Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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The Love Witch (2016), Hush (2016), Little Evil (2017)

September 11, 2017

The Love Witch (2016) – Curse the Best Movies of 2016 list that I saw this film on! But it’s hard to blame one list – The Love Witch sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is one movie the critics and I did not agree on… not even a little bit. When the critics love a movie I could barely sit through, it makes me wonder what they were seeing that I didn’t. The Love Witch has gotten praise for its 1970s retro look and if there’s anything to like about this film it’s certainly the visual presentation. But I couldn’t get into the story at all and while Samantha Robinson gives a sultry performance in the lead role, she delivers all her dialog in a cadence that borders on parody and if this film is supposed to be a parody of something, I have to say it went over my head or I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I admittedly tuned out pretty early in the film and I almost quit it, so I have to admit this might not be the most fair review, but if a movie doesn’t grab my attention at all in the first 45 minutes, how good can it possibly be? The Love Witch is unrated and while it has a fair amount of nudity and sexual content, it’s not that sexy. This movie didn’t work for me as a parody, a comedy, or a horror film. It obviously has an audience, but I hated it and I doubt many of the people that read my reviews would like it either.

Replay Value: I’ve read reviews that say repeated viewings are worthwhile but that’s a hard pass for me.
Sequel Potential: The Love Witch grossed less than $300K so I’m going with none.
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

Hush (2016) – This was a solid horror thriller about a deaf woman living by herself in the woods and fighting for her life when a Jabbawockee shows up outside her window and does a killer dance routine. Just kidding. Hush is serious horror and there is nothing funny about this movie. This is a killer reminiscent of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, before he couldn’t be killed and was just your standard psychopath that really enjoyed murdering people… with a mask on. We don’t know why this man shows up outside this window or what his motives are and, let’s be honest, there are plenty of killers like that in the real world. And that’s part of what makes Hush scary: the idea that someone can be lurking right outside your bedroom window isn’t all that farfetched. Making the main character deaf certainly raises the stakes and writer/director Mike Flanagan and writer/star Kate Siegel (a married couple in real life) come up with plenty of scenarios that bring Maddie’s handicap into play. Siegel gives such a convincing performance that I wondered if she is actually deaf (she is not). Hush is a scary and fun horror film that seems to be overlooked. If you’re a fan of the genre you should definitely check this movie out while it’s streaming on Netflix.

Replay Value: I’ll probably never see this again, but it was fun enough that I would enjoy it a second time.
Sequel Potential: Horror movies always have potential for sequels… but I would imagine this doesn’t get one.
Oscar Potential: None… but Kate Siegel got nominated for Best Actress in various genre award shows.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Little Evil (2017) – Here’s another review that isn’t going to be very fair. My wife started watching this Netflix exclusive that started streaming earlier this month on her own and I sort of picked it up about 30 minutes or so into it. The gist is Adam Scott marries Evangeline Lilly and becomes step daddy to her kid, a child that may or may not be the spawn of Satan. My wife thought I would like it, but it was pretty stupid and it’s not funny enough to make up for how corny it is. Adam Scott does a fine job, but Lilly’s performance is hokey and could have been done by any run-of-the-mill actress. The kid isn’t anything special either. I may have missed the answer to this question, but I was wondering how Scott’s character decides to marry this woman while having such an apprehensive relationship with her kid. Also, the film seems to resolve its primary conflict because it’s time for the movie to end and not because of any natural progression between stepdad and stepson. Little Evil is a moderately interesting concept with a subpar execution. This movie is something to have on in the background while you’re doing something else and little more.

Replay Value: None.
Sequel Potential: Definitely potential for a sequel but who is going to want it?
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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It (2017): A Horror Masterpiece?

September 8, 2017

Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: Andy Muschietti (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I loved It. Seriously. During the first half I wanted to stand up and yell out how much I was enjoying the movie. That’s how deliriously giddy I was. Basically all my critiques about the novel are completely absent from this adaptation and all the things I hated about the miniseries are fixed (you can read my spoiler filled reviews of those by clicking here). It’s like director Andy Muschietti and his team of writers took a nice looking statue and chiseled away until it was perfection. Okay, It isn’t quite a perfect film but it’s about as good as you can expect a horror movie to be.

The cast in this movie is borderline unbelievable. It’s one of the film’s biggest strengths. I thought the character of loud mouth Richie Tozier was frequently annoying in the book – and maybe he was supposed to be – but Finn Wolfhard (from “Stranger Things“) absolutely crushes this role, with a solid assist from the writers with some hilarious dialogue writing. Seriously, he is going to make people laugh the entire movie. And while the spirit of the character is Stephen King’s creation, Richie Tozier is a highlight of this movie because of someone else’s writing and Finn’s fantastic delivery. Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak is another one of the weaker characters in the book and Jack Dylan Grazer makes him quite enjoyable in this movie. I was also happy with the casting of Stuttering Bill, Beverly Marsh, and Ben Hanscom, and the kids playing Bill and Bev do a good job of carrying the film. The final two kids in The Loser’s Club, Stan Uris and Mike Hanlon, sort of get reduced roles in this movie and I was pretty indifferent about it.

Can Tim Curry’s “tour-de-force” performance in the 1990 version ever be topped? Of course it can. It was brutally campy and the construction of the Pennywise scenes were horrible. Unless you have an irrational fear of clowns there was nothing scary about Tim Curry as Pennywise. Now I’m not one that scares easily and I’m more apt to find glee in a well done horror sequence than jump out of my seat in fear, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is scary as shit. If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you can probably already guess that though. Skarsgard is great and while there is some playfulness to his take on Pennywise, there’s nothing campy about it – it’s more along the lines of a child molester trying to lure a kid into his van with a piece of candy playful and he can switch to purely terrifying in a second. In addition to Skarsgard doing a wonderful job, he also looks great and Muschietti gives Pennywise’s presence the gravity that it deserves. This isn’t a deranged Ronald McDonald spouting one-liners on a bender, it’s pure evil personified and pretty much every scene involving the clown form of It are extremely well done.

I have basically no complaints about this movie. There were some things that were left out that I would have liked to have seen, like It taking the forms of the werewolf and the spider, or the scene with the leeches, but I think most of the changes that were made from the source material and the miniseries were huge improvements.

This is a movie about a group of kids squaring off against the town monster, but it’s also a great story about friendship, coming of age, and facing less supernatural terrors like bullies and abusive parents. I would have no problem with someone saying It is basically Stand By Me or The Goonies meets A Nightmare On Elm Street. That’s an apt description, but to label It an A Nightmare On Elm Street rip off would not only be a disservice, it would be misguided since Stephen King was likely writing his novel around the same time Wes Craven was writing the original Freddy Krueger movie.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you’re a horror fan, it’s a must watch. It might go down as a genre classic. If you enjoyed the novel or, somehow, the miniseries, I can almost guarantee this movie will make you incredibly happy. Fast-paced, totally scary, and plenty funny, It is easily one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year.

Also, if you happen to own the 1990 miniseries, you can go ahead and toss it in the trash. There is no reason to ever watch it again now. Seriously.

Replay Value: I can’t wait to see it again. I might go again opening weekend and I will definitely add this to my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: Spoiler alert: this is Chapter One. It is a monster that reappears in Derry every 27 years and it’s no secret that these kids all come back as adults to face off again when It returns. Chapter One is a great stand alone film that pretty much wraps everything up. There is no need for a Chapter Two and the kid portion of Stephen King’s book is significantly better than the adult portion. Still, if they cast well and Andy Muschietti is involved, I will be ecstatic to see Chapter Two.
Oscar Potential: Horror movies historically get zero Oscar attention. I’m not sure It has any obvious candidates.

Grade: 8 (Must See)

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September Movie preview

September 7, 2017

A little late with this preview as I was in Hawaii for the past week.

Anticipation Meter – 5 (Very High)

It (September 8th, theaters) – It has always been one of my favorite Stephen King books and I’ve always hated the 1990 miniseries. I revisited both earlier this year in preparation for this film and you can read my review here. This is the story of a group of kids in the small town of Derry, Maine that take on an ancient evil, a shape-shifting monster that frequently takes the form of Pennywise the clown, that appears every 27 years and murders children. The book is plenty scary and the characters, particularly as kids, are a lot of fun. This film will focus on the kids and the trailers have looked fantastic. After 123 reviews, It currently has a fresh rating of 89%, which is extremely strong for a remake in the horror genre. Possibly my most anticipated film of the year – it checks all my boxes. I might even go see it tonight by myself if I have to.

Anticipation Meter – 4 (Strong)

Wind River (August, theaters) – I think this movie came out in August, but I didn’t include it in my preview, so I’ll include it here. This is a thriller set in a remote Native American Reservation, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario. Wind River has a 86% fresh rating, the trailer looked great, and one of my friends already went out of his way to message me and say it’s the best film of 2017. What’s not to love?

mother! (September 15th, theaters) – This movie snuck up on me and I’m not sure how. It’s written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the guy responsible for Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan – all of which made my top 10 films in their respective years of release. mother! also stars my current favorite actress Jennifer Lawrence and another great actor in Javier Bardem. I don’t really know what this movie is about but I don’t care too much. The trailer is perfectly chilling and minimalist, giving an idea of the film’s tone while revealing nothing. Aronofsky does weird really well and this film looks tailor made for another Jennifer Lawrence Oscar campaign. Count me in.

Anticipation Meter – 3 (Moderate)

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Remembers Cambodia (September 15th, theaters, Netflix) – Directed by Angelina Jolie about a human rights activist trying to survive in Cambodia during an oppressive dictatorship. My wife is Cambodian and I don’t know too much about her family’s culture so I have extra interest in this film.

Battle of the Sexes (September 22nd, theaters) – Emma Stone stars as former #1 women’s tennis star Billie Jean King and Steve Carell stars as ex-men’s champ Bobby Riggs in this film about the high profile tennis match between the two players. From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire this movie could have some serious Oscar pedigree.

Stronger (September 22nd, theaters) – Based on a true story, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jeff Bauman, a man that lost both his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Trailer is solid and looks like a very strong role for Gyllenhaal.

American Made (September 29th, theaters) – Tom Cruise plays a TWA pilot that gets recruited by the CIA to fly for one of the biggest covert CIA operations in American history, one that reaches all the way to the Medillin drug cartel and Pablo Escobar. Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), this movie looks like a lot of fun.

Anticipation Meter – 2 (Low)

American Assassin (September 15th, theaters) – CIA thriller starring Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. Looks decent.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22nd, theaters) – The original was better than I expected it to be. Maybe this one will be too. I’ve seen the trailer about ten times already and I can’t say I really want to see the movie.

Flatliners (September 29th, theaters) – Ellen Page and Diego Luna star in this remake about five medical students trying to uncover the secrets of life after death. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t look very good.

Anticipation Meter – 1 (Nonexistent)

Home Again (September 8th, theaters) – Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

The Lego Ninjago Movie (September 22nd, theaters) – This would have to get pretty stellar reviews for me to go see it.

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The Handmaiden (2016)

August 28, 2017

Starring: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo
Director: Chan-wook Park (Old Boy)

Bottom Line: There was a time when I used to watch foreign language films on a regular basis – at least the ones that got high critical acclaim and Oscar attention. But I just scrolled through all my reviews and the only foreign language film I’ve reviewed in the past five years was The Raid: Redemption. Needless to say, the scope for my love of cinema isn’t what it used to be. But I saw The Handmaiden pop up on a lot of top 10 lists last year and it was even mentioned as the best film of 2016 by multiple people and I put it near the top of my Netflix queue and it finally ended up in my mail box.

After my wife quit on La La Land thirty minutes in, I knew there was no way I was going to subject her to The Handmaiden and I have to say I’m glad I didn’t try. If I did she would probably think I’m some sort of weirdo pervert for liking this movie. It’s highly sexual and more explicit than you might expect. To label it softcore porn isn’t totally unfair, but it would be a slap in the face to what is otherwise a very good thriller with strong characters, a fun and twisted story, and some rather spectacular cinematography.

I didn’t walk away from The Handmaiden thinking it was one of the best films from last year – it didn’t resonate with me like that. But it was plenty enjoyable and at nearly 2.5 hours in length, it never felt like it was dragging. I couldn’t possible recommend this movie to most of the people that read my blog. If you don’t have a history of liking foreign language films, The Handmaiden wouldn’t be the first one I’d recommend. It’s pretty out there and I suspect it would be rated NC-17 if it was released in the United States. But to anyone that doesn’t mind broadening their film horizons and taking in cinema from other cultures, The Handmaiden is well worth a watch.

Replay Value: I would watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: No Oscar love, but it won a lot of Best Foreign Language Film awards elsewhere, sits at a 8.1 rating on IMDB, and has a metascore of 84 – obviously a very well received film.

Grade: 6.5/10 (recommended/highly enjoyable)

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La La Land (2016)

August 24, 2017

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

Bottom Line: It seems that La La Land is a pretty polarizing film. It cruised through this year’s Academy Awards so dominantly, with six wins, that it was accidentally awarded Best Picture before the production team corrected the error – with the whole cast and crew already on stage giving an acceptance speech – and gave Best Picture to Moonlight in the most bizarre Oscar moment I’ve ever seen. And then there’s a number of people that absolutely hated it. The number of one star ratings on IMDB are alarming and this was my own family’s thoughts:

Wife (30 minutes into movie): I’m going to take a nap.
Mom: I think I’m going to go home.
Aunt: I’m ready to go.
Me: What just happened?

I can’t say that La La Land had me in its grip at that moment, but I’m not one to give up on a movie because other people aren’t enjoying it. I think a lot of the common criticisms of this film are pretty fair, but I also found plenty to like. I seem to be in the very small minority of people that agree that it is tremendously overrated, but still actually enjoyed it.

But let’s be real: La La Land isn’t even the best musical of 2016. Disney’s Moana had better songwriting, better vocal performances, and – gasp! – a more engaging story. La La Land was great in a lot of the technical departments like costume design, editing, cinematography, set design, etc., but when focusing on the music and songs, Moana wasn’t just better, it was substantially better. The songs in La La Land aren’t nearly as catchy or memorable. I was expecting to be blown away by “City of Stars,” La La Land‘s Oscar-winning song and… well, it’s criminal that Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t win for Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go.” I honestly can’t think of a great musical where at least one song wasn’t stuck in my head for days and La La Land simply doesn’t have a single song like that. They are all rather forgettable.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are pretty great in this movie… when they aren’t singing. When they are singing they are merely okay. I can’t say whether or not Stone is deserving of her Best Actress win because I still haven’t seen any of the other nominees, but I thought she was pretty adorable in this role.

While I was pretty disappointed with the musical aspects of this movie, I thought the script did a good job of tackling themes of love and sacrifice and how pursuing your passion can be all encompassing, even to the detriment of your relationships. It’s sad and charming and it did resonate with me emotionally.

I can’t give La La Land a glowing recommendation. It’s obvious that it is not for everyone. The rest of my audience couldn’t make it through the first thirty minutes and I think they are pretty good representation of the casual film watcher. As a film buff myself, and a fan of musicals, I was disappointed considering all the praise and awards heaped upon this movie – it’s just not that good. I much prefer director Damien Chazelle’s last film Whiplash.

Replay Value: Can’t imagine I’ll ever watch this again.
Sequel Potential: None?
Oscar Potential: 6 Oscar wins: Directing, Cinematography, Original Song, Score, Production Design, and Best Actress for Emma Stone; plus another 8 nominations!

Grade: 5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

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The Big Sick (2017) & Hell or High Water (2016)

August 9, 2017

The Big Sick (2017) – The poster says it all. This is one of the best romantic comedies in many years – maybe the absolute best of the past decade. It’s definitely the most touching film of 2017 that I’ve seen so far and I have no problem giving it my #1 ranking for the year as of early August. Star Kumail Nanjiani (of HBO’s Silicon Valley) and his wife Emily Gordon wrote The Big Sick about how they met and had to overcome both pressure from Kumail’s parents to follow the Pakistani custom of arranged marriage and Emily’s sudden illness that led to a lengthy coma. The Big Sick is filled with laughs and plenty of heartfelt moments. Kumail has a great sense of humor that he frequently delivers in a dry and hilarious manner and Holly Hunter really knocks it out of the park as Emily’s mom – I fully expect a Best Supporting Actress nominations. It’s probably too late to catch this in theaters, but I can’t recommend it enough as it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2017.

Replay Value: A solid add to any movie collection.
Sequel Potential: I would say none.
Oscar Potential: Drawing live at Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay and I really like Holly Hunter’s chances of getting nominated.

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

Hell or High Water (2016) – All the vibes of a modern day western, as a couple of Texan brothers set out to rob local banks in order to save their family ranch. Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges all give noteworthy performances with Bridges getting an Oscar nomination for his work. When I list my favorite actors, I never think of Jeff Bridges, but this move made me look over his resume and the guy is a beast and seems to be getting better with age. This movie reminded me a lot of Thelma & Louise, which is a borderline classic in my books, so if you liked that movie, Hell or High Water should be up your alley. This is definitely one of the stronger 2016 movies.

Replay Value: I’d watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Four Oscar noms: Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Supporting Actor for Jeff Bridges.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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August Movie/Music Preview

August 1, 2017

Anticipation Meter
6 – Epic
5 – Very High
4 – Strong
3 – Moderate
2 – Low
1 – Nonexistent

MOVIES

The Dark Tower (4th) – I never read the Stephen King novels and I wasn’t all that excited about this movie, but the casting of Idris Elba as The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as The Man In Black is intriguing and the trailer looks interesting enough. My dad was always trying to get me to read the novels when I was growing up and I feel like I heard the later books got weird/bad and I never wanted to invest myself in an epic series that wasn’t strong throughout. This seems like a good way to start. I never knew The Dark Tower series had anything to do with our world, so that’s another surprising element that makes me want to see this movie. Anticipation Meter – 3

Detroit (4th) – Kathryn Bigelow has been one of the strongest filmmakers of recent memory, with both The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty receiving overwhelming critical acclaim. Her next film, Detroit, boasts a strong cast that features John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, and Will Poulter, plus a trailer that hooked me in the first time I saw it. This film looks like a gritty, gut-wrenchingly good time at the movies.
Anticipation Meter – 4

Kidnap (4th) – You don’t really think about it, but Catwoman ruined Halle Berry’s career. Before that, she had a three year run where she got cast as Storm in the X-Men franchise, played a Bond girl, and won an Oscar for Monster’s Ball. Since then, her best role has arguably been as herself in a theatrical introduction to a Kevin Hart comedy special. This movie doesn’t look to be breaking the cold streak. Anticipation Meter – 1

Annabelle: Creation (11th) – I haven’t seen the original Annabelle, which was spun off from The Conjuring, but this sequel is currently sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Horror movies typically get a bad wrap from the critics, so when a sequel to a spin off is getting rave reviews, it’s hard not to take notice. I probably won’t see this in theaters since I haven’t seen the first one yet, but I’m definitely interested in checking it out. Anticipation Meter – 3

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (11th) – Nope. Anticipation Meter – 1

The Glass Castle (11th) – I’ve seen the trailer for this drama starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts a couple of times now and it looks like it could be Oscar fodder… or really boring – I’m not sure. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton is responsible for Short Term 12 which is one of the most lauded films of the past decade that I still haven’t seen, so I suspect it could be pretty good. Brie Larson is definitely an actress I’m checking for right now. Anticipation Meter – 3

Ingrid Goes West (11th) – Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen star in this offbeat satire of social media. I just watched the trailer and it looks kind of crazy and Plaza has proven she can do crazy pretty well (see: “Parks and Recreation”). This probably won’t get a wide release, but I’m curious to see it. Anticipation Meter – 3

Good Time (11th) – This will probably be another limited release, but it’s getting incredibly strong reviews and the trailer looks good to me. The story centers around a young man racing around New York City trying to get his brother out of Riker’s Island. Robert Pattinson is getting rave reviews for his performance and I’ve never really liked his work, so I think it would be cool to see some great acting from him. Anticipation Meter – 3

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (18th) – The premise of the world’s top protection agent being assigned to protect the life of one of the world’s most notorious hitmen is kind of interesting and so is the combination of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, but the trailer looked pretty weak to me. My interest will depend entirely on word of mouth for this one. Anticipation Meter – 2

Logan Lucky (18th) – Another heist movie from director Steven Soderbergh except this time his group of robbers are headed by a couple of slow-witted brothers played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver and the plan is to rob what looks like a NASCAR race? Daniel Craig seems to be playing very against type in this movie and I’m not sure it’s going to go well. There’s some pedigree here but Soderbergh’s peak was about 15 years ago. Anticipation Meter – 2

Patti Cake$ (18th) – I saw the trailer for this for the first time today and it kind of shocked me. It’s basically 8 Mile except instead of the one of the best rappers of all time in the starring role, we have an unknown big white girl? I’m willing to keep an open mind and the film has gotten some good praise, but I’m also a hip-hop snob, so for this movie to have any chance of hitting home with me this girl better be exceptional. I’m wary, but an underdog movie centered around rap music is something that definitely interests me. Anticipation Meter – 3

Birth of the Dragon (25th) – A Bruce Lee biopic set in 1960s San Francisco and centered around an epic fight between Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man. Trailer looks good. Anticipation Meter – 3

Polaroid (25th) – A horror movie along the lines of The Ring in which anyone whose photo is taken by the camera in the movie… dies. Doesn’t seem very groundbreaking and the trailer looks okay at best. Anticipation Meter – 2

Tulip Fever (25th) – A period piece set in Amsterdam about a young woman that marries a wealthy merchant to escape poverty but falls for an artist hired to paint her portrait. Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, and Judi Dench headline a very good cast. Vikander and Waltz have done some really good work in the past decade and that’s enough reason for me to see this movie. Anticipation Meter – 3

MUSIC

There are literally zero albums listed for August that I’m interested in. I’ve been on a Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott kick the last week or so because I’m seeing their show at the Tacoma Dome tonight. I have a pretty busy August coming up, but maybe I’ll finally get around to doing my next profile write up and catch up on some 2017 album ratings.

Notable Netflix Additions

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (1st)
Jackie Brown (1st)
The Matrix (1st)
The Matrix Reloaded (1st)
The Matrix Revolutions (1st)
The Founder (2nd)
Marvel’s The Defenders: Season One (8th)
Death Note (25th)