Wednesday 7 December 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: The Handmaid's Tale - Season 5

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


I thought this was the best season for a while, with the close-ups on June's glowering face thankfully less frequent than in the last one, in particular.  The coming together of her and Serena was most interesting; they seemed almost fated to be forced to team up.  I find the Nick/June/Luke thing most compelling - I'm on team Luke, but feel so sorry for Nick, because June is clearly the woman he loves, not his wife, and always has been.

The Canadians have had enough of the refugees now - human nature never fails.  I thought it was clever how this was done, much more realistic than having Canada remain a paradise of welcome and benevolence.  A pertinent conversation was had when June was impressing on Luke the need to go, because she sensed that the time of safety there had run out.  She reminded him that they should have run before, back when the government of Gilead took her and Hannah prisoner, but they failed to see the danger until it was too late.  He said, 'Canada's not Gilead', and she said, 'America wasn't Gilead until it was.' 

Lots of flashbacks to earlier times in this season, which always works so well.  I was gripped all the way through - I thought it would be the last season, as I was thinking, what else can possibly happen?  But now I can see that there is so much story yet to be told.

Film: Boiling Point (2021)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Netflix, rent on Amazon.  US: Roku, Hoopla)

Highly recommend this one!  Stephen Graham stars as the part-owner and head chef in a busy restaurant, where he has to deal with a hot-headed, sometimes unreliable staff, customers who don't understand the concept of fine dining and ask if they can just have steak and chips, clashes with the bossy restaurant manager (not specified, but one gets the impression she's the daughter of one of Graham's partners).  Added to that, he is going through a divorce, and has a drink and cocaine problem.   

This film follows one night when everything that could go wrong, does - not least of all the appearance of his former partner, now a successful TV chef (Jason Flemyng), who brings along his restaurant critic girlfriend.  

What's so interesting about this is the way it is filmed - it appears to be one continuous shot, like a documentary camera team following them around.  It's very, very good, and I wanted more when it ended - there's enough material there for a limited series, for sure.  I would have given it 5* plus (that extra 6th star!) if it wasn't for the fact that some of the threads were frustratingly unresolved - this isn't a criticism, it's the nature of the art form - and because, although I think dialogue in both film and book should be realistic, it gets a bit much when the only adjective any of them appear to know is 'fucking'.  If you can get past this, though, it's terrific.


Series: The Crown - Final Season

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐


During the first episode I thought, this is so dire that I don't know if I can watch it, but then I got drawn in, and began to like it more.

Thoughts on the casting:

  • Jonathan Pryce and Imelda Staunton looked more like the Buckingham Palace janitor and housekeeper than the Queen and Prince Philip.  Fine actors in other circumstances, but not right for this.  
  • Elizabeth Debicki as Diana - Diana was tall, but not head and shoulders above everyone else in every room.  I didn't see Diana's femininity and glamour at all; I was not convinced.  Only her spoilt, attention-seeking side was portrayed, not the reasons why she was so loved.  
  • Jonny Lee Miller is FAR too attractive and charismatic to be John Major, though I loved the way he played him.

More convincing: Princess Margaret.  Dominic West as Prince Charles - I always like him and he's clearly researched his subject so well, but, again, he's WAY too attractive for the part.  

Mohammed Al Fayed is very good, as is Dodi.  And Prince William is spot on.

Then ending - not what I expected AT ALL.  Good scene earlier, when Diana looked back out of a car window and saw the paparazzi on motorbikes behind her, as if a premonition.  I realise why the story was stopped where it was, not least of all because of the controversy surrounding Diana's death, but a little bit of hope might have been nice; it was rather too flat.  Maybe a brief view of Prince William, happy and laughing ... and perhaps one of a young Kate Middleton.  Or go the other way, and show Prince Andrew and the Markles.  On second thoughts, maybe the subtlety of the ending was a better idea!

Film: Stalingrad (1993)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Rent/Buy: Apple, Google, YouTube.  Not available for streaming in US)

German film with English subtitles.  About the Battle of Stalingrad, which took place between August 1942 and February 1943, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, in which an estimated 2 million perished.  Watching it was like seeing scenes from hell.  All that death and suffering for...  Such a well-made film, realistic and all the better for not being Hollywoodised.  I remember my mother telling me, years ago, that it was a turning point of the war, because the Germans didn't understand about the effects of cold on the Eastern Front, or the resilience of the Russians.

Film: Come and See (1985)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(UK: Amazon  US: Criterion Channel)

Russian, with English subtitles.  The story of an adolescent boy, Flyora, in rural Belorussia (Byelorussia, Belarus), who joins the partisan militia. While he is away, the Nazis attack the village where he lives.  The film is slow-moving at first, most atmostpheric, and the horror of war builds gradually, as, in the final third, the Nazis destroy the village of Perekhody, performing acts of unspeakable brutality.  At the end, we are told that '628 Belorussian villages were destroyed, along with their inhabitants.'

This is not for the fainthearted.  It's extremely violent and shocking; again, as with Stalingrad, it was like looking into hell. 

Series: The White Lotus - Seasons 1 & 2

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

Dark comedy drama - guests stay in a chain of luxury hotels.  The first season was set in the Hawaiian White Lotus, and starred Connie Britton (Nashville) and Steve Zahn (Treme and lots of other stuff), as well as the excellent Jennifer Coolidge (The Watcher) as a neurotic, rich, lonely woman.  I liked it, but there were a couple of bits I found totally gross - okay, so Zahn's character had a testicular cancer scare, but we didn't need a full-on view of his ball sack.  Later, someone takes a dump in someone else's suitcase, and we didn't need to see that, either.  This sort of realism doesn't make shows more edgy, it's just unnecessary.

Season 2 I like much more - it hasn't finished yet!  Set in the Sicilian White Lotus, Coolidge's Tanya McQuoid is back, with an unfaithful husband, a downtrodden assistant and a new friendship with a group of gay men.  Other guests include a party comprising two couples - one nouveau riche, the other woke intellectuals.  The female half of the latter is played by Aubrey Plaza (Emily The Criminal).  Very interesting dynamic between the four of them, with secrets being uncovered ... also present are F Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli (Goodfellas, The Sopranos) and Adam DiMarco as a grandfather, father and son; son falls in love with a prostitute, unaware that her purpose for being at the White Lotus is to service his father.

It's good, fun, and it's worth watching just for the amazing, wish-I-was-there scenery.  

Limited Series: Pieces Of Her

3* ⭐⭐⭐


Eight part series based on a book by Karin Slaughter.  It's a thriller, in which Andy Oliver (Bella Heathcote), aged 30, has moved back home to live with mother Laura (Toni Colette), and has cause to suspect that there is much that she doesn't know about her family background, not least of all who her father is.  There are murders in the first episode, then late night home invasion, after which Andy recives instructions to pick up a case filled with cash from a storage unit.  

Chases, nifty escapes, dark secrets and conspiracies follow, and the appearances of David Wenham and Gil Birmingham who, like Ms Colette, are not usually in anything substandard.  But somehow this was far from gripping, mostly because the character of Andy was somewhat flat.  You need a really strong actor for a part like this, and Heathcote wasn't bad, but she didn't bring anything compelling or memorable to the table.

I started to like it more in Episode 4 when flashbacks of Laura's early life were included, which added interest.  It's a great story and could (should) have been terrific, but I expect I shall have forgotten what it was about in a month's time.

Documentary Series: Ancient Apocalypse

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Graham Hancock has spent decades developing his controversial theory that there lived on earth a technologically advanced civilisation before the Ice Age.  In this series of half hour episodes, he travels to many different sites in Mexico, Colrado, Turkey, Java and others to show his discoveries.  Fairly convincing and, from a historical and climatological point of view, fascinating.

Series: The Peripheral
4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Yes, I liked it.  Even though I didn't quite get it, all the time.  Briefly, it's set about a decade from now, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  Flynn Fisher's brother Burton earns money by taking on the personas of people with money playing video games, in order to get them to the next level.  Then he is sent a headset that does something different - it transports brain particles so that the person wearing it is actually there, in the sim; when Flynn uses it she finds herself in London, 2090, and learns that, ten years from her own present day, catastrophic events will start to line up and come together to all but destroy humanity.  The 2090 world is what happens after.

I think that's about right, anyway!  It's good, even though at times it got a bit 'hang on, who's talking to who where?  How?  Is that bit real or virtual?'.  I thought the way that the tech of a decade from now was imagined was great - though I also noted that the past appeared to be a closed, uninteresting book.  Chloe Grace Moretz who plays Flynn is perfect, and really makes the show.

Film: Peninsula (2020)

3* ⭐⭐⭐

(US: AMC+, Directv.  UK: Studiocanal)

The semi-related sequel to the excellent Train to Busan.

This is how it came about:

Producer #1:  People in the West are loving Train to Busan; it's got almost cult status.  We should make another one!

Producer #2:  What, following the fortunes of Su-an and Seong-kyeong after the soldiers found them?  

Producer #1:  No, no, several years on, when Korea has become a zombie infested wasteland - but some people still live there.  I have been looking at popular American action thrillers and see that you need lots of gun action and car chases, but also you must balance it out with daring escapes, rescues and, of course, poignant human drama: a mother's reunion with her children.

Producer #2:  I don't know.  What people liked about Train was how simple it was.  That it was very much 'of Korea', not just another Hollywood action blockbuster.

Producer #1 (wave of hand):  No, no, you don't know what you're talking about.  And let's face it, we might as well cash in on the success of Train.  Get this one out as soon as we can!

I quite enjoyed it but it's nowhere near the class of Train to Busan.

Film: Battle Royale (2000)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Rent from Amazon, Google, YouTube, Sky in UK, or stream on Mubi, BFIPlayer and various others I haven't heard of.  US: hoopla, freevee, Redbox, Vudu - or rent: same as UK)

Japanese with English subtitles.  In a dystopian future Japan, society is in the doldrums and teenage schoolchildren have become rebellious and impossible to control.  The solution?  The 'school trip' to an uninhabited island where the Battle Royale game takes place.  42 students must take whatever measures necessary to stay standing, because there can only be one winner: the only one left alive.  If, at the end of the three days, there is more than one still breathing, they both die.  

Some understand the rules quickly and get straight in there, shooting to kill, while others hide.  A couple try to get the rest of them to rebel against the organisers and refuse to kill their friends, and three boys hole up in a derelict building and work out a way to bring down the control station.

Kind of like Squid Game, except that it's the contestants who are doing the killing.

Yes, it's pretty daft, but I enjoyed it!

Documentary: Died Suddenly

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Only available to watch via the Twitter profile, HERE )

It's about the people who have died or been severely injured after having the Covid injections.  It's much worse that you may think, and everyone needs to watch this.  Just like the much-mocked Mike Yeadon (former VP of Pfizer, acclaimed virologist) said: in the next few years we will see a rise in heart problems and cancers.  

Of course, it's been banned from all other sites, and is being madly debunked all over the place, but then it would be, wouldn't it.

Also of course, there is no trailer on YouTube, but there is one on Rumble, HERE


  1. We watched Boiling Point. My goodness, it's a film that is so tense - kept us enthralled, but nervous.

    1. I know!!! Kept feeling like everything was going to blow up, everywhere - SO well made!!