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Reviews of UK TV programmes

January 9, 2017

What have you been watching? Including Beyond, Sherlock, and Man Seeking Woman

Posted on January 9, 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. 

TV networks around the world are starting to crank into life, with a few old favourites returning to our screens and a few more new ones on their way this week (Canada - I'm looking at you here). That means that after the jump, as well as the latest episodes of Shooter and Sherlock, I'll be looking at the return of Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman, and Son of Zorn.

I've not yet had a chance to watch NBC's gritty Wizard of Oz adaptation, Emerald City, from Friday, so I'll be reviewing that separately on Wednesday. But the other major newbie out last week was…

Beyond (US: Freeform; UK: Available now on Netflix)
A gender-swapped insipid amalgam of every other Young Adult sci-fi/fantasy show you've ever watched, whether it be Twilight or even Freeform's own Kyle XY, in which a young adult (Burkely Duffield in this case) discoveres he's very, very special for some arbitrary reason and both a skulking conspiracy and a band of goodies want to recruit him to their respective teams.

Here, the conceit is that Duffield was knocked out when he was 12 years old and since then has been in a coma. Except during that time, his disembodied consciousness went to another realm - unimaginatively called The Realm - something that's given him telekinetic/firestarting abilities. Waking up, he's pursued by a 'man in a yellow jacket' (Peter Kelamis), as well as a foreign-sounding 'ninja girl from The Matrix' (Dilan Gwyn), while having visions of an old man (Alex Diakun). Duffield not only has to recover his memories from that time in The Realm and try to escape those who would control him, he's also got to get used to the new world of cellphones, Wikipedia and being a 12-year-old in a 24-year-old's surprisingly unatrophied body. There's also all the changes in his family, with younger brother now effectively the elder brother and his parents having separated.

There are moments in Beyond - most of them in the pilot - where the show's almost cool, such as when Duffield uses his powers for the first time. There's also a sweet charm to Duffield's character, who tries to woo girls by talking about science and history, because that's all he knows about, having missed out on half his life. Kelamis's 'yellow jacket' is both sinister and amusing, and the introduction in episode 5 or so of a coma-girl with powers of her own was a welcome addition.

But I managed to sit through six episodes without finding anything much more than that, although maybe I should have held on a bit longer until Martin Donovan shows up as the Big Bad. There's not much danger, nothing too exciting about The Realm beyond a few dogs. Duffield's powers seem to consist of accidentally blowing things up a lot, which gets boring after a while. Gwyn is far less Trinity, far more Bella (but before she gets all cool and vampirey), constantly pining after Duffield but never actually doing much. 

The show also has a 24-year-old's memory of history. So while it's interesting we learn that US youth have in just 12 years gone from first making phone calls to talk to someone they like to texting them (something last week's Lethal Weapon touches on, oddly enough), everything else exists in an oddly timeless vacuum. While we're clearly in something like the present day, judging by the phones and the CSI:Miami-style floating displays and touchscreens behind invalids' beds, Duffield doesn't know about Apple Computers (iPod generation 2 released 2002) and his 12-year-old self had a bedroom adorned with original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back posters. Meanwhile, Kelamis wears a pair of glasses straight out of 1988.

All in all, you're probably better off watching Shadowhunters, if you're going to be watching any YA fantasy shows.

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January 3, 2017

What have you been watching? Including The Mick, Sherlock, Mechanic: Resurrection, The OA and The Bureau

Posted on January 3, 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. 

Well hello. How are you today? Have a nice break away from it all? That's what I like to hear. 

Right, that's the small talk done. Let's talk telly.

So, I didn't watch an awful lot over the Christmas break, since I was actually in Germany and if you've ever watched German TV, you'll remember what a mistake that was (more about that tomorrow). But after the jump I'll be talking about the regulars I did watch, including the return of Doctor Who (briefly) and Sherlock (less briefly):

Global Internet
The OA 

Doctor Who, Sherlock

Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau)


However, New Year's Day was on Sunday and Americans being quite efficient, there have already been two new shows to grace the screens. I've already reviewed Ransom (US: CBS) but on top of that there was:

The Mick (US: Fox)
A gender-swapped, race-swapped Uncle Buck that sees It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Kaitlin Olson playing the white trash grifter sister to a billionaire's wife who gets lumbered with looking after the kids when the rich couple go on the run following fraud investigations. If she sticks around, she gets to enjoy the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But she'll also have to deal with the bitchy neighbours, the bitchy daughter and the entitled son.

The show's created by John Chernin and Dave Chernin, the creators of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, so you shouldn't be too surprised to hear that it's funnier than you might think, more accurate about being poor than you might think and also based around people being mean too one another verbally and physically in order to get one up on everyone else. Olson's very good as the Mick(ey) of the title and everyone is marvellously bitchy, too.

Except that's not my idea of fun, so I probably won't stick with it.

I also watched a movie.

Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)
Sequel in name only to the actually not that bad 2011 Jason Statham remake of the Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent actioner, The Mechanic. Here, Mechanic: Resurrection throws pretty much all the first movie's nuance aside in favour of a sort of melange of The Transporter, The Transporter 2 and The Internecine Project. No longer the meticulous hit-man planner of yore, Statham is retired in Brazil until fellow East End child army survivor (don't ask) turned billionaire bad guy Sam Hazeldine (Peaky BlindersResurrection) blackmails him into returning to his old life by abducting new girlfriend Jessica Alba. Only if Statham kills three of Hazeldine's impossible-to-reach rivals in ways that look like accidents will Hazeldine release Alba. He says.

Foresaking The Mechanic (2011)'s character building and steely professionalism, Mechanic: Resurrection is an insultingly stupid piece of work that tries to give us glossy backdrops, non-stop Statham fight scenes, a bit of ultraviolence and a bit of casual racism as a substitute, hoping we'll like it better. Certainly, the stars seemed to have liked it, because Alba's former Afghanistan soldier turned teacher of Cambodian children is an insult to women, but she does get to go to lots of tropical islands; Tommy Lee Jones gets more of the same travel action, but perhaps was also swayed by the chance to play a socialist arms dealer with a James Bond-style underwater base and submarine using all the subtlety he deployed in Under Siege; Michelle Yeoh was purely there for the tropical islands and not to have to do anything athletic for a change, as far as I could tell.

To be fair, most Statham movies take the piss a little bit and Statham is as aware of that as anyone. Certainly, the fact he takes his shirt off in almost every other scene can't be accidental and I refuse to believe that the FX shots were anything other than deliberate tributes to Derek Meddings' model work in 1970s James Bond movies. There's a certain amount of tongue going into cheek here.

But the writing is still terrible and worst of all, almost none of the murders Statham is supposedly hired to make look like accidents would pass as such for more than a minute. Terrible.

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October 31, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Doctor Strange, Central Intelligence and X-Men: Apocalypse

Posted on October 31, 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. 

"We're now nearing mid-Fall season/mid-Spring season (delete according to the hemisphere of your choice), which means there's few new shows heading our way"

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! What fool said that?

It's never going to stop. We're at peak TV so it's never going to stop. Help.

In the past week, I've reviewed the first few episodes of Chance (US: Hulu), Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix), Man With A Plan (US: CBS) and Graves (US: Epix). But that's not really scratching the surface, since although I'll be tackling Pure Genius (US: CBS; UK: Universal) and The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2) tomorrow and/or Wednesday, I'm not going to have time this week to make a dent in Amazon's Good Girls Revolt. I've also had no time to watch Channel Zero (US: Syfy; UK: 5*), but since that's an anthology horror show, I have no qualms in deciding I'm not going to watch it. I've also noticed that Young Pope (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) has started in the US, but since it's already started in the UK, too, you can probably work out for yourselves whether you like it. 

However, good news! I'm away for a couple of days at the end of the week, which means I can start a mid-season cull through the usual simple mechanism of asking myself "Can I be arsed to play catch up with this show when I get back?"

Accordingly, I'm waving goodbye to Kim's Convenience, No Tomorrow, The Secret Daughter and Speechless, as well as - shock, horror! -  two long-standing regulars! Find out which ones after the jump. Frequency, Lucifer, Timeless and Designated Survivor are also on the endangered list and it'll just be case of finding out when I get back whether I can be arsed to play catch up with them.

Elsewhere, I've passed third episode verdicts on Insecure (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) and Falling Water (US: USA), with Insecure failing to stay on the viewing pile. We'll see if I can be arsed with Falling Water when I get back.

That means that after the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes (that I've seen) of Ash vs Evil Dead, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, Doctor Doctor, Eyewitness, The Flash, Frequency, Hyde and Seek, Impastor, Lucifer, Son of Zorn, Supergirl, Timeless, Travelers and You're The Worst. I've not yet had time to watch the latest Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Eyewitness and Westworld, and since Y Gwyll (Hinterland) and Humans both chose to make a reappearance last night, don't be too surprised I haven't manage to watch them, either.

But somehow, I did manage to find time to watch a few movies…

Central Intelligence (2016)
Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson both went to High School together, Hart being the golden boy voted most likely to succeed, Johnson the fat kid everyone picks on. Twenty years later, Hart is an accountant while Johnson is a top CIA agent who needs Hart's accounting skills to find out who killed his partner (Aaron Paul) and is selling top secret satellite codes. Or is he? Could it be that Johnson is really a traitor, which is why the CIA is out to get him?

Kevin Hart is normally a cast iron guarantee that a bad movie is coming your way and this has all the hallmarks of being Kevin Hart in the kind of movie Adam Sandler rejects as being too low brow. But actually, it's reasonably funny and smarter than you expect it to be, right down to a crucial Rashomon-esque lift scene. Hart is surprisingly unirritating, too, there's a jaunty 90s soundtrack, and Johnson manages to do both action and comedy pretty well.

Doctor Strange (2016)
The latest Marvel movie sees arrogant surgeon Benedict Cumberbatch injured in a car accident and unable to operate any more. He heads East and before he knows it, as well as learning how to heal himself, he's learning magic from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her helpers (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong), so that he can fight her former helper Mads Mikkelsen who wants to make everyone immortal… but in a really bad, murderous way.

On the one hand, it's oftentimes a really visually impressive movie, with echoes of everything from Inception through 2001: A Space Odyssey, as reality warps and the action jumps between universes and dimensions. It's got a top cast and the script, while treading often cliched ground at times, also channels Eastern philosophies to give us a slightly different take on the usual 'great evil that must be defeated through brute force', which is what Marvel normally gives us - squint, in fact, and you can spot a bit of Daoism, a bit of Buddhism and a bit of Kung Fu. Indeed, Mikkelsen is at times almost irrelevant to the larger personal journey that Cumberbatch is undergoing, such is the change in focus.

However, there are various production choices that undermine it all tad. Cumberbatch is saddled with an American accent he really doesn't need and which affects his performance, fight scenes are endless shakycam and Michael Giacchino's score is the usual strings-dominant orchestral pieces that rob the movie of the true weirdness it deserves. It's also not as funny as it thinks it is.

On the whole, pretty good, but could have been better.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Last of the three prequel movies featuring the younger X-Men cast (at least, for now…), with the action shifting to the 80s as an Ancient Egyptian mutant/god comes back to life and decides to wipe the Earth clean of weaker specimens who won't obey him. He assembles his own team to go and fight the good mutants, which now include young versions of Night Crawler, Jean Grey and Cyclops, as well as the usual usual and some of the characters from X-Men: First Class who didn't get much/any screentime in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And guess who also shows up…

There's nothing that new and remarkable about X-Men: Apocalypse, with very little you won't have seen in either the first three movies or the prequels. But if you haven't watched those movies, you'll be wondering about a whole bunch of things the film assumes you already know, so it's a bit lose-lose. However, the film is good when it's focused on the more human side of things, whether it's Jean's and Cyclops' romance, Magneto's family, James McAvoy and Rose Byrne's 20-year-long romance, and so on, making it a surprisingly decent third act. 

A bit meh, but Bryan Singer's talents mean it's not X-Men: Last Stand, for sure.

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