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7/10
cute kid
21 March 2019
German writer Philip Winter is driving across America taking Polaroids. He arrives in New York City. It's been four weeks and he has failed his writing assignment about the American landscape. The repetitive empty ugly experience has not inspired him. He's short of cash and there is a strike back in Germany. He's forced to buy a ticket to Amsterdam. He helps out Lisa who speaks no english and her young daughter Alice. After spending the night with Lisa, she abandons Alice with him.

The moment this movie got me is Lisa complaining about Philip to her mother. I really like her relationship to him. I would have wanted more drama in the story. It tells a leisurely road trip despite the circumstances. It is a bit long. It's fine as a ninety minute trip. Alice is a good little performer. Philip's ennui leaves the car in second gear. The search for the grandparents is Kafkaesque. It just needs to be shorter.
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6/10
Arthurian adventure
20 March 2019
The movie starts by retelling the Arthurian legend. Morgana threatens to return when the world descends back to darkness. Arthur declares that Excalibur shall also return. In the present day, Alex Elliot and his best friend Bedders are bullied by Lance and Kaye. His father is long gone and his mother is helpless. One night, he pulls Excalibur out of a rock. A new kid arrives at school. He is Merlin in disguise and reveals that Morgana shall rise in four days during an eclipse.

This has good potential to bring Arthurian adventure into the modern world. There are issues with the kids and eventually, they awkwardly work them out. First, the group is better off with only one bully. By having two bullies, the characteristic gets diffused. It would be better to have three friends and one bully. Second, the bully's great backstabbing move should not be taking Excalibur. His backstabbing move should be running away from the fight. If he takes the sword, he declares himself to be the heroic king and takes on the biggest challenge. It should be the exact opposite. He should be scared of the danger and his redemption is rejoining the team. On the other hand, I like the general concept and the group does slowly grow on me. The idea of uniting enemies for the round table is an interesting idea. It does need better execution.
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8/10
continues to be good
20 March 2019
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) leads his friends on a rescue mission against dragon slavers. He is the leader of Berk which has become a safe haven for dragons, albeit an overcrowded one. They face encroaching dragon hunting warlords and the greatest dragon hunter of all, Grimmel the Grisly. Hiccup decides to lead his people and his dragons to the lost legendary Hidden World, the place of origin for the dragons.

The franchise retains its charms and its adventurous spirit. These continue to be great characters facing great challenges and great odds. It has heart and it has fun. This should be the end of a good trilogy and it's a nice way to go.
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Who's Stalking Me? (2019 TV Movie)
3/10
bad
18 March 2019
Amanda (Chelsea Ricketts) gets attacked in her own home by a masked man. She manages to escape into the bathroom and the cops arrive after her friend calls 911. James Dawson is the overly helpful police detective. Detective Valencia tells Amanda about the rash of break-ins and suggests getting a gun. Valencia suspects Dawson of wrong doing and is killed by a masked man setting it up as a suicide. Dawson insinuates himself into her life as her 24 hour guardian. Liam is her ex who wants to be more than her business partner.

This is not a mystery since so much of it is revealed from the start. All the tension is drained. There is no drama in the drama. The only surprise is that every male role is a murdering scumbag. Even the one big surprise is revealed way before it's revealed. There is no thought to the script. The first dumb scene is Valencia's murder. It's a series of conveniently orchestrated events. She can't be carrying one of those window glass punch. She has to usually leave her gun in her car which cops should never do. Cops are supposed to lock it up at home. It's definitely not supposed to be left in their cars. It's really bad when one has to do a lot of logic gymnastics even if it is a Lifetime movie. It is downright infuriating. It becomes a wait-a-thon until a specific murder when another obvious suspect is illuminated. Honestly, I would have been more impress if the Captain turns out to be the other killer.
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Automan (1983–1984)
4/10
80's cheese
18 March 2019
Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) is not working out as a street level LAPD detective. He is relegated to desk duty in the computer room where he creates an artificially intelligent crime fighting program and a hologram called Automan (Chuck Wagner), the world's first automatic man. The only other person who knows the secret is secretary Roxanne Caldwell. Captain Boyd doesn't trust computers and often dismisses Walter. When Lieutenant Jack Curtis gets kidnapped, Automan goes into action to solve the case. He comes out at night drawing power from the electrical grid when the load is at its lightest. He is invincible and assisted by Cursor, a glowing ball of light that can create a myriad of transports. At full power, he can combine with Walter for protection.

I remember the glowing man. I like the Tron glow and the concept isn't that bad. I don't think I watched much of the show if any. It's bad and I'm sure I knew it was bad even as an impressionable young boy. Chuck Wagner is a stiff leading man which is fine for a stiff leading man role. More is expected from Desi Arnaz, Jr. After all, he is descended from TV comedy royalty. He doesn't have it. He doesn't have the charisma. He isn't leading man material. The role is a nerdy sidekick anyways. At least, he could have worn a pair of glasses. Walter and Automan are set up to be a comedy duo with Automan as a fish out of water and Walter as too awkward to be a cop. It could work but this comes off as nothing more than bad 80's cheese. The writing is random 80's cop show fodder. It's a mid-season replacement show that fails to get picked up.
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SMILF (2017– )
7/10
great character
18 March 2019
Lifelong Boston Southie Bridgette Bird (Frankie Shaw) is a struggling single mom. Her old dream of playing basketball has faded. Her baby daddy Rafi (Miguel Gomez) is dating hot Nelson Rose (Samara Weaving). Her mom Tutu (Rosie O'Donnell) is unstable. She tutors Ally (Connie Britton)'s kids. Eliza is her best friend.

This is a great character. Her overt sexuality is unusual for a single mom role. She's a terrifically flawed character. She's best when she's striving to be better like when she's trying to stay with basketball. Otherwise, it's wallowing for wallowing's sakes and that happens a lot in the second season. She can't win or the show is not the show but she can't just drift either. The second season is a bit of the sophomore jinx. It seems to be a show in transition. Connie Britton is fazing out of the show. I didn't know why it got cancelled after only two seasons until I read about the controversy. It's a shame especially since Samara Weaving was never meant to be that sexualized character. She's a hot model but she's reserved in that aspect. I hope that Frankie simply let the pressure of show-running get to her.
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8/10
good ole screwball comedy
17 March 2019
Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy) arrives at San Francisco airport with a bag full of secret government files headed for his hotel. He is followed closely by a mystery man. It's a screwball comedy of mix-ups with four identical looking bags. Dr. Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal) arrives at the hotel with his overbearing fiancee Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn) and the second bag full of igneous musical rocks. Outrageous trouble-magnet Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) has the third bag and greets Howard with "What's Up, Doc?". The fourth bag is filled with Mrs. Van Hoskins' valuable jewelry and thieves are trying to steal it.

Streisand is every bit of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and more. Her scenes with O'Neal are some of the best. The grant dinner is hilarious. Kahn is a fantastic shrew. That trio is the fun of the movie. The others are more random. It has some solid old fashion screwball like the fire in the room. There are also a surprising amount of stunt work for the physical comedy. Some of it is really great stunt work. This is fun.
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3/10
B-movie melodrama
17 March 2019
David Webb has been away in Vietnam for two years. He's newly married to Jill. They're on a runaway honeymoon trying to avoid his new in-laws with their crazy traditions. In the swamps, they encounter two thugs killing a man. Jill is raped by those men. The local cop doesn't seem to care. They go to their planned honeymoon in New Orleans. With only half-heard names of Carroll, Barett, and Ruskin, David is driven to seek revenge over Jill's objections.

The overacting is worthy of some kind of award. The villain talks too much. Bad acting abounds. I know it sounds awful but Jill is ringing as much melodrama as she can from the rape. I almost wish she had been killed off. It could have a fine revenge B-movie like Deathwish which came out a few months earlier. The writing is not only bad but it's cringeworthy. The couple's fighting over her rape is impossibly awkward. The movie has scenes that take too long and it's too melodramatic.
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Simon (1980)
6/10
odd satire
17 March 2019
The Institute for Advanced Concepts is a group of five powerful scientists led by Dr. Carl Becker (Austin Pendleton). They are so brilliant that they have secured unfathomable government contracts to give them unlimited resources. Leon Hundertwasser (Max Wright) changes Nielsen ratings. Eric Van Dongen (Wallace Shawn) is trying to cross breed humanity with cockroaches. Then they read that over 60% of Americans believe in ET. They decide to hypnotize Prof. Simon Mendelssohn (Alan Arkin) with the help of Dr. Cynthia Malloy (Madeline Kahn) into thinking that he was an alien at birth and then abandoned. Lisa is his girlfriend and assistant.

Alan Arkin belongs to an early iteration of Second City. That's probably where he met Judy Graubart. She may be a good performer on the small stage but she's not one on the big screen. Madeline Kahn would be an infinitively more charismatic lead. The whole movie feels like a smartly written exercise that is too smart for its own good. Writer/director Marshall Brickman has an extensive resume which includes a lot of early work with Woody Allen. It's a satire but of what exactly is not clear. Is it a satire of scientists? Is it a satire of the media? Is it a satire of the military? It may be simply a satire of the modern world in general. Instead of becoming an overnight media sensation, I would be more interested if the group released him into the wilds of his own life. He starts acting crazy. His class becomes popular. He abandons Lisa for hot coeds and then he becomes a media sensation. Alan Arkin is a terrific performer. The story needs to figure out its heart and its soul to bring out the humanity in the alien. There are strange little lines that strike me as hilarious. "Lisa, a lady is dancing with a potholder." It's completely random and the movie probably needs more of that. It's a high concept comedy that is a little too high.
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7/10
interesting modern travelogue
17 March 2019
Presenter Simon Reeve explores three of the world's major rivers, the Nile, Yangtze and Ganges, in a three episode BBC series. The Nile episode starts in Ethiopia around Lake Tana as Simon goes down the Blue Nile meeting up with the White Nile at Khartoum and down Egypt to its exit into the Mediterranean. The Ganges episode deals with the pollution as well as its spiritual importance. The Yangtze episode starts further down the river away from Tibet. It has more of a tourist feel with a constant guide until he goes to church. That's the intriguing new aspect of modern Chinese life.

Simon is a baby face with a scruffy beard. It allows him to present as fresh-eyed to these old places. I love Nile episode which has great local flavors and compelling inhabitants. There is a great variety to the locations. The Ganges is pretty good also although there is a similarity to the whole river. The pollution angle is an intriguing one to tackle. The Yangtze is the more restricted episode. Simon isn't able to visit Tibet. The start is fun with him imitating a frog. For the rest, he has a minder for his companion. It's not that he's restricted in his socially conscious commentary. He peppers much of the travelogue with his social views. It's just that China is no longer that exotic with its modern capitalism. That's why the church is so compelling. There are real feelings and real tears from the congregation. Overall, this is good travelogue through an interesting lens of religion and spirituality.
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7/10
British icon
17 March 2019
The small English town of Midwich suffers a mysterious event for several hours. Everyone who comes under the invisible dome around the town would pass out on the spot. After they wake up, all the fertile women find themselves pregnant. The children are born healthy despite an accelerated growth rate. They all have blonde hair and growing mysterious mind powers. The military discovers other similar incidents around the world during the same time. The children are studied but their powers of mind control soon becomes a threat.

This is a British indie of a sci-fi horror icon. It starts well enough with an intriguing mystery premise. The audience is slowly uncovering the mystery along with the characters. I like the logical step by step investigation. More and more mystery is added to the story until we get to the iconic children. They are a great new visual idea. Kids can be creepy sometimes and this plays up that characteristic. To top it off, the eye glow is the coup de grâce. The only drawback is the lead George Sanders. He's not a charismatic movie lead as much as he is the professor of the charismatic lead. This is smaller budget affair which is highlighted by the final toy miniature house setting off the cutest tiny explosion and a short running time. It was a solid hit back in the day and a compelling icon for all times.
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Overboard (I) (2018)
5/10
premise still bad
16 March 2019
Single mom Kate Sullivan (Anna Faris) has three daughters, two jobs, and no time to study for her nursing test. She is sent to clean carpets on a yacht owned by spoiled playboy Leonardo Montenegro (Eugenio Derbez) while he makes an unplanned stopover. Leo fires her, refuses to pay, and pushes her off the boat. Later, Leo falls off the boat and wakes up in the hospital with no memory. Leo's dad had made him the heir to the family fortune to the consternation of his sister Magdalena who is actually the one running the family business. Magdalena sees an opportunity to fake his death and take over the family business herself. Kate's friend Theresa (Eva Longoria) convinces her to do some illegal lying and use Leo as her husband.

The premise in the original is problematic even as an 80s movie. The writers try to solve the problem by doing a gender switch. It works to some extent but the general kidnapping is still problematic. It's not as rapey but this one doesn't have good chemistry between the leads. The original has fun having ridiculous fun with Goldie. Eugenio is not that kind of actor or at least the role doesn't give him that opportunity. Him being a jerk is not as much fun as Goldie being a diva. It's not conducive to romance. The early interest in the story alterations fades. Quite frankly, I'm not feeling it.
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6/10
midlife crisis movie
16 March 2019
Georgie Soloway (Dustin Hoffman) is a troubled highly successful singer-songwriter with his latest song rocketing up the charts. The movie starts with Georgie jumping off a building and then safely landing on his therapist's couch. He is facing a midlife crisis of existential angst while trying to uncover a hater named Harry Kellerman. Time is passing by. He is disengaged from his wife and his kids. He has meaningless sex with his girlfriends. He becomes taken with a fading actress named Allison.

The narrative is disjointed and surreal. There are some good scenes, some funny scenes, and some boring scenes. What it needs is something to drive him into his crisis and be the reason for the movie. The closest idea comes from the conversation with his wife Gloria. It's his kids but they're never on screen. They can't be his motivation if they don't have screen time with their father. In the end, the big reveal is a little confused. It's a big idea of self-destruction which needs more exposition. This has shades of euro art house. I just want to connect more with the character and his plight.
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5/10
turning into Bond
16 March 2019
As a girl, Lisbeth escaped from her psychotic Russian mob father leaving behind her sister Camilla. In the present, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is an avenging angel for abused women. She is hired by Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) who is desperate to retrieve his computer program from the American NSA which is capable of controlling the world's nukes. NSA agent Ed Needham (LaKeith Stanfield) tracks the theft to Stockholm but thugs had already attacked Lisbeth and stolen the program from her. Her only clue is a security pic of a man with a spider tattoo. She recruits Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason)'s help who hasn't seen her for three years. The spider's web leads back to Lisbeth's father and her sister Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks).

It's the second movie in the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise. The story is new from a different novelist. Everybody is new. Lisbeth is new. Mikael is new. The director is new. That's all the more reason why the central relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael needs to be re-established much earlier. They aren't actually in the same room until over an hour into the movie. There is also a change in Lisbeth's crusade where she is normally a vigilante figure for female victims. In this one, she turns into James Bond with global nuclear war as her crusade. There's the NSA and the Russians. It's a Bond movie. It's not the same as the original. The story is not that confusing but it can be more focused. I like the concept of Camilla but like Mikael, she needs to get into the movie sooner. As for Claire Foy playing Lisbeth, she is fine but needs a bit more darkness and her sexuality. It's really like a Bond movie where darkness and sexuality exist but The Dragon Tattoo franchise is supposed to take it to a grimmer level.
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7/10
still fun
14 March 2019
This takes place in and around the same time and place as "DanMachi: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?" The Gods have come down to the city of Orario. The people join Familia to serve each God by fighting monsters down in the dungeons. Lefiya Viridis is a young inexperienced adventurer. She is often rescued by Aiz Wallenstein whom she admires greatly. With sisters Tiona and Tione Hiryute, they battle the monsters for their god Loki. Aiz is concerned that she has stalled in her fighting skills. They find new monsters emerging in the deep and a dark conspiracy which spans the deepest depths all the way to the surface.

It's a marginal improvement from the first. The story is simple. It may be simpler and that allows the story to go quicker. I actually love telling the same story from different sides and maybe the next series will continue the style. The characters are likeable. It's fun. It's not much more than that. Loki is naughty in a bad way but the boob grabbing is still funny.
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6/10
love triangle strikes again
13 March 2019
In 1854, the 27th Lancers of the British Army, led by Major Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) and his brother Captain Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles), escorts Sir Harcourt on a diplomatic mission to Suristan. Surat Khan (C. Henry Gordon) rejects the British. Perry's fiancee Elsa (Olivia de Havilland) falls for Geoffrey. Geoffrey is assigned to the remote outpost Chukoti. He is joined by Elsa and her family. With flawed British strategy, the outpost is left undermanned. Surat Khan attacks the fort and massacres the defenders including women and children. Geoffrey and Elsa manage to escape. The Crimean War heats up and the 27th Lancers are sent into the Battle of Balaclava where Surat Khan has joined the side of the Russians.

I can do without the romantic triangle. The history is trash. Otherwise, this is a very good action war movie. The siege of Chukoti is very good. The titular Charge is big and action pack. There is good action. Errol Flynn is the dashing hero. There is something sacrilegious about rewriting the historic charge to fit a fictitious narrative. Oh and did I say I do not care for the love triangle. It would have been much more powerful for the Vickers to lose wives and children during the massacre. Those minor characters finding their murdered family is more powerful than any of the leads' character development.
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7/10
it's fine
13 March 2019
Vers (Brie Larson) is a powered member of the Kree Empire mentored by Commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). The Kree is under attack from the shapeshifting Skrulls. During a battle, Vers is captured where the Skrulls try to extract her memories. She had lost her memories six years earlier. With flashes of recovered memories, she escapes and crashes onto a Los Angeles Blockbuster. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and new agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) arrive to investigate. It's 1995 before Fury executed the Avengers Initiative. Vers searches for Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) who is the key to her past.

It's a prequel. It's an origin story. It's an exposition movie. It's a connective tissue movie. It's a female empowerment story. It's a Marvel movie. It's trying to be a lot of stuff. Despite that, it's fairly uncomplicated. It runs well without hitting any major potholes. It introduces a new hero. It gives her a very specific identity. It still has a few issues. First, Brie Larson is doing a specific character but the role is lacking in range. Essentially, she starts off with amnesia and that's not always great for character work. It's almost as bad as being brainwashed and comes off as robotic. There is one moment of great possibility when Carol is across the table with Maria for the first time in a while. That could have been a really powerful moment of female friendship. Akira Akbar is acting her butt off but Brie is restricted to her memory blanks. Her memories could have flooded back as she emotionally breaks down. They could have hugged and yes why not even shed a tear. Her character needs a different gear. The role is stuck in the robotic amnesia Jason Bourne mode. Bourne could have been a solid choice but that's not this movie either. She's wise-cracking right from the start but that's the limit of her emotional range.

Second is her memory flashbacks. Instead of showing those memories early, the movie should have kept them from the audience. It becomes repetitive and we are forced to wait for Carol to catch up. The movie needs to keep the audience at the same level as Carol in her discovery. It should only reveal each memory as it comes up in the plot. Her meeting with Maria should be the point where most of her flashbacks occur like when her extended memory of the inciting incident is triggered. The movie needs to rearrange a few things.

The other characters are solid. Fury is great. His humor really works. The music is mostly popular 90's female alternative voices. It's not unexpected but the climax starts with No Doubt's Just A Girl which is awkward for hitting it on its tippy tip nose. It's a weird song to fight to. It could have also added a few more male singers. It's deliberately doing something which seems unnecessary and the music taste is too similar. Why not NIN or a rapper to change the tone? I hope that Carol will be a deeper character in the future. She could face a more personal challenge with an older Monica. This film is filling out a lot of story blanks whether we like it or not, and preparing for the upcoming Avengers movie. It's fine. The Marvel universe continues.
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Between (2015– )
6/10
YA sci-fi TV
12 March 2019
The town of Pretty Lake has a population of eight thousand. Something is killing anyone over 22. In a few days, the town is quarantined by the military and soon all the adults are dead. Wiley (Jennette McCurdy) is a pregnant teen. Melissa is her religious sister. Her friend Adam is the smart kid accepted into MIT. Chuck Lott is the entitled rich kid. He clashes with the Creeker brothers, Pat and troublemaker Ronnie. Gord signed up with the military but is left with little sister Frances after his grandfather's death. Mark is a prisoner who finds himself the sole survivor.

This is basically trying to be a YA sci-fi TV show. It's one way to get hot young teens into one spot. Like the others, the premise gets a bit wonky. The arbitrary age of twenty two seems way too arbitrary. Otherwise, there is a bit of YA fun with this weak Under the Dome premise. This Netflix show was able to get two short seasons. I doubt there are more coming. It kinda runs out of steam as it gets closer to the outside world.
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Police Squad! (1982)
9/10
Fast and Furious
11 March 2019
Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is a veteran of the Police Squad led by Captain Ed Hocken. Each episode starts with the police siren and ends with the fake freeze frame. It's the team of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker who created the iconic Airplane! movie. After the show's quick cancellation, the team would take it to the big screen as the Naked Gun franchise. As silly as the ABC cancellation seems, it's probably for the best to move it to the theaters. It says more about the network brass than the audience at large who certainly got the humor in the movies. It's great that the guys can recycle some of the jokes into their movies.

The jokes come fast and furious. The Frank interviewing Sally scene is hilarious. I haven't laughed that hard for a long time. It's as good as any "Who's on First" routine. Leslie's deadpan delivery gets me right away. The audience gets hit with that joke early in the first episode and it doesn't slow down. The jokes, both visual and verbal, are not going to stop. It's unlike anything I can recall during that TV era. It's Airplane! on steroids. Even now, the style of outrageous spoof is mostly in the animated field. It has few compatriots and no real competition. Peter Lupus is a bit stiff as Norberg although with hindsight, he's a much better choice than O.J. Simpson.
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A Private War (2018)
6/10
compelling life
11 March 2019
The movie begins in 2012 Homs where Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) faces her mortality. As the premier foreign war correspondent for London's The Sunday Times, she travels to Sri Lanka in 2001 to do a story on the besieged Tamil Tigers where she loses her left eye. In 2003 Iraq, she befriends freelance photographer Paul Conroy (Jamie Dornan) who would follow her in many of her reporting. She struggles with her personal life and is haunted by PTSD.

It's an admirable life and it's an admirable attempt at portraying that life by Pike. What it doesn't do is a couple of standard biopic tropes that could have helped to give her life context. It doesn't have her childhood. It doesn't have her family other than lovers and friends. It doesn't have the start of her career. It doesn't show how she got into war correspondence in the first place. Normally, a biopic would have early defining experiences which would drive that person to her journey and poetically her end. It's standard operating procedure and this movie is missing that. It does have a good sense of her PTSD. It's probably the best part of the movie. The devastation faced by the civilians is just as compelling. Her relationship with Paul could have been used as the central nexus. There is some unspoken reality between them that is left out. This biopic has its compelling moments but it's not going to be one of the greats.
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The Big Sky (1952)
6/10
more interior than big sky
10 March 2019
It's 1832. Jim Deakins (Kirk Douglas) is a self-reliant man in Kentucky. Boone Caudill (Dewey Martin) becomes a fast drinking buddy and they're arrested for a bar fight. They find Boone's uncle Zeb as their new cellmate. They join Zeb and Frenchy who is leading an expedition of some thirty fur trappers and one woman, Teal Eye. She's one of the Blackfoot chief's daughter who escaped from an enemy tribe. They go up the Missouri to the Yellowstone River seeking trade with the Blackfoot nation.

This was nominated for Best Cinematography. I was expecting grand vista through the entire movie. I'm a bit disappointed that the vast majority is obviously filmed in a large interior set. It's standard practice but I was hoping for something akin to The Searchers (1956). My expectations were too high. The other issue is that there are too many characters. Fewer people on the boat would achieve better characterization. It's a fine action adventure but it's more a series of adventures. Overall, it's less than I expected but I may have expected too much.
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The Wife (I) (2017)
7/10
compelling veteran acting
10 March 2019
Joan (Glenn Close) and Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) get an early morning call. Joe has won The Nobel Prize for Literature. They head off to Stockholm with their adult son David (Max Irons). David is a bitter struggling writer himself. He seeks Joe's approval but gets little more than criticisms. Biographer Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater) is intent on pursuing the sleazier elements like Joe's infidelities and he uncovers Joan's own early writing. In flashbacks, David may be much closer to Joe than he thinks. Younger Joseph is a second rate college professor and Joan is his star pupil. Joseph would struggle to publish his first story while Joan delivers amazing writing assignments. She would support him in every which way.

The acting is all exceptional except for David's outburst. I feel like it's melodramatic to raise the tension but it becomes so melodramatic that it rings false. In one sense, he hasn't earned it. His mother has earned it and that's why her scenes are powerful. David's character has other issues. I'd eliminate Bone and give the investigation to David. His writing allows him into the story. The moment where he blows up and leaves the limo is the moment I thought he should get help from his mother. With her helping him, he could eventually figure it out. I would hope that his moment of discovery would be more compelling and more nuanced than his melodrama. The other issue is the flashbacks. They reveal too much so that when Bone makes his accusation, there is some repeating. The audience is constantly discovering the same plot points twice. I can see a much tighter and a much more compelling sequence of events with this story. On the other hand, I cannot imagine seeing more compelling acting from the two veterans.
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Mystery 101 (2019 TV Movie)
6/10
Hallmark mystery
10 March 2019
Amy Winslow (Jill Wagner) teaches crime mystery fiction at a college following her famous father's footsteps. Her student Lacey seems distracted. Lacey's boyfriend Rex has gone missing. Detectives Travis Cole (Kristoffer Polaha) and Tate are investigating the theft of an experimental plant from the college. Claire Tate is Amy's former students. When Lacey also goes missing, the brilliantly deductive Amy sets off to do her own investigating.

This is a Hallmark mystery. I'm not sure if this is going to be a series. These things have a tendency to sprout so that's certainly possible. Wagner and Polaha have passable chemistry. It's not romantic level but could rise up to bantering level if the writing could take a step up. The 'stay-out-of-the-police-investigation' is certainly a tired trope. I'm glad they get over that quickly and calling out the trope themselves. It does show that there are brains behind the writing. They seem to be veteran TV mystery show writers but they can still do better. The production is nothing cinematic but it is Hallmark level. The mystery writing keeps it compelling even at a lower grade level.
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1985 (2018)
6/10
static black and white
10 March 2019
In 1985, Adrian Lester (Cory Michael Smith) goes home for Christmas to visit his conservative Texas family. He struggles to come out of the closet to his father (Michael Chiklis) and mother (Virginia Madsen). He reconnects with his childhood love Carly (Jamie Chung). He reluctantly tells her about his devastated life in NYC and fears the news surfacing to his beloved younger brother Andrew.

It's a black and white indie. It's reminiscent of a 1985 indie. Its style is static. With B/W, Adrian holding back secrets, and the static shooting style, it does have the sense of sadness and death but it also has a sense of a slow grind. Texas has great visual potential but this is not doing any of that. The problem with holding the secret for so long is that it forces the movie into stall mode. There is a reason why Adrian and Carly together have the best scenes. It would have been better to come out of the closet early and then reveal the darker secret later. With the oppressing black and white, I would have liked some color to accentuate some of the scenes. Overall, there are some compelling scenes but the style is too static.
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5/10
a tale of two shows
10 March 2019
It's been 16 years since the planet Quadris was conquered. Prince Matthew Star (Peter Barton) was only a baby when he escaped to Earth with his guardian Walt Shepherd (Louis Gossett Jr.). The plan is for Matthew to develop his special powers and return to free his people. On Earth, Walt is outwardly a normal teenager. Pamela Elliot (Amy Steel) is his girlfriend. Walt gets a job as a teacher. They are pursued by intergalactic assassins. General Tucker uncovers their secret and offers to maintain it for friendly cooperation.

I am almost certain that I watched parts of the show since I seem to recognize the space battle intro. It's also possible that I simply remember a long forgotten trailer. I am glad that I don't remember the show. It's pretty bad. The writing is clunky. There are questionable logic leaps in the setup. Even with the boring expositions, the premise still has plenty of holes. The lead is charismatically challenged. Thank God for LGJ. Then there are the episodes themselves. They are generally not good and the show is cancelled after one season.

The first twelve episodes have Matthew going to school with girlfriend Pam. The general premise is good but I don't like the side trips. It should be a high school drama with a dash of superpower. Instead of staying at the school, the show seems intent on going off every which way away from the school. It doesn't develop the romantic relationship or the other main student characters. Monica could have been a good Scooby gang member. It's obvious that he should slowly develop his powers but he's powerful right from the start. The tension comes when he is forced to use his powers in public. While it's nothing good, this still has potential. With time at the school, some semblance of interpersonal drama could develop. For some unknown reasons, the show does a jump in time and story after the new year.

Major Wymore takes over from General Tucker sending Matt and Walt on various missions. Pam is long gone. In addition, Matt has new powers and a signal ring. Even the intro is changed leaving out their home world and escape. I'm guessing that the show wasn't doing well and that's why the sudden retooling. It doesn't help in any way and only made things worst. The show worked best with the kids and the school. Episode 12, Fugitives, is probably the best of the bunch and it's crazy to have the makeover right after. It becomes a different show and dies. The first half is a six but the second half is much lower.
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