What have you been watching? Including Terminator: Genisys, Man of Tai Chi, The Last Ship, UnREAL and Westside

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.

I’m not exactly behind on my TV viewing, so much as watching certain shows at Mrs TMINE’s pace and she’s been very busy of late. That means I still haven’t seen the latest two episodes of Strike Back or this week’s Humans. And as ABC Australia only aired the first episode of its new supernatural chiller Glitch last night, I’ve not yet had the time to watch it, which means I’ll review it on Monday or Tuesday next week.

All the same, this week, I’ve passed third-episode verdicts on:

And after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of the usual regulars: Dark Matter, Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal, The Last Ship, Suits, Stitchers, True Detective, UnREAL, Westside and The Whispers.

I’ve also watched a couple of movies.

Terminator: Genisys (2015) (in cinemas)
Probably the first proper sequel to the first two Terminator movies, this does for the franchise what JJ Abrams’ Star Trek did for Paramount’s space epic, effectively recasting and rebooting the whole series while still maintaining continuity.

Here, the idea is that the timelines are being altered again, with more Terminators being sent further back in time to both protect and kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones) that by the time 1984 rolls round and Kyle Reese goes back to save her, she’s not in need of saving, having been raised by an ageing Terminator (Arnie) to be a warrior. The question is: can Reese, Connor and daddy Terminator now stop Skynet from taking over the planet and nearly exterminating humanity? And what will Skynet do to stop them?

The first half hour or so is actually very good, with not only some good ‘future shock’ scenes, but near frame-by-frame recreations of key scenes from The Terminator that even give us a young Arnie v old Arnie fight. We also get Lee Byung-hun (Red 2, GI Joe) as a T-1000 and Jason Clarke (Brotherhood, The Chicago Code) as John Connor.

The trouble is that the rest of the movie suffers from ‘CGI weightlessness’ – while the CGI is impressive, it also gives us physically impossible physical effects that rob the action of impact and any sense of tension. It’s basically just computers plastering the screen with pixels, for all the emotion that’s conveyed.

All the same, much better than it has any right to be, quite funny in place and although it often feels like fanboy homage to the original, it never feels slavish and often innovates and takes the story in unexpected directions. Blink and you’ll miss Matt Smith, by the way.

Man of Tai Chi (2013) (Now TV)
It’s a Matrix reunion for Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, with this Chinese-set, half-Mandarin, half-English martial-arter that stars Reeves’ Matrix martial arts instructor and bestest friend Tiger Chen as a T’ai Chi student who wants to show the world the power of T’ai Chi in conventional tournaments. However, Reeves’ evil billionaire wants him to star in underground fight movies and tries to corrupt Chen.

With fight choreography by The Matrix’s Yuen Woo-ping, naturally everything’s dead exciting but littered with wire work, and although my six months of T’ai Chi at university doesn’t exactly make me an expert, I didn’t notice an awful lot of T’ai Chi on display (“What sort of T’ai Chi is that?” “My own style.” You betcha), beyond a couple of scenes with Chen’s sifu. The plotting is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, with only a couple of twists, and unfortunately, despite his presence towards the end, The Raid/Star Wars 7’s Iko Uwais doesn’t get much screen time.

All the same, enjoyable enough, some good locations and with enough variation from the standard formulae that you’ll never be bored.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Dark Matter (Canada: Space; US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
1×4 – Episode 4
Not opening the show up in quite the way I’d hoped or expected, but the fourth episode still gave us new territory for the show to explore, with a trip to a space station bringing in plenty of different characters. With the clone option both teased and then effectively eliminated by the episode, however, the writers are making the series slightly more intelligent than it seemed. Still not excellent, but at least it’s no longer simply a Farscape/Andromeda/Firefly/Blakes 7 retread and is instead finding its own path.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Stichers (US: ABC Family)
1×6 – Finally
So clearly we’re transitioning to a darker, less goofy Stitchers here, which is taking a little adjustment but I’m pushing through. An episode written by someone who equally clearly doesn’t know the first thing about clinical trials (“Yes, we’re doing some experiments that can change the way the brain thinks or cause brain damage if cranked up too high. Fancy having a go tomorrow? No, you won’t even have to sign any consent or waiver forms – why do you ask?”), it also seemed to jettison the ’temporal issues’ from which our heroine suffers in favour of simple memory problems, although that might just have been her cover story. The season arc is progressing reasonably well, too. But as with the first couple of episodes, I have to ask who ABC Family thinks are watching this, since I’m guessing there aren’t many of its core viewership who have nostalgia for Sony Walkmans.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

UnREAL (US/UK: Lifetime)
1×6 – Fly
After last week’s filler, things progress apace, with a stonker of an ending that takes the show in even darker directions. I’m finding it a little hard to reconcile Shiri Appleby’s initial “This is what a feminist looks like” character with her current actions, though, although the show built an in-story explanation in this week, with subtextual comparisons between the ‘bachelorettes’ of the show, who are now wondering about the things they’re finding themselves doing compared to their normal actions, and the producers. This was also another week where the show’s lack of understanding of England shone through, with Adam talking about his ‘cold bedsit’ in London (like a posh boy heir to a hotel fortune wouldn’t either be in one of his own hotels or at least talking about a ‘studio flat’/penthouse) and how everyone in England has nannies (he is a posh boy, but clearly Supernanny has to be held responsible for this US perception). All the same, on the edge of promotion to the recommended list.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; fourth episode

Westside (New Zealand: TV3)
1×6 – But For A Wayward Son
Things get a little darker again, with Wolf getting a girl pregnant, Rita being shaken down for protection money by The Horsemen and Ted trying to recruit Wolf into his gang. The laughs are still infrequent but they are there and there’s plenty of pathos, too. It’s interesting how much we now care for the characters, despite their general criminality.
Review: First episode; third episode

The recommended list

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
2×6 – 10Broad36
As usual, a whole bunch of good stories for the characters individually, but only individually, with none of it quite coming together until the final scene. Gordon’s storyline is proving a little cliched, despite the earlier set-up in the season, too. But it’s good to see the old Joe back at last.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Hannibal (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
3×6 – Dolce
An epic overdose of the pretentious that at times took it accidentally close to Zoolander territory, but which was also deliberately silly at times, too. I have to admit that I’m now largely watching Hannibal for the visuals and the hope that normality will return soon – looks like the next episode will end the Hannibal arc, if I’m reading things right. But buried away in the midst of it all were some real gems, such as a certain meeting at the Uffizi (when did they film this that there were no queues? Amazing!), the foreshadowing of Silence of the Lambs and the jaw-dropping meal at the end.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
2×4 – Solace
Following last week’s ‘Fuck Yeah – America’ episode designed to allow the show to take regroup and re-establish itself, this week saw the show hit the non-stop pace that it does so well. We’ve got a couple of new international characters, including the awesome Australian ‘Wolf’, we’ve got some pretty decent enemies for the ship to fight and in answer to the question “How do you top the inter-ship warfare of the first season?”, we have an epic answer (spoiler alert) ship-submarine warfare. All in all, if there were worries that season 2 of The Last Ship could never top season 1, I think they’ve all been dispelled by now. I mean, they’ve got a character called Wolf and that seems entirely reasonable to me, they’ve built up so much good will with me now.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode Third episode

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave)
5×3 – No Refills
Harvey’s collapse following the departure of Donna continues and although he is an epic dick, the fact he’s still being an epic dick about it and apparently has no ability to learn from past behaviour is becoming wearing – as is the continuing in-fighting in the firm. Remember when there was narrative drive and fun court cases? All the same, good to see some vulnerability from Harvey and maybe Louis, at least, can learn for a change. Otherwise, season 5 is just going to be a variant on two or three other seasons, rather than doing anything new.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

True Detective (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×3 – Maybe Tomorrow
For those worried that maybe True Detective wasn’t being weird enough, this episode brought in more than a hint of Twin Peaks, with scenes that could have come straight from the Black Lodge itself. The ending to episode two turned out to not be as innovative we’d though, but the arrival of Fred Ward (Remo Williams himself) was welcome. Still, the show has yet to really show it’s true colours, I think, despite there being lots and lots of things going on.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Whispers (US: ABC)
1×6 – The Archer
After the brief lull of last week, things once more kick into high gear and the show gets a promotion to the (summer) recommended list. As always, the science is a little lacking, the plot a little silly and relationships badly written, but the show’s ambitious and doesn’t try keep its audience eternally hooked on secrets the answers to which are never revealed (cf Under The Dome). Fun, escapist and generally well paced, it’s proving the best broadcast network summer viewing for quite some time.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode




  • benjitek

    Didn't make through the 3rd True Detective episode and removed it from my show list — very boring, at least to me. Enjoyed season 1 though…

  • Mark Carroll

    With television being awkward for me this month, mostly I'm reading to see what to add to the queue. (Right now the television has been left on after the news but the other adults in the room have fallen asleep!) I was surprised to see that “Terminator: Genisys” may yet make it to the queue; you didn't pan it. And “The Whispers” is still looking like I might have to bother.

    We did watch “Pierrepoint” and that was actually quite good, though once suffices. It was very much as one would expect from the trailers. Not amazing, but it largely held my attention.

  • Gareth Williams

    Blinking and missing Matt Smith would best for everyone, not least Matt Smith. Yeh, fun at the beginning but downhill after that. With the exception of Arnie terrible performances all round. Jai Courtney's complete lack of charisma, as Kyle Reese, would have probably rendered the likelihood of him “mating” with Sarah Connor unlikely in the first place.

  • Terminator Genisys was surprisingly not awful. It's basically PG-13 Terminator with a bigger budget

  • True. Although to be honest, Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor wasn't that appealing, either. But you know, movies and all that. Not that Michael Biehn was exactly inspiring in the original

  • JustStark

    What's really weird is that I'm sure I recall hearing that Biehn was originally cast to play the Terminator, with Arnholt playing Reese — presumably until Cameron came to his senses (though even there someone apparently tried to resist the obvious, mis-advising Cameron, 'Don't have the guy who looks like a robot, play the robot').

  • Lance Henriksen was originally going to play The Terminator. He went to all the pitch meetings with Cameron, dressed as a Terminator and sat there being silent and scary. They approached Arnold to play Reese, as he was then known for playing goodies (eg Conan, Hercules). However, he decided he would rather be The Terminator, which got them the funding. That meant they had to get someone else to play Reese, while Henriksen was rewarded with a supporting role as one of the cops.

    You can see kind of what the original should have been like if you think of the idea of an infiltration unit being someone whom everyone thinks is human, which would have worked with Henriksen but not with Arnie in the slightest, obviously.

  • JustStark

    Oh, yes, that was it, I just remembered it was originally Arnold playing Reese. Which would have been… different, and made the romance plot even odder.

  • Even less pleasant than Red Sonja's, in fact

  • JustStark

    And of course Henriksen did get to play a robot for Cameron, in the very next film he directed, in fact.

  • He's dead loyal is Cameron – almost as much as Christopher Nolan. Biehn sneaks into The Abyss and Aliens, too, which of course stars Sigourney Weaver, whom Cameron sneaks into Avatar, and Jenette Goldstein, who gets a cameo as John's foster mother in Terminator 2 and so on.

  • Andy Butcher

    Yup – Bill Paxton is another of his 'regular gang'. I've noticed that a lot of my favourite directors tend to work this way, gathering a group of people that they like to work with.