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Again straying away from being a social parable, as far as I could tell, this episode was more of a general science fiction story with a twist at the end, which unravels the more you think about it.
Sat on the Launchpad, moments away from beginning the first manned flight to Mars, reports of nuclear missiles in the air mean that the five person crew have to make a choice; abort and deal with the outcome of the missile strikes or continue the mission and perhaps never know what happened on Earth. Choosing the latter, the gruelling 7 month mission takes an increasingly high toll on the crew's mental state.
So this is another episode I'd describe as "fine" rather than "good". The performances are good though, it's an ensemble piece - so it's not fair to pick anyone out in particular, but it's also interesting that this is the first episode not to have a lead actor with some name recognition - at least not to me anyway.
The story is only OK though. We settle fairly late in the episode (too late really) into the crux of the story, that one of the crew comes to believe that their situation must be a simulation, rather than the real thing and decides to test his theory. There might have been more in this aspect of the story, but it's over too quickly to get emotionally involved in it. One character literally talks about "The Great Filter" as a concept. Which again, in retrospect, I think perhaps is cheating slightly, when you have a character spell out what the shows theme, rather than arriving there organically. And the ending. . . well what actually happens? Both options, neither.
Again, nothing special, but the episode was OK.
October Faction (2020)
Just a short review this time, as I didn't make it all the way through this season of "October Faction" so wouldn't like to be too damning as it may improve as it continues, for the record, I watched the first four episodes before deciding I'd had enough.
Married couple Deloris (Tamara Taylor) and Fred (JC MacKenzie) are monster hunters for a secretive organisation called "Presidio". Despite their globetrotting, they've managed to hide their true profession from the twin teenage children Viv (Aurora Burghart) and Geoff (Gabriel Darku). Fred's father, who was also in Presidio passes away, and the family come home for the funeral. This sets off a chain of events that probably leads somewhere, but I don't know, because I gave up.
There were a number of reasons why I gave up after the fourth episode. One of which is that the show is irredeemably slow. At the point I finished, I still didn't really understand the world, how it works, how Presidio is funded, who the villain of the season is, what they want, why Geoff wants to be friends with his classmates, why his classmates keep giving him another chance, why am I spending all this time with the kids at school, when the Presidio story is more interesting. The kids discovering their parents real lives, which should have happened at the end of the first episode, only just happens as I gave up. It's has been both boring and confusing.
The second major reason is the performances. They are pretty universally awful. Taylor and MacKenzie have been good in other things, but they're an unconvincing couple here (and not just because he looks much older than her, despite the actors being the same age). But it's the kids that are the worst. Not just the main two, but yes, particularly those two - but also everyone else that goes to the school.
Both those things said, "October Faction" isn't irredeemably awful, the effects are cheapish, but OK for TV, direction is fine. It's just not good enough to persevere with, even before the cancellation.
Season One Review
I approached "The Righteous Gemstones" with a bit of trepidation, the reviews in the right places were good, but I'd given up on both "Eastbound And Down" and "Vice Principals" after a few episodes. Overall though, I enjoyed this one and stuck with it.
Wealthy Televangelist Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) runs his successful church with his family, eldest son Jesse (Danny McBride), daughter Judy (Edi Patterson) and youngest son Kelvin (Adam Devine). Scandal beckons though, as Jesse is being blackmailed with a video of a coke fuelled orgy that he and his friends took part in. Desperate to keep it from his wife and father, Jesse engages his siblings in a plan, a plan that does not involve paying the blackmailers off.
Haven't looked at any of the other reviews yet, but I can imagine that some of them take issue with Christians being the brunt of another joke, from the liberal Hollywood elite. If you actually watch the show though, I thought that it was reasonably well balanced in that regard. The target isn't Christians, nor even the poor saps that see fit to hand over their last few dollars to this mass charade. The target is the hypocritical central family who amass and abuse massive wealth whilst preaching Christian values.
Without ever really becoming a comedy-drama, there is enough plot, both in the individual episodes and the overall season to hang a story around. Occasionally, it's even a little moving, particularly with John Goodman dealing with the death of his wife and the flashback episode to 1989. It's funny though, that's the key thing. Both with the moments of wit, and with shock, slapstick or gross-out humour. Edi Patterson was really the star of the show for me, Judy is a more extreme caricature than the rest of her family, but Patterson hits all the right notes.
Looking forward to the second season.
Not Worth Fighting For
Accidentally catching some of the video for "Everything I Do" on a music channel recently, inspired me to dig out the DVD of "Prince of Thieves" and give it a whirl.
Robin of Loxley, (Kevin Costner) crusading son of a nobleman, escapes from prison and makes it back to England's green and pleasant shores, with Azeem (Morgan Freeman) whom he also rescued and who owes Robin a life debt. He returns to discover his father's lands taken, and the surround area under the control of the Sherriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman). Becoming a criminal on his first day home, Robin leads a band of fellow outlaws to thwart the Sheriffs plans, feed the hungry and ultimately inspire a rebellion.
So, my DVD copy of this was very old. One of the ones primarily made of cardboard, before the plastic casing eventually won the day. It wasn't the special edition, it wasn't remastered, it was essentially the video on disc, with massive black bars around the picture - so visually, this experience wasn't all it could be. . . but that's not the fault of the film. My thoughts going in were that the film was rather unfairly maligned now, and was a capable family action adventure. My thoughts now are that the maligning was actually pretty fair, and even if you ignore the most striking visual and aural negatives. It's an uneven story, that takes a long time to get going and still manages to lag in the middle. Costner's hair as aged badly, a sort of shaggy mullet that was only acceptable in the 90's and, as is common to point out, he's not really trying to do any accent. His performance is pretty bad too, which I don't think is always the case with him.
The films not irredeemably awful though. When the action scenes arrive, they're actually pretty solid, a few of the visual effects remain standout, such as the "Arrow-Cam" and, though it doesn't quite go as far with the redemption as I thought, Alan Rickman does a great job. The score though is one part that I didn't remember (beyond the song obviously) but you hear all over the place, particularly the Disney DVD Trailer menus.
It's not the worst film every made, and sadly it's one of the better version of "Robin Hood" in live action, but it was a better film in my memory than in real life.
The Twilight Zone: The Wunderkind (2019)
This was a bit more like it. Back to a parable style story after last weeks . . . whatever that was, but with a twist in the tale, this was the best episode of the run so far (although admittedly that's not saying much).
Following a failed Presidential re-election attempt, disgraced Campaign manager, Raff Hanks (John Cho) spies a way back to relevance by facilitating the run for office of 11 year old Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay). Despite Oliver's lack of experience, knowledge, and his childish temperament, he speaks to the public and pulls off an unlikely win. Now Oliver is the most powerful person in the US - only Hank's seems capable of seeing that it's not a good idea to have a child making the decisions - but his decision to speak up is not popular.
So, to be fair the true life parallel of this story isn't particularly difficult to ascertain. If, for some reason it's passed you by, the long red tie at Oliver's inauguration should be a giveaway. The issue I'd have is that I'm not sure the episode goes far enough away from reality to be a parody. I write this review as the actual President tweets about his ratings whilst his electorate are dying from the coronavirus. But the parallels, hiring the best people, refusing to submit to a medical, cheating at golf are all there.
The performances are pretty good, aside from Cho and Tremblay - you have Alison Tolman in the mix too, as a colleague of Hanks who works on both campaigns. It's a step up all round but it's still a long way from touching something like "Black Mirror" at the moment.
Doctor Who: The Long Game (2005)
Satellite Of Love
Cameos a plenty in the seventh episode of the Doctor Who reboot, which I felt was the most enjoyable episode of the run so far.
Arriving in the year 200,000 with Adam (Bruno Langley) still on board, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) are on a news broadcasting space station at the heart of the fourth great Human Empire. But things are wrong. The Empire is not progressing as The Doctor knows it should have, it has been stunted. Two workers on the platform, ambitious Cathica (Christine Adams) and her friend Suki (Anna Maxwell Martin) explain how the station works, and Rose and The Doctor investigate just what is happening on the 500th floor. But Adam has a plan of his own.
So, yes. Plot wise I think this was the best episode I've seen so far. I only have the one question, in that I didn't really understand what the endgame was for the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. But beyond that, everything else rang true. I like that rather than fixing the problem himself, the Doctor inspired Cathica to investigate properly and save the day. I also liked that we got rid of Adam as there wasn't much in Bruno Langley's performance to get attached to. I actually thought he died, but actually being dumped home and needing to keep quiet was much more fitting. One funny aspect is that the theme of the show, bias within news media, is probably is more relevant now that it was in 2005
What's most striking about this episode is the number of recognisable actors in it. Simon Pegg and Tamsin Grieg would have been notable cameos at the time, with "Spaced", "Black Books" and "Shaun Of The Dead" all having been made by this point. Christine Adams has worked consistently on both sides of the Atlantic for years now most recently (at time of review) in "Black Lightning". Anna Maxwell Martin is probably the biggest star though, looking particularly young here, she's gone on to star in virtually every Dickins adaptation made since.
I enjoyed this one, it's was an amusing knockabout adventure elevated by its guest stars.
Season One Review
The first season of "Picard" ends on what I thought was rather a high note, bringing to an end a series that was perhaps a bit too patchy and lacking in terms of story to be considered as a success.
Captured by Sutra (Isa Briones), Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes an emotional appeal to Soji (Isa Briones) not to call forth the apocalyptic artificial intelligence. The rest of the crew though join forces with Narek (Harry Treadaway) to attempt a more violent method of stopping her. All the while, the Romulan warbirds draw closer and closer and it appears that the Federation haven't heeded the advice of their former Admiral.
So, taking this final episode in isolation. I thought it was alright. Visually it was pretty good, the scenes with Picard piloting La Serena looked great. It's nice, plotwise, that ultimately it all rests on Picard's ability to reach Soji and convince her not to proceed, supported by the actions in space. Giving Data a better send-off was agreeable, though frankly I feel that the progression with Picard's character was a little forced to keep the series going. I'm struck again by everyone's lack of commitment to their beliefs. Spoilers - The Romulan captain has dedicated her life to the idea that the robot overlords will come and kill us all, she's infiltrated Starfleet, risen up the ranks and now attacks the planet with an overwhelming force. Then gives up at the pivotally point, literally the whole reason for her life, because Riker and Starfleet arrive. Her belief is that organics are all going to die anyway, why not fight on?
Taking the season as a whole, I feel like it was lacking in coherent vision. Rather than planning how each aspect of the show would feed back into the full narrative, this feels more like writers were asked to write their episodes in isolation. So plot points are created and then not paid off and at other points, scenes occurred without the back story to explain when that happened. My primary example of this would be the relationship between Jurati and Rios. It comes out of nowhere, disappears and then doesn't prove necessary for the rest of the show.
I feel, looking back on it - that this would have made a better movie - or maybe miniseries, than as much of this as we got. Act 1. Dahj death, Picard puts crew together to find her sister. Act 2. Borg Ship, rescue. Act 3. Robot Planet. Sacrifice. The world building and fleshing out of the characters around that just confused matters.
I'll be back for Season two, but I'd really appreciate it if the story was tighter and less "Illogical, Captain"
One Day at Disney (2019)
National Lampoons Vocation
Starved for a bit of original content on Disney Plus at the weekend, I put on the feature length version of "One Day at Disney". Whilst admittedly, it's a bit of a puff piece (they're hardly likely to make hard hitting documentaries about themselves) for me, Disney is maybe the one corporation in the world that can get away with parlaying our lifelong affection for their output into something like this.
Surrounded by telling us a through story about Bob Iger (recently stood down as CEO of Disney Corporation), "One Day At Disney" tells us about the day to day lives of several staff members across the various business streams of Disney. These include news anchor Robin Roberts, Mark Gonzales, who runs the classic Steam train at Disneyland and Zama Maguduela who is playing Rafiki in the Madrid run of "The Lion King" musical but perhaps the most memorable is Eric Goldberg - a Disney animator that worked on everything from "Aladdin" onwards.
As I say, hard hitting it is not, and I'm sure that the subjects were chosen for their presentability and back stories as much as their enthusiasm for their work. We aren't spending any time with the park cleaning staff or midlevel accountants, or anyone who isn't doing a job they love. That doesn't change the warmth of the documentary though, and the fact on a couple of occasions there are some emotional curveballs along the way. Mostly though, I just felt jealous of people who, and even if they're just pretending for the camera, give the impression that they are in the exact career they were meant to do and never "work" a day in their lives.
10 Minutes Gone (2019)
Moonlighting as an actor.
Watching the Movies on Sky in alphabetically order again kicks me in the balls with this Bruce Willis / Michael Chiklis movie that is so spectacularly awful, I'd almost recommend that you watch it just to see just how inept a movie, seemingly made by professionals, can possibly be.
A bank heist goes wrong, leading to a shootout with the Police that leaves several officers dead. Whilst sneaking out of a secondary exit with the loot, Frank (Michael Chiklis) is struck over the head and awakes to find the loot gone and his brother dead. Convinced they were set up, Frank hunts down the remaining members of the gang to find out what happened. Meanwhile, Franks boss Rex (Bruce Willis) is . . . doing something, I dunno really, the film doesn't make that much sense. He wants the loot. That much is apparent.
Where to start. It's hard not to start with the acting. Bruce Willis is very much phoning this in. Paid to have his name above the title, he's reading most of his lines from cue cards. Michael Chiklis is actually the star of the film, and is just about passable. Nobody else in this film is a professional actor. They can't be! I don't care how many credits they have on IMDB - there is no way any one of them makes their living by performing in front of a camera. The performances are laugh out loud awful.
But it's not like that's the only lowpoint. The plot doesn't make any sense. You'd think, from the title, that each of the gang would be able to provide Frank with a few minutes of the "10 Minutes Gone" as he was knocked out - but not really, they just protest their innocence and then there's a shoot out. An inept shoot out, where every character fires a thousand bullets and can't hit a barn door - refreshingly though it's not just the baddies that can't shoot, our hero is awful too. The film is 90 minutes long, which includes a pre-credits scene, a lengthy opening credits crawl, narration, a spectacularly awful shoot out, that we revisit several times and most hilariously, a five minute news report about the crime that includes details the news couldn't possibly know and is watched by a character who then never explains their interest or appears in the film again.
Is it the worst film I've ever seen ? You know, it genuinely might be.
Refrain from watching.
Just a short review for this one, as I don't like to be too forthright on shows I give up on watching, mostly because they can improve over time.
Zoey (Jane Levy) thanks to an accident with a hospital scanner is able to hear the inner thoughts of her family, friends, co-workers and strangers, expressed in the form of a song and dance number. Through this insight into her associates, she's able to more successfully manage her coding team, including her best friend Max (Skylar Astin), office crush Simon (John Clarence Stewart) and even reconnect with her father Mitch (Peter Gallagher) who has some form of "locked in" syndrome.
So, I got through three episodes of the show before deciding I'd had enough. I'm sure I'm not the target demographic for them, but I'm relatively open minded about higher concept stuff, and musical shows, I watched "Glee" for a good few seasons. There were some aspects of this that I liked, Jane Levy is pretty good. Actually, maybe that's about it. Everyone else was lousy. I really disliked her neighbour, it's not so much how Alex Newell plays her, as much as she's written as such a cliché black best friend trope - it's so out of date. Lauren Graham's Ice Queen Boss, the dude-bro coder and the coffee girl also seem like well-worn stereotypes.
The real killer though is the quality of the musical performances. Much of the cast you'd describe as passable singers, but nobody is particularly excellent and a few I'd go as far as describing as poor. The integration of the songs doesn't seem particularly clever, either within the plot of the episode itself or the adaptation. It's fairly basic, amateur dramatics cover versions and the internal logic of them is all over the place.
Again, maybe after episode three it'll get amazing, in which case, good for them, but I'll not be around to see it.
Having never watched "Entourage", I came to "Ballers" purely on the strength of a mild interest in American Football and the star power of Dwayne Johnson. Though I think some of the criticism the show received was valid, overall I enjoyed the run and I'm glad it came to an end before it wore itself into the ground.
At the conclusion of his career as a professional football player, Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson) looks to transition into the role of a sports advisor/agent, assisted by his friend Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry). Once they increase their talent portfolio, including gifted but troubled Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), the money and the prestige begins to grow but Spencer hasn't forgotten his time on the field, and is looking to find some way to improve the lot for the men who risk their health on a game by game basis, but miss out on the unbelievable wealth.
It has to be said that in terms of drama, "Ballers" is more like "Dallas" than say "Billions". It's more soapy and is generally pretty much consequence free. There is lip service paid to more consequential themes, such as concussion protocol and drug use - but the shows not willing to make any of its leads really go through anything like that. Instead, they generally just flirt with failing, only to come good at the end. This is not to say that the show is not good. The three actors I mention in the above paragraph are all great and find ways to make you care about their characters, even if they have lives that many would be envious of. You can add to that list the character that has the most interesting arc, Charles Greane played by Omar Benson Miller. He goes from retired defensive linesman to the General Manager position.
There are other criticisms that you can level, it's portrayal of women is hilariously offensive, the money available to the characters comes from ... nowhere and is endless ... and the desire to up the stakes each season, rather than drilling further into the characters was a poor one. But the show isn't really interested in deep personality explorations, or complicated evolving plots - its happy being mildly entertaining fluff - and in that it succeeds.
The Twilight Zone: A Traveler (2019)
What? . . what was this about ? The first three episodes of the rebooted "Twilight Zone" haven't been great - but there's at least been some sort of allegorical point to make. . this was just . . nothing.
On Christmas Eve, in a small Alaskan town, a party takes place at the Police Station. As is traditional, during the party, the Chief (Greg Kinnear) will "pardon" someone in the holding cells. To accommodate this, his deputy, Yuka Mongoyak (Marika Sila) is bringing in her brother Jack (Patrick Gallagher) on a minor drinking charge, but mostly so he can have a Christmas meal. However, when it comes time for the ceremony there is another man in the cells with Jack. A Traveler (Stephen Yeun) claims to be a tourist whose heard about the tradition, and though he charms Chief Pendleton, Mongoyak is more suspicious and begins to investigate.
So, initially I assumed that the show was going to be about indigenous people, and how they are systematically wiped out by invading forces (presumably with a focus on the US and the Native Americans) but the longer the show went, the more it pulled away from that towards . . not much. The story is more hinted at, than actually explained. A Traveler's plan, such as it is, I'd assume involves cutting the power to an air base to assist with the alien invasion. To do that, there's a plot device that reminds me a little of the film "Arlington Road" but it's never actually concluded. You'd assume the aliens are supposed to blow up the target, but they don't and then they just invade anyway?
Performances are decent, and the effects that are kept mostly off-screen work well but it's a story that's lacking in ... well ... story and is a waste of time.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Alphabetical scrawl through the films on Sky Movies has me land on "2001: A Space Odyssey" on a lockdowned Saturday afternoon.
Two astronauts, David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) are on a mission to Jupiter when their ships computer HAL (Douglas Rain) suggests that a piece of kit is broken, although with further investigation this proves not to be the case. Unaware of any issues with their artificially intelligent system previously the guys talk privately about the idea of rebooting HAL, an idea the sentient computer doesn't find appealing.
Try as I might, and my little film nerd heart would really like to, I just can't come around to liking "2001". I can appreciate the artistry of the special effects - revolutionary for the time - and I love the scope of the film. Human evolution laid out from start to finish. But I just find it too much of a chore to get through, particular that closing half an hour - which I don't think I've ever made it through without at least a bit of fast forwarding. I can also appreciate that the performances are good, the classical music is iconic in this context and I can see why it's become such a cultural touchstone. I love Kubick films, and love that he's such an auteur, in the time of auteurs, that he can make a film as wildly loose and esoteric as this one.
But none of that appreciation transfers into what I want from a movie, which is either to be entertained or educated and despite all the will in the world, I'm yet to find that with "2001".
For me, this season of "Picard" has been very mixed and this penultimate episode is, unfortunately, another downturn.
Arriving at the robot homeworld, pursued by Narek (Harry Treadaway), the La Sirena is disabled and pulled to Earth by a flower looking defence mechanism, along with Narek's ship and the Borg Cube, that 7 of 9 (Jeri Ryan) has brought to assist. On the planet they arrive at Dr Soong's (Brent Spiner) complex and discover a society of androids, including Sutra (Isa Briones) an earlier model of Soji. Intending to take the society away, Jurati's (Alison Pill) message about an artificial life overlord has a different effect.
I still find myself whilst watching the episode, thinking over and over again, "That might mean something, if these characters hadn't met each other last week". The scene when Elnor chooses to stay with the downed Borg ship, includes an emotion embrace and goodbye speech. Which for me, doesn't ring true, as although I accept Picard knew him as a child, for us, the viewing audience, they've said about six lines to each other. There was no scene, or episode, or storyline that explained to us how they got beyond Elnor's initial hostility towards Picard. Again, Picard's "I'm dying" speech - we experience through Raffi's eyes - who's a character we've only met through this series. The crew are happy to move on from the fact that Jurati murdered someone, just because he was apparently a bit shady, (although not in a way I can't fully understand at the moment) as, even more bizarrely, are the androids and Soong.
So, whereas I know other people have baulked against the swearing and violence, I'm fine with that. I'd just like it if the show was better paced. It's like we're missing every other episode at the moment and it makes for a disjointed experience. I'm a lot less confident, given where we are, that this season is going to wrap up much of this story.
Avenue 5: Eight Arms But No Hands (2020)
Season One Review
The first season of "Avenue 5" comes to a conclusion with an episode that befits the improving nature of the show.
Wracked with guilt over last week's deaths, Matt (Zach Woods) changes the codes to the airlocks and hides. Unfortunately, he does this just as the deadline for jettisoning the cargo and cutting the mission time, is arriving. Meanwhile Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and the supply ship arrive - which causes much debate as the single spare seat for the return visit to Earth is identified and up for grabs.
As with most of the second half of this series, this episode was pretty good. This time arriving at a much more natural reason to have all the cast in the same room - they played off each other nicely for a generally amusing set of scenes, involving a bit of farce around the seat on the ship home.
It might be a coincidence, but I don't think it is, that the show has gotten better as the actors have settled into who the characters are. Josh Gad's Herman Judd is the prime example, just a shrieking nonsense in the first couple of episodes, we've settled here into him being what he should always have been, a man whose staggering wealth precludes from having an common sense. Less cruel and more dumb, as with this character, dumb is funnier than cruel. Hugh Laurie remains the star of the show though, more capable of a witty putdown than anyone else, but also well rounded enough that the show can centre around him.
What would I like for the second season? It sounds obvious but more of the good stuff and less of the bad. Forget about mission control and what's happening on Earth - there's nothing useful to be had there now we understand why there isn't a rescue mission. Mia and Doug's storyline (if you can call it that) can go too, it's been boring and unfunny since the first episode. I'd like a little more science to it, for example, to understand where the ships resources are coming from . . but ultimately, just be funny like the last few episodes were and not awful like the first ones.
When it was awful, it was truly spectacularly awful, but fortunately it picked up no end as the season ran on.
The Hunt (2020)
Liberty Belle - ends
How interesting that so much controversy would be generated by a film an inherently, and deliberately, silly as this one.
A group seemingly unconnected Americans, of various ages and genders, awake to find themselves on a strange compound with the only clue to their situation being a large crate nearby. The crate contains a variety of weapons. Once armed, the people are then picked off by an unseen enemy.
I don't know why I'm being so coy in my synopsis, as you'll know from any of the advertising that the film is about "liberal elites" hunting "deplorables". What you won't get is the tone of the film, which is pretty much a comedy. A black comedy at times admittedly, but occasionally just an out and out comedy. The film I'd most compare it too is "Cabin in The Woods" - as it takes a similarly well worn premise and manages to do some different and new things with it. However, "The Hunt" doesn't have "Cabin's" rewatchability. Once you know the plot, I can't really see another reason to come back to it.
I'd also say, the trailer for the film really does the movie a disservice, as it gives away a couple of the films secrets, including revealing who the lead "Liberal" is played by - which the movie goes to great lengths to keep concealed. The deaths are nicely done though, and often come out of nowhere, with a wonderful practical feel to the effects and it's a funny film, occasionally laugh out loud so. Betty Gilphin is great, as ever, in this.
The controversy that'd dogged the film seems pretty silly once you've seen it. - although the advertising has played into it too - so they only have themselves to blame. I felt the film not only attacks both sides in equal measure but has an overall message of once you scratch the surface there being more that unites us than divides us.
It's a solid, entertaining film - just not one with much replay value.
The pace, and my interest, picks up a little more for this episode.
Holly (Cynthia Erivo) arrives in town and lays out her theory about who, or perhaps what, is behind the child murders to a bemused, disappointed and angry investigation team. Though meeting scepticism, she stays with Ralph (Ben Mendelsohn) and his wife, who was present for the reveal and later Jeannie's (Mare Winningham) unexplained visitation catches her interest, and leads to a first bit of evidence that she might be right.
I appreciate people aren't analysing my reviews, but if they were, you'd see that the time between original airdate and when I'm getting around to watching these is increasing with each episode. My criticism of the season in general still holds true, generally I'm struggling as we're so far ahead of the investigation team - but this might be the one where they've finally caught up. Holly lays out her theory, and it goes about as well as she was anticipating, but enough of it lands that the show can keep going. As it ends, the investigators have someone to look at, as the next link in the chain.
The scene with Marc Mechaca's Jack being beaten up by his late mother was perhaps a bit too odd to fit in with the rest of the series. He's seemed otherwise to understand that he's infected by something and compelled to do its wishes - whereas he was "Don't you know you're Dead" in this one, as if he couldn't piece together what was going on. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with Holly heading off with Jack, and her seeing the telltale infection on the back of his neck. Knowing this is a Stephen King book, secondary heroes don't usually come off that well, so I'd be preparing for Holly's run to come to an end next week.
But we'll see. If nothing else this episode injected enough pace for me to persevere with the rest of the run.
The up and down nature of the show continues, following a downturn last week - this was, I thought, a decent episode.
Whilst getting ready to jettison unwanted things out the back of the ship, it becomes apparent to some of the guests that aspects of the ship aren't real. Including that Captain Clark (Hugh Laurie) isn't genuinely in control of Avenue 5. Believing it all to be an elaborate gameshow, some passengers begin to try and force their way into the airlocks. Judd (Josh Gad) meanwhile fires his captain, and promotes Spike (Ethan Phillips) to the role.
So yes, a few moments of this one made me laugh. Mostly, as I keep saying - the mainstays of Hugh Laurie, Lenora Crichlow and Suzy Nakamura. Rav's space flight, and the realisation about what it all might mean next week was interesting.
It's been a patchy, up and down season that comes to a conclusion next week.
"I'm afraid Robert Goulet hasn't arrived yet Sir"
I've discovered that it's a risky proposition to go back and rewatch the films you liked as a kid through adult eyes. Plot holes seem more apparent, your sense of humour may have evolved, your life experience can change your outlook. So I was very happy to rewatch "Beetlejuice" and find myself not only finding new things about the film I hadn't noticed before - but that so much of the film, from a visual effects standpoint if nothing else, still holds up.
Young married couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland(Geena Davies) are tragically drowned on their way back to their Idyllic small town house. Returning as ghosts, they're horrified when a new family, The Deetz buy their house and move in. New York developer Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and his wife Delia (Catherine O Hara) arrive and she has big interior design plans for the house. Desperate, the Maitlands call on the help of bioexorcist Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) to scare the living away, but they soon discover that the solution is much worse than the problem.
I mention the visual effects in the opening because they're one of the most striking aspects of the film, rewatching it today. Mostly practical or stop-motion, they haven't aged like some computer visual effects of the time (or even later) have and they're so unusual, so directly from their director's twisted mind, that they remain memorable. It's not all the film has going for it though, the script is funny and the performances are very strong too. Alec Baldwin looks impossibly young, Catherine O' Hara is a comic genius and Winona Ryder's Lydia is the prototype movie Goth girl. Michael Keaton is great too, apparently adlibbing for his life whenever his character gets a chance on screen. Some other reviews have suggested Betelgeuse's limited screen time as a bad thing, I think that's one of the films strengths. Fun as though he is, he would become a bit much if he was on screen longer.
Funny, scary and brilliant "Beetlejuice" is a classic. (Maybe don't let your younger kids watch it though.)
Not even a Valiant effort
This is not good. Not good at all. On the most part it's competent enough, but it's so pedestrian and overdone it's near impossible to actively enjoy it.
Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is a Special Ops soldier whose wife is murdered in front of him following a successful hostage rescue. He too is killed, but then wakes up in a laboratory setting some months later. Donated to medical science by the army, the engineers have infused his blood with nanobots that will rebuild his body, in real time, as it is destroyed by bullets, knives and explosions. However, Garrison has no memory of his previous life. That is until a chance encounter triggers him and he sets out, with his new powers, to avenge his loss.
So, there's lots to dislike about "Bloodshot", sadly that starts with its star. I could charitably describe Diesel as a "throwback to 80's action stars" but what I mean by that is that he's incapable of expressing any form of emotion beyond anger, and even that's not convincing. So loss, betrayal, confusion all pass by without him so much as taking off a trademark Dom Toretto White vest. That said, it's not like the plot gives him much to work with - there's more going on than I've detailed in my synopsis above but nothing so dramatic or inventive that you won't constantly be ahead of the story, which the film also cribs from other movies, notably "The Matrix".
I'm never usually critical of this, as it's never normally quite as striking as it is here, but there was little, if any, attempt to convince the audience that the "London" chase scene actually takes place in London. Aside from the fact it doesn't look at all like London; the houses, streets and gardens are all wrong - there's no attempt to change the numberplates or the look of the police car, for example. And it's not like it being in London was integral to the story, just say it's in Cape Town, or Budapest, or wherever they actually filmed that scene!
All those criticisms aside, I did enjoy the elevator set piece that comes near the films conclusion and from a visual effects standpoint, that work is pretty good. It's just that those elements are part of a movie that is so far below par these days, it's not worth your time.
Doctor Who: Dalek (2005)
When I knew we were going back to the beginning of "nuWho" to review the episodes, this episode was one of the ones I was really looking forward to seeing again, as I remembered it fondly. It wasn't quite as good as the regard my memory had for it, but it's still probably the best episode of the run so far.
Tracking a distress signal to an underground bunker in the far future of 2012 (!) The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) discover a personal collection of alien artefacts belonging to American Billionaire Henry Van Statten (Corey Johnson). Most is junk but to the Doctors horror the distress signal is coming from a damaged, but alive, Dalek that he has chained up. The Doctor is torn between his desire to end his greatest foes forever, Rose's naïve assistance and Van Statten's desire to own a unique object.
So the issue here is one of expectation vs Reality, in my mind, Eccleston berates the Dalek for its own existence and it's a classic lengthy monologue. In reality, it's a nice bit of business, but nothing like as Iconic. "You would make a good Dalek" is a nice comeback though and it does oddly tie into the idea that the war doctor is the one before this one and he's still dealing with some of that trauma.
Overall the show is good though. It's a first look at the iconic villain and the episode circumvents those old jokes immediately about getting away from Dalek's by heading up some stairs by introducing the flying mechanic. I love the skeleton effect on the deaths via the laser gun and the specific sound effect for it too. Awesome stuff. Bruno Langley makes his debut as Adam. I remember that he has a little run with team tardis - but at the moment I can't remember if he comes to a sticky end or not. I guess I'll wait and see. He isn't that strong a character here, so I can't imagine we spend that long with him.
It's still the strongest episode so far, just not quite the masterpiece I remembered.
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
I feel like Disney haven't really provided the support to this film as they have some of their other movies. I wonder if perhaps it's because they didn't have quite as much faith in the actual product this time, which would be fair. It's not awful, but it's not very interesting either and feels rather like a film from another studio, rather than of true Pixar quality.
Set in a world where mythical creatures have forgone magic for science, and live in relatively staid 21st century trappings, two brothers, timid Ian (Tom Holland) and older brash Barley (Chris Pratt) live with their mother. On Ian's 16th Birthday, his mother gives him a present from his late father, his magic staff and a spell that will bring him back to life for 24 hours. However, midway through casting the spell, it goes wrong and only his lower half is formed. Ian and Barley (and half their dad) have to quest for a gemstone to complete the spell before the time expires.
So, from a technical standpoint, this is as good as any other Pixar film. Solid visuals, lots of background jokes and visual gags. The vocal performances are OK. Tom Holland is using his generic American voice and Chris Pratt with a broader hyper one (that endlessly reminded me of Jack Black). Nobody else form the cast really stands out, either positively or negatively. I did too like the overall message of the film, I'll not spoil it but "appreciate what you have" is a good pointer. I enjoyed the ending as well - the last 10/15 minutes have a lot of fun and action to them.
However, the rest of the film is a bit .. . flat. I'm not sure that the world is a fully realised as much as it is in something contemporary like "Zootopia" and the plot is lacking a good set piece, or firm story beat, or two, before we reach that finale.
It's not bad, not by any stretch - and from any of the other animation company it would be OK - but Pixar's history means that they're judged to a higher standard and unfortunately "Onward" doesn't quite reach it.
Star Trek: Picard: Broken Pieces (2020)
Though still missing a certain.... coherence, I suppose is the right word, episode eight of this first season of "Picard" widened the scope of the story and pushed us towards the conclusion.
Through flashback we learn more about the motivations of the Tal Shiar. They believe that artificial life will eventually cross a threshold of evolution, which will signal the arrival of a destroyer of worlds. Hence their repeated struggles to keep research in that area from taking place, an act which included orchestrating the attack on Mars. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew uncover more truths by talking about their respective past before agreeing to head to Soji's (Isa Briones) homeworld ahead of the Romulan forces.
So I liked the fact that this episode crystallised finally what the plot of the season, and perhaps the longer term run of the show, might be about. This "higher power" that was mentioned seems like a big bad for a later season, whilst I'm sure the Romulan brother and sister combination will be the endgame of this one. Whist I feel all that was good, if perhaps might have been better drip fed across the season rather than concentrated here, I'm not sure that every part of the rest of the episodes really gelled. There were a few more shifts in character that I don't feel like were established, mostly around Raffi. The interrogation of the holo-Rios felt like a funnier idea than it was in execution (and though the Irish accent is OK, the Scottish one leaves a little to be desired, "do you ken?"). What's most striking perhaps is how little Picard actually featured in a show where he's the title character. He had a great little scene with Soji discussing Data - but the rest of the time is relegated to the back of the shots.
Overall this was one of the better episodes though. The stuff on board the Borg Cube in particular was interesting, and not something we've seen before.
Season One Review
I'm going to review this as if it's the first season, a second isn't confirmed as I'm writing this - although I understand the show has been relatively successful (as much as we know).
Sydney, (Sophia Lillis) an awkward high school girl is coming to terms with the suicide of her father, her burgeoning sexuality and the fact that she might have some telekinetic powers. Her relationship with her best friend Dina (Sophia Bryant) is suffering as she's begun a relationship with jock footballer Brad (Richard Ellis). Though she too has started to spend time with her neighbour Stanley (Wyatt Oleff).
I really loved "The End of the F**king World" and this show comes from Jonathan Entwhistle who was the creative force behind that one. There's sort of a similar aesthetic. It has indie movie sensibilities, a wonderful 80's inspired soundtrack and an out-of-time sensibility, from retro clothing, cars and technology. It also shares the idea of a character narrating humorously over the action. The major change is a shift location, across the Atlantic. The shows consistently funny, in that lofi sort of way and Sophia Lillis is fantastic as the lead - as she was as young Beverley in the "IT" films. I also really like (and this might seem an odd thing to say) that the series was so short. There are seven episodes, each at around twenty minutes. We finished the show in a couple of sessions.
I would say, that there are a lot of shows on Netflix at the moment that mix the idea of teen angst with a supernatural or otherworldly aspects - presumably all stemming from the success of "Stranger Things". I'd also say, I wouldn't be too disappointed if that was it. Though I really enjoyed it, threading the needle on a second season would be an amazing accomplishment and is, therefore, a risky one. We'll see.
The Twilight Zone: Replay (2019)
It's a third episode of the show where I've come away feeling. . . underwhelmed, with the story I've been told, though at least this one worked as a modern parable.
Nina Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) is taking her son Dorian (Damson Idris) to college. Nina discovers that an old camcorder in her possession has the power to rewind time, which becomes vital when she, and her son are targeted by a racist police office (Steve Harris). Despite being afforded several goes at escaping him, each time ends in disaster. Nina is eventually forced into a difficult choice to try and break the cycle.
I feel it's worth separating the story of the episode from the lesson of it. The lesson is actually nicely done. The racism inherent in some aspects of the police force (and indeed any authority) is only thwarted by a camera, first by literally being undone by the "magic" camera and then wilting under the exposure of camera phones. . . with the 10 years later denouement suggesting that spectre is always there. I appreciate from the other reviews that some people found it heavy handed - but that's not how I feel.
However, as a story, I felt it was underwritten. We didn't go around the loop enough times for me to get the true feeling that the interaction was inevitable, nor was there enough variety between the stories to warrant the repeated retelling. Maybe it's how my brain works, but I'd have wanted it to be a little more like "Groundhog Day" not in its humour, obviously - but more in the way of working out what to do next by trial and error. Sanaa Lathan is great though, as is Damson idris. Steve Harris, who's so memorable in "Billions" doesn't really have a lot to do with his one note character, though - although he doesn't do anything wrong with it either.
Three episodes of "The Twilight Zone" now and all have been disappointing. Maybe the next one.