Look Both Ways. Good. I was pleased to learn from watching this movie that I can still enjoy something with relatively sedate pacing. I chose this due to a recommendation in a Maltin on Movies episode. I didn’t note anything about the recommendation other than that the film was one of Maltin’s 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, and it’s entirely possible that it is.
Daughters of Satan. Awful. In the mid-1980s, Tom Selleck mentioned this on Late Night with David Letterman at least once, so I was pleased to find it available on Netflix (streaming only). Selleck was always a great Letterman guest—game and personable—so I like him, or at least the persona he presents on such occasions.
The clip he presented made it clear that Daughters of Satan was a stinker, so I can’t claim to be surprised at how awful it was. And while I like Selleck, and consider him a competent actor, he is not his generation’s Olivier. He was, however, in a cast of a dozen or so, the only person who seemed to be able to act at all, and even he was clearly struggling with the appalling things he was obligated by the script to say.
I can’t bring myself to watch it again to get a proper Joe Bob Briggs scorecard, but there were several breasts (all gratuitous, and some just plain unwelcome), one beast, and two spontaneous car explosions.
I can encourage seeing this only if you have Rifftrax-class friends with you.
The Children’s Hour. Good. I knew the general outline of the story from having paid attention to life (and in particular to The Celluloid Closet), but had never seen the film. Aside from a couple minor surprises, it was just as expected. The direction was lovely, with a couple particularly striking sequences, and the acting of the two leads was a delight. The children were less compelling (especially the spoiled brat Mary), and James Garner was serviceable until called upon to express an emotion other than annoyance. He really is much better suited to Messrs. Maverick and Rockford.
Big Fan. Okay. I think this film was done a disservice by its trailer, though I completely believe it would be challenging to create a perfect trailer for it. Patton Oswalt is great, as expected. This is the second film I’ve watched recently, though, in which I found the pacing, shall we say, contemplative. Maybe this effect was accentuated by my watching it on my laptop; regardless, I don’t think that I’ve just been so trained by modern media to expect something to happen every three seconds that anything slower makes me antsy.
Related (but not identical) to my issues with pacing, I wonder if maybe the film would have made me happier at about half its length. You’ll never get a theater distribution deal for a 45-minute film, but there are enough alternative distribution outlets out there now that it ought to be possible to get such a work in front of at least as many eyes as would see it in “selected cities.”
Mary Tyler Moore Season 2. Good. I don’t have a lot to say about the show; I think it holds up pretty well nearly forty years on, though it surely is of its time. Since I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t know till it arrived that the last disc is exclusively bonus materials. I can’t give them an unqualified recommendation, but one of the segments (apparently an episode of a local news magazine called “Moore on Sunday” —presumably no relation—covering the MTM team as they shot new titles for the fourth season) provides a vivid illustration of just how much tv has and hasn’t changed. Still with us, the inexplicably heightened drama: “We’ll show you what really happened…things even the newspapers never told you about.” No longer imaginable: twenty minutes of following a crew around as they set up and film.
Top Gear Series 10. Does what it says on the tin. Well, strictly speaking, it approximates what it says on the tin. It’s Top Gear, certainly, with all the features you expect, but the episodes have inexplicably been cut down by roughly ten minutes each. Frequently, this results in the loss of the “news” segments, though they bizarrely chose to omit two “star in a reasonably priced car” segments, and at least one Stig power lap, f’r Chrissakes.
I cannot fathom what has possessed 2 Entertain to abridge the episodes at all; I know that they are similarly hacked up for US transmission, but that is so BBC America (and other licensees) can insert ads. There are, mercifully, no ads inserted on the DVD, so I can only speculate that somebody was very lazy or there was some rights issue that just happened to affect ten minutes per episode. In any event, it was extremely disappointing not to be seeing the full episodes.
Constantine. Okay. I was surprised that this comic book adaptation starring Keanu Reeves was watchable. It’s not good, but it’s a decent sound-system workout, the cast is uniformly competent, the effects hold up nicely, and even the mountains of exposition were handled surprisingly gracefully.
I expect the shots I found most annoying were taken from comic book panels (I have not read any Hellblazer comics; I suspect this caused me to enjoy the movie more), but I expect that some of the more visually arresting effects shots were also taken directly from the comics, so that may balance out.
Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar. Does what it says on the tin. There are absolutely no surprises in this collection of Nashville performers with a monofilament of plot wrapped around them.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox. Okay. A friend of the Collective brought this documentary to my attention, and having enjoyed the Bronner labels for several years, I was interested enough to throw it on my Netflix queue. It’s a bit of a ramble, which is probably fitting for the topic, but does make it a little too easy to do other things while watching it.
I enjoyed the second series of Alfresco more than the first, and suspect that that enjoyment is related to Fry and Laurie writing enough of it that they now share credit with Ben Elton. Emma Thompson seems to have been given one sketch per program, apparently to demonstrate that Bob Newhart’s telephone bits are harder than they look.
Also included on this disc is the three-episode run of Nothing to Worry About, which served as something of a pilot and is correspondingly rougher even than the first series. I still can’t recommend the series for any but historical purposes.