TV Update:

 

When the “good guys” on your show are all criminals, you have to go deep with your “bad guys,” and good lord, the villains on Netflix’s Ozark are truly a bad lot.

With its nice-family-gone-wrong plot, Ozark would like to be the new Breaking Bad. It’s not that good, but it is eminently watchable, thanks in no small part to this rogues’ gallery of evil:

 

.                     grouchyeditor.com Ozark 

                                       Bad                                         Worse                                   Worst

 

Ozark has crooked politicians; but the lawyers are worse. There is a dangerous Mexican drug cartel; but the local farmers are worse. And the FBI? Don’t even ask.

 

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American Horror Story:  I’ve only seen the first episode of “Apocalypse,” but I’m thinking this show has probably jumped the shark. Series creator Ryan Murphy is busy doing other things, other projects. The only sign that he’s still around is the show’s continued emphasis on male ass.

 

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The Purge: Two episodes in, it’s not as god-awful as I expected. Of course, that could change.

 

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Lost in Translation?

 

This is the synopsis for a 2015 Russian series on Netflix:

“As four Russian friends grow up in the early ‘60s, life, love and the curse of success threaten to derail their dreams.”

Sounds like a Cold War version of Dawson’s Creek, or some similar tug-at-your-heartstrings dramedy. But perhaps not.

 

Here is the poster:

 

 

OK … unless this is actually the Russky version of Porky’s, you might want to change that title.

 

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by Gary Larson

 

I pretty much lost interest in the “funny pages” decades ago because so few of them were actually funny. An exception was Gary Larson’s single-panel classic, The Far Side. Larson’s loopy, goofy illustrations looked adolescent but displayed out-of-left-field wit. I mean, how can you not smile at this?

 

 

That’s the first cartoon you see in The Far Side Gallery, an anthology of Larson’s syndicated strips from 1982-84. Here is another example from the book:

 

 

But I have to admit that I found this book a bit disappointing. For every absurdist gem like the two examples above, there are a dozen entries that seem either dated, lame, or (to me, at least) incomprehensible. Maybe Larson improved with age; perhaps by purchasing this collection of his early work, I just picked the wrong years.

But man, when Larson was good, he was very, very good.

 

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Good thing I buy cheap tennis shoes, so I don’t have to worry about boycotting Nike and its “sacrificing” spokesman.

 

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Meanwhile, in Montana, apparently there is a raging Senate battle between Sgt. Carter and … Sgt. Carter (below).

 

 

For you youngsters who don’t recall Sgt. Carter, this is Sgt. Carter:

 

 

 

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Quote of the Week

 

“Tonight, we ain’t losers no more.” – Philadelphia Eagles fan Kevin Hart

 

Tell that to the National Council of Teachers of English.

 

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“Unlike baseball … football does not wimp out at the first drop of rain. Football forges ahead through downpours and snowstorms.” – Camille Paglia

 

Thursday night’s NFL opener was delayed by bad weather.  When did the NFL start delaying games because of rain?

 

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Speaking of Camille Paglia, I would love to see her and Fran Lebowitz go at it – in a debate, that is.

Get your minds out of the gutter.

 

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Baby Driver

 

I can picture young Tom Cruise and young Steven Spielberg teaming up to make a film like this 30 years ago. The result might have been a popcorn classic. Unfortunately, young Ansel Elgort as getaway driver “Baby” lacks Cruise’s charisma, and filmmaker Edgar Wright seems primarily interested in action scenes.

The action scenes are pretty good – especially Wright’s clever use of a synchronized soundtrack.  But there is also a lot of mundane exposition filling the gaps between chases. Baby Driver is an agreeable ride for a couple hours. But it ain’t no popcorn classic. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

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Hereditary

 

Hereditary reminds me of 2014’s The Babadook: Both films are creepy, absorbing family dramas … but it’s a stretch to hail either as a modern horror classic. In Hereditary, Toni Collette plays a cursed mother who is besieged – to put it mildly – by mental illness and violent tragedy in her small, tight-knit family. All of this doom and gloom is detailed in a superb first hour. But, as in Babadook, the “horror” that dominates the second hour is simply not that original, nor that scary. Release: 2018 Grade: B

 

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Lots of clowns, pea-brains, and Chicken Littles in Washington D.C., but I’m hard-pressed to name one who combines all three character traits better than this guy:

 

 

Unless, of course, he’s some sort of evil genius and is simply toying with all of us ….

 

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Last week we waxed eloquent about the wondrous escapism of YouTube conspiracy videos.

But if you’re seeking some other form of addictive time-wasting, check out Crazy Days and Nights.

It’s the wondrous escapism of Hollywood gossip, in the guise of a guessing game.

 

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Quote of the Week

 

“Bringing up the FBI and the Justice Department rattles a lot of feathers.” – Jedediah Bila mixing her metaphors – or something – on The Five.

 

These pictures of Bila rattled my feather. Ruffled it, too:

 

 

 

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If we’re all watching fake news anyway, why not watch fake news that’s entertaining? That’s why I spent the night watching fake news on YouTube — primarily conspiracy videos.

Google, Twitter and Facebook work hard to censor political views they don’t like, but they have no problem showcasing videos and articles about fake moon landings, or unshaven Stanley Kubrick’s recent return to the Overlook Hotel (below).

 

 

These videos are fun. I began with the fake moon landings, which led me to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (in which Stanley filmed Tom Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman, pictured below, in the buff), which led me to a video called “Pedophiles Rule the World,” which led me to Anthony Bourdain’s suspicious suicide in France, which led me to … you get the picture.

 

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These videos kept me up all night. And I didn’t even get to UFOs or the Kennedy assassination.

 

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Surely someone, somewhere, is busy updating “Bette Davis Eyes” to address this important question:

 

 

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If you’re going to borrow from classic high-school comedies, you might as well borrow from the best – movies like Mean Girls, Can’t Buy Me Love, and 16 Candles.

The makers of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (above) understand this, and that’s why, despite the fact that I hardly fit the film’s target demographic, it never gagged me with a spoon.

 

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When they try to be funny, the Big Brother houseguests usually fall flat. But every so often, CBS cameras capture a gem of an exchange, like this one:

 

 

 

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by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

 

Near the end of Final Justice: The True Story of the Richest Man Ever Tried for Murder, Charlie Rose interviews multimillionaire Cullen Davis for Rose’s TV show. A Texas jury had just acquitted Davis of killing his wife’s lover and a 12-year-old girl:

 

“Has your life gotten back to normal,” asked Rose in a husky, intimate whisper. “I mean, can you live a normal life ever again?”

“Normal would be walking down the street without being recognized by anybody,” Cullen replied. “That’ll never happen.”

 

Davis was right about that. One day in the 1990s, some 15 years after the 1976 murders, my wife and I were crossing a skyway in downtown Ft. Worth.  I caught the eye of a man headed in the opposite direction: a slight, dapper-looking fellow with a “cat that ate the canary” glint in his eye. He looked first at my wife and then at me. There was a trace of a smile on his thin lips.

It was, I knew instantly, Cullen Davis.

 

Rose gingerly turned the questioning to the murders. “Are you afraid, living in the mansion?” he asked.

 

At about the same time as our Davis sighting in the skyway, we lived near the infamous “murder mansion” on Mockingbird Lane in Ft. Worth. By then, the Davis trials were fading into history and the mansion itself was a long-abandoned wreck. Ghoulish curiosity seekers (including us and our friends) would spend a Saturday or Sunday squeezing through a vandalized plywood barrier to explore the once-lavish, $35 million palace, now dark, musty, and ravaged by souvenir hunters. (I confess that I took a piece of floor-tile from the kitchen – site of one of the murders.)

I mention all this because it’s not often that I read a true-crime book in which the (alleged) killer is someone I’ve seen up-close-and-personal, and whose former home I’ve helped ransack.

But pilfering floor tiles is nothing compared to the hijacking of the judicial system pulled off by Davis and his colorful, apparently conscienceless lawyer, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, in three trials conducted in the late 1970s.

You think the O.J. Simpson trial was a miscarriage of justice? Check out the Davis trials, in which multiple witnesses — including victims shot point-blank by “a man in black” — identified Davis as the perpetrator, and yet Texas juries could not bring themselves to convict.

Apparently, jurors were awestruck by the strange little man’s wealth and charisma.

I certainly wasn’t awestruck when I locked eyes with Davis in that skyway, nor when I trespassed in the cavernous halls and living rooms of his haunted house.  I was creeped out.

 

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OK, OK. Congressional candidates don’t have “running mates.” We know that, but that would spoil the joke.

 

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences message to Hollywood with its new “best popular film” Oscar category:

 

“Your movie sucks, but it did make a lot of money from the Deplorables, and we like that, so here’s a little naked man for you.”

 

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So let’s see … isn’t that “cultural appropriation” times three?

 

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I don’t care what your politics are, funny is funny, and this “interview” with former sheriff Joe Arpaio is pretty damn funny.

 

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The Mansion

grouchyeditor.com Mansion

 

I have a real weakness for horror movies in which a group of people are trapped at some isolated location and then snuffed out, one by one. This kind of film can have amateurish acting, sloppy cinematography, and a plot as tired as grandma’s bunions, and I’ll likely still watch it. The Mansion, a mix of (mostly) comedy and horror from France, is no And Then There Were None, but if you share my weakness for this genre you’ll enjoy the creepy old house and the systematic offing of numerous knuckleheads — one by one. Release: 2017 Grade: C+

 

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