Posts Tagged as reviews

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  1. Friday, September 18, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       His Dark Materials, Season One : This is a solid adaptation of Book 1,  The Golden Compass  by Philip Pullman. (I enjoyed the first two books but thought that the 3rd was an imploded mess, not unlike the 3rd Hunger Games book). Great performances and decent CGI keep the story moving, and even Rebecca liked it. The only flaw in the structure of the story was introducing a character from Book 2 early on to get their scenes out of the way -- while it makes sense not to have to backtrack in the next season, nothing truly happened in any of that character's scenes.   Final Grade :  B    &nb...
  2. Friday, September 11, 2020:
    Review Day: Family and Foes by Susan Quilty   There are no major spoilers for either of the first two books in this review.       Family and Foes  is Book Two of the YA Fantasy series,  The Psychic Traveler Society . The story centers on a fifteen-year-old protagonist with typical adolescent woes whose recurring daydreams lead her to a secret society and the possibility of other worlds.   The ending of Book 1 left the main characters in a setting filled with plenty of untapped world-building potential and unresolved conflicts. It felt more like an interim stop than a terminus, so it would have been safe and predictable to pick up right where we left off. Instead, Susan Quilty succeeds at delivering something more am...
  3. Friday, September 04, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       We Need Medicine  by The Fratellis: A solid Fratellis album exactly halfway between the earlier T-shirt shop music and the more mature recent stuff.  Seven Nights Seven Days  is a pretty good representative track.   Final Grade :  B     Codenames Duet : Rebecca and I started playing this game after a summer too chock full of  Patchwork . Two players work together to guess target words on a board (uncovering spies) without accidentally picking the assassins or hitting innocent bystanders. The first couple games will stretch your mind in odd directions, but it's ...
  4. Friday, August 21, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Live at Brooklyn Steel  by Mika: Mika's most recent album is a live collection of older songs. It has great sound mixing -- the audience sound is toned back just enough that you get the live feel without losing the main performance. Mika also sounds just as good as he does on his studio albums.   Final Grade :  B+     Ocean's 13  (PG-13): I watched this movie over 3 treadmill sessions and remember very little about it. It has minimal characterization, minimal heisting, minimal payoff, and minimal reason to care about any of it. Free on Netflix.   Final Grade : ...
  5. Friday, August 14, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Leviathan Wakes  by James S.A. Corey: While the book in isolation is just good, not amazing, it really serves to highlight how strong the TV adaptation,  The Expanse  is. (The book maps to the first one and a half seasons of the show). I had a greater appreciation for the new side characters and plot events from the show that seamlessly fit into the original story. Worth a read if you like the show, but give it some distance so you don't have the show fresh in your mind.   Final Grade :  B-     Angry Cyclist  by the Proclaimers: Amazon Music finally tricked me into a 3-m...
  6. Friday, August 07, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Middleditch and Schwartz, Season One : 3 hour-long episodes of improv comedy from these two actors (Richard Hendricks from Silicon Valley and Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec) is just about right. The first two are great while the quality of the third drops a bit, but there are some great belly laughs to be found. Free on Netflix.   Final Grade :  B+     Superstore, Season Three : We zoomed through this season quickly and enjoyed it. Everyone is still essentially a caricature, but each one is used sparingly enough that no one turns into a "Cam" of Modern Family.   Fi...
  7. Friday, July 03, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Modern Family, S10 : Most of the cast has been  flanderized  by this tenth season. There are just enough warm family moments or funny jokes to keep it afloat, but it's definitely showing its age.   Final Grade :  C+     Knives Out  (PG-13): This is a great, traditional murder mystery that functions well as a 21st century version of  Clue . The large cast of characters is expertly introduced in a way that the audience can keep up with who's who, and the clues to the murder of a famous author are placed in a way to allow both solving-at-home and red herrings.&n...
  8. Friday, June 26, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       The Expanse, Season Four : The new season produced by Amazon shows continuity in the transfer from SyFy other than a few awkward fadeouts. The story is more intimate with good sources of character tension although most of the new female characters feel interchangeable. The final episode feels a little rushed and tacked on, especially the end of the storyline for one of the semi-main characters. Free on Amazon Prime.   Final Grade :  B-     Joker  (R): Not everything needs an origin story. This movie is an extended, uncomfortable voyeurism of a descent into mental illness. While I ...
  9. Friday, June 19, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Toy Story 4 : This is a pleasant, unnecessary segment of the Toy Story story that doesn't tread a whole lot of new ground. In order to invent some reason for existing, the movie undoes some of the work that went into making  Toy Story 3  a "perfect" ending for the series. Treat it like a straight-to-VHS one-off and you'll be able to enjoy it, especially with key roles filled by Tony Hale and Key & Peele.   Final Grade :  B-     Expanse, S3 : Season Three has a weird flow to it -- the first half feels like "the rest" of Season Two, and the last half (following a jarring t...
  10. Friday, June 05, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       QIAYA Selfie Light Ring : This inexpensive ring light clips onto your laptop screen and adds just enough fill light to improve the clarity of your image on video calls -- useful when you're in dim surroundings or have a bright window behind you. It's also surprisingly useful for doing jigsaw puzzles at night. On the downside, charge runs down fairly quickly and 2 of the 3 intensity settings will only be useful when I start my Makeup channel on Youtube.   Final Grade :  B     In Your Own Sweet Time  by the Fratellis: I'm working my way through all of this band's albums during quara...
  11. Monday, May 25, 2020:
    Review Day: Quarantine Shopping Experiences   Safeway on Sterling Boulevard : Constantly out of stock on staples like milk, eggs, and meats. No interesting beers anymore. Great fresh bagels. Produce may have been scooped out of a Medieval midden. Most employees wearing a mask, half of patrons.   Final Grade :  D     Giant on Dranesville Road : Great fruit and vegetables. Sporadic availability of nice-to-haves like disinfectant wipes, yeast, and ribeye. Everyone in masks.   Final Grade :  A     Costco on Route 7 : More people than expected, not as many as there could have been. Everyone in a mask but most patrons still oblivious to surroundings. Every...
  12. Friday, May 22, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Neotheater  by AJR: AJR and The Fratellis have been my quarantine jams for the past month or so. This album isn't as catchy as  The Click , but it has more interesting orchestrations and use of samples.  100 Bad Days  is a pretty representative track off the album.   Final Grade :  B+     Upload, Season One : This show about a world where you can upload your consciousness after death to live forever is impossible to categorize -- it's like  The Good Place  meets  Black Mirror  meets that awful Matt Damon movie,  Downsized . It's mo...
  13. Friday, May 15, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       The Expanse, Season Two : I gave the first season of this sci-fi show a  C- , labelling it a slog with forgettable characters. The second season is a major improvement (one that I only watched because there was nothing else in my queue at that moment). The plot moves steadily and weaves disparate storylines and characters together to a nice finale, in spite of the fact that the main protagonist has a punchable face. Free on Amazon Prime.   Final Grade :  B     The Click  by AJR: This is a fun pop album, full of catchy hooks and interesting samples.  Burn The House D...
  14. Friday, April 24, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Eyes Wide, Tongue-Tied  by the Fratellis: This is a great, less manic Fratellis album with a more mature sound. Each song brings something different to the table. I particularly like Imposters , a song with a catchy refrain -- for a few days after listening to it, I could hear Maia in her quiet/nap time singing "little by little by little" to herself in between bouts of "Let It Go".   Final Grade :  A     Perks of Being a Wallflower  (PG-13): Another movie in the coming-of-age genre, this movie tells the ...
  15. Friday, April 10, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Everything is New  by Jack Penate: Another old album by Jack Penate with nice hooks. A little short, but a fun listen -- I enjoy the song,  Let's All Die , an upbeat number with the lyrics, "Out of the womb and into the tomb".   Final Grade :  B     Jackbox Party Pack 3 : From the makers of the old trivia game,  You Don't Know Jack , this collection of party games is intended for people sitting around the living room, watching the game on TV and entering answers on their phones and tablets. We tried it out for our Virtual Game Nights over (the hyped and insec...
  16. Wednesday, April 08, 2020:
    List Day: 10 Lesser Known Shows to Binge During Quarantine   There are no major spoilers in this post.    Are you tired of looking for new TV shows only to get recommendations for  The Office  and  Stranger Things ? Here are 10 of the best "off the beaten path" shows I've watched (in alphabetical order), all available in streaming format.         American Vandal   (2 seasons, 16 half-hour episodes, Netflix): A pitch-perfect satire of the true crime documentary genre, where filmmakers reconstruct the day that a mystery student drew dicks on all of the cars in the teacher's parking lot.      Bodyguard   (1 season, 6 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A British versio...
  17. Friday, April 03, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       iZombie, Season Five : The final season suffers from too many factions muddling the plot momentum. It also has the same problem as season four -- when your main character takes on a different personality every episode, any serious character development feels arbitrary and unearned. Watch this season for the many funny scenes with characters you've grown to like, and ignore the plot nonsense. Free on Netflix.   Final Grade :  B-     Discover  by Lenka: This is the sister EP of  Recover , an unnecessary album full of covers. I've listened to  Discover  several time...
  18. Friday, March 27, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Patchwork : This is another 2-player game with as much replayability as Lost Cities or Apotheca -- you spend buttons to buy different Tetris shapes to cover your quilt board. Game rules are very simple and setup is quick. There's tons of strategic depth although there are just enough variables that it makes it hard to tell if you're actually winning until the final score comes down. All of our games so far have been decided within a few points of each other.   Final Grade :  B     Recover  by Lenka: This is a 20 minute EP of covers, pleasant enough other than the five and a half...
  19. Friday, March 20, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Costello Music  by The Fratellis: I don't know how I missed the debut album from this Scottish rock band, especially since  Chelsea Dagger  was one of my jams in 2011. Each song is a catchy, high energy germ with a little storytelling woven in.   Final Grade :  B+     How to Destroy a Tech Startup in Three Easy Steps  by Lawrence Krubner and Natalie Sidner: First up in my self-quarantine reading queue, this book tells of a lead developer's experience at a NYC startup. Like Dan Lyon's  Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble  (which I gave a  B&nb...
  20. Wednesday, March 11, 2020:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Counterpart, Season One : This spy thriller featuring J.K. Simmons as two different versions of himself has sci-fi elements, but leans more into character development than world-building. It has some interesting ideas and great performances, but feels very slow between the interesting parts. My brain was sometimes removed from the flow of the story by having to figure out which version of each character I was seeing in each scene -- the show could have taken some pointers from  Awake  to differentiate scenes better. Overall, I appreciated the character development of the principals, but worry that the story itself is not moving...
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