Wednesday, October 28, 2020

What I’m Watching: Soulmates

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 4 “Layover” (B-)

This was a fun episode to watch, though some of the plotting was the least sophisticated we’ve seen yet, particularly when it came to the hostage-takers and all the guns. I was excited to recognize both of the leads from completely different projects. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who played Jonah, had a much more comedic role in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” while Bill Skarsgard, brother of Alexander and son of Stellan, was in two film festival movies I saw recently, “Nine Days” and “Villains,” and played Mateo. The initial setup definitely offered some intriguing action, namely Mateo showing up at the bar demanding his wallet back only to be told by a completely unrepentant Jonah that it wasn’t going to happen. I do like that each of these episodes shows that the soul test doesn’t actually show anything since the more natural and romantic pairings seem to happen while people are on their way to meet to trying to find that perfect someone. The absurd series of events that happened here felt like a much more comedic version of “Garden State,” with Jonah constantly coming up with last-resort suggestions of how they could get his money back before leading him to the literal place where his passport was conveniently being stored and hadn’t yet been touched at all. These characters were fun even if the surrounding story felt more like an over-the-top vacation farce that wasn’t trying to be like that than the dramatic showcases we’ve seen so far in the previous three episodes of this show.

What I’m Watching: We Are Who We Are (Penultimate Episode)

We Are Who We Are: Season 1, Episode 7 “Right here, right now #7” (B)

This was a very long episode, running at least fifteen minutes longer than the rest and moving at a typically glacial pace. The content was different, of course, providing our young protagonists with a dose of reality that couldn’t be reversed like a breakup or a drunken, destructive night spent at an empty home. Britney coming in to the gym and sobbing made it painfully clear, if there was still any doubt, that Craig was one of the three soldiers who was killed, the bad news that Sarah had received at the end of the previous episode that came just as Trump’s election was announced. Fraser was not at all sensitive to the loss that everyone was going through, and he seemed to understand the impact of his callousness only when Sam didn’t want him to come with them because his mother, according to him, was responsible for Craig’s death. I’m glad that Caitlin acknowledged that it wasn’t true, an opinion that was not shared by her father, who made quite the scene and very publicly disrespected her authority. Maggie wasn’t apologetic at all about her affair with Jenny, something that has apparently happened before, but she was resolute about the need to transfer them away since Richard was never going to be able to fall in line and follow her orders. Fraser stopping by Jonathan’s was a worrisome development, but at least he seemed to set his own boundaries and leave before things got too crazy. I’m not sure what kind of resolution we’ll get in the finale but I’m curious to see what happens in the time we have left with these characters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Pilot Review: Temple

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: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 6 “Camp Elegance” (B+)

Things are getting much more serious and the death count is only going to rise, but at least both sides have their share of advantages and shortcomings. Loy is losing his patience but he now has two loyal deputies who may be a bit too trigger-happy but managed to deliver the hostage he wanted, who was about as cooperative as expected. He was also ready to activate Odis, who isn’t going to be of much help to anyone since he actually has little power and he’s being pushed and pulled in many directions. Getting rid of Deafy also isn’t going to be all that easy since he’s one resourceful and curious fellow. The most interesting character on this show continues to be Oraetta, who masterfully wormed her way out of yet another instance of being found out, twisting the situation so that her new supervisor would only have sympathy for her rather than fire her on the spot or, worse, look into her past to discover just how much she’s done. It’s unfortunate that she’ll probably be able to figure out who it was who wrote the letter and tried to get her in trouble, and the fact that she isn’t working for anyone in particular only makes her less predictable and more dangerous. Whatever compassion it is that Oraetta believes she’s showing people in her twisted way is manifested in a far purer and real way by Rabbi Milligan, whose own experiences have made him especially sympathetic to the plight of those used merely as pawns and not acknowledged for the real people they are.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pilot Review: The Undoing

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: The Walking Dead: World Beyond

The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Wrong End of a Telescope” (B)

One of my favorite things on television is when characters who don’t typically interact get to spend time together, and we got a lot of that in this episode. The most natural pairing may have been Iris and Silas, who developed a warm rapport since Iris didn’t care at all about whatever terrible thing Silas was supposed to have done and was completely ready to accept him for whoever he was. Acknowledging that, though he might have given in to violent impulses, he saved them was important, and I think he’s going to start coming out of his shell even more after this. Elton and Felix did well together too, and the “big brother” of the group seems to softening a little bit as he spends time with these kids, including the claustrophobic Elton, who very maturely explained how he was dealing with a major fear of his presenting itself in the form of an empty being trapped in the small space of a locker. Hope and Huck were a bit more hostile to each other, and I can see those personalities clashing since they both take the role of the opinionated rebel. This high school stopover was a nostalgia trip that included such now non-existent remnants of the past as yearbooks, dances, and soda in a can. Elton taking a picture of the group at the end was a great way to end the episode, showing that, as we’ve started to learn, the journey is just as important as the destination.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 6 “Army of God” (B+)

I think this episode has gained an increased relevance since it originally aired on Spectrum in the early part of this year and we’ve seen militia groups trying to fight for what they believe is right when it stands in direct opposition to what the country is doing. The preacher’s words were indeed powerful, decrying violence but charging that everyone should indeed be enlisting in an army of God. Hannah was almost in awe when she came upon Rudolph in the woods, and Big John compared him to someone bombing Auschwitz, taking a stand to save unborn children from mass murder. Earl spent some time in town to get a better sense of things, and he appeared to make a major discovery when he was politely excused from the bar by Big John. Rudolph being responsible for Centennial Park is an example of the best argument against those who claim to be pro-life but desire no common sense gun laws, something that stands in direct opposition to the actual notion of being in favor of life. I’m not sure that would have convinced any of the militia members, but what Brennan did was absolutely ineffective. Freeh is losing patience and wants to appear strong rather than be right, a foolish position that isn’t going to serve anyone well. The newly-formed Army of God may not end up doing anything all that destructive, but they’ve now welcomed a wanted fugitive into their ranks with open arms, something that is going to make him much harder to catch and not easy to arrest when they do end up finding him.

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 5 “Land of the Noonday Sun” (B+)

I missed this show’s move to Saturday nights entirely and only happened to have a television on at 8pm to notice that the “previously on” segment included everything I had seen already in the first four episodes. The final four episodes will now air over the course of two Saturdays, concluding on November 7th. I appreciated this episode because it provided plenty of information about Eric Rudolph while continuing to chart developments related to Richard which are more familiar to me since that was the focus of the film. Those events weren’t as dramatic here, but it was still powerful to see Bobbi stand by her son during the press conference and crushing to see Kathy go on TV and declare that the FBI now thought that Richard had a co-conspirator. Brennan wasn’t interested in hearing from Earl and Joe about Richard being innocent, and he’s not doing a great job of searching for Rudolph in North Carolina. I’m pleased to see some excellent casting choices introduced in this episode, starting with Becky Ann Baker from “Girls” and “Hunters” as Rudolph’s mother, who tried to paint Eric as the normal one before her other son went and cut off his hand in a symbolic move that not even she was able to understand. Marley Shelton from “Eleventh Hour” was memorable as Hannah, who didn’t want to wait for the FBI to search her before she went over the bridge, and Brad William Henke from “Orange is the New Black” made an immediate impression as her even less patient militia leader husband. We still haven’t actually seen much of Eric, but he seems ready to make his voice heard with the intense letter referring to an Army of God.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Pilot Review: The Queen's Gambit

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.

Friday, October 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Tehran

Tehran: Season 1, Episode 7 “Tamar’s Father” (B+)

I’m glad to see that this show continues to portray the Iranians who are actively working to stop the Israelis as intelligent, capable of making their own mistakes but also more perceptive than they appear to be. Ali went right to the substation once he realized that it was connected to the military systems and pegged immediately that Parham was acting suspiciously, and though it’s bad news for Tamar and the mission, it made sense that he would be listening in to his call and setting a trap for the agents. Unfortunately, his fate seems sealed just like Razieh’s was when she too tried to do the right thing and ended up getting punished for it. Kadosh’s arrival in Iran meant that Tamar, who was definitely compromised by the picture she received from Faraz of her father as a hostage, didn’t need to be on in the same way, and now it seems like what they were going to do has been called off altogether, which is good given that Ali would have surely caught them. Milad was very resentful of Tamar, and he seems to be right about what’s going to happen to him even if he cooperates. Gorev did a good job getting through to Naahid, and though he got very angry with his hostage, Faraz was smart to let Mordechai go, since he would have lost any leverage he had when he killed him and ensured that his wife would not be safely returned. I’m not sure what to expect from the finale, but things are certainly tense and worrisome right now.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Take Three: Soulmates

Soulmates: Season 1, Episode 3 “Little Adventures” (B+)

I appreciate the fact that this show is making each of its episodes feel very different, not just in the characters portrayed but also in the tone and major takeaways. I was happy to see Laia Costa, a very memorable actress from the movie “Duck Better” who also stars in the CW’s recently-premiered “Devils,” as the main player in this episode who managed to drive not one but two romantic partners crazy. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that Libby and Adam had already taken the test and that’s why they had their extramarital arrangement in place, since they were so sure that it was going to work out and they should do what they needed to be happy. Signs were obvious at the start that Adam wasn’t as into the setup as Libby was, and Miranda’s arrival only made things worse since Libby was clearly going to cross the boundary he set of not sleeping with her. I am impressed that, after a predictable turn of events, things ended in a different way than I had expected. I enjoyed the very purposeful choreography of having Adam answer the door and first Libby and then Miranda popping up to show that all three of them were part of a deal that the poor woman who just wanted coffee might eventually agree to, given how well it seemed to work for all of them. I’m curious to see what episode four will offer since I have no idea what to expect.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What I’m Watching: We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are: Season 1, Episode 6 “Right here, right now #6” (B)

There is no question that the adults on this show have complicated relationships with their children and don’t always make the most obviously sound choices when it comes with how to interact with them. Sarah certainly has boundary issues with Fraser, and she was extremely supportive of him going on what felt a lot like a date with a thirty-year-old man. Jonathan isn’t as clueless as he’s making himself out to be, inviting a woman who appears to be his girlfriend on their “date,” a term he didn’t correct when Fraser used it. Since Fraser is supposed to be only fourteen on this show (actor Jack Dylan Grazer just turned seventeen), it’s worth flagging that dynamic as inappropriate, something Maggie raised as a concern right away. Nothing overly objectionable happened, and Fraser came home feeling like it was the best day. Caitlin had a more restrictive experience with her father on their hunting trip, and he didn’t mince words when he asked her about dating someone who he was very sure was gay. I appreciated the blunt honesty that Sarah employed toward the end of the episode in recognizing that Caitlin wanted to grow up to be a male soldier, prepared with paperwork and all. I’m sure that’s an idea her dad isn’t open to hearing at all, and he’ll likely blame the boss he already doesn’t like much for making his daughter think about it. Ending with Trump’s victory was depressing, and the incoming administration may not feel quite as warmly about someone like Sarah commanding a military base.

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 4 “Run Rudolph Run” (B+)

It’s interesting to see how the FBI just got a major lead in their investigation into the perpetrator of several apparently linked bombings and, at the same time, Richard is working to prove his innocence. Only Earl seems interested in even trying to link the two, something that Jack wasn’t even willing to consider because he wanted to continue to claim that the FBI had done a great job. They certainly have an uphill (literally) battle ahead of them, thanks in part to the somewhat logical decision not to have Sheriff Thompson go in on his own to arrest Rudolph and the absolutely preposterous call not to have at least one agent waiting outside in case Rudolph decided, as he did, to make a run for it before they could arrest him. Murphy, North Carolina also seems to be the least inviting place for a federal government organization to show up and try to get community participation in, or at least acceptance of, a manhunt. I recognized Nick Searcy from “Justified” right away as the sheriff, and I’m not sure I would have had as easy a time realizing that it was Jack Huston from “Boardwalk Empire” and the concurrently-airing fourth season of “Fargo,” as Rudolph, who we really haven’t seen speak yet. Kathy being told that she was only suited for greatness within the confines of Atlanta was a real blow, and maybe she’ll be able to see the different possibilities surrounding Richard’s guilt that should be clearly evident by his attempt to recreate the police timeline that can’t possibly be right.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Third Day (Series Finale)

The Third Day: Season 1, Episode 6 “Last Day – The Dark” (B)

Well, I guess it’s something that the final episode of this show was better than most of what came before it, ending on an interestingly ambiguous note that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for a series that always kept viewers in the dark – conveniently this episode’s title – since the start. Helen not believing that it was actually Nathan because he hadn’t aged was cemented by Mrs. Martin’s confirmation that they had let him believe that the boy was his son and not just a relative who didn’t actually look much like him. That led me to the conclusion that this island and its religion isn’t supernatural or magical, but just that people believe what they want to and, in the case of Jess and her supporters, are determined to extinguish any perceived threats for fear that they will one day try to stake a leadership claim that may rightfully be theirs. But then Helen seemed completely haunted by what Nathan said to her, which could easily have been something Sam apologized to him for multiple times since they’d been together on the island, but was likely a private moment between the two of them that no one else could have known aside from the real Nathan. I’m glad that Ellie had a change of heart in the end and didn’t willingly stay, though it’s not clear how far they got and if Helen is indeed still alive. This show did have a bit too much senseless violence and disturbing content for my liking, but the performances were certainly strong. I don’t expect it to be much of an awards season player, but it’s always possible. Even though this finale was a decent end, I want to make sure that it is just that – I don’t need to revisit this nightmarish island and universe anytime soon.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Jude Law as Sam and Naomie Harris as Helen

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 5 “The Birthplace of Civilization” (B+)

With so many characters featured this season, it tracks that some of them would have to die eventually. I’m sad that the first (well, not quite the first) to go was Doctor Senator, played so emphatically by Glynn Turman. I don’t know what kind of Emmy love this season is going to get, but the past winner for “In Treatment” definitely deserves another shot at a trophy for this performance, particularly his final line that may just have been the last straw that got him killed. I’m glad that he got the signature movie music to play him out. Tensions are very high, and Loy is dealing with many issues on his front, starting with Thurman, whose attempt to pay Loy back with his own stolen money did not sit well with him. Dibrell tried to make the situation better, but Loy wasn’t having any of it. Ethelrida proved to be creative when she realized what Oraetta had done and thought of a way that she might be able to hold her accountable for it, but she got outsmarted by Deafy, who appears to just want to get back home to his family in Salt Lake. Unfortunately, Loy was one step ahead of him in tracking down Roulette and Capps, enlisting them in working for him rather than just killing them. He also managed to get inside Odis’ head by telling the story about his mine duties, something that might come back to haunt him but likely won’t because he seems to have much more power and influence in this town than Odis does.