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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Improved Watch: Disenchantment, Season 3 @disenchantment @netflix #Disenchantment #netflix

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I watched the third season of Disenchantment this weekend via Netflix. The first two seasons were a big meh for me, but I kept going back to the well because I’m such a huge fan of Futurama. Just hearing, for example, the voice of Mom’s oldest son now recast as “Eyeball” makes me laugh a little bit. But this third season was a definite improvement. There were several gags that made me laugh out loud during the first two-thirds of the season.

That said, it wasn’t all good. The writing inexplicably returned to its stale, unfunny self by the last few episodes, relying instead on its cliffhangers to keep us watching. Why? Also, the fate that befell King Zog was supposed to be funny and sympathetic. It was neither. It dragged on way too long and became annoying quickly.

So, was it worth the watch? For the most part, yes, but it’s still having troubles. It’s taking far too long to hit its stride. If it keeps getting better, I’ll keep watching, but if season 4 is a step backwards, it’ll be the last season I watch. If it gets cancelled, I won’t miss it. There’s too much good content out there waiting for me.

As always, YMMV.

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Letdown Watch: Star Trek Discovery, Season 3 @StarTrek @CBSAllAccess #GoodWatch #StarTrek #DISCO

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I love Star Trek: Discovery, but season 3 of DISCO ended with quite a let down. There were two basic premises of the season that really hooked me: A jump to the far future, and the mystery of the “Burn.” The crew probably won’t ever be going back in time, so we’ll always have that. The mystery of the “Burn,” however, was quite disappointing. That’s a lost opportunity to tell a cool story. I did like that they had a good reason to show Doug Jones without all the makeup. 🙂

The one constant complaint I have about all seasons is that the crewmembers are often people that have no business serving on what is (despite the claims to the contrary) a military vessel. This season exacerbated that by, among other things, having characters asking permission to be leaders. Seriously. More than once. That’s not how leadership works, but it’s how non-leader types want to believe it works, and that’s a lot of the fanbase. That’s harder to believe than warp drive and energy beings.

Still, I don’t regret watching the show. It’s Star Trek. I’m always going to watch, but I’m very concerned with the direction of the writing. A shake up behind the curtain is probably needed. DISCO has a lot of haters, and I don’t want this new wave of Star Trek television to fail.

YMMV.

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Emotional Watch: The Midnight Sky. I Liked It, but You Probably Won’t. @midnightskymov @netflix #GoodWatch #MidnightSky

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When I provide my opinion of movies and TV shows, I try to explain why I liked them. That is, I share a personality trait or life experience that likely made me like or dislike it. If you and I share that trait or experience that the movie or show triggered, then you can reasonably rely on my review. Otherwise, my opinion shouldn’t mean anything to you.

For example, imagine you’re a professional food critic. You tell me that there’s this new product from Kraft called, let’s say, Cocktoasten. You tell me that the combination of herbs and spices are phenomenal and like nothing you’ve ever tasted. I should absolutely try it. The problem is that it’s simply a new form of mac and cheese, and I hate cheese. (I know, I know. That’s weird. Try to stay focused on my point.) It doesn’t matter how good the cheese is; it’s cheese, so I hate it. That’s true of any food. It’s all subjective and pretending that your critique is solely objective is dishonest to your audience and probably yourself.

Clearly, the same thing is true of movies and TV shows, though it’s anymore complex analysis. Certain themes draw some of us in that may leave others uninspired. These often override any objective measures of filmmaking (though these measures are still important). After all, I liked Green Lantern. Because movie and TV critics tend to arrogantly think that their opinions are objective truths, I never listen to them.

The Midnight Sky

This movie is getting hammered by the critics, and obliterated by the audience, and I understand why. It’s not good storytelling, bouncing between two stories that meet at the end in the most predictable of ways. Some people make some dumb decisions along the way. Nevertheless, I really liked it. Why? Because it hit a particularly strong chord with me. As predictable as the ending is, sharing this nature of this chord would be a massive spoiler. That demonstrates yet another reason why reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. The things that may turn you off or on may not be sharable.

I can’t expect anyone else to like this movie, but if there’s a lesson in this post, it’s that ultimately you must form your own opinions, which can vary wildly from the masses. Hence, the notion of guilty pleasures. Unfortunately, with all the content out there and limited time to watch, that can be frustrating.

Obviously, YMMV.

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Nostalgic Watch: Cobra Kai, Season 3 @CobraKaiSeries @Netflix #GoodWatch #CobraKai #NoMercy

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As you probably know, YouTube left the “original streaming content” business and sold Cobra Kai to Netflix. Season 3 dropped yesterday, and of course I watched all 5 hours of it immediately, even though it’s not all good.

First off, the good. These writers know how to appeal to the nostalgia, in part because the Karate Kid intellectual property was their favorite. Almost every moment with Daniel, Johnny, and the other characters from the movies hits old guys like me (52 years and counting) right in the gut. They also know how to write in general. The scripts flow brilliantly from one scene to the other. I hate flashbacks, but even that works here.

Now for the bad. As I said, I’m an old guy. The entire storyline surrounding the kids is uninteresting to me. I know why they’re doing it — that’s what the entire intellectual property is about — but I’ve never understood my fellow nerds’ obsession with child protagonists. Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Ender’s Game … none of those interest me. Our primary function as adults is to protect children, not to worship them or even place them as equals. It’s a dynamic I always found weird (and counterproductive), so as an old guy, I just don’t care about the conflict between the kids, and the unrealistic portrayal of what they can do.

In fact, there are many problems with how the show deals with the law, and, sadly, martial arts itself, but as I’ve written about in other contexts, that’s almost always the case. Sometimes you have to beat the audience over the head with overstatement and extreme imagery in order for them to get your point. Ergo, we have Hollywood’s unofficial mantra: Never let the law, science, or common sense get in the way of a good story. Who am I to judge? I love the MCU. 🙂

Again, I don’t fault the writers. This is what the Karate Kid is all about, and they’re not just writing for me. I’ve just outgrown the original genre. But despite that, this show is still fantastic because, unlike many writers, these writers know how to write for multiple audiences. Based on what I’ve seen recently, that’s apparently not an easy feat.

There’s just too much in this show I love for me to be distracted by the things I don’t. I’m looking forward to season 4. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: The Mandalorian, Season 2 @themandalorian @starwars @disneyplus #GoodWatch

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Yeah, I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

The Mandalorian is back! But why is Tatooine? I get it. Tatooine and a few of its inhabitants hold a special place in the hearts of all who watch Star Wars, but the whole premise of the planet is that it’s an obscure place where nothing interesting happens, making it the perfect hiding place for a young Luke Skywalker. Yet here it is. Again. The center of a Star Wars story.

But let’s move past that. Jon Favreau should be handed the reins to Star Wars. He knows not only how to tell a story, but also specifically a Star Wars story. Two episodes in, and this looks to be as good as season one was. I still love the sign language of the Sand People. Nice touch. Though I’m not sure everyone else is happy with the structure, I also like when a TV series is episodic (original Star Trek for the win!) with a larger story subservient to that.

I also hope their paths cross again.

Rodians cook their meat well done.

No universal translator? Star Trek >> Star Wars.

Someone needs to stat out that Krayt dragon for D&D.

Boba Fett must have been the runt of the Mandalorian litter. He was a wimp. As always. YMMV.

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Good Watch: Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb @Netflix #Saqqara #archaeology

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Netflix suggested Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb to me. Based on the tagline, it seemed like a documentary, but with all the science fiction Netflix has been sending my way, I assumed it was a supernatural thriller. Either way, I was interested. I’m a sucker for ancient mythology and the cultures that create it, so I’ll legitimately enjoy movies of that sort even if the rest of you don’t. But this is a documentary about a real find. Archaeologists found the tomb of Wahtye, an official of the 5th century Egyptian dynasty.

Clocking in at two hours, it deals with both the real world (e.g., archaeology, budget constraints) and the mythological world (i.e., they find a temple to Bastet/Sekhmet). I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it was right up my alley.

It still could have used an animated mummy. As always, YMMV.

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Letdown Watch (So Far): The Expanse @ExpanseOnPrime #Good Watch

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I’ve been itching to activate a free, 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, mostly because of the Expanse. I’ve heard scientists explain how the show gets the physics of space travel better than any other show or movie before it, which also piqued my curiosity. I never thought I’d say this about this show, but with only a couple of episodes to go in season 1, I’m a bit bored. Surprisingly, the fact that it gets the science right isn’t that big of a deal. They produce drama around it, but they could (as so many other have) produce just as much drama around bad physics.

I haven’t given up hope on it. A fan of the show admitted that it starts off slow, and two of my all-time favorites, The Office and Parks & Recreation, both had weak first seasons to set up the series.

As always, YMMV.

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Overrated Watch: Good Omens @michaelsheen #GoodWatch

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As I mentioned last Monday, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm inspired me to finally start my 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I’m otherwise uninterested in adding a 100th streaming service to my monthly bill. So, I asked the social media world what I should after Borat and received a ton of suggestions. Looking up everything, I settled on prioritizing the Expanse (I can’t believe I forgot that was available), Good Omens, Man in the High Castle, the Boys, and Undone. If there’s time, I’ll add Jack Ryan, Catastrophe, and Bosch. Practicing an analogue of Occam’s Razor, I chose Good Omens to start because it’s only six hours of content so far. I watched all six, 50-minute episodes this weekend.

Overall, it was decent, but I’ve seen too many movies and shows reimagining the apocalypse for modern times. Each adds a tiny twist. Tiny, not clever. I also get a bit annoyed by the overuse of flashbacks. Sometimes, holding back the history leading up to an event makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just a gimmick. The first 30-some minutes of the sixth episode is a flashback, but it’s also the conclusion to the main story. There’s absolutely no reason for that, and little reason for the last 25 minutes. Finally, I was particularly annoyed by the theft of Sandra Bullock’s joke from Demolition Man (“lick butt v. kick butt”).

But it certainly wasn’t “bad.” If it were “bad,” I wouldn’t have finished it. Besides, if none of these things get on your nerves, you’ll probably like it a lot. It was still a good story delivered by a great cast. It was just a bit trite for my tastes.

David Tennant’s delivery reminded me of Bill Nighy. Every now and then, my mind would see Nighy delivering Tennant’s lines.

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Sophmore Slump Watch: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm @SachaBaronCohen @RudyGiuliani

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Borat 2 inspired me to start a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I’m glad it was free.

Okay, that was a bit rough, but it makes for a good tagline, so I offer no apologies. Borat 2 wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t as good as his first movie. Maybe I was expecting too much. The charm of the first movie was Borat acting crazy and watching the honest reactions of unaware citizens. Too many people recognize him, so that’s much more difficult. The movie is amusingly self-aware of that fact.

The other strength of the first movie was that Borat never learned his lesson. He started the movie screwed up and ended it that way. Not so here. In Borat 2, Borat returns to the “U S and A” but through circumstance is paired with his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). The movie makes a story out of their relationship, and that’s why I don’t think it was as good. It’s supposed to be a feel-good story, but if you focus on the story as serious, the premise is far too depressing for a comedy.

But that’s okay, as long as we get Cohen’s over-the-top comedy, right? Well, there was only one cringe-worthy moment for me, which was when Tutar speaks to the group of Women Republicans. There was also a funny moment, let’s just say, related to abortion, but it wasn’t embarrassing. It was just a misunderstanding. I can get that from any comedy. I did laugh out loud on occasion, but not enough. In fact, at one point, I walked away from the TV to put water on for pasta. I wouldn’t be able to do that while watching the first movie.

As a side note, the Giuliani thing is greatly exaggerated, probably on purpose. I suspect it was intentionally overblown in order to hype the movie. It seems to have worked.

I hope I have better luck with the Expanse, the Boys, the Man in the High Castle, and Good Omens. If there’s time, I’ll add in Jack Ryan and Bosch.

I really wanted a proper sequel for Borat. As always, YMMV.

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