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


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)


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)


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


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.