We haven’t been watching as much the last couple months, what with everyone getting sick, and things just generally being very hectic. Found some gems among the dross, though!
Here’s what I saw:
- Legion (Season 1) (2017)
- Bridesmaids (2011)
- Mr. Robot (Seasons 1 & 2) (2015–2016)
- Trolls (2016)
- Finding Dory (2016)
- Katherine Ryan: In Trouble (2017)
- The Nice Guys (2016)
- The Man from Nowhere (2010)
- The Night Manager (2016)
- The Expanse (Season 2) (2017)
Shows that I started watching:
- Halt & Catch Fire (Season 1) (2014)
- The Witch (2016)
- Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
- The Americans (Season 5) (2017)
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 4) (2016)
- A Million Ways to Die in the West (2016)
Legion (Season 1)
2017 | Created by Noah Hawley. With Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, and Jean Smart.
I’ve already reviewed it halfway in my previous blog entry, so I won’t repeat myself here. I’ll just say:
Damn, this was good. Don’t watch it alone in the dark. Now I just need to start watching Fargo, which has the same showrunner.
2017 | Directed by Paul Feig. With Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, and Chris O’Dowd.
After watching Spy and being pleasantly surprised, I figured I should probably finally get around to watching Bridesmaids, which has the same director and a couple of the same stars (McCarthy, Byrne). Bridesmaids is a little less clever and a lot more gross-out, but it’s still quite funny. Plus, Kristen Wiig is always wonderful.
Mr. Robot (Seasons 1 & 2) (2011)
2015–2016 | Created by Sam Esmail. With Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, and Christian Slater.
We’re a bit late hopping onto the Mr. Robot train—oh man, you have to watch this show. The synopsis makes it sound boring/awful: it’s about a hacker who has anxiety and depression, and we all know how realistic Hollywood/American TV get with technology. I remember watching some mid-2000s hacker movie with Ryan Phillippe in which he was supposed to be doing some fancy coding, but they showed a page of HTML code.
Anyway, this show is a total mindf*ck and pretty much all of the acting and writing is top-notch. Even the characters you start off hating become awesome. We breezed through the first two seasons, and now we’re just dying to see Season 3 this fall.
As a side note, I thought I’d never seen Rami Malek before this show, but apparently, I had. And I forgot. Imagine that.
2016 | Directed by Andrew Stanton. With the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, and Zooey Deschanel.
I thought this movie was going to be very annoying, but my son wanted to watch it—he loves the Justin Timberlake song—so I have been forced to half-watch it about three or four times. It grows on you. Admittedly, I find Anna Kendrick a bit irritating (I feel badly about it, because she seems nice enough, but I don’t really like her voice) but she was fine in this movie. Justin Timberlake is surprisingly funny, though it really should not surprise me after “Dick In a Box” and “Simpático”.
Finding Dory (2016)
2016 | Directed by Mike Mitchell. With the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, and Ed O’Neill.
I actually don’t remember the first movie, Finding Nemo, all that well. I mean, it was fine, I just didn’t adore it like everyone seemed to. Finding Dory was pretty much the same: it was very pleasant and the animation was beautiful, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me. Fun for the kids, though, sure!
Katherine Ryan: In Trouble (2017)
2017 | With Katherine Ryan.
I don’t watch stand-up comedy too often—I think the last few I saw were Aziz Ansari, Jimmy Carr, and Chelsea Perretti—but this one was worth watching, for me. Katherine Ryan is a small-town Canadian girl who now lives in England, so I know her mostly from her occasional appearances on British panel shows Q.I. and Would I Lie to You? This is her first Netflix special, and while it occasionally feels a bit dated (it’s from just before the U.S. presidential election), Ryan comes across as smart and funny—but unfortunately, a touch too nice, with too-safe jokes. I’d like to see more from her, but she definitely has the room and the ability to get a little nastier!
The Nice Guys (2011)
2017 | Directed by Shane Black. With Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice.
This buddy detective comedy set in Los Angeles in the late 1970s has a fair bit of style to spare, though I was unconvinced by Gosling in a comedic role. I generally like Gosling in quieter, more serious roles (Drive, for example), and find him uncompelling in brasher roles (The Big Short). Russell Crowe is fine and very much in his element here. But Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s daughter, just about outshines them both. Overall, this is an entertaining movie, but I doubt I’ll remember much of it in a year’s time.
The movie vaguely reminded me of Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (two con artists who also work with a young girl), which I thought was superior movie in every way.
The Man from Nowhere (2010)
2017 | Directed by Lee Jeong-beom. With Won Bin and Kim Sae-ron.
This movie was favorably compared with more recent hit John Wick, which my husband and I absolutely love, so we were happy to give this Korean thriller a try. One can certainly see the comparisons: the story is about a former black-ops soldier who is forced to kill a whole lot of bad guys when his neighbor, a little girl, is kidnapped.
The premise is exciting, and some of the action sequences are very good, indeed. However, The Man from Nowhere is a far more serious film and I wouldn’t say it’s very much like John Wick, at all. Kinda more like Taken, really. It’s still worth watching if you like these kinds of movies, but it’s definitely more drama/thriller than action.
The Night Manager (2016)
2017 | Directed by Susanne Bier. With Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Olivia Colman.
This was a British miniseries that aired early last year, and it won a couple of Emmys and Golden Globes earlier this year for directing, acting (Hiddleston, Laurie, Colman), and score.
It’s based on a spy novel by John Le Carré, so it was never a question for us to see it! (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, both the UK miniseries and the Gary Oldman movie versions, and The Constant Gardener are favorites.)
The Night Manager follows a British hotel manager who becomes an undercover agent infiltrating the world of an arms dealer. There is some occasional nonsense (like Hiddleston’s character obviously falling for the arms dealer’s girlfriend—it’s like he wants to die) but overall, the story is fascinating and disturbing. The acting is all excellent—in fact, I’d say the weakest of the main actors is Hiddleston, who is becoming a bit insufferable to me, but he’s still good in his role.
Also, if you liked The Night Manager, I highly recommend Lord of War, one of my favorite 2000s movies.
The Expanse (Season 2) (2017)
2017 | Created by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. With Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
We found the first season of The Expanse quite interesting, and despite minor issues with the show’s awkward writing, the overall story was intriguing enough that we tackled Season 2, as well. We’re almost done, with basically one more episode to go, so I’ve placed it here in the “completed” pile.
The show is based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey, which pretty much explains why the show actually has a structured story that appears to be going places (unlike many TV shows that just meander from one random story arc to the next). The first season was really a detective show that happened to be set in space, though the world-building was very well done and I loved that aspect of it. This second season, the show has become less of a detective show and more political action/drama.
I have a strong suspicion that the books are much better; the show is hampered by uneven acting (a few actors are very good, while others are considerably not great), but if you can get past that, it’s a very worthwhile sci-fi show.
What I Started Watching:
Halt & Catch Fire (Season 1)
2014 | Created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers. With Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, and Mackenzie Davis.
I just watched the first two episodes of AMC’s dramatization of the 1980s PC revolution. It’s funny when a time that I lived through is depicted as a period piece—damn, I feel old. Granted, I was just a little kid, then! The show seems well-written and well-acted, though I get a sense of self-indulgence about it, and I’m not sure whether that’s deliberate since, hey, it’s the ’80s, or if it’s just annoying filmmaking. Will have to watch a bit more to find out.
The Witch (2016)
2015 | Directed by Robert Eggers. With Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie.
You all know I’m a big wuss, right? So I watched about ten minutes of The Witch (stylized The VVitch, since that’s how it was written back in the day) and promptly shut it off. Too scary for my active imagination. Then I Wiki’ed the story, which I never do, but I felt compelled this time. I might go on to finish the movie someday. It did seem well made, with a heavy sense of foreboding. But I will have to watch it in the middle of the day. When the sun is shining very, very brightly. And when I am not by myself.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
2016 | Directed by Roland Emmerich. With Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman.
Independence Day was fun and dumb. I hoped the long-awaited (ha!) sequel would be the same, but it’s just dumb. I made it through the first 20 minutes, I think.
The Americans (Season 5) (2017)
2017 | Created by Joe Weisberg. With Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor, Costa Ronin, and Noah Emmerich.
My husband and I have been hooked on this show, a period piece about two Russian spies posing as regular Americans during the Cold War, from the very beginning, and it is not much of a stretch to call it the best drama on TV. It isn’t for everybody, though: I would call it a slow burn of a show, with a lot of subtlety, and frankly, a lot of the time not much seems to happen. But I find it utterly compelling and can’t miss an episode. The Americans will end on its sixth season; I expect this season, the fifth, will build up to an impressive climax. There are four more episodes left this season, so we’ve only got a month to go!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 4) (2016)
2017 | Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur. With Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Melissa Fumero, and Terry Crews.
I haven’t loved a comedy so much since Community. What’s especially nice about Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though, is that it’s generally not mean-spirited. Just goofy-ass fun. Season 4 has been weaker than the previous three, but it’s still pretty funny.
I really couldn’t pick a favorite character, as they’re all awesome. (OK, it’s Captain Holt.)
Season 4 wraps up at the end of this month.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
2014 | Created by Seth MacFarlane. With Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried.
This would have been way better as a Family Guy episode. I stopped paying attention about 30 minutes in. The same jokes being rehashed, ad infinitum, work better out of the mouths of an erudite dog and a psychopathic, football-headed baby rather than from real-life Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron. Maybe if they’d just all worn teddy bear suits…