Criminal Minds Season One - interesting show precisely because it's actually not very good. it lacks the sophistication of silence of the lambs or certainly breaking bad. it's basically pop psychology in a tv show. it's also dreadfully sexist and racist because every profile of every murderer is "single white male in his 30s or 40s." sexism!
mandy patinkin and the genius kid are good, but the rest of the actors lack subtlety. even though this show isn't actually good, i'm interested enough in serial killers that it's watchable. is it bad that i watch this before i fall asleep every night? C+.
Good Wife Season Two - getting better as the series finds its feet. character dynamics get more interesting, cases are related to current news coverage, and the writing is pretty smart for network tv. pretty surprising that this is cbs, actually. some good stuff here. B+.
Sons Of Anarchy Season Seven - awful show. jax kills himself and now he's jesus? what a joke this season was. should have killed himself in season two. F.
Nebraska - not payne's best film, but a nice enough road trip film with some laughs. it's less comedy from him than i'm used to and more a meditation on aging and community. definitely has some poignant moments, but overall wasn't at the same level as sideways or election. wasn't sure why it was in black and white other than the fact that it looked good. B.
Heroes Season One - pretty early on it felt like this should be a one and done series, but they ended up doing a few more seasons. i started the second season and then quit so this will probably be my only review for the series.
it's a good comic book to tv adaptation. i'm not a comics guy so i never read the original text. that said, i liked this season. good characters with some fun powers and action throughout. definitely has a comic book feel to it both visually and thematically. there's nothing phenomenal here, but it was a bit ahead of its time and was good for network tv so i can see why it got a cult following.
ali larter is well-cast as a dual personality. she plays both the psycho and the nice girl quite well. she did a similar turn in obsessed in which he played a fatal attraction type woman pursuing idris elba. the rest of the cast is also fine and well-cast.
not sure what it was lacking, but something kept me from loving the series. B-.
Horrible Bosses 2 - not as good as the original. nice to get out and watch a flick in the theater, but this is one of those instances where the sequel's potential was missed. the characters and cast are both good and were very fun for round one. unfortunately the sequel didn't have the same caliber of writing so they were left to languish in mediocrity. oh well. C+.
Snowpiercer - not as bad as daniel tosh would have you believe, but not special either. reminded me (style-wise) of city of lost children or brazil. there was something missing here that city of lost children had, though i couldn't say what. not a bad way to spend the time overall, but nothing to write home about. C+.
Good Wife Season One - didn't have high hopes for this one, but it's entertaining and thoughtful stuff with some good characters. really like kalinda and cary. gets you thinking about infidelity, the law, politics, etc. nothing groundbreaking here, but the writing is good, the acting is solid, and the structure keeps things interesting in both the short and long terms. B.
Walking Dead Season Five Part 1 - another good season from the best drama on tv (that i watch). plot-wise it's going in circles a bit at this point and i'd love to see something new and great happen, but it's still entertaining as hell. B+.
New Girl Season Three - still a pretty solid sitcom. jess and nick are together and then not. this stuff is relatively predictable but of course none of that is the point. it produces good enough laughs so it earns a place in the rotation. the prince episode was dumb. prince sucks and is overrated. he plays 86 instruments and i'm supposed to care; i don't. that's all. B-.
Gone Girl - there's so much pain in this world and it's heartbreaking to think about it sometimes. i'm so glad i have zoe and meryl to brighten things up for me.
this is a pretty great film. looking at the run time and the fact that i'm so used to shorter tv-sized viewing now, i was worried that this was going to be a drag. it actually flew by very quickly. the tension is kept up very well, the music and acting and writing all help greatly. fincher is just great at this and it's a joy to watch a couple really good films in a row after i had gone so long without watching something new and really great in the theater.
it preys on all the fears a person can have about love and marriage or knowing other people. it has that fatal attraction feel mixed with revolutionary road with ace in the hole. there are so many places to look when you watch the film. so many things to think about. i think it'll be a film that holds up to repeated viewings which is funny because the guy who sold us the tickets asked us if it was the first time we had seen it, implying that it's not a film you watch only once.
great stuff here. works like this and breaking bad and revolutionary road inspire me to live life truthfully and fully and enjoy what i have. so, in that vein i'm going to go wake up my daughter from her cat nap. B+.
Day The Series Stopped - another solid 30 for 30. this one is about the loma prieta earthquake and what happened after the earthquake hit. very little of the story is about the games and that makes sense because the series itself was a snooze fest because the giants didn't even show up. the real drama was off the field in the form of mother nature. the director does a really good job with some of the visuals and that was the highlight for me. only will clark represented the giants' side of the storytelling which is fitting since the giants didn't show up in the games either. B.
Rand University - 30 for 30 that follows randy moss from high school to the NFL. he was a great receiver with a lot of problems and that's pretty much the story. it was a good flick, but really i don't know how his story differs much from that of any other great athlete who came up from very little. allen iverson already has a better 30 for 30 about him and it's a very similar arc. guy has a lot of talent in one area, but is ill-equipped to deal with it because of deficiences in other areas. dad isn't in the picture, neighborhood doesn't seem to help him in any meaningful way, but he still feels like he owes something to them. B-.
Nightcrawler - great character played by gyllenhaal. he stuck with me for a few days. it's creepy and unsettling, but it's also a really funny movie at times. you don't know quite how far this guy is going to go. he's a bit like travis bickle, but autistic and selfish. whereas bickle is wandering a bit like a leaf in the wind, this guy has a goal and goes for it. they're both outsiders who want to be part of society in some way. both extremely awkward around others, especially women. both driving a car at night seeing the worst that society has to offer.
nice film which has revived my interest in hollywood films. B+.
True Detective Season One - great little series with a couple stand out scenes. silence of the lambs is to true detective as goodfellas is to the sopranos. when mcconaughey finds the right role, he's actually a great actor. he needs to be a guy on the edge of sanity or on the edge of society in some way. basically, he needs to be matthew mcconaughey. it's easy to understand why he works well with a role like this when you hear him talk about life. he's just kind of a cooky guy so he can sell this type of character. woody is a similar type of guy, but his best roles haven't been as much on the edge of society as mcconaughey's. working class guy with some issues seems to work for woody.
there was a lot of great stuff in this series. i've forgotten it all by now, but it's great nonetheless. B+.
Walking Dead Season Four - this season was pretty stressful because the group was split up basically the entire time. it allows us time to get to know some of the individuals more and that's nice. you gotta love daryl and rick and tyrese. i admire carol in a way and bob has grown a lot. we see again that the most dangerous thing isn't the zombie horde, it's the humans lurking out there looking for weaknesses. B+.
Skeleton Twins - so so dramedy with kristen wiig and bill hader. wasn't really sure of the point by the time the film ended. the ride along the way was funny and maybe even a little touching. ultimately, though, there wasn't anything to hold onto for me. who was i rooting for? luke wilson's character was good. the twins were just really imperfect people who kinda ruined the lives they touched so i don't really know what i get out of that. C+.
Playing For The Mob - 30 for 30 documentary about the BC point shaving scandal. story intersects with goodfellas' henry hill so ray liotta does the narration. the tie in to a famous mobster makes it more interesting than anything else. other than that the story wasn't especially compelling. if it was done by errol morris (and maybe it should have been) it would have been better. a lot of he said, she said type stuff and you don't know who to trust. C+.
Veep Season Three - pretty solid comedy all around. nicely cast, sharp writing and plenty of plot to keep you occupied on that level. vulgar begins to describe the humor and i'm okay with that because that's not all it is. of course julia louis dreyfus is great. B.
League Season Five - sophomoric show about a bunch of people with no lives. i live vicariously through them in some ways i suppose. rafi isn't as crazy as roger from american dad, but no one is. he's up there is my point. B.
Super Troopers - still a very funny film, but it's mostly the first half hour that makes this one a classic for me. wonder what happened to the broken lizard crew. B+.
Walking Dead Season Three - i'd watch 20 seasons of this no problem. characters are great and the set up is just so up my alley that it really can't go wrong. some legitimately poignant moments in this season, as well as past seasons. i hate the governor and wish he'd go away permanently. B+.
Workaholics Season Four - what more can i say? B+.
Workaholics Season Three - these guys are funny idiots. B+.
TINY: A Story About Small Living - documentary following a young couple building a tiny house. the tiny house movement has been around a while and it appeals to part of my sensibility, but i could never do it. i could cut maybe a 5' piece of lumber on my table saw in one of these places. the thought of having to actually keep all of my life in a home about 100 sq. ft. in size is just crazy. of course most people who go to college do it for a few years during that time so it's no great accomplishment at that age, but once you acquire more things or a kid or a career that involves bringing tools to the jobsite...it just doesn't make sense anymore. most of the people here are fairly regular, but a few are the berkeley-type nut jobs you would expect from a movement like this. c'est la vie. B-.
Pitch Season Two - more of the same. usually i ended up disagreeing with the decision the client made so i guess that shows how much i know about effective advertising. B-.
Walking Dead Season Two - continues to be interesting to watch even though it doesn't go in the direction that i was hoping for. they follow just the one group still and there really aren't any flashbacks to speak of. that said, post-apocalypse/society falling apart films are probably my favorite type so this is going to be a winner almost no matter what direction they go. darryl is awesome, carol is becoming pretty cool, glenn is a good guy, rick keeps it all together. some admirable characters here. B+.
Pitch Season One - tv series about ad agencies vying for a common account. each episode follows two agencies as they prepare a pitch for the same company. kinda interesting to see the inside of an ad agency for real after watching mad men for so many seasons. they work long hours and sacrifice a lot for a profession that is frankly pretty worthless. B-.
Walking Dead Season One - this one has been on the list for a while and i finally got around to checking it out. meryl won't watch it so i watch it on my own. read that it's going to be on through 2022 so i figured waiting another 8 years would be pointless. there's a lot of potential for a scenario like this in the tv format. you can explore a lot of different aspects of humanity and the aftermath of an apocalypse so i really hope they can get into all that stuff. what happened with the president during the time when society was falling apart? will some nut jobs fight for zombie rights? what about roaming gangs terrorizing the living? what about roaming gangs looking to kill off all the zombies? there's just so much different stuff that would happen leading up to, and following, a zombie scenario that i hope they explore more of it than they have so far.
good show so far with good characters and fun plot. i'll be caught up soon enough. B+.
Pressed - film about a wealthy guy who overextends himself and then finds himself spiraling downward in an effort to retain his status and hide his money problems from his wife. the lead is well cast, but the writing isn't very good and the story doesn't really say much. nothing special. C.
Vegucated - documentary about three people hand chosen by a vegan nazi who go without eating animal products for six weeks to see how much better their life is after adopting this diet. basically just propaganda from a nutty chick who love animals. D.
Blitz - eh jason statham british film. it's about a serial killer who is targeting cops. statham is a rogue police officer who goes after him. not up to his usual standard here. C.
That Guy...Who Was In That Thing- documentary about contemporary character actors. working class guys, several of them are recognizable, but none of them are living the life of a rich and famous movie star. interesting topic, though some of the subjects could have been better. doesn't have a lot of focus. instead it chooses to show you these guys as they are. how they came up in the business, what they do/did to make ends meet, what they think of the job, a few funny or touching anecdotes. it's a scattered work, but that keeps it interesting. B-.
Parker - apparently maligned jason statham movie with j. lo. i thought it was pretty good. j. lo is good enough as she typically is. statham does his thing and the whole conceit, though unoriginal, is solid enough. these films are good for low level entertainment. B.
Homefront - statham film with james franco starring as a crazy meth-cooking redneck. need i say more? B-.
This Is The End - franco, rogen, hill, etc. star in this nice idea of a film. unfortunately it's about 45 minutes too long. the laughs just aren't consistent and solid enough and the idea withers too quickly. C+.
American Dad Season 8 - really funny show with roger being probably the funniest character. at this point it may actually be a better show than family guy, which i didn't think i'd ever say. i wasn't smitten with it when it came on, but it's improved as family guy has plateaued. roger is one of a kind. B+.
30 Rock Season 7 - watched this a long time ago, but never reviewed it. this was a good show and this was a solid season. liz lemon and alec baldwin were great together. that's all i remember. B+.
Louie Season 3 - pretty good show. i've liked louis c.k. for several years now. he has a thoughtful and earnest brand of comedy that works well on a couple levels. the show has its ups and downs, but the man and his comedy are good so it endures. overall i think the show is overrated by critics because they like him and what he talks about, but in reality the lulls and weirdness of the show are enough to make it not a great one. B-.
Hit & Run - not horrible road comedy with the husband wife team of dax shepard and veronica mars (or whatever). reminded me of midnight run and that kind of film. C.
Mad Men Season Seven Part One - awful show that doesn't get any better here. blah. D.
Bad Grandpa .5 - plenty of funny stuff. more spike jonze than in the actual movie and he's really good as a bad grandma. i could watch this crap all day. B+.
When Strangers Click - documentary about people who meet online and fall in love. a couple of these are nice enough stories, but then there are a couple that are just plain nutty. the people who meet on second life and live on the other side of the world from each other and have a kid together are pretty annoying. they just live in an alternate universe and somehow think that that's okay. what the fuck is wrong with the world? C+.
Doc Of The Dead - documentary about zombie films. they started earlier than i thought, but they started in earnest with 1968's night of the living dead. they have the debate about fast vs. slow zombies. they look at the social commentary aspect. they look at the current popularity of zombies. zombie apocalypse preppers are interviewed, etc. they got some good interviewees and it's a fun look at the subgenre. B.
Buying Sex - it's interesting where netflix takes you sometimes. you watch one movie and then it recommends another and next thing you know you're watching a bunch of documentaries about sex. this one is about the canadian fight to legalize prostitution. it looks at policies in other nations like sweden and new zealand. it looks at cultural differences like 75% of thai men have been with a prostitute, 50% of germans have been with a prostitute and under 15% of canadian men have been with a prostitute. overall it takes a very balanced look at the world's oldest profession. one ex-prostitute claims that he oldest profession is actually farmer, but i think she's way wrong about that.
it's an interesting debate and both sides make valid points. i think it's something that is going to be around forever in one form or another. i also think that no matter what you do there are going to be people who do it illegally. just as it's legal to be a building contractor and it's not a shameful thing to do, there are plenty of people who do it illegally because they want to avoid the regulation or extra costs of being above board or they're not legal citizens or whatever. the opponents of legalization seemed to latch onto the fact that there will still be prostitutes (usually poor and of color) who will be beaten or raped or whatever. to me, legalization makes the most sense because you bring the vast majority of it out in the open and subject it to regulation like screening for stds or providing a safe space for the activity, instead of driving it underground. add to that the fact that i don't see it as necessarily morally reprehensible and legalization makes more sense than the alternative. B.
Sex For Sale: American Escort - national geographic short documentary about the escort industry in las vegas. basically just points out that escorts are technically just charging you for companionship and everything else is what two consenting adults do with their own free will. it's a cowardly version of prostitution in a society that doesn't want to condone it. the funny thing is, and they don't point this out for some reason, that prostitution is legal in many nevada counties, but not in las vegas. they do some undercover work and make it clear that escorting is about prositution and that the escort services are very careful about staying technically legal while turning a blind eye to reality. B-.
Magic Camp - documentary about kids' magic camp. follows 5 kids of different skill levels as they hone their technique and deal with growing up and being in camp. not particularly well put together, but it has some solid footage and that's all you really need from a documentary. good enough. C+.
22 Jump Street - quite funny sequel with all sorts of inside jokes and self-referential comedy. ice cube sorta steals the show with a couple key scenes that had us rolling. liked the guy with the red herring tattoo. the twins had hats that said "deus ex machina" but one never really materialized so that was weird. this is like the 5th movie i've seen in the theater since zoe was born. B+.
Tammy - melissa mccarthy is a very good talent, unfortunately this one didn't do much for me. she also co-wrote the film and it seems like she was trying to hard to be poignant as well as funny. unfortunately the focus on the former came at the cost of the latter and so neither was achieved. she's good and so is kathy bates. there are a fair number of quality actors here, but they're mostly underutilized. mark duplass is god awful as tammy's love interest. when he plays himself (as he does in the league) he's an okay actor. other than that, though, he sucks. C.
Three Stars - documentary about the michelin star system. follows a few restaurants and chefs who have stars, explains the system, and looks at what it takes to get a star. i have a problem with this crap because i think it's just euro-centric elistist shit so maybe i can't judge this documentary objectively. honestly, i'd rather have al's big burger on san pablo than eat at most of these places. whatever. C+.
Veronica Mars - pretty good movie with the characters we grew to love in the tv series. i would have liked to see more of wallace as he was always a favorite of mine. i hated the fact that veronica and logan hooked up again. i love her character, but her fatal flaw is her awful taste in guys and weakness in that category. blah. B.
Girl Most Likely - so-so comedy with a good cast. C+.
Arsenic And Old Lace - better than i remember it being, but not as good as most of capra's stuff. too theatrical and silly for it to rise to the level of meet john doe or mr. smith goes to washington, much less it's a wonderful life. B-.
Star Trek X: Nemesis - another nice enough idea about cloning and the potential each of us has for good or evil, but it lacks in execution. a more recent film than first contact, but feels more dated. the end is touching because of the sacrifice of data. other than that, though, the film didn't grab me much. C.
House Of Cards Season Two - a lot of people seemed to be disappointed by this season, but i thought it was great. i love this kind of show. i can watch it intently and get wrapped up in it. i can watch it in the background and just loosely follow the plot. i think it gives about as much as you give to it. the characters are really good, especially the women. robin wright's character is devilish and calculating like spacey's character, but more nuanced. she really is an exceptional character; one of the best females in tv.
their relationship, too, is great. they don't do wonderful things, but they work together so well. they have a common cause. they're a political bonnie and clyde. reminiscent of the roosevelts or the clintons, but totally ruthless. fun show. B+.
Star Trek VIII: First Contact - the next generation crew goes back in time and fights to save earth from a borg invasion. decent plot and ideas here, but the execution is lacking. looking back, i feel the same way about the next generation crew in general. i like the different characters and ideas behind them and what they represent, however i don't love some of the execution. maybe it's just dated. most of the star trek movies actually aren't that great in my opinion. i love the shows, but the movies mostly leave something to be desired. C+.
Star Trek: Into Darkness - good, especially for the trekkie who knows star trek 2 well. this provides a sort of mirror image of that film and they play well off each other in a lot of ways. it had been a long time since i had seen the wrath of khan so i revisited the wiki page to remember some things and it's pretty cool how much stuff they use from that one. a bit on the long side in keeping with the star trek films in general. good popcorn film. better than gravity. B.
Inside Man Season One - another spurlock series where he approaches big topics with an open mind. this one isn't as much of the stunt documentary type, rather he just goes exploring and asks people on the ground what they think about certain topics. now that i think about it, though, he actually does a fair amount of the walk a mile in another man's shoes stuff that he is known for. he works at a gun shop and a pot dispensary and that kind of thing. overall it's good stuff and pretty much what you'd expect from him. there are some misleading facts and times when you can tell he has a certain opinion on the issue, but he mostly does a good job of staying non-partisan. wish there was more of this stuff. B.
Bad Grandpa - i didn't see a lot of movies released in 2013, but this is definitely the best one. it uses real candid camera type setups intermixed with fictional storylines to create a cohesive story. name another film that does that. it also has excellent makeup and plenty of real laughs. in short, i don't see 12 years a slave being a better film than this. in an alternative universe this film gets a best picture oscar and knoxville wins best actor.
okay, so maybe it's not that good, but relative to the other crap i saw that came out last year, this is at the top of the list. B+.
Hi, Mom! - another de palma clunker. felt more like a paul bartel film than anything else. oddly, bartel is in the film, but he didn't write or direct it. it's about a guy who makes a voyeur porn film and then joins some black theater cult. bizarre and uninteresting. to see deniro in a de palma clunker is pretty disappointing. C.
Mad Men Season Six - continues to suck. why do people like this? D.
Unraveled - documentary about marc dreier who bilked citizens out of $400 million in an extremely large ponzi scheme. it chronicles his days leading up to sentencing as he reflects on the things he did and his life in general. there's certainly a part of him that is in denial about how bad his crimes were. he's not as bad as madoff, or whatever other lame rationalization he has about what he did. bottom line, the guy is an egotistic piece of shit and getting just 20 years is crazy. he lives a life of luxury in these days after being found guilty, but awaiting sentencing. to me this is just crazy as well. if he was a kidnapper or burglarer he wouldn't be on house arrest with a paid armed guard wasting everyone's money. instead, he'd be in jail - where he belongs. what a fucked up judicial system we have.
pretty good documentary. B.
Mad Men Season Five - truly one of the worst "good" shows in this modern era of quality tv. pointless in nearly every way this show is going to need to pull off a six feet under-esque ending in order for it to have any redeeming qualities. jon hamm is a legitimately bad actor. the writing is about on par with the average second year creative writing major student. at this point in the series i've lost all interest other than the interest i have will all tv shows which is to know how they end. D-.
Paranoia - eh thriller with some talent, but not much else. luketic hasn't made a decent film since legally blonde, which was his first feature length film. the leads are basically all mailing this one in, though for gary oldman that still means a decent enough performance. it's hard to believe that films like this get made. even with all the star power you'd think someone along the line would have noticed that the screenplay lacked originality.
the film does have one good moment, though, where liam helmsworth says that people don't really want to be connected as much as everyone says - they actually want to be separate and feel connected. quite true. i think a lot of the social media stuff is about feeling o.g. and having the scoop before others as well as having your ego fed. D+.
Fury - brian depalma disappoints with this dated and not particularly special carrie-esque story. doesn't even get points for originality because it came out 2 years after the movie and 4 years after the book. watchable overall, but not by much. C+.
Swimming Pool - the ending distracts from what is otherwise a haneke-esque film about a middle-aged writer who is thinking about her life and regrets. this is all manifested in her relationship with a young woman who lives a libertine lifestyle very much the opposite of the writer. the ending injects some pointless question mark into the whole thing - was the young woman real or a figment of the writer's imagination? i think the film could have done without this element, but maybe that's what got people talking about it. not a particularly striking film in any way. the boobs were nice though. C+.
Pit - documentary about the trading pit at a commodities exchange. they don't do it like this anymore because computers have taken over so this is sort of an historical record of the way things used to be. in the end i came out even less clear on what the hell any of these people are actually doing. all this finance stuff just seems like a way for people to get poor and taken advantage of by smarter, richer people. er, i mean, yay free markets! B-.
Requiem For The Big East - pretty good 30 for 30 flick about the rise and fall of the big east conference. it primarily looks at the basketball side of things, but also gets into the importance of football and how the money from that sport changed the complexion of the conference over time. one thing i didn't realize is how much of a fighter patrick ewing was back in the college days. pretty much came off like a prick. never liked him much anyway. B.
Vacancy - decent horror flick about a city couple who lost their kid and are on the way out of their relationship. the car breaks down in hicksville and, well, you get the picture. nothing new here from a genre standpoint. as a genre film, though, it occupies time and was certainly watchable. B-.
Somm - i've seen other documentaries like this before - follow a few people looking to pass a really hard test and see what happens. the one that pops into my mind is the one about the bar exam (a lawyer walks into a bar). this was more intriguing than that. i basically think that wine criticism is largely a rouse and that wine is mostly for higher class functioning alcoholics. the fact that some people dedicate their lives to picking up hints of american oak and blackberries and discovering new ways to describe the smells of varying wines is a bit troublesome to me. all that said, the documentary was pretty compelling from a horse race sort of point of view. i wanted to see who would pass the test and who wouldn't. if you're into wine then you should definitely watch it because it'll probably be very impressive seeing these people get so much out of a glass of wine. B.
Mad Men Season Four - after the season three finale i had hoped that this series would get better. nope. more of the same. this show isn't very good. C.
Electoral Dysfunction - mo rocca's documentary on the electoral system. basically just points out the flaws in the electoral college and doesn't go much beyond that. it's a fucked up system and i hate it, but devoting a whole documentary to it seems a bit much. not much new here for me. C+.
Dead Reckoning - predictable but good enough bogart noir. wish it was bacall instead of lizabeth scott (who does her best bacall impersonation). C+.
Inequality For All - expected more from this documentary which has robert reich at the center. uses a lot of correlation-based data and charts to make the case that inequality in income is disastrous for the economy and society at large. i agree with the premise and liked the documentary overall, but i wish it were a little more honest and more willing to get into the weeds. B-.
Mitt - a behind the scenes look at mitt romney during the last two presidential runs. portrays him as a pretty decent guy who is working hard and just trying to get out his message. politicians are usually pretty good at being "on" at all times and i think mitt is one of those guys. the camera is always rolling in his mind and i think being mormon kinda helps with that. despite that and some of his views, i generally found him to be likable and i even felt bad for him and his family to have gone through this whole ordeal twice and to have lost both times. what we ask our candidates to do is really quite ridiculous. the media scrutiny, the impossible standards...it's not only ridiculous, it's also got little to do with the job for which they are applying. B-.
Mad Men Season Three - the slog continues through season three, but, wait, there's a glimmer of story and intrigue. things with betty and don draper start to really change. the firm being purchased and flipped turns into a takeover opportunity for the core cast and provides for easily the best episode of the series (the season three finale). meanwhile, decent tertiary characters are left on the outside so we can continue to only learn about the awful main and secondary characters. at least they're finally interesting. don continues to float along like a leaf in the wind. he's essentially a lower without self-reflection; and a liar to boot so he's worthless all around. C+.
We're Not Broke - documentary that looks at corporate tax evaders and the deficit. it basically argues that we wouldn't be so broke if we collected taxes from corporations more fairly. instead, google, apple, ge and many others have gamed the system to offshore their earnings and put in tax loopholes which allow them to pay little to no taxes; sometimes even negative taxes. it doesn't get into the nitty gritty (which i wish it did), choosing instead to use more generalities and focus on the offshoring. it's a corrupt and overly complex system that needs reforming. we basically all know this already so the documentary doesn't really break new ground or anything. C+.
Mad Men Season Two - doesn't get much better with season two. there are some nice moments here and there. some clever transitions. overall not a great show. C.
One Percent - documentary from one of the heirs to the johnson and johnson fortune. the kid is pretty open about the fact that no one in the uber rich class wants to talk about money. probably because they know they have it so well off and are embarrased. he talks with milton freidman (who kicks him out of his office) and others about the problem of the wage/wealth disparity. if you're interested in the topic then check it out. it should be noted that this documentary predates obama's presidency and the occupy wall street movement. B.
Patriocracy - not a great documentary about the growing political divide. low on production values and not as scientific or interesting as it should have been. basically a student project. C.
China Syndrome - pretty good flick about a near nuclear meltdown in LA. wish the film had ended about 5 minutes earlier with the possibility of a meltdown being imminent. instead it ends with a major event that then stabilizes and is possibly covered up.
the three leads are all good and the direction keeps the film moving along nicely for a 2 hour film. tension is slowly ratcheted up quite effectively. this is probably why i didn't like the ending as much as i could have, as well. the whole film felt like it was building towards something and then once that something was there they stuck around a beat too long. B.
Mad Men Season One - not really thrilled by this. jon hamm isn't actually a very good actor and pretty much all the characters are abhorrent and (worse) difficult to root for. typically the audience will like a character who is at least good at something. so, i should theoretically like don draper on some level because he is a good ad man. what does it say about me that i hold advertising people in lower esteem than gangsters and meth dealers? well, i do. if this whole ad agency went up in flames i think the fictional mad men world would be a much better place for it.
the sets and art direction are obvious strong points, but not enough to keep me interested over the course of an hour long show. at this point i'm sticking it out because i like to see where these big tv programs go. will it putter out and outstay its welcome? will they actually try to say something with their final season? will they pull off some believable amount of growth for these characters? C.
Hank: Five Years From The Brink - not a huge fan of TARP or hank paulson, but we've had some time to see how TARP has settled out and learned about the frantic and hurried time of the economic collapse. with that perspective, i think both are a little better than we originally thought.
occasionally comes off as paulson trying to save face by telling his version of history, but i basically buy what he's selling. it was an extraordinarily difficult time and i think the fed and treasury mostly did the best they could. i would have liked a different approach (a national bank and more financial reforms), but honestly none of that stuff would happen because congress was and is almost entirely worthless. B.
Flaw - another documentary about the financial collapse. this is one of the better ones i've seen. B+.
Escape Plan - sly and arnie team up in a prison break film with a surprise ending. passes the time while cleaning up the house and catching up on things. i hesitate to say this, but this isn't a bad film and is actually good at times. it's good fun and even a little smart at times with some of the gadgets and escape plan stuff. B-.
Captain Phillips - one of the better AA-hyped films i've seen, but really nothing spectacular. overall i can't say that this has been a bad year to take off from movie-going. gravity wins best director? (yes, i'm reviewing this a month after watching it) not exactly a banner year in my opinion. B.
New Girl Season Two - still a pretty good show and at this point its found its legs completely. good group dynamics. B.
Gravity - this is one of the best that the year has to offer? sure, i didn't see it in 3D, but i've said it a million times - if a film needs to be seen on a specific technology then it's not that good. die hard is great on your cell phone, but is even better on the big screen. the big screen doesn't make the film, it only makes it a bit better.
this is a nice enough little movie i suppose. will be forgotten soon enough. B-.
House Of Cards Season One - pretty great series that i found myself thinking about and looking forward to. all the acting is very good. the mood and tone of the show is nice. the relationships are all multi-faceted, interesting and often novel (spacey and wright's relationship in the show is very interesting, for example). add to all this the littany of good directors and political intrigue and you have a very good series so far. looking forward to the second season starting up in february. B+.
Schooled: The Price Of College Sports - pretty decent documentary that covers a lot of stuff most of us college sports fans already know. covers the ed o'bannon case, the unc violations, and goes over a lot of the big problems with the no pay for play attitude of the ncaa. basically, college sports are a fucking sham at best and they are racist and tragically paternal at worst. it goes back to the very notion of amateurism which was invented by the elites in the UK in the 19th century who wanted the elites to be athletes, not the working class. somehow that retarded notion stuck and the powers that be have used it ever since to reap the rewards of a class of indentured servants. there's really no rationalizing this arrangement; it's just morally reprehensible and i participate in it every time i buy tickets to one of these games.
arian foster speaks quite candidly about the whole situation and admits to having taken money while he was at the university of tennessee. so far, i haven't heard anything about an investigation. what's clearer to me now after the usc witch hunt is that the ncaa basically goes after programs that 1) don't matter (UNC) 2) are egregiously violating the rules (penn state) or 3) are on the downside of a good run. they did this to miami in the 90s, oklahoma in the 80s, smu (in the 80s), and usc. i suspect they will finally go after alabama if/when things start falling apart for saban. the ncaa is just another corrupt and morally bankrupt powerful organization that the american public is forced to endure and this film makes that even more clear. B+.
American Hustle - derivative of boogie nights and goodfellas. the camera movement in particular was reminiscent of those two films. the soundtrack is good on paper, but it didn't work within the flow of the film. russell just didn't choose the right music for the right scene and it wasn't well edited together. overall this is a disappointing film. i like david o. russell's work, i like con artist movies, i thought this was going to be a good one. unfortunately it really isn't. most of the performances were fine and jennifer lawrence's character was actually funny and kinda interesting. the rest of the film, however, was pretty lifeless and uninteresting. C.
Youngstown Boys - another 30 for 30, this one is on the maurice clarett case. covers his freshman year, upbringing, recruitment, trouble post-college, etc. he's actually a pretty decent guy from what i can tell. he made the typical inner city black kid mistakes (guns/drugs) and paid for them, but is more thoughtful and reflective than most convicts and football players. also looks at jim tressel who was his coach and was also from youngstown. i'm not as sold on tressel as i am clarett. i think tressel lacks a bit in the follow through and walking the walk categories. another cautionary tale for young inner city youth and big time athletes. B.
Lone Survivor - kind of a blackhawk down type war movie. this one takes place in afghanistan and is directed by peter berg. it has the berg touch - colors, camerawork, and music are all in his signature style. i can't say i'm a huge fan of his style, though it did work well for the friday night lights tv series.
there is definitely elements of strong patriotism and putting the military on a pedestal. they're tougher than everyone else, they sacrifice so much, the usual stuff. these are basically true statements, but i can't help but think about the fact that by revering them so much we encourage them to march to their deaths for dumb wars like the one in afghanistan. so, we praise them (which is a good thing), but it just encourages them to go to war and die (which is a bad thing). this concept is explored more in the americanization of emily.
as much as berg comes off as a red state guy in his subjects (football and war), he has a blue state heart, if you will. the lone survivor in this mission is mark wahlberg who is ultimately saved by a local afghani tribesman who is following the ancient afghani law of providing asylum for people against their enemies. the film cites it as pashtunwali, but the more specific custom is actually nanawatai. in this case nanawatai worked out quite well for america (or at least this one american soldier) because the tribe protected him against the taliban. in another case, though, it didn't work out so well because they protected osama bin laden from us.
double edged sword, i suppose. good enough movie. C+.
New Girl Season One - first entry in the new year and it's another series about girl(s). last year it was season one of girls. this series isn't great, but it fairly funny and approximately 1,000 times better than girls. B.
Saftey Not Guaranteed - quirky movie starring a few tv actors - aubrey plaza from parks and rec, jake johnson from new girl, mark duplass from the league, and mary lynn rajskub from 24 (though she does a lot of movie as well). it's a film about relationships, but not a heavy one with lots of crying and the typical indie emo tone; which i appreciated. overall a sometimes funny movie with a weird ending. nothing special. C+