What I Watched October 2017

Movies

Blade Runner 2049 – read review here. *****

An American Werewolf in London – I feel like I should like this more than I did. It feels like some great monster make up with a bit of a movie put in around it. It builds just fine, but then it just sort of ends without really resolving anything. ***1/2

Batman & Bill – An excellent documentary about how Bill Finger, the creator of the greater part of Batman and related characters, finally got credit for his creation. It is kind of heartbreaking how badly Bill Finger got screwed over by DC Comics and to a greater degree Bob Kane, the man usually named the creator of Batman, but whose actual contribution past an initial sketch is somewhat minimal. It is a great story and well worth watching. ****

The Addams Family – Still thoroughly excellent. Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd are both great. ****1/2

Addams Family Values – Even better than the first one. It does away with the whole plot about the fake Fester and just lets the family go wild. It is so much fun. *****

Colossal – This is a pretty clever take on the monster movie. When Anne Hathaway’s character walks through a certain park, she materializes across the globe as a giant monster. It is some kind of metaphor for the destructiveness of her drinking problem. Then a “nice guy” played by Jason Sudeikis uses and exploits this power. It is pretty great. ****1/2

Godzilla 2000 – This is the Godzilla movie Japan made in response, more or less, to the dismal American version. It is a lot of fun, though I don’t know if it’s goofy translation helps or hurts. It makes the whole thing very silly on its face, but Godzilla is pretty silly in general. Still, there is a lot to love about this movie. ****

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – A dramedy starring Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller and a dysfunctional family and how each of a man’s three children relate to him. It is mostly touching and well made. It is kind of upsetting to see what Sandler is capable of when he is trying and how little he must be trying in most of his own movies. Still, this movie is excellent. ****1/2

The Saint – This is actually a pilot for a potential tv show, and it watches like it. In that context, it isn’t really that bad. It spends a lot of time setting up characters and situations and leaves things rather open ended, which is desirable when goal it to set things up for six to twenty more episodes, but as a movie it is fairly unsatisfying. It feels like one episode of a mediocre tv show. **

The Babysitter – A horror comedy that hid Netflix just in time for Halloween. It is fine. It is kind of a reverse of how slashers normally work, since all the teenagers are the villains and they slowly get weeded out. It doesn’t quite land as well as it could though. Maybe that is just because I have no real interest in the underlying genre. ***

The Princess Bride – I got to see this in a theater for the 30th anniversary. It is still one of my absolutely favorite movies and it looks great on the big screen. *****

Battle of the Sexes – read review here. ***1/2

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women – read review here. ****1/2

Byzantium – I had this as a movie to watch in a preview I wrote years ago, but I never got around to until this year. I loved it. It is kind of an unconventional Vampire movie, more about the personal lives of its vampires than horror. I think it really works. Gemma Arterton is woman from Victorian times that has become a vampire. She was, and still is, a prostitute. With her is her daughter, also a vampire, who is still going to school. It deals a lot with the history of how the characters got where they are, though there are gaps, and with how they are dealing with life now. Half supernatural thriller, half period piece. I thought it all just worked. *****

Hugo – This feels like an experiment with 3D filmmaking that only mostly worked. It is still mostly enjoyable, but it might also be my least favorite Scorsese movie. There is a lot of wonder and magic, but it kind of stuck between being a pure kids movie and a more mature movie. It’s well made, but it didn’t really do anything for me. ****

The Departed – This, on the other hand, might be my favorite Scorsese. It is incredibly tense and just keeps moving. I assume everyone’s seen it and knows how great it is. *****

Lay the Favorite – I loved the work of Rebecca Hall in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, so I went ahead and watched this movie she starred in a few years ago with Bruce Willis. It’s fine, I guess. There really isn’t a lot to it. Willis is a professional gambler, she works as an aid for him, then with a much shadier bookie. It’s mildly amusing, but mostly pointless. **1/2

The World’s End – As usual, immediately after watching this it is my favorite of Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. I think in the long run, it is Hot Fuzz, but it is hard to say no to this movie after watching it. It is nearly perfect. *****

The Love Guru – I have long been morbidly curious about this movie. I am generally a fan of Mike Myers, but this thing is as ill-conceived as it appears. There isn’t a single part of it that works and it is confounding that at no point did anyone takes a step back and consider how misbegotten the whole thing is. 0 stars

Godzilla v Destroyah – I wanted to watch more Godzilla movies, and hulu has most of them up. This one starts with Godzilla already in meltdown and then a monster created by the bomb that killed the original Godzilla showing up. It is a solid ending to the 80’s and 90’s series of Godzilla movies. ****

TV

Mindhunter – Maybe the next Netflix hit, I don’t know. It is a very interesting take on a mix of true-ish crime and a police procedural. It has its characters delving into the minds of serial killers to learn how they tick. It is mostly very interesting, but something is keeping me from moving this show out of like and into love territory.

Outlander S3 – Season 3 of Outlander has made good progress on a difficult road. It started with its two protagonists divided by time, and now even now that they are back together it has to work to get them actually together after a 20 year separation. I really like the book this season is based on, but the book has a lot more room to deal with issues than the show does. It is also introducing an almost entirely new supporting cast after the purge at the end of last season, where just about everybody but the two protagonists died, and even those who didn’t aged from children to adults. I am still finding it highly enjoyable and I eagerly await seeing how the back half of this season turns out.

Good News – In many ways, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the continuation of 30 Rock, the best sitcom ever made. After watching the first season and a half of Great News, I think it has a near equal claim to that legacy. It starts out kind of rough, but by the back end of the first season’s 10 episodes it has found its footing and its voice. Then season 2 kept up the momentum, and has been largely excellent so far. I don’t know the odds of it getting past the 13 episodes ordered this season, but I am glad to watch whatever we get.

Bob’s Burgers S7 – I got hulu, and this was one of the first thing I got on watching. This show has slowly but surely worked its way up my list of all-time favorites. Season 7 continues the show’s strong run. There is something essentially charming about this collection of weirdos and the show keeps finding new ways to play them off of each other.

Stranger Things – I have a lot to say about this season, enough that I want to write a full blog post about the show, even though I know I won’t have time to do that. I’ll say that this season perfectly builds on what came before it while adding just enough new stuff. There are some missteps, but overall it is simply excellent. I don’t know that I’ve ever identified more with a character than Bob Newby. And Steve continued his evolution from 80’s movie jock douche to legitimate cool guy. The fact that he does it without ever really succeeding at what he is doing make it all the more remarkable.

CW Superhero Shows – The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are back (so is Arrow, but until I get my CW app issues settled I’m not watching it) and all of them have returned in good form. Supergirl is probably the weakest so far this season, but that is mostly because Legends and Flash have come out swinging, while Supergirl expects us to care that Mon-El is gone. I liked the chemistry between Chris Wood and Benoist, I was indifferent to the actual romance between the two characters. Making Supergirl mopey because he’s gone does nothing for me. Meanwhile, the Flash has regained its full season 1 form so far, with fun character dynamics and super-powered baddies of the week. And Legends continues to fully embrace the silliness. These shows are doing it for me this season.

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What I Watched September 2017

Movies

Little Evil – A fun little horror comedy from the guy behind Tucker and Dale vs Evil, another fun little horror comedy. This one has Adam Scott as the stepfather of the Anti-Christ.  It is no Shaun of the Dead, but it is reasonably enjoyable. ***1/1

#realityhigh – This is Mean Girls without the smarts and with a lot more YouTube.  I am not the target audience for this movie, so I don’t feel I can judge it too harshly.  Maybe some of this crap is relatable to kids.  But I have seen movies do this same thing and do it much better.  **

Gangs of New York – There is a lot going on here. I don’t think it is Scorsese’s best, but there is a lot of to like. It is a crazy expansive look at New York in the middle of the 19th century that is largely well acted and plotted. ****1/2

My Man Godfrey – This is a pretty excellent entry in one of my favorite lost genres, the screwball comedy. A man living in a dump is hired by an insane rich family to be their butler.  Except the man, Godfrey, is not just a homeless man but secretly very rich and is working as a butler for kicks, I guess.  It is a lot of fun. *****

Kingsman The Golden Circle – read review here. *

Enter the Warriors Gate – This is The Forbidden Kingdom, not a particularly great movie, without Jackie Chan or Jet Li, that movies two big draws.  It isn’t the worst, but it is far from being actually good.  **

Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind – This isn’t my favorite Ghibli movie, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it on the big screen.  It plays.  It is the prototypical Miyazaki movie; it has all the elements that his movies would become known for, but everything feels stretched just a little bit thin.  Maybe it is just his other movies do parts of this one better than they are done here. For instance, if you just want the aerial action, Castle in the Sky and Porco Rosso are better. Still, this movie is well worth seeing. *****

TV

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – This show is hilarious and fun, but it can also be hard to watch.  The main character continually makes wrong choice after wrong choice and while it is almost always funny, it is also pretty sad.  This is an excellent show. I love the songs especially.

The Good Place – This show is amazing.  The set-up, a bad person getting wrongly sent to ‘not heaven’ is pretty great.  When the other shoe drops on the premise, it makes everything that came before it even better.

30 Rock – I was going to write this show up again, because it is my go to going to sleep viewing choice and it was leaving Netflix. But then I learned that it was just moving to Hulu and Hulu would only cost me $6 bucks a month and has enough stuff to watch other than 30 Rock to make it worth it to me.  So I still have access to 30 Rock to put me to sleep at night.

American Vandal – This show is a perfect combination of true crime documentaries and stupid high school kids.  A stoner is accused of spray-painting dicks on all of his teacher’s cars.  One kid from the AV club investigates to get to the bottom of who did the dicks.  It is quite the roller coaster ride, with the complete focus on things that are ultimately not that important.  This is really good.

The Tick – The new Tick show is good.  It is still the Tick, though a more serious take on the character.  The older show played the same subjects largely for laughs, this one takes plays them for more drama. And also laughs.  I like the old show better, but I will keep watching this one.

What I Watched August 2017

Movies

The Dark Tower – read review here. **1/2

Opening Night – Topher Grace plays a failed actor working as a stage manager for a musical.  This is all about the struggles backstage as they get ready for opening night.  It is a reasonably well made movie. It is just funny and charming enough to get by during its hour and a half run time.  I like Topher Grace; I like several other members of the cast.  It is fine, but forgettable. ***1/2

Logan Luckyread review here. ****1/2

Naked – A take on Groundhogs Day where a man has to keep reliving his disastrous wedding day until he finally gets things right.  I can’t say I hated it, but it never did enough with its premise.  It wasn’t touching or funny enough to really be worthwhile.   **

The Incredible Jessica James – This is a pretty solid indie comedy/drama starring The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams.  It works.  It is funny and charming.  Definitely worth watching.  ***1/2

What Happened to Monday – This movie isn’t bad.  I liked it.  But it is really disappointing how much it squanders its premise.  It stars Noomi Rapace as seven identical sisters in a world that has a one child rule.  So each sibling is named after the day of the week they get to go outside in the identity of the one child. It is a neat concept, but the movie pretty much immediately starts taking sisters off the board in favor of a fairly standard chase movie. There is just so much unrealized potential here.  When it plays with that premise it is really enjoyable. ***

The Founder – This is the perfect American story, about how if you work hard enough there is nothing you can’t steal.  It’s itself up as a sort of Ray Kroc hagiography, but lets you see the complete emptiness inside of the man.  He cares for no one and nothing other than himself, sparing no regard for the people he destroys along the way. It is just great.  *****

Beautiful Creatures – I watched this to see Alden Ehrenriech after loving him in Hail, Caesar! This is clearly a movie made to capitalize on the success of Twilight and it isn’t the best.  However, it has enough fun performers, like Ehrenriech and Jeremy Irons and Voila Davis and Emmy Rossum, having fun with the movie that it remains watchable. **1/2

TV

Ozark – The show hits the ground running, but it takes a little time to warm up anyway.  Many have compared it to Breaking Bad, but it starts in a much different place, a place where the protagonist, Jason Bateman’s Marty Bird, has already made the decision to work for the bad guys.  Other than the fact that his job is illegal, he remains a mostly forthright guy.  There is trouble with his marriage and he is in no sense of the word a good guy, but it is endlessly entertaining to see his reaction to trouble being to simply admit the truth.  I don’t know how good the show actually is, but I do know that I kept watching until it was over.

Friends from College – This show is miserable.  It has an excellent cast, but they play the least likeable/least funny bunch of ingrates I’ve ever seen in what is supposed to be a comedy.  You can do comedy with unlikeable, terrible people, Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been making hay with for years, but that show doesn’t try to make you care about characters this fundamentally awful.  This show thinks its viewers will care about what happens to these goblins.  It also is only rarely funny.  It is really just the worst.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later – I doubt I’ll have the time, but I’d like to write a fuller review of this, or a full review of both season of Wet Hot and the movie. This show is brilliant. It has a great cast and is incredibly funny.  Also Chris Meloni steals the show.

Voltron S3 – This show keeps getting better as it doles out little chunks of goodness.  Knowing that the people behind it have a plan or roadmap for how things will progress makes it easier to go through with the episodes as they come.  Still, this is a lot of fun.  Good action, good character work and some good sci-fi concepts.  I’m not going completely crazy about it, but it maintains a very high quality level throughout.  I just wish they’d release more at a time.

The Get Down Part 2 – I am going to miss this nonsense spectacle of a show.  It is so big and so grand, but also muddled and inconsistent.  It is just too much, which is both likely why it cost so much and got the axe and why I kept watching it despite its flaws. It didn’t quite work, but I’m glad that I got to experience it.

Little Witch Academia – It has been an unfortunately long time since I got into an anime. I just haven’t really attempted to do so, and the few I have checked out haven’t really clicked with me. Also at the risk of enraging purists, I don’t have the time and inclination to read while watching cartoons. Little Witch Academia, a charming mix of Harry Potter and Kiki’s Delivery Service, is pretty entertaining. It isn’t the deepest show out there, but it has some nice animation and is free of the creepiness that tends to infect these sorts of shows.  It is all around a good time and worth checking out on Netflix.

Defenders – Had I written this immediately after seeing it I think I would have been more positive. Now that I have had a week or two to let it settle, I am feeling less charitable. All of the Marvel Netflix shows have shared a problem: they are 13 episodes long, but don’t have 13 episodes worth of story.  Even the best of them (Jessica Jones for my money) feels pretty saggy in the middle.  Defenders is only 8 episodes, which should have done wonders to fix that problem.  Except somehow the show has the same ratio of content to filler as the longer shows.  This is a superhero team up show that doesn’t even start the team up portion until halfway through the series. It isn’t like there is a lot happening in those first few episodes; it takes three full episodes to introduce its four protagonists. I don’t know. There is mild amusement here, but it doesn’t leave any sort of positive impression.

White Gold – This show has its moments, but it is stuck between showing awful people be awful and trying to make them characters.  Mostly it works, there is a lot of humor here, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Dear White People – Often powerful, often funny, occasionally a little bit stuck in between. This is not a show that is afraid to be messy, but the message generally shines through. It is really, really good.

What I Watched July 2017

Movies

Nocturnal Animals – I don’t really know what to make of this movie. It opens with deliberately off putting imagery that is almost completely disconnected from the rest of the movie before starting its various narratives. Half of the movie follows Amy Adams as she reads the manuscript of her ex-husband’s novel, with some flashback scenes to their marriage and its dissolution.  The other half follows the plot of the novel.  The novel sections are vastly more compelling than the others.  It is a mostly straightforward crime/revenge story, with Michael Shannon as a cop dying of cancer who agrees to help a husband get revenge for his murdered wife and child.  The other thread is trying to do something more, but it even in its tale of low key revenge I couldn’t help but think about the details it has to elide.  It sets up Adams’ character as living an empty and unhappy existence. One that a possible reconnection with her ex could change. But it elides the whole life she has lived in the 20 years since she last saw her husband, which included raising a child and building a successful career.  I think the movie wants us to side with the husband and his raising and dashing of her hopes, but I’m not sure about that.  Nocturnal Animals is a well made but largely cold movie.  It pushes the viewer away, making you want to analyze instead of feel. I can’t quite sort out my feelings toward it, but there is clear quality here.  ****

Ocean’s Eleven – This is a perfectly slick, fun little caper.  It really does feel like an awfully small movie for all the star power it brings to bear.  It isn’t one of my favorite movies, but there really isn’t anything I can point to that I dislike about it.  ****

Man of Steel – I watched this and its sequel for something I was writing that probably won’t happen. (Maybe in the lead up to Justice League.) I am ever frustrated by how wrong this movie gets some things despite how right or close to right it gets others.  If it didn’t have that absurdly destructive last act maybe people would remember how truly heroic Superman is early. Maybe if it didn’t screw up Pa Kent so badly I could watch it without making a face.  ***

Batman v Superman – I like this movie more each time I watch it.  I know that my reaction is the opposite of just about everybody else’s, I don’t care, I greatly enjoy this movie.  Especially the extended cut, which actually lets the plot make sense.  Like with Man of Steel, I have more to say on this, including diving into the religious underpinnings of the story, that I hope to have done before Justice League hits. ****

Land Before Time – For some reason the Netflix version of this movie has about 10 minutes cut out of its already short runtime, including a line that proved inexplicably memorable for my family.  It feels really jumpy as it is on Netflix right now, especially compared to my memories of it.  Maybe I’ll find the full version some time to see if it holds up. ** (for this version)

Spider-Man Homecoming – read review here.  ***1/2

Baby Driver – read review here. *****

Valerian And the City of a Thousand Planets – read review here. ****1/2

Atomic Blonde – read review here.  ***

The Prestige – This was one of the few Nolan movies that I had never seen all the way through. I had seen most of it, but never from start to finish. It is very good.  *****

Rocky – This is one of my absolute favorite movies. Each time I watch it only reinforces how much much I love this movie.  It is just about perfect. *****

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – I watched this again and I liked even more the second time. This is the tense sort of drama that that non-action scenes of Atomic Blonde was going for, but this movie does it right.  ****1/2

TV

One Day at A Time – This is a very old fashioned show with very forward thinking subject matter. It deals with a lot of progressive issues in a show that is very much styled like a 70’s multi-camera sitcom.  It works. The format is the hardest part for me, it absolutely nails what is both great and terrible about those shows.  I find the very forced and artificial set ups of those shows to be pretty grating and One Day at A Time is no different.  But there is something to be said about the largely episodic nature of this show.  It also does a solid job of foregrounding issues that should be discussed in ways that don’t get in the way of the jokes.  This is an admirable show done in a fashion that I don’t much like.

The Ranch S2 Part 1 – This is still comfortably terrible show, but its jokes about drunk driving got old a long time ago.  Honestly, even the appeal of a cast that I largely like is starting to wear thin with me.  I don’t know if I’ll be back for the next batch of episodes.  I like Sam Elliott and Debra Winger and I like Kutcher and Masterson together, but this show needs better plots and jokes if I am going to stick with it any further.

Castlevania – This has gotten largely positive reviews and I can’t say I agree with them at all. It is competently produced, but it takes the mostly goofy stylings of the Castlevania series and turns it into try-hard edgey nonsense.  I guess that is a little harsh, but it is only four episodes and it doesn’t even start to get good until more than halfway through the third episode. Hopefully the next batch of episodes is more like the second half here.

Trailer Park Boys S11 – I think I am just about done with Trailer Park Boys. I don’t really think the show has gotten worse, I’ve just seen enough. Maybe when the next season hits I’ll feel differently, but as much as I enjoyed parts of this season it really felt like a chore to watch at times.  This is the same show it has always been, for better or worse.

Bosch S1 – I read a few of the books a few months ago and thought I would try out the show. It’s good.  A little slow, but well done. It takes the cop procedural formula and turns it into something like a prestige show.  It stretches cases along the season, but still nails that mystery feeling.  It contains just enough from books I’ve read to throw me off, which is good.  I really want to get to the next couple of seasons, because this was good.

What I Watched in June 2017

Movies

War of the Worlds – This was a Spielberg movie that I hadn’t seen. It seems a lot like working through 9/11 trauma, but it is also some solid science fiction spectacle. I don’t think this is one of Spielberg’s best, but it is pretty good. ****

Wonder Woman – read review here. *****

Fire & Ice – A Ralph Bakshi rotoscoped fantasy movie based on Frank Frazetta drawings. I like Frazetta, but I am fairly certain at this point that Bakshi is just not for me. **

Revenge – The late Tony Scott directs and Kevin Costner stars in this mediocre and heavy movie. There are solid points and some great shots, but it is mostly just slow and painful. **1/2

Harlock – Decent looking, this new take on Space Pirate Captain Harlock seems determined to downplay really interesting things in favor of tired clichés. It was so close to being so much better. **

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – read about it here. It is fine, I guess. It lacks the spark of the first three but isn’t completely terrible. ***

The Good, the Bad and the Weird – This is an utter delight. Like the title suggests it is a take on the Leone classic, but it is also very much it’s own thing. A thief and a killer are after a supposed treasure, followed relentlessly by a bounty hunter. It may be set in Asia, but it is absolutely a western and one with some pretty terrific shoot outs. It is just a blast from start to finish. ****

Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift – I know I rated this with the rest of the series a few months ago, but this was the first time I actually watched it from start to finish. It’s okay. It is not really the black sheep of the series some people make it out to be, but neither is it on the level of something like Fast 5. ***

The Hollow Point – I watched this for Patrick Wilson and he’s fine, but this is a really dark new western that really doesn’t have much to recommend it. Other than Ian McShane’s performance, which is delightful. **

Kung Fu Killer – Following Fthismovie’s Junesploitation, I needed a Kung Fu movie to watch and this Donnie Yen vehicle was one of the ones I hadn’t seen that was on Netflix. It is pretty good. It is kind of a police procedural that follows a martial arts master as he helps the police track down a serial killer that is targeting other martial arts masters. There are several good fights and a decent mystery. It is a lot of fun. ****

Shimmer Lake – A heist movie shot in reverse. It is occasionally entertaining and compelling, but the twist seemed obvious to me pretty early and there wasn’t enough else there to really pull me in. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. **1/2

In the Shadow of Iris – A French thriller about a fake kidnapping that appears to go horribly wrong. The big problem with this movie is that all of the characters look alike. That turns out to be a plot point for two of them, but the other two just look too similar for no reason. Also, the subtitles on Netflix leave the screen faster than I can read them. Still, it’s not badly made. ***

Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower – This is framed at an uplifting look at a young person making a political stand against a great power, but it ends with his dreams mostly being crushed and China doing whatever it wants with Hong Kong. Still, it is a well-made film about an interesting piece of history. ***1/2

The Jungle Book – This is the 1994 one directed by Steven Sommer and starring Jason Scott Lee and Cary Elwes. I loved this movie as a kid and it kind of holds up. There are some really bad effects, and the questionable casting of a Chinese/Hawaiian man as an Indian, but it is also a solid adventure. It isn’t as good as Sommer’s The Mummy, but I still enjoyed it. ***

The Ghost and the Shadow – A movie about the true story of some man eating lions that can’t decide if it wants to be a drama or Jaws on the savannah. It is fine. **1/2

Nobody Speak – a close look at the Gawker v Hulk Hogan lawsuit that turns into a chilling look at threats faced by the free press in America. While I am sure it was compelling while they were making it, it seems all the more vital when the shitbag in chief is working to further attacks on the press. ***1/2

Counterpunch – a look at the state of American boxing, both amateur and professional. It is a pretty solid documentary about a subject I don’t really care about. ***

iBoy – a kind of pseudo superhero movie where a young kid get a cell phone smashed into his head and gets special powers. I found it incredibly dull if not particularly poorly made. **

You Get Me – Fatal Attraction for teens, but it is kind of a mess and completely unable to make its characters seem relatable or human. *1/2

Okja – review coming soon *****

Baby Driver – review here. *****

TV

GLOW – This show is a near perfect dramedy. It is even caught between drama and comedy in episode length, with each episode running slightly longer than the usual comedy half hour, but not as long as an hour long show, even figuring on the 46 minute running time of most network dramas. Here is a show about making a show about wrestling. It stars Allison Brie and Marc Maron, but other members of the ensemble start to flesh out their characters before the all too brief run of episodes is over. This show is just completely watchable. It does pretty much everything right.

Fargo S3 – I wanted to write a full post about this, but I don’t know that I can. This is the weakest season of the show, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. Season 2 of Fargo is an out and out and masterpiece and Season 1 is really good. Season 3 takes some big swings, and not all of them pay off. While I found it enthralling moment to moment, it didn’t really add up to a coherent experience. Some of the thematic threads took too long to make themselves evident and others only somewhat paid off. There is a deliberate coldness to this season, with the characters, and Carrie Coon’s Gloria Burgle especially, isolated from the others. We don’t really get the showdowns between the good guys and the bad guys, at least not until the last couple of episodes. A lot of that was very deliberate. Season 2 was a Western and played out like it, this season was something else. Something slower and more contemplative. The show spends most of the season wrestling with the nature and importance of truth, but it can’t quite pull it all together in the end. Maybe I’ll think differently of this season when I rewatch it, but right now I consider it a brilliant failure.

Superhero TV Round Up

Okay, so all of the CW shows are wrapping up their seasons and it seems like time to check in with the glut of superhero shows that are currently being made.  DC added Powerless on NBC this year to go along with Gotham on Fox, Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow returning to the CW and Supergirl moving from CBS to the CW.  Meanwhile, Marvel still has Agents of SHIELD pumping away on ABC while they added Iron Fist on Netflix and Fox brought the X-Men-ish Legion to FX.  That is a crap ton of superhero related TV and I didn’t even try to watch a lot of it.  But I do want to talk about the more than half that I did watch.  Here they are from best to worst, followed by the shows I didn’t watch.

Legion – Legion was far and away the best superhero show that aired over the last six or so months, though it only barely counts as a superhero show. It takes a few characters and ideas from X-Men, but it is very much its own thing. And it is a good, trippy thing. Instead of being beholden to either the X-Men movie continuity (good luck) or the comics continuity (hahahaha), Legion takes the characters it wants to use and crafts a wholly original story around them. It works pretty well, though I think I need to rewatch it all to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. Still, it is really good stuff.

Legends of Tomorrow – The first season of this show was kind of a mess; a grab bag of fun characters and bad ideas.  This season they jettisoned the weakest and strongest parts of the cast (the Hawks and Vandal Savage the former, Captain Cold the latter) and refocused the show into something really enjoyable. The ensemble feels stronger, the sense of purpose is greater and it was just all around a much improved show.  The time hopping served more of a purpose and the characters felt more comfortable in their roles.  It is still the cheesiest thing, but it nailed that perfect state of enjoyable goofiness.

Supergirl – Supergirl went through quite the transformation this season, moving from CBS to the CW and having to deal with the lowered budget and lost cast members.  It also came back a stronger show in its second season, with a better sense of identity and some of the odd parts sanded off.  For instance, there is a stronger emphasis on the DEO instead of it being kind of cordoned off until needed.  There are growing pains, like how abruptly Kara shrugs off her new Jimmy Olsen relationship and starts one with the charming, if empty, Mon-El.  It was just a fun season, albeit one without a strong through line for the show or its title character.

The Flash – The Flash’s third season was an odd one. The central storyline was a non-starter, repeating similar beats to the first two seasons to much diminished effect. However, many of the individual episodes of this season were really, really good. It also spent too much time with the doom and gloom of Iris’s impending death hanging over the season.  There is still a strong foundation for this show and most episodes are good enough, the writers just need to do a better job of building on the show’s strengths.

Arrow – This was a solid bounce back season for Arrow. It didn’t come anywhere close to the great second season, but it is a step up from last year’s mess. I stopped watching after the crossover, but I caught up with the rest of it on Netflix. I liked seeing some lesser known DC characters get some time; we see Mr. Terrific and Ragman and freaking Wild Dog. Wild Dog on TV every week, the world has gone crazy. The flashbacks were still a problem, even with Dolph Lundgren, and the ongoing nonsense with Black Canary is a head scratcher, but otherwise it was a solid season.

Iron Fist – Yeah, this show is a mess. I love the character Iron Fist, but this show couldn’t even get the martial arts right, with a few exceptions. It is clearly made in the prestige drama mode, but it fails on pretty much every level. I am really souring on these Netflix Marvel shows. Daredevil S1 was great, as was Jessica Jones, but Daredevil S2 was a mess and Luke Cage was a great set up with about half the story it needed to fill its 13 episodes. Iron Fist has all the problems of the stuff that preceded it without the strengths. I am still looking forward to Defenders, almost as much because it is about half as long as the rest of these series.

Agents of SHIELD – I hear that this season was pretty good. I can’t bring myself to care. Maybe one day on Netflix.

Gotham – This show lost me in the first season and everything I hear about it tells me I won’t like it. Still, it is currently on Netflix, so you never know.

Powerless – I only watched one episode of this; it feels like it was tested and adjusted to hell and back. The episode was occasionally funny, but not funny enough for me to do more than wait for it to be streaming. Unfortunately, NBC has cancelled it. It seemed like the kind of show that could have a Parks & Recreation like season 2 turn around. It was a good concept.

These shows, with the exceptions of Iron Fist and Powerless, will be returning next year. (Iron Fist will likely return, but wouldn’t bet on seeing it before late 2019) By next year, I of course mean this fall.  Also, The Defenders, the capstone to Marvel’s Netflix shows hits in August, with The Punisher following at some point this year. Also Fox is adding another X-Men show in The Gifted and ABC has a new Inhumans series coming in September. At some point Syfy is going to start a Krypton series starring Superman’s grandpappy. And superheroes continue their takeover of the CW with Black Lightning. Honestly, this is likely the last post like this I’ll do. I can’t keep up with all this and I really don’t want to keep up with it. It was fun when it was just Arrow, Daredevil, and The Flash (along with the ignore Agents of SHIELD). Now that the list of shows is swelling up to ten or more, I am checking out. I’ll still watch my CW DC nonsense, they are good trash, and I will keep watching Netflix stuff because I have a sickness, but otherwise I am going to a lot choosier with what I watch. As long as Noah Hawley is doing it I’ll keep watching Legion, but I’m out on The Gifted and Inhumans barring excellent reviews. The same goes for other stuff on the horizon. I guess anyway, we’ll see this fall.

What I Watched May 2017

Movies

Baywatch – read review here. **

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – read review here.  ***

War Machine – A satire of the US’s handling of the war in Afghanistan that can’t maintain a consistent tone. Still, there are scenes when it is spot on; the movie is just too inconsistent. **1/2

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – read review here.  ****1/2

Small Crimes – I kind of really hated this movie.  It is a bleak look at bad people doing bad things until it costs them.  Like a Coen Brothers movie without the humor.  *1/2

The Handmaiden – A mind bending thriller with a couple thieves looking to steal an heiress fortune, but who’s conning who?  It is amazing. *****

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – read reviewish thing here.  *****

Coin Heist – a group of private school kids plan a heist to save their school after the Superintendent embezzled all the schools money.  It has a decent sense of character and plot, but it isn’t anything mind blowing.  ***

Casting JonBenet – Kind of a strange documentary that covers the death of JonBenet Ramsay by pretending to cast for a movie about the killing and asking local residents what they know or think about it.  It is an interesting experiment at the very least. ***

Take the 10 – Two punky young men do whatever it takes to go to a concert. I guess it is a comedy, but I never laughed.  *1/2

Handsome: A Netflix Murder Mystery – This feels like a TV movie, in a good way.  It is the simplest premise; it is just a murder mystery comedy. It is a detective investigating a crime, with jokes and the mystery given equal weight.  I loved it. ***1/2

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – read review here. ****

Tramps – A nothing kind of indie movie about small time crooks doing a very small time crime and maybe falling in love.  Ehhh. **

Mindhorn – This was a fun one. In the 90’s Richard Thorncroft was the star of a popular detective show, Mindhorn, but since then his star has fallen. When a delusion murder suspect wants to talk to Detective Mindhorn, Richard tried to use it as a springboard to return to fame. It is mostly jokes about how forgotten and delusional Richard is. I found it very charming. ****

Sahara – A middling animated movie about a couple of snakes. A rich snake girl and a snake boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The rest is as interesting and original as that.  **

Blame! – A 3D anime movie about the far future when humanity has created a super-advanced city but that city stopped recognizing them as residents and killed most of them. A couple of newcomers to an enclave of survivors starts a desperate attempt to wrest control of the city back.  It is fine.  ***1/2

Burning Sands – A ponderous look at hazing in specifically black fraternities, though it doesn’t seem especially different from any other fraternity.  I did not like or enjoy it, but I am not sure it is bad. It is just not for me.  **

The Most Hated Woman in America – This is a biopic about the life, and mostly the death, of Madeline Murray O’Hair, the woman who got prayer banned in school.  It is tonally all over the place, playing large parts for comedy in a movie that ends (spoilers for real life) with her and her son and granddaughter being murdered.  It’s just not very good.  *1/2

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – Still a genuinely great swashbuckler.  It works some kind of miracle and gets just about everything right. I’ll have more to say in the near future.  *****

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Much more ambitious than its predecessor and it starts to sag under that ambition.  Still, it is a largely enjoyable affair.  Again, more soon.  ****

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – There is something in how just go for broke this movie is that I can’t help but enjoy it.  Again, more soon. ***½

TV

The Crown – This is a sumptuously produced Netflix show that doesn’t really have a point. It shows the early years in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It is all well done, but the story being told is simply not all that interesting.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S3 – Kimmy Schmidt is still generally really great, though its problems remain consistent. Every episode still feels like a 30 minute episode designed to be edited down to a 22 minute one. Each episode has some dead spots or jokes that miss, keeping it from ascending to the lofty heights of greats like 30 Rock or Arrested Development. Still, the show remains hilarious.

Master of None S2 – One thing holding me back from loving this most recent season of Kimmy Schmidt is that it hit Netflix just after this. Master of None’s second season might be the best season of a TV show I’ve seen this year. It is still funny, but show creators Aziz and Alan Yang also brought the heart this season. It deals intelligently with real issues and layers on references to various film genres while still telling jokes. Episodes like “Religion” and “Thanksgiving” are some of the best of any show I’ve seen this year. This show is just so good.

Fargo S3 – I still have faith that Noah Hawley will bring this altogether in the end, but so far this series has felt a little slight compared to the last two. Thematically interesting, well-acted and well shot, but it seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Up until this last week it still felt like we were in the rising action, even though we are past the middle of the season. I love to watch this show set up dominoes, but I also love to watch them fall down. It feels like we are running out time. Still, each episode has been really good.

Riverdale – The first season of this came to a close and it was very good. Real nonsense, but highly enjoyable nonsense. It does a great job of capturing the Archie characters and putting them in a heightened reality where the strange is more than possible. It is the perfect kind of trash.

Superhero Shows – I’ve got a full post about this year’s superhero shows coming up soon.

What I Watched in April 2017

MOVIES

The Imitation Game – This is the please-give-us-awards biopic about computer scientist and WW2 codebreaker Alan Turing that was fictionalized enough to upsets purists but not enough to make it truly interesting.  ***

The Cold Light of Day – You’ve got a Taken knock-off with Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis and Sigorney Weaver, you really don’t expect Cavill to be the the only bright spot. Sure, at this point Willis has given more than his fair share of phoned in performances, but you usually get better from Weaver.  Cavill, though, is working his ass off.  Too bad the movie doesn’t really justify it.*1/2

Pompeii – This might be the best Paul WS Anderson movie, a statement which is meant to damn with faint praise.  It is not especially good. In fact, it is often flat out bad.  But there is an enjoyable enough energy to its mash up of Gladiator and Titanic to make it not feel like a complete waste. **1/2

I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore – An odd, idiosyncratic exploration of despair. I don’t have a lot to say about it; it is very good. It is simultaneously darkly humorous and kind of uplifting. I really liked it. ****

Sicario – I really liked Arrival, so I checked out the director’s previous movie. This looks at the war on drugs in the south and Mexico and it pretty scathing. It is also beautifully shot. It is a great movie. ****1/2

The D Train – There is basis for a pretty great comedy here, but it kind of gets muddled. Jack Black’s character is too much of a loser to take seriously as a person, and his sitcom-esque plan to meet an old classmate is too silly for the rest of the plot.  It is a lot of interesting ideas done not very well. **1/2

10 Things I Hate About You – This is one of those movies that was always around when I was in high school, but I never actually watched it all the way through. I thought it was worth going back to thanks to its cast, which includes both Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s a perfectly fine teen comedy, but it really isn’t more than that. ***

Midnight in Paris – This ranks up there as one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. It is kind of indulgent, but that doesn’t matter when it is indulging in things that I want to see indulged. ****1/2

Fate of the Furious – see review here. ***1/2

Furious 7 – I needed to get prepped for F8, so I popped in this Blu-ray.  It is still highly enjoyable, but it also pushes the ridiculousness a little too far into cartoonish-ness.  The ending is cheap emotional manipulation, but it is also highly effective emotional manipulation. ***1/2

Sandy Wexler – There is more effort on display here than in the last half dozen or so Sandler movies.  It still isn’t good, but at least it appears like he cares.  If you cut about 30 minutes out and tighten up a lot of it’s sloppier moments it might have been decent. **

Win it All – This was good enough.  I didn’t love it, it seemed to spend a lot time just sort of meandering. I’m not familiar with Joe Swanberg, but this is good enough.  It is often funny and frequently heartfelt, but it doesn’t feel like it adds up to much. Still, it is definitely worth a watch. ***1/2

The Man From UNCLE – Every time I watch this movie I like it more and more.  It is just so much fun, with charming performances from all three of its stars.  I hope the only slightly rumored sequel happens. ****

Deidra and Laney Rob a Train – a pretty solid comedy about poor black youths trying survive. It combines a fairly dark look at how even bright kids can get trapped in poverty and a funny caper. It is a lot of fun. ***1/2

Akira – I finally had the opportunity to watch this anime classic.  It is still an amazing looking movie.  There are tons of impressively animated shots.  The story is overstuffed and nearly incoherent at times.  It is still really good and there is a lot to unpack, but it also feels like it was vastly edited down from a longer version.  ****

Sand Castle – This is a movie about the Iraq War; it is every movie you’ve seen about the Iraq War. That is the real problem, while this is a perfectly fine movie it doesn’t have anything you haven’t seen before. **½

The Discovery – This thing is so bleak and dreary.  It really wasn’t the movie I wanted to watch right now.  It raises some interesting questions, but I don’t think it really followed through on them. **½

Crank – Watching Fate of the Furious reminded me of how much I love Jason Statham, so I’ve started working my way through all the Statham movies I own.  Crank is nuts.  It is all insane energy that last just as long as it can keep it up. ***½

TV

Five Came Back – This series of documentaries about five Hollywood directors who volunteered during WWII and were put to work filming the war. It is really good. They interview five modern directors and use a lot of the footage from the time. It gets rough at times, especially when they uncover Dachau, but it is overall a really great exploration.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – The second season of Legends came to a close and while the show lost its most compelling character, Captain Cold, it managed an unthinkable turn around this season. I watched it last season thanks to how good the premise was, but there was too much dead weight in the cast and the show seemed unsure of what tone it should have. This season fixed nearly all those problems, with fun villains and dumping the Hawk people. It was the show it always should have been. Vixen was a good addition, and the rest of the team really found their roles. They jumped around time and went for big moments that nearly all landed. It was really great. Right now this might be the best of DC’s superhero shows.

The League S1-7 – I like a lot of the people involved in this show, and pending Netflix losses left me searching for new background noise comedy, so I gave this a watch.  The League is fine.  It really demonstrates how hard what Always Sunny in Philadelphia does is.  This fellow FX and FXX show does a lot of the same things, being a hard R show about a group of asshole friends, but it misses a lot more often than that true sitcom classic.  Too often, The League forgets that its characters are terrible and seems to want the viewer to sympathize with them.  That is not to say that the show isn’t frequently enjoyable and funny, but it also often seems mean just for the sake of being mean and can get hung up on unfunny bits that never seem to end.  As I said, it’s fine.

Documentary Now S2 – Another season of this great documentary spoof series. I don’t know that this season had quite the highs that season 1 had, but it was still excellent all the way through.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Return – I’m not quite completely through this, I’ve still got the last few episodes to go, but I have really liked it so far.  I don’t know that it is quite as good as old MST3K; they riff a lot faster which moves along a lot faster from bad jokes but also keeps good jokes from having time to land.  Still, even sometimes not excellent MST3K is better than no MST3K. I’m a latecomer to this series, but I am glad it is back.

Riverdale – This show just keeps getting crazier. The season ending is coming soon, but the show just keeps getting better. It really knows what its doing, so it is no surprise when an adult feeds a pregnant teenager a drugged milkshake.

Fargo S3 – The new season has started and it is great.  I don’t have a lot to say only two episodes in, but it is building something interesting about the characters and their relation to technology. It is really great.

What I Watched March 2017

Movies

Kong: Skull Island – read review here. ****

The Hateful Eight – I still really like this movie. It isn’t my favorite Tarantino, but he has never made a bad film. This one has a lot of great moments and a ton of great performances, but it doesn’t quite delight me like Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill. *****

Logan – read review here. ****

Far From the Madding Crowd – This is a competent, enjoyably literary adaptation. It isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it is well put together and well-acted and just all around enjoyable. ***1/2

Beauty and the Beast – read review here. **1/2

Sucker Punch – My thoughts haven’t changed much from when I saw it years ago, but I remained very impressed by it. Zack Snyder might have failed with this movie, but it audacious work. He turns intentionally turns the exploitation up to a disgusting degree, daring viewers to be titillated by an undeniably gross scenario. He doesn’t quite bring it all together in the end, but the intent is clear. **1/2

Pete’s Dragon – Calling something boring is a lazy criticism, avoiding actually engaging with a fictional work, but I can’t really think of any other way to describe this than dull. It has great actors and good special effects, but it all just sits on the screen, lifeless. It elicited no emotion from me. **

Ghost in the Shell – read about it here. **1/2

TV

Riverdale – This show really came into focus as it neared the halfway mark. Archie is still kind of a doofy hole in the middle of things, but I guess that is why the show isn’t called Archie; he isn’t the main character here, but just another piece of the ensemble. I don’t know that this show is good, but it is compelling.

Iron Fist – The reviews for this show weren’t kind, but after watching I have to say they weren’t wrong. It is the weakest of Netflix’s Marvel shows, but not by that great a margin. These shows started strong, with the solid first season of Daredevil and the excellent Jessica Jones, but Daredevil Season 2 was a muddled mess and Luke Cage hid its weaknesses behind a strong central performance. This one is just as much of an amorphous blob as most of these shows have been, but without that one terrific element to bind everything together. It takes itself way too seriously for a show about a man who does magical kung fu, it barely deigns to grapple with its central premise by not even showing Kun-lun, and it wastes so much time on the squabbling of the Meachum family. It is simply a mess. I’ll still come back for Defenders

Legion – As much as I like shows like The Flash that strive to put a superhero on screen in all of his comic book glory, there is something to be said for the approach FX and Noah Hawley have taken with Legion. They have taken a few X-Men characters and concepts and instead of trying to make them comic book accurate they have built a show around those concepts with just a handful of ties to other X-Men stuff. They have identified the essence of the title character, David Haller who occasionally goes by Legion, and of their villain, the mental parasite that has taken root in his brain. It shows the same strengths as Hawley’s Fargo, with a bunch of really well realized supporting characters. It manages to be a mind bending mystery that is shockingly comprehensible and straight forward. It fools the viewer with apparent misdirection, but the show never lies to the viewer. It really shows how mediocre the Netflix shows have been. The CW shows are operating on a different model and budget, but Legion does prestige superheroes and blows the likes of Daredevil and Luke Cage out of the water.

Snatch – I really shouldn’t like this show as much as I do. I really like the movie Snatch, but tries to ape its energy and ends up as kind of a pale shadow. It has the quick cuts and the zooms, but it employs them haphazardly. The stars, including Rupert “Ron Weasely” Grint, are having fun, though, and the show is actually structurally very strong. It might be lacking in dialogue, surprise and budget, but each episode is built on a solid structure. Each episode tells a story and builds logically from one place to the next. It is also light enough that its flaws don’t really hold it back. It is an enjoyable gangster/heist show that doesn’t really aspire to greatness, so it is fine when it doesn’t reach it. It is a solid bit of light fun that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.

CW Superheroes – Somewhere during this season, Legends of Tomorrow has embraced its premise and become the best of the CW’s four shows. That has something to do with a little back half faltering from The Flash and Supergirl. The Flash has gone to the evil speedster well one too many times. It still shines on one off episodes, like the recent musical Supergirl crossover, but the central storyline is kind of a bust. Supergirl has been essentially coopted by Mon-el, turning him into the focal character at the expense of everyone else on the show. Both shows are still quite enjoyable, but only Legends of Tomorrow is really firing on all cylinders. As for Arrow, I’ll catch up when it hits Netflix in a month or two.

What I Watched in Feb 2017

Movies

Good Will Hunting – This movie is really, really good. It is easy to see why both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became stars off of this and Robin Williams is both amazing and restrained. I wish I had seen this a long time ago. ****1/2

Ocean’s Twelve – The plot of this movie is overcomplicated – not confusing, just somewhat pointlessly circular – and it doesn’t have the oomph of its predecessor, but sometimes all you need to be enjoyable is to have a truly stellar cast apparently having a good time, as well as at the very least competence in other aspects. ***1/2

Immortals – I wanted to like this movie, I really did. There are few things I like more than gaudy fantasy epics. But Immortals is mostly a slog. It trudges along for most of it runtime and then when it finally gets fun at the end it feels really unearned. It just isn’t very good. **1/2

Lost in Space – The most notable thing about this movie is the astoundingly terrible CGI. It is really trying, but it is a contemporary of The Mummy Returns and it shows. Otherwise, it is a movie that can’t quite find its tone. Oldman is playing everything really campy while Matt Leblanc is trying to be Han Solo, making for an awkward mix. **1/2

John Wick 2 – Read review here. ****1/2

LEGO Batman – Read review here. ***1/2

The Princess Bride – Yep, it’s still great. *****

Predator – It is a solid combination of horror and action, everyone knows. Predator is good stuff. ****1/2

Raising Arizona – This fills in a gap in my Coens watching, and it is another of their more comedic movies. It is really good, though I don’t know that it will be the go to that some others have become for me. ****1/2

Robocop – I wish I liked this as much as other people do. I see it and recognize what is good about it, but I don’t much enjoy it. ****

The Monster Squad – I am sure I saw this as a kid, but I barely remembered and watching it again, along with the previous 4 movies on this list as part of the really fun FThisFest twitter film festival, reminded me that it was pretty great. It is kids fighting classic monsters. It has some weak points, but overall is a lot of fun. ***1/2

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – The Lonely Island boys have another underrated gem here. I don’t know if I like Popstar quite as much as I liked Hot Rod, but it is still a ton of fun. The fake pop songs that Conner4real sings are perfect. Really, this is a constant delight. ****1/2

Trainwreck – This movie got rave reviews a few years ago, but it didn’t really do anything for me. I’m not saying it was bad, but I didn’t connect with the characters and it was only intermittently funny. I have similar problems with most Apatow movies; their funny moments are offset but an equal number of tedious sections. ***

What We Do In The Shadows – This movie is great. It is a mockumentary about a group of vampires living in the same house. It is just them going around dealing with regular and vampire problems. It is hard to explain, but it is great. *****

Oscar – Stallone was not the right choice to play the lead in this adaptation of a French play, but other than his sometimes cumbersome performance this movie sings. It was pretty well hated upon release and almost forgotten since, but I really liked it. It doesn’t quite reach Importance of Being Earnest levels, but it is close.****

Rocknrolla – I still like this movie. Some days I feel like I’m the only one left on the Guy Ritchie bandwagon. This is a lesser movie than Lock Stock or Snatch, but it is still highly entertaining crime stuff. There are a ton of threads and they don’t come together as well as things did in his other crime movies, but each of the plots are pretty fun. ****

Heathers – A classic from the 80’s that I had never seen. It is some kind of weird anti-high school movie, like a much darker take on Mean Girls, but it is mostly enjoyable. ****

David Brent: Life on the Road – Ricky Gervais returns to the character that made him famous, but he doesn’t really have anything new to bring to things. This is essentially an extra-long episode of The Office, only without the good parts. There is no one to root for, just a despicable man being oblivious and awful for 90 minutes. Brent works when he is the boss because people are forced to listen to him. Now that he’s knocked it is just watching him be terrible and pathetic. **

The Great Wall – Read review here. ***

Sour Grapes – This is a documentary I watched on Netflix about selling high priced wines and how one man fooled a ton of the buyers. It is really slow getting to the good part, the actual scam, spending a lot of its run time setting up the people who play a part in this drama. Still, it is a decent story, with a cunning guy running a not particularly well thought out scam, but a scam that worked because no one really looked into it for a few years. ***

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – I love Steven Spielberg, but this movie is an incompetent piece of crap. It is everything that could have gone wrong with first Jurassic Park. I hate it. *

Girlfriend’s Day – I like this movie a lot in theory, it is a comedy noir starring Bob Odenkirk, but it is only about 70 minutes long, not a problem on its own, which doesn’t really give enough time to explore its weirdness to a satisfactory conclusion. Still, it is entertaining if a little unfulfilling. **1/2

Laura – I didn’t really know what I was getting into with this one, other than it is an old noir movie with Vincent Price in a supporting role. It is strange, but compelling. For a 70 year old movie it is really enjoyable. ****

TV

A Series of Unfortunate Events – This was certainly something. It is a children’s show, though one that is both very dark and very literate. It certainly isn’t for everybody, but it is just about perfect at being what it is. The children have surprisingly strong performances, as do all the adults, played mostly by highly recognizable actors. The story so far is fairly simple: the Baudelaire parents are killed in a fire and their three children are sent to a series of guardians. A series of guardians because they all prove unsuitable, in the case of series villain Count Olaf, or end up dead. It settles into a pattern early on, but breaks it by the end and the second season should change things up some more. It is a really solid series.

Santa Clarita Diet – The man behind this show, Victor Fresco, was also responsible for Better off Ted and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, two shows I like a whole lot. I didn’t like Santa Clarita Diet as much in this first season. It was starting at a disadvantage, because I don’t much care for zombies. It leans into the zombie stuff hard early, with some off putting gore and gross out moments, but in the second half the family stuff comes on stronger. The family of characters is very believable, especially for a sitcom. They actually feel like a family. There is also some great humor; really, the show is just solid.

Better Off Ted – I’ve written about how much I like Better Off Ted before. Watching Victor Fresco’s new show (see above) made me want to take a trip down memory lane. It holds up and Portia di Rossi is an underrated comic actress.

Taboo – I am toying with a full post on this show, but it is safe to say that I really liked how this show turned out. The middle part did have some extended Tom Hardy doing Tom Hardy things for no apparent purpose, but in general I really liked it. At the very least when I get a chance I am going to rewatch the whole thing to see if the themes work. Hopefully it gets a second season, especially now that the show has dispensed with a lot of the mystery around Hardy’s character and let the viewer in a little more. As long as more of this show has good actors clearly having a lot of fun I will be there.

CW Superheroes – Quick check ins here: Supergirl has been mostly really good, though I’d be happier without the Mon-El romance subplot, The Flash continues to be strong even when its reach exceeds its grasp and Legends and Arrow are both much stronger this year than last.

Riverdale – I’ve only seen the first two episodes, but this is teenager soap opera trash at its finest. I want to let it get a little further in before I make any real judgements, but they are on the right track.