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What have you been watching? Including You Are Wanted, Passengers and The Accountant

Posted on May 30, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.

WHYBW took a bit of a break last week, thanks to there being Twin Peaks to watch and not enough time to do that and write about other TV, too. But it's back, just in time to catch some season finales as the US Fall season begins to wave its final goodbyes and the Summer season starts to kick in.

There have been a few new shows, too, in the past fortnight: the first episode of Downward Dog and those first two new episodes of Twin Peaks I've already reviewed elsewhere and I'll be reviewing Still Star-Crossed (US: ABC) and previewing I'm Dying Up Here (US: Showtime) later in the week. But with a bank holiday weekend, I've had a chance to catch up with everything, watch a few movies and even try some of my backlog.

So, after the jump, I'll be reviewing the latest episodes of American Gods, The Americans, Doctor Who, Downward Dog, The Handmaid's Tale, Master of None, Silicon Valley and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finales of The Flash, Great News and Lucifer. Before then, a new TV show and not one but two movies!

You Are Wanted (Amazon)
Amazon's first German-language TV show is a Berlin-set 'techno thriller' starring (and written, directed, produced and composed by) one of Germany's most successful actor-director-composer-writer-cameramen-producers Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays a moderately successful hotel manager and family man, whose life starts to fall apart when hacktivists start to take an interest in him for no obvious reason. Before you know it, they're in every computer system he has from his laptop and smartphone through to his TV and child monitor, stealing his money, faking an affair and incriminating him in crimes, all while blacking out Berlin's power system. What do they want and why him? Well, you'll have to watch to find out.

The first episode was a touch more German in its production values than Amazonian (ie not as good and a bit silly at times), but while it's not exactly Mr Robot when it comes to hacking, it's not American Odyssey either, exhibiting a slight hint that it might know a bit about the subject at least. Schweighöfer is appealing, but there's not much by way of thrills so far, just a lot of Schweighöfer playing with his family and reinstalling operating systems. But it's promising enough I'll probably be watching episode two this week at some point.

Word to the wise: despite promises to the contrary, Roku's Amazon channel won't display subtitles (I've fiddled with every setting it has and nada on anything I've watched). So, although half the dialogue's in English, your German had better be up to knowing what "hydraulic fracking" and "epidemiology" are auf Deutsch if you're to get by on that platform, so stick with iOS (which definitely does work) or something else. When I gave the subtitles a whirl, though, they turned out to be pretty bad translations that removed any nuance from the original (eg "Google is your friend" became "Use Google"), so I'm not sure that's much better.

Passengers (2016)
Mechanic Chris Pratt is in hypersleep on board a spaceship to a new colony, when a meteorite collision causes a malfunction on the ship. Pratt wakes up 90 years too early and he's the only one on board apart from android barman Michael Sheen. Dare he wake up alluring writer Jennifer Lawrence to keep him company? And if he does, what will she do when he finds out he's effectively killed her? And was his malfunctioning hypersleep pod the only thing damaged by the collision?

A lot has been written about the gender politics of Pratt's actions in this and to be fair, the movie does go at great lengths not to dodge the ethical questions involved. It's also far more of a piece of science-fiction than you might have assumed and everything looks very beautiful. But ultimately this is a two-hander between Pratt and Lawrence and how much you'll want to watch this and their musings about the meaning of life and death very much depends on how much like both of them, whether you find their age gap a bit creepy and whether you think Pratt unconsensually violating sleeping Lawrence's body (metaphorically) is too much of an obstacle to your enjoying the movie. There's a brief appearance by (spoiler) Laurence Fishburne and a so-brief-you-probably-won't-even-see-his-face cameo by (spoiler) Andy Garcia, too, which makes me think there's a longer cut of the movie out there somewhere…

The Accountant (2016)
An odd attempt to revive The Saint but without paying a licence fee, in which rather than Val Kilmer playing a swashbuckling and suave master criminal who adopts Catholic saints as his noms de plume, we have Ben Affleck playing a socially awkward savant and master criminal who adopts the names of famous mathematicians as his noms de plume, as he goes about… analysing the finances of whomever will pay him. Anna Kendrick is the Elisabeth Shue of the piece, a mid-level accountant who finds an irregularity in her employer (John Lithgow)'s books that Affleck can't stop himself from investigating. Except Affleck has a very specific code of conduct and if any of his employers break it, he'll use all the training his psych ops army dad gave him to kill them with extreme prejudice. Trouble is, Lithgow has hired Jon Bernthal (Marvel's Daredevil's The Punisher) to protect him so Affleck might not find the going so easy and Treasury agent Cynthia Addai-Robinson is chasing after him in the exact same way she chases Ryan Phillippe in Shooter

Written by Bill Dubuque (The Judge and Netflix's forthcoming Ozark) and directed by Gavin O'Connor (Warrior), oddly enough the film is more about an accountant with autistic spectrum disorder than it is about a fighty master assassin, with Affleck redeploying the 'tortured hero with a disability' routine he used in Daredevil to evoke sympathy as he does a lot of A Beautiful Mind-like writing on vertical surfaces. But oddly, although its portrayal of ASD's sensory issues as something that simply needs to be overcome through harsh regimens of fighting, flashing lights, loud noise and hitting yourself with a stick is probably a little contra-indicated, it's surprisingly accurate, albeit more in a Bron/Broen (The Bridge) sort of way than Life, Animated, with Affleck's character driven by, advantaged by and disadvantaged by his condition throughout.

The ending is surprising, the fight scenes are genuinely very good, and Affleck and Kendrick are frequently amusing together. And I promise you you'll never see Martha from The Americans the same way by the end. It's nonsense and there's one scene in which JK Simmons sits down to explain the entire plot to the audience, but it's nevertheless a jolly entertaining, surprisingly smart, surprisingly generous action movie that does for ASD what Daredevil does for blindness.

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News: The Halcyon cancelled; The 100, Good Karma Hospital, Schitt's Creek renewed; + more

Posted on March 13, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Preacher - season 2

Canadian TV

UK TV

US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

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What have you been watching? Including MacGyver, Lucifer, Doctor Doctor and Mr Robot

Posted on September 26, 2016 | Post a comment | 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. 

I think I did pretty well last week at keeping up with all the new TV releases. It wasn't until Thursday/Friday when a big bunch of them dropped in my lap that I fell behind. All the same, there have been a few new ones over the weekend, too, which makes my job a little harder. I'll try to catch up with them over the coming week, but my workload's a bit fierce so I might end up doing 'mini-reviews'.

Elsewhere, I've already reviewed The Good Place (US: NBC), Kevin Can Wait (US: CBS), Bull (US: CBS), This Is Us (US: NBC; UK: Channel 4), Designated Survivor (US: ABC; UK: Netflix), Lethal Weapon (US: CBS; UK: ITV) and The Exorcist (US: Fox; UK: Syfy). This week, I'm aiming to review the first episodes of Van Helsing (US: Syfy), Berlin Station (US: Epix), Insecure (US: HBO), Pitch (US: Fox) and Notorious (US: ABC), as well as pass third-episode verdicts on Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) and The Good Place. If I have time, I might even preview Falling Water (US: USA). I wouldn't put any money on that happening, though.

After the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of Doctor Doctor, High Maintenance, Halt and Catch Fire and You're The Worst, as well as the season finale of Mr Robot and the return of Lucifer. But before that, there was one other new show I took a look at…

MacGyver (US: CBS)
A quick glance over TMINE, including the original's appearance in Nostalgia Corner and an attempt to crowdsource ideas for a female MacGyver, should show you how keen various people have been over the years to reboot the 80s action show about an engineering genius turned spy who uses his technical prowess to get himself out of scrapes, often with the help of a Swiss Army Knife.

Finally, though, someone's finally gone and done it - twice, in fact, since the first pilot was scrapped, most of the cast fired, and this exceedingly awful new episode filmed in June with a new cast to replace it. A reboot, rather than a sequel, MacGyver sees former army bomb disposal expert turned super secret spy Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class) as the new MacGyver, former CSI George Eads as the ex-Delta Jack Dalton, who together 'bro' their way around the world in an effort to stop Vinnie Jones from killing everyone with a bioweapon. 

Whereas the original series was at great pains to ensure the science of the piece was at least semi-feasible and novel, this new MacGyver thinks science is for sissies, but can't dispense with it altogether because what is MacGyver without some macgyvering? So the other head-nod to the original beside the names and the voiceover (somewhat wooden in this case) is also the worst part of the show, with Till either using a paper clip (you can tell it's a paper clip because every time he uses it, the words 'Paper Clip' appear on the screen) or something inaccurate you've seen in a movie some time (eg passing a biometric scan using a fingerprint obtained by dusting a previous fingerprint), rather than anything halfway competent.

It's also got a few women problems and every so often thinks to itself, "Maybe I could do that bit in the pilot of Scorpion. Or Hawaii Five-O's," since sticking to one remake is too hard. If only it had been as interesting as either of those, though, since 10 minutes before the end, I was clubbing myself in the hope that it would be ending soon. That's when they nicked a bit from Intelligence and I gave up.

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