Mr. Robot is the terrible title of USA’s upcoming original series, the pilot to which they have put on their website. It stars the bug eyed guy from The Pacific as an information security guy by day/super hacker by night, who starts taking on evil 1% types in his spare time. Christian Slater is the head of an Anonymous-type hacktivist group, who meets face-to-face with our hacker protagonist guy because it would make for boring TV if he more sensibly never showed his face to anyone. They have a bullshit explanation for this that doesn’t make actual sense, but we just go with it because why not.
There’s a lot of technical jargon, a lot of which is clunky but not totally inaccurate. Unfortunately, they have to do the expositional stuff in the usual question and answer format, which often has information security professionals sounding like morons. “What’s a rootkit?” asks his supervisor, who after that question I can only assume was hired for her looks (it would have made a lot more sense to have the higher up manager guy who was present ask that question, because it’s quite common for those higher up types to not know the technical stuff).
The soundtrack is weird. Mostly the kind of electronic music that you’d expect to find, but at the big decision point for the protagonist, we get a montage set to a melodramatic Neil Diamond song. It’s confusing.
It’s… ok? It continues USA’s trend of abandoning lighter fare for really dark and moody stuff. The main character is a depressed social anxiety guy. Both of the women with notable plots in the pilot are dating terrible guys. Rich people are horrible. Nothing fun happens the whole time. Which is fairly off-putting. The pilot does end on a note that does make me curious to see episode 2, but if that doesn’t go somewhere really interesting, I’ll be out quick.
Big Time in Hollywood, FL is a Comedy Central series that I had ignored because the ads looked kinda dumb, but I’ve subsequently heard a lot of good things. And since they put the first 9 episodes on their website in advance of the first season finale, it seemed like a good time to check it out.
It’s not like anything I’ve seen before, really. Most of the characters are played straight, in a crime/drugs murder story. But the main characters are two 30-ish year old brothers, still living with their parents (Stephen Tobolowsky and the mom from Picket Fences) in suburban Florida. When their parents decide to kick them out, they come up with a ridiculous scheme to avoid having to get real jobs. It goes horribly wrong, and then it becomes a comedic version of a crime story where someone gets in over their head and is always one bad move away from prison or death.
I haven’t found most of the jokes all that funny, but I find the plot compelling. The jokes that do land, infrequent though they may be, are often seriously funny. And there are some unusual/good cameos: Ben Stiller, Michael Madsen, Cuba Gooding Jr, Keith David, and Paz Vega. Worth watching.
The Supergirl pilot leaked online, and I am fond of getting to watch these things over the summer when there’s not as much TV on, so of course I checked it out. It has potential, but it is pretty damn poorly written. Fortunately, Melissa Benoist is cute as hell in the glasses (she’s just normal cute without), so I can overlook a lot of the corny and cliched parts.
The idea is that Kara’s parents sent her, teenage-ish, to protect baby Kal-El, but her ship took an unexpected detour through the Phantom Zone, causing her to show up late (after Superman is already Superman) and drag a bunch of Kryptonian Phantom Zone bad guys behind her. Superman sets her up with adoptive parents (Dean Cain and Helen Slater, because these types of shows always do that) to have a normal life. So she ends up in National City, which they decided to invent rather than use any of the dozens of existing DC fake cities, as the assistant to a mean boss, Devil Wears Prada-style. The boss, Calista Flockheart and her weird forehead, runs a media empire, which also employs Jimmy Olsen/TK from Necessary Roughness. That lady from the Matthew Perry group therapy show plays her Kryptonian mother via flashback/hologram. Her adoptive sister, her colleague with an unrequited crush on her, and a DEO guy played by the boss from Homeland and Selfie round out the cast.
- They combine the Kara Zor-El name with the Linda Danvers secret identity to just call her Kara Danvers. Which seems like a dick move, considering Marvel is planning a Carol Danvers movie in the near future.
- The presence of the DEO makes me hope they can manage Director Bones. Or at least Cameron Chase. Actually, I think Director Bones, before being skeleton-ized, was black, so maybe they’re planning on turning whatshisname from Homeland into Bones?
- The especially bad parts are: 1) the revealing superhero identity thing being confused for coming out, which I’m not sure if it’s an overused joke in TV/movies yet, but it sure is in comics, and 2) the random lady in a diner who says “can you believe it? a female hero! finally my daughter has someone to look up to!” I’m actually all for that idea, but just a shot of a little girl seeing Supergirl and smiling would be plenty to get that same message across, without being so groan-worthy.
I’ll be watching further, but I’m 90% in it for the glasses, 9% for the potential appearance of Director Bones, and 1% for plot and character.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a new BBC series that sounded kinda interesting. It takes place in a 19th century Britain where magic had been commonplace several centuries earlier, but for some unknown reason, stopped being practiced. People still studied it, but no one had performed actual magic in 300 years. And of course this is the story of how it started to come back.
Reading the wikipedia page for the book it’s based on, I can see why I didn’t really like the show.
the novel investigates the nature of “Englishness” and the boundaries between reason and unreason, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Dane, and Northern and Southern English cultural tropes/stereotypes. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. It inverts the Industrial Revolution conception of the North/South divide in England: in this book the North is romantic and magical, rather than rational and concrete. It can be usefully compared and contrasted with Elizabeth Gaskell’s attempts at synthesising a unitary English identity in her fiction.
I was thinking escapism, but I got some sort of meditation on national identity. Ah well.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the latest in the Mad Max series, delayed so long it turned into a reboot, because Mel Gibson got old and crazy. Tom Hardy takes over as Max, but because he’s a man of few words, the real star is Charlize Theron.
The trailers looked completely nuts, with oddly sped up footage and heavily saturated colors and just generally being crazy looking, but the actual movie was a bit more normal. The whole movie is very brightly colored, especially odd for an post-apocalypse movie (most deserts are in the tan/brown range, but in this the sand is a bright orange, which does really amp up the orange/blue thing contrasted against the sky, normally an annoyance, but compared to the usual washed out desert look, this seemed like a refreshing change), but they used the fast-mo effect pretty sparingly.
Really there’s about 15-20 minutes of set up, and then 90 minutes of one big car chase. It has a lot of ridiculously over-the-top stuff, like a villain who’s kinda part-Darth Vader part-old fat guy, or a dude among the bad guy caravan of cars strapped to the top of a truck playing metal with a flame throwing guitar. Overall pretty good. It’s not as good as I’d hoped it would be from the insane trailers, but it’s not at all bad like I’d worried it would be from the exact same insane trailers.
I was amused that there was “controversy” on the internet among men’s rights activists about the movie, because it could really only be considered feminist if it was made in the 1950s. It takes the bold stance that women aren’t things, but otherwise it’s just a regular action movie. Max is far more badass than anyone else, and there are plenty of exploitative shots of the women (most of the ones in the cast are introduced in a scene where they’re all wearing skimpy white rags and pouring water all over each other).
Grace and Frankie is Netflix’s new sitcom about two older ladies who hate each other, but are forced to spend time together because their husbands are business partners/best friends, and then some stuff happens (in the first 5 minutes, so it was probably revealed in every trailer, but I didn’t know, so I’d call it a spoiler) and they bond over being miserable together. I gave it a shot because a lot of good actors are in it, but I think it’s one of those things aimed at older women that’s just not for me.
It’s co-created by one of the Friends creators and also some guy who used to write for Home Improvement and According to Jim. The latter may explain the really obvious and tired gag where free spirit Lilly Tomlin is taking peyote and uptight Jane Fonda shows up and through a totally unexpected by the viewer mix-up, Fonda ends up taking peyote too. Martin Sheen joins Tomlin to have a sort of West Wing reuinion, while Sam Waterston also does sort of a Newsroom reunion with Fonda. Except Tomlin is married to Waterston and Fonda to Sheen. Their kids are played by Ethan Embry, the black guy who was Sarah Shahi’s assitant on that mediator show, Paul Scheer’s wife who’s on NTSF:SD:SUV::, and Brooklyn Decker.
Avengers 2: Age of Ultron is Marvel’s follow-up to the hugely successful first one. All the major players are back, plus Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, of course Ultron, and a bunch of the characters from the other Marvel movies too.
It’s perfectly fine, but kind of disappointing. Black Widow seems quite off in this, they force a weird romantic subplot in, the Romani/Jewish Maximoffs of the comics get turned into generically white Nazi sympathizers. On the plus side, Elizabeth Olsen is quite attractive. And there are some quality funny moments.
Basically more of the same for the Marvel cinematic stuff. I assume if people enjoyed the others, they’ll like this too. But there’s nothing particularly special about it.
Ex Machina is a science fiction movie, unrelated to the comic of the same name. All I really knew about it going in was that it had robots. And indeed it did. Also for some reason I thought the robot girl was Emilia Clarke. I think with just the face part of the face and no rest-of-the-head, all hot girls sorta look alike.
The guy from that time travel romantic comedy plays some coder at BlueBook, a Google-type company, who wins a lottery to get to visit with the company’s enigmatic founder at his remote home. There, he discovers that his weird boss has invented a hot girl robot, and wants him to participate in a Turing test to determine if she is a true AI.
It was pretty interesting, but not great. In the end, it falls to one of my least favorite tropes of AI fiction, but there was enough to like up to that point that I think it was a couple hours well spent.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the regrettable reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise, this time with Chris Pine in the lead. It’s the exciting story of a Russian villain who is buying up a sinister amount of treasury notes. Exciting, huh? Also, Keira Knightley does an American accent, which is just a terrible idea. At least for me, the accent is like half her appeal.
The Book of Life is a CG animated movie from last year that I thought had a cool art style (Pixar/Dreamworks do good work, there’s a bit of a sameness to their style), but I had worried it was too musical-y for me. But after getting assurances that there wasn’t too much breaking into song, I gave it a shot.
There is a fair amount of singing, but it’s mostly more organic than the classic musical style of talking through song, and other people joining in with elaborately choreographed dances. Instead, one of the characters is a singer/guitar player, so he just sings sometimes. Actual songs, not conversations. It’s a Mexican folklore-based story where the gods of the good and bad underworlds make a bet over two boys who are in love with the same girl. So, basically a love triangle becomes the entire plot. Which isn’t really my kinda thing.
So as far as kid-oriented romantic musical comedy goes, it’s pretty good. There are a few quality jokes, and I do like the animation style a lot. Probably mostly because it reminds me of Grim Fandango. I assume Geebs would love this, since it features both a love triangle and a bunch of cover songs.