2020 – The Year There Was Pretty Much Fuck All Else To Do But Watch Telly

How about that lung-eating virus that kept us all at home all year, eh?

It’s normal for me at this time of year to feel some sort of urge to write an “end of year roundup” post about all the stuff I’ve done, in a sort of nod towards the posts I used to make on here about all the things I was doing (instead of the opinion, philosophy and reminiscing I seem to have gravitated towards of recent years). However in the case of 2020 – the Media Roundup post IS basically the list of things we’ve done this year!

Everything was fine up til mid-March (I got to go to a whisky festival AND a stag do! Those were the days…), and then sitting inside watching telly became the non-dog-walking leisure option. Then we were allowed out in a limited way and managed to get away on a group holiday, but sitting inside watching telly was the main non-dog-walking leisure option. We relocated to Dorset for 5 weeks while our house was being renovated, but aside from walking the dog sitting inside watching telly was the primary leisure option.

This year saw a dramatic increase in the number of Rom Coms we watched (13, as opposed to the usual 2 or 3), which I’m not sure is a welcome development conceptually – although it illustrates the increase in the watching of “throwaway” content due to surplus of available time. For the most part if we led busier lives this year I doubt a lot of that would’ve made it anywhere near the top of the pile.

We also saw far more content (10 films, 1 TV series) featuring Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) than previously – call it a mild obsession? He’s fast becoming one of our favourite on-screen presences (owing to his natural easygoing demeanour), but daaaaaamn he’s got a tendency for turning up in some absolute turds of films.

66 movies (&/or standup specials). 19 (& a bit) TV series. 15 books. Smell that? That’s achievement.

January

January 10th, 2020
Humour :: Andrew O'Neill

I’ve seen the comedy show which this book was based on 1.4 times (long story – but the 0.4 was a manful effort at putting on a performance despite the best efforts of the performer’s gastrointestinal tract). Andrew O’Neill can be described as many things – but “passionate about heavy metal” is definitely foremost in the list. Here, he presents his story of the genesis of his favourite genre of music, its progenitors, their influences, and then how the various subgenres sprawled out over time – all in O’Neill’s signature style which highlight the fact that he speaks in footnotes IN REAL LIFE.

Just excellent – educational AND hilarious, and I’m gonna read it again at some point but this time with the playlist he’s built to accompany the book on his website.

SIT DOWN LARS!

January 10th, 2020

I didn't write anything about this at the time I watched it, and now have no recollection of it whatsoever.  I assume I was talked into it due to the presence of Kristen Bell.

January 11th, 2020

I have a weird relationship with Seth Rogen - I think I want to like him more than I actually do, in part because he reminds me of a mate from back in Australia (while at the same time having NO QUALITIES in common with him).  I remember seeing this, but only really what the plot synopsis tells you. It was a film.

January 14th, 2020

The Star Wars story that had everyone talking.  I thought it was fine.  I don't know why I have such a high expectation of the Star Wars universe for good storytelling, particularly in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary...  but this simultaneously gave screentime to a mysterious figure (or, more specifically, adjacent) in the form of The Mandalorian - a bounty hunter of the same "race" as Boba Fett.  More memorable than the last few Star Wars movies: I was at least keen to see how this finished rather than watching out of a sense of obligation/wish for closure. Didn't set my arse on fire though.

January 21st, 2020

I can't believe it's taken me so long to complete this political tour-de-force from Armando Iannucci.  Just masterful.  You could potentially describe it as the 2000's equivalent to Yes Minister, except for the fact that watching this is like being waterboarded in comparison to its early 80s counterpart. I found it utterly gripping in its Machiavellian twists and architecture of mistrust - and then there's the 4-series masterclass in abusive swearing given by one Malcolm Tucker.  They couldn't get him to play The Emperor in a Star Wars film, cos it'd be too fucking dark. 👍👍

January 22nd, 2020

Excellent portrayal of one side of the Megyn Kelly / Gretchen Carlson / Roger Ailes / Fox News situation, which we'd become familiar with through The Loudest Voice. As with any biopic dramas like this, it's necessarily a point of view on a telling of an event, but it was superbly acted and really great to see an exposure of the sort of bullshit that women have been forced to put up with in the workplace (and not made light of, like in 9 to 5), and that at least a perpetrator got his comeuppance - albeit in a more limited way than you'd hope. 👍👍

January 26th, 2020

Must've watched this one when I was getting snoozy, because while I remember the role, I don't recall a great deal about the story. Not that it really matters - I'd watch Judi Dench reading a tax ledger.

January 27th, 2020
Biography :: Paul Rees

Generously written biography of the singer from Kidderminster who caught the eye of Jimmy Page, who would go on to become a golden god of the rock firmament. There’s so much more to the Robert Plant story than just Led Zeppelin, and this book admirably captures that – whilst of course a big part of the story, for Plant it was always about the music, and his subsequent endeavours demonstrate that.

Also you learn that following the truncated 1977 Zeppelin tour, Robert played some dates with a bunch of local musicians, who called themselves “Melvin Giganticus and the Turd Burglars”.

February

February 1st, 2020

Conflicting.  I didn't hate it as much as the previous instalment in this "trilogy" (in which the parts bear little to no resemblance to each other stylistically or in storyline), but at the same time the whole arc of what's now a 9-film compendium's supposed to rest on a plot development which they've CLEARLY just made up to get through the final pitch meeting...  I didn't even mind the space horses so much.  At least this one didn't have Princess Leia flying through the vacuum of space wearing nothing but a nightgown. Also - come on...  it's The Bat Cave fallacy all over again.  A planet that's seemingly impossible to approach, yet they've managed to get enough contractors, tools, and raw materials there to build an entire fucking space armada.

February 3rd, 2020

Female-led remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, featuring Anne Hathaway in the Michael Caine role and Rebel Wilson in Steve Martin's shoes - the tale of the con artistes in the riviera town of Beaumont-sur-Mer.  Whilst a perennially fun romp one very quickly gets the impression that director Chris Addison's brief was "make Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Though a bit hollow, I enjoyed Anne Hathaway's Josephine, underlining that a mostly serious actress is willing and more than able to embrace the ridiculous. 👍

February 9th, 2020
Autobiography :: Pip Hills

A collection of autobiographical stories by the founder of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society which falls just short of being interesting – I’d sort of hoped for more depth on the founding of the society beyond the usual story about how “a few friends bought a cask, then decided to do it again”… and I suppose the first half of the book delivered that. The rest of the book was a bit of a ramble though.

February 9th, 2020

Massive solar flare causes nationwide power blackout - and this 6-part drama follows PM Robert Carlyle dealing with it.  Decent bit of TV in the end; the opening blows were fairly predictable, but by the end I had a good solid bit of empathy for the characters, and was getting frustrated about the amount of exploitation of an unavoidable tragedy that was being done for political gain.

February 15th, 2020

3rd instalment in the "... Has Fallen" franchise, starring Gerard Butler (in this case, looking more like Russell Crowe). Really ought to have called this "Standards Have Fallen".  Liz fell asleep, and I can't see her dialling back in to catch the bits she missed.  Apart from a pretty kickass drone strike sequence to open, this was just a cavalcade of irrelevant, forgettable action sequences - and the case were primarily a gaggle of old-looking has-been men (PARTICULARLY Nick Nolte), alongside a humourless/dislikeable Jada Pinkett-Smith. I read that this franchise is signed up for instalments 4-6.  And based on this, that's a shame. 👎

February 15th, 2020
Politics

Wonderfully written insight into the approaches & attitudes of James O’Brien in being a liberal talkback radio host, and the sorts of thoughts and beliefs he has as he encounters the sorts of callers he has on a daily basis. Ultimately I took his message as one of hope – hope that by asking people the right questions they might realise that they’re just parroting views that have been fed to them, and perhaps start to think a bit more critically about what they’re being told.

February 16th, 2020

Dramatisation of entertainment playboy & lightweight David Frost's campaign to bring attention to himself for interviewing disgraced former President, Richard Nixon - majestically performed by Michael Sheen and Frank Langella.  Wonderful piece of cinema, in that the performances capture the building and changing of the relationship between the two men, and the complexity of the relationship and the meaning of what they were doing. Quite bizarre that I found it utterly gripping, and yet it turned out later that I'd seen this at the cinema in 2009 and had no recollection whatsoever. 👍👍

February 16th, 2020

Follow-the-mark documentary piece (original title before Netflix got to it: "Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch") about Lemmy Kilmister, rock legend of Motorhead.  I don't know that I came out of it with *much* of an improved understanding of the man, but more a deeper insight into the fact that he was definitely his own man, and had a number of "quirks".  All in all a fairly loving portrait of a fairly decent bloke. Some touching stuff concerning his son.  I think the bit I liked the most was Lemmy patting on some cologne in his bathroom, then pushing the button on one of the multiple Billy Bigmouth Bass singing fish mounted on the wall, and standing there sneering into the mirror for the camera while a plastic fish sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy".  You're a gem, Lem. 👍

February 18th, 2020
Autobiography, Humour :: Billy Connolly

For the first time, comedy LEGEND Billy Connolly has put “pen to paper” to record some of his dizzying array of stories collected over the years and meted out to audiences in packed houses across the globe. You can’t begrudge the man for wanting to share. Trouble is, as a huge fan and someone who’s been lucky enough to see him live a few times since the mid-90s, I feel like I’ve heard them all. So, there’s a certain artistry in the way the story’s told – but it’s counterbalanced by the easy conversational tone on the page being so close to the content of the live show. One of those instances where it’s better not written down. Still, love the bloke to bits.

February 18th, 2020

Bafflingly strong cast for what's otherwise a "by numbers" movie without much of a point.  I think the takeaways for me were that the human race can be real dicks when things get tough out there, that Jude Law in a plastic bubble looks like a *real* git, and more than anything, that there are few things as rewarding as the idea of Gwyneth Paltrow's skull being sawn open.  Probably would never have noticed this film had it not been for a little opportunistic promotion by the Netflix algorithm.

March

March 8th, 2020

Sweet Woody Allen comedy about a writer in Paris with his fiancee, their divergent dreams, and his increased understanding of his dreams based on an unlikely situation involving travelling back in time to the 1920s to find himself hanging out with F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and so on.  Owen Wilson doesn't bring much to the film but it somehow fits, but Michael Sheen does a great job of being a smug prat. Corey Stoll as Hemingway was quite fun although I realised the main string to his character bow was keeping his head still. Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, Alison Pill and Carla Bruni all exquisite. 👍

March 8th, 2020

Utter bollocks.

March 8th, 2020

More antics and hijinks from Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin, with a bit more winning than previous seasons I thought. Mike McKean's cameo as a potential Frankie love interest was good.  Sometimes the Robert/Sol stuff plays to type a bit too heavily. Borderline earnest at times but generally something I look forward to going back to. 👍

March 30th, 2020

Victorian tale of balloonists pushing the boundaries of science & learning a lot about life and each other suspended in a tiny basket tens of thousands of feet above London.  PROPERLY gave me the willies, if only due to the lack of safety equipment.

March 31st, 2020

Long on pedigree (Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, James L. Brooks) but short on everything else - totally implausible rom-com where Witherspoon plays an apparently national-level professional sports athlete, but doesn't seem to demonstrate any agency over her romantic life. How Do You Know?  Well, the fact it's a 2 hour long rom-com should've tipped me off...

April

April 1st, 2020

Y'know what Jack Burton always says on a dark & stormy night, with the wind howling and the pillars of heaven shaking? Timeless classic that has all the ingredients of AWESOME. Why people even bothered making more films after this came out is completely beyond me. 👍👍

April 5th, 2020

It's weird, isn't it? 2001's Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back was a self-indulgent, self-serving, self-referential piece of shit film - and yet it remains one of my favourite classic bits of nonsense.  The Jay & Silent Bob Reboot was a self-indulgent, self-serving, self-referential piece of shit and I just wish there had been someone around to warn me, "No, seriously - don't".  I think the most disappointing thing was that it had a plotline that completely relied on you having seen another film (without offering enough reason for you to give a shit about doing so), and at best what I took from it was "This is what happens when people get old". 👎👎

April 6th, 2020
Humour, Science :: Randall Monroe

Randall from XKCD has collected a bunch of thought-scoping exercises here about how to solve fairly basic problems (such as how to dig a hole) and then extrapolated to some less-basic ones (such as building a lava moat around your house) in such a way that gets you considering the notion of problem-solving by indirect routes. The linear logic of it’s delightful, as if cheese would be a normal building material to use to make an above-ground pool from – it doesn’t matter that the idea’s ridiculous: the question is more one of “having worked out how to do it, where does that get us?”.

I found this really hard to put down. Instant classic.

April 8th, 2020

A wonderful whisky documentary led by writer and legend Dave Broom, exploring whisky's history and relevance against the backdrop of Scotland. It's hard not to be so massively biased when confronted with so many of one's friends in a documentary, but I thought it did a wonderful job of avoiding cliche and talking around the Tartan & Heather thing, and especially enjoyed the glimpse into the orbit of such free thinkers as Francis Cuthbert and Stephen Marshall. 👍👍

April 14th, 2020

The TV phenomenon that swept the COVID Lockdown affected households of Great Britain - and I've no idea how to start describing it... a documentary about "tiger king" Joe Exotic, and the people in his life & fortunes of his animal park, but as the story unfolds episode by episode you can't help be stopped in your tracks by the next slap in the brain. Thoroughly baffling that these people exist, and a difficult watch as a late-night extra because you genuinely can't tell whether you've misremembered something or whether it was actually that weird. Utterly compelling.

April 15th, 2020

BASED ON A TRUE STORY tale of strippers who band together to fleece Wall Street types, in which nobody comes off particularly well.  I think I was fine with it when it was just the strippers taking advantage of the city boys "conventionally", but when they pivoted to their "business idea" & brought in other girls to cover more ground, and yet still kept spending all their gains on gaudy bullshit they absolutely didn't need, I lost interest in everyone involved.

April 19th, 2020

A wedding-table-comedy which I was sure I'd already seen before, but didn't recognise any of the details. I know actors work on different jobs, but I was surprised that Olivia Munn was in this turkey, as I was used to her character in The Newsroom. Cognitive dissonance, I guess.  Tim Key managed a handy turn as a total arse.

April 27th, 2020

The combination of Dwayne Johnson, the phrase "based on a true story", and an IMDB rating of 6.4 probably best convey what this tale of a construction company owner going undercover to free his wrongfully imprisoned son is going to deliver.  Severely fails the "Yeah, but you wouldn't, would you?" test.

May

May 5th, 2020

Compelling CIA thriller following a sometime-unbalanced agent in her counter-terrorism work, in which she becomes very personally entangled - and also caught in the machinations of higher-level Machiavellian scheming by career spymasters. Famously slow in seasons 3 & 4, taken overall it's a compelling rollercoaster and though it took a while to get through it was a bit of a "can't put it down" watch.  I couldn't stop thinking of Claire Danes darting about wearing angel wings in Romeo + Juliet though.  AND there's also the lost peril factor when you're seeing characters supposedly in life-or-death jeopardy in season 1/2, but you know they're in season 6 & 7. But would totally recommend. And now we need to figure out how to watch season 8. 👍👍

May 7th, 2020

Comedy about a pair of best friends (Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne) drawn into high-business by a third (Salma Hayek) and the conflict & compromise that ensues. This was a film that we watched.

May 10th, 2020

Guy Ritchie seemingly signs on all his current cool acting mates for another convoluted extensively-casted crime caper, this time with Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Matthew McConaughey et al. Hunnam seems unable to deliver anything nuanced (albeit a much better performance than he turned in in King Arthur), but the real treat I thought was Hugh Grant - in the least Hugh Grant-esque role I've ever seen him play.

May 12th, 2020

Having discovered Alice Fraser through The Bugle podcast I was very excited to see one of her standup shows - this wasn't at all what I expected, but was excellent. It's a personal piece centring around her Mum, her upbringing, her relationships, and contextualised against her Mum's journey through Multiple Sclerosis.  Fraser seems simultaneously awkward & out of place, as well as having total control over the room and its reaction.  I find her breathtaking. 👍👍

May 12th, 2020

We were really starting to settle into this before abruptly learning it was a 4-part miniseries.  Spencer gives a solid portrayal of a principled, driven woman who wants to take life on her own terms, and finds the men in her life not looking good at all.  Her business is a nascent empire built more on rousing speeches than quality of product, and one wonders if this sort of brand marketing's always triumphed over product marketing.

May 13th, 2020

Oh God, this film was mental. At least it wasn't another forgettable romcom - I don't think I'll ever forget this one as long as I live.  I don't really understand if this was intended to be a vehicle for Lauren Lapkus, or what - and at times it was a bit sad, when it seemed there was a reason for her to be behaving that way. I don't recall the specifics of it now, but good lord. Perhaps her insanity was more easily forgiven in the face of David Spade's character being such a prick. I suspect we'll end up watching this again at some point. 👍

May 15th, 2020

One of those shows where seemingly normal people get caught up in an unusual but plausible circumstance, and then have you watching agape at how they choose to respond and the decisions they make. Sometimes difficult to watch because Christina Applegate's character traits and a couple of her aspects of her look in this remind me of someone I know in real life who's quite annoying. 👍

May 16th, 2020

I'm not sure how we end up watching so many rom coms involving assassins, but my inability to lose myself in an actor's performance and instead think of their past works had me thinking about Steve Jobs being an assassin.  Katherine Heigl is great fun, but this film really didn't set fire to any arses.

May 21st, 2020

The final & victory lap for a comedic masterpiece - following the fortunes of the Rose family in the town they came to own as a joke, and centering around the wedding of son David & his partner Patrick, as well as the resolution of the storyline of daughter Alexis. So ridiculous, such love, and a thoroughly wonderful show which I've no doubt we'll revisit at some point. 👍👍

May 22nd, 2020

I remember this being a documentary focussing on the against-the-odds story of Kevin Clash, following his dream to become a puppeteer and working with Jim Henson - and creating/inhabiting the internationally famous Elmo character. Whilst I'm mildly obsessed with the Muppets and with Jim Henson, Elmo really gives me the shits, and I couldn't get into this story.  Waaa.

May 23rd, 2020

The Miss World pageant in 1970 was a groundbreaking focal point for womens' rights & equality, conflating a simultaneous uprising of the Womens' Liberation movement with the pageant's recognition of non-white contestants, all against a depressingly sexist cultural backdrop which while easy to imagine possible, was pretty unsettling.  Reasonably told if somewhat prone to caricature, and the "based on a true story" creds were fully paid up at the end with the inclusion of the actual people and descriptions of what they went on to do... which was a bit mawkish.

May 23rd, 2020

Ever find yourself sitting up late & alone watching a documentary about Silvio Berlusconi? I guess I was hoping to learn how/WHY he persisted in office for so long, but got wildly turned off the topic by seeing how much of an egomaniac the bloke is.  "Here's my office, which is mainly full of tributes and accolades the world has lauded on me.... and on the ground floor, here are the multiple rooms full of portraits and gifts the ORDINARY people have sent me".  What a horrible arsehole.

May 23rd, 2020

Confusing and ultimately shit romcom, luring us in with the participation of Dinesh from Silicon Valley.  Genuinely made me question what it is that people settle for in a film in this day and age.

May 25th, 2020
History :: Darren Coffield

The history of Soho’s Colony Room Club – a gathering place of Bohemians, artists, and free thinkers – established in 1948 by the redoubtable Muriel Belcher and closed in 2008. In that time it was home to a rollcall of Britain’s alternative art establishment, and as with many of London’s private clubs the source of many far-fetched tales. I’ve had a fascination with the place ever since hearing about it, despite the fact there’s no way in hell I’d have ever been a member (the main criteria for membership appears to have been that you weren’t boring).

May 25th, 2020

Dramatisation of the whistleblowing & prosecution of GCHQ translator Katharine Gun who leaked a US communique to GCHQ instructing them to falsify a case for going to war in Iraq in 2003. Decent performances albeit seemingly heavyhanded dramatisation in places, leading one to wonder how much licence was taken and whether in real life the government would go that far or not.  Of late, one suspects they probably would.  Weirdly, this was the next film we saw after Misbehaviour, and it also starred Keira Knightley and Rhys Ifans - which made for an interesting contrast... in Ifans' acting.

June

June 6th, 2020

Sweet/amusing-enough story about ppl approaching middle-age activating a youth-sealed pact to ease the drudgery in their lives, which takes a turn for the more sinister once it's got its hooks in you. I found the appearance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge playing a character VERY distracting, as much as looking at the main bloke and seeing the General-dude from New Star Wars who looks like a work experience kid.

June 6th, 2020

Did I already mention the weekend movie hierarchy around here?  Typically if we're not watching one of the Tv series we go through, next request will be "Let's watch a shit movie!", so it's either romcoms or disaster films, or ANYTHING starring The Rock.  This film was a magnificent exponent of the third category.  SO shit, so UNASHAMEDLY shit, and yet so compelling and true to itself in the process. I loved the continuous upbraiding of the lifeguards by the cops, reminding them "You're lifeguards.  Not cops.".  And Zac Efron playing such a meathead.  Superb.  Ridiculous. 👍

June 7th, 2020

When someone bases a film on the giant-mutant-gorilla/lizard/wolf-centred video game which the designers famously described as "a game that there was really no wrong way to play", this is exactly what you end up with.  Granted, the film had much more plot than the game.  So whilst Dwayne Johnson makes the experience a relaxed and easy one to check your brain out & enjoy (mostly), one has to wonder whether Hollywood's going to start making film based on supermarket receipts next.

June 11th, 2020

We bailed on this partway through cos we couldn't follow who was who for the most part.  Are all younger people looking the same now? Well, that, and finding out it had been axed after one season.  Pretty far from compelling, which is a shame because Bourne-style MKUltra sleeper agent stories hold a lot of promise.

June 12th, 2020

We were really taken by this series with a sensibility of The Good Place, alongside the tech/scifi concepts of Black Mirror, with a hint of Season 1 West World thrown in. It's a solid watch with some good character development and an intriguing story, told in the theatre of a gripping VR-afterlife setting. Looking forward to season 2! 👍👍

June 14th, 2020

Middle-aged mother joins her daughter at college story with Melissa McCarthy in the Rodney Dangerfield seat... plenty of silliness and a cast that's obviously having a great time, but you wondered if they bothered writing a script for half of it. Weird to see McCarthy and Maya Rudolph in the middle-aged-moms roles when just 9 years ago they were in Bridesmaids. Great to have Christina Aguilera on hand to make it all better, too.

June 17th, 2020

Throwback to the late-90s with this one, which when asked I realised I'd never actually seen! It's funny how your enjoyment of a film becomes harder in an objective sense when so many cultural tropes are derived from it...  and then there's the whole Kevin Smith connection (which had me thinking "Applesauce, bitch!" for most of the film). Weirdly, I'd totally forgotten Robin Williams was in this! 👍

June 21st, 2020

Standard awesome Dwayne Johnson fare - set in a 130+ storey high bleeding-edge-tech building, the titular "skyscraper" - and just for shits & giggles Johnson's character has an artificial leg.  Which, y'know, I'm sure was a centrepiece of the original screenplay.

June 22nd, 2020

No, we're NOT obsessed with The Rock.  We can stop watching his films any time we want...  no, YOU'RE crying. etc.  So, this one's BASED ON A TRUE STORY (credible), where an ex-marine goes back to his hometown but doesn't wanna get involved in the shenanigans at the casino, gets himself elected sheriff following a stirring courtroom-self-defence, and then spends the rest of the film wandering about town carrying a piece of 4x4 timber as a club.  It also had us looking at each other wondering, "So, when your town's police station get shot up by 3 goons with high calibre automatic weapons - who would you call for help?".  Those wacky Americans.

June 23rd, 2020

More compelling CIA action (who knew we liked spy stuff so much!) which was all the more baffling for being totally un-putdownable for around 7 of the 10 episodes, but finishing in a way so ambivalent that neither of us could recall mere days afterwards what had actually happened. 👍

July

July 1st, 2020

I really admire a series crafted to be self-contained like this - Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Borgen, Pitch Perfect 2, very briefly Game Of Thrones) - leads this FBI-equivalent terrorist drama set in Stockholm/Copenhagen, which while seemingly straightforward contains enough plot twists and moral ambiguity to keep it compelling.  A fantasy plot, told in a way that was grounded enough that it was still realistic/plausible.  And I somehow love that at the back of my mind I know that if they WANTED to the whole cast could carry the same story off faultlessly in English. 👍

July 4th, 2020

Surprisingly emotional/dramatic piece for a cast of this pedigree (Bateman, Fey, Fonda, Driver, Byrne) with not quite enough comedy to push it out of being a drama. Enjoyable enough but pretty middle-of-the-road.

July 6th, 2020

I just don't understand how a story like this gets a 2-hour film - it's typical "You just gotta believe in yourself, and you'll see that what you've wanted was in front of you all along" stuff, with what I felt were problematic portrayals of Icelandic people by Hollywood actors.  I guess I don't understand where the lines are on this sort of thing.  Utterly ludicrous caricatures and scenes made for a smileworthy film, but not really worth the 2 hour investment.

July 14th, 2020

Earnest drama set in borderline caricature town, starring Reese Witherspoon as a genuinely unpleasant mother figure. Great performances - esp. from the 2nd half of the series with the 20-somethings playing younger versions of the parent characters. Lots going on, and as you get closer to the end it's more & more of a guess as to who burned the house down.

July 21st, 2020

We weren't really paying attention in this - it's got The Rock, but he's playing a sort-of-bad-guy (as you're constantly reminded by the prosthetic scars) on a revenge mission: it makes a tilt at moral ambiguity but you never really get there, and in the end I think we only let it finish because we were both fucking about with our phones. Oh, and we spotted 2 actors who'd been in Californication.

July 27th, 2020

Frigging terrifying.

July 29th, 2020

Not content with watching every Dwayne Johnson FILM we could get our hands on, it seems we've also turned our attention to his TV work as well.  This is a feats-of-strength-and-endurance challenge show with various games with ridiculous names ("Atlas Smash" / "Lunar Impact" / "Hammering Ram") which either seem to be over in less time than in took to watch the contestants' bio VTs, or which drag on interminably and you watch the limits of human endurance (and patience).  In each of the heats you're then treated to a male and female running of the course, "Mount Olympus" - a series of events which you can't help but feel for the people afterwards because it looks UTTERLY BUGGERING.  And Dwayne presides over the lot sporting a shit-eating grin, and having the time of his life.  Great fun.

August

August 9th, 2020

We watched this on the strength of the involvement of The Rock, and were you to use the relative size of the characters' faces on the poster as an indication of their importance/screentime in the film you'd have at least expected him to feature as much as mouldering CG-when-it-suits-him creepy ancient dead dude Imhotep.  However the extent of his involvement appeared to be a brief bit of shouting in an ancient language at the start, and having his face plastered onto a CG lobster thing in the closing battle.  I'm led to believe he's more involved in The Scorpion King, but I suspect my chances of getting Liz to agree to watching that are slim-to-minimal after sitting through this turd of a flick. 👎👎

August 11th, 2020

Fairly harrowing dramatisation of true events at an Illegal Immigrant Detention Centre in South Australia. I've long been critical of Australia's policies and practices regarding refugees and this 6 part series saw many of those stories, manifest. Most gruelling of all to deal with was the way in which holding sway over another person's life becomes little more than an office job - implementing policies and procedures which make it impossible to engage with a system on any terms other than those which they expressly allow. And if someone at the top started asking tough questions at any point, you'd hear a LOT of "I was just following orders". Regardless, it certainly didn't endear me any closer to Port Augusta. 👍

August 11th, 2020

There's something bloody compelling about the way Davies tells a story. And despite basically knowing exactly what you're going to get, it's impossible to tear yourself away from his roll-call of tales.  👍

August 14th, 2020

So, the goal of watching "a shit film" doesn't alway pan out, and in this case seeing a cast list with the names "Nicholson / DiCaprio / Damon" in it meant no further searching was needed.  Unfortunately for me, I have a genuine problem telling DiCaprio and Damon apart - no idea why.  Still, a compelling tale of tribal/familial alliances across mob/cop boundaries, with enough brutality to make it mean something.

August 15th, 2020

Proper deep 80's dive into feminist empowerment led by the amazing Fonda/Tomlin team so beloved of us in Grace & Frankie, and teamed up with the one & only Dolly Parton. Ridiculous, amazing, absurd and important - in 2020 we can't imagine the world this was set in, and yet at the same time so little has changed.  At least the mustachioed Dabney Coleman types are out. 👍

August 20th, 2020

Hmm, seems I forgot to write anything about the first 2 seasons of this, also. Conflicted on this one - season 3 felt like it had some really confused/stationary moments... but at the same time there's something incredibly compelling about the characters and their relationships, and particularly Jodie Comer's Villanelle.  Unless this show REALLY jumps the shark I expect it's something I'll keep watching but feeling confused about whether I'm enjoying.

August 22nd, 2020

A wedding-table-comedy which I was sure I'd already seen before, but didn't recognise any of the details. Another vehicle for the range and depth of Anna Kendrick, set in the thoroughly plausible situation where she's attending a wedding that she was matron-of-honour for 2 up til 2 months' previous, but was then demoted to the Randoms table after breaking up with the bride's brother & replaced as MoH. Because under those circumstances you'd still definitely want to be there for your best friend.  Who barely speaks a word to you for the whole film. Still - Stephen Merchant's very funny :)

August 22nd, 2020

The thing with a film property based on characters from Greek mythology is that it seems absurd to cluck "Well that's just RIDICULOUS".  However even the central plot vacuum wasn't enough to detail this Dwayne-In-A-Wig epic. And don't be misled into thinking the trailer accurately portrays the film, cos it doesn't.

September

September 3rd, 2020
Food :: Charles Spence

Began as a fascinating exploration of the pulling of various strings to manipulate senses into contrarian experiences for people trying things, and somehow partway through turned into a love letter from the author to the Italian Futurists. Not helped by my continual confusing of Prof. Charles Spence with Prof. Richard Wiseman.

I’m vaguely disgusted that this is the first book I’ve finished since the end of May, but in my defence the writing was set *really* close together, and that doesn’t help.

September 4th, 2020
History, Humour :: James Felton

One could be forgiven for feeling a little bleak about one’s adopted country on the face of reading this – if it weren’t abundantly clear that the author had started with THOUSANDS of similar incidents and narrowed it down to a more digestible 52. Coupled with the barrage of human dickishness I’ve been mainlining from The Dollop podcast, and the present-day delights of Brexit, Trump, etc. it all paints a fairly depressing portrait of what we’re capable of as a country and a species. Yay. Still, amusingly written in a kind of gallows way.

September 6th, 2020

Looking back at old media roundups it seems that the last time we watched a Borgen series was before I started writing these! Season 3 (released in 2013, but only added to Netflix in 2020) is a magnificent return to form and provides a complex consensus-based political landscape which breathes hope into the idea of coalition governments. Great drama & issues, and wonderful characters that it was a delight to return to watching. And this time there were only a few moments where you heard the distinct whined intonation of "STAAAAAATSMINISTER!". 👍

September 7th, 2020
Autobiography :: Marty Feldman

An autobiography posthumously discovered in an attic, of one of the British comedy scene’s most distinctive enigmas. Though he died incredibly early at 48 his life was packed with more living than most people – my head was spinning at having read of his adventures dossing in parks, touring the country performing, working in Paris, and then realising he wasn’t yet 18! Fascinating bloke.

I had no idea that he was a jazz musician – although the way he tells it, neither did he…

September 13th, 2020

Sublime 6-part filmed-in-lockdown piece starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen.  Watching these two at play is just a pleasure, and the storyline doesn't even really matter - except that it's really well-constructed little story about rehearsing a play. Wonderful (if, totally unexpected) cameos, and I think Sheen & Tennant did a great job of avoiding turning it into a stationary clone of The Trip.  The interstitial shots of an empty central London will provide an interesting time capsule for when "normal life" resumes. 👍👍

September 13th, 2020
Drinks :: Dave Broom

A companion to his excellent Whisky manual, but geared at The Sugar Spirit – Broom-san deploys his mixer-led grading system to inform notes on a load of different styles of rums, and paves the way to educate on different styles & processes for what turns out is a VASTLY complex territory for knowledge. And people claim that Whisky is “confusing”… It’s given me some great pointers for things to try, and things to avoid based on what I already know I don’t like. Although try as me might, I fear he’s never going to win me over to having coconut water in the fridge on-hand to make mixed drinks.

September 15th, 2020
Politics :: Heathcote Williams

More a pamphlet than a book – I was intrigued into this by seeing it on a friend’s “recently read” feed. It’s a 60-ish page essay on the character of Alexander Boris DePfeffel Johnson, and given his temperament and past history of lying and criminal-adjacent activity & disrespect for the rule of law it simply beggars belief that he should be in any way fit for serving on a body concerned with making laws – least of all being the head of it. Published in 2016 prior to Johnson’s ascent to the top job, the author must have been sitting, gawping open-mouthed at 2019’s election result. Sadly there was nothing in here I wasn’t already aware of – it just saddens me that more people clearly don’t think this sort of thing is important.

September 19th, 2020

A continuation of the flummoxing first season; maintaining engagement better throughout but ultimately had us exasperated and shouting "Goddamn spies!" when the protagonists invariably did something with more layers of intrigue behind it. Lots of focus on Reuel Abbott, which was weird for me because I still see him as a Christopher Guest actor. Good to see badass Russians making a comeback.

September 20th, 2020

Unbelievably recognisable pastiche of 70s suburban Australia, while at the same time an insane, bubbly romp. I thought it was weird to shoe horn the "exploding whale" trope in there, but it worked and was able to deliver some newsreader-wearing-jacket-and-tie-and-speedos moments. Minogue & Pearce did an admirable job and kept the Neighbours cast's end up in the acting stakes. 👍

September 21st, 2020

TOTALLY didn't recognise Amanda Peet in this.  As Liz puts it, "The disaster movie that has EVERYTHING" ("everything" being fire, tidal waves, magnetic inversion, ice, etc).  Spoiler alert - they make it.  And they find "new land" in Africa.  So I bet they felt like complete pricks turning up with giraffes in their big boat thing. Also - SURELY there's been enough of these types of films now that you'd think governments would START LISTENING TO SCIENTISTS MORE OFTEN?!

September 22nd, 2020

Multifaceted documentary about the development of video games through history, and interviews with some of the industry's more notable figures. Somehow finishes up on Nolan Bushnell of Atari, whose genius can be summed up by "We took a game that the computer science nerds had dreamt up, and put a coin slot on it!".

September 26th, 2020

Ever watch a film expecting it to be stupid, and realise JUST how much you underestimated it?  I had no idea this film would be THIS stupid - and it now makes sense why it turned into a trilogy. For some reason I thought Bradley Cooper brought a sense of gravitas to his role, which is totally asinine because it does no such thing - but somehow it redeems the performances of the other idiots in the ensemble. SO 2-dimensional, and so much fun. 👍👍

September 27th, 2020

OH MY GOD. This turd of a film was the sequel that nobody needed. Like millions of people, I was captivated by Ang Lee's 2000 martial arts masterpiece, and so held disproportionately high hopes for this film... albeit with a skeptical eye, based on the fact I'd never heard anyone talk about it.  I'm going to talk about it now - AVOID. IT IS TIME YOU'LL NEVER GET BACK.  It lacks all of the charm of the first film, reducing your memories of the franchise from an elegant, elevated piece of cinema to a crude video game. 👎👎

October

October 8th, 2020

Nice trilogy progression - take a bunch of dickheads with a propensity for getting blackout drunk, and instead of setting them loose in Vegas, take them to Thailand.  A fun ratcheting-up of the silliness of the first film, and certainly answers the questions "Well, where could they go from here?". 👍

October 10th, 2020

The high-octane dark underbelly of the Superhero business continues in this gripping second season, and while the plot seemed to split out into many threads to follow, it remained unmissable due to the sheer fucking ludicrous awesomeness of spectacle and content - involving many a Facebook post from people saying "I can't believe they did that?!".  I'm hoping it can survive at least into a 3rd season, and hopefully a 4th although between Covid and the long-running show curse, nothing's guranteed...  but if nothing else this will hold a place in my heart forever as "The show where they drove a jetboat into the side of a whale on TV". 👍👍

October 10th, 2020

Nope, they fucked it.  Typical mistake where you make a film following a colourful side-character too much.  Jokes/silly situations were on-par with the first 2 films, but the bones of the story didn't allow for any kind of sense of endearment to the plight of any of the personae - mainly leaving you with the feeling that they couldn't be arsed paying the actor who played "Doug" much for this one. 👎👎

October 10th, 2020

Self-contained police questioning drama; on the whole more compelling than season 1, however some of the performances felt a little like drama school auditions.

October 11th, 2020

This is possibly cinema's new low-point.  I'm weirdly defensive of the work of Sacha Baron Cohen, believing him to be a far more intelligent social commentator and exposer of peoples' prejudices than a perfunctory skim of his work would suggest... however this was just bollocks.  Why Mark Strong would agree to a film like this is a total mystery, and if you're ever thinking of watching it I urge you to give me a call so I can describe the "highlights" to you and save you the waste of 80+ minutes. Reading this back I can't believe I didn't record mention of the brothers hiding inside a female elephant's orofice, or the plan for neutralising the explosives at the end. 👎👎

October 12th, 2020

This seemed like a really well-told story. Now, it's going to be a story told from one person's point of view - based as it was on Comey's autobiography - but one has to assume none of it's legally objectionable at this point. Otherwise, a story well-made and well-told. Biggest issue I had was Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump - while getting his mannerisms and character perfectly down, it was hard to take the character seriously due to the obvious prosthetics/makeup (he looked a bit like Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager), and his eyes conveyed too much depth and character rather than the piggy-contempt for other people that's evident in the real Chimpenführer. 👍👍

October 12th, 2020
Joke Book :: Gary Delaney

I love seeing Gary Delaney at work – a slightly battered comedy ‘everyman’ with a hint of wrong’un, he fires out puns and stupid one-liners like a sort of giggling bullshit howitzer, and I can’t help but get caught up in the joy of it. This is his first book, and bar some slightly iffy editing which sees jokes repeated, it’s proper divorce-potential material, whereby one partner thinks it’s relentlessly funny and can’t help read out selected highlights, while the other rolls their eyes and wonders what the boundaries of manslaughter are.

October 18th, 2020

Katherine Ryan's TV vehicle which - based on her standup content - probably draws heavily on her real-life relationship with her daughter. The lengths and workarounds she goes to in order to conceive is a bit of a stretch, and it's hard to believe that even someone so self-assured and self-aware would treat a partner so badly. But overall worth a watch, and Ryan's a gem.

October 24th, 2020

Originally I had the feeling that Rick & Morty was something that had passed me by, and then I watched an episode or 2 and thought nothing of it - so it was only being brought to it through the laughter-teared eyes of my mate Adrian on a holiday that made me see it for what it was, and between August and October I mainlined the whole 40-ish episodes.  Just sublime, and ridiculous. I love the complete break with TV convention. In one scene the story required Rick to leave Morty alone at a table in a restaurant with an alien to develop the plotline, so the writers have Rick declare "I gotta take a shit", and walk out. Genius. 👍👍

October 24th, 2020

Clint Eastwood playing a hard-as-nails veteran/former assembly line worker living in suburban Detroit, as well as directing the film (prior to his penchant for speaking to furniture developed).  Richly acted and though predictable also wins you over in the same way the Vietnamese family slowly, reluctantly win him over.  Still lands as a powerful film though. 👍

October 25th, 2020

Baron-Cohen strikes again with his is-it-holding-a-mirror-up-to-peoples-prejudices-or-is-it-just-a-man-acting-ludicrously ersatz Kasakh character Borat.  This time he's got a daughter character on board, as his own mug's too famous to quite get away with what he used to.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they rushed the release of this after managing to capture footage of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in a compromising position.  Not sure what you're meant to get out of this as a film experience...

October 25th, 2020

Brad Pitt & Jonah Hill lead the dramatisation of Michael Lewis's book of the same title, centering around the building of a baseball team via statistical modelling rather than more traditional talent scout approaches.  I found myself willing myself on to like this because of the Michael Lewis connection, even in spite of it being very much about sport.

November

November 5th, 2020

Intriguing drama about a present-day world where synthetic humans are engaged as domestic/industrial servants, until some of them develop consciousness. The characters have depth and dimension, and the synth acting is eerily good.  And it explains why Richard Herring's been banging on about sex robots that look like Gemma Chan for years.  The part of my brain that won't separate roles from actors is constantly bemused that one of the human protagonists is Katherine Parkinson from The IT Crowd - odd choice to put among robots? 👍

November 6th, 2020

A wedding-table-comedy which I was sure I'd already seen before, but didn't recognise any of the details.  Jack Quaid from off of The Boys inadvertantly ends up in pact with his laddish behaving mate about them taking each other as their Plus One to all the weddings they've got lined up.

November 7th, 2020

I mainly watched this to have a chance to see Hari Kondabolu in action after hearing him so many time on The Bugle.

November 14th, 2020

Absolute gem of a series - great example of game-based suspense without resorting to bullshit Casino Royale-esque rules-exposition-for-dummies.  Great role for Anya Taylor-Joy that has you wondering "why haven't we seen HER in anything before?!", and a beautifully shot/visualised setting of 50s/60s suburban America. One of the TV highlights of 2020. 👍👍

November 17th, 2020

The show chunters on closer to contemporary times, and one wonders how they avoid libel: such is the unsympathetic lens through which some members of The Firm are viewed.  Nevertheless it's required viewing, and we mainlined the whole thing in 2 sittings (albeit, whilst on holiday).  Quite remarkable how the female characters are the movers & shakers in this piece, and special mention to Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson for their captivating portrayals of Diana and Thatcher... amid an already remarkable cast. 👍

November 17th, 2020
History, Whisky :: David Stirk

A detailed yet slightly austere/opaque history of the whisky industry in Campbeltown from around 1769 through to the early 2000s, covering the burgeoning scene to its production peak with the 29 active distilleries in 1835 and the subsequent decline following industry rationalisation and war to its current population of 3. Well, 2 and a half, sort of. This book taught me that Victorian prose is akin to Shakespearean verse, in that unless it’s presented to me and brought to life by someone who can communicate the key themes outside of the words then I struggle to follow what’s going on. But a good factual reference should I need it.

November 27th, 2020

It's plausible that I've seen more than just Season 11 of GBBO this year - Liz has undergone rather a deep dive on the franchise, following my presenting her with a Kitchen Aid last Christmas... so I suppose I've been in the room for a fair chunk of it. But I'd say Season 11 is the first/only one I've watched in completion.  It also formed part of a live-watching/chat series with some friends during the Autumn lockdown, where we'd all watch it and make sarcastic Gogglebox-style commentary at each other via WhatsApp, using a group title inspired by our friend Pamela's revelation of the show's informal Glaswegian title: "C*nts wi' Cakes". So I think I'm genuinely none the wise about baking, other than that it looks frigging difficult and I'll stick with my Marcus Wareing cookbooks for the time being. We learned that Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas aren't really that funny.  And I'll never forget Laura getting *absolutely covered* in various baking substances.

November 29th, 2020

Drama series centred around CIA-equivalent in Australia (ASD - Australian Signals Directorate), with Anna Torv in the lead role - an actor who I keep forgetting is Australian due to having first seen her in Fringe and Mindhunter. This season centres around an explosion in Davoren Park (I know, right? Never thought that would feature on TV!), and the secret service intrigue surrounding it. Government conspiracy, international arms trading, the Australia/US intelligence relationship, the conflicting pull of local & federal politics - it's all in there. 👍

December

December 1st, 2020

Is it dystopian, or COULD IT ACTUALLY BE HAPPENING?  Ultra rich people pay vast sums of money to hunt live poor people for sport: instantly goes a little "Hunger Games", with shades of familiarity due to its supposed setting.  There were a few decent pull-backs as the situation changes and you find yourself thinking "How far DOES this go?".  Pretty ridiculous stuff.

December 5th, 2020

Seems that the filming of Billions got caught in the COVID trap, because only the first 7 episodes of season 5 have been published. The ongoing dance between Rhoades, Axelrod and Mason sees Rhoades back in the US Attorney's office and Mason working with Wendy Rhoades on a renewables fund out of Axe Capital. There's enough richness of plot here to make it a compelling watch and not just "the further adventures of characters", and as Liz points out - it's brutally testosterone-fuelled. 👍

December 5th, 2020

I studied this book in Year 10, and the only thing I could remember about it was that it bored me to frigging tears - so it seemed on the surface like watching a film adaptation with actors who'd gotten inside the intent of the text might bring it to life... but no, I STILL found myself thinking "JUST FUCKING SAY WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND, ALREADY?!". I expect I've completely missed the point, but watching the ensemble fanny about and hint/allude to things (apart from Bill Nighy's brilliant draught-obsessed Bill Nighy character) in the hope that one of them might pick up on what each other were thinking about and not get the wrong idea GENUINELY had me wondering how in the hell these people created an empire that spanned the globe. 👎

December 6th, 2020

HOOOO-AAAH! Ok, so choosing this was probably an exercise in half-remembered nostalgia - I'm still pretty sure it's a good film, but it's VISIBLY from 1992.  Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like a tiny child, and the whole affair definitely looks like it was designed to squeeze a bit of extra value out of a Dead Poets Society location contract. Even having seen it though and realising that it's not entirely the film I remember, I now still think of it as a better film than it probably was.  Errm, yeah. 👍

December 10th, 2020
Tech :: Richard Monson-Haefel

As someone who’s not a software architect, I figured this book about what software architects need to know might open my eyes to the sorts of things I might need to know about if I were to ever want to pursue becoming a software architect. The catch is, it was published in 2009 – so any tech specifics would be guaranteed to be irrelevant, right?

Each page contained a short-ish thought from an experienced architect on some facet of the role – but often tended towards the philosophical: ways to think about the project, the team, the business/team relationship… And then there was things like “consider performance”, or “do maintenance & refactoring”. So, on the whole it kinda told me about a bunch of stuff I’m either already doing, or already know ought to be done.

The challenge with the “one story per page” format is that each author is starting from still to make their point; meaning it’s not possible to get into anything in any depth. Of the 97 pieces of advice, I think I’ve bookmarked about 7 or 8 – but would be surprised if I ever got around to going back and re-reading any of it.

December 11th, 2020

THIS FILM WAS A MASSIVE PIECE OF SHIT. Normally I wouldn't writeup/count a film I hadn't seen all of, but I feel like putting these words here & next to each other is in some way a public service that might somehow prevent anyone else making the same mistake. DO NOT WATCH "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island".  The teaser clip with The Rock twitching his pecs is the ONLY part of this film worth seeing, unless you enjoy the idea of watching him & Michael Caine playing out some weird alpha-male pissing contest while a ponderous & shit plot resolves itself. 👎👎

December 13th, 2020

Nicole Kidman's been tackling some really interesting & difficult stuff the last few years, and putting her opposite Hugh Grant who's also doing similar made for a very compelling if disturbing story to unfold, stripping back layers & lies, and definitely not finishing where you thought it would. 👍

December 18th, 2020

I normally can't be arsed with any kind of "reality TV", because people are knobs (this is based on years of attempts to see wtf people saw in Big Brother, and failing to get it)... but this one seemed different on 2 counts: the contestants are all professional chefs, and secondly - one of the judges is Marcus Wareing (who I may have already confessed to a mild obsession with).  MCP showed some wonderful cooking talent and food, and having seen a few episodes of previous seasons I think the 2020 season did a wonderful job of encouraging and supporting the contestants to give their best, leading to a nailbiting final. What more could you ask for? 👍👍

December 19th, 2020

It's weird, isn't it? As a kid you see a character in a film and think "I'd like to know more about them". Then - years later - someone puts together a series that gives you a load more detail that you once craved, and it feels a bit like being pandered to.  I can't watch a piece of Star Wars-branded entertainment now without seeing the spindly hand of the Disney puppetmasters probing and manipulating.  But all that aside, in this particular case they've done a reasonable job.  Telling cool stories, adding detail to the canon, and elongating the childhood.  Mandalorians do look totally bad ass though. 👍

December 20th, 2020

I was drawn back to a rewatch of this following hearing Lucy Prebble on the ALWAYS EXCELLENT Rule of Three podcast - and though visibly an artefact of its time, I thought it was an incredibly well put together film. Romantic comedy masterclass, and makes me smile to see Billy Crystal as a romantic lead (albeit something of an asshole, for the most part). 👍👍

December 20th, 2020

Fairly standard "girl takes partner home to parents for Christmas" story with subterfuge because parents will disapprove, notable chiefly because the protagonists are a lesbian couple. I think a reasonably admirable cast, in search of a better storyline.  Definitely a less-awful denouement. 👎

December 23rd, 2020

Can't believe I hadn't seen this - and I think it unlocked a bit more of an understanding for me about why people are so interested in Sandra Bullock.  I'd always found her a bit beige as an actor, however this role highlighted Bullock as an actor with quite the sense of humour.  And as a supporting cast (Bergen, Shatner, Caine, Hudson) it's both strong, and utterly ridiculous. Enjoyed this a lot. 👍

December 23rd, 2020

Dammit. Why does The Rock keep signing on to do terrible films? Textbook exercise in taking too damn long to get the story set up, and we bailed after 20 mins because we Just. Didn't. Care.  Might be an excellent film once it gets started.  WE'LL never know. 👎👎

December 24th, 2020

MASTERPIECE. Liz was convinced we'd already seen this, but as it didn't appear in my Media Roundups anywhere it's clear that there's NO WAY I could have already seen it.  Even despite how familiar lots of bits in it were.  But in any case, Samuel L. Jackson & Ryan Reynolds having an amazing time in a story about an Executive Protection Officer looking after an International Assassin is just something you gotta watch. Absurd and wonderful! 👍👍

December 26th, 2020

Nobody can Jeff Goldblum like Jeff Goldblum - so I've no idea what the pitching process for this National Geographic series was, but it features Jeff doing his inimitable thing on a series of different topics - Ice Cream, Swimming Pools, Bikes, Jewelry, Sneakers... - leading to a wholesome, informative and fun collection of perspectives on some different stuff.  Certainly plenty in there I'd never seen before, and it doesn't leave you thinking any less of the host. 👍

December 29th, 2020

I somehow got talked into this and immediately wondered if I'd made the wrong move, given how tedious I find Jane Austen et al.  This was definitely no Downton Abbey though, and by episode 5 was bordering on Game of Thrones-style sex scenes.  It frustrates the crap outta me to watch people communicating in a mode where nobody really says anything (just constant insinuations & hints), and where the most pressing concern of the day is how long since one last had a social caller.  However within the framework of that ridiculous frippery, it was a pretty decent story. 👍

December 31st, 2020

So... TECHNICALLY I shouldn't put this in a roundup, because we haven't finished watching it.  However it really rates a mention, owing to the fact that in its original broadcast form I believe each episode is movie-length.  What Netflix cunningly did, to make it more bitesize, was to edit it back into much more consumable 45 minute episodes.  Of which we've seen about 38 so far, from the 76 making up Season 1. I love this show. It's based on the life of Ertugrul - the father of Osman I, who founded the Ottoman Empire - sometime around the beginning of the 13th century. The content is primarily drawn from history and legend, but there's obviously a lot of licence going on.  It's culturally centred around Turkmen tribes and other Muslim cultures, so it features detailed representation of Muslim practices and philosophy WITHOUT casting them as 2-dimensional "baddies".  It has loads of slow-motion horse sequences in it (for some reason). AND... IT'S ALL IN TURKISH!  What's not to love?! Can't wait til we get to season 2 (which has 103 episodes).  In total the 5 seasons have 448 episodes.  OK, so it's not quite EastEnders. 👍👍

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