What did you watch this week? Including The Fall, Up The Women, Family Tree, Game of Thrones, Wreck-it Ralph and The Iceman

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:

  • Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)

Still in the viewing queue: last night’s Graceland and I’m toying with watching Channel 4’s The Returned, even though I normally can’t be arsed with zombie shows, even French zombie shows.

Here’s a few thoughts on what I did watch this week, though :

  • Continuum (Showcase/SyFy): After last week’s improvement, yet more signs of recovery, with the various first-season story arcs starting to come back to life again at last, joining the new ones from this season. As well as some things that made precisely no sense, we did get a whole collection of great moments, mostly involving Carlos and Kiera. I think it’s clear where a lot of this is going but there’s enough surprises still coming that it still feels quite fresh and exciting.
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central): John Oliver’s first week on the job and although he’s obviously not as comfortable in the job as Jon Stewart – give him time – it’s actually been a pretty good run so far. To a certain extent, he’ll need to find his own voice as a host to differentiate himself from Stewart.
  • The Fall (BBC2/Netflix): Ah! A notorious finale. Haven’t had one of those in a while. Not so much a conclusion as a slight pause in the story. To be honest, the fact it’s been renewed for a second series actually makes this a less impressive finale than it should have been, since it’s quite an original thing to do (spoiler alert: let the criminal get away). Now it just looks like they were setting everything up oddly for a second series. Maybe they were. Nevertheless, despite this being the least impressive of all the episodes, it was probably the best British drama I’ve seen in a long time, so yay to a second series.
  • Family Tree (HBO/BBC2): I think I’m going to give up after this one. It’s giving me wry chuckles but that’s about it. Well observed, well acted, even Nina Conti and Monkey are tolerable, but it’s just not very funny.
  • Game of Thrones (HBO/Sky Atlantic): So I finally made it through to the end of the third season. I think most of my comments from last week hold, particularly about the second season, although the nudity did drop off again in the third season, thankfully. I imagine that this is a show that’s going to be best appreciated as one massive box set binge one day, because there’s a lot going on that’s frustratingly close to great but never actually gets there: you can see that everyone’s eventual stories are going to end up being great, it’s just we’re in the middle of them as they head towards that greatness, and it’s not going to be for another two to three seasons that we actually get to see it. Still, a lot to commend about it and I’m probably going to be glued to my set when the fourth season comes round. Perhaps Stephen Dillane and Patrick Malahide will meet again. PS The red wedding? What was all the fuss about?
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living): My hat’s off to Bryan Fuller and co, as always, as the show hits its penultimate episode, revealing just how tightly written and architected this first season has been. What the finale will bring us is anyone’s guess, but this has been one of the most consistently excellent first seasons of any show I’ve watched.
  • Up The Women (BBC4): Already renewed for a second series, for which it will transfer over to BBC2, this studio comedy about suffragettes in 1910 features a great cast – Jessica Hynes, Rebecca Front, Adrian Scarborough – and some clever writing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature any real jokes. Well, not that I found funny. There’s probably a few people who’ll laugh at a joke in which a man shows he knows less about a light bulb and how it works than a woman does, but they’ve presumably never seen comedy shows before and this will all be new to them. If, however, you have seen a comedy show before, then the most you can do is hope it does better and wish it well, since its heart is in the right place, at least.

And in movies:

Wreck-It Ralph
Bizarrely, it’s Pixar does Tron. A villain in an 80s arcade game decides he wants more from life so goes exploring other video games, messing not only his own game up but those he encounters along the way. Weirdly, the first half is probably going to be unfathomable to anyone under the age of 30, with clever references to Pac Man, Streetfighter and any number of games that a child of the 80s would love and remember. The second half on the other hand is probably going to be unfathomable to anyone over the age of 40, since it’s largely references to modern console games, particularly Super Mario Kart on the Wii. It’s all very precise and very clever, and there’s great vocal work from John C Reilly (Ralph), Alan Tudyk (the evil King Candy), Sarah Silverman (Ralph’s new friend in the superbly imagined Sugar Rush) and Jane Lynch (a heroine from a first-person shooter) among others. But the fun-density isn’t quite as high as it should be, with big chunks that just sort of amble by. Some of the sexual politics are a little debatable, too, but only a little. Enjoyable but not a true classic.

The Iceman
Given a choice of Michael Shannon movies to watch last night, I chose to watch The Iceman rather than Man Of Steel: I’m watching that tonight. I’m not sure Shannon could be better in the latter though, since he gives a spot-on performance as the real-life Iceman, a mafia hit-man who killed probably more than 100 people from the end of the 60s through to the 80s, somehow managing to keep the terrible truth from his family. Surprisingly, it’s a film of good performances from the unexpected likes of Ray Liotta, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans (practically unrecognisable as another, rather hirsute killer) and, incredibly surprisingly, David Schwimmer from Friends. Perhaps a little slower and flatter than in needed to be, it’s nevertheless a thoughtful insight into the mind of a sociopath who needs to kill people in order to preserve his marriage. Yes, that does sound weird.

“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?

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