Friday 7 October 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.

Series:  Yellowstone  - Season 4

5* and a little bit more.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The continuing story of the Dutton family - the 21st Century version of Dallas, set in Montana: John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his family are wealthy ranch owners permanently engaged in wrangles with Native Americans who want their land back and massive money-hungry corporations who want to 'develop' the area, ultimately destroying the way of life that has continued for so long.  All this, mixed in with deep-rooted family problems that nobody can resolve.

Kelly Reilly continues to be fabulous as the fiery, couldn't give a f*** Beth Dutton, while Monica Dutton (wife of the gorgeous Kayce - Luke Grimes) continues to be a whining PITA despite being beautiful, rich, loved, etc etc.   The scenery is spectacular as ever, the plot developments are unpredictable and believeable, and I think this was possibly the best season yet - if you're a horse lover, you'll adore it.  It's really, really good.  If you haven't seen it yet, you have a treat in store. 

Mini Series: The Billion Dollar Code  

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


A four-part fictional adaptation of the true story of Joachim Sauter - a visionary young man living in Berlin whose company gained backing (in 1993) to develop TerraVision, which was the forerunner to Google Earth.  The story centres around the 2014-2017 patent infringement lawsuit against Google, who were said to have stolen the idea and algorithm from Sauter's company, via another Silicon Valley mogul who pretended to be a great guy.  German, dubbed into English.  Very good indeed!

Series:  Animal Kingdom - Season 6

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The final season of this series about a family of criminals (clever and brilliantly executed heists), headed by matriarch Janine Cody - previously played by Ellen Barkin, but apparently the studios felt she was too old (or so I've read), so they killed her off and have, over the last two seasons, told the (most absorbing) backstory about her with Leila George playing her younger self. 

The series is set in California, with a surfing and drugs theme.  Very much enjoyed every season, highly recommended.  Also, eye candy in the form of Ben Robson, as the motorbiking Craig Cody whose life takes on a new meaning when his son is born.

Series:  Moonhaven - Season 1

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Amazon, AMC+)

New series, and it's a winner.  Set in the long distant future, when human life on Earth has become a dystopian nightmare with warring factions, etc.  On the moon, AI has provided a solution - a utopian community intended to develop the technology and cultural means to save a ravaged earth.  The story centres around Earth soldier and pilot Bella (Emma McDonald), who I thought was great - the character could have so easily become 'feisty young woman saves the universe', but she's most likable and feels real.  Also stars Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings) as an resident of Moonhaven who believes that everyone's intentions are benign.  Shocks on their way, as you can imagine.

Moonhaven's culture means that children are taken away from their parents at birth, and do not see them again until they're about to die; the community is the family.  This works on the basic theory that families encourage tribalism, which increases the likelihood of wars.   Even as Season 1 comes to a close, though, the people are beginning to realise that family (and tribalism) is something innate within the human psyche; meanwhile, Bella is uncovering the corruption amongst the leaders on earth.  Looking forward to Season 2!

Mini Series: The Thief, his wife and the Canoe

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(ITV hub, britbox)

The true story of John Darwin, who faked his own death, and his wife Anne who helped him do so.  Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) stars as Darwin.  Four parts.  Nice appearance of the super-droll Karl Pilkington as a sceptical detective.  Fascinating, tragic story, so well translated into TV drama.

Film: Emily The Criminal

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Rent: Amazon, Apple and others)

An unexpected gem.  Aubrey Plaza as Emily, who can't get on top of her financial situation because of a minor felony and DUI on her record - until she is offered a way to make some easy money.  Plaza was terrific, perfect for the storyline and completely convincing.  Also stars Theo Rossi ('Juice' Ortiz in Sons of Anarchy).  Good story, great acting, really liked the way it was filmed, too.  Definitely recommend this one!

Mini Series:  The Walk-In

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(ITV hub, britbox)

Five part series based on the true story of former neo-Nazi Matthew Collins (Stephen Graham), now working for humanitarian charity HOPE Not Hate, when he learns about a new far-right group called National Action.  Meanwhile, a friendless, unhappy young man called Robbie Mullen is lured into NA.  At first Mullen is thrilled to be included, but after a while he begins to find their dangerous extremism unacceptable - which is when he contacts Matthew Collins.

Stephen Graham's performance is as compelling as ever; this is a real shocker and contains depictions of real life events, such as the murder of MP Jo Cox.  Scenes showing Collins' life as a young man were most effective; he is haunted by his shady past for which he tries to compensate, every day, while being hounded by his former neo-Nazi allies.  Also stars David Hayman (big thumbs up there) and Jason Flemyng (who I always think is Rhys Ifans).

The only thing I didn't like about it was the sneaky bit of 'nudging' - that lunatic, dangerous far-right and anti-semitic groups also spread conspiracy theories about pharmaceutical companies was dropped in more than once.  I'm sure they do, but being distrustful of pharmaceutical companies does not necessarily mean you are a far-right, violent, anti-semitic nutter.  Sadly, though, many will make the intended connection, even if only subconsciously.

Limited Series: Smith 


(iTunes, Amazon)

Series-that-never-was from 2006, starring Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) and Chris Bauer (The Wire).  Liotta heads a group of criminals (heists) who also lead 'normal' lives, and face the expected conflict between the two.  Apparently the first season was made, but it was cancelled after only three episodes were shown.  Since then, many viewers clamoured for the whole thing to be shown; it is now available as shown above.  Just a shame that it ends on a brilliant cliffhanger, and we will never know what might have happened!

Series:  The Boys - Season 3

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The third season of this superhero series is the best so far, I think - and Anthony Starr (Banshee) ought to win all awards available for his portrayal of the psychotic, insecure and totally FUBAR leader of The Seven: the outwardly charismatic Homeland.  

Battling to take them down are The Boys, led by Billy Butcher - played by Karl Urban with a not always realistic London accent.  Incidentally, I only just realised (because someone told me, would never have made the connection) that Urban played Γ‰omer in Lord of the Rings.  Gif below!! 

Limited Series: Dahmer



Much talked about ten-part series about the life and victims of Jeffrey Dahmer, notorious serial killer.  The acting was great, and it was produced in such a way that it stuck to the true life story.  I liked how they gave some background on some of the victims, which made them more than just names and faces on a list, and also the way in which the timeline meandered back and forth throughout, so that the story built up gradually; something mentioned early on might be shown in more detail later, when it would have more impact.  The effect on the family was illustrated in detail, too, leaving the viewer wondering if he really was 'born like that', as Dahmer himself said, or if other factors were contributory.

Every nook and cranny of the story was explored; this will probably not be a view shared by many, but I felt that some aspects were 'milked' a little.  I think it would have been even better if it had been less soap-drama-ish and more condensed, sharper - maybe six episodes instead of ten.

Documentary: Nothing Compares

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Film about the life and career of SinΓ©ad O'Connor.  I came away from this feeling incredibly sorry for her.  Not least of all that she was unjustly vilified for impulsive actions in her youth, but for how she had so much chaos going on in her head, too, much of it because of childhood ill treatment and the Catholic church.  Never having known much about her before, my impression was that she was a general pain in the arse, angry young woman.  Having watched this, I think she was just ahead of her time.  During her interviews she came across as just a fairly amicable girl who was not at all 'starry', and a little surprised by her success.  I wonder if some of the animosity towards her was because she made people feel uncomfortable; she dared to voice controversial views, whilst being talented, edgy and beautiful.  Often goes down badly, that.

Reality show:  Alone Season 10 - Frozen


(History Channel, Directv)

I'm a great fan of Alone (contestants sent into bleak places to survive alone for as long as they can for a cash prize), but this season ... hmm, not quite so much.  It was set in Arctic Canada in late autumn and winter, with just 6 contestants rather than the usual 10; this time three men and three women who'd competed in previous series.   The fact that they'd already been there/done that resulted in three of them realising they couldn't really be bothered with it, and weren't prepared to go through that hardship all over again, not even for a share in the prize money of half a million dollars.  Two tapped out in the first week, one without having even built a shelter.  Another kept saying 'I must get my shelter finished' but never did, and then decided to go home after all. 

Which just left three, who said the words 'grateful' and 'gratitude' approximately every five minutes, or whenever they looked at the sunrise/found a dead snow hare in one of their snares.  They all said they 'wanted to feel connected to their food', which, apparently, means killing an animal and telling it you're grateful to it for giving its life to you (not that Mr Bunny had much choice), in the hope that you may win said half a million big ones.  

In the first few seasons, the contestants were just regular survival types.  They hunted and got on with it, without the faux-spiritual/new age baloney.   Still love watching it, though.  

Film: Vengeance

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐


Fairly entertaining film written by and starring B J Novak, about a New York journalist who has a few one-nighters with a Texan girl who thinks he's her boyfriend.  When she dies, her family (who also think he was her boyriend) insist he's present for the funeral - and also takes part in searching for her murderer.

Series: The Capture - Season 2


(BBCiplayer, Starz)

UK series revolving around how technology can be used to show, via CCTV, etc that stuff happens that didn't really.  This season, we see the taking down of an MP - an interview on TV that never happened causes uproar.  And yes, this technology really does exist.

Comedy Series: Kevin can f*** himself



This is a very novel idea!   First we see the situation from dorky, irritating husband Kevin's POV - bright lights, canned laughter - your average sitcom.  Then comes wife Allison's view, and you understand what their life is really like.  It totally works, highly entertaining.

Series: Cobra - Season 2

3.5*  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

(Apple, Sky, Now)

Second season about Cobra - Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, the location in Whitehall where British Prime Ministers hold emergency meetings.  Robert Carlyle plays the PM.  This one is all about cyber attacks and civil unrest.  Like the first season, it's good but, I don't think, goes far enough.  Needs more disaster and less events-being-resolved-quite-quickly for it to be as exciting and compelling as it could be. 

Film: Predestination

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐

(Apple, Virgin, Amazon)

Fairly enjoyable (though completely ridiculous) 2015 film starring Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook (Succession), about time travel.  Worth watching for a bit of entertainment and escapism.

Limited Series: The Ipcress File

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐


The remake of the film of the Len Deighton book, as a series.  It's okay, but I thought it lacked spark, and you can't replace Michael Caine's Harry Palmer with ... anyone at all, really, however many pairs of heavy-rimmed glasses you find in Wardrobe.  Fairly good to watch, but forgettable.

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