Tuesday 16 March 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, 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 3.5 or 4.5 might be rounded up or down, depending on what I thought of the programme.

Film: The Mauritanian (2021) - (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Fandango)

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Utterly brilliant. True story about Mohamedou Ould Salahi being held in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years without charge, and without having committed a crime.  Stars Tahar Rahim as Salahi, Jodie Foster as his lawyer, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the military prosecutor, who stood down once he realised that much of the 'evidence' was fabricated.  At the end, you see film of the real people, and what happened to them all.  Highly, highly recommended.

Series: Berlin Station - Seasons 1, 2 and 3 (Amazon - cancelled in 2019)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stars Richard Armitage and Rhys Ifans as agents for the CIA in Berlin.  Usual thriller/spy/corruption/murder plots, but particularly good.  I liked that it was set in various countries in Europe, rather than the usual American setting.  Definitely worth watching, though I didn't think the 3rd season was quite as good as the first two.  My favourite characters were Ifans' Hector deJean, the disillusioned agent with dubious tactics, and Rafael Torres (Ismael Cruz Córdova), who was in S3 only.

Co-stars Richard Jenkins and Leland Orser, also Michelle Forbes and Ashley Judd (these two ladies are the best illustration I've seen of the argument for leaving your face alone and accepting that you're now an attractive woman of 50+ rather than 35, versus stuffing it with Botox until you look like a surprised chipmunk but not actually any younger).

Film: Grey Gardens (2009) (Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max)

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Terrific stuff.  Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore star as 'Big' and 'Little' Edith Bouvier Beale, mother and daughter.  True story; Jackie Kennedy's aunt and cousin who lived together from 1952 in their East Hampton mansion, Grey Gardens, in squalor so appalling that health officials demanded it be condemned.  Jackie Kennedy (by then Onasis) heard about it, and organised the house's cleaning up and rejuvenation.  

The film alternates between the current situation of the two women, and flashbacks to show how they arrived at the circumstances of the early 1970s, when their famous relative stepped in.  Decades on, mother and daughter both lived in the past as the filth piled up around them, spending their time singing the show tunes of their youth, tending their cats, painting their nails, etc.

After I'd seen the film, I watched the documentary made by Albert and David Maysles in 1976 (Wikipedia page HERE), which is also on Amazon.  By the time the documentary was made, the place was falling apart again.

Trailer for film:

Trailer for documentary:

.... and (this is hilarious, if you've seen the original!) the trailer for Sandy Passage, the spoof by Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, from their 'Documentary Now' series. (Netflix, Apple, Fire TV, Roku)

Documentary series: Allen vs Farrow (HBO Max, Sky Atlantic/Sky Documentary in UK)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you're interested in the 'is Woody Allen a paedo or not' debate, this will leave you in no doubt.  I believed all Mia and Dylan said, btw. Mia Farrow comes across as down-to-earth and charming, in a very 'normal' way, as does Dylan - Allen a great deal less so.

The final episode was interesting, as it dealt with the aftermath - Allen with his huge PR machine kept it all shut down quite nicely at first, but, gradually, over the last five years, the climate has changed, with more and more stars coming out to say that they support Mia and Dylan, and would never work with Allen again.  I was particularly impressed by the support from Mia and Allen's natural son Ronan (formerly 'Satchel').  I ended up feeling so pleased for Mia and her family that they could get this documentary out there.

If you want to read the 'open letter from Dylan Farrow' published in the New York Times, it's HERE.

Film: The Lie (Amazon)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Liked this a lot - takes place over one weekend, stars Mireille Enos, who is always worth watching, Peter Sarsgaard and Joey King (The Act).  Divorced parents - 15 year old Kayla tells her father that she's killed her best friend.  The weekend then spirals into chaos as the parents try to protect her.  Brilliant end twist - didn't see it coming at all.

Film: Cherry (Apple TV+)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About a young man (Tom Holland) who joins the US army on impulse, has a terrible time in Iraq, comes out and is chucked pills and little else for his PTSD, becomes addicted to Oxy, moves onto smack, robs banks and goes to jail.  Jolly good.

Documentary Series: Can't Get You Out Of My Head (BBC, Youtube)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Adam Curtis's 5 part documentary about individualism, socialism, capitalism, the psychology of power, the ghosts of empire, conspiracy theories... 'an emotional history of the modern world'.  I watched it over a period of three evenings, and found that it did become a little repetitive at times.  Historically fascinating (taught me a lot about China), though some of his ideas I didn't agree with, and it didn't seem to reach much of a conclusion.  It made me think of when, in the 1980s, my father gave me a book to read about the troubles in Northern Ireland.  After I'd read it, he said, "The only conclusion I came is that there is no solution."  This made me think similarly.

The most memorable part, for me, was youth activist Chai Ling being interviewed during the Tiananmen Square massacre.  She suggested that only when the movement ended in bloodshed would the majority of Chinese realise the importance of the student movement and unite, though she felt unable to share this idea with her fellow students.  Or, indeed, be there.  So, not stirring her followers up to die for the cause while she watched from a safe place, like the Generals of World War I, then.  Funny how people behave once they find themselves in positions of power...

There is much old footage from China, Russia, the UK and US; it's worth watching for this alone.  And the bits about Tupac. :)

The Walking Dead 10x18 FIND ME (Amazon, AMC+)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Full Review HERE

The Walking Dead 10x19 ONE MORE (Amazon, AMC+)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Full Review HERE

Comedy: South Park Vaccination Special (HBO Max, Comedy Central)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Good, but not quite as funny as the Pandemic Special. Usually South Park rips on the loony left so much that this had to be the loony right's turn - the Q Anon stuff was spot on, and there was some other good stuff in it, like the anger against people who were angry at others for having an opposing opinion, some protests being related as 'peaceful' but others not so, and the queue for the vaccine being like a nightclub queue, but it didn't quite hit the spot like some episodes do.  For me, anyway, but humour is such an individual thing.  After 24 seasons, the quality is bound to ebb and flow just a little.

Film: Promising Young Woman (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google, etc)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rape revenge story.  Genre: the 'black comedy in really bright colours' that is so popular at the moment. Stars Carey Mulligan as a 30-year-old woman looking to avenge her best friend's high school rape, for which the perpetrators were not prosecuted.  Good, fun, some excellent revenge scenarios, and Carey Mulligan has some drool-worthy frocks and hairdos.

Series: Tell Me Your Secrets - Season 1 (Amazon)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lily Rabe stars as a young woman who, allegedly, assisted her serial killer boyfriend in his evil activities.  Opposing her is a mother of a girl suspected to be one of his victims, though she is still missing, body never found.  It's good, though a bit drawn out.  Didn't expect the twist at the end of the season at all, which was pleasing.  

Documentary: Max Clifford: The Fall of a Tabloid King (Channel 4, YouTube)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

Documentary revealing how much of a vile specimen Max Clifford was.  'I wouldn't insult pondlife' sort of vile.  Well-made, no stone unturned, but it turned my stomach.

Whole documentary here:

Series: The One (Netflix)

2.5* ⭐⭐⭐

The Netflix version of Soulmates on Amazon, based on the same book - about two scientists who work out a way of finding people's one true soulmate, based on their DNA.  This is about the scientists themselves, rather than individual stories.  The story itself is fun, but the dialogue and acting made me think of El Dorado (a UK soap opera in the 1980s with cheesy dialogue and wooden actors that got cancelled pretty quickly).  Have watched three episodes, and it did get more interesting in ep 3, but I doubt I'll watch all of it.

Trigger warning: includes token white heterosexual couple.

Film: Songbird (Amazon, Apple)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

Pandemic romance romp, set two years in the future.  Only the immunes are free to roam, and must wear a wristband to indicate.  Everyone else must stay in their houses. If an infection is discovered (everyone must do daily checks), the hazmat brigade arrive.  Romance aspect is about young immune chap (KJ Apa, absolutely gorgeous) trying to get his healthy, locked down girlfriend out.  Watchable, not bad.

Film: Dark Places (2015) (Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

Starring Charlize Theron as a Libby Day whose mother (Christina Hendricks) and her two sisters were, allegedly, murdered by her brother when she was eight.  She is now thirty, and circumstances converge to send her off to find out the truth.  Okay, nothing terribly wrong with it, but almost instantly forgettable, so much so that I had to look up its title before writing this post, because I'd forgotten what it was called.

Not helped by the fact that Theron's character is distinctly unlikeable, or that the grown up characters look nothing like the childhood ones, to the extent that their basic colouring changes.  Only exception being Drea de Matteo as the town slut with a soft heart, a character she always plays so well.


  1. I really liked Songbird, so thanks for reviewing that. Also, very keen now to watch Grey Gardens, Allen v Farrow and The Lie. Re 'Can't Get You Out of my Head', I found the stuff about Tupac very interesting, as I've always regarded him as a fascinating young man, and good to learn about his mother. Shame he never got to be anything other than a young man, he was very intelligent and poetic.

    1. I cannot tell you how much you would love Grey Gardens!!!!! You HAVE to watch it!

      YES!!! Re Tupac. He was charismatic and highly intelligent, and super hot. And yes, his mother. So sad.