TV Review: Lovecraft Country (S1) | An Educational Fantasy Journey

I’m a scaredy-cat, I know that about myself and I’m O.K. with it. It’s the reason why I was so reluctant to see Lovecraft Country even though I wanted to watch and review the pilot when it aired. I didn’t. This series nagged at me and I caved. I watched the pilot in broad daylight then watched another then another until I had to wait to see the finale.
Misha Green (Underground) developed this series based on Matt Ruff‘s “Lovecraft Country” which includes elements of H.P. Lovecraft. Green used Ruff’s novel to craft the series and extend upon it, tackling race issues. The show stars Jonathan Majors (Da 5 Bloods, The Last Black Man in San Francisco) and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (BoP, True Blood) as the leads, they are joined by Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us, The Help), Courtney B. Vance (Project Power, Uncorked), Wunmi Mosaku (TEOFW, Philomena), Abbey Lee (The Dark Tower, The Neon Demon), Jamie Chung (The Gifted, Gotham), relative new comer Jada Harris (The Resident, Glee), and Michael K. Williams (Arkansas, 12 Years a Slave, The Wire).

Premise: Lovecraft Country is set in the 1950s and follows a Korean war vet, Atticus Freeman, as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and terrifying monsters.

Review: One of the first thing I noticed is that books and music feature heavily throughout the show. Art in general is as much part of the storytelling than the actions and words of the characters.

First things first, the pilot is excellent. It’s spooky but I leaned a lot. Sundown towns – also the title of the episode – are not something I knew about. I believed it was a real thing because…America, but as someone who grew up outside of the United States. I never learned about it. Whether it is the title of the episodes, the episodes themselves, or the pieces of art (poetry, billboard, music, etc.) featured in them, they are Easter eggs referencing historical events and/or making a commentary on our society. Showcasing a deeper truth about how we lived and how we’re living.

This might sound grim – which is apt for a horror type of show – or a bit of a mess but it works in this show. The mixed between historical facts and fantasy, and many other genres, gives Lovecraft Country a uniqueness and an esthetic of its own. There will be a lot of little things, besides the main story, that will capture your attention. Some of them are made obvious but others are more subtle and that plays into the re-watchability factor of the show. There’s a lot to see and analyse on the show, it’s crazy, some of it is funny, I loved that in a horror piece with black folks, the horror doesn’t stop when the police shows up. It’s a horrible truth but it made me smile as I was cringing because it rang true. Other things are not as funny but necessary, the show does not shy away or merely reference some of the more gruesome American historical events, we got to see some them and it packed one of hell of a punch.

The cast is part of the recipe that makes the whole thing work. They nailed it, I liked and believed Jonathan Majors from the first episode, he’s amazing. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is among the best screaming queen there is – yeah I said it – with a side of real acting chops – I said that too. Wunmi Osaku, Abbey Lee, Jordan Patrick Smith, Mac Brandt, and Jamie Neumann really brought it, they were great, and made their storylines work. Particularly the women, the three of them gives a complex storyline and acted the hell out of it. Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis are kind of the heart of the show, and Michael K. Williams I’ve never done a 360 on a character as fast I did his, I feel for him. Jada Harris and Jamie Chung are impactful and hard to forget with their performances.

The show has great visuals, the visuals effects both compliment and elevate the era its set in. Lovecraft Country takes the audience on magical mystery ride with a great use of history and fiction without negating one for the other. They make it easy to differentiate between facts and fiction while not taking the audience out of the show.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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Insurgent

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Based on the second installment of the Divergent novels by Veronica Roth, the film was directed by Robert Schwentke and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Milles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts & Octavia Spencer.

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Premise: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart.

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Review: Divergent – the first book – was interesting but the first movie was even better, way better if you ask me. They managed to cast great actors and make a realistic futuristic movie. Despite having a different director Insurgent

looks familiar I easily slipped back into a world I was already familiar with. The movie is visually impressive, even though it looks a bit too CGI-ish for my taste, making the film not as grounded as Divergent was so at times it feels like watching a video game or an animated version of it. 

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The acting is OK, I mean it’s a good cast so what they bring to the table fits the story and the emotional journey these characters have been through. But – because of course there is one – Theo James’ (Four) age is seriously starting to show. I know he’s only 30 – and Teller is 28 – but in the first movie it didn’t seem as weird that he’s with Tris (Woodley) but next to 46 years old Naomi Watts, who looks 35, maybe forty, it’s really weird. They look like brothers and sisters at best, they could have aged Watts or cast someone else completely because how young was she when she had him? 12?
It will be even weirder to see her playing opposite Ray Stevenson (Marcus Eaton) – Four’s dad – who’ll look like a dirty old man next to her, which is probably why we’ll see very little of that.

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I wish these aspects of the film were the only ones I had a problem with but on top of all of that Insurgent lacks rhythm. It’s missing the slow, intense build up in which the tension and the action grows to an entertaining climax but it never doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong it is action-packed – kinda -, a rich adventure of a film but whenever the tension builds up it quickly dies down to go back up again at some point and that’s how it is throughout the movie. It comes and goes in waves but never rides on the high the previous action scenes gave you.

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Although, it’s faithful to the book Insurgent was a bit of a disappointment I expected better. It’s only slightly more entertaining than the book, they could have done better. 

What did you think?

Divergent | Review

In honor of Allegiant coming out this week in North America I will be looking back at the movies that came before. So I guess it’s a throwback Tuesday article. Based on Veronica Roth’s novel “Divergent” which was adapted to the silver screen by Neil Burger (Limitless, Billions). Divergent is studded with talented actors among which with have Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, and many more.

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Premise: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

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Review: I first came across the Divergent series in between Pittacus Lore’s Lorien Legacies books. I remember reading book one (Divergent) and two (Insurgent) in a row because I was desperate for something to read. The first novel was interesting enough for me to read the second one but I didn’t fall in love with it, which probably explain why Allegiant – the book – as been collecting dust, untouched, on my bookshelf for years.

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For the first movie, they managed to cast great actors, which was mind-boggling for me at the time, and they made a realistic futuristic film. Watching the movie, I noticed all the bits and pieces that were missing from the book but I didn’t really care. Divergent grounded, had real indie sensibilities, and was entertaining as hell.

I loved every beat, Shailene Woodley carried that film beautifully both on the emotional front and the action scenes. She was believable and took us on great journey with Tris. The rest of the cast did a good job even though some characters were a bit stereotypical and one note but overall it’s good.

Divergent was definitely not movie of the year in 2014 but it’s fun and has re-watchable value at least that’s what I think, what about you guys?