Thursday, February 01, 2018

Turner Pop Culture Update (Q4 2017)

It's hard to believe that it's already a month into 2018 and I still had not published my thoughts on the final quarter of 2017, but here they are, better late than never.

What I experienced

Blade Runner 2049 - I'm still unpacking my thoughts on this thinky dystopian movie, but I think there is a lot here worth returning to, and I think it will end up ranking among my favourite movies of 2017. Also, if Denis Villeneuve ends up directing Dune as the rumours go, this movie is proof that it will be a very, very worthwhile pursuit for him to do so.

The Dark Tower - I've never read the Stephen King series, but it's hard to imagine that it was reduced to what effectively amounted to a YA adaptation. That said, I enjoyed the movie well enough; it had a few fun moments, some scene-chewing from Matthew McConaughey, and a couple of fantastic action scenes all packed into ninety minutes. Not the worst way I've spent a Saturday afternoon.

John Green - Turtles All The Way Down - Green's first novel in years was his most personal yet, and arguably his most interesting since Looking For Alaska. It was worth the read, and it might be worth a re-read at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Lady Bird - I really enjoyed this coming-of-age movie - perhaps more than any of its genre since Juno a decade ago. There's a lot of great moments in this movie, along with a lot of nuance, and I will definitely enjoy this one repeatedly.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - I felt that I wanted to see it again before I shared my "official" review, but my initial reaction was that it missed the mark from what it could have been and perhaps took the narrative in a direction that may prove to be less useful for Episode IX. I have not yet watched it again, but my initial reaction has not really changed over the past six weeks.

Stranger Things (Season 2, Netflix) - I wrote my thoughts out here, but the summary is that I think I enjoyed this more than I "should" have, if that makes sense. But it was just so much fun, aside from that one episode...

Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers (Season 35, CBS) - Although I was initially concerned about this season, it turned out to be really interesting near the end. That said, the producers threw in one final twist that I think really undid the game, and it's starting to feel more and more like they're tinkering too much with the game to keep its integrity.

Thor: Ragnarok - This cosmic buddy comedy was easily the most fun I had watching a movie in the theatres last year. I'm looking forward to watching it again.

The Tick (Season 1, Amazon) - The Tick was one of my favourite cartoons in the 90s, and I think the live-action Fox series from 2001 was significantly underrated, so I was very interested to see how this reboot would work and whether it would recapture or preserve the tone of the big blue hero. I was glad to see that not only did they keep the right balance of satire and superhero, but the ways in which this series has resonance in areas of mental health in its nascent episodes were very intriguing. Also, Peter Serafinowicz is great as The Tick.

U2 - Songs of Experience - I was not sure what I thought when I started listening to the album, but I really started to appreciate it after half a dozen listens. There are some great songs here, and I think there might be some slow-burning classics.

Also: Black Mirror (Series 3); Blade RunnerBrooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 5, Fox); The OA (Season 1, Netflix); O.J.: Made in AmericaSnowpiercer

What I missed

American Vandal (Season 1, Netflix) - This faux-documentary looks pretty funny.

Andy Weir - Artemis - The author of The Martian released his second book, which has already been optioned for a movie by Lord and Miller, which means it should be exciting and funny.

Black Mirror (Series 4, Netflix) - Although I did watch U.S.S. Callister, the first episode that brilliantly sends up Star Trek, I did not have a chance to watch the rest of the season.

Dark (Season 1, Netflix) - A German Stranger Things with time travel? Yeah, seems like something I'd be into.

Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time (BBC) - The 2017 Christmas Special features the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. It'll be interesting, to say the least.

Godless (Season 1, Netflix) - Enough people have recommended this short-form western to me that I really want to check it out.

The Good Place (Season 2, NBC) - This was one of my favourite shows of the past year, but I might wait until closer to the end of this season to binge it all at once.

Mr. Robot (Season 3, USA) - I'll get around to it sooner or later when I can just binge it.

Star Trek: Discovery (Season 1, CBS All-Access) - I really enjoyed the first episode, but then I did not keep up with it. I'll get into it soon.

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) - Natch.

7 movies (and counting): Darkest Hour; The Disaster ArtistDownsizingThe Killing of a Sacred Deer; Molly's GameThe PostThe Shape of Water

What I skipped

Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 9, HBO) - I still need to catch up on a few seasons, so I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

Justice League - Like most DCEU releases, I'm sure I'll watch it at some point just to see how bad it really is. And it can't be worse than Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad...can it?

Mindhunter (Season 1, Netflix) - I was intrigued by this Fincher-directed retro serial killer drama, but I'm just not sure I can do the serial killer thing right now. I'm keeping it on my radar, but it may not end up in my queue.

Pitch Perfect 3 - Loved the first, tolerated the second, ignored the third. Seems about right.

Suburbicon - I was initially more excited about this Coen-penned Clooney-directed movie, but after middling reviews, I demoted it to "might catch on Netflix sometime" status.

In the Queue

The ongoing list of the top items in my pop culture queue, which is updated every quarter (often from items that I have missed). An asterisk (*) indicates a new addition to the list.

Movies: Logan; Molly's Game*; Moonlight; Phantom Thread*; The Shape of Water*; Wind River

Top television to watch: Black Mirror (Series 4)*; Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time (2017 Christmas Special); The Handmaid's Tale (Season 1); Mr. Robot (Season 3)*; Sherlock (Season 4); Star Trek: Discovery (Season 1)*; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 3)

Television short projects: Broadchurch (Season 2-3); The Hour (Season 1-2); Morton & Hayes

Television long projects: Curb Your EnthusiasmParks and Recreation (Seasons 5-7); Star Trek: The Original SeriesThe West WingThe Wire

Television to investigate: American Vandal (Season 1)*; BoJack Horseman (Season 1-4);
Dark (Season 1)*; Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Season 1); The Expanse (Season 1-2)*; GLOW (Season 1); Godless (Season 1)*; Great News (Season 1-2); The Man in the High Castle (Season 1-2); Master of None (Season 1-2); Superstore (Season 1-2); Top of the Lake (Season 1-2)*; The Young Pope (Season 1)

Video Games: Chrono Trigger (DS); Earthbound (SNES); The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (3DS); Pikmin 3 (Wii U); Splatoon 2 (Switch); Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)*

Non-Fiction Books: BrenĂ© Brown - Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection; Bruxy Cavey - (Re)union; Matthew Paul Turner - Provocative Faith; Ann Voskamp - The Broken Way and One Thousand Gifts

Fiction Books: N.K. Jemisin - The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky of The Broken Earth trilogy; Kim Stanley Robinson - Mars trilogy; Andy Weir - Artemis*

Looking forward to Quarter 1

Annihilation (February 23) - Alex Garland (Ex Machina) adapts the weird story of Area X.

Atlanta Robbin' Season (Season 2, FX, March 1) -
Although this season is supposed to be a bit less experimental than Season 1, the creators mentioned in interviews that they were inspired by Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, one of my all-time favourites. Well then.

Black Panther (February 16) - I'm totally on the hype train. #teampanther

The Death of Stalin (March 9) - The latest satire from Armando Iannucci looks hilarious.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams (Season 1, Amazon, January 12) - This short-form collection of Dick's stories looks intriguing.

Isle of Dogs (March 23) - Wes Anderson's newest stop-motion film looks like it might be as good as the

Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson is back!

Survivor: Ghost Island (Season 36, CBS. February 28) - 18 years and still going strong, though I do hope they pull back on the twists. That said, this season's theme of past relics and mistakes seems like they might try some really wacky new ideas, which seems like the wrong decision to me.

Jack White - Boarding House Reach (March 23) - You can't go wrong with White.

A Wrinkle in Time (March 9) - The classic children's fantasy novel gets what looks to be a very empowering treatment from director Ava DuVernay.

Other possible items of interest: 90th Academy Awards (March 4); Altered Carbon (Season 1, Netflix, February 2); The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX, January 17); Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Season 2, Netflix, January 5); Dirty Money (Season 1, Netflix, January 26); Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23); Ready Player One (March 30); Tomb Raider (March 16); Trust (Season 1, FX, March 25)


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