Mamet Monday: ‘Wag the Dog’ (1997) is a searing, delightfully absurd take on the cover-up of a presidential scandal (Movie review)

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riter David Mamet – with Barry Levinson directing – switches his focus from the small cons of “House of Games” and the like to the global con of “Wag the Dog” (1997), a delightful and sometimes hilariously absurd examination of the cover-up of a presidential scandal. It’s also harrowing enough now and then to be more than a straight-up comedy. Savvy followers of the news cycle know the adage: If a huge story breaks, look at what the previous big story was and ask if the new one has been manufactured as a distraction.

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Once-great ‘House of Cards’ comes to frustrating end with indecipherable Season 6 (TV review)

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fter five seasons, “House of Cards” (Netflix) had started to stumble a bit. What had started off as a sleazy, dark-room, behind-the-scenes political thriller had become a boring relationship-centered drama. Then, with Kevin Spacey being banished from Hollywood, the writers of the show clearly had to scramble and change up their plans for Season 6. And it fails.

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An outsider’s take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014) (Movie review)

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his blog series chronicles my first viewing of the complete MCU movie saga. I’ll examine each film under various categories that reflect popular discussion points. Next up is the ninth film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014):

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‘Weiner’ review

“Weiner”  —  I don’t know how directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg got the access to Anthony Weiner that they did, but their documentary captures the heartbreaking implosion of his mayoral campaign and personal life in excruciatingly personal detail. This is great film making and great journalism. We are in the room with Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin when the worst of his scandals break, and we get to know the man behind those scandals, a man by turns thoughtful, funny, conceited, and tragically flawed. The movie does not demonize Weiner in the least. The whole thing is achingly human, trafficking in shades of gray where other films might choose black and white.

— Michael Olinger, Top 10 films of 2016, Medium, Feb. 27, 2017

‘Jack & Bobby’ review

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“Jack & Bobby” Season 1 (2004-05, WB), episodes 1-7 – “Jack & Bobby’s” mother (Christine Lahti) is a living, breathing stereotype of a liberal college professor who feels out of sorts in Small Town, Missouri. In the show’s second episode, she invites students to smoke marijuana and open their minds in her living room, which is littered with Kerry-Edwards placards. Bobby (Logan Lerman), the show’s future-president-as-a-young-man, wears about 30 Kerry-Edwards pins on his T-shirt.

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‘The Post’ fondly recalls the old days of a respected press, war protests (Movie review)

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ne of my bosses encouraged us to attend “The Post” (2017) – which recently got a wide theatrical release – to rekindle our passion for newspapering. The film encourages some of that spirit, no doubt, but overall it left me sad. It’s a great movie about the Washington Post’s decision to publish highlights of the Top Secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, very much a welcome addition to the pantheon of journalism movies, but Steven Spielberg’s entry feels curiously out of time more so than, say, 2015’s “Spotlight.”

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‘Designated Survivor’s’ President Kirkman is a nice guy – and an awful president (TV commentary)

ABC’s “Designated Survivor” strained throughout its first season to show that President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is a good, decent and refreshingly different type of president. But because the show operates on a superficial level, it’s easy to expose the trick. Yes, he’s unquestionably – and boringly – a great guy; he loves his family, he treats everyone decently, he listens and learns, and so forth. But just as clearly, he’s as bad of a president as Bush, Obama and Trump.

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Rewatching and reviewing the classics: ’24’ Season 3 (2003-04) (TV review)

After establishing itself as TV’s elite adrenaline rush in the epic Season 2“24” Season 3 (2003-04, Fox; now streaming on Amazon Prime) gets introspective and examines how family and romantic relationships can suffer under the weight of a job where you must put the safety of thousands of Americans above that of a loved one (or conversely, your work can suffer because of the distraction). Simultaneously, Season 3 marks the first time when I can see how easily “24” could slip into parody. This is the conclusion of a trilogy of great “24” seasons, and the show will never again be as consistently good.

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Rewatching and reviewing the classics: ‘24’ Season 2 (2002-03) (TV review)

Now would be a good time to rewatch “24” Season 2 (2002-03, Fox; now streaming on Amazon Prime). Centered on a terrorist nuclear bomb in Los Angeles and the buildup to war in the aftermath of its explosion (in the unpopulated desert, thanks to Jack Bauer, natch), this season is obviously a commentary on the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which began in March 2003, coinciding with the intense push-for-war episodes.

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Rewatching and reviewing the classics: ‘24’ Season 1 (2001-02) (TV review)

With “24: Legacy” premiering earlier this year, I have a perfect excuse to rewatch “24” Season 1 (2001-02, Fox; now streaming on Amazon Prime). Even without “Legacy,” this seems like a good time to get nostalgic about a show that was presciently conceived before the Twin Towers fell and went on to become the definitive post-9/11 drama.

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