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. There’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever.
Made it. Backlog – cleared. TV – watched.
Okay, not quite. I skipped Dark Water because that’s now on BBC Four, so there’s not much point my previewing it now. Oops. Still, it was only a mini-series.
Also, all the new Internet shows I keep listing are going to take a little longer, as are the shows I’m currently watching with lovely wife (Westworld, Humans, The Crown). But everything else is now up-to-date. Well done me.
Given I’ve already passed third episode verdicts this week on The Great Indoors(US: CBS; UK: ITV2) and Eyewitness (US: USA), that means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead, Chance, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Doctor Doctor, Falling Water, Frequency, Hyde and Seek, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, Son of Zorn,Supergirl and Travelers.
In terms of new shows, elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Second Jen (Canada: City), but I have tried a few others, you’ll be happy to hear.
Frontier (Canada: Discovery; UK: Netflix) Set in the disputed Hudson Bay territory of Canada at the turn of the 18th century, Discovery’s first scripted show Frontier sees Jason Momoa as a tomahawk-wielding go-between for all the competing interests that want to kill animals for their fur, including the English, Scottish, Americans and Canadians (who are all either English or French at this point, of course). With its terrible dialogue, motley medley of actors all sporting bad accents no matter their origin, and middling production values, Frontier is unfortunately little more than The Patriot meets Last of the Mohicans, with Momoa clearly thinking he’s in a different show from the rest of the anaemic cast. Practically unwatchable, it’s still not quite as bad as The Bastard Executioner.
People of Earth (US: TBS) TBS apparently being where Daily Show correspondents now go to die, People of Earth gives us Wyatt Cenac as a cynical magazine journalist sent to cover an “alien abductees survivors group” – although they prefer ‘experiencers’ – where he soon begins to realise that those vivids hallucinations of talking deer might be a sign that he, too, has been abducted. So he decides to stay in town and see if he can work out what’s really happening and whether an alien invasion is really underway.
The show is a 50/50 split between two strands. The first strand is the desperately unfunny goings on at the support group, which reminds you of Go Onbut with Cenac’s deadpan instead of the jokes and Matthew Perry’s sardonic quips.
The second is with the aliens themselves – for they are real – where the show is actually a properly funny workplace comedy. Yes, that’s right – a workplace comedy. I mean have you ever considered how much effort goes into faking those cover-ups?
I watched the first episodes, I might keep watching for the aliens. But I might not.
Stan Against Evil (US: IFC) John C McGinley reprises his Scrubs Doctor Cox role here to play a sheriff of a small town near Salem that was once the host to even more witch burnings. However, these were all real witches and demons, who vowed to kill every sheriff the town would ever have. Fortunately for Cox, his learned wife managed to use all manner of magic to protect him, making him the only sheriff to survive the job in the town’s entire history. But Cox is fired, just after his wife’s funeral, so soon a replacement (You’re The Worst‘s Janet Varney) is in town and together, they have to fight all manner of horrors together, since the demons want them both dead.
Coming on the heels of Ash Vs Evil Dead, this is a somewhat poorly timed piece of comedy horror, in which the clueless, frequently misogynistic, outspoken McGinley (“I want you to admit Starsky was gay. He wore a sweater with a belt. Come on, you’re a cop. Follow the evidence!”) has to deal with demons, women and modern society’s general pansiness, with only a suspiciously familiar book of magic to help him. Varney does offer a reasonable counterpoise to him and the plots involve her as much as him, but ultimately this is McGinley’s show and he’s naturally very good.
Unfortunately, the plots themselves are neither as funny nor as gory as Ash vs Evil Dead‘s. I watched the first four episodes of this, and while each offers maybe a couple of laughs, is a little smarter than than Bruce Campbell’s show and the demons (eg goat demons, a succubus) have a bit more variety and a bit more of a scare than the ‘deadites’, it still felt like a bit an effort to get through for some slightly pointless, slightly derivative pieces of work.
I also watched a movie!
Ghostbusters (2016) An all-woman line-up of ghost exterminators (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Hope) go into business for themselves in New York and have to deal with a bunch of spooks emerging from the afterlife who could threaten life as we know it.
Featuring cameos from all the surviving cast of the classic 80s movie, this 2016 version homages most of the first movie’s iconic moments and props, while simultaneously avoiding being a retread and finding its own sources of humour. McKinnon – best known as Saturday Night Live‘s Hillary Clinton – in particular breaks from the confines of the plot to be something a lot odder and more interesting than you’d expect.
However, the movie plays a lot younger than the original, losing the 80s version’s slightly edgier and stranger qualities, and its denoument goes on for far too long. On the plus side, though, Chris Hemsworth is very funny as the Ghostbusters’ eyecandy receptionist.
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.
“We’re now nearing mid-Fall season/mid-Spring season (delete according to the hemisphere of your choice), which means there’s few new shows heading our way”
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! What fool said that?
It’s never going to stop. We’re at peak TV so it’s never going to stop. Help.
In the past week, I’ve reviewed the first few episodes of Chance (US: Hulu), Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix), Man With A Plan (US: CBS) and Graves (US: Epix). But that’s not really scratching the surface, since although I’ll be tackling Pure Genius (US: CBS; UK: Universal) and The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2) tomorrow and/or Wednesday, I’m not going to have time this week to make a dent in Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt. I’ve also had no time to watch Channel Zero (US: Syfy; UK: 5*), but since that’s an anthology horror show, I have no qualms in deciding I’m not going to watch it. I’ve also noticed that Young Pope (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) has started in the US, but since it’s already started in the UK, too, you can probably work out for yourselves whether you like it.
However, good news! I’m away for a couple of days at the end of the week, which means I can start a mid-season cull through the usual simple mechanism of asking myself “Can I be arsed to play catch up with this show when I get back?”
Accordingly, I’m waving goodbye to Kim’s Convenience, No Tomorrow, The Secret Daughter and Speechless, as well as – shock, horror! – two long-standing regulars! Find out which ones after the jump. Frequency, Lucifer, Timeless and Designated Survivor are also on the endangered list and it’ll just be case of finding out when I get back whether I can be arsed to play catch up with them.
Elsewhere, I’ve passed third episode verdicts on Insecure (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) and Falling Water (US: USA), with Insecure failing to stay on the viewing pile. We’ll see if I can be arsed with Falling Water when I get back.
That means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes (that I’ve seen) of Ash vs Evil Dead, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, Doctor Doctor, Eyewitness, The Flash, Frequency, Hyde and Seek, Impastor, Lucifer, Son of Zorn, Supergirl, Timeless, Travelers and You’re The Worst. I’ve not yet had time to watch the latest Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Eyewitness and Westworld, and since Y Gwyll (Hinterland) and Humans both chose to make a reappearance last night, don’t be too surprised I haven’t manage to watch them, either.
But somehow, I did manage to find time to watch a few movies…
Central Intelligence (2016) Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson both went to High School together, Hart being the golden boy voted most likely to succeed, Johnson the fat kid everyone picks on. Twenty years later, Hart is an accountant while Johnson is a top CIA agent who needs Hart’s accounting skills to find out who killed his partner (Aaron Paul) and is selling top secret satellite codes. Or is he? Could it be that Johnson is really a traitor, which is why the CIA is out to get him?
Kevin Hart is normally a cast iron guarantee that a bad movie is coming your way and this has all the hallmarks of being Kevin Hart in the kind of movie Adam Sandler rejects as being too low brow. But actually, it’s reasonably funny and smarter than you expect it to be, right down to a crucial Rashomon-esque lift scene. Hart is surprisingly unirritating, too, there’s a jaunty 90s soundtrack, and Johnson manages to do both action and comedy pretty well.
Doctor Strange (2016) The latest Marvel movie sees arrogant surgeon Benedict Cumberbatch injured in a car accident and unable to operate any more. He heads East and before he knows it, as well as learning how to heal himself, he’s learning magic from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her helpers (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong), so that he can fight her former helper Mads Mikkelsen who wants to make everyone immortal… but in a really bad, murderous way.
On the one hand, it’s oftentimes a really visually impressive movie, with echoes of everything from Inception through 2001: A Space Odyssey, as reality warps and the action jumps between universes and dimensions. It’s got a top cast and the script, while treading often cliched ground at times, also channels Eastern philosophies to give us a slightly different take on the usual ‘great evil that must be defeated through brute force’, which is what Marvel normally gives us – squint, in fact, and you can spot a bit of Daoism, a bit of Buddhism and a bit of Kung Fu. Indeed, Mikkelsen is at times almost irrelevant to the larger personal journey that Cumberbatch is undergoing, such is the change in focus.
However, there are various production choices that undermine it all tad. Cumberbatch is saddled with an American accent he really doesn’t need and which affects his performance, fight scenes are endless shakycam and Michael Giacchino’s score is the usual strings-dominant orchestral pieces that rob the movie of the true weirdness it deserves. It’s also not as funny as it thinks it is.
On the whole, pretty good, but could have been better.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) Last of the three prequel movies featuring the younger X-Men cast (at least, for now…), with the action shifting to the 80s as an Ancient Egyptian mutant/god comes back to life and decides to wipe the Earth clean of weaker specimens who won’t obey him. He assembles his own team to go and fight the good mutants, which now include young versions of Night Crawler, Jean Grey and Cyclops, as well as the usual usual and some of the characters from X-Men: First Class who didn’t get much/any screentime in X-Men: Days of Future Past. And guess who also shows up…
There’s nothing that new and remarkable about X-Men: Apocalypse, with very little you won’t have seen in either the first three movies or the prequels. But if you haven’t watched those movies, you’ll be wondering about a whole bunch of things the film assumes you already know, so it’s a bit lose-lose. However, the film is good when it’s focused on the more human side of things, whether it’s Jean’s and Cyclops’ romance, Magneto’s family, James McAvoy and Rose Byrne’s 20-year-long romance, and so on, making it a surprisingly decent third act.
A bit meh, but Bryan Singer’s talents mean it’s not X-Men: Last Stand, for sure.