Tuesday, March 30, 2021

TV Snide: For March 2021

Movie of the month: Queen and Slim (HBO Max): Daniel Culuuya is one of my favorite actors, and he is on fire in this one with Jodie Turner-Smith, as the two are accused of killing a cop and fleeing on an epic 6 days to get to their escape hatch. It’s a strong statement on how some white people are so clueless when it comes to understanding the richness of so many Black people’s lives. 5 out of 5 stars 

TV of the Month: Brady Bunch Season 5 (Hulu): Arguably slightly inferior to Season 4 and its Hawaii episodes, the last year of this show is still must-see TV. My young daughter and I watched the season and she would stare open-mouthed at the screen the whole time as wonderful morals bounced around everywhere. The entire series abruptly ends when Greg accidentally bleaches his hair before high-school graduation and the real-life Mike Brady refuses to appear because he doesn’t like the premise, not knowing this was to be the final, anti-climactic episode. 5 out of 5 stars

Reading of the Month: Danny Sugerman, “It’s My Life:” This is an excerpt from one of my favorite rock books, Wonderland Avenue. The author is 12 years old when he first encounters Jim Morrison, who thinks the kid is stealing his band's equipment. Turns out he is helping his Little League umpire, who offered to take him to see The Doors and be a roadie if he hit a home run. The home run happened and the concert was the point Sugerman's life dramatically took focus. He also badly missed his curfew due to The Doors’ extremely late and tardy performance.  From The Penguin Book of Rock & Roll Writing. 5 out of 5 stars

Patti Smith: “The Rise of the Sacred Monsters:” The rock poet’s essay for Creem places the reader in her swampy house at the moment she sacrifices her complete allegiance to her father, who rants about the obscenity on TV that is the Rolling Stones’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan. She completely falls in lust with the band and in love with rock music. I have never been a big fan of Smith’s music, but this is one of the great pieces of music writing, and is available in The Penguin Book of Rock & Roll Writing. 5 out of 5 stars

Julie and the Phantoms Season 1 (Netflix): I’m pretty sure it’s not just because I have a 7-year-old daughter that I love this show. It’s so well written  and heartfelt, with music that is truly catchy for adults and probably too-die-for for kids. It’s simply everything a TV show should be and a classic first season. 5 out of 5 stars 

Nomadland (Hulu): Frances McDormand turns in a powerhouse performance of likable sorrow. After her husband's plant shuts down and he dies, she goes out on the road to see a different side of life from the seat of her 15-passenger van. No wonder it won the Golden Globe for best drama movie, it’s a wrenching mix of joyful and sad. 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Citizen Kane (HBO Max): Being often called the greatest film is quite an overstatement, but Orson Wells’ masterpiece is indeed riveting. Taking parts of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer’s lives as newspaper magnates, and mixing in a lot of shades of Trump to come, the tycoon falls apart and finally dies longing the days before his parents gave him away. 4.5 out of 5 stars

kid90 (Hulu): Soleil Moon Frye, better knows as Punky Brewster, took copious notes and video footage of her years growing up in the ‘90s with her celebrity friends. How she rebuilds the story of her life for us is truly fascinating, with help along the way from stars of 90210, Saved By the Bell, House of Pain, Jane’s Addiction, and the skateboarder movie Kids, to name a few. My high school and undergrad years flashed before my eyes. 4 out of 4 stars

Coming 2 America (Amazon Prime): Eddie Murphy compiles an ensemble cast that kills it in this wacky wonderful spoof of Black Panther and a look at what happens when the cultures of an African nation and Brooklyn collide. 4 out of 5 stars

Moxie (Netflix): Amy Poehler stars as the former rebel-girl mom to a quiet girl who ends up leading a revolution against toxic male culture at her high school. The empowering story is made even better with Mac McCaughan of Superchunk supplying the musical score. 4 out of 5 stars

Tom and Jerry (HBO Max): A family fun good time with all the classic adventures of the cat and mouse in a live-action adventure ala Roger Rabbit. Chloe Grace Moretz is adorable as an impostor trying to event manage a major celebrity wedding in a New York City hotel. 4 out of 5 stars

The Flight Attendant Season 1 (HBO Max): Kaley Cuoco is captivating - and makes me want to finally watch some episodes of The Big Bang Theory - in this mash up of trying-to-be-Hitchcock and the often funny but still annoying HBO show Girls. As Cuoco and her fellow flight attendants spring surprises about who they are, lots of interesting insights show up to display how these are people who are invisible to the world but have aspirations to be much more. A second season has been promised and it will be interesting if they can keep up the twists and intrigue. 3.5 out of 5 stars

The White Tiger (Netflix): A rags to riches tale of a rural kid growing up and running away to build an entrepreneurial route through the tangled web of Dubai. He does a great (if crooked) job in his professional life, but his personal life is unimaginably sad. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kingpin (Sling TV): Woody Harrelson could save any sinking ship. This Farrelly Brothers comedy is not that, but Harrelson - as a washed up superstar bowler - is at his funniest, his arch nemesis Bill Murray is at his Donald Trump-iest, and the 90s soundtrack is top notch, even including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stage appearance by Urge Overkill. 3.5 out of 5

Fleabag Season 1 (Netflix): I know this show was all the hype, and it definitely has a few laugh-out-loud lines per episode, but I think it moves a little slow. Definitely worth checking out. I’ll be interested to see if Season 2, what with all the accolades it’s received, gets better. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

TV Snide: For February 2021

New Bonus Feature: Book of the Month (That I Read): Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, which is his second novel and one I somehow never read. I guess I thought I had because the prequel and sequel are short stories in the classic Night Shift collection. But there may not be a better vampire novel ever, Dracula included. 5 out of 5 stars

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix): Creator Aaron Sorkin simply does what more TV and movies should be doing - telling the stories that shape history. Varying peace-loving folk heroes are on trial for inciting a riot outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the Windy City. They fight the power surprisingly effectively. Sash Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Mark Rylance as the lawyer for the defense, and Frank Langella as the judge really shine. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Before Sunrise (HBO Max): A throwback to the 90s with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who meet on a train and spend one amazing night together in Vienna. This is not for action-flick fans, there’s non-stop pondering on the meaning of life and love, but since I may never get to visit my brother, because of COVID-19, while he lives for a while in the Austrian city, this serves as a very worthy replacement. 4 out of 5 stars

Bloodline (Netflix): The show, featuring Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights fame, began as potentially one of my favorite dramas ever. It sputtered in the final Season 3, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is slow moving and a letdown probably because it was cancelled and an expected six seasons had to be wrapped up quickly. Chandler, Sissy Spacek and Ben Mendelsohn’s performances remained great to the end but were over-dramatic because of the twisted non-sensical-ness of the overall plot line. I say an Academy Award definitely goes to the setting of the Florida’s Keys. 4 out of 5 stars

Elite (Netflix): During the first season of this drama series, I couldn’t even tell it was dubbed from Spanish. Which was ok because it lent to the endearing weirdness of the psycho 90210 vibe. That first season and the second at the high school near Madrid were gripping, but by season 3, the melodrama of the endlessly deceitful and increasingly unlikeable group of friends grew tiring. 3.5 out of 5

The Little Things (HBO Max): Denzel Washington and Rami Malek are great as cops on the hunt for a serial killer in noir ‘90s Los Angeles. And the first half is very entertaining, but Jared Leto enters the film in the second half and, although he’s usually pretty good, his version of this psycho is boring, slow, and not that interesting. 3 out of 5 stars

Framing Britney Spears (Hulu): The general biographical portion of the pop star’s life is really fascinating, but then the hour-long doc focuses on her ongoing conservatorship struggles with her dad, which is certainly sad and perhaps wrong but also bordering on the technical, which seems very out of place. 3 out of 5 stars

Dr. Sleep (HBO Max): I really enjoyed this book (although that can be said by me about nearly all Stephen King books), but this follow up to The Shining just has too much going on to make it a cohesive movie. Ewan McGregor is fine as Danny Torrence, but if I hadn’t been focused on how they adapted the book, I’m not sure I could have stuck with the full 2.5-hour running time. 2.5 out of 5

Woody vs. Mia (HBO Max): I love Allen’s books and movies. Like with Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, and others, this presents yet another artist who forces me to make a call on whether to still like someone’s art despite personal shortcomings. I’m obviously biased, but Farrow seems to hold a grudge against Woody for often choosing his art over his family. I watched the first episode but probably won’t watch the rest. 2.5 out of 5 stars