Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Best Albums of 2019


10. Two Door Cinema Club - False Alarm

9. Silversun Pickups - Widow's Weeds

8. Mumford and Sons - Delta

7. The Head and the Heart - Living Mirage 

6. Generationals - Reader As Detective

5. Tegan & Sarah - Hey, I'm Just Like You

4. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

3. The National - I Am Easy To Find

2. Metronomy - Metronomy Forever

1. Andrew Bird - My Finest Work Yet

1. Matt & Kim - Almost Everyday
2. Chvurches - Love Is Dead
3. Death Cab for Cutie - Thank You For Today
4. Metric - Art of Doubt
5. Moon Taxi - Let The Record Play
6. The Decemberists - I'll Be Your Girl
7. Pale Waves - My Mind Makes Noises
8. The Rural Alberta Advantage - The Wild
9. Okkerville River - In The Rainbow Rain
10. Belle and Sabastian - How to Solve Our Human Problems

1. Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface
2. Future Islands - The Far Field
3. Mew - Visuals
4. Alt-J - Relaxer
5. The Shins - Heartworms
6. Portugal. The Man - Woodstock
7. Foster the People - The Sacred Hearts Club
8. The National - Sleep Well Beasts
9. Shout Out Louds - Ease My Mind
10. Arcade Fire - Everything Now

1. Radical Face - The Leaves
2. Cloud Cult - The Seeker
3. Islands - Taste
4. The Strumbellas - Hope
5. Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death
6. The Head And The Heart - Signs Of Light
7. The Avett Brothers - True Sadness
8. The Lumineers - Cleopatra
9. Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack
10. Empire of the Sun - Two Vines

1. Mowgli's - Kids In Love
2. Twenty One Pilots - Blurry Face
3. Matt And Kim - New Glow
4. Metric - Pagans In Vegas
5. Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi 
6. Belle And Sabastian - Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
7. Walk Off The Earth - Sing It All Away
8. Mew - + - 
9. Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Wonderful World
10. Chvurches - Every Open Eye

1. Future Islands - Singles
2. Passenger - Whispers
3. Bishop Allen - Lights Out
4. Tokyo Police Club - Forcefield
5. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mended With Gold
6. Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow
7. Spoon - The Want My Soul
8. Foster the People - Supermodel
9. Broken Bells - After the Disco
10. Manchester Orchestra - Cope

1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
2. Radical Face - Family Tree: The Branches
3. Twenty One Pilots - Vessel
4. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
5. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
6. Shout Out Louds - Optica
7. Crystal Fighters - Cave Rave
8. The Sounds - Weekend
9. Tegan & Sara - Heartthrob
10. Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero

1. Radical Face – The Family Tree: The Roots
2. Passion Pit - Gossamer
3. Mumford And Son – Babel
4. Miike Snow – Happy To You
5. Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
6. Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
7. Metric – Sythetica
8. Dr. Dog – Be The Void
9. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal
10. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

1. Death Cab For Cutie – Codes And Keys
2. The Sounds – Something To Die For
3. Architecture In Helsinki – Moment Bends
4. Decemberists – The King Is Dead
5. The Strokes – Angles
6. The Head And The Heart – The Head And The Heart
7. Brett Dennen – Loverboy
8. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
9. I’m From Barcelona – Forever Today
10. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

1. The National – High Violet
2. Vampire Weekend – Contra
3. Shout Out Louds – Work
4. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More
5. Mates Of State – Crushes
6. Dr. Dog – Shame Shame
7. Rogue Wave – Permalight
8. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
9. Matt & Kim – Sidewalks
10. Tokyo Police Club – Champ

1. The Sounds – Crossing The Rubicon
2. Passion Pit – Manners
3. Metric – Fantasies
4. Animal Collective – Merryweather Post Pavilion
5. Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream
6. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns
7. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
8. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
9. Islands – Vapours
10. Mew – No More Stories Are Told…

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Top 20 Television Shows I watched in 2019

My wife and I watch too much tv. But I am not going to feel bad about it because it is something we enjoy doing together. She will not feel bad about it, because I will often give her foot rubs as we watch. No, you can’t make us feel guilty about watching too much TV. That being said, HERE ARE MY 20 FAVORITE TV SHOWS I WATCHED IN 2019:

20. Living With Yourself (Season 1) - Netflix
Paul Rudd is terrific in this short, cooky, little ditty of a show. The humor is dark, but fun, and each episode leads you into deeper and deeper thought about depression and self-improvement.

19. Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3) - Netflix
I ranked seasons 1 & 2 of this show very highly in years past. This season, however, just doesn’t catch the flair and comedy feel as the past. Regardless, it is an extremely amusing show to watch as a family and we watched each episode twice, as many jokes are missed your first time through. Massive kudos go to Neil Patrick Harris, who gives the books the on-screen treatment they deserve. I’m sad to see this show go.

18. The Punisher (Season 2) - Netflix
Call me barmy, but I loved this season of The Punisher. It was brutal, rugged, violent and frantic and it was the best superhero show I watched this year. More than a new aged western than a superhero story, the show’s heart beats with each fight scene. It is a flat out sham that there won’t be a third season.

17. Homeland (Season 7) - DVD
This series continues to plow along strong, in spite of some wacky story lines. It is strange to look back at the first season of this show, as it hardly resembles what it has become. Nevertheless, the show is still well made and filled with energy.

16. Shameless (Season 9) - Netflix
Warning: This show is not for everyone. It is crude, profane, vulgar and tawdry. With that said, it is the most realistic look into poverty in America’s large cities that currently exists on television. It is also a show that, even over the course of nine years, continues to get better with age. While William H. Macy’s wife battled court problems this year, he was perhaps giving his best performance in the show to date. Cheers to an upcoming tenth season!

15. The Walking Dead (Season 9) - Netflix
One of my guilty pleasures, this season may have actually risen above my “guilty” title. The overall story writing and quality improved and it became the best season in years. I’m glad it’s back, in a way, but I am nervous it will return to the “nothing ever really happens” story lines that plagued it the years before.

14. The Americans (Season 6) - Amazon Prime
What a fitting, tremendous ending to what has become an all-time great television program. I am a little disappointed in myself for placing it so low, but there were just so many great shows I watched this year. Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys deserve lifetime achievement awards for their acting in this show alone. Will go down as one of my all-time favorites.

13. Killing Eve (Seasons 1-2) - DVD
I was a bit skeptical going into this one, as it looked like something that wouldn’t fit my taste. I was wrong. This show is filled with sleek fight scenes and plot twists and turns that will keep you guessing and coming back for more.

12. Nathan For You (Seasons 1-4) - DVD
Nathan Fielder is a genius. More specifically, a comic genius. He is the smartest comic you’ve never heard of. This show had me cracking up with each more ridiculous lark he pulls on the morons around us. I’m not sure how to even describe his hijinks, other than to say that this fake reality show will keep you rolling for hours.

11. True Detective (Season 3) - DVD
Thank the detective gods that this show returned with a vengeance after a shoddy second season. Mahersali Ali proves, again, that he is one of this generation’s greatest actors in this biting production. While not quite reaching the heights of season 1, this season certainly makes up for the faults of season 2.

10. Escape at Dannemora (Season 1) - DVD
Well, Ben Stiller can direct, that much is certain. This true story was blighting, frigid and compelling. It is also crass and bawdy, so viewer beware. This look at prison life made me ponder the harsh realities that prisoners and prison workers face each day and might be the best prison escape on film since Shawshank Redemption.

9. Chernobyl (Season 1) - DVD
Perhaps the most well made show on my list. This sobering true story kept me up at nights, wondering how this could happen and how it is still affecting people in Russia. It plays out as almost an unthinkable science fiction drama, but ultimately was all real. Secondary plaudits go to the cinematography of Russia, which was also likely the best on my list.

8. Fosse/Verdon (Season 1) - DVD
Another true story that I was hesitant to start. Another true story that I was glad that I did. The love story of a choreographer and a dancer would not normally appeal to me in any way. But the drama was enthralling and their life stories bewitching and I found myself looking more and more forward to watching each chapter of their life unfold.

7. Mindhunter (Season 2) - Netflix
If you enjoy true crime stories, and I know 90% of women do, then you’d enjoy Mindhunter. Season 2 ups the ante on serial killers and the result is an even more engaging ride than the first season.

6. Stranger Things (Season 3) - Netflix
Stranger Things was my favorite show of 2018. It may have been my favorite show this year as well, if it weren’t for five shows that were slightly better. I loved the 80’s mall feel of this season and I felt that the comedy was the best of all the seasons. I hope that this show hasn’t jumped the shark, however, as it is hard to see it continue its popularity at this frantic pace.

5. Cobra Kai (Seasons 1-2) - DVD
The Karate Kid was my absolute favorite movie as a kid. I can say that with 100% certainty. I watched all three films at least 10 times each and I even read the screenplays. I dressed as the karate kid for Halloween on two different occasions. And, here is the kicker, I even wrote a continuation of the story after part 3 ended. Now, nearly 30 years later, my dream has become a reality as the story really has continued. Here’s the kicker: It is even better than the original movies! Despite corny lines and teenage lovey-dovey drama, the show really dives into Johnny and Daniel’s post-karate life. Yes, maybe it is a guilty pleasure, but it is a guilty pleasure I will stand behind.

4. When They See Us (Season 1) - Netflix
I was stunned when the Golden Globes didn’t give this show a single acting nomination, because I feel like it deserves to WIN every acting award. This dynamic and disheartening true story left me feeling all of the emotions. Every episode was like a movie, in and of itself. By the end, you are heartbroken, lost and moved to action. By the very end, you are filled with hope.

3. The Last Man on Earth (Seasons 2-4) - DVD
Perhaps the most underrated television comedy since “Freaks and Geeks.” It has been years since I laughed as much at a television show as I laughed at The Last Man on Earth. In my mind, because of this show, Will Forte is now comedy royalty. Here’s the kicker: The show is full of terrific drama on top of the comedy!

2. Better Call Saul (Season 4) - Netflix
I’m not sure how many more seasons Better Call Saul will last, but I hope it’s at least two. I didn’t think it would be possible, but I may actually like this show more than - gasp - Breaking Bad. Certainly, it has more laughs. I can’t wait to see how the whole thing ties together, but I hope the show’s creators take their time.

1. A Handmaid’s Tale (Seasons 2-3) - DVD
My opinion states that this is currently the best show on television and my opinion is NEVER wrong. I liked season 1, I didn’t love it. I loved seasons 2 and 3. I was glued to every episode. Sometimes, I even would put my phone down to watch what was going on! I am not sure if this could be a “lady” show or not. I don’t care. It’s the best show on television right now and I stand by that until my dying day, or until something better comes along.

The Mandalorian (Season 1/2) - Disney +
Schitt's Creek (Season 5) - Netflix
Game of Thrones (Season 8) - DVD
The Good Place (Season 3) - Netflix
Sharp Objects (Season 1) - DVD
This Is Us (Season 3) - DVD
Dead To Me (Season 1) - Netflix
Black Summer (Season 1) - Netflix
The Crown (Season 3) - Netflix
Patrick Melrose (Season 1) - DVD
Thirteen (Season 1) - Amazon
Outlander (Season 4) - DVD

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

My Favorite Movies of 2018

The Best Movies of 2018 as voted by ME

Honorable Mentions

- Bird Box
- Hereditary 
- Incredibles 2
- The Hate U Give
- Creed II
- Mission Impossible: Fallout
- The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man
- Ant-Man & The Wasp
- Avengers: Infinity War
- The 12th Man
- The Old Man and the Gun
- Summer of '84
- Boy Erased
Top 20

20. The Mule (R) - The Mule (2018): 4 out of 5 stars - Say what you will about Clint Eastwood, but he can still act, even at age 88. He keeps this movie interesting and moving along quite swimmingly. Who knew that a story about an old man driving a truck could be so fascinating.

19. A Star is Born (R) - A little long and occasionally trite. That being said, those flaws are overshadowed by thunderous performances by a tremendous cast and an engaging story.

18. Blindspotting (R) - Can a movie this powerful, culturally in tune and at times intense also be funny? Why yes it can. And it is. Daviid Diggs gives one of the year's best performance with humor and thoughtfulness. His performance builds and builds to a final scene so powerful, so well done, so ambitious that the scene alone should earn him an Oscar nomination.  Warning: This movie is NOT for those offended by language. Watch it on Clear Play. There is a lot of street swearing in this movie.

17.  Searching (PG13) - Proof that you can solve any crime on the internet. This "whodunit" mystery has the typical twists and turns you'd expect, but with an added original twist of internet. My wife loves murder mysteries and she LOVED this movie. My only complaint is just one (semi) ridiculous plot twist... but otherwise the performances and script were on par. During one scene, I got the chills. I'd highly recommend this one.

16. Pick of the Litter (PG) - Another fantastic documentary in a year of fantastic documentaries. This one focuses on five dogs that were bred and trained to help the blind. Ultimately, it's about amazing dogs and their unbelievable bond with their trainers and owners. Even if you are not a dog person (like me), you will be fascinated and amazed with what these dogs can do. If you are a dog person (like my sons), you may love this movie more than any you see this year.

15. Bohemian Rhapsody (PG13) - The first half of the film drags as it is a basic history of how the band formed. I could have gotten that from any Queen youtube video. The second half is where the movie soars. The second half focusses on who Freddie Mercury was as a person and how he dealt with the problems he faced. This was far more interesting and intimate to the viewer than a history of the band. Rami Malik exceeds all expectations with his portrayal of Freddie. And just like Queen had the guts to release Bohemian Rhapsody as a 7 minute single, kudos to the director for having the guts to show the entire Live Aid performance (perhaps the greatest rock performance of all time).

14. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG) - Originality, fun and creativity is the name of this Spiderman. A unique comic-book feel adds to the overall spectacle. The movie never takes itself seriously and has many moments of genuine comedy. My only complaint is that sometimes everything going on on the screen at once was a little overwhelming. Regardless, this film's passion and coolness shine through and it lands as both the year's best superhero movie and the year's best animated movie. And one of the ten best movies of 2018.

13. Mary Poppin Returns (PG) - I can't imagine a director going to more effort to pay homage to the original film than this one did. It has every last detail cloned, from the lovable characters, to the catchy music, to nearly the exact same plot as the original. That is my only complaint: that there is really no originality to the plot. Nevertheless, let there be no mistake, this is Emily Blunt's show. This was the role she was born to play and she soars, whether it be with a kite, umbrella or balloon. 

12. The Clovehitch Killer (R) - If it's tension, anxiety, uncomfortableness, squirming in your seat, nervousness and thrill that you seek, this movie is right up your angst alley. The ow budget feel makes it seem even more creepy. This movie is not for everyone, but if you like to feel the above ways, you need to see this.

11. Bad Times at the El Royale (R) - A fun romp into an evil world at an old hotel. Jeff Bridges has a formidable performance and the rest of the cast soars right along side his lead. Tensely violent and fearlessly brutal, this rollercoaster ride ends entirely satisfying.

10. Upgrade (R)Not a perfect action movie, but darn close. 100 minutes of packed excitement and gory fun. Excellent writing for an action movie as well. One of 2018's best.

9. What They Had (R) - Heartbreaking, thoughtful, and moving. A true love story till the end. If you cried at the beginning of Up, this one will really get you. If you've had a loved one slugger from memory loss or dementia, this one will hit hard.

8. Leave No Trace (PG) - It moves slowly, but even with its deliberate pace, it feels like every moment of the film matters. It examines the love between a father and daughter, mental illness and the desire to be loved by others. Certainly one of the best movies of 2018. (Rated PG and there is zero offensive in this movie.)

7. Three Identical Strangers (PG13) - The story about three identical triplets that are separated at birth and given up for adoption, only to find each other as teenagers in this documentary is one of the most incredible and intriguing stories you will ever see. It's more than a story about the three triplets. I am still reeling from this film. It is hard to believe what happens in this film is real, but indeed it is. Highly, highly recommend.

6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (R) - This one's on Netflix, so you can watch it now. This might be my all time favorite Cohen Brothers film. (And I LOVE Fargo) I loved it that much. Six short western stories, the first being hilarious and so much fun. My only complaint was the last story was a bit dull. Not the one to go out with. So well done and incredible scenery. I loved almost every second of this film! (FYI: The only reason I can see that it is rated R is for old western violence. No swears, no sex.)

5. Free Solo (PG13) - Incredible, preposterous, extreme, perhaps the most nerve-wracking movie I have ever seen. The viewer is torn between deciding if what Alex is doing in front of your eyes is incredibly stupid or highly inspirational. Maybe a little of both. Certainly one of the best movies of 2018 and possibly deserving of its Oscar.

4. A Quiet Place (PG13) -  A movie that reminds you of why you love watching movies. Nearly perfect. And finally, PLEASE NO SEQUEL! It ended perfectly. A sequel would ruin it.

3. Green Book (PG13) - About a third into this film, you realize that it is not your average drama about race and class in the US. About halfway through, you realize that the chemistry and writing make this film truly special. About two-thirds into this movie, you have laughed much harder than you ever expected and you see how the director uses comedy as a vessel for hope. As the film winds down, instead of the anger and bitterness you often feel at the end of movies about race, you are left with a sense of faith and optimism. As you leave the theater, you feel like you have just taken part of one of those movies that are truly magical and one of those movies that reminds you of why you love going to movies in the first place. This is a must see and one of the best movies of 2018.

2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (PG) - I don't know if it is the tender childhood memories I have of Fred Rogers, the fact that I have also dedicated my life to early childhood education, the inspiring story of his life, or a combination of all three, but from almost the first minute, I was wiping away tears. I must have looked like an idiot, wiping tear after tear from my eyes for two straight hours, but I am fairly sure, given the many sniffles I heard, that everyone in the theater was doing the same. Any person that watched Mr. Rogers as a kid should see this movie, and those that didn't should see it as well. Fred Rogers is one of the closest things we may ever see to an actual angel on earth and this film is a fitting tribute to how he changed the world. (And it might actually also increase your faith.)

1. Eighth Grade (R) -
A year ago, I spent 3 months as an intern principal in middle school and I can say for certain that this is the most realistic portrayal of middle school ever portrayed on film. With his first film, Bo Burnham has created a masterpiece.
Much of the credit for how incredible this film is has to go to young Elsie Fisher, who certainly deserves a nomination for every award available to be given to her. Her portrayal of a quiet, loner, awkward, anxiety-driven 14-year-old Kayla made the audience fall in love with her. She played the part to perfection.
Two things that this film got right that other teenaged-flicks get wrong: 1. More often than not, "bullying" in middle school is not calling someone names or beating someone up. No, the bullying that is much more prevalent is much more subtle and dubious. Most bullying done in middle school is not the stereotypical bullying seen in most movies. Instead, it takes the form of students not necessarily being rude to others, but simply ignoring those on the fringes. Most of these kinds of bullies can say, "I am not being mean!" but in reality, they are also not being nice either. This film captures the reality of this phenomenon perfectly.
The second thing this film got right was this: middle school these days is not a mixture of jocks and nerds and stereotypical groups. The students are more ambiguous and less defined by labels. A student now could be considered a "nerd" in the classic sense and still be considered popular and cool at school. That being said, there are certainly "in" students and students on the fray, wishing and hoping to someday be invited in. Again, this film captures this perfectly and with stunning brilliance.
While watching Eighth Grade, the viewer is often forced back into their own 14-year-old, self, reliving the painful, awkward moments of their youth. Eighth Grade is not always easy to watch because of this and what happens to Kayla breaks your heart on multiple occasions. It's because her experience is so relatable that the movie works so well. This was the most tear-jerking comedy I have ever seen.
That being said, Eighth Grade is packed full of laugh-out-loud moments. The parenting moments are so relatable, I could hear moms and dads rolling with laughter. The end awkward date scene is the funniest thing I have seen all year.
This is the best movie of 2018 so far. Bravo, Bo Burnham! Good luck ever living up to this masterpiece again!

10. Dunkirk
9. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
8. The Shape of Water
7. Get Out
6. The Big Sick
5. Logan Lucky
4. Lady Bird
3. It
2. Brigsby Bear
1. Only the Brave

2016: 10. 10 Cloverfield Lane 9. Sully
8. Eye In The Sky
7. La La Land
6. Life, Animated
5. Pete's Dragon
4. Hidden Figures
3. Hacksaw Ridge
2. Arrival
1. Lion 2015
10. Spotlight
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
8. The Martian
7. The Revenant
6. Ex Machina
5. Ant Man
4. Inside Out
3. The Walk
2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
1. Room

10. The Hobbit
9. Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
8. The Theory of Everything
7. Joe
6. Big Hero 6
5. Boyhood
4. The Imitation Game
3. Big Eyes
2. Whiplash
1. St. Vincent

10. The Heat
9. Mud
8. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
7. Despicable Me 2
6. Gravity
5. Short Term 12
4. Nebraska
3. 12 Years a Slave
2. Philomena
1. The Kings of Summer

10. Premium Rush
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. The Amazing Spiderman
7. Looper
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Argo
4. Frankenweenie
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Sleepwalk With Me
1. Safety Not Guaranteed