What have you been watching? Including Y Gwyll/Hinterland, Doctor Who, Ground Floor and The Legend of Hercules

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Yes, I’m back. Hopefully, you’ll have noticed already, if not, let this be my notice to you. So what have you been watching this Christmas? For me, not a lot of tele, although after the jump, I’ll be running through the likes of Doctor Who, Ground Floor, The Librarians, Mulaney, State of Affairs and Y Gwyll/Hinterland – I’ve already reviewed Galavant and Marco Polo elsewhere, in case those float your boat.

No, as is traditional over the Christmas period, it’s been all about the movies.

Despicable Me (2010)/Despicable Me 2 (2013) – iTunes
Evil villain dedicates his life to evil, only to find himself saving the day when an even worse evil turns up. If that sounds very similar to Megamind, that’s because it is and Despicable Me at least is decidedly inferior to that movie. However, many of the elements from the first movie that were more of an annoyance in Despicable Me – the three girls the evil ‘Gru’ adopts and his small yellow minions – come into their own in the far superior second movie, with the minions in particular turning into some very entertaining French-speaking oddities that are now warranting their own spin-off movie. Still not as good as Megamind, but more suitable for a younger audience and not without considerable charms.

Frozen (2013) – iTunes
Late to the show as always, I finally got round to watching the most popular animated movie in history. And actually, it’s not bad and its ending is pleasingly different from virtually all other Disney movies, with a story that’s more about the value of sisterhood than finding true love. It’s also got a couple of catchy songs that despite the occasional dodgy lyric (‘frozen fractal’ – oh dear God) you’ll find yourself quoting the best bits of at random points during the day and Kristen Bell turns out to be quite a good singer/voice actress. It’s just annoying that after a slightly uninspiring start, along the way, the whole thing feels like it’s been directed with the aim of having a stage show on ice spin-off, with some scenes even shot exactly like a West End musical rather than a film. But it’s survived a couple of re-watches already, so it must be a good ‘un, I reckon.

The Legend of Hercules (2014) – Netflix
Surprisingly, of the two Hercules movies released last year, this turns out to be far the superior to the Dwayne Johnson version and is faithful enough to both call him Alcides for most of the movie, rather than Herakles/Hercules, and to have a decent recreation of Tiryns based on the discoveries at Mycenae. It stars Kellan Lutz (Syrup, Twilight) as Alcides, who has to deal with both his evil god-rejecting mortal dad Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) and the revelation that his true dad is Zeus, king of the gods. While the movie eschews the conventional Labours bar the Nemean Lion in favour of new plots, it’s not to its credit that it messes around with the natures of Amphitryon, Alcmene and Iphicles in quite the way it does; neither is the strange middle section where the film decides it wants to be Spartacus so much it actually brings in Spartacus himself (Liam McIntyre) and sticks him and Hercules into a gladiatorial arena to fight baddies, more than a millennium before the gladiatorial arenas for thousands of spectators existed. But while it does stray, it does so in interesting ways. No one’s walking away with any acting or writing awards, but if you’re going to watch a Hercules movie, this is the best one.

Maleficent (2014) – iTunes
Disney does a Wicked with the wicked witch of Sleeping Beauty (Angelina Jolie), giving us the inside track on why she became evil and whether things were quite as one-sided as other movies might have suggested. Oddly, a much better film when dealing with the younger, pre-Jolie Maleficent and the whole thing boils down to ‘some boy done me wrong’, but innovative and enjoyable despite the relentless Disney co-branding.

Non-stop (2014) – Amazon Instant Video
Essentially an Agatha Christie locked room mystery, with one passenger on a plane killing off the others, one at a time, unless he or she is paid a big sum of money. Only air marshall Liam Neeson can find out who it is – by punching and shooting people a lot. Quite a taut and nuanced post-9/11 thriller that’s only slightly stupid at first but which turns into absolute bobbins once the identity of the killer is revealed. Nevertheless, there are worse action thrillers out there, a lot of them starring Liam Neeson, too.

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What have you been watching? Including The Flash, Homeland, Elementary, The Blacklist, Arrow and Selfie

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Ah, backlogs, backlogs, backlogs. They build up so quickly, but they’re so hard to clear. Whether I do this on a Friday or a Monday, there’s still always something I should have watched but haven’t. Still in the viewing queue are last night’s Gracepoint, Tuesday’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Sunday’s Cara Fi – a new S4C romcom starring Dave The Coach from Gavin & Stacey that I’ll probably write about on Monday, once/if I’ve seen both episodes one and maybe two. I’m toying with watching HBO’s The Comeback, but that’s technically on its second season, after a gap of a decade or so between seasons, so I might not. I’m also only halfway through the return of the marvellous The Fall. But I’ll be doing a lot more commuting next week, so I should be able to work my way through a lot more then.

My backlog would be a lot longer, incidentally, if I hadn’t decided that good as they are, I’m just not wanting to watch any more of either Jane The Virgin or The Affair. You may continue to watch them if you wish and taunt me with their goodness.

After the jump, though, I’ll be running through: Arrow, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, Elementary, The Fall, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Homeland, Muianey, Selfie and Scorpion. One of these will be getting dropped this week – which is it? Probably not the one you think I’ll be dropping.

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What have you been watching? Including The Anomaly, Constantine, Chef and Doctor Who

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Sunday’s overload of TV, as well as a generally busy weekend, means that I’m very slightly behind on my viewing. That means that still in the viewing queue are the latest episodes of The Affair, Homeland, Mulaney and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I’ve also got the first episode of The McCarthys to watch as well. As a result, I think “What have you been watching?” should shift to Friday again for the next few weeks, to deal with the latest schedule fun.

I did give The Knick (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) a brief try. This is Steven Soderburgh’s little project, starring Clive Owen, which aired in the Summer while I was away on holiday. Set in a turn of the 20th century American hospital, it appears to exist mainly to allow Soderburgh to play around with a brilliant surgeon who’s a racist drug addict and for Owen to try out an American accent that doesn’t fit him very well. It didn’t inspire me to watch any more of it anyway.

Before I get on to the regulars, though, I’ll briefly mention a few films I watched this week.

Chef (2014)
Jon Favreau is a cook who ends up having a fight with a restaurant critic (Oliver Platt) and getting fired. He decides to go back to basics by driving around the US in a van, but thanks to the fight going viral – and his son tagging along for the ride helps out a lot there – he soon becomes incredibly popular. Largely, the movie exists as a metaphor for Favreau’s experiences of going from independent movie making to big franchise movies (eg Iron Man) and back to indie movies again, and he’s got a lot of acting pals along with him to help (eg Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr). But it feels very self-satisfied, not least to the effect the portly Favreau has on women, and ultimately very predictable.

How Do You Know (2010)
Reese Witherspoon is a baseball player who hooks up with fellow athlete and ‘playa’ Owen Wilson. But should she really be with lawyer Paul Rudd, who’s a little bit too ready to commit. How will she know? Why should you care? You shouldn’t and won’t. A fabulous cast that also includes Jack Nicholson, and directed by TV comedy super-director James L Brooks, but the funny bits are all in the trailer.

The Anomaly (2014)
A strange futuristic little movie, in which Noel Clarke from Doctor Who is a soldier who keeps waking up to find himself in all kinds of strange situations, only for him to lose consciousness again after 10 minutes. Cue the next strange situation. Over time, he begins to piece together what’s going on – at least, when he’s not being punched a lot by Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries) – and it could change the world. Directed by Clarke and also featuring Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect, Ground Floor), it looks surprisingly good for a low budget indie movie and has some good ideas: in its own way, it’s the Megaville of this decade. But it’s somewhat sabotaged by some well choreographed but poorly shot, impactless fight scenes, a decision that all the female characters should be topless/naked at some point or other, and by leaving Brian Cox to almost literally hang around with nothing to do. Blink and you’ll miss Freema Agyeman as Clarke’s wife.

That’s it for new new shows, though, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, The Blacklist, Constantine, Doctor Who, Elementary, Forever, Gotham, Gracepoint, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Muianey, Plebs and Scorpion. Will I be dropping any this week?

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What have you been watching? Including Mulaney, Soul Mates, Jane The Virgin, Marry Me, The Affair and Forever

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

After last week’s epic catch-up, things have been a bit quieter this week, thanks to not that many new shows being launched. I did manage to give you a couple of previews, though:

And I did try to find some other new shows, too. Australia’s Soul Mates (ABC2) looked moderately interesting, since it stars The Bondi Hipsters as a couple of friends who are continually drawn together across the course of human history. However, it’s really just a sketch show with a linked narrative, so slightly outside my scripted comedy remit. Here’s a trailer for you, though, in case you like the look of it.

Somehow, though, a new show that began airing a few weeks ago in the US managed to sneak in under my radar:

Mulaney
In the US: Sundays, 9.30/8.30c, Fox
Probably best described as a Seinfeld for the 2010s, since it stars comedy writer and stand-up John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live) as an aspiring comedy writer and stand-up called… John Mulaney, and details his various adventures with his female best friend Jane (Nasim Pedrad, from Saturday Night Live), slightly odd, big-haired fellow comic ‘Motif’ (Seaton Smith), and occasional nemesis Andre (Zack Pearlman of the US version of The Inbetweeners). Indeed, with each episode opening with a Seineld-esque stand-up routine, the only big differences in the set-up between this and Seinfeld are the fact that the cast is more diverse (notably for Fox, Mulaney is gay) and that Mulaney manages to get a job writing jokes for self-centered comedy legend and game show host Lou Cannon (Martin Short) in the first episode. Oh yes – Elliott Gould plays Mulaney’s ‘flamboyant’ next door neighbour.

And actually, bar the spectacularly ill-judged opening stand-up routine, which is all about Mulaney accidentally getting mistaken for a potential rapist, it’s surprisingly funny. I was expecting a multi-camera comedy from Fox* to be a dreck fest but now I’m going to do my best to catch up on the next few episodes, despite the ratings being a bit poor and the episode count being dropped from 16 episodes to 13, just as the 14th was about to be made.

* It was actually first commissioned by NBC, the former home of… Seinfeld

That’s it for new new shows, though, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: The Affair, Arrow, black-ish, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, Forever, Gotham, Gracepoint, Homeland, Jane The Virgin, Marry Me, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Plebs, Scorpion and Selfie. Will I be dropping any this week?

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Mulaney, Soul Mates, Jane The Virgin, Marry Me, The Affair and Forever”

US TV

What have you been watching? Including Strange Empire, Coverband, Electra, The Flash and Doctor Who

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

You may have noticed I was playing epic catch-up on Saturday, in contravention of my normal rule of weekend blogging. So on top of Friday’s all out efforts and a couple of extra ones today, I’ve reviewed the following new shows, some of which have already been acquired for Blighty’s viewing pleasure:

Yay, me. No back log now. Time to have regular weekends again. Phew.

In fact, so ahead of myself am I that I’ll point out that ages ago, I reviewed NBC’s Constantine, which starts on Friday. Okay, it’s changed a bit since the pilot but you’ll get the general point.

But I’ve not stopped there. Oh no. Because I’ve also watched a New Zealand and a Canadian show just for luck. Okay, I was a bit behind on all of them, so I’ve only seen the first episode of each, but honestly, that felt like enough.

Strange Empire (Canada: CBC)
Set in the 1860s on the Alberta-Montana border, this sees three women (Cara Gee, Tattiawna Jones and Melissa Farman from Lost) band together for survival after virtually all the men in their town are murdered and those remaining behind battle for power. Very nicely made and already being described as the saviour of CBC, it’s historically interesting but about as tedious as any other western, and none of the characters really grabbed me.

Coverband (New Zealand: TV One)
A one-hit wonder band reunite back in New Zealand years after they were famous. Unfortunately, the female lead singer was the one who was a success, leaving the terminally unsexy rest of the band to make it by themselves, something at which they fail miserably. Now having to deal with the pressures of normal lives and forced to do cover versions of other bands’ records, they suck completely until they stagecrashed by Laughton Kora, who shows them what rock charisma and singing really are, so they hire him. Kind of.

It’s an amiable and accurate enough show, based on cast member Johnny Barker’s own experiences as an Auckland cover band musician, and were there enough time in the world, I’d probably tune in for a few more episodes. But the show’s not so inspiring that I’ll throw something else aside for it and I’ve already seen The Wedding Band crash and burn, so I don’t think I need to see that happen again.

Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t want to produce any globally available videos of its own shows, apparently, so here’s a picture of the cast to tide you over.

Coverband

That’s it for new new shows, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, black-ish, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Plebs, Scorpion, Selfie and The Walking Dead.

But hey! Before you go, I should mention I went to the theatre, too!

Electra (Old Vic)
Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra, a new translation of Sophocles’ original text by Greek tragedy stalwart Frank McGuinness, music by PJ Harvey – what could go wrong? Well, not much actually, beyond a certain staticness to the direction, a slightly weak performance by Jack Lowden as Orestes and a very strange performance by Tyrone Huggins as Aegisthus. Other than that, a fine piece of work, surprisingly faithfully staged (although that’s not quite how Greek people prayed), with an outstanding performance by Thomas and a surprisingly funny text by McGuinness – in part to cover up for casting slightly older than originally written, but also to hide the unlikelihood of Electra not recognising Orestes. Liz White (Life on Mars) gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her as Chrysothemis, Electra’s sister.  

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