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Too Old to Die Young

Makes you long for the big sleep ...
And I ain't talking about the Marlowe movie. This film is like a counter-agent to all those anti-depressant medications out there: pretty much guaranteed to make you contemplate the comparative attractiveness of a long piece of string on a doorknob. Minimal plotting (as minimal & cliched as it gets), line-readings that are 90% silence & the rest as uninflected as possible. Lots of somber ghostly greenish illumination in alleyways & deserted corridor (somebody loves Ed Hopper & maybe certain German expressionists). With so many Scandinavian films, going back decades, being so manipulatively morbid & depressing, this film makes me wonder if the societies of Sweden, Denmark & Norway so often held up as paragons for the rest of the west don't hide a very dark & undesirable trade-off.


The so-called religious symbolism is so heavy-handed it's as though it were written by someone with no imagination or appreciation for the language of the source material. From the opening scenes with the grotesque Bardem coarsely abusing the divine Warren to the flat phony sycophantic behavior of Ed Harris (first time I have ever disliked his performance) and on & on the film plays like a bad high school film class product. I don't know what Aronofsky's problem is but his films sure seem filled with enormous amounts of ugliness, anger & hatred being played out. Yuchh.

Better Call Saul

Way Overrated
At first this series looked promising. It had the look & feel of Breaking Bad & several of the memorable cast members. But then things fell apart. Bob Odendirk is a great supporting character but doesn't have the chops to carry his own series. For one thing he's way too old to play Jimmy. He's obviously well into his 50s when Jimmy should be in his 30s. For another, while he's pretty funny & clever, he's not likeable at all. Plus it seems he changes his outlook/attitude in just about every other episode. In one he will totally do his brother in & in the next he's begging for forgiveness & showering Chuck with brotherly love. Ditto with Chuck who wavers from caring for to hating Jimmy. So which is it? Actually I could care less. Both brothers are devious weasels. Then there's a female character called Kim who's supposed to be Jimmy's inamorata although there's really little chemistry between the two. Lord knows what she's supposed to see in him. She doesn't have a whole lot to do in the series & spends a lot of time pouting & sulking which may be the actress showing off her feelings about a very underwritten part. The only likeable character is Mike & his segments all look like ripoffs from BB.

I'll take Get Shorty any time over this.

Better Call Saul: Fifi
Episode 8, Season 2

Enough Chuckie/Michael McKean...
The guy's a one-note boring weasel & drags the whole show down with him & his tin-foil blankee. Never did like McKean's whiny voice, who'd hire him for a lawyer?

Better Call Saul: Bali Ha'i
Episode 6, Season 2

Getting bogged down here...
I realize I'm a couple years behind (at least) but may fall even more so if we get too deeply into Kim's personal/professional life. Also the undersized MB cupholder is getting really old fast, belongs in a network sitcom.

Get Out

Good idea lamely executed...
Not strong enough to be a satire, more like a stand-up comedy routine. Witing's not strong enough to support strong acting even though it has top-notch talents like Steven Root & Catherine Keener in it. Follows all the tropes of horror movies going back to the silents but if it wasn't for the reverse-racism slant, it would be a low-budget straight to video film.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Brit hipster does Yank redneck schtick....badly
So you put McDormand & Rockwell & Harrelson in a movie about rednecks, throw in stuff about rape, murder & pancreatic cancer & what do you get? Apparently an audience in perpetual orgasm, judging by the ratings & awards. Now I've always loved Rockwell but here (to me) he is horribly miscast. McDormand does her usual teeth-grinding, eye-rolling bits & Woody Harrelson, well, his part is mercifully short. There is feeling of genuine back-country grunge here at all, just Hollywood & London slumming. Can't believe all the hoopla. What a boring bunch of swill.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Just plain BAD
Slow, pointless and choppy. Very little makes sense. Lots if flashback fragments that don't add up to much of anything, don't tie up to any of the original material in a significant way. Acted about as lethargically as it gets. Was this the momentum of the original? Hard to tell. Maybe it's just that the new streaming stuff on Netflix & Amazon has so much more zap & dynamism. On top of everything else Aaron Paul/Jesse Pinkman looks 20-30 pounds heavier & healthy yet he's supposed to have been living in a concrete hole. Walter shows up & looks about 20 years I said Just Plain BAD.

Fargo: The Law of Vacant Places
Episode 1, Season 3

Worst season yet...
Too much padding. Too much filler. And far far too much schtick. C'mon, even the LA characters speak in that phony Minnesota monotone. What is this, a revival of Fibber McGee & Mollie? Geez...

Goya's Ghosts

Goya did not deserve this embarrassingly bad film
Despite some magnificent cinematography and the presence of a few excellent actors, this film is a major loser. It starts off OK with the basis of a plot involving the painter Goya, his model and a corrupt monk during the Spanish Inquisition. But somewhere around halfway through, the film seems to lose its way, as though the director either disappeared or died. From then on to say the story line is choppy would be a huge understatement. It looks like it was improvised by a bunch of 3rd graders.

An added negative: Natalie Portman plays 2 parts. I don't know in which she is worse. Embarrassing.


Better than Melatonin
I have never watched a show or movie that produced in me such a complete state of torpor. No matter how hard I try staying alert to follow (what there is of) the plot, it's like those scenes in old movies where a hypnotist asks for a volunteer from the audience and some poor bozo gets talked into mounting the stage & presto! He's under. That's me, the bozo sawing logs. I really try to pay attention. Terry O'Quinn and Kurtwood Smith are two of my favorite actors. (What a pair of unique monikers, too.) But the connections between plot points and dialog become too protracted severely challenging my attention span as I cascade through the gaps into la-la land.

A question: Is Patriot a comedy? It reminds me a lot of Evil Alien Conquers only without the laughs.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown

Bill Pullman does Gabby Hayes...
...or tries to, but alas has no Roy Rogers or John Wayne as straight man. I have admired & appreciated this actor for years as someone with true acting chop,s, but now, I don't know. Maybe this film as a joke. It certainly is one on the audience.

This is one of those movies where every actor directs his or her own performance which may have litttle or no congruence with any other performance in the film. Likewise individual scenes are more or less unrelated to previous or subsequent events portrayed on screen. Overall this has the effect of watching a bunch of acting exercises or maybe skits for a school benefit. And that name - Lefty Brown? That mean they passed up Shorty Smith?

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Not Lonesome Dove...
Not Lonesome Dove, not by a long shot. I guess Netflix was desperate for the cache of the Coen Bros name. Too bad the bros didn't bring along anything else. Hard to tell what they might have been after in this sad little collection of pointless tales of the old west. Homage to Hollywood westerns? Doubtful. Stories are too brief & the acting much too flat. Comment on current political state of affairs? Not even close. These stories are even more depressing that watching the evening news.

Some nice costumes & great cinematography so I give it 3 rather than the 1 it deserves.

The Other Side of the Wind

Orson Welles does Roger Corman
Not much to say here. Glad his best work lives on in all its glory because this thing is a catastrophe. True, there are scenes which evoke key moments in his better movies, mostly ones involving Edmond O'Brien, Paul Stewart & Cameron Mitchell, all great old-time character players. And watching John Huston's majestic face & hearing his sonorous tones keep one's attention for a few moments. But the rest is just embarrassing & self-indulgent. An old man getting his rocks off watching his naked g-f running around naked chasing a naked young stud is just embarrassingly boring. Or boringly embarrassing. Peter B - you did the master no favors resurrecting this travesty. Like bad dog food, better left in the can & tossed.

Civilisations: The Cult of Progress
Episode 8, Season 1

Art History in the age of Facebook....
There oughta be a law against programming like this. Pretty boy host & scholarly with fancy hair & the shallowest apparent knowledge of cultural or art history expounds on same from the most superficial perspective, nevertheless reinforced with a pronounced political correctness on the mores of the periods covered so we won't mistake his appreciation of Gauguin's maiden's with prurient interest. Even Disney would turn this stuff down (one hopes).

I do wish they'd teach Liev Schreiber how to pronounce French names & proper nouns.


They should have named it The Deplorables...
My wife & I watched the first couple of seasons of the original Roseanne show & enjoyed it. It was funny & well-acted & different from most sitcoms that were on in those days. But then like so may other series it started getting old really fast. Especially Roseanne Barr's screechy voice, John Goodman's belchy foghorn one-note performance & especially whiny Darlene/Sarah Gilbert.

So here we are 20 or so years later & what's changed? Not much, except for Roseanne's facelifts or whatever. She's as screechy as ever & the rest haven't improved noticeably. Why is this show so popular? Maybe the rest of us have sunk down to their level. Must be how we got the people we now have in the WH. As I said they should have called this new iteration of Roseanne "The Deplorables", because it's got plenty of them represented - from both sides of the political spectrum. 1* out of 10.

Black Mirror: White Christmas
Episode 4, Season 2

One note dystopian mind....
This episode like many other written by Mr. Brooker traffics in hoary old sc-fi cliches going back at least to Twilight Zone where they were far briefer, to the point & better written. Mr. Brooker has a one-note dystopian mind but it does not dig very deep. More interested in peoples' self-absorption with lifestyles & public opinions. Surprising - & sad/depressing - how popular this series is. Well, in a few years it will be buried in a quickly forgotten slag heap of quasi-techno dysopian memes. Good riddance. On the plus side, John Hamm is a wonderful actor.

The Comedian

Awful awful movie
It's hard to fathom how &/or why so many otherwise savvy film folks got involved with this dumb vulgar travesty. The quick & easy answer is probably most (e.g. Billy Crystal & Cloris Leachman) only had brief cameos & never saw the entire script.

The trivia notes to the movie state that one team wrote the plot & another the jokes. I don't know who did a worse job. Plotwise, among other things it was never made clear why the Harmony character was doing community service nor why (or even if) she "fell" for the Jackie character. Hard to believe in any case.

Although he was funny the Scorsese's King of Comedy & even, arguably, in Taxi Driver, Robert Deniro is not a natural comedian. His humor seems gratuitously cruel & cynical here, especially at the wedding & the retirement home, partly due to the gross teenage humor level of the material but also in large part to Deniro's wholly unsympathetic performance. It would have worked had the film's creators been able to resurrect Rodney Dangerfield for the role. In fact the whole movie seemed to be based on Dangerfield's career, although he was never as cruel nor as much of a loser as Jackie.

Also in the trivia notes it says that Deniro tried to get this film made for 8 years. One wonders if the final result is what he foresaw.

Murder on the Orient Express

Why oh why do they keep remaking this?
I read the book (as Murder in the Calais Coach) when I was 11 or 12 & thought it was a childish silly dumb plot.

Every remake has featured over-the-hill " movie stars" in over-the-top cameos.

So-o-o-o bo-o-o-ring.

Guess I just answered my own question.


Starman eats a strawberry
I used to like Jeff Bridges as an actor. He had this aw shucks manner, self-effacing, gullible, not a devious bone in his body. I think his peak performance was in John Carpenter's Starman, especially his Alien's Interpretation of the Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". Perfect. A meme of its time. But then poor ole Jeff couldn't seem to shed his Starman persona. His speech mannerisms seemed to adapt themselves to some outer space diction. Then in 1993 along came Fearless & the creased brow, sad downturning eyes & the by this time highly refined aw-Shucks mannerisms get blown up as big as the moon, all for the sake of a sappy pointless sentimentalist flick about a plane crash & those who make it out. Caters to the basest superstitious mindsets. Shame, Jeff, shame.

Midnight Special

Dollar Store Spielberg
This director gets some good ideas. Unfortunately they're never more than one per movie, & sometimes they're almost the same idea. Now if could figure out a way to let his imagination incubate & let his mesh organically, he might come up with something on the order of Tarkovsky's SF fantasies Solaris & Stalker. Off course Tarkovsky started with material from some pretty great writers. Still, I think the potential is there.

There's no question that there's some good acting on the screen, especially from Dunst (always an outstanding performer) & Edgerton (why are Australians so superior to Yanks). Michael Shannon delivers his standard Righteous Krazy Guy which, given how often this director uses him is what was expected.

Overall, though, this plays like something copped from a few pages out of Spielberg's waste basket.

The Nice Guys

Definitely for the overseas crowd
Interesting that the 3 principals (including the insufferably annoying daughter) are all foreign-born. Don't get me wrong. I think Gosling & Crowe (was this some feeble homage to MST3K?) are terrific performers. But the hodgepodge "tributes" to 1970s movies (mostly Blaxploitaion flicks) & TV shows (mostly Rockford Files) are so lame & disjointed it would be an advantage not to be familiar with the culture or the language.

The film starts off at a good pace & moves at a good clip until just short of the one hour mark. Then the humor becomes painfully predictable & the plot (what there is of it) disintegrates into a million bits like an exploding pillow. Most annoying of all is the character of Ryan Gosling's daughter. Lord knows what she's doing in this but suddenly we're in Nancy Drew country.

Oh well there's a big market overseas & I guess they never tire of buddy cop/private eye movies.


Half-baked effort
Might have worked with Meg & Tom (script of course by Nora). Would have been a blast with Cary Grant & Irene Dunne 80 years ago but it's just another rushed choppy flat halfway effort with Cusack & Beckensale. No question she's gorgeous but she just can't act. Cusack can act but just can't do light comedy. Example: the critical hotel elevator scene in the beginning with the obnoxious kid & chubby (wouldn't be funny if dad wasn't chubby, right?). It should have been hilarious. Picture Cary Grant who was the master of these kinds of comic situations (see Bringing up Baby, for example) or Tom Hanks who cut his teeth in comedy. Cusack just acts peevish, period. I can only attribute the high ranking here to how inured viewers have become to highly derivative work from Hollywood.

In Defense of Food

Not much substance in this...
This is like one of those pseudo-infomercials they play Saturday nights on PBS (to pace out the golden oldies shows with Nick Clooney & Peter Marshall).

The few interesting points are not pursued to any depth, having mostly to do with the role of fiber enhancing the production of beneficial microbes that fight bad bacteria. OTW there's not much new here, same old stuff about how sodas & breakfast cereals are bad for you & vegetables are better than meat (but the only meat they show is always a big piece of something that looks like prime rib).

Also annoying & borderline dishonest (IMO) are the gratuitous plugs (after Pollan has knocked Nutritionism) by nutrition propagandists: One raving about converting school kids/borderline delinquents into salad eaters without ever showing them in the act of actually eating lettuce greens. (I wanted to see what kind of sugar & carb-drenched dressing they used to wash the raw veggies down & if not that then what they used.) The other was some genius from Cornell who revolutionized high school cafeteria eating habits by putting healthy foods like raw carrots first in the cafeteria line so the kids would load up on those. (I just wanted to see what was left on the trays at then end of the meal.)

Sorry if I seem cynical, but this is pretty lightweight stuff. Pollan seems like a likable guy & I'm sure he's very bright & has a lot of good ideas, but what come across here looks like a promo for a book. Maybe that's all it is.

Jessica Jones

Dropout superhero(ine) as victim? Really??
Where to start? Which is worse, the lead actress's acting...or the drill 'n pump sex interludes? Don't get me wrong, Kristen Ritter is very cute in a dorky kind of way but a tough, cynical boozing world-weary PI? With her single expression a constant dead-eyed adolescent pout? Reminds me why I was so happy when Walter White decided not to wake her up. Not that it's all her fault. I mean when a lush asks a clerk for the cheapest bourbon on the shelf & in the next scene she's drinking Wild Turkey, someone is pulling someone's leg. Or when Jessica is indulging in gymnastic sex with Luke how come he's always naked & she's mostly fully clothed. (The most likely answer is that he's in far better shape than she is.) Then there are all the obligatory PC tropes: Lesbians in power roles, put-upon African-American victims, kinky incestuous sort-of funny neighbors.

The overall plot comes off like a bad rip-off of The Following that had Kevin Bacon in the Jessica role. Boy, memories (& taste) do get shorter & shorter.

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