Spending my time catching up on pending reviews (Three more crossed off! Twelve still to go!) has seen me watching less review-necessary films in an attempt to prevent the pending list from growing ever further. However, I still have those gaps in my week that need filling with audio-visual content, so I’ve been watching more TV. Not just new stuff, I’m catching up on some older shows too. Specifically I’ve started watching Parks & Recreation, a show I’d heard was good but had never gotten to, mainly because I don’t think it ever made its way to UK TV. I’m three episodes into series 1 so far, and I hop it gets better. I’ve heard that it’s from series 2 onwards that the show finds its feet, and at the moment the characters and situations have potential, but just need to settle into themselves a little more. I could also do with perhaps a little less Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, who so far comes off as more annoying than endearing, but there’s enough going on to make me continue with the series and move onto number 2 when the time comes.
I’m also catching up on series 2 of Newsroom, which I love because of Aaron Sorkin. I’ve watched all of The West Wing several times, and consider Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to be my second favourite show to ever be cancelled in the first season, and I’ve yet to really work out why, other than the comparisons to 30 Rock (which I like, and am about to begin series 7 of, but between the two I prefer Studio 60). As for Newsroom, it feels like more of the same – a gaggle of predominantly white, very intelligent and highly motivated members of a team walking and talking very quickly largely discussing a world I barely understand, but as always I’m here for the characters. The Maggie/Jim (Alison Pill/John Gallagher Jr.) will they/won’t they is getting a little tiresome but not unbearably so, and I’m pleased for supporting characters like Don (Thomas Sadoski) and Neal (Dev Patel) to be getting more screen time as, whilst I initially didn’t love them, I’ve warmed to their characters more now. Of course Jeff Daniels is terrific as Will McAvoy, and I’ll never get tired of any show that regularly features Sam Waterston’s eyebrows and Olivia Munn’s everything in general.
As for new shows there’s two that I’m really getting into, neither of which should be much of a surprise. The Muppets, which is three episodes in so far in the UK, is entertaining in bite-size 20 minute chunks, but perhaps hasn’t yet reached my lofty expectations. It’s worth noting that I’ve never seen any of the original The Muppet Show, which means I’m legally not allowed to call myself a Muppets fan, but I’m told all the bickering and behind-the-scenes gubbins was there in that show too. It’s still early days yet, considering we’re only on episode 3 of at least 8, so I’ve hopes that the quality will increase. Even if it doesn’t, I’m still enjoying it.
The other current show I’m watching – and the one I’m missing an episode of as I type this but will catch up on once my partner has vacated the living room because she’s not a fan – is Fargo. The Coen brothers’ movie is amongst my top 10 films of all time, and I loved the first season, so the second was hotly anticipated by me. The first couple of episodes weren’t so much a disappointment as much as they were just dragging out my waiting for the show to really kick off, which is exactly what happened on last week’s episode. It’s got a very eclectic cast, and everyone is pulling their wait, so I’m very much looking forward to whatever is going to happen next. I’m keeping this short so I can go and find out!
Finally, we were out shopping in a vintage emporium the other week and I spotted amongst a crate of second-hand DVDs a collection of the entire run of The Trap Door, a 1980s stop motion plasticine modelled show about the exploits of Berk, a small blue creature who maintains the basements of a castle along with a decapitated skull named Boni and Berk’s pet spider, Drutt. Each episode is about 4 minutes long (all 40 episodes are on one disc), and they all revolve around the trap door in the middle of Berk’s room, which he is forbidden on opening but always does, and out pops a new beastie for him to deal with. It’s utterly terrible but I have a lot of nostalgia for watching this when I was younger (I’d actually forgotten the whole thing existed, but it all comes back to me with each episode I watch). It’s just a shame that my partner has no such childhood Trap Door memories, because she can’t stand it and refused to watch any.
Here’s the films I watched this week:
I managed to crowbar one of the most British franchises in the world (after Carry On and On The Buses) into a series devoted to America. This was my pick for Kentucky for my USA Road Trip, and why yes indeed it did fit in neatly with a certain recent new release, thank you very much.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire’s Top 500, Empire’s Top 301, Total Film’s Top 100, USA Road Trip
Full review here.
I really like Office Space and Idiocracy, so when Mike Judge’s third live action film came out, I marked it down as something to keep an eye out for. I then promptly never heard anything about it, ever again, until it was on TV one day and I recorded it. Now I’ve seen it and I can understand why. It’s by no means terrible, it just isn’t really anything other than bland. Jason Bateman plays Joel, a former bartender who founded his own business manufacturing and shipping bottles of extract for cooking. He has had enough of his lazy, complaining, incompetent staff, and his sex life with his wife (Kristen Wiig) has dwindled to nothing. When one of his workers (Clifton Collins Jr., excellent) is injured at work his potential law suit draws the attention of a gold-digging vagrant (Mila Kunis), who also gains Joel’s attention. He and his bartending friend (a bearded Ben Affleck) hatch a drug-induced plan for Joel’s wife to have an affair with a paid gigolo (Dustin Milligan), so then Joel will be able to sleep with Mila Kunis, guilt free. Of course nothing goes quite as planned, or rather does a little too well, but despite an incredible cast (there are also supporting roles from David Koechner, Beth Grant, Judge himself, T.J. Miller and the almighty J.K. Simmons, plus a misjudged cameo from Gene Simmons) this fails to go anywhere unexpected, other than a last act mini-twist that doesn’t really affect the plot all that much. This lacked the biting satire and outright comedy of Judge’s other works, and that is a real shame.
Lists: TiVo Movies
Choose Life 5/10
Spectre. Hmmm. Skyfall is amazing. I love it. I recently found out (after re-watching Goldfinger, above) that Skyfall is my favourite Bond movie. So needless to say Spectre had a lot to live up to. I recorded a Lambcast on it yesterday, and one of my guests put it quite succinctly by saying it was like going from The Dark Knight to The Dark Knight Rises. Spectre is not a bad film. Not by a long shot. It just isn’t Skyfall, which means it was a major disappointment. It starts well, with a before-credits sequence in Mexico City that starts out with one beautiful long take that leads into explosions, chasing and a helicopter kerfuffle that was a joy to behold. Alas that was the film’s peak, and everything else got a lot more introspective from there, with Bond (Daniel Craig) tracking down a villain with a connection to his past. Despite being almost two and a half hours in length this somehow still lacked enough character and relationship development for some of the final act results. Also, the villain (Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser) was underplayed to the point of mundanity, with nothing setting him apart from any other Bond villain other than his predilection to talk really quietly. Similarly, Dave Bautista’s near-silent henchman Mr. Hinx also lacked a certain presence, but Andrew Scott was decent as a malevolent MI-5 chief heading the merging of MI-5 and 6, and potentially rendering the Double-0 program obsolete. You know, like what happened in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. It’s no wonder that was bumped up to a summer release. For all the fuss that was made of Monica Bellucci being the first Bond girl to be older than the Bond she is playing opposite she only gets about half a scene to do anything, with Léa Seydoux being the primary female counterpart, and like everyone else she is fine but hardly stands out. It was nice seeing M (Ralph Fiennes) and Q (Ben Whishaw) getting more to do this time around, even if that does shy away from the traditional Bond template of the lone wolf on the run, but at times it felt like these side characters, along with other returning favourites Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) were being crow-barred in somewhere they just weren’t needed. And yet I feel like I’m being overly critical of a film that was actually enjoyable. I just wanted more. There was no train-ripped-open-cuff-check, and that’s what I need. I felt like Sam Mendes looked back at Skyfall and decided he couldn’t possibly top it, so he didn’t even try.
Lists: 2015 Movies
Choose Film 6/10
Blades of Glory (2007)
I’d seen this ice-skating buddy comedy before, but not for a long time. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play extreme opposite male stereotypes who both compete in men’s single figure-skating, a sport which seems to be the equivalent of American Football in terms of its popularity and these guys’ celebrity status, but when they both get disgraced at a medal ceremony their only chance to make it in the world is to team up and compete as the first all-male doubles team, sparring against brother-sister duo Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. It’s funny enough, with game performances from all involved, but had it not been at least 5 years since I last saw it I’d have had no need for a re-watch. See it if you haven’t before and you enjoy Ferrell’s comedy style (I’m not sure Heder has one) but if you’ve been here before then you’re fine as you are.
Lists: TiVo Movies
Choose Film 6/10
Posts you may have missed:
USA Road Trip: Kentucky: Goldfinger
Let the Right One In
Lambcast #294: MOTM: Chinatown: I was joined by Aaron Neuwirth, Nikhat Zahra, Todd Liebenow and Nicole Ayers to discuss Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.
Aim: Watch all 61 saved TiVo films
To go: 15
Should be on: 53
On Track: No!
Aim: Watch 59 movies released in the UK in 2015
To go: 10
Should be on: 47
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Review Kate Winslet’s remaining films
To go: 0
Should be on: 3
On Track: COMPLETED!
Aim: Watch 12 “bad” films from the 1001 List
To go: 4
Should be on: 10
On Track: No!
Aim: Watch 1 nominated film a week from the 1001 List
To go: 15
Should be on: 45
On Track: No!
Aim: Cross off 75 films from the 1001 List
To go: 8
Should be on: 65
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Finish French Toast Sunday Road Trip series
To go: 5
Should be on: 12
On Track: No!