What I Watched This Week: 8 Jul 2018

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What I Watched This Week: 24 Jun 2018

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.

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Streaming Picks: July 2018

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

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…

Continue reading

Posted in Film, Previews, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Watched This Week: 17 Jun 2018

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.

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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)

Posted in Film, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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…
Continue reading

Posted in Film, Previews, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment