TV Review: They Call Me Magic

Produced by Apple TV+, ‘They Call Me Magic‘ is a four-part documentary about one of basketball’s greatest legends, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. One of the most exciting stories on and off the basketball court, the show covers almost everything Magic stands for; his childhood, his family, and his relationships. The show also highlights a much-needed detailing about the making of his legacy in college basketball. This was very necessary due to his being arguably the greatest college basketball player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar¬†and Oscar Robertson.

The documentary features interviews of Magic, his wife, family, coaches, teammates, and his rivals. Speaking of rivals, I am glad Larry Bird was also part of this documentary and he had his own narrative about their rivalry and games. But Larry’s contribution to Magic’s documentary is an acknowledgment that one of the greatest sports rivalries that encompassed in the 1980s developed a respect for each other.

The icing on the cake is when the show also features Michael Jordan. You know it is a huge ask when the greatest basketball player of all time shows up in a documentary of another basketball legend. Although, there are other legends to talk about Magic like Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but Michael is a different picture. And Michael Jordan already had a blast talking about his dynasty exactly two years ago. So this means a lot. And why not? Before the Bulls dynasty began, it was Magic’s Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s that dominated. This is like MJ passes the torch of the dynasty to MJ, especially in the 1991 NBA Finals.

Besides his basketball career, there is quite an insider about a complex love story of Magic and his wife Cookie. The story has been stretched to, I feel, more than the screen length could have demanded. I felt Magic’s post-basketball career deserved more minutes than the affair. There was really a tremendous contribution he made as an investor when he started an investment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises.

One thing I would like to address about this documentary to the readers and the audience is not to compare it with HBO‘s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty due to many reasons. One, ‘Winning Time’ is about the entire Lakers dynasty while ‘They Call Me Magic’ is only about Magic. Two, the former is a television drama that is inspired by Jeff Pearlman‘s book, ‘Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s‘ while the latter features the players giving their input through interviews. The former is scripted and fictionalized for a dramatic touch to attract the audience while the latter doesn’t compromise on authenticity as the real people show up describing their stories and incidents.

Nothing to take away from ‘Winning Time’, I loved that show as a drama that came into existence through any network that was based on basketball but the tone of entertaining the audience shall be limited to enjoying the Lakers’ glory rather than digging facts about its being real or fictional. I wished that ‘Winning Time’ would have been 100% accurate but it is okay because now we have another source on the television format, and that is ‘They Call Me Magic’.

In my opinion, the biggest plus of watching this documentary is not only to understand the ‘magic’ he spelled that started a dynasty but more than that, the show heavily convinces the audience that it was Magic Johnson who stepped NBA up financially. Before him, NBA’s fame and state were different from each other. The fame was there but the state was economically awful. The television ratings were declining, and the spectators were diminishing. The shocking fact about NBA before the 1980s is that the show was not popular enough to be on prime time. One of the major reasons was too much violence and the NBA was considered too black to be termed as drug-infested. The racial standards were poor. So Magic’s arrival changed the fate and face of the NBA who established himself as a superstar in college basketball. His popularity gradually increased and became the most talking point when his becoming a pro was on the cards.

Therefore, ‘They Call Me Magic’ is a celebration and an honest tribute to a wonderful career.

TV Review: Mare of Easttown

Detective sergeant Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is a well-known heroic figure in her neighborhood of Easttown, a small town in Chester County of Pennsylvania. But she has faced a trembling year in quest of a missing girl that has raised many eyebrows over her detective skills. Also, she suffers the worst possible personal crisis due to a divorce, a custody battle, and a son lost in suicide. And during all this, the cops find a body in the forest park one morning. She is Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a teenage mother, who was fighting a custody battle for her kid with her ex-boyfriend.

Looking at this magnificent miniseries and the continuity of the plot, I am surprised that Mare Of Easttown is neither adapted from a novel nor is based on a true incident. In fact, I am impressed by the quality of production that they came up with such a presentation that makes the audience believe that this may all be true. But to some extent, Mare of Easttown is somehow the story of everyday people which is why it makes you believe in the bullet detailing of the screenplay. It gives you a real feeling the way the whole show is dramatized like a cop who is sensitive to blood, an old man confessing an affair at his wife’s funeral, a priest alleged for raping a minor, a mentally disabled girl bullied in the school, the old couple who tries to figure how to set up a security camera, and many more.

ERIN McMENAMIN

The character of Erin in the first episode is the most fitting epitome of bad social treatment. I have watched so many television characters develop well but have taken time to grow with more than one episode. But Erin whose character lived for just one episode has to be the fastest growth-developing character in recent years. It was phenomenal writing about a character that screamed louder the more she gets unsettled. Facing the hardship of becoming a mother as a teenager, she suffered rigidity from her father and her ex-boyfriend who should have emotionally backed her instead of being unsupportive. How heartbreaking it was to see Erin get beaten in the park and the ex-boyfriend doing nothing but watching and enjoying it.

All the major characters in Easttown are affected by Erin’s murder. They are socially distressed and contribute to the plot which is another impressive point of the drama.

MARE SHEEHAN

There have been many detective stories with the central character in the uniform always portrayed to suffer due to his/her line of work and in person. So there is nothing new about Mare but the reason why Mare’s typical character is picked and praised highly over others in recent times is because of touching the deepest aspects of her life very rightly, addressing her miseries peculiarly, giving enough screen length to suffocate between her roles as a mother of a dead son, ex-wife in a troubled marriage, irresolute to her line of work, and doubtful heroism that has faded since no trace of a missing child in an unsolved crime case. Mare is hanging loosely on the walls of many parallels with no success and optimism.

And the most impressive factor of all – Kate Winslet. How much do you have to influence a character to your body that the audience traces no sign of the actor’s stunning performance but feels the pain of Mare Sheehan? I am lost at how Meryl Streep a performance can be. This has to be Kate’s best performance since ‘The Reader‘. There was everything about the role, her body language, the Delco accent of the Phillys, the facial translation of emotional distress, rage, frustration, and God knows what else. The only scene in the entire series she laughed was so natural and visibly showed to the audience that her guffaw came out after all the bad things happening to that lady and was so necessary.

Unnecessary Developments

Yes, there are elements that looked pretty forced and time-consuming. Mare’s daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) had unnecessary sequences for her relationship with the radio jockey that had nothing to do with either plot or sub-plot. It clearly looked like this segment was dramatized to keep the LGBTQ+ community happy. The second is Mare’s love interest Richard Ryan, a writer and professor played by Guy Pearce. This character had absolutely no importance to the story and wasted quite heavy minutes in the development. In the beginning, I assumed that Richard’s character will be later linked to Erin’s murder somehow but he had no connection at all and was generally there for Mare. Giving so many minutes to his presence made no sense. The only theory that makes Richard in the story applicable is that his existence gave Mare’s unhappy life an opportunity to find positivity. She badly needed counseling so he was there. The same error in Detective Colin’s character, played by Evan Peters, who was brought to assist Mare in the crime case. First, he was awkward and I have never understood why the assistant or vice to a detective or a cop has to be a little dumb or less confident. And then, out of nowhere, Colin falls in love with Mare. Why would you do that?

But yes, the makers of the show deserve special praise for funny sequences that occurred in such a dark drama out of nowhere. Not a single time did the comedy look forced and fitted so well. Mare’s mother Helen was a source of bringing excitement many times.

CLOSING REMARKS

Mare Of Easttown is another masterpiece that propels me to advise the television audience to prefer HBO over any network if they are willing to try a miniseries. HBO looks like a dominant force for limited writing and has impressed with many quality contents in recent years like Watchmen, Chernobyl, The Night Of, and a few more. The winner of 4 Emmies, the show deserves every credit for being one of the best suspense and detective thrillers in recent years.

Film Review: Prey (2022)

Naru is a young Comanche woman who, along with other tribal people, lives in the Northern Great Plains in the early eighteenth century. Seeking recognition amongst men by becoming a hunter, she witnesses a spaceship in the clouds. Later on, some brutal animal killings make her realize that this hunter is enormous in size and not a human but no one believes her until the predator steps into their territory and starts killing her people and animals.

Prey is a prequel to the Predator franchise, a celebrated science fiction horror series that established cult status in the 1980s. After producing four Predator films and multiple crossovers with Alien, an idea was coined to work on the origins of the predator. I find it an interesting idea to develop a predator’s origins to be traced three hundred years back, an idea that is applicable due to its being extraterrestrial specie. Plus the idea of such a specie in the historic setup is pretty fresh.

What makes Prey more remarkable is the technical brilliance maneuvered in a Comanche subtlety. How fascinating it is to watch authentic portrayals of indigenous North Americans! It never looked like Prey fell into stereotypical portrayals degrading the particular communities into something one-dimensional. This was certain because film producer Jhane Myers is a Comanche and belongs to a Blackfoot Confederacy.

How captivating are the camera work and the directional value enhances the slow proceedings without haste with Naru as the central figure struggling to build a repo. Until the predator shows up, the screenplay is well settled and the audience has been made fully excited to make guesses about how on earth is Naru going to fight herself against such a creature.

It is a win-win impetus when the feminine portrayal of struggle and gallantry is well dramatized. Naru is Wonder Woman in the Predator’s world. Her heroism never fades and at no point does the story takes the liberty to drop a foolish act of exaggerating the screenplay for the sake of entertainment.

Prey is dark, plunged into appealing action sequences with the strong support of Dan Trachtenberg‘s direction and the lively appearance of Amber Midthunder who never makes you dull and dizzy in limited plotting. The life of tribespeople is well dramatized and emphasized in their usual routine by the break of the morning. Observe, the first scene and another that occurred in around twenty-eight minutes with Naru waking up and looking at other people leaving for work.

There are pretty few minuses but the one that reflects my dislikeness is not making the whole film in the Comanche language. The realism would have met its utter respect and authenticity if the Comanche people were merely speaking their own language instead of English.

Besides, I feel Prey has done its part and there is no sign of getting disappointed at all. This film has upgraded the cult interest of the global audience for the Predator franchise and holds a lot of promises for Predator’s future prequel films continuity.

RATINGS: 8.6/10

TV Review: The Sandman

STORY

To those who are new to this Sandman world, the one fact you need to understand about this drama and comic book story of The Sandman is that the story is about a dysfunctional family called ‘The Endless‘. And they are seven siblings in different forms. And they are Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Destruction, and Dream.

‘The Sandman’ centrally focuses on Lord Morpheus, the ruler of Dreaming and the king of dreams. One day, he is captured by the occultist Roderick Burgress and is imprisoned for more than a hundred years until he gets a chance to escape and return. But when he returns to Dreaming, he witnesses it in a terrible state. Along with his only remaining loyalist and librarian Lucienne, Morpheus travels to different worlds and timelines to restore order to his kingdom, clean the mess and fix the chaos that occurred in his long absence.


PRODUCTION

After decades of pulling attempts to come up with a perfect project to execute for either film or television for one of the most acclaimed comics of all time, Netflix eventually succeeds in shaping the best possible adaptation the global audience would have ever demanded. The show has its flaws but the most important valuation to observe is the graphic detailing and writing of one of the most complex comic book stories.

The show is handled with care by some influential writers of the film and comics. Allan Heinberg is well-known for Young Avengers and JLA series while David S. Goyer is widely acclaimed for writing the Blade and Dark Knight trilogies and co. writing Call of Duty video games. The main showrunner is Neil Gaiman, the writer, and creator of The Sandman. So when the God of this universe is running this show, then there is neither a question nor disapproval about dramatizing his creation.

I am usually against taking liberty from the major elements of the original writing that includes the fundamentals of the characters. But at the same time if the author or the creator doesn’t object or holds the creative control of the film or tv show based on his/her own writing, then even if I find the changes to be in the wrong direction, I find no reason to object because the creator himself/herself is the control head and approves the developments.


PLUSSES

There were many reasons that established the theory or a prediction that ‘The Sandman’ will be praised and accepted once it is released on Netflix. One reason is that the original work has a massive following. Then, as mentioned above, Neil Gaiman himself is the showrunner so whoever the director he chooses to execute their writings, he knows the job is done with satisfaction.

Another plus is the extraordinary production budget that is quite understood after the viewers have enjoyed the luxury of watching some stunning visuals. And then the casting is excellent. Tom Sturridge as Dream and Boyd Holbrook as Corinthian are examples of accurate picks. Even for supporting but important roles, very well-known actors like Charles Dance, David Thewlis, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Stephen Fry, Souad Faress, Nina Wadia, Gwendoline Christie, Meera Syal, and Jenna Coleman make rounds in a few episodes. If that wasn’t enough, we heard memorable voices of Patton Oswalt as Matthew the Raven and Mark Hamill as Mervyn Pumpkinhead too.

The continuity of the screenplay is intrigued with a thoughtful and metaphorical portion of understanding some dark elements of life. The episode with Dream’s sister Death is very touching and upsetting but is also my favorite of the show. A kind of perception in which a human is made aware of his/her death by the angel that begins with contacting them and communicating. The whole process is so well dramatized.

This is followed by Dream reminiscing about his centuries-old friendship with Hob Gadling when he grants a customer’s will to live forever back in the 14th century and keeps meeting him once every hundred years in the same bar. This idea touched me and began to question myself, what if time travel was ever true? What if all of us could travel to any timeline, meet random people, speak to them in different centuries, just like that. Those who are deeply concerned about dreams like me will agree to me that dreamers deserve to have a companion or a truly loyal friend in his/her dream. Such an idea can only exist in dreams and Lord Morpheus, the king of dreams, is the key to all this stretch.

Then there is Doctor Destiny‘s dystopian take on the human race circulating their lives around truths and lies that he tests at a diner. That whole episode is superbly stretched to make his point.


MINUSES

A few portions of writing and aesthetics are not to my satisfaction. Netflix with its cult application of political correctness makes the entire dramatizing of the original writing an agenda to moralize forced inclusivity. Although the creator Neil Gaiman has no objection at all, but this is not the first time at all. The direction clearly indicates making many characters homosexual has a purpose. I am not against this form of diversity, I support it, but there should be a method of addressing it through the story instead of dramatizing it like a protest.

Amongst all the characters, the one actor that I am not convinced of selection is Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar. Because she looked more angelic than the devil in the role. If the showrunners were adamant to go for a female Lucifer then they should have picked an actress with a lot darker persona. A female Lucifer had to be someone with more devil or gothic vibes. Any of Eva Green, Krysten Ritter, Cate Blanchett, or Helena Bonham Carter would have made superb Lucifer.


COMIC ADAPTATION

This is actually another ‘PLUS’ element but I want to address it separately due to a broad detailing a comic geek can speak and emphasize. We comic book readers generally have been raising this matter for a couple of decades that a television show or a film usually doesn’t do justice while translating the comic pages into this medium.

Because it is hard to deliver the same impact to the viewers that the readers had when they read that all. And it is admirable to observe how ‘The Sandman’ successfully developed a lot of moments from the graphic issues. And at some scenes, even the whole dialogue of a few particular scenes is delivered in the same way.

I wonder how every Sandman reader would have reacted when Death showed up to Dream followed by a conversation when they were sitting together.

Or when John Dee was thanked.

In a very interesting sequence, imprisoned former queen of the First People, Nada briefly appears whose eyes catch Dream’s figure passing from her prison and calls him Kai’ckul. The whole scene is pictured in the comics and will definitely proceed in the second season as showrunner Allen Heinberg has confirmed to one of the sources.

The terrible state of the Dreaming after Lord Morpheus returns is all accurately depicted.

Desire’s tall naked statue Threshold, the fortress of Desire is taken from the beginning of the second volume, The Doll’s House.

Dream’s centuries-old friendship with Hobb Gadling was well translated from the pages. The entire table-talk of centuries constitutes from issue#13.

The whole 24-hour diner episode happened in issue#6 called 24 Hours which is considered one of the darkest and the most horrific tales in comics history.

The whole Dream vs Lucifer challenge is well dramatized. In fact, comics had a lengthier challenge if I am not mistaken.

Dream’s meeting with ‘The Three‘ had a darker portrayal than comics.

Dream and Corinthian face-off exactly happened in the convention just like issue#14.

Even Corinthian stabbing Dream’s palm was covered.

Gilbert getting scared of Corinthian was different in the show. He actually lost his stature when Corinthian joins him in the elevator.


CLOSING REMARKS

There is so much to talk about ‘The Sandman’. But I hope the quality that the showrunners have settled the story in and the aesthetics that has mesmerized us audience shall be maintained for the future.

I am hoping that the show must be stretched to at least five seasons to cover all the aspects and elements of the writing. The Sandman is the best adapted comic book-based television show that I have watched. I recommend all the viewers who loved the show, to read the original content.

The Sandman is a 75-issue storyline that was written in seven years. This was followed by many spin-offs and Neil Gaiman wrote a few of them. But ‘Overture‘ and ‘The Dream Hunters‘ are those that must be read. Especially, Overture because it is the prequel of the entire Sandman story.

To those, who are very interested to watch a fantasy drama, The Sandman is currently the best I can think of to recommend.

Film Review: The Gray Man (2022)

When the CIA’s assassin ‘Sierra Six’ finds out that the man he was assigned to kill was a former CIA assassin like him and has evidence of the corruption of the CIA’s lead agent on the assassination mission, Denny Carmichael, Six decides to go rebel and escape. Carmichael hires Lloyd Hansen to track him down and collect the evidence.

The Gray Man can be considered an unofficial tribute to old-school action films and I must admit that it takes courage for the Russo brothers to take such a risk of making an action-thriller with such an ensemble cast.

I noticed in the fighting sequences that there was something about the use of colors during the fights. When Six fights the target in Bangkok, colorful firecrackers enchant the whole scene. Then pink flares are enthralled when Six fights in the plane. It is interesting that there were some particular elements involved to make the fights look interesting.

But there are numerous plotholes and the continuity of the story does not impress. I mean there is nothing much to appeal to the audience. The story is an expired cake, the whole screenplay renders a predictable conclusion. It is not some phenomenal direction even. When you have actors like Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in the lead with such an impressive supporting lineup of Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Jessica Hanwick, and Wagner Moura, the expectations are higher.

Dhanush got some decent minutes in the film and was really impressed with his action sequences. I thought he may get a couple of scenes like any Indian film star in an American film. Perhaps the Russo brothers are considering actors from the Indian film industry to join their films for supporting roles. Randeep Hooda had mesmerizing fighting sequences with Chris Hemsworth in ‘Extraction‘ that the Russo brothers produced.

The one actor that impressed me a lot was little butterfly Julia Butters who displayed a really delicate performance that surely gave all the viewers a feeling of amazement.

The Gray Man is certainly neither bad nor boring. The one action sequence that gave me a thrill was when Six is arrested in Vienna and the mercenaries try to down him. This scene was stretched to around ten minutes. Keeping the whole common sense aside, it was an exciting scene to be entertained. So this is a typical action thriller that can be enjoyed when your friends crash into your room along with popcorn, chips, and soft drinks.

RATINGS: 4/10

Film Review: Anek (2022)

Anek is about a government official secret agent Aman who is sent to the Northeast region to negotiate a peace deal between the government and the separatist groups.

A director-actor combo of Anubhav Sinha and Ayushmann Khurrana who are enjoying the peak of their careers for the last few years come up with a very sensitive socio-political subject of the North Indian people.

It is good to observe that a few films have been produced in recent years that are based on the racism that the Northern Indians have been facing for quite some time. Communal subjects have gradually increased over the last decade which indicates that the audience is now enthusiast to try watching different content.

Unfortunately and to my own surprise, Anek neither picks screentime from a solid-looking plot nor the writing does any justice during the prosecution of the film. There is no impression from the aesthetics besides action sequences. The film is over-talkative and some scenes are overstretched. Around 150 minutes of screentime with an uninspiring plot leads to nowhere but disappointment.

There are a few scenes that were shot well though. There is a scene where Aman and Anjaiyyah argue about how to define an Indian, it was a thoughtful conversation. Then the performance of Niko’s mother when she mourns and cavils to Aman at the funeral. For me, the best scene of the film was that one-shot scene in the village when Niko witnesses a series of arrests and some parts of the place put to fire.

Anek could have been a masterpiece if the screenplay was engrossing and held a grip on an important subject. The film visibly began to collapse after approximately thirty minutes.

RATINGS: 4/10