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What have you been watching? Including The Hateful Eight, Byw Celwydd, Rebellion and Endeavour

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Well, you can’t say I haven’t been keeping you up to date on all the new shows around the world. Or at least trying to. This week I think I’ve hit a personal record for number of new shows either previewed or reviewed in a week, since I gave you the lowdown on the following:

Which ain’t bad. Idiotsitter I previewed last week, so that doesn’t count.

I haven’t had a chance to watch last night’s The Family Law (Australia: SBS) yet, but I’ll get round to that over the weekend, fingers crossed, and let you know about it (and anything else that debuts or that’s escaped my radar) on Monday.

After the jump, I’ll be looking at the regulars, as well as those shows I thought promising enough to keep in my crowded schedule: American Crime, Byw Celwydd, Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life, Endeavour, Grandfathered, Man Seeking Woman and Rebellion. Those keeping score will notice that I couldn’t be bothered with the second episodes of Shades of Blue, Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands or Angel From Hell, but 100 Code will be getting a look in over the weekend, too. Probably.

But first, a movie!

The Hateful Eight (2016)
Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a Western that assembles many of his usual tropes and uses them as a framework for him to mash up Reservoir Dogs, The Thing and 10 Little Indians, into a lovely morality tail about how adversity can help men overcome their racism so they can join together to be misogynistic.

Set just after the civil war, the film sees bounty hunter Kurt Russell is taking in fugitive Jennifer Jason Leigh when a blizzard forces them – and fellow bounty hunter Samuel L Jackson and local sheriff Walter Goggins – to take refuge in a shop on the side of a mountain in Wyoming. There they meet various other characters (Tim Roth, Demián Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern), one or more of whom could be secretly in league with Leigh. As the snows set in, the bodies start to pile up…

It takes a good half hour for the film to reach the shop, that half hour being so dull I actually fell asleep for 10 minutes. However, the remaining two and a half hours (including interval) are considerably better. While the film owes an epic debt to The Thing, even poaching some of that film’s score, it’s also its own beast. But while it doers innovate, constantly surprises, plays with audience expectations, and looks fantastic in Panavision Ultra 70mm, it never does anything quite as exciting as Tarantino’s previous efforts, particularly Inglorious Bastards

Funny, but mostly from its gross-out humour; tense, but mostly thanks to The Thing; a decent enough viewing, but mostly full of plot loopholes and missed opportunities. Nothing to go out of your way for.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including The Hateful Eight, Byw Celwydd, Rebellion and Endeavour”

What have you been watching? Including Beowulf, Rebellion, 100 Code, Endeavour and American Crime

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Things have got off to a quick start in the TV land, all over the world, with new shows airing this week pretty much everywhere the TV industry still has a budget (so not Canada these days). Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life (US: Fox) and Byw Celwydd/Living A Lie (UK: S4C), the first three episodes of The Shannara Chronicles (US: MTV) and previewed next week’s Idiotsitter (US: Comedy Central); and while I haven’t reviewed their latest episodes, since I couldn’t be bothered to carry on with them after Christmas, I did give you a flavour of Telenovela (US: NBC) and Superstore (US: NBC), both of which started in earnest this week. 

After the jump then, the regulars, including Grandfathered, Limitless, Supergirl and episode four of The Shannara Chronicles, as well as the return of American Crime, Man Seeking Woman and Endeavour, and a special guest reappearance by The Grinder.

But I did promise you reviews of a few other new shows, and while I didn’t manage to get round to Deutschland 83 (you can ask Walter what he thought of it – he can probably ask you about Spin, too, which is on More4 right now), I did manage to watch the rest, as well as a couple of surprise guest new shows.

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands (UK: ITV; US: Esquire)
If it’s on ITV, unless it’s a crime drama, period drama or period crime drama, you can be about 95% sure it’s going to be rubbish, and Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands does nothing to disprove this rule. ‘Based’ on the Anglo-Saxon epic, in the sense that it has a few characters with the same names, it sees famed warrior Beowulf (Kieran Bew) return to ‘the Shieldlands’ (no, not Scandinavia) to mourn the death of his dad, Hrothgar (William Hurt, who seems to be doing a lot of UK TV at the moment). Unfortunately, all manner of beasties, including the ‘terrifying’ Grendel are lurking around Hrothgar’s halls, so Beowulf and his Danish lothario mate are going to have to get out their swords and give him a stabbing.

In just about every sense possible, this is woeful stuff, ranging from the lack of fidelity to the original through to the Primeval-level special effects. While the colour-blind casting that gives us both Supergirl/Homeland‘s David Harewood and Numbertime‘s Lolita Chakrabarti is in a sense commendable, it’s a little jarring given quite how early it’s set. And if you are going to spend your time being ahistorically politically correct, don’t spend your entire time justifying it as though it’s just turned 1974 and the first female doctor in your hospital has just turned up; also, if you are going to cast an Indian woman as a fifth century AD blacksmith, can you at least hire an Indian woman who looks like she spends all day working iron?

Although Grendel is a little bit creepy at a distance, it’s too boring to be a good fantasy show, too PC to be a realistic historical drama and just too badly written on any terms and too badly acted to qualify as any kind of drama. Go and read the poem instead.

Rebellion (Ireland: RTÉ One)
While last year saw Australia and New Zealand celebrating their birth as nations in the cauldron of Gallipoli with a number of shows, this year it’s Ireland’s turn with Rebellion, a five-part drama that follows the Irish Nationalist movement from the 1916 Easter Rebellion all the way through to the 1919 war for independence. Featuring all manner of famous Irish and Northern Irish actors actually getting to use their own accents for a change (including Game of Thrones‘ Michelle Fairley and Ian McElhinney), it’s a show that doesn’t set out to be a piece of propaganda. Indeed, most of those involved in the rebellion seem to spend more of their time fighting each other, cocking things up, debating whether independence would be good and shagging than fighting the English. The show itself also seems more interested in the plight of women at the time than with demonstrating any oppression by the Overlords. But it’s a lavish, well put together piece of work, happy to have parts in Gaelic where necessary, and was good enough to make me want to watch at least the second episode – if only to remind myself of all sorts of history I’d learnt at school but completely forgotten about.

100 Code (Sweden: Kanal 5; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Oh goody. Two mismatched cops chasing a serial killer in a show that uses a veneer of intelligence to mask its exploitativeness. I’ve not seen one of these before. Even the fact it’s set in Stockholm and one of the cops is American (oddly enough, Dominic Monaghan from Lost), the other Swedish (Michael Nyqvist from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, John Wick and the best-forgotten Zero Hour and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), isn’t that new. But as with pretty much any Nordic Noir (or even crime story these days), originality isn’t the thing – what surrounds it is more of interest and pretty everything surrounding the central crime of 100 Code is a lot more interesting than YA serial killer. Here Monaghan is doing an Insomnia, screwed up and sleeping drug-taking because he accidentally shot his partner; meanwhile, Nyqvist is desperate to give up being a cop so he can be a security guard and spend more time with his teenage daughter.

But what separates 100 Code from a lot of other shows, beyond its incorrect use of Greek myth, having half the dialogue in Swedish and acting like a Stockholm travelogue the whole time (“It’s the Venice of the North – look at this lovely vista”), is that when it’s not pretentiously exploring its own arse, it’s frequently funny. Monaghan is by no means hard-boiled, getting travel sick in cars, boats, and aeroplanes, and doesn’t know how to drive in Stockholm, so frequently has accidents. Nyqvist’s recipe-centric relationship with his daughter is amusingly quirky. And the Swedes are not taking any sh*t from Monaghan and entertainingly exclude him at every possible opportunity, usually linguistically.

I’m going to keep watching since Peter Eggers (Anno 1790) is in the cast – although since he’s not turned up yet, I suspect he might turn out to be the killer – but also because it’s nice to see Nyqvist demonstrating just how good an actor he is in native language.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Beowulf, Rebellion, 100 Code, Endeavour and American Crime”

What have you been watching? Including Rev, Vikings, Fargo, Endeavour, Crisis and Elementary

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV.

Thanks to the Easter Holidays and a whole bucketload of work that meant I wasn’t able to blog much this week, I’ve fallen a little behind with my viewing. Fingers crossed things will be a little easier next week, when I’ll have reviews of the first couple of episodes of Salem as well as of the first episode of CBS’s TV version of Bad Teacher.

But after the jump, the regulars, with reviews of Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, The Americans, The Blacklist, Community, Crisis, Elementary, Endeavour, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Surviving Jack and Vikings

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Rev, Vikings, Fargo, Endeavour, Crisis and Elementary”