Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.10
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.
- El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) — 9/10
This is a wonderful coda to Breaking Bad, with Aaron Paul reprising his role as Jesse. This is a different Jesse, one who’s been tortured, kept in a cage, just so that he can continue to cook meth. We see his escape in Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) El Camino and then see the rest as flashbacks. Jesse’s first stop is at the house of his two old buddies, who are still extremely loyal and nearly ridiculously nice. They help Jesse shake the cops, sacrificing themselves for him.
Jesse goes back to Todd’s apartment after it’s been blocked off as a crime scene and tosses the house to find Todd’s stash. He eventually finds it in the refrigerator door, but is interrupted by two other guys posing as cops who are looking for Todd’s stash. Jesse is forced to share with them and walks away with only a third.
Jesse’s trying to start a new life and he turns again to the same guy who was supposed to help him get out the last time (Ed, played by Robert Forster). Ed is not happy that Jesse bailed on him last time and still wants his money. So when Jesse shows up with a bag full of money, he’s a few thousand shy (of the total of $250,000). Ed will not be moved. Jesse is forced to leave.
We see throughout the flashbacks how Jesse constantly gets into worse trouble because of his refusal to commit violence, refusal to use his gun, refusal to kill.
He finds where the other two guys are holed up and waits until they’re alone, then storms into their office to ask them for a few thousand more. Just a few thousand, then he’s out of their hair. They can’t believe their ears and one of them, sensing weakness, proposes a good, old-fashioned shootout, mano a mano.
Jesse wins and kills the two dudes, cowing the other three friends who are there. He takes the rest of the money and leaves—finally having chosen himself instead of sparing some other idiot’s life. In the final scene, we see him with Ed in Alaska somewhere, going off to his new life.
Recommended in general, but highly recommended for fans of Breaking Bad.
- American Gods S02 (2019) — 9/10
This season is just as visually stunning as season 1, if not more so. The story of the war of the Gods continues. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is still at the center of the action. His character grows in an interesting direction, getting more of a backbone the more he sees the treachery of the Gods.
We see a lot more of Mad Sweeney than in the book, but he’s played wonderfully by Pablo Schreiber and is integrated well into the main plotline. “Dead Wife” (Emily Browning) still rubs me all kinds of the wrong way—her unearned confidence is like a jarring note in the well-tuned orchestra of the other characters. This is possibly deliberate, but I’m never happy to see her show up.
The other characters are back, Crispin Glover as new God Mr. World, Bruce Langley with an expanded role as Technical Boy, the always-excellent Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, and, of course, Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday.
More and more, though, the stories, the fables, the legends, these define the style of the show. It’s an absolutely beautiful show, with wonderful music, that takes its time with scenes only tangentially connected to the main storyline. This is what makes a show good, even legendary. It’s not afraid to tell its story the way it wants, in a highbrow and cinematically lovely way, without worrying about whether bingers are going to like it or fast-forward through it.
I’m glad they made season two and am excited to hear that the story continues in season 3 (filming September 2019) and even a season 4 (currently being written by Gaiman et. al.)
- Emily Heller: Ice Thickeners (2019) — 8/10
I’d never heard of her before YouTube tossed up her special like video flotsam from the depths of the content ocean. I was very pleasantly surprised: her material is very naturally presented, not really self-deprecating but honest. Not unexpectedly, she talks about female issues: empowerment, therapy, diets, fat-shaming, working out, etc. Somehow, she’s very funny where so many others are preachy. She’s pretty awesome, actually—doesn’t give up humor for preaching/shaming. You can watch the video below.
- Bojack Horseman S06 (2019) — 9/10
The first half of the final season of this fantastic series sees Bojack in rehab. He’s so afraid of leaving rehab that he re-ups four times, driving his therapist (Champ, voiced by Sam Richardson, or Richard Splett from Veep) mad because he’s heard all of Bojack’s stories several times.
Princess Caroline is raising her hedgehog kid, with Todd’s help, although Todd (Aaron Paul) is still CEO at WhatTimeIsIt?.com and working on his dating app for asexuals.
Diane is going through her own journey, working for Sploosh as a hard-hitting journalist whose asked to be a lot less hard-hitting when Sploosh is acquired by a larger company, the White Whale Corp. (or something like that). She ends up moving in with her cameraman, Guy (LaKeith Stanfield), who tries to be a stable rock for her, but can’t prevent her from going back into depression.
Mr. Peanutbutter confesses to his fiancé Pickles that he cheated on her with Diane. They both agree that the only way to continue their relationship is to let her cheat on him with someone equally meaningful to her.
With Bojack traveling the country, visiting friends and family, Mr. Peanutbutter touring the country as the “face of depression” (highly ironic), we focus on Hollyhock, who’s growing up and going out in New York. Also, reporters have finally started digging into the circumstances surrounding Sarah Lynn’s death (Bojack’s former co-star, with whom he went on a wild bender just before she died a few seasons ago).
- Orange is the New Black S07 (2019) — 10/10
It was nice to see that the final season was the strongest one. Though the whole run has been about the drawbacks, unfairness and ugliness of the American prison system, it feels like they finally took the kid gloves off for the final season.
At the end of one of the previous seasons, many of the inmates had been scattered to the winds, to other prisons. We see that at least a few ended up in an ICE detainment center. Some of the ladies (Nicky, Gloria, Flaca, Red, Lorna) from Litchfield are sent there as cheap labor to work in the kitchen. We see the unfairness of a system that has everything to do with incarceration and punishment for having dared to transgress the sacred borders of the United States and nothing to do with justice or fairness or compassion.
Maritza ends up being deported “back” to Colombia, a country she’s never visited. Blanca hangs on to finally get justice and is one of the few success stories: she ends up going to Honduras to be with Angel, her husband, who’d been deported in a sweep.
Meanwhile, Red is in the early-to-mid stages of dementia exacerbated by a long stretch in solitary confinement (aging prison population), Lorna can’t handle that her child died (mental illness), Tasty is going back and forth on whether to kill herself because of her unjust sentencing for the riot (depression), Cindy is dealing with life on the outside, eventually as an itinerant/homeless person whose family doesn’t want to accept her back, Piper is dealing with being on parole—the piss tests, the difficult employment, the shaming, the judgment—and trying to figure out her relationship with Vause, who’s been once again forced into smuggling contraband for McCullogh, the least evil of the guards (and with whom she semi-starts a romantic relationship).
Suzanne stays Suzanne, for the most part, growing a bit and mourning the loss of her friend Pensatucky, who OD’d after she thought she’d been cheated out of her GED by a world that had proven itself to, once again, be callous and uncaring. The other guards are a mixed bag, with Dixon ending up being the nicest and Hellman the absolute worst (promoted to warden, at the end). Luschek redeems himself, in the end, but only after fucking things up royally.
Caputo and Fig have a decent story arc and end up being decent human beings, trying to make their way through a broken system. In the end, this season is a damning condemnation of the U.S. prison system and general attitude toward the poor, racial minorities, immigrants and anyone who isn’t rich and white. They didn’t hit it too hard—just right, I think. It felt more like a richly imagined documentary, at times. It’s possible that things are better than this, but everything you read in the news points to things being far, far worse.
- Atlanta S01 (2016) — 8/10
Donald Glover wrote, directed and stars in this series about the life of Earn, a young guy down on his luck and looking for a break in Atlanta. He has a daughter with Van (Zazie Beetz), but he’s technically homeless. So he crashes with Van, when he can, or with his Cousin Paperboi, an aspiring rapper. Earn convinces Paperboi to let him manage him and, together with Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), they slowly start to put some money together, though not much, and not consistently.
It’s an interesting vibe, with a lot of “skits” (for lack of a better word) about racism, basically. There’s one where Darius goes to a shooting range with a poster of a dog. He’s drummed out of the range for being a madman because he’s shooting dogs instead of people. There’s another where Earn is mistaken for another black man by a clueless white woman/agent. In another, Van and Earn visit her mother (I think?) whose white husband is so much “for the black people” that he’s an embarrassment. Another episode deals with the stupidity/shallowness of the club scene. Another deals with social-media stars who coattail on Paperboi to make their own “paper”. These are quite nuanced takes.
My favorite was the one where Darius helped Earn make more money. They started by selling Earn’s smartphone. In this first pawn shop, Darius asks Earn whether he needs the money that day or whether he wants to make more money. Earn hears and instead. So Darius tells him to trade for a kitana sword instead. They take it to friends of his and trade up again, this time for a Cane Corso. One stop later and they drop the dog off at another friend’s—this one way out in the countryside. Earn is growing more agitated and wonders when he’s going to get his money. “September”, says Darius. “[I] needed that money. Not in September. But … today. You see, I’m poor, Darius. And poor people don’t have time for investments. Because poor people are too busy trying not be poor. I need to eat today, not in September.” Darius gives him his smartphone, claiming he gets a new one every month anyway, so “people can’t track [him]”.
It’s a well-written show with great actors. Recommended.
- The Kominsky Method S02 (2019) — 9/10
The second season is almost as strong as the first one. We see Norman (Alan Arkin) start to put out feelers into the dating world, with Madeleine (Jane Seymour). His daughter gets out of rehab and seems to be putting her life back together and Norman must learn how to forgive her and believe in her once again.
Sandy (Michael Douglas) picks up where he left off, reconnecting with Lisa (Nancy Travis), at first platonically, then, once again, with benefits. His daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) moves in with the much older Martin (Paul Reiser), a retired schoolteacher, whom Sandy at first mistrusts, but then befriends. After Martin has a heart attack and has bypass surgery, Lisa asks Sandy to see a doctor, after which he is diagnosed with lung cancer. They caught it early and he starts immunotherapy treatments.
Mindy, as the owner of Kominsky’s studio, starts brining in other actors to support Sandy—something he doesn’t take well at all. However, the drug regimen he’s on brings out the worst in him and he’s starting to rub his students the wrong way. Norman considers grooming his grandson to take over his business—after seeing what a terrific salesman he is when he tries to convert Norman to Scientology (which he’d actually quit himself, and from which he’d stolen 1.3 million dollars).
The season ends with the two old fogies drinking scotch on Norman’s terrace, just like the end of the first season, a little further down life’s road and slightly more the worse for wear. Still highly recommended.
- Queer Eye S04 (2019) — 7/10
I gave it only a seven out of ten because the formula that they use necessitates repetition. Any individual show is an 8-to-9, but a whole season of them runs together and gets a little boring. It’s definitely not binge material, but, it’s nice filler, reliable, but doesn’t really knock your socks off.
They find pretty pleasant people on which to express their largess in the form of a truly staggering amount of money in the form of clothes and a complete home-remodeling. The five guys are still really good, working well together.
Poor Bobby still does the lion’s share of the work, redecorating an entire home while Anthony spends one afternoon in a kitchen, Tan goes shopping for a day, and Jonathan cuts hair and, if available, beard. Granted, Tan has to fill the whole closet and Karamo has to find fun things to do, but Bobby’s slaving away no matter where the others are. It’s still an uplifting show about generally nice people.
- Katherine Ryan: Glitter Room (2019) — 9/10
Ryan is very, very funny and very clever. She grew up in Canada and moved to England, where she lives the single-mom life with her daughter, Violet. A lot of her act centers on being a single mom, the judgment she gets from other mothers (“Jane’s on my dick all the time”), how everyone seems to think that she’s missing a man in her life, and how fancy and proper her daughter is (who, she purports, uses words that her Mom has to look up on Google). Highly recommended.
- Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby (2019) — 9/10
Meyers delivered a consummate, tight set that ranged from some low-key intro material about his job as a late-night host, then into the meat of the show: talking about his wife (OCD prosecutor), his marriage, his children and their births. Don’t be scared off, though: it’s very good material.
Not only that, but he reaps it twice: once when he tells the joke and then, later, when he’s pretending to be his wife telling her side of things. This is a really nice trick and it goes on for more than five minutes. He revisits many of the jokes he told and explains them from her perspective. At one point, he plays her playing him playing Sherlock Holmes. It was a very clever way of providing a unique second perspective on all of his jokes about his family and a different way of being self-deprecating.
About ¾ of the way through, he goes into his first political material. It’s also very good and he introduces this section with a “Skip Politics” button. This is 100% legit. It is a “safe space” button for thin-skinned MAGAs. He does about ten minutes of top-notch political material, then finishes by pausing and then saying: “So my point is I guess I misjudged him and I think he’s a very good president.” If you press “Skip Politics”, you’re taken to exactly that moment. Again, smooth, very smooth.
I thought his best political joke was when he compared being a comedian during the Trump presidency to being a gravedigger in the Middle Ages.
He finishes the segment about his wife by saying that as long as he can enjoy turning around a single coat-hanger in his OCD wife’s closet and then waiting until her “Spidey Sense” goes off, he’ll be happy in his marriage. He finishes the segment playing his wife talking about him saying that as long as she can enjoy making her husband scan the fridge, bathed in blue light, for a yogurt that isn’t there because he’s too afraid to ask her again, she’ll be happy in her marriage.