What I Watched This Week: 10 Jun 2018

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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What I Watched This Week: 3 Jun 2018

Legion – “Chapter 18” (B+)
Still feels like marking time, but if you think I’m not going to be glued to the screen after Syd falls down a giant hole in the desert or during a flashback set to Radiohead’s “True Love Waits,” you’re an idiot.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Women’s Work” (B)
The show continues to have a problem with tension, letting arcs that should raise the stakes for the rest of the season get resolved before the episode’s even over. That feels like a critical error. However, the show’s still incredibly well-made, and this episode even allowed for a tiny glimmer of hope at the end.

Arrested Development: Fateful Consequences (B+ average)
This “remixed” Season 4 is an improvement on the original version from 2013, but some problems can’t be hidden with re-editing. Still, this season is a lot funnier than I remember, and it fits much better into 22-minute episodes than some of those 37-minute monstrosities as originally aired.

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What I Watched This Week: 27 May 2018

Westworld – “Phase Space” (B)
Several “oh shit” moments, but doesn’t add up to much. I think the show is better when it doesn’t try to cut between all five-ish storylines.

Legion – “Chapter 17” (B)
Jean Smart gives an incredible performance, as usual, but this felt like the show was just marking time until the big showdown.

The Handmaid’s Tale – “After” (B+)
Does a solid job of ratcheting up the tension in the wake of the bombing, but then resolves its problem far too quickly. It’s also another acting showcase for Samira Wiley, but her subplot doesn’t add anything we don’t already know or feel about her character.

The Americans – “START” (A) / series finale
A very satisfying finale. It doesn’t end in a hail of bullets, but there’s devastating loss for everyone all the same. That parking garage scene was some of the best acting and editing on TV all year, and I hope this is the year Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell get those Emmys. I’m going to miss this show.

The Americans – “Jennings, Elizabeth” (A)
A devastating penultimate episode that should gift Keri Russell and Margo Martindale with their Emmys. Even Paige gets her punches in, and Philip literally runs for his life in one of the show’s all-time great setpieces. I’m going to miss this show so much.

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Things I Wrote: April and May 2018

Thinking it will be easier if I make this a bi-monthly post. Maybe then I’ll remember. Here are my published works for the last two months.

REVIEWS (for College Movie Review)
Final Portrait
Super Troopers 2
I Feel Pretty
Breaking In
Life of the Party

Hearts Beat Loud
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
You Were Never Really Here

ARTICLES (for Central Track)
Coming Attractions (April)
Coming Attractions (May)

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Streaming Picks: June 2018

Top Picks
The Age of Innocence – Amazon 6/1
Blue Like Jazz – Amazon and Hulu 6/1
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Netflix 6/26

Three for you this month, one on each of the major services. The first one is arguably Martin Scorsese’s most underrated a work: a sumptuous Edith Wharton adaptation featuring excellent performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s also probably the sexiest PG-rated movie ever.

Blue Like Jazz is one of the few great Christian movies from the recent glut of projects spurred on by the success of the Kendrick Brothers. Based on Donald Miller’s excellent self-discovery book, it’s one of the rare Christian films to get that identity is a tricky thing, and that conversion isn’t the ultimate goal. It also helps that they hired competent actors.

And of course you’ve probably already seen The Last Jedi, but all the annoying fan campaigns about how Rian Johnson’s film “ruined their childhood” just make me like the movie more. It’s not perfect, but what makes it so great is its complete lack of reverence for anything that came before it.

Recent Selections
Boots on the Ground – Hulu 6/1
Wonder Wheel – Amazon 6/1
We Blew It – Hulu 6/1
Where the Skin Lies – Hulu 6/1
Max 2: White House Hero – Amazon and Hulu 6/3
Braven – Amazon 6/3
Lady Bird – Amazon 6/3 (Academy Award nominee)
Precious – Amazon 6/3
Thor: Ragnarok – Netflix 6/5
Gintama – Hulu 6/6
Allure – Hulu 6/7
The House October Built 2 – Hulu 6/15
Huntsville – Hulu 6/15
Nostalgia – Amazon 6/16
Transformers: The Last Knight – Amazon 6/16
10×10 – Hulu 6/29
EuroTrump – Hulu 6/30

Alex Strangelove – Netflix 6/8
Ali’s Wedding – Netflix 6/8
Lust Stories – Netflix 6/15
Maktub – Netflix 6/15
Set It Up – Netflix 6/15
Sunday’s Illness – Netflix 6/15
Brain on Fire – Netflix 6/22
Cooking on High – Netflix 6/22
Us and Them – Netflix 6/22
To Each, Her Own – Netflix 6/24
Recovery Boys – Netflix 6/29
TAU – Netflix 6/29
Fate/EXTRA Last Encore: Oblitus Copernican Theory – Netflix 6/29

Check out TV picks after the jump…
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What I Watched This Week: 20 May 2018

Saturday Night Live – “Tina Fey/Nicki Minaj” (B-) / season finale
Maybe it’s just me, but I expect something more from my alumni returning to host, and from my finales. This felt like a very half-assed episode to me. None of the sketches were out-and-out bad, but none were that memorable. It seems especially like they were just dusting off decade-old bits, including a cold open that spoofed The Sopranos finale (from 2007) and a parody of To Catch a Predator, which hasn’t been on in years.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Jake & Amy” (A) / season finale
Yes, I teared up. Had this truly been the end, I would have cried even more. But thankfully NBC is letting the 99 ride again for 13 episodes in 2019. This was a great season finale, and could have served as a true series finale. But this show brings me so much joy that I’m over the moon it’s got at least another season of romantic entanglements and shenanigans. (Romantic Entanglements and Shenanigans: title of your sex tape!)

Westworld – “Akane no Mai” (B+)
That Shogun World is really the same as Westworld but with different costumes actually made for a thrilling sequence, and its wild differences at the climax made it all the better. I’m less sold on Dolores full-on torturing Teddy after the finally consumate their passions, but it’s definitely a decision that could pay off dramatically later in the season.

Legion – “Chapter 16” (B+)
A little more on-balance (at least for this show), as we set up a big showdown with a minotaur(?)

The Handmaid’s Tale – “First Blood” (A-)
The show dares us to empathize with Serena, then slaps us in the face for doing so. A shockingly violent episode, both in present and in flashback. A haunting final shot sets up the rest of the season.

Westworld – “The Riddle of the Sphinx” (A)
Arguably the show’s best episode to date. It forces you to keep up with its multiple timelines. Completely absent Dolores and Teddy, it maximizes its running time, showing how the horrifying plot of implanting DNA and memories of real people into hosts hasn’t worked (yet), and how it further rotted William’s core.

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What I Watched This Week: 13 May 2018

Saturday Night Live – “Amy Schumer/Kacey Musgraves” (B+)
A solid episode with no dud sketches is rare enough, but this was just consistently funny, with “The Day You Were Born” and “Graduation 2018” proving to be some of the most hilarious, relateable sketches the show has ever done.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “White Whale” (B+)
A solid penultimate episode with three equally delightful subplots.

Silicon Valley – “Fifty-One Percent” (A) / season finale
Would serve as a perfect series finale. As a wrap-up to an abbreviated but largely successful season (and a major step up from last season), it’s terrific.

Barry – “Know Your Truth” (A) / season finale
The chance of an escape comes to a violent close, with this show echoing Breaking Bad pretty explicitly, with Janice the Hank to Barry’s Walter White. I knew what was going to happen as soon as Janice went to the pier, but it wasn’t any less devastating.

Legion – “Chapter 15” (B)
Um, what?

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Seeds” (A)
As devastating and intense as the show can be, it hasn’t always tipped into full-on horror like it does here. What I assumed was June practicing her part to avoid further abuse is actually the beginning of a full-on psychotic break, exacerbated by a the stomach-churning “Lea and Rachel” ceremony: a mass marriage of drivers and other young men to girls no older than 16. The show also manages to make holy scripture sound bone-chilling (in the mouths of people who abuse and twist it) and uses excellent camerawork to remind the characters and the audience of the secrets they all share.

The Americans – “The Summit” (A-)
The opening scene is shot and scripted like Philip confessing an affair, which makes you feel Elizabeth’s betrayal. But Philip’s decency throws her off her game, as she refuses to assassinate one of her fellow countrymen, lets her contact who figured out her scheme walk away, and even questions Claudia.

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What I Watched This Week: 6 May 2018

Saturday Night Live – “Donald Glover/Childish Gambino” (B)
I was greatly anticipating this episode, not only because Glover is such a creative force on Atlanta, but also because he has improv experience with Derrick Comedy (featuring SNL alumnus Bobby Moynihan). Yet, the writing was kind of limp, so none of the sketches really stood out in a memorable way, often going for “weird” instead of “funny.” But as a musical guest, he blew me out of the water, using SNL‘s tiny space and terrible acoustics to his advantage, and I don’t even love “This Is America”!.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Show Me Going” (A-)
It almost pulls off the perfect blend of humor and high-stakes drama, but doesn’t completely get there. But this show is so earnest that putting Rosa in an active shooter situation doesn’t feel phony, unearned or tone-deaf, which is more than a lot of prestige-y broadcast dramas can say.

Silicon Valley – “Initial Coin Offering” (B)
Throws a bunch of subplots in a blender and doesn’t quite come out smooth. Though Laurie’s cutthroat nature will set up a big-deal season finale, it now feels like it’s rushing to finish a shortened season (which I ordinarily would not complain about). But the entire scene at the landfill was some of the best comedy the show has ever done, and I’d like to know more about Tesla actually being a pyramid scheme.

Barry – “Loud, Fast and Keep Going” (A)
The show takes a devastating turn as Barry has to make a crucial, heartbreaking decision. It’s the show with the least amount of jokes, but all of the ones it needed landed perfectly.

Westworld – “Virtù e Fortuna” (B)
So here’s the problem with this show: the first season’s mystery was compelling. This season, it’s just plot advancing, and the mystery as it were just doesn’t captivate. Although it’s certainly onto something with its opening scene. More jungle adventure, fewer robots monologuing about the nature of humanity.

Legion – “Chapter 14” (A)
A fascinating diversion of an episode that ends up being the most moving thing the show has ever done. And they still found time for a mouse to sing Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love.”

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Other Women” (A-)
June learns the horrors of not following the program, thinking she can be defiant because she’s pregnant (and seen the outside world for herself), but it only brings more physical and emotional abuse.

The Americans – “Harvest” (A)
The extraction of a fellow agent in Chicago goes horribly wrong in gory fashion. But more crucially, Stan’s basically figured out what’s been right under his nose since the pilot. These last three episodes should be substantially higher-stakes. This also gave Henry his most important episode by far.

Atlanta – “Crabs in a Barrel” (B+) / season finale
The moment in the airport security line is one of the most intense, heart-dropping scenes I’ve seen in a show recently. But the one-upmanship finally shows Earn taking some initiative, but because the show remembers that Earn is only there to get stunted on, it doesn’t quite work out how he planned. I have no idea if there will be another season of the show (I’m sure FX wants it), but I know Donald Glover is basically the most important cultural figure now, so it won’t be until 2019, or maybe even later. If so, this was a fitting send-off.

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What I Watched This Week: 29 Apr 2018

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Bachelor/ette Party” (A)
One of the most joyous episodes of the season, with a Die Hard-themed scavenger hunt for Jake and a drunken encounter with an old one-night stand for Amy. Plus, Drunk Holt in a Kangol hat! But wait, there’s more! Reginald VelJohnson shows up as himself! And Hitchcock and Scully cosplaying as Cookie and Lucious from Empire!

Silicon Valley – “Artificial Emotional Intelligence” (B)
Lori has proven to be a notable foil, but it’s still such a bummer that we couldn’t have seen more of the guys with Christopher Evan Welch, because the writers only have one joke to go to with Lori. So her rivalry with Richard did next to nothing for me. But I loved everything in China and Dinesh vs. Guilfoyle is always a source of pleasure.

Barry – “Listen with Your Ears, React with Your Face” (A)
Another solid episode, until the action ramps up in the last 10 minutes, and then ends in the most shocking manner possible. It just proves this show has gears we don’t even realize.

Westworld – “Reunion” (A-)
A significant improvement on the premiere, with lots of time-shifting revealing more about both Delores and Bernard, and the more sinister backstories of William and Logan. The pitch meeting is one of the best things this show has ever done.

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (A)
Mulaney does it yet again, with a hilarious special that mines his childhood awkwardness and overbearing father into comedy gold, while touching on the weirdness of religious rituals, CAPTCHAs and the futility of going to college.

Legion – “Chapter 13” (A-)
Another devastating episode devoted to a single character, as we explore Lenny’s tragic backstory (geez, is there anyone in this group who didn’t grow up with trauma?) and learn the disturbing fate of David’s sister Amy. (Sorry, Katie Aselton, the show’s greatest misstep is that it never quite knew what to do with you.)

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Baggage” (B+)
An intense episode that makes the most of its long running time. While its ending is intense, it feels like a step back for a season that was going in a thrilling new direction. We’ll see.

The Americans – “Rififi” (A-)
Philip’s act of defiance leads to an awkward Thanksgiving and F-bombs from him and Elizabeth. But they end the episode back together, since the FBI is onto a comrade in Chicago, and Elizabeth can’t exfiltrate him alone.

A.P. Bio – “Drenching Dallas” (A-) / season finale
A poetic ending, as Jack ends up back in Toledo, but not by choice. See, his season-long quest to bring Miles down causes his own downfall. But maybe sticking around won’t be so bad. This show’s probably not getting renewed, but I’d love to see what they do with it if they get a second season.

Atlanta – “FUBU” (B+)
This flashback episode proves a universal truth, no matter what decade it is: Kids are the absolute worst.

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Streaming Picks: May 2018

Top Picks
Thief – Hulu and Amazon 5/1
Coco – Netflix 5/29 (Academy Award winner)
I, Tonya – Hulu 5/31 (Academy Award winner)
Thief is Michael Mann’s searing debut, featuring one of the all-time great villain performances, and impressive cinematography and an astonishing score. It’s been on Netflix in the past, but it’s making its debut on Hulu and Amazon.

The other two are Oscar winners, even if the latter shouldn’t have been. Coco is one of Pixar’s best efforts of recent years, tweaking a staid formula into something moving. I, Tonya is messy but fascinating biopic about Tonya Harding and her difficult life and path to stardom. Allison Janney is all quips and chain-smoking, and while her Oscar should belong to Laurie Metcalf’s turn in Lady Bird, it’s an indelible performance all the same.

Recent Selections
Blame – Amazon 5/1
Goat – Amazon 5/1
Holy Air – Amazon 5/1
Psychopaths – Amazon 5/1
Saturday Church – Amazon 5/1
Thirst Street – Amazon 5/1
Last Flag Flying – Amazon 5/4
Faces Places – Netflix 5/5 (Academy Award nominee)
In the Fade – Hulu 5/11
Baywatch – Hulu and Amazon 5/12
Frank Serpico – Hulu 5/12
Jane – Hulu 5/12
Tonight She Comes – Hulu 5/13
How to Be a Latin Lover – Hulu and Amazon 5/15
Take Every Wave – Hulu 5/15
The Strange Ones – Hulu 5/15
Knights of the Damned – Hulu 5/16
Beatriz at Dinner – Hulu and Amazon 5/19
Small Town Crime – Netflix 5/19
American Folk – Hulu 5/21
Neat – Hulu 5/21
Half Magic – Hulu 5/23
Curvature – Hulu 5/24
Mad to Be Normal – Hulu 5/25
Just Getting Started – Amazon 5/27
The Wedding Plan – Hulu and Amazon 5/27
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story – Netflix 5/31
Please Stand By – Hulu 5/31

Sometimes – Netflix 5/1
Anon – Netflix 5/4
Forgive Us Our Debts – Netflix 5/4
Manhunt – Netflix 5/4
The Kissing Booth – Netflix 5/11
Cargo – Netflix 5/18
Catching Feelings – Netflix 5/18
Ibiza – Netflix 5/25
Sara’s Notebook – Netflix 5/26

Top Pick
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Amazon 5/25
Peter Weir already adapted the haunting novel into a terrific film in 1975. A miniseries is probably unnecessary, but this Australian co-production features Natalie Dormer, who’s just begging for a bigger, better role after she was killed off on Game of Thrones.

Busted! (Season 1) – Netflix 5/4
Dear White People (Season 2) – Netflix 5/4
End Game – Netflix 5/4
Kong: King of the Apes (Season 2) – Netflix 5/4
The Rain (Season 1) – Netflix 5/4
Diablo Guardian (Season 1) – Amazon 5/5
All Night (Season 1) – Hulu 5/11
Bill Nye Saves the World (Season 3) – Netflix 5/11
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist – Netflix 5/11
Rocky & Bullwinkle (Season 1) – Amazon 5/11
Spirit: Riding Free (Season 5) – Netflix 5/11
The Who Was? Show (Season 1) – Netflix 5/11
Inspector Gadget (Season 4) – Netflix 5/18
You Are Wanted (Season 2) – Amazon 5/18
Dino Dana (Season 2) – Amazon 5/22
Mob Psycho 100 (Season 1) – Netflix 5/22
Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Part 2) – Netflix 5/22
Explained – Netflix 5/23
Fauda (Season 2) – Netflix 5/24
The Toys That Made Us (Season 2) – Netflix 5/25
Trollhunters (Part 3) – Netflix 5/25
Howards End – Amazon 5/29
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 4) – Netflix 5/30

Queens of Comedy (Season 1) – Netflix 5/1
Simon (Season 1) – Netflix 5/1
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (Season 2) – Netflix 5/1
Drunk History (Season 5, Part 1) – Hulu 5/5
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (Season 1) – Hulu 5/5
Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Season 3) – Hulu 5/7
Claws (Season 1) – Hulu 5/11
Orphan Black (Season 5) – Amazon 5/12
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (Season 4) – Netflix 5/15
Scandal (Season 7) – Netflix 5/19
12 Monkeys (Season 3) – Hulu 5/16
The Strain (Season 4) – Hulu 5/16
Senora Acero (Season 4) – Netflix 5/21
Shooter (Season 2) – Netflix 5/22

Top Picks
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City – Netflix 5/1
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life – Netflix 5/25
I sadly missed the former on his recent tour. Mulaney’s one of my favorite comedians and his recent turn on Saturday Night Live (where he used to write) was spectacular. I was able to catch Steve Martin and Martin Short during a show on my birthday last year, and they were every bit as hilarious as you’d expect.

Other Shows & Specials
A Little Help with Carol Burnett – Netflix 5/4
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Tina Fey – Netflix 5/4
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives – Netflix 5/8
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife – Netflix 5/13
Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here – Netflix 5/22
Hollywood Game Night: Red Nose Day Special – Hulu 5/25
The Break with Michelle Wolf – Netflix 5/27
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Howard Stern – Netflix 5/31

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