And here was me thinking I watched a lot of things on the telly in 2020, eh? Who knew THAT was coming…
There’s no point lamenting the comparatively few *actual* blogposts between the last one of these and this one, because yet again in a plague-bedecked world there’s not only nothing of import to write about – but it’s tangibly a Good Idea to stay in the house. And so stay in, we did! Our numbers were a wopping great 44 TV series and 84 Movies this year! Only 10 books, but who’s got time to read with all that telly to watch, eh?
It felt like we embraced the British Mainstream TV teat more this year than before – aided somewhat by our eventual caving in to get a TV Licence (something we’d steadfastly refused to do on the grounds that we were never home and therefore never watched TV… my how things change). Similarly, cooking shows (Masterchef, Bake Off) featured quite heavily.
I think the 84 Movies figure was a little affected by the indexing plugin I’m using here – single-episode documentaries and standup specials seem to be classified as Movies; but I can’t be arsed to go back and count them out now.
Is our sense of taste getting any more discerning? Probably hard to draw a conclusion, really. Honest.
January 1st, 2021
The final chapter in Carrie Matheson's Crazy Adventures, in which Claire Danes has buried the image of the impish smile from Romeo+Juliet & replaced it with a kind of gorilla-like gurning... but then, I guess the content's rather different. It really hit us in Season 8 how much the show's changed in focus over the complete arc, and that even though this season was strongly compelling and you could watch more like that we know that it'd change again - and it's nice to have a sort of closure. In this case, the adventure continues, but the window is now closed. 👍
January 1st, 2021
Totally didn't recognise Renee Zellweger in this biopic focus on the latter years of Judy Garland's life - what a surreal life though... People in the nexus of global adoration can end up leading lives so far detached from "the normal experience" (whatever that is), which Carrie Fisher did an amazing job of describing in her book Wishful Drinking: and that echoed a lot through this story.
January 3rd, 2021
I couldn't BELIEVE that the original Zombieland film was 10 years old - hell of a long wait for a seemingly inconsequential sequel, and while it's true this film isn't going to change lives, it IS a wonderful & fun extension of the kickass story from the first film. I love Woody Harrelson embracing playing someone so inept, and the absurdity of the setup without losing sight of the heart. And then the addition of Zoey Deutsch's *ridiculous* Madison. I really wanna watch this again now! 👍
January 3rd, 2021
Atmospheric World War 1 drama seemingly captured in a single shot (it wasn't, but it seemed to have been), with a cast that was either great actors or less-great actors whose presence made you think "I bet they were thinking they'd prefer to have [great actor's name] there". Co-starred King Tommen for most of it, but in a bit of GoT typecasting he died partway through.Really unnerving at times, seeing a portrayal of the sorts of things humans did to each other at that time. 👍
January 3rd, 2021
Oddball buddy setup with Kevin Hart (former highschool sports hero who became an accountant) and Dwayne Johnson (former overweight dweeb who became The Rock, and works for the CIA). I love a film that barefacedly walks in to a stupid premise. This one did just that, and now I think of it had BOTH a bad guy called "The Black Badger", and also included a stupid Honey Badger reference.
January 3rd, 2021
Clearly a different style of show to his "wipes", but at the same time essentially and necessarily similar - so it's impossible not to invite comparison. Some pretty good stuff in here, albeit with a much slower pace than I'd have liked. And I think it was possibly aimed at a different audience (US/Netflix rather than UK domestic), making me feel that in the new format they'd missed a few opportunities. Enjoyed it though. Aside from the fact it described 2020, which was - as everyone will agree - a total clusterfuck.
January 4th, 2021
Tricky bridging season with a bunch of half-sucked plotlines, which I'm relieved they managed to resolve all of. At least it was a relief to see a story concluded before turning into more post-Sopranos character-interaction based endless TV.
January 8th, 2021
How in the hell had I not heard of this before? Adam McKay directing Will Ferrell and an excellent ensemble with all the trademark stupidity of situation and dialogue. Inane, and wonderful. 👍👍
January 13th, 2021
I think we bailed on this after 5 episodes, which I feel's a reasonable tilt at it. In truth I think we picked this up for the wrong reasons - i.e. that it had Michael Sheen attached to it. Son of a psychiatrist/murderer who becomes a serial killer profiler, with episodic and background story arc felt a lot like trying to squeeze extra juice out of Hannibal Lecter without having to pay for the rights. And minus the cannibalism.
January 18th, 2021
Rewatch for us of the Megyn Kelly/Gretchen Carlson/Roger Ailes story; chilling stuff, expertly assembled. Makes me feel even worse about Rupert Murdoch having started his empire in Adelaide. O, for a time machine. 👍
January 20th, 2021
I suspect I wildly missed the point of this. Lauded as "must see" by some ppl in my circles, I gave this a good solid attempt at watching (3 episodes), but ultimately found it impossible to give much of a fuck about what Fran Lebowitz thinks. Near as I can tell she's a some-time actress, but is mostly famous for living in New York City and writing her opinions of living in New York City. I quite enjoyed some of her ideas & phrasing, but having been a visitor to New York City (at best) there's not a lot for me to relate to, and I couldn't get past the pretentiousness of this as an idea. 👎
January 24th, 2021
It's been a while since I saw a film this genre-ambiguous. Seemingly a comedy lining up Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro & Jackie Weaver in the prime roles, Jennifer Lawrence tangents in and all of a sudden the film switches orbits, resulting in a very odd plot that goes nowhere near where you thought you were headed. Fold in De Niro's superstitious obsession with a sports team, and all of a sudden you've got a very different film on your hands - and a plot involving a dance contest! If nothing else, I enjoyed it just for the unexpected journey!
February 4th, 2021
Holy shit! ITV Hub has historically been a seething cesspool of tedium, however this 3-part dramatisation of the scandal of "The Coughing Major" on UK breakout gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was surprisingly captivating television! A little laborious to start, but it drew us in with its portrayal of a "special" subcommunity within middle-England - the quiz obsessives... and the jumped-up egos that permeate a scene like that. I'd heard Michael Sheen's portrayal of Chris Tarrant described as "eerie", and upon his initial screen appearance I thought they'd really missed the mark on this one. However as it continued you lost track of how engrossing it was, and you realised the spell was cast! Just great. 👍👍
February 5th, 2021
Gerard Butler seems like a low-rent Russell Crowe in this environmental-thriller where the planet's fucked and they've got to get a select group of citizens out to safety. By the numbers, but reasonably well-executed.
February 5th, 2021
Gary, Ellie, Matt, Arnaud, Brenton, Zoe - another crowd of hopefuls entering the Masterchef kitchen under the beady gaze of Marcus Wareing & Monica Galletti. If anything this show's softened my stance on what we now call "reality TV" - although I prefer to think of it as a cooking competition rather than just the filming of the nation's humans. Masterchef Professionals is a real contest of skill & experience, and it's humbling to see the acumen & experience at play. Still want to boot Grace Dent off the end of a pier, though. 👍
February 7th, 2021
Affleck pushing the boundaries of common-sense, again. This summary tells you what you need to know:"As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise". Yes siree, with Affleck as the titular one-man-wrecking-and-adding-machine, and supported by the renowned emotional range of Anna Kendrick, this film brings you 2 hours of action, accountancy, and a weird 30 minute block of exposition right in the middle. Not completely shit, but glad it didn't cost me anything to watch.
February 11th, 2021
This is more a placeholder to mark the date than an insightful comment. However I just can't believe how it's taken me so long to fall under the inane spell of Rick & Morty. Actually one standout from all the amazingness was the Snowpiercer/Story Train episode - Morty really, really is a crap storyteller. Can't wait for Season 5. 👍
February 11th, 2021
This forces me to confess I haven't read the Aldous Huxley book... but SURELY it doesn't have all that fucking in it. Does it? Hmm. ANYWAY - it sorta teeters on the bullshittish for a long way, before tipping right over into it at the end. Useful that in the here & now we have the technology to represent the future on screen in a sophisticated way, but this show can't be THAT close to the source material in content, because there's no way this show could ever make it into a "best book of all time" list. Distracting also is Harry Lloyd, who even with shortish black hair still make me constantly think of Viserys from season 1 of Game of Thrones.
February 12th, 2021
We decided to pick up the late-90s comedy as a formative favourite of Liz's, and see how such a thing might weather today. To start with it seemed VERY dated, owing to a 4:3 aspect ratio alongside the fashion & hairstyles. Remarkable though - at the time I never felt the 90s had anything distinguishing about them, but now with 20+ years of hindsight these things look SO 90'S. Friends-esque lightweight writing which occasionally touches on heartfelt, and already by the end of season 3 they're leaning heavily on caricature & stereotype. I *very* much enjoyed the opening credit iteration in series 3 to the ludicrous group shot with wind machine, and season 3 is really where the celebrity cameos start to gain momentum. I'm surprised how much it grates on me though that Eric McCormack is a straight actor playing a gay character - I must be so woke! Although there was an episode in which Will's current boyfriend runs into his boss at a restaurant and pretends to be straight (so as not to upset the bigot), and Will castigates him for pretending to be something he's not. And I'm all like "Oh, GO DO ONE MCCORMACK!".
February 13th, 2021
Based on a true story, about a group of lads who started playing a game of tag as young'uns, and for one month a year continued it into their later years. I suspect the actual game/true story was a lot more fun than this film - but it was fine.
February 16th, 2021
It's been a true epic in many senses, however we finally made it through to the end of Season 1. I think I've come to accept that this show is fundamentally a historical-fantasy-soap-opera, and realistically the plot doesn't tend to develop *very* far in any given episode. However I'm still drawn to it, and the death of any major character feels like a loss - though inevitable. Seeing that squinchy-faced arsehole Kurdoglu's head roll (finally) was a moment of triumph - although with 4 more seasons ahead of us had me thinking "OK, so now we have to go through the plot arc of learning about a new antagonist".
I won't say it's ALL been amazing - some of the delusional wanderings of drugged-up Turgut Alp were a bit on the tedious side, and the candelit-cave-wandering sequences trying to get into the Templars' Castle smacked of "we've hired this location for the day, so we're going to get the most out of it!".
Still. Love it. Bring on Season 2... how's it going to top Season 1?! 👍👍
February 17th, 2021
Utterly ridiculous Christmas film where 3 dickheads action a pact and try to find the most amazing party of the year, parallelled by an "A Christmas Carol"-style subplot, and - surprise, surprise - Seth Rogen getting absolutely off his tits on a variety of drugs. I'll be honest and say that this yuletide tale didn't help me understand much about the human condition.
February 21st, 2021
Autobiography, Cooking, Humour
Tricky to know how to describe this book… and I daresay it doesn’t really matter. It’s like a transcription of a really long Nat’s What I Reckon video, in which he tells his life story and philosophy on life. I really like the guy. I’m delighted that he’s found success with those cooking videos. Publishing recipes in comic-book format is a bit of an odd step, and I can’t imagine many people would keep this as a cooking reference – but you couldn’t leave it out, and it’s quite well-executed.
February 22nd, 2021
I'm a bit obsessed with The Muppets, and with Jim Henson. The eclectic, supportive, familial slightly innocent good-natured chaos reminds me a lot of the crowd I used to hang out with growing up, and Henson's inventive, unique take on the world (coupled with his incredible synergy with the ultra-genius of Frank Oz) makes it nearly impossible for me to NOT watch interview/documentary footage once I know it exists. This 1981 doco, shot around the filming of Season 5 of The Muppet Show, gives a delightful peek behind the curtain as well as nostalgia for having seen this as a kid but been interested in it for entirely different reasons. 👍👍
February 22nd, 2021
Most people, having just finished a Muppet documentary, would be unlikely to immediately start another - but you know how this works by now. This one, produced after Henson's death, was a bit more fo a general retrospective - focussing primarily on Muppets but touching proportionately on pre-Muppets, on the films, and the myriad other projects. What was remarkable though was the amount of footage from the 1981 documentary I'd just watched which turned up in this one. Like, srsly - there were 120 episodes of The Muppet Show, and you've picked the same highlights? But, it didn't even matter. Bliss.
February 22nd, 2021
Most people, having just finished 2 Muppet documentaries, would be unlikely to immediately start another... and this is why I'm on my 4th coffee today. 2002 saw the 25th anniversary of the screening of The Muppet Show - and what way to celebrate than with another retrospective! As well as the usual "What happened was" stuff, they'd tracked down some of the guests from the show's run to give commentary & perspective (e.g. Alice Cooper, Julie Andrews, James Coburn) - which was just lovely. And then, being a BBC production, they slipped in a selection of commentators from Aunty's own general roster (e.g. Marcus Brigstocke, and a VERY young Ed Byrne). And, probably unsurprisingly now, mostly the same frigging footage as used in the 1981 and 1994 documentaries. But that doesn't matter, does it?
February 22nd, 2021
Most people, having just finished 3 Muppet documentaries, would be unlikely to immediately start another...
I'll put my hand up and admit to only having watched the first 20 minutes of this - but after seeing the frigging Pigs/Vikings/In The Navy sequence for the 4th time in the same night I was feeling somewhat tested. EVEN given my enthusiasm for the topic. I think I draw the line at Muppets showing self-awareness of this level ("Jim Henson? Who's he? Oh - he used to hang around down THERE... oh wow, there's a lot of people with beards down THERE!"), and it also highlights how much the Muppet magic relied on Henson's presence to set the tone.
What annoyed me supremely also was that in the news at the moment is Disney+'s decision to add content warnings to Muppet Show episodes
, when I think it's obvious that Henson's approach to including stuff like that was always the gentlest and most well-intentioned of references. Hey ho, the times they are etc.
February 25th, 2021
Revisit of a favourite from a few years back - sometimes you just need a stupid relentless onslaught of a zombie film that ISN'T comedy-oriented, and this is perfect. I don't think my earlier assessment
has changed at all. 👍👍
March 1st, 2021
105 minutes of first-person-shooter-game-based bollocks. We made it through about the first 18. Am only noting it here in case future me wonders whether I've seen this and searches the blog... just so the mistake's not repeated. 👎 👎
March 3rd, 2021
I put this on late one night out of morbid curiosity, expecting VERY LITTLE but at the same time looking forward to seeing the performance of Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe... and was actually quite pleasantly surprised! When you consider how 2-bit an original Three Stooges film was, I feel like the 2012 facsimiles actually did a standup job of it! Found myself laughing out loud, which is a very rare thing indeed! I mean, it was still total crap - but I really enjoyed it! 👍
March 3rd, 2021
We popped this on as a nostalgic re-watch of one of the shows we shared in the formative stages of our relationship - only to then find there was an entire 2nd series we'd completely missed! Well-constructed within the confines of the genre. I've no idea how authentic it is or what it tells us about history... but great production values I think. This stuff CLEARLY paves the way for Downton Abbey - a bit of a shame that both creators of season 1 had to bow out of S2, There was something charming about this. And it was through watching this that I realised that Jean Marsh (co-creator and played the housekeeper) was also the evil queen in Willow. Because, of course she was.
March 9th, 2021
How could you top the sublime first season? Well, by revealing that the whole thing was in fact a scripted work - and that there are discussions afoot for a US remake... only now there are other actors being considered to play Michael and David. Georgia and Anna get a pleasingly expanded role in this season, and while the piece sets a different tone to season 1 it adds a third dimension to the characters. I have a feeling I'm gonna rewatch this whole thing again. Sublime TV. 👍👍
March 12th, 2021
Sci Fi ::
Absolute belter of a first novel from one of the “QI Elves” – a dystopian future novel that stands up to John Birmingham levels of excellent, set in a world where the Earth has stopped rotating. Very difficult to put down; I found I finished this in the space of a week. Loved it.
March 16th, 2021
Merchant's a genius, and uses his stature, profile, and appearance to pinball his status around like a trapeze artist. The material here was pretty solid, but I think I could've done without the contrivance to thread it all together. But then, you've gotta write a show around something, don't you. That aside, this was an excellent way to get Merchant into our living room for an hour.
March 17th, 2021
Haven't seen any of Bilbo's solo work in YEARS, it turns out - Tinselworm could've been the last one I went to? - and it was a delight to see him on form and resolutely odd here. Interesting that he's a household name now through his constant participation in panel shows - and that there's probably a large sector of the populace who don't know him for his musical comedy/prowess! I think the Kurt Weil Birthday song was the highlight here.
March 21st, 2021
I love a good "girls strike back" film, only it genuinely pisses me off that this kind of female empowerment has to come as a result of guys being complete dicks. Why can't we have a story where the alpha-jock types are supportive and respectful of women from the get-go? I suppose it doesn't leave you with much of a springboard for the story. ANYWAY, that aside this was a well-constructed film about a teenager at school having enough, and launching an underground 'zine inspired by her Mum's activism in the past but hang on no, seriously - why can't we have a film where this kind of shit doesn't have to happen to prompt the empowerment? But then, why can't people just generally be nice...?
March 23rd, 2021
I got introduced into the one by Tom at work, who it eventually transpired had never actually watched it. No idea what that says about anything.
Real-life siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper head up this show as Kerrie and Lee "Kurtan" Mucklow - young-ish residents of a Cotwsold village, in this everyday-life-characters mockumentary style comedy, strongly reminiscent of Chris Lilley's work on We Could Be Heroes. The undereducated/underprivileged pair explain to the doco crew the various challenges and pitfalls of village life, and their interactions with the other residents - sympathetically headed up by vicar Rev. Francis Seaton.
It's an odd show - it's hard to build any sort of empathy with the characters because they're almost uniformly unpleasant in some way, and there's lots of small-scale screwing over of each other. Product of circumstance, or their own actions? Hard to know. Probably both. Aside from the vicar, I don't think these are good people.
In the cold light of day it's an unusual setup for a sitcom, but there was something naively charming about it. 👍
March 30th, 2021
This was the ABC network's "contemporary" take on using the Muppet characters in a mockumentary behind-the-scenes-on-a-variety-show setting... which is kinda weird, because that's fundamentally what The Muppet Show was about. So what the hell's different here? And, missing. The key thing - articulated by someone in one of the seemingly endless actual documentaries I've seen lately - is that the Muppets spend too much time trying to be funny here, and not enough time being fun. If ever the absence of the childlike creative spark of Jim Henson was evident, then it's in this plundering of his legacy. 👎
April 1st, 2021
I kinda went into this one without much idea what I was signing up for - but it turned into quite an engaging murder-mystery following an alcoholic flight attendant as she tried to get to the bottom of the murder of the multimillionaire playboy whose death she'd been framed in. Couple that with some subplots about industrial espionage and the "sit up and pay attention because life just got real" intrusion into the life of someone who was formerly mainly drinking and shagging her way around the globe, it all made for a textured & interesting watch. 👍
April 9th, 2021
Ben Affleck as former-basketball-superstar turned coach of church high school team. Felt a bit like a by-the-numbers underdog-comes-good tale with a mixture of tragic father figure. I don't think I'm ever gonna think of this other than "a film I saw". Made me think a lot more highly of The Accountant
, I guess.
April 11th, 2021
NOW we're talking! Bradley Cooper not just goofing about like he did in The Hangover trilogy! Fast-paced smart drug tale with a slightly-cheesy but satisfying finish. No idea how I'd missed this for the past 10 years.
April 17th, 2021
I reckon they came up with one implausible scenario/joke for this, then built a film around it. I could never understand the opprobrium out there aimed at Melissa McCarthy, however after seeing this and Life Of The Party the picture's starting to become a little clearer. 👎 👎
April 19th, 2021
If there's something I really don't need in my life it's more frigging Monty Python documentary. I've been watching/reading Python docos pretty much since I've known about the Pythons. While watching this I realised that with the bulk of their work produced between 1969 and 1983, the Python team have been reminiscing about their work for over 2.5 times as long as they spent creating it. To wit, there's not many stories now that nerds like me haven't heard.
Still - I very much enjoyed it. A fine excuse to watch some sketch content, and catch some reactions from the roster of talent on the books of whatever network funded the production of this series. Quite what relevance Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson had to any of it was a little lost on me, unless he was the closest person they could get to Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin (who famously funded some of the filmmaking projects).
April 20th, 2021
Bit of surrealist Australian nonsense here - I think I'd seen a few Aunty Donna videos on Youtube, so their being commissioned for a Netflix series seemed worth a punt. It's intriguing to ponder if I'd seen this 20 years ago whether I'd be quoting it in the same way we do with Tripod, Python, etc. The impression I got was that it was less linear than Monty Python, if you can imagine such a thing. Much swearier though. Was it funny, or just annoying? Hard to say. 👍
April 25th, 2021
Described to me as "The Groundhog Day remake that nobody asked for" - am I just getting too old/cynical, or is it fair to describe this as Groundhog Day mashed up with a "best friend's wedding" trope? I thought Cristin Milioti did a genuinely believable job of holding the story together, providing the canvas for Andy Samberg's more cartoonish performance to play against. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some eye-roll (the whole realise-I'm-stuck-in-the-same-day-forever-so-I'll-learn-quantum-physics-in-a-cafe-to-escape bit). Weirdly I thought they could have elevated the whole film by ending the film about 4 minutes earlier than they did, but then I'm no Hollywood producer so what would I know.
April 30th, 2021
One of the more successful late-night documentary selections I've made (and managed to stay awake through this one!) - South African journalist Rian Malan tracks down the daughters of Solomon Linda to see if they're aware that their father's song (Mbube - an obvious and documented progenitor of The Lion Sleeps Tonight) is being used by Disney, and to find out if there's any royalties due that could help lift them out of poverty. Cue the obvious tale of exploitation after exploitation, landmark legal battles, denials, secrecy and settlement, and wondering why in the hell you bother sometimes. I very much enjoyed their engagement of local lawyer Hanro Friedrich - the only lawyer that Malan knew - who basically owns up straight away to being totally out of his depth. Sort of like the Dennis DeNuto of the arrangement. 👍
April 30th, 2021
What would you call her - an anti-daterape vigilante? Quite a well-assembled if somewhat confronting film centring around the notion that even the niceguys behave like total dicks when they think they can get away with it. Important points to talk/think about? Yeah. Depressing comment on the state of humanity? Fuck yeah. Triggering defensive feelings because not all guys are like that? I guess the point is SHUT UP AND LISTEN. 👍
May 1st, 2021
I feel like I *really* try with these superhero films, but they always end up feeling like I'm watching someone else playing a video game. There's probably loads of worthy stuff I'm missing in that synopsis, but at the end of the day - it's a superhero film.
May 2nd, 2021
36 hour timeframe and 4 or 5 overlapping stories/lives/interactions set in LA, hinging around racism and frustration. Strong performances and quite a confronting series of issues, really. And fascinating to look at this film made in 2005 through the lens of BLM. I guess we're not making quite the progress that we ought to be, as a species. 👍
May 14th, 2021
This was a lot. I spent a good lot of time being distracted by the fact that the story was written by one of the Mitford Sisters, which had me trying to remember the details of (that idiot) Andrew Collings's extended talk about The Mitford Sisters that I heard some time about 10ish years ago. Then there was the distraction of Emily Mortimer - a favourite actor from The Newsroom, and the chief mover & shaker behind this piece. As if THAT wasn't enough to distract me, then there was McNulty. Dominic West, chewing on the scenery as a racist aristocrat with a predilection for disemboweling Germans with a trenching tool. So, who the hell can concentrate on the story with all THAT going on? I think it was pretty good though.
May 22nd, 2021
Probably best summed up by how I recalled it to Adrian - "I didn't get it initially, then I THOUGHT I got it, and then sort-of understood it (or at least tried to convince myself I did) until practically the end, and then it sorta all fell into place". Probably worked a lot better as a clever idea than an actual film.
June 1st, 2021
So many column inches of reviews on this already. GREAT story, and so compellingly put together. Not only a torturous journey through the mundane, but it's foolish not to note that it was Kate Winslet utterly refusing the glamour bit. Really compelling story with loads of twists, some which went nowhere. I love that storytelling's gotten to this level. 👍👍
June 6th, 2021
Can we just reflect for a moment that this was described as "financial drama"? Yep, that's a thing now apparently. Set in London but footed by Sky Atlantic Italy, it did a GREAT job of reminding us how fundamentally awesome Italian men are. As well as a compelling story, it ALSO had some ludicrous interior design, a promotion from trader to CEO (because that's how that happens), and constant driving around Canary Wharf in a Ferrari in London's famously fluid traffic. Oh yeah. That Massimo. What a guy. 👍
June 9th, 2021
I finished it! I've been watching this fucking show since about 2010. So, this was a gripping exercise in Stockholm Syndrome... Amazing series though - SUCH a change from where it all started, and yet a plausible plot arc. The final few episodes really ramped up the bleakness but it was a superb story, superbly told. And particularly the moments which had you celebrating along with the cast - like the methylamine train heist - despite the fact they were doing something objectively awful (i.e. cooking crystal meth), and then the breathtaking counterpoint of the kid getting shot. It's doubtful I'll ever watch it AGAIN, but man, what a ride. 👍
June 17th, 2021
In summary, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!". Seemingly a Victorian Superhero piece, transforming into unintelligible scifi bollards at the last minute. A review I read prior to getting started described it as "a mess", and that's certainly how it ended - though there was enough in it to keep us going back for more. Very curious setup. Who the hell makes a 6-episode series these days?!
June 19th, 2021
Frigging silly film - definitely earned all of it's 5.8 IMDB stars. Frequently treading the wrong side of the border with "too stupid", there was something loveable about this. I really can't put my finger on why I didn't hate it. Zach Galifianakis is conspicuously absurd, and the one thing this film DIDN'T need was the "based on a true story" addition. There were about 3 or 4 actual laugh-out-loud moments though, which is highly unusual (for future reference, Pool Shart, and ramming the gates).
June 21st, 2021
Self Help ::
Sorry John… I found this book, whilst small, incredibly annoying. I get that it was meant to be a simple little positive idea – and arguably one that’s very helpful to a lot of people. But how does that make a whole book? The book’s notable for being short and cheerful, which is something its author notably isn’t generally either of. Nothing WRONG with it – just felt like a grandiose pamphlet rather than a book.
June 25th, 2021
"I'm gonna show you what a bad day looks like, lady".
Well, Russell - you certainly showed us what a bad film looks like. I've no idea what this film was trying to set up, but it wasn't any sort of empathy with Crowe's overweight, overbearing, white entitled ass character - sadistically and relentlessly Terminatoring his way after a single mum and her son. If this film was trying to "teach us something", then I suspect I live in a world that hasn't gone far enough in that direction in order to learn the lesson on offer. 👎
June 28th, 2021
Agreeing to marry your ball-bustin' boss to keep your job because her visa's expired and she doesn't want to leave the country? Yep - perfectly reasonable premise there. The stupidity unfolds as we discover that Ryan Reynolds' character's heir to an Alaskan business empire & is trying to claw his way into publishing because that's what makes him tick, rather than any sort of economic imperative. And, lo-and-behold, they fall in love. No idea what kept this film watchable - must've been the combination of Reynolds' cheeky constant piss-taking (google Ryan Reynolds Hugh Jackman Feud for further examples), and Sandra Bullock's incredible sense of humour and being up-for-it - since Miss Congeniality my opinion of Bullock's totally changed and films like this (albeit torturously) remind me what a top sort she is.
June 29th, 2021
The Jesus Bombs, rather. So I've been anticipating this character spinoff from The Big Lebowski for AGES now, and Liz being out one night provided the perfect opportunity - and, casting the film's 4.3 IMDB stars to one side, in I went. If there was ONE takeaway from Pirates Of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides it was that you need to do SO MUCH MORE work if trying to set up a story centred on a "colour character". I've no idea how Audrey Tatou allowed herself to be talked into this shitball, and definitely expected more from John Turturro. A definitely disappointing exercise where rolling out of the character's "signature phrases" from the previous film leaves the audient wondering, "Gawd, is THAT what they were clinging to?". 👎 👎
June 29th, 2021
It's a well-known fact among opinionated old arseholes like me that The Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be. It had its "glory period" from series 4 to 10, and it's gone downhill ever since. Ask anyone who tells you that what the last Simpsons episode they saw was and you'll likely get fobbed off with dismissive non-answers. But it hadn't entirely escaped my attention that they were up to series 31, and STILL GOING. It's a long way from watching "Do The Bartman" after finishing at an Unley Swimming Club time trial on a Sunday morning... But anyway, with the arrival of Disney+ on our telly I figured I'd dip my toe in, and I've gotta say - I think it's come back! Skimming the episode list on wikipedia I remember nearly all of the stories (which is more than you can accurately say about anything that's happened since series 10). AND, just to check I wasn't losing my sense of objectivity after being locked in the house for 18 months I had a quick look at some Season 30 episodes - there's a definite, TANGIBLE difference in the quality of episode construction. It's probably still to early to call it... but I'm definitely gonna have a look at series 32 when I get a chance! 👍👍
July 3rd, 2021
Fairly gruelling but well-assembled historical drama covering the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings around sexual harassment. Amid the distraction of "Where do I know her from?!" (Kerry Washington, the mother from Little Fires Everywhere), the main response from us was incredulity at the dismissive attitudes portrayed to the womens' stories - serving as a reminder that though it feels like lots of progress has been made since #metoo culturally this planet's still very much in the Dark Ages on these issues, and most of it has been for a very long time. Sobering!
July 4th, 2021
I've no idea how we got onto this, other than maybe it being on a list of "20 worthy films to watch" in The Observer or something, but I'm so glad we did. Seeing a film produced by a different culture (South Korean) is an interesting and different-shaped lens to what we're used to from the British/American/Australian film industries. A South Korean "black comedy/thriller" makes things just that little more delightfully off-kilter. However my chief delight beyond that was the way this film felt like it was going one way, then dramatically veered in a different direction, and then just when you thought you were getting the sense of that, lurched off in yet another direction. Exhilarating stuff! 👍👍
July 8th, 2021
8 part docu-series about spy techniques through recent history, backed with loads of stock footage and factual explanations/recountings of events. I came away feeling like they repeated themselves a bit, although being one of those shows I'd pop on after Liz had gone to bed that recollection's coloured by my propensity for falling asleep and missing bits, then ending up going back and rewatching it again. My primary response was a constant feeling of resentment against the "comfortable" looking, uniformly white-haired old white men who've been driving the espionage agenda. The show was very US-centric, which polarised me against them I think. Not that I'd probably be cheering if it were British or Australian spooks in the frame. The pitching was ambitious, tackling "codes" in one episode, "tech" in another, and "sexpionage" in another. Worth a look though.
July 10th, 2021
Former YouTube musical comedian Bo Burnham put together this lockdown-prompted special, forming my first introduction to his work. Immediately one has to be impressed with the creativity employed to make use of the room he's limited to. What's more difficult to reconcile for me was the solipsistic nature of the material - which doesn't jive so well with what I look for in a comic - but of course was largely the point of the show. I can see he's a very talented comedian; just not sure if it's my jam.
July 10th, 2021
Confession time: I'd never seen this end-to-end. Turns out I've seen it all in fits & bursts over the years (commencing with a run at it at Martyn Symons' house when I was about 14 - around the same time I discovered Spinal Tap, but hadn't yet "got it")... and of course a film that's transcended mere film status & become legendary. Objectively though, it's a bit crap. The start of the show was Sean Connery's wardrobe. And, having mentally pigeonholed Clancy Brown as US Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat it was now something of a mental leap to see him crawling about shirtless and fur-clad as growling antagonist "The Kurgan". Wedged in between Chrisophe Lambert's Scottish "accent" and Connery's "I'm not Shpanish, I'm Egyptian!"Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez.
July 11th, 2021
So weird. Watching this was an attempt to find out more about Bo Burnham's comedy, but aside from some decent silliness all I'm left thinking is that "it's all about him". But, in a different way to other comics. Rather than being the conduit/vehicle for the story, Burnham seems to always BE the story. I really wanted to warm to this stuff, but couldn't. Hey ho, strokes/folks right?
July 11th, 2021
Having just listened to Dan Carlin's EXCELLENT Hardcore History podcast on the battle of Midway,
I was very interested to see how it would go with the modern Hollywood treatment. Short answer: skip the film, listen to the podcast. Admittedly the film's half as long, but the podcast fared for a much more textured and dramatic telling of the story. The movie conjures up a slightly more hygienic Band of Brothers feel, and the air-to-ship combat sequences feel a lot more like video game sequences than dramatic recreations (although admittedly what the hell would I know). But when all's said and done, it was a more engaging film than Pearl Harbour.
July 11th, 2021
Simultaneously intriguing and confounding film about a reclusive architect played by Cate Blanchett, and a journey of discovery. It was easy to get caught up in, amid repeated wondering "Who the hell are these people?!", and one's disbelief is tested by an event you'd describe as "family holiday in Antarctica". I *think* I enjoyed it? If only because it had a very different cadence and tone to a lot of stuff I've seen lately.
July 11th, 2021
Well, THIS was frigging bleak. Captivating, and definitely a vehicle to send you through an emotional wringer - but incredibly well-assembled. The Sisyphean task of taking on Du Pont is a narrative that rings true from other similar stories I've heard (Marlboro/tobacco lobby, Union Carbide/Bhopal) where Giant Corporation rides roughshod over the health of local community then employs their weight to endlessly stall any kind of progress through the court system. Really has you scratching your head at the end wondering what the point of clinging to evidence is when the game's stacked so heavily against you. Hey ho.
July 19th, 2021
Near-post-apocalyptic vision of a 2024 where the COVID pandemic's still in situ, which probably only found an audience because we were all still stuck inside with not much to do and had watched EVERYTHING ELSE already. Could be a hangover from The West Wing, but I still think Bradley Whitford's a legend, even when he's playing a piece of shit.
July 19th, 2021
Rewatch of an "old classic" partially for the sense of comfort, but also to see how affected Tarantino's work is through the lens of present context (mistreatment of various people, dangerous stunt situations on other films, etc. - y'know... this kinda stuff people get cancelled over). Thankfully Kill Bill stands up fairly robustly, and the first part follows The Bride's "situation" and embarkation on her warpath - in the typical Tarantino "timeline" style. I think I like this film for the set pieces - particularly the Crazy 88 sequence in the restaurant. Epic.
July 19th, 2021
I don't THINK I watched these back-to-back, but maybe I did? Hmm. I finished this in awe of Uma Thurman, and of the character of The Bride. The training sequences under Pai Mei were pretty annoying to watch, and I guess it was kinda the point, but Bill was just a total prick. The strongest story elements I think were the washed-up Budd and his pawned/dime-shop life, but overall I think this is a film you watch for completeness rather than necessarily enjoyment.
July 24th, 2021
To be honest I've absolutely No Idea how we got to this one. All I can say it is was 107 mins of utter silliness which I genuinely enjoyed. Notionally a story about two middle-aged best friends from the mid-west, stepping right out of their comfort zones and going on a trip to Florida... but ending up as SO much more - this film leaves its mark on stupid accents in a way I've not seen since Fargo. It's almost hard to fathom how stupid the plot of this film is, and yet - totally unlike The Brothers Grimsby
, it seems to carry it off without feeling like a total insult. 👍
July 25th, 2021
This one presented as a documentary on the social context and history of the toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol
but felt like by the end it had crossed over into a party-political for Mayor Marvin Rees. And televised documentary proof that when left to create & act out their own stories, a lot of people really are arseholes.
July 25th, 2021
Thinly veiled vehicle for Zac Galifinakis to travel across America and interview celebrities in his Ali-G-esque quasi-stupid manner, peppered with malapropisms, non sequiturs, and just generally being antagonistic - couple with an anti-hero journey. Still, for me stupidity goes a long way and this one had me smiling along for the most part.
August 8th, 2021
An interesting story behind this one, and I thought that Chrisophe Waltz starring and directing would make for quite the package - however the outcome in this case was a fairly slow and wandering relating of the tale of a man who was so OBVIOUSLY a fraud (but, was he?) inveigling his way into an ageing socialite's life. I was quite taken by the premise, a lot of the story, and the conclusion - but it's not a film I can see myself watching again, at all.
August 8th, 2021
I'm always intrigued when a biopic gets dragged up of someone who's been alive during my lifetime who I've GENUINELY NEVER HEARD OF - not that my life's particularly tuned towards the fashion world. No idea if Ewen MacGregor's performance/likeness was accurate or not, but it certainly was committed and compelling, albeit seemingly purposefully not trying to build a sense of sympathy with the protagonist. The performance is quite consuming and you get the idea that MacGregor's enjoying the flex. I particularly liked the Liza Minnelli character/characterisation. Not the most uplifting bit of TV of 2021 - but by no means the most harrowing.
August 13th, 2021
Biography, Whisky ::
You’d think that a history of a 200 year old company could be a yawn-inducing affair, echoing the tedium of digging through endless ledgers that the author inevitably had to do to look for clues in reconstructing the stories… however in the right hands it is the stories that come to life, and this exploration of the tale of Johnnie Walker is expertly pieced together by Dr Nicholas Morgan – someone with not only the historian’s skillset, but the lived experience of working alongside the archival materials for half a lifetime, and a living passion for the subject matter: Scotch Whisky. Any fan of the topic will tell you that it’s the people that bring it to life, and this book’s no exception. I found it a gripping read, even in spite of it being a history book. I had no idea that in the 1930s Johnnie Walker deployed cricket scoreboards to cities all over the Empire, where board operators would sit inside listening to the radio and not only keep the scores updated, but also “act out” each shot on a puppet-like surface using a series of rods and controls.
August 16th, 2021
I didn't watch the *entirety* of Horizon - it was more that BBC iPlayer had a handful of episodes up to look at: so it was a total no-brainer to watch 1981's Richard Feynman episode, "The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out". Conducted very much in the "question off camera and film the answer" mode, it was a captivating series of wanderings/musings from one of the world's most engaged & curious minds. Upon reflection I think I'd seen most of the clips scattered around YouTube, so I don't know if this Horizon episode gets frequently cannibalised, or if indeed it's a compilation from other sources.
Following up on the high-falutin academia chat, I thought I'd have a look at 1995's spotlight on Andrew Wiles and his proof to Fermat's Last Theorem (directed by Simon Singh!). There was certainly a lot of instructive material about what mathematicians are like to spend time with, and the show did a great job at capturing the excitement, the triumphs and the defeats, and the general sense of gravitas about the whole occasion - but I can't tell if it was a masterstroke, or a total failure that the actual topic matter was so opaque that there was no way possible to convey what it mean to the casual viewer. Unless you know what Modular Forms and Horizontal Iwasawa Theory are. Because I fucking don't.
Conclusion: from what I've seen, Horizon is "proper" British TV, which doesn't talk down to audiences. 👍
August 18th, 2021
This caught me TOTALLY off-guard. I was quite excited to see the series kick off with Alexander Skarsgard playing "Florida Man" in an Amway-but-OBVIOUSLY-IT'S-NOT-AMWAY cult/multilevel marketing cult... and then, well, let's say Episode 1 doesn't finish where you suspect it's going to. Nor does episode 2. And so on. We really warmed to this exercise in plot arc building and... well, not "misdirection" as such - I guess maybe it's more complex characterisation at work, where you're continually introduced to characters you think are 2-dimensional and you've got a handle on, only to follow their stories to unexpected by completely believeable plot points. REALLY compelling. 👍👍
August 21st, 2021
Don't remember how we got on to this - it's unlikely to have been on the strength of Seth Rogen's involvement ("oh look, another plot involving a man-child who takes a load of drugs and whose lack of responsibility somehow bites him in the ass"), so maybe it came up as a result of an algorithm ("If you enjoyed Baywatch..."), OR maybe having Rose Byrne's name on was enough - in any case, in this film Byrne & Rogen are new-parents who move in next to a Frat House, presided over by Zac Efron. And hijinks ensue.
August 21st, 2021
The algorithms seem to be doing some quite heavy lifting in my life these days - but Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Devine and Zac Efron were enough to sell us into watching this story about 2 rich party-boy brothers who need respectable dates for a wedding in Hawaii, and so (naturally) they advertise on Craigslist. Cue the introspective journeys and romantic realisations.
August 24th, 2021
Torture Porn epic The Handmaid's Tale continues - with this season feeling a bit more focused and balancing more towards storyline rather than seeming like a university psychology experiment. There were still plenty of moments I felt like screaming, "FFS JUNE! DON'T GO BACK AGAIN!". Probably the weirdest thing in this one for us was that the pace & cadence seemed to be leading toward this being the final season & tying up all the storylines... and then we discover there's going to be a Season 5 next year! 👍
August 26th, 2021
Did I mention "light, uplifting TV" before? There was a point where we were simultaneously watching this, The Handmaid's Tale, The Underground Railroad, and Halston. You can forgive us for feeling a little emotionally wrecked! The Serpent was a 1970s true story about a thief & murderer of backpackers in Bangkok. Exquisitely performed and set-dressed, you didn't doubt it was the 70s at all. A brief moment of wistful sadness overcame us when some characters drove from Paris to Goa - in today's political climate that feels like an unthinkable journey. But clearly they used to do it. AND in those 1970s (or older) cars, too. 👍
September 4th, 2021
It feels like if 2020 was the year of Dwayne Johnson, then 2021 is the year of Seth Rogen. Clearly, the word-with-self has not yet been had.
Byrne & Rogen - having seen off the fraternity - want to sell their house to upscale to their dream house... but, just before the sale would you believe a SORORITY moves in?! And as mentor they take on... ZAC EFRON! Hilarity ensues.
September 4th, 2021
I think I watched this after Liz went to bed, because I was curious about what had prompted the ire of the North Korean Government and a globally-famous computer hack. I mean, if it HADn't been for that bit of world politics you could've completely bypassed this Seth Rogen by-the-numbers "goofy fuckup lands in a place out of his depth" piece, which reasonably cartoonishly takes the piss out of the North Korean dictator. I really need to have a word with myself about watching Seth Rogen films.
September 9th, 2021
High-production-value piece about a few groups of protagonists who go to an island resort for their own various reasons, and the subsequent interplay and revelations they have whilst there. It's got a bit of everything but doesn't seem too predictable or hack, and kept us coming back for more. If there's a second season I'll definitely have a go at it. Notable for having the intensely-gazing Alexandra Daddario in one of the lead roles, but likely to be infamous for being the one where the bloke took a dump on camera. No matter how superb a revenge plot, that's a scene that'll never leave me. 👍
September 10th, 2021
Intimate documentary about the reunion of the Monty Python team for their famous Final Concert series at the O2 in 2014 (of which I was very fortunate to attend twice!
). Having seen 20+ years of the Pythons reminiscing about Python, this was a chance to see it actually HAPPENING behind the scenes, and it was just captivating. Clearly and visibly comedy legends in each of their own rights, there's also the opportunity to watch them reacquainting with playing parts that had been put in mothballs for years - whilst also watching a bunch of old men almost playing parts *to each other* through the act of making it all happen, given that they've (naturally) all moved on to other things.
By and large it felt like a big fanboy jolly - but every now and again I felt like I'd seen something "behind the curtain", and, wow.
What an achievement though. 👍👍
September 12th, 2021
No idea how we stumbled on this one - must've been streaming-service promotion? Active shooter situation in a US high school, centred around a plucky underdog heroine. It's interesting that the "school siege" scenario's now such a commonplace notion that there are now listicles entitled "20 Great Movies About School Shootings", etc. - and this film isn't in most of them. Using the siege as the plot rather than a point to take a position on, this was a bit like watching Die Hard, but without a single recognisable actor.
September 17th, 2021
Heheh, NOW we're talking. Basically this film's just an excuse to team Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, and Samuel L. Jackson up again - does it really MATTER what it's about? With Michael Bryce (Reynolds) having lost his AAA rating he's desperate to prove himself and get back into the accredited bodyguard scene, and gets hired by Hayek... and the rest is just letting the fireworks happen! No idea if this is going to turn into a longer-lived franchise, but it's definitely a good bit of fun! 👍
September 17th, 2021
It's Lord of the Rings... what do you want me to say? 👍
September 18th, 2021
It's the second bit of Lord of the Rings... what do you want me to say? 👍
September 19th, 2021
It's the third... aaaaah, OK then.
You can go into tedious detail about Jackson taking licence with Tolkien's magnum opus, but there's no denying that this trilogy is a masterpiece of ambition and scale, and that there'd never been anything quite like it - and I'm hard pressed to think of anything since.
It's gotten me thinking about re-reading the books - which is something I've not looked at since about 1984 - as well as casually reading WAY too much peripheral detail about Tolkien lore in online forums.
Just an utterly, utterly superb and timeless fantasy epic. 👍
September 24th, 2021
Lovingly assembled collection of bits & pieces from dear-departed comic & human being Jeremy Hardy. He was truly one-of-a-kind and several nuggets in this book really shone out for me. Interspersed throughout were tributes/contributions from other friends & comics, making for a book which was more of a fond & fitting reminiscence, rather than a page-turning anthology of comedy gold. A delightful read.
September 26th, 2021
Ooh, I loves me a bit of bleak submarine-based drama - and the UK can be really good at doing bleak, although in a different way to Das Boot. This was a gripping 6-parter which had us counting down the days til the next episode aired, and upped the already high ante of being on a submarine with a little mental health drama, some onshore political intrigue, and a plotline that twisted and changed like a chameleon dropped on a BBQ plate. 👍👍
October 1st, 2021
Bond For Workgroups 7.0 or something, right? I didn't remember exactly what the last of the M:I franchise I saw was although I do recall wondering when they dropped from quasi-decent action/thrillers into complete farce. Seems that with this instalment they've brought it back around to form, at least. Of course now one second-guesses which sequence(s) are going to conclude with someone peeling off the rubber mask, as if that's the only tool this franchise has in the kit. This one had a satisfying literal cliffhanger though involving the inevitable nuclear detonation countdown jeopardy. Probably more satisfying than other big-name films in the genre.
October 2nd, 2021
Dammit, this show just keeps getting better & better - and Season 5 genuinely gave the idea that Roiland & Harmon genuinely don't care, and are putting in EXACTLY what they want to. More stupidity. More grotesquerie. More convoluted psy plots. All stakes raised, and all bets pay off. And, as ever, they just introduce new characters/fixtures with backstory whenever they damn well want. 👍👍
October 6th, 2021
A collection of transcripts from John Cleese’s addresses to Cornell University during his tenure (now indefinite) as professor-at-large at Cornell University: a post which, as he describes it, consists of “turning up periodically to stir things up”. It’s probably fair to say that about a third of this book is the transcript of his conversation with screenwriter/legend William Goldman, which is great news because that’s the most fascinating one. I’d peg this as the most interesting thing I’ve read from Cleese lately, albeit not as good as his autobiography. Definitely not a waste of time though. Good lord, there’s faint praise. Ceteris paribus, he still knows how to put together a phrase.
October 11th, 2021
Didn't actually finish this one - I think we got about halfway through, but evidently I wanted to note down that it was a massive steaming turd of a film. A bunch of kids get designer-raised and sent into space for a life-long mission to get to Mars so that their children can carry out the next step of the mission. Only, Something Goes Wrong. Blah blah blah.
October 12th, 2021
Second half of Season 5, which was halted due to COVID. It might be the lack of recency, but it really felt like this grouping of 6 episodes ratcheted the intrigue and double-crossing RIGHT up to fairly epic levels, with outflanking, outflanking the outflanking, countering the outflanking, spotting an upcoming outflanking so positioning someone to turn said outflank into a victory for the outflanked, and, well... a great half season of Billions! 👍
October 12th, 2021
And then they went to a glamorous place, to find someone. Then there was loads of shooting, and they found the name of someone else, so they went to another glamorous place to find them. And then there was loads of shooting. Etc.
It delivered everything visually/viscerally I'd expect from a Bond film - whilst at no point triggering the "ooh, I'd really like to see that bit again!" reaction.
October 13th, 2021
Gripping documentary/catalogue of hate-targets surrounding a company geared to target "influencers", setting up a high-end festival on a tropical paradise, and the attendant tale of how neglect, pig-headedness and wilful denial of the facts led to the event seeing thousands of entitled arseholes travel to an island to learn that the promises had all been written in smoke. For me it was evident that this was going to be a debacle when the bloke they'd hired to scope basic services (e.g. toilets) said "You're not going to be able to service this many people on this site". So they fired him. Ignore the toilet guy at your peril.
Just a complete open-mouthed travesty from one end to the other. 👍
October 17th, 2021
Galaxy Quest was released 20 years ago. Let THAT sink in.
This documentary is a wonderful retrospective about the making and impact of a truly wonderful little science fiction comedy - told through the eyes of fans, filmmakers, cast and crew. It reinforces that Galaxy Quest is considered one of the best films in the Star Trek franchise. I loved seeing the cast reminisce so fondly about it, and not only in getting all the extra inside-detail, but just seeing the love with which it's been received around the world and endures to this day. I also loved that despite how many times I've seen GQ, I'd never actually read Sigourney Weaver's lips during the "Well SCREW THAT!" sequence.
Highly, highly recommend this is worth a watch. 👍👍
October 19th, 2021
I can't recall what drew me to this - although my watching history does seem to point to the fact that if left to my own devices, I'll sniff out odd documentary series. In this case, it was a 6-part investigation of "ordinary people" and the unusual hobbies they get passionate about - narrated by Rainn Wilson doing a Kevin Spacey impression. The first episode and probably the high-profile one followed the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling at Coopers' Hill - an event I've been to and which you'd THINK I'd have written a blogpost about, but, turns out not. It's an exercise in fundamentally perilous stupidity - carried out over decades (possibly centuries, although the documentary makes it clear that the locals aren't THAT interested or aware of the history... just that there is some)... the documentary follows a few people whose lives involve competing in some way, and you find yourself gunning for them.
The remaining episodes look into Chilli Eating, Competitive Hairstyling, Yo-yo, Dog Dancing (it's huge in Russia, turns out), and probably most bizarrely, Frog Jumping. 👍
October 20th, 2021
Complex whodunnit with quite the cast - certainly no linear solution for Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc to solve... I did find the Southern Gentleman accent a bit distracting, snapping my mind back to the chicken lawyer from Futurama. The characters were all richly defined and uniquely detestable, although I had a soft spot for the author's carer who had a condition whereby if she told a lie she would chunder everywhere. It's a film that requires some concentration, but rewards accordingly. 👍
October 27th, 2021
It seemed ambitious to mount an expedition on a schoolnight to the cinema to see a 155 min space fantasy, especially given the quality of sleep I got during Blade Runner 2049. Yet Dune was a surprisingly gripping telling of a quite in-depth book and kept my attention the whole way through. I was surprised to see that when the lights came up the cinema was totally chock-full - a sight I've not seen in years! Here's hoping Part 2 gets made, if only to see who ends up being signed to it: Villeneuve's gambit here appears to be to stack the cast with talent and then kill them all off before the film ends. 👍
October 28th, 2021
6 part followup to the surprisingly good COBRA
- this once again pits Robert Carlyle and his inner circle against a national disaster; in this case what turns out to be a cyber-terrorism threat which wreaks havoc on the UK and instils a sense of panic and paranoia, which antagonist David Haig once again tries to exploit. Serious in tone, it's still hard to look at Haig without thinking of his immortal contribution to The Thin Blue Line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IMudn717oY 👍
October 30th, 2021
I'll be honest - I don't think I "got" this. I was attracted by the names... Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub make for an attention-grabbing casting, for sure. Throw in Alison Janney, and it seems a cert. But pastiche characters and a farfetched plotline seemed to point to some sort of moralistic tale, or SOMETHING, that I wasn't getting. The only thing I think I took from this is that the scene at the end where they make the omelette in a one-shot reminded me of what was more or less the same scene in the last series of Billions. So that wasn't really worth 107 minutes of my time, was it?
October 30th, 2021
There's a lot of shit out there on the streaming services, isn't there? I mean - you FEEL like you've got all the media in the world at your fingertips, and yet you find yourself going "Muuuuuh... I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WATCH!". So you start spelunking through lists curated by god knows what halfwitted algorithm, and stumble across a comedy heist film starring Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, and William H. Macy. And you think, "Why hadn't I heard about THIS before?". And there's a reason why. And that reason is: MOST FILMS ARE SHIT. I've no idea who's bankrolling this crap, but 91 mins to raise a couple of polite smiles... hard pass.
October 31st, 2021
November 4th, 2021
I accidentally found my way into liking this show back in 2019 and we'd been periodically checking to see if there was any more on the way... With great delight we found Season 5 on a streaming service, and started watching the recap - only to realise we'd COMPLETELY missed Season 4!
I love how self-aware this show is, and the way they do things like monkey with the opening sequence to convey a theme (e.g. all of the explosions happening backwards in the episode where Diane finds herself in an alternative reality where Hilary Clinton won the election). Season 4 was a short one - I guess necessitated by the pandemic - and felt like it jumped around a bit, but as we had the opportunity to binge it before heading into Season 5 it was a very welcome reacquaintance with the gang from Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart. 👍
November 5th, 2021
Watching this one's been dragging out over months... What started as a crisp & enthralling drama based on the tale of the purported kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of tycoon John Paul Getty (Donald Sutherland) turned into a fairly laborious plod through various ransom machinations based in Italy. It's based on a true story, and possibly down to a lack of research on my part in knowing that it would be heavily set in Italy... the thing is, we've got loads of stuff we watch that has subtitles: so we consciously sometime go looking for non-subtitled content, because after a hard day at work you don't want to have to READ. Anyway... Liz bailed on the last 5 episodes of this, and I only finished it on the strength of the first 3 being great - hoping against hope for a resurgence. All in all, I don't know I'd bother - although by all accounts Ridley Scott's "All The Money In The World" is a better telling of the same story.
November 8th, 2021
Biography, Politics ::
What an absolute prick. So, this book was the sequel to what was, predictably, an account of the first 3 years of the Trump Presidency. I don’t know where to start. The authors used their credibility to gain access to talk to key players in the saga, to obtain minutes, recordings and transcripts, and collate as close to an objective account of what happened – including from speaking to Trump himself. The resultant book paints a far worse picture than any imagined scene or hearsay. Excellent book. What a total, utter prick.
November 9th, 2021
BOOM! Now we're talking. It's a comedy quasi-biopic based on the life of Dwayne Johnson, told as a series of reminiscences as part of his Presidential campaign in 2032. It's sweet, funny, engaging, and you can tell DJ is enjoying every second of it. It has 70s/80s cheese, it has people doing serviceable jobs of portraying the wrestlers Johnson grew up alongside, and crucially - I'm hoping it's part of a campaign to subliminally get the idea of Dwayne Johnson as a favoured Presidential candidate into America's subconscious in preparation for an ACTUAL presidential run. Given that we've already had Reagan and Trump in the White House, it'd be nice to get an actor in who WASN'T a total prick. 👍👍
November 13th, 2021
This film was basically the same concept as The Hitman's Bodyguard: that is to say, take a couple of fun-to-watch actors, then loosely give them a plot to hang from as they fanny about being over the top & ridiculous at each other. I'm SURE it's a total coincidence Ryan Reynolds was involved in both. But really, this has Everything: The Rock, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Diamantopolous chewing on the scenery as a baddie, prison break, hi-tech hi-stakes robbery, torture sequence, jungle scenes, Nazis, and a centuries-old legend about some blingy MacGuffins. Would watch again (well - I ended up watching it twice already, cos Liz fell asleep the first time). And, though critics and probably 90% of the rest of the human race wouldn't agree - I thought it had one of the BEST story resolutions you could wish for. Certainly fit with the vibe of the rest of it, anyway... 👍
November 14th, 2021
Documentary, Television ::
Superb interview transcripts discussing the conception & production of the first 4 seasons of Black Mirror – detailing not only storyline & production, but also the goings-on-at-the-time in terms of budgetary constraint and the move to Netflix, the actors they were able to get, production design… everything! And all pinned together by the easy conversational manner of Charlie and Annabel. I think this sort of behind-the-curtain narrative only serves to elevate the whole production, and seems to swerve turning into a huge self-congratulating circlejerk. Well worth a read.
November 18th, 2021
Not a great deal to say for this one - when you've got Covid 19 and are off work, you watch films. A trilogy of ludicrous, perfectly-executed masterpieces. 👍👍
November 19th, 2021
This has been in the "to watch" pile seemingly FOREVER, and I'm so glad I got around to it (thanks, COVID!) because it was a great little tale. Screaming out for a sequel (unless I've misunderstood the storytelling mode), and yes there's plot holes - but the world's a rich one for both content and visual aspect and the characters definitely draw you in. And, though I sat through its 122 minute runtime, I genuinely can't remember if it was CG/animation, or not! 👍
November 20th, 2021
Earnest British court drama which predictably doesn't end up where you think it's going to. Worth a look, although I think in all honesty the main thing that initially captured our attention was that chunks of it were filmed in Bristol. Yay, parochialism.
November 20th, 2021
Does Mark Ruffalo ONLY act in films about uncovering large conspiracies? This one's about systemic child abuse by the Catholic church, along with the institutional coverup orchestrated by its hierarchy - Australians would no doubt be familiar with Cardinal George Pell. Well-told story, but sickening topic matter. Totally infuriating that it ever went on, and that it still hasn't been corrected - see Geoffrey Robertson's "The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses
" for more detail.
December 6th, 2021
Not that I'm hugely clued in on Hollywood these days, but I wondered how I'd never heard of this given the people involved - but it turns out it's one of those where they swap directors part way through, artistic differences, blah blah blah... in the end it was an interesting story told in a way that was a bit of a mess. It seemed to be 3 male actors trying to Seriously Act (or in Sean Penn's case, PERFORM - aka shout at everything, and gurn when there's no call for shouting) alongside Stannis Baratheon who just carries on as he seems to in everything he's in, with Natalie Dormer popping in occasionally to give an Eliza Doolittle impression masterclass. Eddie Marsan hasn't even got it mentioned on his Wikipedia page. 👎
December 10th, 2021
If you're going to watch a christmas film which will inevitably be total crap, then you might as well pick the one with Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in it. Is it that christmas romcoms all seem to be tarred with the Richard Curtis-like story brush, or is it just that his stories all feature christmas? As these things go, I quite enjoyed this - and I usually have a sort of Sixth Sense about these things...
December 10th, 2021
Every now and again there's a film that we don't finish because it's too thunderingly shit - but I write about it here as a warning to whoever chances past to avoid it at all costs, in the hope that SOMEONE's time is saved. THIS is just such a film. 👎 👎
December 12th, 2021
One day I hope historians can pinpoint the moment where our species fell for brand marketing over product marketing, or buying the hype/vision/dream/etc. - this documentary seemed to me to be a lesson in what happens when people concentrate too much on what the story sounds like and not enough time looking at what's actually going on. And, is it plausible that the guy took it as far as he did just by virtue of the fact he was really tall? Psychology's a minefield.
As one of the commentators said partway through, "You're just renting fuckin' desks, dude". Madness. Well worth a watch, as long as you can stomach the bullshit he was peddling in the first place. 👍
December 13th, 2021
Humour, Maths ::
Standup Mathematician Matt Parker – who I know of via the old Festival Of The Spoken Nerd shows when I lived in London, and latterly his appearances on the wonderful Numberphile YouTube channel and A Problem Squared podcast – has collected an anthology of maths-related disasters to show how important it is, and what sort of seemingly minor details can have catastrophic consequences. Luckily, most of them happened so long ago that “we can laugh about it now”… Special nerdy mentions to the fact that the book numbers backwards from page 314 to 0 (so you know exactly how much you’ve got to go!), and the most precise Index I’ve ever seen (giving decimal points to indicate where on the page a word is found).
December 18th, 2021
Possibly the most appealing aspect of this cooking competition programme is that everybody in it is competent. The field of entries for "The Professionals" has clearly been sifted thoroughly before we get to the first round - and though the odd one slips through that totally bodges up their first round cook it TENDS to be more down to those that had bad luck on the day, or cocked up their timings... rather than the complete random assortment you'd get on Bake Off. Having said that, one of the highlights is watching people negotiate the Skills Test - especially when it's clear they've No Idea how the thing in question is made. AND, as an even bigger bonus, as a viewer you get to see it done first by Marcus Wareing or Monica Galletti!
Once the contest got up and running this season the field in the semi-finals and onwards were a very well-honed group of chefs - making the final 5 or so a genuine nailbiter. Very impressive skills on display, and some very talented young individuals really gave it their all.
Grace Dent can still fuck off though. 👍
December 20th, 2021
Stampeding through the 1st season of this before it gets taken off streaming in mid January... I couldn't for the life of me remember why we stopped watching this, because aside from it being about a family of totally uniquely dislikable arseholes it makes for a pretty good watch. I still find it a bit hard to countenance the idea that Kendall Roy has risen to the boardroom heights that he has in this story as, other than being the eldest son of the family, he doesn't appear to have a single thing going for him. Wouldn't surprise me if we get through season 2 before the year's out. 👍
December 23rd, 2021
Another christmas film for the "it's shit, but I like it" column - the usual utterly ludicrous premise and totally unbelievable plot development, and a punchline telegraphed loudly by the film's title. But, it was fun. Stupid, stupid fun. 👍
December 24th, 2021
The film that everyone's calling "the most insightful bit of satire in years", and which the critics are complaining about - I think it was just excellent. Some great performances by A-listers in non-blockbuster roles, spinning a tale dripping with the kind of inanity our governments & institutions are hurtling towards. The worst thing is that it absolutely wouldn't surprise anyone if something like this actually did happen, and was dealt with in a similar way. And I'm not just saying I liked it because it had Mark Rylance in it. 👍👍
December 26th, 2021
Quality bit of acting from Sandra Bullock in this one - you want to empathise with her, whilst at the same time being wholly unable to relate to her situation (unusual, as it is). Throw some personality quirks in as well as presumably some learned behaviours, as well as what turns out to be a big pile of backstory and you've got quite a complex tapestry to work with. Also personally noteworthy, because one of the Executive Producers is a friend of mine. 👍
December 27th, 2021
Ben Kingsley body-swaps to become Ryan Reynolds, and then a bunch of shit happened, and I don't remember how it ended. Something about taking the red pills.
December 29th, 2021
I've no idea why. Not Kristen Bell's finest film, tbh. Actually, though it was "inspired by true events" (which sounds like some kind of weaselly way of getting out of some kind of corner that "based on a true story" paints you into) there was a lot in this film that clearly wasn't based on anything real - or, indeed, on any kind of sensible screenplay. I had to check IMDB to see if this was one of those films where someone wrote/directed it, and then someone else took it over. Twice.
December 30th, 2021
We didn't make it all the way through season 2 - merely 66 episodes through the 103 that make it up - but it's such a big part of my TV enjoying experience that it rates a mention. This season's definitely upped the ante from the first one. We've had a couple of the dramatis personae die, but from the good guys' side. We've met a REALLY competent bad guy (albeit with a probably slightly racist supply of endlessly expendable swordfight fodder), an evil political puppetmaster who's manipulating the antagonists inside the tribe who *think* they're calling the shots, and we have Ertugrul's higher-calling developing through his connections with the Illuminati, or whatever they are. And Dogan's got a crush on a girl. Can't wait to see what happens next! 👍👍