Sunday 31 October 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 'where can I watch ***' into whichever search engine you use, or go to the programme's own site, if it 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.

Film: Small Engine Repair

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Google Play/Youtube online, Spectrum TV, also in AMC theatres)

I loved this film.  Drama set in small town America usually ticks a few boxes for me, and Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham are marvellous as Swaino and Packie, two long-time friends in Manchester, New Hampshire, whose old mate Frank (John Pollono) is getting his life back in order after coming out of jail.  Frank is also trying to repair his relationship with his daughter, Crystal (Ciara Bravo), hindered by visits from his fiery ex-wife, Karen.

Three months after getting out, Frank invites Swaino and Packie round for a special lads' night at his small engine repair premises - beer, a special whiskey, steaks, a boxing match on TV, some blow ... and much more, that they never would have suspected.  Suddenly it turns from a drama about three old buddies and their unresolved issues, into something much, much darker.  As another character says, you have to be careful what you put on the internet, because it's there forever...

Jon Bernthal's Swaino was delightfully like TWD Shane at times (made me feel nostalgic for those early seasons), and he and Shea Whigham performed some of the best 'banter' scenes ever - what terrific actors they both are.  Perfectly written and executed dialogue; a great cinematic pairing.  I notice that Jon produced the film, and that his daughter Adeline played Crystal aged six, in one flashback scene.  

I was slightly disappointed by the ending, but it really is a splendid film and I can't recommend it too highly.

Series: Billions - Season 5

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Stream: Sky, Now, Google Play, buy on Amazon or Apple)

And the story rolls on—I'm not quite as impressed by this show as I was at first; the way everyone speaks in that short, sharp, self-consciously clever fashion has started to get on my nerves a little.  I'm not sure if it's because it's all getting slightly repetitive (you would think Chuck Rhoades would find something other than hating Axe to motivate him, by now), or that my tastes have changed.  Anyway, if you watch this you'll probably already know that Damian Lewis has now made his last appearance (due to developments in his personal life) and that Corey Stoll as Mike Prince is taking over as the person-with-whom-Chuck-and-probably-Taylor-want-to-get-even-with. Stoll is vg as Prince, but he's no Axe; however, I'll continue to watch it, I'm sure! 

Film: The Many Saints of Newark

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(HBO Max)

The early years of Tony Soprano - the younger him is played by Michael Gandolfini, son of James, and very convincing he is too.  The film gives great insight into the old days when Dickie Montisanti (Christopher's father)and Tony's own father ruled the roost, and I was delighted to see Johnny played by Jon Bernthal.  Young Corrado (Uncle Junior) is excellently portrayed by Corey Stoll with a nose extension, while Vera Farmiga plays Livia.  It's jolly good, and made me want to watch the whole of The Sopranos again, from the beginning.  Which I did, over a period of a few weeks, and which of course I award 5* plus yet again :)

Series: Dr Death - one season only

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Amazon Prime, Peacock streaming service)

I first became aware of Joshua Jackson when he played troubled, betrayed husband Cole Lockhart in The Affair.  Seeing him as Dr Christopher Duntsch, a character who couldn't be less like the lovely Cole, made me realise what an excellent actor he is.  

This is a true story about a neurosurgeon convicted of malpractice.  Patients died or were rendered immobile, but still he was able to continue practicing.  Alex Baldwin and Christian Slater play Doctors Henderson and Kirby, who campaigned to bring him to justice.

It's extremely good, but I warn you that it's upsetting and haunting to see how these poor people suffered in this way, and the fact he was allowed to continue and spin his lies, excusing himself, for such a long time.  The episodes zig-zag between the present and his past, showing how his bizarre and dangerous personality developed; it's a structure that works very well.  Highly recommended.

Series: Animal Kingdom - Season 6

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Amazon Prime)

The Cody boys find out what life is like without Smurf to hold the crime family together, not just practically but emotionally.  I liked this season a lot, especially because, throughout, the present story alternated with the past, showing how Smurf took herself from single mum of twins (Pope and Julia) living in a trailer, to matriarch of a crime empire.  This took the whole show to another level, I thought.

If you haven't seen this show yet, I recommend!  Ben Robson continues to be totally lush as Craig ;)

Series: Person of Interest - Seasons 1-2

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Buy only - Apple, Amazon, Google play.  US: Stream on HBO Max)

Mysterious reclusive billionaire computer programmer Harold Finch has developed a programme for the government that will predict terrorist acts, but he decides to use it for another purpose - its ability to predict the perpetrators or victims of other crimes.  He then recruits a former CIA agent to stop these crimes happening.

There are 103 episodes of this across 5 seasons; I've probably watched about a quarter of them.  It's good - I wouldn't totally rave about it but it's definitely worth watching.

The Walking Dead Season 11

(US Stream: Netflix, AMC, fubo DIRECTV & others, UK Stream: Disney +)

Just loved it, and roll on Season 11b, starting on Feb 20, 2022!

Episode 4: Full Review HERE

Episode 5: Full Review HERE

Episode 6: Full Review HERE

Episode 7: Full Review HERE

Episode 8: Full Review HERE

Documentary: The Velvet Underground

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Apple TV)

About the early years of Lou Reed and John Cale, and their creative history.  John Cale and Moe Tucker provide much insight into the life and times, as do others interviewed.  Most fascinating to learn about Cale and Reed's creative processes, and if you're too young to remember the 60s and 70s, it'll make you nostalgic for a time before you were born.

Documentary: Maria by Callas

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK stream: Virgin.  US Rent only: Amazon, Apple, Google play & others) 

The life and work of Maria Callas in her own words, using her letters, interviews and performance.  I thought it showed more about her than it would have with a narrator; it's beautifully made.  I never knew that Aristotle Onasis was the love of her life, and she of his; their affair continued during his marriage to Jackie Kennedy. 

She seemed rather lonely, throughout, whatever relationship she was in, whatever was happening in her career. A few times she mentioned sacrificing the possibility of having a family, for her music; then was an aura of sadness about her whenever she did so.     

Film: Cop Shop

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

(UK Stream Google Play, rent Amazon, Apple, etc.  US Rent Apple, Amazon, lots of others)

Fairly ludicrous action romp set in a police station (hence the name), starring Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder and Gerard Butler, with lots of people getting killed, or getting shot or stabbed but still being able to get up and run around and kill some more people themselves.  You know the sort of thing.  Entertaining, but that's about as far as it goes!

(TWD watch: Secondary stars include Chad L Coleman and Jose Pablo Cantillo - Tyreese and Martinez) 

Documentary: Last Man Standing

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US Rent: Amazon, Google Play, Apple, DIRECTV.  UK stream: Virgin TV Go.  Buy: Amazon, Apple etc)

Documentary about Suge Knight, Death Row Records, the murders of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and corrupt LA police officers.  All of which I find oddly intriguing. Some lovely film of the young Tupac, before all this, which was a bit on the heartrending side - how intelligent he was, and how charismatic.

Series: Y The Last Man - Season 1

3* ⭐⭐⭐

(UK Stream: Disney +.  US stream: Hulu)

Deadly virus that only kills men - except for one, the man-baby son of the new president of the all-female world, played by Diane Lane.  How it affects transgender people is something I never quite got my head round (i.e, whether it affected men who used to be women or women who used to be men, and whether it affected people who were or weren't taking which hormones) but I probably wasn't concentrating.  I watched about 4 episodes then gave up on it.  Quite entertaining in parts but I believe it's offended some easily-offended section of the viewing public; it's already been cancelled.

Series: Outlander

3* ⭐⭐⭐ (but do bear in mind how much I've watched; see below!) 

This is more of a bewildered comment than a review.  I know this series is massively popular, lapped up like viewers across continents lap up Downton Abbey, but, as with that, I don't get it.  I've tried to watch it twice now, and been unable to get past half way through episode two.  I love the story idea, the scenery is great, I'm fascinated by the history and I would have loved to know what happened, but I am totally put off by the woman who plays the lead, who is one of the most wooden, unconvincing actresses playing one of the most unlikable characters I've ever seen in a TV drama.  Prissy, patronising, smug, with the demeanour of that teacher you couldn't stand at school—I found myself hoping one of the rebels would run her through with a sword so that we could settle down and watch the rest of it.  I'm guessing that doesn't happen, though.   

Thursday 21 October 2021

Autumn photos - more of the same, I know, but the COLOURS...!


For the first time this autumn, it felt wintery-cold when I first went out :)


Wednesday 20 October 2021

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading :)

Currently Reading:

The Grifter by Sean Campbell & Ali Gunn


Most Recently Read:

Creation by Bjorn Larssen


Going to Read Next:

Cousin Calls by Zeb Haradon

Sunday 10 October 2021

Review #TheWalkingDead S11 x 08 FOR BLOOD

 Previously: Review 11x07 Promises Broken

- S 11 x 08  FOR BLOOD - 

Directed by 

Written by Erik Mountain

Directed by Sharat Raju

Not just one cliffhanger but several, then! 😱

These eight episodes have been a splendid start to a final season that just gets better and better, and this kicked off so promisingly as Negan and Maggie's gang of undead approached Meridian; of course Daryl recognised Whisperer Herding Mode straight away, so must have suspected the intervention of his friends, little knowing how few there are left compared to when he last saw them (at the beginning of Hunted).

Of course Pope wouldn't let Daryl nip away from his watchful eye to redirect the Walkers—but when Wells went off to do so and was overpowered by an assault from the rear, I found myself asking a question I've pondered a few times over the years.  It's this:

Why didn't he just run?  Like, off to the left, through the trees?  

There was an easy opening.  Walkers are slow, and he looked most fit and athletic; he could have got away.  It can be done, even when there's a massive herd of them - remember Michonne, Daryl, Bob and Tyreese running from a huge mob in Indifference?  Rick tearing along, followed by vast numbers in Now?

I get that Wells was over-confident, wanting to be the one to lead them away and maybe trying to prove his Walker-killing skills, but even when they started to pile in on him he had the chance to shove them off and run; he could have gained some distance and still led them away from Meridian. That would be the natural survival reaction, rather than keep trying to kill them individually.  That only works if you have someone like Daryl or Carol suddenly entering stage right with a well-filled quiver. 

On the whole, the Reapers didn't end up quite as scary as the build up—that marvellous line 'By the time you see them you're already dead' and the closing scenes of both Acheron II and Rendition made me think they would be more sinister/bloodthirsty than anything we've seen yet, but Pope was disposed of fairly easily, Carver is just a dick, and, as @deniselynn1966 pointed out on Twitter, new boss Leah is no Alpha. 

Pope - disposed of fairly easily

Carver - a bit of a dick

She ain't no Alpha

Let us hope I don't come to eat my words, as what she lacks in charisma and natural leadership she makes up for in hollow-hearted, vengeful bitterness.

What a shock that was, for Daryl—he thought she'd killed Pope because saw that he was a deranged and dangerous lunatic with a God complex, but the actual reason was her desire to be Queen Reaper.  We all tend to judge others by our own standards and Daryl is a decent person with (as Carol once said!) his own code—in his mind it went without saying that, now she was free of Pope's choke hold, she would want to come back to their community of like-minded, decent people. 

Not so.  Her true colours were finally laid bare.

She knew his people were down there amongst the Walkers, and even some of her own, but she ordered that hwacha lit anyway.  Anything to keep those food stores, right?  

'The black horse of famine.  It rides after us all'.

She was fairly unpleasant and a total control freak in Find Me (you know, when she thought Daryl ought to leave behind the friends he'd cared about deeply for years, in order to give all his attention to HER), but time has not improved her.  Stuff like telling the others that Daryl murdered Pope.  

I thought she was paying him back for leaving her, too.  For choosing Carol and Rick's memory over her.  She's exactly the sort of person who would hold onto that sort of hurt until it festers into poison.

Some other good moments:

  • Daryl's nifty Frowny McTwoKnives action that made short work of rocket man Ancheta, and earlier, when he shoved Powell over the wall and alerted Maggie and Gabriel.  Clearly Powell had ignored all warnings - smoking kills, right?

  • Gabriel sneaking in and, with a smile, finding the gun Maggie had hidden.

  • Maggie hotwiring the red truck—I wonder if it felt good to be behind a wheel again after all this time?  Is this the last working vehicle in Virginia?  Then managing to make short work of Deaver...

  • ...and that moment when she sent it crashing through the gates of Meridian to let the Walkers in.  Always effective!


In Alexandria it never rains but it pours and howls with hurricane strength winds, especially when you haven't yet repaired the Whisperers damage, especially when the wall is blown down and the Walkers stream in, and especially when a rogue fire lights up the windmill to beckon them forth. 

Loved Rosita doing a No Way Out, taking on Walker invasion all by herself. 

As for Gracie asking Judith how come she's so brave, she should have told her it was all about the hat. 😉 🤠 

Both Judith and Virgil talking about Michonne makes me think we will see her again one day, and because Virgil and Connie talked about her in On The Inside as well.  Hope I'm not being an optimistic fool.

This week's award for loveliest moment of all goes, of course, to the scene when our friends divided into teams, and Connie said she wanted to go with Carol's group and help fix the wall—Carol's almost-tears touched the hearts of thousands, mine included!


Who do you think is going to die in 11x09?  Any one or more of these?

Gabriel:  I wouldn't have said so, but I've seen a couple of fan videos that have perused the possibility.  I really, really hope he doesn't.  Gabriel is one of those who should be there until the end, and find some happiness and stability.  Rosita can't lose all her men!  But I wonder if Mancea will show that he has no qualms at all about killing a fellow man of the cloth.

Mancea: Or perhaps Gabriel will kill him after all.  Go on, Gabey!

Gracie:  I'm thinking because she's doing rash stuff, wanting to be like Judith, and because she begged Aaron not to leave her, which is the sort of thing that can often result in the one who left saying 'she begged me not to leave her and I left' in a tormented fashion for several episodes (in any TV series!).  I love Aaron and don't want him to lose anyone else, either!  

Elijah: Because he was hit, in the Meridian courtyard... cross fingers he's okay.  Something I really like about him, although we haven't seen very much of him yet.

Virgil: For the reasons stated in my review of On The Inside; I expected it to have already happened by now.

Leah: I bloody hope so.

Carver: Ditto

Lydia: I don't know why, I just think her time might be up.  I would imagine she still feels partly responsible for everything that has happened, and maybe she will do something stupid-brave that gets her killed.  I hope not.

Alden: Who has probably starved to death by now.  Unless he's going to do something super-heroic, and help save them all.  Can't imagine what.  He's either going to steam in and help them or be dead when they find him.  Or something else I wouldn't have thought of in a million years, because this is TWD.


Nice to see that oldest original Alexandria inhabitant Barbara is still vertical!


And so to the stunning, stunning end, with Insane Hwacha Woman lighting the fuse.  

I fully expect 11x09 to be her last episode.  Killed by Daryl's hand.  Or Carver?  Incidentally, I thought it was a tad uncharacteristic of Negan to assume the Reapers were retreating, though; he's more on the ball than that.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on these wonderful eight episodes, thank you to everyone who has been involved in making them, and never mind Christmas, can we fast forward to the next eight?! 

Here is the first look at 11B, with commentary and thoughts from @onterrorstreet.