Benched is a new USA comedy starring Jo from Scrubs as a fancy corporate lawyer who quits spectacularly and ends up slumming it as a public defender. Better Off Ted‘s Ted, Oscar from The Office, and Maria Bamford (oddly, I only know the name of the least famous of them) are other public defenders.
It’s not great, but it’s entirely watchable. A reasonably interesting cast and legal premises usually make for easy plot generation.
The Birthday Boys is an IFC sketch show whose first season is on Netflix so I thought I’d give it a shot. Bob Odenkirk is an executive producer and shows up pretty frequently. The first episode has a couple parts that elicited a slight grin and “oh that’s a little clever,” but nothing approaching a laugh.
It’s weird to me that they’d have a sketch troupe in 2013 that’s all white guys. There’s 7 of them, all white and approximately the same age. Other than the fat guy, they’re all basically the same. It seems weirdly limiting. In the first episode, they play silicon valley pioneers and a group of young x-treme christians, perfectly appropriate situations for a group of white guys. But you’re basically stuck doing stuff like that.
Snowpiercer is about a train where the last remnants of humanity live during an ice age. Which is a really goofy premise, but you kinda end up buying into it pretty quickly. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, but it’s pretty good.
It’s a whole social commentary sorta thing, where the back of the train is inhabited by the dirty poor, while the front is douchey rich people. And of course the poor people in the back get pissed off and want to take over the train. Chris Evans is the leader of the poor people. Tilda Swinton is great but almost unrecognizable as the front-of-the-train person who disciplines the poor people. John Hurt, Jaime Bell, Ed Harris, and some Korean people I don’t know are also in it.
I never got any idea as to why they’d use a moving train at all. Briefly, I thought the train might go fast enough to chase the sun and stay in daylight all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s a train that runs at more or less regular train speed forever. But if they have an engine that is effectively a perpetual motion machine, it seems like it’d be much easier to turn that into a generator/heater for a stationary fortress than a moving train. But ultimately I think they just liked the train aesthetic and didn’t care that much for whether it made any sense.
I saw a thing briefly about BBC game show Only Connect and saw it on youtube so I watched an episode. The concept is about groups of four things and identifying connections between them.
I thought it would be interesting, but it is brutally hard. Like holy shit. Admittedly, I’m at a disadvantage by not being British, so some of the local thing I don’t know. But I would have had a score of like 3 in this game (the teams ended up 24-14 or something?).
One game involved a grid of 16 words/terms, and having to pick out the four groups of four that went together. They immediately recognized sharks, as tiger, great white, nurse, and bull are four types of sharks. They also immediately recognized characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, as Atticus, Scout, Jem, and Boo are all characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. But one of the other groups was Golfers, so Tiger (Woods) and Boo (Weekley) were used in that one. And once they figured out the golfers, they got tripped up because then they thought Great White was referring to Greg Norman. That’s fucking evil game design, overlapping the groups like that. And they only had like 3 minutes.
Anyway, this is also far dryer than American game shows. The teams discuss their answers with each other in whispers, so there’s a lot of silence or near silence. When the host (David Mitchell’s wife and a poker pro, apparently) cracks an occasional joke, nobody laughs because there’s no audience. It’s weird.
Way, way too hard of a game for me to ever watch. Like at all.
Cursors is a multiplayer flash game, where you try to navigate your mouse pointer (the one with the yellow circle around it, that took me a minute to find at first) through mazes, some of which require help from other players to complete. It’s an interesting idea, and pretty fun in parts.
I got stuck a few times and had to do something else for a while until some more players reached my level to help us through. Which is weird. And I eventually reached a point where I lacked the manual dexterity to complete a level, a long really narrow space that I tried about 15 times and hit an edge every time, sort of like the pictured level, but it had an even more narrow space (if the tip of your pointer touches the red areas, you go back to the start). Most levels aren’t like that, though, just moving through a maze or clicking different colored buttons to open barriers.
Dallas Buyers Club stars what appears to be leather stretched over the skeleton of Matthew McConaughey as an AIDS patient who smuggles FDA unapproved drugs in from Mexico. It’s an interesting story, and apparently true. I was actually a little underwhelmed by McConaughey’s performance, though. He’s perfectly good, but he’s been much better in other roles. I feel like he won the Oscar largely for the physical transformation rather than for his actual acting.
Elsewhere, Jennifer Garner, Griffin Dunne, and a guy I remember from some Law & Orders (but apparently he’s in a lot of stuff I don’t watch) are his doctors. Herc from FNL and Steve Zahn play his friends. Jared Leto plays a transgender patient, and he looks like Katy Perry after the “tragic downfall” part of her Behind the Music episode that may exist in 30 years. He gives a very good performance, though. And weirdly, Adam Dunn is in it for a second. Apparently he helped finance the movie.
12 Years a Slave is pretty much as advertised: a movie about slavery that feels pretty authentic, and is depressing as shit. It’s rough to watch and I can’t imagine ever watching it again, but it’s good.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose name I still don’t know how to pronounce, stars as Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who ends up a slave in Louisiana. A whole lot of random people appear in it: Taran Killam, Omar from The Wire, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Lupita Nyong’o, the gay guy from Mad Men, Garret Dillahunt, and Brad Pitt. It’s bizarre that Taran Killam is in a movie that won Oscars. I just kinda hate him. It makes me feel crappy that I only recognize a few of the black actors but like… just about every white person in the movie.
Random aside: for some reason I thought the director Steve McQueen thought it would be clever to change his name to be that of a dead movie star’s, but it’s his actual given name.
I hopped on the HBO Go kinda intending to watch 12 Years as a Slave but saw Rush and… it’s hard to be in the mood to watch a make-you-feel-horrible movie when you could instead watch some movie that has Olivia Wilde and Natalie Dormer looking hot in it. Which is probably not the standard reason people watch this, but I don’t really give a shit about cars or racing. I probably would have preferred a biopic about the Canadian prog-rock trio, or a scathing criticism of the rotund conservative talk radio host.
It’s not bad, but unremarkable.
Sadly, Natalie Dormer is only in it briefly. But she is super-hot while she’s around. Olivia Wilde is a little disappointing. Blonde, and I don’t really like her British accent. She’s obviously still lovely, just not as I like her best (though dressed up in her Tron costume would probably be inappropriate for this movie, I’d still prefer it).
The one thing I expect from a Ron Howard movie is that it’s well-crafted and professional, but the racing scenes were pretty clunky. They use the pretty traditional device of having a TV or radio announcer play over the action, but it’s not done well at all. The way the audio is recorded, the announcer sounds like he’s in a 21st century recording booth, rather than in a 1970s broadcast booth at a race track. He also doesn’t narrate it in a way that feels like he’s broadcasting a race, he just sounds like he’s narrating the movie for us. It feels extra fake.
I didn’t know a thing about either driver going in, but the portrayals seemed overwhelmingly in favor of Hunt. Lauda is an asshole with daddy issues who drives for money because he has no other talents. Hunt is passionate about racing, and is lauded for his sexual prowess, devil-may-care attitude, and likability.
As with most of this things based on historical events that I know nothing about, one of the most entertaining parts is going back after to read up on what parts were made up for the movie. Apparently they got along just fine, and the personal rivalry was made up for the movie. The real Hunt apparently had drug and alcohol issues that are kind of glossed over by the movie.
Mulaney is comedian John Mulaney’s new sitcom, which I was disappointed to see in the commercials has a laugh track But I do like his stand-up and Nasim Pedrad, so it’s worth a shot.
A kinda neat thing in the beginning, Ice-T does the “filmed before a live studio audience” thing, which I assume is because of Mulaney’s SVU routine.
The pilot is kind of all over the place. Nasim Pedrad and a guy I don’t recognize are his roommates. Elliot Gould plays a dude across the hall who I assume is gay but I’m not sure they ever said. They do a thing based on one of his stand-up bits (about trying to get xanax). Martin Short is an eccentric comedian who he gets a job writing for. They intersperse some stand-up in there too, but oddly he’s doing it for the studio audience, under a spotlight standing in front of the darkened set of his house.
It’s not entirely un-funny though so I’ll give it another couple episodes to see if it grows on me.
Locke is for some reason a movie that I made a note to myself to see at some point. I don’t remember the trailers or anything. And plot-wise it is definitely not my kind of movie, so who knows.
It stars Tom Hardy as some kind of contractor concrete expert, husband, and father, who had a brief affair 9 months earlier, and takes off the night before a huge construction project without telling anyone, to be with the woman while she delivers their baby. So on the way, he tells his wife about the affair and the baby, he tells his boss that he’s not going to be there for this huge concrete thing that they need him there for, and he talks his assistant type guy through the construction project.
The whole movie takes place in his car on the way to see the delivery, which is kind of a neat gimmick. Just a series of phone calls with his wife, kids, the mother-to-be, his boss, his assistant, and various others, and sometimes talking to himself. And it completely works. Somehow, these conversations about construction and marital infidelity and giving birth, things I normally don’t give a shit about, are engaging as fuck when you’re trapped in a car with this guy.