Posts Tagged ‘review’

By John Ruberry

Earlier this month the second season of the Luxembourgish crime drama Capitani began streaming on Netflix. 

In the first season, set in 2019, the titular character, gruff and laconic police detective Luc Capitani (Luc Schiltz) arrives in the fictional small northern Luxembourg of town of Manscheid to investigate the murder of an identical twin teen girl. Similar to British crime series Broadchurch, Luc Capitani is confronted by clannish locals who are harboring secrets. Capitani meets an old flame in Manscheid, Carla Pereira (Brigitte Urhausen)–her presence might have been the real reason for his visit to the village.

The following paragraphs contain a Season One spoiler. 

At the end of Episode 12, after solving the case of the murdered twin, Capitani is arrested for the murder of a drug lord that happened years earlier, a crime in which Pereira is entangled in. At the start of Season Two, after serving eighteen months in prison, he is released due to lack of evidence.

Capitani is now working as a private detective in Luxembourg City. A sex worker, Bianca Petrova (Lydia Indjova), calls him to look into the disappearance of another prostitute. Capitani quicky finds her body in a park. It turns out the sex worker hired Capitani at the request of the owner of what is called here a cabaret, but in reality it is a strip club and a brothel. That proprietor is Valentina Draga (Edita Malovcic). After the murder of another prostitute, the owner of a competing cabaret, Gibbes Koenig (André Jung), reaches out to Draga. Each of them has an ambitious son, respectively Dominik Draga (Adrien Papritz) and Arthur Koenig (Tommy Schlesser), who are seeking to expand their operations.

And business is poor. This is the first television series that I have viewed that has incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into its plot. The lockdowns have been devastating to the cabarets and those two sons look to narcotics to make up the difference. Drugs in Luxembourg City are sold openly on the streets by Nigerian immigrants–much in the manner that I’ve witnessed on the West Side of Chicago–while under surveillance of two cops, Elsa Ley (Sophie Mousel), who was Capitani’s unofficial partner in Manscheid, and Toni Scholtes (Philippe Thelen). One of those drug dealers, Lucky Onu (Edson Anibal), is in Luxembourg not to peddle narcotics, but to find his sister, Grace (Jennifer Heylen), another sex worker.

Similar to Clint Eastwood’s character in A Fistful Of Dollars, a work that was based on the Akiro Kurosawa film Yojimbo, Capitani works both sides of the brothel competition. And he hasn’t completely broken ties with the Luxembourg Police. There’s a third angle being played, Capitani is regularly speaking with a senior police official, Pascale Cojocaru (Larisa Faber).

If you enjoy Nordic noir movies and television shows–as I do–you’ll like Capitani. There is no Netflix wokism here, the performances are captivating, and the cinematography succeeds by capturing views of beauty and squalor in Luxembourg City. And the plot keeps you guessing enough to make things interesting. Both seasons have twelve episodes, with each entry lasting around 30 minutes.

Both seasons of Capitani are currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for nudity, violence, drug use, obscene language, and sex. You can watch in the original Luxembourgish with subtitles, although there is much English dialogue here, or in dubbed English.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Earlier this month Season Six of the BBC gangster drama, Peaky Blinders, began streaming on Netflix.

The show centers on a Birmingham Romani organized crime family, the Shelbys, and the leader of that gang, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). He’s a World War I veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, who manages to build a business empire, while getting elected to Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

This will be the final season of Peaky Blinders, although a movie is said to be in the works.

The next two paragraphs contain some Season 5 and 6 spoilers.

During Season 5 a new major character, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), a Birmingham member of Parliament like Tommy Shelby, is introduced. He’s the founder of a British fascist party–and Mosley was a real person. Shelby’s relationship with Mosley is complicated, which fits the show as the plot lines are anything but simplistic. Shelby’s plot to assassinate Mosley–the real Oswald died of natural causes in 1980–is foiled by the Irish Republican Army. The IRA kills the would-be assassin and other member of the Peaky Blinders, the “muscle” end of the Shelby operation.

While Tommy is the leader of the gang, his aunt, Elizabeth Pollyanna “Polly” Shelby Gray (Helen McCrory), was the glue of the enterprise, formally known as Shelby Family Limited. But McCrory died at 52 of lung cancer in 2021, just as production of this season started. Other than Tommy Shelby, Aunt Polly was the most important character in Peaky Blinders. Her off-screen death was a tough blow for the show. To compensate, the role of Tommy’s sister, Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle), is elevated, but Rundle is placed in an impossible position. Meanwhile, Polly’s son, Michael Gray (Finn Cole), holds Tommy responsible for Polly’s murder.

Also back in Season 5, another new character Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), Michael’s wife, makes her debut. We learn in the new season that Gina is the niece of South Boston gangster Jack Nelson (James Frecheville). He’s a not-too-thinly disguised characterization of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. Like the patriarch of the Kennedy dynasty, Nelson has anti-Semitic and fascist leanings. Calm down my liberal friends, it’s true about Kennedy. With Prohibition over, Tommy and Nelson hope to offset the end of it by smuggling opium into Boston. 

Mosley has a new lover, Lady Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson). She declares herself to Ada, in cruder terms, as a bisexual but she also has her eyes on Tommy. The real Mitfort was the first cousin of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine. Unless this plotline is being saved for the Peaky Blinders movie, I am stupefied why this angle wasn’t developed into the storyline. The future wartime leader, amazingly is portrayed by three actors over the six seasons, makes a cameo appearance in Season 6. 

Season 5 ends and Season 6 begins with Tommy wallowing in mud. And mud is fitting metaphor for this season, while good, falls short of the greatness of Peaky Blinders, although I didn’t care for the Russian diversion in Season 3. The final episode of this last season, nearly 90 minutes long, is the best, as Tommy’s older brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson), emerges somewhat from his alcohol and drug induced haze as the Shelbys face a two-front war. A third front of sorts is there too as Tommy’s marriage with Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) faces challenges. 

In regard to Nelson, Season 6 would have been much more interesting if instead Joseph P. Kennedy was the Boston foil for Tommy.

Surprisingly, while the show continues with a dark and gothic soundtrack, the unofficial theme song, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” is sadly missing. But arguably the worst song Bob Dylan ever recorded, “All The Tired Horses,” covered by Lisa O’Neill, is included.

All six seasons of Peaky Blinders are currently streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for nudity, drug use, foul language, and violence. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

When one looks back the great artists–and I dislike this term–of the classic rock era of the mid-1960s thru the early 1970s, the usual big names to come to mind, the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan. 

One name–and he just released his 43rd studio album last week–is generally overlooked. And that artist is Van Morrison, also known as Van the Man and the Belfast Cowboy. Oh sure, he’s recorded some memorable hits, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” along with “Moondance” and “Have I Told You Lately.” Before Morrison’s first album, Blowin’ Your Mind, was released in 1967, he was the frontman for Them. That band’s anthemic “Gloria” deservedly appears on many best-ever song lists. 

But Morrison isn’t a much of a self-promoter–he doesn’t do many interviews and he’s not the best media conversationalist–even though Van the Man’s lyrics are generally eloquent and articulate. 

Two years ago Morrison began attracting media attention for his impassioned opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns, which, during the height of them, prevented Van, who turns 77 this summer, from performing live.

Morrison just concluded a short USA tour, a British tour begins Monday. 

In 2020, Morrison released three anti-lockdown songs, “Born to Be Free” and “As I Walked Out,” as well as “No More Lockdown.” That same year Eric Clapton recorded a Morrison-penned anti-lockdown song, “Stand and Deliver.” Clapton, who celebrated his 77th birthday in March, was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. Hey, no reasonable person believes COVID is un-catchable. 

Those anti-lockdown songs led Northern Ireland’s health minister, Robin Swann, to write a Rolling Stone op-ed attacking Morrison, where Swann declared, “Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous.”

Last year in Belfast, after four of his concerts were cancelled, Morrison led a “Robin Swann is very dangerous” chant at a banquet. Because of the chant, Swann sued Morrison.

Which brings us to “Dangerous,” the opening track of Morrison’s brand-new album, What’s It Gonna Take?

Somebody said I was dangerous
I said something bad, but it must’ve been good
Somebody said I was dangerous
I must be getting close to the truth, alright, alright

But Morrison isn’t done with lockdowns, as the first ten songs of this 15-song effort attack COVID-19 restrictions on varying levels.

On the title track, Morrison opines,

Politicians don’t represent the people
Government doesn’t represent us at all
Government takes and ruins all our business
Big tax about to take it all.

In life, I’ve learned that sometimes life is just blah blah blah. Really, because that’s another great tune here, entitled of course, “Sometimes It’s Just Blah Blah Blah.”

How do you like the new normal?
Tell me, how is that going for you?
How did you overcome the restrictions?
How do you handle the news?
Do you still think the government’s not lying to you?
Oh, has the penny dropped yet?
Seems there’s no way out of this impasse
Is it something we’ll live to regret?

What’s It Gonna Take? is absolutely an essential musical release but I suspect it will be savaged by the critics, most of whom are liberals. Morrison’s prior collection, a double album, Latest Record Project, Volume 1, also blew the whistle on lockdown restrictions, as well as social media–quite obviously so on the song “Why Are You On Facebook?” It’s a good album, albeit a bit long, but still far better than the swill that passes as 21st century music. And the critics for the most part hated that Latest Record Project, Volume 1.

As recently as 2017 Morrison described himself as apolitical. Clearly, at least in regards to COVID lockdowns and government overreach, he is now a strident libertarian. 

Rock music, with few exceptions, hasn’t been the soundtrack of rebellion for decades. It’s ironic that the most rebellious rocker today–or perhaps he’s a bluesman?–is a man in his late 70s, the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison.

Here’s one final brilliant lyrical excerpt from Van’s latest album, this time from “Damage and Recovery.”

Snowflakes hiding in their houses
Most of us need to get right back to work
Money doesn’t grow on trees
Jobs don’t thrive on barren ground
Narrow-minded politics
So-called social scientist tricks
Telling lies, they’re meant to be
Watching morons on TV.

There are a couple of references to “Gates,” as in Bill Gates, a COVID-alarmist. A couple of weeks ago, the Microsoft founder and self-appointed virus expert said about COVID-19, “We didn’t understand that it’s a fairly low fatality rate and that it’s a disease mainly in the elderly, kind of like flu is, although a bit different than that.”

Wow. Two years ago, if someone posted that sentence on Facebook or Twitter, they’d probably have their accounts suspended.

Morrison was right in 2020 about lockdowns and Gates was wrong.

There’s a little bit of Van Morrison in all of us. There’s a lot of Van Morrison in all thinking people.

What’s It Gonna Take? is available for download on iTunes and for purchase in the CD format on Amazon, where, as of this writing, the reviews are fairly good. And you can buy it or stream it from the Van Morrison official website.

UPDATE May 31, 2022:

Yesterday multiple United Kingdom news outlets reported that Morrison has turned the tables on Robin Swann. He’s suing the Northern Ireland health minister.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit, he’s married to Mrs. Marathon Pundit. Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately” plays on their wedding video.

By John Ruberry

After a long day at work earlier this month I clicked on the “Surprise Me” feature on Netflix. What popped up was Mike Myers’ new vehicle, The Pentaverate.

“Well,” I said to myself, “this might be pretty good.” 

In fact, The Pentaverate doesn’t even measure up to “pretty bad.” The six episode limited series is one of the worst shows I’ve suffered through. Oh, somehow I managed to view a couple episodes of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. I know about awful.

Warning: There are numerous spoilers and some rather disgusting things that I will mention in my review of this Netflix series.

The origin of The Pentaverate dates back to a throwaway line from Myers’ second film, So I Married an Axe Murderer, where the father of Myers’ lead character, also played by Myers, claims that a secret society, the Pentaverate, a five-man cabal, which at one time included Colonel Sanders as a member, rules the world. In this series narrator Jeremy Irons tells us, the original members of the Pentaverate discovered in 1347, contrary to the belief of the Catholic Church, it was fleas that spread the bubonic plague. 

As the first episode begins, the newest member of the group of five, Dr. Hobart Clark (Keegan-Michael Key), a scientist, is accepted into the Pentaverate after he is kidnapped. Apparently, he is the first non-white fellow of the all-male group, replacing a member who mysteriously died. The other members are played by Myers. Lord Lordington, an elderly Englishman, Bruce Baldwin, an Australian media mogul, who of course is based on Rupert Murdoch, Shep Gordon, a manager of various rock acts, a real person who is the subject of a documentary directed by Myers, and Mishu Ivanov, a Russian oligarch and Vladimir Putin crony.

Warning! Not-safe-for-work language in the trailer.

But Myers isn’t done with his roles. The lead character of The Pentaverate is Ken Scarborough, a television reporter who wears plaid sportscoats; he is a quirky throwback from the 1970s who does man-on-the-street interviews of other oddballs, while overshadowing them. Scarborough works for, wait for it, Toronto-based CACA news. Yep, caca. 

The other four Pentaverate members manufacture a story that Dr. Clark, who was invited into the secret society because they believe he can reverse climate change, is dead. Clark’s phony passing occurs while attempting to mimic an internet video fad–kissing your own anus. Clark’s room at Pentaverate headquarters is guarded by a sasquatch, who immediately defecates outside the scientist’s door. 

In addition to a Shrek cameo, Myers plays two other characters, internet personality Rex Smith, a stand-in for Alex Jones, and Anthony Lansdowne, a conspiracy theorist from New Hampshire. 

Besides being an assault on good taste, The Pentaverate is an attack on right-wingers, with the implied message that all conservatives are conspiracy whackos like Lansdowne. He is a believer, or has been a believer, in QAnon, Pizzagate, and the Illuminati. His last words as he falls to his death is, “But what about her emails?” 

Lansdowne, in his bumper-sticker laden van, which not surprisingly has a malfunctioning portable toilet, drives Scarborough and his pre-woke Doctor Who-like young female companion, Reilly Clayton (Lydia West) to New York City, which looks nothing like today’s NYC, but more like your standard Doctor Who “future metropolis.” Scarborough, recently fired by CACA, is convinced by Clayton and Lansdowne to infiltrate Pentaverate headquarters, and he does so after a painful penis tug initiation. 

Clark, following an intimate evening with the Pentaverate’s executive assistant Patty Davis (Debi Mazar) in the Moon Room studio–did the Pentaverate fake the moon landings?–suddenly dies, this time for real. He is promptly replaced by casino billionaire Skip Cho (Ken Jeong). Oh, I have never thought Jeong was funny. Jeong recently showed his true political colors after childishly storming off the set of The Masked Singer after Rudy Giuliani was revealed as a contestant.

Myers seemingly hasn’t emotionally moved on from being an 11-year-old. Flatulence jokes are among the things that ruined his cinema take on Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, a children’s film, by the way. Scatological so-called humor also undermined another Myers movie bomb, The Love Guru

Outside of Myers’ fading fame, why did Netflix greenlight this debacle? Could it be that woke Netflix executives fell in love with The Pentaverate’s snide attacks on conservatives, who they probably believe are personified by Smith and Lansdowne? I have liberal friends. Really, I do. And many of them insist that I take marching orders from Alex Jones.

Here’s a tip for Netflix and Myers: the first rule of comedy is that comedies need to be funny.

Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022. Its stock value plummeted 35-percent last month. Yes, when you go woke you go broke. And I can’t think of a single Netflix dramatic series that is aimed at conservatives. Longmire was the closest show I can think of, but production of it ended in 2017, and Longmire was originally an A&E offering. And as I wrote in last week’s review of Ozark, that otherwise quite enjoyable show contorted itself to find ways to attack Republicans.

Over 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2020. That’s a lot of viewers, Netflix. We don’t live in vans with clogged toilets. We own televisions. 

Cloying use of easter eggs, that is, references to other works that do nothing to advance the story or add laughs–assuming of course there is even one laugh in The Pentaverate–is also another problem here. Winks to other Myers’ works, along with yet another tired replay of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Game of Thrones, are simply annoying. Rob Lowe, a veteran of several Myers movies, makes an unnecessary appearance.

Myers’ acting, outside of his sympathetic portrayal of Scarborough, is subpar. In his review of The Cat in the Hat, Roger Ebert noticed that at times Myers sounded a bit like his Linda Richman “Coffee Talk” character from SNL. The use of convincing accents is supposed to be one of Myers’ strengths, but his Lansdowne character’s accent, rather than sounding like what you’ll hear from a rustic New Englander, varies from a Canadian to a New Yorker style of speech–that is, when Lansdowne isn’t coming across like Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World.

Oh, when there is a crack within the five members of the Pentaverate, who do you think is behind it? Why of course! It’s the casino billionaire and the Murdoch stand-in. 

I hated The Pentaverate. Hated, hated, hated. If you have any sense of taste or decency, you will hate it too. 

You have been warned. 

Oh, if you think I am just a grumpy old man with a minority opinion on this actual sh*t show, as of May 15, the average critic score on Rotten Tomatoes is just 20 percent. Only once in the last week have I noticed The Pentaverate ranking as a top-ten most viewed program on Netflix. And based on the CGI and the A-List (to some people) cast, I imagine Netflix wasted a lot of money on this fiasco.

The Pentaverate is rated TV-MA for full frontal (possibly with use of prosthetics) nudity, animals engaged in sex, violence, suicide, adult situations, foul language, and scatological references. Well, at least no one smokes in it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.