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An archive of all the blog's theatre reviews. There's also an archive and an A-Z index of all reviews.


February 9, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Hiding, Winter, One Man, Two Guvnors and Agent Carter

Posted on February 9, 2015 | 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. 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.

It’s February so time for some more new programmes, some of them quite awkwardly scheduled, given I actually went out and did things this weekend. So, I’ve already reviewed the first episode of Allegiance today, and I’ll be reviewing the first two episodes of Fresh Off The Boat tomorrow. Given that Better Call Saul aired its first episode yesterday and is airing its second episode tonight, I’ll hold off on that until later in the week, too.

However, I did have time to watch two new Australian shows, as well.

Hiding (Australia: ABC)
Criminal is arrested but won’t give up the rest of his gang – until he’s nearly murdered in prison and decides he wants to be safe and free. He agrees to snitch but he and his family have to be relocated to Sydney for their own protection – except naturally, the foreign-sounding gang boss wants to find him… Supposedly a ‘unique blend of humour and tension’, instead, for the first half at least, you’ll be wanting to sue under the Trade Descriptions Act, as it’s got neither humour nor tension (although the prison fights scenes aren’t bad). But things pick up once the relocation has happened, particularly in the university where our ‘hero’ is supposed to now work and when the family have to wrestle with concerns about whether they’ll become ’Sydney dickheads’ or not. I’ll give the second episode a try, at least.

Winter (Australia: Seven)
There is, apparently, one country on Earth that still uses the tried and tested “TV movie then series” method of dipping a toe in the water and then launching a new show: Australia. In this case, Winter is a spin-off series from the 2013 Seven TV movie The Killing Field, in which former Flying Doctors Rebecca Gibney and Peter O’Brien are rival police detectives investigating crimes, which for some reason usually involve teenage girls being killed. Without having seen the movie, it’s hard to say how this stacks up against the original, but as a standalone show, it was astonishingly dull and predictable, with O’Brien a happy slapper cop, Gibney a frosty (one might almost say ‘wintery’) methodical cop who looks down on his unprofessional ways. Despite the obvious nods to The Killing and Broadchurch, the show’s saving grace is that rather than ‘the maverick cop who doesn’t play by the book’ (O’Brien) being the star, it’s Gibney’s show. But that doesn’t stop it being a waste of an hour of your life. Fans of Outrageous Fortune and The Blue Rose will notice the presence of Antonia Prebble.

I’ve not had time to watch Spiral (Engrenages), either, and my wife still hasn’t been in the mood to watch Cougar Town. But after the jump, I’ll take a look at the regulars, including 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Elementary, The Flash, Gotham, Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Spiral (Engrenages), State of Affairs, and Suits. Of those, one of them is being promoted to recommended and two are being cast away from the viewing list forever – but which ones!?

I also went to the theatre this week!

One Man, Two Guvnors (NT touring production)
Carlo Goldoni Commedia dell’arte-esque Il servitore di due padroni is relocated by Richard Bean (Great Britain) to 1963 Brighton, with the easily confused Francis Henshall becoming employed by two gangsters, one upper class, one working class, and having to juggle his responsibilities. Despite the fact that the role of Henshall was originally taken by James Corden, for whom every single line appears to have been personally tailored, Gavin Spokes is a great replacement and the play is actually hilariously funny, respecting and both commenting on Commedia dell’arte as it goes, complete with audience interaction. Highly recommended.

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November 28, 2014

What have you been watching? Including The Imitation Game, Great Britain, State of Affairs and The Fall

Posted on November 28, 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.

Last round-up for a fortnight, since I’m going to be away next week. But with it being Thanksgiving this week and a lot of shows delivering up their mid-season finales, I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot on to watch next week. I might even have to watch British TV for a change. Shudder.

I didn’t quite have time to get round to watching and reviewing Sky Arts’ Danish import The Legacy, but I’ll definitely be doing that on Monday. Definitely. And I’m in two minds about whether to bother with BBC One’s spooky Remember Me, featuring Michael Palin. But I did manage to watch both a movie and a play.

The Imitation Game (2014)
A potted biography of British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), covering his childhood, work during World War Two breaking the Nazi Engima machine cypher and eventual chemical castration following conviction for his criminal conviction for homosexuality. Cumberbatch is outstanding as the older Turing, while Keira Knightley excels as a fellow Bletchley Park brain and Turing’s fiancée, despite having a pretty underwritten role to deal with. Although the script is more at pains to express how much international involvement there was in the Engima effort, unlike certain movies I could mention, it isn’t brilliantly executed and glosses over a lot of the work necessary in the decryption, both before and after it was initially cracked. However, the story, Turing and the cast (which also includes Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Rory Kinnear) are strong enough that despite the script’s flaws, the movie still wows over the audience and is deservedly likely to be this year’s King Speech.

Great Britain (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors) casts his eyes over UK newspaper history for the past 30 years and sticks it all together in one tabloid, The Free Press, which soon discovers that hacking people’s voicemails isn’t that hard – particularly if you’re both literally and figuratively in bed with the police. It’s a very well executed piece that draws on fake TV broadcasts, newspapers, audience interaction and even YouTube mash-ups to tell its story, and the more you know, the funnier it gets, with Andy Coulson, Kelvin MacKenzie, Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Piers Morgan and others all getting skewered by proxy through their various fictional amalgams and equivalents. Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate, The Class, Bad Teacher) takes over from Billie Piper in this production, as the definitely-not-any-real-person tabloid protagonist, and makes the role her own, even if her accent fails to convince as either working class or Bristolian. Definitely of interest to anyone who knows anything about modern newspaper history and knows what the News Bunny was, or to anyone who likes a laugh.

After the jump, I’ll be running through: Constantine, Elementary, The Fall, The Flash, Gotham, Gracepoint, Mulaney, The Newsroom, Scorpion and State of Affairs.

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November 21, 2014

What have you been watching? Including Cara Fi, The Comeback, Neville's Island, Robocop (2014), Constantine and The Fall

Posted on November 21, 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.

First, I’ll apologise in advance for the typos: I’m just heading out the door to watch The Imitation Game.

Anwyay, we’re nearing Thanksgiving and the Christmas season (aka ‘December’) which means that viewing options are starting to drop off, new shows are few and far between, and old shows are giving us their mid-season finales. But I have watched a couple of new things, including State of Affairs, which I’ve reviewed elsewhere.

Cara Fi (UK: S4C)
A dying Welsh village puts the faces of its single men on the sides of milk cartons to attract women there. Starring Dave Coaches (Steffan Rhodri) from Gavin & Stacey, it’s pretty gentle, not especially romantic comedy with a sad basis in reality. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s a different change of pace from the usual fare and it clips along decently enough.

The Comeback (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Lisa Kudrow plays a fading, once semi-famous actress, trying to use reality TV to make a comeback, only to discover that she might get a second chance, playing a thinly veiled pastiche version of herself in a sitcom. Technically the show’s second season, it’s first season airing in 2005, and since then, most of its young stars (Kellan Lutz, Malin Akerman) have gone on to better things, although Akerman makes a cameo in the first episode, Lutz lined up for a later appearance. However, as with the first season, this is such an insider TV show that even though I’ve been writing about TV and US TV for the best part of two decades, even I found it a bit niche. More damningly, I didn’t laugh once. Fans says the show’s simply ahead of the curve, in which case I’ll probably find it funny in 10 years’ time, but seeing as most of it is cringe comedy and laughing at people who’ve fallen on hard times, maybe not.

I’ve also watched a movie:

Robocop (2014)
Remake of the 1980s ‘classic’, this hits neither the original’s lows nor its highs, loses virtually all the satire, and ditches Nancy Allen’s tough female partner for Omar from The Wire. Nevertheless, the story of a murdered cop turned into a cybernetic police officer for a privatised police force does actually do some interesting and different things, looking at the concepts of free will, the nature of perception, media manipulation, the disabled, prosthetics, and the tensions between altruistic science and those funding it. It’s certainly not memorable and will probably be forgotten about soon enough, but it’s nevertheless a pretty decent film that would probably be a lot more noticeable and notable were it not for the original.

And I’ve been to the theatre, too.

Neville’s Island (Duke of York's)
Four Northern middle managers (Neil Morrissey, Adrian Edmondson, Miles Jupp, Robert Webb) go the wrong way on an outward bounds course and end up stuck on an island in the Lake District. How will they get on together? Will they escape? And will any of them go mad and attack the others? I’m not saying, but it’s a fun play which ultimately doesn’t say a whole lot, but is entertaining nevertheless, with some good performances. It also features one of the best sets I’ve ever seen – or smelt. Seriously, that’s some moist piney goodness they’ve got going on there.

After the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, Constantine, Elementary, The Fall, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Gracepoint, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, The Newsroom and Scorpion.

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