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‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Review: An Exciting But Messy Overachievement

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‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Review: An Exciting But Messy Overachievement

Last August, the team-up between two comedy legends (Steve Martin and Martin Short) and one of the world’s biggest pop stars/actresses (Selena Gomez) sucked the world into a true-crime comedy spectacle. Yes, Only Murders in the Building Season 1 both captivated audiences and reeled in the stellar reviews. Season 2 wasn’t just an option but a certainty, and nine months later, we are jumping right back into the New York apartment building, the Arconia. If a nine-month time jump feels a bit rushed, and there was any suspicion that a short gap between seasons would result in a sloppy, unrefined follow-up, I’m disappointed to report that that is exactly the case with Only Murders Season 2.

Before launching into what makes this season an unsteady sequel, let’s reminisce on just where we left off our crime-fighting trio. Season 1 follows three residents of the Arconia: Charles (Martin), an actor whose glory days of a cable cop show are behind him, Oliver (Short), a theater director who’s lost more money than he can count due to repeated flops in his career and is living hand to mouth every day, and Mabel (Gomez), a mysterious young woman who seems to attract trouble and chaos wherever she goes. The trio bond over their love for true crime and set out to find the truth when murder comes to the Arconia.

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The murder of Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) sets the events of Season 1 in motion. A lot happens: Charles, Oliver, and Mabel start a podcast, Mabel is forced to face her traumatic past, Charles gets a girlfriend (Amy Ryan), and then said girlfriend turns out to be Tim Kono’s murderer, but hey, at least they solved the case! In the final moments of Season 1’s finale, we see Charles and Oliver rush to Mabel’s apartment where they find her, covered in blood, kneeling over the dead body of Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the cranky board president of the Arconia who had a mutual hatred for our three leads. Next, we see the trio arrested and led out of the Arconia by the police. Have they been framed? Did Mabel commit this crime? What does podcaster extraordinaire Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) have in store for her next show, “Only Murderers in the Building?”


RELATED: ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Trailer Shows a Glimpse at New Suspects

Season 2 picks up right where we left off. Charles, Oliver, and Mabel are being questioned by the police (Da’Vine Joy Randolph bringing her perfectly grounded skepticism, Michael Rapaport being as insufferable as the videos he posts online) and they’re not quite buying Mabel’s story. She pushes her innocence but is unable to remember the finer details, her memory blurred by all the celebratory champagne. The season revolves around their search for Bunny’s killer, which brings in new characters (Amy Schumer as herself, Cara Delevigne as Mabel’s love interest with ulterior motives), but we also get to dive deeper into characters that weren’t given much time in the first season, like Bunny and others residents of the Arconia. There’s a valuable erotic painting that’s been stolen that ties into Charles’ family, Jan even makes a comeback, and evidence relating to Bunny’s murder keeps popping up in Charles’ apartment. How? The Arconia building seems to be storing more secrets than any of its occupants.


The best way to describe Season 2 is if Woody Allen wrote a draft of Desperate Housewives. The first season went on many tangents, but you always knew that it would come back to the central mystery of finding out who killed Tim Kono. In this season, we get flashbacks, Schumer playing herself for no discernible reason (or no reason that can be determined from the first eight episodes), and Charles and Oliver’s parental challenges. The relentless sideplots are so distracting that you forget what you came here for: a whodunnit.

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It’s hard to pinpoint what type of tone Only Murders strives for. Sure, it’s a comedy, but it can also be painfully sad, addressing themes of loneliness, self-depreciation, and feeling as though your prime is behind you. Every scene, plot, and piece of dialogue is imbued with emotion that can be quite striking. This is done to great effect in the first season, but Season 2 just doesn’t stick the landing, which comes down to the issue of the script. The dialogue feels out of place, the jokes fall flat, and the switch from comedy to drama or vice versa is not timed right. It produces an abstract mess, and the detailed plot fails to push through.


In terms of acting, Martin and Short are at their best, but Gomez’s line deliveries feel weirdly off-hand at times. Sure, Mabel is meant to be the stoic, mysterious foil to Charles’ naivety and Oliver’s chaos, but you’re yearning for more from her than you were last season. Mabel is so multi-layered, and it sometimes feels that Gomez is struggling to carry the weight of such an intriguing character. Short is undoubtedly the standout, with moments that include an uproariously funny impression of Bunny. He’s sometimes on the brink of being too annoying or too outrageous, but he always dials it back just in time, and quite frankly, runs circles around his co-stars. Schumer is an awkward, needless character, jammed in as a total gimmick. Delevigne is not that bad, but that’s because she’s essentially playing a version of herself.


This season’s most affecting performance is Houdyshell’s, who takes on the role of this season’s murder victim. Bunny was your run-of-the-mill crabby rich woman who loved to take her frustration out on select victims. She loved to complain, rule, and reprimand, and we thought there wasn’t much more to her than that. However, there’s an episode devoted to her last living day, and Only Murders does an excellent job at retrospectively breathing life into a dead character. That’s where the script really steps up, giving you one impression of a character and then a few episodes later, completely flipping it.

Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building has no shortage of surprises, but it lacks a centralized throughline that ties it all together, preventing the audience from getting lost. There are so many B-plots vying for your attention that it will give you whiplash, and the show fails to see that when it’s at its most simple, it’s at its best. Season 2 will not fail to excite or tantalize, but it just doesn’t deliver everything that was so beloved about the first season. It does a great job of expanding the world it built in Season 1, allowing side characters their moments to shine and tying in gimmicks and jokes that remind you that, after all, this is a comedy. But so much to wade through in terms of story can dilute the sole purpose of the narrative: Uncovering the truth behind a shocking murder. There are twists and turns at every corner that will no doubt keep viewers coming back for more, but Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building ultimately loses itself in its overreaching and overly tangled web of plotlines.

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Rating: C

Only Murders in the Building Season 2 premieres with its first two episodes on June 28, with subsequent episodes streaming every Tuesday thereafter, exclusively on Hulu.

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‘The Terminal List’ Review: Chris Pratt Stars in Your Dad’s New Favorite Show

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‘The Terminal List’ Review: Chris Pratt Stars in Your Dad’s New Favorite Show

Whether you love or hate Chris Pratt, the career he’s built for himself is certainly respectable. Initially breaking out as the lovable doofus Andy Dwyer in Parks & Recreation, Pratt soon was on his way to becoming of the one biggest movie stars in the business. He’s Star-Lord in the MCU, is one of the main faces of the massively successful Jurassic World films, and has lent his vocal talents to critically acclaimed animated flicks like The Lego Movie and Onward. Even in more straightforward action films like The Tomorrow War or The Magnificent Seven, Pratt has managed to bring in some of that goofy everyman presence that made him a star. That makes his involvement in the new Prime Video series The Terminal List a bit of a head-scratcher.

It’s not that The Terminal List is a bad show; it’s insanely entertaining, with some expertly shot and well-choreographed action set-pieces, and a serviceable, albeit cliché tale of revenge. In other words, it’s one of those shows your dad will love watching alongside new episodes of Jack Ryan and Bosch. But its overt self-seriousness and commitment to grit can often get in the way of allowing Pratt to be himself onscreen, or at least bring some of that charm that fans of his are familiar with.

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RELATED: ‘The Terminal List’ Images Reveal an Intense and Gripping Military Thriller

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, The Terminal List centers around James Reece (Pratt), a Navy SEAL who returns home in a state of disarray after an operation gone terribly wrong leads to his entire platoon being ambushed. Upon his arrival back to the states, Reece begins to doubt his own memories and recollections of previous events and suspects that he may be one of those responsible for the attack on his platoon. When the blood and violence start to follow him back to the stateside, causing numerous personal tragedies and putting those he loves in danger, Reece takes matters into his own hands, embarking on a ruthlessly cruel path of revenge.


The Terminal List without a doubt delivers when focusing on its action. It’s a blend between Reacher and Commando, with shades of the anti-establishment and anti-war themes of First Blood. One may be quick to dismiss Pratt’s James Reece. He’s not your typical action hero, and some of the lengths he undertakes in his revenge tour would likely even make John Wick blush. There’s even a scene that feels straight out of Mortal Kombat, featuring Pratt’s Reece ripping out the intestines of an adversary and hanging him. It’s a pseudo-Punisher type tale and at times it’s hard to buy a typically likable presence like Pratt in this type of role. He has the physicality down, but there’s a bit of a disconnect, especially since the show’s writing often doesn’t do the audience any favors in knowing whether to condone the actions of his character. While it’s easy enough to buy into the misfortunes that plague its protagonist, the series never does enough to make James Reece feel human.


The supporting cast around Pratt is impressive, despite some being ludicrously underutilized. Taylor Kitsch‘s performance as Reece’s ally Ben Edwards is one of the biggest highlights of the series. Both Kitsch and Pratt are at their best in their scenes together, with authentic chemistry that makes the brotherly bond they have for one another palpable, and it’s their interactions that give the show the majority of its emotional elements. After initially risking overexposure in the early 2010s, it’s truly nice to see Kitsch getting these types of roles that genuinely bring out his charisma. Jai Courtney is another major standout as Steven Horn, a shady businessman who becomes one of Reece’s primary targets. Courtney seems to know the exact kind of project he’s in, feeling much more like the villain out of a nineties action flick but never feeling out of place, playing the kind of antagonist that you love to hate. Constance Wu is another winner amongst the ensemble as Katie Buranek, a journalist who becomes an unlikely ally to Reece. While an unlikely addition to the cast, Wu plays off both Pratt and Jeanne Tripplehorn extremely well. Riley Keough, who has proven in the past to be extremely talented, isn’t given much to do as Reece’s wife to make an impression, despite being listed in the main cast.

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It’s the generic nature of the writing and execution that is the biggest hurdle for The Terminal List and in the end, it just barely squeaks by. The story itself is insanely predictable and even casual viewers will likely see every twist and turn the series throws at them within the first two episodes. Shows like Reacher succeeded in providing successful misdirects and revelations that had audiences at home jumping to the next episode. With The Terminal List, those who are willing to commit to all 50+ minute episodes, will likely just be tuning in to see what kind of crazy things Pratt does next. The series is undeniably watchable and despite the length of each episode, the story never feels too overstuffed to the point where it drags, but it is also far too simple and any moments of genuine excitement aren’t there.


The Terminal List is not some disaster, nor is it unwatchable. In fact, it’ll likely garner a huge following and become a hit for the streamer, but a film might have been the more beneficial route to take, especially for Pratt’s performance and the overall story. Prime Video has delivered plenty of action-revenge tales; in fact, they seem to have a firm grasp on it with films like Without Remorse, much like Netflix has a grasp on the romantic comedy genre. But at the end of the day, a story this simple shouldn’t be this damn long. Pratt has long shown an interest in portraying military roles on screen, as can be seen through his social media as well as his roles in films like Zero Dark Thirty. It’s no mystery what attracted him to this kind of project, and he is at the point in his career where he is free to take risks, but it comes at the cost of losing that natural charisma he’s brought to other roles. As a show to watch alongside your dad during the summer months, it’ll likely do the trick, but this isn’t the kind of show that’ll garner much discussion — at least until its inevitable second season.

Rating: B-

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The Terminal List premieres July 1, exclusively on Prime Video.

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Minions: The Rise of Gru Review: An IQ Lowering Origin Story

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Minions: The Rise of Gru Review: An IQ Lowering Origin Story

Illumination’s gibberish-babbling, Twinkie-shaped henchmen return in a brainless CGI sequel meant for young children. Minions: The Rise of Gru will lower adult IQ points in a seventies themed origin story that struggles mightily to fill ninety minutes. Big action sequences are sprinkled around a slim narrative that introduces the primary Despicable Me characters. I chuckled a few times as the indecipherable Minions, bombastic new supervillains, and a nascent Gru (Steve Carell) battle over a powerful artifact. More often than not I was hideously bored by a franchise that’s completely run out of creative steam.

The film opens in 1975 with an eleven and three quarters Gru (Carell) dreaming of becoming a supervillain. He idolizes Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the butt-kicking geezer leader of the Vicious Six. Gru doesn’t know that Wild Knuckles has been ousted by Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) after the group stole the legendary Zodiac Stone medallion. Gru is ecstatic to receive an interview to join the Vicious Six. He appreciates the Minions building his first evil lair but feels they may be holding him back.

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The Vicious Six laugh themselves silly when Gru shows up. He’s just a kid. Their tune changes when Gru snatches the Zodiac Stone. A chase ensues with Gru and his loyal Minions rocketing through the city streets. Gru gives the rotund Otto (Pierre Coffin) the medallion to hide; which he promptly loses. Gru’s anger turns to hero worship when he’s kidnapped by Wild Knuckles. Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (all voiced by Coffin) must find the Zodiac Stone then travel to San Francisco to rescue their beloved leader.

Related: Mr. Malcolm’s List Review: A Funny & Charming English Period Romance

A Flimsy Plot

Minions: The Rise of Gru tries to make up for its flimsy plot by milking seventies pop culture. Jaws, Afros, Tupperware, pet rocks, and of course, Kung Fu, take center stage on the Minions quest. The film is also loaded with the decade’s toe-tapping musical hits from Black Magic Woman to Funkytown. The grooviness and visual cues distract to a point; then becomes filler material for a script with zero substance.

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I will give the animators credit for a solid action spectacle. You can see where the blockbuster budget was spent; apart from Steve Carell’s salary and the musical rights. The Vicious Six, Wild Knuckles, and Gru create mayhem with their eye-popping gadgets. The grown up baddies duke it out in cartoonish brawls. The Minions join the fisticuffs after a crash course under the tutelage of Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh). The Chinatown climax looks impressive.

Illumination Needs a Fresh Perspective

The Minions are akin to a piece of gum that’s losing flavor. It still looks bright, yellow, and appealing but has been chewed to rubber. The previous films had endearing qualities. They were silly and humorous with a healthy dose of heart. The latest iteration is pure fluff. It ekes out a few giggles over a strained runtime. Minions: The Rise of Gru is solely meant for a kindergarten audience. I have no doubt it will slay the summer box office and spawn further sequels. Illumination needs a fresh perspective with these characters and the franchise.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is produced by Illumination. It will have a theatrical release on July 1st from Universal Pictures.

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‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 4 Review: Chaos and ClanDestines Come to Karachi

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‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 4 Review: Chaos and ClanDestines Come to Karachi

The Khans are headed to Karachi! Well, two of them are anyway. Following last week’s Ms. Marvel, where Sana (Samina Ahmad) told her granddaughter Kamala (Iman Vellani) to come visit her in Pakistan with her mother (Zenobia Shroff) to solve the mystery of the bangle, the episode opens with the two of them on a plane, Karachi-bound. But just because they’re flying halfway around the world together does not mean all is forgiven after the stunt Kamala pulled at Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding. Though Kamala is more than willing to explain to Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) what happened, it seems she doesn’t seem quite as willing to share with her mother.

They arrive in Karachi in a scene familiar to anyone who has ever flown to visit family in that part of the world, where the airport is packed with more family than can possibly be needed to convey the travelers to where they’re staying. In Kamala’s case, her grandmother is accompanied by her cousins Zainab (Vardah Aziz) and Owais (Asfandyar Khan), who are around Kamala’s age and are eager to show her around.

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Before they can do that, Kamala and Muneeba head back to Sana’s house, where she and Kamala get down to the real reason for their visit. While Muneeba remains under the impression that Sana wanted them to visit because her mother isn’t getting any younger, Kamala and her grandmother set about trying to solve the mystery of the bracelet, of the ClanDestines who want to take it, and of why they both shared a vision of the train Sana took from India to Karachi. Sana repeats information Kamala already has: that they’re genetically djinn and that as a child she found her father at the train station by “following a trail of stars.” But the firsthand account seems much more matter-of-fact, and less the wistfulness of a daydreaming woman Kamala’s family seemed to think it was.


RELATED: How ‘Ms. Marvel’s Comedy Offers a Relatable Look at the MCU’s First Muslim Superhero

While out with her cousins, Kamala is determined to investigate the train vision further and begs off the coffee shop excursion to make her own way to the train station instead. There, her search is interrupted by Kareem (Aramis Knight), a member of the underground group known as the Red Daggers. When he realizes who Kamala is, he brings her to the Red Dagger headquarters where their leader Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) gives Kamala some added context for the ClanDestines.

He assures her that they are not the djinn she’s heard of from legends or religious texts, and explains that the nickname is merely a by-product of where they happened to arrive when crossing from their dimension into Kamala’s. This is a relief, to say the least, as it would be very disappointing if the MCU’s first Muslim superhero was also genetically linked to a group of beings often misused and misunderstood by Western storytellers. By making the ClanDestine’s djinn alias more of a nickname used by those who didn’t know better, it nominally ties them to the part of the world where they appeared while clearly marking them as separate.


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Waleed then goes on to tell Kamala that if the ClanDestines get their hands on the bangle, and use it to open the veil of Noor that separates the two dimensions, the hidden dimension they came from will spill over and devour Kamala’s, making it essential that she keep the bracelet away from them. That, however, is proving to be more and more difficult as Najma (Nimra Bucha) and the other ClanDestines break out of the Department of Damage Control’s custody and head to Karachi. The only one who does not accompany them is Kamran (Rish Shah), as Najma feels she can’t trust him in this.

In and around the exposition and the lore that spills out in this episode, writers Sabir Pirzada, A. C. Bradley and Matthew Chauncey, and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy make plenty of space to examine not only the diaspora experience, but also the experience of those growing up in the shadow of generational trauma. While Sana spends the bulk of her time in her home, surrounded by memories of all that she lost, both during Partition and when her daughter left for America, Kamala’s cousins are not so similarly haunted by the past. They know their history, of course, but while their grandmother lives with the memories and consequences of choices made by British colonizers, Zainab and Owais are proud members of a yacht club, which is a colonialist institution if I ever saw one. True, it’s frequented by locals, but locals who still uphold a certain idea of class and social hierarchy. Neither Sana nor Zainab and Owais are wrong for the way they live. Generational differences are a tale as old as time. But to those whose families lived through a major upheaval in their way of life, there is familiarity in the dichotomy between those who live for the memory of what was, and those who live looking to make the best of what is.


The one major downside to this episode is the prolonged chase scene with the ClanDestines tracking down Kamala and Kareem. It’s true this is a feature of superhero shows, and Ms. Marvel is no exception, but there are only so many alleys to run down, trucks to dodge, and stalls to trip over before the whole thing starts to feel repetitive. The action scenes in previous episodes benefited from either being short or containing some kind of tension beyond Kamala’s immediate survival. In the third episode, when a fight breaks out at the wedding, there is the constant worry that someone will see her powers — a tension that paid off when Nakia caught Kamala using them. But here, the people of Karachi are simply too calm at the sudden influx of flying trucks and teenagers being chased by dagger-wielding assassins.


The sequence does end with another wild cliffhanger, however, something this show does especially well. Najma stabs Kamala’s bangle and opens what appears to be a hole in space-time, dropping the 21st-century girl from New Jersey smack in the middle of a train station in Partition-era India. If they’re really going the time-travel route, it’s possible Kamala might be the source of the “trail of stars” that reunites her grandmother with her father and therefore ensures Kamala’s own existence. But I suppose time will tell.

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Rating: B+

The first four episodes of Ms. Marvel are streaming now on Disney+.

Read More about Ms. Marvel:

‘Ms. Marvel’: Trailers, Release Date, Cast, and Everything We Know So Far About the Disney+ Series

‘Ms Marvel’ Cast and Character Guide: Who’s Who in the Disney+ Series

How to Watch ‘Ms. Marvel’: When Is the MCU Series Streaming Online?

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