The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 📺

I watched episode one of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier this week. It’s a show about two MCU characters I don’t particularly care that much about, so it wasn’t something I was really looking forward to, but I pay for Disney+ anyway and thought I may as well check it out. Reader, I liked it!

My first impression is that it looks like it cost a zillion dollars. Special-effects-wise, it looks on par with the Marvel movies. Based on that alone, I could see why Disney originally wanted it to premiere first, before WandaVision and whatever other Marvel shows are being developed.

My second impression is that I appreciated that it was trying to tell a Black story as well as a super hero story. I am not optimistic that Sam’s (The Falcon’s) family side story is going to be anything but predictable, but it is nice to see an attempt to give the character some grounding in reality. Race is an issue that touches everything in American life, unfortunately. In some ways, it would be disrespectful to Sam’s character and to the audience not to address that in some way.

I don’t have anything bad to say about the Winter Soldier part of the show, but it isn’t as interesting to me. I expect it to follow a predictable “antihero almost, but doesn’t quite, make good” formula, but maybe the writers will surprise me.

Predictability aside, I’m just glad to have something new and fun to watch.

📺 Gen: Lock

I watched Gen:lock over the past week. I was disappointed that it introduced a premise-breaking plot development in the penultimate episode. My beef is 100% spoiler-y.

The shows is a mecha anime. Its premise is that, in some future war in which big robots piloted by people fight each other, a new type of mech is developed that is remotely controlled by very rare, very special kind of person. That person must bind her mind to the mech through a lot of hand-wavey technology called gen:lock.

The problem is, we learn three things in the final two episodes of season 1 that make the pilots unnecessary:

  1. A person’s mind can uploaded to, and downloaded from, a digital brain
  2. A digital brain can be copied an indefinite number of times.
  3. A digital brain is all that is needed to drive a mech

If one pilot’s mind can be copied, without harming her, and then bound to any number of mechs, then why do we need the pilots at all, once you’ve got the first one’s mind copied? If the pilots aren’t really necessary, why haven’t the characters in charge of the gen:lock program figured that out yet?

I’m not sure I will pick it up again when season 2 comes out. Maybe this kind of anime isn’t for me.

Mo Willems and The Storytime All-Stars Present: Don’t Let The Pigeon Do Storytime!

📺 My wife and i accidentally found the Mo Willems special, “Mo Willems and The Storytime All-Stars Present: Don’t Let The Pigeon Do Storytime!”, on HBO Max earlier this week. We watched it with our kids this afternoon, and we all loved it. It is so joyous and nutty and fun that we got sucked into it right away. Mo Willems is a treasure.

📺 After a long work day, I finally caught up on “WandaVision.” It is weirdly delightful. I like to think that cast was having fun with its nutty premise.

📺 Fullmetal Alchemist

While I have been working a ton lately, I can’t work every second of the day. I have been watching the “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime series (there are two), mostly late at night, to unwind.

I watched the entirety of “Fullmetal Alchemist”—which is the first anime adaptation of the manga—first. Because it veers widely off of the plot of the manga (which, since I am not a manga reader, I don’t care about), it seems to be widely considered the lesser of the two adaptations. I think that sells it short. There are lots of sad, thought-provoking episodes, especially toward the beginning of the run, in which characters and the audience question what it means to be human, and what is the value of a human soul. These questions build up to big ideas and set pieces by the end, which is satisfying. There are some structural problems with how the story is told—mostly in the way the timeline, pacing, and character balance shift between the beginning, middle, and end of the series—but there is no problem that majorly detracts from the series as a whole. You could quibble that a lot of the theory behind how the magic system works doesn’t make any sense, which is vital to the overall theme of the series. Consider, however, that it is a magic system, you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit to begin with, and of course it doesn’t make perfect sense.

I am almost done watching the second adaptation, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, which stays true to the manga plot and is generally lauded as the better of the two anime series. At this point, I don’t think of it as “better” but it certainly is much different. The stakes in “Brotherhood” are much higher, the characters are more tightly integrated throughout the series, and the tone overall is funnier and less sad, despite the raised stakes and some (somewhat) more mature relationship elements between childhood friends/teenage-phenoms Edward and Winry. Despite these advantages, “Brotherhood” is far more cartoony in style, which I don’t prefer. It uses chibi (super deformed) style far more heavily than the first adaptation did, which I find distracting—the characters are often blowing their stacks in anger or are extremely embarrassed or go into some of other extreme, but emotionally and visually, that takes me out of the story a bit. That is a relatively small demerit, however, and it is offset by the increased complexity of the story.

I am eager to see how “Brotherhood” ends, and would recommend that everyone try watching both series, especially the first one, because it is very good despite being the less-loved one.

📺 Little Voice

My wife and I recently discovered the Apple TV+ show “Little Voice” and very much enjoy it.

It is different in pace and tone from other shows (like “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) that we have been watching lately. While there is a lot going on in each episode, the pace feels slow and thoughtful, as if the show is focused mainly on the growth of its characters and on illustrating (a version of) the New York City music scene. I would not recommend watching “Little Voice” for its main plot, because it appears to follow the well-worn path of “talented-but-unknown artist slowly becomes successful.” That said, there are a ton of great character moments throughout.

The main draw of the show is the music, most of which are songs written by series co-creator Sara Bareilles. There is a lot of music performance in each episode. All these sections look great, sound great, and are integrated completely naturally into the story. However, they serve as the primary reason why the pace is slow. If you don’t like the music, then the show will not be for you.

Overall, I think that “Little Voice” is under-rated. It didn’t blow up like “Ted Lasso” (which is, indeed, great) or “Central Park” (which is also great), but is my third-favorite Apple TV+ series thus far.

📺 I finally watched “Picard” this week. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I thought the ending was a mess and a cop-out. I was king of hoping for the “Logan” version of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (something dark and elegiac and serious from start to finish) but “Picard” started that way and retreated into magical Star Trek silliness. I’m not sure I’ll be on board for season 2.

📺 I rewatched the first episode of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” last night to gauge how approve would be for me to watch with my 8-year-old daughter. Considering she doesn’t know what “war” is (lucky her), it might be a bit hard for her to get into. I think it is worthwhile, though, because the series is rich and complex while still being fun enough for kids.

📺 Cool! “Star Trek: Picard” is getting some good reviews, like this one.

📺 The Morning Show is actually pretty good

I was sick all weekend and, consequently, watched way more TV than usual. I watched most of the Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show”. From what I had heard about it online and in various podcasts, I had anticipated a disappointing, underwhelming drama that grasped for, but never reached, Aaron Sorkin-esque heights.

I was pleasantly surprised, however. I liked it quite a bit. If this is mediocre TV, then much of what I have been watching the past couple years must be truly bad.

📺 “Russian Doll" is a really trippy take on the Groundhog Day-type plot. It has managed to get really, really weird now that I’m close to the end. (No spoilers, please!)

📺 “Watchmen”, which ended last night (spoilers ahead if you read the linked article) is easily the best sci-fi/fantasy show I’ve since since “Westworld” season 1. I actually hope HBO either (1) doesn’t make a season 2, or (2) gives several years for something that equals it to be developed, because “Watchmen” was just perfect.

📺 “Watchmen” is still fantastic. I’m going to miss it once season one is over—which is really soon.

📺 I watched Bears from Disneynature tonight with my kids. The photography is just incredible, and it is exactly the sort of thing I want to get my kids interested in. My daughter loved it so much she drew a picture of a bear. 🐻😀

📺 I remain excited for the “His Dark Materials” series. The last preview I saw made me wonder if it would be more goofy than good, but this teaser, in which author Philip Pullman provides some soundbites, has pulled me back in to being into it.

📺 I watched the premiere episode of “Watchmen” a couple days ago and am still a little shaken by it. I am not sure I liked it, but it certainly made an upsetting and confounding impression on me.

📺 I got to watch it a bit late, but I was please that “The Good Place” returned to form in their last episode. I have thought that Season 4 has felt tired so far (the new characters really don’t help), but last week’s episode was sharp and funny. I hope tonight’s is as well.

📺 I am excited that “The Good Place” is returning tonight. This season will be its last. I hope they nail the ending. 🤞

📺 I didn’t think I would like “Good Omens” but I definitely do. It is funny and I really like the cast. I’m about halfway through it, so I hope it stays as amusing as it is at the start.

📺 “Westworld” season 3 looks fascinating. I’m excited, as always, to see where this show is going, and can’t wait to see Aaron Paul play off of Evan Rachel Wood and (hopefully) Jeffrey Wright.

📺 I am super late to it, but I may just like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” even more than “The Good Place”. (I don’t even know myself any more!)

“How is The Good Place so Good?" This is relevant to my interests.

📺 I think I need to re-watch “The Good Place”. (It’s available on Netflix.) And, hey, there’s a behind-the-scenes podcast for the show, too!

📺 I’m enjoying the “remix” version of “Arrested Development” season 4 a lot better than the original version. I’m sure time passing and my expectations being lowered helped, but I prefer to see all (most) of the characters in the same episodes.

Am I the only one who kept thinking “Jake Jortles”* during the Pats/Jags game tonight? 🏈 (* Jason Mendoza’s assumed identity in the latest episode of “The Good Place”)