What I’ve been watching in January

La La Land

1Although I’ll happily acknowledge its faults, I was still taken in by La La Land, like so many others. I was almost put off in the first scene by some dizzying and relentless camerawork which actually made me feel a bit queasy. Thankfully, things calmed down and, although the whirling long shots returned on occasion, I was able to sit back and enjoy the songs.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for days – I love all the songs and the beautiful instrumental themes, made all the more impressive by the fact Ryan Gosling learnt jazz piano for the film. He and Emma Stone are wonderful together, yet again, and though the story can be rather bittersweet it is a totally joyful ride. I’d happily watch this again very soon.

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What I’ve been watching in June/July

Orange Is The New Black – Season 4

oitnb-season4I wrote about this show when it first debuted in 2013. Since then, we have been on a rollercoaster of a journey with the inmates of Litchfield, resulting now in the prison being privatised and seeing an influx of new criminals.

This in turn means racial tensions soon increase, creating some quite unsettling moments. There are also the usual fascinating flashbacks, including an incredibly shocking one showing how Suzanne (aka Crazy Eyes) ended up in prison, and a battle to get one inmate out of unwarranted solitary confinement.

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What I’ve been watching in April/May…

TV

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I’ve been a Stephen King fan for many years, but I haven’t actually read this book yet (there’s a copy from the Waterloo book market in a pile next to my bed). I unusually decided it would be fine to go ahead and watch the TV show first, mostly because I’d heard good things coming over from America and also because of the involvement of James Franco, JJ Abrams and King himself.

The show follows Franco as he goes back in time through an anomalous time portal to try and save JFK from assassination and hopefully change the world for the better. I’m happy to say I found it totally gripping and addictive, unbelievably tense in places, and also incredibly well acted. I loved it so much that now I really want to read the book just so I can live through that intense plot again.

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Love on Netflix: original, endearing, but troubled

love-posterOver the course of two evenings and one morning I watched all 10 episodes of the latest Judd Apatow project, Love, on Netflix.

The series follows Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) as their separate lives suddenly converge with a bizarre supermarket meet cute. But this is certainly no conventional romance, and it takes a long time to even get many scenes with the central pair together: first they both have some ex stuff to figure out, stressful jobs on talk radio and as a tutor on a TV show set respectively, and she even sets him up with her roommate. But eventually things get going.

The way the story is told, leading up to the duo’s first meeting before they gradually converge more and more, is possibly the best thing about the show. It never feels just like a love story and is remarkably clean of cliches. That said, it does feel like it could have been a little more polished and as if the crew had to rush to get it out. The dialogue is usually the best thing about Apatow’s work but here it is sometimes stilted at best.

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War and Peace – a BBC masterpiece

c1536bdc-33e8-4d32-9fbb-280192077276As far as Sunday dramas go, the latest adaptation of War and Peace surely must be up there. It had costumes, fantastic acting, battle scenes and sex scenes. Something for everyone.

I won’t go into the plot. There’s some jolly, peacetime stuff with the nobility of Moscow and St Petersburg. Then Napoleon enters and the young men we’ve got to know enter into war. War and peace.

What made this adaptation so good were three things: the acting, the grandeur and the plotting.

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Thoughts on Making A Murderer – retrial needed regardless of guilt

Since Making A Murderer was released on Netflix in December 2015, there have been countless takes online, dozens of conspiracy theories and just recently it’s felt like there’s been new information every day.

For what it’s worth, I’m adding my voice to this online noise to discuss the irrelevance of Avery’s guilt and innocence at this stage.

For those who have been under a rock for two months, Making A Murderer follows Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted for 18 years for a sexual assault and attempted murder, and taken into custody again just two years later on suspicion of the murder of photographer Teresa Halbech. That arrest took place shortly after several detectives were deposed in a civil case in which Avery was asking for a good deal of compensation.

The filmmakers have been accused by prosecutor Ken Kratz, among others, of only presenting evidence which looked good for the defence, or omitting forensic evidence such as Avery’s DNA on the bonnet of Teresa’s car.

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Master of None – Aziz Ansari’s thoughtful showpiece

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Aziz Ansari performing in London in November 2014

Aziz Ansari is best known for the charismatic, well-dressed, hyperactive Tom Haverford in the wonderful Parks and Recreation. His stand-up is also well worth checking out, and new Netflix series Master of None, with acting, directing, producing and creator credits for Ansari, completes the trifecta of his personal brand.

Each Ansari character is basically a hyper-version of his stand-up self. His bug eyes often pop with excitement, he chatters often non-stop and he likes to get a bit silly.

But the beauty of Master of None is that while it finds time for its star’s trademark silliness, it also tackles some serious topics with real thoughtfulness in a fashion rarely seen in most half-hour TV comedies.

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