Each week, the Now Playing Podcast crew shares their latest recommends (and not recommends).
Glad I waited to binge watch the full season 6 of Better Call Saul, as I got so much more out of it that way, all the parallels in the first episode and the last, didn’t have to wait a week – or months – to know what happened next in those amazing and game changing episodes 6, 7, and 8. And what a satisfying finale, with plenty of resolution, heart, laughs, and callbacks to Breaking Bad. One day I will revisit both series and enjoy all over again. If only all prequel series could be this good.
My brother recommended HBO’s The Rehearsal to me. I had not heard of it, its host Nathan Fielder, nor his previous show on Comedy Central, Nathan For You (which I also binged in a couple of days). The Rehearsal begins with a weird but straightforward premise. Fielder finds people who want to make a confession or have a difficult conversation with a friend or family member. Fielder than goes to absurd lengths to help the participant rehears for the conversation by creating exact replicas of the person’s home or a bar and fills them with actors to rehearse with. However, through its six episodes, Fielder gets more and more meta and the show becomes one of the most intriguing explorations of the human psyche. It’s as if Fielder decided to make a reality show based on Charlie Kaufman’s surreal Synecdoche, New York. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, engaging in debates with family and friends who have seen it about the show’s authenticity and if that even matters. Bizarre, poignant, and very funny.
Is there any subject matter too distasteful to become a TV show for content-hungry streaming services these days? Netflix debuted Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (2022) as a 10 part mini-series this week.. and of course I can’t resist sampling a few episodes. It would be amazing if the filmmakers found a way to restore some humanity to the cannibalistic serial killer, who’s become almost an urban legend or crass punchline in the last 30 years. I don’t trust producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) to be understated in recounting these outlandish murders, but his frequent collaborator Evan Peters seems like the right man to embody the title role.
Call of the Wild (2020), the most recent adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel has so much going for it. A wonderful performance from Harrison Ford, decent supporting cast and a sweeping score by John Powell, but I’ve rarely seen a film more torpedoed by poor CGI than this one. From early on it becomes clear that this film will overly rely on CGI vistas and animals which takes all tension and realism out of what should be at times a harrowing adventure in the elements, instead it just feels like we’re watching a video game. And the decision to use CGI for the film’s canine star Buck would have been fine if the effects were good, but Buck is way too goofy and cartoonish to ever be convincing, and comes off like he’s right out of the live action Scooby-Doo movie. Credit to Ford who gives it his all to convince us that Buck is 100% real, but not even his efforts can rescue this interesting but ultimately disappointing adventure yarn from mediocrity.
I’d heard of River’s Edge (1986) but knew nothing about it other than Keanu Reeves is in it. So I watch this flick, and it’s dark. It’s about these teenage delinquents — and I mean delinquents, even Telly is looking at these kids and thinking, “I hope they don’t give ME an STD!” — and one of them, current Grandpa Munster Daniel Roebuck, drags his friends into all his drama after he kills his girlfriend. It’s been praised as being as much a horror movie as a drama, but I don’t really see it. In the end, I was a little bored, despite a can’t look away, bat**** crazy performance by Crispin Glover. The creepy little kid from Near Dark and Class of 1999 is also here to make you feel uncomfortable, and so is Dennis Hopper (nuff said). It’s really nothing more than a look at what life is like for a bunch of going nowhere degenerates in the mid-1980s. I’m sure it got people clutching their pearls back in the day, but we’ve all seen worse by now. So maybe this one’s overrated, when it should have just been, uhhh, rated.