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Featured Movie Reviews

Fallout

Updated: 3 days ago


The flat out BEST series I've seen in a long time, FALLOUT is hilarious, exciting and packed with knockout visuals.

I should probably start with my perspective. I've never played the video game and know nothing about it. Needless to say, I approached Prime's new series with fresh eyes, eyes that were assaulted with a terrific & intriguing collection of characters.

The opening is a brilliant set up for what lies ahead. A perfectly cast Walter Goggins (Justified, The Hateful Eight) is Hollywood Western movie star Cooper Howard. We meet Howard for the first time in full cowboy garb at a child's birthday party. The luxury home sits in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, incredible views in every direction. Is Cooper a faded movie star? He's incredibly charming, but seems out of place. How does he know these people? His daughter doesn't seem to be friends with the other children.

Before you can dive too deep into these questions, atomic bombs begin dropping into the skyscrapers of LA, their blinding light and shock waves coming right for the home. The execution of this scene is so sure handed, so flawless, that you are immediately pulled into the what and why of what lies ahead.

I remember Richard Kelly's crazy, half dumb but intriguing 2006 film "Southland Tales"that opened in a similar fashion. It was one of the things I liked most about Kelly's film, but his film eventually petered out under the tonnage of its unfulfilled promise.

Showrunners Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel, Tomb Raider) and Graham Wagner (Portlandia, Silicon Valley) nail the tone and the adventure out of the gate PERFECTLY.

Watching Cooper on his horse with his daughter, riding hard into the Hollywood hills as orange mushroom clouds rise in the distance BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! is a perfect moment. It will be followed by many more. That scene is the opening few minutes of eight hours/episodes that never falter.

After the titles, we move forward more than 200 years and meet the population of Vault 33. A massive underground bunker, all of it's inhabitants live an idyllic, Rodgers & Hammerstein, 1950's style American life. Cornfields are healthy, the projected sky is always patriotic blue and jello cake seems to be an indulgent favorite.

Ella Purnell (Army of the Dead) is Lucy MacLean, the boundlessly upbeat and enthusiastic daughter of the bunker's elected leader, Hank MacLean (Kyle MacLachlan). Hank leads the citizens with a 1950's flair. This could just as easily be a prequel to "Happy Days" as it is a post-apocalyptic dwelling.

A major event is about to take place. Lucy is to marry the male member of neighboring Vault 32 that has been deemed most worthy to breed. The events of the wedding and its aftermath are just the first shock in a series of events that eventually drive Lucy to the surface of the Earth as a lone member of the vaults to exist above ground.

And what a landscape it is. Los Angeles 200+ years after the apocalypse is a rubble filled landscape. Adding to the superb visuals, landmarks of the past always loom in the background. LAX's unique former control tower lurks like a battered spider.

The beaten remnants of the Santa Monica Pier, the empty, towering, burned out skyscrapers of downtown and massive craters where the A-bombs dropped are everywhere.

Crossing this landscape is The Ghoul. And he steals every scene he's in. The Ghoul is Cooper Howard, two centuries later. His face burned flat, his nose missing, he still walks with the confident cowboy strut of his former film days. I had a million questions. How is he still alive? What is a Ghoul? Half the fun is watching the story ahead reveal (or not reveal) answers to those questions.

Deeper into California, the Brotherhood of Steel mans iron-giant style battle suits about 8 feet tall, loaded with weapons and power you might expect in a very early Tony Stark armored suit. Their ranks feel much like the old Marines, with the lowest of them stuck polishing boots and cleaning latrines.

Aaron Moten (Emanicpation) is Maximus, a grunt who seems doomed at the low end of the ranks. When Maximus is sent out as the personal servant of one of the armed warriors Knight Titus (Michael Rapaport in a profane, hilarious performance), they face giant cockroaches and one hell of a nasty bear. Maximus begins a path toward redemption that will eventually lead him to cross paths with The Ghoul and Lucy.

Michael Emerson (Lost, Evil) stars as Dr Wilzig, whose research & discoveries lead to the McGuffin that powers the quest for our three main players.

The eight episodes find an incredible balance in telling this massive, three pronged story. We move from character to character and move back and forth in time. Every revisit to the pre-atomic bomb LA reveals more about the future.

Jonathan Nolan (HBO's "Westworld", Inception) is a big influence behind the scenes, but his world building is 1000 times better here than it was with Westworld, a series that grew too complicated and impenetrable as it went on.

It all reminded me a great deal of the heyday of "Lost" and its ability to weave a compelling adventure that crossed timelines and many, many lives.

There are too many great characters to name, but there are some that really stood out for me among the massive cast.

Moises Arias (Nacho Libre) is an enigma as Norm MacLean, son of Hank and brother of Lucy, he's a coward and a cypher who might just be finding his way after Lucy departs for the surface.

Zach Cherry (Severance) is an absolute blast as Woody Thomas, a Vault 33 occupant inspired to take Hank's place as their leader. Every line delivery is perfect, including his one-liner in the voting booth.

Leslie Uggams (Yes! That Leslie Uggams, the singer/damcer from the 70's) is great as Betty Pearson, a political leader in the Vault whose mysteries run deep.

Sarita Choudury (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) is powerful as Lee Moldaver, a power player in one rebel faction of the surface world.

Johnny Pemberton (Ant-Man) delivers big laughs as Thaddeus, a loud mouth member of the Brotherhood whose story arc cuts through all the tales with humor and many twists.

Like "Lost" or "Westworld" the scope of the storytelling is massive. Every new part of the world they took me too delivered visual fun. From the scale of the weaponry to the nuances of minor characters that come and go, post apocalypse Los Angeles is alive in a way that other films of the genre never quite matched.

The eight hours allows plenty of valuable time for character building as well, making the payoffs of the final episode all the more powerful.

Purnell is excellent, going from wide-eyed innocent with a tough edge to a true above ground survivor, Lucy never loses who she is at her core.

Moten shows great range and his final scenes with Michael Cristofer (The Witches of Eastwick, Die Hard with a Vengance) as Elder Cleric Quintus are powerful.

Goggins rises above all, creating a character so unique, so dangerous, twisted and just that he upps the series everytime he walks on screen. He brings violence and bloodletting like a Tarantino version of John Wayne. He's never been better.

Great cameos abound, from Chris Parnell to Fred Armisen. Just thinking about their scenes makes me laugh.

A rare, perfect blend of fantasy, sci-fi, comedy and drama, FALLOUT is fantastic.

After a huge first week of streaming, Amazon Prime has just announced a Season 2.

I can't wait. I'll be there opening night to binge the entire season with anticipation.

FALLOUT gets an A+, okey-dokey?


Watch the first half of the end credits of each episode to catch great still concept art of the episode you've just watched. Just another cool touch to a series packed with discovery.




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