Marvel's The Defenders
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Review: Marvel’s The Defenders (season 1) (Netflix)

Marvel’s The Avengers was one of the highest grossing movies of all times. Small surprise therefore that Marvel should attempt to reproduce its unique superhero formula on the small (laptop) screen with its Netflix series, giving us four individual superheroes in their own shows before finally bringing them together in a fifth show – The Defenders.

And here we are at last. Two seasons of Daredevil (one excellent, one poor), one season of Jessica Jones (excellent), one season of Luke Cage (weak) and a season of Iron Fist (I’ve watched it three times now, so screw you, haters) has allowed some of the supporting cast to move around a bit, but here we finally are, getting all four superheroes interacting with each other, teaming up and even sometimes twatting each other with sticks.

The show picks up a few months after the other shows. Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is ostracised from his former legal partner Foggy (Elden Henson) and would-be girlfriend Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), and a bit mopey after his ex-lover Elektra (Elodie Yung) was killed by some immortal ninja called The Hand. He’s hung up his costume and is now trying to lead a normal life as a lawyer, mostly doing legal work pro bono for the downtrodden. But Foggy is looking out for his former friend and his new boss Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) might have some legal work for him, too – looking after a certain private investigator friend of hers called Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), who’s bound to get into trouble sometime soon…

Not yet, though, since she’s still buried in a bottle, following her murder of mind-controlling rapist David Tennant. Thankfully, she’s managed to brush off both the legal charges and infamy that came with that, but she’s not ready to take on any new clients yet. That is, until a woman comes to her door asking her to track down her missing architect husband and she starts to get threatening phone calls.

Meanwhile, Jones’ former boyfriend Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is just getting out of prison, thanks to some nimble legal work by Foggy, and has to work out what he can do to look after the people of Harlem, particularly the young black men who are succumbing to the allure of crime in his neighbourhood – particularly that instituted by a white clad man known only as ‘the African’ (Babs Olusanmokun).

Could it all have something to do with the errant billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones), currently off hunting down the Hand in the Far East with girlfriend and former Hand-member Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), following the Hand’s apparent destruction of the seventh city of Heaven, K’un-Lun, which Rand was charged to protect, being the immortal weapon known as The Iron Fist?

You betcha. And you can bet that somehow it’s all going to involve their various storylines intersecting at some point to fight a common enemy – Sigourney Weaver, as well as some ‘Big Bads’ from previous seasons.

Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t the only time that a whole bunch of superheroes with independent lives ended up uniting to defeat a baddie: the once much-adored Heroes did the same thing on the small screen. I say once because as soon as everyone got together, the whole show went to pants.

So the question is: is Marvel’s The Defenders more Avengers or more Heroes? Answer coming up after the jump. Spoilers ahoy and liable to smack you in the face.

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Thor: Ragnarok
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All the best trailers from SDCC – Justice League, Marvel’s The Defenders, Star Trek: Discovery, Stranger Things, Thor: Ragnarok and Westworld

SDCC – aka San Diego Comic-Con – had turned into one of the most important events of the year, not just for comics but for movies and TV shows. At least of the nerdier and more US variety, since it’s not like there’s a great Poldark presence there every year.

But it’s where all the latest news is revealed and you get to see the new trailers, and this year, we’ve had a bevy. I’m not going to go through the whole lot, as that way madness lies, but you can find most of them in today’s news.

On top of that, unfortunately, a few of the best trailers that got shown haven’t yet been fed into YouTube (eg Netflix’s Marvel’s The Punisher and Black Panther). But at the very least, after the jump, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on trailers for the likes of Justice League, Thor: RagnarokReady Player One, Netflix’s Marvel’s The Defenders, CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery, HBO’s Westworld, and Netflix’s  Stranger Things (season 2). Oh yes, and The CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

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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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Netflix’s Marvel’s The Defenders are in action at last

We’ve been teased to death so far, but finally we have an actual, proper trailer for Netflix’s Marvel’s The Defenders, the show that unites Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist at last. Not quite as exciting as seeing all of The Avengers together, but this is actually pretty exciting and funny stuff. And not just because Sigourney Weaver is the Big Bad of the piece. How’s about that hallway fight scene?

What have you been watching? Including Return of the Mac, The Good Fight, Imposters 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.

I’m back. <INSERT PERTINENT DOCTOR WHO QUOTE HERE>. 

Oddly, I haven’t missed much in my absence, since not many new shows have started, while plenty have wound up or have taken an Easter break. In fact, I’ve had the time to rewatch all of Marvel’s Iron Fist, as well as an episode of The Champions

Iron Fist actually held up quite well on a second viewing, although it turns out not to have any hidden depths at all that I missed and the fight scenes do often look quite bad on a bigger screen. But it’s still hugely enjoyable, the soundtrack’s truly marvellous, and it and season 1 of Daredevil are so far the only Netflix Marvel shows that I’ve even been inclined to rewatch.

Next up, of course, is Marvel’s The Defenders, which will be arriving in August during TMINE’s annual break. I presume it’s because they don’t want me to comment on the fact that Daredevil is wearing Iron Fist’s costume in the teaser trailer. Too late, boys. Too late.

As well as the regulars, I’ve also had time to play catch up on a few shows that I’d got behind on. That means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the final episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Good Fight and Imposters, as well as the latest episodes of The Americans and The Magicians, the return of Doctor Who and the back end of the second season of The Man in the High Castle.

Fortitude I’m now working on so I should have a round-up of the final episodes next week. I’ll also be a lot further along in Midnight Sun, which I’d probably have watched already if the upgrade to the Sky Go iOS app hadn’t resulted in the download rights on the whole series being revoked for some odd reason, meaning I couldn’t watch any of my previously downloaded episodes while I was away.

The Prison Break revival started while I was away, I know, but frankly, I suspect the show’s time has gone and I’ve had enough Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell of late on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, anyway.

Some time in the next few days, I’ll be taking a look at ABC (Australia)’s Hugo Weaving-starrer Seven Types of Ambiguity, which rather than being a documentary about literary criticism is a sort of Rashomon-ish look at a child abduction from the different points of view of all involved. However, awkwardly, as well as being only six rather than seven episodes long, each episode is from a different character’s perspective (I think), so I’m unsure whether I have to watch the whole thing or not.

I did try to watch The Son, AMC (US)’s mini-series Western that stars Pierce Brosnan. Potentially, it sounded quite interesting, with Brosnan playing an old Texan cattle baron during the First World War, while we get flashbacks to his life growing up among the Comanches as a boy after they kill his family. However, it’s AMC, so amazingly slow and boring, so I didn’t even make it through the first episode.

I also gave one other show a try:

Return of the Mac (US: Pop)
Yet another one of those TV shows in which celebrities play ‘themselves’ with hilarious results (cf Lopez, Donny!, et al), this sees former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre playing a version of himself who wants to do serious acting. Unfortunately, no one else wants him to do serious acting, so when he pitches with his agent to a female-led network, apart from the drooling by the 30- and 40-somethings who used to worship him when they were young, he has to endure the fact they only want to offer him a late night talk show. Can you imagine?

Produced by fellow New Kidder Donnie “Not Mark” Wahlberg and Jenny “Vaccines are Evil” McCarthy, who also cameo as “themselves”, the show struggles to do much beyond set up very easy jokes about reality TV, celebrities, McIntyre and his career, without coming close to even Donny!‘s low bar in finding a remotely interesting gimmick to supplement these low balls.

About the only thing it does well doesn’t even involve McIntyre, as it’s all about his wife’s work with a gloriously over the top stylist. January Jones cameos for all of a minute and is better than everyone else in the cast, despite being January Jones. That should tell you something.

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