Sunday, January 3, 2016

What I Watched - December 27 2015-January 2 2016


Obviously it's a busy time of year with Christmas celebrations and then New Year's Eve (Happy New Year readers!), so the movie-watching output wasn't great, but I did manage to fit in a few, while also knocking off a couple of seasons of TV during this week.

CBGB (2013) Netflix
- I've said it before that I do love a good music documentary, and that's what I thought I was sitting down to here. It turns out this is actually a dramatic film retelling the story of how Hilly Krystal started up the famous (and infamous) NYC punk club CBGB. I didn't know too much about this story before watching this (didn't know for instance that the club was originally started as a country music venue, hence the name was short for Country Blue Grass Blues). The story is fascinating and the cast is stellar - the superb Alan Rickman plays Krystal, with main supporting roles for Donal Logue, Freddy Rodriguez and Ashley Greene and cameos by everyone from Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki to Harry Potter's Rupert Grint and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins (who does a pretty good job of playing Iggy Pop). If you count yourself as even a passing fan of punk or underground music, this is a must-see.

Tale of Two Thieves (2014) Netflix
- This is a fascinating documentary about the UK's infamous 1963 Great Train Robbery. While most people think of Ronnie Biggs when they think of that crime, this doco paints a different picture courtesy of one of the other robbers, Gordon Goody. Goody, this film asserts, was the real mastermind behind the robbery. Still alive and living in Spain, Goody is interviewed extensively and gives a lot of insight into his life before, during and after "the job". A sub-plot has the doco's producers trying to identify the mysterious "Ulsterman" who was the inside man on the crime. Even if you know the Great Train Robbery's story well (it's been featured in countless movies) this is worth watching for the new information it brings to light.

Pod (2015) Netflix
-  I remember seeing the trailer to this at some point months ago and thinking it looked pretty good. Then I forgot all about it until it showed up on Netflix. The plot has an estranged brother and sister visiting their other sibling, a brother with history of mental problems. He's gone off the grid at the family holiday home. When they find him they discover that he is paranoid about aliens and claims to have one of them trapped in the basement. Does he, or has he gone off his rocker? I won't say anymore than that about the plot. This one has a few effective scares and some good suspense, but it's also a very "shouty" movie. The siblings spend most of the movie arguing, yelling and fighting, which really grates the nerves after a while. Unfortunately the unlikeable characters and all that damn squabbling makes it hard to recommend this movie.

The Red Road, Season 2 (2015) Netflix
- The first season of this mini-series (six hour-long episodes per season) - about a cop and a criminal whose lives intertwine while living on a Native American reservation - really took me by surprise. I hadn't heard any hype about it before it showed up on Netflix, despite it featuring Jason Momoa (Aquaman in the upcoming DC movies) and my fellow Kiwi, Martin Henderson, in the lead roles. I liked the first season but it felt like it finished right when it was gaining momentum. This second season was much better, but again it was too short. And now I discover that the show has been cancelled without any resolution to the storyline. Knowing that, I wouldn't recommend watching it, because it'll be a frustrating experience. Which is a shame because it's a good show. Not great, but good.

Carnivale, Season 1 (2003) DVD
- I have quite a few seasons of TV on DVD that have been on my "to watch" list for the longest time, and this one's probably been there the longest. A rainy New Years day, recovering from over-indulging the night before, provided the perfect opportunity to blob out and finally give this a watch. Twelve hours later and the 12 one-hour episodes of season 1 were done and dusted (pun intended - if you've seen the show you get it). What a great show! The best way I can describe it is like taking American Horror Story: Freakshow's setting and mixing it with the religious themes of movies like Prophecy and Legion. Top performances from the likes of Michael J Anderson (the creepy dwarf from Twin Peaks), Nick Stahl (Sin City), Clea Duvall (The Faculty), genre favorite Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) and the always-sinister Clancy Brown (Highlander, Pet Sematary 2). I can't believe I took so long to finally watch this! I'm already into the second (and final) season and loving it.

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