Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 3 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Dreams” (B+)

This show is full of light and positive energy, and the dreams Zoey was experiencing felt all the darker and more haunting as a result. It was unnerving to see Zoey seek into this bad place and to tune out the completely affable Max, who stopped cooking his tagine – a dish I’ve started making and enjoying – when he realized that she wasn’t opening up to him. Choosing Max over Simon was always going to be complicated, and Simon is going to win every time in terms of being tapped into what it feels like to be mourning a parent. Max singing the lyrics “I’m giving up on you” was one of the saddest moments I’ve seen on this show so far, and it shows how other people’s feelings are going to force Zoey to confront hard choices that she needs to make. Consuming an increasingly larger dose of caffeine each day was never a sustainable plan, and snapping when one of the boxes broke after the terribly sexist jerseys arrived was probably better than what could have happened. Maggie inviting Jenna to stay so that she can work with her will probably be beneficial since it gives her a business partner to fill in for the one she no longer has, but it’s definitely going to drive David and Emily crazy. I’m all for adding to the ensemble and bringing more characters in, and I’m continually impressed with this season and how it’s handling Zoey’s mourning process and her difficulty readjusting to any sense of normal.

Pilot Review: Miss Scarlet and the Duke

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.

Monday, January 18, 2021

What I’m Watching: Your Honor

Your Honor: Season 1, Episode 7 “Part Seven” (B-)

It’s hard to fully suspend disbelief when watching the many, many steps Michael makes to cover his tracks and to try to fix his current situation. There’s one thing that he’s managed to do very well, which is to divert all suspicion away from Adam, since Jimmy fully believes that he’s the one who was driving the car. Swearing at Michael in such a blatant and disrespectful way felt a bit too obvious, and anyone in that courtroom should now doubt Michael’s ability to proceed in a neutral way, as appears to have been the case since it was assigned to someone else. Having Sara pulled over and arrested to somehow cast doubt on her soundness of mind was cruel, and saying “I love you” to Lee to distract her from seeing Sara on the side of the road was a bold and likely foolish move. He was completely clueless not only about the fact that it was his birthday but that his friends would be waiting for him at home to throw him a surprise party. How he hasn’t made any mistakes aside from calling the police that night and then being identified at the convenience store by the clueless clerk is pretty unbelievable – and I’m not really buying it. I didn’t recognize Maura Tierney at first as the defense attorney with that wig, but as soon as she started speaking, it was impossible not to place her voice. I’m waiting for the moment Fia realizes the link between her new boyfriend and the judge trying her second favorite brother’s case, and I’m wondering how Jimmy will respond to her clear affinity for the young woman neither of them realizes actually hit Rocco.

What I’m Watching: Shameless: Hall of Shame

Shameless: Hall of Shame: Episode 3 “Lip and Tami: Once Upon a Phillip Gallagher” (B+)

These flashback episodes are really showing how much these characters have grown up since the show started. Lip is now such an adult, both a father and a partner to someone who asks a lot of him, but has at least become somewhat nicer after their initial meeting and her endearing “Jabby” nickname. While this show continues to be excellent, I forgot just how good this show was when it first started. I didn’t remember anything about Karen, that she had a baby, that Mandy hit her with a car, and that Amanda, his roommate’s girlfriend at college, was the one who made his relationship with Helene public after she felt that he had broken her heart. There was also so much criminal activity and so much smoking, but of course his most serious vice is his alcoholism, which was featured midway through this episode as he found himself unable to remember what he had done as he was being kicked out and also saw him watch Professor Youens experience the consequences of his addiction. I’m glad that it wasn’t too focused on Frank, even though Lip has definitely been affected by the negative influence of his father in his life. Framing it as a fairy tale or bedtime story to tell Fred as he went to bed was cute, and I enjoyed how he finally got around to introducing Tami towards the end of the hour and made it seem far more pleasant and romantic than it initially was.

Pilot Review: WandaVision

I'm pleased to present not one but two reviews for the first two episodes of Disney Plus’ “WandaVision,” a one-minute video review, embedded below, and a longer written take published on Awards Radar.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Daisy follows soft the sun” (B+)

I’m always impressed with the way this show casts its guest roles, utilizing typically comedic actors to play iconic figures from history. I got to meet Timothy Simons, best known for “Veep,” at South by Southwest a few years ago when he was there playing a priest in the very funny movie “Yes, God, Yes.” I thought that he’d be cracking jokes or at least being obnoxious here, but instead he was rather serious and intellectual as Frederick Law Olmsted, who I have now learned was the architect of Central Park. The way he approached his work and life in general mesmerized Emily, who was very much in need of a different perspective after experiencing writer’s block following the submission of her poem to Samuel. Talking about the bench and the excitement of getting lost seemed to help Emily, even if she then found herself alone, running into Samuel moments later, whose news about accepting the poem and her now being famous forever didn’t sit well with her. I’m enjoying the focus on Lavinia and her desire for a passionate relationship rather than just the typical period romance Ship thought was ideal, and his proposal, followed by the excitement over her saying “okay,” left a bit to be desired. Austin volunteering to adopt the girls was an unexpected decision, and one that Sue was not happy with at all, further driving a wedge between them that will hopefully send her back to Emily since both of them could benefit from that relationship restarting. Mrs. Dickinson made a statement by not helping Edward up out of the hole, and maybe now that they’re rid of their new children and he’s had some time to think, he can start paying her more attention. I enjoy Maggie’s brief scenes, including the one where she commented about how some people get a kick out of someone being the master.

Take Three: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 3 “Vacation” (B-)

This show might be leaning a bit too much into the typical sitcom structure, though at least it’s managing to still be entertaining while it does that. Kat not wanting to go by herself to Puerto Rico after everyone else had an excuse was understandable, and she definitely seems like someone who rarely takes the easy way and instead gets caught up in the web of lies she spins to try to get out of tricky situations. Louisville obviously isn’t that big a place, and she managed to run into so many people she knew in a remarkably short period of time. Taking the opportunity to taste some alcohol for free ended up being a much bigger operation than she had planned, and I’m glad at least that her getting very drunk didn’t feel too much like what happens on every other sitcom. It was predictable that the real expert would show up, but fortunately we were spared that interaction and instead just found Kat focused on making the best of her hotel stay to throw a big party. I was startled when Max delivered a romantic proposal on the rooftop, but it made sense moments later when Kat returned to reality from the fantasy she was imagining. Randi and Phil are indeed good employees, doing what they could to figure out how to keep the cafĂ© running when they couldn’t open the register and working hard to find a way to get it open. Sheila’s activities were the least entertaining, but Swoosie Kurtz handles any material she gets pretty well.

Take Three: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 1, Episode 3 “Brentwood Trash” (B-)

I feel like I’m going to be offering up the same general conclusion about every episode of this show, which is that it’s so irreverent that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. The opening scene actually worked decently for me, mainly because the woman eating on the bus reminded me of one of the things that I joke about wanting to be able to do once the pandemic is eventually over, which is to eat on the New York City subway. Having to fight a guy with no pants who declared himself the true mayor was a typically absurd development, and then the Brentwood meeting was a bizarre parade of celebrities playing themselves which, unrealistic as it may have seemed, is probably pretty accurate. David Spade’s appearance felt unnecessary, while Andie MacDowell got Neil so hot and bothered before Arpi teed her up to clue him in to just how self-centered and horrible everything they were saying was. Chrissy Teigen’s moments were fine, but I don’t want this show just to be a cameo opportunity for everyone who feels like they’d have fun mocking their public personas. Orly stopping by so that Mikaela could show her how great real life is didn’t work too well, and the conclusion that it’s always high school is one that doesn’t always apply but this episode was really trying to tell. Jayden’s interview process was flawed at best, with humorous moments like bringing his own underwear to help nervous contenders picture him that way and misreading PR as Puerto Rico, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end following his discovery of his exact clone Derek. Finding a much more qualified female candidate whose obvious hiring meant Derek ghosting him was at least a bit unexpected and funny, so that’s something.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Stand

The Stand: Season 1, Episode 5 “Suspicious Minds” (B+)

This was an extremely enlightening episode, showing us just how the other half lives and what the influence of evil represents in a very literal way. Mother Abagail was right to warn her disciples that they shouldn’t try to go get information on Flagg since he would know that they were coming, and only Tom seems to have evaded suspicion because he processes things differently. Dayna was not particularly subtle, asking constant questions about Flagg so that she could go straight to the top and talk directly to him. My curiosity about Julie was satiated when we saw her living the life there as Lloyd’s top girl and channeling her toxic energy into something that felt good. She recognized Tom but didn’t think much of his presence, a lack of concentration and certainly willpower that could perhaps be a side effect of the hypnotic sway Flagg has over everyone. Killing Flagg predictably didn’t work, and now Dayna is dead and Flagg is well aware of where she came from, even if Mother Abagail hadn’t ordered the incursion and is presumably now setting off on her own to mitigate the damage in whatever way she can. I was glad that Frannie was taking clever steps to distract Harold so that Larry could search his house, but unfortunately he was fully ready and used the opportunity not only to monitor Larry in his own home but also to install cameras in Frannie and Stu’s bedroom to keep a closer eye on them. The story he told from his childhood that didn’t have him in it was such a red flag for worrisome behavior, but somehow Stu still doesn’t find it suspicious. Nadine showing up at Larry’s door initially seemed like she was trying to distract him, but she may well be making a sincere effort to escape her dark fate.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Pilot Review: Call Your Mother

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: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 3 “Escape to Nowhere” (B+)

I’m glad that each of Dory’s best friends, who came to her in a hallucination in a moment of need, are finally starting to realize that all isn’t right and that maybe Dory didn’t just run off to Europe. Elliott finding out from his irate wedding planners that no one died at his wedding wasn’t quite as startling as Drew seeing his sweater in Dory’s Italy picture, and hopefully they’ll talk about those inconsistencies and come to a helpful conclusion. Portia is also coming around to the idea that Dory isn’t so terrible as she begins what’s going to be an incredibly cringe-worthy job playing her former best friend in a project that she already feels is far too fictionalized. Dory was always the most intrepid of the group, and so I don’t have too much faith in the other three, especially considering their recent life choices. Making up a friendversary and starting a food fight to get back into that shower was quite resourceful, and she really is starting to understand how Chip works and what’s going to get him to do exactly what she wants. I’m not sure that’s going to be too useful going forward after her successful escape attempt ended in a car crash and Chip just tracking her down again. I do hope that the very nosy neighbor played by Ann Dowd from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Good Behavior” will show up to unknowingly help her escape again, and I’m continually impressed by this show’s superb casting.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 2 “Something Sharp” (B+)

Dory is trying her hardest to find a way out of her captivity and seems to be making Chip much angrier in the process. Forcing him to give her a shower always enabled her to escape, but now he’s threatened deadly retaliation if it happens again and is not going to be nearly as enthusiastic about preparing her something other than the same exact meal three times a day. The sight of those many stickers on the door and wall as a marker of time was haunting, and Chip’s repeated insistence on his many degrees that confirm his sanity are hardly convincing. The fact that he’s keeping up her social media to make it seem like she is indeed traveling through Europe is a surefire way for no one to express enough interest to affirm their authenticity. Portia also called not to ask her permission but to tell her that she was going to do what she wanted no matter what she said, and that’s not exactly the best position for any kind of relationship. There would have been something far too meta about Portia playing herself – which only she would be interested in – and the notion of her portraying Dory instead is just bizarre and should be plenty awkward. Elliott selling his soul for a paycheck and fame wasn’t too surprising, but it will be hard even for him to give up this ultra-conservative act. Drew’s situation is the most unexpected, since he’s now going by Andrew, posing as a foreigner with no discernable accent and engaging in a relationship with a woman playing a princess while having the truthful time of his life being a character in costume.

What I’m Watching: Search Party (Season Premiere)

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 1 “The Girl in the Basement” (B+)

I really like this very odd show, and I’m happy that this season will air over a longer stretch of time this year, following previous rollouts of one week, two episodes per week, and the entire season in just one day. Three episodes at once with four the third week feels fine to me, and, while I’m writing this review, I’m already looking forward to the next two installments that I’m about to watch. I was worried that the main storyline might be a bit creepy and disturbing, with Dory now being held captive with a shaven head and chains all around her by her delusional wannabe best friend Chip. While there is definitely something unnerving about it, Dory did embrace her notorious celebrity status in a big way in season three and literally got away with murder. Now, it’s intriguing to see how she’s trying to manipulate the man holding her hostage, and I assume that her cleverness is only going to get her into more trouble. What I enjoyed most about this episode was the way we saw Elliott, Portia, and Drew react to the note that was so clearly not left by Dory but that they didn’t even suspect might have been written by someone else. It’s going to take them a while to even realize that Dory has been kidnapped and not gone off to discover herself in Europe. I’m not sure how they’re going to spend their time this season, aside from Elliott doing his talk show and some weird drunken threesome make-out sessions, but I am very excited to see what they do and just hapless they are as their friend could really use their help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Pilot Review: Trickster

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: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 6 “Birth Mother” (B-)

This show is so flashback-heavy in general that episodes which find themselves grounded almost entirely in the past are never as satisfying. That’s due mainly to the fact that the regular cast members are appealing and it’s disappointing not to see them featured. Knowing that Randall isn’t any less blunt with people he’s just met about things he perceives as wastes of his time is informative, and unfortunately Hai would have liked if his comment about the story being like “The Notebook” had in fact been true. The chronicling of Laurel’s past wasn’t a very positive one, with a harsh prison sentence and an unrequited love interrupted by that resulting in a reunion far too late in life and into her disease. I’m not sure what this newfound knowledge is going to do for Randall and how necessary its inclusion was – even though I was gung-ho about this new twist at the end of the premiere – since he was already going through plenty and coming to grips with some of his most formative issues without this being part of it. Choosing to call Kevin in the car on the way home was an interesting move, and it seems like he may have waited too long since he was already distracted, panicked, and not open to the idea of taking that moment to be appreciated and thought of by his brother. Even though it’s a pandemic, hopefully Randall will choose to show up in a good way and try to mend the relationship that Kevin’s not able to concentrate on fixing right now.