What I Watched in December 2015


  • The Master – This is a case of a movie that is clearly excellent, but somehow I didn’t end up liking it.  Part of that is due to how good some of the performances are.  Joaquin Phoenix does an outstanding job, but his character is too convincing at being off-putting and uncomfortable.  He is hard to watch.  He is also the center of this film, Hoffman’s turn as the titular Master notwithstanding.  Having a character that makes everyone, the viewer included uncomfortable makes for a hard movie to watch. ****
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall – This wasn’t anything outstanding, but it was a funny movie full of generally funny people.  I just think it hovered between trying to have some kind of real heart and being really funny, without committing fully to either idea.  The result is pleasantly enjoyable, but not outstanding.  ***
  • Punch Drunk Love – I started to watch The Ridiculous 6, but after a few excruciating minutes I switched over to this. I doubt any would call this Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film, but it is likely Sandler’s.  He plays a business owner, henpecked by his numerous elder sisters who occasionally have violent outbursts.  He meets a woman, finds a harmonium and makes a call to a phone sex line.  While his relationship with the woman deepens, he has to deal with blackmail attempts. It is a strange, off kilter romance that is highly enjoyable.  ****
  • In the Heart of the Sea – see review here.  **1/2
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – see review here.  ****1/2
  • Kill Me Three Times – This movie really wants to be some kind of Tarantino, or at least Guy Ritchie, crime movie, but it just isn’t that good.  That is not to say there is nothing to like in what is mostly a limp, mean effort.  Simon Pegg is clearly having a lot of fun playing the villain and the way everything twists around to everything together. Still, too much of it is just poorly explained.  It isn’t a good movie, but there is some enjoyment to be gleaned from it. **1/2
  • Mission Impossible Rogue Nation – Just as good on DVD as it was this summer.  It is certainly better than the limp Bond offering from this year. ****
  • Whisper of the Heart – A Ghibli movie that had slipped by me until my brother got it for Christmas.  This movie is amazing, a perfect expression of the yearning and dreams of childhood.  One of Ghibli’s best, and that is saying something.  *****
  • High Road to China – This is something of a bone thrown to Selleck after he was forced to pass on Raiders of the Lost Arc, and while it does have some superficial similarities to Indy’s first outing, it is something else entirely.  While it is an adventure movie, it is not much of an action movie.  It does feature some great biplane action, I guess.  I think it is telling that at the end it is not Selleck’s O’Malley that gets the triumph, but his love interest.  Still, it is a fine, unfairly forgotten film. ***1/2
  • Quigley Down Under – Tom Selleck plays a cowboy in Australia, first hired then hunted by Alan Rickman’s villain.  It is a well-done western that somewhat updates the formula, if only by setting it in Australia rather than actually in the west.  Rickman’s villain is a conscious lover of the west, but Quigley shows him that all his aping of cowboys doesn’t make him one.  It also allows the main character to call out the racism of the west without actually doing so.  It is not a great movie, but I would definitely call it a good one. ***1/2
  • Electric Boogaloo – I was not super knowledgeable about Cannon Films going in, but this documentary was great.  It perfectly shows what made them interesting even if it didn’t make their movies any good. They churn out schlock, desperate to make it in Hollywood.  Their occasional hits seem to be more the result of just how much they throw against the wall than any sort of plan, but they did have them.  Still, I think the film world was better off with them churning out schlock than without them.    ****


  • Daredevil – As with Jessica Jones, there is a sense of diminishing returns with Daredevil.  There is a lot of really good show here, but I can’t help but think it would be better if it was ten episodes instead of thirteen.  I’m not sure Daredevil really uses its running time wisely, since despite all the buildup they had for the Kingpin, he falls rather easily.  The second half never touches the heights of the beginning, but it is never really bad.
  • Poirot S3 & 4 – I really like this show, even though it can be slow and dry.  They are well done adaptations of Christie’s stories, with little frills or flash.  Suchet does a great job as Poirot, and most of these are really good stories.  Solid is, I guess, the best way to describe this show.
  • Fargo S2 – This is the best show on Television, even with its all too frequent references to Coen Brothers films, not just Fargo.  This season jumps back to the early eighties, and has a hapless couple accidentally pitting a local crime family against a big one from KC.  It nails pretty much every character and story beat perfectly.  The show is just great.
  • Supergirl – There are still flashes of greatness here, especially Melissa Benoist in the lead role, but it still hasn’t managed to pull all of its various characters and setting into a cohesive whole.  It is getting closer, though, and the good has always outweighed the bad.  Hopefully the second half of the season brings it all together.
  • Flash & Arrow – I’m putting these two together because the big episodes for each in December were the crossover episodes.  And man, what a crossover that was.  The Flash still manages to delight at every turn, and Arrow has been much better this season that last.  I’m not sure how much I like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but still, seeing both gangs together to fight Vandal Savage was great.