Category: 2019

2019, Movies

Booksmart (2019, Olivia Wilde)

The “high school graduation party” movie has been done more than a few times. So has the “trying to find the big high school party” movie. And they’ve been combined, as they are in this film. But this movie has a new twist to the format: it’s girls, instead of guys, and they’re smart, and …

2019, TV

Country Music (2019)

This is an engrossing, thorough, occasionally moving and, for its first six episodes, authoritative history of country music. It follows the usual rhythms of a Ken Burns’ documentary, which is something I thoroughly enjoy, and has the usual strengths and weaknesses of his approach to storytelling.

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business and Life (2019) by Rory Sutherland

Reading this book, I can’t help but wonder “who is this for?” It’s like a Greatest Hits or Best of for evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics but filtered through the mind of someone with no attention span (or who strongly believes his readers don’t have one). It’s utterly bizarre and works only as a very …

2019, Movies

The Gentlemen (2019, Guy Ritchie)

Remember when Guy Ritchie was a fresh young director? Some people were (unfairly) calling him an English Tarantino. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels had to be sought out at the video store. Then he married Madonna and made some questionable film choices. Eventually he became one of the numerous indistinguishable blockerbuster filmmakers Hollywood goes …

2019, Movies

Ready or Not (2019, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett)

This is one of those movies where the premise sounds really great – a rich family plays a game to welcome new members of that family, but when that game is Hide and Seek, things turn deadly – but where the execution is just not up to snuff. There are moments that are pretty great, …

2019, 2020, Basketball, Sports

Your 2019-20 Toronto Raptors

There is a lot of disappointment in Toronto right now and I’m not sure it’s warranted. The Toronto Raptors won the title last year. They then lost two starters: one of the 3-5 best players in the entire league – and best Raptor ever in terms of pure two-way talent – and a candidate for …

2019, Movies

Citizen K (2019, Alex Gibney)

This is a mostly excellent documentary about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch turned activist and his battle with Vladimir Putin. It’s particularly notable for two things: its attempts to portray Khodorkovsky as a flawed person, and its relative creativity at telling the story.

2019, Podcasts

COMMONS: Dynasties (2019)

This is an interesting but flawed podcast about major recent familial dynasties in Canada. I have a bunch of reservations about it but, given that I know of no other coverage of this subject in Canada, I still recommend it to you if you are at all interested on the impact of inter-generational wealth and …

2019, Movies

Hustlers (2019, Lorene Scafaria)

This is a pretty heavily stylized dramatization of a true story of strippers ripping off rich men in post crash New York City. I somehow never read the infamous article – though I’m going to now – so I can’t comment onto how accurate the depiction is. (Though that is not something I usually care …

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, TV

BoJack Horseman (2014)

There’s something about animation that gives TV shows (and some movies) a freedom of tone which is not accessible to live action movies and TV. Something about animated characters lets us humans be more accepting of tonal shifts and sight gags. At least I think so. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered another show more …

2019, Movies

Captain Marvel (2019, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)

As I have noted with Marvel movies, I only ever read X Men and related comics, so I have no skin in the game of whether or not Captain Marvel should be a man. But a quick Wikipedia search reveals that it’s not so controversial as some made it seem. But make no mistake, this …

2019, TV

Russian Doll (2019)

So let me try to tell you as little as possible: this is a funny show with lots of pathos that deftly balances dark comedy with strong performances of people with metal health problems. If any of that interests you, see this without learning anything else about it. Ideally, if you can even avoid knowing …

2019, TV

The Confession Killer (2019)

This is a frustrating, maddening and infuriating true crime miniseries about Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer convicted of 11 murders, who has confessed to many more. At this point I will say that if you enjoy true crime, you should watch this miniseries. If you enjoy Netflix true crime documentaries that make you extremely …

2019, Movies

The Laundromat (2019, Steven Soderbergh)

This is a bizarre, episodic and extremely stagey attempt to make the Panama Papers scandal more accessible and therefore of greater concern to the average American. It is a giant mess and only sporadic laughs and an excellent cast keep – and the film’s noble intentions – keep me from panning it. SPOILERS

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Movies

Riley’s Best Films of the 2010s

I am an avid movie watcher. I have seen something like 5,000 movies in my life as well as countless hours of movie-quality TV. But my pace has slowed somewhat in the last decade, as life has gotten in the way. Moreover, because I see so few movies in theatres outside of my annual TIFF …

2019, Movies

Knives Out (2019, Rian Johnson)

For someone like me, there are few things more pleasing than a really well-done genre film. But genre conventions can be pretty tired, so that one thing that is more pleasing than that, is a genre crossover that really works. For me, comedy is often the most reliable genre to mashup. (I am a big …

2019, Books, Non-Fiction

Republic of Lies (2019, Anna Merlan)

This is a survey of contemporary American conspiracy theories and the extent to which some of them can be found in mouths of the powerful in America. It is well-written, engaging and sometimes quite funny. But if you’ve read anything about American conspiracy theories before, there isn’t much new here.