What have you been watching this week (w/e June 24)?

Time for “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: The Apprentice, The Apprentice: You’ve Been Fired, Burn Notice and Come Dine With Me. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • Burn Notice: Oh my God. There’s actually a possibility the Burn Notice formula is going to change. Rather a good first episode, with the format for the series left up in the air at the end. But there are enough clues laid down by the end of the episode that, yes, it’s going to become exactly the same show again next episode.
  • Lead Balloon: Nope. Still not funny.
  • The Protector: Much as I love Ally Walker – Profiler, Universal Soldier, Southland – this is a very tedious bit of typical Lifetime drama: female-oriented therefore (apparently) rather than actually have a coherent crime story for police detective Walker to investigate, we spend most of the episode with Walker helping neighbours with their garden gnome thefts, her boss with his Thai bride, etc. Dire. And I actually think her black female partner qualifies as a race crime.
  • The Shadow Line: was of course completely ludicrous, right to the end. But we were expecting that. Beautifully made, acted, etc – just a shame that the story and the dialogue were so silly. But I’ll never look at Stephen Rea the same way again.

And in this week’s list of movies:

  • Green Lantern: a pretty rubbish first half-hour or so, but it finally kicks into gear after that and isn’t half bad (although ultimately, it’s still very silly, but that’s the source material for you). Blake Lively is woefully under-used (all character set-up for the sequel I suspect). Probably a little more fun but not as good as X-Men: First Class and not as fun or as good as Thor 3D.
  • Speed: Rewatched this for the first time in 27 or so years, which was kind of a coming home for me since it was the first film I ever reviewed professionally (Cambridge Film Festival Daily if you want to know). Still as ludicrous as it was the first time, when I described as the first film made specifically with stupid people in mind, but I have to say Keanu Reeves has actually got better as an actor since…
  • The Lake House: which is the film that reunited him and Sandra Bullock in 2006. Two people living in the same house but separated two years in time find they can send letters to one another using the postbox. Really rather lovely in a lot of ways although you have to disregard the obvious flaw: why don’t they use this miracle to win the lottery?
  • Watchmen: incredible to watch, but ultimately empty and I have to say that I think the new ending is better than the original’s. Some fun in-jokes and some surprising ultra-violence, too.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

  • Gareth Williams

    The new ending to Watchmen makes no sense. In the book the ending forces the US and the USSR to join against a perceived common enemy (the alien octopus thingies) thus preventing nuclear annihilation at each others hand; the perceived enemy at the end of the film is a member of the US military (Doctor Manhattan), and after having destroyed Russian cities would probably be seen as an act of war by the Kremlin.

  • But he doesn’t destroy Russian cities. He (apparently) destroys _a_ Russian city, as well as other cities around the world including New York. He’s been seen to have left the world already, so given there’s no actual strategic reason for the US to just randomly destroy cities around the world, including one of its own, why would the Kremlin think it was the US behind it all?

  • Gareth Williams

    I realise he attacks lots of nations, including the US, but it’s not the fact that the Russians would think that the US was behind the attacks but rather that they were responsible for them.

  • But again, what’s the difference between responsible for and behind the attacks? You mean morally responsible? “Let’s nuke them since they let Dr Manhattan go mental on their watch”? There’s no military reason why, if the US had the capability to destroy all those cities around the world in one go with Dr Manhattan, that they’d need to destroy New York as well or that they wouldn’t have just destroyed all Russian cities, nuclear missiles, members of the Politburo etc as well.
    Anyone, I think it makes _more_ sense than the “psychic dead teleporting Outer Limits alien” ending.

  • Gareth Williams

    Sorry, I wasn’t very clear:
    The US created Dr Manhattan (albeit by accident) and he is technically a US citizen. Manhattan can be be viewed as a weapon created by the Americans and this weapon has malfunctioned (or gone rogue) resulting in tens of millions of death. (New York could be seen as friendly fire ;))
    I’ll agree that the alien squid ending wouldn’t transfer well to screen, and is a relatively weak part of the original source material.
    At the very least I’d imagine massive compensation claims from other nations.

  • SK

    In the super-Cold-War climate posited in Watchmen, do you honestly think that the Kremlin would wait to try to puzzle out what exactly had happened, rather than jumping straight from ‘Dr Manhattan has destroyed one of our cities’ to ‘press the button’? This is, after all, a world where the doomsday clock stands at about ten seconds to midnight, where fingers are closer to triggers than they ever got near in the real world.
    It’s hard enough believing that in the original book the immediate Russian response would really have been ‘goodness an alien threat, we must step back form the brink and think about our response’ and not ‘this octopus-thing must be an American plot, let the missiles fly!’ but to have the destruction be something that’s already associated with the US stretches, I think, that little bit of credibility too far.
    The original book does do a lot more to try to make it plausible — all the psychic stuff with the artists creating a world for the aliens that they beam into people’s minds in order to convince them that the threat was non-terrestrial, that’s all just too long and complicated to fit into a film. Even then it’s touch and go. The film… does less.

  • Mark Carroll

    I liked the “Watchmen” movie a lot; I thought it was an excellent adaptation of the source material, well-made, and I liked the change in ending.
    I think that the destruction of NYC and LA significantly helps the American case just as the loss of NYC did in “Fail Safe”.
    My wife’s still watching “Mad Men”. I think we’re still in season three. I think I still find it well-made, watchable, but not compelling.
    We saw “Unstoppable” last night. That was okay. Better than I expected from the promos, though not by a whole lot. It wasn’t very surprising. I think I liked it partly just because I’ve usually lived near railway tracks in the US and am used to seeing the freight go by.
    The family saw “Megamind”. That turned out to be fairly good, actually. I thought “Despicable Me” better, but not by much.
    I saw “The Tourist”. It wasn’t as boring as I’d feared, but it distinctly stretched credulity at times, increasingly as it went on. I’m not sure it’s worth bothering to watch even a first time.

  • MediumRob

    Violence is surprisingly ritualistic, with almost “set scripts” of behaviour – as in “did you spill my pint?”, “does your mother sew?”, etc. Deviate from the script and violence is surprisingly less likely to occur – Derren Brown has an interesting bit in his book Tricks of the Mind about he was walking home from a gig one night, when a bloke and his girlfriend comes towards him. The guy tries to start a fight (I forget but it was something like “Are you looking at my bird?” or the Welsh equivalent), but Derren just points to the nearby wall and starts talking about how small they are compared to Spanish walls. Bloke ends up sitting down next to Derren on the curb, nearly sobbing his eyes out because he thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him and he wanted to let off steam by picking a fight with someone.
    I think if Russia had seen nuclear missiles coming towards it, it would have followed the script and fired back. I think if it had seen Dr Manhattan walking into Russia, destroying cities as he passed, it would have followed the script and fired its missiles. I think if only Moscow and Beijing had been Manhattanised, it would have fired its missiles.
    But I think seeing New York destroyed and then nothing else happening afterwards, except the US ringing them up and saying “We have a problem. Can we talk?” is sufficiently off-script that they wouldn’t immediately fire back, no matter how tense everything was. People are surprisingly reluctant to destroy the world, even when they are following a script (cf the Cuban Missile Crisis), so I think there’d be enough pause for thought that they wouldn’t immediately strike back.
    But as Gareth says, I’m pretty sure there would be recriminations later on.

  • SK

    I suppose it depends, then, on how far through the script they get before they notice that things are not as they expect: basically, have they pressed the button between noticing that their city has blown up and noticing that New York has too.
    I would still contend, though, that if the script goes ‘notice Dr Manhattan blowing up one of our cities, fire missiles’, the what happens in the film is a rather subtle difference involving then having to notice an extra piece of information: the major point of the script has still been hit (in Derren Brown terms, it would be equivalent to responding to ‘Are you looking at my bird?’ with ‘Yeah, but you were looking at mine!’ — subtely different to the script, but is in enough to avoid a confrontation?).
    Whereas the book’s climax is very definitely and obviously off-script: obvious alien attack is more akin to a totally off-the-wall answer to the question than a subtly wrong one.
    So I stand by my claim that the book does more to establish the plausibility of its ending, and therefore makes the lack of all-out nuclear conflagration easier to swallow than it is in the film.
    It’s not a matter of ‘book is plausible, film isn’t’; it’s a continuum where the book takes pains to be farther from the script than the film does.

  • Loved The Shadow Line right to its utterly insane ending – and yes Stephen Rea was just AWESOME.

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