Saturday, September 30, 2017

TV Show Review: Difficult People (Season 3)

Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner are back at it in their hilarious show on Hulu. Striving to become successful in show business, the two friends will take any acting gig they can get including street performing for ignorant Trump-supporting tourists from Kentucky. This season Julie Kessler (Klausner) branches out from her career of writing episode recaps of reality television but must cope with the constant criticism of her mother Marilyn (Andrea Martin). Billy Epstein (Eichner) has a new romance and various new gigs including opening for Larry Wilmore's new show. Julie's boyfriend Arthur Tack (James Urbaniak) still has a different nickname for Julie and deals with his own professional troubles at PBS along with some dating bumps with Julie.

The show doesn't stray away from controversial issues like separating an artist from their art calling out particularly Woody Allen and the opposing streaming network that hired him when Julie works for his new show but still feels guilty. Billy has to deal with being gay in the Trump era as he finds a way to scam a gay conversion therapy program started by Mike Pence. Billy's job at the restaurant includes a great cast of supporting characters. Matthew (Cole Escola) has an interesting story arc trying to get on reality television and also some hilarious interactions with Marilyn. He might be my favorite supporting character. Nate (Derrick Baskin) and Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) weren't in this season as much as they deal with a new child.

Lola (Shakina Nayfack) becomes even more entrenched in conspiracy theories after the election joining all sorts of groups and practicing prevention of facial camera detection with strange makeup. Billy has to help his brother Garry (Fred Armisen) who is hiding in his basement while pretending to be in Israel and Garry's wife Rucchel (Jackie Hoffman) believes they have a demon in the basement. Julie and Arthur use roleplay to spice up their sex life while Billy struggles to maintain a relationship with Todd (John Cho) as they have trouble sleeping together or going to work parties. Julie and Billy both continue their lifelong dreams of acting and writing in television through various schemes.

The show hints at possibly making a change as Billy thinks about leaving New York and even Julie contemplate a move. The two head out there for an episode after they trip on ayahuasca with Matthew and Arthur. Marilyn tries to write a memoir but when she is crippled by writer's block, she turns to Julie for help to write it in a night. Time passes as the show concludes but the characters remain somewhat in the same rut, though the odd situations continue to unfold like Tony Hale leaving show business to work as a waiter. We finally learn how Billy and Julie met and their friendship began at a dancing class, they both walk out of.

Hulu is having a lot of success and Difficult People is one of the top comedies to stream on there as an original. The rapid-fire jokes steeped in pop culture are full of such hilarious observations that it is nearly impossible to catch all the laughs. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner still have a great chemistry as they banter back and forth and both of their careers seem to benefit from the success of the show. I caught up with this show last year and I'm glad that the show has continued on for more seasons. 

TV Show Review: Transparent (Season 4)

The Pfeffermans head to Israel in this delightful fourth season of the powerful Amazon comedy series. Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) is invited to lecture in Tel Aviv on Judaism and gender. When Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) learns that her professor with whom she had a relationship has written and published an embarrassing poem, she decides to tag along with Maura. They head out to Israel having trouble in the airport when security can't decide which gender of TSA agent should search her. The family gathers in the first episode and it is chaotic. Shelly (Judith Light) explores improv and develops a new character that gives her strength and confidence. Sarah (Amy Landecker) explores her sexuality with her ex-husband Len Novak (Rob Huebel) and a woman she meets in a sex addicts group, Lila (Alia Shawkat).

Josh Pfefferman (Jay Duplass) copes with visions of the older woman who took advantage of him when he was younger and also attends the sex addict meetings as well. As Maura lectures, she keeps hearing about another Pfefferman who had a catchy advertisement years ago for air-conditioning. The "cool guy" turns out to be Maura's father Moshe (Jerry Adler) who abandoned them when they were young and went to Israel. Ali has garnered fame for her internet video of Maura at the airport and falls in with a group of protesters who are trying to make a difference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She returns to help Maura approach Moshe who has become wealthy off of his air-conditioning business.

Moshe offers to fly out the rest of the family so they can all meet one another and explore the country. Ali struggles with the conflict and does not like the glib way Moshe treats the Palestinians. The other family members arrive and they travel around Israel fighting with each other and exploring the famous sites like the wall. Ali confides in Maura that she is not sure of her place in the world. When Sarah and Len decide to take a detour into an Israeli settlement to visit Lila's mother, Ali grows upset and leaves the tour. Josh speaks with Moshe's security guard who takes him out shooting in the desert. When Josh accidentally aims a gun at Shelly, it sparks a confession of a past incident that she had kept a secret but had been dramatized in a previous episode.

The Pfefferman's trip heads to the dead sea but Ali explores the Palestinian camp to find it abandoned after leaving her romantic interest and activist. As the Pfefferman's leave, Ali decides to stay and participate in more activism. Sarah and Len decide to end the relationship with Lila and at first, it seems like an easy breakup as Lila has found someone else but they all fall back into bed and Len does not pull out fast enough so there could be more to that next season. Maura's friend Davina (Alexandra Billings) has an interesting subplot as her illness progresses and her relationship breaks down, she is in need of a place. Maura rented out the house to an Airbnb customer but it leads to controversy, especially when Maura returns. The show comes to a funny and heartfelt conclusion making this season another great addition to one of the best streaming comedy shows out there.

Amazon knows they have hit the jackpot with Transparent led by Jeffery Tambor's wonderful performance and an amazing supporting cast. The Pfefferman family has plenty of issues and history and they deal with them as any family would. Maura's transition has set the family off on their own exploration and each child and her wife have various journeys that are both moving and hilarious. I was glad that I caught up with this show sometimes last year and now can review the new season as it came out. I look forward to watching more seasons in years to come. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 3)

There are only two teams with undefeated records after the third week of play and even one of those teams barely made it through Sunday. I am trying fantasy football for the first time this year but have failed miserably at playing the right players so I have yet to win a game. The season is still young so there is a ton of football left to play and these teams on top may be at the bottom before the playoffs start. 

The Atlanta Falcons faced off against another undefeated NFC opponent, the Detroit Lions, and they should have lost. I wasn't able to watch the game but for a moment I was convinced they had lost the game but the call was reversed at the one-yard line when Golden Tate failed to cross the goal line. Despite three interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan, the Falcons are the first in this conference to get three wins. There are eight teams with a record of 2-1 including the biggest threats, the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers, the Carolina Panthers, and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are even at 1-1 due to the early bye week from a hurricane. There are four teams at 1-2 including most surprisingly the Seattle Seahawks who lost to the Titans. Two teams are without a win, the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.

The Kansas City Chiefs look like the best team in football. They started off by beating the Super Bowl Champions and continued their streak this season against the Los Angeles Chargers. Eight teams occupy the 2-1 including the Steelers and Ravens who both lost, the Broncos and Raiders who are behind the Chiefs in the AFC West, and the Jaguars who beat the Ravens in London. The Dolphins are even after the hurricane bye week. Three teams are 1-2 including the poor Texans who couldn't hack it against the Patriots. The Chargers, Brown, and my local Bengals are all without a win.

Finally, this week actually made the boring national anthem a little entertaining because the moronic leader of the free world attacked players for peacefully protesting police brutality. There are plenty of people who have written very interesting articles on the debate and I look forward to these athletes with their platform bringing this controversy to the attention of NFL viewers. The false patriotism of the president and others is a dull lie that they will push to help them stay in power for as long as possible and steal as much as they can. Everything is political these days, especially sports.   

Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers III

This movie couldn't get into theaters in any normal way so I had to catch it at a Fathom event. The experience at the theater was surprising but also rather annoying as it was packed from some strange Jeepers Creepers fanbase that loved to talk during the quiet parts and laugh during the horror. The film itself had an interesting enough story to entertain for two hours with the benefit of a ton of jump scares. The Creeper (Jonathan Breck) returns or maybe he never left as this film picks up directly after the first film. The police surround the Creeper's deadly truck full of booby traps. Sgt. Tubbs (Brandon Smith) calls for the truck to be impounded but they don't realize the Creeper will want the truck back. Sheriff Tashtego (Stan Shaw) leads an elite group that hunts the Creeper.

The film quality looked terrible and most of the acting was rough. The Creeper returns to get his truck and kills one of the officers transporting. On a farm, an old woman Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster) continues to see her dead son much to the dismay of her granddaughter Addison (Gabrielle Haugh). The women are poor and can't afford to feed the horse Addison refuses to sell. Gaylen tries to tell Addison to leave the farm because she is warned by her dead son's ghost that the Creeper is coming. Addison goes to buy hay on credit from Buddy Hooks (Chester Rushing) and his father but stops at her friend's house where her jerk brother Kirk (Ryan Moore) keeps a rabbit trapped in a cage. 

Kirk and his friends go biking and find the Creeper's truck with the license plate BEATNGU. They mess around with it and discover the traps but the Creeper descends on them and kills all of them but Kirk. Addison tags along with Buddy to sell hay at a rich guy's house but the Creeper is there killing people. The monster steals away Addison and puts her in his truck without killing her. Gaylen digs up a hand that still moves and when she touches it, she is shown what the creature truly is. Tashtego also touches the hand but the budget would not allow us to see what he saw. The elite group tries to stop the Creeper in his truck but bullets bounce off the exterior and kill the shooters. The Creeper kills Tashtego in a silly scene and Sgt. Tubbs runs away. 

The Creeper returns to his truck. Kirk had tried to escape but when he pulled the handle, a bolt shot out and split open his skull. Addison uses the same trap to split open the Creeper though it doesn't kill him, it does allow Addison to run off. The Creeper returns to the spot where his hand was buried and finds a sign from Gaylen. The film ends with a voiceover and Trish is the source of the voice saying that she is ready to take on the Creeper as it rises for its next 23 days of horror. Also, it shows Buddy getting on the bus that leads to the second film as the third film is supposed to take place between the first and the second.

This film seemed like an attempt to revive a series that had long since died in a foolish yet inexpensive way. The crowd makes me think that maybe there would be an audience to see a wide release somewhat moderately budgeted fourth film and I would be curious to see what happens in the Creeper's return. I'm glad that they didn't completely disregard the second film but I don't remember Buddy but that could be easily explained without any huge leap in logic. The film had some decent scares and crazy gore to be expected from the series but a noticeable decrease in quality. 

Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers II

The Creeper (Jonathan Breck) returns to terrorize a group of young high schoolers on the empty highway. The monster comes out to hunt for 23 days every 23 years and on his final day he wants to eat as many people as it can especially after having to burn its dreadful mosaic of human flesh in the first film. The opening scene shows the Creeper stealing the son of the farmer Jack Taggart Sr. (Ray Wise). The farmer then starts to assemble weapons to hunt down the beast after finding one of the Creeper's weapons. Meanwhile, a school of football jocks who just won the state championship speed down the highway in a yellow school bus until one of their tires bursts. Coach Hanna (Thom Gossom Jr.), Coach Barnes (Tom Tarantini), and bus driver Betty (Diane Delano) discover a strange weapon made of bone with a human tooth in the center.

On the bus, a radio hints at the events from the first film. The students hang around and we get introduced to a racist football star Scotty (Eric Nenninger), his girlfriend Rhonda (Marieh Delfino), an actual football star Deaundre (Garikayi Mutambirwa), and the school paper journalist Izzy (Travis Schiffner) who everyone accuses of gay. The film doesn't go for subtlety and the acting is terrible so the only redemption is we know that most of these people will be killed shortly. There are other students but the other cheerleader Minxie (Nicki Aycox) has a vision of the victim from the first film Darry pointing into a field. The coaches and bus driver get the bus going again but another foul weapon stops it at night. 

The Creeper picks off the coaches first and then starts sniffing around the bus picking which students it wants to eat. The students phones don't work but they manage to hail Taggart who starts to look on them on the long highway. The Creeper starts to pick off kids bursting through the roof but Rhonda throws a javelin through its eye. The monster pulls the javelin out of the side of its head and falls over on the roof. The students thinks its dead but can't get off the bus. The Creeper shoots down a wing and rips off a football player's head using it to fix his own. The students make a run for it while only a few stay on the bus. The Creeper swoops down and kills Scotty after using his weapons.

Minxie escapes and runs into Taggart who has created a harpoon from his drilling machine. Taggart and his son fight the creature hitting it a few times but it still manages to fly off. Izzy, Rhonda, and Deaundre run to a truck and the Creeper flies after them. Izzy slams on the brakes after pushing Rhonda out and Deaundre is thrown from the truck. The Creeper is mutilated from the accident and jumps after Deuandre with only an arm and a leg. It neaarly kills Deaundre when Taggart hits it with a spear. The Creeper goes into hibernation just as Taggart stabs it multiple times. The end shows Taggart Sr. much older waiting for the Creeper to wake up again 23 years later.

Jeepers Creepers II expanded on the legend of the Creeper and added plenty more gory horror to the budding series. This film appeared to be the last in the series at it offered a sort of conclusion but probably wasn't a box office success. I remember finding the movie pretty freaky and scary with the relentless terror of the students. The Creeper is a lot more visible though it has never been very shy. It does a lot more morphing in this and we don't see its creepy truck anywhere. I enjoyed revisiting this campy horror film and find the story of the Creeper intriguing. 

Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers

The vicious monster debuts in this indie horror classic hunting a brother and sister on a terrifying road trip. Trish (Gina Philips) and Darry (Justin Long) are driving back from college when they are nearly run off the road by a creepy looking truck. The siblings see the strange man later dumping wrapped bodies down a hole near a church. They drive by but the man nearly runs them off the road again. Darry decides that they should go back and find out if anyone needs their help down in the hole despite Trish's misgiving. Darry crawls down thinking he hears voices and sees movement but slips out of Trish's grip when rats come out. Darry finds a house of horror below with dead bodies sewn together in an awful mosaic.

The brother and sister speed out of there as fast as they can and make it to a diner where they ask for help. Everyone thinks they're crazy except the payphone suddenly rings. On the other line is Jezelle (Patricia Belcher) who has seen a vision of Darry or Trish suffering under the torture of the Creeper (Jonathan Breck). She warns them that they will hear the 50's song Jeepers Creepers before it attacks. The police show up and they try to explain what they saw to the skeptical officers. The patrons see a strange man sniffing Darry's close in the back of the car but when the cops try to get fingerprints, they only find dead skin. The cops also investigate the strange church near the horror hole but find it on fire.

The cops escort Trish and Darry to the station but the Creeper attacks and kills the officers by slicing off their heads. Trish speeds away but the creeper is on their trail. They stop at an old cat lady's house but the Creeper pretends to be a scarecrow. He kills the old lady and chases Trish and Darry. They get back in the car and run him over multiple times until he sprouts wings. They hit him once more and speed off to the police station. They ask for help and call their parents but Jezelle shows up to warn them that they will die. The power goes out in the police station and an officer discovers the Creeper eating an inmate in a cell.

The Creeper starts picking off the police as Darry, Trish, and Jezelle try to escape. Jezelle knows which one of them it will take but she is never sure about her visions and can't think of a way to escape. The Creeper attacks them and while Darry and Trich run, Jezelle kneels down and prays. The Creeper sniffs her but doesn't eat her. It goes after Trish and Darry finally catching them and sniffing them both. It decides on Darry even though Trish begs it to take her. It flies off to tear apart Darry in a forsaken factory while Trish is left to struggle as a survivor. 

Jeepers Creepers scared the hell out of me when I was younger. It's short and sweet and packs quite a punch. It is filled with plenty of scenes where the characters stare stupidly as the monster advances or a car never starting until the last minute. There are frustrating moments but also plenty of terror and gore to satisfy fans of the genre. The monster is the most appealing part for me as he has a bunch of cool weaponry and can fly. He can flip around and regenerates by consuming his victims. I thought this franchise was dead but like the Creeper, it has regenerates years later.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

TV Show Review: Ballers (Season 3)

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson returns to HBO for another season as the stressed out money manager Spencer Strasmore. His ambition grows this year with an ultimate goal of bringing a football team to Las Vegas. His clients have an endless list of problems that demand his attention at the same time and Spencer relies on his partner Joe (Rob Corddry) to help him solve them but Joe doesn't always have the best solutions. Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) is trying to move to a new team, the Patriots, but is suffering some mental lapses. Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller) has complications working in the front office for the Miami Dolphins. Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter) has been a troublesome client with his best friend Reggie (London Brown) and are getting into even more trouble when they invest in a weed business. 

All of these troubles are only magnified when Spencer's ambitious venture causes the lead to take stricter action against his clients. Ricky's mistake of entering another person's house and assaulting the teenage kid inside is made public. Vernon is drug tested by the NFL. Jason (Troy Garity) the agent recruits some new clients that have a unique way of testing their representation. Charles clashes with the GM Larry Siefert (Dulé Hill) and his wife Julie (Jazmyn Simon) doesn't always come up with the best solution. Mr. Anderson (Richard Schiff) becomes involved in the Vegas venture trying to woo wealthy investors including his brother. 

Spencer heads out to Las Vegas to sway politicians and landowners dining with the wealthy and sleeping with his girlfriend Chloe (Serinda Swan) who works for the billionaire Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg). Spencer also clashes with the NFL representative Candace (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who sees profit for herself in the move to Vegas. Spencer and Joe travel all over from New York to Las Vegas to Oakland to San Francisco to woo billionaires and achieve the seemingly impossible. They are called back to deal with the troubles of their clients as Ricky contemplates leaving the sports and Vernon transfers to Virtual Reality.

The team has to sell the company to get enough capital to buy the stadium but this causes strife since they are loyal to their employees. Spencer has one last ditch effort to convince the owners at a meeting to move the Raiders to Vegas but his faces betrayal for Wayne Hastings and Candace. Ricky finally decides to leave football and be a father. Charles makes the right moves to overthrow Siefert but decides to strike out on his own on another team. Vernon gets back into the swing of things in training camp more experienced with controversy. Spencer tries to keep the Raiders in Oakland but the owners decide the move could be profitable. Joe and Spencer are able to retain the company and even expand at the end of the season ending on a positive note.

Ballers is a fun comedy to comedown after the intensity of the best hour on television. The comedy is always wild and the utter shameless display of wealth is fun to watch. Dwayne Johnson is truly a super star and it's amazing how he juggles this show and all of his blockbuster projects. It looks like the show will continue on for a fourth season and while it isn't an award winner, it is usually an enjoyable half hour. HBO needs another boys' club of wild riches and Ballers has taken the reigns on that genre.  

Sports: College Football (Week 4)

I'm writing a shorter post this week and will post it a bit late as there wasn't too much movement in the top-10 rankings of college football teams. This week brought some of the first competitive conference games that could have repercussions for the playoffs while other ranked teams survived an upset. 
The biggest upset of the week and a major change for the Big 12 was TCU's defeat of the Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs beat the Cowboys 44-31 while Oklahoma State had home-field advantage. As a result, the Cowboys dropped nine positions from sixth to fifteenth. The undefeated Horned Frogs jumped up seven positions into the top ten at ninth. Oklahoma dodged an embarrassing upset from Baylor and remain in third. TCU facing 23West Virginia will be interesting in two weeks after a bye. 
UGA has faced two tough challenges already this season and proven that they are a top ten team. They beat 17Mississippi State 31-3 pushing them up to seventh place. Mississippi State dropped down to 24th. Georgia will face a SEC East challenge against Tennessee next week, a team that lost to Florida, the other SEC East challenger.
In a game that was more significant to me that college football overall, the Florida Gators came back from being down two touchdowns to win their 31st game in a row against the Kentucky Wildcats. It was a heartbreaker for Kentucky when the team was forced out of winning field goal position by a holding penalty and let two receivers uncovered to allow to comeback touchdowns.
Alabama remains at the top of the rankings with a blowout win 59-0 against Vanderbilt. They'll be able to cruise through the rest of the season only facing unranked or low ranked teams until the SEC Championship.

Games I'm looking forward to next week are a PAC-12 match between 5USC and 16Washington State, an ACC battle between 2Clemson and 12Virginia Tech, and a SEC West fight for second between 13Auburn and 24Mississippi State. Maybe next week or the week after I'll take a look at each conference as we start to see who is on top. 

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The heavily tailored British secret agents return under the direction of Matthew Vaughn for a more expansive and sillier mission that introduces an American equivalent agency and a new charismatic villain. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a full agent now and is confronted immediately by a ghost from his past, Charlie (Edward Holcroft) the failed recruit from the previous film. Charlie has a mechanical arm and is working with a group of killers. In a spectacular car chase, Eggsy escapes the attack and rushes to a friend's birthday party as Charlie's mechanical arm comes alive in the back of the car and hacks into the Kingsman's database. Eggsy is still dating the Scandinavian princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) in one of the less interesting parts of the new film.

The villainous drug lord Poppy (Julianne Moore) resides in a secret compound amongst ancient ruins designed to pay tribute to 1950s nostalgia, her obsession. She has even gone so far as to capture Elton John, a humorous cameo, She is especially ruthless making new member grind their colleagues in a meat grinder and eat the resulting patty in a burger. She also tattoos her henchmen with a gold tattoo that gives the Kingsman a clue. However, before the investigation can take off, all the Kingsman locations are blown up with a missile. Only Eggsy and the tech genius Merlin (Mark Strong) survive the assault. They activate the doomsday protocol which leads them to a secret compartment containing only a bottle of Kentucky bourbon from the Statesman distillery. The two agents drink the bottle and realize they are supposed to go to Kentucky. Somehow this involves the John Denver song that Merlin loves.

In Kentucky, Eggsy and Merlin invade the Statesman distillery looking for a secret compartment. They are confronted by the shotgun-toting Statesman agent Tequila (Channing Tatum). He's suspicious of the two British agents and reveals that they have Harry Hart (Colin Firth) stuck in a padded cell. Tequila threatens to kill him until Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) confirms their story. Ginger frees the two agents who confront Harry but he has no memory of ever being part of the Kingsman. The Kingsman meet the leader of the Statesman, Champagne (Jeff Bridges). Together, they decide to track down Charlie's girlfriend Clara (Poppy Delevingne). Poppy's plot involves any drug user breaking out with blue veins and this includes Tequila who is sidelined from this mission. Instead, Eggsy teams up with the lasso-toting Statesman Whiskey (Pedro Pascal).

Eggsy seduces Clara causing a rift with Tilde but manages to place a tracker in her mucous membrane tracing her to a secret snowy hilltop hideout in Italy. The film stalls a bit in this middle act and skirts the same political brashness of the previous film eschewing from displaying but depicting an alternate evil US President (Bruce Greenwood) when Poppy makes her global threat of killing all illegal drugs users if her product isn't legalized. The cure is located in the Italy hideout and Whiskey, Eggsy and Harry all head out though Harry is still dealing with the effects of having his brain restored after taking a bullet to the brain in the first film. The action is pretty fun in this part and Harry suspects that Whiskey is a double agent so he shoots him in the head. 

The finale has Harry, Merlin and Eggsy rushing to Poppy's secret lair as more people are affected by the blue vein illness including Tilde. The Kingsman suit up to assault the compound but Merlin sacrifices himself on a mine allowing Eggsy and Harry to attack. The final battle sees Harry against robot dogs and Eggsy against the mechanical armed Charlie. The action is still very entertaining and fun to watch as the Kingsman foil the plot. Whiskey does turn out to be a double agent making for more cool fighting. The plot wraps up a little too easily and the film feels a little long. This Kingsman sequel has some flaws and feels more cartoonish but the action is still fun and the glib sense of humor has decent punchlines. The huge cast feels crowded and some big names are underused, especially Halle Berry and Channing Tatum. I hope the series continues after the decent box office weekend because I'd be interested to see where they go but the series did feel like it is running out of steam. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

The adaptation of Mark Millar's off-the-wall spy comedy came to life with humor and action under the brilliant direction of Matthew Vaughn. The film begins with two prologues, one that shows the Kingsman spy group including Harry Hart (Colin Firth) aka Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) assaulting a terrorist spy group only to lose a member to a suicide bomber. Another agent Lancelot (Jack Davenport) completes his training during this mission but is killed in the second prologue seventeen years later on a mission in Argentina to save Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill). The deadly Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) sliced Lancelot in half at the behest of her boss Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who is afraid of blood and disgusted by violence. The recruiting process for a new Kingsman begins including the grown-up son of the agent that died years ago, Eggsy (Taron Egerton).

Eggsy is a troublemaker living with his mom and her abusive boyfriend. He steals the car from thugs but ends up in jail needing help. He calls the number on a mysterious medallion and says "Oxford, not brogues". He's let out of prison and picked up by Harry who shows him his fighting skills in the pub when the same thugs try to bully Eggsy. Galahad recruits Eggsy into the new process by scaring off Eggsy's abusive stepfather using a microphone in a bug. At the Kingsman tailor shop, Harry shows Eggsy the potential of the secret service agency. Underground, Harry and Eggsy travel across England and Eggsy joins the recruiting process.

Eggsy meets the other recruits including Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and other wealthy jerks. Valentine moves forward with his plan recruiting important people like President Obama and Scandinavian royalty while implanting chips in free phones. The training includes the room flooding while the recruits are sleeping and adopting a puppy that they will later have to kill. Eggsy think he picks a bulldog but it's really a pug. Harry confronts Professor Arnold but the professor's head explodes and Harry barely escapes. Time passes as Harry recovers, Valentine moves forward kidnapping those who defy him, and Eggsy makes it to the final six candidates.

The next training event includes a dangerous parachute competition that lands Eggsy and Roxy in the final three. Harry investigates Valentine but drinks a tracker and falls for a ploy. Eggsy manages not to snitch on the Kingsman taking him to the final round but he's unable to kill his puppy so he's knocked out of the training. Roxy takes the position of Lancelot. Harry follows Valentine to Kentucky where a violent altercation with a church infected by Valentine's aural virus leads to Harry being killed. Eggsy watches the carnage through Harry's glasses and confronts the leader of the Kingsman Arthur (Michael Caine) who has betrayed the agency. Eggsy teams up with Roxy and Merlin to foil Valentine's plot.

Roxy floats up into the atmosphere to destroy Valentine's satellite he plans to use to transmit the signal that causes people to kill each other. Eggsy and Merlin use Arthur's chip to infiltrate Valentine's secret lair. Eggsy is outed by a failed recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) but Eggsy escapes but not before he's given Merlin access to the system. They stop the first satellite but Valentine manages to recruit another only needing to get into the right position. Eggsy heads back into the lair fighting off the guards. It looks dire but Merlin triggers the implants, which leads to everyone's head exploding in a colorfully goofy sequence. Valentine still sets the signal off making people around the world break out into violence. Eggsy has to fight Gazelle and only manages to beat her with the neurotoxin in his shoe. He uses her razor-sharp leg to spear Valentine in the heart and stops the chaos. Kingsman is a nice mixture of humor and over the top action making for one of my favorite movies of 2014 and a top spy film.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

TV Show Review: Bojack Horseman (Season 4)

The depressed and narcissistic horse who was once famous for a television career is back with another hilarious season of hijinks and interesting storytelling. Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett) has left his life in Los Angeles behind to hideout in an abandoned house of his grandparents while keeping up a bender of alcohol and drugs. Bojack has really escalated in the past few seasons and it is so funny with thousands of witty jokes each season. The show also has a nice mixture of drama from these outrageous characters. Bojack's struggle with addiction is traced back from his upbringing under the harsh criticism of his mother Beatrice (Wendie Malick). The history of Beatrice Sugarman and how she came to be a mother is slowly told through flashbacks and a full episode of jumping memories near the end of the season.

Without Bojack's presence initially, the other characters move on in their own way. Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) is the only one wondering where Bojack is and she constantly leaves him messages about what is happening in her life. She is working at a blog desperate for clicks while trying to write more serious stories. Her husband Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) has decided on a whim to run for governor of California against the current governor Woodchuck Coochuck-Berkowitz (Andre Braugher). Lampooning of politics can feel too limited with the absurdity of what's actually going on, but Mr. Peanutbutter silly commitments to issues like fracking cause hilarious hijinks. When he agrees to frack in his backyard, his house collapses into a hole while he hosts a celebrity donor party.

Todd (Aaron Paul) is coping with the discovery that he is asexual while trying to help everyone out. Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) is hoping to conceive a child with her lover the mouse Ralph (Raúl Esparza). She's also trying to help her client Courtney Portnoy (Sharon Horgan) which leads to a lot of hilarious alliteration. A serious topic addressed in one episode revolves around the complications between promoting a violent film during this awful time of frequent mass shootings. The show does its best to make a sickening subject somewhat humorous but it mostly falls flat. Also arriving during Bojack's absence is Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) who believes she's Bojack's daughter. Even though this review touches on Bojack's absence he returns by episode three only to return to his terrible habits of drinking, drug use, and pushing away everyone he knows. 

The search for Hollyhock's mother is the main thread of this season and culminates in two awesome final episodes that had me crying and laughing at the same time. Mr. Peantbutter's campaign comes to an end when he realizes he's not leadership material but Jessica Biel, in a hilarious cameo, starts a campaign against Woodchuck who has new hands bringing down his public appeal. Princess Carolyn loses her baby but somehow we know she'll have descendants remembering her in the future. Bojack comes to terms with his mother and discovers the true identity of Hollyhock's mother only to land a new series lead on a new streaming platform, What time is it now? 

This show is great and my disjointed and forgetful review doesn't quite do it justice. The wild plots like Todd's and Mr. Peanutbutter's venture into clown dentists that goes horribly wrong or Bojack's coping with depression make certain episodes stick out and the conclusion of this series one of the best yet. I would encourage anyone with an open sense of humor to check it out and definitely get past the first season as the show really picks up in the second and is peaking in these last two seasons. It's easy to binge at 30 minutes an episode and the humor is lightning quick but pulls a lot of pop culture references that may go over some people's heads who are not as buried in the current zeitgeist of the Hollywood elite. They've announced a new season and this will be a pleasant return to one of Netflix's top comedies. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 2)

The professional football season moves on to the second week. The first game of this week pushed a team I root for, the Cincinnati Bengals, into an emergency situation because they have not scored a single touchdown in the first eight quarters of their season. The Houston Texans take the Thursday Night Football game with an impressive performance by Deshaun Watson, from the championship Clemson Tigers, who ran for a touchdown at the end of the second half.
It's still hard to tell which teams are going to breakout but it is pretty clear that some teams don't have what it takes this year. The champion New England Patriots got their first win of the season over the New Orleans Saints.
The Steelers and Ravens both got a win to go up 2-0 in the AFC North. The Broncos and Chiefs did the same thing in the AFC West. The Panthers got their second win possibly making another run to the Super Bowl after a rough 2016 but making it here and losing in 2015. Their biggest competition will be the Atlanta Falcons who won the Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Detroit Lions took the Monday Night Football game over the New York Giants putting Detroit into the lead of the NFC North.
The season is still early so it will be easier to spot who is a playoff contender in the upcoming weeks. I might break down the league by division next week if I can spot a leader in each one but as of now, there are a few teams still at the top and other with an even record. Exciting games coming up are from the teams highlight above the Falcons vs the Lions, both undefeated, and the Patriots vs Texans, an AFC playoff rematch. 

TV Show Review: The Strain (Season 4)

A show that had once seemed really interesting turned into a bit of a chore to watch even as it moved toward a finale. There were enjoyable points throughout the four seasons like the nuclear blast in New York City. The show picks up with the repercussions of this wild finale and sets the stage for the human characters last stand against the strigoi. I really don't like that name when this show was first advertised as a viral vampire horror. In my season three review, I expressed my dismay with the choice and mentioned the clumsiness of the dialogue with this terminology. I got over it somewhat this time around but the show still has pretty cheesy dialogue, though the special effects could be impressive at points, like the creepy tentacle tongues that coming out of the enlarged mouths of the creatures.

Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the epidemiologist is hiding out in the wasteland of New York after his son Zach (Max Charles) the most annoying character on television set off a nuclear bomb. The strigoi run the city putting up a front that humans only need to donate blood to avoid trouble. Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) knows the truth as she works at a human baby farm where pregnant women are forced to give birth to strigoi slaves. Zach now lives under the direction of Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) who has becomes possessed by the master. Thomas Eichorst (Richard Sammel) carries out the master's will by setting up concentration camps.

Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand) has left New York City and lives out in the flyover states hunting strigoi with Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones). The show goes into the backstory of Quinlan and the Strain is often at its worst when it tries to show backstory. Still, Quinlan is a highlight of the show with his abilities making for some of the best action as he works with Vasiliy to obtain a nuclear bomb. They eventually commandeer a plan and return to New York with the weapon. Ephraim has discovered the evil plan of the master and his strigoi to farm humans and he sets out to learn the awful truth. Eldritch Palmer tries to foil Vasiliy's plan but they manage to escape before he can stop them.

Dutch saves Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) who was sick in a hospital under a different identity. She meets up with Ephraim and Vasilly joins them. Gus (Miguel Gomez) was working with a group of mercenaries to steal food from the strigoi slaves but they run into some trouble especially when Alonso (Jamie Hector) betrays him and tries to side with the master. The show works toward a confrontation revolving mainly around Zach and Ephraim. Zach has a love interest who turns him down and the master turns the girl into a strigoi, but that was one of the weaker stories of the season. Eventually, the master sends Zach out to trick Ephraim though Dr. Goodweather does not fall for it. The finale sees the heroes trying to set off one last bomb to kill the master.

Quinlan fights the master but loses only weakening his current physical form before Quinlan dies. The master orders Zach to kill Ephraim but Zach has an attack of conscience and refuses. The master vomits the infectious worms into Ephraim's mouth rendering all the zombie-like strigoi motionless and allowing Vasiliy and Dutch to escape. As the master takes over Ephraim's body, Zach seeks forgiveness for his evil ways and ruining the show by becoming the ultimate savior and setting off the nuclear bomb. The show wraps up quickly with the strigoi being wiped out and the atmosphere healing itself. Vasiliy returns to his extermination job and has a neat little voiceover to end it all.

The Strain really plummeted in quality or maybe was never that good in the first place. The apocalypse was slow moving and bizarre and at times the horror was decent enough to make up for the mediocre acting and odd plotting. The Strain has long been overshadowed by better genre shows but still made it to four seasons. It started as an exciting horror show with the mind of Guillermo Del Toro behind it but deflated until it was just a silly mess. There was always potential and characters like Ephraim, Quinlan, Setrakian, Dutch, Gus, and Eichorst but never lived up to the promise. 

Movie Review: American Assassin

The novels by Vince Flynn create a compelling character that hopes to transfer to cinema as some of his other spy predecessors have before. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) has an interesting origin story that is controversial in this day and age and glossed over quite a lot in the film. In a brutal opening scene, Rapp experiences awful tragedy while vacationing on a beach in Spain with his fiancé to whom he just purposed. Terrorists invade the beach and kill his fiancé and shoot him. The story jumps forward 18 months where Rapp is in a dark place, training at MMA and shooting at the gun range. I have only read the first part of the first book but could already spot significant differences that change the tone of the story and make Rapp out to be a little more of a loose cannon than a future secret agent.

Somehow, his odd behavior and fraternizing with terrorists leads him to a cell that the CIA could not find. He is about to attack when a task force swoops him to save him. Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) has been watching Rapp and decided that he would be perfect for a secret program known as Orion. After interrogating him for a few days, she takes him out to a secret training facility in Virginia led by the older spy Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The major plot starts to develop as nuclear material goes missing and a renegade American spy Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) is seen making mysterious deals. Ghost was trained by Hurley and hold a grudge against his former tutor.

The training sequence is rushed as Rapp confronts another trainee Victor (Scott Adkins) as they tussle in the forest and train in a warehouse using special goggles. The threat of the nuclear bomb grows to the point that Hurley has to deploy his team in the field including Rapp, though he is understandably reluctant after Ghost turned out to be such a rotten apple. The group goes after the seller of a nuclear trigger and the physicist who set it up with the help of another agent, Annika (Shiva Negar) who has been in the field for years. The mission goes haywire when Ghost kills Victor but Rapp disobeys orders and hunts down the seller, learning more about the nefarious plan and capturing the physicist. Hurley is reluctant to share his knowledge even after Ghost ambushes them.

There was a neat little twist with Annika's true identity but it doesn't affect the plot that much. Ghost manages to get the drop on Hurley and there is a great sequence of acting between Kitsch and Keaton as Ghost tortures Hurley. The film follows a pretty generic track with not a ton of surprises. The action is decent enough and equivalent to some of the lesser spy thrillers. O'Brien does a good job with the hand-to-hand combat and the budget doesn't skimp too much on the explosive effects. I would have liked to have seen a car chase but there is a neat fight scene on a boat between Ghost and Rapp.

American Assassin probably won't spark a new franchise with a middling box office on its premiere weekend and I won't be surprised if it drops off rapidly with another more tried and true spy franchise sequel coming onto the scene this upcoming weekend. The story seems a little off and the politics of the Iran nuclear deal seem shortsighted. The logic is a bit of a stretch as well. Still, O'Brien was charismatic enough though he does look a little too similar to Kitsch causing some confusion in dark scenes that switch between the characters. Keaton is back in action and I always enjoy seeing him on the screen. I'd also like to see Sanaa Lathan in more movies though she didn't get to do as much in this story. Shiva Negar was also impressive as a newcomer. American Assassin is enjoyable and I'm glad it introduced me to the writing of Vince Flynn.

TV: 69th Primetime Emmy Awards

CBS broadcast the 69th Emmy Awards and the late-night host Stephen Colbert led the comedic event. I was switching over to the football game so I missed most of the sketches and the opening monologue but I'll mainly be focused on the award winners and probably won't publish this until the day after due to time constraints. I always like to discover new shows from the Emmys and see which shows that I've enjoyed receive recognition. There is so much television out there that I think the task of finding a single show to triumph seems near impossible but these awards will certainly put a spotlight on excellence. 

Outstanding Drama Series: The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
I enjoyed this show a lot, it's haunting and depressing and well-deserving of the victory. The Handmaid's Tale pushes Hulu into the mainstream as a serious streaming service snatching the big award before Netflix who has been trying for it a bit long. Netflix had three shows and I thought The Crown but more so Stranger Things might snatch it. The only other competitor was This Is Us, the tearjerker NBC drama. Better Call Saul was definitely one of my favorite show but something about it makes me forget at year's end. House of Cards needs to fall off this list as it is no longer entertainingg and it was foolish of HBO to put forward Westworld instead of the awesome show, The Leftovers. 

Outstanding Comedy Series: Veep (HBO)
Veep wins again. I had finally caught up on all these episodes before this latest season and while I found the show funny, I didn't think it was quite the caliber of earlier seasons. Atlanta was my favorite here and it had the momentum but for some reason, it did not take home the statue. Veep is on the way out and Atlanta won't be around for another year so maybe one more time around for the HBO political comedy before something new takes the throne. I haven't seen either of the network shows, black-ish and Modern Family. I enjoyed both of the Netflix series, Master of None and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and hope one day both these shows can rise. Silicon Valley is also hilarious and I'm curious what it will be like going forward.

Outstanding Limited Series: Big Little Lies
Not surprised by this wonderfully dark drama about domestic abuse and the small town gossip of mothers in a wealthy beachside neighborhood winning the top prize. Limited series has a bunch of great shows like Fargo, a weaker third season, and Feud: Bette and Joan, a winner in another year. The Night Of was also really moving. I didn't see Genius. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Elizabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
Elizabeth Moss played a great role in the most depressing show of the year and her voiceover was one of the best parts. I need to see Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder. Claire Foy in The Crown will be a growing role though I think she's only in it for one more season. Evan Rachel Wood was the best part of Westworld and Keri Russell also performs in The Americans. Robin Wright probably is the best part of House of Cards and her rise to power should lead to a great series finale.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC)
Sterling K. Brown as the businessman seeking out his father delivered something that so easily brought tears to my eyes that it will be hard to forget for some time. It's too bad his speech got cut off. His costar Milo Ventimiglia was the only other star I could have seen winning. Kevin Spacey has won before, I think, but should be wrapping up his role next year or so. Liev Schreiber keeps getting nominated but I don't see him ever winning, though I do like the show. Bob Odenkirk should win when he comes to the end of his brilliant performance as Saul aka Jimmy. Matthew Rhys might take it next year of The Americans series finale really stuns.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus takes the award again for what may be her last or next-to-last as she approaches the series finale. Pamela Adlon could take over this spot but I've yet to start the second season and Elle Kemper may always be nominated but never win. I haven't seen any of the other nominees.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)
I thought Donald Glover's win would lead to a win for the show but just recognition for the actor came this year. Glover also took home a director award. Jeffrey Tambor has been the favorite but was usurped this year. Aziz Ansari might have taken it if the other two weren't around. William H. Macy's Frank will be a steady nominee and his role is so funny. So is Zach Galifianakis as the bumbling clown. Anthony Anderson reminds me that I need to bing black-ish one day soon. 
Outstanding Lead Actress in a  Limited Series: Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies (HBO)

It was a tossup between Nicole Kidman or her costar Reese Witherspoon but Kidman's harrowing storyline won out. The subjects of the Feud led to two great performance between Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange that would have won in another year. Felicity Huggman in American Crime is on my watchlist.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series: Riz Ahmed, The Night Of (HBO)
Riz Ahmed was brilliant in this dark series and he was helped by his costar John Turturro who also won. The only other performance I saw was Ewan McGregor as twins in Fargo.
Other Awards: The supporting Drama roles went to streaming shows, Ann Dowd for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale and John Lithgow for Netflix's The Crown. In limited series supporting roles, Laura Dern won for her supporting role as the angry mother Renata on Big Little Lies (HBO) as well as Alexander Skarsgård as the abusive husband in the same show. Supporting comedy roles were dominated by SNL with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon taking home statues. Another great win was San Junipero from BlackMirror for best TV movie, Charlie Brooker had one of the best acceptance speeches. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

TV Show Review: One Mississippi (Season 2)

When I heard that Tig Notaro's series was coming back for a second season, I put it at the top of the list for me to catch up and watch. I burned through the first season laughing out loud at every episode and the quirky behavior f Tig's family. In the first season, Tig returns to Mississippi from Los Angeles to attend her mother's funeral. The second season sees Tig returning permanently to live with her stepfather Bill (John Rothman) whose strange habits grate on her nerves but also amuse her. Her brother Remy (Noah Harpster) still lives upstairs and struggles with his dating life. Tig also has a new romantic interest, her coworker Kate (Stephanie Allynne). Kate is not sure of her sexuality and reluctant to date Tig.

Even Bill, who lives such a strict lifestyle, has met someone he can bond with when he has a medical emergency on the elevator and Felicia (Sheryl Lee Ralph), a woman who works in the same building, escorts him to the hospital. Remy finds his best opportunity to meet someone is at church and first, he attends a Vietnamese church where a nurse he met at his Civil War reenactment attends. However, when another performer says something racist, Remy doesn't stand up for her, and this is a major infraction in the time of Trump. Remy attends another church where he meets Desiree (Carly Jibson) a loud single mother with some interesting opinions. Remey and Desiree hit it off and she moves in almost immediately.

Tig finds it frustrating that she can't sway Kate so she finds other opportunities to date, not always easy in Mississippi. The sponsors on the radio show also start to go away as Tig touches on complicated topics like molestation. Kate and Tig have to seek out a new station to work at but there are plenty of jerks that work there too. Each characters' relationship moves forward, Kate jealous of Tig's other dates, Desiree sharing space with Remy, and Bill learning the horrors of institutional racism and slavery. Bill is very particular about his living area and not always great at confrontation so Desiree's boisterous nature clashes with his lifestyle.

The episodes are short and so it the season, which is tough, but also shows how effective Tig is at creating great characters. I enjoyed every part of these shows and the intrigue of relationships elevates this season above the original. Kate has a terrible experience at their radio station when their boss masturbates with her in the office. There is no action taken by the owners and this infuriates Tig and Kate. Tig doesn't share Kate's story but does get brutally honest on her radio show causing Bill and Remy to come to terms with what they allowed to happen by looking the other way. Tig does manage to convince Kate to come have dinner and spend the night and the show ends with a new relationship forming.  

One Mississippi was a really pleasant surprise and I'll have to seek out more of Tig Notaro's standup because this show was hilarious. Rothman's Bill is a highlight of the show as the compulsive stepfather and Harpster's Remy gets good jokes in there too. The show does not shy away from tough issuesbut approaches them head on with wit and resilience. The show is not for ht faint at heart but is well worth the short amount of time it takes to binge on Amazon Prime. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sports: College Football (Week 3)

Most of my college football watching this weekend will focus on two games that will give me a snapshot of two conferences: the SEC, mostly the SEC East, and the ACC. I'll keep an eye out for any upsets but this week continues the mismatched games that occur frequently in the early part of the season. The first game that I'll watch will be the Florida Gators taking on the Tennessee Volunteers. The winner of this game will fight with the Georgia Bulldogs for the top of the SEC East. The other game I'll watch is the primetime battle between the Clemson Tigers and the Louisville Cardinals.

All the way to the third quarter of the SEC battle saw only three field goals, two from Florida and one from Tennessee. The Gators got the first touchdown, only their third of the season, with a pick six. So far, the Gators had only defense touchdowns. The Gators could have taken the game even further away but a goal-line fumble turned a touchdown into a touchback. The Volunteers scored a touchdown but a penalty gave Florida good position to respond. Tennessee scored again pushing this to a three-point game in the final minutes. Tennessee nearly scored but their trouble at the goal line continued but their three missed field goals did not last as they tied the game at 20 points. Looking like the game would go into overtime, Florida threw a long pass for a final second touchdown and the win.

The ACC match featured two high-powered offenses that exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter. A costly penalty for Clemson weakened the secondary and helped Louisville score. However, the evenly matched first quarter led to Clemson taking the reigns and running away with the game. I only stuck around for about the first half and early third quarter before it looked like there was no turning back for Louisville. The Clemson Tigers have thoroughly established their dominance in the ACC.
Looking around the league, most of the ranked teams won but there were some upsets. Mississippi State beat 12LSU putting into question who would be second behind Alabama in the SEC West. Vanderbilt upset 18Kansas State as the Commodores could fight for the top of the SEC East while the Big 12 looks to be under the control of Oklahoma. The PAC-12 also had some late night turmoil as 19Stanford lost to San Diego State and 25UCLA lost to Memphis.

Next week, I'll keep an eye on Florida vs Kentucky, TCU vs Oklahoma State, Mississippi State vs Georgia, and UCLA vs Stanford. Not the most exciting week but conference play will really get underway so we'll start to see who dominates in their local regions. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie Review: mother!

Darren Aronofsky makes intense thrillers and his latest is no different. I had no idea what to expect from this film only seeing the cryptic trailer and seeing the film before the reviews. Since its release, mother! has been the source of opinions ranging from hatred to adoration. My opinion rests somewhere in the middle as I was entertained through the whole film and shocked at various moments while also disturbed and little letdown by the outrageous finale. Thinking about the film later, my opinion grows more favorable and it is the kind of film that one would continue to think about days or even weeks after seeing it. The film borders on horror even having a few jump scares that I usually enjoy in a film while also just being creepy and horrific through various scenes.

The film begins with a woman burning and then a man (Javier Bardem) placing a crystal on a stand. A house magically repairs from fire damage all through the room until it focuses on a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) in bed. She wakes up and searches the house. The camera constantly whirls around staying primarily focused on Lawrence and hardly ever going outside of the house. Bardem's character is a poet that can't seem to produce any work or have any affection towards his doting wife. She works to repair the house as he locks himself in his room struggling to prevent art. A mysterious orthopedic surgeon (Ed Harris) arrives at the house, claiming to think this house was a bed and breakfast, and the poet invites him to stay the night, much to the woman's chagrin.

The two men hit it off joking and drinking but the new guest is sick. The next day the guest's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up and boldly questions the owners' relationship, rudely throwing around their wet laundry and making herself at home. The surgeon invades the poet's writing room and breaks his precious crystal causing the woman to demand the guest couple to leave. They don't as the poet remains welcoming even when the guests' younger son (Brian Gleeson) shows up claiming that his older brother (Domhnall Gleeson) is angry about the will. The older brother shows up angry and chases the younger brother until he kills him right in front of Lawrence's character. The family and the poet leave the woman alone in the house to clean up the mess as they go to the hospital. She is terrorized by the older brother until the poet returns.

The movie goes off the rails as the poet invites more and more people for a wake for the young son. The guests destroy the house and invade their room and bed. Lawrence's character tries to get them to leave, though the Bardem's poet remains welcoming. They argue after everyone leaves and eventually make love impregnating the woman. The mother cleans the house as the poet discovers his ability to write again producing an acclaimed work. As the mother's belly grows, the poet's fame increases until the night they are celebrating with a quiet meal turns into a fan event and a book signing. The poet's manager (Kristen Wiig) arranges the event and continues to invite in adoring fans despite the mother's protest. The film gets even wilder as the crowds turn into riots and then all out war.

The mother births the baby but does not trust the poet to hold it. She tries to watch over it but falls asleep and the poet steals the child to bring out to her adoring crowds who take it and pass it around until they tear it apart and eat it in the most disturbing scene of the film. The mother is enraged and fights her way to the baby but the crowd beats her until the poet saves her. She breaks free and runs into the basement where oil leaks from a tank and she sets fire to the house. The process begins again after the poet harnesses the devotion from the mother's chest. The film is a mad metaphor heavy on the symbolism that isn't so desne or subtle about its message. I enjoyed most of it but foudn some parts a bit too strange. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

TV Show Review: Narcos (Season 3)

The intense Netflix takes an in-depth look at the drug trade backed up with plenty of history that illuminates the events of the story. With Pablo Escobar out of the picture, the Cali cartel takes over the drug trade in Columbia, led by the Cali godfathers. Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) is praised for his success in catching the biggest drug dealer in the world but feels stagnant in his hunt for these new men. The leader of the Cali cartel, Gilberto Orejuela (Damián Alcázar) gathers his fellow godfathers including Pacho Herrera (Alberton Ammann), Miguel Rodriguez (Francisco Denis), and Chepe Santacruz Londono (Pêpê Rapazote) to make a big announcement. The Cali cartel will surrender their drug trade peacefully to the government in six months but before they do, they will try to make as much money as they can to fund their legitimate businesses.

The Cali family's security is led by Jorge Salcedo (Matias Varela), at least he's second-in-command and plans to leave the drug business for his own legitimate security company. However, Miguel refuses his resignation and tells him that he has to stick around for the next six months. In Bogota, the DEA is having no luck and two DEA agents, Duffy (Shea Whigham) and Lopez (Nicholas Gonzalez) are busted doing an undercover operation without permission from the Columbian government. While the godfathers are bad, the worst villain in this season is Miguel's son David Rodriguez (Arturo Castro) whose scheme to transport cocaine in tanks of chlorine leads to little kids being poisoned and killed. The environmental protection agent is blackmailed by Salcedo to cover up the cause of this mass poisoning. 

Javier pursues a new lead by following the Cali cartel's banking operations. Javier tracks Franklin Jurado (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and his American wife Christina Jurado (Kerry Bishé) while he sends the DEA agents Chris Feistl (Michael Stahl-David) and Daniel Van Ness (Matt Whelan) to Cali to track the dealing of the Cali cartel's accountant Guillermo Pallomari (Javier Cámara). All the while CIA agent Bill Stechner (Eric Lange) derails Javier's investigation by taking him on cross-country trips to impress Congressman with staged drug busts. Feistl and Van Ness stumble upon Gilberto's location while tailing Pallomari and formulate a plan to capture him but first, have to fool the corrupt Cali police officers. They manage to trick the police and capture Gilberto, upsetting the plan to surrender. 

Miguel, the new leader of the Cali cartel, becomes paranoid about traitors and takes out the head of Cali security and his wife leaving Salcedo in charge. Salcedo realizes his only way out is to turn himself over and help the DEA catch Miguel. A rival gang, the North Valley, who cooperated with Cali before senses weakness in Gilberto arrest and starts a war. They try to assassinate Pacho and Gilberto but fail, leading to a bigger blowback. Javier, Feistl, and Van Ness use the information to track Miguel though he eludes capture by hiding in the walls and having the authorities pull back on the DEA's ability to fight crime. Up in New York, Chepe takes over rival dealers territory but the lab explodes bringing unwanted attention to their American operations. 

Javier tries to turn Jurado by leveraging his wife but she ends up captured and Peña must go to extremes to get her back only to find a mole in the government. The corruption goes much deeper than he imagined to the highest offices of the Columbian government. Salcedo gives the DEA another chance at Miguel and this time it works, toppling the godfathers and halting the surrender. Members of the Cartel are eliminated and Javier turns Pallomari who gives them all the information they need to convict the rest. This season of Narcos was exceptionally entertaining though I can't ever look away at risk of losing a narrative thread due to the Spanish. Pedro Pascal is always fun to watch but the highlight of this season for me was definitely Matias Verala as Salcedo is some of the most intense scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if looking back over this year, I put this season on my top ten list. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sports: NFL (Week 1)

Professional football is back in action with an exciting football game after one of the most heartbreaking Super Bowls of my life. The New England Patriots faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening game and I couldn't stop watching because I had no idea if Tom Brady would mount a comeback even if the Chiefs were up 42-27 with two minutes left. Kansas City did it though and wins the first game of the season. This could mean big things for this AFC West team and trouble for the reigning champs. 
Sunday arrived with a couple of interesting games. The first game on my television that I focused on was the game between my favorite team the Atlanta Falcons against the Chicago Bears. The Falcons are still showing signs that they could blow a crucial game and if they had faced a stronger offense than the Bears, they might have lost this game. But the former second place team wins their first game 23-17 and go up 1-0 in the division. 
The other team I watched, because I'll be forced to for the rest of the season, somewhat illuminated what could be going on in the AFC East, the Cincinnati Bengals were shutout by the Baltimore Ravens. Andy Dalton threw three interceptions. The Ravens will have to challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers for the top of this division but Baltimore looks like they could be strong.
The afternoon game on the television was between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, probably the two best teams in the NFC as of now. This match up would really show which team would take first place and lead the league. The first half was scoreless and the third quarter saw two touchdowns from the Packers. Seattle fell and Green Bay takes the first game looking at the Falcons as the next team they can put down showing their dominance.
The Sunday night game was a fight for the top of the NFC East between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas had some trouble with running back, Ezekiel Elliot who was going to be suspended but the suspension was reversed in court, so they got their running back but he wasn't a huge difference maker. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys beat Eli Manning and the Giants to start the season off on what looks like definitely a playoff if not Super Bowl run.
The first weekend showed that this season is not going to be predictable. Other wins that are interesting are the Buffalo Bills over the New York Jets in the AFC East, the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Houston Texans in the AFC South, and the Denver Broncos over the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC West. The Dolphins and Buccaneers couldn't play due to the hurricane raging through Florida. Football is back, I'm interested to see how this season plays out. 

TV Show Review: Preacher (Season 2)

The graphic novel from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon leaped to the screen last year and returned once again for a more action-packed second season. Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is on the road with his girlfriend Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) and best friend the vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). They are on the search for god who has abandoned heaven to live a secret life on Earth. The cops try to pull them over but Jesse's power allows him to tell the officers to do whatever he wants but the whole altercation is thrown off when the murderous gunslinger The Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish) starts blowing everyone up. Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy escape but the saint is hot on their trail. Meanwhile, Arseface (Ian Colletti) has been sent to hell by Jesse's power and must suffer the same trauma on repeat.

Searching for answers, Jesse encounters a former friend of his father, Mike (Glenn Morshower), another priest that has an unusual way of disciplining his parishioners. Mike tells them that god might have been at a jazz club which, after a violent altercation, leads to Jesse deducing that god has an obsession with jazz. The Saint of Killers kills Miek and continues on the trail of Jesse whenever he uses his voice power. Jesse and Cassidy discover that Fiore (Tom Brooke) is working in a casino killing himself repeatedly as a stunt act. Fiore was the one responsible for siccing the Saint of Killers on them so they make a deal to call him off after Cassidy and Fiore go through a drug binge. Fiore doesn't actually call off the saint and has him kill him. Tulip also encounters a man from her past right before she and Jesse can get married. Jesse decided he'll pursue god in jazz central, New Orleans. This casino episode was one of the better.

The group heads to New Orleans where Cassidy and Tulip must confront their past. They stay at the house of Cassidy's friend Denis (Ronald Buttman) who later turns out to be his son. Tulip encounters the gangster boss Viktor (Paul Ben-Victor) who is actually her husband. Jesse encounters Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery) in disguise. She is actually working for the grail under Herr Starr (Pip Torrens). The momentum pauses for a flashback episode showing more of Tulip and Jesse's relationship and how Tulip came to marry Viktor. Jesse finds out Tulip has been captured and goes to her rescue only to find out the truth. The Saint of Killers tracks them down after Jesse uses the voice to fight Viktor's thugs. 

Jesse has to give the saint a soul to control him and send him up to heaven but he just drowns him in an armored truck and the grail capture him. Herr Starr has an interesting origin and appetites that are explained in a montage training flashback along with his job to seek out miracles. Aresface teams up with Hitler (Noah Taylor) to attempt an escape from hell under the strict guard of Ms. Mannering (Amy Hill). Cassidy has to make his old son a vampire too while Lara earns Tulip's trust pretending to be a battered wife. Tulip also worries about the Saint of Killers who returns and attacks them until Ms. Mannering stops him, making Jesse trust Herr Starr. The ultimate plan for Herr Starr is to replace the inbred descendant of Christ with Jesse and his vocal power.

The show improved somewhat from the first season but has a long way to go before it could even be comparable to the graphic novel. Still, I'll stick with it if it comes back for a third season. The show definitely pulls out some absurd scenes and the story is only secondary to all the wackiness. Pip Torrens as Herr Starr was the highlight of the season but I liked him more as a villain in the original story and Jesse works him with him at the end. Joseph Gilgun was still pretty fun as Cassidy too. I also liked that they hinted at Jesse upbringing and the evilness of Jody and T.C. and Jesse's grandmother. There are some great scenes from the book that they could use especially as those vicious characters show up. I am glad to see that the creators Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin are doing better for this interesting show.