Friday 15 July 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.  

However... I've found it to be not absolutely up to date at all times.  Sometimes I've had better results simply putting 'where can I watch ***' into the search engine, or going 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.

Documentary: What is a woman?

5* plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Available to watch HEREWorth whatever it costs. )

Can't stop thinking about this, and may have to watch it again.  Aside from asking the title question to a variety of people (including a gender studies university professor, a doctor who performs sex change operations and a therapist who gives hormone-altering drugs to children), Matt Walsh examines the current trend for encouraging children into the idea that they may need to 'transition' if they show a tendency towards behaviours traditionally associated with the opposite sex, or if they're unsure of themselves, or experiencing social anxiety, whatever.   

We also see interviews with the other side of the medical/psychiatric profession who consider such practices abhorrent, and a trans man who, seven years down the line, has become an activist against the industry.

Incidentally, not one of the people asked could answer the question, or even appeared to understand why 'It's anyone who wants to become one' was not an answer.  When Walsh said, 'Yes, but what do they want to become?  How do you define the word 'woman'?', he received blank looks.

It's excellent.


Limited Series:  The Offer

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Paramount + )

About the making of The Godfather, taken from the book about the same by Al Ruddy, the producer.  It's fascinating - and alarming how the film that is considered by many to be the best of all time, so nearly failed to be made.  Stars Miles Teller, with whom I am not familiar, as Ruddy, Burn Gorman (a favourite of mine), Juno Temple - and Dan Fogler, aka Luke in TWD, as Francis Ford Coppola - he is terrific!

If you love The Godfather, you must watch it - it's great!

Series: For All Mankind - Seasons 1 and 2

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Apple + )

Loved this!  Sci-fi, about space exploration, starts at the end of the 1960s.  Joel Kinnaman stars, along with Chris BauerSarah JonesMichael Dorman and Sonya Walger.   I've only seen the first two seasons because I'm waiting for #3 to finish, for binge-watch purposes.  

The first couple of episodes are an alternative reality, in which the moon landing didn't happen in the way we were shown on TV, because the Russians got there first.  But, unlike in our dimension, in which American men allegedly made a leap for mankind so giant that in 55 years no one's followed it up, in For All Mankind the space programme speeds ahead at full throttle.  It's about how family relationships are affected, about power struggles, media attention, and Cold War style shenanigans.  

Joel Kinnaman's character, astronaut Ed Baldwin, is my favourite, and I also love Sonya Walger as Molly Cobb, a woman who fears her life may be over if she can't fly.  If you've watched it, my least favourite is Karen Baldwin, wife of Ed.  Never stops whining.

Miniseries:  The Midwich Cuckoos

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Sky, Now, Virgin.  Not in US.  Aus: Stan)

Updated version of the famous John Wyndham story.  Keeley Hawes and Max Beesley star; they're both as good as one would expect.  I liked it, but found some parts a bit unconvincing.  And no, I don't mean the children with the glowing eyes.  

Might have been better if they'd set it in the time it was written. Not everything needs updating!

Miniseries:  The Staircase

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Sky, Now.  US: HBO Max)

Drama about Michael Peterson (Colin Firth) who was found guilty of murdering his wife Kathleen (Toni Collette).  I knew the basic story because I've seen the documentary series about it, and it left me with many unanswered questions - that's the trouble with true life stories, you don't get neat endings!

It was strange to see an older Colin Firth, now looking quite jowly and so different from his housewives' heartthrob heyday.  He was excellent, of course, and managed to make Peterson come across as shady, devious and unlikable.  Toni Collette's Kathleen was lovely.  Also stars Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones) as Margaret, Peterson's adopted daughter - how beautiful she is.  Oh, and the ever-fabulous Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire, Richard Sackler in Dopesick) as Peterson's defence lawyer.

The story unfolds by going back and forth in time, which is so effective, as the full picture comes together.  Gripped all the way through, I was.

Comedy Series: Barry - Season 3

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(US: HBO max, Directv.  UK: Sky, Now, Virgin)

I love Bill Hader, and this series is great - the paid hitman who discovers a desire to become an actor.  Ghastly girlfriend Sally reaches a peak of ghastliness, then improves massively towards the end.  Lots of violence.  Good stuff, but I still like the first season best.

Comedy Series: Hacks - Season 2

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Amazon.  US: HBO Max)

Jean Smart is marvellous as Deborah Vance, the stand-up comedian whose career is beginning its downslide.  Outspoken and bullshit-allergic, she's a perfect foil for her co-writer Ava, who has read and consumed the Woke Millennial handbook and followed its instructions to the letter.  Very funny and entertaining all the way through; sadly, there was a certain finality to the last episode which makes me think that there will be no more.

Series: Bosch: Legacy - Season 1

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Spin-off from the excellent Bosch series, in which Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) is retired from LAPD and is now a PI.  So glad to see that his daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) is given main character billing - she's now a rookie cop.  I've always loved the character of Maddie; Madison Lintz manages to make her totally real and right for her age, but never, ever bratty or irritating (Carol would be proud!).  Also stars Mimi Rogers as lawyer Honey Chandler - shame that Jamie Hector only gets a cameo role, though.

The first series comprises several storylines, all of which are explored in every episode.  There's something about it that isn't quite as sharp as the original series (it's missing a feeling of authenticity, somehow), but I still really liked it  - and Season 1 ends on a terrific cliffhanger.

Documentary: Gazza

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(BBC iPlayer)

I have zero interest in football and never followed any of the 'Gazzamania' at the time, but this was such a good documentary.  Showed how Paul Gascoigne was massively exploited, manipulated by the media to become the darling of the tabloids, then subsequently destroyed by them.  He just seemed like a really nice guy, a simple northern lad with a great talent who was out of his depth the moment he became a national treasure.  Of course one cannot condone the drunken brawling and physical violence towards his wife, but it seems that the tabloids and Mrs Gascoigne herself milked it for all they could.

Comedy Series: South Park: The Streaming Wars 

Season 25 Episode 7 - Parts 1 and 2

2* ⭐⭐


I was really disappointed in this; is it because of the change to Paramount+?  It felt like the show has gone mainstream rather than keeping up with the fearlessness of earlier seasons.  Kind of stilted, with a fair bit of subliminal messaging going on that, previously, they would have taken the piss out of.  Like it's sold out.  There was a completely different feel to it; I think I only laughed once or twice.  Turning Randy into 'Karen' seemed tired and too late, and just wasn't funny - South Park used to be way ahead, satirising stuff almost before we knew it was happening.  Hope this isn't the shape of things to come.

btw, last night I watched some of the very early ones again - it wasn't my imagination, they really were much better! 

Miniseries: Behind Her Eyes

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Six episodes, from a book of the same name by Sarah Pinborough.  Louise accidentally becomes entangled with a husband and wife, as lover to the husband and new bff to the wife.  Obviously, this will all end in tears.  There's a load of stuff about astral projection which got a bit too outlandish for me - not least of all the way that everyone who needed to learn how to do it for the plot to work, did so with the greatest of ease.  Like, they'd just lie down and woo-hoo, off they'd go, floating through the ether.

Despite being unconvinced by all these disembodied neon-lit souls flying around London and the Home Counties, the end twist was very good, a real surprise.  I'm not sure if it might make for major plot holes, though, if one was to go back over the whole story, knowing what one discovered at the end.  It is good, though; entertaining.  

Film: Beavis & Butthead Do The Universe

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Very funny and well-observed.  If you love B & B, you will not be disappointed.  Not for the easily offended.

Film: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

3* ⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Virgin or rent on Apple +.  US: Rent Apple, Amazon, Google, many others)

Curious film starring Nicholas Cage as a fictional version of Nicholas Cage (like Larry David does in Curb Your enthusiasm!), in which he is terrified of being past his best, a total pain in the arse, and gets involved with a crime boss played by the totally lush Pedro Pascal.  Some of it is hilarious, though it didn't all work for me.  Worth a watch, though.

Series: The Lazarus Project


(UK: Now)

I know it seems a little unfair to review a series with 1* having only seen the first episode, but a review is just a person's opinion, and I thought this was dire with a capital D.

Those who run the top secret Lazarus Project - represented by a woman who says 'fuck' rather self-consciously and far too often - know that the world has already ended several times.  Each time, Lazarus is able to turn back the clock and make the apocalypse not happen.  Usual messaging going on, like how JFK would have provoked nuclear war with Russia.  Usual white woman with black man couple as main characters (I'm sure if I was an alien I would assume, from watching our telly over the past few years, that not only must all Earth couples be of mixed race, but the desired combination is white woman - black man.  FYI, the actual ratio of mixed race couples in the real life population is around 1 in 10, in both the UK and the US).

The actual premise is not a bad idea, and appealed to me, but not like this.  The acting is dreadful, but this could be, in part, down to the appalling dialogue and direction.  The beginning, when the main character finds that he keep living days over again, is so rushed it's ridiculous.  Happens a couple of times, he explains the phenomenon to his ghastly wife, and within a day or so she threatens to leave him if he doesn't agree to see a shrink, then the next morning she's off.  Like, in about three days.

The introduction of the woman from Lazarus is ridiculous.  She appears out of an alleyway in smoke (or so it seems) and says a load of clichรฉd stuff.  It was more like a spoof.  

Incidentally, have you noticed that the word 'fuck' is being used more often on television in normal speech over the past year or so?  Regardless of class, age, station in life, social circle, too many characters use it as just a run-of-the-mill adjective/expletive, including the type of person who probably wouldn't say it at all, and in unlikely circumstances.  Parents in front of children, children swearing in front of parents with no reprimand.  Is this to dull our sensitivities?  What next?

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