Monday, January 26, 2015

Current movie/TV favorites

My all-time love is reading, but I do enjoy being a couch potato as well and catching some great movies or shows on TV. I haven't been to the cinema in a while. Not only does it cost an arm and a leg, especially with snacks and drinks, but I have to sit through the entire movie without a break. At home, I get to pause, refill my drink, take a bathroom break, or make my favorite popcorn before getting back to the show. Here are some of the shows that have piqued my interest recently.


The Hundred-Foot Journey
I would watch anything with Helen Mirren in it, even a B-grade movie like Red, because she’s just so cool. So it was with delight that I took in this charming movie about an Indian family in France battling it out with Mirren’s character, owner of a Michelin-star restaurant across the road exactly 100 feet away. I have to admit the book was better (they always are) but Mirren plays a hoity-toity Frenchwoman with great aplomb and the other actors are not bad either. The music by A.R. Rahman lends a great touch too.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
I wasn't surprised when the 2015 list of Oscar nominees was announced and this movie garnered the most nominations. A hilarious tale of a grand old hotel in a fictional European city who is managed to a T by its concierge, it goes through all kinds of hilarious twists and turns. The dialogue alone is so witty that I want to watch it again just to catch all the puns and jokes. I also didn't realize there are so many stars in it, some unrecognizable at first viewing, including Bill Murray (who doesn't love him?), Tilda Swinton and Jude Law. Sometimes you just want to sit back and watch a tale unfold without any special effects, bomb explosions and monsters from outer space. This is grand fun.
After watching this, I'm still not sure whether I liked it or not. I seriously admire the effort of director Richard Linklater who carefully crafted the growing up years of a boy from age 5 to 18, using the same cast and location. I did get involved with the story of this family, but at times it felt more like a documentary. I did relate to many of the struggles the family goes through though, and the story rings true. Perhaps because there aren't any high or low points, or cliffhangers, it leaves viewers (is it just me?) feeling a bit blah.

Finding Vivian Maier
When out and about, I find myself taking pictures mostly of people instead of places, mainly because they fascinate me. So it was with great interest that I took in this documentary about a mysterious nanny who squirreled away more than 100,000 mostly undeveloped photographs. She is, I think, the greatest street photographer, finding fame only after her death. She obviously didn't take pictures to get famous. She just liked doing it, everywhere she went, sometimes with her charges in tow, catching people unawares with her Rolleiflex camera. 


Game of Thrones
When friends first told me about this British series and how gory it is, I was a bit leery of it. I don't read fantasy novels and couldn't quite imagine the appeal of a TV adaptation of George Martin's series of novels. But from the moment I started watching, I was hooked. I do understand the necessity for all the violence, nudity and sex because, well, that's what happened way back when. It's the stories themselves that are mesmerizing though, and because there are so many plots and settings and cast of thousands, all going on at the same time, it doesn't get jaded after four or five seasons. I groan every time a favorite character of mine gets killed off, and find it hard to keep track of all the names and locations, but I can't wait for the new season. 

I've had to watch this online but I'm a huge fan of this series that's centered on a vice president of the U.S. played by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Fast-paced, funny and profane, you can't help but laugh at the antics of all these people running around the White House. It's the script that is the hero, keeping story lines and plots moving along at breakneck speed that has me cracking up throughout. I've also loved Julia Louis-Dreyfuss since her days on Seinfeld. She manages to get away with saying the nastiest things to people that I wished I had the guts to say!
Modern Family
This series is really perfectly cast. Each cast member plays his or her role with aplomb, and they have really gelled together, just like the cast of Friends, over time so that the timing of their jokes is flawless. The script is hilariously funny, and I can watch and re-watch the episodes without getting bored. Interestingly the creators, Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, don't write the scripts together. Instead, they take turns writing each week. Maybe that's the secret to the success of this really successful series.
The Honourable Woman
This mini series starring Maggie Gyllenhaal really captivated me. A political spy thriller set in England and the Middle East that focuses on the life of an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman, it's tightly written and Gyllenhaal is superb in it, richly deserving her Golden Globe award for her role. Perhaps because it's only an 8-part series, the storyline has already been determined, unlike other series that go on season after season and kind of lose steam. Suspenseful, with twists and turns in the plot, it had me binge-watching all eight episodes.
24 Hours in A&E
Perhaps this is a strange choice, but after watching a couple of episodes, I was hooked. This British medical documentary is filmed in King's College, London, with cameras filming around the clock in the A&E. We catch glimpses of the lives of patients who are rushed in, and the views of medical staff on duty. I did catch an episode which showed the making of the episodes and it's an incredibly huge undertaking, with 70 fixed cameras alone. It's quiet, understated and stories are told with compassion and wry humor. Sometimes there's a happy ending, sometimes not, which makes it very real. It's the very Britishness of the series that has made me a fan.

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