Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on January 1, 2018

As usual, saw some movies over Christmas, mostly Oscar-bait:

  • Darkest Hour sees Gary Oldman in another role where he’s totally unrecognizable, this one as Winston Churchill. It really only covers about a month, between him becoming Prime Minister early in the war, and when the Dunkirk thing happened and he wins the support of Parliament for the war effort.
  • Mudbound is a Netflix original about two families: poor white landowners in Mississippi and a black family of sharecroppers on the white family’s land. It’s slow and intentionally somewhat predictable, but pretty decent. Mary J. Blige turns out to be a decent actor, and somewhat thanks to Bojack Horseman, after not paying attention to the credits I spent the whole movie wondering if I was watching Carey Mulligan or Emily Mortimer (it was the former).
  • All the Money in the World is about the J.P. Getty kidnapping, and not knowing anything about it beforehand, it was a really compelling story with an excellent villain. It seems that they may have stretched the truth in quite a few places to make some characters more sympathetic than others. Which is a little bit disappointing, but it did make for a great story. At least based on the finished product, it makes sense that they were able to reshoot the J.P. scenes to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer, because his scenes were generally pretty separate from the rest of the action. Had Marky Mark or Michelle Williams been a secret sexual predator, I don’t think they could have replaced them on short notice.
  • Molly’s Game is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, but more in line with the Social Network’s dark tone than his more happy/jokey TV work. Not to say that it didn’t have some amusing moments, but there wasn’t a ton of the snappy, witty back and forth that I’ve come to associate with Sorkin. It was an interesting enough story (and apparently Tobey Maguire is a real dick), though with kind of a hokey ending. Jessica Chastain’s cleavage was in top form throughout, though.
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Posted in movies by Bill on December 26, 2017

Bright is supposedly Netflix’s foray into blockbuster moviemaking, which for some reason they decided to start by reuniting the Suicide Squad director with a lot of the cast of Suicide Squad, and that was not a very good movie. And when the critic embargo was lifted the other day, the response was abysmal. But I figured I’d watch it anyway, because it’s a big budget, speculative fiction thing that’s not a superhero or YA book adaptation or a sequel, and how often does that even happen?

It’s a nice enough high concept, with fantasy races and magic in modern day LA, and Will Smith is trying to deal with having the first Orc officer as his partner, who no one in LAPD likes because Orcs are a metaphor for black people in this (kind of, it never really goes anywhere). There are a lot of little nitpicky things I could complain about, but I guess the bigger problem is that I can’t think of anything complimentary to say about it beyond the concept. The actors are fine and the whole thing is professionally done. But there were no characters I particularly liked, no plot element I was drawn to, no clever dialogue, and I thought they half-assed the world building. It felt like they took stock characters and fantasy tropes and hoped that Will Smith, a modern-day setting, and leaning heavily on the soundtrack (just like Suicide Squad) would make it feel fresh.

Posted in movies by Bill on December 22, 2017

The Big Sick is Kumail Nanjiani’s movie based on the real experience with his future wife’s coma. It’s produced by Judd Apatow and has the usual characteristics of movies he’s involved in. Start with the funny, introduce a love interest, everything’s great, then things go bad and we get serious for a while, and the whole thing is about 15 minutes too long. But like pretty much all the rest of them, ultimately it’s good. Sadly, one great joke that they showed on a talk show was by far the best joke in the whole thing, but it was still good.

Posted in tv by Bill on December 20, 2017

Patriot is an amazon series about an American intelligence agent that seems to be kind of a dark dramedy, but the funny parts aren’t all that funny and that undermines the drama. There’s also a recurring thing where the main character plays guitar and sings, including a duet with Terry O’Quinn, which is about where I checked out.

Posted in tv by Bill on December 20, 2017

Jean-Claude Van Johnson is a new Amazon comedy/action series that’s sort of a Confessions of a Dangerous Mind but more ridiculous and with Jean-Claude Van Damme. He is living a life of luxury when seeing an old flame makes him decide to get back in his old business: starring in action movies as a cover for being a spy, while arguing that Looper is just a lesser version of Timecop and occasionally doing the splits. It’s ridiculous, but just barely my kind of ridiculous. Some of the jokes fall flat, but others, especially those referencing/mocking/honoring JCVD’s career as an action star work pretty well. Plus Bar Paly and Kat Foster are hot.

Posted in tv by Bill on December 17, 2017

Bosch stars Titus Welliver (Lost‘s man in black) as the title character, LAPD detective Hieronymus Bosch, based on a series of novels and adapted by a L&O/H:LotS/Wire vet. It’s a series of reasonably good detective stories, but an absolutely top notch police department politics story. It’s not like The Wire where it’s making commentary on the problems with policing all that much, it’s just full of people navigating the rules and relationships in the department in ways that feel real and also create excellent conflict.

Posted in movies by Bill on December 17, 2017

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is another very good entry in the Star Wars canon, this one written and directed by Rian (apparently pronounced like Ryan) Johnson, who did Brick and Looper and directed a few Breaking Bad episodes and one of Terriers (as an aside, I think it’s no coincidence that Disney looked to directors with TV experience to take on the Star Wars saga, since I think though it’s a much bigger undertaking, the job is more closely matched to TV directing… you’re in charge of one episode in a larger story, will be asked to defer to executives if something in your episode would mess up plans for a future installment, and you can’t divert much from the previously established visual style).

The Last Jedi, like its predecessor, drew a lot from previous Star Wars movies, but where I had concerns about The Force Awakens hitting a lot of the notes from A New Hope and almost becoming a remake, The Last Jedi pulls from all over the original trilogy, mixing up story elements, and subverting expectations. Just when you think “oh this is just like that thing from Return of the Jedi” the story takes it in a totally unexpected direction, and it felt as fresh and surprising as the setups felt familiar. Where The Force Awakens was almost a remake, The Last Jedi is almost a remix. Which I find to be a more positive way to approach storytelling in a universe that is so familiar to all of us.

Plus some of the visuals were pretty striking. I rarely remember hearing a theater more quiet than in one scene, and the final battle is in an inspired location for things to just look really cool.

There were a couple points at which I was seriously worried about the direction of the movie, but in both cases it was to set up surprise when the story went a different away. Spoiler-based thoughts to follow:

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Posted in tv by Bill on December 7, 2017

Knightfall is a new historical drama on the History channel, which I didn’t really know much about, but I thought might be ok. It’s not. I think it’s for people who are way into the idea of the Knights Templar, and I’m not one of those people.

There’s some stuff setting up political conflict in Paris, while we establish that even though there’s a bunch of antisemites threatening the local Jews, our hero Templar guys are way better than that. Even though real Templars did some horrible shit to Jews. I totally get that you can’t have your heroes be total bigots and expect people to like them, but it seems dishonest to try to sanitize history like that. But even that aside, I wasn’t finding the political stuff very interesting.

Then another thing with a leader knight dying on the road and making a last request to a farmhand to bring his sword to Paris, that it was super important and that got me a little intrigued. He had to leave his cute girlfriend behind, having never left his small village before, and make the impossible journey all the way to Paris. So I was on board for this heroic journey… but after a commercial break he was already in Paris, hands the sword over, and probably we never see him or his cute girlfriend again. Then back to political conflict that I didn’t find very interesting, so I stopped around the 40 minute mark.

Posted in tv by Bill on December 7, 2017

Happy! is SyFy’s new series adapting Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s comic miniseries (that felt more like a Garth Ennis/Darick Robertson comic). Christopher Meloni stars as the piece of shit ex-cop who starts seeing a talking blue unicorn (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who wants him to help save a little girl. Amusingly, Bobby Moynihan originally going to voice Happy, but he left because CBS picked up his sitcom, which was already cancelled by the time Happy! made it on the air.

Like the comic, it doesn’t shy away from blood, sex, and general depravity. Meloni is a pretty great choice for the mix of gritty crime and ridiculous comedy, as those seem to be the genres he does the most.

I guess I liked the pilot about as much as I liked the comic. Which is certainly enough to keep watching, but I also hope now that the premise is established that it can improve on just being watchable.

Posted in video games by Bill on November 29, 2017

Contrast is a 3D puzzle platformer with a Jazz age design and film noir feel. You play as a girl’s imaginary friend, and you can navigate otherwise impossible to reach places by turning to shadow and climbing other shadows, then turning corporeal again. It’s short, has no manual saves and the autosave points too far apart, a couple of the puzzles are a little frustrating because you know how to solve it but screw up the mechanics of it, and the little girl’s mom despite only appearing in silhouette had a distractingly large rack, but otherwise it has some fun puzzles with a nice little story and appealing visual design.

It’s short enough that I wouldn’t pay full price for it, but I dropped $3.40 on it and felt quite satisfied.