Given my most anticipated TV show of the year, Game Of Thrones, returned this past week, it seems an opportune moment to talk about television, and what I’ve been watching recently, or rather, what I’ve been trying to not spoil for myself. As you should probably know by now, I live in the UK, and we in this country do not receive media at the same time as other countries. I know we have it better than some and worse than others, it’s a worldwide thing. Anyway, two shows that we got significantly later than the US are Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale. Fargo is in series 3, and Handmaid is a new show, but they have both been finished in the states for over a month at this point, yet we are only on episode eight for them both. The problem here is that most episodes for these shows end on a cliffhanger, leaving me dying to know what happens next, and the information I crave is a mere Wiki-click away, or I could just listen to the podcast episodes covering them that I already have downloaded (Aw Jeez and Bald Move for Fargo, All Flesh for The Handmaid’s Tale). It’s taken every inch of my almost non-existent will-power to not plough through every episode of those shows and just find out what happens and who survives. It’s unbearable. Then again it goes both ways, as we in the UK saw series 3 of Broadchurch early in the year (granted I’ve only recently caught uup on all three series, the first and third of which are fantastic, and the second is merely OK, falling into the trap of trying something different but not having enough to do to drag out to a full series length but trying anyway). I’m also dipping a toe into American Gods and toying with the notion of catching up with Legion and Preacher, we’ll see how my time goes.
So that’s TV, but what movies have I seen recently?
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
July’s Movie of the Month (Thanks Rob!) just happened to be one of my all-time favourite and most-watched movies, so that was a nice change. I’m so familiar with it that I didn’t need to watch it again, but seeing as I had the opportunity I was more than happy to. We went pretty in depth on the Lambcast discussing it, so you can hear more of my thoughts on it there, but suffice to say I think this film is almost perfect (bizarre Ted Danson cameo aside) and remains a marvel of visual effects almost 20 years on.
Lists: None (already crossed off, review here)
Choose Film 10/10
Background movie whilst I added the links and images to the previous version of this post. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey play grown-up, moved-out sisters whose parents are selling their childhood home, so they throw a final party to commemorate, but this time the straight-laced, responsible Poehler lets her hair down, whilst wild and uninhibited Fey attempts to remain sensible and sober. Things go predictably awry, but never in an amusing manner. Films like this are my main problem with most modern comedies, in that there just isn’t enough humour in them, or even many attempts to be funny. Blocks of solid minutes will go by without anyone moving towards a set-up or punchline, and given that alongside the usually dependable Fey and Poehler you’ve got a supporting cast including Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Bobby Moynihan, Rachel Dratch, John Cena, Kate McKinnon and Chris Parnell, this really should have been so much more. Writer Paula Pell should have taken another few drafts of the screenplay.
Choose Life 4/10
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Only two more Best Picture nominees left to watch (Fences and Hidden Figures)! Hacksaw Ridge is so far a friend of mine’s favourite film of this year (it was released in January in the UK) so I’d been looking forward to this. It tells the story of Desmond Doss, a man intent on following his sense of duty to serve during World War 2, but whose pacifism meant he refused to ever touch a gun, even if it was required to pass his basic training. When a war film is split evenly into two halves, and those halves are boot camp training followed by actual combat, it’s almost impossible to escape comparisons to Full Metal Jacket, especially given how iconic R. Lee Ermey’s performance is in that opening half. So whilst Hacksaw Ridge cannot possibly compete with the brutality of that opening, though it gives it a fair go, it makes up with a terrific second half, detailing what Doss would become most known for. It’s been a while since I last saw Full Metal Jacket (I hope to rectify this soon) but I remember the second half not being exemplary, so I think Hacksaw Ridge might well be better, if a little overly cinematic to be believable (though I’ve done no research, so it could well be very accurate). Andrew Garfield is fine in the leading role, though maybe not quite worthy of the Oscar nom, Vince Vaughn was an interesting an not unwelcome choice as his sergeant, and Sam Worthington continues to confuse me as to why he has a career.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
I was wary about this one, which sees Amy Adams as a brittle socialite who receives a book from her ex-husband, with the book’s story becoming entwined within her own narrative in the film, and the opening credits, which feature obese, scantily clad women dancing in slow motion, did little to disparage those thoughts, and I became very concerned that I’d entered into something distinctly Lynchian, which would not have been welcome. However, once I got past the opening and Amy Adams’ appalling haircut (it’s intentionally so, I’d assume, in the same way that everyone she works with at the art gallery also dresses in the most horrendous attire), this became quite gripping. The story-within-a-story is much more engaging and dramatic than the external one, following a family (Jake Gyllenhaal, Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber) going on a road trip but running into Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his band of miscreants, and really stepped up a gear in my estimation once police detective Michael Shannon shows up and steals the movie. The “real world” stuff isn’t bad – it’s all expertly shot and acted – I just wanted to get back to the internal story.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Watched in preparation for an upcoming Lambcast on the movies of 1987, I’d actually started watching this years ago but never finished it, partially because I really don’t like Dennis Quaid and don’t think he’s ever been good in anything, including this. So the basic premise is Quaid plays Tuck Pendleton (you don’t get better than cheesy 80s action names), who is shrunk down as part of a science experiment, and id supposed to be injected into a rabbit, but due to a ruckus at the facility he ends up in the blood stream of hypochondriac Jack Putter, played by Martin Short. Putter, with the help of Tuck’s on-off romantic partner Lydia Maxwell (Meg Ryan) needs to get the missing chip required to make Tuck bigger again and out of his body before Tuck’s air runs out. The part of the film I’d seen initially seemed to take this utterly insane and nonsense premise and tackle it almost seriously, or at least with a straight face and mild hi-jinks courtesy of Short. In fact, had I kept watching for another 20 minutes or so I’d have found this movie is as goofy as they come, and all the more enjoyable for it. The ways that Tuck can control and literally distort Putter’s body from inside are hilariously insane, and the third act occurrences with the villains are a great deal of fun. Quaid is as detestable as ever, but Ryan and Short are great, and whatever Robert Picardo was doing, I’d like him to do it in more movies.
Choose Film 7/10
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Another ’87 movie for next week’s show. I’d heard a bit about this one and was looking forward to it, and was not disappointed. It’s hardly revolutionary – Elisabeth Shue takes on a last minute babysitting gig that goes all kind of wrong when her friend needs picking up from town, only for one thing after another to go as badly as possible – but it’s still a lot of fun. The three children are really good, although Daryl is exceptionally annoying, but then again that’s the point, and Sara’s adorableness more than makes up for it. Shue is terrific, and supporting roles from young Bradley Witford and Vincent D’Onofrio are always welcome.
Choose Film 7/10