Thursday 6 July 2023

Lately I've Been Watching


My latest mini TV and film reviews, with trailers and 'where to watch'.  I haven't done one of these for several months as I've been busy writing my new series, so I haven't included everything I've seen or the post would go on forever!  

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.  

If you can't find what you're looking for, try putting 'where can I watch (name of show)' into your search engine

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.

Chocks away, then :)

Series: Colony - 3 seasons (2015-18)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


I started watching this when it came out and for some reason only saw a few episodes, but recently I thought I'd give it another go.  A good choice indeed!  It's set in San Diego during the calm-after-the-storm of an alien invasion, but that part of the storyline is subtle; at first we're not quite sure who the enemy actually is, just that life is precarious and freedom is greatly restricted.  

As the story progresses, the divisions between the humans living in the occupied territory take centre stage as the full horror of the situation is slowly revealed.  I liked the first season a lot but preferred the next two, as life becomes more dangerous.  Definitely recommend this!  Stars Josh Holloway (yum) and Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori in TWD).  Shame it was cancelled after 3 seasons, but there is a proper ending.

Series: Rabbit Hole - Season 1 (2023)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Paramount +)

Kiefer Sutherland stars in action conspiracy thriller, as John Weir, a private espionage operative.  Very different from Jack Bauer, btw.  Also stars Charles Dance, Jason Butler Harner (a favourite of mine) and various others you'll recognise.  Explosions and chases, unexpected twists and clever plot lines.  Good 'un.

Series: Black Mirror - Season 6 (2023)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Liked the first one - Annie Murphy, Salma Hayek, a nightmare scenario in which Murphy's character (Joan) switches on the TV to see that her whole life has become a TV show called Joan Is Awful.  Best of all was#2, Loch Henry - far superior to the other four and says so much about the TV industry.  Basic premise: the shocking truth about a serial killer revealed.  #3 was good, too (Aaron Paul in space - he's an actor I always love to watch).  Those three were up to standard, but I didn't think the last two were as good as usual.  A bit on the daft side.  

I've just discovered that Charlie Brooker no longer writes these; instead, they're put together by a team of Netflix writers.  Explains everything.

Series: The Last Kingdom - 5 seasons & film (2015 - 23)

5 stars plus plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Fiction based around historical fact, from the Saxon Stories series by Bernard Cornwell.  Tells the story of Uhtred, a displaced Saxon lord who grew up with Danes.  

Loved it so much I watched it all over again as soon as I'd finished it.  Yes, the whole 5 seasons.  Blog post listing my favourite and least favourite characters HERE (lots of pics and gifs).

Series: The Last Thing He Told Me (2023)

3.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Drama starring Jennifer Garner and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - husband goes missing and wife uncovers conspiracy.  Entertaining, a little plodding, nothing to write home about but worth watching if you've got nowt else much to do.

Series: Succession - 4th and final season (2023)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(HBO Max)

The end of this gripping series about the obscenely wealthy Roy family, all of them the most self-centred, materialistic, manipulative, scheming and just plain nasty people you've ever met.  But it's so good!  All the stars for Matthew MacFadyen as Tom Wambsgans, one of my favourite TV characters for ages.  If you haven't seen this show, do - it'll make you thankful you're one of the 'little people'.

And for fellow Tom fans, here are some of his best moments.

Film: Nefarious (2023)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Heard about this on Twitter - gripping.  Wealthy psychiatrist hired to assess a vicious serial killer to see if he's insane (and therefore cannot be put to death), or faking it.  The killer claims to be the Devil, inhabiting the body of killer Edward Brady and making him do terrible things ... as he does with many other people.  Before long, Dr Martin starts to believe him.  

A Christian independent horror film that will give you a lot to think about...

Series: Silo - Season 1 (2023)

4* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Always difficult to watch a TV show when you've read the book, and this contained many plot lines that weren't in the book at all; the cliffhanger at the end of the season actually occurs about a third of the way through the book.

It's about a time in the future when 10K people live underground in a purpose-built silo, with no idea why or how the world worked before.  Stars Rebecca Ferguson as Juliette Nichols, a mechanic who gets the job of Sheriff, and Tim Robbins, the mayor who plots her downfall and knows a lot more than anyone else about the silo's true history. 

It's good, worth watching, but not one of my favourites.  

Series: The Village - 2 seasons (2013/4)

S1: 4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐

S2: 3* ⭐⭐⭐


2013-2014 drama.  Season 1 took place during WW1, telling the story of a Derbyshire village and how the war affected the people, from impoverished farmers (Maxine Peake and John Simm) to those at the 'big house' (Juliet Stevenson as matriarch).  It was jolly good, a gritty drama showing the reality of shell shock, the shooting of deserters, the attitude towards conscientious objectors.  

Season 2 was very different.  Set in 1923, about the aftermath and the sociological problems created by the war.  Had a feeling of made-for-American-TV-like-Downton-Abbey about it.  More of a soap opera, full of plot clichés.  Not surprised it was cancelled, really.  Shame, because it could have been terrific.

Film: The Covenant (2023)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


New Guy Ritchie film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dar Salim, set amidst the war in Afghanistan.  Not giving any of the plot away, but it's excellent.  Brutal, tightly plotted, atmospheric, moving - highly recommend.  Unless you don't do violence, of course.  I gather it's based on a true story, but I'm not sure how closely.

Series: The Marvellous Mrs Maisel  

5th (final) season (2023)

4.5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The right time to end this show, I thought, and a good final season that contained the added interest of scenes from past and future.  I do love a flashback and a flash forward, though in some ways the future ones were rather depressing!  Really enjoyed it, though.  Rachel Brosnahan is ... marvellous.  Do watch from the start if you've never tried - Mrs Maisel is a stand-up comic, in the late 1950s/early 60s, in New York.  Even if you don't think it's your sort of thing, I bet you'll love it :)

Series: Crowded Room (2023)

5* ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Not finished yet but I'm loving it so far.  Explores the mind of a disturbed young man who is taken into custody following a shooting.  Can't say much more because *spoilers*, but if you love intricate psychological drama/thrillers, you'll want to see this.  Amanda Seyfried plays the psychologist who becomes fascinated by Danny's story.

Scifi series: La Brea (2021)

1* ⭐

(Paramount +)

Truly, truly dreadful.  Dialogue is so hackneyed it's like a parody, acting is pretty awful (though no one could do anything with dialogue that bad), characters are ridiculous.  Managed one and a half episodes. 

Mom driving teens to school when suddenly the road collapses, leaving a massive hole.  The people who fall through it wake up to discover they're in an alternative reality.

Yet they cancelled Raised By Wolves....

#CountYourTitles Book Challenge #BookTag #BookStack

I saw this challenge on Alison Williams' blog and Cathy Ryan's Between The Lines, and couldn't resist getting up to look at my bookshelves!

The challenge is to find books from your shelves that have an increasing number of words in the title, beginning with a one word title.

I only got to seven yesterday - found them all within about three minutes (as I made my own rule - to pick the first one I saw), then searched both book cases for an 'eight' with no luck ... but today saw it hiding there, all slim and quietly on the top shelf (see below!).

Here are my 1 - 8.  I've read them all apart from All The Light We Cannot See  (probably why it's the only one that doesn't look as if I found it in a dusty attic!!).  Amazon link to each book below :)

Sunday 2 July 2023

My 20 Favourite Characters in The Last Kingdom


I watched the first season of The Last Kingdom back in 2015 and loved it, but, as far as I can remember, when we started Season 2 we didn't like it so much, and were put off by the curious change in accent for main character Uhtred.  Recently, though, I decided to give it another go, and quickly became fairly obsessed with it - I was wrong, it's terrific.   So much so that I went back and started at the beginning again, once I'd watched it all (and the feature film, Seven Kings Must Die, that follows on).

For anyone who loves the show as much as I do (though just for me, really, because I love doing these sort of posts, and for Shelley Wilson who is similarly obsessed!) here are my top 20 favourite characters :)

In reverse order, because it's more fun that way...

I've put Numbers 19 and 20 together, as they're characters with an opposite similarity, if that makes sense.  One I couldn't stand at first and ended up feeling great sympathy for, and the other I thought was great fun in the first two seasons but came to despise!

20. Athelwold and 19. Aelswith

played by Harry McEntire and Eliza Butterworth

I loved Athelwold in Seasons 1 and 2 - how he didn't care what anyone thought, made amusing asides at inappropriate moments, supported Uhtred for the most part, was obviously intelligent and educated but, by his own admission, hid it well.  Even when he tried to form an alliance with Sigefrid (with the ridiculous story about a corpse's prophecies), it was half-hearted and comical.  However, he fell off my favourites list with a resounding thud at the start of S3, when he engineered circumstances that led to Uhtred killing a monk and fleeing for his life, and then when he joined forces with Cnut - and we know how that ended.

He was pitiful rather than evil.  If only he'd been able to use that brain for good, and let go of his bitterness.

Aelswith I didn't like at all at first - pursed-lipped, judgemental, etc -  but she began her redemption in my eyes when she demonstrated being less than impressed with her son-in-law.  Watching the show for the second time round I found myself rather touched by her unflagging devotion to Alfred.  She then totally redeemed herself in the last season, in particular, by admitting that she'd made wrong choices and bravely involving herself in the fight against the unscrupulous Aethelhelm - and in the last few episodes she even provided the comic relief.

18: Odda The Elder

Played by Simon Kunz

Killed his own son for being a treacherous little weasel, and supported Uhtred almost throughout.  Decent man who stood by his convictions and held up the cause of the common man.  Vastly under-appreciated.

17:  Stiorra

Played by Ruby Hartley

What a great choice for Gisela's daughter - she actually looks like her! So interesting how Stiorra inherited so many of her father's character traits, but inside was a true Dane, like her mother.  In comparison, I often felt as though Uhtred was a Saxon inside, as he was born, but trying very hard to still be a Dane. 

Mature and brave, Stiorra knew what she wanted when it was placed in front of her - life among her mother's people, and a perfect match with the thinking Viking woman's crumpet - Sigtryggr.  

16: Osferth

Played by Ewan Mitchell

Can't go wrong being of both Leofric and Alfred's bloodlines.  Like Uhtred the Younger, did not hide behind religious convictions.  I liked how he kept plugging away at being part of the gang, despite his fears and initial ineptitude for the warrior lifestyle.  Brave, honest, dependable.  A curious third wheel for Sihtric and Finan, who nevertheless fitted in perfectly and totally earned his stripes.   

15: Aldhelm

Played by James Northcote

Something of a manipulative weasel at first, when he was Aethelred's advisor, but soon stepped up by telling Aethelflaed about the plan to kill her.  After he'd turned away from Aethelred it was like he threw away his dark side.  If I'm ever a Saxon queen and am looking for a right-hand man, the job's his.  Dared to question his own loyalty, rather than following blindly.  And helped Aethelflaed to carry on her illicit relationship with Uhtred, even though he was in love with her.  

Top man.

14: Eadith

Played by Stefanie Martini

Cool, clever, wise, and she always looked great, too.  Finest moment was when she brought about the downfall of her monstrous brother - and I liked that she had the courage to make her own way rather than taking Aethelfaed's offer of protected life in a nunnery.  Couldn't really see Eadith taking a vow of chastity, or being unable to ride freely across the land with the Uhtred posse, of which she proved to be a most efficient member - especially when Haesten hung the rest of them upside down from trees.  I was most disappointed that she and Finan never got it together, incidentally.

13: King Alfred

Played by David Dawson

I felt frustrated with Alfred more or less throughout - no more than he did with the constant battles in his head.  His intentions were always honourable, even though he was only human; one has to remember that, on a regular basis, he was called to make decisions for which there was no good answer, and of course the burden of kingship was too heavy for any man to carry with ease.  For all his outward rigidity, he was far more open-minded than most of his status in life and knew a good man when he met one - I particularly liked how he trusted Ragnar.  This intelligence and insight was what, alas, caused many of his problems - should he follow his heart, his head, the word of his priests, tradition or instinct?  

Alfred was as hard as nails when he had to be and where the good of the realm was concerned, but so perceptive when it came to understanding individuals.  Then, of course, there was that last, touching conversation with Uhtred.  The one we hoped so much would happen.  Watched it again the other night and it brought tears to my eyes.  David Dawson is a stunningly excellent actor.

12: Father Pyrlig

Played by Cavan Clerkin

The ultimate warrior priest!  Funny, brave, selfless and all round pretty awesome.  The scene where he flawed Sigefrid's man Boltan, by pretending to scarcely know how to wield a sword, was one of the best.  He had some terrific lines which he carried off with great aplomb.

Pointy end forward, Father Pyrlig!

11: Ragnar

Played by Tobias Santelmann

So much to love about Uhtred's Danish brother.  How he understood the importance of Uhtred's oath to Alfred in the first season, and, of course, how he saved him from the slave traders.  I liked that Alfred understood that he was an honourable man.  Truly a Ragnar Lothbrok type of Viking, rather than a Haesten or Bloodhair!  Even though he cheated on Brida because he wanted sons, one got the impression that he did so in the most honest and decent way possible.  


⚔  The Top Ten  ⚔

10: Gisela

Played by Peri Baumeister

Beautiful, clever, outspoken, able to see through the boasts and posturing of others, knew how to see the difference between the good and the not so good, and looked totally amazing in the dress she wore when she married Uhtred!

9: Father Beocca

Played by Ian Hart

Who could not love Father Beocca?  Uhtred's stand-in father, who took great risks to save his life even in the first episode.  I thought the reason he went to Bebbanburg was to do some good and hang the consequences, so he could be with Thyra again. One of his finest moments was when he headbutted the molusc who'd been intimidating her - then, when Uhtred and co held him back, he evaded their clutches and went back to get another punch in.

8: Uhtred 

Played by Alexander Dreymon

'Even his scars are handsome' - Father Beocca.

I was an Uhtred fan most of the time, but sometimes found him a little too arrogant and lacking in understanding of others' priorities/needs/wishes.  I loved how greatly he valued those close to him, who had always stuck by him throughout, and was essentially a man of his word.  Of course he was drop dead gorgeous, too, and would have been doubly so if the makers of the show hadn't decided he needed that curious accent - the actual Danes sounded more English than he did. I just didn't get it, from S2 (when it started) onwards.  

Having said that, Alexander Dreymon portrayed so well how Uhtred grew from an impulsive youth into an only slightly less impulsive man.  Well done, Mr D.

As for his love life, I never thought him and Aethelflaed came across - for me, the match lacked something - chemistry, whatever.  She felt far more real and passionate with Erik - he with Gisela and Iseult. 

Destiny is all, y'all 😉.  To Bebbanburg!

7: Leofric

Played by Adrian Bower

Lovely Leofric, man's man, great buddy, always by your side in battle, would take a bullet for you (metaphorically), and wise and funny into the bargain.  Kind of the prequel to Finan, I thought.  If only Arseling had listened to him about going to Alfred straight away to tell him that he'd killed Ubba ...

6: Hild

Played by Eva Birthistle

The female version of Father Beocca - a truly good person, not hamstrung by prejudices or using the church to hide behind.  Brave, loyal, and earned her top ten wings by riding all the way from the north of England to Wessex, in order to save Uhtred and Halig from the slave traders.  The warrior abbess - terrific.

5: Erik

Played by Christian Hillborg

He was the good brother to Sigefrid's bad; charming, intelligent, reasonable, seeing both sides rather than diving in with swords raging, even before he and Aethelflaed fell in love.  My second favourite romantic relationship in the whole show - tragic that they couldn't be together.

4: Iseult

played by Charlie Murphy

An angel.  Aside from being breathtakingly beautiful, she was an old soul, calm and all-seeing, never drawing attention to herself, but noticing what was important to others, and quietly, gently helping them do what was best for them.  Her face showed that she'd seen her own death, but she suffered the knowledge alone, rather than tell Uhtred before he went into battle.  Also, 10/10 for asking King Alfred if he was bleeding out of his arse, in such an endearing fashion.  Gutted when she died.

3: Finan

Played by Mark Rowley

I thought I was totally over the 'amusing Irishman' character in series and films such as these, and those set nearer the present day, but Finan brought life to the stereotype all over again.  Never a dull moment and brought so much to every scene, every skirmish, every dare-devil plan.  Total trooper.  

2: Sihtric

Played by Arnas Federavičius

Sihtric: just a total darling, loved him from that scene when he showed how serious he was about offering Uhtred his sword.  He was the one Gisela trusted with a note to let Uhtred know where she was when she escaped to a nunnery, and then there was the pretence about leaving Uhtred to join the Danes in S3 - he was always the man for missions such as these, the spy, the messenger, totally focused and able to fade into the shadows when necessary.  Also, those arms... 

Him, Finan and Osferth - true brothers, friends and warriors.  

His best hairdo :)

1: Sigtryggr

Played by Eysteinn Sigurðarson

Yes, I'm still traumatised by his death.  Out of all of those that occurred in the whole five seasons, I found his the most heartrending.  His and Stiorra's love and devotion to each other was, I thought, the most believable, touching and emotive romantic relationship of all.  Could hardly bear to watch the tragic chain of events that ended up in his demise, from the trusting of his slimeball of a brother, to the deception that meant he was blamed for the killing of the pilgrims and the queen.  Of course he killed a whole bunch of Saxons, Edward.  Wouldn't you have done?

He'd made the perfect community in Jorvik, with Danes and Christians living side by side; he even permitted Christian preachers.  

He saw how the future could be, as Alfred did.  Also, potential rock star.  Kind of a Red Hot Chilli Viking.

A special mention for the Welsh, except for Rhodri but especially King Hywell, who was both decent and hilarious.  I also found that Haesten grew on me, through the seasons, mostly how he redeemed himself by his last, selfless action.  And then there's King Constantin of Scotland, a wise and sensible fellow.  And sweetie Uhtred the Younger and Clapa....

Just to balance it out - here are those I loathe !!


Odda the Younger

Brother Trew

Abbot Eadred











That's my boys!!