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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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The Secret Life of Pets

Secret Life of Pets at IMDB


The kids (15 and 11) enjoyed it. And they needed to be out of the house last night anyway. I struggled to find things that were funny. There was one scene that looked like Minions animators had watched a Sausage Party trailer, thought back to Cloud Cukoo Land in _The Lego Movie_, and then channeled Busby Berkeley. Dancing sausages wearing Josephine Baker gherkin skirts with pools of mustard and ketchup and cheerfully being consumed by dogs. That was a rare bright spot in this otherwise forgettable film.

Many of the trailers looked like they are for even worse films.

Over the Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall at IMDB

This is a cartoon mini-series that was made for Cartoon Network. It is in ten parts of ten minutes each. The story has a very traditional feel to it, and it keyworded "folk horror" at imdb. Think Brothers Grimm as another "folk horror" subject.

My daughter (who shares a first name with the bluebird) requested it on DVD last year, and while she watched it when it was new, I've only just watched it.

Two brothers, the elder one morose, and the younger one indefatigable, are lost in "The Unknown" (a place name we only get from title cards). This location has the stock characters of folk tales, starting with a talking bluebird and woodsman who warns of a beast in the woods. One episode has a meta subplot where a group of stock characters in a tavern try to identify which stock characters our two brothers are. The elder is first pegged as the Simpleton.

It also follows conventions similar to traditional long oral stories: it has a frame story with smaller episodic bits that don't necessarily have a fixed order, but do slowly reveal aspects of the characters worlds, pasts, and motivations. As one very minor spoiler, the blue bird is a girl under enchantment who is questing to break her spell, which has also affected her family.

It is suitable for all ages and quite well done. Seven frogs out of seven in a seven piece riverboat band.

Stranger Things (season one)

I've watched the entire series. Goonies crossed with ET is how I'd describe it. And I'd say the 80s nostalgia it is going for is 80s movies. The opening title sequence alone oozes 80s in design, and has faux aging effects to let you know this is supposed to be some 1980s thing that you missed watching then.

The story is fine. Nothing great, but not too lazy either. Episodes are not fixed length and vary by fifteen to twenty minutes. Some of them have very long cold openings -- at least one was seven minutes. Both of those things are possible because of the designed for streaming nature of the story. There's no need to stretch a thin episode or trim a packed one, just play it out as needed.

Five Cronenberg portals out of eight. I thought the bear trap was an amusing touch.