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.
As we sit in the gap between the end of the Fall 2014-15 season and the summer season in the US, Canada and most countries around the world, we discover the horror that is not having any tele to watch. I’ve even been reading books. Gasp!
But I have found a few other things to watch and tell you about, don’t you worry. I’ve already reviewed the first two episodes of 1864 elsewhere, and after the jump, as well as the usual usuals of Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, I’ll be casting my eye over Netflix’s three-part Brit sci-fi/horror gloom Residue. But I’ve actually managed to watch a couple of movies, too. Well, parts of movies…
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014) (iTunes)
The third of the almost interminable Hobbit movies sees Bilbo and the dwarves facing orc armies, dragons and more in a whole bunch of scenes that definitely weren’t in the book. The big Hobbit conclusion - Bard killing Smaug - happens in the first 10 minutes or so, after which it’s all about big armies of CGI beasts smashing each other, and elves being stoic and doing the right thing, all while Thorin (Richard Armitage) fights off his gold addiction. The Hobbit himself (Martin Freeman)? Doesn’t actually do a whole lot…
As I mentioned in the comments on last week’s WHYBW, I did actually start watching this nearly a fortnight ago, got three-quarters the way through then went to bed… and totally forgot I was watching it until this Monday, by which point it was too late to continue watching it without re-renting it. So I’ve no idea if we get cameos from old Bilbo and Frodo (or anyone else) at the end, and probably won’t do until Netflix picks it up. Nevertheless, while you might argue that this all tells you something about me, I’d argue that it tells you something about just how engrossing this third entry in the series really is.
American Sniper (2014) (iTunes)
Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the autobiography of America’s most lethal sniper got a whole lot of attention for something that’s really pretty ordinary at heart. Bradley Cooper does well as the Texan who enlists in the Navy SEALs in the 90s to fight terrorists and ends up shooting an awful lot Iraqis in the 21st century, while Sienna Miller is astonishingly unrecognisable as his long-suffering but tolerant wife.
Eastwood’s direction is relatively pedestrian and matter of fact, and his few forays out into CGI special effects are decidedly ill-advised (did he learn nothing from Firefox?). But the film is notably non-judgemental and reverential of its subject, showing a normal man in a lethal occupation doing his best to defend people and his country, even if he subsequently finds it hard to initially mix with those people when he returns from war.
While it’s easy to criticise the movie for not bothering to make any of the Iraqis anything more than murderers, with scenes at times reminiscent of Zulu’s large-scale slaughter, most members of the audience will be aware of the greys of the situation and that this is just one story about a very complex subject. Worth watching to see just what Bradley Cooper can do as an actor and if you prefer your dramas to have less judgement of its subjects.