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Vinyl, like Spinal Tap's notorious amplifier, goes up to 11, and as it
follows its protagonist's drug-fueled insanity, the series sees little
need to turn down the volume.
This was a lot of fun in the first episode, which featured a lot of adrenaline-fueled, somewhat surreal madness, but as the madness continued, episode after episode, it became increasingly wearying.
A bit past the halfway mark the series began to pick up again, with a decent episode 6 and a terrific episode 7 involving Elvis that was everything the series needed to be.
In spite of a wonderful soundtrack and some great performances from Ato Essandoh, Juno Temple, and - unexpectedly - Ray Romano, Vinyl never quite found its voice, and I wasn't surprised nor saddened by its cancellation. But overall I did find it interesting.
Judging by the pilot, this show can't quite decide if it wants to be
slick, soapy escapist fare or a gritty drug drama. These two elements
don't go well together, with the violence and unpleasantness sucking
the fun out of the slick soap while the gloss makes the grittiness feel
The first episode does have a solid action sequence stuck in the middle, and if this were an action series I'd be a little more hopeful, but I can't get too excited about a rather clichéd drama with some nice car chases.
There is also lazy writing, with an almost constant first-person narration that lets the series avoid conveying anything through action instead of just explaining it.
I could see this show improving if it could decide on what it wants to be, but ignore comparisons to Breaking Bad or The Bridge, both of which were much more convincing dramas.
There is no reason, in terms of story, for Stranger Things to take
place in the '80s. But the '80s atmosphere - the dial phones, the chain
smoking, Winona Ryder - are there to clue you in on the inspiration for
this movie, which is pretty much every supernatural movie from the 80s
with a focus on kids. E.T., Poltergeist, that sort of thing.
The wondrous thing is how dead-on this tribute. It's not just the clothes and hair, but the style of acting, the scripting approach, the structure, all hold true to their inspiration. You've got the young nerdy kids, the horny, unsure teenagers, the monster, the mysterious one with the power, the bad science/government people, the conflicted investigator, the tearful mom.
You could argue that this entire season is simply a pastiche made up of recycled elements, and I wouldn't disagree, but it really feels less like a copy and more like something of that era, as though the writers had fallen into a coma in 1985, woke up and got to working.
While it doesn't have the high style of the Spielberg films that are a primary influence, it does have the likability. The story is consistently engaging and fun, the acting is excellent, and the movie has sufficient laughs and tears to satisfy.
Perhaps it's because I'm mainly familiar with John Le Carre's work
through movies about the aging Smiley, but I never think of his stories
as having much sex in them, and was expecting something gritty and
spycraft-focused. I was a bit surprised by the opening title sequence,
which combined bombs and sex in a rather James Bond-ish way.
The story is pretty interesting, as a good-looking hotel Night Manager gets involved with beautiful women and intrigue involving the urbane weapons dealer Roper, played with a riveting, threatening charm by Hugh Laurie.
There's another good performance by Olivia Coleman and a nice amount of suspense and surprises. It's a compelling story, even if it's not quite what I was expecting.
I'm actually reading a Le Carre book now so I can finally see how his books compare with the movies I've seen. For now, all I can do is compare Le Carre adaptions with other Le Carre adaptions, and while I've seen ones I liked better, this is quite, quite good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been hoping that, as in the first season, Wayward Pines would be
full of surprises, but so far the biggest surprise is that they made an
episode as bad as this one.
*****************SPOILERS BELOW****************** For some reason they brought back Pam just so they could kill her off. Her reappearance offered little new information (except that the doctor's wife may be more important than suspected, which isn't much of a surprise), and her character arc ends very oddly, as it's suggested that she *never* believed in her brother's plan, which goes against her portrayal in the first season. Her solution - kill them all - is idiotic, and she botches it because apparently even though she's got a fair amount of medical knowledge, she has no idea how long it takes small pox to become contagious.
Seriously? None of this furthers the story, and the glimpses of Jason growing up don't offer any significant character insights. The little bits of information, like the disappearance of the monsters and the stuff about the doctor's wife, uses about 1 minute of plot in an episode that otherwise lacks any story movement. And taken on its own, this individual episode just isn't very interesting.
The first two episodes of this season were okay, but didn't come close to what we got in season 1. After this terrible episode, I'm right on the edge of writing this off as a one-season wonder. Next week better be awesome, or I'm gone.
At the time, I didn't understand the fascination with the O.J. Simpson
trial. I remember the weird slow-speed police chase of the bronco,
which was so peculiar that I couldn't stop watching, but after that I
never watched the trial, or read news of the trial, because I barely
new who Simpson was and I thought of it as just some salacious
celebrity murder case. I had no doubt Simpson was guilty - I mean, he'd
gone on the run and been chased down by the cops! - but I didn't have
any interest in the process of his being convicted, didn't care about
Kato Kaelin or Judge Ito, or any of that.
Then he got off, and it turned out that the case was a huge one about the shocking difference in how white and black America saw U.S. justice.
This documentary puts that trial in context. First, it explains why Simpson was so beloved, portraying his phenomenal sports success and his subsequent celebrity career. It also puts the trial in the context both of the Rodney King beating and of a case I'd never heard of where an Asian woman got no jail time for shooting a black girl in the back of the head.
For white people like me, this was a simple case of a celebrity who savagely murdered his ex. But viewed through the lens of a justice system that seemed built entirely for white people, the trial was something else entirely, and Simpson's pricey lawyers took advantage of that.
The full story of Simpson, from his glory days to his final fall, is like a Shakespeare tragedy, with a shining hero undone by his own darkness. It can also be seen as the story of a cold-stone psychopath who was given a pass for continually beating his wife simply because he was a celebrity with a winning smile.
An excellent documentary, and also a perfect companion piece for the recent TV miniseries, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story. Between the two, I have now learned a great deal about a case I had no interest in while it was happening.
When I read the critic's reviews of this fascinating portrayal of the
trial of OJ Simpson, the most common complaint was John Travolta's
performance. So I was expecting to find it a bad, cheesy performance
and everyone else to be great.
Instead, I thought Travolta did an excellent job as a supercilious attorney who finds himself increasingly outside his own case. True, Travolta has had so much plastic surgery that he looks like he was sewn together by a dollmaker, but his performance is, while not as notable as the really terrific performances by Nathan Lane and, more surprisingly, David Schwimmer, it's a solid performance.
The truly awful performance is by Cuba Gooding as O.J.
When I watched the movie, I thought Gooding seemed wrong based on my vague memories of O.J. I'm not a sports fan, I didn't follow the trial, which at the time I thought of as just another lurid celebrity crime, and I'd only seen Simpson in a small part in a movie years ago. I thought Gooding's whiny, unpleasant, crybaby performance seemed untrue to that memory, but I couldn't be sure.
Then I watched the terrific documentary series. O.J., Made in America, and I realized that Gooding was really horrible. He lacked O.J.'s famous charm, and instead came across as ineffectual where the documentary portrays O.J. as a strong force in his own defense.
If you've never seen Simpson at all, perhaps the performance would seem fine, but it's an absolutely wretched performance from the point of view of verisimilitude. It's easily the biggest flaw in an otherwise gripping portrayal.
Why the critics didn't notice that I can't say.
This show has an interesting premise, and after only one episode I
can't really predict how well it will handle that premise, but I found
the first episode too slow and soggy to continue.
It's hard to say what this series is. I've seen it described as comedy/drama/horror/satire, but that gives the impression of a lot more punch than this show has. There are moments that I suppose are mildly comedic, although not especially funny. It's got elements of a political drama, but not an involving one. Horror would suggest some element of suspense or chills, which were absent.
Satire would require some bite, but the series seems to want to be a political show without politics. We don't know what the budget fight is about, the two people who will clearly have sex eventually do some mild political sparring that carefully avoids any significant conflict, and the approach is very much the both-sides-are-recalcitrant trope that doesn't jibe with the current reality of the anti-compromise Tea Party situation of the real world. (The series actually makes the Republicans seem slightly more reasonable, since their senator is just a drunk who wants to cut a deal while the other side's senator is quite Machiavellian; was this produced by a Republican or just by someone bending over backwards to even things out? Weirdly, some here are saying the show is anti-Republican - one says it's anti-Trump even though all we see is snippets of Trump speeches on TV - but I would love to hear their explanation, which they don't give).
I remember when there were people going to MOMA in droves to sit across
from some artist I'd never heard of. I heard people say it was a very
moving experience. It sounded nuts to me. So I was curious to see if I
could get a sense of what it was all about from this movie.
I suppose I did, a little bit. The movie is made by people who want to be a bit artsy about it all, with jump shots and some shaky camera-work, but it does give you the basics. Marina is a long-time performance artist who specializes in feats of endurance, like running repeatedly into a wall or sitting naked on a bicycle seat for hours. She is very sincere, very determined, and seems to be someone who lives her art. There are scenes of her with her ex-partner/lover in which she is driving and cooking dinner which give you a glimpse into the mundane aspects of life that even those living for their art experience.
Most of the second half of the movie is devoted to her three months sitting staring at people who stare back. You see how physically grueling the experience is, you see how moved many people are, and you say how insane things got, with people camping out all night, desperate to get in early enough to spend some time having a famous artist stare at them.
The movie doesn't really recreate the experience. It's rather glossy at times, with a soundtrack that I'm sure creates a different experience than what I assume was simply the buzz of the crowd and the noise from any video projections nearby.
I'm amazed that some people here said they were moved by this movie. It's an interesting view of a performance artist, offering occasional mild insights from her friends and giving some understanding of her approach.
I'm also surprised that some people expected more of this movie, like a complete investigation of her career, or questions into how performance art fits into the art world. The movie is called The Artist is Present, and it's focused on that show, and that piece, and it's by someone who clearly buys into performance artist (I've always thought this sort of thing was interesting but kooky). It's exactly the sort of documentary I would expect someone who is intrigued by Marina would be inclined to make.
The movie absolutely did not make me wish I'd gone up to MOMA to stare at her, although it makes me feel, just a little, that maybe I should have gone up to see the recreations of her previous pieces and take a quick peek at her face-offs. But it's not something I'm losing sleep over.
I'm not scoring this, and I'm not really writing this review for other
people. Instead, this is in case years from now, after I've forgotten I
gave this a try (I watch a lot of TV and sometimes forget I've seen
things), I could look here and see why I didn't keep with the series.
The beginning episodes is slow moving but intense, because you are spending a lot of time with a woman who it is immediately made clear will soon be murdered by a serial killer.
While some people love serial killer stuff, I don't, and seeing this woman go through her life knowing she would be murdered and most probably tortured and raped just freaked me out. I just couldn't take it.
Now, I read a review that said that while the first ten minutes suggested the series would be disturbing, that ultimately it doesn't delve into that end of things. Perhaps that's true. I watched about a half an hour and that creepiness was still there by that point, and I stopped so I wouldn't risk seeing the woman's death.
I didn't really watch enough to have a strong feeling about how the show would turn out. It's slow-moving and has a chilly, antiseptic quality, but that could be good. But serial killers are just not something I can enjoy, so I'll pass.
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