It's "What did you watch this fortnight?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this fortnight that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.
First, the usual recommendations:
- Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
- Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
- The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
- Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
- Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
- Endeavour (ITV1)
- Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
- Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
- Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic)
These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which.
Still in the viewing queue: Netflix's Hemlock Grove, which still doesn't look appealing and last night's Elementary.
I have tried a couple of new shows, though:
Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi camp it up something as a pair of 'vicious old queens' (that was the working title of the show, anyway). They've been living together for years, when a fit but clueless young man (Iwan Rheon from Misfits) moves into their building. If you're in your 60s, this would probably be entertaining, since it's the kind of studio-shot show that used to be made in the 70s and entirely consists of obvious and somewhat feeble jokes - it's almost "call and response" TV - lightened by how the cast perform them. Rheon is wasted as the straight man to the jokes (ho, ho), but it's entirely awful for anyone under 60.
The Job Lot
ITV's other new sitcom, this is more in the modern vein of comedy, with single camera shooting and no laugh track. Starring Russell Tovey and Sarah Hadland, it's set in a West Midlands job centre and is a combination of The Office and any of the interactions with support desk customers in The IT Crowd. It's also about as funny as unemployment.
Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I'm still trying
- The Americans (FX/ITV): Not an entirely surprising finale, but it's interesting how you can find yourself rooting for the KGB, this episode being an inversion of the usual "staff back at HQ come up with desperate last ditch plan to help the agents in the field". Looking forward to the next season.
- Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): A definite pick-up this week, although the show is now not just tonally Batman Begins, it actually is Batman Begins. If it doesn't turn out next week that The Dark Archer was trained by Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows, I'll be very surprised. Didn't quite buy John Barrowman as King Karate, but hey ho.
- Continuum (Showcase/SyFy): Starting to meander a bit, now. Despite the occasional shoot out to try to lift the pace, this is more about setting up ideas than plot. Basically, more budget, needs to be bigger and more cool things need to happen.
- Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Excellent episode last week, as we once more return to the serial plot involving Moriarty, and Vinnie Jones returns. I think they're now torturing him deliberately by getting him to sing Arsenal chants.
- Endeavour (ITV1): All very nicely done, and the break away from pure murder-mystery procedural to look at 1960s London gangsterism and the somewhat "making it up as we go along" approach to policing violent crime was welcome. But the whodunnit was somewhat daft.
- Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living): Last week, we got into the strange situation of a prequel to Silence of the Lambs actually mining most of the plot of Silence of the Lambs to the extent that Silence of the Lambs couldn't really happen as a movie without someone in-story wondering about cosmic coincidences. It also took on a vital scene from Red Dragon and gave it to another character, to the extent that the back story will have to change significantly by the time season 3 rolls round (season 4 being Red Dragon). Nice to see Veep's Anna Chlumsky and The X-Files' Gillian Anderson back on US TV, not so nice to see Eddie Izzard trying to be a serial killer.
- Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): It's all gearing up well for the finale, but this clearly isn't the show it was when it started and all the life seems to have drained out of it. Looking forward to a big confrontation with Michael Ironside tonight.
And in movies:
Based on the cult Max Barry novel of the same name, this sees Shiloh Fernandez come up with the idea for a marketing-driven soft drink called Fukk, which he pitches to young marketing executive Amber Heard, who promptly tries to steal his idea. He stops her, but they're both outsmarted by Fernandez's pal Kellan Lutz. Cue a battle of the cola companies. Unfortunately, while the book had a kind of young energy and largely revolved around Heard's character guiding Fernandez's through the moves and counter-moves of office politics, this becomes a more conventional romance with few funny moments and almost no real wit, beyond demonstrating the emptiness of marketing. Indeed, the filmmakers (including Barry who co-scripted it) unfortunately decided that the movie's message had to be "Marketing Bad" and the entire plot, right down to the conclusion, is switched to reflect that. Obviously they were never going to be able to adapt the book 100% faithfully (not unless Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Coke and others had jumped on board to create a sci-fi blockbuster within the movie), but in the adaption, too much was ripped out.
Fernandez is a bit too fey for 'Scat', Amber Heard gives one of her best performances as '6' but lacks confidence in some scenes, while Lutz is silent for the majority of the movie. Weirdly, Kate Nash cameos as a receptionist.
Iron Man 3
Weirdly, a better movie than both of its predecessors, particularly Iron Man 2, but I didn't love it as much. It's a strange amalgam of the Extremis comic strip, James Bond and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Robert Downey Jr running around by himself, almost like a secret agent, for big chunks of the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle get less screen time, but what they do get gives them more to do than before. As well as a lot of wit and laugh out loud scenes, the story also features top racist Iron Man villain (Ben Kingsley), yet cleverly manages to flip the character around to play on that (no, no spoilers). Despite the inevitable descent into a CGI finale, the film still managed largely to retain its humanity throughout, and the ending serves as a good potential ending for the whole Iron Man franchise, if necessary. Yet, somehow, despite all this - and perhaps because of its more adult themes of - it just wasn't as much fun or as enjoyable as the first.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Can't say too much without spoiling it, but it's actually very good. Drags a bit in the middle, there's a tragic death, and there's a clever inversion of a previous movie - as well as an entertaining moment where (spoiler) Spock calls up his older self and asks for spoilers. Benedict Cumberbatch edges over into hammy in a couple of places and doesn't look as buff as he needs to be for the role, the leery male gaze of the first movie is slightly downplayed but still present, and everybody gets something to do, although largely individually rather than together. Some very cool moments too, and the movie does diverge from its predecessor in saying that vengeance and warfare aren't things that Starfleet should be involved in. Worth seeing, even if again, it doesn't quite have the energy of the first movie.
"What did you watch this fortnight?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?