Wednesday, 16 March 2022

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.

Miniseries: John Adams

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Sky, Now.  US: HBO Max, HBO, Directv)

Made in 2008, the story of the second President of the US.  Paul Giamatti (Chuck Rhoades in Billions) is as terrific as one would expect.  Laura Linney (Ozark) plays his wife.  It's a fine televisual achievement, so well-written, acted, directed, with intricate historical detail, and made me understand more about why the Americans make such a big deal of patriotism - also how far removed Congress was from the ordinary soldiers, when I watched Turn: Washington's Spies (see further down).

I particularly liked the last episode, about the time after Adams' presidency, his family and the last years of his life.  Best of all, the portrayal of how he and his great friend and sometime adversary Thomas Jefferson (POTUS #3) (played masterfully by Stephen Dillane - Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones) died within hours of each other, on July 4th, 50 years after the Declaration of Independence.  If that was a detail in a work of fiction, the editor would score a line through it for being too unfeasible and corny!  

Highly recommended.

Series: Squid Game - Season 1

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Much hyped and discussed Korean series about a few hundred people who, stricken with hellish financial problems, agree to participate in a game that ends in death for all but the winner, who gains a life-changing amount of moey.  The setting up of the storylines was, I thought, a bit slow at first, but as time went on I realised this was necessary to make one care what happened to the characters.  The games were thrilling.  I loved it.  I watched the dubbed rather than the subtitled version.

Series: Vikings: Valhalla - Season 1

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


At first I thought this was going to be little more than a Happy Shopper version of the original Vikings, but it turned out to be great, and just as good, give or take the absence of Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Winnick.  Loved it, and am fascinated by how the world has moved on in the 100 years since Ragnar.  Made me feel nostalgic for the first season of Vikings all over again, and sad about how the peoples' culture was destroyed.  I was interested to see that the settling of Greenland had come to be by then, too.  If you remember, at the end of the last season of the original, a party had gone there but the only one who stayed was a chap who went off his head.

It's great, and I very much look forward to seeing more.  Also, plenty of eye candy. 😉

Series: The Walking Dead - Season 11b

(AMC+, Disney)

Episode 10: New Haunts - full review HERE    5*⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Episode 11: Rogue Element - full review HERE   4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Episode 12: The Lucky Ones - full review HERE   5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Episode 13: Warlords - full review HERE   5* plus  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4-part miniseries: Our House

3* ⭐⭐⭐


The first thing I said to my husband after we'd finished watching this was, 'Next time my test reader points out plot holes or not adequately researched aspects of one my books, I'll be tempted to say just two words: 'Our House.'  

Some of the gems:
  • A whole pack of sleeping tablets crushed into a small glass of wine, dissolving to leave no taste or sediment.
  • A 999 emergency call giving information about a hit and run accident that left a child dead - the call was cut off half way through but was not immediately traced and followed up by the police.
  • Solicitors able to effect a house sale for two million in cash, within a matter of about 3 weeks, from deciding to sell to the new owners moving in. 
  • Not one of the neighbours in this close, everyone-looks-out-for-each-other neighbourhood notices the estranged husband emptying the three storey house in the middle of the night.
  • Man with dodgy unpaid fine background opens Swiss bank account at the click of a key, it appears (I've just looked it up, and it's a fairly complicated process).
  • The writer(s) didn't appear to realise that all phones can be traced for location and all text messages uncovered.
Seemed like a great plot idea - woman comes home to find that all her belongings are missing from her home, that it's been sold while she's been away, and the new owners are moving in.  Martin Compston (Line of Duty) was good, as was to be expected, but the woman who played his wife was horribly wooden and po-faced.  Rupert Penry-Jones did a reasonable job of playing the suave baddie.  It was quite entertaining with lots of enjoyable plot developments, but was just too far-fetched.

Then there's the dialogue ... when one character was caught having sex with someone they shouldn't, we made the this isn't what it looks like joke.  Imagine our shouts of laughter when this really was the next line of dialogue.  Along with the regulation just breathe, uttered whenever someone was suffering an understandably severe reaction to horrendous life-changing trauma, I felt there was much room for improvement.  The fact that there was no HEA, however, earned it an extra half star.

Series: Money Heist - Season 5B

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


I wasn't as mad about the first part of Season 5 as I had been the first 4 seasons, but this second half is much better.  It's also the end of the story, it appears - since Tokyo died at the end of the last half, it seemed at first to be logical that these five episodes would be a wrapping up, but there's a lot of exciting stuff happening, still - the last 3 episodes are particularly good.  Yes, it ends but there is scope for more...

Miniseries: The Tourist

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: HBO Max.  UK: BBC iPlayer, Sky, Virgin)

Jamie Dornan as an Irishman in the Australian outback, who leaves a rundown old gas station, gets in his car to carry on with his journey, only to be chased down by a huge truck, 'Duel' style.  After a crash, he loses his memory - which means that the reason for him being in Aus and exactly why he was being chased by the truck are a mystery to the viewer, too.  Slowly, slowly, his story is pieced together, though he doesn't know who is genuinely trying to help, and who had something to do with the situation in which he found himself.  

I very much liked the setting; the cinematography is most atmospheric.  It's a good story but one of the main characters I found so irritating that I could hardly bear to watch her.  I liked it.  Wouldn't rave about it, but it's good.

Series: Turn: Washington's Spies - Seasons 1-4

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Amazon, Apple, Google - buy only.  US: AMC+, Directv, Fubo)

Love this series so much - I wasn't sure during the first season, but since then it's got better and better.  Set during the American War of Independence, it's about the spies who infiltrated the opposing side, mostly the real life 'Culper Spy Ring' -  Washington's spies pretending to be Loyalists.  The main character is Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) a Long Island farmer and son of a magistrate.

My favourites are Major Edmund Hewlett (Burn Gorman), who is far more decent than most of the other Loyalists, and I loved Samuel Roukin's marvellous portrayal of Captain John Simcoe as a ruthless sociopath (though I've since read up on him and he doesn't appear to have been so!).  I also liked JJ Feild as Major John Andre (not least of all because he's gorgeous), and Idara Victor as Abigail, a maid working for Andre and then the loathsome Benedict Arnold, who did her best to help Abraham's people - and the beautiful Peggy Shippen, played by Ksenia Solo.

Also featured: Angus MacFayden as revolting Loyalist mercenary Robert Rogers, John Carroll Lynch (Eastman in TWD) as the rather dandy owner of a small newspaper and a Loyalist tavern, and Aldis Hodge (City on a Hill, and Michonne's Mike in TWD!) as Abigail's man and Loyalist ranger.

The plot is based on real incidents and real people but with much fictional embellishment.  Aside from the great acting, I very much liked how it was kept 'real' - aside from the well-to-do, most people really did look filthy, and as though they suffered great hardship.  I have three episodes more to watch, and wish there was another season!

Film: Ted K

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: Rent on Apple, Amazon, Google)

Sharlto Copley stars as Ted Kaczynski, better known as domestic terrorist the Unabomber who lived in a cabin in the woods near Lincoln, Montana, and grew increasingly angry about the destruction of his environment and the effects of technology and industry on the world.  He channels his rage into a series of mail bombs, some of which cause fatalities.  Copley was outstanding, and the film was so artfully produced; I imagine there will be many who watch this and feel some sympathy for his emotional state if not his actions.

I notice that Wikipedia describes it as a 'historical crime drama'.  Kaczynski was arrested in 1996.  Does the genre 'historical' now refer to anything that took place before the 21st century, one wonders?!  

Film: Last Night In Soho

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Virgin, or rent on Apple, Amazon, Google.  US: Rent only, on Apple, Amazon, Google etc)

Quiet, small-town Cornish girl Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) is obsessed with the 1960s, and just a little bit psychic.  When she goes to London to study fashion design, she finds that she doesn't fit in with her fellow students.  Choosing to move to a bedsit in an old house, she becomes enmeshed in the problematic life of Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy - The Queen's Gambit), an ambitious flirtatious young woman looking to become a singing star - in the 1960s.  Yes, Eloise does time travel, too!  Also stars Diana Rigg (who sadly died before the film came out), Terence Stamp and Matt Smith.

I loved all the sixties clothes and the general atmosphere, but Eloise is shocked to find out that the Soho of the time was somewhat darker than her fantasy.  I'd describe it as an entertaining time travel romp, with bloody murders and a few scary bits.  I enjoyed it, but it's not particularly memorable.

(btw, if you've watched it, I was convinced that the girl who played the horrible Jocasta was the daughter or some other relative of Keeley Hawes, because her face and facial mannerisms are so similar, but she's not).  

Film: No Exit

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

(US: Hulu.  UK: Disney+)

Havana Rose Liu stars as a junkie who absconds from rehab and holes up in a visitors' centre in impassable mountains during a bad storm.  Four other people are already there - but which of them has dastardly intent?

It's good, as far as fairly solid thrillers go.  Nothing outstanding, but worth a watch.


  1. Hi Terry! Great read. Will check some of these out. Loved the Tourist.

  2. Yikes, Terry. How do you find time to write as well as watch and review all these? Mind you, I like reading your reviews and I do like the sound of John Adams, I must admit. Right up my alley, or canal, maybe. By the way, what is HEA? Washington Spies also sounds excellent. And what you were saying about anything before the 21st century being historical. It's getting that way, isn't it?

  3. No day job, no boat to maintain, and don't forget this is over a period of a month - we don't watch telly until about 9 at night, and do so for a few hours!

    HEA - Happy Ever After!! I do these posts over the weeks; when I've finished watching something I (mostly) write a review the next morning while it's still in my head. Then I do stuff like find all the trailer videos on You Tube, and take care of the formatting of the post in those odd half hours while I'm waiting for dinner to cook, or other moments like that during the day. There!!

    Wish you had a telly so you could watch both of those - we finished watching Turn: Washington's Spies last night, and they've both taught me so much about US culture and history, generally. Apart from just being GREAT!

    The other day I saw a book on Rosie's review team list that was something like the 1970s, called historical. I thought, f*** that. That's MY LIFETIME!

  4. Ah clever you. So actually, these posts are written over the month. That makes sense. YES! I would LOVE to watch both those series. Maybe one day I'll get a telly, but at the moment, it would be a waste. AS you say, day job and boat. And then writing in the evening if I've got the energy...getting on a bit now...haha, which brings me to your last point; it's sobering, isn't it? I mean the 70s were my time, my youth, and now it's history? Gulp!

    1. And it's more or less irrelevant to anyone under 30, a time gone by like, say, the 1930s seemed to us.

      I am at the moment compiling (or trying to) a list of my 100 favourite songs, with a view to 5 blogs posts - groups of 20 in no particular order, apart from the last one which will be my top 20. Really hard! But I've been watching vids of them all on YouTube - to make sure I still do love them as much as I did!! Some didn't make the cut - and I'm still absolutely sure that it was a better time.

      That's a blog post in waiting, too!