April 25, 2015

Review: Deadline Gallipoli (Australia: Foxtel Showcase)

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Deadline Gallipoli

In Australia: April 19-20, 8:30pm AEST, Foxtel Showcase

It’s instructive to look around the world and see the emphases placed by different countries on events, even global events. Take the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War, which began exactly 100 years ago this day. The US wasn’t involved with the campaign – or indeed the entire War at that point – so if you look through the US TV schedules, you’ll find that the Smithsonian Channel is the only one airing anything, and that’s a six year old documentary.

Here in the UK, where the Gallipoli campaign is more a “Ooh, I’ve heard of that. Remind me what happened?” event, we have live coverage of the Queen laying a tribute at the Cenotaph memorial this morning; a docu-drama on BBC2 about Keith “Father of Rupert” Murdoch, Gallipoli: When Murdoch Went to War, and his letter to the leaders of Great Britain and Australia that ended up swaying them into abandoning the campaign; and a repeat on More 4 of an archaeology documentary, Gallipoli’s Lost Shipwrecks.

In New Zealand and Australia, where the Gallipoli campaign essentially sparked the dreams of nationhood and is regarded as one of the most important moments in both countries’ histories, it’s slightly different. Indeed, it’s ANZAC Day today, and both countries are predicting it’ll be the largest one ever and New Zealand’s TV One is dedicating pretty much the entire day to Gallipoli programming and is launching big new drama When We Go To War tomorrow.

In Australia, it’s a similar story, particularly on ABC, which again has dedicated the entire day to ANZAC Day coverage. But this is the culmination of existing programming, not the only programming, as the channels have already been doing their best to commemorate the war. The Nine Channel has already aired a multi-part dramatisation of the campaign called Gallipoli and this week, pay TV channel Fox showcase aired a two-part, star-studded TV series called Deadline Gallipoli.

As the title suggests, Deadline Gallipoli eschewed the blow-by-blow recreation of the war in favour of a slightly different angle: the contributions by three journalists to ending the campaign and how they helped to place it so strongly at the forefront of the Australian psyche. Starring Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) as Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, Ewen Leslie as Harry Murdoch, Joel Jackson as Charles Bean, Charles Dance as General Hamilton, it also features Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Terminator: Salvation) as photographer Phillip Schuler, as well as the likes of Bryan Brown (Old School, FX: Murder By Illusion, The Wanderer), Anna Torv (Fringe), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Brothers & Sisters, Very Annie Mary, Muriel’s Wedding), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow) and other luminaries of the Australian acting profession in surprisingly minor roles.

Basically, everyone wanted to be in this one.

However, such is most Australians’ well established understanding of the Gallipoli campaign, you’d actually need to watch both Deadline Gallipoli and Gallipoli in order to really get to know events well, since they all leave out important details in order to get a new angle on the story.

Gallipoli was a pretty straight, blow-by-blow account of the campaign from the point of view of the men in the trenches, showing in gut-wrenching detail the futility and horrors of war. It was so even-handed, in fact, there was almost no attempt to attribute blame anywhere, meaning that although you’d know the landscape, the generals and pretty much every detail about the campaign, you could come out of it not really understanding where it had all gone wrong and why things ended. It was also so focused on the fighting itself that it didn’t really make use of the obvious opportunities to have Winston Churchill (the architect of the campaign) show up, for example.

Deadline Gallipoli, by contrast, spends most of its first episode giving a pretty detailed account of the political beginnings of the campaign and how Ashmead-Bartlett, Bean and Schuler ended up covering it. Dancy gives a surprisingly different performance to his Hannibal turn, but also a more caddish interpretation than James Callis gave, something adding by the rampant shagging he gets to do with Torv. He’s also a bit more heroic than Callis’s Ashmead-Bartlett, whom you might never have known had covered plenty of other wars previously from Gallipoli.

The second episode is where the fighting truly begins, with Deadline Gallipoli focusing on the main push that failed, killing so many ANZAC troops, just as Gallipoli did, before then going through similar ropes to show the lengths that Ashmead-Bartlett and the newly arrived Murdoch went to to try to get word to politicians of just how bad conditions on the ground were, something the army censors couldn’t prevent.

Surprisingly, despite Worthington getting an exec producer credit, he doesn’t get to do that much, the lion’s share falling on Dancy and Jackson’s shoulders, appropriately enough. And we get to see how they become more and more convinced that they must do more than simply observe and report, but also end the battle.

However, despite that focus on the journalists, Deadline Gallipoli doesn’t do that much better at giving us well rounded, historically accurate depictions. For example, while both it and Gallipoli show the sinking of the HMS Majestic, which Ashmead-Barlett was aboard at the time, both show this as a big surprise to him and use it to show either the risks of war or how effete he was (in Callis’s case). However, in real life, the HMS Triumph had been sank two days earlier and he’d actually brought his mattress up on deck so that if the Majestic were sunk, he wouldn’t be trapped.

Deadline Gallipoli’s big failing – at least for an international audience – is that it assumes the viewer knows everything already. Coupled with the shorter running time, that means you will get a better idea of the politics surrounding the war, but surprisingly, despite the big name cast, you’d have been better off watching Gallipoli to get a good understanding of the campaign itself.

On the flipside, Deadline Gallipoli is much better at remembering that there were other nationalities and ethnicities present, with Indians, Sikhs, Maoris, Africans, Australian Aborigines and other members of the British Empire all being represented, some even getting lines. On the other flipside, Gallipoli was a lot more equitable to the Turks, with Deadline Gallipoli only giving us cannon fodder and helpful translators.

So, if you have the time, watch both. Watch the movie as well. None of them are perfect, but together they’ll give you a good understanding and different views of such an important moment in history.

April 24, 2015

What have you been watching? Including John Wick, Vikings, The Americans, Arrow and The Blacklist

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It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Well, despite all that planning, I kind of forgot I was going out pretty much every night this week, so I haven’t managed to watch everything I planned to. That means I’ll do a full, three-episode verdict of The Comedians on Monday, once I’ve binge-watched it this weekend. Maybe I’ll do that Daredevil season review at the same time…

The fact I didn’t look hard enough at the Australian TV schedules for this week didn’t help, either, otherwise I’d have realised that Deadline Gallipoli was a two-parter that was going to air over consecutive nights, rather than weekly – fingers crossed, I’ll be posting a review of that later tonight, after I’ve gone to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.

After the jump, tele: American Crime, American Odyssey, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Flash, Forever, and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I’ll also be looking at the season finales of The American and Vikings.

But first, just in case you think I don’t listen to your recommendations, a movie review!

John Wick (2014)
Keanu is a recently widowed former hitman for the Russian Mob who turns his almost supernaturally violent talents to revenge, after Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) kills his… dog. No, really. His dog. If that sounds a bit silly, that’s because it is, and even the film acknowledges it. But it sits in a knowing intersection between Banshee and Wanted, with considerable visual and tonal nods to the nihilistic yet surreal Point Blank, with Keanu’s mission explicitly arbitrary and meaningless.

Once you’ve got over that tonal decision, there’s a lot to like about the movie. It has a surprisingly slow, thoughtful and emotional beginning; it’s packed full of great character actors you’ll recognise from The Wire, Daredevil and other shows and movies, including Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Michael Nyqvist, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Bridget Regan, Lane Reddick and Clarke Peters; there are some interesting fights, including some semi-decent jiu jitsu; it can be pretty funny at times; and there are some decently smart villains for a change.

Some bits are a little too silly for their own words, including a neutral ground hotel for hitmen and women, and Lance Reddick’s accent. But a decently enjoyable action thriller that sets things up well for a sequel that could be potentially different. However, I’m not sure I needed to see it in IMAX – Empire Leicester Square setting me back an eye-watering £18 a seat.

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Weekly Wonder Woman: Convergence: Wonder Woman #1, Sensation Comics #31

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Wonder Woman: Convergence

The death match that is Convergence is now well under way at DC. No, really, I’m not being metaphorical. It really is a death match – all superheroes from all DC continuities are stuck under domes and are being asked to fight one another to see who’s the winner.

How edifying.

Anyway, until now, we’ve not seen Wonder Woman – any Wonder Woman – joining in with the action, but this week, we’ve had the first issue of Convergence: Wonder Woman. Who do you think DC will have chosen for the first fight? William Marston’s Wonder Wonder (woot, woot!)? Odyssey Wonder Woman (they could do worse)? Flashpoint Wonder Woman (oh, surely not…)?

You’ll find out after the jump, although the true Wonder Woman nerd will be able to tell from the typeface used on the cover above who it is.

Also this week, it’s tag team time, as Wonder Woman ’77 swaps places with Sensation Comics in the release schedule, with Wonder Woman teaming up with Poison Ivy to fight a dragon. But which Wonder Woman is this? Well, like Wonder Woman ’77 it’s perhaps every Wonder Woman. I’ll explain after the jump.

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ITV is being very clear about what we should all be watching right now

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Unless I’m missing some subtle subtext

ITV wants you to watch Thunderbirds

News: Puppy Love cancelled, trailer for Tut, BBC3 online move delayed, trailers galore + more

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April 23, 2015

News: USA cancels Sirens, JK Simmons enters a parallel universe, Amazon and BBC pilots + more

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April 22, 2015

The Wednesday Play: In Two Minds (1967)

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We’ve had a couple of weeks of fun plays, courtesy of Noël Coward, so it’s about time we had a bit of misery. And when we want to turn to misery, naturally we turn to Ken Loach. Angry, realism-loving Ken Loach.

A frequent contributor to the BBC The Wednesday Play series, Loach offers us many choices, so since we’re feeling indecisive, let’s go with In Two Minds, written by David Mercer, who won the Writers’ Guild Award for the best television play of 1967 for this.

The first of Loach’s television plays to be shot entirely on location, bar five brief sequence shot electronically, the play owes a lot to the ideas of RD Laing, which are set out in Laing’s Sanity and Madness in the Family. Laing argued that schizophrenia* lacks an organic basis and therefore it was the family that had the potential to make people mentally ill. Oddly enough, it was famed theatre critic Kenneth Tynan who introduced Mercer and producer Tony Garnett to Laing, who was eventually retained as a consultant for the play.

Kate Winter (Anna Cropper), a young girl under psychiatric examination and receiving electroconvulsive theory, suffers from a lack of confidence, self-esteem and self-control – telling of the "bad Kate" who commits immoral acts. Could the hypocrisy, selfishness and weakness of those around her have led to this state of mind or can Kate simply be diagnosed and dismissed as a schizophrenic*?

As well as the award garnered by the play, In Two Minds would go on to be remade as the feature film, Family Life, which Loach also directed. But you can watch the original below. Enjoy**!

* Kate more properly would have had something called dissociate identity disorder, rather than schizophrenia, assuming she had what would then have been classified as schizophrenia anyway. But even at the time, psychiatrists argued that Kate would be more properly diagnosed as depressed and ‘hysterical’. But, you know, the 60s.

** If that’s the right word.

News: Daredevil, Faking It, Younger renewed, Galaxy Quest: the series + more

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April 21, 2015

Third-episode verdict: American Odyssey (US: NBC; UK: BBC Two)

Posted 3 days ago at 22:46 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerAmericanOdyssey.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Two. Will air in May

Three episodes into American Odyssey, a sort of Crash meets State of Affairs meets Zero Dark Thirty that sees three separate characters investigating a single conspiracy in countries over the world, and we’ve not seen a single Cyclops. No pirates. No witches. Not even a helpful princess doing her washing. In short, there ain’t much Odyssey in American Odyssey.

There’s a lot of special forces soldier Anna Friel talking Arabic and wondering where she can find a PC with a USB port for her flash drive full of incriminating documents, while being passed parcel-like between different groups of kidnappers in Mali.

There’s a lot of corporate investigator Peter Facinelli looking pained as he discovers that it’s really not that easy to investigate incredibly powerful multinational companies in cahoots with the US military and trying to cover up the fact they’re co-funding al Qaeda.

There’s even a lot of trustfunder-turned-Occupy Wall Streeter Jake Robinson running around trying to find an email from Friel while the very obvious fake journalist he’s with comes up with really poor excuses for why people keep dying/going missing/changing their story et al as soon as Robinson mentions them to her.

But despite its supposed inspiration from Homer, there's not a single whirlpool or monster, goddess or dead hero to be spotted for miles, let alone a spouse at home weaving a tapestry every night to hold off the suitors.

What. A. Swizz*.

On the plus side, though, as I mentioned in my review of the first episode, it does all feel a step up from the usual military-industrial complex conspiracy theories that we’ve had up until now. There are some Greeks - or should I say ‘Greeks’ given the Alexis Tsipras-alike Greek ambassador is played by Orla Brady. There’s lots of Arabs in various shades of grey (well, mostly shades of black, but there are shades) and they get to speak Arabic… and French, because lo-and-behold, just turned up in episode three as a drug dealer, ready to parle français, is Spiral/Engrenage’s own Grégory Fitoussi - I do hope he didn’t quit to be in this.

Nevertheless, a step up is not the same as ascending to the top of Mount Olympus. Despite narrowly evading a “look around the room to guess the inspiration for the Leet Hacker’s password” scene, episode two saw a silly amount of moments where anyone who’s ever even received an email will know the show is being technically illiterate. There’s a heinous amount of coincidences going on, including one boy’s uncle whom he’s never met turning out to be the exact person on TV he was looking at unsuspectingly (and judgementally) earlier in the same episode. And there are so many suspicious deaths and implausible official denials happening that the baddies might as well put up signposts saying “This way to the government cover-up!"

So while it’s definitely in the upper end of the genre, with some lovely location work, a decent cast and a proper attempt to tie what could be very generic into real world events, American Odyssey is unfortunately a bit more of a miss than a hit.

* Oh, there is one obvious reference to Greek myth, BTW - there’s a character called Kharon scheduled to pop off in later episodes, Kharon/Charon being the ferryman who took travellers across the Styx to the underworld. Not to be pedantic, though, but Kharon isn't actually mentioned in The Odyssey, as he only appears much later as a figure in Greek religion. Oh well. Still. A. Swizz.

Barrometer rating: 2
TMINE prediction: Given its ratings, it’s unlikely to get a second season, and to be honest, it probably doesn’t deserve one

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News: SHIELD spin-off casting, Wes Craven's Syfy shows, Sky1's Fungus The Bogeyman + more

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April 20, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Game of Thrones, American Odyssey, The Flash and Community

Posted 4 days ago at 19:18 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

It’s time for me to be all agile again and move "What have you been watching?” to Fridays – there’s now almost nothing on Thursdays to watch, other than Vikings and The Blacklist (which isn’t long for this world), and given there’s now Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and American Odyssey (well…) in the US, and Deadline Gallipoli over in Australia on a Sunday, I think one must follow the advice of Miyamoto Musashi in the second of The Book of Five Rings and be like water, flowing round the obstacle of the TV schedules, rather than trying to oppose them.

That means there’ll be another one of these on Friday. But for now, I’ve already reviewed and previewed The Messengers and Wayward Pines elsewhere, and as I mysteriously managed to overlook The Comedians until now, won’t be able to review the first two episodes of that until later in the week. I’m also planning on doing a full season review of Daredevil at some point this week, too, having binge-watched it last week.

So that means that after the jump, it’s just the regulars: American Crime, American Odyssey, The Americans, Arrow, Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones, iZombie, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Silicon Valley and Vikings. One’s for the chop, BTW. And isn’t that a lot of Americans? Reminds me of Dodgeball

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Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)

Posted 4 days ago at 18:12 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Messengers

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If I had to pin down a new trend in US TV, it would be “Bible stuff”. Time was, “Bible stuff” was pretty sporadic. A Highway to Heaven here, a Touched By An Angel there, but otherwise it was pretty sporadic.

The History Channel changed that with the appropriately named The Bible and ever since then, it’s been all the rage, although there have been some pretty obvious misses along the way. Right now, apart from the numerous “they came backs/went away” of Resurrection, The Returned, The Leftovers et al, we’ve got A.D. The Bible Continues on NBC (apparently The Bible left something out. Not The Bible. The Bible), Dig’s twaddling along on USA, Syfy’s had futuristic angels over on “world’s worst TV programme" Dominion and there’s a barrel load of pilots and new series heading our way just brimming with fire and brimstone, including a TV version of The Omen called Damien.

Now, turning up on our doorsteps like a bolt from Heaven is The Messengers, in which a meteor(ite)* falls to Earth unleashing an energy wave that gives a bunch of disparate strangers angelic powers - and wings - that might come in helpful for them as they come together to prevent the Apocalypse. Which might be coming a tad sooner than suspected, because that meteor(ite)* might well have been Lucifer himself… and he has a plan.

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News: Batman v Superman trailer, Eye Candy cancelled, more Friday Night Dinner + more

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