What I Watched August 2020

Movies

American Pickle – This whole movie rests on Seth Rogan, playing a modern character and his ancestor miraculously preserved in pickling vat for more than a century. It is about the past and present meeting and about honoring family. It is fine. ****

Class Action Park – I have some qualms about how positive this seemed about the subject of the documentary at times. This is a horrifying story presented as a “those darn rascals” romp. It has fun with all the crazy things people did and the wacky dangerous rides they made. Then it gets to the part where a handful of people died from the negligence and outright flouting of safety regulations. It is fun, but it feels a little glib when it gets to the actual consequences. ***1/2

Drunk Parents – God, this movie is terrible. Just nothing about it works, despite a cast that keeps bringing in ringers for a scene or two. It is just not funny. *

The Sleepover – This honestly works better than it should. A lot of it is stupid kid stuff that maybe kids will enjoy, but the rest works pretty well. Ken Marino, always welcome, shines as a somewhat dim, well-meaning dad who doesn’t quite know what is going on. He is a lot of fun. ***

Project Power – This feels like Netflix trying to jump on the blockbuster train and it doesn’t quite work. Stealing from another review (if I could remember I’d link to it), the movie tills some fertile narrative soil and proceeds to plant nothing. It sets up a lot of interesting ideas to explore with superheroes, and then tells a pretty conventional action movie story. Still, it is well done enough, more disappointing for missed potential than actually being bad. ***

TV

Umbrella Academy S2 – A new season, a new time period, but the same dysfunction. At the end of last season the family was tossed back to 1960’s Dallas. Unfortunately, they all landed there years apart, with no knowledge that the rest of the team made it. So they all go their own separate ways to deal with the fallout from last season. It is mostly some good stuff. You want to see them get things together and get it at least a little figured out, but the magic of the show would be lost if the team operated with any sort of coordination. Since this season doesn’t really have to introduce everyone it seems to have more time to let them all bounce off of each other. It is really good.

Last Chance U S5 – Less completely dysfunctional as the last season, but still as compulsively watchable. Not much to say.

Cursed S1 – This one kind of missed the mark. It isn’t really badly done, but it feels a little muddled. I also hate how it uses Arthuriana. Some things feel like legitimate counterparts to the actual legends, some parts feel like they wrote this story and then just haphazardly added an Arthurian name to a character. Still, it feels like more of a near miss that a complete misfire. There are some good and interesting things here. If it gets a second season, hopefully it can refine those things.

Teenage Bounty Hunters S1 – I am not sure what to make of this. Like I honestly don’t know if it is good or not. There is a lot of soap opera nonsense, but also some good character work. It has a laugh out loud moment or two every episode, but other parts just fall flat. I think I liked it? There is some really good stuff here. This show deals with Christianity better than most shows, or at least in a way that is familiar to me as a person who went to a close enough to southern high school. The Christian doctrine you are taught is treated as a given, even if the kids don’t follow or really even understand it.

High Score – I feel bad, because this is a great story for people who are not experts in video game history. It presents a handful of important moments from that history and explains them effectively. It adds in some important and less well known personal stories. But despite being a big fan of this kind of history, this is really not for me, because I knew most of this already. In many cases in more depth. Still, it is very good for what it is.

Columbo S9 & 10 – A full Columbo post is in the works. Columbo looks older with this return episodes, but the show is just as good as ever. There are some really interesting episodes here, and I don’t think I’d ever get tired of watching Peter Falk.

Doom Patrol S2 – I absolutely loved the first season of Doom Patrol, but season 2 seems to have gotten a little lost. Maybe that is because it lost its season finale due to coronavirus. Perhaps that last episode would have tied all the disparate threads of this season together into a coherent story. That is possible; the characters’s storylines all share some common themes. I still don’t think it would be enough to pull this season up to the level of the first, and that episode does not currently exist. Still, there is a lot to love about this show. All the fundamentals remain strong.

Stargirl S1- I was ready to be disappointed by this show. I really like the comic it is based on and honestly, this is the first time one of my absolute favorite comics characters gets a show. It mostly knocked it out of the park. The two leads, Brec Bassinger as the title character and Luke Wilson as her step-dad, are great. It does a good job of building the characters and their relationships. It might have jumped into the JSA stuff a bit too fast, not giving quite enough time to either the team or to the Whitmore family, but it mostly just worked for me. I can’t wait for season 2.

Inuyasha – Man, was this a throwback to Freshman year at college. Every night I would watch adult swim, from the American comedy shows through the anime. Inuyasha was never a favorite, but it was watchable. It still is. Effective and mostly fun, if never outstanding. I ploughed through the first 50 or so episodes and mostly enjoyed it. I don’t know if I am going to keep going, but this was fun.

Wizards: Tales of Arcadia – This Arcadia series, not just a miniseries, focuses on magic and brings in some time travel. This superseries continues to be very entertaining. This feels a little rushed, but what is here is pretty great. This one ties in more closely with Trollhunters, leaving 3Below feeling a little like the odd man out. I need to write a full wrap up on these series, hopefully before the movie that should tie it all together comes out.

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