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.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

(R) 105 mins

(R) 105 mins

Plot Summary: A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness.

Director & Writer: Neil Marshall

Stars: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  Think Predator, but with worse dialogue and much worse special effects (ironically, 15 years later). The “dog soldiers” were laughable.

It’s a shame because the plot and its twists had some real potential. Some of the actors, such as McKidd and Cleasby, were also pretty competent. Finally, it appears that the military technical advisors were pretty good, as well.

Underworld: Evolution (2006)

(R) 106 mins

(R) 106 mins

Plot Summary: Picking up directly from the previous film, vampire warrior Selene and the half-werewolf Michael hunt for clues to reveal the history of their races and the war between them.

Director: Len Wiseman

Writers: Danny McBride (screenplay, story, characters), Len Wiseman (story), Kevin Grevioux (characters), Len Wiseman (characters)

Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  Now that the special effects that were cutting-edge for this movie’s time have become not-so-impressive as the industry advances, the story itself is not creative or interesting enough to make it worth your time to direct your attention to the screen for almost two hours…unless you REALLY LOVE vampire or werewolf movies.  If that’s the case, let your freak flag fly!  It’s okay; I’m like that with football movies.  Besides, there are worse things to have on your TV in the background than leather-clad Beckinsale doing acrobatics, shooting weapons, and kicking ass.

We'd bite her back!

We’d bite her back!

Lilyhammer (2012-present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A New York mobster goes into hiding in rural Lillehammer in Norway after testifying against his former associates.

Creators: Eilif Skodvin, Anne Bjørnstad

Stars:Steven Van Zandt, Trond Fausa, Steinar Sagen

Serious Jest:animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)(Casual Watch)  I went into the first season hoping for The Sopranos-meets-Norway. I don’t know much about Norway, and it’s nice to get a glimpse into other countries through productions that feature them as almost a character in themselves (for example, The American). This series did a great job in featuring Norway. However, it was also pretty hokey and featured a protagonist that I did not like.

Frank Tagliano is a narcissistic, hypocritical bully, who pushes his culture and ideas of how the world should be onto everyone in his newly adopted country, stepping on hapless and sometimes innocent Norwegians for selfish gain in stereotypical American imperialist fashion. However, unlike The Sopranos, in which Tony Soprano constantly struggled with his conscience, this show glorifies Frank.  I feel like I’m supposed to chuckle as he “outsmarts” (more like strong-arms) people into satisfying his every whim. Fortunately, in the second and third seasons, Frank became a little more judicious and tolerable, while other characters, such as Fausa’s Torgeir, flourish. In my opinion, Fausa carries the show. He is charismatic, funny, humble, and tough when he needs to be. He idolizes Frank, even though he is often unrewarded for his unconditional love. Most importantly, he is the conscience of the show, and through him, we are reminded of the price one pays for being or following Frankie the Fixer.

By the way, world, look out for Maria Joana

maria-joana

and Ida Elise Broch.

  ida-elise-broch You might fall in love.

Band of Brothers (2001)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: The story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day.

Stars: Scott Grimes, Matthew Leitch, Damian Lewis

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) (Watch It Live)  As a former Marine who deployed to Iraq, this ten-episode mini-series is a must for my personal collection.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say all military personnel should have it in their collections.  Even if you have little to no interest in military affairs, however, you should take the time at some point in your life to watch this series all the way through.

Beautifully scripted, masterfully acted, and filmed amongst breathtaking (in many different ways) cinematography, this production, which significantly contributed to HBO‘s fast rise as the gold standard in series quality, is an amazing portrayal of the sacrifices made by troops and of the horrors of war.  A healthy dose of clips from this series was played by my instructors during training ops to drive home points about all kinds of important subjects germane to war.

A few random thoughts I had while watching the project:

  • Everyone did such a great job acting, and the character development was top-notch.  Even amongst this wonderful cast, Damian Lewis stood out, followed closely by Neal McDonough.

  • It was pretty awesome to see David Schwimmer play such a different role.

  • There are countless useful lessons to be learned from this series, especially by those who hope to lead troops someday.

  • Why is there so much hip firing throughout the series?  Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to make some of these shots without looking down your sights?

  • I watched one of the most squared-away officers in the 101st return a salute sitting on his ass.  This would not happen in the Marines.  Is it different in the Army?

  • I understand very well the transition that one may go through in terms of how he/she thinks of the enemy during war.  When you first get out there, you dehumanize them in your head in order to justify some of the things that you may have to do.  After a while, however, there comes a point when you realize that your enemies are human beings, much like you, fighting out of a sense of duty, and just trying to make it out of this thing alive like you are.  At least, I went through a transition like that, and this series did a good job of illustrating such a transition.  Still, despite the respect that our soldiers may have gained for the Germans as a formidable fighting force made up of dedicated human soldiers, they were still Nazis.  They were supporting some pretty foul principles.  I’m not saying that our troops were wrong for regarding Nazi troops with the respect that they did during the conflict, but I wonder if my attitude toward Nazi soldiers would have softened even after we defeated them.

  • It would be great to have a beer with one of the living members of the 101st who fought in WWII.

  • After you finish watching this production, watch The Pacific. It’s even better!  Then again, I’m biased. :)

Firefly (2002-2003)

(TV-14)

(TV-14)

Plot Summary: Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them.

Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

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) (Queue It)  This show is one of the best science-fiction stories I have ever experienced.  It’s got an overall entertaining background and interesting characters with compelling and varied individual sub-plots, taking place upon diverse and colorful settings, and told using different storytelling methods and unexpected plot twists, and even featuring a blending of English and Mandarin languages (Endarin or Mandarish?).  Think of it as what the Han Solo Chronicles might be like, if that story was told (setting aside that I think that there are a bunch of Star Wars books out there that probably cover that subject).

It is definitely limited by an inadequate budget, amateur stuntwork, low-quality cameras and some hokiness, but the story is so good and the actors really commit so, after awhile, you almost embrace these limitations as campy.  I do wonder how amazing this series could have been if HBO had grabbed it, though, instead of the CW-like production and wrangling of episode order that Fox put forth.  I am looking forward to see what Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, was able to do with a feature-film budget in the follow-up movie, Serenity.

I was actually surprised to learn that Whedon is from New York, given the overarching plot involving the oppression of individual states by the evil federal system that beat them in a civil war and given the country theme song.  Whedon’s yankeeness does make me feel a little more confident that I’m not being duped into cheering for the Confederate flag, though.

One final note: beware!  This series was cancelled in its first season, and leaves a lot of masterfully posed questions unanswered.  However, the ride is well worth the story blue balls that you will be left with when it’s done.  It’s like getting an awesome BJ from Esperanza Gomez, but not to completion; I still wouldn’t turn it down.  Really, though, you should have this show in your pop-culture tool belt.

Marco Polo (2014-Present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: In a world replete with greed, betrayal, sexual intrigue and rivalry, “Marco Polo” is based on the famed explorer’s adventures in Kublai Khan’s court in 13th century China.

Stars: Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen

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) (Watch it Live)  Martial arts, political maneuvering, military strategy, philosophy, sex, romance, culture clashes, and issues of family, dynasty, and pride…amongst more.  This series has it all.  Wonderfully acted and masterfully directed.  Storytelling at its top level.  This show makes me want to research history to learn how close to the real events this series depicted…but not until after the show is over.  Wouldn’t want to spoil any future episodes for myself!

Death Race (2008)

(R) 105 mins

(R) 105 mins

Plot Summary: Convict Jensen Ames is forced by the warden of a notorious prison to compete in our post-industrial world’s most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must brutalize and kill one another on the road to victory.

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writers: Anderson (screenplay, screen story), Robert Thom (1975 screenplay Death Race 2000), Charles B. Griffith (as Charles Griffith; 1975 screenplay Death Race 2000), Ib Melchior (1975 story Death Race 2000)

Stars: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  In the bonus feature Start Your Engines – Making a Death Race, Anderson declares that he meant for this movie to be a darker, more serious, believable version of Death Race 2000.  I’ve never seen the original, so he may have succeeded, but I found this film to be hokey in a few parts, including the ending.  All of that being said, it is one of my favorite hokey car films.  There is actually a compelling plot behind the race, plenty of great action, and a solid cast, including newcomer beauty Natalie Martinez, whom I’d like to see more of.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you need to see this flick, I will say that you probably wouldn’t mind watching it more than once, either.

The Hitcher (2007)

(R) 84 mins

(R) 84 mins

Plot Summary: A serial killer pins his crimes on two college students who gave him a ride.

Director: Dave Meyers

Writers: Eric Red (screenplay & 1986 film), Jake Wade Wall (screenplay), Eric Bernt (screenplay)

Stars: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  According to IMDB, Red was credited as a screenplay writer for this movie, but had no part in writing it (aside from writing the 1986 film).  I haven’t seen the 1986 version, but if it was any good, I don’t blame him for wanting to distance himself from this version.

This flick starts strong and features competent performances by good actors (except for Bush’s second-half performance, which gets out of her range, in my opinion; she just hasn’t mastered the thousand-yard stare).  However, it’s a lot of build-up for nothing.  The effects and action are often hokey, it feels as if some major events were skipped (and not in a good, it’s-better-to-leave-it-to-the-imagination way), and the payoff to the big question throughout the movie is never realized.  If I had to describe this film in one word, it would be “senseless.”

Also according to IMDB, “Rutger Hauer, who played the character of John Ryder in the original was offered a cameo, but declined for artistic reasons. Hauer has since said in the press that he has yet to watch the remake, and according to some of his friends he shouldn’t bother.”  Smart man.

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.