Bob’s Burgers

When I was working on my Top 10 TV Series of 2017 list, something occurred to me. Not only was Bob’s Burgers one of the best shows I watched last year, I think it might be one of my all-time favorites. If I were to make a list today, it would probably make my Top 5. That is a shocking revelation for me, since that top five had been set in stone for the better part of a decade (for the record, around 2008 it would have been something like Always Sunny, Futurama, Arrested Development, The Office and Home Movies, with Psych coming on strong). Usually when I see something that I like, it hits really hard. Always Sunny had me hooked when I found it late in the 2nd season. I loved Home Movies from the start, for all that I watched it by catching sporadic airings on Adult Swim. Bob’s Burgers, though, kind of snuck up on me. I always liked it, but I would only have said liked. Somewhere along the way, it moved up from being a good show to a favorite.

The two guys behind Bob’s Burgers are Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive. Bouchard co-created Home Movies, a show that I absolutely love. Dauterive worked on King of the Hill, a show I like. You can feel the influence of both of those shows in Bob’s Burgers. It has Home Movies’ irreverent, conversational tone and King of the Hill’s humanity. The way the characters talk to each other is just perfect. The Belcher family feels like a family, their conversations have sardonic little asides whenever a family member is about to stumble into a quixotic adventure. The’ve all seen it before and know how it ends. But it also never treats its characters as anything less than people. Even antagonists, like Jimmy Pesto or Mr. Frond, have their humanity.

The show shines in how it has built up the little seaside town the characters live in. There are one off characters, but the show has also built a stable of recurring characters that fill out the world. One episode will introduce a character, but they keep coming back and becoming more developed, until the show can create entire episodes around the brother of the Belcher’s kooky landlord or the sometimes criminal Mickey. Look at the kids classmates. Tina probably has the best developed set of classmates, with her on again, off again love interest Jimmy Pesto, Jr., the rambunctious Zeke, mean girl Tammy, and the ditzy Jocelyn. Gene, whose class is mostly neglected, has his ex-girlfriend Courtney Wheeler. At first Courtney was just the most annoying girl in the school, who happened to like Gene, but as she has returned, she’s developed into a girl that shares a lot of Gene’s qualities. She isn’t just this annoyance, she becomes a full character. Then there is Louise, who’s classmates started as seeming one offs Milly and Regular-sized Rudy. Milly is obsessed with Louise, who can’t stand her. But she is more than that. Like Louise, she is an extreme, letting the show do a somewhat crazier episodes with her while still letting her have a signature thing. Then there is Regular-sized Rudy, Louise’s asthmatic friend of normal proportions. Since his introduction, he has become one of my favorite characters, with his willingness to engage in Belcher craziness despite his frailties.

This is where the humanity of the show shines. Louise is set up to be something like Stewie from Family Guy, but unlike that show, Bob’s Burgers is a show with a heart. For all her seeming sociopathic tendencies, Louise is really just a little girl that loves her family. And her friends. When she learns that a girl is taking advantage of Rudy, she sticks up for him, because they are friends. Her devastated singing in “Glued, Where’s My Bob” after she accidently glues Bob to a toilet shows how much she cares. All the characters care. When Jimmy Pesto wins a minivan out from under Bob, by cheating, Bob still helps him change the tire. No matter their differences or idiosyncrasies, Bob’s Burgers treats all of its characters well.

That is what puts it over the top for me. The show has always been funny, but as it has gone along it has really found its heart. Even Home Movies only ever did that intermittently. That show, which did not have near the number of episodes to build up its world that Bob’s Burgers had, was mostly about the joke and the situation. There was humanity there, but it took a back seat to silliness most of the time. Here, the caring relationships among the Belcher family and between the Belcher’s and their town is the reason for the show. And it is wonderful.

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What I Watched February 2018

Movies

Mute – This feels like a personal project from director Duncan Jones, so it hurts to say that it really isn’t very good. It has a lot of good, interesting ideas and pieces, but they don’t fit together in any sort of a satisfying way. The whole thing ends up feeling muddy and unfocused, with flashes of brilliance scattered throughout. **

When We First Met – A new Netflix movie starring Adam DeVine and Alexandra Daddario. It is a time travel romantic comedy that almost works. It frequently does work, but it kind of sits in this odd area between attempting to be touching and being funny, never quite fully succeeding at either. Still, its not bad. But there is so much potential in the high concept that doesn’t really feel like it explores that well. ***

TV

Kakegurui – This is an anime about a school that is all about illegal gambling. A new girl is both great at gambling and gets off on betting. Her lack of concern, especially while exposing cheating student council members, about the consequences causes a lot of upheaval at the school. It’s fine. I’m not sure why I watched it.

The Gifted – There is a lot of good stuff in this show, but there are also a lot of strange decisions and wasted time. For the dilema it ends up presenting its characters, it has pushed things along the mutants hated and feared line too far for it to really work. A peaceful solution is nonsense when mutants are being actively exterminated. It wants both the drama of the peaceful/forceful resistance arguments and the action scenes, but they can’t both exist in the world the show has created. The show also spends way too much time with the Strucker family, who are all almost wholly uninteresting. It makes for a strange show that doesn’t live up to its promise.

The Punisher – The bloom is really off the rose for these Marvel Netflix shows for me. I found this almost unbearably dull. I don’t have much to say about it.

The Shannara Chronicles – I think I might be alone in really liking this show. In a lot of ways it is not good, but it is trying and ends up being really enjoyable. Manu Bennett is a delight as the taciturn wizard Allanon. It has a diverse interesting cast that has some resemblance to characters and concepts from the Shannara books. It also doesn’t waste the viewers time. Plot points that would take half a season on many shows are dealt with in maybe one. It loses some nuance, but it is such a rollercoaster ride that it is hard to care. It won’t make my best of list, but I am glad I watched it.

Electric Dreams – Amazon Prime gets its own Black Mirror, this based on Philip K Dick short stories, which influenced a lot of modern sci-fi including, if only indirectly, Black Mirror. With an anthology like this, the quality varies from episode to episode, but mostly these are really interesting and good.

What I Watched Jan 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched December 2017

Movies

Return of the Jedi – I wanted to watch the whole original trilogy and The Force Awakens again before The Last Jedi came out, but I only ended with time for the two previous ones. I know Return of the Jedi is the least liked of the original trilogy, but I can’t see putting it noticeably lower than the original. *****

The Force Awakens – There is still a propulsive momentum to this movie, that pulls the viewer along for the first two thirds of it. It pushes all of the right nostalgia buttons. It doesn’t end with quite the same force, but it is still a lot of fun. ****1/2

The Last Jedi – read review here. *****

Mad Max Fury Road – Yup, it is still the best movie of the last decade. *****

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – read review here. *****

The Lost City of Z – I was really excited for this at the start of the year, but it kind of left me old. I really wanted to like it and it looks amazing, but I really didn’t connect with it. It is a well made story of a man driven to explore. ***1/2

The Three Musketeers – This 1994 Disney version is not the classic I remembered it being, but Oliver Platt and Tim Curry make sure this movie is enjoyable, no matter how miscast Charlie Sheen is or how overwhelmed Chris O’Donnell seems. It isn’t great, but there is a decent amount of fun to be had. ***

Psych: The Movie – I can’t judge this fairly. I love Psych, and this is a super long, pretty good episode of the TV show. I am just happy to have Shawn and Gus and the rest back. I don’t think it quite makes the turn into its last twist and Lassiter is sorely missed, but otherwise it is a lot of fun. *****

The Disaster Artist – read review here.

Christmas Inheritance – another in my mostly successful attempt to watch ever Netflix original movie from 2017. I am not the target audience for this. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Christmas Prince. **

Mudbound – An old fashioned epic about racism in the Great Depression and after the end of WWII. I really liked it. Some of it felt familiar, but the struggles of the two veterans in dealing with life after the war is some really strong stuff. I think I’ll be coming back to this in the future. ****1/2

Bright – I don’t think this movie is good, but I had a good time watching it. I think I was laughing at it more than with it, but I was laughing. Even when I am sure the movie did not want me to be laughing. Will Smith is entertaining, and it certainly feels like a big budget movie. **1/2

Dr. No – This first Bond movie feels somewhat incomplete. At this point it is just a movie, not a Bond movie. It is also a very old movie, and feels like it. **

Goldfinger – In some ways this is better than From Russia with Love, in others it feels like a step down. This third attempt is when the elements of a Bond movie really feel like they come together. It is mostly a lot of fun. ****1/2

From Russia with Love – There are some parts of this that really haven’t aged well, but for the most part it one of the best Bond adventures. I was going to watch all of the Bond movies, but they disappeared from hulu before I could get to them. I do have more than half on those cheap DVD collections that were about a year or two ago, I could make an attempt. ****1/2

TV

The Office – I went back to an old standby during finals. I think I forget how much I love The Office every time I stop watching The Office. I know it dips in quality after the first few seasons, but I still think it might be an all-timer for me.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2017

It was a pretty good year for TV. Here’s my list for the ten best shows of the year:

10: Lady Dynamite – Weird and surreal and completely hilarious.

09: GLOW – It takes a little while to get going, but the payoff is worth it. This show does a great job building up a cast of character worth watching going forward.

08: Wet Hot American Summer Ten Years Later – I hope they keep making Wet Hot Summer, because it keeps getting weirder while maintaining the same level of funniness.

07: Outlander S3 – The book this season was adapting, Voyager, is a tough nut to crack. It jumps all over the place in space and time, with few recurring characters. It also has some terrible moments, offset by some terrific ones. The show did a good job of turning that into a season of TV, though it couldn’t shake the unevenness. Still, I liked it.

06: Legion – It definitely goes its own way with X-Men lore, but it was a wild entertaining ride. I really need to rewatch it now that I know where it goes.

05: American Vandal – This came out of nowhere and the first time I watched it, it wasn’t near the list. But I felt compelled to watch it again and I liked it even more that time. It just does too many things well to mention them all here.

04: Fargo S3 – I’m not sure this season came together by the end, but I know that I really loved the journey. It set up a lot of compelling characters and scenarios, and mostly played them out satisfactorily, though with more coldness than the first two seasons.

03: The Good Place – The show is phenomenal. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it pivots into something else, something even more interesting and funny than what came before.

02: Stranger Things 2 – The titling of this show tells it all, this is a sequel, not a continuation. It all worked for me. It pushes right up to that edge of being genuinely scary, but is mostly in that Jurassic Park range scariness that is about the most I can take. It move all the characters forward and introduces some great new ones. I loved it.

1: Master of None – There are like three of four masterpiece episodes in the second season of Master of None, the standout being Thanksgiving. Aziz and Alan Yang crafted a perfect comedy romance over the 10 episodes of this season. I loved it.

Honorable Mentions: There was a lot of good TV that would fit somewhere between five and ten, but a lot of them couldn’t fit on the list. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return was good, especially after the first few episodes and got into a rhythm. I don’t know that the most recent season of Bob’s Burgers was the best the show has ever had, but I did finally realize that it is one of my all-time favorite shows. Dear White People was a insightful look at race relations in 2017. Riverdale is delightfully bonkers. Taboo was enjoyably gross. Little Witch Academia is the most I have enjoyed a new anime series in some time, though with the caveat that I don’t watch all that much anymore. And lastly is Snatch. There is a significant possibility that Snatch would not hold up to a rewatch and I seem to be one of the few people that liked it, but I thought it was good fun that captured the tone of the movie even if it wasn’t quite up to that quality. I really wanted to put it on the list, but it was more of a good not great show that I wanted to bring up.

Let’s hope 2018 brings as much good TV as 2017, while being less of a shitshow in nearly every other regard.

What I Watched November 2017

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.