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Great first season, and then, WTF?
Working was great for the first season. But when season 2 came, a couple of great characters were gone and inexplicably replaced. I remember one of the replacements was very attractive and while this may be unfair, because she wasn't a good actress and her part added nothing to the series I felt like maybe she was some executives daughter or girlfriend and they just insisted she given a part. Because it just made no sense.
Of course, it may just have been incompetence. It may be that the series wasn't doing as well as they thought it should and some cocaine-fueled executive got put in charge and was like, we need to sex it up more, we need changes, make it all different, get me more coke!
It was seriously one of the most inexplicable retoolings in the history of television. I wish I knew the story behind it.
Empire Records (1995)
like a master class in how not to make a movie
This shaggy, somewhat annoying movie has inexplicably gone on to be some sort of cult class, and yet I can find little of worth in it outside of a good cast and a decent soundtrack.
The movie takes place in a record store and is about ... not much of anything. It begins with a character doing something dumb (and criminal) and going on to spout non-sequitors and just being the most annoying character in the movie.
Most of the movie is made up of characters arguing, acting stupid, dancing in the aisles, and trying to figure out who they're going to sleep with. There's a problem that bubbles up at the beginning but then it just simmers until it inexplicably takes over in the last 15 minutes, when it is resolved as absurdly as possible.
I don't have much fondness for teenagers being dumb, which is what this whole movie is. The female half of the cast is somewhat appealing (or maybe just hot) and the male side is middling to annoying.
So basically someone said, let's make something episodic like American Graffiti but all on one set and then let's tie it together with a dumb ending. And this is the result.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
I was resistant to watching this movie at first, because I'd seen the directors' previous, awful Swiss Army Man. But the buzz was so strong that I finally broke down and watched it. And it is crazy and exciting and touching and like nothing else.
The movie throws out ideas like the world is ending in five minutes and all the ideas need to be used before it does. The story goes everywhere and I dare you to predict anything.
The cast is great. The biggest surprise is Ke Huy Quan, because when I saw him I was like, "this guy is amazing, how have I never seen him before?" and it turns out he was the kid actor from Temple of Doom and his career had petered out years before. Which is tragic, but hopefully he gets to make a bunch of movies after winning the Oscar.
Also great performances from Michelle Yeoh (as always), and really, everyone.
If you like movies that keep you on your toes and mess with your head, you should definitely watch this. It's so much fun.
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
The dark side of Irish small-town eccentrics
In one way, Banshees is just the latest movie about colorful Irish characters getting into a big fight over a small thing. It's full of sharp, quirky humor and appealing eccentrics.
Except it's also dark and deeply disturbing.
Starting as a weird but generally comic film, the characters become grim and increasingly unlikable, no one acts reasonably (except Kerry Condon's likeable, sensible Siobhán), and by the end it's all depressing and low-key horrific.
You can take it as an allegory for the madness of war or as just a weird character study about rather unlikely characters (well acted all round, with special praise for Barry Keoghan as the quirkiest of the lot), but however you take it, it gets harder to watch as it goes along. Still, I did enjoy it (unlike my girlfriend, who ultimately found it too grim) and I do think it's worth watching.
Recommended, but be warned that the humor and fun of the first part will not last.
Coded Bias (2020)
I've heard a lot about the various algorithmic failures around race. This is a good overview of the discussion that talks about some things I haven't seen before. When you see it put all together in one place it's pretty shocking.
At the same time, purely as a documentary this is kind of weak. It's sometimes a little muddled, and it sometimes stretches a point a bit too far. Some of the things it tries to fold into the narrative are less examples of technological racism and more examples of actual criminal behavior. There's a difference between slippery tech and actions that resulted in people going to jail.
Still, it's a compelling film.
Annette begins with the musical number with the entire cast wandering around singing a fun song, May We Start. This is the first and last really enjoyable moment of the movie.
The story is about the love of a singer and a comic. And one of the first things that happens in the movie after that opening number is we see Adam driver as the comic do a really really long, not especially funny routine. It falls in the category of edgy comedy, but even most edgy comedians trying to work outside the norms of comedy managed to get a few jokes in there. Still, it's kind of interesting at first it's just that it goes on pretty much forever. After a while I began to think that that might be the entire movie.
Eventually something else happens. The leads sing a terrible song called we love each other so much. It establishes a pattern of films that have five or six words in them that are repeatedly endlessly to a forgettable melody. The best musical moments of this movie, written by the band Sparks, or a couple of times where they play little snippets of old songs from when they wrote better songs.
There is one other really fun bit in the movie, a scene where Annette is born. I forgot about it because the overall impression is just a pure boredom.
This movie also has this weird mannequin thing which I'm not even going to get into.
It's unlikable, slow, with forgettable repetitive music. In other words it's art with a capital a. Ugh.
Love, Death & Robots: Jibaro (2022)
a little on the fence
Normally I divide these episodes into good or bad, but this I'd define more as huh? Even though I saw everything that happened, I don't really know what to make of it. Even though it was visually striking, the visuals didn't thrill me. Even though there were moments that were effectively horrific, it left me feeling not much of anything.
I think a lot of the problem is it doesn't really make that much sense. And that makes it hard to get involved with.
I will say that this made me curious. Most of the time if I don't like an episode I just say, well that's dumb or pointless. But if in the end of this one I was thinking what exactly did they have in mind?
The Expanse (2015)
couldn't get into it
The first episode of the expanse has a great opening as a woman tries to escape captivity in zero gravity, her hair flowing around her. It's a very intriguing scene which we leave and never get back to for the rest of that episode. After that we meet a whole bunch of people none of whom are particularly interesting or likable and we get a few different plot points and it kind of goes on and on.
The series has a lot of fans and it went on for years so maybe it gets better after this but there was just nothing by the end of that first episode that made me want to see anymore of it. Nothing that intrigued me or drew me in no characters I wanted to learn more of just nothing at all.
tedious film with a great performance
From showing the end credits at the beginning of the film through an long opening interview scene, Tar wants you to know that this movie has no interest in entertaining you. Instead, it wants to *challenge* you. So no wonder it got nominated for a bunch of oscars.
Cat Blanchett is incredible as a brilliant, self-centered orchestra conductor. There's something weird about making a movie about an abusive *woman* in 2022, and it's extra weird that to do so they create the fantasy that there is an woman conductor as lauded as Leonard Bernstein in his prime, but okay.
The movie unfolds in a series of talky scenes in which Blanchett slowly reveals herself. At first she's brilliant but prickly, but layer by layer we see the darkness.
Which I do give the movie credit for. A lot of movies show you the outer persona then immediately jump to the mess behind it, but this is a slow striptease, that lets us discover Cate's character a little at a time. It's tedious, but I do get it.
For two-thirds of the movie almost nothing happens. The most interesting parts involve Cate working on Mahler's symphony with the orchestra. It reminded me of the scenes in Drive My Car (a much better movie) where they're working on the Chekhov play. It made me think I might enjoy a documentary about a conductor working with an orchestra.
In the last third, lots of stuff starts happening in a chaotic (but still slow) whirl. This last part is a little more interesting but also doesn't make much sense, which has lead to some theorizing about what's going on (one theory is quite interesting but even if true doesn't make the movie itself any more interesting).
People LOVE this movie! My girlfriend and I found it to be a horrible slog (as did her sister) and yet people go on and on about how great this is. I don't get it at all.
illustrates its own conflict
As Reboot begins, a young, edgy comedy writer is pitching a reboot of a series from her childhood. The original cast, careers in the dumpster, are eager to return and do something interesting.
I liked that premise, which lasted for 10 minutes until ...
The network hires the show's original producer, an old hacky guy, to co-produce, to be on the safe side. And he's the edgy writer's estranged father.
So the series is about the conflict between old-school sitcoms and the new, more serialized, more personal style. And the series itself isn't sure what side it's on, with the humor veering from old-school formulaic sitcom tripe (actor gets aroused during a scene) to slightly less formulaic sitcom scenes like a young actor taking a young executive on a fanciful tour of the studio.
For the most part though, this show is on the side of the old-school sitcom. There's plenty of talk about trying to be more relevant and real in the show within a show, but there's little reality and no relevance in the outer show.
So I'm a little on the fence. One episode (aroused guy) was so schlocky that I thought I'd probably give up on the series, but the next one (fanciful tour) was genuinely hilarious.
But for now, well, the cast is likable, the jokes hit more than they miss, and it's only about 30% really embarrassing schlock. So I guess I'll keep watching for now.
Hello Tomorrow! (2023)
tedious first episode with great visual design
In spite of the middling reviews, it's hard to resist watching this show if you've seen the trailer. It all looks like a 1950s version of the future and it's got beautiful colors and designs and clever ideas in the technology. But my advice to you is, just enjoy the trailer and accept that everything good you're likely to see is probably in that trailer.
The first episode begins with salesman Billy Crudup chatting up a depressed guy. Crudup is charming and catches that sales guy quality beautifully but he's actually quite boring. And everyone else who speaks a line for the first 20 minutes of the first episode is also incredibly boring.
It's actually remarkable how poorly this series establishes itself. There's just nothing really interesting beyond the set design and the gadgets. Is it possible that something interesting happens later on? Sure it's possible. But nothing in that beginning makes you wonder what will happen next.
Because it's such a great looking show if it had gotten better reviews I probably would have slogged a little further in to see if it got better. But since no one likes it, and since there's nothing to indicate that there's any reason to like it I gave up.
Enola Holmes 2 (2022)
As fun as the original
This terrific sequel starts with 4th-wall-breaking Enola starting a detective agency of her own. Just when it seems hopeless, a client appears and the chase is on.
Millie Bobby Brown is once again glorious and hilarious as Enola, chatting to the camera as though it's her best friend as she hurtles through a series of adventures. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, most notably David Thewlis as a gloriously reptilian bad guy, oozing evil from every pore.
Most of the original cast is back (thankfully not the horribly retrofitted Mycroft), along with the social commentary that carefully eschews relevance to the modern age and creates a social-progress fantasy of a real worker's rights leader. The movie does a wonderful job of creating bustling corrupt 19th century London.
I don't know that I enjoyed Enola more than the first movie, but it's probably the better movie. The story and mystery are more focused and it feels less like it's targeting a teen girl audience.
After two terrific Enola Holmes movies I'm hoping for another, and another, and another. Highly recommended.
Leverage: Redemption (2021)
weirdlly maudlin reboot
I loved Leverage, and I was really excited to see it had come back with the original cast (minus Timothy Hutton, who had got himself into a good deal of trouble in the meantime). They killed off Nate, so there was some annoying but understandable weepiness in the episode. They also came up with a replacement of sorts, a rather annoying lawyer played by Noah Wylie, previous the rather annoying guy in the Librarians (although oddly I liked him in the original movies).
Still, some of the old fun and magic was there. And yes, introducing a rather annoying young person to make up with Aldis Hodge being too successful to do much of the reboot wasn't ideal, but it was still cute and sometimes clever.
But the maudlin parts continued - every victim had to be saluted and speechified. The lawyer became more annoying, The kid was fine but a touch bland.
I did generally enjoy the first 5 episodes, as dumb as they were, but the sappiness grew with every episode and by the sixth one I was losing interest. After the 7th I decided to eject.
Worth watching a few episodes to catch up with the characters if you were a fan of redemption, but ultimately not good enough to spend much time on.
Triangle of Sadness (2022)
Sometimes fun, sometimes annoying
Triangle of Sadness is an unsubtle parody of rich folk that is more a chance to get angry at the wealthy and delight in their misery than it is an insightful skewering.
It begins with a middling thing about models then moves on to an interminable argument between two models. Really, the first 20-30 minutes is just not worthwhile.
Then we get to a luxury cruise and we get a chance to get angry at rich people for their entitlement and obnoxiousness that shines out even when they think they're being nice. Then there's a crazy scene where they suffer, which is disgusting but kind of fun. And then everything goes sideways and there's an interesting turn of events.
Then things go on in a middling-to-okay way for a while and then there's a hugely irritating ending.
Interesting in parts, but not really worth bothering with.
See How They Run (2022)
fun, but about to sprain an eyeball from winking
In this comedy mystery, someone is murdered in a theater putting on an Agatha Christie play. This leads to a wildly self-referential investigation headed by a jaded inspector and an assisting constable who's wild enthusiasm is unbalanced by her dubious judgement.
Much of this is very funny, with absolutely incredible performances by Saoirse Ronan as the constable, Adrien Brody as an obnoxious American film director, and, briefly, a hilarious Shirley Henderson as Agatha Christie.
Much of See How They Run is devoted to mocking murder mystery conventions, and at times it does so in very clever ways. But after a while all this wink-win-nudge-nudge gets old. We get it, folks, you don't need to bludgeon the point repeatedly over the head with a poker.
I think my main issue with the movie, and the reason it gets a 7 from me instead of an 8, is that it's a terrible mystery with an out-of-nowhere resolution that feels like the writer, just like the Brody character, just doesn't like mysteries. He just likes making fun of them.
But I really *like* mysteries. So for me, a comedy mystery that succeeds in the former and fails in the latter can't be entirely satisfying.
Still, if you, like me, absolutely love comedy mysteries, I highly recommend this one, even if I would have preferred some changes.
Glass Onion (2022)
clever mystery with bigger stars and sharper satire than the first one
In Glass Onion, a bunch of people are invited for a murder mystery weekend on a billionaire's island. Among them, detective Benoit Blanc, previously seen in Knives Out.
Knives out was an engaging mystery with some mild satirical swipes at the wealthy. Glass Onion retains the mystery, and it's a clever, twisty one, but it seriously doubles down on the satire, taking down overrated tech bros (a species well-played by Ed Norton) and idiot influencers while making a clear case that the corrupting influence of money rules the world.
The cast is excellent, particularly Janelle Monae as a seething ex-partner and Kate Hudson as a dim-witted, faded model. The dialogue is sharp and funny, and there is an absolutely hilarious scene of Benoit dismantling the murder weekend in two minutes that is in itself worth the price of admission.
The mystery is a good one. You might figure out whodunit, but you're unlikely to figure out all the tricky details. I feel a little embarrassed that I didn't pick up a clever series of clues pointing to the billionaire's character, but I admit it was all in plain site.
Apparently some people objected that the movie cleverly edited out information that it revealed at a later time, which is the kind of critique you make if you have absolutely no experience with the genre. As for me, I just admired how neatly it made those edits, and how wondrous it was to see the entirety revealed.
Yes, the ending is absurd wish fulfillment, but it's fun.
Some people say either Knives Out or Glass Onion is the better movie, but for me they are, while very different, equally enjoyable. I highly recommend them both.
funny, with a nuanced view of race in America
Woke is about a cartoonist whose middle-of-the-road approach to his comic strip falls apart when he discovers being a mild, genial black guy doesn't mean the cops won't shove a gun in your face. Traumatized, he starts hallucinating cartoon advisors as he tries to figure out how to get back on track.
This is a funny, imaginative show with sharp writing and consistently good acting from all involved. And like Dear White People before it, it combines legitimate rage and sorrow with some silly humor and the acknowledgement that outside of cartoons, little in life is black and white.
Humor is very subjective, but if you're rating this one star you should be asking yourself why you're getting so angry at this show.
Werewolf by Night (2022)
fun little mini-movie
After a monster hunter dies, his acolytes have a monster-hunting competition to choose a new leader. But one hunter seems to have a secret, and another - the deceased man's daughter, has motives of her own.
The movie is filmed in black and white. The look is less 40s Universal than 60s black and white thrillers, but it still looks great (the action scene at the end is pure modern Marvel). The main characters are well played, including Harriet Sansom Harris as an over-dramatic widow, the story is engaging and offers some surprises, and there's a nice mix of humor, drama, and action that I found the whole thing very satisfying.
Some people here have said this should have been expanded into a full movie, but I thought there was just the right amount of length and story.
Recommended. And to Marvel, I recommend doing something more with Laura Donnely's Elsa Bloodstone.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
unlikeable people for Christmas
My girlfriend had fond memories of this but I don't know why. I would have stopped watching early on if it were up to me.
Holly Hunter spends Christmas with her family. Makes assumptions, has concerns, watches people argue, etc. Her brother is a huge jerk who I absolutely detested and I didn't really want to spend any time with these people.
The cast is terrific, and there are a couple of good scenes, but the comedy doesn't work and the dramatic scenes don't mesh well with those comedic attempts.
And honestly, while my girlfriend and her family all thought Charles Durning was the best thing in the movie, he didn't do much for me either.
Not the movie for me, and I won't recommend it.
Angela's Christmas (2017)
This is an adorable animated TV special about a young Irish girl concerned that the wooden baby Jesus in her drafty church needs warming up. It's charming and funny and likable, with well drawn character and an engaging and satisfying story.
After watching the trailer I wasn't expecting to like the animation that much, but it was actually much better in the full context of the story.
This is based on a short story by the author of Angela's Ashes, and it makes me curious to read that, or watch the movie. But we'll see if that happens.
Anyway, if you're looking for a charming Christmas tale, this is one you should definitely check out.
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
My girlfriend and her family are happy to watch the same Christmas programming year after year, so to cut that off I am always looking for alternatives. I don't know how it took me 4 years to discover the existence of Christmas Chronicles, but I am very excited to discover it.
The series involves two kids who want to film Santa Clause, played with dashing wit by Kurt Russell, and wind up getting way more than they bargained for.
One thing I really like about this movie is it tries to really think through a detailed concept of Santa's world, which turns out to be a mix of technology, magic, and evolutionary surprises. I don't think I've ever seen a Christmas movie before that really asks, what are elves, how does Santa's sleigh work, and the like, but this one does.
For me, this is an exceptionally funy movie. In fact, in spite of my desire to skip rewatching the Christmas classics, I would totally watch this again next year.
Nothing Compares (2022)
Fascinating portrayal of a rebellious pop star
I watched this only because my girlfriend wanted to. I was barely aware of O'Connor at the height of her career and don't care for a lot of her music.
But this is a really interesting documentary about a rather fascinating character. As portrayed here, she is the classic be-true-to-yourself artist, willing to risk her career for her prinsiples. This is stylishly filmed and has a clear, compelling narrative. And O'Connor is more likeable than I expected (having seen nothing of her except the clip of her tearing up the pope's picture).
There is one very surprising omission in this documentary, but the credits explain why that is. It's really annoying that someone made that decision, but it's still an excellent documentary and highly recommended.
The Mrs Bradley Mysteries (1998)
not bad, not great
I watched the first couple of mysteries of this. The first one was actually pretty good. Diana rigg was very entertaining and had a ton of witty one-liners. The setup for the mystery was good although it got rather convoluted towards the end with a lot of kind of false resolutions leading to yet more complicated stuff. It wasn't confusing it was just a bit much. But overall quite enjoyable.
The next episode was rather bland and after that I kind of lost interest. It wasn't bad and if you just like murder mysteries it is that but it's a shame it didn't continue as well as the start. Maybe it gets better again? From the user reviews it looks like maybe the final episode of the season was better but I just didn't stick with it.
Black Adam (2022)
fun forgetable action flick
Some good action in this antihero-superman-ish flick. It's all very unmemberable but it's enjoyable enough except for the cute spunky kid who wore out his welcome immediately. Believe his name I'm blanking on is always good and is entertaining in this, there are some good lines, and I like the whole where were you superheroes all this time we needed you and why are you here now to ruin our fun thing.
I wouldn't say it's a great movie, but if you like superhero films you could do worse.
And now I need an extra 100 characters. Not enough. A few more. Almost there. Wish I had more to say, really!
200 Cigarettes (1999)
Enjoyable, eminently forgetable comedy about the adventures of a bunch of people going to a New Year's Eve party in the '80s. It's amusing they're not hilarious, with an American graffiti style episodic structure. A friend of mine watches it every New Year's, but while I enjoyed watching it once I can't say it's something I would go out of my way to see a second time. Also, I just do not get why those two guys are considered attractive, what's up with that? Paul Rudd looks like a middle manager at an insurance for so how is he considered a sexy guy? Someone please explain.
I don't really have a recommendation, watch it or don't.