November 2019 Digest

Best of the 2010s: My Favorite Films of 2018
Thanksgiving Movie Marathon

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Five

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Five – “Chapter Five: The Gunslinger”
Written & Directed by Dave Filoni

The opening of this episode delivers a promise that we are in for something a little more exciting than the last chapter. Dyn Jarren is pursued by one of the bounty hunters following the Guild’s call to arms. It’s a fun short dogfight in space that ends with Jarren’s ship broken down and seeking repairs on a familiar planet, Tatooine. The Mandalorian needs to seek out money to pay for the repairs and skulks through Mos Eisley for something under the table. The result is a decent episode, but still, one lacking the forward momentum of the core story. The ending does hint at a more significant arc happening here, but it’s very procedural.

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TV Review – Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 8

Ship in a Bottle (original airdate: January 25th, 1993)
Written by René Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer

This episode returns to a storyline first introduced in season two. In “Elementary, Dear Data,” the holodeck program for Professor Moriarity in a Sherlock Holmes simulation becomes self-aware. That incident ended with a promise that one day, a permanent form for Moriarity would be developed. Now the program is accidentally released with Lt. Barclay is doing work on the holodeck. This time around, Moriarty appears to have created a way for himself to exist the boundaries of the holodeck and move about the ship. Picard and Data must try to puzzle out if a new form of life has been created or have they been tricked through Moriarity’s cunning.

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Movie Review – Waves

Waves (2019)
Written & Directed by Trey Edward Shults

From the dizzying opening to the serene closing, Waves is an emotional rollercoaster that exists in two clear halves. Director Trey Edward Shults has explained that he wanted the first section to feel like a building anxiety attack and that the second piece would be a reassuring hug that things will get better. The result is one of the most beautiful and human films of 2019. It’s clear Shults has drawn inspiration from sources as varied as Moonlight, Punch-Drunk Love, and Chungking Express, managing to paint his dynamic style of filmmaking across the screen.

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Movie Review – Ad Astra

Ad Astra (2019)
Written by James Gray and Ethan Gross
Directed by James Gray

Ad Astra is like Apocalypse Now mixed with 2001 and directed by Terrence Malick. That is a very loaded statement, but it’s the most accurate way I can sum up this film in a single line. Is it as good as those individual parts? No, but it is still one of the best science fiction films I’ve seen in years. The story is kept centered on the characters while allowing space for awe & wonder over the cosmic landscape. There are brief moments of action & peril that help to punctuate how empty and cold the solar system feels. This is an odyssey in a not too distant future that feels like the most likely bland extrapolation of what humanity would do with a conquered solar system.

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Movie Review – Marriage Story

Marriage Story (2019)
Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach

I have never been divorced and have no plans to ever be. Noah Baumbach explores the time that makes up the dissolution of a relationship in his latest film, Marriage Story, and it feels real and painful. As Adam Driver’s Charlie says at one point, “It feels like I’m in a dream.” Even if we haven’t been divorced, we can relate to those moments in life that are so massive and painful that your brain goes hazy and disconnects from reality, simply to save your sanity. Yes, this is a film that features a couple getting divorced, yet it is so brimming over with love and sentiment.

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TV Review – Watchmen Season One, Episode Seven

Watchmen (HBO)
Season One, Episode Seven – “An Almost Religious Awe”
Written by Stacy Osei-Kuffour
Directed by David Semel

I recently saw an acquaintance who just watched the first episode of Watchmen remark that they were confused about what this show had to do with the 1980s comic book and why they should watch the next chapter. People read Watchmen as a whole; only the original readers experienced it as a monthly, which could have led to someone reading issue one and wondering what the big deal about this series was. It’s not the individual piece, but the whole that matters with Watchmen. Seemingly unimportant background matter in issue one gains more considerable significance the deeper you get into the story, the same thing goes for the Watchmen series. Each piece leads to a greater whole.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Four

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Four – “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

The Mandalorian showrunners aren’t trying to hide from its roots in the American Western genre. That’s perfectly fine, Star Wars has always been less hard science fiction than a repurposing of other styles into a science fantasy environment. The original Star Wars was lifted heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and classic Buck Rogers serials. This could be why the prequel trilogy, seemingly unmoored by familiar genre tropes, sputtered for so many audiences.

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