“Umbrella Academy” Season 2!

SPOILERS FOR UMBRELLA ACADEMY SEASON 1 AHEAD. BEWARE.

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The final scene of Netflix’s first season of Umbrella Academy is one that inspires a sinking feeling of dread and depression, and eventually anger, frustration, and impatience. You watch the seven beloved members of the Hargreeves family of superheroes, plus fan-favorite couple Hazel and Agnes, vanish through time-vortexes mere seconds before the world is utterly obliterated by a piece of the moon. And then…the screen goes black. I don’t know about you, but that ending drove me insane. Not because it’s bad (it’s fantastic), but because it makes you desperately want more.

Like, now. Right now.

But no, instead we have to wait forever for Season 2 to finally arrive on Netflix: there are a billion questions we have, and none of them will get answered until next year, at the earliest. Thankfully, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen indications that Season 2 is going to start filming very soon, maybe even this month.

First, we know that the script for at least the first episode is completed, because writer Steve Blackman posted a picture on his Instagram of the script, titled “Right Back Where We Started”. That lends extra credence to the idea that the Academy will be traveling back to the time when they were kids: as the family time-traveled in Season 1, we watched them almost morph into younger versions of themselves, though it was difficult to tell if this was some sort of temporary thing, or if they would be actually transformed back into children. Since the adult actors are still confirmed to star in Season 2, the latter seems somewhat unlikely – though it’s possible we might see the adult versions and the child versions both existing simultaneously. “Right Back Where We Started” also implies that our heroes will be reunited with the man who literally started their whole cycle of disaster and catastrophic violence: their abusive and dispassionate father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves – who was kind-of-maybe-sort-of implied to be an alien in the first season’s finale.

A few days ago, it was again hinted that Umbrella Academy Season 2 is soon to begin filming, with Business Times also pessimistically reporting that it could take about…18 months before we actually see said Season 2 on Netflix: i.e., sometime around late 2020 or early 2021.

But we have so many questions! Vanya is in an unstable condition (having just blown up the moon and the earth), Allison can’t speak and thus can’t use her powers (and is probably also going to be reeling from losing her daughter in the apocalypse), Hazel and Agnes are hopefully safe in some other time and dimension…there’s a lot going on. Is Ben possibly coming back from the dead, after being given tangible form through Klaus’ powers? Are Allison and Luther actually going to end up together? Did Cha-Cha really die, or will she come back too? Is there someone greater than The Handler, and will we finally find out where she – and all the other time-traveling assassins – came from?

Today, we got another clue from Instagram, specifically from actor Aidan Gallagher, who portrays the enigmatic and sarcastic Number Five on the show. His official location is now “Toronto, Ontario” where Umbrella Academy will be filming, and he posted a picture of the city, with the caption “Season two starts now!”. It might not be official confirmation, but it’s good enough for me. I’ll take any tidbit of hope that I can get, at this point. I’m going to cautiously predict that Season 2 will indeed start filming this very month, and we’ll start to (maybe) get some vague answers to some of our burning questions.

What are you excited to see from Season 2 of Umbrella Academy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Wine Country” Movie Review!

Get ready to clear a space in your itinerary for this brilliantly funny day-in-the-life story. The premise of Wine Country is simple – a group of women come together in Napa Valley for a birthday party, but soon find themselves arguing bitterly and turning on each other, as their frantic schedule of wine-tasting, sightseeing and accidental art shows becomes too much for them to handle. Hysterical mayhem ensues.

The writing is what makes Wine Country so appealing: the dialogue is hilarious, but extremely real. All the subtle movements of conversation, the awkward pauses, the interruptions, the mumbled whispers: they’re all there. The situations in which the women find themselves are always real – whether they’re discovering the meaning of life in the eyes of a raccoon, or a stranger in the house wielding a dead cuttlefish. It was one particular scene, early in the film, when the group goes out to a restaurant, that confirmed to me that the writing was perfect – that scene was identical to many family reunions I’ve attended.

However, it’s not until the tarot-card reader arrives that the movie suddenly…has a plot. Up until that point, the story is episodic and uneventful, we have no clear grasp on the characters, and we don’t even really get the sense that they’re stressed out – well, except Catherine, but we’ll get to her in a moment. But after the cards have been read, leaving them all with a deep sense of dread and impending death, the women are suddenly at each others’ throats, and the plot suddenly jumps into action and doesn’t ever slow down again. This might have been jarring, if the tarot-card scene hadn’t been phenomenal. Lady Sunshine (Cherry Jones), their reader, is one of the standouts in Wine Country, with her deadpan delivery of depressing news and her chipper smile as she announces the price of the reading. This scene is one of the best in the movie, and really jump-starts everything that happens next – as the women inevitably take the message of the cards to heart.

As for the women themselves, they work best when they’re a team, but they’re worth talking about individually because a lot of them really are that good. Obviously, I have to mention Amy Poehler and Tina Fey first, but I’d really rather not. Fey is just fine as Tammy, the rough-and-tough cowgirl who acts as a mentor to the women, and she manages to get some impactful and funny material to work with, but her performance is, for the most part, uninspiring. Poehler is great to begin with, playing Abby, the group leader and party planner who makes it her responsibility to get her team moving frenetically around Napa – but then somewhere in the third act her character just seems to dry up, and Poehler’s acting became forced and cringey: she tries to have an emotional monologue about climate change and first-world-problems, but it sounds unnatural and scripted – a lot of the best acting in the movie is that which feels improvised, and Poehler’s often doesn’t.

Maya Rudolph and Paula Pell, however, have a lot more to offer: Rudolph’s character Naomi is irreverent and relateable – even as she struggles with personal issues. Each character has a moment in the spotlight, and Naomi’s is definitely her drunken birthday-speech where she manages to fall off a piano – or is it her third-act encounter with a poisonous snake? Or perhaps the scene where she confesses how terrified she is of death? She has a lot of great moments. Pell has almost as many, playing the confident, boisterous, and energetic Val, who falls in love with a modern artist and then has to deal with the fall-out.

Catherine and Rebecca, are the best characters on the team, memorably portrayed by Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch, respectively. Gasteyer’s workaholic character is the outcast in the group, constantly leaving to take important calls or trying to convince her friends to do things none of them want to do. Dratch, on the other hand, plays the timid life-coach and birthday girl, whose attempts to keep her friends in check by offering them “feedback” only succeed in making her the target for all their pent-up anger and resentment.

Meanwhile, Emily Spivey portrays Jenny, the final member of the team, who has virtually nothing to do. For what it’s worth, she does a good job with what she’s got, but the role is so underwritten it’s hard to tell.

Wine Country manages to pack a delightfully entertaining punch, even with a few missteps in pacing and character development. Add it to your schedule if you’re looking for a hilarious comedy about friendship, loyalty, and female bonding, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Napa Valley’s rolling hills and vineyards.

Movie Rating: 8.5/10

“Unicorn Store” Movie Review!

Last night, I had the opportunity to watch the Netflix movie Unicorn Store, which stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Joan Cusack, as well as being Larson’s directorial debut. There’s a lot to say about it.

This movie’s trailers marketed it as a feel-good piece, and it is that – but not all the time. Unicorn Store seems, in fact, unable to decide what genre it wants to be, as it jumps from feel-good to drama to theater-of-the-absurd. It seems to always understand that its premise is wacky and bizarre, best-suited to a wacky and bizarre approach, but it never seems fully committed to being that abstract masterpiece that it wants to be. The tone, and thus the plot, shift awkwardly and uncertainly as the movie tries to be all three genres at once. When it’s absurd, you might have a lady walking around at night carrying a floor-lamp, talking about professional single women being murdered – when it tries to be dramatic, you’ve got emotional and very powerful dialogue between a mother and her daughter – then, when it wants to make you feel good, you’ve got Brie Larson’s character Kit doing an uplifting dance-number with her coworkers. But these shifts always feel peculiar. The delivery man who delivers a mysterious invitation to Kit in the first act seems like an enigmatic character himself – but then, we find out in the third act that he’s just misunderstood and looked down on, and, in fact, he likes to do crossword puzzles, and read. The film’s score takes the opposite journey, from a strangely ominous and eerie sound in the first act, to being light-hearted and cheerful in the third.

Brie Larson makes this movie shine, however, when she feels comfortable being absurd: when Samuel L. Jackson rides in on a scooter, or when Kit and her family sit down to a dinner of kale – these moments are the best, because they don’t try to be anything other than what they are, which is crazy good fun. The humor is brilliant: the troop-circle camping scene is my favorite part of the film, and features some incredible acting from Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford, who plays Kit’s mother and father.

Cusack, in fact, is the stand-out performance in this movie, as she elevates every scene she appears in, and always has perfect comedic timing. Every time she wasn’t onscreen, I found myself wanting her to return. Unfortunately, she is used sparingly – as is, rather surprisingly, Samuel L. Jackson himself, who plays The Salesman, the man in charge of The Store. Jackson makes the movie crazier and wackier, but the script doesn’t seem to know what to do with him by the end.

This same problem is evident with many of the film’s subplots, of which there are far too many. There’s Kit’s boss, Gary (Hamish Linklater), who is both deadpan and cryptically creepy; there’s the Mystic Vacuums, which dominate so much of the film’s second act; there’s characters like Crystal and Sabrina (Martha MacIsaac), and the aforementioned delivery man, or Kevin, or the other kids on the Emotion Quest camping trip, all of whom look like they’re intended to be cartoonish caricatures, which would be fine and funny, until the movie suddenly decides it wants to do something with them – and then never does. Unicorn Store would definitely have worked a lot better without some of these subplots.

The only side character given enough screen-time is Virgil (Mamoudou Athie), the janitor at the hardware store who is at first suspicious of Kit, and begins to question her sanity. His journey with Kit is a good counterbalance to the craziness and bizarre stuff going on around them, as he tries to navigate the half-fantasy, half-reality environment in which he lives.

The fantasy elements of the movie, namely the Unicorn itself, are peculiar: mainly because the fantasy appears to be metaphorical at first, until it becomes apparent that, no, there really is a unicorn. The resolution to the Unicorn’s story is a spoiler, so I won’t go into detail save to say that it was something of a letdown for me. I can see where it made sense, but I was disappointed and wanted more. The whole reason that the Unicorn exists in the first place is never explained: we are told that Kit always wanted a Unicorn in her childhood, but we get just one montage of flashbacks in the opening scene, and it’s entirely focused on her art – not on Unicorns. And her art is another subplot that the movie drops along the way.

Overall, Unicorn Store manages to entertain, and is wickedly funny, when it feels comfortable being what it takes for granted that it already is. It’s worth watching for the humor, and for Larson and Cusack’s wonderful performances. But it’s odd that, for a movie ostensibly about accepting who you are, Unicorn Store somehow falls short of doing that, and instead tries to be too many genres, all at once.

Movie Rating: 6.5/10

Unicorn Store Trailer Review!

Can every movie just be about the beautiful chemistry between Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson?

Seriously, these two are just incredible onscreen. Here, in the trailer for Brie Larson’s directorial debut, Unicorn Store, they are blurring the distinctions between reality and fantasy in an abstract fashion that’s a delight to watch.

Larson plays Kit, a struggling artist who is trying to get along with her family and make a living – and has had to put aside childhood dreams. Jackson plays “The Salesman”, who runs “The Store” – his motto is simply “we sell what you need.”

When The Salesman invites Kit to come to The Store, she finds out that what she needs is…a unicorn. No kidding, a unicorn. Her family objects, as might be expected, and what ensues is not only brilliant hilarity and humor, but also a touching exploration of what it means to embrace your dreams and find your way in life, as Kit tries to make her dream of owning a unicorn become a reality. People call her crazy, and ask her if maybe she just wants a dog instead, but nothing can stop her from being the person she wants to be.

“Everybody needs some magic in their lives, even if they’re all grown-up,” Kit states in the trailer, and that’s pretty true. But nothing – and I mean nothing – is as magical as seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a very snazzy pink suit, with a glittery afro and large pink glasses. It’s an artist’s dream come to life, and I’m so here for it.

Unicorn Store will debut on Netflix, April 5th.