Monday, 7 June 2021

Lately I've Been Watching....

The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.  Or you can put the 'where to watch ***' into whichever search engine you use, or go to the programme's own site, it if has one.

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.


Series: City on a Hill - Seasons 1 and 2

(Amazon Prime, Showtime in the US; also Now and Sky Go in the UK)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Love this!  Watched the first season when it came out, but re-watched before the second.  Set in Boston in the early 90s, Kevin Bacon is fabulous as Jackie Rohr, a charismatic but totally corrupt FBI agent, and Aldis Hodge as DeCourcy Ward, the Assistant DA from Brooklyn and thoroughly decent chap. Together they take on a family of armoured car robbers from Charlestown.  Produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, amongst others.

It's one of those shows in which you find yourself sympathising with the baddies rather than the goodies - Frankie Ryan (Jonathan Tucker), head of the crime family (who killed 2 security guards because they saw one of the gang's faces), is a family man who loves his wife and kids.  Jackie Rohr is horribly attractive, as well as being witty and amusing, whereas his badly-treated, virtuous wife is highly irritating.  Gripping, and one of those 'oh go on, let's watch another episode even though it's gone midnight' shows.  The second season is just as good; happily, there will be a third one

(TWD Watch: Aldis Hodge was Mike, Michonne's boyfriend who ended up as one of the armless Walkers she led around.  Seth Gilliam appears as a lecherous priest in Season 1, and in S1, Jackie's daughter is played by Zoe Colleti, Dakota in Fear TWD)



Series: Spy City - Season 1

(Where to watch HERE)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Just six episodes of this series, created by William Boyd (loved the books of his that I've read) set mostly in Berlin in 1961, where MI6 agent Fielding Scott (Dominic Cooper) is sent to unmask a mole in the Allied secret services.  This is a time when people could still move relatively freely between the East and West, to the French, English, American and Russian zones.  The ending is more frightening and sinister than any horror film, as the wall goes up...

Excellent, gripping, loved it.  From an aesthetic point of view, it made me nostagic for a time I don't remember because I was only two.  The sense of place, the cars, the clothes, the cinematography.  Go get your AMC+ if you haven't already got it, and watch!



Series: Shadow Lines - Season 1

(Amazon, Google Play, Roku, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cold War espionage thriller set in Finland.  A secret intelligence team whose mission is to defend the independence of the country, no matter the cost. Mostly in sub-titles, and most unusual and interesting to see a series about a country I know next to nothing about.  Very, very good, though I admit to sometimes getting a bit confused about who was doing what and why; the plot is quite intricate.  Probably just me, though!



Series: Mare of Easttown - Season 1

(Sky Go, Now, HBO Max)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kate Winslett stars as Mare Sheehan, a detective in the small Pennsylvanian town of Easttown. Her life is extraordinarily complicated; her ex-husband lives across the back garden in a house with his new girlfriend, while both her son and her father committed suicide.  The son, Kevin, had a son of his own, Drew; Drew's mother (played by Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin) battles with narcotic addiction.  Mare's household is made up of her, her mother (Jean Smart), her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) (who has an excellent haircut), and little Drew.

A young woman called Katie Bailey has been missing for a year, and her mother is hostile towards Mare for being unable to solve the case.  Then another local girl turns up dead... added to this drama is a priest with a suspect past, questions over a child's parentage, a best friend with another deeply complicated homelife, teenage bullying, and love interest for Mare in the form of writer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) and her colleague Detective Zabel (Evan Peters).  It's all happening in Easttown.

I enjoyed this all the way through (though I didn't think it was as rave-worthy as many do), and take my hat off to Kate Winslet for playing a woman in her mid-forties who actually looks like a woman in her mid-forties, crows' feet and all.  Mare Sheehan is a lot more down-at-heel than I've ever seen Ms Winslet look, but I loved how she wasn't Hollywoodised.  The only aspect I wasn't so keen on was the way that certain current schools of thought were gently pushed forward within the drama; I believe they call it 'nudging', though in this case it was fairly subtle, a lot more than the way in which it's done in British soap operas.


Film: Army of the Dead

(Netflix)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I like my zombie and post apocalyptic stuff realistic, bleak and all about survival,  and I loathe horror comedy.  This film's pre-titles scenes made me think it would be the former, but was followed by a too-long, OTT intro to the tune of Viva Las Vegas, and I nearly switched it off straight away. However, it was better than I expected.  

Basics: aggressive zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, which has been walled off.  Crack team sent in by dodgy Japanese fella who wants them to rescue his millions before a controlled nuclear bomb is dropped on the city.  The whole film was filled with character and genre clichés: the outspoken female helicopter pilot who smokes cigars, the asshole guard who you just know will be the first to come to a sticky end, the attractive blonde soldier who has seen too much and fights with her guilt about those she had to leave behind, and the main man (Scott Ward, played by Dave Bautista) with his inner demons - the infected wife he had to put down, the daughter from whom he is estranged.  Also, the daughter was told not to go off on her own but of course did, though it wasn't too bad because she could hit moving targets after only two minutes' gun training, etc etc etc.

But.... it was good, I enjoyed it.  A zombie apocalypse action romp, if you like.  

(TWD watch: Garret Dillahunt playing a baddie, nothing like John Dorie!)


Comedy Series: Bad Internet

(YouTube only)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ten short episodes, about ten minutes apiece, each imagining the very worst of internet possibility.  Inspired by Black Mirror, though funny/surreal rather than sinisterly clever.  Some are hilarious, some less so.  My favourites:

#1 A much-depleted society, in which citizens are divided according to a BuzzFeed quiz to decide which character from Friends they are.

#2 A man signs up for Amazon Foresight, a service that sends you products before you know you need them.

#4 A deadly battle between YouTube stars.


(btw, if you want to do the Friends quiz to find out which section of society you would belong to, it's HERE!)  (I got Monica)



Series: Shut Eye - Seasons 1 and 2

(Hulu, Amazon, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan) is a conman psychic who works for a gangster Roma family.  He has a happy marriage with Linda (Kadee Strickland), who needs to 'scratch an itch' every so often, this time with hypnotist Gina (Emmanuelle Chriqui - Sloane in Entourage).  They have a son, Nick, who's a sweetheart and understands the family business - all is going quite smoothly until Charlie has a bang on the head, and he starts seeing things...  

Liked this a lot, most entertaining, and Charlie is great.  I liked the first season best, as it was more to do with the crime/gangster aspect, whereas the second season got a bit soap opera-ish, but picked up towards the end.  However, it's yet another highly enjoyable, well-written/acted/directed show that was cancelled after two seasons, the last episode of S2's cliffhangers never to be resolved.  All the same, it's still worth 20 hours of your time!

(TWD Watch: Angus Sampson, aka Ozzy Highwayman, as the head of the Roma family!)


Series: Sun Records - Season 1

(Apple, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Trevor Donovan stars as Sam Phillips who started up Sun Records, where Elvis famously first recorded.  Drake Milligan is terrific as the young Elvis; also present are the young versions of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis (Christian Lees, liked him in particular), and the sleazy Colonel Tom Parker. Atmospheric, entertaining, authentic, great music - but then it just stopped, after episode 8.  No proper ending, and the Wiki page gave no information.  Shame, but definitely worth watching the 8 episodes available if you're interested in this type of thing.

(TWD watch: Ann Mahoney (Olivia) as Gladys Presley)

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Documentary: Bright Green Lies

(Vimeo, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube movies)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

From the website: Bright Green Lies investigates the change in focus of the mainstream environmental movement, from its original concern with protecting nature, to its current obsession with powering an unsustainable way of life. The film exposes the lies and fantastical thinking behind the notion that solar, wind, hydro, biomass, or green consumerism will save us from climate change.... also shows that the facilitating of these new power sources causes as much damage to the planet as any that exist already.

Interesting and eye-opening, though I found that it didn't stay with me in the way that some other exposés have. Maybe because there is only so much of this stuff one can watch before getting totally depressed about the state of the world. The website is HERE, if you're interested.



Film: Edge of the World

(Amazon, Apple)

4*⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story of James Brooke, the British soldier and adventurer who defied the British empire to become the 'White Rajah' of Sarawak in Borneo.  Brooke is played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who is one of my favourites, although he did his usual 'straight from RADA' over-acting, like he did in Vikings.  The scenery was amazing, and the portrayal of the British culture of the time was suitably shocking.  Ralph Ineson (Finchy in the UK The Office) was revoltingly perfect as Sir Edward Beech.  Lots of violence and blood, FYI.

If you've seen it and would like to know more, you might be interested in the novel The White Rajah by Tom Williams (just re-published, I believe)



Comedy Series: Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet - Seasons 1 and 2

(Apple)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stopped watching this half-way through the second series, though may go back to it. It's a humorous show about the makers of a video game.  Fairly entertaining, with lots of digs at pretentious millennial/tech culture and 'influencers'.  Stars Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as the disgustingly self-obsessed Ian (pronounced Eye-an).



Miniseries: War of the Worlds (2019)

(Amazon, AMC, AMC+, BritBox)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

Three parts, an adaptation of the HG Wells novel set in Edwardian England, about a Martian invasion.  Stars Rupert Graves, Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall and Robert Carlyle.  Not bad, worth watching.



Documentary: The Anti-Vax Conspiracy

(Channel 4)

2* ⭐⭐

Pro-Covid vaccine-orientated documentary investigating the 'anti-vaccine movement' - apparently some sort of cult led by disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield.  Is that news to you?  It was to me.  Viewers hoping to see a programme about the reasons why people do not want the Covid jab will be disappointed, as more than half the documentary is an exposure of the scoundrel doctor's past, with one of the investigators appearing to be most bitter that Wakefield now lives in Florida with Elle Macpherson (angrily, he asked 'What does she see in him?').  Whatever side of the debate you stand on, this film is without much merit; the makers seemed somewhat lacking in material, and there is no reasonable, unbiased discussion about why some people don't want the vaccine.  Instead, they portray anyone who doesn't as ill-advised, easily led by a charismatic puppet-master, and seemingly too thick/bonkers to do their own research or come to their own conclusions.

Also featured is an Über driver who, when the controversial film Vaxxed was on tour a few years back, proudly followed the bus from town to town, walking up and down roads holding a piece of card with 'Vaccines Save Lives' written on it in felt pen.  He's now protesting about Covid anti-vaxxers, and mocks them for their 'conspiracy theories' about the proposed one world government (though it is actually a main aim of the Great Reset, about which key players such as Klaus Schwab are quite open - information available to anyone).

From this documentary I gained the information that there are many who are trying to make money from the gullible, offering all sorts of questionable alternative Covid remedies at inflated prices - such people will always crawl out of the woodwork.  Andrew Wakefield does not sound like someone in whom one should place one's absolute trust, for sure, but the whole programme was very biased and misleading.

I couldn't find a trailer, but the site is HERE.




Saturday, 8 May 2021

Lately I've Been Watching....

The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the name of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.


Film: The Courier 

(Amazon Prime)

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

True story, set during the Cold War, of English businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), who was recruited by MI6 as a courier to transport information from Soviet agent Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze). Also stars Rachel Brosnahan (Mrs Maisel - I feel the 1950s/early 60s is her spiritual home!) as Emily Donovan, one of his CIA handlers.

One of those quiet stories of recent history that has escaped wide publicity, but Wynne and Penkovsky were two heroes everyone should know about.  The Courier is solid, great drama of the old-fashioned kind; no gimmicks, no jazzing up the story, just the atmosphere of the time, excellent writing and acting, and masses of edge-of-the-seat suspense.  

At the end there is a short piece of footage of the real Greville Wynne.  Highly, highly recommended.



Film: Nobody 

(Amazon Prime)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Produced by and stars Bob Odenkirk, a favourite of mine - at first you think that the 'Nobody' of the title refers to the fact that he seems like a rather depressed family man living a humdrum life and slightly emasculated by his wife, but the truth is slowly revealed.

It's very violent, with lots of fights, murders and explosions, so it ticked many boxes for me; it's got that darker-than-dark humour thing going on that's so popular these days, and it totally works.  




Film: Nomadland

(Hulu, Disney+; buy/rent on Amazon and many others)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Multi-award winning, I believe.  Rather than describe the plot myself, here is the Wikipedia link: Nomadland.

Frances McDormand is always a 'must watch', and this film was heartbreaking and oddly beautiful, both at the same time.  Don't expect any great plot - it's just about the fictional Fern's life, in a situation based on a true story.




Documentary: Tina

(HBO Max, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I've never been a particular fan of Tina Turner, but I love watching biographies like these, and find they make me appreciate the artiste more, even if what they do isn't my cup of tea.  This one made me understand what all the fuss is/was about, for sure.  

The documentary is divided into 5 parts - obviously there is much focus on the Ike years in the earlier parts, but it underlines how she became endlessly frustrated by journalists and talk show presenters constantly asking her about her relationship with him, even years and years later when she'd become a superstar in her own right.  In this, the section I liked most was the era of her incredible success, when she really came into her own.  One of those women who became more beautiful when she was over forty, which is always great to see, as was her relationship with her husband, Erwin.

She's 81 now, and has suffered ill health over the past 8 years (intestinal cancer and a kidney transplant), and, as would anyone at this age (she was 79 in the present day interviews in the documentary) and with such devastating health problems, she now seems like an old lady - but the fire is still there.  I was saddened to see how much plastic surgery she'd had, though.  I'm not sure I would have recognised her; that fabulous strong face has been lifted, filled and kind of flattened.   

Incidentally, I found most interesting what Ike Turner said about the music business in 1960s America vs England - that a black artist in the US would have to be played and become popular on the black music radio stations before the mainstream stations would even consider it, whereas in England a song would just be accepted for what it is - which is why River Deep, Mountain High was a success in England but not in America on its first outing.



Series: Snowfall - Season 4 

(Disney+, Sky, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, Apple)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Been enjoying this so much from the beginning - and now crack entrepreneur Franklin's world becomes increasingly dangerous.  Damson Idris is terrific in the starring role; his persona zig-zags between the charming young man we first met, and the ruthless businessman he's becoming.  I imagine Season 5 will be quite different, as a fair amount of ends were tied up in this one.  If you've watched the other seasons, you won't be disappointed by this one; if you haven't, start now!

In a nutshell, it's a somewhat sanitised version of a true story about the CIA joining with drug cartels in the 1980s to sell enough crack to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.  

(TWD Watch: Kevin Carroll - Virgil - as Franklin's father)


Series: Line of Duty - Season 6

(BBC iPlayer)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was glued to this all the way through, and Kelly MacDonald was excellent... but, like many people (from what I've seen on Twitter), I thought the ending was SUCH an anticlimax.  Best summed up by @crazytownfanOne view is that it's a reflection on current society, especially in UK politics, that the people at the top are getting away with everything and there's no accountability. On the other hand, I wanted a satisfying ending to a tv show and that wasn't it.

Great story, zipped along, but the 'slow reveal' bit, when we (eventually) learned that Buckles was the person who couldn't spell definitely, was ludicrous - it was like those ghastly TV talent shows ('and the winner of X Factor 2034 is....') where they keep you guessing for ages by showing people walking into rooms in such a way that you don't see their faces.  Even more ludicrous was Kate Fleming deciding that Dot Cotton's dying finger spasms were attempted communication via morse code - as there were four of them and four dots is morse for 'H', she somehow divined that codename H meant there were four men at the head of the corruption conspiracy.  Arnott and Hastings bought this with no question, even though the concept was spoof-worthy.  I'm surprised no one in the writers' room said, 'Oh, come on, nobody's going to swallow that!'  

Most of all, though, I needed Carmichael to get her comeuppance.  Shame.  Chloe was a great addition to the main cast, and I liked Chris, too.

Anywayyyy - loved the rest of it, but - what @crazytownfan said.


Film: Kill The Messenger (2014) 

(Amazon Prime, Netflix)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The true story of Snowfall, about Gary Webb, the journalist who tried to expose this.  The 'Franklin' character appears only briefly (but played by Michael Kenneth Williams, so it's all good!).  Recommended for those who like to know a little about what really goes on in high places.

(TWD Watch: Robert Patrick (Mays), Steve Coulter (Reg Monroe), and a very young Matt Lintz (adult Henry)!)



Series: Fear The Walking Dead - Season 6, episodes 8 -11

(AMC+, Amazon)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I've never obsessed over Fear TWD like I do original TWD, but Season 6 has been outstanding all the way through, even the episodes that focused on my less favourite characters.  Lennie James as our lovely Morgan is marvellous, as is Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie (no spoilers here!)

I notice how Morgan's path is mirroring Rick's; the constant wave that he rides about to-kill-or-not-to-kill, finding himself, losing it again, the new love with a new child.  The question of what to do with Virginia at the end of E9 had a few echoes of the Negan scenario at the end of TWD S8, too.  

As for the underground people, there's nothing like a new threat.  Those that are left, anyway.... 

Other thoughts:

  • Hoping that we get more Dwight in episodes to come, and that Sherry eventually finds her way back to him (or maybe the writers don't know quite what to do with him now he's a good guy again!). 
  • I know a few people have said about June becoming FTWD's Carol, but I thought of Michonne too.  Also made me think of Gabriel and Dante - f*ck reason and humanity, I'm doing what I need to do.  Either way, the hat seemed very symbolic!  (another echo...!) 
  • I wonder whether there is going to be a time jump, to get it up to the same time as TWD, at some point?  Because at the moment they must be about 5 years behind.  



Series: V - 2009 - Two seasons
(Now TV, Amazon Prime)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Remake of the original series from the early 80s, starring Morena Baccarin (Nick Brody's wife in Homeland) as the queen of the Visitors, beings from another planet who, out of the blue, arrive in their space ships in major cities across the world.  They offer clean energy and healthcare beyond anything we can imagine; immediately, the public accept them, with an almost religious fervour.

Soon it becomes apparent that a number of Visitors have been living on Earth for some time.  Amongst these, and on the ships, are of those who oppose their plans for world domination: The Fifth Column.  The other main characters: FBI agent Erica Evans, her son Tyler who becomes involved with the queen's daughter, a Visitor who has lived on earth for some time as a Fifth Column activist, a priest, and a criminal wanted by the FBI.

I found this thoroughly entertaining, though it got a bit more daft and outlandish towards the second half of the second season - I imagine this was because the original order for 13 episodes was cut to 10, so they had to get more story into less time.  Anyway, it was cancelled after 2 seasons, though the end of S2 does have a kind of conclusion - but I was most fed up that there was not more to watch!



Film: Mystery Road 

(Amazon Prime, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Set in the north-western Australian outback, Detective Jay Swan, from the city, arrives at a small town to investigate the murder of a young girl of the indigenous population.  Leads to discovery of all sorts of corrupt skulduggery taking place.  Aaron Pederson as Swan is the strong silent type, so much so that now and again I wished he would say something or give some indication of his feelings via the mode of facial expression.  

I loved the atmosphere of this film, and it's worth watching for the cinematography alone - absolutely stunning (and the reason for my extra .5 of a star).  It's quite slow in places, but this kind of adds to the realism and the feeling of being out there in that open, empty country.  Excellent gun battle at the end. 
 


Series: Mystery RoadSeasons 1 and 2
(stream: BBC iPlayer, Acorn TV.  Buy: Amazon, Apple, Google Play)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The TV series version of the film.  Happy to see that, in Season 1, Aaron Pederson is a little more animated than in the film.  The town has a more cosy ambience, while Swan's daughter is less of a sulky, monosyllabic teenager with 'juvie' written all over her, and more of a wild-haired beauty who loves her dad.  The story is completely different; this time Swan has been called in to investigate the disappearance of a local football star.  

In Season 2, Swan returns to his former Man Of Stone persona, and when he does speak to anyone he's so rude I'm surprised he doesn't get thumped more often.  Okay, so he has the pain of a broken marriage, of not being able to communicate with his daughter, of being a black man in a white man's world, but now and again I think how refreshing it would be to see a TV detective who doesn't have a character flawed by familial troubles, alcohol, etc.  Can't they be brilliant mavericks without having a stormy past?

Meanwhile, the story in this second season is much better than either the film or S1.  He's in another town now, and comes up against corrupt cops, drug dealers, troubled teens, the aboriginal tribal leader, a professor on an archaeological dig, and much more.  Gripping, loved it - S2 is worthy of 5 stars.

Same knock-your-socks-off cinematography; I would say that, generally and artistically, the 2013 film is more sophisticated, but the TV series is more entertaining.



Film: Goldstone

(Amazon)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The sequel to the original Mystery Road film, made in 2016, in which Detective Jay Swan travels to the remote mining town of Goldstone to investigate the disappearance of an Asian girl.  Murder, corruption, the traffficking of young girls, scary bikers, the reality of living hundreds of miles from anywhere, it's got it all.  David Wenham (Faramir in Lord of the Rings) stars as the owner of a mine who wants to expand his operation, and is offering financial incentive everywhere he can, in order to do this.  Jacki Weaver as the town mayor is a psycho very thinly disguised with smiles and red lipstick. 

Swan has gone down the pan in this one, and has a drink problem and a dead daughter, who rose from the dead to be in the TV series, but never mind.  It's really good. 



Comedy Series: No Activity 

(Amazon, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Australian version.  

Two detectives sitting in a car talking.  Two police clerical workers sitting at a desk talking.  Two criminals sitting in a warehouse talking.  Doesn't sound that interesting... but it's great.  Very, very funny.  The writing and acting is first class - approximately 25 minute long episodes alternating between different pairs involved in whatever crime the current season is about.  The best sort of dry Aussie humour.


American version

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Not as funny, but still worth watching!



Film: Midsommar 

(Amazon, Google Play, Apple)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An independent film that appeared on a recommended list... Dani, a student, is suffering severe shock after discovering the dead bodies of her parents and sister. Her boyfriend, Christian, is in a close-knit group of four friends, one of whom (Pelle) is Swedish.  Pelle invites his three friends and Dani to come home with him for a holiday, to the isolated community on which he lives in a remote part of rural Sweden.

The community is about to embark on an traditional several-day festival, and Pelle is eager to show his people's culture to his friends.  Almost immediately, Dani and the others feel that something is not right, as curious events follow shocking deaths - all is smiles, flowers and dancing on the surface, but, slowly, the terrifying reality of the festival, and the reasons why Pelle brought them all along, begin to reveal themselves.

Think updated Wicker Man - it's that kind of atmosphere.  Lots of gruesome scenes, though this is not overdone - it doesn't feel like it's there just to shock.  The spiralling sense of danger is proper edge of the seat stuff!



Series: Keeping Faith - Season 3

(Acorn, Amazon, BBC)


4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I think I liked this slightly more than the first two seasons; better story, though a little odd that Faith's best friend has, overnight, had an almost complete personality change, and the characters who were irritating before have remained so.  Only six episodes - just right.  Hated the ending, so sad - and something I very much wanted to happen, didn't!  Also stars Celia Imrie as Faith's mother.  If you liked the others, you'll enjoy this, too.

(I will just say that Faith's hair is FABULOUS in this one - I kept studying it and wondering if I could get mine to be similar with a bit of growing here and there, but as time went on I began to suspect hair extensions.)   



Film: Here are the Young Men 

(Apple, Chili, Rakuten, Microsoft, Fandango, Vudu)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Set in Dublin.  Stars Finn Cole (Jay in Animal Kingdom) as Joe, Dean-Charles Chapman as Matthew and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (King Alfred in Vikings) as Rez - three lads just leaving school and ready to have themselves a time. Also Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen's Gambit) as Jen, the girl Matthew loves, and Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok!!!) as a TV host.

Finn Cole was the one who stopped this being instantly forgettable; he was excellent as the bad boy whose inner psychopath rises to the fore after he sees a fatal road accident.  This a dark coming-of-age type of story, but too much of it made me feel like I'd seen it all before in other coming-of-age type stories; the main character, Chapman's Matthew, was rather one-dimensional and uninteresting.  Travis Fimmel was delightfully weird, but there wasn't enough of him!

It's good, but not as good as I thought it was going to be.  Worth a watch, but you may feel, as I did, that it doesn't live up to its potential.



Film: The Ballad of Billy McCrae 

(Google Play, Microsoft, Youtube online)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Made by Cymru films.  A Welshman who made it big in Canada comes back to his home town in industrial South Wales after his business partner allegedly did the dirty on him, forcing him into bankruptcy.  He starts work for Billy McCrae (David Hayman, never disappointing), who owns a local quarry.  Determined to climb back up, he makes friends with Billy, and starts a relationship with his daughter.

A good, solid, suspense-filled drama/thriller: 'a story of love, hate and murder'.  Worth watching!



Ratings:

  • 5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - outstanding
  • 5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - highly recommended
  • 4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - nearly 5* but not quite
  • 4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - better than 4* but misses that X factor
  • 4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - good, worth watching
  • 3.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - parts of it good, but couldn't actually say I liked it
  • 3.5* ⭐⭐⭐ - parts of it good, some aspects bad
  • 3* ⭐⭐⭐ - not much cop but not terrible
  • Anything lower - I wouldn't recommend.


Monday, 26 April 2021

New Release! Megacity - Part 3 of the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy

 

Out Now!

- M E G A C I T Y -

Click for Amazon (universal link)

Sequel to Hope and Wasteland



Operation Galton is named after Frederick Galton, a pioneer of eugenics in the 
late 19th and early 20th centuries; it was he who invented the term

~*~

The UK's new megacities: contented citizens relieved of the financial burden of home ownership, living in eco-friendly communities.  Total surveillance has all but wiped out crime, and biometric sensor implants detect illness before symptoms are apparent.

That's the hype.  Scratch the surface, and darker stories emerge.

Tara is offered the chance to become a princess amongst media influencers—as long as she keeps quiet and does as she's told. 

Aileen uproots to the megacity with some reluctance, but none of her misgivings prepare her for the situation she will face: a mother's worst nightmare. 

Radar has survived gang rule in group homes for the homeless, prison and bereavement, and jumps at the chance to live a 'normal' life.  But at what cost?

For all three, the price of living in a megacity may prove too high.


Megacity is the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy, and is Terry Tyler's twenty-third publication.

'As long as some of us refuse to live as they demand, we are not yet beaten.  That's how we do it.  That's how we win.'







Thursday, 15 April 2021

Lately I've Been Watching

The latest in my series of mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available in your country, this is a good site: Justwatch.  Just put the of the show into the search, and choose your country further down, from the drop-down menu.  It shows where you can stream, buy or rent.

If you would like to see more posts, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  If you get as far as the bottom, 'Older Posts' will take you to more.

Please note the subtle difference between half star ratings; a 3.5 or 4.5 might be rounded up or down, depending on what I thought of the programme.


Series: Animal Kingdom Seasons 1-4 

(Amazon, Google Play, Sky Store)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About a criminal family in California, headed by mother Janine 'Smurf' Cody (Ellen Barkin) and her sons Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), 'Pope' (Shawn Hatosy) and Baz (Scott Speedman).  Smurf's grandson Joshua (Finn Cole) finds himself with no place to go, and becomes sucked into their world.

I got more and more into this as it went on; the heists are great to watch, the dysfunctional family politics grow more and more intriguing, I love how Joshua goes from nervous kid to quietly brilliant criminal mind, and Ben Robson as Craig is tongue-hanging-out gorgeous (see gif below trailer!).  Loved it - I missed them all when it was over.  Can't wait for Season 5 this summer; Season 6 will be the final season.



Film: Animal Kingdom 

(Apple, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft, Sky Store, Youtube online)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Australian film on which the series above was based.  Far less glamorous but still good - and Ben Mendelsohn plays the 'Pope' character - he's become a favourite actor of mine since he was in Bloodline.



Series: Genius: Picasso 

(via the National Geographic app, Sky Store, Amazon, Chili, Microsoft)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ten episodes, about the life, loves and art of Pablo Picasso, from his childhood in Spain in 1885 to his death in the South of France in 1973.  Alex Rich is fabulous as the young man, while Antonio Banderas plays the older version rather magnificently.

Throughout, it alternates between the later years and his earlier life, and these two thread move chronologically until the earlier life catches up - this works so well, and the years and places are always clearly indicated.

The scenery is just beautiful, particularly the Spanish and Parisian streets of the early part of the 20th Century.  I highly recommend this whether you have a particular interest in Picasso or not; I hadn't, but am now looking for the best biography of him!  This is part of the National Geographic's Emmy award winning series; I've started watching #3, about Aretha Franklin.



Series: Snowpiercer - Season 2 (Netflix)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

For those who don't know, Snowpiercer is a train of over a thousand carriages long that runs around the globe, and is the home of the last survivors in a frozen world.  You need to see S1 first :)

I liked this season better than the first - Sean Bean has appeared as the infamous Mr Wilford, bringing with him Alex, chief engineer Melanie's daughter who she left behind in the freezing world beyond the train.  If you loved the first season, you'll love this too.  The stand-out episode for me was no 6, in which Melanie, sure that the temperature is warming up, leaves the train to do a load of technical stuff to find out if this is indeed the case.... and, it shows the beginning, how Snowpiercer's journey began.

One of those that make you look up to see when S3 is going to be on, as soon as it finishes.



Documentary: No Safe Spaces (Amazon Prime)

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

US Comedian and podcast king Adam Corolla and radio host Dennis Prager expose the growing threat to free speech on university campuses and social media, and in your place of work - basically, anything outside that which is acceptable to those who subscribe to the far left woke culture.  Shows much footage of certain speakers being shouted down when invited to give talks at universities, even though open to reasonable, calm discussion.  

From Wikipedia: Some critics reviewed the movie positively. Alan Ng of Film Threat gave the film a 90 and wrote in his review, "When it’s all said and done, this film is offensive only to those who don't want to watch it." Variety's Owen Gleiberman praised the movie's defense of free speech, stating "the most head-turning point made by No Safe Spaces is that today's anti-free-speech radicals, who on many college campuses dominate the discourse, are going to be tomorrow's leaders."



Series: The Plot Against America (Sky Go, Now TV)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Six episodes, based on the book of the same name by Philip Roth. It is set in the US during World War II - but this is 'alternative history'.  Pilot, national hero and suspected Nazi sympathiser Charles Lindbergh challenges FDR for the presidency; FDR is pro-America joining the war, while Lindbergh is against it. Lindbergh is elected POTUS.  He says that it is England and the Jewish community that are trying to force American's entrance into the war.  Divisions in society culminate in the rise of fascism, particularly antisemitism.

The series follows the fate of one Jewish family, the Levins.  Schemes are begun to remove Jews to the rural heartland of America.  I imagined that we would see this taking place, with the new locations more bleak than had been promised, but it was only talked about.  Generally, the whole series was a little on the tame side.  There were reports of riots and violent incidents, protests, arson attacks, but we saw very little of this. The threat of danger was ever-present, but not a great deal happened - for instance, the main male character and his sons stop at a rural shop where they run into a Klu Klux Klan member, but he leaves them alone.

Then Lindbergh's plane crashed, they got a new president, and everything was all right again.  It was good, I enjoyed it and the idea was great, but it lacked impact.



Series: The Young Pope 

(Sky Go, Now TV, or buy as download on Amazon, Rakuten, Google Play)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jude Law has been chosen as Pope by Cardinals who think that, because he is relatively young and inexperienced, he will be easy to manipulate.  They're so wrong.  He declares that he wants to crack down on corruption, and the opening up of the Vatican to the public; the Cardinals are shocked to realise that he wishes them to live a life of modest and quiet worship.  Unusual and very, very good.




Series: The New Pope 
(Sky Go, or buy to download on Amazon)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Actually Season 2 of The Young Pope, but it's got a different name.  Also stars John Malkovitch as the Pope John-Paul III while Pius XIII (Law) is unable to fulfil his duties (no spoilers!).  Both seasons deal with the subjects of corruption and the complicated one of faith, but it's all lighthearted... sort of.  The settings are stunning, and it's beautifully made.  Highly recommend both seasons.  Silvio Orlando as the Secretary of the Vatican State, Cardinal Angleo Voiello, was one of my favourite characters.  When I could stop ogling Jude Law, that is.



Film: Zack's Snyder's Justice League 

(Sky Go, HBO Max, Now TV)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four hours long!  Batman (Ben Affleck) is determined to prove that Superman (Henry Cavill)'s last sacrifice was not in vain, so recruits other superheroes to fight against an approaching threat.  Jason Momoa as Aquaman was enough to make me give it a go ...  I thought four hours might be a bit much, but I enjoyed it all the way through.  Great escapism!

  


Film: Godzilla Vs Kong 

(Amazon, Apple - not free yet)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was a bit dubious about this film as I am not a monsters person (I haven't seen Jurassic Park or anything like that), but it was jolly good.  If you DO like this sort of thing, you'll probably love it.  



Series: Damien 

(Sky Go, Now TV, or buy on Amazon, Google Play, Chili, Microsoft)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

One season only, sadly, from 2016.  Based on the film The Omen.  Ends just as it starts to get really interesting, ie, when Damien accepts what is happening to him.  Still worth watching, though.  Can't imagine why it was cancelled, it's much better than a lot of other rubbish that goes on and on, but there you go!

Trigger warning for Walking Dead fans:  Scott Wilson gets mauled to death by a group of satanic dogs. 😱😱😱



Series: The Walking Dead (AMC+, Amazon, Sky Go, Now TV)

Season 10x20 SPLINTER

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Full Review HERE


Season 10x21 DIVERGED

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Full Review HERE


Season 10x22 HERE'S NEGAN

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Full Review HERE


Documentary:White Riot (Amazon Prime)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Rock Against Racism movement of the late 1970s - this was how such things were done then, with no social media or mobile phones!  Lots of archive footage and interviews with those involved, then and now.  Fascinating, and a great trip back in time for us oldies.



Film: The Toll (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

Horror film about a woman who gets picked up in an Uber by a driver who seems a bit weird at first - until they break down on a lonely road and a lot of much more weird stuff starts happening.  Of its type, I thought at first that it was going to be good, but it got sillier and sillier.  It was okay.  If you like daft scary supernatural stuff, you may love it.