TheTruthofItIs

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Reviews

Dopesick
(2021)

Dopesick is pretty Dope
"Dopesick" (8 eps, 1-hr, Hulu) is a docu-drama on the opioid crisis in America and how it was brought about by Purdue Pharma's new-in-the-90s drug, Oxycontin. The series is really well done (except for jumping back and forth in time to tell the story) thanks to seasoned producers and directors. Michael Keaton leads the mostly unknown cast but Kaitlyn Dever ("Last Man Standing") turns in an Emmy-level performance as dopesick "Betsy". Besides dramatizing the opioid crisis, the creators Danny Strong and Beth Macy wanted to ensure you realize how bad/evil/greedy Purdue Pharma is (not was) and the Sackler family's shameful role in it. And since the elections of 2016/2020 shook our faith in federal govt leadership and Big Tech, this series certainly piles on adding Big Pharma to the pile of disgusting graft, revolving doors, and corruption via insider favors in the service of boundless profits over the health of the populace. Yes, you'll earn your newfound cynicism after completing "Dopesick".

Code 404
(2020)

Code 404 ironically applies to the show's value
Code 404 (S01, 6 eps 1/2 hr, SKY) is yet another boring take on cop drama. This being a British production, they take a decent premise and just bore you to death, it's like watching tea steep or bowling lawns slowly turn brown, it's so agonizing that you can feel your arteries harden. Daniel Mays stars and why?! Dude has no appeal at all, nor his co-star and supporting cast - zip for eye candy. And their setting/environment is dirty, gritty cop fodder. This show is at best a 5 so anything over that you can bet is from the Land of Shilldom.

Invasion
(2021)

A derivative invasion, and slowest ever
"Invasion" (S01, 10 eps, 1 hr, Apple+) has a decent premise and story structure following how four sets of people/families react to an alien invasion. However, its execution is what is causing so much agita amongst us reviewers. The pacing is very, very, very slow. The writers/directors insist on lingering scenes, relishing moments. Almost all scenes should be 1/3 as long as they are. This confirms what you'd also recognize as a low-budget series. Yes, it's an Apple production and they've more money than they know what to do with, but they're not giving enough to their productions. There are times when I note that certain movies would be better served as an 8-10 ep streaming series, but this one goes the other way. This story would've been much better served as a movie than the long, drawn-out series that it is. The VFX are sparse, and let's be frank, this is a set of love stories disguised as sci-fi drama, ugh. And you can make a game out of guessing which story elements derive from some other show/movie. I definitely see "Stranger Things" with the kids' storyline, "Contact" with Mitsuki Yamato's story, and "Brightburn" with the epileptic kid. Finally, the season finale indicates a nuclear attack on the aliens halted the invasion but that very, very important event is not depicted! Again, curse of a low budget. There's a hook for a sophomore season, but why follow this further?

The Beatles: Get Back
(2021)

Go back to Get Back
The Beatles Get Back (3 eps, 2+ hrs ea, Disney+) is a 7.5 hr documentary (derived from 60+ hrs of footage) over three episodes originally filmed back in January 1969 for their "Get Back" sessions, and it can be a slog to sit through. However, if you're a patient Beatles fan with a fondness for historical perspectives, you'll get some fascinating insight into the group's interpersonal dynamics - George actually quits before re-joining - and the group's creative song writing process. You witness first-hand how Paul and John clearly dominate the decision-making of the band - George and Ringo seem to be along for the ride. You're also "there" to witness the cracks in the band's cohesiveness, they even discuss their coming breakup. You also get to see the wives of the Fab Four, with Yoko being silently (mostly) omnipresent throughout. You also see how profoundly the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in '67 adversely affected them, they foundered without his leadership and direction, especially since no other manager was there to fill the void. Personally, this would've been MUCH more interesting if it were released in the 70s or 80s instead of 50+ years later.

Guilty Party
(2021)

Yes, let's have a guilty party
"Guilty Party" (S01, 10-eps, 30-min, Param+) is an engaging murder mystery starring Kate Beckinsale who looks amazingly younger than her nearly 50yrs; in fact, she does look much like Nicole Kidman in her prime, as others have noted. Kate plays the lead (Beth Burgess) who's suffered a journalism career setback. She tries to recover by pursuing a wrongful conviction story about the murder that occurs in the series' opening moments. But Beth is an immature, corner-cutting ditz who tries to slide by with her charm and she fails at every turn, albeit in dark comedic fashion, and consistently disappointing all in her orbit; but, she has a plucky "I will do this" spirit that won't be held down. There are many, many layers to the characters and plot, so PLEASE do not listen to the naysayers in this forum. I'm not claiming this is an outstanding/excellent series but it is very good and that is soooo hard to come by in the Covidian-era. This first season even ends well since we find out who the guilty party is and there's a decent hook for a subsequent season if it's green-lit, think Thelma & Louise.

The Matrix Resurrections
(2021)

Sappy love story disguised as sci-fi saga
Make no mistake, this is a re-union love story first, sci-fi saga second, and there's the allergic reaction to this fourth installment. I lament because there's a 10-rating waiting for this waaaay late sequel had it not been for the sappy Neo-Trinity reunion. If it were secondary/tertiary, fine, but it's like the primary motivation with everyone risking their lives for these two, ugh. Moving on from that, I was surprised how much I took this sequel given the larger negativity against it. It was funny to hear Thomas Anderson's boss (Smith) admit they were forced to make a sequel (to the Matrix trilogy of games) by parent corp Warner Bros because it was going to happen whether it was them or someone else. And you can believe that, since Disney has all the blockbuster franchise titles from Star Wars to Marvel. Warner Bros must be like "we need to get a Matrix sequel out NOW!" In fact, I would expect to see Matrix spinoffs - movies and series - due to this franchise-envy. Anyway, consider re-watching Matrix Revolutions ahead of watching this to recall where things left off, although there are alot of flashbacks used to recall key moments. I was again surprised to have really taken to NP Harris' role as The Analyst, he really excelled in that deliciously villainous role. In fact, much of the supporting cast was really good in their roles, so much more so than Keanu who basically slept-walked his way through this. Hopefully, the HBO division of Warner Bros will get the job of future sequels and series because they'll give us something far better than a basic love story.

Santa Inc.
(2021)

A very adult, very cynical take on Cmas
Santa Inc (S01, 8 eps, 1/2hr, HBOmax) is best described as: a vile animated swearfest comedy that's only sometimes funny and sometimes insightful and almost always hyperbolically shocking. It's mostly written as a commentary on our social hot topics: gender equality, LGBTQ rights, race biases, but surprisingly free of the political tire fire. It's animated as claymation which makes it easy for them to do "3D" nudity which they love to shock with. The storyline is decent with its "who's to be named the next Santa?" and the cutthroat competition it becomes. This could've been an 8/9 production if there was more mature supervision of the arrested adolescents in the writing room. They left a hook for season two and I'll prolly watch since HBO rarely cancels new shows, but it's not one I look forward to like The Boys, Billions, Black Monday, Loki, Rick & Morty, etc.

Cowboy Bebop
(2021)

And that's a pass
Cowboy Bebop (S01, 10 eps, 45-min, Netflix) is such a huge disappointment that I couldn't even get past the second ep. It gets an extra star for its production values, but everything else is a bad miss: casting is horrible beginning with John Cho as the lead, he'll always be a side-kick, secondary actor, he just doesn't have the gravitas to lead; the annoying jazz music that allows for no other music style/type at all - how 'bout diversity for music! And episodes just end flat, no hook, no enticement to watch the next, it's just a very very poor effort. Update 12/9/21: Nailed it! Netflix cancelled after only one season due to dwindling viewership/interest.

Centaurworld
(2021)

A kiddie Adventure Time + Disney-style musical
Centaurworld (S01, 10 eps, 1/2hr, Netflix) gets its 3-stars from me for its colorful animation and Kimiko Glenn's voice performance as "Horse". This series is aimed squarely at the pre-teen set, featuring saccharin life lessons and more social diversity and tolerance than anyone older than 11 could endure. And the singing, wow, in the three eps I forced myself to watch, it was at least 50% of the play time, so if kiddie musicals are your thing, add this to your collection.

Foundation
(2021)

Surprisingly good given the neg reviews
Foundation (S01, 10 eps, 1 hr, Apple+) is an epic saga, so yes it can be slow and ponderous at times, but there's a decent story unfolding anchored on familiar themes such as destiny, fate, hope, one person can make a difference - a "chosen one", the importance of family, etc. You have to appreciate that this was developed as a tv-series instead of a movie like they did with "Dune" which by all means should've also unfolded as a tv-series. Foundation is yet another tale of a big bad empire where the triumvirate emperors are actually referred to as Empire, kind of "on the nose", right? Hollywood continues on its misguided woke mission so obviously though, with your protags all being of color and the villainous emperors are three white guys, hmm. The cast isn't attractive either unless you're a Lee Pace fan, the women are all very plain and operate aggressively so the obligatory love scenes feel forced and artificial. As you head towards the season finale, you'll recognize a lot of destiny/fate influences from "The Matrix" trilogy, so that hurts its attempts at originality. Let me wrap up here, "Foundation" is a decent enough series to watch, it's pretty entertaining much of the time, and has a strong epic plotline to it that can keep us interested another season or two.

Arcane: League of Legends
(2021)

Arcane is just Euro-different
I wanted to like "Arcane" (S01, 8 eps, 40-min, Netflix), I really did, I love sophisticated/non-kiddie animated shows so I was predisposed to like this, but... this is in large part if not all, a French production and they put shows together in a different manner than we do in the US. I'm not sure what it is but there's some kind of story and/or character element missing because after three eps I'm just not invested. Instead, Arcane seems like just a different implementation of the same type of establishment (empire) vs rebel story, hell the establishment "Topside" even has a direct analog to Star Wars' General Grievous! Your primary protags in this series are spunky tweens with abilities/talents beyond their years as is typical in so many of these idealized series, so that's really interesting for anyone >= 18. Look, the animation is mostly first-rate though they skimped on Vander's facial hair which clearly looks flat-drawn vs textured, but the writing just isn't at the same level. The shills, er fans, posting reviews here clearly think Arcane is simply the best, and I'd wager they're all uber-supportive Euros/French, but if you're American I challenge you to endure past ep 3 without moving on to what I truly regard as great animateds like Rick & Morty (of course), Castlevania, Love Death & Robots, Invincible, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Solar Opposites.

Last Night in Soho
(2021)

A "Jane the Ripper" twister
"Last Night in Soho" tells the cautionary tale of a "Jane the Ripper" homicidal psychotic though you have to make it through several plot twists to experience that payoff. Unlike so many Covid-era one-off productions this one features a writer/director with past successes and that makes all the difference. And he directs Thomasin and Anya to great performances, enough so that I'm seeing awards noms for one or both. Cinematography is nom-worthy, too, the lively lighting, and the spectre-effects show a versatility in one film you don't often see. And the film's climax action scene even has a touching twist to it. And wow, that was 82 yo Diana Rigg as the landlord, in her final role - rest in peace. This thriller was well written, directed, filmed, and produced - very rare for a Covid-era film that's not of a major studio.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
(2021)

Should've been a docu-series
You just can't do justice to a controversial couple's lives over a 50-yr period in a 120-min treatment and that's one of the reasons this gets a middling rating. Too many major aspects of their lives and careers were simply glossed over. This was like a 2-hr teaser for the 10-hr docu-series it should've been. Maybe if you never heard of them you wouldn't be as miffed but then again, why watch this really if you never heard of them, that's kinda the point of this, to peel back their layers, to get behind the scenes of the headlines from back then. And it was the little things that picked at me hard, too, like Tammy Faye's makeup was infamously over the top but they barely showed that here. And Jim Bakker had the largest, square-ish glasses besides Elton John but that didn't show in the film at all.

Winter House
(2021)

Winter House, yet another contrived reality series
"Winter House" (S01, 6 eps, 1hr, Bravo) is mercifully only six eps long, a forgettable bridge between end of RH of Beverly Hills and the return of the RH of Orange County. It's transparently contrived for young/beautiful hookups that are awkward and forced, much like you may have endured with Big Brother, Terrace House, Love Island, etc - same formula, different pawns, ugh, how do advertisers support such trash tv?!

The Beta Test
(2021)

The Beta Test, mansplained for those bewildered
"The Beta Test" is an indie film starring Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe who also wrote and directed and let me tell you that this is the FIRST Covid-era indie with writers/actors/directors that has NOT been a waste - this was actually good. There are A, B, and C stories in this film and people are getting confused which is which, even mainstream critics. So without getting too long here, I'll 'splain the A story which is causing the most confusion. The film derives its name from a computer program called the_beta_test.py (written in Python) written by a hacker aliased as Johnny Paypal. He got thousands of names of film industry players via the Sony hack of 2014 and uses them as input to the program which pairs people for "secret admirer" one-time sexual encounters. He makes money, $5000/person, by selling them the name of the other. Sometimes these lead to adulterous encounters which often ends with murder in this film. Johnny's beta test, which is the state of a program before goes into production status, involved about 100 pairings which netted him about $1M but as he was being attacked by Jordan he launched it into "alpha"/production mode which pairs 1000 times more which he expects to net him $1B in the next few days, wow, some business plan. So here's the real spoiler since no one else seems to know or understand. Jordan's fiancee Caroline was the woman he was paired with! That's why she forgave him after his meltdown/implosion in the garage, and she's apparently pregnant (closing scene in the diner) so there's that to keep her with him. And they're on the run since he committed quite a few felonies. All the other story threads are subordinate to this primary one. BTW, some have compared Jim Cummings to Jim Carrey but I think he's more like Ty Burrell playing a psycopathic Phil Dumphy! Also, this has been compared to "Eyes Wide Shut" and there are thematic elements they share including the haunting music, but I'd also point out its similarity to 2008's "Deception" which was really good, too. Now that you know all this, it may warrant a re-watch if you were lost the first time through, enjoy!

Nine Days
(2020)

It felt like Nine Days
"Nine Days" is the first feature film from Edson Oda who also wrote the story. As I've said for the past 18 months, you have to be A-list to deliver on the writer/director thing, otherwise it's just more of the Covid-era fodder H'wood wastes our time with. This no-budget drama was such a bore to behold, even with two B-team actors. The pacing, the diction, was so slow motion, you'll feel your arteries harden, your hair turn color, you may have to count the number of times you fall asleep trying to get through "Nine Days" which feels like it runs for 9 days. Also, it feels very "actors workshop", or like a stage production as others have noted, with all the over-acting, especially during its final 15 mins. However, the underlying premise, the concept of the story had promise, it's just that it's poorly written and implemented in this production. Skip.

Dune: Part One
(2021)

The Dune Snorefest
Dune 2021's cinematography is largely composed of muted browns and grays, desolate landscapes and buildings, almost all night-time scenes, a really depressing environment and VERY hard to watch, making it VERY difficult to stay awake. A good argument could've been made to do this in black-and-white. The pacing is glacial, you can feel your arteries harden, your hair start to gray. It's all dialogue of political and military strategy - can you conceive of topics more boring?! Huge monolithic sandworms that swallow mining machinery - that's gotta be good for their digestion! Action? Zippo, zilch until 75 freakin' minutes in! All the character surnames are distinctly non-English, more middle-eastern/asian, but then you have Jason Momoa's character named "Duncan Idaho" like some misplaced cowboy. There is modern, even post-modern high-tech weaponry on display, yet ground battles are done with Iron Age swords, what?! Properly edited, this could've run for 60 mins instead of the interminable 150 mins. We've had to wait almost 40 years (!) for a Dune re-make and this is a VERY VERY disappointing result, and it's only part one of two or three?! And no others have even been greenlit yet, so if it even happens, part two will be like 3 yrs out!

Free Guy
(2021)

Better titled as Love Will Find a Way
Yes, this film has the look and feel of a CG-based video game story but it's really a love story with Ryan Reynold's "Guy" character as our lovestruck protag. Look, compared to all the other Covid-era dreck that's been shoved at us, this is a breath of fresh air, it's actually pretty good with a decent technical premise, but it IS a love story, so make it more of a date-night thing. Finally, I tire of the "isn't he so cute/hot" that's written into the script referencing his character, it's a bit self-indulgent and ego-feeding than necessary to the story.

What If...?
(2021)

What If it were better?
"What If" (S01, 9 eps, 1/2hr, Dis+) has a really decent premise. However, the way it's implemented in this era of political corr-azy and "I'm so woke" makes it so predictable. It's like they go out of their way to build up women and non-Euro races as the What If heroes, but it's more pandering than interesting. And they're all so idealized, clean as bleach. It's antiseptic in the way we all hated the Star Wars prequels. As such it comes across more as After School special than gritty storytelling. Seriously, with the material at their disposal this could've been an awesome set of adventuring instead of the safe, PG fare it mostly bored us with. What if this series was made for adults by adults that pay the subscriptions for these services?! That's a What If premise the majority of us could get behind.

Reservation Dogs
(2021)

I have reservations
Reservation Dogs (S01, 8 eps, 1/2 hr, HULU) is a boring dramatization of an already downtrodden native American community. This show only gets the ridic hype due to the publicity machine behind anything that's Taika Waititi. Maybe if you're a disaffected teen you can relate to this material but mainstream audiences will find it a boring teleplay with dirt poor environmental settings that no one really wants to spend their time and attention on.

Pretty Hard Cases
(2021)

Pretty hard to watch
Pretty Hard Cases (S01, 9 eps, 40-min, IMDB) is a seedy crime drama with the element of forced humor thrown in. And that forced humor is so transparent that it's just turning people off immediately as you'll note many of us couldn't make it past ep1 or 2. Most will recognize Meredith MacNeill as one of the players from the facetious "Baroness Von Sketch" show, and she tries to capitalize on that whimsy here but it's just so misplaced. It's almost like they're trying to replicate "Brooklyn 99" but swing and a miss. It really is a case study in how NOT to architect a dramedy. The writers/producers have a good bit of experience but but it's all forgettable chaff, and this show won't help them break out, too bad.

Nine Perfect Strangers
(2021)

Better titled as "Camp Tranquilum"
"Nine Perfect Strangers" (single season, 8 eps, 45-55 mins, Hulu) is a pretty fun/decent ride since its production is top tier: all star cast and A-team writers and director. The visuals are splendid from actresses such as Samara Weaving and Nicole Kidman, the resort/spa/retreat environment, and the psychedelics that occur. The story itself centers on the spa guests' faults, regrets, transgressions, insecurities, etc, and the pace is pretty fast since we have to examine those elements for each of the nine in addition to several of the troubled staff loyal to Nicole's "Masha" character. I believe this was designed as a single-season mini-series so you're going to wish there was time/budget for a 13-ep run instead of the short-ish 8 eps. Especially since the final scene makes no sense, apparently was thrown together at the last minute, too bad, and those two things are why it's a 7 instead of an 8 or 9 for me.

Stillwater
(2021)

As boring as still water
I was disappointingly bored with this Matt Damon feature, which isn't surprising since it's written and directed by an unaccomplished nobody. This is the crap we keep getting fed during this Covid era and I'm sick of it. Don't waste your time, the 8/9/10 ratings are studio/Damon-fan shills. This rates a 6 at best, but it's a 3 for me. Yes, it features Marseilles France but its dirty underbelly, it's just a bad experience all around - avoid.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch
(2021)

Such a waste of a franchise
"Star Wars: The Bad Batch" couldn't be named more ironically. This show's demographic is tweens. Older than 16, then you'll be disappointingly bored with the frustrating implausibilities and same tiresome Aussie accents everywhere, seriously, do those voice actors have a contract-lock on star wars animated series?! I wanted to like this but this personification of idiocy is aimed squarely at the tiny-tot Padawans...

Doom Patrol
(2019)

Season 1 intriguing, Season 2 blunt woke indoctrination
"Doom Patrol" is definitely an offbeat, weird, out-there series and season 1 was pretty interesting in its wackiness. But it's in the second part of that first season where the story tilts towards societal misfits and how they need to be tolerated and blah blah blah. I powered through but then season 2 picked up the same theme even more so and then I realized that this is blatant woke LGBTQ indoctrination disguised as fantasy entertainment. It's not MY fault, it's THEIR lack of good storytelling for permitting this societal preaching to shout through. If it had stayed a bit more in the background with a better frontline story then this would've been so much more successful. But now it's just an alienating brainwash for an audience measured in the low-single percentages, too bad, it had such promise...

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