Chuck versus The Mandalorian

Finally, I watched something other than Chuck. I managed to find a way to watch the Mandalorian. However, I just want to watch more Chuck because I am addicted once again. I wonder if anyone else has fallen into this trap before with a never-ending selection of their favourite shows they watch on repeat. 

I think season 3 of Chuck might be my favourite season of any show, and Episodes 9 to 14 are the best the show gets. It’s a wacky and emotional experience to watch Chuck, but the payoff is beyond anything I have ever watched. I know I am biased because the show is pretty much perfect for me due to the main character basically being me if I looked like Zachary Levi and had a moral compass. Oh, and a database worth of classified information in my head.

Anyway, my point is, I have seen it all before, and yet nothing I have watched trailers for or read about or scrolled to on any streaming service has grabbed my attention and forced me to stop watching it. Until last night, when I spent just shy of 40 minutes watching The Mandalorian. It starts slow, and builds to the point when you’re just getting interested in what’s happening and then stops, which whilst leaving me unsatisfied from the first episode, it’s the perfect set up for a series and I will definitely try to find a way to watch the second episode as well.

I won’t go into any spoilers, but I can already see one thing that might prevent this show from reaching the highest it could, and that’s the Mandalorian himself. After one episode we haven’t seen his face, and its hinted that we never will. This is a cool idea in a lot of media, Master Chief and Judge Dredd also never remove their masks. I have also never cared about Master Chief or Judge Dredd because they’re faceless protagonists. There are no emotions being shown. It works for a villain, Darth Vader is scarier because we can’t see any emotions, same with horror icons like Michael Myers.

In a show where we are following this character around, I found myself interested in the events happening, but not really bothered about the Mandalorian himself. It may change and perhaps through his actions they can convey the range I like in characters but after one episode it’s a little bit of a concern for me. Chuck is an example of a show where the performances and acting is 90% of the shows charm. The Mandalorian is already at a disadvantage in that it’s taken the incredibly charismatic Pedro Pascal and stuck him in a helmet. It’s a cool helmet, but still.

What’s not a concern is the look and feel of it, everything in this world looks like it fits into Star Wars. I saw some reactions to the effects not quite being up to scratch, but I am willing to forgive that in a show that’s going to run far longer than any film we have ever seen in the universe, although to be honest I never noticed anything too jarring in the episode. The music is unlike the saga films, as you would expect it to be, but I must admit I do find myself pining for those familiar tunes whenever I am in the Star Wars world. Perhaps the score will grow on me as the show goes on, but I will take some time adjusting to Star Wars without the Star Wars music I know and love.

The Mandalorian has started well, but I can’t escape from the clutches of Chuck or The Office. That new(ish) Paul Rudd led series on Netflix keeps popping up whenever I go for a scroll, but I just can’t bring myself to watch Paul Rudd being sad. That’s not how I like to receive my Paul Rudd. Then there is Jack Ryan, a show which I have wanted to watch for ages, but I am currently three quarters of the way through my 2nd viewing of The Office.

John Krasinski is Jim Halpert, he can’t also be in my life as Jack Ryan. How am I supposed to deal with two loads of Krasinski? I don’t want to start Jack Ryan and hate it because he isn’t looking into the camera and shrugging when someone says something. Beyond a new series, there is an unbelievably long list of films I need to watch, but just can’t bring myself to do. It feels like too much of a time commitment, so instead I watch 3 forty-two-minute-long episodes of Chuck.

This weekend I will finally get to dive into a new singe player Star Wars game, Jedi Fallen Order, which I am very excited for, and will probably preview that tomorrow or Friday morning. Apologies for missing yesterday, I had to get into work early for someone who wasn’t getting there until 9 anyway. So please blame my offices’ new phone system. I am off to said office now to battle through another day and think about how gosh dang perfect Chuck is.

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

 

Chuck is on Amazon Prime!

Once again, my early night was ruined by finding a series online, I just know I am going to love. How do I know? Because it’s Chuck, and it’s very possibly my favourite ever TV show. I would never argue it is the best TV series, but it’s comfortably the one I have enjoyed the most. So today I am going to explain why I love it. 

I got just twenty-six minutes into the first episode of season one when I remember why I love the series. Its main premise is that a man-child gets government secrets implanted in his brain and the CIA and other government agencies want to use his brain. That’s the plot device that drives the five seasons and brings with it the twists and turns from an action/spy thriller point of view. They are not the reason I love the series so much though.

Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Rick and Morty all have some amazing romantic story lines. Alright no they don’t but I couldn’t think of any other TV shows. Anyway, the point is Chuck’s real secret weapon is its complex characters and their chemistry. Shazam star Zachary Levi wasn’t always quite so huge as he is in the DC film, but this is the show that he made his name in. In the titular role he brings so much boyish charm and plays a character with such a good heart and he has an incredible amount of character development over the course of the show. You really do get to know him and the supporting cast and very quickly the show becomes less about the espionage and more about the relationships.

That is what is makes any of the shows I mentioned special. Game of Thrones was so successful because we were so invested in Tyrion, Jamie, Dany, Jon, and so on. The reason the final season fell short for me is because all the character development and their interactions were rushed through to get to the key battle scenes in the show. If we had been given more of the characters, we knew interacting so well I think the entire season would have gone down better, although perhaps the lack of time put that out of the question.

Chuck takes the main characters at the start and puts them through so much emotional turmoil that by the end their bond is so strong you are so invested in what happens that the twists and turns at the end of the seasons leaves you torn apart. Chuck is special in that it’s a light-hearted, fun show that ends up packing an emotional punch.

Breaking Bad is what I would rate as the best show I have ever watched, but Chuck is my favourite. The reason it beats out Walter White is because of how relatable I find the characters in Chuck. I can empathise with Walter White and I understand the process he goes through, but to be honest my life has been lacking in teachers turned meth chef’s, although there is a couple, I wonder about…

The main character of Chuck is a lot like me if I had a PG filter on me and that might be why I love it so much, because I am awesome. I am joking, it’s because seeing yourself in a character is a brilliant way to feel invested in a show. That is perhaps what elevate Chuck above the comedy sitcoms like Friends or HIMYM, or even serious drama’s like Breaking Bad or Archer.

Stupidity aside, relatable characters in films and TV shows makes them so much more compelling. Even taking something like Joker, what makes that film so divisive and terrifying, is that there are elements of the character of Arthur Fleck that people can see themselves even if it’s just in the slightest way. I am not sure everyone is the same as me and perhaps how much we can relate to characters is as important for everyone else.

I was planning to write about A New Hope, but Chuck has taken over. Between this and my latest run through The Office mean all my content watching time has been filled up for the foreseeable future. I am going to have to pull myself away from those two shows to get something other than those two shows to write about. Tomorrow’s post will probably be all about the PS5 news, another topic I was going to write about today until Chuck appeared.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a more informative post.

‘Til then.

ChAzJS

 

Shazam! Review

DC step up to the plate just weeks before the next Avengers movie to try to remind the world they exist with Shazam!. He is a character i have a cursory knowledge of, but I don’t know his back story too well aside from the “Say Shazam! turn into a superhero” part of it. This films real attraction for me is Shazam himself, Zachary Levi. My all time favourite TV show is Chuck, the show he starred in as the title character. He is also Flynn Rider in my favourite new style Disney animated film, Tangled. Needless to say, I watched every trailer with slightly rose-tinted glasses, but once in the cinema, I put aside that love of his previous work to judge this film on its own merits. 

First of all, I have to say I am shocked at how much I enjoyed the teen actors in this film. All of them are great, and it follows on from my review last week of “Us” when I mentioned the rise of really great child and teen actors. The two main boys we follow, Billy Batson and Freddy, are funny, believable and as a result really entertaining throughout the film. Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer should both be marked as talents to watch after their performances in those roles.

Shazam! tells the origin story of the character, and it does a really does a good job of setting up the world, giving us the rules of the world, and then letting the hero have fun within those rules. We see him gleefully testing out his powers and can see the visible childish excitement in his face when he learns of a new ability. This is all performed well by Zach Levi, whose childish side has always been a part of his work. Whether it’s entirely in line with the comics I’m not sure, as I know in the Injustice fighting video game he goes from 15 year old boy and transforms into a hero who is essentially a different person. Here it’s treated as if this is a straight body swap, and he still has the mind of a 15 year old boy.

This all leads to some really wholesome, friendly fun with him and Freddy. The chemistry between him and Billy/Shazam is the driving force of the movie, and that bond that is created between them as the film progresses is heartwarming to watch unfold. The bond he has by the end with the rest of his foster family is a little odd, as there aren’t many scenes with some of them, but I think that’s actually to the betterment of the film as a whole as I think Shazam! gets its runtime just about right. A few more scenes of interacting with the siblings might have made me check my watch a few times.

Changing focus from the good guys, Mark Strong plays antagonist Dr Sivana. A cool name, a typically evil villain, and one that Mark Strong commits to and is as good as the role allows him to be. I saw a clip of Dwayne Johnson talking about how this film was developed with Black Adam as the villain but he felt telling two origins in one movie was a bit too much and would end up being a disservice to one of the characters, so they decided to take Black Adam out and make their own movie starring The Rock. It turns out he was right, as I found myself disinterested by the origins of Sivana and despite Strong’s solid performance, I just didn’t find him particularly engaging.

In a weird way, Shazam reminded me of a Phase 1 Marvel movie. The hero is nailed perfectly, and the villain is a generic guy who ends up with very similar powers to the hero. Applying that Marvel template is no bad thing though, as it means Shazam feels like a really fun time and actually has some really fun actions scenes that beat anything we saw back in Phase 1 of the MCU. Whether Shazam! is a match for Aquaman or Wonder Woman is another question of course.

My answer to that question, is Yes. Shazam feels like the final part of a tonal shift in DC’s universe of films. This is a funny film, I genuinely laughed out loud at some parts, and that is a far cry from the shocked outrage I felt watching Batman V Superman in the cinema. DC are on a good run now, with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and now Shazam! all delivering really fun movies. If next years Affleck-free Batman movie can live up to these last few films, I think we might just have the makings of something really good for DC here.

Good: Teens are all great, Zach Levi is perfect for this kind of role, Some good laughs sprinkled throughout. One of the coolest moments in any film when he jumps off a roof and transforms.

Bad: Despite good acting, the villain was just a bit too unsubtle for me, and Shazam’s suit, whilst comic book accurate, just reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Turbo Man in Jingle All The Way.

7/10 I’m off to find out where I can re-watch Chuck for the 4th time. 

DC Cast Shazam, and it’s Awesome. 

A story broke out over the weekend from the Hollywood Reporter saying that Zachary Levi has been cast as superhero “Shazam” in the DC film universe. This report has since been confirmed by the actor himself on his Instagram. 

For those who don’t know, Shazam is a young boy who transforms into a musclebound superhero whose powers rival Superman, whenever he exclaims “Shazam!”. I’m serious. That’s the premise for this character.

That taken into consideration, casting Zachary Levi, the star of one of my favourite TV shows Chuck, is a stroke of genius. It’s not a name I or anyone I know of would have suggested as a potential actor for the role, and it was initially shocking when I first read it.

Once I took a minute to step back and think about it, it actually makes so much sense. In Chuck he plays a geeky man-child who is thrust into a world he’s not ready for. Levi is convincing as both the fish out of water in the early seasons and the confident bad ass of later seasons, showcasing the range that you would need to pull off a character as unique as Shazam.

I think the best comparison to make for this is with Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt. He was a guy who not many had heard of, but those that had adored him. And he hit the gym and buffed up to become one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most beloved characters.

I’m not saying Zachary Levi can do the same for DC, we all know the sketchy track record Warner Bros have with these films. I am hoping Levi can bring that same fun and energy that got me hooked on Chuck to this role. If he succeeds I think Shazam could be a surprise hit for DC.

We have a few years to wait, but I’m now actually excited for a film I thought would be a joke. Here’s hoping the Justice League movie doesn’t sink the entire DC Universe Films and make this news obsolete.