Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the United States. It has always been one of my favorite days of the year. There is a great feast of delicious food, and I get to see family members I don’t get to see all that often. It is a joyous time, yet as I get older it brings on nostalgia and a little bit of sadness. This year was especially melancholy as it was the first year without my Uncle Mike and Aunt Linda, both who succumbed to cancer in the last year.
Thanksgiving is also very different now than it was when I was a kid. Obviously, we are all older and the family dynamics have changed. I’m no longer the kid running around, but the dad wrangling my own child. For a long while my daughter was the youngest among a bunch of older kids, but now she’s the big girl among numerous little ones who have come over the last couple of years from my cousins and nieces.
After the meal, we used to all sit around playing board games and laughing until we cried. Now, most everyone has to go visit other family members and the crowd disperses pretty quickly. Instead, the remainder of us go to the movies. It's still a grand time, and I still love the day, it's just different.
Here are five things I enjoyed this week.
Marvel has always done a good job at balancing the life and death seriousness of their stories with a light tone and good jokes. DC sits on the other end of that spectrum where their films tend to be very bleak and dour. Wonder Woman injected a lot of light into the franchise, easily becoming the best film from that media company. As if not to be outdone, Thor: Ragnarok ups the fun factor to 11. It is loaded with jokes. You just might have to consider it a straight-up comedy with some action scenes rather than an action film with some jokes.
For the most part it works. The jokes are good. Chris Hemsworth has great chemistry with everybody. There were a few moments when they inserted a gag when they should have allowed the gravity of what was actually happening on screen sink in for a moment, but otherwise, I really enjoyed myself. My only real complaint is that it adapted parts of the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics which pretty much means they won’t be doing a real adaptation and that is a real missed opportunity. But really it was great. One of the best comic book movies ever.
Based upon a series of books by Craig Johnson, Longmire is a Western style crime drama about the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor). It originally ran on A&E but they cancelled it after three seasons, allowing Netflix to pick it up. They just dropped its sixth and final season.
It’s not a perfect show. During pretty much all of the half-dozen episodes I’ve watched, there has been at least one moment where I cursed a character for their stupidity. It relies a little too heavily on the tropes of its genres, and its not yet fleshed out its dealing with the Native American characters. Tribal land runs through the county and Walt regularly has dealing with them - especially a native cop who hates him and a friend who works as a go-between (played by Lou Diamond Phillips!). Like a lot of crime shows set in rural communities, the number of dead bodies piling up gets a bit ridiculous.
But it[s got some solid writing and good characters so I can forgive its flaws. It's a very solid basic-cable crime drama and sometimes that’s exactly what I want. It also stars Katee Sackhoff and that’s always a plus.
Nobody took Steven Soderbergh seriously when he said he was retiring from films a few years back. In this, his first theatrical film since retirement (he worked on some television in the interim), he’s gone back to one of his favorite genres, the heist film. It stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as a couple of bumbling rednecks who hatch a plan to rob a NASCAR race in North Carolina. It's got all the touchstones of a great heist flick - an overly complicated plan, a double ending in which things you didn’t see the first time through the heist are revealed, an assortment of interesting characters (including Daniel Craig as a ridiculous bomb expert and Riley Keough as the driver). It's tons of fun and Soderbergh crafts it like the expert he is. It comes out on Blu-ray next week and I'll have a full review soon.
365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice
Though it is over 400 pages long, J.P. Kalonji’s samurai comic is a quick read as it employs full-page panels. It tells the tale of a Endo-era swordsman’s quest for enlightenment, which he believes he will find after killing the titular number of samurai. The bowls of rice come into it as he meets a few kind women along the way who offer him nourishment, but he always leaves them to pursue his request.
It uses very little dialogue and is graphically violent and yet quite moving as well. Beautifully designed and crafted, it details how seeking enlightenment (or anything with tunnel vision) may keep you from finding happiness.
Colony has the makings of a great show, but I’m not quite sure it can pull it off. It's set in Los Angeles after what appears to have been an alien invasion (the show, or at least its pilot episode which is all I have watched, hints at aliens but has yet to come out and say it). They have walled off the city and are keeping the populace in check mainly with collaborating humans.
It stars Josh Holloway as a former military man turned FBI fugitive hunter and Sarah Wayne Callies as his wife. In the first episode, he goes looking for his son who is somewhere on the other side of the wall. Things go bad and by episode's end, he is forced to start hunting members of the resistance. The catch is that his wife is secretly a member of that club.
I love this set-up. I totally dig the Game of Thronesesque wall around the city, and the roaming drones and The Handmaid’s Tale dystopia (minus the outright sexism). I liked Josh Holloway on Lost, but I’ve yet to see him pull off more than the smart-aleck role he did so well there. The pilot was good, but it could go in so many different directions I’m cautious to gush over it just yet. I hope it really gets into the world-building aspects of this place and stays away from having every episode just be him hunting down rebels while his wife tries to keep her acts a secret.
Incredibles 2 Teaser Trailer
I’m not at all a fan of how Pixar has been throwing down more and more sequels over the years, but The Incredibles is one film that really calls out for it. They just dropped a teaser trailer for it and while it doesn’t really give us much information its got me super excited.