What have you been watching? Including Ozark, Somewhere Between, Sing, and Beauty and the Beast

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in Netflix's Osark
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in Netflix's Osark

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z. But it’s what you have you been watching? So tell us! Ah go on. Go on, go on, go on

August is nearly here, which means TMINE is about to take it’s traditional month off from talking about TV in order to lounge around by a pool and try to read a book without falling asleep for a change. Naturally, of course, all the new shows are starting up now so there’s no slouching to be done just yet, though.

I’ll be reviewing both Midnight, Texas (US: NBC; UK: Syfy) and Pulse (Australia: ABC) over the next couple of days, but after the jump, I’ll be looking at the first episodes of Somewhere Between (US: NBC) and Ozark (Netflix). I’ve also caught a couple of movies out the corner of one eye, so I’ll be reviewing Sing (2017) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), too.

But as it is the last WHYBW before the August vacations, as usual it’ll be a little special and I’ll be applying my standard “Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back?” test to the current list of shows, including Game of Thrones, Salvation, Snowfall, Will and Twin Peaks, as well as the returning Shooter. Can you guess which ones I can really be shagged to catch up with when I get back? Ah go on.

Movies I’ve caught out the corner of one eye

My wife was watching them. I was doing other things at a slightly odd viewing angle relative to the television

Sing (2017)

Animated musical animals. Koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey. Some sort of singing competition to keep Koala’s theatre up and running to which lots of animals turn up to despite peer pressure and sing their little hearts out. Nice voices (Scarlett Johansson as a punk porcupine, Taron Egerton as a gangster gorilla, Seth McFarlane as a con mouse), decent enough script, a few moving moments. Not as bad as I thought it would be.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Faithful live-action remake of the Disney cartoon (caveat: I haven’t seen the Disney cartoon) in which Emma Watson plays Belle, Dan Stevens plays the Beast, and a flotilla of the great and the good (Emma Thomson, Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw) play various pieces of animated furniture. Exactly what you’d expect, well done and with some pretty decent animation. Although no amount of make up can cover up the fact non-beast Stevens is nearly a decade too old for Watson.

New shows

Ozark on Netflix

Ozark (Netflix)

Jason Bateman is a seemingly lowly, porn-addicted, Chicago financial advisor in a slightly dull marriage with Laura Linney, with two ungrateful teenage kids. What they don’t know (or don’t like to talk about) is that Bateman and his best mate have actually been laundering drug money for the past decade.

Unfortunately, best mate’s been siphoning off some of the cash and when Esau Morales turns up, he’s not best pleased so kills everyone. Except Bateman who convinces him that actually, the Ozarks might be a better place for selling drugs, as it’s free of Chicago’s government surveillance yet knee-deep in rich people. So Morales gives him a week to get things up and running.

I have to admit that I only watched the first episode under the TMINE contractual obligation to watch everything new I possibly can. But actually, it was a whole lot better than I thought it was going to be. Director/star Bateman and writer/creator Bill Dubuque (The Accountant) make the show a lot smarter, funnier and lighter than you think it’s going to be, Morales is great to watch, and the teenagers are admirably whiny. Bateman’s not quite Breaking Bad, since he’s already bad to begin with, but his ability to deploy financial regulations to his advantage at a moment’s notice is alternatively bad ass.

Episode 1 ends with the family Bateman turning up at the Ozarks, so I have no idea what the format is for the other nine episodes. But I’ll certainly be giving them a try when I get back. At some point.

ABC's Somewhere Between
Paula Patton in ABC’s Somewhere Between

Somewhere Between (US: ABC)

Adaptation of a Korean show in which TV journo Paula Patton unwisely promises to catch a notorious serial killer, said killer than deciding to kill her daughter in return for all that hubris. Patton kills herself, but wakes up to find it’s 10 days earlier, all the bad things haven’t happened yet and she has a chance to stop everything before it starts. Potentially along for the ride, given that he was thrown in the same lake at the same time as Patton decided to drown herself, is disgraced cop turned PI Devon Sawa – who equally coincidentally has a grudge against Patton’s DA husband, as he was the one who put his brother behind bars.

Lots of coincidences, lots of lines about how coincidental it all is (although gods bless them for “A million people and you happened to break into the same man’s home. What are the chances?” “100% it seems, since it actually happened”), lots of sad faces, etc. But the most exciting and realistic moment in the entire first episode is Patton throwing herself in the lake, before which it’s a highly soporific affair. There’s all manner of red herrings thrown out there as to who might be the serial killer, etc, and there’s a somewhat distasteful plotline about Sawa’s brother’s case being used to bring back the death penalty in Washington State, but none of it is compelling viewing and the inanity and simplistic nature of the dialogue and plotting make it an insulting watch.

Given it looks like there’s only one reset, rather than a full groundhog recursion, it’s likely to be pure murder-mystery from now on, albeit one that flashes up what happened the previous time round. Every. Single. Moment. I’m not sure if that floats your boat, but I doubt I can be shagged to play catch-up after my holiday.

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

Salvation (US: CBS; UK: Amazon – maybe)

1×2 – Another Trip Around the Sun

And I’m out. For every one slightly smart idea – we’re now talking about building an EM drive to propel a satellite to deflect the potentially Earth-destroying asteroid using gravitational attraction – we have something ludicrously stupid, usually along the “private sector so smart, government so stupid and will try to kill you” lines, that it all cancels out. I can’t watch any more of this dumb.

Episode reviews: 1
Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back? I hope the asteroid does hit the Earth

Snowfall (US: FX)

1×2 – Make Them Birds Fly – 1×3 – Slow Hand

John Singleton’s journey back to the LA of the 80s to look at the birth of the crack epidemic continues much as it did during the first episode – telling us not much we didn’t know already. Its strongest storyline is actually the CIA thread, but it mirrors that of junior crack dealer Damson Idris in really being about newbies coming across seasoned vets of wars and learning to either get hard or get beaten up. Episode three is perhaps the notable of the three episodes, but that’s mainly due to an unpleasant scene of torture and rape that we all could have guessed the outcome of (“don’t trust a gang member”).

Episode reviews: 1
Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back? It’s not addictive – I quit

Will (US: TNT)

1×4 – Brave New World

Deep breath going in as this was the first ep not written by Craig Pearce so potentially the first ep to emulate rather than embody (or deliberately deny) the punk spirit of the show. Still, while there were definite episode twoish moments of historical tedium, an ep that managed to have plenty of fun with its historic-ahistoric tensions, all to a T-Rex/Beastie Boys soundtrack, as Will goes to one of Marlowe’s parties, and nearly writes A Midsummer Night’s Dream but ends up doing Henry VI instead. It’s not up there with the sheer joy of episode one again, but the show does at least seem to be stabilising around two good songs, a new play and a deliberate anachronism each episode, at least.

Episode reviews: 1, 3
Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back? To be or not to be? That is the question…

Recommended shows

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

7×2 – Stormborn

Far more of a crowd-pleaser than the season opener, giving us all manner of meetings, news imparted, battles and more that really rewarded the long-term viewer. Interestingly, even though we’re now nearing the end of the story, there’s still room for goodies to get killed and/or captured, so there could be some old school Game of Thrones surprises still to come. Not sure where Grey Worm got so good at shagging, mind.

ReviewsSeason one
Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back? Sesīr kipi!

Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)

2×1 – The Hunting Party

So we skip a book and a continent or two for the rather good start of the second season of USA’s surprise hit military show (of which there are now many, many more to come this year). Ryan Phillippe’s off in Germany now, Omar Epps is off in Thailand and Cynthia Addai-Robinson is stuck behind a desk, but everyone seems to want them back in the thick of things – particularly a rather naughty sniper from the first season.

Despite the quick turnround between seasons, the action feels more polished, the on-screen sniping maths less intrusive, the flashbacks more realistic and Phillippe more plausible as a hardcore ex-marine. Its conservative heart also doesn’t try to do down Germany or (the obviously not) Thailand, being a decently respectful visit to both countries. The “we’re being hunted” storyline is a bit old-hat, but I can live with that.

Reviews: Season one
Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back? Oohrah!

  • Mark Carroll

    Not all rubbish for you at least, even “Sing”, good to know I don’t need to work too hard to avoid it if the circumstance arises, as what I already knew set my expectations low. I’m glad to avoid “Somewhere Between”‘s plentiful red herrings though.

    I’ve been exposed to further “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, into the third season now I think. It’s remaining pleasant but missable, still reasonably well-written but maybe not quite as funny, I’m not sure. The relationships maybe matured slightly.

    We went to see “Dunkirk”. It seemed well-made but narratively I honestly found it rather weak. I wasn’t always quite sure who was who and what was going on and mostly didn’t care anyway, despite being predisposed to some interest given that my grandfather had been there. It’s been very well received but felt to me to be very by-the-numbers.

    • Mark Carroll

      “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”: I could do without the boobs in California earworm!

    • My sister saw Dunkirk and quite liked the anonymity of it – in that it wasn’t about anyone in particular (cf Pearl Harbor) but was about the event itself. Even if it forgot most of the French soldiers who did all the fighting to save the Brits (and the other French who were escaping at the time)

      • Mark Carroll

        I think there was far short of a film’s worth given us of anything coherent about the event itself. Like, there are a bunch of people on the beach. Later, there aren’t. Where did they go? Did ships come while we weren’t looking? No idea, but it didn’t seem so. It might well intentionally portray confusion from individuals’ point of view but if that’s the main point then I’m just more sure I should have gone to see “Wonder Woman” instead (and that might have been more informative!). Even given anonymity I think it lacked narrative. I’m even rather uncertain of general parts I did try to infer from what I saw, like that maybe the majority of RAF support for the operation occurred well out of view of those being rescued.

        • Always go and see Wonder Woman

  • I can see I forgot to review Twin Peaks. Oops. Anyway, an odd ep that was more comedy than anything else, interspersed with the occasional moment of horror and odd tributes to 80s action movies. Duggy and his Chauncey Gardener act are getting a bit insufferable, but at least it led to our first Cherry Pie moment

  • I’ve been enjoying Shooter season 2, but having read the book it’s supposedly based upon, I’m having a hard time seeing how the plots even come close to mapping. That being said, I’m very curious what the overarching plot is going to turn out to be, since so far, it’s a fairly bog standard murder disguised as terrorism, but no real hint about who’s behind it all (since the one person mentioned in episode 2, Meachum, is super, super dead.)

    • It’s going to be even more interesting now they’ve dropped the two final episodes because that worked just as well! So far, though, it doesn’t look like they’re trying to hide the Big Bad too much – at least not in interviews.

  • JustStark

    Theatre! Now, I’m not usually a fan of Shakespeare’s comedies, largely due to them not actually being funny. And one of the ones I’m least keen on is Much Ado About Nothing (it’s not my absolute least favourite, that’s As You Like It, mainly thanks to Touchstone) due to it being set in the Italian village of STUPID PEOPLE, with a plot that requires everybody at every turn to do the absolute stupidest thing they can possibly do.

    However, one saving grace they have is that they do often leave space in between the unfunny lines in the script for actors to do funny things in the margins. So when a friend organised a trip to the Globe to see the new Much Ado, I thought I’d tag along, mostly out of curiosity having seen last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and wondering what on Earth Emma Rice could have done to get them to fire her if that didn’t [not that it wasn’t a good production, it was, but if you want to keep the Globe for traditional stagings — and I can see the argument for that, as there are loads of theatres where you can do innovative Shakespeare, but only one Globe) — then that would be exhibit A].

    To start off with, it’s nowhere near as mad as the Dream. Yes, there are dance numbers, but then there’s dance numbers in the original and just using fun Latin music instead of tedious ‘hey nonny nonny’ is hardly on the same level as turning Dream into Moulan Rouge. Latin dance numbers because it’s been moved from the Italian village of STUPID PEOPLE to the Mexican Revolutionary encampment of STUPID PEOPLE, but there seems to be no reason for this change — it doesn’t comment on anything either historical or in the text, that I can see — beyond allowing them to replace the play’s famous two racist bits which would be unacceptably jarring to a modern audience with references to ‘Americans!’.

    So anyway, it really comes down to the cast and they for the most part perform their task of finding some humour in the script they’re stuck with pretty well, especially the Benedick and Beatrice — Benedick better than Beatrice, though I don’t think that’s so much that he’s a better actor than she is an actress, it’s just that her part involves more heavy lifting because while Benedick is simply not funny (but with much scope for funny business in the margins), Beatrice’s part is actively anti-humour. Though there is one great bit where she actively rolls her eyes at one of the more laboured puns she’s saddled with, which generates a great moment where the audience laughs in sympathy with her.

    The one bit that doesn’t really work is Dogberry, who is reimagined as an American film director who just happens to be hanging around the Mexican revolutionaries for no reason. So his malapropisms become his inability to speak the language, which doesn’t really work as if he knows he’s mangling his words why is it funny? And it makes his one actually amusing bit, his insistence that the only real crime is insulting his dignity, make no sense at all. Terrible idea.

    In theatrical film, I saw the 70mm print of Dunkirk, which I see is proving controversial here already. So, it doesn’t have a story: it follows three narratives, but none of them really have a beginning, middle or end — the RAF story comes closest to that, in that it actually has a climactic moment — which you would think would make it boring, but I didn’t find it so. I didn’t find it a problem that there wasn’t anything coherent about the event itself, either: by deliberately focusing on the individual’s-eye-view it did cut out the possibility of much of an overview of the event, so yes, lots of stuff did happen ‘offstage’, but I thought that worked quite well in giving a sense of what it might be like to be caught up in an event like that, not knowing the big picture, only able to do the best you can in your own little bit and hope that it all works out for the best. Especially, for example, the bit where they’re trapped in the trawler’s hull, and the camera stays there with them: some films we’d have had some external shots, to show us what’s going on, where things are, how much danger they’re in, etc, but this one keeps the focalisation resolutely with the soldiers so we share their sense of not knowing what’s going on. Same thing in the dogfight sequences, where the focalisation sticks with the RAF pilots — I found the ‘jump-scare’ moments when they come under fire from an unseen enemy very effective.

    I also liked that the enemy were never seen — just bullets from nowhere, or anonymous aeroplanes — and indeed were mostly referred to as ‘the enemy’ rather than the Germans. Again, it heightened the sense of the event itself (the battle, let alone the whole war) being beyond any individual’s comprehension, so that heroism is simply doing one’s own part, however small (hence the newspaper story at the end), without necessarily knowing the bigger picture. A nice antidote to things like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

    I also thought the ending was absolutely perfect.

    But we’re here to talk about television, so, I finished Beauty and the Baker and, well, refer to previous comments: better than I expected, pretty funny, they know that their real stars are Crazy Ex and Crazy Brother.

    I started the second series of 12 Monkeys, and three episodes in it seems to have turned into late-period Primeval, where it’s more about the time anomalies than the dinosaurs that come through them. So that was unexpected. We’re also collecting an increasing list of things that the characters haven’t done yet — it’s a bit like Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who — so I wonder how many of those will get resolved. I’m also sure there’s some I’ve forgotten.

    Now halfway through the second series of The Man in the High Castle and their spot-the-bit-part-player game remained strong with New Ray (but gosh hasn’t New Ray got old?) and then one of the girls from The Neon Demon. But they had to go and spoil it all by casting Tate Donovan. I don’t know why but I find him intensely annoying, and he turns up in everything (maybe it’s because he turns up in everything). Still, at least it’s not his even-more-irritating lookalike, Neal McDonough (have they ever been in the same thing?).

    And an episode from the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, Peggy finally gets a goal! Unfortunately while that’s half of dramatic conflict, they still seem to have forgotten the other half — obstacles, and overcoming them — because she accomplishes the first half of her task, getting to the club, far too easily (M’s brother is eager to take her, she just has to suggest it) and then just gives up when there is an obstacle to the second half, so the MacGuffin has to be dropped in her lap by another character. Oh well, baby steps. But unfortunately we see Moira again and the problem with that is it only reminds us how much more interesting this programme would be if it had been following her all the time.

    Twin Peaks: I thought the taste of damn fine cherry pie was going to wake Dale from his stupor. No such luck. ‘Well, he’s dead.’

    August already!??!?! At this rate it’ll be Christmas in about a week. Have a good holiday.

    • Re: Shakespeare comedies. Yes, not funny. Nick Hancock always used to do a joke about English teachers slapping their thighs and going “Ha!” during the gravedigger scenes in Hamlet because they felt it was supposed to be funny and owed it to the kids to do it but couldn’t actually laugh at it. Because it’s not funny.

      12 Monkeys – you’ve now reached the bit where it becomes more or less complete nonsense.

      Tate Donovan: he did a fun little film called Love Potion No 9 (cf my point last week about that trend for movies with song titles for names) with Sandra Bullock 25 years ago but nothing good ever since

      Neal McDonough: very good at being irritating in The Flash, more so in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow where he gets to ham with glee, too.

      Twin Peaks: I was hoping cherry pie would be the key, too. But no.

      Still got a day of active service left before holidays, but thanks!

    • Mark Carroll

      Good point about not knowing the big picture. While in a few films I have enjoyed sharing characters’ sense of not knowing what’s going on, especially when there’s a decent reveal/twist toward the end, now I think about it I think they’ve tended to be fairly single-protagonist continuous-time: perhaps what did for Dunkirk for me was combining that significant lack of omniscience with jumping around between characters and, for some of them, cutting out large, unknown segments of their time; I was left not even knowing what I was supposed to think. (As opposed to, say, films like Memento where I think on first viewing I was only about as confused as I was supposed to be!)

      • JustStark

        perhaps what did for Dunkirk for me was combining that significant lack of omniscience with jumping around between characters and, for some of them, cutting out large, unknown segments of their time

        What I thought worked with that was the fact it allowed some events to be seen from two (or maybe three?) different perspectives, but each completely limited. So the audience does get a slightly more omniscient view of things, but at any given moment is limited to the focalisation of whichever character is being followed.

        Like I say, I thought it was a great way to do a war film about how heroism isn’t just about being the one who gets the secret plans, or the one who protects the one who gets the secret plans, but just doing one’s own small bit can be heroic: ‘All we did was survive.’ ‘That’s enough.’