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‘The Last of Us’ Review | An Intense, Emotional Journey With Such An Immersive Narrative

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The HBO Original drama series “THE LAST OF US”, based on the critically acclaimed video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog exclusively for the PlayStation® platforms, debuts this coming Sunday the 15th on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max. This review was made possible due to an advance screener of Episodes 1-9 of “The Last of Us” provided to Coastal House Media by SKY TV for review. “The Last of Us” is exclusively available from the 16th of January on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW

Synopsis

“The Last of Us” story takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed, Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. However, what starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal heartbreaking journey as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

Review

The long-anticipated adaptation of Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us” is finally near and airing on the small screen as HBO brings the greatest, most intense, enduring, and one of the most emotional journeys to life. The joint production by Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Naughty Dog, The Mighty Mint, and Word Games and co-created and written by Craig Mazin best known for creating the five-part HBO miniseries Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, Naughty Dog’s president and creator of “The Last of Us” games is an absolute masterpiece that’s fitted with such an immersive narrative that pulls the viewer in as the story progresses. 

Throughout each episode the story captures the humanity, society, and function after a mass apocalyptic attack, leaving fungi to spread by the millions in different variations of certain levels of infection and they’ve spared no expense each one being scarier and more intimidating than the last such as the Stalkers, Clickers, and Bloaters that were seen in the game, each infected embody advanced disease states. However what could be even scarier are the people in which Joel and Ellie encounter whether their FEDRA, The Fireflies or even Hunters, Mazin and Druckmann bring us new perspectives to explore that we wouldn’t see in the game and showcase that there aren’t just good guys and bad guys. Everybody’s ultimate goal is trying to survive and to live life to the fullest way they can, especially in a world that houses both the “The Last of Us” games, the series truly becomes rich with detail ultimately bringing to the small screen such a huge complex and an emotionally wrenching storyline.

Anna Torv and Pedro Pascal on The Last of Us (Image credit: HBO)

Driven By Grief

Further grounding the series we focus on the story of relatable human drama and the relationships set against an apocalyptic background. Over the first season’s nine episodes we follow this curmudgeonly smuggler Joel Miller played beautifully by Pedro Pascal. Joel is a man suffering from an incalculable loss and tormented by past trauma and failure. Now a morose and completely closed-off he’s tasked to trek across a pandemic-ravaged America, all the while protecting a girl who represents the last hope of humanity.

That girl happens to be Ellie, a 14-year-old orphan who has never known anything but a ravaged planet. struggles to balance her instinct for anger and defiance with her need for connection and belonging… as well as the newfound reality that she may be the key to saving the world. Bella Ramsey provides a career-defining performance.

Through these two characters, we witness an exploration of the unconditional love a parent feels for their child and the beautiful things that could come out of that whilst also showing the really horrible things too. The tragic loss Joel endured throughout the outbreak continues to drive him as the character is completely driven by trauma, everything he does, for better or worse, is shaped by that loss is something that’ll grab the audience as so many will no doubt relate to it. Ellie feels Joel’s pain and throughout the season you see them forming a bond on their journey, she sees a shared experience but Joel is very resistant to it.

Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal on The Last of Us (Image credit: HBO)

Luckily the characters are in great hands with HBO’S adaptation Ramsey and Pascal have incredible chemistry in the upcoming series. Throughout “The Last of Us” we explore the difficult world through the relationship of Joel and Ellie and the dynamic between the two leads is at the heart of the story. The world is a painful and confusing place, but Joel and Ellie show us that ultimately there is hope in the relationships we build and the adventures we take together.

Joining Pascal and Ramsey are Gabriel Luna as Tommy Miller, Joel’s younger idealistic brother, Nico Parker as Joel’s daughter Sarah, and Anna Torv as Tess, a hardened survivor and Joel’s smuggling and longtime partner in this new world. She’s both gritty and capable of doing what she has to, to get by in the ravaged hellscape. and Merle Dandridge as she reprises her role from the video games as Marlene, the leader of a resistance group known as the Fireflies. It also features Jeffrey Pierce (Bosch) as Perry, Murray Bartlett (The White Lotus) as Frank, Con O’Neill (Chernobyl) as Bill, and Storm Reid (Euphoria) as Riley.

Bella Ramsey and Anna Torv on The Last of Us (Image credit: HBO)

More Than Surviving

“The Last of Us” is one of the greatest stories that has ever been told in video games and HBO provides one of the most faithful adaptations so to bring it to the screen enables the story to be fleshed out more from the fictional world Druckmann first created back in 2009. Throughout, the series has grounded atmospheric suspense and tension showcasing the depiction of a struggle for survival and moral clarity amid a fallout Quarantine Zone. 

Apart from delivering an elevated survival horror with “The Last of Us”, the series also rises well above expectations, however, when adapting a game for screens, the creators can often take creative liberties with the plot and script ultimately leaning into some deviations in the story. In the case of the upcoming series, the head-turning hour arrives early, with its third episode, which was one of my favourites. 

This approach marked a difference between how Druckmann approached the story of the series versus the game. everything you’re seeing and experiencing is through Joel and Ellie’s eyes and their eyes only. it’s wanting to make you feel like these characters. But with the episodic story format in the show, the sum is greater than the individual parts. “The Last of Us” however isn’t like most games, the heartbreaking and gorgeous apocalyptic drama is already extremely cinematic and when it comes to shooting a live-action series everything has to come together, especially at that moment when you say action. After having watched what Druckmann and Mazin have created with such enthusiasm makes it truly easy to see why HBO has so much faith in this dynamic writer-showrunner duo. Its successful storytelling, beloved characters, and an incredible journey cross-country between two unlikely travel companions truly make for an unforgettable and emotional human story. 

The DNA of “The Last of Us is also being kept alive through its score by Gustavo Santaolalla. You will hear themes that you’ll remember from the 2013 game. 

The Last of Us (Image credit: HBO)

“The Last of Us” HBO series is also getting a companion podcast hosted by Troy Baker alongside Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin. Baker, who voiced protagonist Joel in the video game will release new episodes of the podcast every Sunday to go alongside each new episode of the show as fans of the series and the game alike will have the opportunity to be flies on the wall as the trio discuss their personal relationships to the iconic game, their experience in adapting it for television, and behind-the-scenes stories.

Verdict

“The Last of Us” is rife with loss, violence, humour, and love, and viewers can expect similar themes in the series. It has all the elements we’ve loved from playing the game such as an immersive story, expansive world and an interesting cast of beloved characters that are complex as they’re woven into suspenseful thrilling narratives whilst offering plenty of fan favourite moments and surprises. But will there truly be light at the end of the tunnel, so When You’re Lost In The Darkness, Look For The Light.

“The Last of Us” is exclusively available from the 16th of January on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW

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Comic Book Movies

The Penguin | Official Teaser — HBO Max

Following the events of ‘The Batman,’ Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, makes a play to grab the reigns of the crime world in Gotham.

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Genre:

Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Release Date:

2024

Director:

Craig Zobel

Cast:

Colin Farrell, Cristin Milioti, Rhenzy Feliz

Plot Summary:

Following the events of ‘The Batman,’ Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, makes a play to grab the reigns of the crime world in Gotham.

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Action

‘Warrior ‘ Cancelled After Three Seasons

Netflix has acquired the rights to ‘Warrior’

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Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) has fought his final fight over at MAX, as the beloved martial arts show, Warrior, has been cancelled after just three seasons. However, fans may be happy, and hopeful to learn that streaming giant, Netflix has recently acquired all rights to the three seasons of the show set to start streaming February 2024. Does this mean we could get a fourth season after all? Well as we’ve seen with previous shows like Cobra Kai, one of Netflix’s biggest successes’, if Warrior does become a successful addition to the Netflix catalogue, then a fourth season is all but guaranteed. But only time will tell.

Starting its journey on Cinemax for its first two seasons, before landing an temporary place on MAX for its recent third season, Warrior now finds its third home in four years. Its first season premiered in 2019 on Cinemax through to 2020 before the the network announced the cancellation of all original programming. A year later, in 2021, MAX announced a third season of the show which premiered this summer.

Still from Warrior (MAX)

Series creator Jonathon Tropper shared in an exclusive article from Deadline that “Warrior is a show that simply refuses to die. Through platform and regime changes, the writers, producers, cast, crew, and our stunt team continued to make something powerful, relevant, and wildly unique. And now, thanks to Netflix, we’ve been given yet another lease on life, and I’m thrilled for everyone involved that millions more viewers around the world will discover it”.

Based upon the writings of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, Warrior follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy from China, who immigrates to San Francisco and a hatchet man for the most powerful Tong in all of China town.

For now though, Warrior is still available to stream on MAX

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Comedy

And Just Like That… Season 2 Review | Cringe Levels Are Down and The Sex Is Back

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Just wrapped up the first three episodes of the ‘Sex and the City’ reboot, “And Just Like That…” and I must say, one thing is clear—the SEX is back! After rewatching the first season and the initial episodes of the second season, it’s evident that the show has regained its essence.

The cast includes Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Kristin Davis as Charlotte York-Goldenblatt, Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes, Sarita Choudhury as Seema, Nicole Ari Parker as Lissa Todd Wexley (LTW), Sara Ramirez as Che Diaz, Karen Pittman as Nya Wallace, and Mario Cantone as Anthony Marintino. In the first season, the absence of the fourth musketeer, Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall), was addressed as she had taken a job in London after a fallout with Carrie. However, the major bombshell came in the first episode when Carrie’s long-time love, John James Preston (played by Chris Noth), known as ‘Mr. Big,’ died from a heart attack.

Miranda’s romance with the queer non-binary comedian Che Diaz was something that did not go down well with die-hard SATC fans as it was something that Miranda would not do, especially in the last season, she leaves her husband Steve (played by David Eigenberg). But as the first season progressed, the show did begin to get a life of its own which, to me, made me want the show to have a second season.

Charlotte, in the first two episodes, continues to be herself—the Charlotte we all love. In the first two episodes, there isn’t much in terms of character development—especially when you consider the season one finale—for this mom of two.

The chemistry between Franklin (played by Ivan Hernandez) and Carrie was something to die for. I was particularly excited for the fact that Carrie was trying to move on from Big and the first two episodes explored that—though not explicitly mentioning him, but the dilemma that she was in about whether she wanted a relationship or just a casual Thursday.

Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes. Photo Credit: AJLT/Twitter

However, come the third episode, you see Carrie narrating the book she wrote after Big’s passing. Narrating the words brought back memories of the night Big died and was unable to complete reading the chapter that detailed the specifics of that horrific night. This was relatable as it highlights the inability to move on from a loved one’s death.

For Miranda, all’s not well in sunny California as Miranda’s son Brady (played by Niall Cunningham) is experiencing suicidal thoughts after his breakup with Luisa. Cracks emerge between Miranda and Che. The two, who moved to LA, for Che’s Netflix show and Miranda were constantly worried about Brady. Che dismissed Miranda’s apprehensions about Brady and all Che could say was: “He’s just a kid”?  Miranda was in full Momma bear mode while speaking to Charlotte about Brady and returning to New York.

Meanwhile, Charlotte and LTW are excited about the fact that both made a list that has been circulating in their children’s school known as the “MILF list”. This is creepy on so many levels as the two are giddy about it—which is problematic as hell. Just when you thought the writers learnt from their mistakes in the previous season, they do this—meaning little to no growth on the writers’ part.

Nya’s story intrigues me the most. Her husband is on tour and both are having a rocky marriage as they battle the most common issue that every couple faces—wanting kids. While both initially wanted children and have been trying hard to have a baby (in Season 1), Nya felt the toll of wanting a baby emotionally. In the two episodes, I’d award the most cringeworthy moment to this scene was when Nya facetime Andre and finds him with another woman in his hotel room ‘writing songs’ and he says that he hasn’t cheated on Nya yet. But then it gets worse. Andre then suggests having a surrogate with the motel girl. Credit must be given to Nya for dumping him—and good for her.  In the third episode, you see her trying to move on from her husband and coming into her own. I am starting to like her.

Whereas Seema almost ditches going to the Met Ball to meet her boyfriend Zed’s son–an important step in her relationship with her beau. But there comes a twist—he still lives with his ex-wife which normally and quite rightly so is deemed a major red flag. But Seema’s hairstylist tells her that sometimes she simply looks for red flags where she ends up ditching her longtime stylist but then comes back to him after the new stylist messed her hair up.

I liked the third episode far more than the first two episodes as it was the one that resonated most with me. The third episode dealt with the theme of loss and the fear of losing someone. From Carrie not recovering completely from Big’s death to Seema almost losing her Birkin after being mugged while walking down the street. The Birkin meant something to her—it was not about the money. The two ladies—Carrie and Seema—hang out in a pub where they spot a group of attractive Australian men.

And here we go again with Che—the verdict is out: they’re a monster! From casually revealing that they’re still married to a man to dismissing Miranda’s fears when her son has suicidal thoughts, they hit peak narcissism and yell “You ruined the family scene!” which shows how petty and self-centred they are. Moreover, their comedy is so bad that I couldn’t even fake laugh at their ‘jokes’ not to mention—constantly gaslighting Miranda in the first season. While Che has been a lot more subdued this season, still does not make me like them. I wish Ramirez sang more—perhaps that would make Che a little less annoying. But the question must be asked? Have the writers given up on the idea of forcing us to like the Che-Miranda duo? If that’s the case, I am so for it. I would have preferred Nya to be Miranda’s love interest.

Another thought that crossed my mind: while it was nice to see that the fashion is back along with the brunches, I asked myself as I watched the three episodes: “Which NYC do these characters live in?” While the second season explores mature themes like grief, I couldn’t help but wonder why these characters’ glam bubble is not being busted when the real Big Apple is not as glamorous as AJLT portrays it to be. But in a world ravaged by war and a pandemic coupled with an out-of-control cost-of-living crisis, the second season of the ‘Sex and the City’ reboot is an escape from reality.

In TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) terms, the second season so far is a lot less cringe than the first.

And Just Like That… is streaming on Max in the U.S. and in the UK, it can be streamed on Sky Comedy and Now.

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