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internet influencers? i mean, sure, you WANT them to die.
Interesting blend of a couple of different tropes here. there's a hotel, which, for some reason, is kind of haunted or possessed (see "1408") and then take that hotel, add a haunted, little-used room and make it the convention center for a bunch of internet "stars". it's hard to feel any kind of sympathy for this group at all, and i didn't.


ok teen horror, PLUS, Tom Segura!
People download a suspicious app, which then takes over their lives as they watch their lives count down on the screen to zero, once they "break the user agreement". i wasn't sure if the horror here came from the danger or from someone not reading the user agreement. sure, it's kind of predictable and a little scary here and there, but i found it an enjoyable way to spend some time.

i am a big fan of the comic tom segura, and he pops up as the cell phone store clerk, nailing it. his snarky humor is welcome here, although, i have to say i watched the roughly 45 second transaction when someone buys a new phone and wondered why i had to spend an hour in the phone store myself a few months back.

Love Is Blind

offshoot of "married at first sight"
With a few more twists than "married at first sight", this netflix offering does ok showing couples meeting, getting engaged and then married.

the first third of the 1st season episodes have 8 singles moving into a dorm-like studio, with two rows of pods down the middle. they meet each other through these pods, only without the ability to see what the other person looks like. most of us would think this is too little to go on, but, the first 5 couples to get engaged meet in person and are then whisked off to a resort in mexico so they can get to know each other a bit more. this part also reveals the big issue i had in mind - what if more than one person likes a contestant and those people end up in different couples? might those feelings get carried over?

the 2nd part takes place at the resort (and one couple immediately leaves after he reveals a big secret) and allows a few cracks to show in the "experiment".

lastly, the couples (who are all from atlanta) move into apartments in the same complex for 3 weeks before their weddings. they meet skeptical family and friends and plan their wedding.

my favorite couple, barnett and amber, are probably the prettiest - he looks like a missing jonas brother).

cons - annoying music soundtrack

Lego Masters

somewhat more fun than it sounds, thanks to will arnett
Poster boy will arnett (arguably the most fun part of the lego movies with his turn as lego batman) hosts this lego build competition. i've seen the first episode, and the teams of builders are all known to each other (friends, marrried couples, father/son, siblings, etc) and start almost immediately building their own theme park sections that will then go together. the 2 judges are world-class lego artists.

with the exception of a wide-eyed fluffy-haired blonde lady from texas (who mugs endlessly for the camera while staring directly into it) they're all pretty likeable. pretty high nerd quotient, though, unsurprisingly. i would think this might be a show to run in the summer, but it works here too.

The Field

nothing is ever explained or resolved
This is one of those weird movies that fits in-between the usual ghost/spirit/supernatural films. I guess you have to be in the right mood to even watch it, because I found myself getting frustrated at certain points. By the end, though, I just enjoyed the ride.

A Chicago couple buys a farm in a small town to get away from the chef job that was taking up too much of the husband's time. It so happens to have a weird field out back that, thanks to the husband's love of photography, they discover harbors a strange secret. One that the town seems to know but aren't terribly forthcoming about. A strange woman lives at the edge of their property and wanders around at all times, seemingly drawn to the same field. The sheriff, in particular, is very protective of her. We get a few hints that people may have disappeared in the field, or some odd sacrifice-y things may have occurred in the past, but, thanks to the photography of the husband, it's possible those people are not quite gone.

Despite nothing ever being really clear, I would stress that I found this to be a great movie, with great acting by some great supporting talent - Veronica Cartwright, Barry Bostwick and Mark Metcalf. It even has a nice, happy ending. Or does it?

Food Network Challenge

new host as of 2019
The challenge has returned, but seemingly tooled for budget tastes.

in the last few months, several new (but old) faces have sprung up (martha stewart, allison hannigan, paige davis and maureen mccormick, etc) on the food network as hosts. new faces are often good, and some folks deal with it better than others. in the case of ian zierling on the revamped network challenge, eh, it's ok. i have to admit i never watched 90210 or the shark storm movies, so i wasn't aware of the "special" pronunciation of his 1st name.

the episode last night was based on "back to the future" movies, which treated us to ian in marty mcfly garb and making funny little movie jokes. it seems like it's sort of close to "worst cooks" in terms of the level of humor they're trying to inject. i don't remember this being a part of the show, and really, it's ok. it isn't scheduled viewing, but it is still fun.

Avenue 5

seems strangely familiar
Such a strange show for HBO - a hackneyed, rip off of "aniara". when i saw that film a few months back, i found it depressing yet very watchable. a colony ship goes off course without any chance of getting back on course. the guests and crew have to make peace with this, and as the show goes on, covering more and more lengths of time passing, there are fewer and fewer people, etc.

this one has (at least in the beginning) a very similar plot, except they made it a comedy(??!!?). unsurprisingly, it doesn't work as a comedy. even josh gad and zach wood can't save this. anyway, in this iteration, the engineer is gone, so the captain, who isn't a captain, has to step in. can't really recommend it, but it does kill a half hour. and the sets are cool.

A Ghost Story

quiet and thoughtful
Don't get all the negative ratings for this movie. boring? hmmm...maybe, if you need explosions or complicated exposition every few minutes. the ghost, casey affleck, dies in the house he loves and then chooses to remain and observe, silently. so he goes forward, seemingly skipping periods of time, and then arrives in the past to observe a pioneer family, and then he himself moving into the house, and finally he observes his own ghost, observing. i found it unique and enjoyable. makes you think about your own mortality, the nature of life and death. you know, if you're in the frame of mind for such things. i would imagine that someone not in the mood would be turned off by the experience.

The Circle

a new iteration of reality tv
Stumbled across this new reality show (new for the US anyway, and only 4 episodes to start) on netflix. it's an interesting take on reality tv in general, and on people's need to use social media specifically. it's apparently taken from a successful similar show in the UK, where people are placed in apartments within the same building and can only interact via some cleverly set-up "internet" screens (they can only interact with each other). some big personalities immediately stand out.

some of the people are honest about who they are, some are straight-up catfishing the others and others seem to be looking for a relationship. one thing for sure, they're all kind of attentions.

it immediately brought up questions for me. questions like - can they go outside? how long are they kept in these apartments? are they "minded" by production people - who might be setting up storylines? and how the heck do you win this?

UnREAL: Friendly Fire
Episode 10, Season 2

such an interesting show
I watched the first season, mildly intrigued, then noticed there were 3(?!?) more seasons to go. too late - i was hooked. almost done with the 2nd season, and still hanging in there, although a big issue is starting to stand out for me. why is it that the 2nd in charge producer for this silly reality show is the most amazing man magnet ever? all of the absolutely stunning men that a vying for her attention is really starting to strain credibility. she's a dry, acerbic young lady with quite a few issues and skeletons in her closet. it's just not believable anymore. and the way the co-workers constantly stab each other in the back and switch teams to throw somebody else under the bus is amazing. that said, it's highly watchable to see what carwreck is going to come next.

Worst Bakers in America

really disappointing 2nd season
Duff Goldman, the co-host, along with Lorraine Pascal during the first season, has been replaced for season two, and it isn't good news. Jason Smith, the homespun source of his trademarked "farmyard cornball" comments, is now a cohost. If you dig his lounge act, good for you. i, for one, am not watching this season. i'm as mad as a rooster in workboots. boo, food network!

Worst Bakers in America: Piped Dreams
Episode 1, Season 2

host replacement ruins this show
Duff Goldman, the co-host, along with Lorraine Pascal during the first season, has been replaced for season two, and it isn't good news. Jason Smith, the homespun source of his trademarked "farmyard cornball" comments, is now a cohost. If you dig his lounge act, good for you. i, for one, am not watching this season. i'm as mad as a rooster in workboots. boo, food network!

Dead to Me

agree with other reviewers
I watched the whole show in one sitting. i don't recall seeing so many people mention this in their reviews for any other show, but i sure understand it. it somewhat reminded me of the recent Ricky Gervais series "After Life", which dealt with a similar topic - how to survive after the loss of a spouse. just as that series, it added comedy and drama to make for some very endearing characters forced to grow up and deal with what most people would consider unimaginable. zlinda Caqrdellini and Christina Applegate have a nice chemistry together. highly recommended.

Best Baker in America

definitely needs a judge replacement
I like the concept of the show, with the elevated dessert offerings (rather than, say, bread pudding, which is often made on "chopped" as a dessert). the contestants are interesting and really seem focused on creating beautiful and different desserts. otherwise, it really is just another elimination-type show.

However, Jason, the judge who won Food Network Star, is too over-the-top for me, with his loud wardrobe, braying southern accent and constant farmyard-related sayings (usually regarding pigs or chickens) make me want to strangle him. I wonder if this is why he never got a show, as the other winners have in the past. a little bit of him goes a looooong way.

Black Summer: Alone
Episode 4, Season 1

i thought this was the best episode
Practically silent, except for the heavy breathing, i thought this was the most tense episode. basically reduced to one guy running away from a zombie for the full episode, it held my interest completely.

Char Man

above average found footage film
Nicely done found footage covers subjects addressed in other films, but the character development saves it. the project wasn't terribly researched that the characters were working on, so their little tantrums when things don't go their way are amusing and make the movie, in my opinion. of course, i couldn't miss a movie with an actor named "Kipp Tribble" in it!

The Adventures of Pluto Nash

like most overblown films, it's fascinating
Ever since i came across "it's a mad mad mad mad world" when i was a kid, i love huge why-did-they-make-it, over the top movies (think "1941" "can't stop the music", "stepford wives" remake, etc). movies that leave you feeling there was a good motive at the start, maybe, but it got lost someplace along the way. you know there were actor/director clashes, scenes missing, that were reshot, and, overall, there's likely an even more interesting story about the making of the movie, and the movie itself could never compete.

pluto nash is a futuristic tale about eddie murphy's character running a casino on the moon, and getting into trouble with the mob. the additional stories about it sitting on the shelf for years, reshoots and eddie hijacking the production are fascinating. it's visually quite interesting and the performances are definitely over the top. it actually makes a fun double feature with arnold's "total recall", as far as the visuals and performances. i never pass it by when i come across it.

Instant Hotel

new reality show from australia on netflix
5 pairs of Australians take turns hosting each other at their respective vacation rentals all around the country. After each stay, they rate the accommodation (as owners, as the folks staying, and a judge who tags along), hoping to win the competition.

The couples are pretty varied (old, young, mother/daughter, same sex), and, as the show moves along and we get to know them, some of the realness comes through, which, for me, was the most entertaining. The snarkiness and maneuvering is more pronounced as we reach the end (some of them more subtle than others). most notable is the discussion about who will get the master bedroom at each property.

One thing i might change (if i could) in future iterations would be to keep the ongoing scores from the teams. while it fueled some competition-related upsmanship, i think it would be more dramatic to reveal these more near the end.

The personal pride each couple takes in their home is also interesting. The properties are pretty varied as well. A decent, enjoyable watch.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Hard Time
Episode 18, Season 4

shades of "dark mirror"
Mind prison is a topic covered on most of the star trek series, the outer limits, and, most recently, dark mirror, in the horrifying (at least to me) christmas episode. o'brien is treated to a 20 year sentence in a matter of a few minutes. the ongoing trauma makes for a riveting episode. colm meaney has always been one of the best actors on this series, and this is no exception.

The Haunting of Hill House

reimagining of the shirley jackson book
Unlike other reviews have indicated, this is not a sequel, prequel or remake of any of the prior film versions or the classic novel. my personal favorite is the 1963 robert wise version, "the haunting". scared the crap out of me as a child - the doorknobs and the bending walls. russ tamblyn from that version even makes a cameo in this version as well, playing nell's therapist.

anyway, what they did was take all the characters from the story and, instead of making them visiting researchers, made them a family (the crain family - yep, they kind of jettisoned the back story of the house as well). this family moves into the house in hopes of selling it after fixing it up. the story jumps back and forth between their time in the house and later, after the kids are grown up and still suffering from their time spent in the house that's haunted by.....well, something.

their father takes them from the house in the middle of the night without explaining why, and they never go back. just like the book, it's not clear if the haunting is real and if the various members of the family have carried forward the traumas they experienced into their adulthoods. and they're all pretty messed up too. they did manage to fit in some of the more memorable events/scenes from the 1963 film into this one, putting them into the context of this version.

the expansion that a 10 hour version gives is amazing, and each family member pretty much gets their own episode (some dovetail into other character scenes shown from the other character's point of view). i started out not liking the massive changes so much, but really settled into the story (ep 6 is amazing, in my opinion).

highly recommended. it's well written and creepy. though it was played a bit for laughs in the 1963 version, you'll certainly never hear the phrase "in the night. in the dark" the same way again.

Island Zero

nicely made low-budget thriller, but familiar
The story is very reminiscent of "the island" series by michael stark. a series of 4 books that came out in 2012. he gets no story credit here, but it's very similar - a group of people on an island are cut off with no explanation as to what's going on outside. weirdness ensues.

this film is well-acted by non-famous faces and the creeping dread of realizing they are alone without anyone to contact on the mainland starts to ratchet up the suspense. for an indie film it's quite enjoyable.

Magic for Humans

the horrible host of cupcake wars finds a new gig
He made cupcake wars (or was it halloween wars??) unwatchable, so it's good that he was able to find a new job, at least temporarily. his over-the-top use of bad puns and generally unlikeability that wafted off of him on that previous show like a 5-day old uncleaned catbox is reigned in somewhat here. perhaps he realizes the error of his previous ways. pretty watchable if you like magic


I STILL don't get it
I've seen several seasons of this show now, and still do not understand what the heck it's all about. i'm always left shaking my head about why it's filmed and edited and directed the way it is. "artificial importance", would be my label for this show.

it's so unnecessarily self-important - from the need to plaster the logo on everything that isn't moving, to the overuse of adjectives - "fantastic tuna", "beautiful, majestic venison", "incredible chocolate cake". it's never been clear to me what the actual goal is, or the ultimate prize for the winner. you never hear from any of the winners again, apart from their single appearance on an episode addressing the new chefs. why is it like this?

maybe it's our need as americans to have english people be rude to us (gordon ramsay and simon cowell, but also, that lady from "the weakest link"), but that's the downfall of the show to me. i won't be watching any longer.

Crawl or Die

so goddamn claustrophobic
There seem to be a lot of people who think this an "alien" ripoff, which it didn't feel at all like to me. true, it had an alien in it, which may be where the confusion lies. they do seem to forget that "alien" was itself a ripoff of "it, the terror from beyond space" and was more of a haunted house movie with way more character development and set pieces than these folks had time for. this movie, on a small an heroic budget, made me want to crawl out of my skin. as the group has to crawl through smaller and smaller ductwork, being chased by a monster, the paths become more and more claustrophobic, and made me incredibly uncomfortable.

Raccoon Valley

slow and creepy thriller
I'm usually disgusted by about 45 seconds in on most of the pay service horror offerings. raccoon valley is a nicely done, quietly tense little thriller. this one is absolutely different (and recommended) for a couple of reasons:

1) it's slow and builds. viewing the world from a clueless deaf woman, lost in the shuffle after an evacuation is announced in her town following a plane crash. at first she just goes about her routine, slowly noticing something is different.

2) it's told pretty much from the deaf woman's point of view. what little music there is is quite atmospheric and adds to the tension - sometimes sounding like light wind chimes and sometimes like a heart beating. it is interesting that her memories are presented via sound clips.

I felt the tiniest bit let down at the end, and then i didn't. it seems to fit everything that came before.

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