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Reviews of UK TV programmes


May 13, 2015

Preview: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 1x1 (UK: BBC One; US: BBC America)

Posted on May 13, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, BBC One. Starts 17th May
In the US: Saturdays, 10/9c, BBC America. Starts 13th June

As we all know, it’s been a long, long time since any great acts of magic have been performed on these British Isles. Hundreds of years, in fact – perhaps not even since the time of the Raven King.

There are, of course, theoretical magicians still, those with the wit to discuss spells and the history of magic. But practical magicianship is something that no true gentleman would even contemplate. One might even conjecture that true magic is no longer even possible, leaving us with just street magicians and their mere tricks of confidence.

At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. Yet one Mr Norrell, a resident of the city of York and collector of rare books, maintains that in fact not only is magic possible, but that he is in fact a fair practical magician. And he would like to put himself at the services of the country in our current war against France and the tyrant Napoleon.

What say you?

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April 13, 2015

What have you been watching? Including American Odyssey, Daredevil, Olympus and Silicon Valley

Posted on April 13, 2015 | 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.

I’ve been away for a fortnight, so that means there’s a fair bit to cover this time round, including (gasp!) some new shows. But first, movies.

The Raid 2 (2014) (Netflix)
Sequel to the brilliantly kinetic The Raid, in which the cream of Indonesian martial arts talent kicked arse in a variety of amazingly choreographed scenes, photographed beautifully by Welsh director Gareth Evans. This time, hero Rama, rather than fight his way up a building, instead has to go undercover with a crime family, first in prison, then in Indonesia at large, as the young son tries to take over the empire from his dad by stirring up trouble with his Japanese rivals.

Unfortunately, compared to the brilliant original, The Raid 2 is a somewhat dull affair for most of the first half, as Evans makes the mistake of trying to give us story and acting, rather than fists and kicks to the head. Everything starts to crank up nicely towards the end, though, with Evans giving us some beautifully shot scenes and the various martial artists do some death-defying tricks. However, everyone’s ability to survive multiple machete strikes starts to get more than a tad improbable at times.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) (Netflix)
Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatisation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, with Jessica Chastain the driven CIA analyst on a decade-long quest to catch the al Qaeda head. Again, a slow starter with years going by with nothing much happening. It’s only once Chastain makes the right connections that things begin to crank up, with Bigelow lending Seal Team Six her Oscar-winning action skills at the end. The movie is thankfully jingoism- and hyperbole-free, giving us a thoughtful CIA trying to do its best against near impossible odds, with no sci-fi weapons to help out. But weirdly, in retrospect, the movie feels more like a trial run for later Marvel movies, with Seal Team Six seemingly recruiting largely from SHIELD (Callan Mulvey, Frank Grillo) and Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt). There’s also the mysterious cameo by The Barrowman himself.

After the jump, tele, including first tries of American Odyssey, Olympus, Thunderbirds are Go! and Daredevil, as well as look at the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, American Crime, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Forever, Fortitude, House of Cards, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, One Big Happy, The Returned and Vikings. I'm giving up on not one, not two but three of those – which do you reckon they’ll be?

And no, I haven’t watched last night’s Game of Thrones yet, so no spoilers.

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March 30, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Bloodline, The Good Witch, 19-2 and Fortitude

Posted on March 30, 2015 | 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.

So it’s Easter next week and I’m away at weddings and then taking a brief break, which means this is the last round-up for a fortnight. Somehow, though, I’m practically bang up to date. How did that happen?

I even managed to try a couple of new programmes.

Bloodline (Netflix)
A family on a Florida island is big in the local community, having run a hotel for 45 years and one of their sons (Kyle Chandler from Early Edition) being the sheriff. Then their black sheep eldest son returns to the fold, brining all manner of misery with him.

That sounds quite exciting, doesn’t it? But on the strength of the first episode, I’ll be putting this on my low priority “To watch” list, since it was quite impressively dull, despite the lovely location photography. In particular, there’s a scene that lasts about three or four minutes in which the three brothers argue over about whether or not black sheep’s girlfriend can sit at the family table for lunch. I kid you not. The only thing that managed to make watching the first episode at all was a hackneyed flash forward to more interesting times, interspersed throughout the episode.

The Good Witch (US: The Hallmark Channel)
The Hallmark Channel’s one of those channels that I pay almost no attention to, whatsoever. I bet you don’t either. Did you know that Andie MacDowell has had a show running on it for three seasons called Cedar Cove? I bet you didn’t, unless you’ve been paying a lot of attention to my News pages.

Equally, since 2008, there have on the Hallmark Channel been no fewer than seven The Good Witch movies starring JAG’s Catherine Bell as the absurdly named Cassandra Nightingale, a good witch who moves into a small town and starts helping people with herbal remedies, magic spells, etc. Over the course of those movies, she’s got married, raised kids and had a kid of her own. And now she’s got her own TV series, which started last month. But because it’s on the Hallmark Channel, I didn’t notice any of this until now – because even I don’t pay that much attention to my News pages.

Anyway, I tried watching the first episode, in which somewhat miserably her husband from the movies has now died (Chris Potter from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, who’s too busy filming Canada’s Heartland to do more than a movie now and then). So now she has a potential new love interest in the shape of new neighbour James Denton (The Threat Matrix, Desperate Housewives) – how long will it be before he works out she’s a witch?

And that’s when I remembered why I don’t watch anything on the Hallmark Channel – it’s all twee rubbish, with the emotional depth of a Hallmark card, and as dreadfully written, too. It makes Charmed look like 24 in comparison. Avoid.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, American Crime, Arrow, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Community, The Flash, Forever, Fortitude, iZombie, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Vikings.

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