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All reviews - Movies (35) - TV Shows (44) - Books (2)

Wasted Star Power

Posted : 1 month, 2 weeks ago on 3 June 2018 11:34 (A review of The Last Witch Hunter)

How do you take top-tier action-movie actors like Vin Diesel, mix them with other reliable box-office favorite actors (Elijah Wood and Rose Leslie, fresh off her star turn in Game Of Thrones) and a smattering of box-office greats like Michael Caine and NOT have a winner on your hands?  This had the look and feel of a guaranteed profitable franchise! What went wrong? Too much CGI, Vin Diesel's one-note performance, sub-plots going nowhere,...and the final chapter/plot wrap-up pretty much killed it for me.  Makes you wonder if the production team realized this wasn't the hit they wanted and re-wrote the end to cut their losses?


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Quit Giving Firefighters A Bad Name!

Posted : 3 months ago on 20 April 2018 05:34 (A review of Station 19 (2018- ))

Dear Saint Florian: in the past decade what have we US firefighters and paramedics done to displease you so much that first, you dump the moderately-realistic Chicago Fire on us, then 9-1-1, with it's cougar dispatcher, now this dreck??  I've been told by my eldest daughter that it's a spin-off of Grey's Anatomy, but I've managed to be spared from the so-called "Shondaverse" for all these years. 


But I digress...where do I start explaining the flaws in this show?  The cancer-ridden captain (and father) having the sole authority to pass station command off to his daughter when he becomes too ill to continue?  No, wait, let's have her compete with her boyfriend for the promotion while the Battalion Chief referees? The "afternoon delight" between firefighters? The never-ending female empowerment themes ("Can you believe I'm a grrrll and driving this big-ass ladder truck? Yee-ea-ah!!")? The ubiquitous/mandatory gay character (not that there's anything wrong with that,...)? 

I could type up a whole dissertation on the differences between East Coast and West Coast firefighting, but I've already done that for my degree and instructional certifications. 


Bottom line?

 - parents almost NEVER have direct command over their children in a major fire department

 - promotions ALWAYS go through the civil service process

 - I'm truly surprised the City of Seattle and the Seattle FD are approving the use of their name for this mess (copyright or brand approval denotes tacit support)

 - For partial disclosure (I can't disclose my department location, per City and union rules), we DO have female firefighters (both career and volunteer) in our department and one of my lieutenants (and friend, trusted aide, and fellow instructor) is openly gay.

Thank God I'm retiring in 2 years!



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Rehash Trash

Posted : 3 months, 2 weeks ago on 6 April 2018 04:48 (A review of Bubble Trouble)

By the mid-50s, The Three Stooges' popularity was waning: Curly Howard was sidelined by health issues and Howard brother Shemp was a reluctant fill-in.  Most of Bubble Trouble was re-used from previous shorts.  Near the end, Christine McIntyre is shown hiding behind The Stooges. Why? It's actually an uncredited body double!! Sorry, didn't mean to burst your bubble!!


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The Vampire and the Ballerina review

Posted : 5 months, 1 week ago on 11 February 2018 12:39 (A review of The Vampire and the Ballerina)

I'm not sure how many times I'll have to post WTF? to satisfy the 50 character minimum requirement for posting reviews. So many things wrong with this picture: the incoherent plot that seems more like an excuse to see beautiful woman dance around in leotards and fishnets (hey, maybe this wasn't such a bad movie),....vampire bites leaving no marks, no back story on the vampire antagonists. It was in Italian and even the English subtitles were occasionally wrong (words misspelled and incorrect translations). I'll stick (or is it shtick?) to the 60s made-in-Italy Hercules movies from now on!


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A Study in Stark Contrasts

Posted : 5 months, 2 weeks ago on 31 January 2018 03:16 (A review of The Girlfriend Experience (2016- ))

First, do be fooled: GFE isn't in the vein of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Hell, there don't seem to be ANY shades of gray with GFE.  It's either black or white. The show's atmosphere swings from sparse and sterile to carnal and depraved. From the immaculately-clean, high-end apartments with state-of-the-art everything that are the setting for the sexual activity, the five-star bars serving top-shelf vodka, bourbon, and the driest of martinis that are the settings where assignations are arranged, and the Michelin-starred restaurants for pre-and post-coital meals to the boardrooms and business offices that are the backdrop to the GFEs' artifice, the scenes and acting are one moment taut, dull conversation and the next flesh pounding against flesh. In almost all scenes, the shots are wide, but filled with only two or three actors, uttering a sparse, clipped dialogue to match the sparse surroundings.


In season 1, the show highlighted Riley Keough's Christine, playing a classic trope: the law school student who's dalliance in high-end prostitution is funding her education.  But Christine is a temperamental, tightly-wound, high-strung young woman who's failing to live up to her family's expectations. As an intern at a well-to-do law firm, she's caught up in a conspiracy simultaneously involving her boss-slash-john. That plot alone would have made great fodder for a law firm drama but, like Christine's failings, it was undone by her inability to control her own temper. Eventually, Christine's two worlds collide and she comes crashing down to Earth.  In the end, she makes a choice to live only one lifestyle and it leaves her soul as empty as her surroundings.


In season 2, the show ran two separate plot lines back-to-back each week.  First was Anna Friel's Erica, a functionary working for a political action committee during an important election campaign and lesbian on the rebound from a recent break-up. The second was Carmen Ejogo's Bria, a gangster's moll in the witness protection program.  Anna Friel was brittle, dowdy and drab in her role, evoking little sympathy for her character Erica, while Carmen Ejogo, as Bria, brought some life to an otherwise poorly-written season.  Bria, now working a dull assembly line in Albuquerque, New Mexico, eventually falls back into GFE mode to not only break up the monotony of her life, but save up enough money to escape from under the Draconian thumb of her Federal Marshal handler.  Neither plot had a clean ending, especially Bria's "is this a fantasy or not?" finality.


I don't know if the show was renewed for third season, but I'm hopeful for a return to the first season.





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Quick and Easy

Posted : 7 months, 2 weeks ago on 3 December 2017 09:01 (A review of Cacio e pepe)

This is such a simple dish!  Boil up some spaghetti, drain it, season with some good, well-aged grated Parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper and you're in heaven!  Serve as a side or as a quick supper with a good glass (or three) of white wine!


Tutti al tavolo e mangiare!



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A Distaff Limitless

Posted : 11 months ago on 18 August 2017 03:29 (A review of Lucy (2014))

So, give Luc Besson a rough outline for a plot, a lot of money and loads of armaments and - PRESTO - you have a hit, right?  Sometimes,...  In Lucy, what started out as a distaff remake of the far-superior "Limitless," quickly devolves into blood, gore, chase scenes, cool SFX, more chase scenes, a plot(?) and finally ends in an incredulous denouement.  Hell, at one point, Morgan Freeman LITERALLY phones his part in!  

At least the end of "Limitless" left the story line open for more (hint, hint, CBS,...you could have handled the series better, but I digress).  Lucy ended a whimper, or the beep of an incoming text message. 




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Pizza Rustica review

Posted : 11 months ago on 17 August 2017 04:04 (A review of Pizza Rustica)

Pizza Rustica isn't really a pizza; it's actually a meat-laden quiche made for Easter. According to the legends passed down from my Abbruzese family, it was a way to use up all the eggs and meats that were hoarded away for Lent. In my family, we called it "Easter Pie."


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SiREN (2016) review

Posted : 11 months, 2 weeks ago on 6 August 2017 03:18 (A review of SiREN (2016))

My son suggested I watch this mess. He now owes me 90 minutes of my life back. If he doesn't pay it back, I'll withhold his next tuition payment!


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A More "Realistic" Sci-Fi Series

Posted : 1 year, 1 month ago on 16 June 2017 12:46 (A review of The Expanse)

First, ignore the reviews calling The Expanse "The Game of Thrones in Space." Any decent, multiple-plot show that's written well and keeps the characters in check will draw that comparison.  Watch The Expanse and drill a little deeper.  Why? I'm a die-hard sci-fi fan, but as we advance further into the 21st Century, many of the old standby sci-fi tropes are fast becoming sci-realty. True, The Expanse isn't populated with alien races, phasers and space travel at speeds greater than light.  What drew my eye was the attention to details: the humans raised on Mars, with its different size and relation to the sun, have difficulty orienting themselves in Earth's environment, with our stronger level of sunlight and those raised on "The Belt," with its lower gravity, cannot survive on Earth without being crushed by what we consider "normal" gravity.  All-in-all, this series is on the right track.  The metagenome, the show's "Holy Grail" has the potential to be the show's undoing.  Let's hope not.


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