Tales From the Loop (Amazon Prime Video): A+
Slow burn, character-driven Sci-Fi at its finest. This 10-part series focuses on a small town in Ohio built on top of “The Loop” - a strange underground research laboratory studying the nature of the universe. Out of the Loop rises a strange series of futuristic technology and unexplained phenomena that serves as a backdrop for a character-driven drama that takes place in an alternate world in the early 80s that looks part Soviet Block and part Star Wars. Every episode is different, yet every episode weaves the characters’ stories together in the gentlest of ways. A different director for every episode, culminating in Jodie Foster directing a beautiful season (series?) finale. This show stands strong on writing, character development, and art direction. I hope there’s a second season.
Beastie Boys Story (Apple TV+): B+
This movie should be subtitled: “Ad-Rock and Mike D perform a Spike Jonze PowerPoint”. The two remaining Beastie Boys perform a two-hour live documentary (read off teleprompters and supported with a PowerPoint drop-back). This was an interesting choice for a documentary with some mixed results. It’s fun to see the Beastie Boys in their fun, young punk roots. The middle of the documentary treads a very familiar story of success, fame, and failure. But the end sticks the landing with stories of sadness, reflection, and joy that can only be delivered by some fifty-somethings who have seen it all, grown-up, and lost a dear friend. Side note: Apple TV is killing it. They still haven’t found that A+ hit yet, but everything Apple launches is pretty good.
Castle Rock (Hulu): A-
Lizzy Caplan shines as a young Annie Wilkes (from Misery) in this alternative Stephen King universe. This is the first time that I have seen a Stephen King book adapted to either the little screen or the big screen that actually felt just like a Stephen King book. The first half of the series is big on strong characters, strong drama, their personal demons, and elements of mystery and horror. As the episodes march on, so does the horror and the momentum. Eventually, the
To Tell the Truth (Apple TV+): A-
Octavia Spencer stars as a journalist-turned-podcaster who revisits the story that launched her career, 20 years later. That story is about a young kid who is charged with murder and thrown in prison for life. Twenty years after conviction, Spencer’s character decides that he may indeed be innocent. Aaron Paul shines as the wrongly convicted kid-turned-man, hardened by twenty years of rough prison life. Well written, well acted, and well directed.
Vivarium (Rental, iTunes): C+
Jessie Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a couple looking for houses that get stuck in the creepiest, empties, and vivid housing development ever. Part Ground Hog Day and part Lemoney Snickets, this movie shines in stylish yet but wears a little thin down the stretch. Lack of character development and table stakes make me looking at my watch more than wondering how this movie is going to end.
Color of Space (Rental, iTunes): C
The trailer looked much better than the actual one hour and forty minutes of random story telling. Nicolas Cage has moments in this film that are fun to watch on the screen, put mostly I ended up yawning as this film meanders to find a real purpose.