Category Archives: TV

TV Review – Mindhunter – Season 1

The 1970s!  The FBI!  Sex with decapitated heads!

BQB here with a review of the new Netflix series, “Mindhunter.”  (BEWARE SPOILERS)

Hey 3.5 readers.  I heard a random recommendation for this show on a podcast the other day and had I not heard it, I would not have known this show even existed.  I’m not sure it’s getting the credit that it deserves because it’s well done, dramatic, smart, good timing, pacing, writing, acting, the whole she-bang.

I have no pull in Hollywood but I hope I can at least push the 7 eyes of my 3.5 readers to this outstanding series.

So, what’s it about?  It’s the late 1970s.  Watergate, Vietnam, and a series of 1960s political assassinations have left the public with what President Jimmy Carter once referred to as a “malaise” (although he never actually used that word but I don’t want to veer too far off track.)   Essentially, the institutions society depended on were breaking down and people started losing faith, accepting that life kinda blows and there’s not much to be done about it.

Against this backdrop, a new form of criminal emerges.  While the FBI was born in the name of stopping the likes of Dillinger and Capone, i.e. crooks with a clear motive (profit), there are now killers whose crimes are inexplicable – Charles Manson, Son of Sam, et. all.  Murders that are bizarre, disturbing, gruesome and incomprehensible.

Young, late 20s FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff), an instructor of hostage negotiation tactics at the FBI training academy at Quantico, wants to understand how humans become monsters and sees potential in applying psychology to criminology.

Alas, Unit Chief Shepard (Cotter Smith), a typical gear clogging government bureaucrat, sums up the FBI’s thoughts on psychology – it’s bunk, hippy dippy nonsense, pointless prattle about thoughts and feelings that are not worth the bureau’s time.

Enter Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), a stereotypical gruff and grizzled, buzz cut sporting G-Man.  He believes he’s found a golden gig in the FBI, teaching “road school,” i.e. each week he visits a different city, trains local law enforcement with a condensed version of FBI tactics, finds a lot of free time to hit the local golf courses, then heads home on the weekend to the wife and kid until he turns around and does it all again the next week.

Alas, Holden is assigned to work with Tench and as you might expect, he becomes a real turd in Tench’s punch bowl.

Holden sees a lot of potential in the road school’s downtime.  During a visit to California, he talks his way into a prison visit to interview serial killer Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton), a 6’9,” 300 pound man who infamously killed his grandparents as a juvenile, only to be released as an adult, where he turned around and killed a number of women, cut off their heads and well, did unsavory things to said heads.  He even did this to his own mother before finally turning himself in.

Holden arranges for multiple interviews with Kemper and slowly but surely, talks the skeptical Tench into believing that locked away in the minds of serial killers is the information needed for the FBI to develop the new science of “criminal profiling” i.e. looking at traits held by certain people and determining the likelihood they might kill based on those traits, perhaps maybe even one day being able to stop such gruesome murders from happening.  Even further, they hope to be able to look at aspects of a crime, determine what kind of traits would be in a potential suspect and from there, be able to find the killer that much easier.

Thus, the FBI’s first behavioral science unit is born and soon enough, it grows in the form of Dr. Wendy Carr (Ana Torv) a professor turned FBI consultant.

As season one progresses, more serial killers are interviewed.  Although Holden and Tench are amalgamations of the real life pioneers who convinced the FBI to incorporate psychological profiling into its box of detection tricks, the killers interviewed are all real, i.e. actors doing their best imitations of said murderers.

Britton steals the show as the socially awkward Kemper, who blames his mother for all his problems, and is apparently so lonely that he starts to live for Holden’s interviews.  A crazy giant who kills people and fornicates with their heads is not exactly someone you want on your speed dial.

Happy Anderson plays Jerry Brudos, a hulking beast who murdered young women and stole their shoes (also blames his mother, it’s sort of a running, I don’t want to say joke but maybe a point that all the killers blame their moms).

Other killers include Montie Rissell (Sam Strike) who killed his female rape victims because he wanted them to be quiet and Richard Speck (Jack Erdie) who committed perhaps the most horrific acts in serial killer history, kidnapping a house full of nursing students and murdering all eight women in a single night.

The dynamic between Holden and Tench makes the series not just watchable but bingeable.  Holden is fascinated by what he sees as psychological tidbits being mined from the brains of these madmen – aspects of their childhoods, experiences, upbringings, things that can be looked for when hunting murderers.

Tench reluctantly admits the research will be helpful and yet, the research disgusts him.  While Holden views the interview subjects as victims of their own psychiatric circumstances, Tench views them as scumbag losers who couldn’t handle life so they flipped out and then blame everyone else but themselves for their own evil doings. At times, the buddy cop dynamic is fun and humorous.

From a writing perspective, it’s an example of how good writers can incorporate infamous figures from a history (here, a dark history) and incorporate fictionalized interactions to create something that is interesting.

Of course, no science is perfect and the ethical ramifications are explored.  Is it possible to use profiling to stop crimes before they start?  If a person is law abiding but exhibits strange but legal traits, should that person be deprived of a job, of a livelihood, cast aside from society, treated as a criminal before committing a crime?  Holden wrestles with these issues as his research causes him to start seeing potential psychos everywhere.

As the buddy cop duo continue their research, they often get called into the field to help local police departments catch killers, giving Holden and Tench a chance put what they have learned into practice.

SIDENOTE: Congrats to McCallany, who is one of those actors who has long played tough guys in movies, one of those actors who is in a lot of stuff but you never know his name…until now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I can’t wait for season 2.

 

 

 

 

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TV Review – Roseanne

Roseanne, Dan and Jackie are back and it’s almost like they never left.

BQB here with a review of the “Roseanne” reboot…return?  I guess it’s a return.

There was a time when sitcom families lived idyllic lives, akin to the Cleavers, where Ward would come home to a perfectly clean house, a hot dinner, and a pair of slippers courtesy of doting wife June.

But by 1988, that was in the past and America was waiting for a family that looked more like the blue collar families that were struggling all over the country.

Enter Roseanne Barr, an overweight, loudmouthed comedian who got famous through a comedy routine where she’d complain about her dishes, her husband, housework, and so on.  Add John Goodman as husband Dan and typically bratty kids Becky, Darlene and DJ and of course, nosey aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and you had the Connors, a working class, mid-west family working hard to make ends meet, barely keeping a roof over their head, food on the table and somehow finding the time to keep kids out of trouble…or at least, less trouble.

Roseanne was liberal for her day.  She’d advise her daughters to use birth control because she figured that she couldn’t stop them from engaging in hanky panky.  She was one of the first comedians to have recurring gay characters join the cast and there was always one social issue or another being discussed.

The formula was typical.  Chronically unemployed Dan would lose another job and question his manhood.  Roseanne would have to get a job and that would make him feel less manly.  The kids would act up and Dan would try to intervene only for Jackie to butt in and then Dan would go drink in the garage because he felt henpecked at every turn, whether it be from his wife or sister in law.  Ultimately, Roseanne and her big mouth would be the final arbiter and put the fear of God into everyone to obey and more often than not her big mouth led her family members to more or less a good path.

Twenty years later, the formula is still there and as I watched the two return episodes, it’s like the Connors haven’t changed.  If anything, though older, Dan and Roseanne actually look a little better since both have had serious weight loss since their younger days.  Darlene, Becky and DJ just look like older versions of themselves but it’s bittersweet as I grew up watching them grow up and now it’s like my TV siblings are old.

A point of controversy is that Roseanne and Jackie are at war in the first episode.  Roseanne, a paragon of liberalism on TV in the 1990s, has gone full blown MAGA, boasting of her love of one Mr. Donald J. Trump, whereas Jackie arrives in a “Nasty Woman” shirt and pink pussy hat, ready to protest in the name of keeping her rights over her uterus intact (is it filled with cobwebs at this point?)

Speaking of uteruses (uteri?) – huh, it must be uteri as the spellchecker didn’t go off so you learn something new everyday, Becky is attempting to become a surrogate mother at age 43, the wannabe mother employing her is noneother than Sarah Chalke, the other girl who played Becky as a kid when the girl whose name I can’t remember wasn’t playing her.

I’ve kept my eye on Twitter and Roseanne as a Trump supporter is catching a lot of heat, ironically from both sides.  Liberals pretty much want the show to be cancelled and all prints burned in a tire fire and Roseanne flogged in the public square for daring to portray a Trump supporter on national television as anything more than a fire breathing goblin.

Meanwhile, some conservatives say MAGA Roseanne is a sign they are winning the culture war while others say that Roseanne is only a conservative in name only and the show is still pushing liberalism (a grandson who dons girls’ clothing to go to school has ginned up some controversy.)

Personally, I enjoyed the first episode because I felt maybe it was something the country needed.  As the plot goes, Roseanne and Jackie, once close sisters and friends, haven’t spoken for a year over the 2016 election results.  They come together due to some wrangling by Darlene and talk it out.  Both view the other as having done something awful – voting for a candidate the other finds intolerable.  They joke about each others’ political leanings and then finally, agree to disagree and hug it out.  Soon, they are friends again.

Perhaps that is what this country needs more of.  Enough of the political rhetoric that is thrown way too easily on social media.  The point of America is that a whole bunch of people from all different countries, religions, backgrounds, etc came to a land where they could be free to be themselves while living alongside others who are different and in that spirit, we should remember that people who didn’t vote the way we want, regardless of which side you voted for, aren’t “the other,” aren’t all bad people, they just see the world a different way.  Find common ground where you can, agree to disagree where you can’t, nothing stops you from continuing to be friends.

 

STATUS: Shelf-worthy….though it made me feel very old.

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Was Justin Timberlake’s Half-Time Show that Bad?

Poor JT.  He goes to the Super Bowl and whips out Janet Jackson’s titty and everyone flips out, so this time he plays it straight and everyone gets pissed out.

Look, make up your minds, people.  Either you want Justin to whip out titties or you don’t.

I’ll admit though I’m not sure what the point of this whole “Man of the Woods” thing is.  Like, you think it means he’s trying to become a Country music star but instead he’s just making pop songs about the country?  WTF.

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

As a nerd, I don’t know much about sports.  Move the ball here.  Move the ball there.  Rah rah sis boom bah and so forth.  Where’s the buffalo wings?

But if you dig sports, I hope you enjoy the football fest.  Which team are you rooting for?  Tell me in the comments.

I enjoyed this SNL skit.  It represents both teams’ fans well.

 

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Tom Hanks to Play Mr. Rogers in a Movie

Hey 3.5 readers.  Won’t you be my 3.5 readers?

Millennials, sit down a minute, because you’re not going to believe this shit.

For roughly 35 years, the most popular children’s television program, really, the show that essentially started the concept of educational TV for kids, featured a single (though married in real life) grown ass man, who, from middle age well into his elder years, just randomly invited neighborhood children into his home, unattended, unsupervised, just him and the kids, and they played games and learned life and educational lessons and ate cookies and snacks and shit and then he’d just send the kids home completely unscathed.

Oh and also, the man had constructed a working toy trolley that rolled on an elaborate track that moved from his house to another room where the man had constructed an entire fantasy puppet kingdom.  The puppets had been given names, intricate backstories and everything.

All kidding aside, I’m glad Mr. Rogers is getting some recognition but is there enough backstory for there to be a movie?  Was there a big drama that unfolded as that we can watch and eat popcorn to?  Was there a big bad villain who was all like, “You will never build your fantasy puppet kingdom, Mr. Rogers!  Never!!!!”

I don’t know.  I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.  If you’ve never seen Mr. Rogers, go check him out on YouTube.  You dipshits could benefit from learning how to be nice from the man who invented niceness.

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TV Review – The Punisher

Guns, guns, and more guns.

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s “The Punisher.”

When I was a kid, it was common for nerds to gravitate towards more realistic super heroes.  Batman was popular because he was a human without any supernatural powers.

Nerds in the know knew that as cool as the Caped Crusader was, Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” was the more (perhaps the most) realistic superhero.  Arguably, advanced wealth, and the ability to train all day, travel the world to learn new techniques, fund new technologies and figure out how to subdue criminals with non-lethal bat kicks only to hang them forty stories up in the air by a bat rope hooked to one end of a gargoyle with the other end to their underpants is pretty damn spectacular.

In short, it’s unlikely you’ll ever obtain Bruce Wayne’s wealth and if you did, it’s unlikely you’d be able to develop the science defying goodies he wields.

The Punisher, on the other hand, has one super power (of sorts.)  He’s extremely pissed off over the death of his family, leading to an eternal “I don’t give a f%%k” attitude.

Batman might knock out a crook with a batarang.  The Punisher will just buy an epic shit ton of guns off the black market and blow the crooks away.

I remember as a kid wondering why super heroes always go to elaborate lengths to save villains and bring them in safe and sound only for the criminal to escape and wreak havoc again.  Whoever invented “The Punisher” realized that clearly, the only way to stop a criminal from being evil again is to dispense with some hot lead justice.

I mean, for all the blowback Batman got for being a vigilante acting outside the law, the Dark Knight at least left the crooks tied up for the cops to arrest and the justice system to put on trial.  If you were an alleged criminal, you at least had a chance to go before the judge and argue that Batman got the wrong guy.  The Punisher has no checks and balances system.  If it turns out he ganked the wrong dude, the wrong dude remains dead.

Anyway, enough of that nerdery.  After three film versions, Netflix seems to have captured the essence of this fan favorite.  Jon Bernthal (fans of “The Walking Dead” know him as Shane) plays the ultimate sullen, sad-sack tough guy.  We are spared a detailed origin story, though newbs are spoon fed just enough of what they need to know about what drove Frank to become a gun toting one-man crime stopper.

In this version, it’s been six months since Frank took out the crew who killed his wife and daughter.  Somehow he thought that would be enough for him to move on be he can’t.  There’s a hole inside him and it can only be filled with dead bad guys.

Batman sends his baddies to Arkham.  Superman gives his baddies a stern talking to.  Spider-Man gums up evildoers in a web but Frank…Frank just shoots them.  That’s it.

After “Agents of Shield” I lost hope for a good Marvel TV show, but this series has renewed it.  Good show, Netflix.  Good show.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Does Frank even count as a superhero?  Discuss in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Binge Watching Marathon

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” put out a new season recently after a six year hiatus.  It made me so happy to see Larry David back in action that I ended up watching the whole series, a few episodes a day, for the past month.  I’ve seen them all before and remembered the gist of the best ones but it’s been so long it was like watching them all for the first time.

If you’ve never seen it, the quick rundown of the show is that Larry David was the co-creator and producer behind the popular 1990s sitcom Seinfeld.  While he only appeared on that show in the occasional bit part, he was largely a behind the scenes man.  Fun fact: the character of George Costanza is based on Larry.

On “Curb,” Larry plays a fictional version of himself though I can only assume there is a grain of truth in any form of comedy.  As you might recall, George Costanza was a bald loser, fully aware of his unattractiveness and shortcomings, yet often angry over the fact that he couldn’t form a decent relationship with a woman because he’d always freak out over the most trivial of flaws (even though they usually pale in comparison to George’s problems.)

Larry is essentially the same way.  For most of the series, he is married to hot, younger wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) who suffers Larry’s douchebaggery with grace and dignity.  In later seasons, Larry and Cheryl divorce, though she remains a returning character.  Larry dates a variety of hot babes, women so attractive who have so much going for them that you want to shout out that clearly Larry would never be getting them if not for his vast “Seinfeld” fortune and Hollywood connections…and yet he usually screws things up over a trivial flaw.  (In one episode, he dates a ridiculously hot restaurant hostess only to ruin it all when she borrows $40 only to forget to pay it back.  Before you take Larry’s side, keep in mind that a quick Google search of Larry’s net worth puts it at $900 million so yeah, let the hottie keep the $40 Larry.)

Frankly, I’m impressed by how much money Larry made. The number of people who became near billionaires off of being funny must be few and far between.

My other random observations, in no particular order:

#1 – The first three seasons take place in the early 2000s, the first season in 2000.  The experience is surreal.  Flip phones.  Tube TVs and computer monitors.  No GPS.  In a first season episode, Larry and Cheryl get lost on the way to a dinner party, with nothing but a friend’s handwritten directions to guide them.  Anyone else remember trying to find a place with nothing but a friend’s shitty directions and no GPS, having to drive around, hope to find a landmark, stop for directions and hope to find someone who can help you?  If you’ve never done that, you have no idea how lucky we all are to have cell phones that can tell us how to get where we want to go today.

#2 – Larry self-deprecates the crap out of himself.  It’s a big man who is willing to make himself look like a schmuck.  It would be one thing if Larry called himself a different name, i.e. Gary Schmavid but here, he’s saying this is me, playing myself and I hate to get into his head but I can only assume that somehow he feels comfortable portraying himself as a goofball, a man who constantly bucks societal norms, schemes to get out of social conventions only to make things so much worse.

# 3 – It’s “Seinfeld” with swearing.  If you liked “Seinfeld,” and don’t care about swearing, you’ll like this.  The characters rarely grow or improve or better themselves.  No special episodes where a character gets sick.  No morals or lessons.  Just humor for humor’s sake.  The goal is to make you laugh and nothing more.

#4 – It made me feel bad to see how time screws us all in the looks department.  Not to knock Larry but he more or less looks like he does at the beginning as he does 17 years later.  Larry is bald with gray side hair for as long as I can remember.  He does appear a bit younger looking and more spry in the beginning episodes.  He’s early 50s when it starts and 70 now.

Richard Lewis, veteran neurotic comedian of the 1980s, plays himself and appears handsome at the start of the series.  Black hair, strong features, looks like he belongs in movies.  In later seasons, he looks old, gray, balding and decrepit.  Still has his wit but makes me sad what time does to us.

Not dumping on anyone but you can see it in all the recurring characters, how youthful they all long in the earliest seasons.

#5 – So much political incorrectness.  Many of the jokes from past seasons would not fly today.  The irony is that Larry does and says many shitty things, but if you get offended too early and walk away, you’ll miss the part where Larry gets his comeuppance for saying and doing such shitty things.  Never assume Larry gets away with anything.  He never does.  Cue ending scene where the theme music plays with closeup of his eyes as he realizes how much shittier he just made a shitty situation.

#6 – On the other hand, it’s not always Larry.  Sometimes it’s Larry as a victim of circumstance.  People are so tied to social norms that a minor deviation makes them go ballistic.  He’ll accidentally do or not do something, through no fault of his own, and despite apologies, people will go ape shit on him.  Perhaps we can give people a break if they don’t always act 100 percent of the way we want them to.

#7 – Jeff Garland (Larry’s manager Jeff Greene) and Susie Essman (Jeff’s she-devil wife Susie Greene) are great.  Susie goes ballistic over the littlest things, though often she sniffs out when Larry and Jeff have joined forces in a joint scheme and exposes them.  “Fat fuck” and “bald fuck” or “four eye fuck” are her names of choice for the duo.

#8 – Larry has Peter Pan syndrome.  It’s surreal to see a man with gray hair acting like a youngster, but he has so many young-ish habits.  Throughout the series, he’ll meet old, gray haired people and talk to them as one would a grandparent and it leaves me wondering if he’s aware that he’s old himself.  Then again, he’s got mad cash, so that keeps you young.

Conclusions – It’s an awesome show.  If you need something to binge watch, I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

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TV Review – Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season 9

Larry David is my spirit animal.

Bomp bomp bomp….bah bah bah…bah bah bah bah…

BQB here with a review of the latest season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

When we last saw Larry in his HBO sitcom, it was season 8, in 2011, and wow, has time flown.  Since then, Larry has found even bigger stardom playing Bernie Sanders on SNL, but he’s returned for another round of Curb.

If you’ve never seen the show, picture Seinfeld, plus jokes and/or words and/or things that can happen on cable that can’t happen on NBC.  Like the show he created with pal Jerry Seinfeld in the 1990s, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is also much ado about nothing.  No one ever grows or achieves or accomplishes, it’s just Larry, playing a parody version of himself, wasting his time on nonsensical worries.

I have to assume that bald and unattractive Larry was the inspiration of Seinfeld’s George Costanza.  You might remember George, a pudgy bald man who ironically, would get hooked up on dates with the most attractive women only to reject them over trivial matters.  Similarly, Larry is 70, fully aware of his ugliness and yet also aware of his various mental dilemmas.  He’d rather be alone than be with a woman who annoys him in the slightest way.

Larry must be a lot of himself into this role.  Recently, when he guest host SNL, he did a bit where he said he could related to Quasimodo from, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  Surely, Quasi could have found “a” woman but no, the woman had to be the most beautiful woman in all of Paris.  Below average women who were “OK with the hump” would never do.

I might opine Larry’s women troubles probably come in part to his money and success.  If you look like Larry and say, in the real world, are a bus driver, then no, there will not be a bevy of beauties lined up for you to pick through and reject.

At any rate, this long overdue season centers around “Fatwa: The Musical!”  a broadway show Larry has written about Salman Rushdie, a writer who was marked for death by the leader of Iran for his writings.  As the season progresses, Larry teams up with none other than Lin Manuel Miranda to direct the show.  The two butt heads, and how and that’s not when Larry is arguing with star of the show, F. Murray Abraham.

Fan favorites return.  Larry’s best friend/manager Jeff Garlin as Jeff Greene, Susie Essman as Susie Greene, Jeff’s wife whose witchy tirades might send chills up the spine of any many thinking about getting married if they weren’t so funny.  1980s comic Richard Lewis is still himself.  Bob Einstein of “Super Dave” fame remains Marty Funkhauser and Larry just can’t get rid of longtime house guest Leon Black aka JB Smoov.

I give props to Larry.  His main comedic power is self-deprecation.  The whole show just dumps on him.  Everyone thinks he’s terrible.  He thinks he’s terrible.  There’s no drama or crying or tender moments its jut dump on Larry and dump on Larry some more.  Celebrity guests stop by in cameos as themselves to dump on Larry.  There are few celebrities, I think, who would allow themselves to be lampooned so vigorously, but Larry, on the other hand, is the ultimate good sport.

Have you ever had a moment where you felt you were wronged someway, so you took some action to change things, only to wince when you realize that you’ve made things so much worse, and things were so much better before you changed anything?  That’s Larry’s life in a nutshell, and when that tuba plays, he knows he’s effed up.

If you hear that tuba playing in your head, you know you’re becoming like Larry David.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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The Walking Dead – Season So Far

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.  I don’t have time for an in-depth review, but wanted to know what you all think about this season of “The Walking Dead” thus far.

I think it is one of the better seasons, I especially love the recent tension with Eugene.  I will say though the show has a tough decision.  The goal seems to be to kill Negan, the worst, most dastardly villain the show has ever seen and yet, he’s also the most interesting character the show has seen in a long time.

What say you, 3.5?

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SNL – Thanksgiving at Wayne Manor

“Who y’all talkin’ ’bout?  Batman?  Somebody needs to do something’ about him.”

As a comic book nerd, I really enjoyed this sketch.  Participants in the Wayne Manor Thanksgiving food drive complain about how Batman is profiling them, constantly coming into their neighborhoods, breaking their jaws, zip lining them up 30 stories into the air by their underpants and leaving them hanging by gargoyles.

Excessive force, Batman.  Excessive force.  Gotta chill out, buddy.

Complaint – I love Leslie Jones but I wish she’d work a little more on her timing and delivery.  I see this over and over with her sketches.  She flubs lines and then it takes me out of the sketch and takes me a minute to get back in.  She’s very funny, has a lot of talent and pretty much carried that Ghostbusters movie on her back, but I hope she’ll work on her live delivery a little more.

Observation – I think Beck Bennett might be a better Wayne than Affleck.

 

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