TV reviews

What have you been watching this week (w/e June 24)?

Time for “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: The Apprentice, The Apprentice: You’ve Been Fired, Burn Notice and Come Dine With Me. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • Burn Notice: Oh my God. There’s actually a possibility the Burn Notice formula is going to change. Rather a good first episode, with the format for the series left up in the air at the end. But there are enough clues laid down by the end of the episode that, yes, it’s going to become exactly the same show again next episode.
  • Lead Balloon: Nope. Still not funny.
  • The Protector: Much as I love Ally Walker – Profiler, Universal Soldier, Southland – this is a very tedious bit of typical Lifetime drama: female-oriented therefore (apparently) rather than actually have a coherent crime story for police detective Walker to investigate, we spend most of the episode with Walker helping neighbours with their garden gnome thefts, her boss with his Thai bride, etc. Dire. And I actually think her black female partner qualifies as a race crime.
  • The Shadow Line: was of course completely ludicrous, right to the end. But we were expecting that. Beautifully made, acted, etc – just a shame that the story and the dialogue were so silly. But I’ll never look at Stephen Rea the same way again.

And in this week’s list of movies:

  • Green Lantern: a pretty rubbish first half-hour or so, but it finally kicks into gear after that and isn’t half bad (although ultimately, it’s still very silly, but that’s the source material for you). Blake Lively is woefully under-used (all character set-up for the sequel I suspect). Probably a little more fun but not as good as X-Men: First Class and not as fun or as good as Thor 3D.
  • Speed: Rewatched this for the first time in 27 or so years, which was kind of a coming home for me since it was the first film I ever reviewed professionally (Cambridge Film Festival Daily if you want to know). Still as ludicrous as it was the first time, when I described as the first film made specifically with stupid people in mind, but I have to say Keanu Reeves has actually got better as an actor since…
  • The Lake House: which is the film that reunited him and Sandra Bullock in 2006. Two people living in the same house but separated two years in time find they can send letters to one another using the postbox. Really rather lovely in a lot of ways although you have to disregard the obvious flaw: why don’t they use this miracle to win the lottery?
  • Watchmen: incredible to watch, but ultimately empty and I have to say that I think the new ending is better than the original’s. Some fun in-jokes and some surprising ultra-violence, too.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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TV reviews

What have you been watching this week (w/e June 10)?

Time for “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, The Apprentice, The Apprentice: You’ve Been Fired, Come Dine With Me, Endgame, The Shadow Line and Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace: A bit of a damp squib of an ending. Essentially 55 minutes of interesting facts, beautifully constructed, finished with “And that’s why no one tries to change anything.” Feels like some working out was left off.
  • Lead Balloon: Still not loving it – by which I mean finding it even slightly funny – but Sophie Winkleman is in it now, so I might keep watching.
  • The Shadow Line: More ludicrous fight scenes. Are they doing it deliberately now? And MRI-ing the head of someone who has a bullet lodged in his brain? That’s not a good idea… And for a full 10 minutes it looked like we were going to have a strong, interesting female character. Oh well.
  • Undercover Boss: Bit dull really, and it wasn’t even the boss this week

Didn’t managed to get through Single Ladies, which should tell you something about that. Haven’t watched Teen Wolf or Switched At Birth either, although that’s more because I’m probably too old for them. In With The Flynns I’m going to give a go some time this weekend, though.

But queued up in my pile are Case Histories – two episodes aired this week, two more next week – and Injustice – five episodes aired this week. Guess where they’re probably going to stay and get deleted, because I haven’t got the time to watch that much TV in one go. Stupid scheduling. I miss “one episode a week” scheduling on British TV so much.

And in this week’s list of movies:

  • The Hangover 2: While The Hangover was actually very funny, seeing the exact same story played out again and with fewer jokes isn’t actually funny at all. Who knew?
  • In the Loop: weird to see the entire cast of The Thick of It playing almost exactly the same characters in exactly the same situations but with different names. Very funny and the American perspective was a refreshing addition. And Peter Capaldi was as sublime as always.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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TV reviews

What have you been watching this week (w/e June 3)?

Time for “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, The Apprentice, The Apprentice: You’ve Been Fired, Come Done With Me, Endgame, The Shadow Line and Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • The Book Review Show: Surprisingly decent new BBC2 Friday night monthly magazine programme about books hosted by Kirsty Walk. Some interesting discussions, some interesting features – I’ll be tuning in next month.
  • Egypt’s Lost Cities: Supposedly a documentary on how remote sensing data from satellites is hinting at lost Egyptians ruins in the Sahara. Actually about half an hour of useful information interspersed with an hour of close-ups of Liz Bonnin and co-presenter going “Golly, gee. That’s amazing. Someone paid for us to go on holiday this year!” Largely a waste of my time and everyone’s money.
  • Endgame: Excellent episode. If you only watch one episode, watch this one.
  • Gary Numan: A documentary on Sky Arts about how noted electropop artist Gary Numan has come into his own of late, now that everyone from the Sugababes through Basement Jaxx to Trent Reznor has admitted to being influenced by him. A bit sketchy, it largely focused on his work rather than personal life, and you didn’t get to hear much of his recent stuff, but still a decent enough documentary.
  • The Shadow Line: It turns out Stephen Rea has in fact been doing Anthony Sher impressions for the last few weeks. Or is Anthony Sher actually doing a Stephen Rea impression now? Either way, the arrival of Sher is awesome. What’s not awesome is how many times I burst out laughing each episode at the sheer ridiculousness of the dialogue, the plot and, whenever they turn up, the fight scenes. Oh woeful fight scenes. Oh, and this week: “Decided not to bring a gun. Too noisy?” “That’s right.” YOU USED A SUPPRESSOR LAST WEEK, YOU NUMPTY. Couldn’t you even improvise one out of an old Volvic bottle or something? It feels like Hugo Blick has been watching action movies to fill in his sketchy knowledge of violence, but didn’t quite watch the right ones.
  • Undercover Boss: Boss of a company goes undercover in a few of his/her outlets to discover what’s really happening. Essentially, Secret Millionaire for the business sector, but largely ruined each week by the boss’s inability to remain in character while undercover. The added frisson? Sometimes people get laid off for being sh*te. Generally, okay, but not as informative as Secret Millionaire.

I’ve still got VH1’s Single Ladies as well as Love Bites to get through, as well as ITV1’s Scott and Bailey. More on them next week, I’m sure.

And in this week’s long list of movies, since I went out a bit, and also got laid low by no ro and had to stay in bed for a day:

  • X-Men First Class: A little slow to start, this was actually a return to form, up there with X-Men and X-Men 2. Michael Fassbender is brilliant – I’m assuming his multi-lingualness is a tribute to his role in Inglorious Basterds – although he’s a touch more Irish than SIr Ian McKellen, and definitely a touch more James Bond. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are equally excellent and Kevin Bacon is almost unrecognisable at first and doesn’t exhibit any of the usual Kevin Bacon mannerisms you’d expect of him. January Jones is as awful as she usually is in everything except Mad Men. None of the big set-pieces ever quite hit the heights you’d expect, but a lot of them come close. It’s also surprisingly adult, even given its 12A certificate. Plus there’s a couple of brilliant cameos.
  • Jason and the Argonauts: No, not the Ray Harryhausen one but the Jason London mini-series that managed to cram in almost every British actor going. In some ways better than the original and more authentic to the Bronze Age and the myths; in other ways, massively inferior, with none of the charm of the original or any of the decent fight sequences and at nearly three hours (it was originally a four hour mini-series) colossally over-long. Plus it was a tad sketchy when it came to the myths – Castor and Pollux as stonemasons and played by Omid Djalili and AN Other Guy? Fuck. Right. Off. But I did enjoy Angus MacFadyen and Olivia Williams as Zeus and Hera.
  • Love and Other Drugs: Ignore the poster. This is not a romcom. In any sense. Set in 1996, Jake Gyllenhaal is a womanising, failing salesman who joins a certain well known drug company. Unable to succeed at first, his luck comes up when his company develops an exciting new product called… Viagra. However, by this point, he’s hit it off with Anne Hathaway, who’s very nice and all but unfortunately has first stage early onset Parkinson’s. And so really most of the movie is actually about what happens if your girlfriend has first stage early onset Parkinson’s. Nevertheless, quite touching – as my wife put it “Man making personal sacrifice for a woman: it’s a formula you can’t go wrong with.”
  • Morning Glory: Rachel McAdams is the producer of a New Jersey breakfast TV show who gets fired but manages to end up on a failing network TV show run by producer Jeff Goldblum and hosted by Diane Lane and Ty Burrell (from Modern Family). After promptly firing Burrell, she discovers her childhood hero, embittered war reporter Harrison Ford, is on contract to the network but not actually doing anything because he’s such a dick to work with, so she forces him to return to work as the show’s new anchor. Anyway, despite the poster and everything about the movie making you think this was probably going to be rubbish, it actually turned out to be okay. Harrison Ford does a nice job of curmudgeonly and it all falls apart a bit in the final act, but it’s quite a nice piece about a career woman discovering a family at work yet not then giving it all up for love or anything silly like that.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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Film

What have you been watching this week (w/e May 27)?

The Crimson Petal and the White

Time for “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: Cougar Town, Endgame, Happy Endings, House, Modern Family, The Shadow Line and Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff. Of course, it being May/June, most of them are ending, so I’ll have to come up with a new set of recommendations next week.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace: Adam Curtis’s latest documentary series, examining how technology has come to – quite literally – rule our lives. One of those documentaries designed more to make you think and examine broad trends rather than create a watertight argument. Well worth watching.
  • The Apprentice: Very creepy.
  • The Crimson Petal and the White: Obviously was on tele a while back now, but we put off watching it while lovely wife was still reading the original book. Very faithful to the book, says lovely wife, and quite disturbing in its visual style, like being on an acid trip for an hour while trapped in a documentary about poverty in Victorian London. I’m not sure I actually like it though, since it’s one of those ones where you can see doom spiralling down on characters right from the beginning because they behave incredibly stupidly. Also, I find it hard to imagine Chris O’Dowd as anything except Roy from The IT Crowd. He just doesn’t seem plausible as anything else.
  • Happy Endings: Not quite as funny as in previous weeks but still good. Just ambiguous enough that you know they weren’t sure they were going to get renewed or not.
  • House: Oops. Last week’s wasn’t the finale after all. Still, what a weird way to end the series. Feels almost like it should have been the last House ever, since it’ll be interesting to see how they come back from this. Not a great episode though.
  • Running Wilde: Not a great way to end the series – felt a bit like they’d given up at this point.

And since people have been mentioning movies they’ve been watching as well, which seems like a sterling idea to me, this week I saw:

  • Tangled: Animated Disney musical version of Rapunzel, with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (Chuck from Chuck). Actually quite nice, decent animation, nothing too offend, with a few good comedic touches. But nothing outstanding and a few major plot holes.
  • The Ward: Amnesiac Amber Heard runs around and tries to escape a lot from a mental asylum when it becomes clear that a ghost is trying to kill off everyone in her ward. A return in style by John Carpenter to Halloween/The Thing, with very little gore and a few solid shocks, but a bit loose in the middle and suffers from the usual Carpenter trope of the third and fourth acts turning into lots of running. But the ending’s really good, Heard does well, even if the other girls in the ward are beyond irritating, and Jared Harris from Mad Men excels as the psychiatrist who runs it all.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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Movies you should own

Movies you should own: Mr Frost (1990)

Mr Frost

The Devil is a character who, for obvious reasons, pops up a lot in Western art and literature. Usually he’s there to lead the heroes into temptation or to act as an antagonist, someone who chases the heroes. Occasionally, he’s humanised and revealed to be part of God’s plan – for example, Bedazzled, with Liz Hurley playing the Devil as just misunderstood.

Rarely though is the Devil the hero of the piece. Or should that be anti-hero? Rarely does anyone ask how he feels about the whole set-up or ask what his plans are, while simultaneously depicting Old Nick as basically malevolent.

So the 1990 movie Mr Frost is a wonderful delight that you should get if you can. In it, Jeff Goldblum plays the seemingly ordinary Mr Frost – well, ordinary until it’s revealed that he’s a serial killer who’s killed dozens of people and buried their bodies in his back garden. He’s declared insane and taken away to a mental asylum where for two years, he refuses to say a word. That is until he meets psychiatrist Sarah (Kathy Baker). Frost claims that he’s the Devil himself. But what is the Devil doing in a mental asylum? Why would he allow himself to be captured? What does he want?

Well, if God moves in mysterious ways, surely the Devil must too…

Here’s a really bad trailer. Try to ignore the voiceover for starters.

Continue reading “Movies you should own: Mr Frost (1990)”