South of Heaven

Written by Alexander Reams

79/100

Jason Sudeikis is primarily known for his comedy. From his tenure at SNL and countless comedies including, but not limited to, We’re the Millers, The Change-Up, and Horrible Bosses. However for a time now, Sudeikis has been doing smaller, indie films that show off his dramatic side (Colossal, where he plays a wonderfully dark metaphor on alcoholism’s hold on a person and a toxic, manipulative relationship, and Race). Now mixing the two with his truly breathtaking eponymous role in Ted Lasso. (aka the best thing to hit TV screens since we first heard “Woke Up This Morning” on a certain New Jersey-centered show). Now he culminates this run of indie films with a film with a lot of big names, but still small at heart. 

Following a 12-year prison sentence, Jason Sudeikis’ Jimmy Ray is released from prison and has one goal; spend the next year with his girlfriend/fiancee/sweetheart, Annie, played wonderfully by Evangeline Lily. This plan seemingly goes off without a hitch, sans the gorgeous Shea Wigham as a less-than morally sound parole officer, Schmidt, who hangs over Jimmy like his sins of the past. Eventually convinces the parolee to do a “favor” for Schmidt, which ends up spiraling Jimmy, and ends with him reverting to old habits. These old habits attract the attention from the mysterious and impeccably dressed Whit Price, portrayed serviceably by Mike Colter. 

These preceding actions are impeccably written, clearly understanding their lead actors, supporting, not as much. As much as I love Mike Colter, I’m not sure he was the best choice to play Whit, and Shea Whigham feels like he is playing the same character he has in countless other films. Sudeikis is given so much meat to work with, and he takes advantage of this, chewing up the scenery every chance he gets, with one standout being a scene with a kid over a turkey sandwich. This scene particularly is my personal favorite, giving a break between all the chaos that has been occurring, and allowing the audience to breathe. 

Standing with Sudeikis is a serivacably written Evangeline Lily and Mike Colter. While they do the best they can, the script just doesn’t hold up to muster. Which is unfortunate because the score, David Fleming channeling old school westerns in a modern world and the cinematography by Mike Mitchell, gorgeously captures the small town world that these characters occupy. I could not get past the writing that undercut Whigham, Lily, and Colter, a tragedy really, when you have such quality actors, but give them bare-bones to work with. Thankfully after all of this we are left with a truly world class turn by Sudeikis, who, by the end of this, has to answer the question “How far would you go for love?”

South of Heaven Trailer

South of Heaven is currently playing in limited theatrical release and is available to rent on VOD through limited providers.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Ted Lasso: Season 1 Review

Written by Alexander Reams

In honor of Ted Lasso Season 2 premiering today we have a full review of Season 1 in it’s entirety below. Once you’re done reading you can watch Season 2 Episode one here.

Season 1 Overall Rating: 93/100

Episode 1: Pilot

90/100

Our first introduction to titular Ted Lasso is of him dancing with his American football team after taking them from being a garbage pile to state champions. This gets the attention of recently divorced Rebecca Welton who subsequently hires Lasso as the newest coach of her ex-husbands association football club (AFC). When he arrives in London, followed by Coach Beard, his best friend, he is greeted by Nate, who Lasso dubs “Nate the Great”, and meets the owner, Rebecca Welton, and her lackey, Higgins. Ted Lasso is one of the most genuine characters to enter the television medium and after this introduction moment, I immediately wanted him to succeed in every aspect in the show. His rapport with Coach Beard is one of my favorite aspects of the show, and in this episode in particular. During the plane scene their rapport is hilarious but also so heartwarming and was easily my favorite scene of the episode. 

Episode 2: Biscuits

86/100               

Ted Lasso: Hold on, now. If I were to get fired from my job where I’m putting cleats in the trunk of my car… 

Coach Beard: You got the boot from puttin’ boots in the boot. 

Ted Lasso: [laughs] I love that.

One of the perfect examples of why Ted Lasso captures the “fish out of water” trope with such precision with a perfect level of aloofness. The quote above is one of my favorite interactions between Lasso and Brendan Hunt’s “Coach Beard”. This moment not only is a great showcase of their relationship, but also shows Lasso’s unfamiliarity with the territory still, while Beard has already assimilated and soaked up knowledge of their environment, serving as a guide to Lasso in this new terrain. With this moment I felt like I immediately knew everything about Coach Beard, he studies his environment, can keep a calm demeanor and let his coaching partner do the emotions for him, while he focuses on the team on an even deeper level, and has an unwavering loyalty to Lasso. 

Episode 3: Trent Crimm: The Independent

92/100

I think going into this show, we were all in some way Trent Crimm, Ted Lasso’s most vicious critic and one who takes joy in exploiting his lack of knowledge about the sport he has been hired to coach. However this episode not only stands as a turning point for myself, but also for Crimm. During the final major scene of the episode, where Trent and Ted finish their day at a restaurant, the restaurant is owned by the father of the driver who picked him and Coach Beard up from the airport in the first episode. There Lasso and Crimm eat food that is far spicier than either of their palettes are used to, however Lasso will not relent, signifying his loyalty to Richmond AFC, and like he eventually gets used to the spice, he assimilates into the environment of AFC. I love this moment as it appears on the surface to be a very simple moment of showing how polite Lasso is, and how far he will go to be nice and kind to others, but it is so much more, quite like the show itself. 

Episode 4: For the Children

94/100

A night of lights! Drama! Intrigue! Fallout! Egos clash!

All go down in this episode, Richmond AFC just suffered another loss, prompting Roy and Jamie to fight even more, old school vs. new school. It’s the night of the annual gala that Rupert and Rebecca used to host when they were married, but now Rebecca is hosting it by herself, adding more responsibilities to her shoulders. Ted sees this as an opportunity to mend fences between Roy and Jamie. Of all the episodes, this is probably the best written, taking all of the storylines set up in previous episodes and bringing them to this event. I loved the exchanges between Roy and Jamie, the undertones they exude are nothing short of hilarious, and the ending of this episode is one of my favorites in the show. 

Episode 5: Tan Lines

84/100

Ah the old buffer episode, usually towards the middle of the season of a show, especially one with a story going throughout each episode, there is a buffer, or breaker episode to give everyone some breathing room. However this show takes it and turns it on its head, instead giving us a break from the team, and a deeper look into Lasso’s personal life. Showing the troubles that were brewing before have followed him to England. Emotionally this is the first time the show takes a darker turn and a more real tone. I thought this was a brilliant move, turning the comedy into drama, but never losing the comedic beginnings the show started with. Never does comedy subvert the drama and vice versa. Spoilers ahead, there is a moment between Lasso and his wife that broke me. It shows Sudekis’ chops as a dramatic actor as well as some of the underlying nature of Lasso is still true and kind, no matter what is thrown at him. 

Episode 6: Two Aces

98/100

Comedy series often will forget the important moments of the previous episode, but the start of this episode deals directly with the fall out of Episode 5, Tan Lines. I found this to be a very nice touch. Although new issues arise quickly when mysterious injuries and folk tales begin troubling the team. Instead of being deterred, in true Lasso spirit, Ted takes this as an opportunity to bring the team closer together in a heartwarming ceremony in the treatment room. However first he has to deal with issues with Jamie, fully quoting the Allen Iverson “We’re talking about practice” speech, however adding a tone that is full of emotion from issues with his personal life. This moment in the show might be my favorite, one I think about daily. While also welcoming back Jamie to the team after benching him last episode. The way the treatment room ceremony is shot could be viewed as basic, but it lets each actor shine in their role, and made me fall even more in love with Ted Lasso. 

Episode 7: Make Rebecca Great Again

87/100

Reinvention. Not only in the team but in Rebecca. So far she has been mocked, humiliated, and overall berated not only by her ex-husband, but also the press. Now she has some time away from Richmond, followed by her new best friend Keeley Jones, the ex-girlfriend of star Jamie Tartt. To add insult to injury however, this away game that AFC Richmond is playing is against a rival who they have not beaten in 60 years, and it is the weekend of Rebecca and Rupert’s wedding anniversary. Of all the episodes this seemed to be the least important, not in terms of quality, but overall effect on the show. This is the most disconnected from the Richmond environment. However somehow the show does not suffer from this disconnect, instead providing some more much needed breathing room. 

Episode 8: The Diamond Dogs

92/100

How does the saying go “Behind every great man is an even greater woman”? Well in our titular character’s case, behind every great Lasso lies his diamond dogs. After the ending of the previous episode, where Ted hooked up with Rebecca’s friend Flo, he feels weird, given that he just signed divorce papers from his wife, and seeks counsel from Nate, Coach Beard, and Higgins. There is another who also seeks counsel. Despite her budding relationship with Roy, Keeley sleeps with Jamie, and admits it to Roy. Who then proceeds to seek the counsel of the Diamond Dogs. This is one of the more serious episodes of the series which is nice, since we are now back in the Richmond environment, and the tension adds to the overall tone of the intermingled storylines. This does seem to detract from the overall team. Despite this, its another great episode in the series. 

Episode 9: All Apologies

100/100

The penultimate episode to a mindblowing season one is here. Penultimate episodes have a special place in TV history, most recently being Game of Thrones, as well as miniseries such as Sherlock, Mare of Easttown, and Loki. Roy is dealing with the ultimate issue that has been hanging over him throughout the show and the butt of a lot of jokes, his age. He is having to finally come to terms with the fact that he is not the same player he was when he was younger. Rebecca has to pay for her sins from the start, and finally tells Ted everything. However his response is not what she expected, given all the marital issues he has experienced, he understands how she feels, and the position she was in. He responds in the most Lasso way possible, he gives her a hug, which she does not try to break free. This moment can seem small, but is one of the biggest in the show, he broke through almost everyone on the team, sans Jamie Tartt, who left Richmond AFC. Now he has broken through the toughest one yet, Rebecca. This episode provides a much needed catharsis to their relationship and is a truly beautiful moment. The other beautiful moment is at the end of the show, when Roy accepts his age issues, but still shows up to lead the team. In a show full of meaningful moments, these 2 standout. I’m not one to get emotional, but I will admit that a tear or two was shed. 

Episode 10: The Hope That Kills You

100/100

The finale. 

After a season filled with as much drama as comedy, somehow the finale lives up to everything built before. Ted has been through a lot since taking his post as coach of AFC Richmond, however despite his positive influence on them, they are one game away from being relegated. Meaning they would no longer be a premier team. Despite this pressure, Ted continues his positive outlook. Even if the pressure is clearly eating him up, add on a looming divorce, and you’ve got someone who is a pressure cooker with a time bomb. This episode drops most of the comedy that has infused the show and trades it in for tension and drama, and still fits perfectly in the show. The futbol scenes are expertly filmed, using long tracking shots which heighten the suspense. In the end, the team is relegated, however hope is not lost, because that isn’t the Lasso way. With Rebecca now wanting the team to succeed, everyone is on the same side and are now stronger than ever. The only casualty of this being Roy getting injured, and whose fate on the field is unknown. 

Season 2 begins today July 23rd

Ted Lasso Season 1 Trailer

Ted Lasso is currently streaming on AppleTV+

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.