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Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2021.3

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1600 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

The Man in the High Castle S02 (2016) — 9/10
“Truth. As terrible as death. But harder to find.”
Philip K. Dick (Juliana) (The Man in the High Castle S02E01)

Joe (Luke Kleintank) escapes on a boat with smugglers, who he tries to help, but they’re all betrayed by the Nazis (obviously). He delivers the video to Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell), who flies to Berlin to deliver it to Hitler (Wolf Muser).

Juliana (Alexa Davalos) meets Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), who is the eponymous Man in the High Castle. Trade Minister Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) returns from the other reality, where he saw an American San Francisco. He is dismayed to learn that his Empire is going forward with plans to use a mega-weapon against the Nazis. Julia’s husband Frank (Rupert Evans) blackmails antiques dealer Childan (Brennan Brown) to ask Paul Kasoura (Louis Ozawa) for help in releasing his friend Ed (DJ Qualls) from the Kempeitai. Juliana escapes her captors from the trunk of the car and runs away in a bloody firefight.

Juliana crosses the country to seek political asylum in Nazi America, where she ends up in an apartment arranged for by John Smith’s wife. John Smith refuses to kill his genetically inferior—but loyal and seemingly OK—son and instead kills the family doctor who would have turned them all in to the Reich had they not soon complied.

Juliana meets up with George Dixon (Tate Donovan), who was a friend of her parents’ and who’s now in the Resistance. He manages to be able to protect her from the Resistance killing her outright for her betrayal, but only if she gets closer to John Smith and helps them take him out. She’s terrified, but she shouldn’t be, since the Resistance is unlikely to follow through on their empty threats against her—a valuable and well-placed potential asset for them.

Frank gets Ed from the Kempeitai but now he and Childan owe the Yakuza big-time. They have to get to work forging and moving antiquities, now with Ed’s help. The Resistance is pissed that Juliana got away but they manage to draw Frank closer to their ranks—he gets involved in a rescue operation for 12 innocent workers the Kempeitai had randomly chosen for execution.

Frank eventually does another job for them—dragging Ed into drawing off the explosive paste from an unexploded bomb—then seals the deal by sleeping with one of the Resistance ladies. Ed is pissed because he sees Frank as wasting time while they should be focused on paying off Yakuza debt. Ed is also snitching on the Yakuza to the Kempeitai cops.

Joe is ordered to Berlin, where he meets his father, who is a big-time Nazi muckety-muck. Joe plays hard-to-get in Berlin while Juliana meets Joe’s wife in Brooklyn. He gets drawn in to telling his goddamned life story to a completely unknown woman Nicole Dörmer (Bella Heathcote), who’s probably an agent of his father’s. They get him to stay just a bit longer, revealing to him that he’s a child of the Lebensborn (Wikipedia) project.

I’m a bit shocked at how trusting Joe is—he’s not half the agent that Juliana is, who knows how to fake it until she makes it and keep her mouth shut. Joe, meanwhile, doesn’t exhibit any guile whatsoever, and just tells everyone exactly what he’s thinking at any given time.

Trade Minister Tagomi tries to adjust the general’s plan for delivering uranium, but is severely reprimanded. He makes more trips to the alternate reality, looking up his wife and son, who are angry with him for having “gone on another bender”. Apparently, his alter-ego isn’t as honorable as he is. Tagomi and Kido continue to scheme against General Onada (Tzi Ma), who’s nearly dangerously unhinged with his plans to strike against the Nazis.

Joe spends some time in Berlin, finally correctly guessing that meeting Nicole wasn’t at all accidental and that she’s also Lebensborn and they go to a half-orgy party together where half of the others are also Lebensborn and they do acid and Joe wakes up and wants to see his Dad and puts on the suit that was prepare for him and finds a Nazi armband that he seems to be seriously considering wearing in a non-ironic way. This continues as Joe seems to befriend his father, eventually swearing fealty to the Reich.

Tagomi is spending more time in “our” San Francisco, learning more about that time—and more about his family there. Juliana ingratiates herself further into Helen Smith’s circle of friends, partially at the behest of George Dixon and the Resistance standing behind him. She’s a much better agent than Joe, convincing without being belligerent.

The Smiths, in turn, grapple with the prestige of a trip to South America for their son Thomas, who will almost certainly exhibit his malady there. They plot to have him “kidnapped” by “Semites” and spirited away, never to be seen by them again, but at least safe from the eugenic clutches of the Reich they both serve.

Things come to a head when Juliana finds out that Hitler is in a coma and will soon die. The Resistance on both coasts throw a long-awaited plan into action. The west coast—now joined by Hagan (Michael Hogan)—will try to blow up the factory building the atomic bomb that will wipe out San Francisco. Joe’s father Heusmann rises to Chancellor pro-tem while Smith tries to figure out who will really take power. It turns out to be Heusmann, who’s apparently been scheming all along to get power—and managed to convince Hitler he was only interested in science.

Meanwhile, Frank, Ed, and Childan get the first set of fake cufflinks done and, with Ed’s smooth storytelling, sell them to a buyer before heading to the Yakuza with their first payment. Kido breaks up the whole thing: he’s there to accuse Okamura (Hiro Kanagawa) of working with the Nazis and executes him—and all of his men—as a traitor. Ed and Robert are allowed to leave, their debt absolved. Frank was completely unaware because he was off working with the Resistance and—like any born-again—is fucking insufferable about it. Poor Ed tries to get him to see reason, but Frank’s pretty far gone.

The Resistance continues its plan to use the stolen materiel to blow up Japanese headquarters, at the same time attacking points throughout the east coast. Frank drives the car in and walks into the building, finding Kido and trying to shoot him seconds before the bomb explodes, incinerating Frank in its blast. His potshot took out the Kido’s right-hand man instead, leaving Kido to fall outside of the direct bomb blast.

Julia helps the resistance get closer to Smith, but they are just as duplicitous as the Nazis, to be quite frank. She uses her Aikido skills to break free and shoots Dixon—who’d dressed as a Nazi to escape detection—but fulfilling the vision she’d seen in the movie reel of the The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. She escapes New York City, meeting Hawthorne Abendsen again, who tells her that she is the linchpin in all of the possible worlds he’s seen—she is the moral center, unchanging, unchangeable.

In the other San Francisco, Tagomi heals the wounds in his family left by his alter-ego. He eventually takes his leave, returning with a film of the U.S. bombing of the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. He shows this to Kido, asking him to show it to Smith. They hope to convince Smith to try to convince his superiors that Japan has this weapon—1,000 times more powerful than anything the Germans possess—and to call off the attack on Japan.

Smith takes the reel from Kido to Berlin, where he shows it to Heusmann, who chooses to ignore it and go ahead with his war plans. He cannot conceive of swerving from his purpose now. Joe tries to convince him otherwise, to no avail. Smith has an ace card, though: he has the interrogation report from Heydrich that proves Heusmann’s complicity in the plot to kill Hitler—simultaneously absolving the Japanese. He takes this to Himmler, who uses the evidence to take down Heusmann and exalt Smith for his bravery—before an adoring crowd of Nazis in Berlin, 100,000 strong.

Juliana, in preventing Dixon from bringing down Smith by outing Thomas, saved the world from all-out war. Thomas, inspired by his father, turns himself in to be euthanized for his illness. Tagomi gets the rest of Abendsen’s films from Lem (Rick Worthy).

Juliana, Kido and Tagomi are wonderfully cast and written, with a lot of nuance and depth. Not all of the characters are like that, though. Overall a very entertaining series. Highly recommended.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) — 8/10

This is a feature-length film of what amount to skits, each of which stands on its own quite well. It is the story of Brian, a young man from Nazareth whose life path is very similar that of Jesus, who plays a minor role in this film. Graham Chapman plays the lead role, but also several others (including Biggus Dickus). All of the Pythons play several roles, to hilarious effect.

  1. The wise men arrive at the wrong manger, visiting their beneficence on Brian, but then retracting it when they see Jesus in a manger across the way.
  2. A grown man now, Brian attends Jesus’s sermon on the mount, but misses most of it due to bickering in the crowd.
  3. He then goes to a stoning with his mother, during which only women are in attendance, with fake beards, and the leader is stoned as well, for repeating the blasphemy.
  4. Michael Palin shows up as an ex-leper, begging for change
  5. Brian falls in love with Judith and joins the People’s Front of Judea
  6. Brian gets a task to paint graffiti, but his latin is terrible (Romanes eunt domus rather than Romani ite domum) and is corrected by John Cleese’s centurion, who tasks him with writing it 100 times.
  7. There is the meeting during which the PFJ must come up with their demands and complaints and must exclude the dozen things that the Romans have done for them that are unavoidably good.
  8. The PFJ tries to kidnap Pilate’s wife at the same time as another separatist group and they end up fighting each other, as Brian is arrested.
  9. Brian is dragged before Palin’s lisping Pilate and they discuss Biggus Dickus
  10. There is a weird alien spaceship interlude
  11. Brian becomes a prophet, inadvertently. People begin to follow him, with two sects: that of the gourd and that of the sandal.
  12. He flees to the desert, ruins a hermit’s life, and then takes Judith home with him.
  13. The next morning, a huge crowd of his new followers are waiting for him outside.
  14. Brian is again captured and sentenced to crucifixion.
  15. The people’s front once again show their uselessness as a revolutionary group.
  16. There is a long section that revolves mainly around speech defects of different kinds. The best is watching Pilate try to pronounce Rs and the people constantly teasing him to “welease Woger” or ‘welease Bwian”.
  17. Eric Idle is great in the crucifixion line, bullshitting his way both into and then out of his punishment. Brian had gotten a reprieve from Pilate, but Idle’s bullshitter claims he’s Brian and is released.
  18. Finally, another Eric Idle leads Brian and the others in a rousing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
Dolemite is My Name (2019) — 8/10

Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is having a hard time finding his showbiz career in 1970s Los Angeles. He’s tried making music albums, he’s doing shitty standup, he’s just miserable, living with his aunt, knowing that he’s destined for greater things.

He works in a record store and meets Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones) and his other homeless friends. He thinks Rico’s got some good material and pays them to record their stories. He builds an act out of it, which takes off immediately. It’s a filthy act, with a bit of a rhythm to it (he’s sometimes credited with the invention of rap). He records a new album “Eat Out More Often”, selling it out of the back of his car. A (very) local record company picks him up, gets him a pretty porny cover and it’s even more successful. He goes on tour, making bank like never before.

In Mississippi, he picks up Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) as his partner and they become even more successful. While on the road, Rudy’s record company calls him to tell him that his album has made it onto the charts—they’re ready to make more albums. The money starts rolling in. To celebrate, he takes his friends out for dinner, drinks, and a movie. They go see The Front Page, starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Susan Sarandon—they are not impressed.

Rudy decides on the spot to make a Dolemite movie. He scrapes together his cash and gets his record producers to kick in, based on future returns. If his movie flops, he loses all his rights to all of his albums. Moore decides to believe in himself. He gets D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) to act and direct and gets Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key) to write the movie. Jerry gets a bunch of his students from UCLA to help out. Dolemite clears out the Dunbar Hotel of its junkies and sets up his film set there—moving in as well, since he can no longer afford rent.

It’s a close thing, but they get the movie done—with an extra injection of money from Moore’s record producers. Distribution is a problem, though. No-one wants the movie, calling it childish and terribly made. It’s an action comedy with nudity; it’s way ahead of its time. Dolemite hits the road again, back on the comedy circuit. On one of his radio appearances promoting his act, DJ Bobby Vale (Chris Rock) asks him where his fabled movie is, telling him to just show the damned thing. He introduces him to his uncle, who has a movie theater where Moore can “four-wall” his movie (pay the theater for using its four walls, but collect all of the box office).

He spends the week promoting his movie in that city in Indiana—and people come out in droves, paying him back his $500 many times over. He’s back in business, promoting his movie one theater at a time. Lawrence Woolner (Bob Odenkirk) of Dimension Films calls him up, noticing that the butts-in-seats numbers are off the charts. Dimension had turned Moore down initially, so he’s suspicious. Dolemite shows up with Lady Bell and his pimpin’ entourage—and end up striking a deal.

More promotion later and the same group is in a red limo, nervously headed to the premiere. Moore assures them that, even if no-one shows up, they’ve still accomplished a lot. They’re riding in a limo to the premiere of a movie that they made themselves. Murphy as Moore is an absolutely irrepressibly positive force. He really lives the role. They roll up to the theater and it’s decked out in Dolemite paraphernalia and swamped with people. The 10PM and midnight shows are sold out and the theater is preparing an ad-hoc 2AM showing to get everyone in. Instead of watching the movie, though, Moore stays outside to entertain those who have to wait 4 hours before they can get in. He would go on to a film career in several more Dolemite films.

I really enjoyed learning this bit of history and found Murphy to be charming and perfect in the role.

The Man in the High Castle S03 (2018) — 10/10

 Japanese BattleshipSeason 3 picks up right where season 2 left off. Some time has passed, but it’s kind of hard to tell how much. Oberstgruppenführer Smith (Rufus Sewell) has returned from Berlin after a longer absence. Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) is in Nazi prison somewhere in Germany. He’s grown a prodigious beard, so it must have been at least a couple of months. They’re breaking him and his father (Sebastian Roché) down. In the end, a once-again shaven Joe is told to shoot his father.

He does so and gets to return first to New York, then to San Francisco, as the attaché for the Nazi regime. Before he goes, he kills Smith’s right-hand man Erich (Aaron Blakely) in an alley. Once he’s in San Francisco, he looks up the remaining member of the cabal that supported his father and shoots him in cold blood in his home. This, just after having shot two Japanese officers in their surveillance vehicle.

Juliana (Alexa Davalos) and Trudy (Conor Leslie) are staying with Abendson (Stephen Root) and his wife, but the party breaks up when Juliana uses her Annie Oakley skills to defend Hawthorne from the secret and unauthorized assassination attempt by a trio of Lebensborn. Juliana and Trudy split up from the Abendsens and seek out Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), realizing that he, like Trudy, is a traveler. Juliana gets Tagomi to show her the rest of the movies that Lem gave him. She’s in every one; in one of them, she dies.

Tagomi and Kido (Joel de la Fuente) are dealing with Father Hagan (Michael Hogan) of the resistance as well as an undeclared and unacknowledged oil embargo imposed by the Nazis. Tagomi and Kido butt heads over the arrested and captured Juliana and Trudy, but Tagomi prevails. Tagomi and Juliana help Trudy travel back to her own world.

John Smith and his wife Helen (Chelah Horsdal) are struggling to deal with the loss of their son Thomas (Quinn Lord), who offered himself up to be euthanized because of a genetic defect—another well-written and handled part of the narrative. Helen is a mess and the rest of the Nazi leadership is aiming to use her as a lever to prise John Smith from his position as general—and soon-to-be Reichsmarshall. Helen kills Alice (Gillian Barber) her former friend and wife of the doctor (Kevin McNulty) who John had killed in order to delay Thomas’s euthanization.

Joe needs to get close to Tagomi—one of his next targets—and Juliana wants to see if he’s still the same. She has seen the films in which he kills her, then kills himself. He seems, at first, to be OK and possibly also to hate the Reich, but then he tries to convince her to join him, which also seems earnest. It’s still unclear whether he’s been broken or whether he has a higher plan. He seems to be pretty cold-blooded and implacably efficient.

Juliana continues to see him; it’s not clear what her angle is. Is she onto him? Is she trying to convert him? The reprisals in the Pacific States continue, with Kido tightening the noose and the people continuing their protests. Wyatt (Jason O’Mara) from the neutral zone shows up at Juliana’s door. At a Jewish enclave in the neutral zone, we find Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) covered in burn scars, painting protest posters (the sunrise that’s been taken up by rebels all up and down the coast).

In the Neutral Zone, Ed (DJ Qualls) is trying to soften Childan’s (Brennan Brown) bargaining style—while he’s enjoying his first real relationship in, maybe, ever. They leave with a bus full of plunder, with Childan dreaming of “swimming in yen”. Their dreams are cut short by what is hard not to think of as an inevitable motorcycle gang, who take everything they have, including the bus, leaving them on the road in the middle of the desert, with their lives, but nothing else.

Nicole’s (Bella Heathcote) still making her stupid movie and has started an affair with Thelma (Laura Mennell), about whom I also couldn’t care less.

The episode The New Colossus is pivotal. Reichsmarshall Rockwell (David Furr) and Hoover (William Forsythe) spring what they think is a foolproof plan to finally take down Smith—with the truth. They arrange a meeting with Reichsführer Himmler (Kenneth Tigar) to reveal Smith’s treachery. Smith had prepared well and revealed to Hoover that he knew about his…predilections. Hoover tries to bluff his way out of it, but Smith simply says it doesn’t matter if his evidence is believable—he’ll reveal it and see what happens.

Hoover capitulates (probably with pressure from Himmler, who already knew every detail about Smith’s handling of Thomas’s death). Himmler dispatches Rockwell to exile in Cuba and promotes Smith to Reichsführer, telling him to be more careful with his private affairs next time, also revealing that it was he who had Joe kill Erich, to cover Smith’s tracks.

Smith is out of the woods, for now, with only Himmler’s words of warning about his increasingly unstable wife to plague him. Rockwell is living it up in Cuba, planning his revenge, when his plans are put to an abrupt end by a hit man hired by Smith. That’s a loose end that he didn’t hesitate to tie up.

Meanwhile, Juliana visits and sleeps with Joe, who’s revealed to her that he’d had to kill his own father. They’re sparring, each hiding something. Joe gets the drop on Juliana, having taken her gun from her bag. He demands that she take him to Tagomi and then to Abendsen, so he can end them both. He explains that there is nothing she can do—nothing any of them can do—to stop the Reich. The Nebenwelt is a way to spread the vision of the perfection of the Reich to other worlds in other continuums. It’s pretty clear he’s no longer faking—and no longer savable.

Juliana escapes to the bathroom, Joe breaks in, and she turns to slit his throat from ear to ear with a straight razor before he can do a single thing. Perfect. I was super-impressed with how quickly they just let Juliana be awesome, doing the thing that obviously needed to be done. She’s definitely rock-solid and cold as ice. She absconds with his secret files about the Nebenwelt, leaving him in a pool of his own blood.

Joe’s body is discovered by the Kempeitai, by Kido and his men. Kido quickly suspects Juliana of having been involved—somehow. Tagomi brings Kido the files that Juliana sent him anonymously. They drink together and Tagomi admits that he is a traveler. Kido is unraveling just a bit, but he keeps it tight. He’s learning a lot. Damn, is he a good character. He quickly figures out that his new assistant Nakamura has betrayed him—he was the one who passed the documents about Tagomi to Joe. Kido puts Nakamura before a bayonet squad and takes the first strike.

Himmler hasn’t given up on assassinating Tagomi. He sends a new Aryan golden boy to take care of business. Spoiler alert: Tagomi fucks him up kendo-style, with nearly no doubt about the outcome. he flicks Hans’s knife out of his hand, escapes his choke grip, flips Hans onto the coffee table and collapses his larynx with the butt of his staff. The Japanese dump Hans’s body unceremoniously in front of the German embassy. Himmler is furious at their effrontery.

Smith seems to be getting more concerned about Himmler’s increasing madness and lack of concern about the danger his aggressive stance toward the Japanese Empire poses for the American Reich. Smith watches more films and seems thoughtful about the whole Nebenwelt project. Helen is still seeing her psychiatrist, but is making enough missteps for Smith to be concerned. He tells her that she is in danger wonderfully by allegory, telling her about how Himmler had Erich taken care of, just to be on the safe side, that Himmler would do it again, just to keep things…neat. She must keep things neat on her own. Or else (implied).

Ed finds Frank in Sabra. Juliana joins them, taken there by Wyatt, who’s helping her out of revolutionary fervor, but mostly because he “admires her perseverance”. He gets her a passport, but has to kill the Nazi he buys it from, to protect himself and her. They continue into the neutral zone, on their way to the East-coast Reich.

Ed stays behind with Frank, unaware that Childan has had Ed’s location beaten out of him. Kido rewards Childan by giving him his store back. Kido travels to the neutral zone to find Juliana, Ed, Frank—anyone. I think at this point, he’s honestly more interested in figuring out what the fuck is going on than arresting or even torturing or killing anyone. (Well, maybe Frank, who tried to assassinate him and who is responsible for having killed his best friend/associate). Kido’s got enough blood on his hands, though.

In news no-one cares about, Thelma is arrested at a woman’s club, where Nicole, of course, is let go because she’s Göbbels’s daughter. She continues to destroy American landmarks, filming their transformation into Nazi emblems. We see the Liberty Bell’s fate. We hear of the plans for the Statue of Liberty.

The various threads of the story are pulling tight now. Smith is sent to the Neutral Zone by an increasingly impatient and unstable Himmler to find Abendsen personally. He combines this with a mission to meet with Tagomi, who has requested a meeting. Tagomi tries to appeal to Smith as a fellow human, but Smith is still too cagey. It seems, though, that Tagomi’s calm style and news of alternate families waiting in the Nebenwelt may yield fruit.

As in Dick’s book, there is a definite leaning toward the Japanese customs and culture. Even though they are just as authoritarian bastards as the Nazis, they have a code, whereas the Nazis will do whatever it takes to get ahead. This goes even more so for the American Nazis. Smith may be different; time will tell.

He’s not so different that he doesn’t continue the hunt for Abendsen with what seems like magical means. Based on a single photo he finds in the house, he launches a search of all farmhouses in the neutral zone and then finds Abendsen’s wife just like that. They use landline telephones and I’ve not seen how they even travel, but they still use filmstrip players. There’s a direct video line to Himmler, which seems to travel wherever he is, so it’s unclear how that works (because it looks like analog, not digital).

They’re building a machine that will break through to “other worlds”, but it’s unclear that this technology is generally available. Everything else is old jeeps. I haven’t seen a helicopter. I haven’t even seen personal radios or any drones or cameras or anything. So how the fuck did they search 1/3 of the country, find the right farm, and then get Smith and his team of assassins there inside of what feels like…a day? That was utterly ridiculous. Anyway, they kill everyone else and wound Abendsen’s wife Caroline (Ann Magnuson), taking her prisoner. So that happened.

Kido finds and kidnaps Frink, leaving Ed and Jack behind. He takes Frank to the site of the Japanese internment camp where he grew up. Frank says that he knows what he’s done—murdered hundreds, including Kido’s assistant—and can’t take it back. He has changed. He is at peace and does not beg. He is not afraid to die. Kido admits that he himself started everything when he killed Frank’s sister and her children. Kido does not mince words. Instead, he puts on his official uniform while Frank prays in Hebrew. One quick swing of the sword and Frank’s story comes to an end, his severed head spilling his last blood into the sand.

Juliana and Wyatt/Liam arrive in Pennsylvania, where he meets up with some old friends. She convinces them with her movie. They agree to help her, but the attack on the mine will be very difficult and dangerous. She believes that it will work because she knows from her “memories” that it already has. She’s only kind of right—they get in through an abandoned mine shaft and witness the machine accessing the anomaly, but are found out and Juliana is caught. Smith has meanwhile returned with Hawthorne in tow, determined to interrogate him. Now he also has Juliana to interrogate.

Himmler, meanwhile, is delighted that he will soon be sending troops through the anomaly—how does he see that working? He has no idea where they’re going? He’s just insane, right?—and calls off the oil embargo to avoid distractions from the Japanese. At the big celebration for Jahr Null, they destroy the Statue of Liberty with rockets, then head into NYC to watch the exuberant youth burn the schools and other buildings. Wyatt and his friend are there, though, and they manage to gravely wound Himmler.

Before he was shot, though, he had Nicole arrested for indecency and sent back to Berlin for reeducation. The actor who plays Himmler is really, really good. A perfectly toad-like man with perfect diction and positively leeringly involved in his inner circle’s lives. Also, Helen is on the run with the kids. She’s leaving John.

Meanwhile, back in the Lackawanna mine, Smith is interrogating Hawthorne again. Hawthorne had actually served with him, back when they were both on the same side. He tells Smith that you can only travel if your counterpart in the destination world has already died. Juliana manages it just as Smith shoots her in the shoulder.

The only issue I have with this show is just how fucking fast everyone seems to travel. It’s a long way from the Poconos to New York, but they seem to make it in minutes. Smith seems to teleport and never needs to sleep. It’s a bit jarring.

This is an exceedingly well-written, well-directed, well-acted, and absolutely convincingly filmed show. Juliana is really an excellent actress and character. So is Smith, but so is Tagomi and so is Kido—perhaps him, most of all. The attention to detail is deep and thorough.

The Man in the High Castle S04 (2018) — 10/10

We pick up one year after season 3. Juliana (Alexa Davalos) traveled into a world where John (Rufus Sewell), Helen (Chelah Horsdal), and Thomas (Quinn Lord) take her in and nurse her back to health. She runs a dojo, with Thomas as student. She uses deep meditation to travel to an astral plane, between worlds, where she discovers Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), who leaves her a message in the I-Ching. In the Nazi-dominated world, Tagomi has been assassinated. The princess of Japan vows to continue his work, to bring it to completion.

Wyatt (Jason O’Mara) is fighting the Nazis in the neutral zone, but suffers tremendous losses—of people, weapons, and films. Lem (Rick Worthy) urges him to rally and continue the fight—Wyatt demands a meeting with the BCR (Black Communist Rebellion) in the Japan-occupied west.

We see the Kempeitai tossing the apartments of suspected associates of the BCR—all black people, like Elijah (Clé Bennett) and Bell Mallory (Frances Turner), who actually are in the BCR, but escape capture, for now. They are smuggling weapons. Kido is searching for Tagomi’s killer, finding Mingus Jones (Shane Dean). They beat him within an inch of his life, but he seems to have been framed. Kido’s son Toru (Sen Mitsuji) can barely watch the brutality.

Reichsmarshal Smith visits Helen and his daughters, who are living with her brother Hank. Smith is so menacing, even when he’s just eating dinner. His patience is at an end. When Helen refuses to return, he takes his daughters and leaves in his VTOL aircraft (finally revealing how everyone seems to get around so damned quickly all the time; they can’t be using those sweet-ass SSTs all the time).

The device that only a year ago was making soup of 80% of potential travelers is now a reliable transporter of Nazis, who are shown returning with luggage FFS. While this is a rousing success for Smith, Helen is still in the neutral zone and his eldest daughter Jennifer is raising hell and doubting the regime. Her own sister rats her out for listening to black music (jazz).

The BCR and Wyatt plan and carry out their executions at the Americana auction, where Childan is presiding. Kido doesn’t show up on time because his son has killed a man in a bar fight. He covers it up, but the son is deep in PTSD and won’t swear fealty to the empire anymore. Kido cannot abide this and throws him out, disowning him.

Kido makes Wyatt from a photo and raises the alert, but not soon enough to stop them from slaughtering nearly everyone there. The BCR doesn’t provide enough cover and Wyatt loses three men in the raid. They capture Childan, who reveals to them that he can be helpful, that he has the ear of the princess. He also tells them that two of their targets—that they’d missed—are interested in withdrawal.

The Nazis in Juliana’s alternate world are closing in. She arms herself, but is unable to stop a potential hit from almost strangling her. Alt-Smith saves her, but is knifed to death by a Nazi from the other world who is very surprised to see who he’s killed. This would seem to open up the possibility of Smith himself traveling to take out Juliana himself. She escapes for now, driving to Washington D.C. and traveling back to her original continuum. She is promptly arrested, but gets away, fleeing into the contaminated zone and quickly hooking up with the Resistance there.

Abendsen (Stephen Root) is being forced to host a propaganda show named Tales from the High Castle in order to keep Caroline (Ann Magnuson) safe. She tells him to stop, that it’s not worth it, that it’s killing them both and undoing the good work they’ve done.

The Smith family have Himmler (Kenneth Tigar) and his absolute bitch-on-wheels wife Margarethe (Gwynyth Walsh) over to dinner, accompanied by Obergruppenführer Görtzmann (Marc Rissmann), a young German officer whom Himmler admires greatly—an obvious threat to Smith, who continues to disappoint Himmler. Himmler is deeply unpleasant and also not well—he coughs incessantly and has an oxygen tank. Margarethe tricks Helen’s youngest daughter Amy—the unquestioning little brownshirt—into revealing the lie behind Helen’s official reason for her year-long absence.

People just walk the fuck into the apartment of the most powerful man in the American Reich as if Smith were a lowly pauper. I know it does wonders for moving the plot forward, but it’s not very believable.

Smith learns that his counterpart has been killed in the alternate world. He also learns that Juliana is back. He travels over himself on a 48-hour visit. There, he meets a still-loving Helen but fights with Thomas about his enlistment in the Marines. Smith is trying to put everything back the way it should be, but it’s off-kilter, out of joint. The family notices that something is wrong, especially after he literally can’t look his best friend Danny in the eyes—a man whom he’d let die in the camps in his own world.

Meanwhile, Wyatt has earned his weapons and he and his remaining men part ways with Bell and the BCR. The BCR still have Childan and he sends a secret message to the Crown Princess (Mayumi Yoshida) to negotiate a ceasefire. Meanwhile, General Yamori (Bruce Locke) continues to argue for all-out extermination and war on the BCR. Kido does not support him and suspects him of having had Tagomi killed to get him out the way. His suspicions are confirmed when he fools Yamori’s most trusted man into admitting that he’s killed Tagomi. Kido plays along and tells him to be more careful next time, having bluffed because he had no evidence.

Japanese snipers kill Equiano Hampton (David Harewood), leaving Bell in charge of the BCR. As Kido and the Kempeitai round up the usual suspects, she proposes a bold plan to strike back: they will cut off the oil pipeline all up and down the California coast, cutting off the lifeblood of the occupying forces.

General Yamori tries for a coup, putting the Crown Princess under house arrest and trying Admiral Inokuchi (Eijiro Ozaki) for treason. Kido plays along until the last second, then arrests Yomuri and frees Inokuchi. In the wake of this, the BCR attack is successful, convincing the Japanese occupation to finally leave. Kido tells the Crown Princess that he believes that the JPS could be held, but that it would cost many lives and he doesn’t think that it is worth it.

Juliana and Wyatt continue to work together on getting to Smith. She’s convinced that Abendsen’s stories from his propaganda show on Nazi TV—he’s forced to do the show in order to still see Caroline—contain secret messages. She is, eventually, successful at decoding the messages. Caroline is eventually successful at committing suicide to free Abendsen of the slow suicide of doing the show.

Juliana approaches Helen to plants seeds of doubt. It works, leading to an even greater rift between Helen and John. Amy is an absolute Nazi, while Jennifer doesn’t really understand the danger she’s putting her family in with her rebel talk.

Yukiko cares for a recovering Childan in his store. They eventually marry and try to flee to Japan, on the strength of a letter of passage from the Crown Princess. In the upheaval, this means nothing and Yukiko is allowed to travel, but Childan is forced to stay behind. He approaches the Yakuza for help, trading his store for a berth on a trawler to Japan.

After a brief capture by the BCR and subsequent and inadvertent release by American white supremacists, Kido is back out and seeks his son. Kido ends up at the Yakuza (instead of heading back to Japan with the rest of the occupation). He trades his services to pay for his son’s debts, slicing off a pinky to swear fealty to them. He reconciles with his son, then sends him on his way back to Japan.

Meanwhile Smith executes a masterful plan to kill Himmler, leaving the Reich in the hands of Görtzmann, who agrees to leave the American Reich to John. That scene was absolutely wonderful. John’s silence while his enemies mocked him for his faults and transgressions, while Hoover revealed all of his information. In the end, it didn’t matter. John and Görtzmann had played their hand perfectly and Smith delivered the final blow by having replaced Himmler’s Oxygen tank with Zyklon B.

Back in the States, John plans to travel to the portal by train—and he wants Helen to go with him. Helen had just told Juliana about the trip and knows that the Resistance plans to attack it. She goes anyway, having lost all hope of forgiveness for the monsters she and John have become. Helen has seen John’s plans for more camps and exterminations—he’s completely capitulated to Naziism. In a fit of madness, as the train hurtles to the portal, he tries to convince Helen to adopt Thomas from the other world. She is horrified and rejects him, just as she hears him order the attack on the BCR in the west.

At that moment, the Resistance blows up the tracks, derailing the monorail. Helen is dead. John, of course, survives. His remaining troops are picked off by the Resistance. He wanders into the woods alone, trailed by Juliana. She finds him on a ledge, where he puts a bullet through his chin into his brain. Control of the American Reich devolves to Smith’s second, General Whitcroft (Eric Lange), who calls off the attack, an attack he’d never wanted in the first place. There is hope of peace with the BCR, although it’s unclear what will happen with Görtzmann and the German Reich.

The oddest part was the end, where the portal had been opened seemingly permanently and people were streaming in from other worlds. Abendsen is there and he bucks the current, leaving this world behind, probably seeking Caroline in another world.

Excellent writing, acting, and characters. Would watch again. Highly recommended.

Dix Pour Cent S01 (2015) — 8/10

This is the story of a talent agency in Paris called ASK (Agence Samuel Kerr), named after the founder, who leaves for his first vacation in eight years early in the first episode. By the end of that episode, the team finds out that he’s died after swallowing a wasp. The team is now left without a leader and the power struggles begin.

There are four agents:

  1. Andréa Martel (Camille Cottin) with assistant Camille Valentini (Fanny Sidney)
  2. Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalembert) with assistant Noémie Leclerc (Laure Calamy)
  3. Gabriel Sarda (Grégory Montel) with assistant Hervé André-Jezak (Nicolas Maury)
  4. Arlette Azémar (Liliane Rovère)

Sophia Leprince (Stéfi Celma) plays the omnipresent receptionist with the spectacular afro.

The first emergency is real-life actress Cécile de France, managed by Gabriel, who loses a Tarentino film for her after a year of work. She dumps him, but is wooed back by Mathias, who strong-arms the film’s production head by telling her if Cécile isn’t in the movie, then she doesn’t get to film in Paris. Just like that, Cécile is back on-board—but has to get a tiny, little bit of plastic surgery in order to look young enough for the role (she’s a stunning beauty but, at 40, already twice as old as she should be for Hollywood). She ends up not going through with it and returns to Gabriel, who’d never lost faith in her.

The team next must deal with Samuel’s loss. They scramble to put together a funeral and wake worthy of him, while also trying to buy out his shares from his widow, who’s shopping them around. Two great actresses—Line Renaud (of Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) and Françoise Fabian—end up fighting over a role in an arthouse film. Gabriel and Andréa convince him to keep both of them in a sort-of Blue is the Warmest Color meets Tarentino for octogenarians.”

The next travail is an audit of the company’s finances. (I presume that they were able to buy the company from Samuel’s widow?) The auditor is a young lady whom Andréa thinks she can charm—until she finds out it’s the same lady she harshly rejected on an online chat/dating service (she couldn’t place her).

Andréa is pretty destructive and takes the role of Don Draper pretty well, in what feels more and more like a French Mad Men homage, with Mathias as Roger and Gabriel and Pete. Even the entrance to the office, with the location of Pete’s/Gabriel’s office is the same. On the agent side, Nathalie Baye and Laura Smet (real-life mother and daughter and both film stars) lose, then win, then lose roles in a movie together.

The sale is moving forward: Samuel’s wife has found a German buyer, looking to make a Europe-wide organization of talent agencies. Mathias, meanwhile, has agreed to go to StarMedia. His partners are incensed, but the buyer is scared off, and they soon celebrate his brilliant subterfuge. He plays along that his leaving was just strategic. He will now have pissed off StarMedia irrevocably, but ASK is saved and safe from a takeover.

Instead of risking the next outside investor, Mathias’s wife Catherine (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) steps in with her own inherited wealth to pick up the missing shares. The others are none too pleased, as this will give Mathias much more power—but it’s better than being bought out by Berlin. This almost falls apart when Mathias is forced to admit to Catherine that Camille is his daughter.

Catherine had gone to the office to find him when he was spectacularly late to a date for the opéra and found them enjoying a late-night, celebratory nightcap. He explained it was because she’d helped one of his clients, but Catherine wasn’t buying it—until he told him family the truth.

Camille and Mathias’s son Hippolyte (François Civil) breathe a sigh of relief that they’d never consummated their flirtation and tentatively start a brother/sister friendship instead. It is unclear whether Catherine will buy her shares now, though.

Andréa has taken up with the tax auditor Colette (Ophélia Kolb)—and might be really falling for her. She and Gabriel are forced to go to a movie shoot for damage control for two stars they manage—and Colette tags along. Standard hijinks ensue. Andréa fucks up the relationship by (A) skipping Colette’s party with her friends to which Andréa had explicitly accepted an invitation and (B) instead going to a bash held by her director star, whose fat she pulled out of the fire. Massively relieved, she got drunk and was making out with another girl in the indoor pool when Colette came to find her.

Colette pulls no punches in her audit—but they were really running a very sloppy ship. Andréa tries to patch things up, even after the presentation, but it doesn’t work. Gabriel and Sofia officially start their relationship that has so far only been hinted at.

Despite the audit and the revelations of Mathias’s infidelity, it seems that Catherine will still buy her portion of ASK, but it’s unclear what role she will play.

We watched it in French with English subtitles. Oddly, Netflix only provides French subtitles in Switzerland—no English or German, which they must have. French subtitles would have been OK for me, but not my viewing partner.

The Expanse S05 (2020) — 9/10
“Sink to the bottom or float to the top. Everything else is just churn.”
S05E02 10:00 (to Charles) by Amos
“You know what your problem is? You think that just because somebody’s an underdog, they’re automatically the good guy.”
S05E02 15:00 (to Fred Johnson) by Bull − Tycho Chief of Ops

Season five picks up right where four left off. The crew of the Rocinante is split up, with Holden (Steven Strait) and Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) on Tycho, where the ship is in for repairs. Holden is trying to find out from Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) whether the Belters are harboring and experimenting with protomolecule.

Alex (Cas Anvar) has taken Julia Mao’s old racing ship the Razorback to visit Bobbie (Frankie Adams) on Mars. Bobbie is working with Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to root out the smugglers on Mars who are selling high-grade military equipment to Belter rebels like Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander).

Filip Inaros (Jasai Chase Owens) embarks on one terrorist mission after another, each more mechanically impossible than the previous. At any rate, he and his father seem to be unstoppable for now. Their primacy seems a little unexplained, but I suppose that’s the next big threat. At any rate, they easily located and intercepted a research ship near Venus. The station was able to locate comparatively tiny rocks but were completely incapable of seeing a giant fucking ship coming at them. I suppose that’s what “stealth” technology means, but, again, it’s a bit contrived.

Amos (Wes Chatham) is on his way to Earth to settle some personal business. He’s on a charter ship with a bunch of scruffy Belters looking for work and a better life in the Ring territories. There is, of course, a Belter gang there, ready to prey on them. Amos intervenes, but not necessarily to help them—he just wants to kick some assholes’ asses.

In a subtle touch, we find out what happened to Murtry when Amos reaches for his duffel bag—we see Murtry’s name crossed out with Amos written over it in red marker. He arrives on Luna and, after a brief and seemingly pointless meeting with Avasarala, heads to Baltimore on Earth, in order to settle his mother’s estate. He meets with her partner of the last decade, Charles, and promises to help him secure his housing from the local slumlord.

Camina (Cara Gee) finds the remains of Klaes’s ship while she’s scavenging, having found a new way to keep herself occupied—in captaining a Belter ship. They investigate the ship more closely, looking for data—anything. They get the message that Marco delivered loud and clear: mess with me and this is what happens.

Holden discovers that an annoying reporter Monica has been kidnapped—right before she can tell him what she knows about the protomolecule. Holden and Bull find her, just in the nick of time (of course). Johnson is ready to go to war for his station.

Meanwhile, Nagata has landed at Pallas station, where her reception is not warm. Alex is still snuffling around his admiral Sauveterre (Tim DeKay), whom Bobbie strongly suspects of leading the smuggling ring that is getting high-level tech into the hands of rogue Belters like Inaros. Avasarala is trying to figure out why Inaros would raid a Venusian science lab. She and her high-ranking conspirator UN Admiral Delgado (Michael Irby)—they’re going behind Gao’s back—think Marco has slung asteroids at Earth.

Amos meets up with Erich (Jacob Mundell) and gets him to agree to take care of Charlie. This is easier than we’d imagined because they are brothers—or at least brothers of the street. Erich is happy to see him, but also tells him never to return—or he’ll have him killed. They cannot share a world because when Amos is around, their shared past threatens to catch up with them both (but it’s especially detrimental to Erich).

In the Belt, Johnson and Holden and Bull are still trying to track down who kidnapped Monica (I suspect Bull is in on it, maybe with Fred Johnson). The ship that was to pick her up is inbound and seemingly doesn’t suspect a thing. The station police are going to jump the kidnappers when they arrive. Holden still suspects that Fred is holding back on protomolecule.

Speaking of being jumped, Naomi met up with Filip, with a predictable outcome. After initially dismissing her offer of her ship and her money—Mommy feels real bad—he finds her on the bridge. She’s ecstatic, until he tases her and lets on his happy crew of two others—one of them is the bitch who clearly hates her, but the other is her oldest friend, who she thought was with here.

Once again, Nagata is not only utterly tone-deaf at judging people, she’s also super-shitty at setting a lock on her ship. Like, literally, anyone can just walk on board whenever they want. This kind of story-writing certainly helps drive the plot forward, but it’s appallingly lazy for a show that’s otherwise nicely put together. It’s just like in Wilder where the cop neither locks his laptop with a password nor his door with a key. Just lazy writing.

Speaking of being jumped: Camina finds Klaes “The Ghost Knife”‘s stash of data and, after briefly considering going after Marco herself—in a fit of grief and rage—decides against it. She sends it on to Fred Johnson, who sends it to Avasarala.

Alex meets up with Admiral Sauveterre’s right-hand woman, Babbage (Lara Jean Chorostecki), who plies him with wine for information, which he seems to freely give. When he tries to get information, she clams up tight. Later, at his apartment, he’s jumped by two lowlifes who she probably sicced on him. Bobbie shows up to save him (he’d called her just before). They head out in the Razorback to tail Babbage, who’s on a “supply run” with a frigate and two accompanying ships.

The first of Inaros’s asteroids hits earth—300KT, causing widespread destruction and fear. Amos is on Earth, at the UN high-security prison, visiting an old friend. He’s in a holding facility for people with “body modifications”, which make them high-powered. The Constitution protects their right to keep them, but they’re incarcerated. Amos visits his friend “Peaches” in her shipping-container cell, where she’s being kept subdued with drugs. The alarm sounds. It’s lockdown. The ceiling shakes. The next asteroid has hit.

Avasarala finally gets through to President Gao to tell her about the Martian stealth on the asteroids. Seconds into the call, a third asteroid strikes. The shock wave sweeps away Gao’s plane, UN One. The order to re-task the watchtower satellites to watch out for Martian stealth-tech goes through, though, and Earth is able to shoot down the third asteroid.

On Tycho, Sakai (Bahia Watson) turns out to have been the mole (apologies to Bull). She kills Fred Johnson and a bunch of other people. Monica and Holden manage to stop her, but not before she helps the Belters make off with the last of the protomolecule. She’s very deliciously obnoxious in custody—but Holden comports himself exceedingly well. Not so everyone else.

Marco Inaros grandstands around a bunch, with Naomi sobbing around about her son and other stuff. The plotline is decent, but it’s a bit overwrought, with both of them chewing the scenery pretty enthusiastically, at times. Marco announces that Mars and Earth are henceforth confined to their planetary atmospheres—that the Belt declares itself victorious. Anyone in disagreement gets a shipment of protomolecule or maybe some more stealth asteroids.

Amos and his friend/prisoner Clarissa/”Peaches” (Nadine Nicole) are trapped nine floors beneath the surface. Amos convinces the guards to band together with them, just to survive and try to get out. They manage to find a maintenance shaft, but can only access it with the help of an overpowered mutant of a prisoner with body modifications.

Clarissa’s body mods are still dormant due to the suppressor drugs, but I’m excited to find out what she can do. They had her buried pretty deep; she must be dangerous as hell. They get out and away, crossing overland to avoid official government aid camps—she’s an escaped prisoner—ending up at an enclosed compound, guarded by a hair-trigger prepper. Amos just wants to trade, but the guy’s about to blow his head off when Clarissa shows her stuff, taking him out.

Bobbie and Alex are in pursuit of the Martian traitors. They figure out that the weapons they’re trading are the frigates themselves. They are spotted, hightail it, are targeted by an even-faster missile, then dump the core as chaff, thwarting the attack, but rendering their ship inert and tumbling. They survive and jump the scavenging Belter ship that tries to board them, with Bobbie tearing them up with ordinance and Alex jumping over to booby-trap their drive. Alex fires their drive back up (how? I thought they’d dumped the core? Maybe they just had to wait a bit to fire up the fusion reactor again?) and the Belters blow themselves up when they try to pursue.

Naomi sulks around; Marco grandstands; Filp pouts; Naomi’s old friend refuses to kill her for Marco. Avasarala is invited back to power because the guy who ended up next in the surviving line of succession used to the Secretary of Transportation. They meet up with Carina’s drummer’s three ships—surprising her with their Martian war frigates. The supercilious Marco has the upper hand, for now. Naomi, however, is getting through to Filip. Marco, however, spends the next whole episode cementing his reputation as an unhinged power-mad asshole.

Holden, Bull, and Monica are on the tail of the Zmeya in the Rocinante—but it blows itself up before they can board it. They presume that the protomolecule has been destroyed, but it’s far more likely that it had already been transferred to another ship. Marco intends to lure the Roci to its doom with Naomi’s ship, the Chetzemoka, rigged with explosives. Naomi spaces herself, flying toward her ship, injecting herself with hyper-oxygenated blood to get to the airlock, which she opens, floating in before passing out. Cyn (Brent Sexton), who’d followed her, dies in the lock. Her survial is highly improbable, to say the least. I’d almost hoped we’d seen the end of her.

Naomi wakes up on her ship, finding it rigged with bombs and sending an SOS to Holden using a makeshift radio. Marco spins out of control, blaming Filip for Cyn’s death. Naomi’s on the ship and tries and tries to interrupt the SOS message, finally succeeding after many tries. She is exhausted and has no water or food. The Razorback (Alex and Bobbie), Camina (with her ersatz “captain”, the bitch on wheels from Marco’s crew), and Holden. They are all suspicious that the radio signal was briefly interrupted, though they’re still burning hard to get there.

Amos and Clarissa have met up with his brother and have convinced him to go with them to an island in the north where she knows there is a sub-orbital shuttle (her last name is Mao, so she knows the rich). They get there, but find the shuttle blocked from use by security protocols. They move in and try to fix it. People from the area show up to cadge. They offer them a ride. Military folks show up and try to commandeer shit. That goes less well for them.

The Expanse continues the grand tradition of making suspenseful situations by assuming that computers and spaceships don’t have door-locks. And they never shut up about security details, but there are infiltrators everywhere. Everyone has the same security access. Anyone can get in anywhere. Except Naomi, who’d locked out of Marco’s ship computer, and Monica, whose access to Holden’s ship computer is also limited.

The new Secretary General ignores Avasarala’s advice and bombs Pallas in retaliation, on the advice of the rest of his bloodthirsty board. When they plan even more attacks—completely unhinged—Avasarala quits, as do a few others. More follow and then a vote of no-confidence removes him from power, installing her as the once and future queen. Inaros is getting mad at people who dare to not find every word he says to be golden. He revels in the glory of ships lost to the greater cause of the Belt.

The Razorback, the Rocinante, and Drummer’s ships are still heading for Naomi, who’s still desperately trying to do something. She manages to kick in the drive as well as a guidance nozzle, sending the ship into a tumble that she hopes will make it impossible to dock with. Drummer’s orders are to attack and destroy the Rocinante.

The Rocinante takes on the suicide mission, hoping to buy time for the Razorback to rescue Naomi. Drummer mutinies, killing Marco’s henchmen, and taking out the Martian frigates before they can extinguish the Rocinante. The Roci does its part, as well. They are reunited. Some of Drummer’s crew splits—those are the dumbasses that think there’s a future with Inaros.

The Razorback maneuvers hard to pick up Naomi, who’s spaced herself in a malfunctioning suit to prevent anyone from docking with the bomb of her ship. They find her—miraculously—but the maneuvers are too strong for Alex and he dies of a stroke[1]. They’re all reunited and head for Luna.

Peaches and Amos, along with his brother and their crew, predictably regret having let the military folk walk off, getting caught in a firefight just as the shuttle is finally ready to take off. They take some heavy losses, but all of the principals are there—and the innocent bystanders make it as well. They head for Luna, meeting the Rocinante. Amos boards with Peaches, leaving his brother and his crew to explore other worlds beyond the Ring.

Inaros, meanwhile, is super-pissed about having lost his ships and about Drummer’s treachery. While Avarasala makes a stupid speech about common humanity, Inaros heads for the Ring, with the treacherous Martian navy, and with the protomolecule that they’d managed to sneak off of the Zmeya via a torpedo that the Roci had missed.

The absolute bastard Sauveterre and his acolyte Babbage transit the Ting, with him reprimanding her and promising her how pitiless the military rule will henceforth be. They communicate with settlers on a planet who’ve loosed the protomolecule and are excited to see the ship that it’s building in orbit. Sounds promising and not at all likely to fail.

Sincerely Louis CK (2020) — 9/10

He’s back. He’s definitely not learned to behave, but he’s very funny and he’s insightful again. His shock jokes have purpose, his stories build from joke to joke. He doesn’t dwell too long on any one thing.

There are some subtle takedowns of common assumptions like his story of ordering sushi in a restaurant and then considering how he’s supposed to describe the waitress’s voice in his joke. Does he do the accent? Is it more wrong not to? Or his long segment on the word “retarded”, which could have been a TED talk.

You will be uncomfortable, but in this special, you feel he has a reason for saying the things he says, like the chain of words he puts together before the uncomfortable bit just leads him naturally there—that he’s not able to avoid it because that would be dishonest. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it worked and it was funny and it reminded me a lot of his older specials.

Palm Springs (2020) — 8/10

Nyles (Andy Samberg) is a wedding guest at a hotel in Palm Springs, the boyfriend of the ditsy best friend (Meredith Hagner) Misty of the bride Tala (Camila Mendes). Sarah (Cristin Milioti) is Tala’s big sister and she is not thrilled to be there. Nyles shows up to the wedding in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and drops a moving speech on the crowd, catching Sarah’s attention. He approaches here later, moving through the crowd with what seems like prescience, seemingly knowing where everyone will be and what they will need, placing chairs under stumbling drunks.

Nyles charms Sarah and they end up out in the desert, about the embark on the absolutely predestined one-night-stand when Roy (J.K. Simmons) appears out of the darkness, with a bow and arrow, wounding Nyles, who flees toward a cave, hiding behind a boulder. Roy follows him in, to a mysterious glow that envelops and consumes him. Nyles, dragging his wounded self along, follows, yelling to Sarah to stay back, to not follow him.

Sarah follows him and wakes up the next day, but it’s the previous day, it’s today forever and ever, amen. She is very confused and none too pleased, hunting down Nyles and demanding to know what’s going on. They’re now both trapped—well all three of them, really, including Roy—in a time loop.

Fall asleep and wake up on the same day, in the morning, in the same place you started the day. The access to the time loop was opened by an earthquake.

Roy starts in Irvine, so he has to be quite enterprising to drive all the way to Palm Springs to try to kill Nyles (not that he can kill him permanently, but he knows that the pain is real). Roy is there because he was a guest at the wedding and took way too many drugs with Nyles and was seduced by the orange light of the time loop.

Nyles has been in the loop so long that he can’t remember how long he’s been there. He and Sarah grow closer and closer until, finally, on a camping trip, they make love. Sarah wakes up in the same place. Nothing’s changed. She hears her sister’s fiancé Abe (Tyler Hoechlin) in the shower of her hotel room; she knows what she’s done; she knows what he is, what’s marrying her sister: a man who would cheat on his fiancé with her older sister on the evening of his own wedding.

Sarah wants out of the loop so badly because every morning she wakes to the stark reminder of what a horrible person she is. Nyles admits to her that they’ve slept together before—“like, a thousand times”—pissing her off royally and causing her to leave him. She doubles down on getting out. She spends her days learning quantum physics. She’s got nothing but time. She learns that, were she to blow herself up while transiting the time loop, she could leave it. She experiments with a local goat that does not return.

Nyles visits Roy in Irvine to find him living a perfect life—though he lives it again and again and again—and Roy tells him he’s given up trying to kill him after he’d lain in the ICU for days, unable to fall asleep (Sarah had crushed his legs with her car). Sarah finds Nyles and tells him she has a way out. He would rather stay in the loop with her, forever. She wants out and determines to do it without him.

Nyles stays on the fence, then tears for the cave, catching her at the last moment (of course). They go through together, pull the trigger on the bomb…and go through. We find them floating together in the pool of a home they used to visit often. This time, the family has returned because it’s the next day—for the first time in a very, very long time.

Mid-credits, we see Roy approach a completely baffled Nyles at the wedding. Roy had returned because of a mysterious call from Sarah a few days before. She’d called him before going through. He smiles.

Hard Road of Hope (2020) — 8/10

This is a documentary by Eleanor Goldfield about mountain-top-removal (MTR) mining in West Virginia. From a handful of narrators that are allowed to speak at length, we learn the history of the state, how it was basically split from Virginia by Lincoln and granted to the companies that helped keep the supply lines open during the American Civil War. The state would end up belonging to the corporations to this very day.

We hear excellent political summaries from Terry Steele (UMWA Local 1440 Member). We hear a history of the “rednecks” from Mine Wars museum owner Kimberly McCoy, how it was the red kerchiefs worn by union members showing solidarity that spawned the name.

We learn of the coal slurry, of the cocktail of poisonous chemicals in fracking compounds, of a town where 98% of the residents had gall-bladder disease. We hear of how many rivers and streams have been buried under rubble and dust, how many residents have no clean drinking water. We learn of how the original miners were snatched up at Ellis Island, hoping for a new beginning and coming up out of one deadly mine in England or Ireland and descending into yet another in America, in West Virginia.

Steele explains how people would be perfectly willing to engage themselves for renewable energy. They’re not wedded to coal. They’re wedded to not starving to death. They need a plan for survival of their communities; they need jobs; they need meaning. They are deluged with propaganda, with astro-turfing groups run by the corporations subjugating them. He says that, instead of “Friends of Coal”, people should be “Friends of Coal Workers”.

Anyone can watch this movie online at Hard Road of Hope (Gumroad), for a very small fee.

[1] If this seems abrupt, it’s because it was inserted after filming had completed. He’s been accused of writing inappropriate text messages to fans and an “independent investigation” concluded that he needed to be fired. He’s a great actor, but he has no scheduled work, so I guess his career is over now. A pity. Maybe he’s a good carpenter or something.