Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Squid Game, Cobra Kai, Hawkeye, The Mezzotint and The Book of Boba Fett

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Hello, everyone, and welcome to 2022 – 2021 again but done right, we can all hope. How was your Christmas break? Hope you managed to get one and didn’t get the dreaded lurgy (or one of the other minor lurgies that were doing the rounds).

You’ll be glad to hear – since you’re here – that TMINE actually had the chance to watch some new TV shows over Christmas. Some of them were even good.

There was only one regular still on the TMINE viewing list: Hawkeye (Disney+). The final episode of that was fun, but somewhat lightweight. Its highlight was a tear-jerking confrontation between (spoiler alert) Yelena Belova (Black Widow’s grieving sister) and Hawkeye. However, the script didn’t exactly let both barrels blast on that, and it didn’t feel like we were getting Jeremy Renner, the Oscar-nominated actor, so much as Jeremy Renner, the bit-part player from an episode of Angel, so the emotion largely came from (spoiler alert) Florence Pugh and all the good work that other entries in the MCU had already done.

What also should have been a highlight of the episode – the return of (spoiler alert) Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his Netflix Defenders role of Wilson Fisk – largely got ruined through poor characterisation, right down to that atrocious shirt. I’m wondering if he’s a parallel universe version, rather than the one we’ve seen elsewhere. But maybe it’s down to a problem that’s intrinsic to both comic book crossovers and the MCU that stems from one of their supposed strengths: the ability to have different tones and genres in different shows and movies. If you stick something from a grittier genre into something more comedic and family oriented, something’s got to change, and more often than not, it’s the grittier thing. That can work, but here, it largely undid more or less all the good work that Daredevil et al in terms of characterisation and plausibility – despite some excellent acting from the star in question.

Overall, though, while not ultimately as good on average as WandaVision, it had almost as many highs, was more consistent and more fun, and was still a lovely Christmas treat for us all to unwrap. Plus it did give us this brilliant double-act.

After the jump, though, let’s talk about those new shows. Squid Game (Netflix) technically isn’t a new show, since it’s been around for a while – to the extent that we actually tried it a few weeks ago but gave up. However, we felt we should give it a second chance, given how popular it is, and we made it all the way through to the end.

Properly new were BBC Four’s latest Ghost Story for Christmas, The Mezzotint, and Disney+’s latest entry in the Star Wars firmament, The Book of Boba Fett. And although we’ve only got halfway through it, let’s talk a bit about season four of Cobra Kai (Netflix) as well. See you in a mo!

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Squid Game, Cobra Kai, Hawkeye, The Mezzotint and The Book of Boba Fett”
Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Hawkeye, Hot Zone: Anthrax, Titans and Lost in Space

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

I’ve been goaded. Well, prodded really. There were some actual movie reviews last week, so I guess I’d better do some TV reviews. Apparently, that’s what TMINE’s supposed to be for. Tarnation.

Fortunately, I’ve been watching a decent amount of TV, so I won’t simply be doing shadow puppets for you and pretending that it’s a review for this last WHYBW of 2021.

First up, the return of two regulars, and then after the jump, we can talk about two new shows: Hawkeye (Disney+) and Hot Zone: Anthrax (Disney+)

Lost in Space (season 3) (Netflix)

Lost in Space (Netflix) is back for its third and final season… and I’m confused. Every season more or less is a build up to showing us how the Space Family Robinson got ‘lost in space’ with the evil Doctor Smith (Parker Posey). It then ends with them… ‘lost in space’. And then with the next season, it resets and we have to watch them get lost in space all over again.

Season two ended especially well in that regard. They’re on the spaceship, they’re there with the robot and evil Dr Smith, they don’t know where they are but they are in the middle of space, nowhere near anyone else or a planet that looks a lot like Canada.

Good build-up. Surely they’re not going to reset again are they?

Well, hot damn. Guess what? Season three starts with them all stuck on yet another planet that looks like Canada with all the other kids. Again. What the hell? Even if we hadn’t already had a show that’s almost exactly the same as that (The 100), why are we doing it for the third season in a row for Lost in Space?

I managed to watch about two episodes before I just gave up. I’ve now seen this story twice – I don’t need to see it for a third time. And can’t the whole family actually be in the same place together for so much as an entire episode?

Titans (US: HBO Max; UK: Netflix)

You probably won’t remember this – why would you? – but I made it through the first four episodes of season three of Titans back in September, then gave up as it was so horrid and all the characters I cared about got killed off.

Well, it’s comics, so guess what? One of them came back from the dead, it turned out, something I discovered this weekend, so I figured that as this was now on Netflix in the UK, I’d give it a rewatch from the point from when said character returns.

So… episodes nine through 13 of Titans are bad. Not outright terrible, but pretty close. It’s all meaningless, inconsequential namechecking of comic characters but none of the characters act like either themselves or even slightly coherently thought-out human beings (or aliens). The acting seems to have got a lot worse, too, and the fights don’t have that grittiness to them that they used to. What it does have is trite teen romances and outright sadism.

I would say that if I was looking for positives, seeing (spoiler alert) the Amazons, as well as Donna Troy and Raven again was great, as they were by far the most interesting characters and interpretations of DC lore. But it’s all just so comic-strippy, so lacking in any real depth, and actually downright silly at times that it just felt like I was losing IQ points watching it.

Plus how high-stake are your perils when at least half the cast have died and come back?

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Hawkeye, Hot Zone: Anthrax, Titans and Lost in Space”
Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Beyond Clueless

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Splat! Hit another brick wall. Sorry, I’ve barely watched anything this week. WandaVision (Disney+) was about it and while I enjoyed it, it was something of a Basil Exposition episode. Interesting, though, to see how this Agatha Harkness compares to the comic books version, so let’s see if they mesh up this week, given this appears to be a big exercise in making the Wanda Maximoff of the MCU a lot more like the one of the comic books.

Young Rock (US: NBC) I continued to watch out of the corner of one eye and was amiable enough. Randall Park is probably the best thing about it, as usual (“I used to be an actor” “yes, you’ve mentioned it. Several times”).

In movies, I tried to watch Legend (1985) on MUBI. However, that had the Jerry Goldsmith score, rather than the Tangerine Dream score, so was practically unwatchable.

That meant the only film I actually watched was another MUBI offering: Beyond Clueless (2014), a UK look at the teen movies that were made after Clueless (1995). It’s fair to say it’s a pretty shallow affair that’s more reminiscent of a Channel 4 100 Greatest… show than anything that really adds to the understanding of those movies.

Although there is a sort of grouping of ideas, there’s no real look at the development of themes over time, just a sort of mild critique of their attitudes. It’s not helped by the fact that it lumps together romcoms and horror movies under the same umbrella, which makes any real critique almost impossible. And there are also notable omissions, while many movies from which clips are extracted barely get any real discussion, just act as wallpaper.

On the plus side, I did spend an inordinate amount of time spotting people who did go on to be far more famous in other film and TV roles a decade later, but who I’d never realised had been in movies like this before. Baring Ali Larter, of course.

But what have you been watching?

Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Clarice and Young Rock

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

And we’re picking up speed now! Not quite the pre-lockdown TMINE throughput I know, but I’m glad to say I am watching TV and movies again, albeit selectively now. And that there is TV to watch.

I just don’t have the time to write about it…

The regulars

In terms of the regulars list is, there’s WandaVision (Disney+). This was, of course, the big revelations episode, as we learn who or what has been responsible for everything so far. The big reveal itself was marvellously done – (spoiler alert) it was Agatha all along! – and shows the virtue of paying attention. But actually everything before it was lovely, too, with head nods to 2010s sitcoms including Happy Endings, The Office (US) and Modern Family. A lot of pathos, too, as more of Vision’s story is revealed to him.

The other ‘regular’ I watched was The Equalizer (US: CBS). That effectively formed the second part of a two-part pilot, with the show establishing its parameters, explaining why it’s called ‘The Equalizer’ and opening up the possibilities of plots that aren’t just crim of the week – although that was a nice change to the Big Bad of week one. All the same, I think I’ve seen enough of it to have my fill. If you like procedurals, it’s a pretty good one, but I don’t, so it’s not for me.

Talking of procedurals, we had the return of a previous regular, Harrow (Australia: ABC; UK: Alibi), for season three. I watched the first episode of that and we had the now-traditional “format revamp”, with another new generic character replacement. I enjoyed the addition to the Harrow backstory, but apart from the tortured ‘son’ revelation, I think the moment I decided to give up on it when Fern did yet another “Oh Dad! I hate you!” moment. Bored now. Sorry.

After the jump, the new shows I’ve watched: Clarice and Young Rock. But I’ll just briefly mention two movies that I’ve watched this week.

The Greatest Showman (2017) is a quasi-biographical musical of PT Barnum’s life and creation of the circus, with Hugh Jackman assembling a group of misfits rejected by society and giving them A Family – and a job being stared at for money. The songs aren’t bad, if not that memorable, and the cast (Zac Efron, Zendaya) is very good. It’s more memorable as an epic piece of ahistorical wokeness, but if that’s your bad, it’s fun enough.

Also gracing my retinas this week was The News of the World (2021), which you can currently see on Netflix. It’s best thought of as Tom Hanks doing John Wayne in The Searchers (1956), taking an orphaned German girl, who’s gone native with some native Americans, back to her supposed family. While also delivering the news to people, since he basically reads out newspapers for a living.

It’s very beautifully put together and bar a couple of slightly shakycam action scenes, you’d never know it was Paul Greengrass directing it, with so many big open vistas and drone shots. But is it engaging in the slightest? Not really.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Clarice and Young Rock”
Birds or How To Be One
Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including The Equalizer and Birds (or How To Be One)

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

So I’ve been pushing through! Yay! I’ve actually made myself watch both a new TV show and a movie. For Lockdown 3.0, that’s impressive. At least I think so.

I never got round to starting the third season of Harrow, but I might do that tonight. And since both Young Rock (US: NBC) and Kenan (US: NBC) started last night, those two might join it. Starting to almost feel like old times…

The only show on the regulars list is, of course, WandaVision (Disney+). That didn’t quite live up to all the promises made at the end of the previous episode, but was suitably fascinating to more than make up for that – particularly the show’s take on both 2000s sitcoms and comic books. I’m also very much hoping that Kat Dennings gets to send up 2010s sitcoms next episode: 2 Broke Girls deserves it.

But onto the new stuff…

The Equalizer (US: CBS)

This is, of course, a remake of the 80s classic TV show that starred Edward Woodward and was remade as a couple of movies quite recently with Denzel Washington. This new version of the show takes many of the elements of the original show and gives them a bit of a twist, as well as a CBS procedural make-over.

Now we have Robin McCall (Queen Latifah) retiring from the CIA after a mission goes wrong – although without having much of an idea as to what to do next. But soon she’s rescuing a teenage girl who’s been framed for a murder, and drawing on her old skills and former work colleagues to do it. Meanwhile, former mentor Chris Noth – the ‘Control’ of the piece – is trying to lure her into private security, and she’s also having to deal with her own teenage daughter’s issues.

So I actually really enjoyed this. Queen Latifah is actually very good and very plausible as an ex-CIA agent with mad skills, with most of the action scenes and computer hacking handled by younger cast members, while Latifah goes out and puts on various disguises and does general tradecraft. In fact, I believed in her prowess more than I ever did in Edward Woodward’s (Callan had been a fair few years earlier…). Apart from the running scenes and the bits where she’s on a motorbike. Oof.

The plotting was actually pretty good and full of surprises, too, with plot twists I didn’t see coming. It’s also quite a nicely diverse cast, and the show doesn’t overstate that, largely ignoring the fact but touching on it at the end, which is about the right balance.

But… this is clearly a CBS procedural, with a carefully assembled team of banter hounds (including Adam Goldberg). And it’s also one step removed from the general social relevance of the original, with its rage against the everyday lawlessness of the not-long-bankrupt New York, drug dealers and gangs veering towards outright misanthropy at times; here we have Latifah dealing with billionaires and special forces. It’s more exciting and ‘bigger’ maybe, but it’s not going to offend anyone or saying anything.

I had enough fun watching it to try episode two at least, which in Lockdown 3.0 makes it a break-out hit for me. YMMV.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Birds (or How To Be One) (2020)

Available on MUBI

Inspired by Aristophanes’ The Birds, Birds (or How To Be One) is writer/director Babis Makridis’ mix of documentary, Giorgos Lanthimos-style surrealism, a filmed fringe theatre production and just outright flights of fancy – as well as the occasional bit of self-criticism about its own highbrow inaccessibility. It sees various people explaining why they want to become birds as the movie takes us through the various supposed steps necessary for a human to become a bird.

What’s it all mean? Supposedly, a musing on the nature of people’s quest for freedom, it takes in escape from society as well as escape from oneself and one’s own life, including by analogy trans rights.

However, it’s not really something that you could say is equipped with much of a plot or even logic or a message, more a tone and a series of statements, all bottled up in a slightly disconcerting discontent with existence and a series of impressively striking images.

It’s very memorable and will keep you thinking afterwards for a long time. But the question of whether it’s any good is one you’ll be thinking about for just as long.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.