Great Watch: The Queen’s Gambit @anyataylorjoy @SangsterThomas @netflix

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Stop what you’re doing right now and watch this. Don’t argue; just do it.

The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional account of an orphan who grows up to be a chess grandmaster. That doesn’t sound exciting, but it is. The limited series, 7 episodes of less than an hour each, started very strong, dragged in the middle a bit, then finished remarkably. It was very well done and worth your watch.

This show is worth the hype you’ve heard. 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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Good Watch: Challenger @Netflix #GoodWatch

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Certain moments in history define a decade, such as John F. Kennedy getting shot and 9-11. Almost everyone remembers where they were when these events happened, or at least when they heard about them.

In 1986, I was a high school senior. I had transferred from a private (Catholic) high school to a public one, Walter Johnson, for my senior year. (I had to pay for my high school tuition, and knowing that I had to pay for college, needed a financial break.) I entered 5th period Chemistry class, and the teacher said, “The Challenger vaporized on launch.”

“Wasn’t that the one with a teacher on it?” asked a more dimwitted classmate.

“Yep. I don’t see how anyone could have survived.”

In 6th period architectural drawing class, the teacher brought in a TV, and we watched the coverage. I remember exactly how I felt. Challenger on Netflix brought all of that back to me.

The four-episode limited series covers the country’s excitement over the space shuttle program generally, and the Challenger mission in particular. It was the first time an “ordinary” citizen, in this case a teacher, was going into space. The thought around the country was that this was the first step towards space travel becoming an ordinary event for ordinary people. Everyone was in for one hell of a rude awakening.

I enjoyed this show. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: The Trial of the Chicago 7 @SachaBaronCohen @hitRECordJoe @netflix #GoodWatch

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I hate courtroom dramas. While I’m not a litigator, I can spot the nonsense when I see it, and legal dramas are always about “drama” first and “legal” last. The same is true for any industry. Some liberties were taken with the story, but based on a little research, this movie largely gets it right. And that story is frustrating. From Wikipedia:

Based on the story of the Chicago Seven, a group of eight defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy in 1969 and 1970, inciting to riot, and other charges related to anti-Vietnam War and countercultural protests that took place in Chicago, Illinois, on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The trial was a mess. The judge (ironically) showed nothing but contempt for the defense. All of the charges, including the numerous contempt charges, were overturned on appeal. The Seventh Circuit ordered a new trial, which the Attorney General declined to pursue.

Sacha Baron Cohen was awesome. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was awesome. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was awesome. Mark Rylance was awesome. Frank Langella was awesome.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix. There’s no reason not to watch this movie. As always, YMMV.

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Formulaic Watch: Hubie Halloween @Netflix #GoodWatch

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It’s really fashionable to hate on Adam Sandler nowadays. Everyone loves to criticize what everyone likes, which makes no sense until you realize people always love to complain, and the squeaky wheels tend to get the grease. With that, I’m going to complain.

This one was not for me at all. The story was completely unoriginal, and Sandler’s main character is the mentally challenged goofball with a speech impediment that almost everyone in his hometown loves to bully. One woman is romantically interested in him, but he doesn’t act on it because he’s too nervous. A few of the kids don’t like seeing him bullied because they’re “good guys.” Because it’s a Halloween movie, there’s something scary at the center of the plot. We’re supposed to cheer when the bullies are harmed and when the loveable characters get their predictable, happy endings. Yeah, nothing new going on here, and the execution is rather week despite a solid cast.

But hey, if campy and formulaic is your thing, then you’re going to have a different reaction, so as always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: Schitt’s Creek @danjlevy @Realeugenelevy @annefrances @emilyhampshire @sarahlevy_ @DustinWMilligan @SchittsCreek #GoodWatch #pandemic #SouthPark

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All six seasons of Schitt’s Creek are now on Netflix. Apparently, despite flying under the radar for its first four seasons, this show did well at the 2019 Emmys and absolutely cleaned house 2020. I can explain why.

The show has been hit or miss. Very uneven. It had times when it was brilliant and times when it fell flat, often in close proximity. However, one thing I’ve often said about the show is that they knew how to wrap up a season, bringing all the story lines together in fun(ny) and satisfying ways. All shows do that, but Schitt’s Creek is one of the best at it. So, each season finale was brilliant. Looking at the bigger picture, season six had the same effect, wrapping up the story of the Rose family with 14 solid episodes that collectively were head and shoulders above the prior seasons.

The cast had a lot to do with this. It includes two comedy legends, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and one person who should’ve been, Chris Elliott. However, by season six, Eugene’s real-life and in-character son, Daniel, really stole the show. I’m sure Eugene is more than happy to have been upstaged by his son. The other cast members? Perhaps not so much. 🙂 But most of them did a great job.

The only thing I didn’t like was that Moira (Catherine O’Hara) didn’t grow. She stayed the same, conceited, spoiled brat she was from the start. The purpose was to provide comedy relief and remind us where the show started. Ultimately, that annoyed me a bit, but it was easy to ignore.

This was a really good show and ended at precisely the correct time. As always, YMMV.

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“We Know Already” Watch: The Social Dilemma @netflix @kesseljunkie #GoodWatch

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I want to say that this was a waste of time, but I can’t. It’s too important not to be given an occasional reminder.

This 94-minute documentary (with occasional, annoying dramatizations) is about how social media is impacting our lives. Yeah, we all know it, but we can’t help but succumb to it. And that’s point #1. It resembles an addiction, but it’s really about preying on our very nature.

Point #2 is that it’s taken the internet and made it even more divisive. It’s not that we haven’t had serious disagreements with each other. Anyone that’s lived outside their bubble knows that. It’s that we’re now being exposed to those differing viewpoints seemingly continuously, and in a way that makes the speakers feel as if they’re anonymous, even when they clearly aren’t. In other words, we’re hearing a lot more about the way people really feel about issues, and we often disagree.

Kessel Junkie and I discussed this a little bit in the comments on his blog. Trigger warning: He hates the Goonies.

Speaking of “disagree,” Facebook issued a weak response.

I think it’s healthy to be reminded of these effects every now and then, and 94 minutes isn’t a lot of time to invest. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: My Octopus Teacher @Netflix #GoodWatch #nature #ocean #octopus

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The plural of octopus is octopuses. It’s a pseudo-Latin word, which means it was a word made up to sound like it was Latin, but it’s really English.

Wait. That’s not what this post is about.

A Facebook conversation between Kessel Junkie, Jason (Facebook friend), and I led to a discussion of octophilia (is that a thing?), which in turn led to a recommendation of My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. I gave it a watch. The bad news is that this documentary is narrated by a guy whose voice is completely monotone. There’s no inflection in it, even when he’s upset. Make sure to have a cup of coffee or some Mountain Dew handy. Even just 90 minutes of that voice could put you to sleep.

The good news is that this is a neat story of how this guy found and kept track of a skittish, female octopus (as Jason put it, he became an “underwater ranger”), then convinced it that he wasn’t a threat. He chronicled the relationship and the life of this octopus over the course of about a year, and how that relationship changed him.

But to answer the film-maker’s burning question is: Yes, it was your fault. You were no longer studying behavior; you were forming a relationship. You wouldn’t allow your cat or dog to be injured, would you, dipshit?

If you’re at all into nature and can somehow stay awake through this guy’s droning, you may, like I, find this to be interesting. As always, YMMV.

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Stupid Watch: We Summon the Darkness @Netflix #GoodWatch

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Don’t bother. This was dumb. Really dumb. Trite, monotonous, unrealistic. If I had a thesaurus handy, I’d be here all day. “A night at a 1980s heavy metal concert [has] new friends … in the middle of a satanic murder spree.” Sure. Great. There are only seven different stories, but most films give us at least a tiny bit of new material; that is, a new spin on an old story. Not this one. This added nothing to the mix. I have no idea why I watched this.

Yes, I do. Alexandra Daddario. But being creepy never pays. As always, YMMV.

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“Slow Burn” Watch: Bloodline @lindacardellini @JacindaBarrett @NorbertLButz @OfficialChloeS @Netflix #GoodWatch

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As I recently mentioned, Bloodline was a suggestion from an internet article to fans of Ozark. I’ve learned not to take those suggestions (or ones directly from Netflix) seriously, but some further research disclosed an incredible cast. I had to give it a watch.

First off, Ben Mendelsohn gets better every time I see him. Rogue One is my favorite Star Wars movie, but Director Orson Krennic was fairly straightforward; dare I say one-dimensional. His portrayal of Danny Rayburn stole the show and won him an Emmy. Mendelsohn wasn’t the only actor to put on a memorable performance. Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Jacinda Barrett, Sam Shepard, Norbert Leo Butz, and Chloë Sevigny all put in solid (or better) performances.

My problem with the show is, as I explained yesterday, that there was too much content within the season. When I binge a show, I’m looking to get through it fairly quickly; otherwise, I’d be watching network TV (which, of course, I still do). When the first season is 13 episodes of at least 50 minutes each, that drags for me. The more I’m forced to watch, the more I identify certain scenes as disposable, making it even worse. This doesn’t seem like a fair criticism. The creators are trying to give me my money’s worth, which I appreciate, but it just doesn’t work for me under the circumstances. Season one ended with a cliffhanger that isn’t enough of a hook to get me to keep watching. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but there are many other shows I want to watch, so this has slid to the bottom of my list of priorities.

Ultimately, it was a good show often with great acting; just one that doesn’t motivate me to keep watching. As always, YMMV.

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