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 Posted:   Jun 18, 2014 - 9:37 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

I had resisted watching Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black," but here's my little NF review of the first 4 episodes of season 1:

I had such mixed feelings as I watched the first 4 episodes of the first season of Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black,” only watching it now at the behest of friends who’ve been on that hot tamale express since it began last year. Knowing nothing about it except that most of it takes place in a women’s prison, during the opening credits I recognized creator Jenji Kohan (from “Weeds”) and star Taylor Schilling, who, as a fish out of water, is about as out of place in such a setting as Lee Torgesen was in “Oz” or, for that matter, Tom Hanks in “Shawshank.” But we hardly have time to catch our breath before it hits the fan, and there’s little time to relax during the 3 1/2 hours of those first 4 episodes. While I can’t say that I loved it, I was thoroughly involved, and found myself caring for characters I didn’t expect to like. For example, one character is about to be released, and I found her so annoying that when it looked like another character was going to shank her with a screwdriver, I was at first happy about it. But by the time it got to that point, I found myself rooting for the character I hadn’t originally liked. And that has a lot to do with good writing and some remarkable acting. Kohan brought her “Weeds” associates to the project, and they’ve humanized a story that could have easily turned into a live action cartoon. If Kate Mulgrew doesn’t get an Emmy nomination, there’s no justice in this world, and the cast deserves an award for best ensemble. I surprised myself by watching most of the first episode again with the audio commentary of Kohan and a couple of her associates, which made me glad I recently dropped the streaming part of my Netflix service, because if I had streamed it, I wouldn’t have been able to hear that part. What a brave creation, and, for me, it's more interesting than "House of Cards."

Certainly more believable than "House of Cards!"

 
 Posted:   Jun 18, 2014 - 11:41 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Orange Is The New Black forever ruined my women in prison fantasy's. wink I couldn't get past the first episode.

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 12:34 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

The Lone Ranger (2013) - 7/10
Good fun movie overall. Pretty typical to what Verbinski likes to do in movies now but if you like that style it is enjoyable. Really love the use of Zimmer's score here, which is probably his best score in recent memory even if it is heavily influenced by one of the most recognizable classical pieces. Johnny Depp was fantastic in his role as his typical wacky self and yet it seemed to fit. Plenty of crazy big action sequences here and there and otherwise did a good job focusing on the plot.


Well, I'm glad SOMEONE liked it! I pretty much hated it, especially Depp's horrific camping, and the constant flash forwards to Depp as a museum model come to life ruined what might have been salvaged for me. Yuck.


My dad really enjoyed it and my husband largely did too. Though I can see why the museum Depp parts might have been problematic to some people.

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 12:39 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Orange Is The New Black forever ruined my women in prison fantasy's. wink I couldn't get past the first episode.

You really should go further than that. But then I know how it is to give up on something after the first episode. The characters are so much fun. I am about half way through Season 2 now just so that I don't have to blow through it in a week like I'm tempted to do. It really does have a lot of the same charm as Weeds where it is horrible and at the same time you can't stop watching and you love the characters.

And as to Weeds by the way I am now in Season 3 and thankfully it moved away from what at first seemed like it was going to become unwatchable but I am still not sure how I will survive all the way through the end.

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 1:07 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Orange Is The New Black forever ruined my women in prison fantasy's. wink I couldn't get past the first episode.

You really should go further than that. But then I know how it is to give up on something after the first episode. The characters are so much fun.


True, it's not fair to judge a whole show on one episode. I may return to it.

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 1:14 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

How To Train Your Dragon 2 /4-5

The character animation for the main cast is astonishing. This may seem like a technical observation many wouldn't notice or care about. But the subtle expressions on the faces and body language were breathtaking. Leaps and bounds better than other CGI animation fare. (It was like the experience of watching Golem in The Two Towers for the first time.)

But this is what the Dragon's franchise is about. Pushing the envelope in story and character animation. While most animation today is designed to be broad and harsh, Dragon's feels more grounded and real.

The soul writer, who also happens to be the director focused on characterizations and relationships. I often found the scenes between Hiccup and his family and friends emotionally involving and at times quite moving.

While it succeeds in some areas it falls short in others. The basic plot and conflict is thin, and the villain is rather generic. Humor coming from the secondary characters are typically annoying and often unfunny. The action sequences are a bit too much in execution, over done with too many elements and not well choreographed.

The film needed a stronger villain, better orchestrated action sequences and a more refined script. It also needed to be 15 minutes longer as some scenes seemed rushed.

Sadly the sound mix in the screening I saw underplayed the score. I don't know if this is the case for all masters that go out to theaters. But the score was really dialed back and it was difficult to hear what John Powell had to offer musically for the film. The second scene in the film was ruined by a stupid pop song that doesn't fit the scene or the film what so ever. Thankfully things improve after that.

Regarding returning characters Hiccup looks older as does his father who has a greying beard. Astrid in the original film was harsher looking with sort of an upturn nose. For the sequel she is far more attractive in a Disney princess kinda way. Some may disapprove, but I liked the beauty make over. The most significant new character (Not saying who, though spoiled in the trailer) was a pure delight. Amazing character, voice work, body language. In my opinion stole the show.

At times it succeeds in being a very special film. Falls short of being a perfect film, but I enjoyed many parts and applaud the effort.

(On a side note I had a little girl in the seat in front of me that would occasionally rise from her seat momentarily, and I presume a child in the seat behind me would occasionally kick my seat! So I was a bit distracted at times.)

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 3:33 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Sirusjr: Re: And as to Weeds by the way I am now in Season 3 and thankfully it moved away from what at first seemed like it was going to become unwatchable but I am still not sure how I will survive all the way through the end.

Believe me, it gets a lot better! I mentioned here a few weeks ago that I took advantage of Amazon's great sale of the entire series on very distinctively packaged Blu-ray, and I started with the special features on disc #15 and they were a hoot! (And made me wonder why Showtime has been so stingy with special features on the 8 seasons of its "Dexter" -- I've bought all seasons individually on Blu-ray, but have far more Showtime special features that I was able to record on my DVR and then transfer to DVD-R. Why, Showtime???)

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 11:00 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

This evening, while channel-surfing on cable HD, I came across the 1997 thriller "Switchback," which had just begun, and although I've long had that movie on DVD, I couldn't turn it off. It is such a good movie, with non-stop action as disgraced FBI investigator Dennis Quaid, who has been tracking a brutal serial killer (who lkidnapped his toddler son and has been taunting him about it), intensifies his search as the killing of innocents continues and the powers-that-be at the FBI are determined to put an end to Quaid's search. (Got that?) It's quite intricate, with twists within twists, and Jeb Stuart, who wrote and directed it, does a wonderful job with both. And, almost required, I was brought to tears in the final scene. I strongly recommend it, and while newbies to it don't want the identity of the killer to be given away, both Jared Leto and Danny Glover and the rest of the ensemble cast are excellent. Incidentally, Stuart also wrote "Just Cause" with Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburn, which is another good one.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 20, 2014 - 7:57 AM   
 By:   paulhickling   (Member)

Watched Pack Up Your Troubles and Beau Hunks last Monday evening at this month's meeting of my local Sons of the Desert 'tent'. Two great Laurel and hardy classics.

The first is their second feature.The second is the one where they join the Foreign Legion, because Ollie has been jilted by 'Jeanie Weeny'. Her photo is actually Jean Harlow who gave Producer Hal Roach permission to use it after leaving his employ for MGM. Ollie learns later that she really has "traveled all over the world" and been "loved by everyone". They all have her photo, both their fellow legionnaires and the 'Riff-Raff' they're fighting!

The film also features a celebrated performance by Charles - Ming the Merciless - Middleton.

Both priceless films.

 
 Posted:   Jun 20, 2014 - 8:46 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Message From Space 1-5

Continuing my trip down memory lane. I actually saw this in the theater when it came out. This almost falls into the category of "so bad it's funny". At least the unintentional laughs in the theater took it to a whole other level and it was kinda enjoyable in a mocking way.

Revisiting it on Netflix some 35 years later it was pretty atrocious and not so entertaining without a flabbergasted audience. The cast who made up the hero's were particularly annoying, especially the actress whom was cringe worthy!

While the effects are pretty bad the raid on the bad guys fortress was kinda fun. Some of the music was nice too. So I give it a rating of one for not being totally worthless- but close to it.

 
 Posted:   Jun 20, 2014 - 9:29 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Robocop (2014) - 6/10
This is one of those movies where expectations tend to lead to lower ratings. Though it was clear that this movie was going to have some political focus from the trailers I wasn't' expecting to see so little Robocop. I thought the questions posed were interesting but sadly they became the main focus of the movie.

 
 Posted:   Jun 25, 2014 - 9:12 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

The Pirate Fairy- 4-5

I really liked the soundtrack (only available as a download), but it is quite short. I decided to watch this program so I could hear the entire score in context of the film. The score is missing a nice opening bit and there were a lot of action music in the second half missing from the available download. Though in all honesty while the missing music was good, it seemed less complex than what was offered.

Regarding the movie itself. It was surprisingly entertaining. I would say the first ten minutes and the last five were kinda girl centric entertainment. But the majority of the story could be entertaining for any demographic. I think girls, boys, moms, dads, and animation fans would enjoy this program.

The animation for the most part was very good. Backgrounds and effects shots are rendered beautifully. As with non feature animation the hair on the characters are rather stiff, and facial expressions are a bit limited.

While geared as a girls series, if you have a title with pirate in it, you better not disappoint. This is where it exceeded my exceptions in being a rather adventurous story. Characters also have different motives and alliances flip on more than one occasion. What I particular liked was the premise of the story and where they seem to be heading the Tinker Bell series.

Major Spoilers:

Pirate Fairy introduces Tinker Bell and the rest of us to a very young Captain Hook, the crocodile, and Smitty. It also introduces the clock the Croc swallows, and the hook the Captain will sooner or later replace for his hand. I have a hunch the next video might introduce Peter Pan into the Tinker Bell series.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 25, 2014 - 10:55 AM   
 By:   CindyLover   (Member)

Warlok - a little tip for future reviews: write "spoiler" in lowercase and between the "[" and "]" symbols before stuff you want to spoilerize, and "/spoiler" plus the square brackets after it. Do it right and it should look like this. (Or see the Special Code Legend; it explains it there as well.)

The Normal Heart. TV has come a long, long way since An Early Frost ("I'm gay, mom"). Powerful stuff and extremely well-acted by all concerned, even if it occasionally betrays its stage origins. It's especially nice to see Jim Parsons away from The Big Bang Theory. 9/10.

 
 Posted:   Jun 25, 2014 - 5:11 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

The Normal Heart. TV has come a long, long way since An Early Frost ("I'm gay, mom"). Powerful stuff and extremely well-acted by all concerned, even if it occasionally betrays its stage origins. It's especially nice to see Jim Parsons away from The Big Bang Theory. 9/10.

I had mixed emotions about "The Normal Heart," which I watched shortly after it was first broadcast by HBO, and I've noticed that my reaction to it in no way mirrors the reaction posted by others. I've liked Mark Ruffalo in most of his roles, but didn't care for him in this, and please don't say that I was supposed to not like him -- as Larry Kramer's alter ego he was supposed to be abrasive, but I simply didn't BELIEVE Ruffalo. And while I had no problem at all with a well-known actress (Julia Roberts) playing the doctor, I totally disagree with your "It's especially nice to see Jim Parsons..." -- he's too distinctly Jim Parsons and I was 100% unable to suspend disbelief with him in that role.

Now to MY last movie I watched, although it's not technically a movie. Today I watched disc #3 of the first season of "Orange Is The New Black" (after stopping the streaming part of my Netflix service a few months ago because I rarely used it), and I have mixed emotions about that too. I really liked the first 4 episodes on disc #1, but I've not entirely embraced the subsequent 2 discs. Plus, in the special features, there was a spoiler we learn that Kate Mulgrew as the feisty and hateful cook Red is going to lose her job in the kitchen that happens in a later episode, so they should have included that on a DVD with later episodes.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 25, 2014 - 6:53 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

SPEED-94- No mixed emotions on this after not seeing it in years[saw it 20 years ago in the theatre] I still feel it is one of the best action flicks of it's kind ever. WHY? it is not just action it is raw suspense and one couldn't say , oh well you know nothing bad will happen through those close call's. the fact is some of the passengers did die, no less, that tragic scene of our main character's[Keenu reeves] friend getting blown to bits investigating the killer's house. The suspense holds one glued to the screen from beginning to end. Meanwhile the characters are all interesting,. Direction is well paced, top notch editing, fine tech credits and a good music score with a memorable theme from MARK MANCINA.A winner in my books, didn't care that much for it's sequel. If you are the type who don't care for action films that much, you might be surprised with this one.footnote- dialogue for sure with DENNIS HOPPER IS AS SHARP AS A RAZOR'S EDGE.

 
 Posted:   Jun 25, 2014 - 11:30 PM   
 By:   Warlok   (Member)

Warlok - a little tip for future reviews: write "spoiler" in lowercase and between the "[" and "]" symbols before stuff you want to spoilerize, and "/spoiler" plus the square brackets after it. Do it right and it should look like this. (Or see the Special Code Legend; it explains it there as well.)

I can remember that...

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2014 - 3:18 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Since The Normal Heart was mentioned, I thought I would ask some questions about it.

First of all, I thought it was very well-made and quite touching. Kitsch, Parson, and Bomer were excellent in the movie, but if I were to hand out an Emmy for best actor, I would give it to Mark Ruffalo. I’ve never been a fan of his until I saw this movie. Yep, he doesn’t play the most likeable character, but I thought he was totally immersed in the character of Ned Weeks. (Ron H., I know you don't agree with me on two of these actors, but that is okay.)

However, I’m not sure what the writer, Larry Kramer, wanted from his audience when he developed the character of Ned Weeks. I get that Weeks was rude, pushy and abrasive. Were we suppose to dislike him because of those attributes? Were we suppose to think that his approach was wrong?

I found myself rather ambivalent about Weeks because I tended to admire many of his actions. First of all, he took on the promiscuity of the times when the medical profession was just starting to understand the spread of AIDS. He wasn’t popular with other gay men, but he was right to push for monogamy to stop the spread of the disease. Secondly, I found his abrasiveness and pushiness seemed to stem from the medical profession and the government ignoring of this epidemic. He just seemed to want it recognized and to get medical and governmental help. Finally, although Kitsch and other characters wanted to move more gently or take a more diplomatic approach, people were dying horrible deaths every day while these men carefully and rather slowly tried to raise awareness. “Time was of the essence,” so I found myself more sympathetic to Ruffalo’s assertive tactics.

Would Kramer, the writer, say Weeks was wrong? Or would he say he was right? I just had a hard time figuring out the author’s point of view.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2014 - 8:18 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

joan: re: Since The Normal Heart was mentioned, I thought I would ask some questions about it.

First of all, I thought it was very well-made and quite touching. Kitsch, Parson, and Bomer were excellent in the movie, but if I were to hand out an Emmy for best actor, I would give it to Mark Ruffalo. I’ve never been a fan of his until I saw this movie. Yep, he doesn’t play the most likeable character, but I thought he was totally immersed in the character of Ned Weeks. (Ron H., I know you don't agree with me on two of these actors, but that is okay.)

However, I’m not sure what the writer, Larry Kramer, wanted from his audience when he developed the character of Ned Weeks. I get that Weeks was rude, pushy and abrasive. Were we suppose to dislike him because of those attributes? Were we suppose to think that his approach was wrong?

I found myself rather ambivalent about Weeks because I tended to admire many of his actions. First of all, he took on the promiscuity of the times when the medical profession was just starting to understand the spread of AIDS. He wasn’t popular with other gay men, but he was right to push for monogamy to stop the spread of the disease. Secondly, I found his abrasiveness and pushiness seemed to stem from the medical profession and the government ignoring of this epidemic. He just seemed to want it recognized and to get medical and governmental help. Finally, although Kitsch and other characters wanted to move more gently or take a more diplomatic approach, people were dying horrible deaths every day while these men carefully and rather slowly tried to raise awareness. “Time was of the essence,” so I found myself more sympathetic to Ruffalo’s assertive tactics.

Would Kramer, the writer, say Weeks was wrong? Or would he say he was right? I just had a hard time figuring out the author’s point of view.


I had reservations about it too, as you mentioned, and, unlike you, was very troubled by the performance of Mark Ruffalo, an actor I often like. Of course he plays a pushy and abrasive and sometimes unlikable character, but he is essentially writer Larry Kramer's alter ego, and most of us know that Larry Kramer has long been pushy and abrasive and sometimes very unlikable, so the part suited the history of the writer, and in answer to your question ("I'm not sure what the writer Larry Kramnerm wanted from his audience when he developed the character of Ned Weeks") -- he was essentially presenting himself, warts and all, and wasn't asking anything of those watching the character. If anything, Kramer himself is far more abrasive than Ruffalo plays him, or at least he used to be during the days of ACT UP. In the end, I found it hard to get involved with it, and it certainly didn't help that the instantly recognizable Jim Parsons was in it (another actor you singled out for praise). As I've written elsewhere, Parson's was sooooooooo recognizable for his comedic kitsch that I was unable to suspend disbelief, although, oddly, I didn't have that problem with the even more recognizable Julia Roberts, who succeeded in becoming the doctor she was playing.

Incidentally, about an hour ago I watched "The Case Against 8," the HBO documentary on the fight to declare California voters' outlawing of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, which I liked, but it was essentially a victory lap for those who wanted to overturn the ban, as I did, so I had reason to enjoy it.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2014 - 9:37 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Glad you chimed in, Ron. True I did like Parson and Ruffalo better than you did. I don't know who Larry Kramer is except he was the writer, so Weeks being his alter ego is new information for me. Do you think Kramer wanted us to support Weeks' attempts even if his style alienated people? Or do you think we were suppose to support the more diplomatic guys while people died? Authors usually want an audience to feel something or at least to educate us. I struggle with whom we are suppose to root for which may be a weakness on the part of the author. (Or it may be that I'm a bit dumb...duh.)

I do appreciate your insights.

 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2014 - 7:47 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

joan:

Kramer has long been, since before HIV was even given a name, one of the leading voices, however strident, in the struggle to get funding for research and to educate people that in most cases it's a preventable ailment. Google him and you may be surprised by what you find.

I suspect that he wants us to admire Ruffalo as his alter ego but to recognize that he, Kramer, HAD to be abrasive and unpleasant to change the behavior of millions of people. We needed Cher to step forward and slap our faces and shout "Snap out of it!," when too many kept living like there was no tomorrow. And for too many there wasn't. So far I've made it through those minefields and am now in my (very young!) 70s.

 
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