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‘Lovecraft Country’ Series Premiere Recap: Pulp Friction

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Lovecraft Country is about a horde of ravening, bloodthirsty white monsters who prowl the backwoods at night, terrorizing the innocent. Also, there are some multi-eyeballed Lovecraftian entities in it.

I hope you’ll pardon the (obvious) joke. I hope you don’t take it as a slight on Lovecraft Country‘s pilot episode (“Sundown”)—directed by Yann Demange from a script by creator and showrunner Misha Green, adapting Matt Ruff’s novel—either. I mean, show me where in the rulebook it says that a politically minded action-horror drama about eldritch monstrosities and racist white people attacking a trio of Black travelers during the segregated 1950s has to be subtle. This is a show in which Jackie Robinson beats up Cthulhu with a baseball bat in the first two minutes. “Subtle” is for suckers.

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That particular vision of cosmic justice, it must be said, is just a dream sequence—a glimpse into the mind of the show’s protagonist, named Atticus Freeman. (Again, this is not a subtle show.) A Korean War veteran and an inveterate fan of pulp fiction, “Tic” is a Black man who loves the work of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft despite their frequent racist under- and overtones; the racism is effectively the buy-in necessary to take pleasure in the magnificent fantasies and terrifying horrors they conjure up in their work (and which also show up in his dreams).

And can you blame him? As “Sundown”—named both for the “sundown towns” who punish after-dark Black visitors with lynching and the time at which certain supernatural predators come out to prowl—makes abundantly clear, accepting the fact of anti-Black racism is the cost of doing business just as a human being on a day to day basis. At least John Carter of Mars and Yog-Sothoth are entertaining.

Played by Jonathan Majors (an extremely photogenic actor with a quiet, understated charisma), Atticus makes his way home to Chicago from the Jim Crow South after receiving a strange letter from his estranged, abusive, alcoholic, and now missing father, Montrose. It alludes to the secret ancestry of Tic’s mother, tracing her back to what Atticus calls “Lovecraft Country”—the rural New England where Lovecraft set many of his stories. The fact that he departed in the company of a wealthy-looking white man makes Montrose’s vanishing all the stranger.

Tic is joined on his journey by his uncle George (the great Courtney B. Vance), the editor and publisher of a guidebook for Black travelers that’s a very thinly veiled analogue for the real-life Negro Motorist Green Book. (They made a movie about it, as you may have heard.) The third member of the trio is Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett, also photogenic, also charismatic), a photographer who blows back into town around the same time as Atticus and whose absence from her mother’s funeral has driven a wedge between her and her siblings. The three set out with only Montrose’s vague allusion to a town called Ardham, Massachusetts (almost but not quite Arkham, where many of Lovecraft’s stories originate) and George’s book to guide them there.

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As the hour progresses, indignity after racist indignity is heaped on our heroes. Atticus has to sit in the back of the bus on the way to Chicago. He has to get out and walk when the bus breaks down and a white truck driver offers to ferry the white passengers. We see segregated ice cream stands, billboards for sundown towns and Aunt Jemima products, gangly white kids mocking Atticus as a monkey, dogs seemingly trained to bark at Black passers-by. A diner that was once listed in the guidebook is now under new management, and it quickly becomes clear that the previous owner fell victim to arson—while those who firebombed the place soon set after Atticus, George, and Letitia with gunfire in one of the episode’s hold-your-breath suspense sequences.

Everything culminates in the woods of Devon and Worcester Counties, Massachusetts. After getting lost in search of a bridge leading to Ardham—their sole clue to the location of a town that hasn’t been mentioned nor mapped in over a century—the group is preyed upon by the local sheriff, whose reputation for racist violence precedes him. After accosting and humiliating them, he forces them into a low-speed chase to the county line, a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t situation in which failing to reach the border before sundown will mark them for death, but speeding in order to get there will do the same.

It winds up all being a grotesque farce. Even though Atticus, Leti, and George make it over the line, the sheriff’s deputies are already there awaiting them at a roadblock. The trio is frogmarched into the woods and forced to lie face down awaiting their executions, when suddenly the sound of wild animals—the threat of which was already on their minds—fill the air. Only they’re not “animals,” per se. They’re nocturnal monstrosities with eyes all over their fishbelly-white hides, who eat human beings and infect those they don’t kill outright until those victims become monsters themselves.

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Only the quick thinking of George, who free-associates the beasts with the vampire mythology of Dracula and figures out that light—daylight, flashlights, headlights, flares—will keep them at bay, keeps our heroes from being gruesomely killed by human and monster alike. (The sheriff winds up transformed into a beastie before getting run over by Letitia, who makes a brake for their station wagon in the middle of the battle. No big loss.) The episode ends with the blood-soaked, dazed trio more or less stumbling their way into a palatial estate in Ardham, where an expensive-looking silver car that keeps popping up throughout the episode is parked and where a blond young man who looks an awful lot like the blonde young woman who helped save them after the diner incident says he’s been waiting for them.

All in all, a pretty busy road trip.

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On a surface level, the sleight-of-hand practiced by Lovecraft Country is easy to recognize. It’s the white-monster bit I alluded to at the top of this review—the fluidity with which the real-life horror of segregation and lynching can be substituted with the many-eyed demons of the woods. I mean, the racist sheriff literally transforms into one. It isn’t rocket science.

But there’s a subtler switcheroo practiced by this episode. If you’re more than passingly familiar with Lovecraft, you’re probably aware that his racism was berserk even by the benighted standards of his time—like, to the point of neurosis. This manifested itself in different ways in the short stories that made him posthumously famous—sometimes barely present, sometimes covert, sometimes overt. The poem Atticus and George discuss at one point, with a title I won’t repeat, is the real smoking gun when it comes to HPL’s feelings about Black people showing up in his work, but the guy felt deep-seated loathing of, like, Italians; he was a master of racecraft.

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As Lovecraft scholars and fans of all races have pointed out, his racial paranoia and disgust is, in its way, inseparable from the best of his work, which manifested similar feelings toward the extradimensional entities from beyond time and space whose very presence could drive people insane. If he weren’t such a bigot, his work might not have had the same impact; that’s the big trade-off.

What Lovecraft Country does is put people who actually do have reasons to fear people of other races in the driver’s seat (literally). The constant hypervigilance, the brushes with death, the degradation and abuse that Atticus and Leti and George must endure—this was the deranged, fantastical racialized fear of Lovecraft, but with the the power imbalance in the proper place. What Lovecraft thought was happening to him via the presence of racial others in his life actually happens to Atticus and his fellow travelers. It’s smart writing.

It also has its limitations. Purely as a matter of horror, this is a show that depicts Cthulu, the most famous of Lovecraft’s creations, getting smashed into jelly by a smiling baseball player in its opening minutes. There’s no slow build to the actual, non-dream-sequence creatures who attack the characters, either—there they are, in the semi-convincing CGI flesh, waiting to get shot at or run over, or to bite people in half in big sluices of digital blood. This kind of gonzo, in-your-face approach to horror might work for, say, a horror-comedy like Ash vs. Evil Dead; here, however, where the gravitas of the material would seem to dictate something actually frightening, it’s merely scary-esque. The terror campaigns visited on the main characters by their human attackers (even if they have Southern shitkicker accents despite living in New England) are far scarier, but in a way that has nothing to do with the horror genre.

That said, there’s an ambition to the episode that’s hard to fault. It features lengthy excerpts from The Jackie Robinson Story and the Baldwin/Buckley debate as voice-over narration. There’s a full-fledged musical number feautring Leti and her sister, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), at a block party. There’s a subplot involving George’s cartoonist daughter Diana (Jada Harris), whose doodles on their map may or may not be prophetic. There is, in otherwords, the proverbial “lot going on.” It’s enough to earn, if not trust, then certainly interest in the next chapter.

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Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling Stone, Vulture, The New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.

Watch Lovecraft Country Episode 1 (“Sundown”) on HBO Max

Watch Lovecraft Country Episode 1 (“Sundown”) on HBO Now

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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