Category Archives: TV

I’m Enjoying The Masked Singer

I usually don’t like reality tv shows, singing contest shows, etc. but I think they have a winner here.

The judges are cheesy as they throw out guesses that seem like they are pre-rehearsed, just to push the audience in a direction but ultimately, its a lot of fun.

If you haven’t seen it yet, celebrities put on masks and elaborate costumes and sing away.  There is usually a pre-packaged bit where the masked celebrity in a squeaky altered voice drops a few clues, but the clues are often vague and hard to pin down.

Currently, I’m trying to figure out who The Skeleton is.  I’m thinking either Dan Akroyd or Paul Schaeffer.

Who do you think the masked singers are, 3.5?

 

Tagged ,

TV Review – Stranger Things Season 3 (1980)

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

It took me awhile but I finally got through Season 3 of Stranger Things.

These are probably bland observations but I’ll make them all the same.

#1 – The nostalgia factor for someone who grew up in the 80s is fun.  From the music choices to the overall feel, the Duffer brothers know that decade which is odd because I don’t think they spent a lot of time in it.

#2 – Often in movies about kids who save the day, the kids are usually presented as geniuses and the adults as bumbling idiots who get in the way  Here, not so much.  Hopper and Joyce are integral to the plot and aren’t treated like dummies getting in the kids’ way.  Also, the kids are kids.  They make kid mistakes and they need, or rather even seek out parental help because they know their limits whereas other films would show a kid genius who is just being slowed down by the adults.

#3 – Look away if you don’t want spoilers, but the final mall battle where the kids throw fireworks bombs at the monster is visually stunning and fun to watch.

#4 – Russians are the villains and kids and adults alike really dump on them throughout the season, calling them commies and deriding communism as evil and corrupt.  I didn’t think that was allowed anymore in today’s PC world, even in a period piece.

#5 – They do tend to work 80s era actors into the series.  Winona Ryder, aka Joyce was a popular kid actor in the 80s.  Sean Astin of Goonies fame has a brief role as her love interest in Season 2.  In Season 3, Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame plays a villainous mayor.  Comedian Paul Reiser plays a scientist that experiments on the evil monsters.

#6 – I think the challenge for the show was trying to keep reinvent itself after an initial plotline that was cool at first but over time became somewhat limiting.  For example, after two seasons of battling evil monsters that inhabit the “upside-down” version of their town (basically, an evil parallel universe) one wonders why anyone still chooses to continue to live in Hawkins, Indiana.  Season 3 upped the game by bringing Russians conducting an evil experiment in the bowels of that 1980s staple, the shopping mall and it looks like (spoiler alert) Season 4 will likely involve a plot to rescue Hopper from the upside-down.

#7 – I’ve run out of observations but if you have any, leave them in the comments.  In the meantime, don’t click on the video below if you don’t want a spoiler.  Otherwise, enjoy the kids’ rendition of “The Neverending Story” theme song.

Tagged , , , ,

TV Review – Team Foxcatcher (2016)

Have you ever looked the other way on a friend or loved one’s mental illness because they have money?

Maybe you rationalized taking an insult because they pay the rent.  Maybe you sucked it up and turned a blind eye to their abuse because you have nowhere else to go.

As the story of “Team Foxcatcher” unfolds, you realize that there were numerous early warning signs that multi-millionaire John du Pont, heir to the vast chemical company fortune, was one hair’s breadth away from snapping like a twig.

And while in hindsight, it’s easy to blame the wrestlers, the estate employees, the coaches, the local police, the Wrestling Association and so on, one has to remember that financial security is the end all/be all of life and few will be willing to bite the hand that feeds them until the abuse just can’t be ignored anymore.

The boiling point came when du Pont shot and killed Dave Schultz, an Olympic wrestler and family man who he’d invited to train on his property.  Once the gun was fired, everyone surrounding the murderous madman realized they should have seen it coming and yet, in the years leading up to it, no one did.

This documentary does a great job of telling the story of du Pont’s long descent into madness, and how so many people who depended upon him were willing to look the other way on his mental illness because he was their goose who laid the golden egg.  (And in many respects, while money initially got them into his life, love for the man got them to stay.)

We learn that Du Pont has been socially isolated and sheltered his entire life.  He grew up in posh wealth with his mother, but never had any friends and never met a sticky situation that he couldn’t buy his way out of.  Although a man of great wealth, it was his father and others before him that built the company and so, he has spent his life as an eccentric, awkward weirdo, desperately wanting to do something that would leave his own mark, earn him respect independent of his family name and money, and so on.

Ironically, he almost got there.  A sports fan who didn’t make it as an athlete himself, he builds an athletic complex on his large, sprawling PA estate and invites America’s greatest Olympians to come and train.  He is quickly hailed as a hero, especially to wrestlers, who are typically dominated by the Russians.  We are told that wrestling is a rather complicated sport, taking years to master, and by the time a wrestler really gets the hang of it, he has to quit and find a paying job to support his family.  Russia pays its wrestlers and du Pont solves the problem by paying the wrestlers a salary out of his own pocket and even given them homes on his property.

Though truly a loon, he might have gone down in history as a great benefactor for American sports.  But alas, as the documentary unfolds, he gets crazier and crazier until tragedy strikes.

The documentary tells the tale of a man coddled by everyone, for he has coddled them with his money and so they are essentially returning the favor.  Not happy to sit back and take praise the way so many other pro sports team owners do after a major win, Du Pont wants to get involved and train with the wrestlers, though he has zero skill to offer and is an old man.

He says weird things.  He does weird things.  He has guns.  A lot of guns.

The warning signs were there.  Perhaps not so much that he would kill someone, but there were situations where had it been a poor person doing what he did, people wouldn’t stand for it.

For example, du Pont develops a strange fear of anything colored black, and demands that anything black be removed from his estate.  No black clothes.  No black cars.  No black paint on buildings.  He even fires all the black wrestlers.  Du Pont argues it is nothing personal or racist, he just can’t stomach the color black anymore.  As a high ranking wrestling official (I forget the name of the organization) explains, that moment should have been the point where his group should have cut ties with du Pont but alas, there just wasn’t another way for wrestlers to train and afford a decent living.

Local law enforcement is aware that du Pont is a loon too but du Pont has helped them with his money over the years.

Du Pont becomes paranoid and hires serious, big time security agents.  He’s convinced there are secret tunnels on his estate and spies hiding in his walls and though they agents realize these beliefs are crazy, they investigate his strange claims anyway…and the viewer is left to debate whether or not they should have just told him he’s an idiot or if they were just doing a job they were hired to do.

It all comes to a head when du Pont becomes increasingly jealous of Dave Schultz, the wrestler that everyone on the team rallies around and views as their leader.  Du Pont wants to be loved just as much, but no matter how much dough he doles out, he just can’t get as much love…and eventually breaks down and sadly, shoots Schultz, killing him.

The Foxcatcher movie with Steve Carrell was great, but I think the documentary did a better job of showing how people around Du Pont realized he was nuts and should have removed themselves from him….but its one of those things where you support your crazy uncle figure until his craziness consumes him.

And ultimately, it is a sad story.  Schultz could have gone one last victory before retirement and being with his family.  Du Pont could have maybe seen a shrink and gotten some help and gone down as a respected sports philanthropist but…sadly, mental illness took its toll.

STATUS: Shelfworthy.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Game of Thrones Recap – Season 8, Episode 1

Well, 3.5 readers, the final episodes are here.

I’ve been blogging about this show since this fine blog began.  Come to think of it, HBO probably owes all their success to me, since I sent my 3.5 readers their way.

So now, the end begins and we begin to watch the end.

Spoiler alert.

Jon Snow and Khaleesi are in Winterfell and the Northerners don’t like all the new people.  Jon learns that his bae is also his aunt so now he is an auntie fucker.

The dragons aren’t eating enough, the White Walkers are at the door, Cersei’s still a bitch.  I don’t know.  That’s about it.

My, how fast the past decade has flown.  This show has always been a welcome favorite, something riveting enough that I was always able to turn it on Sunday nights and for a brief hour, get lost in another world.

Six episodes doesn’t seem long enough to tie up the loose ends, but here’s hoping they will be.

Tagged , , ,

A Look at the First Episode of The Umbrella Academy

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

I just watched the first episode of Umbrella Academy.  If you’ve watched more, I’d thank you to not give away any spoilers.  I will eventually return to this fine blog to discuss the first season.

My initial impression is its great.  Before I saw it, I scoffed for a number of reasons.

  1. Anything with too many characters tends to be a mess.  There’s like 7 main characters here plus supporting characters.  Seems destined to be a pot of gumbo where everyone gets lost in the steam, but somehow, everyone gets their moment to shine.
  2. Movies about long established heroes are great.  Movies about new superheroes tend to stink.  I’ll give this show credit though.  It is based on a Dark Horse Comic so perhaps if newer heroes have a chance to percolate in comics first, then they’ll shine on the screen.
  3. It reminded me of Watchmen, which everyone said was genius but I thought stunk.  Again, a bunch of heroes you hadn’t heard of before, all thrown at us at once, each getting less than five minutes to show their power.  Somehow that was lame but this looks good.

The plot thus far is that in 1989, 40 (I think that’s the number) children were born immaculately on one day.  The mothers had not been pregnant previously.  The kids just popped out unexpectedly.

An eccentric, reclusive billionaire with a penchant for collecting exotic things adopts 7 of these kids.  He starts a school for superheroes in his house, training his new wards to use their powers.

His methods turn the kids into (mostly) powerful grownups.  Some have gone on to do great things.  Others flounder and fail.  All blame their problems on their father’s cold, uncaring aloofness.  The only source of love the children ever had was their father’s robot wife and monkey butler.

By the way, is there something wrong with me that I think it would be awesome to have a robot wife and monkey butler?  Thus far, there has been little explanation as to how the robot wife and monkey butler came to be but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more on that in future episodes.  Ironically, in a series with 7 heroes, the robot wife and monkey butler pique my interest the most.

Not that the heroes are slouches.  Overall, the first episode was cinematic.  Lots of cool fights and special effects.  Cinematic quality.  Had this been laid out in a movie that I paid money to see, I would have walked away happy.

Netflix really upped their game here.  I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve watched the first season but so far, I am impressed and willing to watch more.

STATUS; Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , ,

SNL Skit – Millennial Millions

It’s been awhile since SNL had me doubled over laughing, but Aidy’s song had me in hysterics.  “Who are the boomers?  Oh, they had all the sex and they made all the music and they got all the jobs and they made all the money and they bought all the houses and now they’ll never die!”

They nailed each generation perfectly.  Like Keenan, I’m Gen X, so I’ve already given up and now I’m just sitting on the sidelines and watching the world burn:

 

Tagged , , ,

TV Review – Escape at Dannemora (2018)

We’re all living in our own personal prison, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.”

FYI – This TV show was based on real life events that were all over the news in the summer of 2015.  To that end, it’s hard to say there are SPOILERS ahead but there are, because even if you watched the stories, there’s still a lot in the show you may never heard of.

At any rate, if you haven’t watched this show yet and want to, I’d recommend looking away and coming back after you’ve seen it.  Otherwise, come on in.

Yes, 3.5 readers.  We’re all stuck in our own personal prison.  We all have our hopes, our dreams, our wants and our desires and yet, we also carry around with us our only personal set of bars comprised of our own circumstances and our own preconceived notions that keep us from attaining what we want.

That’s what I took away from this show and I must say, while I assumed it was going to be a piece of slapped together “ripped from the headlines” trash going into it, it really is a great work of storytelling and I hope it gets many awards.

The hard part of writing a story is that to retain the audience’s attention, the main characters must be presented as likable or at the very least, sympathetic.  Otherwise, it’s too easy for a viewer to say, “I hope that piece of shit rots” and change the channel.

How does one make these characters sympathetic?  After all, you’ve got two heinous killers who deserve every second of their sentence and then some and their illicit lover/accomplice, i.e. someone who was trusted to work with prison inmates and teach them how to sew in a tailor shop only to betray that trust by having sex with them and smuggling in their escape tools. Throw the book at them and call it a day.

Ironically, Ben Stiller, long known for his wacky, zany comedies, breaks out of his own comedy prison to provide a serious crime drama and excels, perhaps letting us know that his “Simple Jack” days are behind him and he now has his eyes on Oscar gold.

In a masterful use of “show don’t tell,” Stiller manages to find a little kernel of in this gruesome trio and ultimately the show becomes a morality tale about how dangerous and destructive it is to hope for outcomes that are far beyond your abilities to achieve them.

The best example comes early in the series when prison seamstress Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell (Patricia Arquette), a 51-year old wife and mother, gets dragged by her dopey husband and co-worker, Lyle (Eric Lange) on the worst date ever, a small town history museum in upstate New York.  As Tilly heads outside, she looks across to a bar, where a man with a flashy car is getting doted on by two hot, young babes.  Stiller doesn’t spell anything out.  The expression on Tilly’s face tells us everything.  She smiles.  She gets lost in her mind.  She wishes she was one of those hot young babes getting squired around town by a man with a lot of money.

Alas, Tilly’s frown turns upside down.  Darn it.  She remembers.  She’s not a hot young babe.  She never will be.  She’s a chubby 51-year old woman with a closet full of novelty sweatshirts and a small house and two dogs and a dumb husband and a set of bad teeth and bad hair and she has no money and well, the list goes on and on and on.

Ironic, isn’t it?  We constantly hear in the news about the struggles of men who believe that they are women or vice versa.  What about people who, on the inside, believe they are awesome despite an exterior that looks anything but?  Where’s the civil rights march for dumpy old ladies who truly believe they are worthy of being treated as a rich man’s latest conquest?

It’s a great scene and anyone interested in TV writing should study it.  Arquette’s facial expressions tell us more than any narrator could.  By the way, speaking of breaking out of our personal prisons, this is a role that is totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen Patricia Arquette in.

I’ve always thought Arquette was a decent enough actress but I’ve never been a huge fan because she tends to be one of those celebrities that gets extra political and also she tends to play school marmish characters.  To her credit, she’s long been a strong woman who plays strong women, but she breaks the mold here by playing a woman who is the very definition of weak, if not stupid and naïve.

Arquette gets uglied up and then some for the camera.  Make-up artists worked their magic to crap up her hair, skin and teeth but Arquette brings it home.  As Tilly, she has a look on her face of constant confusion, torn every which way.  You’ve heard of the man child that never grows up?  Tilly is the woman child, unable to accept her limits, her circumstances, her inability to realize that being arm candy for a rich stud is not in the cards for her and that perhaps she should try to make the best of it with her husband who may be a complete doofus but at least he’s a loyal and loving doofus.

How did Arquette master Tilly’s face and mannerisms?  Beats me.  She has this look like she just smelled a fart while sucking on a lemon.  She can go from utterly befuddled loser to cunning duplicitous backstabber and back again.  Occasionally throughout the series, she is confronted by her co-workers and husband who see reasons to be suspicious and she reacts in the classic mode of a child throwing a temper tantrum after being caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  It’s not my fault that I did something bad.  It’s your fault for catching me doing something bad.

Honestly, I can’t praise Arquette enough here.  She deserves an Emmy.  In fact, all of her co-stars do because they all seem to be breaking out of their traditional roles.

Benicio del Toro has built a career on playing strong, swarthy, stoic Hispanic men of little words.  At first, it seems like he’s cast to type as Richard Matt, the convicted killer who bosses and bullies her fellow prisoners around and turns them into his subordinate underlings with little more than an angry glare.

Like Tilly, Matt has a dream that is beyond his means.  He wants to be free.  He keeps closing his eyes and envisions himself riding on a horse on the countryside.  He keeps hoping this despite the fact that he’s stuck in a cell that’s a glorified closet.

SPOILER ALERT:  Does hope get these characters anywhere?  Nope.  Del Toro retains his stoic, ultra-macho façade for most of the series until the last episode, where the reality of being on the run from the law doesn’t match up with his dreams. He dreamed of being a cowboy on a horse.  He got walking all day and night through the forest, sleeping in ditches, drinking germ infested stream water that makes him puke and it all culminates in him cracking under pressure, drinking himself into a stupor until he chases away his accomplice who was practically carrying him.  The emotion and weakness is unusual for a del Toro character, but he does it well.

Even Paul Dano as convicted cop killer David Sweat goes against type.  He’s usually plays youthful, baby faced dimwits but here he plays well, a youthful, baby faced young man who is getting run through the ringer of prison’s school of hard knocks.  No doubt he deserves to be there, but each knock makes him tougher and harder, much more so than any previous Dano character.

Long story short, Matt is the con man that secures the illicit escape tools.  Dano is the brawn that stays up into the wee hours sneaking into a catwalk and cutting and breaking through various barriers until an outside manhole in a suburban neighborhood is found.  Meanwhile, Tilly is the dope who somehow believes that a life where she becomes the plaything of two dangerous criminals on the run in a lavish lifestyle on a Mexican beach is actually attainable and/or something that would work out and be fun to do.

Stiller plays with us throughout.  There’s a scene where Tilly brings a twenty dollar bill to a hardware store purchase cutting tools for her boy toys.  She looks at the receipt, sees the total is 21-something, looks at the impulse bag of chips that she’s already begun stuffing her face with, then shrugs her shoulders and uses a traceable credit car to buy the illegal contraband, showing us that a master criminal she is not.

He also pays attention to details in the setting.  The area surrounding the prison is presented as a real life Hoth, any icy American Siberia where it is bone chillingly cold throughout the year and people have to bundle up well into the summer.  Prisoners freeze their asses off.  Residents are stuck in their houses because it is oppressively cold to go out and do anything else.

On top of that, the soundtrack is a playlist of 2015’s top songs.  Tilly constantly listens to pop songs – Nicki Minaj, Meghan Trainor, Bruno Mars et. al, another sign she has a childish brain in an aging body.

Well, if I say much more I’ll give away the whole story but one more credit to Stiller.  He focuses most of the show on the planning of the escape itself, giving us the details of all the evil doings that happened, followed by an episode that begins with a long shot where Dano does a trial run through the long path he has cleared through the bowels of the prison.

Then, just in case you had a little bit in you that said, “Wow!  Amazing that they managed to escape!” Stiller gives us the second to last episode where he reviews in detail the heinous crimes these men did, the lives they destroyed and ultimately reminds us that as remarkable as it is that these men managed to escape, they still deserve to rot in jail for they are examples of true evil.  I won’t get too far into it, but it is made clear that both men did despicable crimes that can’t be forgiven or explained away or written off as the byproduct of a bad upbringing or something.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Awards deserved for the cast and director all around.

Tagged , , , ,

TV Review – House of Cards – Season 6

As they say in Gaffney, all good things come to an end.

BQB here with a review of “House of Cards.”

You know, 3.5 readers.  There ought to be a rule.  Call it “The Spacey Rule.”  If you’re an actor about to take a role in a compelling TV series that hinges on that role, you should not have allegations of pervery against you.

Spacey’s character, Francis Underwood, a ruthless, cunning politician who bargained, bribed, bought, cajoled, sweet talked, murdered, screwed (literally and figuratively) and worse, convinced many of his victims to do themselves in, was crucial to the series.

Indeed, Claire (Robin Wright Penn) was his partner-in-crime and before Spacey’s alleged pervery was made public, it looked like the show was heading toward an eventual showdown where the President and First Lady would duke it out.

Thus, the writers were boxed in with this last season.  No season without Francis was going to feel satisfying and yet, to not provide some kind of ending would be a letdown as well.

At the beginning of this final season, Claire is in the first 100 days of her presidency.  Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear play a brother/sister team of wealthy business moguls who apparently were bankrolling the Underwoods and expecting favors in return, though this is the first we’ve heard of them.

Francis is dead, ostensibly due to an overdose of prescription medication, though true accidents without someone at fault rarely, if ever, happen on this show, unless some sort of nefarious evildoer wants it to seem that way.

Claire has learned the art of underhanded politics from the master himself and now free of her husband, she wants to make one last series of weaselly doings to secure her power, push out her enemies and, one might assume, make the world a better place?

Her foil is Doug Stamper, Francis’ longtime henchman.  Claire wants to throw Francis’ reputation under the bus to save herself.  Doug wants to save Francis’ legacy.

Claire, the bro/sis team and Doug go all in on a battle royale and indeed, there is a victor but I won’t spoil it for you.

Suffice to say, imagine if you were invited to a fancy dinner at a friend’s house.  You were promised that if you work your way through five courses, each more tasty than the last, you’d eventually get to that final sixth course that would make your toes curl and your taste buds scream out in orgasmic delight.

Then, alas, your friend comes out and says, “Hey, I’m so sorry, my head chef just got fired due to allegations of pervery so I’m not able to serve you that sixth course you long waited for but hey, here is a tasty bag of Funions.”

Sure, you’ll eat the Funions.  You’ll enjoy the Funions but…you’ll always wish that head chef had kept it in his pants so he could have stuck around to make that final filet mignon.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  The writers made the best out of a bad situation and ultimately, Spacey is the one to blame but it’s hard not to think about how satisfying a final Francis-centric season would have been and sigh a sad, defeated sigh.

Tagged , , ,

Daily Discussion with BQB – Don’t Make a Breaking Bad Movie

I liked Breaking Bad but I don’t think they should continue it with a movie.

Oh, if you missed it, Bryan Cranston said in an interview that there would be a movie, or that he’d love to be in a movie or whatever.  Not sure exactly but it was hinted that there would be one.

I just think that series was wrapped up well and it is rare that happens, when all the threads pulled are tied up and viewers are left satisfied.  Let’s not spoil that.

Plus, what has it been, ten years since that show started?  Walter White would have to have the slowest moving cancer ever…on top of being shot in the finale.

Oh shut up you’ve had five years to see it.

Tagged , ,

TV Review – The Conners (2018)

 

Roseanne epically shot herself in the foot.  There’s no doubt about it.  She had a major comeback only to throw it all away by making a stupid racist comment.

So I get why they cancelled her show…but I think it was stupid to bring it back without her.

Roseanne was that show and even without her, she’s still there.  All the characters do now is talk about her.  Who needs to watch a sad show that’s supposed to be a comedy even though the family is grieving about their dead mother?

I think they could have come up with something funnier.  Roseanne loses her mind and goes on a wild, cross-country crime spree.  Maybe Roseanne gets kicked out of Lanford for being a racist.  Maybe she posts a racist tweet.  Maybe offends the entire town for being racist and her family has to put up with her hiding in the basement from everyone who wants to rip her a new one.  Once in awhile, the family tosses some food down the basement and someone doing a Roseanne impression cackles.

I just think that she’s dead is so dark for a comedy.  I get that ABC and all the actors were riding on this comeback and Roseanne screwed it up so they should at least get another season but man, I don’t know…I just think they could have thought of a funnier explanation as to why Roseanne isn’t around anymore.

Tagged , ,