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Steve Carrell's Netflix TV show 'Space Force' uneven at times but achieves liftoff

Steve Carrell's Netflix TV show 'Space Force' uneven at times but achieves liftoff

Can Pixar keep a movie franchise alive after four movies? Can Steve Carell strike gold twice with the creator of “The Office?” What is one of the best shows on TV you probably never heard of? And is a documentary about a WWE superstar worth watching? Find out all of the above in this week’s edition of Cronick’s Couch.

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“Space Force” (Not rated, 2020, 10 30-minute episodes, Netflix) — The best TV comedy of all time? Arguably, it’s “The Office” ... or at least it’s right up there.

So to say the stakes are high when Netflix announced Carell was re-teaming with “Office” creator Greg Daniels is an understatement.

The premise is tricky, especially in this over-politicized, thin-skinned world. First off, it’s hilarious Netflix and “Space Force” creators trademarked the name before the United States government secured the name for its sixth and youngest branch of the Armed Forces.

So it goes without saying that “Space Force” lampoons President Donald Trump’s military creation. Wisely, though, “Space Force” never mentions Trump and sets itself in a fictional world full of people who will certainly remind you of the real one.

Carell plays four-star General Mark Naird, who is basically Michael Scott if he was raised in a strict military family with a more masculine physique and more gruff voice. He’s tasked with running the new Space Force despite his goal to run the Air Force.

He is surrounded by a great cast of characters, including his one-star buffoon of an assistant, General Brad Gregory (Dan Lake), who has difficulty with everything, particularly monitoring who enters his boss’ office; his wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow), who is imprisoned for 40 years. although we are never told why (yet); F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz), his millennial PR person whose modern references and ideas of marketing clash with everyone and everything; Naird’s daughter Erin (Diana Silvers), who would rather be back in Washington, D.C., than in the middle of a desert; and Dr. Chan, a brilliant, sarcastic scientist played by “Silicon Valley’s” Jimmy O. Yang, who steals every scene in which he appears.

Carell’s finest co-star is John Malkovich as Dr. Adrian Mallory, a bitterly biting, skeptical head of science who saves Naird’s unqualified butt nearly every episode.

Like “The Office,” “Space Force” takes its time developing characters and, while it isn’t there yet, has the potential to be one of the best comedies on TV. If “The Office” met “Veep” it would breed “Space Force.”

Some episodes will bore you, some, like the episode revolving around a chimpstronaut saving a Space Force project, will make you laugh until you cry.

“Space Force” is uneven, but thanks to its stellar cast and smart writing is worth the investment.

Rating: B

“Toy Story 4” (Not G, 2019, 90 minutes, Disney+) — Do you want to feel old? What if I tell you the original “Toy Story” came out 25 years ago!

So when you heard there was a “Toy Story 4” coming out, did you roll your eyes? I mean, after three amazing movies, what else could Pixar come up with to keep us interested in Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and their toy friend, right?

Wrong! “Toy Story 4” is as good — if not better — than any of the previous installments. Full of heart, laughs, terrific animation and that Pixar gift of making cartoons that are as entertaining for adults as they are kids, “Toy Story 4” is an absolute gem and 100% deserving of its Academy Award for best animated feature.

In the latest chapter, Woody realizes he isn’t one of Bonnie’s beloved toys anymore.

Bonnie, who is having difficulty adjusting to kindergarten, makes herself a toy — Forky, hilariously voiced by “Arrested Development’s” Tony Hale.

Woody takes it upon himself to make sure the dim-witted Forky doesn’t throw himself into the trash and babysits him to make sure he is always there for the troubled youngster.

Of course, that isn’t easy as Woody and his fellow gang of toys end up on a summer road trip where they meet everyone from long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who is a super independent woman toy these days, to new characters such as the seemingly evil Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her army of goon ventriloquist dummies and Duke Caboom, one of the best “Toy Story” creations ever thanks to this Evel Knievel clone wonderfully voiced by Keanu Reeves.

With tons of heart, lots of laughs, plenty of moral lessons and even tear-inducing moments here and there, “Toy Story 4” once again proves the Disney-owned Pixar is in a league of its own.

While it doesn’t seem likely we will see “Toy Story 5” anytime soon, a movie sequel this good makes you hope we do.

Rating: A


“Snowfall” (Not rated, 2017 to present, three seasons, 30 60-minute episodes, FX, Hulu) — “Snowfall” is one of those TV series that is so good, you can’t believe you never heard of it. How does a show created and sometimes directed by a major filmmaker (“Boyz ’n the Hood’s” John Singleton), with a terrific plot surrounding cocaine and crack slinging in 1980s Los Angeles go relatively unnoticed by everyone?

Well, it has, and that’s a shame, because “Snowfall” is one of the most well-written, finely acted shows on television that is full of clever writing, over-the-top violence, humor, awesome characters and visually stunning.

“Snowfall” is brilliant in many ways, but perhaps its greatest strength is how its multiple plotlines all eventually come together and lead to the show’s main protagonist, the likable but flawed Franklin (Damson Idris), a naïve, power- and money-hungry teen who digs himself some deep holes in the drug underworld.

There are so many different plots here, including drug cartels, independent drug distributors trying to battle against the big guys, family members who mean well but look the other way for money, corrupt CIA agents and even a former Mexican wrestler who gives up his tights to run a drug ring.

FX once again proves there are no boundaries it won’t break. Despite being on basic cable, “Snowfall” could be a heavy R-rated movie, full of blood, sex and profanity, all of it justified to make the final product believable and realistic.

Yes, you have some major catching up to do — 30 hours of it — but consider that time well spent.

Rating: B+

Not worth your time

“Undertaker: The Last Ride” (Not Rated, 2020, five, 60-minute episodes, WWE Network) — On the heels of “The Last Dance,” one of the best sports documentaries of all time comes “Undertaker: The Last Ride.”

And while wrestling fans may consider The Undertaker the Michael Jordan of professional wrestling, WWE’s documentary looks like a badly produced afterschool special in comparison.

Although I am not a huge wrestling fan, I love the history of the entertainment sport. And The Undertaker is certainly an important part of wrestling’s history. What makes “The Last Ride” attractive is that The Undertaker, aka Mark Calaway, is known for not breaking character in the 30-plus years in the ring.

Known for his morbid, supernatural presence and gimmicks more than his actual athleticism, The Undertaker is arguably one of the Top 10 wrestling figures of all time, and deserving of a far more interesting and better produced documentary than this.

“The Last Ride” follows Calaway for three years as he would basically wrestle one match a year to keep his Wrestlemania win streak alive.

While there are many interesting moments in “The Last Ride” — it’s interesting just to see the pain Calaway wrestles through — the documentary fails to really capture who Calaway is. In fact, many of the interviews the wrestling legend has done to promote “The Last Ride” contain far more interesting stories and personality than the documentary itself.

That said, wrestling fans will love to see behind-the-scenes footage of the mysterious figure along with interviews from fellow legends such as Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Dave Bautista, Ric Flair, Vince McMahon, John Cena, Goldberg and many others. Noticeably absent are some of the people The Undertaker has had some of this biggest feuds with, namely Hulk Hogan.

While “The Last Dance” could easily entertain anyone, not just basketball fans, “The Last Ride” is for wrestling heads only. And that’s a shame.

Rating: C-

Follow Scott Cronick on Twitter @ACPressCronick

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