What have you been watching? Including Blackhat, 800 Words, Y Gwyll, Doctor Who and Continuum

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.

And relax. It’s here. The Fall 2015-16 season is here. And I’ve got covered.

Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed all of this week’s new programmes in glorious detail:

Wow. Ain’t that a lot? I’m actually impressed with myself there. I’m about to be even more impressed: after the jump, I’ll be reviewing all this week’s regulars, too: 800 Words, The Bastard Executioner, Continuum, Doctor Who, Y Gwyll and You’re The Worst.

But before I even get to those, I even found the time to watch a movie. It’s like I just fed 5,000 people with some cod in breadcrumbs, isn’t it?

Blackhat (2015) (iTunes)
Although to be honest, I wish I hadn’t. I love Michael Mann. Chris Hemsworth is great in Thor. But Michael Mann directing a movie about hacking in which Chris Hemsworth is the main hacker? Oh dear.

Still, that’s not the most oh dear thing about Blackhat – that would be the fact it’s basically a Chinese co-production in which Hemsworth and Mann are almost hitchhikers, tagging along for the ride. The plot is that the two Chinese leads (Leehom Wang, Wei Tang) who work for the benevolent Chinese police come over to the US after one of their power stations blows up to find out what they can from the man who engineered the malware that caused it: Wang’s former college roommate Hemsworth. He then has to track down criminals who may be almost anywhere in the world, with any target and any aim.

Mann does his best to both understand computer crime and make it interesting, but he’s no Sam Esmail and this is no Mr Robot. Without sufficient purchase on the material, Mann just goes through the motions. There’s a perfunctory romance between Tang and Hemsworth for no good reason. The merry band just fly from SE Asian country to country on sightseeing tours, turning up in the middle of beautiful looking locations for no genuinely good reason. And the story eventually sort of ends, not like Heat but like that episode of The Wire in which Omar gets attacked in prison. You barely know the film’s finished.

It looks beautiful, of course, given Mann’s presence. But it’s soporific, mildly propagandist, doesn’t know its material and almost never manages to excite.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

800 Words (Australia: Seven)
In which our hero comes a cropper from the fact that the whole of the town have access to the Internet and can read his Sydney newspaper column, causing all sorts of problems for his kids at their new school, too. Mainly interesting to see how Australian-New Zealand antagonism can manifest, but the show does solidify its foundation, give our hero something to do in town, and flesh out the supporting characters, particularly his daughter.
Reviews: First episode

The Bastard Executioner (US: FX)
1×3 – Effigy/Delw
In which our hero has to torture and then execute a teenage girl. Oh dear. As this is episode three, I’d normally be giving it over to The Barrometer to review, but I can’t be bothered. It’s an incomprehensible, heinously historically inaccurate show that loves gore and can’t maintain focus for a second. Who knows what, belongs to which nationality or religion, and even sexual orientation change at the show’s whim: one moment that Stephen Moyer is having backdoor fun with a bloke in a corridor, the next he’s having a threesome with twin sisters while playing guiltily with his crucifix.

And for some reason, Katey Sagal’s Jewish witch via seemingly Russia now, judging by her accent, is being given even more to do and may be pagan. Or something. 

Such is the inaccuracy of the show that Sagal’s character even quotes chapter and verse… from the Quran.

So I’m out. Even though they actually managed to find a few people with Welsh accents this week.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: Episodes 1 and 2

The recommended list

Continuum (Canada: Showcase; UK: SyFy)
4×3 – Power Hour
In which another regular dies. The show is now starting to become too wrapped up in its own cleverness and timelines to actually work how who’s doing what and why. Still halfway to the end now so no point giving up now!
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
9×1 – The Magician’s Apprentice
In which another regular un-dies. The show is now starting to become too wrapped up in its own cleverness and timelines to actually work how who’s doing what and why. But as a bit of fan fiction it was quite fun and the best season opener in quite some time. My poor wife, bless her, had no idea what was going on, though, as she’d failed to memorise the entire script of Genesis of the Daleks for some reason.
Where can I watch it?

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
Turned out it was a two-parter. As an episode, felt more like a re-establishment of the show, with DI Tom being asked to shape up or ship out and deciding to shape up. Cue shiny sunshine to replace miserable Welsh gloom. It’ll be next week to see how that works out, but this week’s worked out well enough, although the cops were a right bunch of chocolate teapots in that fight scene. Some great acting all round to compensate.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×3 – I was born dead
So many levels of delightful wrongness, as Gretchen organises a party to try to reconnect with her friends and discovers that they’re now at a place where copious cocaine, smoking, drinking and nights on the town aren’t quite their thing. Meanwhile, Jimmy discovers (for an evening at least) that friends aren’t quite the worst thing in the world. As always, despite the constant exaggerations, it all feels very true, and despite the constant wrongness, all feels very warm.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    I did notice the impressive rate at which substantial reviews have been coming forth. (-:

    We did get started on “You're the Worst” (from the beginning) and are liking it: it is actually occasionally genuinely funny, and not painfully awful at other times. Also, not being a whole hour of show, it's a nice thing to fit in after the kids head to bed. Before the kids head to bed, we are now occasionally fitting in the occasional “Harvey Birdman”, now we've run out of “Clangers”; I'd forgotten how well it parodies the cartoon genre.

    I did like “Doctor Who” but more out of relief that it wasn't bad than because I thought it was actually good. As always with it, it's the actual scripts that are the main determiner for me, everything else about it is always at least good. It may well be that the next episode improves my view of the first episode, depending on how well the resolution works.

    My wife's been watching “Fear the Walking Dead”. It seems competently executed but is largely failing to engage me. Perhaps I just don't care about dysfunctional families and soldiers in LA. In fairness, for “The Walking Dead”'s earlier episodes, I tended to find about half the cast quite irritating. Perhaps this one will improve as civilization further collapses if people don't whine too much.

    “Gotham”'s started up again and, well, if one liked the earlier ones, judging by this season opener one will probably keep on liking it. While I'd not watch it solely on my own volition, I do find it more engaging than shows like “The Flash” (possibly even “Daredevil” without Vincent D'Onofrio, we'll see).

    Ian Hislop seems to have some documentary history show on about Victorians. That's somewhat interesting, I am certainly learning a bit from it. My favourite of his though remains the Baden-Powell one about the scouts.

    On Netflix we watched “Oblivion”, the Tom Cruise science-fiction film. I went in with low expectations and it started slowly and reminded me of Star Wars. However, as it went on, there was a good twist and I was very pleasantly surprised overall.

  • Mark Carroll

    “Doctor Who”: Oh, I did like the effect with the snake guy.

  • JustStark

    A few more episodes of Fortitude, it's very strange, sometimes it seems to be going in an interesting direction and then that turns out to have been a red herring (eg the creepy schoolteacher) but I'm still interested enoguh in the mystery that I will finish the series (but I will be cross if there isn't at least some revelation in at the end).

    In film, finally saw Whiplash, and was impressed; I can see why it was praised as much as it was. Definitely deserved its awards.

    Getting increasingly annoyed at Now! T! V! (or maybe ITV, I don't know who's responsible) for failing to get episodes of The Americans up on catch-up properly (this is another reason I prefer to record things myself) but did eventually see episode seven, Walter Taffet, in which mostly things are set up for future episodes: I am eager to see how the situation with Martha eventually plays out. Nina didn't appear; her storyline has seemed very disconnected from the rest this year, I wonder whether that's setting things out or whether it will just peter out, in which case it might have been better to just drop her entirely at the end of last series.

    And Doctor Who. Oh well, it seems we are just abandoning plots in favour of just a load of talky scenes designed to get in lines that make the kind of people who go 'squee'* go 'squee'. Did the Master even have a motivation? If so it escaped me (she seemed to be trying to save the Doctor, but then when she got in the Dalek base she tries to hand over Clara, except I don't see how that would have helped save the Doctor, except maybe that was a bluff, but we never find out because the scene gets interrupted and one is left with the impression that it was just generic 'the Master is evil' padding added in rather than something which actually made narrative sense, not that, as noted above, there is narrative any more). It's a pity as Moffat used to do really good plots — The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances is still a tour de force, possibly the best plotting in the new series (not that it has a lot of competition) — so to see him stop bothering is sad.

    * ie, awful people

  • Mark Carroll

    What plot there was seemed to involved regular doses of extreme luck.

  • JustStark

    No not so much luck it's just…

    For instance, the bit at the beginning of the first episode where the aeroplanes stop. And it turns out that it's because the Master wants to speak to Clara. That's not luck, it's just blatant authorial fiat. Or when the Master proves she's evil by disintegrating the men in black; if there were a plot then it could have been shown that she's evil,but because there's no plot, the audience has to be explicitly told. Then they find the Doctor, not by anything causal, but simply by asking a computer, effectively, 'where is the Doctor?'. Then they arrive and have the scene with the Doctor… and then the snake-guy arrives and basically says 'next scene this way' and teleports them there.

    There's no actual causal connection between things there's just a scene, and then at the end of the scene, a signpost which points the way to the next scene.

    I wonder what the ratings were like this week compared to last; audiences can cope with not knowing what is going on, but they won't come back if they're bored, and this kind of plotless sketch show, all telling, no showing, is boring.

  • Glad you're liking You're The Worst. It maintains its quality over time, so is worth sticking with

  • I think all is revealed in the penultimate episode of Fortitude, but you may guess before then

  • JustStark

    Well, I have my theory which I pretty much formed back in episode one ('nothing ever dies here, anything buried in the ground is still there'); we'll see.

  • It would have been hard to guess the exact details at that point, although generalities wouldn't have been impossible. I'll be impressed if you did guess from the outset what's going on.

  • JustStark

    Well, the generalities I guessed were right, but indeed, I didn't get the details.

  • I doubt anyone could have, it's so off the wall

  • bob

    I'm enjoying season 2 too.

    I made a friend watch it who is older than me and realised that it's really a generational thing… I think it's much easier to relate to the characters and concepts if you'e been raised on the lie of romcoms.

  • You mean they'd rather it had been fluffier and nicer?