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What have you been watching? Including Residue, American Sniper and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Posted on May 22, 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.

As we sit in the gap between the end of the Fall 2014-15 season and the summer season in the US, Canada and most countries around the world, we discover the horror that is not having any tele to watch. I’ve even been reading books. Gasp!

But I have found a few other things to watch and tell you about, don’t you worry. I’ve already reviewed the first two episodes of 1864 elsewhere, and after the jump, as well as the usual usuals of Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, I’ll be casting my eye over Netflix’s three-part Brit sci-fi/horror gloom Residue. But I’ve actually managed to watch a couple of movies, too. Well, parts of movies…

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014) (iTunes)
The third of the almost interminable Hobbit movies sees Bilbo and the dwarves facing orc armies, dragons and more in a whole bunch of scenes that definitely weren’t in the book. The big Hobbit conclusion – Bard killing Smaug – happens in the first 10 minutes or so, after which it’s all about big armies of CGI beasts smashing each other, and elves being stoic and doing the right thing, all while Thorin (Richard Armitage) fights off his gold addiction. The Hobbit himself (Martin Freeman)? Doesn’t actually do a whole lot…

As I mentioned in the comments on last week’s WHYBW, I did actually start watching this nearly a fortnight ago, got three-quarters the way through then went to bed… and totally forgot I was watching it until this Monday, by which point it was too late to continue watching it without re-renting it. So I’ve no idea if we get cameos from old Bilbo and Frodo (or anyone else) at the end, and probably won’t do until Netflix picks it up. Nevertheless, while you might argue that this all tells you something about me, I’d argue that it tells you something about just how engrossing this third entry in the series really is.

American Sniper (2014) (iTunes)
Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the autobiography of America’s most lethal sniper got a whole lot of attention for something that’s really pretty ordinary at heart. Bradley Cooper does well as the Texan who enlists in the Navy SEALs in the 90s to fight terrorists and ends up shooting an awful lot Iraqis in the 21st century, while Sienna Miller is astonishingly unrecognisable as his long-suffering but tolerant wife.

Eastwood’s direction is relatively pedestrian and matter of fact, and his few forays out into CGI special effects are decidedly ill-advised (did he learn nothing from Firefox?). But the film is notably non-judgemental and reverential of its subject, showing a normal man in a lethal occupation doing his best to defend people and his country, even if he subsequently finds it hard to initially mix with those people when he returns from war.

While it’s easy to criticise the movie for not bothering to make any of the Iraqis anything more than murderers, with scenes at times reminiscent of Zulu’s large-scale slaughter, most members of the audience will be aware of the greys of the situation and that this is just one story about a very complex subject. Worth watching to see just what Bradley Cooper can do as an actor and if you prefer your dramas to have less judgement of its subjects.

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What have you been watching? Including Birdman, The Blacklist, Arrow and American Crime

Posted on May 15, 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, I’ve already previewed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and reviewed Grace and Frankie, which is all the new shows I’ve had time for this week (so far…). But it’s winding down time for a lot more shows this week, so after the jump, as well as the latest episodes of Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, a look at the season finales of American Crime, Arrow, The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Some of these I won’t be returning to next year, some I will.

I have, however, watched a movie. Well, half of one.

Birdman (2014)
Michael Keaton is a washed up actor who once played a superhero. No, that’s his role in this, which is as meta as it sounds. Here, he’s trying to put on a Broadway play to revive his career. Unfortunately, while Naomi Watts is great, the male lead isn’t, but when an accident puts him out of the running and Ed Norton volunteers to replace him, Keaton finally has a chance at success. Except Norton’s a flake and producer Zach Galifianakis won’t let Keaton fire him, because they can’t afford to.

Unfortunately, this is dull stuff. We managed to get halfway through before we lost interest completely and if you were expecting anything really to riff off Keaton’s Batman credentials in that time, you’d be wrong, beyond a couple of jokes and occasional voiceover – I believe ‘Birdman’ turns up later. Instead, it’s largely about the relationships between the film’s slightly tedious, annoying characters (including Andrea Riseborough and Emma Stone). Maybe it gets better in the second half but the first lost us.

The film’s most notable feature, though, is director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s decision to shoot the entire movie to make it look like a single continuous take. While it’s fascinating to watch (and to see if you can spot the joins), it’s more an intellectual puzzle rather than anything involving.

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What have you been watching? Including Wayward Pines, Community, Forever and American Odyssey

Posted on May 8, 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.

Summer’s approaching fast now - although judging by the weather, not in the UK - but it’s not here yet, which means the only new show I’ve had the option of reviewing has been Your Family Or Mine. I might have to start watching some UK TV again. Oh dear.

It also means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at another season finale, as well as the last few remaining episodes of a whole bunch of shows. So brace yourself for my thoughts on the latest instalments of American Crime, American Odyssey, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Flash, Forever, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Silicon Valley. One of those is for the chop from my viewing list, one of those has had the chop from its network’s viewing list, one of them’s still on the bubble and the rest look set to return for another season at least. I’ll leave you to work out which is which.

But I’ll also have a look over another episode of Wayward Pines. I know you’re looking forward to that, too.

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