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7/10
Cruise Plays Reacher Again, With Moderate Success
17 September 2019
As someone who has read every novel written by Lee Child, I am very familiar with the Jack Reacher persona. His is the story of the lone "soldier", if you will---a stranger who travels alone, who wanders the backroads, righting wrongs when he encounters them. Think "Kung Fu" or "Zatoichi". And he has a personal code: only use one's skills as a fighter to defend oneself, or others in danger.

Another aspect of this benevolent warrior is his nearly-mystical abilities. Zatoichi is blind, but can sense what is around him. The Shaolin monk has trained his mind and body to be impervious and totally in tune with nature and his surroundings. Reacher is in touch with his biorhythms; he always knows the exact time of day and can program himself to sleep whatever interval he chooses.

If you did not see the first "Reacher" film, the initial scene of "Never Go Back" quickly lets you know that this guy (Tom Cruise) is a badass, he has a moral compass, and he is spooky-good at knowing what will happen next. With no prologue, it puts his piece on the board and establishes his strength.

Because he can, Reacher decides to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet and thank the woman---Major Turner (Cobie Smulders)---who gave him aid, only to find her in dire circumstances. This is prime territory for Reacher, who immediately knows she is the victim of a conspiracy. The story also places a young girl in his path. She (Danica Yarosh) may be a daughter he was unaware of.

Though each woman needs his help, neither is helpless. Major Turner is a tough, adept fighter. The girl, Samantha, has street smarts and knows how to survive. Unfortunately, those who oppose them are professional killers with unlimited resources and political connections.

Cruise may not be the Reacher of the novels, but he can play the tough guy, the imperfect hero. Here he brings his usual intensity and physicality. Reacher is part feral cat, part calculating machine, and the script shows some of that. The relationship between the three main characters, which grows out of necessity, is the strength of the story. The fight scenes and chases are well-choreographed, but not inspiring, nor do they have to be. The emphasis, properly, is on the personalities of the three characters who need each other.
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Suits: Scenic Route (2019)
Season 9, Episode 7
10/10
Spector Ex Camera
12 September 2019
It is nice to watch an episode that is about more than interoffice angst or courtroom drama. These are characters we have grown to love. And their life situations are part of what makes them both mythological and human.

The luncheon scene in which Louis plays Harvey was so over the top, I was convinced it was a dream sequence. Which makes it a little indulgent. But it was quintessential Litt. And it was Louis giving tribute to Harvey via the sincerest form of flattery.

Meanwhile, Harvey and Samantha bond, resolve their conflict, and allow their relationship to deepen, further cementing the family that is Spector, Litt et al. And how about that actress who played young Samantha (Holly J. Barrett)? Watch for her.

Donna's gift for the man who has everything involves Alex and Katrina, and brings emotional closure to some of Harvey's demons.

The characters get closer and it makes me sadder that this series is closer to its end. They are not losing their edges; they are still badasses. But love is what has made this show work from the first moment Harvey met Mike.

This episode has a nice balance of humor and pathos and conflict. And it is very economically written.
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No Way Out (1987)
10/10
Action, Suspense, And Strong Acting Make This A Very Enjoyable Film
10 September 2019
I saw this film upon it original release and I have rewatched it a few times since. It never loses its zing, because the acting performances are all so strong.

Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman play two sides of the romantic triangle that revolves around the super-sexy Sean Young. A clever and forceful script keeps the action taut, which further accentuates the wonderful acting. Watch for Will Patton as the political gunslinger who is the villainous operative of Hackman.

The story takes place in, and is defined by, Washington, D.C. It feels like the city is a character in the film. Though its story is very much a part of the time when it was filmed---during the Cold War---its elements are so strong that it transcends its time.

This is Kevin Costner in the middle of "Silverado", "American Flyers", "The Untouchables", "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams". And Gene Hackman gave his tour de force performance in "Hoosiers" the year before this one.
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Out of Time (I) (2003)
8/10
Denzel Feels The Heat, And So Do We
10 September 2019
The tendency might be to downgrade this film because it is, basically, a remake of "No Way Out", which was an excellent film starring Kevin Costner. But "Out of Time" is a solid film and it offers all the suspense of the original. The governmental intrigue has been replaced with a small town story that has nothing to do with politics, but the script does a good job of increasing the tension as the story progresses.

Denzel Washington is a chief of police who, in the wake of a failed marriage, becomes involved with Sanaa Lathan---the sexy, misunderstood wife of Dean Cain. All three stars deliver solid performances. Washington carries the load, and we can feel his angst as the stakes grow higher and higher.

The plot involves arson, murder, purloined funds, and Denzel's ex-wife, Eva Mendes, who is in charge of the case that has his back to the wall. The direction is good. The story is somewhat complex, but the viewer always understands what is happening.

John Billingsley has a meaty role as the quirky medical examiner who keeps turning up in the eye of the storm that threatens to destroy his chief of police.

This is a good action/suspense film that only flags when it appropriately pauses a beat before the next scenes of intensity.
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7/10
Still Enjoying After 55 Years
8 September 2019
This is a charming film for children or adults. I saw it on its first release when I was twelve. Rewatching it now, I still enjoy its positive message and unique presentation.

Using both live action and animation, this film combines the real word with the fantastic world of imagination, especially as represented by the inner thoughts of Henry Limpet, an unassuming man who yearns for a better life. It is reported that many actors were considered for the role of Mr. Limpet, but it is doubtful any of them could better represent this character than Don Knotts.

Accompanied by some enjoyable tunes by Sammy Fain and Harold Adamson, this story of a man who magically fulfills his dreams is as unpretentious as Don Knotts himself. The story takes place during WWII. Its patriotic aspects are underplayed and only exist to serve the greater story of Limpet's quest for happiness.

The animated story exists side by side with the live action. Great voice characterizations by Paul Frees (Crusty) and Elizabeth McRae (Ladyfish) add humor and even a little romance. On the live action side, Jack Weston ("Dirty Dancing") plays George Stickel, the unctuous "friend" who is always ready to take advantage of any situation.

Mr. Limpet is a gentle soul and a suitable protagonist for any age.
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9/10
Surprisingly Good, Due To Tina Fey
6 September 2019
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. This is due, primarily, to excellent casting. And this would not be the easiest film to cast for.

Tina Fey plays the protagonist, Kim Baker, who leaves an uninspired life working at a desk writing news copy for a chance at being an on-air war correspondent in Afghanistan. Embedded with an American military contingent, she encounters a world that is foreign (to her), rude, dirty, shocking, insular, chaotic, and dangerous. But she has spunk. And chutzpah. Enough to carry her through some bad situations, only to thrive despite the mayhem of war.

My only criticism is that the film could have used more backstory on Baker. Tina Fey's natural affability succeeds despite this deficit, but knowing more about her character would have allowed the audience to better understand her motivations for accepting the assignment, and to better identify with her.

Despite this, the film is a success, delivering moments of levity (though I would not call this a comedy), moments of suspense, and some very touching scenes. This is a very human film. It revolves around Kim Baker, not the war.

The scenery is amazing, though it was shot in the States. It felt authentic throughout. And I really enjoyed the ending, which felt appropriate and satisfying.
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9/10
Mining Comedy Gold
3 September 2019
Quirky, irreverent, and only slightly censored, "Lights Out" is all that a late night comedy show should be. The format moves quickly from intro to brief monologue, to current-events-based jokes with his guests, to various skits and cameos, to Spade's final comments.

Though the guests sit on a couch, this is not a talk show. It is a series of one-liners and ad libs, with Spade as the master of ceremonies.

One of my favorite bits is called "Build-A-Comic", where Spade and friends feed stand-up lines (via an earpiece) to someone who pretends to be a comic at a comedy club.

This is one of the funniest shows on TV. Added bonus: none of that tired, overused political humor.
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Smart Woman (1931)
7/10
Thoroughly Modern Nancy
26 August 2019
Mary Astor stars as Nancy Gibson, the titular wife who returns from a trip abroad to discover her husband has fallen for another woman. Women of 1931 are, of course, enlightened and modern, so she takes it all in stride. Well, at least she pretends to, but she is devoted to her husband, Don (Robert Ames). So she uses reverse psychology in an attempt to win him back.

Viewers might wonder who is more stupid: Don for cheating on a wife who is beautiful, intelligent, and devoted to a fault? Or Nancy, for wanting to keep Don despite his deceit and stupidity?

Noel Francis plays Peggy Preston, the other woman. She is blonde, of course, and insipidly shallow. John Halliday is wonderful as Sir Guy Harrington, a rich bachelor who develops a crush on Nancy while sharing her homeward cruise. Edward Everett Horton, as Billy Ross, plays his usual comic relief role.

Adapted from the play, "Smart Woman" has a simple plot. But it's a mixture of drama and tragedy that requires Mary Astor to show shades of feelings and to turn on an emotional dime, which she does very adeptly. Her performance is the best part of the film.
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7/10
A Tale Of Two Men
15 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
As a director, Mike Nichols was on a roll. His first film, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", earned 13 Oscar nominations, including 5 wins. His second film, "The Graduate" garnered 7 Oscar nominations, including all the majors, and brought Nichols the Best Director Oscar. Both of those films are rated 8.0 in IMDb. Next came "Catch-22"---another high profile film, but the result was not as unanimously praised.

Needless to say, when "Carnal Knowledge" was released, all eyes were watching. Could Nichols---who had already won three parts of his EGOT---recapture the magic of his first two efforts? Certainly the casting brought the film plenty of attention.

Jack Nicholson was still in the early stages of his film career, but had already served notice that he was worth watching. Some already saw him as the next Brando. "Easy Rider" in 1969 was followed by the less-than-stellar "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever", and "Five Easy Pieces" (1970), in which Roger Ebert said Nicholson returned to the "miraculous offhandedness" of his role in "Easy Rider".

Candice Bergen, the model turned actress, was already high-profile, but past performances gave no indication she might be able to deliver a dramatic performance equal to those Nichols had facilitated from the female stars of his first two films.

Art Garfunkel, the mild-mannered crooner, had received some good reviews from his only film role so far, which was in Nichol's "Catch-22". Could he hold his own as the second male lead opposite Nicholson?

And Ann-Margret was cast in her first film with any gravitas. Known for her sex kitten roles, she was fresh off her performance in "C.C & Company" opposite Joe Namath, of all people. You can see a clip of that film in Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood".

Released during the Sexual Revolution, some might see this film as representative of the entire movement and times, a prognostication of what the future might hold for a generation. As such, the two men who are the focus of the film, Jonathan (Nicholson) and Sandy (Garfunkel), lead lives that would foretell disappointment and malaise. It would be similar to the portent that clouds the future of Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) in the ending to "The Graduate". But this is a film of the two men only, not a broader vision. And these are two very imperfect men.

The easiest access to what makes Jonathan and Sandy what they are and what they become is through their egos. Jonathan has an ego that always needs stroking. Sandy has an ego that he always subordinates, willingly, to others. Because of this, neither can achieve actualization or contentment. Their entire lives are an endless cycle of hang-ups and hook-ups, continuously settling for what they mistakenly believe will give them happiness.

Nichols does, in fact, draw out some great performances here. Ann-Margret won the Oscar for her performance. And Bergen delivers what might be the best performance of her career.

The structure of the film is in three parts. It feels like an adaptation from a 3-act play, but it's not. Part one feels introductory. Part two picks up momentum. And part three is like a coda, a brief glimpse at the fruits of their "labors". Watch for Rita Moreno in the final scenes, which feel climactic and anti-climactic at the same time.
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5/10
Levinson's Love Of Hollywood Is Not Enough
8 August 2019
Written and directed by Barry Levinson, this is a film with some amusing moments, but its pace is plodding and it feels too derivative.

Joe Pesci plays Jimmy Alto, a self-described actor who takes odd jobs and lives a life dedicated to the movies, celebrating stars like Cagney and Brando. Jimmy is similar to (My Cousin) Vinny in temperament and behavior. Christian Slater plays William, Jimmy's best friend, who is reserved and somewhat backward, presumably due to brain damage. William is similar to the role of Adam in "Untamed Heart". Both of those films, which came just before this production, were better vehicles. And they both starred Marisa Tomei.

Jimmy sees himself as a method actor, dedicated to his craft, but he can't land a part. That's similar to Dustin Hoffman's role in "Tootsie", which Barry Levinson is connected to by some uncredited writing. The similarity does not end there.

Jimmy's girlfriend is played by Victoria Abril. Her part is interesting, but rather small.

Levinson channels his love of cinema and its history, which makes for some interesting moments, especially if you share his passion. But the film never becomes more than a curiosity and its ending is anticlimactic.
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10/10
Tarantino The Storyteller Strikes Gold
7 August 2019
Quentin Tarantino is known for his love of pop culture. In "Once Upon a Time,,," he so captures the zeitgeist of an era through an abundance of details that I can recommend the film for that reason alone. The music of the time is the backdrop to this fairy tale based (in part) on fact.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an actor with more misses than hits. He is awash in self-doubt and conscious of his place in Hollywood's pecking order. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is Dalton's best friend and stunt double, happy to live in Dalton's shadow, but more self-confident than his buddy. Sharon Tate (Margot Kidder) is an actress on the verge of film stardom and wife of Roman Polanski. We follow these three characters through their daily activities, discovering their joys and their disappointments, their challenges and their successes. It's a mash-up of fact and fiction that is compelling to watch, especially if one is aware of the real events of 1969.

The cast is studded with surprises and some hidden gems that are only revealed when reviewing the list of credits after the fact.

There are two performances I wish to highlight. Margaret Qualley (daughter of Andie McDowell) plays Pussycat with an energy that lights up the screen. I last saw her portray Ann Reinking in Fosse/Verdon---a role she was suited for, but it lacked the brilliance she is permitted to reveal as Pussycat. Also, Julia Butters plays Trudi, a precocious 8-year-old who commands your attention as she acts opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.

Tarantino's imprint is all over this film, stylistically and thematically. There is a real joy in watching him spin this yarn, leading the viewer to a denouement that can only be staggering, whichever path it takes.
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Kathleen (1941)
7/10
Temple Becomes A Teen
7 August 2019
Shirley Temple plays Kathleen, a 12-year-old with a rich imagination who lives with her emotionally absent father, a household of servants, and a governess who is a cross between the worst prison guard and Miss Gulch from "The Wizard of Oz". When Kathleen lashes out in rebellion, a doctor is called in to diagnose the girl. This film starts as a drama, but it does not remain all darkness and demons.

All child actors must eventually face uncertainty when they outgrow the young roles that made them successful. Shirley Temple was beyond successful as a child actress, capturing the hearts of moviegoers for years. When she became too old for the "Good Ship Lollipop", would she be able to transition successfully into teen roles and adult roles?

In 'Kathleen", Shirley is 13 years old. The drama of this film is similar to dramatic scenes she had previously played as a child, but viewers expect more from older performers. In "Kathleen" she portrays angst and outrage, but her performance is too childlike, which impacts the early scenes especially. In a few years, she would be better equipped to emote with greater depth. In 1947's "That Hagen Girl", for example, she adeptly portrays a troubled teen beset with a haunting past who is the target of an entire town. 1949's "A Kiss for Corliss" (A comedy with David Niven) is effectively the end of her film career, so she used her newfound skills only sparingly.

Watch for Laraine Day and Gail Patrick, who face off over Kathleen's well-being and the girl's father, played by Herbert Marshall. All of them acquit themselves well. Day, remarkably, is only 8 years old than Shirley, but convincingly plays a professional woman who possesses authority and confidence.

One final note: this film was released soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I can only wonder what effect that had on attendance and the public's willingness to be entertained. The nation was in shock and dealing with important matters that completely altered its way of life. A determined response to aggression, and fears about worldwide aggression, were paramount. Still, the nation would learn to use cinema to channel its patriotic fervor and, conversely, to escape harsh realities.
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Pearson (2019– )
8/10
Jessica Takes Her Rep To The Windy City
2 August 2019
Gina Torres stars as Jessica Pearson, the savvy attorney who previously starred in "Suits" and now takes her talents to Chicago. There, she works for Mayor Bobby Golec (Morgan Spector) in a yet-to-be-defined capacity. With her smarts and a penchant for getting things done, we can expect her to bend some rules and step on some toes.

It's an odd premise, because Chicago has a long history of dirty politics and because she openly admits she dislikes her new boss.

For this series to work, Torres must demonstrate the same strength we have come to expect from Jessica (and also from Zoe, the warrior, in "Firefly"). The first three episodes have shown Jessica to be that and more. Now she has a family to interact with, allowing her to show more complexity as she must reconcile her public and personal personas.

Isabel Arraiza is Yoli Castillo, a city employee who is fired but seeks to find her place in the scheme of things. Simon Kassianides is Nick D'Amato, a tough guy who, similarly, could us some of Jessica's help in sorting out his complicated life. And Bethany Joy Lenz plays Keri Allen, the mayor's right-hand woman, who is threatened by Jessica's hiring. All three are excellent actors.

As the series begins, Jessica makes skeptical friends and collaborative enemies. The long-term direction of the plot is difficult to foresee. But by the second episode it earned my interest.
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The Rounders (1965)
5/10
This Ford And Fonda Film Falls Flat
2 August 2019
Promotional materials promise that this film will be "hilarious" and "action-filled". It is neither. One can expect to be mildly amused as this languid modern-day western plots the unspectacular doings of two older cowboys who bust broncos and corral stray cattle.

What this film does deliver is eighty-five minutes of congenial, dadgum jaw wobblin' and hob raisin'. Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda star in this lackluster misfit only one year after starring in "Dear Heart" and "Fail-Safe", respectively. Neither of those films is fast-paced, but they illustrate how to better use the talents of these two.

The real "star" of the film is a cantankerous horse that acts as their antagonist and drives much of the action. Those who love animals may not like the use of bucking straps to create many of the scenes.

This film is uninspired, but it will probably please those who adore Ford or Fonda.
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Swann in Love (1984)
8/10
An Enjoyable Period Piece
30 July 2019
Never having read "Swann's Way"---the source material for this film---I was free to view it as an entity unto itself, which is what I prefer.

It is the study of a man's obsession with a courtesan, Odette de Crecy (Ornella Muti). Swann wants for nothing, materially, and he could live his life anywhere and anyhow he pleases. But he is emotionally tethered to Odette as they each glide through the salons of the Parisian upper class in search of artistic experiences, self gratification, and maximum visibility.

Are they lovers or mere contractors? Do they love each other or detest what they perceive of themselves under the other's influence? Do they extract maximum enjoyment from life or perpetually battle boredom and self-loathing? As they perform their dance of attraction and repulsion, it is sometimes unclear.

Jeremy Irons is convincing as the self-absorbed Swann. And Ornella Muti is mesmerizing as Odette. Both of them feel indigenous to the fashion and culture of their milieu, which makes it easier to focus on the characters themselves.

A wonderful score elevates the film considerably. I plan to watch it again, if only for its evocation of a place and time.
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The Key (1934)
7/10
Roguish William Powell Is The Key
30 July 2019
On my second viewing of "The Key" I found it more enjoyable, appreciating William Powell's performance as the key, if you will, to its appreciation. As Captain Bill Tennant, he is thrust back into the life of the woman he loved and left---Norah Kerr (Edna Best). Now married to Bill's friend and fellow officer, Captain Andy Kerr (Colin Clive), Norah has been haunted by the memory of her love for Bill. Bill is the same man he always was---free of encumbrances, to women or causes.

Filmed against the backdrop of the Irish resistance to British rule, "The Key" is a simple film expertly shot. Director Michael Curtiz keeps the action moving as things heat up between the former paramours and between the political adversaries.
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Kitty Foyle (1940)
7/10
Ginger Rogers Breaks Out
28 July 2019
Ginger Rogers was looking for a script that would allow her to showcase her dramatic talents, a departure from the comedic and dancing roles her career had been limited to by RKO and others. The novel "Kitty Foyle" was too scandalous for her tastes, but her mother convinced her to wait for the studio's treatment, which would have to conform to MPPC guidelines. Besides, Dalton Trumbo was working on the adaptation.

When she read the script, she was pleased to accept the role. The film became RKO's biggest earner of 1940 and she won the Best Actress Oscar over some other notable performances, perhaps because her dramatic abilities were so underestimated.

The film, as a whole, is certainly not a classic. Its story is not so unique, being little more than the struggle of a woman to decide between two men, one of whom lives a privileged life that cannot accommodate her lower station. The ending of the film is anticlimactic. Still, Miss Rogers' role is the centerpiece of the film and she handles it with confidence and nuance.

Her two leading men, Dennis Morgan and James Craig, are solid in their performances, though their roles are not as demanding.
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3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001)
10/10
When Sally Met Tom, Dick And Harry
25 July 2019
When this series originally aired, I watched some of its episodes and I found it funny. Years later, I rediscovered the series in reruns and now I love it. Far from becoming dated, this series has only grown better with age, somehow.

The premise is that a group of aliens come to Earth to investigate earthly ways, disguised as earthlings. The alien aspect optimizes the fish-out-of-water setup, allowing maximum silliness. Imagine Mork with an entirely family in tow.

The cast is fantastic, starting with John Lithgow, who plays Dick, commander and patriarch of the transplanted foursome. Lithgow puts his stamp on every moment, every emotion, every action. Is this the same guy who played the smalltown clergyman in "Footloose"? Yes, and he seems to relish the degree of zaniness and hyperbole that the series permits.

Sally, Harry and Tommy are played by Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, respectively. When the series began, Gordon-Levitt was age 15, but he already had plenty of acting experience. He holds his own with the talented cast. Stewart's Harry is a powder keg of quirks and tics just waiting to voice his inner oddity. In her role as Sally, Kristen Johnston is a force of nature. She lifts the words of the writers with her inspired vision and makes them more than was ever conceived. She can more than hold her own with Lithgow.

Jane Curtin as Mary, the object of Dick's affections, Wayne Knight as Officer Don, Elmarie Wendel as Mrs. Dubcek, and Simbi Kali as Nina form the rest of the excellent cast. Each has moments of brilliance.

If you like your comedy with a healthy dose of wackiness that is, at the same time, intelligent humor, this is the show for you.
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10/10
A Great Episode
25 July 2019
This is a wonderful episode that capitalizes on all of the series' best attributes---great characters, a great premise, and great acting.

Mary and Dick decide to try double dating with another couple instead of spending all their time with Dick's family. Meanwhile Sally, Harry and Tommy discover laundromats.

Mary and Dick hit it off swimmingly with Gwen and Larry (Laura and Commander Riker!), but then the couple seems standoffish. Sally, Harry and Tommy find that laundromats have their own, complex set of rules. What comes of these two scenarios are unexpected twists that are a hallmark of the series and the basis for much of its humor.
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The King of Queens (1998–2007)
10/10
Comedy Gold
24 July 2019
In the best sitcoms, the comedy arises not just from the situations, but from the characters. Consider "Friends", "Seinfeld", "Frasier" and "Cheers", for example. Each series has humorous characters, which are necessarily played by excellent actors. "The King of Queens" is on the list of best sitcoms precisely for that reason.

Kevin James plays the titular head of the household as Doug Heffernan, a prototypical, jock-centric male who works for a delivery company like UPS. James expertly plays the buffoon with delusions of coolness.

As his wife, Carrie, Leah Remini is the perfect foil. With a voice that sounds like it comes right out of the Bronx, she is his whip-smart nemesis, always calling him out for his bad decisions. Their chemistry compares well with the gold standard---Ralph and Alice Kramden.

The supporting cast is terrific, and it is headed by Jerry Stiller, who plays Arthur Spooner, Carrie's live-in father. His role is similar to the part he played on "Seinfeld"---an opinionated irritant who never fails to raise his voice at the slightest provocation.

This is one of those series that can be watched again and again.
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The Animatrix (2003 Video)
10/10
Beautiful
18 July 2019
A collection of animated films that all have some connection with "The Matrix", this assemblage can stand on its own, just as each film can stand apart from the others.

These anime artists have created a milepost of animation's state of the art in 2003. And the operative word is "beautiful". Employing various styles and degrees of realism, each film beautifully portrays a theme and a stylishness that transports the viewer to new realms of imagination.

Watching this collection is like exploring a great anthology of science fiction stories. When I first watched "The Animatrix", I felt like each film was a gift just waiting to be unwrapped. My personal favorite is "Last Flight of the Osiris", but they all satisfy.
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Love, Death & Robots: Zima Blue (2019)
Season 1, Episode 14
10/10
A New Classic
17 July 2019
My favorite of the "Love, Death & Robots" series/collection, "Zima Blue" is wonderfully stylish and thoughtfully imaginative. It feels like it evolved from the classics of sci-fi anthology. I am reminded of J.G. Ballard's "Vermilion Sands". A clever twist adds surprise to inspiration. Some may find allegory in its tale of an artist who seeks to achieve the ultimate creation. But its artistic vision alone is enough to celebrate.
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3/10
Try To Avert Your Eyes!
12 July 2019
This series has the most twisted premise in television history: people allow themselves to be tattooed with artwork they have not seen or approved, designed by someone they do not trust.

I don't know why anyone would appear on this show, but I know why someone would watch it---morbid curiosity.

Hosts Snooky and Nico keep the mood light, but they don't sugarcoat anything.
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Office Space (1999)
6/10
Spot On Satire That Could Use More Character Development
10 July 2019
When this film was first released, I went to see it with some friends. They all enjoyed it, but I found it unfunny. After some contemplation, I realized that it was about job conditions that were too similar to my own workplace, which made it not funny for me. After the intervening time, I am no longer in such a workplace and I am more receptive to its humor. That shows how relevant the humor is. It mirrors actual work conditions for many people.

This parody, like some of the best "Dilbert" cartoons, captures the essence of many workplaces, and the absurdity of them.

Ron Livingston plays Peter, the central victim of the office. He meets Joanna, played by Jennifer Aniston, a restaurant server who deals with her own workplace indignities. Naturally, management is the biggest target for this lampoon. But it also catalogues a long list of job elements that eat at the souls of workers everywhere, including cubicles, printers that routinely malfunction, traffic jams, and odd or disrespectful coworkers---many of the things that thwart good performances by good employees.

Stephen Root effectively plays the part of Milton-a character the source material was named for-as a mumbling misfit who leads a life of quiet desperation, continually victimized.

Unfortunately, the film plays like an extended comedy sketch. And its music feels incongruous and ill-suited to the subject matter. Although the film hits the nail on the head when it targets bad management and poor policies and procedures, it fails to adequately develop its main characters, leaving the viewer with a lot of satire. But little humanity.
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Sabrina (1995)
7/10
An Enjoyable Remake
3 July 2019
This remake of a Billy Wilder film is directed by Sidney Pollack. The best reason to remake the 1954 film is to cast an actor in the Humphrey Bogart role who feels like a better choice for romance with Sabrina. In this version, Sabrina is portrayed by Julia Ormond---five years older than Audrey Hepburn was in the role, but still fresh-faced and endearing.

Harrison Ford takes on the Bogart role as Linus Larrabee, the older of two brothers charmed by Sabrina. He feels like a better fit than Bogart. Greg Kinnear plays David Larrabee, the younger brother, with exuberant charm, even if David is not the best choice for Sabrina's Prince Charming.

As in the original version, each of the three main characters has something to learn from the other two. And the story is, ultimately, a fairytale.

Though Ford fits the story better, I prefer the original film. But both films are enjoyable.
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