Recent media (and other diversions)

Inspired, of course, by Kottke.

Ratings have two components: a momentary assessment, either of quality (expressed with 1–4 β˜…) or of subjective enjoyment (expressed as 1–4 πŸ…™); and my level of confidence that I’ll feel the same way in the future (expressed as a percentage). Aren’t I cute.

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October 2022

πŸ“Ί Rings of Power, Season 1. Boy was this uneven. The visuals were great, casting was mostly great except for Elrond and Gil-galad. I enjoyed the proto-Hobbit and Southlands storylines. But the writing was a mess in a lot of places, and varied a lot between episodes. (Dwarves having mining accidents? Come on.) (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜† / 85%)

πŸ•Ή Ori and the Blind Forest. Bought this and the sequel on sale for $10 each. I suck at platformers and this one is challenging for me, in some un-fun ways even, on the lightest difficulty setting. But it’s beautiful. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 70%)

πŸ•Ή Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I’ve had this game for more than 2 years and just finally finished it this month. Kept at it because my son loves puzzles. No plans to grab the sequel yet, maybe someday though. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜† / 70%)

September 2022

πŸ“Ί Cyberpunk: Edgerunners S1. Every once in a long while I end up randomly watching something that is…so far outside my normal taste. This show has tons of visceral, horrifying medical violence, as well as the regular kind of violence. I don’t know if I’m going to watch the whole thing, but I’m 5 episodes in and idly fascinated.

πŸ•Ή Return to Monkey Island. Puzzle/adventure games are one of my favorite kinds of games. My kids and I had several fun evenings playing through this one (on Hard mode!). The puzzles, art and music are really good… but the ending was not. (β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜† / 70%)

πŸ•Ή Portal 2. As with the first one in July, my first playthrough. Once again my six year old cheered me on through the whole thing and helped me figure out several of the puzzles (really!). (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 85%)

August 2022

πŸŒ† Minnesota State Fair. Went twice this year. Good food and beer. Took the kids on rides. Watched part of a horse show. Talked with beekeepers. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Lightyear (2022). There are some great dialogue and tight action scenes in this film. They opted for a much β€œharder” flavor of sci fi than most family films. Maybe partially for that reason, its world feels a bit empty and lonely. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 70%)

🎬 Luck (2022). As a low-stakes family film, eminently watchable. (πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώβ’Ώ / 70%)

πŸ“• Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le CarrΓ©. Probably my fourth or fifth time through this book. The audiobook read by Michael Jayston is a real treat β€” Michael has such a marbly, listenable voice. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 98%)

πŸ•Ή 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim for Nintendo Switch. I was really absorbed by this one. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 80%)

🎬 RRR (2022). I’d never seen slow motion hero shots so effectively glorify β€” nay, deify β€” its subjects as well as this movie’s do. And they stick because the movie is so relentlessly sincere. Likewise the fight (and dance!) scenes work β€” as camp, yes β€” but also as the expression of a 12 year old boy’s embarrassingly sincere idea of the emotional content of a fight: impact, finesse, supremacy, justice. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 80%)

πŸ“ΊπŸ•Ή Skyrim β€” Longplay Main Quest Full Game Walkthrough (No Commentary). Twelve hours long, been watching it in tiny chunks here and there for a few weeks now. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 55%)

July 2022

🎬 tick, tick…BOOM! (2021). The music, acting and writing were great. The themes rhyme a lot with β€œLa La Land”: you can either have misery and creative fulfillment, or a loving partner and sanitary living conditions, but not both. I kind of wish a movie would explore that second option more positively once in a while, but it is what it is. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 55%)

πŸ•Ή Portal for Nintendo Switch. My first-ever playthrough of this game, took about 5 hours. Great experience. I don’t mind admitting my six-year old son figured out some of the puzzles before I did. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 85%)

June 2022

πŸ“• The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition β€” Hardcover. Just started reading this to my kids, the oldest of whom is almost 9. If you want a good hardcover with some nice full-page and spot illustrations to prime your kids’ imaginations, this one is worth considering.

πŸ”Š Mordechai by Khruangbin. This is my summer album. Put it on Spotify and let it play through to Khruangbin radio. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 85%)

πŸ•Ή Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for Nintendo Switch. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 75%)

πŸ•ΉπŸ“± Solitaire Stories on Apple Arcade. This has been my go-to mobile game for a couple of months, but the recent addition of (seemingly oxymoronic) multi-player Solitaire has me hooked. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 75%)

🎬 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2019). Might be my favorite superhero movie (which is not a big genre for me). Everything about it is next-level. The roll-credits animation/music at the end is kind of jaw-dropping. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 90%)

πŸ“• Sourcery by Terry Pratchett. Listened to this on a long drive. Pratchett can turn a clever phrase and frequently makes me laugh, but I have a hard time caring about any of the characters or events. (β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜† / 70%)

May 2022

🎬 Top Gun: Maverick (2022). This has to be the highest-budget Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen in my life. The flying is a fun ride. I like the slanting sun rays and synth music. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 85%)

πŸ“Ί Severance, Season 1. Really good, not gonna say much else about it. β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 95%

April 2022

🎬 The Bad Guys (2022). Saw in theaters with the kids β€” our first-ever theater movie as a whole family! I got through this one by placing it in my mind as a β€œFantastic Mr Fox” prequel; the two fit surprisingly well, with minor contortions. I liked the animation style. Otherwise forgettable. (πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώβ’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). Saw in theaters. Many familiar parts, but they combine for a fun ride. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 75%)

πŸ“• Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel. Great prose, just as with her first book Station Eleven, which was one of my favorite reads of the 2010s. However, I was able to guess most of the end of this book when only about a third of the way through, so my enjoyment was somewhat blunted.

πŸ“Ί Station Eleven. Best series I’ve seen since Watchmen. I really enjoyed the book, but this was even better and it hit a lot harder. And hey, I have Jeevan’s coat! β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 95%

πŸ•Ή Triangle Strategy. I’m perhaps about halfway through this. Lots of quibbles, but…I’m still playing. Strong contender for okayest game of the year. Love the art style. Would have been nice to have any exploration or discovery. β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜† / 70%

March 2022

πŸ“• Leviathan Wakes. Started in May 2021, just now pulled myself over the finish line. This was well-written, it just doesn't align with my current tastes; the stakes are too big. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Death on the Nile (2022). Saw in the theater. Fun enough for one viewing! (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Toy Story 2 (1999). Coming off a very hard month of work, watching this with the kids was super chill. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 80%)

February 2022

🎬 The Cat Returns (2002). Watched for family movie night. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜† / 90%)

πŸ•Ή Tetris Effect. Picked up on sale for USD $26. Everyone in the house independently had the same thought: this is Sayonara Wild Hearts for Tetris. Only through the first ten levels so far, but it’s great. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 80%)

🎬 Nanny McPhee (2021). I talked the kids (8 and 6 years old) into watching this with Jess and me, and they loved it. Seeing them survive the initial β€œugly” acts to get to all the transformations at the end was very rewarding. All star BBC cast, and a visual treat. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 90%)

January 2022

πŸ“Ί Foundation Season 1. Very mixed opinion of this show. Its additions to the story are sometimes brilliant and sometimes incredibly mediocre. The storytelling approach is not what I was hoping for. We’ll see how season 2 does. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 50%)

πŸ•Ή Dragon Quest Builders 2. Picked this up on sale after having played through the (extremely generous) free demo months ago. I’m hooked. Tim Rogers Review (14 min). (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 65%)

🎬 Red Notice (2021). Hey. This movie never asked me even once to take it seriously, or acted as though it was supposed to make sense or be in any aspect original. It promised me only ridiculous dialogue, ludicrous action, and laughs. I probably will never watch it again, but I did laugh, so there it is. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 40%)

December 2021

πŸ“• Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The original Blade Runner film was based on this novel, and reading it made some aspects of the film much more legible. Definitely has that dated sci-fi mustiness: the gender roles, the quarter-operated phones. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 90%)

πŸ“• Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Got this one for Christmas. Clarke’s other novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell might be my favorite novel ever, so I was interested to read this one even though it’s much shorter. I enjoyed it a lot and there’s definitely thematic overlap with JS&MN. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Die Hard (1988). My first time seeing this classic film. Oh look, young Alan Rickman. Oh look, Bruce Willis with hair. Maybe I just need to read the right thinkpiece about why this movie is so highly regarded, or maybe it really is just nostalgia. Mostly a fine, if dated, movie, tainted by some annoying and pathetic copaganda. Fun fact: this film happens to share a supporting actor with Ernest Saves Christmas, the other movie I saw that night. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 30%)

🎬 Ernest Saves Christmas (1988). Watched it with the kids, their first time. I still have some nostalgia for the Ernest character, but something about his sense of humor has not held up for post-boomer audiences. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 50%)

πŸ•Ή Unpacking. Pretty fun and not too long, which for me is a plus. My daughter is addicted, which I expected and am gratified to see. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 70%)

πŸ•Ή Cthulhu Saves Christmas. A holiday indulgence. Great JRPG parody. Gets a little repetitive in places, par for the course. The music goes super hard. This is probably a one-time experience for me but I had fun. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 70%)

🎬 West Side Story (2021). What a stab in the gut. It’s been too long since I saw the original to really compare, so I’m not comparing. Ansel Elgort somehow giving young Jeff Bridges vibes here. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 90%)

πŸ•Ή Disco Elysium. My first play-through. Great characters, savory writing, and a stunning, detailed fictional world. I’m nearly at the end and I don’t want it to be over. I would 100% read a novelization of this game. Already looking forward to making this a yearly experience. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 95%)

November 2021

πŸ•Ή The Touryst. A very tightly-crafted gaming artifact. Parts of this were more dexterity/action challenge than puzzle challenge, which isn’t really my jam. Some good moods in there. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 The French Dispatch. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 90%)

πŸ“Ί ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS Cyberpunk 2077. I’ve been a fan of Tim Rogers and his obsessive, dense, overbearingly baroque style since seeing his 2018 review of Dragon Quest XI. Since going independent last year, he has blossomed into a caricature of a caricature of himself (see his 3-hour review of Pac Man) and now he has gifted us this eight-part ten hours long review as his season finale. Nice to watch for weeks in small chunks. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 90%)

October 2021

πŸ•Ή A Short Hike (on Nintendo Switch). Played this with my young children. 1–2 hours long and very enjoyable. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 80%)

πŸ“Ί Schmigadoon. If you’ve watched musicals, you’ll enjoy. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 90%)

🎬 Free Guy. Saw this in the theatre. Comes off as Truman Show by way of Lego Movie. Everything that happens in the film’s β€œreal world” (dialogue, romance, villainy, employment situations, motives, character development, choices) is 100% less believable than the things that take place inside the video game. But we laughed a lot. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 20%)

🎬 LOL Surprise: The Movie. I lost a dispute with my daughter and this ended up being our family movie night movie. I like a lot of kids movies. With this one, I couldn’t really tell you what happened. (0 / 100%)

September 2021

🎬 The Green Knight Every frame is a painting. Dev Patel’s Gawain is a newborn boy fueled by shame. A whole wild mood. I feel like there were a lot of visual details that went over my head. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 80%)

August 2021

🎬 The Dig. My favorite thing about this film was the cast; Carrey Mulligan, Johnny Flynn, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James. Good and moody; kind of gets you in the end. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 80%)

πŸ“Ί Mare of Easttown. This was incredibly well-done…but it’s also another entry in the genre of β€œincredibly damaged detective, living in a close-knit community full of traumatized people living in helpless desperation, self-destructs while trying to solve multiple horrifying, dark crimes.” (See also: Broadchurch, Wallander, True Detective, etc.) I would not have watched if my wife hadn’t been interested. We did enjoy discussing it. So for me this was like a rainy hike; the experience improves once it’s over with. If I watch TV shows at all, my preference is for pleasant dissociation, not dread and catharsis. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 80%; πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώβ’Ώ / 55%)

πŸ“• The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I read this cover to cover in two calendar days. I can’t remember the last time I did that with a work of fiction. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 80%)

πŸ•Ή Divinity: Original Sin II (Switch). I have only finished the first act so far. There was definitely a learning curve on this one, but once I wrapped my brain around it I found it extremely enjoyable: a many-threaded story with a patient pace and extremely high detail.

🎬 Emma (2020) (rewatch). Here’s a theory: Austen movies are underrated as world-building fantasy endeavors. A good Austen movie drops you into a complicated social web and a beautiful, alien landscape. This one is boosted by having one of my favorite musicians as one of its leads. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 100%)

July 2021

🎬 3 Idiots (rewatch). The title is no preparation for what a fun, campy, great-feeling movie this is. Some great callbacks. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 100%)

🎬 Shrek. Watched with the kids. I had never seen it before now, so I don’t have any nostalgia associated with it. More fun than I expected. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 50%)

🎲 Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile by Leder Games. Beautiful art, board and pieces. Easily the most interesting board game I’ve played, and I love how it evolves every time you play. I’m just not sure how often I’ll realistically coordinate with 2–4 other people to play a 2–4 hour game. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώ / 80%)

🎬 Wild Mountain Thyme. This one was quite a surprise. Seems like a low-budget cable movie that somehow scored an A-list cast? The writing is uneven. Great train-wreck of a payoff, and I somehow mean that in a good way. Walken is great. Just ignore the accents. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 80%)

June 2021

🎬 Luca. More fun than I expected. (πŸ…™πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώ / 50%)

🎲 Fort by Leder Games. Jess and I played our fourth game recently and we’re enjoying it a lot. Probably best for four players (haven’t had a chance to try that yet), but still great for two. Games last 30–45 minutes, fun mechanics, great artwork. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 80%)

πŸ“• The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. I listened to the audiobook. It’s not properly approached or appreciated as entertaining fiction, but it’s not quite β€œspeculative documentary” either. I feel duty-bound to BS the enjoyment component of my rating and not to give any more details. Just read it. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… / 70%)

🎬 β€˜INSIDE’ Netflix special by Bo Burnham. Brilliant multidisciplinary execution. Also very funny and dark. (πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™πŸ…™ / 40%)

🎧 How Not to Drown by Chvrches. Since their first release, I’ve gone to Chvrches for synthy sound and dream-logic poetry, and more and more they’re giving up those distinctives for a more acoustic sound and fairly literal lyrics about relationships (what I’m calling their CCM phase). (πŸ…™β’Ώβ’Ώβ’Ώ / 80%)