Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Caemeron Crain is enjoying Kim Wexler Ethics Training, Stephanie Edwards is excited about Candyman, Bryan O’Donnell is watching High Fidelity on Hulu, Hawk Ripjaw is loving Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, and Vincent Greene recommends that you check out Falling Skies already.
Kim Wexler Ethics Training
Caemeron: The new season of Better Call Saul premiered last week, and the first two episodes of Season 5 are as great as the show has ever been. If you don’t watch it, then I wonder what you have been doing with your life—particularly if you watched Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched either, I would be curious what is like to watch Better Call Saul without that knowledge. So let me know if you’re up for the experiment.
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) might be my favorite thing about Better Call Saul. The character is wonderfully well-rounded and nuanced, and while all of the stuff that links to Breaking Bad in a more direct way is certainly compelling, I feel like Kim’s relationship with Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) is at the center of this show. And I’m pretty terrified to see where it’s going.
But I was happy to see that this season will seem to include some supplemental videos featuring Kim Wexler providing Ethics Training. The first two of these were also released this week, and there are indications that there will be ten overall, aligning with the season run of Better Call Saul.
This makes sense in relation to Kim’s character, as the tension of her narrative centers around the moral grey areas that Jimmy/Saul lures her into. I’m not sure if or how these videos will fit into the diegetic reality of Better Call Saul. My guess is they probably won’t in any meaningful way. Nonetheless, they are a joy to watch.
Seehorn is brilliant as she portrays Kim as someone new to being in front of the camera like this (as Seehorn herself assuredly is not). She comes across just right: not really nervous so much as a bit awkward and unused to the whole thing. It’s a real feat of acting prowess to well act a character that is bad at acting. Give Rhea Seehorn all of the Emmys!
Beyond that, much of these videos consists of animation that features Jimmy/Saul doing things that go against the very rules that Kim is putting forward. I’ll leave it to you to scrutinize details and speculate about whether there are clues in here about what is going to happen on Better Call Saul. I think there might be some, but my point here is just to recommend that you watch these things.
Attempts to supplement a show like this can really very in their effectiveness. I appreciate Nacho (Michael Mando) telling me how to spot a fake bill and Gus’s (Giancarlo Esposito) employee training as much as the next guy, but Kim’s Ethics videos are really a cut above.
They have Rolling Stone clamoring for a Kim Wexler spin-off, to which I say, “YES, PLEASE!” even though I have no idea what that would look like.
Anyway, I encourage you to watch these first two videos and keep an eye out for more. Watch Better Call Saul and stay tuned/follow 25YL to catch our weekly coverage.
And give Rhea Seehorn all the Emmys!
Stephanie: Remember when you were younger and your parents used to have a giant collection of VHS tapes (sorry Gen Z’ers, this convo probably isn’t for you) that you stared at in awe as a child? My aunt and uncle had the VHS collection to end all collections, just shelves and shelves of movies to choose from. Many of the movies in their collection happened to be horror films and I have many memories of running my fingers along the smooth plastic spine and pulling out gems like Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night Two and Carrie to watch with my cousins for the first time. But there is one movie that stands out more than the rest, the one movie that took my horror film virginity and made me never look back—Bernard Rose’s 1992 Candyman.
Candyman was the first horror movie I ever saw, and it changed my life forever. Tony Todd, with his magnetic presence and spine-tingling voice, still remains my absolute favourite horror character of all time and seeing a glimpse of him in a car’s rear window sent my horror-loving heart into a frenzy this morning with the release of the new Candyman (2020) trailer. This re-imagining of the Clive Barker-created world is one of my most anticipated films of the year and the trailer certainly did not disappoint.
One of the most exciting aspects of this new adaptation is the creative team behind and in front of the camera. As fans of the original know well, race plays a huge role in Candyman’s backstory and his motives for the blood-soaked murders he commits. This time around, creators of color are taking the reins of this urban legend and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the depth and nuance they can bring to this story. The new film is produced and written by Jordan Peele, directed by Nia DaCosta, and stars old favourites like Vanessa Williams and one of 2019’s breakout stars, Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the leading role.
Abdul-Mateen plays Anthony, a photographer who chooses to use the now-gentrified Cabrini Green as his subject and finds himself fall victim to the Candyman’s lure through his art. One of the biggest questions that fans are asking after the trailer’s release is just how familiar is Anthony with Cabrini Green? Does he feel drawn to the location because of the mystique or is it something more sinister? Many are speculating that Anthony is the rescued baby from the end of the original film and, if this is the turn that this “spiritual sequel,” in the words of Jordan Peele, decides to take, I will be even more on-board than I already am.
Twists and turns aside, the trailer promises that Candyman will be a bloody good time filled with gore, lore, and, of course, lots and lots of bees. I am cautiously optimistic that this re-imagining of the horror film that lives closest to my heart is in great hands with DaCosta at the helm and I will be patiently waiting for its release. Maybe if I say his name five times in a mirror, the release date will get here sooner?
Bryan: Having been a big fan of the movie High Fidelity, I was interested in trying out the TV adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel on Hulu. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but eight episodes in and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.
Zoë Kravitz plays Robyn “Rob” Brooks, who owns a record store and loves to make Top Five lists. Instead of taking place in London (book) or Chicago (film), the TV version of High Fidelity takes place in New York City. However, a lot of the main storylines from the film are present in the show, such as shop employee Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who is an aspiring musician that isn’t taken seriously.
You’ll see other nods to these familiar storylines, but also enough that are new to keep it interesting. The show has a good mix of humor, drama, and excellent music. A second season hasn’t been announced yet, but I’d be intrigued to see where it would go once it’s past the source material. I imagine it would need to address more of the current state of music as people have a number of streaming options to receive music instantly, rather than heading over to your local record shop. The book was written in 1995 and the film was released in 2000, and the music industry has obviously changed quite a bit since then. (This hasn’t been addressed much in the first eight episodes at least.)
Kravitz is great in the lead role, obsessive about her past and her passions. The main supporting cast, consisting of Cherise and Simon (David H. Holmes), has quickly grown on me. The scenes in the record shop make me feel like I’m right there hanging out with all of them. If you’re a fan at all of the movie, the TV version of High Fidelity is worth checking out.
Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island
Hawk: As a card-carrying connoisseur of bad movies, I expected Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island to be quite the trash trip, but it ended up being significantly more bizarre than even I could have envisioned—and I loved it.
Yes, it is THAT Fantasy Island—the Ricardo Montelban/Herve Villechaize show from the ’70s in which visitors to the island could have their wildest fantasies fulfilled for a price, with those fantasies often exposing a moral fallacy of the client. Montelban’s character Mr. Roarke made it clear that every fantasy would have to be seen to its natural conclusion and that he was powerless to divert it. I haven’t actually seen much of the show itself, but based on the themes of the show, the decision to remake it into a horror film is actually kind of a novel idea. And then Jeff Wadlow (who was responsible for that Truth or Dare/Instagram Filter: The Movie) signed on to write and direct.
Michael Pena dons the impeccable white suit as Montelban’s Mr. Roarke character, who hosts Fantasy Island and its mysterious ability to fulfill fantasies. A group of strangers, having won a contest, are taken to Fantasy Island, where Mr. Roarke informs them that they each get a fantasy, and that each fantasy, of course, must be seen to its natural conclusion. Obviously, this means that something horrible is going to happen in each fantasy that imparts some sort of lesson, but the movie skips right over the lesson and plunges straight into PG-13 horror.
This movie is narrative anarchy, a completely insane horror/mystery/action/comedy Frankenstein’s monster of tone and plot that is so fast paced it feels like it’s actively trying to make the viewer forget or disregard plot holes. But it’s on such an absolute trip that it’s hard not to get sucked into its audacious barrage of plot twists and goofy horror conventions. Very little of this movie actually makes sense and it absolutely does not care. It’s like half a dozen writers entered the writer’s room and not a single idea was rejected for the final script.
Oftentimes, it’s not clear exactly which tone the movie is going for. Early in the movie, Mr. Roarke encourages his staff to smile to welcome the guests, with a cut to some of the most murderous, crazy, “I’m a janitor at a mental hospital” looking staff you’ve ever seen at a tropical getaway. Michael Rooker also shows up in a role that was almost definitely written specifically for him. And don’t even get me started on a slasher villain named Dr. Torture who has a bone saw and mouth that’s been stapled shut. It’s wild stuff.
Make no mistake, this horror re-envisioning of the classic television show is a very, very bad movie. But if that’s the kind of thing that you can enjoy with a group of friends and some alcohol, it will get exponentially better with more of both. It’s a blast.
Vincent: Falling Skies was created by Robert Rodat and executive produced by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg. It initially piloted around the same time of the short-lived series of Terra Nova, another foray of Spielberg in the TV producer’s chair. Whereas Terra Nova failed—with good reason—Falling Skies grows from its weak beginnings each season into a very entertaining and progressive show.
The story of Falling Skies is set in post-apocalyptic America. The beginning of the show takes place in the aftermath of an alien invasion. In a lot of ways, one could say that Falling Skies is ostensibly a PG-13 version of AMC’s The Walking Dead but with aliens— and I have many times—but on closer examination, they couldn’t be any more different.
From the get-go, Falling Skies‘ influences are clearly rooted in the American revolutionary war. It even goes so far as to break up the survivors into armed militia ready to defend the last vestiges of humanity against far superior invading forces, a la the war for independence that the Americans fought against imperialistic Britain.
The story centers around the fight and plight of the 2nd Mass. The ragtag bunch of civilians mixed with some hardened former military men are led by Colonel Weaver (Will Patton) and Thomas Mason (Noah Wyle). Weaver is one of the aforementioned ex-soldiers, whereas Mason is a former Professor of History with his specialty laying in that of Military History.
Both of the men are opposing sides of the same coin, both avowing to different ethical codes but always with the betterment of the greater good at the forefront of their minds. The evolution from constantly at odds with one another to a steadfast unbreakable force united to the very end is fascinating. The relationship between the two leaders is the backbone of the show from the pilot to the end of the series’ run.
One particular aspect about Falling Skies is how it was well ahead of its time it was in how it cast roles. The ensemble is incredibly diverse. The casting directors consistently give people of color opportunities from the first episode. The role of Anne Glass could have so easily have gone to your stereotypical leading lady but instead, the showrunners went with Moon Bloodgood, showing once again its capacity for forward-thinking in its casting decisions.
Not only is the show diverse but it is also very empowering for women. A lot of the most powerful characters are female. Many times throughout its run the stories are female-centric and the women of Falling Skies are far from shrinking violets. The women that inhabit this world are smart, tough, adaptable and never shy away from a challenge or a fight. They are each and all apocalyptic warriors.
Falling Skies‘ inspirational fast-paced tone helps the show as it progresses from season to season. The show’s pace and tone go along way in saving it from any dips in the overall narrative. The writers were as well versed in the art of removing any characters that were getting long in the tooth as they were of giving characters the chance to evolve and grow with the show.
As the show evolves it sheds its earlier American Independence war tropes, in their place going for the tried and trusted allegory of the aliens being pretty much the Nazis. The antagonists of the show replace invasion tactics with reeducation camps, propaganda, subversion, infiltration, and sabotage.
Even though Falling Skies can be a little bit hanky at times it remains strong throughout. It is never a 10/10 show but it always remains at a very solid seven. The storytellers that brought this show to life really made lemonade from what could have been a bushel of sour Terra Nova sized lemons. It is a show that has flown under the radar for too long and I think it needs to have the attention of a wider audience, who I believe will not be disappointed by what they find.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!