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.

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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.

What I Watched March 2018

Movies

Batman – I’ve never been a big fan of this Batman movie. I know people love it and the design is excellent, but it just doesn’t work for me. ***

UHF – This was my first time seeing this. Weird Al is great and the movie has some wonderful energy that it almost keeps up all the way through. I really feel like I need to see it again. It is just so silly and genial. ****1/2

Roadhouse – There is a lot of ironic enjoyment to be had with this movie, but I don’t really care for it that much. Sam Elliot is great, but I can’t really bring myself to care about most of it. **1/2

Tango & Cash – This movie is fun, but it doesn’t quite work. Mostly because Stallone can’t play the uptight cop. Kurt Russell is, of course, awesome. Still, there is a lot of fun to be had, especially when Stallone is doing Stallone things. Well worth a watch. ***

The ‘Burbs – I love Joe Dante movies and this one in particular. It has a great cast and does a great job of slowly building the madness of the main characters, though it ultimately pulls it punches at the end. I love it. *****

The Outsider – A Yakuza movie starring Jared Leto that is just so lifeless and inert that I can’t bring myself to care. On paper it sounds like it could have been a lot of fun, but it tries to tend toward seriousness and it is just so dull. *1/2

Battles Without Honor or Humanity – I was recommended this when I didn’t enjoy The Outsider. It was a lot of fun. After WWII, a group of young men form a Yakuza clan and as the years go by any sense of camaraderie among them dissipates into back-stabbing. *****
Game Nightread review here ***1/2

Black Panther read review here. *****

Tomb RaiderRead review here. ***

The Godfather – I don’t know that I really have anything to say about this. The Godfather is great. *****

Game Over, Man – The Workaholics guys made a DIe Hard-esque comedy that mostly works. Other than the gross out stuff, which never really works for me. I didn’t really need to see someone get his dick cut off. Still, there is some fun to be had here. **1/2

Pacific Rim Uprisingread review here. ***

Porco Rosso – Got a review here. I saw watched this in a theater for the first time. What stood out to me the most on this viewing was the music. Like the rest of the movie, it is nearly perfect. *****

TV

The Office – I’ve burnt through almost the entire series again as background noise while I was studying. It is still real good.

Collateral – There is a lot going on here. It is a detective show with a Carey Mulligan as the main detective that touches on a lot of political issues. It is pretty great, thoughtful and complex.

Voltron – This show continues to be good fun, though this was a real small batch of episodes.

Wild Wild Country – A great documentary look at a cult that set itself up on a ranch in Oregon. This story takes you places. At first the bigoted locals kind of put you on the side of the cultists, but things start to spiral out of control and everyone ends up looking pretty bad as the story goes on. It is a very interesting tale and well worth seeing.

Jessica Jones S2 – The second season of Jessica Jones doesn’t fix the problems that were a part of the first season and really all of Marvel’s Netflix shows: it is roughly 8 episodes worth of show spread across 13. It also has a much less compelling villain than the first season. That was always going to be a hard act to follow, but with Jessica’s job the show seemed to be in a position to avoid a serious letdown. It really didn’t, though. I mean, the show is still mostly good, but I’m running out of patience with this whole section of shows.

The Punisher – Basically see above. Jon Bernthal is great as Frank Castle, but I’ve never really been a fan of the character. This is a solid live action version that really did nothing for me personally. It is better than Iron Fist or the Defenders or Daredevil S2, but it isn’t as good as JJ or Daredevil S1.

Santa Clarita Diet S2 – The first season of this show was pretty great. It leaned a little too heavily on the gore, but once the family stuff started hitting it was really entertaining. The second season hits the ground running and just gets better and better. The characters are more well developed and there are at least two fall down laughing moments in each episode. I love this show.

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.

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.