What have you been watching? Including Doctor Strange, Central Intelligence and X-Men: Apocalypse

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. 

“We’re now nearing mid-Fall season/mid-Spring season (delete according to the hemisphere of your choice), which means there’s few new shows heading our way”

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! What fool said that?

It’s never going to stop. We’re at peak TV so it’s never going to stop. Help.

In the past week, I’ve reviewed the first few episodes of Chance (US: Hulu), Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix), Man With A Plan (US: CBS) and Graves (US: Epix). But that’s not really scratching the surface, since although I’ll be tackling Pure Genius (US: CBS; UK: Universal) and The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2) tomorrow and/or Wednesday, I’m not going to have time this week to make a dent in Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt. I’ve also had no time to watch Channel Zero (US: Syfy; UK: 5*), but since that’s an anthology horror show, I have no qualms in deciding I’m not going to watch it. I’ve also noticed that Young Pope (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) has started in the US, but since it’s already started in the UK, too, you can probably work out for yourselves whether you like it. 

However, good news! I’m away for a couple of days at the end of the week, which means I can start a mid-season cull through the usual simple mechanism of asking myself “Can I be arsed to play catch up with this show when I get back?”

Accordingly, I’m waving goodbye to Kim’s Convenience, No Tomorrow, The Secret Daughter and Speechless, as well as – shock, horror! –  two long-standing regulars! Find out which ones after the jump. Frequency, Lucifer, Timeless and Designated Survivor are also on the endangered list and it’ll just be case of finding out when I get back whether I can be arsed to play catch up with them.

Elsewhere, I’ve passed third episode verdicts on Insecure (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) and Falling Water (US: USA), with Insecure failing to stay on the viewing pile. We’ll see if I can be arsed with Falling Water when I get back.

That means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes (that I’ve seen) of Ash vs Evil Dead, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, Doctor Doctor, Eyewitness, The Flash, Frequency, Hyde and Seek, Impastor, Lucifer, Son of Zorn, Supergirl, Timeless, Travelers and You’re The Worst. I’ve not yet had time to watch the latest Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Eyewitness and Westworld, and since Y Gwyll (Hinterland) and Humans both chose to make a reappearance last night, don’t be too surprised I haven’t manage to watch them, either.

But somehow, I did manage to find time to watch a few movies…

Central Intelligence (2016)
Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson both went to High School together, Hart being the golden boy voted most likely to succeed, Johnson the fat kid everyone picks on. Twenty years later, Hart is an accountant while Johnson is a top CIA agent who needs Hart’s accounting skills to find out who killed his partner (Aaron Paul) and is selling top secret satellite codes. Or is he? Could it be that Johnson is really a traitor, which is why the CIA is out to get him?

Kevin Hart is normally a cast iron guarantee that a bad movie is coming your way and this has all the hallmarks of being Kevin Hart in the kind of movie Adam Sandler rejects as being too low brow. But actually, it’s reasonably funny and smarter than you expect it to be, right down to a crucial Rashomon-esque lift scene. Hart is surprisingly unirritating, too, there’s a jaunty 90s soundtrack, and Johnson manages to do both action and comedy pretty well.

Doctor Strange (2016)
The latest Marvel movie sees arrogant surgeon Benedict Cumberbatch injured in a car accident and unable to operate any more. He heads East and before he knows it, as well as learning how to heal himself, he’s learning magic from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her helpers (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong), so that he can fight her former helper Mads Mikkelsen who wants to make everyone immortal… but in a really bad, murderous way.

On the one hand, it’s oftentimes a really visually impressive movie, with echoes of everything from Inception through 2001: A Space Odyssey, as reality warps and the action jumps between universes and dimensions. It’s got a top cast and the script, while treading often cliched ground at times, also channels Eastern philosophies to give us a slightly different take on the usual ‘great evil that must be defeated through brute force’, which is what Marvel normally gives us – squint, in fact, and you can spot a bit of Daoism, a bit of Buddhism and a bit of Kung Fu. Indeed, Mikkelsen is at times almost irrelevant to the larger personal journey that Cumberbatch is undergoing, such is the change in focus.

However, there are various production choices that undermine it all tad. Cumberbatch is saddled with an American accent he really doesn’t need and which affects his performance, fight scenes are endless shakycam and Michael Giacchino’s score is the usual strings-dominant orchestral pieces that rob the movie of the true weirdness it deserves. It’s also not as funny as it thinks it is.

On the whole, pretty good, but could have been better.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Last of the three prequel movies featuring the younger X-Men cast (at least, for now…), with the action shifting to the 80s as an Ancient Egyptian mutant/god comes back to life and decides to wipe the Earth clean of weaker specimens who won’t obey him. He assembles his own team to go and fight the good mutants, which now include young versions of Night Crawler, Jean Grey and Cyclops, as well as the usual usual and some of the characters from X-Men: First Class who didn’t get much/any screentime in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And guess who also shows up…

There’s nothing that new and remarkable about X-Men: Apocalypse, with very little you won’t have seen in either the first three movies or the prequels. But if you haven’t watched those movies, you’ll be wondering about a whole bunch of things the film assumes you already know, so it’s a bit lose-lose. However, the film is good when it’s focused on the more human side of things, whether it’s Jean’s and Cyclops’ romance, Magneto’s family, James McAvoy and Rose Byrne’s 20-year-long romance, and so on, making it a surprisingly decent third act. 

A bit meh, but Bryan Singer’s talents mean it’s not X-Men: Last Stand, for sure.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×3 – Shogun
Our superheroes end up in feudal Japan and do various exciting things. Meanwhile, Dominic Purcell wonders if he needs to bother acting any more. Generally, though, some good fight scenes, fun references to everything from Shogun through Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and some oddly touching moments, too.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Designated Survivor (US: ABC; UK: Netflix)
1×5 – The Mission
Basically, the entirety of the hunt for Osama bin Laden stuck into one episode, with all manner of daring-do by Navy SEALs and Kiefer Sutherland feeling very guilty about sending men off to war. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Doctor Doctor (Australia: Nine)
Possibly a show I can’t be arsed with, but given it’s only got three episodes to go, I’ll probably stick with it to the end, because it’s really just feel good fun, as doctor Rodger Corser’s redemption in rural Australia continues. You’ll feel better by the end of any episode, for sure.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Eyewitness (US: USA)
1×2 – Bless The Beast and the Children
Probably a show I would have dropped by now already, thanks to its complete ordinariness beyond Catherine Hardwicke’s direction, were it not clear at the end of the second episode that this has basically been a two-part pilot. Now, we’ve got a new state of affairs that shifts the entire tone of the story to something a bit more interesting. Not that much interesting, but it’s less about being stalked, more about secrets and power. A third-episode verdict coming later this week, I expect
Review: First episode

Frequency (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
1×4 – Bleed Over
Continuing with the two-prong approach of two criminal investigations, one in the past, one in the present to help solve the one in the past and prevent anything more happening in the present. It’s an intriguing strategy that’s working quite well, although the criminal investigations are very badly done. Needs to be a bit more focused on the relationships to assure its place in my viewing pile.
Reviews: First episode

Hyde and Seek (Australia: Nine)
Less a filler episode than an almost standalone episode that happens to join up at both ends with the main narrative, in a curiously thoughtful piece about ISIS recruiting strategies among Muslim youth. But still lots of action to enjoy, as well as Emma Hamilton’s impossibly perfect hair.
Review: First two episodes

Impastor (US: TV Land)
2×5 – Sins of The Past-or (2)
What was a show about a small-time, big-city, straight criminal impersonating a small-town gay vicar has now become a show about big city criminals working in a small town. Not what I signed up for really and with laughs now near zero, I think it’s time to give up on Impastor.
Review: First episode 

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×5 – The Weaponizer
Another funny episode that also gives us a new angel (Michael Imperioli) for a bit of variety – one who seems to like the Wings of Desire look, too. But also one that gave Tom Ellis a chance to do some proper acting for a change, which was unexpected. Oddly, despite the presence of Mark Dacascos and a storyline about feuding 90s martial arts stars, not a single fight scene in the entire episode. What a waste.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Supergirl (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
2×3 – Welcome To Earth
At the (not) Daily Planet, it’s journalism, Jim, but not as we know it, with photographers rewriting copy and reporters coming up with their own headlines. Meanwhile, Lynda Carter is the President of the USA – yes, there was an invisible jet reference, now you mention it. More notable for the end scene, though. Didn’t see that coming…
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
2×4 – Party at Castle Varlar
Now this is more like it – our time travellers teaming up with Ian Fleming (Sean Maguire) to fight the Nazis during World War 2, leading to possibly the best ever conclusion to a time travel story ever. Loads of fun, some surprisingly good German being spoken and it now looks like the show knows what it’s doing.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – Protocol 6
Our heroes get their first mission, while having to deal with their new home lives. While we don’t have a greater idea what ‘the great disaster’ is going to be, we do have a better idea of what kind of show this is going to be going forwards. There’s humour and a focus on characters, including what all their skillsets are. There’s going to be more science-fiction than I was expecting, given we have a plan to stop an anti-matter weapon being developed. It’s also far less insular than I was expecting, too, given that this team is just one among many around the world, and it’s also developing some amusing technology, with the future ‘director’ able to pass on messages to the unit by temporarily taking over unsuspecting children. Smart, entertaining, exciting – this could be a keeper. Third-episode verdict this week, I hope.
Review: First episode

The recommended list

Ash vs Evil Dead (US: Starz; UK: Virgin On Demand)
2×5 – Confinement
The show hits the John Carpenter trail this week, with a tribute to both The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13. Not as funny as previous outings, or as gory, but still plenty to merit its place on the recommended list.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×4 – The New Rogues
Long-time Flash enemy Mirror Master finally makes his appearance, as does a new version of a regular character. Didn’t really advance the season plot much and the Iris/Barry stuff was a bit painful, but not bad overall.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Son of Zorn (US: Fox)
1×5 – A Taste of Zephyria
Zorn gets a bit annoyed that everyone stereotypes Zephyrians so decides to teach Alan more about his culture. Lots of critiques about US racism, naturally, but also plenty of outright laughter to be had simply from Zephyrian culture.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

You’re The Worst (US: FXX; UK: 5*)
3×9 – The Seventh Layer
And here’s the surprising removal from the viewing list. Surprising, because it’s still very good and amusing. However, this episode really highlights the reason for the show’s removal – it’s stopped being a romcom about Jimmy and Gretchen and has started being a show about a group of people who hang out with one another, two of whom happen to be Jimmy and Gretchen. So while it’s all still excellently written, it’s not a show I find myself actually wanting to watch any more because it’s not really a romcom.
Review: First episode


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.