Naomi Watts in Netflix's Gypsy
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Gypsy, Downward Dog, Doctor Who, Glow, Riviera, Ronny Chieng – International Student and Westworld

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. Go on – I dare you.

The slowdown into summer continues and with the July 4th weekend having just passed, there wasn’t a huge amount for me to watch this week. Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Spike (US)’s The Mist but that was the only new show other than Netflix’s Gypsy, which I’ll get onto in a minute. In fact, two more shows have had their season finales since last week: Doctor Who (UK) and Downward Dog (US). There’ll be nothing left at this rate…

Anyway, after the jump, as well as those two concluding shows, I’ll be looking at what’s left of the regulars: Glow, Riviera and Ronny Chieng – International Student. And, because I finally had some time to play catch-up, I’ll be looking at the final few episodes of Westworld (US), too – now there’s a blast from the past, hey?

Gypsy (Netflix)

Tediously familiar Chance territory in which Naomi Watts plays a bored psychiatrist trapped in a struggling marriage with Billy Crudup and dealing with a borderline-ADHD, possibly trans eight-year-old daughter and the mundanities and social rivalries of fellow mums. But then she begins to think that maybe she could do more for her clients by interfering in their lives, and in the process add some excitement to her own life. So she does and the boundaries between personal and professional begin to blur once she gets the hots for Karl Glusman’s dangerous ex-girlfriend (Sophie Cook) and begins constructing a boundary-crossing alter-ego for herself.

Gypsy wants to be a clever lesbian erotic thriller, playing with ambiguities about what’s real and who’s real, whether Glusman, Watts or Cook has the best idea of what Cook is truly like, and so on. The trouble is that it’s busy naming its episodes things like ‘The Rabbit Hole’, setting them in bars called ‘The Rabbit Hole’ set in basements you have to climb down stairs to get to, shortly before people say “We’re going down the rabbit hole now.” It’s basically a stupid person’s idea of a clever lesbian erotic thriller. Were it not for the production values, cast and runtime, it would probably be airing late night on Channel 5, having previously been released straight to video back in the early 90s.

I managed an episode and a half before the tedium of it all was too much for me.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Gypsy, Downward Dog, Doctor Who, Glow, Riviera, Ronny Chieng – International Student and Westworld”

A screen-cap from Twin Peaks
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including GLOW, Riviera, Logan, Twin Peaks and Ronny Chieng

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.

Redesigning and migrating TMINE took up quite a bit of my time this week, so I didn’t cast my net as wide as I’d hoped in watching new TV. All the same, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve managed to give two other new shows at try, as well as a movie, and I’ll be reviewing The Mist (US: Spike) in the next couple of days, too.

After the jump, a look at the latest episodes of Doctor Who, Ronny Chieng: International Student and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finale of Silicon Valley. One of those could offer some of the finest visuals TV has ever seen.

But first…

GLOW (Netflix)
Slightly weird half-hour comedy based on the genuinely real 80s phenomenon of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling), which has already been the subject of movies and TV shows but here sees aspiring but really rather terrible actress Alison Brie (Community) almost as the point of doing porn to make ends meet before her agent gives her one last potential gig – a new cable TV sports show in which she would be a wrestler. Together with several other oddball women, she auditions to take part, but it’s not until she ends up in a catfight with best friend Betty Gilpin (Masters of Sex, Nurse Jackie) that she gets her chance to appear in the ring.

I got through the first episode without laughing much, except at the over-the-top attempts at 80s LA fashions, which all seemed to be takes on Jane Fonda aerobics videos. But it was amiable enough and silly enough that I’ll at least try episode two.

Riviera (UK: Sky Atlantic)
Glossy French-set, French-filmed thriller in which Julia Stiles (the Jason Bourne movies, Dexter) is apparently happily married to super-rich Anthony LaPaglia (Murder One, Without A Trace) when his yacht gets blown up off the coast of Monaco. The result is… revelations! Maybe LaPaglia got his money through dodgy means. Maybe he was having an affair and slept with ‘party girls’.

All the episodes have been released but I’ve only managed the first, rather insipid one so far. Stiles is fine, but spends most of her time having passive aggressive sit-downs with LaPaglia’s ex-wife Lena Olin or one of Olin’s kids (Misfits‘ Iwan Rheon and Les témoins (Witnesses)’ Roxane Duran). Attempts to inject excitement into all the iciness come from having Amr Waked (Lucy, Engrenages (Spiral), Marco Polo) run around a bit or by promising some excitement soon but never actually producing anything.

Basically, the usual glossy Sky fare with a good cast list (and Neil Jordan in the writing credits) but only two big names who actually stick around for the main action.

Logan (2017)
The X-Men meet gritty reality and the cowboy genre, as we flashforward to 2029. Most of the world’s mutants are dead, with Wolverine and Professor X the only big names left alive thanks to a highly successful stamping out campaign. Even so, Wolverine’s dying from adamantine poisoning and Professor X has dementia over which he’s losing control, causing all manner of problems for anyone and any towns that happen to be in his vicinity. Into the mix comes a woman with a girl who has Wolverine-like abilities, asking our hero to protect her from evil Richard E Grant and the cybernetic Reavers.

It’s basically Shane with superheroes, but a clever piece of work that is sparing with the action but nevertheless has an awful lot of bloody stabbing. It pokes fun at its predecessors as being (literally) comic book fun, divorced from the real world in which people suffer and die, but manages to still enjoy the trappings of the superhero genre.

It’s all a bit bleak though and beyond a couple of cool scenes, nothing to really unique.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including GLOW, Riviera, Logan, Twin Peaks and Ronny Chieng”

What have you been watching? Including American Gods, The Handmaid’s Tale and Doctor Who

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.

The thing about holidays, even short ones, is you end up with masses of work to do in order to catch up. So apologies for the lack of much blogging last week and indeed this week, but work called. Plus there hasn’t been that much new to review anyway.

Since the last WHYBW, I’ve looked at all the new shows I could find (there was probably something on Netflix, but they tend to hide) but that tally isn’t huge:

Come on TV networks! What am I going to focus my sarcasm on if you’re not going to wheel out some crappy new summer shows. (What’s that Freeform (US)? The Bold Type started last night? Fine, I’ll review it tomorrow.)

It doesn’t help, of course, that a lot of current shows are winding up, too. After the jump, all I’ll be able to talk about are the latest episodes of Downward Dog, Doctor Who, Silicon Valley, Twin Peaks and You Are Wanted, as well as the season finales of American Gods and The Handmaid’s Tale. Pfft. I’m going to have to take up crocheting or something, aren’t I?

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including American Gods, The Handmaid’s Tale and Doctor Who”

What have you been watching? Including I’m Dying Up Here, The Americans and Twin Peaks

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.

This may – or may not – be the last WHYBW for a couple of weeks. TMINE will be taking a break from Thursday through to Monday next week. Will I have time to watch much TV? I don’t know. The fact that my watch list is now just a few shows should help, but we’ll know for sure next Tuesday.

Elsewhere, I’ve already reviewed:

Which means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of American Gods, Doctor Who, The Handmaid’s Tale, Silicon Valley and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finale of The Americans. That’s not much, is it. Come on summer season. Where are you?

Because this is the only other show I watched this week:

I’m Dying Up Here (US: Showtime)
1970s-set drama about a bunch of up-and-coming comedians in LA, all hoping to hit the big time by appearing on the Johnny Carson Show. But first, they’ve got to prove themselves worthy of a main room gig at Goldie’s on the Sunset Strip and Goldie (Melissa Leo) is only going to let you have that once she decides you’re good and ready. Until then, you’re not going to get paid, so you’ll be bunking down with your mate in someone else’s closet or masturbating in front of dying priests to earn some money, just to get by.

Initially, the show, which is based on journalist William Knoedelseder’s non-fiction book of the same name, looks like it’s going to be about Sebastian Stan’s ‘Clay’, who is the first of the bunch to get on Tonight. However, as the name of the show suggests, all doesn’t work out well for Stan, so the focus quickly shifts to his ex-girlfriend and fellow comic Ari Graynor (Bad Teacher), some of Clay’s friends from Boston (The Knick‘s Michael Angarano and The Office (US)‘s Clark Duke), and African-American comic RJ Cyler, who’s badly represented by agent Alfred Molina.

Despite being exec produced by Jim Carrey, I’m Dying Up Here‘s biggest problem is it’s not funny. Indeed, it’s bloody miserable, being closer to How To Make It In America and the horrors of being completely utterly broke than it is about the joys of comedy. Even when it’s supposed to be funny, such as when Graynor finally produces a routine that will ‘define’ her and potentially take her to the big time, it’s singularly unfunny.

It looks beautifully 70s and it quickly kills any idea you might have that stand-up was glamorous back then. Watchable or enjoyable, though? Not at all.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including I’m Dying Up Here, The Americans and Twin Peaks”

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.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including You Are Wanted, Passengers and The Accountant”