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 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.
After weeks of seeing clips of her standup on Instagram, we finally watched Taylor Tomlinson’s Netflix special. I guess the algorithm works. There are some pretty hilarious, albeit dark and twisted, moments in Tomlinson’s routine, with the “dead mom” and “bipolar disorder” jokes winning out over the “porn for women” jokes.
My favorite MCU title in a long time, with style, energy, and humor reminiscent of Into the Spider-Verse (a very good thing). The season falters a bit in the middle — the Karachi episodes feel like they’re from a different series/season altogether — but it begins strong and ends well. I almost wish Ms. Marvel was disconnected from the larger MCU for a little while longer so that it could remain its own special thing unbeholden to a larger mythos. Also, Abbu Hulk forever!
Stranger Things, Season Four
Overall, I enjoyed this season a lot more than season three, but it could’ve done without one or two storylines (the Russia storyline, in particular, dragged quite a bit). It felt like the Duffers wrote themselves into a corner after season three, and had to spend most of season four untangling things. Even so, it’s still Stranger Things, and therefore, filled with wonderful moments (e.g., “Running Up That Hill,” “Master of Puppets,” Hopper’s confession).
Another “classic” anime OVA from late ’80s. Given its stylish animation and gratuitous content, I should’ve guessed that it was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (of Ninja Scroll and Wicked City fame). I don’t really recommend this one, though the old-school cel animation was kind of refreshing to watch. Also, nothing looks cooler than futuristic Tokyo cityscapes as depicted in ’80s anime.
Ewan McGregor’s fantastic as the titular Jedi master, who’s hiding out on Tatooine to watch over young Luke Skywalker while still haunted by the death of Anakin Skywalker — who, unbeknownst to Kenobi, has returned as Darth Vader. The Inquisitor side plot held promise but was a bit underwhelming. There’s been talk about a second season; not sure how I feel about that.
I’ve never played League of Legends so I don’t know how faithful Arcane is to the source material. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed Arcane’s steampunk aesthetic, rich world-building, thrilling action, and superb (and dare I say) groundbreaking animation. A second season has been greenlit, and it can’t come soon enough.
I’ve always found classic serials from ’30s and ’40s fascinating. This one’s a bit less exciting than its premise — a hotshot pilot must protect an anti-gravity device from smugglers — might otherwise suggest, but it has the requisite damsels in distress and ridiculous cliffhangers. That being said, the real aerial stunts are pretty cool to watch. (Read my review)
Slow Horses, Season One
I wanted to like this way more than I did, but I could never figure out the tone. Was it a black comedy like Four Lions, a parody of spy thrillers, or a spy thriller in its own right? Not that it couldn’t be a mix of those, of course, but not knowing how to react to, say, Gary Oldman’s scene-chewing was frustrating.
Mitsuo Iso’s long-gestating follow-up to Den-noh Coil often feels like a spiritual and stylistic sequel. And like Den-noh Coil, I was alternately fascinated and frustrated by Orbital Children’s storyline. It’s very clever and imaginative, but I kept feeling like I’d missed an episode containing some key details.
I still think the first season was the best, but this was a solid improvement over season two. Ultra violent and gory, as to be expected. I’m a sucker for the Lovecraftian “In Vaulted Halls Entombed,” but I also enjoyed the “Mason’s Rats” and “Night of the Mini Dead.”
Halo, Season One
Drew McWeeny said it best: “it looks both wildly expensive and oddly cheap.” There was no reason for this to be made, other than so someone could finally say that they made a Halo TV series. It adds nothing to the franchise. Did not finish.
Moon Knight, Season One
Oscar Isaac is great as always, and I like the fact that Marvel isn’t afraid to get weird, but towards the end, Moon Knight felt like it was getting weird simply for its own sake.
Aviation-themed anime from the early ’00s. Cool aerial sequences but a muddled plot about artificial intelligence, alien invasions, and PTSD (among other things). (Read my review)
Does a good job of filling that Parks and Recreation-shaped hole in my life. While not every joke hits (the “power clashing” line kills me, though), I enjoy the characters and premise, and am looking forward to another season.
Severance, Season One
We loved this delightfully bizarre series on Apple TV+. Filled with surreal humor, mysteries, and pointed jabs at American pop culture, and blessed with immaculate production design. Can’t wait for season two.
I saw this once described as “The Matrix, if made by Studio Ghibli,” which isn’t too far-fetched. Filled with interesting ideas and concepts but gets pretty convoluted near the end. Wouldn’t mind watching it again to try and make better sense of it.
Upload, Season Two
Didn’t like this as much as season one. Some promising new story ideas were introduced but none of them were developed in a satisfying way. This season felt rushed and truncated, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it only had seven episodes compared to the first season’s ten.
Reacher, Season One
I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Sometimes, you just want to watch a beefy protagonist who has no qualms smashing bad guys’ heads in while dropping one-liners. This more than fills that bill. Bring on season two!
Very enjoyable nature documentary series on Disney+. Stunning footage + Will Smith’s humor and charisma = A winning combination. I also wrote about it for Christ and Pop Culture.