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Preview: Another Period 1x1 (US: Comedy Central)

Posted on June 11, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Another Period

In the US: Tuesdays, Comedy Central. Starts June 23

Talking of reality TV show mockery, here comes another pastiche, albeit in a somewhat different form. Imagine it’s the turn of the 20th century and the cast of Downton Abbey have been relocated to Rhode Island. Now imagine that they’re being followed by a reality TV crew and that actually, all they want to do is everything that the Kardashians get up to, except in the milieu of the time.

So we have the show's creators and writers Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome playing a pair of idiotic sisters who want to be in the list of the “400 most powerful white people”, invited to all the best dinner parties and doing sexy time with that John Ritter, if only it didn’t require 20 servants to undress them all.

As jokes written down in those paragraphs, they’re quite fun ideas and knowing that both Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Community’s Paget Brewster are in the show might even make you want to watch Another Period. Now try sitting through 25 minutes of those jokes being milked for all they’re worth while someone does a bit of shakycam in their direction. It’s not quite so funny then unless - and this is the important part as it’s vital to understanding Comedy Central's comedy output - you’re either hammered or stoned.

Only you know if you’re hammered or stoned, but if you’re planning on being wide awake and alert and this is on your tele, you’ll be making a mistake. You’ll titter a bit, but without a bit of a chemical incentive, big guffaws will be as elusive as Raffles.

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What have you been watching? Including The Elephant Man, Hannibal, Strike Back & Halt and Catch Fire

Posted on June 5, 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.

Elsewhere on this ‘ere blog, I’ve already reviewed all the new TV shows I could find this week and which you should either try to find yourselves or desperately avoid, these being:

So if you’re looking for new shows here, I ain’t got nothing for you, mister, I’m afraid, since I haven’t had a chance to watch Netflix’s new Sense8, the entire series of which was released today. Thanks Netflix.

However, we’ve got a few returning regulars this week, too, which means that after the jump, I’ll be reviewing the first new episodes of the latest seasons of Hannibal, Halt and Catch Fire and Strike Back: Legacy. I’ll also be looking at the latest episodes of Between and Game of Thrones, and casting an eye over perhaps the last ever episode of Community.

But first, a theatre review! I have in fact between to the theatre twice this week, but I’m saving up my review of the Almeida’s marathon modernisation of The Oresteia – a trilogy in four parts, it turns out – until next week when I can give it due consideration.

The Elephant Man (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Little known actor Bradley Cooper and the rest of the Tony Award-nominated Williamstown/Broadway cast (Patricia Clarkson, Alessandro Nivola, Anthony Heald et al) come over to the Theatre Royal for this 12-week run of Bernard Pomerance's 1979 play about the deformed Joseph Merrick aka ‘the Elephant Man’ because he was exhibited in a circus. Most people will be familiar with the 1980 David Lynch movie starring John Hurt, and this follows similar beats, focusing on Merrick's life between his discovery by a Dr Treves (Nivola) at the circus run by Heald through his life in Treves’ care at the London Hospital and his friendship with Clarkson's famous actress (who in real life actually did perform at the Haymarket) until his eventual death in the hospital.

It’s a moving piece, albeit one that can’t quite focus on a theme, jumping between questions of God and Darwinism through to women’s bodies in Victoria society. Merrick here is similar to Lynch’s version, being the beautiful souled man trapped in a body so horrifying everyone but a trained actress can’t help but avoid screaming and running away from. However, this is less ‘disabled as object pity’ than the movie, giving us a Merrick who’d quite like to see a naked woman, please.

Cooper takes on the challenging role of Merrick but eschews all make-up in favour of an entirely physical and quite breathtaking performance, assuming each deformity as it’s described in an early scene. Cooper's obviously and deservedly the focus of the play, but Nivola’s performance is what anchors it and Scott Ellis’s direction is innovative. I was impressed, my wife loved it and the whole thing got a standing ovation, so see it while you can.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including The Elephant Man, Hannibal, Strike Back & Halt and Catch Fire"

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What have you been watching? Including Ex Machina, 3 Days To Kill, Community and Game of Thrones

Posted on May 29, 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.

Can you feel it? Can you? The summer season of TV is starting everyone! New things to watch! Hooray!

Okay, it’s starting slowly this week, but next week, we should have even more. Nevertheless, elsewhere, I’ve already reviewed the first episode of Netflix’s Between and previewed both Supergirl and Mr Robot. I’m also planning to review NBC’s new Charles Manson drama, Aquarius, and preview CBS’s new ‘comedy’ Crowded separately. But they’ll have to wait until next week now.

After the jump, the current TV regulars: Community, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. But first, a couple of film reviews!

Ex Machina (2015) (iTunes)
Domhnall Gleeson is a programmer working at a very Google-like company of the near future, who wins a employee lottery the prize of which is to spend a week with the company’s owner, Oscar Isaac. There he has the chance to try a new Turing Test variant on gynoid Alicia Vikander. The new question is – despite knowing she’s a robot, will he still decide she’s intelligent and care about her? And will she care about him? Except, of course, all is not what it seems…

Written and direct by Alex Garland, it’s very clever and very beautifully shot, if a little slow and, towards the end, exploitative, with great performances all round. However, it would probably have had a much bigger impact on me if I hadn’t seen the low budget but very similar and considerably more entertaining and action-packed Caity Lotz version The Machine just a few months ago. Watch that instead.

3 Days to Kill (2014) (Netflix)
Sometimes, knowing too much about a movie can either make it or kill it. Or sometimes both. Here, we have what is essentially Taken, with Kevin Costner as an ageing CIA agent in Paris who has to come to terms with the fact that he hasn’t been a great husband or father to his ex-wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), all while killing lots of bad guys and occasionally homaging The Bodyguard.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise since the script is by Luc Besson. So on that level, there’s some information that might make you want to watch the movie and actually, if that’s all you had to go on, that would probably be a reasonably good summary of its strengths. If you know what a Luc Besson action movie is like, you’ll know more or less what to expect (comedy, comedy sidekick, French-speaking Africans, kids, insane Paris car chases, women with guns, etc).

So now I’ll add a little extra fact to the mix: Amber Heard is Costner's boss. This may or may not make you want to watch it, although Heard actually does pretty well in the acting stakes here, and there are some funny scenes involving her and Costner determining exactly what ‘young’ means to both of them (“32? Middle-aged, grandpa!”).

So let’s drop the last factette on you: it’s directed by McG. This should send you running to the hills and certainly you can expect a few exploitative and crass McG tropes in here, too. But actually, it’s largely just McG emulating Besson, so forget I just told you this information – if you can do that, you might actually half enjoy it. It’s not brilliant, but it is a lot more Besson than McG.

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