Tag Archive | James Bond

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What have you been watching? Including Spectre, Master of None, Flesh and Bone, and You're The Worst

Posted on November 13, 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.

The first of the mid-mid season shows made their way on to our screens/Internet connections this week. Elsewhere, I've reviewed the first episodes of Agent X (US: TNT), Donny! (US: USA) and Blood and Water (Canada: Omni). However, they're not the only new shows that have started this week:

Master of None (Netflix)
Aziz Ansari's best known from Parks & Recreation, but here he's playing a thinly disguised version of himself - Dev, a small-time Indian actor living in New York and trying to get his break in a business that's still not ready to accept Indian actors as anything except taxi drivers, doctors and convenience-store clerks, and then only with Indian accents. This is something that Ansari has one or two opinions about, which he shares with his other Indian friends, as well as his Asian friend and black lesbian friend. 

It would be tempting to assume this is basically Ansari's version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but actually, it's far more reasoned, genteel, likable Curb Your Enthusiasm, with each episode almost self-contained and exploring not just discrimination against Indians by the media, but a different facet of modern life, during all of which Ansari tries to be reasonably respectful and thoughtful in extremis. The first episode looks at kids and parenthood, with Ansari discovering that being the fun uncle only works for an hour or so, and that a full afternoon looking after kids is more than he can bear. However, of the six episodes I've watched so far, it's actually the least funny. 

Fortunately, things pick up after that, with some genuinely amusing episodes, particularly one that sees Colin Salmon doing a 'Patrick Stewart on Extras', and Parents, which is a spot-on look at the relationships between older parents and young adults, particularly first-generation immigrant adults. Guest stars including Claire Danes, H Jon Benjamin and Noah Emmerich also give the show a greater pedigree than you'd otherwise have thought.

While Ansari's squeaky voice gets annoying after a while, this is the first Netflix comedy so far that's been worthy of the name, and I'll be trying to watch the rest of it as soon as I've finished writing this.

Flesh and Bone (US: Starz)
Short version: Showgirls meets Whiplash at the ballet
Long version: A surprisingly loving, beautifully shot, eight-part mini-series about an abused young woman (Sarah Hay from Black Swan) who runs away from home to make it big at the ballet. Her talent is spotted by the head choreographer (Ben Daniels), who decides to make her a star, but he has very strict training methods. 

All of which is lovely and beautifully done, with some excellent acting, and even though I'm absolutely not a ballet person, some of the dancing was absolutely stunning and even moving. However, so far, the long version doesn't sound Starz enough, does it? 

So first add in copious nudity, sex and drug-taking, lots of mean girl scenes, maybe a hint of lesbianism. Then have new girl ballerina equivocating about whether to moonlight with another ballerina as a stripper to make ends meet. Then add in some truly hilariously bad scenes, such as when the choreographer is vigorously bumming another bloke over his desk while repeating to himself things like "I am the master of all I survey."

I think I would have watched this were it not for that kind of epic stupidity and excess that tend to dog Starz shows. But I doubt I'll get much further with it now.

I've passed a third-episode verdict on Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1) elsewhere, so after the jump, a look at the latest episodes of Arrow, Ash vs Evil Dead, The Beautiful Lie, Blindspot, Doctor Who, The Flash, Grandfathered, The Last Kingdom, Limitless, The Player and You're The Worst. But first, a movie:

Spectre (2015) (at cinemas now)
I actually saw this last week but completely forget to include it in my round-up. That should give you a clue as to what I thought about it.

As the name suggests, this introduces old Bond's eventual arch-enemy Spectre to us, except here it turns out that it's been Spectre orchestrating everything from Casino Royale onwards, for all kinds of pointless personal reasons involving Bond. Meanwhile, Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) is a new surveillance-obsessed bigwig intent on unifying MI5 and MI6 and getting rid of the 00 section in the process.

It's fine. Nothing great bar Craig and a marvellous four-minute long pseudo-tracking shot at the beginning, but fine, although there are parts of it that will make you feel like a great big chunk of story has been removed. It's more or less the same structurally and thematically as Skyfall. There's one age-appropriate Bond girl (Monica Bellucci), one age-inappropriate Bond girl (Léa Seydoux), a baddie who finally looks like he can take on this muscled incarnation of Bond (Dave Bautista), and Christoph Waltz does a homeopathically weak version of his usual routine, as the head of Spectre. I would give you the name of his character, but you can guess it.

Spectre's basically the conclusion of the Daniel Craig James Bond series, which has been setting up all the aspects of the Bond character from the previous films, just so that he can retire now it's all been set up. Of the four Craig movies, it's probably the second or third best, and like the previous Logan-Mendes Skyfall, it actually seems to enjoy the sexist and hokey aspects of the old series that it's trying to reintroduce, despite the pains Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace took to try to make Craig's Bond a modern hero.

Basically, meh.

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Review: Agent X 1x1-1x2 (US: TNT)

Posted on November 10, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Sharon Stone in TNT's Agent X

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, TNT

There's been a decades-long quest in the US to create 'the American James Bond'. This is somewhat ironic, since the first ever adaptation of a James Bond book was the 1954 US TV series Climax! Mystery Theater's Casino Royale, starring Barry Nelson as 'Jimmy Bond'. (Let's twopher this one and call it this week's Wednesday Play… on Tuesday)

But ever since Bond hit it big at the movie box office, there have been attempts to create an equally lucrative and iconic US James Bond, such as Napoleon Solo in The Man From UNCLE, whom they even asked Ian Fleming to help develop, although all he ended up giving them was the name. However, so far, the US has had very little success, although many people argue that the Bourne series is the American equivalent of the Bond movies. 

It's also ironic, because why would you want to create an American James Bond? He's quintessentially British. And I don't mean suave, sophisticated, good with women, etc - we're really not any of those.

No, James Bond's attitudes to his job are quintessentially British - there's no real patriotism, no great love of country, no belief in the fundamental awesomeness of the British political system. To Bond, Britain isn't best and there is no 'British exceptionalism'. Instead, he is a blunt tool who risks all for Queen and country, because it's a job and the alternative to the status quo would probably just be even worse than it already is. That's peak British, that is.

So Agent X is probably the first TV series or movie that really offers a truly American version of James Bond. Created by William Blake Herron, who co-wrote The Bourne Identity, it stars Sharon Stone as the first female vice-president of the United States. On her inaugration night, her strong grasp of Latin and Masonic symbols enables her to discover the true reason the vice president has bugger all constitutional duties - there's a secret article in the original US constitution that gives her the power in times of national emergency to command a nameless secret agent to do whatever it takes to protect the country from enemies, foreign and domestic. Agent X is that man, a self-sacrificing, small town, everyman patriot, foresaking any kind of personal life to defend the United States and her Constitution, all for no reward.

That's peak American, that is. 

Shame that although it's a step in the right direction, it's still rubbish. Even worse than the worst Roger Moore James Bond movie you can think of. Maybe not the worst Pierce Brosnan movie, though.

Here's a 13-minute trailer. I kid you not.

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Nice James Bond advertising, Screen on the Green

Posted on October 30, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Screen on the Green does the James Bond theme tune for Spectre

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