Movies: Pitch Perfect 2
TV: Archer [season 4]
Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know
This is an audiocourse from the Teaching Company about the banking industry.
This one was a real letdown. If you're curious about economic concepts, you're far better off listening to Timothy Taylor's Economics audiocourse. This bnaking one is actually an audio version of a video course, and it refers frequently to unseen formulas and graphs. And even more than the previous course, this one flips rather horribly from almost insultingly simple concepts -- it seriously explains, at length, what compound interest is and how it works -- to babbling jargon that I couldn't make any sense of whatsoever. This comprised hours and hours of material, but I don't think I learned much of anything from it.
So I suppose finance will remain a mystery to me for now.
Pitch Perfect 2
This is the sequel to the 2012 comedy about a cappella singing championships.
For some reason, this movie has a plot. You're probably best off ignoring that, and instead treating it as a sort of sketch-comedy revue. There's a series of really good sketches featuring Keegan-Michael Key as an irate record producer. David Cross shows up, randomly, as a rich, eccentric a cappella enthusiast. Our heroine squares off against the big bad, only to have her trash-talking consistently veer off into jumbled, sexually-confused compliments.
If you're watching it for the story, it's thin pickings indeed. After a tragic mishap in a show, they have to find their sound, regroup creatively, learn to work together, and come up with an innovative performance that will win the big contest... yup, same as the first movie. And the side plots try their best, with Beca finding improbable success as a record producer and Fat Amy weighing whether to go steady with Bumper.
Again, you're probably just better off ignoring that as best you can. Focus instead on Reggie Watts and John Hodgman in a singing group facing off against the Green Bay Packers while David Cross officiates with a giant gong. You really can't go wrong with that.
And also to their credit, they sort of settle into the characters more. Beca had been a sort of audience cipher before, but now they're willing to lean into Anna Kendrick's persona more, and enjoy letting Beca be a funny human being instead of our eyes into this world. One bit shows her going down a waterslide with a sort of stern, mildly annoyed expression, and it's a great moment of: oh -- okay, good, we know who this person is now. Thank you. The best jokes are often just moments where they let the characters be themselves.
I wish I had more to say about the singing, but that's not really my area of expertise. And frankly, I'm old now, and I've drifted so far away from pop music that I'm at best dimly aware of the charts. (I don't even know if I'm humblebragging any more.) So most of the music just drifted past me, unrecognized. I was glad the "wonderful, amazing song" their songwriter comes up with was tolerable. We can all name productions (ahemRENTahem) where the 'great song' is just awful. The songs were fun, and went by pleasantly.
Meanwhile, this was very, very entertaining to watch with Lindsey, who is something of a big deal in the a cappella world. Definitely fun to watch her reactions veer from eye-rolls and head-shakes to cheers to embarrassed recognition, and back again.
Archer [season 4]
This is the fourth season of the FX animated comedy about a boorish superspy and his dysfunctional spy agency.
I don't really have much to say about this latest season. Unlike season 3, I don't get the sense that Adam Reed is restless and bored. Instead, this feels more like a refinement on what they've done before -- the episodes are mostly self-contained, the characters don't seem to shift much, though the show keeps doing a fine job of exploring new quirks and backstory for each of them. It's just twelve solid ground doubles from a show that firmly knows what it's about.
Really, the only surprise to me is the quality of the animation. They've effortlessly expanded their use of CGI to give us neatly flat-shaded three-dimensional cars, and they've even got the coin to animate some pretty elaborate and lengthy fight scenes.
And yes, I'm still surprised the show doesn't offend me, when there's far more timidly-misogynist fare that rubs me the wrong way. Not sure what's up with that.
For next week: I'm switching over to RWBY as my 'watch while exercising' show. Meanwhile, I'm reading a book of Star Wars essays. Lindsey and I are still listening to Welcome to Night Vale. We're watching season two of Community (which is still amazing) and still puzzling over picking a second comedy to start.
 The only clear exception to the 'songwriter in the movie writes a middling song' rule, in my opinion, is That Thing You Do! But then again, I'm a bit of a Fountains of Wayne fan.