Tag Archive | Lost

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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 have you been watching? Including You're The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits and Halt and Catch Fire

Posted on July 25, 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.

With August and the summer holidays approaching, it’s going to be the last ‘What have you been watching?' for a few weeks, so I’ll leave you with this one as a happy memory. And because the holidays are upon us, I’m going to be ruthless with a few shows that might have got as far as a third-episode verdict any other time of the year. So I’m not bothering with last night’s Rush, Satisfaction or Marriage, because the shows aren’t good enough for me to go to any effort in catching up with when I’m back from my holidays. They're probably going to be cancelled anyway.

This week, I’ve managed to review the following new shows:

But after the jump, a round-up of the regulars, with reviews of The Bridge (US), Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Suits, Tyrant and You’re The Worst.

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Review: The Strain 1x1 (FX/Watch)

Posted on July 15, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

FX's The Strain

In the US: Sundays, 10pm, FX
In the UK: Acquired by Watch to air this autumn

Vampires are one of the enduring horror icons of the past two centuries. Based originally in folktales, they first truly rose to prominence thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, initially playing on the dual horrors of death and sex, they’ve gone on to be metaphors for pretty much everything from women’s sexual liberation to drug addiction.

Along the way, though, they’ve lost a lot of their potency, in part because of the general decline in Christianity but also because of the even greater decline in belief in scary beast monsters that skulk in the dark. More sophisticated demands from audience in terms of characterisation and the acknowledgement that stereotyping is generally a Bad Thing have meant that the question of whether a race of creatures, even non-human ones, can be all bad has also added to people’s reluctance to take vampires en masse as scary evil bastards.

Indeed, it would be relatively easy to list at least some of the media that have ‘defanged’ vampires and made them almost objects of ridicule: The Twilight Saga, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Blade, True Blood, Being Human (US), Being Human (UK), Dracula, From Dusk Till Dawn, 666 Park Avenue, The Gates, The Vampire Diaries, Moonlight, Penny Dreadful… As you can see, the list does indeed go on and on and on and on - poor old vampires. Makes you almost feel sorry for them.

So you have to at least admire shows that try to make vampires scary again. The much revered and generally wonderful Channel 4 mini-series Ultraviolet is perhaps the best example of how to do this properly, treating them completely seriously, adding science to the mix, giving us all that nuance about whether vampires are truly evil or not, and then basically saying, “Yes, they are and they want to kill us all and stick us in battery farms after creating a nuclear winter to block out the sun.”

Guillermo del Toro’s calling card to the world, Cronos, was also another sterling attempt to make vampires scary, giving us a vampirism passed on by a piece of beetle jewellery, although the film suffered more than a little from del Toro's love of grand guignol.

Now, del Toro is having another go at making vampires scary with The Strain, an adaptation of his own books in conjunction with Lost/Bates Motels exec producer Carlton Cuse. This essentially takes that original story of Dracula and asks the question: “What would happen if Dracula hadn't turned up in the 19th century at a boat in Whitby but instead arrived on a 747 in 21st century New York? He’s super fast, super strong and kills in horrible nasty ways, before bringing others back to life as vampires, too. How would the authorities react? What would science make of him?”

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, taking a leaf from his own book, del Toro's also asked, “What if Dracula’s vampirism was actually caused by an infestation of worms? And there were actually a lot of evil vampires, all intent on taking over the world in a secret gothic conspiracy where they all dress in black?”

Equally unfortunately, the result is something not so much scary as a bit unpleasant yet laughably bad.

Here’s a trailer.

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