Saturday Morning Brain Drain [20/5/23]

Image via Rotten Tomatoes

What I Watched: The two seasons of Striking Out, from 2017-2019, an Irish drama about poor choices, conspiracies, and the law. I would have watched another season, but it was two and done.

According to the New York Times:

It’s all very predictable, and predictably well-acted. It’s also fairly appealing, if you like the idea of a legal soap opera done like a restrained British rom-com. Or if you like the travelogue style of drama that includes lots of slow-motion nighttime helicopter shots of dramatic riverside skylines and daytime scenes set in front of public- art installations.

Season 1 Trailer

Season 2 Trailer

What I Read: The Vampire of Montana (Agents of the Royal States Book 1) by Susan Copperfield. This is a pseudonym for author R. J. Blain, and it is written in her distinctive over-the-top sarcastic style. It is a fluffy read, just what my tired brain needed. Here is the Amazon blurb:

As a member of the RPS, Daphne Niell, also known as the Vampire of Montana, lives to serve. On a good day, she hunts terrorists and eliminates them before they can strike. On a bad one, His Royal Majesty of Montana, also known as her twerp of a cousin, sends her overseas to play nice with foreign monarchs. Upon landing in Spain, the Vampire of Montana learns she’s been played, and her first job involves securing the life and liberty of everyone in a busy airport. To do her job, she needs more than just an excuse: she needs a partner. Selecting a tall, dark, and handsome stranger from the ticketing line to become an unwitting accomplice in her plans isn’t her style, but desperate times call for drastic measures. What she doesn’t know might kill them both and forever change the course of the Royal States and the world.

What I Listened To: Isaac Gracie – The Man Who Flew Into Space; Bay Ledges – Walk Away; and Matt Corby – Big Smoke.

Thank you for playing Brain Drain! How are you, dear hearts? Darling DeadSplinterites, what is up with you? Please do share your status!

About Elliecoo 493 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. I finally have something to contribute:

    This was the best and many of you may have already seen it. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins, Dames all (Joan Plowright is actually a Baroness) convene at Joan’s “cottage” to chat and reminisce. Joan Plowright was married to Sir Laurence Olivier from 1961 to his death in 1989, so “Larry” becomes kind of the fifth, posthumous guest. Judi Dench tells the girls how terrified she was of working with the legendary Olivier, and Joan turns to Maggie and says, “I think he was a little terrified of you, actually.” And Maggie Smith agrees. Many a vintage stage and screen clip are shown, so that’s also exciting.

      • Maggie Smith lets loose a quick little zinger about Alan Bates that the girls laugh at knowingly but is not elaborated on.

        All the women are still alive. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are still working, I think. The secret to longevity, we now know, is to be an Englishwoman, preferably a native-born Londoner, who has studied drama and spent a formative career performing the classics, especially Shakespeare.

        • …judy dench managing to continue to knock things out of the park even with eyesight that’s deteriorated to the point of struggling to read a script is surely some sort of amazing example of the abilities available to someone who long ago mastered their craft

          …but they’re all fantastic…& definitely continuing a venerable tradition that produced such characters as the aunts in p g wodehouse novels or the unstoppable force that is the british nanny in such classics as “one of our dinosaurs is missing”

      • Or in Dame Joan Plowright/Baroness Olivier’s garden, where they start out. Then of course it starts raining, and they’re not dressed for rain, and they unhurriedly make their way into the “cottage.” Meanwhile the film crew is scrambling around frantically and you know the Dames are all thinking, “A little rain won’t kill us…”

  2. I watched Heat, directed by Michael “Miami Vice” Mann and starring 50ish year old Al Pacino and Ribert DeNiro.

    Butcher slammed it, and I’m hard pressed to say he’s wrong. It’s unbelievably slick, beautifully shot, and some of the set pieces are wonderfully put together. The cast is great — as the opening credits roll, you keep going oh my god they also have this actor in it.

    But after a point the over the top acting keeps going, the slickness gets greasy, and it all falls apart. It’s the kind of movie where Al Pacino’s character essentially takes a police chopper for a cup of coffee. Clouds of bullets fly almost like The Matrix. And there’s a really nasty unnecessary subplot involving a girl played by Natalie Portman.

    It’s the kind of movie that works better reduced to six short scenes excerpted on Youtube instead of watched all the way through.

    • …I wondered if I’d remembered this right last week…but heat (all 3hrs of it) was pretty much LA takedown (a mere 90mins) + “ooh – pacino AND de niro in one movie”…so it’s not altogether surprising that the part where that added the run-time of a whole other movie so the two leads got their fill of screen time kind of wound up making it drag a little in places

      …but LA takedown (it turns out) was converted to a movie after not getting any traction as a pilot for a TV show…& was apparently based (no idea how tenuously) on some guy called neil mccauley who was an actual heist guy from chicago…so somewhere in the bones of the thing is/was some art-imitates-life stuff you’d think might have helped a bit with realism in a way I would not have (indeed had not) guessed based on the result?

    • The gunfight in the middle of downtown LA was both exciting and really fucking dumb.

      I saw it when I was younger (and dumber) and thought it was so cool (Mann who developed Miami Vice had that affect on mid 20s me.) Saw it again a while back. Now armed (LOL) with real world knowledge, I don’t get why Pachino’s cop character didn’t request a SWAT unit (hell, the LAPD invented it) and a shit ton of backup as well as get civilians out of the way of the Academy Award cosplay version of D-Day (or why more civilians didn’t get perforated from the hundreds of thousands of bullets fired by both sides.)

      As fun as it was for the younger me, the over blown mid movie firefight really caused the movie for older me to fall apart.

      • …it is truly a batshit crazy scene whichever way you cut it

        …but…it would barely move the needle compared to the way the fast & furious franchise has consistently doubled down on “cars – but, like, wildly unrealistic cars doing wildly unrealistic stuff that would turn out entirely differently in real world scenarios”…& they just released, what, the 10th installment of that sequence

        …a lot of money in giving the people what they want, I guess…& heat seemed to be working on the principle that how serious & dramatic your denouement scores is directly linked to the number of shell casings it produces…which at a bare minimum should exceed the number of cars wrecked in the OG blues brothers movie or you can’t call it a climactic encounter at all…is I think the official letter of the unwritten hollywood laws that govern such matters?

        • It was a nice tight heist thriller up to that point.

          I’m not against violence in movies… but I am when it doesn’t make any sense.

          Another movie that falls into the same illogical trap was “The Corruptor” starring Marky Mark, Chow Yun Fat and a lot of Asian actors which I liked right up to the stupidest/most senseless gunfight/car chase ever.

          • …hong kong cinema is hard to top for crazy…chow yun fat was in city on fire way back when…which was kind of the template that tarantino turned into reservoir dogs…& some of his time with john woo produced some insanity that might outgun the corruptor

            …like…hard boiled with the nativity ward kind of craziness?

            • I really should like John Woo movies, but I find them well choreographed stupid.

              Broken Arrow is another movie that had a great premise and was poorly executed or defies physics/physical limitations of human beings.

              MI-2 (or 3?) whose commercials made me laugh out loud at a bar and get into an argument with it seemed to the only hardcore John Woo fan in Brampton (at the time.) It was the scene where Tom Cruise and the baddie of the movie jump at each other from motorcycles with a combined closure speed of 100mph+, collide then get up and start fighting instead both crippled men calling for an ambulance.

              • …yuen woo ping is a genius, for one…but that part of the world choreographs action-as-narrative is ways that routinely make hollywood look like it has no idea what it’s doing?

      • There’s a rule of diminishing returns for gunshots and punches in movies. It’s probably true for flaming Cheetos thrown at enemies too.

        One is thrilling. Two are almost twice as thrilling. But it doesn’t take long before every new one adds less and less to a scene while costing more and more in terms of suspension of disbelief and messing up the pacing.

        Endless free fire zones like that just get silly after a point, and unless a movie can work with the silliness, they just become a drag.

          • I can already guess based on the title.

            Looking it up, that makes sense in the bank heist scene, where all of those police officers were somehow miniaturized against the four bad guys.

            That led to something that really made me mad about Heat, which is that Wes Studi was so great in it and then…. he just kind of disappeared, along with other major characters.

            I get that the scope of the movie was headed toward a Pacino-De Niro showdown, but it would have been pretty easy to come up with much better ways to handle Studi’s character in the latter parts of the movie.

  3. Pretty tunes for a rainy Saturday morning. 🙂 I especially like the Isaac Gracie one.

    I caught up on Barry.  I’m sorry it’s the final season, but there’s only so far it could go. I’m really going to miss NoHo Hank. He’s a great character.

    I read a YA novel called Fat Witch Summer by Lizzy Ives. It’s not a book I would have chosen myself, my daughter wanted me to read it. There’s a lot about family expectations so at first I was afraid she asked me to read it because of parenting mistakes I made but she laughed and said she just thought it was cute. Four teen witches take a road trip and learn about friendships, adult responsibility, decision-making, and ugly truths about the world they live in, and themselves. It’s full of diversity and representation but does include a few problematic stereotypes.  Overall it’s a positive, enjoyable read.

    Listening to a punk/garage rock show on my local college station.

    The Drones – I’m Down Today.


  4. I started watching the limited series Class of ’09. It’s like Quantico (the TV series) meets Minority Report. The story jumps between three timelines. The past shows when the characters are recruited to the FBI. The present follows their career paths within the agency. The future shows the fallout of the new minority report structured FBI. I’m enjoying it but am only one episode in. Also be warned, there is nothing wrong with your TV. They filmed the past and present super grainy to make the HD future seem more futuristic? The contrast is actually jarring. It might be to hide the actors ages as the time difference is almost 30 years.

    I listened to Victoria Monét because I read that she is bringing 90’s R&B back fusion style.

  5. …I finally got around to watching the ant man/wasp “quantumania” thing…which even by marvel standards felt a lot like the actual film you set out to watch sort of faded into the background of enough furniture moving for other forthcoming marvel properties that you lose sight of it in places…& in others it’s necessary for them to choose/have chosen things that don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense

    …compared to the james cameron avatar sequel though it felt like a stunningly original work approaching the status of unique

    …avatar 2 is just…avatar…but underwater…with space whale ambergris as the macguffin that trumps the previous movie’s “unobtanium”…& the villain who died at the end of the first one comes back downloaded into a (giant blue) native avatar…think they filmed at least one (maybe two) more installments at the same time…& it made gobs of money at the box office…so presumably there’s at least one more chance you might get to see a different film in that setting but…given how much they spent to make the things I find it hard not to be underwhelmed at the result?

    …oh, & aside from citadel amazon prime spat out a new(-ish) statham movie by (produced/directed/written/I forget which but at least one or two apply) guy ritchie…which is neither’s best effort but was pretty entertaining in a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin sort of a way?

      • @SplinterRIP, the older I get the more frequently I am underwhelmed. Not disappointed, just rather meh. And thank you for the Stratham/Ritchie tip. I do like that genre. Also, I tend to think of Ritchie back in the day when he was with Madonna. I bet that was an interesting relationship. I’m all for younger men, she had 10 years on him, but her current beau is 40 years younger than she . . . It makes me feel bad for her, because I figure he is using her for fame/money.

    • Did Avatar 2 explain why, out of all of the people the bad guys could have downloaded, they chose the chowderheaded loser from the first movie? Or was it just space magnets and blue juice that made him the ONLY OPTION?

      • …if you mean the gung-ho take-no-prisoners marine guy…yes & no…there’s a feint in the direction of character development to do with one of the few humans on the native team is the kid of the dead guy whose brain-print is installed to lead a squad of blue aliens-that-aren’t…because apparently he would have been too young to endure the rigors of the trip when they shipped out for earth…& that impacts the narrative of a couple or three character arcs…but that’s not why they did it in-universe, as it were

        …that part seems more like a handwave towards nobody-is-more-motivated (& handily fixated on our previous protagonist) so mostly it’s an attempt to beat the audience over the head with how our guy went all more-native-than-the-natives once he didn’t have a human body to return to while that guy clomps down a similar path without managing to become enlightened?

  6. I saw 1/4 of Babylon or Paramount+. It seems so far that the director really went over the top with his “Hollywood has been fucked up all along” thesis (which isn’t wrong, but he was really piling it on.)

    The only thing I got out of it is was realizing my coworkers and I are the poor elephant handler and my current supervisor is the ungrateful scared elephant at the beginning of the movie (hence we call him the “elephant.”)

    I won’t say anymore.

      • I get why Babylon underwhelmed at the box office. Too much Wolf of Wall St over the top as the template. I get it… early Hollywood was all about excess… but no build up. Just hit the screen at 120mph without context.

    • One of the best books about Hollywood’s Golden Age (I feel like I’ve read dozens of fictional accounts and dozens more non-fiction) remains Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust. It was also made into a movie in the mid-70s. See if you can find it. It’s very strange. What’s even stranger about the movie is that it was made only 35 years after the book was published, so it’s a re-imagining of what Hollywood in the late 30s must have been like. But it’s…you have to see it for yourself. It’s like making a movie in 2023 about 1988 and everyone has forgotten what 1988 was actually like.

  7. I too watched Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

    I had heard a lot of criticism that they rushed the special FX, and maybe that was a thing in the theatre with a huge screen? Honestly was a visually lovely movie to watch on my tv in the living room.

    Where I do have complaints is the plot! It sucked. Whoever was responsible for the comedy parts? They did the absolutely great, very much aided by Paul Rudd being himself with that sort of character. But whoever the team was that storyboarded out how this was going to work and what was going to happen? Suuuuuucked.

    The third act felt like a regurgitated Star Wars rebellion plot movie, like Rise of Skywalker? I’m still not actually clear on why Kang was a bad guy in the Quantum Realm? Like I get that he was a crazy psychopath outside of it, but I don’t know why what he was doing with his empire there was actually bad, except that they needed a freedom fighters subplot?

    They definitely stuck with the *redemption arc means this bad character ain’t living through the end of the film* trope, aka lazy writing.

    And I know I ranted about the deus ex machina at the end of Ghostbusters: Afterlife months ago, but holy fuck was this one even stupider.

    Anyways, will it probably make it into the rotation of Marvel movies I watch on the treadmill? Yeah, most likely, based on the humor in there. But the plot? Wowsers it deserved better.

    I do think Disney is kinda stumped with what to do with Jonathan Majors with the battery and assault charges.

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t say disappointed because I have no real attachment to the Ant-Man characters, just underwhelmed.

        I know they’re trying to set up Kang for the next Avengers movie, but it felt like this movie existed just to get him more on the radar. It’s not like Thanos with the earlier Avengers movies where you know he’s coming at some point, but you still get movies that work even if you sign get to Thanos.

    • […apologies if this tips into spoilers territory…but aside from mentioning that a thing they showed in loki is visible at some point, which seems less of a reveal than that kang appears…which I don’t think was ever much of a secret…but this is a lot of what I meant about furniture moving for other stuff so I very much endorse all of the above?]

      …so…kang the conqueror is the thanos-but-worse “big bad” for the next set of the marvel stuff

      …they tried to introduce how/why he’s that bad in the loki show…but how/why he can basically wave his hands & do magic isn’t really explained…it’s literally hand-waved…because he can travel in both time & across parallel universes/timelines/branches…so future-iest tech from the end of time or something…the time police lot loki hooked up with kept those things running but he wants/achieves a closed loop to “beat” (&/or murder/subjugate) all the other kangs…which is why there’s also sort of an infinite number of potential kangs a bit like the rules in that jet li movie “the one”…so the wierd strands of light with traily bits that make sort of torus-looking things are “the multiverse” but represented so timelines run parallel/diverge

      …& they seem to be parceling out the info dumps about what his whole deal is in ways that didn’t serve the ant man outing kindly was my take?

      …but…I’ve read arguably too many comics…so…along with that kind of thing not being entirely incoherent to me…I lean heavily to the view that re-casting the character should be no big deal…they seldom look the same artist to artist or issue to issue or sometimes even panel to panel…so…when they swapped in don cheadle as rhodey nobody struggled to keep up

      …so my vote is they ought to ditch the guy if he’s done pretty much any of the stuff it seems like there’s evidence he did do…I’m paying to watch someone who’s supposed to be doing great acting to exude a sense of underlying menace…not to ensure someone who actually is that gets to profit enormously from it?

      • Oh I’ve seen Loki. And loved it. I get the multiverse stuff.

        I just don’t understand why there’s people fighting back against Quantum Realm Kang. You can’t carry it on “He Who Remains in that other MCU show says he’s the least bad of the other variants of himself therefore this version is super bad.”

        • …in my defense it’s very comic-book-y…but I didn’t explain it very well, either

          …I think it’s implied that downtime in the quantum realm gets that kang a bit of a head-start on his peers…& they exiled him to the marvel version of the phantom zone thinking that was all she wrote…so in that sense he’s in opposition to the council of kangs or whatever they call themselves

          …but the quantum realm natives he opposes & they respond accordingly by either going along to get along or being a resistance that it seems like he bootstrapped his way to subjugating…because that’s his one speed to roll at?

  8. Well, underwhelmed is well-represented. I’ll take the other side.

    I don’t know if we’ve covered this in previous Brain Drains, but I’m about to finish The Last of Us on HBO Max. I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It’s a clever take on zombie movies/shows, like the execrable Walking Dead*, with the emphasis on “clever.” None of the massive plot holes you saw in Walking Dead. It’s a solid premise and the writers actually put thought into every episode — the third episode is an incredibly poignant tale starring Nick Offerman and I’m just gonna stop there.

    I also watched The Night Agent while on various airplanes and sitting in various airports. It’s not high art but it’s definitely excited and held my interest.

    Finally, we finished Queen Charlotte this week. I was dubious at first, because the younger Charlotte didn’t seem much like the older version you saw in Bridgerton, but as the series progressed so did the character until you could really see how she got to where she is. I got dragged into the Bridgerton world against my will, but it’s a lot of fun.

    *Walking Dead was a barely marginal comic turned into an even worse series. I’ve seen it describes as “torture porn” and I’d agree. Fight me.

    • See? We are a varied group and you need not join the ranks of the underwhelmed!  I liked Night Agent as well. ( I won’t spring for HBO on top of the current streaming subscriptions.) But Nick Offerman is a good actor and an apparently good person. And he has been married to Megan Mullaly for over a decade. She was 41 and he was 29 when they met.

    • I think I liked the Walking Dead. I wouldn’t call it torture porn. Maybe I was hate watching it. I binged the whole series this winter.

      The Last of Us is fantastic and makes TWD look like trash. It is based off of the video game which was excellent too.

      You found Charlotte junior could grow into Charlotte senior? I found it unbelievable. I also don’t understand how she could have 13 (ugly by Bridgerton standards) children and only just now worry about their lineage. For sure she would have married them off in their teens. And it was a terrible representation of what I’m guessing is schizophrenia but we can let that one slide since it’s a mostly frivolous show with some random biting social commentary about race, women’s rights, and class systems etc.

      • Yeah those daughters especially would have been married off years ago for political alliances. They needed to present more reasons than just eh, didn’t meet a good enough person, for the lack of marriages. Even comments alluding to too much meddling by the queen or House of Lords in the marriage attempts. Even a simple “everyone was worried your father’s madness was hereditary so we needed to wait around to see if you got it.”

          • When my older female siblings started having kids and I was the loon who moved into The City That Never Sleeps™ I used to get calls all the time. Although usually before midnight. “Oh, Mattie, you’re up, great. Listen, I wanted to…sorry, I’m nursing [whichever newborn]…” And then we’d chat.

            • That’s so awesome of you! It’s not phonecalls but texts to friends and DS comments which kept me sane through the first sleepless months. My best friend in Montreal has insomnia too so we always tend to catch up in the middle of the night/early morning for her (3hr time difference).

              • I’m the only one of my siblings who never had kids, so the whole process of raising children is endlessly fascinating to me. I love children and the very littlest ones seem to (have) love(d) me. When some of my friends started having kids, I’d be holding a 1-year-old, let’s say, and s/he would be gurgling and laughing, and I’d say, “Oops! Somebody gave Uncle Mattie a stinky! Time to get you changed! Get me a diaper and the wipes!” I will also say that it is amazing how much…expectorant…can come out of a 10–20-lb. human’s nose and mouth. But it’s all part of the fun, and I learned as a teenager never to wear dry-clean-only clothing while handling small cargo.

                  • Partly, I suspect, it’s because I’m sometimes so exuberantly child-like and puppy-ish myself. I’ve had run-ins though where the little humans and even a dog at the old dog run got freaked out because I wear glasses. That dog was very strange, as was her owner. One of the other dog run haunters once said to me, “It’s because the guy’s a vegan.” I said, “What does the guy’s veganism have to do with his dog’s anxiety around people wearing glasses?” This other habitué made some kind of connection, but I can’t remember what it was.

                    We were a very strange group, in that dog run. It was like the most close-knit but dysfunctional village imaginable. I was there all the time with my previous dogs, but only after having left it behind fifteen years ago am I able to process how close it was to approaching “Wicker Man” territory.

  9. I’m at the airport on the way to Oahu. On the way to the Big Island, I watched The Waterman

    it is an amazing documentary narrated by Jason Momoa about every kid from Hawaii’s idol growing up.
    Listening to some amazing ukulele & crazy bass from Jake Shimabukuro & Nathan Aweau

    Heading to the beach as soon as we get off the plane for some volleyball & beers with the Ohana.

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