Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

mrs maisel season 2

Episode 1: Simone
Midge is working at B. Altman and planning more standup appearances, when she takes an unexpected trip with her father, Abe. Susie takes something of an unexpected trip to the Rockaways. With time to think Midge mulls her future with Joel. What happens on the trip? What is Midge’s decision about Joel?
Viewers sometimes have to suspend reality during sci-fi movies or shows, but viewers shouldn’t have to suspend reality in a comedy, but viewers will. I’m sure the writer did this to grab viewers’ attention, and it works, but it’s not necessary. Some of the scenes seem forced , and some of the dr drama is definitely forced. The saving grace is the episode that it is funny, very funny.

The cast is fantastic, comedic timing cannot be taught, and this cast’s timing is superb. Rachel Broshnahan is perfect as the fast talking, quick witted Midge. The drama didn’t seem as authentic in this episode as in the first year, but I will give her time. Alex Bornstein from Family Guy plays Midge’s street smart agent perfectly. Tony Shaloub is also perfect as Abe, Midge’s perpetually cranky father, Abe. These three carry the show and are very funny. Marin Hinkle handles her expanded role as Midge’s mother Rose well.

The direction seems visually flashier and more daring, maybe they have more of a budget in year 2 than they did in year 1.

Episode 2: Midway To Mid-town
Abe gets comfortable in his new surroundings, up to a point. Midge gets her first big paying gig, but keeps getting bumped in the order by male comedians, what does Midge do when she gets her chance? Joel takes control of his dad’s garment district business. He likes the feeling of power so much, he tries to exercise some control over Midge. How does she react?

The writing in this episode is inconsistent. It shows one woman emancipating herself and another woman whose dreams are slowly being crushed. It also seems that the writers are trying to soften Joel’s rough edges, make him less of a jerk. The jury is still out on that. This episode has more drama with some comedy, but it’s also less forced and more natural than the first episode.

Episode 3: The Punishment Room
Midge gets promoted to the coat room at B. Altman, and agrees to plan a friend’s wedding reception. Rose audits some art classes and gets in trouble with the professor. Joel tries to get a loan for his parents and goes on a treasure hunt.

The writing is funny, the performances are good, but there are specific things about the writing that trouble me. The stereotypical Italian family is no funnier now than it was in the 50’s. Also every comedian has a filter, they all know when to turn it off and on, also there are still two types of women, one who has to walk on eggshells and get their husbands to bail them out of trouble. Also Midge is asked by her agent to do something that a male comedian would never have to do. Also there are some tied sitcom tropes. Overall, still a good show.

Episode 4: We’re Going To The Catskills
Midge and her parents go to the Catskills for a month on vacation. People are talking about Midge and Joel’s separation. Joel is lonely, Abe is drunk. Rose is determined to get Midge something, Susie is determined to get Midge something different.

This episode is more of a serious episode. Again, not really sure what this season is trying to say about women, but a couple of things concerned me.

Episode 5: Midnight At The Concord
Joel’s parents show up at the Catskills, and Abe can’t spend another year with Joel’s dad, Moishe. Susie is still hanging around the Catskills, pretending to be a plumber. Midge hears something that makes her want to go back to New York City, but how will she get there?

I found out what’s bugging me about this season, it’s one thing to write as if the show is set in the 50’s, but they shouldn’t use the same plot devices as writers use in the 1950’s. The writers also use rom com plot devices, which is a bad sign. The show is still funny including an extremely funny exchange between Kevin Pollack and Tony Shalhoub, but the writers must avoid the pitfalls of easy answers, and pat situations. I predicted the ending of this episode, that’s not a good sign.

Episode 6: Let’s Face The Music and Dance
Abe is alternately angry, happy, and angry again as events unfold around him. Susie is suddenly the most popular person at the Catskills resort. Rose suddenly becomes close to her daughter in law Astrid (Justine Lupe) to find out more about her son Noah’s (Will Brill) profession.

Kevin Pollack and Tony Shaloub are again very funny in this episode. Justine Lupe is also very funny but she plays into a negative stereotype about women’s ability to keep secrets, The writers made Susie excessively harsh in this episode for no apparent reason. And the writers insist on following this silly rom com path for the show that only makes the show more predictable.

Episode 7: Look She Made A Hat
Midge visit an art gallery with Benjamin (Zachery Levi) a friend from the summer resort Midge visited. The artist Declan Howell (Rufus Sewell) seems more interested in Midge then selling a painting to Benjamin. Susie has a proposal for her family. What is it? Joel is drinking to forget the one year anniversary of their breakup. Midge has a secret to reveal at Yom Kippur dinner, what is it?

The writing from last year seemed to challenge the conventional wisdom regarding women, but this season seems to want to fit the women into conventional gender roles. The writers really try to shoehorn Midge into a traditional female role instead of making her a trailblazer, like they seemed to be in the first season. That is disappointing. The episode still manages to be funny, at the Yom Kippur dinner where no one atones for anyone. Justine Lupe continues to be funny as Astrid, the converted Gentile, who wants to be more Jewish than the Jews, Tony Shaloub and Kevin Pollack shine again. This episode features no standup, for the first time in the almost two years, and that was a shortcoming of this episode.

Episode 8: Someday
Midge goes on her first tour with Susie, and forgets something major going on at the same time. Midge asks Abe to come to a show of hers, but he’s too busy listening to Ethan’s records to respond. Joel warns Susie, while Susie and Midge are on the road. Midge finally returns home to find her house a mess.

The writers start this episode with a standup routine, which rectified the issue from the last episode. The writers are making Midge more responsible and less entitled, which is good. The late 1950’s references are cool, but they go too far with one. The issue with this episode is that the writers continue to reinforce traditional gender roles, with Joel providing the chivalry in this episode. The show takes place in the late 50’s, but this used to be a show about a woman trying to find her footing after her husband left her. It doesn’t seem to be about that anymore.

Episode 9: Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy
Susie tries to get Midge booked for an arthritis telethon, but she might get bumped by an old rival, Sophie Lennon. (Jane Lynch) Abe is bored at his dream job, and the frustration boils over at the university. Joel is increasingly frustrated by all the problems in his dad’s garment factory. Benjamin seems impressed by Midge’s standup.

There’s a lot of stress under the surface of this episode, even between unlikely characters. I like that they try to be true to the period, for example, the character of Shy Baldwin. I don’t know that the denouement of this episode made sense, but the stand-up comedy was funny.

Episode 10: Alone
Abe’s got a few decisions to make. Rose goes to see the tea leaf reading lady. Joel makes a decision about his future. Sophie Lennon makes Susie an offer. Shy Baldwin makes Midge an offer.

This is a good final episode, filled with cliffhangers, and questions that need to be answered. All the main characters are moving in different directions than they started the season. The ending is serious and realistic and I like it.

My Impressions of Season 2:
I like this show, I really do, but it seemed like the writing took a step backwards this year, last year it seemed like this show was about a woman trying to make her way alone, and that was interesting. This season, up until the last episode, it was about something completely different. In a very real way men played a much larger, more dominating role than I ever imagined would happen after season 1. The writers seemed to infantilize  Miidge at some point, but they also took Midge out of her comfort zone at other times, which was both interesting and necessary. The ending of the last episode was actually gratifying to me, except for one aspect of it that I would change, but other than that, I was pleasently surprised by the risks that episode took.

The acting is amazing Rachel Broshnahan was meant to play the role of the sometimes coddled, but always tough as nails Midge Maisel. It’s difficult to find an actress who can perform both comically and dramatically, but Broshnaan does both flawlessly. Alex Borenstein is very funny as Midge’s fast-talking, street smart manager, Susie. Tony Shaloub is fantastic as Midge’s mostly laconic father Abe. Shaloub is another actor who can play a seious schene and a funny scene with equal aplomb.Marine Hinkle did a good job, plaing Midg’s mom, Rose, but I wish she got to show off the sharper edges the writers gave her in the first episode. Michael Zengen does a good job as Midge’s husband Joel, he benefits from the fact that the writers try furiously to rehabilitate.

The direction starts of with a bang with exotic locals and visual effects, then settles down to normal storytelling, Jeff Bezos can’t be blowing his money on tv shows, he has a divorce settlement to pay. There was nothing nooteworthy about the direction after the first few episodes.

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel: Still A-maise-ing in Year 2.

Advertisements

Crazy-Rich-Asians

Singaporean Nick Young (Henry Golding) heir to the Young fortune, is dating American economics professor, Rachel Chu. (Constance Wu)  Before Nick can introduce Rachel to his controlling mother, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) Eleanor finds out that Nick and Rachel are dating.  Rachel accepts a wedding invitation from Nick’s friend, Colin’s (Chris Pang) wedding to Araminta Lee. (Sonoya Mizuno)  Before the wedding, Rachel meets Eleanor, Elenor is polite, but cool to Rachel, Rachel fares better with Nick’s grandmother, Ah Ma (Lisa Lu).  Rachel goes to Amarita’s bachelorette party and finds out something that throws her whole relationship with Nick into disarray.  Does she go to Colin’s wedding?  What does Rachel find out at the bachelorette party?

For all the fanfare about crazy Rich Asians , the film is a very conventional romantic comedy.  A wealthy guy is interested in a not-wealthy woman, and his domineering mother sneers at her son’s interest.  These a brassy, outspoken friend, and a female rival. The characters of Nick’s mother and grandmother don’t make sense given their backstory.  There are characters and storylines that need to be cut in this bloated, padded screenplay. There is nothing specifically Chinese about this film except for the women making dumplings, and Rachel and Eleanor playing mah-jong.  There are some tensions between Singaporean Chinese and American Chinese briefly discussed, but not nearly enough.  Eleanor s a Christian even shown at a Bible study, while lording her wealth and power over Rachel.  Someone needs to pay more attention during Bible study.  And there’s a false ending, before the real ending, the real ending makes a sequel much harder to do.

The acting is good, even though the script betrays the actors.  Constance Wu is fantastic, she gives Rachel so many facets, sweet and vulnerable, yet tough and intelligent a very good performance.  Henry Golding is suitable as the boyfriend, he plays Nick as suave, and unflappable. Michelle Yeoh is a good actress, but the writers really want her to play a certain type of character, and so she does.  Awkwafina is loud and annoying as Rachel’s friend.  The casting was also criticized for not being Chinese enough, and not portraying Malays and Indians in Singapore at all.

The direction looks more like a travelogue of Singapore , it shows the skyscrapers all lit up, that part looks great.  But the pacing is lousy, The acting is good, and I guess the director deserves some credit for that, but the script is long and unwieldy, and the director loses credit for not streamlining the story.

Crazy, Rich Asians: Singa-rich in Singapore.

 

 

blackklansman

In the early 1970’s, Colorado Springs’ first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, (John David Washington) is asked to infiltrate a black student union sponsored event with former Black Panther , Stokley Carmichael.  (Corey Hawkins) At the speech, Stallworth meets black militant student activist Patrice Dumas, (Laura Harrier) and the two become romantically involved.  Stallworth’s second assignment is self-propagated, he calls up the local chapter of the Klan, using his own name and asks to become a member of the white supremacist group.  Stallworth obviously can’t infiltrate the Klan, but his partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) can, so he becomes the public face of Ron Stallworth.  The local Klan chapter wants to impress the visiting Klan leader, David Duke. (Topher Grace)  Local Klansman Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold) just wants to meet Duke, but Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Pakkonen) wants to go further.  Does Stallworth and Zimmerman’s infiltration expose Kendrickson’s plan?  Do the local Klan members find out that Stallworth is black, and Zimmerman is Jewish?

There’s an unintended sense that Black Klansman is a bad joke, like a Dave Chappelle comedy sketch, actually it was a real investigation into the Klan and how they planned violence in Colorado Springs, but Spike Lee tones down the viciousness of the Klan and makes it seem like the Klan is just a social club interested in getting together and watching Birth of A Nation and burning crosses.  There’s no sense that they are a menacing hate group, a nationalist terrorist organization. There are interesting links between this local Klan group and the government, but that expose’ comes very late in the film. Stallworth and Zimmerman sound totally different in the movie and they don’t even try to sound the same. There’s a clunky romance, and the only interesting part is the interplay between Stallworth and Zimmerman, and the characters reaction to the Klan.  Other than that,  Black Klansman plays like a 70’s tv show, Starsky  and Hutch, if either of them were African American.  Actually, the most jarring part of the movie was the last 10 or 15 minutes, which only had a tangential link to the film.

The acting is good for the most part.  John David Washington is Denzel Washington’s son,  he does a good job with the role, trying to balance the character’s  life with the police force with his race, and the tensions they cause.  His white guy voice, however, sounded silly and trivialized the role, it sounded more like Eddie Murphy than Adam Driver, and that was a key part of  the role.  Adam Driver was very good as Zimmerman, the Jewish cop who finally has to face up to his religion, instead of running from it. Driver gives a complex performance of a conflicted man.  Laura Harrier plays a one dimensional, Angela Davis type militant black feminist role, in the mold of Angela Davis.  Jasper Pakkonen does a really good job as a hateful, vile bigot named Felix.  It is really difficult to play someone that hateful convincingly. Topher Grace is ok as David Duke, he plays him too mildly, he gets the snake oil salesman part right, but he doesn’t give Duke enough of the hateful edge that is part of Duke’s m.o.  Michael Buscemi, looking and sounding a lot like his brother Steve, does a decent job as a quirky police officer.

The direction by Spike Lee is disappointing.  The pacing is inconsistent, at times there are monologues, which slow the pacing to a crawl, at times BlackkKalnsman tries to be an action film, and so the pacing speeds up.  A trademark of Spike Lee films is that the colors pop off the screen.  Ernest Dickerson was Lee’s cinematographer until the mid-1990.  Since then, Lee has used different cinematographers, and this film is bathed in a dull sepia tone, which is meant to make it visually resemble 1970’s films, but just makes Blackkklansman look uninteresting.

BlackkKlansman:  Hood-lums behaving badly.

oceans eight

As soon as Danny Ocean’s sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock) gets out of prison, she plans a caper that would make her brother proud.  She finds her partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett) who recruits the rest of the team.  The frustrated ex designer Rose Weil, (Helena Bonham Carter) the jewelry forger, Amrita, Mindy Kaling) the hacker, Nine Ball (Rihanna)  the sleight of hand specialist, Constance (Awkwafina) the fence, Tammy  (Sarah Paulson) and the unsuspecting actress, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway)  The gang plans to steal priceless jewels from around the neck of Daphne, during the Met Gala.  Will Debbie’s ex-boyfriend, Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) or a bumbling insurance investigator, John Frazier (James Cordon) foil their plan?

Ocean’s 8 has many problems, sexism for one.  The ladies only seem interested in stealing jewels from the Met Gala, a fancy dress ball.  Why would women be interested in stealing jewels, at an event filled with beautiful women wearing fancy dresses?  That in itself makes the viewer dismiss the plot.  Ocean’s 8 doesn’t seem to be sure of what it wants to be, a comedy or a drama, and it’s not enough of either to be good as a comedy or a drama, the actors seem to sense the uncertainty, resulting in a lot of awkward pauses.  The men are reduced to caricatures, the hunky ex-boyfriend, the bumbling Clouseau  like character.  In the end the only thing that distinguishes this movie from all the other heist movies, is the fact that the thieves are women.  The script is way too long, at the point it should end, it just continues for no apparent reason.

The acting is surprisingly bad in this film. Most of these actresses are A-List top of the line Grade A actresses, which makes it even more surprising to see them phoning it in.  Sandra Bullock can be a good actress at times, but she is not even trying here.  Her delivery is flat, the timing of her jokes is off, it’s just a bad performance.  Cate Blanchett seems uninterested by the whole enterprise, she seems to be saying wake me when it’s over.  Helena Bonham Carter does an Irish accent, and that’s the extent of her effort in this movie.  Anne Hathaway is the only actress who really tries, she plays the privileged Daphne, with a don’t you know who I am aura that works.  Mindy Kaling is annoying, with her whiny Valley Girl voice, and Rihanna is playing Rihanna, she tries, but really can’t act.  The young actresses try too hard, and the older actresses don’t try hard enough. For Bullock and the other veteran actresses, this seems like purely a vanity project.

The direction is awful.  The writer and director are the same person, Gary Ross,  and the director doesn’t know when to end his script.  When it should end and when it does end, are two vastly different thing.  The performances are mostly listless, and the pacing is lousy.  Ross doesn’t get a decent performance for nearly anyone,  even with veteran actresses, the director shares some responsibility for the bland performances here.

Ocean’s 8:  Drowning in self-indulgence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Artemis

In Los Angeles, in the year 2028, a “nurse” named Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster) runs a members only secret hospital for criminals.  A bank robber named Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) seeks medical attention for his brother, Honolulu. (Bryan Tyree Henry)  Waikiki definitely wants out of Lost Angeles, but has to wait for his brother to heal first. The brothers are joined by Acapulco (Charlie Day) and Nice (Sophia Boutella) a contract killer looking for her mark.  Nurse Thomas is also told that Niagara (Jeff Goldblum) is coming to Hotel Artemis for treatment, he runs Los Angeles in the year 2028, and so he is let in without question.  Then , Nurse Thomas sees a woman  named Morgan (Jenny Slate)  injured in the street, and tells her assistant Everest (Dave Bautista ) to bring her in. Trouble is Morgan is a cop, and there are definitely no police allowed in Hotel Artemis.  Why does the nurse make an exception for Morgan?  Does Waikiki ever get out of L.A.?  Does Nice Find her mark?

This should have been a good story, it was a pretty good premise, but badly executed.  The relationships between the characters is vague, they all seem to know each other, but how is not exactly spelled out, the character development is poor, some character development is non-existent and the story meanders for a long time, the ending is chaotic and violent, maybe that was the intent, but this ending looked like another Hollywood excuse for mayhem, and bloodshed.

The cast is stellar.  Jodie Foster tries to eschew her physical beauty, as a tough-as nails, no-nonsense healthcare professional.  It works at times, and doesn’t work at other times.  Sterling K. Brown is good as Waikiki, the only good guy in a den of thieves, he displays a different character than he plays in This Is Us The other actors play characters familiar to them. Charlie Day plays a fast-talking wise guy, a role that’s oh so familiar to viewers of the first Pacific Rim movie. Sofia Boutella plays a mysterious assassin, which is what she played in Kingsman.  Dave Bautista, plays a big dumb comedy relief role, same as Guardians of the Galaxy.  Jeff Goldblum actually reins in his performance a bit, it’s actually quite a muted performance.  But Jenny Slate as a police officer?  No, just no.

The direction is ok.  Not great, there are some interesting crane shots from above, but the pacing is slow.  Drew Pearce is the director and the writer, something that usually sets off alarm bels for me, and Hotel Artemis is no exception. The elements of the story that he wrote come together very slowly.  An hour and a half long movie seems much longer.

Hotel Artemis:  Where For Art Thou plot?

 

 

kidding

Episode 1:

 Green Means Go

Jeff (Jim Carrey) is beloved children’s television host Mr. Pickles.  Jeff has just gone through a traumatic experience which caused his wife, Jill (Judy Greer) to divorce him.  Jeff wants to talk about what happened to him on his show, but Sebastian (Frank Langella) Jeff’s father and producer of show is against it.  Deidre, (Catherine Keener) Jeff’s sister has family problems of  her own.  Does Jeff get to share his trauma on tv?  Can he put his family back together?

This show has an interesting premise, what if a Mr. Rogers type character had a life changing event happen to him?   Good premise, the execution seems a bit odd.  I know writers like to make shows edgy, but this is a little too edgy for me.  JOne of the plot points is straight out of a cheesy 70’s sitcom.

Jim Carrey is a good actor, watch him in movies like the Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he seems to be stuck between comedy and drama here and he doesn’t know which choice is the right one. Frank Langella is a great actor, and is good here.  His voice is commanding, and he uses it well.   Catherine Keener isn’t given much to do, until the end of the episode.

Episode 2:

 Pusillanimous

Jeff visits a sick child in the hospital, Sebastian is not thrilled with Jeff’s new look.  Jeff spies on his wife’s new boyfriend, Peter.  (Justin Kirk)  Sebastian Is not happy about the direction in which the program is going.

It seems like Jim Carrey enjoys playing the scenes with the kids, and enjoys the Mr. Pickles character, more than the darker side of this character, because the Pickles character allows him to use his creativity more than the serious aspect of the character.  I think Frank Langella is enjoying plying the voice of reason, the realist in the fantasy world Jeff has created,  I don’t know what to make of the show, not yet, but I’m intrigued to find out.

Episode 3:

Every Pain Needs A Name

Jeff continues to try to vent his pain on the show, while Sebastian continues to try to merchandise Jeff’s likeness.  Sebastian also tries to convince Jeff to date one of his adult fans, while Jeff visits a cancer patient in a hospital.

This series is straddling a line between good taste and bad taste right now.  They should be careful because, the writers are dealing wiith a real live character her or at least the representation of one Fred Rogers was a real person, a Presbyterian minister, and if the writers cross that line, this will just become another joke at the expense of a kind, caring man, I hope they are cognizant of that.

 

Episode 4:

Bye Mom

Sebastian is still trying to find a way to monetize the Mr. Pickles character.  Deidre is still having marital problems, and Jill. Jeff’s ex-wife, has problems with something he has done.  Jeff is only worried if his out of date flip phone is working correctly.

This episode changed my mind about this show, I’ve always had a cynical underlying feeling about this show, that the writers were waiting for the right time to turn the Mr. Pickles character into another caricature of Fred Rogers, a man I admire very much.  Now I am more hopeful that this show will make Jeff Picklers a well-rounded humane character, instead of the butt of a cruel joke.  Let’s see how my hope plays out against the rest of the episodes.

Episode 5:

The New You

Jeff continues his unconventional relationship.  Sebastian continues to try to expand the marketing of Mr. Pickles.  Deidre tries to impress Sebastian with a new puppet.  Sebastian and Will bond.

This episode was disappointing because it focused on Jeff’s mental state, I hoped the focus would be elsewhere, but the writers are seemingly pushing the show in a different direction.  It could have been revolutionary or at least different, but it seems like it will be just another man on the edge series, and this character deserved better.  The big gag of the episode wasn’t even that funny.

 

Jeff’s relationship hits a low point.  Will Pickles vandalizes an empty house with his stoner friends without knowing that his father has bought the house  Jeff wants Tara Lapinski to stop impersonating him on ice.  Does she listen to him?  Deidre reaches her limit with her daughter, Maddy  (Juliet Morris)

This show is maddening.  Some of this episode is so beautiful, and some of it is just plain puzzling.  Just when I think I have a handle on the show or a character, something contradictory happens, and that makes the show frustrating to watch.  Will Pickles is especially annoying, maybe because of his moral nihilism, or his sense of privilege, because of his father’s wealth and fame, Will thinks he can get away with anything , people like that exist, I don’t want to see them on tv.

Episode 7:

Kintsugi

Mr. Pickles San ( Louis Ozawa Changchien) visits Jeff Pickles to pick up some tips on his version of Mr. Pickles.  Jeff approves a talking Mr. Pickles doll, and feels freer to speak his mind. Deidre finds kinship with Pickles San.  Scott and Deirdre argue about Maddy’s musical choices.  Jeff’s unconventional relationship takes an unexpected turn.

For 28 minutes this show is going as expected, but for the last two minutes of the show it devolves into something I don’t want to see. I hope it doesn’t turn into the kind of show that it seems to want to use shock value to gain viewers.  There are too many shows like that already, this show has a chance to be different, I hope it takes that chance to take the road less travelled.

Episode 8:

Phillium

Phil does magic tricks.  Jeff is asked to witness an execution.  Does he do it?

This was a filler episode about a tangential relationship between minor characters, all of these pay tv based shows have at least one of these filler episodes. I hope this is the last filler episode for this show.  It’s a flashback episode but it reveals little and what it reveals are only minor about minor characters.

Episode 9:

LT Pickles

Some creates a Mr. Pickles shooting game for smartphones.  Will gets into trouble in school.  Deidre’s feelings for Mr. Pickles San intensify.  Jeff is seeing things that don’t exist, is the pressure of being Mr. Pickles getting to him?

This show seems to be going in the direction that I feared it would, not in the direction that I hoped it would.  Every show is about sensationalism these days, not about how true to life a person can be.  I once again remind the writers and creator  of this fictional show that a real-life man entertained millions of kids without having mental issues, while confronting major societal issues, but nevermind.

Episode 10:

Some Day

Jeff pours his heart out on a live Christmas tree lighting, and it has unexpected consequences.  Deidre comes to a decision about her life that may not please everyone.  Will finds something unusual in the house he thought was abandoned.

This episode was actually a fitting episode for this show. Jeff finally got to speak from his heart, and it was touching, there was also a twist at the end of the episode if the episode got too saccharine for the viewers.  This was probably the best episode of the series, and made me want to watch Season 2.

My impressions of Season 1:

The  Some Day episode went a long way toward healing the flaws in this series, but the series was not without issues.  There was a foreboding tone and a downward spiral in the arc of the characters that was at times  depressing to watch.  The writers did some things for shock value, and also some cheap situation comedy tricks that really didn’t work.  There are also characters that are annoying, mostly the children but sometimes the adults.  Deidre is an example of such a character, she is in a season long rut, and whatever she tries to get out of that rut, it fails.  Deidre’s daughter, Maddy, is just a banshee, a bratty character that bears no resemblance to a real child.  Deidre’s husband Scott is less than one-dimensional, he’s no-dimensional, Jeff’s son Will is an entitled brat that everyone hopes their son is not.  One aspect of the writing is very good, and that’s the songs, the songs and the puppetry make the viewer believe that Mr. Pickles is a real kids show.

So what saves this show from the ash heap of pay tv series?   Frankly, the main characters, Jeff and Seb, are interesting.  There’s something interesting about a man with one foot out the door and another foot on a banana peel, I was hoping for a different kind of character, but there is still something morbidly intriguing about something on the edge of losing it.  The writers definitely pushed that narrative beyond the limits, b the viewer can’t look away. Jeff starts out as a total innocent, almost childlike in his naïveté, and then he evolves.  The evolution is sometimes disappointing, but always interesting.  Seb is interesting because of his undying cynicism .  How can a grown man be so Machiavellian in trying to manipulate his son?

The acting is another reason to watch the series.  Jim Carrey gives a mostly understated, well-modulated performance, as a man coping with incredible stress, and trying to find a silver lining in what he’s going through.  Sometimes Carrey reverts back to sit-com Jim Carrey,  but most of the time he delivers a sensitive and sweet performance.  The character has many sides and Carrey does well in exploring all facets of this character. Frank Langella almost steals the show as Seb, Jeff’s dad, Seb is underhanded, manipulative and mercenary.  The show needed someone like Seb to balance out all of Jeff’s good instincts.  It’s really a one dimensional character, Seb is basically trying to find new and different ways to monetize Jeff, but Langella does his best to infuse the character with humor, and that makes the character palatable.  Catherine Keener is stuck playing a sad-sack character who is desperately trying to find some happiness that seems just out of reach.  I don’t blame Keener, more the writers for giving her an untenable character.

Mostly for the acting, I will watch season two, because there is a twist at the end of season 1 that revives all the questions of  season 1.

Kidding:  Jim doesn’t get “Carreyd” away with silliness.

upgrade

In the near future, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) makes a living as an auto mechanic selling souped up cars to people like technology whiz Eron Keen. (Harrison Gilbertson)  One day, Grey’s self-driving car, takes him and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) to a seedy part of town.  Criminals kill Grey’s wife, and severely wound Grey, and disappear into thin air.  Doctors save Grey’s life, but he is a paraplegic, who is limited to a life in bed.  One day, Eron visits Grey and gives him a proposal, he proposes to implant a chip called STEM, into Grey’s back.  Eron tells Grey that the chip will relay signals from his brain to his body and allow him to walk again.  The chip works, and Grey decides to  try to find the people who killed his wife.  But there are several things Grey doesn’t know about the chip or Eron.  What surprises lay in store for Grey as he pursues his wife’s killers?  Does he find them and does he get revenge?

For all its futuristic references to technology, Upgrade relies on a very old formula.  A man’s wife is dead, the police and helpless, and so the man hops into action and become a vigilante.  For all its promise with the premise of a disabled man becoming able bodied again, this film is nothing more than a cross between Death Wish and Robocop.  The police in this film are not corrupt, just inept, despite having cameras and drones everywhere. The dire warnings about technology are not new either, Hollywood has been stirring up fears of technology since Sandra Bullock starred in The Net. Upgrade often substitutes violence for actual plot, something else that is common in Hollywood, and the violence is grisly.  The writers of Upgrade try to keep the audience guessing about who killed Grey’s wife, but the final answer to that question is disappointing.

The acting is pretty good considering that all these actors are relatively unknown.  Logan Marshall Green handles the humorous quips well, until the violence in the script overwhelms him. Harrison Gilbertson is suitably annoying as the tech geek, or maybe he’s just annoying in person, who knows?  Betty Gabriel from Get Out  is suitably intense as the police officer.  The script really betrays her.

The direction is pretty good, Leigh Wannell wrote and directed this film, the pacing is good, he mixes both exposition and action in the film, but his script is a little too clichéd, and entirely too violent.  His credits will explain the violence, he directed Insidious 3, and wrote the Saw and Insidious movies.

Upgrade:  Degrades quickly