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Sat09222018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Over Labor Day weekend, I binge-watched Ozark, a show about a Chicago family whose financial-expert patriarch, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), made the unfortunate decision to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. He eventually winds up in the Ozarks with his family, where he finds ways to launder more money through the lakeside businesses he gobbles up.

The first season worked just fine. Bateman himself directed a couple of episodes that I found to be generally gripping, and Laura Linney had some great moments as Wendy Byrde, mother and wife. Julia Garner was very good as Ruth, a local looking to ride Marty’s fake wealth into a better life.

As for the just-released second season … I am four episodes in so far, and it stinks.

It’s all about the Byrdes being stuck in the Ozarks and trying to manipulate their various schemes, with the first few episodes trying too hard to explain what happened in Season 1. It’s a show in which it seems like the writers are desperately worried about reminding viewers about all the past details. Hey, let it fly; we’ll figure it out.

The first season focused on criminal activity in the small territory. The second goes into state government and political intrigue as the Byrdes try to build a casino. The dialogue gets dumber and dumber as the show wears on, and it becomes a slog.

I don’t like what I’m seeing. Ruth has become nothing but annoying; Marty and Wendy are just running around over-explaining why they are bad; and Trevor Long’s increased screen time as Ruth’s disgusting dad is unwelcome.

I hope things get better in the final six episodes of Season 2, If they do not, Ozark will have been better off as a limited series rather than a continuing entity. It’s stretching its premise to extremes that are not at all entertaining.

Ozark is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, sets his sights on The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones with Disenchantment, his latest animated series. While the finished product looks a little rushed on the visual side, there are enough good laughs to make the series a success.

Bean (the voice of Abbi Jacobson) is the restless daughter of King Zog (John DiMaggio). With her assigned demon, Luci (Eric André), at her side, and Elfo the elf (Nat Faxon) as her sidekick, she sets off on a series of adventures.

The humor is part The Simpsons, and part Monty Python (there are actually a lot of “not quite dead” jokes), with more hits than misses. André is a constant laugh-getter as the wisecracking demon, while DiMaggio is very funny as the unorthodox king.

Hopefully, Netflix will straighten out the visuals in future seasons and make this look more like a grown-up cartoon and less of a rush job. As it stands, it’s still better than Game of Thrones. I just don’t understand the appeal of that show.

The first 10-episode season of Disenchantment is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Perhaps you noticed that the Jerry Seinfeld program featuring the man interviewing comic guests has moved from Crackle to Netflix—and all of the old episodes are available on Netflix for you to peruse.

What you might not have noticed is Jerry’s deal wasn’t just to run the old shows: A new season of interviews just went up on Netflix, and it’s a healthy bunch.

As of July 6, there are 12 new episodes, including one with Jerry Lewis that was probably the comic legend’s last TV appearance. Others include Dave Chappelle, Ellen DeGeneres, Tracy Morgan, Dana Carvey and Kate McKinnon.

The winner in the new bunch would have to be the episode with Alec Baldwin, who does a hilarious re-enactment of a Broadway role that leaves Seinfeld in stitches. McKinnon is a close second, with her sad impersonation of a dog pooping and her winning rendition of Jessica Lange in American Horror Story (“Knotty pine!”). Actually, her impersonation of a Scottish man ruminating on Massapequa, N.Y. (Seinfeld’s hometown) might be the funniest thing in the new season.

As usual, he gets some pretty nutty cars in which to pick up his stars, including a dune buggy, an ’84 Ferrari and ’77 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Leave it to Seinfeld to take a format that looks lame and turn it into one of the more entertaining things on Netflix. The guy is a master.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is now streaming on Netflix.

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The Bluths are back together again—with more simultaneous screen time than in Season 4—in the latest Arrested Development reunion on Netflix.

The plotting of this season involves a little too much crazy stuff regarding Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli) and the shared girlfriend (Isla Fisher) of Michael (Jason Bateman) and George Michael (Michael Cera), making things a bit haphazard. That doesn’t stop it from being very funny.

There’s a lot of weirdness at play. Buster (Tony Hale) does jail time (during which he touches a mouse!), while Tobias (David Cross) obsesses with impersonating everybody in the family. Cross remains the funniest guy on this show; he goes full-blown insane this season. Gob (Will Arnett) is dealing with feelings for fellow magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller), so he makes a visit to a Closet Conversion facility (which is not what he thinks). Maeby (Alia Shawkat), for reasons I won’t explain, winds up brilliantly impersonating an old Jewish woman in a retirement community.

Even it is a bit frantic, Arrested Development remains one of the funniest shows on TV. (Who knew Henry Winkler was going to be so funny when he grew up?) When it slows down for stuff like a barbecue at Ron Howard’s house (including cameos by Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the Howard family), it’s as funny as it ever was.

Netflix currently has eight episodes streaming now, with eight more coming later this year.

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Howard Stern, sporting a silly gray beard in order to give his pal David Letterman a hard time, sits for a terrific interview in the latest installment of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Stern, who got his big television break on Letterman’s show many years ago, is shown in footage from their first meeting together on TV—sporting a terrible mustache and somehow looking older than he does now. The action then skips to present-day, with Letterman sporting that crazy beard and Howard with shades—but without upper-lip hair.

The two talk about broadcasting in general, Howard’s upbringing, and the hazards of celebrity. Stern is his usual self-conscious self, complaining about his looks and worrying he’s ruining Dave’s show. He looks fine, and he’s a great guest.

Of course, they touch upon Donald Trump and his many visits to each of their shows, including Trump’s gross bragging about his own daughter’s hotness. Letterman invites Howard to visit Utah with him, and not surprisingly, Howard declines.

The show—the final episode of the first and possibly only season of My Next Guest—ends with Letterman riding off into the sunset on a horse. Is this the symbolic end to Letterman’s TV days? Gee, I hope not. This show is proof Letterman has plenty left in the tank.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

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Two comic legends come together for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a variety special that has its shining moments … but gets by on the general good feeling of seeing the two sharing a stage.

It’s not remarkably funny. Actually, it really isn’t that funny at all; a lot of the attempts at humor fall flat. It does have a couple of gigglers, including Short’s nasty talk-show-host Jiminy Glick transformed into a puppet that Martin works; the two also enjoy making fun of each other. But a musical number by Short that winds up with him in a very low-grade naked suit is lame.

The show really shines when Martin simply sits down and plays his banjo. Honestly, I could’ve watched an hour of Martin playing his banjo by himself on the stage. I didn’t even need the moment when his backing band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, showed up to finish the song. Martin playing a banjo, by himself, is one of my favorite things the entertainment industry has to offer.

While Short keeps chugging as an actor, Martin has put that part of his life aside to tour as a musician, sometimes with Edie Brickell. So if anything, this special is nice in that we get to see Martin doing some comedy again. Still, I’m one of those folks who is perfectly content to watch him pick those strings.

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life is now streaming on Netflix.

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I’ve had it up to here with zombies (I stopped watching The Walking Dead after Season 2)—but Cargo, set in the Australian Outback, is actually pretty good.

Martin Freeman stars as a man who is surviving a zombie apocalypse on a houseboat with his wife and baby daughter. Things go very badly not long after the movie starts—and he must battle on land to ensure a future for his family. Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (Ramke also wrote the screenplay) keep the origins of the apocalypse shrouded in secrecy, and that’s a good move.

There are cool elements, like government-provided survival (and disposal) packs for those who become infected, and the fact that Freeman has a baby strapped to his back during a rather harrowing medical emergency. The film relies more upon a sense of dread and impending doom rather than straight-up zombie violence. The humans who aren’t sick turn out to be a lot scarier than the ghouls.

The movie is more The Road than Dawn of the Dead, and Freeman’s stellar work makes it worth seeing, even if you’ve had your fill of flesh-eaters.

Cargo is currently streaming on Netflix.

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After a strong, sweet and funny start, Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix effort, The Week Of, falls apart in its second half.

Sandler plays Kenny, a dad whose daughter (Allison Strong) is getting married in a week. He sees it as his last chance to do something for her, so he tries his best to put together an impressive spread for the two families. Chris Rock plays the father of the groom, a wealthy heart surgeon who isn’t impressed with the hotel Kenny has picked. Others on hand include Rachel Dratch (It’s good to see her!) as Kenny’s wife, and Steve Buscemi as a sleazy family member with amazing climbing abilities.

Directed by Robert Smigel, the film goes on long enough for the jokes to start dying from old age. A joke involving a legless uncle starts funny, gets funnier, almost gets really funny … then goes stale.

As a Howard Stern fan, I was happy to finally see the culmination of Ronnie the Limo Driver’s hard work; he’s a bad actor, but he was better than I thought he would be. (He’s a convincing sleeper.)

Having grown up on Long Island, I can say the movie does a good job of capturing the region, from the accents to the undying loyalty to Billy Joel. You have to have some respect for a comedy that kills a legless man by throwing him into a bounce pit in the middle of a strip club—but that’s not enough to make it a winner. That’s a shame, because Sandler is actually fairly endearing here, and some of the performers bring at least their B- game. The Week Of just needed to be about 25 minutes shorter, and 35 percent funnier.

The Week Of is now streaming on Netflix.

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A dying photographer (Ed Harris) coaxes his estranged son (Jason Sudeikis) into going on a road trip with him and his nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) to get some Kodachrome film developed before the world stops developing the brand in Netflix’s Kodachrome.

Yes, it’s yet another road movie, and yes, it has the “somebody’s dying” gimmick to go with it—but don’t write this one off based on the synopsis. The three stars are pretty good here, with Harris especially good as a miserable man trying, in a very strange and peculiar way, to make nice with his son before checking out.

Sudeikis is one of the more underrated actors out there, and he does a lot with a fairly stereotypical role. Olsen, one of my favorite actresses, puts the whole thing over the top as a nurse who’s more than just an extra passenger calling shotgun.

The movie falls into some of the typical trope potholes, but Harris and company consistently pull it out of the muck. There’s a music-business subplot involving Sudeikis’ character that is pretty good, too.

Kodachrome is not a great movie, but it is worth a shot late on a Saturday night.

Kodachrome is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Wow! Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet was a show that was just OK in its first season—but not only does it hit its stride in the second; it becomes one of the funniest shows on TV (or streaming, or whatever).

Why? Mainly because Timothy Olyphant’s performance as mildly agitated Joe—husband to recently undead cannibal Sheila (Drew Barrymore)—has gone from slightly off to totally on. In the first episode alone, he has a solid 10 moments that are worth a laugh. He not only gets the laughs; he gets them with pitch-perfect timing. Barrymore is no slouch, either, although she’s simply continuing her great work from Season 1.

The writing on this show is done by a group of people (including Victor Fresco) who have just said, “Who gives a fuck anymore?” All the proverbial stops have been taken out. There are lines in this show that are as nasty/funny as anything you will find in your living room watching things on the rectangular doodad that spits out imagery and sounds and whatnot.

Here’s a line of dialogue for an example: “If this helps you be less murdery … that’s great. My concern is, if somebody sees you running around snatching at rabbits like a coyote in yoga pants, they might start asking questions, like ‘What the fuck is that?!’” Olyphant delivered that line with a combination of deadpan and agitation that was drop-dead funny.

This one gets super-violent, so beware of hardcore gore. As entertainment that gets an equal amount of gross-outs and laughs, this one just crossed into Evil Dead territory.

The second season of Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix.

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