Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.8
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Jessica Jones S03 — 5/10
I expected a lot more from season three after reading so many good things about it. Unfortunately, it’s a turgid story dragged down by a ton of side-plots about side-characters. There are long swaths of the show in which Jessica Jones is missing entirely. She’s the best thing about this show.
Instead, we get to follow along as Trish develops into a super-hero. Trish is a dipshit. I can’t tell whether the actress playing her is terrible or whether she’s deliberately poorly written. I can’t tell if the writers honestly expect us to like her. I’m afraid that they just might.
Malcom has his own drama, which is largely uninteresting. Hogarth is in the same camp, dragging a plotline about her college lover that is largely useless. Her quest to end her ALS or her life is still a thing, but it’s a boring thing.
Salinger is the new baddie and he seems to be the quintessential person featured in /r/iamverysmart entries. Again, I can’t tell whether the show writers really expect us to take him seriously. I can’t bring myself to do it. They treat him like an evil genius, but he’s barely par. Did NCIS or CSI lend some of their writers to this show?
The writing team has discarded no plotline. There is no character too minor to not plumb their depths. They focus not only on Trish, but also Malcolm, Jerry, Kith, Eric—literally everyone but Jessica. You know you’ve gone too far as a writer when you’re writing dialogue between Malcolm (a second- or third-tier character) and his girlfriend (vanishingly small influence on the plot), talking about the girlfriend’s father, who was once in the CIA…OHMYGODIDONTCARE.
There are some good scenes, but they are unfortunately few and far between. I’m sick of having to spend
50%70% of my time watching Trish’s entitled and insipid speeches and lectures. This show has been Bechdeled into the ground.
I wrote the above at about 6 or 7 episodes in. Unfortunately, it has not gotten better. I’m actually going to deduct another point for the absolute ham-handedness of Trish’s character and how the other characters view her. Trish is allowed to murder people, and can chastise Jessica for not suitably handling the murderer of their mother. No-one in Trish’s circle thinks she should go to prison for her crimes—they protect her and let her kill again. It takes forever—and three murders—until they finally get it. Trish’s powers supposedly don’t include enhanced strength but she’s depicted throwing men around as if they were paperback books.
It’s just a cycle of watching Jessica make the same mistake over and over again. It’s not very entertaining. At least in episodes 11 and 12 Jessica showed up again, for maybe 40% of the show. So that was nice. Also, Jessica was allowed to be clever, as well, which was a nice change of pace for the show writers. Trish is still the favorite of the show, though, and, I think, non-ironically.
- Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward — 4/10
- Jeselnik’s delivery is too slow and his jokes are not as good as he thinks they are. His admonishments to the crowd that they don’t even get how brilliant his jokes are. I know that’s his schtick, but he’s not nearly clever enough for me. His twist endings aren’t surprising anymore. I couldn’t even finish watching it yet, to be honest.
- Stranger Things S03 — 8/10
Season three is much stronger than season two—carried by a few of its characters. Dustin is much better than I expected, as is Steve. Their new friend Robin is excellent and fun. Hopper is also wonderful once he lets his inner Magnum fly.
Eleven is decent, while Mike and Steve continue to be really annoying, but that’s about par for the course for boys of any generation.
This time out, they’re trying to keep the Russians for opening the portal to the upside-down. The American bad guys are gone, replaced by more appropriately cold-war meanies.
Poor Billy is taken by the Mind Flayer nearly immediately. He starts to take victims, harvesting more people for his master. Dustin, Steve and Robin engage Erica’s help (Steve’s sister) to break into the Russian base, far below the Starcourt Mall. The Mind Flayer gathers power and then breaks out into reality, hunting Eleven.
There are a lot of nice touches, rooted in the 80s—so much authentic stuff. When she’s going through the ducts, Erica has a flashlight strapped to her head that is the exact same model we had at my parents’ house for 30 years.
- Snowpiercer (2012) — 9/10
- I’d already seen this film in 2014, but wanted to watch it again after having seen a delightful and maddeningly convincing hypothesis that it was a sequel to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Five years ago, I gave it a 9/10 rating and nothing has changed in a second viewing. Delightful. It was fun watching it with the Willy Wonka theory in mind. I showed my co-viewer the Willy Wonka video afterward and she agreed that it was deviously plausible. As for the film itself, see my previous review for more details, if you’re interested.
- Russian Doll — 8/10
Natasha Lyonne stars as an iconoclastic, self-reliant video-game programmer and New Yorker who keeps reliving her birthday. Over the course of many repetitions, we find out more about her life and her companions. She meets another man, Alan, who is also reliving the same day over and over.
This is an interesting examination of being, nothingness, existence, time and epistemology. Together, Alan and Nadia discover how their new limbo works and experiment to figure out how to get out of the time loop that they’re in.
Lyonne is a tremendous actress, easily capable of carrying a show on her own. Still, Charlie Barnett as Alan is also very good.
It’s a cool concept—we find out more and more detail with each repetition. The homeless guy is very good—there are some very Terry Gilliam-esque moments.
In the end, they have to save each other—literally—in order to escape. A fun ride.
- Wine Country (2019) — 6/10
- This was a light but insufficiently clever romp with some good comediennes, most of them SNL alums: Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey. Tina Fey plays the owner of the bed and breakfast where they spend their weekend in Napa Valley for Dratch’s 50th birthday. Things happen, things change, things are resolved, stuff works out in the end.
- Derry Girls (2018/2019) — 9/10
This is a very clever and well-written show about Catholic high-school girls growing up in (London)Derry in Northern Ireland. The many characters are unique and fun. They all have nearly impenetrable accents. We’ve had to turn on the subtitles twice, but only for a few sentences.
There are Erin the main character, Michelle, the slut, Claire the overexcitable lesbian, Orla is Erin’s cousin and a bit of space cadet/lovable loser/rebel and James. an English boy who’s Michelle’s cousin and who attends the girls’ school because he would be killed in the boys’ school.
The first season takes place just before the end of The Troubles and deals largely with the girls’ trials and tribulations in school. The second season ends with the first ceasefire and a visit from U.S. President Bill Clinton.
- Django Unchained (2012) — 9/10
- A second viewing in German made me raise the film by one star over my initial viewing. Christoph Waltz as Schultz is a loquacious revelation and Jamie Foxx is steady and cool in the lead.
- The Americans S05 (2017) — 8/10
Paige is still a spectacular pain in the ass. Oleg is back in the USSR, working for the KGB and still trying to do the right thing. Elizabeth and Philip are now posing as flight attendant and pilot, respectively and are working a dissident Soviet grain specialist who should be able to help them figure out how the U.S. is planning to attack the Soviet grain supply.
Stan is still working at the FBI an being betrayed by them at every turn. He’s trying like hell to protect Oleg from CIA intervention. Gabriel (Frank Langella) is still the Jennings’s handler. The Jennings have adopted a son, Tuan, a Vietnamese emigré.
- Monty Python’s Flying Circus S01-02 (1969–1970) — 8/10
Season one is a bit rough, but already contains many of the standard elements that will make them famous: the “It’s Man”, the “Now It’s Time for Something Completely Different Man” and the various characters that are obviously based on various luminaries of the BBC. A couple of the bits I know from the “Final Rip Off” are in the first season.
The second season contains many more skits that made it into the “Final Rip Off” but also a couple that were exceedingly clever and that I’d never seen before. Their powers of memorization are at-times prodigious, especially Cleese and Idle, who can recite long stretches of complex dialogue, even if it’s all turned-about and completely non-intuitive.
- Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones (2019) — 8/10
Chappelle returns quickly with a new show, relatively quickly after his last two shows. His style is more conversational and lends itself to longer presentations. His show is more of a blog-post style, where he ruminates about several topics, sometimes without even obvious punchlines. He’s very provocative with some jokes: some work, some less so. Overall, he’s on point and makes sense.
Some of his more provocative points are only that because of the highly charge and overly sensitive atmosphere today (in which there are more than enough professional victims willing to be offended on behalf of any number of identity groups).
I thought his best joke was about dealing with the censors at the network when he was still doing The Chappelle Show: he was called down for one of his scripts because he used the word “faggot”. He asked why he wasn’t allowed to use that word, while he was allowed to say “nigger” all he wanted. The censor responded that he wasn’t allowed to use the former slur because he wasn’t gay. He responded that “I ain’t a nigger either.” Boom. Recommended.
- Shaft (2019) — 6/10
This is a pretty formulaic but still reasonably entertaining reboot of the Shaft films from the seventies. Samuel Jackson stars at the title character, with Jessie T. Usher as his son. While Shaft is more of a vigilante detective, his son is an FBI data analyst whose a straight arrow. This is actually a big joke, that he’s a useless nerd versus the slick risk-taker and rule-breaker that is his father.
In order for him to solve the case he’s on, he will have to enlist not only his father’s help, but also his grandfather’s help (in the form of the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree). In the end, he wins the girl, he shoots up the bad guys, he solves the case, he saved the city, he tells the FBI to go fuck themselves, and then he embarks on a life of moral vigilantism with his father and grandfather. The end.
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) — 7/10
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan (Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy) reboot the original as four kids from different walks of life who end up serving detention together. They find an old video-game console and get sucked into the game of Jumanji.
There they discover that they aren’t so different after all and all grow a lot and solve lots of puzzles and fun stuff. They also find another kid who’s been lost in the game for 20 years and join up with him to save the eye of the jaguar and, thus, Jumanji. It was reasonably amusing, with The Rock and Kevin Hart hogging the spotlight and delivering most of the star power.