“Mr. Robot” A Season 3 Premiere Review by Liz Warner

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NYC transit advertising for Mr. Robot Season 3 premiere.

[Spoilers for Mr. Robot through Season 3, episode 2. Read at your own risk.]

USA’s Emmy winner “Mr. Robot” Season 3.0 premiered to generally rave reviews on October 11, 2017.

Primarily because the show’s creator and director, Sam Esmail, had indicated he planned to make the show a bit less dark by adding some “levity” to it, and based on an almost silly seven minute teaser pre-released, I had been worried. Too drastic a tonal change, I feared, would miss key points I expect the show to deliver.

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“Allied” A Movie Review by Liz Warner

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“Allied” movie poster 2016. Photo: IMDb.

It’s impossible to not compare “Allied” with the award-winning 1943 classic, “Casablanca.”  That’s because “Allied” is set in 1942 French Morocco during the African campaign of World War II. The comparison is unfortunate, though, because “Allied” can’t possibly live up to such lofty expectations.  Still, it’s a worthwhile film, ably directed by Robert Zemeckis, even with its shortcomings.

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Sully – A Movie Review by Liz Warner

Beyond here be spoilers.

Worth a Hamilton.

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Given friends’ rave reviews about “Sully,” I was surprised to have left the theater just a bit disappointed.  It was good, and I’d recommend it, but it likely won’t be in my DVD/BluRay collection unless and until it’s in the cut-out bin.

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L. Warner on Emmys 2016

In the Age of Peak TV, does it get any better than this?

                                                                     EMMYS – 2016

It’s that time of year when the Television Academy picks the best from their best of the best on the small screen.

No predictions from me; I’m known to not get a true or false question right until the third try, so I’m sure I wouldn’t know.

This is just my wish list.
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Snowden – A Movie Review by Liz Warner

RECOMMEND.
Oliver Stone’s latest movie, Snowden, may not be his best, but isn’t lacking in intrigue and drama.
It’s worth the time and price of ticket.

SNOWDEN – A MOVIE REVIEW by Liz Warnersnowden-movie-pic

Director/screenwriter Oliver Stone’s (and Kieran Fitzgerald’s) latest movie, Snowden, might not be the best of his films, though I confess to being partial to Stone’s prolific works. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016 and was released in the United States on September 16.

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Left to Right: Joseph Gordon-Levitt [Edward Snowden], Shailene Woodley [Lindsay Mills], and Oliver Stone [director/screenwriter] at Snowden premiere in New York City-September 14, 2016. © L. Warner.

Continue reading “Snowden – A Movie Review by Liz Warner”

Silicon Valley “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” S-3, E-3 Synopsis & Review

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb. Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee.

HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb.  Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee. 

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John shows Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh their future in a box. 

SYNOPSIS

Opening scene of a mole-ish, pony-tailed guy named John, giving Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle a tour of Maliant, a data center. This is your life and where one of the PP boxes would go, he says.  And another.  When they state that seeing one is like seeing them all, John says that’s what he thought, till he saw them all.  John then asks if they’d like to see the desks, where they’d install a PP engineer.  Huh?  Your sales team told me we’d have a PP engineer on site for maintenance 24 hours a day for at least the first year, he tells them.  The guys are horrified.

Even at night?  Gilfoyle asks. There’s no difference between day and night, John observes. Richard suggests it might be a good time to leave.  John asks which of the 16 staircases would they like to go out of.  Richard suggests John’s favorite. John thinks about it for a beat, then escorts them, but the guys get lost in the maze of racks, their calls for John echoing and unanswered.

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Jack Barker reads Richard the riot act. 

After opening credits, Richard approaches Jack in his office, saying he doesn’t want to bury his algorithm in boxes at Maliant.  Short-term, he says, it’s okay, but not long-term. Jack’s more worried a fish in his aquarium might be dead.  He points out his Conjoined Triangles of Success chart on the wall.  They’re in a box, he notes. Admiring the serendipity of the coincidence, he instructs secretary, Gloria, to call the fish guy.

If we build the box, will you promise to let us build the platform?  Richard asks.  We’ll worry about that then, Jack says.

Hearing the meeting with Jack went poorly, Gilfoyle tells Richard he’s changing his LinkedIn status to “Looking for Work,” asserting the box is “artless commerce.”  Jared tells him there’s paperwork in quitting.

At the house, Gilfoyle gets swag delivered from new companies trying to recruit him, including hoverboards and an Oculus. He catches Erlich eating his Popcornopolis and Dinesh wearing a gold chain around his neck and rags on them.

Richard tells Gilfoyle to return the gift baskets because Monica just called and got him in to see Laurie. Jared questions the wisdom of breaking protocol by going over the CEO’s head, but Richard tells him when you push a man so far he goes out and buys a gun and shots and robs a bank.  “I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  I’m not. I’m not going to,” he backpedals.

By the pool, Erlich asks Richard if he’s angry with him.  When he wasn’t invited along to the new offices, Erlich was hurt.  He wants Richard to want him to talk to [Jack] Barker. Richard reluctantly agrees.

In Jack’s office, Erlich pronounces Jack’s fish as dead and says he’s sorry for his loss.   He calls to Gloria to take “this daughter of Neptune to whence she belongs.”  When she gives him a quizzical look, he clarifies, “the toilet, dear.”  He then broaches the problem.  “What information do I not already have?” Jack demands.  He doesn’t want to hear any “free-form, jazz-odyssey of masturbatory bullshit” from Erlich.  Unsuccessful, Erlich reports to Richard that he needs to either build the box or talk to Laurie.  On his way out, Erlich speaks Japanese to the gardener.

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Erlich prepares Jack’s dead fish for her last rites. 

Richard goes to Laurie, who views art with Monica–a question mark harvested from human hair from dead Indians.  “It’s a pun,” she informs him, about asking the big, hairy questions. She agrees the box is an “uninspirational application of technology,” and says she’ll call Jack.  “I was never here,” he tells her. “You are here, now,” she notes. Monica explains Richard meant he’d prefer she didn’t say anything to Jack. “Yes, because the other meaning makes no sense,” she replies.

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Laurie critiques artwork. 

She calls Jack after Richard returns to the office with the guys. Richard is called into Jack’s office.  He asks Richard who he thought he just got of the phone with.  Richard feigns ignorance.  He tells him it was Laurie, and she said she thought the box was “woefully misguided,” and wanted a plan for the consumer platform Richard and his team wanted to build within 48 hours.  Richard agrees, but Jack says no, build the box.  But Laurie’s the investor, Richard protests.  Yes, Jack agrees, but he told Laurie if she did that, she’d have to fire him, and she wasn’t willing to do that at this time.  Get a prototype in 12 weeks, Jack demands.  On Richard’s way out, he warns, “If you’re going to shoot the king, you’d better be goddamn sure you kill him.”

Back at the house, Jian Yang answers the door.  A TwinX recruiter delivers liquor to Gilfoyle, telling him he must take a meeting first.  He agrees.

Meanwhile, Richard approaches Monica about Laurie firing Jack. She can’t fire Jack, she says, it would look chaotic after she just fired Richard.

Unbeknownst to him, Gilfoyle’s interview is with Endframe.  You stole half our algorithm, he says. He’s told they already have the other half of code for middle out, showing him a diagram, thanks to Nevine and Eric from Nucleus. They want Gilfoyle because he’s a full-stack engineer.

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Gilfoyle interviews with Pied Piper’s nemeses. 

Cut to the diagram at the house. They have the entire prediction loop “down to the last semicolon.” Richard laments that they’re building a box, while Endframe is building their platform.  At least we’ll make a little money, says Dinesh.  To buy gold chains, Gilfoyle taunts.  He sees Dinesh isn’t wearing the one he had earlier and even Jared busts his balls.

Dinesh concludes they must do as Jack wants.  Erlich enters the room, booming, “Or do we?”  He’s ignored.  Jared agrees with Dinesh. “Or do we?!” Erlich repeats.  Erlich calls on the team to build the platform the way they motherfucking want to.  Just tell Jack what he wants to hear.   Richard reasons that Jack wouldn’t be able to complain after the fact because to do so, he’d be admitting he didn’t know what was going on in his own company, and meanwhile, Laurie was already on board with it.

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The guys plan a skunk works. 

Dinesh still needs some convincing.  A skunk works is underway.  They plan it out as a team.  Dinesh points out they’re shorthanded, but Erlich knows just the man for the job.

Cut to the pool at night.  Carla’s there.  She wants back wages, lost wages from the old job, and damages from “Jared’s sexual harassment her into being friends with that Monica-chick”   simply for not telling Jack about their plan.  They pay her off with most of their remaining cash, about $20,000, in what they dubbed extortion.

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Carla Walton extorts Pied Piper. 

In a time-lapsed scene, the guys finish their plan.  Even Dinesh is in on the condition his gold chain isn’t made fun of ever again.  They realize they have to fake liking going to work.  Jared calls it Meinerzhagen’s Habersack, which he explains is a principle of military deception of pretending.  This also means, Gilfoyle insists, they have to keep on making fun of Dinesh’s gold chain.  At 7:30 AM, they drink to the plan. Except Jared, who pours his shot back in the bottle.

The guys go to the PP offices.  Richard has a file folder in hand.  They get off the elevator and Richard trips over the gardener’s watering hose.  The papers go flying, and Keith picks them up.  Skunkworks?    Keith takes the papers to Jack.  Richard brought the papers into the office to shred.  Jack comes out of his office:  “Guys?  My office.  Now.”

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The guys are caught in the act of sabotaging Pied Piper. 

REVIEW

It’s hard to not be impressed by Richard’s development throughout this season as he asserts himself, but this episode shows Erlich at his very best.  (Spoiler alert, he reverts to being an arrogant prick soon!)  Here, he’s about as humble as he could possibly be, and manages to inspire an action that will be instrumental for Richard and the guys throughout the season.

Jack, conversely, is an asshole this episode when he seemed like a reasonable guy when he first arrives on the scene.  He’s growing impatient with the development of the box and becomes downright petulant with setbacks from Richard, and later, Laurie.  His admonition to Richard about killing the king was foreboding.  By episode’s end, Jack’s positively apoplectic when he learns of the skunk works.  He has a great arc.

Laurie exhibits character growth, as well.  While she sees the inadvisability of the box, she can’t quite nix it, coldly calculating the business risk of firing a second CEO so quickly.  She amplifies she has the wherewithal to contribute to PP’s anticipated short-term success.

Third, we had what seems to be a semi-satisfying conclusion to Carla’s arc when she learns of the skunk works planned and uses the information for “self-help.”   It was a bit of a stretch to think the guys wouldn’t foresee this, although it could be attributed to the characters’ overall social ineptitude.

The funniest moment perhaps belongs to Laurie when she drolly replies to Richard’s request to keep their meeting to herself.  All the characters in this show have very unique voices, but Laurie’s (and Jared’s) are probably my favorites.  They’re inherently funny characters.

Erlich’s oratory skills almost always delight, and here, he elicits some laughs with his pronouncement of death of the fish, requesting that Jack’s secretary take care of final arrangements.

John delivered some memorably humorous lines, too.  It all starts with a great script, of course, but when combined with a great cast, the show becomes a master class for the crafts of screenwriting and acting.

The most touching moments were, unexpectedly, Erlich’s.  His wanting Richard to want him to talk to Jack shows a level of desperation inconsistent with his typical cockiness.

The coolest moment was when the guys got lost in the opening scene because it displayed the hermit life so many of these people live in the vast wasteland that is a data center with its sameness and drudgery.

The dumbest moments throughout the season are Big Head’s and Jian Yang’s.  Big Head has been effectively infantilized, even though last season, he and Richard were BFFs.  I didn’t buy it. And, in this episode, Jian Yang is again a completely dispensable character.

Fortunately, Dinesh’s gold chain gag didn’t come up again this season.  It played out quickly.

The wonderful twist in this episode was Gilfoyle’s unintended interview with the Nucleus/End Frame engineers.  As we as an audience gleaned they had put together the missing piece of middle-out compression, watching Gilfoyle realize it for the first time was instructive as to just how loyal to Richard and PP he really is.

This episode delivered the goods both in terms of comedy and drama.  The actors, even those with minor roles, are so perfectly cast, and the interplay and interaction are all spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy.  It’s an exceptional viewing experience as a result.

All images Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Screenshots are reproduced pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine of the Copyright Act.

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

Lords of the Awards: Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016? In the Age of Peak TV, the choices are pretty good…

LORDS OF THE AWARDS:

Who’s Up for Emmys in 2016?

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The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has released its 2016 Emmy Award nominees.  In the Age of Peak TV, it’s no easy task.  By and large, their choices were good.  (My picks, if any, are asterisked or listed in italics.)

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

The Americans FX

Better Call Saul AMC

Downton Abbey PBS

Game of Thrones HBO

Homeland Showtime

House of Cards Netflix

*Mr. Robot USA

(They’re ALL good picks, and I won’t be disappointed.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA 

Kyle Chandler Bloodline

Rami Malek Mr. Robot

*Bob Odenkirk Better Call Saul

Matthew Rhys The Americans

Liev Schreiber Ray Donovan

Kevin Spacey House of Cards

(All very acceptable picks.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Claire Danes Homeland

Viola Davis How to Get Away with Murder

Taraji P. Henson Empire

Tatiana Maslany Orphan Black

Keri Russell The Americans

*Robin Wright House of Cards

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA

*Jonathan Banks Better Call Saul

Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones

Ben Mendelsohn Bloodline

Christian Slater Mr. Robot

Kit Harington Game of Thrones

Michael Kelly House of Cards

Jon Voight Ray Donovan

(These are all very passable choices, but I would nominate Michael McKean as well as Jonathan Banks in Better Call Saul.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACRESS IN A DRAMA

Maura Tierney The Affair

*Maggie Smith Downton Abbey

Lena Headey Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke Game of Thrones

Maisie Williams Game of Thrones

Constance Zimmer UnREAL

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES

Joel Fields, Joe Weisberg The Americans

Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss Game of Thrones

Robert King, Michelle King The Good Wife

*Sam Esmail Mr. Robot

Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro UnREAL

(Noticeably absent were any Better Call Saul writers.)

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

black-ish ABC

Master of None Netflix

Modern Family ABC

*Silicon Valley HBO

Transparent Amazon

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Netflix

Veep HBO

(To me, this is a no-brainer selection.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY 

Anthony Anderson black-ish

Aziz Ansari Master of None

Will Forte Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy Shameless

*Thomas Middleditch Silicon Valley

Jeffrey Tambor Transparent

(Another easy one.)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Veep

Ellie Kemper The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tracee Ellis Ross black-ish

Laurie Metcalf Getting On

Amy Schumer Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin Grace and Frankie

(This category could go any way, and I’m okay with that.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY 

Louie Anderson Baskets

Andre Braugher Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key Key & Peele

Ty Burrell Modern Family

Tituss Burgess Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale Veep

Matt Walsh Veep

(I would’ve selected all the usual suspects in Silicon Valley, an exceptional cast, but I guess that’s just me.)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY 

Niecy Nash Getting On

Allison Janney Mom

Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live

Judith Light Transparent

Gaby Hoffmann Transparent

Anna Chlumsky Veep

(I really liked Suzanne Cryer in Silicon Valley myself.)

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan Catastrophe

Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang Master of None

Dan O’Keefe Silicon Valley

*Alec Berg Silicon Valley

David Mandel Veep

Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck Veep

(Though Dan O’Keefe would work, too.)

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

American Crime

Fargo

*The Night Manager

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Roots

(Though Fargo was pretty good.)

OTHER

Some miscellaneous mentions: Downton Abbey should merit “production design for a (one-hour) narrative period program,” and “costumes for a period/fantasy series.”

Silicon Valley easily earns “production design for a (half-hour) narrative period program” and is an easy shoo-in for “casting for a comedy series.”  (Exceptional!)  Both Mike Judge and Alec Berg of Silicon Valley are up for “directing for a comedy.”

Mr. Robot competes for best “casting for a drama series.”

Better Call Saul’s Kelley Dixon, and the team of Kelley Dixon, Chris McCaleb are deserving of “single-camera picture editing for a drama.”

There are other categories, of course, but these are the ones I’ll be most closely watching on September 18th.

Until then …