January’s a notoriously bad month for theater going, so instead of making a movie-centric post, I though I’d just make a post about my visual entertainment for the month, much like I talk about my reading in my “everything I read” posts. I’ll be leaving out things I didn’t finish (for example, I’ve seen a handful of episodes of season 1 of Eureka on Netflix, but I have a few more to go before I get to the end). Let’s start out with with the movies…
In the Theaters
American Hustle- Saw this one kind of on a whim (I had a friend visiting, and we wanted to see a 7 o’clock movie that didn’t look crappy), and was quite surprised with the results. While it can be a little shaky to start off with, with its over use of voice over, once it get’s going, it’s pretty great. Everyone provides top notch performances, the movie has a ton of laughs, and probably one of the best soundtracks I’ve encountered in a while. I hope to see this one win a few awards at the Oscars. B+
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit– Shadow Recruit may be a pretty generic spy thriller, but it’s a damn good generic spy thriller. A big part of this has to do with Chris Pine’s performance of Jack. Managing to craft a character that’s brilliant and capable, yet incredibly human at the same time, he really gets you to feel for Jack. This, combined with the satisfying suspense the film delivered, made me more forgiving of the films multiple flaws (for the most part it’s painfully predictable, but there’s one plot twist that requires a pretty big logical leap). It’s too bad that this is doing so poorly in theaters. I wouldn’t mind seeing another one. B
On Netflix (not counting incomplete TV seasons)
Arrow (Season 1)– Despite my fiance’s high praises of Arrow, I came into it with a lot of skepticism. I mean, it’s on the CW. Isn’t that channel all about corny shows like Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries? Low and behold, it took me one episode to get hooked, and it wasn’t long before I was seriously emotionally invested what was going on. Sure, it took a few of the actors (including the lead) a couple episodes to get into their characters, and I wasn’t always fond of Thea’s storylines but Arrow does a lot extremely well. There are some seriously shocking things that happens throughout the season (and not just at the end), and the show does an exceptional job of balancing long term plot lines and whatever the problem of the week is. I am eagerly looking forward to when season 2 hit Netflix. This show is really worth your time. A-
Current TV Shows
Agents of SHIELD– Agents of SHIELD is a tricky beast. It provides enough entertainment to keep my coming back, week after week, yet always leaves me feeling like it’s just falling short of its potential. January brought us two satisfactory, although not exceptional episodes, The Magical Place and Seeds. I must admit, I found the revelation behind Coulson’s resurrection to be a little disappointing. I guess when you have so long to ponder your own solutions, anything else seems anti-climatic. At the same time, I am very curious to see where the storylines involving Skye and Mike Peterson are heading.
Castle– With so many shows for me to watch right now (seriously, how do you big TV fans manage to watch so many shows and lead a balanced life?), I’ve fallen a little behind on Castle, having only watched two of the three January episodes. Fortunately, both of the episodes I did watch, Under Fire and Deep Cover, were really top notch. For a show that can feel little generic at times, both episodes did a great job of raising the stakes and keeping the suspense up, Under Fire by putting the lives of two beloved characters in some serious danger, and Deep Cover by bringing back Castle’s mysterious father. Glad to see that Castle can still deliver some quality content in season six.
Downton Abbey– This show is often my top priority, TV wise, if just for the fact that I know way to many people that watch it and it’s really easy to get spoiled. Season Four has featured all around top performances, but a bit of a mixed bag as far as the individual storylines goes. Everyone’s been talking about is the episode where Anna was raped. I was spoiled about the events beforehand, but it didn’t make watching the event any less harrowing. Now that Bates has discovered what has happened to his wife, his character has taken a darker turn. We’ve seen small glimpses of this dark side of Bates before, and I’m really curious to see how far they will take things this season. I’ve also enjoyed the fact that we’ve seen Mary take a greater control of the estate. Unlike her two sisters, her storylines have always been based around her romantic entanglements. It’s nice to see them take her character in a different direction, especially since any potential partner is going to look like second best compared to the Mary and Matthew love story right now. On the other hand, I really wish they would show us a different side of Thomas. We’ve seen him play the schemer for three seasons now, can we see something different please? Another character that similarly underused is cousin Rose, who has great style but contributes absolutely nothing to the show as a whole. Perhaps this can be rectified with a forbidden romance involving a certain American jazz singer?
Sherlock- PBS, thank you for bringing all of these great shows to me! So far, I’ve really enjoyed season three. The Empty Hearse was an incredible suspenseful premiere. I suspect, over time, it will become one of my favorite episodes. The Sign of Three, while not as strong, has been pretty entertaining so far (I’ve still got about a half hour left. It’s great that these episodes tell longer stories, but not so great when you typically have about an hour to watch TV every day!). This makes me quite happy, as I was a little shaky on season two. There’s no denying the brilliance of The Reichenbach Fall, but I found A Scandal in Belgravia to be quite uneven, and didn’t like The Hounds of the Baskerville. I quite like the fact that they have taken a different path with the character of Mary then in the RDJ films. It’s not that I dislike her there, but by having Mary get along with Sherlock (at least so far) helps to set apart the films from the TV show. I also like how this season has more deeply explored Sherlock’s more human connections. It seems that his time away has shown him that he doesn’t want to be so cut off form the people he cares about, which is an important step forward, character wise . I can’t wait to see how they’re going to end it all this season!