Captivating Watch: Time Trap @Netflix #GoodWatch

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Here’s another one of those “watch this before it leaves Netflix” movies. But is it any good? It’s 1:27:00 long, so it’s easy to find time to watch it.

Presented by Pad Thai Pictures. Good start. I like pad Thai.

Netflix calls it Time Trap, but the opening credits call it Timetrap.

Enough nonsense. Let’s get to it. It doesn’t take too long to figure out what’s going on. Once you get past the fundamental premise, there’s some decent science playing out. While I can’t stand some of the occasional histrionics and stupidity of the characters — seriously, why are most writers unable to write a story independent of such elements — I still found myself unable to turn away. I wanted to learn more as things went on, and then wanted to see how it ended. Which it kind of didn’t. Not because it was necessarily setting up a sequel, but just because they didn’t give you an explanation. It’s left for you to fill in the blanks. If you don’t like that, you won’t like the ending.

Still worth my time. As always, YMMV.

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Irritating Watch: An American Pickle @hbomax #GoodWatch

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American Pickle is a strange story. Herschel Greenbaum falls into a vat of pickle brine in 1919 and wakes up in 2019. There, he connects with his great-grandson, Ben. Both characters are played by Seth Rogan.

I suspect that the message I pulled from this movie isn’t what I was expected to get. The message I suspect we’re supposed to get is that people’s antiquated are harming American society, but that ignores the setting in which the story plays out. What I’m witnessing is that everyone is so focused on what everyone else has, they forget what they have. Both Hershel and Ben share this trait, but being out of time, Hershel is amazed at the things Ben, a relative loser, has. Hershel would be ecstatic to have the life of a renter with a struggling business, being focused more on his personal and family honor than on “things.” The idea of a machine that creates seltzer water mesmerizes Hershel, which shows us how silly it is to lose sight of the amazing things we now take for granted.

At this point, I think it’s best to say SPOILER ALERT. I’ll place the next paragraph as quoted, italicized text so it’s easier to ignore.

Ben is a complete villain. As Hershel’s work ethic pushes him to success, Ben’s jealously has him leveraging cancel culture against Hershel. He even tries to get him deported. I suspect that, as with all art, people will read into it what they need in order to justify their worldview, which gives it a guaranteed fanbase. That’s a bit heavy for something I think is supposed to be a comedy, but not necessarily a deal breaker. Ben’s behavior really didn’t make me laugh, and that’s the deal breaker. When Ben attempts to reconcile, Hershel’s old-time notions of honor turn him into the villain, and aided by a typical Hollywood mischaracterization of the legal system, does Ben dirty.

Of course, everyone comes together by the end, but to me it’s too little, too late (and honestly a little cheap). The movie is just a depressing tale of how selfish we all can be, and I can’t help but feel I’m being lectured over things I didn’t do. Moreover, it just drags.

As always, YMMV.

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Wow! Watch: Class Action Park @HBOMax #GoodWatch

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Class Action Park on HBO is a 90-minute documentary on Action Park, an amusement park in Vernon, NJ known for violating just about every regulation to which it was subjected. Gene Mulvihill founded the first modern water park — so far; so good — where the visitors to the park had total control over the “rides” (including speed boats) — ummmm — and supervised by teenagers, some of which were too young to work — wait; what? — who were operating on little sleep because they spent every night getting high and have sex with each other. The results were exactly what you expected.

But that’s okay. Our legal system would protect the visitors, right? Legally, the park was required to be insured, regulatory authorities could cite him for irregularities, and people could always sue for damages. Watch the show to see how all of that works out for the victims.

On July 8, 1980, someone died. It was the first of six deaths that occurred in the park. Despite the deaths and injuries, the park didn’t close until 1996, but it eventually reopened and still operates today.

I really enjoyed the show. As always, YMMV.

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Growing-on-Me Watch: Star Trek Lower Decks @StarTrek @CBSAllAccess #GoodWatch

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Star Trek: Lower Decks is CBS’s attempt to capture the magic of Rick & Morty without losing its target audience. That would seem to be a tough sell: trying to do something but tying one’s hands in an important aspect. It certainly started that way. It’s first couple episodes fell flat for me, but even Futurama had a boring first episode. All first episodes are set ups.

Five episodes in, it’s finally growing on me. It’s better than Star Trek: The Animated Series, which was ridiculous. (There was only one good episode, and it was good because the third act was ridiculously funny.) This doesn’t mean I’d ever re-watch and episode of Lower Decks, but it’s decently entertaining, and I’m already paying for it. The gimmick with this series is that its main characters are ensigns rather than ship captains and senior officers. However, the higher-ranked officers get far more attention than was initially advertised, so they don’t really stick to the gimmick.

I think CBS missed the mark on this one, but if it fills the gap between the other shows such that we always have Star Trek, I’m on board. A low production budget show to fill that gap may have been the idea. Besides, Lower Decks may get better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch today’s episode. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: 1BR @Netflix #GoodWatch

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I don’t like horror movies. They’re ridiculous. This one’s a little different, and it works for me.

This isn’t a movie about an insane human with no superpowers that somehow gets up after getting stabbed in the neck. This is far more believable, and that makes it more enjoyable to me.

Per Netflix,

Seeking her independence, a young woman moves to Los Angeles and settles into a cozy apartment complex with a disturbing sense of community.

The community seems awesome, but it has a secret, and it doesn’t take long for Sarah to be forced from her comfort zone.

If you’re into horror movies, this may be too tame for you, but I liked it. As always, YMMV.

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Scary Watch: Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons @netflix #crime #prison #GoodWatch

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Holy shit! This is some scary stuff. Netflix’s series, Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, is well-named series currently consisting of four four-episode seasons, with each episode about 45 minutes long. It doesn’t take long to get scary. They start with a prison in Honduras where the guards lock themselves out and leave discipline to the most dangerous of prisoners. They even arm them, and the “warden” is a convicted killer. The interview with the 19-year-old is heartbreaking, but not in the way you might think. He belongs there. Another guy claims he acted in self-defense but still says he wish he hadn’t killed the deceased. Prison is worth than death for him.

From there, it goes to a Polish prison that keeps prisoners in cells 23 hours a day, Mexico, and a couple of overcrowded prisons in the Philippines. That’s just season one. Season two moves on to an understaffed prison in the Ukraine, a prison in Papua New Guinea where constant food shortages create chaos, and an evangelical prison (!?!?) in Belize.

None of these prisons are in the United States, but the show nevertheless reminds me of three concerns I have. First, do whatever you can to stay out of prison. The notion of spending any time there is terrifying for most of us, and the rest of us are just naive. Second, some people truly belong there. I don’t want them roaming the streets and posing a threat to society, so lock them up and make it uncomfortable. Third, we can’t forget that even the hardest prisoners still retain their humanity, and prison often breaks them. I don’t want prison to be easy, but forgetting their humanity assures us that they’ll continue to be a threat once their time in prison is done. We can’t leave most of them in there forever, so I want them returning to society with the assumption that they have a chance to get their lives back on track. It’s a puzzle for which I don’t have the answer, and unfortunately, as with all other complicated problems we face, each of us tends to look at only one side of the story and refuse to budge when presented with criticism. When we pass that sentiment on to our elected representative, we assure that this puzzle will never be solved.

My first draft of this post was written after having watched the first season, and it included a statement that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish it. I’m currently halfway through season 3 and will watch all of season 4. I think I actually got hardened to the imagery after a while. Considering what these prisoners go through, and thus what they may be hardened to, the thought of their release is scary.

This is a very tough watch, but it gives you a lot of food for thought. As always, YMMV.

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Neat Watch: Brave New World @peacockTV #GoodWatch

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NBC Peacock offered their original series, Brave New World, free of charge last weekend. I liked it a lot. The episodes are between 40-50 minutes long, and there are nine of them. From the Peacock website:

In a utopia whose perfection hinges upon control of monogamy and privacy, members of the collective begin to question the rules, putting their regimented society on a collision course with forbidden love and revolution.

In a sense, it was a horror movie for me, but I don’t expect everyone to feel that way. This is probably best described as science-fiction, though it’s also referred to as Utopian or Dystopian. I think of it as trying to achieve the same sort of vibe as Westworld. It’s a different story, and they carve their own path, so I’m not accusing them of doing anything wrong. Among the show’s stars are three actors with whom I’m familiar: Alden Ehrenreich, Hannah John-Kamen, and Demi Moore.

There’s a scene near the end of episode 4 that really hits me. I’m not sure if this is the intention, but it basically says (to me) that you don’t need soma (their mood-improving drug) because there’s music in the world. I doubt that was the precise intent, especially in light of a scene in episode 5, but that’s at least close (or part of) what they’re trying to say.

Is it good? Yes. I liked it a lot and will watch subsequent seasons. However, there’s too much good stuff on Peacock, as well as the other streaming services for which I’m already paying, for me to add another bill. I’ll probably join for a month and spend a weekend watching season 2 and a couple of other shows.

Unfortunately, if you want to watch it now, you’ll have to subscribe to Peacock’s pay service. As always, YMMV.

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Neat Watch: High Score @netflix #VideoGame #GoodWatch

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Netflix has a new limited series called High Score. It’s the story of video games, and it’s fascinating. It’s 6, 40-minute (or so) episodes, and it gives you a great sense of how much video games have evolved. For example, I played the stand-up games in the arcade. Almost 20 years later, I was working on the patents that made Final Fantasy possible. Only 2-1/2 episodes in, and they’ve already covered all that ground. I constantly asked, “Where do they have to go from here?” Every episode, they showed an innovation that changed everything. As a result, you see just how far along video game technology and culture have come in about 40 years.

Even for someone who doesn’t play video games anymore, this was a neat show. As always, YMMV.

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[Yawn] Watch: The Business of Drugs @netflix #Netflix #GoodWatch

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This seems like my kind of show. Inexplicably, it isn’t. The show carves out the path that raw and refined materials take to bring illegal drugs from the fields to your dining room table. I don’t think I’m in a depressive state, but for some reason, the Business of Drugs just couldn’t keep my attention. I made it through two out of six, 40-minute episodes, and then I tapped out.

As always, YMMV.

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Whacky Watch: Zardoz @hulu #movie #GoodWatch

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This movie was from 1974, but I had never seen it, and when I found out this past weekend that it was on Hulu, I knew I just had to watch it.

My online conversations leading up to my viewing were interesting. One friend suggested that Zardoz was “a fairly effective antidote to the Bond stereotype which is what I recall Sir Sean was going for.” Yet another claimed,

Only one person seemed to like it, referring to it as “awesome,” but as I said, I had to watch this. It didn’t take long for this to get weird. I have so many questions. Were those plants sighing? Did the Good Place base its last season on Zardoz? Was the Vortex founded by Princess Leia? How much did they have to pay Connery to wear a wedding dress?

“Zardoz says . . . .”
“What does Zardoz say?”

Well, let him finish the sentence, and you’ll find out, dipshit.

This film was made by John Boorman, who made the equally weird (but magnificent) Excalibur. This film at times uses cheesy, heavy-handed, and downright stupid dialogue to get across its point, but as far as science fantasy goes, it’s not nearly as bad as I’ve heard. It actually raises some interesting philosophical issues (one of which is shared by the brilliant, the Good Place), just raising them in the most awkward way possible. If you can look past the weird, you may find yourself enjoying it as much as I did.

As always, YMMV.

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