"Homeland: The Complete First and Second Seasons"
The collapse of the traditional television networks and the subsequent growth of hundreds of different cable and online channels have altered our interpersonal relationships. Gone are the days when there were only six stations in most cities and our shared experiences of watching the same program at the same time provided endless water cooler banter. We now find ourselves with thousands of programs available at any time in nearly any place.
As a result, the banter has evolved so that we now use TV shows to separate and distinguish ourselves, forming cliques around what programs we obsess over. You are either one of the band who won't stop talking about how life-altering "Breaking Bad" is, or you don't watch the show and wish those people would stop their endless yammering.
Showtime's "Homeland" is one of those series. Starring Claire Danes as a slightly unhinged CIA agent doggedly trying to prevent a terrorist attack, the show is one part "Zero Dark Thirty" and one part "Dynasty." Danes' character is obsessed with a former POW played by Damian Lewis. Believing that he was co-opted during his eight years of captivity in Iraq, she pushes herself to the mental brink trying to prove that this war hero is in fact a traitor.
Danes and Lewis are both exceptional actors who have fully embraced their roles, making it easy to watch them for hours on end. Packed with countless twists and turns, the show somehow manages to throw in genuine surprise without straining credulity.
It's nearly impossible not to get sucked up into the zeitgeist of the show. With the third season having just resumed, you nonbelievers can catch up by renting the first two.
The realism and urgency of the perceived terrorist threat, along with plenty of violence, makes this best for teens at least 15 years old. (Equivalent of R: Violence, language and sex).
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 3½ stars
Teens: 2½ stars
Adults: 3½ stars
Seniors: 3½ stars
Should you watch it? Yes -- an intense, compelling spy thriller.
"The Hangover Part III"
When you make an over-the-top, brazen movie such as "Hangover" it's somehow more acceptable to make shameless sequels like this one. And shameless it is.
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis reprise their roles as the bedraggled buddies who have a history of inserting themselves into outrageous situations. This time the boys must deliver the psychotic Mr. Chow (the very funny Ken Jeong) to a mobster in order to save one of their pals.
Everything that could go wrong in the process does. Which is just what we all hoped would happen. While not as funny as its predecessors, the movie still manages to be amusing, gross, profane and every guy's secret fantasy.
The film has a sense of finality to it, implying this may complete the Hangover trilogy, which would be a fitting way to end the films that pioneered the raunchy road-trips-gone-bad genre.
Best for teens 14 years old and up. (R: Violence, sex and language). 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 2½ stars
Teens: 3 stars
Adults: 2½ stars
Seniors: 2 stars
Should you watch it? Yes -- a solid comedy if you can handle the debauchery.
J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.