Abduction - crappy star vehicle starring that ugly guy in those vampire movies. john singleton directs and nearly wipes out any positive memories of boyz in the hood that i once had. okay, so it's not actually the worst film i've ever seen, but this is just more hollywood star vehicle drivel. the kind of stuff that most people think of when they think of hollywood these days. star vehicles in the 40s and 50s were still very good and watchable, even if they were for second or third tier stars. they had good writing and stronger genres then, though. this one is basically just an episode of alias. blah. D.
Way Way Back - pretty okay coming of age film with steve carrell and toni collette. with those two you usually can't go wrong. carrell plays a dick here so he's stretching himself a bit. overall i don't think he did a great job, but he was good enough. collette was good as always. nothing spectacular or new here. even decent films like this aren't really doing it for me lately. tv is where it's at. you either need to make a great film worthy of my time or you need to make a slightly above average tv show which wins because of quantity. it's sorta backwards, i understand, but even a mediocre tv series will have something to hold on to, something to learn. this doesn't seem to be the case for mediocre films these days. so much of the film is taken up by conventions like plot and conventional characters that there's so little time for creativity. each film is a new business and it's hard to get a business right right out of the blocks. with tv shows they have more time to work on their craft, hone the characters and writing, etc. B-.
Closed Circuit - sounded like a good idea what with the government surveillance angle and all, but it never really grabbed me. watching this while watching zoe whine proved to be too much and perhaps the movie suffered a bit from that. but what i did see wasn't doing much for me. C.
21& Over - not very good puerile comedy. i can still appreciate these kinds of movies, but they have to bring something to the table and this one didn't do anything. it was just by the numbers and had very little comedic talent in front of, or behind, the camera. it wasn't god awful, but it just never got moving. it's in the mold of hangover with a group of guys having a crazy night. there is the inevitble bonding ala superbad as well. doesn't touch either in terms of comedy or the more heartfelt elements. C.
Sons Of Anarchy Season Five - best season yet. it's going more and more towards the godfather mold - jax is the heir to the throne, body count rises towards the end of the season, jax is shown to be a great strategic thinker. finally in these last two seasons we see jax getting smarter. one of the reasons (besides the bad acting which i've mentioned before) that jax will never be as sympathetic as walter white is that for most of the series he's not nearly as capable or smart as walter white. i've mentioned this before as well - audiences respect characters who are good at something. even if they are awful people, we respect their skills as outlaws if they are demonstrated to us. up until season 4 we don't see jax as being all that smart. clay, too, has been given an upgrade in the intelligence/strategy department.
otto plays a bigger role this season and his character takes some dark turns. B.
Sons Of Anarchy Season Four - this season is when the series starts to finally find its legs. getting more interesting. family dynamics are finally more compelling and realizing their potential. all the characters are still basically worthless assholes, however. charlie hunnam is still a bad actor with about two acting moves in his repetoire.
i'd like to see more of the MCs impact on the townspeople. just as they failed to do this in the hunger games, this show doesn't look at the impact of pretty important things that are happening. the sons MC is supposedly a big deal in a small town and yet we hardly ever see the impact it has on the average citizen. B.
Go West - cute little buster keaton film about a drifter who goes west and befriends a cow. kind of a strange plot, but that's what it is. has a nice little happy ending and a few laughs. not one of his strongest works in my opinion. C+.
Piranha - ah the 70s, gotta love em. looks to capitalize on the jaws craze by bringing the terror in the water to the inland waterways. throws in a government/science gone wrong twist and you get a cross between the 50s animal horror flicks like ants and the 70s/80s stuff like jaws, swamp thing, and toxic avenger. a few t&a moments per the usual. overall a decent little horror flick. B-.
Death Wish 2 - another installment in the bronson vigilante series. this one is still decent enough though some of the kick is always lost with sequels. he seeks to avenge the brutal rape of his daughter and housekeeper. his daughter is kinda special, which makes the crime even worse, and after her rape she runs away and through a window to her death (she is impaled on a wrough iron fence). a bit silly actually, but was shocking when i saw it. he exacts his revenge one by one and doesn't let the cops know anything because he knows they are worthless. not a bad follow up. B-.
Sons Of Anarchy Season Three - gets a little better each season. jax is the "good guy" or at least the guy we're supposed to root for. he's like walter white - very flawed but somehow we root for him. only, we don't. or, at least, i don't. i did root for walter white, but not for jax. not to say he doesn't have some admirable qualities or that he's completely beyond redemption. it's probably because he's poorly acted. B-.
Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 Season One - decent enough little sitcom. created by one of the writers of american dad which makes some sense because it has an edgy comedy to it. krysten ritter plays the bitch and dreama walker is her innocent indiana roommate. i think that ritter's character in this show has more sex per episode than any other character in the history of tv. seinfeld always had a new girlfriend so he probably had sex 1 time per episode. blanche in golden girls was a notorious slut. but ritter in this show has at least a couple guys per episode. james van der beek plays a wild and shallow version of himself. it passes the time. B-.
Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 Season Two - this season gets better as some of the characters are more rounded out and secondary characters get more screen time. the show doesn't have a lot of substance, though it tries from time to time, but it is good for a certain brand of humor. seeing how bad, shallow and selfish chloe (ritter) can be is funny especially when juxtaposed with dreama walker's character. her big eyes and girl next door looks help her with this character as they did with her role in "compliance." it's an odd couple show so there's nothing really new here, but it works fairly well. it was canceled after two seasons. B-.
To Do List - comedy about a nerdy girl (aubrey plaza) who is about to enter college, but discovers that while she has many great academic achievements, she is sorely lacking in any sexual experience. so, she makes a list of sexual experiences and starts seeking them out. sounds like the premise for a porno. this has been done before with boys, but never with girls so i guess it's interesting for that reason. mostly, though, it's not really that funny even though there is some good comedic talent here. aubrey plaza is funny in parks and rec, but is a little miscast here. essentially it comes down to the writing which leaves something to be desired. not a bad coming of age comedy, but not worth repeated viewings. C+.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire - not so bad while i was watching it, but looking back on it i feel like basically nothing happened. it's a rehash of the first one and i'm not sure if any of the characters really grew at all. nothing special here unfortunately. does have potential as a tv series, however. 12 episodes a season with more cutting back to the different districts so we could learn about them and how they react to what katniss does. more background on the past that has brought us to his dystopian future. etc. certainly the book must be better than the films. this one was over two hours long and very little of substance actually happened or was explained. simple money grab. C+.
Sons Of Anarchy Season Two - gets a little better now that the characters are more established and i've settled into accepting the style. the acting from some of the actors still leaves something to be desired. still uneven. still some bad dialogue, but there is some improvement as well. C+.
Sons Of Anarchy Season One - the long story arc writing of this show is fine and what will keep me watching past season one. unfortunately the dialogue is mostly pretty bad and there are some bad actors who weigh the show down overall. the blonde son figure (jax) is just a plain bad actor. perhaps it's because he's a brit and wouldn't know the first thing about motorcycle gangs or being a bad ass? do they even have motorcycles over there? i know they have scooters...
the voice over stuff of his biological father reading his book from beyond the grave is trite. it's a nice idea, but it just doesn't work for me because the execution of the entire show is lacking. a rocky start, we'll see how it goes from here. C+.
Bernie And Ernie - 30 for 30 documentary about an unlikely basketball pairing. reminded me of brian's song which is another telling of a true story odd black/white athlete pairing. this is a fine enough little documentary, but below average for the 30 for 30 series. C+.
Big Shot - story of the NY Islanders hockey ownership debacle of the 90s. guy wants to buy the team, supposedly a billionaire, turns out to be a massive scam. pretty compelling story of deceit, arrogance and fraud. i always find this kind of thing interesting. how can people pull of these huge scams and cons, especially these days? i guess it just shows that stupidity is constant and just as constant is man's desire to cheat.
the direction isn't great. actor kevin connelly got the gig because he's a name and is a huge islanders fan. he does get john spano to talk him through some of the whole thing and for that i'm thankful. a lot of times these documentaries about criminals at this level don't get the actual criminal on record. B.
Hell's Highway - decent, not great 30s chain gang film. actually came out a couple months before the amazing and brilliant i am a fugitive from a chain gang. this one isn't half the film that that one was, but it has some nice elements. starting with the opening text which essentially says that the film is going to depict the awful conditions of chain gangs and how they shouldn't exist anymore. no beating around the bush, just a simple line or two of text at the beginning of the film which states the point of view. gotta love that. C+.
This Is What They Want - 30 for 30 documentary about jimmy connors at 39 making a run for the title only to come up short. kind of anti-climatic and overblown if you ask me. he had a few games and then lost in the finals, not really worthy of a movie. you could argue that it's really just a vehicle for talking about jimmy connors overall. as a hothead, as one who pumps up the crowd, as a new brand of tennis player, as a jerk friend. i didn't know about this story and it was a nice one to tell, but maybe it would have been better on their e:60 series. oh, and they really need to figure out how they title these things. 30 for 30 is longer than 3:60:? wtf? C+
League Season Four - another pretty good season of crazy antics from this group of immature nerds. B.
Don Jon - first movie in the theater since zoe was born. only about 90 minutes long but it felt longer, probably because we haven't had a chance to sit in one place for 90 minutes very much lately. always doing something else - invoicing customers, taking care of zoe, cleaning up the house, etc.
the movie itself was pretty good. it explores the unrealistic expectations that both sexes have about each other because of popular media. men want all the women to be super hot and sexualized and women want the men to provide for them, be macho, etc. B-.
League Season Three - they definitely have figured out what this series is about by this season. lots of sex and body humor jokes. the girls are all hot and most of them are like one of the guys. the guys also snipe at each other and play jokes. it's frat boy humor, but these guys have legit jobs and everything revolves around their idiotic obsession with fantasy football. overall a watchable and entertaining series. B.
Veep Season Two - there are mild story arcs that evolve during the short seasons. characters don't really develop all that much. again, though, these seasons are so short it's kinda silly. breaking bad felt like it had short seasons yet there is 300% more viewing time in those seasons than there is here. B.
Veep Season One - pretty good foul-mouthed comedy that has gotten a lot of praise. some, but not all, of the comedy derives from the dysfunction of washington and the people there. more of the comedy is people just being generally stupid and pissing each other off. they are stupid, but not necessarily in a washingtonian way. julia louis-dreyfus is good. overall a funny enough series, but not hilarious. 8 episodes per season feels pathetically short. these people need to start really working for a living. B.
League Season Two - pretty funny, sexed up comedy about a bunch of guys who participate in a fantasy football league every year. a couple of them are married with hot wives so we get some eye candy along with the silly guy humor. it's a guys' show so it provides some basic laughs and entertainment. nothing that really leaves an impression. B-.
Dial M For Murder - classic hitchcock. this is one of those few films that he did which take place basically in one room. i saw this for the first time in 3d, but that was ages ago. it's a great little flick with some nice shots, good performances, smart writing and decent tension. can't get enough of films like this. A-.
Breaking Bad Season Five Part Two - spoilers... the finale (title felina which is an anagram for finale and also references marty robbins' "el paso" which was the basis for much of the season) was the best episode of the series and you can't really say that about any other series off the top of my head. it was godfather-esque in its body count and final culling. the whole series is epic and wonderful. gilligan and his team (to which he gives a lot of credit) always did a good job with ratcheting up the tension, keeping the characters evolving, letting us figure things out, etc. it's the gold standard for what dramatic tv should be like.
this series isn't perfection, but it's close. that final episode left me wanting to cry (and very close), jesse's arc as a character, walt's downward spiral, and even skyler's struggle are all elements that would elevate any show towards the top of my list to watch. to have all of them in one series is unprecedented. as good as the wire, sopranos, etc. were, none of them had as many compelling characters as breaking bad.
lastly, i have to tip my hat to the creators' use of music as the series progressed. the first four-ish seasons left me wanting music use like i had seen in the second half of the sopranos. the last couple seasons of breaking bad stepped it up. some mediocre songs were used, but elevated by the visuals and context of the show. bonfire, baby blue is perhaps the best example of this. i'm no badfinger fan and the song on its own isn't great, but played in that final episode how it is makes both the show and song better. the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A.
Breaking Bad Season Five Part One - it's interesting to see how different characters use family. sometimes they use it almost as a bludgeon. after hank finds out about walt, for example, walt uses the family as reason for hank to not move forward with any investigation. family is initially the reason for walt doing all this, but eventually it just becomes something he uses to justify his actions or to manipulate situations. A-.
Dexter Season Eight - overall a poorly written season to a series that was mostly pretty good. the final act of dexter - an act of selfless love, but also self-preservation was fitting and believable. the alternatives - suicide or capture - are mostly unbelievable. throughout the series his character was about survival at all costs and selflessness for a very select few. it also appeases the audience to some extent because most of us had to be against him as a father for his son. most of us probably needed dexter to be punished in some way and for him to stop ruining the lives of those around him. or, maybe, most of the audience wanted him to continue leveling the scales of justice. i guess it depends upon the person.
deb's death was sad, but poorly written. this entire season had elements that may have been good in idea form, but lacked in execution. unfortunate. the series gets a B, but this season gets a C.
League Season One - decent series that isn't great its first season. B-.
Lockdown Season Two - basically more of the same as seen in season one. more senstationalism and fear mongering than learning at this point. one good episode followed a guy after he got out of jail. the hope followed by the struggle to find a job and provide for his family. rough times. C+.
Logan's Run - nice little sci-fi idea lacking in execution for the modern era. takes place in a future where people have limited time to live as determined by a central computer; basically population control as determined by a central authority. in other words, a quickly approaching reality. though a lot of these sci-fi flicks have good ideas, i find many of them lacking in execution. they're overly long or dull in parts. they should take a cue from star wars or even something like the island. more action along with high-minded ideas. more development of character to tide you over between thinking about the implications of this dystopian future. C.
Lockdown Season One - national geographic documentary series that goes to different prisons/jails around the country and does a little profile of their operations and a couple of their inmates. interesting to see how the other half lives. overly dramatic writing and narration drag it down a bit, but if you're able to cut through the crap, these series can be educational. eventually all the prisons sort of blend together. the overwhelming theme is one of paranoia on the part of the prisoners and the guards. they all think they're going to be the victim of violence any minute. another dominant theme is that the prisoners are basically wasting everyone's time while in prison. it's babysitting and there is very little in the way of rehabilitation that is occurring. lots of mental health issues, lots of violence to deal with and only occasionally are there GED programs and things that help the inmates' recidivism rate. pretty depressing overall.
i'd love to report that these guys (and girls - they visit one or two women's prisons) are the same as you and me, but many of them are not (any more). some of them are so far gone it's ridiculous. B-.
Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom - shitty movie, literally. i'm not sure what it is about this film that caused people to pay $400 for the out of print criterion dvd, but they did. i guess the very fact that it was an OOP criterion is alone a reason for the high price.
there are a lot of infamous films like this that get watched more because of their controversy than anything else. thriller, i am curious yellow, a serbian film...all these films are known because they push the envelope. and while this film doesn't have the rape of a newborn infant (as "a serbian film" does), this one goes pretty far in that general direction. other than the shocking aspects of the film, i really have no comment. it's another film about how horrible the nazis were. there's very little in the way of interesting plot or character development. nothing very redeeming about the film at all, actually. totally missable. just go put a kitten in a microwave if you want to see something awful. no, don't do that. F.
Workaholics Season Two - puerile and idiotic comedy that delights every time i watch it. sometimes you just need stupidity and adolescence for a good laugh. B+.
Knuckleball! - nice documentary about the single pitch in baseball that is probably most interesting and unique. the spit ball is more controversial, the cutter is more effective, but he knuckleball is extremely unique. in recent memory there have only been a small handful of people who have used it with any regularity and this documentary follows them and tells their story and the story of the pitch. interesting stuff, especially for baseball fans. B.
Lovelace - two films in one i suppose. the first half being the sort of official story and the second half being the authorized biography portion as told by lovelace. there's plenty of controversy here, but i suppose no real great reason do mistrust what lovelace claims. namely, that she was abused and forced to participate in the most famous of all porno films. it's sad for her that she is most well known for something she didn't want to do and, even if she did, for something she did for literally only a couple weeks. i guess that's the unfortunate nature of fame.
all that aside, the film itself is fine enough, but nothing special. it borrows from boogie nights and i think tries to be something good, but never really gets off the ground. seyfried is okay and sarsgaard is a little better. there is emotional resonance in the film and the story is a compelling one, it's just not very well told. B-.
Internship - not as good as the two stars are capable of being. actually, felt more like an extended google commercial than anything else. funniest part of the film was aasif mandvi's character. C.
Bachelorette - decent enough female-driven comedy with a good cast and some good writing. raunchy and sex/drugs-based humor mostly. it's funny because girls are saying it type stuff, but really it's just funny because it's dumb behavior. none of these people are your friends (hopefully) so you can watch the movie and laugh at their idiotic lives. B-.
Breaking Bad Season Four - this season may be the most iconic and known. it's the season that shows gus finally coming down thanks to walt and hector, it has skyler finally finding out everything and becoming like walt (with what she does to ted), it has walt laughing in his crawl space maniacally, and others i'm sure. great series and another great season. that said, this may be a step below seasons 2 and 3. A-.
Beverly Hills Cop - overrated action comedy. it seems like it has just about every 80s character actor there was - including jonathan banks (mike from breaking bad). other than that there really isn't much here to write about. C+.
Marinovich Project - documentary about todd marinovich. it's kind of a classic story. father pushes son too hard, son breaks when he smells freedom. it catalogs todd's extremely hard work, his father's unusual workouts, the hype surrounding both, the promise and the inevitable fall. todd still struggles with his drug abuse today, but it's good to see him talk about his past and be reflective. he talks about getting dirty looks from people because he threw away so much. he points out that it's his to throw away. it's a point of view you wouldn't normally hear. i don't entirely agree with it, but i understand it. when you reach that level, for better or worse, people place a lot of hopes in you. it's a tragic story and a not unfamiliar one.
it resonates with me because i'm from LA so i saw marinovich at usc and i saw my dad pin his hopes for the raiders on him. i think i have the potential to be a hard ass dad like marinovich sr. and of course i've seen drug abuse first hand as well. B+.
Crips And Bloods: Made In America - sprawling but good documentary on the evolution of the two notorious LA gangs. it gets into the black experience more broadly of the 60s-70s so it loses focus. i guess you could argue, though, that all of that context is integral to the evolution of the gangs. ends on a higher note by highlighting some of the guys who have gone good. they basically all agree that it comes down to personal decisions, but only after spending most of the film talking about all the societal factors that led them into the life in the first place. B.
Now You See Me - i was hoping for a little more. magic is fascinating and big reveals in movies are usually fun. it was entertaining enough, but nothing special. C+.
TED Talks: Life Hack - series of TED talks with the basic theme being living a happier, longer life. most of them had some interesting ideas, but i think they oversell the "science" of it all. most of the talks, for example, were about doing a few simple things each day to make yourself live x number of years longer. "put your arms up in a victory formation, hold them there for 10 seconds and now you'll reduce stress by 22% and live 7 minutes longer." that sort of thing. i doubt the veracity of the science, to be honest. i'm sure there is some truth to many of the findings, but i don't think it's as simple as they tend to present it.
some of the talks were funny, some had some touching stories to tell. one brought up the fact that leaders aren't as important as the first people to follow them. a crazy person yelling into the ether about jews being the problem with society is just crazy. the first people to follow that person make him a leader. taps into that idea that we give people power by paying attention to them. snookie isn't the problem so much as the idiots who watch her. B.
Car Wash - most of this 70s comedy is frankly pretty silly and pointless. just some dumb working class (mostly black) guys hanging out shooting the shit and listening to the radio (the soundtrack is an important one and features a couple songs sampled on paul's boutique). but there are little moments here and there when some truth comes to the surface. the guy who decides to enroll in college so his girlfriend won't leave him, the black muslim who tries robbing the place but is convinced not to by a guy who earlier threatened to walk out if the boss didn't talk to him about a raise. there are some moments of class and race commentary and reality that i think elevate it just enough from silly period comedy to somewhat notable film. those couple with the soundtrack explain why it has endured. B-.
Expendables 2 - these two films (a third is on its way) are about action/stunts and cameos/inside jokes. arnold has a role and he says "i'll be back" and bruce willis says "no, i'll be back" and arnold says "yippee kay yay." cheesey referential humor and lots of blowing stuff up. they film in 2nd and 3rd world countries so they can basically do whatever they want and if people die (one stunt guy did, i believe), well, no big deal. it's about as much machismo and bravado as you can fit into a film. most of the old stars are here. wesley snipes was replaced by terry crews because snipes was in IRS jail or whatever. harrison ford is supposed to be in the next one. they also have a girl in this one. this is a dumb movie. D.
Lockout - never saw this one advertised so i guess it went straight to dvd. basically an escape from new york type setup. guy pearce is good. maggie grace is fine. luc besson produced. not a bad flick on the whole, i could have seen it doing fine on the big screen, but it's nothing to write home about. C+.
We're The Millers - a little disappointing. road trip film with odd couple mixed in. nothing new here. some funny moments and jennifer aniston does a little striper dance so no complaints there. overall a missable comedy. C+.
House I Live In - documentary about the war on drugs. on the one hand the war on drugs has been a massive failure. this is in part due to the gradual move away from rehabilitation. nixon started the war on drugs and foolishly called it the number one threat to america or some such nonsense. but he also did a good thing by spending 67% of the funding on rehab. now, though, the war on drugs has been a war on drugs, rather than a war on drug abuse. i have a little to no problem with a war on drug abuse, which i do view has highly corrosive to the economy, the family, and individuals. i've seen it first hand and i can safely say it's not as simple as "just let adults make their own decisions."
unfortunately what we have now is an overly punitive and simplistic system that looks at any relationship with drugs as a bad one. it criminalizes every aspect of being around drugs (which suits the hard ass politicians and jail builders just fine) and does little to nothing to help people who need help. the film also points out the obvious things like the racism of drug policies - heroin is legal when white housewives are doing it to escape their shitty lives, but when the chinks do it it's awful and should be outlawed. cocaine is fine when the wall street types are doing it in their porsches off some chick's tits, but when a black guy adds baking soda (thereby making it crack) and smokes it, then it's 100 times worse. what can i say? we're racist assholes i guess.
it also claims that crack is actually used at the same rate in both the black and white communities, but that blacks are prosecuted for something like 90% of the crack crimes. this seems so racist and contrary to popular belief that i find it hard to believe. i'd like some corroboration on those facts. regardless, it's clear that non-whites get the shaft, as do men, when it comes to the administration of justice in this country. it's just much easier for people to believe that a black person or a man is guilty than it is to believe that a woman or a white person is guilty. B.
Too Big To Fail - decent enough film that goes over the financial collapse from an insiders' view. i think they make goldman sachs look better than they really are. same goes for hank paulson. not a bad first draft of history, though. B-.
Breaking Bad Season Three - everyone has their weaknesses now. jessie is weak. walt is egotistical. skyler is punitive. hank has a mean streak. marie is a liar. only walter junior is a reasonable human by this point in the series. though we like saul because he's a straight shooter (and very funny). great series that holds up a second time around. A.
Breaking Bad Season Two - there's a lot going on this season. skyler and walt grow apart in an irreconcilable way, it would seem. walt being the cause of jane's death and then choosing not to avert it was a critical turning point in his character for me. jesse continues to battle his demons. the plane crash and what it symbolizes and what causes it are central to the season and symbolic of a lot of different things. walt and hank as foils for each other is explored even more. walt as the manly egoist on the interior, but soft and gentle on the exterior contrasts hank's inner sensitivity and outside manliness and boisterous demeanor. junior, of course, is in the middle. wanting to be like uncle hank, but looking up to his dad. he's crippled so his desire is even more amplified than it might be for the average 16 year old.
skyler's character darkens and turns ugly. her flirtations with the boss, her lack of empathy for walt (though he is somewhat deserving of her ire, of course). she's a worthy adversary for walt. always suspecting, but only finding out the extent (though not the true nature) of walt's lies at the very end of the season. marie is exposed as also deeply flawed. overly concerned with outward appearances, a serial thief, unable to apologize for her weaknesses, unable to see the world outside of herself.
the only flaw of the series is the music. the sopranos had great music, especially towards the end. this is a series deserving of a great soundtrack, yet it has only an average one. the visuals, themes and characters are great. it would be a cherry on top to have those visuals matched to some great music. A.
Butter - somewhat funny indie comedy about butter sculpting in rural america. that's all i got. C+.
Special When Lit - documentary about pinball machines and pinball culture. takes after scrabylon and king of kong and spellbound and other documentaries that follow more esoteric competitions. this one doesn't center around the competitions, rather it focuses more on the pinball machine as a cultural item. pretty good little documentary with the usual cast of strange old white guys. B.
You Only Live Once - decent enough noir-ish fritz lang/henry fonda flick. it's pretty clear to me now that noir didn't start with citizen kane and end with touch of evil. it's much more nebulous than that. B-.
Backyard - documentary about trashy kids who wrestle in their backyard. they smash fluorescent light tubes over each others' heads and hit each other with barbed wire wrapped wood and that kind of crap. the documentary follows a few different groups of them in central california, nevada and even the UK. some of the adults support it because it's a better alternative than some of the other things they could be doing, or it's not much worse than football, or it teaches them not have an outlet for violence that is more controlled. i just think it's trashy kids beating each other up. watch it and you decide. B.
Breaking Bad Season One - more humor in the season than i recalled. also gets into the cooking meth quicker than i remembered. in thinking about it, i think it would have been nice to have a little more of a baseline established so we know what walt is like for longer prior to his getting diagnosed with cancer and getting into the drug business. A-.
Surviving Progress - this documentary covers a theme i've thought about for a while: at what point do we stop and say we're happy with our lives and our technological progress? the answer, of course, is never. which raise the issue of us outpacing our evolution with our technological abilities. if we were a highly intelligent and rational race then our prospects of survival would look good in spite of the military weaponry we possess and the numbers of people we have living off a finite number of resources on this planet. unfortunately, we're essentially still apes, but with much more powerful toys. they talk about progress traps, population and china. basically, we're screwed. B.
Houston, We Have A Problem - fairly balanced look at the energy situation in the u.s. every president talks about addressing our dependence on other countries for oil and energy, every president has failed to do something about it. obama has been the most successful, though i think he benefited from the fracking boom more than anything else. if we can solve the energy problem then a lot of other things start to fall into place. desalinization becomes realistic, we can get out of the middle east, the environment is less of an issue, etc. the sierra club president actually seemed pretty reasonable about making compromises on energy policy and described his ambitions as simply wanting big oil to think about energy from a 21st century point of view instead of being stuck with the old model. B.
Bernie - decent richard linklater/jack black collaboration. black is good in a different kind of role for him. not too far outside his comfort zone, but certainly outside his normal wheel house. captures small town texas living pretty well from what i can gather (linklater is from austin so he probably has some frame of reference). entertaining enough, but not highly recommended. B-.
God Bless America - didn't realize it until after the movie, but this is written/directed by bobcat goldthwait. it's about a middle aged guy who is just tired of americana - the stupid reality shows, people being selfish and mean, etc. he decides to kill a dumb teen reality star and then commit suicide, but a fellow classmate of the previous victim follows him and tells him he should keep up the good work. she's kind of a juno-esque character (which the movie acknowledges) - a precocious outsider. the rest of the film is basically catharsis for intellectuals and liberals who wish all the dumb people would die and the fox news types would just go away. so, it was entertaining enough for me since i sorta fall into those categories.
basically it's a somewhat funny movie that takes its message a little too seriously at times and gets on the soapbox a bit. idiocracy was better. B-.
Prison Break Season Four - certainly the worst season of the series which probably should have ended after only 3 seasons. this one goes a bridge too far and there are about 10 deus ex machina moments that stretch believability, to say the least. the two part finale seems like an afterthought and a way to end on an up note when the real chronological ending of the series is the remembrance of michael's death. the finale shows sara tancredi being broken out of jail and michael sacrificing himself to save her. i haven't quite worked out why he needed to die to create the electrical short circuit that damages the electronic lock so she can escape, but perhaps i've over thinking it. the end is nice in a sappy sort of way and that's probably what they were going for so whatever. a pretty good series with a final season that peters out and pulls its final punch. C+.
Classic Albums: Black Sabbath - Paranoid - one of the best albums of all-time. the riffs on this album are great and truly classic. the good thing about this series of one hour documentaries is that it breaks down albums to a greater extent than i tend to do when listening to them. an album like this just pounds away and gets my head bobbing and i don't often stop and think about the subtle musicianship that it holds. butler and ward are just a small notch below iommi in creating the sound and are pretty great in their own right. great record and a pretty good documentary about it. B.
Classic Albums: Metallica - Black Album - classic album from my youth. some say it's the first album of theirs that wasn't good. too produced, nothing else matters is too touchy feely, they sold out, etc. i think it's a great record, but my favorite remains "...and justice for all." though the production on that one was lacking, and maybe it's a bit too sprawling at times, it's still a great record. the documentary gets into some of the drama around making this record. friction within the band, with the producer, etc. it seems as thought metallica just always has drama (watch "some kind of monster" for more on that). it's cool to see here the beginnings of the s&m album, their thoughts on the justice album, and their thoughts on how far to push each element of a track into the mix. getting a window into the creative process was more evident in this installment than the other two "classic albums" documentaries that i saw. B.
It's A Disaster - indie comedy about a couples' lunch date that goes wrong. one couple reveals that they're divorcing, one couple is newly formed and the guy (david cross) turns out to be a jesus freak, oh and then they find out that the country is under attack and they're all going to die. silly conceit aside, it's a funny little film with a decent cast. B-.
My Awkward Sexual Adventure - one of those movies where you instantly know that the lead character is also the writer. i don't know how i picked up on this (i didn't look at the cast list), but it's pretty obvious right away. reminiscent of eric shaeffer's "fall" in that way. it's a pretty funny indie comedy. nothing particularly special, but certainly watchable. not sure why this doesn't get released in 1,000 theaters but some other, lesser, films do. no big producer behind this, i guess. B-.
Classic Albums: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon - one of the best albums of all-time. very rich and textured. the lyrics seem to appeal almost universally, which explains the record being on the charts for almost 750 weeks. it's just a phenomenal record with all sorts of depth, yet the sometimes simplistic lyrics easily draw you in. B.
Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious - some recycled content here from his "true stories i made up" routine, but i guess it's original enough. good routine overall. B+.
Aziz Ansari: Dangerously Delicious - both these stand-up routines from ansari are decent. i like him more in smaller doses like when he's on parks and rec or other supporting roles in sitcoms or comic films. he's a funny guy, but not funny enough to be engaged for more than an hour. perhaps it's his immature humor - funny in drips and drabs. B-.
Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening - B-.
Prison Break Season Three - t-bag is just a great character and so is "susan b. anthony" who is later revealed to be gretchen morgan (jodi lyn o'keefe). o'keefe does a great job with a really well written character. she's so devious and smart. much worse than the average villain who is dumb and mean without thought. this is a shortened season and the last really decent one. B.
Spring Breakers - less weird than gummo and less impactful than kids. it's about a group of four girls who rob a diner to get money to go to florida during spring break. while there they get hooked up with james franco who plays a trashy thug. like kids, this film seems to more or less present things as they happen, without judgment. so, some of the time you could call it a glorification and other times you could call it a cautionary tale. not really sure what to make of the ending or the purpose of the entire film, for that matter. kids seemed more real and gritty than this one and possibly like it had a point whereas this one may not. C+.
Bill Burr: Why Do I Do This? - one of my three favorite active comedians. he tells it like he sees it from his perspective and is emotionally honest. similar to louis c.k. in this way. funny guy and a good show. B+.
Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional - not very funny or insightful aussie comic. C-.
Louis C.K.: Live At The Beacon Theater - probably the best stand-up comic working today. he's very emotionally aware and honest. he does cringe comedy and personal stories and more thought-provoking material all in one show, sometimes in one bit. good stuff. B+.
Place Beyond The Pines - actually watched this a while ago, but forgot to review it. more like three movies in one. not sure of the point of the film. circle of violence? looper-esque in that way, i suppose. all the stories were good and the whole thing was well directed and performed. ultimately, though, i was left scratching my head. i guess lately i've been wanting movies, people, etc. to just tell me what they mean rather than speaking in code. B-.
Bill Burr: You People Are All The Same - more recent work than the other two shows of his that i've heard. very much bill burr in its themes and content. B+.
Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe - gaffigan is a funny guy and he does his usual schtick here. talks a lot about food and his body and parenthood. usual topics for a lot of comics, but gaffigan has a particular point of view and i like him. wholesome stuff to balance out louis c.k. and bill burr. B.
Forbidden Planet - classic sci-fi flick. decent enough plot and acting-wise. sets and soundtrack are notable. first known reference to adamantium so far as i know. pre-dates the x-men comics. B.
Prison Break Season Two - continues to keep the action and tension up. B.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II - one of the worst films i've ever seen based on a book by one of the worst "philosophers" of all time. ayn rand can't be taken seriously in any real academic way and yet she's possibly the most famous philosopher today and probably the most influential in conservative u.s. politics. astonishing.
the second film in the series is basically a reboot. i didn't recognize any of the same actors from the first film to the second. not sure what the story there is. i guess they all figured out that the first one was bad enough. just awful from top to bottom. F-.
Hot Coffee - documentary about tort reform. it begins talking about the hot coffee lawsuit that everyone has heard of. some moronic old lady spills coffee on herself while driving and gets a couple million from mcdonald's. only trouble is, this story isn't true. the lid was defective, the coffee was kept at 180-190 degrees, she wasn't driving, mcdonald's had received many complaints about this in the past, the award ended up being reduced, etc. sensationalist media strikes again.
the documentary essentially makes the case that tort lawsuits are the only recourse for the average person against big business. true enough and a cause i'm sympathetic towards. that said, i do think we have too many lawsuits, too many lawyers, and not enough common sense. difficult issue in part because there are absurd anecdotes to prove both points. people who sue insurance companies for silly reasons and big companies getting away with unsafe practices because they have an army of lawyers. B.
Prison Break Season One - pretty good series so far. wentworth miller strikes me as a good actor, but as the series continues i discovered he basically has one or two modes and that's it. that said, that's about all he needs for this character so it works.
they do a good job of ramping up the tension within each show. it's contrived hysteria of course, but it works and is a fun show. the primary focus here is on plot and entertainment. interplay of characters is next and characterization is last. but, because of the long form format of TV, they are able to insert enough characterization that you actually end up caring.
t-bag is the pedophile southerner who slithers like a snake and always finds a way to stay in the game and keep himself afloat. great character. B.
Human Centipede - much ado about nothing, really. sounded like a good idea for a campy horror flick (mad german scientist experiments on joining two american women and a japanese man to each other via surgery to create a human centipede), but it doesn't really deliver beyond the initial idea. he joins them and the only funny thing that happens is when the japanese guy eats...well, he eventually has to get rid of it and since they're all joined mouth to ass, it doesn't work out so well for the woman behind him. nice idea though. D.
Whores' Glory - reminiscent of "body without soul," though not quite as harrowing as that documentary. it's about prostitutes who live in bangladesh, thailand, and mexico. we spend a third of the film in each country. very fly on the wall and doesn't comment in anyway that i could discern, either through editing or framing. there does seem to be a theme of how religion plays a role in their lives (hence the name which is a riff on "god's glory"). for example, a prostitute in bangladesh is instructed by her woman pimp to not give oral sex. "just tell the client that my mouth is for reciting the word of god, not for sex." bizarre stuff.
life is pretty simple for these women, though. they have sex, they get paid, they do drugs (the ones in mexico), and that's their life. i did the conversion for the ones in thailand ($30/hr) and bangladesh ($1.40/trick - garment workers make about $38/month, for reference). it's pretty amazing. documentaries like this are good to watch from time to time to be reminded how the other half lives. the prostitutes don't hang out on international blvd. as much these days so i don't have the near daily reminder of seeing them. B+.
Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home - another in the "how the other half lives" series, this one recommended by netflix because of whores' glory. decent enough documentary that follows some of the homeless of skid row for a while. the tragedy here is that we don't care for our mentally ill in this country. some of these people are on the streets because they make bad decisions (olympic sprinter who got himself into drug use), but the majority are there because they have legitimate mental problems. unfortunately we tend to sweep them all under the rug and say they got there because of bad choices in life. sometimes true, mostly not. B-.
Park Avenue: Money, Power And The American Dream - also recommended by netflix. this one is a pretty succinct documentary summing up a lot of the stuff you've probably seen, heard, and read before about income inequality in this country.
part of the problem with the 99% mantra is that it's really about the 99.9%. some people belong to the 1% and make $300k or $1 mil a year and feel maligned by the 99% talk because they are being punished for what they probably worked hard for. in reality, the problem is with the .1% who are really running things. this documentary rightly points out that the 400 richest individuals in the country have as much wealth as the bottom half of the country. 400 people own as much as 150 million people. this has been pointed out by michael moore and others and one of the fact checking sites i looked it up on a while back said it was essentially a
true statement. this is the one fact that we should be pounding on relentlessly. B.
Angel Face - pretty familiar setup if you've seen a few film noirs. pretty girl, hapless guy, murdered husband. the ending of this one is pretty fucking stark. after robert mitchum gets off and is about to rid himself of the femme fatale she convinces him to let her drive him to the airport before he says goodbye to her crazy ass forever. she immediately james the car in reverse and sends them both off a cliff. game over. awesome. B.
Eye See You - was on showtime so i watched it. say what you will about sly stone, but he's probably the most thoughtful of the meathead action guys - arnold, dolph, , van damme, the rock, etc. his films aren't always the best, but i feel like he chooses stories that have more emotional impact or more thoughtful scripts. arnold was in better films overall, but i think sly is probably a more introspective actor (though it's all relative).
this isn't a very good film, but it has a lot of b-level actors which is interesting and there is some emotional resonance. it's about a cop who is chasing a serial killer who ends up killing his wife. he goes into a downward spiral and then rehab, but the killer finds him at a remote clinic and haunts him there during a blizzard. it's kinda like the thing in this way. remote, cold location with a killer among us. in the end he gets the guy and is able to move on from the guilt of having his wife murdered as a result of his job. not elegant or particularly good, but not bad either and does have another level beyond the thriller aspect. C+.
A Separation - not sure why this got so much hype and a 99% on rotten tomatoes.com. it's a nice enough story with some touching elements, a title with a double meaning, some heavy themes, and a rashomon-esque ambiguity that people seem to love. it was also well-acted and directed. that said, it's only mildly compelling and certainly not a masterpiece. B-.
Parks And Recreation Season Four - one of the better seasons to date. all the characters are funny and well defined. none of them (with the possible exception of ron swanson) could carry a show on their own, but when you get a couple laughs out of a half dozen people, it adds up for a good show. chris pratt is hilarious as a real life homer simpson of sorts, amy poehler is reliably humorous, nick offerman as ron swanson the libertarian government worker is truly great, aziz ansari is good for a couple laughs a show, and aubrey plaza's dour and deadpan april ludgate also brings laughs. i can't think of a better comedic ensemble on tv today. B+.
Contraband - skipable action-ish film with mark wahlberg, ben foster and giovanni ribisi. it has the longshoreman smuggling angle that season two of the wire had. it has double crossing and some plot-based suspense, but not much real substance. C.
Admission - not as good as the talent involved should have made it. i like paul rudd but he didn't bring much here. tina fey can be very funny, but we only see little glimmers of that here. there's some heart warming stuff here and there that only works a little bit. missable. C+.
Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret Season Two- funny series. B+.
Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret Season One - pretty great little show. season one is like six episodes long and doesn't have any kind of ending. not sure why they split the series into two seasons.
david cross is hilarious and the whole setup of the show it simple, but effective.
as the title suggests, the series is about a guy who keeps making worse and worse decisions...to great comic effect. essentially he digs himself into a deeper and deeper hole with every new lie he tells the people around him. it's cringe comedy with some base humor and it works pretty well for me. B+.
Community Season Four - the first season without dan harmon (the show's creator). it reminds me of the scene in barton fink when john goodman says he can get anyone to write a book like fink, but he wants the real barton fink (the barton fink touch). this season has the feel of dan harmon, but it's a little off. B.
Heat - pretty good star vehicle/odd couple cop film with mccarthy and bullock. not as good as i thought it was going to be and a little longer. could have used a punch up. B-.
Undeclared Season One - another one and done for apatow (freaks and geeks being the other with many of the same cast members). this isn't as good or ambitious as FAG (oops, bad acronym), but it has some solid laughs and reaches for more emotional depth (an apatow signature) than the average sitcom. good, but not as much of a bummer to see it go away after only one season. B.
White House Down - owes a great debt to die hard, though it doesn't touch its greatness. overly long and a little bit of a weak ending. watchable. C+.
World War Z - good apocalypse/zombie flick. nice to see pitt do a more straightforward film after a few films in a row where it seemed he was looking for an oscar. satisfying popcorn fare. B.
Scary Movie 5 - the first two in this series were actually good films. this one is complete crap. a couple horror film references, but it's more of a pop culture reference-based farce at this point. not much of redeeming quality here. F.
Community Season Three - good and smart comedy and you never know where it's going next. must be fun for the actors who are asked to do a lot of different stuff from espisode to episode. B.
Movie 43 - not as bad as i thought it was going to be. features several vignettes with different casts and directors. some are better than others. overall a watchable film with a raunchy sense of humor and a lot of cameos. C.
Taken 2 - it goes without saying that this one isn't as good as the original. these films never are and the original was especially good. that said, it's still produced by besson and follows the formula well enough to be entertaining. the action is decent enough and allowing maggie grace to get in on the action makes it a little more interesting. B.
Purge - good idea, but it quickly turns into just a home invasion thriller. it takes place in an alternate reality wherein a yearly purge is allowed. during this 12 hour purge citizens of the u.s. are allowed to commit any crime they want. i can see some young writer who originally came up with the idea as a sort of social commentary getting pretty pissed off as the idea turns into a film that loses sight of that element as it progresses. the class and human nature elements of the thought experiment are brought up, but not deeply explored; unfortunately. C+.
Elway To Marino - 30 for 30 documentary about the 1983 draft. more drama than i knew about and evidently was the first draft that really caused people to think of the draft as a spectator event in and of itself. interesting that elway used his two sport abilities the same way that bo jackson did, before bo did. also ties in nicely to another 30 for 30 about the colts moving in the middle of the night from baltimore to indy. irsay (colts owner) was a douche. B.
Iron Man 3 - pretty good addition to the franchise and a better example of what a superhero movie should be. the action and gadgetry are nice and there's some good comic relief. the end seems to indicate that stark is done being ironman, but of course it can all be undone should they choose to make another film (they probably will). it's interesting to note that hollywood has gone away from selling films as star vehicles and moved towards going with franchises or tried and true stories and finding stars to plug into those roles. B-.
Man Of Steel - disjointed money grab with some good effects and eye candy, but little else. the stuff with kevin costner (superman's dad) was good, everything else was mediocre at best. flop. D.
American Dad Season Seven - the last season available on netflix so i'm done for now. roger is a classic character. B.
Alias Season One - some good moments and intrigue in the series, but overall not good enough to sustain my attention. probably better viewed as a weekly series than as a binge series where you're watching 2-3 episodes a night until the season is done. we decided not to continue with this one.
episodes called the box are a ripoff/homage of/to die hard. they even have a shout out to john mctiernan with a "mctiernan plumbing" van that the terrorists use to sneak into the building.
garner is good, but they make her more emotional and stupid (at times) than i would have expected for this kind of james bond character. after reading the plot synopsis for the remainder of the series i'm glad we're not going to stick with it. it seems to meander and get ridiculous ala lost. j.j. abrams is better when he keeps things a little more simple ala the star trek movies. long form tv shows just allow him too much time to come up with ridiculous twists and turns and i'm not the type of viewer who likes to keep up with all that extraneous crap. C+.
American Dad Season Six - actually watched this out of order. still a good series. B.
American Dad Season Five - still good. B.
American Dad Season Four - many sleepless nights have caused me to watch this series at an accelerated rate. watching this while calming a baby is better than calming a baby without watching this.
humor is what keeps us sane in some situations. don't underestimate the power of humor. that's basically the lesson you get from sullivan's travels and it holds well here as well. B.
American Dad Season Three - roger's character continues to grow and get more wacky and have fewer boundaries. funny character.
also like the post-modern aspects of the show. commenting on narrative techniques like when stan walks in on his wife talking on the phone and she says something like "i just don't know if i can handle it anymore, sis." and then says "i never call you sis, do i? it's almost as if i was saying it just so people know who i'm talking to." B.
Arrested Development Season Four - the first few episodes took me a bit to get used to. it's a different storytelling style and it had been a while since i watched the series. as the season goes on, though, things come together more and the plot style doesn't detract from the humor as much as it does early on. i'd probably
do well to watch it again. arrested development has a lot of depth so watching it again for that and the early plot points that were over my head, would make sense. B+.
American Dad Season Two - i suppose it's fitting that i watch this before and after the birth of my daughter. this is a pretty decent series and this season provided the background to us bringing zoe home. we watched plenty of this at 4am in the morning. B.
American Dad Season One - not as good as family guy, but better than i thought it was from the few snippets i had seen before. a get a decent laugh each episode. B.
Office Season Two - see below. B+.
Veronica Mars Season Three - a very good series overall. wish it had continued. B+.
Hangover Part III - so, the second was too much like the first so they got dumped on for it and this was the result. they don't blackout and so the film doesn't follow the formula. as a result, it's the worst of the three. zach galifnilkjasdfwera is the center of the comedy again and doesn't disappoint, but this one isn't up to the standard of the previous two.
chow takes on more of a role as well and he's funny, but not amazing. good film by itself, but not up to the hangover standard overall. C+.
Fast And Furious 6 - an awful film, but that's basically what we've come to expect from this series. the dialogue is bad. the characters are dumb. it's a dumb movie for a dumb audience.
the rock is basically a cartoon character at this point. he's all roided up and ridiculous.
stunts are great and there are some good ones for women. other than that and some occasional eye candy, this is basically just a piece of crap. D-.
Office Season One - with the american series coming to an end i figured it was a good time to revisit the original.
overall i'd say the original is definitely the weaker series. it doesn't develop the characters nearly to the same extent that the american version does. to be fair, though, the entire british run is the same length of a single season of the american, so it's not exactly apples to apples.
the boss in the british version is far less redeemable compared to the boss in the american version. steve carrell brought a sensitivity and humanity to the character that ricky gervais did not. as a result the happy ending of the british version came off as more contrived than the sappy happy ending of the american version. so, while the british version had a contrived ending, the american version had a perhaps overly sappy one. pick your poison.
the jim/pam or tim/dawn relationship always felt better in the american version. pam isn't a great actress so some of the more heartfelt moments rang a little false to me. overall, though, the american version's love interest portion of the show was more fulfilling.
the last major component is the dwight/gareth character. dwight is many times more funny than gareth. enough said there. the american version also did better with the pranks that jim played on dwight. they were more creative and more funny. the jokes in the british version were mainly just double entendres about gareth being a military man/gay innuendo.
the british version also had a lot more sexual comedy than the american version. i wouldn't say it was overly crass, but it relied too much upon that for humor. i didn't remember that from the first time i saw the series. B+.
Veronica Mars Season Two - continues to be a fun and entertaining series. the characters are well developed and acted. they also do a good job of having short and long-term plot lines which keep you engaged on a couple levels. this season's long-term plot line was a little too involved and intricate for me, but i also didn't watch with my undivided attention and that's never helpful. officially looking forward to the movie.
veronica is one of the better female tv characters i've seen. other than her trouble with boys, i wouldn't mind a daughter like her. B+.
Female - gets into some nitty gritty stuff on gender relations and roles. it's about a wealthy and powerful woman (ruth chatterton) who runs a car company. she's a player who draws men up to her room, gives them vodka and then does the old fuck and chuck routine. keep in mind this is a film that was released in 1933. eventually, though, she falls for some guy and when he finds out she can be pretty cut throat, he doesn't like it. so she plays like she's a soft and ignorant woman and he likes her more. it's pretty interesting to see all this stuff explored in such an early film. it's kinda like what they did in adam's rib, but with a pre-code feel to it. in the end there is an almost obligatory turn wherein chatterton decides she'll stop running the company and have 9 kids with the guy instead. with everything else that the film does, i assume this ending was tacked on to satisfy some producer or something. it was released after the hays code began, but before it was really enforced.
interestingly the film had three directors (all of whom were great, only one of them got credit): william dieterle, william wellman, michael curtiz (credited). don't think i've ever seen a chatterton film before, but she was really good here. B+.
Three On A Match - didn't watch this one as closely as i should have. the ending, though, is pretty shocking stuff. it involves a mother who is strung out on drugs jumping out of a 4th story window in order to save her kidnapped son. and this film was released in 1932. these forbidden hollywood pictures make me wonder where we would have been today had it not been for the hays code. on the one hand many of the greatest films ever were done under the restrictions of the code. on the other hand maybe it would have been good to get the crazy stuff out of our system earlier? i dunno. while the film never really grabbed me the dark ending was intriguing and i'd watch it again. marvin leroy was an early noir influence, at least tonally speaking. B-.
Divorcee - another from the forbidden hollywood series of pre-code films. about a couple who separate because he cheats on her and she cheats on him out of retaliation. in the end they reconcile and things end positively. this isn't the best of the boxsets, but it's not bad. norma shearer is good as usual. B-.
Pain & Gain - michael bay's version of a true crime story about a few idiot body-builders who decide to extract wealth from a couple rich people. it's a story about the american dream as realized by some fairly average american people. they range in intelligence from average to below average, they think they're hard workers, they have very little self-perspective. they think the world owes them something. it's a nice looking film about the sordid underbelly of society. a very american film in these ways. B.
Free Soul - pretty wicked little picture about a father (lionel barrymore) and daughter (norma shearer). there is some implied incest early on - when we are introduced to the characters we get the impression that they are lovers. she is getting dressed in another room while he reads the paper and she refers to him as honey and things like that. he comments on how good she looks, etc. not very appropriate father-daughter talk. of course, this is classic pre-code stuff here and you almost begin to wonder if the Hays commission had a point after watching a film like this.
shearer eventually gets romantically involved with her father's murderer/gambler client (clark gable) and the father does nothing to protect her from this guy. barrymore a lawyer) is able to get gable off of murder charges in an OJ-esque moment when he has gable try on a hat which the murderer is supposed to have left at the crime scene. the hat doesn't fit so the jury must acquit. amazingly prescient.
gable turns abusive, shearer "spends the night" at his home, etc. all bad news for a nice, proper girl. it is leslie howard (another potential suitor of sheaer's) who is forced to stop gable from wedding shearer (who by now wants out of the relationship, but can't escape). in the end, the father takes blame for the fall of his daughter into the world of depravity and abuse. he should have taken care of her, but he was too drunk to do anything about it.
i watched this over the course of a couple days and was dozing off, so i had to go back and rewatch some parts. despite those not ideal conditions, i can tell you that this is a great little film. B+.
Veronica Mars Season One - it's a modern day take on sherlock holmes, encyclopedia brown or even murder she wrote. all these are pretty fun mystery works that surround a precocious and affable (to the audience anyway) character. veronica is a high school student so it's a little bit unusual, but it makes for a more
fun show. kristen bell is great.
the show has some good pop culture references, some playful moments, some deeper moments where it comments on class issues, etc. pretty well rounded show with plenty of material to chew on and entertainment along the way. B.
Waterloo Bridge - another pre-code film. this one is about a woman of the night who is helped by a soldier during an air raid. a romance begins, but she feels guilty because of her job and he doesn't know and ends up not caring anyway. he's from a well-to-do family and she never feels like she fits in so he has to chase her. kind of a precursor to pretty woman. the ending is anything but happy. it was remade in 1940. B+.
Red Headed Woman - part of the forbidden hollywood boxset that features some prominent/notable precode films. this is a pretty sordid little tale of a woman who is a gold digger and home wrecker. there's some risque sex talk/sexual innuendo, some physical abuse, and lots of adultery. jean harlow is a bad girl and she doesn't exactly pay for it in the end. good film, especially for fans of 30s and precode cinema. B.
Executive Suite - second time i've seen this one. story about a furniture company that loses its president and faces a choice about the path it wants to take in the future. william holden is the dynamic dreamer who wants to make great furniture and have a sense of pride in the work he's making. fredric march is the penny pinching spreadsheet type who wants to make the company profitable and appealing to its shareholders above all. it's interesting not just because of the money/pride battle that goes on, but also because, even in 1953, they were already talking about a turn towards less quality products for the sake of saving money. we normally glorify the time as a golden age when america still made great things, but the film seems to counter that view a bit; or, at least, be prescient about the downfall of that paradigm. great film. A-.
East Side, West Side - great film about a wife (stanwyck) married to a guy (james mason) who can't keep his snake in his trousers. granted, he's got a thing for ava gardner, so it's at least a little understandable, but still. gardner is strictly evil in her pursuit of mason and makes no bones about it. no words are minced and there's very little subtext. she wants mason and that's all there is to it.
like breaking bad it leaves me with the conclusion that driving the person who loves you out of love is just about the saddest thing a person can experience. in both cases, mason and walter white have a loving, trusting, and committed wife who finds out about lies and falls out of love as a result. for the women they have men who aren't happy with good enough and go off the rails, destroying what was once a functional relationship. the film depicts all this with interest and emotion. another underrated mervin leroy film. B+.
Trance - not sure what to say about this one. it's a mind-fucker that i mostly enjoyed while watching. at the end, though, i was underwhelmed by the final reveal. thinking back on it i didn't think too much of it. didn't see much of a point and wasn't as into it as i usually am with danny boyle. overall i was a bit disappointed. C.
My Reputation - another stanwyck film. this one is about a widow who wants to move on with her life, but is pressured into constant mourning by her mother and society at large. reminiscent of all that heaven allows in some ways, though not as good. these films of stanwyck's do more to depict the hardships of women in society than most anything we see today. not an amazing film, but just solid entertainment and a good story. they just don't write them like this anymore. B-.
24 Season One - the name of the series says a lot about it. mostly that it can be boiled down to the shtick of the series - each season is 24 episodes long and each episode covers (in supposed real-time) one real hour. beyond that the series doesn't offer a whole lot. there's some entertainment value and some nice twists and turns along the way, but ultimately 24 episodes is just too many to sustain the suspense and attention level. there's very little ebb and flow. very little character development (how could there be?). we decided to stick the first season out and not go any further, especially after hearing that the first season is the best.
the world as depicted in this season is a pretty ugly dystopia. everyone is out to get you. no one can be trusted. noir-ish. C.
Great Santini - story about a hot shot fighter pilot who also happens to be a hot head and all around a-hole. totally full of himself and has a bloated sense of his own importance. not only referring to himself in the third person, but even referring to himself as "the great santini." what a jerk. duvall is good as always. blythe danner used to be pretty good looking. sad story because it's the kind of thing that probably happens pretty frequently. guy is full of himself, takes out insecurities on those closest to him. men can be jerks.
seems to get a little off focus when it follows the black stutterer who gets picked on by the town bullies. wasn't sure what the point of it was. bullying in another form, i guess, but it seemed off topic. B-.
Annie Oakley - another in the stanwyck boxset that i'm going through now. this one tells the story of the hot shot shooter who rose from obscurity. it also happens to have a decent little love story built-in. nice story. a couple smiles and some sad moments. it's a good little biopic. doesn't stray into hagiography, just tells the interesting story of annie oakley and entertains along the way. B.
Jeopardy - another great little stanwyck film. this one is directed by john sturges and has ralph meeker as the bad guy. family goes to mexico and father/husband gets pinned under a fallen pier. the wife (stanwyck) needs to drive for hours back to a little town to retrieve some rope and/or help. instead she runs into a convict (meeker) who takes her hostage. in the end things work out, but it's a great ride and all the performers do a great job. the little kid is an adorable and dutiful son. probably not as cute as the kid in shane, though. nice picture. B+.
To Please A Lady - started on my barbara stanwyck boxset now that the abbott and costello one is done. this is about a hotshot race car driver (clark gable) and a very successful columnist (stanwyck) who both have strong personalities. she doesn't think much of him and even thinks he's guilty of killing a man because he doesn't let another driver by while a race is going on. they have a push-pull relationship for most of the film. he chases her and she retreats when he exhibits traits that remind her of the attitude he had after the other racer died. essentially he writes it off as something that happens when you race, and that he's not guilty of anything. "it's all part of the game" as omar might say. eventually she understands his point of view after a column she runs "causes" the subject to commit suicide. in the final race (indy 500) he allows another driver to pass during a crash and loses the race as a result (he drives into the dirt and crashes). this selfless act and her newfound perspective allow them to finally be together.
other than gable's somewhat mysogynistic manhandling of stanwyck early in the film, this is a pretty great little film and i don't know why i hadn't heard of it before. there's a lot going on here and both actors are up to the task. B+.
Ride 'Em Cowboy - another a&c film (the last in my boxset). this one is about a writer who claims to be a great cowboy (at his agent's urging), but actually hasn't ever ridden a horse. he falls for a girl who is a hotshot rider herself and doesn't like what a poseur he is. eventually he wins her over by doing the right thing and learning how to ride. about average for them. B-.
Keep 'Em Flying - the a&c part of this film is the usual stuff. the other part is a bit better than usual. it's about a hot shot pilot who joins the air force and has to learn to keep his macho personality under control. one of their more fully developed film ideas. B.
Who Done It? - it's kinda like a agatha christie film by abbott and costello. a little better than their average effort. a murder occurs during a radio mystery play, hilarity ensues. these abbott and costello films are almost like two films in one. there's the abbott and costello stuff where they run around being idiots and doing their gags and then there's the real film. it's as if the studio didn't have a full film idea so they took 45 minutes worth of a film and added abbott and costello to fill in the rest of the 80 minute runtime. they even recycle some of their jokes. i paid 5 cents for this? what a gyp. B.
Pardon My Sarong - abbot and costello go to an island and hilarity ensues. not particularly distinguishable from their other films. B-.
44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out - tv movie about the infamous 1997 bank robbery in north hollywood. despite some good talent (ron livingston, michael madsen), this is a pretty bad movie. the subject is pretty interesting - two guys shoot hundreds of rounds at cops after a bank robbery goes wrong. it led to all sorts of talk about the weapons citizens can have and the weapons cops carry. it also left only the two robbers dead, which is remarkable. the film does a good job of showing it how it actually went down. if you compare the movements of the men on the youtube videos and the dramatic reenactments, you'll see that they're almost identical. unfortunately, the film is overly dramatized and stylized. C-.
Buck Privates - abbott and costello are like the marx brothers meets the three stooges or something. they're not as funny as keaton or as intellectual as chaplin or the marx brothers. i like their logic and math jokes. this one, like many of their other films, has the andrew sisters in for a few numbers. i could do without the musical interludes.
they hold the flag for the military here which is pretty much to be expected given the time period. amazing how much hollywood was behind that war and not so much with the others. maybe hollywood is more discerning than some would think. B-.
One Night In The Tropics - another abbott and costello flick. pretty indicative of their work overall and their film debut. it has some logic/math stuff and an abbreviated version of their famous "who's on first?" routine. it also has the andrew sisters and allan jones as a crooning insurance salesman who sells love insurance to his friend. basically it's a vehicle for some music and comedy. nothing spectacular here, but probably a decent place to start your introduction to abbott and costello. B-.
Wire Season Five - pretty great series overall. the last two seasons are the best. season two is fine, but a relative low point in the series.
this one follows the newspaper people as they cover local politics and the serial killer in the city. along with the lying cops and politicians, the lying media further demonstrates how effed up the whole system is. individuals lying to further their careers or interests. the people who play it straight are mostly not in power and mostly not rewarded for their straight-laced efforts. perhaps a bit cynical, but probably not altogether inaccurate either.
the ending does a good job of bringing together all the different threads and reminding us just how big and complex society can be. it's like the kurtis blow song - 8 million stories. every individual is another story and the wire does a great job of telling just a few of the ones revolving around the drug trade.
it humanizes many of the institutions and struggles that we are aware of, but perhaps forget (probably out of mental necessity) from time to time.
the series doesn't pull any punches. people you like and hate will die or disappear. things will go well and not so well. omar, bubbles, bodie, wallace, stringer, barksdale, mcnulty, etc. they all change or die or whatever despite being big characters or you pulling for them. sopranos did this also (and earlier).
well-acted throughout. well-written. pretty damn realistic on the whole. smart. this is one of the best ever. glad i came back to it. A-.
Hold That Ghost - abbott and costello comedy with some scary elements. costello is played for the fool as usual. in this case he's going crazy seeing things move around in a haunted (ish) house while his friends think everything is just fine. a couple good bits. C+.
T.A.M.I. Show - late 1964 concert film with the talents of seemingly everyone who was popular at the time (minus the beatles). stones, beach boys, supremes, marvin gaye, jan and dean, chuck berry, james brown, and others. good for a variety of reasons. first, the music is great. short bursts of energy instead of one long set from a single group. no single artist plays more than 4 songs (or thereabouts) so you never get bored. it's also cool to see all the teenagers going crazy. it reinforces the idea that teenagers are probably the same regardless of generation (namely insane bundles of hormones). james brown's dancing stood out as a highlight. B.
Olympus Has Fallen - die hard-esque in its setup. the film itself is a bit cheesy though mostly entertaining enough. what strikes me, though, is the number of recent films about society under siege. is it a continued post-9/11 paranoia? is it the "liberal" hollywood media commenting on obama the kenyan usurper? red dawn the remake, olympus has fallen, g.i. joe, dark knight rises, etc. C+.
Better Off Ted Season Two - gets better as the series progresses. i actually would have liked to see another season or two, but the series was cancelled because of poor ratings. they never even aired the final two episodes, but netflix (and others) have them. the business of tv shows is almost as interesting as watching the actual shows. B-.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - one of three films to win the big 5 in the AA (best pic, director, screenplay, actor, and actress). it's also my favortie of those three (silence of the lambs and it happened one night being the other two). it's in my top 25 primarily for the ending i suppose, but the rest of the film has plenty to offer. there's a lot going on. i used to think that nurse ratchet was pure evil. i now see what milos forman intended (and says as much in the commentary) - that those in power in the hospital are basically well-meaning but deeply mis-guided. evil is a pretty rare thing. we don't need evil to be present in order for bad things to happen.
chief, billy, nurse ratchet, mcmurphy.
there just so much interplay in this film. the power struggle, the spirit that mcmurphy brings. the latent power that chief has. billy's internal guilt and mommy issues. the institution as a symbol of oppression yet most of them are there voluntarily. if i had the time and disposition i'd read the book because it's probably even deeper. great film. A+.
Call - brad anderson directs his best movie to date (though some will [wrongly] state that session 9 is superior). it's a taut thriller that gets your heart beating pretty much right away. i felt the stress of the 911 operators right out of the gate and was immersed throughout. recommended. B+.
Better Off Ted Season One - started watching this a while back and finally got around to finishing it. it's not a great series, but it's good enough to fall asleep to. there are some laugh out loud moments and a few chuckles throughout. it has an offbeat humor and they try to sex it up (probably for the ratings). it only lasted two seasons. C+.
Wire Season Four - the best season to date, and probably going to be better than season five. this one tackles education along with the usual drug trade stuff. the last two episodes are majorly depressing. the whole season/series pretty much confirms everything i feel about what's wrong with the education system and struggling cities. lack of quality parents. teachers and administrators failing. teaching to the test undermining the socialization effort. politicians caring about money and power over doing the right thing. good voices being drowned out by the majority. i could go on forever. just watch it. A-.
In The Navy - wartime abbott and costello film. a few laugh out loud moments and some nice gags. their humor is most reminiscent of the marx brothers to me. verbal humor, circular/odd logic, etc. the marx brothers were deeper and more broad, though. this is a nice film for the time - it has musical elements, good humor, and carries the flag for the war effort. B-.
Three Strangers - another jean negulesco directed warner film. this one was weirder than nobody lives forever. similar to maltese falcon in a couple ways - plot, greentreet/lorre, huston co-wrote this; they were probably trying to capitalize on that film a bit. this doesn't have the same cache that that film did. it also felt a bit muddled and lost by comparison. they can't all be winners i guess. C.
Nobody Lives Forever - pretty good noir about a con artist who comes back for one more score. unfortunately he falls for the woman he's supposed to be conning and yada yada yada. pretty typical setup with some good actors (john garfield, walter brennan, and geraldine fitzgerald [new to me]). i was expecting a darker ending. B-.
Americanization Of Emily - same writer as network and has some similarities, though it isn't as good. the core of the film's importance stems from the anti-war stance it takes. james garner's character is a self-described coward who hates war and thinks that those who glorify it, or those who die in the the name of it, are the reason for it continuing. he has a point. if we didn't glorify those who serve in the military or sacrifice themselves in times of war, perhaps we wouldn't go to war so often. it's a similar idea that is raised in all quiet on the western front or the poem "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" (it is sweet and becoming to die for one's country. of course the flip side to that is that sometimes it really is a great sacrifice and we should laud those who are willing to fight the necessary fight.
overall a decent film, but the romance angle didn't do much for me. B-.
Portlandia Season Two - quirky and funny show with short plots. breezed through this season real fast. i know one of the people whose house was used in an episode. so that's my claim to fame, i suppose. some of the bits are really classic. liked the bit about the hipster parents giving their child's teacher crap because they only liked the hit songs from the clash. they were worried about their kid learning in an environment where they weren't introduced to the krautrock band neu! and other esoteric classically hipster groups. funny stuff. B+.
Blackboard Jungle - the first of the classroom dramas like freedom writers and dangerous minds and lean on me and stand and deliver. of all those, this one is the oldest and probably shows the kids being the most nasty. kinda cuts against the usual narrative that "kids in my day had respect..." i think that every generation since the beginning of time has probably said that and it is only occasionally true.
in this film the kids are beating up teachers, attempting to rape them, etc. in the other films i listed they look tough, kill and beat each other, and do drugs. take you pick.
in the end everything works out (the norm for these films), but of course the truth is usually different.
much is made of the film's rock and roll soundtrack. it wasn't special in retrospect, but it was an early adopter of the genre so it gets extra credit for that. there were riots at screenings of the film so i guess it's about on par with new jack city. nothing changes. kids are kids. B.
Wire Season Three - probably the best season to date. pretty major character developments and changes toward the end of the season. stringer bell continues to try to avoid the dirty side of the game, but only when it suits his monetary interests. he has a wiser view of the whole thing than the old school avon barksdale.
the amsterdam experiment, wherein the cops allow drug trafficking in 3 specific areas, is interesting to say the least. it's what some cities have done de facto, though maybe not as extreme as seen in the show. they basically give up in certain areas in order to fight the good fight elsewhere.
the political stuff was also pretty good. it all confirms we what already know about politics and human nature. most people follow the incentives and act in a self-interested manner. talk of codes, laws, brotherhood, etc. is mostly just crap. there are a few among them (us) that actually have a code and live by it - omar being one of them - but they mostly just do whatever it takes to get by or go farther in their endeavors. B+.
Gatekeepers - documentary that interviews several ex leaders of the israeli shin bet (their security agency). i'm about as tired of middle east politics as anyone else out there. and much of this documentary is pretty boring. that said, about half of it is worth watching the same way that fog of war was worth watching. maybe if it was about american history, i'd be more engaged. there's something about rehashing the same old crap from a antediluvian feud that just makes me bored as hell.
in the end most of them conclude that essentially they're just banging their head against a brick wall. neither side understands the other and yet the game continues. hopefully america gets out of the business of the rest of the world and we can clean our own house and let these guys figure their own shit out or get busy dying. i've had it with stupidity. B-.
Wire Season Two - not as good as the first, but good enough to keep watching this time around. again, a decidedly non-partisan show (though i suspect it appeals to liberals more than conservatives) that doesn't spare anyone any blame. really, there's plenty of blame to go around when we're tackling issues like drugs, union and political collusion and corruption, murder, prostitution, etc. has the feel of a noir with the ending of both season one and two. i think it was the end of the killers wherein the insurance investigator, having just spend the entire film investigating a serpentine murder case, summarizes his efforts by saying that he only saved 4 cents per customer. truly a noir ending to have an entire season's worth of plot and investigation and work go into arresting only low level scum while the big guys fly away or only go to jail on minor offenses. c'est la vie. B.
King Of The Hill Season Thirteen - overall a good series. probably as good a time as any for the series to end, but it's always annoying when a network drops a show without giving it ample time to craft a proper finale. i think what happened in this case was everyone thought there was going to be another season, a bunch of episodes got cut off or went straight to syndication, and then it was gone. pretty lame.
hank hill is a conservative guy, but there are certain things that go along with that that i relate to. this is the reason i started watching the series, actually - my sister said i reminded her of hank hill in the later seasons of king of the hill. sure he hates california and doesn't cotton too well to hippies, but he treats people with respect and he has a code that he lives by. i like people who have a strong code that doesn't interfere with the lives of others. hank hill is a good guy and this was a good series. B.
Snitch - the rock is a busy man. this one has more depth than the average action star vehicle and i assume that's because of Participant Media's participation in the production. they tackle issues like education (waiting for superman) and global warming (inconvenient truth) and here they tackle the overly zealous drug war and mandatory sentencing guidelines. it's nowhere near as good as traffic, but it's a nice enough hybrid action/drama. susan sarandon and barry pepper weren't as good as the rock, which is odd to say, but true.
overall, not bad, but not great either. the real take away is that the mandatory sentencing stuff is silly policy and the war on drugs has lacked nuance and substance since its inception. in other words: business as usual for a government that continues to disappoint. B-.
Identity Thief - two good comics playing roles that were fairly well written for them. it's a midnight run/planes, trains, and automobiles type setup. odd couple reluctantly traveling across country together. nothing special here like PTAA, but a solid enough comedy. B.
Stand Up Guys - film about aging criminals. pacino gets out of prison and walken is supposed to kill him, but they go out on the town to celebrate and walken begins to have a harder time thinking about pulling the trigger. character and dialogue driven, but i never got into it. fell asleep and left the theater before it was over. nothing kept me from leaving and i wanted to watch the wire instead. D.
King Of The Hill Season Twelve - continues to entertain at a solid level. raise the steaks was a pretty good episode wherein hank becomes a co-op grocery customer and ends up running the place like an actual business. hippies are always funny. B.
Craigslist Joe - documentary about a guy who spends a month on the road relying on the kindness of strangers...who he finds through craigslist. he says it's about discovering if we still have such a thing as community or not. the idea reminded me of the book "bowling alone." i don't know how much he actually explores this idea, but he does get to the idea that we are fundamentally giving and kind. i would add that we are this way so long as we are getting what we need. as soon as that changes i think we easily turn to selfish evil assholes. C+.
Wire Season One - better than i remember it being the first time i saw it. acting is good across the board. writing is good. direction is good. i like their transitions from scene to scene. gives a balanced and entertaining look at police corruption and ineffectiveness along with the failed war on drugs, poverty, and a variety of other issues. places the blame where its due, which is to say pretty much everywhere. B+.
Side Effects - not quite what i expected, but still plenty good. the film doesn't really find its momentum until about halfway through and that had me worried for a while. once it gets over the hill of building characters and plot and setting up the dynamics for the second half, it starts to shine.
i thought it was going to be a film about the dirty side of the pharmaceutical business, but it turned out to be more of a straight thriller and almost more about the mental health business than big pharma. solid film overall. hopefully it's not soderbergh's swan song as has been reported. B.
King Of The Hill Season Eleven - as the series progresses i think they have a little less to say. there are occasional social/political comments, but not as much as i would like. hank hill is a great character to bounce all that is happening in the world off of. they also apparently took a more serialized approach to the later seasons instead of having longer story arcs. i didn't really notice this much the last couple seasons, though, as i don't think the story arcs earlier in the series were as pronounced as they are in cable dramas, for example. B.
King Of The Hill Season Nine - continues to be a solid series. fewer episodes per season now. B.
King Of The Hill Season Ten - wish they would round out boomhauer's character a bit more. he's the least explored of the major characters. B.
You Don't Know Bo - i was getting ready to talk about how overrated bo jackson is, but then i looked at his stats again and realized that they actually kinda support the supposition that he could have been one of the best ever. he has the second best career yards per carry average (among RBs) - behind jamaal charles and .2 yards/carry ahead of jim brown. this is aided in large part to his speed - he had three seasons with a long TD run of 88+ yards. no one else does that. his TDs per carry isn't actually great - .0310 compared to .0323 for barry sanders, .0352 for marshall faulk, .0433 for adrian peterson, .0449 for jim brown (just the first
four i bothered to calculate). he also benefited from a shorter season than everyone else; and in the nfl that matters. even in the games he played he didn't carry the ball much. fewer than 16 times per game every season. so, he was always fresh and didn't need to worry about getting beaten up as much as most of the workhorse running backs in history. he also didn't catch the ball out of the backfield much at all. though he probably could have. all that said, he did have a scary combination of speed and size. had adrian peterson never come back from his knee injury last year, though, we could reasonably have the same conversation about him. this is what happens every time a bo jackson or marcus dupree gets injured or a steve prefontaine dies.
to an athlete dying young. B.
edit: i should add that my first nfl game ever was the game in which bo jackson injured his hip.
Casa De Mi Padre - pretty funny, if cheesy, mexican faux-drama. will ferrell speaks good spanish and the low production values provide enough laughs. B-.
Indie Game: The Movie - documentary about the indie video game culture. follows several geeks as they develop their games. one has trouble with the idea of selling out, another feels vindicated about his life choices when his game sells well, another can't seem to get it together enough to release a highly touted game. the thing that struck me the most was how long it took to make these games. they say that they're working on it all the time and yet it took years to make them. perhaps that's how people feel about people renovating homes. there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done, and unless you know what goes into it, it looks like the whole process is moving too slowly. B-.
Double Dare - documentary that follows two female stunt performers. one worked as the stunt double for wonder woman and the other (zoe bell) worked for xena the warrior princess. i knew of bell because of her role in the grindhouse film "deathproof" by tarantino. she does some great stunts in that film as well as kill bill. interesting to see the stunt world behind the scenes and especially from the female perspective since it's such a male-dominated field. pretty good flick. B.
Broken City - not as good as i wanted it to be. probably needed a rewrite. lots of twists and turns and some elements were left behind in the whirlwind. wahlberg's character wasn't fleshed out quite enough even though they threw some elements in there as if to invoke characterization. you can't just make a guy an alcoholic and call it character depth. anyway, nice enough while i was watching it, but i wouldn't recommend it. C+.
Warm Bodies - the good zombie moves have a subtext of social commentary that we're all really zombies...floating along in life, worthless. this comic zombie film takes that the most literally by actually spelling all this out with voice over narration. i guess that's how this generation is, though, for better or worse. we wear shirts that say "listen to bob marley" and "i love my boyfriend." it doesn't get much more straightforward. fair enough.
it's a take on romeo and juliet mixed in with a post-apocalyptic future where zombies walk the earth. they did a good thing, though, in adding "bonies" to the mix. these were creatures that were just walking skeletons - the last step of the zombie process. so, while zombies are able to be cured (with love), the bonies are too far gone. so, the bonies are the real bad guys which allows the audience to sympathize with the zombies.
not a bad movie, probably would have been better as a comic book. C+
Deadwood Season Three - overall this was a very good series. unfortunately they didn't know it was going to end after three seasons so the ending is less than impressive. it's got a bit of "man who shot liberty valance" flavor to it with swearengen cleaning the blood of a murdered prostitute off the floor and saying to himself "he (johnny) wanted me to tell him something sweet." the prostitute (who was liked by johnny) was murdered to protect another prostitute. we'd rather not think about our history being soaked in blood, we'd rather think that the ones we like are dying for a good cause or dying without pain (which johnny asks about). instead, though, they're dying out of convenience or because they weren't important enough. nothing real glamorous about it.
season three isn't quite as good as season two. they brought in a couple characters that didn't do a whole lot and that took away time from the characters i liked to see.
swearengen is a classic character who is summarized well by one of his men: "when he's not lying to you, al's the most honest guy you'll meet." B+.
Zero Dark Thirty - probably bigelow's best film to date. most of her early films were crap, though point break has some entertainment to it. hurt locker was good enough to watch, but not a best picture in my opinion.
this one is very detached and clinical. it presents things seemingly without judgment of any kind. there's an uproar about whether or not it justifies torture, etc., but that's missing the point. the point is that the torture occurred and so did everything else. all to find one guy. all because of one event. it's a pretty pathetic chapter in our nation's history. so easily distracted from the things that really matter, so easily led to massively overreact. at the same time, that raid and killing ubl was an incredible catharsis for so many americans. hopefully this film can cause us to reflect upon the lost decade of 2001-2011. hopefully his death, and getting out of the region, will allow us to move on. B.
Deadwood Season Two - this is a really good tv series and it's one that a few different people have called one of the best of all time. the acting is great, the look is great, the sets and costumes are all great, the production is great, the writing is great. that said, it's not a series that captures me in the same way that seinfeld or breaking bad do. there's just something missing from it that would propel it into the discussion of my favorite tv series of all-time. then again, maybe season three will take it to another level.
i love the history of the whole thing. the mixing of truth and fiction. the dueling powers of tolliver, swearengen, and hearst. the push and pull of progress and power and the law and statehood. these are all interesting. the colorful characters are funny, telling of the time, and interesting. great series so far. B+.
Django Unchained - i'm a tarantino fan, but i have to admit not looking forward to his last two films. perhaps it's the general lack of good directors these days couple with the disappointment of fading talent from fincher, anderson, coens, and tarantino himself. some of these people are still making films worthy of praise, but i can pretty safely say with all of them that their best is behind them and that's made me sad lately. the other thing i've found with directors who have name recognition is that they don't seem to be able to edit themselves much anymore. apatow, cameron and tarantino have all been guilty of this in their latest films. so, working backwards, i present the worst part of the film: the ending, which should have been edited out, but wasn't because it's tarantino.
the final 20+ minutes of tacked on nothingness aside, the film was was very good. it does the usual tarantino thing, which is to borrow from other films/genres and digest and regurgitate them into a somehow much more palatable form. i've never seen the many django films of the 60s and 70s so i can't comment too much on this relative to those. i have seen a million 70s revenge films, though, and this one fits in with those. the best of them have a real catharsis and allow the audience to feel the pain of the victim as well as the inevitable comeuppance.
overall a solid picture with some great writing and performances. i only wish he had a stronger producer to rein him in. oh, i also wish that he had gotten the beginning of the civil war right. the film takes place in "1858, 2 years before the civil war." wrong. the civil war began in 1861. B.
Deadwood Season One - another widely praised show. this one is deserving of praise, though, unlike girls. i've heard from a couple people that this is one of the best series of all-time and i can't say i buy that level of hype, but it's a solid first season and first seasons are hardly ever the best, so i'm willing to suspend my disbelief for now. it better get going quick, though, if it's going to catch up with breaking bad, seinfeld, simpsons, etc. because it's only a 3 season series.
it's a show that demands your attention. you can't exactly do other things while watching this show. the language is dense and unfamiliar, but understandable so long as you pay attention. it's also occasionally funny and has a beauty to it from time to time. good writing overall.
most of the acting is good. mcshane is particularly good. olyphant is good, not amazing. the series begins with him as a sheriff basically murdering someone because a mob was going to do it anyway. in this way i guess he's a shane type character when he arrives in deadwood. unknown to most, mysterious past, but seemingly fighting the good fight.
great sets. B+.
Silver Linings Playbook - better than expected film from david o. russell. bradley cooper turns in a career performance to date. jennifer lawrence probably would have won my best actress award had i seen this in 2012. reminiscent mostly of "it's kind of a funny story," which was a younger version of this film. nice writing and characters and it just all came together for a nice film about weird people finding love. for some reason i like these films about unconventional families. boogie nights, this, one flew over the cuckoo's nest, etc. outcasts finding acceptance and making a few sort of family. nothing wrong with that. B+.
King Of The HIll Season Eight - this is the first season where i noticed wyatt cenac getting a credit. he writes one episode and is a consultant or staff writer or something on many others. this is possibly the best season to date. lots of good social commentary about the silliness of high art dealers or the cool factor of hipster barbers or a jesus youth camp full of hipster skateboarders. B+.
Girls - not sure what it is about this series that has people so excited. winning golden globes, fresh air interviews, widely recommended, etc. there's not a whole lot here to actually recommend. none of the acting is noteworthy, none of the decent tna that attracts some to sex and the city, none of the well-summarized lessons of that show, and very little in the way of respectable qualities of the characters. if my daughter ends up like any of these self-important sluts i'm likely to have a heart attack.
maybe that's the point of the show? a warning of what's to come if you coddle your kids? a warning to teenage girls that life in the big city having sex with mysterious artsy types isn't all it's cracked up to be? i don't honestly know. C-.