Archive | TV reviews

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


May 22, 2015

Preview: Supergirl 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on May 22, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Supergirl costume

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, CBS. Starts November
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Is there truly no such thing as bad publicity? That is what George Schweitzer would apparently argue, based on how many hits the trailer for Supergirl got - 10 million.

Never mind that a lot of those who watched the trailer thought that it was nothing more than the Saturday Night Live spoof Black Widow sketch actually turned into a real TV show, with horrific cliches oozing from every pore. They watched it and for Schweitzer that’s all that counts. Presumably that’s what he’s paid to do and whether people subsequently tune in and enjoy the show is the purview of someone else.

But can a trailer truly convey what a show is like? Or by judicious editing can you make it seem like a completely different show? Even if that show is terrible and your show is actually quite good?

Someone needs to find out. That someone is me. Brace yourself - I’m reviewing the pilot after the jump.

But in case you haven’t watched it, here’s that trailer.

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What have you been watching? Including Residue, American Sniper and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Posted on May 22, 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.

As we sit in the gap between the end of the Fall 2014-15 season and the summer season in the US, Canada and most countries around the world, we discover the horror that is not having any tele to watch. I’ve even been reading books. Gasp!

But I have found a few other things to watch and tell you about, don’t you worry. I’ve already reviewed the first two episodes of 1864 elsewhere, and after the jump, as well as the usual usuals of Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, I’ll be casting my eye over Netflix’s three-part Brit sci-fi/horror gloom Residue. But I’ve actually managed to watch a couple of movies, too. Well, parts of movies…

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014) (iTunes)
The third of the almost interminable Hobbit movies sees Bilbo and the dwarves facing orc armies, dragons and more in a whole bunch of scenes that definitely weren’t in the book. The big Hobbit conclusion – Bard killing Smaug – happens in the first 10 minutes or so, after which it’s all about big armies of CGI beasts smashing each other, and elves being stoic and doing the right thing, all while Thorin (Richard Armitage) fights off his gold addiction. The Hobbit himself (Martin Freeman)? Doesn’t actually do a whole lot…

As I mentioned in the comments on last week’s WHYBW, I did actually start watching this nearly a fortnight ago, got three-quarters the way through then went to bed… and totally forgot I was watching it until this Monday, by which point it was too late to continue watching it without re-renting it. So I’ve no idea if we get cameos from old Bilbo and Frodo (or anyone else) at the end, and probably won’t do until Netflix picks it up. Nevertheless, while you might argue that this all tells you something about me, I’d argue that it tells you something about just how engrossing this third entry in the series really is.

American Sniper (2014) (iTunes)
Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the autobiography of America’s most lethal sniper got a whole lot of attention for something that’s really pretty ordinary at heart. Bradley Cooper does well as the Texan who enlists in the Navy SEALs in the 90s to fight terrorists and ends up shooting an awful lot Iraqis in the 21st century, while Sienna Miller is astonishingly unrecognisable as his long-suffering but tolerant wife.

Eastwood’s direction is relatively pedestrian and matter of fact, and his few forays out into CGI special effects are decidedly ill-advised (did he learn nothing from Firefox?). But the film is notably non-judgemental and reverential of its subject, showing a normal man in a lethal occupation doing his best to defend people and his country, even if he subsequently finds it hard to initially mix with those people when he returns from war.

While it’s easy to criticise the movie for not bothering to make any of the Iraqis anything more than murderers, with scenes at times reminiscent of Zulu’s large-scale slaughter, most members of the audience will be aware of the greys of the situation and that this is just one story about a very complex subject. Worth watching to see just what Bradley Cooper can do as an actor and if you prefer your dramas to have less judgement of its subjects.

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May 15, 2015

Preview: 1864 1x1-1x2 (Denmark: DR1; UK: BBC Four)

Posted on May 15, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

1864

In Denmark: Aired September 2014 on DR1
In the UK: Saturdays, 9pm, BBC Four. Starts 16th May

We’ve been waiting over a year and finally, here it comes: 1864, Denmark’s latest lavish historical drama about the Second Schleswig War, starring Those People You Like from other Danish shows (including Sidse Babett Knudsen and Lars Mikkelsen) as well as Barbara Flynn (The Beiderbecke Affair, A Very Peculiar Practice) as our very own Queen Victoria.

Heard of the Second Schleswig War, have you? No, me neither. It was a somewhat brief affair that took place in - surprise, surprise - 1864, so unsurprisingly for such an overlooked, short conflict, much of 1864 is actually lead-up and background to it. Indeed, the whole show has an odd framing device to explain everything and make it seem relevant: a bored modern day teenager on a school trip.

While we follow her and see how present day conflicts have affected her and robbed her of her brother, we first journey back to the 1850s, shortly after the first Schleswig War, which the Danes had won, emboldening them towards further action a few years later. There, we meet as children two future soldiers of the 1864 war, brothers Peter and Laust, as well as Inge, the girl of their dreams and future conflicts. We see what their lives are like - harsh schools full of pro-Danish, anti-Prussian propaganda, beatings by their dad (Mikkelsen) and, erm, experiments in masturbation and the collection of emissions (Ed: was that scene really necessary?) - again contrasted with the present day slacker-robber of the framing narrative.

We also visit Knudsen, a stage actress, who’s important in Danish society, and get to watch her to do breathing exercises and Macbeth. We also get to see what’s happening in Prussia with the Kaiser and Bismarck, all of which pleasingly enough is in German.

What we don’t get in the first episode is any actual conflict or the torrid love story between Inge and the two brothers, although slightly pretentious narrator Inge does provide us with a little introduction promising us all of this; the end of the first episode also gives us more hints of what's to come later in the series.

Indeed, one might be forgiven for being as bored as the bored teenager, unless your idea of fun is either the general Danish cultural history lesson the show is intent on propagating through background detail or watching Mikkelsen occasionally ploughing fields with his top off. The first episode does end with some big shocks of sorts but nothing huge.

Oddly, things don’t change that much in episode two, with the first half remaining steadfastly in the protagonists’ childhoods, although as Inge points out at the beginning, a few dark clouds are set to appear very quickly. However, the second half moves us forward to adolescence, although not towards any real action.

If you were expecting 1864 to be an epic period war series, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed for quite some time at least. Instead, consider this more as a period coming-of-age story that will eventually have a war as a backdrop, combined with a slightly less interesting modern-day story about a teenage down and out and her relationship with a blind old man in a wheelchair whom she quite fancies robbing but slowly befriends instead.

Clearly, like so much Scandinavian TV, this is something of a slow burn and if you want things to happen, you’ve picked the wrong genre. Indeed, despite having spent two hours watching this not get to the point, I still can’t tell you if it’s worth recommending. I probably won’t be tuning in for the next few episodes (BBC Four scheduling being what it is), but I might, which is more than I usually do with a lot of Scandi dramas, so clearly this is in the upper echelons.

But despite all the effort and money lavished on it, it’s still something that could do with an awful lot of pruning and it’s by no means something that’s going to be to all tastes, even if you are into Scandi dramas.

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