Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pilot Review: For Life

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 4 “Slay Anything” (B)

I probably would have appreciated this episode a bit more if I was a fan of teen horror movies, though I do get the appeal of sending up 1990s fashion and music. I’m intrigued to know more about Ava’s side gig as a serial killer podcaster, which had a bit too excited about going back to the site of a number of killings. Their initial efforts weren’t successful, and I’m glad that they finally did what I’ve always thought would be a good idea, to go back further to change history before they screwed it up again. Nora getting summoned as Freddy’s fairy godmother to make his wishes come true was convenient, and she was extremely useful in assuring that his dance performance wasn’t upended by the angry bullies trying to get their way even after their initial plot was foiled. The twist that his mother became the killer was unexpected, and Behrad showed up to save the day after Zari cluelessly got in a limo with high school students going home from prom. She did have one flash to her old life when she used the computer to hack Gideon’s locked door, and having her stick around should be a good thing for the team overall. I’m glad that Charlie was hiding out at Constantine’s old home and not gone from the show, though whatever’s going on out there isn’t good. Mick being recognized by an old flame was fun, and I enjoyed his clarification at the end that she was in fact feeling his gun.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 13 “A Hell of a Week: Part Three” (B+)

These three-parters which explore the similar experiences of the big three are always enlightening, and the continued focus on the insecurities of children that carried over into adulthood was very informative. When we first met Marc, he seemed nice enough, but it seemed unlikely that things would end well for Kate to go down the path that she did. Feeling shown up by her impressive knowledge at the record store and trying to limit her candy bar consumption were warning signs of problematic behavior, but that wasn’t sufficient preparation for his freak-out in the car that found him both driving very dangerously and leaving Kate on the side of the road. Much more worrisome was the fact that, after crying on the phone to her mom, Kate hung up and seemed to accept Marc showing up with a blanket as an apology. Rebecca coming with Kevin and Randall to get her means she’ll be safe but may also inform her fractured relationship with her mother later in life. It was sweet that Rebecca showed up to go to the retreat with Kate and go swimming with her, which then turned into her opening up about her memory problems. It’s deeply troubling that Kate felt like she could call Gregory to share her excitement about what she was experiencing rather than Toby, but hopefully the time he’ll spend with Jack on his own will help send them in the right direction to repair their relationship. We also know that Kate and Kevin soon won’t be talking to Randall, but it’s still not clear why that is.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 11 “Love is a Battlefield” (B-)

I never understand why shows like this need to have episodes themed around Valentine’s Day or other holidays. In this case, there wasn’t much going on for Barry other than the fact that Iris was acting decidedly unlike herself, something he sort of realized but wasn’t attuned enough to for him to do anything about it. That episode-ending shot of the real Iris trapped in the mirror and watching her doppelganger, or whatever she is, with Barry confirms that there’s something nefarious going on, and the fact that Barry’s concerns have been allayed means that he won’t even go looking for signs of trouble. Frost has been utilized in strange ways recently, in this case trying to help Allegra rekindle an old romance. I’m always happy with any opportunity to see Katee Sackhoff, particularly when she chews plenty of scenery as Amunet, though this was far from the best appearance she’s had on this show. I think this reminded me most of when Barry and Kara sang to each other and then realized they weren’t a romantic fit, a theoretically entertaining storyline but one that felt considerably less serious than it should have in execution. Nash continues to be a bit of a pariah, but the fact that he saw another Wells suggests that the multiverse isn’t as transformed as it should have been, and I’m curious to see what comes of that. Saving Iris will be the next challenge, and hopefully this fractured team will come together to focus and bring back one of their most important members.

What I’m Watching: Dollface

Dollface: Season 1, Episode 9 “Feminist” (B+)

I know that I’ve been saying that I’d prefer to have fewer of the fantasy scenes and more of reality, but this entirely allegorical episode actually worked pretty well. Jules as Dorothy was a fitting metaphor on its own since she is eternally lost in her own life, and it worked especially well here when she tried on the shoes that Madison had left at Celeste’s to try to cover for her. Describing herself as “femin-ish” was funny and typical, and having the Women’s March as the central event was an interesting concept given that I’d imagine many people were offended by this show’s initial setup and likely judged it as anti-progressive without really sticking with it to see where it went. Celeste constantly trying to confront Jules as the Wicked Witch was clever, and I liked the way in which Stella and Izzy were both incorporated as well. Leading them to a speaker who threw out her fake eyelashes and padding seemed to be a confirmation that sometimes putting on an act is necessary, so long as you’re content with who you are and where your life is. Jules waking up to learn that it was all a dream and that she actually got calls from all the people she encountered during this fantasy trip was a helpful way of wrapping it all up and returning to reality, and I hope that the final episode sets things in a good direction. I’m pleased that Hulu has renewed this show for a second season, a fate that was less of a concern for me than for those who finished this show back when it first premiered in November.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 1, Episode 9 “‘Faith’ is a fine invention” (B+)

This episode was pretty powerful in a lot of ways, and it’s a real shame that it had to end in tragedy. The excitement about watching the eclipse was palpable, and there’s a sense of wonder that came with it which isn’t quite the same as the recent fervor involved in a similar event due to advancements in technology and all-too-reliable science that can predict the specifics of what will happen. Ben coming out to watch with her despite his bad cold made for a wonderful evening, complete with an un-proposal that demonstrated just how much he got Emily. Coughing up blood right after the eclipse was a bad sign, and trying to bargain with death later indicated just how much in denial Emily was about his condition. Flashing back to her time at the Christian school where she was constantly unable to feel Jesus in her heart and telling her mother that she’s dead inside already indicated the depression that’s sure to follow this unbelievable loss. Mrs. Dickinson seemed very worried about her husband, and superstition appears to dominate her life, as evidenced by her insistence that Ben not be allowed in the house. Lavinia seemed happy with Joseph, but his betrayal of her kindness was cruel, and now she might be ready to not take it lying down. Sue didn’t understand the implications of her dress not fitting, and that’s news which is sure to send Emily spiraling even further downwards and away from a positive place.

Friday, February 14, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 3, Episode 9 “Imbroglio” (B+)

This episode multi-tasked in an unusual way, spotlighting Charles’ latest misfortunes while also showcasing government-protestor issues that Elizabeth had to try to manage with a new prime minister who’s less of a team player than she’d like. Opening with the Duke of Windsor’s funeral made it possible for Charles to receive an emphatic message from his late wife about how his family really doesn’t mean well, and he saw that plentifully as they engineered someone else to marry the love of his life so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go down that route. Elizabeth seemed like she was trying to do something nice by pointing out that Charles was clearly in love with Camilla based on what she had read in his letters to David, but Philip best exemplified the family’s response, which was already being put into action by Lord Mountbatten and the Queen Mother. Getting a posting he shouldn’t have tipped Charles off to the fact that intervention was already happening, and it’s a shame that he blamed his mother entirely when she consistently advocated a gentler and more humane approach that isn’t all that typical of her. Deciding that Lord Mountbatten would have to be the one to tell him was probably the best thing, but it’s understandable that his notion of having replaced his great-uncle made a lot of sense given the treatment he endured. Regarding the other focus of the episode, it’s astounding to think that an entire country might conserve power in the way dictated in this hour, both as a collective accomplishment and also an unfortunate method of dealing with unrest that can’t be sufficiently brokered into a compromise.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven: The Bite” (B+)

The final scene of this episode was the big payoff we’ve been waiting for all season, reuniting all of our young characters and preparing them for one last epic battle where their number one weapon may be down for the count. It looked like Dustin and crew were about to be shot by Russians with guns – admittedly a dark turn of events even for this show – before Eleven was able to set the car alarm off and then hurl it at the aggressors to crush all of them. Bringing them together is very exciting, and I’m sure there will be more entertaining interactions now that they’re an even bigger group. Steve and Robin tripping and then leaving the movie to go get water led to their eventual vomiting and the revelation that Robin likes Steve but just isn’t into guys in that way, something that took him a minute to process. I like that Max clashed with Nancy on wound management, followed by Mike not quite saying that love makes you crazy as he tried to express his feelings for Eleven. Lucas’ affinity for New Coke and everyone else’s failure to comprehend that was an odd but amusing subplot. Murray was right to diagnose an unresolved romantic connection between Joyce and Hopper, but who has time for more than hand-holding when you’re being forced onto rides while confronting other parents and dealing with newfound Russian allies getting shot just after they win big at the carnival? At least Joyce got to vent some of her frustration with a few well-placed blows to more than Larry’s public image.

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 3, Episode 7 “Marvelous Radio” (B+)

I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on when this episode started and we kept seeing Midge go into studio after studio to record a radio ad, only to be paid in unbelievable quantities of the product she was selling. The repeated humorous quips about Susie not reading the contracts closely enough had some entertaining consequences, like her accidentally doing porn at one point, and when she had to be replaced first by Susie and then by someone else in the studio because she really just how heinous the message she was spreading on behalf of a far-right candidate who thought Nixon was too liberal was. It had an even more important influence on Susie’s relationship with her other client. Missing her cue and then speaking softly were signs that Sophie wasn’t ready for the big stage, but Susie was convinced by the end that she had tanked in on purpose. Telling her that she’ll never be worth what Midge is probably supports what viewers of this show want to hear and believe, but it was a harsh and unusually authentic sentiment from Susie. Abe chasing one of his former colleagues down the hall made it seem like no one was ever going to take him seriously again, but apparently he got published in the New York Times in time to give away copies of his piece at his grandson Chaim Christian’s bris. It was nice to see Benjamin again, who proved that he really is the nicest guy in the universe when he expressed that he holds nothing against Midge and assured a distraught Rose that he’s going to be fine.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

What I’m Watching: Kidding (Season Premiere)

Kidding: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 “The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio” and “Up, Down and Everything in Between” (B)

It’s been a while since this show last aired, finishing up its first season in the beginning of November 2018. This is undeniably a weird show, once whose existence I had almost completely forgotten. For some unknown reason, ten episodes will air two at a time over the course of just five weeks, which I guess is the equivalent of it being an hour instead of a half-hour. This episode opened rather hectically, with Jeff driving Jill and an unconscious Peter to the hospital while flashing back to an equally chaotic drive to the hospital when Jill was about to deliver the twins. For a while, Jeff was really in Jill’s good graces, slipping back into a comfortable place when he and Will tried to host a perfect Christmas with gifts found around the house, but that all fell apart when he realized he had to be honest. Hearing him swear and choose a bad word meant that there must not have been a good one, and Jill wasn’t interested in hearing any excuses about why he is the way he is from Deirdre and Seb. There’s something about the puppetry on this show that’s always felt magical, but in this case Jeff’s dream was much more hallucinatory and twisted. Starting with the doctor telling Jeff that she didn’t care for his speech right before he went under and the bird flying in, things got really weird. I liked that Peter got a chance to be very upset about where they were but couldn’t hit him anymore because his body was accepting Jeff’s liver. Singing because Jeff was becoming a part of him was a creative expression of that process. I’m intrigued to see what happens next, especially after Jeff woke up and promptly fired Seb.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 4 “You're Not Going to Get Me to Say Anything Bad About Mickey” (B+)

This episode was slightly longer than usual, but that just allowed for more time to showcase how Larry ends up being unlucky because of the terrible way in which he behaves towards others. The most truly cringe-worthy plotline of the episode was his reaction to his new girlfriend Donna showing her a picture of herself considerably heavier on their first date, carefully watching her candy and chip consumption in a truly offensive and horrible way. Everyone refusing to give him their weights for the private plane was predictably going to end poorly (they could just have told the pilot and bypassed Larry), and I expected him to be left behind, though I didn’t think that he’d want to stay behind with his prized coffee beans. Spinning everyone around so that the weight-guesser at the carnival could tell him what they all weighed was both absurd and funny. I like that Cheryl got some grief for wanting to just hop on the plane and not contribute, though she got out of that later when Ted’s surprise presence was somehow assumed to be part of what she originally paid. Ted confirming that Larry slept with Cheryl came at the worst possible time, and somehow it was Larry who got blamed for ruining the wedding. I was thrilled to see Timothy Olyphant, who showed just how hilarious he can be on “Santa Clarita Diet” and “The Good Place,” as Mickey, who perfectly delivered his rationale, similar to what Larry might have said if the tables were turned, that he couldn’t lend him his emergency toothbrush because he might need it in cage of his own emergency.

What I’m Watching: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 4 “Wait a Minute, Then Who Was That on the Ladder?” (B+)

This episode had me laughing out loud quite a few times, and, even if the plot is a bit out of control, it’s very entertaining. I love that Ryan was learning from a kid about space since he knew absolutely nothing, though there’s no denying that he knows what to say and sound like he knows what he’s talking about when the moment demands it. The bridge crew, on the other hand, was not nearly as impressive, wanting coaching on their lines and what their characters are supposed to know, and thinking that they were supposed to leave when calls for non-essential personnel to leave the bridge were made. Ryan’s response to Billie’s proclamation of “code not good, code bad” was fantastic, and who would have thought that Sarah-Sarah could come through at exactly the right moment with an improvised speech to distract from what was really going on? Now, Ryan’s going to have to do something he never expected, and we’ll see how that works out for him. Judd is absurdly over-the-top, suggesting that anyone who makes a fuss should be banned from future cruises, which they’d surely welcome, and giving people three-second hugs while refusing to answer questions. Asking the widow about her husband and then referencing her as such was typically callous, and I don’t even know what to say about the fact that he autographed Beatles skulls himself, which definitely don’t all belong to the Beatles. Doug and Mia’s arguments continue to be ferocious and entertaining, with another man spelling cuckold for him and their fight over the last tiramisu standing out in this half-hour.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 2, Episode 3 “Skate” (B+)

As a fellow freelance writer, I can totally understand Annie’s experience of being told just how perfect an applicant she is but that she’s only being offered an unpaid internship. It was much worse for her because she was reminded that most interns get other jobs to make money, which was the very reason she was applying for this job. I think that did catapult her in the right direction even if it took her some time to realize that, and hopefully Gabe will emerge from his mellow state and remember that he rather pleasantly agreed to give her a job again. Ryan going back to his grocery store to tell his former coworker that he was stacking items wrong showed how he’s trying to find his own sense of purpose, and he returned to some sense of that when he went over to his kindred spirits at the party. It was sweet that he told Annie that she was there for her and wouldn’t go over, only to be reassured by her that she saw her friends and appreciated that he wanted to put her first. Saying I love you to each other was nice too, and I’m glad that this show isn’t just following a predictable path that keeps her unemployed and him uncommitted to a real relationship, instead heading in an interesting and creative direction. There is definitely an irreverence to this show and some of the things its minor characters do that isn’t always necessary, but it’s not too distracting or detrimental.

Pilot Review: Locke and Key

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: Tommy

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.