Oy, what a slack blogger I am. Work has been busy, life has been busy, what else is new. So, here’s an update on some stuff.
Movies. I just got in from seeing The Muppets (***1/2), written by and starring Jason Segel with Amy Adams and the usual cast of Muppets that you would expect. It is a perfectly charming reboot of the movie franchise told from the point of view of a Muppet called Walter who grew up with the TV show and looking for a place to fit in. There are some Muppets I would have liked to see more of, and the plot is nothing new, but the script and performances are very good and overall the film was better than I had expected.
In Time (**1/2) is a solid SF film starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, about a world where genetically engineered people can live as long as the time counters on their arms allow. The world has replaced currency with time itself, and if your clock runs down to zero, you drop dead instantly. The plot takes a back seat to the production design and a few interesting twists; the film reminded me of dystopian SF films from the 60s or 70s, like Fahrenheit 451 or The Quiet Earth.
Sleeping Beauty (***) is a creepy and fascinating tale of a young woman called Lucy (Emily Browning) who deals with the tragedy and pressures in her life by slowly getting into the sex trade; at first serving wine at parties that would be at home in a Kubrick movie and then as a participant in a very particular form of prostitution where she is drugged and sleeps through whatever the client does to her – which is anything they want as long as she is not penetrated. Not for the faint of heart or narrow of mind.
Bellflower (***) is a stylish indie movie that mixes a twentysomething relationship film script with Mad Max, with surprisingly pleasant results. It doesn’t look like it cost a lot to make but they really made the most of their production design, practical effects, and photography in addition to an unusual script and cast.
So much for movies. The fall season is over in TV and here is what I look(ed) forward to watching the most every week:
American Horror Story. Creepy, audacious US cable series about a couple that tries to repair their strained relationship by moving to Los Angeles from Boston. Unfortunately the bargain dream home they purchase is a famous “murder house” that gives new meaning to the word haunted. Each episode tends to focus on how one of the ghosts in the house came to die there – and maybe how a new one gets added. The best new show of the season so far.
Community: easily the best comedy on television in years, perhaps too smart for its own good as its continued low ratings have driven it into indefinite hiatus. Its third season started a little slowly but it quickly recovered with some of the best episodes yet, most notably “Remedial Chaos Theory.”
Happy Endings: another excellent ensemble comedy, basically an update of Friends but with better scripts on average and no tiresome relationship arcs (not much, anyway). They get away with some surprisingly dirty jokes for primetime.
The League: still another excellent comedy, theoretically about a group of friends and their football pool, but actually about men and their relationships, mostly with other men. I get the impression that there is a lot of improvising going on in the average episode, and there are definitely a lot of good callbacks.
South Park: their season is already over, and maybe it seems strange to list a show that has been on for 15 years, but South Park is still extremely funny, topical and brave. Their animation sucks, always has, but the quick turnaround on their production allows them to stay topical.
Hawaii Five-0: impressive, slick action series that kicks ass every week like a well-oiled machine. Adding Terry O’Quinn to the cast was a welcome surprise.
So those are the best. Honourable mentions go to Hart of Dixie, New Girl, Revenge, Suburgatory, Person of Interest, The Vampire Diaries, Burn Notice, The Walking Dead, Dexter, and Homeland; they’ve all been pretty good in their own way this year. Less impressive are Terra Nova, NCIS and NCIS:LA, The Secret Circle, and Supernatural, the latter of which is particularly disappointing because it used to be so good and now it is just kind of OK.
A couple of pleasant TV discoveries since I last wrote. The first is the UK channel Sky1′s adaptations of the first two Tom Thorne novels by Marc Billingham, “Sleepyhead” and “Scaredy Cat”. I picked up one of the later novels in a bus station one day after seeing a cover blurb comparing Thorne to my two favourite detective series, Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus. I don’t know that I would make the same comparison but the book is certainly well-written and compelling, and the films well-made. Check them out if you get a chance.
The other discovery is a History channel “reality”/competition series called Top Shot, which as you might expect is a series about marksmen. I am nearly done season two and I believe season 3 is in progress. Each season pits 16 marksmen against each other in a different competition each week using different weapons, usually firearms but also primitive weapons, bows, and so on. Many of the competitors come from a military or law enforcement background, some are world shooting champions and some are just very talented amateurs. The photography and editing remind me of Top Gear in the way they build tension out of what would be a pretty mundane thing to watch live, and as a bonus the show manages to avoid a lot of the manufactured drama that drives a show like Survivor. Speaking of, Top Shot is hosted by Colby Donaldson.
I think that will do for now, next time I will post about books and comics, and video games if there is time, and then as the end of the year approaches it will be time to figure out the annual top 10 films list.