Archive for 2018|Yearly archive page

The Girl in the Spider’s Web has no bite

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2018 at 23:04



The Girl in the Spider Web is a mess. The plot is cockamamie. There are few logical connections between the scenes. How Lisbeth Salander gets from one discovery to another makes little sense. Actress Claire Foy has no chance with this script to shine. Fewer plot elements and more insight into her process of detection could have saved this film. What we are left with is a series well constructed set pieces with some decent action and no reason to care. 

It looked good. And that’s the best thing about it. This is another case where a limited series would have been better. And let me emphasize limited. One problem with the trend of TV series is creators don’t know when enough it enough. We don’t need another season of Narcos, though it might be good. We don’t have to watch more Alienist with the next book being adapted from the lessor work, Angel of Darkness. Sometimes, one season is enough. It worked to perfection with The Terror and could have worked with The Girl in the Spider Web.  

Worse, they violated Tex Shelters’ character rule number #1: Don’t have supposedly smart characters do stupid things, especially if the action is against their character. In one scene, Salander disables a car to rescue a genius child. She takes her gun and grabs the boy from the back of the criminals’ car. Take a second to try to figure out what the ruthless Salander does wrong…

She leaves the killers alive! At that point, I called bullshit and started hating the film. Double-tap the killers right away, or give an actual reason she doesn’t kill them. She has no moral code against killing (at this point in the film or books), especially not other killers. Perhaps the assassins wake up and shoot at her, or a helicopter comes over the bridge after her. But don’t leave the killers alive. If she had killed them, it wouldn’t have altered main plot at all. Why the writer and director left in such an obvious mistake is beyond me. 

The criminals aren’t that clever either, but at least Salander tricks them and gets away, and it’s not just their sheer stupidity that keeps her alive. 

One of the worst choices the writer and director make is turning Lisbeth from a local avenger to an international spy. I guess everyone is out to rescue the world: Avengers, James Bond, Agents of SHEILD, Guardians of the Galaxy, but it doesn’t work for this character who is much better on a small scale doling out personal justice. 

If you’re not worried about a cogent plot, elements that don’t add up, confusing action, then The Girl in the Spider Web is for you. 

Rating: Rent/Stream it. It’s cool enough to see what they did with a Hollywood version of the book. But instead, see the much better Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the Swedish versions of the same films. 

Tex Shelters


Bohemian Rhapsody: Mercury Rising

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2018 at 17:26


From: https://themoviemylife.files.wordpress.com

Bohemian Rhapsody (BR) starts with Freddy Mercury leaving his family home as a young man to go to see a favorite band, Smile. He meets the members of the band, including guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. They just happen to have lost their singer and Mercury convinces May and Taylor to take him on. 

The film jumps to Queen as recording artists. Suddenly, they are on Top of the Pops singing ‘Killer Queen’. A lot of their early career is left out, and that mainly works.  And while there are some unnecessary fabrications of Queen’s history in the film, most of the changes are innocuous and don’t damage the plot. See the set list for the film here

The biopic mainly focuses on Freddy Mercury, but there is enough of the band to satisfy most Queen fans. The film did well  picking out the essential moments of their career, though, I would have liked to see more about the development of their most complicated and adventurous song, Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Before I get too far along, I want to say that Rami Malik was amazing as Mercury. He was able to not only demonstrate the overwhelming charisma of Mercury on stage, but also the sad, melancholy moments and his identity confusion. And Malik did all this without even being British. Score one for Americans playing British icons for a change! Seriously, he’s good. 

Equally good, if not better, is Gwilym Lee as Brian May. I have seen old and new interviews with May and Gwilym has him down from his voice to the slight tilt of the head May makes when he’s arguing a point. Lucy Boynton as Mercury’s friend and one time wife, Mary Austin, was also excellent. And she was also born the U.S.A.! Ha! Okay, she grew up in London. She’s good, is the point, and she can do more. I hope we get to see her and Gwilym in more films.  

Bohemian Rhapsody is a song that stands in stark contrast to many of Queens simplistic hits like ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ Moreover, the dark complexity of their hit song is quite different from their more upbeat tunes like ‘Radio Gaga.’ 

You don’t have to be a big Queen fan to enjoy this film. In fact, I frankly don’t think some of their hits are that great. The film does, however, help me appreciate them more. The biggest hit and title track to the film is by far their best. Two songs I would have liked to experienced in the film are ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and ‘Death on Two Legs.’ However, there is plenty of music from the band throughout the well-paced film. 

Rollingstone Magazine fact check of the film. 

The film is good looking and well edited. One reviewer I read said BR didn’t show enough of the dark-side of Mercury’s life. Clearly, they wanted another film. More darkness was not required to see how Mercury struggled and at times, was quite an arrogant prick. It’s all in there, BR just doesn’t dwell on the negative and ends on a high note. 

Rating: Pay full price.

Tex Shelters

A Series of mini-TV Series Reviews

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2018 at 01:21
The wire banner

From: dvdbash.files.wordpress.com

Featured here are reviews of series I have watch a few episodes of and can comment on. I have not watched much of Game of Thrones and may watch it once the series ends. Several shows were to slow and not interesting enough for me to invest time in such as Orange is the New Black and Better Call Saul. The return on investment wasn’t there. I enjoyed the first two series of Fargo but series three was a joke and I stopped watching. Grace and Frankie while entertaining, was just another light-weight sitcom in a different dressing and I got tired of it. 

These shows are not in any particular order in terms of ranking. I just type them out as I remembered them. 

***Marcella-I just finished series one. Some of the plot is unrealistic, but Anna Friel is great as Marcella and the conflicts, the motives, the scenes, kept me watching. At times the show is unnecessarily complicated, but usually, it makes sense at the end of each episode. 

***Counterpart-Okay, JK Simmons really is a good actor; his role in Whiplash wasn’t an anomaly. I am not sure how to discuss the plot without spoilers. It’s good and dramatic and every actor is beyond reproach. It successfully sets up cliff hangers so you can’t wait for more. It takes a strange plot device and makes it work. See it. 

The show also features Stephen Rea, the astonishing Olivia Williams with Nicolas Pinnock and Harry Lloyd, both from from Marcella. 

James Cromwell in season 2! Oh my!

*Barry-Barry was funny at the start, then became predictable. I stopped watching, though I am sure many love it. After episode three, I could have written the rest myself. And frankly, I don’t care if Barry makes it as an actor or goes back to killing. In a rare turn, this is one show that might have been better as a two-hour movie. The premise doesn’t deserve a series. 

*Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-If Dakota Fanning brought down The Alienist, it wasn’t because of the writing. It was the actress herself. In The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel, the actor, Michael Zegen, and the role, Joel Maisel (Miriam Maisel’s husband) makes the show unwatchable. And his role is written using all the husband clichés ever employed. That character is terrible and so out of balance with the quality of the rest of the show. 

Rachel Brosnahan is charming as Miriam Maisel, the house wife turned comedian, and Alex Borstein as her agent, Susie Myerson, is hilarious. Still, every time I see Miriam’s husband, I have to turn the show off. If only they had killed him off in the beginning of the show. I hate the character and the actor so much that I forget how good Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle are as Miriam’s parents, Rose and Abe Weissman. Kill off the husband, and I’ll start watching again. If you don’t mind annoying, cliché, stupid husbands in the mold of Ricky Ricardo, watch it. I’m out. 

**Narcos-Narcos is not for the squeamish. If you like crime dramas, gangster flicks, criticism of US drug policy hidden in a drug war drama, watch it. You will not be disappointed. This is one case where each series was better than the previous, mainly because of Pedro Pascal playing agent Javier Peña. 

Pascal makes it work, and his supporting cast doesn’t fail him. Now Pascal is out. I am happy with how it ended and might not return, but Michael Peña plays an undercover DEA agent in series 4, so I might give it a shot. 


***Mindhunter-Few directors and writers could take this compelling book about the beginnings of FBI profiling and make it work. David Fincher was one of them. The best part of the show is how Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) changes over the series, appearing as a boy scout on page one and at the end of series one, a troubled sociopath. The show is about discovering the criminal mind as much as it is solving crime, and it is fascinating. 

**Killing Eve- It’s an interesting spy thriller, but I have seen these elements before. And since I am not a fan of character who do stupid things for no reason, especially agents, killers, and spies, I grew tired of it. Many people aren’t bothered by that, so watch it. It’s not bad. It’s just overrated. 

*Babylon Berlin-The show looks great and the setting is compelling. The plot is too convoluted to have impact and the characters are not compelling. While I understand that the the times were strange in Germany in 1929, the connection between the plot elements are lacking. It’s not the complexity that bothers me, it’s that the plot elements are disjointed unlike a show like The Wire where the elements come together well.

Moreover, I don’t care about the two main characters and their lives. We are kept at the distance from them. Perhaps it is the deer-in-the-headlights look both main actors employ and call that emotion. 

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles, just the terrible English dubbing. So here you go.

Thank you for reading. 

Tex Shelters

Black 47: the Good, the Tragic, and the Horrifying

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2018 at 22:45


Black 47 is a compelling Irish Western and revenge drama set in Ireland in 1847 during the potato famine. Irish soldiers are returning after serving the British crown in war, one of the only opportunities for impoverished Irishmen during in the 1840s. Soldiers who don’t die in Afghanistan come back to the horrors of famine and the occupation of their nation by the British who did nothing to help the starving and sick masses.  

When Feeney, skillfully and somberly portrayed by James Frecheville, returns from the current English war, he has lost everything: his family and land. What’s an Irishman to do? The first and last choice is to kill some Englishmen who “aren’t welcome here”, in Ireland. He takes the skills he learned in the British army and turns them on the occupiers. 

Frecheville out-Clints Eastwood in this drama. Equally entertaining is the great Hugo Weaving as Hannah, Frechville’s former British commander. Then there is the Freddie Fox as Captain Pope, a British career man hunting Frecheville. I haven’t seen such deliciously seething contempt in the British since Tim Roth in Rob Roy. Stephen Rea is also his down-on-his-luck best in this feature as a man doing what he can to survive. Throw in Jim Broadbent as a racist English landlord and you have a recipe for a great film-going experience. 

The scenery is so beautifully filmed that I didn’t mind long pans of the scrubs and shots of men riding on horseback in the rocky landscape. The edits are tight and crisp, with few ill-timed cuts. The costumes were spot on and the history seems accurate to this non-historian. The one major flaw was the music. Brian Byrne goes over the top with the sentimentality and cloying tunes and it interferes with the rest of the great production. I put that on the director and producer who should have trusted that their story was gripping enough without an overwrought film score. 

Rating: Pay Full Price. For those in the U.S., it’s probably too late to see this in the theaters. You will miss some the impact of great landscapes. However, the story will work on a smaller screen.  

Tex Shelters

Hardy Can’t Save Venom

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2018 at 16:10


Venom is a bad movie. The dialogue and script are terrible. The music is undistinguished filler and the Venom theme song is annoying. The acting is horrible. Even Hardy was off the mark, and that wasn’t just the fault of terrible script. He tried to be scary and charming, as Venom can be, but the script held him back most of the time. The special effects and CGI are bad. Even the Stan Lee cameo was wasted and only a nod to a sequel. This life form isn’t going to a another Venom movie soon. 

The film has too many coincidences and plot points that are poorly drawn. The origin story is insipid and Eddy Brock’s (the human host played by Hardy) character is irredeemable. There is nothing to like about this stupid asshole. The fight between the two main symbiont/hosts was terrible. You could not tell who was whom, who was Venom and who was Riot (the “bad” symbiont). In fact, all the action scenes are sloppy and cheap looking. 

The motivations for some of the actions were confusing or nonexistent. Also confusing is the character arcs. Were we suppose to empathize with Brock, a man not clever enough to hide his disdain long enough to get a good story. That’s not noble; that’s stupid. And to think they needed three writers to create this dreck they call a script. Did they check each others’ work? 

Again, we have another evil rich genius, an Elon Musk type named Carlton Drake, trying to bring down humanity. And this time he does it by importing space beings. He experiments with these being, ignores the scientific method, endangers humanity, and we don’t understand why. Some genius. Was he an abused, bullied child as a kid? Who is he trying to get revenge on? It makes no sense. In the end, it’s just stupid. 

Ultimately, the story from the comic book doesn’t translate to the big screen. They should have rewritten it, taken out many of the elements and added more genuine emotion. A cardboard cutout could have added real feelings to some of those scenes. The point is, the emotion is fake and they expect the audience to add it for them by putting in the elements of emotion but not the substance. That’s lazy filmmaking. 

Brock’s relationship with Mary Jane, er, I mean Anne, is pathetic. We need a vengeful Venom and more conflict with the human host, not a trite unexplained love of humanity that Venom purports at the end of the film. 

Rating: Rent it. If you are trapped on a plane or at a friend’s house, give it a go. Otherwise, just say no.

Tex Shelters

Michael Moore is Angry, and that’s Good

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2018 at 16:42


Fahrenheit 11/9 is Michael Moore’s new film and it’s an equal opportunity attack on the major parties’ candidates and Presidents. The person who comes off looking the worst is President Obama. In fact, the whole Democratic establishment is excoriated by Moore and his sardonic wit again and again. The film plays too long and holds on to points well after the audience gets it, but over all, it’s a major cinematic comeback from the tepid, Where to Invade Next.

The film starts with a series of triumphant media talking heads on the impossibility of the Trump victory, first in the Republican primaries and then in the general election. However, Keith Ellison tells a panel on MSNBC to get ready for Trump, for he might “just win the Republican primary.” The whole panel, led by George Stephanopoulos, former advisor to Bill Clinton, had a hardy laugh at Ellison’s expense. After giving Trump hundreds of millions in free media coverage, they aren’t laughing now. 

At the time, the ‘liberal’ media loved that idea of a Trump candidacy, so much so that they gave him millions in free air time to help him represent the Republicans and lose to their chosen champion, Hillary Clinton. Trump received 23 times more free air time than Sanders. He outpaced the whole Republican field in free air time with nearly 1.9 billion during the primaries. And during the general election, he got 50% more free airtime than Clinton. Who needs money when you get free air time, as much as $5 billion? As Moore put it in his film, the media wanted Clinton to win, so they helped Trump, the weakest candidate in their eyes, represent the Republicans. Oops. 

And Michael Moore, for his part, predicted Trump would win. 

Trump won, and Moore was sadly vindicated. 

The best part of the film is that is highlighted the widespread dissatisfaction with the political system in this nation. From the water crisis in Flint to the teachers strikes all over this nation (starting in West Virginia), people have learned the truth about politics in this nation: the rich don’t care about you and they currently run things. As George Carlin put it, “They don’t care about you.”

Moore doesn’t quite go that far, but it’s as close to a reality check as you’ll get on the big screen these days. There are some amazing scenes of rebellion and actual resistance in the film. And there are some amazing montages of the American tragedy we live in. We know this is happening, and Moore encapsulates much of it in one film for us. You too will cry and laugh at the tragedy that is American politics.

Rating: Pay Full Price

Tex Shelters


Do yourself an easy solid and see “A Simple Favor” 

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2018 at 22:04


A Simple Favor is a compelling, humorous, small town family drama set in Connecticut “an hour-and-a-half” from New York. Stephanie Smothers, played by Anna Kendrick, is a ‘nice’ mother who lost her husband. She gets through her days taking caring of her son and producing her vlog, “Tips for Mothers.” She picks up her son everyday and meets fellow mother, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). They become best friends, or some kind of friends. 

That’s the set up. We learn about what happened to their friendship through Stephanie’s vlog and during the film. And it gets complicated. That’s all I am going to say about the plot, other than there are several entertaining plot twists and some that surprise. Unlike the overrated Gone Girl, this film actually surprises instead of giving us one big plot twist and a weak ending. 

The ending to A Simple Favor isn’t shocking like Psycho or Fight Club. However, we don’t know until the last minute of the film what’s going to happen; the twists are credible and not out of character. 

Speaking of character, the two leads, Stephanie and Emily are revealed throughout and Stephanie has some real growth. Blake Lively does well as the mysterious Emily (bestie!) and Henry Golding makes for a passable husband, Sean Townsend. The star here is Anna Kendrick. She’s charming, smart, adorable, and believable when things get rough. 

Speaking of moms: my mother “forgot everything” else in the world while seeing A Simple Favor. The film is that engrossing. It’s a nice film that isn’t as scary or compelling as The Gift but much better than Nocturnal Animals. 

Rating: Matinee. A Simple Favor is dramatic and surprises. It’s not a summer blockbuster nor Oscar bait, just a fun film to watch. For all its surprises, the ending is a bit ham-fisted, but the film still worth watching. P.S.: The music if fun and foreshadows the humor of the film. I genuinely laughed a few times while watching.  

Tex Shelters

The Miseducation of Cameron Post only scratches the surface 

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2018 at 00:05


The ‘Miseducation of Cameron’ (MCP) tackles gay conversion therapy head on in a sometimes funny, often deadly serious, manner. 

Homophobia is more pernicious and covert than the movie presents. We don’t learn about what brought characters to “God’s Promise”, but we do learn how they feel about it in the film. Their stories come across as genuine. 

The goal of counselors at the camp is to convert the teens into being straight and stop thoughts of “same sex attraction.” One outrageous example is when Cameron, clearly a teenage girl, says, “Call me Cam.” Councilor Dr. Lydia Marsh, played deliciously by Jennifer Ehle, says to Cam’s request, “No, Cameron is already gender ambiguous enough.”  Reverend Rick, a “former gay” played by John Gallagher Jr., is the more passive of the two heads of God’s Promise. They are both excellent. 

The actors playing the residents of God’s Promise are adequate with a flat affect most of the time. Sure, they are troubled by their circumstances, but a wider range of emotion would have been more realistic.

Due to constraints of a film’s approximate two hour run time, we don’t get enough of a backstory that I assume we would get in the novel. We don’t know the real motives of Cameron’s family sending her to a gay conversion camp, God’s Promise, other than she was caught fooling around with her girlfriend. Her girlfriend wasn’t sent to a camp, why Cameron? Treating Cam’s appearance at the camp as a given without motive weakens the story. 

What I do appreciate is that Cameron’s main problem in the film is how people react to her normal urges, not that she is somehow damaged. The problems are with the camp and the world’s homophobia, not the campers and their sexuality.  

The music, the edits, and the angles are by the book. Kudos to the location scouts, however. The camp was near perfect. 

The ambiguous ending to film doesn’t impress. It could have gone deeper to address the issues at the camp but decided to end without writing a resolution. It’s become the trend in writing, and it doesn’t make a film more amazing that filmmakers don’t know how to end it.  

Rating: Matinee

It’s a good film, but not spectacular. It’s too self aware and by the numbers, but still worth a view. 

Tex Shelters

Search and you will find ‘Searching’ a drama well worth watching

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2018 at 23:16

from nbcnews.com

Searching starts off as a banal mystery of an abducted child. But instead of turning into a revenge drama with David Kim (John Cho) going all Bourne on people with his special set of skills he goes into full computer tech mode and finds clues on his daughters computer, her phone and elsewhere. Sounds boring, right? I thought the same thing and I was SO wrong. 

Cho plays the grieving father with the right amount of grief, anger, and determination that not once feels false. Debra Messing, who I am no fan of, does a decent job as the head investigator on the case. No doubt her time on Law and Order, SVU helped her manage the role. The daughter is daughter-like and empathetic and mom, who died near the beginning of the film but appears in flashbacks, is realistic in her role. Bonus points for not making one of the family members White or near White. That would have just been stupid. 

About halfway through the film, I thought that I was an episode of Another 48 Hours, but then two twists amp up the pleasure in the third act to make it work as a well crafted and contained drama. I knew something more must be coming as the film moves toward the end. It gives you a false ending, but I was surprised by what it was. There were many other false leads in the film and directions the movie could have taken. The one it took worked due to the script and Cho’s acting. Props to the man once best known for a trip to White Castle. Also kudos are deserved for writer Aneesh Chaganty on his first feature length directorial credit. As I oft repeat, writing can make or break a film. The film won’t win any awards for sound, editing, or costuming, but the script and Cho both deserve nods. 

One thing I found disturbing about the way the film was shot was the constant advertising for technology companies during the film. Then again, technology wasn’t always seen in the best light. 

Rating: Pay Full Price
It’s not the Rashomon or Seventh Seal of crime dramas, but it could fit on the shelf with Pincher’s Seven though it is less graphic and not so overtly clever.

Tex Shelters

‘Puzzle’ is unique for what it isn’t

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2018 at 19:52


‘Puzzle’ is a unique film in many ways.  First, the film is about a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast. Second, the protagonist is a house wife, Agnes, played delightfully by Kelly Macdonald. Third, it features a Irrfan Khan, an India actor who is renowned throughout the subcontinent and elsewhere, who plays the puzzle obsessed inventor, Robert. And the film doesn’t make an issue about him being from Asia. He just is.

What are they thinking having an Asia man making puzzles with a White women from a suburbs of New York City and not having a big racial dust up! 

The film is about Agnes discovering who she is after twenty years of marriage to Louie, played with restraint by Dan Denman. And the writer and director shows restraint by not making Louie a complete loser, asshole, abuser. He’s a traditional man who has limited choices and vision while his wife is talented and charming. Circumstances lead Agnes to realize she has a less than satisfying marriage and the plot goes from there. 

The actors do great job with the limited challenges they have. McDonald shows the transformation in Agnes in subtle and some less than subtle ways. Robert also goes through a transformation of sorts. It is Louie who is stuck in a rut, though even he bends to winds of fortune. 

Rating: Matinee  ‘Puzzle’ is pleasant film with some low impact surprises. However, nothing about the filming, the music, the editing, or the production is ground breaking. 

Tex Shelters