Sunday, June 11, 2023

TV Snide: May 2023

TV Show of the Month: The Bear - Season 1 (Hulu): A Chicagoland beef joint goes through growing pains as one brother dies, leading the way for brother Carmen to return from his tour working at top restaurants around the world. He has serious brother issues to work out, but finds a family in the restaurant’s co-workers. An incredibly special cast is led by Jeremy Allen White of Shameless fame and Ayo Edibiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and L-Boy. There are parts that take me way back to my college years working at IMO’s Pizza. And it’s a beautiful thing. 5 out of 5 stars 

The Sex Lives of College Girls - Season 1 (HBO Max): This was a surprise. I thought this might be something to see on a whim and give up after an episode or two. But several friends’ recommendations were not wrong. This is the modern version of Beverly Hills 90210, but, dare I say, funnier. The four roommates are all needles in the haystack. The casting directors should win awards. The story is that these girls are just trying to make it through the start of college, and it truly takes me back to my freshman year, in a way that no other show has ever done for me. 5 out of 5 stars

Concert of the Month: The New Pornographers at 9:30 Club in DC: The band, although without weirdo Dan Bejar, was firing on all cylinders with a greatest hits set that included some top-notch additions from their new release. The only song I wish they would have played was “Letter to an Occupant” from Mass Romantic. But adding to the excellence of the evening was the fact that friend Alexis beelined me, Kevin, his friend Mark, and Ruben up to near the stage, something I don’t do that often anymore, and the early start time was pretty nice for we old folks as well. 5 out of 5 stars.

Short Story of the Month: “Babylon Revisited,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1931): Charlie has returned to Paris two years after ending up in a sanitarium because of his wife’s death during the heyday of post-Depression cafe society. He is making the case to his sister-in-law and her husband that he is well enough now to take back custody of his young daughter Honoria. The plan appears to be that he will take her back to his home in Prague, but then two bad actors from his wild days resurface and put custody of his daughter back into question. A wonderful snippet of that time and place. Fitzgerald is obviously a true master of fiction. 5 out of 5 stars

Movie of the Month: The Blair Witch Project (Paramount Plus): The best thing about watching this for a first time, like my son just did, is going in cold and not knowing whether this is real or fiction. I remember back to when I first saw it and being pretty terrified about the creepy found footage from the Maryland woods. The pure unprofessionalism of it all is what makes it so oddly compelling. One of the top horror flicks of the 1990s. 5 out of 5 stars

The Natural (Showtime): I always thought I had already seen this 1984 classic, but I hadn’t, so it was extra special to watch with my 15-year-old son. Robert Redford plays the amiable and talented Roy Hobbs, who gets shot right as his pro baseball career is taking off. He makes a comeback for the New York Knights 16 years later and battles his way through crooked owners and lousy ladies to find a sweet path that includes childhood sweetheart Glenn Close. 5 out of 5 stars

“Pet Milk,” by Stuart Dybek is a romantic little read that seems perfectly of its 1984 time, and I also somehow feel I read it at some point long long ago. It oddly starts with an image of the narrator’s grandmother serving Pet milk as coffee creamer and then takes us through the 22-year-old on a date that ends with him making love to his girlfriend in the L back from downtown Chicago to her place in Evanston as other passengers look on from platforms they pass. 5 out of 5 stars

Only Murders in the Building - Season 2 (Hulu): Anyone who is a fan of Selena Gomez or Steve Martin or Martin Short will definitely like this mix of wacky humor and solid murder mystery. The gang tries to solve the killing of an elderly woman in the building, leading them through a raft of possible suspects, including Tina Fey. 4.5 out of 5 stars

30 for 30: Elway to Marino (ESPN): This is a great story of what was to be the first major NFL Draft event with fans attending in person and TV cameras capturing every move. When Pete Rozell calls John Elway’s name first overall to the Baltimore Colts, it sparks bidding wars throughout the league, as Elway refuses to play for Owner Robert Irsay and a management style under which he doesn’t think he’ll find success. Meanwhile, Dan Marino of the University of Pittsburgh doesn’t go until #23, which is particularly painful to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Chuck Noll refused to grab him and, as fate would have it, Terry Bradshaw would suffer a career-ending elbow injury in the first game of the year and their pick Gabriel Rivera was paralyzed six weeks later in a car crash. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Wheaton AMC): This series is wildly entertaining to me, someone who doesn’t get too excited about most superhero movies. Star Lord and the gang are back to save Rocket Raccoon, who is the focus of this chapter. His backstory is revealed, which includes escaping from an animal experiment prison and going on to become a world-class pilot and member of the Guardians. Does the battling and destruction the gang faces in this one, including a major battle on an alternate Earth, mean the end of their nucleus? It sure seems like it. 4.5 out of 5 stars

“The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien (1986): This short story starts by exhaustively giving lists of what a troop of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam carry with them on their marches. It’s an interesting perspective of what war is like. Then it segues to following the sergeant, Jimmy Scott, in his metamorphosis from pining in love with a girl back home to burning her photos and letters so he can focus himself on leading his soldiers. 4 out of 5 stars.

Moonfall (HBO Max): Patrick Wilson and Halle Berry lead the cast in this creative 2022 sci-fi flick in which the moon tilts out of its axis and heads on a collision course with Earth. The lead actors are astronauts who need to save both the day and their family members. It’s a very big ask. But the effects and dialogue all work really well in an entertaining rollick. 4 out of 5 stars.

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