What I Watched in Jan ‘16


Star Wars The Force Awakens – see review here. ****1/2

The Revenant – see review here. ****1/2

The Hateful Eight – see review here. *****

The Ladykillers – This is not a Coens’ movie that gets a lot of attention. After watching it, I would say that it doesn’t really deserve much attention. It isn’t bad, but it is slight. There just isn’t a lot here. It’s a well-executed farce, with JK Simmons and Marlon Wayans, of all people, giving really good performances. Fun, but forgettable. ***1/2

Shawshank Redemption – Yeah, it’s great. I don’t have a lot to say. *****

Hot Rod – I am not always a fan of Andy Samberg, but he is really great here. This movie kind of meanders around and loses momentum at times, but it has a lot of really funny people and some really funny scenes. This is a great movie to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. You don’t really have to pay attention and each little bit is entertaining on its own. A solid little comedy. ****

Galaxy Quest – Alan Rickman’s passing made me want to revisit my favorite of his films. This Star Trek pastiche is simply great. It is that oddly prevalent mixed up take on the Magnificent Seven with actors taking the place of the fighters, like A Bug’s Life or The Three Amigos. Galaxy Quest might be the best executed of those, and Rickman’s utter contempt for everything with his old TV role is one of the highlights. This is just a great comedy. ****1/2

The Four Falls of Buffalo – I love 30 for 30. The tale of these Buffalo Bills, the best team to never win the Super Bowl, is kind of heartbreaking. This is pretty well made, since they got most of the big players in to talk about it. To come that close that many times and not come away with a victory is crushing. ***

Pride and Prejudice – This 2005 adaptation of Austen’s novel is really good. It is solidly acted all around and as true to the source as a two hour version of a novel can be. Kiera Knightley is just about as Elizabeth, with the right amount of satisfaction in her witty retorts. It also establishes a sense of scene and time that goes beyond what would be expected. Really, there are some great shots and settings in this film. ****

Paprika – This was recommended to me in a list of the 50 best animated films decided by people voting in their personal top 25. This was one that made the list that I had never seen, so I picked up the Blu-ray on the cheap. It is really good, kind of like Inception (which I have to assume took at least some inspiration from this) without the need to be tethered the reality of having to be filmed. It is also lacking Inception’s explanations. The whole movie is just sort of strange and simply dropped on the viewer. Paprika is excellent. The English dub does not have the most natural translation, but point gets across. Also, some of the sequences are perfectly mind bending. I think some of the character work is either lacking or was lost in translation, but other than that I really liked this movie. ****1/2


Detectorists – For a show that never goes too far in any direction, this turned out to be a complete delight. Andy and Lance are detectorists, guys who spend their free time with metal detectors. Their devotion to their hobby can be a little pathetic at times, but they know that. The show flits from being mildly pleasant to somewhat uncomfortable at times, never being a complete delight or a total drag. The show doesn’t want to beat its protagonists down completely, but it also isn’t going to have them realize all of their dreams. It ends up feeling real, mostly on the back of some strong writing and performances. I can’t wait to see the second series.

Making a Murderer – This is pretty chilling. A great, entertaining documentary. It didn’t convince me one way or the other about Steven Avery’s guilt, but it did leave me questioning the idea of fairness in our justice system. It is rather chilling how they lied to and railroaded the younger of the accused. The whole thing illustrates how the justice system is not after justice, but after a conviction. Really, it is just really well-made.

Poirot Series 5 & 6 – I need to be more considered when writing about this. It is still good, if dry. It is very slow paced, letting the mysteries unfold in their own time. It is a big change from current TV and takes a little getting used to. It also switched from hour long episodes to episodes that are nearly two hours long, which is just a little too long. Still, Suchet does a great job in the title role and they are largely well acted and made. I am going to stick with it until the end.

Galavant – God, I love this show. I hope that we get more of it. I missed about half the episodes when they aired; catching them later on Hulu, but this show is still just delightful. It is lightweight, but it is also thoroughly enjoyable. I don’t really have very much to add, other than hope for a DVD release.

Always Sunny Season 10 – This show somehow keeps getting better and better. This season got really dark at times, in the best possible way. The stars have honed their characters into increasingly deranged collections of neuroses. They react to the situations they are put in in natural and hilarious and awful. That is pretty much this show in a nutshell: hilarious and awful. Just really great stuff.

The Spoils Before Dying – I really liked the sheer goofiness of The Spoils of Babylon and this follow up is more of the same. The same sort of overblown artiness and complete incompetence is on display, along with some wonderfully off performances. It is just so absurd and ridiculous. It can be a lot to take all at once, but it is mostly delightful. Some of Will Ferrell’s episode opening and closing rants by Eric Jonrush were misses, though. The good ones are some of the best parts of the show, but the others are sadly not funny or interesting.

Parks and Rec Season 7 – I thought the end of season 6 was a fitting ending to this show. While I wasn’t going to say no to more Parks and Rec, I really felt like the show had already gone out on a high note. Season 7, though, proved me wrong. This was the perfect ending to the show. It was a well-deserved victory lap for one of the best shows of this last decade. A show as consistently upbeat as this one needed an ending that was equally upbeat.

Super Hero TV Shows: With only a few weeks of shows, I don’t have much to say about the panoply of superhero shows currently airing. I will say that the Flash is still great; it feels like they are building some good stuff here. Supergirl is really coming into its own, with Martian Manhunter really being the perfect mentor and ally for Kara and Cat Grant is getting more focused. Agent Carter came back this year with some great episodes and Arrow has largely recovered from the scattered third season.

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