Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 5 “Unknown Caller” (B+)

One of the things that has always interested me about the world of this show is how Gilead maintains relations with the rest of the world. This is an extraordinary depiction of the intimate personal drama that results, but I’m just as fascinated by the way in which governments interact and how they look at what this horrific, oppressive society that has taken over much of the United States. I do have many questions, like, for instance, why Luke would agree to see a woman who claimed to be the mother of his wife’s child without demanding that his own child be returned to him? It’s possible that there isn’t a whole lot of information coming out of Gilead save for the few handmaids like Moira and Emily who did manage to escape, and they recognize their powerlessness when it comes to truly effecting monumental change. But still, I’m curious why that’s the case, and wondering if the antique-looking press conference with June standing defiant and angry in the background is actually going to work in pressuring the Canadian government to act without some crucial concessions against their typically uncooperative neighbor. Yvonne Strahovski continues to be a superb standout on this show, and I hope that she’ll be able to win an Emmy for this season even if she should have won for last year. June recording a message for Luke that was brutally honest about what she’s had to do and decided to do was unexpected but powerful, and I wish he too would go on camera to challenge the public relations campaign being waged by the Waterfords. I have no idea what comes next, but I’m intensely invested.

Monday, June 24, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour (Season Premiere)

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 1 “The Search” (B-)

I had completely forgotten about this show’s existence, though it’s always nice to have a lighthearted diversion like this one, even though I’d much prefer a third season of “People of Earth,” which TBS decided to unceremoniously cancel after it had already been renewed. In any case, we’re left with this show, which is almost purposeful in its aimlessness. I was a huge fan of Laura Benanti’s character, who turned out to be something completely different from what it seemed all along, and now it’s all about the search for Delilah, who was the only member of the family who realized that she just had to get away from all this absurdity. It seemed extremely obvious to me from the start that Delilah wasn’t actually traveling to destinations all over the world but instead just posing in front of backdrops that made it look like that, and Nate’s sudden realization in the middle of New Zealand that she was in Syracuse at a mini golf place felt like one of his less clever moments. As usual, his antics were absurd, with a whole rollercoaster of tonal shifts throughout the episode, including Nate trying to resuscitate a dead man and then arguing with Robin about what to do with Jared’s sleepy excitement. It didn’t take Jared nearly as ong as I might have expected to deduce that his new girlfriend putting up ten fingers was indeed indicating that she was just ten years old, which means the same thing no matter what her place of origin. His dimwitted nature continues to be entertaining, but I’m not sure how much more road this show has to travel.

Pilot Review: Grand Hotel

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Pilot Review: Euphoria

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Perpetual Grace, LTD

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 3 “Felipe G. Usted. Almost First Mexican on the Moon. Part 1” (B+)

This show is undeniably and unapologetically strange, featuring some truly random plotlines that I guess will all come together eventually. The introduction of Felipe as an eager astronaut candidate who is literally in the middle of all the training that he was doing to go into space is merely the latest reference to the convoluted web of colorful characters involved in this increasingly spiraling scheme. James doesn’t tend to think too far ahead about each step of his plan, notably reacting with surprise and dread as he learned that the tracking anklet would be reattached after he successfully got it off thanks to the rattlesnake bite, and he didn’t really push Paul on giving him so little information aside from a quick sarcastic complaint. I was excited to see Kurtwood Smith of “That 70s Show” fame as Uncle Dave, a convicted sex offender who appears to have had his situation greatly misunderstood and who cares more about his apparently dead sister than anything else in the world. That makes Ranger Walker a perfect ally for him and an unfortunate weapon in his arsenal against Paul. We’ll also see what the story is with the newly released DeLoash, portrayed by Timothy Spall from “Mr. Turner” and “Denial.” Pa isn’t quite as fascinating driving all by himself as he was verbally taking down Hector, who humorously described the difference between him leaving his family well-off and taken care of and him leaving them with nothing and him in jail. James’ latest conversation with Glenn was terrific as usual, highlighted by his head-hurting response each time James stressed the importance of not messing up.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pilot Review: City on a Hill

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies: Season 2, Episode 2 “Tell-Tale Hearts” (B+)

Anyone who doubted whether a second season was worth making without the corresponding source material should hopefully feel, as I do, that there’s evidently fascinating ground still to be covered with these characters. This episode was all about the women’s relationships with their husbands and other family members, something we haven’t really seen in depth before this. Laura Dern had her Emmy-winning scene here when Renata went ballistic on Gordon after he dared to blame his commission of crimes on her wanting more. She also wasn’t too shy to repeat bluntly that she would not “not be rich” after realizing that his arrest was no mistake. Nathan calling Bonnie’s mom ended up being more miserable for him than for her when she didn’t hide her feelings about him being a clueless idiot. I was happy to see Martin Donovan from “Boss” and “Weeds” as Bonnie’s father, even though he didn’t have much of a part. Dr. Reisman having Celeste replace herself with Madeline in abusive memories was indeed effective, but unfortunately she’s far from in control of what’s happening, and it’s not just her sleeping pill-induced car wrecks. The truth about Perry and Ziggy getting out was accepted relatively well by most parties aside from Mary Louise, who continued to enable her son by attacking the integrity of his accusers. Her going to the police won’t do anyone any good, and she’s going to defend her son’s reputation no matter who else has to be impugned in the process. Abigail not wanting to go to college will now be the least of Madeline’s worries, and I can’t imagine what she’d be able to do to entice Ed to stay. It’s good to see Adam Scott getting some serious material, though he also handled Nathan’s attempt to challenge him to a fight with excellent comedic dismissal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pilot Review: Jett

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: When They See Us

When They See Us: Season 1, Episode 3 “Part Three” (B+)

I read in another review of this episode that this show’s effectiveness is only increased by the lack of any clear timeline of events, with each of the characters appearing at the beginning of their prison sentences when their families come to visit and then all of a sudden playing by another actor upon their eventual release. Only towards the end of this extended hour did we see two of them together, years after their initial conviction, now emboldened by their survival and perseverance to refuse to admit to their alleged crimes since, as they expressed, they never confessed to them previously and didn’t want to start lying now. The two performers I recognized right away were Chris Chalk, who played Walker on “Homeland,” as the adult Yusuf, and Dascha Polanco, who plays Daya on “Orange is the New Black,” as Raymond Sr.’s new wife Elena, who absolutely did not like Raymond at all and contributed strongly to his path back to jail after he poignantly expressed the impossibility of his success given the limitations of having to declare his conviction and sex offender status. One of the most powerful moments was Angela’s flirtation story behind the Thrifty counter, which started off as a helpful diversion and then underlined just how guilty she felt being happy while Kevin was behind bars. I’m intrigued and certainly invested, and I’m hopeful that the final episode will both provide more information and maybe even whatever optimism might be possible about how the mistakes made in this case might not be repeated again in the future.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 7 “I Can Handle It” (B+)

What we’re seeing now is our two protagonists slowly coming apart as they find themselves unprepared for the latest developments in Ted’s case. Jen went in with Nick expressing a strong front, bold as ever in her desire to see his file, and its contents evidently shook her much more than she thought they would. That led to a direct and problematic explosion in front of clients which hindered the sale that she and Christopher would otherwise have made. Though it seemed that the woman she cursed out was more interested in bettering her mental health than holding her accountable for what she said, it was Christopher who took it hardest. Citing examples of her behavior long before Ted died indicates that this is, in a way, a part of Jen’s personality – lashing out at those she finds intolerable regardless of what the consequences may be. Him breaking up with her is going to be the most severe blow since it’s her one major distraction from the absence of her husband in her life. I almost though that she and Nick were going to hook up when he stopped by to see her, but the duplicity is apparently being left to Judy. Steve lured her in with his eyes-closed trick, and then had to ruin the whole experience by confessing that he of course stole a rock, which Judy will surely associate as the cause of their current misery. Judy reacted aggressively to the news of the car make and model being identified, barely containing the vomit she unleashed as Jen was exiting the room, and not saying right there and then that she used to have a 1966 Mustang is going to make that inevitable discovery much, much worse for her.

What I’m Watching: Ramy

Ramy: Season 1, Episode 9 “Dude, Where’s My Country” (B+)

If there’s one disappointing thing about this show, it’s that worthwhile and fascinating plotlines from one episode are rarely carried over into the next because there’s something else just as gripping to be showcased. Ramy certainly had very different ideas of what his trip to Egypt would look like than his friends and family, evidenced immediately by the number of suitcases he had to bring with him full of iPads to sell and specially-labeled gifts for everyone he would be seeing. His cousin was all about talking to him in English and taking him to Chili’s when he just wanted to experience the glory of Egypt and go to a mosque. His enthusiasm about trying his aunt’s cooking didn’t last long when she brought out the stuffed pigeon, and it was entertaining to hear him try to debate his family members who expressed nothing but praise for Trump and thought that his immigration policies were actually helping Muslims. His uncle’s quick attachment to the iPad that wasn’t for him made Ramy look like the bad guy when he had to take it back and sell it, and Ramy wasn’t too happy with the behavior he was seeing from his Muslim relatives. It turns out that there’s nothing worse in Egypt than drinking the water, though I suppose accidentally sleeping with his cousin would probably have been more lamentable. Hearing the call to prayer as he finished throwing was telling that visiting his homeland may have been an ideal adventure, but he’s likely better suited for life at home in America.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pilot Review: Too Old to Die Young

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 4, Episode 9 “Four Short Fairy Tales” (C+)

Sometimes this show is a lot more simplistic than it needs to be, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all. Jen’s segment was the best example, featuring truly idiotic colleagues who wanted to work hard to impress their hapless boss by childishly taking credit for Jen’s work. Sarah Baker, a memorable performer from “Louie” and “The Kominsky Method,” was particularly wasted, while Andy Buckley from “The Office” was cast in exactly the role I would have expected, unable to remember the baby’s name literally seconds after Jen said it. It was moderately entertaining to see Jen try so hard to make people like her, but otherwise I was not amused. On the note of unfortunate casting, I’ve never understood why Martin Starr, who has been so much funnier on the likes of “Silicon Valley” and “Party Down,” plays the creepy exterminator, and his scene with Joan about not wanting to retire didn’t make his character’s existence all that much more worthwhile. John failing to realize that he was the one who didn’t teach his sons how to build things felt far from believable, even if he’s not usually one to pick up on cues from anyone around him. Blowing down Greg and Matt’s playhouse with a leafblower was a humorous sight, but that was about it. Tim buying himself a toupee was the best of this week’s bits, both because it shed some light on a past time when the family had to follow the same rules when Heather went through her romper phase and because Tim thought he had the perfect plan only to realize that his photo showed a very different side of him.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Abby’s (Series Finale)

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Fish” (B+)

I never expected this show to last much more than one season, and so I’ll take what we got here. It felt fitting to meet Bill’s ex-wife in the final episode and to have everyone at the bar step in to make sure that Bill didn’t go down a road that really wasn’t right for him. Declaring that he was going to do a revenge-bod diet to show her what she was missing turned into an obsession, particularly from Fred, over the wealth of Padres tickets he could be using on a regular basis. Sharon made an immediate impression when she condescendingly – and improperly – corrected Abby’s Spanish, and Rosie’s offer to look at her photos was far more generous than she initially realized. James pointing out that, no matter where they ran, she would visit was very funny, and I enjoyed how the crew tried to bolster Bill with compliments including his great memory when he noticed they were repeating traits. It was a fun opportunity for them all to prepare to do things Abby would never usually allow after Sharon predictably kissed Bill and wanted him back. The best part of the episode, and what I’ll remember most about Nelson Franklin’s standout performance, was his delivery of “It was lovely seeing you, Sharon, goodbye,” in a way that actually did sting and feel biting. I hope to see many of these actors, particularly Franklin and Natalie Morales, on other shows and in other projects soon. This has been a decent and entertaining ride.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Nelson Franklin as Bill

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 7 “Filleted to Rest” (B)

There’s a lot going on right now on this show, and it’s a bit hard to follow all of it. The pacing isn’t always consistent, with the comedic subplots about the zombie brains and the more serious murders portrayed, but the balance felt a bit off in this hour. All told, however, things are still very interesting, and we saw some major developments that are pretty monumental. There was no shortage of suspects for the murder of the terrible chef, and I like that Clive told Liv he’d remember her before she ate the brain and the owner handed her the remoulade so that she could write down the recipe as soon as it came to her. I was surprised to see Liv’s mother because we haven’t heard from her in a long time, and the conversation about who Liv’s father was felt so random because it’s never come up in any way prior to this. That did make the episode’s final scene a total shock, since the big bad guy who’s teeing up against Major on the side of the vindictive zombies is none other than Martin Roberts, the man who is apparently Liv’s father. I wonder if he knew that Renegade was his daughter, and that really does change things in a huge way. Justin’s betrayal was also unexpected, and Major is turning into someone he doesn’t want to be as he deals with problematic elements waging war against his doctrine of peace. Michelle telling Clive that he’s probably not the father but she wishes he was felt somewhat aimless and distracting, while it remains to be seen what the introduction of Charlie’s sister will mean for Ravi and the show in general. On the guest star front, I enjoyed seeing, if only for a brief scene, Jason Gray-Stanford from “Monk” as the head waiter at the restaurant who took his work very seriously.