Archive | Film reviews

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


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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March 14, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions

Posted on March 14, 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*. 

As you might have noticed, things are hotting up in the tele stakes. In the past week, I've reviewed the first episodes of:

But that's by no means all the new shows. In the next few days, I'm hoping to give Underground (US: WGN America) a look over, as well as - assuming it's not cancelled before then, given its ratings - Of Kings And Prophets (US: ABC), which sees one 'Ray Winstone' playing King Saul of Israel, who has to deal with some bloke called 'David'. Careful - no spoilers, please.

I still haven't got round to watching Netflix's Love, but I did manage to watch a couple of episodes of…: 

Flaked (Netflix)
Will Arnett is Chip, a furniture store owner in Venice Beach, California, who spends a lot of his time:

  1. Hanging around at AA meetings
  2. Cycling everywhere, because he's been banned from driving, having killed someone while on drugs
  3. Having sex with/fancying much younger women
  4. Lying about pretty much everything

And that's about it, really. Just as Master of None didn't have much plot and was really just a series of character moments, so Flaked is really a character study of a complete tosser who screws over everyone he meets, albeit in very small ways, for his own selfish needs. There also aren't many jokes, either.

Despite that, it's actually quite watchable, in part thanks to Arnett, in part because it's smarter than this otherwise standard 'edgy' comedy format would suggest. The Venice Beach location is different from the usual standard settings for sitcoms, too.

There's also a certain knowingness about the show similar to Arrested Development's (perhaps because of exec producer Mitch Hurwitz) that makes it less of a male fantasy: Arnett may be sleeping with hot young women a lot, but his unattractive male friends aren't, and even Arnett is finding it all a bit empty and pointless, having nothing culturally in common with the woman he professes to love. 

I'll try to watch the remaining episodes this week - Daredevil season two is on the way, very soon, so I'm going to need to clear the decks - and let you know how the rest of it goes. If you can't wait, don't go into it expecting big laughs. Instead, just expect to enjoy a lot of Will Arnett hanging out with a bunch of people and having a little sex.

I haven't managed to watch any more episodes of Ófærð (Trapped), unfortunately, but after the jump, the regulars, including a couple of season finales and some double-episode rundowns: 11.22.63, American Crime, Billions, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Stan Lee's Lucky Man and Vikings. At least one of the recommended shows is being demoted - can you guess which one?

But first, a movie:

The Intern (2015) (iTunes)
Four things in the credits made me think this was going to be absolute unwatchable: the title, which in combination with Anne Hathaway's presence, made we think I was going to be getting The Devil Wears Prada 2; writer/director Nancy Meyers, whose It's Complicated was so unimaginably bad and dull, I nearly fell asleep in the cinema; and Robert De Niro, who has been working purely for the cash for what feels like decades now.

However, I needn't have been worried, since it seems like everyone involved induced everyone else to raise their games. De Niro looks like he's actually putting some effort in as the 70-year-old retired widower who takes an internship at an Internet start-up to give himself something to do and ends up becoming friends with CEO Hathaway. Hathaway is likable and believable as the perfectionist workaholic businesswomen, while Meyers (who, in case we forget, also wrote Private Benjamin, Irreconcilable Differences, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride and The Holiday) turns in a surprisingly authentic look at both twentysomethings and seventysomethings in modern business.

The first half of the movie is better than the second, with my lovely wife (who set up and runs her own company) finding a lot to identify with, but the second half adds an unnecessary dramatic twist that ruins a lot of the good, frequently (unpreachy) feminist work the first half develops. De Niro's romance with in-house masseuse Rene Russo doesn't quite work and a lot of plots are developed but ultimately go nowhere. The firm's grasp of business isn't totally top notch either, such as the question of why Hathaway's firm needs a new CEO, rather than a halfway competent COO for Hathaway to delegate to.

Nevertheless, frequently moving, frequently funny, with a good range of characters and surprisingly smart, The Intern is that rare breed of movie: one aimed at adults that is entertaining, enjoyable but untaxing. I also think it speaks to my age that I identified far more with De Niro than with any of the 20something man-boys he works with.

* If you're wondering where all the references to Locate TV have got to this week, turns out they're shutting down on Wednesday. Can't say I'm totally surprised, given the effort v reward potential of the idea, but it's a shame all the same.

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