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.
5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
(UK: Disney+. US: Hulu)
Everyone in the world should watch this. It's the true story, inspired by the non-fiction book by Beth Macy about how Big Pharma corporation Purdue created the opioid addiction crisis by the introduction of its 'non-addictive' pain killer, OxyContin. The Sackler family make much of their philanthropic activities to detract from the truth: that they care nothing for the health and lives of the little people as long as the big bucks keep rolling in.
'It must be okay because it's FDA approved', they say - but what doctors, salespeople and the public don't know is that FDA officers have much to gain financially by giving it the thumbs up. As the drama unfolds, we see how syndromes are invented in order to sell more drugs, blatant lies are told about efficacy and long-term side effects, and buzz-phrases are taught to salespeople, who then teach them to medical professionals.
The story is sold in several strands: 1. Small town Appalachian doctor Sam Finnix (an outstanding performance by Michael Keaton) who is taken in by salesman Billy Cutler (Will Poulter), and prescribes the drug to many of his patients, often with lethal effect. 2. The suffering of many people who lost family members to the drug, with particular emphasis on a young woman called Betsy Mallum (Kaitlyn Deaver). 3. The law enforcement agents who investigate the company (Peter Saarsgard, John Hoogenakker and Rosario Dawson). 4. The salespeople who lap up the bullshit to spread to the world. 5. The obscenely rich Sackler family who come up with spin after spin in order to carry on bringing in the billions. Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire) is, as usual, first class - he plays Richard Sackler, the man who introduced prescription narcotics to the world.
Aside from being a massive eye-opener about how drug giants operate, it's a gripping drama that will keep your attention throughout.
Special mention for TWD's R Keith Harris (Dr Harlan Carson) who plays the smarmy sales training guy, but later sees the error of his ways!
Series: Succession - Season 3
(US: HBO Max, HBO, DIRECTV. UK: Sky, Now, Virgin TV Go)
Best season so far, about the vastly wealthy Roy family and the constant wrangles over their company. Like an updated Dallas except they all use the F word constantly, they're all really, really horrible and, most of the time, pretty unhappy. This is never better illustrated than in the final two episodes, when they're all at a wedding in Tuscany. The setting is an idyllic summer day in glorious surroundings; everyone is healthy, happy, there to witness two people in love getting married. However, the Roys are blind to the beauty and happiness. They argue and obsess, interested only in the game of thrones being played out on their phones, to which they are permanently glued.
It reminded me of a scene in C S Lewis's The Last Battle in which a group of dwarfs can't see the heaven around them and believe themselves to be in a dark and filthy hovel because they are in a prison of their own suspicious, diseased minds.
The most compelling character by far is Matthew McFayden's marvellous Tom Wambsgans, the eccentric social climber who has married into the Roy family. A masterpiece of dramatic creativity. Can't wait for Season 4!
(Amazon Prime in UK, not yet available for streaming in US)
The story of Leonard Da Vinci, starring Poldark heartthrob Aidan Turner as the man himself. I wasn't too sure at first, but then I started to love it, particularly the scenery of 15th Century Florence which was entirely convincing. Something else I found most fascinating was the processes by which the sketches were transferred to the surfaces for painting, and how much of the work was actually undertaken by his apprentices. I've read up about his life since, and it seems to be fairly close to the truth. Good stuff.
Series: Dexter: New Blood - Season 1
(UK: Sky, Now. US: Amazon Prime, Showtime, Fubo)
I hadn't seen the main series of Dexter when I watched this, but knew that he was a serial killer who killed only those who deserved to die, to stop them killing anyone else - this new spinoff is designed so that you don't have to watch the original. For anyone who doesn't know, Dexter Morgan is now leading a new life in Iron Lake, as Jim Lindsay, with a cop girlfriend. But people keep dying... and sometimes he finds that his old ways are the only answer. It's good, with the small town America atmosphere that I love, lots of snow and log cabins, murders, intrigue and the appearance of his son Harrison, now a teenager...
I hated the end. But I get it.
Series: Yellowjackets - Season 1
(US: Showtime, DIRECTV, Fubo, Roku, Pluto. UK: Sky, Now)
The members of a New Jersey all-girl hockey team are on their way to an important tournament in Seattle when their plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. At first they expect to be rescued, but gradually it dawns on them that they're on their own. From then on it's kind of a cross between Lost and Lord of the Flies. Alternating with these scenes are those of 25 years later, when they're still coping with what happened on the island.
The 1996 scenario involves the expected arguments between those who accept their situation - i.e., that they have to find ways to survive and get help - and those in denial who believe that they will be rescued. Later, it will get much, much darker. I liked it and will watch the next season because I want to know what happens, but I wouldn't rave about it.
Stars Juliette Lewis (who I always like) and Christina Ricci as two of the girls (Natalie and Misty), grown up.