This List is Not All-Inclusive!

Remember that you’re getting movie & TV advice from regular guys with regular lives.  The fact that we’re not sitting in front of our computers and TVs all day also means that we don’t have time to review every movie ever made.  While this list will continue to grow as fast as we can continue to watch and review movies & TV, we apologize in advance for those we did not get to yet.  Rather than relying on it as an exhaustive encyclopedia of movies & TV, though, we hope that you will simply use this list as a source for good suggestions of what to watch or stay away from.

LOOKING FOR A PARTICULAR MOVIE/SHOW?

Reviews are organized in reverse chronological order by the date the review was created.  However, you can also check out reviews for particular genres by using the “Categories” drop-down box at the bottom of the page.  Also, you can use the “Search” box (also at the bottom of the page) to find a particular movie/show.

3:10 to Yuma

(R) 122 mins

(R) 122 mins

Plot Summary: A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who’s awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.

Director: James Mangold

Writers: Halsted Welles (screenplay), Michael Brandt (screenplay), Derek Haas (screenplay), and Elmore Leonard (short story)

Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  This is a very solid film, with a compelling plot and solid cast, featuring two of the most notoriously ill-tempered actors in the business.  Who will be the bigger jerk?  Watch it and find out!

Also, Foster brings the same leashed intensity that inspired Mark Wahlberg to give up some of his own pay in order to recruit Foster for Lone Survivor.  Foster is one of my favorite supporting actors.

You can enjoy this movie as a straightforward classic action Western, or you can delve deeper into the psychological underpinnings, which are spread throughout the movie and which culminate in an ending that can either anger you or inspire a subsequent deep discussion with others who have seen the film.

For Western aficionados, this flick is an instant classic and Must See.  For the rest of us, you could live with missing this one, but once you start watching it, you’ll be hooked.

Californication (2007-Present)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A novelist battles writer’s block and a weakness for drugs, booze and sex while struggling to make things work with his girlfriend and daughter.

Creator: Tom Kapinos

Stars: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Evan Handler

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  This show is very well done for what it is.  The script is witty, the actors are capable (although I’m not a fan at all of Madeleine Martin‘s deadpan portrayal of Becca Moody).  I just can’t relate to these characters.  For the most part, they are wealthy, entitled Los Angeles socialites who do terrible things to each other, yet they continue to hang around each other.  They are co-dependent, dysfunctional, hedonistic, and incestuous (not literally).  Not my cup of tea, but the story is compelling enough that I watched all the way through Season 2.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: The misadventures of a milkshake, an order of fries, a meatball, and their retired next door neighbor in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Creators: Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro

Stars: Willis, Carey Means, Dana Snyder

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Casual Watch)  I watched the first 2 seasons on Netflix and would have kept watching, but I wasn’t willing to pay to watch the remaining seasons on Amazon, or even to take the trouble to download them on bit torrent.  I suspect you have to be high to really enjoy this show.  That being said, at about 10 minutes an episode, it’s entertaining enough to casually squeeze an episode or two in at lunch.  Also worth it for its pop-culture value; get 2 or more of your friends together, and you’ve got some great Halloween-costume potential!

Hannibal (2001)

(R) 131 mins

(R) 131 mins


Plot Summary: Living in exile, Hannibal Lecter tries to reconnect with now-disgraced FBI agent Clarice Starling and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim.

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: Thomas Harris (novel), David Mamet (screenplay), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See)  The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs is more creepy than thrilling, and sometimes a little hokey.  Moreover, while Moore is an exceptional actress, it just feels different with her playing Starling.  Furthermore, the plot is not as sophisticated as SotL.

That being said, the film is entertaining in more of a comedic-horror way.  Hopkins is deliciously sinister, the supporting cast is very talented, and there is a classic scene involving the human brain that is worth adding to your pop-culture tool belt.  If you’re a fan of Hannibal the Cannibal, you should set aside time to see this flick once, although you shouldn’t go into it with high expectations.  If you’re not high on Hannibal, though, this movie will be more of a Worth Watching for you.

House of Cards (2013-Present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A Congressman works with his equally conniving wife to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him.

Stars: Kevin Spacey, Michael Gill, Robin Wright

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching This superb cast really brings out the essence of cutthroat DC politics, both in government and in private-sector.  The series is basically a modern-day version of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince.  While some may not like Spacey’s breaking of the fourth wall, I think it adds to the Poe-like tone that this show obviously seeks to convey.  The series also pulls back the “government-conspiracy” curtain, looking at such conspiracies from the point of view of the conspirators and the cleaners.  Unfortunately, the show becomes a bit too far-fetched for my tastes in some respects, reaching for soap-opera scandals to pacify those viewers who will not be content with political coups and corporate maneuvering.  Also, I deeply despise Spacey’s and Wright’s characters for their ethical and moral depravity, and for their lack of a code, so I have some trouble separating my hostility towards them from the series as a whole.

City of God (2002)

(R) 129 mins

(R) 129 mins

Plot Summary: Growing up in a Rio de Janeiro slum, Rocket is able to avoid being drawn into a life of drugs and crime by having a passion for photography.

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund

Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Jonathan Haagensen, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Daniel Zettel

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must Own)  I kept hearing that this movie was good, but I never got around to watching it.  Having glanced at its cover before, I was expecting something different…more of a sappy romantic tale.  Instead, I discovered one of most poignant, suspenseful, exciting, and action-packed tales of a place that I’ve only heard stories about.  It catapulted me through a wide range of emotions.  Watch this and then try to complain about your “first-world problems.”  The City of God is shockingly poor and frighteningly dangerous, yet culturally rich and unexpectedly beautiful.

Meirelles and Lund manage to convey a stark realism through a cast made up largely of actors from Rio favelas who had never acted before, but who stepped up to the task in an amazing way with some intense coaching.  The film even features some takes which were not scripted, as well as real coverage from true events.  The music masterfully complemented the mood of each scene, while staying true to the beauty of Brazil.  The camera work was top-notch (especially for 2002), both in César Charlone‘s skillful employment of the equipment and in the scenery that he captured.  Daniel Rezende, the film editor, presented Charlone’s vision at a wonderful intersection of deliberate and thrilling, ensuring that the viewer’s attention stayed captive throughout.

This flick is so good, I wanted to watch it again immediately after the credits rolled the first time around.  You will be hooked from the moment the chicken starts running for its life.  Make this film the next one you watch.

Funny Games (1997)

(NR) 104 mins

(NR) 104 mins

Plot Summary: While vacationing at their secluded summer home, an affluent family is terrorized by a pair of sadistic creeps in this disturbing thriller.

Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski, Doris Kunstmann

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)  (Must See)  This film is like a very dark version of Scream.  While I enjoy horror movies, haunted houses, etc, not many of them raise my heart rate anymore.  A good thriller, however, may still get my blood pumping.  Enter this unique take on the serial-killer thriller.  Haneke uses a calculating and methodical tempo, a Hitchcock-style method of making your brain fill in the gore, and an expert contrast of peaceful music with obnoxious music to keep the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen.  The movie is like a soccer match: stretches of anticipation, with exciting moments happening very quickly and with little warning.  I had the good fortune to watch the film without knowing what it was about, so those payoffs were even more exciting for me.

And like Scream, while the director showcases his ability to make a proper killer thriller, he also sends a message to the viewer in a creative and artistic fashion.  According to IMDB, Haneke told producer ‘Veit Heiduschka’ during the production that if the film was a success, it would be because audiences had misunderstood the meaning behind it.  It could potentially get frustrating to watch a well-executed thriller color outside of the lines all of a sudden, but if you keep an open mind, you might realize that such creative license actually adds to the thrill.

It would be wrong to end this review without mentioning the actors, who all performed very convincingly.  A great game plan is of no use if the players don’t execute it well.

In closing, I would also be remiss not to mention what I saw as the most important lesson of all to take from this film: a man should have the physical ability and disposition to protect his family.  Just ask Muhe’s character.  Moreover, when presented with a threat, passive compliance is not always the best answer.  Act decisively and before your situation has worsened, and you might just catch the enemy in the OO of his OODA loop.  Sometimes you just have to fight with a busted knee.

Anytown, USA (2005)

(NR) 93 mins

(NR) 93 mins

Plot Summary: This documentary follows the 2004 mayoral race in Bogota, NJ, detailing the foibles and petty grudges that can make small-town politics contentious.

Director: Kristian Fraga

Stars: Steve Lonegan, Fred Pesce, Dave Musikant

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  This flick has the video quality of a 1990s health class film, and features a town that looks like it is the product of generations of inbreeding.  At first, the residents’ rally against the incumbent mayor is comical in a campy way, but then the documentary drags a little bit.  Specifically, I started thinking of how depressing it would be to live in Bogota.  About halfway through, however, one of the campaigns gets a game-changing injection, and so does the film.  I grew up in New Jersey and currently live close to Bogota, so, all in all, this flick was worth watching for me because it’s like one of your neighbors appearing on The Jerry Springer Show.  Plus, it’s got a real human aspect to it…both good and bad.

The Wire (2002-2008)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers, and law enforcement.

Creator: David Simon

Stars: Dominic West, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must Own)  This is, quite simply, one of the best television shows ever done.  It dramatizes real Baltimore issues, using characters based on real Baltimore people, but the topics are universal.  Each season has its own spin, and you can trace the rise of technology throughout this critical period in world history.

From afar, the series appears depressing: drug dealers and users, overworked and underfunded police officers, politicians (doesn’t even need an adjective), underequipped educators, and newspapers on the brink of becoming obsolete.  But it’s much more than just a bleeding-heart expose on how bleak our Nation’s urban centers are; there are very entertaining stories here, with great multiple plotlines.

The actors skillfully bring out a superb script, which is extremely impressive given that, according to IMDB, many of the minor characters are played by real-life police officers, politicians and former criminals. In fact, many of the former criminals who act on the show were previously arrested by the real-life cops who act on the show!  There are too many great performances to list every one, but my favorites are (in no particular order): Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield, a real Machavellian motherf*cker; West as James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty, an anti-hero who drinks and whores like a pirate; Michael K. Williams as Omar Little, basically a gay Robin Hood who robs drug dealers; Idris Elba as Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell, thug businessman; Chad L. Coleman as Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise, an unlikely people’s champion; Gbenga Akinnagbe as Chris Partlow and Felicia Pearson as Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson, the hood-assassin versions of Batman and Robin; and Aidan Gillen as Thomas ‘Tommy’ Carcetti, an aggressive politician who desperately tries to toe the line between his ideals and his ambitions.

I couldn’t think of how this series could have been better until I read on IMDB: “The writers/producers briefly considered doing a sixth season about the influx of Latinos into Baltimore.  But none of them knew enough about Baltimore’s Latino population to write about it so the idea was dropped.”  Damn, that would have been great.

Oz (1997-2003)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A series chronicling the daily activities of an unusual prison facility and its criminal inhabitants.

Stars: Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See) When this show debuted, my friends and I would make sure our schedule was clear to catch each new episode live. I have heard it accurately described as a male soap opera. Every week, something crazy happened. Network television wasn’t playing anything like this. The character development available in a mutiple-season series was impossible to achieve in a two- or three-hour film.

This show constantly made me wonder how I’d fare in a maximum-security prison. It convinced me to prioritize a spot in my budget for Home Box Office (HBO). With one of the Ghostbusters at the helm, a plethora of cameo appearances by hip-hop stars and professional athletes, and an unforgettable theme song, the first hour-long drama that HBO ever produced also put Harold Perrineau, Simmons, Dean Winters, Eamonn Walker, and BD Wong, among others, on the world map.

Over time, especially in comparison to HBO’s later projects, some of the scenes seem a bit hokey. Also, shotgunning episodes can be a little depressing, given the subject matter. Still, this series is a pop-culture requirement.