Snapshots - #39: Coco, Pitch Perfect 3, Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII

Coco (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Miguel, a young aspiring singer, is afraid to defy his family's forsaking of music. On the Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday to celebrate the dead, Miguel is, unwillingly, granted night passage to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors and gets valuable life lessons.

This Disney/Pixar production has great animation and music, is colorful, fun, has endearing characters (both living and dead). Coco also has meaningful lessons about the value of traditions, the importance of family, loyalty, and honoring one's ancestors, all in a very entertaining package. Don't let the fact that it is an animated movie deter you from enjoying this gem. Coco is a great story to ponder for kids and adults alike.

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), (♦♦♦♦): The members of the a cappella singing sensation ‘The Bellas’ have graduated from college and are realizing that they suck big time at real life. They miss the singing, the mischief, and the camaraderie. The father of on…

Snapshots - #23: The Night Of, Silicon Valley, and more…

TV shows...

The Night Of (♦♦♦♦♦): Young Pakistani Nasir Khan steals his father’s cab in Queens, NY, and drives to a party in New York City. He stops for a while in the street to get his bearings for he is lost, but his cab has the light on and a young woman boards the cab, a pretty woman who claims she doesn’t want to go home or be alone that night. At her home, drugs are consumed, there is dangerous foreplay, and finally they have sex.

Hours later, Nasir wakes up in the kitchen and realizing it’s late he goes to the bedroom to collect his things and say goodbye before heading home, but realizes with horror that the woman he has spent the night with has been ruthlessly stabbed to death. Was it him? Why can’t he remember crucial hours from that night? As he is charged and tried for homicide, several unsavory characters will come to the fore, some with violent histories and with motive to have committed the crime. But… what makes the detective so sure he got the right man?

The Night Of, an HBO limited series, is an adaptation of BBC’s series Criminal Justice. It is gritty and suspenseful, dark, addictive, and provocative. From the cover music while the initial credits play on black and white nightly scenes, down to the sort of documentary style police investigation, the fear of the Pakistani community for reprisals from the larger society for the alleged crime one of their own has committed, to the violent scenes in prison…Everything in this series conspires to draw you in, meanwhile taunting you with the ambivalence of the situation this young man finds himself in. Did he do it? Sometimes is not whether a crime has been committed but whether people at large believe it has, and it seems to be the case that Nasir Khan has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.

Excellent performances, especially by John Turturro and Riz Ahmed, solid script, and great direction make this series a not-to-be-missed event.

Silicon Valley (♦♦♦♦): in Season 4, Richard is still ambivalent about what is the best application to suit his genius compression program. Dinesh, one of his coders at Pied Piper, has adapted Richard’s compression to a chat platform, but Richard isn’t convinced it is the best thing his program can do. Given the chance to brainstorm, Richard realizes he wants to redefine the internet as we know it, and sets out to do it on his own. Meanwhile, Gavin Belson has faced challenges inside Hooli that have left him vulnerable, and now he has been fired from the very company he launched from his garage as a young man. Richard finds out that Gavin holds a patent to the application of the “new internet” he has conceived, and invites him to join forces, but it’s a difficult relationship between the two.

Season 4 of Silicon Valley is just as edgy, irreverent, and as outrageously funny as the previous three seasons. I’m beginning to feel really bad for Richard and the guys because, even though I laugh like crazy at their challenges and antics, I realize that they may never find their right niche or the suitable financing to make it as a large company in Silicon Valley.
I have mentioned before that if you like The Big Bang Theory, like I do, you will likely love this series as well because it is funnier, but also Silicon Valley does for computer science what The Big Bang Theory does for the physical sciences: it demystifies the field, and serves as the perfect vehicle to put nerds on the map.

The movies…

The Promise (♦♦♦): As World War I breaks out and Turkey sides with Germany, the Ottoman Turks begin to ostracize the Armenian population, and carry out a genocide that is denied until this day. With these events as backdrop, Mikael, an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac) in Istanbul who is promised to marry a woman in his village, falls in love with a half Armenian- half French artist named Ana (Charlotte Le Bon)—friend of Mikael’s uncle's family and engaged to Chris (Christian Bale), a world renowned American war correspondent. As their love triangle plays out amidst the tragedy, they must set aside their feelings to mitigate the loss and bring a resemblance of hope to the people around them.

The Promise would be an otherwise ordinary movie about one more love triangle in cinema, if it were not for the events that serve as backdrop. Directed by Terry George, of Hotel Rwanda fame, he tackles here yet another little known chapter in human history: the Armenian genocide by the Turks, and if The Promise is not a transcendent movie as Hotel Rwanda was, at least it deserves to be noticed for the human drama at its core.

The three leading actors do a good job of conveying the desperation before forces out of their control, but it is really the tragedy, somewhat tamed, I admit, that in The Promise speaks for itself.

Kong: Skull Island (♦♦♦): As the Vietnam War reaches its conclusion and US soldiers are being decommissioned, an army colonel (Samuel L. Jackson) and some of his men are given one last mission: escort a team of scientists to a recently discovered island in the South Pacific that is to be surveyed as part of a secret, and thus far outlandish, project called "Monarch". An American war photographer (Brie Larson), and a British army captain (Tom Hiddleston) hired as a "tracker", for which he has been handsomely compensated, are also members of the expedition. But as the incoming helicopters start dropping bombs as part of a seismic mapping of the surface, they awaken a beast of mythical proportions: Kong, an ape, king among the ferocious creatures that populate the island. Is Kong an enemy, or their only ally in that godforsaken land?

This 2017 version of King Kong has lots of firepower, an idyllic paradise as backdrop, and lots of testosterone as well; the result is 2 hours with lots of action and OK performances, courtesy of actors that are much too good for a production such as this one. There is a hint of sequels to come with one of those final credits scenes a-la Marvel movies.

If you want mindless entertainment, you can do much worse than with Kong: Skull Island.


  1. Brie Larson & Tom Hiddleston in Kong -- that's a bit of a head scratcher. You hooked me with The Night Of .... I hadn't heard of it but now I will look for it. What a premise! Sounds excellent.

    1. I think both actors got reeled in by the promise of sequels. They are not so bad, but they have proven that they can do much better. I can't recommend The Night Of enough. Watch it and enjoy!

  2. I just could not make myself watch The Night Of... even though I read its excellent reviews and I'm a big John Turturro fan. It just sounded more intense than I was up for at the time it showed. Maybe I'll watch it later. We've watched Silicon Valley throughout its four seasons and I was actually getting a bit bored with it this year. It seems these guys never learn, never grow, but throughout its run it has been pretty consistently funny.

    1. I'm starting to think that "never learning, never growing" is the actual point of the series. They are trying to make it in a very competitive world where everyone has something good or even amazing to offer.

      The more intense parts of The Night Of are the shots of what was done to that young woman (through flashbacks, photographs, and forensic evidence) and the scenes in prison. It's not fun to watch, but it is solidly entertaining.

  3. Thank you for reviewing The Promise. I had not even heard about it! I think I will skip Kong unless husband is up for some mindless entertainment. It also sounds quite farfetched.

    1. Well, they are two radically different movies, as you can see. Kong is entertaining, and far fetched as you said, but it's an OK watch for 2 h; fortunately, they didn't make it longer. :-)

  4. The Night of sounds amazing. I will make a note of that for future binge watching.
    Lynn :D

    1. I hope you "like" it when you get to it.

  5. I really enjoyed Skull Island. I watched it on a night when I really needed mindless entertainment and it fulfilled that need perfectly (along with The Fate of the those movies!).

    1. Yes, that's what those movies are good for: not much thinking, just going with the flow and enjoying them for what they are. :-)


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