Quick and Dirty TV Recaps: Better Call Saul s5ep1-2, Hunters s1ep1-3, Briarpatch s1ep1-3

Better Call Saul, Season 5 Episode 1&2

We needed a kind of perfunctory first episode back, we are reminded of who all is on this show, who it’s about. Where Jimmy/Saul (Jimmysaul?) is in his black and white furthest continuity, still at a cinnabun and finally at risk!

Mostly the stakes were just stress and depression before (the vacuum man really worked his magic and found a good spot, RIP to Robert Forster who the episode is dedicated to) but we finally see what it’s like to be spotted. It really hammers the source of all the Jimmysaul stress, to be so recognizable even after the years and that mustache here yet states away from where he first made his bones as a lawyer.

Episode 2, just the most gorgeous thing. So beautiful. Just the actual images.

A great episode that moves the ball forward with Kim. For a show that takes its time, Kim being confronted with multiple things, seeking closure for regrets from the first episode and throwing her a bone with the rare Jimmysaul apology that feels real and legitimate- all this stuff feels more compelling, more complete and immediate than the previous seasons. She’s not having fun anymore which is how they teased the relationship in the earlier seasons, when she lies to her client, it hurts. “For the greater good” of a plea deal doesn’t make that cosmic nagging sense within stop. That’s what makes her different from Jimmysaul.

At this point, they both have the money and power to make good decisions, get enough rest and be as respectable or disreputable as they want. The crucial brush off with Howard in the courthouse hallway (some understated but exciting and effective camera movement here, they never go full Birdman thank goodness) is the kind of association choice, the kind of time management choice that goes to Jimmysaul’s character. They say we re hat e continually do. He really is being Saul in how he lives here, criminal defense legal churn with an angle always for getting it over quick and getting one over too.

I’m not even to the Nacho subplot stuff yet. I love how he finally converges with Saul at the end. The taste of the much darker work for Saul to come, I wanted the next episode to play immediately.

I do want to call out really simple cause and effect, character choice stuff here that sounds like a no-brainer but is so crucial to writing and plotting. Characters make decisions based out of their needs and desires. Those choices interlock and have an effect that slots in as a place for another character to reveal their need or desire. This then has its own effect that’s a new context for a new character choice.

It sounds really dumb when I say it like that. You might be thinking any child could write a cause and effect chain like that. Is this essentially the skillset that it takes to play that old video game series The Incredible Machine but trust when you’re looking at an empty FinalDraft or Celtx doc, it can be hard.

Hunters, Season 1 Episode 1-3

Ripping the band-aid off, this series can be cartoonish at times. It’s not aided formally by the gun, bullet, blood and gore fx that call to mind less than stellar action VOD offerings. The bodies sitting around and in the pool as a result of the immediate and shocking turn in the first episode ARE effective but the Goldeneye 64 ass sequence that gets us to that horror is maybe not uhh politically correct? This isn’t Schindler’s List.

There’s the problematic thing where the actual Nazis were essentially bad enough and some of the dramatization to make them “worse” is just more exploitation-y (however self aware this exploitation aesthetic is, lmao at the character intros in the next couple episodes, wtf is Josh Radnor doing in this, just with the jokes nonstop).

But if you’re happy that 80s movies/shows had really bad cartoon Russians and are ready for Nazis to get a kind of similar spy meets crime meets procedural treatment- this is your show. Maybe it’s me maturing or something that the real surface pleasure of watching a really really bad person die within the context of genre just doesn’t sit right with me when there are these actual bad guys in the real world.

The most real thing in the first episode was the drug deal gone wrong. There’s violence but it’s just unpleasant at first, most about masculine and interpersonal jockeying. It evolves closer to “bullying,” there’s a slur and the kind of assault a regular person would endure, not some super assassin beat down.

By the third episode I did have favorite characters. Surprise, they’re the younger characters who work at a comic book shop. For all the genre tropes that can be pitfalls, getting the audience aggressively and early on the side of the relatable POV character was the best choice they made.

I hope they stick the landing. It seems like the show may become a bit more self aware and ultimately judge the Nazi hunting rather than indulge it, probably both if I had to guess.

Briarpatch, Season 1 Episode 1-3

This is a really fun watch if you watch it looking for moments that would probably fit better in the late 40s or 20s, you know, something with noir guys in fedoras.

It’s an adaption. As a genre exercise and as something transposed from another time onto ours, it is fascinating. The exact story is still taking shape. Heavy serialization means that after 3 episodes of 10 I really do feel like I barely have 30% of the whole story. That gives me hope for the rest. Can it deliver? Each episode introduces new characters and more details, hard to say if it’s going to reward us down the line. It’s making promises right now that feel like they’re setting up dominoes for later. I’ll keep watching.

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2019 Movies Top 10

In no particular order

  1. Free Solo
  2. Us
  3. The Sun is Also a Star (tho i hated the ending)
  4. The Farewell
  5. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant) (tho i was frustrated with the ending)
  6. The Lighthouse (tho this one is pretty gross and challenging!)
  7. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  8. Honey Boy (tho it’s uncomfortable in how it tells a real life story)
  9. Waves
  10. The Laundromat (Netflix)

Special Rec:

How To Train Your Dragon 3 which is the best family film of the year.

For more go to my letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/films/reviews/

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2019’s Over Simplistic Good, Bad, Complicated Movies Breakdown


  1. Free Solo
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
  4. FYRE Fraud (Hulu)
  5. The Lego Movie Part 2
  6. High Flying Bird (Netflix)
  7. How To Train Your Dragon 3
  8. Triple Frontier (Netflix)
  9. Us
  10. Dragged Across Concrete
  11. Aladdin
  12. The Sun is Also a Star
  13. Spider-Man Far From Home
  14. Midsommar
  15. The Art of Self Defense
  16. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
  17. The Farewell
  18. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant)
  19. El Camino (Netflix)
  20. Extreme Job (Amazon Instant)
  21. The Lighthouse
  22. Parasite
  23. Knives Out
  24. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  25. Honey Boy
  26. Waves
  27. Marriage Story (Netflix)
  28. Dark Waters
  29. Richard Jewell
  30. The Laundromat (Netflix)


  1. Serenity
  2. Isn’t It Romantic
  3. Booksmart
  4. The Hustle
  5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  6. The Secret Life of Pets 2
  7. Dark Phoenix – I honestly did like this one for the surface pleasures of comic book disposability. We’ve perfectly found the sweet spot to turn out a bunch of Deadpool 2s and Dark Phoenixes and Origins Wolverines and I’m totally ok with that but you can’t get general audiences to see the 15th best disposable superhero movie of the year. You just can’t ask anyone to see this other than exactly and only me.
  8. The Dead Don’t Die
  9. Toy Story 4
  10. Yesterday
  11. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (Netflix/Lonely Island)
  12. Stuber
  13. Hobbs & Shaw
  14. Good Boys
  15. Angel Has Fallen
  16. Rambo: Last Blood
  17. Zombieland 2
  18. Maleficent 2
  19. The Dead Center (Blu)
  20. Jojo Rabbit
  21. Terminator: Dark Fate
  22. 21 Bridges
  23. 6 Underground (Netflix)
  24. Jumanji: The Next Level
  25. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker


  1. Glass
  2. Alita, Battle Angel
  3. They Shall Not Grow Old
  4. Fighting With My Family
  5. Cold Pursuit
  6. Captain Marvel
  7. Shazam!
  8. Unplanned
  9. Avengers: End Game
  10. John Wick 3
  11. Brightburn
  12. Dora The Explorer and the lost city
  13. Peanut Butter Falcon
  14. Ready or Not
  15. Lion King
  16. Hustlers
  17. The Goldfinch
  18. Ad Astra
  19. Joker
  20. Harriet
  21. Pain and Glory
  22. Doctor Sleep
  23. Motherless Brooklyn
  24. Ford v Ferrari
  25. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  26. Queen and Slim
  27. Spies in Disguise
  28. Uncut Gems
  29. Bombshell

Now I’ve just got to narrow down to 10. OOF.

For more depth, see my letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/films/reviews/

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2019 Movies Year In Review

VOD/Movies not released this year:

  1. Miller’s Crossing (Amazon Instant)
  2. Avengers Infinity War (Vudu)
  3. The Man Who Wasn’t There (Amazon Instant)
  4. Ant-Man (Vudu)
  5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor (HBO Now)
  6. True Grit (2010) (Amazon Instant)
  7. Speed Racer (DVD)
  8. Thoroughbreds (Amazon Instant)
  9. Raising Arizona (Amazon Instant)
  10. To Sleep With Anger (Criterion Channel)
  11. Like Crazy (Amazon Instant)
  12. Skyscraper (HBO Now)
  13. Goodfellas (HBO Now)
  14. Miss Congeniality (Vudu)
  15. Swingers (Amazon Instant)
  16. Star Wars 1: the phantom menace (Blu)
  17. John Wick (Amazon Instant)
  18. Crazy Rich Asians (HBO Now)
  19. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu)
  20. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Blu)
  21. Killer of Sheep (DVD)
  22. Road House (Amazon Prime)
  23. Observe and Report (Netflix)
  24. A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies (Criterion Channel)
  25. Good Burger (DVD)
  26. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Netflix)
  27. Summer of 84 (Amazon Instant)
  28. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Blu)
  29. Blockers (HBO Now)
  30. 2 Fast 2 Furious (Amazon Instant)
  31. Avengers: Endgame (Vudu)
  32. Fast and Furious (the 4th one) (Amazon Instant)
  33. Fast Five (Amazon Instant)
  34. Gifted (DVD)
  35. Get Smart (DVD)
  36. Baahubali 2 (Amazon Instant)
  37. The Terminator (Blu)
  38. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Blu)
  39. Superbad (Netflix)
  40. 12 Monkeys (DVD)
  41. Batman: Hush (DC Universe)
  42. Enemy (Amazon Instant)
  43. Casino Royale (Blu)
  44. Upgrade (Amazon Instant)
  45. The Shawshank Redemption (Blu)
  46. Den of Thieves (Amazon Instant)
  47. Psycho (Blu)
  48. Batman Begins (DVD)
  49. Clue (DVD)
  50. Lilo and Stitch (DVD)
  51. The First Purge (Vudu)
  52. Grand Budapest Hotel (Vudu)
  53. Chinatown (Amazon Prime)
  54. Star Wars episode 7 (Disney+)
  55. Galaxy Quest (DVD)
  56. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (Disney+)
  57. Shattered Glass (Amazon Instant)
  58. Mississippi Grind (Amazon Instant)
  59. Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (Netflix)
  60. It’s A Wonderful Life (Amazon Instant)

Movies/(VOD THIS YEAR)/in theaters:

  1. Free Solo
  2. Glass
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
  5. FYRE Fraud (Hulu)
  6. The Lego Movie Part 2
  7. Serenity
  8. High Flying Bird (Netflix)
  9. Beauty and The Beast (animated)
  10. Isn’t It Romantic
  11. Alita, Battle Angel
  12. They Shall Not Grow Old
  13. How To Train Your Dragon 3
  14. Fighting With My Family
  15. Cold Pursuit
  16. Captain Marvel
  17. Triple Frontier (Netflix)
  18. Us
  19. Shazam!
  20. Unplanned
  21. Dragged Across Concrete
  22. Avengers: End Game
  23. John Wick 3
  24. Booksmart
  25. Brightburn
  26. The Hustle
  27. Aladdin
  28. The Sun is Also a Star
  29. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  30. The secret life of pets 2
  31. Dark Phoenix
  32. The Dead Don’t Die
  33. Toy Story 4
  34. Yesterday
  35. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (Netflix/Lonely Island)
  36. Spider-Man Far From Home
  37. Midsommar
  38. Stuber
  39. The Art of Self Defense
  40. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
  41. Hobbs & Shaw
  42. The Farewell
  43. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant)
  44. Dora The Explorer and the lost city
  45. Good Boys
  46. Peanut Butter Falcon
  47. Angel Has Fallen
  48. Ready or Not
  49. Lion King
  50. Hustlers
  51. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (Marcus rerun)
  52. The Goldfinch
  53. Ad Astra
  54. Rambo: Last Blood
  55. Joker
  56. Rear Window (Marcus rerun)
  57. El Camino (Netflix)
  58. Extreme Job (Amazon Instant)
  59. The Lighthouse
  60. Zombieland 2
  61. Maleficent 2
  62. The Dead Center (Blu)
  63. Harriet
  64. Parasite
  65. Jojo Rabbit
  66. Godfather part 2
  67. Pain and Glory
  68. Doctor Sleep
  69. Terminator: Dark Fate
  70. Motherless Brooklyn
  71. Ford v Ferrari
  72. 21 Bridges
  73. Knives Out
  74. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  75. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  76. Honey Boy
  77. Waves
  78. Marriage Story (Netflix)
  79. Dark Waters
  80. Queen and Slim
  81. 6 Underground (Netflix)
  82. Jumanji: The Next Level
  83. Richard Jewell
  84. The Laundromat (Netflix)
  85. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker
  86. Bombshell
  87. Spies in Disguise
  88. Uncut Gems


Some Stats:

-148 total movies watched

-13 New Releases STREAMED rather than in theaters

-2 Best films I saw this year. 1990 release MILLER’S CROSSING tied with KILLER OF SHEEP from 1978. Both are worth your time

-20 films watched on physical media

-3 new Marvel Films in theaters in 2019 (It feels like a lot less because they took the winter off this year! It’s been 6 months since Spider-Man, missing my super heroes)

More comprehensive breakdown coming with top 10 etc.

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2019 TV Year In Review

The List, 32 Total Seasons of Shows:

TV released this year:

  1. Escape at Dannemora (showtime trial on Amazon)
  2. The Dragon Prince season 2 (Netflix)
  3. The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
  4. Doom Patrol (DC Universe) not finished
  5. True Detective season 3 (HBO Now)
  6. Game of Thrones season 8 (HBO Now)
  7. What We Do In The Shadows season 1 (Amazon Instant)
  8. Archer season 10 (Amazon Instant)
  9. Big Little Lies season 2 (HBO Now)
  10. The Boys (Amazon Prime)
  11. Bosch season 5 (Amazon Prime)
  12. Carnival Row season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  13. Titans season 2 (DC Universe) not finished
  14. Righteous Gemstones season 1 (HBO Now)
  15. Succession season 2 (HBO Now)
  16. Watchmen season 1 (HBO Now)
  17. Veronica Mars season 4 (Hulu)
  18. Jack Ryan season 2 (Amazon Prime)
  19. Silicon Valley season 6 (HBO Now)
  20. Mrs Fletcher season 1 (HBO Now)
  21. The Mandalorian season 1 (Disney+)

TV not released this year:

  1. The Dragon Prince season 1 (Netflix)
  2. Community season 1 (DVD)
  3. Community season 2 (DVD some Hulu)
  4. Community season 3 (Hulu)
  5. Bosch season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  6. Bosch season 2 (Amazon Prime)
  7. Bosch season 3 (Amazon Prime)
  8. Bosch season 4 (Amazon Prime)
  9. Deadwood season 1 (HBO Now)
  10. The Wire season 1 (HBO Now)
  11. Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place season 1 (DVD and YouTube)

Some Stats:

-Total Watch time: 9 DAYS 13 HOURS 15 MINUTES according to: https://tiii.me

-3 Seasons of Netflix Original content

-10 Seasons of HBO Original content

-8 Seasons of Amazon Original content

-2 Seasons purchased outright (What We Do In The Shadows and Archer from FX through Amazon)

-1 surprise excellent Disney+ show worth the price of that subscription all by itself

-12(?) people using my Disney+ login

Worst choices: DC Universe generally, just a huge joke of a streaming service. Just terrible and they still got my fanboy pity dollars for Titans season 1 and 2. I’ve never been more angry with myself and I actually do love to waste money on superhero stuff.

Jack Ryan season 2 was trash except for a few small OK action scenes. But the show won’t die. We, the US Public, love our non partisan super smart super soldiers. Tom Clancy’s nice boys in khakis speaking french and doing book reports for the president, ratings gold. They are doing a creative overhaul for season 3 making it a shared cinematic universe with Taylor Sheridan at the helm (Remember SICARIO!) doing a movie that’s probably a very bad and dumb Michael B Jordan Navy Seal Deep State Thriller that riffs on The Fugitive. I will watch season 3 but you should skip season 1 and 2.

Best Show: Escape at Dannemora – a recent history true crime prison break told plainly with the best dramatic performances of the year, captured with a cinematic eye like something from what you think of as the classic decades of popular, grown up cinema.

From director Ben Stiller of all people. Yes that Ben Stiller, no it’s not even close to a comedy). Barely TV because it plays like a movie and benefits from being watched all at once if you can plan a Saturday for it. Each piece is very interdependent and illuminates every other piece in a small way.

Most Watchable Show: The Mandalorian. If this isn’t TV, there’s no such thing as TV. High quality elevated Saturday morning cartoons for the whole family. Where a lot of prestige shows want to be movies, Mandalorian knows what it is and delivers episode to episode. I want 100+ more of these if Disney is willing to keep paying for them.

All of the Competent Cop Shows I Enjoyed: True Detective Season 3 (Mahershala Ali’s performance as an old man was so good), Bosch (all 5 seasons! Last year my comfort food like this was Justified), Veronica Mars (workmanlike adequate followup/revival of the old show), The Wire (always a classic)

Other Good Stuff:

HBO Comedies – just absolutely fine.

HBO Dramas – Watchmen was not as good as the movie (a bit too optimistic at the end!) but still good TV. Great catalog but miss me with the slice of life stuff.

Succession doesn’t count as a comedy. That’s a drama that over performed. Watchable on a level that Sorkin fans will say The West Wing/The Newsroom reached, darker and nastier than either of those but also better.

The Weird Ones: Garth Marenghi had an eyeball child, maybe the most unforgettable trauma I suffered this year. Thank you to my friends for introducing me to this mock 80s super irony novelist auteur procedural.

Everything that Under Performed (sorry!):

The ending of Umbrella Academy. What even was that? Maybe season 2 will make it worthwhile. Very much the serial pleasure, an ending is not what we were looking for.

Carnival Row – absolutely forgettable, clumsy basic social commentary, fantasy romance cover YA garb, be glad you missed this

The Boys – despite being a stellar adaption of an unadaptable 90s edgelord comic book text, it never escapes its bush era resentments, cynicism or politics. You can hear it yelling, “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW THE REAL WORLD WORKS. MOM!” as it smokes one (1) weed behind a gas station while on break. Upcoming Season 2 shows a lot of promise. Get back to the core bit that works, killing superheroes that deserve it with clever in universe mechanics.

Doom Patrol – essentially a DC Universe version of Doctor Who with super gore. A lot of spark, spunk and heart but none of the individual characters or performances were enough to keep me. The weirdness is a plus, the terrible network it’s on is a minus. A lot of promise and maybe I’ll finish this one later.

Game of Thrones – in my first episode of the season recap I said Game of Thrones needed to mean something… it never did.

“In Game of Thrones, you get the sense that these characters will never leave anything behind. No one, not one character in the smallest way leaves this world a better place really. You either win or you die, there’s not that complicated grey area that we have here in the real world, where small humane actions between people in their own small way add up to more, a richer more purposeful universe than just a bunch of titles, natural resource tiles out of a catan board game, with localized arbitrary sociological quirks mish mashed in a tangible details world building blender.

Like a pre teen boy throwing trash in a camp fire, burning whatever comes to mind or hand, there are some interesting colors that come from the breakdown of complex things. The only question that matters to me now is what will be left when this cable tv show is out of fuel. What will it all really, ultimately mean.”

Something that also under performed in 2019? ME. I totally forgot I was even in classes until I went back and read that recap. I had memory hole’d my hurt back and withdrawal from all my classes. Hopefully I’ll have a better 2020 personally. I am not planning on returning to academics.


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Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 1: Winterfell

I have a one week break. In this time I’ll have to look back at where I’ve been. I’ll reassess myself and my progress this semester and yes I will admit, I will redo some labs. I hate doing this kind of homework because it’s work I either did or should have done before. I should be enjoying myself this week. There’s a great double feature from criterion I want to get to.

Game of Thrones has been off the air for well over a year and the first episode back is like the homework I don’t want to do over break. It’s not necessary but there’s knowledge there we absolutely need going forward.

Game of Thrones has always been about breakdown (a lot of people like *subversion* for this but I don’t). Breakdown of people (the greater social trust crisis in Westeros), the breakdown of storytelling conventions (degradation changing a character is the most used technique in the series rather than the conventional cumulative character choices thing), the breakdown of this very complicated fantasy world (the various ways people do not believe in the various gods, the ways those gods fail their believers, the way the world/climate is revolting, the ruins of a greater, grander more excellent world all around with the main characters fighting for the bones of these places labeled from a more interesting time).

For all the Mi’Lords and Mi’Ladys out of these characters’ mouths, there’s never a sense of constructive meaning, really, to all the allegiances and fights. The show starts with breakdown and it just keeps breaking down. Cause and effect are important to storytelling and in the same way that not every story needing to be about heroes, not every story needs to be constructive. We get a lot out of stories like Dan Gilroy’s film Nightcrawler, a film that supposes the existence of a hungry twitchy, familiar villain, places him in Los Angeles local media, then watches dominoes fall around him. He’s the wrecking ball, his existence is the dramatic driver.

So in a similar way, we start season 8. We are literally looking at the last hole in the wall from the last dramatic wrecking ball. If you have been gurgling on the thousands of hours of surplus enthusiast materials (God help us all subjected to the content machines), most of this episode will be anticipated if not entirely understood to pretty much have happened in the mind of the fully apprised, detail captivated viewer.

Where were the characters last time, who were they and now a slight pivot, a lean, a small choice, a conversation – the set up for how it may all fall apart this season for them.

In Game of Thrones, you get the sense that these characters will never leave anything behind. No one, not one character in the smallest way leaves this world a better place really. You either win or you die, there’s not that complicated grey area that we have here in the real world, where small humane actions between people in their own small way add up to more, a richer more purposeful universe than just a bunch of titles, natural resource tiles out of a catan board game, with localized arbitrary sociological quirks mish mashed in a tangible details world building blender.

Like a pre teen boy throwing trash in a camp fire, burning whatever comes to mind or hand, there are some interesting colors that come from the breakdown of complex things. The only question that matters to me now is what will be left when this cable tv show is out of fuel. What will it all really, ultimately mean.

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Glass (2019) review

I have a complicated opinion of Glass. I’m a comic book guy so I found something in it interesting re myth and how-it-would-happen-in-reality of it all. Also there are some interesting things about how the modern world fights a more reactionary right and wrong moral vision (heroes and villains etc), it softens real consequences by doping us up but that also impedes an actualized way of living. More on this later.

That’s about all I can say without offering spoilers but I wish there was a sequel to Glass for the ideas to be more fleshed out. If the “ideas” portion of the film doesn’t interest you, you might as well walk out after the first 20 minutes and the first big confrontation in the warehouse.

There are three things that I might touch on when reviewing a film. The first is “should you see this film?” This is easy, yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s a recommendation. If you’re a comicbook guy like me, you’ll like this, you’ll like the thought exercise, maybe you’ll like the limited grounded action or maybe you liked Split and want to spend more time with all of that. But I just made a pivot, a pivot that included number two of what I touch on, “What is this?”

Asking what a movie *is* is asking about the truth of the thing. Maybe it’s formally, are there striking frames, showy moves, performances, how the VFX renders, and it gets more complicated from there. What words are spoken, how do they contrast with the images, what’s the plot, how does it come across, what ideas are behind the lilt of the portrayal, what does it suggest. You can connect the two.

“If you’re a comicbook guy”

“if you like the thought exercise, grounded action or Split”

These are statements about the content in a kind of bland surface way. My third touchstone is if the movie *succeeds* which is a kind of subset of #2 and #1 depending on your judgement about how and why it does, what you can expect and what you want as a viewer.

I don’t think Glass succeeds. I think it wants to be a genuinely thrilling, inspiring blockbuster driven by thoughtful ideas. There *are* ideas but the attempts at thrills and action don’t exactly satiate. This is the “first 20 minutes and the first big confrontation in the warehouse” marker at the top of this review. You’ve got to be in it for more than a success as a genre piece. The how-it-would-happen-in-reality action tries to do both and there are some unique, crafted images but it’s not enough to overcome the clunky delivery.

Don’t think of this as a review, not after this point.

The goal from now on will be to discuss the ideas within Glass beyond that surface way. There’s only so much you can say to recommend something without spoiling it. There’s the added problem that a recommendation is a kind of subtraction, a subtraction from all the other things in the world you could be doing.

If I’m really *telling* you to do something, you should go to Sunday School or learn the catechism. People write down the really important stuff as codes and traditions. How exactly can mere artifacts, trashy popular art and superheroes stand up to that? They can’t and they can.

Codes and Traditions are narrow and rightly narrow because they are specific. Baptists aren’t Presbyterians, aren’t Islamists, aren’t Mormons, aren’t Naturalized American Citizens (the citizenship test is a kind of tradition!), aren’t NBA Basketball Players etc. People do specific things and claim specific identities but movies are secular goods, shared culture and like any symbol – open. Open to interpretation and open to everyone even outside of their own time if they are preserved right. We don’t necessarily agree on the strictest truths but we can point to truth that can be shared, that exists out in the world as observable rather than as specific experience or belief in divine revelation.

Interpretation, engaging with the symbol requires referring to it. This is the difference between the first part and the second part of this non-review. I’m assuming you’ve actually seen the thing or at least are ok with discussing the thing as the thing not as something behind a curtain.

So let’s spoil Glass.


The reading that makes Glass interesting to me: it’s about miracles.

The fictional anthropological theory for how there are real superheroes and villains (kinda dumb if you think about it for too long but let’s do that) is that THEY EXIST but they need a kind of community faith. They need to be jolted out of obscurity by a circumstance, they need to believe in themselves and others need to believe in them. There’s an easing in this theory, if we are to have a world of heroes throwing cars, you need a hero just tipping a car first. Heroes must *emerge* in this way.

In this way, the idea is you would need to accept a small miracle before a big miracle because the acceptance, not the miracle is the key to the miraculousness. The heroes and villains in Glass think they are the first, hopefully of many.

All of this is textual, usually in Mr Glass’s limited monologues and it doesn’t exactly have much of a dramatic underpinning other than just being a self aware aid to the audience understanding how the characters emerge in the story. Mr Glass was once Little Mr Glass and he suffers a trauma as a youth. Painfully rendered, his bones crushing in different ways because he just wants to experience the joy of a carnival ride like a regular kid.

As a result he visits trauma upon the other super characters and they emerge and develop as a result. Trauma to be birthed and then a drop of faith that makes the whole world of super heroics possible.

Think of the logical jumps of people who believe in the supernatural, how most people who believe in that kind of thing mostly just have stories, some sort of canon to trust or easily deniable viral videos. Like the son of David Dunn, maybe it’s personal experience, what did you see really? Think of faith stories, people being born again, people who fall away and say it was all a lie or there was some other explanation.

It’s that, for superheroes and it’s all too blatant. This is the psych doctor’s area of study and all the tangible details that she presents as justification are too easily dismissed by the audience because we’ve seen the other movies. We’ve been converted already and that’s why this movie doesn’t really work. It tries to engender *real* doubt.

At least there’s now an experience I can point to now that can explain in some way what it’s like to be born again. I’m a Calvinist. This is the joke about us. We’re certain. I’m certain. I know already in my bones. I can’t unsee the sun. We can’t unsee David Dunn lifting those weights on an untrained dadbod.

This isn’t an experience limited to just my religious subgroup. Mr Glass is *the* true believer, his belief leads him to do terrible things and here we see something insidious, something thoughtful that I love about this film. The neoliberal modernists, the real villains who squelch faith, squelch a greater reality.

That’s right.

The real villains of Glass are the ruling class neoliberals who value stasis over conflict, warm professional blazer wearing half-reality over the exciting beyond, hoping to institutionalize, lock away the things that actually matter.

In a way, they aren’t wrong. Mr Glass *is* evil. His belief drives him to blow up a train! Evangelism by trauma is bad! But this secret society, they’re an over-correction. They rob the world of its magic. They rob society of wonder, stakes and power. All in the name of non-conflict. But non-conflict is not the same as good winning. That’s the key here. Killing good on the road to kill evil is a mistake!

Consider who Mr Glass is. He’s the least able. He’s a genius of course but physically he’s twitching, alone in his chair for most of the movie. Then it happens, he punctures the neoliberal, modernist equilibrium with a shard of glass. He kills a man. Even the weakest are able to puncture our shared calm. A bomb strapped to a child, a couple of men with box cutters on a plane. Bad shit!

If only there was a way to puncture the calm without killing? The word we are looking for is conflict. True conflict, honest conflict. Reactionaries might think *physical* or *violent* conflict is true conflict but in secularism, dialogue is conflict. You’ve got to let good and evil fight in the abstract. You’ve got to let people believe trusting they won’t set off a bomb. You can’t institutionalize us, neutralize our conception of good. You’ve got to let people walk around in a rain poncho when you think water gives life rather than takes it away.

Maybe one day they’ll do something that’s undeniable, that’s unequivocal good. Maybe one day you’ll see.

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2018, Movie Year in Review

2018 was a patchy year for movies for me. I definitely watched fewer than in the past. The pure lists in order of viewing, with my Letterboxd reaction and unranked are at the very bottom.

You can find my Letterboxd here: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/

Before that I’ve got a couple areas to highlight.

Solid Drama: Ladybird, Amateur, I, Tonya, Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man, The Favourite, Leave No Trace, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting, mid90s, A Star Is Born

Best Time Machines: 2001 A Space Odyssey, JAWS, Rebel Without A Cause

Top Tier Westerns: Hostiles, The Sisters Brothers, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (VERY MIXED and should be evaluated one short at a time, they are all very different)

Easy to Rec: The Marvel Films (Ant Man 2, Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War), A Quiet Place, Mission Impossible, Blackkklansman

Sci Fi that’s Trying Something: Annihilation, Hotel Artemis, Upgrade

Comedy: Game Night, Death of Stalin, Instant Family

Crazy Action: ManHunt and The Night Comes For Us, The First Purge, Bodied

Incredible, Must See Docs: Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Minding the Gap, Generation Wealth (this one is a little bit graphic about how culture of capitalism/materialism can worm its way into our very bodies so be warned it’s not for kids)

Basketball (yes it gets its own category): Uncle Drew, Amateur,

Underrated and Forgotten: Alpha, Ready Player One (the texture is potentially very abrasive but Spielberg doesn’t make bad movies)

Horror Fix: Hereditary, Unfriended Dark Web

Best Fat Suit Performance: 15:17 to Paris

Best Movie That Really Came Out in 2017: Lady Bird

Best Liam Neeson: Widows

Serviceable Genre (no insulting shortcuts, product as advertised): Bumblebee, Deadpool 2/Once Upon A Deadpool, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Incredibles 2, Paddington 2

Genre Misses (though with at least some interesting element in the greater overarching failure): Mile 22, Cloverfield Paradox, The Predator, Venom, Overlord, A Private War, Crazy Rich Asians (conventional to a fault), Wreck It Ralph 2, Robin Hood, Creed 2

Genre Regrets (completely forgettable): Fantastic Beasts 2, Aquaman, The Meg

Misc Other Should be Forgotten/Walk Out/Wish I Walked Out (please don’t see these): Christopher Robin, Tag, The Happytime Murders, Flower, Mortal Engines, Mute

Movies Released This Year OR Movies I Saw In Theaters:

    • Lady Bird –Everything you have heard is true.

      Looking forward to what’s next for all the creative involved.

    • 15:17 to Paris –Good moments in this film:
      – the stilted portrait of being a kinda dumb but earnest kid in the 2000s
      – the little get in shape vignette
      – the actual train sequence which seems like the only thing Clint Eastwood actually touched… the rest is second unit quality made worse by non actors but if you know this going in you can look past it for the normies tell their story angle

      All in all, not great. In the film’s defense, any biopic is going to have problems, even more because they cast the actual people involved in the focus of the film. So exactly the problem is why it could be interesting. Never got a sense for the people beyond those few moments listed though.

    • 12 Strong –The cast is incredible. Could have used more Michael Shannon. Constrained by real events.

      The long shadow of the practical Afghanistan horse stunts in Rambo 3 still stretches. Nothing tops that here.

      Fine. First half is the better half. Someone in the camera department really liked that Sicario silhouette thing. They try it twice in a helicopter and walking establishing shots. Nothing revolutionary here.

    • The Commuter –Falls… off the rails. I’m so sorry.

      It’s actually pretty ok. On the level with the other collaborative efforts between Neeson and this director. More here

    • Hostiles – A must see
    • Black Panther – Solid Marvel. Better on the second watch! You know what the film is, you know all the proper nouns and you can appreciate the comic booky small things!
    • The Maze Runner: The Death Cure – Another one better than it had any right to be. The running should be tedious by the third installment but somehow the schlock sticks the landing however that may be possible with this terrible mush mash material.
    • Mute –Mute wants to be Blade Runner and Layer Cake but comes off like edgelord doctor who potpourri.

      these actors, the production department, this cinematic universe- they all deserved better.

      with the exception of the woodworking, Mute is the opposite of Moon

      It gets needlessly ultra dark with this child predation subplot that goes nowhere, 90% of it is texture for texture’s sake and while some wacky elements and inspired futurism hit, there’s nothing tethering this movie after they kill the love story and drag our Amish guide past a point where there isn’t any reasonable expectation that his choices matter… if he can even make them in such a world so unsuited to him

      I wanted to love this movie but I hate it

    • The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix) – I actually had a lot of fun with this one but I won’t be seeing it again. Yeah it’s rough. Kinda watching it while doing something else Netflix fair is going to become its own subset. Honestly liked the last second Cloverfield tie in and wanted more of that. The arm was cool too. Great cast, not worth a theater ticket but fine for its venue.
    • Early Man –a conventional sports film (how many of those do we even get anymore!) wrapped in a pg hand animation spectacular (how many of those do we get anymore!) that doesn’t transcend either genre.

      I hate to say it’s fine, but it’s fine. Go watch this animation house’s catalog, even the most recent Shaun The Sheep film has a bit more going on. Wish there were more of these period, hard to make the case to general audiences when this is all that comes out once every three years.

    • Annihilation – It’s fun to look at, the characters are sketched and performed well regardless of the sci-fi and cumulative meaning of the film, but the ultimate pay off was a little bit Indiana Jones 4/Day The Earth Stood Still for me. More here
    • Game Night –A real throwback, you’d almost wish it would stay closer to farce. The practical action stunts sing though.

      Date night movie for sure.

    • I, Tonya – Best you can hope for when it comes to biopics, what a traumatic life
    • Good Time – a picture of low life poverty scumbag crime, one wild night with a mumblecore ending that makes you ask, “what was all this for?”
    • Ready Player One – the popcorn movie’s popcorn movie, the only good video game movie?
    • Chappaquiddick – wow these were terrible people
    • A Quiet Place – So simple so solid
    • Amateur (Netflix) – solid basketball photography, such spot on coach performance. The answer to corrupt fake education sports system’s is competition from markets in Europe???
    • The Death of Stalin – Dark
    • Avengers: infinity war –

      A good time for sure. Comic book af

      Spider-Man’s “I’m sorry” still gets me. What’s this the fourth time I’ve seen it

    • ManHunt (Netflix) – such Woo
    • Deadpool 2 – Absolute trash but you know what you’re in for because this is the second one. Josh Brolin doing way way better work than he ever needs to do
    • Ocean’s 8 – fine but not as good as the other films, you just can’t replace Soderbergh
    • Hotel Artemis –At its best when the characters just get to talk.

      Where is the train passengers/bottle murder masterpiece Renaissance we all want and need

    • Hereditary –Uhhh, the naked cultists got some laughs in my theater

      Excellently made of course

    • Upgrade – A solid genre entry, we’ll have to see how the object tracked action ages.
    • The Incredibles 2 –the short before this film Bao, even better the second time.

      Thematics of the feature are more noticeably mixed on second viewing

    • Superfly – the costuming and guns were good! The dirtbag white trash cops are something you never see because even like, David Ayer is too reverent.
    • Tag – Go rent Game Night instead
    • Adrift – ultimately walked out because of audience trouble, slow and by the numbers but great if you want to watch attractive people fall in love on a boat
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – all I can think about is how much money this movie will make… I guess that means I think it’s pretty not great
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor – It’ll destroy you
    • Uncle Drew – 9 times out of 10 they go for something sincere rather than a joke????
    • Ant Man and the Wasp – between this and Deadpool 2 we’ve attained the perfect equivalent disposability of a comic book
    • The First Purge – best one yet and the action! The breakout star! The conservative values!
    • Unfriended: Dark Web – Liked the supernatural take of the first better
    • The Equalizer 2 – Like Jack Reacher 2, a redundancy the world could have done without.
    • Sorry To Bother You – Wow they went full horse people
    • Mission Impossible: Fallout – Viewing 1: Bathroom fight goes in the canon. The rest is fine. Some of the interiors are sexy as hell – Viewing 2: Better the second time for sure. After the London escape the film kinda falls down, relying on the “I am the master of all your pain” and tech mumbo jumbo to secure a happy ending disconnected from the excellent film that came before. The helicopter stuff doesn’t ever quite crosscut well. This ending and the ex wife continuity due diligence could be excised for a much shorter and crisper film but nobody wants the bad guys to win soooooAlso, once you know this is coming you can largely turn your brain off for that portion. I can’t help but think drawing attention to the surreptitiousness of Ethan Hunt’s successes so literally in the text helps the series. The rope fight as well in the last portion occupies time I wish the film spent saying something.

      Like a Nolan bros film if they weren’t preoccupied with throwing in whatever philosophical, political and semiotic snarl has caught them in a given phase.

    • Blackkklansman –The break from reality in this story (the bombing at the end which is fictionalized) acts as a nominal rebuke of conservative black voices (Stallworth/Obama) without being fabricated wholecloth. Bbombings can happen, they did happen. In the final twist, only the dumbness of the Klan was their undoing. The system went unchanged… or at least that seems to be the thesis behind this pro good cop biopic-y piece which counterbalances its triumph and romance with this stunning clarity. At the same time I don’t think it’s cynical which is so important, it lets us have fun with the good cops who get the bad guys.

      Spike Lee remains an interesting filmmaker whose films are ALWAYS worth exploring but some mix of the constraint of the often funny true narrative story and the weighty implications of the real villains… idk if you’re going to be happy. It’s not an escape and it’s not a solution.

      In my book that means it’s uniquely good.

      Great performances, charisma to spare, wildly watchable and quietly humane. Go see it.

    • Teen Titans Go: to the movies –It wants to be PG Deadpool and it has one really good batman dead parents joke but the sum total is a feature length Saturday morning cartoon that services “I get that reference” nerd dads while their children suffer through the nonsense (or worse, enjoy it).

      I didn’t have a bad time but it’s not a good movie.

    • The Meg – It’s like a star wars prequel without the things that make those movies good
    • Dog Days – Pretty much a web series, drags like one
    • Mile 22 – Peter Berg is more self-aware than people think he is
    • Alpha – Better use of comps than most Blockbusters out there. Real simple, real throwback Disney feel. Great underwater photography 👌
    • Crazy Rich Asians – Fine, It’s romance mostly, not a yuckster comedy or anything. Very traditional! And American!
    • Christopher Robin – hated and walked out, weirdly, needlessly dour with a horror film animation team doing the stuffed characters you are supposed to love
    • Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring
    • Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
    • The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey – Wow ok
    • The Happytime Murders –Weirdly, the straightforward noir elements work the best but all the actors think they’re in a The Muppets film so they’re not playing it as straight as the main PI character.

      It’s also unforgivable for being not funny

    • The Predator –There’s a whole sub genre of way too mythological Nth sequels that really really don’t do much of anything beyond deliver details or texture.

      With that said, this movie feels like a relic of 1990 or something, uniquely terrible and the kind of deep cut trashy thing you love to watch but don’t expect anyone to deliberately make in 2018 the year of our lord.

      The Transformers: The Last Knight of the predator universe

    • (TCM Classic revival) Rebel Without a Cause
    • Venom – Ok sure???
    • Minding the Gap – Go see this doc: trauma, class and real world 90s an 2000s American masculinity. More than any of that, the individual human being’s choice, feelings, growth and transgression. Also skateboarding but that’s just the beginning.
    • Bad Times at the El Royale – a real throwback. Very fragmented and digressive structure. The finale is like if a Tarantino bro did Silence mixed with the “this is fine” meme.
    • The Sisters Brothers – 👌👌👌
    • First Man – So… Grim
    • The Old Man and The Gun – a biopic, Redford charms
    • A Star Is Born – Wow yea this was great
    • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Those shadows 👌👌👌
    • Overlord –Overlord… I didn’t read any reviews but everyone probably compared it to a video game adaption

      It’s genre, it’s plotty, the characters never really break out of their archetypical roles, there’s not really a point ideologically or anything like that

      a couple of conventional set ups, lots of gore make-up, nazi bad guys who are really bad!

      but idk if it’s anything more than all those textural elements… and since the action didn’t work for me, the movie doesn’t work

      actors trying really hard tho, solid cast could use better script

    • A Private War –Idk man, the cynicism that says kinda rightly, “sadbrand neoliberal journalism is just another form of adventurism” kinda runs up against a wall when the film ends with “500,000 innocents killed” because we did not intervene

      Inexplicable nudity????

    • Widows –It’s nice to have top shelf genre in theaters.

      The distance between this film and a Triple 9 or a Sleepless is not as great as it could have been. A good time for sure with a different perspective

    • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – just a hair better than Jupiter Ascending! Not good!
    • Wreck It Ralph 2 – More learning annex lesson with a simple moral than anything else. Fine I guess
    • Robin Hood –Not good! Doesn’t say anything! Isn’t dumb enough!

      They start off with this wild, Iraq-War-With-Bow-And-Arrow bit. The arrows explode like bullets. Black hawk down/zero dark thirty vibes just a tiny bit. Never really returns to that, would have loved to see the irreality and that metaphor turned up to 11.

    • Generation Wealth (Amazon Instant) – wow ok
    • Once Upon A Deadpool
    • Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse – of the two comic books they are adapting, I have more affection for the Miles Morales origin. That story is give an eighth of the time it needs in service of the drama reducing multiple universes macguffin. The other 7/8s of the story are all other spider-mans who get their own origins. Light and fun but not a coherent synthesis of the two stories they are pulling from, frustrating light and dark tonal shifts. Infinite possibilities and serendipitous lack of actual effective character choice but also incredibly punishing deaths. Not for me, love the characters and goofs tho. 
    • Aquaman – Absolutely trash, not the good kind
    • The Mule –Clint Eastwood looks like he’s about to die, the digital de aging is terrible.

      Idk what this is other than kind of the minimum amount of acceptable. Like The Old Man And The Gun but for an old guy who has threesomes with cartel money rather than a monogamous feel good bank robber.

    • Bumblebee –a competent blockbuster, the first in the transformers franchise

      the current glut of terrible competition and the previous terrible entries might be enough to convince you this one is good, serviceable is the better word

      This should be the minimum amount

    • The Favourite – an incredibly prescient film about modern dating and how cruel it is
    • Mortal Engines – a bunch of new useless meaningless proper nouns, I walked out before the final battle because there’s just no reason to care
    • Creed 2 – Unfortunately the script never quite gets past the Wikipedia Plot Summary outlining stage of dramatization but the actors are all very compelling and the good will from Creed brings this sequel into a serviceable, forgettable safe harbor with some stunning images of muscle guys hitting themselves, others, the ground and heavier things.
    • Leave No Trace –This is a performances movie that needs time to breathe and grow with the characters.

      You might have been able to get away with this feature length film being made merely as a short but in a theater you won’t feel the drag.

      If stillness bothers you or the premise offends or confounds, it won’t be for you.

      An all time church flag dance scene. A woodsy father daughter delight.

    • Eighth Grade – Sicario for relationships and growing up, loved the dumb sweetie chicken nuggets date at the end
    • Blindspotting – something else! the depiction of violence is startling and immediate. Heartfelt, funny at times
    • Three Identical Strangers – Fine
    • Flower –this movie starts at a place way past fucked up.

      Just as a comparison, the movie Nightcrawler spends the whole running time making you feel dirtier and dirtier, more and more complicit until you finally understand both the main character and what he does. It’s an incredible film.

      THIS MOVIE on the other hand, STARTS way past that films end point in terms of dirtiness and complicity but without all that dramatic work. It’s alienating to say the least.

    • mid90s –Everything you’ve heard about it hitting the nostalgia spot, capturing a moment- it’s all true. It’s a great work that, with the exception of a few faces you’ll know, feels delivered from a time machine/capsule.

      As to the moral component, the film is wildly clear eyed, maybe to a fault. 8 more paragraphs here

    • Paddington 2 – Touch my little heart
    • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs –Better understood as a series of shorts. I wish they were catalogued that way! Instead it’s a bloated feature presentation when breaks between segments would do them good, focused viewing.

      They are pretty dense and the tone shift of connecting the shorts as a single work makes an uninterrupted viewing a bit of a pill.

      The craftsmanship is undeniable but the packaging yells “work” to the average viewer. This is not the creative direction’s fault, must watch but feel free to pause in between and come back later.

    • The Night Comes For Us –An interesting evolution for this kind of film from this part of the world. You got a heel turn from Iko, a sprawling cast, more women combatants, non-repetitive interesting setups with the firearms.

      It’s a muddy plot and imo the action doesn’t take off until the pool table but maybe the best martial arts action we got this year in that final fight.

    • Instant Family – Beautiful little film, surprisingly funny







Movies Not Released This Year:

  • The Road Warrior
  • The Mask Of Zorro
  • Heat
  • Bullitt
  • The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
  • Coco
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Miami Vice
  • Collateral
  • The Informant!
  • Thief
  • Doctor Strange
  • Ant Man
  • Michael Clayton
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Speed Racer
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Town
  • Heist
  • Two Days in the Valley
  • Out of Sight
  • Bullet to the Head
  • The Prince of Egypt
  • Treasure Planet
  • Welcome to Collinwood
  • Be Kind Rewind
  • Mission Impossible
  • The Carter Effect
  • High Fidelity
  • The Score
  • The Social Network
  • Inside Out
  • Small Crimes
  • The Incredibles
  • The Godfather part 3
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Baby Driver
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Noah
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Space Cop
  • Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Oceans 12
  • Miami Connection
  • Warm Bodies
  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Iron Man 3
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Primary Instinct
  • Brick
  • Interstellar
  • Blood Simple
  • A Christmas Story
  • Elf
  • The Greatest Showman
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
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2018, TV Year In Review

It’s already too late for a 2018 retrospective, it’s 2019! So for purely archival purposes I’ve included a brief summary of my year in movies and TV.

TV Released This Year:

It was the year of the miniseries and so many of them were great!

Godless brought the western to the small screen, an epic about Men and Women, Absence and Civilization, the Cold Wilderness and the Warm Home. Just capitalize some great western nouns and they become thematics, very rich textual stuff here.

Little Drummer Girl was legit spy cinema. Something mature and dangerous and human. The workmanlike Jack Ryan can only wish to be this show and unequivocally falls short of a tenth of what Drummer Girl accomplishes.

Some solid seasons. Atlanta got experimental with every episode. Westworld carried on with its very literal exploration of self and consciousness with enough time to tell a touching small insulated story about a robot native american father’s spiritual and literal journey.  I have no idea what Barry will do in season 2 because in season 1 they told such a story of consequence and choice, none of that The Americans’ style humming and hawing. The immediate, shocking assassin violence benefits greatly from the classic look, the heavy hitting cinematography that polishes, scrubs any missteps from your memory of the show.

Maniac, Sharp Objects and Homecoming all deal with trauma. There’s a lot of space between the shows in tone, genre, content and perspective. From a fun and friendly big swing indie multigenre piece (Maniac) to a confrontational, dark and triggering murder mystery social horror show (Sharp Objects) to a formalistic, simpler than it seems Stranger Things upgrade (or downgrade depending on your take!) that takes place for the most part in a series of sit down conversations (surprising podcast to TV adaption Homecoming).

New Girl’s capper season is mostly on this list for nostalgic reasons, it was just nice to see Nick and Jess and Winston and Schmidt and Cece again.

American Vandal (RIP!) continued teaching us lessons about the modern world. It’s hard to explain but once season 1 hooks you, season 2 really hits you in the gut. These aren’t comedies imo and my default mode to watch things on their face without reading the goof first really helps with American Vandal. These are “fake docs” first and I wish the form caught on. Ostensibly regular people that subvert, falter and confuse all in the service of some greater truth, reminds me of detective fiction.

Hearty Recommendations: 

  • Godless (Netflix)
  • Little Drummer Girl (Amazon Instant)
  • Barry season 1 (HBO Now)
  • Atlanta, Robbin’ Season (2) (Amazon Instant)
  • New Girl season 7 (Hulu)
  • Westworld season 2 (HBO Now)
  • Sharp Objects (HBO Now)
  • American Vandal season 2 (Netflix)
  • Maniac (Netflix)
  • Homecoming (Amazon Prime)

Truly Terrible:

  • Titans season 1 (DC Universe) – please don’t see this, someone throw this show into the sun
  • Ozark (Netflix) – wrongheaded, mean, for every ounce it wishes it was Justified it comes off insulting and dead eyed. Potentially evil in its irredeemable embrace of bare minimum prestige TV Bad Man Tropes. The Jason Bateman of tv shows, just the worst

Down the Middle:




  • Jack Ryan season 1 (Amazon Prime) – ehh, one good chase at the end. Doesn’t understand the character at all.
  • The Bodyguard (Netflix) – better than Jack Ryan, down the middle conflicted heroism stuff
  • Collateral season 1(Netflix) – Jack Ryan levels of obvious message work being done on screen but without the action. Work to watch despite the absolutely charming and charismatic Carey Mulligan who is great TV Police and squandered here!
  • McMafia season 1 (Amazon Instant) – the reason I like this show is a banker guy hits a button to transfer dollars and then there is a montage of that money getting to work, putting on flesh, becoming dock workers, gangsters, street operators, bribes- all over the world. More of that in season 2 please.
  • Silicon Valley season 5 (HBO Now) – fine, but the same as all the other seasons
  • Succession season 1 (HBO Now) – one part Aaron Sorkin and one part Adam McKay without all the preachy rain clouds over their work. A family drama first, a parable second. Wicked funny if you’re willing to watch these princes suffer.

TV Not Released This Year:

  • One Punch Man season 1 (Netflix) – a must watch for anyone who has ever seen any anime. I… don’t like anime anymore. Not since I was in 4th grade watching fan subs of Naruto as it released broadcast in japan. A phase that’s been closed for sure since middle school almost two decades ago now. Also Fullmetal Alchemist, Onepiece, Deathnote, Dragonballz (I didn’t really watch that one), all of these mainstream pieces of animation history are good prereq knowledge for One Punch, any level of genre knowledge is welcome, the show both lampoons and embraces the genre elements. High Quality! Short! is there anything else you could possibly want from an anime other than this kind of self awareness.
  • Comrade Detective season 1 (Amazon Prime) – a complicated pleasure that weirdly works on its face as a procedural detective show. Too many layers of irony to *really* work but some deep belly laughs here that I can’t imagine anyone else but me enjoying. For example, the commie cops go to the dissident capitalists in prison to get an explanation of this new kind of game-propaganda “MO-NO-POLY” which of course is just the board game Monopoly.
  • You’re the Worst season 4 (Amazon Instant) – I don’t know why I watch this show. They’ve done so much terrible stuff at this point, what the chief creative is going for other than as a canvas for wrongheaded, too mean social observation- I don’t know.



TV I Didn’t Get To/Finish:

  • Killing Eve season 1 (Amazon Instant)  – very good but ran out of gas, I only have one or two episodes left and I really should
  • Cloak and Dagger season 1 (Amazon Instant) – ditto Killing Eve
  • Trust season 1 (Amazon Instant) – great first couple episodes, Brendan Fraser is back baby! in a big hat! Rome! a kidnapping! rich family with extended and interesting class and culture gradation! I just didn’t stick with it but now that I think about it I should get back.
  • Legion season 2 (Amazon Instant) – a bit much, feels like homework now that I think about it. Homework in the way that a stack of comics can feel like homework when you know what it’s going to be like and you’re less than thrilled about the prospect. It might take a couple vacation days to actually conquer this one but like a stack of comics, I’m looking forward to it.
  • The Americans season 5 and 6 (Amazon Instant) – this one just… it takes time, seasons 1-4 took time and I think we all know how this one ends because we’re alive in 2019 but still
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Comic Book Round Up

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The Bendis deluge: Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most popular comic book writers going, DC paid him the big bucks to step away from creating and shepherding new characters at Marvel to come revitalize Superman.

Part of that deal- on top of Action Comics and Superman (which are two distinct comic books that feature superman, one as more Clark and the other as more Cosmic Kryptonian), a special walmart trade paperback project and a Man of Steel miniseries that kicked off his time with DC- were two new independent books Cover, a spy series about a comic book creator (but not as masturbatory as that sounds) and Pearl, a yakuza tattoo artist thriller. Both above, both gorgeous collaborations that I recommend.

If you’re counting, that’s 4 ongoing books that are all worth your time plus two trade paperbacks to go run down- Man of Steel is going to be easy to find, the Walmart stuff, I don’t know anyone who has had luck getting what they want consistently and it will all be eventually collected when that special deal is done.

But most people don’t read comics, they just don’t! People who read comics don’t even read comics! So if I’m going to recommend one thing, it’s Cover #1. Go to a comic book shop and get as many consecutive issues as you want but I guarantee the #1 will hook  you. The reason Cover takes the bacon is that it’s relatable to any business traveler. I just made it sound hugely boring, just the most boring. Wow have you taken an airplane to a conference, well I have THE BOOK FOR YOU. No what I mean is, the way that business connections are made, the kind of easy trust that comes from mutual benefit, dinners, being known for one thing that you can provide for a market. All of that can be a bit isolating, a bit boring, it’s a job. The key in cover is that the central comic artist gets offered a little bit of excitement, it sneaks up on him and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes him.

Bendis has other ongoing books, a mobster book United States VS. Murder, Inc. which is a crime fiction alternate history I’m not up on. Scarlet, which is a kind of activist crime book that I’ve just barely started, the earlier trade paperback that serves as preface for the ongoing has such a strong first couple issues that I keep promising myself to get caught up.

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THE BIG LIMITED SERIES EVERYONE IS READING: Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis will probably be better as collected stories, delays on top of already slow release schedules make the books painstaking to keep up with.

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Doomsday Clock is more frustrating in this way than Heroes. Tom King’s excellent collaborators ship on time and Doomsday smells like a conflicted writer not a production pipeline issue. The longer Doomsday Clock goes, we are more than halfway done now, the more the excellent DC Universe Rebirth Issue that initially revealed Doctor Manhattan seems more like an anomaly, an urtext of the symbolic reactionary goals of the new universe that never quite gets the fleshing out that it deserves. As a single issue I can absolutely rec DC Universe Rebirth in the context of the linked article to understand comics more broadly if you’re not a regular reader or even if you are and hadn’t considered it that way.

This kinda meta, heart and soul, creation and aims thing is what’s interesting to me, not seeing the Watchmen characters again. These characters, who have clearly had their definitive stories already told, were never suited to ongoing evaluation. Watchmen is The Text as far as 101 classes on comics go. It’s the “literature” that people who don’t respect comics find some reason to respect. It doesn’t get better than that but I guess I’ll love them forever if somehow Doomsday Clock twists in the last couple issues here to match both Rebirth and Watchmen… but that’s doubtful. Things could really go wrong! Spending plotty time on new characters was a choice and certainly a nice bit of IP for future development but I’m not sure it was necessary.

The limited series that’s getting collected soon, you should be anticipating the hardcover for Mister Miracle:

Mister Miracle (B&N Exclusive Edition)

There’s not an easy way to describe Mister Miracle… maybe that it’s a kind of depressive Mumblecore Sci Fi book with just enough space kings and queens, traded babies and fates of the realm for a John Carter ass pulpy good time. Gods of The Fourth World actually, Aliens, whatever. It’s a bit much but the contrast between the mundane and the Too Much is really what makes the book. The birthing issue is very beautifully done and one of the more touching moments in comic book history.

The Ongoing Dilemma: Comic books that come out issue to issue have an interesting challenge, how do you tell a compelling serial story over many issues without losing that zip, snap and crackle that makes a single issue a fun worthwhile buy and read on its own.

This disjointed nature of issue to issue reading, heavy readers will know better than a casual reader, and they will know it is to their detriment. The mental burden of keeping dozens of storylines straight, the ones you care about you may revisit, the big ticket Mister Miracles etc you keep in the front of your mind but not like Nightwing #24 or the dozens of interchangeable Mark Waid Champions issues that never clear a quality bar that keeps them with you. All the same, you keep reading for some reason. A heavy pull list means you forget what happened in the last issue if you don’t have multiple ready to read in sequence.

There’s no way to rectify this other than to re read an entire run as a single unit. This is why rebuying is such an industry mainstay, a successful ongoing gets collected into a hardcover and people buy again because they want to read it as a continuous finished work. There’s a different flavor, storage is easier but the downside to only reading this way is who is patient enough to not read single issues?! Most people, it turns out and definitely most *normal* people. Ms Marvel for example continues to do numbers 10x in collected what its ongoing single issue sales are. They’re just different markets, like the difference between book publishing and magazine publishing.

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