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Review: Master of None

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Master of None

Master of None is a series released to Netflix this year and already greenlit for a second season, starring Aziz Ansari, who created, co-wrote (with his deceased best friend, not deceased at the time of writing, though had he been this would be a more interesting fact) and his brother. It’s loosely based on a lot of the material in his stand-up shows. It’s remarkable.

It’s remarkable in it’s general lack of remarkableness. It’s mundane at times, ultra-realistic at others (painfully so) and pretty much a slow burn. But that’s what i really appreciated about it. It had the potential of being broad comedy, and managed to be many other things instead: it was a show about a single guy in his late twenties to early thirties faced with life type issues, such as dating, career, self-image, familial baggage, and so on. It was one of those roles written the way non-white or non-male actors describe their Platonic ideal: it’s all character, and not beholden to the main character’s ethnicity or gender. And yet it’s very much about both ethnicity and gender, skewering the racism against indian actors in Hollywood, mixed relationships, guy vs. girl behavior and expectations, sexism, and much more. Yet, while it is a brilliant spotlight on double-standards in Hollywood, and while Dev does indeed stand in for Aziz, from his Nickelodeon internship to ethnic stereotyping to relationship issues to his character’s burgeoning love of cooking (Aziz is the bartender to his girlfriend’s culinary expertise as a known gourmet chef) it is still written about a human, not a stereotyped ethnic or gender-specific person. Meaning that it could have been cast as a Japanese woman, and all they would need to do* is change the contextual stereotyping and gender-specific anecdotes. It would still work. I asterix that because it is both an everyguy relatable character, and so very specifically Aziz Ansari. Kind of a riddle, I guess.

The supporting cast is excellent. I’ve always really liked Noelle Wells, from her one season foray (and unfair firing) from SNL, and her web presence, and it was great casting having her as the recurring love interest. Specifically, she’s a very down to earth, normal looking yet very cute and interesting presence. She’s no ‘manic pixie’ whatever but she’s no supermodel. She feels real in the role. The writing is very good at easing us into knowing these people through characterization. A highlight was an episode focusing on a surprise whirlwind date weekend trip to another state, which felt like a documentary. The strong standout for me was Aziz’ father (and mother) playing Dev’s parents. He is so naturally infectious and quirky, I wanted him to be in every episode.

The finale was bittersweet and realistic, and involves a clever misdirection that both disappointed in some way as far as the emotional narrative and grew his character arc in another way that was actually the kind of smoldering awesome that sticks with you for days after seeing it. I’m STILL thinking about the last scene.

Highly recommended.

TACOS!


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Chief of Ninja Group
SUPEESU. MADDONISSU.

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Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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Kraken Reviews aren’t always thorough, and they’re rarely objective. No rating scale, nothing like that. Rotten Tomatoes already has that covered. We just like to talk about movies and the like.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Summary:
In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Jared Harris with Hugh Grant thrown in for fun

I was initially jazzed about this film during production. It had all the good signs going in: period setting (60s), great casting, cool director, off mix of humor and action (just like Guy Ritchie did with Sherlock Holmes) and finally, it was an espionage story.. so despite never watching the TV series, I was on board. Then it was released shortly before SPECTRE and during the early blitz for Force Awakens and seemed to just fade into nothing in the media eye. I remember it hitting the theater but then rapidly disappearing. That was disconcerting. Like John Carter OF FUCKING MARS and similar projects, I was concerned modern audiences would dismiss this film as being a knock off of other films in the public consciousness. Where John Carter OF FUCKING MARS was an excellent adaptation of the story that predated and directly birthed all of modern fantasy, UNCLE was not necessarily an originator (it was a side project from Ian Fleming pulled from ideas from one of his Bond books) but WAS and is an interesting story device, pulling agents from both sides of the Cold War together. Anyway, I fired it up the other night and crossed all me fingers and all me toes, except those holding my martini glass (containing the homebrew gin, courtesy of One Lung) and dug in.

I was initially turned off. The smarmy, affected debonair Henry Cavill was doing as CIA Agent Napoleon Solo was grating, and the rivalry and cocksure one-upmanship between him and his soviet rival, Illya Kuryakin (played by Armie Hammer) felt tired and cliched. I was frustrated. Only the wiles of Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander kept me watching. And then somewhere in the second act, I realized I was enjoying it, and in the third act, having a good time and wanting more. What I think did it was dispensing with that initial alpha posturing and almost farcical rivalry, and getting into the meat of the plot, and most specifically, doing it in 60’s Italy, which really kicked up the period fashion and imagery a notch. I personally tire of super so-and-so’s who act unmoved and unsurprised, unflinching, as bullets fly and cars careen and whatever, like it’s all part of a Matrix sim they mastered a long time ago (something that I LOVED in the later parts of All You Need is Tole, when Cruise was plowing through his day like replaying a level with perfect precision in some FPS)… and initially, Solo was very much like this. I get it I get it, it was drawn purposefully broad. But it bugged me. But when things toned down on that front and the guys started working together, I got into it. It only made about $130M internationally on a $75M budget so it’s unlikely to get a sequel, which is disappointing. I’d love to see another one in this series. I’m perpetually starved for period adventure films.

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Also, let me repeat, Alicia Vikander.

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One last thing: a cool scene at the beginning featured the two spies sitting down at the same table and realizing the handlers hat put them together, and as they start to freak out, the handlers get up and leave them to discuss the joint mission, and as they do, the entire cafe cleans out (ie. the whole place was undercover agents) was fun, and a cool nod to Ritchie’s previous film, Game of Shadows, in which Jared Harris was the same role: the guy that signals for the room to clear. I recognized it but didn’t register where from until I looked it up.

By Salty Thom
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Chief of Ninja Group
SUPEESU. MADDONISSU.

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Welcome All Ye Souls

This is the soft launch of the companion site to the Robot-Kraken Podcast. You will soon find news, reviews, and handy podcast download/streaming links… all because science. For now, admire the pretty colors.