Sunday, May 31, 2020

What I’m Watching: Upload

Upload: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Grey Market” (B+)

I’m still very much enjoying the combination of comedy, technological innovation, and mystery that this show offers. Dylan being upset that his parents won’t update his avatar so that he can look older was a great impetus for the trio of Dylan, Luke, and Nathan heading off into the grey area through the hedges in search of hacks to get him – and Luke – what they wanted. Nathan bonded with him right away after being impressed by his legendary fatal fall into the Grand Canyon, and he probably could have watched out for him when Nora had to go visit her father had Luke not been involved. The best takeaway from the underground market that looked like a crazy sex club was the store for celebrity memories, including Penelope Cruz taking a shower, from her perspective. Dylan’s power-up tattoo did work, though he probably should have asked the right questions to make sure that it would turn him into what he wanted rather than a young adult woman. I like how Nora described Nathan to her father, and the way that Nathan acted while Nora was reprogramming him seemed to make up for his lack of judgment earlier in the episode. Allegra bringing her own therapist to the session where they already had the dog therapist was a sign that she isn’t interested in hearing anyone else’s opinion, though we don’t yet know any more about her apparent involvement in Nathan’s death. Fran, however, doesn’t seem to be long for the living world after her car launched itself into the water, and we can only hope that her frequent confirmation calls will mean someone will look into the suspicious circumstances of her demise.

What I’m Watching: Hunters

Hunters: Season 1, Episode 6 “(Ruth 1:16)” (B)

There’s always a bit of a calm before the next storm after a huge event like Meyer’s car being blown up at the end of the last episode. The last scene definitely accelerated all of that, but we’ll get to that later. The flashbacks in this hour were particularly disturbing, with Harriet forced to abandon her Judaism in order to be allowed to eat in the convent and Murray having to watch his son shot while he was in his arms. I probably should have concluded, as many likely did, that Harriet took the Nazi from Alabama with her because she recognized who he was, and delivering him as a wedding gift for the parents of the bride was, I’d say, really what they needed, particularly Murray as he was haunted during the wedding by memories of having to let one child go. Jonah reciting the Birkat Kohanim in place of his grandmother felt a bit strange, but it ended up being very moving to see him opt instead for the Birkat Ha-Gomel, an appropriate expression of gratitude after undergoing a life-threatening ordeal, and imagine his grandmother reciting it with him. It shouldn’t be a surprise at all that Meyer might be Jonah’s grandfather, and he didn’t even try to deny it, instead pushing off the conversation. Biff completely threw Juanita under the bus in front of the president, and he revealed his truly horrific and vile nature when he threatened her quietly to ensure that she didn’t get in his way. Millie is closer than ever to the truth, and let’s hope her chief actually wants to protect her rather than put her in more danger. I’m glad that Travis called off their attempted storming of the wedding, but discovering all those files and setting them on fire is a worrisome occurrence that is going to mean this group going into an entirely more defensive mode.

What I’m Watching: High Fidelity

High Fidelity: Season 1, Episode 7 “Me Time” (B+)

Opening this episode with Rob praising the merits of being single while literally standing next to Clyde, who’s clearly very into her, demonstrated that she really has no idea what it was that she wants. Pointing out that he only calls her aside from that ride she needed was legitimate, though I’m sure he wouldn’t have done that had he realized that she’d use that to bring him in to support her opposite her ex and his new fiancĂ©e. The quick discussion about the top five masturbation songs following Rob’s “me time” comment was far more palatable than what happened next, which quickly turned sour once Rob spotted Mac at the bar. Lily was bold to come out and introduce herself to Rob without Mac by her side, and I love that Rob spent a few minutes imagining the many things she wanted to do to her rather than respond politely. Offering to leave the bar if they were making her uncomfortable was nice, and she warmed to Rob very quickly, suggesting double dates and freely discussing her past relationship with Mac. Clyde wasn’t so clued in, unsure of why Rob would say that he was joking about volunteering that he really did and not at all aware that they used to date. He was sincere in sharing his feelings after she made jokes about him being a fake boyfriend and that he would want something real, and her failure to respond to that may doom their chances. Him leaving after punching the guy Cameron was fighting with wasn’t a great ending, and I’m not sure how soon he’ll be back.

Pilot Review: Central Park

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.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pilot Review: Space Force

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: Ramy (Season Premiere)

Ramy: Season 2, Episode 1 “Bay’ah” (B+)

I’m very excited that this show is back, and it feels like it’s been more than thirteen months since its last new episodes premiered (though I didn’t finish season one until the end of June. This opener was a strong reimmersion back into Ramy’s world, providing some helpful hints about what I forgot happened when Ramy went to Egypt. He certainly is masturbating a lot since his return, and he’s much more conflicted about the contradictions of his religion and his desires than he’s ever been. I like that the imam told him that the prophet didn’t watch porn, to which Ramy replied that the prophet didn’t have porn. Michael was helpful in directing Ramy to a new imam, played by two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, who’s also a two-time Emmy nominee for his performances on “True Detective” and “House of Cards.” He seemed a bit too eccentric at first, but he showed Ramy that he was actually listening to what he was saying by not dismissing his urges and inner conflict. Discussing the conditions of the actresses working in porn and asking him if he had showered were fair things for Ramy to contemplate, and he definitely got him to open up about everything that was bothering him. Farouk drinking whiskey to impress his boss while Maysa was confusing Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba was a major development that is sure to have reverberations throughout this season for this family. Ramy having the gun Uncle Naseem gave him pointed at him in the bathroom was an intense experience that added considerably to this multifaceted episode. I look forward to experiencing the rest of this season over the next few weeks.

What I’m Watching: Defending Jacob (Series Finale)

Defending Jacob: Season 1, Episode 8 “After” (B-)

This didn’t feel like the emphatic conclusion I was hoping for, doing what series finales often do and skipping ahead to a scene further in the future that necessitated a quick sprint through the events that got us there. Patz confessing and killing himself meant that Jacob got exonerated right away, but of course both Ben’s father was still convinced that he had done it. Father O’Leary stepping in to protect them from him revealed to Andy that he was working for Billy, who, perhaps not surprisingly, had sent his henchman to go take care of Patz, who very well may not have been guilty. Deciding to go to Mexico seemed innocuous enough, and Jacob’s fast friendship with Hope was a positive thing for the teenager who had been exorcized from society. But it all came flashing back when Hope went missing, and, most problematically, Laurie was reminded of what she believed her son to be capable of doing. Their drive to get him a haircut turned into something far more intense, and he, for the first time, seemed even more scared than she was. Turning the wheel so that they would hit the wall was a bold and, by all indications, purposeful act, one that did manage to prevent Jacob from hurting anyone since he couldn’t go anywhere or function on his own. Laurie getting cleared of all charges while Andy now has to live with the uncertainty of not knowing if everyone in his family except for him is capable of killing was definitely haunting, but it didn’t feel like the right way for this to end. All performers involved were strong, but this resolution makes this limited series feel less essential.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Michelle Dockery as Laurie

What I’m Watching: Council of Dads

Council of Dads: Season 1, Episode 5 “Tradition” (B)

We’re only a few episodes into this show, and I appreciated the pinpointing of holidays as crucial moments in time that we could skip forward to in order to cover material more quickly. Her relationship with Sam progressed pretty well, with her revealing rather bluntly that Scott was dead and then ending up going on a fancy date with him on New Year’s Eve. They really would be a good match, but they’re not exactly in the same place since his ex is very much alive and potentially interested in trying again. Theo still didn’t seem thrilled at the notion of his mother dating someone else, though he caused plenty of trouble in this hour, even if he was just seeking a connection to normalcy. Robin’s mother coming to town was a lot, and I like that she swooped in right when she was needed to suggest cancelling Christmas so that they could do something great that didn’t constantly remind her of Scott’s absence. There seems to be a potential romance brewing between Larry and Patricia, and their portrayers are actually almost the same age, so maybe that could work. It was moving – and deeply reassuring – to see Oliver finally return home to forgive Peter and work on their marriage again. Margot, on the other hand, didn’t have much reason to celebrate, and it was good that she advocated for an equitable relationship when Anthony was all about loving everything but her. Things seemed to be going well for everyone by the time Scott’s birthday came around, but there’s always another crisis around the corner. Charlotte has barely been featured so far, and now her health looks to be the next big threat to this family’s happiness.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Take Three: Love Life

Love Life: Season 1, Episode 3 “Danny Two Phones” (B+)

This episode didn’t feature Darby falling head over heels for someone, but I liked that since it felt more realistic. Not every relationship is a big deal, and not every hookup leads to a relationship. Darby running into Augie sent her spiraling, and going to a party with Sara was a good opportunity for her to focus on something else. She did not react well to Danny’s initial move of taking her phone out of her hands, but he had a leg up on her when he saw her peeing on the roof and watched her get cut by a nail. I recognized actor Gus Halper, who played Danny, and I think it’s from his role as Joseph on “Dickinson.” Here, he was hard to read at first, and when we found out that he wasn’t a drug dealer but instead a guy so obsessed with his ex that he was paying for a second phone to keep all her voicemails, his persona changed. Doing 100 chin-ups impressed Darby at first, but she sensed enough where it was going that she had to make up a story about moving to Cleveland to avoid him. I like that he came to the museum and stood up for himself when he understood what she was doing, which gave her enough power to realize that it felt good to be the one walking away for once. Knowing that Augie was stalking her on social media while planning to leave with his new girlfriend would surely delight her even more. I enjoyed Sara’s many references to Jewish terms and traditions, and she sure has a lot to think about when it comes to the relationship everyone is so sure she’s supposed to be in with Jim.

Round Two: Love Life

Love Life: Season 1, Episode 2 “Bradley Field” (B+)

It’s interesting to watch this show knowing that each of the relationships Darby enters into aren’t going to work out, though it’s very possible that one might restart again and end up sticking. The shot of her pregnant and walking the streets of New York City at the end of the episode gives us something to look forward to, and this time we got to experience something that was much more uncomfortable than a career move to Washington diluting the fun of being at a wedding together. The sexual tension between Darby and Bradley was very evident as soon as she showed up to his luxurious apartment, and that relationship had a relatively natural start since they already knew each other and just hadn’t seen each other in a while. I like actor Scoot McNairy, who has appeared in “Frank” and “Narcos: Mexico” and plenty more. He was great here as the likeable if somewhat hard to read Bradley. Darby adjusted pretty quickly to that way of living, bringing over her friends’ laundry and doing well in front of his fancy friends, even if that made her feel inadequate and like she needed to enroll immediately in art classes. Things really were going perfectly fine until his dad died and she felt out of place at his funeral being treated like the help, and his ex-wife showing up like a celebrity guest just made it all much worse. His mother, played by Marceline Hugot from “The Leftovers,” was also quite intimidating. Giving a toast where she referenced his sexual preferences was cringe-worthy, and there didn’t seem to be much left to do after that. The beauty is that another relationship is bound to start soon, and in this time she even missed some developments in the lives of her friends, namely the girl hugging her who appears to be dating Mallory.

Pilot Review: Love Life

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What I’m Watching: Mrs. America (Series Finale)

Mrs. America: Season 1, Episode 9 “Reagan” (B)

I found this final episode to be the weakest of the series, but that doesn’t mean it was bad, just that everything else up to this point was superior. Maybe it was that each hour focused specifically on one woman, and the penultimate one was about the lesser-known women behind the scenes. This hour was more about what happened after as this show rushed to its rather abrupt conclusion that came as a result of Reagan’s election. The biggest casualty was definitely Phyllis herself who, after basking in the glory of getting to mock Bella and Gloria publicly and await a phone call from the president she helped get elected, did in fact get that call, only to be told that she couldn’t get what she had worked for because he needed to placate the pro-ERA groups. Her fate wasn’t all that different from what happened to Alice, which was to realize that she was no longer part of the movement she had worked so hard to support, unwilling to accept the concessions that Rosemary cruelly told her she should have known would have to be made. Bella being dismissed because she wasn’t wanted anymore was another unfortunate retirement, though at least she had the backing of her fellow liberals – including Jill – who showed solidarity by refusing to participate if she couldn’t be a part of it. Ending with cuts to modern-day happenings related to the ERA was very powerful, and this show definitely signed off on a high note. This series is likely headed for major awards recognition, and I for one will be happy to see it collect many trophies. While Blanchett was obviously excellent, I’d also love to see recognition for Elizabeth Banks (Jill), Ari Graynor (Brenda), and Kayli Carter (Pamela) in addition to the big-name stars.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Cate Blanchett as Phyllis

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 14 “The One Where We're Trapped On TV” (B)

On most shows, characters inexplicably appearing on sitcoms with laugh tracks might seem strange, but somehow it doesn’t seem so far from normal on this one. I’d like to see a little bit more of the big picture of this fate-ruled world where the worker drones edit history so that there’s nothing objectionable or rebellion-inspiring since we just got a taste with the chatty Mona and doomsday prophet Gary. At least it explains that Charlie had a whole plan to keep the legends alive since she knew her sisters might be victorious, though it doesn’t seem that she planned for them to ever escape their blissful TV show existences. I enjoyed the parodies of “Friends,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Star Trek,” with a real commitment to costumes and questionable copyright infringement. The notion of having both the Zari we used to know and the one we’ve come to know along with a reincarnated Behrad is definitely appealing since it gives us more legends to try to fight the deadly sisters, and I wouldn’t mind having two Zaris around for the foreseeable future. If Amaya and Charlie can have the same face, why can’t one actress play two characters at the same time, even if they’re (sort of) the same person? I don’t think this show’s season got shortened at all as a result of production delays, so I’m ready for what well could be a satisfying season finale to close out this run and prepare us for a surely enjoyable sixth season.

What I’m Watching: The Baker and the Beauty

The Baker and the Beauty: Season 1, Episode 7 “Blow Out” (B)

That was quite the awkward opening breakfast, and Mari’s big show giving everyone a pep talk worked well enough until she got to Natalie, who correctly pointed out that she didn’t have a good argument to make her realize that her problems weren’t all that bad. Daniel was right, of course, to note that Natalie’s rebellion really wasn’t all that bad, and that she would have turned off her phone location if she didn’t want them to know where she was. Mari explaining her reason for caring so much about her daughter made a lot of sense, and it’s good to see that they’re back in a good place. Noa and Daniel seemed to be doing great at the start of the hour, and after Lewis helped to save the day by negotiating directly with Noa’s father before he passed out in the board meeting, Noa took something important away from that whole debacle that Daniel didn’t see coming at all. I do like that Vanessa was the one to bail him out since it shows that she isn’t crazy and is taking some responsibility for what she did by giving that interview, and she definitely had a lot of rage to offload that she unfortunately took out on her tires. I’m glad that Mateo took a break from ripping apart his sound studio to finally make his move on Vanessa, which makes it look like two of the Garcia children are now officially in relationships while the one with the most public one may now end up being single.

Pilot Review: Barkskins

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.

Round Two: Stargirl

Stargirl: Season 1, Episode 2 “S.T.R.I.P.E.” (B)

I want to like this show, and I think I’ll give it one more shot to see if it’s headed somewhere worthwhile. Brainwave was set up as the big villain in the first episode, and here he seemed ready to destroy our protagonist when he demanded that she come with the staff or he’d kill her mother violently. Thanks in part to Pat and mostly due to her resolve and determination to fulfill her destiny, Courtney showed up to take him down, and asking what bad guys they’ll need to face next sets up future episodes as her honing her abilities and preparing to take on each new threat. I will give her credit for using her home economics (a class I never took) materials to sew her own costume, and embracing her father’s codename to create one for herself. This show is definitely set in a small town, which means everyone – good and bad – comes together for school functions and all that, and also means that Barbara’s new nightmare boss who hates all of her ideas isn’t just obnoxious but also in league with Icicle, who’s more than ready to kill the new heir to Starman’s staff. I like that there is still humor, mostly centered around Pat, who hasn’t quite mastered his giant robot suit and made the mistake of walking into a gym holding a baked good. He could definitely use some bulking up, but he doesn’t know quite what he’s committed to and how much his new trainer is determined for him to succeed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What I’m Watching: Run (Season Finale)

Run: Season 1, Episode 7 “Trick” (B-)

Well, this was a bit of a letdown. I was totally on board when our main characters were on board, but as soon as they got off the train, this show didn’t really have a sense of where it was going. The introduction of Babe in the previous episode felt random and sudden, and there’s obviously a larger storyline involving the eccentric Laurel and their strange romance that started when she slept with the woman she was supposed to be interviewing for a murder case. But there just wasn’t enough of that, and for her to give the keys to Laurel and get on the train only to not end up catching up with either Billy or Ruby is far from satisfying. There’s more that needs to be explored there, and it felt far too rushed to be compelling. Billy seemed like an idiot grinning to himself while Ruby was seeing his ultimate betrayal, and the audacity he displayed when he introduced himself to Laurence was truly appalling. I also don’t quite get how Laurence was okay with whatever was happening since it was pretty hard for Ruby to deny anything since Billy was right there. Her choosing not to go with him is obviously the right decision, but she didn’t give too much thought to running off and abandoning her family in the first place to try being with him. I still think that both Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson were excellent and deserve any accolades they might get, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge was pretty great too. But I’m not sure I’d endorse a second season of this show given the lackluster resolution here, though I guess it would be better than ending like this.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Merritt Wever as Ruby

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 4, Episode 7 “Lowkey Trippin’” (B+)

I like when shows choose to spotlight their supporting players, even if it means we don’t see the main character for an entire episode. We flipped from Issa seeing Molly in the restaurant and deciding not to go in and instead saw it from her perspective, which is a friend who’s really pissed off at someone she sees as not trying at all to repair their relationship. It’s a good thing that, after arriving very late to the airport, Molly didn’t miss the flight, and instead they at least got off to a good start with some excitement on the plane and not too much unfortunate conversation with their oversharing fellow passenger. Andrew suggesting that Molly should pack something other than bikinis for Mexico apparently inspired him to think outside the box, and that did make for some wild and passionate sex to help them remember some highlights of the vacation. Hearing Issa’s voice when Nathan called almost ruined it for her, but instead that got left to Victor, who chose to challenge Molly’s reaction to a racist incident by encouraging her to consider whether that was really the towel woman’s motivation. To his credit, Andrew did the right thing and stood up for her, and they seem to be in a good place. Running into Lawrence at the airport was undeniably awkward, though part of that was because he went in for a handshake, and I’m curious to see who he called and whether we’re going to see him get back together with Issa after all.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 3, Episode 7 “Beautiful Monster” (B-)

I just don’t understand what the point of this show is right now, and it’s hard to stay attached to the characters because everything seems so aimless at the moment. I was surprised at least that two main players got killed off in this episode, except that they didn’t, and instead we have more unresolved plotlines that aren’t headed anywhere productive. I’m a big fan of Konstantin’s, and I’ve enjoyed seeing him so rattled constantly. In the first season, he wasn’t all that interesting, but now he’s easily the most endearing and likeable of everyone. I’m glad that he isn’t dead, though the disappearance of Villanelle’s killer instinct meant that she didn’t make sure she killed Dasha, who I wouldn’t have minded losing. This show’s title is no longer applicable because there’s literally no one trying to kill Eve, just the people who mean a lot to her, and we’ve barely seen any interactions between Villanelle and Eve this entire season. That’s what I’ve always found to be best about this show since it’s a complex and extremely intriguing relationship, and to deprive viewers of that all season is a real disappointment. Fiona Shaw continues to be the other MVP alongside Kim Bodnia as Konstantin, infusing Carolyn with a wild energy that allows her to dominate every scene. Gemma Whelan, as her daughter, is also great. Mo’s death means no one is safe right now, and I can’t imagine what could transpire in the finale that’s going to allow this season to end on just as emphatic a note as either of the first two years.

Take Three: I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True: Season 1, Episode 3 (B-)

Miserable things don’t just happen to the characters on this show – there’s at least partly to blame for what happens after life deals them yet another bad hand. Take Dominick’s response to the two women in his life who are interested in having babies. His revelation that he got a vasectomy was received very poorly by Dessa and is likely what led, in part, to their separation after the death of their child. When Joy told him she was pregnant, his only reply was to ask if she was sure it was his, which caught her completely off-guard and demonstrated a total lack of interest in even considering the notion of starting a family with her. Much as Dominick may not be the kind of man who rates other women like his friend who initially turned off Dessa when they first met, he’s also not the warm and fuzzy type, unwilling to change his behavior to suit anyone else, except of course for his brother. Thomas has a better excuse – his schizophrenia – to explain away his failure to comply with what Dominick and Lisa were telling him was necessary for him to get released. This episode was full of melancholy moments, like the eerie death of a classmate in elementary school and the car crash that ended it. Dominick was more concerned about his car being teepeed than anything else, and getting in that car drunk was not a good idea. I can’t imagine how much more unpleasant things can get, but it seems like that’s where we’re headed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 5, Episode 4 “Opportunity Zone” (B-)

Watching this show and its totally over-the-top nature, I’m starting to really look at the longevity of the plotlines and where they’re headed, which doesn’t seem to be any focused area. I immediately recognized Harry Lennix from “Dollhouse” but forgot that he had already appeared as Kate’s father, which puts him in an interesting position aligning with Axe. It makes sense that Chuck went directly to Mike to ask for his help in trapping Axe, but Mike seems far more committed to keeping his dark passenger in check than Chuck does. The most formidable player right now is actually Wendy, who managed to get Axe’s star painter working again after he was determined to stall because of the pressures he was facing and then swooped in to intimidate the executive who didn’t have the patience to talk to anyone but Axe when Taylor first went to go meet with him. Wendy definitely has a promising future, and she would do well to consider if Axe is really her best partner, especially because he made it rather clear that he’s happy Chuck is out of the way so that they can get closer, a dangerous line they probably shouldn’t cross. On the guest star front, we have Julianna Margulies’ big return to television after brief spots on “Dietland” and “The Hot Zone” following her career-making “The Good Wife” turn. I’m not sure what to make of Catherine Brant, who seems more like a romantic interest for Chuck than a political ally, and I feel like he’d do better to find the latter. Wags’ religious son didn’t waste much time in trying to convert him, and the idea of him creating a new child to do it right this time isn’t good news for anyone.

Round Two: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer: Season 1, Episode 2 “Prepare to Brace” (B-)

I want to like this show since I do think the premise is interesting, but I’m still questioning whether it needed to be turned into a TV show. I don’t remember everything about the film, but the added device of having a murder investigation here makes it feel all too much like a standard procedural with different set dressing. At few points does this show truly feel like it takes place solely on a train, with only several places actually appearing like cars. That element is what’s most intriguing, and not continually features it does this show a disservice. It also seems like the cattle car being exposed when they were right outside was all-too-convenient timing, and that this kind of thing would have happened before or at least have been more preventable by reducing train speed. Knowing that this show has already been renewed for a second season makes it seem like this plotline can be dragged out forever, without the thrill of a “Prison Break” setup that could lead to a new step since there’s nowhere to go but the front of the train. I would be much more interested in understanding the run-up to how the train was conceived of and created and how Melanie began to pose as Mr. Wilford rather than the standard narrative of this rebellion-in-waiting and slow-paced criminal investigation. I’m willing to give it one more episode but would like to see something surprising or satisfying happen to compel me to stick around and watch more.

What I’m Watching: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 2, Episode 2 “Giant” (B-)

I realized midway through this tedious episode what set it apart from season one when it still wasn’t clear at all what was going on: conversation. Heidi and Walter were talking constantly, and there’s barely any of that now. I’d be curious how many minutes by the end of the season simply involve dramatic music and Jackie looking unsettled. Following Audrey to the Geist headquarters prompted Jackie to, for some reason, go along with the testing and listen to others discuss their negative associations with citrus. Craig’s new role doesn’t seem quite as challenging, and he has a very non-threatening vibe even if he’s much more aware of what’s really happening than he ever indicates. Pepper-spraying him so that she could go break into Colin’s office didn’t seem to be noticed by anyone as Mr. Geist, who Audrey calls Leonard, stepped up to the microphone to rail against whatever the mission of the company may really be. Mentions of a new partner that apparently controls them suggest that Audrey is trying to hold everything together because she knows that the alternative is much worse. As we got another reminder of season one in the form of the split-screens with two people staring intently at the camera, we got the ultimate surprise when Audrey and Jackie met each other. Audrey kissing Jackie was not at all what I expected, and she didn’t seem pleased at all by that greeting. Her photo being on the wall in Colin’s office is disconcerting, but obviously she’s much more involved than she thought – and a completely different way – with this operation.

Round Two: The Great

The Great: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Beard” (B+)

I’m very glad I opted to continue watching this show after not completely loving the pilot since this second episode really delivered. I think it’s best compared to “The Death of Stalin,” presenting events in a comedic format in which they evidently didn’t happen with an underlying current of real drama to keep the story grounded. That was presented most strongly towards the end of the episode when Catherine decided she was going to pretend to be happy for Peter and had to pull the eyes of the Swedish severed heads out just because it amused him, and when Orlov finally lost it after Peter forced him to shave Rostov rather than accept democratic reforms. Peter seemed like he was really trying when he semi-apologized for shooting her bear and punching her, but she wasn’t at all interested until the very real threat of her execution when Peter casually suggested it to his court. I love the interactions between Catherine and Peter, particularly her correcting his pronunciation of “touche” and telling him that she could kill him because he is a bad person. The many intonations of “huzzah” that Nicholas Hoult delivers are also fantastic, and I love that they’re all so different. The other cast member who truly stood out in this hour was Phoebe Fox, whose Marial absolutely knows what’s going on and how to achieve much of it, despite the shortcomings of her newfound position. I also like that Archie is her cousin and that he has nobler aims than just money and power.

Monday, May 25, 2020

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 2, Episode 3 “You Can’t Live Like This” (B)

Though I’m posting my reviews once a week, I’m actually writing them as I go through this series, which I’m doing at a much quicker rate than any other streaming show in the past. I’m averaging an episode a day, and watching that as perhaps all Netflix and similar content is meant to be done shines a light on lackluster episodes. There wasn’t anything particularly bad about this half-hour, but if I watched it and had to wait another week for the next installment, I would be quite disappointed. It’s mainly that nothing was accomplished and that it felt like filler content. The freezer obviously isn’t haunted and Steve is very much dead inside it, and the infestation of rats that came spewing out from under it was rightfully unsettling if nothing more. Jen and Judy are taking a lot of risks by leaving Steve’s body in there, and only Jen’s son’s creepy friend seems to notice that she’s trying to Google how to move a dead body. Jen’s mental state is affecting her work, as her selling abilities are decreased by her impatience and her sharing the fact that her home has rats, and she’s being ripped apart the same way Judy was by holding in the secret that Steve didn’t attack her when she killed him. She definitely should not tell her since Judy won’t react well, though at least she’s managed to make a new friend in Michelle, and I’m glad that, as I had hoped, Natalie Morales wasn’t just showing up for a short guest appearance but instead to become a more regular player.

What I’m Watching: Hollywood

Hollywood: Season 1, Episode 4 “(Screen) Tests” (B+)

This was a more grounded hour, one that changed things up by putting Avis in a real position of power. Ace demonstrated just how despicable he was by listing the things that were much more important to him than winning more Oscars, and he was so angry to discover that there was a black writer who had been hired as part of the pitch Dick made to him. After he was incapacitated, Avis being put in charge of all things creative should have been a positive since she could help screw her husband over once and for all by doing the things he most hated, but that didn’t seem to be her priority. Henry blackmailing her with photos from the gas station didn’t seem to stick after she was shown Jack’s screen test after watching the painstaking excerpts of Rock’s sixty-seven takes that repeatedly involved him confusing pronouns. Eleanor Roosevelt, who I now realize was played by Harriet Sansom Harris from “Desperate Housewives,” is one of the few people more powerful than a studio head on this show, and she seems to have inspired Avis to go for it and make a movie written by a black writer with a black leading actress. Jeremy Pope was the MVP of this episode as Archie, refusing to be replaced and not standing for Jack complaining about wanting to achieve his big dream for even a moment. This show is likely to be a big player at the Emmys and could really dominate the acting categories.

What I’m Watching: Trying

Trying: Season 1, Episode 4 “Rainbow Castle People” (B+)

I like that, hard as they may try, Nikki and Jason aren’t quite organized to keep track of whether something is actually on the calendar or whether they’ve just started talking about it and not answered that very question. Getting very drunk the night before a really important appointment was unfortunate, but fortunately Penny had a slot available later that day to come back. I’m so happy we finally got to meet the character played by Imelda Staunton, an actress I first encountered when, at age sixteen, I excitedly saw the film “Vera Drake,” featuring her in an Oscar-nominated turn as an abortionist in the 1950s, in Florida while visiting my grandparents, who took my siblings to the more age-appropriate “Hitch.” She was really great here, initially seeming to be rather stuffy but then responding well to Jason flirting with her and his very poorly-conceived delivery of how he was bullied in part because he had curly hair. It was sweet – and a relief – that she told Nikki that they really didn’t need to try to be so hard to be “those people” since they were a perfectly good fit all on their own. Their efforts to seem more upscale and responsible were predictably humorous, and I enjoyed that they essentially went shopping in someone else’s home for furniture and room decorations that they thought seemed mature. Going out again hardly seems like the best idea, but these are not people who like to think about the consequences of their actions until after they’ve already done them.

What I’m Watching: Upload

Upload: Season 1, Episode 4 “Sex Suit” (B+)

I’m glad that we’re learning more about what (after)life in Upload is like for everyone, not just those who have everything paid for either by their own fortunes or someone else. David happily sponsoring expensive clubs for Nathan just so that he could teach him golf and taunt Arnold Palmer was one end of the spectrum, while the 2GB free plan where people freeze, have their extremities disappeared, read only the first five pages of a book, and have to choose from a limited Lean Cuisine menu is definitely more on the depressing side. Nathan might be able to achieve more if he too wasn’t on a plan paid for by someone else, and maybe Nora will be able to help him with that. Telling her that he thought of Ingrid as a sister he didn’t really like wasn’t a great sign, and the interview went predictably poorly when she ignored him as usual to show the host the sex tape that she had edited by a contact of her father’s, which is weird enough in itself. When she showed up and told him that she was wearing a sex suit and nothing else, it was pretty hilarious to see that it essentially looks just like a scuba suit, which isn’t particularly romantic. Shouting over and over for tech support while their sex wasn’t working was also unpleasant, and Nora took her time to tune in. “Testing for responsiveness” by touching him was relatively salacious, and she did manage to fix the problem for them. She definitely managed to exert the energy she needed to when she got matched with Henry again, and I enjoyed his clueless comment that her response to the pleasure sounded much more real than it normally does for him with other girls. Giving him four stars as payback after ensuring that he gave her five was a great move. Nathan pretending to be asleep when they woke up in the morning showed that he’s not feeling warm towards Ingrid, but he’s going to be quite surprised when Fran clues him in to the fact that she did something suspicious to his car right before he died.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

What I’m Watching: Hunters

Hunters: Season 1, Episode 5 “At Night, All Birds are Black” (B)

This show really is pretty gruesome, and I thought that watching a young Meyer being tortured by the wolf was disturbing enough until we got to the horrific method of execution for one of the Nazis and the revolting treatment of the other whose identity they never managed to confirm. I do appreciate the casting on this show, with recognizable faces portraying the Nazis they’re pursuing. Raphael Sbarge from “Once Upon a Time” was Dieter, while Barbara Sukowa from “12 Monkeys” was Tilda, and both were strong, each responding differently to their interrogations. Dieter didn’t seem apologetic at all for his actions, while Tilda kept up the act of not being who they said she was but revealed an overly informed knowledge of each of them before she was killed instantaneously by Meyer, seemingly to cover up whatever it was she was about to say. Learning about so many Nazis living in Alabama was unsettling, and Harriet went off-book to murder one man there and then take another for a joy ride while leaving her accomplices behind. The fake commercial with German-accented Alabamans advertising a haven for Nazis was typically absurd, but that’s one of the ways this show embraces its excessive parody of reality. Murray and Mindy’s rabbi was a bit over-the-top, but it’s worth noting that his portrayer was Josh Mostel, son of the legendary Zero Mostel. Biff is really pushing to have more influence, and he may have screwed himself over with Juanita, who has no desire to help him even if it has implications for her. That big blowout at the end is a huge tipping point, showing that Travis and those he works for are very much onto them, and it’s going to be hard for Meyer to explain why his car exploded outside of a murdered woman’s house. If Millie isn’t too afraid to continue investigating after being beaten up, she’ll now be able to confirm that all of her theories were completely correct.

What I’m Watching: High Fidelity

High Fidelity: Season 1, Episode 6 “Weird…But Warm” (B+)

I’m definitely pushing for a Rob-Clyde romance, and it was great to see him come in to the store and pretend that he already had each of the records on display. Cherise and Simon eagerly referring to him by the type of pants he was wearing was entertaining, and I’m glad to see they’re on board too. Rob spent most of this episode investing in a different man, so excited to see Liam during his recording session and then to get to go to one of his shows. She was the one who pointed out that he was a rock star and didn’t need to treat whatever was going on between them as a relationship, but he seemed genuinely interested in her. Inviting her to come with him to Mexico was a big deal, and for her to say yes was even more unusual. Telling her that it wasn’t happening anymore at least felt sincere, but it’s going to serve as an important warning for her not to get too attached. After Cherise continued obsessing over the band she wants to form, she gave good chase to the record-snatchers, and she wasn’t happy at all with Rob’s decision to let them borrow what they took. Deciding to leave the show together after Cherise got completely ignored was a good step forward for the two of them, and having them make conversation by suggesting a top five list was perfect. Simon still seems to be interested in the barista, and I suspect he’ll make a move sometime soon.

What I’m Watching: Defending Jacob (Penultimate Episode)

Defending Jacob: Season 1, Episode 7 “Job” (B-)

This episode fully turned this show into a courtroom drama, and it’s hard to know how things could possibly turn out well with Jacob having essentially implicated himself. The final scene showing Patz wracked by guilt and writing down his confession may not be found before the verdict is in, and it’s hard to believe that those who have heard the story Jacob wrote will believe that he is fully innocent even if someone else has officially taken the blame. Laurie isn’t on board anymore, if she ever was, since Jacob thinking that writing a fantasy of how he might have killed his bully indicates problematic enough tendencies for her to be sufficiently worried. Neal’s antics were unscrupulous, and while the judge was clearly not having most of it, the fact that he let him trick Paula into blurting out that Andy’s father is a convicted murderer. Even Ben’s father was upset that Neal was screwing it all up, and that opening scene featuring Andy teaching Neal everything he needed to know about how to dehumanize the defendant suggests that Neal took things considerably further to ensure that he can try to win his cases. Paula also had to confirm that there was violent pornography on Jacob’s computer, and just hearing that alone will likely be damning to his chances. Billy’s interest in his grandson’s fate hasn’t won over his son just yet, and the news that the mystery man following them is a well-known gangster makes it pretty clear that, even if Jacob is deemed innocent, this family won’t soon be able to get back to normal.

What I’m Watching: Homecoming (Season Premiere)

Homecoming: Season 2, Episode 1 “People” (B-)

I was looking forward to the return of this show almost a year and a half after I finished the first season, which dropped in November 2018. Though I didn’t always love it, I did find the central storyline very intriguing and the way in which it was presented even more compelling. I knew that this new iteration wouldn’t feature Julia Roberts anymore but would bring back Stephan James and Hong Chau, and I was excited to hear about the casting of Janelle Monae. This opening half-hour was a bit of a disappointment since we didn’t see enough to really make anything clear about what’s going on, and that parting shot of Chris Cooper’s Mr. Geist hardly made it all worthwhile. I was pleased to see actor John Billingsley from “Star Trek: Enterprise,” who I recognized by his voice (though I always confuse him with “Star Trek: Voyager” cast member Ethan Phillips) in the role of Buddy, who was a helpful ally for Jackie until he decided that he wanted to take the money for himself. It was quite ominous that the cop who pulled her over wanted to bring her to the doctor, though she didn’t get taken to any secret facility where she wouldn’t have the right or ability to leave. I’m hopeful that future episodes will be more invigorating, but even if they’re not, I think I can handle making it through this shortened run of just seven episodes over the course of the next few weeks.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Mrs. America (Penultimate Episode)

Mrs. America: Season 1, Episode 8 “Houston” (B+)

I wasn’t sure what to make of this episode’s title originally since it’s the first one that isn’t someone’s name. I thought it would be a great chance to see all of the characters we’ve met so far converging in one place, and while it was that to a degree, it was also a very worthwhile opportunity to get to see some of the women who have been in the background for most of the show. I had wondered why it was that Sarah Paulson, who has seven Emmy nominations, had such a small role, and now it made sense since she got a major spotlight here. It’s true that this show’s primary weakness is a lack of objective sympathy for the conservative women it portrays, but that didn’t make this episode, or Paulson’s performance, any less compelling. After Alice’s poor performance on camera, her drunken stupor led to some powerful moments, including her belting out what Flo pointed out to her was a Marxist song and Gloria simply complimenting what she was wearing when she failed to deliver the masterful takedown she had been preparing. Having Phyllis ask her only about Gloria and then tell her to fix her face was demeaning, and Rosemary’s treatment of her was far from kind. I was also very impressed with Kayli Carter’s performance in this episode as Pamela. Carter turned in a strong performance in the film “Private Life” as a prospective surrogate whose politics likely align much more with Pamela at the end of the convention than the person she was at the start. As dramatized here, the convention was a very moving event, full of significant interactions and developments that managed to really bring diverse people together, including Betty with her unexpected endorsement of protections for lesbians.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 13 “I Am Legends” (B-)

This season has been all about the clever titles, though I’m never too excited about the presence of zombies even if I do love the film “I Am Legend.” Atropos and Lachesis being aboard the ship with Astra with only Gary there to stop them wasn’t a promising start, and Gideon presenting herself in human form to him only helped so much. Astra’s allegiances wavered a lot over the course of this hour, and she’s one of several casualties who may or may not be brought back to life when all this is corrected. The ending of the episode featuring Charlie getting the rings from Gary only to willingly give them to her sisters was a surprise, and I suspect that she’s up to something so that she can get them where she wants them, though she doesn’t really have much time left. However silly and unserious this show often is, it doesn’t play too lightly with the timeline, and therefore I’m sure whatever is eventually done to set things right won’t be without its own consequences. I’m certainly not shipping the Zari-Constantine romance that has now officially begun, and I imagine Nate’s going to be disappointed when he eventually finds out about it. Trying to light up in front of a giant anti-smoking sign on the bus was pretty ridiculous, and even with all of their period costumes, he was still wearing his loose tie and the same shirt as always. I like that Mick’s past experience with prison, and not his resolve not to be locked up again because of the promise he made to his daughter, was precisely what helped them get out of a tricky situation here.

Pilot Review: Sweet Magnolias

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: Stargirl

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, May 22, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Baker and the Beauty

The Baker and the Beauty: Season 1, Episode 6 “Side Effects” (B)

I can appreciate the casting of a recognizable face, Paul Ben-Victor, as the fake contractor since his presence and assurances made it seem like this bold step was going to work out for Rafael and Mari. They managed to get past the devastation of being conned and enjoy working out some of their aggression out by breaking down the wall themselves, but now they’re faced with a much bigger problem. I feel like this is where Noa could provide an easy solution with some connection she could have to a giant space that’s not currently being used or could easily be rented, but it’s not like she’s going to be eager to do Daniel a favor after he reacted uncertainly to her telling him that she couldn’t have him around as a distraction on her globe-trotting tour to save her company. I recognized actor Grant Bowler from “Lost,” and he’ll be a good fit to play Noa’s father, whose power play against his daughter is in full swing. Vanessa’s interview was consequential most in how the whole family responded to her purported betrayal, with Mateo serving as a major outlier, eager to comfort her and assure her that she had a right to do what she did. An influential musician taking a meeting with him because it might enable him to work with Vanessa was unexpected, and I’m eager for this controversial romance to just get started already. Natalie was ready to come out swinging when she got bullied at school, and the fact that all this led to her being banned from hanging out with Amy is going to really crush her and harm her relationship with her mother.

What I’m Watching: Run

Run: Season 1, Episode 6 “Tell” (B)

It’s very possible that this is the second-to-last episode of this show that we’ll see since HBO has yet to renew it for another round, and I’m honestly not sure what kind of story there is left to tell. Last week’s episode took things in a different direction, and this show has felt much more unhinged and directionless since its protagonists left the train. The idea of them getting back on is indeed a positive one after they spent a while yelling at each other in the woods, but we’ve met two characters who may change things if they can take enough time away from flirting with each other to focus on the circumstances of Fiona’s murder. I had a feeling that Phoebe Waller-Bridge wouldn’t just have appeared in a one-scene role, and she took on a much bigger part in what initially seemed like a purely tangential thread. The cops seem just as unconcerned with reality as our traveling friends, more interested in catching the latest episode of their favorite show that calling forensics in to their sleepy town to determine if there was a dangerous killer on the loose. Detective Babe Cloud really let Laurel redirect her interrogation, with the two of them asking each other if they had girlfriends rather than stopping to think about the two out-of-town strangers Laurel happened to give a ride to ride by the dead body. Billy’s inability to remember his outerwear may be their undoing, though there’s not much guarantee that, even if Laurel and Babe catch up to them, there will be any true consequences. I’d like some satisfactory resolution from the finale, but I’m not sure we’ll get it.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 4, Episode 6 “Lowkey Done” (B+)

After such a big blow-up with Molly, it was probably better that this episode didn’t find them interacting at all. My favorite part of this half-hour was Issa talking to herself in the mirror since we haven’t seen her do that for so long. I love that her mirror self asked her to speak up when she suggested a self-care day and counseled her via other mirrors throughout the day. Offering to help the pregnant woman at the supermarket who couldn’t afford her groceries was generous, but after her card got declined, even the apparent scammer wasn’t interested in investing the time in it anymore. Giving a ride to the old man who missed the bus turned out to be a wild diversion, and I thoroughly enjoyed his irritating antics, like screaming “watch out” while in the car but referencing life rather than something in her path. I can’t figure out where I know actor Brent Jennings from, but he really was terrific as George. Going to the paint and sip and meeting a group of friendly out-of-towners seemed like it was going to make her day great, especially when she wowed them by describing herself as a cultural curator. Getting left in the bathroom as an item on the bachelorette checklist who also had to pay for the whole meal was the opposite of what she needed, and I wish that she had actually confronted the women rather than just let them walk away with no consequences. Choosing not to go into the restaurant and confront Molly made some sense even if she’s going to have to confront her eventually, but that didn’t need to be the end to this particularly trying day that was made better by a visit to her mom.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 5, Episode 3 “Beg, Bribe, Bully” (B)

We don’t often see the offspring of the two main characters on this show, but in this episode we saw almost all of them. Gordie was actually pretty likeable, and he seemed more disappointed by the fact that he was being seen as having done something wrong than his big plan not having worked. J.C. MacKenzie’s headmaster wasn’t at all interested in talking money with Axe, who only wanted to write a check to fix everything, and Axe deliberating about what was the right thing to do proved rather interesting. As usual, Axe figured out the perfect solution, and even managed to multitask and resolve another problem on the home front in the war he has brewing with Mike. This may well have been the first time that Frank Grillo was playing the least intimidating man in the room, though the actor, who has appeared in violent films recently like “Donnybrook” and “Black and Blue,” still doesn’t present as all that friendly as the prized artist. Wendy and Taylor’s conversations are pretty loaded, and Taylor’s efforts to best utilize Sara appeared to work until Axe stepped in to benefit from it. Chuck’s new job offer was unexpectedly contingent on paying for the legacy commitment his father had failed to honor, and Chuck Sr. and his new wife weren’t indirect about what they wanted in return. In somewhat relevant subplots, Wags reaching out to all of his many children and having the most religious one come to meet him should prove entertaining if nothing else, and Kate figuring out a way to keep the $5 million she got shows that she’s in it to win even if it doesn’t always end up being exactly what Chuck wants.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Pilot Review: Snowpiercer

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: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 3, Episode 6 “End of Game” (B)

The fact that Nico isn’t dead after being pitchforked is almost worse since now Eve has the guilt of him being permanently injured even if he does recover and being blamed for what happened to him. Eve was smart, as she always is, to realize that it couldn’t have been Villanelle and to promptly following up on the little information she had about Dasha, first by going straight to Carolyn and then traveling to Barcelona to engage her in a formidable game of bowling. Of course that would be the setting for a major confrontation like this one, and it’s crazy just how open Dasha was about her relationship with Villanelle and her readiness to kill her if she so desired. Carolyn and Paul were also freely discussing their conflicted interests, with Konstantin having complicated relationships with both of them. After being startled multiple times in this episode, Konstantin was ready to go, and he seemed pretty shocked to see Irina run her stepfather over before smiling at him as they prepared to make their big exit. I’m intrigued by the idea of Konstantin being the father of Carolyn’s children, something that she didn’t confirm but could easily be true. Villanelle’s new role wasn’t all she hoped for, and after getting stabbed by the man she was in the middle of killing, she’s ready to get out of all this. Before this season ends, let’s get Eve and Villanelle back together so they can tackle their problems with their world together.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl (Season Finale)

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 19 “Immortal Kombat” (B)

This turned out to be a decent enough stand-in finale, mostly neutralizing the threats of Leviathan and the decimation of the population in Obsidian and refocusing the battle of Supergirl and her team against the ultimate villain: Lex. Brainy played the part Lex always needed him to, bottling up Rama Khan and the other element-benders so that he could exert power over them and sacrificing himself in the process, an act that Nia may be able to sense but which may end up being in vain if he’s never able to communicate the new threat posed to them. We once again got to see actor Jesse Rath’s real-life sister Meaghan Rath playing the female Brainiac-5, who helped coach him through the intense ordeal that may just have killed him. William, on the other hand, was bait for Supergirl to show up and rescue after Hank and M’gann posed as her to enable her to travel with Lena to the lab, and the suit came in handy at just the right moment. Eve also demonstrated her true nature and her mom was saved, and Lena was able to talk Andrea down when she was activated and similarly motivated by a desire to save her parent. Just like she did in the first season finale, Supergirl was able to save the day by appealing to the public with a genuine message, which really is her strength. Lex teaming up with Lillian and preparing for a showdown makes me still want to come back to watch more of this show, even if this season hasn’t been super.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Nicole Maines as Nia

Round Two: I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True: Season 1, Episode 2 (B-)

I’m going to continue watching this show because I expect it to be a big Emmy player, if just for star Mark Ruffalo’s strong dual performance. But it’s so miserable that it’s hard to get through, and I’m not seeing the overarching purpose. That opening scene featuring the younger boys was a disturbing start, demonstrating how cruel children can be and even how bad adults can respond to unfortunate situations. The teacher did not do a good job of advocating for Thomas when he was locked in the bathroom, and forcing Dominick to stay with him when he didn’t want to get on the boat didn’t seem like the best choice either. Developments in their adult lives weren’t great either, with the devastating revelation that Dominick and Dessa lost a child to SIDS. Dominick mentioned how angry he was at his brother for blaming that death on a conspiracy theory inspired by his schizophrenia, but his loyalty to his brother still seems to supersede everything else for him. I was pleased to see three new cast members in this episode who all did their best despite this bleak material. I’ve been a fan of Imogen Poots since seeing her in “The Look of Love,” and she’s doing a good job here playing opposite Mark Ruffalo’s eternally grumpy and unpleasant Dominick. Rosie O’Donnell, last seen on “SMILF,” was stoic and unflappable as a social worker, and Archie Panjabi from “The Good Wife” and currently appearing on another Sunday night HBO show, “Run,” was more than ready to deal with Dominick’s lack of cooperation as the doctor now responsible for Thomas’ treatment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pilot Review: Hightown

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: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 2, Episode 2 “Where Have You Been” (B+)

So much for my relief that Steve wasn’t actually dead but instead had somehow survived, but I’m actually okay with what’s actually happening. Judy has been established as someone who isn’t known for conveying the complete truth, and she’s exactly the kind of person who would neglect to mention that Steve had an (almost) identical twin and that he was close enough with his mother to call her every day. James Marsden is doing great work as Ben, making him the polar opposite of Steve, so unnecessarily chatty and friendly, eager to spend time with the people who are so worried they’re going to slip up and reveal something they shouldn’t. Steve’s body should really be relocated from Jen’s freezer, especially because Detective Perez is likely going to be taking a closer look at what Jen has been up to after showing up to inform her about the finally-ready restraining order only to see Judy casually chatting about their alcohol supply. Jen’s response to Judy saying that she would take care of her kids wasn’t exactly kind, and it’s about time she put together a legitimate document about who should get them if something happened to her. Despite her mother-in-law’s haughty nature, she’s probably a far more stable choice than Judy, but it’s clear that their parenting styles are very different. Having her go to prison doesn’t seem likely given that she’s one of the stars of this show, but you never know how things might end up playing out on this very intriguing and surprising season.

Take Three: Hollywood

Hollywood: Season 1, Episode 3 “Outlaws” (B)

I’ve tried not to read too much about this show so that I can experience it without any outside influences, but watching an episode a week means that others have already finished the series and shared their thoughts far and wide. There are definitely some strange storylines, like Henry dancing around for Rock and then spinning a legitimately moving story about loss at the end of the hour before then having Rock come in and get friendly with two young men he just happened to have in a closet. There were definitely some formidable confrontations in this hour, including the one between Jack and Henry. The MVP of this hour was definitely Joe Mantello as Dick Samuels, who didn’t want to stay at the party and then gave Rock some important advice he took right away before once again becoming sheepish in front of Henry. I recognized a number of other performers in this hour, including Paget Brewster as Tallullah Bankhead, Daniel London from “Minority Report” as George Cukor, and of course Rob Reiner as Ace. Learning that Claire is the daughter of Ace and Avis is interesting, and their dinner table is certainly volatile. Raymond appeared to be the most clueless about what was happening at the party, though he’s not exactly ascending the same ladder as the rest of them. Camille is slowly bushing the boundaries of what she can do and making an impression in the process, winning some support even if the director doesn’t have any patience for it.

Take Three: Trying

Trying: Season 1, Episode 3 “Tickets for a Queue” (B+)

This show is very unassuming, just presenting its characters as they go about their daily lives and try to press on despite being woefully unprepared for the future. Discovering that they didn’t get rejected but still have more forms to fill out was an extension of their hope that this could actually happen, even if they knew that they weren’t the right type of people to be considered for adoption based solely on the other contenders they saw. Nikki wasn’t happy that Jason brought what she considered to be a low-class snack to the picnic, and not bringing any serving bowls made the gesture feel particularly empty. Everyone else, including the council worker, having such fancy titles and jobs made Nikki feel very inferior, and Jason’s attempts at humor weren’t helping. They did find one sympathetic couple in Luke and his husband, but the damage was done. Jason complaining incessantly about having to pay for the book they had to get signed and sitting through the two-hour lecture while Nikki was frantically taking notes and trying hard to pay attention wasn’t exactly kind, and she was right to lash out at him. Defending his actions by saying that they usually make fun of people like that was hardly a forceful argument, and fortunately he was able to win her over with his childish charm. I’m happy to see Ophelia Lovibond from “Elementary” as Erica, who has her own feelings about what’s going on in her life that allows Nikki to be a support system for someone else for a change.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Take Three: Upload

Upload: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Funeral” (B+)

I had a feeling when that first download started and was being broadcast to the entire tech-connected universe that something was going to go horribly wrong, and to see it go from his nose bleeding one second to head popping the next was indeed horrifying. We didn’t see any interactions between our budding couple of Nathan and Nora at all in this episode aside from his brief excitement seeing her behind his row of ex-girlfriends from college, and instead saw just how self-involved Ingrid is. She was more concerned with the imprint the goggles left on her face before the funeral than anything else, and the fact that she somehow thought it was acceptable to pay tribute to the failed download and not even mention Nathan was absurd. Telling her that it was the best funeral ever and having her agree was a true sign of her self-involvement. I can only imagine how angry she’ll be when she finds out that Nathan is flirting with Nora, and she came pretty close to deleting him at his own funeral just because she could. I appreciate all the technological references, like the remote screen for New York viewers in a basement chapel to watch that was far less decorated, and the AI not comprehending how to select the squares with cats in them. This funeral concept definitely needs work, namely the montage of random memories mostly involving porn. Luke is definitely obsessive, but he’s a far more generous friend than Derek ever was, especially considering his unapologetic attempts to pick Ingrid up at the funeral itself. I also enjoyed learning that Fran is not an investigator but Nathan’s cousin, who is helping Nathan’s mom to sue and might, hopefully, be able to take over Nathan’s upload file someday.

What I’m Watching: Hunters

Hunters: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Pious Thieves” (B+)

This show is getting more into its rhythm, embracing some of its eccentricities and putting them to good use. We barely saw Travis in this hour, which featured Biff making a power play to make sure the Colonel was appropriately valuing him (amusingly, the woman he met with was played by Dylan Baker’s real-life wife Becky Ann Baker). I also recognized John Noble from “Fringe” as Frederic Hauser, the manager of the bank who we saw Meyer talking to before it was entirely clear what that conversation was about and precisely when it was happening. Lonnie got to put his charm and chatterbox nature to good use by sweet-talking the branch manager, who wasn’t impressed by him nearly as much as her husband was, and then working with Harriet to play dead, refusing to get up until she officially called cut. Discovering the underground vault of possessions taken from the Jews when they were hoarded into concentration camps was a big breakthrough, but one that’s going to have to be carefully calculated, especially since Meyer’s meeting with Frederic resulted in him shooting himself in the head. As she navigates her personal relationships, Millie is closer than ever to getting to the truth, and while we don’t know what Danny plays in all this yet, she’s tracking down all the right leads. Debating doing the right thing and who the good guys with Jonah was thought-provoking, and while she wouldn’t approve of what this crew is doing, she’d be a great ally for them against the vicious enemy they’re fighting.

What I’m Watching: High Fidelity

High Fidelity: Season 1, Episode 5 “Uptown” (B+)

I loved the opportunity to see Clyde again in this episode, which proved especially trippy since I had literally just finished the latest installment of “Mrs. America,” which also features the underrated Jake Lacy in a small role. Asking Rob if she was just calling him for a ride and then being okay with it was a great start to a wondrous adventure they had together which had her and not just him concluding that it really was a very fun day. Parker Posey, a recent fixture on “Lost in Space,” was the perfect choice to play the eccentric artist Noreen, whose brilliant plan to replace her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s priceless record collection with a framed crisp twenty-dollar bill was about to make Rob both the happiest and richest record store owner in the near vicinity. Unfortunately, Rob’s conscience got the best of her, and Clyde knew exactly how to assess what kind of person Tim really was. Jeffrey Nordling, who played a far less despicable but still unlikeable spouse on “Big Little Lies,” was a great fit for the role of Tim, immediately displaying his know-it-all attitude and his unwillingness to even acknowledge Rob’s presence in the room until she said something he didn’t like and he had to warn Clyde off from getting too serious with any woman. Maybe it was Noreen’s unwillingness to let him pee, but I love that Clyde decided to steal the Bowie record and make Rob incredibly happy. I hope we see a lot more of him, and maybe Rob can stop her endless top five lists to try and enjoy herself for a bit.

What I’m Watching: Shrill (Season Finale)

Shrill: Season 2, Episode 8 “HR” (B+)

This was a strong season closer, one that sets up a great new direction for future episodes. Amadi leading a sexual harassment conversation in the office did not go well, and everyone’s inability to get into hypothetical characters led to Ryan outwardly naming that it was him and Annie, which in turn forced her to clarify that it was very much consensual. Annie had every right to want one day to be mad before they talked, and Ryan’s inability to respect that accelerated the timetable for the inevitable end of their relationship. Showing up to Fran’s party made things even worse since she’s never been a fan of his, and she didn’t hold back, which was refreshing to see. Telling him that she didn’t want to be his mom and getting angry about his reference to the back fence were signs that she was finally self-assured enough to speak up for herself, and confirming that yes, she was breaking up with him and would start dating other men was emphatic and awesome. Amadi was correct in his assessment that Ryan was stupid but had a good heart, but that’s not what Annie needs in her life right now. It was also good to see her be open and firm with her mother when she showed up at the hospital following her father’s fall. She ran out of the meeting with Sheila quickly, but she’s obviously made a good impression, which, coupled with getting the cover, suggests a bright future for her. Fran’s big party wasn’t anything too outlandish, but she did get a romantic approach she didn’t expect from Emily. I’m looking forward to season three and beyond!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Aidy Bryant as Annie

Monday, May 18, 2020

What I’m Watching: Dollface (Season Finale)

Dollface: Season 1, Episode 10 “Bridesmaid” (B+)

This was a great way to end a season that’s consistently gotten better, providing some level of closure for its characters and allowing them to embark on a new chapter that should be entertaining and enjoyable in season two. I like that this episode largely moved away from such of the devices that haven’t always worked so well, with a couple exceptions to keep it recognizable, of course. Jules deciding to go to the wedding on her own wasn’t in itself a bad idea, but the timing wasn’t great when she was putting sunscreen on Jeremy’s back at exactly the moment that her friends arrived. Madison was understandably angry at the idea that she was getting back together with a man who had served as her pathetic excuse for not keeping up their friendship for years, but that didn’t compare to her response to Colin showing up with Celeste at the wedding and introducing himself to her so that he could provide cover for his affair. Kudos to Jules for being the one to stand up for her friend and deliver a searing takedown of Colin and the whole party in general before dropping her microphone in exactly the way it’s supposed to be done. The hallucinations they had were far from the highlight of the episode, and it was much more fun to see them do something crazy in real life, stealing the wedding vehicle so that they could head back to Los Angeles, embracing their friendship as the driving force in their lives. Bring on season two!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Brenda Song as Madison

What I’m Watching: Dickinson (Season Finale)

Dickinson: Season 1, Episode 10 “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (B+)

If there was any doubt about Ben’s fate in the hallucinatory, sometimes terrifying previous episode that saw Death come for him as he and Emily had a perfect night together, it was confirmed that he’s gone by the sight of the tombstone in the opening shot and Emily’s devastation about his being gone. Lavinia, who’s rarely one to bolster others to do anything, was encouraging of Emily to get out there and do something enjoyable, and Emily’s misery ended up translating into something even worse when Austin found out about what she had written Sue that had made her cry. Asserting his role as man of the house and locking her in the bedroom so that she couldn’t come to the wedding was cruel, and the timing of Edward’s arrival back home moments before the ceremony made it so that she seemed like a child unable to cope with her brother getting married rather than revealed to be the sick and suffering person she was at that time. Her mother wasn’t in much better shape, putting poison in her eyes to look young and then somehow springing back to life when her husband returned. The wedding was nice even if Austin and Sue aren’t meant to be together, and hopefully Sue and Emily can rekindle their relationship in secret when this show returns for a second season. This show has been undeniably peculiar in its eager pursuit of anachronistic tones and a stylistic dramatization of Emily’s writings, and I’m happy to continue with it and see what comes with season two.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Hailee Steinfeld as Emily

Pilot Review: The Great

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: Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob: Season 1, Episode 6 “Wishful Thinking” (B)

It’s continuously troubling to see how Jacob behaves, thinking for some reason that photo-shopping his face onto a picture of Christian Bale from “American Psycho” wouldn’t be the absolute worst idea. It’s very true that the way justice should be carried out is to make sure that the person on trial is indeed guilty of a crime rather than just asserting the horrific nature of a crime should on its own implicate the suspect (see: “When They See Us”). Neal’s refusal to even consider that Patz should be looked at, even calling Matt a liar to his face with his mother right next to him, is deeply troubling, and it seems obvious from the snippets we’ve seen of Andy responding angrily on the stand that things don’t go particularly well over the course of the trial. Matt really did offer up a logical story implicating someone else, but that may not be enough to exonerate him. The lowdown that Andy and Laurie got from Dr. Vogel wasn’t exactly comforting, and there’s really so much in the way of statistics and allegedly inherited genes that can be used against people in court. Jacob’s birthday celebration was appropriately muted, and hearing him say that his one wish should be relatively obvious was the first truly appropriate reaction he’s displayed in all of this. Billy calling Andy from prison felt like an olive branch in a way, but he still threw in just enough nastiness to make it clear that he had his own best interests in mind.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

What I’m Watching: Council of Dads

Council of Dads: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Sixth Stage” (B)

This show can’t be serious all the time, and therefore it’s fun to have storylines like Robin feeling like a horny teenager and having fantasies about the many men she sees, including her very gay work husband Oliver. I knew as soon as David Walton jogged by that he was going to be a bigger player, and it’s good to see the “About a Boy,” “Bent,” and “New Girl” star as Sam, who Robin finally worked up the courage to introduce herself to at the end of the episode. Finding a departing doctor who was more than willing to kiss her was a smart idea, and he turned out to be a great for her, compassionate and understanding because of his similar experiences. Theo getting approached by two of his sister’s friends turned into something else than he expected, but there may still be a romantic possibility for him. Everyone on this show could use some grief support, though Theo also got an awkward sex talk he didn’t want after confiding in Anthony about his prospects. Larry telling Anthony that he was stepping too close to the line didn’t go over well, but it did inspire him to accept an offer to go back to Margot’s place that might create complications for him at work. We didn’t get to see Larry’s daughter or granddaughter this time, but his relationship with JJ has now had a negative effect on a member of his new family. Evan and Luly’s new purchase is a real gamble, and hopefully they can make it work and prove their unimpressed would-be loaners wrong.

What I’m Watching: Liar (Series Finale)

Liar: Season 2, Episode 6 (B+)

I wasn’t sure how this was going to end in a satisfying and proper way, but I’m very pleased to report that it really did. It was a resounding relief to see Laura and Katy confront Oliver and compel him to call Greg directly to threaten him without any smoke and mirrors, affirming his guilt and finally ending the entire ordeal she’s been going through since she first met Andrew. I’m glad that we got some clarification on Luke’s role in all this, which was that he went straight to Renton with the information he found, which then implicated Oliver in his own depraved act. I appreciated the conversation between Vanessa and Rory where they expressed that they saw eye-to-eye on things even if they had both taken extralegal routes to get there. I thought that Renton came to see Laura to apologize for the way she had treated her, but instead it was just to reaffirm that, despite Oliver being arrested, she still thought that Laura killed Andrew. That final flashback was extremely informative, showing that Andrew once again tried to drug Laura, only to have her realize what he was doing, fight back, and then slice his throat several times in true self-defense. Renton knowing that Laura did it but agreeing that she’d never be able to prove it and Laura would just have to live with the knowledge of what she did was a fair way to end things, since it really will be tough for her to move on, but the big nightmare is over now. Closing with Laura and Ian starting over was affirming, and it’s nice to see a relatively happy ending for our harrowed protagonist.

Season grade: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Joanne Froggatt as Laura
Series MVP: Joanne Froggatt as Laura

What I’m Watching: Mrs. America

Mrs. America: Season 1, Episode 7 “Bella” (B+)

We’ve been seeing Bella mostly as a supporting player making wisecracks over the course of this show so far, and it’s great to put a spotlight on her. I remember seeing Margo Martindale in “The Riches” and the movie “Paris, Je T’aime,” when my friend left the movie theater laughing uncontrollably at her entirely American French accent, more than a decade ago, and then appreciating her for her Emmy-winning turn on “Justified” and other roles. She really does a formidable job here, playing the part in front of the crowds but serving as much more of a mediator in private, juggling the priorities of those closest to her and assessing what she can truly achieve. Asking Betty whether anyone still calls her a radical anymore was one of the hour’s strongest scenes, and deciding that the gay rights agenda had to tabled was an unfortunate decision she didn’t want to make. I recognized Annie Parisse from “Person of Interest” and “The Following” as Midge, a crucial part of the new administration who was helpful to Bella until it became clear that she wasn’t fully willing to return the favor. As we saw the schism between Bella and Gloria, it was interesting to see Phyllis take a step back as her three closest allies all got themselves elected to official positions in the National Women’s Conference, ready to take down the organization from the inside. Calling Lottie to tell her that they couldn’t accept Klan support turned into a very different conversation, one that demonstrates her desire to win above all.