One of the paradoxes of Philip K. Dick’s career is that he wrote his most robust and mature observations about human behavior at the sputtering start of his career, with none of those nine books from 1950-60 being immediately published. Then he tried his hand at pulp SF and got good at it. But writing about the human condition in 1950s California under American societal morals of the time was arguably his natural calling.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (NBC) isn’t “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” … or “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” … or “Zoey 101.” Watching the pilot episode of the series (which will return Feb. 16, in its regular Sunday slot), I could never forget that it is trying to cash in on the current popularity of musicals and that it uses a title that evokes things people already like. That said, this series — whose producers include “Freaks and Geeks’ ” Paul Feig and “The Perfection’s” Richard Shepard (who directs the first episode) — is far from terrible.
Nearly two decades after M. Night Shyamalan popularized – if not introduced – the stealth/“real world” superhero movie with “Unbreakable” (2000), director/co-writer Julia Hart expands the subgenre with “Fast Color” (2019). It flew under the radar during its limited theatrical release, overshadowed by “Glass” and “Brightburn,” but perhaps it will find its audience on Amazon Prime. I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t gotten awards-season buzz, because it’s such a confidently directed art film anchored by great cast chemistry.
Writer-director Joe Swanberg, as he did the previous year with “Drinking Buddies,” delivers a slice of life in “Happy Christmas” (2014), titled with purposeful inaccuracy. He contrasts a poor young family — Swanberg’s Jeff, Melanie Lynskey’s Kelly and their baby — with Jeff’s slightly younger sister (Anna Kendrick’s Jenny) who is reeling from a breakup and is notch behind on the maturity meter.
National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” came out 30 years ago this month, and it has only grown in status as a holiday classic since. Here are 30 random observations after my latest viewing:
Writer-director Jeff Wadlow, taking the reins from Matthew Vaughn, delivers a funnier and more focused “Kick-Ass 2” (2013). It’s formulaic, but that makes it better than the flailing 2010 original, the primary value of which is to introduce us to purple-haired Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and green-suited Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
The Knight Before Christmas” (November, Netflix), like most of TV’s recent holiday movie catalog, is so uninspired that I wonder if the sets, locations, casting and costumes come first. Then an exec assigns a writer — Cara J. Russell in this case – to churn out a screenplay with the boardroom-approved punny title and then they go from there.
There were many ways “Good Boys” could go wrong, from over-reliance on the shock value of tweens dropping F-bombs, to kids who can’t act, to recycled “American Pie” gags. But this latest entry from writers Gene Stupnitsky (who also directs) and Lee Eisenberg – the writers of the underrated “Bad Teacher” (2011) – turns out to be both the raunchiest and cutest comedy of the year.
Season 3 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime) starts off in the too show-offy fashion that marks the worst excesses of writer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino. Comedian Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) opens for singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) at a tour-launching USO show, and there are colorful costumes, long panning shots, tons of extras, and big music numbers. But after episode one, something remarkable happens in the following seven: “Maisel” no longer feels the need to prove itself, and it even features moments of subtlety – yes, subtlety from Amy and Daniel Palladino (who each take four episodes this season).
Ilove the way Javed (Viveik Kalra) loves Bruce Springsteen in “Blinded by the Light.” The Pakistani-British youth sings and dances in the street once he gets the Boss bug. He smiles when listening to the lyrics. He writes about the Boss for his school paper. He wins an essay contest and a trip to America by waxing poetic about Springsteen.