It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Previously on TMINE
Lockdown 3.0 occurred, that’s what happened.
Now on TMINE
Happy New Year! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? TBH, I’m still not feeling the TV buzz. Or even seeing much new TV or movies. I’m also still ridiculously busy, which given January is normally my quietest month work-wise is insane.
But… I’m not not watching things, you know? And I do have some time occasionally to write something.
So TMINE ain’t going back to normal any time soon. But I am going to at least try to do one of these every Monday or Tuesday.
This is predominantly going to be What Have You Been Watching? – a chance for you to let everyone know if you’ve found some gems out there to while away the quarantine. I haven’t really got the time or energy for full reviews of things, but I am also going to talk a little about what I have been watching – both film- and TV-wise – so I can at least flag things up.
After the jump then, what I’ve been watching, since I have seen some new things at least since last we spoke: Netflix’s Lupin, Disney+’s WandaVision and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
What TMINE watched this week
Lupin: dans l’ombre d’Arsène (Lupin)
In the UK: Netflix
Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family.
Quite a fun little escapist show, this one, in which Omar Sy basically does the Ocean’s 11 thing, just in French and by himself. It’s quite an imaginative little affair that’s also slightly hard-hitting in terms of its racial politics – oh, how many white French people were incensed at the idea of a black man playing Arsène Lupin, only to discover he wasn’t? A lot, that’s how many.
But the robberies are fun, there’s no real ‘edge’ to the show, just escapism – Assane always uses an alias that’s an anagram of Arsene Lupin – and it is great watching him always stay one step ahead, with either the plan shown to us in advance or reveal afterwards, much like a magic trick.
It’s really enjoyable and it’s only a few episodes long – I’m midway through episode two so will be sticking with it.
In the UK: Fridays, Disney+
Living idealised suburban lives, super-powered beings Wanda and Vision begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
The first of Marvel’s “phase four” TV shows that take some of the supporting characters from the MCU movies – in this case, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Vision – and flesh them out, WandaVision is just not what you think it’s going to be. For starters, for its first two episodes, while there are some hints at the two heroes’ abilities and natures, this is really a pastiche of black and white 50s US sitcoms – principally Bewitched, but you’ll spot references to the likes of The Honeymooners, if you look closely.
And it’s really quite sublime stuff. Just spot on with its accuracy. Paul Bettany is quite magnificent and also ridiculously funny, while Elizabeth Olsen is no slouch either – an American actress who plays the Elizabeth Montgomery of the piece with an effected US accent who occasionally slips into something more Eastern European whenever her character realises that she appears to be in some sort of real-life TV show.
There are Easter egg references to the movies as well, and behind it all is the knowledge that this is all going to descend into something more tragic (unless Vision has come back to life…). There’s also a sort of creeping horror from the undermining of reality. Future episodes will also skip forward in sitcom decades, going to colour and new conventions.
Episode two has a slight “is this going anywhere?” quality to it, it has to be said – we’re no closer to knowing what’s going on and why than we were an hour earlier, by its close, and while Vision and Scarlet Witch’s powers get many outings, it’s more in the support of comedy and Bewitched references than smiting evil. This is, after all, supposed to be about superheroes and there’s precious little of that right now.
But as a show, it’s a nice reminder that the MCU is filled with some great actors who’ve never really had a chance to shine, given the confines of two hour movies and superheroics – as well as superheroes that have never had a chance to shine either.
Even if you don’t like the MCU, these first couple of episodes are worth it at least, just to watch the spoofs – and Bettany on top form.
Wonder Woman (1984)
Diana Prince lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s — an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord and the Cheetah, a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.
Not especially great sequel to the very good Wonder Woman (2017), which feels more like a love letter to teenage Wonder Woman fans and an attempt to mimic the cheesy goofiness of Aquaman than something that really fits with all the previous DCEU outings of Wonder Woman.
On the plus side, it is actually pretty good fun, if overly long. As a proper WW fan, I actually enjoyed it more in some ways than the first movie, since it didn’t feel like a retread of the source comics: yes, the invisible jet shows up (ho, ho), as do The Contest, Cheetah, Maxwell Lord and the Screaming Chicken armour, but not in a way we’ve ever seen before. Diana even gets to fly 80s-style. At last!
Gal Gadot is also now unquestionably Wonder Woman and brilliant at it, and Diana herself is far more of a character with real depth and anima than sometimes she’s been in even the comics.
We also get to flip the previous movie, with the resurrected Steve Trevor now being guided through ‘modern’ society by a confident, knowledgable and self-possessed Diana.
On the minus side, the 80s stuff feels like it’s been put together by someone paying tribute to the 80s, rather than having lived through it – everything is 80s to the max, rather than simply of that time and place in the style of Stranger Things. It’s much too long, particularly for something that is in some ways a retread of Superman II, with Diana (spoiler alert) deciding whether to give up her powers for the man she loves – a plot decision that actually leads to very little Wonder heroics, although there are some decent action scenes.
And… it’s silly, particularly everything to do with Maxwell Lord, who is very much less than frightening, partly due to Pedro Pascal’s performance, partly due to the script. This is not the man of the comics with the power to control minds, who led Wonder Woman to commit murder to release Superman…
But for all its faults, I would happily rewatch the whole thing again tomorrow. And, of course, there’s a very important cameo mid-credits that made me very happy indeed.
You’ve got to be in the right mood and be the right kind of person to watch Wonder Woman 1984, and I doubt that’s most people who read this blog, TBH; it’s also pricy now for a rental, so maybe wait until it’s released on sell-through.