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June 9, 2015

Third-episode verdict: Between (Netflix)

Posted on June 9, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerBetween.jpgA Barrometer rating of 5

Even if you are an REM hater, 'The End of the World As We Know It' has never been more boring than in Between. A co-production between Netflix and Canada's CityTV, it sees virtually everyone in the absurdly titled town of Pretty Lake aged over 21 keel over and die of a mysterious, unknown ailment. With thousands dead in just a few days, the government quarantines Pretty Lake, sticking an electric fence round it, leaving behind a town full of kids running riot while surrounded by the slowly putrifying corpse of every adult relative and mentor they've ever known.

The latter point should be a dramatic focus of the show, you'd have thought, with traumatised teenagers and infants blubbing and suffering from shock at their terrifying orphaning. But although episode two managed to give us kids dragging the dead bodies of their parents et al into a communal pit filled with thousands of bodies, followed by a group cremation, generally they've not been that upset. A bit miffed and puzzled as to what's happening; a bit keen to send lots of texts, mope around with their boyfriends and girlfriends, and settle old scores with a bit of glowering. But they were actually all a lot more saddened by their loss of mobile phone coverage in episode three.

As I mentioned in my review of the first episode, the show almost goes out of its way not to be too interesting or Lord of the Flies. None of the characters have anything going for them, having the self-centred entitlement of the typical teenager combined with the collective charisma of Ryvitas and a complete inability to care about the horrific deaths of their own parents right in front of their own eyes - not a Bruce Wayne among this lot, it seems. The show pushes the envelope of plausibility to open up possibly exciting plot scenarios, by giving the small town of Pretty Lake not only its own prison full of murderers but a zoo from which a tiger has escaped. But it's a sign of the pausity of the show's storytelling capabilities that this has so far failed to produce even the slightest thrill. There's an escaped tiger everyone… an escaped tiger. No? Don't really care. Okay.

Between's biggest lure is its mysterious ailment, neither bacterium nor virus, affecting only those over 21 and striking without symptoms or leaving a trace. Yet the show leaves that lying around in the background, barely touching upon it, in the exact same way Revolution chose to ignore its electricity-destroying nanites until it was too late for anyone to give a toss about them.

So after three episodes of enduring mind-numbing tedium, combined with a laughable ability to paint even a slightly plausible picture of either small town or post-apocalyptic life, I'm thinking it's time to give up on this. But, you know, whatevs.

Barrometer rating: 5
TMINE prediction: If Netflix renews this for a second season, I'll eat my hat

May 29, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Ex Machina, 3 Days To Kill, Community and Game of Thrones

Posted on May 29, 2015 | Post a comment | 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.

Can you feel it? Can you? The summer season of TV is starting everyone! New things to watch! Hooray!

Okay, it’s starting slowly this week, but next week, we should have even more. Nevertheless, elsewhere, I’ve already reviewed the first episode of Netflix’s Between and previewed both Supergirl and Mr Robot. I’m also planning to review NBC’s new Charles Manson drama, Aquarius, and preview CBS’s new ‘comedy’ Crowded separately. But they’ll have to wait until next week now.

After the jump, the current TV regulars: Community, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. But first, a couple of film reviews!

Ex Machina (2015) (iTunes)
Domhnall Gleeson is a programmer working at a very Google-like company of the near future, who wins a employee lottery the prize of which is to spend a week with the company’s owner, Oscar Isaac. There he has the chance to try a new Turing Test variant on gynoid Alicia Vikander. The new question is – despite knowing she’s a robot, will he still decide she’s intelligent and care about her? And will she care about him? Except, of course, all is not what it seems…

Written and direct by Alex Garland, it’s very clever and very beautifully shot, if a little slow and, towards the end, exploitative, with great performances all round. However, it would probably have had a much bigger impact on me if I hadn’t seen the low budget but very similar and considerably more entertaining and action-packed Caity Lotz version The Machine just a few months ago. Watch that instead.

3 Days to Kill (2014) (Netflix)
Sometimes, knowing too much about a movie can either make it or kill it. Or sometimes both. Here, we have what is essentially Taken, with Kevin Costner as an ageing CIA agent in Paris who has to come to terms with the fact that he hasn’t been a great husband or father to his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), all while killing lots of bad guys and occasionally homaging The Bodyguard.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise since the script is by Luc Besson. So on that level, there’s some information that might make you want to watch the movie and actually, if that’s all you had to go on, that would probably be a reasonably good summary of its strengths. If you know what a Luc Besson action movie is like, you’ll know more or less what to expect (comedy, comedy sidekick, French-speaking Africans, kids, insane Paris car chases, women with guns, etc).

So now I’ll add a little extra fact to the mix: Amber Heard is Costner's boss. This may or may not make you want to watch it, although Heard actually does pretty well in the acting stakes here, and there are some funny scenes involving her and Costner determining exactly what ‘young’ means to both of them (“32? Middle-aged, grandpa!”).

So let’s drop the last factette on you: it’s directed by McG. This should send you running to the hills and certainly you can expect a few exploitative and crass McG tropes in here, too. But actually, it’s largely just McG emulating Besson, so forget I just told you this information – if you can do that, you might actually half enjoy it. It’s not brilliant, but it is a lot more Besson than McG.

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May 29, 2015

News: three new Gold sitcoms, a Mr Ripley TV series, Fry's Hippopotamus film + more

Posted on May 29, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Film casting

  • Henry Cavill exits Stratton
  • Sam Neill and Roger Allam to star in adaptation of Stephen Fry’s The Hippopotamus

Film trailers

  • Trailer for American Ultra with Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Topher Grace et al
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