The Martian is a highly enjoyable movie which reminds me in some ways of Sneakers because of the all-star cast, grounded scifi premise that somehow gets turned into a light comedy/caper adventure. Nothing is actually being stolen here, but it has a lot of the elements of a caper story, with a plan to do a thing and a series of mishaps requiring creative solutions to overcome them.
Matt Damon is the titular Martian, stranded alone on the planet and forced to improvise his survival. Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena, and some guy are the rest of the crew. Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, and the blonde girl from Halt and Catch Fire work at NASA. Donald Glover and that Asian guy from Prometheus and one IT Crowd episode (where he was the guy about Countdown who looked like he was from the Matrix) work at JPL. So, crazy cast. Halt and Catch Fire girl is much cuter with less boyish hair, and of course Kate Mara is always hot.
There were a couple points where I had to question some of the plan, or whether people would really be that into spending what is probably billions of dollars to save one guy. There was really only one storytelling choice that I thought was a mistake, but that was a combination of introducing a potential storyline, casting a highly recognizeable actor in the part, and then having a thing start to happen that would render the storyline moot. So of course the thing that started to happen would go wrong, because otherwise why have the scene or the known actor?
But that’s a pretty minor complaint. This is an excellent movie.
Code Black looked like a pretty generic medical drama, but I thought maybe having Marcia Gay Harden as the ER doctor who bosses around the newbies and Luis Guzman as the head nurse guy might allow me to care long enough to find something interesting about the dull-looking rest of the cast, but nope. It was indeed generic (the classic “that’s a violation of procedure!”/”I saved a patient’s life!” argument, establishing MGH’s character as the medical show equivalent of a cop who’s a loose cannon but gets results), and the two characters I thought I’d like were the best part of the show, but I didn’t care even a little bit about anyone else. Also it was very heavy with the attempts to make things emotional, people dying, saving lives, it would have been a roller coaster if I cared.
Definitely passing on this.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is off to a rocky start. I do like Trevor Noah’s stand-up, but as a host, I dunno. The writing was solid, and I think they had the right amount of change to make it his own without making it a totally different show (new set, new logo, new opening graphics, mix of correspondents new and old, same music), but the delivery is off.
He’s a happy smiling charming guy, and when he rips into the value voters summit, he still looks happy and smiling. Jon Stewart had an edge that he lacks, not full on Lewis Black rage, but still a good amount of righteous anger when he was tearing into something stupid. Larry Wilmore does too. But Trevor Noah doesn’t. And I think that makes the show different in a bad way. SNL Weekend Update and the Craig Kilborn Daily Show made jokes about the news, but Jon Stewart’s show made jokes while making a point, which set it apart.
I’m not ready to bail on him after just two shows, but I’m not optimistic.
The Grinder stars Rob Lowe as the former star of The Grinder, a successful law drama that just finished its 8 season run (co-starring Odette Anbable!), who then returns home to his family, unsure of what to do with his life. His brother, Fred Savage, an actual lawyer, resents him, and lacks his smooth talking tv star ways. But for whatever reason, Rob Lowe decides he wants to practice law for real, and I guess the show is going to be about the partnership between charming fake lawyer and un-smooth real lawyer. Kinda Daredevil, except Matt is a sighted actor instead of blind superhero, and Foggy is his brother.
I thought this looked pretty good, and it was. Not great, but some decent fake lawyer show jokes, and the presence of The Waitress and William Devane should be a plus.
Grandfathered didn’t look that interesting, but some reviews seemed to indicate it was ok, so I gave it a shot. John Stamos is a bachelor cool guy restaurateur who hates kids then suddenly discovers not only did he have a son like 25 years ago, but that he now has a baby granddaughter. And then a series of predictable things happen that are supposed to be life-affirming “aww” moments, which I tend to hate anyway. And for the show to work, all his big lessons learned in the pilot can’t stick, he has to be a selfish jerk who hates kids, or else the central conflict in the show disappears. So, definitely passing on this.
Steam had a sale on the Might & Magic franchise, and I loved Heroes of Might and Magic III (though I’ve never played any other game in the franchise), so I dropped a few (literally) bucks on the HD edition of HOMM33.
I’m glad it was super cheap, because the “HD” seems like bullshit. Other than supporting 16×9 (in the game, the menus and videos (unchanged crappy 90s CGI) are side letterboxed), it looks almost exactly the same. I thought maybe my memory was fuzzy, so I googled it, and ubisoft’s website makes the original graphics look awful. But further googling shows that they’re full of shit.
So yeah, basically the same game, but whatever, I liked the original, so I’m not too upset about it being the same. I also picked up the 5th and 6th games in the Heroes series for next to nothing, so if I can tear myself away from my Rocket League addiction and fall TV I’ll try to give those a shot hopefully before the two-week trial period comes out.
The Player has, in one way, an interesting premise. A private security consultant guy gets involved with some organization can tip him off about a crime about to happen, and he has to race around to try to stop it. So it’s just fast-paced chase scenes.
But in another way, the premise is completely bonkers. Wesley Snipes is part of an organization of the super wealthy that has developed a way to predict crimes, and then gamble on them. You either bet on the criminal or the hero, our private security consultant protagonist. Basically like a sports bet, you bet on one side or the other, so the house is neutral, right? Don’t influence the outcomes, so the betters believe the game is fair. Except Wesley Snipes’ assistant type person, a pretty cute British blonde, is constantly giving the protagonist help, not being the least bit neutral. And that’s not even getting to the idea that they can predict crime. The protagonist rightly says “you can’t predict crime there are too many variables,” which Wesley Snipes hand waves away saying “there’s always one constant: human nature.” And I think that’s the last we’d ever get of an explanation for their insane algorithm.
Somewhat unrelated, there’s a “this takes place in Las Vegas” montage of gambling scenes, and they have like a half-second shot of a peek at hold-em hole cards, and I realized I have a Pavlovian response to seeing the two As of pocket aces like that.
As for the show itself, the pilot is not bad. If you can get past the stupidity, it’s just a bunch of chase scenes, and fairly exciting. I’m curious to see if they can keep it up with what is most likely a smaller budget for future episodes. If not, I’ll drop it in a hurry, because the story and characters aren’t doing much for me at all.
Rosewood is yet another show where a cop partners up to solve murders and have sexual tension with a non-cop with special skills that includes knowing things about people from minor details. Though, for a change, the special skill non-cop isn’t kind of a jerk. I mean, he is a little bit, but they make him an “appreciate every day” sorta guy, so he’s very happy and smiley throughout. Which might be enough of a twist on the formula to get me watching the show regularly.
I hadn’t paid too close attention to the trailers, for some reason I thought the detective was the actress that played the exact same role in The Finder, but it’s someone else. They really played up the whole thing where she beats people up to show you how tough she is, which is fine, but the superficial part of me thinks they could’ve gotten a hotter actress.
Anthony Michael Hall plays another cop, I’m not sure if it’s just in the pilot though. The promotional images seem to have the shaved head white guy from The Wire and Breakout Kings as another cop instead. I dunno if that means he was replaced late in the game by AMH, or if AMH is only there for the pilot, and shaved head guy will turn up in episode 2.
The Muppets is basically the family friendly, not as funny, puppet version of The Larry Sanders Show. Miss Piggy is Larry (host, pain the ass), Kermit is Artie (producer, deals with all of host’s shit), Fozzie is Hank (warm up comedian and announcer), celebrities play themselves, some unflattering. It’s not bad though, I’ll give it a few more episodes to see if it does it for me.
Scream Queens isn’t normally my type of thing but I gave it a shot because I always thought Emma Roberts was cute but she’s never in stuff I’m at all interested in. Plus the premise is sorority-centric so it should be easy on the eyes. I’m not sure I really knew what her voice sounded like, because really other than some trailers I’d never seen her before, but sometimes Emma Roberts both looks and sounds like Kristen Bell, and sometimes looks and sounds nothing at all like her. It’s weird. Nasim Pedrad, Abigail Breslin, Jaime Lee Curtis, and I think that girl who was a Nick/Disney actress and became a pop star but is supposed to be an awful person is also in it. But that might be someone else.
Anyway, I made it around 45 minutes in, until an extended joke happened that I think pretty well established the show’s sense of humor, which is not at all my sense of humor. The first part of it was kind of amusing, and then they stuck with it for another minute or so and then I was out.