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We spent last weekend in Oneonta, New York, our go-to vacation point. In addition to unspoiled natural beauty and excellent garlic knots, Oneonta is home to the cutest little movie theater you’ve ever seen.

In the cutest little mall you’ve ever seen.

Stick a Toys ‘R Us with a bunch of cabbage patch dolls in there and it’s like returning to childhood.

So since our evening plans were wide open, we decided to hit the theater for Blade Runner 2049. Wait – you say – the sequel to that movie you hated?

Yes, but we had a good reason. It’s true, Blade Runner (classic) is a terrible rapey mess. But it could’ve been good – it had the Phillip K. Dick cred. it just needed a protagonist. And writing.

This new reboot/sequel was directed by the guy who directed Arrival (which I did like, and is certainly not rapey). So, I reasoned, maybe they fixed all the problems and created an interesting, thinky, story set in the Blade Runner world.

I was sadly mistaken.

Key points:

1. It’s not because of the director

Because, bless his heart, he tried. There’s some very lovely visuals and artsy stuff happening, but the problem is with the writing. Because….

2. Theater kids designed the villains


There’s this bizarre trend in popular movies of creating bad guys that are positively vaudevillian. Think big overdone gestures, Nicholas Cageish facial expressions, campy speeches designed to project all the way back to the cheap seats… It’s like the garish stage makeup of acting methods. I first put my finger on it with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Before that movie disappeared from my memory like wet cotton candy, I couldn’t stop thinking about how off-tone Adam Driver’s performance was. It was like they cast a cocky theater kid who just memorized the “to be or not to be” speech.

WHETHER ‘TIS NOBLER…!

So Blade Runner has not one, but TWO broadly drawn villains. First, there’s Jared Leto as the creepy owner of the multi-gazillion-dollar replicant manufacturing company.

He’s the primary baddie, at least in the first half of the movie. Then his previously-neutral replicant assistant is ALSO revealed to be dramatically evil.

I cannot for the life of me remember that this character’s name is ‘Luv’ so I’ll just call her dominatrix terminator because that’s basically what she is.

What’s kind of interesting is how Jared Leto straight up disappears from the movie once dominatrix terminator arrives on the scene. Then we get scene after scene of dominatrix terminator kicking people with her super strength. But she’s just a robot girl (with no real motive). Where did Jared Leto go? He’s supposed to be the Mark Zuckerberg of robot slavery, and then he just like… goes to the bathroom and is never seen again? It’s remarkable how graceless this is, I can only assume it was a rewrite after the fact.

3) Apparently we think plot arcs are for squares
I suppose we can blame AI for the idea that movies can have plot arcs shaped like the path of a squirrel crossing the street. Is this the ending? No wait. Okay, false ending. Then more stuff. Fake out happy ending. Sad bleakness. Credits.
Call me old-fashioned, but I want a movie to END. Preferably in under 3 hours. Blade Runner 2049 fails on both counts. It’s butt-numbingly long and there’s no climax or even a real resolution. It’s just stuff happening in sequence. Slowly. Jeez, I have regular life for that.

4) THIS

This is in the actual movie. I couldn’t find a real picture of this, so I had to make it: it appears on Harrison Ford’s desk and it’s a framed photo of the original love interest using a picture that I swear is straight off the 80s movie poster. Cringe with me.

5) Harrison Ford


Harrison Ford is a lovely man, but there is no reason for him to be in this movie. No one demanded a check-in with a geriatric Rick Deckard. I think even fans of the original were probably hoping for a brief, studio-mandated cameo. But no, they hook old man Deckard right into the main plot by making him the (spoiler alert) FATHER of the mysterious replicant child. Making characters be secret family members of other characters is amateur screenwriting at its absolute worst. I wrote a short story in 3rd grade that involved long-lost cousins, and I knew it was crap then. Let’s leave those plot devices in childhood where they belong.

6) Also Harrison Ford


Mainly because there’s a 20 minute sequence that involves him sitting down, I think because he just wanted to sit down for a while.

7) Also Harrison Ford


Harrison Ford reads aloud some passage about ‘toasted cheese’ to Ryan Gosling and it goes over like a pie in the face joke. People in the theater looked around in confusion. Is this supposed to be funny? Weird? Is it like that scene in Moon where the clone guy starts dancing around and you think, oh okay I guess whatever this is is happening now? Baffling.

8) It’s going to be The Neverending Story 2
What Hollywood doesn’t understand (read: care at all about) is that terrible, made-years-later sequels occupy only one place on the mantle of history: The Neverending Story 2 spot. Sure, it’ll make you some cash. And, for a few years, HBO will own the rights for cheap and an entire generation of children too young to know better will think it is good. But eventually studio hype and quick bucks will fade away and all you’ll be left with is the Rotten Tomatoes ratings. And they will be bad.

Sorry Ryan Gosling! You seem like a nice young man. You’ll get through this.

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Today’s Reject: Orange Is The New Black

Why did we start watching: Orange Is The New Black is the first Netflix original series show I remember watching. The first season was campy, self-aware fun with the occasional heartfelt flashback sequence. Like the rest of America, we ate it up like popcorn. By seasons three and four the bloom was off the rose, but we decided to give the recently-released season five a try.

What did we think it would be like: Campy shows tend to get sillier over time, so I was prepared for the tone to go a little spastic , e.g., late-period Malcolm In The Middle. But I also expected some fun/humor along with it. (I was wrong.)

When did we stop watching: Episode 2, but it probably should’ve been Episode 1. Or back when they started the panty selling business.

Why did we stop watching: Oh boy. Where to begin…

Hungry Games
1) The super unfunny meth head girls. These two make Cletus on The Simpsons look like nuanced satire. There’s a scene I’m mostly forgetting (but it’s too stupid to look up) where these two don’t know how to, like, turn a doorknob. Because they’re DUMB DUMB DUMB. get it they’re DUMB? Hmmm…..
2) Weird sadistic bullshit. I don’t know about you guys, but for me TV is supposed to be at least partially fun. And scenes involving 1) weird sexual abu ghraib type torture and 2) revenge that involves inducing a stroke and 3) a character falling in love with her rapist — are pretty much no bueno. And you can’t pull the “great art” card because….
3) This show is trash. It was always probably 15% trash, but now it’s more like 95%. And 95% trash doesn’t get to go serious and do ripped-from-the-headlines storylines about police brutality. It may get you lots of retweets, but it’s offensive. Stay in your trash lane.

How secure am I in our choice? Completely. I would probably go back and unwatch those two episodes if I could, and I watched eight seasons of Parenthood.

What to watch instead: Go for Trash Done Right and point your roku remote to Degrassi: Next Class. I’ve been watching Degrassi in its various incarnations for a disturbing number of years, and this new season does not disappoint. Like OINTB, Degrassi trivializes serious issues… but it’s so much fun you forgive it. Plus it teaches you important (read: useless) facts about the youth of today, like the fact that there’s such a thing as a “prom proposal (promposal).”

(I’m still amazed by this.)

Today’s Reject: Mad Dogs

Why did we start watching: Mr. Max picked this one, citing good Internet reviews. I clicked through 10 screens of Amazon recommendations, then agreed to it.

What did we think it would be like: I had no real expectations, short of the Amazon plot description:
“When a group of underachieving 40-something friends gather in Belize to celebrate the early retirement of an old friend, a series of wild events unfold, exposing dark secrets, deception and even murder. Starring Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Billy Zane (Twin Peaks), Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) and Romany Malco (Weeds). Executive produced by Cris Cole and Shawn Ryan (The Shield).”

When did we stop watching: I was probably ready when we hit the jack rabbit sex scene between a middle aged married guy and an improbably beautiful (and barely legal) Belizean woman. We stuck it out for another episode or two.

Improbably beautiful.

Side Note: What is it about TV writers and jack rabbit sex? Is this a real thing people who are bad at sex do, or is it like in The 40 Year Old Virgin when Steve Carell says a woman’s body feels like a ‘bag of sand’ because he doesn’t know any better? Regardless, I feel bad for their girlfriends.

Why did we stop watching: The show’s bro-ness was evident in the first episode’s MAN-tage (intentional) of a pickup football game. Snooze. We watched long enough to get to the main story arc: the murder of the obviously-involved-in-the-drug-trade rich friend. But that plot mostly serves as a backdrop for arguments between a bunch of self centered dudes about their personal problems: child custody, problems at work, romantic troubles, money, divorce….
Mr. Max says it should’ve been called Bridesmaids 2: Best Men.
Also the murder-y cartel stuff was giving me nightmares.

How secure am I in our choice? Rock solid. TV shows need at least one likable character, and this show is one short of that requirement.

What to watch instead: Tentatively, Parks and Recreation. We’re only on the second episode, but so far it’s funny, easy watching. Makes me nostalgic for when we first got Netflix streaming and blew through the entire run of The Office. Good times.

Today’s Reject: Mr. Robot

mrrobot-key-art

Why did we start watching: Mr. Max and I both work in the technology sector, so people have recommended this show to us like, a hundred times. We just flew through a rewatch of Better Call Saul so we needed something new to watch. I was open minded to tone/style.

What did we think it would be like: Breaking Bad but with hacktivism. The plot follows Elliot Alderson, a computer programmer who is recruited into working for an Anonymous-esque Internet vigilante group. I’ll admit that the first few episodes had a campy “fight the man” appeal.

When did we stop watching: Halfway through episode 5, right in the middle of the big mission to destroy Evil Corp’s backups. It takes guts to drop a show right in the middle of a cliffhanger, but we did it.

Why did we stop watching: Let me be clear: this show was not good to begin with. It was merely watchable. It became unwatchable when they stopped writing Elliot as a capable, if awkward, genius, and instead made him a whiny, flailing nerd. I think their intent was to give the main character some conflict to react to, but overshot into Ben Stiller “Everything goes wrong movie” territory. Also I started to sense that the mysterious “Mr. Robot” character would turn out to be a Fight Club style delusion.

Also literally everything about this show is heavy handed.

mrrobot

How secure am I in our choice? Pretty secure. If I had realized the episode titles were styled with file extensions I probably would have rejected it outright.

2017-04-30 20_53_02-List of Mr. Robot episodes - Wikipedia

Groooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooan.

What to watch instead:

This lovely montage of Kim Wexler from the second season of Better Call Saul. Because it is the standard against which all television should be judged.

One of the best things about being over 30 is that I give approximately zero shits about sticking with things. Mr. Max and I share this ‘leaving when things get lame’ approach to life, which as everyone knows is one of the keys to a happy marriage. Accordingly, we feel free to reject streaming entertainment at any point. Which we do, a lot.

I stand behind our snap judgments, so i present to you, my latest blog feature: Shows I Stopped Watching.

Today’s Reject: Love

We didn’t watch the preview, but you can:

Why did we start watching: We had just finished the second season of The Man in the High Castle, resulting in a pretty bad show hole. I requested a lighter series, along the lines of Freaks and Geeks. So when Judd Apatow’s new comedy came up in our Netflix feed, it seemed like the obvious choice.

What did we think it would be like: Master of None crossed with Freaks and Geeks.

When did we stop watching: Right around the 5 minute mark.

Why did we stop watching: Annoying main character guy, unfunny jokes, every character talking too loud, and 3 scenes in a row of unhappy couples bickering with each other. We hit the back button during the jack rabbit style sex scene with the Paul Giamatti looking guy.

How secure am I in our choice? Very. Season 2 trailer looks to be 99% “nebbish guy plus manic pixie dream girl.” I already rejected that idea in the form of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which I described as “a movie about a terrible boyfriend, but from the perspective of said terrible boyfriend.)

Also someone falling down is played for laughs, which is my personal dealbreaker for TV/movie trailers.

What to watch instead: We skedaddled over to Amazon to watch Red Oaks, a retro style sex comedy series set in the 80s. It has its uneven moments but it was very fun and likable, with a minimum of bickering couples. I described it to a friend as “Funny, easy watching with an occasional booby.”

I’m a 30-something year old woman who watches too much TV…

…but I used to be 13 year old girl who watched too much TV. And back in the early 90s, I watched ALL the Snick shows. And like any flannel-wearing, wanna-be weirdo, I loved The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (Mandatory nostalgia-inducing YouTube of the opening theme):

 

And — true confession time — I may have loved Big Pete. I thought he was deep, complex, and sensitive — and I wasn’t the only one. All of my female friends (bespectacled, played a classical instrument outside of school, familiar with Watership Down — you know the type) – ADORED Big Pete. So much so that we (may have) developed crushes on several undeserving real-life red-haired nerds. But boy were we wrong.

Me and Mr. Max are currently rewatching The Adventures of Pete and Pete for the first time since childhood, and the truth is undeniable: Big Pete would make a terrible boyfriend. TERRIBLE. Ladies – steel yourself against those piercing blue eyes and take a second look at…. Little Pete. Yes, Little Pete. Sure, he’s young. But give him ten years and he’d be the perfect boyfriend. Here’s why:

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR LITTLE PETE

1) Little Pete is full of Joie De Vivre, Big Pete = Big Wet Blanket
Big Pete mopes through so many episodes it’s impossible to list them all – he drags himself around the Hoover Dam, he stares winsomely across the football field… he even mopes in the opening credits.

In contrast, Little Pete exudes pure energy.

Sure, he’s loud and hyperactive. But he also has a rich and varied life, including meaningful friendships, a loving pet (Gary), and his very own radio show (ambitious!). He was the only one with the guts to answer the mysterious ringing payphone. Does Big Pete even have interests? Or friends (besides his ‘it’s complicated’ status with Ellen)? No. Big Pete does not know how to embrace life. He only knows how to complain. When you’re a 14 year old guy with good cheekbones, this might make you ‘cool.’ When you’re nearing 30, it makes you insufferable.

Sorry but it’s true.

2) Little Pete Knows How To DEAL
In the episode Don’t Tread on Pete, Big Pete finds out about a history test the lunch period before class. Okay, we’ve all been there. But Pete takes it a step further – he envisions life as the school janitor, another person who “failed to live up to his promise.” Because… he might get a B. (He says ‘fail’, but he’s an A student so we’re talking about a B overall). As Liz Lemon would say, this is a dealbreaker. An ideal mate needs to have some ability to deal with minor disappointment. Otherwise you end up with one of those House Hunters husbands who throws a shit fit about the size of the backyard pool.

You know who DOESN’T freak out about a B?

That’s right, Little Pete. He doesn’t whine, he just GETS IT DONE. He doesn’t panic about getting into “the college of his choice.” He fights back against injustice. He turns the tables in dodgeball. He mounts an organized rebellion against an oppressive bus driver. He resists the system. And he wins.

Do you want to date some establishment stooge or the leader of the rebellion? I know what choice I’d make.

3) Little Pete Doesn’t Whine About Hard Work

In Rangeboy, Big Pete’s dad gives him a job driving the ball picker upper thing at the family driving range. Big Pete is OMG SOooooooooo EMBARRASSED to do be doing this dead-end job that he wears a bear suit every day just to hide his identity.

 

Man up, dude. It’s a job that doesn’t involve a nametag OR a hairnet. AND you get to drive a vehicle. AND it’s temporary.

Ladies, this is not the kind of guy who will support your dreams. He will not make dinner two nights a week so you can work late. He will not chop wood for a fire. He will not do his own laundry. He will get a man cold and stay home from work and complain for 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, Little Pete stayed awake for 11 whole days using sheer will. The choice is clear.

4) Little Pete knows how to express his emotions.

In Day of the Dot, Pete brushes off Ellen’s advances because he’s “not sure how he feels about her.” Then some letter jacketed sports douche sidles up to her and suddenly BP MUST HAVE HER. Weak. At the end of the episode, Pete comes through with a big romantic gesture in the middle of Ellen’s star performance in the marching band competition (which totally ruins it — way to support your girl’s dreams).

Little Pete doesn’t toy with people’s emotions. He loves Artie. He loves his family. When he doesn’t like someone, they know it. Honest. Uncomplicated. This is what you want. Not some game-playing bro who can’t decide if he actually likes you.

5) Little Pete Loves Music, Big Pete Plays Sports
Last but not least, a good boyfriend must appreciate music. Does BP like music? Maybe as much as any teenager does. But Little Pete LOVES music. He formed a band purely to protect the memory of his favorite song. Meanwhile, Big Pete….

Plays baseball. Just imagine years of married life with a baseball fan.