Jonathan Reed

Jonathan Reed

30 posts on Screen Times since March 2019

Jonathan is the Contributing Editor at Screen Times, contributing reviews, news and much more. Jonathan is also the editor of smallbites.me Twitter: @aylwardreed Email: jonathan@screentimes.net

Twitter: @sigjudge
Jonathan Reed

Apple Announces ‘For All Mankind: The Official Podcast’

Apple has announced a new 10 part podcast series.

Apple today released a teaser trailer (above) for it’s very first Apple TV+ focused bi-weekly podcast.

Hosted by actor Krys Marshall, who plays Danielle Poole on the show, it will avoid episode recaps and focus more on the space exploration itself, the making of the show and science behind it. Featuring interviews with former astronauts, advisors, showrunners and the actors, the podcast launches this Friday on Apple Podcasts. However, it won’t be an exclusive and will also be available through all other podcast apps.

You can subscribe here or search for it in your podcast app.

For All Mankind season 2 premieres this Friday on Apple TV+.

You can check out our full review here. (Very minimal spoilers)

Jonathan Reed

TV+ Development Round-up 15th Feb

A round up of Apple TV+ production announcements.

Apple TV+ has a lot of shows and movies in development, with new announcements coming quite regularly.

Here’s all the news from the last week:

Saray Blue has joined the cast of Apple TV+ upcoming ‘The Shrink Next Door’ starring Will Ferrel, Paul Rudd and Kathryn Hahn. Blue will play a patient of Rudd’s character.

Clare Danes is replacing Kiera Knightly in ‘Essex Serpent’, the upcoming series for TV+. Knightly left in October due to family reasons.

Apple Studios has won a bidding war for a new film called ‘Dolly’ starring Florence Pugh. The “sci-fi courtroom drama” will be written by Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce with Pugh producing.

Apple is developing a new children’s show inspired by the work of Dr. Jane Goodall. It will centre on a 10 year old girl and her work to protect a different endangered animal in each episode.

Martin Scorsese has cast Lily Gladstone in his next film ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ for Apple TV+. The film also stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro. It is the first film for Apple TV+ as part of Scorsese’s exclusive deal for all film and TV productions from his ‘Sikelia Productions’.

Jonathan Reed

‘For All Mankind’ Review: Season 2 Ups The Thrills, Without Losing Sight Of Its Characters

For All Mankind Season 2 - Full season watched for review.

Premieres February 19th, Apple TV+

Season 1 of For All Mankind was a well made but often frustrating show. It too often matched cliché characterisation and glacial plot progression with great performances and some whip-snap plot turns. It didn’t help that the four characters the show focused most on were not very relatable and frequently unlikeable; Ed, Karen, Gordo and Tracey. However, after a slow start, it culminated in a gripping final 2 episodes. The scene was set for an exciting season 2. For the most part, it does not disappoint.

Episode 1 starts with an extended montage of alt-history headlines, taking us 9 years ahead to 1983. There's a sense of urgency, bringing in the outer world’s influence on the inner world of NASA. Some of history stays the same, and some is different. It all seems well-considered and not just random.

As do pretty much all of the character paths and changes as we re-join them. In hindsight, it feels a lot of season 1 was treading water, allowing for plots to more easily fall into place in season 2. Creator Ronald D Moore has said he’s planned 7 seasons for this show. It doesn’t seem surprising judging by the amount of groundwork going on here.

The fall out from the death of their son Shane last season has given Ed (Joel Kinnaman) and Karen (Shantel VanSanten) fresh perspectives and while there are demons to be addressed they feel easier to connect with, giving them much more depth than ‘butch pilot’ and ‘acid-tongued wife’. However, one plot-line late in the season threatens to derail all of that good work.

The new season has mixed results for our other central duo, Gordo and Tracey. Gordo is on the speaker circuit, getting drunk and putting on weight. It’s a sad insight into what could happen after the ‘party’ is over. Michael Dorman plays it well, and it’s tragic to see. The problem is, this isn’t a show about drunk speakers. The way the writers bring Gordo back into the fold is both too obvious and too easy. Dorman does a good job, but it still feels a little forced.

Tracey, however, comes off the worst. She’s now a celebrity astronaut, appearing on Carson and living in a mansion. It’s the most frustrating and even stupid thing about this season. Almost all nuance is given up for the character, and I genuinely felt sorry for actor Sarah Jones. Also, does anyone even care whether she and Gordo are together? I don’t.

Elsewhere is where the show comes alive. The beauty of this sprawling show is the large ensemble. The well of characters to draw from is deep, smaller characters are expanded like government lackey Thomas Paine, and Bill Strausser and even Margo’s new secretary has some great smaller moments.

Speaking of which, Wrenn Schmidt as Margo, by far the best character, is now heading up NASA and having no time for your crap, thank you very much. With many angles to play and layers to reveal, actor Wrenn Schmidt is quietly giving one of the best performances on TV right now. Ellen (Jodi Balfour) also gets to grow into a new role on the administrative side, wrestling with the increased government and military influence as well as her secret sexuality. Sonya Wagner as Molly, upgraded to series regular this year, is a big part of episode 1 and continues to be a joy to watch the rest of the season. Krys (Danielle Poole) is also trying to discover her legacy and how she finds her place in the African-American story. Considering how history has developed, I hope we dig more into her story over coming seasons.

There’s plenty of character work going on which all provides a fantastic appetiser to GUNS ON THE MOON!

Only joking, though as you can see from the poster that does happen. No, what we want is more space action! Season 1 finally went there at the end, and you’ll get more here, but importantly, it’s not at the expense of plot.

While season 1’s outside threat of the Soviet’s space plans was, for the most part, out of sight, season 2 sees it become much more influential. Now we’ve moved past the point of actually trying to GET to the moon, NASA and the Soviets now want to assert their pressence. This brings them into much more direct conflict, political and otherwise. Margo, Ellen and others have to deal with all the political machinations of governments wanting to flex their insecure muscles as well as who to pick for the next mission to the moon. It’s the strongest part of the season’s plot arcs.

Increasingly the characters are dealing with the ongoing toll of these missions, all the while grappling with their place in history and what legacy each other, as well as NASA, will leave. When the show drills into this, it makes for some great moments, even as we look forward to the next moment IN SPACE!

The first episode is a thrilling hour. Giving the characters plenty to do early on, it culminates in a pulse-pounding final few minutes. The seasons opening episode is the show at it’s most potent - building on strong characterisation, engrossing direction and a pretty sizeable special effects budget; it will have you counting the days until episode 2 (you don’t get the first 3 episodes at once this time).

For All Mankind season 2 is an example of a maturing show; building on what’s gone before while learning from its missteps and introducing more high drama. It can still be a little cheesy in parts (there are TWO impromptu singalongs in the first 3 episodes) and one or two plots threaten to slip into cliché, but above it, all the writers never lose sight of the fact that character is king. Succeed with that, and it only enhances the thrills and fun of the plot. It’s what makes the best entertainment and what makes this show thoroughly enjoyable, even as it shows it’s potential to become truly great in years to come.

Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ Development Round-up 1st Feb

A summary of Apple TV+ production announcements

Apple TV+ has a lot of shows and movies in development, with new announcements coming quite regularly.

Here’s all the news from the last week:

Production has begun on Ted Lasso’s 12 part second season, according to a tweet from the Apple TV twitter account.

Apple’s Fraggle Rock reboot has also started filming in Canada. The series is being run by Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson formerly of ‘Community’.

Tehran has been renewed for a second season and will air in parallel with Israeli network Kan 11. This time around Apple will co-produce the show unlike the first season which was purchased after being produced.

Apple TV+ has picked up a series starring Brie Larson called ‘Lessons in Chemistry’, based on the upcoming book of the same name. It will be written by Erin Brockovich writer Susannah Grant and produced by Larson as well as Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan under their Aggregate Films production company. They also produced Ozark for Netflix and The Outsider for HBO. It is produced at Apple’s newly established Apple Studios.

Apple Studios are also reuniting with Little America’s Lee Eisenberg as well as Drew Crevello who have created a limited series ‘WeCrashed’ based on the rise and fall of WeWork which featured in a podcast series by Wondery. Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto will star as WeWork founders Rebekah & Adam Neumann.

Taron Edgerton is to star in a limited series from Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone author Dennis Lehane. It is based on the 2010 novel ‘In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption’ by James Keene and Hillel Levin.

Apple has bought the rights to the Sundance hit ‘CODA’ for $25m, breaking the previous record set last year by Palm Spring (which was $22,500,000.69 wink!). The film centres on a young girl who is the only hearing person in her family and might have to choose between them and her own dreams.

Jonathan Reed

‘Palmer’ Review: Easy But Predictable Fare Featuring A Charming Young Performance

Palmer - Premieres January 29th, Apple TV+

I feel like I’ve seen Palmer several times before. It’s that predictable. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. In fact, sometimes the fun comes from watching a film and knowing exactly where the plot is going, wallowing in that predictability.

Palmer, from fantastic character actor and sometime director Fisher Stevens, features your regular roster of small-town characters dealing with their small-town lives, prejudices, problems and dramas. Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is fresh out of prison for a violent crime he committed in college. He goes home to stay with his lovely but set in her ways grandma (June Squibb), where after hooking up with old friends and a neighbour he sets about trying to get a job and set himself on the right track. Then he reluctantly befriends a young boy (it’s more one-way friendship at first).

Where the film takes a slight detour from the norm is that while the boy has those usual home problems these kids always do, he’s also someone who loves fairies, pink, dresses and makeup. Not exactly readily accepted in these kinds of towns. It’s a nice touch that the film doesn’t spend too much time on why Sam, the boy, likes these things. Many people in the movie readily accept him for who he is and the ones who don’t clearly come across as the bad guys. It’s also lovely to see Sam doesn’t question himself. He likes what he likes, and that’s it. It’s normal.

After Sam’s mother leaves town, Palmer and his grandma look after him, not knowing for how long. Cue cute bonding sessions and a slow melting of the mighty outer shell of Palmer. That’s only the setup, but if you guessed what else happens, you’d probably be right.

Despite a standout performance in 2006’s Alpha Dog, Justin Timberlake’s breakout role was in 2010’s The Social Network as Sean Parker, creator of Napster and early investor in Facebook. JT, as we all know him, got to pour all of his charisma, winning smile and sparkly-eyed looks into a larger than life person. It was perfect casting, and he rewarded director David Fincher with a character of duplicitous flavour. It was maybe the stand out performance of an already stacked film.

That’s what makes his casting and performance in Palmer so strange. It’s not that it’s a bad performance, it’s that the character itself has no charisma. I'm guessing JT wanted to try something new but, maybe because he himself is so full of life, his performance just comes off as relatively flat. He seems to think ‘troubled and withdrawn’ means a straight, sullen faced, not revealing any emotion. I think it’s about 30 minutes in before he shows real emotion on his face. As the character starts to open up during the film, sure enough, the performance gets better.

Interestingly, when you compare JT to Ted Lasso star Juno Temple, you see the difference in performance vs character. Like Ted Lasso, Temple’s character is very stereotypical. However, unlike Ted Lasso, the film doesn’t try to write any depth into her drug-addicted, wayward mother. This doesn’t stop Temple from throwing everything she has at the character, so she becomes a gripping screen presence. For Palmer, JT takes a fully rounded character and tries to pull back on the character depths, hoping it makes him seem troubled and difficult.

As you’d expect, the character of Sam, the young boy Palmer has to look after, falls into the quippy, cheeky and loveable style that all these types do. But to the writer’s and actor Ryder Allen’s credit it’s to just the right level. A boy liking to dress up in pink and watch fairy cartoons could have easily been played as large, over the top or even for comedy. In this case, you never forget you’re looking at a real boy who just happens to like ‘girls’ things. It’s a good performance that balances out the sullenness of other parts of the film.

The film may be very predictable, have a not entirely convincing lead performance and be a bit too light on character development (especially the women, like Sam’s mother and his school teacher) but it is quite watchable. It’s unchallenging, and sometimes that can be what you need. Watching a film shouldn't always be an entirely unpredictable experience, sometimes you need the comfort of knowing what you’re going to get. Palmer offers that; family dramas to solve, small-town life, an uncomplicated plot, redemption and a charming child actor.

Jonathan Reed

Fitness+ One Month Later →

Let it be said that I believe Fitness+ is a fantastic service and one of Apple's best version 1 releases in many years. It's straightforward to use, aesthetically tremendous and is very much using the best of Apple's positive talents. I've been doing rowing, core, strength, HIIT and mindful Cooldown workouts and my girlfriend has tried yoga as well. If you've investigated the dance workout, let me know; that looks intense and way beyond my drunk wedding-dance skills!

However, I think there's some great things Apple could add to make this service a world-beater. I wanted to look at how they might do this without changing the service's fundamental drive, which is 'everyone welcome'.

Starting off on the right foot

So let's start with the positives. I've been using Fitness+ every day to keep active while London is in yet another lockdown. We live in a flat without a garden so it's very easy not to do anything day to day. The ease of being able to turn on the TV or open the iPad, open the app and with only a few taps launch a workout, cannot be understated.

The wide variety of workouts are fantastic. As are the trainers. I wondered, as a classic lowkey Brit, whether the trainers would be a bit too ‘positive’. They are certainly smiley and cheerful, but in your face and annoying they are not. Some are genuinely funny and really make you feel part of the team. Oh, and Kim is from my area of London! They also cameo in each other's workouts. I’d be interested to see who does it most (my money’s on Greg), and how they organise it. Is there a sign up sheet at the Fitness+ Studios?

The music is also good. As a bit of a music snob I was worried I'd have to listen to a lot of annoying pop or mind-numbing dance but it's all been good vibes so far. And you can't beat a rowing sprint to Song 2 by Blur!

The integration with the watch is also good. The trainers call out your heart rate, Burn Bar or rings quite often which gives you a great push and as a competitive person, that Burn Bar is a great addition.

As someone who's pretty fit (or used to be before COVID!), most of the workouts a quite challenging and allow me to push myself. I say 'most of the workouts' - I'll get into that later. For someone who is less fit the modifications by the other trainers on screen are a great addition.

Small observations

The trainers are closing their rings too! I've spotted several in the background tapping their watches just before they start.

All the trainers use American Sign Language at beginning and end. While hard of hearing users will have subtitles on, this isn't even needed, it's just another great addition to make you feel part of the 'crew'.

While they have a set workout, there doesn't seem to be a script. They’re very relaxed with what they say. It doesn’t feel awkward and silent but also doesn’t feel forced. They have natural charisma and are great to have with you.

They sweat! This helps as being shouted at by very attractive, smiling, toned people is not fun if they don't struggle too. Knowing they're going through what you're going through really motivates you. Rowing trainer Josh (my favourite trainer) often has to stop speaking for a few seconds to catch his breath!

Well that's a surprise

I think the biggest surprise (mostly since they've thought about including ASL gestures) is that there are no workouts for users that are less able-bodied. Every single workout requires the use of your arms and legs. Apple has made fantastic progress for accessibility on iOS and Mac over recent years so this surprised me. It surely wouldn't have taken much to do some wheelchair/seated workouts.

Continue reading on small bites >>>

Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ Development Round-up 18th Jan

Apple TV+ has a lot of shows and movies in development, with new announcements coming quite regularly.

Here’s all the news from the last week:

Apple Studios is fully funding and producing ‘Kitbag’, a biopic of Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role and directed by Ridley Scott. Production starts in 2022 and this is not part of the deal Apple has with Scott Free Productions which only covers TV series.

Andy Samberg is teaming up again with Palm Springs writer Andy Siara on a sci-fi comedy based on an idea by Raphael Bob-Waksberg (BoJack Horseman). As if that wasn’t enough talent it will be co-produced by Ben Stiller and Noah Hawley (Fargo & Legion creator).

Kevin MacDonald & Lisa Erspamer (Whitney) are re-teaming for a two part documentary on Oprah Winfrey covering 25 years of America through the eyes of Winfrey and her show. MacDonald will direct. Erspamer worked with Winfrey on ‘Oprah’ for 10 years.

Geoffrey Arend has joined the cast of the forthcoming Dramedy ‘Physical’, starring Rose Byrne.

9 more people have been added to the cast of TV+ series ‘Swagger’, the basketball drama from NBA star Kevin Durrant, inspired by his youth.

Ji-young Yoo has been added to the cast of Apple’s latest collaboration with A24, ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’. Based on the YA novel, it also stars Cherry Jones and Jason Segel.

Jonathan Reed

Apple TV+ in 2021, Part 1 - Jonathan’s Picks

Photos by Brian Bowen Smith, Michael Buckner/Deadline, Art Streiber

Apple TV+ is now in its second year of existence.

As I discussed previously, it’s starting to find it’s voice. Apple’s approach, as with other areas in the company, has been slow and steady with a focus on quality.

Lot’s of TV+ original content has been announced for year two. While there are no premiere dates for new shows and some haven’t even started filming, there’s already some that are standing out for me. Sigmund will be back tomorrow with his picks.

Here are the new shows I have my eye on:

The Afterparty - A murder mystery comedy from Phil Lord & Chris Miller, the two genius writer/directors responsible for Clone High, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie and getting fired from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ for being too funny. As if this wasn't reason enough to tune in the cast is stacked with comedy talent. Deep breath: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoë Chao, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Dave Franco, Jamie Demetriou, and John Early. The concept is also intriguing. Per The AV Club: "Each episode (eight in total) will focus on a different character’s perspective of the same night, and the film genre and visual format will change to suit the character’s personality". Being a huge fan of the creators and many of the cast this is probably the show I'm most excited for.

Earthsound - A series showcasing the sounds of the natural world from Offspring Films, a company created by a lot of the team behind the BBC David Attenborough series. I’m really hoping that this will utilise the Spatial Audio abilities of AirPods Pro & Max. As I mentioned on Magic Rays of Light, the biggest disappointment of the new AirPods Max is that they can’t utilise Spatial Audio with an Apple TV, just iPhones and iPads.

Five Days at Memorial - This is an adaptation of Sheri Fink's book, telling the story of the first five days in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina. The hospital lost power, and while they waited to be rescued, people had to make life or death decisions on patients, including the question of euthanasia. Fink is producing, and it will be written by John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Guerilla) and Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel, Lost). This promises to be a powerful story.

Shantaram - This series follows a bank robber who escapes to Mumbai but gets stranded there and is forced to reinvent himself living in the slums. It’s been plagued by production shutdowns due to weather and departing writers. However, late last year, Steve Lightfoot was installed as head writer and things are back on track. I’m a big fan of his work on the near-perfect series Hannibal and flawed-but-engrossing series The Punisher, so along with the intriguing premise, this has my eye.

Severance - A workplace thriller about a company that offers a procedure that separates workplace memories from other memories. I always love a high-concept series, and this thriller seems very much like that. It also has a fantastic cast with Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, and is directed by Ben Stiller.

Schmigadoon! - This musical comedy from the writers of Despicable me and produced by Lorne Michaels(SNL) starring Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski. Having read the series description here, it sounds wonderfully nutty in the vein of other Lorne Michaels-produced comedies like 30 Rock, The Other Two, The Mapleworth Murders and Miracle Workers.

Slow Horses - When Apple talks about prestige content, this exemplifies what they mean. With an A-List cast including Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Cooke and Jack Lowden there’s no arguing with the talent. Though again, it’s the writer I’m most excited about. Graham Yost was responsible for Justified, one of the most underrated of the last 20 years. He also wrote on The Americans, Band of Brothers & The Pacific. He’s a great showrunner, and I'm excited to see what he does on this.

Finally, there’s Masters of the Air - This is the third in the series of war dramas from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (also produced by Graham Yost, see above) following on from Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Several episodes will be directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, No Time To Die) who promises to bring some fantastic thrills to the screen. In case you need reminding he was responsible for this amazing one-shot.

There are many other big names like Brie Larson and Damien Chazelle coming too, but these are the ones I have my eye on in particular.

What are you looking forward to for year two of Apple TV+? Let us know on Twitter.

Jonathan Reed

Dickinson Season 2 Reviews Are In: “Sharp, self assured, and better than ever”

Apple released the first 3 episodes of Dickinson season 2 on Apple TV+ yesterday and the reviews are in.

With a score of 81 on Metacritic, reviewers have been quick to praise the shows increase in quality and more confident character development.

Here’s a selection:

Decider:

You have an emotional rollercoaster that is evocative in the way few other TV shows can hope to reach; but one that is well worth riding. Emily and Sue aren’t the only stand-out characters this season, which finds every member of the cast struggling with growing up in different ways.

Paste Magazine:

Season 2 gives Hailee Steinfeld even more to work with: namely, the question of fame, and whether or not it’s dangerous to seek it out; and also the question of love, and whether or not the world needs or deserves to know where your heart lives

The Hollywood Reporter:

No longer solely relying on dizzying tonal juxtapositions, the series flourishes in ten-episode Season 2 thanks to this revamped balance between 21st-century absurdity and 19th-century poignancy.

Rolling Stone:

Emily remains a more vibrant character than everyone else, so the push to expand the prominence of the ensemble has mixed comedic results. And her hunger for recognition, no matter the cost, simply isn’t as visceral as her desire for Sue... Dickinson is the same show it already was, slightly less in some areas, slightly more in others.

Indiewire:

And yet, for all of its faults, “Dickinson” has charm to spare. It’s uneven, yes, but often in a way that grabs your attention if its wandered to, say, your phone or Twitter or TikTok. It’s a delightfully kooky universe to inhabit and among the most gorgeous-looking shows currently airing. It is imperfect and strange and easy to love.

Watch Dickinson on Apple TV+