What have you been watching? Including You Are Wanted, Passengers and The Accountant

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.

WHYBW took a bit of a break last week, thanks to there being Twin Peaks to watch and not enough time to do that and write about other TV, too. But it’s back, just in time to catch some season finales as the US Fall season begins to wave its final goodbyes and the Summer season starts to kick in.

There have been a few new shows, too, in the past fortnight: the first episode of Downward Dog and those first two new episodes of Twin Peaks I’ve already reviewed elsewhere and I’ll be reviewing Still Star-Crossed (US: ABC) and previewing I’m Dying Up Here (US: Showtime) later in the week. But with a bank holiday weekend, I’ve had a chance to catch up with everything, watch a few movies and even try some of my backlog.

So, after the jump, I’ll be reviewing the latest episodes of American Gods, The Americans, Doctor Who, Downward Dog, The Handmaid’s Tale, Master of None, Silicon Valley and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finales of The Flash, Great News and Lucifer. Before then, a new TV show and not one but two movies!

You Are Wanted (Amazon)
Amazon’s first German-language TV show is a Berlin-set ‘techno thriller’ starring (and written, directed, produced and composed by) one of Germany’s most successful actor-director-composer-writer-cameramen-producers Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays a moderately successful hotel manager and family man, whose life starts to fall apart when hacktivists start to take an interest in him for no obvious reason. Before you know it, they’re in every computer system he has from his laptop and smartphone through to his TV and child monitor, stealing his money, faking an affair and incriminating him in crimes, all while blacking out Berlin’s power system. What do they want and why him? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out.

The first episode was a touch more German in its production values than Amazonian (ie not as good and a bit silly at times), but while it’s not exactly Mr Robot when it comes to hacking, it’s not American Odyssey either, exhibiting a slight hint that it might know a bit about the subject at least. Schweighöfer is appealing, but there’s not much by way of thrills so far, just a lot of Schweighöfer playing with his family and reinstalling operating systems. But it’s promising enough I’ll probably be watching episode two this week at some point.

Word to the wise: despite promises to the contrary, Roku’s Amazon channel won’t display subtitles (I’ve fiddled with every setting it has and nada on anything I’ve watched). So, although half the dialogue’s in English, your German had better be up to knowing what “hydraulic fracking” and “epidemiology” are auf Deutsch if you’re to get by on that platform, so stick with iOS (which definitely does work) or something else. When I gave the subtitles a whirl, though, they turned out to be pretty bad translations that removed any nuance from the original (eg “Google is your friend” became “Use Google”), so I’m not sure that’s much better.

Passengers (2016)
Mechanic Chris Pratt is in hypersleep on board a spaceship to a new colony, when a meteorite collision causes a malfunction on the ship. Pratt wakes up 90 years too early and he’s the only one on board apart from android barman Michael Sheen. Dare he wake up alluring writer Jennifer Lawrence to keep him company? And if he does, what will she do when he finds out he’s effectively killed her? And was his malfunctioning hypersleep pod the only thing damaged by the collision?

A lot has been written about the gender politics of Pratt’s actions in this and to be fair, the movie does go at great lengths not to dodge the ethical questions involved. It’s also far more of a piece of science-fiction than you might have assumed and everything looks very beautiful. But ultimately this is a two-hander between Pratt and Lawrence and how much you’ll want to watch this and their musings about the meaning of life and death very much depends on how much like both of them, whether you find their age gap a bit creepy and whether you think Pratt unconsensually violating sleeping Lawrence’s body (metaphorically) is too much of an obstacle to your enjoying the movie. There’s a brief appearance by (spoiler) Laurence Fishburne and a so-brief-you-probably-won’t-even-see-his-face cameo by (spoiler) Andy Garcia, too, which makes me think there’s a longer cut of the movie out there somewhere…

The Accountant (2016)
An odd attempt to revive The Saint but without paying a licence fee, in which rather than Val Kilmer playing a swashbuckling and suave master criminal who adopts Catholic saints as his noms de plume, we have Ben Affleck playing a socially awkward savant and master criminal who adopts the names of famous mathematicians as his noms de plume, as he goes about… analysing the finances of whomever will pay him. Anna Kendrick is the Elisabeth Shue of the piece, a mid-level accountant who finds an irregularity in her employer (John Lithgow)’s books that Affleck can’t stop himself from investigating. Except Affleck has a very specific code of conduct and if any of his employers break it, he’ll use all the training his psych ops army dad gave him to kill them with extreme prejudice. Trouble is, Lithgow has hired Jon Bernthal (Marvel’s Daredevil‘s The Punisher) to protect him so Affleck might not find the going so easy and Treasury agent Cynthia Addai-Robinson is chasing after him in the exact same way she chases Ryan Phillippe in Shooter

Written by Bill Dubuque (The Judge and Netflix’s forthcoming Ozark) and directed by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior), oddly enough the film is more about an accountant with autistic spectrum disorder than it is about a fighty master assassin, with Affleck redeploying the ‘tortured hero with a disability’ routine he used in Daredevil to evoke sympathy as he does a lot of A Beautiful Mind-like writing on vertical surfaces. But oddly, although its portrayal of ASD’s sensory issues as something that simply needs to be overcome through harsh regimens of fighting, flashing lights, loud noise and hitting yourself with a stick is probably a little contra-indicated, it’s surprisingly accurate, albeit more in a Bron/Broen (The Bridge) sort of way than Life, Animated, with Affleck’s character driven by, advantaged by and disadvantaged by his condition throughout.

The ending is surprising, the fight scenes are genuinely very good, and Affleck and Kendrick are frequently amusing together. And I promise you you’ll never see Martha from The Americans the same way by the end. It’s nonsense and there’s one scene in which JK Simmons sits down to explain the entire plot to the audience, but it’s nevertheless a jolly entertaining, surprisingly smart, surprisingly generous action movie that does for ASD what Daredevil does for blindness.

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What have you been watching? Including American Gods, Master of None, Lucifer and The Americans

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.

That flood of new shows I was expected? Hasn’t shown up. Hmmm. Wonder why. Anyway, we’re still on a Tuesday because Sunday is still quite full, plus Upfronts week coverage took a bit of work to put together yesterday.

That means it’s time to look at the regulars, including the latest episodes of American Gods, The Americans, Doctor Who, The Flash, Great News, The Handmaid’s Tale, Lucifer and Silicon Valley. Netflix also released season two of Master of None on Friday and I’ve watched… an episode of it. So I can talk about that, at least, after the jump. See you in a mo. 

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What have you been watching? Including Dear White People, Great News, Doctor Who and Silicon Valley

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.

Slightly later than normal this week thanks to everyone and their auntie suddenly thinking Sunday nights are the best time to broadcast TV shows. Monday nights? Not so much, so here we are on Tuesday, perhaps for a little time, perhaps for one week only.

Earlier this week, I reviewed the first episode of American Gods (US: Starz; UK: Amazon) and the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale (US: Hulu; UK: Amazon). But time and time wait for no man, not even me, so I’ll be reviewing the second and fourth episodes of those two respective shows after the jump, along with the usual regulars: The Americans, Doctor Who, The Flash, Great News, Lucifer and Silicon Valley.

But I did try to watch something else as well. Albeit a tad unsuccessfully.

Dear White People (Netflix)
Follow-up TV series to the massively successful movie that explores the modern day nuances and mores of race, class, race again, sex and race (again). Set on a modern day US Ivy League college campus, it looks at what happens when a humour magazine organises a black-face Halloween party. The ‘Dear White People’ of the title is the name of a college radio show run by Logan Browning (Powers, Hit The Floor) in which she tries to explain to white people what they’re doing might be racist, while they in turn phone in to explain to her how racist she’s being.

And that’s all I got.

The first 10 minutes were actually quite funny – astute critiques of what forms racism can take in an age in which accusing someone of racism is seemingly worse than their actually being racist, as well as insights into how racism changes depending on the classes of both those being racist and those targeted, and even how what constitutes racism can vary from one person to another.

I’d like to have carried on watching, but then came a point where I realised I literally had no idea what people were saying. The words didn’t mean anything to me. I am old and white and British, and the cast are predominantly young and black and American, and I simply couldn’t understand their lexicon and references, or when I did, it was five to 10 seconds after the line had been delivered.

What I caught was very good, though, so I may come back to it – with the subtitles turned on and tablet in hand set to the Urban Dictionary so I can work out what’s going on and maybe learn a little, too.

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What have you been watching? Including Saving Mr Banks, Lucifer, Doctor Who and The Flash

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.

Easter’s over, we’re entering May and while Captain Squarejaw might be depressed about the whole thing, TV networks around the world are waking up, filled will the joys of spring, and starting to send us a whole batch of new shows to enjoy.

Elsewhere, I’ve already reviewed the whole of Seven Types of Ambiguity (Australia: ABC), as well as the first episodes of Great News (US: NBC) and Genius (US/UK: National Geographic). Later in the week (I’m guessing Thursday), I’ll be casting my eye over the first few eps of The Handmaid’s Tale (US: Hulu) and American Gods (US: Starz; UK: Amazon), but there’ll probably be a few other shows I haven’t noticed yet that I’ll try to review as well (eg Dear White People). 

After the jump, though, I’ll be reviewing the usual regulars: The Americans, Doctor Who and Silicon Valley. Joining that list are the returning The Flash as well as the long-absent Lucifer. Hoorah! I’m assuming that’s what I heard you all saying just now, anyway.

I also watched a movie over the weekend.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)
Dual biopic about the making of Mary Poppins, in which a reluctant ‘PL Travers’ (Emma Thompson) is convinced to give Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) the rights to adapt her famed book. Coming over to Hollywood, she then has to deal with the fact the movie will be a partially animated musical that’s less than identical to the book and characters as she envisioned them, with the likes of Bradley Whitford and Jason Schwartzman having to show her just how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious it’ll all be if she just lets them to their thang.

Meanwhile, a second parallel plot flashes back to Travers’ upbringing in Australia with her delightful but chronically alcoholic dad (Colin Farrell), suicidally depressed mum (The Affair‘s Ruth Wilson) and suspiciously Poppins-like aunt (Rachel Griffiths), so that we can see what meaning Poppins might have had to Travers and how it made her so precious about her creation.

Obviously, you have to know Mary Poppins quite well to get the most out of everything, with Amadeus-like scenes depicting prototyping of characters and songs that require you to know what the final result should be like in order to see the difference. There are some very weird accents in the Australian portion of things, while Hanks’ performance is less than sparkling. The ending is also a bit of a fudge, since Travers still hated Mary Poppins when it came out.

Yet, the film, despite playing around with time, place and people, still gives us a Disney who isn’t whitewashed and Thompson’s Travers is marvellously acerbic (Travers insisted on having everything recorded, so much of the dialogue is what she actually said, not just conjecture). The recreations are also quite lovely, while Travers’ childhood is heartbreaking. If you have an interest in classic movie production, Saving Mr Banks is far more interesting than the average documentary and is full of laughs and pathos.

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What have you been watching? Including Girlboss, Doctor Who, The Magicians and Fortitude

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.

You can definitely tell we’re between seasons at the moment, can’t you? Some new shows have started up (such as Famous In Love) and there are a lot more on the way, but this week, there have been very few of the regulars to watch, just The AmericansDoctor Who and the season finale of The Magicians, all of which I’ll talk about after the jump, as well as the return last night of Silicon Valley.

The rest of the time, I’ve been playing catch-up on Fortitude, which I’ll also talk about in a minute, as well as watching Seven Types of Ambiguity. I’m four episodes into that now, so I’ll a do a full season review later in the week once I’ve watched the remaining two, along with National Geographic’s Genius.

I did, however, take a glance at one other new show over the weekend:

Girlboss (Netflix)
Based on Sophia Amoruso’s book of (almost) the same name (#GirlBoss), this is a ‘loose… real loose’ reimagining of Amoruso’s climb from rags to riches in which Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected, Under The Dome) is a girl so down-and-out that she sleeps with men so she has somewhere to stay for the night and gets repeatedly fired from jobs because she doesn’t want to work for anyone. But what does she want to do? She doesn’t know, until one day she discovers she has a gift for spotting expensive second-hand clothes being given away for next to nothing. Before you know it, she’s setting up her own eBay fashion business, which will go on to be worth millions.

I actually already knew about Amaruso already, because her book was the subject of some Greek translation I had to do once, Amoruso being Greek/Italian-American (“Sofia often stole from shops, which Americans call ‘shoplifting’, for which we don’t have a specific word”). Turning Amaruso into the daughter of a rich WASP (a minor reunion for Robertson as it’s Breaking Bad/Under The Dome‘s Dean Norris) robs the story of some potential variety, as does shifting the action from the early 90s to the mid-00s. However, it still manages to maintain the main highlights of Amaruso’s career and (loose) dedication to anarchism, and be a moderately interesting story about a young woman’s journey to try to discover what she wants to do with her life and then learn how to start and run an ultimatly hugely successful business.

But it’s not great. Enjoyable enough, a different sort of story for young women from the standard current ‘handsome prince’ tales (eg Famous In Love) and Robertson is still very watchable, but neither bad nor great in its telling, just a bit average.

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