April 6, 2023

What We’re Watching: April 7, 2023


I don’t follow basketball, and my last “celebrity-endorsed” shoes was my 4th grade pair of Hush Puppies, but I’m still curious about the history of Michael Jordan’s Nike line as presented in new docudrama AIR (2023).  Part of the fun is seeing Good Will Hunting buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck lace up and play together for the first time on screen in decades.  But I’m also a sucker for stories that air sordid details about wholesome emblems of 1980s pop culture. It could be hilarious seeing suits lose their minds over a box of sneakers.


I was both hesitant and excited to revisit Mel Brooks’ History of the World.  The original is a classic in my family and a movie I’ve gone back to numerous times over the years. Seeing promos for the new Hulu series that both bears Mel Brooks’ name and a Part 2 instantly had me curious.  I didn’t want to rush in, since this could easily tarnish a beloved film and I’m in no hurry to add another item to that shelf in my nostalgia brain nook.  Well the good news is that it’s very much in the same spirit as it’s 40 year old predecessor, however, the writing is a mixture of Brooks’ signature style and Nick Kroll’s more modern sense of humor.  There’s plenty of familiar faces and fun parodies, the betrayal of Jesus told in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm, complete with the hilarious presence of JB Smoove to Jack Black’s musical take on Stalin as he plots to overtake Lenin are both standouts.  It’s a fun watch and a nice bookend to the long career of comedy legend Mel Brooks.  If you are a fan of his previous work you’ll find a lot to love here, some things that’ll make you roll your eyes and maybe even make you a bit nostalgic for simpler times when crude humor was more of novelty rather than the norm.


Jamie Lee Curtis has been in the spotlight lately thanks to her well-deserved Oscar win, so I decided to check out a film of hers I had never seen – Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel (1990). An intelligent and mature cop thriller (at least for the first half), it revolves around a rookie New York cop (Curtis) who becomes the obsessive target of a deranged killer (Ron Silver) after they are both caught up in a robbery. Curtis delivers one of the best performances of her career here in an emotionally-demanding role, and the always-terrific Silver is believably creepy. It falls apart slightly in the second half as it becomes increasingly silly and far-fetched, but the performances and the excellent first half still make this a solid recommend.


In gearing up for the Piranha retrospective, I decided to finally give those Jaws sequels a try. And while Jaw 2 was a step down from the original, what shocked me was the huge step-down Jaws 3-D (1983). For the entire movie’s runtime, I couldn’t decide if it was an extended advertisement for Sea World or not. I should’ve known I was in trouble after the first scene, though, when a fuzzily outlined severed fishhead lingered in the center of the screen for twenty seconds, an obvious gimmick to make use of the 3-D glasses in the audience. I didn’t have 3-D glasses, so in 2-D, this just looked odd and boring. This kind of trick occurred about a half-dozen more times, culminating in one of the worse-looking climaxes I’ve seen in a major franchise in a long, long time. Bad special effects, the cheapest-looking shark thus far, and just a general lack of suspense make this a new low in the franchise so far.

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