What I Watched This Week: 5 Aug 2018

NEW SHOWS
Sharp Objects – “Closer” (A-)
Calhoun Day was wholly invented for the show, but it’s a grand showcase for everything we’ve learned about Wind Gap so far, but also as tipping point for the characters, especially the trio of ladies. Camille finally bares her scars to her sister and mother, as well as Richard. Even Adora shows something resembling humanity. It’s not surprising that tempers flared on a hot, boozy day in small-town Missouri after a grisly murder. It was bound to blow up.

Who Is America? – “104” (B+)
The most consistently funny episode yet. Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen gets his participants to say some truly absurd things, but they often say it themselves without any provocation, like the Utah lawmaker who wants to make every adult who ever looks at pornography online to be a part of a trackable database. But he also nails the little details, like his YouTube personality who unboxes Shopkins toys (totally real) while getting Joe Arpaio to talk about how awesome Trump is.

Demetri Martin: The Overthinker (B+)
I realize now I’ve been watching Martin since I was in high school. Even if this special isn’t as clever as his past work, he still tickles my funny bone with his very dry observations and sketches.

OLD SHOWS
ER (Season 1) – “Love’s Labor Lost” (A)
My wife recently started bingeing this show on Hulu. While I don’t have the time to keep up, I knew I wanted to make time for this episode, which has appeared on dozens of “best episodes ever” list. It more than lived up to the hype. A devastating, heart-pounding hour masterfully directed by Mimi Leder and powerfully acted by Anthony Edwards. I can’t believe he didn’t win the Emmy.

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What I Watched This Week: 29 Jul 2018

NEW SHOWS
Sharp Objects – “Ripe” (A)
The best episode yet, furthering the plot while also perfecting the quick edits and ominous flashes. Even Adora is revealed to be more than a one-dimensional busybody and guilt-tripper.

Who Is America? – “103” (B-)
What’s more important: effort or execution? Through three episodes, Sacha Baron Cohen has wild success with getting MAGA chuds to thoroughly embarrass themselves while he plays an ex-Mossad agent. But his other characters don’t work nearly as well, especially his “super-woke” healer. But I still have to give him some credit for his second segment, where he tries to “bridge the divide” between a conservative politician and a rapper. It’s not that funny, but it takes some cojones to try to make the point that sometimes white liberals are part of the problem.

BINGEING
Better Call Saul – Season 2 (A-)
Though there are less big action moments than Breaking Bad, in many ways it’s a superior show, with the drama coming from two people having a conversation. Some people would find that boring, but Better Call Saul makes it exhilarating. Jimmy has always sought to bend the rules, and that will get him in serious legal trouble, mainly because his straight-arrow brother Chuck is just as manipulative as he is. But let’s give praise where it’s due: the incredible character of Kim. Rhea Seahorn is giving an incredible performance, even as she might be overshadowed by Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean. Oh, and Jonathan Banks, too, adding layers of humanity to his jaded enforcer.

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Streaming Picks: August 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
The Informant! – Netflix 8/1
mother! – Amazon and Hulu 8/26
This exclamation point-heavy selection includes two of the most underrated movies of the last decade. The former includes Matt Damon’s best performance (you heard me) as the duplicitous Mark Whitacre, who exposed price-fixing at his company while secretly embezzling himself. Steven Soderbergh gives it more style, elevating it from a standard corporate thriller.

The latter is the most divisive movie of 2017, that’s either a home-invasion thriller, allegory about living with a famous partner or (as I see it) a retelling of the Book of Genesis. You’ll either love it or hate it, but you won’t forget it.

Recent Selections
All at Once – Hulu 8/2
The China Hustle – Hulu 8/2
Ismael’s Ghost – Hulu 8/2
Sharp Edges – Hulu 8/3
Dating My Mother – Hulu 8/7
Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much – Hulu 8/7
Wraith – Hulu 8/7
Desolation – Hulu 8/9
Terminal – Hulu 8/9
Borg vs. McEnroe – Hulu 8/10
The Cage Fighter – Hulu 8/11
Hostiles – Netflix 8/15
The Monkey King 3 – Hulu 8/15
Marrowbone – Hulu 8/16
Gringo – Amazon 8/17
To the Moon and Back – Hulu 8/17
Disobedience – Amazon 8/25
The Escape of Prisoner 614 – Amazon 8/25
Woman Walks Ahead – Amazon 8/25

Originals
Like Father – Netflix 8/3
Perdida – Netflix 8/9
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Netflix 8/10
Minding the Gap – Hulu 8/17
The Motive – Netflix 8/17
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Netflix 8/17
Crime + Punishment – Hulu 8/24
The Laws of Thermodynamics – Netflix 8/31

Check out TV picks after the jump…
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What I Watched This Week: 22 Jul 2018

NEW SHOWS
Sharp Objects – “Fix” (A-)
Finally nails its tone and style, giving us more insight into more characters, especially Amma, who’s certainly the most fascinating of them all. [That character’s] death is the most devastating since Phoebe on last year’s The Sinner.

Who Is America? – “102” (B+)
An improvement over the premiere. That it’s a congressman from my new state literally showing his ass out there makes me cringe even harder. The Dick Cheney stuff might be the show’s early highlight, and the final segment is more horrifying than funny.

CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (A-)
Gadsby’s delivery is so polite and her observations so mild in the first half, that when she gets to heavy topics like rape, homophobia and mental health, it’s that much more disarming. This is a special that pushes beyond the confines of the stand-up format into something different but vital.

OLD SHOWS & SPECIALS
Sebastian Maniscalo: Aren’t You Embarrassed? (B)
A little retrograde (a lot of men-are-like-this but women-are-like-this, things-used-to-be-like-this), but often very funny, thanks to his physical commitment to bits.

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What I Watched This Week: 15 Jul 2018

NEW SHOWS
Sharp Objects – “Dirt” (B)
A solid episode that furthers the plot, but the show still needs to figure out what it exactly it wants to be.

Who Is America? – “101” (B-) / series premiere
Surprisingly unfunny for most of its segments, but the already released clip of current and former GOP stooges reading a script endorsing a program called “Kinderguardians” (which arms and trains kids as young as four) is the stuff that Sacha Baron Cohen’s legend was built on.

BINGEING
Killing Eve – Season 1 (A- average)
As good as they said: a razor-sharp spy thriller that’s better in its little moments than its big set-pieces (though those are great, too). Sandra Oh gets the role of her career as the intelligence analyst turned spy, who’s still something of an anti-hero. She’s flawed but brilliant, and no less skilled than her adversary Villanelle (Jodie Comer), one of the most complex villains to ever hit the small screen. She should have been nominated for an Emmy as well.

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What I Watched This Week: 8 Jul 2018

NEW SHOWS
Sharp Objects – “Vanish” (B+) / series premiere
We’ve seen a lot of this before, but it’s still done very well. Has a lot of issues typical of pilots (even though this was ordered straight-to-series), but still holds lots of promise. Amy Adams already has an Emmy waiting for her in 2019.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “The Word” (B+) / season finale
Its last minute is frustrating for a lot of reasons I won’t get into, but everything that came before is powerful and devastating and shocking. So instead of thinking about that baffling end scene, I’ll be thinking about Serena reading from First John, using scripture for good and not for evil, reminding that the Bible is all about liberation and not oppression.

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What I Watched This Week: 24 Jun 2018

NEW SHOWS
Westworld – “The Passenger” (B+) / season finale
I’m past the point of caring about these characters, and with all the deaths it seems the show might be as well. Of course, Season 3 could just bring everyone back. But this remains the prettiest show on TV; every dollar is up there on the screen. And while this 90-minute finale is kind of a mess, it’s still satisfying and features some breathtaking biblical imagery, which is odd for a show that’s only interested in religion in the abstract.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Holly” (B+)
A solid bottle episode, though it does feel like a bit of filler. It didn’t necessarily need to be a standalone thing. If it’s eligible, this might be Elisabeth Moss’s Emmy episode.

BINGEING
Arrested Development – Season 5, Part 1 (B average)
About on par with Season 4, though it’s weaker in some ways but a lot stronger in some others. Thus it evens out to being better than average, but nowhere near as good as the original run, just like before.

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Streaming Picks: July 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
The Brothers Bloom – Amazon and Hulu 7/1
Go – Hulu 7/1
Her – Netflix 7/29

You might have heard Rian Johnson’s name in the last six months. As the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 2017’s biggest movie, he’s received praise from most critics and harassment from the most horrid fans. I’ve loved his films from the jump, and I have a very soft spot for his less-heralded sophomore feature, about two con-artist brothers (Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo) and their attempt to defraud a quirky heiress (Rachel Weisz).

I’m also an enormous fan of Go, a raucous triptych about a crazy night in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and the less glamorous places in between. It got compared to Pulp Fiction for its overlapping narratives, but it’s less self-aware and much funnier. One of many great film’s from cinema’s greatest year.

And then Her? Yes, Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning rom-com of sorts is one of the most fascinating and lovely films of recent years, featuring a great, low-key performance from Joaquin Phoenix, tremendous voice work from Scarlett Johansson and a great bench of supporting players from Amy Adams to Chris Pratt.

Recent Selections
20 Weeks – Hulu 7/1
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – Amazon and Hulu 7/1
Closing Gambit – Hulu 7/1
Le Ride – Hulu 7/1
The Lost Wife of Robert Durst – Hulu 7/1
Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer – Hulu 7/1
Borg vs. McEnroe – Hulu 7/3
Heart of Nuba – Hulu 7/6
Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds – Hulu 7/10
Cover Versions – Hulu 7/10
Zombie Spring Breakers – Hulu 7/10
Winter Out West – Amazon 7/13
The Forgiven – Amazon 7/14
Wanderland – Amazon 7/16
Sharp Edges – Hulu 7/17
Status Update – Hulu 7/21
Leaning into the Wind – Hulu 7/22
How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Amazon 7/24
Black Cop – Hulu 7/26
The Glass Castle – Amazon and Hulu 7/27
Before We Vanish – Hulu 7/30

Originals
The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter – Netflix 7/6
The Skin of the Wolf – Netflix 7/6
White Fang – Netflix 7/6
How It Ends – Netflix 7/13
Ballet Now – Hulu 7/20
Father of the Year – Netflix 7/20
The Warning – Netflix 7/24
Extinction – Netflix 7/27

Check out TV picks after the jump…

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What I Watched This Week: 17 Jun 2018

NEW SHOWS
Westworld – “Vanishing Point” (B+)
A tragic turn of events for some of the series’ darkest characters, but they brought it on themselves.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “The Last Ceremony” (A)
Perhaps the series’ most devastating episode yet, with a (sadly) timely scene of a child being ripped from her mother’s arms. The violence never ends, it just takes different forms.

CURRENT SHOWS
The Handmaid’s Tale – “Smart Power” (B+)
A sharp episode that takes us outside the world of Gilead to show the fraught political relationship the fledgling nation-state has with the rest of the world. It’s also shows an inspiring moment, letting the horrifying truth serve as the bomb to disrupt the people in power, instead of actual explosives.

Legion – “Chapter 19” (B) / season finale
A semi-frustrating ending to a semi-frustrating season. Making David the villain now seems like where it was headed all along, but the act of violence that makes him unambiguously the bad guy feels more horrifying than all the people he’s killed, because it’s such a personal violation. I wasn’t nearly as excited to watch this season as I was during its awe-inspiring first, but of course I can’t wait to see where they take it in Season 3.

Westworld – “Kiksuya” (A)
A stand-alone episode that nails its storytelling and emotions so well, it makes you wonder why the rest of the show can’t be this engaging on every level.

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What I Watched This Week: 10 Jun 2018

CURRENT SHOWS
Westworld – “Les Ecorches” (B+)
Wow. It’s almost like this show is better when it’s blowing stuff up and not exploring bullshit philosophy about what it means to be human.

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