Uncertain Watch: Replicas @replicas_movie @hbomax #GoodWatch #replica

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Replica is yet another movie addressing the nature of the human mind, and whether we could transplant human consciousness from one mind to another. There are a lot of problems with this movie. Disconnected writing, terrible special effects, and cheesy dialogue plague it. To make matters worse, the story needs to cover far more ground than it can in 1 hour and 45 minutes. As a result, characters accept without question revelations that should be mind-shattering. There’s no time for them to come to terms with this information.

All that said, I’ve learned to focus on the ideas that these movies raise rather than how they address them. Who cares if the movie doesn’t handle an issue thoroughly (or even correctly)? My brain does a pretty good job of considering those issues, at least to the extent of my own knowledge base. That works for me.

So, I guess that means I liked it. Replicas is streaming on HBO Max. As always, YMMV.

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Great Watch: Richard Jewell @hbomax #GoodWatch #RichardJewell

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I have a lot of streaming services. This week, I shifted back to HBO Max to watch a couple of movies. First up was Richard Jewell.

First off, this was a great movie about how the FBI railroaded a hero, Richard Jewell. Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story, and the fact that this was true (more or less) makes it all the more impactful.

I don’t ever want to get political on this blog, but every so often it’s unavoidable. Being a cop is hard work, and being a good cop cuts against human nature. Only those people capable of living up to a heightened standard should become cops, and that occurs only with training. If you’re not capable of putting the public’s interest in catching the bad guys ahead of your own career goals, you aren’t living up to that standard. It’s frustrating knowing cops like that are out there, but it’s important to acknowledge and address it. It also makes for good storytelling.

But cops aren’t the only ones under the microscope in this movie. So are the rest of us.

Richard Jewell is streaming on HBO Max. As always, YMMV.

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Spooky Watch: The Invisible Man 2020 (and How Dungeons & Dragons Almost Ruined It) @hbomax #GoodWatch #DnD

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It’s October, so all of my streaming services are suggesting horror (or horror-adjacent). I’m not a fan of the genre, or at least not of slasher films or any film relying on stupid behavior to advance the plot. Also, while I’m more than willing to suspend disbelief, I require something … anything … to provide a basis for that suspension. I don’t get that from most horror movies.

That said, I’ve had a recent string of fairly good luck with the genre, and the 2020 reboot(?) of the Invisible Man continues that trend. It’s spooky and scary in a way that preys on my own fears. Mild spoilers ahead. I don’t need people snooping on me, and the technology at the center of this movie (currently being researched in the real world) takes that to another level. It can also be used to frame you for a crime. Also spooky. The only thing missing was the use of Deep Fake to have the main character destroyed by cancel culture. That would have been the scariest thing of all, but maybe they didn’t include it to avoid an NC-17 rating. 🙂

So, how did Dungeons & Dragons almost ruin it? It took away from, dare I say, the believability of this film even after you suspend your disbelief in the underlying technology. The technology makes you invisible. Okay, I can accept that. However, every edition of D&D has taught us (you know, the nerds) that invisibility definitely does not hide the sounds you make, and it doesn’t give you superhuman strength. The villain was far too quiet and far too strong. The technology consists of a ton of cameras. There’s no noise dampening apparent from its design, and if that’s what they were going with, they should have justified it within the script by both an association with someone well-versed in that technology and something apparent in the design. Instead, presumably for dramatic effect, they actually made the technology loud when the main character first discovers it.

But I know this is just me, so even I just let that go. Accordingly, with only a couple of exceptions, stupidity isn’t necessary to advance the plot, and there’s only one instance that I noticed where the villain (sort of) appears to be in two places at the same time. Also, once an invisible person grabs you, it becomes a grappling match, and you’re not at nearly as much of a disadvantage as a fist fight. I seem to be talking myself out of liking this movie, but I still liked it. I guess I’m just a sucker.

The misdirection about 20 minutes before the end of the movie was pretty good even though I saw it coming, and the ending was satisfying if not realistic. (C’mon. The guy’s a cop.)

There are no mid-credits or after-credits scenes. You’re welcome. As always, YMMV.

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Shark Jumping Watch: The South Park Pandemic Special @SouthPark #GoodWatch #pandemic #SouthPark

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I haven’t been watching South Park lately. Considering how much I love the show and how much I’m streaming, I can’t explain why. I just haven’t. Then I saw someone on Facebook say that he was purposefully avoiding the pandemic special (why?). I had no idea it existed, and now that I do, I decided to watch it.

I never thought I’d say this, but South Park has jumped the shark. I used to laugh out loud watching that show. I’m 100% okay with over-the-top humor, but this special just wasn’t funny. The only good commentary was on a topic other than the pandemic.

As always, YMMV.

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Boring Watch: Raised by Wolves @hbomax #GoodWatch

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Normally I like science fiction. These are not normal times.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t equate this show with the horrors of 2020; I just thought it was a funny line. Raised by Wolves just bored me. It comes across as a show made by people that think they’re owed allegiance to their “masterpiece” because they take it seriously in an artsy-fartsy kind of way. Every episode I watched felt like people were whining in hushed tones, passively-aggressively obliging me to cheer them up. I wasn’t able to make it through episode 7 and don’t care how it ends.

My opinion isn’t a popular one, so 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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Classic Movies: Cassablanca @hbomax @movie #ClassicWatch #QuarantineLife

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I’ve discovered Turner Classic Movies on HBO Max and thought it would be a good idea to watch some of the “classics” I’d never seen. I started with Citizen Kane, and now I’ve moved on to Casablanca.

Of course it suffers from being out of time, but overall this movie stood up well. For example, though 78 years old, it’s actually quotable, and a Nazi gets shot. The story isn’t what you typically see today, so the ending isn’t what you may expect from today’s formula. From what little I know about Gone with the Wind (soon to be viewed), it also avoids the trite ending. Maybe these elements were typical in the late 30s and early 40s — I don’t have enough data points to say — but in any case it helps Casablanca stand out. Dooley Wilson was great as Sam. The primary setting is a crowded bar, and his occasional musical numbers help set those scenes, but the movie smartly moves on from that setting when the story needs to go forward. As Time Goes By remains a classic.

All that said, the best part about watching this movie is that I now understand completely one of the best Saturday Night Live skits I’ve ever seen.

Kate McKinnon is so good that she gets the final word in this post. As always, YMMV.

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Classic Movies: Citizen Kane @hbomax @movie #ClassicWatch #QuarantineLife

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I’ve discovered Turner Classic Movies on HBO Max and thought it would be a good idea to watch some of the “classics” I’d never seen. I decided to start alphabetically at Citizen Kane. Bad start.

It didn’t age well. The movie is inspired by William Randolph Hearst, who means absolutely nothing to me. I’m a guy born long after Hearst died (1951), and even longer after Citizen Kane was released (1941). I can’t relate specifically, and the general story is just blah. I’m also annoyed at the “twist” that’s been the subject of so much praise. I see it as less a “big deal” and more a “big disappointment.”

Nevertheless, I at least respect what this film means to the evolution of cinema. According to those in the know, it was a necessary step towards the great movies we have now. I also liked that it went out of its way to highlight new actors in the end credits, one of whom, Agnes Moorehead, played Samantha’s mother in Bewitched.

If, like me, you just have to see it, then do so, but don’t expect much. As always, YMMV.

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