Is Amazon's Dark Comedy Superhero Show 'The Boys' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Have To Say
WATCH THIS, OR REWATCH 'THE TICK?'

Digg · Updated:

Based on the comic series of the same name, the television adaptation of "The Boys" premiering on Amazon Prime Video (out July 26) comes from Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg ("Superbad") and Eric Kripke ("Supernatural").  Have they crafted a satire that truly interrogates the superhero genre's frameworks, or is it content to crack wise?​ Here's what the reviews say:

The World Of 'The Boys' Is One Where Superheroism Is Run As A Gross, Unethical And Unaccountable Business

Our way into the mayhem is "Wee" Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), a completely normal A/V salesman living a completely ordinary life until a super-fast superhero named A-Train (Jessie Usher) literally runs through his girlfriend Robin (Jess Salgueiro)[…] Quieted with a half-assed apology and ironclad [Vought Industries] Non-disclosure Agreement, Hughie's thirst for revenge leads him straight to Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), former leader of an under-the-radar squad that worked to keep the "supes" in check: The Boys.

[Collider]

At the same time, we're being shown the other side of Vought Industries through aspiring superhero Annie (Erin Moriarty), whose earnest desire to be heroic earns her a place in The Seven, Vought's Avengers-style assemblage of top-tier heroes. Annie, dubbed "Starlight" when she dons her costume, is eager to meet her heroes including Superman-meets-Captain America leader Homelander (Antony Starr), Wonder Woman-esque Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) and Aquaman-esque The Deep (Chace Crawford). But she quickly discovers a thoroughly gross patriarchy like any other in which #MeToo abuses are the price to pay for fame, fortune and a share of the merchandizing rights.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


Despite Her Superpowers, Annie A.K.A. 'Starlight' Might Be More Core To The Show's Identity Than The Boys Are

Some of the show's very best moments come from its wicked corporate satire, often seen through fresh-faced hero Starlight (Erin Moriarty), the newest member of the Seven. Her glimpse behind the scenes is hardly what she expects, as her outfit is made more revealing by the marketing team, various characters encourage her "authenticity" as if it's a cultivated false persona, and festivals featuring organizations named things like "Capes for Christ" book her for speaking engagements.

[Slant]

[Erin] Moriarty is the pilot's most likable element, and so it's unsettling how much time is spent building up to or around Annie's debasement and how outrageous the pilot wants you to think those moments are. Her centrality is a good way to offset how, if it just focused on Hughie, "The Boys" would be another of those stories about emasculated men finding their mojo through violence, a commentary on vigilantism that can become gleefully reactionary if you get off on the extremes in a way that I often think Mark Millar ("Wanted," "Kick-Ass") does.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

Antony Starr And Elisabeth Shue Shine As The Slimiest Superhero And Hero Manager The Show Have To Offer

Antony Starr is terrifying as Homelander; he plays the main supe like a petulant child given the strength of a nuclear bomb—a Shazam who also burns people's faces off—and it's chilling how quickly the actor switches between Homelander's toothy-smiled choir boy image and the stone-cold persona below. Standing behind him is Elisabeth Shue as Madelyn Stillwell, Senior Vice President of Superhero Management at Vought. The Oscar-nominee is perfectly icy in the role, and low-key the most terrifying character on the show.

[Collider]

[Starr] makes an eerie habit out of Homelander stating "You're the real heroes" to any group that applauds his latest act, and then following it up with a condescending, venomous sneer. It's wonderfully grotesque, like in an episode when Homelander hovers over a massive religious festival crowd in a Christ-like position, paralleling a speech about the supremacy of America with his own godlike spectacle.

[RogerEbert.com]

Madelyn is beautiful, charming, supportive, and smart. But her job at Vought is all about branding, and she's aware that image is everything. Underneath her pearlescent smile, she's a keen hunter who's willing to do whatever it takes to secure her power at Vought.

[The Verge]

Marvel Might Gesture At Corporate Greed Or Gender Inequality; 'The Boys' Forces You To Look Right At It

While superhero stories typically offer up an escape, "The Boys" is decidedly disinterested in such matters, and its corporate parody proves the most stinging. Disney may not have to deal with the level of perversion that the folks at the Vought Corporation do, but it is still a multinational corporation that made a billion dollars at the box office this weekend while former creators set up Go Fund Me pages for their medical bills.

[IndieWire]

There's a real stomach-churning familiarity to a high-ranking member of The Seven dropping his pants in front of Starlight and asking how badly she wants to be a part of a superhero team. But even the worst parts come with a sense of wish fulfillment; as awful as it is to see and recognize a world run by all-powerful assholes, it's thrilling when you realize "The Boys" is really about how ordinary people can fight back.

[Collider]

Still, Don't Go In Expecting The Deepest, Most Sophisticated Critique Of Superhero Media You've Seen

At least in its first episode, "The Boys" doesn't so much reimagine the superhero genre — as, say, the book "Watchmen," soon to be adapted for HBO did, or as "Preacher," with which "The Boys" shares executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, does — as just imagine its polar opposite. Moral decay — the opposite of goodness — isn't moral complexity; indeed, watching characters with no peskily complicating morality whatsoever is indeed a fairly simple endeavor.

[Variety]

"The Boys" visibly struggles to have a personality outside of its concept, which is best embodied by Karl Urban's character Billy Butcher[…] Once Billy's plot to hunt heroes takes off by about episode three, each episode practically starts with him sending Hughie on a type of mission, while he speaks in half-slang and a Cockney accent. All this to say that he looks like a parody of a tough guy, and that this series takes him seriously to a dangerous fault, shedding him of his dynamic qualities.

[RogerEbert.com]


Many Of The Comic's Gratuitous Elements Have Been Updated Or Done Away With For The Adaptation…

They've kept large chunks of the comic book story intact while also stripping away a bit of the X-Treme Edginess—I like Garth Ennis a lot, but Garth Ennis is occasionally too Garth Ennis for his own good—and setting it firmly in a setting that's both comic-book elevated and so perfectly 2019.

[Collider]

In translating them to a one-hour-per-episode streaming format, the show's writers add about as much as they subtract[…] No longer do any [characters] feel like simple vehicles for cruelty, or targets meant to receive it.

[Slant]

It would have been easy to turn "The Boys" into a misogynistic splatterfest, but Kripke navigates around that trap while also dropping in a few elements that add equality to the picture. Sure, Billy Butcher calls the Statue of Liberty a "slit" and throws the word "cunt" around like confetti, but multiple men strip down for the show — including Karl Urban and another character who goes full-frontal — while there's no corresponding female nudity. The contrast is rare enough to feel refreshing, and the nudity in the script isn't sexualizing the characters. It feels like a polite nod to the female gaze, rather than anything specifically gratuitous.

[The Verge]

… But There Are Still Some Gross Tropes At Play, And Some Changes Make The Boys Themselves Less Compelling

"The Boys" also shows that it can handle its characters in a tiresome fashion—along with two characters being motivated by vengeance for dead women in their lives (known as "fridging" in the comic book industry), it has no problem using Arabic characters for one-dimensional terrorists, especially for a fitfully disturbing plane hijacking sequence in a middle episode.

[RogerEbert.com]

But it also never quite reconciles the pitch-black roots of its principal characters with their more sympathetic TV counterparts. The Boys are no longer a C.I.A.-sanctioned hit squad as they were in the comics so much as everyman vigilantes raging against the machine, and rather than regard their actions and bravado with skepticism as Ennis's source material did, the show arrives at an awkward middle ground.

[Slant]

TL;DR

With a filthy mouth and a penchant for exploding people into puddles of blood, "The Boys" has some dark fun with this premise, until it starts to feel like a missed opportunity—the series pilot is a helluva hook, in that it can grab you and then drag you through the next less spirited seven hours, always hoping that something will seem as clever as its great premise.

[RogerEbert.com]


Watch The Trailer

 


Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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