What I Watched

Movies
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxysee this post.  I love this movie. Lots of favorites here; Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Martin Freeman. *****

The Salvation – After watching Polar, Netflix recommended this other Mads Mikkelsen movie. It is a Western about a recent immigrant. After he settles in the west, he sends for his wife and son. When they arrive, they are quickly murdered. So Mikkelson’s Jon sets out for revenge, but then the brother of the murderer seeks his own revenge, setting off a destructive cycle. It’s nothing special, but it’s okay. ***

Ant-Man and The Wasp – I still enjoyed this a lot. Charming and fun, if inconsequential.****

Velvet Buzzsaw – I appreciate that this is a movie for somebody. That somebody is not me. This is a horror movie about the modern art world. It doesn’t appear to have much to say about art and it is not particularly scary (it is not scary enough that I watched it) but it is at least interesting. ***

Polar – This is some kind of weird mix of John Wick and Suicide Squad. I can’t fault anyone involved, least of all Mads Mikkelsen, but this movie is mostly not good. It is kind of entertaining in a wild and sort of awful way. Honestly, if it sounds at all interesting give it a try. I don’t think it’s good, but I had a decent time watching it. **1/2

High Flying Bird – Steven Soderbergh directed this movie about a fictional NBA lockout, with Andre Holland starring as an agent who manipulates things in an attempt to end the lockout. It is pretty great, with human characters and understandable viewpoints. It is a great sports movie that actually features very little of its sport. *****

Close – Noomi Rapace stars in a tight little action thriller. Rapace is a bodyguard, hired to protect a teenage girl. She saves the girl from an attempt on her life, but they can’t tell if it came from unknown enemies or from her own step-mother, with whom they have a fractious relationship. It is solid, if unspectacular. ***1/2

Alita: Battle Angelread review here. ***

Hot Fuzz – This movie is an absolute favorite, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. I can watch this movie forever. *****

The Breaker Upperers – I might be being fooled by New Zealand accents, but this is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is two women who run a business breaking up couples for a fee. For various reasons, they have to reexamine their business model. It is great. ****

Paddleton – This is an touching and occasionally amusing comedy/drama starring Ray Romano and Mark Duplass. The two play friends and neighbors. Duplass’s character gets diagnosed with cancer and Romano helps him navigate the end of his life. It is very much a downer, but it is well made and intermittently amusing. ***1/2

TV

The ABC Murders – There is a lot here to like in the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mystery. They change somethings, in the backstory as much in the actual mystery, that seemed like a strange choice, but it is still really well made. John Malkovich is great as Poirot and I am starting to really like it when Rupert Grint shows up in things. It’s good, especially if you are not a Christie purist.

Russian Doll – Another show I want to really write about, but just don’t have the time. This is a Groundhog day type of story that goes in some interesting directions. It is just about a perfect show.

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes – Its fine. There are better true crime series. The most interesting thing was hearing all the men talk about how irresistible Bundy was to woman and hearing all the women talk about how creepy he was if you spent more than ten minutes with him.

Black Earth Rising – I don’t know. There is a lot to like about this mini-series. The performances of John Goodman and Michaela Coel. I am generally interested in the subject matter of International criminal justice. This show just kind of goes too wide at times, a little melodramatic in ways that doesn’t seem to suit the show. Still, it does a lot well. It focuses a lot on the effects of colonialism and how even well intentioned attempts to counteract them only work to perpetuate the problems. But the show is also just kind of disappointingly all over the place, tonally.

You – I don’t think this show is for me. You follows the worlds biggest creep as he creeps on the object of his infatuation. The show does its best to keep the viewer at least partially on the side of protagonist/psychopath Joe, but I couldn’t forget the crazy enough to buy into anything else. I guess I am little too old for the social media aspect to resonate either. I’m on twitter, but I don’t share life details with people I’d avoid on the street. (to paraphrase Shawn Spencer of Psych)

Hilda – This was recommended to me several times, but it took me a while to get through it. That is mostly because it is pitched at a slightly younger audience than I am used to. However, the further you get into this show, the more its depth and heart show through. It is a fun mix of a modern world with a whole bunch of fantastic and mythological creatures. Hilda is amazingly empathetic towards whatever creature has shown up in any given week. The show’s dynamic doesn’t quite click until she makes friends with Frida and David. Adding those two characters gives Hilda consistent counterpoints to bounce off of, and really shows how she is special. The whole show is permeated with this sense of wonder that is utterly delightful. It is a great show.

One Day at a Time S3 – Another solid outing for this Netflix critical darling. This season digs deeper into its characters, while never losing that classic sitcom format. Previously, I’ve that format restrictive, but as with classic sitcoms, it gets better the longer the show goes on. Sure, eventually it will hit a tipping point where the quality of the writing, mostly due to having to find more stories to squeeze out of the set up, starts to go down, but by then the viewer is so comfortable with the characters and setting that it still feels like a warm blanket. One Day at a Time is hitting that warm blanket stage.

Big Mouth S1&2 – This falls into a similar category as Sex Education from earlier this year. It is a well made show, frequently really funny. It is a show providing good information to people who no longer need it. I don’t know how much it would actually appeal to kids the age of those on the show. I like all the people involved and frequently really like the show, but my reaction is more of a shrug and it’s fine.

The Umbrella Academy – Netflix is moving on from Marvel, but they are staying the superhero business. The first season of The Umbrella Academy is maybe better than any of Netflix’s Marvel shows. I kind of want to write a long blog post about his show, instead of a tiny review, but for now I’ll just say a few things. First, plotting is not this shows strong point. It does great stuff with setting and character, but the plot is chaos. That is partly the point; this dysfunctional family can’t even get things together to face the apocalypse, but sometimes you can lose track of each episode as it goes. Again, the character work is great. You really get where nearly every character is coming from, though I think it is impossible not to side with some over others. It is a delightful sort of weird. The most part most indicative of the overall tone is in the first episode, when all of the siblings dance separately to “I Think We’re Alone Now.” It is almost too on the nose in a perfect way. This is a really good show.

Lorena – A solid docu-series that recontextualizes the Lorena Bobbitt story from the 90’s. It does a really good job of showing how a salacious story like this gets distorted in popular culture. At the time everything was focused on John Bobbitt and his version of the story, and Lorena was largely dismissed as a crazy woman. This series takes a fresh look at the story, and goes further, looking at what has happened since, and creates a clearer look at the incident, which shows Lorena as more of a victim. It also shows how genuinely gross people like Howard Stern, Geraldo Rivera, and Alan Dershowitz were in dealing with this story.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Comparative Study

On a whim, I rewatched The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Afterwards, a bout of curiosity led me to look up the movie on wikipedia, which took me down a rabbit hole that left me shocked to discover that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is not a particularly well regarded movie. I was foolish enough to think it would be loved simply because it is great. Instead, it seems stuck in that that weird gray zone where fans of the previous versions don’t like it because it changed some things and non-fans don’t like it for a combination of thinking they are missing too much for not being familiar with the radio/book/tv version or were just never going to like it because Douglas Adams had a particular voice and that voice was understandably not for everybody. I really only understand the last one. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie is an excellent movie in its own right, even if isn’t the definitive version of the story.

Part of my disconnect is likely that I backed into The Hitchhiker’s Guide. I saw the movie first. I loved it. Being the reader that I am, the first thing I did after watching it was track down the book. Which I also loved. I haven’t returned to the book much, mostly because nearly all of the best bits are in the movie and it can be experienced in less than two hours. I didn’t get deep into Adams; I didn’t read the rest of the series or any of his other work. I just moved on to other things, and this movie became a pleasant memory from college.

In reading up on the movie’s reputation I found numerous complaints about how the movie missed the spirit of the earlier versions, which I find preposterous. That spirit, embodied by clever wordplay, sly jokes, understated darkness, and general absurdity, is in the movie in spades. The movie translates most of the first book word for word; the first book is just really short. I reread the book after rewatching the movie; I still think the movie got most of it. Not everything translated off the page perfectly, and some portions weren’t really attempted, but the heart of the book come across perfectly.

After reading the book, I watched the 1981 TV version on Amazon, hoping it would provide the Rosetta Stone for understanding why fans of the property were not especially big fans of the movie. It did, in a way. (Here’s the line that would get me hate mail if anyone read my blog.) The TV version reminded me forcefully that nostalgia is a hell of a drug. This version looks cheap and is so shapeless and meandering as to make the book look like it was plotted with clockwork precision. The book already had a tendency to just move on to the next thing when it was done with the joke. The TV show does the same, except the pacing of each scene is bloated and sagging. Structurally, the show is barely a show at all. It feels much like a sketch show, with each episode moving to a completely different setting and concept that just so happens to carry over some of the same cast. A lot of it feels like a radio play set to film. All the acting is done in the dialogue; there is little of interest actually happening on screen. This is not meant to be read as a screed against good dialogue, only to note that TV is a visual medium and maybe the show should have had something worth watching on screen. There are some good creature designs, but it is mostly a lot of people standing and talking. Two-headed Zaphod is a straight up disaster, with his second head being almost as well realized as the one on Michael Scott’s halloween costume. The show simply looks bad.

This. This looks really bad.

A lot of disdain for the movie came from people praising the TV show and I simply don’t get it. I can understand people not liking the changes and additions (more on those later) to the movie from the book, but the TV show praise is baffling to me. A lot of that praise is for the performances, although the reasons for that, other than simple nostalgia, elude me. Again, many of these feel like performances for radio. They recede on screen, leaving the settings to do a lot of the acting. It makes it hard for me to even compare the performances. Zaphod is fine, though he seems to be struggling under the costume to give the character any energy. David Dixon makes Ford the most dynamic character on the show, but even he has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle. Simon Jones as Arthur Dent suffers the most as the show goes on. He is great early, but as the other characters show up, he all but disappears, even when the rest of the cast actually disappears. Trillian is a mess. I guess I see how people who grew up with these versions could prefer them, but they are mostly just fine mouthpieces for good dialogue that bring little else to the table. Honestly, I am glad the TV series was not the first version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I experienced, because I doubt I would have been a fan.

The movie, though, does have quite a few changes and additions from the book. Mostly, those are in the name of giving some form to the shapeless book. Part of the charm of the book—and the TV series I assume—is that scattered nature. It starts big, with the destruction of the Earth, but after that things just sort of happen. Revelations come fast and frequent, usually with little bearing on what came before it or what comes after. That was never going to fly in a movie version. So it added something of a quest to the search for Magrathea, which was something of a fait accompli in the book and show. Now, the crew has to get directions from Zaphod’s enemy Humma Kavula, which leads to a detour to Vogsphere. Those things were added for the movie. Honestly, they fit in almost seamlessly, though some of the humor is a little slapstick. Not significantly more so than stuff like a sperm whale crashing to the ground from outer space, but there is some. Outside of a knee-jerk dislike of everything new, there are two differences I’ve seen get a lot of hate. Understandably is the change in the nature of the relationship between Trillian and Arthur. Adding romance is the one change that really feels like a Hollywood change and not just an “accepted rules of storytelling” change. The romance is not needed to for cohesion or structure, it is just there. It doesn’t ruin the movie or anything, but if feels somewhat unnecessary. Inexplicably, people also hate the opening musical number. “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” is a delight. Opening the movie with a satirical musical number ostensibly sung by dolphins tells the viewer exactly what they are in for. It is visually interesting, something the couldn’t be done in the book; it does, however, bring in something from the book in a visually interesting way.

I watched the movie again after rereading the book and watching the show. My esteem for the movie is undiminished. I love the cast; they are almost to a person better than the show performances. I guess I understand how people could prefer Dixon’s Ford to Mos Def’s chill version, but I liked Def’s take. It works with what is in the book. Otherwise, movie performances all the way. Especially Sam Rockwell’s Zaphod, who is an energetic mix of George W Bush and Elvis. Seeing people crap on the musical number to start the movie, then watching that musical number again cemented for me the idea the movie was never going to be successful. It had been too long and fans had too strong an idea of what had to be there for the movie to work. So movie gets dinged because some mildly funny dialogue got left on the cutting room floor or a stinger joke just before the credits suggest that the restaurant at the end of the universe is at a certain place and not a certain time. I mean, the movie left out all the jokes about digital watches. How can it purport to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy without jokes about digital watches?

The movie is not a perfect translation of the book, which is what it most closely mirrors. But it it certainly a more effective film translation than the TV series. I might track down the radio version some day; I am not opposed to audio only entertainment (note: I should write someday about how I first experienced Star Wars through the radio versions). Maybe that version is the best version. For now, I’ll stick with book as the ideal form and the movie for when I just need to be entertained. On its own merits, the movie is excellent.

What I Watched January 2019

Movies
The Phantom – Oh my God! How is this movie not widely regarded as a classic? It is a near perfect action adventure movie. I need to write something more full bodied about this movie. I loved everything about it. *****

Punisher War Zone – This showed up on Netflix and I jumped on it. It is astounding. This is a movie that realizes how much of a cartoon the Punisher actually is. It plays it like a serious crime drama in some ways, but in others it is more like a Looney Tunes cartoon. It is an appealing mix. ****

Support the Girls – An interesting film, starring Regina Hall (check that) as the manager of a Hooters-like restaurant. It follows her for a day, as she does her best to look out for her employees while dealing with the unreasonable owner and some bad decisions from those employees. It manages to not be completely crushing while highlighting the difficulties faced by its characters. ****1/2

Blindspotting – I’ve reviewed this here. I watched it again and I think it holds up on subsequent viewings. *****

His Girl Friday – A great screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Lots of rapid fire dialogue and witty lines. It is a delight. *****

The Addams Family – I’ve reviewed this before. I might not be able to analyze this movie objectively. I don’t care, I love it. *****

On the Basis of Sex – read review here. ***1/2

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek – read review here. ****

Serenity – read review here. *1/2

Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened – One of two nearly simultaneously released Fyre documentaries. This one, from Netflix, is more slickly produced and takes a close look at exactly how this disaster came to be. It is more of a blow by blow of the disastrous set up for the failed festival. Both of these docs are compromised in some ways, this one was partly produced by the advertising company who advertised for Fyre, and they do their best to ease their culpability. It is an interesting story. ***

Fyre Fraud – The other Fyre documentary, this one from Hulu. It is a little more ramshackle and has a greater focus on how Fyre became a thing culturally and more of the effect on the victims. Again, this one is possibly ethically compromised by paying Billy McFarland, the man chiefly responsible, for an interview, though the doc doesn’t go easy on him. This one takes a much more strident view of the failed festival as a crime. Honestly, they are about equally good and are different enough that they don’t overlap all that much, so watching both gives a really complete look at this mess. ***

Austin Powers in Goldmember – There are parts of this movie that don’t work 15 or so years later. There are lots of dated cultural references, though not the Tom Cruise cameo. The wordplay and genial goofiness, though, hold up quite well. I’ve written before about how there is something comforting about these movies that were big when I was in high school, regardless of their actual quality. ****

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – It has been a long time since I actually sat and watched Fellowship. This is an excellent movie. It really is a journey, and does an amazing job of laying the foundation for the rest of this epic. The most dynamic character, in this film, is Boromir. You get a great sense of his struggle, of how his need to help his homeland causes him to fail and betray his allies, at least momentarily. This is such a great movie, so many unforgettable moments. *****

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Still great. *****

TV
A Series of Unfortunate Events S2&3 – I should maybe read this books some day. They came out when I was a little too old to be paying attention. Based on this show, though, I really like this series’ sensibility. I love its mix if macabre humor, literary references and meta-textual tricks. I watched the first season when it came out, but skipped the second season for some reason. When the third hit, I sped through both of them. The show is so great. Really solid performances from the kids, and Neil Patrick Harris is clearly having a great time as the villainous Count Olaf. The show is at its best when it leans into it showiness. It does a great job of appearing happy and peppy, while spending the whole time telling the viewer that this is an unhappy story. When the unhappy turns come, they aren’t shocking. In fact, as a viewer you are disappointed in yourself for expecting anything else. This is a really solid show.

Homecoming – I wish I had more to say about this show. It is very good. It is a mystery that plays out across two time periods, with Julia Roberts playing a counselor at a facility for soldiers with PTSD in the past and working as a waitress in the present. I don’t want to say more and risk spoiling anything. It is very good.

Outlander S4 – Season 4 did a lot of good things, but it is adapting a book that is rough to condense into a TV season. It is a transitional book in the series; developing a new setting for the series going forward. The season, at least the back half, chose to focus on the romance between Brianna and Roger. That is the most important thread from the book and it manages to construct a solid enough story. The problem is, knowing how things go in the book I had a hard time accepting a lot of the changes made. Mostly because I know they will frequently have cascading effects. If I could think of a good reason for some of the changes, for example in the book when Roger leaves Brianna after finding her in Wilmington (?) it is with the express promise to meet her later. In the show, he does so after being told to go back to their own time. The change makes the fight more memorable, I guess, but why later is Brianna waiting for Roger, when she doesn’t know he is coming back. There are numerous such changes, and it makes for a sometimes frustrating watch. Still, I am looking forward to the next season. Hopefully it has more Fergus and Marsali.

Future Man S1&2 – This is a frustrating show. Because it is often very close to being very good. If someone told me they loved it, I wouldn’t think twice about it. There is a lot to like. But something about it consistently put me off. It is in how the show mixes humor and science fiction. It pivots from one to the other when it should stick with what it was doing; going from a working comedy bit to a science fiction bit. When the show actually manages to blend the two, it sings. More often they clash, making for a show that feels like it should be better, even though it is already mostly good. I would watch a season 3, but I can’t say I would miss this show much if it disappeared.

Sex Education – This show takes places in nowhere. It seems like it is set now, in the late 80’s in some small British town in Ohio. If you can get past that weirdness, it is a solid teen drama. Otis, a repressed teen with a sex therapist mother, teams up with Maeve, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, team up to provide sex therapy to their classmates. The show introduces a ton of teens who are having teen problems, some of them sexual, some not. Soon, Maeve and Otis are not only helping their classmates, they are also dealing with their own personal problems. That impossible setting gives the show a sort of timelessness; there are elements that are very reminiscent of my own teen years, despite other parts being things I never encountered. It is another show that front-loads some of its harshest content; the show gets a lot more comfortable after a rough first episode that does seems to be trying to do to much. It just gets better as it goes around.

Happy! – This show should not work as well as it does. Chris Meloni stars as an ex-cop turned drugged out hitman. He finds a new partner in Happy, a young girl’s imaginary friend sent to find help after she had been kidnapped. Things start weird, and get weirder. Meloni’s Nick Sax is a force of nature. He is very good at a few things, the most important one, on this show at least, is killing people. It does a great job of showing how deadly he is up front, so it makes sense when people sent to kill him later treat him like he’s John Wick. And Meloni infuses everything he does with a coked out madness that is also somewhat sad. I feel the need to stress that the show is often gross. It works anyway; I really like it. I am ready for season 2.

Golaith S2 – This show completely fell apart at about the halfway point. I’ve loosed my venom elsewhere and I don’t really have it in me to tear into this miserable show again. It is ostensibly a legal drama, but all the legal parts of it go away near the midpoint. That element is replaced with preposterously stupid nonsense about a Mexican cartel. Character’s motivations just switch, making no sense with what came before. It confuses darkness with depth. It is really just bad in every way it could be bad. I know a season 3 is coming, I hope it is more like season 1 than this pile of shit.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego – A new Netflix cartoon take on this classic edutainment character. This show turns Carmen Sandiego into a hero, making her a kind of Robin Hood like figure. It mostly works, and occasionally gets in it history lessons. The back story is very involved, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It is pitched a little young for me, but the show seems about perfect for like 8-12 year olds. I was drawn in for nostalgia for old Carmen Sandiego games.

Frontier S2 – I am going to be completely honest; I sort of lost the plot with this show. There are so many characters and I started it long ago enough that I don’t quite remember who they all are. I had enough fun with it, but it a little like watching a show through fog. I almost need to start over rather than moving on to season 3 like I intended to.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S4 Part 2 – These final six episodes of what has been one of my favorite Netflix shows were slightly disappointing. It doesn’t really feel like they were aware they were in the endgame until right at the end and there aren’t quite as many laugh out loud moments as were in previous seasons. That second problem is understandable, since this is only half a season. There are good moments, but nothing touches the first half of the season’s Party Monster episode. The big swing is the alternate reality Sliding Van Doors episode, which doesn’t quite work as well as it should. It has its moments and is a good episode, but I don’t think it is a great one. Still, I am sad to see this show go. With the loss of this and of Great News, there is suddenly a dearth of Tina Fey/Robert Carlock comedy coming. Maybe I should just be glad I got 4 seasons of this, 2 of Great News, and 7 of 30 Rock. Kimmy Schmidt has been one of the funniest shows on television since it started and I look forward to the possibility of a follow up movie.

The Good Place S3 – This might not be as consistently excellent as the first two seasons were, but if not it is still damn close. The show continues to just eternally upend everything every couple of episodes. It remains one of the funniest shows on TV, capable of getting laughs out of jokes about relatively obscure philosophers. The best show on television.

Top 10 TV Shows 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched December 2018

Movies

Creed II — read review here. ***1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Hood — read review here. **1/2

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

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

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

Aquaman — read review here. *****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched November 2018

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Widows – read review here. ****1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched October 2018

Movies

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

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

Colette – read review here. ****

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

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

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

Venomread review here. **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched September 2018

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

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

Operation Finale – read review here. ****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched in August

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BlacKkKlansmanreview coming soon ****1/2

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

The Spy Who Dumped Mereview coming soon. ***

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched July 2018

Movies

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

Uncle Drew – read review here. ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skyscraper – read review here. **1/2

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

TV

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

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

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

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