Diana Vacc sees “Cobra Kai: Season One”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

May 2, 2018, YouTube Red released the first season of Cobra Kai, a TV sequel (well, YouTube is sort of TV) to the classic Karate Kid films.  I’ve binge-watch Season One and was surprised and delighted by what I viewed.

The series begins thirty years after the last Karate Kid film that ended with the very satisfying All Valley Tournament between Cobra Kai dojo leader, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). Daniel (Macchio) was the victor, defeating the bully, Johnny.

As this series opens, Johnny is a drunk and at rock bottom when he witnesses Miguel Diaz (Xolo Mariduena) being bullied and decides to take him under his wing and reopen the Cobra Kai dojo.  This reignites his feud with Daniel and brings changes into both their lives.

THE GOOD:

  • The team of writers led by co-creators and showrunners John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald nailed the characters and came up with an unexpectedly sharp storyline.  Johnny’s drive  to change the image of Cobra Kai dojo into something positive and his mentoring of those he once would have called nerds is believable and exciting.
  • The change in Daniel  to the successful arrogant businessman was a big surprise, as was how hard he tries to stop keep Johnny’s new Cobra Kai dojo out of the Ally Valley Tournament. I really wanted to know,  “Why, Daniel, Why!” (And shouted it out a few times, I admit.)
  • What a relief when Daniel redeems himself when by mentoring loner Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan) in karate.  It turns out Robby is none other then the son of Johnny (Zabka) and wants to get back at him at all costs.  Daniel decides to coach him the way Mr. Miyagi did for him.
  • I appreciated the twist in the story arc in which the nerds turn into the bullies of the school at the end of the season, much to dismay of Johnny.
  • All this conflict makes this show one to watch and keeps you clued to the screen.

THE BAD:

  • I wasn’t disappointed at all in this series and am glad to learn at the writing of the review that is has been renewed for another season.

THE REST:

If you’re a fan of the Karate Kid films and/or a lover of martial arts and insightful TV writing, you won’t want to miss out on Cobra Kai.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc finally sees “Pitch Perfect 3”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

The final film in the Pitch Perfect Series, Pitch Perfect 3 is out on DVD and on on-demand.  On a rainy Saturday night I snuggled up in my blanket and decided to watch this film.  It follows the choral group the Bellas after their win at the accapella world championships.

The Bellas have moved on and living separate lives.  But they all decide to reunite for one last performance at an overseas singing competition on the USO Tour.

THE GOOD:

  • I was a fan of the first two movies and could not wait to watch and enjoy.  However, in spite of not only my expectations but my great desire to enjoy this one, I have to tell you right here and now: I didn’t like Pitch Perfect 3 in the slightest.

THE BAD:

  • The script was absolutely terrible. I’m not a “formula writing” lover by any means, but that formula worked in the first two films in the series, and without it this one had absolutely none of the magic of its predecessors. All three movies are credited to Kay Cannon, so why I don’t absolutely know why they switched up the story structure I suspect it had something to do with the change in director from Elizabeth Banks to Trish Sie. Poor Ms. Cannon had a whole new boss to please!
  • The film starts off as an acapella group competition and quickly veers into a hostage situation. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, how about this: Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) becomes a virtrual action hero, using gadgets and tools Tom Cruise would use in Mission Impossible to save her fellow Bellas. In other words, WTF?
  • Compounding things further is the fact that the chemistry between the actors, which more often than not is the reason a film is a hit, is totally lacking this time. Especially damaging was the loss of Skylar Astin as Jesse. Previously, he and Anna Kendrick as Beca had fantastic chemistry, creating a relationship that was the very essence of lifelong soul mates.

THE REST:

As unhappy as I was in my last review – of The Alienist – my heart is even heavier now because I have to once again recommend that readers not go anywhere near Pitch Perfect 3. Sorry, but every single note it hits is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “The Alienist”

Nothing is happening here, which doesn’t change the fact that this could be the most exciting image in the series!

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

This winter TNT premiered The Alienist, a 10 episode series that showing what police work was like before the turn of the 20th Century

Set in 1896, this psychological thriller centers around the murder of a young prostitute boy. The event brings together an Alienist (at the time the term for certain experts on mental illness), a newspaper illustrator, a secretary, and Theodore Roosevelt in the job he actually had at the time, New York City Police Commissioner, all working to solve this brutal crime.

THE GOOD:

  • I always find something good about what I view. But while I was attracted to the show after learning of its historical premise and use of real people like Teddy Roosevelt as character, once I started watching I could not find one single thing to enjoy.

THE BAD:

  • First, the way the show is shot is ugly, murky, and so difficult to see that it seems deliberate.
  • Much of the “action” is similarly ugly but, unfortunately, not murky enough to keep me from seeing it.
  • The performances are very disappointing.  With a cast led by Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, I was anticipating fascinating characters with meaningful development arcs. At the very least, I hoped to find something about each character to I care about. But that was not to be. The acting is dry, dull, and monotonous, with none of the actors exhibiting the slightest hint of emotion, or eliciting any emotion in me.
  • Based on a best selling series of books by Caleb Carr, and billed as an “Event Series, The Alienist is probably the most uneventful TV series since The Arthur Godfry Show” back in television’s infancy. Writers Hossein Amini, Caleb Carr, E. Max Frye, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Gina Gionfriddo wrote scripts that are dull, boring, and did not move the story along. Watching The Alienist was like watching a caterpillar making its away across a leaf in slow motion, except that caterpillars are at least fuzzy and cute. These episodes drag on and on and on. It got so that I gave up on wanting anything exciting to happen and just hope that something would happen, period. And no, that too wasn’t to be.
  • Gina Gionfriddo produced Law & Order, one of my all time favorite shows.  Having her on board was truly exciting for me, however, the show fell short of any expectations I had.

THE REST:

With a heavy heart I find it hard to recommend that anyone watch this show. The Alienist has left me totally alienated.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “The Greatest Showman”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

December 20, 2017, Twentieth Century Fox released the The Greatest Showman, a rare foray into the movie musical genre (even after the success of a certain little film called LaLa Land.  The Greatest Showman tells the tale of P.T Barnum, celebrates the birth of show business and the visionary man who brought the curious to life.

THE GOOD:

  • I was truly impressed by the original songs written by Justin Paul and Beji Pasek.  The music in this films is represented of today and can easily play on pop radio.  It makes you want to get up and dance. My favorite number is This is Me performed the Keala Settle.  This song recently won the Golden Globe for best original song.  It is about accepting, loving yourself, and that you are worthy of love in return.  The scene in which this song is performed is powerful to watch.
  • Hugh Jackman performance as P.T. Barnum is superb.  He not only acts, he sings and dances.  He truly amazed me in this role.  I’m glad others can see how talented he is.
  • I did enjoy the love story between Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya).  The interracial relationship during this time period was difficult but this doesn’t affect the couple as they manage to come together in the end.
  • Lets chat about the script, it was definately entertaining story.  A tales the masses will love since its doing so well at the box office.

THE BAD:

  • I was disappointed that the film neglects to show the relationship P.T. Barnum had with James A. Bailey and how they teamed up.

THE REST:

If you’re a fan of the movie musical and pure fun then this film is for you.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Droughtlander is OVER!!! Diana Vacc sees Outlander S03 “The Battle Joined”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

Sunday September 10, 2017, Starz premiered season 3 of Outlander.   This episode follows Jamie hoping for survival during the Battle of Culloden as a pregnant Claire returns to life in the 1940’s.  As an avid fan of the series I was truly excited for its return and had high expectations after the previous two seasons.

THE GOOD:

  • The beginning of the episode is brilliant.  The writing, the directing, the acting certainly don’t disappoint.  It opens with bloody bodies lying on the ground of Culloden.  The focus comes to Jamie (Sam Heughan) whose eyes open slowly after being unconscious.  The episode fades to the beginning of the battle.  The transitions back and forth of Jamie lying on the ground with a dead Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) on top of him to his recollections of the battle makes you feel so much emotion that you can’t help but cry the entire time.
  • The fight between Jamie (Heughan) and Black Jack (Menzies) is deeply personal and the perfect way to end “the devil himself” – Black Jack.  After all that Black Jack put Jamie through, it is fitting that Jamie be the one to take his nemesis’ life and was truly satisfying to watch.
  • Heughan is by far the MVP of the episode as his heroic Jamie shines.
  • Claire (Caitriona Balfe) has to re-adjust to life back with Frank (played also by Tobias Menzies).   Their marriage is one of convenience for Claire and Balfe beautifully plays a woman trapped in a domestic prison, without the man she loves.
  • I love how Menzies brings us a character who is forced to make a normal life with Claire and raise another man’s child.  Can’t be easy for any man, but Menzies makes Frank touchingly human, especially when, unable to contain himself any longer, he has it with Claire, telling her how much it hurts when she pulls away from him, which is, actually, every time he touches her.  This scene makes your heart ache for Frank.

THE BAD:

  • If you find something badly done here, please write and tell me. Because what I see is that Outlander and its creator Ronald D. Moore, have arrived at the perfection Moore has been striving for.

THE REST:

  • All I have to say is if you haven’t watched this series yet, what are you waiting for?

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE