Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Top Ten Favorite Commercials

Being a cordcutter for some time now, I wouldn't say I miss commercials interrupting my television programming, but I have become nostalgic for some of the ads themselves. And why not? I spent a lot of time with those ads over the years, and many of them were made by talented, creative people. Everyone has those handful of favorite commercials that they actually look forward to seeing. Please note that the ads below have not been included due to quality, but because they managed to stick in my memory and still be associated with positive feelings for years. And if that's not a good measure of effective advertising, I don't know what is.

C&H Sugar (1985) - One of the very earliest ads I can remember was the C&H Sugar ad where a little boy trades a big, shiny marble for a cookie from a bakery. I fixated on those marbles, not having access to any myself at that age, and wondered for years what the bakery did with them all. When I recently stumbled across the ad again, it was exactly like I remembered, right down to the sugary tagline.

Pillsbury Doughboy (1990) - The antics of chubby little Pillsbury mascot Pop 'n' Fresh kept many stop-motion animators employed for years, including Henry Selick, until the inevitable switch over to CGI animation in the 1990s. Frankly, the Doughboy never had quite the same charm after that. My favorite of his spots was one of the last stop-motion ones, where he has a snooze on his recliner, just like my Dad used to.

Cadbury Bunny (1994) - My fondness for this seasonal ad seems to come simply from dependability. They're still running this thing in the late winter and early spring months, like clockwork, decades after it initially premiered. While I initially thought the "try-out" gag was silly, the gently clucking bunny was always a very reassuring presence, and I was happy to see him come back around every year.

"Twins" (early '90s) - I'm not clear on which television station actually originated this, but one of my local syndicated stations regularly aired this sing-along promo for "Twins" and the one for "Born in East LA." in the early '90s. Something about the ridiculous lyrics and the Arnold impersonator hamming it up is just priceless. This is the kind of throwaway ephemera that you've just got to see to appreciate.

Got Milk? Trix (1995) - Everyone remembers the famous Aaron Burr "Got Milk?" ad directed by Michael Bay, but my favorite was always the variation on the familar "Trix" cereal commercial, where the Trix rabbit disguises himself as Harland Williams. Alas, the effectiveness of this ad was undermined somewhat by a Trix campaign a few years earlier where kids voted to let the rabbit have his Trix and eat them onscreen.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1996) - The juxtaposition of the gleeful dad and his scowling offspring always got me. Television tended to be a little overly nice to kids in those days, and seeing this ad being just a little bit mean to them was a lot of fun. Like many of the others on my list, this was also a seasonal ad that cam back every year, with variations. Even Alice Cooper joined in the fun at one point.

St. George (1996) - Not being from the UK, I saw this in a college lecture in the early 2000s. I don't remember what the class was, but I remember the ad and the product it was selling. Because I knew there was a pasty middle-aged British man who was willing to fight me if I didn't like it. Famously, most of the budget for St. George was spent of on the production of the ad, and it only aired on television ten times.

Wes Anderson for American Express (2004) - As a film geek, how could I not love this? Wes Anderson roundly mocks himself and his own filmmaking style, with rapid-fire humor and cameos by famous friends. And the Anderson parodies were suddenly everywhere after this, almost as though the director had given permission to the fans to come play in his own, peculiar universe.

I Love the World (2008) - Sing it with me now. Boom-de-yada, boom de-yada, boom de-yada, boom de-yada...

Jack Box (2013) - I hadn't realized how long the CEO Jack ads had been going, until suddenly the campaign ended in 2015. Jack was voiced by Richard Sittig, his creator, in every appearance since 1994. He provided a more knowing, tongue-in-cheek alternative to the other fast food mascots, which was very appealing. My favorite of his ads was this epic flashback to his hair metal rocker days in the 1980s.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The 2017 Summer Movie Wager

It's that time again! Following the rules of the Summer Movie Pool, I'm going to predict the top ten domestic box office grossers of the summer. It's not about which movies are the best or the most deserving, but which ones simply bring in the most cold hard cash. So while I'd really love for "The Dark Tower," "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," and "Baby Driver" to make oodles of money, realistically that is not going to happen. Still, I am notoriously bad at this, and scored only 34 points out of a possible 100 last year. At least this was better than the 33 points I scored the year before that.

Anything being released between May 1st and Labor Day is fair game. Here we go.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - I made the mistake of underestimating the first movie, which turned into the biggest hit of the summer. With an August release date, no less. Well, this time Star Lord and the gang get my number one spot. I wasn't the biggest fan of their last outing and I'm hoping to see some improvements, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is more than enough goodwill out there for "Guardians" to repeat their past success.

2. Despicable Me 3 - I keep underestimating Illumination Entertainment, but not this year! "Despicable Me" is the studio's most durable franchise, and the latest installment should be good for one of the top spots. Even the "Minions" spinoff managed over $300 million domestic while barely being a coherent movie. So, I'm fairly confident that it's going to be the big family film of the summer, and I'll probably be begrudgingly dragged along to see it at some point by the ankle-biters.

3. Spider-Man Homecoming - Is this going perform like a Marvel origin movie, a Marvel teamup movie, or like a Sony Spider-Man sequel? Nobody knows for sure, but Spidey is still a headliner, and his appearance in last year's "Civil War" was very well received. So I'm going to place his first outing with the MCU relatively high in the rankings. However, as with the Andrew Garfield movies, I think I'll wait a while and see what the critics say before watching this one myself.

4. Cars 3 - The trailers have promised a darker, more grounded "Cars" movie, which I'm not sure is the best thing for this franchise. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that PIXAR is trying to get ambitious again and trying to tell a different kind of story with these characters than they have before. However, "Cars" really never had much emotional depth, and that was perfectly okay. I'm sure that young fans will turn up just for the PIXAR name, but I don't expect a big crowd-pleaser.

5. Transformers: The Last Knight - Now, I'm sure the "Transformers" series has enough juice left in it to make some impact at the box office, but not as much as it once did. The previous film, "Age of Extinction," managed a third place finish three years ago. The shine, however, is definitely gone. With Michael Bay leaving, and very little buzz going into this, I expect "The Last Knight," to slip a few spots further down. The real question is how "Bumblebee" will do next year.

6. Wonder Woman - This is the only movie I really, really want to do well. There's no doubt that "Wonder Woman" is going to get a storm of attention, but will that translate into a big box office? I expect that this is going to do better than last year's the "Ghostbusters" reboot, but probably not that much better with so much competition in the mix. However, this is also certainly one of the DC franchise's last chances. WB will throw everything they have at this.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - How much are people going to care that Orlando Bloom has come back to the series? Probably not much to stall the series' winding down. Overseas the movie should fare very well, but at home I don't see any stopping "Pirates" continuing to slide in revenues. There's also the worrying precedent set by the "Alice" sequel last year, which was a total bomb. "Pirates," however, should still have enough juice for #7.

8. Baywatch - There's usually one big R-rated comedy somewhere on the list every year. I think there's a pretty good chance that "Baywatch" will fit the bill in 2017. I mean, what better property to convert into a summer movie than the superbly cheesy 90s series that was all about ogling hotties on the beach? This version will star The Rock, who has made several appearances on the charts in the past, and Zac Efron, who is seriously overdue for a bigger slice of movie stardom.

9. Dunkirk - Now here's a real question mark. Christopher Nolan's films are reliable moneymakers, but "Dunkirk" is a war film, and comes across as an Oscar season prestige picture. The older audiences will probably come out for it, but will it be enough to challenge the big tentpole titles higher on this list? My guess is that the "Dunkirk" will perform respectably, but won't be a big blockbuster. And depending on what kind of year it is, that could still mean a spot on the list.

10. The Mummy - I would have been highly doubtful about the chances of the newest Universal monster reboot, but for one thing: Tom Cruise. Somehow Cruise is still a reliable action star after all this time, and I think there's a real possibility that "The Mummy" could turn out to be a decent vehicle for him. The trailer didn't win me over, and I think the whole shared universe plan is still nuts, but there' probably enough love for Cruise to eke out a minor win.

Wild Cards (for extra points if one of them does make it into the top ten)

The Emoji Movie
War For the Planet of the Apes
Rough Night

I think "The Emoji Movie" looks pretty desperate, but kids love Emojis, and there's no predicting what unlikely looking premise will actually turn out a decent movie. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this turns out to be a hit. Meanwhile, I love the "Apes" movies, but they've never been very strong performers. The third installment may be able to build on the momentum of the first two and grab a bigger audience though. If this is where the new series is going to end, that would be a great way to go out. Finally, the strong performance of "Bad Moms" last year points to an underserved audience for raunchy female comedies. "Rough Night," which involves Scarlett Johansson and a bachelorette party gone wrong, might surprise. I wish they hadn't changed the title though. "Rock That Body" sounded more fun.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Trailers! Trailers! Spring of 2017 Edition

We're finally getting our first looks at some of the later summer pictures and a couple of the early fall ones too.  There have been some interesting trailers that have popped up in the meantime, so this is as good a time as any to catch up.  I tried to get a better mix of smaller and larger movies this time, I should warn you in advance, dear reader, that I'm unleashing some snark in this installment.

As always, all links below lead to Trailer Addict.

Thor: Ragnarok - And this is why this is my most anticipated superhero movie of the year.  The God of Thunder's previous films have been some of the least interesting of the MCU, but this one looks like so much fun.  The crazy '80s "Flash Gordon" visuals are right.  The humor is right.  The Led Zeppelin is right. And I can't wait for Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett to join in on the silliness.  May this lead to more clout and attention for Taika Waititi, who should come play in the Hollywood sandbox more often.   

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi - There's really not much to talk about here, which is exactly as it should be.  The new ships look great, Mark Hamill is suitably weathered, and all our old favorites are back.  It doesn't live up to the "Force Awakens" teaser trailer, but really, could anything?

Deadpool 2 - This doesn't even have a release date yet, and we have no idea who's playing Cable, but we can expect the Merc and his mouth to return to screens sometime next year.  I have to admit that I'm tickled that FOX put this fairly elaborate little short together so early in the marketing process, but they deserve a victory lap for the previous film's success.

Baby Driver - Edgar Wright's latest looks like a ton of fun.  The trailer just oozes style, the cast is great, and Ansel Elgort looks good in the leading man spot.  The comedy too, is firing on all cylinders.  The entire exchange about the Mike Myers masks just had me on the floor.   I'm also glad to see this being pushed up to a June release date for more visibility.  

Coco - I always welcome more original features from PIXAR, but this one hasn't gotten me very excited yet.  Maybe it's the relative aesthetic similarity to "The Book of Life," or the odd thematic similarities to "Ratatouille," with the kid's hero worship.  In any case, there's something about the teaser that feels oddly generic for PIXAR.  I trust the studio enough to see the film regardless, but this teaser probably had the opposite effect that it was intended to.   

Justice League - Well, well, well, Zack Syder.  Here we are, on the verge of a potentially epic disaster in the making.  It's nice to get a better look at Cyborg, Aquaman, the Flash, and some of the more minor characters but there's nothing here that's actually getting me excited for the team-up. Oh, and putting Amy Adams in such a prominent spot just underlines the inevitability of Superman's resurrection.  It really was a mistake to "kill" him off in the first place.   

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  - Martin McDonagh is back!  And his latest tale of violent revenge heads out to the Midwest, where Frances McDormand is taking no prisoners in her war against the local police for failing to catch her daughter's killers.  The copious amount of swearing indicates that McDonagh hasn't mellowed in the least since "Seven Psychopaths."  I'm very curious about how he'll fare with the change in setting and female lead.  

A Ghost Story - I'd only heard a little about the particulars of the plot when all the buzz from Sundance came out, so I wasn't prepared for something so melancholy and existential.  The image of the ghost, which I'd originally found very Charlie Brown, actually grows on you.  I haven't been a fan of David Lowery's work so far, but the trailer definitely makes me want to give him another chance.  So by any measure it's the most effective one on this list.

War for the Planet of the Apes - Woody Harrelson makes a great addition as the new villain, but it's the personal conflicts among the apes that strike me as the most interesting.  I shouldn't still be surprised at how good the effects work on the ape characters is, but I am.  I'm torn between wanting the series to go out with a bang with a final installment, or wanting it to continue on indefinitely.  Because if any franchise has the chops for it, this does.  

Atomic Blonde - After Imperator Furiosa, it's good to see Charlize Theron sticking around in the action genre for a bit.  I'm looking forward to this far more than her appearance in the latest "Fast and Furious" movie.  Okay, the lesbian love interest is a little eye-rolling, but the fact that it's normalized enough for it to be eye-rolling is a good thing, right?

IT - Okay, I think that's enough trailers for today.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How I Lost the Soundtrack

Movie soundtrack were a big part of how I enjoyed films in the past. My mother was a music teacher for decades, and was forever bringing home soundtracks for Disney movies and other kids' media that she could use for her classes. There were a lot of long car trips that involved listening to movie and musical soundtracks on repeat. I didn't have much exposure to popular music, so soundtracks were often what I listened to casually. I got attached to certain ones like "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Velvet Goldmine," and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." I went through a Cirque Du Soleil phase. And when I got to college and discovered the wonderful world of file sharing, I admit I went a little nuts hunting down old favorites and obscurities that I'd never had access to before.

And now, fifteen-odd years later, I am as massive a media fan as I've ever been, but I've almost completely stopped listening to soundtracks. Frankly, there aren't many recent films that are associated with musical themes or numbers that I can actually hum a few bars of. Most of the time I simply don't notice the music, and it's a major exception when I do - "Inside Out," "Far From the Madding Crowd," and "Star Trek Beyond," are some favorites from the last few years. Michael Giacchino has been a standout. However, it didn't really hit me until I was watching a run of older films and found myself really enjoying the music in each of them. All three of the Dracula movies I marathoned and Spielberg's "1941" have fantastic, memorable scores that lingered in my memory for days.

There's been extensive discussion recently about why film scores have lost so much ground, especially with the biggest, most expensive tentpole movies. Tony Zhou recently did an "Every Frame a Painting" video about this, pointing out that there weren't memorable themes associated with any of the Marvel movies. Well, except "Guardians of the Galaxy," which borrowed its soundtrack from the 1970s. He pointed to changes in filmmaking and the use of temp tracks as the biggest culprits, resulting in more generic music. Everything sounds like everything else. Also, the big, bombastic scores of my childhood have simply gone out of fashion. The films that really want to emphasize a musical element, like "Suicide Squad," tend to go the jukebox route, and license previously established hits.

This isn't true of all films, of course. It's been a growing trend to use a film's soundtrack to promote new releases. A few prominent songs and tracks are often offered as free digital downloads. Disney put the "Let it Go" scene from "Frozen" up on Youtube while it was still in theaters, recognizing that the song was becoming a phenomenon. Also, soundtracks have been making a big comeback in another venue: television shows. Thanks in part to bigger budgets and web services like Netflix ditching fixed running times, television themes are back in a big way. The gorgeous "Game of Thrones" title sequence started a trend, and now just about every ambitious series has one, and some memorable music to go with it. Some of my recent favorites include "True Detective," "Halt and Catch Fire," and "Westworld."

And while we're on the subject of television, I should acknowledge that the biggest reason why I fell out of love with soundtracks, has nothing to do with any of the music, and everything to do with my own media consumption habits. When I was younger, I had more time to really listen to music, often the same music over and over again. These days, given the choice, I'd rather be listening to a podcast, and there's very little that I watch or listen to more than once. An exception, or course, is television title sequences, which I don't skip when watching a new episode. So I remember the television themes more often, simply because of repetition. I know I wouldn't have remembered the "Penny Dreadful" or "The Americans" themes if I'd only heard them once.

Still, I haven't been able to get the march from "1941" out of my head for weeks. John Williams always was my favorite, and I miss his big orchestral scores and rousing fanfares. The modern action film may be doing fine without them, but a memorable score is such a good tool for a franchise's arsenal, I don't know why you wouldn't want them. That's the only thing that Iast year's "Batman v. Superman" got right. Whatever you want to say about Wonder Woman, she's already got the best superhero theme out of anyone in the last decade.


Monday, April 17, 2017

State of the Blog, 2017

Hello out there.

Something interesting happened to this blog last October that I've avoided talking about until now. After several years of operating in quiet obscurity, I was separately linked to by both a New York Times article and director Whit Stillman within the same ten days. The Times article was a profile of writer Max Landis, that linked to "Must We Hate Max Landis?" as an example of the online vitriol that Landis had inspired. Stillman linked to my review of his most recent film "Love and Friendship." I only knew about either because I noticed that the traffic to my blog went way up for a few days, and a couple of extra adbots attached themselves to my feed.

And frankly, I didn't know how to react to this. My first thought, upon learning about the Times article, was hoping that Landis's fans didn't come after me. My post wasn't all that critical, and I'm barely active on social media, but I've been watching some awful things unfold online over the past few months over similarly benign media criticism and want no part of it. While I've always enjoyed following the critical conversations that go on around films and television, it comes with some risks. I'm perfectly happy these days being a hobby blogger cheering on one side or another from the sidelines, and having my arguments with other movie nerds on the smaller forums and sites. Being in the spotlight just seems to be asking for trouble.

When I started out in 2010, I had some hopes of following the lead of Mendelson's Memos and eventually parlaying my writing into something more high profile. However, I have a good career in real life that I'm very happy with, and far more personal responsibilities these days. Even if I had the opportunity to pursue a professional writing career, frankly the economics would be prohibitive. Unless you're top tier, writing about media pays next to nothing. You have to juggle multiple assignments and constantly be scrounging for extra funds through other avenues. Practically every podcast I'm listening to these days has Patreon or Kickstarter campaigns, or both. To put it bluntly, I am too old and too set in my ways for that. I simply don't want it enough.

Well, then why am I still posting to a public blog? To tell the truth, there's no need for the blog to be public since I'm mainly writing for myself. However, I've gotten in the habit of it, and I do enjoy Googling myself and seeing where people have linked me for one reason or another, looking at what made an impact and what didn't. Comments are few and far between, but still nice to get. If the blog being public ever does become a problem, however, I'd probably keep writing it privately regardless. I enjoy putting this blog together an awful lot, and it makes for a fun hobby. I have the sneaking suspicion that if I had to write the blog as a real job, I'd lose my enjoyment of it quickly.

So, for the time being I'm just going to keep chugging along as I have been, writing all my reviews three months late and writing my angry old nerd lady rants about whatever is annoying me about Hollywood at the moment. But seriously, uncoupling myself from usual hype cycles has been working out very well for me, and I've never felt better about avoiding popular dreck and staying focused on the media that I really want to talk about. Heck, even the last Oscar cycle was more fun because I wasn't rushing around trying to watch absolutely everything before the ceremony, like I usually do.

Finally, I'll also add a little note to say that this blog will be having another hiatus later this year, probably in the fall. I'll do my best to at least post something every week or so, but the rate of posts is definitely going to be dipping pretty low for a few months. As much as I love blogging, the real world takes precedence, and the name "Missmediajunkie" hasn't been an accurate description of your humble writer for some time now.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

National Tragedies, with Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg

In one of their strangest coincidences of this year, 2016 saw two film dramatizations of recent US national disasters, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg, released three months apart. The first was "Deepwater Horizon," about the events surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster of 2010. The second was "Patriot's Day," about the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. As docu-dramas go, they're pretty decent, though they still run into a lot of the usual problems that these movies always contend with.

The better film, and the film with the better argument for being made in the first place, is "Deepwater Horizon," which does a good job of humanizing the oil rig workers who fought to contain the disaster as it unfolded, and providing some insight into why and how the drilling operations went so awry. Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an engineer, and Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, and Dylan O'Brien play other workers under rig supervisor Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). The main villain is the oil company representative, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), who ignores one safety protocol after another. We get a step by step look at how the real life events played out, but aside from an eye-rolling explanation of how oil rigs work from Mike's daughter in the opening few minutes, the film doesn't get into the nitty gritty of technical terms or processes. How the characters react tells us all we need to know.

"Deepwater Horizon" builds up in a nice slow boil, eventually delivering some pretty harrowing action scenes and disaster scenarios. The effects and sound design are excellent, especially when the oil rig goes into full, fiery meltdown. Clearly there were some invented dramatics to play up the heroism of the workers, but nothing too egregious. At the same time, it's careful to acknowledge that there were eleven casualties of the disaster, and unquantifiable amounts of damage done to the Gulf of Mexico. I wish that we'd gotten a little more depth to the characters, who are all fairly flat types. John Malkovitch certainly has the most memorable performance, as he chews the scenery as only he can. Wahlberg and Rodriguez make decent leads, and Kurt Russell is at his most paternally loveable, but nobody has much to do beyond the usual disaster movie schtick.

"Patriot's Day" is a more complicated venture, because there are far more players involved, and events play out over several days. This time Wahlberg plays an invented police sergeant, Tommy Saunders, who somehow manages to be on the scene for nearly every major development in the Boston Marathon bombing, from the initial attack, to the end of the manhunt for the bombers. This is by far the biggest liberty that Peter Berg takes with the facts. "Patriot's Day" is pretty good about covering multiple POVs and getting us invested in several different stories and characters. John Goodman, JK Simmons, and Kevin Bacon play other law enforcement officials. Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O'Shea play a pair of the victims. Jimmy O. Yang ends up carrying a good chunk of the film as the poor guy who got carjacked by the Tsarnaevs when they were trying to make their escape. And we also follow the Tsarnaevs themselves, played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze, as they carry out the bombing and their subsequent crimes.

The individual sequences are very strong, and it's interesting to see some of the smaller stories, like the interrogation of the elder Tsarnaev's wife, played by Melissa Benoist. However, the film offers little context or new insights on the familiar events, and it's clear that a documentary would have been more effective at accomplishing some of the same things. To the filmmakers' credit, pains were clearly taken to be as sensitive as possible to each and every real life person depicted, and "Patriot's Day" even ends with a lengthy epilogue celebrating Boston and its inhabitants. As these sorts of docudramas go, this is a pretty good one, and Mark Wahlberg gets more to do in his role, but there's still a tangible uneasiness about mining the tragedy for too much entertainment that impacts the whole film. I wonder if I'll still feel this way about it couple years further in the future, when the real life events have receded further into the past.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hang in There, "Steven Universe"

It's been about a year and a half since I last checked in with "Steven Universe." Another fifty-something episodes have come and gone, and we're now somewhere close to the end of Season Four. Because the show's airing patterns have been so erratic, it took me a while to realize that I actually was caught up on all the episodes. There have been several long hiatuses and a lot of the show's momentum seems to have cooled. Some minor spoilers ahead for the first three seasons.

The last time I checked in with Steven and the gang, they were busy convincing Peridot to be a good guy, and Garnet was reassuring her about not rushing into fusions, the act of combining with another Crystal Gem to become a stronger warrior. Well, all this time later, Peridot still hasn't fused with anybody. In fact, since the Cluster was neutralized at the very beginning of the third season, there hasn't been much plot progression going on at all. The series is taking its time easing Peridot and Lapis into the show's regular roster, and introducing a handful of new characters - Blue Diamond, Bismuth, Holly Blue Agate, and a team of Rubies. There's only been one new fusion too, who has barely appeared.

And frankly, after two wonderfully paced seasons full of steadily escalating danger and excitement, it's hard not to get restless. Lots of groundwork is being laid for future big storylines involving the Gem homeworld, and Steven reckoning with his mother's dark side, but the characters haven't had much development. Lapis and Peridot, obviously, have had the most progression as they've gone native. Amethyst had a crisis of confidence, good for a weeklong arc, that resulted in her maturing a bit with Steven's help. Pearl and Greg finally patched things up. Nothing particularly dramatic. Instead, the time has been mainly taken up with digressions like Greg getting a big payday and visits from figures from the past like Bismuth and Cousin Andy.

Meanwhile, the lurking presence of villains Jasper, the Rubies, and the Diamonds is still hanging over everyone's heads, but they don't show any signs of being any immediate danger. The last encounter with Blue and Yellow Diamond was barely a skirmish, really just a quick way of introducing some more characters and aspects of the Gem culture that will be important in the future. We haven't even seen White Diamond yet. I've heard rumors that Jasper is the next in line for a redemption arc, which would be fine, but if they're not going to do it simultaneously with the next impending clash with homeworld, I feel like it's just going to drag things out even more. I mean, look how long it took Lapis to finally call Earth home. At the time of writing, there are only five episodes left this season.

One of the things I initially liked about "Steven Universe" was how quickly it moved compared to the similar "Adventure Time," where the worldbuilding was great, but the continuing storylines went very, very slowly. They just finished up a big event miniseries that resolved a bunch of the hero's ongoing family issues, after eight seasons. While I don't think that "Steven Universe" is going to end up following the same model, and some of these more incidental, laid back episodes have been fun, I am concerned that the lack of more action-oriented plots has caused some of the viewership to drop out. I mean, it's got to have been at least half a season since we last saw the Gems in proper combat together.

"Steven Universe" is the only currently airing cartoon that I'm still keeping up with - not counting "Venture Brothers" and "Rick and Morty" with their multi-year hiatuses. I'm still enjoying it, but not as much as I enjoyed the first two seasons, where we were learning something new and exciting about these characters and their world practically every week. Instead, I'd characterize the show as currently being in a bit of a rut, treading water until they decide to get the next major storyline going. I'm going to stick with it and hope for better things to come, but I will be very upset if the show gets itself cancelled before that can happen.