What I Watched March 2020

Movies

All the Bright Places – A fairly well done, teenage romantic tragedy that is mostly about mental health. It is a real downer and not really what I want right now. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith are really solid as the stars, I just didn’t like it that much. **1/2

The Coldest Game – Bill Pullman plays an alcoholic US chessmaster caught in the midst of Cold War spy stuff. He has to try to win a chess match against a Soviet master while helping a Soviet spy deliver information relating to the Cuban missile crisis. It’s mostly pretty good. **½

Emma. – read review here. ****½

The Way Back – read review here. ***1/2

Goodfellas – Yeah, this movie is just about perfect. I don’t really have anything to add to the Goodfella discussion; it’s great. *****

Tremors – Okay, this movie is much better than I remember it being. Cheap and goofy, but a lot of fun. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are great as an odd couple of handy men who find themselves stuck in a monster movie. It is a lot of fun. ****

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I am always shocked at how well this movie holds up. It is legitimately good and the turtles still look great. I love this movie. ****

Dick Tracy – This movie is kind of all over the place. Most of the cast is in a live action cartoon, Madonna is in an erotic thriller. Most of it actually works, but it still feels kind of disjointed at times. ***

Hard to Kill – I don’t think I like Seagal and I did not really care for this at all. **

Spencer Confidential – This had all the makings of being really fun, but it kind of doesn’t work. Wahlberg and Duke are good. But they are kind of stuck in a movie that isn’t really sure what it is. Wahlberg’s character has to constantly be the best at everything and be beaten down by the world. **

Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – A cgi remake of the original Pokemon movie. It isn’t great, but it is entertaining enough. As someone who hasn’t seen the Pokemon movie since I took my little brother to the theater for his birthday, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. It is definitely nonsense, but there is something remarkably enjoyable about a video game movie that sets out to tell one story and tells it, even if it is just a small chapter of a big story. ***

Lost Girls – An incredibly well made and frustrating movie about a young woman who goes missing. It is really about the incompetence and inertia of the police who are supposed to be investigating the disappearance, but do not really care because the girl was an escort. The roadblocks that Amy Ryan’s mother continually runs into are viscerally frustrating. It makes for an amazing, difficult movie. ****1/2

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – This was actually a fun stop motion take on E.T., mixed with all kinds of other movies. I have not previously been much of an Aardman fan, but this was pretty delightful, even if low key. ***1/2

To All the Boys P.S. I Still Love You – A really solid teenage rom-com sequel. It really does a good job of building on the characters from the first movie, not just redoing the first movie. It actually makes the characters deeper and more well rounded. It is really good. ****

Altered Carbon Resleeved – An anime movie that takes place before the Altered Carbon show, or at least season 2, that fills in some backstory and is about some Yakuza line of succession in a world where people are functionally immortal. There is some fun to be had here, but I thought it looked ugly, which is a big problem with an animated film. **1/2

Night Hunter – A thriller starring Henry Cavill and Alexandra Daddario. It executes its formula pretty well. It isn’t going to blow anyone’s doors off, but if you want something in the vein of Silence of the Lambs, there are worse choices. **1/2

TV

Locke & Key – An adaptation of a series of comics created by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. A trio of kids move back to their recently deceased father’s childhood home and start to find magic keys. This starts a game of cat and mouse with an evil entity that is also trying to get the keys. It is okay. Nothing special, but good enough.

The English Game – This feels like a show made only for me. It is a late 19th century period piece about the development of English football. It has a kind of upstairs/downstairs set up, contrasting the wealthy, upper class players of the established game against the lower class factory workers, with some of the factory workers even stooping to being paid to play. It isn’t the best thing ever, but presses a lot of my buttons. I loved it.

The Pale Horse – A lesser known Christie about a seemingly supernatural mystery. The show really plays up the unreliability of its protagonist. It is pretty entertaining; I don’t have much to say.

Hunters – This show goes places. I am not sure they are all good places, but they are places. Set in the late 70s, Hunters deals with a group that finds out Nazi’s relocated to the USA after WW2. Logan Lerman plays Jonah, who after the murder of his grandma falls into the orbit of Al Pacino’s Meyer and his group of Nazi hunters. The show tries to both be a mediation on how to deal with loss and grief, and a sort of exploitation movie. The two halves are never really adequately combined. It is certainly flawed, but even with all of its flaws it remains largely entertaining.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez – This one is a rough watch. Just the vilest of humanity on display, and the complete failure of every level of a system that is supposed to prevent things like this. It is a revealing look at personal and systemic failures, but it also simply turns the stomach.

Tiger King – I don’t have time for this. This documentary is impossibly to look away from, and just keeps getting crazier and crazier as it goes along. Judging by the internet from the last couple of days, everyone has seen it. I do have some qualms with how it treats Carol Baskin. The doc makes a convincing case that she killed her husband without any real evidence that she killed her husband. I don’t like that a bunch of internet weirdos are going to be harassing her for the rest of her life based on innuendo and the ramblings of a meth addict. Still, this is impossibly entertaining.

Castlevania S3 – I think I came to the same conclusion with each season of this show, but I do not like it all that much. It seems to revel in the parts of Castlevania story that I don’t like, or to reimagine parts I do in ways that I don’t. Each season I find that I am very much not on the same page as this series. Season 3 had a decent story with Trevor and Sypha fighting a town of cultists, but I kind of hated everything around that. I am not saying this show is bad, I am saying it is aggressively not for me.

Altered Carbon S2 – I remember really liking the first season of this, but the second season kind of lost me. It wasn’t the change from Kinnaman to Anthony Mackie as the main character. I liked Kinnaman, but Mackie is really good. There is a lot of interesting stuff in this show, but this season focuses more on a bigger plot than the first season, which started as a something of a murder mystery before morphing into something greater. The production values are still amazing, but writing does not quite work.

Sanditon – This is a show based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel. You can almost tell, sometime near the end of the first episode or beginning of the second, where the show runs out of book. It then goes in some pretty non-Austen directions. Mostly in having character be a lot more complex in terms of morality instead of just personality. (That sounds like a dig at Austen, but at the end of an Austen novel, you know who is good and who is bad) Until the last episode, it still mostly works. I think it kind of fell apart in the end; maybe setting itself up for a second season. There are some problems that seem to stem from how much it departs from Austen’s, admittedly incomplete, set up. Still, it looks good.

The Office – Trapped in my house led to me watching a lot of The Office in the background. It still sucks me in when I watch it.

Black Lightning – The third season of what has been one of the better CW superhero shows wrapped in a largely satisfactory manner. The big problem I had with the end of the season seems likely to be fixed sooner rather than later and is hopefully just a story hook for next season. This season went big. Not only did Jefferson get involved in the Arrowverse as a whole during Crisis, but it also replaced the largely street level, local conflicts with an international story with larger ramifications. In the end, I think it pulled things back together pretty well and managed to bring a sprawling story that at times seemed to get away from the writers home. I hope next season sees a refocusing on the matters that the show started with, as I liked the first two seasons better.

Star Trek: Picard – The Next Generation is the version of Star Trek that I’ve always liked best. I felt a little trepidation hearing that Patrick Stewart was coming back to star in a Picard focused tv series. I was also excited, doubly so because Michael Chabon was involved. The show is not quite the home run I wanted it to be, but it is largely very good and ultimately pretty satisfying. I think the show did itself a disservice with its central plotline, which went too big and too urgent to really let people get to, in my opinion, the parts of Star Trek, which are when the crew has a little downtime. I like to see the ship’s crew interact, and this show didn’t really get to that until about halfway, and even then only did it about half way. Still, I liked it,

What I Watched February 2020

Movies

Maria – Some kind of would be female led John Wick style action movie. It kind of works, but it isn’t especially good. There are some good action scenes, but it is mostly just fine. **1/2

Psychokinesis – A Korean superhero movie that is actually a lot of fun. Roon-mi runs a chicken restaurant. She is involved in a real estate dispute with some mobsters working for a big corporation. When her mother dies, her estranged father, Seok-heon, shows up. He now has superpowers. After first trying to use them for petty schemes, he uses his powers to help his daughter out. It is a solidly entertaining superhero movie. ****

The Matrix – Yup, this first one is still great. I have no interest in watching the sequels again. *****

Shanghai Fortress – This movie is shockingly dull. A science fiction action movie about an alien invasion. It also tries to be a romance, but it only kind of works. **1/2

Elisa & Marcela – The true story of the first gay marriage in Spain, kind of. The movie is not good. It is melodramatic and didactic. I didn’t like it much at all. **

Rampant – A Korean zombie movie period piece. Lot’s of political scheming over the throne and trying to use an outbreak of a zombie virus to secure power. It goes badly. This is more of an action movie than a horror movie, but it is enough of a horror movie that I mostly just wanted to shut it off. ***

Back to the Future Part 3 – I know people who are really down on this movie, and BttF2. I don’t get it. The original Back to the Future is pretty much perfect, I agree, and its sequels are not quite on its level. But both 2 and 3 are ridiculously fun in their own right. I really like the 3rd one, as it puts the setup of the series into a new genre. *****

Dragon Quest Your Story – For most of this movie’s runtime it is an enjoyable, if incredibly fast paced adaptation of one of the best video games ever made. The last fifteen minutes turn it into something else entirely. ***1/2

Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks – This is a documentary about the development of Hong Kong Kung Fu movies. It is kind of surface, but it is largely entertaining. It covers the genre from Bruce Lee to close to the present day, covering the ups and down of the genre and its stars. It is a solid primer for those only vaguely aware of the genre. ***1/2

The Last Thing He Wanted – Bad movies are not usually this well made. This movie got miserable reviews and for about the first hour I was somewhat baffled by that. Then it got into its second half and . . . I don’t know. This is a strange movie. Everyone involved is too good for this movie to be this disjointed. **

TV

The Spy – It is interesting to see Sacha Baron Cohen do serious work. And good work. This show is good, but not great. It slips into hagiography at times, flattening a complex historical figure into something more like a straight hero. It is alo really tense and mostly very entertaining. Cohen plays the Isreali spy Eli Cohen, who infiltrated the Syrian government in the 1960s. Knowing historically how it ends makes it hard to watch at times. He has to leave his family behind and become someone else. He gets good information from the Syrians, but eventually the net closes in on him. He can feel it closing, but he is able to be talked into keeping going for all the good information he is getting until the inevitable happens. It is really good.

The Dragon Prince S1-3 – Pretty solid cartoon from Netflix. I never really warmed to the animation style. Still, the show itself is pretty well done. I don’t have a lot to say about it. It is a well executed fantasy story that is suitably complex and original. If you can get past the animation, which I really didn’t like, it is well worth watching.

Godless – This show is amazing. Just a long, loving, beautiful deconstruction of western tropes. The town of La Belle is almost completely without men after a mine accident killed nearly all of them. In their absence, the women of the town have banded together to keep things going. Jeff Daniels plays an outlaw, Frank Griffin, who waxes on about God while committing unspeakable acts. Roy Goode, played by Jack O’Connell, was like a son to Griffin until he double crossed him and took off. He takes refuge in La Belle. Sam Waterston plays a US Marshall hunting Daniels. Things almost never play out like you would expect in this show, at least until near the end. Scoot McNairy is the sheriff of La Belle, but he almost never draws his gun, leading to him having a reputation as a coward. His widowed sister is the real leader of the town. The show lets the characters live as it builds up to the inevitable conflict between the town and Griffin’s gang. It is one of the best things I’ve seen in some time.

The Pharmacist – Another Netflix true crime series. This one is a trip, following a pharmacist as he first tries to find the person who killed his son, then as he tries to get to the bottom of the all of opioid prescriptions that are running through his pharmacy as people start dying. It is plenty entertaining, even if it doesn’t really offer anything new.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 – This show is something else. I still wish they would cut each episode down by about 15 minutes. I know the 40-45 minute runtime is for airing on tv with commercials, but the full hours that a lot of this shows episodes run feel laborious. I’ve got to be honest here, I am not especially engaged with this show. It is fine; largely well made and occasionally interesting, but I am never really interested. I do appreciate how wide the show tends to go with things, with trips to hell and all kinds of wild nonsense.

Giri/Haji – This show is wild. It is nominally a cop show. Kenzo, a Japanese cop, goes to England to look for his brother Yuto, who is in the Yakuza. Kenzo has to balance his responsibility to bring in his brother, if he is indeed guilty of the crimes he is suspected of, with his duty to protect his brother. There are all kinds of complications, from British gangsters to Yuto’s relationship with a Yakuza bosses daughter to Kenzo’s crumbling marriage, to Sarah, the British cop that takes a liking to Kenzo. Not on that, but the show seems determined to change genre about 4 times an episode. It is always a crime show, but sometimes it is an action movie, sometimes a relationship drama, sometimes it is animated, sometimes an action scene plays out as an interpretive dance. It keeps the viewer off balance and consistently engaged. I really enjoyed it. I don’t know that there is much room for a follow up season, but I would definitely watch one.

Shrill S2 – Another batch of episodes here that are really pretty good. I don’t know that I am directly the audience for this, but I enjoy the show enough to stick with it for its relatively short run time.

High Fidelity – I have not read the book this is based on. I never watch the John Cusak movie. This show is fine. It feels perfectly aimed at a very specific audience and I am not that audience. The foremost reason for that is that I don’t really care about music. Rob is this insane mix of appealing and completely insufferable, a hard trick to pull off. The show is really easy to watch even if you are not particularly engaged with it.

What I Watched January 2020

Movies

Before I get into these movies, I am going to note that I spent a large portion of January cleaning out my Netflix queue, watching all of the movies that had been sitting on my list for years without being watched. So some of those are just getting a score with nothing more. Those will be up first, then my usual quick reviews.

Becoming Jane – ***

Someone Great – ***1/2

Kate and Leopold – ***

The Little Mermaid (2018) – **

Colonia – **½

Red Sea Diving Resort – **

God of War – **

Moonwalkers – **½

Rattlesnake – **

Yucatan – **

Clouds of Sils Maria – ****

The Brawler – *

The Men Who Stare at Goats – ***

Fullmetal Alchemist – **

The Fighter – ****

District 9 – ****

IO – **½

Pegasus – **½

Unicorn Store – **

The Talented Mr. Ripley – ***½

Detective Dee and the Four Heavenly Kings – ***

Knives Out – see review here. *****

The Hateful Eight: Extended Edition – I reviewed this movie before, but I watched this extended edition that is broken into four episodes as a mini-series. It still plays. This is a great, if thoroughly unpleasant, film. I don’t know that I need to watch this nearly four hour long version very often, but it is a wholly entertaining experience. *****

Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress: Battle of Unato – This is another movie split into episodes for Netflix. I moved it up here because it definitely functions more as a movie than a miniseries. I think this would be better if I knew the series; as it is it is a mildly enjoyable animated action movie. ***

Casa de mi Padre – This movie is certainly not for everybody. Will Ferrell stars in a fairly straight attempt at Mexican telenovela. It just pushes things further away from reality at every turn. It is tuned to a very specific sense of humor, which fortunately for me is one I share. This is Ferrell in his strangest mode and I love it. The artificiality of everything just makes it work. ****1/2

Hell or High Water – I absolutely loved this movie. Two brothers, who own a farm that is about to be foreclosed on by the bank, take to robbing small bank branches for small amounts of money. Though it is set in modern times, it plays out like an old Western. Especially as the law men come after the brothers. Despite their actions, your sympathies generally lie with the brothers. Especially with Chris Pine, whose plan this is and is doing it to help his ex-wife and kids. I loved everything about this movie all around. *****

A Serious Man – This was one of the few Coen Brothers movies I hadn’t seen. It is good. Not my favorite, but very good. It is calls to mind the book of Job, with terrible things happening to the main character for no rhyme or reason. ****1/2

End of Watch – I absolutely hated this movie. No part of it worked for me. Certainly not the most egregious, but one of the most obvious reasons, is how it handled the camera. It pretends that the cops are shooting it themselves, but most of the time there is no one holding the camera. It just shows laziness in how the movie was made, which is evident throughout the movie, despite the best efforts of Gyllenhal and Pena. 1/2

Ni No Kuni – I haven’t played the game that this movie is based on, so I don’t know if it reflects the story from that or is largely original, but it is fine. I generally enjoyed it. It feels like it leaves a lot of interesting story on the table, with a lot of possibilities introduced and not fully explored. ***

The Wandering Earth – A big Chinese science fiction movie that largely plays out like a reverse Armageddon. It is entertaining on that level. ***

1917 – read review here. ****

Little Women – read review here. *****

Steel Rain – This one is wild. It involves a plot to assassinate the leaders of North Korea that nearly spirals out into nuclear war. You’ve got a schlubby guy with a failing marriage from South Korea teamed up with a soldier from the North trying to stop things before it spirals into an even bigger catastrophe. It is wild, but interesting. ***

Troop Zero – I don’t know that this movie quite works. It is a weird throwback to some kind of 80s comedy, relying on cute moppets and unreliable parental figures. Troop Zero goes weird with it. It works because it has some specificity, but sometimes it is just too out there. I enjoyed this more than I didn’t, but I don’t think it will stick with me. It certainly seems like something a certain group of kids will fall in love with.***
A Kind of Murder – This is just a straight up noir. It is just a thoroughly competent genre exercise. Patrick Wilson is always great, and this is no different. He is a writer whose wife gets killed. Killed in the same manner as a bookseller’s wife. The police suspect a connection, and Wilson keeps lying to the cops to cover up an affair. It is pretty entertaining. ***

Just Mercy – read review here. ***1/2

The Gentlemen – read review here. ****

The Perfection – Okay, this is a strange thriller/horror movie. I don’t know that I actually liked it all that much, but it is certainly very well made. It keeps the viewer on their toes and gets pretty gross at times. ***1/2

Manhunt – A wild conspiracy thriller from John Woo. You’ve got false accusations, super soldier drugs, gun fights with two heroes handcuffed together. It is very entertaining. ***1/2

Kung Fu Yoga – This movie is essentially Jackie Chan as Indiana Jones, in a China/India collaboration. The movie isn’t very good, but Jackie Chan has still got it. ***

Raging Bull – This is a movie that puts a man’s ugliness on display and just lets it go. It is well made and well acted and just kind of amazing. I’ll likely never watch it again. *****

Justice, My Foot – I have really enjoyed Stephen Chow movies in the past, and finding this one from the 90’s on Netflix was intriguing. It is mostly fine. There is some stuff that has aged very badly, (which isn’t the right way to frame it, as it is not like any of the tasteless jokes were ever good) like some straight up homophobia. Otherwise, it is a fun, silly legal period piece. I enjoyed it. **1/2

TV

Voltron S7-8 – I really enjoyed the first six or so seasons of this show a few years ago, but they pumped out the seasons faster than I could watch them and I just fell off. I circled back around early this year and finished the show off. This is a really good show that mostly sticks the landing. I see why they killed off the character they did at the end, but it doesn’t sit quite right. Still, this show is really good. I am glad I came back to it.

You S2 – The first season of You had this kind of enthralling quality to it, as Joe was so clearly a monster, even if he didn’t realize it himself, and you were watching for it to unravel. Then it kind of doesn’t. Season 2 is probably where I am done with it, because I really don’t care to see anymore of Joe. I can only watch a monster for so long as he slowly wriggles through cracks before I am just done with it. Here he finds a new group of people to latch onto and slowly destroys them, even as they destroy themselves. It ends with a twist that will keep the show going for at least another season.

Lost In Space S2 – I think this is as good as this show is going to be, which is a largely pretty good family scifi show. It is generally enjoyable, but the exciting moments of escape and adventure are sometimes mired in interpersonal relationships that simply are not as interesting. It builds along several episode long arcs that feel a little padded, instead of just telling more focused, interesting stories. Still, I like it quite a bit.

Medical Police – A spin-off of Children’s Hospital. I don’t know what to say. It is a parody of doctor shows and a parody of police procedurals and a parody of something like 24. It is a lot of fun and incredibly stupid. One of the highlights of the year so far.

Violet Evergarden – This is emotional manipulation, the series. Violet is an auto memory doll, a person who writes letters for people who, for whatever reason, cannot write them themselves. She does this work in part because it helps her, a former child soldier with little social development, better understand people. The show parades mostly sad stories in front of the viewer as Violet learns about emotions. I am being too harsh, it is mostly a pretty good show, though it feels a little truncated.

Living With Yourself – This was an interesting little show with Paul Rudd playing a man who goes to a spa that, unbeknownst to him, clones him. The spa’s business involves killing the original and replacing them with the refreshed and improved clone. But the original version of Paul Rudd survives, which leads to the two of them having to work to coexist. I don’t have a lot to say about it; it is mostly pleasant and enjoyable. Like Paul Rudd is in just about everything. I would watch more if they make it.

The Family – This documentary spins itself in circles a little, but it does illuminate the quasi-Christian fundementalist that have been working for half a century to influence American politics. It is religion removed from morality and, as presented here, simply gross. This is not the best made documentary series ever, but it is pretty enjoyable.

Carole and Tuesday – The second half of this music themed anime. This half of the season ends up with the duo being somewhat involved with the politics of future Mars, while also just trying to make their music and capitalize off their success in the competition from the first half of the show. It remains mostly good.

Spinning Out – A melodrama about figure skaters. One family, an overbearing, bipolar mother and her two daughters as well as a rich man, his sons and his new wife. Kaya Scodelario is the elder daughter, who is struggling to recover from a traumatic injury. She is also realizing that she shares her mother’s mental health problems. Added on to that, she has recently switched from singles to doubles. There is a sports show happening, but it often gets relegated to the background for some over the top melodrama. Which is fine, that is what the show is. It just also isn’t really for me.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez – This is a solid look into the toxic collection of circumstances that led to the creation of a man like Aaron Hernandez. From CTE, to homophobia, to just the culture around football that allowed him to get away with whatever he wanted. It is chilling and more than a little sad, for many reasons.

Sex Education S2 – This continues to be very good show. I am still confused by the setting, which is a strange mishmash of current and something out of the 90s, America and England. This season expands the scope of the show greatly, moving the focus off Otis and Maeve somewhat and allowing more characters to have more developed stories. That lets the show tell a lot more stories, but it loses something in the exchange. I think it improves the show.

Dracula – The team behind Sherlock have brought that same approach to Dracula. The first two episodes are really good. Those first two episodes are interesting reimaginings of the novel, keeping certain aspects, while radically changing others. Much like Sherlock. I think things really fall apart in the third episode. Much like Sherlock. The whole ride is worth taking, even if the final part doesn’t work at all.

Watership Down – Great voice cast, good story, miserable animation. This show is just ugly. I don’t have much more to say.

The Good Place – It ended near the start of February, so hold me to having more to say next month, but this is one of the best shows of the last few years. Absolutely amazing from start to finish.

Cyborg 009: Call of Justice – The story of this show is fine, as far as justifications for cyborgs fighting ancient mutants goes. What does not work is the cg animation. The Cyborg 009 characters have pretty distinctive design, which is washed away here for generically ugly cg. The show is just kind of a pain to look at, which means it is harder to care for the story.

CW DC Shows – Basically, January mostly had the second half of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was really good, and if I write about the end of Arrow I’ll have more to say about it.

What I Watched December 2019

Movies

Knives Out – wrote about it here. *****

The Irishman – Martin Scorcese returns to the gangster genre for this contemplative, mournful deconstruction of the tropes of the genre. Instead of showing these organized murderers as strong and powerful, it reveals them as weak and empty. It deftly illustrates the erosion of their souls as things go along. De Niro’s character sitting alone in the nursing home at the end of the movie might be one of the most tragic things I’ve ever seen. *****

Queen & Slim – wrote about it here. **1/2

The Report – Dry as old toast, but this is a well made drama about the Senate’s investigation of the CIA’s torture program. This is an important story that people need to know about, but as well made and acted as this movie is, it is more likely to get casual viewers to turn it off pretty quickly. ****

Dark Waters – wrote about it here. ****

Marriage Story – I see why people are going nuts over this movie. It is a real and grounded portrayal of a family going through a divorce. Grounded except that they have no need to worry about money, which is a big concern for a lot of people. Still, strong performances all around and just truly human. ****

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby – Another Christmas Prince movie. Harmless and light. I see the comforting appeal of these Christmas movies. There just really isn’t anything of substance here. **1/2

American Son – This feels like, and is, an adaptation of a stage play. It takes place all in one location and is just 4 people talking to each other. It’s heart is in the right place, but it is didactic and clumsy. I didn’t like it much at all. **

6 Underground – Michael Bay seems to have watched Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible and tried to replicate it, with a little bit of Batman thrown in. The result is visually incomprehensible and morally reprehensible. It is a movie about giving into people’s worst impulses framed as doing the right thing. As much as it makes sense it is kind of gross and not especially fun to watch. *1/2

Earthquake Bird – A weird little drama about people living in Japan who may or may not be murderers/or causing deaths. It doesn’t really work and I am not sure what I am supposed to take from it. I do like Riley Keough and Alicia Vikander, though. **

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – wrote about it here. I like this movie more every time I rewatch it. *****

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – wrote about it here. ***

The Souvenir – I saw this on a lot of Top 10 lists and watched it on Amazon Prime. I see why it’s getting praise. I got no enjoyment out of watching it. It is the story of a woman trapped in a relationship with a man suffering from addiction. It is harrowing. ****

How to Train Your Dragon The Hidden World – This movie is gorgeous and a lot of fun, but I have always been a little more cold to these Dragon movies than a lot of people. This one, like the other two, is fine. It is enjoyable family entertainment. Toothless is a great fake pet that effectively mimics a lot of true feeling pet behavior. It’s fine. ***1/2

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – I forgot this movie was actually released. It is a big muddled mess. It moves along on the dream logic that is essentially Terry Gilliam’s calling card. Whatever this movie’s problems are, here Gilliam has recaptured his late 80’s-early 90’s magic. This would fit right in with Brazil and The Fisher King. A movie director reconnects with some performers he worked with years ago, one of whom is convinced that he is Don Quixote and the director is Sancho. The director gets sucked into the man’s orbit and I guess learns a lesson. It is certainly not for everybody, but I loved it. *****

Murder on the Orient Express (1974) – This was on Amazon Prime. I was in a murder mystery mood after seeing Knives Out (I am always in a murder mystery mood). It’s good. Really good. ****

Jumanji: The Next Level – wrote about it here. ***1/2

Solo: A Star Wars Story – I watched this on Netflix after seeing Rise of Skywalker, and I liked it a lot more than I remembered liking it. I am still annoyed by some small moments, but for the most part is an excellent space western. I think I need to get it on DVD. ****

American Factory – A documentary about a Chinese company opening an automotive glass company in the United States. It really highlights some cultural differences, as well as some ways in which we are the same. One of those ways is that the bosses will do everything they can to squeeze employees and pad the bottom line. The second half is all about the factory attempts to unionize so they can get safe working conditions and fair pay. It is very interesting. ****

The Aeronauts – This movie feels like awards bait that has gotten summarily ignored during awards season. I liked it. It looks amazing. The story is pretty simple, it is mostly just Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in a hot air balloon, attempting to conduct scientific experiments and achieve record elevations. Eventually, they get high enough that they lose air. For a movie as limited in setting as it is, it manages to feel very adventurous. I thought it was a lot of fun. ***1/2

TV

Reprisal – I feel like this show needs more attention. It is a strange noir crime show. It takes a lot of time to build the world building. The plot gets very intricate, and I might have fallen asleep during an episode and got a little lost. There is one scene where two characters have a phone conversation while sitting on the same couch. At times it seems to be set in the 50s, at others the 80s. I think it is set in the present. It is just a weird, stylish, entertaining show.

Runaways S2 – I feel like I should like this show, but somehow it seems to be transfering over little of what made the comics so enjoyable. Also, I am not sure how well those comics hold up, because this season felt more true to them and was no more enjoyable than the first. I will likely get to the 3rd season soon, just to be done with this.

The Movies that Made Us – The people behind the Toys that Made Us switched over to movies, giving us some slight making of documentaries. These were pretty fun.

The Confession Killer – A true crime series about a man who confessed to hundreds of murders and was manipulated by overworked prosecutors and ambitious and obviously corrupt Texas Rangers to keep admitting to murders that it was clear he did not commit. The show does its best to not portray the man as a victim, he did murder at least two people. But he is not the criminal mastermind who murdered hundreds that some Rangers still claim he is. It is a really strange story that mostly just serves to some flaws in the justice system.

The Witcher – I am not especially familiar with the games or the books this is based on, but I had a tremendous amount of fun with The Witcher. It does some things with chronology that are confusing and its three separate plotlines take forever to connect. But the core of the show, Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher, traveling from town to town fighting monsters, is delightful. The interplay between the grouchy Geralt and his friend Jaskier the bard is fun. Yennefer is great, and once her story starts to intertwine with Geralt’s the show really gets into high gear. The biggest problem with the show, if you can call it a problem, is the adventures of young Ciri, a princess whose country is overrun in the first episode and she spends the whole season on the run, looking for Geralt for reasons that do not become clear until near the end of the season. She is fine and her plot works, but it never really connects with the others. Still, I loved the show overall. I can’t wait for season 2.

The Mandalorian – My cousin has Disney Plus and I watched this at her place in the days after Christmas. It is good, but I am not sure I am joining the hype train for it. I think the practical effects looked kind of cheap and ugly. While I appreciated the simplicity of the story, I also didn’t find all that much to latch onto. I’ll check in on season 2 and I hope it continues to deepen.

Best TV Shows of 2019

I did my Top 20 movies, so I decided to do the same with TV. Lot’s of good stuff this year, and a lot of the stuff that just missed the list is as good as the bottom quarter of this list. A lot of it has the problem of not being recent, so I don’t remember it that well. Here is the list:

20. The Boys – This show is dark and cynical and gory, descriptors that would normally kill any interest I have in a work of fiction. However, while The Boys is all of that, there is a surprising amount of heart hidden underneath that. The show, at least in the first season, is ultimately less cynical that it wants the viewer to believe it is. What made the show work for me is the surprisingly heartfelt romance between Hughie and Annie, showing that there are also good and human people in this show, along with all the cartoon monsters.

19. Dear White People – I loved the first two seasons of Dear White People; this third season is still good, but it feels a little more scattered than the previous two. The show has always been an ensemble that alternated viewpoint characters from episode to episode, but Samantha has largely been the axis the show has turned on. This season made a conscious effort to turn the focus elsewhere, and it destabilizes the show somewhat. It is still good, and I am looking forward to the fourth season, but this one was a step down from the previous two.

18. Carnival Row – First of all, and this goes for the next show on this list as well, I am already completely annoyed that any show that is even remotely fantasy is going to be reviewed as though it was trying to be Game of Thrones, even if it shares as little with that show as, for example, Carnival Row does. Carnival Row, with its fantasy Victorian setting and murder mystery set up, is almost perfectly crafted to be something I love. And I did love it, I think. I greatly enjoyed watching the show, I am just not sure if it is actually any good. Still, I enjoyed it enough to put it on the list. I might rewatch it to see if that enjoyment holds up.

17. The Witcher – This is the most recent show on the list, and after I sit with it for a while it might go up or down on this list. Right now, it is resting in a pleasant afterglow. I don’t know that this show made the best use of its eight episodes, taking a little too long to get to what it is setting up as the main plot. However, I was much less interested in that plot than I was in Geralt going around fighting monsters and learning that man is the real monster. I would be into this show if it was just a big budget Hercules The Legendary Journeys, but it is more than that. I am really looking forward to more of this.

16. Santa Clarita Diet – The third and final season of this show continued to be excellent. That excellence was in large part due to the performances of Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant especially. The rest of the cast is good, and there are a lot of solid guest appearances, mostly from stars of other excellent TV comedies, like creator Victor Fresco’s underrated previous show Better Off Ted. I am really sad to see this show go, especially as it didn’t quite appear to be finished. I don’t know that they could have found a satisfying ending to it, but at least it left off at the end of a section of the story, and not a complete cliffhanger.

15. Brooklyn 99 – I really enjoyed the first season of this show on NBC. It is in that solidly comfortable part of the lifetime of a show. Other than Chelsea Peretti, who is both great and whose character was kind of an odd fit for the show, the cast does not seem interested in moving on. The show just continues a string of routine excellence.

14. GLOW – This show has done an amazing job of building up its cast. This season has the crew doing the show as a nightly Vegas show, with the cast getting a little stir crazy stuck in Las Vegas for the time their contract runs, with many of them finding interests outside of show. It is just really entertaining television.

13. Bob’s Burgers – See what I said above about Brooklyn 99. Bob’s Burgers is also routinely excellent. Just shockingly few misses. Each episode adds something or someone new to the show. One offs become recurring characters, one episode obsessions become part of characters. None of it feels like they are doing anything but growing organically. I hope this show runs forever and I hope

12. Unbelievable – I know a lot of people who have this show much higher, and I can’t say they are wrong. This is the lowest it appeared on any draft of this list. This show does a great job of centering a police procedural show around a different kind of detective. It does a great job showing what would cause a rape victim would recant a true account. Great work from Merritt Weaver, Kaitlyn Dever and Toni Collette. Just a great show.

11. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 4 almost lives up to the excellence of Season 3. This one starts with the team tracking down magical creatures that have been strewn throughout time. As they collect them, someone comes up with a plan to use them for no good. Added to the team this season is Constantine, whose expertise with magic is needed. The show is wild and silly and possible the most entertaining thing on TV when it comes to just pure enjoyability.

10. Stranger Things – I know some people are down on Season 3 of this show, but I think it works. It turns more to echoing action movies and TV shows of the 80s now; there is a character that is essentially a terminator running around and Hopper expressly dresses like Thomas Magnum for most of the season. It is louder and broader. But the characters remain true. I think I might be more into and more investing in this show than any other currently running series. I recognize some faults, but I just love to immerse myself in this world when I get the chance. I love how the cast just keeps expanding, and somehow each new addition just fits right in.

9. What We Do in the Shadows – What We Do in the Shadows was one of the best comedies of the last ten years. Somehow it seems to work even better as a series. This show takes the set up and the sense of humor of the movie, but leaves the characters. Now it is just a comedy about a group of vampires, living in New York, living their lives. The new characters are great, and the show goes some new and interesting places. It is just a lot of fun.

8. Good Omens – I haven’t read the book this mini-series is based on. I do, however, love Michael Sheen and David Tennant. I like Jon Hamm. I like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This show is a lot of fun; lots of irreverent humor and strong performances. The show really sings when it focuses on Tennant and Sheen; they have wonderful chemistry together. It if was just the continuing adventures of Crowley and Aziraphale it would likely have still made this list. This is just a really entertaining show.

7. Documentary Now! – If it were just the first two episodes of Season 3, I think Documentary Now Season 3 would have a strong case to make this list. I am not sure those are the best episodes of the season. The last episode, Any Given Saturday Afternoon, is delightful. Original Cast Album: Co-op is wonderful. There are no bad episodes. The show breaks from the first two seasons, which largely focused on Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, to feature a lot more guest performances. It is just great.

6. Fleabag – I always feel like I should have more to say about this show. It is excellent from start to finish. Well acted, well written, funny and affecting. It is basically everything you could want out of a half hour comedy. It’s on Amazon Prime; you should go watch it.

5. Doom Patrol – There was a lot of great superhero TV this year. But nothing tapped into the fun and weirdness that I love comics for better than Doom Patrol on DC Universe. While the aggressive weirdness brings a lot of entertainment, it is built on a solid foundation of some wonderfully realized, human characters. It is great to watch this found family come together and solve problems even weirder than they are.

4. When They See Us – Amazing, powerful and heartbreaking. When They See Us tells the story of Central Park 5, a group of young boys who were railroaded and sent to jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Their story highlights some flaws in the criminal justice system. The show is just amazingly composed and acted, and while it ultimately ends on a somewhat optimistic note, is completely devastating. This is the show on my list that feels the most important, everything above it is fun.

3. Russian Doll – This show came out long enough ago that I don’t remember all of the finer details. I remember the feel of the show and the concept, but I am completely unable to bring any details to mind. Natasha Lyonne is stuck in a recurring loop, living the same day over and over. She is trying desperately to find a way out, and eventually finds another person caught in a similar loop. I remember the show being funny and interesting and thoughtful. I need to watch it again.

2. The Good Place – Whether this is Season 3, or the second half of Season 3 and the first half of Season 4, The Good Place deserves this place on the list. It has the tone and jokes of some of my favorite comedies of the last few years, also created by Michael Schur, but also tells a strong serialized story. It frequently strays into schmaltz, but it all works for me anyway. It is unique among sitcoms as a show that completely changes the premise every three or four episodes. Season 3 did this several times, settling into a concept for three or four episodes before shaking everything up. I love this show.

1. I Think You Should Leave – The whole season of this show is less than two hours long. I think I spent more time watching this than any other show on this list. Sketch shows and be hit or miss, but this one cranked out hit after hit. It is aggressively weird on a frequency that just resonates with me. I absolutely love this show. The Baby of the Year sketch, Fenton’s Stable and Horse Ranch, The Night Scrooge Saved Christmas, the car focus group, I could literally go on all day. I am apparently a huge Tim Robinson fan and I can’t wait for more of this.

What I Watched November 2019

Movies

Harriet – read review here. ***1/2

Parasite – read review here. *****

Motherless Brooklyn – read review here. ****1/2

Midway – read review here. ***

Jojo Rabbit – read review here. ****1/2

Let it Snow – This is a pretty solid teen party movie that is also a Christmas movie. It has a bunch of teenagers having teenager problems while also planning to attend a Christmas Eve party. The only thing really novel or notable in it is the same sex romance subplot, which is pretty well done and an interesting development in this kind of movie. It is overall just really well done. ****

The King – I feel like I should like this less than I do. It isn’t really history, it is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad. But it doesn’t really give you what you want from a movie version of Shakespeare; it instead plays it more like real history. It ends up in this weird middle ground. I found it utterly compelling. Great performances, especially Chalamet as King Henry as he wrestles with living up to what is expected of him as king. His big struggle is how to legitimize his rule while also making his own decisions. I liked it a whole lot. ****

Holiday in the Wild – Why do I watch these Christmas movies? I don’t know. This one is pretty bad. Just like little going on of interest and little that seems Christmas-y about it. **

In the Shadow of the Moon – An interesting, unconventional time travel movie. Boyd Holbrook is a cop who is chasing a criminal that appears every nine years, who discovers that the criminal is actually a time traveller who stops every nine years sent back in time on some kind of mission. It is more interesting than good, I think. Still, it is worth a look. ***

Sextuplets – This is honestly better than I thought it would be. The concept is that a man who grew up an orphan finds out he not only has living relatives, but that he is one of a set of sextuplets put up for adoption by his mother. So he sets off to meet his family. Parts of it work well and are genuinely funny. Sometimes it is just stupid without reason, as the broad sterotypes of his siblings lead to not especially funny hijinks. It isn’t as bad as some comedies I’ve seen, there is real effort here and some good jokes, but in the end more doesn’t work than does. **

Klaus – WOW! This movie is gorgeous. This is some of the best looking animation I’ve seen in a long time, like a modern day 2D animated movie out of the Disney renaissance. The story is fine. Good, even. If it connected with me just a little more, I would say great. This deserves to become a modern Christmas classic, it is just a lot of fun from start to finish. One of the best Netflix has put out. I highly recommend everyone watch it. ****1/2

The Knight Before Christmas – I wondered why I watch these movies up at Holiday in the Wild, and this movie is the answer. A medieval knight gets transported to the modern day and a lovelorn school teacher tries to help him. He wants help to finish his quest and return home, she thinks he needs his head examined. Also, it’s Christmas. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is enjoyably weird. **1/2

Otherhood – This movie is interesting for its protagonists, a comedy starring older women, women whose children are grown having the kind of mid-life crisis movie that men get occasionally. That said, I didn’t find a lot else to like in this movie. There are some funny bits and some heartwarming parts, but it mostly just felt a little flat. **

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator – A documentary about a celebrity yogi who was shown to be systematically sexually assaulting young women who came to learn yoga from him. It also shows how the whole mythology he made up about himself, stuff like getting a Green Card from Nixon, was a big pack of lies. Interesting, and kind of dispiriting as he pretty much gets away with it. ***1/2

The Great Hack – This is a solid documentary about Cambridge Analytica and essentially how social media is being used as a tool to destroy society. It is infuriating, especially because nothing will change. It is a pretty good movie. ***

21 Bridges – read review here. ***1/2

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – read review here. ***1/2

Ford v. Ferrari – read review here. ****

Charlie’s Angels – read review here. ***½

Hot Rod – This is a modern classic that I feel the need to watch every now and then. It is great. *****

The Pink Panther – This is the remake starring Steve Martin. It isn’t great. Martin has pretty great comic timing and sells the pratfalls, I’m just not sure the movie ever gets past the character of Clouseau. It’s funny enough, but never quite as funny as you want it to be. **1/2

TV

Jack Ryan S2 – I like John Krasinski. I think he does a good job on this show. True to the books, and their author, this show is a right wing fever dream. It is good enough action stuff, but it has some repugnant undertones that make it hard to really recommend and make me not want to spend much more time thinking about it.

She-Ra S4 – This show continues to get stronger as it goes, as it digs deeper into its characters rather than just going bigger. It really feels like the show is moving into some kind of end game here, though. Just a really good cartoon. The murder mystery episode might be my favorite of the series.

Tarzan & Jane S2 – I know this is a show for kids, but this can be done well. See above. This is just sort of silly and flat. Bringing Pellucidar into it near the end was a neat idea, setting up a ER Burroughs connected universe, but I don’t really want to watch that show.

The Devil Next Door – I don’t want to spoil any of this; it is a wild story. Still, a pretty solid kind of true crime documentary that is a little chilling and a little bewildering.

The Man in the High Castle S2-4 – I’ve got a longer post planned, but this is a show that seems to have an identity crisis after every season. Possibly due to changing showrunner every season. It can’t or won’t keep its characters on the same trajectory, so the only one that comes out seeming like a person is John Smith, the American who has risen to the top of the Nazi party. I think it almost finds a satisfactory story in the last season, but overall it was a mess.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – I want to like this much more than I do. It is a triumph of craftsmanship. The puppetry is astounding. I’ve never seen anything that looks as good as this show. I just wish the story connected with me as strongly. It feels oddly paced and obviously structured. It is a pretty standard fantasy story in a lot of ways. There are great moments and some good characters, but for large parts of its runtime it feels a little like running in circles. I hope there is more to come.

The Toys that Made Us S3 – I think they are running out of toy lines worth making this show about. They are already scraping the bottom of the barrel with the wrestling toys. There is also this corporate bootlicking tone throughout. The Ninja Turtles episode is a good example, where it frames being bought by Nickelodeon was not only the best possible outcome, but an altogether good thing. The show is fine and does a pretty good job with its stated goals of showing how popular toys came to be.

The Good Place – I’ll save saying much about The Good Place until it finishes early next year. It continues to be one of the best shows on television.

Bob’s Burgers S10 – Bob’s Burgers is still solidly good. What do I say about a handful of episodes of a very episodic show? There is a baseline level of quality that Bob’s Burgers never falls below. Here was a handful of pretty good episodes.

DC Shows – All of the DC CW shows are building toward Crisis on Infinite Earths. They are all fairly strong this season. Arrow is moving towards its end and I am three seasons out of date, but it is mostly working. The Flash is going great, except when it gets overly dour in its Crisis build-up. Supergirl is building around the Kara/Lena relationship, which is one of the shows strongest. Batwoman is still establishing its world. It feels a little stifled, stuck on Alice. Alice has been great, but so far Kate has become Batwoman solely to get to her corrupted sister. Black Lightning, as ever, is the show out on its own island. I don’t know that Black Lightning can bring home the ambitious story it is telling, but I am enjoying it for now. I’ll have my review of the last couple of episodes of Titans up soon.

Recap of the Titans S2 Ep 11

Titans Season 2, Episode 11 “E.L._.O.”

I really didn’t like the last episode, Fallen, but this one wastes less time and appears to maybe have the show back on track. Or maybe I am an optimistic fool and the show is just preparing to disappoint me again.

Splitting the team up would have worked better if the show had done anything with those characters before splitting them up. This season had done little with any characters outside of Dick and Jason before the last couple of episodes. Those gave us some stuff for Gar and more fully brought Conner into the show. Then the show had Dick’s complete misfire of a trip to prison. Here, the show starts to pull everyone back, hopefully setting up a satisfying conclusion to the season.

Rachel is again having prophetic dreams, dreams about Dick being killed by Deathstroke. So she tries to follow those dreams to find help. Those dreams lead her to Elko, Nevada. Donna goes looking for help to find Rachel, and finds the mess CADMUS left in the tower. She apparently gets a call from Rachel that draws her to Elko. Kory, fully stranded on Earth and mourning the loss of her parents and friend, goes on a bender. Only to hear adds that draw her to Elko. Finally, Dawn, now separated from Hank, heads back to San Francisco, only for engine trouble to have her pull over in . . . Elko. With them drawn together, there is an airing of grievances and the team decides to be a team again. Donna and Dawn go to try to save Gar, leaving Rachel and Kory to try to save Dick.

Dick is being held in solitary, having a pity party and an argument with the imaginary Bruce Wayne in his head. He finally comes to some revelations, including the biggest one of the episode: Jericho is alive and his spirit is inside of Slade. Dick appears to be nearing the end of his journey.

The last, other than some interludes where Gar is being brainwashed by CADMUS, and best, storyline of the episode is Jason and Rose. They ran away to Gotham, and Rose is still working him. She is kind of transparent, even before the reveal that she has been working with Slade the whole time. I do wonder if she is actually Slade’s daughter; I still find it highly suspicious that she was completely absent in all the Jericho flashbacks. But she and Jason appear to forge a genuine connection. He is truly open and vulnerable with her, and they seem to bond. Jason remains one of the best characters on the show, and Rose is a great foil for him. He tries to be abrasive, mostly to be sure that he is not forgotten. He is still kind of a punk, but his actions are clearly defense mechanisms. He pushes people away as preemptive response to his assumed rejection. Rose acts similarly, but she is abrasive to keep anyone from getting close enough to learn her secret that she is working with Slade. The question is where her loyalties will lie when it all blows up. Did she really connect with Jason, or is she still playing him?

Stuff like the Jason and Rose stuff, as well as Kory stuff, is real good. It is why I keep watching the show. It isn’t anything revolutionary; it is just good superhero melodrama. The show spends a lot of time on characters and plotlines that don’t work as well, but the stuff that does work works so well. Hopefully this is the start of a much needed course correction and not a short lived quality bounce for the show.

Recap of the Titans, S 2 Ep 10

Titans Season 2, Episode 10 “Fallen”

Okay, so now Dick is in prison and this is a completely different show. I don’t know why the show is going this route or what Dick is trying to accomplish, but the show is pretty much off the rails at this point, so let’s see where it goes.

After the end of the last episode, Gar is alone in Titans Tower, Dick is in prison, Conner is wandering the streets of San Francisco alone (well, he has Krypto at the start, but he sends him away), and Rachel has run away and is in a homeless shelter.

The best part of the episode is again Gar and Conner. First, Conner sends Krypto away to keep him safe. Krypto, being a good dog and hands down the best character on the show, or in existence, runs back to Titans Tower and gets Gar, who goes to bring Conner back. Krypto is such a good dog. Unfortunately, Conner’s actions have caught the attention of Mercy Graves, and now that she knows that Conner isn’t dead she comes after him again. After seeing what Gar is capable of, Mercy switches her plan from kill to capture. So Conner and Krypto end up back at Cadmus again, this time with Gar in tow. This Cadmus storyline is interesting. I really wish it had been introduced earlier in the season and more time was spent on it than on rehashing the not particularly interesting or revelvatory past of the Titans.

I am not really going into Dick’s prison story, because I really, truly, do not care. That is what takes up the bulk of the episode and I could not care less. In prison, Dick at first refuses to help, but by the end of the episode his heroic instincts kind of kick in. I think the whole sequence exists so Dick can get told the story of the mythical bird who comes in the night and helps people, which I assume will be his inspiration to become Nightwing.

Most of the rest of the gang is absent. There is no Kory, Hank or Dawn. No Rose or Jason. Donna appears briefly and does precisely nothing. There is a brief Rachel storyline, where she tries to help another girl, but appears to lose control of her powers and someone ends up dead. It is something, I guess.

This episode is a real dud. I like the developments with Conner and Gar; that is an interesting storyline that should be pursued. The rest of this nonsense is just mopey, overwrought junk that I was hoping this series was moving past. I really thought the show was posed to really grow into itself over the back half of this season; instead, it feels like it is falling apart. Retreading well worn ground instead of growing into something new. Hopefully the show can pull itself together over the last few episodes.

Recap of the Titans S2 Ep 9

Titans Season 2, Episode 9 “Atonement”

Atonement appears to a tipping point on this season of Titans, as Dick comes clean about exactly what happened to Jericho, leading to most of the team leaving Titans Tower. The old team members; Donna, Dawn, and Hank, are disgusted with his lies and want nothing to do with the team. Rose is upset about the revelations about her brother, and Jason goes with her. Even Rachel decides enough is enough. Gar stays. Kory also leaves, but only because her Tamaranean troubles have cropped back up. Dick then decides to exile himself, leaving only Gar and the unconscious Conner in the tower.

Each of the characters has their own thread the episode follows. Each of these threads could be interesting story hooks, but there just isn’t enough time for any of them. Hank and Dawn try to start over again, but their past catches up with them. Their past from the beginning of the season, when they were running some kind of halfway house. But there wasn’t enough of that for it to really be a storyline and it basically hasn’t been mentioned for seven episodes, so it doesn’t really work here. Kory meets up with Faddei, who tells her that her sister has taken over their planet, and they have to deal with her. Unfortunately, Kory’s sister, Blackfire, manages to possess Faddei. Again, this is a promising storyline, but there really hasn’t been enough done with it to matter. I guess it establishes Blackfire as a potential foe for the (entirely theoretical) team, but that is little.

The best part of the episode is Conner and Gar. At first Gar is alone in the tower as Conner recovers. When he wakes up, instead of calling Bruce like he is supposed to, he and Conner bond over video games and plot out what they will do as superheroes. Even that ends in tragedy, since Conner is essentially superpowered newborn is unable to understand the nuance of something like a man getting arrested. So Conner fights with a bunch of cops. Gar runs off, leaving him alone in the tower and Conner wandering the streets on the run from the authorities.

Dick’s story sees him seeking atonement for getting Jericho killed from Jericho’s mother. It, predictably, goes poorly. For some reason, Dick just takes Slade’s abuse. Like I really need someone to lay out exactly what is going through Dick’s mind, because his actions over this season, and including what I remember of last season, make no sense. The answers don’t actually answer questions, they merely make the questions not make a lot of sense. So he gets himself arrested for . . . some reason.

That problem is broader than Dick. Hank and Dawn have never really fit in, like they are in their own show separate from everyone else. Donna Troy remains a mess. The supposed stars of the show, Kory, Rachel and Gar, have been pretty well sidelined. Everyone’s motivations and character manage to be broad and ill-defined. And the show seems determined not to clear things up. It makes it disappointing, because this show is so good when it is good.

This episode makes me realize that while this season has been building, it has not remotely been building to what I thought it was. All I’ve wanted, essentially since this show started, was to see the team together and in action. Season 1 had an understandably slow build, as they had to put the team together. Here, the team is together, but they just refuse to be a team. Naively, I assumed that all the bickering and bullshit was what the team was working through until they came together for the last part of the season. Now, with time left in the season dwindling, the team has broken up after accomplishing precisely nothing as a team.

What I Watched October 2019

Movies

Joker – read review here. **

El Camino – I’ll be honest; I haven’t gotten all the way through Breaking Bad. I don’t really have an excuse. I did have the end spoiled for me (I guess I really spoiled it for myself). This is not really a movie event, but a double episode coda tacked on to the end of the show. An excellently shot and written modern day western that only really works as a goodbye to a character people already love. It is incredible for what it is. ****1/2

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – read review here. **1/2

The Laundromat – I don’t understand why reviews for this film have been so mixed. I loved how it mixed the fun, glib explanations by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas with the real showing of how these schemes affect real people. The first stuff is enjoyable, but it becomes infuriating as it becomes clear that the crooks are going to get away with it and keep getting away with it. *****

Addams Family read review here. ***

Gemini Man read review here. **1/2

Missing Link – I am really sorry I missed this in theaters earlier this year. I loved Laika’s last movie, Kubo and the Two Strings. This one is just as strong. It looks gorgeous. It tells a great story about wanting to belong. I just loved everything about it. *****

The Current War – read review here. ***

Dolemite is My Name – This movie does just about everything right. Good performances, especially from Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes. It is funny without ever really making fun of its subject. It is loving, but not reverent. Just a lot of fun. ****1/2

Mission of Honor – A perfectly fine WWII movie about (mostly) Polish fighter pilots in Great Britain during the second world war. Personally, I love scenes of propeller planes, which was enough to get me past some of this film’s weaker dramatic points. It does end with a devastating kicker; after fighting to save the U.K., and their homeland, the Polish fighters are deported to their now communist home country, where they are not wanted or welcome. ***

Lord of the Rings The Two Towers – I don’t know when the last time I actually sat down and watched any of the The Lord of the Rings movies. I didn’t do it this time, either. I got interrupted about two thirds the way through this. The movie is still amazing. The special effects have aged, but they have aged better than you might think. I believe a structured rewatch is in my future. Not a marathon, but maybe seeing them over the course of a week or so. *****

TV

Undone – This is a hard show to describe. It is a trippy drama with sci-fi stuff that might or might not be real. Protagonist Alma is in a car accident and learns she can project her consciousness back through time. With the help of her dead father, possibly time traveling father she tries to unravel the mystery of his death. She also tries to deal with things happening to her in the moment, like her sister’s marriage to a man Alma doesn’t like or Alma’s dissatisfaction with her boyfriend. Underneath it all is the question of whether Alma actually has this time travel power, or whether it is a delusion caused by the accident. I was not a big fan of the rotoscope animation, but the show is really good.

Big Mouth S3 – This show continues to be strong, twitter controversy aside. I don’t mean to discount why people were mad, but that is one sour note in an otherwise excellent show. Big Mouth is a show that pushes boundaries in a way that seems really helpful to its supposed target audience. Though I would guess its target audience isn’t kids going through puberty, but people in their 20-30s remembering going through puberty. The show is doing a great job of widening its focus, especially as its two protagonists go down some pretty toxic roads. This is just a good show.

Goliath S3 – I wrote in my Carnival Row post that I had hopes that the third season of Goliath would fix a lot of the problems I had with season 2. Those hopes were misplaced. This season might not be quite as bad as the previous one, but it is still far from good. This season appears to be trying to be something like Twin Peaks as a legal drama. But it doesn’t do a great job of being Twin Peaks and it does an even worse job of being a legal drama. The courtroom stuff is almost completely an afterthought here. I like Billy Bob Thornton, but this show reeks of misplaced confidence. It doesn’t reek of desperation like some bad shows do, like it is flailing around trying to find what works; instead it feels like a show that is sure that it is working perfectly and is trying to stretch its legs a little, even though absolutely nothing it going right. It is a barely watchable mess. At least Dennis Quaid seemed like he had fun.

Modern Love – This is a real mixed bag. There are some great romantic stories here. There is also a couple of real creep shows. I don’t know, this didn’t really do anything for me, despite having some favorites, like Anne Hathaway and Tina Fey, show up and some actually very good episodes.

Carmen Sandiego S2 – I found this to be a big improvement over the first season. Mostly because it feels like it is doing less heavy lifting to set up its story and more just telling the story. It is still a cartoon for kids that focuses on geography and history. It is pretty fun.

Schitt’s Creek S5 – This show remains one of the strongest sitcoms around today. It had a kind of rocky start and still has a terrible title, but the show is good. I don’t have much specific to say, it remains funny and hits enough human moments to make you care. With Netflix losing pretty much every other easy watching staple in the near future, keeping this around would give them something.

CW DC Shows – I am going to write more about these when they go on winter hiatus, which is apparently halfway through the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. I’ll just say for now that it has been a good start. The Flash especially seems rejuvenated. Also, newcomer Batwoman is a lot of fun.