I’m in a bad mood this month. Sorry.
Several friends suggested this one, and luckily for them, it’s been a slow month for show watching. I’ve watched very few movies with Stallone. Big dummies were never a draw for me — big violent dummies, even less so. Here Sly plays a Mafia capo who just served 25 years in the pen and gets rewarded for his loyalty with an “assignment” in Tulsa. Wha…? The very first place he corrals into his extortion racket is a legal pot dispensary. The show could have ended right there with a call to the cops, but never mind. We wouldn’t get to share still more of Taylor Sheridan’s horse fetish. When Sly’s not beating up his new rivals, he’s sleeping with the enemy, a similarly exiled ATF agent. Think of this as Yellowstone with a Brooklyn accent. (Paramount+)
“We have to watch this!” I urged Louise. “It’s got Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas! When have we ever not liked anything with them in it?” By the end of this series about a purgatorial department of MI5 rejects, I’m not sure Louise would agree with this assertion any longer, but she doesn’t share my enthusiasm for spy dramas. I did like it, but it sets such a stifling and gloomy atmosphere with the drinking and the smoking and the raining and the fluorescent lighting that even Oldman’s performance struggles to emerge from under this wet wool blanket of a thriller. (Apple+)
I used to like Kevin Costner, or at least I never had any issues with him as an actor. He’s good looking, starred in some great movies, and seemed like a cool guy. Some may have rolled their eyes at this sentiment, but I dismissed it. No accounting for taste. But after five seasons of Yellowstone, I think he’s revealed about three emotions: mild amusement, unconvincing resolve, and unintentional bewilderment. He simply does not wear this role well. The guys who play his younger selves do exude the gravitas and inner confidence required by this role. That aside, the show’s success is truly a testament to the rest of the cast’s ability to carry the show despite this and its thin scripting. If the show gets a sixth season, Taylor Sheridan needs to step back and replace himself with a writer with far less to do. (Paramount+)
They may have found another actor with about as much thespian depth as Costner in Brandon Sklenar. The show explains his taciturn, single-note demeanor as a form of PTSD, and despite saying almost nothing, he ropes in a gorgeous British socialite. Today, we’d call that a red flag for domestic abuse, but in the ungodly heat of the African savannah surrounded by hungry lions, that and expertise with a gun epitomizes sex appeal. Like Yellowstone, it too takes a mid-season break, so we must wait for Spencer to return to Montana to help Defend the Land, this time from Tommy-gun wielding sheep herders. You read that right. (Paramount+)
On the flip side of Yellowstone’s glorifying of the West, we get Emily Blunt’s depiction of its soul-crushing amorality. The story is a simple enough revenge tale complicated with extended monologues delivered with thick English accents mixed with excessive non-sequiturs explained a little too far down the line. Removing all that might distill six episodes into three. The English is brutal, but the cinematography pays loving homage to Sergio Leone. The camera doesn’t simply love Emily Blunt, it takes her out for dinner, buys her flowers, and gives her a foot massage. Still, Chaske Spencer steals the show playing the Pawnee she meets along the way, who wears his role with riveting nobility. I found myself waiting with anticipation for any scene in which he appears. (Amazon Prime)
Good half-hour comedies seem to be in short supply these days, but Loudermilk provides a welcome respite from the stacking body count of our hour-long dramas. Ron Livingston plays a down-on-his-luck, recovering alcoholic writer who volunteers as a group counselor as part of his recovery. I credit a friend’s link to a clip of this show where Loudermilk chides an otherwise lovely barista for her grating vocal fry. So, if like me, everything seems to irritate you these days, you have a friend in Loudermilk. (Amazon Prime)
Call the Midwife
No body count here, unless you count the births of those bodies. The show began as a memoire of a midwife we first see as she rides to her new post at Nonnatus House, a convent where the nuns and other midwives deliver the babies mostly at home in London’s impoverished East End. What began sweet in 2012 has curdled into a propaganda vehicle for Britain’s National Health Service (they stress its importance at every opportunity). Worse, the writers are running out of ideas. After depicting the birth of at least 200 babies so far in every setting but in orbit, it ended last season with a climactic train wreck that probably belonged in a different show. The premier episode of the new season also suffered from erratic pacing and sloppy editing. We loved Midwife over most of its run, but this journey needs to end with Trixie’s nuptials. (BBC via VPN)
Mary Tyler Moore Show
Like I said, it was a slow month and especially for half-hour comedies. Seven episodes into the first season shows how well the series has held up over the decades. We still laugh out loud. (Amazon Prime)
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