July 4, 2023: Fireworks in Racine, Wisconsin
July 4, 2023: Fireworks viewed from Webster Street in Racine, Wisconsin.

Another Week: Number 28

by | July 9, 2023

Fireworks are now a year-round obsession here in southeastern Wisconsin. Any night at all might be randomly celebrated with a thousand-dollar, 11 p.m. home fireworks show.

This year’s Fourth of July, however, was like the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. Roughly every fourth house in Racine carried out a completely illegal aerial assault that began in the late afternoon and lasted until well after midnight, blanketing the city in a new cloud of smoke after the previous week’s smoke from Canadian wildfires finally cleared.

Also this week, Amy was home and recovering from chemo. She had some headache pain and nausea, but that didn’t keep her from watching Racine’s fireworks from a friend’s sailboat in the harbor.

I had a birthday and ordered a new laptop. 



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John Early: Now More Than Ever

We know John Early as a cast member of Search Party, a crime comedy about a circle of millennials that ran five seasons, beginning on TBS and then moving to HBO Max. It was a very good series until it went off the rails in the final season. Early basically played The Gay Guy — the kind of role that might have gone to Paul Lynde back in the 1960s, with plenty of self-centered sarcasm and mock bitchiness.

John Early: Now More Than Ever — with a title that has served as the most vacuous tag line in marketing for decades — is his recent standup special, released June 17th on Max.

Similar to Alex Borstein’s April special on Amazon Prime Video, it’s mostly comedy, but also a musical performance. Early is backed here by The Lemon Squares for several numbers, and he sings well enough for a comedian.

His comedy persona is similar to his Search Party character, with lots of whiny, self-absorbed fatigue. His material is quite funny in many places — but I spent some time trying to put my finger on exactly what he was skewering with his tiresome attitude.

Finally, I was able to define it in my mind. Right after that, he underlined it out loud himself. And then he sang Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”

This is an interesting special with a point of view that is unusual and yet overly familiar at the same time. It’s worth seeing.



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Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (2020)

This 2020 documentary had been sitting on our HBO/Max list forever, so I finally clicked and we watched it.

It’s two things, in combination: One, a pretty standard bio-doc on the famous Hollywood actress Natalie Wood, and two, a refutation of allegations that her husband, actor Robert Wagner, somehow caused her 1981 drowning death at age 43 near their boat off South Catalina Island.

The biography portions are fairly perfunctory — stills and quick clips from her movies, family photos, and a narrative that ticks off career and personal milestones. Her two marriages to Wagner are recounted, along with her marriage to British producer Richard Gregson in between, and the blended family that resulted.

It is the daughter from this middle marriage, Natasha Gregson Wagner, who tells most of Wood’s story — and who hosts her stepfather Robert Wagner for a discussion of Wood’s death, together assuring us that it had to be a tragic accident.

Natalie Wood did a lot of screen and stage work beginning in childhood, and it’s impressive to see her 38-year career summarized here. As for the exact circumstances of her death, we’ll likely never know, and it’s not a mystery that ever fascinated me. Partly using this film to assert Wagner’s innocence is understandable and somewhat unavoidable, but unfortunately, it detracts from the biography.



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Cocaine Bear (2023)

We don’t usually watch crappy horror movies, but we watched this one on Peacock because the people on the talk shows assured us it wasn’t crappy, and we believed them.

There is a true story from 1985 in which a drug smuggler dropped 40 containers of cocaine into the Tennesee wilderness, then died when his parachute failed to open, but that’s where fact and fiction part ways.

In reality, a bear did ingest cocaine and die. In this movie, the bear instantly becomes a cocaine addict and goes on a deadly rampage while seeking snort after snort.

Cocaine Bear is not funny. It’s not clever. It’s just an achingly dumb waste of time with a passable “bear,” occasional body parts, Keri Russell, the late Ray Liotta, and Margo Martindale for some reason.

Don’t fall for it.

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