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Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Nicsperiment's End of Winter Break Movie and TV Show Season Mini-Reviews

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I don't know if this has just been an exceptionally strong fall and early winter for movies and TV, or if I have just gotten soft. I generally enjoyed most of the media I experienced over the past few months. Here are mini-reviews of everything I can recall watching. Same rules as always...two sentences apiece..."sentences" in the realm of The Nicsperiment being a relative term, of course.

The Babadook -- 10/10
I've been craving a great horror film for a long time, and this year I got two. The Babadook isn't just terrifying, it's a psychological journey that isn't afraid to go in unexpected directions in its exploration of the power of grief.

Creed -- 9/10
Woah, where did this come from? Rocky Balboa itself was a miracle, but to come back to the series again, nine years later, and create something almost on par with the original is unbelievable--but somehow this movie really does exist!

Doctor Who: Series Nine -- 7/10
I wish I felt more excited about this season of television, which is consistent, featuring none of the high or lows of Series Eight. It just kind of happens, and doesn't totally feel like Doctor Who, with its weird guitar-playing straight at the camera asides--wish I could work up the want to watch that Christmas Special that's been sitting in my DVD queue.

Fargo: Season Two -- 9/10
I'm about as close to giving this glorious season of television a ten as I can without giving it a ten because I feel like I need to give it a little bit of emotional distance before I can tell if it is indeed perfect...I dare you to count the prepositions in this sentence. I can say that Fargo: Season Two is really, really, really, really good, with the script, acting, marquee movie production quality, and sense of moral confusion all lofting it high into the upper echelon of modern television.

The Good Dinosaur -- 8/10
Outside a little silliness, this is far closer to classic Pixar greatness than it's been given credit for, with an excellent arc for its main character, and a believable and moving friendship at its center. I don't have a second sentence.

Hannibal: Season Three -- 8/10
The first third of the season is visually gorgeous but takes its beauty for granted with its strange glacial pace. Then it gets way too campy in the middle, like Adam West Batman campy, then plays to all of its strengths to close itself out (forever) in strange and brutal and perfect fashion.

Homeland: Season Four -- 8/10
Few shows can get away with completely blowing up their main premise, and then improving. This show has needed a shot in the arm since its first season ended, and season four gives it--even if it is a tad bit uneven at times, it never ceases to be thrilling and suspenseful (and true to Carrie Mathison).

It Follows -- 9/10
I haven't seen a movie this scary since The Descent. Great concept, great execution, thousands of memorable images, and a great film, regardless of genre (and the STD-metaphor interpretation some are giving The Follower is far too simplistic: there is far more depth there).

The Peanuts Movie -- 8/10
This film, essentially a collection of vignettes based on a 65-year old comic strip, tied together only by Charlie Brown's crush on the little red-haired girl, should not work. That it does is a testament to the timelessness of Charles M Schulz characters, and also to the filmmakers' understanding of how to utilize them.

South Park: Season Nineteen -- 9/10
Season-long continuity and consistently pointed satire make for one of the best seasons the show has ever done, though they really wussed out on the ending. The show has always excelled at not picking a side, but they built this year up to the point that not landing anywhere at the end is actually a bit infuriating.

Spectre -- 7/10
People can say what they want about this latest James Bond film stumbling a bit because it goes back to basics, but I am more bothered by the fact that its action scenes are a little ill-conceived. There's nothing as exciting as the foot chase in Casino Royale, or the insane opening chase of Skyfall (which, while enjoyable, is itself just James Bond = Batman), but the movie is still fun.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- 9/10
Sure it hits some of the same beats as A New Hope, but with its new characters, use of old characters, action, set design, creature design, cinematography, acting, a new score by this dude named John Williams, sound effects, special effects, mysteries, and possibilities, who cares--it's two hours you can watch again and again just like A New Hope, all of the kids watching it in the theater are going ape for it, just like A New Hope, and my own kid just told me, after watching it in the theater for the second time (after begging to go again) that it is his favorite movie ever, just like I said when I was a kid after watching A New Hope--so some similarities? Yes, it is similarly awesome.

Unfriended -- 7/10
This nearly made for a great horror movie trilogy with It Follow and The Babadook, but the end is just a little too over the top. The concept may get just a bit static at times, but no one can argue against its originality--bonus, the moral outrage (of folks saying they are good people, when they are most certainly not good people is awesome.

You're the Worst: Season Two -- 9/10
Shelving the comedy just a bit to focus on drama--Gretchen's battle against depression--ends up paying dividends for You're the Worst. In the end, I can't say that this season is weaker or any less true to the characters than the first, and I could probably marathon the whole thing again as soon as I click "Publish."

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