140 Reviews
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Mom (2013– )
7, if not for laugh track
29 September 2017
What a laugh track says to me is this: it says you don't trust your own writing, actors, or show. It says you think I am stupid and wouldn't know where to laugh. It weakens your effort.

The show is fine. The acting is good, and I really enjoy seeing middle aged people in a show. I am not a great fan of family sitcoms, but this one is much better than most. I enjoyed the 12-step background.

But I cannot forgive a laugh track. When did MASH give up its laugh track? 1984? That is getting to be quite sometime ago. So TV, quit doing it. It tells me that your show is aimed at far stupider people than me. If it isn't, then trust your writers and actors.
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The Expanse (2015– )
First-year great , but
28 August 2017
I rated the first year as an 8.5 out of 10 stars. It worked quite well when it there was a mystery to be solved, but halfway through the second year on DVD I am really bored and not sure I'll even finish those remaining episodes.

I think it worked best when there was a mystery. Once the girl was found, that drive to the plot evaporated, and I was free to examine what there was remaining, and I began to see what was wrong. One thing: all the characters are far too much alike. It is one weary, cynical, manipulative person after the next. (In a sense this is sort of the anti-Star Trek, where everyone was functional, optimistic, and kind.)

Also, year two is full of repetitive scenes. Another argument in the UN of exactly the same type. Another political speech to the rabble of exactly the same type. A nearly infinite number of medical recovery scenes. Another speech between characters about how we have to protect our side, whichever "our" side is. Another boring revelation about somebody's childhood. The same punches being thrown. The ludicrous concept of Mormons somehow becoming a vast religion, surpassing Muslims and Catholics and atheists, who, considering the role science plays, should be the majority in this world. Another pretty face, but no interesting ones. I simply didn't care anymore.

Was excited. Now bored. Can check year 3 off my wish list.
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Funny at first glance
24 July 2017
Yes, back in the 1970s I went to the midnight showing of this and smoked a bunch of dope first, nearly a requirement of people of my class and generation. But in seeing it again, I am less amused. This is nonsense propaganda, marijuana's effects are nothing like this, and worst of all, we have spent billions of dollars combating the voluntary use of recreational drugs . And we do it because of nonsense like this. At the same time, tobacco, alcohol, the grains that produce alcohol, big Pharma medicines (98% of which are not necessary) are actually subsidized. It is beyond insane. The only difference between this, the ludicrous public-service message of a generation ago that showed an egg frying and said "this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" (Yes, several, beginning with WTF are you trying to say, you nitwits?) and the current hysteria about whatever drugs are the subject of the current hysteria is that the fear-mongering message has gotten more sophisticated. Here's an idea: let people take whatever drugs they want. Leave them alone. If they want to kill themselves with them, that really is their business, not the government's. If they prefer pot or MDA or cocaine to whatever big Pharma is pushing, let them choose whichever they wish to choose. Get your laws off our bodies. So I'm thinking this is less funny than I used to think it was. It angers me. I want my war on drugs tax money back.

And jeez, what a horrible movie. Acting, sound, everything: awful.
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Aloha (I) (2015)
It's a Cameron Crowe movie
24 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
You know what you're getting into with one of his movies. It's sort of simpleminded, feel-good, lightweight fare for progressive minded people.

That's what you have here, along with beautiful Hawaiian settings.

Major spoilers ahead.

The two emotional climaxes of the movie really bothered me upon reflection. The first is when two men, rivals, have a bro conversation without saying a word. It is subtitled -yuk yuk. At first it seems clever, but then it really began to bother me after the movie was over. This is some kind of male fantasy that it is possible to have meaningful communication with people you are "intimate" with without having to do the hard work of formulating words and listening . Nonsense.

The final emotional scene is of a 13-year-old girl discovering her father is not her father, that the Cooper character is. She gets teary- eyed, runs out of dance class, and hugs him. Guys, I was a 13-year-old girl and knew many. This is not how we behave! Thrown crockery, slammed doors, screaming "I hate you!" is more like it. Running away, sleeping with a bad boy, shooting up the garage, cutting wrists? All are more likely. But it's a feel-good movie, so realism be damned.

Thus, the two moments that are supposed to warm our hearts fail for me . However I'm rating it higher then I might otherwise because of the ludicrous controversy. Remember when Christians stood outside that movie about Jesus protesting without knowing a thing about it or having ever having seen it? Yeah, well, this is what happened here. How reassuring to know that people on all sides of the political/cultural spectrum can be total idiots, getting huffy about the very content that panders to them.
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Toast (2010 TV Movie)
Unappealing protagonist
18 June 2017
I had never heard of this food "celebrity," though I am not immune to the charms of cooking and food.

In order to enjoy a movie I have to feel some sympathy with the main character. They don't have to be the most likable person on the planet, but I have to have a connection to them somehow. Even if they are a strange evil genius, I can usually find my way in and relate.

But this main character was hideous: A spoiled, whiny, bizarre little kid, who expected the world to revolve around him. There is an attempt to make a saint of his inept, sickly mother, but she was despicable as well. The child loathed the father, but despite seeing the father through the lens of that hatred, I felt the most sympathy for that character. Surely he had thoughts of infanticide but did not act on them. Now there's a saint.

In no sense that this provide any insight into the human experience. I didn't care about anyone. I was glad when it was over.
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Nichols is a remarkable talent, but...
10 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not entirely enthralled with this one.

For one thing, I couldn't get over the idea it was an extended metaphor about death. My reading was, there are no interdimensional aliens, the kid is just dying, and this is the story of parents letting go. Yes it's couched in the science-fiction tropes, but I saw that as all symbolic. I don't think that's what the movie is about. It's about parental love, and how love sometimes means loosening your grip and letting the beloved move on, and because of the acting it works really well at that level.

I could be wrong. (Or I could be right for me and no other human) anyway...lovely shots, great acting, not quite as atmospheric as his others. 6.5 stars.
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Doctor Foster (2015– )
Well done
9 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Though it is inexplicable what this woman character finds in this loser of a husband, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief on that matter then this plot works okay. A successful, educated woman with a nice house, a son, and a husband she thinks is okay is surprised to find not only is he cheating on her with someone inappropriately young but that many of her "friends" have been hiding this from her. She tries to keep it together, doing whatever she can to figure out what is happening and to save her marriage, but she finally realizes he is the idiot that the viewer has understood he was from early on and lets go.

Perhaps it is a British thing that she never thinks I'm going to kill the SOB, but I rather hoped she would. Adult viewers get that the 20-year-old he goes away with will be cheated on in her turn, if she doesn't quickly find poverty unpleasant, and he'll hit her on the way out, and so it will go. And it would be a happy ending with Dr. F, dumping the loser but for her staying in the small town that also betrayed her, which makes no sense either. For a smart woman, that's pretty dumb behavior.

Anyway...acting, lighting, all that perfectly good. Bertie Carvel nailed the sniveling boy-man who justifies and excuses his cheating. A character you do love to despise.
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Does not work
5 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If the point of any narrative work of art is to make me sympathize with the human problems of a character, this movie is a failure . The story is of a child who killed his brother accidentally, and there is plenty to sympathize with there, it may seem. A family torn apart, a tragedy that goes unnamed, the guilt and loneliness, etc.

But this tragedy is here played almost for laughs with a bizarre fabulist kind of treatment, and so I never believe in any of it, and I'm left not giving a crap that some kid has died, because I can't believe that the kid is real. Nor is anything real. I leave thinking either I'm a terrible person for not caring that a kid has died... Or I choose a more comfortable feeling and that is to think that the director /writer /everyone involved in this is a soulless or cruel idiot.

Yes, it is only a movie, but books and movies are supposed to make me believe for their duration and to illuminate the human experience. This does none of that. It felt like an insult to me and a masturbatory exercise by the filmmaker, whose work I will avoid henceforth.
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Sing Street (2016)
What a delight
29 May 2017
I'm about 40 years older than the demographic this is aimed at, but I really like this. It's not only a love story, it is a story of love between brothers, and a love song to 80s pop music. Solid acting, pacing, sounds, writing...really not a thing to complain about here.

It's your life/ Drive it like you stole it not only deserves the song awards it got, it's a great piece of advice.

I like the bit at the end with the ship. It makes the ending more than a simple, sappy thing. But you're still left with a smile.
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Cool as Ice (1991)
Perhaps this is it....
2 May 2017
...the most awful film in the history of cinema.

Imagine every embarrassing moment you've ever had and imagine every time you've witnessed somebody else's embarrassing moment and felt empathy for them. Imagine every humiliation; guys imagine every unintentional boner, gals imagine every spotting of white pants at the dance, imagine every drunk puking into the gutter, bad dancing, flubbed speech, insulting someone who is standing right behind you when you didn't know they were there. Picture cursing a blue streak and realizing your religious grandmother was in the next room listening, just every awful thing that makes your belly churn and your face turn red to recall. Imagine being forced to re-live it all in an instant, and then somehow you are forced to consume it and then you vomit it all back out and for 90 more minutes you are forced to wallow in that vomit, a vomit reeking of despair and chagrin, acidic with the burning wish that it had never happened...

That is the experience of watching this movie. It is the stuff of some circle of Hell undiscovered before 1991. It is NOT funny.
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Fever Lake (1997 Video)
Bad, unless you get the Rifftrax version
24 April 2017
This is one of those terrible movies that is really good for the guys at RiffTrax to skewer. In my opinion there is still a lot of mileage to be gotten out of "teens in the woods encounter evil possessed killer" plots. But this thing is just such a mess! Other people have blamed the actors, the costumer, the director, the scriptwriter. I'll take a new approach and blame the editor. I see an outside possibility that the script was coherent, but that the editor rendered it into an incoherent mess.

The truth is, after watching the riffed version five times, I still don't quite understand what was going on in the movie. The "rules" of fantasy and horror don't need to make real-world sense, but these rules have to be explained clearly, and then stuck to, and make internal sense. The filmmakers failed at all this.

There is a lot to laugh at here. The wolf attack that did not include a wolf, the terrible acting of the "novelist," the assumption that college students play a lot of hide and seek and truth or dare still, the non- Indian, and everyone mispronouncing the word "wolf."

Poor Corey Haim. Being molested as a kid actor by producers, his drug addiction, and this movie. There must be a special place in the afterlife for someone who suffered that much.
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Bosch (2014– )
Another Amazon series stumbles
23 April 2017
I am detecting a theme. Some of Amazon shows are quite wonderful for one season , decent in the second, and in the third you think: this is so bad maybe I was overrating the first two seasons. And here we are again.

This is paced badly, and it's full of far too much domestic non-story. I don't care about what Chief Irving eats, drinks, or who he dates. It's sad. Season three is no better than some stupid David Kelly show on network TV.

I am a huge fan of the books and know the lead actor here is nothing like the Bosch of the books, but he was okay. But the third season he wore on me with his one-note performance. The daughter is boring. Edgar's sons are boring. The police work is shoddy. The plots are full of clichés and holes. The most interesting parts of season three were finished by episode four. The final episode in season three had almost no content at all and was literally an ad for Season 4.

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Masquerade (1965)
12 April 2017
There is some terrific writing in the script. The politics is sophisticated, and all these years later illuminating. The number of twists will keep you guessing. Hawkins is wonderful. All the British actors are.

However. Robertson is boring, not charismatic, not sexy, not funny . In the hands of a more appropriate actor this movie really could've been something.

From the film summary, you might be expecting more of a Ransom of Red Chief -type story , but it is not that . It is all about the adults and their shenanigans.

Good story marred by poor choice of lead actor and sluggish pacing, possibly the editor's fault.

Still, worth a watch.
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Whiplash (2014)
Ultimately unsatisfying
2 April 2017
Admittedly, Simmons's performance riveted me and frightened me more than once in the first half of the film … Until it didn't because it was too much one note, played too often.

I thought the ending was a mistake, undercutting any kind of moral redemption the film might have won for itself, but even if I accept that it's ironic or postmodern or a valid artistic choice, good God, a 10 minute drum solo? You have to either be a drummer or high on LSD to enjoy a 10 minute drum solo. Cutting frequently during it did not make it any less painful. I'm sincerely shocked that some studio exec didn't manage to demand that it be edited down to five minutes, which might have been tolerable.

Lest you think I'm an idiot who didn't get the point, rest assured I get the point. And I don't need all of my movies to have the moral coda that a 1964 episode of Lassie has. But this was just nihilistic, which I really don't need to pay to hear, and it ended with a freaking 10 minute drum solo. Gah!
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Bad science for its day
18 February 2017
Everyone knew by 1965 – including most 10-year-old kids – that Mars was a cold, airless place. Yes, this movie predates that moment slightly, but they didn't know this little. Or they would have known better if they would've made a single phone call to Lowell Observatory. By 1909, the concept of "canals" was dead due to improvements in telescopes. And if there were such a thing as oxygen pills, surely the screenwriters understood that stomach doesn't equal lungs.

This does unfortunately carry with it the obnoxious colonial attitude of the original Defoe, in regards to poor Friday, and while the friendship developed, it was never really equal.

The monkey is as irritating as monkeys always are.

But the cinematography and visuals are kind of cool. Yes they're retro, but very pretty. And so I couldn't give it one star because of that.
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Missed opportunity
15 February 2017
I am predisposed to like 1950s B-movies. And this one had a lot of potential. It was basically the mummy story, set in the shadow of Vesuvius. Standard scientists and pretty girl who screams. There were two major flaws though. One was that the dialogue was full of exposition – "as you know, your specialty is… " And "as you know, you were once engaged to him." This is not only clumsy but easily remedied.

In a strange twist, this movie actually made me scream aloud – but not for the reasons that the filmmakers would have wished. It was the voice-over narration. The film begins with it … All well and good. And then it goes away for 12 or 15 minutes and the next time it came back it surprised me so much I literally screamed. And it was ludicrous: the shot was of the scientist looking concerned for his girlfriend and the narration said something like " he was concerned for his girlfriend." It is as if they didn't trust their own actors, who were actually conveying the emotions quite well.

The ending is very strange too. This could've been a solid seven star film for people like me who like old black-and-white horror and science fiction … But the two flaws were serious.
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Spoiler alert.
11 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It was all just a dream. Or rather, we learned at the end that it was all the hallucination of a homeless man who was stalking a woman he saw on the bus. In this sense, this movie is an affront to schizophrenic people. Even the craziest of them have the sense not to drink water from the mouth of a week-dead corpse

So all of the "funny" fart jokes and sophomoric musings on the meaning of life and so on – that was all nonsense because the lead character having these conversations with himself is totally insane and dangerous. Ha ha, joke is on you viewer. No real insights. Nothing to see here!

When you teach 10-year-olds creative writing, you have to explain that the worst possible ending is "it was all a dream." I can only assume the director-writers are therefore not yet 10 years old. Further evidence for this would be all the fart jokes.

But a star more than the minimum because Dano really did give it his best.
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Meru (2015)
Great cinematography
8 January 2017
I suspect that for mountain climbers and wannabes, this is a 10 star film, so I'll give it stars for them. And it certainly is beautiful.

However, no matter how many climbing films I watch, I never get a good answer to the question in my mind which is, why do this incredibly dangerous thing? Jon Krakauer says, "he had to," but that is patently false. Nobody has to!

And so I am left at the end of this film with the same judgments I always have. I think, these men are bad sons, bad brothers, then bad boyfriends, then bad husbands, then bad fathers. I can't honor them. I suspect they are a little bit stupider than the average person. I suspect a psychiatrist could diagnose them with some mental illness. I'm struggling here to come to a kinder place, but I cannot.

And if you don't want people to make judgments of you for doing a stupid, risky, suicidal thing, then you either shouldn't do this thing at all or you shouldn't make movies bragging about it.
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Goliath (2016– )
11 December 2016
Derivative and clichéd and unrealistic. When the crooked cop attack occurred, I turned it off. Utterly unbelievable. The "child" at risk junk again, so manipulative. The dog thing, straight out of Save The Cat. The bit stolen from The Caine Mutiny. Just... no. Sorry. Not for me.

For someone with fewer years of movie watching and book reading, maybe it'd work better because they wouldn't see the clichés.

Erasing stars now for the series creators downvoting this review. Doesn't make it any better to do that, and 18 downvotes appearing within moments of my posting rather tips your hand. Subtlety isn't your strong suit, is it?
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Slipping every season.
11 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The first season of this blew me away. Nine star rating.

The second season of this was a significant step down. It had its moments, but it wasn't very coherent. It's an ongoing story, so you can't say that it doesn't have an arc. It does. But it still felt fragmented. 7.5 stars.

The third season switches to a new setting and a new kind of music, and the various story lines are even less integrated. Story lines appear … And then they peter out. While the soap opera central plot comes to its logical conclusion, the 20 episodes before that downplayed that plot line so much that I no longer cared. My investment had evaporated. Indeed, I had no investment in anything. The prison ep was a total fail for me. 5 stars would be generous.
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6 December 2016
I love this little film.

It felt like a play in an intimate theater--two actors, a few bit parts, and locations that could have fit on one stage. This could not possibly work in a film except for two things: the amazing, witty, smart, true dialogue; and two astonishing performances.

There are a few films that capture the middle-aged heart well, and this is one of them. With all of our clearer hindsight, regrets, what may have beens, the specter of death ahead, and wondering what this one life really adds up to. For thinking people, these sorts of questions haunt us. And here – with wit and honesty - we see two believable, flawed, appealing characters ask each other the important questions.

The ending is good, for you leave the film wanting to ask if he made the right decision. Sometimes, the questions are more important than the answers.

And, a bit of petty praise, that was one heck of a lot of dialogue to memorize.
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The best Ecuadorian Frankenstein movie I know of
28 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those movies that I think might have a touch of genius to it but might just be bad. It doesn't help that I saw it translated into English, and I don't entirely trust the translator, for surely those song lyrics were different in Spanish.

If the song lyrics were correct, we are to believe that there is an American singer who makes a living by touring Central America with a mannequin, who sings love songs about death and blood to said mannequin. This results in standing ovations. And it makes him enough money that he can afford two roadies who do nothing but carry the mannequin. This is now high on my list of possible careers: mannequin wrangler.

When he's not doing that, he is seducing a girl by chanting the lyrics to a pop song to her while they dance to it , but off-rhythm and in a monotone. This makes her other choice of beau, the Dr. Frankensteinish character, seem rather preferable even if he is probably going to kill her for his evil, yet incomprehensible, experiments.

And, making for a sort of four-sided love triangle, there is a sour-faced, middle-aged scientist coworker whom Mad Scientist buys flowers for. And apparently Ecuador has a large community of panflute players with leprosy. Who knew?

Turgid, illogical, sexist silliness with a hint of underfunded genius somewhere.
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The most important nature documentary of my lifetime
1 November 2016
We need to hear this message. We need to hear this truth. Truth it is, truth it was, and truth it will be..

Of course the people so dimwitted that they are easily brainwashed by the forces of the evil fossil fuel industry will come here and one star this, but they are stupid, and they are brainwashed, and you shouldn't really listen to stupid people about science. You should listen to smart scientists about science.

The documentary has UN ambassador for peace DeCaprio interviewing several climate scientists, several world leaders, religious leaders, community activists and astronauts. He doesn't interview any stupid people, you'll notice. The intelligent ones all say the same thing, which anybody clever enough to read a chart could also understand. We are committing species suicide via global warming.

This enraged me, it moved me to rethink some of my decisions – though I already use solar, only need enough gasoline that I fill my compact car once every two months, and wear my clothes until they are tattered, there is still more I can do. This movie reminded me I need to get around to doing it. NOW.

I have no respect at all for the United States Congress, and this made me loathe them to the depths of my soul. They are evil evil men. May they all die in some superstorm, hoist by their own petard.

As pessimistic as DiCaprio sounds, I am less optimistic than he. We will drive many species to extinction, we will leave the earth a pitted hell, the atmosphere a foul and pestilent vapor. And then, deservedly, we will go extinct too.
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Does what an action movie should
29 October 2016
Action films are not supposed to be smart and they are not supposed to be deep examinations of international politics and they are not supposed to be full of three-dimensional characters feeling a lot of angst over having a lot of relationship problems. What they're supposed to be is stuff blowing up and people shooting each other and a good score that makes your heart beat and good-looking people performing stunts.

If you don't like action films then why do you go see them? (Although I suspect most of the one star reviews here are not by people who saw the film but by people pushing a political agenda. And bizarrely that political agenda seems to be, in part, let's pretend that the Muslim world does not support terrorist acts all over the world all the time. While of course not every Muslim is violent no more than every Christian or every atheist, ignoring what's in the newspaper every day and pretending that everything in this world is just kittens and bunnies and rainbows is insane. Or possibly merely stupid.)

I am darned picky about my action movies. I seldom rate one this high, but I thought this was great. It set out to do a thing. It did that thing. I was never bored. I felt nervous, I laughed, I rooted for the characters. The action never made me roll my eyes at its implausibility.

Exactly what it was supposed to do, it did. I'll rewatch it several times.
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Major Crimes (2012– )
This is why I don't own a TV
24 October 2016
This derivative, unlikely, ham-handed, illogical piece of breaking-no-new- ground television is why I have never owned a television in my adult life. I assume this was on one of the "big "networks as it is so awful.

I watch all my television either free via streaming or on DVDs from the library. I only made it through one DVD. I don't know what else to say. The characters are shallow, one-dimensional, old school. If you have a smart grandmother who reads books, and a really stupid grandmother, your stupid grandmother might like this.

That's the best thing I can say about it.
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