So you might have noticed that I’ve not done a movie roundup for a while and that’s simply because I didn’t watch any films last month and have so far only watched one this month. There a two reasons – one is my need to complete Days Gone a zombie game on the PlayStation (yes I played a zombie game for like the first time since Half-life 2) , the other is the sheer amount of quality TV that’s landed on various streaming channels recently. I’ll review Days Later in a few days (see what I did there?) so on to the TV shows.
First of all The Curse deserves a mention. This went completely under my radar on release and is a British six-episode Eighties crime caper, available on All 4, starring quite a few of the guys from People Just Do Nothing (Steve Stamp, Allan Mustafa, who is great as hapless cafe owner Albert, and Hugo Chegwin) along with the shows co-creator comedian Tom Davis.
A gang of hopeless crooks from East London get mixed up in a gold heist and soon find themselves out of their depth. There’s a great supporting cast and Emer Kenny, a new face to me, is great as Albert’s wife Natasha, who turns out to be the only real brains behind the operation.
The Pentaverate feels a bit like a Mike Myers had a script for Austin Powers 4 that he couldn’t get green-lit as a movie so did some rewrites and turned it into a TV show for Netflix. It’s a bit messy, but a great platform for Myers to do what he does best, no not the cheesy jokes, some great comedy character acting in multiple roles. As long as you don’t take any of this at all seriously, and really you’d have to be a bit of a weirdo to do that, you’ll be fine. Just sit back, have a beer and a chuckle.
Stranger Things Season 4 was a good instalment of a show doing it’s damnedest not to run out of steam or Eighties references to plunder. In terms of story they’ve stuck to a tried and tested formula with this one, even going back over seemingly old ground revisiting the origins of Eleven to good effect, however the story is told from three points of view which helps keep engagement levels up.
The main problem for me and Siggy was the length of the episodes with a couple almost running (up that hill?) to the length of movies. It felt rather unnecessarily indulgent and I don’t see why we could have had a larger number of smaller episodes and still keep up the momentum of the story. It is great to hear that the Duffer Brothers are working on a final season and then moving on to do The Talisman which was one of my favourite Stephen King books (which he co-wrote with author Peter Straub). The book actually features in one episode of this season of Stranger Things which is a forward-looking Easter Egg if ever I saw one, and I hope I will be saying lots of nice things about The Talisman show when it arrives.
Hello there. Talking of Easter Eggs, as you might imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi is full of them, but I’ll leave that to the rest of the intranet to discuss and dissect (given that they did such a good job of reacting to the apparently canon-breaking death of one of the bad guys). The show was much anticipated by me and as a hardened Star Wars fan, especially when I learned a TV show rather than a movie was on the cards after Solo flopped. Off the back of the slightly disappointing Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a treat.
They slotted the story into the established timeline of events in a galaxy far far away with great panache and it was great to see both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen back in their roles from the prequel movies. However, hands down, the star of the whole show was Vivien Lyra Blair who played the young Princess Leia very very well – a real iconic mix of determination and sass that the late great Carrie Fisher would’ve been proud to have seen. My only gripe was how bloody dark the show was – I spent a lot of the time squinting at a reflection of myself overlaying the mostly night-time action. But I watched it a second time around in the evenings with Siggy so got to see a lot of stuff (and Easter Eggs) I’d missed the first time around.
For All Mankind Season 3 on AppleTV+ sees the NASA astronauts heading for Mars in a literal space race against a private company called Helios (think SpaceX) and the Russians. As usual what can go wrong invariably does and there’s quite a few surprises along the way. I can’t say much more about it for fear of spoiling anything for you. I love NASA stuff, I love Mars stuff, I love alternate history stuff and I love SFX, so this was a great show for me.
Avoidance is a recently aired British sitcom available now on BBC iPlayer starring comedian Romesh Ranganathan as a father who has recently split up from the mother (Jessica Knappett) of his child, a moves into his sister’s (played by Mandeep Dhillon) with his son. Lisa McGrillis, another unknown actor to me, completes the line up of main adult characters and it is actually her interplay with the others and the boy (played by newcomer Kieran Logendra) which makes the show as funny as it is. Ranganathan and Kanppett are also very good in their roles where the emotions of the split up are explored.
Light & Magic is a Disney documentary about the founding of special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, the move from practical to computer effects, and the pioneering role played by George Lucas in all this. As a Star Wars fan (have I ever mentioned I am a fan?) I was a bit embarrassed to know very little about Lucas’s career and just how instrumental he was in pushing cinema production into a modern era.
It’s a must-see for anyone into SFX or just movies in general with some interviews from luminaries like Spielberg and James Cameron, and a huge step up from the rehashed money-for-old-rope making of / behind the scenes documentaries that Disney have been offering recently. It really captures a hugely significant era in film history and the largely unassuming and happy-go-lucky people involved.
Better Call Saul Season 6 is the final season of the Breaking Bad spin-off that in my opinion hasn’t stopped delivering the goods since the demise of Jimmy’s brother in Season 4. Apologies if that’s a spoiler, but it really marked a turning point in my enjoyment of the show. This season shows the complete transformation of Jimmy into Saul Goodman and more of his story as Gene (shown in black and white) after the events of Breaking Bad. It also provides connective tissue from this prequel storyline for Gustav Fring aka the chicken man and Mike.
Ms. Marvel is yet another Marvel TV show from Disney, this time based on a mutant girl in Jersey City with Pakistani origins. It’s a lot more Disney than Marvel being based a lot in high school scenarios, but it certainly embraced the immigrant and Muslim angle, and indeed two of six episodes were based in Pakistan. It also has some great mixed media visual effects to help the story along in a fun style.
Part of the story is also based in the time of the partition of India and the formation of Pakistan, and that was interesting enough to me to record a two-part documentary about it currently airing on Channel 4 in the UK. I know very little about it and feel I should know more. The only other time I saw anything about it was in another fictional show in the form of a fairly recent episode of Doctor Who. Ms. Marvel doesn’t compare particularly well with the other Marvel shows (especially Wandavision) but it’s pretty good.
The Sandman on the other hand is bloody marvellous, but perhaps I’m a bit biased. It is the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s cult hit graphic novel – one of my all-time favourites. It follows the first published set of stories very closely covering the same ground as the first season of the audio version on Audible, and so it all felt rather familiar, but where I found myself losing track of what was going on in the audio version there is no such problem here and TV is definitely a better medium for the story than audio. This a very visual story and the VFX are great in this show.
There’s been some interesting casting decisions to address some diversity issues in the original story – where most of the characters seem to be white Europeans – but apart from that it is very faithful to the source material – in a lot of cases almost frame by frame copying the cells of the comic books.