TV Binge: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

It sure feels like a long time that I have been working on this TV Binge. A really long time! If you missed the Season 1 TV Binge post, you can find it HERE.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

a series of unfortunate events s2

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Nathan Fillion, Sara Canning, Patrick Breen, Sara Rue

Stepping right off from Season 1, the Baudelaire Orphans now have gone through a bunch of odd guardians. Each one failing because of the horrible Count Olaf and his mischief or simply because they were some shady or clueless characters. Some cases even a mesh of the two components. It was filled with dark humor and a rather formulaic way of the Baudelaires always getting away. Entertaining as always but still the idea of the episodes always followed a same pattern. Unlike a lot of viewers, the first season took me a little while to get into. With where it left off in Season 1, this Netflix Original has established itself and its tone along with the characters so we should be in for a fun ride in Season 2.

Fortunately, we do get exactly that. Filled with more clever vocabulary lessons and random narration from Patrick Warburton in the oddest locations, the Baudelaires set off for a second season that is much more sinister and dangerous than the previous one. While the tone of the show hasn’t changed much, the events are more brutal. This is still a family show so the camera always cuts away from the potentially disgusting bits. Before we get ahead of ourselves too much, Season 2 covered Books 5 to 9 in the series: Austere Academy, Ersatz Elevator, Vile Village, Hostile Hospital and Carnivorous Carnival. Structured much like the first season, each book adaptation is separated into two parts. We get some new characters introduced (and in some cases, taken away). Honestly, I like this structure, it gives it a somewhat nice slice of moment. You can choose to binge watch the entire series if you want but you can also watch it like separate stories as the Baudelaires escape Count Olaf with less and less leeway leading to a nail-biting cliffhanger.

Overall, Season 2 is pretty strong. I got involved and immersed a lot quicker. It helps to see each of the characters grow more mature and smarter. The Baudelaires end up gaining a lot of coy and street smarts to pair with their natural intelligence. They each get their own spotlight, even little Sunny. The series remembers to be fair. As they get smarter, Count Olaf also devises much more intricate plans that give us surprises and each part as its own twists and turns that work to its advantage.

For things I loved/liked a lot in Season 2:

New Friends

A Series of Unfortunate Events

At the end of season 1, we stopped when we saw the Quagmires, now landing in the first six episode of this season. Quagmires and Baudelaires learn about their similarities and they are both brave and resourceful in their own ways. Call them the dynamic foursome if you will but the bonds they create in Austere Academy carries them to save these loyal friends for the next two stories in Ersatz Elevator and Vile Village. Its a nice change in pace to have them here. While most of the credit does go to following closely to the source materials pacing, it is nice to see these four work so well together. In these extreme situations, it is important to have allies.

New Villain

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lucy Punch joins the villainous Count Olaf troupe  as the wealthy woman who is the student of Count Olaf and his girlfriend, Esme Squalor. She is packed with all kinds of accents and characters. Honestly, she is a joy to watch on screen. I’ve only seen her do weird odd roles in other movies before so its quite the breather to see her really embrace this role and take it in a wonderfully entertaining and wicked direction, especially in Hostile Hospital. She adds just a little bit of extra wickedness to Count Olaf which changes the game a little from the silly henchmen & henchwomen in his ragtag troop.

New VFD Members

a series of unfortunate events

VFD and a mysterious sugar bowl, along with the reveal of the narrator’s identity all get a part in Season 2. It adds depth and context as well as some answers to the million of questions stirring in our minds that are left unanswered for both the viewers and the Baudelaires. Nathan Fillion adds his charming self as Jacques Snicket who ends up recruiting Olivia Calaban, a librarian who tries to help the children and is smart enough to be suspicious. Olivia Calaban is a wonderful character played by Sara Rue and is eventually recruited into VFD. She has some of the answers but being new, she is more passionate about the mission that Jacques Snicket teaches her. They are a great team and as we learn about the VFD, we see that its a chase to figure out how everything pieces together.

New Locations

a series of unfortunate events

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been very location-based so far. In the first season, we had some incredibly imaginative locations belonging to an array of odd characters. In Season 2, we continue on with this trend. We see the Austere Academy and the orphan’s shack. In Ersatz Elevator, we move to a wealthy penthouse location as well as the various fishy (literally) restaurants. Then we move on to the Vile Village where crows migrate from one location to the next at a set routine. Hostile Hospital is a incomplete half hospital with one of its wings still in construction limbo and of course, the most fascinating of all, is the rundown circus of Madame Lulu’s Caligari Carnival. The production design and tone and lighting all add to the environment of the series.

Overall…I kept it quite to the point in this one. I still love the young cast playing the Baudelaire Orphans. They are fantastic. Neil Patrick Harris is great as Count Olaf. The success of Season 2 despite its episode formula is the depth of the story. We learn more, the characters develop further and the situation gets more dire and dangerous. It has all the great points of the first season and adds a little more, just enough to keep us curious but still unveiling a bit more to give the story some context. With the fantastic ending and the brilliant pacing in Season 2, I can’t wait for Season 3 (which should be the final season if they follow the progression of the books).

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TV Binge: Mindhunter (Season 1, 2017)

What do you know? Back to back TV Binges this week! To be honest, I have so many TV series that I finished but never have posted from way back in January so I’m making my way sporadically through it as I see the inspiration to write it up. So here we are with the next one as I finish up a book and get a recipe post together!

Netflix series have been rather fun for the most part and since I love Criminal Minds and the behavior analysis thing, we had our eye on Mindhunter for a while so we finally got through it fairly quickly!

Mindhunter (Season 1)

mindhunter

Creator: Joe Penhall

Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cameron Britton, Joseph Cross

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters. – IMDB

Before Criminal Minds hit us with their engaging Behavior Analysis Unit cases, there were these guys here that established the team that opened the path of learning about behavior analysis of the criminal mind. With that said, Mindhunter is one of the most exhilarating, entertaining and impressive shows to be on the Netflix Originals circuit and I’ve been definitely impressed with quite a bit of them. The cast stands out and the way the show is done also works really well. It is very smart to not bombard the show with a myriad of characters and keeping a few main ones so that we can truly see their character development and notice how their relationship, regardless of work or love, does change and grow. While there are cases to solve for this team and it shows up here and there, it never feels like that is the absolute highlight rather than just the way the two FBI agents are approaching each situation that they encounter.

mindhunter

The core characters are the leading FBI agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Part of the show’s dynamic is in this duo. Being least experienced, Holden tends to be more rash and make less thought out decisions while Bill tends to anticipate how to play more with the FBI guidelines and has his own bag of experience to make it work. It is in these clashes of approaches and the desire to achieve the same end goal that fleshes out their characters so well. Especially when other elements are taken here like Holden’s girlfriend Debbie (Hannah Gross) who doesn’t always have the biggest role but challenges him on some of his thoughts and calls out his crap because she doesn’t stand for particularly the change in personality as the show progresses. And of course, another key link is when they bring in Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) who brings another strong character.

Mindhunter

The best part of the show however do go to the duo’s time chatting up with serial killers as they try to get them to talk about their kills and find a connection in why they do it or a pattern of character traits. Its pretty amazing because as they talk to them, you can see a change in personality also particularly with Holden. The credit does go to Jonathan Groff for delivering on the subtle complexities of this character and his development along with a fantastic script for the show. It can’t be denied that the highlight of the show was the conversations with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton). The depth and unspoken uneasy vibe with this portrayal was so amazing. An absolute showstopper performance.

There’s a lot to love about Mindhunter. Its well-written for starters. Its thought-provoking and deep with its material it tackles. And they get together a great cast that delivers on these complex characters and gives them a lot of meaning development and arcs. We are definitely waiting for Season 2.

TV Binge: Ultimate Beastmaster (Season 2, 2017)

Ultimate Beastmaster had their season 2 released on Netflix on December 15th, 2017. You can see our recap of Season 1 HERE.

Ultimate Beastmaster (Season 2, 2017)

ultimate beastmaster

Creators: David Broome & Sylvester Stallone

Our household are big fans of Ultimate Beastmaster. From the structure of the beast to the structure of the challenge in this Netflix’s version of American Ninja Warrior, its a lot of fun to watch. This year’s Ultimate Beastmaster brought on a new slate of competitors. Aside from the USA being there in Season 1, there was China, India, Italy, Spain, France. Being Chinese, I was pretty happy to see China have its contestants and a lot of them were pretty incredible.

Ultimate Beastmaster

With new countries came new hosts and new chemistry. USA being the only overlap country in the two seasons came back with two different hosts. The first season was hyped up because of big names attached with Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson. This time, we had Tiki Barber and Chris DiStefano. It took a little while to get used to them however as they show did go on their jokes, while feeling a little like dad jokes did get a few funny moments. However, the Italian hosts and the French hosts had a really fun feud going on that worked to make it very entertaining to watch. Of course, the Chinese hosts also had a balancing act where the lady Qinyi Du was overly enthusiastic and was pretty much hilarious but was paired with Bin Gu who seemed much more quiet and contemplative. While he didn’t say much, somehow this pairing worked in its own way.

ultimate beastmaster

In many ways, this season’s beastmasters had two brother pairings which worked very well together. It came with a lot of nice and supportive moments. Plus, the competitors chosen here were quite diverse although parkour and mountain climbing athletes definitely had an advantage to the others with both flexibility and working to the obstacles here. It was also nice to see the sportsmanship exhibited here and the enthusiasm. Getting through any of these obstacles was challenging in any of the stages and no matter who you rooted for, it was hard to not feel tense for any of the competitors because the course was tough on them and this took a lot of courage.

ultimate beastmaster

In terms of budget, you can already see some changes in there. For one, the countries all have their own country colors and outfits and gears. On top of that, the course itself had some changes. The first stage starts off differently than season one and to be honest, this one feels much harder because its about jumping far distances which is good because it prepares you for the huge challenge even from the first season which are the energy coils. The point system also had an overhaul and I think its quite fair this way plus the point thrusters are not flip switches but actual buttons which is pretty cool. The first stage also had alternate paths with every other episode and group of competitors, which is new and refreshing. The second stage didn’t quite feel like there was a lot of changes. The third stage however did have bigger changes as they added in what seems like a longer area of sinking coils and transitioning to this Hangman section which is ridiculously hard just to watch because its so challenging to even watch. The final stage also had an overhaul that was pretty awesome and more extensive as well. You need to actually see the Beast to be really impressed with its challenges.

I’m not going to tell you who wins this whole thing because it would be completely in spoiler territory and I think that you should watch it because its a lot of fun. I would also love to see Ultimate Beastmaster go on to have more seasons so hopefully someone dropping by here with Netflix would want to watch it and give it some boost. Of course, there’s also the whole thing that watching this is so positive. I’m not sure about everyone else here but while I’ve fallen off the working out regime and working hard in 2018 to get back into it, this competition is so motivational and positive. But then, I’ve always loved to do treetop obstacle courses and thought before about trying out in Spartan Races and such. Maybe I’ll do it one day. On a finishing note, you know who I’d love to see doing this one just for kicks? Stephen Amell. A bonus celebrity version for charity would be pretty cool as well with TV and movie superheroes or something. Go watch Ultimate Beastmaster! Its totally worth your time.

Double Feature: #RealityHigh (2017) & Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond… (2017)

Welcome back to another double feature!

Today’s two films have only two things in common: Netflix Originals and 2017 releases. The first is the teen coming of age romantic comedy movie called #RealityHigh. To be honest, I only put this on because I wanted to have something simple to watch in the background. The second is the new documentary that recently landed on Netflix called Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton. The title is so freaking long! Aside from that, the only reason for this was because I like Jim Carrey and this is based on his behind the scenes process and persona he took when he was filming Man on the Moon (which I haven’t seen). We’ll see if that affected my experience of it.

I guess the third common factor here is that they are both impulse viewings off the whole new system I had set to catch up on the Netflix List.  Let’s check these out!

#RealityHigh (2017)

Director: Fernando Lebrija

Cast: Nesta Cooper, Keith Powers, Alicia Sanz, Jake Borelli, Anne Winters, Patrick Davis, Michael Provost, Ryan Malaty, Kate Walsh, John Michael Higgins

High-achieving high-school senior Dani Barnes dreams of getting into UC Davis, the world’s top veterinary school. Then a glamorous new friend draws her into a Southern California scene that threatens everything she’s worked for. – IMDB

A lot of you who stop by here know that I’m a huge fan of these kinds of teenage movies. In fact, I’m downright forgiving of them. I’ve liked and loved a lot of them spanning from the 80s John Hughes to the recent The DUFF or Edge of Seventeen and the likes. #RealityHigh should be right up my alley. Except, even in my most forgiving mindset, it wasn’t. The story itself was generic and offered nothing new. The characters themselves seemed wooden as they acted out their roles. Maybe you can argue with me that its them having the teenage awkwardness but it felt so scripted and so unenthusiastic that it just was uninspiring to watch.

However, there are some high points here and there. One of the big ones is having Kate Walsh here. She’s fantastic as always. I’ve loved her since Grey’s Anatomy and in her veterinarian role here, she plays the guidance for our main character really well. It was always fun to see her on screen. Second, there was John Michael Higgins. He was doing a little of the same silly stuff just like the random bits he had in Pitch Perfect however, he somehow did become the highlight here. Another point here does go that one of the characters here called Shannon who is the main guy’s friend breaks out of the norm a little from the typical role and actually takes on the non-cliche path where he seems like he’s much deeper than he appears to be and gives insightful advice.

#RealityHigh is pretty dull. It follows the motion and lacks originality and engaging characters for us to actually care for remotely. While there are some flashes of okay moments, its one that I honestly can’t recommend.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond –
Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)

Jim & Andy

Director: Chris Smith

A behind-the-scenes look at how Jim Carrey adopted the persona of idiosyncratic comedian Andy Kaufman on the set of Man on the Moon (1999). –IMDB

Documentaries aren’t exactly my favorite genre to jump into. I like to watch this to escape from the realities of life but every once in a while, something clicks and the topic interests me. In this case, its Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. The main reason is that (other than Stephen Chow and Robin Williams), I grew up with a lot of comedy of Jim Carrey. The Mask was the first movie I watched of his then Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, both of which I’d like to visit soon. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, I’ve never seen Man on the Moon and I don’t know much about Andy Kaufman other than from this documentary. As much as its about Andy Kaufman, this documentary is truly about Jim Carrey and the process he went through or even struggled through as he took the persona almost completely of Andy Kaufman. Why almost? Because sometimes he’d take on the persona of Tony Clifton and that was Andy Kaufman’s other persona. And when he was particularly in those Tony Clifton moments, he was pretty much absolutely ridiculously annoying and hard to handle. The documentary took a good angle of taking only Jim Carrey sharing his thoughts between the behind the scene footage that followed him around while shooting Man on the Moon. The hook of this was seeing how falling into the persona of Andy Kaufman in some ways changed the way of how he viewed his career and the path he chooses afterwards plus the struggle of whether he had gone too far and simply making peace with the choices he made.

Even without having seen Man on the Moon (and I’m sure it means even more if you had seen it), the journey that Jim Carrey takes for this role is an intriguing topic to dive into. Its a little controversial because he does show a very unlikable side of him in many extreme ways however it is also these type of conflicts that warrant a documentary and makes what he says make sense and pulls it all together. Well-executed and a nice look into what acting and taking on a role is all about, albeit its extreme choices, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond has some deep thoughts and a lot of entertaining behind the scene moments. It also gives you the benefit of the doubt of knowing who Andy Kaufman is by explaining the type of comedian he is and comparing to his works.

This wraps up the double feature! One meh and one really good one. Call this the unexpected turnout, right?
I ended not liking the genre I normally would like and loving the one that I normally don’t. 

Have you seen either of these Netflix Originals?

Horror Marathon: Gerald’s Game (2017)

Let’s take a break from straight up horror and go for something a little more psychological. Gerald’s Game was recently released as a Netflix Originals and is directed by Mike Flanagan who I overall love quite a bit. His latest movies have been good and not great, however, I always wonder how you can rival a great debut like Absentia. However, I do think he has a great vision on building horror and always remain hopeful when it comes to creating the tense atmosphere. With some expectation and little knowledge of what Gerald’s Game is about, I went to check it out!

Gerald’s Game (2017)

gerald's game

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel

While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.-IMDB

Stephen King’s novels have been adapted since forever. This year, it seems to be all over the place with IT recently released in theatres and then there’s been TV shows as well. Now, we land on Gerald’s Game. For those new here, I’m a reader but sadly, I’ve been incredibly behind on reading Stephen King novels. I’ve only read two novellas, A Good Marriage and 1922 and a novel, Carrie. I’m currently reading IT and that’s proving to be an endless task. However, I have watched a lot of adaptations of his. I can say that he has great art in creating incredible characters and developments and such and even the mystery, thriller, suspense, horror atmosphere balance. However, be it The Mist or IT, I can’t quite buy into their endings. Suffice to say that I didn’t know anything about Gerald’s Game before jumping into this one. When the movie started and even into the 2nd part of it, I was a fan. It was captivating and thrilling to watching our main character try to figure out a way to survive and have her inner monologue and even hallucinating a second version of herself (like her conscience or something) and her dead husband. However, the story does start to become slightly flat as we near the ending.

gerald's game

Gerald’s Game is a great psychological thriller. There are some gruesome imagery here but overall, its a gripping experience as this wife, Jessie struggles to get herself out of these chains before she dehydrates and dies as no one is expected to be in the neighborhood for the next few days. In many ways, it is very much a thriller with perhaps some horror elements which I found were possibly the weaker parts of the film. The tension built in the conversations and the ideas she got to sustain herself was incredibly engaging to watch. Mike Flanagan is great at creating atmosphere in his films and he yet again achieves it here. The movie is almost completely lead by Carla Gugino and while I can’t quite pinpoint where I’ve seen her act before (although I’m aware of who she is), she does an outstanding job. She takes on the role of Jessie is such a mesmerizing way that its hard to not want her to escape and be scared or nervous together with her as she tries to do one thing or the next. However predictable some of the outcomes are, her role keeps us intrigued to keep watching. Opposite her is Bruce Greenwood who plays her husband. He isn’t physically alive for very long however, the little hints we get dive into further conversations that she envisions as his ghost somewhat hangs around with her. In some ways, her ghost and his ghost play this angel and demon role and its quite entertaining to watch also.

Gerald's Game

While I can appreciate the fact that the story takes on a tangent of Jessie’s past with her father and it somewhat justifies why she chose her current husband, it drives her to the past where she remembers her time with her father and the things he did. I’ll probably be mentioning something a little more fleshed out on portraying fathers in Stephen King’s stories when I get to the IT reviews. Here Jessie’s father is played by Henry Thomas. Its odd how her family was because it seems that the mother suspects something and yet not really. However the jest of it is the trauma that she’s somehow pushed away about her father. That was a pretty disturbing scene. Somehow, this is where the story seems to derail a little. The best parts of Gerald’s Game is when she has those conversations and in the single setting and not when she hallucinates or sees some weird things or goes into her memories. Something about it seems to be executed not quite as effectively, losing the great tension it had built from the beginning.

Overall, Gerald’s Game is a pretty decent movie. I’m talking about this completely as the movie itself and not as an adaptation since I’ve never read the book. If you have read the book and have seen this, does the movie do the book justice? Carla Gugino alone is worth the watch here. She truly commands this role perfectly. Its an engaging and intriguing watch however, it does lose its footing in the last third or maybe even at somewhere near the halfway point. And then the ending, well… I’m not exactly a fan. But then, I’ve had issues with Stephen King endings before. However, Stephen King builds great, deep and twisted characters that not a lot of other authors have ever been able to do and Gerald’s Game shows that off a whole lot.

TV Binge: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 1, 2017)

We are in for some TV binge posts this week. I have been slacking off on writing them up. Let us start this week with something the most current: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I was adamant on finishing the first four books before watching this series. If you missed the reviews, you can find here and here. On the record, I love the movie adaptation and the cast and I watched it without any knowledge of the source material. I still think it handles what it has well enough.

The question is how do they approach it as a TV series. Netflix has rarely disappointed in its series so I was incredibly excited for this one. Let’s check it out!

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 1, 2017)

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

A Series of Unfortunate Events has a fun and sinister premise. It is full of imagination and adventure. There are clever inventions and also an educational vocabulary adventure filled with colorful characters no matter how dark and grim of a situation the Baudelaire orphans get caught up in as they narrowly escape Count Olaf time and time again. In that sense, the TV series grasps the ton of the books incredibly well. They handle it with a great balance while stringing in some simultaneous events to keep us intrigued. While this may limit themselves in terms of how long the series can run, it is smart idea to take the books and split it into two episodes. Season 1 covers the first four books in the eight episodes. At the end of the fourth book, there is a change in events that should spring forth in the next season. I’ve only read till book 6 so I don’t know what goes on in books 7 and 8 but there is a new discovery and characters that will give it a fresh change to keep it interesting.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The cast here does a fantastic job in capturing how these characters are. The Baudelaire Orphans are played by Malina Weissman as Violet, Louis Hynes as Klaus and Presley Smith as baby Sunny. These three are the focus of the story itself. They are the ones dealt with all the misfortune. In many ways, Violet, Klaus and Sunny are hold a wonderful connection to each other as siblings. There is a likeable factor to them because they are so intelligent and because they’ve lost so much and trapped with such either useless or evil adults. However, there is a question of how the character in the series actually pick up to fend for themselves (much quicker than in the books).

Talking about useless adults, we can’t dive into a talk about the series without talking about their absolutely useless and constantly coughing Mr. Poe, a man who is responsible for their future until Violet comes of age to inherit the Baudelaire fortune. Mr. Poe, played by K. Todd Freeman is portrayed so incredibly clueless and possibly self-absorbed that in fact, him and his family are quite funny to watch. This brings forth a dark comedy tone that works well to not only give us a grim situation but know when to inject some dark humor.

We can’t have a conversation about characters without talking about the master disguise villain, Count Olaf who will do absolutely anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire orphans. Neil Patrick Harris, for myself, is a hit and miss sort of actor. He has done great roles such as Mr. Horrible and Gone Girl. I’m not a fan of How I Met Your Mother so I never watched it much. However, he always carries a charm in taking on different roles. In many ways, Count Olaf is a perfect platform (much like Jim Carrey’s portrayal) where he can do all sorts of voice acting and show off a ton of his skill set to capture and bring this Count Olaf character to life and man, does he prove himself worthy! Just his facial expressions is irreplaceable.

A Series of unfortunate events

Perhaps one of the nicest touch is to keep our narrator, Lemony Snicket to pop up in the most random places as he continues on with the story. He gives us comparisons and sheds light on vocabulary, just like the books did. He adds a very serious tone to the story. In this case, Lemony Snicket is played by Patrick Warburton, a man with a unique voice. If you don’t know who he is, he’s done the voice of Kronk in Emperor’s New Grove. His voice is commanding and just amazing and fits his narrative so well. Especially adding in his background appearances to aid the progression of the story, it is possibly one of my absolute favorite parts of the series.

There is a lot of cameos here filled with familiar faces. Perhaps the most known would be Joan Cusack playing Justice Strauss, Catherine O’Hara as Dr. Orwell and Don Johnson (as Sir). Aunt Josephine and Uncle Monty are played by Alfre Woodard and Aasif Mandvi respectively and look incredibly familiar and yet I can’t pinpoint where I’ve seen them before. However, they all do really well in their roles. I’m a huge fan of Catherine O’Hara.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The familiar faces don’t stop. In fact, this Netflix Originals adds in a little extra mystery with injecting Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders who plays parents who are locked up and escaping some interesting situations and trying to get home. Now, are they the Baudelaires? Are the Baudelaires orphans not actually orphans? These are questions that this invokes. Who are these two mystery couple? Aside from that, we also get a deeper knowledge of what that secret society and the telescopes that the Baudelaire orphans find from their parents including the recurring symbol as we get undercover roles from Sara Canning as Jaquelyn and Luke Camilleri as Gustav. This side of the story about the eye and the telescopes really bring out a different side of the story that we’ve never learned much before and it adds in a nice mysterious touch and something that unfolds a little in each episode and wonder how this will all pull together.

Overall, the first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events is an intriguing one. It did take a while to build in the first few episodes but does a well job and captures a very suitably dark comedy tone. The cast captures its roles great whether it is our charming narrator to the evil villain to the resilient Baudelaire orphans. They add in a bit of mystery by showing a little more about the mysteries. Its a great way to keep the story intriguing and entertaining all at the same time. It is definitely one I am looking forward to Season 2 to see how it continues.

Have you seen Netflix Original A Series of Unfortunate Events? 

TV Binge: 3% (Season 1, 2016)

Netflix Originals are definitely taking TV in a huge whirlwind. One of that came out not too long ago is Brazilian Netflix TV series, 3%, a dystopian future of sorts. Its description reminded me a little of The Hunger Games mixed with something else. Fact is, I’m starting to fall out of this dystopian world phase except it seems they aren’t done yet. However, this one did catch my eye, plus, I’ve never watched any Brazil productions before so I was intrigued.

Let’s check it out!

3% (Season 1, 2016)

3% netflix

Creator: Pedro Aguilera

Cast: João Miguel, Bianca Comparato, Michel Gomes, Rodolfo Valente, Vaneza Oliveira, Rafael Lozano, Vivane Porto, Luciana Paes

A thriller set in a world sharply divided between progress and devastation, where people are given the chance to make it to the “better side” but only 3% of the candidates succeed. – IMDB

Dystopian futures are done to death. Look at the books and movies and tv series, it just doesn’t end. Is that a bad thing? Most of the time especially when plots feel like its rinse and repeat. It is hard to not have exhausted all the dystopian ideas since the very popular The Hunger Games has taken over, then bringing even more popularity to the fact that Battle Royale was the unmentioned inspiration and basis which was done much better except its a foreign film. Talking about foreign, 3% is a foreign TV series and while I confess that it has some components that reminds us of The Hunger Games, it strays rather far away from that. Maybe not the dark tone but rather in the way that it treats it more for an older audience. In short, 3% is a unique series. I binged it in pretty much one sitting. There are eight episodes of about 50 minutes each, which doesn’t take too long and for the most part, it does a decent job at keeping it intriguing. My only little criticism would be that it was pretty awesome up until about episode five and partially six and it made me realize why I didn’t like those episodes as much.

3% Netflix

3% has a good idea and a pretty decent execution. While the poor and rich being separated seems like a very generic idea, the way they choose to  design where the Inland poor people live is a lovely production setting and it shows the contrast with the midpoint of being at the testing facility sort of building where the selected group have to undergo a bunch of tests which will seek out the best of the crowd, the 3%, as the series is called. While it seems that the tests start off rather innocent with a cube building challenge, and the only dangers seem to be the ruthless characters that will do anything to win, the challenges do get worse and focus heavily on the inner monster buried within them. How they choose to get out of it or resolve the situation will determine who makes it to the next stage. If the group is doing too well, then the people controlling them will figure out a twist. While it does sound very Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, the intensity of the situation lies in a psychological level as our main group of candidates are unveiled to us by their back stories each in a different episode (which is very much like Orange is the New Black strategy). The technology here seems advanced and the characters are unique to watch. As friendships and allies and enemies are built, we start see the character develop as they try to strive for this better future. Even if the future is an unknown as to what they are to face or where this offshore is or what lies ahead, they all believe that anything is better than where they are.

3% Netflix

The best part of 3% has to go to its young cast who play as the candidates. These handful of casts had depth and they were able to portray it very skillfully, making us really capture the character that they were going through. Perhaps, we can’t quite go into the characters without talking about the plot a little more. While most dystopian movies like these ones are focused on solely the candidates the majority of the time, 3% as a TV series takes the time to really let us know the subplots that are bubbling in the background. The candidates still hold a large place for the first four episodes and that is one of the reasons for the build-up being very engaging. Their tasks are not easy and many times are rather difficult choices. It shows us who we want to side with and that what you see might not exactly be who they really are. Each of them have their skills to be a part of this no matter where they come from or their background or even if they have a disability. They all have some weakness but a lot of strength in various departments to make up for it. With that said, the subplots go to the background controllers. We never learn a lot about the people in the background who control these tests but the main showrunner (I forgot the title he has) is called Ezequiel and this is his dream job who now is under investigation from the main council as they send a woman to watch over his every move called Aline. As he tries to keep himself together and hold his role, he also needs to prove that he is capable of this job especially now that not only he under investigation but the first crime on the Offshore has also happened and they need to find out who is the undercover candidate rumored to be in their tests that are part of The Cause, which is a secret group against the entire concept of 3% and the Offshore and is set out to ruin it.

3% netflix

Ezequiel and Aline are actually rather well-built characters as well. However, the fault in this series comes in using an entire episode to talk about Ezequiel’s past when we’ve only seen snippets of him and in a rather bad light of who he is that the episode dedicated to him made it rather unengaging. I realized how much the series had made a fantastic effort and successfully helped connect us with each of the candidates but somehow, didn’t spend as much time making us care for Ezequiel even in all his little moments of strategizing and keeping balance between the ruthless tests, his questionable solutions and decisions and his verbal wars with Aline. However, the series does pick up again as the situation escalates to uncontrollable levels and the subplots start becoming a little more relevant and also makes the character, mostly the hated realistic ones into proving that they actually do have a heart, while others have changed because of the need to survive. Everyone here has a different agenda and perhaps that makes this one not only about survival but these desires and whatever haunts them or the secrets they hide will be what makes or breaks them by the end.

Overall, 3% is a pretty great series. I wasn’t expecting much when I started it but despite two slower paced episodes, the sum of it was thrilling and engaging to watch. The characters are done well and developed properly. While the story itself seems generic, they way they execute it along with the production sets and everything together makes for an impressive experience. I’m pretty happy that it is going to have a second season and look forward to checking it out!