What have you been watching? Including The Magnificent Seven, Shooter, Lucifer and The Man in the High Castle

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. 

I know there are a lot of new show coming soon. They really are. They’re just not here yet.

That means that in the past week, I’ve only reviewed Six (US: History) and passed a third-episode verdict on Emerald City (US: NBC; UK: 5*). I’ll be deluged again soon and complaining about it, I know….

Anyway, a few oldies are back in the schedules again, which means that as well as The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman and Son of Zorn, I’ll be covering Lucifer and Timeless and the season finale of Shooter. I also managed to squeeze in a few episodes of The Man in the High Castle. And I watched a movie.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Antoine Fuqua’s insipid remake of the classic 1960 Western, in which black-clad gunslinger Denzel Washington puts together a group of similarly iconic gunslingers to help protect Haley Bennett’s village from powerful rich guy Peter Sarsgaard.

The film goes through most of the same motions as the original, from the introduction and recruitment of each of the remaining seven (Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier) through the training of the villagers to the eventual battle with the baddies, but without ever really making you care about any of them, beyond the fact they’re Lee Byung-hun, Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio. Indeed, unlike both the original and the film’s ultimate antecedent, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai), the film only really comes alive when it’s an action scene, the characters proving otherwise unendearing or even interesting.

A few lines from the original (“If God had not wanted them shawn, he would not have made them sheep”) manage to sneak in, but they only sure up the rest of the script’s ultimate emptiness, and the frequent clichéd homages to Westerns in general only serve to make the movie look hackneyed.

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
1×11 – Mason Blows Up
Nothing special to write home about, with Jack basically discovering being a managing editor is different from being a reporte. However, the complete lack of training offered to new managers in media companies does at least ring true, as does the copious consumption of alcohol at work. Also, did they change the title sequence this episode to include two more of the supporting cast or have they always been there?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lethal Weapon (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
1×12 – Brotherly Love
For once, not really an episode about Riggs, with Murtaugh’s health problems the main focus and we also get to see Trish in the courtroom. Nothing hugely special, but nothing too bad.
Review: First episodethird episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×11 – Stewardess Interruptus
While more or less ducking the previous episode’s cliffhanger for the whole episode, a fun little piece that also reminds the viewer that Lucifer isn’t 100% straight and we get sight of a potential new enemy, thanks to a previously unsuspected skill at cinematography in the directorial team.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)
2×1-2×3
Looking back at my review of the first season, the show’s faults seem to have continued unresolved into the second season, albeit with just a bit less water-treading and a bit more excitement in these first few episodes than there were last season. The show’s strengths remain the same and what new things that have been added from the book improve the show, such as the focus on many realities, none of them ‘the true one’, and the art-forging plot. The fact that Rufus Sewell gets to talk with a few new people from the regulars is an improvement, too, I’m still loving the supersonic jets and the ambitions of the Reich in terms of building projects are nicely extrapolated. The show’s moral shades of grey with regards to the Nazis is well handled, too, with Alexa Davalos discovering that it’s quite nice being a member of the Master Race for a change, while simultaneously finding out that you also need to be a good brood mare if you’re a female member of said race.

But we’re still talking about a show whose ‘authenticity’ is such that visitors to a rural Japanese house in the pouring rain don’t take their shoes off before entering and where all the American characters are so dull, you’ll be cheering for the SS and the Kempeitai. 
Reviews: first episode; first season

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
1×11 – The World’s Columbian Exposition
The second US TV programme to feature famed serial killer HH Holmes in the past month, the episode is nevertheless the usual frothy fun, dedicated mainly to restoring the series’ status quo by the end of the episode. Good use of an historical character (spoiler: Harry Houdini), as well as of Lucy’s history knowledge, too. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
3×3 – Horse
In which Josh’s new girlfriend tries to bond with his best friend and it all goes wrong in a Chilean mine, a Wikileaks-style press conference, a Medieval hanging and a 70s sitcom. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Brilliantly amusing and innovative as always.
Review: First episode

Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
1×10 – Primer Contact
A strong finale for a strong first season, with an episode that also touched on the original movie for the first time since the first episode. The return of the CGI and onscreen ballistics from the first episode wasn’t unwelcome either, since rather than just being a gimmick, it did at least show some of the mental effort needed in shooting. Kudos, too, for actually having a nuanced approach to the Russians (including getting a familiar face from The Americans in on the game) and for not making everything either too implausible or too easy, and Phillippe did at least finally convince me that he was Marine material by the end – let’s just assume that retirement had left him a bit rusty for the first few episodes. The ending also not only left everything open to a resonable continuation of the series but put a few shades on an existing character that while not 100% believable were at least plausible. 

All in all, a good, strong, smart, conservative (but not alt-right) action drama that I imagine will have many imitators in the next couple of years. 
Review: First episodethird episode

Son of Zorn (US: Fox)
1×11 – The Battle of Self-Acceptance
A little less funny than normal, with the show more interested in shaking up the status quo for all the characters than going all out for yucks. But still some good hard laughs, particularly from the wedding video, and Nick Offerman’s return was very welcome, too.
Reviews: First episodethird episode