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self-serving drivel
16 October 2018
I had to switch off after ten minutes. Baldwin is so full of himself, I was hoping he was going to explode, and when it dawned on me he would not, I had to stop it. The interview with Bob de Niro was devoid of any research, or any interesting angle, except for pally-pally comments about how Baldwin and de Niro were somehow friends, or pretending that they were artiss' in the same kinda way, which they're not, by a long shot. De Niro is one of the great method actors of his generation. Baldwin is an OK comedian, he's had a few roles, and his Trump impression on SNL is funny. Not in the same league. And Baldwin is not a good interviewer or a good talk show host. Not his skill set. Watch this self-agrandizing vehicle at your own peril. Hopefully, this vanity project will fail soon and we'll all move on to something better.
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Pine Gap (2018)
and you thought we were friends?
15 October 2018
I have only seen the first two episodes, so this review is about a work in progress. I felt that the geopolitical context was timely and relevant for anyone living in or near one of the "five eyes" countries. The storyline is good, if somewhat predictable with regards to the Chinese bogeyman, but the tensions between American and Aussies are culturally accurate, if at times a little crude. The romantic sub-plot is too obvious and somewhat contrived, but I guess that's par for the course if the series takes a couple of unexpected turns (not likely so far, but who knows?). If you enjoyed Berlin Station, you may like this one as a remote controlled / drone version along the same kind of spy series. Not perfect, but still very watchable. And there are some spectacular views of the Australian outback.
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Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018 TV Special)
What's not to like in a Foucauldian lesbian comedian?
6 July 2018
Until now, Hannah Gadsby had only been known in Australia, where she had been quite successful for many years. Hers was one of the early diverse voices on the Aussie comedy circuit. In this show she graduates to a global audience, with a refreshed, more profound, emotional and humanistic tone. Her observations are often fresh -in every sense of the word- and I get that some viewers who expected a "good ol' laugh" may have been surprised, shocked, or disappointed by her performance. In truth, she ruthlessly deconstructs some of the taken-for-granted conceptions that underpin much social norms in Western society: power, patriarchy, money, art, sex, or mental illness -Michel Foucauld did exactly the same, but he wasn't as funny as Hannah. No wonder some will dislike her act. Taking down unspoken norms that underpin Western social order, sounds like a terrible idea for a comedy show. In truth, not all of it is laugh-your-head-off funny. I guess it was intentional. Gadsby's show tries to go back-and-forth across that thin line separating drama and comedy, and by and large she pulls it off, with humour, emotion, and a truckload of humanity. In doing so, Gadsby is courageous, laying bare what must have been difficult moments for her, and I was moved by the way she re-tells her coming out story. If you are seeking a comedy act where "funny" jokes come thick and fast one after the other, this is not for you. But if you can appreciate humour that is fuelled by incisive observation and critical thinking that comes from a different perspective, you may well enjoy this one.
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Mystery Road (2018– )
when was the last time you watched a good series from the outback?
11 June 2018
I get the points made by other reviewers about the shortcomings of this series. Yes, there are holes in the details of the script, and some of the dialogue could be better, and we all could find improvement in the acting. And yes, it's an Australian production, so it's a slow burner, it's a cultural thing. But when was the last time the ABC (or anybody else?) put out a watchable drama series located in the WA outback? The scenery and locations alone are atmospheric. We should welcome good drama that comes from a different place and perspective. Not all police procedurals should be based in the USA. So this one ain't perfect, but it's certainly worth a watch.
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where do you think you came from?
11 June 2018
The premise of the show is well known: interview a famous guest about their "origin story" in their home town, get a few witnesses to chip in, and there you go, it's a 30 minute TV show. What makes home delivery stand out are two deliberate choices: inviting some non-obvious guests, and avoiding the easy celebrity stuff. I had reservations about the host and the format when the show first came out, but it's gradually grown on me. I think that it's because of the selection of guests, which stretches beyond the obvious, and also because of the personable style of Zemiro, who tries to connect with the personal history of her guests, talking about the easy and difficult events in their journey, without being sensationalist or judgemental. Individual episodes may attract more or less interest depending on your personal curiosity about the person being interviewed, but it's usually a good show.
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Taskmaster (2018– )
It's a watered down version of the UK show
27 April 2018
It's almost the same format as the UK original, but shorter. Same kind of creative problem solving challenges. And Alex Horne is on hand to provide continuity. So far, so good. What's missing are the small details that make the UK show really funny and enjoyable: Reggie Watts is a big comedian, but he does not allow himself to be as outrageous as Greg Davies (the Taskmaster of the UK original series). No small part of the fun of the UK show is the banter between Davies and Horne (part bullying, part master-and-servant, part homoerotic) and the deprecating tone of the Taskmaster's judgement of the comedians' efforts - the fun in the original is the mock humiliation, willingly accepted by the contestants. I expected they'd cut that out of the US version of the show: it's not part of the culture. I guess that's exemplary of the cultural differences that make it hard to transpose UK (or Aussie) shows to the US. What's missing, is that the producers have not found anything to replace the bits that made the UK show enjoyable -but would not work for a US audience- with something else. So all we're left to contemplate are B-list comedians' goofy videos. It's watchable, but rarely will it make you burst out with laughter.
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A good idea in need of serious sharpening
26 April 2018
I thought the first episode was somewhat underwhelming. It was a nicely researched documentary with a couple of touches of humor and irony. But coming from a Daily Show alumni, with the support of John Oliver, I expected so much more. The show lacked the goofiness of the Daily Show's correspondents' segments on the road (no absurd interviewing) or the devastating irony of John Oliver's long segments (no one is likely to register a church in this show). It was watchable, but any serious documentary maker or journalist could have delivered Wyatt's piece, which was low key, and flat. Making 'serious' comedy about societal issues is difficult, you have to find an angle, be thought provoking, at times provocative or ironic, or downright outrageous, in order to make the audience think and laugh. Wyatt Cenac's problem area is that he has not yet found the original/distinctive voice that will make this program compelling viewing.
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Investigative critque loses focus
1 April 2018
The documentary highlights a little-known scam on the US stockmarket: the fraudulent sale of so-called "high growth" Chinese stocks through reverse takeovers of so-called shell companies. In itself that story would have been worthy of consideration. However, the producers and director have elected to weave this into a critical narrative of capitalism and the US economic institutions which distracts from the main story. One of the highlights of the movie is when they document how little US banks, regulators, stockbrokers, investors, etc. knew about China in the first place. This story was not so much about the corruption or weakness of US institutions against the alleged malevolence of scheming Chinese (and American) stock-pushers, but about the ignorance of Americans about the rest of the world. I'm holding my breath about the sequel to come about the next wave of sham investments about India, Africa, or another place Americans know little about.
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a classic performance
30 January 2018
Tim Minchin is a national treasure. He is a magnificently talented musician and composer. But what makes him stand out is the social critique, wry and self-deprecating humor of the lyrics: each song is a little vignette, sometimes provocative, sometimes dryly introspective. Minchin delivers with a superb and timely comedic sense. His performances are always engaging, energetic and funny. His blend of comedy and musical performance is quite unique and worth checking. This performance was recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, and Minchin was accompanied by the 55 piece Heritage Orchestra. It's a thoroughly enjoyable concert.
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Letterman the interviewer
15 January 2018
People have forgotten that David Letterman, behind the facade of the funny guy, always was a serious interviewer -perhaps not as punchy as Jon Stewart, but still pretty good. Always well prepared, knowing his facts, and having pointed questions. This new show is all about about having an in-depth conversation with the guest. Letterman did a pretty good job in the first episode. He was helped by the chart-topping quality of his first guest: Barack Obama. But if you listen carefully, the conversation was not random or free-flowing. It was carefully scripted, with civil rights and the Selma march -and the role of Congressman John Lewis- a central topic of discussion. Like a shadow commentary on current affairs -and the 45th President- without naming names or current events, only references to historical events that matter. This central piece was showcased within the context of pleasant and relaxed small talk and personal anecdotes, Letterman and Obama displayed a warm rapport, and the conversation was pleasant and interesting. This made the first episode very good viewing. I am concerned that guests in future episodes may not have equally compelling stories to tell. Hence the rating, as the interest of the show is dependent on the performance and personality of the guest, not Letterman. I anticipate I may watch some future episodes, but maybe not all.
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Bancroft (2017– )
a dark. immoral tale of passion, poorly executed
14 January 2018
There was much to be liked in the first couple of episodes. There were a couple of plot twists, and some dark and shady character moves. By ep. 3 I got bored and disenchanted with the games of shades-and-mirrors of the gradually building flashback scenes of the assassination, which culminate into a nothing climax in ep. 4. The notion that the whole story was driven by that crime of passion was totally unconvincing. It was so inconsistent with the rest of the miniseries, the writers should be sacked at once. The reason is that the connection between the slowly revealed past drama and the present were so thin (there is no evidence for the passion that led to the drama except for one poorly executed flashback scene) that the viewer was left wondering: so what? The unethical ending could have been acceptable and fun, if it had been better scripted. Sociopathic (repressed) lesbian murderess wins the day? Hardly believable! The whole thing went downhill from the start. What a shame...
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a flawed but entertaining drama
7 January 2018
Don't get fooled by the categorizations. This is not a crime thriller or a comedy. It's more like a classical greek drama, with violence, intrigue, pathos and comedy in equal parts. Some of the parts are extremely well executed: the violence and comedy stand out, and Frances McDormand leads the way in both. As a grieving and p***ed-off mother who just lost her daughter to a rape/murder, she is emotional, forceful and displays the unhinged, seemingly calm, no-nonsense behavior of people who have nothing left to lose. Other parts are less convincing: the intrigue is without an ending, and some of the pathos lacks believability. I was left wondering about the ending, and the late reconciliation between Mildred and Dixon did not convince me. The movie was helped along by good supporting cast appearances by Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage (whose character was under-developed) and Clarke Peters. Some themes of the movies touch on racism, exclusion, and male chauvinism, but the execution could have been more powerful. Quite a few scenes stand out where Frances McDormand as Mildred tells her truth to the town (the police chief, the advertising guy, her ex, her son, and a few others) in a way that merges comedy and tragedy that was touching and funny at the same time. This for me was the memorable part of the movie. Overall a watchable movie, but no masterpiece - and please forget the references about Fargo or other Coen brothers' movies: the tenor and perspective are different.
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I feel bad for the soul and legacy of Philip K. Dick
27 December 2017
Could I rate this 0/10? The original movie was an acceptable dumbing down of Dick's original story - which the author himself superficially validated before passing away. For those who are interested, there's a well researched TV documentary on his life. Dick created worlds where a reality based on artificial intelligence would collapse in weird and dangerous ways. Read Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, Flow my Tears, and his other stories to get a taste. His inspiration was fuelled by drugs and deep personal and psychological issues -I am not a doctor or qualified expert, but I guess that nowadays, Dick would be diagnosed with some form of bipolar disorder -in the same way Vincent Van Gogh would. Dick's worlds are full of irony and unusual perspectives on the human condition, he asks pointed "what if?" questions and provides curve-ball answers that take us to unexpected places. If you have not read his work, before you pass judgement on this movie, please read a few of his books. Evaluating this expensive and exquisitely produced pile of manure only by reference to the original Blade Runner movie would not do justice. Back in the days, Ridley Scott took a gamble on producing an expensive and edgy film -based on an even more disturbing story- that would re-set public expectations about Sci-Fi movies. My issue with the sequel is that what is left are the weakest bit of the original: the unexplained rain-fuelled darkness over LA due to climate change, the perceived threat of bio-engineered life and its economic exploitation. These were not the core premises of Dick's story, which delved into the dark corners of what it means to be human. So all we're left with in the sequel is a dumbed-down story of emancipation that dares not fully embrace its premise (hence the inconsequential ending) or socio-political consequences, and just leaves us to ponder for three hours which of the characters is Rick Deckard's son or daughter: who cares??? There was so much potential for this story, the scale of the missed opportunity cannot be understated. I would not lay the blame on the doorstep of the director, who did a good job to make the vast budget look good on the screen, but I am convinced that the army of scriptwriters and focus-group marketing minions have to shoulder some of the blame for the bland and ill-informed outcome. If Villeneuve had been given a decent story and a quarter of the money, maybe he would have directed a watchable movie. As it stands, this is a horrible failure, and I can't see how a "director's cut" would redeem it.
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The Foreigner (2017)
Jackie Chan reinvented
16 December 2017
Jackie Chan's been doing it for 40 years! But he's in his 60s now, so you can't expect him to jump off self-destructing buildings any longer, especially as he does his own stunts as always. But he'll execute a choreographed kung-fu fight scene with the same precision as ever, even if the physicality of the stunts has been toned down. The upside of this latest vehicle, is that Jackie has also pared his acting down. No more goofy characters. He portrays, in a Liam Neeson kinda style, an aggrieved father whose daughter is the collateral victim of a terrorist act, masterminded by Pierce Brosnan's shadowy character. And Jackie as Quan, the unassuming Chinese chop-shop chef/owner with a colorful past, quietly proceeds to outwit both the terrorists and law enforcement -spoiler alert. The story is OK, even if it remains somewhat predictable. What makes the movie enjoyable, especially if you are a Jackie Chan aficionado, are the fight scenes, Chan's bare-bones acting, a quality performance by the supporting cast led by Pierce Brosnan, and a competent direction and production -a rare combination. Altogether, that's a couple of notches above the talentless, brainless, action/thriller movie fare being served these days.
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a good idea, but they could have done so much better
10 November 2017
I read the synopsis on IMDb, and I thought this could be a worthy Canadian answer to the very successful and enjoyable Australian series Miss Fischer's -same premise of a female private detective in the 1920s. Unfortunately, Frankie ain't no Phryne. The main character lacks the drive and personality one would expect from a female detective in an 1920s male dominated environment. Indeed, aside from very soft references to prohibition and slavery (in that order) the series appears to ignore the social references and culture of the times, and the aforementioned 1920s female detective appears to glide through unencumbered, except for the very soft and predictable love interest from the local news hack. Hardly believable, and only suitable for a kid's series. It's a shame, the period locations, sets and costumes were enjoyable, and the supporting cast was OK. But if the script and the main character are not up to scratch, then you can only produce a mediocre piece. CBC wasted their money on this one. Don't waste your time.
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The Deuce (2017– )
embarrassing steaming pile of clichés
15 September 2017
I just endured the pilot episode. I swear I will not watch the rest. The show has great production values. The set, decors, and costumes are all great - the soundtrack totally lacks originality or imagination, though. So if you want to rate the show based on reconstruction ratings, it's doing great. I know the pilot is a teaser supposed to get us to be interested in the characters so we watch the whole series. But the characters are just wafer-thin clichés, the plot is so hokey, unimaginative, it's an insult to any viewer who has any experience of the 70's through real life or good written or screen fiction. I got bored after 10 minutes, and I only forced myself to watch until the end, just to make sure I would not be surprised. A steaming pile of clichés, poorly characterized. what a waste of money and talent. 4/10 for showing off the money on the screen.
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