Scout Tafoya, author at Cult of Mac

Home builds bigger in dispiriting second season [Apple TV+ review] ★★☆☆

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Home review Apple TV+: A sprawling 17th-century home in France gets remade on the inside.★★☆☆
A sprawling 17th-century home in France gets remade on the inside.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ documentary series Home returns Friday for a second season of wonky architecture and human interest stories. The streamer is banking on the beauty of accessibility as spectacle and drama to bring audiences back for more feel-good TV.

The houses the series showcases look glorious, to be sure. But the stories are meant to be as much of a hook as the sight of impossible angles and cozy nooks nestled in wondrous corners of the earth.

For All Mankind’s mission to Mars gets a little Musk-y [Apple TV+ recap] ★★☆☆

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For All Mankind recap: Multimillionaire Dev Ayesa (played by Edi Gathegi) wants to get to Mars first.★★☆☆
Self-made multimillionaire Dev Ayesa (played by Edi Gathegi) wants to get to Mars first.
Photo: Apple TV+

For All Mankind heads to Mars a little sooner than expected this week — and with a surprise guest in the cockpit.

Danielle and Ed, then Molly and Margo, fall out. Karen and Ed fall into business together. Aleida worries about her family from the moon. And Danny Stevens is still a little psychopath.

It’s business as usual on Apple TV+’s frustrating space-exploration soap. The highs of last week’s TV movie of the week detour are already forgotten.

Sheila freaks out this week on Physical [Apple TV+ recap] ★★☆☆

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Physical recap: Rose Byrne finally gets to let loose.★★☆☆
Rose Byrne finally gets to let loose in the role of Sheila.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s Physical, about a would-be fitness guru in California, heads to a funeral this week to rethink its priorities. Sheila’s finally cracking up, John’s lies catch up with him in a sad way, Bunny is at the end of her tether, and a vengeful mother gets her hooks into two generations of women.

A couple of standout performances lift this week’s episode out of the usual doldrums. Rose Byrne is allowed to stretch a bit beyond the usual limitations of her role as Sheila Rubin — and the result is a glimpse into a better version of what this show could be.

Cha Cha Real Smooth might be the worst movie of the year [Apple TV+ review] ☆☆☆☆

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Cha Cha Real Smooth☆☆☆☆
Take a long second to get used to this face.
Photo: Apple TV+

Only moments ago Cooper Raiff was a niche figure, someone you could avoid with a little effort. But now, he is the filmgoing public’s problem, thanks to Cha Cha Real Smooth, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+.

Writer/director/actor Raiff’s excruciating 2020 feature debut, Shithouse, captured enough viewers and earned enough praise to garner him a second chance to waste our time with the equally galling and charmless Cha Cha Real Smooth.

Apple TV+ paid an absurd amount of money for this garbage film. Unfortunately, the big gamble on this “Sundance hit” landed the streaming service an indifferently directed trifle starring a weaselly narcissist.

The Essex Serpent comes to its all-too-tidy conclusion [Apple TV+ recap] ★★★☆☆

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The Essex Serpent recap: The Apple TV+ period drama comes to a tidy conclusion.★★★☆☆
A convenient ending seems out of place, but that's only because the whole miniseries was so satisfying.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ period drama The Essex Serpent draws to an orderly close this week after five episodes of disorderly conduct, serpents (both metaphorical and real ones), love, death, betrayal, discovery and friendship.

The miniseries ends on a note that’s a bit of a letdown for how nicely it treats its pack of sinners, but I guess sometimes you have to give “the people” what they want. Ultimately, a great old-school tale of adventure and lust settles for neatness. Though that’s a hair upsetting to me, it was well worth the time it took to get here.

Now and Then’s scheming friends descend into desperation [Apple TV+ recap] ★★★★

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Now and Then recap: Rosie Perez gets to strut herself as the young version of Detective Flora Neruda this week.★★★★
Rosie Perez gets to strut herself as the young version of Detective Flora Neruda this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Now and Then, the delightfully trashy Apple TV+ series about guilty friends committing new crimes to cover up old ones, heads straight into the gutter of desperation this week.

Sofia’s loan is due. Marcos’ wife is leaving him. Pedro’s lover is in jail, and he wants to throw the campaign. Ana is watching her future slip away. Hugo’s still in a coma. And Flora is off the case.

No one’s coming to these poor sinners’ rescue.

Physical just can’t make aerobics look interesting [Apple TV+ recap] ★★☆☆☆

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Physical recap: An aerobics demo goes wrong for Sheila (played by Rose Byrne) this week.★★☆☆☆
An aerobics demo goes wrong for Sheila (played by Rose Byrne) this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Physical, Apple TV+’s series about a fitness pioneer and the collection of damaged people in her orbit, hits the fairgrounds for a protest, a demonstration and a cat fight this week. Dramatic stasis and some awkward meetings fill a rootless episode of the enervating drama.

Unfortunately, there’s just no getting around the hollow center of this show: Aerobics don’t make good TV.

Tehran races ahead with more death and betrayals [Apple TV+ recap] ★★☆☆☆

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Tehran recap: We're off to the races this week.★★☆☆☆
Nobody can put the brakes on this spy thriller's never-ending deceptions.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week on Tehran, the Apple TV+ spy thriller narrows its options until there’s only one thing remaining: Mossad agent Tamar and Revolutionary Guard leader Faraz, face to face, heading to a party to carry out an assassination.

If she fails, dozens of people will die. If she succeeds, her target will be dead — but so will Faraz (and probably his wife).

The season’s penultimate episode rests on a climactic car race, with Tamar’s boyfriend Milad making life-or-death decisions and her hands tied. This slightly dodgy second season still time to straighten itself out.

For All Mankind season 3 premiere embraces schlock and awe [Apple TV+ recap] ★★★☆☆

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For All Mankind recap: A space wedding goes wrong in the season three opener.★★★☆☆
A space wedding goes wrong in the For All Mankind season three opener.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ alt-history space saga For All Mankind splashes down in the go-go ’90s in its not-really-merited third season. After another decadal jump, Nirvana is king, Bill Clinton is running for office, and we’re apparently going to Mars.

This show’s absurd single-mindedness has not been softened by its premature renewal for a fourth season, by which point presumably we’ll be traveling to the sixth dimension on a rocket sled while Avril Lavigne runs for Congress. Anyway … let’s rip off this Band-Aid.

Tehran’s poisonous choices just keep coming [Apple TV+ recap] ★★★☆☆

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Tehran recap: This is far from an ordinary, friendly meal.★★★☆☆
This is far from an ordinary, friendly meal.
Photo: Apple TV+

Iranian spy chief Faraz loses everything as Mossad agent Tamar plans to do just the same thing in this week’s high-strung episode of Tehran. Having had two attempts to kill Mohammadi thwarted by circumstance, Tamar is ready to risk everything to kill him if she must.

Meanwhile, Milad finds himself at the end of his tether, Marjan must flee the country, and absolutely nobody’s cover is safe.

As the second season of the Apple TV+ spy thriller winds down, the show sticks to its best tricks: simply showing the nuts and bolts of spycraft and broken allegiances.