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.
Yes, I’m back. Hopefully, you’ll have noticed already, if not, let this be my notice to you. So what have you been watching this Christmas? For me, not a lot of tele, although after the jump, I’ll be running through the likes of Doctor Who, Ground Floor, The Librarians, Mulaney, State of Affairs and Y Gwyll/Hinterland – I’ve already reviewed Galavant and Marco Polo elsewhere, in case those float your boat.
No, as is traditional over the Christmas period, it’s been all about the movies.
Despicable Me (2010)/Despicable Me 2 (2013) – iTunes
Evil villain dedicates his life to evil, only to find himself saving the day when an even worse evil turns up. If that sounds very similar to Megamind, that’s because it is and Despicable Me at least is decidedly inferior to that movie. However, many of the elements from the first movie that were more of an annoyance in Despicable Me – the three girls the evil ‘Gru’ adopts and his small yellow minions – come into their own in the far superior second movie, with the minions in particular turning into some very entertaining French-speaking oddities that are now warranting their own spin-off movie. Still not as good as Megamind, but more suitable for a younger audience and not without considerable charms.
Frozen (2013) – iTunes
Late to the show as always, I finally got round to watching the most popular animated movie in history. And actually, it’s not bad and its ending is pleasingly different from virtually all other Disney movies, with a story that’s more about the value of sisterhood than finding true love. It’s also got a couple of catchy songs that despite the occasional dodgy lyric (‘frozen fractal’ – oh dear God) you’ll find yourself quoting the best bits of at random points during the day and Kristen Bell turns out to be quite a good singer/voice actress. It’s just annoying that after a slightly uninspiring start, along the way, the whole thing feels like it’s been directed with the aim of having a stage show on ice spin-off, with some scenes even shot exactly like a West End musical rather than a film. But it’s survived a couple of re-watches already, so it must be a good ‘un, I reckon.
The Legend of Hercules (2014) – Netflix
Surprisingly, of the two Hercules movies released last year, this turns out to be far the superior to the Dwayne Johnson version and is faithful enough to both call him Alcides for most of the movie, rather than Herakles/Hercules, and to have a decent recreation of Tiryns based on the discoveries at Mycenae. It stars Kellan Lutz (Syrup, Twilight) as Alcides, who has to deal with both his evil god-rejecting mortal dad Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) and the revelation that his true dad is Zeus, king of the gods. While the movie eschews the conventional Labours bar the Nemean Lion in favour of new plots, it’s not to its credit that it messes around with the natures of Amphitryon, Alcmene and Iphicles in quite the way it does; neither is the strange middle section where the film decides it wants to be Spartacus so much it actually brings in Spartacus himself (Liam McIntyre) and sticks him and Hercules into a gladiatorial arena to fight baddies, more than a millennium before the gladiatorial arenas for thousands of spectators existed. But while it does stray, it does so in interesting ways. No one’s walking away with any acting or writing awards, but if you’re going to watch a Hercules movie, this is the best one.
Maleficent (2014) – iTunes
Disney does a Wicked with the wicked witch of Sleeping Beauty (Angelina Jolie), giving us the inside track on why she became evil and whether things were quite as one-sided as other movies might have suggested. Oddly, a much better film when dealing with the younger, pre-Jolie Maleficent and the whole thing boils down to ‘some boy done me wrong’, but innovative and enjoyable despite the relentless Disney co-branding.
Non-stop (2014) – Amazon Instant Video
Essentially an Agatha Christie locked room mystery, with one passenger on a plane killing off the others, one at a time, unless he or she is paid a big sum of money. Only air marshall Liam Neeson can find out who it is – by punching and shooting people a lot. Quite a taut and nuanced post-9/11 thriller that's only slightly stupid at first but which turns into absolute bobbins once the identity of the killer is revealed. Nevertheless, there are worse action thrillers out there, a lot of them starring Liam Neeson, too.