What did you watch this week? Including Perception, Under The Dome, World War Z and A Good Day To Die Hard

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.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
Last summer’s slightly surprising combination of dull old procedural and interesting examination of psychology and mental health returns with a new character, the probable loss of at least one character, the surprising return of another character and the same old dull procedural. However, as well as the usual mind-bending issue with the show that you’re never sure what’s real and what’s hallucination, we have a possible slight departure from format – this first episode was less concerned with investigation and more concerned with the philosophical question of whether someone who’s had a brain injury and resulting personality change is still the same person they were before the injury. It’s a question that other shows probably wouldn’t touch with a barge pole but the show was all the better for it. Rachael Leigh Cook is still the least plausible FBI agent in TV history, though.

Under the Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
Based on a Stephen King novel, this mini-series sees a small town full of Diverse People With Issues And Secrets suddenly enveloped by a forcefield dome that blocks everything from sound and cars through to radio signals and electricity. Why’s it happening, who’s behind it, what’s going to happen next and will everyone sort out their issues before their secrets are discovered? Probably.

Full of people who’ve never been the stars of things but you’ll have seen being really good in loads of other shows – Rachelle Lefevre (Life on Mars, The Deep End, Twilight), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) and Mike Vogel (Bates Motel, Pan Am) – as well as Britt Robertson (The Secret Circle, Life Unexpected), this is very odd flashback to the 80s, when Stephen King mini-series were all the rage. As back then, you’ll spend all your time working out who’s going to end up dead next and what precisely is going on. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think if you’ve seen any such mini-series before, with dodgy dialogue, stock characters but an intriguing central idea. It’s also surprisingly gruesome at times.

With ratings of 12m, hopefully it’ll boost the careers of at least Lefevre, who’s needed a breakout role for ages and was unceremoniously dumped from the third Twilight movie in favour of the somewhat inferior Bryce Dallas Howard, and Norris, now that Breaking Bad is leaving us. I could do without the dodgy stalker bloke, though.

And in movies:

World War Z
Brad Pitt travels the world looking for a way to fight the zombie plague that’s broken out. Taking in Korea and Israel, he eventually finds his solution is… Torchwood. Well, maybe. You’ll get that joke if you ever watch the movie.

Not great, doesn’t make huge sense, Mireille Enos (The Killing US) is largely wasted and as in movies such as Contagion, a plethora of stars turns up for five minutes only to disappear almost as quickly. But it’s tense all the way through and has a few funny moments. Better than the average zombie movie, anyway.

A Good Way To Die Hard
Bruce Willis goes off to Russia when his wayward son shoots someone in a nightclub and is put on trial. However, all is not what it seems and soon Willis and Willis Jr are double-acting their way through numerous shoot-outs and car chases around Russia.

The best that can probably be said about this is that it’s probably the second-best of the Die Hard movies, with at least some intelligence on display in places throughout the movie. But it shows nowhere near the level of human involvement and innovation of the original, and the constant CGI effects mean that nothing feels real enough to care about.

“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?




  • Mark Carroll

    We watched a bit of Archer and Justified and both were good. Oh, and an old CSI: NY which was okay.

    The family have been watching game shows. I am not too impressed at things like Golden Balls, but Pointless is actually okay. They also watched American Ninja Warrior or something, a reality show competition, that looked rather tough. Son has been watching Yu Gi Oh GX which is awful rubbish.

    I was out of the country for half the week; I didn't get to see much. I know I still have a Hannibal waiting.

  • Gareth Williams

    The biggest mystery that I am waiting to be cleared-up in 'Under the Dome' is how you have wind in a dome. One would assume they're at least going to try and explain how they can breathe inside, unless the story is a race against time to resolve something before the air runs out, of course ( I don't care to read a synopsis of the book), but why is there wind?!

  • Gareth Williams

    Oh, look: http://tvhackr.com/2013/06/28/

    So, they'll just ignore it then, and hope most people aren't as anal as me.

  • GYAD

    THE WHITE QUEEN – Totally anachronistic & melodramatic chick lit…with magic? Come on BBC, you're better than this.

    THE AMERICANS – A good concept but sexually warped and overly Hollywood with its very overt chases and killings.

    LONESOME DOVE – Bad CGI aside, a stunningly authentic, well-filmed, well-acted miniseries — and I don't even like Westerns usually.

    And, errr, that's it. There's not much on right now.

  • JustStark

    I watched the first half of The Returned and thought it was quite good: nice and spooky while definitely not being horror. A sort of… mundane spookiness.

  • I'd have assumed that localised temperature changes caused by trees, buildings, etc, would create minor breezes at least. But I imagine that unless they had a budget of $1 trillion, the chances of being able to block out the wind during production would have been small

  • Sexually warped?

  • I only managed two episodes before giving up. Not quite enough there to keep me watching.

  • JustStark

    It's very slow but I think it does quite well in imagining how people might respond to an utterly bizarre situation. It was the survivor's-guilt twin who initially drew me in, but the policeman who spies on his financée with hidden cameras in their house is pretty damn creepy too.

  • GYAD

    I thought it was a bit pervy — the seduction, the male spy listening to the audio of his 'wife' pleasuring the American, a brutal rape and lots of sexual frigidity.

    It all felt a bit warped to me.

  • Ah, first episode. Thought you were further along. The first episode is a little different on those grounds alone from the rest of the series. But I don't think it's so much warped, between the husband and the wife, as enforced. It's not saying that anyone enjoys these things – quite the opposite – it's saying that that's what they're prepared to put up with for their country.

    Equally, it speaks to their relationship, because he loves her and she doesn't love him, it having been a marriage entirely arranged for them, but he having developed feelings for her. He's not supposed to, but the situations demonstrate what he has to go through because of his job.

    It becomes decidedly less like that as the series goes on, but I won't say how.

  • GYAD

    Yup, I've only got as far as the first episode. I didn't really feel like watching any more.

    It felt a bit weird that nobody seemed to have a normal sexual relationship.

    There's also quite a sado-masochistic undertone — although maybe this changes in later episodes.

    Is it worth continuing?

  • Mark Carroll

    I rather like it, but I wasn't much put off by the first episode, and I find the Soviet state intriguing. Maybe we differ enough that what I like isn't especially relevant.

  • Mark Carroll

    I suppose that having to watch

    Keri Russell isn't much of a hardship for me. She does crazy-ideologically-committed quite well too.

  • The show's about secret and lies, so the central parallel/message is that secrets and lies mess up relationships. With the two Soviets, the question is whether they can ever have a real relationship because they're both professional, trained liars so you can't believe what they say.

    Without giving away too many spoilers, the amount of sex does reduce over time, but it's still there and becomes more about affairs, the nature of marriage and what is real.

    My third-episode verdict is back here: http://www.the-medium-is-not-e

    I think it's one of the best new shows (say, top 3) this year but YMMV. If you don't like it after episode 4, which is probably the best one, then it's probably not your cup of tea.

  • JustStark

    I think it's one of the best new shows (say, top 3) this year

    Low bar!

    Actually I think it's pretty good, though the central couple do seem a little implausibly naive when it comes to just how ruthless their superiors are: the end of episode three, in particular.

  • They can be. I think with respect to how actions by the KGB against them, at least, they've largely been trusted and left to their own devices for 20 years or so, so I imagine that not only does that instil a sense of false security, but there's still the various internal regime changes at the KGB so the people who recruited them are probably relatively old school compared to the people currently running operations.

  • JustStark

    I suppose also in order for them to do what they do, they have to believe that the KGB will take care of them even when their usefulness has come to an end. So some element of wishful thinking is required for them in a way that it wouldn't be for a handler.

    (I just watched the episode of The Sandbaggers where Jeff Ross cons Willie into sending Mike to bust out a CIA agent because the agent was given a guarantee of safe return — and the other agents knew about it. of course that one has a wonderfully cynical twist when Ross's real game is revealed.)

  • There are few things as marvellous in life as a Sandbaggers episode

  • GYAD

    Fair enough, might give it another punt then.

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