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An archive of the blog's film reviews. There's also an archive and an A-Z index of all reviews.


September 1, 2015

What have you been watching? Including The Bakkhai, Impastor, Glitch and The Whispers

Posted on September 1, 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.

I’m back! Miss me? Of course you did. Well, maybe. But I’m back either way and raring to watch some tele.

In fact, I’ve been watching some tele for the past month… past two weeks anyway, most of which was catching up with the previous three weeks I’d missed. So after the jump, I’ll be talking about those shows I managed to watch and in most cases see through to the end of their seasons: Glitch, Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal, Impastor, The Last Ship, Mr Robot, True Detective and The Whispers. Oh yes, and despite my promises to the contrary, I also tuned in for the first episode of season 4 of Continuum. Humans I’ll get round to once my lovely wife has cleared her backlog of My Kitchen Rules Australia.

But over those five weeks, I came up with a new rule: no new tele during August. If you start airing your new show in August, it’s dead to me, because you picked a very silly time to start it.

That means that although Netflix gave us not only Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp as well as Narcos, I’ve not watched either of them. Or any of Amazon’s Casanova and Sneaky Pete. HBO’s Show Me A Hero? Please don't. Showtime’s Blunt Talk? Honestly, no. Public Morals? Can stay private, thank you very much.

Which isn’t to say I won’t watch them at some point. Indeed, if you’ve started watching them, let me know if they’re any good so I can prioritise them accordingly. But for now, I’m not in a rush to tune in, particularly since the Fall 2015 season is about to dawn on us with more than a dozen new shows, so I’ve got to schedule accordingly.

On which subject, I did manage to watch the pilots of a few of those forthcoming shows, including Lucifer, Blindspot and Minority Report – hopefully I’ll be reviewing them over the next couple of weeks.

I also watched some movies and went to the theatre a bit, too.

Walk of Shame (2014) (iTunes)
One of those films that on paper I should have loved since it features Elizabeth Banks, Gillian Jacobs and Willie Garson. Except I really, really didn’t.

It sees Banks play a goody-goody TV journalist who’s just been dumped by her fiancé and turned down for a new job, so decides to let loose and has a one-night stand with James Marsden. Except then she finds out that she actually has got the job after all, provided she can get into work that morning. Wouldn’t you know it? Things go hilariously badly in her attempts to get there on her ‘walk of shame’.

Unfortunately, Walk of Shame is not so much borderline misogynistic and offensive than actually misogynistic and offensive. Iit’s also without any of the redeeming quality of 'being funny'.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009) (Netflix)
Lovely wife and I used our holiday to read some actual books, including a whole stack of journalist Jon Ronson's, amongst which was The Men Who Stare At Goats. An investigation of the US Army’s post-Vietnam dabbling with psychic powers, the book is largely an account of Ronson’s investigations as he visits one former ‘psychic soldier’ after another to learn what happened as the army tried psychologically to deal with its loss.

We ended up wondering how the book could be adapted as a movie with Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, and the answer is: by fictionalising it. McGregor plays a journalist recently dumped at the outbreak of the Iraq war (the point where Ronson’s book ends) who bumps into a ‘contractor’ (Clooney). Clooney is a ‘jedi warrior’, trained by the US army to be invisible, burst clouds with his mind, walk through walls, stop a goat's heart goat by staring at it and more. Or try to, anyway.

The movie is then a juxtaposition of McGregor’s learning in modern day Iraq about what it is to be a Jedi warrior (the irony is not lost on the film’s producers. At all) and flashbacks to the foundation of the army’s Jedi warrior movement by Jeff Bridges.

The film is a bit clumsy as a satire, trying its best to weave real world elements from Ronson’s book into the fictionalised journey, but ultimately normalising them, rather than making them as genuinely weird as they were (Bridges’ real-life counterpart was the man who came up with ‘Be All That You Can Be’, back when he thought that wars could be stopped by small children holding baby animals in front of them). It’s better if you’ve read the book, but Clooney is great to watch whether you have or not.

The Bakkhai (Almeida)
The second of the Almeida’s major productions of ancient Greek plays, this sees Ben “Paddington Bear” Wishaw playing the god Dionysus, visiting ancient Thebes to bring his religion to its population of women, and finding resistance from the king, Pentheus (Bertie Carvel from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell).

In contrast to the Almeida’s radical reworking of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, this version of Euripides’ classic text is one of the most traditional productions I’ve ever seen, with the text rarely deviating from the original except for the occasional modern bit of humour, the chorus singing all their lines and the cast being just three men who share all the roles between them. Much is made of the gender-blurring and homoeroticism of the play, as Dionysus grants Pentheus’ desire to see what his debauched female followers get up to by persuading him to wear women’s clothes (Carvel plays his own mother, too). But it’s not until the end and Dionysus reveals his terrifying true nature that the show’s real power and tragedy kicks in.

Probably a bit too traditional for its likely audience, judging by the reserved applause at the end of what are tour de force performances by both Carvel and Wishaw, but well worth it if you’re a lover of Greek tragedy.

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July 17, 2015

What have you been watching? Including X-Men: DOFP (Rogue Cut), The Equalizer and The Last Ship

Posted on July 17, 2015 | 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.

I’ve had a heavy workload this week, which is why my output has slightly dwindled to a mere two TV reviews:

Sorry about that. But I have been managing to squeeze in some viewing, so after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of: Ballers, Dark Matter, Glitch, Halt and Catch Fire, Humans, The Last Ship, Mr Robot, Stitchers, Strike Back: Legacy, Suits, True Detective, UnREAL, and The Whispers. Two of these I’ll be dropping from the viewing queue. Can you guess which ones, Tigers?

Hannibal’s been shunted to Saturdays in the US, by the way, so that’ll have to wait until next Friday now.

I’ve also watched a couple of movies.

The Equalizer (2014) (Now TV)
Denzel Washington reunites with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for this adaptation of the famous Edward Woodward 80s TV series. Washington is Robert McCall a former CIA agent who retires after promising his deceased wife that he would stop doing the bad things. However, when a child prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz in little more than a 10-minute cameo) is beaten up by her Russian pimp and Washington exacts revenge, everything escalates as he has to take on mob fixer Martin “I may be a Hungarian-New Zealander but I’ll play any other nationality” Csokas (Rogue, The Bourne Supremacy, Falcón).

There’s not a huge resemblance between this and the original TV series, with the whole movie essentially being the origin story that the pilot episode briefly touched on, it, too, setting up a potential franchise at the end. But surprisingly there’s not much action or even espionage work, to replace the episode-long drawn out violent politicking of the original series. Indeed, we bet the occasional shootout and fight scene and a series of incidents to which Washington presents fait accompli solutions to everyone’s problems.

Not an awful movie, though, there’s a certain degree of intelligence in the script and Washington makes for a very stoic lethal old buffer. But a disappointment for both action fans and fans of the original series. There’s not even a Rolls Royce in it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Rogue Cut (2014/5) (iTunes)
Not technically a new film at all, as I’ve already seen and watched the cinema release, but this new cut of the movie promised an entirely new sub-plot involving Rogue that had been excised from the original for running time. This version gives us just a few early additions in the first 90 minutes – a line here, a brief extra scene there – but is otherwise much the same as before. It’s not until towards the end that we get the big additions, and there is indeed an entire new sub-plot that gets added involving rescuing Rogue so that she can take over from Kitty. Everything makes a little more sense as a result and it’s interesting to see they must have refilmed certain scenes as some of the Rogue material conflicts with the cinema cut.

However, to be honest, it’s not that much extra, the extra plot was obviously only in it to crowbar Rogue into the movie, and its excision was no great loss as it all feels a lot slower as a result of the addition. So save your pennies, unless you’ve not seen the original but particularly if you were thinking of buying it on iTunes, as the promised two hours of additional material has so far been a no-show, thanks to an Apple cock-up.

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July 10, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Terminator: Genisys, Man of Tai Chi, The Last Ship, UnREAL and Westside

Posted on July 10, 2015 | 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.

I’m not exactly behind on my TV viewing, so much as watching certain shows at Mrs TMINE’s pace and she’s been very busy of late. That means I still haven’t seen the latest two episodes of Strike Back or this week’s Humans. And as ABC Australia only aired the first episode of its new supernatural chiller Glitch last night, I’ve not yet had the time to watch it, which means I’ll review it on Monday or Tuesday next week.

All the same, this week, I’ve passed third-episode verdicts on:

And after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of the usual regulars: Dark Matter, Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal, The Last Ship, Suits, Stitchers, True Detective, UnREAL, Westside and The Whispers.

I’ve also watched a couple of movies.

Terminator: Genisys (2015) (in cinemas)
Probably the first proper sequel to the first two Terminator movies, this does for the franchise what JJ Abrams’ Star Trek did for Paramount’s space epic, effectively recasting and rebooting the whole series while still maintaining continuity.

Here, the idea is that the timelines are being altered again, with more Terminators being sent further back in time to both protect and kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones) that by the time 1984 rolls round and Kyle Reese goes back to save her, she’s not in need of saving, having been raised by an ageing Terminator (Arnie) to be a warrior. The question is: can Reese, Connor and daddy Terminator now stop Skynet from taking over the planet and nearly exterminating humanity? And what will Skynet do to stop them?

The first half hour or so is actually very good, with not only some good ‘future shock’ scenes, but near frame-by-frame recreations of key scenes from The Terminator that even give us a young Arnie v old Arnie fight. We also get Lee Byung-hun (Red 2, GI Joe) as a T-1000 and Jason Clarke (Brotherhood, The Chicago Code) as John Connor.

The trouble is that the rest of the movie suffers from ‘CGI weightlessness’ – while the CGI is impressive, it also gives us physically impossible physical effects that rob the action of impact and any sense of tension. It’s basically just computers plastering the screen with pixels, for all the emotion that’s conveyed.

All the same, much better than it has any right to be, quite funny in place and although it often feels like fanboy homage to the original, it never feels slavish and often innovates and takes the story in unexpected directions. Blink and you’ll miss Matt Smith, by the way.

Man of Tai Chi (2013) (Now TV)
It’s a Matrix reunion for Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, with this Chinese-set, half-Mandarin, half-English martial-arter that stars Reeves’ Matrix martial arts instructor and bestest friend Tiger Chen as a T’ai Chi student who wants to show the world the power of T’ai Chi in conventional tournaments. However, Reeves’ evil billionaire wants him to star in underground fight movies and tries to corrupt Chen.

With fight choreography by The Matrix’s Yuen Woo-ping, naturally everything’s dead exciting but littered with wire work, and although my six months of T’ai Chi at university doesn’t exactly make me an expert, I didn’t notice an awful lot of T’ai Chi on display (“What sort of T’ai Chi is that?” “My own style.” You betcha), beyond a couple of scenes with Chen’s sifu. The plotting is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, with only a couple of twists, and unfortunately, despite his presence towards the end, The Raid/Star Wars 7’s Iko Uwais doesn’t get much screen time.

All the same, enjoyable enough, some good locations and with enough variation from the standard formulae that you’ll never be bored.

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