Superstore (2015) s01e04 – Mannequin

“Superstore” significantly ups its game this episode. The cold open has Jonah (Ben Feldman) trying to show off how well he’s bonded with his coworkers by unintentionally insulting most of them. The sequence ends in a great banter showdown between manager Mark McKinney and assistant manager Lauren Ash (foreshadowing their subplot this episode) but also does some exposition on Amy (America Ferrera), revealing not just a nine year-old daughter but also a husband, which was sort of hinted at the end of the first episode. No wonder they slowed down Feldman’s romantic interest in her.

Ferrera and Feldman get one of the plot lines, with Ferrera teasing Feldman with a mannequin, which resembles him, as the store becomes more and more chaotic with Ferrera not paying attention. Lots of funny mannequin scenes, even when it’s getting old, it’s still funny stuff. Especially after Feldman starts flipping out over it, after having promised Ferrera she won’t be able to bait him. The culmination… well, it’s too good to spoil. But it’s amazing.

Ash and McKinney, instead of noticing Ferrera and Feldman aren’t doing any work and Nico Santos has got all the people he doesn’t like (almost everyone) working punishment duty in the freezer, are trying to each convince pregnant teens Nichole Bloom and Johnny Pemberton to give their baby up for adoption. McKinney and his (offscreen) wife have had foster kids but would love one “without the dings” and Ash just wants a baby. Lots of funny stuff between McKinney and Ash together, but also lots of laughs with them and Bloom separately. And the show’s figured out what I said before—putting Bloom and Pemberton together and playing them off other people is the best use of the characters. So funny.

As usual, Colton Dunn gets a bunch of great lines.

It’s only the fourth episode and “Superstore” is much funnier than the pilot ever suggested, while making its cast a lot more likable. McKinney in particular. He started out the obnoxious boss laugh target but now he’s solidly funny on his own.

So funny.

Supergirl (2015) s05e08 – The Wrath of Rama Khan

The episode opens with Supergirl flying to Lena’s secret base to try to reason with her but Lena ignores her because Lena’s already got the bestest friend she could ever have in Andrea Brooks, who used to be Ms. Teschmacher but is now the AI Lena created to keep her company when she planned on beating up former best friend Supergirl. Brooks was an Easter egg turned into a plot device drug out, which is kind of a metaphor for most of “Supergirl” at this point.

For a bit it seems like it’s going to be Superman III with Katie McGrath and Brooks shooting rockets at Melissa Benoist, but no, Benoist quickly heads back to the DEO to check in with sister Chyler Leigh and start their butting heads subplot. Benoist doesn’t want to give up on McGrath, Leigh wants to nuke the entire site from orbit.

McGrath’s plan doesn’t really matter, suffice to say it’ll involve David Harewood bringing in formerly genocidal brother Phil LaMarr to help. LaMarr’s astoundingly bad. Harewood’s lost most of his goodwill too, mostly because all of his dialogue makes him sound like the writers get his deep thoughts off an online fake inspirational quote generator. There’s even a whole “do better” thing where LaMarr maybe was responsible for getting millions of Martians killed but he’s grown since then, so you obviously can forgive your (formerly) racist uncle? But there’s still a limit. Notice Dean Cain’s heinous ass has gone missing and forgotten from the show.

Anyway, there’s really nothing to the McGrath and Benoist stuff because there’s no scene between the two of them. “Supergirl” cops out before the Crisis crossover, which finally gets introduced in the last few scenes during the terrible (and long) song montage.

But then there’s the whole other subplot about millions years old alien Mitch Pileggi, who’s still chomping the hell out of the scenery, trying to eradicate humanity only to get foiled, natch, by Supergirl and friends.

Besides being incredibly silly, the Pileggi plot line is totally disconnected from the main cast except truly godawful new cast member Julie Gonzalo, who’s probably the worst actor ever on the show, which is something. Especially since they moved to Canada in season two.

Basically it’s “what if the Cylons got here earlier and just liked messing with humans as they evolve because the Cylons are board.” Or something. Doesn’t matter. It’s shit.

The possibly worst part of the ending is it resets almost everything the show’s done this season. Sure, McGrath still hates Benoist, but she gets a do-over as far as being a planetary menace. The hurt friendship storyline seems more appropriate for “Muppet Tweens” than “Supergirl,” but really bad, really cowardly writing doesn’t help things.

I think it’s finally safe not to come back after Crisis. Leigh’s obnoxious with the new girlfriend, Benoist’s got nothing to do, McGrath ought to get out of her contract, Harewood’s a random quote generator, and on and on. It’s been hard to give up on the show because when it used to hit heights, it hit them hard. But… this season’s been hopeless.

“Meddling Kids”

You know what’s not a word?

Self-depreciating. Self-deprecating is a word, self-depreciating is not. I wish I’d consulted a dictionary in high school when I added the word—which I pronounced self-deprecating but a friend definitely told me it was pronounced self-depreciating; I could’ve won a point, back when I thought be righting about grammar with a mostly casual acquaintance was the most important thing.

Why, yes, I did grow up on “Seinfeld,” which isn’t the best but still better than many of the alternatives. We won’t even get into growing up on “Friends,” but just imagine the nonsense you spew if you grew up on “Home Improvement” and I make that statement as someone who, before he went all in on 45, occasionally liked Tim Allen’s performances.

Reminder: need to watch Big Trouble again.

It’s going to be really scary when you type reminder and then your personal assistant mines following to create a reminder. I assume the only reason we don’t have it is because LinkedIn hasn’t made an Android fork yet. It could email all your contacts letting them know when you, I don’t know, wake up in the morning or when not to message because you’re taking your morning shit. Honestly, I think that development would’ve been more of a Hillary presidency outcome type thing. Neoliberalism’s affects on late stage capitalism’s productivity innovations.

If only.

I’m not even trying to get dark, just get some cat pictures posted. Wholesome blogging. With fake watercolors.

Possibly daily. Like, fall 2016 I was trying to do a total of lot of words a day. Multiple posts on Summing Up to get to the word count. I could probably even look up that word count, I must’ve mentioned it somewhere. But then inauguration and so on.

But daily posts as an excuse to post cat pictures? Possible. Depends on how cute the cats are being. Except Fozzy, Fozzy always just looks cutesified regal to me.

My writing has changed a lot since 2016; I’m not currently working on a fiction project. I think I stared that year with a mind to edit the second novel, instead it’s still basically in a first draft stage, which I’d call a second draft stage because of how I rather inventively incorporated revisions into the novel’s structure because I knew writing in a creative vacuum—not just no one reading the novel, no one even checking in on it—was going to present a lot of problems. As it stands, the opening needs a significant rewrite, but only about fifteen pages. Just the first two scenes.

One of the main reasons I fell off the novel is when I realized, fall 2016, how I could edit it to sell it. Because the fucking election. Probably could’ve made some hay with it, especially as centrist as my “fellow” White liberals have gotten. Glad I didn’t, but also… as a cishet White male in 2019, unless I’m fictioning by committee and even then… other people should be doing the job. White men have been writing the lines for everyone else for way too long. Some of them did it well, some awful ones of them did it well, but we’ve moved on. We’ve found the right mix of ability, creativity, and commercialism. Without being good—whereas the first time they were at least good—Marvel has determined the narrative’s future, which means we’ll have to wait until 2032 for the revised medium to mature enough for its Watchmen, but in theory we’re hitting its eighties in just a few years now. If cycles work the same way they did before the Internet, which they might not but also might. Disney slowing down the ether’s active imagination with fucking weekly releases of “Baby Yoda.”

Speaking of “Baby Yoda,” I need to write my fifth episode post but… spoiler… Dave Filoni is bad at writing, directing, and approving the casting. It’s a rather disappointing episode, but thanks to the deliberate structure, easily dismissible.

But the changing in writing… I know a lot better what I don’t want to blog about. I don’t want to write about blog setup and whatnot, I don’t want about… Somerset Maugham novels, which is too bad but it’s enough work you want to be doing it for a reason. Commercializing one’s writing slows its creative roll. It’s a very comfortable hill and there are almost no exceptions to the rule, not really. And I don’t take the blogging potentially professionally enough to want to slow the writing development. I’ve got years of 250 word posts on Stop Button where the writing stalled, whereas now I understand the point is writing not the number of posts.

I’m creatively holding but staying present because there’s the more potential for good readers and watchers and thinkers than any other time in history.

Well; made my word count so now cats.

Superstore (2015) s01e03 – Shots and Salsa

This episode is one of those sitcom episodes where you’re laughing so loud and so constantly, there’s a chance you’re going to miss something. If it weren’t paced well. And it’s paced extremely well, between Ruben Fleischer’s direction and Justin Spitzer’s writing, there’s always the right amount of time to get the giggles out.

It starts immediately with the laughs—store manager Mark McKinney getting everyone to do the pre-opening chant. It’s absurd and inappropriate (McKinney’s Christian religiosity is a very reliable punchline).

From the second scene, the show splits off its two storylines, one for America Ferrera, one for Ben Feldman, with Colton Dunn providing something of a bridge as he advises still new Feldman on how not to fall into the “quicksand” of helping customers and coworkers. Dunn’s fantastic. His deadpan deliveries are probably the best on the show, though Lauren Ash—who I’m warming to, even if she’s still the subject of laughs versus the situations she finds herself in—is getting to be a reliable second.

Ferrera’s plot line is about the store’s new house brand salsa promotion. McKinney wants someone Hispanic to sell it, which Ferrera finds gross. Her coworker, Grace Parra, doesn’t see it that way, neither does Filipino Nico Santos, who doesn’t mind McKinney can’t see the difference. Lots of funny stuff as Ferrera tries to have some morals in the face of capitalism.

“Superstore” also goes in hard on how awful Americans are going to get when it comes to racializing their consumerism. It’s shocking, accurate, and hilarious.

Meanwhile Feldman makes the mistake of helping jackass pharmacist Josh Lawson with some boxes and ends up an assistant pharmacist for the day.

Ferrera, Feldman, and Dunn are all varying comedic straight men, though Feldman a little less as he’s got some quirks more similar to the absurdist coworkers; with Feldman and Ferrera, it’s all about their facial reactions foreshadowing their eventual lines, while Dunn’s got a much shorter lead time before he makes his sardonic response.

It’s a really, really funny episode.

Really funny.

Oh, and the corporate anti-racism video… wow. So funny. And way too realistic, which is the point.

Superstore (2015) s01e02 – Magazine Profile

Two months have passed since the previous episode—based on how long new guy Ben Feldman has been at the store and he’s gotten a settled in. During those two months he’s apparently chilled on the America Ferrera romantic interest, or—more likely—the writers realized they were rushing that plot line. Assistant manager Lauren Ash is still making googly eyes at a mostly unaware, occasionally confused Feldman however, because it gets laughs.

And letting Ferrera and Feldman actually develop chemistry is a good move; it doesn’t come up much in the episode, which has Feldman getting involved with “reporter” Eliza Coupe during her trip to the store. Quotation marks because Coupe writes for the chain’s corporate magazine, which has some hilariously odious practices.

Of course, Coupe shouldn’t be focusing on Feldman but store manager Mark McKinney, who’s a lot more sympathetic this episode than in the pilot—and no longer has gray hair, so something else happened during the two month window.

Ferrera’s time is mostly spent trying to get McKinney ready for reporter Coupe; her visit frames the episode, leading up to Ash discovering Coupe and Feldman locking lips, which leads to a really funny emergency staff meeting—though it’s unclear who gets to go to staff meetings (regular cast and supporting actors with lines) during the middle of business hours—where Ash has to have a hard talk with everyone about inappropriate sexual workplace behaviors.

The episode’s got two subplots. The first is for Colton Dunn, who doesn’t want to end up on the magazine cover… seeing as how he’s both in a wheelchair and Black, it’s not like photographer Josh Fadem (who’s wonderfully slimy) will be able to resist exploiting the combination. It’s really funny. Dunn’s great.

The other subplot is about pregnant teenager Nichole Bloom (who doesn’t look like she’s in still in high school) trying to get jackass, dimwit white boy rapper baby daddy Johnny Pemberton to record a jingle for the store. It turns out in the end, when they present the jingle to Coupe, they’re a lot better playing off people as a couple than playing off each other. It’s fine but it’s not on par with the rest of the episode, which solidly juggles laughs and heart.

Becker (1998) s01e14 – Larry Spoke

This episode of “Becker” has Steven Wright guest starring, so even though it’s not the best writing for Steven Wright, it’s still at least great whenever Wright is on screen.

Wright’s a new patient of Ted Danson’s who hears God. God’s name is Larry and Larry tells Steven Wright to repaint his apartment all the time. Not the funniest situation, but Wright makes it great. It’s actually sort of strange to see some middling plot device so perfectly executed as Wright doesn’t seem very CBS sitcom at all. He’s in jarring contrast to the rest of the show, even when the rest of the show is totally serviceable.

In addition to Wright, Danson’s dealing with a slowly dying patient, Nathan Davis, and the patient’s impatient yuppie daughter, Mary-Joan Negro. It’s not a funny subplot, but a depressing one and it’s borderline unpleasant. Especially juxtaposed against the absurdity of Wright on this show.

The episode also has Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith stopping in at Terry Farrell’s diner for the first time. Almost more interesting—they all just talk about how obnoxious it is to deal with Danson—it also implies something about Winston and Smith’s life outside the workplace. They walk to the train together, at least on this day, which is kind of nice. Especially since Winston and Smith are in the middle of this C plot about Smith keeping a nice jacket her dry cleaner gave to her by accident.

Though the end of the episode is a little too much; all of a sudden wants to comment on Danson’s apparent atheism versus everyone else’s religiosity. Sure, Wright’s plot brings in the discussion of God… but it’s not like it’s a great concept or anything. It’s great because it’s Steven Wright doing a sitcom guest spot playing Steven Wright. His comebacks are consistently hilarious throughout the episode. The holier than thou finale really misses Wright, who doesn’t get to participate. He’s already had his big finale. The rest is regular cast wrap-up.

Still, there are a lot of solid laughs throughout. Thanks to Wright, yes, but also some with Winston and Smith.

Maybe if Danson were more enthusiastic about the hard drama stuff with Negro, but he’s still sitcom star here.

Uneven or not, it’s nice to have the laughs.

Becker (1998) s01e13 – Becker the Elder

Whenever an episode of “Becker” starts, I hold my breath until the writing credit comes up. This one’s from series creator Dave Hackel, who likes doing the Ted Danson is a master doctor and basically right bastard; the episode opens with him ranting about little people. And even though it’s 1998 or whatever, they know it’s wrong because Alex Désert comments on it. Little bit later Danson’s making fun of how his Hispanic patient talks. So when “Becker” is being icky just to be icky, it’s in Hackel’s line. Andy Ackerman does do a solid directing job, however, because it’s Andy Ackerman.

The episode’s about Becker’s dad, Dick Van Dyke, coming through town. Van Dyke ran out on the family when Danson was eleven and Danson’s never forgiven him. Van Dyke’s never really asked for forgiveness either—until this very special episode, which isn’t even trying to be funny unless you count Hackel punching down (no blind or Black jokes about Désert so apparently someone said there were limits)—but since Hackel writes Becker like a complete Dick, who cares if Van Dyke had a reason to run out or whatever. It’s a waste of Van Dyke as a guest star and rather concerning the show creator hasn’t figured out when the show works.

There’s actually some decent stuff with Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith, with Smith making Winston laugh, which is at least something pleasant. Because despite Van Dyke being a lovable career salesman, the show positions him as a deceptive dick (no pun) and then walks it back, then forward, then back, then shrugs it off and goes out on a character building moment for Danson.

Of course, Danson is an asshole so who cares. It’s okay he’s an asshole, however, because he treats a guy living on the street—apparently for free—but whatever. Sitcom is an abbreviation for a situation comedy. This episode is a very light, very thin situational drama. I watched the show because I wanted to laugh.

Nope, not this time.

All Rise (2019) s01e09 – How to Succeed in Law Without Really Re-Trying

Okay, when I said “All Rise” reminded me of “Major Crimes,” maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the show with an Ever Carradine guest star. Carradine plays an old defense lawyer nemesis of Simone Missick’s, who’s got an appeal—she wants to get alt-righter, white supremacist Ben Leasure out of jail—and Carradine’s confident because she’s up against Wilson Bethel not Missick. I mean, Missick’s only got the bionic arm, Bethel never misses. Wait, wrong shows.

Better shows.

Good shows.

Anyway, Missick wants to help Bethel but not too much. Meanwhile she’s pissing off a prosecutor (Suzanne Cryer), who’s trying to railroad some defendant in an unmemorable case but has it out for Missick and it doesn’t at all seem like Cryer doesn’t like Missick because Missick’s a Black woman. Oh… wait… it does. As it seems Cryer will be back to report Missick to her manager… maybe Cryer ought to fire her agent.

The thing about the episode is it’s directed by Cheryl Dunye, who’s an excellent indie filmmaker; usually “All Rise” is just wasting Missick and Bethel’s time, not the director’s. This episode, though, it’s well-directed but with that same tepid “All Rise” writing. At least it’s engaging to watch to see the direction. I couldn’t help wishing it’d lead to Dunye, Missick, and Bethel teaming up on something worth their talent.

Back to Carradine. She’s playing this neuroatypical (but self-aware) defense attorney who’s seemingly convinced Leasure is innocent even though he’s obviously guilty. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter if she thinks he’s innocent. It’s unclear. The show’s not smart enough to delve into the defense attorney of the guilty client thing, even as third lead Jessica Camacho is defending obviously guilty John Ales and doesn’t want to defend him because he’s a pain in the ass. I guess Ales is good? Maybe. He’s at least not unwelcome when he’s in a scene. Carradine hovers around like a threat. The scene where she has a showdown with Missick is patently absurd as Missick starts seeing herself from Carradine’s warped perspective, which has its own optics the show doesn’t seem to recognize.

Also good is Audrey Corsa, as the new law clerk in the district attorney’s office who teams up with Bethel on the Leasure case.

In addition to actually being good, Corsa also reveals J. Alex Brinson isn’t so much interested in Camacho as he is a hot to trot capital D dog, which is fine. I resent liking Brinson given he’s still the murderous spousal abusing cop from “Travellers,” also a much better show. And good.

Last thing—the episode’s weird with the other white people in the alt-right case. Michael Graziadei is a reformed alt-righter who might be a co-conspirator but gets a pass because Christian and no one talks about how “resister” Tamara Clatterbuck, sister of defendant Leasure, is actually a perjuring monster with half-Asian kids her brother wants to kill and she picks the brother.

“CBS woke” is not woke at all.

Though it’s nice to great to see a Dunye credit and pretty please, universe, let her make something else—something actually good—with Missick or Bethel.

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e04 – Sanctuary

It’s a really good thing the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) has seen Seven Samurai, otherwise he’d have no idea he and new pal Gina Carano (as a former Rebel shock trooper) would be able to train the villagers to take on the raiders out for their crops. The villagers hire Pascal, who’s on this backwater planet looking for someplace to lie low with Baby Yoda—but, seriously, how can you lie low with Baby Yoda because everyone’s got to notice the inordinate cuteness—and Pascal brings Carano onboard. They’ve already had a fist fight to bond so it’s a natural development in their relationship.

In the village, Pascal meets fetching widow Julia Jones, who also knows her way around a blaster somehow, and considers taking off his helmet and settling down. But it’s only the fourth episode; no spoilers… but it’s only the fourth episode.

The episode’s absolutely gorgeous, with Bryce Dallas Howard doing an excellent job with the direction. It’s also this tranquil village with rice paddies—or whatever kind of paddies—and the kids are all happy and cute and so on. They all love Baby Yoda and he’s thrilled to have all the attention. The show gets around to some exposition as far as Pascal and the Mandalorian way but at some point they’ve got to address Baby Yoda’s development. If Yoda Yoda was 900 and Baby Yoda is fifty, should Baby Yoda be talking by now? No, because he’s lived his life in hiding without a steady caretaker apparently. Baby Yoda doesn’t play into the episode much, not once Seven Samurai versus an AT-ST starts.

The big surprise of the episode is Carano, who’s good. Not sure if it’s the script, the direction, or just Carano learning to act but hopefully she’s not just in it for a single episode. It’s probably also Pascal’s best episode too, if only because he’s got a lot to say and interesting things to talk about. Jones is good too. It’s slight and obvious, but really well-made and performed.

If Disney+’s “Star Wars” shows are going to draw so heavily on Kurosawa movies, they ought to at least offer the corresponding one streaming.

The Super Inframan (1975, Hua Shan)

Until the third act, Super Inframan at least keeps a brisk pace. The movie’s got almost nothing going for it—other than Chen Yung—yu frankly courageous very seventies score and even it’s a small blip of goodness, not a positive feature—but at least it moves. It doesn’t drag through the entire third act, there are a couple good (out of nowhere the fight choreography gets interesting) fight scenes, then some terrible fighting and some silliness, but once the good fight scenes are over, it starts to crawl. Though I assume the general annoyance at the pace slowing instead of the movie ending contributes.

Super Inframan is a low budget Chinese giant monster movie, only with the superhero, Inframan, able to grow big to fight the monsters. There’s a name for the genre; I’m not Googling. The miniatures—outside the opening scene city fire—are bad. But even bad, when it’s giant Inframan fighting a giant monster, Inframan is at its best. That fight is actually successful, whereas the good ones at the end both go bad for various plot-related reasons. They’re a bummer; the Inframan versus kanji is cool.

Danny Lee plays Inframan, which requires he wear a crafting-enhanced motorcycle helmet with antenna so he looks a little like a bug. He’s kind of a cyborg. It’s unclear what scientist Wang Hsieh’s doing to Lee during the transformation scene. Apparently he’s turning him very straightforwardly into a cyborg because there are these illustrated cards flashing over Lee’s body showing mechanical stuff… but they never talk about it. There are monsters to fight. Super Inframan doesn’t have childlike wonder it has childlike stupidity. Screenwriter Ni Kuang is targeting two year-olds and managing to talk down to them.

The effects are mostly silly illustrated lasers. There’s no ingenuity to how director Hua does any of it; he doesn’t even care what blonde-haired, thigh-high booted, supervillain dragon lady Terry Liu whips when she whips. She just likes to whip. She’s got a scantily clad sidekick (Dana) to keep dad awake and Lee’s a very square-jawed handsome leading man type for mom. Though Lee never does anything in the movie after the opening scene. He saves a baby in a fire. Later on, when he’s Inframan, he does all sorts of stuff but it’s probably not Lee and even if it were, Inframan doesn’t talk much (if ever) and so there’s no character development. It’s a fail on some really basic levels.

Still, besides Yuan Man-tzu, none of the acting is too terrible, all things considered, so maybe if it just knew when to stop being bad and roll the credits, Inframan would be all right. But not with the third act slowdown. Not after the fight gets too cartoony. It goes from being a fairly solid albeit boringly directed fight scene between Inframan and his fellow motorcycle-helmeted stunt men, only they’re supposed to be skeleton men to some bad exposition to Inframan doing this almost silent fight against these two robots with slinky missiles and stuff. It’s dumb, but it’s just about to be accidentally really nice and then it stops and the next fight scene is terrible. And the end of the movie’s too dumb too.

Inframan’s a big fail.

Oh, and Bruce Le—not Bruce Lee—is pretty good as Lee’s teammate who fights a monster. See, they’re not all giant, they’re usually just man-sized rubber-suit monsters. And they all talk smack. And Le fights one all by himself and you’re sympathetic to him because he’s being heroic, while Lee’s got the Inframan gig and is bad at it. Scientist Wang, charged with protecting the whole planet from these monsters, he doesn’t make a good choice with Lee. Le’s better. Just not square-jawed.

There’s nowhere near that much angst in the film; no one except monsters get hurt. Okay, one guy but he doesn’t count.

Inframan would be better if it were worse. Though maybe if they just got rid of the backflips it might be a little better too. The backflips are obnoxious.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hua Shan; written by Ni Kuang; director of photography, Nishimoto Tadashi; edited by Chiang Hsing-Lung; music by Chen Yung-Yu; produced by Runme Shaw; released by Shaw Brothers Studio.

Starring Danny Lee (Rayma / Inframan), Wang Hsieh (Professor Liu Ying-Te), Terry Liu (Demon Princess Elizebub), Yuan Man-Tzu (Liu Mei-Mei), Dana (Demon Witch-Eye), Bruce Le (Sergeant Lu Hsiao-Lung), Chiang Yang (Liutenant Chu Chi-Kuang), and Lin Wen-Wei (Chu Ming).


RELATED

Scroll to Top