The Watchlist: February 2016

FILMS

Spy

There’s been a spate of comedy spy movies recently and the most heralded were Spy and Kingsman so I was keen to get around to watching one of them. Spy is very enjoyable with great performances by Melissa McCarthy and Miranda Hart in her first big screen role. It’s just the right length and never feels rushed *although* I did have big issue with the amount of swearing in it, from all characters. I swear like a trooper but even I thought a lot of it was unnecessary and detracted from the plot – you don’t need swear words to be funny. There’s some comedy NSFW moments and goryish violence so you might want to leave it if you’re a bit squeamish but it’s not exactly Kill Bill.

1280-hundred-foot-journeyjpg-0d2771_1280wThe Hundred Foot Journey

I was feeling burnt out one evening and needed a film that would take my mind off things while using very little brain power: step up the 100 ft Journey. A feel good, restaurant based movie with a great cast. Indeed, there’s a not so subtle nod to Helen Mirren playing the Queen in it which was nice. It’s two hours long and I have the attention span of a flea these days but I think most people would agree that they could easily have shaved a good twenty – thirty minutes off its length. The final quarter is very slow and I lost all interest after a great first half – not helped by the fact that we clearly know which way things are heading. Still worth a watch, however.

TELLY

In The Flesh

I never got round to watching this first time round and surprisingly it’s not available on Netflix/Prime so I had resigned myself to possibly never watching it (searching for a decent ‘dubious’ link is often too much effort) – however with BBC Threeeeee’s move online, S1 has been added to iPlayer.

I’m always a fan of mild dystopian fiction – just far enough away from reality to seem improbable but close enough to raise real questions about how we’d react as a society. There’s loads of nice touches in this – little things like Kieran playing the board game ‘The Game Of Life’ with his family, for example. I’m a big fan of Luke Newberry and not just because he’s nice to look at. In fact I once went to the hairdressers and asked to have my hair styled like he did in an episode of Banana. It didn’t really suit me.

There are some plot holes in ITF: the couple who visit the house in Ep 1 and the assumption that ‘they have one too’ makes no sense given everyone in the country seems to know that that particular village hates PDS sufferers. Equally, in Ep 2 some wild PDS sufferers are seen eating a sheep AND YET it is quite clearly explained that PDS sufferers can’t eat anything. Go figure.  I’m currently still watching this.

Suits

I saw someone post the other day that they despise Suits because it’s proof of everything wrong in this capitalist, big money society we live in. They have got a point but it doesn’t stop Suits being a great watch – and this series actually ticks the ‘capitalist’ box more than ever with Mike’s new career as an investment banker.

Admittedly I still often have no idea what’s going on in any given episode and everything’s so fast paced that I miss all the legal jargon and reasons *why* things are happening but my character investment overrides that. I’m just grateful I know what a subpoena is otherwise I’d be screwed. It’s been great to see a human side to Jessica this season and her to falter within a relationship given her hard exterior. And her wardrobe is still 9zKB35gon point of course. And it wouldn’t be Suits without the occasional glaringly obvious continuity issue between camera shots.

Deutschland 83

This series really came into its own by ep 4 but lost it again with the last episodes which were combined into one feature length finale by Channel 4. Everyone was raving about this as if it was the greatest piece of tv they’ve ever seen – let’s get a bit of perspective: it was average at best. Predictable? Yes. Thought it was clever? Yes. Was it? No. BUT it did have its moments. The oddest thing in my opinion was the whole Thomas storyline – we hadn’t seen enough of him to be truly emotionally attached to the character so the fact his story was given a big chunk of the finale seems bizarre to me. *shrugs shoulders emoji* There were enough threads left hanging to warrant a second series and I’ll probably watch it out of obligation but I can’t promise I’ll enjoy it.

Spin

I’ve been really enjoying this series from Walter Presents although my complete lack of any knowledge of French politics did start to become an issue in the latter episodes – I’m still not sure what the exact difference in power between President and PM is and why the President’s office has ministries and why the Presidential candidate becomes leader of the opposition if they don’t win and everything overlaps and EURGH.

A lazy, lazy ending was only compensated by the fact S2 aired immediately after S1 over here in the UK although I haven’t started it yet.

16116-news-ojThe People vs. OJ Simpson

I have a very vague awareness of the OJ Simpson trial as a pop culture reference but that’s it. Not really surprising given it was before my time, however, that puts me in the rather interesting position of not knowing what happens. Not one bit – I don’t even know if he got off or not. I’m assuming he did  because of the number of OJ Simpson jokes in 30 Rock, but then again…

I’m also really enjoying this series and not just because of the wonder that is John Travolta’s non-moving botox face (srsly, I’ve seen ventriloquists move their mouths and faces more). This is classic American network drama – fast paced, quick camera cuts, dramatic music and it’s got a real retro 90s feel to it. I wonder if that was intentional. It’s actually a really refreshing change to the HBO cinematic drama productions we’ve become used to recently.

Transparent

Christ, S2 plods along. I got myself a student Prime trial so have left Netflix for a bit and gone over to Amazon Prime and their terrible excuse for a video service. Honestly, you try searching for something to watch on there. Paid for items are mixed in with those available via Prime, and individual series are listed rather than combined by show. It’s a mess… although their playout system is greatly improved from the last time I used the service and their link up with IMDb (another Amazon company) is very helpful. Recognise an actor but can’t remember their name? Wiggle your mouse and it’ll pop up.

I binge-watched Transparent S1 over one weekend when Amazon opened it up for free to everybody after it had some awards success and thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s some lovely subtle humour within the show and I have a real soft spot for the opening titles. S2 feels to me to be plodding along though – difficult second album? Possibly. I’ve still got to finish it.

New Yorker Presents

Another show on Prime – I watched the pilot many a moon ago and was pleased to see a full series had been commissioned with two new episodes a week. It’s a little scatty but I think that works; it really is a magazine in visual form.

Other bits and piecesnew-yorker-presents

EastEnders Shabnam’s shock exit, even more of the greatness that is Kim & Pearl, and Abi’s ‘pregnancy’. There’s been some great moments and duff duffs over the past month. (And Jonny’s back soon – hurrah!)

War & Peace In January, I explained that I’m not a costume drama guy but this was superb to the end.

Camila’s Kids Company I had a vague awareness of the Kids Company scandal and its owner Camila Batmanrobinwhatshername, who dresses like she fell on a table in a curtain shop and everything just stuck to her, but I had no idea what actually went on. Thank goodness for this documentary then – it got to the heart of the organisation and showed Camila’s complete and utter denial that there was a problem. Aside from the rather grating vo, this was well done.

Happy Valley I won’t go in depth on this because a) I can’t write for shit and b) every newspaper columnist has already done so but y’know, it’s good.

First Dates It’s disappeared off again, ffs! There were some great moments once again though and none of it ever feels in poor taste. There was a newly out gay guy who struggled with admitting his sexuality out loud, the woman who was reduced to tears in her post-date interview and the loveliest newly divorced man in the world.

The Man Who Witnessed 219 Executions This is one of BBC Three online’s first shows and it’s short and sweet but worth a watch when you get a spare moment. This is an interview with the guy at the coalface of the final stage of the American ‘justice’ system. Interesting is how he explains the helplessness of being behind the glass – you can suspect that someone is innocent but you have no power to help them in the final moments.

To watch next month: Thirteen, Mr Robot, Please Like Me S3, The Man In The High Castle, Newsroom S2

 

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