The Kominsky Method
Greetings, ‘The Kominsky Method’ is a Netflix original television series created by Chuck Lorre who is known for creating hit shows like ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ that have carved out their place in popular culture. By comparison, ‘The Kominsky Method’ could be described as a series that has flown under the radar even while having significant stars such as the two main leads of Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. Other prominent cast members include Sarah Baker, Nancy Travis, Paul Reiser, Kathleen Turner and Haley Joel Osment. There is also a significant number of special guests that appear during the course of the show such as Danny DeVito, Elliot Gould and Bob Odenkirk. The music was conducted by Jeff Cardoni who has composed for other programmes with some of more notable ones being ‘CSI: Miami’, ‘Pimp My Ride’ and ‘Wilfred’.
The plot revolves around the life of Sandy Kominsky, an aging actor who had a brief stint in the limelight but became an acting coach after he felt he was never going to land a significant role in the movie business. Even though he resigned himself to teaching, Kominsky couldn’t help but hope that he might one day hit the big time and become recognised as a high calibre actor. Sandy is best friends with his agent, Norman Newlander, a fellow figure in the industry who is also getting on in years and a rather cranky individual. The two characters have an interesting relationship which involves them constantly trading barbs with each other but ultimately being able to understand their respective experiences as they share common ground due to working in the same fields. Norman is going through a rough patch in his life at the beginning of the show as his daughter, Phoebe, is a complete screw up who is in and out of rehab clinics while his wife, Eileen, is losing her battle with cancer.
As this is ongoing, Sandy takes a fancy to one of his acting students called Lisa who he discovers has an attraction to him too. After some debate as to if it is a good idea to date one of his students, Sandy decides to throw caution to the wind and seize the day by asking her out. Lisa agrees and the two go on a date. All is going well until it is interrupted when Sandy’s adult daughter from a failed marriage, Mindy, informs him via phone call that Eileen has died. In a memorable first date, Sandy takes Lisa, who asked to come along as a form of support, and his daughter Mindy to the hospital that Eileen was taken to. They discover that Norman won’t leave his wife’s side and it takes a while for Sandy to convince his friend that he is able to break away from her and take the important initial step of going home as part of the long healing process.
In my opinion, ‘The Kominsky Method’ is a very different beast to the crowd pleasers made by Lorre as mentioned previously for a few reasons. The first is that it followed a distinguishable plot that only ran for 3 seasons from 2018 to 2021 and consists of 22 episodes in total while the others lasted for considerably longer, resulting in meandering storylines. Another factor is that it typically deals with more serious topics and relies on light, witty humour to brighten the mood as opposed to attempting to garner a laugh from the audience every minute or so with situational comedy. Due to this, I suspect ‘The Kominsky Method’ would be less accessible to some audiences and may be overlooked because of it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this programme and would recommend it if you are looking for a drama with some light hearted humour that can be watched in a fairly short amount of time.
Quote of the Day
The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Greetings, The Car is a horror film from 1977 that was directed by Elliot Silverstein who had also written for series such as the Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt during his career. The cast includes James Brolin as the lead protagonist, Captain Wade Parent, who is a police officer in a small American town. Brolin had previously had a major role in Michael Crichton’s film Westworld in 1973 and is also the father of the prolific actor, Josh Brolin. Other cast members include Ronny Cox, who played a large part in 1972’s Deliverance, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley as well as the sister actresses Kim and Kyle Richards. The music was composed by Leonard Rosenman whose impressive list of work includes Rebel without a Cause, Barry Lyndon, the animated Lord of the Rings film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Robocop 2. While ‘The Car’ may not be a well-known horror title, I had first become aware of it due to an early Futurama episode called ‘The Honking’ which served as a homage to the film and it left such an impression on me that I was keen to seek the movie out.
The story begins in a remote American town where two young cyclists are out for a leisurely ride. A black Lincoln Continental Mark III with tinted windows travels up the dusty road behind them. It soon becomes apparent to the cyclists that the car isn’t going to overtake them but is menacingly toying with them instead by ramming their tires with its bumper. Things take a more sinister turn for them as the vehicle becomes increasingly hostile in its pursuit. The car crushes one cyclist against a wall and forces the other over a bridge, killing the rider in the fall, before speeding off under a tunnel. The mysterious car has only begun its bloodshed and is on the prowl for more helpless victims. After the massacre, an unaware hitchhiker is busy practicing his French horn while waiting on a lift from a generous driver as the sun shines down on the desolate landscape. The hitchhiker is sat near the house of one Amos Clemens, a local well known for being a domestic abuser.
The music gets on the nerves of the homeowner so much so that Clemens leaves his house to berate the hitchhiker. He aggressively orders him to stop playing. The hitchhiker puts up a feeble defence against the demands before bowing out and walking away as he was told to do so. The annoyed traveller walks down the road and becomes even more frustrated when a black car drives past him, trailing up dust in its tracks. He cusses out the driver during an angry fit and realizes that it was a mistake to do so when the car reverses. It manages to run over the fleeing hitchhiker several times, ratcheting up the death toll to three for that morning. The cops, including Wade Parent, arrive on the scene after being called by a concerned Amos. They quickly come to understand that a mad man was committing vehicular manslaughter in their sleepy little town after the bodies of the two cyclists were found.
The film, being accused of trying to recycle moments from more critically successful movies such as Duel, was not well received upon its release. Some of those less than stellar reviews had good reasoning behind them such as poor acting by a few prominent cast members but I found it to be solid B movie and enjoyed watching it. Part of this is due to its gritty 1970s charm that wouldn’t have had an impact on its contemporary audience and also because I was forewarned going in that it was not particularly highly regarded. Interestingly, this was released a few years prior to Stephen King’s beloved Christine, which is of a very similar nature, in either its book form or film adaptation. This film still lingers in the fringes of pop culture as a spin off was made in 2019 called ‘The Car: Road to Revenge’ in which there was one returning cast member but I believe it is meant to be rather woeful.
Quote of the Day
Quiet please. I am analyzing.
Robby the Robot
Greetings, Half-Life is a first person shooter video game from 1998 that was created by the game developer and publisher known as Valve. Now well regarded as one of the best video games ever made, Half-Life was the first project released by Valve and several expansion packs and sequels, such as Blue Shift, were spawned off the back of its outstanding success. The company would go on to create or publish further classic games such as the Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Left for Dead and Portal series as well as the sandbox game Garry’s Mod. With the protagonist and cult icon, Gordon Freeman, being a silent lead there is not a particularly large or noteworthy cast of voice actors and actresses involved. Some of the talent behind the scenes include Kathy Levin as the voice for the HEV suit as well as Mike Shapiro as the friendly security guard, Barney Calhoun, and the mysterious G-Man. The atmospheric music was composed by Kelly Bailey who has mostly worked on other Valve properties.
The plot begins with a long and famed, among gamers at least, tram ride in which the physicist Freeman is transported inside the secretive Black Messa Research Facility. After clearing security and putting on the necessary hazmat suit, Gordon is tasked with brining an unusual material in for experimentation. He is instructed by fellow scientists to place the substance under a giant machine for analysis. The machinery explodes causing what is described as a ‘resonance cascade’ which opens up a portal to dimension Xen. The cataclysmic event causes the facility to descend into ruins. Freeman miraculously survives the explosion but he finds himself thrust into action as he must fight his way past terrors such as zombifed colleagues, automated turrets and alien monstrosities that came from the portal.
It isn’t long before the military arrives on the scene with relieved scientists cheering on their apparent saviours. The optimism quickly turns to dismay as the soldiers begin gunning down witnesses and the scientists come to understand the horrifying reality that the government isn’t there to help them but to wipe them out as part of a cover up. As Gordon makes his way to the surface, he is contacted by fellow scientists in the Labmda Complex who believe that they have found a way to shut down the portal but they explain that they will need help in doing so. Freeman answers the call for aid and delves further into danger as he encounters even deadlier foes along his path from both the opposing alien and human forces.
Half-Life provides a good range of enemy AI for the player to combat including slow moving zombies, long tongued barnacles and aggressive headcrabs, most of which thankfully made their way into the direct sequel and continuing episodes. I really enjoyed this game and took a great liking to the retro feel after playing it a few decades after its release. I had great fun with its imaginative sequels as well which expand on the story nicely. It is a bit of a shame that Valve don’t seem to have plans to finish the story, which they left on a dark note in Episode 2, as the world they created is a very interesting one to explore. Despite releasing a prequel game called Half-Life: Alyx as recently as 2020, I believe it is unlikely that the fans will ever get the sequel they clamoured for. After years of the tongue in cheek ‘Half-Life 3 confirmed’ meme being plastered over the internet, it may be for the best as a third entry would find it very difficult to live up to the hype or reputation it is expected to have. At the end of the day, the Half-Life games will always be there to fall back on if players are feeling a bit nostalgic and in the mood for a good old fashioned shooter.
Quote of the Day
Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy! Drained dry. I’m so sorry. Here: if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw — There it is. That's a straw, see? Watch it. Now my straw reaches across the room, and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!
There Will Be Blood
Greetings, ‘Fatal Attraction’ is a 1987 film that was directed by Adrian Lyne who is also known for directing the popular dance flick ‘Flashdance’ and the renowned horror movie ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ The film has a strong cast that includes Michael Douglas of ‘Romancing the Stone’ fame as the protagonist Daniel Gallagher, Glenn Close as the infamous villain Alex Foster alongside Anne Archer and Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Beth and Ellen Gallagher respectively. The music was composed by Maurice Jarre who had previously written music for the David Lean epics ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Dr Zhivago’ and who had also worked on ‘A Passage to India’ and ‘Ghost’ to name a few of his projects.
The film starts with a married man called Daniel, a lawyer, who crosses paths with Alex, an editor for a publishing company, at a high profile publishing event. An instant attraction occurs between the two although Daniel is unable to act upon his desires as his wife, named Beth, is also at the event as his plus one. After a few chance meetings in the workplace, Daniel’s and Alex’s interest in each other begins to grow and they have an opportunity to act on their adulterous thoughts when Beth and his daughter Ellen are having a weekend out of the city. Daniel takes Alex out to a restaurant and after some deliberation on whether he should stay faithful to his wife, he is successfully seduced by Alex as she takes him back to her place and assures him it will only be a short lived fling. Daniel and Alex enjoy each other’s company that night and, under the impression that the affair was over, he slinks out of her dingy apartment during the small hours of the morning while she slept. Alex didn’t share his views and pestered him the next day until Daniel reluctantly agreed to spend the rest of the weekend with her.
Once the weekend is coming to its end, Daniel tries to leave after an emotional Alex begins to berate him for not wanting to stay with her for longer. As he attempts to exit through the door, Alex slits her wrists in a hysterical state. An astonished and panicked Daniel rushes to her aid and bandages her up. He managed to get home after Alex falls asleep but his troubles don’t end there. An apologetic Alex turns up at his office one day and claims that she regrets how she acted. She wants to make it up to Daniel by bringing him to a performance of ‘Madame Butterfly’, an opera they had bonded over during a meal at her apartment. Daniel, knowing his family was back in Manhattan, refused her politely and explained that their brief affair was over. Despite his best efforts to bring the matter to a close, a persistent Alex rings his office continuously and then starts contacting his home number after he no longer takes her calls at work. Much to Daniel’s fear, Alex begins escalating her attempts to drag him into her life and slowly but surely he begins to understand how insane she really is.
If you have yet to see this iconic movie, I would recommend that you watch it at some point as it lives up to its well-earned reputation in my opinion. It is rather deliberate in its pacing at the beginning of the movie, allowing characterization to take place, but that slow burn helps build up the pressure as it creeps along and produces some very intense moments. It also remains well entrenched in Popular Culture with the phrase of ‘Bunny Boiler’ still being used as a descriptor for obsessive women that feel romantically rejected. A pejorative term named so after Fatal Attraction’s most notorious scene. The film was later adapted into a play in 2014 and, as recently as early 2021, there are plans to reboot the movie as a television show for the streaming service Paramount+.
Quote of the Day
Cops! What the hell do they want? I haven't done anything... lately!
Romancing the Stone
Greetings, GLOW is a television series that ran from 2017 to 2019 and consists of three seasons. Created for Netflix by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, the premise was based on an actual wrestling programme that was called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling which was often simply abbreviated to G.L.O.W. The original show started in 1986 and concluded in 1992. The cast of the dramatization has many members but some of the more prominent roles are played by Allison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Chris Lowell, Sydelle Noel and Kate Nash. Some of these actresses and actors would have been well established prior to the show, such as Allison Brie, but I believe the success of GLOW may also have launched a few careers of its up and coming stars. The music was composed by Craig Wedren but due to its setting contains a lot of 80’s hits from artists such as Queen, Genesis, Kate Bush and Joy Division.
The story begins with aspiring actress Ruth who is struggling to secure traditional acting roles despite her best efforts. Her situation is similar to her friend, a fellow actress named Debbie, who complains that she is often only offered more lewd roles and so the two are empathetic towards each other’s plights. One day Ruth is invited to apply for an unusual audition. Ruth turns up at the agreed place, a gym which is already occupied by other women trying out for some roles like her, and is unsure of what she should expect from this potential job. The director arrives not long after. He is a cantankerous man called Sam Sylvia who is best known for his gratuitous horror films and who has a penchant for chain smoking and heavy drinking. He explains to the gathered women that the show is a wrestling programme in which they are required to fight each other. Sam offers the invitees the opportunity to leave after hearing the nature of the show and a large number of them do so.
Ruth, needing a steady pay check, decides to stay on. After a rocky start with Sam who doubts if she is a good fit and cites her lack of fighting skills as a reason, Ruth tries to prove that she is willing to learn the wrestling moves and that her acting background would be beneficial to the theatrical nature of the show. Sam is eventually convinced to include Ruth through a strange set of circumstances when an enraged Debbie barges into the gym and demands to know if Ruth had slept with her husband Mark. Ruth, feeling guilty by her betrayal, confesses that she did so in a moment of loneliness and weakness. Debbie lunges at her friend and begins hitting Ruth. Sam, upon witnessing the spectacle, visualises the scene in front of a roaring crowd and realizes that he has his star wrestler and the villainous heel in front of him.
This is one of my favourite shows of recent times and a large part of that is due to its colourful 1980s setting but also because it has very good characterisation which gets the audience to easily root for its characters. The large cast of characters is handled very well and works very much in its favour with even the more minor roles getting a satisfying amount of screen time or development. This makes it all the more frustrating that Netflix decided to cancel its fourth and final season claiming the Covid pandemic would make filming such close proximity wrestling scenes as too expensive and difficult to shoot. This isn’t the first show that Netflix has cancelled that I was enjoying for they had also axed the excellent Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance after one season and I would not be surprised if they were quick to discontinue others in the future as well. There are some hopes that GLOW’s storylines can be wrapped up in a film but a few of the cast members, despite pushing for it, remain sceptical if it could be done. Regardless of its premature conclusion, GLOW is a fantastic show that I would recommend you watch if you have yet to see it for yourself.
Quote of the Day
Immigrants! That's all they do, you know - just drive around listening to raps and shooting all the jobs.
The Elephant Man
Greetings, ‘The Elephant Man’ is a 1980 drama film that was based on the life of Joseph Merrick and was directed by the surrealist movie maker David Lynch. It boasts a strong cast which includes John Hurt as the titular ‘Elephant Man’ John Merrick, Anthony Hopkins as surgeon Frederick Treves and the Graduate’s Anne Bancroft to name a few. For some reason, the script calls ‘the Elephant Man’ ‘John’ despite his name being Joseph. The music was composed by John Morris who had worked on numerous Mel Brooks films such as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie and Spaceballs. Mel Brooks was a producer of ‘the Elephant Man’ but had purposefully decided to be left uncredited in the off chance that his name would confuse the expectations of viewers as he is mostly renowned for his comedic movies.
The plot begins in the East End of London where Frederick Treves has successfully located the deformed Merrick performing in a freak show. Before Treves can get his eyes on the famed man hidden behind the curtain, the police close down the show to the annoyance of the ringmaster Mr Bytes. Treves eventually tracks down Bytes again who is living in a dirty hovel with John and sees first-hand the horrid conditions that Merrick is forced to live in. The surgeon pays Bytes a large sum to have John attend his office for a while in order to inspect him as a medical curiosity. The impoverished Bytes, motivated by financial gain, agrees and Merrick is inspected by Treves as part of a medical lecture. It was believed that this ‘Elephant Man’ was a man of limited intellectual capabilities and Treves hoped that this was the case, fearing the opposite to be a nightmarish scenario for Merrick. John is returned to Bytes after Treves had displayed Merrick’s unique physicality to his surgical peers.
Bytes, a sadistic drunkard, was intoxicated when the ‘Elephant Man’ came home and in an angry phase badly thrashed John. Fearing he had beaten his prized ‘possession’ too harshly and threatened his future income in the process, Bytes asks Treves to inspect John and falsely claimed he had suffered a fall. Treves advises that John needs to attend a hospital and manages to convince a cautious Bytes, concerned that his livelihood was being taken from him, to let Merrick comes under his care. John is brought to London Hospital and his unsettling appearance startles the nursing staff there until they gradually become accustomed to his presence. As time goes by, Treves eventually gets John to open up and socialise after a very difficult beginning in which Merrick was thought to be cognitively impaired. The two form a genuine friendship as John Merrick becomes a celebrity, after being visited by a famous actress, with the rich and powerful of British society hoping to meet the curious man.
I really enjoyed this movie and while it was much more grounded in reality than Lynch’s other works, there were definitely a few scenes that were reflective of his distinct style. The choice to shoot the film in black and white was a good idea in my opinion and it produced an impressive atmosphere. Another aspect I thought was interesting was that Treves, upon contributing to Merrick’s rising celebrity status, begins to fear he is similar to Bytes as he is letting people gawk at Merrick. The only difference Treves perceived is that John was being a ‘freak show attraction’ for high society this time around rather than the common man. I thought this was an interesting parallel for the script writers to emphasise. If you haven’t seen this one before it is one to watch.
Quote of the Day
I believe in that alpaca farm. The alpaca is the dog of the future.
Albert ‘Pops’ Solomon