Top 10 TV Shows 2018

Yes, another Top 10 list. Let’s get to it.

Honorable Mentions – I really like the thriller Collateral, but only barely remembered it until I started looking at things. Netflix had some good stuff, like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Santa Clarita Diet and Trollhunters, that I considered for this list. And I found Snatch on Crackle to be a lot of fun, though I appear to be the only person who is aware of it.

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/Great News – Both of these shows are the children of 30 Rock. Kimmy Schmidt had the best episode, in Party Monster: Scratching the Surface, but I think Great News was the slightly better show by the end of the respective seasons this year.

9. Bob’s Burgers – Bob’s Burgers is always good and deserves recognition. I don’t exactly remember which episodes hit in 2018, but even the worst of Bob’s Burgers is better than anything else I watched this year.

8. Howard’s End – A real solid adaptation of the novel. I don’t know how to describe it as other than well made. It is simply a well produced, well acted, well written show. I enjoyed every minute of it.

7. GLOW – Less set up than the first season, more fun. Lot’s of standout performances and a few standout episodes. Alison Brie is a national treasure.

6. Maniac – It hits that perfect kind of dirty sci-fi where it is clearly the future, but it is just as crappy and broken as things are now. Then it goes into some pretty wild “dream” sequences that all adopt the visual language of another kind of story. I’m not certain it holds together, but watching it was an amazing experience.

5. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – This show has figured out what it is. It took it a full season, but since then it has just gotten more and more confident. Season 3 was an out and out delight. It has strong characters and knows just how silly it can be so long as it stays true to those characters. There isn’t a more fun show on television.

4. Dear White People – It is less focused than the first season, but it is also more expansive and playful. It is just so good and so well considered.

3. Black Lightning – I am a fan of DC’s shows on the CW, but Black Lightning is in a class of it own. The first season told a compelling story of a family that just so happened to feature the occasional fight between people with superpowers.

2. The Good Place – Just when you think you have this show figured out, it changes into something else. The fact that it keeps managing to turn philosophy lessons into comic highlights never ceases to amaze me.

1. American Vandal – This show has unfortunately been cancelled, but both seasons of American Vandal are amazing. They are funny, but they are also have heart, finding humor in the problems faced by young people without belittling them.

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What I Watched December 2018

Movies

Creed II — read review here. ***1/2

The Kindergarten Teacher — A disturbing look at a sort of obsession. A kindergarten teacher finds what she thinks is a poet prodigy in her class, but disagrees with how to deal with him with the kids parents. Her actions get more and more extreme. I mostly just found it to be a drag. **

The Princess Switch–This movie is nonsense. It isn’t good by the standards of Hallmark holiday movies. That being said, I had a good time, even if kind of ironically. **1/2

The Christmas Prince 2 — Did I just put on some of Netflix’s crappy Christmas movies in the background while I did other things? Yes. Do I remember a single thing about this movie? Maybe one or two. I don’t have anything to say. **

The Christmas Chronicles — Kurt Russell plays Santa Claus. That was the only fact I needed to get me to watch. The movie itself is pretty standard affair as a family movie. There is some mild fun to be had, and Russell is clearly enjoying himself. Its fine. ***

The Living Daylights — I guess I had never actually seen this movie. I thought I had, but apparently thought different parts of License to Kill, as well as small bits from this movie, were The Living Daylights. Know I understand why Dalton’s take on Bond has gotten something of a reappraisal lately. This is just an excellent spy movie. All the things people love about Bond movies, more serious and exciting than a lot of the Moore movies, but still not dour. ****

License to Kill — And just as quickly as the Dalton era of Bond started, it goes off the rails. This movie is bad. It is dark and stupid and just kind of dull. It feels too long, even though it is roughly the same length as the previous movies. I liked almost nothing about this movie. **

Braven — Jason Momoa stars in a tight little action movie. Some drug runners hide their drugs in Momoa’s hunting cabin. He just so happens to visit, with his father and daughter, when they are attempting to retrieve their stash, sparking a stand off. It follows with some solid action in something like the Die Hard mold. Normal guy Momoa fights off a bunch of armed thugs. It works. ***1/2

Robin Hood — read review here. **1/2

Tomorrow Never Dies — Bond fighting with a new media mogul who is trying to use access to information as a way to start wars and make money is still surprisingly topical. Also. Michelle Yeoh is great, if severely underused. This is still on the good side of Bond movies. ***

The World is Not Enough — I don’t know how much this is influenced by this being the movie that made me a Bond fan, but for all of its weakness, like a miscast Denise Richards and some truly weak action scenes, I still really like a lot of what is going on here. Having a supposed Bond girl turn out to be not just a villain but the villain is a great twist. ***1/2

Mortal Engines — read review here. ****1/2

Aquaman — read review here. *****

Mowgli — Reactions to this live action take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book have been muted, at best. It is decent enough, all I really have to say about it is that this movie is much better than Disney’s recent attempt at the same thing. That movie had better effects, but it is a worse movie. ***

Dumplin — I don’t have anything to say about it. The plus sized daughter of a former pageant winner enters the pageant she won and learns a lot about herself and about her recently deceased aunt. Its fine. ***1/2

22 July — This movie tells the story of the deadly 2011 terrorist attack in Norway. It is likely a story that needed to be told, but I was not crazy about this movie. **1/2

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — read review here. ****

Die Another Day — I know this is widely considered one of the worst Bond movies. I can’t agree. Not that I think it is particularly good, but it is at least fun once it goes off the rails. And before that moment, which is the when they get to the ice castle, it is actually a pretty solid Bond movie. **1/2

Ralph Breaks the Internet — read review here. ****

The Favourite — read review here. *****

A Fish Called Wanda — This movie is a classic. I first watched it because I was a Monty Python fan. This time I was struck by how excellent Jamie Lee Curtis is in this movie. This is just a great comedy. *****

Star Wars: The Last Jedi — I watched this for the first time since seeing it in theaters and I liked it even more this time. This movie is just so great. It manages to be something new for Star Wars while making a show of being at times both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It is just so good. *****

A Wrinkle in Time — There is a lot to like in this movie. It’s heart is certainly in the right place. Unfortunately, it feels like someone rushing through a book that is too long for one movie. It is filled with ideas that almost certainly worked better on the page. **1/2

TV

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — This Netflix series from the same people behind Riverdale on CW is good fun. It treats the somewhat goofy witch adventures completely seriously, so it is somewhat chilling. It lacks a little of the pop of Riverdale, but it was still mostly a good time.

Snatch S2 — I think I may be the only person who watched this show, let alone enjoyed it. It is worth your time. It isn’t really anything lasting or memorable, but it is a lot of fun. It is a group doing gangster stuff in Spain. They came together in the first season for a heist, and now they are kind of splintering outside of that focus. But all the scheming is connected. It is a lot of fun.

Titans — This is a show that lead with its worst stuff. The first episode struggles a little with tone, being too violent and dark. Soon, it finds its footing and manages to tell a pretty engaging story. There are still flaws, it sometime leans into the violence too hard and sometimes splits off for odd tangents, but it is mostly a very solid drama. That tangent complaint is about a Hawk and Dove origin episode three quarters of the way through the season that could have been better placed. Otherwise, it has a similar tone to Netflix’s Marvel shows and enough plot to make all of its episodes worthwhile.

Outlander S4 — They are making some changes from the book. That is to be expected. But I am having trouble making sense of those changes. They seem to be changes just for the sake of changing things, and they have a cascading effect. A character no longer has a certain piece of knowledge, so their motivations change, so other character’s reactions change and now things are happening for reasons that no longer make sense. That is harsh for a show that is mostly still really good and the season isn’t over yet, so maybe there is a plan. But I knew there would be changes as the story lost some of its propulsion, since Jamie and Claire finally find a place to settle in book 4, and becomes more episodic. Let’s hope the last handful of episodes bring things home in a satisfying way.

3Below — I liked Trollhunters a bunch and this spin-off/sequel/companion piece is just as good. It switches out magical creatures for space aliens, but has them land in the same small town. It can be a little on the nose at times, but it sets up a handful of interesting characters and adds some depth to those returning from Trollhunters. I hope this continues to be good.

Superhero Shows — Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl had a crossover. I thought it was going to be more of a Crisis and not a prelude to next year’s crisis, but it was still really fun. Having Barry and Oliver switch bodies was almost enough to justify the crossover on its own. Also, seeing Superman and Lois Lane was great, and Batwoman was intriguing. Black Lighting finished the year strong. And Legend of Tomorrow finished with an all-time great episode.

What I Watched November 2018

Movies

Bohemian Rhapsody – read review here. **1/2

The Other Side of the Wind – This is an Orson Welles movie that has gone unfinished and unreleased for more than 40 years. It is fascinating, both for how the story of its creation kind of echoes the story it is telling and for how it goes about telling that story. It stars John Huston as an again film director who is showing off his latest movie, also named The Other Side of the Wind, at his birthday party while also trying to secure funding to get it finished. He is surrounded by hangers-on, admirers and former proteges, but is feeling how his career is coming to an end and all of his secrets are being laid bare. It can be a hard watch, but it is nothing if not interesting. ****

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead – this is a companion documentary to The Other Side of the Wind that goes into how the movie came to be made and the struggles Welles faced in the latter part of his career. It is far from essential, but I thought it was pretty good. ****

Chappaquiddick – a dramatization of the incident involving Ted Kennedy in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge. It has some good performances, but it is dramatically lacking. It wants to have something to say about the corrosive nature of power, but it doesn’t seem to get there. **

The Outlaw King – A very solid historic drama. It gets into the grime and gore a bit much, but otherwise is a very solid movie, centered around a really good Chris Pine performance. ***1/2

Sierra Burgess is a Loser – A high school version of Cyrano de Bergerac. One girl poses as another to send messages to a boy she likes. Eventually, real friendships form. Then troubles come out when the secrets are revealed. ***

Private Life – A married couple goes to great lengths to have a child and the strain that puts on their relationship with each other and with their friends and family. It has really solid performances from Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti. ***1/2

Like Father – A mildly amusing look at a messed up father daughter relationship. Kristen Bell’s estranged dad, Kelsey Grammer, shows up at her wedding. When she is abandoned at the altar, she and her dad end up her honeymoon cruise together. Some mildly amusing and heartwarming events occur. It is fine. **1/2

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – This might be lesser Coen Brothers, but it is still an excellent film. It is a collection of essentially six short films. Each part is a meditation, at least in part, on mortality and the fleetingness of life. It starts with the most attention grabbing part, but there are several unforgettable bits. ****1/2

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – read review here. **1/2

Widows – read review here. ****1/2

Paradox – This is a combination of a really long music video and a haphazard collection of someone’s home movies. It is not a film, not one worth spending even a few minutes with. Just awful. *

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – I know some people who rate this very highly among the Bond movies; I don’t really get it. It is kind of a dull outing, pulled down by a genuinely bad performance by George Lazenby. I don’t have much to say about it. **1/2

The Spy Who Loved Me – This one really didn’t hold my attention. It has a reputation as being one of the better Moore Bond movies, but I found it mostly kind of dull and rote. It goes through the motions, seemingly trying to be more realistic but mostly succeeding at sapping the fun from the movie. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood. **

Moonraker – This movie is dumb. It is a big stupid cartoon. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to like her, there is. This is Bond at his silliest. It is kind of worth seeing just for that. But it isn’t good. **

Daddy’s Home 2 – This movie has its moments, but it can’t seem to even attempt to string its various little sections into some kind of coherent narrative. It is just a smattering of plot threads that the movie hopes will lead to jokes. And sometimes they do, but just as often they don’t, or the jokes they lead to aren’t funny. **

The Pink Panther Strikes Again – There is a level of diminishing returns with the Pink Panther movies, but there is also a certain level of fun just watching this farce play out. It is watching a master at work, even if the result isn’t a masterpiece. This isn’t a great movie, but there are some inspired bits. ***

For Your Eyes Only – A solid Bond entry after the disappointing Moonraker. It highs are pretty high, but it also has some interminable low stretches. I don’t really have a lot to say about it; it is a Bond movie. This is the one I would show people who wanted to see a Roger Moore Bond, it might be his best and you get some idea of what was appealing about his take on the character here. ***

Octopussy – This is the second to last Roger Moore Bond and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. It’s depiction of Indian people is not ideal, but it is a fun Bond adventure and one of the bad guys has a buzz saw yo-yo. It is a pleasant watch. ***

Extinction – a little alien invasion movie that at the very least has a starring role for the always entertaining Michael Pena. Pena has visions of impending disaster, and struggles to keep his family together as those visions start to come true. It feels kind of low budget, but is entertaining nonetheless. ***

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – a teenage girl writes letters to her crushes and stores them with her diary. Somehow, all of her letters end up being sent to the boys they were written to. So she sets up a fake relationship with a boy to get the focus off her, but their feelings start to become real. It is a pretty good high school focused rom-com. ***1/2

Last Flag Flying – This Richard Linklater directed movie follows three veterans who haven’t seen each other since their time in the service as they meet up while one of them goes to retrieve the body of his son who died in the Middle East. It is deals with a lot of issues, with death and regret and moving on and grief, through mostly great performance from Laurence Fishburne, a subdued Steve Carell and a boisterous Bryan Cranston. It is really entertaining. ****

Disobedience – Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams star as a pair of women from an Orthodox Jewish community. They had a relationship years ago, which was a factor in Weisz leaving the community. She returns when her father dies, and the women struggle their renewed feelings and their faith. ****

TV

Ozark S2 – I finished season 2. The show it what it is.

Castlevania S2 – This show should be right up my ally, but it really isn’t clicking with me. IT spends so much time with characters and conflicts that I can’t bring myself to care about, then jams all the good stuff into two episodes. It’s just not good.

Schitt’s Creek S4 – I was none too impressed with this show when I first started watching it. It was intermittently funny, but between the terrible title and unlikeable characters I just about quit on it. People I trust gushing over it kept me watching and it transforms rather quickly into something really good. While the title remains terrible, the characters evolve and become some of the more interesting characters in comedy. Season 4 continues that, being both funny and deepening characters that started out as unlikeable and shrill.

Futurama – It has been a long time since I’ve really watched Futurama, not just had it on in the background while I cleaned my apartment. I still maintain that the new stuff is good, but watching this time I realize what the biggest difference between the old stuff and the new. The new Futurama was a lot meaner than the old. It was still capable of the heartwarming stuff, but that was balanced by a deeper cruel streak that changes the complexion of the show. There are moments of cruelty in the early stuff, and those moments usually get laughs because they are unexpected. That almost becomes the default when the show returns, as if the laughs were remembered, but not quite the alchemy that lead to them. Still, I like it all.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – A great return for this show. Its MST3K, I don’t really know what to say. It’s good; you should probably watch it.

The Romanoffs – The show finished up with some of its best episodes. The second to last one, End of the Line, was an excellent look at a couple traveling to Russia to adopt a baby through a somewhat shady organization, only to be met with the realization that the child might not be what they were promised. The last one is a cold revenge tale that at first appears to be otherwise. Both are well well crafted episodes, as all of these have been. But they also have something more going on. That is more than a lot of these episodes have had. This show has been an exquisitely crafted, but largely kind of pointless and empty. But the episodes where it all works show what The Romanoffs could have been.

Superhero Shows Supergirl is either telling a trenchant political story, or it has bitten off more than it can chew and hasn’t realized it yet. The Flash continues to be fine; not quite as good as you’d hope but not really bad either. Legends of Tomorrow is just distilled fun at this point. Black Lightning is not quite on the same level in season 2 as it was in season 1, but it is still excellent. It is growing in some strange directions.

What I Watched October 2018

Movies

A Star is Bornread review here. ****1/2

Woman Walks Ahead – an interesting look at the time Catherine Weldon spent with Chief Sitting Bull. Jessica Chastain stars as Weldon, a painter who goes out West to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull while the Native Americans deal with the hostile soldiers and a resurgent religious movement that seems likely to cause renewed hostilities. It is good. ***1/2

Colette – read review here. ****

Game Night – I rented this to watch with my family on my birthday. It played even better the second time. I think this might be a movie I end up coming back to fairly often. ****

The Polka King – another rewatch that remains mostly enjoyable but largely forgettable. ***

Nostalgia – a meditation on death and the things we leave behind, Nostalgia is mostly just a bummer. It doesn’t really have anything interesting or profound to say as it moves from one grieving family to another, but neither is it completely without worth. It just sort of is. **

Venomread review here. **

Beirut – This is just a straight thriller. Jon Hamm stars as a former negotiator and broken man who is called back into service when an old friend is kidnapped in Beirut and the kidnappers specifically ask for him to broker the deal to get him back. So he must move between the machinations of the US Intelligence apparatus, the Israelis and different Palestinian groups to save his friend. There is is little fat, just an immensely entertaining thriller. ****

The Land of Steady Habits – Eternal villain Ben Mendelsohn stars a recently divorced man trying to navigate his new life. He struggles to find his new place and with seeing his wife successfully moving on. He forges a bond with the child of some old friends who is going through his own struggles. It mostly works. ***

Bad Times at the El Royale – read review here. ****1/2

King Lear – A BBC produced adaptation of the Shakespeare play, set in modern times but using the actual dialogue. It works. A big part of its success is the quality of the actors, which starting with Anthony Hopkins as Lear is just uniformly excellent. The contemporary setting does just enough make this still excellent drama feel fresh. ****

TV
The League – This showed up on Hulu and remains frustrating. It is occasionally very funny, but just as often is just mean spirited and gross. I don’t really have much to say about it. It accurately shows how groups of friends treat each other, except these guys are actually funny, but it highlights some really gross behavior for jokes. And I don’t mean the poop jokes. It’s fine, whatever.

Maniac – This show warrants a more in depth review. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill star was two subjects of a clinical study for a pill that is attempting to replace therapy. There is a lot going on here. It is set in a near future that is not unlike the dingy, Asian-influenced setting of Blade Runner. It does some Inception-like tricks with how it deals with the mind bending segments. It also plays out each of the characters drug induced delusions as separate genre movies. There are so many moving pieces that it is a wonder that most of them work so well. The center of the show is the development of Hill and Stone’s characters. Hill’s Owen has mental health problems and feels like an outcast from his family. Stone’s Annie is similarly estranged from her family. Together they each start to move forward with their problems as the study goes along, but not necessarily because of the study. It is just really interesting.

Luke Cage S2 – This is certainly a Netflix Marvel show, with all the strengths and flaws of the rest of them. It is 13 episodes that contain roughly 8 episodes worth of stories. The actors are good, the writing is not. I don’t know when I’ll get to Iron Fist S2 or Daredevil S3.

Ozark S2 – This show continues to play something like Breaking Bad on triple speed. This show burns through plot, with each episode holding enough for a half of a season of a slower show. But it remains completely watchable. Marty and Wendy are each breaking under the strain of trying to avoid being the target of various crime families, but in opposite directions. Honestly though, the struggles of the Langmore clan is the more interesting story that I wish would get more attention.

The Romanoffs – I still don’t know what the point of this anthology series is. So far it is a handful of mediocre movie length episodes with no connection or unifying theme. Each episode is sumptuously produced, directed and acted, but also the are disappointingly empty. It is just good enough that I am going to keep watching.

Superhero Shows – The CW stuff has gotten off to a strong start. Supergirl is tilting political in a satisfying way, Legends of Tomorrow is building on the goofy confidence it built up last season and Black Lightning remains the serious, genuinely excellent cousin. The odd man out is The Flash (ignoring Arrow because I checked out last season and haven’t caught up). Not that this season of The Flash has been bad, so far it has been pretty strong, but that it is sort of in the middle of the rest of them, the straight man for all of the other shows to play as permutations of, but also somewhat robbing The Flash of its own identity.

What I Watched September 2018

Movies
Year One – I saw this in the theater and kind of hated it. When I saw it pop up on Netflix, I felt compelled to watch it again. I didn’t hate it this time, though it is still more miss than hit. Really, it is trying way too hard to land ineffective gross out humor and neglecting the parts that actually kind of work. Year One is not good and there is no reason to watch it, but it isn’t the worst. **

Terminal – Reviews I saw for this were savage. Being a fan of Simon Pegg, Mike Myers and increasingly Margot Robbie, I started it up pretty quickly once I could do so for free. Terminal kind of exists in this weird no man’s land. The setting is odd, with not quite enough detail to inform the viewer of the nature of the movie’s reality. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in each of the scenes. It builds on a strange elliptical orbit, approaching its eventual reveals from an uneven trajectory. But those reveals mostly work. The ending is bonkers, but it all kind of works together. I enjoyed this. ***

Operation Finale – read review here. ****

Next Gen – An animated movie that is essentially a kind of Mega Man or Astro Boy story that is largely enjoyable even when it gets surprisingly dark at the end. And it does get pretty dark, especially for what is ostensibly a kids movie. It is worth a watch. ***

The House With a Clock in the Walls – read review here. ***1/2

A Simple Favor – read review here. ****

The Hurricane Heist – I think I love this movie. By almost any measure it is not good, but it is supremely entertaining. It starts with nonsense and just piles more and more on. I was entranced. ***

Dallas Buyers Club – Man, I really did not have the energy for this. It is a based on a true story look at trying to get medication for HIV/AIDS in the 80s and 90s. The movie won awards a few years back, probably deservedly. I can recognize the craftsmanship even as I found the movie exhausting. ****

The Power of Greyskull – A perfectly find documentary about the creation of the He-Man line of toys, of its rise to prominence and its swift downfall. It is more information than anyone likely needs about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but I still enjoyed watching it. ***

TV
Jack Ryan – I like John Krasinski. This show has really solid production values. It also has a lot of narrative missteps and is somewhere between off and off putting tonally. I find the problems I have with this show harder to forget because of how well made it is, which makes me think the stuff I don’t like is in there intentionally. Because I have no idea what is supposed to be going on with the whole drone operator subplot, but I didn’t like any of it. The show is fine, often very good, but I don’t think the season’s story was up to par.

American Vandal S2 – This is the front runner for the best show of the year. I loved the first season of American Vandal and the second season might be even better. This season deals with a new vandalism related crime and the the crew from the first season makes another true crime documentary. The combination of the super-serious true crime set up with the ultimately very high school antics that are very much not serious. At the start, at least. Pretty quickly, there is a turn, where the show reveals the deeper issues and anxieties within its characters. And it works perfectly. It remains funny, while also adding a layer of sadness and tragedy to the whole affair. While the filmmakers play less of a role this season, the subjects of the documentary are more complex than last year’s Dylan. Which is say something, because Dylan was eventually revealed as a pretty layered character. This show is just amazing. I hope Netflix never stops making it.

The Good Cop – This should have been an easy win for Netflix. The creator of Monk making a detective show. There really isn’t anything new to making a detective show. The Good Cop flubs it completely, ending up in an incredibly unsatisfying middle ground between Law and Order and Monk. It has the goofy, mystery show feel, but the mysteries are decidedly lacking. Characters talk about the main character’s detecting abilities, but he never really displays them. Even a somewhat disinterested viewer will likely figure things out before he does. It isn’t like the actors are doing a bad job. There really is no reason for Tony Danza’s Big Tony to be there, but he seems like he is having fun with the role. Josh Groban works as little Tony and the rest of the cast is solid. It is just the writing, and in some places the concept, lets them down. It is really not a good show.

What I Watched in August

Movies

The Titan – This starts with an interesting idea, but it never really develops beyond that. I mostly just found it dull, which might be partly on me but it is at least partly on the movie. *1/2

Mission Impossible: Fallout read review here. ****1/2

Dude – An occasionally raunchy coming of age story the most interesting part of which is that it focuses on high school age girls instead of boys, as is the usual. It mostly works, but ***

Come Sunday – This details how pastor Carlton Pearson came to excommunicated by his church. It is a mostly solid meditation on faith with most of the interest generated by the cast. **1/2

The Dark Knight – yup, it is still really great. *****

The Time Machine – There is a lot about this movie that doesn’t work, including some of the CGI, but I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. Mostly that is due to how fun Guy Pearce is to watch. He works perfectly as a Victorian era time traveler. I don’t agree with some of the choices the movie made with its adaptation, including ending with heroic genocide, but as a fan in general of early 00’s blockbusters, it was fine. **1/2

Duck Duck Goose – A Netflix original kids movie that doesn’t have much to offer. I was in for the voice of Jim Gaffigan, but this isn’t a Pixar “for kids of all ages movie,” this is a kids movie as in from ages 4-7, no one older need apply. I guess there is stuff small kids would laugh at, but there is nothing interesting or original about it. **

Flavors of Youth – This is an anime anthology, with three segments each set in a different Chinese city. None of the segments are masterpieces by any stretch, but each one of them is enjoyable. This is well worth a watch. ***1/2

6 Balloons – A movie about addiction that maybe just didn’t hit me at the right time. While preparing for a birthday party she is throwing for her boyfriend, a woman discovers that her heroin addict brother has relapsed. So instead of getting her party ready, she tries to help her brother. But there really isn’t anything she can do for him. It is painful to watch and more than a little heartbreaking. ***

BlacKkKlansmanreview coming soon ****1/2

Buckaroo Banzai Across the EIghth Dimension – I had heard of this movie, but never seen it until a couple of weeks ago when I fired it up on Amazon Prime. I was not disappointed. This movie seems desperate to show in every crazy idea the screenwriter could come up with into one movie and one character. It is shocking how well this bloated grab bag of ideas holds together. Every scene there is something new and interesting happening, often without comment as though the various bits of craziness are just everyday occurrences. Still, it lacks a cohesion of the best 80’s movies of this ilk. ****

The Spy Who Dumped Mereview coming soon. ***

Cowboy Bebop The Movie – I took my brother to see this in the theater. Walking in I would swear I had seen it before, but that was apparently not the case. It is really good. It is just an extra long episode of the show, but Cowboy Bebop is great show. You might want some foreknowledge about who the characters are before going in, but it is a complete story. Really, the more I think about it the more I like it. It is just a really well made sci-fi sort of noir mystery. ****1/2

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – You can probably tell from the title whether or no this movie is for you. It is a period piece romance with a story within a story structure dealing with the Nazi occupation of Guernsey during WWII. Lily James is great, as is Matthew Goode. I don’t that there is anything really special about it, but it scratches a certain itch and it worked for me.****

TV

Midsomer Murders S5-6 – I watched some more of this. I still don’t really have a lot to say about it. It is largely well made but I have not thought about the show for a second when it wasn’t on the screen.

Schitts Creek S1-3 – This show has a terrible title, a title that kept me from watching it despite liking Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. Fortunately, I heard other people raving about and finally gave it a chance. The title is easily the worst part of the show. It is some weird mix of Arrested Development and Parks and Rec. It is a story about a rich family brought low, but is also a show about developing a small populated by some kooky characters. Through these first three seasons it just keeps getting better, especially after the show figures out what it is doing with its characters. It develops into something with that warmth of Parks and Rec built around a family that becomes genuinely likable. It is good stuff.

The Keepers – I was not as enthused as I expected from this true crime show. Each episode seemed too long to me. There were significant gaps from when I started from when I finished, which didn’t help my engagement with the show. Overall, it just felt a little short on true substance.

Disenchantment – After the first batch of episodes I still wonder what this show is going to be. I say this first batch is roughly on par with revival Futurama. To me that is mostly a good thing, it might not reach the heights of the best but it is still very entertaining. This show seems to want to have more of a central narrative than Futurama did and after seeing the end if this first batch I am very curious to see that develop. Otherwise, it is a solidly good, mostly pretty funny show that has yet to have a real standout moment or episode. I liked it a lot anyway.

Insatiable – I see what this show is supposed to be and at times it nearly gets there. But its satire is too scattershot and often too broad to work. It seems to want to be something like Riverdale, but as a completely campy send up, but it takes more than half the season to find its footing and even then has plenty of miscues. I understand why the creators were kind of defensive about the fat shaming stuff, because that is really not what the show is. Except for the occasional moment, mostly offhand jokes, when that is what the show is. It does start developing into something interesting in the latter half and I was prepared to give the show a tentative recommendation, but then the last 20 minutes or so of the last episode happened and I am out. The show crossed a line it can’t walk back and I am not interested in following. This show isn’t worth it.

What I Watched July 2018

Movies

Hearts Beat Loud – read review here. ****

Uncle Drew – read review here. ***

Sicario Day of the Soldado read review here. **1/2

Won’t You Be My Neighbor – review coming soon. ****

The Brothers Bloom – This showed up on Netflix and as I am a fan of nearly everyone involved (Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, Rian Johnson) I gave it a watch. It is really, really good. It is a fun little magical realist con man movie, a little like the Wes Anderson version of an Ocean’s movie. Two brothers scam a rich, bored woman, or maybe they scam each other. It is a delight. *****

Get Smart – It is a shame that this Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway movie never got a sequel; it is really damn entertaining. Carell is the perfect person to assume the Smart role, he mostly echoes Don Adams while adding a bit of his own touch and Anne Hathaway can do no wrong. When it is the two of them out on a mission the movie really shines. ****

Love & Friendship – I’ve reviewed it before, this movie is great. *****

Ant-Man and the Wasp – read review here. ****

Death of Stalin – The funniest, and maybe best, movie of the year about a very not funny subject. This movie details the plotting and machinations in attempting to succeed Stalin in the USSR. It plays it all as a farce, where people are likely to end up dead. I loved it. *****

Legacy of a White Tail Deer Hunter – It has Danny McBride and Josh Brolin, who make a TV show about Brolin’s hunting exploits. For the movie, he takes his teenage son with him, who he has lost touch with after a divorce, with Brolin often gone hunting. It kind of meanders through funny and not funny bits, before reaching something of a conclusion. Its fine. ***

Happy Anniversary – a decent little romantic drama about two people unsure if they are breaking up or taking the next step. It mostly works. ***1/2

Sorry to Bother You – read review here. *****

To Each, Her Own – a french comedy(?) about a bisexual woman who proposes to her longtime girlfriend and then cheats on her with a guy. The woman is Jewish, the guy, or at least his family, is anti-semitic. There are no laughs to be had. The ending is preposterous. *1/2

Anon – This is part Minority Report, part reflection on the surveillance state, and mostly a lot of explaining the rules to its near future setting. There is a good movie here somewhere, but it doesn’t really come through this turgid mystery. **

Murder on the Orient Express – I reviewed this last year, I still really like it. ****

Father of the Year – The latest Happy Madison production for Netflix is a weird movie. Because it is mostly a movie about kids who just finished college returning home for a few weeks before moving to New York to start new jobs, but their struggles are kind of sidelined by one’s father, a drunken lout played by David Spade, and his struggles against everything, including the father of another of the friends, played by Nat Faxon. It is never really funny, though the stuff with the kids had potential if it was allowed to go anywhere. *1/2

Godzilla City on the Edge of Battle – God, I hated this. I think the animation is ugly, just like the first movie. This isn’t really a movie about Godzilla, this is a movie about MechaGodzilla that is actually nanomachines. It is blandly uninteresting, and not paid off with interesting Godzilla fights. *

Kodachrome – A father and son reconnect on a road trip where the father wants to develop some film and the son is trying to sign a band for a record label. Good actors, Jason Sudekis, Elizabeth Olson, and Ed Harris, and a decent heart make it work. ***1/2

White Fang – A solid little animated adaptation of the Jack London novel. It has a sort of painterly quality to the animation that looks good despite its sort of blockiness. It also has a solid voice cast. The movie is fine, but it really isn’t anything more. ***

Three Identical Strangers – read review here. ****1/2

Skyscraper – read review here. **1/2

Tau – I think I am close to kicking this Netflix movie habit. This is a decent idea, of a woman trapped by a madman with only an AI for company, but mostly it played out like Ex Machina’s stupid cousin. *1/2

TV

GLOW S2 – GLOW Season 2 took just a little bit to get me back. It felt like this season started by unwinding character development from where last season ended. But it quickly got very good. This show has pretty quickly and efficiently established a lot of great characters, with its stars doing especially great work. It is about the perfect dramedy. It is easily one of Netlfix’s best shows.

Columbo S1 – It is shocking how good this series is right away. Basically, as soon as it is past the pilot it is everything it should be. Like the series below on this list, Columbo is just a mystery series. I never serializes the storytelling or makes character growth a thing. It is all on Peter Falk playing a particular character and solving a mystery against a completely new cast every time out. The interplay between Peter Falk and the guest star is the reason to watch this show. I intend to write more fully about this show later, but this might be the best TV show.

Midsomer Murders S1-4 – Not a lot to say here. This is a simple show with simple pleasures. It is fine. I am already reaching for things to say about it. It executes the mystery formula nearly perfectly, but does nothing more. I might watch all 20 series.

Fargo S3 – I don’t know how much of a write-up on this show I did when it first aired, but I watched with my brother the other weekend and was absolutely entranced. The first two season of this show are masterpieces, this season is a slight step down. The world it creates, with its malleable truth, is so perfect for the times we live in. It is frustrating, but real. The primary villain, Varga, is so gross and creepy, but for some reason the supposedly good people, like Emmett Stussy and Sy Feltz, are too busy with petty crap to even bother to look through his obvious facade. So instead, the criminals get to reign. I know when I first watched the show, I was convinced it ended one way, a somewhat optimistic ending, but this time I don’t have the faith for that. I know that Varga gets away.

What I Watched June 2018

Movies
Ready Player One – read review here. ***

Ocean’s 8 – read review here. ****

Roxanne – I was not aware of this Steve Martin update of Cyrano de Bergerac. It is charming, a little sappy and a little saccharine, but everything is so well done that it is hard to hold it against the movie. I loved it. ****1/2

Gamer – This movie is crazy, but I’m not sure it quite gets where it’s going. It is over the top and loud and gross, but its attempts at social commentary are kind of half hearted. I credit its attempts, but it doesn’t quite work. **1/2

Executive Decision – A Kurt Russell starring thriller from the 90’s. Russell is an analyst who goes along on the flight to a dangerous mission, boarding a hijacked flight mid air to stop some terrorists, only to end up as part of the mission. I don’t have a lot to say about it other than Kurt Russell is great. ***1/2

Hannie Caulder – A trio of villains kill Hannie Caulder’s husband and rape her, so with the help of a sharpshooting bounty hunter, she sets out to get revenge. It is pretty entertaining, and it is easy to see the inspiration for stuff like Django Unchained in here, but it kind of left me a little lukewarm. ***

Heat – I should have more to say about this, but I don’t. It is really good. *****

I, Tonya – Sort of a biopic, in that kind of Wolf of Wall Street mode, it tells mostly Tonya Harding’s version of the Tonya Harding story. It is heightened and sensationalized, with an amazing performance by Margot Robbie at the center of it. Definitely worth seeing. ****

Hot Fuzz – still one of my absolute favorites. *****

Tag – read review here. ***

Hotel Artemis – read review here. ****

Set it Up – A straightforward romantic comedy. The two protagonists have horrible bosses, they plot to get their bosses to date each other to get them off their backs. Their plan works and the protagonists grow closer. It does exactly what it is supposed to with reasonable amounts of success. ***1/2

King Kong – I love this movie. I know people have complaints, with its length, with its effects, with its some of its performances, but I don’t care. Everything about this movie just works for me. I especially love Jack Black as Carl Denham. It is just sort of perfect. *****

The Bodyguard – a martial arts movie, kind of, about an old man with dementia who forms a relationship with a young girl whose father gets in trouble with some bad people. While the protagonist frequently forgets things, he is also a martial arts master. As he tries to protect this little girl he tears up the local underworld. It is kind of sad and touching, as well as having some pretty solid action, directed by and starring Sammo Hung as the old man and Andy Lau making a brief appearance as the girls dad. ***

The Incredibles 2 – read review here. ****1/2

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom – read review here. **1/2

TV

The Toys the Made Us – another four episodes looking into the history of well known toylines. The show is pretty well made. If the subject matter interests you, the show is well worth checking out.

Kimmy Schmidt – This show is still great. Party Monster: Scratching the Surface is one of the great all-time TV episodes. It was only half a season, which didn’t really give the show much time to do a lot. So it feels like Kimmy has merely taken a few steps toward this seasons story, with the most outstanding one being the mockumentary episode mentioned above. I am sad to hear that this show is ending, but I am glad to have had it for the time we have.

Dear White People S2 – This biting and incisive comedy came back for an excellent second season. This is not a show to give easy wins to its characters, though there are clear bad guys it is not making overt judgements on how each of the characters deal with things. And by giving each character their own episodes to shine while building a bigger story, this show is plotted perfectly. This might be Netflix’s best show.

Bosch S4 – There are some weird structural things with this season that I hope are going to addressed going forward (I am speaking of a shocking death that occurs midway through but ultimately seems to be subplot), but for the most part this was a well done mystery/thriller. This show is well worth watching, though the pacing isn’t always perfect.

Howard’s End – An adaptation of the classic novel, this period piece drama remains as relevant today as it ever was. There isn’t much to say here, there are great performances and the show is very well made. It is definitely worth the time to watch this miniseries.

Voltron – This really feels like this show is moving into its endgame. I know that Netflix has committed to more episodes past this season. This show is about perfect as far as updates of old cartoons goes. It is as good as people remember their childhood favorites being. This is a packed half dozen episodes.

Goliath S1– Amazon Prime won’t stop advertising the new season of their legal drama, so I broke down and watched the first season. It is pretty good. Billy Bob Thornton is always worth watching, and the rest of the cast is solid as well. The show kind of sprawls, as though it doesn’t know which characters it wants to follow or wants its viewers to root for. It isn’t really complex characterization, it is mostly that sometimes characters do inexplicable things, sometimes just purely for the evil of it, other times they are just people on opposite sides of a lawsuit. Still, it is a good show.

What I Watched May 2018

Movies
Avengers Infinity War – read review here

Super Troopers 2 – read review here

Overboard – read review here

The Rachel Divide – The woman is delusional, but this documentary just makes you sad for her poor kids. **1/2

Candy Jar – A movie about two high school debate rivals who are forced to work together for a team competition rather than compete individually. Lessons are learned and kids grow up. It isn’t anything particularly new or original, but it is moderately entertaining. ***

The Week Of – Adam Sandler and Chris Rock are the dads of two youngsters about to get married. In this comedy (?) they learn heartwarming (?) lessons about family. I didn’t care for it. **

You Only Live Twice – Other than the completely baffling yellow face at the end of the movie, this is a really entertaining Bond movie. I wouldn’t put it quite as high as From Russia with Love or Goldfinger, but it is still good. There is an honest to goodness volcano lair at the end. ****

Diamonds Are Forever – This one, on the other hand, makes everything feel kind of tedious. It just feels sloppy. **

Live and Let Die – Uncomfortable racism aside, this is an excellent start to Roger Moore’s run as James Bond. It is a lot of fun. ***

The Man With the Golden Gun – Christopher Lee is great, but just about everything else about this movie is a complete mess. Terrible Bond girl, goofy sound effects, a super disappointing ending to Bond and Scaramanga’s showdown. Disappointing. **

Deadpool 2 see review here

Solo – review coming soon

The Kissing Booth – Another movie about growing up. This one really didn’t work for me. It seemed to be all over the place. **

LA Confidential – Wow, this is a good movie. Everything works together perfectly, with three cops working separately to solve a crime with roots within police force. Leaving Kevin Spacey aside, the cast is great. A lot of good work from Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Just a great movie. *****

TV
Arrested Development S5 – I never thought Season 4 was as much of a disappointment as most people seem to found it, but there is undeniably more magic to this show when it can actually get the whole cast together instead of the scattered nature of the last season. It still isn’t quite to original run levels of quality, but I don’t think that is currently possible. Arrested Development is still really good. I can’t wait for the back half of the season.

Lost in Space – It takes too long to all the characters together and really get good, but this reboot of Lost in Space is solid. The biggest problem I had with this show is that the family is kind of dull. That isn’t a big problem when the other characters are around, but the first couple episodes, where it is mostly just the family, drag on a bit. Once Dr. Smith and Don West join in things pick up considerably.

The Flash S4 – The season almost redeemed itself at the end, but it really couldn’t make up for how terrible it’s central villain was. After the last two seasons of just godawful main villains, I hope the show abandons the device and tells mostly self contained stories next season. The show is still really enjoyable from an episode to episode basis, it just needs to figure out its season structure.

Bob’s Burgers – I recently wrote about this show. The most recent season continued its long run of excellence.

Brooklyn 99 – Cancelled and then saved, this show has rapidly become a favorite of mine now that I can watch it regularly on hulu. I don’t know what to say about it; it is really good and really funny.

Evil Genius – A true crime documentary about a bank robbery turned murder. A group of people conspire to rob a bank. Part of the plan involves tying a bomb around the neck of the man sent in to actually rob the bank. Questions remain as to whether or not that man, who died when the bomb went off, was a part of the conspiracy or an unwitting dupe. This show explores how this horrific crime came about. It is pretty good, though I think it could have been shorter.

Trollhunters S3 – I want to have more to say about this show than I do. Its real good. This third season takes some swings, but as its the end of the series that is to be expected. It loses a little bit of is charm in the plot, but remains a very entertaining cartoon. They also find time to set up an always planned spin off series. This last season does a good job of both wrapping things up and opening the door for new stories. This series is well worth a watch.

What I Watched April 2018

Movies

Logan Lucky – I think I appreciated this heist movie even more after seeing it again. It isn’t doing anything that special, but it is perfectly entertaining. ****

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – This is the best comedy. It was available for free on Amazon Prime (or maybe Hulu) and I needed to relax for 90 minutes. Steve Martin and Michael Caine are both great and Glenne Headly is perfect as the glue that makes it all work. Really, just a completely excellent movie. *****

The Godfather 2 – It’s real good, I don’t have anything to add. *****

Captain America Civil War – This movie doesn’t really work for me. The villain’s plan is ludicrous and it mostly is just working to get the heroes split on either side. Iron Man comes out looking terrible and while the big airport fight is fun in a lot of ways, the fighting is actually kind of dull. It isn’t bad, I just don’t love it. ***

Thor Ragnarok – I decided to go back to this before Avengers Infinity War hit. I think I like it even more on a rewatch than I did the first go round. The culmination of the Thor/Loki relationship alone made the movie worthwhile. I’ve got brothers, though admittedly none who have transformed into snakes before stabbing me, and seeing the developments in that relationship were relatable. Also, it is really funny. *****

TV

Black Lightning – It is rare for a show to come out as fully formed as this one. From the minute it started, Black Lightning knew what show it was and it was fully that show. There was no flailing about with any of its characters or its concepts; it just told its story. There were some minor missteps, but for the most part it was just one of the most assured and well considered TV shows around. I don’t mean good like I say the other CW superhero shows are good, that they are fun bits of pulp that are just solidly entertaining evening fare. This is legit one of the best shows on TV.

Legends of Tomorrow S3 – Legends took a leap from S1 to S2 by jettisoning a handful of characters that weren’t working (and one of their best in Captain Cold) and bringing in better replacements. It also just solidified the kind of show it wanted to be. I didn’t expect a similar leap in S3, but I still got it. The show has really settled into a solid niche as the big goofy superhero show while also doing a great job of exploring its cast. While the show keeps rotating members of the cast, the core just keep getting better. This is the most fun superhero show around.

The Office – I finished up. Even the bad stuff is good stuff.

Monk – There is something admirable about the purity of Monk to me. There aren’t enough straight up detective shows these days. Even Psych, which I loved, kind of dropped that angle in the last couple of seasons, to the show detriment. Monk was never anything but a mystery of the week show and it was great for that. Not quite Colombo great, but still great.

Superhero Shows – Other than the two the finished up, Flash and Supergirl are back. The Flash somehow keeps getting worse at season long villains, but most of the rest of the show is going just fine. Supergirl is still solidly good. Also, I watched the first episode of Krypton and liked it fine, I’ll get to the rest of it soon.