What I Watched: 2016

After our bunny Sport died, his brother, Mr. Floopy, needed lots more personal attention. (Rabbits are very social animals. Single rabbits need at least 2 hours a day of interaction.) Floopy also happens to enjoy watching TV. The result has been me being "forced" (Ouch! Stop twisting my arm!) to sit and groom Floopy most weeknights while watching Netflix. So I did more binge watching than usual last year. A few people had asked for recommendations, so I thought I'd just do a quick list of the shows I've seen and mostly liked. I'm not going to talk about stuff I ended up not liking. Enjoy!

If you want to jump to a particular genre, click below:

Anime

Adele and I really enjoy Anime, and Adele watches quite a bit on her own. We prefer dubbed versions when available (a controversial subject). Netflix doesn't always have the full series. If you want subtitled versions, the most complete collection of anime I've found is at CrunchyRoll. This list also includes material we watched back in 2015.

  • Attack on Titan

    This is apparently a very popular manga. Unfortunately Netflix doesn't have the full series yet, which was disappointing, but not disappointing enough for us to go pay for another service. This one is dark, and there's a lot of body horror, but the story is really intriguing, and the action is great. I highly recommend tracking this down. Talking about this again, I'm definitely going to see if I can find a DVD version somewhere. The story was great.

  • Bleach

    This is super popular and long-running manga and TV series (16 seasons or so). Netflix only has the first three seasons, but those seasons represent an entire story arc. We really enjoyed this one. It was funny, had an interesting story, and some great action.

  • Death Note

    This one gets a lot of love, so you've probably heard of it before. It's dark tragedy with an interesting anti-hero. We really enjoyed it.

    After an intelligent yet cynical high school student begins to cleanse the world from evil with the help of a magical notebook that can kill anyone whose name is written on it, international authorities call upon a mysterious detective known as "L" to thwart his efforts.

  • Fairy Tail

    This is an example of why we enjoy the dubbed versions. Humour is hard to capture in subtitles. Netflix only had the first season (and I don't think it's on Netflix at all, anymore), but we enjoyed the humourous banter between the characters. It's a typical fantasy setting with different guilds competing for notoriety. The action was passable, but they reused a lot of animation sequences. We enjoyed it more for the light banter.

  • Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works & Fate/Zero

    While we enjoy anime, we're not very knowledgeable. We don't read mangas or follow the news. So I'm afraid I can't shed much light on the relationship between these two series. Google just confused me more. Essentially, Fate/Zero is a prequel. It's hard to say if we liked one more than the other. They both have some great character elements and fun action.

    The story can be hard to piece together. It's set in modern day, and seven mages are chosen to become masters of different classes of heroic spirits who then fight for the Holy Grail, which grants them each a wish. That's the basics, anyway. We enjoyed the great fight scenes.

  • Gunslinger Girl 1 & 2

    This one is also kinda dark in that you have the government taking little girls who have been orphaned, seriously injured, or terminally ill and turning them into assassins. Each girl has a grown male handler. The series is more drama than action and focuses on the relationships between the girls and between the girls and their handlers in the context of the various missions they go on.

  • Moribito

    I don't think this one is on Netflix anymore. It has been a long time since I've seen it, but I remember really enjoying the overall story and the main character, Balsa. I don't remember how much is revealed right away, so I'll be vague. Balsa is a spear-wielding mercenary protecting a young man named Chagum from the people hunting him. There's the overall story of who Chagum is and why he's being hunted, but Balsa also has a full story arc as well. This is more drama than action and looks at family and relationships. I remember we really enjoyed this one.

  • Ouran High School Host Club

    And now for something completely (and I mean completely) different. Apparently, host clubs are common in Asia. This story is about a host club in a prestigious high school for mostly rich kids. Here's what IMDB says about the story:

    At the ultra prestigious Ouran High School, Haruhi Fujioka looks for a quiet place to read and walks into an unused music room, and accidentally stumbles across the notorious Ouran High School Host Club, a group of boys who entertain the girls of the school for profit. When Haruhi accidentally breaks an expensive vase belonging to the wacky Host Club, she is made to serve under them until her debt is paid off. Haruhi is soon made a Host, but in order to pay off what she owes, she must continue to allow the Host Club's customers to believe she is a boy.

    Adele and I both actually enjoyed watching it. We found it quite funny, with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. If you want something light and zany, give the first few episodes a try.

  • Psycho-Pass

    I think this has been removed from Netflix now, but we watched the series twice, we liked it so much. It's a mystery/crime series set in a futuristic world where a computer system can detect criminal intent. Police officers basically become arms of the system, meting out justice based on the system's determinations. But what happens when a criminal arises who cannot be judged by the system? The show can get a little gory, but it's a great story with compelling characters. Check it out.

  • RWBY

    This is an American creation. I must admit I enjoyed it even more than Adele did. The story itself is hardly interesting, but there's lots of entertaining, humourous dialogue. What I love about this are the combat sequences. If you've ever played Final Fantasy or other JRPG games, you will recognize and appreciate the combat. You have to see it to believe it. So many interesting weapons and interactions. I can watch the combat sequences over and over. It wouldn't hurt to watch the actual story through once, but after that, you can just fast forward to the good stuff.

  • Samurai Champloo

    What an odd but intriguing little show! There's only one season. The summary: Fuu, a waitress who works in a teahouse, rescues two master swordsmen, Mugen and Jin, from their execution to help her find the "samurai who smells of sunflowers." The combat is fun, the characters are distinct, and the dialogue is funny. Oh, and even the music is great. Check it out.

  • Sword Art Online

    I wasn't sure if I was going to recommend this or not. The overall story is good, but there are a few points where things get a little off track. I don't remember much about the action sequences. If you've played MMORPGs before (I'm an old Everquest guy), then there's lots of familiar and interesting stuff here. Perhaps check out the first couple of episodes and see how you like it.

Action

  • R.E.D. 1 & 2

    I don't know why these movies don't get more love. They are so good! Great fight sequences, lots of humour, and Helen Mirren as a sniper, for heaven's sake! They're PG-13, if I remember right, so the language is at least somewhat restrained. If you haven't seen these, and you like action movies, then check them out.

  • He Never Died

    I watched this on a whim, and I ended up liking it a fair bit. It's not the best movie ever, but it was an interesting take on this particular story. Had some good fight scenes and interesting relationship moments.

  • The Suspect (Yong-eui-ja)

    This is a Korean action/revenge flick. I really enjoyed it.

    Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea - until he is abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter murdered. Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation. The chairman is brutally assassinated - but gives Dong-chul a pair of glasses before he dies. Now, he's on the run again. Accused of murder, wanted for treason, and desperate to uncover the volatile national secrets hidden inside the glasses. Dong-Chul wants the truth. And he'll start a war to get it.

  • Luke Cage

    I'm so happy Marvel is doing these series. Daredevil is still my hands-down favourite. Jessica Jones was great largely because of David Tennant. Luke Cage was good but doesn't get close to that Daredevil level. Part of the problem is that super strength and invulnerability are difficult to portray on screen in an exciting way. Jessica Jones had the same problem. If you like the superhero series, then you'll probably like this one too, but I won't go out of my way to watch the second season

    The good:

    • Alfre Woodard (Mariah Dillard) and Mahershala Ali (Cottonmouth) give incredible performances. They are the most compelling characters of the series. The show is worth it just to watch them do their thing.

    • The overall story is good.

    • Great music throughout.

    The not so good:

    • Mike Colter (Luke Cage) does a good job, but overall his affect is too flat. And that's balanced by Simone Missick (Misty Knight) who tends to overact.

    • The "big bad" is simple and boring. Daredevil's Kingpin was one of the best villains ever. Jessica Jones's Green Man was slightly less complex but was made more compelling by the great David Tennant. But Diamondback is just a psychopath pulling a temper tantrum. Dillard and Cottonmouth were far more interesting characters.

    • And, wow, were those last two episodes bad. The very last one was horrendous. Ugh.
  • Kill Bill

    Of course I had to rewatch Kill Bill when it shows up on Netflix. Not sure what to say that hasn't already been said. Classic Tarantino style, great fight sequences, just an all-round good time (with lots of blood and language, mind you).

Comedy

  • The IT Crowd

    This British export follows the small IT group at a large corporation. It's only goal is to make people laugh, and at that it succeeds. If you enjoy British comedy, check this one out. The characters are just so good (Moss is my favourite).

  • Scrubs

    When I watch something particularly dark or heavy just before bed, it's nice to have a palette cleanser. Scrubs fits the bill nicely. It's short, usually funny, and always silly. Sometimes it takes itself a little seriously, but on the whole, it's light fun. It holds up.

Drama

  • Broadchurch (season 1)

    The story takes place in the small English coastal town of Broadchurch. A young boy is murdered, which brings national media attention, and all the secrets of the town start coming out. It stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman, who (as expected) do a tremendous job. The acting is top notch, the music is beautiful and evocative, and even the camera work is very effective. About halfway through I saw how this show could devolve into a soap opera, so I was relieved when the first season wrapped up the initial story arc. As much as I enjoyed the first season (I binged the show in a weekend), I wasn't interested in "the rest of the story." The story is gripping and the payoff is solid. If you want a mystery drama with some really great acting, check out the first season, at least.

  • Stranger Things

    What can I say that hasn't already been said? I love, love, love this show. It might belong more in the horror category as it is quite scary at points.

    In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child - which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town while a few locals begin to understand that there's more going on than meets the eye.

    This is 80s nostalgia porn. It so spoke to me. It's part Stephen King, part John Carpenter, and part Steven Spielberg. The child actors are incredible. The music was so bang on, too. If for some reason you haven't seen it yet, you should. It's so good.

  • Lie to Me

    This is a pretty pedestrian crime procedural, but Tim Roth makes it worth watching. The show didn't last long (three seasons) and was apparently unceremoniously cancelled because there's no series wrap-up. Tim Roth is an expert at recognizing facial expressions and involuntary body language, which he uses to create a consulting firm that works with the police and other clients to solve various mysteries. The overall quality is passable, but it's nothing new or groundbreaking. But Tim Roth is a funny guy and makes the show entertaining. If you're looking for something to sprinkle between other shows, you might enjoy this.

Horror

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane

    Such a great movie. John Goodman does a masterful job with the character. Don't let the title fool you. The connection to movie Cloverfield (which I also enjoyed) is tenuous at best. If you want something with minimal language and violence but lots of tension and jump scares, check this movie out.

  • Green Room

    A punk band take a gig in a secluded area in the Pacific Northwest and accidentally see a murder. Because they're the only witnesses, the perpetrators and their supporters try to eliminate them. It has Patrick Stewart playing a skin-head leader. What's not to like!

  • Evil Dead (2013 remake)

    The original Evil Dead movie, while classic, was anything but scary. This is a deadly serious horror remake of the original. It's only 61% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's so much better than that. If you like these kinds of movies, check it out.

  • The Witch (or maybe listed as "The VVitch")

    This was one of those movies where by the end I'm just sitting there staring, with my hands over my mouth, going "No they didn't, no they didn't, no they didn't!" This is a period piece (early 17th century) looking at a family exiled from their village trying to live off the land. The acting is insane, from the kids to the adults. It takes a few minutes to understand the accents and idioms, but you catch on quickly enough. No swearing, no sex, minimal blood, but lots of "holy $@#!" moments.

    New England, 1630: William and Katherine try to lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. 'The Witch' is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own sins, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil.