What have you been watching? Including The Man From UNCLE and Sicario

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.

It’s been if not a bumper week for TV, one that’s certainly full. Elsewhere, I’ve passed verdicts on:

After the jump, the regulars: American Crime, Angie Tribeca, Arrow, Billions, The Flash, Limitless, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, The Shannara ChroniclesSupergirl and The X-Files, as well as the return of The Doctor Blake Mysteries. At least one of those is for the chop, one of them earned a last minute reprieve and another could be departing soon.

I’ve a few new shows from Thursday night onwards that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet, but which hopefully I’ll be able to let you all know about this week: Wanted (Australia: Seven) and Those Who Can’t (US: TruTV). Otherwise, I’m bang up to date.

In fact, I’ve had a go at a few movies, too.

Sicario (2015) (iTunes)
Emily Blunt is an FBI agent drawn into the moral greys of the drugs war, as she joins an inter-agency taskforce with Mexican drug dealers in their sights. Despite some lovely cinematography, and a good cast that includes Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro and Jeffrey Donovan, it’s something of a yawn fest that thinks it’s saying something clever about the lengths good men must go to to fight evil. Except it’s all been done before. There are two excellent, tense sequences, but otherwise it’s a yawnfest, and Blunt’s neophyte is practically superfluous requirements – had it simply about our ‘grey areas’ friends, it would have been a much leaner and more interesting movie.

Fantastic 4 (2015) (iTunes)
Yet another origin story for the Fantastic Four, in which plucky scientists and their friends and relatives get given special powers through a cosmic accident. This version is probably the worst so far, however, despite taking more than a few liberties with the original story, swapping out cosmic rays in favour of some inter-dimensional travel experiments. The lovely wife and I tried to watch this a few months ago, but quickly gave up through sheer boredom. This rewatch revealed it was a full hour and 20 minutes before anything that could be quantified as ‘mildly exciting’ happened in the movie – that being the 10 minute final battle between the Four and evil hacker/scientist Victor Von Doom. An excruciatingly painful bit of movie-making that proves that everything Marvel is not gold and that superheroes need to have both personalities and fun to be worth watching.

The Man From UNCLE (2015) (iTunes)
Guy Ritchie’s reboot of the 60s TV series attempts to do what Sherlock Holmes did for Sherlock Holmes. Here, we get an origin story of sorts – how CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) end up working together to defeat a greater enemy, with the help of Mr Waverley (Hugh Grant). The first 15 minutes isn’t half bad, as we learn a lot more about Solo than we did in the TV series (he’s a former war profiteer who agreed to join the CIA to avoid prison) and get a decent version of post-war Berlin to enjoy. Unfortunately, the intellectual, cool Kuryakin of the TV series here is yet another stereotypical Russian, ex-Spetsnaz soldier, and there’s almost zero cameraderie between the two of them.

At least for the first half, after which I turned off because it was just so astonishingly boring.

Fast and Furious 6 (2013) (Channel 4)
Seeing as both Gina Carano (would have been good as Wonder Woman) and Gal Gadot (fingers crossed, will be good as Wonder Woman) were in this, I thought I’d tune in for this, having studiously avoided all the previous installments of this ‘fast cars, fast criminals’ movie franchise. Unfortunately, it was just as awful as I thought it would be, with no trace of acting skill displayed by anyone, characterisation that’s beyond insulting and almost zero grasp on reality. I didn’t even make as far as any of the stunts. Oh well.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Angie Tribeca (US: TBS)
1×4 – The Thumb Affair
Two episodes of hilarity in which the show pretty much copied Police Squad, followed by two episodes of very much less funny, very obvious comedy, means it’s time to give up on this. It’s just too hit and miss to be spending time with.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Billions (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×4 – Short Squeeze
A reasonable return to form for the show, with Lewis playing chess again, albeit with a whole bunch of other people, rather than Giamatti. The episode was also enlivened by a bunch of guest stars from other top shows, including Kerry Bisheé (Halt and Catch Fire) and Noah Emmerich (The Americans), as well as, erm, Metallica. Yes, Metallica.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Magicians (US: Syfy)
1×4 – The World In The Walls
The best episode of the show so far and also the first (apparently) not based on the books. Coincidence? Maybe not. It was also largely a knock-off of a Buffy episode, too, which might have helped, as might the Taylor Swift number. There was even a moment when I almost liked some of the characters, too. 
Where can I see it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Okkupert (Occupied) (Norway: TV2; UK: Sky Arts)
1×5 – August
A show that was close to getting the chop this week, Okkupert finally upped its game to give us the show we thought we were going to get back around episode two, with the Norwegians finally fighting back against the Russians. Whether it’ll continue with the Resistance movement next week or whether we’ll be back in the adventures of the Norwegian restaurant trade remains to be seen.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Second Chance (US: Fox)
1×5 – Scratch That Glitch
A slight departure to try to give the ‘power twins’ something to do, although largely at the cost of coherence and plausibility (I know…). But some sci-fi fillips to twist the format again and to get Philip Baker Hall back properly. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (UK: Sky 1)
1×4
A middling, slightly nonsensical episode but one with some scenes of threat and mild peril, at least. Still, the show really needs to start mining the lucky bracelet for all it’s worth, because unless it does, our adrenal glands are going to have to get by on stupid people doing a lot of very stupid things, while a lock just happens to break at the right time.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×13 – For the Girl Who Has Everything
Alan Moore’s classic Superman story For The Man Who Has Everything remade as For The Girl Who Has Everything. Lots of Krypton, provided ‘lots’ encompasses ‘one CGI view and a couple of rooms’, a ‘shocking’ death (not that shocking) but general fun and gushy ‘you’re the best sister ever’ tedium. Still, that’s at least different from the general father relationship issues that Berlanti productions have been getting by on this week.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The X-Files (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
10×4 – Home Again
It’s always easy to forget that the old The X-Files used to have po-faced family stories that went on for hours and hours, so I guess to be authentic, the revival had to have an angsty one with Scully worried about her mum, mysterious never-heard-of-before relatives, etc, complete with a scene where she just drones on for 10 minutes while Mulder sits there looking pained. Otherwise, a reasonable effort, even if the Big Bad was a bit silly, and we got to see Scully to some proper FBI take-downs of a perp.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: 10×1; 10×1-10×3

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
2×7
Just as you think American Crime is starting to lose its way and has maybe switched plots, it shows you just how cleverly interwined everything is. Why aren’t more people watching? Why hasn’t any UK broadcaster picked it up? Oh yes, because it’s miserable with not an ounce of humour or even likable characters in its roster. Brilliant writing, but stunningly bleak.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episodethird episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×13 – Sins of the Father
I guess Arrow has always been about family, relationships with fathers, etc, but it would be nice if it could just find a storyline that wasn’t about family, particularly fathers for a change. Malcolm seems to have been slacking in his training, too, given how easily Oliver managed to beat him this time compared to in the first season. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC One/Alibi)
4×1-4×2 
The welcome return of Australia’s top detective drama and as usual with the start of a new season, it’s time for some revolving doors, with some characters wandering off to pastures new, while other, rather similar characters serendipitously turn up to replace them. Here we’ve got the arrival of ABC favourite Rodger Corser (Glitch, The Beautiful Lie, Party Tricks) as a suitable foil for Dr Blake, but rather than be the usual Dr Blake standard, he does this not by threatening Blake, but simply by being more a regular Aussie bloke to Blake’s more uptight introvert – albeit one with as impressive a war record as Blake. The first of the two eps was a little draft, but Golden Years was a jolly decent murder-mystery to be solved.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×13 – Welcome To Earth 2
A return to form as the Flash pops through to a parallel, art deco universe to meet the alternative reality versions of familiar characters past and present so they can get killed. Blink and you’ll have missed the brief cameo by Supergirl – a harbinger of things to come next month. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×14 – Fundamentals of Naked Portraiture
A slightly lesser, padder episode that still manages to sneak in a few clever story-telling touches, including an Evil Dead/Cthulhu reference.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
2×6 – Honey
Fred Armisen returns, this time as Jesus, so presumably it’s his second coming. Despite the potential blasphemous qualities of the episode, it was surprisingly revential for the most part, although the final explanation for the episode title felt like a bit of a tack-on (but an apt metaphor) rather than anything too essential to the plot. 
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC; UK: FOX)
2×5 – The Atomic Job
Getting a little silly now and despite the characters, the lack of any real narrative drive, sense of danger or decent action means I’m on the point not only of demoting the show but ditching it altogether. There were some failed attempts by the American writer to do Englishness that failed (we don’t really worry about spiders nesting in the UK). 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

The Shannara Chronicles (US: MTV; UK: Channel 5)
1×7 – Breakline
For about half the episode, I was on the point of dropping this from the viewing schedule altogether. However, the second half pulled the show back from the brink and back into the recommended category thanks to some properly exciting fun, the restoration of Manu Bennett and the discovery of 3d10. I’m not kidding about that last bit, either.
Where can I watch it?
Review: First three episodes




  • Mark Carroll

    Yes, I avoid “American Crime” because it's miserable but I'm glad that you enjoy it, or at least find it worthwhile!

    “X-Files” was okay. Not exactly gripping, I agree, but not especially annoying or disappointing, I'm happy enough with this one, they can't all be great.

    We're finally getting around to “The Bridge”. Good so far, I'm finding Saga's antics and manner appealing, but we're only a little way in.

    We saw “Pelle the Conqueror” with Max van Sydow. My family liked it more than they expected to though, perhaps because it only covers aspects of the first part of the story, we didn't exactly get to see a whole lot of conquering. As a social view of life on the farm long ago it was a little interesting.

    We've been watching Michael Portillo's railway journeys, around the US this time. His humour sweetly isn't the most subtle and events are all a bit random really, which may be good, and at least it's a show that spends more time actually showing us things than wasting plenty of our time going on about what they're going to show us and how wonderful it all is, and it is more about the subject rather than the presenter.

  • I saw the one where Portillo went from Athens to Thessaloniki, but he seemed a bit out of his depth when talking to normal people on the train – became uber-English and a bit weird. Plus most of the old train routes had been removed and he had to go by car a lot. But it was quite fun.

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