The stack has been growing on my desk – but I’m finally able to share about the plethora of films and television shows that publicists have been sending me lately. From the animated television (Teen Titans Go! Scooby-Doo) to dramas (The Mentalist, The Missing, Halt and Catch Fire) to films that cover the spectrum (The Last Five Years, Lost River), there’s a wide range this week.
Halt and Catch Fire: The Complete First Season – The first ten episodes of AMC’s series about a creating competition for IBM in Silicon Valley in 1983. Lee Pace stars as Joe McMillan, who longs to reverse engineer the technology and make a name for himself in the business. Co-starring Scoot McNairy as Gordon, Mackenzie Davis as Cameron, and Toby Huss as John Bosworth, this is a period-piece about inventing computers comparable to Mad Men as a period-piece about advertising. This couldn’t more clearly be one that you’ll either love or hate, and your knowledge of computers may play a part. I’ll currently give it an “incomplete code” rating.
The Last Five Years – Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) sing their way through their relationship, or the pieces of it, shared back to us out of order and in various stages of crumbling. The songs reflect the insecurity, the highs and lows, the soaring pursuit and the crashing despair of the various stations along the way of their dating, marriage, and separation. Based on Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway musical of the same name, it’s like Annie meets 50 Days of Summer. If musicals are your deal, this is classic. I’m not so much a musical guy, so I’ll leave it in the rainy day it category.
Lost River – Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut shows he’s had some thoughts since starring in films like Drive and Only God Forgives. Mixing in some trippy sequences, Gosling’s story follows a down-and-out family in Detroit (which made me think of Out of the Furnace for some reason, but seemed to be in a New Orleans-type setting). Ultimately, I think the point is that we are supposed to understand that this town, Lost River, could be anywhere in the U.S. since the economic collapse, that ‘the curse’ the people fight is extreme and life-depriving. Of course, there’s a villain, the bully Bully (Matt Smith), but our hero, Bones (Iain De Caestecker), refuses to back down while his mother (Christina Hendricks, who was also in Drive) fights for her family as well. Quirky, unsteadily shot, and nuanced, this one earns a rainy day it rating.
The Mentalist Season 7 – Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) and his CBI handler/lover Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) are back at it for one final go-round with twelve episodes, culminating in a final, two-part case. This time, there’s a bit of nostalgia as the case resembles the one that saw Red John take Jane’s wife and daughter in the first place. There’s a serial killer who wants to communicate with his dead father who needs a psychic to do so – and Jane impersonates one, while also planning his wedding to Lisbon and new house plans as well. For fans who have ridden alongside the CBI for seven years, this is the send-off they’ve been waiting for. Of course, that means there are plenty of shadows and memories that have to be excised as they go. I give it a borrow it rating.
The Missing – James Nesbitt stars as Tony Hughes, a father who refuses to give up on his son even after he’s been missing for eight years. From STARZ and BBC One, the show works like a slightly longer movie, roping us in through a series of flashbacks and various locations, until we’re caught up in the grip of this father’s refusal to surrender his son. Of course, in a case like this, there are significant complications for his family and for the case itself. A plethora of characters (not quite Game of Thrones numbers) make the story work: Frances O’Connor plays Hughes’ wife, Emily, Matt Walsh plays a detective who ends up in a relationship with Emily, and Tcheky Karyo plays the lead detective, as some of the notables. Well shot, exciting, and moving, this one is worth tracking down, so borrow it.
Scooby-Doo 13 Spooky Tales: Surf’s Up Scooby-Doo and Scooby Doo and Scrappy-Doo: The Complete First Season– The first has thirteen stories; the second has sixteen. But both of them are full of the clean, wholesome adventures that decades of Scooby-Doo fans have come to expect. I’m partial to the ones with Scrappy, because his pint-sized, Napoleon complexed, “don’t judge the dog by his size but by the fight” just works for me. He’s the brave one, right, not Scooby? And he’s often the one who can put everything together while our hapless title character struggles to figure out which way is up. I’m a fan because I find them pretty entertaining myself, but I can safely kick back and watch them with my kids and not worry about it. rating: Buy it
Teen Titans Go! The Complete First Season Blu-ray & Teen Titans Go! Appetite For Disruption (Season 2 Part 1) – If you haven’t seen the latest incarnation of the Teen Titans, the junior Justice League so to speak for DC’s superheroes, you’re really missing out. Whether you want the first fifty-two episodes on Blu-ray for nearly six hundred minutes of laughs, adventure, and team-building, or just the first twenty-six minutes of the second set, there are plenty of options from Warner Bros. to keep you on your toes. Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg fight their way through villains, insecurities, teenage problems, and troublesome scenes that only teen superheroes can find themselves in. I’m all in on this one, so give it for the win.