Best TV Shows of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Movies of 2019

I started with a plan to make a Top 10 list, but that felt a little limiting. So I expanded to 15. Then to 25. Then I scaled it back to 20. Then back to 15 again. Finally, I went back to 20. I was just as firm in choosing the movies on my list. The real problem is that if I cut it at 20, there were two or three movies I wanted to talk about as much as the three or four in front of them that would miss the list. If I cut it at 15, the same would be true. So I landed on 20 movies for my best of the year list. I didn’t really expand it because this was an especially good movie year, it was fine, but because I saw a lot of movies this year and I really want to talk about some of them. So here is my list, with links to written reviews if I have one:

20. Toy Story 4:

This one kept falling as I adjusted my list, and I am not sure that is entirely fair. As I came to the end this list making process, Toy Story 4 essentially fell out of my Top 20. I really liked the movie. I don’t think the people I’ve heard call it the best Toy Story are crazy, but thinking on it half a year later, I don’t know that it quite stacks up for me. Still, its a real good movie.

19. The Two Popes:

I just saw this, so it might rise or fall in my estimation in the next couple of weeks, but right now it is just clinging to the list. I really liked the scenes where Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are debating the direction to take the church and what is necessary to be a good priest or cardinal or pope. The rest of it is fine, just not as riveting as those scenes. Netflix had a heck of a year and this is one of their better ones.

18. Ready or Not:

This one has really grown on me since I’ve seen it. Its horror trappings almost kept me from going to see it, but I am glad I did. Just a winning performance from Samara Weaving, and several other strong performances throughout the cast. Lots of well staged action, humor that mostly hits its mark and gore that is sure to please whoever it is there to please. This movie deserves to be seen by more people. Knives Out hits a lot of the same notes; the two would make a great double feature.

17. The Breaker Upperers:

This is a fun little New Zealand comedy from early this year about a pair of women who run a business helping people break up with their partners. It slips in just conversational weirdness with some real strange, bigger moments that are almost all funny. It manages to catch you off guard, like when the protagonists visit one of their mothers and slip away to the bathroom to steal her cocaine. The situation is weird enough, but every detail added is stranger and funnier. This movie is a lot of fun and needs more people to pay attention to it.

16. Klaus:

A Netflix produced, Christmas themed, animated movie in the style of Disney movies. The plot and the story are good, a solid little Christmas movie. It is generally a fun world to enter for the 90 or so minutes the movie lasts. What really sets it above others is how gorgeous the animation is. It is like if Disney kept putting their resources into traditional animation instead of switching to CG. Basically, everything about this movie works. It really is worth the watch and will likely be in the Christmas rotation for years to come.

15. The Standoff At Sparrow Creek:

This is a solid little thriller. After a shooting, a militia group meets up to find that it was committed by someone in their group. Without knowing who was responsible, they lock down their headquarters and try to find the guilty party, hoping that by making it clear the rest of them had nothing to do with it, they won’t be in trouble. Of course, all of them have secrets. And out hero seems more interested in finding a scapegoat than the real party responsible. It is tense and entertaining.

14. The King:

I don’t quite know why this movie worked so well for me. It loses some of the best things from its Shakespearean sources, like Falstaff being an enjoyable character, but doesn’t do so in the name of being more historically accurate. Still, the story it tells of Prince Hal’s transformation into King Henry V, and the isolation of being the King I found very entertaining. This movie is for me.

13. Ad Astra:

Sad Dad in space. This movie is cold and haunting. Beautiful, but distant. It doesn’t quite bring everything home as well as one could hope, but the first two thirds are some of the best stuff I saw in a theater in 2019.

12. Missing Link:

I am a little late to the Laika love, having only really starting to pay attention after Kubo and the Two Strings. Their movies, in general, are criminally underseen. Missing Link, which bombed at the box office, might be the most overlooked. It is about a disrespected adventurer, Sir Lionel Frost, who meets up with a Bigfoot, Susan, who wants to find a place he belongs with more of his own kind. This sets them off on a world spanning adventure, as they evade hunters who want to catch Susan, as well as a former flame of Lionel’s, Adelina, from whom they stole a map. The whole thing is beautiful and heartwarming.

11. Jojo Rabbit:

This movie sets itself up a delicate balancing act and mostly pulls it off. I think it did a good job of making humor out of a terrible situation, but not trivializing the subject. I found it very heartfelt and charming. I really bought into the Jojo’s personal journey from being an outcast kid who believed some vile stuff to a thinking person. It is also just really funny, which you know, is good in a comedy.

10. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote:

I really wish Terry Gilliam hadn’t been showing his ass in the news lately, so I could feel better about championing his long gestating passion project. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is about a man who played Don Quixote in a movie thinking he really is Don Quixote, and recruiting the director who made that movie to be his Sancho Panza as that director tries to get him help. Adam Driver plays the director as a man who has lost sight of his passion and is oblivious to the wreckage he leaves in his wake. It is a movie about chasing your dreams, even if others think you are crazy. It is kind of a mess. It is the quintessential Terry Gilliam movie. I loved it.

9. High Flying Bird:

Basically, the whole gimmick of this movie is that it is a sports movie that goes out of its way to never show any sports. It ends up playing like a heist movie, with agent Ray manipulating everything to try to end a lockout and get his clients, especially rookie Erick playing and paid. It is really entertaining.

8. John Wick 3:

The John Wick series continues to be just masterclasses of action movies. This one gets even deeper into the arcane mythology of this world. It also delivers three or four of the best action scenes of the year. Really, there is little not to like about it. The only flaw I can point to is that I don’t know that it is better than either of the previous two movies. That really isn’t a flaw; it is really just a sign of how great the movies are. I didn’t much like the ending twist, though. More in a I wish that didn’t happen way than a that didn’t make sense way.

7. Shazam:

I was really afraid this movie wouldn’t hold up. I loved it early in the year, but kind of thought that a revisit would damper my enthusiasm. However, I watched with my family at Thanksgiving and it is still great. There are a few moments where the tone kind of gets away from it, like the boardroom scene, but otherwise it is the closest we’ve gotten to an Amblin superhero movie.

6. The Laundromat:

I might be the only person that likes this movie. I don’t get its complete dismissal. It packages complex financial maneuvering into a package that anyone can understand, making essentially an economics lesson entertaining. I loved the bits with Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, I liked the parts with Meryl Streep. It was entertaining and infuriating.

5. Booksmart:

A lot of people just wrote this off as Superbad, but with girls. While there are similarities, people graduating this year were in kindergarten when Superbad came out. And honestly, Booksmart is the better movie. This is centered around great performances by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, but Billie Lourd steals every scene she is in. It is a surprisingly human movie, showing all of these high school kids as full people and not just one note stereotypes. Plus, it is really funny.

4. The Irishman:

The Irishman is long and contemplative and mostly a downer. It is also eminently watchable. The movie works to tear down the mafia mythology Scorsese built up in movies like Goodfellas and Casino. The de-aging special effects are effective if overblown. It is great to Joe Pesci again. This is just a great movie.

3. Once Upon a Time . . . In Hollywood:

This one stands out in Tarantino’s filmography. It is less pulpy, less violent than most of his other movies. It is thoughtful; with fading star Rick Dalton looking back on his career and the movie looking back on a Hollywood that died right at the time the movie is taking place. It is a world on the cusp of change. Even with the movie giving everyone a happy ending, it is clear that the world they live in will not last much longer. This is the perfect hangout movie.

2. Parasite:

A wild, wild movie. Parasite starts as one thing and just sort of seamlessly changes into something else two or three times. It highlights societal problems without really vilifying any of the people involved. Still, there are certainly “good guys” and “bad guys” but they are all people. It is heartbreaking and hilarious. Parasite is simply an amazing experience.

1. Knives Out:

Yeah, this movie is very much for me. Great cast, great performances. A classic murder mystery that also manages to find some twists withing that set up. The movie just keeps the viewer guessing the whole time and never stoops to cheating. It might keep secrets of who knows what and who did what, but in all of its pulling the wool over the viewers eyes and rug out from under their feet, the movie never lies. It is just not always clear what you are seeing. This is a movie that will be in heavy rewatch rotation for years to come.

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.

Top 10 Movies of 2018

I put this list off for a few days because a lot of good 2018 movies hit streaming services right at the start of January (or were still there from earlier but now I had time to get to them) and I thought I might find something I wanted to add to this list. However, with apologies to Roma, Support the Girls and Annihilation, I’ve decided to keep my list as it was.

Honorable Mentions: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Incredibles 2, Bad Times at the El Royale – All three are really good movies that probably deserved a spot on my list. But when considering my ten favorite movies of the year, I went with personal enjoyment over other considerations.

10. Mortal Engines – I can’t look at someone with a straight face and say that I think Mortal Engines is strictly better than any of the movies in the my honorable mentions. However, I know that I enjoyed watching it so much more than them that I am giving it the last spot on my list.

9. Mission Impossible: Fallout Not the best in the series, but there are so many outstanding sequences. MI is the best spy movie franchise.

8. BlacKkKlansman – A brilliant look at race in America and propaganda, and the outward similarities in the black power and white nationalist movements despite how different their goals and places in society, highlighting how fundamentally gross the white nationalists are.

7. Widows – Perfect pulp with something more on its mind. It has a lot of great actors elevating already pretty good material.

6. Aquaman – A wild romp that never knows when to say enough. It just keeps tossing on more and more.

5. Black Panther – A great combination of a fantasy epic and a superhero movie that more than deserved every bit of its success.

4. The Favourite – Just piles of perfectly biting and witty dialogue as people vie for power and access to power.

3. Blindspotting – A thoughtful and sympathetic drama that deftly explores notions of race and identity.  It not easy to describe in one or two sentences.

2. The Death of Stalin – This movie manages to be both amazingly funny and amazingly dark. It looks into the pitch black hearts of the vultures who tried to grab power after the death of Stalin and turns their deadly machinations into a farce. It is nearly perfect.

1. Sorry to Bother You – This showed up on hulu and I watched it again. It is still amazing. I love just about everything about it.

Top 10 Games of 2017

I didn’t play too many new games this year, and I completed only a fraction of those that I did play. Even so, I was able to assemble a list of my 10 favorite games. I haven’t beaten every game on this list, but I have played all of them enough to know how good they are.

10. Etrian Odyssey V -I have barely cleared the first stratum of this game’s dungeon. I have loved previous Etrian Odyssey games and I like this one so far, but it hasn’t grabbed me like most of the rest of the series, so I don’t know where I’ll end up with this one. It could easily fall off the list, or it could shoot up four or five spots once I finish it.

09. Disney Afternoon Collection -I have played each of the games in this excellent collection for at least an hour, but I haven’t beaten any of them. Capcom’s NES Disney games are mostly terrific. Even the worst of the lot, Tailspin, is at least trying to do something interesting. I man never beat any of these games, but I expect to have a lot of fun with it going forward.

08. Ever Oasis - A delightful little game with a little Actraiser and a little Secret of Mana and a little Legend of Zelda.  It ends up being a pretty unique blend that makes for a very fun little game.  I didn’t think it did anything great, but it was consistently pleasant and enjoyable.

07. Yakuza 0 - This game would almost certainly be higher on this list if I had managed to complete it. If the first two chapters are indicative of the whole game, it might have topped the list. I just didn’t spend the time with it that I needed to in order to beat it. I have raved about Yakuza games in the past, and everything I’ve said about the previous games hold true here. It is just a great experience.

06. Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia There is a middle ground between this remake of the second Fire Emblem game and the previous 3DS triad release of Fates. I liked this game a bunch and it did some new and interesting things with the series despite being a remake, but it also lost some things that I loved about the series. I guess my complaint with the series amount to why can’t they just make the GBA games some more. I still have yet to not enjoy a Fire Emblem game.

05. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Another remake (fully half of the games on my list this year are remakes), this new Wonder Boy takes the Master System game and gives it a gorgeous, fresh coat of paint. It also changes just enough in terms of quality of life improvements to make it play just like you remember it playing. I really think I need to spend time with the rest of this series, since I loved both this and Monster World 4.

04. Persona 5 I didn’t love this game quite like I did with the previous two games in the series, but it was still mostly a really good time. It still has a great battle system and its life sim elements are incredibly addictive.

03. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age This remake of the most underrated Final Fantasy game proves how good and forward thinking the game was back when it first came out. It also reminded me that the game is a lot shorter than I recalled, clocking in at a satisfying 35-40 hours instead of the 60 or so I remembered. I really need to get back to try to finish up all the hunts at some point.

02. River City Rival Showdown - This one might not be as high once the newness wears off, but right now it is everything I want out of a modern River City game. It’s got a fun, goofy story, classic graphics, a deep array of special moves and some genuinely awesome moments. I hope they make more of these.

01. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I had some trepidation going into Breath of the Wild, but it won me over completely. It mostly lacks my favorite part of a Zelda game, the dungeons, but it creates an open world that for once is actually worth exploring. It fulfills the exploratory promise that has been inherent in the series since the NES days. I love it.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Movies of 2017

Making a top 10 list this year has proved pretty difficult. There were a lot of movies I liked, but few movies that I really, absolutely loved. I don’t think anything I saw this year was as good as last year’s The Nice Guys or Love and Friendship, let alone Mad Mad: Fury Road from the year before. But there were a lot of movies that I liked enough to consider for the back half of the list. Also, this year I watched a lot more movies than I have in years past, so I had a lot more to choose from. There are also several that I think I would like that I haven’t had the chance to see, like I, Tonya, Coco, or The Darkest Hour. But I didn’t manage to see them before I made the list, so they aren’t on it. It also might be noted that my review scores don’t match up exactly with how I ranked the movies on the list; I don’t care this is how much I like the movies compared to each other right now.

Honorable Mentions: Okja and Murder on the Orient Express. Both a lot of fun, but neither quite as good as the rest of the list. Still, I liked them well enough that I had a hard time not putting them on the list at all. Also, Dunkirk, which got bumped off the list just the other day when I saw my #1.

10. Logan Lucky I went into this with little in the way of expectations and I liked it. The further I get away from it, the more and more I like it. It is just a thoroughly enjoyable film.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 It is like the first one, but more. Just more. It also held up better to a rewatch than I expected it to, though it does get pretty shaggy in the middle and I kind of hate the CGI-fest that is large parts of the finale.

8. Thor: Ragnarok A full on delight that I expect will play well on rewatches. I wish it would have pulled back on the humor just a bit so the more epic moments could hit a little harder, but I liked it anyway. It was frequently legitimately funny and had just enough the cosmic stuff to feel worth it.

7. John Wick 2 – The first John Wick movie was about a perfect distillation of everything great about action movies, the sequel is not quite as pure, but it is deeper and had just as great of action scenes. Keanu Reeves has more than cemented his place on the action movie Mt Rushmore, and this is just another feather in his cap.

6. Wonder Woman – This is one of the finest examples of just a straight up superhero movie to come out in long time. And the ending, which I had some problems with in the theater, played really good watching it over the holiday.

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – A fascinating, difficult look at not entirely good people in tough circumstances. It is funny and sad and full of great performances.

4. Star Wars The Last Jedi – It moved the new Star Wars movies from being just retreads of the original series and on to being their own thing. It did it while pushing a lot of the themes that the series has been known for.

3. Blade Runner 2049 I’ve honestly never been the biggest fan of the original Blade Runner; it is a mood piece that just never quite connected with me. This sequel, though, is exactly what I wanted to see. It is a thoughtful, intelligent, gorgeous, sci-fi thriller.

2. Baby Driver The Kevin Spacey stuff hangs over this like a pall. I don’t know that I’ll be able to rewatch this anytime soon and not think about that stuff. That doesn’t change the fact that for most of the year this is the best movie I saw in 2017. It isn’t Edgar Wright’s best movie, but it is perfectly fun.

1. The Shape of Water – I caught this a few days after New Years and I immediately fell in love with it. Del Toro spins another phenomenal fairy tale that really gets across his love of the monster in the monster movie. Del Toro makes movies just for me and I am glad of it.

Top 10 Games 2016

Before I get to the actual Top 10 list, I have some other business to attend to, some honorable mentions and games left off the list for various reasons. First is that it should be noted that I really only played new games on 3DS and WiiU this year. I don’t have a PS4 or Xbox1 and I don’t have any concrete plans to get either. (The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy XV, the Final Fantasy XII remake, Yakuza 0, 6 and Kiwami and Persona 5 are actually getting pretty close to forcing my hand about picking up a PS4, but I’m not there until at least after Christmas) While the WiiU sputtered into an early grave, the 3DS had a hell of a year. There were more good 3DS games than I could reasonably play. I didn’t end up with time to play Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse or River City Tokyo Rumble enough to accurately rate them. The same goes for Return to Popolocrois and Final Fantasy Explorers, but judging on my limited time with each neither seemed likely to make my Top 10 list.

Now on to the honorable mentions, of which I have four. The first three are all remakes and compilations. I didn’t play much of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD since I just played it not that long ago, but what I’ve seen it seems to a fine update of what was already a very good game. It doesn’t appear to be as ambitious a remake as Wind Waker or the 3DS versions of the N64 games, but it is still a good game. Then there is the Sega 3D Classics Collection and Mega Man Legacy Collection. They are great games, or collections of great games, but they are not new games. The Mega Man Legacy Collection, especially, is an impressive collection of old games. That is a game that does it all right, bringing together some perfectly recreated old games with tons of the packaging and boxing of those games. It does an amazing job of preserving not just the games, but the ephemera around the games.

The last of my honorable mentions is Yakuza 5. It is hands down the best game I played this year. It is also a game that was released in December of last year and 2012 in Japan. If I had managed to play it last year, it would have been my number one. I was tempted to fudge things to make it this year’s number one. No other game I played this year had anywhere close to as many fist fights with bears.

Now, on with the list, with links to any posts I’ve written about these games. (Last minute edit: I’ve spent the last two weeks or so suddenly being enthralled by Monster Hunter Generations which forced me to find a place for it on the list, but I didn’t want to take anything off. So now the last two tie for tenth place)

sf02(tie) 10: Star Fox 0 – I called Star Fox 0 a damn fine game, but not a great one and I stand by that. It is a game that flashes the greatness of this series one truly excellent entry, but the rest of it is full of Nintendo experimentation. The game on the whole is a messy; not all of the new things work and it does more to show what doesn’t work than what does, but it doesn’t stop the whole package from being a lot of fun.

mlpj4(tie) 10: Mario & Luigi Paper Jam – I might be giving this a little boost over some game competition (notably Bravely Second End Layer) thanks to it being the only dose of Mario and company I had this year, but that doesn’t stop it from being a solid game. The further I get away from it, the less the somewhat tedious endgame dominates my memory of the game, like it did when I wrote it up earlier this year.

dq739: Dragon Quest VII – This is among my least favorite of the numbered Dragon Quest games, but like the rest of the series it overflows with charm and humor. Clearly, I do like the game, but for every fun bit with Maribel or Ruff there is a baffling decision like hiding the job system for the first half of the game. DQVII is a great 40 hour game that takes about 70 hours to beat. Still, the good 40 hours more than outweighs the bloat that has creeped in.

mhg8: Monster Hunter Generations – More has changed with this game from MH4U than it first initially appears, especially since graphics aren’t really one of the things that are different.  Still, the new hunter styles give every weapon even more flexibility than it already had there is so much good content that you could place this game for a year and not run out of things to do.

tms47: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – This isn’t even close to what I expected from a SMT/FE crossover, but the finished product was a pretty enjoyable JRPG. It is the Persona game people have been waiting for since Persona 4 came out, with just a dash of Fire Emblem thrown in. It is all pastels and nonsense, but shockingly enjoyable.

bbb6: BoxBoxBoy – BoxBoy was simple perfection and the sequel is more of the same. It is the puzzle platformer distilled to its essence and is all the more enjoyable for it. It keeps the same simple concepts of the original, but with a few new wrinkles.

shgh5: Shantae: ½ Genie Hero – Not the best game I’ve Kickstarted, which would be Shovel Knight, but it is in the same league. It has beautiful graphics and it fulfills the promise that was the original GBC Shantae. It uses the same set tools as that game, but fixes all of little problems that crept in thanks to the limited nature of the system it was on. This is a great platform game with solid physics and a great sense of empowerment. It is just so good.

psm24: Pokémon Moon – A strong year for the 3DS kept what is one of the strongest Pokémon games from landing even higher on my list. It keeps the foundations of the series in place, but shakes up many of the series’ traditions. It makes for a fresh feel to a familiar experience. And since the basics of Pokémon are so well constructed it works very well.

aasoj43: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice – I can’t say that the series has really been wandering in the wilderness for most of the last decade; the last few games have all been solid, but Spirit of Justice is easily the strongest this series has been since Trials and Tribulations. It does everything this series does so well.

kpr12: Kirby Planet Robobot – I don’t think Nintendo has a series quite as consistent as Kirby. Yeah, it alternates between normal platform games and oddball titles like Rainbow Curse, but those platform games are all excellent. Planet Robobot is a Kirby game; that is really all you need to know about it. There are lots of powers to absorb. Tons of levels that are easy to beat, but somewhat difficult to master. It is simply a very well made game.

ffex1: Fire Emblem Fates – I am rolling all three versions of this game – Birthright, Conquest and Revelations – together as one title. It is essentially three paths through one game, though those paths share very little other than the same game world. I don’t think this is my favorite Fire Emblem, none of the three paths feels exactly right to me, but I can’t deny the sheer amount of enjoyment I got from this supersized package.

Top 10 Movies of 2016

This year’s top 10 is nowhere near as top heavy as last year’s was. There was nothing this year as phenomenal as Mad Max: Fury Road. And I don’t see a movie I liked as much as Inside Out falling anywhere near 7 on this list, though if I were to do last year’s list again I don’t see Inside Out falling to 7. Still, the movies I’ve seen this year have had a fairly high floor even if most of them didn’t rise above middling. I definitely saw a lot more movies, though a lot of that was me making a point of seeing new stuff that came to Netflix and the like. So my list of new movies seen stands closer to 50 than last year’s 20, but I would say I liked to some extent or another about 30 of those movies. Here are my Top 10:

bvsp10: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Cut – This is only the so-called Ultimate Cut, the extended version. After seeing it I have a hard time understanding how they ended up with the cut they originally released. The long cut – 3 hours – fixes nearly all of the story problems that the original had and provides a lot of context for many of the movie’s more incongruous scenes. Most of what it added back were scenes showing what Clark and Lois were up to throughout the movie, which makes Superman’s journey through the movie actually work. With this cut I really enjoyed the film.

zootopiampmoana9: Moana/Zootopia – I can’t choose between the two of these movies. Disney is on a hot streak, and both of these films continue it. I’m not sure Zootopia’s metaphor holds up to scrutiny, but it is a charming world with fun characters. Moana’s limited number of characters is more than made up for in the just sheer delight that is on the screen. They are both excellent.

cacw8: Captain America Civil War – This one kept sliding down the list as I made it. I remember liking it quite a bit coming out of the theater, but the few times I’ve thought of it since haven’t raised my opinion of it. I guess I really need to see it again, but right now all that are really sticking in my mind are a few outstanding scenes.

kuboposter7: Kubo and The Two Strings – There are some parts of this movie that didn’t quite work for me, but animation is so beautiful and the parts that do work are so strong that I can’t bring myself to get hung up on the quibbles.

 

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6: Arrival – Smart, methodical science fiction with an excellent star performance from Amy Adams. It is good to see a movie like this that doesn’t rely on explosions to tell its story.

 

stb5: Star Trek Beyond – I gave a solid review to Into Darkness, but upon rewatching I think I side more with the general opinion of that movie than I did a few years ago. This Star Trek feels like an amped up episode of the show. Sure, things are bigger than they need to be and there seems to be one scene missing with the villain to make his whole deal really work, but the rest of it is so good it doesn’t matter. This was the most fun I had at the movies all summer.

rogueone4: Rogue One – Recency bias maybe, but this was one of the most purely pleasurable movie going experiences of the year. The only thing holding it back from being among my favorite Star Wars movie is the downplaying of the music. Still, a Star Wars movie that emphasizes the war part of the title is just different enough. It has lots of great performances – I loved Donnie Yen – and one of the best climactic battles scenes I’ve ever seen. It is just great.

hcmp3: Hail, Caesar! – Even a lesser Coen Brother’s movie is a treat. I’m not even sure how lesser this one is. It won’t be counted among their masterpieces, but I can see myself going back to watch it much more readily than True Grit or Burn After Reading. It is mostly an excuse for a bunch of big name actors to play out bad versions of classic Hollywood movies and it is just a lot of fun to watch.

1b: The Nice Guys – I am really sad I missed this in the theater. It is does just about everything right as these two detectives do everything wrong. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are great and the rest of the movie just works.

landfmp1a: Love & Friendship – Unlike anything else on my list or anything else I saw this year, this movie is amazing. It is hands down the funniest movie I saw this year, with a lot of funny actors giving performances that are at the same time restrained and hilarious.

Top 10 Superheroes

Thanks to a persistent request and enough desire to do it anyway, here are my Top 10 Favorite Superheroes. It is an eclectic group, split pretty evenly between Marvel and DC as well as between men and women. I think it’s a good list, and if you disagree you are objectively wrong.

10: Wolverine –

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I got into comics though the 90’s X-Men cartoon and I think it is impossible to come out of that show not loving Wolverine.  It also helped that he was short like me. Most of his solo comics have not been especially good, but his time with X-Men has featured quite a few memorable stories. He is kind of the prototype for all the crappy 90’s anti-heroes, but none of them ever did it as well as it was done with Wolverine.

9: Wildcat –

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He is almost as much of a joke character as a real superhero, but Wildcat is still one of my favorites. He is in some ways the JSA’s Wolverine, except not as useful. He has no powers, other than sometimes having 9 cat lives, he’s just an old boxer who dresses like a cat and beats up crooks. He is also the heart and soul of the team. In most DC continuities, he’s also responsible for training many other heroes. He’s taught Batman, Black Canary and Catwoman how to box. He did something similar in his sporadic appearances an Arrow. When the JSA’s adventures get big, I always like seeing how the largely normal Wildcat deals with things.

8: She-Hulk –

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I’m not sure what She-Hulk has been up to lately, but I really fell in love with this character during Dan Slott’s run with her in the early 00’s. She is one of the fun Marvel characters, like a version of Deadpool that isn’t completely obnoxious. She is capable of 4th wall breaking hijinks as well as more serious superhero stuff. She is just a lot of fun.

7: Superman – The original and still best. There is something more pure about the best Superman stories than with most other superheroes. I don’t think this pick needs any justification, other than that every year I think I like him more.

6: Captain Marvel Carol Danvers –

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I have less of a reason for liking this character than most. I read her last mediocre run as Ms Marvel in the middle 00s and it was fine. The more recent stuff with her as Captain Marvel was simply great. There is something about brash, no-nonsense superheroines that really appeals to me.

5: Power Girl –

PGL Cv4 ds

See above about this sort of superheroine. The stuff starring her by Palmiotti, Gray & Conner, her own series and her Harley Quinn mini, has been inspired stuff. She is DC’s answer in a lot of ways to both She-Hulk and Captain Marvel.

4: Mr. Miracle & Big Barda –

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I am cheating a bit here, but this pair almost always operates as a pair and they are really only interesting to me as a pair.  I’ve written about them before, but these two are great. They make a great couple that is physically an inversion of the usual gender roles, but they spend a lot of their time trying to conform to those roles anyway. It also helps that most of the appearances I’ve read of them, the original Jack Kirby stuff and their appearance in the JLI, have all been very good comics. Also, it is great that Mr. Miracle’s power set is largely non-combative.

3: Stargirl –

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From her own short lived series to her appearances in JSA, Stargirl has long been a favorite of mine. She is that teenage superhero Spider-Man riff, but with some of DC’s special legacy baggage. Being the young hero who ended up with the old guys instead of the Teen Titans made her seem special. Plus, she has the added benefit of just being a lot of fun.

2: Hercules –

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There is something really enjoyable to me about a hero that treats superheroing like fun. That is Marvel’s Hercules. He is a big goofy Thor. Every adventure with him feels like half a party, but his best stories also have strong character moments.

1: Green Lantern Guy Gardner –

Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1

Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1

The one requirement to be a Green Lantern is to have no fear. Guy lives up to that by being kind of a douche. He is also a surprisingly complex character, a hero who has to put up this brash front rather than admit he feels inadequate.