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2016 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Entertainment

Everyone loves watching a great movie or TV series, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite releases from the past few months that most guys will enjoy. And for more great suggestions, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an exciting return to form for the franchise that recaptures the childlike sensation of watching the original trilogy for the first time. It’s thrilling, funny and surprisingly emotional. While the inclusion of familiar faces like Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia is great fan service that also functions as a passing of the torch to the new characters, director J.J. Abrams never lets you forget that this is their movie. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver all shine in their respective roles, although it’s playful droid BB-8 who ultimately steals the show. If there’s one complaint, it’s that Abrams packs too many characters into the story, resulting in several unanswered questions that are dangled in front of the audience like a carrot on a stick. But those kinds of mysteries have always been a part of the “Star Wars” ethos, and “The Force Awakens” is “Star Wars” to the core, blending the old with the new to produce an excellent continuation of the saga that leaves you wanting more.

The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s first crack at making a Western may have resulted in the slightly disappointing “Django Unchained,” but his second attempt is a much-improved genre piece that represents his most accomplished work behind the camera to date. While Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins all deliver excellent work, Samuel L. Jackson’s show-stopping turn is the real standout, chewing up scenery with every juicy monologue and sly look. Granted, the first half of the film moves like molasses as Tarantino gets all of his pieces on the board, but the pacing is intentional, slowly building to a boil that spills out into a flurry of violence in the final hour. Though “The Hateful Eight” is filled with the same self-indulgent tendencies that fans have come to expect from the director’s movies, this Agatha Christie-styled whodunit is a lot of fun thanks to a smartly crafted script, some outstanding camerawork that benefits from the 65mm film format, and riotous performances from the cast.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season

“Game of Thrones” fans were extremely critical of the show’s fifth season, but as the HBO drama enters its final stretch, transitioning from the superb second act of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic was always going to be difficult. The fact that creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were able to pull it off without sacrificing quality is a small miracle. It’s not without its flaws, but for the most part, Season Five does an excellent job of advancing the narrative while digging even deeper into the world’s rich mythology. It also serves up some of the series’ best moments thus far, including the Battle of Hardhome, Cersei’s walk of shame, and of course, the murder of Jon Snow. As has become standard, the Blu-ray set features hours of great bonus material, but for those that don’t already own the previous seasons, we’d recommend investing in the excellent Steelbook versions instead. Though Season Five isn’t available at this time, you can pick up the first four seasons, which, in addition to some awesome packaging, also includes Dolby Atmos audio technology, the closest you’ll get to actually being in Westeros.

Creed

After garnering critical acclaim for his directorial debut, “Fruitvale Station,” the last thing anyone expected from Ryan Coogler’s follow-up was a spin-off/sequel to a movie franchise that’s last meaningful installment was released 30 years ago. But while it may have seemed like a strange career move at the time, “Creed” is an energizing addition to the boxing series that succeeds as a respectful passing of the torch and one of the best “Rocky” films ever made. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are both excellent in their roles, especially the latter, who delivers his finest work in years with a subtler, more emotional performance than we’re used to seeing from the actor. Coogler, meanwhile, makes the transition from indie to mainstream filmmaking remarkably well; he provides all the usual crowd-pleasing moments without sacrificing the kind of intimate, character-driven storytelling that made “Fruitvale Station” so effective. Though “Creed” follows the 1976 original a little too closely at times, it does enough to stand on its own while still paying homage to the “Rocky” legacy.

Fargo: Year Two

Unlike “True Detective,” which fell victim to the all-too-familiar sophomore slump, “Fargo” positively thrived in Season Two, perfectly towing the line between black comedy and crime thriller. A big part of the show’s success is just how well it’s cast from the top down. Though Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst and Jeffrey Donovan (as the eldest and nastiest of the Gerhardt brood) are among the standouts, there’s not a single weak link in the entire ensemble. The writing also continues to be top-notch – from the sparkling dialogue, to the excellent character development, to the smartly plotted narrative that keeps you coming back for more – while the show’s absurdist tone works even better in a period setting like the late 1970s. Creator Noah Hawley is in high demand these days, and for good reason, because he’s once again crafted a funny, engaging and richly developed crime saga that works both as a prequel to the previous season as well as its own standalone story.

Deadpool

The road to bringing “Deadpool” to the big screen may have been riddled with challenges, but it only makes the finished product that much more satisfying, because it’s a fresh and wildly entertaining action-comedy that demonstrates why studios should take more risks. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay nails the dark, twisted and juvenile tone of the wisecracking antihero, and the decision to dole out his backstory in bits and pieces via flashback is a clever way of getting around the tediousness of the typical superhero origin story. The film also completely earns its “R” rating with enough violence and foul-mouthed language to please diehard fans. But while “Deadpool” has clearly been made with those fans in mind, the movie stretches beyond sheer fan service thanks to the strength of the script and Ryan Reynolds’ pitch-perfect performance to deliver a hilariously self-aware take on the genre that audiences unfamiliar with the character will enjoy as well.

The Martian: Extended Edition

Although it’s the third film in as many years about astronauts in distress, “The Martian” is a smart, captivating and humorous adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel that covers very different narrative and emotional territory than “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” For starters, it’s a lot more uplifting than most sci-fi fare, eschewing the usual doom-mongering for a story about the power of optimism and perseverance that also doubles as one heckuva recruitment video for NASA. Matt Damon is perfectly cast as the Everyman astronaut forced to “science the shit” out of his seemingly impossible predicament, while the supporting cast is absolutely stacked with talent. This is hands down Ridley Scott’s best movie since “Gladiator,” and it owes a lot to Drew Goddard’s Oscar-nominated screenplay, which takes a lighthearted approach to the high-stakes drama in order to produce one of the most purely entertaining crowd-pleasers in years. Though the extra 10 minutes of footage in the extended cut is hardly noticeable, the new bonus material – including an audio commentary by Scott, Goddard and Weir – is worth the double dip.

The Big Short

The 2008 housing market crash was no joke, which is why it might come as a surprise that “The Big Short” was directed by the same man responsible for goofball comedies like “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights.” But while Adam McKay isn’t the first person you’d think of to direct a movie about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, he’s produced a darkly humorous examination of a nationwide disaster so ridiculous that it’s difficult not to laugh. McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph do a great job of breaking down the complex financial jargon into something the average moviegoer can understand, turning what could have been a dull and dense PowerPoint presentation on mortgage loans into an entertaining lesson about just how messed up the whole financial crisis really was. McKay’s docudrama approach isn’t entirely successful, but the movie’s flaws are offset by some solid performances and a steady stream of humor that makes the infuriating subject matter a little easier to swallow, even if we seem doomed to repeat those same mistakes again.

Spotlight

Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” may be one of the most low-key awards contenders in quite some time, relying on top-notch acting and writing to recount the fascinating true story that changed the way we looked at the Catholic Church forever. It’s just a really well-made movie, and the best one about investigative journalism since “All the President’s Men,” which creates suspense from the seemingly boring daily grind of searching through documents and chasing down leads. Every single actor plays their part and plays it extremely well, working together as an ensemble to serve the story instead of a particular character. The same goes for McCarthy and Josh Singer’s disciplined script, which avoids the allure of sensationalizing events or being exploitative. “Spotlight” lets the story speak for itself, and though it’s one of great importance, the film is first and foremost a celebration of the journalistic process that made it possible for the courage of a few to be heard by the entire world.

Veep: The Complete Fourth Season

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has dominated her category at the Emmys for the last four years with her performance as Selina Meyer on “Veep,” and for very good reason. Though the actress has been a perennial nominee since “Seinfeld” (and even won a couple times before), the HBO comedy is perhaps the crowning achievement of her career. “Veep” is hands-down the funniest show on TV, boasting razor-sharp writing that skewers the political process, like in this season’s hilarious “B/ill” and “Election Night”; an excellent supporting cast made even better by guest star Hugh Laurie; and a penchant for audacious plot twists – for instance, the decision to make Selina president, rendering the show’s title irrelevant in the process. Although the Season Four cliffhanger casts uncertainty on just how long she’ll hold that position, it’s a clever way of shaking up the status quo and providing an even bigger stage for Selina and her team’s merry-go-round of failure and humiliation. If you think the real-life presidential election is a joke, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Silicon Valley: The Complete Second Season

“Silicon Valley” relies on such a frustrating amount of manufactured conflict to drive the story each season that it would be painful to watch if the show wasn’t so funny. But it is funny – really funny, in fact – thanks to creator Mike Judge’s absurdist humor and the vastly underrated ensemble cast. Though everyone plays their role to perfection, Thomas Middleditch, Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani are the real standouts as the main trio behind Pied Piper’s success. Guest star Chris Diamantopoulos also delivers some good work as a douchebag billionaire modeled after Mark Cuban, while Josh Brener’s Big Head is given a bigger part to play. The attempt to replicate the whiteboard hilarity of last year’s season finale (“Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”) isn’t quite as memorable, but the episode in question (“Homicide,” in which Starr and Nanjiani’s feuding programmers debate the morality of letting an arrogant stuntman kill himself) is so well written that it demonstrates how great “Silicon Valley” can be when it’s firing on all cylinders.