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All reviews - Movies (67) - TV Shows (53) - Books (5) - Music (3)

Captive State review

Posted : 1 month ago on 15 March 2024 02:12 (A review of Captive State)

Do you remember the TV series [Link removed - login to see] The show that featured a future Earth overcome by a superior alien race and administered by a group of Quisling humans? If you do, picture this movie as a downbeat, relentlessly pessimistic and poorly-focused version. Hell, it's so depressing, John Goodman (I think he phoned this dreck in) looks like he just realized his career has declined so far that Roseanne Barr is becoming popular again!


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Fargo review

Posted : 2 months ago on 13 February 2024 02:34 (A review of Fargo)

Regarding Season 5 (ended 1/2024): I'm a little conflicted about this particular season. On the one hand, the season's spousal abuse themes, which borrow heavily from movies like [Link removed - login to see] and [Link removed - login to see] in their depiction, are concluded with the FX network ending each episode with real-world resources for abuse victims, so kudos for getting the message out there. On the other hand, the season is placed in 2019, the pre-COVID presidential administration of one Donald J Trump: public enemy #1 in Hollywood (Jennifer Jason Leigh's Lorraine Lyon refers to him obliquely as "the Orange Man" in one episode). Jon Hamm's Sheriff Roy Tillman, the abuser in the story's arch, is the embodiment of Hollywood's view of conservativism: a Bible-quoting he-man, disdainful of the federal government, ruling his domain with an iron fist (the same, covered in a velvet glove, keeps his spouses in line), capable of convening an anti-government militia (January 6th anyone?) on a moment's notice. The conflict of the Supreme Court's recent reversal of Roe v Wade (which occurred in 2022, but why let facts stand in the way of a good story, that's how Fargo works, right?) is animus of this conflict as a whole. The en vogue 2024 theme of female empowerment, in the form of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Juno Temple, and Richa Moorjani are all up front, as well as the DEI subtext of Dot Lyon's (Temple) daughter, Scotty, who self-identifies as a boy. As with every good Fargo season, there's an element of the supernatural and Season 5's Old Munch (Sam Spruell) channels Season 3's V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) to perfection.


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Immanence review

Posted : 4 months, 4 weeks ago on 17 November 2023 12:24 (A review of Immanence)

Preachy dialogue that passes for making this an "atmospheric" thriller? Not really,...it devolves into religious belief versus the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Or maybe the devil's in the details? As Baudelaire said, "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."


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Vampire's Kiss review

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 25 September 2023 10:28 (A review of Vampire's Kiss)

Peter Loew, an publishing executive, has problems. He's narcissistic in a classic, NYC 80s fashion, he's a control freak (long before OCD became "cool"), he's a misogynist and he has serious relationship issues. After his most recent break-up, he has a too-good-to-be-true encounter with the sultry and beautiful Rachel. "Too-good-to-be-true" is, perhaps, an understatement and kicks off a tour-de-force performance by Nicolas Cage. Vampirism is an allegoric look into Peter's decent into madness. Was Rachel truly a vampire? As Peter's "sire," was she controlling him (one of Peter's phobias) or an outlet of his misogyny? Cage's truly unhinged performance features sly vampire trope references, such as Peter eating a cockroach, a la Renfield from Dracula (Cage really ate one in the movie!), as well as other horror movies (Peter's brutal verbal abuse of Alva, his secretary, leads to a retribution that mirrors the villagers attacking Frankenstein's Castle). Overall, a cult classic for those longing for both vampire movies and the 80s in all it's glory!


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The Legend review

Posted : 7 months ago on 11 September 2023 03:17 (A review of The Legend)

An intriguing episode for many reasons. First and foremost, the fact that World War II and the horrors of the Nazi regime were still very fresh in the minds of many Americans. The very idea of their return was very much a nightmare to many. Second, the show references the infamous Martin Bormann, one of Hitler's top henchmen, likely for credibility and also intrigue: at the time of this episode's original airing, the real Bormann had not been seen since the Allies took Berlin. He was tried at Nuremberg in absentia and sentenced to death. It wasn't until 1972 (5 years after this episode) that his body was discovered in a West Berlin construction site. Third, and finally, was the cast of this episode. Steven Hill (who's adherence of Orthodox Judaism cost him his role on the show), Barbara Bain and Martin Landau were all Jewish. Having to portray Germans who supported the return of Nazism (The "Fourth" Reich), especially Landau's (Rollin Hand's) role as Bormann, was a true tour de force.


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Rescue Me review

Posted : 8 months ago on 14 August 2023 11:56 (A review of Rescue Me)

The events of 9/11 initially took the lives of 343 firefighters. I say "initially" because, even to this day, the toxic stew of jet fuel, building materials and vaporized body parts from Ground Zero has killed or disabled hundreds more in the ensuing years. PTSD-related and alcohol- and drug-fueled suicide is still killing more. But there's also another toxic stew in play on Rescue Me: survivors' guilt, a post-9/11 FDNY with a decimated command structure, and the alcohol and drugs to get through the little daily horrors of being a firefighter. The role of Tommy Gavin is the embodiment of all of this, played by Denis Leary (who has some FF bona fides: his cousin was one of the "Worcester 6" who died battling a warehouse fire in 1999).


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Quiz Show review

Posted : 8 months, 2 weeks ago on 1 August 2023 12:33 (A review of Quiz Show)

Quiz Show is a movie I've watched multiple times since it's release. A quiet rumination on many things, it's one of those movies you sit back and watch on a lazy afternoon when you have nothing to do and all day to do it.
About those quiet ruminations: it's the 1950s and television is experiencing a nascent innocence. New York City is arguably the entertainment and financial center of the Western hemisphere and, therefore, many of the contestants on games shows are homegrown locals (unlike the later shift to Hollywood, where you needed to block off a day of your vacation to attend or participate in most games shows).
But underneath the champagne bubbles of post-WWII NYC life lay deep divisions: Manhattan vs the Outer Boroughs, old money vs a burgeoning post-war middle class, and an unspoken anti-Semitism in a city with a large Jewish population.
Herbie Stempel is the embodiment of many of those things: a working-class Jew from Brooklyn, he's keeping a roof over his family's head, while cashing in on his encyclopedic memory on a the quiz show "21." But Herbie isn't photogenic, he lacks the social graces of a Manhattanite and, obviously, Jewish. And 21's ratings are dropping because of it.
Charles Van Doren is an English professor at Columbia University. But he chafes under a career laid out for him by virtue of his family name and WASP upbringing. Yearning to make a name of his own, he applies to be a contestant on 21.
Photogenic, young and urbane, he is the answer to the producers' prayers! But what to do with poor Herbie Stempel? Ahh,...the curtain is now peeled back and ugly truth about 21 is revealed! The show is rigged: random and "hermetically-sealed" questions and answers are given to the champions in advance. Herbie is forced to throw the game in favor of Charles. And rubbing salt into the wound, he "loses" on a simple question near to his heart. Embarrassed, he limped back to Brooklyn with his tale between his legs. Spurred to anger by his wife, Herbie calls out the inherent anti-Semitism on the show (in reality, a Jewish champion on 21 was always succeeded by a Christian who made significantly more money during their reign). Of note, the real Charles Van Doren made nearly $2 million adjusted to 21st Century's economy!
Word reaches up-and-coming Congressional lawyer and "shadow" Jew, Dick Goodwin. Intrigued by Herbie's claims, he smells a rat. But Goodwin is conflicted as well: his Jewish roots tell him he should support Herbie, but his desire to advance up the social ladder is forcing him to hide his Judaism. This has him admiring Charles and all the social graces of his stature.
Goodwin initially turns a blind eye, but more proof piles on and Van Doren's house of cards, guarded by Goodwin, and viewed by Stempel, comes crashing down. In the end, even Van Doren's family name can't save him from disgrace and the show shuts down under the weight of new television oversight and rules.
The real 21's producer, Dan Enright and host, Jack Barry, went on to continued fame in various game shows through the 60s and 70s.
In an era where "reality TV" is scripted, manipulated and poorly-acted, you can see where it all began.



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The Batman review

Posted : 8 months, 3 weeks ago on 23 July 2023 11:31 (A review of The Batman)

This one was really hard to watch! Not because of the near-endless violence, or knowing this was yet another iteration of the nouveau-Batman saga, but because it was really, REALLY dark. Not in an emotional way, mind you, but the actual film was really dark! I tried watching during the day, during the evening and even with the lights out in my living room and I STILL couldn't follow half of the action on the screen! Maybe someone will go back some day and remaster the damned thing so you could actually see it! Until then, I'm only giving it 5 stars.


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Moxie Original Elixir review

Posted : 9 months, 2 weeks ago on 4 July 2023 03:40 (A review of Moxie Original Elixir)

Imagine Dr. Pepper with a little tinge of iodine and, voila! You've got Moxie! Never had it until about 5 years ago, when a local store started carrying it, then it just disappeared,...sigh,....


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The Siren review

Posted : 9 months, 2 weeks ago on 1 July 2023 02:12 (A review of The Siren)

So,...I'm something of a sucker for low-budget movies. Some, like [Link removed - login to see] were diamonds in the rough, waiting for a professional polishing from Hollywood. Others, too many to list here, look like a pair a stoners with too much money and easily-entertained friends made them for the heck of it. Then some are just right where they are - the kind of stuff you watch at the local "art house" theatre during a film festival.
The Siren (a/k/a The Rusalka) is one of those movies. A rumination on fate, redemption, hatred, jealousy and vengeance.
Nina, the titular Siren, we are told at the beginning, was once a beautiful woman who drowned in the lake and was transformed into a murder-driven monster. Through flashbacks, her Siren self-realization is filled with horror, resistance and, ultimately resignation that she must drown all those she encounters in the lake. (The murders are mostly implied or a quick tug under the surface).
Al, a widower, is drawn to the lake, believing the drowning death of his husband was at the hands of the Rusalka.
Tom, a mute minister-in-training, is staying at a rented lakeside house ahead of his baptism and end of his ministerial training. Tom meets Nina one day while walking along the shore. Charmed by her beauty, he communicates with her as best he can. Nina, coyly seductive, is equally charmed by Tom and, resisting her fate, swims away from the shore, dreaming of a human life at his side and in his bed.
Tom and Al, as lakeside neighbors, become friends and share their encounters with the enchanting Nina.
The idyllic romance between Tom and Nina comes crashing down during a impromptu barbeque with the three. Al realizes, with horror, that his beliefs are true, as Nina reveals her true nature to him. Tom also comes to the realization that Nina is an evil being, albeit one he can save through his faith.
In the end, none of them fulfill their dreams. Tom's failed attempt at saving Nina leaves him seeking the solace in the ministerial duties. Al succumbs to his attempt at revenge and Nina, having lost the love of Tom and all hope of returning to the world, retreats to the depths of the lake.





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