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Made in Canada (1998)
Where has this series been all my life?
Ho hum. Canadian television - who wants to watch that wholesome politely amusing stuff that Canadians find knee-slapping hilarious?
Surprised to see just five minutes of this series that was offered for viewing free on amazon prime video (streaming) and unable to stop watching because it is so very funny. Witty, clever, cynical, sarcastic, and above all - the industry laughing at its own phony clichéd business practices!
This series could be matched against any number of more polished American comedy series - "Schitt's Creek," for example (starring a Canadian actor, Eugene Levy). Or "Episodes," starring Matt LeBlanc. I don't think I even enjoyed "The Office" as much as this.
The first episode feels uncomfortably lower-budget (but very well- acted) and it is by the second episode that the viewer realizes how hilarious this is and accepts what is just a Canadian style of set design.
I am SO glad I found this. It's utterly delightful. These Canadians are a hoot!
Just Tell Me What You Want (1980)
It's a puzzle (Caution: Spoiler alert!)
I enjoyed watching this film because the styles and look of the city made me feel nostalgic for that time.
It's a puzzle how the plot of the movie could tie together romance with the character that Alan King plays. Romantic? Not. Even dashing or handsome? Not. Rich. Yes. But once you realize the person you're dealing with, there's just not enough money... OK, you'll find a goofy 21-year-old who will think there is enough money to make this guy attractive. But then: you don't need that much money to impress that young girl.
Which is what Alan King's character ends ups with, and you are happy for him. It's quite fitting for someone that shallow to share feelings with someone just out of her teenage years. Then the movie winds to its close and you're shocked.
Shocked! There's no accounting for taste.
I much enjoyed a part of the movie that takes place in Bergdorf's - a scene in which Ali McGraw's character tried to beat the crap of the old lecher. It was too too short. But very satisfying.
The Doris Day Show (1968)
The series has aged well (Season 1)
I don't think this generation realizes how successful an actress and singer Doris Day was in the 50s and 60s (for starters). She starred in movies with some of the greatest leading men of the day. She was a talented jazz singer. She was a fashion icon. She seemed to have no 'dark side' or addictions. And then she had this television series.
From what I've read in scattered reviews of books about her, she didn't want to be a television actress. However, the ineptitude of her husband's managing her career put her so deep in debt that she had to perform in a television series because he had signed a contract obligating her to do so. Such is the danger of power of attorney!
Scriptwriters veered toward the sickeningly sweet dialogue and plots sometimes. When I watched the old 'Doris Day Show,' season 1, there was not much of that defect in the stories. Later, I think the writers fell into bad habits, but early on, Doris just seems to play Doris. That person is just a really nice person, one you love and want to know.
I enjoy seeing these old episodes of Season 1. Doris loves her animals and she loves her family! You would think these themes would be enough. Less talented writers forgot these important things but for a while, the series had the actress coming through as a very natural self, with high aspirations for her parenting role and a commitment to live on the ranch with her family. Nostalgic? Yes. But it's that lovely nostalgia that doesn't prompt you to laugh but instead miss all those 'family values' that used to rule television.
All Good Things (2010)
Chilling look at evil and mental illness (Spoilers)
This movie about someone named David Mark (Robert Durst in the real world) is frightening when you consider how much the protagonist allegedly got away with.
In the beginning of the story, David's father says, 'You know - she'll never be one of us' to David, to which David replies, 'Yes, isn't that great?' (or something like that).
It doesn't take long before you realized how unpleasant and morally corrupt the Marks family is and you are telling yourself the same thing about this young woman named Katie in the movie. You think, 'God, I HOPE she's never that.'
For half of the film, it's an interesting yarn. Then it turns to the kind of thriller horror movie that makes you want to protect your own children from these people. At some point, you also realize this is not a courtroom drama where justice will be done - the narration comes from the courtroom but you realize that it is an interrogation that is more like a checklist than a fact-finding exercise.
I am sorry that the person Katie ever got mixed up with this family. I am sorry that the David Marks character happened to be born to this family - in another lifetime, he would be a happy child growing up surrounded by love in a stable environment.
Every bad story you have ever heard about landlords seems to be displayed in this film that is really about the corrupt Marks family business. They are hell-bent on squeezing every penny out of the tenants, cutting corners if given any chance to do that, and building the proceeds of their rentals into private wealth. Meanwhile, the tenants survive in squalor.
That's probably as realistic a description of the Marks business as you can get. Yet I can't help but think that as the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer, as it happens in the U.S., the poor who pay rent to these people are one step above homelessness - for which they are not only grateful but have given the landlords a chance to paint themselves as heroes in the community.
Such it may always be. Such it may have always been! Which is why a certain type of person is drawn to this kind of enterprise.
The Perfect Match (2016)
I found this film while looking for films that feature Paula Patton (I've loved her ever since the Mission Impossible movie she was in).
This movie kind of flips the standard romance plot. I won't even say how. Much of it is kind of shorthand and cliché, in the way people make career decisions, for example, and the issues that arise. But even that is not such a problem - it all fits very neatly into the structure of the plot.
The Los Angeles locations are simply beautiful. I'm sure that there are better, higher-budget movies that include L.A. locations but the city just couldn't look better than it does here - for less money!
This is a very sweet movie that delivers much to think about. It's not deep thought, but it's enjoyable thoughts that will occur to you when the film has ended.
Murder in the First (2014)
Storytelling that works
I stumbled across this show on Hulu. The pilot: kind of interesting. But then everything that followed just got better and better.
It's true that there are some things that are obviously scriptwriter's easy solutions but unrealistic. These are very very few. For the most part, the strength of the series is in the storytelling that pulls in many subplots that involve the viewer emotionally - do you believe in the death penalty? What is good parenting? Should people have romantic relationships in the workplace?
Everyone seems to have an opinion about these issues- few people don't care one way or the other. Whatever you believe, you will feel challenged or vindicated as you see the subplots develop.
Taye Diggs is good in this role. Smooth, so smooth. He's like a velvety mug of chocolate. He plays Terry. His partner on the job, Hildy, is a little like a cup of Tea - warm but slightly astringent. She can be sweet, like that tea. She can be sharp, as when you add a lemon slice to that warm brew.
Together, they make a good team. They are rarely anything but professional as they interact with each other. I am only now watching the last season, so I'm going to make myself a hot beverage and settle in to binge watch!
Tries hard, very hard. And it's funny!! (Spoiler)
This is a funny series. If you like America Ferrera, as I do, you will really like the show. All the other characters are portrayed well by talented actors and the script is not up to 'The Office' standards but the humor can make you laugh out loud.
What is very noticeable: the Latina (2!), the black man, the disabled man (combined into one character), the Filipino man, the gay man (combined into one character), the Christian guy, the Jewish guy, the teenager, the pregnant woman (combined into one character) - how friggin' politically correct can the showrunner get who came up with this?
This is a very small group of co-workers in a big store. Everywhere you look: the shoppers are white people (sprinkled with one or two Asians and a few black people).
I binge-watched the first season so maybe some of this will change in season 2. It does not matter much but it is SO noticeable how carefully this population has been constructed.
One of my favorite shopping trips (weekly) is the stop at Walmart. It's a great store. It's a good business. I know that the prices are good not only because I can compare them and see that this is so, but at least half the shoppers are Hispanic from a neighboring town. Best advertisement ever for bargain shoppers!
If I had to imagine the type of store used as a model for Cloud 9, I guess it could be Target. Livin' large!
Delivery Man (2013)
Feel Good is not always the best. (contains spoilers).
I heard about this movie because it has Chris Pratt when he was a bit pudgier. I wanted to see for myself!
While watching the movie, it occurred to me that the main character was thrust into a situation in which he experiences a lot of the bad parts of parenting that you can have when your child reaches adulthood. With none of the fun of seeing them develop and raising them through tougher but more manageable stages when they are growing.
It also occurred to me that the main character is extremely lucky because no matter what he comes across as he meets the young adult offspring, he can't possibly be eaten up by guilt and worry because it's just plain impossible when you talk about the number of children he gave his seed to create!
At one point, he is dealing with a disabled son and you know: he can only visit him, he can't financially provide for him, he can't advocate for him. His time is limited in parenting so many offspring.
Add to this the total absence (I mean zero presence) of any mother to any of multitude. It beggars belief.
I enjoyed the movie, however. I thought as I watched it that there's a real future in many men spreading many seeds far and wide, creating tribes. They wouldn't have to share any beliefs. They wouldn't have to have modifications to their bodies (like circumcision or tattoos) but they would just call themselves the 'Tribe of Orange' or 'Tribe of Zemo' or 'Tribe of Triple W' and meet for festivals, set up message boards, wear tee-shirts broadcasting their membership. It's the future! These tribes wouldn't share beliefs but they would be a reason to congregate, just for fun!
And also (not mentioned in the movie) a way to identify each other so they wouldn't end up marrying each other.
I ended up buying the director's original telling of this story in the film, 'Starbuck.' When I saw the trailer, I recognized at least half of the scenes as being frame-for-frame the same as the American adaptation. I wonder what it will be like to view this with a French setting, French language, French actors - the originals!
There have been excellent French films horribly adapted to the American screen. I hope that is not the case with this movie. It's such a great story, though, that I sent the French 'Starbuck' to a friend who speaks French. She will enjoy it, never having seen the story in any language.
Picket Fences (1992)
The Bad and the Good
Everything that has been written in reviews here about 'Picket Fences' is likely true: the bad and the good.
It's like looking at a quilt - you will be struck by the brilliance of the colors and if that is not there, you may be impressed by the orderly patterns. There is so much skill on display that once you feel the effort behind the product, you WILL sit up and pay attention.
I'm watching the first season after not having seen 'Picket Fences' in years. A hand pickled in a jar? An elephant performing tricks for youngsters on the front lawn? Sprinkle among all the clever plots and characters so many small touches that spike your appetite to see more - and there's the reason the series succeeded.
I almost forgot how very sexy the sheriff is. Tom Skerritt and Kathy Baker might pass you unnoticed on the street but in front of the camera, they just blend together with an aura of sexual attraction. Lauren Holly and Costas Mandylor, on the other hand, are strikingly attractive and yet their chemistry is a question mark. Will they or won't they? It will take more episodes to see that!
The plots are clever. The town is a fantasy, a Wisconsin mirage chock-full of unconventional types who look for all the world like the most conventional.
There is a mother who keeps her young child chastised and quiet by placing a small shoe in her mouth. Not likely to see such things in a television series today - what an imaginative and entertaining show, out of all we know today with political correctness, and yet stuffed with progressive lessons and values...
Hamlet, Son of a Kingpin (2015)
Shakespeare would be amused and proud
I did not expect much and yet - there's a lot here.
I imagined that it would be as cheesy an adaptation of a Shakespeare play as 'West Side Story' was (of 'Romeo and Juliet'). It's much closer to the play and story, while mixing Spanish and English. Shakespearean dialogue!
The production values are suitable for this kind of mixture of cultures and language. Almost a telenovela but not trying to be. Not too wordy but using Shakespeare's dialogue which sometimes sounds odd and sometimes natural.
If Shakespeare came to life in this year of our Lord, watching the drama delivered via technology with some language that he can recognize and some that he never would know, he'd realize how incredibly far-reaching his play writing has come, across the world, through time and space.
He would be proud!