TV Review: Truth Seekers (2020- )

Original Run: October 30th, 2020 – current
Created by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, Nat Saunders
Directed by: Jim Field Smith
Written by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, Nat Saunders
Music by: Robin Foster
Cast: Nick Frost, Emma D’Arcy, Samson Kayo, Malcolm McDowell, Simon Pegg, Susie Wokoma, Julian Barratt, Rosalie Craig

Sony Pictures Television, Stolen Pictures, Amazon Studios, 8 Episodes (so far), 24-32 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When I saw the trailer for this television show, I was immediately stoked. However, once I started watching it, I was severely underwhelmed by it and then, by the end, I was just disappointed and sad.

I love Nick Frost and Simon Pegg and that goes all the way back to their TV show Spaced, which I saw via VHS tape from a friend in the UK, who I used to trade tapes with.

I think what makes this show weak is actually the fault of several things working against it.

To start, the concept is okay but the execution was weird and nonsensical. Basically, the writing isn’t good and most of the characters within the show are pretty unlikable. In fact, the only one I really liked was Malcolm McDowell, who at least got to ham it up and look like he was enjoying the material he was given.

Nick Frost was just Nick Frost and he felt a lot like his character Ed from Spaced but swap out his crazy love of guns for his crazy love of paranormal investigation tech.

The two younger co-stars were both pretty shit and I couldn’t relate to them and just didn’t care about their supernatural stories.

The sidekick’s sister was an absolute abomination of a character and she came across as some generic person-of-color that the BBC would’ve clunkily implanted into a show just so she could lecture all the characters. She’s a bossy, awful bitch and writing her character to have mental health issues isn’t a valid enough excuse to wedge her in and kill every scene.

Now I did like Simon Pegg’s character but at the same time, he wasn’t anything special. He was quirky and weird but a good leader and respectable boss. Still, he was used sparingly and didn’t get to properly develop. The big mistake with that is he’s a highpoint that wasn’t utilized anywhere near as well as he could’ve been.

I also enjoyed Julian Barratt in this but like Pegg, he’s not used enough and you never really get to know his character enough to really care.

Overall, this sucked. I really hoped it’d be a nice shining light in a year where entertainment has been pretty much absent. But it’s 2020, so I guess even two of my favorite comedic actors were simply destined to give us their worst work at the end of this terrible year.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other things with both Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in it.

TV Review: Dracula (2020)

Original Run: January 1st, 2020 – January 3rd, 2020
Created by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Directed by: Johnny Campbell, Damon Thomas, Paul McGuigan
Written by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: David Arnold, Michael Price
Cast: Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Joanna Schanlan, Mark Gatiss, Lydia West

Hartswood Films, BBC, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 88-91 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Yeesh!

What a fucking catastrophe this show was.

It started out kind of interesting and I watched it because Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were the creative forces behind it. I liked most of their work even if their later Doctor Who stuff turned to shit. But I had hoped this would be more like Sherlock than late-Doctor Who but what I got was more like a botched kidney transplant.

The show really got away from itself at the midpoint of the first episode where it decided to deviate from the traditional Dracula story. While I’m okay with creative freedom and the Dracula story has been reinvented dozens, if not hundreds, of times, this was one of the worst Dracula storytelling experiments I’ve ever had to suffer through.

Now this isn’t a knock against the actors, they were mostly really good, and it’s not a knock against the quality of the production as it looked great. No, this is about the story and how stupid and batshit retarded it was.

This was damn near unwatchable once it went off the rails but there was that part of me that stuck through it, hoping that the genius of Gatiss and Moffat would somehow turn this around and make it something great or at least acceptable enough to not be a total waste.

By the time you get through the third and final episode, however, you’re left scratching your head wondering what the fucking point was.

Honestly, I have no idea and I can’t get my four and a half hours back.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: waking up in a bathtub full of ice after an abduction and a kidney gone missing.

TV Review: The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020- )

Original Run: October 4th, 2020 – current
Created by: Scott M. Gimple, Matthew Negrete
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: The Newton Brothers
Cast: Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Cumpston, Nicolas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, Julia Ormond

Skybound Entertainment, AMC, 10 Episodes (so far), 47-52 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, there’s not much I can say about this show but it’s obvious that Walking Dead fatigue is beyond the exhaustion point, at least for me. But I’m also the last person that I know in the real world that is still watching any of it.

I tried to give this a shot but the show is insufferable.

Furthermore, it’s dreadfully boring and trying to get through the first episode was an absolute chore. I did it and then I started the second episode but after about fifteen minutes, I said, “Fuck this!” and turned it off.

The big takeaway from what I watched was that none of the key characters are interesting, they’re all boring as shit and either their performances are extremely understated or they just don’t have the ability to convey any real emotion. But I guess that’s kind of like most kids nowadays.

The problem that AMC doesn’t seem to understand as they suck The Walking Dead‘s teat completely dry, way too late, is that no one really needs the milk anymore. We’ve all got enough now to last the rest of our lives.

Plus, there are other, better things to drink out in the world.

If you want us to buy more milk, you need to provide us with the best milk… great milk. Otherwise, it’s just more of the same shit we’ve been drinking for over a decade and the fridge is overflowing.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

 

TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.

Documentary Review: The Social Dilemma (2020)

Release Date: January 26th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jeff Orlowski
Written by: Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis, Jeff Orlowski
Music by: Mark A. Crawford
Cast: Interviewees: Tristan Harris, Aza Raskin, Justin Rosenstein, Shoshana Zuboff, Jaron Lanier, Tim Kendall, Rashida Richardson, Renee DiResta, Anna Lembke, Roger McNamee, Guillaume Chaslot; Performances: Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, Vincent Kartheiser, Sophia Hammons, Catalina Garayoa, Barbara Gehring, Chris Grundy

Exposure Labs, Argent Pictures, The Space Program, Netflix, 94 Minutes

Review:

“How do you wake up from the Matrix when you don’t know you’re in the Matrix?” – Self – Google, Former Design Ethicist

I watched this based off of a recommendation and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have, otherwise. I’m glad I did though, as it was really refreshing seeing some of the people who were instrumental in developing social media, kind of condemning certain parts of it, as it’s now being used in a way to create an addiction to it and to further divide the people using it.

Initially, it was created to bring people together, where they could interact with one another, all over the world. Where they could share ideas and more or less, come together in a positive, constructive way in an effort to shape a better planet.

In the last decade or so, all of that has started to take a turn for the worse.

This film breaks down how this happened and how it all works. Frankly, it’s kind of scary but it’s also not like most of us sane, rational people aren’t aware of it. There’s a reason why I stopped using Facebook, only occasionally touch Instagram and pretty much just use Twitter to promote this site and then shitpost.

This also has some bits in it where actors play characters being affected by all of this. It’s used to illustrate in an interesting way how social media can destroy relationships and human interaction. It also shows how these apps work and why they hone in on our different triggers to sell products and to keep us engaging with the app.

I can’t say that anything here was new information but it’s refreshing seeing the architects of the problem try to combat it and bring more awareness to it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent tech documentaries.

TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

Original Run: May 27th, 2020
Directed by: Lisa Bryant
Based on: Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Music by: Justin Melland

RadicalMedia, JP Entertainment, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 55-57 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I didn’t know as much about this story as I probably needed to. Sure, I, like most people, know the general gist of it but not the details.

Although, if I’m being honest, I kind of expected this to go much deeper and also expose the guy’s ties to some of the politicians and celebrities that were in his orbit.

Regardless of that, this was still a decent primer on the horrible shit that this guy did.

Frankly, this was pretty tough to get through, as you come to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes and how many different under-aged girls that this guy sexually assaulted on a constant basis.

Most importantly, this serves as a warning against the type of people that prey on young girls, as well as looking at their behavior and the methods that they could use to exploit and violate others.

As a documentary, I thought this was just okay. I feel like it needed a lot more information and that it could’ve gone a lot deeper into Epstein’s reach among the elite.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent Netflix true crime documentaries.

Documentary Review: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Release Date: August 21st, 2020
Directed by: David Darg, Price James
Music by: Dimiter Yordanov, Matt Glass, Will Patterson
Cast: David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Richmond Arquette, Courteney Cox, Ric Flair, Dallas Page, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Luke Perry, RJ Skinner, Ken Anderson, Coco Arquette, Eric Bischoff, Colt Cabana, Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler, Christina McLarty Arquette, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo

One Last Run Productions, Kidz Gone Bad, Carbon, 91 Minutes

Review:

I was fairly excited for this when the trailer dropped, months ago. I was never mad at David Arquette for his stint in the wrestling business and I honestly just blamed it on the shit creative that was killing World Championship Wrestling, at the time. Funny enough, the company ceased to exist the following year.

I also know that Arquette has loved and respected the professional wrestling business since he was a kid and that he truly felt bad about how people perceived his small run in it, which led to him becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion for a few weeks back in 2000.

People viewed this as destroying the prestige of the World Title but it was devalued immensely before Arquette ever got his hands on it. Plus, Vince Russo winning it after the Arquette debacle showed that WCW creative were absolute imbeciles that deserved their fate.

Anyway, I get why David Arquette wants to repent and doesn’t want to be perceived as a joke or some Hollywood opportunist asshole that came in and took a shit on the business.

However, his path to redemption was a terribly misguided one that just made me feel even worse for the guy and made me realize that he was taken advantage of and poorly directed by the modern “hardcore” sect in wrestling a.k.a. the outlaw mudhsow ass hats that should never have their version of the business reach the mainstream. Granted, wrestling is pretty fucking dead in my eyes, anyway, so who’s to say what kind of stupid horeseshit is going to get over with the thirteen fans that still go to live shows in crossfit warehouses.

David Arquette, for a guy that loves the business, doesn’t seem to really know enough about it to avoid the people that put him in the ring, where he nearly got killed just to make this film. He didn’t need to redeem himself by fighting the most “hardcore” shitheads in the business, he needed to go to wrestling school, a real one, and learn the basics, work hard, get put on a decent show and work his way up.

His objectives in this were never really clear but he seemed to just have this idea that he needed to be severely punished for his sins more than he needed to become a legitimate wrestler that could stand proudly next to other former WCW World Champions.

I was severely disappointed by this, overall. I was rooting for the guy and hell, I still really like him. But this isn’t what he needed to do to absolve himself of the immense guilt he’s felt for twenty years. I left this feeling even worse for him but I guess if he believes he succeeded than who am I to piss in his coffee.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent wrestling documentaries.

Film Review: Cuties (2020)

Also known as: Mignonnes (original French title)
Release Date: January 23rd, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Maïmouna Doucouré
Written by: Maïmouna Doucouré
Music by: Niko Noki
Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Maïmouna Gueye

Bien Ou Bien Productions, France 3 Cinéma, BAC Films, Canal+, 96 Minutes

Review:

I normally wouldn’t have watched this or even cared about it. But since it’s the most controversial film of the fucking year, I couldn’t not watch it, review it and give my two cents.

That being said, I’ll probably piss off both sides of the debate because I’m not going to bash it as “pedo candy”, I’ll explain why, and I’m not going to pass it off like some sort of amazing motion picture that the world has been begging for and has desperately needed.

To start, this is controversial because the film is about a group of young girls who are trying to be a dance team; these girls are all about eleven years-old. They’re influenced by the provocative and highly sexual dance moves that they see all over the Internet from rap videos and other sources.

This, of course, makes people uncomfortable and it’s supposed to. However, these moments don’t make up the bulk of the movie and the film itself is really focused on one girl primarily.

This girl, Amy, comes from an immigrant family who have moved to France from Senegal. Her family is very religious and her actions in the film are a rebellion against the traditions of that strict religion and an exploration of the new things she’s found, culturally, in her new home. All the while, she’s also broken up by how changes in her family dynamic are emotionally effecting her mother and the structure of the family unit she’s used to.

Watching this as an American, I don’t know much about the culture of Senegal and how immigrants from that country would be effected by the socially liberal French that they would find themselves surrounded by. Honestly, I was kind of intrigued by this and would’ve liked to have seen it explored in a broader sense and not specifically from the viewpoint of one character. But maybe for those in France, where this film was made, it’s not as interesting, as other French films may have touched on it already.

But I feel like this film is pretty disjointed and it’s not all that coherent from a narrative standpoint. It plays more like a series of sequences with some connectivity but a lot of the film seems really random. Its like the director/writer is recalling actual moments from her own experience growing up and doesn’t realize that the audience might need some deeper context.

For instance, there’s a scene where Amy takes a picture of her private parts and uploads it to the Internet. It’s random as hell, really uncomfortable and isn’t really followed up on in any meaningful way, other than having some kid at school slap her ass. Did it need to be in the film? Was it just there for shock value?

Additionally, this is a coming-of-age story and it’s not really clear what the main character has learned or how she’s grown. Sure, she has an emotional breakdown and what appears to be a scary moment of clarity when she’s achieved her goal but the movie sort of ends and you’re sort of just left going, “Um… okay?”

What’s even worse is that this film is really well acted from top-to-bottom but the performances feel wasted.

This had the makings of something that could’ve been interesting but it’s honestly a really boring and drab movie. Even though there’s a plot progression, it feels like not much happens apart from the uncomfortable finale and a few weird moments dropped in.

The thing that has people in an uproar are the scenes that have leaked out that feature these young girls dancing in an over-sexualized way. The thing is, if you know kids or remember when you were that age, kids didn’t know a damn thing about sex but they all talked about it. I remember girls in my middle school days emulating the dances they saw in 2 Live Crew videos. This is nothing knew but maybe I also grew up in a more urban area and I was exposed to things that middle America wasn’t. I can only speak from my own experiences and memories but I’m pretty sure kids this age, everywhere, weren’t too dissimilar.

What is bizarre and sort of counterproductive to the director’s stated intent, is how the dancing scenes are filmed. The movie is made to critique and expose the over-sexualization of kids, especially young girls, but in trying to speak out against that, the film does exactly that. So I have to conclude that the director is either lying to cover her ass or a moron.

You could’ve made your point without closeup shots of eleven year-olds crotches and booties. Once or twice, I might roll my eyes but it did feel gratuitous. And frankly, I think it would’ve been a lot more effective having them dance but having the camera looking out to the crowd, getting their reactions to seeing young girls dance in such a way. But I’m not the artist, here.

I can’t say that I’m offended by it, I just sort of got through these moments like, “Really, you had to go there?” And maybe this was deliberate and the director knew that it’d get attention and that the media and film industry being the way they are, would show support. I’m leaning more towards her being an idiot, though.

Additionally, what tune would Hollywood and the media be singing if this was made by a white dude? And since it’s not made by a white dude, is the director getting a free pass? Why do we have to even ask these questions in 2020?

While I think this isn’t “pedo candy” (or why it isn’t intended to be) is due to the fact that these moments don’t happen often in the overall running time of the picture. I highly doubt that the director had that intention. I think she wanted to make something personal but didn’t realize that she was doing the same thing she wanted to expose as a problem. You don’t clear a flood by hosing it down and someone else working on the picture or producing it should’ve stepped in.

It also doesn’t help how Netflix initially marketed this film. They’ve since apologized and removed their pedo-tastic poster but the damage was done and it makes you wonder about the suits at Netflix making these decisions. As you can see above, the film’s original poster wasn’t offensive or provocative.

So yeah, I get the pushback but I’ve never been a fan of puritans of any kind. While I’ve gone on Twitter to chime in on the film’s marketing in the US market, I didn’t feel like I had a right to comment on a film I hadn’t seen. But we live in a time where everyone is outraged about everything without actually having the full context. That’s the main reason I felt like I needed to watch the movie when I’m surrounded by those trashing it or talking it up without actually watching it.

Any critic that tells you that this is anything more than “meh” is a shill, however. While that’s my opinion, from my point-of-view, my opinion is fact.

In the end, without the controversy, this is a completely forgettable film. While I would’ve liked to have learned more about the Senegalese experience in France, I was left with a mostly boring movie that felt aimless and didn’t effectively make its point or develop its main character in any sort of meaningful way. In fact, this film does the opposite of what it set out to do.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age movies from Europe, I guess. I don’t watch a lot of those.

Film Review: Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Also known as: Bad Boys 3 (working title)
Release Date: January 7th, 2020 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Adil & Bilall
Written by: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan
Based on: characters by George Gallo
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Paola Núñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, DJ Khaled, Michael Bay (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, 2.0 Entertainment, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Overbrook Entertainment, Sony Pictures Releasing, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Do you want your legacy to be muscle shirts and body counts?” – Detective Marcus Burnett

I thought it took way too long to get Bad Boys II but holy shit, this took a hell of a lot longer, coming out nearly seventeen years after that picture and a quarter of a century after the first movie!

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence still look good though and they’ve definitely still got it in them to give us another solid buddy cop flick.

I certainly enjoyed this, although it is the weakest of the three Bad Boys movies. But it’s still a worthwhile sequel that changed the lives of the characters in significant ways, which could set up interesting sequels, assuming they don’t wait too damn long next time.

While we should realistically be up to Bad Boys IX by now, I guess we’ve got to take what we can get but at least what we got here was pretty damn satisfactory.

The film gets right into the action and the comedy. It feels like we never left these guys, even if nearly two decades have passed. We also get Joe Pantoliano and Theresa Randle back but I was a bit disappointed that Tea Leoni didn’t show up or at least have her character mentioned because knowing her whereabouts after her good performance in the original movie would be nice.

Anyway, the film sees Will Smith’s Mike become the target in a revenge plot carried out by the son of a female Mexican kingpin that fancies herself a witch. We also learn that she is one of Mike’s ex-girlfriends and that their fling lines up with the age of her son. Spoiler alert: the witch’s kid is also Mike’s kid and Mike has to try and stop the guy from causing anymore harm while also trying to convince the kid that he didn’t know of his existence and that he wants to let him into his life.

Martin Lawrence’s Marcus is still the family man but he’s sick of all this shit, just like the well-aged Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon films. Marcus wants Mike to stop being reckless and to start cherishing his life, so that the two friends can eventually retire in peace and live their lives as best buds after their careers.

The film also introduces a cool SWAT-like squad that Mike starts working with. The squad is led by another one of Mike’s ex-girlfriends but also features several good characters that add a lot to the film and who also mesh well with the main characters and their chemistry.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film, as it’s been so long since the last one that I never thought a third one would even materialize. But man, I was pleasantly surprised and it actually made me hope for a fourth one, which has more or less been confirmed since this came out and performed really well.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the two other Bad Boys films, as well as other buddy cop classics like the Lethal Weapon movies and television show, as well as the Beverly Hills Cop film series.

Film Review: Ouija Shark (2020)

Release Date: March 7th, 2020 (Toronto premiere)
Directed by: Brett Kelly (as Scott Patrick)
Written by: David A. Lloyd
Cast: Christina Roman, Zoe Towne, Robin Hodge, John Migliore, Peter Whitaker

Wide Eye Releasing, 81 Minutes

Review:

“One of those movies you watch until the end because you’re convinced it must get better…. But it doesn’t…….This was by far one of the worst movies I have ever seen for a while!Do not bother….This Film is So-So-Very-Very-BAD!” – a user review from IMDb

The above user review from IMDb is pretty spot on, bad grammar and all because Ouija Shark doesn’t even deserve a grammatically correct response.

Man, this movie is shit. I only watched it because I was immensely bored and figured I’d watch this new, 2020 movie that was made by a director that deliberately makes bad movies.

That being said, I half expected it to have some sort of redeeming value, as self-aware bad movies tend to capitalize off of that self-awareness.

This absolute turd, however, doesn’t even try. Sure, it attempts to be hokey and funny in spots but it all falls flat and you’re left shaking your head wondering what you did in your life that brought you to the point were you actually rented a film like Ouija Shark.

This is atrociously acted with some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen. And even if all that’s deliberate, nothing is really done to fine tune it with any sort of wink to the audience who are in on what’s supposed to be a joke.

Eh, whatever, fuck this movie. I need those 81 minutes back.

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: staring at asphalt while breathing in traffic exhaust.