2016 in Review: 10 Good Things I Saw On Television In 2016


Of all my 2016 in review posts, this is probably going to be the most difficult for me to write.

Last year, when I tried to write about some of the good things that I saw on television in 2015, I started things by confessing that I hadn’t been watching as much television as usual and that I was having a hard time coming up with a worthwhile list.

Well, in 2016, I watched even less television than I did in 2015.  And what I did watch, I usually didn’t care much for.  2016 was dominated by that stupid presidential election and it didn’t take me long to discover that watching too much television would result in me having to sit through hundreds of political commercials.  When it came to watching television, I spent a good deal of 2016 clicking on the mute button.

Of course, I watched all of the reality shows, but even that was largely because I was contracted to write about them at the Big Brother Blog and Reality TV Chat.

I also spent a good deal of time watching classic films on TCM.  I live tweeted most of the movies that premiered on Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network.  I did the same during those rare occasions that a new movie showed up on SyFy.

But, beyond that, I found myself with less reason than usual to watch television.  Maybe I’m maturing.  Maybe my tastes are changing.  Maybe I’ve just grown bored with TV in general.  Or, perhaps, 2016 was just a really bad year.

Who knows?

Still, with all that in mind, here are a few good things that I saw on television in 2016!

1) American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson

The television event of the year!  I watched every episode and I was absolutely enthralled.  This brilliantly acted show is probably destined to be remembered as the only worthwhile project that Ryan Murphy was ever involved with.

(“But Lisa, what about American Horror Story…”  American Horror Story sucks.  Don’t even get me started on Scream Queens…)

2) Veep continued to be the most brilliant comedy on HBO.

I know that some people felt that Veep wasn’t as strong this season as it had been in previous seasons.  Well, those people can go to Hell.  Veep is not only a brilliant comedy but it’s also probably the most realistic political show on TV.  Considering the cult-like adoration that voters have for their candidates and towards the government in general, the unrepentant cynicism of Veep provided a much-needed wake up call to the brainwashed masses.

3) Speaking of Veep

Without a doubt, this was the best campaign commercial of 2016:

4) Stranger Things

Thank you, Netflix!

5) Agent Carter

The 2nd season of Agent Carter was just as wonderful, stylish, and empowering as the first.  Of course, the show as promptly canceled, leaving us with just a grand total of 18 episodes.

6) Speaking of cancellations…

American Idol finally came to an end!  Don’t get me wrong.  Like a lot of people, I used to be enthralled by American Idol.  For the first few seasons, I watched every episode.  I voted nearly every week.  I got really emotionally involved.  But, especially over the last few seasons, American Idol was becoming more and more irrelevant.  It soon came to represent everything that people like me hate about cultural conformity.  Vote For The Worst ceased operations, leaving me without a safe place to talk about how annoying it was whenever anyone would use that Hallelujah song for an audition.  A steady stream of boring judges didn’t help either.  American Idol finally came to an end last season.  I watched the final episode.  I can’t remember who won.

7) Bates Motel Continued To Take Brave Risks

Occasionally frustrating, sometimes infuriating, and often quite brilliant, Bates Motel remained one of the most consistently fascinating shows on television.

8) Vinyl crashed and burned

It may seem petty to describe a dramatic failure as being something good that I saw on television.  But, seriously, Vinyl was such a hubris-fueled trainwreck that it was impossible not to feel a little Schadenfreude as it fell apart.

9) Westworld

The anti-Vinyl.

10) The unicorn was saved.

According to Case, the life of a unicorn was saved when People of Earth was renewed for another season.  Yay!

unicorny

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Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2015 with my ten favorite non-fiction books of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy
  5. 2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime
  6. 2016 in Review: Lisa Picks the 16 Worst Films of 2016!
  7. Necromoonyeti’s Top Ten Albums of 2016
  8. 2016 In Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2016

Playing Catch-Up: Sing Street (dir by John Carney)


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The Irish musical comedy drama romance (that’s a lot of genres to take in, I know) Sing Street was one of the great and most sadly overlooked films of the previous year.  Fortunately, it’s on Netflix now and I seriously recommend that you watch it.  I watched it last night and I absolutely loved it.

Well, actually, it took me a while to realize that I loved it.  When the movie first started, I was kinda like, “Well, that’s cute and sweet but it’s not exactly blowing me away…”  It tells the story of a 15 year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is growing up in Dublin in the early 80s.  His father (Aidan Gillen) and his mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are constantly fighting and Conor suspects that they’re on the verge of separating.  His older brother, the charismatic but bitter Brendan (Jack Reynor), has dropped out of college and moved back home.  Brendan spends his days stoned and talking about music.

Because the family is short on money, Conor has been transferred to a free school, Synge Street.  It’s a far rougher school than what Conor is used to.  Bullies target him as soon as he arrives.  Meanwhile, the principal, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherly), has taken a somewhat disturbing interest in his newest student.  When Conor can’t afford to buy the black shoes that he’s required to wear to school, Baxter forces him to spend the school day in his socks.

Perhaps the only positive in Conor’s life is Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a 16 year-old who lives across the street from the school.  Raphina is an aspiring model with an older boyfriend and plans to move to London.  Conor tells Raphina that he’s in a band and that he wants her to star in a music video.  To Conor’s surprise, Raphina agrees.

Now, Conor just has to get a band together…

Sing Street was directed by John Carney, the same man who previously gave us the wonderful Once and the somewhat-less-wonderful-but-still-good Begin Again.  Much like those previous two films, Sing Street is a deliriously romantic and rather bittersweet little film, one in which love and emotion are expressed through song.  As a director, Carney has a real skill for capturing the excitement of creation.  The scenes in which Conor and his friend Eamon (Mark McKenna) work on their songs are just as enthralling as the scenes of Raphina and Conor falling in love.

And the music itself is wonderful.  While the soundtrack never quite reaches the heights of Once, it is a definite improvement over Begin Again.  The songs are all catchy and enjoyable but, even more importantly, they sound like the songs that actually would have been written by a talented but confused 15 year-old who has just started his own band.  There’s an aching sincerity to Sing Street‘s songs and they stay with you.  They remind you of how wonderful it is to know that you have your entire future ahead of you.

As I said, I didn’t realize how good Sing Street was until I had nearly reached the end of the movie.  Sing Street is one of those low-key films that kind of sneaks up on you.  At first, you think that you’re just watching another well-made coming of age film and then suddenly, you’re in tears.  You’re hoping that Raphina will make it to London and that Conor will find some sort of happiness.  The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note but, in the end, you realize you really don’t need to know the exact details of what happened to Raphina and Conor in the future.  Instead, what’s important is that they had this wonderful experience when they were young.  Regardless of what happens to them in the future, you’re happy that they had the experience.

The whole film is undeniably well-acted but I want to make special mention of Jack Reynor, who brings a wounded dignity and rueful humor to the role of Brendan.  He dominates his few scenes and you find yourself happy that, regardless of how messed up the rest of his family may be, Conor has a brother like Brendan.

As I said at the start of this review, Sing Street is on Netflix.  And you should definitely watch it.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Bleed (dir by Tripp Rahme)


What happens when you take a little Paranormal Activity and mix it in with a little Rosemary’s Baby and then toss in Devil’s Due and then top it all off with a sprinkle of Deliverance and The Chernobyl Diaries and just a hint of the remake of I Spit On Your Grave?

You end up with a big ol’ mess of a movie.  I just watched Bleed on Netflix and the plot is so convoluted that I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I just watched.

But, before I try to figure this all out, let’s take a look at the trailer:

Sarah (Chelsey Crisp) is a newlywed who appears to have it all.  She’s got a wonderful husband, Matt (Michael Steger), they’ve got a beautiful house out in the country, and even more importantly, they’ve got a baby on the way!  So what if the nearby town seems to be a little bit creepy and is full of country-accented men with beards?  And so what if there’s a deserted prison nearby, one that is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a preacher-turned-serial killer who died when a fire broke out at the prison?  And what about that mysterious woman who keeps showing up in the nearby field and screaming like a banshee?  That’s just local color!  Anyone who thinks that’s unusual has obviously never lived in Oklahoma or visited Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In order to celebrate their new home, Sarah and Matt decide to invite their best friends out to the house.  Dave (Elimu Nelson) and Bree (Brittany Ishibashi) are a likable couple, especially now that Bree is regularly taking her medication.  Bree is schizophrenic and hears voices when she doesn’t take her meds.  To the film’s credit, it portrays Bree as a positive character and never goes down the path that I feared it would follow.

Suddenly, Sarah’s good-for-nothing brother, Eric (Riley Smith) shows up.  His girlfriend, Skye (Lyndon Smith) is with him.  The first thing that Eric does is ask for money.  The second thing that Eric does is get high.  The third thing that Eric does is talk about how he and Skye have spent the past few months driving across America and searching for ghosts.  And hey, isn’t there a haunted prison somewhere nearby?

Meanwhile, Skye takes a bath.  While she’s in the bathtub, she suddenly see an evil-looking apparition standing over her.  She screams for help and Matt responds.  The apparition has vanished.  Sarah glares at Matt and the towel-clad Skye.  “I didn’t know she’d be half-naked!”  Matt protests.  Of course not!  Why would someone get undressed before taking a bath?

Anyway, Eric convinces everyone but Sarah to search for ghosts with them.  Sarah drops them off at the ruins of the prison, promises to come back for them in a few hours, and then starts back home.  Unfortunately, she has an accident on the way back and ends up getting a ride with a creepy deputy.  And it quickly becomes clear that the deputy isn’t in any hurry to get her back home…

Meanwhile, at the prison, all Hell breaks loose.  Skye sees another evil spirit.  Eric’s throat gets slashed but oddly, it stops bleeding after a few seconds.  Voices are heard.  Objects move.  So many Paranormal Activity-type things occur that I’m actually surprised (and relieved) that Bleed wasn’t a found footage film…

One thing that Bleed does is that it keeps you guessing.  At first, I assumed it would be another city folk vs. hillbillies type of film but then it turned into a ghost story.  And, for a long while, I thought it was just another ghost story but then it turned out to be something different all together.  Admittedly, the film sometimes struggles to handle the constant shift in tone but, oddly, that kinda works.  It definitely keeps the viewer off-balance.

As you might expect from a film that’s constantly changing tone, Bleed is a bit uneven but it’s definitely a watchable and intriguing horror film and the film makes good use of that atmospheric prison.  For a lot of viewers, Bleed will probably be a love-it-or-hate-it type of film.  It’s well-directed but the story is just almost unnecessarily complicated.  My recommendation is that you watch it and judge for yourself.

 

 

Horror Film Review: They Look Like People (dir by Perry Blackshear)


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I am sure that there are some people would probably be willing to debate me on whether or not They Look Like People should be considered a horror film.  That’s fair enough.  They Look Like People is a film that, in many ways, defies easy characterization.  It’s a drama that is occasionally very comedic.  It’s a love story that isn’t necessarily romantic.  It’s an undeniably eerie film, one that keeps you guessing.  It’s a film that left me feeling very uneasy.  It made me jump and it made me doubt the shadows in the house and, for that reason, I feel comfortable calling it a horror film.

I can’t tell you too much about They Look Like People, not without spoiling it.  This is a film where unanswered questions hang over every scene.  The film eventually answers those questions but it would not be right for a reviewer to do the same thing.  Usually, I hate it when people go crazy over spoilers but They Look Like People is not a film that I would ever dream of spoiling.

It’s an indie film, about two old friends.  Christian (Evan Dumouchel) is still dealing with the insecurities of his youth.  He obsessively listens to self-help tapes.  He goes out of his way to present an image of hypermasculinity.  The thing is, as hard as he tries to come across as being an alpha male, he’s not very good at it.  The weakness and the insecurity is always right underneath the surface.  He has a crush on his boss (Margaret Ying Drake) and, despite his issues, she seems to like him as well.

One day, Christian happens to run into his childhood friend, Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews).  Wyatt, who used to have everything, now appears to be nearly homeless.  Christian invites Wyatt to stay with him at his apartment.  Wyatt claims that he has friends to stay with but soon, he is crashing on Christian’s couch.

Christian and Wyatt spend a lot of time talking about old times and there’s something undeniably charming about watching these two embrace the geekiness of their youth.  However, what Christian does not know is that Wyatt rarely sleeps through the night.  Instead, he’s regularly woken by intense nightmares.  Once awake, Wyatt wanders around the apartment, hiding weapons under chairs.  Occasionally, Wyatt gets a phone call from a mysterious voice that informs him that the demons will be invading soon.  The demons look like people.  The only way to expose them is to pour sulphuric acid on their face…

Is Wyatt crazy?  Or are the demons truly coming?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!  (Look for it on Netflix.  It’s there.)

They Look Like People is an amazingly creepy little film, one that repeatedly catch you off guard.  (At the same time, the film does eventually provide a definitive answer to its questions.  Admirably, this is not a film that tries to have it both ways.)  Deliberately paced and well-acted, They Look Like People is an excellent film that will keep you guessing.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Most Likely To Die (dir by Anthony DiBlasi)


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Most Likely To Die is a slasher film about a group of old friends who gather at a remote house for the weekend.  It’s their high school reunion and almost everyone’s looking forward to getting caught up on old times.  What they don’t know is that there is a killer in their midst and that killer is going to kill them one by one.  Even worse, he’s going to do it in a way that ironically comments on their senior year superlatives.

Fortunately, everyone received a superlative that lends itself to an ironic death.  Seriously, this killer is just lucky that Most Likely To Eat Anything was friends with Most Likely To Break Hearts and Most Likely To Be Put On Ice.  Just imagine if Most Likely To Kill A Psycho had shown up for the weekend?  And what if he had brought his wife, Most Likely Not To Split Up In The Face Of Danger?  That would have screwed everything up!

Who is the killer?  Well, the natural suspect is John Daughtery.  He was the outcast who all the kids made fun of.  They even vandalized his yearbook entry, declaring him to be “Most Likely To Die.”  John was pretty upset about that but then it got even worse when a gun was discovered in his locker!  That pretty much ruined John’s life!

But maybe it’s not John.  Maybe it’s Tarkin, the groundskeeper.  Tarkin used to own a liquor store but he lost it when it was discovered that he was selling alcohol to underage kids.  Could Tarkin be looking for revenge?  Or is he just a perv who obsessively hangs around outside a certain bedroom window?  Tarkin, incidentally, is played by Jake Busey and, whenever Busey shows up in a slasher film, you know he’s either going to be the murderer or the film’s biggest red herring.

Then again, maybe this killer is Perez Hilton!

Seriously, Perez Hilton is in this movie and it’s not stunt casting.  Perez actually plays a real character and, at no point, does he wink at the audience and go, “It’s me, Perez!”  Perez gives a far better performance than you might expect.  His work here is, at the very least, on par with Paris Hilton’s performance in House of Wax.

Or maybe the killer is … someone else!

Honestly, if you’ve ever seen a slasher movie before, you’ll guess who the killer is.  Most Likely To Die does offer up a typical, last-minute slasher movie twist but it won’t take you by surprise.  In fact, there’s really nothing surprising about Most Likely To Die.  That said, for fans of the slasher genre, Most Likely To Die is entertaining and fairly well-done.  It doesn’t redefine the genre but it’s well-acted, the house is a creepy location, the murders are properly gory and mean-spirited, and the film does what it does with a certain panache.  If you’re a horror fan, there are worse (and, it should be noted, definitely better) ways to waste your time.

Most Likely To Die made its premiere at Film4 FrightFest in 2015 and it had a very limited release earlier this year.  It’s now available on Netflix, where it can be watched by anyone with 80 minutes to kill.

Iron Fist Gives A Glimpse of The Living Weapon


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Netflix and Marvel has had quite a couple years. It began in 2015 with the premiere of the first season of the Daredevil series. It was then followed up by the Jessica Jones series.

Here we are in 2016 and we get the second season of Daredevil to start the year and ending it with the just released Luke Cage series. What do Marvel and MCU fans have to look forward to in 2017.

Well, we have the upcoming Iron First series coming out this March 2017 to look forward to with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist teaming up to become the Defenders to end the year.

We finally get the first trailer for Iron Fist and it dropped during New York Comic-Con for attendees first, but it didn’t take Marvel and Netflix to release the trailer on-line for all the bear witness to the Living Weapon.