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What have you been watching? Including Strange Empire, Coverband, Electra, The Flash and Doctor Who

Posted on October 20, 2014 | 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.

You may have noticed I was playing epic catch-up on Saturday, in contravention of my normal rule of weekend blogging. So on top of Friday’s all out efforts and a couple of extra ones today, I’ve reviewed the following new shows, some of which have already been acquired for Blighty’s viewing pleasure:

Yay, me. No back log now. Time to have regular weekends again. Phew.

In fact, so ahead of myself am I that I’ll point out that ages ago, I reviewed NBC’s Constantine, which starts on Friday. Okay, it’s changed a bit since the pilot but you’ll get the general point.

But I’ve not stopped there. Oh no. Because I’ve also watched a New Zealand and a Canadian show just for luck. Okay, I was a bit behind on all of them, so I’ve only seen the first episode of each, but honestly, that felt like enough.

Strange Empire (Canada: CBC)
Set in the 1860s on the Alberta-Montana border, this sees three women (Cara Gee, Tattiawna Jones and Melissa Farman from Lost) band together for survival after virtually all the men in their town are murdered and those remaining behind battle for power. Very nicely made and already being described as the saviour of CBC, it's historically interesting but about as tedious as any other western, and none of the characters really grabbed me.

Coverband (New Zealand: TV One)
A one-hit wonder band reunite back in New Zealand years after they were famous. Unfortunately, the female lead singer was the one who was a success, leaving the terminally unsexy rest of the band to make it by themselves, something at which they fail miserably. Now having to deal with the pressures of normal lives and forced to do cover versions of other bands’ records, they suck completely until they stagecrashed by Laughton Kora, who shows them what rock charisma and singing really are, so they hire him. Kind of.

It’s an amiable and accurate enough show, based on cast member Johnny Barker’s own experiences as an Auckland cover band musician, and were there enough time in the world, I’d probably tune in for a few more episodes. But the show’s not so inspiring that I’ll throw something else aside for it and I’ve already seen The Wedding Band crash and burn, so I don’t think I need to see that happen again.

Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t want to produce any globally available videos of its own shows, apparently, so here’s a picture of the cast to tide you over.

Coverband

That's it for new new shows, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, black-ish, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Plebs, Scorpion, Selfie and The Walking Dead.

But hey! Before you go, I should mention I went to the theatre, too!

Electra (Old Vic)
Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra, a new translation of Sophocles’ original text by Greek tragedy stalwart Frank McGuinness, music by PJ Harvey – what could go wrong? Well, not much actually, beyond a certain staticness to the direction, a slightly weak performance by Jack Lowden as Orestes and a very strange performance by Tyrone Huggins as Aegisthus. Other than that, a fine piece of work, surprisingly faithfully staged (although that’s not quite how Greek people prayed), with an outstanding performance by Thomas and a surprisingly funny text by McGuinness – in part to cover up for casting slightly older than originally written, but also to hide the unlikelihood of Electra not recognising Orestes. Liz White (Life on Mars) gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her as Chrysothemis, Electra’s sister.  

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What did you watch this week? Including Perception, Under The Dome, World War Z and A Good Day To Die Hard

Posted on June 28, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week 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:

And here's what I thought of them and others:

Graceland (USA)
Only just started last night's episode, so I'll let you know next week what I thought. Sorry.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
Last summer's slightly surprising combination of dull old procedural and interesting examination of psychology and mental health returns with a new character, the probable loss of at least one character, the surprising return of another character and the same old dull procedural. However, as well as the usual mind-bending issue with the show that you're never sure what's real and what's hallucination, we have a possible slight departure from format – this first episode was less concerned with investigation and more concerned with the philosophical question of whether someone who's had a brain injury and resulting personality change is still the same person they were before the injury. It's a question that other shows probably wouldn't touch with a barge pole but the show was all the better for it. Rachael Leigh Cook is still the least plausible FBI agent in TV history, though.

Under the Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
Based on a Stephen King novel, this mini-series sees a small town full of Diverse People With Issues And Secrets suddenly enveloped by a forcefield dome that blocks everything from sound and cars through to radio signals and electricity. Why's it happening, who's behind it, what's going to happen next and will everyone sort out their issues before their secrets are discovered? Probably.

Full of people who've never been the stars of things but you'll have seen being really good in loads of other shows – Rachelle Lefevre (Life on Mars, The Deep End, Twilight), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) and Mike Vogel (Bates Motel, Pan Am) – as well as Britt Robertson (The Secret Circle, Life Unexpected), this is very odd flashback to the 80s, when Stephen King mini-series were all the rage. As back then, you'll spend all your time working out who's going to end up dead next and what precisely is going on. It's pretty much exactly what you'd think if you've seen any such mini-series before, with dodgy dialogue, stock characters but an intriguing central idea. It's also surprisingly gruesome at times.

With ratings of 12m, hopefully it'll boost the careers of at least Lefevre, who's needed a breakout role for ages and was unceremoniously dumped from the third Twilight movie in favour of the somewhat inferior Bryce Dallas Howard, and Norris, now that Breaking Bad is leaving us. I could do without the dodgy stalker bloke, though.

And in movies:

World War Z
Brad Pitt travels the world looking for a way to fight the zombie plague that's broken out. Taking in Korea and Israel, he eventually finds his solution is… Torchwood. Well, maybe. You'll get that joke if you ever watch the movie.

Not great, doesn't make huge sense, Mireille Enos (The Killing US) is largely wasted and as in movies such as Contagion, a plethora of stars turns up for five minutes only to disappear almost as quickly. But it's tense all the way through and has a few funny moments. Better than the average zombie movie, anyway.

A Good Way To Die Hard
Bruce Willis goes off to Russia when his wayward son shoots someone in a nightclub and is put on trial. However, all is not what it seems and soon Willis and Willis Jr are double-acting their way through numerous shoot-outs and car chases around Russia.

The best that can probably be said about this is that it's probably the second-best of the Die Hard movies, with at least some intelligence on display in places throughout the movie. But it shows nowhere near the level of human involvement and innovation of the original, and the constant CGI effects mean that nothing feels real enough to care about.

"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?

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Your handy guide to true religions on TV - Judaism and Christianity

Posted on May 10, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Castiel the Angel in Supernatural

This entry is one of a series of articles covering religions depicted on TV as being true. For full details and a list of the other religions covered, go to the introduction.

Judaism and Christianity
Christianity has been the dominate religion in most of the West, especially Europe, for hundreds of years. There are, of course, many denominations of Christianity, each with their own beliefs, and much of Western literature either includes Christian figures or embodies Christian values in some ways. It stemmed from Judaism and the two religions still share certain core beliefs and figures: God, angels and so on. However, Jesus is particular to Christianity, of course, while Mary and the saints are really only prominent in Catholicism and Orthodox religions. 

Mormonism, a (debatably) Christian denomination, almost gets its own show - Battlestar Galactica, which is based in part on the Book of Mormon - but that show doesn't prove Mormonism's truth or show Mormon teachings.

In terms of TV, God actually shows up surprisingly infrequently - or unsurprisingly, given he doesn't have a physical form in the Bible - although he appears in metaphor in shows such as Home Improvement. Jesus shows up occasionally, but far more common are the Devil and demons. 

As for shows that show the truth of Judaism and Jewish religious stories but that couldn't also be Christian stories, there aren't any that I can think of, beyond an episode of The X-Files featuring a golem that despite trying very hard, gets a whole bunch of stuff wrong.

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