What I Watched in October, 2016

Movies

The Prisoner of Zenda – This is one of the classic adventure tales. It is really old, from the 30’s I believe, but it is still a lot of fun to watch. It feels its age, but it is also very apparent why it was popular in the first place. ****

They Came Together – A charming spoof by the guys behind Wet Hot American Summer, starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. It plays out with all the beats of a romantic comedy, but with a layer of complete ridiculousness. Very funny. ****

Looney Tunes Back In Action – Joe Dante is great and this is the movie that Space Jam should have been. Too bad Space Jam had already shit in the pool by this point. It has some great slapstick action and Brendan Fraser is a lot of fun. ****

Sweeney Todd – This is the perfect musical for Tim Burton’s talents, but that doesn’t make this movie any more enjoyable to watch. The production design is excellent, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics for most of the songs. ***

Jaws – Amazing exercise in tension and pacing. Just a great movie overall. Jaws doesn’t need any defending. *****

Spotlight – This is an altogether excellent movie. There are strong performances and riveting subject matter. I don’t really have more to say. *****

Sum of All Fears – Ben Affleck plays Jack Ryan in a movie that is mostly pretty dull until it goes balls out crazy and drops a nuke in Baltimore. It isn’t especially good, but it is nuts. ***

Redemption – This movie has aspirations of being more than just a Statham action movie, but it really isn’t much of anything. Statham is always fun to watch and it really isn’t like anything else, but neither is it particularly good. **1/2

Mascots – see review here. ****

The Nice Guys – Of all the movies to come out this year, this is the one I most wanted to see in the theater but missed out on. After taking advantage of a 99 cent rental deal with Amazon, I finally got to see it and am even more upset that I missed it. This is easily one of the best movies of the year. Both Crowe and Gosling are fantastic. Really everything aobut this movie is great. Perfection. *****

Tucker & Dale Versus Evil – A largely amusing horror comedy that leans too hard on the gore. There are some good bits and jokes, but it never really rises about amusing distraction into something really memorable. ***1/2

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

Jack Reacher – A perfectly competent action movie starring Tom Cruise. It is baseline action movie, nothing too spectacular but completely watchable. ***

Amanda Knox – It is amazing to watch this, to see the filmmakers get a lot of the major players to appear on camera and two of them just damn themselves with what they saw. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered someone as scummy as Nick Pisa, or at least as he comes across here. It also gets across how flimsy the case against her was. This isn’t the most informative of documentaries, it assumes the viewer has a basic understanding of the case already, but it is riveting. ****

Godzilla 2014 – I liked this movie a lot more in the theater. I still like it now, but without the big screen spectacle the flaws stand out more. There really isn’t enough Godzilla action and some of the stuff with Ford doesn’t work at all. Still, that climax redeems it for the most part. ***1/2

Dazed and Confused – I have liked a lot of other Linklater movies, and when this one showed up on Netflix I jumped at the chance to finally see it. It is one of those perfect coming of age comedies. Most of the characters are at least partly sympathetic and it manages to capture the feeling of being in high school. ****1/2

Addams Family – This is one of the great horror comedies. The cast is great: Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd especially. I don’t know that I like the actual plot, but all of the jokes and scenes play. ****

Addams Family Values – A much better plot than the first movie, with a lot of good stuff for this game great cast. I love camp stuff, seeing Wednesday and Puggsley being forced to interact with something like the real world. It is just so much damn fun. *****

Young Frankenstein – An all-time classic. It is not my favorite movie by either gene Wilder or Mel Brooks, but any collaboration of theirs is worth seeing. While I don’t love horror movies, I do like horror comedies and this might be the best. *****

Sisters – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a great comic duo, but this movie doesn’t quite stick the landing. All the elements are there and there are some genuinely funny jokes, but there is also a lot of flab. It doesn’t nail the character stuff or the comedy hard enough, though all of it is roughly good. Still, Fey and Poehler are too good to not at least like. ***1/2

The Cabin in the Woods – A pretty great meta take on slasher movies. I don’t much care for any horror movies, but this seems like it was doing something really smart with the genre.

Shaun of the Dead – Still excellent. It is layered and well considered and very funny. I like the other Cornetto movies a little better, but this one is still great. *****

TV

Poirot Series 13 – I finally worked my way through the last series. It is the same as it ever was; largely very well executed mystery movies built around a great performance with its lead. Still, it always manages to feel a little cold. It is never the less completely enjoyable. I am glad I soldiered through.

Detectorists Series 2 – The more I watch this show, the more I love it. It nails this perfect pastoral feel, with its characters gradually revealing themselves, never rushing to state its points. The characters are perfectly human; their struggles are wholly relatable. It is just everything I want in a show.

The Ranch S1 Part 2 – More of the same from the first part; a comfortingly terrible sitcom. Terrible is too strong, it isn’t good but it is well executed and the cast has some chemistry. There just isn’t a lot here to recommend unless you are a big fan of the stars.

Luke Cage – I’ve already written about this here.

The Get Down – I don’t really know how to evaluate this beautiful mess. There are some great scenes, but the show is just all over the place. Again, some of the musical numbers really work, but a lot of the dialogue is insultingly on the nose. I liked it on the whole, but it isn’t really all that good.

Quick Draw Season 1 – This show has essentially one joke, that the over-educated Harvard graduate sheriff doesn’t get the old west, but it manages to wring quite a few fun bits out of it, especially since they actually let him be an expert shot. Still, I watched the first season during a slow afternoon and likely will never come back to it.

Flash S3 – It hasn’t rebounded to the soaring heights of the first season, but while it has been a little slow so far, it does feel like they are actually building to something worthwhile. Unlike last season when the first third of the season was mostly set up for Legends. I’m really enjoying all the different Wells and Draco Malfoy as Barry’s work rival. I hope it pays off on all the promising stories it is setting up.

Arrow S5 – I think this season is shaping up to be stronger than last, but no less weird. They’ve brought in Ragman, Mr. Terrific and Wild Dog. Freaking Wild Dog. Still, it is staying closer to the street level stuff that Arrow works better with. I don’t know that I’ll keep up with it past the crossover, though.

Legends of Tomorrow S2 – The show is slightly stronger through three episodes than it ever was last season. Maybe that is just my innate love of the JSA showing through. It is still too ambitious for its effects budget, but Vixen is better than Hawkgirl. Of course, Commander Steel is no match for Captain Cold. Still, they are being set up to fight a time traveling Injustice League, which is much better than last season’s tepid take on Vandal Savage.

Supergirl S2 – The show is going through some pretty big changes in its move to the CW, but it overall feels a lot more confident with what it wants to be. Superman in the first few episodes was great and most of the new additions are fun so far. This might end up being as good as Flash S1 at this rate.

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