Friday 24 July 2020

Lately I've Been Watching

More mini TV reviews, with trailers and an indication of where you can watch them.

If you would like to see more blog posts like this, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching.  When you get to the bottom, you can click 'Older Posts' for more. 

Series: The Last Ship - Seasons 1-5 (Amazon Prime)

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

After a global viral pandemic wipes out over 80% of the world's population, the crew of a lone unaffected US Navy guided missile destroyer, the fictional Nathan James, must try to find a cure, stop the virus, and save humanity.

That's Season 1, in which Captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) actually looks like Action Man, and the doctor creating the cure is outrageously beautiful (Rhona Mitra).  Once the cure exists, the story is built around the various countries trying to rebuild, and steal power from each other.  

In the first season the foe is the Russians, in the second the British.  The British are all criminals, and talk like something out of Guy Ritchie film, but not very convincingly; we winced all the way through it.  Whoever researched London dialogue ought to be told what 'mind your Ps and Qs' actually means, and that not all Laaarndoners say 'Shaaat it' every five minutes.  

In S3, the foe is the Chinese, in S4 the Greek, and in S5 Columbian gang lords.  It's so Captain America it's almost like a spoof, and riddled with clich├ęs; at one point, the 2nd in command Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin, a bit more rough and ready but equally honourable as his captain) says 'It's quiet out there', to which Chandler actually replies, 'Too quiet'.  To say it portrays America as the good guys and saviours of the world is an understatement.

So why the five stars?  Because it's great, I loved it.  Once you get past the rather wooden first couple of episodes, it's riveting action all the way, and the storylines are terrific.  Loads of explosions, tension, near death moments, daring feats - it's top stuff.  And I liked the rather corny but effective way in which Chandler managed to fight off his inner Captain Ahab at the end.  Watch it.

For TWD addicts:  Maximilliano Hernandez, alias Officer Bob Lamson ('Can't go back, Bob') plays the ship's doctor, and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Martinez) is the ace Columbian computer hacker.

Series: Dirty John - Season 2 (Amazon Prime, and Netflix soon if not now) 

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

True life dramas about family/romantic disasters/men behaving badly/women scorned/manipulated.  S2 is the story of Betty Broderick; I watched a 1992 TV movie about the case, starring Meredith Baxter, some years back. 

This version is gripping - it's so well-structured, with the first episode showing Betty, whose hot shot LA lawyer husband has left her and gained custody of their children, driving her car into his house, screaming and shouting, etc.  We're given the impression that she's, if not crazy, certainly in need of some help.

From episode 2 onwards, however, the whole story unfolds.  I watched 4 episodes last night and am looking forward very much to the rest - although Betty does lots of stuff that's ill-advised, and is in denial to a dangerous extent, I promise you that you'll have a certain sympathy with her.  Her ex-husband is clever and manipulative, playing a long game in order to get her out of the house, while telling her she's barmy for thinking he's having an affair.  He was, I think, responsible for her mental breakdown; at the trial an expert, presumably hired by the defence, uses the term 'gaslighting', in its real sense, ie, from the 1938 play: determinedly driving someone to doubt their own sanity over a long period of time.  He even turns their four children against her; alas, many of her actions also fuel the fire.

His new wife, Linda, made a play for him, and he was easy bait.  Eventually, Betty feels as though Linda has taken her whole life.  

As time goes on, Betty's behaviour deteriorates and she drives everyone away.
Yes, she kills.  But you can kind of see why.

Series: Snowpiercer - Season 1 (Netflix)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Because of climate change, the world has entered a new ice age, with the only hope for humanity a train with 1001 carriages that must circle the globe at a certain speed in order to power itself.  It contains around 3000 passengers separated strictly by class, from those in 1st who lived as if in a luxury flat, to those in the 'tail', who are filthy and starving, and see no daylight.

Of course, they rebel.  Jenniffer Connelly stars as Melanie Cavill, who runs the show, and Daveed Digs as Andre Layton, the strong and super-intelligent 'tailie' who is determined to fight for equality.  

It's jolly good and I was gripped throughout each episode, though I would have liked to have seen a little of the 'just before' - as the big freeze started, the planning of the train, etc.  Apparently Sean Bean will play Mr Wilford, the owner of the train, in S2.  

For TWD addicts:  Steven Ogg (Simon) plays Pike, a cantankerous revolutionary from the tail. Sort of like Simon, really.

Film: Unsubscribed (Amazon Prime)

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loved this - it was made by students, apparently.  It's a mockumentary about a 'LazerGreg' geeky loser type (played by Brian Velazquez) whose only desire in life is to become a hugely successful Youtuber, like 'Danmark' (Cody Laper) who was the cool guy in school.  The only trouble is that he has nothing to say, isn't funny, and doesn't know how to edit videos.  Then he finds his niche....

It's a clever comment on the culture of today, in which people think they can become famous with no hard work (when Greg is shown how to edit his videos properly, he complains that it will take him such a long time), and believe that others will be fascinated in all they say merely because they want to say it. 

It's all about the views and likes, guys ;)

Series - Tales From The Loop (Amazon Prime)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

'Explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.'

8 hour-long stories set in a world that is like ours in the 1980s, but not quite.  Each places one of the main characters at the centre, telling a story from their lives.  They vary; I wasn't particularly struck with the first, but thought #2 was the best of the lot, and it's resolved in #8, also tick vg.  My other favourites were #3 and #7.  They're quite slow-paced, which took me a while to get used to, but #2 was so good that I kept watching, and I was glad I did.

Series: Firefly - Seasons 1-3 (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Youtube)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Made in 2002, this is set in year 2517, when Earth has died, and man has sought out new planets around the galaxy.  The crew of spaceship Firefly are renegades; since a period of war, the galaxy is controlled by a central federal government called the Alliance, made up of the fusion of the two remaining superpowers: America and China.  Out in the far reaches of this space world, many like the crew of Firefly live on their ships doing black market deals on the outer planets, and living on the edge of the law.

The main story is that of a child prodigy (River, played by Summer Glau), who, along with her brother, is rescued by the Firefly crew from brain experimentation by the Alliance doctors.

Remember being ten years old, and sitting in bed with a bag of sweets and a pile of comics?  How that feels?  The best way of summing up Firefly is to say that having a binge-watch of any of the 3 seasons provokes the same feelings.  Enjoy!   ­čść

Film: Serenity (Amazon Prime)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The film of the TV series.  Just as good.

Series: Search Party - Seasons 1-3 (Amazon Prime, HBO Max)

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dark comedy about a group of twenty-somethings in NYC, one of whom, Dory, becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl who she remembers vaguely from college.

The plot is amusing and fast-moving, and the main characters are saved from being massively irritating in the way that only millennials can be, by the fact that they're well-drawn send-ups; the hipper than hip gay guy who longs to be the coolest cat in town, the airhead actress, the homely-looking doormat Dory, and her wimpish boyfriend, Drew; they're not that keen on each other but are too lacking in confidence to split up.

The search for the missing Chantal leads them into all sorts of hot water ... it's good, entertaining.  I recommend.

Limited Series: The Salisbury Poisonings (Netflix, BBC iplayer)

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

'In March 2018 Salisbury became the site of an unprecedented national emergency. This three-part dramatisation focuses on the extraordinary heroism shown by the local community.'

It's interesting, and well-acted; worth watching, but I wasn't mad about it.

Series: The Politician - Season 2 (Netflix)

2 stars ⭐⭐

The first series was fun, but this one went too over the top, and I only watched four episodes.  What I mostly object to, aside from the fact that it became too silly, is the way in which a show aimed at impressionable adolescents portrays certain sexual practices as the norm, and as casual a recreational activity as going for a drink.  I've noticed this in other youth-orientated shows and think it's a sinister trend.  And if that makes me sound like an old fart, I don't care.