Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on June 27, 2017

GLOW is Netflix’s new fictionalized account of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling with Alison Brie. It’s created by some Nurse Jackie/Weeds/OitNB people so that’s a pretty decent track record, and Marc Maron is in a supporting part and I like him, so that was more than enough to check it out.

Alison Brie is a struggling actress who can’t land a decent part, so a casting director recommends her for a new TV show about lady wrestlers. Maron is the show director and Piz from Veronica Mars is the producer/money man, and Sherlock’s Asperger-y girlfriend from Elementary is the other main girl. Some of the other wrestlers are vaguely familiar, but nobody else really famous, I don’t think.  Sadly, 80s hair and fashion don’t do a lot for me, but Ms. Brie is still quite easy on the eyes, even though they want her to look plain so she’s wearing like no makeup. She has some tasteful topless scenes, which ain’t bad either. The 80s music is kinda hit or miss too, though it improves as the show goes along.

It’s not great, but it does have a certain appeal. I can’t say I found it particularly dramatic, and over 10 episodes there were only a handful of especially funny scenes, but for whatever reason I ended up pretty invested by the end, and I don’t know why. It took a while to win me over, but it actually did and I can’t really say how.

Posted in tv by Bill on June 23, 2017

I didn’t entirely love the movie version but I thought it was interesting, so I figure I’d give a shot to Spike’s new series adaptation of The Mist. I figure it would be Under The Dome-ish with a group of people in crisis stretched out over several seasons, with a supernatural status quo that makes them turn on each other. But somehow the pilot is largely concerned with heavy teen drama (that I think really has only one way it can go).

Gripe with Spike: they ran a “this season on The Mist” ad with 10 minutes left in the show. Why? That should go right after the credits if it has to be shown at all. You know at 59 minutes in when the mist comes across one of the major characters? Well guess who we know isn’t going to die because she appears “this season on The Mist“?

Anyway, it’s not very good. They have like 5 different storylines and I was only really intrigued by one. The cast is entirely unfamiliar to me except for one old lady (though apparently Clay Davis from The Wire shows up) and not all that interesting. No hesitation about passing on this one.

Posted in comics, movies, top10, tv by Bill on June 14, 2017
Belated annual top ten of stuff from June 2016-May 2017 (so Wonder Woman will show up next year).
TV Half Hour:
  1. Bojack Horseman – Still loving this show, and it started to get some real critical respect this year (Time named the mostly-silent episode the best TV episode of 2016).
  2. The Good Place – I found the show fun and funny at first, though I was a little iffy on how it would work long-term. The end of the season did an amazing job in… not exactly making me sure hot it would work, but desperate to know where it’s going.
  3. Master of None – Getting close to the line of taking itself too seriously, but fortunately it remains pretty full of jokes.
  4. The Detour – I feel like this show shouldn’t be as good as it is? And yet it has huge laughs in almost every episode.
  5. Fleabag – Downer comedies (aka “sadcoms”) are kinda my thing, especially when there’s a self-loathing protagonist.
  6. The Last Man On Earth – Also a running theme here is plot-heaviness. This and The Detour are as serialized as any drama.
  7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – First traditional sitcom on here, where the status quo is maintained after most episodes and the tone is generally upbeat. Andre Braugher continues to get robbed during awards season.
  8. Great News is the new 30 Rock. Also Briga Heelan is totally cute.
  9. Silicon Valley annoys me with the technical stuff this year (mobile networks lack the bandwidth and phones lack the uptime% to serve as nodes on a peer-to-peer network, even with fictionally good compression!) but it’s still really funny. The hot dog app alone is enough to make this season a win.
  10. The Mick – I kinda thought this would suck, but it manages to do It’s Always Sunny style comedy in a more traditional sitcom format. There’s a family learning lessons and all, but there’s also episodes that build up to a huge payoff of characters being shockingly horrible in hilarious ways.
Missed the cut: Veep, Archer, and Kimmy Schmidt are all still good, but none at their peak form. Veep has actually had some of their more memorable filthy insults this year, but the plot direction is… meh. I don’t give two shits about a library. Love had a solid second season, but it’s clearly a second-tier sadcom. Rick and Morty had only the one episode in the past year. Trial & Error was pretty good and is surprisingly renewed even though nobody was talking about it (or, judging by the ratings, even watching at all).
TV Hourlong:
  1. Black Mirror‘s first season on Netflix was ridiculously good. If I was doing top 10 hourlong episodes of the year, I think there would be 3 from this one 6 episode season (I’m not on the San Junipero bandwagon though it was pretty good, and Men Against Fire and Playtest were only ok).
  2. Better Call Saul – I heard an interview with Chuck Klosterman talking about the ethics of Breaking Bad – the main character starts as 100% ethically sound, but by the end of the series he’s 100% ethically corrupted, and the question is when do you, as the viewer, recognize him as a villain rather than a hero? I thought that was kinda interesting. And it applies some here too, though Jimmy/Saul starts out fairly ethically compromised already. It builds tension better than anything else on TV, which is even more impressive given that I know the fates of many characters.
  3. Westworld caused me to spend more time theorizing about what’s going on than any other show in a long time. Also I like seeing comics writers I like (Ed Brubaker in this case) break into higher paying gigs with a union and health insurance.
  4. Fargo probably wouldn’t be so high if Mary Elizabeth Winstead wasn’t so trashy-hot this season. It’s still very good, but not up to season 1 or 2 levels, IMO.
  5. Game of Thrones is still awesome, but it only had a half season in the 6/16-5/17 period.
  6. The Expanse didn’t have the breakout season 2 that I was hoping for, but it was still good.
  7. Sherlock kinda disappointed with the overarching plot, but it was still fun and had interesting cases of the week.
  8. Stranger Things seems like more than a year ago, but it was just last summer. Season 2 isn’t until this fall, so I figure at that rate, by season 4 all the kids will have deep voices and be tall and gangly and weird, so get ready for that.
  9. iZombie mixes the short- and long-term plots as well as any show currently running. Not surprising given the Veronica Mars connection.
  10. Luke Cage is the only superhero TV show here, which speaks both to the fading quality of most superhero shows, and to my own level of burnout on them. But this one was definitely good.
Missed the cut: Preacher is pretty good but I still don’t know how they’ll handle the big moments without losing every sponsor. I liked The Night Of a lot. Gotham has gotten highly entertaining, even if it still makes little sense.
Movies:
  1. John Wick 2 – Really my only complaint is that Bridget Regan wasn’t in it. Who would have thought my favorite movie of any year would star Keanu Reeves?
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story I think might turn out to be not-essential-rewatching, but it really was well done and a fun ride.
  3. Arrival was really thought provoking and I always appreciate when a studio spends money on a non-franchise sci-fi movie.
  4. Logan is a nice conclusion to the original set of X-Men movies. I kinda wish they’d stop making them for a while, but that’ll never happen.
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 remains full of amusing wisecracking and whatnot.
  6. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping apparently only made $9.5mil at the box office, which is ridiculous. But maybe it appeals to the kind of people who would either pirate it or wait for it on netflix or something. As I did. Equal Rights alone is worth the price of admission.
  7. Doctor Strange and the ones below it are here because I don’t see enough new releases anymore. It was fine, but hard to get too excited about.
  8. All the Way, the HBO adaptation of the LBJ/MLK play, was pretty decent.
  9. Loving, about the couple that helped overturn interracial marriage laws, same.
  10. Swiss Army Man, I guess? I didn’t particularly like it, but I’m certain it’s the best farting corpse movie I’ve ever seen.

Comics (I used to split these up into superhero and non-superhero but I’ve really cut back on my reading):

  1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – Nothing is more reliably entertaining. Marvel’s in the midst of a really ill-advised crossover event, and this is one of the few of their titles I haven’t stopped reading.
  2. Injection – Literally 3 issues this year, but I don’t care. I really like this series.
  3. Saga had only 6 issues but it’s still very good too.
  4. Sex Criminals only 4 issues, thanks to artist Chip Zdarsky taking on a bunch of writing gigs and becoming a bit of an internet celebrity (I don’t follow his (or anyone’s) twitter, but when I do see things reposted from it, they’re very funny…. “going to go see Wonder Woman and if it turns out Wonder Woman’s mom isn’t named Martha I’m fucking leaving”).
  5. Black Widow had a short run by the Waid/Samnee team that did a killer Daredevil run. This wasn’t at that level, but it was still a good read.
  6. Invincible is wrapping things up and has kinda renewed my interest in the series (that never completely waned, but it was for a while kinda low priority reading).
  7. Kill or Be Killed is the latest Brubaker/Phillips thing, this one a supernatural (maybe?) revenge story.
  8. Ms. Marvel is avoiding (mostly? so far?) the crossover business, and it’s still light and fun.
  9. Lazarus – The TV section’s theme was sadcoms and serialization, the comics section’s theme is “6 or fewer issues for the whole year.”
  10. Clean Room turned out to have a short run that ended this year (I’m still not entirely sure if it was always intended to be 18 issues or if they wrapped it up quickly due to sales). Not was good as I’d hoped given a promising start, but I liked it.

Posted in tv by Bill on June 12, 2017

Claws is a new TNT series about a group of women who work at a nail salon and live a life of crime. It stars Niecy Nash, Carla from Scrubs, Ben Linus’ real life wife, Karrueche Tran who I don’t know why I even know her name, and the girl from Justified who ran the bar that Raylan slept above but who isn’t as hot as she was a few years ago. It seemed from the commercials to be a crime comedy, which is one of my favorite subgenres, but this turns out to not be very funny at all. It has some comedic moments, but so do most straight crime stories. And I didn’t really find the comedic moments that entertaining, nor the crime part particularly engaging.

 

Posted in tv by Bill on June 5, 2017

I’m Dying Up Here is a new Showtime series about stand-up comedy in the 70s with Sebastian Stan, Ari Graynor (with a very unattractive version of 70s hair), Alfred Molina, Melissa Leo, Clark Duke, Al Madrigal, Dylan Baker, and the somehow-still-alive Dom Irrera.

I’m not sure if they’re all supposed to be actually good comedians, though Stan’s character is supposed to be, since the show opens with him on Carson. But I think writing and performing good stand-up is tough, because it doesn’t feel quite right. The couple actual comedians do it a lot better than the actors, but it’s still not great.

I thought this would work pretty easily, the format calls for funny people and frequent jokes, so that and the 70s music should in theory keep my interest long enough to get drawn in by the characters and stories. But there really wasn’t a ton to laugh about, and a lot of the jokes were just kinda blue for the sake of being blue. So I’m passing on this.

Posted in tv by Bill on May 8, 2017

American Gods is Starz’s new series that adapts Neil Gaiman’s book that I know nothing about. Brian Fuller (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies) serves as showrunner, so that was largely the thing that attracted me to the series. It’s… weird. I thought the first episode was weird, but it had a vague shout out to the Muffin Buffalo of both Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies, which I thought was great, so I wanted to give it another episode to have… interesting plot, or something? Instead, it’s just long artsy shots of stuff, often involving blood, extended sequences with no dialogue and not much happening, and then sometimes monologues. I like a good Ian McShane monologue, but here there’s no meaningful context to me. There might be a good show in here somewhere, but I lack the patience to find it.  This just isn’t for me.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 27, 2017

Great News is a sitcom starring the girl I thought was nice looking in Neftlix’s Love, playing an actress on the Witchita show (it’s a CW/ABC Family kinda thing about witches in Kansas, get it?), and Andrea Martin who I guess is famous for SCTV but she seems sorta like a That Lady to me, as a daughter who ‘s a low level producer on a TV news show and the mother who gets an internship on that same show. I think whatshername is really cute, Tina Fey is a producer or something, and John Michael Higgins is always funny, so I gave it a shot.

It’s actually a lot better than it has any right to be. It’s a premise that feels expected, the young woman trying to make it in her dream career, the meddling mother invading her space. The side characters are pretty much stock characters, the blowhard news anchor guy, the blonde lady anchor who does fluff pieces, the jerk boss. But it has a certain charm, the cast is solid (Nicole Richie seemed like she’d suck but she’s actually not bad), and the creator is a former 30 Rock writer.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 25, 2017

Bill Nye Saves the World is the pop-sci celebrity’s new Netflix series for grown-ups. And I normally dig pop science, edutainment, hot models, and a lot of the things this show offers, but it’s pretty terrible.

They shoot it in front of a live audience, and he’s not really the kind of host that can do that without it seeming cringey. He’s a little awkward reading from a script (which could be fixed with edits if it was shot sans audience), the audience laughter throws off his timing, he’s pretty bad at the post-pre-taped-piece-Q&A with the correspondents, and the audience really gets in the way of the panel part.

Karlie Kloss is one of their correspondent type people for pre-taped stuff, and though she’s easy on the eyes, she’s a little bit awkward. Although more TV correspondents should be very, very tall women, because it’s quite amusing. When she first appeared on screen, I thought “who is that giantess?” And then when she was in some field piece in Venice, she wasn’t even wearing heels, but this engineer guy doesn’t even come up to her shoulders.

Topically, he’s basically preaching to the choir. Global warming is real, alternative medicine is not a substitute for real medicine and should be viewed skeptically, AI is cool, GMOs are probably perfectly safe. That kinda thing.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 6, 2017

Brockmire is a new IFC series which stars Hank Azaria as a radio baseball announcer who has a meltdown and wrecks his MLB career, and the series picks up 10 years later when he’s returned from overseas hoping his public humiliation will have faded, and he takes a job announcing for a minor league team in nowheresville owned by Amanda Peet.

I had some concerns early on that it might be one of those comedies that would rather be a drama, because of how Azaria was getting emotional in one scene, but it doesn’t shy away from jokes at all. If anything, Azaria’s commitment to keeping the announcer voice going prevents any real dramatic moments. It mixes some baseball with the kind of depressing, dark comedy that I tend to enjoy. Some high quality suicide jokes in the pilot. The second episode isn’t as strong, but it’s not bad at all.

Posted in tv by Bill on March 18, 2017

Iron Fist is the latest Netflix Marvel series, about Kung Fu billionaire Danny Rand. I thought it would be the hardest to do, and it turns out to be the weakest of the four Marvel Netflix series so far.

Where other series had comic relief or a snarky main character, Iron Fist has no laughs. Where other series had charismatic villains, Iron Fist has no villain you love to hate, or kinda root for, or anything (it does have a possibly unintentional Donald/Donald Jr./Ivanka vibe though). I don’t remember even a slight chuckle, either at a joke or at surprisingly evil villainous move (for some reason those make me laugh). And really my biggest complaint: his hand glows yellow but it’s not on fire. And that’s before thinking about the weird racial issues (Netflix Marvel’s second “white guy uses martial arts to beat up hundreds of asian guys” show).

It’s entirely watchable, but it’s not great (or even good) TV like the other series have been. The actual highlights of the series are the “hey I know that thing from a comic!” moments, which are incredibly fleeting.

There are a lot of references to Fraction/Brubaker’s Immortal Iron Fist comic (Bride of Nine Spiders and someone who I think is Dog Brother #1 appear, they mention the seven capital cities of heaven in passing, plus a reference to an Iron Fist legacy and maybe Orson Randall), but the story is totally unrelated. It’s largely about The Hand, which doesn’t interact much with Danny in the comics as far as I know (being Japanese, while K’un-lun is more in the himalayan area).

Most of the cast is pretty unknown to me, other than people from other shows and David Wenham (Faramir). Apparently I’ve seen Jessica Stroup a few times, but her face doesn’t ring a bell.