Department of Lists: 2018 Edition

(image by KangZeLiu)

Since it’s the end of the year, and there’s only so much champagne one can drink while watching Andy Cohen/Anderson Cooper and hoping that 2019 will show 2018 how things should have gone, it’s time to look back at some of the best that the year that was had to offer.

To that end, I contributed some pieces to a few different publications who make a point of cataloging this sort of thing:

Now you’ll have something to do this January besides catch up on new TV shows and ignore your dieting pledges.

Reader’s Corner: Investigating Your Father

In All the Answers, Michael Kupperman tells the story of the strange childhood of his father, a brilliant professor who in his youth starred on a hugely popular wartime radio show called Quiz Kids. It’s an engrossing and emotional personal history in which Kupperman discovers more about his reticent father on the Internet than through living with him.

My interview with Kupperman is in the current Publisher’s Weekly.

Now Playing: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

The Avengers, in a moment of friendly contemplation, sans outfits (Marvel Studios)
Some Avengers, in a moment of friendly contemplation, sans outfits (Marvel Studios)

The band gets back together in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is now playing everywhere throughout the Multiverse.

My review is at PopMatters:

A sturdy piece of inessential workmanship, The Avengers: Age of Ultron begins where it ends, with Joss Whedon shooting the works. In “Sokovia,” another made-up slice of the Balkans, the Avengers are assaulting a mountain fortress controlled by Hydra. That would be the world-spanning network of bad dudes discovered at the end of the last Captain America to have infiltrated the S.H.I.E.L.D. network. It’s not entirely clear what their motivations are besides being evil. Perhaps they’re ticked off at not having quite as cool a name as Cobra Command…

Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t already seen it two dozen times:

New on DVD: ‘Snowpiercer’ is Revolution on a High-Speed Train

'Snowpiercer': We'd like a seat in first class, please (Anchor Bay)
‘Snowpiercer’: We’d like a seat in first class, please (Anchor Bay)

snowpiercer-dvdBong Joon-ho is a South Korean director who isn’t a household name in the States but by all rights should be. In his newest film, Snowpiercer, he imagines a quasi-steampunk post-apocalyptic thriller that’s also a handy little morality tale about class inequality.

Snowpiercer is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. My review is at PopMatters:

The physics of Snowpiercer’s futuristic plot are as stripped-down as the backstory is convoluted. Every human being left alive is on board one train snaking across the frozen wasteland. First class is up front, replete with late Roman Empire consumption and a mindset best described as rave-club Borgia. Everybody else is crammed cheek-to-jowl in the filthy back of the train. Those in back want to get up front. All that stands between them are many locked doors, squads of malevolent guards, years of social conditioning, and Tilda Swinton acting like a toothy Margaret Thatcher after one too many gin and tonics…

You can see the trailer here:

The Graphic Report: Zombie Pixies and Frank Black’s New Graphic Novel

Thegoodinn-coverIn a development that would seem highly overdue, the Pixies’ frontman Frank Black wrote (or co-wrote at least) a graphic novel. Called The Good Inn, it’s something of a laundry list of his likes, particularly Surrealism and early French cinema.

My essay on The Good Inn and the Pixies is at Avidly:

Why did Black Francis take this long to write a graphic novel? Sure, he’s been busy of late with reunion tours of both the actual Pixies and their more recent and inexcusably Kim Deal-less zombie incarnation (in that one, audiences must suffer not just listless performances but the travesty of hearing somebody not Kim sing “Gigantic”)…

There’s an excerpt of it over at the A.V. Club.

New in Theaters: ‘One Chance’ Nearly Makes It

Alexandra Roach gets charmed by James Corden, playing an unlikely opera singer from Wales, in 'One Chance' (Weinstein)
Alexandra Roach gets charmed by James Corden, playing an unlikely opera singer from Wales, in ‘One Chance’ (Weinstein)

One Chance, one of those charming but really-should-have-been-better rom-coms, is opening this weekend in semi-limited release. It’s nearly worth seeing for the inestimable James Corden.

My review is at Film Racket:

For the true story of Paul Potts, the down-on-his-luck Welsh cellphone store clerk with dreams of becoming an opera star, you don’t expect much in the way of nuance. True to form, the folks at Weinstein — who’ve created a decent-sized niche line of feel-good stories with light quirk, preferably from the United Kingdom — and David Franckel, director of well-acted fluff both tolerable (The Devil Wears Prada) and not (Hope Springs) leave the nuance behind and goes for broke on the cute, lightly sprinkled with comedy. The formula, part romantic comedy and part Billy Elliot, comes close to working, but collapses at the conclusion like a poorly-made cake. That’s what happens when your big finale involves Simon Cowell…..

You can see the trailer here:

Now Playing: Romantic Comedy Sci-Fi in ‘The One I Love’

Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass get a surreal bit of marriage counseling in 'The One I Love' (RADiUS-TWC)
Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass get a surreal bit of marriage counseling in ‘The One I Love’ (RADiUS-TWC)

The One I Love is playing now in highly limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

How well can we ever know each other? That’s one of the less interesting questions posed by Charlie McDowell’s willowy and romantic science-fiction two-hander with a Twilight Zone twist about a couple with marriage problems whose sojourn at a therapeutic retreat takes a quirky turn. When the story is fully locked in, it wrestles with some more gripping issues of identity and a Machiavellian spin on relationship dynamics. But all too often, it falls back on easygoing relationship drama that saps the underlying premise of its more meaningful promise….

You can see the trailer here: