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so boring
After reading the unenthusiastic reviews and watching the just-okay trailer, I went into FUBAR without a lot of hope. But it's an action series starring Ahnold so I thought I should at least give it a chance.

But the first episode was such a slog.

The problem is not that it's dumb. It is dumb, but I can enjoy dumb things. The problem is it is dull as dishwater and the dialogue is uniformly awful.

Everyone delivers bantering lines. Arnold, his daughter, the black guy who is clearly meant to be the smart witty one, the two white folks who work with them all in some capacity I was unclear on. But none of the lines were clever or funny. It was like someone had asked ChatGPT to write "lines in the style of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie."

Also, very little actually happened. And it all happened slowly. And there were these dreary heart-to-heart moments that were just painful. There was very little action, and what there was lacked excitement.

And then the first episodes kicker was bobbled. I couldn't make it out. I replayed it and still couldn't and actually googled to find a script. And, predictably, it wasn't funny or clever. But the real thing is they couldn't even handle the kicker right.

I don't think the problem is the cast. I feel all these people could deliver a good line if they were given one. But even in the trailer, which should have had the best moments, the dialogue seemed like a red flag.

Guess I should have listened to the critics. Not recommended. At all.


what *is* this?
Watching Stargirl, I found myself wondering, what are they going for here?

The first sequence, with Luke Owens shouting out the name of each superhero as they appear, is the sort of thing you'd see in a superhero parody, even though the actual battle seems pretty serious. And a character's death is played for laughs. But then it gets into teen drama, and it's like, is it a parody? Is it serious? Is this a comedy? Coming of age? What?

Superhero dramas generally mix action, drama and comedy, but there's usually an overall vibe. Doom Patrol is definitely a comedy, even though there's serious despair threaded through it. Titans was an action drama even though it could get pretty wacky.

But Stargirl? It weaves all over the road like a drunk driver. It's humor is fairly ludicrous and sometimes appears unintentional, but it also goes for the more serious moments. There's no personality to grab onto.

After the first episode I was inclined to give up but then I thought, I'll just try one more. But that's it for me.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

shockingly entertaining for a licensed-property movie
When I saw there was a D&D movie my first inclination was to roll my eyes and move on. But the movie had surprisingly good reviews and the trailer looked fun and guess what, it is absolutely fantastic.

In the movie, a miscellany of people with various physical and mystical skills join together to take on a baddie. It's a likable group and the acting is excellent, most notably Michelle Rodriquez as a tough-as-nails bruiser and a hilarious Regé-Jean Page as the ultimate straight-arrow.

The movie is fast-paced and funny with some great action scenes There are two especially memorable set pieces - a chase sequence with a shape-shifter and the final magical battle.

One thing that lets this movie escape the dangers of licensed properties is D&D is (as best I understand it as someone who's never played) simply a template for a story. It gives you a locale, spells, character types, and the rest is up to you. Which means the writers could do pretty much anything they wanted within pretty loose parameters.

While my original response to this movie was "give me a break," now that I've seen it I feel the licensed-property thing is keeping people from recognizing what a truly amazing movie this is. Because I'm not seeing many of the 9-10 star ratings I feel it should be getting.

Highly recommended.

The Capture

barely slogged my way through the first episode
This dour, murky series is about a guy who gets exonerated for something and then immediately gets into more trouble.

After an attempt to create intrigue that I found a bit precious there's a fairly decent courtroom scene, but by the halfway point of the series it felt like it was just going on and on. I watched to the end, but I just found it kinda painful.

I was curious enough about where it was all going to read the episode recap reviews on wikipedia, and that made me more certain I'd made the right decision in not giving it more of a chance. That twist that comes later just sounds utterly moronic. I mean, maybe the explain it in some way where it seems less moronic, but I don't see how.

Anyway, people seem to love this series and I'm sure I'll get downvoted for reviewing it so harshly after one episode but I have no regrets. Not recommended.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Great concept, weak delivery
I was really excited after seeing the trailer for this movie. With all the terrible bios out here, I thought it was great to make a movie that is nonsensical parody of the celebrity biopic, with Weird Al portrayed as an Elvis-level star.

The problem is, this is probably about a half-hour of funniness stretched out to 2 hours. I watched the first 40 minutes, and yes, I laughed from time to time. But I spent more time *waiting* for laughs. So I generally felt a little bored.

The movie just failed to build or sustain momentum. And it's a shame, because it's still a good concept.

Not recommended.

Titans: Titans Forever
Episode 12, Season 4

a letdown in an otherwise good season
Season 4 is the best season of Titans since 1, but after being solid throughout, the final episode of both this season and the entire series was pretty poor.

Nothing makes much sense in this. I could list a bunch of things, but it hardly seems worth it. Basically, almost nothing that happens makes sense, characters do weird things, there are a couple of real deus ex machina moments, a senseless BS moment that fails to reach the intended emotional highpoint, some more nonsense, and a very poor wrap up.

But then, the first, great season also didn't end well, because they bumped the ending into season 2 and that was another mess. So I guess there's a certain consistency in ending the second best season with a bad finale.

Oh Titans, you did a lot of good stuff, but consistency was never your strength.

The Peripheral

The present struggles to be as interesting as the future
The Peripheral is about a young woman (she looks 15 to me but is apparently an adult) who plays a videogame that turns out to be an alternate futuristic world connected in some way to her own present.

It's a good concept, and it starts strong. The future world is freaky, the woman is thrown into bizarre situations, and baddies turn up in the present time.

I was very enthused for the first few episodes, but then I found myself increasingly disinterested in the present half. The future was fascinating, with interesting characters and bizarre tech and, towards the end, a true star turn by Alexandra Billings as a cop with a strangely antagonistic connection to her aide. But the present, well, it's a small town, and there's some drama and action, but the characters are blander and the situations less interesting and I found my attention wandering.

The first season end is pretty peculiar - I had to go online to figure out what had happened and I'm not sure it makes much sense.

In the end, I liked the series, though less than I expected to after the first episode, and if there's a second season I will watch it. But it's unfortunate that it can't be interesting in all dimensions.

Paper Girls

remarkable sci-fi show that explores choice
Some time travel fiction is all about the time travel, but Paper Girls is one of those sci-fi shows that is more interested in using sci-fi concepts to explore the human condition. Specifically - if your past and future selves met, what would they think.

In the series, four girls hop through time. While there is a basic sci-fi plot with competing factions, futuristic devices, and action, the most common centers around children appraising the older selves they keep running into.

In fact, the best moment in the series, for me, was when a character learns something unexpected about herself and stares in a mirror as she goes through every possible emotion.

The series is funny, touching, exciting, and thoughtful, and you should watch it, even though, sadly, it was cancelled after one season.

Women Talking

A sort of 12 Angry Men except women and as sad as angry
Honestly, I wasn't going to watch this at all. The title seemed to be a promise of a talky, static movie. But the trailer looked pretty interesting, and it turns out it was a very accurate trailer.

Yes, the movie is mainly talking, as women in a fundamentalist community discuss whether to react to a horrible crime against all of them by staying to fight or leaving en masse. But the conversation is intense, the acting is impressive, and the movie has a way of using small details and moments to keep things moving.

For example, early on two young girls are barely paying attention to the conversation. They're giggling and playing and bored by the adults. And this is used to create a sense of movement and lightness in a serious discussion. But at the same time, at a certain point they powerfully enter the discussion.

The performances are terrific, especially Claire Foy as the most furious and Rooney Mara as the most philosophical.

While in some ways the comparison is reductive, this reminded me of 12 Angry Men, which was a movie about a bunch of people trying to make a decision. That decision was less personal and less fraught from the decision makers, but as with that movie, Women Talking shows how absolutely intense conversation can be.

The movie is also beautifully shot. I was surprised to see the cinematographer didn't get much in the way for award nominations, because everything was beautifully framed and had a lovely sense of place.

I wasn't going to watch this movie at all, but I'm so glad I did. Highly recommended.

Death to 2021

funny special with some great comedic performances and one not-so-good one
I loved Death to 2020, and I love this was as much. It's just very funny. Hugh Grant as a pompous pseudo scientist, Tracey Ullman as an idiot pundit, Cristin Milioti as a chipper right-wing loon, Diane Morgan as a sad sack. All great, distinct performances by people who were clearly having fun in their roles.

And then there was Lucy Liu. And Lucy Liu is not a comic. It's not that she can't tell a joke - I laughed at her jokes - but she didn't have a character. There was no sense of inner life. There was no mockery of anyone who real POV. She was just Lucy Liu telling some jokes.

Not that big of a deal, but it just seems to weird that you cast all these people with a real flair for comedy and then you're like, oh, let's just toss Lucy Liu in here. It's just weird.

But you should definitely watch this, it's quite funny.

Forever: Best Foot Forward
Episode 20, Season 1

Stupidest episode of the series
This was such an annoying episode. I mean, most of it was just a mediocre episode with too much emphasis on shock value and an overreliance on cliches. But what made it really awful was the resolution.

Okay, so you've got a ballet dancer who is about to become one of the most famous and significant ballet dancers in the world, something she's worked her whole life for. And she's only going to be able to dance for a year. So rather than enjoy her LIFELONG DREAM for a year, she has someone chop off her foot so she can have this great reputation?

This doesn't even make sense in terms of the background story. That involves someone who is so desperate to be a great artist that she risks her life for it. The modern story is someone who wants to be *known* as a great artist but apparently doesn't really care much about the art.

Maybe the writer of this episode is a hack who would rather have a great reputation than actually do art, but come on. Ballet dancing is a job that doesn't last long in the best of circumstances, and ballet dancers go in knowing that.

Also, what's with the guy running and then being so desperate to escape that he takes a jump that kills him? I mean, if he's on the hook for murder, sure. But for this? He does for this nonsense? (Also, he goes *along* with this nonsense?)

It's just so, so stupid, so unrealistic, so outside the realm of human behavior, and so inexplicably holding an 8.6 rating on IMDB.

I also thought it was pretty dumb to skip the Paris trip. I think she's being a dope. But people are dopes all the time, so okay, maybe. But the ballet thing, that's insane.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The weakest entry in a weak series
After rising from the original's "meh" to Ant-Man 2's "pretty decent," this third entry sinks back to what seems to be the standard Ant-Man level of dumb, vaguely comedic superheroism.

The movie has a janky, random quality to it. Our heroes get sucked into the Quantum realm through sheer stupidity, and there's a whole world and secrets to reveal and blah blah blah.

Much of this seems designed to create a bunch of cool visuals, with unusual scenery and strange humanoids. It's all perfectly fine, but none of it makes you go "wow, how beautiful" or "wow, how imaginative." It's just a bunch of random stuff in a random world visited in a random fashion.

The most random thing is probably Bill Murray, who has one irrelevant scene apparently because he had a day free and someone was like, hey, why don't we stick Bill Murray in this?

The best performances are Kathryn Newton as the feisty, likeable Cassie, and Jonathan Majors as Kang. Majors is particular impressive, being one of these villains who don't see themselves as a villain and speak about their plans in a persuasive, sincere way that almost sucks you in.

As good as Majors is, though, the character is underbaked. He keeps talking about not living through time linearly but it's not clear what that means, since he doesn't expect anything that happens. The best he does is, after it happens, he says, "yeah, I knew all this" which is as persuasive as any time some dude says, "Yeah, I totally knew that the whole time."

There's not much comedy, what there is isn't that funny. There's a bunch of special effects action, but none of it is that impressive. There's not an original moment in the movie.

Still, it's watchable. If you want a mindless, dumb, watchable superhero movie, this is one.

Last Tango in Halifax

Unpleasant start
I don't know what to make of this show. It's a supposed comedy that isn't funny about a bunch of rather unlikeable people (outside of Derek Jacobi). I know people love it and it ran for years but my girlfriend and I made it through maybe half of the first episode and we were, WTF, why do people like this?

I mean, that first scene. It's two women talking. The younger one is at best meh. The older one is whiny and insufferable. And it seems like she is part of the central romance?! I mean, I don't want to watch this woman have lunch, why would I want to see her fall in love?

Does it get better? Fair to wonder, but the reviews seem to all say "I loved this from the first moment" so ...

Parade's End

More good than bad, barely
Parade's End is offputting at first, with Cumberbatch's bland, emotionally constipated Christopher hard to warm to and events somewhat unexplained.

But there were moments that caught my attention. Rebecca Hall is brilliant as Christopher's mercurial wife, and there's a fun bit with suffragettes invading a golf course.

This set the pattern for the whole series. There were good performances, like Stephen Graham's, and good moments, like the portrayal of war as a parade of idiots. But often it was unclear what was happening (perhaps because it was adapted from a "modernist" novel?), one character seemed to completely alter her personality mid series, and it was never believable that two women would be so passionate about the tediously ethical Christopher.

The period costumes and Hall's performance made this worth watching for me, but it was never entirely satisfying. I'm torn between rating it a 6 or a 7.

The Woman King

Entertaining Hollywood Hokum that received more than its fair share of criticism
When I saw the trailer for Woman King I wanted to see it. It looked exciting and intense. But when the reviews came out, claiming that the movie's battle scenes were interspersed with tedious drama and that the movie was a historical ridiculous as "The 300," I felt dissuaded.

But when I watched it, I saw what the trailer had promised. And the criticisms turned out to be fairly absurd.

The movie is entertaining throughout. Yes, it's Hollywood Hokum with exciting but nonsensically choreographed fight scenes and a "based on history" approach that doesn't cleave that closely to history, but it's well within normal Hollywood limits of nonsense. It's a movie about a tribe that fought the British and did engage in the slave trade but also considered not doing so, and that is more-or-less the case. If anything, it's *less* nonsensical than the majority of Hollywood historical dramas. Certainly it's nowhere near the level of "none of this is true and much is the exact opposite of what happened" that is the case of "The 300."

As for complaints about the drama, that's admittedly a matter of taste, but I enjoyed it. Yes, the story has a well-worn war-story trajectory, with the tough commander and the bumbling recruit ready to redeem herself and the unexpected connection between them, but it's still entertaining and the acting is excellent, especially Viola Davis, who was inexplicably not nominated for an Oscar. And the non-battle scenes are often very entertaining - I especially loved the singing and dancing bits.

If people just complained that this movie was typical Hollywood hokum, I would respect that. The fight scenes are the sort where people roll and leap and flip their swords for no good reason. The story is full of unlikely coincidence and convenient dramatic situations. But to act like this is somehow *worse* than other historical fiction is just weird, and I can't help but feel this has less to do with the story or direction and more to do with people not being able to process a heroic woman entirely centered around black women.

While I wouldn't say Woman King should have won the best picture Oscar, it definitely should have been nominated over inexplicable choices like Avatar 2 and Top Gun 2.

In short, this is a really entertaining action movie and I highly recommend it.

Avatar: The Way of Water

I'm sure I would have enjoyed this more in 3D, but it would still not be a good movie
This is the first line of Avatar, Way of Water: "The forests of Pandora hold many dangers ........... but the most dangerous thing about Pandora is that .......... you can grow to love her too much."

That is embarrassingly bad. I mean, when I googled to find that line I discovered there are people who think it's great, but it's just ... not.

But it's pretty typical of the bad writing of his film.

Way of Water takes up where the last entertaining but forgettable movie left off, with the Na'vi forced to once again confront the evil, violent, resource-scavenging humans.

The plotting is weak - the main family moves for reasons that make absolutely zero sense, so everything that unfolds after is the result of sheer stupidity. But then, everyone else makes stupid decisions too, which is the only way this movie keep going (and going, and going, and going - how can a movie with so little story be so loooooooooooong).

I suppose if you watched this in 3D in the theater the visuals were so overwhelming that they balanced out the bad storytelling, but I watched it on TV. But I would argue that a movie that's only good in 3D is not a good movie.

There are some good things in this movie. Even in 2D the visuals are often stunning and the creature and environmental design are wildly imaginative. I liked the story thread of the girl connecting mystically with her new environment. And the action is well done and builds to big, over-the-top finish (although once again there's lots of stupidity, with some characters seemingly going out of their way to get killed for no good reason).

The worst thing about this movie is the Academy embarrassed itself by nominating it for an Oscar for no other reason than it made lots of money.

I'm tempted to say, "if I had to do it over again I would watch it in the theater," except would I really pay prohibitive movie prices to watch an overlong, mediocre movie simply for the effects? I don't know.

Perfectly watchable and very scenic, but it's a shame that with all that money the producers couldn't be bothered to do the minimum to make a genuinely compelling movie with engaging characters.

A Very English Scandal

slow start but at times quite entertaining
In this 3-part series, a closeted politician starts an affair with a young man and things get crazy. In spite of its great reviews, I found it hit and miss.

The first episode, which is mainly about the affair between a bland politician and a slightly annoying callow youth, is the weakest. The only part I really liked as a conversation between two English eccentrics bent on repealing anti-gay laws. There were both ludicrous and admirably sincere. But I probably wouldn't have kept watching if the series didn't end on a note of madness.

After that it's an interesting, wild story. And yet, I was never completely drawn in. I didn't understand why people were so loyal to Thorpe - Hugh Grant seemed less charming than I would have expected. And Ben Whishaw is sometimes amusing but just as often irritating.

Still, there is some sharp dialogue, some crazy events, and some notable smaller performances, most notably Adrian Scarborough as Thorpe's colorful defense attorney.

Overall, pretty good, but I feel like it could have been better considering the material.


Great first season, and then, WTF?
Working was great for the first season. But when season 2 came, a couple of great characters were gone and inexplicably replaced. I remember one of the replacements was very attractive and while this may be unfair, because she wasn't a good actress and her part added nothing to the series I felt like maybe she was some executives daughter or girlfriend and they just insisted she given a part. Because it just made no sense.

Of course, it may just have been incompetence. It may be that the series wasn't doing as well as they thought it should and some cocaine-fueled executive got put in charge and was like, we need to sex it up more, we need changes, make it all different, get me more coke!

It was seriously one of the most inexplicable retoolings in the history of television. I wish I knew the story behind it.

Empire Records

like a master class in how not to make a movie
This shaggy, somewhat annoying movie has inexplicably gone on to be some sort of cult class, and yet I can find little of worth in it outside of a good cast and a decent soundtrack.

The movie takes place in a record store and is about ... not much of anything. It begins with a character doing something dumb (and criminal) and going on to spout non-sequitors and just being the most annoying character in the movie.

Most of the movie is made up of characters arguing, acting stupid, dancing in the aisles, and trying to figure out who they're going to sleep with. There's a problem that bubbles up at the beginning but then it just simmers until it inexplicably takes over in the last 15 minutes, when it is resolved as absurdly as possible.

I don't have much fondness for teenagers being dumb, which is what this whole movie is. The female half of the cast is somewhat appealing (or maybe just hot) and the male side is middling to annoying.

So basically someone said, let's make something episodic like American Graffiti but all on one set and then let's tie it together with a dumb ending. And this is the result.

Not recommended.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

mind blown
I was resistant to watching this movie at first, because I'd seen the directors' previous, awful Swiss Army Man. But the buzz was so strong that I finally broke down and watched it. And it is crazy and exciting and touching and like nothing else.

The movie throws out ideas like the world is ending in five minutes and all the ideas need to be used before it does. The story goes everywhere and I dare you to predict anything.

The cast is great. The biggest surprise is Ke Huy Quan, because when I saw him I was like, "this guy is amazing, how have I never seen him before?" and it turns out he was the kid actor from Temple of Doom and his career had petered out years before. Which is tragic, but hopefully he gets to make a bunch of movies after winning the Oscar.

Also great performances from Michelle Yeoh (as always), and really, everyone.

If you like movies that keep you on your toes and mess with your head, you should definitely watch this. It's so much fun.

The Banshees of Inisherin

The dark side of Irish small-town eccentrics
In one way, Banshees is just the latest movie about colorful Irish characters getting into a big fight over a small thing. It's full of sharp, quirky humor and appealing eccentrics.

Except it's also dark and deeply disturbing.

Starting as a weird but generally comic film, the characters become grim and increasingly unlikable, no one acts reasonably (except Kerry Condon's likeable, sensible Siobhán), and by the end it's all depressing and low-key horrific.

You can take it as an allegory for the madness of war or as just a weird character study about rather unlikely characters (well acted all round, with special praise for Barry Keoghan as the quirkiest of the lot), but however you take it, it gets harder to watch as it goes along. Still, I did enjoy it (unlike my girlfriend, who ultimately found it too grim) and I do think it's worth watching.

Recommended, but be warned that the humor and fun of the first part will not last.

Coded Bias

I've heard a lot about the various algorithmic failures around race. This is a good overview of the discussion that talks about some things I haven't seen before. When you see it put all together in one place it's pretty shocking.

At the same time, purely as a documentary this is kind of weak. It's sometimes a little muddled, and it sometimes stretches a point a bit too far. Some of the things it tries to fold into the narrative are less examples of technological racism and more examples of actual criminal behavior. There's a difference between slippery tech and actions that resulted in people going to jail.

Still, it's a compelling film.


Annette begins with the musical number with the entire cast wandering around singing a fun song, May We Start. This is the first and last really enjoyable moment of the movie.

The story is about the love of a singer and a comic. And one of the first things that happens in the movie after that opening number is we see Adam driver as the comic do a really really long, not especially funny routine. It falls in the category of edgy comedy, but even most edgy comedians trying to work outside the norms of comedy managed to get a few jokes in there. Still, it's kind of interesting at first it's just that it goes on pretty much forever. After a while I began to think that that might be the entire movie.

Eventually something else happens. The leads sing a terrible song called we love each other so much. It establishes a pattern of films that have five or six words in them that are repeatedly endlessly to a forgettable melody. The best musical moments of this movie, written by the band Sparks, or a couple of times where they play little snippets of old songs from when they wrote better songs.

There is one other really fun bit in the movie, a scene where Annette is born. I forgot about it because the overall impression is just a pure boredom.

This movie also has this weird mannequin thing which I'm not even going to get into.

It's unlikable, slow, with forgettable repetitive music. In other words it's art with a capital a. Ugh.

Love, Death & Robots: Jibaro
Episode 9, Season 3

a little on the fence
Normally I divide these episodes into good or bad, but this I'd define more as huh? Even though I saw everything that happened, I don't really know what to make of it. Even though it was visually striking, the visuals didn't thrill me. Even though there were moments that were effectively horrific, it left me feeling not much of anything.

I think a lot of the problem is it doesn't really make that much sense. And that makes it hard to get involved with.

I will say that this made me curious. Most of the time if I don't like an episode I just say, well that's dumb or pointless. But if in the end of this one I was thinking what exactly did they have in mind?

The Expanse

couldn't get into it
The first episode of the expanse has a great opening as a woman tries to escape captivity in zero gravity, her hair flowing around her. It's a very intriguing scene which we leave and never get back to for the rest of that episode. After that we meet a whole bunch of people none of whom are particularly interesting or likable and we get a few different plot points and it kind of goes on and on.

The series has a lot of fans and it went on for years so maybe it gets better after this but there was just nothing by the end of that first episode that made me want to see anymore of it. Nothing that intrigued me or drew me in no characters I wanted to learn more of just nothing at all.

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