Archive | Film reviews

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


May 9, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Marseille, Captain America: Civil War and The Americans

Posted on May 9, 2016 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Marseille

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. 

Quiet, isn't it? Where has all the new TV gone? Despite a fortnight in between WHYBWs, all I've managed to cover are the third episodes of Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and Game of Silence (US: NBC). I'm sure there's something somewhere that I can review, but I just haven't spotted it.

Okay, so there's a new series of comedy pilots on Australia's ABC on Wednesday, but being pilots, there doesn't seem much point in reviewing them - I did like the sound of Ronnie Chieng: International Student, though. There's a new Canadian Molly Ringwald/Jason Priestley sitcom, Raising Expectations, that started last night on the Family Channel - I just need to work out a way of watching it.

Amazon Prime's picked up Hulu's Casual, too. I didn't watch that when it first appeared on Hulu since I figured "What's the chance any UK network is going to pick up something on Hulu, hey?" There's me duped. I might watch that, too, but I suspect the ship has sailed on that one.

In fact, the only new thing I've spotted that I haven't yet reviewed, and had both the inclination and the ability to review was…

Marseille (Netflix)
Following on from last year's Narcos, which was effectively Netflix's first Spanish-language original drama, now we have Marseille, the company's first French-language original. It stars - who else? - Gérard Depardieu as the mayor of Marseille, having to balance the competing demands of a degenerative disease, his family life, a drug habit, his back-stabbing protégé, a project to renovate the city with a new casino, and the mafia.

And it's nothing special. I did say 'original', but for all intents and purposes, it's Starz's Boss but in French, with just a hint of Les hommes de l'ombre (Spin). It's got the usual misogyny of such shows. It's got the slightly tedious offsetting of power and crime. It's billed as 'steamy' but is surprisingly perfunctory (and again misogynistic) for a French show. None of the characters are especially engaging and Depardieu oddly doesn't have half the presence that Kelsey Grammer did in Boss. Subtitling loses quite a bit in translation and you'll often have points where you wonder what people are reacting to as a result of what's allegedly said (eg there's a point where two women are laughing when one of them says 'chick'. It makes a bit more sense if you know she actually said 'poof'). And oddly for Netflix, the production values are pretty low, with more than a hint of 'stuck in a cheapo studio with a cheapo video camera' at times.

More laughable than gritty, it's hard enough to get through one episode, let alone all eight, so I'm not going to try.

After the jump, it's the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Game of Silence, Game of Thrones, Lopez, Silicon Valley and The Tunnel. Most of those are double helpings, since there was no WHYBW last Monday, it being a Bank Holiday everywhere; two of them will be getting crossed off the viewing list, too. I'll also be looking at the season finales of both Limitless and Lucifer.

But before that, a movie!

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Depending on how you want to look at it, this is probably better titled Captain America: Winter Soldier 2 or The Avengers 2.5, since it sees Cap continuing his mission to find and rehabilitate his brainwashed pal, Bucky "The Winter Soldier" Barnes, with various members of The Avengers either trying to help him or hinder him after Barnes is implicated in an act of terrorism.

Otherwise, the plot is more or less identical to that of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with its concerns about collateral damage from superheroics and the consequent need for legal limits on superhuman powers. Yet despite the huge cast from the other movies (only Thor and Hulk are absent) and the necessity to launch both Black Panther and Spider-Man off its back, it manages to be a million times better than DC's drudgefest. Once again directed by Winter Soldier's Russo Brothers (who got the gig directing, of all things, the paintball episode of Community), it manages to make all previous superhero movies look plodding and stupid, balancing comic book fun with gritty Euro thriller aesthetics, while serving all its characters well, being by turns tear-jerking, funny, breath-taking and tense.  

It's a little longer than it needs to be, but nevertheless, afterwards we came out so drained by the spectacle, it took about three hours down the pub to recover. It also rendered Age of Ultron unwatchable. Some would argue it already was, but we'd enjoyed it at the time.

Best Marvel movie so far.

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April 15, 2016

What have you been watching? Including The Tunnel: Sabotage, 12 Monkeys and Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Posted on April 15, 2016 | 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. 

I promise it's not deliberate: "What have you been watching?" has not gone fortnightly. But work got a bit silly on both Friday and Monday and I couldn't string two sentences together by the end of the day, so WHYBW had to take an enforced break. 

It's back now. You can exhale.

I've been doing my best to catch up with all the new shows, although I'm afraid to say that a certain 'can't be arsed' feeling has permeated my viewing schedule. I have at least reviewed the following new shows in the past two weeks:

I've also passed a third-episode verdict on TV Land's Lopez. However, I really just couldn't be arsed to watch:

Dice (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
The new eponymous Andrew Dice Clay comedy, because it stars Andrew Dice Clay

The Path (US: Hulu)
This cult drama (no, not like The Tripods) has managed to air four episodes so far and I got through a minute of it before I decided to do more enjoyable things and gave up.

The Girlfriend Experience (US: Starz)
This may be a beautifully directed drama produced by Steven Soderbergh and based on his film of the same name, but it's still on Starz and it's still about New York escorts, so is basically going to be porn, isn't it? I managed 5 minutes of internship interviews at various attornies (oh, how will she make ends meet?) before giving up.

The Ranch (Netflix)
Ashton Kutchner stars as one of two brothers trying to run a business together on a Colorado ranch. It looked potentially interesting until it turned out to be a multi-camera comedy with an audience, at which point I gave up.

The Durrells (UK: ITV)
Keeley Hawes takes her family of future authors to live on Corfu in the 30s. I gave up, mainly because of Keeley Hawes. However, I might come back to it at some point.

Watch those trailers (or even an episode) and tell everyone if you could be arsed, why don't you?

I also couldn't be arsed to watch any more episodes of:

  • Blå Ögon (Blue Eyes) (Sweden: SVT1; UK: More4)
    As I said in the previous WHYBW, the show has two plot threads: a conspiracy thriller and a right-wing terrorist drama. The latter is great, the former is bobbins. Unfortunately, the third episode was 75% of the former, only 25% of the latter, so I gave up after 15 minutes.
  • The Catch (US: ABC; UK: Sky Living)
    I almost can't remember what the episode was about, but the desperate attempt to do Ocean's 11 with a cast desperately under-equipped for the challenge was more than I could bear.

That means that after the jump, we'll be looking at the final episodes of 11.22.63Billions and The Magicians, as well as the latest episodes of Arrow, The Americans, Banshee, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Limitless, Lucifer and Supergirl. We've also had the return of both 12 Monkeys and The Tunnel (Tunnel) - how well will they hold up in their second seasons, I bet you're wondering.

Before that, though, a movie, and I should also offer as a side-note that Netflix has acquired RTÉ One's Rebellion, which makes my decision to review the first few episodes not quite as insanely stupid as it looked at the time, hey? 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) (Amazon Instant Video)
The movie that almost killed off director Edgar Wright's Hollywood career before it began - the fuss behind the scenes over Ant-Man eventually did that - is a comic book adaptation that has so many things going for it yet ultimately never quite works. A fusion of comic book and gaming logic and visuals with the real world, it sees nerdy inadequate college student Scott Pilgrim (Arrested Development's Michael Cena) wanting to date new girl 
Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but finding he has to fight her seven evil exes first. Literally.

We did try to watch this a couple of years ago, but we switched off, bored, after the first 40 minutes or so. Giving it another go last weekend, I have to say that wasn't an entirely incorrect decision, but it does get a lot better in the second half. It has many individually visually beautiful moments, dozens of nerdy heady nods to the expected and the unexpected (Flash Gordon), and is frequently hilarious, but stuck together, none of it quite works - the narrative falters like watching all the narrative scenes from a video game stuck together.

All the same, six years on, it's fun to see not only its influences (I'm pretty sure The World's End owes a lot to it) but also what a marvellous supporting cast it had, with people who were already quite big to start with or who went on to many big things later on (Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Thomas Jane).

My wife's been vegan for the past few months and this clip is now her new favourite thing, too - I'll make sure she doesn't drink any half-and-half, don't worry.

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March 21, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Spotlight, The Americans, Second Chance, The Magicians,

Posted on March 21, 2016 | 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. 

Can you feel it? It's springtime, everyone, and that can only mean a changing of the TV seasons. Some current shows are finishing their runs, while others are just starting, and there are more on the way. Others are just lounging around, eating chocolate eggs.

This week, I've reviewed Underground (US: WGN America) and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (US: CBS; UK: W), and if you cast your minds back to last year, I previewed Crowded (US: NBC), which has just started airing in the US. In the next couple of days, I'm going to be reviewing the entire second season of Daredevil (Netflix), which I somehow managed to binge-watch over the weekend, as well as anything else new that comes my way. Either that, or I'll be toasting my eminent good sense in not bothering to watch ABC's Of Gods And Prophets, given it was cancelled after a mere two episodes of Wicked City-bad ratings.

That means that after the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of 11.22.63, Billions, Damien, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Flaked, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Stan Lee's Lucky Man, Supergirl and Vikings. One of those is probably not long for this world, one is getting a demotion, but surprisingly, two that had surprisingly awful beginnings are getting promoted to the recommended list. Can you guess which ones?

Oh yes. The Americans is back, too.

But first, a movie!

Spotlight (2015)
Journalism always seems exciting to outsiders, but if you actually look at what it involves, even if the results can be exciting, to be honest, the actual process is pretty monotonous. I use Excel in my day job just as much as I use Word - that should tell you something. Certainly, the most realistic movies and TV shows about journalism point out that it mostly involves endless note-taking, fact-checking, research, dead-ends and meetings, with even All The President's Men being a major snoozefest most of the time - I think only the TV version of State of Play has ever managed to be both fun to watch while depicting something that a journalist would recognise as been similar to his or her day job. 

So it is with Spotlight, a meticulously exacting recreation of how the Boston Globe's investigative journalism department revealed in 2001 that nearly 100 local Catholic priests had abused as many as 1,000 boys and girls in their charge over the years and the church had covered it up. Featuring a star-studded but unflamboyant cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci), the almost pre-Internet story largely consists of Ruffalo, McAdams and Keaton setting up spreadsheets, looking in books, sifting through legal documents and trying to find evidence, all without a gunshot, car chase or even fist fight (it is Boston) along the way.

The film just about manages to keep the viewer's attention, helped in part by the sheer horror of the story, but also by the attention to location, the period details - yes, it really does feel like a period drama - and the exploration of the politics of the situation, with powerful pressure being applied to the paper and its journalists through subtle means, as the social interconnections between the paper, the church, the police and other institutions worked to try to prevent anyone rocking the boat. But there were times when even my desperate need to nitpick the movie's accuracy (I couldn't) wasn't quite enough to stop my attention from wandering.

Don't get me wrong - this is undoubtedly not only the second best journalism film ever made, but the second best film about a member of the Bradlee clan (Mad Men's John Slattery plays Ben Bradlee Jr). It's also marvellous to have a grown-up film, telling a grown-up and important story, in which journalists are the good guys for the change. It just would have be nice to have a car chase, too.

PS It's coming up to the Easter double holiday here in the UK, which means this will be the last WHYBW until 1st April. Or maybe the 2nd. Or maybe, just to be wacky, 30th March. It'll just appear at some point around then, anyway.

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