It’d be cool to read an “Angel” book of 12 short stories that each take place in one hour on the longest night of the year. “The Longest Night” (December 2002), unfortunately, isn’t that book. It claims to be that book on the back cover blurb, but the editors never told the writers. So the gang can be beat up or covered in demon goo the end of one hour and healthy and clean at the start of the next, for example.
Maybe it’s because I got more accustomed to the show’s rhythms, but I liked “Jessica Jones” Season 2 (March 2018, Netflix) more than the first. Everyone is established in their roles, and things like Jessica (Krysten Ritter) being perpetually drunk, or someone making reference to that fact, flow in a natural noir-detective-drama way. Even though the overall plot leans more superpowered than hardboiled, Melissa Rosenberg’s series is as comfortable in its genre trappings as Jessica is in her favorite pair of jeans.
My reviews looking back at “Buffy” Season 8 continue as we enter the final stretch of the 40-issue season. We finally learn the identity of Twilight, which only raises more questions. So many questions.
It’s not as bad as the case of the old “Doctor Who” episodes that were intentionally destroyed after their broadcast, but in this age where it’s easy for a streaming service to make something available to its subscribers, there are still a lot of TV shows you simply can’t see.
In the first “Angel” hardcover, “Endangered Species” (October 2002), Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte spend the first two acts delivering a decompressed narrative that shows their strong grasp of where the characters are at in early Season 3. We soak up Angel’s growing feelings for Cordelia and Fred’s post-Pylea introversion, and everyone is on their game (except, as is common for these novels, I always feel like Gunn calls people “dog” more than on the TV show).
After his memorable introduction in “Daredevil” Season 2 (2016) – which could’ve been called “Daredevil and Punisher” – Frank Castle/Punisher (Jon Bernthal) gets the spotlight in his own 13-episode season. The revelation of who killed Frank’s wife and two children at the merry-go-round leads to a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels of the U.S. government and military. One approach for showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s “Punisher” Season 1 (2017) might’ve been 13 mini-“John Wick” movies. That would’ve been viscerally satisfying, but I appreciate the meaty roster of characters. The season is not faced-paced, but nor is it boring.
In addition to the 40 main issues and three one-shots, “Buffy” Season 8 also features five “MySpace/Dark Horse Presents” e-comics from the waning days of that social media platform. None of these short stories are essential, but a few of them reinforce this new era where vampires are celebrities instead of monsters.
In addition to the 40 regular issues of “Buffy” Season 8, three one-shots flesh out specific aspects of the saga: what it’s like to be a street-level vampire in this new era, how Willow gets her superpowers between Seasons 7 and 8, and how and why Riley joins Twilight’s organization in order to spy on him. SPOILER WARNING: I will discuss Twilight’s real identity in the “Riley” section.
Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is easiest to describe to a newcomer if they are familiar with “Riverdale.” It’s like “Riverdale” but with witchcraft and likeable characters. Those two elements are what make “Sabrina” the more interesting show, but it shares “Riverdale’s” foundation of moody cinematography and an ephemeral sense of time and place. As a horror-tinged show (though not a scary one), those elements work perfectly on “Sabrina.”
I was so impressed with “The Haunting of Hill House” that I immediately checked out writer-director Mike Flanagan’s previous horror work, which is easy to do in these days of streaming services. Although his IMDB goes back to the turn of the century with student films, Flanagan didn’t enter the mainstream until this decade, when he directed six horror (or horror-adjacent) films. All are worth checking out to see the progression of an emerging genre talent. It’s interesting to look at rankings of Flanagan’s films on the web and see that there’s nowhere near a consensus on the order, but here are my personal rankings:
“Angel: Vengeance” (August 2002) really grew on me as the story goes along. Scott Ciencin had previously written the uneven “Buffy: Sweet Sixteen” and co-writer Dan Jolley is making his Buffyverse debut, but “Vengeance” ultimately comes together as an entertaining portrayal of Angel’s inner struggle, while also giving a nice side plot to Cordelia and the underused David Nabbit.
My reviews looking back at “Buffy” Season 8 continue as we enter the second half of the 40-issue season with several standalones (to borrow TV show parlance), which nonetheless move the narrative forward, and one epic five-parter. SPOILER WARNING: If you are reading these issues for the first time, I will analyze the character of Twilight based on my knowledge of Twilight’s true identity, which isn’t revealed until later in the season.
The “Halloween” saga is infamous for its oddities and mistakes and its tendency to set aside established plot threads. Some of them are well-known, even by casual observers: the fact that “Halloween III” isn’t a Michael Myers film, the way “Halloween 5” reimagines the ending of “Halloween 4” to avoid having a child as a killer, and the three relaunches of the saga in “Halloween H20,” Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” and the new “Halloween,” which hit theaters earlier this month.
Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the 10th entry, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II” (2009).
The fact that “Hereditary” blends family drama with horror elements isn’t original, but there’s something about the balance or the vibe that makes it feel that way. For a good chunk of its two hours, writer-director Ari Aster’s breakthrough film – now available on streaming and home video – is a dark exploration of a dysfunctional family. But there are clues here and there that make a viewer feel on edge, and by the end “Hereditary” is not only a horror film, but a haunting one.
Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the ninth entry, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” (2007).
Netflix’s “Big Mouth” – which recently released its second season — marks the latest sea change in Things You Can Do on Television, as it chronicles 12- and 13-year-olds entering puberty. But unlike “The Simpsons” in the 1990s and “Family Guy” in the 2000s, there has been little hand-wringing from parents’ TV groups about “Big Mouth,” which opens with episodes where Andrew (John Mulaney) ejaculates in his drawers at a school dance and Jessi (Jessi Klein) has her first period on a field trip while wearing white shorts. Fortunately for its creators, “Big Mouth” also exists in the most prolific age of TV history: There’s so much out there that watchdog groups can’t keep up.
You can rarely go wrong with a Jeff Mariotte Buffyverse novel, but some go more right than others, and “Stranger to the Sun” (July 2002) isn’t one of his elite efforts. His second book set in “Angel’s” second season is quite readable, but it’s pretty obvious where every plot thread is going right from the beginning. On the other hand, it’s a decent character piece for Wesley – even though he’s asleep most of the time.
Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the 11th entry, Blumhouse’s “Halloween” (2018).