Check It Out Category: Movies and TV

Movies and TV: If You Like Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies DVD coverMaybe you were already a fan of the blockbuster novel by Liane Moriarty. Maybe you became swept up in the combination of critical acclaim and breakroom buzz when the TV adaptation first aired. Or maybe the eight Emmy wins, including for acting, directing, casting, music, and the top prize of Outstanding Limited Series broke down your defenses. One way or another, you’re now a fan.

Whether you have already binged the pitch-perfect Big Little Lies or are waiting patiently for your turn, you may be interested in related shows that offer variations on those same delicious appeals.

Top of the Lake DVD cover

Top of the Lake

Description: Obsessed with the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl near a freezing lake in New Zealand, a brave detective finds herself up against small-town secrets and a side of herself that was meticulously kept at bay.

Why This? Atmosphere! Both limited series lean in to the twisted and the dark beneath the surface. With complex, fascinating female characters, dynamic performances, and the exposure of sinister secrets in an insular town, you will be riveted.

Pretty Little Liars DVD cover

Pretty Little Liars

Description: Four friends band together against an anonymous foe who threatens to reveal their darkest secrets.

Why This? The similar title words are not the only reason this series is one of the most frequently mentioned watchalikes for Big Little Lies. Though the protagonists are younger and the machinations perhaps a bit soapier, the intrigue and drama inspire an equally obsessive viewing, especially as dangerous secrets threaten to come to light.

Broadchurch DVD cover

Broadchurch

Description: Two strong yet compassionate detectives are brought together to solve the murder of an eleven year-old boy in a small coastal town.

Why This? Season one of this celebrated series ticks all the boxes: seaside setting, murder mystery, almost-too-close community, and rich layers of storytelling. As the increasingly twisted evidence is followed, the prejudices, grudges, and underbelly of the idyllic town become exposed with dire consequences. You might also watch for the magnificent performances, especially that of Olivia Colman, who is more than equal to the standouts of Big Little Lies.

Little ChildrenLittle Children DVD cover

Description: The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Massachusetts.

Why This? This 2007 film is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, an author credited as a master of suburban noir. That means you can expect secrets behind closed doors of a seemingly benign neighborhood. Also, if you were interested in the parent roles of Big Little Lies, you will find parallels including the larger question of who might be misbehaving like little children, regardless of actual age.

RevengeRevenge DVD cover

Description: Wealth, beauty, and power define the residents of New York’s most exclusive community, but one woman will stop at nothing to exact revenge from those who ruined her father’s life.

Why This? The central character is presented as a newcomer to a wealthy beachside community. Not only does she navigate making new friends and learning whom she can trust, but she is also dealing with the aftershocks of a pivotal event in her past. Ring any bells? This is another series option for those who like shows that won’t let you go once you start.

School Days…

School is back in session, and there’s no better way to remember your own high school hi-jinks than by watching a movie. Check out these high school classics set in Chicagoland.

Cooley Vocational High School (in a 1964 version of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood) is the setting for Cooley High, the fictional story of best friends Preach and Cochise. Preach is studious and has his sights set on a writing career; Cochise is the star of the basketball team, and both are ready for a fun adventure whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes that opportunity presents itself as a chance to skip school and hang out at the zoo, or crash a party, or pursue a girl. But when a group of troublemakers begin to target them, adult realities start to collide with teenage innocence.

Breakfast Club dvd coverDirector John Hughes’ name is synonymous with teen drama films, and 1985’s The Breakfast Club is a big reason why. Students at New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka dubbed early morning detention “breakfast club,” and this movie, (filmed in Des Plaines at the former Maine North high school) perhaps more than any other, gave a closeup look at five teen stereotypes of the 1980s – the popular girl, the jock, the geek, the punk and the loner. They find themselves awkwardly thrust together on a Saturday morning, but come to learn some deep things about each other and realize they may all be more multidimensional than their stereotypes would suggest.

Teen ballerina Sara Johnson’s life is struck by tragedy, and she decides to give up dance and return to high school in Chicago in 2001’s Save the Last Dance. She soon finds herself learning hip hop, and pairs up with a hip hop dancer named Derek. Romantic feelings develop between them, and Sara confides in Derek about her tragedy and her dream of attending Julliard, while Derek confides that his dream is to attend med school at Georgetown. Their interracial relationship causes backlash from others, and they ultimately must decide whether to follow their dreams or settle for a lesser path that seems predestined.

It’s the senior year of high school for North Shore student Joel Goodson, and with his exceptional grades and bright path ahead, he feels he deserves to let loose a little while his parents are out of town. Things quickly spin out of control, and Joel must find a way to cover his tracks after a weekend of partying, call girls and criminals results in thousands of dollars in damages to his parents’ Porsche and lavish home (an actual residence located in Highland Park.) Senoritis definitely takes a unique spin in the movie classic, Risky Business.

Hoop Dreams is the true story of two high school basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee, trying to make it to the NBA. Both teens make more than hour-long commutes from their homes in Chicago housing projects to the same high school in Westchester, Illinois that Isaiah Thomas attended. Both teens must find their places within the social structure of the school, which is predominantly white and very different from their own community, and find ways to remain athletically elite while surviving in abject poverty.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another John Hughes’ classic teen drama. Ferris’ idyllic suburb (based on Hughes’ hometown of Northbrook) provides the launching off point for an epic decision to ditch high school (Glenbrook North, circa 1986) and tour around downtown Chicago. To the chagrin of his sister Jeannie, Ferris’ faux sick day garners him the sympathy and support of not only their parents, but almost everyone in their high school, and by the end of the day a full-fledged Save Ferris campaign has engulfed the school. His whirlwind tour takes him and his friends to the Art Institute, The Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and even the German-American parade marching down Dearborn.

Fiction: No, But I Saw the Movie: The Best Short Stories Ever Made into Film

No But I Saw the Movie book cover

Calling all film buffs! Looking for short stories that fit your interest? Editor David Wheeler has you covered. No, But I Saw the Movie: The Best Short Stories Ever Made into Film collects the gems that inspired the marvelous scripts of classic movies, including two that became Academy Award Best Picture winners (It Happened One Night and All About Eve).

Spotlighting a lush variety of short fiction including westerns (High Noon), musicals (Guys and Dolls), suspense (Rear Window), science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey), comedy (Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House), and horror (Psycho), this anthology will help you appreciate both the authors of the source material and those who recognized the genius that could be adapted into great entertainment.

John’s Pick: The Young Girls of Rochefort

Picture of JohnPossibly one of the most gorgeous motion pictures ever made (and a major inspiration for La La Land), Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort takes the conventional musical off the studio set and envigorates it with colorful sunlit location shooting. Vibrant, occasionally silly, and about as charming a film as you’re ever likely to see, this picture seems to capture the very essence of springtime.