As I mentioned in last week's round up, when I go home for an extended period of time, I wallow in pulp culture, watching television and movies and reading books, rather than be productive and practice German or get work done or prepare to move to Europe.
Here is what I consumed this year! Aside from the Hamilton soundtrack, which deserves it's own post (probably first of many). I also told anyone who would listen to watch Master of None.
- Rick and Morty. By consumed, I mean my brother recorded all the episodes on the DVR and badgered me until I had watched all of them. It's a fun and interesting show, reminding me of Futurama where every episode is crazy and they pull whatever they want out of their ass. That being said, there were signs of intelligence from the show. For example, in the "Total Rickall" episode, the family is plagued by parasites who plant themselves into the family's memories. How can the family determine which ones are parasites and should be killed and the real deals? Bad memories. The parasites don't create bad memories, only real beings do that. So each family member must remember the bad times to know if it's a parasite or not. Only those with only good memories get killed. It was a great way to start Thanksgiving with the family last week! Also, there's an episode in which Rick has create a microverse to power his car, only to discover a mad scientist in that universe has created a miniuniverse to power that planet, etc. Stephen Colbert voices the mini mad scientist and anything that has Stephen Colbert in it can't be bad. So thanks brother, I will probably keep up with it on Hulu. Overall it was fun. It is very episodic, making it easier to watch and keep up with. The humor reminded me at times of South Park or It's Always Sunny. These are not great people, there is none of the familial love of The Simpsons. No one is going to cry if Rick's long lost mother stops by. It's not that type of show.
- Interstellar. I've seen this movie before, once in the theater and in part on a plane. The first time I watched it, I sobbed from the time (spoilers) they lose 23 years to the end, pretty much non-stop. Afterwards I messaged my mom that I loved her. It was that kind of movie. Maybe time hasn't been kind to it (though it's only been a year..) or it's more effective on the big screen because I have to say, I did not like it. I kept comparing it to The Martian, even though the only thing these two movies have in common is space exploration and Matt Damon stranded on a planet. The Martian is just an easier story. In part because it's smaller - saving Matt Damon versus saving humanity. Interstellar, on the other hand, just feels hard and forced. A lot of work went into crafting this plot, creating this movie. It's difficult to watch because I kept getting distracted by all the twists Nolan must have put himself in to write the thing. The Martian is more fun and easygoing, has a much stronger comedic tone. It also throws out that Spelbergian, familial line, which not every movie needs and at times drags down Interstellar. Okay, Murphy and Cooper's bond is important but did Anne Hathaway really need to be Michael Caine's daughter? Things were complicated enough! The Martian also had a more positive overall impression - look how we can bond together, putting aside beauracy and politics for a second to accomplish something great! All the Chinese wanted was a seat on the next mission! It shows the importance and beauty of science. Instellar is about exploration and man's need to go beyond his boundary. Also, the science in The Martian was just the right amount. Instellar, on the hand, had too much and too little. There were huge, drive-a-truck through plot holes in the story. Don't explain this when you won't explain that. The movie just stressed me out while somehow also boring me.
- Age of Adaline. While I initially went into Interstellar with high expectations, the opposite is true of Age of Adaline. The reviews hadn't been great and Blake Lively is not exactly Meryl Streep. My recommendation - lowered expectations are ideal for watching this movie. I just wanted some pretty period outfits and great hair dos from Blake. And that's what I got! Seeing the different periods was entertaining. The story itself was fine, no surprises but there didn't need to be any. The entire plot is in the trailer and sometimes that's okay. One complaint - the science. It's about a woman who doesn't age. Don't try to explain it with lightning bolts and frozen cells. Just stop. She just stops aging, the end. Did The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ever need an explanation? Nope. So don't over exert yourself. It just reminds the viewer that wow, no one on this movie knows what they're talking about and just provided a distraction. Back to the plot. Adaline, despite a few rude attempts to dissuade him, somehow finds herself falling in love with Ellis. I honestly have no idea way. Sure, he's good looking and has a cool apartment and is rich, but there isn't any chemistry there. At all. And for a woman who's been around for over a century, you would think she would be a little more practical. Surely this isn't the first time some rich gorgeous dude crossed her path? We're expected to believe he becomes the love of her life within a week after she has spent literally decades crafting walls to keep people away. Maybe it's some form of Stockholm syndrome - she's been so lonely and closed off for so long, the one moment she opens up to someone he becomes her soul mate. That does not sound like a healthy relationship. What did work for me, though, was Harrison Ford. Their romance told through flashback was honestly lovely. And the person they hired to play the younger version of him did a great Harrison Ford impersonation. And Harrison and Blake had much more chemistry than her and Dhaaro Nharis. Sure, it would have ruined his forty year marriage, but at least it was an entertaining story. A nice way to spend a drowsy 90 minutes when the turkey is gone.
- Dark Places. Again, not high expectations. The reviews weren't great and it's my least favorite Gillian Flynn book. The ending isn't great. Spoiler alert - Libby's mom hires someone to kill her so her suicide looks like an accident. Is it a suicide if you pay someone else to kill you? The ending isn't perfect in the book but it makes much more sense. The book does a much better job of demonstrating how desperate this woman is, how she is out of options. The movie, not so much. Sure, Joan Halloway looks sad and frustrated. But kill herself? No way. Overall, my biggest problem of the movie was the pacing. It just was confusing. There's a lot of going back and forth, to present day and to the day of the murders. In the book, it's easy to tell - Flynn switches chapters! In the movie, there's nothing. No change in color scheme, no indication you're in a different time period. Nothing. It's especially confusing when it introduces characters without indication of which end of the story they're related to and during the two big action sequences as it switches back and forth. It's also never clear who is remembering what. Is it Charlize Theron? Her brother? But these guys aren't around all the time. No one has motivations in the movie. Sure, they want to keep the murderer a secret as long as possible, but still. Try a little. Why is the brother hanging out at that one barn place? Why is he suddenly a Satanic worshipper? Is he at all or trying to be cool? What was the deal with the molestation stuff - where did that come from? This is never resolved in any way in the movie. So much is missing from the books. Why was the brother so fucking happy in prison? Why did his girlfriend kill his sister? There was no reason. It just escalates quickly and very unbelievably. I just didn't care about any of the characters. Libby Day is a anti-hero but in the book she's a more well-rounded character. She's more understandable and sympathetic. In the movie, Charlize Theron just goes around looking pissed off and dirty. That's it. There's never any reactions to anything. There's no connection between the little girl and the angry looking Charlize. There's a lot of exposition dumps. Unnatural and without emotion. Cliche and eye-rolling voice overs. When Charlize sees her dad at the toxic waste dump, she thinks via voice over: What does it say about me that my dad lives in a toxic waste dump? This does nothing but make me roll my eyes. Amy Dunn would never. The ending is messy. The random niece - why were they hidden away like that? Why did that chick attack her? Why did they just let her and Jennifer Lawrence's ex boyfriend hug in the street? Did they not hear him yelling her name?
- The Grownup. This is a short story Gillian Flynn put up on Kindle last week. It's short, the type of thing you can through in one sitting. I have to say, I enjoyed it. The ending came up very quickly but it's just long enough to be enjoyable. The ending was honestly surprising and had just the right amount of ambiguity. Like all Flynn novels, it stars an anti heroine. While her profession and morals are questioning, she's a fun narrator. I didn't mind spending a couple of hours with her.
Next up in pop culture consumption: Christmas!
But reading this first: