Rank and File: Pixar Movies - Part 1

Ranking things is human nature, and I love doing it, so far be it from me to crap all over somebody else's list. Now, let's crap all over somebody else's list. Recently, Vulture ranked all the Pixar movies, and placed Wall-E at #1. We can talk all day about how everyone's entitled to their opinion, but come the hell on. They must be trolling us.

Still, it's not fair to criticize someone else's list unless you put your own out there to be equally mocked and nitpicked. My friend Tiffany took issue with Vulture's list, and decided to watch through all the Pixar movies again to put out a better ranking. I volunteered to join her on this worthy journey, and we hope to knock out all 15 in a short window, so that they can all remain fresh in our minds. The real fun will begin when she and I start to disagree.

We decided to watch the movies in order of their release date, with the obvious exception of Inside Out, which just opened in theaters. We knocked out our first double-feature this evening, so let's start our lists! I thought it'd be worth it to rank the shorts that opened for these movies as well, since they're often widely discussed as much as the features are.

Toy Story (1995)

The one that started it all. This movie got tongues-a-waggin', and it's easy to see why. It's gobsmacking that animation this beautiful hit the screens in 1995. Combine that with a well-written, well-paced, well-acted story, and it's no wonder that Pixar burst onto the cinema scene with such a bang. I hadn't seen this in a long time, but most of it has stayed burned in my mind, albeit mixing with bits of the other Toy Story movies. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are stellar leads as Woody and Buzz, who must work together to get back to the boy they belong to before he moves away. I had no idea that Joss Whedon has a screenplay credit on this until this viewing, so there's a piece of trivia for you.

Tin Toy, The short in front of Toy Story is akin to director John Lasseter's student film. That is to say, it's got some good ideas behind it, but hindsight is not kind to it. In 1988, the animation must have looked spectacular. Today, it looks monstrous. It's about a one-man-band toy who is petrified of rough treatment at the hands of a toddler, only to be miffed when the baby prefers playing with the box the toy came in. So while the "meh" may be understandable, given that we're holding it up to all of Pixar's grand achievements, it's still a meh.

Current Feature Rankings:

#1: Toy Story (1995)

Current Short Rankings:

#1: Tin Toy (paired with Toy Story)

A Bug's Life (1998)

Three years after Toy Story, Pixar came out with their next feature, A Bug's Life. Rather than using established movie stars as the lead voice actors, the company drew from the world of sketch comedy, casting Dave Foley and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It's half hero's journey, half Microcosmos, as a colony of ants enlists the help of an insect circus troupe to fight off a horde of invading grasshoppers. There are some truly delightful sight gags, and it's always fun to hear Phyllis Diller's gleeful cackle. That said, A Bug's Life depends more on witty and/or silly asides than on deep story, which is what Pixar excels at. It doesn't quite capture the scope of the miniature world, or of the characters who inhabit it. It's an enjoyable movie, but not a classic one.

The short really shines, though. Geri's Game is the simple, little, wordless tale of an elderly man playing chess against himself in the park one autumn day. He really gets into both of his roles, and it's a breezily funny vignette, which has some beautiful animation. Geri's Game won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and it very much deserved it.

Current Feature Rankings:

#1: Toy Story (1995)
#2: A Bug's Life (1998)

Current Short Rankings:

#1: Geri's Game (paired with A Bug's Life)
#2: Tin Toy (paired with Toy Story)

Summer Movie Preview: July 2015

It's hot outside! You'd almost think it was summer! Now, where can we take refuge from the sweltering heat and enjoy some spectacle at the same time? I know! Moooooovies! Let's see what July can put on my radar.

The Main Attraction: I'd usually never list a romantic comedy as the most intriguing movie of the month. But I've been enjoying the hell out of Amy Schumer's comedy lately, so I just can't resist seeing what she's going to do with the format in Trainwreck (July 17). Throw in Tilda Swinton and Brie Larson in supporting roles, and I'll be at the theater with bells on.

Looks Promising: I'm a normal, red-blooded male who enjoys...certain kinds of physical beauty, so I'm hoping we can put together a Rum Crowd visit to the theater for Magic Mike XXL (July 1). The first one was pretty good, and I believe this one does away with the wooden characters that dragged it down, so all signs point to yay.

Possible Rental: I count myself among the fans of Sherlock, but aside from that, the character has been getting pretty overexposed lately. Normally, I'd likely skip a movie that features him as an elderly man losing his memories. But when he's played by Ian McKellen, it makes Mr. Holmes (July 17) a pretty good candidate for a quiet-evening-at-home sort of movie. I'll check out the reviews and take it from there. There's also Do I Sound Gay? (July 10), a documentary about the cultural history of the "gay voice". It sounds like a pretty natural follow-up to The Celluloid Closet, but nothing I need to catch in theaters.

We'll See: It's weird to relegate some of the summer's biggest releases to this category, but these are the movies I just can't whip up much excitement over yet, no matter how vast their budgets. There's the reboot of Vacation (July 31), which only interests me in terms of checking out Chris Hemsworth's comedic cameo. There's Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (July 31), which I'll wait for the word-of-mouth response to before making a decision. And while a Marvel superhero movie would tend to be towards the top of my list and I do love Paul Rudd, I'm going to reserve judgement on Ant-Man (July 17) as well. I care less than nothing about the character, and the trailers didn't make it look particularly good, but maybe it'll pull a Guardians of the Galaxy and come out of nowhere to blow me away. I'll keep my fingers crossed.


The television landscape is littered with the corpses of shows that may have been terrific, but were sunk by an unimaginative or downright awful title. Better Off Ted. Bunheads. Cougar Town. All of them are worthy entries in the race for Worst Title Ever, but they now have some serious competition. So let's get this out of the way first: Scrotal Recall is an awful, awful, awful, awful, awful title. Now, do your best to try and get past that, because it's also a really great show.

It was aired in Great Britain last year, but Netflix has brought it to American shores for 2015. Season 1 is a scant six episodes that are half an hour each, so you can breeze through this in no time. Scrotal Recall (ugh) is about Dylan (Johnny Flynn), who begins the series at a health clinic, being informed that he has tested positive for chlamydia. He's advised to contact all his previous sexual partners, and he decides that instead of just calling them, the right thing to do would be to make an effort to meet up with all the women he's slept with so he can tell them in person. Each episode's title is the name of one of these ladies, and when Dylan goes to visit them, the show flashes back on their relationship and how it fell apart, while keeping up with Dylan and his two friends in the present.

Ah, the two friends. There's Luke (Daniel Ings), who's an unrepentant horndog, and there's Evie (Antonia Thomas), who has a desperate, secret crush on Dylan. Dylan actually develops feelings for Evie as well, but they're both too timid to bring it up, and circumstances keep getting in their way. And so, the story winds through time, doing a really admirable job of capturing how this group of friends relates to each other, and the romantic partners that enter and leave their lives.

So yes, Scrotal Recall is a hideously embarrassing title. And yes, Johnny Flynn isn't...quite the type of guy I envision as a romantic lead, physically. And yes, sometimes Daniel Ings' performance is a little too cartoonishly manic. But damned if this show hasn't stealthily become one of my favorites of the year so far.

Scrotal Recall - Season 1: A-

Just Desserts

Four Courses Podcast - Special Episode 1

Both Kyle and I have a lot of Big Life Stuff going on right now. In fact, me even having the internet connection to type this right now is a minor miracle. But instead of leaving a black hole of content, we're putting up a special episode: All Dessert.

These are our favorite and/or most popular Dessert segments of episodes past. You can listen to the episode here, and that post also includes links to the episodes when these segments originally aired. Enjoy!

Shorties #17

I ran my skimmer through the pool of pop culture, and it brought up another lovely batch of Shorties for me. Shall we get to it?

#1: They Came Together: I love Wet Hot American Summer, but aside from that, David Wain projects have turned out to be pretty lackluster for me. The Ten was fine, but nothing to write home about. Wanderlust was even more blah. But I felt I couldn't skip They Came Together, a 2014 movie that promised to skewer romantic comedies. While it was better than Wanderlust, the jokes were just about as broad, content to call out the cliches of romcoms without ever really saying anything clever about them. Still, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd are as charming as ever, and that helped elevate it. It's not a good movie, but it's not a waste of time, either. (Grade: B-)

#2: Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker: I don't watch anime in general, but Dragon Age: Inquisition is likely to snag the position of my favorite game of the year, so I thought it'd be worth renting this 2012 movie from Netflix. Meh. The story is a prequel of sorts, following Cassandra's days in the Chantry before any of the game events take place. She's falsely accused of treason, and must evade capture while preventing an attack on the Divine. It's not a bad premise, but despite some beautiful animation, this just isn't worth your time. The good animation is balanced out with some that looks like it was done with MS Paint, and the voiceover work is garbage. I don't know if this was meant to be lovingly done and just isn't to my tastes, or if it was a throwaway project to make a few quick bucks. In either case, I'll be sticking to the games from now on. (Grade: C)

#3: Horrible Bosses: Sometimes, I'll arrive at a movie/TV show late, simply because I never had the time to devote the attention I thought it deserves. That's why I haven't picked up Orphan Black or The Americans yet. But sometimes, I'll arrive at a movie/TV show late because there's a little alarm going off in my mind, warning me that no matter how popular it is, I'm going to hate it. Unfortunately, this 2011 movie falls squarely in the latter camp, and I should have listened to that alarm. The general public loved this movie about a trio of hapless friends (Jason Bateman, Ed Helms, and Charlie Day) planning to kill their awful bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston). They liked it so much they made a sequel. I, on the other hand, found it dumb and obnoxious. Jennifer Aniston was the one bright spot, playing against type as a nymphomaniacal dentist. (Grade: C-)

#4: Marry Me: Much like They Came Together up there, I'm always willing to give a shot to something from a team that's put out something I've loved. In this case, David Caspe's one-season sitcom aired in the 2014-2015 season, and when you combine the showrunner of Happy Endings with a cast led by Casey Wilson and Ken Marino, I'm on board. I don't know what was missing, but this show just lacked the spark that makes for a good sitcom. It was a lot like A to Z: Not bad, but just not a lot of there there. Plus, the fat, bearded sidekick in Marry Me was irritating, where Henry Zebrowski was pretty charming. If there was one thing to recommend about Marry Me, it was Tymberlee Hill as Kay. She was awesome, and needs to be cast in better things tout de suite. (Grade: B-)

#5: Tim's Vermeer: This 2013 documentary was created by Penn and Teller, and got some pretty good reviews when it was first released. I never got around to watching it, until I realized I needed a good movie to watch with my mom. Oh, perfect! Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who painted almost photorealistic works, achieving what few other artists could in terms of capturing light. He's somewhat of a mystery, since his paintings lack the usual practice sketches lurking underneath their surfaces. Tim Jenison, an inventor and entrepreneur hypothesized that Vermeer used a camera obscura and a mirror to perfect his paintings, and sets about demonstrating this by copying "The Music Lesson" from scratch. While it's an interesting subject, it suffers a bit as a movie. Once Jenison demonstrates his ability to reproduce Vermeer's work, despite any previous artistic experience, the rest of the film is just him filling in the canvas. Still, it was an enlightening experience. (Grade: B)

Silly of the Valley

Last year, when I acquired access to HBO through...methods, I was able to get through a good number of the well-regarded shows; not giving a solitary shit about Game of Thrones certainly helped save time. Though I liked most of what I watched, it was pretty clear that the first season of Silicon Valley climbed to the top of the list, ultimately landing as #4 on my Top Shows of 2014.

I was highly anticipating the second season, but worried that it might go through a pretty heavy sophomore slump after all the praise heaped on it during their debut season. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and while Season 2 didn't reach the heights that Season 1 did, it was still a really enjoyable batch of episodes. I can easily get tired of shows that relentlessly beat up on their main characters, but Silicon Valley always knows when to throw its beleaguered heroes a lifeline.

That doesn't mean that Richard and his pals had an easy time of it. Pied Piper is getting sued by Hooli, having their ideas stolen by competitors, and fighting off sharks who want to make a buck off their efforts. Through it all, they manage to just barely hold themselves together, often snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

But one of the things Silicon Valley does well is to have its characters snatch defeat from the jaws of victory just as often. On any other show, Dinesh and Gilfoyle would get away with casually discussing allowing a jerky daredevil to die instead of informing him of the miscalculations he's made in his stunt planning. On Silicon Valley, they immediately get called on it.

As I mentioned, the laughs didn't come as powerfully or as often as they did in the first season, but that's balanced out by a marked improvement in the actual storytelling. The travails of Pied Piper make for an entirely believable arc, and the cast got rounded out by some much-needed female perspective. Suzanne Cryer, in particular, doesn't get a lot of screen time, but steals every moment she's in as Laurie, the direct, socially inept CEO of Raviga.

There's been a lot of quality television this year, so I don't know if Silicon Valley is going to make the Top Five this time around. But it's still a hell of a lot of fun, even without a metric ton of dick jokes. But seriously, you guys? I kind of miss the dick jokes.

Silicon Valley - Season 2: B+

Queen Takes Yawn

I've been cooling on reality shows lately, but there are still a couple I can get excited about. One, unsurprisingly, involves gorgeously-shot baked goods. And the other is RuPaul's Drag Race, which I consistently enthuse about here. Though I'm not very into drag culture in my day-to-day life, I love the show, and have never said a bad thing about it. It's even landed on my Top 5 of the year. I missed Season 6, so I was primed to jump into the fun and glamor and shade of Season 7.

Sweet Manila Luzon, what happened? I could just about understand it if this show had a bad season, but can't come up with a convincing excuse for how this turned out to be so... goddamn... boring. The challenges weren't very different, and the replacements on the judging panel were a welcome change, so it would seem clear what went wrong. Either the world has run out of interesting drag queens, or whoever was in charge of casting this season is on a heavy dose of Xanax.

If I had to single any of them out for praise, it would be Katya, who almost single-handedly elevated the season, but a single queen can only do so much. Everyone else was either fine-but-not-terribly-remarkable (Violet and Ginger) or so dull they don't even merit mention (everyone else).

Every show has bumps in the road. And the great ones are allowed a couple before they fall off my radar. So while I'll no doubt be tuning in for Season 8, this year's wad of blah needs to sashay away.

RuPaul's Drag Race - Season 7: C+

Men Are From Mars

There are things I like and things I dislike in the pop culture world, but it's becoming more and more difficult to surprise me. Not that I consider myself cynical or jaded or anything. It's just that there don't seem to be many new techniques to apply to entertainment these days. Things tend to follow patterns, and one of the more settled patterns is that the second part of a trilogy is generally the weakest of the three, and is never as good as the first. The Empire Strikes Back is the exception that proves the rule: Number Two lives up to that description.

Which is why it was nothing short of amazing to me that Pierce Brown's Golden Son, the 2015 follow-up to last year's Red Rising, managed to accomplish two things. Firstly, it was able to stand apart as an entity capable of existing on its own merits, rather than just serving as weak connective tissue between the first and third books. Secondly, and here's the real coup, it's not only a good read, but it's better than the first book. Really! The series is actually building on its foundation, which you'd hope would happen all the time, but never does. Catching Fire was fine, but was essentially a retread of The Hunger Games. The Magician King just wandered around marking time until the The Magician's Land stuck the landing.

Red Rising was fine, but as you'll recall, I found it a little too derivative of the futuristic, dystopian YA fiction that came before it. Golden Son does not have that problem. It belongs entirely to its own universe, and propels the story in a much more organic way.

When we last left Darrow, he was joining the most powerful Gold family in an effort to bring it down from within. Striking a balance between keeping Gold friends while actively plotting against the Gold-led society is a very delicate proposition, for both the character and for Pierce Brown, and both of them handle it with aplomb. It's become cliche to say that the stakes have never been higher, but it applies here. In Red Rising, Darrow may have been in a dangerous situation, but everything was confined to an arena of combatants. Now he's out in the world, and his actions have real consequences for innocent civilians. He has both triumphs and setbacks in his quest to restructure the world, with his allies and enemies constantly shifting. To say much more would be too spoilery, but we leave Golden Son on a cliff-hanger that makes me intensely curious to see where things go next.

The futuristic technobabble is a slight problem, but in general, the book does a good job of weaving advanced technology into a story of political intrigue and battle scenes. The writing style is very cinematic, and I wouldn't be surprised to see these books adapted into a movie series pretty soon. [In fact, after writing that sentence, I decided to check into it, and yup.] Darrow is a good protagonist, in that he's not always right, he's sometimes assured of himself and sometimes not, and he gives actual weight to his mistakes while still following his conscience. I blew through this book in no time, and am actively looking forward to the closing chapter.

Golden Son still follows some conventional rules, and while I really liked it, it lacks that special something that would push it into the A-range on the grading scale. That said, I cannot overemphasize how pleasantly surprised I was by a book that managed to elevate the series it belongs to, rather than dragging it down. Add this to the list of things this book accomplished: Making me give a Number Two book a solid recommend.

Golden Son: B+

The Spy Who Shoved Me

Melissa McCarthy movies have two modes: Laugh-Out-Loud Funny and Vile Trash. I haven't seen all of her headline work, so it's possible that The Heat might fall somewhere in-between. But in my experience, there's not much middle ground between the wild hilarity of Bridesmaids and the nightmare slog of getting through Identity Thief.

So when she has a new movie coming out, I've found the best method is to let it open, then scan the reviews and comments about it to see which side of the divide it's likely to fall on. As Spy debuted, all signs looked good. It's currently sitting at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and The Dissolve gave it one of their coveted "Essential Viewing" tags. Add in the fact that it's one of those rare movies that my boyfriend and could both enjoy, and I was ready to commit a chunk of my precious Saturday to it.

Spy stars McCarthy as Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who does tactical support for dreamy field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Though Susan is supremely capable at her job, she is insecure and unconfident in her abilities, and has an embarrassing one-way crush on her colleague. When Fine is taken out in the line of duty (not a spoiler, don't worry), Cooper steps up and volunteers to go undercover to discover the location of a nuke from villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).

There are hijinx aplenty, of course. There are pratfalls and bodily function jokes and such, but while they'd be insufferable in another movie, in Spy, they're actually written very cleverly. Plenty of potshots are taken at Susan, but never in a way that makes her a victim. At no point is she a helpless, quivering mess; she's always portrayed as an intelligent and resourceful. All the other actors are supremely game to be foolish and funny. I've never seen an indication that Jason Statham has a sense of humor before, and he's great in this, as is Miranda Hart as Susan's sidekick. I've only ever seen her in Call the Midwife, so this is a big change, and she just about steals the movie.

One note of caution: For those who are gore-averse like me, this is a way more intense movie than I was expecting. It wasn't anything I couldn't handle (except for one small scene that I had to turn away from), but I had no idea that it would be so bloody. But overall, it accomplished exactly what I needed it to, and made me laugh out loud several times. I don't think it'll be entering my Pantheon or anything, but it's far and away the best comedy of 2015 so far.

Spy: B+

Mini Movie Review: San Andreas

It's a disaster movie, so you should kind of know what you're getting into, but fine... WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! If a plot point is ruined for you, it's not my fault. Fault, get it?!?! *rimshot*

-7:15 PM
A couple of friends and I arrive at the Esquire, which I haven't been to since they upgraded it to be all fancy. I've talked about the...general audience at the Esquire before, so it was interesting to see how the new venue would change that. Answer? Still some hooting at the screen, but less of it. Science!

-7:30 PM
A bazillion previews, all of which look awful, except for one, which rose above awful to achieve looking maybe possibly worth a Netflix viewing if I'm bored one day and it's available for instant streaming.

-7:45 PM
A girl goes over a cliff in her car, and what's weird is that it's caused by a rockslide, and not by her texting while driving. Maybe God hates her for doing that.

-7:50 PM
The girl's tumble and subsequent rescue by the emergency response team, led by Mr. The Rock, has the worst CGI of the movie. Her car looks like it was animated by that movie-making game designed for Windows 95.

-8:00 PM
Exposition Man (Paul Giamatti) and his sidekick Explanatory Girl (Archie Panjabi) lay out the groundwork (GET IT?!?!). He's trying to develop a system of predicting earthquakes in order to warn people when one is coming. Unfortunately, he perfects this system about nine seconds before one hits.

-8:06 PM
Which leads to the billionth death caused by a stupid kid who refuses to run when danger is looming. Oh, wait! That billionth stupid kid already exists! So we're up to a billion and one.

-8:11 PM
Mr. The Rock gets a text from his bosses, asking him to report in, since there's been a quake, and they need him to, you know, do his job as a first responder. His response is to ignore this, and to take a helicopter to go look for his ex-wife. Guess that helicopter couldn't have been used for anything else during this disaster.

-8:19 PM
Hey, what's Constable Collins doing here? Go back to 1920s Australia, where you belong!

-8:21 PM
Apparently the escalating earthquakes aren't enough of a villain, so they toss in Ioan Gruffudd, whose cowardly abandonment of Mr. The Rock's daughter isn't enough of a dick move, so they advance to have him straight up murder someone.

-8:28 PM
Mr. The Rock's daughter may look nothing like him, but they do share one important family trait: Happening upon emergency supplies and stealing them.

-8:32 PM
I always like to watch the extras in the background, and I'm wondering if this group of people smiling and laughing as the citizens of San Francisco are evacuating were told to do that, or if I've just caught a blooper.

-8:35 PM
OK, I goofed on the special effects earlier, but the scene of a tidal wave hitting the Golden Gate Bridge looks pretty damn realistic.

-8:36 PM
Bad guy goes squish.

-8:39 PM
A character who's been shown to have a disabling leg injury is now running around faster than Usain Bolt.

-8:40 PM
A character that has been good and drowned for about ten minutes is successfully revived with CPR with no ill effects.

-8:59 PM
"What do we do now?"
-"We rebuild."
"OK, but I meant what do WE do now? Like, what are our practical next steps now that the entire state is demolished?"

I made one of those sentences up.

-9:04 PM
The movie ends on an inspirational unfurling of a grand American flag, because... Earthquakes only happen in the United States? Earthquakes in the USA are more bitchin'? Earthquakes are patriotic? Sure, whatever.

Is this a good movie? Nah. But is it a good disaster movie? Yeah, it wasn't half bad. There are plenty of things to mock (as you've seen), but it had some legitimately thrilling scenes, some legitimately good effects, was decently-acted, and was a delightful way to pass the evening with friends. It won't win any Oscars, but compared to The Day After Tomorrow, it's practically Citizen Kane.

San Andreas: C+

The First Wives Club

Since I talked about Dolly Parton in my last post, why not circle around and pick up my other 9 to 5 ladies while I'm at it? The new Netflix series Grace and Frankie is a bit of an odd duck. It was co-created by Marta Kauffman (of Friends fame), and has a star-studded cast, from Jane Fonda to Lily Tomlin to Sam Waterston to Martin Sheen. Sounds like a big, major deal, right? Then why did it arrive on the pop culture scene so quietly? You can't scroll down a Facebook feed without bumping into a bunch of posts referring to Game of Thrones or Scandal, but Grace and Frankie has barely stirred a murmur. Television websites either ignored it or treated it as cursory.

I'll talk about theatricality in a moment, but the premise fits right into that adjective. Grace and Frankie are the wives of two law partners. Forced to socialize by the close relationship of their husbands, they maintain a superficial friendship that neither one of them particularly values. All hell breaks loose when their husbands announce that they are gay, have been cheating on their wives for the better part of twenty years, and are breaking up both marriages in order to marry each other. Naturally this devastates Grace and Frankie, and they both retreat to the beach house that the families co-own. From there, it's a matter of reforging and redefining the friendship, despite their differences. They also have to contend with the ex-husbands who are still big parts of their lives, and their confused children.

In many ways, this show is The Odd Couple + Golden Girls + The Ability to Say "Fuck". Doesn't sound half bad, huh? Grace (Fonda) is somewhat of an ice queen, overly interested in appearances and social conventions, and tightly-wound. Frankie (Tomlin) is a sensitive, earthy hippie who smokes peyote and makes her own vaginal lube out of sweet potatoes. The episodes' plotlines wander all over the place, from the invisibility of older women in modern society to navigating social gatherings where your ex is present to how to start a new romantic life in your later years.

So, theatricality. Grace and Frankie is strange, in that it appears to want to have things two ways: It wants to tell relatable, grounded stories based in real life, while simultaneously presenting things that would look more at home on the wackiest sitcom imaginable. Revelations in a stuck elevator? Check! Baby born in an unexpected place in the span of two minutes? Check! When the show indulges itself in these scenes, I don't care for it very much. But then something remarkable happens. It pulls back, and returns to telling some pretty compelling stories about reinventing yourself after so many years of a comfortable existence.

Sheen and Waterston are fine, but not very believable as gay (or as a couple). The scenes with just the two of them tend to drag. The kids are far more interesting. There's a harried mother (Brooklyn Decker), a recovering addict (Ethan Embry) and a reliable attorney (Baron Vaughn), but most of the screentime is given to Grace's blunt, aggressive daughter Brianna (June Diane Raphael), who is a real bright spot in this show.

I waffled on the grade for this season, but after some thought, I realized that I'm actively looking forward to seeing what happens to these characters. Season 2 hasn't been announced, but I'm hoping it comes to fruition. There may be some hackneyed scenes scattered through this inaugural season, but overall, it's a well-written, well-acted, well-shot show that is definitely worth your time. So now that this post has been dispensed with, what's Dabney Coleman up to?

Grace and Frankie - Season 1: B
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