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.

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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. ***
BlacKkKlansman – review 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 Me – review 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 likeable. It is good stuff.
The Keepers – I was not as enthused as I expected from this true crime show. Each episode seemed too long to me. There were significant gaps from when I started from when I finished, which didn’t help my engagement with the show. Overall, it just felt a little short on true substance.
Disenchantment – After the first batch of episodes I still wonder what this show is going to be. I say this first batch is roughly on par with revival Futurama. To me that is mostly a good thing, it might not reach the heights of the best but it is still very entertaining. This show seems to want to have more of a central narrative than Futurama did and after seeing the end if this first batch I am very curious to see that develop. Otherwise, it is a solidly good, mostly pretty funny show that has yet to have a real standout moment or episode. I liked it a lot anyway.
Insatiable – I see what this show is supposed to be and at times it nearly gets there. But its satire is too scattershot and often too broad to work. It seems to want to be something like Riverdale, but as a completely campy send up, but it takes more than half the season to find its footing and even then has plenty of miscues. I understand why the creators were kind of defensive about the fat shaming stuff, because that is really not what the show is. Except for the occasional moment, mostly offhand jokes, when that is what the show is. It does start developing into something interesting in the latter half and I was prepared to give the show a tentative recommendation, but then the last 20 minutes or so of the last episode happened and I am out. The show crossed a line it can’t walk back and I am not interested in following. This show isn’t worth it.

What I Watched July 2018

Movies

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

Uncle Drew – read review here. ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skyscraper – read review here. **1/2

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

TV

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

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

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

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

What I Watched June 2018

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

Ocean’s 8 – read review here. ****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tag – read review here. ***

Hotel Artemis – read review here. ****

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched May 2018

Movies
Avengers Infinity War – read review here

Super Troopers 2 – read review here

Overboard – read review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadpool 2 see review here

Solo – review coming soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched April 2018

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched March 2018

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Panther read review here. *****

Tomb RaiderRead review here. ***

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

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

Pacific Rim Uprisingread review here. ***

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob’s Burgers

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

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

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

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

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

What I Watched February 2018

Movies

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

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

TV

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

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

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

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

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