After Life, Space Force, and Just Mercy

Hi there and welcome back! Here are some topical and quick series and movie reviews. All are topical and all will bring out different emotions to the viewer. As always, thanks for reading!

AFTER LIFE SEASON 2

after life 2

Season two of the Netflix original series After Life has returned with Ricky Gervais as grieving widower Tony Johnson, a small-town newspaper writer looking for purpose and happiness after the cancer-related death of wife Lisa (Kerry Goldiman). As Tony struggles to move on, Gervais displays his regular comedic and dramatic chops which make the viewer, at times, simultaneously root for and against Terry.

The cast of small-town, wacky goof balls is also back and there is a great chemistry amongst the group of actors. The story is truly heartwarming and funny; HOWEVER, the two seasons of After Life could be turned into one season, just as season one could have been a movie. It’s not that there are pacing problems – there aren’t – but there are too many characters, with too little screen time whose stories don’t get room to mature.

Basically, my only complaint is the time restrictions. Both seasons would work as six one-hour episodes (as opposed to six thirty-minute episodes) or as standalone movies. It’s not that Gervais can’t make movies (The Invention of Lying is supremely underrated); it’s just that he we can’t be teased with such little development from such important and potentially rich characters.

Regardless, After Life is a pretty damn good binge and at moments, my wife and I were both laughing or both crying. After the kids go to bed, open some wine, spend some time with your significant other and watch this series.

 

SPACE FORCE

space force

You might be thinking that this is just another workplace comedy from Greg Daniels and Steve Carrell. How could Space Force ever live up to the American version of The Office? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong, there is a lot to live up to.

Mark Naird (Carrell) is a four-star Air Force General tasked with forming and leading Space Force, The United States’ newest branch of the military. The Space Force dramedy hits as much as it misses and doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be. Is the series about the family strife the contains the Naird family? At times. Is it a variation of the 1981 comedy titan Stripes but set in space? It can be. Is it a social commentary on the ridiculous times we live in? Almost always.

Space Force performs best in the bromance/buddy cop genre featuring the conservative, stiff, military man Naird alongside Space Force lead scientist Dr. Adrian Malloy (John Malkovich), who is a composed, laid back academic. Malkovich and Carrell have a seamless chemistry that makes them seem like they have been collaborating for much longer than one season. The easy manner in which they play off of each other is second to none and Space Force, both the fictional military branch and titular series, both work best when they share screen time.

That’s not meant to be dismissive of the rest of the cast, which is quite meaty:

  • Lisa Kudrow as Maggie Naird, Mark’s incarcerated wife who is serving a 40-year prison sentence
  • Ben Schwartz as Space Force social media director Tony Scarapiducci
  • Tawny Newsomeas Captain Angela Ali, a fledgling astronaut
  • Noah Emmerich as Air Force Chief of Staff and Naird nemesis Kick Grabaston

If Space Force doesn’t click for you right away, that’s okay. Anecdotally, I have had just as many friends love it as hate it. However, if you revisit the first season of The Office, which was only six episodes and was nearly cancelled, you will see unevenness there. I’m not predicting that Space Force will reach those same heights, but given Daniels other work (The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Parks & Rec), there is little reason to think the series won’t eventually blast off.

 

JUST MERCY

just mercy

In case you have been living under a rock during 2020 (and good for you if you have), Just Mercy is a recently released movie detailing the real-life story of Alabama man turned death row inmate Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx). McMillan, who is arrested and convicted of murder under false pretenses, is exonerated with the assistance of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), an idealistic young attorney who will make a career out of helping those who are wrongfully convicted.

The movie is supremely cast, acted and directed – and couldn’t be more topical or poignant. There are no pacing problems and everyone involved gives powerhouse performances, most notably Foxx and Jordan, who should both be in high demand come award season. Frankly, there is nothing I can tell you about this movie that you have not already heard or anything I can tell you to make it more relevant.

With that being said, I would like to discuss the impressive and underrated performance from Rob Morgan. Morgan portrays death row inmate Herbert Richardson, a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who in a manic state devises an ill-conceived rescue scenario to impress the woman he loves. The plan goes awry and an innocent bystander is inadvertently murdered.

As his execution date nears, Richardson never denies guilt, living a life haunted by the murder, and still dealing with PTSD. When watching Morgan’s portrayal of Richardson, it doesn’t feel like a performance. Instead, the viewer is plunged into the life of a man dealt a bad hand and living the horrific decisions made as a result.

The scenes leading up to Richardson’s execution are as brutal, poignant and touching as any scenes (television or movie) in recent memory, and Morgan should be lauded for his performance. He compels the audience to feel sympathy for his character, even though the character has admitted to a heinous crime. No easy act.

In short, this film is a must-see, not just for its cinematic worth but for its timely societal message. It is feasible that I am a prisoner of the moment, but it seems that Just Mercy lands every punch it throws, and we are better for it.

 

 DOG & MONKEY ASTRONAUTS

  • It’s Michael B. Jordan’s world, we are all just living in it.
  • Greg Daniels is the best in the business. King of the Hill, Parks & Rec, Saturday Night Live (1987-90), and The Simpsons (1993-1998) make The Office legitimately only the third or fourth best show he has worked on.
  • Maggie Naird’s unnamed crime that sees her sentenced to 40 years hard time is either sloppy writing or purposefully clever. Given Daniels track record, I am going to side with purposefully clever.
  • The Tony Scarapiducci character is a funny and on the nose swipe at former Trump Administration Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. There are A LOT of funny little digs at this administration. Thumbs
  • According to his IMDB page, Space Force was Fred Willard’s last performance. Thanks for the laughs, good sir.
  • Tim Blake Nelson is having a great 2020 as he plays a convincing criminal in Just Mercy and a convincing cop in Watchmen. Blake remains one of the best in the business.
  • Check out the life story of Herbert Richardson here.
  • Bryan Stevenson went on to fund the Equal Justice Initiative. Click here to check out their awesome work.

 

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