That Guy Who Was in That Thing with Mr. Peabody & Sherman Archer

That Guy Who Was in That Thing, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and the first five seasons of Archer are currently available on instant Netflix

Archer

 

Archer (2009-14) – Rated TV-MA

Suave, sophisticated spy Archer may have the coolest gadgets, but he still has issues when it comes to dealing with his boss, who is also his mother.”

Jenny and I binged on fifth season Archer before moving on to the very disappointing third season of House of Cards. Fifth season Archer has a completely different setting. This time the members of ISIS have become impromptu drug dealers. Other than that, you have pretty much the same cast and jokes (although they appear to have left out my favorite, “this is why we have ants”).

So it is slightly disappointing in that much is recycled but still quite funny (and offensive for those of delicate sensibilities). An enjoyable, albeit forgettable, time was had by all.

That Guy

 

That Guy…Who Was in That Thing (2012) – Rated TV-14

Sixteen male actors — who are highly recognizable but not stars — detail their ups and downs as they struggle to forge careers in Hollywood.”

Speaking of forgettable, That Guy…Who Was in That Thing is the story of sixteen hardworking actors where you’ll recognize them but probably won’t know their names. It is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who have been successful without having ‘made’ it.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) – Rated PG

Resurrected from the 1960s animated series “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” canine genius Mr. Peabody and young Sherman take a dizzying ride through time.

I like to change up what I’m watching with my granddaughter from time to time. She can watch the same thing a near infinite number of times but I need a bit of variety. Taking a bit of a break from The PowerPuff Girls and The Octonauts, we watched Mr. Peabody & Sherman. She seemed fine with it as one of the two main characters is a dog.

I thought it was dreadful drek. It is not at all in the spirit of the original. Say goodbye to the goofy, clever humor of the original and hello to factory made cinema.

This is clearly a children’s movie (as it is about two 7-year-olds and a dog) and is even rated PG. Yet we have the typically evil social worker trying to break up the family. We also have a visit to France during the Terror, i.e. when the backlog of executions necessitated the manufacture of a faster method of execution, Le Guillotine. The children also manage to cause the death of one of the main characters.

Rather than crib from the original show, the writers appear to have borrowed their bits from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. There is supposed to be a heartwarming message at the center of this that a dog can be a proper parent. So much so that they hammer it into us again and again.

Bleh! Avoid this and don’t let your children see it either.

House of Cards Falls Down

Ugh. I missed a Friday posting because I apparently have the plague. I’ll try and stay on top of things this week if I can stop hacking up a lung. Three seasons of House of Cards is currently available on instant Netflix

House of Cards

 

House of Cards (2013-5) – Rated TV-MA

This Emmy-winning original thriller series stars Golden Globe winner Kevin Spacey as ruthless, cunning Congressman Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife Claire (Golden Globe winner Robin Wright).

I loved the original BBC miniseries House of Cards (1990) and its two followups, all currently available on instant Netflix. It was a brilliant updating of Shakespeare’s Richard III, complete with breaking the fourth wall. Star Ian Richardson was a marvel. It was so perfect that I approached Netflix’ Americanization of the series with some trepidation.

I need not have worried. Kevin Spacey is an absolute delight as Francis Underwood. Robin Wright makes for a marvelous Claire Underwood/Lady MacBeth. The changes in politics do not undermine the story at all. The first two seasons of House of Cards are marvelous exercises in the use of power.

This brings us to the recently released third season of House of Cards. Bless Netflix for releasing their series a season at a time. My wife and I far prefer to binge on series than to watch from week to week. The third season/series of the BBC House of Cards was not as good as the first two but was a fine and fitting end to the series.

The third season of Netflix’ House of Cards is just awful. Let me clarify. The show itself isn’t awful per se and Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and the rest of the cast are still superb. It just appears that whoever wrote the first two seasons disappeared and was replaced by a hack or certainly someone who did not understand what made the first two seasons work.

Francis and Claire Underwood were able to manipulate their way to the top through various acts of subterfuge, backroom deals, blackmail, and the devotion/ambition of various underlings. Third season Francis is no longer bright, much less brilliant, and goes out of his way to alienate everyone who could possibly help him. Stamper, one of the more fascinating characters from previous seasons, is given enormous screentime while at the same time is essentially sidelined for the entire season. We get to watch him eat, go to AA meetings, sleep, and generally wait over and over again for someone to use him.

One of the writers comes up with the America Works program, clearly someone fresh off a course on Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Russian premier is a Putin-like thug. There are some callbacks to previous seasons but mostly ones that will have you scratching your head as you thought that topic had already been settled. There are so many moments where the screenwriters spent all their time figuring out if they could do something, without stopping to think if they should.

Third season Francis is basically a high-functioning idiot and Claire is little better. No spoilers but I will say that they have Claire do something (several somethings actually) that no First Lady has ever done. It doesn’t smack of bold writing so much as fantasy land. Do yourself a favor and stop at the end of season two.

The Last of February’s Streaming Netflix Titles

Obviously the big title here is the third season of the superb House of Cards but after you spend a weekend binge-watching that, then what?

Anime: Ghost Hunt

Comedy: Russell Brand: Messiah Complex, Ralphie May: Unruly

Vessel

Documentary: Vessel

Family: It’s a Zoo in Here, Alpha and Omega

In Bloom

Foreign: Barbecue, In Bloom, A Summer’s Tale, 1000 Times Good Night, Boys

House of Cards

Television: House of Cards, Chicagoland, Death Row Stories, Hawaii Five-O (new), Uncle Grandpa, and new episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Chowder, The Boondocks, and Powerpuff Girls

Thriller: Open Windows

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 2/18/2014

The easy recommendation is the second season of House of Cards. The opening episode is phenomenal.

Action/Adventure: Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, Ambushed, Force of Execution

Comedy: Were the World Mine, Ingenious, Chris Porter: Ugly and Angry, Rock and Roll Fantasy

The Summit

Documentary: Danland, The Motivation, The Network, The Summit

Cloudburst

Drama: Cloudburst, My Normal, Four, Inch’Allah, The Dynamiter, Somewhere

Foreign: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, The Haunting of Helena, Evil, Mercury Man

Haunter

Horror: Haunter

Television: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford’s Puppy Days, and new seasons of Bridezillas, The Pitch, Burn Notice, House of Cards, and Lab Rats

Thriller: The Mystery of Spoon River, Passion

Valentine’s Day This ‘n’ That

House of Cards

 

* What a nice Valentine’s Day present from Netflix – season two of House of Cards. This series is awesome (though not quite on par with the British original) and Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn are simply wonderful as a power couple.

Hulu

 

* Community is finally back. I caught the first two episodes of the new season on Hulu and they may have brought back the magic they lost last season.

Amazon Prime

 

* I forgot to mention that Amazon Prime has added season 4 of Justified to their instant offerings. We blitzed through all 13 episodes over the holidays and thoroughly enjoyed them.

EW Top Ten TV Shows

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is their end of year Top 10 issue. Of course the Top 10 Movies are not available on instant Netflix, some haven’t even hit the theater. Between the two critics, the top films were 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Blue Jasmine, The Past, World War Z, Prisoners, Inside Llewyn Davis, Captain Phillips, Enough Said, All is Lost, Out of the Furnace, The Conjuring, and Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.

Orange is the New Black

On the other hand, their year’s best TV shows (again between two critics) include American Horror Story (2 seasons on Netflix), Parks and Recreation (5 seasons available), Breaking Bad (all but the final episodes available), Orange is the New Black (Netflix exclusive), Mad Men (5 seasons available), House of Cards (Netflix exclusive), The Fall (first series available), Arrested Development (4 seasons – the 4th is Netflix exclusive). With results like that I’d argue that Netflix has changed the face of television. They are even bringing back the cancelled police drama The Killing.

Game of Thrones

TV shows not available on Netflix from the best of list: Time of Death, Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, Enlightened, Please Like Me, The Good Wife, and The Returned show Netflix’ weaknesses: Lack of premium channel content (HBO, Showtime) and CBS shows. Of course these aren’t just Netflix weaknesses as these aren’t available on Amazon Prime or Hulu either.

I have yet to watch Parks and Recreation and The Fall is still sitting in my queue (I tend to put off watching shows involving rape as I’m looking to be entertained more than enlightened). The other Netflix shows though are amazing and I concur that they are the best series on TV. I’m hoping that they’ll put the final episodes of Breaking Bad on before someone spoils them for me.

BBC, Netflix, and House of Cards

* Netflix has added an odd new feature. If you search on particular networks (NBC, Comedy Central, MTV, Discovery Channel), there will be a hyperlink at the top of the page asking to take you to “Genre:NBC”, “Genre:Comedy Central”, etc. Most of the major networks aren’t there yet but it is a neat new feature. BBC is only there as BBC comedy so far.

* Speaking of BBC, they are planning to launch a video download store a la iTunes or Amazon. No word yet on whether this will be global. BBC states that it will be for “a relatively modest fee”. So far though download prices for movies on iTunes, Amazon and the others are ridiculously high, especially for a product with no resale value. Heck for catalog titles (i.e. non-new releases), they are often more expensive than their DVD (and sometimes Blu-Ray) counterparts.

House of Cards

“Set in Britain’s Houses of Parliament, this political satire follows the career of a ruthless MP (Ian Richardson) whose election campaign has been plagued by a number of mysterious deaths. The politician’s scheming knows no bounds, and he manages to ensnare a member of the royal family in his quest for power. This series was controversial in Britain for its close depiction of Prince Charles’s actual life.”

Netflix calls this three seasons but it is actually three different mini-series. The first, House of Cards, details Francis Urquhart’s rise to power. The second, To Play the King, details Urquhart’s power struggle with a Prince Charles-type character and the third is The Final Cut. House of Cards is excellent, To Play the King is brilliant, and The Final Cut is very good but a little haphazard as if it were a but rushed.

Ian Richardson is amazing as the scheming Francis Urquhart. He consistently breaks the fourth wall with snarky asides and is wonderfully ruthless. The supporting cast is wonderful as well but everyone plays second fiddle to Ian, even the earnest Michael Kitchen as the King. Don’t worry if the politics are a bit different from those in the U.S., this is great fun and not that hard to follow.

I’m really looking forward to Netflix’ remake of this next year with Kevin Spacey in the lead. It also stars Kate Mara and Robin Wright and, according to imdb, is being directed by David Fincher.