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Arlington Road (1999)
One of the best thrillers of the 90's
The first time I saw this movie I was working for a distributor. I saw it at an early screening before it was released, knowing absolutely nothing about the plot.
I remember thinking that it was pretty slow, with not much happening. And then I came to the end, which blew me away. Thinking back on the rest of the film I realized you needed all that time to gradually build the conflict between Bridges and Robbins characters. Beautifully constructed film. This is one of those rare instances where a "slow burn" (a concept I usually detest since it's used to excuse a show spinning its wheels and going nowhere) is warranted.
My other main takeaway was the (for the most part) beautiful cinematography. But more on that later.
The acting is great for the most part. Bridges is a little too broad for my taste in some scenes. Robbins is perfect in his role. Cusack seems to revel in her role. The scene where she's revealed behind Davis character as she makes her phone call, where Cusack's smile turns to a menacing grim just by slightly relaxing her facial muscles is masterful. One thing which surprised me is that Davis didn't catch a bigger break after this movie, because she's really good in her part.
I've seen this movie a number of times on DVD, and I recently purchased the blu-ray and watched it last night. The clarity is of course superior to the DVD. A
But what stood out to me is the exteriors in daylight. I dare say they look awful for the most part. Partly to blame is the blu-ray transfer, where they seem to have increased the brightness compared to the DVD. But even when comparing with the DVD it's clear that a lot of the exterior daylight scenes look "lit". It reminds me of the commentary track to, I believe, The Naked Gun, where they jokingly say that their cinematographer is the only one who could make a location look like a set, due to the poor lighting. The same can be said for Arlington Road, where the artificial and flat lighting in the daylight exteriors is jarring.
Take for example the scene where Bridges guides his students in the woods and talk about Copper Creek where his wife was killed. It is clear that they were losing daylight that day. In one instance Bridges is facing his class and you can see that the sunlight is supposed to come from behind him due to the "halo" effect in his hair. But there is a student standing in front of him in a brightly colored shirt facing Bridges, and he has a strong shadow from his classmate on his back, i.e. falling *towards* Bridges, consequently falling towards the sun which makes no sense. I get that they wanted to increase the lighting on Bridges face. But why they didn't block it from hitting the students too harshly with a silk, scrim or even a flag, or put a darker shirt on the student in front so that the shadow of his classmate isn't too strong, is beyond me.
That said, the interiors are fantastic. I love darkness, and they use it beautifully here. Like in the beginnings when Bridges in the hospital, or when he's sitting alone on his bed on the far right with darkness engulfing three quarters of the screen.
It is clear that the cinematographer felt far more comfortable in a studio environment where he could have full control over the lighting, but didn't know how to handle daylight exteriors.
That said, this is a fantastic movie.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)
Skip the movie and watch the end credits
They were probably hoping to churn out a new Borat type movie, but it resembled more a new Action Point (2019). An excuse to drag a skit out to an 80 minute movie. I gave it almost 15 minutes, but then I started skipping the boring connective tissue between the celebrity interviews. It surely didn't help that this was the third (!) miss on Netflix on the same evening for me.
The end credits though are hilarious, and I guess you can find them on Youtube if you don't have Netflix. Because there is no reason to watch this entire film.
How to take a dump on your legacy
I like Breaking Bad. Unlike a lot of others I don't hail it as a masterpiece, but I think it was good for the most part.
But El Camino was absolutely pointless. It adds nothing to the story or the character of Jessie. Although I'm sure it added dollars to the pockets of Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul.
After having watched both El Camino and the other dreadful bore, Better Call Saul, I'm beginning to feel like Breaking Bad was a fluke which owed more to Bryan Cranston's acting skills rather than Gilligan's writing.
If you have seen more than a dozen movies in your life then the twist will come as no surprise. I would hesitate even calling it a twist since it's so blatantly obvious. The inane dialogue (the arrival scene at the hospital is a prime example) surely didn't help. Lily Rabe and Stephen Tobolowsky were underused.
This was not one for the history books. Can't say I'm surprised since it's a Netflix production.
How to rate this show?
First of all, I loved Lost when it originally aired. I couldn't wait to download the latest episode (no way I was going to wait weeks or months before it aired in my country) and see where the mystery was taking me. Because let's be frank, the mystery was the show's bread and butter and unique selling point.
I have since bought the huge DVD box set and watched the entire series from start to finish a handful times. The last time I saw it was five years or so.
This summer I decided to do an experiment and watch it again. Although I can't remember every little twist and turn, I know how it ends. I know what happens to the characters. I know what's up with the island.
So with the mystery removed, how does Lost work as a regular TV show?
The first thing that struck me is how glacial the pacing is. It takes forever to get anywhere, and half the time the show is spinning its wheels. It's obvious already in the first season. It feels like the same conflict keeps repeating. They want something (more often than not weapons), Sawyer has it but won't give it to them and a fight/torture/shenanigans ensue. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If there was ever a show which would have benefited from a 10-13 episode season it's Lost. A shorter season with tighter pacing would have been perfect for this show, because there is way too much filler.
One of my main gripes is that they had guns in the show. I know it's an American show, and how Americans obsessively fetishize firearms, but it's just lazy scriptwriting and a copout. Imagine if they didn't have guns but instead had to rely on their wits. That would have made for a much more interesting show.
The acting is serviceable for the most part. Although I'll be the first to admit that I don't care for the crazy eyed theatricality of Michael Emerson and the squirmy mumbling whisper acting by Jeremy Davies.
One thing I really like is that two of the survivors of this intercontinental flight (ostensibly) don't speak English, which was an added bit of realism.
I liked the ending better now than when it originally aired.
Reading through my review it looks like I hate this show. But that's not the case. It's just that when the mystery aspect is removed, the show as a drama is little more than mediocre and at times a slog. So the first time I watched it, it was clearly a 10. But now it's firmly in 6 territory. A tightening of the show would no doubt have raised my score to a 9.
We, the Marines (2017)
We, the Murderers
Pure propagandist garbage conveniently "forgetting" the massacres carried out by the oh-so valiant Marines. Leni Riefenstahl couldn't have been happier with this "documentary".
This sequel could have been great had it not been for Kate Capshaw's character. To say that she's annoying does not even begin to cover it. I suppose she's meant to be a comic relief, but all she does it destroy this movie. The little Asian kid is bad enough, but no one comes close to the idiocy and awfulness of Willie. Such a shame. Apart from the Crystal Skull, which I don't even count as part of the franchise, this is clearly the worst movie of the series.
The first season was very good. It was interesting to see the birth of the behavioral science unit and serial killer classification.
But by the second season the show is already spinning its wheels. I get the structure. The first season is the setup and the establishment of the method, the second is the first time the methods are used for real, and I'm sure the third will be about capturing someone big, perhaps BTK who has been introduced in little vignettes throughout the first two seasons (although it would be weird to fast forward almost 15 years between the second and third seasons).
As the bulk of the show moves to Atlanta in the second season, Anna Torv, who was great on "Fringe", is given nothing to do, apart from a meaningless (and by now mandatory) gay subplot which adds nothing to the story or her character. It's especially ridiculous since Ann Burgess, who Torv's character is based on, isn't gay. Sign of the times, I guess. But it comes off as disrespectful, just as it would have been if the situation had been the reverse.
The older more gruff FBI agent is also great. Every beat with him feels real.
The main problem for me is the other main FBI, the young gay guy (there's no way this character is supposed to be straight) who looks like the love child of Cary Elwes and Emmanuel Macron. In a way it's impressive to be able to find an actor with less emotional range than Keanu Reeves. I'm sure his character is supposed to be stiff, but this performance is so fantastically bland and anemic.
And I wonder just how much of these interviews are based on reality. Because this supposed super sleuth comes off as amateurish beyond belief. And were the real FBI agents this series is based on really this arrogant? Their work comes off as not being based on a particular method except for the whims of this arrogant p***k.
Such a shame. This series started out great, but I don't really have any interest in season 3.
Action Point (2018)
This is not a movie
This is a five minute Youtube compilation of stunts stretched to a one and a half hour runtime by adding a "plot" (I'm overly generous using that term) and amateurish non-actors, with neither being good enough even for fourth grade porn. What an embarrassement. I'd rather watch old Jackass episodes than this poor excuse of a movie.
The Boys (2019)
First season review
Wow, this was much better than I had anticipated. Super hero fatigue hit me several years ago. The last umpteen installments from Marvel and DC have bored me to tears, it's more or less the same thing over and over again.
But The Boys came as a complete surprise to me. It's has real characters and an intriguing story. And it's funny! Unlike the tepid humor and dad jokes in the neutered Marvel kids movies. The actors are really good. I can't remember if I've seen the guy who plays The Deep before, but he's a real find.
It's not often I'm looking forward to a season 2, especially not when it comes to superhero shows (here's looking at you, Marvel). But this time I'm excited for the next season.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013)
The show started out fine for the first two seasons or so. Not a masterpiece by any means, but still funny and something I looked forward to watching.
But the quality quickly declined and what once felt pretty fresh is now stale. These last two seasons I can count how many times I've actually laughed out loud on the fingers using only one hand.
Andy Samberg, who once was the anchor of the show, is now the least watchable of the bunch, with his horse faced grin constantly mugging for the camera.
But what has become more striking is how anxious this show is. I'm not saying that all comedy has to be "edgy" or "raunchy" like Doug Stanhope or Anthony Jeselnik or Jim Norton (some of my personal favorites) but Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so amazingly neutered. Whenever the show tries to deal with real life issues, it does it with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. The constant need for Samberg's character to constantly babble feminist catchphrases makes my eyes roll so far back in my head I can see my own hippocampus.
IT'S SO GREAT THAT JASON MANTZOUKAS FEELS THE NEED TO SHOUT EACH AND EVERY LINE. JUST LIKE DOES ON THE OTHERWISE GOOD PODCAST "HOW DID THIS GET MADE", WHICH I ABSOLUTELY DIDN'T STOP LISTENING TO DUE TO MANTZOUKAS' DELIGHTFUL SHTICK. BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT SHOUTING YOUR LINES = INSTANT COMEDY. What? Reading in all caps is annoying? Now you know how I feel every time Jason Mantzoukas appears on this show.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Game Night (2017)
Tonight, on another very special Blossom
"Game Night" reminds me of "Moo Moo" from season 4 episode 16. Brooklyn 99 is not good at tackling real life issues. Everything is done so clunky and heavy handedly with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, and it doesn't help that Samberg is his usual grinning buffoon. The end result is neither funny nor insightful.
I'm sure this has been mentioned a thousand times already, but this was a shameless rip-off of Towering Inferno and Die Hard, Skyscraper manages to capture the magic of neither. It's amazing that a 45 year old movie made in the pre-computer effects era manages to have more suspenseful fire sequences than this CGI mess.
The only thing more dull than the plot (and I'm using that term generously) are the antagonists, who, of course, are mainly white even though the movie is set in China. Don't want to upset the dictatorship and lose out on that sweet Chinese box office.
At least this movie got one thing right, and that was the Chinese characters using Baidu instead of Google to search the internet. The reason, of course, is that the Chinese dictatorship that Hollywood is pandering to, has blocked Google search and related services like Gmail. I would have loved to see one of the non-Chinese characters use a computer and enter the address to Google and find it blocked. That would have had more entertainment value than this entire movie.
The Chef Show (2019)
Fails on two levels
It doesn't work as a cooking show since there is very little focus on how to actually prepare the food, and it surely doesn't help that the ingredients are listed in an animation for about a second and a half.
It also doesn't work as an interview show where the cooking is just a tool to get to know someone better. Favreau has simply rounded up some of his famous friends (great marketing tool) and hopes that will be enough for an interesting conversation. It's not.
I miss the Favreau who directed the fantastic movie "Made" (2001).
More Netflix garbage
It follows the usual boring and tired Netflix formula with a 10 episode season. But it's based on a novella. So in essence it's like The Hobbit which was a short children's book turned into a movie trilogy. My god there is a lot of pointless filler with a cast of dull actors including an Irishman who manages to pull off an "American" accent on par with Sean Connery's "Irish" accent in Darby O'Gill and the Little People. The only saving grace is Gretchen Mol but that's not enough to save this clunker. I'd rather watch Event Horizon a million times before sitting through another episode of Nightflyers.
Tom Segura: Disgraceful (2018)
Bill Burr & Louis CK deserve royalties
This was pretty funny at times, although he nicked too many jokes from Bill Burr and Louis CK.
The Meg (2018)
Fails on two fronts
My expectations surely weren't soaring other than I looked forward to seeing some dumb fun. But The Meg seemingly can't decide whether it wants to be cheesy over the top schlock or serious drama, as a result it fails miserably at both.
Although the movie surely is ridiculous it never manages to reach that "so bad it's good" territory, unlike, say, Piranha 3D (2010) which excelled at it.
And the drama fails on every level, from the dialogue to the acting which is cringeworthy, especially from the Chinese actors who seem to be struggling with every line, and Ruby Rose who just seem to be struggling with the concept of acting. I think there was supposed to be a love story between Statham and Bingbing, but it's difficult to tell since they have the chemistry of a wet sock.
Speaking of Cina, Hollywood pandering (or groveling rather) to a repressive dictatorship (go there and you'll see what i mean) leaves a bad taste. But as long as someone is willing to pony up the dough Hollywood will bend over backwards with an eagerness to please, which is why we will never see a high budget Hollywood movie about the Tianmen massacre, just like we will never see a Hollywood movie about the Nakba or the oppression and wanton slaughter of Palestinians by the occupying regime. I doubt that a studio would make a movie like Red Corner (1997) today.
Historical Roasts (2019)
Well, I guess Jeff Ross needed something to do between the annual Comedy Central roasts in order to pay the bills. Although I assume everyone involved got paid, I still feel embarrassed on their behalf. It's unlikely that this show will be prominently featured on anyone's CV. It's not that it's distasteful. The rougher the roasts the better, I say. It's that the jokes (and I'm using this word generously) aren't funny. They all fall flat. What useless writers were working on this show?? I started to watch two episodes but couldn't finish any of them. In essence, Netflix greenlit and produced yet another garbage project. I don't know why I'm surprised anymore.
Interesting documentary with an important topic. But the use of hidden cameras when speaking to ordinary North Korean workers leaves a bad taste, even though they blur their faces and distort their voices. Was there any ethical concerns about how they were risking the safety of the workers who might be readily identified due to their build, clothes and location? I fully understand that it would be difficult to get them to speak on the record, but how do you weigh that against putting them in danger?
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
Couldn't play this on my Apple TV. So much for your precious experiment, Netflix.
Black Summer (2019)
Inept writing and execution
Had I known this was produced by The Asylum, there is no way I would have wasted my time on this garbage. Unfortunately I only found this out afterwards.
There is nothing on this show you haven't seen before. The beginning is virtually a direct ripoff from the opening of the Dawn of the Dead remake from 2004. The characters are cardboard cutouts and the dialogue wouldn't even cut it in a gonzo porno. It's painfully slow with piss-poor structure. The prime example is episode 6, "The Heist". And I love the magical bullets which teleport through friendlies, always hit their intended target where the bullets stop on a dime or manage to apparently disintegrate before striking the background´.
The Netflix continues to greenlight dreck pisses me off to no end. If Netflix doesn't become more selective in their greenlight process I'm cancelling my subscription, because I have seen to much Netflix produced rubbish for it to be worth the monthly cost.
Don't waste your time on this pos.
Channeru wa sono mama! (2019)
I have to say I came close to turning off after the first ten minutes or so. I'm not a big fan of the Japanese over-the-top acting style. But I have to say I'm happy I kept watching.
It's essentially a manga, and it wasn't until afterwards that I found out that it was indeed based on one, although there are plenty of clues in the show (the acting style, the framing, the use of graphics etc.) The story is kind of silly and the acting is wildly exaggerated. But if you take it for what it is it's very enjoyable.
The main character Yukimaru, played by Kyôko Yoshine, is like a shot of adrenaline pumped straight into the heart. It's impossible to watch her and not smile. Although she would make an absolutely horrible colleague in real life...
It's not often I want to see a second season, but in the case of this show I wouldn't mind that one bit. Can't wait to see what Yukimaru and her colleagues get up to next.
Good but far too long
I watched this on Netflix, and although it wasn't a Netflix production it follows the Netflix formula: ten hour long episodes per season. There was no need for this to be ten hours long. There was enough story to fill three, maybe four, episodes. The first couple of episodes were quite good. But then, true to the Netflix formula, there is an extraordinary amount of filler, like the butler storyline and one episode is spent almost exclusively on covering the confirmation of the son of one of the kidnappers.
I am sick and tired of the "slow burn" fad. Making something progress slowly does not automatically make it good.
That said, the acting is good, especially Sutherland and Brendan Fraser. Nice to see that he's back in the game. My main gripe is that the actor playing the main character, who is supposed to be 16 years old, looks far too old, like he's in his mid 20's.
If you have ten hours to spare, this is a good series to watch. Although I recommend having the fast forward button at the ready.
On a side note, one of the locations in the movie is the restaurant Sabatini in Trastevere, Rome. Whatever you do, do NOT go to that restaurant. They are famous for scamming tourists by adding "service" charges printed with minimal letters hidden away in the menu. Wildly expensive and garbage quality, a true tourist trap.
The Umbrella Academy (2019)
I gave it three episodes
Wasting three hours on this was quite enough. It's the usual Netflix 10 episode season formula. Why on earth Netflix thinks that dragging things out endlessly to fill that ten hour time slot - like just about every other show they produce - is a good thing is beyond me. In these three episodes I watched there were perhaps 30 minutes of story, if I'm being generous. The rest is Netflix's same old filmmaking-by-algorithm that is starting to get very tiresome by now.
I haven't read the source material, so I can only judge the show on its own merits. It's all style over substance. If you mix X-Men with Watchmen, you're pretty close to this show. Nothing feels original, which I am sure is why the Netflix algorithm gave a green light to this project.
One thing that really stands out is how horrible many of the actors are. Whoever told Mary J Blige she could act, deserves to be slapped. And the same goes for the guy who plays Klaus, who I'm sure they thought would be a comic relief, but it's painful to watch him try and have everything fall flat.