Sunday, May 2, 2021

TV Snide: For April 2021

Movie of the month - Hemingway (PBS): The contradictions of Ernest Hemingway - one of my very favorite writers - bring out the drama in this Ken Burns three-parter. He lived such a full life and Burns concludes basically that it was a series of concussions, mixed with alcoholism and mental illness, that caused Hemingway to finally kill himself in 1961. I’m so glad Burns finally produced this emotional piece and I hope there are more author documentaries ahead, F. Scott Fitzgerald, for one, whom I’m surprised was mentioned so little in this one. 5 out of 5 stars

Irresistible (HBO Max): This is like the Jon Stewart extended Daily Show episode we’ve been missing since he left late night. Steve Carrell is excellent as the D.C. political operative leading the pouring of money into a small-town Wisconsin mayoral race. Lots of twists and laughs about how messed up our democratic system is. 5 out of 5 stars

National Lampoon’s Vacation (HBO Max): Ah, the beauties of having a 13-year-old son means you get to revisit the crass movies of your own youth. Take Chevy Chase and company in the ultimate family road trip movie. It’s got some offensive and somewhat racist parts, but overall it remains side-splittingly funny. Cousin Eddie, Aunt Edna, Sparkie, this one has it all. Run to watch it again. 5 out of 5 stars

Dirty Harry (HBO Max): When I was a kid, I loved Clint Eastwood so much. Times have changed, and this is not a movie to show your kids - the ones who are now the age I was when I watched this. From an adult perspective, I don’t like how this groundbreaking shoot-'em-up helped start a gun-crazed culture war. But at the same time, this is a "just a movie," and a damn good “do you feel lucky, punk” one. The dark but cinematographic shots of San Francisco amidst a serial killer scare is the perfect balance for Eastwood’s brilliant bad-but-effective cop. 4.5 out of 5 stars 

TV show of the month: Silicon Valley - Season 1 (HBO Max): This ensemble comedy may be all you really need to know about this area outside San Francisco. For anyone who hasn’t been at the center of the tech industry, actors Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Kumail Nanjiani, and Zach Woods give us insight into that world and their endearing characters will surely stand the test of time better than about 98 percent of today's startups. Hopefully I get back to Season 2 before the next major technological shift. 4 out of 5 stars

The Righteous Gemstones - Season 1 (HBO Max): Led by the masterful patriarch John Goodman, this ensemble cast gives us a look at what life must be like - albeit taking it to ridiculous and hilarious heights - to be mega-church leaders. I especially like the performances of Danny McBride as the oldest and seediest son, Edi Patterson as wacko sister Judy, and Walton Goggins as Baby Billy, a low-budget pastor stereotype. The gang needs to cover up all kinds of misdeeds. 4 out of 5 stars

The Lady Vanishes (Amazon Prime): Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood have great chemistry as they fight their way on a train through spies and foreign soldiers in this movie that captured Hollywood and enticed it to get Director Alfred Hitchcock to move there from England. It was the start of something beautiful and it makes this one worth enjoying. 4 out of 5 stars

Dumb and Dumber (Sling TV): I wanted to re-watch this Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels classic again because the ski scenes took place at Copper Mountain in Colorado, where my family spent part of the pandemic winter. It’s every bit as dumb as I remembered, but still a lot of fun. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Residue (Netflix): Good footage around Washington D.C. propels this slow burn of a film, as the mean streets of the District contrast with the ways it is constantly being gentrified. A lot of the scenes take place on streets I bike all the time, like the fierce beating the protagonist gives to a white man who tries to avoid him just north of Howard University alongside the 5th Street reservoir. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kong Vs. Godzilla (HBO Max): There’s zero plot, I guess as it should be, but the graphic cinematography alone makes it worth watching. And the epic fights of course too. 3.5 out 5 stars

Book of the month: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam explores some of the everyday nuances that would happen if the world was up against its last days. This doesn’t feel like an apocalyptic novel, which is probably its greatest asset. 3 out of 5 stars

The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem: A former L.A. screenwriter and a Hollywood mogul meet up again in Maine after all electronics and guns and cars stop working. The author of The Fortress of Solitude offers another sometimes-enjoyable but mostly uselessly meandering yarn. 2.5 out of 5 stars

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