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: Nightmare Alley
5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
(Not available to be streamed yet, only at the pictures)
Fabulous Guillermo del Toro remake of the 1947 film, in which Bradley Cooper plays the ambitious 'carnie' originally played by Tyrone Power, who takes his claims of psychic powers a few steps too far. Starts at the end of the Depression, in 1939. Also stars Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Colette, Ron Perlman and a whole bunch of other people you'll recognise. Gripping, sinister, atmospheric; really excellent.
Series: Invasion - Season 1
(UK & US: Apple)
Apocalyptic alien invasion seen through the eyes of a family in New York, a young woman working in a Japanese space station, a schoolboy in London and an American soldier in Afghanistan. The aliens are big weird sucky black things and make all sorts of bad shit happen, like power outages and massive holes in the ground and people dying everywhere. They're seemingly indestructable, apart from their vulnerability towards one particular weapon.
I liked that the revealing of the aliens was slow and subtle, and the way that the story kept going back and forth between the four scenarios. It's jolly good. Gripped, I was.
Film: The Last Duel
(HBO Max, HBO, Disney+)
Ridley Scott epic medieval drama set in France, about Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) who challenges his former best friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a duel. Based on a true story. Jodie Comer plays Jean's wife Marguerite, and Ben Affleck Count Pierre de Alençon.
The story that leads up to the duel is told from three points of view: that of Carrouges, Le Gris and Marguerite. Thus, we see the same events taking place, but at no time did this become tedious - it worked beautifully. Wonderfully atmospheric, a two and a half hour long film that's just the thing for curling up under the duvet and getting totally absorbed. I loved it, but have knocked off half a star for annoying historical inaccuracies.
Documentary: The Tinder Swindler
If you made this up, people would say it was far-fetched. Israeli conman Simon Leviev (not his real name) meets women on Tinder and convinces them that he is a diamond billionaire. To varying degrees, the women are so betwitched by the lifestyle he offers (private jets, luxury hotels, etc) that they don't bother with those little warning signs, and don't realise that they're each funding each other - like all good romance scammers, he waits until he has them reeled in before coming out with the old 'my money's tied up in investments, can you lend me 50 grand' line. And they fall for it. Every time. With a couple of them (one of was just in a friendship with him, rather than a romantic relationship) you could see why they believed him, but one woman, a Norwegian called Cecilie, appeared anxious to do anything she could to maintain her fantasy about having a billionaire boyfriend, even though she hardly saw him.
I have just finished writing a novel about a romance scammer. I have a character within called Polly, who is obsessed with the trappings of romance. As my con artiste Nico comments, he could have been any good-looking chump as long as he kept coming up with roses and diamonds and champagne on posh restaurant terraces. That was how Cecilie came across. She now seems to be making a career out of being one of Simon Leviev's victims, which I suppose is fair enough, bearing in mind that she is still paying off the loans that she took out to give him the money he asked for. Beggars belief.
I won't tell you how it ends (spoilers!) but suffice to say he is clearly a total sociopath/narcissist. He even 'bulk called' his women; he would do one video saying 'I love you and miss you *insert name here*', then do another for the next one. Same place, same clothes.
Series: The Walking Dead - Season 11B
5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Episode 9: Full Review HERE
Series: Pam and Tommy
(US: Hulu. UK: Disney+)
Lily James is AMAZING as Pamela Anderson. Somehow she manages, at certain angles, to look exactly like her, even though her features are actually quite different. The hair is perfect. Sebastian Stan is excellent acting-wise as Tommy Lee, and wardrobe/make-up have done a great job with him, too, but he seems a bit miscast to me; Tommy Lee is a rugged, macho-looking guy, over six feet tall, whereas Stan is small and skinny.
Anyway, I've seen five episodes so far and it's immensely entertaining. Seth Rogan ticks all the right boxes as the socially gauche carpenter who got ripped off by an off-his-face Lee, and went on to rob them, coming across their private sex video and finding ways to make a fortune out of it. The internet was in its infancy at the time, and neither Anderson nor Lee understood the concept of 'going viral'.
|The Real Pam and Tommy
Series: Billions - Season 6
(UK: Sky, Now, Virgin TV Go. US: Fubo, Showtime, Directv)
Now there's a surprise. I love Damian Lewis, adored the character of Bobby Axelrod, and wondered how the show would hold up without him, with Corey Stoll's character Mike Prince in Axe's place. 4 episodes in, I'm certainly liking it as much if not slightly more than some previous seasons - the plot is inspired and I can't wait to see how it pans out, as Prince's company competes with Chuck's protest group and legal obstacles to build the stadium for the 2028 Olympics in New York. The irritations are ever-present - Taylor Mason, who doesn't look or seem like any real person, ever, Wendy Rhoades who I just find irritating, full stop, and the endless clever little one-liners and metaphor-riddled rejoinders using sometimes obscure popular culture references - but I really liked it, and I think any fans of the show will, too.
Comedy Series: Upload - Season 1
Unexpectedly good series (25 minute episodes) set in the year 2033 when, if you're about to die, you can choose to be 'uploaded' into a digital afterlife, the quality of which depends on how much money you have. In the real world, an 'angel' working for Horizon, the executive level corporation, takes care of the uploaded.
Hero Nathan is in a self-drive car crash; he hears that he's a moment away from dying from a punctured lung, and allows pushy, clingy, superficial and very rich girlfriend Ingrid to have him uploaded to the idyllic Lake View scenario. During his time there, though, he begins to fall in love with his angel, Nora.
Aside from the well put together idea, I liked other ideas about what life will be like in 11 years time - never mind Tinder, everyone uses the 'Nightly' app, with sex now seen as nothing but a recreational sport on which partners rate each other, Uber-style. I loved the bubble like self-drive cars (a bit like 1960s bubble cars!), and it's clear that the planet's resources are not what they were, as Nora wrangles with crappy water pressure in the shower of her cupboard-sized New York flat, and the lavatories at her place of work block up on a regular basis.
Funny, entertaining, well-acted. Good stuff.
(UK: Amazon Prime, Virgin TV Go. US: HBO, HBO Max)
Daniel Radcliffe is a quiet nerdy bloke working for the FBI when Toni Collette decides he's the perfect person to go undercover within the Aryan Brotherhood. It's based on a true story, which meant that the development of events was not as thrilling as it might have been. It was interesting, though; the difference between the thug brigade and the more intelligent white supremacists with their skewed view of the world. I think it probably needed to be a miniseries to be more convincing. It was good, though.
Film: How It Ends
Highly watchable post-apocalyptic romp. Natural disasters (we think seismic, though this is never confirmed absolutely) causes devastation in the western US states, while the repercussions are felt all over the country. It's one of those dangerous post-apoc journey films, with a chap played by Theo James driving cross country with his father-in-law who hates him (Forest Whitaker) from Chicago to Seattle to rescue Theo's wife. Jolly good, I liked it a lot.
Film: Ray Donovan The Movie
(Fubo, Showtime, Directv, Now)
If you were a fan of the now cancelled show you will like this. It's set half in the present - carrying on from the end - and half in flashbacks, when Ray was a teenager. It rounds off the whole series with the revelation about how Mickey ended up in jail. The end is kind of sad, but fitting.
Series: Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol
(UK: Sky, Now, Virgin TV Go. US: Peacock, Peacock Premium)
Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Ashley Zuckerman) joins hands with a clever rich Mason (Eddie Izzard) and his daughter to decode ancient symbols in order to find ancient wisdom that will bestow God-like attributes onto the individual, before a richly tattooed baddie finds it. The CIA are also in the fight. I thought it seemed pretty good for the first couple of episodes but after that it went slowly downhill to a massive anticlimax that was only one step up from 'it was all a dream'. I'd only recommend this if you're a big Dan Brown fan already.
Series: Reacher - Season 1
The ridiculously huge and hunky Alan Ritchson plays Lee Child's Jack Reacher, who turns up in small town Georgia looking for peach pie, and finding out who killed his brother. Stumbling on mass corruption in the local police and mayor's office, he has more to contend with than he bargains for. Reacher is cool and funny, and I liked the small town atmosphere. It's good. I hope there will be another season.
Miniseries: The Fear Index
Four episode adaptation of a book of the same name by Robert Harris. Josh Hartnett stars as a multi-millionaire technological genius who invents an AI that will revolutionise his hedge fund business and make everyone ridiculously wealthy. Trouble is, someone's out to get him, and he can't work out who.
I can't say any more without spoiling the plot, but it all takes place over a period of 24 hours, and I didn't guess how the story would unfold. I probably won't remember it in 6 months' time, but I enjoyed it.
Film: Light of my Life
Casey Affleck and Elisabeth Moss in a 2019 sanitised rip off of The Road. Man alone in post apoc world with daughter, teaching her how to survive, meeting strangers about whom they must be wary, flashbacks of dead wife. Billed as an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but the only reason we were on the edge of our seats was to go out to make coffee because we knew we wouldn't be missing anything. Boring, stuck it out for an hour then abandoned.
Perhaps we shouldn't have re-watched The Road the night before.