The Strain Season 4

This Sunday, The Strain heads into its fourth and final season. Created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, it’s a horror drama with enviable pedigree and made waves at the time of its premiere in 2014 with its unsettling ad campaign (most of the promo images for the first season featured a worm making its way into an unfortunate victim’s eye, which was eventually taken out of circulation due to complaints) and its new take on vampires. Since then, the show — much like the vampires on it — has mutated and changed. This has been equal parts good and bad news; the show’s inconsistencies haven’t really been ironed out, but the heights it reaches make up for the valleys.

Spoilers for the first three seasons of The Strain follow.

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the vulture best marvel villain

Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is the very first character we meet in Spider-Man: Homecoming. If this were any other movie (i.e. were the movie’s title not Spider-Man), it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him as a protagonist. But as the saying goes, a story is only as good as its villain. Spider-Man has always felt particularly human in a genre filled with superhumans; luckily, the Vulture is similarly grounded (despite having a custom-built set of wings), and Homecoming is all the better for it.

Major spoilers follow.

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better call saul season finale review 2

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

In its season finale, “Lantern,” the slow burn of Better Call Saul becomes a conflagration. It’s a stunning, bleak episode, with each thread hammering home the problem that’s plagued the characters from the very beginning: It’s not business. It’s personal.
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Rough Night Trailer

The premise of Lucia Aniello’s Rough Night is fairly simple. Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is getting married, so for her bachelorette party, she and her best friends head out to Miami. There’s her college roommate, Alice (Jillian Bell); former item and now polar opposites, Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer); and Jess’s friend from her semester abroad in Australia, Pippa (Kate McKinnon), all ready to relive the old glory days. They get drunk, they get wild, and when a stripper ends up dead, they scramble to cover it up. If this sounds like the set-up of two different movies, that’s because it is; while there are parts of Rough Night that stand out for hitting the rough patches of friendship on the nose, there’s not enough in between them to quite hold it all together.

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better call saul fall review 2

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

“Fall” is the sparsest episode of the season so far, in that our main characters occupy separate spaces as opposed to overlapping in any real capacity. It’s the first time we’ve seen the storylines so disparate, and it goes a long way towards emphasizing just how isolated they all are. Nearly three seasons through Better Call Saul, our main characters have driven themselves apart to a point that’s no longer easy to ignore, especially with how they’re laid out in this week’s episode.

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Better Call Saul Slip Review

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

Better Call Saul doesn’t miss a beat. There’s no such thing as a wasted moment, which has never been more evident as it is in “Slip,” the eighth episode of this season. It’s so titled because it marks the definitive return of Slippin’ Jimmy, as well as significant turns in the arcs of the rest of the cast as well. Over the past few episodes, we’ve seen characters pushed past their respective breaking points; now that all of the pieces are on the same side of the board, it’s time to properly watch the fall-out.

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wonder woman review

Much like its heroine, Wonder Woman manages to soar to some sublime heights. There are sequences that demand to be gazed at and the action — specifically the Amazon women in battle, soaring through the air — make slo-mo seem fresh for the first time since 300. The cast is charming, with each character afforded a particular grace note, and Gal Gadot shines as the goddess at the center of the whole affair. But Diana of Themyscira has to go through some growing pains before really becoming a hero, and so does the film.

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Better Call Saul Expenses Review

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

At this point in Better Call Saul, it’s difficult to know whether or not we’re supposed to root for Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk). Obviously, to a certain degree, we are. We’re in his house, after all. He’s hit rock bottom in “Expenses,” and though we know he’ll end up back on top (sort of) by the time Breaking Bad begins, it’s become obvious that the path there is going to be a profoundly ugly one. “Expenses” plays like a partner to “Chicanery” as an episode that captures exactly just how naturalistic the drama at the center of it is. It’s a show that’s pared down and precise — the pain doesn’t come from the near-operatic as it did in Breaking Bad, it comes from small, simple human foibles.

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alien covenant

(Because of the mixed reactions to the film from critics across the internet, we are running two reviews of Alien: Covenant. Here’s a positive take on the movie. For a different perspective, you can read Josh Spiegel’s negative review.)

The planet upon which most of Alien: Covenant unfolds is not unlike the movie itself: it’s a vast and beautiful thing, though not without its share of dangers and unexplored territory. Covenant is an epic that sprawls across genres and ideas, some of which are better addressed than others, but in its final act, it shines just two beacons through the darkness. There’s its base DNA in the self-contained drama and horror of 1979’s Alien, and there’s the near-biblical story that director Ridley Scott now wants to tell about man and post-humanity, and the creation of life. The resulting mix is a thrill, in no small part because — for a franchise that seems so determinedly nihilistic — it’s surprisingly earnest.

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better call saul off brand review

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Better Call Saul season 3 by answering one simple question: who came out on top when the credits rolled?)

In true Better Call Saul fashion, this week’s big revelation comes as a whimper, not as a bang. It’s a quiet moment that underlines one of the biggest truths of the show: more than anything else, it’s a tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s a quiet that’s slightly undermined by how loudly Breaking Bad rings throughout this episode, as the comings and goings of the cartel, while granted a touch of the delicacy that makes Better Call Saul so special, pander a little too obviously after the tour de force of last week’s episode.

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