Friday, June 09, 2017

Happy Birthday, Donald Duck

83 years! And so looking forward to the rebooted series... I may already love it. That's such an Uncle Scrooge/Carl Barks thing to say.

The 2016-2017 TV Season

Thoughts on what I watched this season on TV, either too brief or not brief enough.

The Affair: The third season of this series has taken some surprising dramatic turns. As we go on, I find that more than ever I'm fascinated about what happens to the main character's ex-wife (played by Maura Tierney) and less in the main couple. Honestly, I just want the show to be her at this point. Also, loved the addition of Irene Jacob this season, B+

Agents of SHIELD: I stopped watching it. I haven't seen this season at all. What I plan to do is binge it on Netflix over the summer. It was just so not good in the previous season that I didn't want to spend time with it each week. I am looking forward to Ghost Rider, though.

American Housewife: Watched the first episode and, although I thought Katy Mixon was fun, it wasn't for me.

The Americans: Still a great show, but one that I don't have a lot to say about. A-

Arrow: Well, what I like about this show is apparently the opposite of everyone else. This show is heavily flawed all the time, but some people were really hailing this season as a return to form, whereas I hailed this season as terrible. I liked the maligned fourth season, when it was unapologetically a superhero show. This season was trying to apologize for the much more superhero-style leanings of the previous two and give us that gritty, "realistic," crypto-fascist feel that's been ruining Batman for a decade. And added a half-dozen new characters just to make sure nothing would get done. For this season, it's a D+. Not enjoyable to watch, and I'm only still here because I'm keeping up with the 'verse after a huge catch-up over last summer.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: Season 2 was further bizarre greatness... except for that ending. That ending was a disappointment, especially when you read about what the original ending for the season was supposed to be. The ending we got was an ending that says they're taking themselves too seriously, an it actually makes me hope there won't be a third. A-

Big Little Lies: This compelling event series was an excellent story about forms of abuse, as well as a chance to watch some great actresses together. A+

Black-ish: Still love it, but I didn't care for the backdoor pilot for the spin-off, which was a little too silly and sitcommy and, let's be honest, there's been more than enough of Chris Parnell for the world. I love Yara Shahidi and she's wonderful as Zoe, but I don't know about a series about her going to college without a little bit of an overhaul (and some recasting? maybe?). I hope it's not really lame because it means she's not on the parent show. B-

Bob's Burgers: I thought this past season stepped up the quality in ways the previous season hadn't; I know I complained about the show getting too caught up in catering to its internet fandom. I wasn't sure things were going to go so good when the season premiere was a fantasy musical episode... but overall this season was really fun and had a lot of plots that came out of character. Nice rebound. B+

Crisis in Six Scenes: Woody Allen's Amazon Prime series. It was okay, but nothing compelling. In fact, I'd forgotten I watched it until I checked my notes for this post. C

Cutthroat Kitchen: I'm so glad they've finally started airing episodes again! Just this week! It's been gone for a couple of months! A+

Dance Moms: Well, the toxicity got pulled back quite a bit this season, but there were some departures and some shake-ups. I know the last chunk they'll air is the end of the show. I've enjoyed it, but it's been rocky for a long time, so I'm more glad that those kids are getting away from their abusive relationship with both Abby Lee Miller and Lifetime. Great dancers. C+

DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Love it. This is my replacement for Doctor Who being so unwatchable now. And taking four of the Arrowverse's best villains and creating the Legion of Doom added some real excitement and campy mustache-twirling and sneering. My wife doesn't like Citizen Steel or Vixen and their whole love story, but I like them much more than Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Fun stuff. A-

Dear White People: Like the movie, but fuller and dealing more with the aftermath of the film's events. Much of the cast of the excellent film returns here. I missed Tessa Thompson a little, but Logan Browning was extremely good as Samantha White. It's an impressive series, and no, it's not racist to white people. Sheesh. A+

The Eric Andre Show: A+

The Exorcist: Watched the first episode and couldn't get into it at all.

The Flash: Though I am a Marvel kid, my favorite superhero is the Flash. This show does him justice in so many ways. It faltered a little here in the third season, but I still loved it. A-

Feud: Bettie and Joan: This is my favorite series so far this year. I love how Ryan Murphy took the feud between Bettie Davis (Susan Sarandon was amazing) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange, more Jessica than Joan, but very good) and turned into something representative of sexism in Hollywood. I never felt like he blamed one woman over the other. Excellent television. A+

Girlboss: It was okay. My favorite part was RuPaul playing the neighbor. B-

Girls: The final season surprisingly decided to give Hannah a pregnancy to deal with, but it turned out to be a nice farewell to the show itself. I've really liked this show, and I'm sorry it won't be around anymore, but it took a turn I didn't think I wanted it to this year and made it kind of a great ending. A

The Good Place: Cute, high concept series about ethics and morality, heaven and hell, and my love for Kristen Bell. Ted Danson is especially good on this series. I like it, I'm interested to see where they go from here, but I also keep forgetting it's a thing, which probably isn't a great sign. B-

Grace and Frankie: I had an emotional revelation during one episode involving my childhood abuse and how it's affected my life, so touche for me calling you somewhat inconsequential last year, show. B

Guardians of the Galaxy: I love how wild the show went this year with the whole Adam Warlock cocoon story, and I love that it involved the Avengers and the High Evolutionary. B

Halloween Wars: Fun as always. B

Iron Fist: Ugh, the worst. Just terrible and not fun. D-. Only David Wenham saves it from an F.

The Last Man on Earth: One of the things this show really excels at is its bleak imagery, and there was a lot of that this year in a way that made their world seem bigger. A nuclear reactor melting down in the distance, the sudden appearance of life in a drone camera, or the weird sadness of a man in a dinosaur costume walking down a silent street. Lots of sudden turns this year, but not in a way that made me feel jerked around. A-

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: A+

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath: Important, emotional series exposing the "church." A+

The Librarians: Another fun season of this adventure series. B

Love: Okay, this season did a better job of showing why our main characters get along, making a relationship between them seem less scuzzy. Of course, that relationship is still going to be plagued by problems the two of them have with their own personalities, but this season was about being honest about those problems and finding ways to be supportive, and I really appreciated that. B+

Luke Cage: My favorite of the Netflix MCU series so far. A+

Master of None: It took it's time coming back, but I'd rather have it right than have it fast, and this season was right. A+

MasterChef Junior: Good overall, but the worst challenges on this series are the same as on the adult version: home cooks working as line cooks. I finally realized why I can't stand it: Gordon Ramsey can't handle the pressure. Once his reputation is on the line, he becomes a total mess, and there he suddenly is, screaming at an 11 year-old about consistency and throwing her steak on the ground as if that's a reasonable way to act. It's disgusting and I'm tired of that. She's a child, you ass. Either tell her what she's doing wrong and show her how to do it right, or recuse yourself from being in the kitchen during these challenges, because you melt down. Otherwise, A-

Masters of Sex: A surprise cancellation for a fascinating series. Like The Affair, I found myself much more interested in a character who wasn't the main couple (Caitlin FitzGerald as Masters' ex-wife, Libby, who is aptly named as her story was one of liberation). I'm sorry it just sort of stopped, but Libby's story had a satisfying end, so I'm okay. A-

People of Earth: Surprisingly emotional for a sitcom about people who were abducted by aliens. B+

Rick and Morty: Well, we got one episode, and it was awesome, so A.

RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars: Amazing to watch so many talented drag artists, and amazing to watch so many people whine about how it was less dramatic because everyone was so talented. Well, it's an All-Stars. And there was at least one person I would like to have never seen again who hung in there and started shit. Look, we all knew Alaska Thunderfuck was going to win, but she fucking deserved it. A

Saturday Night Live: Much better than the terrible season before it. Finally going in on making fun of Trump gave the show some teeth. It's not incredibly good satire, but it's occasionally pointed and a nice tension release. B

Scream Queens: I'm sorry but unsurprised that it got canceled. Loved the second season almost as much as the first, though. B+

Search Party: I talked about this on my most recent Pop Culture 50. This was a lovely surprise. A

Shark Tank: B-

Star Wars Rebels: Still one of my favorite Star Wars Things. This year saw a lot of neat stuff about the nature of the Force itself (I loved Tom Baker as the Bendu, somewhere in between the Light and the Dark), the return of Saw Gerrera, and the addition of the marvelously grumpy droid AP-5. It was nice to finally see Sabine Wren come into her own, too, and the Rebel Alliance become more openly organized under Mon Mothma. But the best episode was a quieter one, which finally saw the rematch between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi, which was lyrical and majestic in its simplicity. Only one season left, unfortunately. Here's hoping Cassian and K-2SO show up. A

Storage Wars: C

Supergirl: There was nothing wrong with this show that getting rid of Mon-El after five episodes wouldn't have fixed. Mon-El was played by a charming actor, but he dominated too much of the series with his story, and if there's one thing the Arrowverse ain't great at, it's satisfying love stories. The Mon-El Problem was almost as bad as James getting shoved to the sidelines for the entire season. I wish the upcoming Black Lightning was taking place on the same Earth as Supergirl, because we could just move James over there where he might have something to do. I still enjoy this show, but nowhere near the love I had in its first season. I did enjoy Teri Hatcher as the season's villain, though, just because she was so over-the-top and bitchy. She's obviously been studying this role her entire life. C+

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Still digging it. B+

Vice Principals: The kind of cringe my wife really hates, but I think this one is brilliant. A

Vikings: I'm okay with those character deaths. As long as you don't kill Lagertha, I'm okay. A-

We Bare Bears: These episodes with the baby bears are giving me, as the kids say, feels. A

Westworld: Recording all of this on the TiVo and watching it all in one weekend (the weekend of the finale) was really the way to go with this series. Then I could just absorb it and, having successfully ignored the media and the online reaction, not get caught up in answering the mystery of it. I just dug the story and didn't get caught up in the twists. Really atmospheric and compelling show. A-

The Young Pope: I was expecting something sleazy-but-historical like The Borgias, but instead got something that really moved me, a portrait of a modern Pope who is a true believer and who genuinely tries to re-shape the world into something better (not just something Catholic). I liked this very much. Excellent soundtrack, too. A+

And that's the end of that season.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Film Week

A review of the film I've seen this week.

Loved, loved, loved this movie. This is so much what I wanted a Wonder Woman movie to be. I think my favorite thing about it was setting it in World War I instead of World War II. It's pretty relevant to today, particularly with the refugee situation in the wold and the general hopelessness of the film's portrayal of the Great War. Certainly a lot of us feel powerless to the tide of history these days. In comes Diana, a beacon of hope, and besides its successful subversion of a lot of typically male action movie tropes, Gal Gadot's performance is just so charming and lovable that I just... I don't know, it made me feel good. Like love and hope counted for something, in a way I usually haven't seen in movies like this. What's so great is that the movie gets what Wonder Woman represents, but rather than remind us of it constantly with text-as-dialogue (my biggest issue with many of the DC movies), Diana is a character with things to learn about herself. It took me some time to realize that, wonderfully, I was watching a movie about women that didn't have a leering Male Gaze to it, that just took the character seriously. Chris Pine plays well off of Gadot, supporting her with his performance rather than trying to outshine her, content to let it be her movie, but he has some great moments of his own. I also love the collection of diverse men who help them along their way into Occupied Territory and across No Man's Land. (I was thinking to myself that Wonder Woman appearing in the trenches even plays to a lot of the mythology at the time and the stories of soldiers who thought they saw angels and goddesses and other such things on the battlefield.) The only misstep is probably the CGI in the finale, which is big and does bookend the film with its first act, but feels a little old hat at this point. I'm not going to go into the whole "DC vs. Marvel" bit or "What does this mean for the DCEU?" discussions going 'round, but I just really enjoyed the hell out of this movie and I can't wait to watch it again. ***1/2

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Hate for Sale

Directed and animated (in stop-motion) by Anna Eijsbouts, based on a Neil Gaiman poem. I just found this very affecting tonight.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Song of the Week: "Queen Bee"

Here's another piece of music from 1977, this one by Taj Mahal. Pretty stuff on a sunny Sunday.