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The Longest Day (1962, Ken Annakin)

The Longest Day picks up when the Normandy beach invasion starts. It happens maybe ninety minutes into the three-hour film. There are the overnight paratrooper drops, which have such dull action scenes it seems like the film will never improve, but then it turns out the large-scale battle choreography is exceptional and could potentially make up for the rest. It doesn’t, however, because Robert Mitchum turns out to be terrible once he gets more to […]

Superman & Lois (2021) s01e04 – Haywire

Okay, the show’s getting to the family part of the family drama—not to mention real Superman action (James Bamford does a good job with it, despite the costume colors being too muted and Metropolis being a little too on the cheap)—and it’s the best episode. “Superman & Lois” is on the precipice of being genuinely (with qualifications) interesting. The catalyst ends up being Dylan Walsh, who drops in unannounced to spend a weekend with the […]

What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s03e04 – The Casino

One of the things about “What We Do in the Shadows,” back in the first season, was the high number of standout episodes. Thanks to the lack of overarching narrative, week after week, the show could deliver these great done-in-ones. This episode is the first (and hopefully not only) great done-in-one for Season Three. It’s the first episode credited to Sarah Naftalis, whose been in the room since Season Two; Yana Gorskaya directs; she’s done […]

The Element of Crime (1984, Lars von Trier)

During The Element of Crime, it never seems like the mystery will be particularly compelling. The film and the detective’s investigation are compelling, but the mystery itself seems rather pat. A serial killer has been targeting young girls selling lotto tickets, earning the moniker the “Lotto Murderer,” and the police are stumped. So they bring in Michael Elphick to take over. Elphick has been living in Cairo for over a dozen years, exiled from Europe. […]

Frasier (1993) s06e21 – When a Man Loves Two Women

Credited writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck wrote the shittiest episode of “Frasier” ever (thus far) earlier this season, and so I was dreading this one. Especially since the logline seems primed for a bad episode—Kelsey Grammer hooks up with not one but two women (consecutively, not concurrently) and has to pick the one he wants to pursue a relationship with. It stands out because the women are returning guest stars—Virginia Madsen and Amy Brenneman—and […]

What If…? (2021) s01e06 – What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

What is it with this show’s abject inability to land the foreboding epilogue? This episode is another series highlight—not just in terms of voice acting, but also budget (they don’t skimp on any of it, including a big battle scene in Wakanda)—but they somehow miss the most obvious ramifications of the change. The episode’s all about Michael B. Jordan’s Black Panther villain inserting himself into Iron Man 1 to take his revenge on Wakanda and […]

Frasier (1993) s06e20 – Dr. Nora

There’s a lot of hilarious stuff in this episode and some great performances from the regular cast, especially the guests, but wow, it does not age well. Christine Baranski guest stars as a Dr. Laura analog who calls women sinners and sluts, with a set of conservative values people like John Mahoney have been missing. The episode—script credit to Joe Keenan—assumes everyone watching the show will be white, secular, and at least middle class; they’ve […]

Batman ’89 (2021) #2

So it’s not Batman ‘89, it’s Batman ’93? As in, set after Batman Returns… is it just Sam Hamm’s Batman Forever? If so, it’s still okay. I just wasn’t expecting the returning character at the end of the issue. I also wasn’t expecting Hamm to do a deep cut to the original script—and the Craig Shaw Gardner novelization—of Batman. At one point, Bruce Wayne needs to costume up, and he doesn’t have his Batsuit, so […]

What If…? (2021) s01e05 – What If… Zombies?!

Even with the trite, albeit genre-appropriate conclusion, this episode of “What If…?” is definitely the series high. And not just because Jeffrey Wright barely has any lines. It’s an actually good script—credited to Matthew Chauncey—with good action set pieces, better voice acting, and some good twists and turns. However, after a strong start with Mark Ruffalo, it turns out—once again—the secret to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Even if […]

My Life Is Murder (2019) s02e05 – Crushed Dreams

While COVID doesn’t exist in “My Life Is Murder”—seriously, how long does it have to go on before someone might think they should address it even for reruns; we had to deal with flag pins for a decade—Zoom has still become a thing. Unclear how Zoom became ubiquitous in a world without lockdown, but since one of the show’s central conceits is Lucy Lawless’s four loaves of sourdough bread are all Joe Naufahu ever needs […]

7 Women (1966, John Ford)

First, it’s actually 8 Women; Jane Chang doesn’t count because she’s not white. Though I suppose it could just be counting good Christian women, then Anne Bancroft doesn’t count. Women is a Western, just one set nearer to modernity and not in the American West. Instead, it’s about a mission in China on the border with Mongolia. By 1966, apparently Hollywood had decided it was no longer okay to do yellowface of Chinese people, but […]

My Life Is Murder (2019) s02e04 – Look Don’t Touch

It may just be the museum setting or Lucy Lawless making fun of a woman with a dog in a stroller at the beginning of the episode, but I’m really on board with this season of “My Life is Murder.” The actual big difference—besides giving Lawless some backstory to drive her character and the move to New Zealand—is turning Lawless and sidekick Ebony Vagulans into roomies. They can’t avoid one another (more precisely, Lawless can’t […]

Evil (2019) s02e09 – U Is for U.F.O.

Remember last season when the “Evil” team discovered a fertility clinic in Manhattan infusing babies with concentrated evil—no doubt imported from the Prince of Darkness church—including one of star Katja Herbers’s daughters? It was a big deal plot then. This season it’s been barely acknowledged, then this whole episode is about getting the show back towards that big deal. See, Mike Colter’s only got four more weeks until he becomes a Catholic priest and will […]

Casino (1995, Martin Scorsese)

The best part of Casino isn’t my favorite part of Casino because the best part is James Woods bickering with Erika von Tagen. It’s mainly in the background, and it’s the only time anywhere in the film anyone shows any personality not expressly required for their scenes. Director (and co-screenwriter) Scorsese doesn’t believe in background action; if it’s not foreground, it doesn’t matter. The problem is von Tagen is a kid, and Sharon Stone’s her […]

My Life Is Murder (2019) s02e03 – All That Glitters

“My Life is Murder” has seven more episodes this season, and it’s entirely unclear how much more they can reveal about Lucy Lawless’s character by the end. In this episode, we find out not only does she have a brother (Martin Henderson), he’s a con man (a professional one like their dad), he’s in prison, and she moved from Australia to New Zealand to be some kind of a support system for him. All that […]

What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s03e03 – Gail

I’m feeling a lot better about this season. Or, more accurately, I feel like I don’t have to worry about this season. Given the significant changes—filming during Rona, Jemaine Clement leaving the writers room—I’d forgotten the standard season-to-season change. They’ve been away for a while, the momentum’s slowed, the energy’s changed. But they’re doing just fine. No small thanks to the script, credited to Marika Sawyer, which does an excellent parsing out of the cast […]

Annette (2021, Leos Carax)

Right up until the end, it seems like Annette will maintain some level of success solely due to the audacity of the project. It’s a musical set in Hollywood, where an edge lord white male comedian (Adam Driver) marries a beloved singer (Marion Cotillard). Only he’s got a shelf life because he’s always trying to offend, and she doesn’t really want to play Hollywood mom. The movie’s terrible about delineating the present action, but basically, […]

What If…? (2021) s01e04 – What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?

Apparently, at some point, if you’ve been a superhero long enough—in this case, Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s five years in—you eventually end up in a junkyard having a Superman III fight; wait, so was Christopher Reeve. Anyway, in this universe, Rachel McAdams is not a disposable girlfriend character in Doctor Strange; she’s the all-powerful girlfriend in a refrigerator. And after she dies instead of Cumberbatch losing the use of his hands, he becomes obsessed with going […]

Frasier (1993) s06e19 – IQ

What I can’t figure out with episode director David Lee, whose name I’ve come to dread this season, is the obviously uneven enthusiasm. This episode’s got a couple literal set pieces—there’s an auction scene and a restaurant scene (in addition to the apartment)—and there’s a lot of detail during those sequences but the blandest three-camera sitcom. Maybe the answer’s simple, and the unbilled extras in the episode had more imagination than Lee, but this episode’s […]

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s06e15 – The Fungus Amongus

“Legends” ends this season with a cast change-up—ten main characters were too many, so they’re reducing to eight. One of the goodbyes is more surprising than the other, though only one of them gets anywhere near the attention it deserves. The other receives a rush job. Can’t really get into details without spoiling. There’s also a little bit of next season set-up, but barely any. Certainly not like coming back to find you broke time […]

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