What I Watched in December 2016

It should be noted that this week’s posts were written under the influence of strong sinus medication. So forgive me if I just trail off in the middle of a

Movies

Allied – see review here. ****

30 For 30 Catholics vs Convicts – Another solid 30 for 30 effort, this one looking into the rivalry between Notre Dame and the University of Miami. It touches on a lot of things, from the racism inherent in the Catholics vs Convicts moniker to the landscape of branded apparel at the time that made it possible for a student to print up the t-shirts from the title. Like most of these movies, it is a very enjoyable look at a brief window of sports history. ****

Kung Fu Panda 3 – Not bad, not bad at all. This movie doesn’t do anything with the movies larger cast, but Bryan Cranston as Po’s long lost father was a lot of fun. The storyline doesn’t break any new ground, but it is mostly enjoyable. Other than a few impressive flat colored sequences, there isn’t anything great about this movie, but it is largely enjoyable. ***1/2

Angry Birds – What a miserable excuse of a movie. There were a lot of good animated movies this year and Angry Birds was not one of them. It isn’t funny, it doesn’t look good and its message – almost certainly accidental – is gross. Don’t watch this. *1/2

True Memoirs of an International Assassin – This isn’t quite as bad as one would guess. It’s not good, but it’s also not as lazy as a Happy Madison Production. There are sporadic laughs and the glimmer of a good idea here. None of that comes together in any sort of satisfying way, but at least it seems like people put effort into it. **

Tai Chi Master – This is a good time. Jet Li plays a disgraced Shaolin monk whose friend betrays him in a never ending quest for power. It isn’t the best kung fu movie I’ve watched, but Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh are great as always. ***

Man of Tai Chi – Keanu Reeves directs this movie about a kid who gets pulled into a dangerous underground fighting league. Reeves plays the villain, who runs the league and sets out to deliberately corrupt a good but headstrong kid. It has some really good fight scenes, but the story is a fairly bland morality play. Still, it is more than worth watching. ***

Rogue One – read review here. ****1/2

Neighbors – I didn’t really expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I still didn’t love it, but it has its moments. The movie tends to focus on lesser jokes and slip right by the genuinely good ones, but some of the good ones would suffer from extended focus. Still, it has more than enough good laughs. ***

TV

The Office (USA) – I revisited this after watching the original version last month. I am even more convinced that the American version is the superior version. Especially in the first three seasons. After that it mostly settles into comfortable sitcom stasis, but the early seasons have most of the original’s bite and longing while having more and more interesting characters. I would rank it among the best TV comedies.

The Grinder – I skipped this show when it aired last year, and now I deeply regret it. It is damn near great television, and now it is cancelled. Rob Lowe and Fred Savage have some great chemistry as brothers and after about a half dozen episodes the show gets into a pretty great self-referential groove that calls to mind shows like Community and Better off Ted. It is a minor tragedy that this show only got one season. I suspect it will remain in my Netflix comfort viewing rotation for a good long time.

Turn S1 – This is kind of … not good. The production values are there. The cast is there. But the writing is not. Everything feels muddled and unfocused. A lot of time is spent on stories that are completely uninteresting, or on stories that seem to exist only to make the protagonists look bad so viewers won’t sympathize with them(?). There is a lot here that is good, but unless season two starts telling a genuinely interesting story I am going to be out sooner rather than later.

Columbo S1-6 – I saw this was leaving Netflix and made a mad dash through it. Columbo is great. He is a character that is rightfully considered one of the greatest TV characters of all time. Nearly all of this show’s feature length mysteries are well-crafted, with guest stars doing good work against a nearly perfect Peter Falk. I think I have a lot more to say about this show, maybe about how the show deal with class and wealth, but I’ll save that for a full post about the show. It’s worth it.

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