What I Watched November 2016

Movies

Hacksaw Ridge – read review here. ***1/2

Dr. Strange – read review here. ****

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 – This isn’t very good. The first Hunger Games movie was solid, exactly what it needed to be, but this adaptation of the first half of the last book is nothing. It is nearly two hours of absolutely nothing. When Harry Potter pulled this trick at least the movie was well shot. **1/2

Arrival – read review here. ****1/2

O Brother Where Art Thou? – The Coen Brothers are great, and this might be the best of their comedies. (editor’s note – It’s The Big Lebowski) All three of the protagonists are great, plenty of the side characters are a lot of fun and Man of Constant Sorrow is a delight to listen to. Just an all-around excellent film. *****

Stonehurst Asylum – An adaptation of a Poe story that I was unfamiliar with, this movie is okay. It has a lot of talented actors, with Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis and Kate Beckinsale, but it is kind of muddled in the middle and not especially good. Still, there is something good in there, even if it is only intermittently visible. ***

Unforgiven – This is an amazing movie. Maybe Eastwood’s best. It is a movie about many things: guilt, fame, time. All of them are woven together perfectly for this somber look at the dying days of the old west and the toll that life can take on people. Just amazing. *****

Hero – I greatly enjoyed this. It has some beautiful shots and some wonderfully choreographed fight scenes, as well as a story that twists just enough to be interesting. It is just really well made. ****

Goon – A dim witted bouncer stumbles into a job as a hockey enforcer, even though when he starts he can barely skate. Finally having a place to belong, he grows to be an integral part of his team even though he is only there to fight. It mostly works, but isn’t anything great. ***1/2

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – read review here. ****

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – This has always been my least favorite Harry Potter story, both in book and movie form, and this viewing didn’t do anything to change my mind. Kenneth Branagh almost saves it with his perfect turn as Gilderoy Lockhart, but it loses some of the magic in trying to capture all of the book. Still, I wouldn’t call it bad, just a little too long and a little too dull. ***

ACOD – This movie has a really talented cast and a good idea, but it is a comedy that is only intermittently funny. For long stretches it isn’t funny at all. **1/2

ARQ – This is basically Edge of Tomorrow on a shoestring budget. It kind of works, though the small budget shows. Some of its concepts could use more fleshing out, but the idea of a house caught in a repeating loop with only a few of the people there aware of is at least an interesting concept. **1/2

Batman The Movie – This is a great comedy and as long as it is looked at through that lens it holds up. Batman is a silly idea, and this is that idea at its silliest. The gleeful goofiness of this movie makes it simply a delight. Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb. *****

Moana – read review here. ****

Burn After Reading – Not the best Coen Brothers movie. Stupid people do stupid things for 90 minutes. Some of them die, some get rewarded. Life has no meaning. There are some good scenes and it is pretty amusing, but it feels fatally slight. ***1/2

How to Steal a Million – Wow. Audrey Hepburn is amazing. Peter O’Toole and Eli Wallach are no slouches, but you watch this movie to watch Hepburn and it is worth it. It is a romantic comedy heist movie, and while the heist is a little undersold, the rest of it is great. ****1/2

London Has Fallen – What a miserable film. It is just ugly and bad in just about every way. There is absolutely nothing to recommend here; this is complete and utter dreck. *

TV

The Office (U.K.) – I sat down and watched this all the way through for the first time. It is still very good. You have to hand it to Ricky Gervais, David Brent is one of the most despicable characters to ever appear on TV; he is wholly unlikeable. At every opportunity he shows himself to small and petty, but he is wrapped in so much delusion that he casts himself as the wronged party. Since his constant faux pas come from ignorance, not malice it can be tempting to forgive him, but even when given the chance to be the thing he thinks he is he fails to do so. That really made the Christmas special at the end ring false; he gets something of a happy ending that he hadn’t earned. Still, it is a great show, though I would argue even more strongly now that the American version is better.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – A solid adaptation of a book I loved that can’t really bring over all of the things I loved about the book (there is no way to do footnotes on film). Still, it is a delightful look at a version of the early 19th century but with magic. It really made me want to reread the book, so I guess it was a success.

Ascension – Euggh. This starts with such a great premise, a generation ship traveling through space that has developed its own customs the longer they have been separate from Earth. It starts with a murder mystery on that ship, but every episode seems to change its mind about what kind of show it was, leading the viewer down some dull, inconsequential and poorly thought paths. This could have been something good, but instead it is nothing.

Curb your enthusiasm s3 – This show is one of those near perfect comedies, like Arrested Development. There is something perfectly relatable and detestable about the fictional Larry David. I’ve never really sat down and watched this show all the way through, but my brothers and I saw most of the 3 season one morning and every episode was hilarious.

CW Superhero Round-Up – This continues to be a strong season for Supergirl and I still like Flash more than most people. I have dropped off Arrow almost completely, though I did come back for the crossover. Legends is junk, but it is fun junk. That crossover, which was misleadingly called a 4-parter even though Supergirl’s episode only barely tied in, was impressive if not completely satisfying.

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