Category: Weekly Reviews

 

Well, it’s the end of an era, and much of America is in mourning. The news of this passing, when it came, was a blow to many of us, if not an entirely unexpected one. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

It is true that for half of the country, this announcement was not greeted with grief and despair, but rather with (tactless) glee and relief. But this is a loss felt deeply by millions of citizens, especially women.

After decades of standing strong for women’s rights, who or what will replace this icon of female power:

 

 

Indeed, “what does it all mean”?

 

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Oh, yeah. This woman died:

 

 

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But seriously … if the conspiracy theorists are correct and our existence on Earth is nothing more than some kind of cosmic, simulated game, the climax of which is called “2020,” can the cosmic gods please put an end to the damn thing already, or at least take a bathroom break?

 

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I thought I should check out Netflix’s Cuties this week, just to see what all the fuss is about. But good lord … after I read some of the vitriolic comments about this movie on Twitter, it seems to me that even expressing an interest in the thing is enough to put you on someone’s hit list.

Maybe I’ll watch it later – assuming it’s still there.

 

The controversy over Cuties’ sexualization of children reminds me of the rationale for showing graphic rape scenes/nudity in “revenge” flicks. Filmmakers know they can get by with it if they insist that they are really against it.

But the difference between Cuties and something like I Spit on Your Grave — and it is a big difference — is the age of the actors.

 

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Way back in the early 1980s, I was a young man recently moved from Minnesota to Dallas, Texas. I joined a company softball team and was amused one sunny afternoon when I could hear players on the opposing bench refer to me as a “Yankee.” I thought they were joking. Ha ha.

To naïve me, “Yankee” was a term that died out 100 years earlier, when the South assimilated back into the Union. It was ancient history.

Over the coming years in Texas, I came to understand that the “us vs. them” worldview that rocked the country in the 1860s was very much alive and well in the 1980s South.

This makes me wonder about post-election America in 2020. Will “Trumpers” become the new “Yankees,” embodying a toxic cultural division that haunts us for a century or more?

 

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I am confused. Was the alligator trimming trees, or was it the woman’s legs that were trimming trees?

 

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Just a Thought 

Rather than give $1,200 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans so that they can pay the rent, why not give checks to older Americans and those with compromised immunity systems on the condition that they stay home, and let everyone else get back to work?

Hey, I’m an older American, so I’d have to stay home if they did this. But I think that beats the alternative.

 

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Bayleigh Dayton got the boot from the Big Brother house this week. Bayleigh is emphatically not underage, but she is emphatically a girl.

 

 

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I am finally, finally able to watch Denmark’s acclaimed series Borgen, which unexpectedly popped up on my Netflix menu. So far, I’ve seen the first four episodes, and my initial impressions are:

 

Pros:

It manages to make politics fun. The action is fast-paced, and our exposure to “stirring” speeches and boring committee meetings is limited.  In that respect, it’s a bit like The West Wing.

Most of the characters are well-written and well-portrayed. But not all of them (see “Cons,” below). The politicians, media people, and ancillary characters do not require lengthy backstories or exposition to seem real from the get-go.

 

Cons:

I cannot stomach the family dynamics of the protagonist prime minister and her husband (pictured above). The husband, especially, comes off as a smug, feminist wet dream. Support his wife? You bet! Content to stay home and play Mr. Mom? You got it! Do all the Christmas shopping without complaint? Of course! Prefer his wife on top during sex? What do you think?

I am hoping that this guy, a college lecturer, has an affair with the brunette student who has her eye on him, if only to confirm my suspicion that he is actually a conniving jerk.

Our hero, the aforementioned prime minister, is also a bit too good to be true. But so was Jed Bartlet, so I suppose that’s to be expected in a show like this.

 

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Young Wallander

I’ve only watched the first episode, but so far, the series seems mediocre enough. Not bad, not great, just … another cop show.

 

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Now they are saying that the nightmare we call 2020 will not likely climax on November 3. They are saying that because of the virus and mail-in ballots and stubborn candidates, we are not likely to know election results for weeks, or even months.

And so, 2021 will likely be much like 2020. Or worse.

I believe I’ll see if I can get a job as librarian at the McMurdo Library in Antarctica.

 

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My ban from Omegle finally expired. Just in case you are wondering how long these bans last, mine was three months. Just long enough for me to forget what attracted me to the site in the first place.

 

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Donald Trump disparages the troops and Nancy Pelosi gets a haircut: no great surprise, either one.

Trump and Pelosi are highly competitive, powerful people. To get where they are, part of their motivation no doubt entails a certain contempt for those who don’t make it to where they are.

Sad but true, I’m afraid.

 

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Dinkle vs. King

 

 

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The problem with these “protests” (translation: riots) is that they too often target easy prey: small businesses and innocent passersby.

This happens because it is much simpler to torch Sam’s Barber Shop than to loot Bill Gates’s mansion.

We get it: You’re angry and you want to vent. But putting the Vangs out of their shoe-store business isn’t going to accomplish anything. Oh, I take that back – it will likely succeed in re-electing Donald Trump.

If you must vandalize property and terrorize people, I would humbly suggest that you go after more appropriate, albeit well-protected, citizens. Like, for instance, the people and homes showcased on this tone-deaf series, which airs on Fox Nation:

 

 

Talk about terrible timing. Is this really a good year to resurrect Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?

 

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I’m beginning to think that the mainstream media uses this “mostly peaceful” term on purpose, just to trigger its critics.

 

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1BR, now playing on Netflix, is a pleasant surprise. It’s a horror movie that’s somewhat original.

Like so much horror these days, 1BR takes itself very seriously, and the tone is a bit soul-sucking. But it’s also clever and I dug the ending.

 

 

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TV and film critics want you to think that they’re smarter than you. For instance, they can spot the hidden messages and metaphors in a show that sail right past you. Critics recognize allusions to other series or movies that you do not.

They call obscure directors by their surnames only — because they know who Fellini is; don’t you? — or by their first names only, because they want us to think that they are pals with Quentin. Or Steven.

The worst thing you can say to a critic is, “You dummy!”

 

I certainly felt like a dummy while watching the Polish crime drama The Mire on Netflix.

I really liked the characters, the look of the show, the dreary atmosphere and the acting. The story was gripping, too. I highly recommend it.

Problem is, I was confused much of the time and completely baffled by the final episode. I felt like a dummy. It’s tough enough to watch a subtitled series with Polish names and Polish politics and Polish history without feeling as though giant chunks of the story are hidden behind some screenwriter’s Iron Curtain.

And so I was relieved when I discovered that my ignorance or stupidity wasn’t (entirely) my fault. Netflix had screwed up.

On most shows, Netflix gives you the option to “skip intro” at the start of each new episode so that you don’t have to rewatch the opening credits. But for some infernal reason, “skip intro” on The Mire means you are actually skipping a minute or two of the beginning of the newest episode.

 

And then I learned on IMDB that a 10-minute prologue to the entire series is inexplicably gone from the Netflix version. They got to see this intro in Poland, apparently.

You can find the prologue on YouTube, but it is in Polish without subtitles. Of course.

It features many people speaking Polish, and also a stripper. The stripper, thank goodness, does not require subtitles:

 

 

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TV Tidbits

 

 

Despite its positive reviews, I resisted Netflix’s trendy comedy-drama, Dead to Me. As our economy tanks and the pandemic rages, I couldn’t bring myself to much care about a series depicting the tribulations of two rich bitches in Southern California.

But I eventually caved and am now watching season two of creator Liz Feldman’s dark comedy. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini play a pair of middle-aged Laguna Beach gals whose lives begin to unravel and unravel some more and ….

I admit it, my preconceived notions about Dead to Me were (mostly) wrong.

Applegate, now 48, has come a long way from her bimbo days in Married … with Children (see below). In Dead, widow Jen’s (Applegate) Y-chromosomes overwhelm her better instincts as traits more often associated with “toxic masculinity” – red-hot temper, judgmentalism, even physical violence – regularly undermine her. And Cardellini, as Applegate’s mousy friend Judy who harbors one helluva big secret, is a perfect comic foil.

 

 

At times I feel I’ve had enough of these two knuckleheads, who get embroiled in murder coverups. Jen can be too bitchy for my taste. But then she’ll say something funny and all is forgiven. Judy makes too many airheaded decisions and is awfully clingy. But then she’ll do something endearing and all is forgiven.

Feldman and her stars have created characters who have me doing something I didn’t expect: cheering for rich bitches. Grade: A-

 

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Unlike Dead to Me, Netflix’s High Seas isn’t particularly clever, nor is it on anyone’s Emmy list. But it is a welcome respite from the ocean of jaded 2020 fare. Were it not for its spectacular, high-definition scenery, this comic mystery could be straight out of a 1940s Hollywood studio.

In other words, it’s mindless comfort food. So sue me. Grade: B

 

If you tire of the plot – something awful is always threatening the passengers of a luxury cruise ship – you’re not likely to tire of the show’s cast of fetching Spanish actresses. Although High Seas is strictly G-rated, this is, after all, 2020, and the stars have all appeared in racier movies or series. Here are the girls in their 1940s garb and in more recent roles:

(Click on pictures for a larger view)

 

Ivana Baquero

 

Ivana stars as Eva, one of two gorgeous snoop sisters aboard the ship. Eva is adorable and innocent.

Ivana the not-so-innocent in a scene from 2017’s Demonios tus ojos (Sister of Mine):

 

         

 

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Alejandra Onieva

 

Alejandra plays Eva’s sister Carolina. She bared her boobs onstage in a 2015 play called El Burlador de Sevilla. Pictures below.

 

 

           

       

       

 

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Natalia Rodriguez

 

Natalia plays Natalia, the mysterious, scheming sister of Carolina’s husband. Nothing mysterious about these shots from 2013’s Three Many Weddings:

 

                   

 

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Laura Prats

 

Laura played lounge singer Clara in season one. Here she is lounging in a scene from 2016’s Marco Polo:

 

 

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Ruminations

 

We don’t separate cops from their police unions, so why do we separate teachers from theirs?

 

I’ve grown weary of hearing about how wonderful our teachers are (give them a raise!), but how awful their unions are. Teachers compose and support these awful unions. Without teachers, they don’t exist. So if you despise the unions, put the blame where it belongs: with teachers.

 

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All of these recent “assaults” on Americans’ civil liberties (I’m looking at you, California) seem to be a big surprise to a lot of people.

 

But this stuff doesn’t really surprise me. I’m a cigarette smoker. If you smoke, you long ago got used to bans and taxes and stigma and the tyranny of big government and majority rule.

 

Welcome to the club, fellow Americans.

 

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Trump’s biggest threat comes from the TINOs — Trumpers in Name Only. These people pretend to support Trump because they feel they must, but their real goal is to undermine him. The TINOs, like their soulmates who are Democrats, are swamp creatures threatened by change to the status quo.

 

I mean, are Lindsey Graham, Jim Jordan, and Mitch McConnell really MAGA fans?

 

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Take a look at the picture above. The old lady represents everyone who’s had it with the violence and intimidation employed by Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and other leftists referred to by mainstream media as “peaceful protesters.” The guy on the left represents everyone who voted for Portland’s Democrat leadership.

Which side do you support?

 

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Meteorologists now refer to certain phenomena as “rain events.” Apparently, it’s no longer impressive enough to simply say “rain.”

 

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Signs on Netflix

 

The Web site Decider describes this genre – the crime drama set in a small town — as a sort of “comfort food” for a lot of viewers. You have a grizzled, often hard-drinking cop. He is likely divorced or widowed, and frequently has a teenage daughter. The tone is grim. Murder happens.

Signs (Znaki in the original Polish) is a decent series, but nothing special. It does, however, fit the “comfort food” bill. You get what you paid for.

And you’ve got to love actress Helena Englert’s ass (below).

 

 

This pose … I am imagining the director saying, “Raise your leg a bit, Helena, and show us a bit more butt cheek.”

 

 

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Am I the only one who thinks this looks like an ad for Grindr?

 

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Dinkle vs. King

 

 

 

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China apparently believes we are a nation of idiots. Just mail a package of seeds to an American, he will mindlessly plant them in his backyard and – presto! – you’re not growing carrots; you’re growing biological destruction.

That’s much more efficient for China than, say, exporting something like the Wuhan Flu, which tends to infect your own citizens.

 

Speaking of China … I’m sorry, but Mark Cuban and his fellow NBA owners need to make a choice: Either they are patriotic Americans, or they are in bed with China. Can’t be both.

I’d say more on this topic, but it’s Saturday and right now I have to go plant some seeds.

 

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Jim Jordan – where to begin with this guy? At times, he seems quite impressive. Like when he went after Saint Fauci, who seems hellbent on currying favor with Hollywood, sports fans, and liberals in general. I also thought Jordan was spot-on during the Trump impeachment.

But Jordan was exposed as a sputtering hypocrite on Tucker Carlson’s show a few days ago, in which he repeatedly dodged questions about Big Tech’s influence over the upcoming election.

Jordan is big on expressing outrage. Problem is, that’s our job, not his. Jordan wasn’t elected to whine and complain about Big Tech; he was elected to actually do something.

Has he, too, been bought off?

 

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Ben Jealous

 

Favorite Name of the Week: Ben Jealous

 

I wonder how often this guy has pissed people off when, during introductions, he extends his hand and says “Ben Jealous?”

 

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Dinkle vs. King

 

 

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Literally.

 

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I tried to watch a baseball game and wound up feeling like Michael Douglas in 1993’s Falling Down, in which his working-stiff character no longer recognizes his own country. In my case, I no longer recognized America’s pastime.

Not only were the “fans” in the stands ridiculous-looking cardboard cutouts, but for some reason the announcers were speaking Spanish. All of that on top of Major League Baseball’s decision to get all political and … well, maybe it’s time I moved to a tiny cabin in the mountains of Wyoming. Michael Douglas could relate.

 

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I watched a video last night that posed a familiar question: “Why do most Hollywood movies suck?” The answer was also familiar: Hollywood is first and foremost a business, and so the stories we get are all market-tested to ensure studios get the most bang for their (big) bucks.

Intelligent, dialogue- and character-driven narratives don’t translate well overseas, and so we have a glut of special-effects-heavy comic-book movies that play well in China. Quality stories have been exiled to the land of cheap indies and to streaming TV.

OK, but I have another question: Why are so many of the “good” shows such downers? In the past, Hollywood routinely cranked out product that was smart and – gasp! – uplifting. Not so much anymore. Today, even the comedies are cynical and snark-filled, even mean-spirited.

 

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I’ve been watching The Twelve on Netflix. It’s a drama from Belgium about a jury charged with determining the guilt or innocence of a woman accused of two murders. It’s not bad, but it’s a bit bloated; I began to grow impatient with all of the subplots by about episode 7. Just resolve the mystery already, I’m thinking.

But I hope we can all agree that actress Charlotte De Bruyne looks mighty fine — front and back (below).

 

 

 

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Speaking of ass, it had been awhile since Fox News entertained us with a sex scandal. But last week we learned that Ed Henry, of all people, got canned for sexual shenanigans with a co-worker named Jennifer Eckhart (above). Apparently, Eckhart wound up handcuffed to a bed while naughty Ed did all sorts of things to her. She claims this bedroom play was non-consensual.

Until this scandal, Ed was pitched to the public as the ultimate nice guy, a dutiful sibling who selflessly gave part of his liver to his sister, who was in need of a transplant.

What a swell guy — or so I thought. Then I learned that Ed also ran into trouble in 2016 when he got involved with a Las Vegas stripper.

Sounds like Ed might have given away the wrong organ.

 

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I need to do a better job of monitoring the porn-star world. Someone named Mia Khalifa was in the news this week, but I had never heard of her. Apparently, she is upset that her porn background is hurting her goal of transitioning to mainstream acting work, while men face no such stigma.

Mia is also warning young women to stay away from the porn industry, which she says is toxic. Below, Lebanese-American Mia in one of her porn shoots.

She looks like she’s having a miserable time, doesn’t she?

 

 

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Five years ago, I was a news junkie whose typical daily diet looked something like this:

 

 

I am still a news junkie, but today my daily diet looks more like this:

 

 

So, what happened to me? As the great political pundit Roseanne Barr famously explained to Jimmy Kimmel: “I’m still the same; you all moved.” Gradually, inexorably, my preferred news sources went off the far-left deep end.

 

I don’t know if Trump Derangement Syndrome was the cause of this leftward lurch, or if it was simply inevitable, but I can no longer stomach former favorites like Rachel Maddow and the HuffPost.

 

Tucker Carlson, Tim Pool, and conservative Web sites have their biases, of course, and I don’t always agree with them. And it’s hard to overlook the clown-like excesses of the New York Post (see above).

 

But they are not insane (see below).

 

 

 

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We hear a lot about the culture war between big cities (predominately liberal) and rural America (Trump country). But I suspect the real battle will be between big cities and the suburbs.

It’s one thing when Antifa occupies downtown Seattle, but what happens when they try to torch a suburban Applebee’s?

 

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