Now Playing January 2018

Beaten

Super Mario 3D Land — post coming soon.

New Super Mario Bros 2 — post coming soon.

Ongoing

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time — I’ve made a little more progress and should finish soon. I still really like this game and will have a full post once I finish up.

Final Fantasy XV — I played the first hour or two of this. It is interesting, but I can’t tell if I like it or not yet. I’ve barely gotten started. I will say that Cindi is one of the most ridiculous character designs in a series full of ridiculous character designs. It is a sensible concept ran through some kind of insane porn filter. It is just completely out of place.

Etrian Odyssey V — Barely any progress, but it is still the game in my 3DS.

Monster Hunter World — Another game I barely played, but this one only because it just came out. It feels like a little more than the slight updates that the last few Monster Hunter sequels have been. And maybe I just haven’t seen the content yet, but it also feels like a much smaller game than them in terms of number of monsters available to hunt. I’ll be writing more about this early game of the year favorite.

Upcoming

Celeste & Iconoclasts –– I will likely pick up one of both of these for a weekend of fun in the near future. They look great.

Super Mario Mario Galaxy — I am really looking forward to this, assuming I get the chance to actually play it.

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What I Watched Jan 2018

Movies
The Shape of Water see review here. *****

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle see review here. ***1/2

Goon: Last of the Enforcers — The original Goon was a really fun sports comedy. This sequel doesn’t really have much to offer. Everything that worked in the first movie either doesn’t work here or is so diminished that it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t offensively bad or anything, but it really doesn’t have a reason to exist. **

The Polka King — Between this and Bernie, Jack Black is kind of cornering the market on playing weird criminals. Here he plays a Polka musician who dreams big, and takes investment money from some old people fund tours for his polka band. He is not really a bad person; he genuinely believes that he will be successful and be able to pay everyone what he owes them, but he obviously can’t, as is made clear as it inevitably falls apart. It is funny and sad. ***1/2

Mary and the Witch’s Flower — see review here. ****

Step Sisters – This is a small cut above this usual sort of sports/dance movie since it at least tries to have something to say. I don’t know that it actually does; I might be giving it too little credit because I am really not the target audience, but at least it tried. It is well made, but largely familiar. ***

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters – I love Godzilla, but I didn’t like this at all. It is ugly and slow and mostly really boring. I realize more is coming, but this felt more like a mediocre first chapter than an actual movie. **

License to Wed — I like the people in this movie; Robin Williams, John Krasinski and Mandy Moore (I guess). But the movie misses the mark in just about every way, coming off as creepy and deranged rather than funny and relatable. *

A Futile and Stupid Gesture — This is so close to being really good, but it doesn’t quite come together. It feels like it is telling the story to people who already know it. It name drops a lot of people, but it doesn’t really tell you anything if you don’t already know to who those people are. It is still mostly amusing and well made, but it is a little too scattered. I guess that fits for the guy behind Animal House and Caddyshack. ***

Michael Clayton — This movie is really good, just an intense, perfectly thriller. I kind of want to write a full post about it. It is just so good. *****

TV

Psych — I don’t have much to say about Psych right now, other than that I am glad it is available streaming again. It is my ideal background noise show; I love it.

The Office — Another old favorite that rewatched chunks of. It holds up. Seasons 2 and 3 are some of the best TV seasons ever made, and the rest never falls below pretty good. The show never really develops the warmth of something like Parks and Rec, but it remains really funny and occasionally touching.

Top of the Lake — I heard good things about the second season of this, China Girl, but I decided to watch from the beginning. It’s good. A slower, more thoughtful show than I really wanted to be watching, but it is quality stuff. I don’t know that it really succeeds as a mystery, but it works as a character study. I’ll get to the second season sometime.

Runaways — Hulu’s entry into the superhero genre. Well, kind of. The comic this is based on is excellent; one of my favorites. They got the characters and the look right, but they changed up the story. The changes make sense in a lot of ways, the comic does sort of lose its focus after the parents are dealt with, but it fell into the trap that Marvel’s Netflix shows have increasingly fallen into; the show is impossibly padded. There are just long stretches were nothing happens or it repeats plot points. My complaint is essentially that in a show titles Runaways, the kids don’t actually run away until the last episode.

Great News — I will have a blog post about this show sometime, especially as it appears to have aired its last episode. It is a great follow up to 30 Rock, one of the greatest sitcoms ever made. This season was strong all the way through, though it did have the misfortune of following the sublime Good Place, which sucked up all the attention. This season fleshed out the secondary characters and brought its central story to what can be looked at as a satisfactory conclusion. This show deserved better.

One Day At a Time — The second season of this Netflix sitcom frustrated me like the last season. There is a lot that is good about it, but I doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. The show combines very old fashioned structure and format with very forward looking subject matter. The latter works for me, but I have never been a big fan of the former. My favorite shows have almost all been single camera sitcoms that had no laugh tracks. There is nothing wrong with that format, it just doesn’t really work for me. At least it is well written, unlike the similarly formatted Fuller House, which is a complete pile of shit.

Trollhunters — My love for Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water got me to go ahead and watch the cartoon he created for Netflix. It takes some time to get going and build its world, but it turns into a really solid adventure. It shares a lot with Stranger Things (not just a bully named Steve who isn’t as bad as he seems), playing out like that show explicitly aimed at kids. I mean that as a big compliment.

CW Superhero shows — Black Lightning is coming on strong, Legends still hasn’t returned, Supergirl is coming together and The Flash is managing to remain light even though Barry is in jail. I am going to have a longer write up of these shows soon, so I am not writing much here.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first movie from Studio Ponoc, a successor to Studio Ghibli.  A few years ago, Studio Ghibli made some announcements that suggested that, with Hayao Miyazaki’s latest retirement, they would cease producing feature films, prompting some of its members to go their own way. This film is their first release and it shows that they are mostly carrying on the spirit of the previous studio.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of Ghibli releases The Secret World of Arietty and When Marnie was There, directed Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It follows in that line of adaptations of children’s books that includes Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Arietty. It ends up feeling a bit like a Studio Ghibli greatest hits. That makes it sound worse than it is, this is frequently a touching and enthralling movie, but it never quite reaches the heights of its inspirations.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows Mary, a girl who feels like she is bad at everything, who moves in with her aunt in the country. She fights with a young boy her age and befriends a few stray cats before finding a mysterious flower in the woods. The flower gives her the ability to do magic. She finds a magic broom that whisks her away to a magic school in the sky, where things aren’t exactly what they seem.

I don’t want to spoil much of the movie, but it hits a lot of Ghibli notes. There is a young girl flying on a broom, like Kiki’s Delivery Service; there is a castle in the sky, like Castle in Sky. The movie also has echoes of films from Princess Mononoke to Ponyo.

The only real problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really have a resolution for its villains. They aren’t redeemed at all, but neither are they punished. They kind of learn the error of their ways, but it more that they just sort of fail. It is a real problem, the movie largely lack narrative stakes. It all just sort of happens.

Still, there is a lot to like in Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It ends up feeling much like Arietty; a little slight but otherwise enjoyable. It is a pleasant, enjoyable movie that doesn’t really have anything push it from being good to great.

****

Jan-March

It is time for the early year dumping ground, where studio toss out the junk movies that didn’t quite turn out while they try to direct viewers to the wide releases to last year’s award bait movies. As such, there really isn’t a lot in Jan-Feb that looks really good, honestly nothing in January, other than Liam Neeson’s The Commuter, looked interesting to me at all. Things pick up some in March and April before heading into what looks to be a packed summer. (At least they did before recent schedule adjustments.)

February

Black Panther – Marvel had an excellent year last year, and Black Panther appears to be distinctive visually and from a story perspective. Hopefully it is not just another

Annihilation – The only thing that gives me pause about this movie is that it is billed as horror. I don’t do horror. It is a weird sci-fi premise with a great cast. I could see this being really good. I could also see it being too scary for me. I guess we’ll see.

Game Night – I like the cast, the premise is interesting. I have doubts about its ability to pull the story off, but the trailer was good enough for me to give it a shot.

March

Red Sparrow – A spy movie starring Jennifer Lawrence is enough to get me interested. There are some other interesting people in the cast, like Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons, but I really don’t know a lot about it other than the trailer looked pretty good. It seems worth a shot.

Death Wish – I don’t know why I picked this out. The old Death Wish movie have aged like fine milk and I can’t remember the last time I saw Bruce Willis in something when he seemed like he cared. At least it appears to have terrible politics.

A Wrinkle in Time – It looks really interesting. I am not really familiar with the book, but this had a really good trailer. It is another of those YA adaptation that aren’t really for me, but I might be persuaded to give this a shot.

Tomb Raider – Video games movies have been, taken together, terrible. This one might be terrible as well. But I like Alicia Vikander, and Tomb Raider at least presents the possibility of some Indiana Jones like fun.

Pacific Rim: Uprising – The first movie was a delightful spectacle that showed it emptiness upon repeat viewings. I don’t mean that as a slam, I level the same complaint at The Avengers which I still really like, but while Pacific Rim was fun, it was about as deep as mud puddle. This movie seems to be at least bringing the spectacle again, so I am excited.

Ready Player One – It is directed Steven Spielberg, which makes it worth watching in my book, but the book is kind of the problem. I didn’t much care the novel this movie is based on. Plenty of movies have fixed problems with their source material, I hope this can turn that into something genuinely entertaining. I am not very optimistic.

April

Rampage – The Rock in a movie with a silly premise. It might be Baywatch, or it might be Jumanji. Hopefully it is more like the latter, or at least Central Intelligence, but it might also be crap. Still, The Rock is fighting giant monsters. Despite my reservations about

Super Troopers 2 – The first Super Troopers was a favorite of mine in high school. Returning to it more than 15 years later fills me with as much trepidation as it does joy. Once upon a time I loved this movie, but comedy sequels aren’t often good and I don’t know that my sense of humor is the same now. I’ll still be going to see, because I can’t not.