Crisis in Six Scenes

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A classic Woody Allen story.

If, like me, your all time favor Woody Allen film is Anne Hall, then your in luck. Crsis in Six Scenes is basically an 80 year old Alvin Singer shuffling around, bitiching and moaning about everything, and baffled as to why no one cares what he has to say.

Of course, if your coming to Crisis in Six Scenes with the expectation this is going to be groundbreaking new work from the man who hasn’t changed his looks, jokes, or formulas since the late 1950s, well, what the hell are you thinking?

This is Woody Allen at his best. This is the Woody Allen that I love. I absolutely hated Blue Jasmine and Irrational Man, though I have to admit that I loved Midnight in Paris. But those were Woody Allen movies without Woody Allen in them. I can’t even remember the last thing I saw a movie that had Woody himself in the cast.

In Crisis in Six Parts we find Sidney J. Munsinger, played by Woody, living in a mansion with his marriage thearapest wife Kay, played by Elaine May. The story is set in the 1960s and the main plotline involved Sidney and May hosting a Patty Hearst type charatcer named Lennie Dale played by Miley Cyrus. In short order she corrupts everyone but Sidney with her radical hippy ways. Before long everyone is quoting Chairman Mao and preparing to move to Cuba in protest over the war in Vietnam.

There are only six episodes, as might be expect from the title, and each one runs a bit under thirty mintues. There are a lot of plotlines crammed into this tiny space. There are also a lot of great cameos:Joy Behar, Lewis Black, Becky Ann Baker, and a couple of dozen other older actors with familar faces and unfamilar names.

I liked the look and the feel of Crisis in Six Scenes. There was a lot of talking, as one might expect from Woody Allen, and most of it was kind of funny and some of it was very funny.

Posted in tv review

HBO’s Westworld

westworld The original Westworld was a pretty simple bit of business. We follow a couple of men as they go on vacation at the best theme park in the world and something goes wrong. There was very little depth, the last half of the film was one long chase scene. And a slow chase at that.

HBO and J.J. Abrams have taken Michael Crichton’s basic idea of an interactive Disneyland and expanded it to include subtle motivations for the characters, both human and machine. In a nice twist, we find a few characters in reverse roles. Instead of an evil robot, we have a few evil humans. If Crichton’s Westworld was like visiting Gunsmoke, HBO’s Westworld is like visiting Unforgiven. Or maybe the Hateful Eight.

There is a lot of nudity and violence, but both of them are presented in a casual and commonplace fashion. There isn’t much titillation in a bunch of naked old folks and extras standing around. The exploding blood packs also seem to be designed to be so over the top that they aren’t so much shocking as baffling. At one point our super villain has drained three buckets of blood from his hapless victim. Where did he get the buckets? There is a bit of sex here and there, and one rape scene that happens off camera.

The deeper question in Westworld is one of right and wrong. Should the robots have rights? Should people pay for the privilege of having sex and/or murdering robots. The twist in the tale is that the humans are the evil in the park, not the robots.

This is a question dealt with often and well in Star Trek The Next Generation, where Data was often confronted with people who didn’t want to admit that a machine could be a person. So when there’s a new software update and the machines start feeling and acting more human, then we have a problem.

There was a lot going on in the first episode of Westworld. A lot of setting things up and preparing us for what is to come. The show looks amazing. There were a few clunky scenes where the lifeless blanks transition into living things, but otherwise the effects were flawless. The acting was good with Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Evan Rachel Wood playing the most important characters of Park Creator, Gunslinger, and Robot With a Heart.

The music was pretty damned amazing. A very cool player piano version of Black Old Sun, a nice slow version of Paint It Black, and an sad song by Johnny Cash as the credits rolled.

Westworld is off to a good start.

Posted in sci fi, tv review

Captain America: Civil War

captain_america_civil_war_final_one_sheetRockem Sockem Superheroes. 

Most superheroes started out as slightly above average people who spent their spare time tracking down muggers and bank robbers. Captain America started out fighting the Axis Powers during World War Two. Somewhere along the line, fighting crime became a little too boring. Superman could catch every criminal in the world if he really wanted to, so we have to throw something bigger and badder at him.

Captain America: Civil War takes the easy way out. Who are the only people who can challenge superheroes? Other superheroes, of course. It’s the same path of least resistance that Superman V Batman took.

The main thread running through Captain America is that our heroes are rogue agents and need to be a part of some government agency that will keep them in check. This leads to half the team voting to join and half voting for independence.

This led to a lot dull fighting. The bulk of CA:CW is invulnerable immortals hitting each other to little or no effect. I have to admit that I did like a few of the sight gags, such as when Bucky stole a passing motorcycle and twisted it in midair before roaring off in the opposite direction. But for the most part, the action was tame and predictable. The CGI was not as offensive as usual, but it was still a film that didn’t seem to have a single frame that wasn’t manipulated by someone sitting at a computer console. And yeah, that is a problem, I get no sense of danger from cartoons bouncing off other cartoons.

But since Captain America:Civil War has raked in a bit over a billion dollars worldwide, my humble opinion on the action and the plot don’t matter. So long as people keep spending obscene amounts of money to see these things, the studios will happily crank them out like the old time Series that inspired them.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Posted in movie review

Dead Poets Society

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The Good Old Days Weren’t Always Good.

I remember loving Dead Poets Society when I first saw it about a million years ago in 1989. It’s a movie I see once in a while, but not so often that I have the whole thing committed to memory. I just re-watched it and I have to say that it’s just as brilliant as it was when I first saw it.

We start off in this fantasy world of 1959 where the sons of rich men are sent off to boarding school to ensure a prosperous future. Such silly ideas as happiness or pursuing your own dreams or goals are treated as sheer folly. The school is run by old men, and yet, oddly, they hire a young man to teach English. That young man is Robin Williams’s Mr. Keating.

Kurtwood Smith plays the villain in the piece. He plays the soul crushing father to Robert Sean Leonard’s Neal Perry. The writing is brilliant here. Mr. Perry is a villain on par with Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life or Agent Smith from The Matrix. Only he is much, much worse because he seems to be a real person, whereas Darth Vader or Lex Luthor tend to be a little on the silly side. Mr. Perry is pure evil, pure dog kicking, wife beating, give no quarter hard ass. In a modern film, he would likely be more rounded and maybe even die himself. In Dead Poets Society he lives and get the hero of the story, Mr. Keating, fired. It’s rare that I find a character I can hate so freely.

Dead Poets Society has a lot of beautiful shots of an idyllic life in New England. The school is like Hogwarts with it’s quads and hallways and uniforms and scarfs. The student sports of choice seem to be rowing and rugby. The film does a great job of making you both long for the good old days and hate the class system where only the lucky few get to attend schools like this.

On the other hand, Mr. Keating can also be viewed as the villain. The snake in the Garden of Eden, who poisons the minds of our young heroes who will surely all go on to be Senators and Congressmen. It’s no mistake that the story takes place in 1959, the end of those halcyon days before the Beatles and the Sexual Revolution destroyed American Society. Of course, he isn’t portrayed as such, he’s a hero of the highest order. A harbinger of things to come.

If you haven’t seen Dead Poets Society recently, go watch it again. The acting great, the story is griping, and the poetry is a pure joy.

Posted in movie review, random thoughts

Buddymoon

buddymoonDavid is a struggling actor who is about to be married. Then his fiancee tells him that she has changed her mind. He’s bummed out about it, but his slightly insane friend Flula tries to cheer him up. Seems David had already paid for this cool hiking trip. So, the two of them go for a hike. The actor and his nutty German buddy.

David is also up for a big part, as the lead in the story of explorers Lewis and Clark. There is a running gag where our hero narrates a bit of the story of Lewis and Clark, as we watch the two hapless travelers doing things slightly less changeling that trekking across the continent.

The story is funny and touching. David as the long suffering former child star that everyone remembers, but forgets what line he was famous for. Flula as the uber optimistic sidekick always trying to cheer him up.

This is short film a lot of walking and talking. My favorite bit was when they hapless couple meet up with a few other hikers and a girl flirts with David, but he can’t quite bring himself to flirt back. When he wakes up the next morning he finds a note in the bed beside him. The note is from the girl to Flula, telling him how glad she was to hook up with him and not David and thanking him for his great sexual prowess. The note, of course, was written by Flula.

David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee are a little less serious here than they normally are in Grimm. I’m not familiar with Flula Borg, but he does a good job of acting like a happy go lucky nut here. The rest of the tiny cast was good as well. I liked the look and feel of Buddymoon.

Buddymoon was a fun movie.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

amyI’m not a fan of Amy Schumer. I’ve never seen her show and I missed the season of Last Comic Standing that was her breakout moment. But I do like memoirs, even pretty bad memoirs can have one or two good moments. I love the title of The Girl With Lower Back Tattoo. That is pure fucking genius. By the way, Amy loves the word fuck. And the word fucking. And the words clit, cunt, pussy, vagina, asshole, cock, dick, penis, shit, bastard, and pretty much any other word you have ever heard that might in any way make you uncomfortable. Oddly, she is offended when someone asks her if she enjoys making people uncomfortable.

The two or three times that something funny happens in this book, they are pretty much laugh out loud funny. She tells two or three jokes and talks about how they were inspired and how hard it is to write new material. While she does seem to be trying for an Airplane level of humor, she doesn’t quite pull it off.

The Girl With Lower Back Tattoo is not a funny book. She tells not one, but two stories starring her father losing control of his bowels. She tells how she lost her virginity to an act of rape. She talks about an abusive boyfriend who threatened to kill her with a butcher knife, and how she moved back in with him later. She talks about body shaming and how sexist the world remains. She talks about getting blackout drunk and how she woke up from one blackout to find a strange guy going down on her. She brags about drinking, doing drugs, having sex with rather a lot of guys. But she proudly proclaims that she has only had one one-night stand.

Amy is amazingly preachy and self-righteous. This is something that happens to almost all successful people. They reach a point like Oprah where they realize they are no longer just a talk show host, they are a Voice and what they say needs to be Important. I can hear Amy yelling Fuck You as I type this, but it’s true. Yeah, it sucks that you were in an abusive relationship, but your advice to Get Out makes a little too light of the topic. This is like telling a homeless person to Get a Job.

Amy proves the old cliche that you can’t be funny unless you have suffered. She also makes a point of saying that she put in a hell of a lot of hours in the trenches getting her act together. Like all comics, she has a lot of mentors that she gives a shout out to. I’m pretty sure I never heard of any of them. I like The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, but I couldn’t name a single writer for any show if a gun was put to my head. But Amy knows who these people are, and so do they, and maybe some big shot show producer will read their names and say Wow, that must be the Talent I’ve been looking for. Or maybe not.

I think my favorite WTF story was about the time she went home with a guy who turned out to have a really big penis. So big that she couldn’t get it in her tiny mouth and she wouldn’t even try to put in her vagina. She ends up giving the guy a handjob.

Amy performs under her own name and there is always a risk when doing this that people will think you actually are the person they see on stage. They will also assume that they know you. This can be a problem since her whole shtick is that she’s trailer trash from Jersey.Amy is shocked when a number of reporters treat her with no respect.

After reading this book, I feel like I know Amy a bit better myself. But not well enough to call her up and hit her up for a gift of a few thousand dollars or maybe an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii. That kind of stuff is just for her friends. (Note to self, become friends with Amy.)

I don’t like Amy’s cavalier attitude on drugs and alcohol. But I also found myself agreeing with her on a number of topics, such as common sense gun control and the fact that scones are pretty good.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo was a good book.

 

Posted in book review

Zoom

zoom We find ourselves in the middle of three different stories which are intimately connected to each other. All three feature creatives telling a story.

The first story we see is set in a sex doll factory. Over sexualized torsos hang from hooks like the bodies in a horror movie or meat in a slaughterhouse. For some reason I was expecting more from these dolls, I thought they were going to turn out to be like the robots in A.I. Or Surrogates. But no, they are just life sized dolls. Two of our heroes are turned on by working around these sex toys and have sex in the break room. The woman feels a bit inadequate and decides to get a set of new breasts. Very large breasts.

The second story is shown in cartoon form and deals with a movie director who has a sudden shrinkage of his penis. We watch as he tries a number of methods to enlarge his dick. This problem distracts him from making a good movie.

The third story is about a woman writing a book. She leaves her abusive boyfriend and heads to a tropical island to find her muse. Along the way she does a lot of drinking and experiments with a bit of lesbianism.

There are a few subplots having to do with such things as a drug deal, the buyer of one of the sex dolls, and two women who want to have a threesome with the movie director.

There are a few funny bits here and there.

The punch line of the movie is that none of it is real. The people working in the doll factory are part of the story being written by the woman seeking her muse. The woman is an actress in a movie being made by the director. The director is a character in a comic book being written by the woman who works at the doll factory.

There are parts of Zoom that rip off an old Carol Burnett bit where a writer changes his mind and we have to watch as the characters deal with the changes as they happen.

Zoom was an odd film. It was like a porno with way too much plot or a regular movie with way too much sexual content. In the end, none of it matters because we are told none of it was real. As much as we are told anything. Only worth watching if you have a couple of hours to kill.

Posted in movie review

Florence Foster Jenkins

florence foster jenkins Near the start of the film, we find Florence and her husband St Clair taking in a performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944. They watch a young woman singing opera. Florence weeps at the beauty of the singing. It’s clear at this moment that she can tell good singing from bad singing, and yet, throughout the rest of the film, she carries on as if her own singing merely needs just a bit of polishing to be perfect.

Her singing is remarkably bad. But what she lacks in talent she more than makes up for in wealth. Her husband tells her how great she is. Her new pianist Cosmé McMoon and her voice coach also tell her that she has never sounded better and her gift is rare and special. True enough, and she pays them well for their support.

She appeared to be a true music fan who ran her own little music society. She put on shows where she sang and her husband, a failed actor, gave recitations from a number of the plays he performed in. It seemed that Florence actually had a small fan base who enjoyed her music. The base grows larger when she records a song and gives the record to a local radio station. They all think she was singing badly on purpose.

Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg get the bulk of the screen time as Florence, St Clair, and Cosmé. They all do great work here. Meryl does an amazing job singing in the bizarre style of Florence and made me believe that she really did think she was a great singer. Hugh is suave and cool as the rich woman’s arm candy, who seems to really love Florence, even though he lives across town with another woman. Simon, the Big Bang Theory’s Wolowitz, puts in a good performance as the nervous and jittery accompanist. 

I laughed and I cried. I liked Florene Foster Jenkins.

Posted in movie review

The Night Of

The Night Of The story of a man who may or may not have killed a woman after he had sex with her. We see a good deal of the story from the young man’s point of view.

The Night Of is a great looking show. It has really good production values and a great cast.

We follow around several characters. Mainly the young Pakistani man who is the prime suspect and an older man with bad feet who is his lawyer. We also look through the eyes of the DA and the lead Detective once in a while. It’s a classic locked room kind of mystery. A woman has been murdered and we are lead to believe that our hero didn’t do it.

There are only a couple of things that kind of bothered me. The first is that our down on his luck Lawyer gets amazingly bad advice from his doctors on how to treat his feet. One tells him to use Crisco and wrap them in Saran Wrap and another advises using bleach and taking massive amounts of steroids. The drugs make sense, doctors make their living prescribing stuff people may not need. But why would they advise these odd ball home remedy kind of solutions?

My other problem is with Riker’s Island as it is depicted in The Night Of. One prisoner is a kingpin kind of character who has every contraband item imaginable and bosses the guards around and has sex with one of the female guards. He’s a standard issue kind of character, but the rest of the story seems to be focused on more reality based elements. Is there really some guy sitting in the corner cell of Rikers telling everyone what to do? Does every prison have this Goodfellas kind of setup? It all seems a bit silly.

As we move from the Law to the Order part of the story, we watch the trail and find that the judge is a dick, the lawyer isn’t really up to snuff, and the prosecutor is good at her job.

The Night Of was a very good show. There’s a lot going on in every episode. The many small plot lines added to the richness of the story and the final shot of the series was brilliant.

Posted in tv review

Fleabag

fleabag Fleabag reminded me a bit of GIRLS, in that it calls itself a comedy, but it isn’t exactly funny.

Fleabag is the story of a woman on the downswing. She has her own business, but that business has seen better days. She loves her father, but he has moved on to a new woman after the death of her mother. She has a troubled relationship with her sister, there are hints that things used to be better. She has a boyfriend that she keeps kicking out and taking back. And she is still a bit broken up about her best friend killing herself in front of their cafe.

So, sounds like a load of laughs so far, right?

What few laughs are to be had come from Fleabag doing her best House of Cards camera stares. My favorite scene sees her picking up a loser on a bus. As they exchange numbers, the man looks at her and says-I’m going to treat you like the little bitch you are. She smiles and nods eagerly. Then he says, Ha! Just kidding! and she frowns and falls into a pout. She does a lot of eye cuts and makes a lot of faces for the camera.

But these little wink wink nudge nudge moments at the camera don’t do much to overcome the overall depressing nature of the stories. Everyone is cruel and vile. Fleabag would be perfectly justified in getting an UZI and killing everyone she meets. The dialogue is far over the top as well. In the opening scene of the first episode Fleabag has anal sex with a man she tells us has a large cock. This causes her to wonder, do I have an enormous asshole? This was delivered as a laugh-line, but I didn’t find it particularly funny.

Fleabag is well made and well acted. If you like a comedy that makes you want to slit your wrists, this might be the show for you. I watched all six episodes and liked most of them. I just don’t like it when a show like this is billed as a comedy. ITV’s Viscious is just as mean spirited and cruel, but Viscous is funny and Fleabag is not.

Posted in tv review