Classic Movies: Top Secret @valkilmer @CBSAllAccess #TopSecret #movie #CBSAllAccess #ClassicMovie #GoodWatch

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The other day, I was thinking, “I’d really like to see Top Secret again.” This weekend, I watched the latest episode of the Stand, and afterwards went browsing through the movie list on CBS All Access and found — you guessed it — Top Secret.

This category, Classic Watch, is reserved for classic movies like Casablanca and Citizen Kane. Perhaps it was inappropriate to include the Nightmare Before Christmas, but I make no apologies for including this one. This movie is a classic as far as I’m concerned. It’s stupid fun. Some of the gags were dated, in part because younger people won’t get the references (e.g., the exploding Ford Pinto), and in other part because people today are far more sensitive than they were in the 80s. I must admit that the latter makes me snicker a little bit.

As always, YMMV.

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Shazam!, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek: Lower Decks @StarTrek @MarvelStudios #StarTrek #MCU #DCEU #LowerDecks

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Two Facebook interactions led me to this train of thought. First, I noted that I haven’t watched any MCU films in months (nor have I watched any DCEU ones in the same period). Second, I noted that Star Trek: Lower Decks really grew on me after four episodes. This got me thinking about how important that show is to the Star Trek universe, and how similar its role is to Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy in their respective universes.

In the prior post comparing Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, I talked about the thematic similarities and their impact on the big picture to their universes. I’ll draw the same comparisons to Lower Decks in kind. But first, ….

Mea Culpa

I can never say this enough, though I never focused on this within this blog. I’m too old to be considered the target market for the MCU, but I look a lot like it. The base are the comic book nerds, some of whom are syncophants that will love anything “comic book” put before them (“Thank heavens I’m seeing my childhood get its due on the big screen!”), and others who will always hate anything “comic book” put before them (“You’re ruining my childhood!”). Even if you got all of them on board, that’s not “the masses.” Any property needs to grab a related crowd: People who didn’t grow up obsessed with the material but are nonetheless the type of people inclined to give it a shot. Win them, and you make billions of dollars. That’s one big reason why movies must deviate from their comic roots, always leading to haters. (The other big reason is that movies and comics are different media.)

Because of my age, I’m not quite in the target demographic, but I look a hell of a lot like it. I’m not going to use my disposable income to buy toys, shirts, caps, etc., but in terms of how I think, I’m a lot like that group. I was never really into comics, but because my cousin was a collector, I was familiar with them. Plus, I’m a nerd, so I’m inclined to like these movies. Win me over, and you have an indicator that you’re probably winning over that target audience.

So, when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, I thought my reluctance wasn’t a good sign. I thought the MCU had finally lost its magic. Despite a decent knowledge of the Marvel characters, I’d never heard of the Guardians. It was too obscure of a property. When I learned more about them, I thought it was stupid and cinematic suicide to put a talking racoon and talking tree front and center. There were far better characters to have used, most of which could be taken seriously. In fairness, I wasn’t alone.

But yeah, I’m a dipshit.

I could focus on just how well acted, directed, and written the movies were, and how their particular themes appealed specifically to my personal psyche, making them my favorite MCU films behind Winter Soldier, but that would be missing the point. Even if the movies were mediocre, they still served an important role in the MCU as a whole. While all the MCU films were a mix of comedy and action, they gave far less importance to comedy. Guardians changed that. It gave us a break, and its influence on future films provided a comedic anchor despite the heavy-handed stakes of the Infinity War saga.

So, mea culpa. Thankfully, I didn’t make such prejudgments about Shazam!

Much Needed Lightheartedness

Every movie in the MCU and DCEU has comedy in it, but clearly the movies are about action first and comedy second. However, the mix between the two changes from movie to movie. As I discussed above, Marvel knew exactly when to make a shift with Guardians. DC may have waited too long, but eventually they got there. Star Trek has done it right with Lower Decks. It took several episodes for me to warm to it, but I absolutely did.

While I love Discovery and Picard, they’re very heavy-handed, and it turned off a lot of people. In fact, Strange New Worlds is a promise to bring back Star Trek‘s hopeful tone to bring those critics back into the fold, but until it’s ready for release, Lower Decks is swooping in to lighten the tone. Unfortunately, as quickly as it arrived — it’s only the third new Star Trek series — it hasn’t been fast enough for some. I don’t think it’s caught on as much as it deserves, but without meaning to criticize the others two series, it’s exactly what Star Trek needs right now. Lower Decks is not to be taken seriously. It’s a goofy show, providing what Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home did for the Original Series crew movies, and what Guardians and Shazam! did for their respective universes, but to a more extreme level. Right now, Star Trek needs that silly humor, and after that, they’ll need to bounce back to a show that takes things seriously but focuses on positivity. I’m glad I won’t need to offer another mea culpa. I can’t wait for Strange New Worlds to arrive.

When you consider how much time was spent on each topic in this post, I really should have title it, “Mea Culpa.”

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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: Fear City: New York vs the Mafia @CurtisSliwa @netflix #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Fear City: New York vs the Mafia is a 3-episode, limited-run series on Netflix. Each episode approaches one hour, so it’s a relatively quick watch. There’s nothing deceptive about its format; it’s a show about the mob in New York, but this show is from the perspective of those that fought back, including legal academia, law enforcement, and private citizens such as the Guardian Angels.

You either find these stories interesting or you don’t. FWIW, I find them interesting, and this show had my attention throughout. As always, YMMV.

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Clever Watch: Interrogation @petersarsgaard @Melinda_McGraw @vincentdonofrio @EricRoberts @CBSAllAccess #GoodWatch #QuarantineLife

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Almost everyone who subscribed to CBS All-Access did so for Star Trek. I have no data to support that assertion beyond myself as a single data point, and I don’t care. As Bill Maher likes to say, “I don’t know it for a fact; I just know it’s true.” I can’t say that I minded having access to CBS during the NFL season when I first subscribed — I hadn’t yet replaced SlingTV with the far superior Hulu Live — but if it weren’t for Star Trek, I wouldn’t have subscribed. It turns out, that was shortsighted. Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone turned out to be pretty decent, and I was able to stream some movies that weren’t available elsewhere in my suite of streaming services. But now I’ve found something really good.

Interrogation was fascinating. It’s story premise is trite: A woman is killed, her drug-addict son is blamed, and his father believes his son didn’t do it. It’s methodology is just as simple but not so trite. With the exception of the first and tenth episodes that bookend season one, the eight other episodes can be watched in whatever order you choose. Each episode takes place somewhere between 1982 and 2005. Thus, episode 3 takes place one year before the murder, and episode 7 takes place one year after the last episode with the big reveal.

Why do this? Because over those decades, the case went cold, and when the police reopen a cold case, they don’t necessarily view the evidence chronologically. If they don’t, you shouldn’t. One thing I didn’t like is that I was given no guidance as to how to watch the episodes, making my choices completely arbitrary. I’d have liked for them to say, “If you want [experience X], watch in order [ABC], but if you want [experience Y], watch in order [CAB].” I’m not sure they could have provided meaningful alternatives in that way, but it’s something to work on for next season. While I started by watching them chronologically, I eventually settled on watching them in episode order. That was far superior.

You may be thinking, “Don’t other films and shows do this sort of thing?” Yes, but I don’t often see the time jumps as important at all to the story, and sometimes I find it distracting, bringing down the movie. That is, it’s sometimes nothing more than a cheap gimmick. Not so with Interrogation, which was a puzzle, and the back and forth through time was part of that puzzle. It’s the same thing, but still different. I see this as an example of a show that does time jumps correctly and with a purpose. In my opinion, that’s rare.

I should also mention that it has a good cast, including some solid veterans you’re bound to recognize (e.g., David Strathairn, Peter Sarsgaard, Melinda McGraw, Eric Roberts, and Vincent D’Onofrio playing a cop of course 🙂 ).

I really like this show and hope for a season 2. As always, YMMV.

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