My Cultural Diet

Quick reviews of movies, TV shows, books, restaurants, etc., as I enjoy them. My own private Goodreads, Letterboxd, and Yelp all rolled into one (more info here). Ratings are 100% subjective, non-scientific, and subject to change. May contain affiliate links.

I’m not sure I enjoyed this as much as the first Enola Holmes movie. The constant breaking of the 4th wall — which happens in the first movie, too — grated on me, and felt like the movie was trying too hard to be clever. Still, I enjoy the rapport between Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill. The “fight the power” message is a bit on-the-nose for a production by a multi-billion dollar company, but it’s not an unwelcome sentiment in this day when the ultra-rich keep getting richer.
I still enjoy Lower Decks’ poking fun of Star Trek tropes, but this season didn’t click for me as much the previous one did. Perhaps the constant references and throwbacks are wearing a bit thin now. Hopefully, they can inject some fresh life into the series for the already-announced fourth season.
Zany, over-the-top, hilarious, and heartfelt, or basically, what you’d expect from Philip Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Lego Movie, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
I’ve been wanting to see this Roger Corman sci-fi/horror classic for awhile now, and it didn’t disappoint (it’s currently streaming for free on Tubi). The storyline, about a doctor who enhances his vision with unpredictable and insanity-inducing side effects, is lean and mean (only 79 minutes long!) and very satisfying as “B” movies go. Come for the trippy psychedelic visuals, stay for the creepy Don Rickles cameo.
It’s probably been ten years since I saw this in the theater, but this action film about a group of London teens defending their apartment building from an alien invasion was still as enjoyable as ever. It works on several levels (action adventure, social commentary, dark comedy) and John Boyega’s performance as gang leader Moses is so strong, you’ll be mad all over again that the Star Wars sequels obviously didn’t use him to his full potential.
I had some quibbles with this first season, due mainly to its attempts at juggling four different storylines and keeping them balanced and cohesive, dramatically, chronologically, and geographically. (Just how, exactly, did the Númenóreans travel upriver and arrive in Tirharad so quickly?) Also, its efforts to feel appropriately Tolkien-ish (e.g., dropping in references like “always follow your nose”) got a bit ham-handed at times. But the series’ heart is clearly in the right place, there’s lots of heartfelt talk about loyalty, sacrifice, and fellowship (e.g., Elrond and Durin), the steady religiosity was a nice touch, and of course, it looked absolutely fantastic. So yes, bring on Season Two (which has already begun filming). (Read my review)
Some of the best BBQ ribs I’ve had in a long time. We were a little underwhelmed by the brisket (which, though flavorful, was a bit on the dry side), but those ribs were topnotch.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the SAC Museum over the years, but every time I go, I’m still fascinated by the planes and the world history they represent. In addition to the planes, there are several excellent exhibits on topics ranging from the early days of the Space Age to the Berlin Airlift to the Holocaust.
I’m not sure any synopsis can do justice to this strange movie about a pair of CIA agents trying to stop a Russian plot to take over a virtual world. There’s talk about pizzerias and kickboxing academies, kung fu battles, and an African president running around in a Batman outfit. It’s deliberately nonsensical and bizarre in a Midnight Madness sort of way, so your mileage will definitely vary.
I really liked this place when it was called AmuManu Ramen, and it’s still just as good. I had the Stir Fry Ramen tonight, and it was pretty filling with just a slight hint of spice to liven things up a bit.
This “family” superhero comedy has a few laughs courtesy of Owen Wilson and Michael Peña, but overall, it’s pretty forgettable.
Decorum is more an exercise in world-building than a “normal” comic. The hardcover is filled with notes on far-future worlds, societies, and religions, all brought to life via Mike Huddleston’s incredible artwork and Sasha E Head’s intricate graphic design. The storyline — a group of assassins are hired to find a cosmic relic for an AI religion — is promising, but unfortunately, underwhelming. Given all of the world-building, I kept hoping for something more fantastical.
Works as both a love letter and deconstruction of fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons as well as the fantasy genre as a whole, but only by someone who understands both really well.
One of the great action movies of all time. 3+ decades have done nothing to diminish its thrills. This time around, I was fascinated by the gorgeous set design and surprisingly (at times) lush cinematography. The themes of bureaucratic nonsense and police incompetence (e.g., when they storm the building) hit even harder in light of recent police-related controversies. But mostly, Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and lots of awesome explosions.
The first Incredibles movie is one of my favorite Pixar movies so the sequel had a lot of to live up. It doesn’t quite succeed: the family drama feels a bit forced this time and the marionette like character designs cross over into the uncanny valley a bit too much for my like. But it definitely has its own charms: the mid-century modern aesthetic is on point and Elastigirl’s nocturnal pursuit of Screenslaver is one of my favorite Pixar sequences of all time.
This bit of mid ’90s direct-to-video cheese is a blatant RoboCop rip-off, but with none of Paul Verhoeven’s style or satire. (I also detected hints of Terminator 2 in the soundtrack.) It does have Richard Grieco chewing up the scenery whenever he’s on-screen, which is not nothing. (The movie also gets some bonus points for naming his character “Mad Dog.”) Sidenote: Director Robert Kurtzman apparently never met a Dutch angle he didn’t like.
I’ve never played Dota 2, the game on which this Netflix series is based. That didn’t matter much with previous seasons, but the third season seems to dive really deeply into game lore, with the assumption that viewers are familiar with it. I was not. I loved the animation, designs, world building, etc., but felt completely lost in the last few episodes, story-wise. The finale is obviously meant to be epic and emotional, but it fell flat for me. I suspect, however, that Dota 2 players might have a very different experience.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is ultra-stylish and ultra-graphic — much like Love, Death & Robots, it’s not for kids — with some truly stunning animated action. (Kudos to Studio Trigger.) It occasionally wrestles with some deeper themes re. technology’s impact on humanity, but Ghost in the Shell it most certainly is not. Sometimes it feels like an edgy tragedy thanks to its melancholy tone, while other times, it’s all about the nihilistic excess. Your mileage will most definitely vary.
Paper Girls, Season One
I wanted to like this more than I did. The story — based on Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s comic — was interesting and the young cast was game enough, but this is one of those cases where the various pieces just didn’t click. Also, don’t believe any Stranger Things comparisons; aside from being (partially) set in ’80s, Paper Girls has nothing in common with the Netflix series. There was a lot of potential here that will sadly be unrealized since Amazon canceled the series.
Parallel Love worked on multiple levels for me: as a nostalgia-filled document of an important era in Christian music; as a heartfelt look at a rock band and the twists, turns, and tragedies of their career; and as a thought-provoking rumination on faith, spirituality, and art. Luxury was a band like no other in Christian circles, and I’m glad to see them getting some long overdue attention as a result of this film. Also cool: Some of my Cornerstone photos appear in the film’s archival footage. (Read my review)