It’s “What did you watch this week?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.
First, the usual recommendations, which are somewhat dwindling now ‘summer’ has arrived:
- Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
- The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
- Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC)
- The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
- Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.
I tried a few new shows this week. I’ll save my thoughts on NBC’s Save Me for a full review, but here’s what I thought of the others:
The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
Gillian Anderson in what is essentially Prime Suspect 20 years on – writer Allan Cubitt also wrote Prime Suspect 2 – and, for my money, almost as good. Anderson plays a Met police detective superintendent who goes to Belfast to audit an investigation into a murder. However, she quickly realises that she’s chasing a serial killer (Jamie Dornan). Rather than this being a whodunnit, we know from the beginning of Dornan’s culpability – instead, this a dual character piece that examines the equally cool, equally focused killer and cop. The investigation, which also touches on the different and highly political nature of policing in Northern Ireland (the police are all armed and the police station is more like a fort), is handled as realistically and as sensitively as can be, but there are disturbing scenes, despite the overall lack of any blood or violence.
Anderson is great as the cop, who unlike Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison, doesn’t need to convince anyone of her abilities and is happy to have casual sex with whomever she pleases without apology, rather than agonise over relationships; Dornan’s equally good as the killer, who blends right in and even has a young daughter to care after. The writing’s first rate, although there are a few slaps-forehead moments and obviously, it’s yet another serial killer show. There’s also lots of good roles for both men and women. Weirdly, Archie Punjab from The Good Wife shows up as a motorcycle-riding pathologist.
Definitely one to watch – it’s going on the recommended list. American readers – this has been acquired by Netflix and shoot be available from the 28th of this month, but you can watch the first episode below.
A six-part New Zealand series about a widowered cop with a teenage daughter and who’s doing his best to hunt down some violent robbers in a poor community. He has to work against the higher-ups, who are more concerned by headlines that the communities they police and against the demands of his job in raising his daughter. So far, so ordinary, you might think, and largely it is, despite the presence of Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as Harry’s boss, complete with his normal NZ/Australian accent. What’s more interesting is that Harry is co-written by the star, Oscar Kightley, a Maori actor, and the show is bilingual and set largely in the Maori community. It’s got more in common with UK police shows than with US shows, although there are interesting differences, but beyond the cultural issues and twists, there’s not much here that you won’t have seen before.
Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:
- Arrested Development (Netflix): In preparation for the fourth Netflix-exclusive season, I’m trying once again to get into the original series. I’m up to about episode 13 and there have been a couple of episodes where I’ve ‘got’ what everyone loves about the show, but it’s not as funny as it should be.
- Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC): The final batch of episodes are now available to stream from the ABC web site. Such a disappointment that the show was cancelled, since there’s some real dark originality in these episodes.
- Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living): Superbly featuring a cameo by Lance Henriksen (Millennium), this week’s episode minimised the normal body horror slightly in favour of one of its other themes: the horror of madness, with Will becoming increasingly unhinged and worried for his own sanity. However, the most disturbing revelations are another character’s and left until last. I’m still deeply impressed by the show, and if NBC cancel it, they deserve everything they’re going to get. I’ve also just realised that Caroline Dhavernas (Dr Bloom) was the star of Bryan Fuller’s Wonderfalls, which shows you just what a loyal guy he is.
And in movies:
The Rum Diary
Directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), based on a novel by Hunter S Thompson, starring Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart, it should all be great, huh? The novel certainly has an interesting story: Thompson wrote it in the 60s but it was never published until Depp found it lying around and persuaded Thompson to unleash it on the world. To be honest, it’s not a great novel: set on Puerto Rico, it lacks voice, although you get some of the hints of Thompson’s future themes (substance abuse, misogyny), and is really a mood piece about a journalist finding his way on the island.
The film, however, takes all of that and runs with it. Sharing little of the plot or dialogue, and losing a lot of the characters, it’s essentially a prequel to Thompson’s line, reconstructing the whole story so that it’s about how a journalist finds his voice in fighting against rich interests. With minor elements of the novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and even Withnail and I, it’s a whole lot better than the book, too, ditching the misogyny and aimlessness in favour of a much stronger narrative drive, although it still shares some unwelcome elements, including a rape scene (mercifully different from the book’s deeply unpleasant version). Johnny Depp returns to form as Paul Kemp, while Heard is clearly a little out of her depth at this stage in her career. There are some funny moments, but it’s not a movie to go out of your way to see, and doesn’t come close to the best of any of those involved.
“What did you watch 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. 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?