TV Review: The World According to Jeff Goldblum (2019- )

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – current
Created by: National Geographic
Directed by: various
Cast: Jeff Goldblum

National Geographic, Nutopia, Disney+, 12 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While the first season of The World According to Jeff Goldblum isn’t done streaming yet, I didn’t want to wait too long to review it, as it was part of Disney+’s launch two months ago.

Plus, I get the gist of it enough to review it at this point.

The show stars Jeff Goldblum, who also is an executive producer. It’s made by National Geographic and I’m not sure if it was originally intended to be broadcast on Disney+ or if that became part of National Geographic’s deal with the service after production had started.

Needless to say, Goldblum has found a home at Disney, especially after captivating fans with his performance in Disney/Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Goldblum’s special charm, charisma and unique panache is on full display in this show, as he dives into different things that are all a part of Americana. He looks at sneakers, barbecue, cycling, ice cream, tattoos, denim and more.

What makes the show kind of cool, other than it being hosted by Goldblum, is that he didn’t study up on anything and pretty much deep dives into these things blindly and with just the knowledge from his own personal experiences.

I don’t think that this is a show that’s going to make or break Disney+ but Jeff Goldblum really gives it his all and entertains while informing the viewer. It’s a cool show that’s charming and amusing with a host whose energy and curiosity are infectious.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: De Palma (2015)

Release Date: September 9th, 2015 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
Cast: Brian De Palma

Empire Ward Pictures, A24, 110 Minutes

Review:

I watched three of Brian De Palma’s neo-noir thrillers two months back when I was celebrating the month of Noirvember. It was the first time that I had seen Dressed to Kill, Blow Out and Body Double and all three of them instantly became favorites of mine but in different ways. But they also inspired me to give this documentary about the man’s work a watch. And since this had been in my queue for a few years, I felt it was long overdue.

Sometimes documentaries about director’s careers can be bogged down by talking head interviews and choppily edited insight that the documentary director is using to make their point. However, this one just features Brian De Palma talking about his films and because of that, this was a spectacular filmmaking documentary.

To start, I like the vast majority of the man’s films, especially his work in the ’70s and ’80s. And what’s really awesome is that he spends a good amount of time talking about each film in his oeuvre: going through the behind the scenes details, the casting, the story ideas and the inspiration behind his work.

De Palma is a charismatic and interesting guy and having just him in this was a treat. Sure, I’d like to hear from some of the actors he worked with, as well as his peers, but I’m sure there will eventually be another De Palma documentary that allows others to discuss the man and his stellar work.

As far as I know, this is the only real comprehensive piece about De Palma’s whole career but this is a damn fine film that accomplishes what it set out to do, as it shined a light on some of the greatest motion pictures of all-time.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about other iconic filmmakers’ total bodies of work: Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures and Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles.

TV Review: The Mandalorian (2019- )

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jon Favreau
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte (voice), Taika Waititi (voice), Gina Carano, Ming-Na Wen, Mark Boone Junior, Bill Burr, Clancy Brown, Natalia Tena, Richard Ayoade (voice), Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Jason Sudeikis

Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios, Disney+, 8 Episodes (so far), 31-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While I haven’t been too happy with Disney’s handling of Star Wars, this was still one of the television shows that I was anticipating the most.

I assumed that after the Boba Fett movie was cancelled, following the lackluster performance of Solo, that this show would end up taking some of that planned film’s ideas, reworking them into a new character and story. I’m not a hundred percent sure that’s what they did but this feels close to what Boba Fett could’ve been.

The first few episodes of this show were mostly okay but they didn’t blow me away, if I’m being honest. However, it did feel good to have someone seemingly taking Star Wars seriously once again, which I didn’t feel was the case since Rogue One, the only Disney Star Wars film I actually liked.

The middle few episodes were low points but everything really started to pickup with episode six. Episodes seven and eight were then quite awesome and they brought everything that happened over the course of the season together in a way that justified the episodes that felt more like filler than part of the larger story.

Season one of The Mandalorian was more about world building and introducing the audience to these new characters. In that regard, it succeeds greatly. But ultimately, it feels like the first act of a much larger story and not necessarily its own self-contained arc.

In any event, I’m more excited for season two than I was season one and I hope that the momentum continues to build and that this stays on the right trajectory, especially after the terrible sequel films just concluded, leaving most people with a really bad taste in their mouth. I still haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker and I’m really not that enthused about taking time out of my schedule to go see it in theaters.

I used to be a massive Star Wars fan: massive. But until this show mostly impressed me, this gigantic force in my life was dwindling away. Granted, The Mandalorian alone isn’t enough to bring me back and, at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever have a love for Star Wars like I once did.

But so far, so good. Don’t fuck this up.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: any Mandalorian heavy Star Wars Expanded Universe books, comics and video games.

TV Review: The Witcher (2019- )

Original Run: December 20th, 2019 – current
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski
Music by: Sonya Belousova, Giona Ostinelli
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Mimi Ndiweni, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer, Mahesh Jadu

Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films, Platige Image, Sean Daniel Company, One of Us, Cinesite, 8 Episodes (so far), 47-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As someone who has never read any of The Witcher books or played any of the video games, I went into this pretty blindly. But I really wanted a dark fantasy television show that worked for me, as I was never a fan of Game of Thrones but have always loved the genre apart from that show. Also, I like Henry Cavill and he seemed pretty excited for the world to finally see this.

I wasn’t too keen on the first episode, I thought it was alright and I might not have watched beyond that if the first season wasn’t a short run of just eight episodes. But I’m glad I did because about midway through, everything sort of clicked and I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

The show starts off with a weird pace, as different characters exist in different timelines. That’s not made clear until episode four or so but once you come to that realization, things flow better.

I thought that the world created for the show was pretty cool. The environment changes quite a bit as they travel and it doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the same place.

The acting is superb, especially the scenes that feature Henry Cavill. However, Anya Chalotra steals just about every scene that she is in, which is impressive as she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen experience and frankly, I didn’t know who she was before this.

It’s hard to say how good this will be going forward but the first season does a good job of setting up the universe for these characters to play in. Plus, it’s made me want to try out one of the games.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy action television shows. Some would say Game of Thrones but I never liked that show and this is superior.

Film Review: Prometheus (2012)

Also known as: Alien 0 (working title)
Release Date: April 11th, 2012 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Ridely Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Music by: Marc Streitenfeld
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Benedict Wong, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliot, Patrick Wilson, Ian Whyte, Daniel James

Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, 20th Century Fox, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Big things have small beginnings.” – David

I remember initially liking this when it came out but the more I thought about it, processed everything that happened and then applied it all to my knowledge of the long running Alien franchise, it all started to fall apart.

I think what happened was that I was effected by the film in the same way that J. J. Abrams movies effect me, initially. I’m overloaded by a rapid pace, random shit happening so fast I can’t process it, constant information dumps and then  a big, over the top, action-filled finale that serves to be a gargantuan exclamation point on a big smorgasbord of “what the fuck?”

Ultimately, this movie doesn’t make any fucking sense. And that really fucking sucks because it has some really good things working for it that lose their effect because the human brain isn’t made to process bullshit, especially at the pace that the Micro Machines commercial dude could spout off a run-on sentence like this one.

Prometheus was probably my most anticipated film of 2012. I was ecstatic for it and I was sold on the trailers. But upon seeing it, something didn’t feel right, it’s like my brain was pre-programmed to love it and I didn’t want to feel what I was really feeling underneath it all: disappointment and confusion.

It’s a disjointed clusterfuck of a movie, poorly written with contrivances, conveniences, random weirdness and some horrendously bad dialogue that made me feel bad for the superbly talented cast that had to stumble throughout this picture.

For instance, the scene where Charlize Theron reveals that Guy Pearce is her father was absolute fucking cringe. How does that happen in a scene with just Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce? They’re fucking legends at this point!

Every development in this movie was nonsensical and contradictory to the personalities that were established for its characters. All the weird alien twists and turns didn’t add up and just created more questions than this film tried to answer.

In fact, even though this movie does clue you in to the origin of the alien xenomorph species (and the human race), it creates more questions, builds more mystery and turns what should have been a really simple and cool plot into something so damn messy that a team of mental hospital janitors on cocaine couldn’t keep up with the diarrhea spilling out on the floor from the writers’ asses.

What’s with the black goo? What’s with the alien cobras? What’s with the squid that turned massive in an hour? What’s with the weird looking xenomorph? Why did the Engineers on the holographic replay run into the room with the dangerous shit? How did David know what to do with any of this shit? Why did we need the Weyland side plot? Hell, why didn’t they just cast an old guy instead of forcing Guy Pearce into an old man mask from Spencer’s? What’s with the ginger chickenshit turning into a space zombie with a ballooned out head? Why did the Engineer ignore Elizabeth but then go way out of his way to track her down to kill her later? Why did the women run in the path of the giant ship rolling towards them and not cut left or right? After the ship took off, crashed and then rolled like a renegade tire, why was David laying in the same spot where he got his head ripped off? How did his head not pinball around the ship? Why the fuck did I watch this a second time?

Prometheus is incompetent. It’s so incompetent that it hurts and frankly, I don’t think I was initially suppressing these feelings and observations, I think that I was just overwhelmed by how much bullshit was forced down my throat that I couldn’t make sense out of any of it. I was hit in the brain with a sledgehammer nearly every five minutes for two hours straight. Frankly, it took seven years for me to collect my thoughts and give this picture a second viewing.

I thought that maybe I was overreacting and that maybe I missed some glue that held it all together. Nope, it’s still shit. And it absolutely fucking sucks because this shouldn’t have been a clusterfuck of biblical proportions. It should’ve set some things up easily and then followed the framework established by the original film. Hell, it could’ve followed the second film or even combined the two. This isn’t rocket surgery!

Anyway, when I saw Alien: Covenant, I initially thought that it was worse than this but it’s not. That’s still a shitty film for the most part but this thing takes the cake.

Prometheus is insulting. It believes that it is some great mystery and highly intelligent film. It isn’t. In fact, it actually feels like my fifteen year-old cousin’s fan fiction work for his blog that has seven followers after two years. I try and give the kid advice but he just goes, “Fuck off, boomer!” Whatever, I’m Gen-X, bitch and your shipping of Hicks and Bishop is just weird.

Rant over.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: it’s direct sequel Alien: Covenant and the other Alien films other than the first two, which are far superior to anything else the franchise has done since.

Film Review: The Thing (2011)

Also known as: The Thing: The Beginning (working title)
Release Date: October 10th, 2011 (Universal City premiere)
Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Written by: Eric Heisserer
Based on: Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, 103 Minutes

Review:

“You think they’re gonna pay a bonus for bringing home an alien instead of core samples?” – Colin

While this prequel to 1982’s The Thing, also titled The Thing, is not a bad movie, it is a perfect example of why I will never like CGI monster effects as much as physical, real, practical effects like its predecessor.

If you watch both Things back-to-back, you will see the stark difference between this CGI festival of love and the much more impressive, real feeling effects of John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece.

Where the 1982 movie, regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, is still terrifying and a complete and total mindfuck, this 2011 prequel’s special effects look like they’re from a video game. Because of that, they pull you out of the film and its potentially terrifying impact because you’re reminded that this isn’t real and in fact, it’s kind of cartoonish by comparison.

The story here is good, as is the acting, the direction and just about everything else. Well, except for the pacing. Frankly, it’s oddly paced and doesn’t slowly build and escalate in the same way as the 1982 version, which they honestly should’ve just followed because it’s a perfect template on how to build tension at the right speed, in the right way and how to smack the audience in the face with a perfect finale.

Maybe the writers and the director didn’t want to do a complete rehash but they should have. While this is neither a remake nor a reboot, who cares. The reason why The Thing is a perfect movie is because of its flawless narrative framework, as well as its incredible effects that still look good almost forty years later. This Thing doesn’t seem to understand that, so it doesn’t utilize either of those winning techniques and we’re left with something promising on paper but executed like someone was designing cut scenes for a Resident Evil video game.

While I generally liked the story and how it explored the creature a bit more than what we already knew, it kind of goes too far with the battle on the crashed UFO finale. It’s not a big battle and it just follows the two remaining survivors as they decide to go there for some odd reason. They burn the alien and we think the story is done. But we already know that if it were truly dead, we wouldn’t have had a story for the 1982 movie.

So there’s a twist at the end that isn’t all that surprising and for some dumb reason the female lead of the movie survives. Honestly, this is a movie where everyone should’ve died. We shouldn’t have gotten the final girl riding off into the tundra in a snowcat like The Shining.

During the credits, we cut to a sequence that sets up the opening shots of the 1982 film. This part was done pretty well and honestly, at least this movie did a pretty good job of connecting the dots that we only just peaked at in the 1982 version. We see how every victim discovered in the 1982 version died where they were found, as well as seeing how the alien carcass had two faces merged together. I liked that they actually gave enough of a shit to work this stuff into the plot and none of it really felt forced.

Ultimately, this is a decent companion piece to the ’82 picture but it certainly isn’t necessary and honestly, didn’t need to be made. The fan service stuff was neat but the film completely missed its mark due to its failure of understanding the elements that made John Carpenter’s The Thing a perfect horror movie in the first place.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: 1982’s The Thing, which this connects to directly with its post-credits scene, as well as other body horror flicks.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.