Monday, August 03, 2009

My Xbox is now pretty much just a Netflix machine

I may be busy, but since when has that stopped me from setting aside 20 hours a week to watch TV? Eh?

A delightful Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn/other-people-you-know caper picture that twists the plot about every ten minutes to keep the audience on their toes (or the edge of their seat), like a humor-laden Hitchcock. But I expect nothing less of Stanley Donen.

Charlie Wilson's War:
I had no idea who was behind this as I watched it, but it makes sense that it's a Sorkin/Nichols joint. It's just damn well written, filled with quick dialogue delivered by clever actors like Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, a surprise guest appearance by Ned Beatty, and good based-on-a-true-who-cares characterization of Wilson himself.

Can I use the word "delightful" again? Henry Selick brings the goods when it comes to stop motion, and a creepily cute Neil Gaiman story is perfect material for him. A young girl finds a tunnel to another world where button-eyed doppelgangers of her parents seem to care more for her than her real parents do, but that's before all the body horror creeps in and only this lonely girl can save the day. Also: Keith David. See it.

From the director of Amelie, eh? Well, it's set in a dystopia where food's hard to come by and a butcher/landlord feeds his tenants by chopping up the hired help. Gotta love the French. Wonderfully bizarre, sweet, ridiculous, and exciting, it reminds me of Dead Alive, but with cannibals instead of zombies.

Dexter seasons 1 & 2:
I'd seen a few episodes of this before, but watching them all from the beginning-- well, now I'm hooked. As I'm sure you know, Michael C. Hall plays a serial killer who works for the cops and kills murderers to sate his needs, and who has trouble processing human emotion-- but then, how does that make him different from any other male? The first season, based on a novel, is mostly marvelously plotted, a tight suspense thriller; the second season initially sacrifices plot in favor of character, delving further into Dexter's underlying psychosis, before pulling the rug out from under him-- and the audience-- a few times. Do we root for him? Do we hate him? Should we? There's really some fantastic writing on this show. Also, grisly murders. Everybody wins!

The Fall:
Quite possibly the most gorgeously shot movie in the last decade or so, Tarsem's The Fall was on my list just because Lee Pace, of Pushing Daisies, was the star-- but man, I'm glad I watched it. It's a period piece story of a crippled stuntman (Pace-- and they actually managed to convince the crew and the other actors that he was a paraplegic) who tells a young girl an epic adventure story in order to get her to sneak meds to him so he can commit suicide. The story within the story was filmed in about 18 different countries, according to the credits, with minimal CGI-- and these locations are utterly amazing, breathtaking in their beauty. Action, unrequited love, bandits, pirates, and Charles Darwin-- it's got everything. But the visuals! They're the best part.

I watched this because I was promised Kristen Bell in the slave Leia outfit. Shallow, I know, but not as shallow as this incredibly unfunny movie about a bunch of hopeless Star Wars geeks who infiltrate George Lucas' compound or whatever. But hey, a Shatner cameo! All is right with the world.

The IT Crowd season 2:
I'd watched season one a little while back, and so I watched this too. Six episodes isn't so bad for a sitcom that's usually on the cusp of being clever and funny but never quite manages to reach it. But hey-- this season has two former stars of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place! Yeah! Richard Ayoade either brilliantly plays bizarre, awkward, inept characters, or he's the William Hung of acting. I'm pretty sure it's the former.

Leverage season 1:
I'd watched this as it aired weekly on TNT, but I'm rewatching it again on Netflix, in lieu of purchasing the DVD set. But I have to say, this is a marvelously well-done show, and watching it in the intended order, as opposed to TNT's slapdash reordering, opens one up to the subtler character arcs and recurring gags and plot bits. It's a bad-guys-gone-good con artist heist show, very similar to the BBC's Hustle, and just as cool and tasty. Tim Hutton leads a magnificent ensemble, but it's usually Beth Riesgraf, as the slightly-crazy master thief Parker and Aldis Hodge, as uber-geek hacker Hardison, who steal the show. The writing is very strong-- hurray for John Rogers and his crew. Season 2's on now, so catch it if you can.

Party Down season 1:
I didn't know what to expect from this, a comedy show about a group of failed actors and Hollywood types who work for a catering service, starring people who are sort-of vaguely familiar (plus Jane Lynch and Martin Starr, who I guess are vaguely familiar to people who aren't obsessed with pop culture), co-created by Paul Rudd and the guy who did Veronica Mars, among others. But it turns out it's quite funny, very crass, and successfully manages to make me care about the characters, not just chuckle at their antics.

The Puffy Chair:
So I loved Baghead, also from the Duplass brothers, right? So naturally I'd love this, the little indie movie that put them on the map and stuff, right? Well, no; the main characters generally come off like unlikable assholes or unlikable fools, as they do exactly the opposite of what sane people would do on their long journey to deliver a chair to the protagonist's dad for his birthday or something. It's mumble-y, relationship-y, and seems to be about the pointlessness of just about everything. I really, really hated it.

Son of Rambow:
This was good'un, though. From the directors of the pretty-okay Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, with Jessica Hynes/Stevenson of Spaced in a dramatic role! But what it's really about is a sheltered, awkward boy and a pain in the ass troublesome boy who team up to film a sequel to First Blood. Yes! It's about weird kids becoming cool and cool kids being weird and dogs attached to kites and friendship and all that, but it's a good little movie.

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