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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

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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.

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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.

Basically, they did.

We saw this movie a few weeks ago, but good luck trying to see it now. It’s a movie about a morally gray accountant whose special genius abilities (including some cold blooded killin’) are tied to his… autism. So basically this is a movie everyone will want to forget that they made. Ben Affleck is probably editing this off of his IMDB right now. An air plant will last longer than this movie will stay in theaters.

Please forget about this movie.

The movie opens with a scene where Ben Affleck (the titular ‘accountant’) is meeting with an elderly couple in his sad little tax prep office. It’s been a bad year and the couple might lose the house. Ben says a bunch of rude stuff and seems like he’s not paying attention, but then he gets a glimmer in his eye (an idea!) and starts walking his clients through some good old-fashioned tax fraud. I can tell by the strings in the score that this scene is supposed to show us that Ben is super genius or something. Except that the brilliant tax scheme he comes up with is…. “writing off a home office.”

Um, first of all everybody knows about that. It’s in an H&R Block Commercial. So it doesn’t really count as a super smart idea that only an accounting savant could come up with. Second of all, anyone who knows a teeny tiny bit about taxes knows that a home office is a major audit flag. Most accountants will tell you NOT to do. But okay, Ben saved the day with his super smarts. Let’s go with that.

So it turns out that the little tax prep business is a front for Ben’s real business, which is high level accountant work for big baddies like the mafia. He’s evaded capture for years by using fake identities provided by his secret partner in crime (a woman who we only hear over the phone).

So there’s Ben, and then there are the two detectives trailing him.

Actually they’re some sort of specialized investigators of tax stuff, but really who cares. This movie has a lot of complicated nonsensical stuff in it already. Let’s keep this basic: this is a cop movie plot, the characters are Nearing Retirement Cop (played by the guy from the the Farmers commercials) and Rookie Cop (played by an actress who’s been in a lot of Law and Orders). Oh, and there’s a weird blackmail plot between the two of them that’s too dumb to remember/recount.

Production note: This screenplay was written on a computer without a functioning delete key.

Ben’s plot is that he has a new job working for a Google-esque tech company. A young accountant (Anna Kendrick) has found a discrepancy in their books and they need a brilliant accounting consultant to untangle the fraud. Is it the CEO (John Lithgow, apparently taking a break from chicken commercials)? The CFO? Why is a Ben doing this job if he only works for criminals? How would he even get a reference if he’s always changing identities? Who knows? Who cares?

So Ben starts analyzing years of financial records of Not Google. We get lots of hilarious scenes that attempt to make accountancy seem cool. I was waiting for a computer-heavy scene like you get in hacker movies, but since financial and tax stuff in still paper-driven, it’s mostly Ben sitting in a conference room with folders and highlighters and a furrowed brow.

Exciting!

Apparently Ben’s work at Not Google has made him some enemies. A bunch of bad guys attack him and he kills them in an assassin-y way. The violence is weird and intense for a movie this dumb. Now you’re like, “Ohhhh, that’s why the Detectives are after him.” Then the bad guys come after Anna Kendrick and Ben Saves her. The game is on.

Mental Health Corner: We get periodic flashbacks to Ben’s troubled childhood and how growing up with autism Was Not Easy. I should note that Ben Affleck’s character is basically whatever they need him to be at a given time. He’s a sociopathic killer who lacks emotion when the script needs an anti-hero, and he’s a parody of an awkward nerd when they want his relationship with Anna Kendrick to have sexual tension.

They also have him beat himself with a stick sometimes (?) I don’t even know. They’re probably going to get letters for some of this stuff.

Summary: Why Is This Movie Bad:

The first half of this movie is silly and ridiculous. But the core badness is contained in the second half, which Mr. Max likened to aviation before the Wright Brothers.

How did it crash and burn so spectacularly?
1) The cop plot. On the surface, this is a totally respectable framing device. Rookie Cop and Nearing Retirement Cop are recognizable tropes. Yet something about it seemed really odd. It took me a few days after seeing the movie to realize that it’s that Ben Affleck NEVER appears in the same scene with the cops. Like, ever. I think we can all agree that even bad movies generally have the principal actors in at least a few scenes together. It makes me wonder: Did they decide to expand the cop plot after test audiences were all like, Ben Affleck is creepy in this movie? Maybe Ben didn’t want to come back for additional stuff, so they just filmed a bunch of cheap scenes in Canada or something? I don’t know, but it’s bizarre.
2) John Lithgow’s Dr. Evil Speech. Spoiler alert, John Lithgow ends up being the source of corruption at Not Google. He reveals his involvement with a campy “I did it!” monologue. Do people even do this in movies anymore? I thought this died with 1960s Bond movies.
3) “He Ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” So, Ben Affleck’s main bad guy adversary ends up being… his long-lost brother. I called this after the second flashback sequence because I have expert level insight into terrible trash writing courtesy of Lifetime movies. But… really?

Julie? Lisa??

And last but not least, we have 4) The Preposterous End Reveal which undoes the ENTIRE movie. In the last fifteen minutes we learn that 1) The detectives were NOT actually searching for the evil accountant — well, Rookie Cop was, but Nearing Retirement Cop was actually secretly working with him. 2) Ben Affleck is really a Robin Hood type who’s tattling on his bad guy clients to the cops. Apparently the cops looked the other way about him killing a bunch of people because… all the people he killed were bad? And 3) Ben Affleck used the money from his (actually noble) criminal enterprise to fund the autism program he briefly attended as a child. And the secret lady accomplice? His nonverbal childhood friend. I dunno guys. I just don’t know.

Mr. Max likes to remind me that I picked this seeing this movie over Arrival. I deny responsibility.

It’s your fault, Ben.

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A while back. I dragged a group of friends and coworkers out to one of those retro movie nights at the local theater. They were showing Blade Runner, a celebrated sci-fi masterpiece that I’d never seen. A modern classic according to pretty much everyone.

It was gonna be great! And for about the first 5 minutes, with those wide expansive shots of a futuristic city and the retro synth score, it was. Then the plot started and I wanted to be out of there faster than a Beatles fan skips over ‘Yellow Submarine.’

I searched the Internet for ‘Blade Runner overrated’ and found no significant results. What?

I took to Twitter and was quickly rewarded. I can always count on Lena Webb:

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But Twitter isn’t enough – there needs to exist a full-length article that breaks down the badness of this absurdly overrated movie. So, like the kind souls on Stack Overflow who add helpful things to the Internet for no reason other than pure altruism, I’m going to make the world wide web a better place with this:

6 Reasons You Don’t Actually Need To See Blade Runner

1. It is not Logan’s Run.
10 minutes into Blade Runner, I was already confused. What’s this crap about replicants? Isn’t this the movie where they kill everybody before they turn 30? Wait – is it the one about memory implants?
Answer: Neither. Because both of those movies (Logan’s Run and Total Recall) are about actual things, and Blade Runner is about nothing. Okay, fine, I guess it’s about ‘replicants’ but we only know what those are from a one-paragraph title crawl. Mostly it’s about nothing.

Here’s the thing with sci-fi movies: the sci-fi piece is usually just a backdrop. It’s a way to present a dark mirror of our current world, or make a statement on how society might progress in the future. When you take away the spaceships and tricorders, that’s usually the point. When all you have are noir-esque visuals, there’s nothing meaningful or memorable about the movie.

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Even if she’s pretty!

2. It will ruin your crush on Han Solo.

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If you’re a lady of a certain age, you probably developed a fondness for Harrison Ford via the likable scoundrel Han Solo. Well get ready for Blade Runner to kill your crush dead because Harrison Ford is GROSS in this movie. But, you ask, “It’s Harrison Ford, the lovable carpenter! How is that possible?” I know. It’s hard to believe. But he’s a bad, bad dude.

Why? Well….it’s because…

3. The character was written by Michael Scott.

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Remember that episode of The Office where they made a movie from Michael Scott’s terrible screenplay, Threat Level Midnight? And they had Jim play the part of the villain? And Instead of being a normal take-over-the-world type villain, they had him talking about weird dark shit like humping a corpse? The joke is that Michael Scott was too dense to know that necrophilia is, like, way over the line even for a villain. That’s how it is with Blade Runner. You can tell that the writers were going for a rough around the edges anti-hero. So… they had him smoke cigarettes…

…and drink….

And murder unarmed women in cold blood.

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No, Michael Scott. Just no.

This leads me to my next point:

4. It has a problem with protagonists. And women.
So, given that Harrison Ford is AWFUL in this movie, who is the protagonist? Is there even one?

Some background: The basic plot is that Harrison Ford is a detective brought out of retirement to catch some on-the-run replicants. The replicants are like android slave type things that look human. Okay. So we’re watching the detective go about his gritty investigating, until he catches one of the replicants- a half naked, unarmed prostitute — and shoots her in the back AS SHE IS RUNNING AWAY.

This was the moment where I was 1000% sure the movie was going to completely shift: Ford would be revealed as the real villain and the innocent replicants would become our protagonists. A bait and switch — like how the dude in I am Legend was revealed to be the real bad guy at the end. So imagine my surprise when instead we stayed with Harrison Ford:

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Crackerjack prostitute murderer.

I can’t even begin to described how deeply fucked this movie is about women. At the top of the list of gross things is the skin-crawly combination of violence against women and naked dead body ogling. At the bottom is the personality-free “love interest” character. In the middle is the super rapey scene where Ford traps said love interest in his apartment and force-kisses her.
Seriously, guys. I know the outfits are cool. I know the cinematography is striking. And who doesn’t love 80s synthesizers? But – come now – this movie is totally the worst.

5.It is actually quite boring.
Look, I have a lot of patience for pacing. I like plenty of slow, arty shit. But this movie CRAWLS.

As evidence, the ‘enhance’ scene:

This scene is over 2 minutes long. And everyone in the audience can spot the stupid thing in the photo that he’s ‘enhancing’ in the first 30 seconds. Why does he have to say ‘enhance’ like 100 times? Is it purely to make this scene take as long as humanly  possible?

6. Underneath the glitz, it’s a bad Rutger Hauer movie.
In our post-film parking lot skull session, Mr. Max hit on the truth: Blade Runner is nothing but a dressed up Rutger Hauer movie. Hauer was in a whole bunch of garbage films throughout the 1980s, usually playing the same spooky bad guy in basically the same way. And this is no exception! He just does crazy eyes and hops around. And Daryl Hannah does gymnastics moves in a fight sequence. Does that sound like something that happens in an acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece? Or some straight to VHS trash?

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You know the answer.