HBO “The Outsider” series review: Typically Stephen King

Considering all the shows that premiered January 2020, HBO’s The Outsider was the one I wanted to watch and review the most. It was the combination of Stephen King and HBO’s financial clout which made it stand out. Plus, its cast and crew appeared stellar.

Two things to know about this review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free.
  2. This review is based on the entire series.

CHECK OUT: The best Stephen King adaptations streaming now.

Typical King

The Outsider is unmistakably a Stephen King story. It shuffles from its shocking real-world setup to a gathering of colleagues that must beat a supernatural foe in a brutal showdown.

The series starts big, with the first 2 episodes being unmissable when watched back-to-back. It’s the kind of start that gets a show added to your watchlist. However, it isn’t all positive.

CHECK OUT: The best shows streaming this month

Drawn-out for TV

The series suffers from unfortunate pacing. This is most apparent when watching episodes weekly, but even when binge-watching, the series can quickly get dull. It’s a shame because The Outsider is a must-watch story trapped in a series that does just enough to keep you engaged per episode.

TIP: If the first 2 episodes of The Outsider don’t grab you, stop watching because the next 8 episodes only have about 4 episodes of content worth watching.

This pacing problem begins at around episode 3 and continues up until the finale. It’s easy to see where the series goes wrong. Too many pointless lingering cinematic shots and scenes of characters procrastinating or being dismissive. Plus every episode has at least a couple of cut-aways showing Ben Mendelsohn smoking or looking perplexed. He’s a great actor but this series needed more purpose and less filler.

CHECK OUT: Must-see modern indie movies streaming this month

Gripping Performances

Despite the pacing issues, don’t dismiss The Outsider. It is a Stephen King adaptation that comes together to create a story worth seeing. None of the episodes are bad, plus every character is interesting and likeable. The best of the bunch is Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo). She is the saving grace during the slow episodes and brings a supernatural intrigue to the series overall.

Other standouts include Jason Bateman as Terry Maitland, his understated and restrained performance fits the bizarre events surrounding his character perfectly. Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is the struggling detective unable to come to terms with the tragedy in his life and the supernatural evidence.

The character Holly Gibney is also in another Stephen King series called Mr. Mercedes. It ran for three seasons on the Audience network and is now available to stream on STARZ.

CHECK OUT: Ranking the best TV shows HBO Max will offer in 2020

4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos

HBO Now and Go do not support 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, or Dolby Atmos. It is expected than HBO Max will support these features and that The Outsider will be available in 4K come May 2020 when the new streaming service releases.

We’ll update this review of HBO’s The Outsider with a verdict on how good the 4k version of the series is.

CHECK OUT: The movies HBO Max must stream at launch in 2020

The Outsider verdict: Chill

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go
  • Created by Richard Price and Stephen King
  • Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Bateman, and Cynthia Erivo

After watching the first three episodes of The Outsider I rated the show as binge-worthy. However, as the series progressed it has kept me engaged, but only just. Therefore HBO’s The Outsider gets a downgrade to Chill status.


Rating reasoning

When updating this review of HBO’s The Outsider and comparing it to Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This, there is a clear difference of objective. The Outsider needs to fill a TV time slot and that means filler shots, scenes et al. This is why The Outsider gets a Chill rating and I Am Not Okay With This is a Binge.

CHECK OUT: Our review of Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This.

The Outsider has a better story and performances but it’s stretched out over a 10-hour series. I Am Not Okay With This just focused on the story and characters, no filler. If The Outsider was 6 episodes it could have been one of the best shows of 2020.

You can stream every episode of The Outsider on HBO Now and Go. Expect The Outsider to be HBO Max when it launches May 2020. Check out The Outsider official trailer below.

“I Am Not Okay With This” Netflix Review: A teen angst upgrade

During SNIPdaily’s Binge Kill Chill podcast (available above), I stated the following:

  • I was tired of teen angst shows.
  • That I wasn’t looking forward to I Am Not Okay With This.
  • And that it was slapped together with ingredients that made The End of the F****** World, IT (reboot), and Stranger Things popular.

In my defense, I’m prone to irrational outbursts just like Sophia Lillis’ character in the show. The only difference between us is that when I rage, I don’t have telekinetic powers, and yes, I do wish that I did.

Two things to know about this Netflix I Am Not Okay With This review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

CHECK OUT: Amazon’s Hunters sucks. If you want to read an irrational rant disguised as a review, click here.

Cliche Central

If you’re here for some analytical depth, you’re in the wrong place. I just say what I think and right now, I think my initial statement was almost perfect.

This series is another teen angst journey, complete with all the usual cliches: Sex, drugs, shitty parents, and even the customary dead one (usually the dad).

It’s clear story plots aren’t the only re-usable aspects in streaming content. Characters are also cut and paste montages from other shows. It’s so déjà vu that even the environments appear over-and-over like Scooby-Doo backdrops. “Oh look, it’s another dull and uninspired town.”

The show does all that in abundance, and for that reason, I wasn’t looking forward to streaming it. When you’ve seen 20 moody teenagers in working class locales, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

Check out the official trailer below:

More than telekinesis

A series is just like a meal: the ingredients, recipe, and chef define how it tastes. For me, the ingredients in I Am Not Okay With This looked good, but the recipe and cooks gave me indigestion.

Having now binged every episode, I can honestly say that show creators Jonathan Entwistle and Christy Hall served up a series that’s surprisingly good. Despite it being “another teen angst journey, complete with all the usual cliches,” and I stand by those words.

What puts this show above others? Three specific elements:

  1. Cliches and stereotypes are hidden behind a narration.
  2. Talking is reserved for those integral to the key character.
  3. Episodes are 20 minutes and the whole series is 7 episodes.

Telekinesis would make the fourth spot on the list, but it’s not one of the reasons I wanted to keep watching. This show is proof that even cliches and stereotypes can turn into something binge-worthy.

CHECK OUT: Mythic Quest on Apple TV+ is both funny and forgetable. Seriously, I was laughing throughout and yet couldn’t tell you anything about the show a day later. Find out more in our review now.

What is it?

In my podcast rant I state The End of the F****** World, IT (reboot), and Stranger Things looked to be this show’s building blocks. I was wrong. Instead, I Am Not Okay With This is Carrie meets Sex Education — and that combination blew me away.

This is the thing: it doesn’t try to revolutionize anything or be something it is not. By this I mean, it knows it is a series, not some political message, or on some social agenda. It wants to entertain, and it does.

I Am Not Okay With This Netflix Review
Credit: Netflix

What does it do well?

The series uses teen angst and cliches to situate its simple romantic entanglement, a budding friendship, and a newly developed superpower. It mashes everything together with narration that keeps the show moving forwards without dwelling on why unnamed Character X is whispering about something in the hallway. It doesn’t care, because it knows we, the audience, don’t.

This focus on the key character helps the series avoid getting bogged down with unnecessary dialogue or events that aren’t directly related to the bigger picture. Everything links beautifully; even the teen angst works because of it.

Furthermore, this streamlining makes the series fly by. There’s no time to notice the cliches and stereotypes, because it’s on fast-forward. It took less than 2.5 hours to binge the entire season, and I did so with a big smile on my face.

CHECK OUT: If you like your supernatural shows slow but epic, then check out The Outsider on HBO. Here’s our review if you want to know what we thought.

4k/HDR/Dolby Atmos

I Am Not Okay With This is in 4K and supports Dolby Vision. It does not, however, support Dolby Atmos, which seems to be a Netflix trend.

I Am Not Okay With This Verdict: Binge

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Created by Jonathan Entwistle and Christy Hall
  • Starring Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff and Sofia Bryant

It’s obvious I liked I Am Not Okay With This in the end. Sophia Lillis’ character Sydney was performed brilliantly. The actress delivered heaps of emotion, and through her perspective, we were able to understand and follow her character’s development to a bloody and brilliant conclusion.

In my opinion, the star of the series was Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley Barber. Yep, the guy who plays Stanley in the IT reboot. His character embodies innocence, naivete, and a desperation to be fashionable in his own way. His kooky persona balances out the anger and emotion delivered by Lillis’ Sydney. Together, with Sofia Bryant’s Dina, the trio make this show a definite binge.

Overall, I Am Not Okay With This belongs up with Sex Education and Stranger Things in terms of quality. Plus, this series is proof that there’s plenty of life left in teenage angst shows — even if I’m tired of them (almost).

CHECK OUT: It’s time to find out what’s on Netflix next month. Here’s a nice simple list, no nonsense, just names and dates for your watchlist convenience.

“Hunters” Amazon Prime Video review: From amazing to comic book waste

Hunters on Amazon Prime Video starts like it means business. It grabs you by the short and curlies, and within 120 seconds, screams into your face, “Watch me!” In this binger’s opinion, it has the best opening to a show in recent memory.

Two things to know about this Amazon Prime Video Hunters review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

CHECK OUT: Netflix The Pharmacist is worth watching for anyone who wants a David vs. Goliath documentary.

A feature-length first episode

The first episode is jam-packed with impeccable character development, action, and twists that not even Al Pacino’s weird-ass accent could stop from being engrossing.

Here’s a quick Hunters synopsis:

“In 1977 New York City […] the Hunters, as they’re known, have discovered that hundreds of high ranking Nazi officials are living among us and conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. The eclectic team of Hunters will set out on a bloody quest to bring the Nazis to justice and thwart their new genocidal plans.”


It sounds bold, and the first episode, where Pacino and Logan Lerman come together, doesn’t let us down. Simply put, Jordan Peele (Get Out) and the unknown David Weil give us one of the best first episodes of 2020.

It’s a 90-minute work of art. It’s an episode that shows, not tells. It has a breakneck pace and a depth of character that every show creator should aspire to. This is how you set up a series. Sadly, the rest of the series isn’t the one promised in the first episode.

CHECK OUT: If you’re a Stephen King fan, don’t miss HBO’s The Outsider. It’s available now.

Hunters Amazon Prime Video
Credit: Amazon Prime Video

What happened next

Episode 2 of Hunters feels like a broken hodgepodge. A Frankenstein monster released by a chop shop studio for TV shows. It’s a massive disappointment, going from a Tarantino-styled, character-driven conspiracy investigation to a shallow comic book show of heroes vs. Nazis.

Those who made the first episode get an A+. The rest of the crew get a timeout like naughty boys and girls. The biggest issue is that David Weil, the show creator gave us 90 minutes to become emotionally involved with Pacino and Lerman. He then throws several more characters at us to digest in an hour. It changes the show dynamic, and there is no recovery from there.

Too many characters spoil the broth

If these characters are important enough to be included, some of them should have been in the first episode. Instead, we get a disjointed second episode where bits and pieces of backstory poorly pitch strangers to us. It’s boring, and by the end we’re in a repetitive loop, because this format goes on to be the norm.

By the end, it felt like two different productions: A 90-minute movie and a comic book-style series. One is great, the other is unoriginal, and together it’s a mashup that’s not worth your time. Save yourself nine hours and just watch the first episode.

CHECK OUT: For another show with a great first episode, check out Netflix’s Dracula, made by the Sherlock creators.

Watering down

A big problem with the series is that it just feels watered down. It doesn’t have the depth or dialogue of the opening episode. There are too many Hunters who need to be showcased, and we end up suffering for it. From waffling exposition, to comic book-like cliche sequences, the longer the show goes on, the worse it gets. It’s not bad acting, it’s just shallow, predictable, and loses its menace.

What’s bizarre is how it manages to go from being one show to another so quickly. There is no evolution, it just happens. Like they swapped out the creative A-Team for the D-Squad. If they focused on Pacino and Lerman’s war criminal hunt, and introduced new characters gradually, it could have worked.

In the end, the quality of the initial episode becomes a distant memory. Nine hours of weak cliches, stereotypes, and predictability will do that.

CHECK OUT: Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is great but not its best.

4k/HDR/Dolby Atmos

Hunters on Amazon Prime Video looks fantastic in 4K with HDR. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos.

Hunters verdict: Kill

  • Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
  • Created by David Weil
  • Starring Logan Lerman, Al Pacino and Lena Olin

A show gets greenlighted based on the strength of its pilot episode. So, perhaps Mr Weil came up with a killer first episode, and then Amazon Prime Video decided Hunters needed a dumbed down comic book twist? That’s my theory, and I’m sticking by it.

If you’ve watched Hunters, let us know your thoughts on Facebook, or check out the official Amazon Prime Video trailer below.

“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” Apple TV+ review

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is now available to stream on Apple TV+. Here’s our quick overview:

  • Mythic Quest has the setup of Silicon Valley, the comedy style of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and is set in the gaming industry.
  • The show doesn’t take itself seriously, and manages to be entertaining while having fun with issues in the industry.
  • Every episode of Mythic Quest is available to stream now.

CHECK OUT: See where Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet ranked on our “most wanted shows this month” list

Two things to know about this Apple TV+ Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

Barely memorable

While watching the show, I wrote in my notes “nothing memorable.” One day after, I couldn’t remember anything but the shovel gags. It’s obviously a negative, but at the same time, the show entertained me enough to binge all nine episodes in one sitting. Many other shows, including Netflix’s well-hyped Locke & Key, failed to do that.

CHECK OUT: Apple TV+ has more subscribers than Disney+ and Hulu

Rest assured, there are laugh-out-loud moments, unlike HBO’s Avenue 5. Plus, it’s not a repetitive mess like Netflix’s Medical Police. Even the performances are great, unlike Apple’s Truth Be Told. So why isn’t it memorable?

My only thought is that with so many great shows available, it’s harder for decent shows like Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet to stand out.

Built on the industry

Show creator Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) has taken the key roles in a game studio and over-exaggerated them 100 times over. It’s the exact same setup as Silicon Valley, which pairs the real-world tech industry with outlandish character traits and delivers great comedy. The difference is, Silicon Valley became a hit in 2014 — long before Netflix and Co. were delivering big shows monthly.

CHECK OUT: Apple TV+ is a contender for NFL’s streaming Sunday ticket

This doesn’t take away from the interesting characters, quirks, and skewed real-world scenarios Mythic Quest delivers. It’s just not big and bold enough to leave a lasting impression.

Sadly, this isn’t something they can easily fix in Season 2, which has already been renewed. At best, it will be more of the same, and that’s fine for filler.

A little bit of everything

The show begins as the studio is about to release the long-awaited expansion to its hugely popular online game. The blend of characters ranges from the narcissistic, self-absorbed, weak-willed and sociopathic.

This mix gives the show different opportunities when exploring scenarios like women in gaming, streamer influence, and crunch-time chaos. What’s refreshing about Mythic Quest is that they don’t try and give solutions — they just have fun.

CHECK OUT: MGM looms large in Apple TV+ and Netflix’s streaming future

The best way this reviewer can describe Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is by saying it’s a popcorn show. It’s not something any of us will be looking back on in 10 months when writing up “Best of” lists, but for the four hours it runs, it’s entertaining.

Mythic Quest Raven's Banquet review
Credit: Apple and Ubisoft

4k/HDR/Dolby Atmos

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet looks and sounds fantastic in 4K, with Dolby Vision and Atmos. This is something Apple TV+ has gotten right with their service: their commitment to super-high streaming standards.

Mythic Quest Raven’s Banquet verdict: Chill

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on Apple TV+
  • Created by Rob McElhenney and David Gordon Green
  • Starring Rob McElhenney, Elisha Henig, and Craig Mazin

Don’t be put off by the Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet trailer. The show isn’t goofy or some social agenda trip. If you’re a gamer or geek, then you should give the show a chance. It does a good job of taking the industry to task with some smart satire and over-the-top characters.

CHECK OUT: Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories is coming soon

The biggest issue this show has is that it’s not memorable. You’ll have a decent time while watching and the episodes are short to binge, yet it just doesn’t compete with better shows that are available.

If you’re a gamer, it could easily be binge-worthy. For me, a former gamer and previous games industry employee, the show is filler between other great shows, including The Outsider and The Witcher.

Check out the trailer below, or follow this link for how to join up to Apple TV+.

“Locke & Key” Netflix review: A wrecking ball to the source material

Locke & Key is now available to stream on Netflix. Here’s our quick overview:

  • The Netflix show is based on Joe Hill’s award-winning graphic novel series of the same name. Joe Hill, who is Stephen King’s son, also wrote the first episode of the show.
  • The creative team behind the series includes Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House), Carlton Cuse (The Strain), and Aron Eli Coliete (Heroes). All are experienced and talented show creators.
  • All 10 episodes of Locke & Key are now available on Netflix in 4K with Dolby Vision.

CHECK OUT: See where Locke & Key ranked on our “most wanted shows this month” list

Two things to know about this Netflix Locke & Key review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

This isn’t Locke & Key

Locke & Key was the show I was looking forward to watching and reviewing the most this month. With fantastic source material and an experienced creative team, it seemed destined to be in 2020’s Top 10. Unfortunately, with each episode watched, I thought, “This isn’t right.”

CHECK OUT: The best Stephen King adaptations available to stream now

Compared to the graphic novel, the show is sterile. For whatever reason, Locke & Key was downgraded from an ingenious and gruesome graphic novel to just another teenage drama. Whoever had the bright idea to make this for a PG-13 audience should be put in a corner with a dunce hat on.

My hopes were high after The Witcher, as Netflix took that source material and made a fantastic TV series without trying to make it for a broader audience. There would have been a revolution if they had messed with it. This begs the question: where’s the revolt over what was done to Locke & Key?

If you’re coming to Netflix’s Locke & Key from the fantastic graphic novels, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. It’s not the same.

Locke & Key on Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Size matters

Making Locke & Key PG-13 is bad enough, but that’s not the only problem. It is also slow. So slow, it lost my 15-year-old daughter’s interest before the end of Episode 1, and she’s a supernatural teen drama fanatic.

CHECK OUT: The best Stanley Kubrick movies you can stream right now

No matter which way you slice it, this supernatural teen drama is average at best. This isn’t prejudice against teen-driven shows — Sex Education is one of my favorite shows. The recently released low-budget Ragnarok had me hooked, too. A teen drama can be great when done well — it just isn’t with Locke & Key.

Having watched all 10 episodes of the show, Netflix could have made a better show if they had cut it down to six episodes. They could’ve trimmed away much of the school interaction, and refined it around the star of the show: the keys.

A watered-down adaptation

This is what happens when you adapt a widely beloved story: you have to cater content suitable to the audience you’re now targeting. The issue is that Locke & Key didn’t prioritize quality. Instead, we get cliche antics, with simplistic dialogue dumbing down the characters, all in the name of reaching a wider audience.

CHECK OUT: The best Netflix movies you can stream right now

It’s not constantly bad, though. There are moments when things work; glimpses of what could have been. But overall, much of the show ends up one-dimensional, oversimplified, and predictable. This just makes it worst when something clever happens with the keys. It’s nagging throughout, and heartbreaking for anyone that is a fan of the graphic novel.

Locke & Key verdict: Kill

  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Created by Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House) and Joe Hill
  • Starring Darby Stanchfield (Scandal), Connor Jessup (Falling Skies), and Emilia Jones (Utopia)

Someone who has no knowledge of the graphic novels might call this binge-worthy. It has high-end production value, and the acting makes what it can with the plot. Overall, the story is coherent, but Locke & Key should have been so much more.

CHECK OUT: The 10 shows teenagers stream in secret and why it might not be that bad

The big question is, why didn’t they just make Locke & Key for TV? One thing is certain: it’s a missed opportunity for Netflix.

Check out the trailer for Locke & Key below, or let us know your review of the show on social media. The links are below.

Netflix “The Pharmacist” review: A moving David vs. Goliath docuseries

The Pharmacist is now available to stream on Netflix. Here’s our quick overview:

  • It starts with a father’s obsession to solve his son’s murder in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
  • His obsessions uncover a massive pill mill, and take us on a story of government corruption, ignorance, and ineptitude.
  • It’s a four-part docuseries that shows the power and influence one person can have, and the ramifications thereafter.

Two things to know about this Netflix The Pharmacist review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

CHECK OUT: See where The Pharmacist ranked on our “most wanted shows this month” list

A big can of worms

The story of Dan Schneider, The Pharmacist is explosive. There is no better word to describe the events within this docuseries. The progression from senseless murder to the opioid epidemic shows how actions have big consequences.

Movies and books have tried to give a narrative to this, but The Pharmacist does it best. Each episode is its own, contained segment of a bigger story. With each new episode, there is a new angle or hurdle that has to be overcome. The obsession of Dan Schneider is our vehicle as we’re shown, through his suffering, the collapse of a real community.

This docuseries can be summed up with this saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. By the end of the fourth episode, you’ll understand why.

The Pharmacist Netflix Review
Credit: Netflix. Image of Dan Schneider from The Pharmacist.

CHECK OUT: See what else is new on Netflix this month

Who this docuseries is for

This is not a docuseries with a happy ending. It’s a realistic take on big problems that will inspire and disgust in equal measure. At no point does it hide from what happened— flaws are shown and ignorance amplified with lingering shots.

If you want to see an American hero, who battled through adversity and his own demons, this is for you.

If you want to see a David vs. Goliath story, where a pharmacist takes down a billion-dollar company, this docuseries is for you.

If you want to see how a God-loving man, with good intentions, is the catalyst for an epidemic, watch The Pharmacist now.

CHECK OUT: The best free streaming services available now

4k/HDR/Dolby Atmos

The Pharmacist looks and sounds fantastic in 4K and Dolby Vision. Unfortunately, the docuseries does not support Dolby Atmos.

The Pharmacist verdict: Binge

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Created by The Cinemart
  • Based on Dan Schneider

From the subject matter to the production quality, The Pharmacist is perfect. There are no lulls, no weak moments, and it fits together to tell an engrossing real-world story.

Having watched Netflix’s The Pharmacist in one sitting, this reviewer highly recommends the docuseries. Definitely add it to your watchlist and binge at your first opportunity.

Check out the official The Pharmacist trailer below.

HBO “Avenue 5” review: “Spaceballs” without the comedy

Avenue 5 combines Armando Iannucci (Veep), HBO, and Hugh Laurie (House) into a science fiction series this stream-addict couldn’t wait to review. Unfortunately, Avenue 5 takes a big wrong turn into Kill-ville.

Two things to know about this review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free.
  2. This review is based on the first episode only.

CHECK OUT: The best shows streaming this month

Iannucci is lost in space

Armando Iannucci, creator of the highly regarded and truly hilarious Veep, has punched himself in the nuts with Avenue 5. The writing is bad, the setup is uninteresting, and the acting is uninspired. All-in-all, Avenue 5 would be better crash landing in Episode 2 and putting everyone out of their misery.

As a fan of many of this show’s ingredients — HBO, Hugh Laurie, Iannucci himself, et al — the only logical conclusion this reviewer can give is that he’s trying to derail his credibility, This is the guy who co-wrote and directed The Death of Stalin, a funny, smart, and witty movie. Avenue 5 is none of those things.

The only other scenario is that Iannucci’s talent got lost in space, i.e. he can’t do science fiction.

CHECK OUT: Must-see modern indie movies streaming this month

Feeling sorry for Hugh Laurie

It would be easy to pass the buck onto the cast, but it’s unfair and inaccurate. The simple way to spot who is to blame if a show stinks is if all the cast looks lost. Then, the problem isn’t the acting, but the direction and production.

In Avenue 5, every person on the screen looks uninspired, almost confused, and even a little embarrassed. It’s reminiscent of the Star Wars prequel movies, where superstars looked like wooden marionettes.

I felt sorry for Christopher Lee in the Star Wars prequel movies, and throughout Episode 1 of Avenue 5, I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for Hugh Laurie. A fantastic actor who knows comedy timing like the back of his hand: stuck in this, the most implausibly unfunny show imaginable.

CHECK OUT: Ranking the best TV shows HBO Max will offer in 2020

It’s just not funny

Yoga in space, a gravity fluctuation, a communication delay, and some customer service wranglings as a cruise around Saturn turns into a 3-year prison sentence. That is the setup, and despite watching the episode twice, I cannot find one funny sequence.

At this point, despite writing this review for HBO’s Avenue 5, I don’t know what kind of comedy this is meant to be. It’s not slapstick, despite one scene’s giant bouncing yoga balls. It’s not satirical, despite another scene being about fake marketing. The best way to describe Avenue 5 is that it’s Spaceballs, without the funny parts.

CHECK OUT: The movies HBO Max must stream at launch in 2020

4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos

HBO Now and Go do not support 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, or Dolby Atmos. It is expected than HBO Max will support these features and that Avenue 5 will be available in 4K come May 2020 when the new streaming service releases.

Avenue 5 verdict: Kill

  • Streaming on HBO Now and Go
  • Created by Armando Iannucci
  • Starring Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, and Zach Woods

This should have been a fantastic show, but it’s a disaster — even worse than Netflix’s Medical Police. At least in the Netflix comedy series, there were some funny moments, albeit all of them used in the show’s trailer.

The biggest negative is that some of the actors like Josh Gad (Little Monsters) and Zach Woods (Silicon Valley) may end up having their careers irreversibly stained by this show. It really is that bad.

The biggest question is, how and why did HBO greenlight the series after this pilot episode? Simply put, it’s not up to HBO’s typical ridiculously high standard.

If you want a strong space comedy, check out Red Dwarf — or, if you’re feeling brave, you can check out the Avenue 5 official trailer below.

CBS All Access “Star Trek: Picard” review: Jean-Luc’s back

As a self-confessed Star Wars fanboy, I wasn’t really interested in Star Trek: Picard, so writing a review could have ended up biased. However, having watched the first episode on CBS All Access, it’s impossible to come away and not want to watch more.

Two things to know about this review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free.
  2. This review is based on the first episode only.

Here’s a link to the opening episode, which is available to stream for free on YouTube for a limited time.

CHECK OUT: The best shows streaming this month

Looks better than expected

Star Trek: Picard has some beautiful settings. For example, Jean-Luc’s vineyard is both vibrant and expansive. However, what stands out is the mix of reality and futuristic technology. It’s fantastically cool. This mix happens across most locations visited during the first episode, keeping this reviewer’s curiosity piqued.

It’s almost perfect until large visual effects dominate the screen. It’s in these rare moments that Star Trek: Picard doesn’t hold up visually against some of the recent super-big-budget shows. It is a minor issue, yet it can occasionally break immersion.

CHECK OUT: Must-see modern indie movies streaming this month

The first episode: Almost perfect

Despite this visual issue, my enthusiasm for the show grew throughout the episode. At this point, I can’t help but think the 45 minutes spent watching Picard was a better use of time than the six-plus hours I wasted on the latest Star Wars trilogy.

My biggest takeaway from Episode 1 is that Patrick Stewart makes this a must-see show. It’s understandable why Star Trek fans put the actor on a pedestal; he has depth and likeability on-screen. His old man full of guilt performance is top-draw, and the science fiction story surrounding him makes it a compelling pilot episode.

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Patrick Stewart carrying the show?

There’s no doubt Star Trek: Picard Episode 1 is a home run. It titillates visually (for the most part), and it introduces the start of a story arc that science fiction fans will want to see more of. It definitely makes me, a Star Wars fan, want to watch at least Episode 2.

The concern I have for Star Trek: Picard is that it’s reliant on Patrick Stewart to a fault. His costars seem to be delivering performances on the TV soap side of acting. For instance, Isa Briones, who plays a key role in the episode (and show probably), is fantastic in the action scenes, but has moments that reminded me of Joey Tribbiani’s “smell the fart” acting. This is adequate while Stewart is on screen, but what about episodes when he’s not on screen 90 percent of the time?

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4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos

Unfortunately, Star Trek: Picard is only streaming in HD with 5.1 sound. There is no 4K version available with HDR, Dolby Vision, or Dolby Atmos currently.

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 verdict: Binge

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on CBS All Access
  • Created by Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer
  • Starring Patrick Stewart, Santiago Cabrera, and Alison Pill

This reviewer gives the first episode of Star Trek: Picard a big thumbs up. I do have a genuine concern that this show is resting on the shoulders of an 80-year old and it doesn’t have the budget it needed, yet in terms of a science fiction season opener, it is almost perfect.

My original preconception about Star Trek was, except for the rebooted movies starring Chris Pine, it looks like a cheesy Star Wars on a shoestring budget. Consider this prejudice trashed.

Check out the Star Trek: Picard official trailer below.

Netflix “Sex Education” Season 2 review: Shakespeare will never be the same

Season 2 of Netflix’s Sex Education is now available to stream.

This season could, and perhaps should, have been an Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve (Emma Mackay) love story. Instead, we’re given a growing ensemble of characters that delays what we all want to see happen.

Despite this, Season 2 is bold, poignant and every bit as good as the first.

Two things to know about this review:

  1. We aim to be 100% spoiler-free, so this is all opinion.
  2. We watched the whole series, not just an episode like other websites.

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Unexpected arcs

The big change from Season 1 to 2 is that the focus has moved heavily onto relationships. Not all are romantic, but friendship, family, and unity is put on a pedestal, as is telling the truth. It sounds sappy, but it’s delivered perfectly across the shows eight 50-minute episodes.

Season 2 takes us away from expectations set up in the first season and never gives us the payoff we really want. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

The biggest surprise is that despite veering away from expectations, the season manages to bring us back to the main reason most of us are binging: Otis and Maeve.

For many, this season might end up being considered filler, but having binged all episodes, this is a journey Otis and Co. needed to take. It builds on the first season and should lead to a bigger payoff in Season 3.

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A season without a payoff

There are many outlandish scenarios in Season 2, with oranges and Shakespeare being the most obvious victims of the show’s creativity (neither will ever be the same). The worst victim, however, is Season 3, because adding a potential new love triangle for Maeve is an issue.

This bombshell complicates how Season 3 might be paced. Right now, we fans need that main story arc payoff since Season 2 had conclusions to everything but Otis and Maeve. Simply put, we cannot wait another eight episodes.

Regardless of how good Season 1 and 2 are, Season 3 should be the last in this “will they, won’t they” Otis and Maeve arc. If this new love triangle delays that payoff again, it will be the last time I binge on the show hoping for a satisfying conclusion.

Despite this concern, Season 2 is a brilliantly told story of acceptance through the eyes of numerous well-developed characters.

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4k/HDR/Dolby Atmos

Sex Education Season 2 looks and sounds fantastic in 4K, with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos fully supported.

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Sex Education Season 2 verdict: Binge

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Created by Laurie Nunn
  • Starring Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa and Emma Mackay

Sex Education gives us an opportunity to see what most people don’t talk about. It takes on personal and private aspects of the real world, and not only provides solutions but countless laugh out loud moments.

The combination of great characters, real-world problems, and engrossing personal journeys come together to create a show that is a perfect example of how to tackle social issues without being preachy or pushing blame. Nothing is sacred, nothing is off-limits, and Season 2 is compelling because of it.

Some may say Season 2 was eight episodes of filler that only delay the inevitable. They’re right, but in nearly seven hours of entertainment, the only negative is that we didn’t get the expected payoff. Now that’s what I call amazing filler.

Check out the official Sex Education Season 2 trailer below.

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“Killer Inside” review: Aaron Hernandez Netflix series is problematic

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is a Netflix documentary that draws a complicated portrait of the late NFL star. It’s a somewhat compelling series, but it feels problematic in a variety of ways.

The story covers Hernandez’s childhood and football career at the University of Florida and with the New England Patriots. Red flags abound in his backstory, yet his talent and production on the gridiron allowed him to maintain a disturbing double life, culminating in multiple murders and his own suicide.

Let’s break down Netflix’s Killer Inside in more detail. This will contain spoilers for the docuseries.

The way in: Hernandez’s domestic turmoil, CTE

One way the three-episode narrative tries to generate empathy for Hernandez is through his extensive injury issues, as he was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease CTE after his death. That’s really not at the forefront until the last 10 minutes of the series. A larger focus is placed on how he grew up.

His father, Dennis, was a running back at Bristol High School and respected in the community. However, it’s revealed in the first episode he had a violent streak, and once slammed his wife’s head into a sink until she was unconscious.

Dennis died during routine hernia surgery, which crushed Hernandez, as he was close to his father, despite his domestic abuse. Thereafter, his mother began a relationship with his older cousin’s husband, who then moved into the Hernandez family home.

The father of Hernandez’s high school quarterback is interviewed throughout, and really drives home how this development rocked the teenager’s world. It led him to stay with his cousin, Tanya Singleton, who became a motherly figure to him.

Upon living with his cousin, Hernandez befriended Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, who would later be his accomplices in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

A dubious handling of the sexuality subplot

Hernandez’s quarterback at Bristol, Dennis SanSoucie, describes how the two had a sexual relationship, and much of the docuseries hones in on how Hernandez repressed his homosexuality. But it’s all so speculative. A former gay Patriots player, Ryan O’Callaghan offers his opinions to support that thesis, but it all felt a little cheap.

SanSoucie details how Bristol High frowned upon kids who came out of the closet, himself included. Of course, the macho, hyper-masculine nature of football can be perceived a good “cover,” and it was for O’Callaghan.

Nevertheless, again, it all feels speculative. Who’s to say either way? It’s a little too inferred that Hernandez’s homosexuality compounded all the issues in his life, rather than a fact that’s really understood by anyone from his life.

That is, until third and final episode finally sheds more light on the issue. It features a clip of his brother, DJ, talking about how Hernandez was sexually abused as a child. That abuse, Hernandez believed, made him confused about his sexuality, and led to his anger problems.

Withholding that extremely vital information until the finale takes one aback for two reasons. One, all the homosexuality speculation in the prior episodes, especially the first, doesn’t feel connected to anything. Two, it feels like a manipulation of information just to have some clever reveal or payoff.

It’s somewhat similar to how the CTE thread of the story is handled, and how Hernandez’s frontal lobe — which informs decision-making — was damaged in a way doctors hadn’t seen before in such a young man. The CTE coverage at least makes more sense, since the story proceeds through Hernandez’s life chronologically for the most part.

A fiancée in denial

Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, happened to be the sister of Lloyd’s girlfriend. Jenkins’ loyalty to Hernandez is a big point of emphasis. One story beat implies she aided in disposing evidence The jury didn’t see her as a reliable witness, because she had no intention of giving up her husband-to-be.

This all in spite of the fact that Hernandez was implicated in a separate murder case while the Lloyd trial played out. Another indictment for a 2012 double homicide, though Hernandez was ultimately acquitted in 2017.

A lot of audio comes from phone conversations between Shayanna Jenkins and Hernandez while he’s in prison. She passes up a close relationship with her sister and sides with her fiancee instead. They also have a daughter together, which definitely complicates things.

Whatever was happening in their relationship, based on what’s depicted in Killer Inside, it was clear to anyone who knew Hernandez at all closely he was running with the wrong crowds, engaging in illegal activities, doing drugs often, drinking heavily and was prone to episodes of anger and violent behavior.

Additionally, Jenkins sticks with Hernandez even after his conviction.

Final Netflix Killer Inside verdict: Chill

SNIPdaily Review
  • Streaming on Netflix
  • Directed by Geno McDermott
  • Starring Kevin Armstrong, Dan Wetzel, Patrick Haggan

Overall, this docuseries holds a viewer’s attention rather well — at least for the first episode and a half. The story is ultimately tragic for everyone involved.

It’s understandable to try to draw a sympathetic portrait of someone in light of CTE and being a victim of a variety of domestic abuses, both personally and as a witness. Between the physical and emotional trauma, Hernandez was obviously dealing with a lot. It didn’t help that his surrogate mother raised him around unsavory influences.

All that said, between the sexuality storyline’s handling and the numerous, horrific acts Hernandez committed, Killer Inside almost feels like it’s reaching at times to side with Hernandez. It feels manipulative at times, and it’s unnecessary.

Perhaps the most jarring part stems from SanSoucie’s father, as touched on before, talking up the super close relationship between Aaron and Dennis Hernandez.

Sure, the former’s mother’s affair with a family member was hard on him. Yet, it also overlooks how disturbing it is that Hernandez was seen as so close to a vicious, alcoholic, abusive father. That sounds more like a traumatic father-son bond. SanSoucie’s father never addresses this further.

In any event, Hernandez’s life was tumultuous, duplicitous and unnerving. If you love true crime stories, maybe Netflix’s Killer Inside is more for you. It gets a “Chill” from me — and while the substance is there, the execution is, well, the headline says it: problematic.

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