I’ve been busy and stressing out a lot about work this week so there’s not all that much to report on my life in general, so instead here’s an update on what I’ve recently been watching TV-wise.
I’m still introducing Aisha to The West Wing, and we’ve made it over halfway through Season 2 but I can sense she is starting to get a bit annoyed with some of the characters, or at least the high-pressure fast-paced world within which they live, due to the concentrated nature of our viewing, so I think we might take a break from it for a while. Maybe we’ll try a season of The Wire in between. In contrast I’ve recently worked my way through the entirety of Veep, all five seasons, and it makes an interesting comparison to The West Wing. In TWW, all the characters – at least the ones we follow week-by-week – are inherently good people, all trying to do what they believe to be best for the greater good and, for the most part, they’re all great at their jobs. In Veep, on the other hand, the main cast is comprised of detestable and incompetent fools spending every moment fighting for themselves at the cost of anyone and anything, and I think both shows are fantastic in their own way. I also appreciate in Veep how with each season they try to write in someone even more vulgar and foul-mouthed than they’ve had previously, with Season 5 introducing Jonah’s uncle, Jeff Kane, played by Peter MacNicol. He doesn’t have an awful lot of screen time, but pretty much everything he says is an insult towards Jonah (Timothy Simons), and that’s OK with me. In fact about half of everyone’s dialogue is insults to Jonah.
After finishing Veep the other day I found myself at a loose end for half an hour, so tried the pilot of Vice Principals. I hadn’t been overly impressed with the trailer, and a prominent role (or in fact any role) for Danny McBride never works out, but the involvement of Walton Goggins showed some potential. Alas I failed to find any moment of the pilot entertaining, and Goggins, who seems to work best as an unhinged, unpredictable psychopath, is forced uncomfortably into a fey, almost straight-laced role he seems entirely wrong for, and instead of being on relatively equal pegging with McBride screen-time-wise Goggins seems very much in a supporting role, which is hugely disappointing to me. I won’t be continuing with this show.
Anyway enough about TV, let’s get to the movies!
My Blind Spot pick for July. I missed Ryan’s last-Tuesday-of-the-month deadline, but I’ve still got 1 day before the end of the month. Place your bets now for a) will I review it in time, and b) what did I think?
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Blind Spot Movies
Full review coming soon.
I’ve recently starting listening to the Alien Minute podcast (gotta say, the Minute-By-Minute movie analysing podcast format is easily my favourite at the moment, major kudos to the Star Wars Minute guys for coming up with this thing) and despite often claiming that Alien is in my top 10 movies of all time I found myself being only vaguely able to recollect a lot of what the hosts were talking about, so obviously a hasty re-watch was required. So, whilst sorting out two giant boxes of electronics and cables over the weekend (FYI: winding cables in the proper fashion counts as steps on your Fitbit) I fitted in a viewing of Alien. I very much enjoyed it again, especially the easy chemistry and dynamic every member of the crew has with each other, but I think it’s safe to say this might have dropped a little in my rankings. It’ll remain in my top 100, probably even top 50, but there’s just no room for it in my 10 any more, especially given how unfamiliar I had become with many aspects. It’s still an awesome movie, don’t get me wrong, with some incredible performances, visual effects and incredibly tense moments – Dallas in the air ducts, jeez – and of course Sigourney Weaver is all kinds of badass. I’ve got no problems with the film whatsoever, just in terms of my cravings for repeat viewings this goes a little further down the list.
Lists: None (Already crossed off from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Total Film Top 100)
Choose Film 10/10
Old review here.
Last week’s Lambcast was on the Ghostbusters franchise, which meant I got to re-watch this utter gem. I reviewed it in full 2 years ago, but was more than happy to give it another watch, and it’s still perfect. You can read my full review here.
Lists: None (Already crossed off from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301)
Choose Film 10/10
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Not so perfect is Ghostbusters II. It’s not a bad movie, and it’s often very enjoyable, but there’s a considerable step down in quality between the two. The comedy works less often and it felt like the film-makers forgot what to do with Ernie Hudson’s Winston, as he barely appears and gets very little to do throughout. Also, pacing-wise I was an hour into this film when I glanced at the clock and felt like nothing had really happened yet. That being said there are some genuinely creepy scenes – the heads on poles inn the subway, for example – and the painting of Vigo the Carpathian is more than a little terrifying. Just a little aside, the aforementioned Peter MacNicol, who is fantastic in this, co-stars in Veep along with Kevin Dunn, who gets a small role in Ghostbusters II as well. I watched an episode with them both in immediately prior to watching this film, so that was nice.
Choose Life 6/10
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
This month’s Bad movie, but one that I didn’t end up hating.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, “Bad” Movies
Full review here.
In a world without humans (or the whole ape lineage), the rest of mammalian kind have evolved to live beyond their predator/prey mentality and have formed a civilisation living, working and functioning together in relative harmony. Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) a rabbit from an ever-increasing farming family, dreams of being a police officer in Zootropolis, but traditionally the police force is manned by huge bulky imposing creatures like rhinos, buffalo and big jungle cats, so Judy is ostracised and winds up a parking ticket warden. However, with the reluctant and eventually blackmailed assistance of a con-artist fox (Jason Bateman), Hopps helps to crack a series of kidnappings that has resorted in the disappearance of several predators. Disney’s latest takes the tried-and-tested notion of talking animals and sets them in a world with nothing else, and it works amazingly well. I had issues getting my head around the insane movie logic of Inside Out last year, a premise so rife with plot and logistic holes it could have been used as a net, but with Zootropolis I found the central concept to be simply defined in a way that made perfect sense, and it didn’t try to make it any more complicated than it needed to be. This was a world I could get behind, and it was filled with colourful characters, terrific voice performances – J.K. Simmons as Mayor Lionheart, Jenny Slate as his assistant Bellweather and Idris Elba as the buffalo police chief Bogo being particular highlights – and a huge dose of comedy, largely taken from movie references. Granted it might sway a little too adult for its key audience at times, but being an almost 29-year old man I had no problems with that, I just thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and despite having seen the sloth scene at least a dozen times before watching this I still had the biggest grin on my face when Flash started to laugh.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 9/10
Sleeping With Other People (2015)
Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie play two people who lost their virginity to one another at university but, 14 years later, have both become unable to remain faithful in their respective relationships. Running into one another at a meeting for sex addicts they rekindle their short-lived friendship, on the pretence that things between them cannot get sexual. Inevitably the pair see other people but continually pine for each other and things take a while getting to the inevitable conclusion, but the two have great chemistry together and the ride is a lot of fun. A couple of scenes involving more explicit secual discussion were occasionally a little uncomfortable for a sheltered individual like myself, but I’ll gladly watch anything Sudeikis and Brie are in as I find them to be highly entertaining screen presences.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
3 years into the Enterprise’s 5 year space exploration mission and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team are getting a little bored with it all. Kirk and his second-in-command Spock (Zachary Quinto) are both planning on heading separate ways, right up until a distressed alien appears with need of a ship to help her own crashed craft. Kirk and co – including ship’s doctor Bones (Karl Urban), communications officer Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), engineer Scottie (Simon Pegg), navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin, RIP) and helmsman Sulu (John Cho) – head off to provide aid, but their ship is set upon and destroyed by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and the Enterprise’s crew are left scattered on the planet’s surface, with Scottie being aided by newcomer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). I’ve never been a huge Star Trek fan. In fact I’ve only ever seen the most recent three films and have never seen a TV episode, but the films I’ve seen I have largely enjoyed, and this is no exception. Justin Lin, of the Fast and/or Furious franchise fame, has taken over the helm from J.J. Abrams and does an effective job, bringing a great deal more action and kinetic energy than his predecessor, whilst the script, co-written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, provides a much wittier approach than that seen before. Pegg’s fingerprints are all over it, utilising his skills of setting up and paying off, as seen all across the Cornetto Trilogy. Story-wise this feels very much like a self-contained episode, the events of which wont impact the series much overall (early on Kirk even complains about how things have begun to feel episodic), but it’s still a more than adequate summer blockbuster full of unique and gripping set-pieces – the destruction of the Enterprise is particularly fascinating, with the attacking ships being relatively small in size, so they temselves become a piercing weapon to destroy the ship, I’ve never seen anything like it before. The separation of the crew allows for some interesting dynamics, with a team-up of Bones and Spock offering the greatest amounts of development and comic relief in equal measures, and newcomer Jaylah is terrific, adding some kick-ass fight scenes and a genuinely interesting character. Compared to some of the other far-from-satisfying blockbusters we’ve seen in the past few months this is a welcome dose of popcorn entertainment.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10
Posts you may have missed:
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
Insession Film #178 Ghostbusters: Nick Rehak and I joined JD Duran on his podcast to talk about Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, our favourite female-driven comedies (a very difficult list for me to come up with) and some 80s-themed this-or-that options. A very fun show indeed.
Lambcast #332: Ghostbusters Franchise: I was joined by Todd Liebenow, Robert Zerbe, Rebecca Sharp and Matthew Stewart to discuss Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II and Ghostbusters 2016. I promise there’s at least 20 minutes of the show where we aren’t constantly quoting the first movie.
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
Should be on: 58
Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Should be on: 7
Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Should be on: 7
Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Should be on: 14