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New on DVD and Blu-Ray

Kind of a weak week for home video, but that’s all made up for by a little film called Logan Lucky. The grand re-entrance of Steven Soderbergh, it’s a surprisingly shaggy, compassionate movie, owing almost as much to the earnestness of King of the Hill or Magic Mike XXL (what a double-feature that would be) as to the cucumber-cool heist thrills of the Ocean’s movies. And it’s staged with the kind of quiet perfection that most directors would sell their soul to have. I assume the same doesn’t quite go for the other two big new releases this week, Woodshock (the one major blight on A24’s excellent year so far) and Tulip Fever (the Weinstein Company wishes this was their one blight this year). In catalog titles, there’s also not much, but at least we get a special edition of Misery and a Blu-Ray of the amusing Dave Foley vehicle The Wrong Guy.

Animal Factory (Arrow)
Death Laid an Egg (Cult Epics)
The Defiant Ones (Universal)
Doc Hollywood (Warner Archive Collection)
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Warner Archive Collection)
Logan Lucky (Universal)
Lost in Paris (Oscilloscope)
Misery (Shout Factory)
Moses and Aaron (Grasshopper)
Tulip Fever (Lionsgate)
Walk with Me (Kino)
The Woman in Red (Kino)
Woodshock (Lionsgate)
The Wrong Guy (Kino)

  • Drunk Napoleon

    What did we watch?

    • Drunk Napoleon

      LOST, Season Three, Episode Six, “I Do”
      “No, you misunderstand me. I didn’t say I was gonna do the surgery. I just want you to know how you’re gonna die.”

      “I know you don’t want to spend the rest of your life chasing me.”

      Nathan Fillion! In this episode, we find out just how monstrous Kate is when we discover she hurt Fillion’s feelings at one point. Kidding aside, the flashbacks in this episode finally give us some old-fashioned unity when they end with her running away from one man while the island drama (and it’s some juicy complicated drama, with Danny, Sawyer, and Jack all making decisions that compound on each other) builds up to her having to decide whether or not she’ll run away from a man in the present. Fillion’s comfortably Filliony persona gives both us and the writers something to work with in terms of personality; everybody already knows who Kevin is, and we can move on to what’s really important.

      We get some great mystical plot movement when Locke, while burying Eko, notices a line on it that sets the gears in his head turning. Now that I’m sold on how the show’s mind works, I can find beauty and meaning in moments like this. On the flipside, it occurred to me that unlike The Shield or Mad Men, there’s no unified feeling hanging over the show. If a story’s tone is dictated by the feelings and morality of the characters (note: may not be true for everybody, but is definitely true for me), then The Shield has both ownage and the slow tightening of the screws tying everything together. MM’s tone is more expansive and often changes, but there’s a definite solid tone – e.g. seasons one through three felt restricted, season four felt like the world had just expanded and like anything could happen, season six was vile and ugly – while Lost doesn’t feel unified in emotion at all, because so many characters are in so many completely different stories and they all move at different speeds. Although, looking at my MM observation, maybe this is like that, and I won’t notice the difference until it changes to action-adventure for season four.

      Ownage: We have Jack’s greatest moment of ownage, or at least my favourite – once he has Ben on the operating table, he cuts his kidney and holds him hostage until Kate can get away. I wonder if a character’s great ownage must come from who they are as a person – if it must be motivated by the kind of thing they’re motivated by (Jack is saving someone), and it must be an action they’d do played out on a larger scale (Jack’s profession is doctorin’). If drama is entirely motivation, action, and consequence, then it logically follows that the consequences ought to be personal to them too – like, they have to lose something important to them, which doesn’t really happen here.

      (I’m also thinking of the greatest moments of ownage on The Shield – like how “If you’re so special, how come a lowly civil servant like me just caught you?” required Dutch to recognise a psychology and also for him to eat shit, or how Claudette’s triumph over Kleavon comes from her iron will and requires her to sacrifice her body)

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Season Three, Episode Fifteen, “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off”
      Miller recently rewatched an early episode and observed how far Rickety Cricket had devolved, and I apparently watched one that was one step further than him because Cricket was still consumed with vengeance instead of the lackadaisical friend he’d become. Anyway, it’s a classic episode with Dennis and probably the Gang reduced to their purest essence:

      “Dennis Reynolds, I trusted you!”
      “Why?”

      Ownage: Dee owns all of them with an admittedly great scheme, but in true Dee fashion it doesn’t matter.

      Bad Day At Black Rock, John Sturges
      “Not only are you wrong, you’re wrong at the top of your voice.”

      I don’t think you could find a more dramatic setup for a film than this – I watched this because Tony Zhou used commentary from the film for a video essay, and Sturges’ commentary lays out a fairly straightforward drama-based creative process, in which Sturges comes up with a particular man he’d like to follow. It’s got the same effect as a really great short story, where there’s a clear finite amount of time in this story; Spencer Tracy is a chaotic element introduced into a closed system, and everything must bounce off each other until it all explodes. The progressive statement is, as always, a little on-the-nose, but the dramatic power is undeniable (and it also helps that while Tracy is a moral force, he’s not one for Heroic Speeches).

      Ownage: Beating up Ernest Borgnine was awesome, but I have to go with the climactic Molotov cocktail.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        This definition of characterized ownage is great and reminds me of how the big fight in Vice Principals uses their characterizations: Russell is weak, on the defensive (you get the sense that he is not used to people actively trying to beat him), and uses whatever tools are at hand against Gamby, while Gamby is using his body as a battering ram, throwing himself against Russell and pummelling him with all of the sheer force he can contain (and Gamby after all is defined by muscle and discipline).

        • Drunk Napoleon

          You can contrast the VP fight with the Chicken Fights on Family Guy (and to an extent the Rick/President fight on Rick & Morty), which is ownage with no specificity or character.

          • That last clause is a defining criticism of Snyder’s Watchmen, and probably his entire oeuvre.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Batman v Superman at a certain point in the big fight devolves into two, strong angry people just hitting each other a lot.

          • My take remains that Snyder doesn’t understand heroes, let alone superheroes: he makes movies about supervillains fighting each other.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            And it would be totally awesome if he realised what he was doing.

          • Absolutely! If Snyder adapted Millar’s Wanted and actually stuck to the story, it would be his version of Pain and Gain or Straw Dogs, the truest expression of his soul. I’m not saying I would want to see it, mind you.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Its nihilism without an understanding of itself, which is always the problem with bad nihilist fiction.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            I’ve had long, passionate arguments with a very clever friend of mine; she thinks Snyder’s a nihilist, while I think he’s too stupid to be a nihilist on purpose.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            I have seen this before with smart people thinking that Snyder’s some clever meta commentator and it really needs a name.

          • Reverse Poe’s Law.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Oh, to be clear, she doesn’t think he’s a clever meta commentator. I think she has the same attitude towards him that I do towards John Carpenter – revealing depths – except she dislikes him.

            But yeah, people apply the same thing to Michael Bay and it drives me nuts.

          • Conor Malcolm Crockford

            Ah that’s fair. The key difference is that Carpenter is hyper-competent where Snyder can’t get out of his own way.

          • He was threatening the DC universe! Are we gonna split hairs here?

          • Miller

            Say what you will about Snyder but at least he has an ethos. As opposed to Suicide Squad.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            God damn, I’m gonna bring that up next time I see her because you’ve convinced me.

            “Give me my dollar back!”

      • I wonder how someone decided that Filion was cut out to keep playing cops when his most famous role is anything but? (His next series is apparently a cop show.)

        • ZoeZ

          I kind of worry that he’s just existing at the celebrity level where there is an abundance of cop roles and a shortage of everything else. Which might be fine if he were not, as you point out, kind of inherently uncoplike.

          • My favorite non-Mal role of his is the voice of Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern in several DCAU films. Yes, another cop, but I keep hoping someday someone uses him in a GL story where Hal’s rebellious streak is used.

            Also, he was a great parody of a cop in Much Ado.

          • ZoeZ

            That bit with the tiny jacket is perfection.

          • Miller

            I liked Much Ado quite a bit in general and yeah, his asshole cop is excellent — he’s damn sure he’s the hero here and for some reason the text is not backing him up.

      • DAMMIT, KATE, RUN!

        L O S T

        . . .and no episodes for three months. You fuckers. This was where the meandering of the first chunk of the season snapped into focus. In some ways, I feel like these first six episodes were a model for the first five seasons: a meandering (both in tone and plot) multiple story (seasons 1-3) that snaps into driving adventure based on what we’ve learned (seasons 4-5). Of course, another model for this is The Shield, act 3, part 2: a necessary stall that the writers used to heighten the ownage when they jumped into the next section.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I’m reminded of what you said about the first season finale, setting up a million possibilities and hinting at none of them.

          • Probably a good rule for storytellers: your beginning suggests possibilities, your ending closes them off. Lost spent three seasons doing the first one, two seasons on the second, and then (here’s the mistake) started suggesting even more possibilities in the last season.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Where does Mad Men fit into this?

          • Nicely. Note how Mad Men gives everyone something of a resolution at the end–not the huge tragic resolution of The Shield, but definitely Recognition on everyone’s part. Going back to Stu Willis’ terms on that podcast, Mad Men has character questions, not character journeys. There’s not a clear cause-and-consequence chain that leads the main characters to where they end up (the exception would be Peggy, the most dramatic and most owning one in the ensemble), but if you were wondering who these people were at the beginning, you know who they are at the end.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Ah, philosophical possibilities are closed off.

      • The Shield led me to understand myself, especially my values (and that’s probably what defines my favorite works), and one of them is a deep suspicion of thinking you can do good without paying some kind of price.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Conversely, The Shield gave me a waypoint for how to act in life, and one of the things I’ve learned putting it into practice is that paradoxically you really can have it all, but only if you choose one thing.

          • Absolutely. Anything else feels to me like entitlement, and Mamet has a line in Oleanna that just shreds that sense. (My take is: wanna be rich? Find a rich person and do whatever they want. Wanna be famous? Find a famous person and kill them. If you want to be rich and self-respecting, or famous and not incarcerated, those are different questions.)

          • Drunk Napoleon

            Actually, to bring it back to my original post, I think if there’s any central thing I’ve taken from The Shield, it’s that you don’t get to decide how you feel about things, and you don’t get to decide what happens to you (and specifically, you don’t get to decide how other people feel about you); of the three parts of ownage, you only get to decide what your actions are. To paraphrase Elliot Carter, that keeps us busy enough.

          • My (really only) ethical rule derives from The Shield and also Mamet: know what you want, act to achieve it, accept the consequences. To believe that you can know all the consequences of your actions ahead of time–“that’s vanity.”

          • Babalugats

            Your only ethical rule is to take what you want?! Are you Conan the Barbarian?

            My only ethical rule is to try not to be such an asshole all the time. Although it’s really more aspirational, rather than anything I’ve actually put into practice.

          • Many of my heroes are assholes–the ones who were out for themselves and made the world we live in in the process: Galileo, Machiavelli, Hamilton. I’m quite cool with that. Also, there are really no ways to create something without destroying something else in the process, unless you’re God, and if I have a second rule it’s Do Not Mistake Yourself for God. (Joan Didion’s essay “On Morality” is a more thorough working-out of this principle; so, for that matter, is the Book of Job.)

            Put another way, I don’t try anymore to be good, because 1) there are too many definitions of “good” and they often contradict each other (this contradiction results in the genre of drama) and 2) I can do more good (and probably more bad) acting as myself than trying to act as an ideal. (Certainly everything I’ve written has come out of this.) I think there’s some social utility to this: you can’t trust me to be good, but you can trust me to be me.

          • Personally, I have a difficult time separating my identity from my morality.

          • Like beauty, I suspect in its deepest sense, morality is an expression of identity.

            By the way, neither morality, beauty, nor identity are purely individual things; they exist in our relationship to the world. One of the journeys of my life has been to discover how connected I am to the world (I had occasion to reflect on this recently), and how bound up my desires and morality are with it. I like that.

          • Oh, it most definitely is. I agree. That just makes it hard for me to say, “I don’t try to be good,” since who I am is intrinsically tied up in what I think is good. It’s hard for me to be “me” and not pay attention to some sort of moral system.

          • I’ve always understood the distinction between morals and ethics to be between judgment and action: the former is “what is right?” and the second is “how does one act?” I try and be careful to describe what I’m talking about as ethics and not morals, and I’m sure I don’t always succeed.

          • Ha, yeah. I certainly don’t always succeed. I’m super self-righteous, and I certainly have a lot of difficulty not basing my actions (or at least justifying my actions after the fact) on abstract beliefs about what is right.

          • For what it’s worth, the postscript to this article was where I tried to come up with some principles for ethical action.

          • Saved to read when I finally get around to watching Che next month.

          • Babalugats

            Yeah, but not all the time.

            I agree that if the goal is to maximize the historical impact of your life, completely disregarding the needs of others is a fine way to do that. (And while we’re at it, plenty of the men that built the world we live in mistook themselves for God. The Egyptian Empire ran on it, and they were around a hell of a lot longer than us.) But I wouldn’t call that ethical.

            I would almost place morality as the exact opposite of what you’re saying. To place the needs of others on an equal plane with your own wants, and to stop worrying so much about the consequences of actions you’ve already taken. If you murder your neighbor, the moral thing is not to submit yourself to execution, it’s to stop murdering people (Even if you want to). Frankly I find acceptance to be beside the point. The world doesn’t much care how I feel, it cares how I act, sometimes, and the rest is, as you say, vanity.

            I do agree that ideologues are more dangerous than people who are merely corrupt and selfish. But I don’t know if that is justification to throw out this whole empathy and self sacrifice business.

          • Hrm, there are some interesting slippages of terms here I want to clear up, and apologies if they weren’t clear before. I don’t fully separate “my own wants” and “the needs of others.” My own wants happen to be bound up with the needs of others; that goes back (or forward, depending on how you read this thread) to my relationship to the world. I’m just careful to always understand it as the pursuit of my wants, not some greater good. (The greater good.)

            Also, I’m a Chicagoan, and corruption isn’t always merely selfish. There is such a thing as corruption in the service of something larger; my Ellroy essay was probably my biggest attempt to address that. (The Former Mrs. Wallflower said on her first visit to Chicago: “you built something with your corruption.” Damn straight.)

            To put both of these themes together: regard His Orangeness. This is a tiny, tiny spirit who has lived his entire life separate from others, who has not one desire that had anything to do with community, with love, with seeing another person as a person. And by all accounts, he’s a miserable, lonely fuckhead, terrified of everyone, only capable of seeing the world in terms of slights and praise. He’s incredibly dangerous, but considered as person, he’s nothing. And if anyone pulled his “I’m gonna put up a building and not pay my workers and if you gotta problem with that, sue me” back in 1960s or 70s Chicago, well, Mayor Daley woulda kicked his ass so hard he’d wake up in fuckin’ Pennsylvania. The Chicago Way is you kick back something to me, but you do not fuck over my voters.

          • Babalugats

            Selfishly pursuing your own altruistic ends?

            I’m a Detroiter and I’ve never had much faith in the purity of anyone’s motivations (and that includes my own). I don’t trust any system of behavior that only works if we’re all good people at the start.

            (My political philosophy: These motherfuckers are going to steal everything that isn’t nailed down, so nail that shit down)

          • Right there with you on that last line. Mine is similar: the good cannot be created without the ownage of evil. So, Bring It, Motherfuckers. (I suspect we arrive at the same place of action from different philosophies. ‘s all good.)

          • The Ploughman

            “There is such a thing as corruption in the service of something larger”

            Have you still not seen Lincoln? Not that it’s going to blow your mind at all, I just think you’d find it entertaining as hell.

          • Still no, but knowing about the deals and personalities of that period, I’m sure I will find it as you said.

          • Miller

            Irish Boston would like a few words with this alleged “Chicago” Way. But I think there is a lot to be examined in how politics, defined here as making sure your ethno/racial/economic/geographical self — a shared self — is the primary self in self-government (a fluid process that said Irish took great advantage of) has been systematically demonized in favor of personal advantage, where a system exists for your own exploitation as opposed for any larger function and is under constant (if largely imagined) threat of being exploited by Others.

          • Chicago and Boston are corrupt, but they’re corrupt within a vision of the shared public–the polis of the Greeks–and as we’ve talked about, there are things that corruption does better than democracy. (In this larger conversation about ethics, this is why questions of morality don’t matter to me as much as questions of community. “What do you love?” is a more fundamental question to me that “what is right?”) The corruption we have now is the corruption of the free market–everyone out only for themselves, not even their fucking children, let alone their cities.

          • Miller

            How dare you, sir! I can think of at least one brave public official in these times of self-interest who is boldly and proudly in favor of fucking children.

          • Miller

            The Melanie principle of ethics? Try not to get shot in the parking lot.

          • Also, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see the newly created Carter fanboys and -girls ’round these parts, in whatever form including the occasional quote. Dude really did see saying cool things as part of his professional responsibilities.

      • Miller

        Hey, Spencer Tracy! Watching him in Desk Set last night made me want to revisit this, in both he has a supremely casual confidence (as opposed to arrogance) that needs age to really pull off, make him less cheerful and more weary and you get Mike in Breaking Bad.

        And Dances Their Ass Off is indeed great, I love the Gilligan cut to Mac weighed down. What were you thinking, dude.

        • Drunk Napoleon

          I thought it was hilarious when your post popped up. We’ve all got Spencer Tracy on the brain. I was also thinking that you don’t really see protagonists of Tracy’s age in stories like this anymore, and what a shame that is – I plan on shooting a short film next year, and I plan on using older actors in at least a few key roles to lend the story that weight.

          • Miller

            Wow, way to fat-shame the older actors, dude.

            But yeah, age is underrated. The Professional has a lot of things going for it but it uses Old Jackie Chan (whose age is admittedly a different thing than Tracy’s) quite well.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        “Cream always rises to the top, and I’m about to show you the white-hot cream of an eighth-grade boy.”

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          Every cream and dick joke in Always Sunny is so immature and its so funny every single time. “Don’t you wanna get hard bro?”

          • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

            I saw “The Gang Spies Like U.S.” last week, and Charlie’s entire exchange with Dennis and Mac about “creampies” was, uh, really something.

    • ZoeZ

      The Leftovers, “The Book of Kevin.” Now that’s how you do a three-year time-jump, as we move on to the next necessary thing and can extrapolate the events between then and now: we know enough of these characters at this point to know how time would have brought them to these places. And we get a brilliant, gorgeous, sorrowful short film at the beginning of the episode, too.

      The distinction between season one and two was always sharp, but season three gets a lot of mileage out of the deep callbacks to what everyone left behind, or didn’t, in Mapleton: Matt’s flyers, Dean and the dogs, and, most significantly, the knowledge that whatever sets Kevin apart existed long before his arrival in Miracle.

      • The Leftovers, both on the small and large scale, does a thing where what’s played and filmed as ordinary, even banal, shifts into hyperdramatic and mystical in about one second, and Kevin’s Yet Another Suicide Attempt was exactly that. The centered shot of him was Fincherian.

        • ZoeZ

          There were so many shots in this episode that had that particular Leftovers poetry of being both gorgeously strange and thoroughly grounded in character and situation, but that one was maybe my favorite.

    • Hercules Returns – a @drunknapoleon:disqus recommendation! I found the humour a little hit-and-miss; I love it when Australian comedy hits that slightly surreal, deadpan sweet spot but I’m less fond of the bawdy, innuendo style humour that also crops up a lot. This is a mix of both though, so for the bits that I didn’t like, there were plenty that I did. I found the framing story very charming and engaging, and would have happily spent more time with those characters, but I get that the main appeal of this film is the redubbed Italian muscle-man epic and there’s plenty of fun to be had there too. They set up some great running gags – Hercules’ not-so-secret desire to be a club singer probably being my favourite – and there are some killer lines that play into the weird things happening in the background of scenes. I loved the cuts back to the projection room, revealing how they “faked” the sound-effects, e.g. the sizzling of a small amount of meat is revealed to be a microphone pointed at a full spit-roast pig. Really good fun.

      NaSolAlMo update: I forgot to do one of these yesterday, but I officially crossed the finishing line in terms of “amount of music recorded” on Sunday, although two of those songs still need lyrics. I celebrated last night by making an album cover, which for some reason I did by programming it into a Commodore 64 emulator.

      • Drunk Napoleon

        !!!

        Of all the jokes based on random actions happening in the film, my favourite is the chicken stressed out when she misses her cue.

        • I particularly liked all the ones relating to Testiculi’s father, struggling with shrimp-related indigestion and convinced that horses are trying to run him over.

    • glorbes

      35 minutes of Midnight Run, the type of unassuming, solid movie that I could watch any time.

      I also watched In The Mouth of Madness TWICE this weekend, once with a friend and once with my wife (who was intrigued by the bit she saw when my friend was over, and so we watched it the next night).

      I have also been watching a shit load of Be Cool, Scooby Doo, the latest iteration of the never ending animation powerhouse. The kids love it, and so do I. Quite a bit, actually.

      And I recently ordered Justice League and Justice League Unlimited Boxed Sets to start watching with my five year old, who is ALL IN on the DC superheroes. Don’t worry, I haven’t watched BvS with him…I’m not a monster. Though he will be getting some of the Justice League movie toys for Christmas.

      • Conor Malcolm Crockford

        The world is blue.

        • glorbes

          *starts screaming*

      • Miller

        If you’re not a monster, why are you showing your poor child the best DC has to offer at an early age and setting him up for increasingly miserable disappointment later on?

        • Drunk Napoleon

          Are you saying we’re now reaching the point where the only ethical option is showing a five year old Batman Very Superman?

          • Miller

            If anyone can appreciate poorly-construed Nietzsche, it’s a five-year-old.

            And in seriousness, it’s never too young to get into the DCAU. I still consider myself lucky to have grown up with Batman: The Animated Series.

          • glorbes

            I have watched and re-watched that series a thousand times with my oldest kids. It never gets old.

          • Miller

            If your kids have the opportunity — the choice is ultimately theirs — but the chance to have Kevin Conroy be “their” Batman, then you done good.

        • glorbes

          I’m a reverse monster. I feel it is important to be given a glimmer of hope, then have it crushed under the weight of reality.

    • PCguy

      THE IN-LAWS (1979)

      Sheldon (Alan Arkin), a respectable dentist whose practice overlooks central park is nervous enough about meeting the father of the groom only days before his daughter’s wedding. Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk) claims to be a high powered businessman who spends large stretches of time doing mysterious work in exotic locales. But when Sheldon gets pulled into international intrigue surrounding the theft of bank note plates from the US Treasury he becomes positively apoplectic. Can he really let his daughter marry the son of a lunatic? And, of more immediate importance, can this meek mannered professional survive in an unfamiliar world full of assassins, deranged generals, and firing squads?

      That’s pretty much it—this is a basic fish out of water/buddy comedy. The direction from Arthur Hiller (LOVE STORY) adequately captures the essence of the action setpieces but is otherwise understated, getting out of the way to let the broad performances steal the show. I’m not familiar with Falk but apparently he always plays this sort of aloof character doing a bad Bogart impression. Arkin is fantastic as the straight man. His comedic timing is impeccable and he embraces the antic nature of his character being completely out of place in the realm of spy-craft. Another actor might play Sheldon as more milquetoast but Arkin sells out delivering a manic energy into lines like “Please God, don’t let me die on West 31st Street” that fit perfectly into the madcap nature of the film’s journey.

      This is a film that was won in the editing room. There isn’t a frame wasted and it’s the continuous build that allows the movie to continuously build velocity and provide room for the big performances of the two leads to bounce off the plot without being constrained by any dramatic strictures. It’s “just” a comedy—the story is an unoriginal jaunt around your typical McGuffin in a black bag and there are enough plot holes to make serious analysis of the film an unrewarding effort—but as a big screen popcorn comedy it’s an unequivocal success. My appreciation for the comedy film tapers off drastically after about 1936 so I was genuinely surprised at how much fun this film was to watch. Don’t pick up the Criterion disc if you’re expecting Ingmar fucking Bergman just if you’re in the mood for a true five star two thumbs up comedic classic.

    • Legends of Tomorrow: Helen Hunt – As in Helen of Troy, but the title indicates the jokey level of the story. It’s a very mixed bag. For instance, Helen has an absurd effect only on men but not on Sara Lance (suggesting pheromones instead of her beauty?). More effective is a subplot with Hedy Lamarr, honored for both her looks and her brains, and pretty much anything with Damien Darhk (as ever).

      Worth noting that the actress playing Helen is a Russian-born Israeli. It’s hard not to be just a little pleased that someone thought that the standard of feminine beauty is set by a Jew (though wasn’t that the case with Hedy Lamarr, too?). But I sort of wonder if they hired an Israeli because she sounds like Gal Gadot, since now the accent of ancient Greek civilizations is hers. (And at the end of the episode, Helen is taken to Themiscyra, which is just a fun little Easter egg.)

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      The Deuce, episode 5. Not a ton to say but it occurs to me that this show holds not so much ownage as much as different forms of dominance and assertions of self. That often comes with the pimps and prostitutes, like Candy desperate to hold herself off against Rodney’s excoriation of her loneliness (Method Man and Gylenhaal here are just fantastic), but that extends too to Larry sending Darlene home, but only to bring in “fresh meat”. And even then you’re still working, still under someone’s heel. And while I understand why people might chafe against Simon’s shows because free will isn’t a strong enough factor in them, that always feels the most accurate to me about life under American capitalism and in the working/lower middle class. The most you can do is CHOOSE to go dancing and fuck a few people.

      Favorite characters: Paul is a new favorite, both introverted and comfortable with himself and his sexuality, and his instant earning of a place in this community makes sense (Vincent doesn’t ask why he’s in jail, just bails him out – these men are wildly different but they have the same principle of no judgment). But of the sex workers and cohorts CC and Darlene are fascinating. I have no idea how Gary Carr didn’t break out sooner. Cold, cold charisma.

      • One more time: ON THE WIRE THE SYSTEM FUCKS YOU OVER. ON THE SHIELD YOU FUCK YOURSELF OVER, which is probably also the defining difference between “Zolanian social realism” and “Aristotlean tragedy.” In the first, people are expressions of social conditions; in the second, they actively choose their fate. They complement each other nicely, and really, both The Wire and The Shield had moments where each took on the aspects of the other.

        • Conor Malcolm Crockford

          This is true – The Shield had a lot of commentary, it was just quiet about it. The Deuce does have differences from The Wire in that the characters on the series are more directly entrepreneurial or always looking for an opportunity. Less civil servants and bureaucrats (the cops are around but not as prominent), more crooks and mid-level workers. Naturally more free will and less.

    • The Ploughman

      Not a lot of time so checked out the pilot episode of Roseanne. Nice little time capsule, that. Wish whoever did the transfer would stick to the original 4:3 frame, or at least stop cutting off the tops of everyone’s heads.

    • jroberts548

      The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

      Cards on the table: I would watch at least 90 minutes that was just Samuel L Jackson calling random white dudes “mother-fucker!” This movie only had to be at least semi competent for me to love it. It was competent with flashes of real cleverness, so I love it.

      The easiest way to describe it is as a Shane black knock-off with touches of Leon: The Professional, John Wick, Tarantino, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Ryan Reynolds is a washed-up high-level bodyguard, and Jackson is a hitman who is scheduled to testify in The Hague but only has an artificially short time period to get there. (I’m reasonably confident ICC procedure doesn’t work like that.) Conplications and hijinks ensue. You’ve basically seen this movie before, but it’s still a lot of fun. (This also supports my theory that critics overly punish movies for not being original).

      Sure, a better version of this movie could exist. The action scenes aren’t quite as good as in John Wick. The dialogue isn’t quite as snappy as in a Shane Black movie. Gary Oldman is there but is somehow underused. But what we have is plenty of fun as it is. There are also a few scenes in particular that are clever, especially Jackson’s recollection of when he met his wife, played by Salma Hayek (who is hilarious here) and Reynolds unloading his frustrations to a confused bartender as total chaos unspools behind him.

      • Miller

        Someone else recently praised this, I remember it just looking tired in previews but you’re convincing me to give it a shot.

        • jroberts548

          Just go into it expecting a fun Shane Black knock off and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

      • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

        Reynolds unloading his frustrations to a confused bartender as total chaos unspools behind him

        We sure this isn’t Deadpool?

        • Miller

          Or depending on the Reynolds in question, Always Sunny?

    • Miller

      Desk Set — Spencer Tracy might own Gig Young here harder than he does anyone in Bad Day At Black Rock, which is saying something. And of course the chemistry he has with Hepburn is marvelous, the long glance they share after joking around and his pivot to “I bet you write wonderful letters” (which, swoon) is lovely. ZoeZ looks at this as a workplace utopia and accurately notes that the happy ending, while necessary and mostly earned, is still a bit out of place — Peg’s bitter “They’re making it easy to leave” is far more in tune with how a good workplace environment ends, in my experience. But spending time in this set, especially the pre-Emmy original, makes you hope that the new version can match the old. In particular, the use of the set as stage and the blocking and movement and editing (generally judicious) creates the comedy that makes this place so inviting, people ping-pong off each other in motion, rather than in cut-together takes (there’s an early exception, where two researchers holding different conversations on the phone, that is cut together and it’s jarring, clearly off-rhythm from what would work on stage). It makes modern comedy look like shit.

    • Babalugats

      Seven Days In May (1964) – After the President signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets, General Burt Lancaster plans a military coup and only Col Kirk Douglas stands in his way. The movie waffles between being a taut political thriller and a string of overwrought political speeches. And there’s a lot of time spent on a completely unnecessary subplot involving some blackmail letters (Americans would never accept any sexual impropriety from their leaders) and a lot of hand wringing over whether or not Democracy is worth saving if it comes at the expense of some personal embarrassment for one woman. The film is mostly held together by Douglas and Lancaster’s charisma, but neither are doing their best work. Lancaster is essentially JJ Hudsucker without the wit, and Douglas is Col. Dax without the anger. Still, even coasting, the two are compelling leads and the film moves at a brisk enough pace and has an interesting premise. This was directed by John Frankenheimer, who also directed Burt Lancaster in The Train that same year, and as a B-side it’s pretty damn impressive.

      I can’t help but wonder what this film would look like if it were made in today’s political climate. Imagine (and this will be difficult), but imagine if the President were not mentally well and appeared to be dragging us closer and closer to nuclear annihilation. And let’s say (bear with me here), that the cabinet was stacked with political hacks, cowards, and dangerous ideologues, that the President’s party controlled Congress and was unwilling to provide any sort of check on his power, and that his electoral base remained unshaken by his increasingly erratic behavior. And now some career military man contemplates overthrowing the government for the good of the people. Split our sympathies a bit. That’s hewing a little closer to Julius Caesar, but you know, that was a good play, I think it could make a good movie.

      • Seven Days in May is a well-constructed thriller that’s based on some assumptions about American society and government that stopped being operative about two weeks after the movie came out. You could call it the last work of the historical moment when “Establishment” was a compliment.

        • Babalugats

          I’ve been watching a lot of political films from this era, and so far the only one that hasn’t come off as hopelessly naive has been Dr. Strangelove.

    • Jake Gittes

      The Snowman – just completely inert, and considering it originally finished shooting in early 2016, then spent a full year on the shelf, then suddenly went back to Norway for additional shooting, then Tomas Alfredson still came out with the story about how “10-15%” of the script was never shot, and then in the actual movie Thelma Schoonmaker is credited as the main editor, the mystery of what the hell happened here offscreen is far more compelling than the one onscreen. (To dive into it further: rewatching the first trailer, it’s obvious that Chloe Sevigny shot two death scenes for this. Now, in the movie, she plays twins… but only one of them gets killed. So where was this story initially supposed to go?)

      Even if a chunk of the script wasn’t shot, which is entirely possible, it’s not likely it could have redeemed the stuff that was. Fassbender’s Harry Hole is proclaimed to be a “living legend” but when he’s not drinking himself to the point of falling asleep right on the street, he lazily wanders around crime scenes looking entirely uninterested in actually solving crimes; two entire supporting characters and one storyline exist for no other purpose other than to serve as red herrings, and the actual killer is one of those magical creatures who, depending on what the story needs, is a perfectly functional member of society, a genius criminal who can apparently be both omnipresent and invisible, and a blabbering psycho who never got over a childhood trauma. (Why the fuck he builds snowmen, though, remains unexplained.) The worst thing is that it’s not even the fun kind of ridiculous – appropriately to its main character, the entire movie has this apathetic attitude like it just woke up with an awful hangover and can’t be assed to actually care about anything that happens in it, even as it takes full two hours to unfold. You just want to put it out of its misery.

      Mid-August Lunch, a 2008 Italian drama/comedy about a middle-aged bachelor who for one day finds himself in care of both his own nonagenarian mother, the mother and aunt of his landlord, and the mother of his doctor. Contrary to what one might expect, this is decidedly not a “old ladies sure are wacky” kind of comedy, instead treating the characters with dignity and humanity, at one point even seeming to go into gently confrontational mode with an extreme close-up of a 90-year-old woman – who very much looks like a 90-year-old woman – applying makeup. On the whole though it’s modest and slight to a fault, both in runtime (70 minutes) and style (there hardly is any); you can tell it’s going for something like a shaggy modern neo-realism to complement its story about life’s simple pleasures, but while the result is agreeable it never really sings.

      • Miller

        “the entire movie has this apathetic attitude like it just woke up with an awful hangover and can’t be assed to actually care about anything that happens in it, even as it takes full two hours to unfold. You just want to put it out of its misery.”

        Oh god, as someone who had one of those hangovers this past weekend I can’t imagine a movie more miserable.

        • pico

          Likewise. I spent the holiday week with the in-laws, who watched almost nothing but back-to-back Hallmark Christmas movies. I drank a lot this week.

          I am, thank god (and my liver), home now.

          • Miller

            Ha! My drinking was generally fun and frequently cards-based, but of the euchre as opposed to the Hallmark variety. But shit, I can’t keep that pace anymore.

            And you’re reminding me, it’s Hallmark Christmas movie season! Mrs. Miller and her cousin are huge fans, mostly ironically but with an appreciation of form (a movie that does not appropriately invoke The Spirit Of Christmas receives poor marks) so I’ll be watching a few this month I’m sure.

          • pico

            Oh, I’ve played quite a bit of euchre in my day (I lived in Michigan for seven years). I miss that!

            There’s a weird kind of charm to the Hallmark thing, but part of it, I think, is watching their identical holiday mad-lib get filled out in the same goddamn way: “Jane, a successful [noun], loves Christmas but can’t find true love. Now she’s paired with Bob, a successful [noun], who thinks Christmas is overrated! Can she convince Bob to warm to the holiday? Can he ignite some (very chaste) sparks with her?”

            At one point we were looking up some of the blandly and almost identically attractive actors and said of one of them, “he’s barely an actor, he’s an underwear model.” “Why bother? He’s going to be in an ugly sweater for the entire movie.” Even the fully-clothed snuggling was a little too much for my mother-in-law, though, so they know their audience.

      • jroberts548

        I can’t get over that they named a main character Harry Hole and that it’s not a comedy.

        • lgauge

          This is a tired argument, but it’s based on a Norwegian novel and it’s not pronounced that way. Though apparently they do pronounce it like “hole” in the movie, which I guess means you have a point.

          In general, there seems to have been some really strange choices with the adaptation, keeping the names and the location, but using almost no local actors.

          • jroberts548

            Yeah, if they pronounced it like a Norwegian name it would be fine. I’m sure Fassbinder at least knew better.

          • Jake Gittes

            Story-wise, too, it sounds like – I’ve seen a few reactions from people who’ve read the novel, and to them the screenwriting process appears to have been “Okay let’s adapt this but throw out everything that makes it a fun and engaging airport thriller”.

        • Miller

          “Well Michael, tell us about your new movie!”
          “I play a detective named Harry Hole who is horrified to discover a snowman is murdering people.”
          “Ha ha! I’m laughing already!”
          “It’s not a comedy.”

    • Man with a robot arm

      Rogue Male – On the eve of WWII British aristocrat and hunter Peter O’Toole takes a ‘pot’ at Hitler, misses, and is on the run from the Gestapo. He turns to his government (where many are wanting appeasement) for help and receives none, he’s on his own. Director Clive Donner creates some tense man-on-the-run situations, never getting in the way of O’Toole. O’Toole plays Sir Robert Hunter with that mix of stately roguish and measured acerbic charm he’s so good at. Adapted from a novel (Cumberbatch is taking a crack at it) the film also feels a lot like The Most Dangerous Game. In the third act O’Toole goes underground, literally burrowing into a hole and hiding out. Cornered like a rabbit in his hole, the conversations between Sir Robert and the man sent to capture him reveal in men the thin veneer between dignified manners and the animal inclination to brutally kill. There is honor, rules, and respect among hunters, until one becomes the hunted.

    • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

      Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Shucker.” Eh, I honestly didn’t care for this one that much. Beyond being overlong (45 minutes!) there was just way too much of Larry creating situations by behaving in a stupid, unrealistic manner, even by Larry David standards. As usual, the best stuff comes when he runs into someone equally as petty; in this case, it’s his competition with Lin-Manuel Miranda to sit behind the desk in his agent’s office, which leads to a wrestling match on the floor (one, unsurprisingly, won by the guy half the age of the other guy). It’s interesting to me that Larry’s breakup with Lauren Graham included a shot at her asshole kid whom she self-diagnosed with Asperger’s– her response: “He has Asperger’s! What’s your excuse?”– because Larry often came across this episode like a child with a social disorder of some sort. He can’t stop himself from rambling or volunteering useless or even harmful information– see his Judge Judy appearance, which he should have won if he didn’t do that, or his conversation with Miranda’s wife (played by America Ferrera, and not his real wife) at the Hamilton performance.

    • Rosy Fingers

      An Open Secret

      Which has been put up for free on Vimeo for a limited time, presumably because of the current moment re. Hollywood abusers. You know how Corey Feldman is fundraising to make a film about Hollywood paedophilia rings? Well, it’s been made, with victims on camera telling their stories, and names are named.

      The stories circulate mostly around the Digital Entertainment Network (which, seriously, “DEN” – just fucking shameless) and the parties they held featuring underage boys. Mostly agents and producers are implicated, as well as the names that have been circulating such as (allegedly) Brian Singer and (allegedly) David Geffen. It’s not a great work of art or anything, but it’s a solid enough piece of reportage.

  • Miller

    For people who haven’t seen it, Matthew Dessem has by far the best review of Coco out there: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/11/26/pixar_s_coco_reviewed_by_someone_who_watched_day_of_the_dead.html

  • Ruck Cohlchez 🌹

    Ooh, I’ve heard from some corners that The Wrong Guy is one of the funniest movies of its decade. But I still haven’t seen it.

    • clytie

      You heard right.

  • Defense Against The Dark Arts

    I watched Logan Lucky (or as it should more accurately be called: Pseudonym: The Movie) last night. It was a breezy, clever, heist comedy with a fair amount of heart. No one has mentioned Hillary Swank doing her best Clint Eastwood impression as an FBI agent looking into the robbery.