Fun Stuff on TV and Streaming Some Movies

December 19, 2014


Left: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch with Montana markers for color, and a white Sharpie Poster pen. In my 8.5 x 11 inch (approx.) Japanese lined journal.

I've been having some entertaining times this fall watching TV and streaming movies. Since this is always the time of year I hole up in my house and avoid the mad rush to retail, I like to write about movies.

If you want to read my picks for favorite "holiday" movies you can read my views on my page "Films for the Holidays."

I have to also send you to an update to that list. In December 2012 I wrote a post drawing attention to the above link and wrote one of my favorite movie reviews ever, which you can read here: "Roz Revisited: Holiday Movies I Love."

Television Viewing (with or without cycling)

Well this is easy, if you get to see the new "Inspector Lewis" episodes, do so. There are only 3 I think and I wanted many more. But then when I bought my disk set last year they said that they weren't making any more episodes so I really cannot complain at all.

My massage therapist tries to keep me aware of fun things I might have missed the first time (release) around and suggested that I watch "Orange Is the New Black" which is on Netflix (I believe it is one of their original series and it's only available there). I wasn't too keen to watch a prison show, but he sold it by doing what he always does: by telling me the plot and putting on voices of the characters—to hear him review a cartoon feature is hilarious.

I'm happy to say that I gave in as soon as the weather turned to snow and my biking became "indoors on the trainer." If I watch 1.5 episodes I can get in 90 minutes, or on a short day I can watch one episode for 60 minutes. It's funny, sad, and cringe-worthy all at the same time. There is some violence now and then but mainly it is a look at our society and the people we lock away, and the human condition, and taking responsibility for our actions, and some really crazy ass shit. I burned through the first season and then after two episodes of season 2 I had to take a break because I was emotionally drained. I have just restarted my viewing.

Also thanks to David I'm now watching "Hell on Wheels" which is a "western" about the building of the great railroads across the US just after the Civil War. I should be head over heals about this show but the volume is so variable that sometimes the trainer noise blocks out the dialog and I've decided to not watch it unless I'm simply watching TV. My friend Ellen says there's lots of good drawing opportunities in that show as well, so I think it's probably just as well that I'm not cycling.

I have the old standby, 90-minute episodes of "Midsomer Murders." I want to reach the John Nettles retirement point sometime before I die! Seriously I love Nettles and have several seasons to go before he is replaced, but most of my friends are current and it just makes things difficult for me.

Dick and I continue to watch "Elementary" together, and enjoy it. But it does seem to me that this season they are rather leaving the show's "Bible" and Sherlock is doing some things that seem out of character. I forgive this because Jonny Lee Miller is obviously having so much fun in the role that I can't help but enjoy it as well.

Alone, and not cycling, I'm watching "Major Crimes," which has had new episodes recently broadcast. I'm developing a serious drawing fetish where Flynn and Provenza are concerned. I also enjoy sketching Julio but he hasn't been featured much lately.

If you have kids, or are a kid at heart I think you'll enjoy Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street. It's available on Amazon Prime as one of their original shows and honestly it's how I remember my childhood —the four years I spent in Indiana. (And never mind which character I was.) If they make more seasons it will honestly be "the best idea ever."

Movies to Seek Out for Streaming, Renting, Borrowing…And to Watch while You Are NOT Cycling

Danny Gregory knows that I love watching films of artists working, and that I'm a Ralph Steadman fan, so he recommended that I watch "For No Good Reason" which is a bio-pic-interview-looking-over-his-shoulder-as-he-works sort of film and absolutely ESSENTIAL for any fans of Steadman. I found it on Amazon Prime in October.

Danny also recommended "Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story." I couldn't look away. (I think I found it on Netflix.) I knew Ungerer's work in children's book illustration and poster and editorial illustration. He also had a side career in erotica and you have to see it because the lines he gets when he draws are simply beautiful.

This got me looking for other artist/writer interview/biography movies and I found Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, which is wonderfully thought provoking. It's available on Netflix as well.

Then, joy of joys, I found a delightful film about Drew Struzan: The Man Behind the Poster. I grew up loving his work. His work pretty much visually encapsulates most of the contemporary (to my life) movies I loved. He is well known for his work for George Lucas but one of my favorites is his poster for "Big Trouble in Little China" with Kurt Russell. (Here's a funny little compilation of Russell from that movie—I was going to write about it but I caught a cold and my brain is too gummy. The movie just makes me giddy, but then I spent much of my childhood watching all sorts of martial arts movies and shows, and of course Kurt Russell in all his.)

So back to Struzan, that movie is also on Netflix (hmmm) and to hear what has happened to him over his career, and to hear his attitude about life is wonderful.

I wrapped up my bio-pic-what's-his-life-like movie search with Bill Cunningham who is a New York Photographer. His life and attitude is an inspiration to every creative individual. ("If you don't take money they can't tell you what to do…") I think this is a must see movie.

Last week it was my turn to pick the movie for movie night (who am I kidding, it's always my turn), and I picked "Guardians of the Galaxy." I laughed, I cried, I screamed "OH, YEAH," even though I didn't see it in 3-D! I am a huge fan of Chris Pratt whom you may know as Andy in Parks and Recreation. In the cast of absolutely AMAZING actors with spot on comic timing on "Parks and Recreation" it's hard to pick a favorite so I just say whoever is on screen at any given time is my favorite and I'm covered. 

In "Guardians of the Galaxy," for his role as kidnapped-by-aliens-kid-turned-rogue-scavenger/thief, Pratt spent serious time at the gym and got ripped, kept all his sense of humor, timing, and silliness, along with his ability to project innoncence. He is surrounded by a band of misfits that includes Rocket—a genetically engineered and mutated talking Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper (spot on). You can read about the creation of Rocket in this film here. The animators did a magnificent job as well, and you can't watch this movie without falling in love with this character. In fact, after Dick went to bed I stayed up and rewatched all the bits with Pratt and with Rocket again, they were just that fun (and sad). (Though no raccoons were harmed in the making of this film.) Here's a wonderful short (4:20) video interview where Chris Pratt eloquently explains why Rocket works as an appealing character (another cast member and the director also comment so watch the whole thing). The actor, director, screenwriter, artists, and editor hit this character out of the park. (I'd tell you my favorite bit, but then I'd have to give you a spoiler alert, so just watch it.)

I have to say that Vin Diesel, who provided the voice and motion capture for Groot (a giant walking-talking tree), also did an amazing job while limited by one simple line of dialog (the words of which varied only once). Every time he said it, however, he said it differently, and while Pratt's character makes humor out of Groot's verbal limits, when you listen closely you realize yes, it's Vin Diesel being subtle.

The only character I didn't like was the villain. He seemed both boring, grumpy, and not very threatening at the same time, although at the end he was very threatening. Nope, I just didn't care for him at all, but then there were plenty of other things in the movie to interest me. And they wrapped it all up with a crazy-appropriate musical score.

I'm glad Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista were such great sports about so much make-up—Bautista's character Drax made me want to jump up and go get embossed!

I hope they make sequels galore!

Anyway, I've got to stop now so I can go and pick out a movie for movie night!

  1. Reply

    I agree with your description of Orange is the new Black. I do not understand why it is grouped as a comedy for the Golden Globe! I, too, find it emotionally draining.

    I like Elementary but the BBC’s Sherlock is 10 times better. Just so annoyingly infrequent.

    If you like crime or mysteries… take a look at the Murdoch Mysteries. It’s a Canadian show, set in the late 1800’s in Toronto. It’s on Netflix (but might not be streaming). I’m able to watch the current seasons as my TV cable includes Canadian TV, since I live in WA and close to the Canadian border!

    • Alison A
    • December 20, 2014

    Aha Kate agrees (above)… they are making a Christmas special for next year and another series that airs in 2016… (Info supplied by my daughter who is obsessed)

  2. Reply

    Kate, I think it’s grouped as a comedy because it is at the most basic level a comedy with quirky things happening. I think of it as a very dark comedic comment on life.

    I also enjoy Sherlock, but it didn’t make this list simply because the last season was over before I started the current viewing list.

    I’ve tried the Murdoch Mysteries but the plots and writing didn’t engage me. Even more important the hero is too “beautiful” for me to sketch. It’s also available (I haven’t checked recently so it maybe gone) on AcornTV.

  3. Reply

    Alison, I have a great fondness for “Sherlock” because I adore Martin Freeman. I didn’t intend this list to be exhaustive—new episodes of it were long gone before I started making this list. But I am glad to hear the news you posted below that they are going to have a 2015 Christmas Special and a new series in 2016. I will look forward to it all!

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