Series Review: Human Target (2010 – Season 1) Four Stars

Human Target

Season One Aired: 2010

Watched via Netflix DVD: Fall 2016

Synopsis (from Wikipedia): The series follows the life of San Francisco-based Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a unique private contractor, bodyguard and security expert hired to protect his clients. Rather than taking on the target’s identity himself (as in the comic book version), he protects his clients by completely integrating himself into their lives, to become a “human target”. Chance is accompanied by his business partner, Winston (Chi McBride), and hired gun, Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). Continue reading “Series Review: Human Target (2010 – Season 1) Four Stars”

Stranger Things than the Americans

About a month ago, I realized my Netflix queue was thinning out.  And at about the same time, I finished watching the second season of Manhattan, which I knew had been cancelled but still felt compelled to completely watch what was available.  I went looking for interesting television shows to watch.  During the summer and early fall, we enjoy TNT’s The Last Ship and Syfy’s Dark Matter, but those series have very short seasons (at most ten or twelve episodes).  I tried and loved Stranger Things and hope that Netflix backs the second season.  I also finished watching the second season of Marco Polo, but again, both of those Netflix series are good, but very short (eight or ten episodes each).

I added Arrow, Jessica Jones and Limitless to my streaming queue.  I’ve watched several episodes of Arrow and found it okay.  I’ve watched one episode of Jessica Jones and found it disturbing but since it won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form I will stick to it and see if it gets more palatable (I doubt it but as I learned in a lecture this past week, conflict feels like imminent danger, but we don’t need to act upon it or react so negatively towards it … so stepping out of my comfort zone is a good thing sometimes).  I have not yet watched any episodes of Limitless.

Continue reading “Stranger Things than the Americans”

Movie Review: Before We Go (2015) 4 Stars

Before We Go

Release (U.S.) September 2015

Watched (via Netflix streaming) April 2016

Rating: 3.5-4 stars

After a sunset walk along Angel Falls Trail with Terry, Lexy and Porthos, we whipped up some baked hot wings and sat down to find a movie to watch.  First stop Starz On Demand.  We looked at every movie offered and discounting the ones we had already seen, found not a single movie worth watching.  I asked Terry, “We’re paying how much per month for Starz?” Yeah, they got cancelled this morning, despite Dish trying to entice me with a $5/month for 6 months ‘deal.’  I switched to HBO for a special price this morning to see if we’ll get any better movies with the oldest and biggest premium channel in the business.

Next we both checked our Netflix streaming queues.  I also checked movies I’d bought on sale at Google Play and suggested we re-watch the re-make of True Grit.  We held that in reserve until we could find something we hadn’t seen.  Terry found some strange high school comedy/drama from the mid-80s called Lucas that we attempted to watch for 15 minutes but gave up.  I lived through the 80s once.  Once was enough.  I also checked Hoopla (streaming video from local libraries) and my PBS app but came up with nothing promising.  I went back to Netflix and reviewed the drama recommendations.  I don’t normally do dramas because they can be a downer and I really didn’t want to start my weekend off on a sad note.  But the reviews on Netflix for Before We Go were higher than the normal so I decided to take a chance once we ditched Lucas.

I’m glad I did NOT read any of the ‘critics’ reviews of this film as I quite enjoyed it.  Charming and sweet and not bad for the directorial debut of Chris Evans.  A very different view of New York from the eyes of two strangers not on a train.  I liked it because it was different and hopeful.


Movie Review: St. Vincent (2014)

St. Vincent (2014)

Watched BluRay (via Netflix) September 2015

Rating: 3.5 to 4 stars

Very brief synopsis (via IMDB): A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.

This film surprised me.  All the performances were above average.  Granted, this wasn’t much of a stretch for Bill Murray, but he did have a few shining moments.  Lots of good laughs along with some very touching tragedy.  We were all smiling and crying by the time the credits rolled.

I can see why it did so well at last year’s film festivals.  Give this one a try.  You’ll probably like it.

Movie Review: Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

4 out of 5 stars

When I recorded this movie to my DVR from the Turner Classic Movie channel last week, I didn’t read the synopsis.  I grew up listening to Henry Mancini vinyls my parents owned, and learned to play (and sing) on the piano, at an early age the song ‘The Days of Wine and Roses.’  I did review the rating provided by DirecTV (two ratings actually provided by different services, one of which I believe is Rotten Tomatoes) and noted it received high marks.

After dinner last night, I decided to watch the movie.  Terry had slipped into a food coma while we watch the latest Warehouse 13 episode so I thought it was safe to start a black-and-white movie with the volume turned down a bit, turning closed captioning on to catch any whispered conversations.  I soon realized the story was not what I thought it would be, not that I had any idea what it should have been.  The tone seemed a bit dark even for the early 60s.  But I don’t mean dark as in murder or torture or rape, but the slow, sinister destruction of a bright young couple in the immutable grip of alcoholism.  Fascinating, but unsettling, to watch.  Both Lemmon and Remick deserve their awards and accolades for their performances.

The musical score disappointed.  Aside from the constant repeating motif of the ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ melody, not much music intruded into the drama.  I assume all the music heard at the cocktail parties was composed by Mancini and provided an appropriate jazzy background ambiance.

Robert Osbourne commented that during the filming of Days of Wine and Roses, Lemmon’s father’s health to a turn for the worst.  Lemmon would spend the evenings after shooting at the hospital and before production wrapped up, his father passed away.

During and after the filming:  “Director Blake Edwards became a non-drinker a year after completing the film and went into substance recovery. He said that he and Jack Lemmon were heavy drinkers while making the film. Edwards used the theme of alcohol abuse often in his films, including: 10 (1979), Blind Date (1987) and Skin Deep (1989). Both Lemmon and Remick sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous long after they had completed the film. Lemmon revealed to James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio his past drinking problems and his recovery. The film had a lasting effect in helping alcoholics deal with their problem. Today, Days of Wine and Roses is required viewing in many alcoholic and drug rehabilitation clinics across America.” (Wikipedia article, Filming section).

When Terry woke up, about halfway through the film, at about the point where things really start spiraling downward for the Clays, he got up and made a couple of frozen strawberry lemonades.  He couldn’t resist adding some vodka.  I couldn’t resist the sarcasm … here we were, watching a couple destroy themselves and their relationships with each other, their children, their family, their friends, with alcoholism, and we were drinking alcohol while watching this unfold.

To put this in a bit of perspective, the vodka we bought was the first liquor we’ve purchased in several years.  We normally buy some hard lemonade, wine or beer, once or twice a quarter, which sits in the refrigerator taking up space until we might remember to grab one on a weekend.  The frozen strawberry lemonade tastes wonderful with or without the vodka.

But still, really, I could have smacked him.

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

3 out of 5 stars

I really should have read the book by John le Carré first and I have no excuse for not doing so.  I own a paperback edition of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and know exactly where it resides in my library.  I had hoped that by not reading the novel, I would be enjoy the film and be ‘surprised’ as it unfolded.  For the most part, I felt confused by the plot and unconvinced by the players.  I did not expect to make a connection with any of the characters.  Spies rarely come across as very likeable or sympathetic, not if they are doing their jobs well.  Only the character of Ricki Tarr came close, but I suspect that was the intention of the author and director.

Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy is a slow paced spy film for such a fast paced generation.  I enjoyed the period cars, costumes and locations.  The state-of-the-art spy tech of the period contrasts nicely with our current high-tech mobile instant gratification society, where privacy has shrunk to near nonexistence for most average citizens – the price we pay for convenience?  But I’ll leave that to another post and another day.

Movie Review: Like Dandelion Dust (2009)

Like Dandelion Dust (2009)

4 out of 5 stars

I found this a difficult drama to watch.  I could sympathize with both families.  I could empathize to some extent with the gracious biological mother.  I can’t say I was completely satisfied with the ending.

I originally wanted to watch this movie to follow Barry Pepper’s acting career (the last film I’d seen him in happened to be the remake of True Grit wherein he reprised the role of Ned Pepper well).  His performance as Rip Porter, the stereotypical alcoholic abusive anger management posture child, met my expectations, but paled beside Mira Sorvino’s performance as his wife, Wendy Porter.  Her character convincingly portrayed grace, forgiveness, resilience, perseverance and unclouded unconditional love on a scale I can only imagine and probably will never achieve.

The other couple (the affluent Campbells) got less sympathy from me, but that could have been intended by the filmmaker.  Or perhaps a result of less convincing performances by Cole Hauser and Kate Levering.

If you’ve ever been in the position, as a woman, and needed to ask and answer the question “Do I abort my baby, or give it up for adoption?” you may find some surprising insights in Like Dandelion Dust.

Movie Review: A Dog Named Christmas

Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie: A Dog Named Christmas (2009)

Four out of Five Stars

I read the book this movie was based on last year for Christmas.  The author, Greg Kincaid, lives in Olathe, Kansas, just twenty or so miles south of my home via K-7.  But for some reason, the movie was not re-aired last year (or I completely missed it in the avalanche of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies that start in late November and don’t stop until nearly New Year’s).  This year, I caught the movie on my DVR when it aired on Saturday night.  My husband and I spent a very pleasant Sunday evening with the McCrays and their on-again-off-again adoption of a dog named Christmas.