(I actually wrote this up back in January and then forgot to edit and post it!)
I don’t get a lot of time to watch movies and television nowadays; to be honest, whenever the kids are asleep, most of the time my husband and I just want to zone out or sleep, too!
The rest of the time, we can watch a couple kids movies (or kid-friendly movies), so that’s reflected in my list of things watched over the last two months:
- Maigret (Series 1) (2016)
- Minions (2016)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
- Plebs (Series 3) (2016)
- Star Trek Beyond (2016)
- The Peanuts Movie (2015)
- Peaky Blinders (Series 1) (2013)
- Zootopia (2016)
- The Good Dinosaur (2015)
- The Grand Tour (Season 1) (2016)
- Westworld (Season 1) (2016)
- The Jungle Book (2016)
Maigret (Series 1)
2016 | With Rowan Atkinson, Lucy Cohu
We saw the first of two standalone episodes, Maigret Sets a Trap. This British (ITV) series is based on a series of French detective novels by Georges Simenon, published from 1931–1972. My husband loves detective shows; I was more interested in seeing Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson plays the titular detective) in a serious role. It turned out to be kind of a disappointment. The story wasn’t terribly original (perhaps it was when first published?) and the acting fell a little flat. It wasn’t bad, but it simply wasn’t up to the admittedly very high standards of other British mysteries like Foyle’s War and Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple. I believe the second episode is out, but we probably won’t bother with it.
2016 | Directed by Pierre Coffi, Kyle Balda
With the voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Geoffrey Rush
I like the Minions, so sue me! But this movie was pretty lame. Some parts are funny, like the opening Minion origin story, and a few other gags here and there throughout the movie. But overall, the story was very forced and didn’t have the same warm fuzziness of the Despicable Me movies, both of which I like a lot.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2015 | Directed by J.J. Abrams
With Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver
I only watched about ten or fifteen minutes of this, so I can’t actually review it properly. While I’m not the world’s biggest Star Wars fan, I did enjoy the original three films (OK, I didn’t like Return of the Jedi because I can’t stand the damn Ewoks) and despised the three newer ones, plus I usually like Abrams’ stuff—so I thought I’d check this out. I just found it boring and none of the actors/characters held my interest whatsoever. I’ll probably give it another try someday, probably when I have something else to do at the same time. (That’s how I made it through Twilight—I simultaneously baked cookies.)
Plebs (Series 3)
2016 | Directed by Sam Leifer.
With Tim Rosenthal, Joel Fry, Ryan Sampson
It surely says something about our senses of humor, but my husband and I have loved this series from the beginning! Plebs is a ridiculous British comedy about two young men, Marcus and Stylax, and their slave, Grumio, trying to get by/laid in ancient Rome. It’s completely anachronistic and full of modern gags and puns, and a fair dose of gutter humor. Marcus and Stylax, and another character played by Tom Basden (also one of the show’s writers), are employed as a copier, a shredder, and a water boy (“Water Man!”)—basically a modern office’s photocopier, paper shredder, and water cooler. All three leads are hilarious—my favorite is Ryan Sampson as the most vexing, useless slave ever. Doon Mackichan is also fantastic as the boys’ boss. All three series have been equally hilarious.
Game of Thrones fans will recognize Joel Fry (Stylax) as Hizdahr zo Loraq.
Star Trek Beyond
2016 | Directed by Justin Lin
With Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba
As with Star Wars, I’m not the biggest Star Trek fan (the husband grew up watching it, though). I really did like the first reboot movie; the second was OK. This third installment is like the second: a good amount of fun and excitement, but brought down by a less-than-stellar villain. What a waste of Idris Elba here, and even of Benedict Cumberbatch in the second movie…hell, we can go all the way back and say they could have done a lot more with Eric Bana in the first, too. Is it just me, or have these Star Trek villains all been unreasonably attractive? On a final note, RIP Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
The Peanuts Movie
2015 | Directed by Steve Martino
With the voices of Noah Schnapp, Alexander Garfin, Hadley Belle Miller, Bill Melendez
I was kind of in and out of the room while this was on, but I was surprisingly quite taken by the modernized animation in this movie. It really did the original comics justice, and kept a lot of the old charm in the move to 3D. The story was brisk and generally interesting, though I feel that it’s probably more for adults who cherished the comic strip than for today’s children who are getting their first introduction to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang. I do wish that the story was less about Charlie Brown mooning over the Little Red-Haired Girl, as Peanuts was always about a lot more than that. Overall, though, The Peanuts Movie is charming and thankfully I don’t have to count it as one of the many remakes that seem hellbent on destroying my childhood.
Peaky Blinders (Series 1)
2013 | Created by Steven Knight
With Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Annabelle Wallis
This is a BBC show that I’ve been meaning to watch since it first aired in 2013, but I never got around to it until now. We’re still working through the first series, and it’s seriously a well-done show. The writing is a bit over-the-top, but it works really well in the violent, drama-filled setting of a gangster family in Birmingham, England, post-WWI. The cast is excellent, and includes the always reliable Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, and Helen McCrory. Peaky Blinders reminds me a little of Ripper Street, which is set a bit earlier (late 1800s, post-Jack the Ripper) and is about the police rather than the criminals.
2016 | Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
With the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba
I didn’t quite know what to expect with Zootopia, especially since most of Disney’s recent big animated films (The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, Frozen) did very little for me. Actually, the last Disney feature I saw and liked was Wreck-It Ralph back in 2012 (totally loved it!). Zootopia ended up being a great deal of fun, though! I probably still love Wreck-It Ralph better just because it had a really fantastic, involved storyline and was full of so much creativity, but Zootopia runs it pretty close. OK, so it did beat you over the head a bit with morals and messages (and there were a couple of things that I thought they should have reworked), but in this day and age? Maybe we kind of need that a bit more.
The Good Dinosaur
2016 | Directed by Peter Sohn
With the voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand
Speaking of The Good Dinosaur! Ooh this was a snoozer. Turned it off after ten minutes. Our toddler barely looked at it, and he at least watched the first twenty minutes of Zootopia. I don’t understand how this is meant for children…I mean, it’s so slow and dull in the beginning. I can’t quite get on board with the whole, “Imagine if dinosaurs and humans coexisted!”, either. There’s enough misinformation out there that I don’t think we need more of this. That said, obviously I didn’t see the whole movie, so I’ll just stop now and rewatch The Land Before Time. (Sniff.)
The Grand Tour (Season 1)
With Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May
We’re big fans of pre-2016 Top Gear, and are glad that Amazon gave Clarkson, Hammond, and May a chance to put a new (but not really) show together that is only marginally about cars.
So they couldn’t/wouldn’t take a lot of the great stuff from BBC’s Top Gear, like the Stig and Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, but The Grand Tour introduces some new segments and gags. I do hope the celebrity death routine gets killed off next season, though—it got old by the second episode. The American racecar driver they got to replace the Stig is honestly kind of massively irritating, though I am guessing that’s what they were going for. Our favorite piece they’ve done so far is from the fourth episode, “Enviro-mental”, in which they build environmentally-friendly cars and race them through Wales.
The new show is still pretty much like the old one, just a teeny bit more scripted-feeling (of course it was always scripted) and now with a huge budget that allows them to make every episode feel like it was co-directed by Michael Bay. The boys do seem more energized than they have in the last couple of series of Top Gear, so I guess all is well. Except for the BBC.
Westworld (Season 1)
2016 | Created by Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy
With Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden
I’ve usually enjoyed the movies I’ve seen that were based on Michael Crichton’s novels, so I was a little surprised to see that I hadn’t heard of Westworld. In 1973, at the age of 31 or so, Crichton wrote and directed the original film (I didn’t even realize he was a filmmaker!), which quite awesomely starred Yul Brynner and James Brolin.
Westworld is set in an android-populated Western-themed amusement park, where the rich pay for the abiliy to to pretty much do whatever depraved thing they want to.
We’re only a few episodes in, but we’re seriously impressed by this show. It’s incredibly well-written, and there is hardly any wasted time in the story. After every episode, it feels like we’ve just watched the equivalent of three or four episodes of your average television show. It’s intelligent, well-directed, well-cast and well-acted, looks and sounds phenomenal, and is full of so many wonderful details. We’re completely addicted.
The Jungle Book
2016 | Directed by Jon Favreau
With Neel Sethi, and the voices of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba
This is the last Idris Elba movie on my list! Hahaha. The man has been working a lot.
Nice try, but no cigar. This live-action/CG version of the old Disney classic is not a train wreck or anything, but it’s not really a superior movie, either. It looks great—that’s pretty much all the good I can say. It’s also a bit darker and more terrifying to a small child, which I thought was kind of unnecessary. The story is poorly put together, and it simply feels like it’s shifting around from one scene to another with no real transitions in between.
The boy playing Mowgli really looks the part—which is presumably how he got the role—but he’s not the best actor. I am OK with giving little kids a break when it comes to acting, though, so I will save most of my disappointment for Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the snake. If you recall the original cartoon, Kaa is voiced by Sterling Holloway, which is remarkable because he also voices Winnie-the-Pooh.
And he doesn’t use different voices for them. I recently rewatched the original Disney Jungle Book, and I was shocked when I heard Pooh Bear’s voice coming out of the snake. I never noticed it as a child. It’s disturbing, to say the least!
But back to ScarJo—I make no secret of disliking Johansson as an actress in everything I’ve seen her in after Lost in Translation. And it’s mostly the voice. I don’t like her monotonous voice. It’s terrible as Kaa’s voice.
Anyway, looks good, isn’t actually good. That sums it up.