cherold

IMDb member since January 2001
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Reviews

Locke & Key
(2020)

like the keys, the kid, and the antagonist. Bored by the rest
Locke & Key involves a family moving to a family home with some supernatural mysteries to unravel involving a set of mysterious keys.

A lot of the user reviews here are complaining that Locke & Key is too kid-oriented, but I actually wish they'd doubled down on that part. The story really starts when the youngest sibling, Bode, encounters a mysterious whisper who tells him about the keys. I liked Bode's search for the keys and the various magical things that happen because of them. And that mysterious whisper turns out to be a very interesting collection of creepiness.

I liked all that, which had the quality of an engaging kids-oriented supernatural show like Stranger Things, but that's not what the series is in main. For the most part, this is the teen lives of the two older siblings. They date, they meet people, they have conversations about stuff, and it is all as bland and as boring as it can be (if you're looking for interesting teens try Impulse).

I found this series intriguing at first, but by the third episode I was losing interest and I didn't even make it through the fourth episode. I feel there is potential here, but the lack of interesting characters drags this down.

Brave New World
(2020)

quite good if you can put the book out of your head
When I was a college film student I used to think about how I would film Brave New World, which is to say I have a vision for it. Part of that vision would involve actually following the structure, plot, and character development of the original, as opposed to what this miniseries does, which is to take the character names and a handful of loose concepts and turn them into an entirely different story that is more World World than Brave New World.

The story involves a futuristic caste society where a couple of high-caste citizens go slumming and wind up adopting an angry young man who proves incompatible with the society. There's lots shootings and stabbings and orgies and some mystery involving the society's origins.

So, not the book.

I read a review which complained that Brave New World was not a good entity for 2020. This may be true for the book, which was based on the idea that technology could be effectively used to make most people happy and that people in power would actually do that. But in an age where we're seeing the limits and dangers of technology, this adaptation smartly grabs the worries of today and plugs them into this story from yesterday.

Unfortunately the makers don't design their society with the same rigor as Aldous Huxley. The idea that this entire city could basically be run on drugs is unpersuasive. The concept of the Savage Lands makes no sense, in that the people there didn't choose to be there and there's no explanation of how society was bifurcated in that way.

Still, it's all really interesting and admittedly much more viscerally exciting than the book (although less intellectually exciting).

The cast is good and the story is compelling. The final episode is the least satisfying part, giving us a rather nonsensical ending and then a mysterious box that I feel if there is a season 2 to explain it will prove to be a disappointment. But in spite of its flaws, and my constant sense that wait, *that's* not how it happened in the book, I recommend this.

The Witness for the Prosecution
(2016)

Meh
Honestly, I've never been a big fan of Witness for the Prosecution. The original short story is moderately clever but not especially interesting and I found the Billy Wilder movie not much more than watchable.

This version managed to fall beneath my low expectations. It's just very unlikeable and unpleasant. Writer Sarah Phelps is in many ways the anti-Agatha Christie who eschews her escapist approach. Sometimes this works well, most notably with And Then There Were None (and, IMO, Ordeal by Innocence), but more often than not it fails. This is considered one of the better Phelp's adaptations, but I don't see it.

The Pale Horse
(2020)

not sure if this is confusing or if I was just so bored I couldn't focus
I watched this for maybe an hour and just felt it was gibberish. There's a list, there's some mysterious deaths, there's an unlikeable character who makes a desultory investigation, there are some "witches" that I only saw for a moment.

I cared about exactly none of it. Of Sarah Phelps 5 Christie mini-series, this is probably the worst. The only good ones are And Then There Were None and Ordeal By Innocence.

A commonality I'm seeing in Phelp's adaptations is she doesn't seem that interested in character. She's interested in people in relationship to one another. She's interested in people's circumstances. She's interested in people's trauma. But she seems uninterested in people's personalities. Which may be why I was bored by everyone in this.

Harlots
(2017)

Couldn't get into it
Watched the first episode. It's lively, and creepy, and have some good performances, but I found myself failing to sustain interest. Then my girlfriend said she'd had enough so we stopped watching. Maybe it gets better, but it just didn't work for me.

Support the Girls
(2018)

downbeat slice-of-life drama doesn't have much point to it.
This movie starts pretty well as a mildly comedic indie movie about Hooters-style restaurant manager Regina Hall (excellent) dealing with her job and her messy personal life. But in spite of bright spots, like Haley Lu Richardson as a sweet, somewhat dim waitress seemingly born for the job, the movie becomes increasingly dour.

The closest thing to a message this movie has is, "good managers are rare and necessary," but really, it just goes on and on without getting anywhere.

Hollywood
(2020)

Attempting to move Hollywood with the carrot of potential instead of the stick of shame
The opening credit sequence for Hollywood shows actors helping one another climb to the top of the Hollywood sign. It's startling because that's not the Hollywood we've come to expect, which portrays a zero-sum competition with people tearing one another down to get ahead.

It's an unconventional approach, and I'm surprised by how many user reviews here are demanding that the series stick to the typical Hollywood approach.

The series creates a glossy, semi-fictional 1949 Hollywood centered around a group of diverse individuals of various races and sexual proclivities pushing to make a movie that does everything that wasn't being done at the time; non-white people as major principles before and behind the camera.

The movie is slick, suspenseful, comedic, and often over-the-top. It's tremendous fun and well worth watching in spite of ending with a draggy half hour of unnecessary happy endings. And the main criticism I've seen of it is that it creates a fictional, nicer Hollywood instead of ripping the mask off to give us a realistic portrayal of all the racism and sexism and hypocrisy without sugar coating. You know, the dour "real Hollywood" thing Hollywood loves to do. But to me, this criticism betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what this movie is attempting and why it's such a good approach.

Often the thought behind showing the evils of Hollywood is that it will shame producers and actors and writers into doing better. Rub their nose in their historical awfulness! Bad Hollywood!

And that's fine. But Hollywood is trying something different. The writers understand that shame is effective because Hollywood doesn't want to be the bad guy. So rather than making them feel bad, it tells Hollywood how to feel good. "Look at all the power you have," the series is saying. "Look what could happen if you were brave in 1949, and, by extension, what could happen if you were brave *right* *now*. You can make a better world. You just have to choose to do so."

Does Hollywood have that power? They had the power to boost the KKK with Birth of a Nation; could they have used that same influence to kill it? I don't know. But this series says yes. And it shows what might have happened if Hollywood had chosen to use its power with full force (instead of in the preachy, well-meaning, overly-cautious way of Gentlemen's Agreement, which gets mentioned in the series).

So no, I don't think this approach was a mistake. I think it's great to envision a better world and try to make it a reality. What would one more Hollywood expose give us?

When you watch this series, which you should, don't complain that the tragic portrayal of Hollywood racism and injustice is balanced with a story where all that is fought against. Revel in it.

The Paradise
(2012)

great first season, pretty good second
This period piece about a young woman who starts work at a department store lead by a charismatic and impetuous director is an enjoyable piece of fluff with a lovely mix of drama, comedy, mystery, and romance. The first season, loosely on a novel, is thoroughly engaging. The second season is fairly compelling as well but also rather daft, with all sorts of logic issues and characters who personality traits have become oddly fluid.

The cast is excellent, particularly the lovely Joanna Vanderham in the main role and David Hayman as the mysterious Jonas. It's a shame this only got two seasons. Definitely recommended.

Imitation of Life
(1959)

glossy and problematic
This take on the Fannie Hurst story has Lana Turner as an aspiring actress who meets a black woman with a light-skinned daughter, excellently played by Juanita Broderick.

While this was probably considered daring for the time, it was previously done in 1934 with a black actress playing the white-skinned daughter so doing the same part with a white actress (Susan Kohner, who is quite good) is decidedly cowardly. Also, the character, Sarah Jane, comes across as petulant in her insistence on passing as white, and the movie does almost nothing to establish how badly Americans were treating black people in 1959, removing the possibility that Sarah Jane is simply making the best decision she can under the circumstances.

Broderick's Anita is what is referred to as a "magic negro": a character whose only purpose in the story is to selflessly help the white folk. Her reward for helping Lana Turner achieve all her dreams? Getting to keep being her maid!

In spite of these flaws and others, like Sandra Dee's horribly shouty performance as Turner's daughter, there are a couple of very effecting tearjerker moments at the end. But the rest of this is rather bland.

While this is considered one of director Sirk's best movies, I consider both him and this movie overrated. I'd advise skipping it.

Ordeal by Innocence
(2018)

entertaining whodunit recreates the And Then They Were None vibe from the same writer
Ordeal by Innocence, is about a bunch of narcissistic, obnoxious rich folk whose dead mother may not have been murdered by her adopted son after all. But if not him, who? The patrician father? His hot, mean-spirited secretary (Alice Eve, who is a stand out)? One of the other kids? The servant who found the body?

One of the things I love most about this series is a living tableau set at the moment the body is discovered, with each suspect standing in a suspicious position just out of the eye line of every other suspect. It's wonderfully ingenious, returned to often, and the movements leading up to that tableau are beautifully outlined in the finale.

Many reviewers here are upset by how little this has to do with the original book. But while I read all of Christie's novels, that was over 40 years ago so there aren't many I remember well enough to care if they're changed. I read a synopsis and suspect the basic structure could have worked with the original story and that probably Christie's own version was cleverer (because you can't really change Christie without removing a layer of cleverness) but I'm content with the plot laid out here and I love the dark tone that probably doesn't match any of Christie's whodunits outside of And Then There Were None (which like Ordeal was turned into a miniseries by Phelps).

If you know this story well you're reaction might be different (as mine was to Phelps' Poirot misfire). I do agree with those who say they could have just made this an original story rather than trading off of Christie's name, but that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of it. I recommend this one, but many diehard Christie fans disagree.

Dirty John
(2018)

watchable true crime series seemingly aimed at Lifetime ladies
I wound up watching the first two seasons because my girlfriend liked the series, but I didn't enjoy it much. It is true that season 2 is better than season one, with a terrific lead performance from Amanda Peet, but I still could have done without it.

As for season 1, it is super annoying. Just episode after episode of the stupidest woman in the world refusing to acknowledge that she's married a psychopath. Her actions are so inexplicable that the writer made a major change in the true-life story to make one decision slightly more understandable! It's all just so unpleasant.

If my girlfriend wants to watch season 3 she's on her own.

Mavis!
(2015)

amazing music and an interesting look at one of the greats
This documentary of Mavis Staples and her family is powered by Mavis' singing, including some stunningly good concert footage, and a story that gives a historical sense of the 60s and 70s.

While short, the documentary does fade with Mavis' career, with some years glossed over entirely in favor of a few notable career high-points. As the documentary gets closer today it seems to lose interest in saying anything about the times, as though the maker thinks of history only as the stuff that happened over 40 years ago.

Still, well worth watching.

At Home with Amy Sedaris
(2017)

Hit and miss, but parts are hilarious
Wow, the reviews here are all 10s or 1s! What's up with that?!

At home is a very silly parody of Martha Stewart that is essentially Amy a a cast of side characters (many also played by Amy) who come in, say some wacky stuff, and leave.

Segments vary pretty radically. Some parts are terrific; I love the passive-aggressive relationship between The Lady in the Woods and her partner, and a couple of times a hilariously psycho knife guy has turned up. Other times the show is just kind of odd, or stupid, or mildly amusing.

It's also clear that Amy really is into this Martha Stewart stuff. My crafter girlfriend really loves the crafting segments because they resonate with her. And sometimes the show gives actual, usable instructions for cooking or crafts.

I might not stick with this if my girlfriend wasn't such a fan, but it's enjoyable.

The Alphabet Murders
(1965)

Watchable stab at Poirot
Like the series of Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films, The Alphabet Murders (written by the folks behind the Marple movies) tries to remake Christie's cerebral whodunit into an action comedy. It's not Christie, and it's a mess, but it does have its moments.

After a pointless fourth-wall crash in the beginning, the movie follows Hercules Poirot, played by Tony Randall, as he investigates a series of London murders involving the alphabet, guarded by a British secret service agent played by Robert Morley and trying to run down the mysterious Anita Ekberg.

Randall is not as bad as I'd heard as Poirot, but he lacks the charisma of Rutherford's Miss Marple. The movie is sometimes funny and occasionally even mildly clever. The story moves at a decent clip. And as with the Rutherford movies, the elegant whodunit at the heart of the story has been completely messed up, resulting in a disappointing denouement that makes far less sense than it should.

I avoided this movie for years because I heard it was terrible, but it's not, really. It's not as good as the two best Rutherford movies (Murder She Said/Murder Most Foul) but it's probably as good or even better than the other two.

I wouldn't go out of my way to watch this, but it's not as bad as I'd heard, so points for that.

La haine
(1995)

intense and brilliantly filmed
La Haine follows three young men navigating their slum in the aftermath of a riot. It is grim and intense with moments of humor, and stunningly, stylishly filmed in black and white.

The three boys are distinct. One is eternally on the edge, especially once he acquires a gun that leaves him constantly at the edge of trouble. One is pretty smart and trying to keep everything in check. The other is in the middle, angry but neither out of control nor having a deep understanding of his life.

The movie is episodic yet has a coherent narrative structure that pushes constantly forward.

La Haine is an "issues" film, but it's not an "answers" film. The boys seem doomed, but they are also criminally minded. The police are also criminals, and there is a remarkably disturbing scene of cops torturing two of the boys that is hard to watch. The message of the movie seems to be, "everything is terrible and what can be done?"

The ending is ... man, that was intense. All of it comes together in a final two minutes that sears your heart.

It's not an easy movie, but it is a brilliant one and well worth watching.

The ABC Murders
(2018)

slow moving and glum
In spite of being all murdery, Agatha Christie books were always *fun*. But the vibe of this is more serial-killer-grim than drawing-room frolic, with a worn-down, forgotten Hercules, a nasty and stupid cop, and a creepy guy in a creepy apartment.

It started pretty well, and I quite liked Shirley Henderson as a sleazy landlady, but the pace is fairly glacial and the series is more focused on character angst than on the actual mystery (and this was one of Christie's most ingenious and copied ideas).

I watched the first of the three episodes but just didn't feel any need to continue.

I saw And Then There Were None a few years ago and it was great so I was excited to learn the same screenwriter, Sarah Phelps, has done numerous other Christies, but ABC is a huge step down. Not so bad I won't take a look at one of the other adaptations, but poor enough that I'm not as hopeful as I was.

Can't recommend this. It's just kinda dull.

Palm Springs
(2020)

funny and surprisingly romantic take on the endless day genre
This very funny movie involves two people eternally reliving someone's wedding day.

From the trailer I expected a level of wackiness commensurate with that of co-star Andy Samberg's Brooklyn-99 series, but while this is often very silly and very thoughtful, it's also existential, thoughtful, and increasingly romantic. Cristin Milioti is great as the one who can't adjust to her strange reality, and she and Samberg have great chemistry as they flirt and fight under extraordinary circumstances.

This is just really fun and you should definitely watch it.

The Big Combo
(1955)

Mediocre, overrated flm noir
This decidedly lesser film noir is about a cop pursuing criminal while lusting after Conte's girlfriend.

Cornel Wilde is bland and miscast as the cop, while the girlfriend Jean Wallace cannot act at all. The most interesting character is the criminal, who believes the world is fueled by anger; Richard Conte is good in the role though not great.

The story isn't that interesting, the dialogue is weak and often dumb, and most of the filming isn't especially striking outside of a couple of scenes at a foggy airport. I thought the most notable performance was Helene Stanton as the cop's stripper girlfriend. She had some personality and depth, yet the actress apparently only appeared in a handful of movies in the 50s and then retired.

I'm always trying to find those few good film noirs that I haven't seen yet. This turned out to not be one of them.

A One-Time Special
(2020)

surprising how many actors will sell their soul
This 30 Rock "reunion" special is a cynical marketing ploy, but I won't say there's nothing worthwhile in it. It starts decently and has some good jokes here and there. But as others note, it is mainly an ad for a new TV website, and while the plugs are just dribbled in at first, by the end it is pretty much 95% an ad.

It is heartbreaking to see all these talented, successful people willing to prostitute their respected, irreverent series for a payday. I know times are hard, but are they *that* hard for Tina Fey or Alec Baldwin? I mean, come *on!*

I do give the series credit for making something pretty cohesive within the limits of social distancing. I do not recommend bothering with it.

Run
(2020)

terrifically fun: funny and suspenseful
In Run exes finally fulfill a promise they'd made 15 years ago; to text RUN and then take a train cross country. Merritt Weaver is wonderful as the desperately unhappy housewife Rub, Domhnall Gleeson is charming yet awkward motivational speaker. They're both keeping secrets.

In the first episode these two have such terrific chemistry that it's hard to understand why they never broke up, but by episode 2 his casual cruelty and her overwhelming intensity make for a more complex story.

IMDB user reviews are all over the map on this one, and I think it has to do with what people want/expect. I knew nothing about the series and wasn't expecting anything in particularly, which I think helped. This is more about character than plot, at first, and if you aren't intrigued by these characters there is no way you will enjoy the show. Some episodes are little more than the main characters flirting, some have a lot of mystery and excitement, there's a shockingly dark turn towards the end, and all of it worked for me.

It's a shame this didn't get a second season. But it's well worth watching what there is of it.

Midnight
(1939)

Every Cinderella has her midnight
Midnight is about a pretty, penniless girl in Paris becoming involved with a friend taxi driver and a bunch of rich folk. It takes a rambling half hour for the movie to get to the actual plot, which involves John Barrymore's rather absurd plan, and I almost gave up on the movie, but once it finally gets in gear it's generally amusing, with some sharp dialogue and spirited performances.

But I can't agree with those who consider this a forgotten gem, even if it was written by Billy Wilder. It's just a cute, somewhat unfocussed comedy with some good lines.

Viridiana
(1961)

meh
Novice nun has to deal with uncle's obsession for her, later tries to help unappreciative bums. Cynical movie is somewhat interesting, but not riveting, and the portrayal of the homeless and destitute is probably less acceptable than at the time.

Le fantôme de la liberté
(1974)

Watch beginning, then maybe stop
Begins hilarious & surreal, but is frequently just dull and odd. Has its moments.

La voie lactée
(1969)

good start
Starts great, but insistence on exploring all of Catholic philosophy is somewhat exhausting.

El ángel exterminador
(1962)

Like a surreal Twilight Zone episode
The Exterminating Angel must have been inspired by a Bunuel party in which it seemed the guests would never leave. In this odd little movie, guests stay, and stay, and don't know why but can't do anything about it. Is it an existentialist drama? A drawing room take on Lord of the Flies. A satire of the bourgeoisie? An offbeat survival tale? A bit of all?

In spite of its surrealist moments, for the most part this feels like an expanded episode of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. A bunch of archetypical characters in a puzzling situation struggling. It even has a kicker, as the best episodes did, although most TZ episodes are a bit neater in the denoument.

The movie is charmingly odd and has notable moments, some of which seem like call backs to the great Dali/Bunuel collaboration Un Chien Andalou. At the same time, it's not terribly involving; at an hour and a half feels overlong. The characters are bland and there's little real drama between them. Compare this with Hitchcock's Life Boat, which also trapped a group of characters in a small space but did so much more with those characters.

But then Bunuel is more about concepts than character or drama. Which is probably why I've been underwhelmed by most of the Bunuel films I've seen. This one is worth checking out, but it could have been a better movie.

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