For more, please click the 'Lately I've Been Watching' tag at the end.
2 part documentary: What's my name | Muhammad Ali
I have no interest in boxing and know very little about it, though of course Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali were names I grew up hearing, and I do love biographical documentaries. This one is stunningly good. There is no narrative, and there are no people relating their memories of him; his story is told in old film clips only, with a little background music of the time, though this is not overdone.
Now I've seen it, I understand what all the fuss was about. What a charismatic and decent chap he was, underneath the bluster. Seriously worth watching.
Series: Stranger Things: Season 3
Never disappoints, this show... S3 is just as good as the others. The kids are teenagers now, and I was slightly amused at how the girls, of course, look like young women, whereas Mike and co are still gangly boys. Millie Bobby Brown is as terrific as ever, and I loved the developing of Max's full-of-himself older brother. I'm usually massively irritated by most teenagers in TV shows, but these are all great, which is a huge plus for me. Great escapism, and I really like the whole 1980s feel, which makes me go 'aahhh' about a time when life seemed simpler, somehow... give or take the odd slimy monster. If you haven't seen this series, I recommend you start now, at Season 1 😀.
Mike Leigh film about a working class uprising, demanding lower food prices and a vote in parliament, and its quashing by those who thought themselves more worthy of a place on this planet. I knew about it from school history lessons, but this film really brought it home. Some wonderful acting (Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake and many more), and the attention to detail in the setting is amazing; those people in filthy rags and shawls coming out of their factories seemed every bit as real as any characters in a contemporary drama. So well-written, and hard-hitting, though I was slightly disappointed by the end; I wanted to know more about the aftermath.
Series: The Last Czars
This is a documentary interspersed with a drama about the period from when Czar Nicholas II came to power, to the slaughter of him and his family, in 1917. I wasn't too sure about it at first, because there were too many unnecessary sex scenes (like, all of them) - we know Nicky and Alix were trying to have a son and heir, we didn't need to see his white bum going up and down in the attempt. However, these faded out as it went on, and I began to see how well put together it was; I was engrossed.
I'd only known vague details about how the Russian Revolution began, and, of course, the family's murder in the House of Special Purpose, but this is so detailed, showing how Nicholas made terrible mistakes from the first day of his reign, how his family lived in a gilded cage and hadn't got a clue what was going on in their own country, or indeed any understanding when they were informed. Neither had I realised, until watching this, how huge a part Rasputin played in the destruction of the old Russia; his part is so well-played, showing his story right from the earlier years, when he was a peasant in Siberia. If you have any interest in this period of Russian history, you should definitely watch it—and if you haven't, watch it anyway.
Film: Sicario 2: Soldado
Gripping action film - suicide bombings, Mexican drug cartels, black ops, human trafficking, teenagers getting mixed up with criminals - a good couple of hours' TV fun, starring Josh Brolin and Benicio del Torro.
Series: The Spanish Princess: Season 1
I've given this 2 stars because it was quite entertaining, and because I enjoyed watching it in sort of amused fascination, but as a depiction of historical events? Forget it. Think Catherine of Aragon and her lady-in-waiting nipping into a pub of an afternoon, artistocratic women being appalled/amazed that they would not be able to marry a man of their choice, Margaret Beaufort portrayed as the wicked stepmother in Snow White, servants answering back to royalty, Prince Harry looking 5 years older than Prince Arthur, even though he would have been about 10 years old when Catherine first arrived in England; it is well known that she was a good few years older than him.
Then there's Queen Isabella taking part in a battle, in full armour, with a crown on her head ... and that's before we even get started on Elizabeth of York kissing Catherine on the mouth, and the ridiculously inaccurate timeline. Oh and the Strong Women. Almost every female character is nauseatingly 'feisty', and Speaks Their Mind Against Personal Injustices. You know, like women do today, except that in the 16th century they tended not to...
... which is what I found patronising in the extreme. It seems the writers and producers assume that viewers will not be able to understand the restrictions of the time, based around religion/court protocol/gender, and can only accept history when dumbed down into this schmaltzy, politically correct, romantic pap.