My Cultural Diet for May 2022

A quick rundown of last month’s cultural experiences.
Orbital Children - Mitsuo Iso
Mitsuo Iso’s Orbital Children was alternately fascinating and frustrating.

In order to better track my various cultural experiences (e.g., movies, TV shows, books, restaurants), I’ve created the Cultural Diet. Think of it as my own personal Goodreads, Letterboxd, and Yelp, all rolled into one (more info here). Every month, I recap everything that I watched, read, etc., in the previous month.

I really liked the first volume of Department of Truth (read my review), and Volume Two keeps with the trippy conspiracy theories, pseudo-histories, and crypto-zoology, as well as some surprisingly emotional moments. Martin Simmonds’ artwork continues to astound.
The story feels more like a series of elaborate set pieces than a coherent narrative, but the set pieces are fun enough that it doesn’t really matter. Also, the Davy Jones special effects still look as good now as they did back in 2006.
Always interesting to compare these books to the TV series, especially re. character changes. Perhaps the best example is Michio Pa, who’s the basis for TV’s Camina Drummer. Also, Marco Inaros is just one of those characters that you love to hate. I’m consistently impressed with Corey’s ability to balance the horrors of war with an underlying optimism.
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.”
If I remember correctly, this was the start of the Mission: Impossible films where Tom Cruise did the big stunts himself. (I’m not sure the Shanghai scene in Mission: Impossible III counts.) Cruise’s climb up the Burj Khalifa still gives me heebie jeebies to this day.
My son’s going through a bit of a pirate phase, so this was an obvious choice. Still pretty entertaining after nearly 20(!) years. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else but Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.
I watched the original Rescue Rangers quite a bit as a kid, so I suppose I was the target audience for this modern spin. Its barrage of post-modern pastiches, pop culture references, and self-referential humor were, by turns, amusing and annoying. But mostly amusing.
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.
Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey (The Expanse, Book Five)
This Expanse novel takes a break from the vast space opera/alien stuff to focus on individual stories for each of the Rocinante’s crew. Amos Burton is one of my favorite Expanse characters and I liked his story the best.
This 850-acre prairie grassland preserve is located just outside of Lincoln, and with its gorgeous scenery, is one of our favorite places for hiking and birding.
I mainly watched this because it’s from the director and star of Netflix’s Lupin, which we really enjoyed last year. As a buddy cop movie, The Takedown has its moments, but it really just made me want the third season of Lupin to get here even sooner.
Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham are a pretty strong combo, but this felt like it was trying to be a lot moodier and more intense than it actually was.
I knew this would be a disaster even before I started watching it, and yet I still stayed up way too late to finish it. I only have myself to blame. I’m giving it an extra half star because there are moments that hint at a much cooler, weirder movie. Still doesn’t change the fact that G.I. Joe titles should only ever be animated (e.g., G.I. Joe: Resolute).
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.
Pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Scalzi: nothing earth-shattering, but light, clever, and very entertaining nevertheless. (I finished it in less than two days.) He likens the novel to a fun pop song, which is pretty accurate.

For more, check out the full cultural diet.