It's the slightly retitled "What did you watch this week?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've been watching
in the past week since Christmas that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.
Now that Christmas is out the way and I'm back from my holidays, hopefully this will once more be a weekly feature, hopefully always on a Friday, but what with work n'all, maybe on Monday, instead. But weekly.
First, though, the usual recommendations: 30 Rock, Arrow, Don't Trust The B----- in Apartment 23, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family and The Wedding Band.
Second, a new recommendation: Mr Selfridge, which is an ITV period piece written by Andrew Davies that looks at how American retailer Harry Gordon Selfridge came to found his Oxford Street department store and how various women's lives were changed by the freedoms it offered them. I really liked it - beyond an occasional bit of woodness from a few of the younger cast members and Piven, who's otherwise superb, the first episode was pretty much perfect, I thought. Yes, an ITV drama that's actually good. Surprise 1. Secondly, a Jeremy Piven drama that's good. Surprise 2. No surprise that Spiral's Grégory Fitoussi, who plays the store's chief window dresser, is good, though.
And here's a few thoughts on what else I've watched. There's more than a few shows in the pile still to watch, thanks to my extended absence, including Ripper Street, Restless, A Young Doctor's Notebook, Hard and Spies of Warsaw, as well as the return of Cougar Town and Modern Family. Let me know if any of those are/aren't worth the effort. But here's what I have seen:
- Borgen: I'm midway through episode one of the new series. Please tell me it gets better, because it's even worse than The Killing 3 at the moment. Confusingly, it even has the Danish PM from that show playing another character who isn't the Danish PM. But I am liking the lead (Sidse Babett Knudsen) a lot and the switch into English whenever anyone foreign turns up is pleasing.
- Doctor Who: Yes, the Christmas episode, which I think was probably the best Matt Smith one so far. Funny and fun, with just a hint of intriguing tragedy, too. The links to good old Troughton villain The Great Intelligence were lovely, too.
- Don't Trust The B----: Two unremarkable episodes for the show, but they're still a cut above most comedies and a lot darker than you'd expect from a network show.
- Elementary: Despite the presence of Vinny Jones, who was actually pretty good as (possibly) Moriarty (spoilers: not actually Moriarty but the famous Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's helper monkey from the books), probably the best episode so far. Quite why Vinny was such an Arsenal fan and quite why Arsenal were playing so many games that week, I don't know, though.
- The First Family: Essentially, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air but in the White House and not funny.
- Go On: Good to see them moving away from everything being Ryan-centric now, with various characters interacting and having storylines without him.
- Last Resort: Well, it looks like they're actually going to wrap this baby up in two episodes' time, and things are progressing apace. As always, anything naval is superbly handled and tense, anything domestic is dross.
- Little Crackers: Various semi-autobiographical pieces by stars including Sharon Horgan and Dylan Moran. Like a lot of Sky comedies, not as funny as they should have been, and obviously in need of an edit or two, but all had odd merits.
- The Mindy Project: And I'm giving up. Only a few chuckles per episode now - the switch away from rom-com to office comedy has been a real let-down after such a great start. Oh well. More time to watch other stuff, then.
- Vegas: You know, I only noticed this last episode but Sarah Jones from Alcatraz is the new lady in town, isn't she? Well, she's far more versatile and chameleonic than I realised. Glad she's moved onto a better show, too, because she was wasted there. This week's episode, getting back on topic, was a big uptick in quality, getting away from the episodic crimes in favour of more serial story-telling, with an almost Wire-like attempt to show that the system can't be changed. Carrie Anne-Moss actually had something to do, too, and Michael Ironside even got to appear. Keep it up, Vegas, and you'll be promoted to the recommended list, soon.
- The Wedding Band: The first excellent episode of the show so far, despite starting with the tired old "all Indians have arranged marriages" cliche. As always, surprisingly sensitive and sophisticated, despite the guyisms, and there's not many shows that can have you sniffling from the romance of a plotline and then end the episode with a cover version of '99 points (but a bitch ain't one)'. Good use of soccer rules in it, too.
And, as you can imagine with my being on two transatlantic plane flights, I saw a lot of movies:
End of Watch
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña find themselves in a slightly implausible episode of Southland. Probably one of the best cop movies you'll ever see, but the demands of the A-plot swamp most of the virtues of the movie, which are the everyday small talk between Gyllenhaal and Peña and the encounters they have with normal LA citizens.
So incredibly dull for the first hour, I actually fell asleep twice. However, once the trolls turn up and it becomes a lot more Lord of the Rings, then it becomes a far more enjoyable prospect. Richard Armitage does a decent job as Thorin, Martin Freeman boggles the mind by being Martin Freeman but not, and it's nice to have the return of all those Rings actors - it brought a little tear to my eye. Even Sylvester McCoy works in context. However, it's still fundamentally a story for kids rather than for adults, with a lot more fart gags than the previous movies had.
No Strings Attached
An interesting attempt to do a gender-reversal rom-com, with heart-on-a-sleeve, IQ-challenged Ashton Kutcher hooking up with the emotionally stunted brainiac doctor Natalie Portman, who wants a no-strings attached sex-only relationship. At one level, it works quite well, with Portman having to go through all the emotional and physical challenges the heroes of romcoms normally go through. But despite being written by New Girl-creator Elizabeth Meriwether and starring most of the casts of Fox's current shows, including The Mindy Project's Mindy Carling and New Girl's own Jake Johnson, it's not actually funny. Rom but no com isn't great. Also, when did people stop doing foreplay?
Harry Potter meets Greek myth badly. Strictly for the kids.
When you think about it, there are surprisingly few movies or TV shows about people who ride bikes (remember ITV's Streetwise with Andy Serkis, anyone?), which is what makes Premium Rush so refreshing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a cycle courier in Manhattan who has to deliver a package before 7pm or else bad things will happen. Except Michael Shannon from Boardwalk Empire wants to stop him. Very indie, with a non-linear timeline, elements of Witness and more, probably the worst thing about it unusually is Shannon, who goes for comedic when he should be threatening. But if you've ever ridden a bike seriously, the adrenaline surge you'll get from the racing scenes will be something chronic. Loved it.
Writer imagines a perfect girlfriend and Weird Science-like, she comes to life. So painfully twee, though, I lost all patience with it within about 10 minutes.
The Social Network
David Fincher is back on form. Hooray! With this, Aaron Sorkin takes the plunge and decides to deal with this new-fangled Internet thing - specifically, how Facebook was created. Horribly misogynistic, both in the attitudes of the people involved and in Sorkin's authorial choices, but Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic as Mark Zuckerberg, a man who apparently has the most obvious case of Asperger's superiority complex since the dawn of time. Great movie (apart from that annoying misogyny).
Well, I guess if you're going to do a Euro spy thriller, Liam Neeson is the person to call. Here, he plays an academic who wakes up after a car accident to discover no one knows who he is, not even his wife, and someone else has taken his place. A sort of combination of Taken, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Identity (indeed, in some ways it's more The Bourne Identity than The Bourne Identity was), it's surprisingly better than you'd think, playing with cinematic conventions to make you think it's one thing when it's really another. When the explanation comes, it's not as deep as you think it's going to be, but in some ways that makes it better. Worth a try, but January Jones is incomparably bad in this, though, and the trailer gives everything away, so don't watch that if you actually plan on seeing the movie. Oddly, German actress Diane Kruger (currently playing the US version of Saga Noren in the remake of The Bridge) is here playing an East European immigrant.
"What did you watch this week?" 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?