December 3, 2020
- (note… 👍👍 must see… 👍 recommended… 👎 skip it… if there’s no indication, meh, take it or leave it)
- using Reelgood to confirm where to watch
👍 The Flight Attendant (HBO Max) - just started watching; quirky, murder mystery starring Kaley Cuoco, a.k.a. Penny from The Big Bang Theory. Recycled plot points, but so far moving along fast and bouyed by good cast.
👍 Wolf of Snow Hollow (rent on Prime video) - another quirky, absurdist story, this one following a small town cop trying not to believe there’s a werewolf prowling around. With a final, nice appearance by the late Robert Forster.
👍 The Queens Gambit (Netflix) - very nice (too pretty?) drama of orphaned girl finding her way in the world as an up-and-coming chess grandmaster. Fun period kitsch and off-kilter characters. A decent amount of fairly accurate chess maneuvering.
7500 (Prime Video)- not too much here; basically just watching the pilot (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) during an attempted high-jacking. Good news, reasonably deft and over quickly enough - Bad news, never develops any siginificant emotional response in JG-L or us.
Prospect (Netflix) - very atmospheric low-budget sci-fi with father/daughter prospectors trying to figure out how to strike the big find on random planet. Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) balances out the slow drama nicely, though the whole thing goes on too long.
Unhinged (for rental) - Best thing about this is that it makes no apologies for its choices nor does it drag on with twists and sub-plots. For that it should get a thumbs-up, but seriously, no particular reason to watch this. Great fat-suit worn by Russell Crowe who wisely underplays the ‘unhinged’ anger.
Raised by Wolves (HBO Max) - ok Ridley Scott produced random sci-fi. First episode was fine, second episode began with backstory (I think) about how the original planet (earth?) was overtaken by bad guys (robots?). Didn’t care to watch anymore.
Tales from the Loop (Prime Video) - Just couldn’t sit through first episode; no idea what its all about.
World War II-ish
👍 The 12th Man (Netflix) - true WW2 story of failed commando operation that leaves our hero struggling to survive across frozen ground of northern Norway. Slow, quiet, scenic production. From the intro credits “The most incredible events in this story are the ones that actually took place”. And see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Baalsrud
👍 Within The Whirlwind (Prime Video) - realistic drama of life under Stalin - arbitrary accusations and swift injustice followed by the struggle to survive Siberian gulag. Based on true story that’s a bit more complicated than presented here ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yevgenia_Ginzburg ).
👍 Life & Fate (Prime Video) - Wow. Ambitious but relentlessly depressing Russian series about Stalingrad and the crushing reality of the Soviet system. Interesting back-story on the book and author; the series takes it time showing characters and their voice-over thoughts, which mostly works, but you do have to pay attention to sub-titles. If the plot synopsis is right (i’m only half-way through now) this should get ever more and more depressing and fatalistic.
The Liberator (Netflix) - should be interesting animated WWII graphic-novel, but couldn’t get past first scenes. If they’re going to rotoscope animation over real actors, frankly, I’d rather watch the real actors. As much as I’d like to support innovative story-telling, I’ll pass.
Castles In The Sky - nice and simple slice of biopic concerning Robert Watson-Watt and team working out of radar in Britain just pre-war-WWII. Hits all the tropes of the genre, and of course elides the truth and makes the men appear much less capable in engineering/science than they must have been. And inevitably skips over the enormous amount of work to turn the device into a functioning military and bureaucratic process to actually get the RAF fighter planes in the sky at the right time and place.
Rommel - Good biopic of last several months of Erwin Rommel’s life showing the infighting and incompetence of the Nazi high-comamnd while preparing for the invasion of France. A nice book-end to Valkyrie.
Mr. Jones - qualified thumbs-up - not sure if the dour/slow mood is worth sitting through. But on the other hand, major kudos to this exposé of the Holodomor coverup by various Western news organizations.
👍 Barbarians (Netflix) - decent historical drama of the true story of Arminius, germanic hostage turned Roman Equite turned traitor to Rome and victor of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. So far, just one season; probably all I’ll need to watch. Endorsed by Ancient Times blov !
Radioactive (Prime Video) - ok gauzy biopic with a couple decent science scenes of Madame and Pierre Curie’s discovery of radioactivity. Loses the thumbs-up for heavy-handed cross-cutting to scenes from WWII and medicine demonstrating the evils and good of the nuclear age.
👍👍 The Good Lord Bird (Showtime) - best thing seen in this list, great performances, quirky (there’s that word again), and anchored with Ethan Hawke as out-of-this-world John Brown. Close enough to the truth to pass. Doubly interesting as I recently visited Harper’s Ferry, which is a beautiful, historic riverfront town.
Valley of Tears (HBO Max) - Israeli series following tank crews and others during the Yom Kippur War in the Golan Heights in 1973. Due to the bad dubbing in to English and the rather frantic state of the characters most of the time this doesn’t quite pass muster, but I’ll slog through to the end.
Making of Psycho (Prime Video I think) - very simple old-school documentary with cast and crew from the Hitchcock classic. Interesting to hear from the writer how much free rein he got from Hitch; many plot points and angles were his invention. And, obligatory Star Wars mention - a music cue from Bernard Hermann’s score was used in rough-cut of A New Hope (just before Ben/Han/etc pop their heads up from smuggling spaces in the Falcon). John Williams loved it and re-scored it in his own way.
Django (Prime Video) - Amazing performance by Reda Kateb in this biopic of Django Reinhardt during Nazi takeover of Paris. Unfortunately bogs down a bit as Django gets to small town France trying to escape to Switzerland and finds fellow Roma caravan struggling to survive. Fantastic excepts of Django’s music - ends with a version of his lost “Mass”, Messe Gitane