Category Archives: TV

Black Mirror Review – Crocodile

Memories, like the corners of my mind…is that how the song goes? Paging Streisand.

BQB here with yet another Black Mirror review.

Many years ago, Mia’s then boyfriend Rob did a horrible thing. Rather than go to the police, she assisted him in covering it up, making her an accomplice.

The years pass and Mia marries another man, has a child, a nice house and a great career, having managed to push the memories of that dark day to the corners of her mind. Alas, it all comes back when a guilt ridden Rob shows up at her door, telling Mia he won’t be able to live with himself unless he pens an anonymous confession.

And so, the vicious cycle of cover ups upon cover ups ensues as Mia does something terrible to cover up the cover up. As she is doing so, she witnesses a self-driving pizza truck hit a pedestrian (SIDENOTE: self driving pizza trucks sound like a good idea but only if a) they can be made to not hit people and b) if we can find alternate employment routes for the pizza delivery man and woman lobby)

Insurance investigator Shazia thinks the victim (he lives) of the pizza truck’s case is pretty cut and dry, but goes about her investigation with the assistance of a device that can record memories. She interviews various witnesses, recording the images they have in their minds of the accident, eventually realizing that Mia, according to witness recollection, had the best view of the incident.

Thus opens the proverbial can of worms for Mia. If she declines Shazia’s request to search her memories of the accident, the police will get involved. But if she helps, will she be able to bury her memories of evil doing and so that the machine will pick up only the memories of the pizza truck accident?

Overall, an interesting meditation on the power of memory, what we remember and what we forget and how there can be power in forgetting. When it comes to memory, can we ever be sure they are real?

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Black Mirror Review – The National Anthem

The plot of this seems like it should belong to a wacky, raunchy comedy but its played as a serious drama.

Princess Susannah, a much beloved member of the royal family, has been kidnapped. The kidnapper has but a single demand – that at 4 pm, the UK Prime Minister get on live television and have sex with…a pig.

Yeah, I know. At this point, you might think the entire writing staff should be fired but maybe not when you realize the whole episode is a commentary about a) the population’s inability to ignore trainwreck-esque spectacles and b) the control that social media has over political decision making.

At first, the UK is united in thinking that the PM should absolutely not do this. It would be too demeaning to himself, the office, the nation and if he does it, terrorists will be kidnapping prominent people every day just to make outrageous demands. Though Princess Susannah’s death would be terrible, it would be worse to cave in to this outrageous demand.

But as the day wears on and the government’s multiple attempts to rescue the princess are botched, the kidnapper retaliates by mailing the press the princess’ finger. Public emotions are stirred and they believe the government is now at fault for the princess’ predicament and as such, the PM should rescue her…by having intimate knowledge of that pig.

And so, the PM must make a decision.

Ultimately, this episode is so ridiculous and yet you can’t look away, wondering what the PM will finally do. It is all very absurd and hard to believe that the leader of any nation would actually consider whether or not to do this. It’s also hard to believe that the people of any nation would actually demand that their leader do this and yet…check out social media sometime and see the weird kinds of mental gymnastics people play when they want to take a position that is wrong or support a politician who has done something wrong or what have you.

In short, I can’t one hundred percent say that if this scenario played out in real life, there wouldn’t be dum dums on social media demanding that the prime minister follow through. Even worse, there would be government officials who actually listen to the dum dums.

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Black Mirror Review – Striking Vipers

Hey 3.5 readers.

So, after many years, I finally hopped down the rabbit hole of Black Mirror this week. I always wanted to but never got around to it. What with Covid making new movie releases a thing of the past, I’ve been starved for new content so I gave this a go and am glad I did.

If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s a modern day Twilight Zone but with a focus on the ills of technology. Each episode focuses on a piece of tech that was meant to improve life only to ruin it in new and crazy ways.

In this post, I’m reviewing the most recent episode, Striking Vipers. Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Madeen II play a couple old college roommates Danny and Karl who in their young glory days, used to stay up all night chasing babes, only to head back to their crib and play the “Street Fighter-esque” video game Striking Vipers until the wee hours of the morning.

Flash forward to middle age and Danny and Karl are reaping the rewards of life’s struggles, as well as the punishments. Both are financially successful and have nice homes, secure in their jobs, no longer worried about climbing the ladder and no longer worrying about making rent.

Danny is married and has a son while Karl is recently divorced. Danny openly states he’s happy to be off the market rather than going through the rat race of the dating scene, constantly trying to impress women who would reject him over the slightest detail.

Meanwhile, Karl is recently divorced and hopes his new found single status, combined with the financial success he lacked in youth, will allow him to chase a plethora of younger hotties.

Everything changes when the dudes reconnect thanks to the latest VR version of Striking Vipers. The bros begin hanging out online late at night, enjoying their bouts of virtual fisticuffs…that is until they realize that it is possible for them to make their characters hump and they actually feel the humping.

Suddenly, their worlds are turned upside down. Yes, there are benefits to middle age that come with putting in the years but that time puts a beating on the body and the soul. These dudes are still men. In their hearts, they still want to go out to the club and pick up new booty, but Danny loves his wife too much and wouldn’t dare wreck his idyllic suburban life…even though the sex is ho hum.

And though Karl thought he’d become a late in life ladies’ man, he finds that the younger women just want his money and don’t understand his jokes and/or pop cultural references. Even worse, he can’t keep up in the boudoir.

Ergo, a game that provides safe, wild and crazy red hot sex with the assistance of a trusted friend who will be cool and not demand any strings to be attached sounds like the solution to their problems.

Ah, but the questions about. Does this mean they are gay? One of the characters is a woman, but is the dude gay for being a woman in the game? Is the other dude gay for banging a woman played by a dude? Will this affect their relationships i.e. if they are constantly banging each other in the video game world, will they have any stamina left for their real life partners? And holy crap, what if this means they are in love? Like not best buddy dude bro love but romantic love? Is it possible to have a virtual friends with benefits situation without love attaching?

These are the bizarre questions that Black Mirror asks. Sometimes they are answered and sometimes not but I think overall, this episode does a good job of summarizing the joys and pitfalls that come with various stages of life. In youth, you are full of energy but low on knowledge and money. In middle age you are higher on money but and knowledge but lack the energy to do anything about it. An ironic nightmare, really.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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The Mandalorian – Season 2, Episode 3 Review

Oh Mando. You came and you murdered some fish men. They no longer want to be your friend. Oh Mando.

BQB here with a review of the latest episode of The Mandalorian. Check out IGN’s review below:

It’s pretty great how this show packs a lot of action into an hour. Here, Mando has fulfilled his quest to locate other Mandos to assist him in his journey to give The Child (Baby Yoda) to the Jedi.

But there’s a hitch. In quite a harrowing action scene, Mando must help his fellow Mandos hijack an Imperial freighter full of weapons that these sect of Mandos want to use to take back their home planet of Mandalore. I just hope that these Mandos will be good to all the Mandos of the Mando world.

Katee Sackhoff, aka every nerd’s favorite sci-fi fantasy babe, appears as Bo Katan, head of a sect of Mandos who believe it is OK to take their Mando helmets off. This disgusts Mando, who belongs to a sect that believes that all Mandos must leave their Mando helmets on. Luckily, they are able to work out their differences and back each other up during the Mando attack.

Ultimately, I like to say Mando over and over again. Mando.

Nerds who dive deep into Star Wars canon will be happy to know that a live action Ashoka Tano will likely appear in the next episode, she being teased as the Jedi who will help Mando in his quest to put The Child into Jedi hands. Tano was a character in the animated Clone Wars series so it will be interesting to see how she comes across as a live action character.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Stream on Disney Plus.

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The Mandalorian Review – Season 2, Episode 1

Hey 3.5 readers. BQB here.

I have been remiss in posting about The Mandalorian, and Disney Plus in general.

First, is Disney Plus worth it? When it first came out last year, yes. I had a great time streaming all the Marvel and Star Wars movies…until I got sick of them and never wanted to see any of them again. Well, at least not without a break.

As for original content, Disney Plus has a lot of catching up to do if they want to go head to head with the head honcho of streaming, Netflix.

If you have a kid, the service is probably worth it. You’d go broke buying all these movies on demand when you can have them all there for a monthly fee.

For me, the Mandalorian has made a subscription worth it. Sadly, Disney has lost its way when it comes to Star Wars. It seems that Luke vs. Vader collection of stories were really the only thing that was interesting and attempts to branch out i.e. with the past in the prequels or in the future with the sequels were lackluster.

The Mandalorian is a rare diamond in the modern Star Wars rough though. You’ve got a bad ass bounty hunter, so that satisfies the adult nerds who want to see battles and mayhem. You’ve got an adorable sidekick so that satisfies the kids as well as the execs who want to make bank on stuffed animal merch.

And you actually have a story line. Whereas JJ Abrams just pulled stuff out of his butt with the recent sequels only to go nowhere, this series feels like it is going somewhere, albeit I’m not sure if the writers know exactly where as of yet.

The Mandalorians are…well, are they people, a race, are some of them aliens and some humans, I don’t know….but it’s fair to say they follow a religion of sorts. After suffering all sorts of alluded to past war atrocities and carnage, they make their way through the galaxy as bounty hunters, refusing to ever remove their helmets so that they conceal their identities, for they often have to do illegal and immoral stuff to catch their prey and collect their money.

It’s probably all just a ruse to allow for a Boba Fett-esque character while we know Boba Fett was (as for as we know) eaten by the Sarlacc pit monster in Return of the Jedi…or was he?

But the ruse works.

Anyway, last season, “Mando” was, at a time post the fall of the Empire, hired by Imperial loyalists to find and bring back a bounty. Mando has done this thousands of times, catching scum and bring said scum to other scum. Beings that are wanted. Beings that owe money to criminals. Etc. No biggie.

Ahh, but this package is a “The Child” or a cute little Baby Yoda. Mando grows a conscience, escapes with the kid and thus the series formula is born. Mando and the Child travel the galaxy, going from planet to planet to evade capture and along the way, there is almost an A-Team like vibe as Mando uses his mando skills to help people and or aliens in need.

In the season 2 premiere, Mando visits Tatooine in search of other mandos who might help him protect Baby Yoda and return him to his race of aliens, whoever they are. Hearing tell of a mando here, he investigates, only to find that it is merely Timothy Olyphant wearing mando armor that he bought off some pesky jawas.

Mando demands the armor returned, for according to mando law, mando armor may only be worn by other mandos. Timbo says the problem isn’t so easy, for he has only been able to protect his city with the use of the mando armor. He’ll give it back, but only if Mando helps kill a massive underground worm like Krayt dragon thats about to come up under the town and eat everyone.

Mando agrees but to bring the beast down, they’ll have to make friends with the dreaded sand people.

It’s a fun episode and as an Olyphant fan it was nice to see him shine here.

Overall, this show seems to be keeping SW alive. I’m not sure the wonder of the originals can ever be recaptured, but all nerds asks for is at least an attempt to adhere to rules and past canon…and have some semblance of a story…i.e. when you are handed a trail of bread crumbs, you will be able to follow it to something. This and Rogue One did that so that’s probably why both have faired well.

I’ll say this. It’s the first show in awhile, since the end of Game of Thrones, that I consider appointment watching. Coming home Friday nights and switching it on after a long week is my new favorite pass time.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Community Table Read

Hey 3.5 readers.

Remember Community? Such a funny show.

Late 2000s/early 2010s, Big Bang Theory and Community vied to be the big nerd shows that celebrate nerdery. Big Bang was formulaic while Community was edgier.

I enjoyed it and can’t believe how time has passed since. Anyway, the cast got together for a YouTube table read of the episode Cooperative Polygraphy.

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Movie Review – Enola Holmes (2020)

Add a dash of girl power, a pinch of adventure and sprinkle a heaping helping of fourth wall breaking and you have a new Netflix film based on the popular young adult novels about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister.

When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola (Millie Bobbie Brown) turns to brothers Sherlock and Mycroft for help. Sherlock (Henry Cavil as a Sherlock who looks like he’d prefer to bench press clues rather than search for them) is sympathetic to his younger sister’s tom boyish nature, while Mycroft (Sam Claflin) is the patriarchy personified in that he just wants to ship Enola off to a finishing school for girls where Enola will learn how to be a wife and a mother and never ever ever do anything fun ever again.

Yeah, not gonna lie. This film is all about hearing women roar in numbers too loud too ignore.

Finding her older bros useless, Enola sets out to London on her own in search of her mother, only to find a young lord on the run as well. A murderous villain is hot on the lord’s trail and together…yadda yadda yadda, just watch it.

The movie does run a bit long and there are the occasional acts of violence that seem out of place for a young adult movie. It does meander between plots and at times it seems the writers weren’t sure if Enola should be searching for her mother or helping the young lord escape but all in all, it’s fun, though it does run a bit long.

Ultimately, this movie might be Millie Bobbie Brown’s ticket to bigger, better things. She has wowed us as Eleven in Netflix’s runaway hit, Stranger Things and appeared in the latest Godzilla movie, but this movie gives her a chance to display a wide array of emotions. I dare say it looks like she might be one of those lucky child actors who gets to go on to stardom as an adult, if this movie is any indication.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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TV Review – 11.22.63

What if you could change a terrible tragedy? Would you?

In this Hulu produced miniseries based on Stephen King’s book, James Franco stars as Jake Epping, a high school English teacher thrust into a time traveling mission filled with twists and turns.

After discovering that there’s a time portal in the back room of his friend Al’s burger joint that leads to the early 1960s, and that Al (Chris Cooper) has been diagnosed with cancer, thus rendering him unable to complete his plan to save JFK from assassination, Jake takes on the plan himself, finding friendship, love, and peril along the way.

You know, the one thing I’ll give to this series is that it educated me on a lot of things that I never knew. I always assume that Lee Harvey Oswald was a random nut who acted alone. I’m still not entirely convinced he wasn’t. However, when you consider that Oswald defected from America to Russia (its usually the other way around) and came back to America and befriended a wealthy Russian businessman with connections to the Russian government, plus a whole host of other irregularities, it does make you wonder if this might not have been the greatest conspiracy followed by the greatest coverup of all time.

I won’t bog you down by going into other issues surrounding the case. King does that well, in a fictional format that is thrilling to watch.

I wonder if this isn’t a book that King had in mind for a long time and perhaps published it later than he would have liked. Epping is a HS teacher, as King once was. King would have been a kid when national hero JFK was assassinated, ushering in a sad era for the country. Perhaps King always harbored a fantasy of being able to save him and this book brings that notion to life.

Anyway, it’s a fun series and the disparities between times are interesting. We see little differences throughout. Food wasn’t bogged down with preservatives back then, so Jake enjoys a good piece of fresh pie (in the book, it’s root beer). Then again, no one cared about the environment in the 1960s, so everything from factories to cars belched smoked with reckless abandon. Cars have gotten better. Factories? Could be better. At least people don’t whip trash out of their car windows anymore. I remember people doing that when I was a kid in the 1980s.

The series isn’t without its plotholes. Jake takes the mission on rather haphazardly without thinking. The typical “should we be messing with time” question of all time travel movies seems to go largely ignored until the end.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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TV Review – Space Force (2020)

Be a spaceman, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s new comedy series.

I avoided this series for awhile because I assumed it was going to be a dump on Trump fest. Now, don’t get me wrong, politicians have long been easy fodder for comedy, and our current president provides more than enough material, but at some point I feel comedians moved away from finding original jokes and just got lazy, creating a non-stop meme machine, i.e. “Trump is a bad orange man who is bad and orange!”

That’s not the case here. It’s a goofy comedy about all the antics you might imagine would happen in the creation of a brand new wing of the military.  Think F Troop, but in space.

Steve Carell plays General Mark Naird, a decorated war veteran who has long dreamed of leading a branch of the military. When he is promoted to 4-Star, he mistakenly believes that he is being groomed to replace his longtime nemesis General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) as leader of the Air Force, only to find that he’s actually going to become the founder of the Space Force.

The assignment, at first, seems like a bad joke, with the name Space Force conjuring images of science fiction flicks in which intrepid space explorers engage in tense laser battles with little green men.

But Naird takes the job seriously, seeing it as his opportunity to be remembered in history alongside great generals like Patton, Eisenhower and so on.

Naird’s foil is John Malkovich’s Dr. Adrian Mallory.  While Naird runs all things military at Space Force’s Colorado base, Mallory runs all things science. They’re basically an odd couple, where Mallory never wants to take a risk and Naird never meets a risk he doesn’t want to take.

Killer satellites designed to destroy other satellites, space chimps, space dogs, spies, moon colonies, and an ongoing rivalry with China’s version of the Space Force become inspiration for hilarity.

Various subplots ensue, including Naird’s wife (Lisa Kudrow as Maggie Naird) who is in prison for (SPOILER ALERT) a reason we are never told, and assumably we’ll have to wait until next season to find out, if we ever do.  We know she’s there for 40 years, so she did something serious, but Naird wasn’t required to step down so it couldn’t have had consequences that were that dire.  She’s free in the first few minutes of the series and clearly despises the idea of leaving Washington, D.C. to move to a remote location in Colorado, so my money is that she probably flipped out and tried to hijack the flight to Colorado or something.  We’ll have to keep watching to find out.

Naird’s daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers) ends up having to raise herself as her mom is in the slammer and dad is constantly dealing with one space catastrophe after another.

To the series’ credit, it isn’t that political at all, but when it is, it harangues both parties equally. In one scene, Naird is chewed out by an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clone for wasting taxpayer dollars on spaceships with lasers and pulse cannons only for Naird to have to gently explain that these things only exist in Star Wars.  Meanwhile, he has to explain to a stereotypical Southern senator that the earth isn’t flat.  Trump is never official said to be the president, though Naird gets ribbed with texts from “POTUS” calling him a loser whenever Space Force suffers a setback.

The late Fred Willard plays Naird’s doddering father who suffers from a multitude of health problems but refuses to go into assisted living.  Poignant, because this was Willard’s last role.

Ben Schwartz plays Naird’s despised social media consultant F. Tony (nicknamed Fuck Tony), essentially reprising his ultra-trendy pop culture obsessed Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation.

Ironically, and I’m not sure if this was the series’ intention or not, but it actually convinced me that militarization of space isn’t that bad of an idea.  Put aside goofy sci-fi notions of space soldiers fighting with vile aliens and consider today’s issues, namely, we are more dependent on the Internet than ever, and if a foreign power has the ability to knock an Internet providing satellite out of the sky, then perhaps the military does need to be involved.  Meanwhile, if multiple countries have plans to eventually colonize the moon or Mars, then those colonies will need protection.

And in a funny way, it explores many of the issues that are bound to happen as earthlings keep navigating into the stars.  Will countries fight over astro-turf just as they fight over earth turf back home? Will experiments that could help humanity though medical breakthroughs be put to the wayside for finding new ways to carry out war? Who owns what is discovered in space and last, but not least, is the great taxpayer expense worth it? As Malkovich points out, the cost to launch a rocket is the equivalent of what thousands of Americans make in an entire life time. How many thousands of life-time salaries can be wasted without demonstrated benefits before taxpayers put a stop to space exploration altogether?

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I binge-watched this in a day because it was that funny and I’m looking forward to season 2.

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TV Review – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Interactive Special)

3.5 readers, if you need a cure for the corona blues, this is it.

Note that I said a cure for the corona blues, not the corona itself.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty blue myself yesterday morning when I made my new normal commute from the bedroom to the couch, only to be instantly cheered up by the surprise of an interactive Kimmy Schmidt special.

I love this show because I feel like it was one of the last true examples of good comedy out there. Jokes that fly at you at a rapid clip, so much so you have the watch the series at least twice to catch them all.  They pull no punches and they aren’t afraid to poke fun at both sides of a topic, no easy feat in this day and age when the masses demand that comedians pick a side.

Naturally, I was bummed when the show ended rather abruptly. Though we were given an ending, it felt like everyone found love but Kimmy.  Indeed, Kimmy did find success as the author of a children’s book series, but love eluded her. I suppose there’s a larger debate about whether she needed love and while yes, anyone can achieve success on their own, finding that special relationship is, well special.

By the way, for those new to the show, it is about a woman who, as a teenager, was kidnapped (I forget the actual year but I want to say late 90s or early 2000s) by the insane Reverend Wayne Garywayne (Jon Hamm in a role that blows Don Draper out of the water) and forced to live in a bunker as one of Garywayne’s many sister wives.

Lied to by the Reverend and told that he has saved them because the apocalypse has broken out on the earth up above, Kimmy and friends are shocked when they are rescued decades later by the police and find that the world is still here.

This does not sound like fodder for a comedy at all but the crux of the humor surrounds Kimmy having a child like naivete, trying to make it big in New York City while learning thing we all take for granted. Her “teachers” on this journey are wannabe actor Titus and crazy landlady Lillian.

So, not to belabor the show’s history, in this special, Kimmy is three days away from marrying an actual prince played by Daniel Radcliffe when she discovers that the Reverend, now in prison, had been keeping a second bunker full of sister wives the entire time.  It’s up to Kimmy to save the day on a cross country trip and free the Reverend’s hostages while making it back to the wedding on time.

You, the viewer, get to make choices for Kimmy and friends, and often your choices have unexpected and hysterical results. They also do have consequences, as your decisions lead to happy, mediocre and or bad endings – just like life!

In fact, as I watched the show, I couldn’t help but wish that I had a remote control that would let me go back and make better decisions.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Look away for a spoiler – Making choices that are out of Kimmy’s character tend to be funnier, but making choices that Kimmy would make tend to keep her on the straight and narrow path.

PS: As a fan of the show, I think this does provide better closure as it ties up the loose end about whether Kimmy would find her soulmate, while leaving the door open if they want to ever make another special or more episodes. Further, it is amazing what tech can do with interactive storytelling and Netflix is leading the way on that.

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