Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Lately I've Been Watching....

The latest in my series of mini TV reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  If you have trouble finding where any show/film is available, try typing 'where can I watch *name of show*' into whatever search engine you use. 

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 4.5 might be rounded up or down, depending on what I thought of the programme.


Limited Series: The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You've probably already watched and loved this - it seems to be universally liked. Girl in orphanage in the 1950s turns out to be a chess genius, but her emotional life is a mess. Seven episodes, great drama, totally engrossing.  Stars Anya Taylor-Joy as the not very likeable Beth Harmon, with whom you may sympathise nevertheless.  Though I did hate her for never getting back in touch with the janitor from the orphanage who taught her how to play.  And for not giving him back the money he lent her to get started.  But it's still terrific.

Series:  Deep State - Seasons 1 & 2 (Amazon Prime, Epix)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mark Strong stars as former M16 agent Max Easton who is forced to go back into the field for one more job.  ClichΓ©, I know, but it does tend to work every time.  Also stars Joe Dempsie as his estranged son, Harry; theirs is not an easy relationship.

Season 2 features Max Easton only in reference, with the main character spot taken over by Walton Goggins, another favourite of mine, as a former CIA operative, and Joe Dempsie in a more prominent role. Thrills and spills, tension and murder.  Loved it.  Look forward to S3.  

Series: Temple - Season 1 (Sky One, Spectrum)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More Mark Strong in this one - no complaints here!  This time he plays London surgeon Daniel Milton, who, with prepper Lee Simmons (Daniel Mays), runs an illegal clinic situated below the underground.  Also stars Carice Van Houten (Melisandre in Game of Thrones) as the scientist Milton was shagging behind his wife's back, and Catherine McCormack (Murron in Braveheart) as the 'dead' wife (you'll see!).  They have one daughter who, though the progeny of two sharp-featured, dark-haired parents, is that 'transparent eyelashes' sort of ginger-haired, and has a face that is as far removed from theirs as one could imagine. 

Very good, plenty edge-of-seat tension.  Looking forward to more.

Film: Mank (Netflix)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fictional account about screenwriter Herbert Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman, who co-wrote Citizen Kane.  It's made in the style of the film itself, which is most effective, and covers the period of time when Citizen Kane was being written.  Orson Welles is played by Tom Burke.  I liked it very much, but might have done so even more if I had seen Citizen Kane, which I am ashamed to say that I had not, though this was soon rectified.

Film: Muscle (Amazon Prime)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dark and grisly film set in Newcastle, though the characters are all roughy-toughy southerners - Essex and London.  Simon (Cavan Clerkin), bored and unsuccessful in his telemarketing job and with a stale marriage, starts going to a gym, where he meets Terry, an ex-army personal trainer played horribly well by Craig Fairbrass.  The changes this brings to Simon's life lead to the end of both his job and his marriage - which allows Terry to insinuate himself into every corner of his world.  Simon soon finds himself completely out of his depth, and his life spirals downwards in every way possible.  

It's sinister, tawdry and quite depressing, but very, very good. Made in black and white.  Violence and very graphic sexual scenes (erections and people having sex, though not throughout, only during one event).  Would have given it 5* apart from the fact that I was a little disappointed in the ending, and the sort of people in it make me shudder!  

Series: The Crown - Season 4 (Netflix)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is one of those shows I know is a bit crappy, made for the American market and not historically accurate, but I find utterly engrossing (a bit like The Tudors!). Olivia Colwell is excellent as HRH. There have been many criticisms of Gillian Anderson's rather Spitting Image/pantomime-like portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, though she does get some aspects (such as her walk) absolutely spot on, and Thatch did used to seem like a parody of herself, half the time.  Denis Thatcher is particularly good.  

The farce that was Charles and Diana's marriage is quite brutally portrayed, and one can't help feeling sorry for Diana, who was dealt a marked card from the word 'go'.  

I've read that there will be a Season Five, though it may end in 2006 to avoid the tricky 'controversy' surrounding the death of Diana.  I felt the question of her being bumped off was hinted at in conversations between her and Princes Philip and Charles in later episodes during S4; we will see.  You can see a picture of Elizabeth Debicki, who will play the older Diana, below the S4 trailer.  I am sure you will agree that she looks more like her than younger version Emma Corrin, though I did find Corrin more convincing than I thought I would. Imelda Staunton is to play the older Queen, with Jonathon Pryce as Prince Philip.

Documentary: Rise of the Warrior Apes (Animal Planet, Amazon Prime)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Documentary made by a group of naturalists/anthropologists who spent 20 years studying a tribe of apes in Ngogo, Uganda. Over this time they got to know them so well, naming them and recognising their personalities, observing the societal changes and power struggles within the tribe as it grew and developed.  Definitely worth watching.

Dark Comedy Series: The Flight Attendant - Season 1 (HBO Max)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Dark comedy/thriller about an alcoholic flight attendant, Cassie (Kaley Cuoco), who has a one night stand in Thailand with a bloke played by Michael Huisman (lucky her, I hear you say), and wakes up in the morning to find him lying in a pool of blood.  It's entertaining, but Cassie's constant 'zany' behviour and impulsive actions started to get on my nerves after a while, and the whole getting drunk thing became a tad depressing (btw, have you noticed how on TV, nobody ever drinks spirits with mixers?).  Also, there are frequent imaginary scenes in which Cassie talks to her dead lover, which get a bit tedious after a while.  But it's not bad.  Worth a look if you like this sort of thing.

Series: Departure - Season 1 (Universal TV, Global TV)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

A UK drama series with familiar faces from other UK drama series, I felt that this was trying to be 24-esque and failing.  It's a plane-mysteriously-gone-down thriller-mystery, one survivor who may hold the key if only she could remember, etc.  The plot itself is interesting, and it's fast-moving, etc, but even actors like Christopher Plummer and Dougray Scott couldn't take it above mediocre.  The dialogue is pretty dire - wooden, with every clichΓ© in the book; good actors can't make characters more than one-dimensional if they have little to work with.

To sum up - it was okay, quite good, and got better as it went on, but the fact that I didn't give a stuff what happened to any of the non-characters meant that it failed to be compelling.

Film: Tenet (Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play)

2.5* ⭐⭐

Super big action thriller starring John David Washington and the bloke who was in the vampire stuff (Robert Pattinson).  CIA agent Washington gets told his mission is to stop World War 3.  I thought it was going to be great, but when we were given the BIG REVEAL about what this worse-than-nuclear threat is, alas, my husband and I both laughed.  Spontaneous reaction from both of us. Yes, it was that daft. Too much information all the way through that was hard to take in, though some terrific action scenes.  I admit to falling asleep before the end.

Film: Run (Hulu)

2* ⭐⭐

Another one that I thought was going to be great, but was pretty dire.  Sarah Paulson stars as Creepy Mom with Munchausen's by Proxy; I can't imagine why an actor of her calibre would agree to the script in the first place. Both her and the girl who plays the daughter are good, but neither could do much with this badly-written piece of moderately entertaining trash TV.

Series: End Game (Amazon Prime)

1.5* ⭐

And so we come to the other end of the spectrum of series about people who play chess.  This is a sort of comedy-not-comedy crime thriller about a Russian chess coach with agoraphobia who can't pay his bill in the posh hotel he lives in, but gets lured into solving crime mysteries for a fee, using his chess students and knowledge of canny moves to help.  IMDb promises it gets better after the first couple of episodes, but it was such rubbish we couldn't even get through them.


  1. Loved Queen's Gambit but like you, thought she should have at least visited the Janitor, after all, she owed everything to him!

    I felt uneasy watching The Crown this season but I can't put my finger on quite why. Maybe it was because 'Diana' was in it and we all know what happened to her. I thought Gillian Anderson was brilliant and a most unexpected actress to play the part.

    Oh dear, the Flight Attendant. What an absolute disaster, although I did watch to the end just to see what happened. Too much Penny from BBT for me and yes, the drinking overtook the story. And what happened to Megan? For such a big part of the story, it fizzled out completely and we were left wondering what happened to her husband.

    1. Yes, Gillian A got better and better in it, didn't she? And, oddly, it made me almost like Thatch! In her first scenes I laughed out loud at how OTT I thought it was, but then it... didn't seem so OTT after all. And that walk - she must have practiced it for ages. AND, at the time, Thatch did often seem like her own Spitting Image puppet!

      Yes, The Flight Attendant. I did watch to the end for the reasons you did, but, aside from anything else, when people get shit-faced drunk on spirits, they tend to look and feel DREADFUL the next day, not scrubbed up and bright, with a bit of a headache. I know, I used to do it often enough. It was just too stupid. I suppose it was meant to appeal to the ladette culture, like that horror show film The Bridesmaid, but much of it was just ridiculous.

      Yes - Megan's story was actually more interesting!

  2. I absolutely agree with you about Queen's Gambit. I found the end really quite moving - and didn't like her only for the 2 reasons mentioned, though otherwise I thought she was quite a sympathetic character.
    Re The Crown, I thought the earlier actress playing Diana had the voice down pat, and Elizabeth D will be perfect for the older one, as a) she is 6ft tall, as Diana was, and b) she can accurately portray how Diana really learned to wear haute couture. I didn't like Olivia Coleman much, didn't think she could do a sufficiently upper-class voice. By the way, I keep seeing posts saying that Charles and Di's marriage was portrayed inaccurately, but all the divisions between them are ones that I remember being reported by their friends and acquaintances at the time they happened (I used to read such things in the 80s!)

    1. Exactly - Diana's marriage to Charles was as much a PR arrangement as Henry VIII marrying Anne of Cleves, etc., and anyone who doesn't believe this is naive - the romantic fairytale was an invention of the press.

      The fact that Beth didn't go back and see the janitor coloured the whole thing for me, as far as her personality was concerned.

  3. I gave up on The Flight Attendant before the end of the first episode, much as I like Kaley Cuoco, because I couldn't stand all the 'zaniness'. Kind of bored with her playing a promiscuous blonde who drinks too much, I'm sure she can do more than that!