Reviews

8,875 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Visually interesting but otherwise dull and carried by the performances
27 August 2018
I have a lot of time for Terry Gilliam, but as time goes on I perhaps realize that this is built on past glory and not so much on current form or consistency of output. I hadn't totally got that when I sat to watch Zero Theorem, but I certainly had by the end of it. The film opens with a gaudy vision of the future where technology is the sort of bright and impractical form that only could exist in these types of films. The unexplained noise and color of this world was one of the immediate things that put my back up about it.

This approach continued throughout the film, although after a while I at least started to appreciate the visual content and maybe find the film interesting. In truth I think this was a case of any port in the storm as I found the rest of the film fairly tedious and dull. The narrative and what it is all trying to say offered me little, while the characters within the story didn't engage. The performances tried hard to counter that, and the starry cast do carry the film a little bit by their sheer will - but it does feel like they were just there to experience working with Gilliam, and the film doesn't rise to meet their potential.

Gilliam die-hards no doubt will love it and see more in it than I ever could, but beyond superficial elements of interest, I found it dull and unengaging.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Westworld: The Passenger (2018)
Season 2, Episode 10
S2: Not quite as satisfying even if very well put together
27 August 2018
The first season of Westworld was an enjoyable surprise, where the usual high HBO standards were present in the delivery of a plot that was simple to follow, but pleasingly full of twists and turns. The second season tries to keep us in that same place, or at least it does by trying to do the same fragmented time device along with switching characters around on us. As before the production standards are very high, and the starry performances well worth watching. Mostly the narrative kept me engaged and interested, and this season benefited from expanding the idea of the hosts having their own sense of "humanity". In particular the stronger female characters seemed to do most with this, taking it in different directions as characters but all still engaging.

However, the actual plot was not quite as good as that first season. The reuse of the time structure is a bit forced and seems deliberately to conceal and confuse rather than organically do so. This limits how much it sucked me in, and it seemed a bit messy at times in what it was doing. In broad strokes it is best, but in the detail there is a lot that is energy and impact but perhaps less substance, which loops back to lessen that impact. It is still solidly engaging and enjoyable throughout, but it lacks that tightness of the first season, the clarity of the narrative build, and it is a little less satisfying as a result.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
S2: Consistently funny even if its structure doesn't always convince
27 August 2018
The first season of this show was mostly pretty funny, and I remember it only being weaker when it needed to do something with the overall narrative. Despite this, it was almost three years before I got around to going back to the second season (in which time it has been renewed several times!). Mostly this was my reservation about the show being funny in the moment but not brilliant as a total package, but also the feeling that it had nothing to do now that the mole-woman thread had been played out. In a way this is sort of true, so what the show decides to do is focus very much on the moments and not so much worry about the bigger threads.

So, as a narrative, there is movement forward but it is done in different character threads, and in broad ways, but without the presence of one big direction or plot. This gives the show a bit less structure but funnily enough it means it can play to what it did best in its first season, which is to deliver funny sub-plots and moments. The writing makes it work, with great lines and ideas kicking around. The cast help it greatly with plenty of talent in the main cast of course, but also a parade of talented and funny famous faces doing cameos and characters. This aspects feels a bit like cheating, but the guests are well used, so hard to complain.

Season 2 is better than the first season, as it seems to know that it is stronger in the moment that in the development. Playing to this produces plenty of laughs, but at the same time makes it feel less of a 'proper' show - which is a shame because there is a lot of good ideas and moments in here; certainly enough for me to return for the third season faster than the years between one and two.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Familiar but very funny and well-constructed
27 August 2018
Like many people, I've seen Stewart Lee's brand of intelligent self-deconstructive comedy done across a range of his shows, and essentially it is very similar in terms of what it does. Content Provider is no different and indeed contains the same 'interview' interludes as his recent BBC2 show did (albeit this time with Alan Moore in the Chris Morris place). Despite this, it continues to work well because it is the action of a well created character, but built on different material and approach each time. The idea of 2 hours of him berating his audience for not being smart enough, did make me wonder if I would like it, but it is how it is done, not that it is done again, that works. It is consistently funny throughout.

Here and there it drags on a bit - for effect I'm sure, but the Howard impersonation and the 1930's S&M bits all felt like they didn't need to be as long as they were. Hard to begrudge though, since mostly there is payoff to be had. It is a well-worn path at this point, and I'm not sure which of the groups in his audience I fall into, but Content Provider is another example of the quality of the comedian in how he works the crowd, and works within very strong and cleverly written material.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Starred Up (2013)
Sparse and effective even if the writing doesn't always convince and needs the cast to carry it
27 August 2018
I remember this film from quite a few years ago as it got a lot of praise and I always intended to watch it. The plot sees a young offender 'starred up' from the young offender's institution to an adult prison due to the intensity and frequency of their violence. Eric moves to the same prison where his estranged father is held, and quickly finds himself in violence mostly of his own making. In this story there is not a huge amount more detail than that. Yes we have the anger management group, and the interaction between various individuals, but the film deliberately runs sparse and allows the characters to play it out - or at least until the final act which needs to move things to a dramatic conclusion.

On one hand this works well. The cast provide intensity and convincing tension to sell the idea of men who are very quick to violence. In this the individuals convince, but in the world of the prison it is less convincing. There is a lot in the writing which doesn't convince, and often it has no real bedding in the world but instead feels like just something that happened or exists to allow the story to move forward. The group aspect frustrated me because at times it is really an interesting space, but on the other hand it doesn't seem to be as important to anything as the time it takes up. As the film goes on the narrative weakens and the ending events make less impact than they should.

That said, the cast do carry the film over a lot of these weaknesses. Okay I could have done without the dour mumbling which makes it hard even for my British ears to understand some lines, but it is in the actions and reactions of the characters where some of the cast really do well. O'Connell of course, like everyone says, is great - not likeable in any sense, but totally in his character's skin. The supporting cast are mostly good, and within the group is where the more interesting elements occur. The father played by Mendelsohn is interesting even if I didn't always buy where it went.

Overall, it is sparse and effective in what it does, as long as you stay focused on performance and intensity. However moving beyond that (as one should) the writing isn't as good, and the way the plot plays out has too many flaws within it to stand out - although the strengths do at least carry the film across these somewhat.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #35 (Sonnet Project US) (2018)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
US special 3 - Detroit/Sonnet #35: Nice idea but gets lost in messy footage and (understandably) amateur delivery
27 August 2018
Until recently I had skipped the films in this series which were not really part of the series but had come in from other places. I'm not sure what triggered them to be made, or meant that the Sonnet Project NY hosted them as part of the whole, but I hadn't watched them. Part of me felt that they were not helping the Project towards their goal, and were repeating sonnets already covered, so I was less interested in them. A pointless opinion to have over films only a few minutes long! With the main season finally delivering another film after a 9 month wait, I decided to check out some of the US and international films that I hadn't seen.

"Let's just read it and see how it goes" is the opening line of this film, and it struck me cold as I prepared for the film to perhaps only do that. Fortunately it didn't do that, although what it did is a mix of frustratingly good snippets, bogged down by elements which probably seem like a good idea to those involved. The sonnet text talks of crimes, uses legal jargon, and focuses very much on the idea of grey areas where nobody is all bad even if they have done bad - seeing from the opening card that this is set in a woman's correctional facility, it seemed like it was a good fit. Across the film we get individual shots of the women appearing to reflect or recoil from something in their minds; although these are barely a second per person, there is something there and the majority seem to be able to find something to use in that space. This leads to the end where they are supported by others, despite whatever brought them to this place. As an idea I liked it, but the delivery other than these few shots, is pretty poor.

Rather than focus on the text and the idea, the majority of the film shows workshops and exercises, all while the text is delivered so-so over the top. I guess they wanted to captured that community and experience of the group, and that the text in some way links to the restorative power of the theatre group itself, but for me it went the other way in that it took away from the focus on individuals and the text. Also, as a repressed Brit, the exercises all looked a bit corny to me, so the secondary idea that links to the text didn't work at all. Performances are amateurish of course, although those shots really brought something out - and it is a real shame that this aspect wasn't more fully utilized in a way that could have delivered the overall flow of the idea, but with more of a tight focus and meaning.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #23 (Sonnet Project International) (2017)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
International special 2 - Australia/Sonnet #23: Despite misgivings about some aspects, this is mostly an engaging idea which makes the text more accessible and relevant
27 August 2018
Until recently I had skipped the films in this series which were not really part of the series but had come in from other places. I'm not sure what triggered them to be made, or meant that the Sonnet Project NY hosted them as part of the whole, but I hadn't watched them. Part of me felt that they were not helping the Project towards their goal, and were repeating sonnets already covered, so I was less interested in them. A pointless opinion to have over films only a few minutes long! With the main season finally delivering another film after a 9 month wait, I decided to check out some of the US and international films that I hadn't seen.

In the main series this sonnet had been delivered in a warm film, with a genuine feel and some bigger names in the cast; so as with some of the other non-New York specials dropped into the series release, I wondered what the goal was to have this film repeat the text rather than do another one and try to move the series along. I also thought it a bit weird that a sonnet about being at a loss for words and unable to just come out and say something, would be set in Australia - a county where I rarely found people to be shrinking violets in any way. The idea here is nice though - a man and a woman on a date; we see them flirt and mess around, but with frequent cuts to him delivering the sonnet text in a much more serious way, showing that he feels more than the outward 'coolness' may initially suggest. As an idea it links the text to the modern age well, with the obsession over seeming 'too keen' such as with the oft-used sitcom trope of waiting to reply to text messages etc.

The delivery is not quite as good as the idea, but it is still pretty decent. The difference in tone between the date man, and the sonnet man, is too great I think - it jars when he jumps to the lines by comparison. Towards the end of the film the link is better but it is a bit too far for the most part, and I would have liked him to be less 'wacky' on some of the date, and more 'normal nervous bloke' on the text. The couple work well together in their eyes and gestures - a bit sappy, but they work. The film gives a nice tour of Sydney too, even if it doesn't fit the norm of the films in the main series. Despite my misgivings about some aspects of it, the film is mostly an engagingly good idea which makes the text more accessible and relevant - which is after all the core idea of the series.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #99 (Sonnet Project US) (2017)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
US special 2 - Detroit/Sonnet #99: Interesting for the direction it takes the text, even if the delivery is not quite as good as the idea
27 August 2018
Until recently I had skipped the films in this series which were not really part of the series but had come in from other places. I'm not sure what triggered them to be made, or meant that the Sonnet Project NY hosted them as part of the whole, but I hadn't watched them. Part of me felt that they were not helping the Project towards their goal, and were repeating sonnets already covered, so I was less interested in them. A pointless opinion to have over films only a few minutes long! With the main season finally delivering another film after a 9 month wait, I decided to check out some of the US and international films that I hadn't seen.

In the main series, the short film of sonnet 99 was an enjoyably lively affair, which remains one of the stronger films from those made (and probably the lot once all is done). For this reason I was not really seeing the reason why the Project produced this alternative version of that text as a special done in a crumbling car plant in Detroit. Truth is that actually the difference in approaches was one of the things I liked about this short, because the 'main' film is so humorous whereas this one is very much focused on the theme of the theft of beauty that the text mentions often. However instead of pointing to something of beauty and saying that none of it compares to the original beauty of a loved one, instead this sits in the absence of beauty and it is full of what is left. On reflection this doesn't really fit the text, but it works by the tone it gives the delivery, words, and images throughout.

It perhaps pushes this angle a bit too hard without the detail to back it up, but it has a good air to it. Technically it is so-so; the shots of the derelict location seem all a bit obvious and studenty, while the ADR/dub falls down by not matching the actor's mouth as well as it should, and by not having any location-specific sound in there. Interesting for the direction it takes the text, even if the delivery is not quite as good as the idea.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #60 (Sonnet Project International) (2017)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
International special 1 - UK/Sonnet #60: Well conceived, constructed and delivered
27 August 2018
Until recently I had skipped the films in this series which were not really part of the series but had come in from other places. I'm not sure what triggered them to be made, or meant that the Sonnet Project NY hosted them as part of the whole, but I hadn't watched them. Part of me felt that they were not helping the Project towards their goal, and were repeating sonnets already covered, so I was less interested in them. A pointless opinion to have over films only a few minutes long! With the main season finally delivering another film after a 9 month wait, I decided to check out some of the US and international films that I hadn't seen.

It was interesting to watch #60 again; in the main body of films this one was in a park with leaves falling and a wheelchair rolling through them - in a way it was a nice reference to a clock but other than that there was not much more to it that I recall. In this case we get a lot more. Time is heavily featured in the ticking sound of the background, glances at watches, and the constant washing of the waves (which is more than just a link to the opening line); we also get a link to remembrance of the war, and memories from that. These play out in the main character in the couple of ways we see him, and it is reasonably engaging as it does. It doesn't totally explain everything and all passes with questions left - but I think that was the point.

Technically it looks very good, and the sound work does well to recreate the water and dialogue to sound natural but also be watchable (some of the main body of films try to just grab the sound in the moment, or alternatively stick ADR over which only sounds like a studio). The film gives space for the actor to work, and in the non-text moment he does well with small things. His delivery of the text is more direct and his style there doesn't link to the other scenes, but it still worked. I also liked the touch of glass in the watch - an Omega Seamaster from late 50's early 60's, a version of which is my watch of choice too.

Although not part of the 'proper' films, this very much stands along the best of them as it is technically well made, expands the sonnet text well, and delivers a narrative in and around the words. Well done.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #83 (Sonnet Project US) (2017)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
US special 1 - Texas/Sonnet #83: Not perfect but 'gets' what the Project is trying to do (even if it is not part of the main body)
27 August 2018
Until recently I had skipped the films in this series which were not really part of the series but had come in from other places. I'm not sure what triggered them to be made, or meant that the Sonnet Project NY hosted them as part of the whole, but I hadn't watched them. Part of me felt that they were not helping the Project towards their goal, and were repeating sonnets already covered, so I was less interested in them. A pointless opinion to have over films only a few minutes long! With the main season finally delivering another film after a 9 month wait, I decided to check out some of the US and international films that I hadn't seen.

This one is in Bryan, Texas - a place I had never heard of and probably am not alone in that. The location seems unnecessary apart from fitting with the location-specific approach of the other films, but other than that I enjoyed the thought that had gone into the delivery of the sonnet. The narrative is a former lover seeing her ex with others getting his photograph taken. She seems to fondly remember doing this herself, and a look from him tells of a certain amount of regret too - then the film is over. On the negative side, it ends weakly and has some generic musical score that doesn't add much, but otherwise I liked the concept and the way it linked to the txt. The actress is a little bit too earnest in her delivery but she sells the smaller moments.

Although in Texas and not adding to the main series, this short does capture the intent of the Project by adding context and accessibility to the text, and making it more than someone standing somewhere delivering the words to a camera.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #98 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 128
1.128: Sonnet #98: Decent enough despite weird camera work
27 August 2018
The first film in the series for over 9 months is mostly a decent return - not to form, but at least it is another film. The sonnet text speaks about the poet not being able to enjoy spring because his partner is far away, leaving him feeling like he is stuck in winter all alone. The film delivers this fairly straightforwardly in so much as we see a man clearly lacking something, who seems uncomfortable around the light and buzz of others in the park. While we see this, the same man delivers the text directly in voiceover and in person in the park. It is not a great film in terms of concept, but at least it tries to build a narrative around the sonnet, and to have a central character.

Sound quality is okay, which is often where these films fall over - but here it is the camera work. I do not know the intent of camera operator Silas Aguilar, but the movement of the camera is distracting. It seems to lurch around without reason, and it frequently it loses the top of the head of the actor; I would say it was poor shot blocking, but it manages to do this even when the actor is standing in one spot. I assume it was an attempt to introduce something to the film by way of the delivery, but mostly it just makes it look like the camera was too heavy or cumbersome for whomever was using it. As a film otherwise, it is fine - not more than that though, and probably it benefited from me watching it not long after the very weak #12.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sonnet Project: Sonnet #12 (2017)
Season 1, Episode 127
1.127: Sonnet #12: Like Roy Walker said, "say what you see"
27 August 2018
This entry in the Sonnet Project was uploaded before the project went radio silent for about 9 months; I doubt there is a connection but Sonnet 12 is a pretty disappointing entry in the series. The text itself is so famous and so somber and impacting that one could forgive the film for feeling the weight of expectation to do something with it. The location chosen of a war memorial also suggested that it could produce something of weight and note. All of this hope is lost in a film that seems in a rush to get done - so much so that it barely can last 1 minute 15 seconds on screen, I think the shortest of the films thus far.

It is what the film does that galls though, because it falls far short of even the Sonnet Project goals of bringing narrative and meaning to the texts. Instead we get shown more or less whatever is being said in the moment. Violet? Shot of a purple flower. Tree? Shot of trees? Text moving from nature to speak of people? Fingers move from dead bark onto their own hand. It is frustrating to see how it plays out because it adds only images, but not any meaning or heart. The narration of the text is also lacking, meaning that it feels like it is being read out separated from everything else. I feel for the actress because I doubt she was well served here, and she seems just to replicate the camera in that she does the obvious then moves to the next thing that is obvious.

I continue to follow this series and remember the many great films they have produced, but the long gaps between films combined with low points like this film do not fill me with hope that they can get to the finish line in a quality way.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Shallows (2016)
Distinctly average
27 August 2018
Rightly or wrongly, I vaguely remembered that this film was well received when it came out, and since it was short I thought I'd give it a go. The trailers and the plot made it seem like it would be a tense stripped down affair that drives the short running time. Truth is, even with the short running time, the film seems padded out with material that doesn't work. This is evident in the beginning which offers way too much setup, way too much lingering shots of waves and models, personal character information which doesn't really connect - and endless shots of the camera rotating around the lead actress at difference distances.

None of this really works, and nor does interaction with an injured seagull on a rock; but all of this stuff made up a surprising amount of the running time. The main focus is on the fear and tension of the shark in the water. While this has moments, it is not pulled off as something of horror so much as generic scares and tricks - we've seen it all before and the film doesn't seem to be trying to hit the high notes so much as just produce the basics and some decent bits. The conclusion is as daft as much of the drama and it never hooked me at all.

Lead actress Lively deserves a lot of credit for being the lone person on camera for so long, and for trying to deliver a range of performances. I felt she did okay, despite not totally buying her as a character. The film doesn't help her by putting more effort into shots of her body and looks than it does into giving her a better film to work within. The special effects are good enough for the shark, but occasionally back projection and other effects are ropey and seem a bit cheap.

In the end I found it distinctly average at best; the core function is not really delivered and the film is padded out with other stuff which adds no value to the core, and mostly clunks around on the screen.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Rick and Morty: The Rickchurian Mortydate (2017)
Season 3, Episode 10
S3: Continues the high standard and makes it look pretty easy
27 August 2018
All too quickly I join the ranks of people waiting for the distant arrival of season 4 of Rick and Morty. I have boxsetted my way through this and the previous seasons, even if I did delay watching this season by a month or so. The season returns on the back of the cliffhanger from the previous season, and deals with it well. From there we have consistently good episodes which are all built on a solid narrative and character base. The split of the family, the feelings of the characters, all are well played out but none of that ever stops the episodes being consistently inventive and funny.

The internet memes are all here (Pickle Rick for instance), but there is plenty beyond such comedy moments, and I enjoyed things like the character element of that episode, as well as the darker thread continued in Tales From the Citadel. All based on smart observation and dark imagination, these elements do give the show a strong bed on which to deliver everything else. I'm close to being a copy/pasta on that, and I continue to dislike the snobbish fan base, but the show itself is hard not to enjoy on many levels, and the third season is a consistent reminder of that.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Rick and Morty: The Wedding Squanchers (2015)
Season 2, Episode 10
S2: Consistently funny and inventive even if this season lacks a thru-line
27 August 2018
Having slept on this show for quite some time, I was surprised how good the first season was, and just after finishing that I went ahead of wolfed down season 2. Watching the two so close together, there were some bigger differences between the two seasons, but the common thread was the invention and hilarity of each episode was at the same high level. The use of other characters is extended, so that the family are not just caught up in Rick's world, but actively participate and seem at ease with the other worlds they are exposed to - this is a bit of a jump but the show carries it very well.

Another small change is that this season doesn't feel like it has a thru-line or a build. The season finale suggests otherwise, but mostly the season doesn't have a thread that stands in for the world building of the first season. This is understandable but it is an absence I felt in the season overall, even if no specific episode was lesser for it. The key thing is how funny so much of it is, and how smart a lot of the writing is. Adult Swim have signed on for another 70 episodes apparently, but I'll try to hold off a bit before watching the third season, lest I have the long waits of those who watched from the beginning.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A lesser film than the first one; distracting and noisy even if it has specific elements which improve it a bit
27 August 2018
I'd had a tiring day and had about 2 hours of laundry to bring it to an end, so I opted for the Pacific Rim sequel as my company since I figured it would not require me to pay too much attention at any point. I had quite enjoyed the first film, for what it was, and hoped maybe this could do the same. The answer was "sort of" because it replays the first film but without the weight of the novelty, and the weight of some of the stars. The plot this time sees the Jaeger forces slowly rebuilding, only to face a new foe in a unregistered powerful Jaeger who attacks the PPDC. All fingers point to China's new automated Jaeger drones, but is it that simple?

As a plot it is a pretty decent attempt at a different angle, and prevents it feeling like a total rehash, even though it is. It plays out well enough but it is lesser than the original film in almost every way. It is less fun, less dramatic, and the battles are less engaging and feel a lot more like a video game. It does still have plenty of action, and if you want robots hitting things then there are certainly other Hollywood franchises that are worse. The film benefits from its cast, in particular John Boyega, who brings his accent and tough charisma which put him on the map in Attack the Block. He plays it well and mostly he makes it work, with only 'bigger' moments and some malfunctioning banter letting him down. Spaeny is okay - better than her character at least. Gorman and Day are solid but not as fun as before. Supporting cast don't make much of a mark, but the very obvious leaning of the cast and plot towards the Chinese market does at least provide the film with some external interest points (although it seems the attempt to maximize box office in China didn't pay off).

For all its weakness, it is a solid enough distraction that delivers what you expected, even if it falls short of the original (which itself was not a hugely high bar). Distracting and noisy, but not too much more than that even if specific elements try hard.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Orville: Mad Idolatry (2017)
Season 1, Episode 12
S1: Uneven and inconsistent but neither as bad as the critics say or as good as the fans say
27 August 2018
Unsure what to expect was the way I started watching The Orville. I expected it to be funny in a Family Guy way of course, but at the same time I had heard that fans had latched to it for being a solid Star Trek extension that focused on doing what the original show did. The truth is much more of the latter, with the note that when the show is lighthearted, then FG is the style of humor, but really it is a sci-fi in the spirit of original Star Trek.

The division between the critical assessment, and that of the viewers, is significant and interesting in how it plays out, but the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think the critics expected more cynicism and comedy, whereas the viewers gradually settled into what it is - and then overpraised it based on the savaging that the critics got. Truth is that both parties have good points. The Orville is essentially a run at doing the original Star Trek series again; it looks like it, it feels like it and its strengths and weaknesses are often in common with it. On one hand this is enjoyable, because it does have that nostalgic feel to what it does - but then, one has to wonder why so much money was spent on a vehicle which deliberately limits itself and feels like a step backwards.

How I felt about it personally tended to vary by the minute. At its heart it was solidly entertaining; it looked great due to the money spent on it, and it has undemanding but engaging genre-standard ideas and narratives. Within this the show throws in moments of humor that don't always fit in, but also lays out the most obvious and 'worthy' of allegories with an air of self-importance that it doesn't deserve. Most of the time it doesn't do any of this too much in one direction, but certainly there are one or two howler episodes (the gender reassignment one for example - aims high but misses). After a good chunk of episodes though, I had the tone and settled into it okay.

As a whole it is never more than 'okay', and it seems all over the map at times in what it wants to do. If you have fond memories of the original Star Trek then probably you'll be more likely to enjoy this than the casual viewer. It took me some time, but I was enjoying it by the end.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Molly's Game (2017)
Well-paced for the most part, but a little long, and doesn't find the heart much
27 August 2018
The true story of Molly Bloom, who begins the film being arrested by armed FBI agents. From this teaser we jump back to see the path that led Molly to organize an exclusive high-stakes poker game for sports stars, Hollywood royalty, and, eventually, Russian mobsters.

Opening with a downhill skiing incident which is broken down in a snappy and slick presentation, Molly's Game is very much about the slickness and snappiness of the whole piece. This is perhaps not a surprise from Sorkin given his style, but it makes the film mostly very enjoyable as it moves well and suits the confidence of Molly and the exotic nature of her world. The narration adds to the film and it moves well for the most part. It does run a little long and towards the end I started to feel the length in a way I had not up till that point. Part of this is that it doesn't totally find the heart within the character - Chastain is very good when it comes to convincing of this young woman moving in such circles, but less good at why we should care for her. Another part of this is the way the film brings it home, because it has moments which don't ring true and seem overly convenient (the return of the father for instance).

Overall, the content and the slick way it is all delivered makes it engaging and worth watching, but it does have weaknesses, and it runs longer than it can totally stand.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
S1: Engaging walk through systematic failures and individual efforts, although weaker in some aspects
27 August 2018
This 10-part series is about the years leading up to the attacks of September 11th 2001; specifically the failure in intelligence within the US government which kept the right hand and left hand not working together, and allowing critical gaps for the attackers and others to pass through without sufficient action. As a work of drama, it does mean that we certainly all know where it ends up, and for the vast majority of viewers probably they know the intelligence failures and key characters involved. With this in mind, the structure and tone works pretty well for the most part, specifically the documentary style, and the flashforwards to the inquiry.

In its core elements it is an engaging tale of intelligence being gathered by invested and committed people, only for personality and politics and system failures to really undercut the simple goals of those in the field. All of these elements I found engaging because they provided drama (in interview scenes, moments of threat etc) while at the same time having that depressing feeling of how this specific attack maybe could have been stopped. Within this though, the miniseries includes lots of personal elements, relationships, and other side issues which certainly are important to the characters, but don't totally fit into the flow. I see what it is trying to do in fleshing out characters and giving us more than just a cold look at facts, but at best it is 'okay' but usually it is unconvincing and somewhat forced.

The cast are all good though, and their performances do bring the feeling of people into the docudrama elements. Rahim, Bridges, Schmidt, Camp, Sarsgaard, Stuhlbarg, and others are all well worth watching and do good. The production as a whole is impressive with use of locations producing a good sense of time and place; and the edit makes good use of what is important, as well as mixing in real footage, and keeping the focus on the failings before rather than the horror of the specific event (wisely the attack is not really even seen).

Not without its faults and with elements which could have been cut at no great loss, there is enough drama and content here to make it an engaging walk through the situation.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Jerry Before Seinfeld (2017 TV Special)
A solid if familiar set, but has good pace and flow as well as a hatful of good laughs
27 August 2018
I learnt of this special when it was mentioned in an episode of the new Comedians in Cars season - before that I had never heard it was out there; perhaps this was the reason for the mention, but I doubt it. The special is somewhat of a trip down memory lane, as Seinfeld does a show at the club he started at, and that show is framed as memories from the time, as well as pulling material from his past too. In this way it feels very familiar, although I am not sure it is the material so much as the many himself. His presence and cultural impact via his show very much means he has no tricks left to pull other than the ones we know. As such I'm not sure he has a gear that would now be seen as pushing the envelope.

So, it is familiar and he seems to know that, hence the comfortable approach to the material. His delivery is good, and even though on paper the subjects and observations are all over the place, it actually flows very well and stands up well as a whole. I've read comments saying it is low energy and not 'classic' Seinfeld but I think that the problem is that it very much is 'classic' Seinfeld - and we know what that is and how it works. As such the show is overly familiar and delivers no more than we expected, even if it is funny and professional throughout.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Hello Ladies (2013– )
S1: The cringe is there, but the heart is not
27 August 2018
I came to this show in an odd way. On one hand I had planned to watch it for a while as I enjoy Merchant for his most popular work, whether it be writing the UK Office, or his 'Wheatley' in Portal 2. On the flipside though, I had seen all the negative commentary on the show, and heard from people who had seen that it was not great. I left it for ages but eventually sat to watch it, keen to like it, but also aware that it would probably disappoint. It was interesting viewing then to have both of these things come to be true because the show is both some good elements of Merchant's awkward comedy, mixed with plenty that simply doesn't work.

The plot is a British guy living in LA trying to land a relationship with a model, and spectacularly failing to do so. In the course of its 8 episodes it offers lots of awkward social interactions where Stuart finds himself on the outside looking in - treated badly, trying his hardest, but left with wounded price and nothing to show for it. On the face of it, the character should manage to be the same tragic monster that Partridge and Brent managed to be - someone who makes you cringe but at the same time you feel for them and want them to see that part of them and change it so they can succeed. The failure of Hello Ladies is that the latter half of that doesn't happen. Stuart is rarely more than a superficial creep, and his pursuit of models doesn't really let any humanity come through. In 4+ hours of time, there are a few cracks that suggest more, but they only suggest it - certainly it is not enough to save the character.

It is a shame, because the show gets the cringe factor bang on, but it doesn't deliver the heart to balance it. Merchant is the key failing in doing this, as he doesn't make the most of the few times when he has the shot at heart. By contrast the supporting cast do deliver this well. Woods was great; she is all the pain and enthusiasm of an aspiring actress, and it makes her character really engaging and accessible. Likewise Torrence offers a nice holding character against the impact of Stuart; but it surely shouldn't work that the main character needs the supports to draw the viewer in?

In small moments, and in the final episode, the show finds the person within the cringe, but mostly it only celebrates the cringe by making Stuart cruel and superficial. This produces a season which is funny, pained, and enjoyable on that level, but offers almost nothing behind that to make the viewer care. That Merchant has written shows that have done much, much better at this only adds to the feeling that Hello Ladies falls short.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Handmaid's Tale (2017– )
S1: Engagingly bleak. A slow pace is balanced with strong performances and flash-backs, and the relevance of the politics is clear without being too heavy-handed
27 August 2018
It has been some years since I read the book, and it benefited me that I was able to watch the show without remembering too much of the specifics of the book so that I was constantly comparing the two. The show does capture the sense of horror and creeping moral control of a populace well, and the flashbacks and focus on other characters helped flesh out the world, and give hints as to how it came to be. It is this sense of oppression and horror that works best throughout, which does give the small downside that the plot elements on escape and/or hope tend to not be as good and seem at odds with the bigger picture.

That said, these elements still work as part of having a wider plot and keeping things moving, although I wonder if they will work as the show moves into more episodes and needs that movement more. The bleakness is what drives it though, and the slow-paced reveal of the detail and specifics of this world are well-played out, and benefit from having design and performances that make it all. In terms of production the show looks great throughout, and even some unexpected choices work (the soundtrack for example). The performances sell it though, in particular Moss doing yet another great performance in a difficult role.

Two minutes on the internet tells you where the show has divided people - and of course it is politics. The plot paints Christian values as the oppressor, and puts other races, sexualities, and views on the side of the oppressed. It doesn't lean too heavily into current politics, but certainly the connection to the anti-abortion, anti-differences, "take us back to the 1950's" voters and politicians is all there to be seen. At times it is a bit heavy handed, but perhaps part of that is it being surprisingly relevant which also taken into sci-fi. That said, if you fall on the other political extreme then I suspect this show will not work as it will feel too much like it is taking easy shots and playing up the social justice elements.

This division aside though, the show works very well taken on its own merits. The creation of the world, and the delivery of the chilling oppression is convincing and pretty consistent. Some elements of the plot don't work as well, but these tend to be shored up somewhat by the strength in the delivery, production design, and performances. I think the second season is on now, and I look forward to catching it to see where they go from here.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Gringo (2018)
Pacey but very much lives in the moment
27 August 2018
Harold is unassuming and friendly middle management in a pharmaceutical company. A business trip to Mexico sees him caught up in kidnapping, drug cartels, personal betrayal, and constant danger - most of which he is very much the target and victim of.

Mostly this film is very enjoyable, although once it is finished I think it started to fade pretty quickly and it didn't leave as much of a mark as the viewing experience had suggested. This lack of real grit and meat is a problem as it doesn't satisfy, but the film does have enough energy and momentum to cover it for the most part. Harold is thrown from one mess into another, with constant twists and turns moving him around and keeping the landscape fluid. This in itself is quite entertaining and enjoyable as it goes, but it is only on a 'distracting' level. For me this was fine as it made for a decent Saturday night watch, but that was all.

The problem is that it doesn't do anything well enough. It is a comedy but it isn't funny enough or consistently enough. The other problem is that the action doesn't engage in a solid way - it does it by constant movement and being shiny. There is a dark comedy here, but it falls short of that, and while it is still quite funny, and quite enjoyable, it needed to do more. Part of the reason it really needed to do more is that so many of the cast are worthy of more. Oyelowo is worth seeing and he does comedy very well with his Nigerian character, but mostly the rest of the cast have more impact by being recognizable than being really well used.

So, it is a comedy that lives in the moment and needs energy and pace to get it by - but even with these it is not sharp or funny enough, even if the events of any moment are distracting and quite entertaining.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Pretty consistently entertaining despite a few bumps
27 August 2018
The first film did more than enough to make me look forward to the sequel, even if the film itself was not as good as the promotional work ahead of it. So it is again here, as very funny adverts and promos got me excited but at the same time meant that the film didn't quite deliver in the same way. To be fair, this is because it is a two-hour film, so not easy to do the same as a few minute spot or bit. This can be seen in a few bumps along the way of the film - plot points which need to be delivered but do take the film away from joking or doing action, which is really where it works best.

Outside of these bumps though, the film gets the mood right, with irreverent humor and solid action sequences. It is pretty polished and professional, which does take away from its attempts to appear to have rough edges, but it works nonetheless. The comedy is broad and knowing; mostly this is at a level which is amusing but it does periodically have plenty of good laughs or clever moments. Likewise the action sequences are rarely thrilling, but they do have enough about them to inject energy and plenty of noise.

All told, a pretty consistent and enjoyable film which steps up from the first film while still keeping what made it work.
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Corporate: Remember Day (2018)
Season 1, Episode 10
S1: Broad but pretty funny as it hits its easy targets
27 August 2018
Target of Office Space and many other comedies, the world of Corporate America is where this Comedy Central series has us - as you may have guessed from the title. Generally speaking we follow two characters who are within this world but know enough to hate it rather than become truly part of it. It is a fairly obvious device and the two lead characters are never more than their specific roles - one snarkily knowing of his world, the other depressively so. Staying in these lanes allows the show to do the same, without the risk of having to expand out into something else. As such what we get are lots of broadly targeted episodes which are recognizable to anyone in this environment but nothing too clever or sharp.

It is amusing and occasionally very funny, but mostly it is always feeling like it has settled and could be doing more. The material and delivery for example feels like it is just a few coats of polish away from being much better, and it was hard to shake this feeling. Examples of this is its use of Reddick, who is great in all he gets to do, but isn't well enough used. Of the main cast I greatly enjoyed Lustick, while Ingerestson and Weisman make good leads. Dudek and Nancherla both were enjoyable in support. The guest stars were surprising in their range - but unfortunately they also had range in their use/impact, with too many feeling a little 'for the sake of it'.

The first season of Corporate was solid enough to enjoy. A second season will be on its way next year; I will tune in for it, but at the same time hope it can look for how to improve rather than sitting back on what it did in season 1.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed