What have you been watching? Including X-Men: DOFP (Rogue Cut), The Equalizer and The Last Ship

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’ve had a heavy workload this week, which is why my output has slightly dwindled to a mere two TV reviews:

Sorry about that. But I have been managing to squeeze in some viewing, so after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of: Ballers, Dark Matter, Glitch, Halt and Catch Fire, Humans, The Last Ship, Mr Robot, Stitchers, Strike Back: Legacy, Suits, True Detective, UnREAL, and The Whispers. Two of these I’ll be dropping from the viewing queue. Can you guess which ones, Tigers?

Hannibal’s been shunted to Saturdays in the US, by the way, so that’ll have to wait until next Friday now.

I’ve also watched a couple of movies.

The Equalizer (2014) (Now TV)
Denzel Washington reunites with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for this adaptation of the famous Edward Woodward 80s TV series. Washington is Robert McCall a former CIA agent who retires after promising his deceased wife that he would stop doing the bad things. However, when a child prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz in little more than a 10-minute cameo) is beaten up by her Russian pimp and Washington exacts revenge, everything escalates as he has to take on mob fixer Martin “I may be a Hungarian-New Zealander but I’ll play any other nationality” Csokas (Rogue, The Bourne Supremacy, Falcón).

There’s not a huge resemblance between this and the original TV series, with the whole movie essentially being the origin story that the pilot episode briefly touched on, it, too, setting up a potential franchise at the end. But surprisingly there’s not much action or even espionage work, to replace the episode-long drawn out violent politicking of the original series. Indeed, we bet the occasional shootout and fight scene and a series of incidents to which Washington presents fait accompli solutions to everyone’s problems.

Not an awful movie, though, there’s a certain degree of intelligence in the script and Washington makes for a very stoic lethal old buffer. But a disappointment for both action fans and fans of the original series. There’s not even a Rolls Royce in it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Rogue Cut (2014/5) (iTunes)
Not technically a new film at all, as I’ve already seen and watched the cinema release, but this new cut of the movie promised an entirely new sub-plot involving Rogue that had been excised from the original for running time. This version gives us just a few early additions in the first 90 minutes – a line here, a brief extra scene there – but is otherwise much the same as before. It’s not until towards the end that we get the big additions, and there is indeed an entire new sub-plot that gets added involving rescuing Rogue so that she can take over from Kitty. Everything makes a little more sense as a result and it’s interesting to see they must have refilmed certain scenes as some of the Rogue material conflicts with the cinema cut.

However, to be honest, it’s not that much extra, the extra plot was obviously only in it to crowbar Rogue into the movie, and its excision was no great loss as it all feels a lot slower as a result of the addition. So save your pennies, unless you’ve not seen the original but particularly if you were thinking of buying it on iTunes, as the promised two hours of additional material has so far been a no-show, thanks to an Apple cock-up.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Ballers (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×4 – Heads Will Roll
It’s still not getting any better, you know. Maybe if I enjoyed watching grown men acting like teenagers and stupid, amoral teenagers at that, then maybe I’d enjoy this more. But I don’t. The Rock’s storyline is getting a bit sad, too, and there just aren’t any jokes or humour. I think I’d better give this one up.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Dark Matter (Canada: Space; US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
1×5 – Episode 5
A show that’s now largely been in the viewing queue thanks to its central mystery, rather than because of the cast or the episodic plotlines. There were a couple of interesting wrinkles added to the mystery this week, but to be honest, unless I have a lot of ironing to do this week, I’m out.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Glitch (Australia: ABC) 1×2
A bit more promising than the first episode, with further bleeding eyes, mysteries to solved and so on, but without the feeling that everything’s been done before. In particular, the amnesia of the resurrected characters is proving a source of decent intrigue and the ending of the episode suggests there’s more oddness to come and the tagline of this being ‘Australian gothic’ that’s been banded around is actually starting to fit. There was also a halfway decent fight scene. So I think I might be sticking with this one or even boxsetting over the weekend, now I probably don’t have Dark Matter to bother with any more.
Reviews: First episode

Stichers (US: ABC Family)
1×7 – The Root of All Evil
In which our stitching heroine gets an implausible English boyfriend and the writers remember how to bring the funny. An enjoyable ep overall.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

UnREAL (US/UK: Lifetime)
1×7 – Savior
In which the writers play their Get Out Of Jail Free card after the events of the previous episode, in order to get the show back on course and return everything back to normal. A bit disappointing really, since it’s clear that just as Shiri Appleby’s character may claim to hate the things she has to do but actually really enjoys them, so the writers are as much in love with the horrors of reality TV that they claim to hate, and so want to prolong them as much as possible.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; fourth episode

The recommended list

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
2×7 – Working For The Clampdown
The best episode of the season so far, with all the characters finally in one place together again. Phew!
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Humans (UK: Channel 4; US: AMC)
1×4 – 1×5
Philip K Dick was well known for puzzling over what it means to be human, deciding in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the novel that became Blade Runner) that the difference was empathy – we have it for each other while robots don’t. And yet Humans is cleverly subverting that, showing that empathy can be simulated or even real in AIs, while human empathy can be switched off for groups we don’t want to have feelings for but that we can also feel it for things as well as ourselves. At the same time, the actual plot thickens, with it increasingly clear that there are more synths around that perhaps we first thought.

But while the plot involving Katherine Parkinson’s family continues to interest as it explores these kinds of issues, with some bravura acting and writing for the children in one particular scene, the more sci-fi side of things with Merlin is getting a little tedious.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
2×5 – Achilles
Mr Robot, Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal et al might be great quality TV, but there’s one show above all others that I look forward to every week. There’s absolutely nothing on TV that makes me giggle with joy for a whole hour like a small child except for The Last Ship. It’s just such ridiculous good, exciting fun from start to finish, I’m even prepared to ignore a whole bunch of strange English accents (the kind that not very good British/Irish actors put on when trying to pretend to be from some other part of England, rather than straight out American/Australian fakery).

I predicted last week that this season would see ship-submarine warfare but in typical Last Ship fashion, rather than waiting for seven episodes before delivering us the goods, it took all of an episode to give us something that made Hunt For Red October look like Mary Poppins. Indeed, even within the episode, there was the same Last Ship adherence to giving people what they want, when they want it: rather than a whole hour of the traditional creeping around trying to be quiet of most submarine and ‘submarine’ shows (cf Star TrekBalance of Terror), we got all the fun of that for the first half, before outright warfare begins in the second half.

As I said when I gave my third-episode verdict, the genius of The Last Ship is that it realises that naval warfare is very cool and has created the exact scenario for full on, one-on-one ship warfare to take place every week without there being serious geopolitical ramifications. And every week, it fulfils on that realisation. Long may it continue.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode Third episode

Mr Robot (US: USA Network)
1×4 – eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4
Possibly the weirdest of the episodes so far, thanks to Elliot going on a drugs-induced trip that appears to confirm our suspicions that made he and Mr Robot are indeed the same person. Or that the producers are dicking with us. A little harder to enjoy than previous episodes, but still very much top TV.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Strike Back: Legacy (UK: Sky 1; US: Cinemax) 5×5
We’re catching up a little bit now, with our heroes now in North Korea and sticking out like a sore thumb. Plenty of action, but a little too much silliness, right down to the (spoiler alert)abduction of Damien’s son.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode  

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave)
5×4 – No Puedo Hacerlo
Good for the introduction of Amy Acker as Louis’ sister. But a little bit of a soapy filler ep, in which the cases mirror the current dilemmas of the week, Ally McBeal-stylee.  
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

True Detective (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×4 – Down Will Come
So far, there’s been a point in both seasons of True Detective that’s been a game changer: a 10-minute long directorial flourish that makes you wake up and think, “Oh, now that was different.” Last year, we had a single tracking shot, whereas here we had something that almost rivalled the recent 19-2 episode School for tension in the shoot-out stakes. Coming after a slightly mundane episode, that was refreshing to say the least, so I’m hoping that we’re now going in a new direction with the show.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Whispers (US: ABC)
1×7 – Whatever It Takes
Half an hour of tedium involving children, followed by half an hour of actual excitement and interesting things happening. Ah if only the show’s entire premise didn’t revolve around children, this could be even more top notch fun, but it’s still proving very credible summer viewing.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

  • Mark Carroll

    Well, you're keeping me on the fence about “The Whispers”. We still have company that impedes our normal viewing and then I have computer things to do but I will get to starting to catch up in a week or two so perhaps I don't need to add it to the list too.

    We did watch “American Hustle” and “Foxcatcher”. They both seemed good adaptations of real events and seemed to be very well made, but I think that a single watching may have been more than enough. Neither of them were really compelling enough for me in the characters or how the story progressed. It's as if having the larger points already fixed by history tied them down a little too much.

  • benjitek

    I Hulu'd season 1 of Last Ship and all so far of season 2 based on your enthusiasm for the show — entertaining, season 2 much more so. Liked season one of True Detective, gave up on season 2. You're right about Whispers — if it involves so many children, maybe find 2 or 3 that can act and give them more lines than the others — doesn't stop me from watching though 🙂 Extant yet…?

  • Mark Carroll

    Oh, I forgot, a fair bit of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been shown in our household of late. I have to concede, as American sitcoms go, it entertains more than annoys, even me.

  • I dropped it very early on, but enough people rate it that I worry I made a mistake. Probably too late to go back now, though

  • Glad you liked The Last Ship. Yes, season 2 has definitely upped the ante compared with season 1.

    I did give Dark Matter another whirl, but that's a story for Friday…

  • Mark Carroll

    If it's any consolation, I was only half-watching but my hazy memory doesn't have it much improving since the first episodes.

  • Andy Butcher

    Last week was very busy with work, so I am still behind, but I'm on holiday this week and catching up before I actually go away on Thursday.

    I've dropped Ballers, largely agree with you on most of your other regulars that I'm watching. Suspect I'm going to end up sticking with Dark Matter – its failings aren't actively annoying, and I'm just invested enough in some of the mysteries to put up with them.

    Somewhat inexplicably, I've managed to catch up on Teen Wolf for the new season. Not entirely sure why I've stuck with it for five (!) years. I think part of my soft spot lies in how their reach often exceeds their budget's grasp, but they keep on reaching. That and the fact that it can still be very funny at times, thanks largely to Dylan O'Brien's sterling work in the 'Xander' role of Stiles.

    Also saw the opening episode of Season 2 of The Strain, which sadly seemed to rule out any chance of a significant increase in quality from last year. The pacing remains all over the place, and it's all just getting rather too silly.

    Afraid I found The Equalizer extremely disappointing and a complete waste of both a great IP and a great actor. However, I'm off to see Ant-Man today, which I suspect I shall thoroughly enjoy. 🙂

  • JustStark

    Managed to finish series 1 of Halt and Catch Fire before my free trial ended; not bad, especially once they stopped trying to make programming sound not boring and concentrated on the characters, but (a) it suffered a bit from what I call 'Causalty plotting' (introduce character who acts odd, for the sole purpose of revealing dramatically what in their past made them that way; it's usually a flaw of British theatre, where it tends to win awards, so unusual to see it in a US TV programme, but there you go) and (b) the ending was a good ending and a natural stepping-off point; there didn't seem to be anywhere more for it to go next, so I have no real burning desire to watch any more of it.

    And then I finished Continuum series three which had the opposite problem, ie, the whole series seemed just to have been set-up for the next series, which rather leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I'm not going to make any decision about watching it though until the next one comes out on disk; maybe by then I'll be curious enough to check it out.

    I didn't see The Equalizer, partly because I heard about it, and was very disappointed: especially because when I heard about Washington's casting, I thought he would be perfect for the mind-games-and-psychological-warfare version of Robert McCall that characterised the original, where the whole point of an episode was generally not to fight the bad guy (McCall having had enough of fighting back when he was Callan) but instead to lay a trap so that he would defeat himself. To turn that into 'blow 'em away'… I just didn't want to see it.

  • Andy Butcher

    Wise choice with the Equalizer. Wish I hadn't bothered.

  • JustStark

    Oh, and last night (now I'm less busy, and have a chance to watch more TV) I watched the first two episodes of The Saboteurs. Can't remember if that was reviewed here, but I thought that, within the constraints of docudrama (ie, the need for characters to painstakingly introduce themselves so we know their historical significance, etc) it was rather well done, and a piece of history that is unfairly overlooked, Michael Frayn notwithstanding, of course. I shall certainly be watching the rest.

  • Halt and Catch Fire is essentially an anthology show, like True Detective, American Horror Story, Fargo et al, with pretty much discrete, unrrelated stories each season set in the same milieu as each other. The difference is that as well as a lot of the actors carrying through between seasons, the characters do, too.

    Continuum didn't seem quite that way in season 3 to me. For me, it seemed more like they were going somewhere different with it for about three-quarters of the season and then suddenly went, “F*ck it, we're not going to get renewed if we carry on like this. Quick! Burn everything! Time soldiers are what we need!”

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