With an unusually long gap between new Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, I decided to finally check out “Marvel’s Runaways” Season 1 (2017-18, Hulu). Now through three seasons, it’s part of the young-adult wing of the MCU, and I appreciate that it’s more colorful, sunnier (it’s set in Los Angeles, the opposite side of the continent from most MCU goings-on) and more fathomable than the other YA series, Freeform’s recently canceled “Cloak & Dagger.” It also has an amazing cast, but Season 1 has one big problem at its core.
All the Bright Places” (February, Netflix) walks a fine line. For some young viewers, it’ll be the best movie they’ve ever seen; for cynical older viewers, it’ll be a cliché-ridden bore fest. For me, it’s pretty much the best Gen-Z teen romance I’ve seen (Elle Fanning and Justice Smith are late-era millennials, but they play younger than their ages). There’s always the fear that modern teens will be off-puttingly self-centered and all-knowing, but I liked Fanning’s Violet and Smith’s Finch, and they are quite cute when going through the cliches.
Sky High” (2005) is totally formulaic, and that’s why it succeeds for most of its run time but ultimately flattens out into something safely disposable. It came out during what I like to think of as the Disney comedy boom of the early 21st century, the time of “Lizzie McGuire” and its ilk. Although the writers and director have worked almost entirely on Disney kids’ and animated projects, “Sky High” is a smart movie with a lot of too-wise-for-school humor.
After the first two parts showed a lot of potential and sometimes were quite fun, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Part 3 (January, Netflix) is more of a slog to get through, even though it’s eight episodes instead of the usual 10. Or maybe it’s because of the lower episode count but slightly longer episodes. The writers lean into the “Gilmore Girls” approach of telling as much story as they feel like in one sitting, but “Sabrina” should ideally use the “Buffy” approach with an act-based structure.
It takes some getting used to, I admit, but eventually I got on a roll with Nina the Vampire Slayer in Kiersten White’s second Buffyverse novel, “Chosen” (January, hardcover). I should’ve braced myself for it after having read last year’s “Slayer,” but first-person present-tense writing is unusual enough that it’s still like getting a bucket of cold water to the face when you crack the book open.
Writer-director Jeff Wadlow, taking the reins from Matthew Vaughn, delivers a funnier and more focused “Kick-Ass 2” (2013). It’s formulaic, but that makes it better than the flailing 2010 original, the primary value of which is to introduce us to purple-haired Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and green-suited Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
Let It Snow” (November, Netflix) comes from a 2008 novel co-written by coming-of-age chronicler John Green. It’s adapted by Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”) and two other writers for this who’s-who of Gen Z actors. Although I only recognized Kiernan Shipka (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and Jacob Batalon (the best bud in the MCU’s “Spider-Mans”), the talent level is surprisingly high. Down the road, “Let It Snow” could play as a classic of young actors breaking out, except that the overall movie is too safe and predictable.
There were many ways “Good Boys” could go wrong, from over-reliance on the shock value of tweens dropping F-bombs, to kids who can’t act, to recycled “American Pie” gags. But this latest entry from writers Gene Stupnitsky (who also directs) and Lee Eisenberg – the writers of the underrated “Bad Teacher” (2011) – turns out to be both the raunchiest and cutest comedy of the year.
Ilove the way Javed (Viveik Kalra) loves Bruce Springsteen in “Blinded by the Light.” The Pakistani-British youth sings and dances in the street once he gets the Boss bug. He smiles when listening to the lyrics. He writes about the Boss for his school paper. He wins an essay contest and a trip to America by waxing poetic about Springsteen.
Although “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.