Tag: Time Travel

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

I don’t talk about seasons of television very often when reviewing things. More self-contained projects like movies tend to be easier to watch and digest, in my experience.

But it has been a while since I’ve seen a binge-watchable show that hit me quite as hard as The Umbrella Academy.

So much so that I forewent writing anything last night to finishing the series. Then felt enough of a high that I went out of my way to Tweet Netflix directly after midnight:

Still haven’t gotten a reply, but hopeful nonetheless.

I can’t promise this will be an entirely spoiler-free review. I won’t give away grandiose plot details, but character arcs or smaller cliffhangers from individual episodes might slip through. I don’t have a lot of experience writing about binge-worthy television yet, so not sure if that’s standard procedure.

If you just want the brief review I gave to my old advisor Mitch Ziegler today after judging a write-off competition: Go watch the show.

It’s a quirky, interesting take on the superhero genre from Dark Horse Comics, which has a style more reminiscent of The Addams Family than Iron Man.

I was clambering for more as soon as it ended, which is about as big a compliment to the ten-episode Netflix original I can offer.

More spoiler-y, deeper thoughts ahead.

When you succeed in making Ellen Page the relatively “normal” girl in your ensemble, you know you’ve succeeded in creating a fascinatingly strange world.

The show (and comic, though there are some plot differences) creates a world where 43 children were miraculously conceived and birthed one day in 1989. Seven of whom were adopted by a man who combines superhero family patriarch of Professor Xavier from the X-Men and strange eccentricities of Count Olaf from the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

It’s never really elaborated on whether the other 36 children have superpowers, but they really don’t matter.

The Umbrella Academy quickly veers away from the cliché serialized superhero gathering the premise almost preassumes to focus on those seven children once they’ve grown up. All in some way broken by their odd abilities and idiosyncrasies wrought by a calloused, distant father.

Every character becomes a great case study on their own, while also bouncing off one another well.

Except perhaps for Ben (Justin Min), who died prior to the series and comes into play as a foil for Klaus (Robert Sheehan), whose powers allow him to see and speak to the dead.

Klaus’ character is actually a fantastic generalization for the series.

During the first episode, I found him repugnant. To stave off the screams of the dead he’s haunted by, Klaus has become a near-useless junkie. Most of that episode features him bumming around the Academy half-naked, stealing their now-deceased father’s antiques to sell for drugs.

It’s an archetype which is played up to the point of nausea. A lot of the first episode is somewhat nauseating, with seven stereotypically quirky characters (the shamed Hollywood actress, the stoic leader, the hardened Nightwing-esque vigilante, etc.) being introduced alongside a whole host of plot points.

But as the show gets past that first bout of exposition, all the characters warm up.

Klaus, for instance, has a phenomenal scene with his brother Five (just “Number Five.” I promise it isn’t that weird) trying to get information out of a prosthetics lab. It plays the extreme bluntness of someone numb to the world in a very funny way.

Then Klaus goes through a harrowing experience which leads to him sobering up, and in the process he became my favorite character.

Or he would have, if Aidan Gallagher didn’t absolutely blow everyone else out of the water as Number Five.

Five can teleport to different points in space, and eventually learns how to teleport through time as well. In the process, he gets himself stuck in a desolate future.

When he returns to the past, the time travel reverts him back into a 13-year-old boy, just with all the experiences of a near 60-year-old man.

Gallagher brings a fantastic dry wit to the character, and his 50+ years of combat experience combined with teleportation makes every action scene with Five a visual marvel.

For someone who has only had roles on Nickelodeon sitcoms before, I was shocked by how hard he hit the ground running. Even while talking to a mannequin.

All of that said and I still haven’t touched on four of the siblings — one of which is portrayed by Ellen Page, who deservedly gets the lead credit as a straight man character who glues her wacky family together and has one of the better overall arcs.

Then there are the villains, Hazel and Cha-Cha (Cameron Britton and Mary Blige), who are at once intimidating antagonists and compelling, sympathetic characters.

While I adored The Umbrella Academy‘s characters, the show had a lot more to offer.

It’s an incredibly dark, surreal take on a superhero story. Think of the semi-dysfunctional but ultimately loving family dynamic of The Incredibles set in a My Chemical Romance music video — a sensible comparison.

The killer soundtrack is well-utilized, with songs ranging from Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul,” alongside The Sex Pistols, Radiohead and more. Plus some solid standalone tracks.

A lot of the visual effects also stand up quite well in a world glut with high-budget superhero stories. Most everything in the set design feels practical, and the display of powers — teleportation, conjuring ghosts, etc. — occurs infrequently enough to feel rich and well-produced.

Only in the last episode is there a traditionally high-octane effects show that is over-the-top, but fittingly so with how much it was built up.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else I could say about this show without my little review devolving into relentless gushing. If I had one substantial complaint, I would have liked to see more of the children flashback scenes. The older character studies are great, but a series featuring the cocky kids stopping crimes would be really fun.

Despite that, The Umbrella Academy is a very solidly acted, well-produced series with enough of a dark, cynical sensability to keep even the most exhausted of superhero media fans engaged.

I’ll just be here waiting for season 2 to come out. If you’ve heeded my advice, hopefully you’ll be right there too.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb.

Sharknado 6 Ruined Me

Sharknado 6 Ruined Me

Today was a day where I felt pretty good about myself.

In the wake of a hangout that went past 1:00 a.m., I still got up and did some work editing for Boom. Then I went to the gym and got a nice hour’s worth of a workout before making myself a pretty sweet looking sandwich for lunch.

Good stuff all things considered.

But then. We decided to watch the sixth Sharknado movie that premiered earlier.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same after that. I might just be more broken by existential dread than I can truly convey through text. In spite of that concern, I shall try my best.

For those of you who are not aware of this bizarre little corner of pop culture history — Though I can’t imagine there are many people out there who haven’t heard of it considering the almost unexplainable popularity of the series — Sharknado was a movie released by the Syfy network in 2013 starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid.

The best way I can think to describe the film is that it was one in a long line of shark-themed, low-budget disaster parody films put out by the network. Other classic examples included Ghost Shark and Sharktopus.

These are all super real. And surprisingly popular as Z-grade dumb parody fun for those of us who enjoy cheesy science fiction schlock.

But… Sharknado was different. Sharknado, by some combination of washed-up actors, a ridiculous premise and laughably horrible CGI, became a phenomenon. A phenomenon big enough to spawn five sequels.

Because my family happens to be a fan of dumb, awful movies like this, we’ve watched every single one over the last five or so years. I’m not going to say I’m proud of that, but it’s a thing we do. It’s dumb fun.

Admittedly, I don’t remember any significant detail past the third movie. Because they got increasingly ridiculous, complex and overblown with each entry. Dare I say… They jumped the shark.

The creators probably intended for that exact cliché to show up when discussing their work.

The first Sharknado was a somewhat contained story, where the hero Fin (fish joke ha ha) has to rescue his family after a Sharknado touches down in Santa Monica and starts to destroy the surrounding Los Angeles area.

The second was basically the same story but in New York. Cue hopping around on taxi cabs and other such predictable New York jokes, plus a half a billion cameos from famous people hoping to jump on the meme.

The third was more of a world-wide scale, saving the president of the U.S. and dealing with Universal Studios Florida and… Going into space I think?

Unless that was the fourth movie, which of course made a Force Awakens joke in the title. But like I said I don’t remember any of that movie, or the fifth one. Something happened in Niagara Falls, and there were robot clones and uhh… Yeah.

Then of course we come to the newest, presumably final entry in the series. Sharknado 6: The Last One.

The last one until someone decides we can bring the series back with a rebooted cast and do it all again, I guess.

Sharknado 6 took things above and beyond where we had already been by figuring if we’ve destroyed the entire planet with Sharknados, we might as well do the same thing throughout history. That’s right, it’s a time travel story. With everyone hoping to stop Sharknados in the past so they can save the future.

It’s about as contrived and derivative as it sounds, and it’s meant to be. Hell, the amount of times they reference Back to the Future is astounding.

The characters literally travel using a flux capacitor, which in at least one situation requires them to use a train to travel at 88 miles per hour.

Even though I’m 100 percent sure the conflict of BttF 3 was needing to speed up a steam train because it didn’t go fast enough, I’ll let it slide.

Most of the jokes you’d expect to appear to appear based on the periods of time they go through in the movie. First it’s pre-history, then the American Revolution, the Old West, the 1950s and eventually culminating in the early 2010s where they stop the Sharknado that started the whole mess in the first place.

Of course there’s all sorts of underlying plot with the main characters struggling to move beyond their past experiences and not use time travel to try to alter history (even though the whole plot is literally about altering history?). But that doesn’t really matter. The series has basically retconned everything at least four times so far, and characters constantly come back from the dead. The film even ends with everyone back at the beginning of the first movie but different, a circumstance where everyone is happy and alive and life is perfect for all.

If anything I’d argue it’s mostly a forgettable, lackluster romp compared to those early entries with just a sense that everything is going through the motions needed to finally end it all.

But there were at least two scenes that made me truly question my existence. So I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you’re interested in Sharknado 6 and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.

The first is during a stop in ancient Europe, the 1400s or so. Whenever King Arthur lore happened because of course that’s the chief influence they’re using.

This scene of the movie has arguably the most recognizable modern-day cameos in it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson shows up playing the wizard Merlin. Which a first probably seems as strange to you as it did to me, why would you cast one of the most recognizable science communicators of all time to play one of the most famous magic-users of history?

Because time travel joke. That’s the whole reason. Merlin knows some things about time travel.

But that’s not all, folks. The drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 (also actual name, I’m not screwing with you I swear) plays an evil queen that fights with swords and shoots fireballs.

They have a moment of talking with one another in the film.

So we are in a universe where a drag queen named Thunderfuck and Neil deGrasse fucking Tyson are acting against one another in a movie about time travel being used to stop the world from ending because of tornados full of sharks.

Hallelujah, we truly are in the darkest timeline.

There’s also a scene toward the end of the movie where everyone goes to the year 20013 — because obviously someone accidentally added an extra 0 onto the flux capacitor.

That future, for being in an age where Earth would most definitely be dead and gone, looks okay. Everything’s just vaguely dilapidated.

But then. Tara Reid shows up.

Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for context she had died during a stop in the year 1997.

As it turns out, and bear with me on this one, the robotic clone of Tara Reid — who played a significant role in the fifth movie and then just became a severed head MacGuffin in the sixth movie who blew up Sharknados with laser eyes — survived past all other human beings and created an army of robot Tara Reids and robot sharks to ensure that she could live forever.

So the third act of the movie becomes Fin having to set the timeline right by completely fucking it up in order to stop evil robot queen Tara Reid from ending humanity so she could rule forever.

In an otherwise lackluster movie, these two moments blew my god damn mind. They’re such things that I never needed to see that I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

If you think I’m getting to some point with this whole post, I’m not.

I just wanted to share these things with you so that you don’t have to go shatter your concept of reality by watching Sharknado 6.

It’s not worth it guys.

Actually it’s very worth it It’s definitely not worth it.

Save yourself.

Be free from the Sharknado.

That’s my public service announcement for the day.