Tag Archives: netflix

TV Review – Squid Game (2021)

I’m good at everything except the things I can’t do, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this super creepy, uber violent yet oddly addictive pop cultural phenomenon.

In my mind, I view most Netflix TV show greenlight sessions as a chimpanzee in a suit tossing bundles of cash to any old drunk hobo who shuffles in off the street with a half-baked idea for a show. Thus, when I saw this in the line-up of my Netflix account about a month ago, my response was a solid hard pass. All I knew at the time was that it had dudes walking around dressed up like pink Playstation controllers and if that doesn’t sound like a show dreamed up by a hobo and greenlit by a chimp then what does?

Flash forward to this past weekend and SNL parodied it. That and some mumblings motivated me to give it a try and down the rabbit hole I went, instantly hooked.

First off, it’s a Korean produced show and the actors’ voices are dubbed over in English, sometimes to comedic effect. I’ve found some foreign language gems on Netflix – Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series or the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made in Sweden. With those, I preferred to read the subtitles and listen to the actors speak in their language but here I think there’s so much going on that you don’t have time to read and you have to go with the English dub, even though sometimes the words don’t quite match up with the lips – not to mention there are cultural differences, differences in phrasing, word choice – sometimes things don’t quite translate but whatever. It’s good and I tip my hat to the voice over artists, especially whoever did the voice of the crazy eyed lady.

Moving on…the plot! As it turns out, life in Korea isn’t all that different than life in America. Everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs yet everyone still wants more, more, more. When a group of 456 people suffering from enough financial woes to choke a horse are transported to a remote island to compete in a series of kids’ games (the titular Squid Game being a Korean kids’ game, kind of like a combo of hopscotch and football is my best attempt at a description) with the chance to win a big cash prize (you can try to figure out the exchange rate between won and US dollars or just be lazy and assume it’s a lot like I did)…they think their prayers have been answered.

Ah, but nothing in life is that simple…or free. When the losers of a game of Red Light Green Light are shot dead, the competitors realize they have signed up for a far more dangerous experience than they bargained for. Deception, betrayal, intrigue and infighting breaks out amongst the players with everyone trying to cheat and connive their way to the top.

Sadly, the BLAM! of the guns packed by the video game themed guards looms large over the series like a sinister presence, as a simple mistake is all it takes for a contestant to be fed a heaping helping of hot lead. In the true show don’t tell style that all good writers must adhere to, the series never quite comes right out and says it, but the point is clear – life is like a game, and while a mistake, in most cases, won’t (thankfully) lead to a video game man in a pink coat blasting you in the face, said mistake could cause you to lose your house, spouse, kids, career, livelihood, money, friends, family and more. All it takes is one moment of bad judgement and boom, your broke, penniless, outcast and shunned and no, it’s nowhere near as bad as being shot by the pink dudes but there might be times when you find you have screwed up so bad that you might pray for the pink dudes to…no, wait, it’s never that bad, right? I mean, even if you’re a fully grown middle aged man living with your mother, it’s still not that bad, right? Right?

Enter Gi-Hun (Greg Chun) as the protagonist who holds it all together. Somehow, despite being the quintessential nice guy who always finishes last (one time he did something noble and his reward was to lose his wife, daughter, job and end up living with his mother who as mothers go is pretty nice but still, no self respecting single dude wants to live with his mother) will have to find a way to survive against contestants adept at cheating to get their way…another life point as unfortunately, rare is the person who goes through life without having to get their hands dirty, who doesn’t have to do something that leaves a bad taste in their mouth and those who don’t sometimes end up as noble yet poor and alone, wishing they’d done X dastardly deed back in the day so they could be rich now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Not for the squeamish as it does put the U in ultraviolence, such that Stanley Kubrick’s droogs might even clutch their pearls at the scenes that lie within. Life is definitely cheap in this competition, the underlying argument seeming to be that life is treated rather cheaply in the real world as well. Heartbreaking, as it might dredge up your old memories of times when you had to put yourself over others and neither option felt totally kosher.

Finally, I’ll just say this. It’s been two long years since Game of Thrones ended and since then, I’ve felt like a stranger in a strange land when it comes to TV. There just hasn’t been anything with the same chutzpah or level of storytelling, that trail of breadcrumbs that lures you in and rewards you by tying up all of those pesky loose threads.

So ultimately, that’s what I’m saying. A bunch of plucky Koreans in track suits playing kids’ games to the death somehow adds up to the best TV show since Game of Freaking Thrones…at least in this humble blogger’s opinion.

But do think twice before watching if you are squeamish.

SIDENOTE #1 – I have to give props to this show for not only allowing the hero to be played by a man in his late 40s, but to actually come right out and say that Gi-Hun is 47. His childhood friend/competitor Sang-Woo is also in his late 40s. The ages of the competitors run from early 20s to 40s and one very old man but I assume this is a cultural difference between America and Korea. In an American reboot of the show, Gi-Hun’s character would be like, a worldly 21-year old who somehow has seen it all and done it all and is very wise despite being twenty-freaking one. (Honestly, in my own personal experience, I’ve found that life sends the equivalent of the pink coated video game guards to blast you in the face the second you hit 30, 35 tops. Had I known this when I was 21, I would have pushed myself much, much harder but unfortunately, I was dumber than a box of rocks when I was 21…not like all the super wise all knowing 21 year olds on TV today.

All I’m saying is kudos to Korea for supporting a show where a 47 year old character isn’t treated like a useless piece of trash ready for the dumpster. I mean, his family, friends and potential employers still treat him like that, but competition wise he hangs in on those games with the best of them.

SIDENOTE #2 – Often when a show or movie takes off overseas, it is treated to an American reboot, often with disastrous results. Ironically, Netflix is one of the chief perpetrators of such reboots. Since the show has become popular in its own right, I doubt you’ll see an Americanized reboot. I’m not dumping on American movies/shows but it’s just…sometimes something is good in part because of the world in which it is created and it was interesting to learn about Korean life as I watched the show.

SIDENOTE #3 – If I’m reading the figures in other reports right, it cost $21.4 million to produce but raked in 900 million for Netflix. Mmmm boy that’s a good return on investment!

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Movie Review – The Guilty (2021)

I want to say this is the harshest movie review I’ll ever write, but the year is still young and so is the decade and who knows how much blogging time I have left…even so…

…what a horrible piece of crap this movie is. Don’t even bother…to watch it. You can still read my review if you want.

When this one popped up on Netflix, I saved it until a weekend afternoon when I could give it my full attention. It looked great, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a benched cop assigned to 911 operator duty while he awaits the review of recent allegations of wrongdoing. He takes a call from an abduction victim and attempts to use his detective skills from his desk to solve the case, even though he’s really just supposed to relay the info to the actual investigators and stay out of the way.

The film is a remake of a Danish film of the same name, though I immediately felt it was somewhat of a ripoff of the 2013 film, “The Call” starring Halle Berry. That movie was actually pretty good, largely because it plenty of cut shots, scenes that showed what was going on with Halle at the call center as well as what was happening with the victim – the villain’s evil-doings, attempts by good Samaritans to intervene, the police chase, etc.

Here, we get none of that. If you were hoping for an extended film that is just the Jakester sitting at a desk, arguing with various voices on the phone, then have fun. Oh wait, I forgot, sometimes he gets up and moves to another room where he can yell at the voices on the phone in private.

I have to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to release an all Jake, all the time film, without any glimpse into what’s going on with the victim or the baddie whatsoever. Then again, that might have been the point. Netflix and other streaming services are trying to build their platforms, churning out tons of product, trying to give subscribers a lot of bang for their buck i.e. “Look at all the movies we’ve got!”

Problem is, I’ve found a lot of these Netflix flicks that look like they rival the theatrically released summer blockbusters often just end up with one big star in a film with a shitty script. I could cite Charlize Theron in The Old Guard or Ryan Reynolds in Six Underground….except I can’t because those had one big star, a shitty plot, but a lot of special effects and action that were at least fun to watch.

Here, it’s just a dude sitting at a desk. I guess the one saving grace is eventually I realized I could putter around the house and do my busy work, treating the film like a podcast because all I needed was to hear Jake and the various voices on the other line.

It’s just…sad…and it does make me wonder about the future of movies if theaters are ever, God forbid, shuttered permanently. I mean, seriously, theaters are a check on Hollywood because surely, if you ever put a movie this shitty in a big city, packed house movie theater, there’d be a riot, or probably not far but a mild insurrection. Rabble rousers would definitely throw popcorn at the screen and demand some cut scenes showing the police chasing the bad guy while Jake is on the phone. If streaming services take over completely, it will just be a non-stop spew of crap.

Surprising because not only is JG the lead, but it is directed by Antoine Fuqua who gave us Training Day and screenwriter Nic Pizzolato of True Detective Fame. I dunno. All three have given us great stuff to watch but it feels like they sold out to create a real turd here.

STATUS: NOT-SHELFWORTHY! Truly, the most devastating rating I can give a piece of work on this fine blog. I really thought this would be good because it had an actor who has starred in good movies, but then again, Netflix got me with Charlize Theron, Ryan Reynolds, etc. It’s like Lucy holding the football. I always say I’m not going to run at that ball and then I do it anyway.

Thanks for making me look like a blockhead, Netflix.

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TV Review – Masters of the Universe: Revelation (2021)

I HAVE THE POWER…to write this review, 3.5 readers.

BQB here to check out Netflix’s sequel series to the popular 1980s cartoon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

3.5 readers, perhaps you’ve heard there is a bit of controversy behind this show. Rather than do a straight up review, I’m going to organize my thoughts into PRO and CON but beware, SPOILERS abound. Frankly, I wish I had watched it before reading about it online, so if you haven’t read about it, here’s your chance to go watch it first, then come back and praise it or kvetch about it, or both, whatever your preference. Believe it or not, I fall into the “or both” category.

THE CONTROVERSY:

Fans of the series were totes stoked that He-Man was coming back in a Netflix series helmed by Kevin Smith, a comic book auteur known for keeping it real when it comes to comics. If K-Smitty is behind it, it must be good, for he’s an OG comic fan from way back and would never, ever sell out to The Man just to make a quick buck.

Alas, in the first episode (BIG TIME MEGA SPOILER) He-Man and Skeletor (the trash talkiest villain of all time, basically imagine a combination of your mother in law, a sassy drag queen, and Donald Trump in their ability to pinpoint and throw shade on your flaws and put them in a skeleton man costume) have the final duel that has been forever in the making. At first, this seems awesome but then, they kill each other and for the rest of the series, the show is helmed by Teela, the longtime friend, confidante and lady bodyguard of Prince Adam, He-Man’s true identity and alter ego.

To boil it down further, there is very little He-Man in a show where He-Man is the main draw.

PRO:

#1 – Teela is voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller which makes me happy as a Buffy fan.

#2 – Kevin Smith’s argument is that he made a show for adult fans of a kids show – people who loved a show when they were little but are now in their 30s and 40s. Often, adults tend to look back at things they loved as kids with rose colored glasses, only to revisit them as adults and realize it was kind of dumb and silly. For example, I like He-Man as a kid. It wasn’t my favorite show, for that role went to GI Joe, but I generally like the show. As an adult, I went back and looked at old clips of He-Man only to find it is campy and silly AF, lots of bad puns and goofiness and what have you.

Ergo, Smith tried to make something where the stakes are real, in other words, where there are consequences and yes, where characters can actually die, as opposed to the show we got when we were kids, where He-Man and Skeletor would just wail on each other for a half hour each week and then the next week, they were fine and ready to go at it again.

He makes a good point. The show has a great musical score that puts me back in the 80s and it has that 80s feel while not being a campy romp. It has about as much of a plot as a fantasy show about warriors battling over the control of a planet’s magic can have and though I was sad to see He-Man go, I did want to find out what happens next. The five episode run is short and bingeable.

#3 – Lena Headey steals the show as Evil-Lynn, a sorceress who rivals Skeletor in her ability to throw shade. He Game of Thrones co-star, Liam Cunningham, is also pretty great as Man-At-Arms, Eternia’s resident weapons-smith.

#4 – The show isn’t a reboot. It starts where the series left off, just with a flare that is more adult yet can be watched by children. In the 1980s, comic book type shows and movies were considered silly by adults, and presented as silly for the kids with the idea that comic books are silly and should be presented as silly for the kids. Today, see the Marvel movies as an example of how it’s almost as if the studios think about the adults first and the kids second when it comes to comic book movies. This is a show with a plot that will appeal to adults yet kids can watch it. Whether or not today’s kids will enjoy it though, I have no idea. I’ll admit I wasn’t enough of a He-Man fan to keep up with it over the years and I had forgotten its main plot points, though the show quickly reminds who in the beginning who everyone is and what they do, what the world and the war is all about.

#5 – To the show’s credit, it is called Masters of the Universe: Revelation. In other words, it’s not called “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” as it was originally titled. This should suggest up front that a) there was a reason why they didn’t include He-Man in the title and revelation means something you didn’t expect is going to happen.

#6 – The show survives by plugging up past plotholes. Namely, Teela never knew that Prince Adam was He-Man and feels betrayed so many of her friends knew and never told her. King Randor never knew either. An ongoing plotline was Teela and the King thought Prince Adam was a wimp and if only he could be half as brave as He-Man. The King’s rage at being lied to leads to a big shakeup in the kingdom. Teela becomes so jaded that she dons a butch haircut and travels the world as a merc, giving a middle finger to honor and duty and just being in it for the money and herself.

#7 – The show pits magic against technology. With magic in short supply as a result of Skeletor’s chicanery, Eternians turn more to tech, which seems like a commentary on the modern age, i.e. people turn to religion for comfort yet are more reliant than ever on tech.

CON

#1 – MOTU without He-Man is like buying tickets to an Insane Clown Posse concert only to arrive and find that ICP took the day off and have been replaced by Flo from the Progressive commercials strumming a ukulele. It’s like turning on a new Batman movie only to discover Batman has decided to go to a spiritual healing retreat while Robin takes over for 2 hours. It’s like showing up to a Mets vs. Yankees game only to discover both teams have gout, and the only entertainment will be Mr. Met dancing the Macarena for 4 hours. It’s like showing up at the alter, ready to marry your beloved, only to pull back the fall and discover she has been replaced by a chimpanzee in a dress.

In short, when He-Man and Skeletor buy the farm so early in the show, you can almost hear the WOMP WOMP.

#2 – I’m not 100 percent sure this was the case here, but in today’s super woke world of ultra woke wokesterism, it’s hard not to believe that some suit at Netflix HQ didn’t decide that there was no way a show helmed by a character who is a super muscular stud-muffin blonde barbarian man who is so frigging straight and macho that he probably bangs hot chicks two at a time in between sword battles was going to fly unless he gets straight up ganked in the first episode and is replaced by a female character and said female character needs a butch makeover. I mean, for Christ’s sake, He-Man is so freaking macho and manly that his name is literally the combination of HE and MAN (which hey, by 1980s standards, the dude put his pronoun right in his name and in retrospect was hella woke) but no way such a macho sumbitch can be allowed to be in charge in this day and age. I’ll admit, that was my first reaction when I learned He-Man kicked the bucket early but then I admit once I started watching, I was intrigued.

#3 – I’m not sure what to think of K-Smith’s involvement. It feels like he was brought on board to give the series that OG Comic fan street cred. As of late, he’s been ranting online about how the fans are being jerks yet a comic guru like himself should realize you can’t just waste He-Man without there being some blowback.

#4 – Eighties kids have been through this already. Corporate suits loved to straight up murder characters we loved all the time, often just to sell toys. The Transformers movie ganked both Optimus Prime and Megatron and their top cronies, all for them to replaced with all new characters, which little kids of the day openly realized was just a cheap marketing trick (though we demanded our parents buy us those toys anyway.)

The Transformers move was so poorly received that Optimus had to be revived in the show and the GI Joe movie had to scrap storyline where Duke dies and it ultimately went to release straight to video. In short, we didn’t like it when our TV show cartoon pals died as kids and we don’t like it as adults either.

BOTTOMLINE – Whenever I want to criticize a show or a movie, I take stock and admit that hey, at least they made something, which is more than I did. I’m a frigging adult, so it’s not like I’m crying over the demise of He-Man. Though he is the main draw, I did binge the show because I found the storyline interesting and wanted to see where it went, so perhaps ultimately Smith and Netflix found a way to get the show a lot of free press and to draw viewers in. Would a show where He-Man wields his sword and kicked ass while Skeletor mocks his loin cloth been just more of the same? I don’t know.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I’m not sure where the show goes from here. A MOTU show without He-Man and Skeletor probably can’t last forever and yet, if you bring them back with a magic wand wave, that sort of cheapens the idea that this show has adult level stakes. As much as I have enjoyed watching Teela’s storyline, I wonder if, in the long run, you do need the buff barbarian and the trash talking skeleton to go at it because really, who doesn’t want to see more of that?

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Movie Review – Major Grom: Plague Doctor (2020)

Wow, 3.5 readers. It’s official. The Russkis have entered the comic book movie world.

BQB here with a review.

So like the rest of you, I was scrolling through Netflix’s Top Ten the other day and came across a film by the above name. I thought it sounded like a dumb name for a movie but then again, when I scroll through most of Netflix’s original offerings and read the titles and descriptions, it makes me feel like their entire greenlight strategy is that there’s a chimpanzee in a business suit in the basement of Netflix HQ throwing darts at various words and phrases and whatever the darts land on ends up being the next show.

But I digress.

It turns out this is a Russian movie. It’s dubbed in English but you can tell it’s a bit off, i.e. it might make more sense if you knew Russian and saw it in the original Russian, but then you’d also have to know Russian expressions, manners of speech, accents, colloquialisms etc. Sometimes I wonder if these movies are better not dubbed. For example, I thought the IP Man movies were better with the subtitles and lost something when they got popular and were dubbed with English speaking actors. With the subtitles, you could find out what they were saying but then also hear what is emphasized, what isn’t in the native language even though you don’t understand it.

Anyway…

Bubble Studios is behind this, a name I’d never heard of until coming across this movie. After looking it up, it turns out they’ve been bringing American style comic books to Russia for the past ten years, with the ultimate goal of making a movie and this is it.

It stars some Russian guy as the titular Major Igor Grom (yeah I’m not looking up all the actors and stuff I am too lazy), a St. Petersburg police detective with a reputation for being tough on crime, not afraid of skirting the rules if it means putting a bad guy behind bars. The beginning sequence and aftermath, where he chases down a van of bank robbers by wrecks half the city while doing so, only to end up getting yelled at by his captain makes me think some Russian film executive somewhere is a fan of the Lethal Weapon series and all the cop movie tropes that come with it.

Moving on, after the obligatory, “Give me your badge and OK you can have your badge back we have bigger problems!” sequence, we learn the son of a powerful billionaire has, in a most crooked manner, been released on charges stemming from him running an orphan down with his fancy sports car. From this incident, the vigilante known as the Plague Doctor is born. In olden times, Plague Doctors, with their big long beak masks, would treat the diseases, sometimes setting fire to afflicted areas if need be.

Here, the vigilante sees corrupt rich oligarchs as the modern disease that he must burn with the fire shooting fists of his elaborate costume.

Naturally, Grom must investigate, with a nerdy rookie sidekick in tow and a love interest in the form of an intrepid lady journalist on his arm. Sometimes he stops to eat a burrito (I think it is a burrito unless it is a Russian treat I don’t know about) to give him personality.

Overall, the movie is very silly, laden with plot holes, and sort of reeks of Russian film execs saying, “Hey look! We can sell out just as hard as the Americans!” A lot of stylized action and so forth, a lot of explosions and special effects and the occasional attempt at humor or plot explanation.

There are some things will come across as odd to Americans. For example, the Plague Doctor becomes popular on social media, leading some to ask why the government doesn’t just shut his postings down – after all, he’s hamming it up for likes and might stop if his attention goes away. Clearly, the Russian government has a greater power to do that than in the US. The freedom of speech becomes a key plot point – if we pick and choose who can speak, pretty soon the government will warp that into just shutting down any and all governmental criticism. Still, sometimes people say things that are pretty awful. In America, we’ve accepted that we have to accept people saying awful things as the cost of saying everything else we need or want to say, and of course, one person’s awful thing to say is another man’s firmly held believe so where does it end and where does it begin?

There are also some cultural differences that some American viewers might question. For example, Yulia, at first a thorn in Grom’s side as a journalist who keeps bothering him and later a love interest, obtains her goals through trickery and deception, for she lacks Grom’s muscles which he uses to smack the answers he needs out of most of the film’s goons and henchmen. In an American film, Yulia would just smack the goons around herself, the 300 pound brutes being flung wildly through the air upon a single kick from her tiny high heel shoe, although to the film’s credit (SPOILER) she does get to mace a couple of baddies so that’s fun. At any rate though, my brain registered a few moments where American feminists might be rattling off a curtly lettered complaint letter to…I’m not sure where such letters go in Russia…probably some bureaucrat in Siberia I guess.

Long story short, this is probably something I never would have watched if we a) weren’t in a pandemic where Hollywood has scaled back and new, blockbuster American films are few and far between lately and b) if Netflix didn’t put it in front of me. I would have never gone in search of Russian comic book movies. It was fun and I suppose the rub is now that I watched one I’ll probably watch a sequel.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I do worry about the implications of the Russians entering the global blockbuster type popcorn munching movie market. The movie is fun and makes Russia seem like a nice place to live where tough guy cops like Grom have the citizen’s back. However, I’m not sure these movies ever would ever criticize the Russian government or Putin. Maybe there are Russian legal reasons why they can’t or maybe, more understandably, they just won’t because they don’t want to wake up cracking rocks in the gulag one day. I’m not sure what life is like for the average Russian and info coming out of that country seems to be scarce. My gut tells me its probably better than it was during the Cold War but not as good as it could be. Somewhere in there but what do I know? All we know is Putin has been president for what? Twenty something years? There isn’t a true democracy that would keep anyone in power for twenty something years. Add to that how Putin’s critics have a tendency to go belly up and well…I just worried a growing trend of Russian action/comic book movies might leave Americans thinking, “Hey, look! It’s a lot of fun over there! No need to worry about human rights abuses and so on.”

Putting the obligatory geo-political worries aside, the movie is fun and it isn’t lost on me that Grom has no powers other than he punches bad guys in the face, then eats a burrito while his girlfriend and nerdy sidekick do all the paperwork, which let’s be honest, is probably the Russian version of having a superpower.

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Movie Review – The Ice Road (2021)

The ice! The road! The Ice Road!

BQB here with a review of Liam Neeson’s latest action flick.

Did you ever wonder what would happen if Ice Road Truckers was turned into a movie? This is it. Ice road trucking finally hits the silver screen.

Liam, who apparently does 100 old man action flicks a year in his sleep now, stars as Mike McCann, an old trucker recently fired after punching out a fellow trucker who was making fun of his brother, Gurty, (Marcus Thomas) a war veteran who suffers from PTSD and aphasia, meaning everyone’s trying to put the poor guy in a home which would be a waste as he can take apart and reassemble a truck engine like nobody’s business.

Long story short, a bunch of miners get trapped in a mine after a gas explosion caves them in. Holt McCallany, the toughest tough guy to ever come out of Netflix, plays the head miner who has to keep the other miners from flipping out while the company assembles a rescue team.

Said team takes the form of Liam’s Mike and brother Gurty, Tantoo, a sassy Native truck driver Tantoo (Amber Midthunder) and Laurence Fishburne as Jim Goldenrod, who must drive a three truck convoy over the icy roads that traverse various bodies of water in the icy depths of Canada. As we are told in great detail, ice road trucking is a dangerous feat, for to drive too fast or too slow or to make any mistake, really, will result in a big rig and its driver plunging into the ice, never to return. One wonders why anyone does it in the first place, though I suppose those who dare are super macho and deserving of much praise.

Ah, but there is danger afoot as evildoers want to stop the convoy from bringing the much needed rescue equipment to the collapsed mine. Much to my surprise, Matt McCoy is the villain of the film, and I haven’t seen that guy in a movie since he played Mahoney’s replacement in the later installments of the Police Academy movie series.

Overall a fun film, though you might have to suspend disbelief and not ask yourself questions like, “Wouldn’t a professional mining company already have life saving equipment on site?” and “Would anyone really want to stop a life saving convoy from reaching its destination?” and “Has Liam Neeson made a deal with the devil that allows him to play the tough guy in every action movie until he turns 100?”

It is pretty cool that Netflix made this movie. Their flicks have been a little lackluster as of late, so this one’s worth a watch.

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TV Review – Manifest (2018 – Apparently Cancelled)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This show’s cancellation is as mysterious as a missing plane.

BQB here with a review.

Remember a few years ago when there was a missing plane, no trace of it found and all the cable news channels talked about it ad nauseum for hours and hours on end? (Not that it wasn’t a tragedy but it was to the point where you’d wake up in the morning and there’d be a guy on TV talk about the missing plane, then you’d go to bed and someone was still talking about a missing plane.)

Well NBC made an entire show about just that, only the passenger and crew survive. They take off in 2013, get struck by lightning and then miraculously land five years later in 2018. Ironically, while this show began in 2018, news of its existence took three years to reach my brain, with Netflix delivering said news.

The rest of the world has moved on without them…hard since for the passengers, no time has passed. Yet in those five years, friends and family have gotten older, some have even passed away. Spouses have found other romantic partners. Kids have grown up, leaving siblings on the plane behind.

I have to admit, I generally despise network television. It’s all very bland, formulaic and predictable. It’s that way so that Joe Blow McNoCable can tune in on any episode, pick up what’s going on instantly and then keep watching without bothering to go back and watch the earlier episodes.

But I like this one and I would have never heard of it if it hadn’t shown up on my Netflix radar. Frankly, it’s odd that NBC decided to cancel it as it has gained a lot of fans on the streaming platform.

I’m five episodes in and debating whether or not to keep watching. The overall question of the show is how did this plane land five years into the future? The individual episodes have mini mysteries, i.e. the passengers develop special powers they use to help people, thus the secondary question of how did the plane’s travel through time give them special powers? The mini mysteries are fun, though if the show is cancelled, I doubt we’ll get answers to the big questions.

To that end, it is somewhat reminiscent of Lost. I never bothered with that one but it was about a plane crash and a mysterious island. Plenty of threads let out and then fans tell me they never got any answers. (SIDENOTE: The show also reminds me of early 2000s’ The 4400, about 4,400 survivors of alien abduction who are suddenly returned to earth…so who knows? Maybe the plane’s passengers were abducted by aliens.

And there’s the rub. Whenever I discover a network show I like, I eventually do stop watching, rarely finishing it to the end if an end is even allowed. Years ago, I was into NBC’s The Blacklist and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Both followed the same formats, i.e. the sweeping question solved a bit in each episode, while each episode follows on a singular premise. But alas, the networks just keep pulling those strings without ever really tying them up. You can only follow bread crumbs for so long before you either find a gingerbread house or grow sick of bread crumbs.

I’ll probably watch a few more episodes and who knows? Maybe Netflix will order some more seasons since it’s high on their top ten list this weekend.

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Movie Review – The Woman in the Window (2021)

Ugh. I wish this woman would get out of my window and off of my TV screen already.

Hollywood, what’s going on?

BQB here with a review of another stinker.

My 3.5 readers are aware I rarely give out the terrible “not shelf worthy” rating because as much as a movie might suck, it usually has some redeeming value and high, in the end, any movie that has been made is 100 percent better than the movie I didn’t make but some movies have little value and some are better off not made. The two films I watched the past weekend, Wrath of Man and The Woman in the Window, fit the bill.

BTW, this is a movie meant for people who have seen this film and the film it is based on, the classic Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. If you haven’t seen either, look away, for SPOILERS ABOUND.

This isn’t a reboot of Rear Window but more of an homage. Rear Window is as close to perfect as a film can get and even by modern standards, the set design (which includes the construction of a whole host of apartments for the recovering Stewart to peep into) is fascinating.

Stewart’s character is a peeper but he has some redemptive qualities. He’s a famous photographer, laid up with a broken leg courtesy of a shoot gone wrong on his latest globetrotting adventure. He’s an older, gray haired man in this, but young Grace Kelly digs him because this was the time when Hollywood was like, “Yeah, young chicks like successful famous old dudes with money” whereas today they’d take like a 70 year old actor and slap hair dye on his plugs and try to make it look some young babe isn’t repulsed by him.

Sorry, I’m getting off on a tangent. Bottomline, Stewart while practicing his photography spies some odd doings with his neighbor that don’t quite up and the crux of the film is whether or not a heinous crime has been committed or if Stewart is just engaging in gossip and speculation over a lot of nothing.

I’m not sure why anyone would try to make a Diet Coke version of this film (I’m not sure why Universal (Hitchcock;s old stomping ground) didn’t sue either. It be like me making a movie about a farm boy turned space pilot who blows up the Bleth Blar and calling it Blar Blores but whatever.

The movie seems to go out of its way to set itself apart from Rear Window and maybe this is where it messes up. Here we have Amy Adams as child psychologist Anna Fox, an agoraphobic who, for reasons to be revealed later, is afraid to leave her house.

Anna spends her days watching old movies and peeping on her neighbors across the street. On one fateful night, she sees her neighbor’s wife, played by Julianne Moore get stabbed, cries “J’accuse!” at the husband, an evil Gary Oldham, only for the cops to be all like, hey pipe down crazy lady because the dude’s wife is here and alive – enter Jennifer Jason Leigh as the woman claiming to be the real wife who is A OK sans stabby wounds.

Look, I’m not a detective. I never went to the police academy or anything but I’m pretty sure even the most inept cop, upon hearing a neighbor say “I saw my neighbor’s wife get stabbed” wouldn’t stop at “but hey the wife is here.” You might, you know (SPOILER) ask around to see if there are any past wives, girlfriends, other women in the man’s life that the neighbor might have confused for a wife and find out if any of them are missing?

But ok. Sometimes movies require us to suspend disbelief.

SPOILER ALERT – the neighbor’s mentally ill son did it and I don’t know, I thought Hollywood was done with demonizing the mentally ill? While the big slasher flicks of long ago would feature a killer who went nutsy cuckoo, I’ve noticed slasher flicks in recent years usually have the slasher motivated by greed, money or what have you – i.e they’re sane and they are purposely killing to enrich themselves.

And hey, look, sometimes there might be a position where a cuckoo bird (sorry, is that PC? I’m old so I don’t know) flies off the handle and though it is sad that they experienced emotional trauma that turned them into a wack-a-doodle, sometimes it is either the main character or the goofball and you can’t blame the main character for defending themselves now and then we can all sit around and think about what tragic actions happened to make the killer a killer and how to keep them happening in the future so people get the help they need and don’t become killers.

Wow that was a long run on sentence.

Ultimately, the film is about a woman who is a child psychologist who spends half the film touting her child psychology credentials and then ends with a child psychologist throwing a teenager to his death through a skylight.

I don’t know. I mean, look, I know I’m not the most PC person in the world but even I thought like, hey, either have her use her child psychology skills to talk the kid into dropping the weapon and turning himself in so he can get the help he needs, or just make the bad guy Oldham and that it was all about money or whatever.

And then the movie just has threads that are pulled and never sewn back together. Like for awhile it looks like Oldham is the killer because in the last city he lived in, his assistant fell to her death back at his old job and he tranferred to a job in a new city after that. Suspicious…maybe this guy has a habit of killing the women in his life. It is never answered if that was an accident or a killing.

Plus Oldham is arrested in the end and it is never fully explained why. One might assume he helped the son cover up the murder and that’s a terrible thing to do so ok, book him…but if he didn’t know the son did it…I don’t know. They could have expanded and explained what exactly happened there.

STATUS: Not shelf-worthy and I worry maybe COVID is really causing Hollywood to make a lot of stinkers. Plus, I worry about movie quality if movie theaters go bust because a lot of these streaming films are crap now.

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Movie Review – Army of the Dead (2021)

Zombies! Run!

BQB here with a review of Army of Darkness.

This is the first instance I can remember where a movie tricked me into thinking it was going to be good, only to end up bad.

The first 5-10 minutes are pretty great. We see Vegas become overrun by zombies. Set against Elvis’ classic gambler’s anthem, Viva Las Vegas, we see impersonators of various Vegas icons, from Elvis to Liberace, getting trapped in the brain biting melee.

We see slot machine junkies become dinner for the undead.

We even see boobs! Do you have any idea how long it has been since I’ve seen an honest to god boob in a motion picture release? I didn’t even think boobs were allowed on screen anymore but there they were. The zombie showgirls were set loose, free to feast on gray matter.

It all sets the scene for what should be an awesome Vegas themed horror flick. America’s pleasure city is overrun by the undead and a rich casino owner has hired a team of mercs led by Dave Bautista to infiltrate the damned city (it’s closed off and due for a nuke to protect the rest of the country from being overrun) and recover the 200 million in his vault.

Vegas heist film with zombies. Got it. Sounds cool.

Then the plot meanders, as Zack Snyder films so often do. Suddenly, its not so much about the heist. It’s about Dave Bautista’s character’s relationship with his estranged daughter. The daughter has a friend she was to save. Except, suddenly the movie isn’t about that. It’s about the Army of the Dead who have taken over the city. Apparently, there are super smart zombies who boss around the dumb zombies and they rule. Alright, so now its about defeating the leaders of this evil army.

Wait, its also about this character you get to know for five minutes whose name you won’t remember and this character you get to know for five minutes whose name you won’t…you know what? Forget it. Zack Snyder doesn’t believe in tying up loose threads, so if you see a trail of bread crumbs, don’t expect it to lead anywhere except to more bread crumbs…either that or it just stops and there is no more bread.

Comedienne Tig Notaro offers bits of needed comic relief as a fast talking helicopter pilot but other than that…this is a movie that could have been good and just…wasn’t. Maybe zombies have been done to death (pun intended) or maybe this movie could have settled on one plot. When you have zombies in vegas plus a heist you don’t really need that much more.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy but just remember you’re coming for a diversion, not to really experience anything. I worry about a world where movie theaters go out of business and streaming services like Netflix take over, because you might get an occasional good film, but you’ll also get a lot of schlocky filler. Bad writing. Non-existent character development. I mean, if you spend two and a half hours watching a movie, you should be able to remember one character’s name, right? I can’t remember any of them, who they are, what they want. The whole time it’s just oh that guy. Yeah that guy, and that gal and oh we saw them before, now they’re back. OK.

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Movie Review – I Care a Lot (2020)

Killer lawyers! Bilked old people!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s latest movie, I Care A Lot.

Lately, I’ve had misgivings about Netflix. IMO, there’s a few good series and a lot of schlocky filler. They tend to do movies wrong, putting a lot of star power into flicks with scripts that sound like they were written in crayon by hobos on the back of an old piece of cardboard.

But this one was pretty good.

Rosamund Pike wowed us in Gone Girl, but has apparently been typecast as evil women now. Here, she stars as an evil lawyer with her own corrupt guardianship business. The court appoints her to run the lives of elderly people who have no one to look after them. To the casual observer, it appears she is doing a good deed by managing the assets of the elderly, using them to pay for their care in nursing homes and making tough decisions about their health care.

But she’s also profiting big time, seeing old folks as marks, even going so far as to have Jennifer Peterson, a robust old wealthy retired businesswoman who gets along just fine and has all of her wits about her, declared bonkers just so she can put the old woman’s moolah into her pocket.

Ahh, but while so many old folks have fallen victim to Marla’s scam before with no recourse available (she works with a corrupt nursing home to make sure her old charges are kept like prisoners, unable to complain to anyone about their ill treatment and/or that they are being robbed blind), Peterson’s son is a powerful gangster in the form of Peter Dinklage.

And thus, a war breaks out, with Pike and Dinklage trying to one up each other, going to extreme lengths to bring one another down, all in the name of ill gotten loot.

The movie is confusing in that it is hard to find a hero to root for and ultimately, there isn’t one. Pike’s character has a schtick about how people who play by the rules are suckers and getting rich means having to do bad things. That seems rather jaded and surely all rich people aren’t corrupt…right? Right? IDK. Perhaps it feels that way in the decade since Madoff and all the corporate scandals of the late 2000s that led to negative effects for the economy.

Personally, I found myself rooting for Dinklage. He does play a bad person who does bad for a living, but at the same time, it’s kind of glorious that after a lifetime spent bilking old folks out of their money, Marla messes with the wrong old person, someone with a loved one capable of messing back.

The film does give the viewer pause about the guardianship industry. On the one hand, surely not all guardians are corrupt…right? Right? IDK. Surely, many if not most are just good attorneys who manage the assets and affairs of people who can’t do it themselves. Even so, the system, any kind of system, sucks and be it the healthcare system, the legal system, the justice system, or what have you, it’s best to stay out of it for as long as you can because once you’re in it, you’re just a statistic that is passed around blindly, subjected to a vast sea of bureaucracy and rarely treated as an individual. Maybe it’s never too early to set up a plan and spell out legally who takes care of you when you can’t take care of yourself…and also eat your Wheaties because you’re the only one you can truly trust to take care of yourself.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Vanished (2020)

Keep an eye on your kids at all times, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with the new Netflix film, “The Vanished.”

It all starts out happily enough. Mom and Dad (Anne Heche and Thomas Jane, both a little long in the tooth to have a young kid but I assume they were big gets for Netflix so just go with it) pull into an RV park with their young daughter, ready for a fun vacation of camping and fishing.

Alas, Dad takes his eyes off his kid for one minute to oggle the wife half of the young couple in the RV parked next door and daughter goes missing.

Twists and turns ensue, and as Mom and Dad go nuts, they make the situation so much worse.

Jason Patric stars as the noble yet troubled sheriff, looking chubbier and unrecognizable from his Speed 2 days. Not knocking the guy. Happens to all of us.

Definitely a lot of random plot points stuffed in a blender, but the film rests on fakeouts – i.e. it introduces to a host of weirdoes, makes us think each weirdo did it, lets the weirdo off the hook, then moves on to the next weirdo. Even weirder, people who are seemingly norms will be discovered as weirdos and it just goes to show that you should suspect everyone of being weirdoes, whether they show outward signs of weirdo-ness or not.

BTW I always confuse Thomas Jane with Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame and always expect him to start speaking in that Lambertian French accent. He never does because he is not Chris Lambert, but I think there should be a movie about how they were twin brothers separated at birth.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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