series didn’t seem in any hurry to explore that in detail. So, if I’m honest, my expectations for season two were pretty low. This is to say I was delightfully surprised at how great these eight episodes were. It felt like a real Star Wars story, epic in scope & exciting. I don’t know if the production budget was higher, but it definitely looked and felt like it was.

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TV Review – Animaniacs 2020

Animaniacs 2020 (Hulu)
Written by a lot of people
Directed by many more people

I was 12 years ago when Animaniacs originally debuted in 1993, and from the first episode, they had me hooked. I did not have cable growing up; we lived in a rural area where Comcast wouldn’t expend the resources to lay the line. Other options just weren’t there yet. This means I didn’t get to see formative 1990s animated comedies like Ren & Stimpy or Rocko’s Modern Life. Those were viewed when I visited my grandparents and had access for a few hours to cable television. So, a show like Animaniacs was a straight injection of zany meta-commentary that I hadn’t really been exposed to in my youth. So, what chance does a revival of Animaniacs over twenty years later of being successful?

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TV Review – Saved by the Bell (2020)

Saved by the Bell (Peacock)

Written by Tracy Wigfield, Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan, Amy-Jo Perry, Matt Warburton, Aaron Geary, Ben Steiner, Erin Fischer, Shantira Jackson, Beth Coyle, Dashiell Driscoll, and Marcos Gonzalez

Directed by Trent O’Donnell, Katie Locke O’Brien, Kabir Akhtar, Daniella Eisman, Matthew A. Cherry, Angela Tortu, and Claire Scanlon

There was a war on our television on Saturday morning in the 1990s. You see, Fox’s X-Men animated series aired at the same time as NBC’s Saved By The Bell. This led to a high level of tension between myself and my sister. The compromise was using the VCR to tape one while we watched the other. We were a single television household for most of my upbringing. Despite not wanting to watch the students’ antics at Bayside High School, I did and continued watching with my siblings when the made for television Hawaiian Style movie aired, The Colleges Years came and went, and the Las Vegas-centered wedding of Zack and Kelly wrapped things up. We don’t talk about The New Class in this household. When I saw Peacock was putting out a reboot of Saved by the Bell, I’ll admit I balked, just some more dumb nostalgia bait. But then I saw reviews coming in and the bona fides of its showrunners, and I decided to take a look. I am so delighted I did.

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TV Review – We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are (HBO)
Written by Paolo Giordano, Francesca Manieri, and Luca Guadagnino
Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Filmmaker Luca Guadagnino has a talent for making small, everyday moments bubble over with emotion and energy. In his mini-series, We Are Who We Are, the daily travails of American teenagers living on a military base in Italy will be going along as expected, and then the right music cue and change in camera speed elevate the outing into something mythic, poetic, beautiful. Just as he’s done in I Am Love and Call Me By Your Name, Guadagnino is once again exploring ideas of love and of being an uncomfortable outsider in a new place. The result is the best television program of 2020, a work of art that reminds us why HBO is a powerhouse for quality television that allows artists to manifest their vision.

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TV Review – Monsterland Season 1

Monsterland (Hulu)
Written by Nathan Ballingrud, Mary Laws, Scott Kosar, Wesley Strick, and Emily Kaczmarek
Directed by Anne Sewitsky, Kevin Phillips, Craig William MacNeil, Eagle Egilsson, Logan Kibens, Nicolas Pesce, Desiree Akhavan, and Babak Anvari

Oh, dear. As I have said many times before that television horror anthologies are a tough feat to pull off. So, I want to acknowledge that making this series had to be a challenge. You have a new cast every episode with a new director. That can’t be easy to do. You have between forty-five minutes to an hour to tell a full character arc, which is another near impossibility. All of this said, I really hated Monsterland. It was a real slog to get through all the episodes, and I found myself forcing the last two down just so it could be over.

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