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    17 years



changes and more changes
Single mom and former stripper Christy Plunkett (Anna Faris) is a mess of addictions. She learned it from her mom Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney). She has a peculiar son, a deadbeat ex-husband, and a daughter following in her footsteps. She and her mother are in recovery where they find a bunch of friends who are also struggling with their addictions.

This may not be the best concept for a network TV sitcom but Chuck Lorre uses all of his TV skills to make it work. It helps to have comedic veterans Faris and Janney. The troubling part is that the show keeps drifting and changing and dumping its characters. The kids get phased out after the third season after not able to give them good material. French Stewart's weird character gets dumped and it's a relieve. Even Faris does not return for the final season. The show started somewhere and searched and searched until it settled on something that is relatively standard. With some forethoughts, this should have started as The Golden Girls in AA. It would be simpler. It's not the most comforting to keep losing characters this way. A network sitcom is comfort food and familiarity is a part of the sauce.

Jim Gaffigan: Quality Time

Jim Gaffigan, land salmon
Jim is in Minneapolis in front of an audience and he's fat. His wife is the director. It's probably a year before COVID and it feels like another world right now. It's simple. It's his same old, same old. My favorite joke is land salmon. It's a great visual. I see a pink piece of salmon in the place of a pre-sunburnt shirtless Jim in dad-shorts. All in all, it's a fine meal although it's not spiciest. It's seared land salmon without the sauce.

Trancers: City of Lost Angels

like the noir
In future Angel City, assassin prisoner Edlin Shock escapes while McNulty (Art LaFleur) is transferring her. She travels down the line to 1986 L. A. to kill Jack Deth. McNulty follows her down the line into a little girl to warn Deth (Tim Thomerson). Leena (Helen Hunt) leaves Deth after a fight. A damsel in distress seeks his help who could be Shock inside.

This is an unreleased sequel short to Trancers (1984), a B-movie that I really like. The franchise would go on with quite a few sequels but non of them are that good. So it's interesting to see if there is something here that I like above the rest. What I like about the original is the mishmash of every sci-fi trope thrown into a blender with a noir leading man. There is something fun with the mix. In this one, I really like the present day noir short story with the damsel in distress and all the rest. I can live without the future half. The production could never make it big enough and good looking enough. The plotting and the blocking is all crap. It makes no sense that Shock isn't tied down just in case she comes back up. All in all, this is a fun 15 minutes out of a 24 minutes short.

Salvage 1

in space
Harry Broderick (Andy Griffith) is a junk dealer who is willing to buy and sell just about anything across the globe. He sees a TV news report and comes up with an idea. He would fly to the moon and retrieve the various scraps left behind by the Apollo missions. He recruits former NASA astronaut Skip Carmichael (Joel Higgins) and rocket fuel scientist Melanie Slozar (Trish Stewart) to create a revolutionary private rocket ship out of a cement mixer. The government would give it the call sign Salvage 1. There's the perfunctory black worker in the group. In the second season, the interfering government agent Klinger goes away and Melanie starts mentoring young orphan Michelle Ryan.

The pilot is a fun movie. The science is crap but the movie is actually good. Andy Griffith is a great TV leading man. The premise is a little silly but good enough for a fun caper. The issue with the show is that it should stay much close to the rocket idea. This should be a series about the trio making a space travel service. They could retrieve valuable asteroids and have tourists go to the moon. The possibilities are endless. A rich benefactor could push for a trip to Mars. NASA should try harder to end the competition from their business. Industrial espionage would definitely try to steal Mel's formula. Instead, the show goes all over the place. The plot gets rather random. The gang literally rescues different horses in two different episodes in two different stories. They're seeding clouds, mining diamonds, and moving an iceberg. There is an alien episode and a robot episode. Granted, I like the robot. The show needs to stay with their revolutionary rocket. It's like somebody invented and owns the internet. Then we watch him do nothing about the internet. Nevertheless, everybody likes Andy and this is a fun short-lived series.

Every Girl Should Be Married

wrong pick
Shopgirl Anabel Sims (Betsy Drake) falls for pediatrician Dr. Madison Brown (Cary Grant) and works to entice him into marriage. She pretends to be a high class girl on a date with Roger Sanford (Franchot Tone), the owner of the department store where she works. The scheme gets out of hand but she's relentless.

Anabel picks the wrong guy. I don't mean that Cary Grant isn't the one automatic leading man in every rom-com he's in. I mean that Anabel should pick Sanford over Dr. Brown for the sake of the comedy. She needs to be wrong for the comedy to be right. I guess that this was female empowerment for its time. It does not make it funny but I don't actually mind the dated premise. It's a little funny if done correctly. I do find Anabel's obsession kind of adorable in a funny way. I just think that she could be a more compelling funny character if she gets her comeuppance by being wrong. Also, Dr. Brown gives off a gay vibe. He's a very eligible bachelor who doesn't want anything to do with dating. That actually may be comedic but it's definitely not the 40's.

She Dies Tomorrow

interesting idea
Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is despondent and certain of her impending doom. The feeling seems to be viral and Jane (Jane Adams) catches it.

Actress Amy Seimetz is spreading her writer/director wings and has come up with an interesting experimental indie idea. As an idea, it is worthwhile to explore. As a movie, its sad tone fails to take off. It may be more intriguing cinematically to play this idea as a horror. More than anything, this is an acting exercise for these fine actors.

Lady Sings the Blues

very biopic
It's biopic of legendary singer Billie Holiday (Diana Ross) starting with her rape at age 15. Louis McKay (Billy Dee Williams) is her slick boyfriend. It's a generally fine biopic. I don't like tying Strange Fruit to a specific lynching incident like that especially when it feels so manufactured. It's a lot of very on-the-nose biopic writing. Through it all, Diana Ross does well in her theatrical debut. It doesn't hurt that she doesn't need another singer to dub her performances. The movie is solid if uninspired and it is elevated by a compelling leading lady.

The Gazebo

light slapstick blackmail murder
Pigeon-rescuing TV showrunner Elliott Nash (Glenn Ford) is under tremendous stress. His wife Nell (Debbie Reynolds) is a star stage performer. Their district attorney friend Harlow Edison (Carl Reiner) has plenty of suggestions for Elliott's show. Elliott asks Harlow about a blackmail scheme for his show. In reality, he's actually being blackmailed with 18 year old Nell's nude pictures unbeknownst to her. She's excited about her latest purchase, an old gazebo.

The light comedic tone is an odd choice for a story about blackmail and murder. A more fitting choice would be a dark comedy. There is a difference between the two and this movie is solidly on the lighter weight side. It doesn't help with the creepy nudie pics McGuffin. The movie starts with Debbie Reynolds doing light comedy and transitions with Glenn Ford doing full-on Stooges slapstick. I'm not fully against it but this light tone doesn't really fit. It's an oddity. It's like a platypus. It's weird but it actually exists and thrives somewhere in the world.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

The Mitchells are a quirky family. Daughter Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is an aspiring filmmaker but her classmates ridicule her. She is accepted into film school and finds her own tribe. She is eager to leave home but her father (Danny McBride) fears letting her go. He refunds her plane ticket and takes the family on a cross country road trip to her school. Mother (Maya Rudolph) tries to keep the peace while dino-obsessed little brother is dragged along. It's not the end of the world or is it? Unbeknownst to them, the launch of a new phone AI is leading to the machine apocalypse.

This is written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe. Their most prominent previous work is writing for Gravity Falls. This has a lot of that show's sensibilities and I love it. I love the animation styles. I love the family. It's a quirky family. It's a quirky family with a wild outrageous world-ending apocalypse and it's fun. My only complaint is that this may be a bit too long. Of course, I would look to add another scene with the Poseys. It would be great to have the Poseys return to cower in the gas station and telling the Mitchells to hide. It would be the inflection point and a call to arms moment. As it stands, the father acquiesces to his daughter. If the Poseys come back, little Aaron could gain confidence to be heroic. Mother Linda can strive to show her family's worth and father would still be the last to join. It would work better with a better catalyst. All in all, this is a fun movie and everybody should watch it. Afterwards, you can binge Gravity Falls.

I Love Trouble

fun noir dialogue
Wealthy politician Ralph Johnston hires private eye Stuart Bailey to investigate his missing wife. He discovers that she had been a showgirl six years earlier about which the husband did not know.

Roy Huggins fills the writing with loads of fun noir pulp. It's fun dialogue. The story is fine although there are too many female characters. I thought that one of them would be revealed to be the missing woman. Franchot Tone has the look of someone getting stomped on and faking a smile all the while it's happening. He fits the role. By the way, this has nothing to do with the 1994 bad rom-com with Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts. This is altogether much better. I would like an action chase for the climax or something better than the standard unintentional confession. In the end, I love the dialogue and that's cool fun.

Symphony in Slang

fun and imaginative
A new fellow arrives at Heaven's Gate. The guardian is unable to understand his new slang and brings him to Noah Webster, the master of the dictionary.

This Tex Avery short reminds me that he's the one who coined the phrase What's Up Doc, a local teen slang from his school days. This is fun and imaginative. I love the cat closing.

T.V. of Tomorrow

good but feels repetitive
Your idyllic small town is being invaded by the new television sets. It comes with many new problems and the narrator suggests various solutions. What follows is a series of crazy T. V. adaptations. The stream of strange adaptations gets repetitive. They are mostly people sitting in front of a TV set anyways. I do remember some of this which is a good compliment. It's a good toon from Tex Avery.

King-Size Canary

good Tex Avery
An alley cat struggles to find any food. He spots a nice home with a refrigerator. Only problem is the guard dog Atom. There turns out to be nothing in the house except a tiny mouse. In order to escape, the mouse directs the cat to a canary but the canary turns out to be tiny. That's when the cat finds a bottle of Jumbo Gro plant fertilizer. I like the premise up to a point. It grows out of room sort of speak.

Screwball Squirrel

attacking toon from Tex Avery
In an idyllic forest, Sammy Squirrel cheerfully collects nuts. Screwball Squirrel is not having any of it and promptly beats him up. Screwball has a field day with Meathead, the bird dog.

I don't like the uglying up of the animal designs. He's the Deadpool of cartoons. I don't mind the irreverence of Screwball but he should have a better name. I'm even game for breaking down the fourth wall. It has too much on the nose but otherwise, it's good gags. Tex does go back to Screwball with more cartoons but there are some issues with that character.

Bad Luck Blackie

animation legend Tex Avery
A large bulldog keeps tormenting his little kitten sibling. The little kitten finds help from Black Cat who is in the business of Bad Luck. Whenever Black Cat crosses the path of the bulldog, bad things happen to the dog. This is another good one from animation legend Tex Avery. I also love the resolution.

Red Hot Riding Hood

good Tex Avery
Once upon a time, little red riding hood... The characters are fed up with the same old story. The narrator agrees to tell it in a new way. It's a Tex Avery animated short. It's good alternative fun with some adult leanings.

Hold On!

lead not led
Herman's Hermits is visiting America on a tour and hi-jinx ensues. After the success of the Beatles, I'm sure every British band would aim to follow in their footsteps. Some actually got their films made. For that, Herman's Hermits needs to be congratulated but it does not make them the Beatles. Quite frankly, they falter by the comparison. They don't have as much charisma. They should be the stars in every frame of this movie but they're not. While they're the leads, they aren't really leading. They're being led. They're not the drivers of their own train. The story is all wrong. The guys need to have most of the dialogue and be constantly on screen. If not, then what's the point.

Life in the Snow

specialized living
Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan narrates this hour long BBC nature doc which spans the globe looking at various animals' strategy in surviving the cold. From wolves and bears to otters and an unusual caterpillar, these are specialized creatures with specialized abilities. I like grouping these together. I wouldn't mind expanding it with more animals. I like the infra-red showing the heat from the blood flow. I also recognize some reusing of footage. It gives this a feeling of a clip show rather than a specific show with Buchanan traveling around the world. It would be better off without the attempt at personalizing the filming. All in all, it's solid BBC nature. The bar is set quite high for these.

Son of a Gun

Australian crime drama
Teenage inmate JR (Brenton Thwaites) arrives in prison. He uses his chess skills to befriend veteran criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). Once he's released, he joins crime lord Sam Lennox and executes a prison break for Lynch. JR falls for the bosses' girl Tasha (Alicia Vikander). They plan for a daring caper to steal gold bars.

JR is a bit bothersome. Of course, he's a young character but he's too trusting. Thwaites plays the character a bit too much like a puppy. The movie is playing up the central theme of chimpanzees and bonobos. Lynch should have talked about it early in prison. That way, JR could be excused for being a bonobo. I like some of the crime capers. I like McGregor. I like some of this but JR is problematic.

The Last Right

death and sex and all the rest
Daniel Murphy (Michiel Huisman) is flying to Ireland for his mother's funeral. He's the only one left to care for his autistic brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley). He needs to go to NYC for a new job but Louis is unwilling to leave home. Added to the complication, the elderly man sitting next to him on the plane dies. Due to a name mix up, Daniel is assumed to be the dead man's next of kin. The brothers are joined by Mary Sullivan (Niamh Algar) on their road trip as they deliver the body to his burial in Northern Ireland. Situation arises that police Detective Donall Crowley (Colm Meaney) is in pursuit of the trio.

The premise is manufactured. The story would be easier to transport their mother rather than a complete stranger. I'm still not sure about connecting the delivery with moving to New York. At its core, this is a simple quirky road movie and I like these actors. I like these actors and these characters. It has the quirkiness of an Irish dark comedy. It's death and sex and all the rest.

Above Suspicion

Clarke does well
It's 1988 Pikeville, Kentucky. The town is dying as its mines close down. Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke) survive by welfare fraud and selling drugs with her husband Cash (Johnny Knoxville). When the cops catch them, she turns into a confidential informant for FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston). She starts having an affair with him despite his wife Kathy (Sophie Lowe) and kids.

This is supposedly a true story. Emilia Clarke is doing her best southern white trash work. This is really a character study of her dealing with a disintegrating obsessive sexual relationship. I would like a different person playing Mark Putnam. The movie plays into the buttoned up FBI agent ideals of the man. I want someone with more edge. I want Knoxville if he could start with a clean-cut look. That pairing would be more interesting. Jack Huston is doing straight-laced too well. He should do more disintegration. The obsessive relationship loses some of its power. This movie is shooting for a crime drama but it misses an opportunity for something more.

Sitter Cam

Linda (Laura Allen) and Mark Kessler (Cam Gigandet) are a married couple with special needs daughter Chloe. Their elderly babysitter Mrs. Highsmith suddenly shows signs of dementia and burns Chloe's arm. They need a new babysitter but money is tight. Heather (India Eisley) is headed for college. She seems to be a perfect candidate with a good reference. Linda buys a nanny cam and grows suspicious of her young babysitter.

This is a Lifetime movie aimed at the mommy audience. The first problem is the couple's casual dismissal of Mrs. Highsmith. I would have liked to have more with Mrs. Highsmith. It feels a bit like the couple has abandoned the old lady which doesn't look good. Quite frankly, she could have been a good side character to keep around. India Eisley is shockingly skinny and that keeps distracting me. The strip tease is not sexy when I'm worried about her health. The story is really basic. There is no mystery. There isn't much drama. The tension is limited. Mark is annoyingly clueless if I'm being kind. He should have fired her on the spot except he's being creepy. It would work so much better if she was already blackmailing him. One would hope to root for the couple but he makes it hard to do. The movie's greatest sin is its slowness. Honestly, it's hard to watch this without constantly stepping away.

Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls

bad but not horrible
Star baseball player Ben McGrath (Chris Klein) was on the verge of the major leagues when he gets nailed in the nuts. It ends his career before it starts. Years later, he is divorced and a disappointment to his son. He graduates from night school to be a lawyer. Nobody is willing to hire him except for Stenhouse (Lochlyn Munro). It turns out that Stenhouse wants him to be the baseball ringer but he is petrified by PTSD. Stenhouse fires him. In a bar, he gets hired by low rent lawyer Mel Carmichael (Jon Lovitz) who wants him to manage the company softball team.

As a comedy, it's not that funny. Its humor is broad but thin. Chris Klein has done worst. The supporting actors are all nobodies. The story actually functions but unimaginative. This is generally weak. It's a bad movie but at least, it's a functioning one.


not the best but it has plenty
A masked man hands out free movie tickets in a train station. Those who show up at the movie house sit down for a horror film. The exits are blocked and they become unsuspecting victims of a demonic horror.

This is an Italian horror. The story is really simple. It's a basic B-movie horror. There is lots of blood and gore. The makeup is generally functional which looks interesting sometimes. At the very least, there is a lot of it. There are a few interesting characters but most are just cannon fodders. I like the metal rock soundtrack. There is some action. They literally threw in a helicopter. It's not the best action but there is some. Just like it's not the best gore but there is plenty of it.

The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure

muddled sequel
The little dinosaurs live with their parents in the well-protected The Great Valley. They are tired of being treated as little kids. Their adventure to rescue an egg ends up punching a hole in the protective wall. This sequel is straight to video. The story is messy. It's a muddle with this group of characters. At least, they seem to have maintained the animation style. I don't want to be a hater but I can't see little kids liking this.

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