After over a month of silence, I’m slowly awakening from my winter sleep and regaining blogging inspiration. The winter months are great for bingewatching TV series, don’t you think? Instead of blogging, I spent most of the cold winter evenings wrapped up in my fleece blanket watching the entire series (six seasons) of Big Love (2006-2011) about a modern American Mormon family. Hubby and I are big fans of the Danish/Swedish detective series Bron/Broen so when season 3 (2015) came out, we obviously finished that in no time. A few weeks ago we watched the entire season 4 of the political TV series House of Cards (2016) within just a few days. We can’t wait to see what happens to Frank and Claire Underwood next year because although we utterly despise them, we’re also very much intrigued by how they manage to reach their goals, no matter what.
As usual, I’ve compiled my quarterly list of Must See and Must Avoid films and TV series for you. You can find the complete list of films watched between January and March 2016 at the bottom of this post.
Top 5 Must See Films & TV series
1. Deadpool (2016, dir: Tim Miller. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller)
Foul language, dark humour, obscure comic heroes, gory over the top action scenes and a main actor who doesn’t shy from making fun of his character and himself in the real world: what’s not to love about Deadpool?!? Plans for making this film about the greatest badass hero from the Marvel family I had never heard of, started in 2004 already, but it wasn’t till footage of Reynolds as Deadpool was leaked online in 2014 and fans of the comic books went absolute nuts, leaving the film studio with no other choice but to make this film. I’m sure they don’t regret this as the film has become an absolute box office success. I won’t spoil any of the story here, but advise you to see the film at least a couple of times to fully appreciate the numerous jokes, small details and references in this film.
A special mention of the great soundtrack by Dutchie Junkie XL who’s been doing very well with film scores for the last years. Watch the behind-the-scenes video below on the making of the soundtrack. I’ve contacted Mr Junkie for an interview on this website, but guess he’s too busy scoring a new Hollywood film. In case he’s reading this post: feel free to contact me so we can arrange an interview 🙂
2. Narcos Season 1 (2015)
Last year I started watching the American version of The Bridge and I was very disappointed that they hadn’t renewed the series after season 2. Luckily there was Narcos to fill this gap earlier this year. The series is about the rise and fall of the notorious Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar in a world of corruption, and violence.
3. Everest (2015, dir: Baltasar Kormákur. Cast: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin)
This disaster survival film about a climbing expedition on Mount Everest is based on true events of the 1996 Mt Everest disaster. Quite suitable to watch this film during the cold winter months and yet another confirmation that I have no desire at all to go mountain climbing!
4. Room (2015, dir: Lenny Abrahamson. Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers)
In 2010 Emma Donoghue wrote the gripping novel Room about 5-year old Jack who is held captive in his room with his mother. The book won many awards and this was how it came to my attention at the time. It made a major impact on me. Not only because it’s a horrifying topic, but most of all because it was told from the perspective of innocent Jack. The film adaptation (also written by Emma Donoghue) has been an equal success and was nominated for 4 Oscars. Brie Larson who plays Ma in the film won the Oscar for Best Actress, but for me the big star of the film was Jacob Tremblay who played Jack.
5. Anomalisa (2015, dir: Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman. Voices: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan)
I’m a big fan of script writer Charlie Kaufman and have seen Being John Malkovich and Adaptation soooooo many times. I love the quirky elements and bizarre plot twists in those films. Anomalisa is about customer service guru Michael Stone who checks into a hotel to give a talk there the next day. We follow Michael for the night and get to learn his deepest feelings and thoughts. Like all other characters in the film, Michael is a puppet. This isn’t estranging, it’s rather the opposite: it’s almost like by peeling off the human layer, the characters are more pure and raw, if this makes sense. The famous sex scene between Michael and Lisa (the anomaly-Lisa from the title) is very moving and has been dubbed as the best sex scene in history by various film journalists.
Top 5 Must Avoid Films
1. Assassin, The (2015, dir: Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Cast: Qi Shu, Yun Zhou, Chen Chang)
This slow-moving Chinese film about a female assassin was released early this year and ended up on many end of the year lists by film journalists in 2015. In my cynical way I wonder if they really enjoyed this film as much, or if they just put this film on their lists because they were supposed to (because it’s so ‘arty’ and ‘sophisticated’). I have to agree that the cinematography is stunning, but I had absolutely no idea what was happening. The plot is very convoluted and the character names look so similar to us Westerns that it was difficult to follow who was trying to kill who and why for most of the time. In the end I just fast-forwarded it and it was just as comprehensible as watching it at normal speed 😉
2. Big Short, The (2015, dir: Adam McKay. Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling)
Despite my two MA degrees, I admit that I have no clue about politics and the world of finance. Therefore I could’ve known that seeing this film about the collapse of the credit and housing bubble in the mid-2000s was a bad idea, but since it had received so many great reviews I thought I should give it a go. I wish I hadn’t… Not only was the film boring and the topic rather difficult to follow for someone outside of the banking and housing world like me, it tried too hard to add lighter moments of comic relief by inserting scenes of random celebrities, such as Margot Robbie in a bath tub (which will distract many viewers from the unsexy topic for a moment) trying to explain finance schemes and terms. Such scenes didn’t fit in with the serious tone of the rest of the film and a good film shouldn’t have to rely on ‘external’ explanations of the plot.
3. Je t’aime je t’aime (1968, dir: Alain Resnais. Cast: Claude Rich, Olga Georges-Picot, Anouk Ferjac)
I enjoy watching European arthouse films, but this classic film by French director Alain Resnais was a tad too experimental for my taste. The plot line sounds interesting: after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, a man is asked to take part in a time travelling experiment that has previously been only tested on mice. Due to a malfunction the experiment fails and we see the man reliving certain episodes from his life over and over again. In principle an interesting idea, but unfortunately not a great film. I think I was more amused by hearing bits of Flemish in the film that by the plot.
4. Diary of a Teenage Girl, The (2015, dir: Marielle Heller. Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård)
You’d think that a film with Kristen Wiig would be solid gold, but this film proves yet again (like the film Skeleton Twins) that her appearance isn’t a guarantee for success. In this film we see how a teenage girl starts an affair with her mum’s (played by Wiig) boyfriend. The characters are so unsympathetic that you really don’t care about them or who ends up with who.
5. Paperboy, The (2012, dir: Lee Daniels. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron)
A stellar cast and again in principle a good story, but not a good outcome. The main story is about a journalist investigating the case of a death row convict. He and his colleague believe the suspect has been accused of his crime wrongfully and are assisted by his fiancée. As the film is set in sultry Florida you can imagine the atmosphere is loaded with lust and love, but most of all lots of rather nasty scenes I wish I had never seen. The characters are a collection of warped minds in a trashy film.
More film tips
Here is the complete list of all the other films I watched during the first quarter of 2016. Films are listed in alphabetical order and recommendations are marked with an asterisks in front of the title.
*Backtrack (2015, drama/mystery/thriller. Dir: Michael Petroni. Cast: Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Robin McLeavy)
Black Mass (2015, biography/crime/drama. Dir: Scott Cooper. Cast: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson)
*Brooklyn (2015, drama/romance. Dir: John Crowley. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson)
Crimson Peak (2015, drama/fantasy/horror. Dir: Guillermo del Toro. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston)
Don Verdean (2015, adventure/comedy/drama. Dir: Jared Hess. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Jemaine Clement)
Getaway, The (1972, action/crime/thriller. Dir: Sam Peckinpah. Cast: Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw, Ben Johnson)
*Graffiti Wars (2011, documentary. Dir: Jane Preston. Featuring: King Robbo, King Adz, Ben Eine)
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015, animation/comedy/family. Dir: Genndy Tartakovsky. Voices: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomes)
*Ice Storm, The (1997, drama. Dir: Ang Lee. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci)
*Intern, The (2015, comedy. Dir: Nancy Meyers. Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo)
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015, dir: Christopher McQuarrie. Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner)
Night Before, The (2015, comedy. Dir: Jonathan Levine. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Jillian Bell)
Rebecca (1940, drama/film-noir/mystery. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders)
*Religulous (2008, documentary. Dir: Larry Charles. Featuring: Bill Maher, Tal Bachman, Jonathan Boulden)
*Rope (1948, crime/drama/thriller. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger)
*Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, action/comedy/horror. Dir: Christopher Landon. Cast: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan)
*Secret in Their Eyes (2015, crime/drama/mystery. Dir: Billy Ray. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts)
See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989, comedy/crime. Dir: Arthur Hiller. Cast: Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Joan Severance)
*Shadow of a Doubt (1943, thriller. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, MacDonald Carey)
Silver Streak (1976, action/comedy/crime. Dir: Arthur Hiller. Cast: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh)
*Spaceballs (1987, adventure/comedy/sci-fi. Dir: Mel Brooks. Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis)
Transporter Refueled, The (2015, action/crime/thriller. Dir: Camille Delamarre. Cast: Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Ray Stevenson)
True Story (2015, crime/drama/mystery. Dir: Rupert Goold. Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones)
*Walk in the Woods, A (adventure/biography/comedy. Dir: Ken Kwapis. Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson)
*Wild Target (2010, action/comedy/crime. Dir: Jonathan Lynn. Cast: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint)
Zoolander 2 (2016, comedy. Dir: Ben Stiller. Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz)
Do you have any recommendations for good TV series? Please share them with me in a comment below!