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halloween movie fest 2017, movies one through seven.

Halloween Movie Fest is well underway, and it’s glorious.

After so many years, I’m to a point where I could make an entire month-long movie a day stretch using just films I discovered and fell in love with via HMF. Obviously, part of the joy of this annual exercise is to discover new (to me) films I might not otherwise watch, so I’ll probably never do that. Yet, while I’ll never go that far, this year I needed some familiarity in my life, so I brought back a large number of old favorites. In fact, for the first week of movies, there was only one film I hadn’t seen before (House). It was totally worth it. Upcoming weeks won’t have so many re-viewings.

Movie One – Housebound

“You cannot punch ectoplasm.”

A good horror-comedy is a thing of beauty, and Housebound belongs in the hall of fame. Add in What We Do in the Shadows and it’s clear that New Zealand really has their shit figured out in this regard.

For his debut film, writer/director Gerard Johnstone threw a mystery, a family-life comedy and a haunted house story into a blender and the resulting concoction is funny, quirky, charming and original. And as a bonus, it has one of the funniest and most unexpected death scenes I’ve ever seen — watching it for the first time with a small group of people was a genuine delight.

Sure, there are a few hiccups where the story stops making sense in order to keep things moving, but the movie is such a good time that it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience for me.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Indeed.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix


Movies Two, Three and Four – The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness

“Hail to the king, baby.”

No one is really a stranger to these films, right? This is one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time, featuring perhaps the most iconic hero in the history of the genre.

Constantly referenced in other films, especially in the horror and horror-comedy genres, these movies are part of the DNA of everything that came after. What can I really say about these demented and beloved films? You might not love them, but you definitely love a movie that’s been influenced by them.

The first movie is certainly the most earnest of the three, although it is still insane. After that they just keep getting wackier as they go.

These are those rare movies where what works and what doesn’t work all somehow still add to the overall score. Insane, over-the-top dialogue and acting? 1,000 points! A near complete disregard for continuity between movies? 250 points! Silly, low-budget special effects? 3,000 points! A chainsaw hand? 1,000,000 points!

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Of course, preferably in large groups.

Where Can You Watch It? Evil Dead II is streaming on Shudder. Otherwise you need to pay to rent these.


Movie Five – It Follows

“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

Another previous favorite I revisited this year, this one holds up really well on second viewing. I can’t say much in case you haven’t seen it. It Follows is better if you know very little about it when you watch it, which you should absolutely do!

As I said the first time, during HMF15: “David Robert Mitchell has created a film that is moody, atmospheric, and wonderfully creepy. Also, Maika Monroe is fantastic as Jay, the terrorized lead. This is a film that will be a genre classic, and I expect to see this referenced, honored, parodied, and copied in coming years.”

Watching it for the second time — as in, without being on edge and creeped out the whole time — it was even more evident how great the filmmaking is. I really love the camera choices Mitchell made. Without going into plot details, I’ll say it would have been easy in a movie like this to use that lazy trope where filmmakers cheat to get jump scares by utilizing the limited frame of the camera lens. Just because something just jumped into frame doesn’t mean the characters wouldn’t have seen it well before the reveal. This officially renders that particular jump scare fake news. It’s everywhere in horror movies — and movies in general — these days. Mitchell doesn’t do this. He uses long takes and camera movement to create a full sense of the space of the scene, immersing the viewer more legitimately in the terror of being followed by a mysterious entity. He creates scares via skillful filmmaking, not cheap tricks.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. Viewing two confirmed my theory that this is immensely rewatchable.

Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.


Movie Six – 28 Days Later

“Look, if someone gets infected, you’ve got between ten and twenty seconds to kill them. It might be your brother, or your sister, or your oldest friend — it makes no difference. And just so you know where you stand, if it happens to you, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.”

One of the primary themes at work in most zombie fare is humanity consuming itself. In Romero’s genre-spawning Living Dead films, the reanimated dead are pure mindless hunger. When left to their own devices after the collapse of civilization, those still living are even worse. The monsters are us. Romero started it all by making small stories in the midst of the end of the world, where our prejudice, paranoia, consumption, and militarism are our downfall.

In 28 Days Later, Boyle follows the template, albeit with the living dead replaced by living people infected with pure rage. Boyle dives even harder into the idea that our civilization is a thin veneer. Maybe the world isn’t actually ending, but people still use any excuse to become monsters.

The basic takeaway from most zombie movies is that individuals might be cool, but people on a large scale are the worst, whether they’re alive or undead.

Quibble all you want about whether or not it’s fare to call this a zombie film — which is stupid, because Romero himself wasn’t the one who started calling his living dead monsters ‘zombies,’ plus the word zombie comes from a totally different thing — but thematically this is a by-the-numbers zombie story exploring the worst parts of humanity.

Will I Ever Watch It Again? I own it, so chances are good, even though for some reason I liked it less this time around.  

Where Can You Watch It? You can stream it on Cinemax right now if you have a password. If you need to borrow one, mine is jkyoucanthavemypassword.


Movie Seven – House

“She eats unmarried young girls. It is the only time she can wear her wedding gown.”

Ho. Ly. Shit. This movie is, to borrow a phrase from Pierce Hawthorne, crazytown bananapants. 100% bonkers.

Killer pianos, decapitated heads biting butts, magical murder cats, people being transformed into piles of bananas, and a surprising amount of kung fu are just a few examples of what this film has to offer. It’s surreal and dreamlike. It’s a horror film by way of a child’s nightmare — although with more boobs, because the 70s.

And you know what? It somehow completely worked for me. Obayashi got all the ideas from conversations with his young daughter about what she thought was frightening, and then told the screenwriter what he wanted based on that. The special effects were often designed to look silly, like a child created them, but that was spliced in with inventive filmmaking techniques that showed Obayashi was actually a gifted filmmaker and all the craziness was intentional.

If I’m being honest, there were times watching the movie where I didn’t even know why I was captivated by it, but I absolutely was. After finishing it I immediately jumped into some bonus feature interviews with the director to keep the experience from ending. Always a good sign.

Bonus: here’s an interesting video essay I found after I watched it:

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halloween movie fest 2017 is here (and not a moment too soon)!

You wouldn’t know it from the weather in Brooklyn, but the time has come for another Halloween Movie Fest. Or, as my great-great-grandather always used to say, “Thank God, it’s Halloween Movie Fest!” Or, TGIHMF. (How would I trademark that? I feel like it’s definitely going to catch on with a wider public.)

HMF is my favorite annual glorious waste of my own time. I really need it this year, because the world is falling apart and depression is a fucking asshole.

I am so ready for this excursion into the familiar world of Halloween and its related cinema, a tradition that began for me in 2009.

I love Halloween, with its deep reliance on story and myth. For me, it’s like an entire holiday dedicated to telling ghost stories around a fire on a chilly autumn evening. HMF has come to be a means of extending that feeling throughout more of the month.

For previous fests, I would select a specific number of films and watch a movie a day. [That’s always the format for Another Day, Another Movie]. However, this year I’ve chosen 31 films, one for every day of the month, and I’ll get through as many as I can. I hereby promise all four people who read this blog that I will watch no fewer than 21 films. However, I doubt my schedule will allow me to watch a movie a day for the entire month of October. I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try, but odds aren’t great.

The 2017 list includes some straight scary fare, a few horror comedies (because obviously), some lighter Halloween-friendly films, and Room 237, a documentary about interpretations of The Shining and the intense devotion to the film’s many mysteries (I might be stretching my own premise a bit with that last one).

19 of the 31 are films I’ve seen before, so obviously I’m leaning into some favorites I’m in the mood to rewatch. Many are films I loved after seeing them for the first time during previous Halloween Movie Fests.

Here are the films, in no particular order:

  1. Shaun of the Dead
  2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  3. The Shining
  4. Room 237
  5. Under the Shadow
  6. Don’t Breathe
  7. The Void
  8. XX
  9. 28 Days Later
  10. What We Do in the Shadows
  11. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  12. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
  13. It (2017)
  14. The Haunting
  15. House
  16. Phantasm
  17. Beetlejuice
  18. Dead of Night
  19. Pet Sematary
  20. Housebound
  21. Pontypool
  22. Cabin in the Woods
  23. The Babadook
  24. Let the Right One In
  25. It Follows
  26. The Evil Dead
  27. Evil Dead II
  28. Army of Darkness
  29. Coraline
  30. The Devil’s Backbone
  31. Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some movies to watch.

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yup, more trailers.

I told you this would happen. Comic-Con made this inevitable. Another post full of trailers so soon after the last one. Still, I had no idea just how good these trailers were going to be.

By request following the last post, release dates are included.


Thor: Ragnarok

There are those times when a director makes the big jump to larger projects and properties and it goes horribly. For whatever horrible cocktail of reasons, it all goes to shit and fans of the director hold our breaths and wait to see if it was just an anomaly (see: Duncan Jones).

But then there are those times when it all goes gloriously right, when the resulting film perfectly blends blockbuster scale with the unique personality that gave the director a following in the first place.

It’s really looking like Thor: Ragnarok is going to fall into the latter category, because this new trailer has Waititi all over it!

This weirder, bonkers, spacey Marvel Studios, where directors get to do their thing, is fucking glorious.

Also, I will never get tired of Loki becoming a temporary good guy — or at least pretending to — every other movie or so.

Release date: November 3, 2017


Bright

Speaking of bonkers, here’s an L.A. cop film that’s also an orgy of urban fantasy.

David Ayer, right, okay, so on the one side, Suicide Squad was terrible.

On the other side, Fury and End of Watch were really great.

It could be really bad, but maybe, just maybe, it’s going to be soooooooooooo goood!

Either way, Joel Edgerton will be awesome.

Release date: December 2017


Ready Player One

A trailer for Ready Player One is finally here.

You know you live in crazy times when a film full to the brim with nostalgic references to the past — many to the 80’s — is directed by Steven Spielberg, one of high gods of that realm.

I loved the remix of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I get that it’s on the nose, since the whole story of Ready Player One revolves around one big Wonkaesque contest, but I loved it.

Release date: March 30, 2018


Westworld

Okay, this one doesn’t give us much to go on, but it sure does intensify my itch for season two. So, mission accomplished.

It must be a daunting task to follow up a season where you surprised everyone with how great your show was, but then eliminated almost all of the constraints and trajectories that framed your story in the that season’s finale.

I’m really hoping they knock this one out of the park like they did last time.

Release date: 2018 (some reports say not until October, because life is awful)


Stranger Things

OMFuckingG.

I’m only mildly embarrassed to say that I’ve seen the first season three times.

It just checks so many of my boxes. Thus, when they release a season two trailer that shows the season’s events taking place at Halloween with a remix of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the background, it becomes obvious that the Duffer Bros. are intentionally attempting to make my brain explode from nerd-joy.

Release date: October 27, 2017

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some trailer catchup.

If there’s anything this blog is good for when I’m actually keeping it current, it’s curating trailers for my friends. Based on what those friends tell me, at least.

This fact is often confirmed with conversations like:

“Have you seen the trailer for Disavowed with Rona Thorne?”

“Did you share it on Roused?”

“No.”

“Then I haven’t seen it.”

That’s a lot a pressure for a blog that’s not even really a thing 95% of the time. Still, I do what I can.

Here are just a few of the trailers I’ve neglected to share with all of you good people over the last few months, some as recently as THIS week. I’m nothing if not timely (my life is a joke).


Why I think it could be good: It’s Guillermo del Toro, so obviously I’m in. The only thing I’m confused about it the similarity between the creature and Abe Sapien as he is portrayed in the del Toro directed Hellboy films. Same actor, sure, but it’s obviously much more than that. What’s the deal?

Still, this looks great!


Why I think it could be good: Can we just agree as a society to put Lakeith Stanfield in everything?


Why I think it could be good: Ava Duvernay and amazing source material. At the very least, this one looks like it will be visually astounding.

I really want this to be great, not just because Madeleine L’Engle’s amazing story deserves a solid adaptation, but also because Disney is showing signs of allowing writers and directors to do their thing, even with big properties. David Lowery had his distinct visual style on display in Pete’s Dragon, and following Guardians of the Galaxy’s success, we are seeing the Marvel branch of the House of Mouse giving more wiggle room to directors like Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler.

Hollywood, and the media in general, rarely ever know why something succeeds or fails, but if something like this succeeds it will increase the chances more projects like it will be greenlit. I’m all for that.


Why I think it could be good: The more footage they release, the more confident I feel that this will be the sort of violent, bonkers, silly, badass followup the first film demands.


 

Why I think it could be good: I still wish Jessica Williams hosted The Daily Show. The world has gone too long without her being a regular part of our lives.


 

Why I think it could be good: It’s pretty rare that I see a trailer for the first time in an actual theater before a movie, but this trailer came out of nowhere for me. That’s a fitting way for me to discover a film that looks surprising and fresh.

Em said to me that of all the upcoming films we’ve seen trailers for lately, she thinks she is most excited for this one. It’s hard to disagree.


Why I think it could be good: Soderbergh comes out of retirement from making films with redneck Ocean’s Eleven. I’ll be there with bells on.


Why I think it could be good: This looks like it will be the sort of weird, genre-skewing, funny, and endearing film I predictably fall in love with as long as it is done well.


Why I think it could be good: This one is going to be tough to watch. That cast though! Hopefully this will be a fitting way to pay tribute to the brave, badass men who lost their lives during that wildfire.


Why I think it could be good: With Ryan Coogler and an amazing cast, this has the potential to be really good. Everything that has come out so far has been encouraging.

Also, see above statements re: A Wrinkle in Time and how I want all these Marvel and Disney projects where directors get to do their thing succeed.


Why I think it could be good: There are those times where an actor makes a film late in their life that seems to encapsulate their work — an epilogue of sorts. I hope this won’t be Harry Dean Stanton’s last film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s remembered that way, even if he goes on to make another 20.

Who wants to watch Paris, Texas with me again while we wait for this one?


Why I think it could be good: I loved the first two, I can’t see why I won’t love this one, too. I could really use a funny, depressing, soul-searching vacation with these guys while we eat some of the greatest food imaginable.


Why I think it could be good: The book was so great, and the movie looks like it might be a lovely adaptation.

I know people love to shit all over the time we live in artistically and culturally, but one thing I love is the breakdown of genre ghettos. Brilliant, accomplished directors are willing to offer their take on YA, sci-fi, super heroes, etc. With all the nonsense that sucks these days, at least the loosening of what sorts of storytelling are considered “high” and “low” makes me glad I live when I do.


That’s what I have for you right now. However, it is Comic-Con this week so perhaps there will be another one of these up within a few days.

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baby love. [an ode to edgar wright and baby driver.]

Believe the hype, everybody. Baby Driver and The Big Sick really are as good as everyone has been saying — more on The Big Sick another time, but for now, Baby Driver!

I’m about to write a ton about Edgar Wright, so let me first mention that I loved everything in this movie. The cast is so great. Ansel Elgort is getting lots of attention, but lets not forget that Lily James as Debora is impossible not to fall in love with, Jamie Foxx is at his considerable best as an unhinged sociopath, Jon Hamm and Eiza González are a charismatic match made in hell, Kevin Spacey does Kevin Spacey things. It was great.

And of course, I have to join the chorus of fans singing the soundtrack’s praise as well. It’s heartbeat that makes the film go, and I can assure you I’ll continue to listen to it on Spotify regularly for the foreseeable future.

Now, with that important stuff mentioned, on to my boy Edgar.

There’s a good 20 minutes at the start of Baby Driver where I literally couldn’t sit still. As in, I genuinely couldn’t keep myself from fidgeting and squirming in my seat from sheer joy. That first car chase, combined with the loooooong tracking shot, was everything I wanted this movie to be. It was all the technical brilliance and ebullient film geekery I crave from Wright.

As Guillermo del Toro tweeted, Baby Driver is like a Gene Kelly musical, but with cars and gun violence. “An American In Paris on wheels and crack smoke. It’s a movie in love with cinema – the high of cinema and motion. In love with color and light and lenses and film.

This is peak Edgar Wright. While a definite shift in tone and location for the director, like all of his films it is an invitation into a world shaped by his deep love of cinema — this time, set to music!

He’s a meticulous and methodical director. Everything in an Edgar Wright film is carefully planned and storyboarded. He has a vision in his head, he carefully plans how to collaborate toward its execution, and then he makes it happen — all the while utilizing his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema.

That’s not the only way to make a great movie. Some directors make amazing art by throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks, or by shooting massive amounts of footage and then doing much of the work in the editing room.

But Wright is the opposite of that. It’s all meticulously storyboarded before shooting begins, shot for shot, every frame, angle, and beat. Without that sort of precision, a film like Baby Driver never would have been possible.

It’s not just the massively complicated car and foot chase scenes, everything in this film required Wright’s uncommon level of attention and preparation. Everything had to work together, on rhythm, perfectly choreographed. For example, the actors had earwigs in so they could hear the music, to be certain that each footstep and gunshot was in time to the music, as it was choreographed.

To have one scene where the action plays out in time with the music is fun — like the Queen scene in Shaun of the Dead — but to have the majority of a film work that way is INSANE.

People too often underrate Wright’s technical skill. They’ll mention the Cornetto Trilogy being funny, clever homages to genres that tell meaningful stories about continuing to grow up as an adult, but even that praise too often leaves out how fucking brilliant the actual filmmaking is. Maybe the irony and humility of the films makes it harder for people to take it seriously, but they are missing out. Fortunately, Tony Zhou gets it.

Perhaps part of it is that he makes it look too easy. Wright and his team excel at taking filmmaking with a really high degree of difficulty and doing it so well that it blends in with the larger fabric of the film. Making a fully analog action jukebox musical full of non-CGI car chases is as high as a degree of difficulty is going to get, but this film fits together seamlessly. It’s so visceral and thrilling that it’s easy to miss how impressive the filmmaking is.

Chances are, after the critical and commercial success of Baby Driver, we will get to see what it looks like when this sort of thing is done poorly. We are going to get a bunch of copycat projects in about 18 months, that’s how the business works.

The good news is, we’re also going to get some great films eventually, as some gifted directors will make art that riffs on what Wright does in Baby Driver; much the same way that Edgar Wright takes all of his passions and interests and creates something exciting and new each time out.

It’s always bittersweet — but mostly sweet, because good for them — to see a personally beloved artist graduate from really popular ‘underground’ figure into full-fledged celebrity. His work has been known for a while, with critical raves and a medium sized but massively passionate fanbase. Now he has arrived in earnest as a blockbuster director. We felt like he was ours, but now he belongs to everyone. Yeah, that sounds really creepy, but it’s still true.

We first thought this moment was coming in 2010, after the excited buzz Scott Pilgrim vs. the World got at early screenings, but then that film didn’t perform as well as many predicted at the box office. Then we thought it would happen with Marvel’s Ant-Man, but that ended poorly when Wright left the project soon before filming began over “creative differences,” — something I don’t believe would have happened if production had been set to begin just a year later, and Marvel could have seen how well Guardians of the Galaxy over performed and perhaps allowed more wiggle room for Wright’s vision.

Alas, at long last, the well-deserved time has finally come. Edgar Wright will no longer be an underrated genius, just a genius.

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the triumphant-ish return of five things. [five things, 6.9.17]

These days, there’s just too much media to consume.

Combine the accumulation of all the great things created in human history, and you already have too much to get to in one lifetime. Add to that the fact that amazing stuff is currently being made at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, and you have a recipe for despair.

The last thing you need is some asshole giving you a list of more things you should check out.

In that spirit, here is a list of five things you should check out.

None of these things are obscure, but all of them seem underappreciated based on my limited line of sight.


1. Power Man and Iron Fist by David F. Walker

I haven’t watched it yet, but by most accounts, Netflix’s Iron Fist was underwhelming at best. Many people responded more favorably to Luke Cage, but while I enjoyed the character on Jessica Jones, the standalone show fell really flat for me.

Fortunately, I don’t need Netflix if I want a great ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist story, because David F. Walker has been absolutely killing it since relaunching the title for Marvel early last year.

Power Man and Iron Fist is witty, playful, socially aware, smart, and above all, really fun.

Walker is able to embrace and transcend the blaxploitation roots of the title in ways that work on every level.

Also, did I mention it’s really fun? The style? The art? The characterization? Fun, fun, and fun.

Power Man and Iron Fist does just about everything the Luke Cage series tried — and in my opinion failed — to do as far as social commentary goes, but without ever taking itself very seriously.

I want David F. Walker to write all of the things.

Will the Heroes for Hire ride again? Can Danny and Luke get their old mojo back in order to stop an entertaining rogue’s gallery from tearing Harlem apart? Will someone be able to use the Supersoul Stone, and artifacts like it, to become the darkly powerful Grandmaster of Street Magic? You’ll have to read and find out.


2. A Band Called Death

I finally got around to watching this movie. You should finally get around to watching it, too.

I expected it to be entertaining, appealing to my music and record loving heart. And it was. I had a great time watching the story of Death and the strange series of events that led to the band being discovered 34 years after recording their only album.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional power of the film’s third act as it touches on the beauty of family and the bittersweet nature of hope.

Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying.


3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Obviously, the film isn’t underappreciated. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki‘s modern classic — one among many — is well-known.

But the book by Diana Wynne Jones? Now, that’s a different story. Literally, actually. It’s a very different story than the one Miyazaki told — his changes were reportedly made, at least in part, to create a film in response to the American war in Iraq.

Obviously I won’t go into detail about specific differences, because that would ruin all the fun for any of you who decide to read it. What I will say is that both stories are great, so it isn’t hard to love each of them.

Jones immediately shot up my list of authors whose work I want to devour entirely, in much the same way that a fire demon eats bacon. Neil Gaiman’s love for Jones already had her on my list of authors to check out, but Howl’s Moving Castle plants her firmly in the ‘Give Me More’ category. Her writing is funny, wise, and layered. Her narrative voice is bright and playful, and the way she limits the reader’s field of vision based on Sophie’s perspective — even though she isn’t the narrator — is done with heaping portions of humor and insight.

This is a quick read, and well worth your time. Just try not to drag the movie into it. Let each stand in conversation with the other, not opposition.


4. Mo’ Meta Blues by ?uestlove

Seeing The Roots live is one of the greatest music experiences currently available in this world. The two Roots shows we’ve seen were infectiously joyful, wildly fun three-hour-long homages to music and life, with Questlove as the mad genius ringleader [[I read they’ve since tragically retired the three-hour-long so-called ‘Springsteen shows.’]] This book felt a lot like the text manifestation of those shows. I loved it.

One of my favorite things is passionate, knowledgable people talking about the things they love most. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate or knowledgable about a given topic than Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is about music.

I loved learning the story of Questlove, beginning with his parents’ record collection. I loved learning the story of The Roots, beginning with Black Thought’s rivalry with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men — they all went to the same arts high school in Philly. But most of all, I loved the deep, overflowing love Questo has for music and seeing how that passion has shaped his entire life, and American music along with it.


5. Legion

I tell ya, I thank the gods of television that Noah Hawley is making shows.

David Haller thinks he’s crazy, but it turns out he’s actually just a wildly powerful mutant. Then again, maybe he’s crazy.

You may think a television show adapted from the pages of an X-Men comic won’t be to your liking, but if let that keep you from watching Legion you’ll really be missing out.

This show isn’t what people might expect in their knee-jerk assumptions about a show based on a comic. It’s super trippy and lots of fun… I know, I’ve said almost everything in this post so far is fun, it’s just that these things are fun.

Legion is like if Pushing Daisies and Fargo — the show, obviously, because Noah Hawley — had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with Charles Xavier.

The show is smart and quirky, with unexpected delight and/or creepiness waiting around every corner.

The cast is especially great, with the performances by Aubrey Plaza, Dan Stevens and Jemaine Clement deserving gold stars in my book.

Seriously, don’t let the comic origins put you off if you don’t like comics. You can hate super hero films and still love this show. The show is designed so someone who has never even heard of comic books can jump right in and enjoy it. I know that might be hard to believe coming from a guy who started this installment of five things with a comic book, but it’s true. I promise!

 

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more like master of my heart, amirite?! [master of none, season two.]

First things first. In hindsight, the fact that I didn’t name this blog Master of None back when I started it is a great personal failure. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the name Roused to Mediocrity, but Master of None would have been perfect.

What am I if not a jack of all (or at least many) cultural trades, but master of none? What is this blog if not proof that I know more than the average person about a lot of mediums and genres, but never enough to claim mastery, or say, teach a class, or be gainfully employed in the field?

So, as well as I relate to the show’s title, I’m aware that part of what I love about Master of None is that Aziz ticks all the right boxes for me.

The way the show depicts a passion for flavor and adventure is familiar to me. I feel a deep kinship with a character who charges head first down the rabbit hole of any given interest or hobby, or who needs to do internet research to find the best tacos or burgers or ramen or ice cream before choosing where to eat. I see parts of myself in Dev, a character perpetually curious about interesting things and new experiences.

To put it another way, I feel at home in the show’s eccentricities — they’re common eccentricities, no doubt, but they’re eccentricities all the same. If I had the money Dev does, I would live a very similar life, minus all the frustrating dating. I want to live in his apartment, I want to wear his clothes, I want to eat every meal he eats.

That being said, my appreciation for Master of None can’t be summed up in my desire to live the good life. Far more than that, I love that the show is full of sincere personal storytelling from Aziz and co-creator Alan Yang. The details may not be purely autobiographical — although at times they seem to get pretty close — but the themes and overall feeling of the show seem to reveal a part of themselves in a very real way. The show engages themes of identity, family, culture, race, passion, vocation, and relationships, and always with vulnerability, honesty, and tenderness. Add to that a style that is fresh, inventive, and ambitious, and you have a winning formula.

The show is aesthetically and structurally bold, but the bolder moves always work. Like when they spent one of the season’s ten episodes writing a love letter to New York, skipping the show’s primary characters for 10% of the season! [Also, that they spent a chunk of that episode in total silence!] Or when they veer off of Dev’s trajectory for a flashback episode focusing on Denise and the story of her family as they learn to accept that she’s gay — a definite highlight of the season for me. Or kicking off season two with a black and white episode-long homage to Bicycle Thieves (aka The Bicycle Thief, aka Ladri di biciclette), a film you should watch right away if you’ve never seen it.

Those are bold choices, but they fit right in tonally on Master of None. The “New York, I Love You,” episode works because New York has been a character on the show all along. “Thanksgiving” fits, in part, because it’s so tonally consistent with the other episodes. “The Thief” works because, while Dev is taking this deep dive into Italian culture, of course he would start seeing his life as Italian neorealist cinema. And all three work because the episodes fit so well thematically. Master of None is always about how bittersweet it is to be a human, constantly dealing with all the ordinary bullshit and beauty that comes along with being alive.

Master of None is an impressively well-made show. Even more than season one, season two is full of impressive moments of style and craft. Satisfyingly, these moments are used as a tool for storytelling. Any moment where I thought, “Oh, this is a really cool shot,” it was always in service of the story. It’s never empty style.

Anyway, you should definitely watch Master of None if you aren’t yet, even if it turns out we never get a third season.

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kingsman: the golden circle. [trailer park.]

I loved the first Kingsman film. It was playful, energetic, and irreverant, but also visually competent, delivering some really memorable scenes. It joyfully celebrated and roasted all the Bond tropes, but with a bit of an updated sensibility. Also, Firth was at peak Firthiness and Taron Egerton delivered one of my favorite star-making roles in a while, with a pitch-perfect performance full of just the right balance of cocky swagger and sweet vulnerability.

I really hope this sequel doesn’t go the way of Kick Ass 2.

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