Here's what's kept me busy on the small screen for the month of December. This month I definitely put more focus on movies vs TV, but I still managed to see a few things.
The Mandalorian - What an excellent season, though I have some ~thoughts~ on the ending. *spoilers* I was really hoping it would be Ezra that would show up and that could open the door for Thrawn to be on the show. I still hope they do something like that, though now that Ahsoka Tano is getting her own show, that's probably where the bulk of that story could go. It was nice to see Luke in his ROTJ gear and his green saber but the CGI was way too uncanny valley for me. I wish they would've just cast a younger actor. Hopefully they go that route if they continue to use him. I hope this isn't the last of Grogu either. He's such an integral part of the show now, it would be sad to see him go.
Euphoria - Since the pandemic halted the filming of season two, the creators gave us this one bottle episode of Rue and Ali having dinner together after the events of season one's finale. It's an absolute acting showcase for Colman Domingo and Zendaya. I'm glad we have this to tide us over.
The Queen's Gambit - This was excellent. It's very hyped up for a reason. Anya Taylor-Joy was wonderful, the costumes and set designs beautiful and it made me kind of want to get back into playing chess, which I am terrible at. I really liked the entire cast, there wasn't a weak link in the bunch. I have to say one thing really bothered me though, and it was Beth never getting to talk to Mr. Shaibel after she leaves the orphanage. And she didn't give him his $10.00 back. All of that just made me sad. It made for a great acting scene for Anya at the end, but I don't think it's unreasonable for me to want things tied up with a pretty little bow every now and then.
His Dark Materials - This season flew by since they lost an episode due to the pandemic. I haven't read the books, so I can't compare them, but I enjoyed this season very much. Will and Lyra make a good team, and I felt those deaths that happened. I'm looking forward to the 3rd and finale season.
Yashahime - The more I watch this show, the more I just wish it was focused on Kohaku and Rin as adults rather than...everything else. I don't know why I'm still doing this.
Small Axe - So let's talk about Small Axe. I spent way too much time thinking about how I was going to review this because while it is an anthology series, director Steve McQueen considers them five stand alone movies. Apparently Amazon is sending it to the Emmys, so I'm including it as part of my TV coverage, but I'll break it down movie by movie as McQueen intended.
Mangrove - Mangrove tells this true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behavior motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.
Mangrove is very, very hard to watch. This film starts off so disgustingly racist. Like to the point where I wonder if Sam Spruell is ever going to get an acting job as a non villain again. He was scary. When we get to the trial part of it, it becomes more engaging and feels like a reprieve because it's less time we have to spend with the police force. The main three, Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, and Malachi Kirby, all give outstanding performances. Parkes was a new to me actor, but as Frank, the restaurant owner who finds his establishment under attack for no reason other than the color of his skin, he's heartbreaking to watch. You can feel his frustration. The ending feels very uplifting, though the title card reminds us that what happened to Frank was far form over. B+
Lovers Rock - A single evening at a house party in 1980s West London sets the scene, developing intertwined relationships against a background of violence, romance and music.
I forgot I was watching a movie during this. After how heavy Mangrove was, I was just sitting here have a good time watching these people have a good time. I was so into it that when the plot conflict finally came up, it legitimately made me mad. Fucking men, I'm just trying to enjoy the music! This one is really an experience and I was so surprised with it. B+
Red, White, and Blue - Spotlights the true story of Leroy Logan, who at a young age saw his father assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.
This features John Boyega's best performance to date but I thought it had some serious pacing issues. At one hour 20 minutes, it's not as if it was a long film, but there were sections of this that were just very dull and it's a shame because other parts were quite compelling. B-
Alex Wheadle - Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.
Whereas the previous entry dragged a bit, this one had far too much packed into its hour run time. Alex Wheadle's life warrants it's own 5 episode mini series, to be honest. They tried to cover a lot of ground here and the result was that it felt a bit messy. But like every entry in this series, the acting is outstanding. B-
Education - Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster's office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he's being sent to a school for those with "special needs." Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from receiving the education they deserve, until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.
Small Axe ends on a high note with this entry. It works both as a family drama with Kingsley and a commentary on the education system as a whole. However again, the run time works against it as it could've used more time. I feel like the only two entries that really fit their respected run times were Mangrove and Lover's Rock. The rest were too short and RW&B was too long. B