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.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Return of the Mac, The Good Fight, Imposters and Doctor Who”

Internet TV

Season review: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Netflix)

Marvel took the movie world by storm with The Avengers, a little film one or two of you may have seen. One of the most important aspects of The Avengers was the fact it wasn’t the first movie to features its protagonists, all of whom had appeared in the preceding movies Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, either as the leads or as co-stars.

A staple of the comic book world, the crossover was something that had never really been tried in the movie world before and audiences loved it.

With a few reservations. The most notable of these was that there wasn’t a huge amount of diversity in that superheroic line up: lots of straight white men as leads and usually as the villains, too, but women, people of colour et al were either in the supporting cast or completely absent. And while the movies have slowly added black characters such as Falcon and Black Panther and bumped up the role of supporting superheroine Black Widow to the point where Captain America: Winter Soldier was as much about her as about Captain America, solo movies with black or female superheroic leads are still a little way off.

So, when Netflix and Marvel announced they would produce a series of comic book TV shows together, three things were almost compulsory. The first was lower budgets. That meant having none of the movie universe characters in any of the shows, which meant having to pick completely new characters. The second was that there would be crossovers, which in turn would lead to one great big TV series featuring all the new heroes. The third was diversity would be key.

And thus we have a new group of superheroes: ‘The Defenders’. Not to be confused with ‘The Avengers’, obviously. The Defenders is also the name of the ultimate TV show at the end of the list.

The sequence started with Daredevil, a really superb opening featuring probably the one character many people would have heard of, thanks in part to the Ben Affleck adaptation over a decade ago. Daredevil’s also blind and a lawyer who does pro bono work defending the poor and helpless from big business.

That was quickly followed up with the suprisingly excellent feminist deconstruction of the entire genre, Jessica Jones, and then Luke Cage, an affair almost plotless because rather than being a superhero show, it largely was more interested in discussing black culture, history and what is the true and correct course of action for the modern black man of honour. A quick second season of Daredevil proved less satisfying, as it ditched gritty reality to pit our hero against a bunch of immortal ninja called ‘The Hand’.

All the same, for all their pros and cons, diversity – globs of it everywhere.

Which makes Marvel’s Iron Fist something of an odd choice. Because although it fits well with Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of diversity, it’s almost a slap in the face to the other shows’ efforts.

Young Danny Rand, the white male son of white corporate mogul billionaries, is on their private jet to China when it crash lands in the mountains of Tibet. Coincidentally, that’s just as the mystical city of K’un-L’un appeared from heaven on its 15-year regular cycle, journeying between planes of existence. Taken in by the warrior monks who guard K’un-L’un, the orphaned boy is trained in their ways and eventually succeeds all trials to become ‘the Iron Fist’, K’un-L’un’s ‘living weapon’ who uses the power of the heart of the Shou-Lao the Undying dragon, to defend the city from the Hand, whenever it appears on Earth.

However, when K’un-L’un returns to the Earthly plane again 15 years later, Danny abandons his post and heads to New York where he discovers the Hand are already in residence at his parents’ company, Rand Enterprises. Soon, he must prove who he really is, take back his company from the bad people who now run it, and stop The Hand.

Yep, that’s right: Iron Fist wants you to care about boardroom politics and a spoilt, immature billionaire who wants to clear his family name.

Bad decision by Marvel and Netflix? Well, actually, despite some very odd decisions, a very shaky start, and a very long list of flaws, Marvel’s Iron Fist turned out to be really, really enjoyable stuff – due in part surprisingly because it features Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced24, The Tractate Middoth, Line of Duty, An Adventure in Time and Space) as a sarcastic warrior monk named after a Swiss ski resort.

Big spoilers after the jump…

Continue reading “Season review: Marvel’s Iron Fist (Netflix)”

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