Olivia Cooke

Bates Motel

Bates Motel still remains a surprising success. Not only in terms of ratings, but its quality. A prequel to Psycho showing a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) sounded like a joke a few years ago, the kind of idea doomed to fail. But the first season turned out to be a highly enjoyable show. Vera Farmiga does consistently great work, Highmore is good fun, and, every once in a while, there’s some genuinely good drama, thanks to Norma Bates, who’s the heart and soul of the show. Unfortunately, there was s a slight drop in quality with season two. Bates Motel is at its best when it’s just Norma and Norman getting through problems or the never-ending trope of the nerdy kid going after “the cool girl” when the right one is there all along: Emma (Olivia Cooke). Once Norman starts watching High School movies, hopefully he’ll smarten up. Where the show began to falter was the all-too-heavy focus on the town’s drug war.

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signal

A lot of independent sci-fi filmmakers aim to make feature-length episodes of The Twilight Zone with their work. Director William Eubanks has said this upfront about The Signal. This is not a flawed aim. But the problem is that none of these writers or directors are Rod Serling. They make films that read from their synopses like they could have come from the man, but their execution is often quite lacking. The Signal is no different in this regard. Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, and Beau Knapp play Nic, Haley, and Jonah, a trio of MIT students on a road trip to California. There is significant romantic friction between Nic and Haley, but all interpersonal concerns are tossed aside when the plot kicks in. When they take a detour to track down semi-legendary hacker “Nomad,” they get a billion times more than what they bargained for. Without dipping into spoilers, they have a catastrophic confrontation that ends in a collective blackout. Nic awakens in a sterile facility where all the staff refuses to remove hazmat suits. Scientist Damon (Laurence Fishburne) calmly interrogates him as to just what happened when they encountered Nomad. Twists begin to pile on as Nic seeks to escape and unravels what is going on.

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