📺 The West Wing (NBC, 1999) Season 1, Episodes 1-4

The West Wing (S1, E1-4) from NBC
Created by Aaron Sorkin. With Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, John Spencer. Inside the lives of staffers in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s amazing how much has changed in politics and how much hasn’t changed…

“Five Votes Down”
“A Proportional Response”
“Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc”
“Pilot”

Watched on Netflix via Chromecast to Television

🎞 Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight from Open Road Films (II)
Directed by Tom McCarthy. With Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery. The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Interesting to see this again following Cardinal Law’s recent death. It’s still incredibly painful to watch. I don’t remember who I would have identified with the first time I saw this in the theater, but I certainly identify with Mike Rezendes’ rage in the end.

The stupidity of humans and how they manage to treat each other always astounds me; particularly here where it is the church that is the instigator.

Watched on Netflix via Chromecast to television

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🎞 The Post (2017)

The Post from DreamWorks
Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Bob Odenkirk. A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.

This was a bit over dramatic in parts and seemed to be attempting to pull at one’s emotions a bit too obviously. It is an interesting perspective into the battle of the sexes in the early 1970’s.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t some type of chyron coda to discuss the fallout from the Pentagon Papers and what happened to Daniel Ellsberg, but instead there was a cute bit foreshadowing the Watergate scandal just a few years later. Though it may have been difficult to pull off narratively, I suspect Spielberg could have done both, but decided not to.

Overall an interesting story well told.

Watched at: ArcLight Cinemas, Pasadena, CA, Theater 8, Row H, Seat 12

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📺 “Tin Star” The Kid (S1, E2)

Tin Star: The Kid (S1, E2) from Amazon
Directed by Marc Jobst. With Tim Roth, Christina Hendricks, Genevieve O'Reilly, Abigail Lawrie. Wracked with guilt, Jim attempts to bury his grief by continuing with the murder investigation of Dr Susan Bouchard. Instinctively believing it's connected to his own tragic loss.

This somehow seems even more brutal than the first episode. I’m still not quite sure where it’s going or what all the characters’ motivations are. I may dip into it again in a week or so, but I may just give up here.

Watched via Amazon Prime on Television with Fire TV stick

📺 “Tin Star” Fun and (S)Laughter (S1, E1)

Tin Star: Fun and (S)Laughter (S1, E1) from Amazon
Directed by Rowan Joffe. With Tim Roth, Christina Hendricks, Genevieve O'Reilly, Abigail Lawrie. An alcoholic small-town police chief's life is shattered by unspeakable tragedy.

Both an unexpected beginning and a twist for an unexpected ending.

I’m not sure there’s enough character development in the first episode to have a lot of clue where this is going and why I should care. But it is Tim Roth, so we’ll give it a chance, but a slim one because it is psychologically brutal.

Watched via Amazon Prime on Television with Fire TV stick

📺 “Bosch” The Sea King (S3, E10)

Bosch, The Sea King (S3, E10) from Amazon
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson. With Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Madison Lintz. Bosch's relentless pursuit in the Meadows case reaches a climax. Bosch and Edgar talk about a startling discovery. An unexpected visitor drops in on Bosch and Maddie. Harry learns that his history is far from settled.

The tie up at the end felt a bit too quick and somewhat unsatisfying. They have set us up with some more plot to lead into season 4 however…

Watched via Amazon Prime on Television with Fire TV stick

📺 “Bosch” Clear Shot (S3, E9)

"Bosch" Clear Shot (S3, E9) from Amazon
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. With Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Paola Turbay, Gregory Scott Cummins. The department rallies when a threat hits close to home. There's a pivotal turn in the Holland case. Bosch is forced to face a dark truth. Irving embraces a lifelong goal. There's no honor among thieves.

Second time watching this episode. They’re generally so rich and layered that they stand up to multiple viewings pretty well.

Watched via Amazon Prime on Television with Fire TV stick

🎞 Miss Sloane (2016)

Miss Sloane from EuropaCorp
Directed by John Madden. With Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg. In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price.

This was certainly a well constructed script though some of the turns weren’t subtly executed enough to have confounded me as well as I would have liked. Still there was enough unexpectedness in the telegraphing that I suspect most were caught unawares, which makes it a fantastic film.

There were far more supporting characters here than in a typical studio picture, but that actually made it more interesting and gritty somehow. Generally well acted by everyone, though Michael Stuhlbarg and Mark Strong stood out to me as incredibly solid here.

Though Elizabeth Sloane doesn’t seem to have much of a character arc, like most of her life, she’s living it out internally so that it really isn’t seen until the last minute when everything is revealed. It’s nice to see a painfully flawed central character as a lead.

📺 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 1 Episodes 1-4)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 1, Episodes 1-4) from Amazon Originals
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino. With Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle. A housewife in the 1950s decides to become a stand-up comic.

This is more fun and entertaining than I would have expected it to be.

My one disappointment so far: The first couple episodes has some stronger and better written characters that seem much more true to themselves. By episode four/early episode 5 they’re feeling white washed and almost caricatures of themselves. Certainly by episode four Mrs. Maisel has somehow morphed into a somewhat older Rory Gilmore (from Gilmore Girls). All the characters eventually seem to have the same witty banter and methods of speech (including the time period) which mirrors Amy Sherman Palladino’s work in Gillmore Girls. Some of Mrs. Maisel’s grittiness from the early episodes simply disappears, and not as an evolving result of her character arc.

While I can appreciate that the writer certainly has a “voice”, she should be able to modulate it to better differentiate her characters going forward. I’ll keep sampling it through the end of the season, but if the tenor doesn’t improve, I’m sure to give up on future seasons.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

🎞️ Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) from Warner Bros.
Directed by Mel Stuart. With Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear. Charlie receives a golden ticket to a factory, his sweet tooth wants going into the lushing candy, it turns out there's an adventure in everything.

I remember watching this twice a year every year at Hopkins. I miss those Rocky Horror-esque performances with massive amounts of candy. Throwing nerds across the room in the path of the projected light when Mike Teevee was sent in a million little pieces was so gratifying.

It’s been a few years since I watched this, but even the “Cheer up Charlie” song doesn’t grate on me like it once did. I used to think it was the worst part of the film and now it’s vaguely tolerable–still not great–but tolerable at least.

I had re-read the book last year and put a tracker on the film version. Netflix just added it to their mix last week, so it’s now available there for a while.

Watched on Netflix

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🎞 Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange from Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Scott Derrickson. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong. While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

I watched this over the past three nights in chunks.

Entertaining, but the narrative was a bit too on-the-nose with large chunks of explanation moving the plot along. The characters were a bit annoying and inconsistent. Dr. Strange was reasonably well developed but didn’t have a serious arc to speak of. His sharp wit would have been more entertaining if I wasn’t constantly comparing the character to Deadpool the entire time. I’m not sure Cumberbatch was the right chose for this type of “comedy”. I didn’t get any chemistry at all between the two supposed romantic leads.

I feel like I watched more Benedict Cumberbatch movies in the last two weeks than I saw movies during the entire last year…

Watched on Netflix on Kindle Fire 7″.

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📺 "Fresh Off the Boat" The Day After Thanksgiving (TV Episode 2017)

"Fresh Off the Boat" The Day After Thanksgiving (S4 E7) from ABC
Directed by Sean Kavanagh. With Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler. The Huangs' idea to skip Thanksgiving this year doesn't last long when Louis plays matchmaker and invites Grandma's ESL teacher, Bernard, to dinner after he notices their flirtation in class. To Jessica's amazement, Grandma Huang offers to cook the entire meal to show her appreciation. Meanwhile, to prove his maturity, Evan lets Eddie and Emery sneak him into his first R-rated movie.

This was awesome if for nothing but George Takei’s over-the-top performance!

🎞 Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Smokey and the Bandit from Universal Pictures
Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry. The Bandit is hired on to run a tractor trailer full of beer over state lines, in hot pursuit by a pesky sheriff.

I can’t help but think of how this fits into the genre of 1930’s screwball cinema. This could easily have been cast with Carey Grant (who probably could never have done this accent) and Katherine Hepburn and naturally with Jimmy Cagney playing Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Portague County. I’m not sure that Jerry Reed could have been replaced here however.

The film holds up reasonably well all these years later. The cinematography isn’t as off-seeming as many late 70’s pictures typically feel.

Jacky Gleason was a great caricature here and never seemed to break. His repeated use of the appelation “boy” was quite grating though he did seem to evenly apply it to almost everyone in the film.

In all, still an interesting romp despite the period cultural deficiencies.

Watched on Showtime (HDR)

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🎞 Eyewitness (1981)

Eyewitness from Twentieth Century Fox
Directed by Peter Yates. With William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods. Eccentric Vietnam War vet turned janitor claims to have witnessed a murder of a man tied to international political underground in order to get the attention of a TV reporter he has a huge crush on. The cops suspect his loser best friend.

I expected way more out of Peter Yates and Steve Tesich, particularly with this cast. Ultimately the lack of a coherent screenplay killed the entire piece.

The relationship between the two leads was awkward and unrealistic beyond words. The first act was modestly engaging and the third act was great, but there was absolutely no logic, sense, or reasonable motivation in the second act to tie any of it together. I would get into plot holes and lack of motivations, but it’s just too painful to contemplate.

It was somewhat entertaining to see the cultural portion of the  early 80’s and particularly a portrayal of evening news post Network, but before the rise of A Current Affair and the mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Watched on Netflix

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🎞 The Fifth Estate (2013)

The Fifth Estate from DreamWorks
Directed by Bill Condon. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Carice van Houten, Alicia Vikander. A dramatic thriller based on real events that reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most fiercely debated organization.

More interesting than I would have suspected. I’m not sure how close the portrayal comes to the original person, but it’s interesting to have a “personality” to put with the person. The best part of the movie is the portrayal of the ranges of reactions to the concept of WikiLeaks and its mission. I could have done with better treatment of some of the “coding” portions of the film which were generally not done very well–I say this having seen it on television with a rewind button at my disposal as well.

Not something I would jump to see again soon in the future.

Watched on Netflix

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