What I Watched November 2017

Movies

Thor: Ragnarok- read review here. ****1/2

Murder on the Orient Express – read review here. ****

Icarus – This is an amazing watch. It starts as a man trying to recreate some cycling doping, to see how effective and difficult it is, but it morphs into something much more. It is wonderful. *****

Justice League – read review here. ***1/2

Message from the King – Chadwick Boseman is great, this movie is not. It is a lifeless thriller that struggles to elicit any interest. Other than the star, I found nothing to like or latch onto here. **

Wheelman – The gimmick of this movie just didn’t do it for me. It is a crime movie about a driver that never leaves the car. So nearly the whole movie happens with him behind the wheel. It isn’t terrible, but nothing it did was particularly interesting. **1/2

Goldeneye – This is still an excellent start to Brosnan’s run as Bond. It is one of the better movies in the series and that start of what is my favorite era of Bond. It all just kind of works. ****

A Christmas Prince – I was still trying to watch all of Netflix’s movies, so I watched this. It is exactly what it seems to be. It is not for me, it shouldn’t be. I guess it is perfectly fine for what it is. **1/2

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – I am not a big horror guy, so this movie has sat just off my radar forever. If I had only known what I was in store for. Keanu is miscast, but the rest of the cast is so great it more than makes up for his struggles. Anthony Hopkins is having a blast and so is Gary Oldman. It is insane and great and unexpected and not really a horror movie at all. I think I loved it. ****

Jackie Brown – Someone once told me that this was one of Tarantino’s weaker movies, but now that I’ve watched it I know that that is not true. This is at least on the level of Pulp Fiction, and I rate it higher. It is, I believe, Tarantino’s only adapted work, but it still feels like him. It luxuriates in character, letting everything build at the appropriate pace to always satisfying conclusions. *****

On the Waterfront – This is real good. Brando plays a former boxer whose brother works for a corrupt union boss. Brando witnessed some murders and is going to testify and the boss, who is willing to take drastic measures to stop him. It is impossible to look away from. *****

To The Bone – A drama about a girl with an eating disorder and her struggles dealing with it. It seemed perfectly well made, if not completely interesting to me. ***

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – I guess it is well made, but watching it made me like Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon and Andy Kaufman less. This is footage that didn’t need to be seen. **

Wonder Woman – My thoughts really haven’t changed from this summer; this movie is still great. ****1/2

The Big Sick – I bought into the hype a little too much with this one. I heard from a lot of people how great it was and when I watched it I only found it to be very good. I don’t really have anything to criticize, it is very good and deserves all of its success, but it was low-key enough with the humor and the drama that it didn’t have the impact I would have liked. Still, I say again it was very good. ****1/2

TV

The Orville – The reaction to this has been mixed to say the least. It is an odd mash up, with straight up Next Generation Trek mixed with Seth MacFarlane’s often dubious humor. The humor often doesn’t work, but through its twelve episodes it finds its footing and ends up providing some classic sci fi entertainment. It feels like classic Star Trek, albeit Star Trek with a misplaced irreverent streak. When it keeps that stuff to the margins or confined to the cold open, it is very entertaining. I’ll watch more of it when it comes back.

Inhumans – How bad this show was is astounding. It wasn’t just ill-conceived from a plotting perspective, like Iron Fist, a show that shares a showrunner with Inhumans, but it is also cheap and just badly made. In nearly every choice this show made, it chose poorly. It almost defies description. I feel bad for the actors, because it isn’t really their fault. But this is a superhero show that belongs in the conversation with movies like Catwoman or Fantastic 4 as the worst superhero production of the 21st century.

Alias Grace – This show was interesting; it is an adaptation of the based on a true story book. It is a perfectly fine adaptation that never really rises above being perfectly fine. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t really stick with me.

The Confession Tapes – This might be the most infuriating thing I’ve ever seen. Not for any failure of the show, but because how awful the events it depicts are. It shows in stark detail how police elicit false confessions and then convict people with confession that they must know are not true. It is gross and upsetting and important to know. It doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Brooklyn 99 – I liked this show when it first started, but I kinda lost track of it after that. Catching up with it on hulu, I’ve really been missing out. It is another great show from MIchael Schur, who had a hand in The Office, Park & Rec, and The Good Place. This show stands with those as another modern classic. The first season is a little rough at times, but it finds its footing remarkably quickly and maintains a steady excellence for most of its run, up to now.

Lady Dynamite Season 2 – This was a surreal masterpiece. It manages to both real and completely nonsensical. The future segments grow increasingly unhinged as the show goes on, while the present day stuff is largely goofy sitcom fun. It is just a great show.

Runaways – I’ve only watched the first three episodes so far, but the show is good so far, despite being incredibly slow. I hope it picks up, because three hours into a show called Runaways no one has run away yet.

DC Superhero Shows – This year’s crossover was just about perfect. Legends has made another leap this season and is now clearly the best of the DC’s CW shows. Supergirl is kind of stuck in neutral, but it still mostly enjoyable. The Flash has made something of a course correction from last year’s too dour season and is so far a lot of fun. As for Arrow, I’ll catch up when it hits Netflix.

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Now Playing November 2017

Beaten

Kindle Picross games – I’ve been playing some picross games on my Kindle before I go to bed and I’ve all but run out of free puzzles. They are fine.

Ongoing

Yakuza 0 – I did a handful of side stories with Majima, and played a ton of Outrun. I love this game, but I haven’t had the time to play it.

Terranigma – Small progress, see my consistent complaints about free time.

Etrian Odyssey V – This game has me stymied. It should be my wind down, spending twenty minutes exploring before I go to bed, but I can’t get through the end of the first stratum, where traditionally the increased options with the characters eases things up enough to be enjoyable rather than frustrating.

Upcoming

Mario – I am getting back to this, though there may be a couple holes in my series replay. I don’t know if I have a working Gamecube or Wii to play Mario Sunshine. I also don’t have ready access to a good copy of New Super Mario Bros Wii. The rest, though, are ready to do and I will get to them as soon as possible. And maybe by the time I’m done I will have access to Super Mario Odyssey.

River City Rival Showdown – This came out in November, but my package didn’t arrive in time for me to start. Once finals end, I am going to lay on my couch and play this straight through, so long as it lives up to its predecessor.

What I Read November

Only one book in November, along with a few comic collections I sped through with the intent of writing a longer piece about them that may or may not happen after finals.

The Phoenix Guards

Steven Brust

This is my first encounter with Brust. I quite liked it and will make a point to chase down some more of his stuff. The Phoenix Guards does very little to explain its setting, which I understand is used in his larger series of which this book is an off shoot, but that doesn’t hamper it too much. What The Phoenix Guards is is an homage to The Three Musketeers. A young man from the country comes to the city to join an elite guard, where he makes some friends and they have adventures. It is good fun, though while I am a fan of most of the setting stuff, I am not as fond of the prose style. It is deliberately styled to read more like Dumas, but that somewhat purposefully stilted was occasionally tiresome. I don’t have that much to say about it overall; it is a very fun romp that doesn’t really inspire any thoughts outside of the simple enjoyment of the adventure.

Thy Kingdom Come Vol 1, 2, 3

Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Fernando Pasarin et al.

With Johns and DC getting ready to launch a follow up to probably their best loved story, I got it in my head to revisit the last time that Johns wrote a follow up to another much loved DC story, the Kingdom Come sequel Thy Kingdom Come. In this case, he did it with not only the approval, but the help of one of the collaborators in that first story, Alex Ross co-wrote and drew portions of this story. It was part of Johns Justice Society of America, the relaunched version that is mostly remembered for getting bogged down in this story. I disagree with that assessment; this is a long story but I think most of the individual chapters are very enjoyable. The plot in brief is that the Superman from KC ends up on Earth and teams up with the JSA, fortified with new members reminiscent of characters found in KC, as they deal with the emergence of Gog, the last of the Old Gods that died to make room for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World New Gods. It also deals with the emergence of the new Multiverse, brought back during Infinite Crisis, another time Johns wrote a follow up to a famous DC story. There is a lot going on, and I have more to say that I am saving for an eventual full post about it, but it works as a capstone on Johns’s JSA run, with the only flaw the story that came after it.