Star Trek: Voyager (season 2)

A TV review from The Movie Snob.

Voyager: Season Two  (C).  The Borg Queen and I watched every episode of season two in order.  (I joined her in her quest to watch the whole series partway through season one, so I didn’t review it.)  By way of background, I was big Star Trek fan in my younger days—saw every episode of the original series (most of them many times) and pretty much every episode of The Next Generation, but aside from the movies I pretty much dropped out after TNG.  So far, Voyager is a decent enough entertainment.  The premise is that some advanced alien technology has catapulted an advanced Starfleet ship named Voyager clear across the galaxy into the “Delta Quadrant,” and at normal speeds it will take Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew, TVs Orange Is the New Black) and her intrepid crew 70 years to get back home to Federation space.  Moreover, the Delta Quadrant is a fairly lawless place, full of villains like the cliquish, Klingonish Kazon and the ruthless but plague-ridden Vidiians, so it’s tough sledding.  Anyhoo, I dished out Bs, Cs, and Ds to season two’s 26 episodes in roughly equal measure, so there were plenty of average and subpar episodes.  If you just wanted to try the highlights, I’d recommend “Cold Fire” (episode 10), “Prototype” (episode 13), “Death Wish” (episode 18), “Deadlock” (episode 21), “Innocence” (episode 22), “Tuvix” (episode 24), and “Resolutions” (episode 25).  The season ends with a cliffhanger that I found pretty meh.  But if you like Star Trek, you should find season two reasonably tolerable.  The Borg Queen tells me it improves in later seasons, so we’ll see . . . .

Christmas Wedding Planner (TV movie)

Happy holidays from The Movie Snob!

Christmas Wedding Planner  (A).  Well, my sister doesn’t have cable, so I couldn’t watch a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie before the holiday rolled around. Fortunately she does have Netflix and we were able to make do with this little treat—commercial free, too! It checked off most of the critical boxes:

  • A cute and quirky heroine to root for. In this case, her name is Kelsey, and she is trying to kick off a wedding-planning business by arranging her cousin Emily’s Christmas wedding to the lackluster Todd.
  • An unattractive, uncharming romantic interest for the heroine. This role is filled by Connor, who starts showing up at Emily’s pre-wedding events uninvited.  He tells Kelsey that he’s a PI who’s been hired to look into this lackluster Todd guy for Emily’s protection.
  • Musical montage. Kelsey reluctantly agrees to help Connor, since he’s looking out for her beloved cousin Emily, and they indulge in said montage while doing a stakeout on the sinister yet lackluster Todd.
  • C-list celebrities in minor roles. Here, Kelly Rutherford (TV’s Melrose Place and Gossip Girl) and Joey Fatone (boy band NSYNC) fit the bill.

With all the ingredients in place, this 86-minute Christmas confection is ready to please.  Kelsey and Connor experience the obligatory misunderstanding that briefly drives them apart, but everything hurtles to a satisfactory conclusion. Well, satisfactory for all except poor Emily, who winds up not a Christmas bride but a maid of honor at Kelsey and Connor’s Christmas nuptials instead. But even Emily really seems pretty okay with it, so we don’t have to feel guilty about shedding wedding tears of joy for the winsome Kelsey and the homely Connor. Happy holidays!

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe (TV Movie)

Merry Christmas from The Movie Snob!

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe  (C).  Who doesn’t love a good Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, by which I really mean a bad Hallmark Channel Christmas movie?  I didn’t see any new offerings starring Danica McKellar (Coming Home for Christmas) this year, but the Austenite title of this Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls) vehicle reeled me in.  Unfortunately, this tale bore no resemblance to Pride and Prejudice that I could see.  The diminutive but toothsome Chabert sparkles as Darcy Fitzwilliam, a successful investment broker in the Big Apple.  She leaves NYC for the Christmas holiday to visit her family back in small-town Ohio, and she is thrown into preparations for a charity auction that her mom has taken over at the last minute.  Darcy is sad because she recently broke up with another money manager named Carl, and, although the doofy-looking Carl hangs around the movie’s periphery, we know by his minimal screen time that Darcy will instead end up with her old high-school debate-club antagonist Luke, who now runs a restaurant in town and of course gets hired to cater the charity auction.  Sometimes these movies feature a recognizable star or two in the smaller roles, but this one looked like a cast of nobodies to me.  My sister laughed every time Darcy’s dad appeared on screen because of his lamentable lack of acting skills.  True, he read his most heartfelt lines like he was reading a menu, but come on!  It’s Christmas!  I wonder if A Shoe Addict’s Christmas, which we’ll watch later today, will be any better….

Mystery Science Theater: Volume XXVII

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVII.

The Slime People (D).  This first-season offering just isn’t very good.  The movie is horrendous, about a handful of humans trying to survive an attack on Los Angeles by subterranean slime people.  Tedious in the extreme, and the riffing isn’t all that great either.  The highlight of the disc is actually a short interview with a woman who was in the movie, reminiscing about the experience and how horrified she was when she first saw the finished product because it was so bad.

Rocket Attack U.S.A. (C).  This second-season effort is not great but at least it’s better than The Slime People.  The 1961 film is a Cold War relic mainly about a spy sent to Moscow to figure out if the Soviets are planning to launch a nuclear attack.  Answer: Yes.  The first half of the movie features some pretty funny riffing by Joel and the robots, but they seem to lose steam towards the end.

Village of the Giants (C).  This okay episode features an old movie starring a young Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys), a very young Ron Howard (TV’s Happy Days), and a timeless Toni Basil (the 1982 hit song “Mickey”).  Howard is a brainiac kid in the little town of Hainesville.  He accidentally invents a substance that, when eaten, makes the consumer grow to enormous size.  Unfortunately, Beau and his gang of unpleasant punk teenagers get a hold of the growth formula and proceed to terrorize the town.  Expect lots of unconvincing special effects and lots of whining from Beau’s gang about how adults are always pushing young people around with their rules and such.

The Deadly Mantis  (B).  My grade may be slightly inflated because of the weakness of the other movies in this collection.  This is a 1957 creature feature about a giant praying mantis that was frozen in arctic ice millions of years ago.  Somehow it gets defrosted and runs amok killing people.  There is very little plot beyond finding and killing the mantis, which seems to take an unduly long time.  The riffing is pretty good.  The two extras are an introduction by Mary Jo Pehl and a short documentary about Mantis producer William Alland, neither of which is of any special interest.

Mystery Science Theater: Volume XXVI

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI.

The Magic Sword.  (C).  I don’t know, somehow this one just should have been funnier.  It’s a lame 1962 swords-and-sorcery flick in which Sir George (Gary Lockwood, 2001:A Space Odyssey) has to defeat an evil wizard (Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles) and rescue a beautiful princess (Anne Helm, Follow That Dream).  There’s so much material to work with, like George’s six assistant knights who get killed faster than bugs in a Raid commercial, and his inept sorceress foster mother, I don’t know why it wasn’t funnier.  The really amazing thing is that director Bert I. Gordon, whose movies were regularly skewered on MST3K, agreed to sit down for a documentary short about his career.  What a good sport!

Alien From L.A.  (D).  Yes, this is the 1988 cheesefest starring Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Ireland (Necessary Roughness).  She plays a clueless loser named Wanda who, through a series of ridiculous events, finds herself playing Indiana Jones in the lost city of Atlantis, far below the earth’s surface.  I think the director made her inhale helium before she read every line, because her voice was impossibly squeaky.  Unfortunately, the MST guys couldn’t do much with this one.  It just wasn’t very funny.

The Mole People.  (B).  This is a pretty good episode.  Some archaeologists (including Hugh Beaumont of Leave It To Beaver fame) find their way into a subterranean world inhabited by an ancient race of albino Sumerians.  The top archaeologist, a square-jawed John-Wayne soundalike, subdues the entire race with his trusty flashlight and courts a comely non-albino lass who happens to be among the mole people.  Pretty entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud riffs.  A decent short documentary about the film also appears on the disc.

Danger!! Death Ray.  (B).  Another pretty good episode.  The movie is a terrible 1967 rip-off of the James Bond movies.  Our “hero” is a pretty-boy spy with the unlikely name of Bart Fargo.  As one of the riffers comments, there is absolutely no tension or suspense at any point during the movie.  But the riffing is the point, and it’s pretty good.  The disc includes a short, choppily edited interview with Mike Nelson as a bonus, but it doesn’t really add much value.

MST3K: Volume XXV

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXV.

Robot Holocaust (B).  Even though it was an episode from the first season of MST, which was a bit spotty, I enjoyed this one.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I would have thought this movie was funny even without any riffing at all.  It’s an 80s-era sci-fi movie that’s sort of a mash-up of Star Wars and Mad Max, and it is hilariously bad.  The budget must have been nonexistent.  Some highlights are some monstrous “sewer worms” that are obviously nothing more than sock puppets, and the monstrous spider of which we are allowed to see only one leg.  Also fabulous is the female henchman of “the Dark One.”  She’s kind of pretty, but she can’t act to save her life, and she adopted (or actually had) a bizarre accent that sounded like a speech impediment.  Well worth watching.

Kitten with a Whip (B).  This is a pretty entertaining episode.  The movie being riffed is a 1964 flick starring Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas) as a troubled juvenile delinquent and John Forsythe (TV’s Dynasty) as the unlucky fellow whose house she decides to hide out in after escaping from juvie.  Ms. Margret overacts terribly, but she is nicely counterbalanced by Forsythe’s remarkably bland performance.  Definitely worth seeing.

Revenge of the Creature (B+).  This sequel to The Creature From the Black Lagoon isn’t all that terrible—it’s just kind of dull.  But the riffing is quite good, and occasionally hilarious.  Watch closely, and you’ll see a very young Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven) in an uncredited role.  (Actually, the MST guys point him out, so I guess you don’t have to watch all that closely.)  The disc contains a few extras, including a reasonably interesting documentary short about director Jack Arnold, who directed several other movies of greater note, including It Came From Outer Space, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Operation Double 007  (C+).  That’s right, this 1967 movie is called Operation Double 007 in the credits, but for some reason it’s labeled Operation Kid Brother on the DVD box.  It’s a shameless rip-off of James Bond movies, right down to starring Sean Connery’s younger brother Neal as a spy.  Well, he’s not really a spy; he’s a plastic surgeon and hypnotist who gets recruited into being a spy.  It also features some of the minor players from the Bond movies, including Miss Moneypenny herself, Lois Maxwell (Moonraker).  The riffing is decent, but this episode is the weak link in this collection.  An introduction by Joel Hodgson doesn’t really add anything either.

Perfect Match

A TV movie review from The Movie Snob.

Perfect Match (A+).  Remember adorable girl-next-door Winnie Cooper in TV’s The Wonder Years?  Well, actress Danica McKellar is all grown up, and she gives a “Hallmark” performance in this twisty little made-for-TV romance.  McKellar plays Jessica, a divorced and rather tightly wound wedding planner.  In an early scene, Jessica is arranging a wedding at a hotel ballroom when a suave jerk named Adam (Paul Greene, Somewhere) comes along and tries to steal the venue away from her!  Jessica quickly puts him in his place, and you think, “I sure am glad that creep is gone.  Now, where’s Jessica’s love interest?”  But the movie has a few tricks up its sleeves.  A scene or two later, Jessica is meeting with some young clients about their wedding plans, and who should show up but Adam!  He’s like the groom’s cousin or something, and his Aunt Gabby (Linda Gray, TV’s Dallas) wants Jessica and Adam (who is an event planner) to team up on planning her son’s wedding.  Of course, such a pairing would be a disaster in real life, and there is a little friction to be sure, but would you believe it—eventually Jessica and Adam hit it off and make a pretty good team!  And is there romance in the air?  Surely not!  Jessica is all neurotic and schedules everything down to the minute, while Adam is Mr. Spontaneous.  But Aunt Gabby ignores their obvious incompatibility, and she nudges them into what is sure to be a painful and doomed relationship.  Thankfully, the filmmakers spare us the grim details of Jessica and Adam’s eventual break-up, and we can just enjoy the irony of the movie’s apparent “happy ending.”  It’s a masterpiece.

The Last Man on Earth (TV review)

A TV review from The Movie Snob — a guy who watches very little TV.

The Last Man on Earth: Season One  (B).  The premise of this sit-com intrigued me:  Take a standard last-man-on-earth scenario, but play it for laughs.  Will Forte (Nebraska) stars as Phil Miller, a very ordinary guy from Tucson who just happens to be the only survivor of a virus that seemingly wiped out everybody else on the planet.  Including all the animals.  The first season is only 13 episodes, but they are so packed with twists and surprises that I really can’t say anything else about the show without committing spoilers, so I’ll just say that I thought it was creative and occasionally pretty funny.  The extras on the DVD set are nothing to write home about—some deleted scenes that aren’t particularly funny, a couple of episode commentaries that don’t add much to the experience, a couple of other short items about the creation and making of the show.  Just watch the show itself and see if it’s your cup of tea.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Mom Under Cover strikes again!

After the news blip recently about President Obama appearing on Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, I had to check it out.  Beware, you may get sucked in watching episode after episode of Seinfeld (who is apparently a car aficionado) describing a (usually) vintage car that he thinks suits the personality of his guest.  Then he picks up the guest in that car and they drive somewhere for coffee.  The show is much like Seinfeld–about nothing–just a couple of people hanging out.  Yet, it is delightfully entertaining.  Some episodes are better than others.  Be sure to check out the episodes with Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sarah Jessica Parker, and, of course, Obama.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV.

Fugitive Alien (B+).  I got several big laughs out of this “movie” that was cobbled together from a Japanese TV series.  The “movie” is about a human-looking alien named Ken(!) who accidentally kills a fellow alien, becomes a fugitive from his own species, and joins a crew of human space travelers for some space-going adventures.  Oh, and because Ken killed her brother, Ken’s former lover is legally obliged to track him down, kill him, and take his head back to their home world.  Good riffing from Joel and the robots make this episode a treat.

Star Force: Fugitive Alien II (C-).  For some reason, this sequel to Fugitive Alien never really takes off.  The “movie” is just as bad as the first one, but the riffing never really gets going.  The really shocking thing is that Sandy Frank, the man responsible for importing these Japanese creations (and others, like Gamera) to America, actually agreed to be interviewed for this disc!  He comes off as a real wheeler-dealer kind of guy, and he has very little to say about his treatment at the hands of MST3K.

The Sword and the Dragon (B).  In this episode the guys riff on a 1956 Russian movie about a medieval peasant hero who rises up to help his prince defeat invading Mongol hordes and their three-headed dragon.  It’s a pretty good episode.  As extras, they’ve bundled onto the disc two MST3K shorts that weren’t originally associated with this episode, “Snow Thrills” and the truly hilarious “A Date With Your Family.”

Samson Versus the Vampire Women  (B).  This Mexican import is truly bizarre.  For about half the movie, it’s a standard, if lame, vampire yarn.  Some lady vampires need to abduct a specific young woman and turn her into their vampire queen, while the woman’s professor father, her fiancé, and the local police ineffectually try to protect her from the sinister but attractive vampiresses.  Halfway through the movie, a masked wrestler (complete with tight pants, cape, and no shirt) named Samson just shows up in the professor’s study and makes it his mission to defeat the vampires.  And nobody seems to think it is odd. The riffing is not bad, but the oddness of the movie alone is enough to make it worthwhile.

Better Call Saul

More TV commentary from Mom Under Cover.

Better Call Saul–B+

If you’ve been mourning the end of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan’s spin off is pretty good.  Saul (Bob Odenkirk, Nebraska) has a new identity as the manager of a Cinnabon kiosk in a mall.  The series opens in black and white as Saul tends store.  At the end of a long day in his dumpy apartment, Saul reminisces about the good old days–puts in a videotape of his old TV commercials.  The flashback starts–and black and white fades to color as we learn how small town struggling lawyer James McGill became Saul the lawyer to drug dealers.  This series is the  same black comedy and has the same pacing as Breaking Bad. You’ll recognize some familiar faces.  Definitely worth watching if you liked BB.

Schitt’s Creek

Mom Under Cover catches us up on the world of TV.

Schitt’s Creek:  A

This Canadian import on Pop network is hilarious!  I am laughing out loud just remembering the third episode!! Think Green Acres for the modern era.  The premise–the Rose family learns their business manager absconded with all their money.  The only thing left is a town Mr. Rose bought as a joke for his son because of the name.  So, they pack up their designer duds and move to Schitt’s Creek.  Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara (Best in Show) are Johnny and Moira Rose.  Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 4) is the mayor.  Daniel Levy (Admission) and Annie Murphy (Lick) are the adult Rose children.  Seriously funny!

Downton Abbey – Season 5 premiere

Mom Under Cover returns to Downton.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT ***

“Principles are like prayers; noble, of course, but awkward at a party.”  –The Dowager Countess of Grantham

 Season 5: Downton Abbey is on fire! (Literally)

DA looks to be returning to its roots.  Violet (Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) continues to get some of the best lines. The personalities we love to hate seem to be coming back in spades.  Lady Mary donned an air of humility last season while mourning Matthew’s death and struggling to bring Downton into modernity along with brother-in-law Branson. However, this season she returns to her selfish ways stringing along both Lord Gillingham and Charles Blake.  Barrow continues to bully the servants downstairs and make trouble for downstairs-turned-upstairs chauffeur Branson by whispering to Robert that he found Branson upstairs with a girl from the village and implying there was more to the story than that.  We still don’t know whether Lady Edith’s beau is dead or alive in Germany—but their love child is toddling along and being raised by a pig farmer in the village who knows Edith’s secret.  The fire accidentally set by Edith was an odd sub-plot—but it secured conniving Barrow’s place downstairs after he saved Edith.  It also exposed (pun intended) James/Jimmy the footman’s illicit romp with former employer Lady Ansturther.  Look for Jimmy to get sacked next week.  Love is definitely in the air—Moesely is keen on Baxter; Lord Merton is interested in Isobel; and Carson and Mrs. Hughes have something going on. Change is also in the air; Labour is now in charge–giving the servants hope whilst signaling the end of an era to Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess.

Other musings:  How did Bates lose his limp?   Why doesn’t Julian Fellowes use Elizabeth McGovern to her full potential?  She seems to be wallpaper lately–maybe her band (Sadie and the Hotheads) are touring more…will Cora get the Spanish flu?

Downton Abbey – Season Two

A belated review from The Movie Snob.

Downton Abbey – Season Two  (B).  Season one of Downton Abbey ended with the outbreak of World War I; season two opens in 1916, in the thick of that conflict, and it ends in 1919.  I won’t commit any spoilers here (even though I’m so far behind the times that it would probably be safe to do so).  Let’s just say that season two seemed even more soap-operatic to me than season one did.  Heir-apparent Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens, A Walk Among the Tombstones) is mostly off at the western front, but back home he has gotten engaged to someone other than Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery, Hanna).  Noble valet John Bates is still trying to be rid of his viperish wife so he can be with his true love, the sweet and lovable Anna.  What’s-his-name, the politically radical Irish chauffeur, is still in love with Lady Sybil.  And life at Downtown Abbey is turned upside down when it becomes a convalescent home for wounded soldiers.  Some excessively soapy touches slightly diminished my enjoyment of the season, but all in all I still liked it very well.  On to season three!

MST3K: Volume XXIII

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIII.

King Dinosaur (B). This episode starts with a short, and as usual it is even funnier than the feature film being riffed. The short is “X Marks the Spot,” a production of the New Jersey Department of Transportation about a guy whose terrible driving lands him in an afterlife courtroom where he is half-heartedly defended by a sort of guardian angel. The feature, King Dinosaur, is a pretty good episode about four scientists who travel to a “lost continent” kind of planet. The disc also features a long and decently interesting bonus documentary about Robert Lippert, who produced some MST3K fodder such as Last of the Wild Horses.

The Castle of Fu Manchu (D). Wow, this movie is really, really horrible. Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) stars as the evil Fu Manchu, and he is masterminding some incomprehensible scheme to destroy mankind by turning all the oceans into ice, while simultaneously taking over the opium trade from a castle in Istanbul. Seriously, this movie is worse than Manos: Hands of Fate, it makes so little sense. And is so badly shot and edited. Even the guys on the Satellite of Love can’t make it entertaining. Skip it.

Code Name: Diamond Head (B). This is a decent episode in which the guys riff on a 1977 TV pilot about spies in Hawaii. Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) plays the villain, a master of disguise. I didn’t understand why the guys kept calling him “Lovejoy,” but apparently it was a TV role in which McShane played a “loveable rogue and an antiques dealer.” (IMDB.com) The episode kicks off with an amusing short, “A Day at the Fair.”

Last of the Wild Horses (C-). This weaker-than-usual episode riffs a lame Western about a beefy would-be stagecoach robber who gets mixed up in a range war between a wealthy rancher and a bunch of little ranchers. Kind of like the 1% versus the 99%, but with horses.

Community – Season Four

New DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Community – Season Four.  After a lackluster season three, Community went on hiatus for a while and then returned for a shortened 13-episode fourth season (without any participation by show creator Dan Harmon).  The fourth season was definitely an improvement, though not quite a return to the greatness of the first two seasons.  To quickly recap, Community is a Friends-ish kind of show about seven students at a terrible community college called Greendale.  In season one, the seven students formed a study group, and they have been together through thick and thin ever since.  The ringleader is a disgraced lawyer, the slick and cynical Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, The Informant!), while the heart of the group is the sweet and adorable Annie Edison (Alison Brie, The Five-Year Engagement).  Or maybe the heart is really Abed (Danny Pudi, Road Trip: Beer Pong), a Rain Man sort of fellow who comments on all the action as though he were watching a TV show.  Chevy Chase (Vacation) plays the least funny of the seven characters, and I hear he didn’t come back for season five.  Yay!

I’d say the first half of the season is above average, while the second half is a bit more mediocre.  There’s a decent ongoing story line in which Troy (Donald Glover, The Muppets) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) juggle their dating life against the demands of Troy’s relationship with his best friend Abed.  And Ken Jeong’s crazy Ben Chang turns up at Greendale purporting to suffer from “Changnesia” and to believe his name is now Kevin.  High points include a Halloween homage to Scooby Doo and a trip to a sci-fi convention.  I was also glad to see the writers give Britta a higher profile this season; her combination of extreme liberal do-goodism and lack of common sense can be very entertaining.  But the extras on the DVDs didn’t seem as good as in past seasons.

Faithful fans will be rewarded by tons of references to previous episodes and lots of returning bit characters like Todd, Vicki, Garrett, Leonard, and the much-loved Magnitude (Pop! Pop!).  Considering that Community has never been too big in the ratings, it somehow manages to attract plenty of interesting guest stars, including Fred Willard, Tricia Helfer, Luke Perry, Jenny Garth, James Brolin, Brie Larson, Sara Bareilles, and Jason Alexander.  If you haven’t tried Community yet (and if you like smart, absurdist humor), I urge you to give it a try.  Check out my reviews of seasons one, two, and three.

MST3K: Volume XXII

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII. Another collection of DVDs of one of my favorite TV shows.  The idea is that these clever guys play really bad movies and make funny comments about them throughout.

Time of the Apes  (C+).  This episode is only fair.  Apparently the Japanese went totally ape over Planet of the Apes back in the day, and somebody created a Japanese TV series in which an accident projects a woman and two kids into a future epoch that is, well, the time of the apes.  Then a fellow named Sandy Frank took bits and pieces from the TV series, dubbed them into English, and called the resulting mess a movie.  There are a few funny moments, but it’s not a particularly great episode.

Mighty Jack  (B).  This is another Japanese import cobbled together from a  Japanese TV series.  This one is about an international team of spies devoted to peace and justice, and the evil forces that they must do battle against.  The bad guys have the sinister name “Q,” but the good guys are saddled with the ridiculous name “Mighty Jack.”  The “movie” is amusingly preposterous, and the riffing by Joel and the robots is pretty funny too.

The Violent Years  (A).  This disc is clearly the highlight of the collection.  It’s a twofer.  The disc opens with a longish short called “A Young Man’s Fancy.”  A dorky college guy brings his buddy home for a holiday, and the guy’s boy-crazy little sister Judy sets out to woo him through the magic of electric kitchen appliances.  Very funny.  The feature film was written by the infamous Ed Wood and is yet another 1950s morality play about the direct line between parental neglect and murderous teenaged delinquency—by a gang of girls, in this case!  Also very funny.  The special features on this disc are interviews with Delores Fuller, who was Ed Wood’s girlfriend, and Kathy Wood, Ed’s wife from 1956 until his death in 1978.

The Brute Man  (B).  The disc opens with a short called “The Chicken of Tomorrow,” which is very amusing like most MSK3K shorts.  The feature film is a horror movie about a disfigured and possibly insane criminal who goes around murdering people.  Oddly, he is constantly referred to in the movie as “The Creeper,” and never as “The Brute Man” that I can recall.  There is a long bonus feature about the actor who played The Creeper, Rondo Hattan, and it is actually a sad story about how he developed the disfiguring disease of acromegaly after serving in the military during World War I.  Another extra is an introduction by cast member Mary Jo Pehl who expresses some regret that they did this movie.

Mad Men – Season 2

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

***  Spoilers about Season One follow ***

Mad Men – Season Two.  Has it really been four years since I watched season one?  I guess I didn’t love it that much.  Anyhoo, I have finally gotten around to watching season two.  It was okay, but I really don’t see what the hoopla about this show is, or was, all about.  As everyone knows, it’s a soap opera about the NYC advertising agency Sterling Cooper set in the 1960s, and it’s especially about one of the ad guys there named Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm, Friends with Kids).  Only Don Draper isn’t really Don Draper; from season one we know that he’s really a guy named Dick Whitman who switched lives with Draper during the Korean War after Draper was killed.  Whitman/Draper has built an entirely new life on this lie, complete with well-paying job, beautiful wife Betty (January Jones, X-Men: First Class), two kids, and a house in the suburbs.  And he keeps adding to the lies by having serial extra-marital affairs.  Don and Betty’s marital problems are front and center during season two, but somehow they don’t really come across as flesh-and-blood people.  What makes them tick?  Who knows?  There are lots of subplots involving the other folks at Sterling Cooper (and their spouses, like cute Alison Brie from Community), but they seldom seem to go anywhere or add up to much.  Still, it’s a watchable show, if only to enjoy the early 1960s fashions and manners.  It’s fun to be shocked by scenes of people smoking on airplanes and happy families casually leaving their litter all over a hillside after a picnic.  Colin Hanks (The House Bunny) has recurring guest role as a Catholic priest who is not a horrible human being, so that’s nice.

The Walking Dead – Season One

A TV review from The Movie Snob – only a few years late.

The Walking Dead – Season One.  (B).  As usual, I’m a late-comer to this TV series, and I have made my way through only the first season at this point.  As my grade indicates, I thought it was good, but not really great.  The set-up is pretty cool.  A Georgia sheriff named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually) gets shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma.  Some time later, he wakes up in a deserted hospital to a world that has fallen to a zombie apocalypse.  It’s a pretty effective way to draw the viewer into Rick’s predicament, watching him try to understand and navigate the nightmare world he now inhabits.  Once he gets his feet under him, he sets out to try to find his wife and son.  The zombie special effects are quite well done, and it is an amazingly gory show, even by cable TV standards (I would think; I don’t have cable myself).  I’d give it a higher grade, but occasionally the show did seem a little hokey, a little “TV-ish.”  Explosively tense situations seemed to crop up all the time, only to be defused a little too quickly and easily.  Characters occasionally make choices that are not particularly believable.  And the whole season is only six episodes long—what’s up with that?  The extras on the DVDs are okay, but nothing to write home about.  Still and all, season one was pretty good, if you’re a fan of hungry zombies.

Downton Abbey – Season 1

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Downton Abbey – Season 1  (B+).  Yes, I am a late-comer to this PBS phenomenon.  I quite enjoyed it, once I got the hang of the thick British accents.  The show is basically a soap opera about a family of British aristocrats, their estate (Downton Abbey), and their servants.  Season 1 is set in the years just before WWI.  Sir Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham is the lord of the estate, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern, Clash of the Titans) is his wealthy American wife, and they have two grown daughters (Mary and Edith) and one almost-grown daughter, Sybil.  Unfortunately, the estate is subject to a “tail,” meaning it can be inherited only by a male heir—meaning, in this particular case, a distant cousin that no one really knows.  It’s a scenario straight out of Pride and Prejudice, only set 100 years later.  The show does not neglect the servants either, giving us some quietly virtuous ones to root for and some wicked villains to hiss as well.  The formidable Maggie Smith (Becoming Jane) is a scene stealer as Robert’s tart-tongued mother, the “dowager countess.”  I give the first season a slight demerit because one of the mainsprings of its plot arc seemed a little too outlandish and contrived, and another slight demerit because it is only seven episodes long.  But the episodes are long (45 or 60 minutes each, I believe), and, on the whole, I liked it a lot.

Click here for Mom Under Cover’s review of Downton Abbey.

Mad Men – Season 6 premiere episode

Mom Under Cover is mad for Mad Men.  (Arguable spoilers follow.)

Mad Men Season 6 (2 Hour Series Opener)  (A-)
 
The Mad Men season opener did not disappoint.   Megan (Jessica Pare) and Don (John Hamm) on the beach in Hawaii sipping blue drinks signals a brighter more vibrant color palette this season.  Ironically, death is the pervasive theme–and Don’s fascination with it.  Not surprisingly, a few years have passed since the show ended last season.  In typical Mad Men fashion, Matthew Weiner (The Sopranos) sprinkled clues as to the exact year throughout the broadcast:  references to President Johnson, new stories about the first successful heart transplant, and hippies in San Francisco.  The upcoming Cotton Bowl – Aggies v. Crimson Tide – confirms the date:  December 1967.  
 
Season 6 promises to delve into an experience Don had in Hawaii, one that may be unraveling him.  Megan’s acting career has taken off; she’s landed a role on a soap opera.  John Slattery is at the top of his game as Roger in psychoanalysis.  Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) is thriving in her new job. January Jones still may be the weakest actor.  Betty is still wearing the fat suit.  She almost comically unconvincingly delivers lines to her husband Henry (Christopher Stanley) about raping a 15 year old friend of Sally’s (Kiernan Shipka).  Oh, and we learn the answer to the question posed in the Season 5 finale.  Though Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Don appeared to switch personalities last year, did we really think think Don would change his stripes?

Community – Season Three

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Community – Season Three.  (B-)  Quick refresher: Jeffrey Winger (Joel McHale, The Informant!) is a slick ex-lawyer who has been disbarred because he never got a college degree.  So he has enrolled at Greendale Community College to earn a degree and hopefully get his law license back.  Way back in the pilot episode, he inadvertently formed a study group with five lovable misfits—plus a rich old geezer named Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase, Caddyshack), who is not lovable at all.  The show is all about the study group’s escapades, and it’s full of absurdist humor about how terrible a school Greendale is.  I strongly urge you to get a hold of Season One and give it a try.

Unfortunately, Season Three is not as good as Season One and Season Two.  John Goodman (O Brother Where Art Thou) has a recurring role as the dean of Greendale’s air-conditioning-repair school, and the season-long plot arc in which he attempts to recruit Troy is just not very funny.  Somewhat funnier is Abed’s season-long obsession with a British TV show called Inspector Timespace (a transparent  Dr. Who clone).  Early on there’s a really interesting episode in which the gang is gathered in Troy and Abed’s apartment for a housewarming party, and when the pizza delivery arrives they roll a die to decide who has to go downstairs to get it.  For the rest of the episode they play that scenario out seven different ways, depending on who goes to get the pizza—kind of a butterfly-effect sort of thing.  There’s also a funny episode that is an homage to Law & Order, right down to the theme music.  And they get pretty good results repeating a gimmick from the second season: a clip show in which all the “clips” being remembered by the characters are actually brand-new scenes.  But lots of episodes fall flat, like a Christmas episode done Glee-style, and one in which Shirley and Jeff take on some German foosball bullies.  My favorite character, the cute and ambitious Annie Edison (Alison Brie, The Five-Year Engagement) has some decent episodes.  I thought Britta (Gillian Jacobs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) got a little cheated on screen time, but her bits tended to be very funny when she was on.

As I understand it, Community barely escaped cancellation after the third season, the network fired series creator Dan Harmon, and they are now airing a shortened 13-episode fourth season.  And last I heard a fifth season was still a possibility.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping they get their groove back.

MST3K: Volume XXI

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXI.  This is collection of five episodes rather than the usual four, and it has a clear theme: every episode is a terrible Japanese monster movie starring the giant, fire-breathing turtle named Gamera.  And every episode features guys in rubber monster suits, duking it out over models of Tokyo or wherever.

Gamera  (B-).  Our story begins with Gamera, which introduces our protagonist as a prehistoric leftover who emerges from the Arctic ice after being awakened by some Cold War foolishness.  Unfortunately, Japan pays the price for the superpowers’ misdeeds, as Gamera goes on a traditional rampage of destruction.  (Yet, for some reason he saves the life of a chubby, annoying, turtle-loving little kid named Kenny.)  It’s a pretty decent episode.

Gamera v. Barugon (B) marks Gamera’s switch from villain to hero.  Criminal treasure hunters bring a mysterious egg back to Japan from a tropical island, and when it hatches a giant, frost-spewing lizard, only Gamera can save the day.  I think this is the only Gamera movie that didn’t prominently feature an annoying child telling the military how to handle the crisis.

Gamera v. Gaos (B-) pits Gamera against a humanoid pterodactyl sort of beast that can shoot lasers out of its mouth.  The child-hero is called Itchy, and he’s even more annoying than Kenny was in the first Gamera movie.

Gamera v. Guiron (A-) is the masterpiece of the Gamera series.  The dubbing into English is particularly bad, and the monster is a hilarious-looking beast with a big knife blade coming out of his head.  The two villains are a pair of Japanese women whose dubbed voices are hilariously broad and Midwestern sounding.

Gamera v. Zigra (B+) is almost as good as Guiron, with a fish-alien named Zigra who comes to menace Earth because we humans are polluting it so badly.  Even better, Zigra has a minion, an attractive Japanese woman who accompanies him to Earth and quickly swaps her spacesuit for a bikini in an attempt to fit in with the natives.  As always, it’s up to Gamera to save the day.

Parenthood (Season One)

New from The Movie Snob.

Parenthood – Season One  (B-).  Well, I thought this would be a show my mom and I could watch together when she’s visiting, but it turned out to be a little too, ah, frank about certain subjects that never got discussed on, say, The Donna Reed Show.  I thought it was pretty good but not great.  It’s all about the California-based Braverman family—the patriarch and matriarch, played by Craig T. Nelson (The Family Stone) and Bonnie Bedelia (Diehard), and their four grown children (Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia), and their six grandchildren, none of whom is older than about 15.  Although the blurb on the cover calls it hilarious and heartbreaking, the emphasis is WAY on the heartbreaking side, and over the course of the season you start to wonder if these folks can ever catch a break, or if they ever even laugh for crying out loud.  Occasionally they say or do things that seem pretty unrealistic, just to ratchet up the conflict.  And the four grown siblings are awfully different from each other to be so close-knit.  But on the other side of the balance sheet, there are some likeable characters and some nice performances.  I have a big soft spot for Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty), whose Sarah is a refugee from a busted marriage who moves back home with two teenagers in tow.  I also like the responsible oldest sibling, Adam, (played by Peter Krause, The Truman Show) who has to juggle a successful career and two pretty demanding kids in addition to his somewhat crazy extended family.  And I like Adam’s wife Kristina, probably because she’s played by Monica Potter (A Cool, Dry Place), who’s kind of like a more attractive version of Julia Roberts.  I’ll probably check out Season Two one of these days.  Not many special features on the DVDs; a few deleted scenes and a short making-of featurette that is the standard love-in by the cast and directing crew.

Magic City: Season 1

The Bleacher Bum sends in this review

Magic City: Season 1.

Magic City is the nickname for Miami, Florida, and specifically 1960s Miami, Florida.  Magic City is a television period piece on the Starz Network.  It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike Evans, the owner of the Miramar Playa Resort Hotel.  Evans, the King of South Beach, carries the weight of South Beach on his back, and his burden comprises his hotel, his family, his employees, the politicians, the mob, the criminals that frequent his hotel, and his past.  Evans is married to a former dancer from Cuba who struggles to be a suitable queen to King Evans. Evans has two sons: Stevie and Danny. One is good and the other is the opposite, but both are loyal.  Evans’s business partners/enemies are his former sister-in-law and the local mob boss.  The show primarily focuses on Morgan as Evans, the Miramar, and 1960s Miami.  The show is two parts Mad Men and one part Sopranos, and like those shows, it has some stellar performances, exceptional direction, and skillful storytelling to go along with its glitz and glamour.  Grade: B.