What have you been watching? Including The Equalizer and Birds (or How To Be One)

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

So I’ve been pushing through! Yay! I’ve actually made myself watch both a new TV show and a movie. For Lockdown 3.0, that’s impressive. At least I think so.

I never got round to starting the third season of Harrow, but I might do that tonight. And since both Young Rock (US: NBC) and Kenan (US: NBC) started last night, those two might join it. Starting to almost feel like old times…

The only show on the regulars list is, of course, WandaVision (Disney+). That didn’t quite live up to all the promises made at the end of the previous episode, but was suitably fascinating to more than make up for that – particularly the show’s take on both 2000s sitcoms and comic books. I’m also very much hoping that Kat Dennings gets to send up 2010s sitcoms next episode: 2 Broke Girls deserves it.

But onto the new stuff…

The Equalizer (US: CBS)

This is, of course, a remake of the 80s classic TV show that starred Edward Woodward and was remade as a couple of movies quite recently with Denzel Washington. This new version of the show takes many of the elements of the original show and gives them a bit of a twist, as well as a CBS procedural make-over.

Now we have Robin McCall (Queen Latifah) retiring from the CIA after a mission goes wrong – although without having much of an idea as to what to do next. But soon she’s rescuing a teenage girl who’s been framed for a murder, and drawing on her old skills and former work colleagues to do it. Meanwhile, former mentor Chris Noth – the ‘Control’ of the piece – is trying to lure her into private security, and she’s also having to deal with her own teenage daughter’s issues.

So I actually really enjoyed this. Queen Latifah is actually very good and very plausible as an ex-CIA agent with mad skills, with most of the action scenes and computer hacking handled by younger cast members, while Latifah goes out and puts on various disguises and does general tradecraft. In fact, I believed in her prowess more than I ever did in Edward Woodward’s (Callan had been a fair few years earlier…). Apart from the running scenes and the bits where she’s on a motorbike. Oof.

The plotting was actually pretty good and full of surprises, too, with plot twists I didn’t see coming. It’s also quite a nicely diverse cast, and the show doesn’t overstate that, largely ignoring the fact but touching on it at the end, which is about the right balance.

But… this is clearly a CBS procedural, with a carefully assembled team of banter hounds (including Adam Goldberg). And it’s also one step removed from the general social relevance of the original, with its rage against the everyday lawlessness of the not-long-bankrupt New York, drug dealers and gangs veering towards outright misanthropy at times; here we have Latifah dealing with billionaires and special forces. It’s more exciting and ‘bigger’ maybe, but it’s not going to offend anyone or saying anything.

I had enough fun watching it to try episode two at least, which in Lockdown 3.0 makes it a break-out hit for me. YMMV.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Birds (or How To Be One) (2020)

Available on MUBI

Inspired by Aristophanes’ The Birds, Birds (or How To Be One) is writer/director Babis Makridis’ mix of documentary, Giorgos Lanthimos-style surrealism, a filmed fringe theatre production and just outright flights of fancy – as well as the occasional bit of self-criticism about its own highbrow inaccessibility. It sees various people explaining why they want to become birds as the movie takes us through the various supposed steps necessary for a human to become a bird.

What’s it all mean? Supposedly, a musing on the nature of people’s quest for freedom, it takes in escape from society as well as escape from oneself and one’s own life, including by analogy trans rights.

However, it’s not really something that you could say is equipped with much of a plot or even logic or a message, more a tone and a series of statements, all bottled up in a slightly disconcerting discontent with existence and a series of impressively striking images.

It’s very memorable and will keep you thinking afterwards for a long time. But the question of whether it’s any good is one you’ll be thinking about for just as long.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.