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The Family (2016)
Taut and Captivating
Finally, a mainstream US network series comes close to the excellence of international mystery hits. Reminiscent of Broadchurch and the true-life story depicted in The Imposter, The Family has an excellent atmosphere of tension, alternating between police, victim, and family perspectives to produce a suspenseful and layered story that leaves the viewer confused in a good way, intrigued, and wanting more.
Not a perfect series but a very good one, The Family has a strong cast and an interesting story. Well worth a look for mystery lovers and those who enjoy a well- acted, immersive experience that is far superior to most network television series. Suspect everyone; suspect no one, then suspect everyone again, and enjoy the ride.
The Night Manager (2016)
A Masterful Adaptation
Though updated for the present time and reworked slightly, The Night Manager stays forcefully true to the characterizations and atmosphere of Le Carre's classic spy novel. Tom Hiddleston shines as the complicated protagonist, and Huge Laurie and Olivia Colman provide forceful screen presence to offset his vulnerably self-contained persona.
Fans of Le Carre's work are likely to enjoy The Night Manager, as are those who enjoy an atmospheric mystery populated with beautiful men and women, intelligent writing, and international stakes. Not a series to watch without paying attention, it is a series well worth the time and effort to absorb and enjoy it fully.
True to the Book, Very Promising
James Franco exercises his full acting range in this adaptation of Stephen King's taut, time-travel thriller. Early on, it's very true to the plot, style, and tone of King's book, so fans of the novel should be pleased if it continues in the same way. At the same time, those unfamiliar with the book are thrown into an engaging world with its own quirks and rules. Franco navigates moments of surprising pathos and surprising humor with ease, pulling the viewer into Epping's experiences and showing us his thoughts and feelings, even when dialogue is sparse.
11.22.63 is intelligent, thoughtful television that belongs in the current streamed-TV and specialized-content landscape that contains shows like The Man in the High Castle, Fargo, and the (dearly-departed) Hannibal. It's not an easy show to watch when you're half asleep or cleaning the house. If you're willing to give it your full attention, however, it's more than worth the time.
David and Goliath (2015)
This is an absolutely terrible film. As a Christian, I give a lot of allowances to faith-based films, but no amount of allowances can redeem a film that is simply not excellent in any way.
The acting is poor, the script is entirely unprofessional, and the filming technique is poorer than a student film-level effort.
That is not even mentioning the horrendous cultural inaccuracies of white Americans playing Israeli and Philistine characters and the offensive anachronism of Saul's daughter walking around freely in a camp of soldiers. This film was made with no respect or regard for the historical context of the story or the cultural heritage of the characters.
There is no reason to see this or take anyone to see it. Scripture itself is very powerful, and the story of David and Goliath is incredible. Read it for yourself and be blessed. Don't waste money on a film that should never have been made.
Wolf Hall (2015)
A loving and faithful screen rendering of one of the most remarkable novels published in recent memory, Wolf Hall brings to life the gripping story of Thomas Cromwell, whose story unfolds in front of the backdrop of Tudor England with its mercurial personalities and ever-changing political fortunes.
There's nothing artificially showy about this drama. It's pure excellence, a production that unites an unparalleled cast with an exquisitely intelligent script. As a fan of the book, I'm not sure how this will strike those who haven't read Mantel's work, but those who have will be more than satisfied.
Spy is so insanely underrated as a show that it's not even funny (at least in the United States). Thankfully, that's the only thing that isn't funny because the show itself is absolutely hilarious. The first series introduces the hapless but well-meaning Tim, his scheming best friend, his idiosyncratic MI5 coworkers, his ex and her besotted boyfriend, and his precocious son Marcus. The second series deepens and broadens the characters and turns some early misconceptions on their heads.
One of the most entertaining things about Spy is that it manages to be both an excellent spy spoof, in the manner of the also-underrated "Chuck," and an unexpectedly touching domestic sitcom. As with other British shows in a similar vein, it's obvious that Spy's stars are not phoning in their performances at all. In particular, Darren Boyd gives a performance absolutely deserving of his Bafta win, and Jude Wright strikes exactly the right tone as his genius son.
Spy is witty, intelligent, funny, and consistently engaging. No show is perfect, but there's so much to love that it might as well be.
I ordered this on Netflix for the fun of it and definitely had a good time. It's intended for kids/tweens, but still entertaining for Holmes fans in general. Jonathan Pryce is an interesting older Holmes, and I loved Bill Paterson's Watson getting to know a sort of re-imagined Mary Morstan. Anna Chancellor made me wish she was in a different adaptation. I think her Irene deserved a more serious outlet. The story's concentration on the irregulars themselves is fun, since Conan Doyle's details about them were sketchy.
The story has some plot holes, Holmes isn't 100% canon, and it's definitely not a classic adaptation, but I'd recommend it as a fun thing to watch for an evening if you like seeing different versions. If you have kids, it's family-friendly.
Added Note: This movie is rife with Holmes tropes. Beware of stepping on them, as they sort of litter the floor with their inescapable presence.
Some Good Things but Lacking
I was prepared to be totally charmed by this film, but my overall feeling is that it lacked something vital that I can't exactly put my finger on. The acting was marvelous, as is expected from the likes of David Tennant and Jessica Hynes, but I didn't feel like the movie reached the peak of either humor or emotion that it could have reached. That's not to say there were no excellent moments. Some scenes were very humorous, and it definitely proved that bad driving is amusing to watch. Ultimately, I think a main problem with the film was its length. At 90 or so minutes, it did not have adequate time to develop all of the characters and subplots properly. I think if it had been a full two hours it could have been much better. Overall, I found it mostly light and fun with few memorable moments.
Doctor Who: Human Nature (2007)
This episode tells the first half of a story from a book written about the Doctor back in the '90s that was rated by readers as the best DW story ever.
To me, it was very unsettling, less because of the villains than because of what occurs with the Doctor himself.
The acting is excellent as always, the story is well paced, and a real sense of danger is established.
The second half hasn't aired yet, but I'll be excited to see exactly how the Doctor pulls out of this one.
Overall, this episode is brilliant in two ways: it has very brave character development along with chilling villains in true Who style. Nothing to complain about; I just can't wait for the ending.
When I went to Pirates 3, I expected to have fun, but I didn't think this one would be as good as the other two, especially since I thought 2 was inferior to 1. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.
The acting was as excellent as always, but the script was stunning. It definitely exceeded the second film and equaled the first in cleverness and humor. The score, always a strong element of the franchise, was complementary without being distracting.
While long, the movie doesn't lag. The large cast of major characters makes it necessary for the story to have a very wide scope; it does so capably and satisfactorily.
The only possible criticism I can think of is that it's a little bit difficult to tell what is going on at times. The action flits from one perspective to another extremely rapidly. However, it didn't impair my enjoyment at all and will, I am sure, be clearer after seeing the film again.