TV Review – Better Call Saul – Seasons 1-5 (2015-2020)

As my only completed TV series of June, I’ll dedicate a whole post to the excellent Breaking Bad spin-off. Late as usual, I’ve been missing out big time on this one.

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Review Round Up – May 2022

With a baby having recently arrived there may not be as many movie watching opportunities for a little while, but I’ll try my best to chronicle as best I can. May was mostly a TV month again, but here are a few films I’ve watched:

All the Old Knives (2022)

A slow, dry spy drama on Prime Video, this features some good work from Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine, and contains an interesting plot, but ultimately fails to hold the attention.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Theeb (2014)

My Jordanian choice for my around-the-world challenge, Theeb is an impressively made, visually arresting western featuring a terrific performance from 13-year-old Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat. It drags in places but is otherwise quite a decent film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Saawan (2016)

For Pakistan, I’ve gone with what ended up being a difficult but rewarding choice. I started watching this just after finding out about the untimely death of cricketer Andrew Symonds, which I soon found out was clearly the wrong decision. The story of 9-year-old Saawan, crippled by polio and left alone by his family in the country’s northern deserts; it’s quite a tough watch and will definitely stretch most viewers threshold. The main on-screen villain is one of the most detestable I’ve ever seen, while young Syed Karam Abbas is excellent in the physically demanding title role. Very good film, but only watch if you’re in a good head space.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

I watched most of Hitchcock’s extensive catalogue many years back but this is one that slipped through the cracks. A mid-to-low tier entry for Alfred; a serviceable, tense enough thriller with a very committed James Stewart performance and Doris Day going with him the whole way.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Tanna (2015)

This excellent co-Aussie production set on the titular island of Vanuatu hasn’t been on my watchlist for quite as long as the above, but it’s certainly been a long time coming. Simple, elegant storytelling and a fantastic cultural eye-opener. Full Review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Although the overwhelming reaction to this phenomenon is wildly positive, there are many who are criticising it for being “culture for the superhero generation”. If you’ve read my blog you’ll know I watch all kinds of films from all over the world, so I don’t think this is an issue for me. I acknowledge it is a bit of a gateway film into different cultures and genres, but above all else, it is a super creative, imaginative film that somehow manages not to overstay its lengthy runtime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

The Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, this Argentine crime drama is deserving of all the praise and plaudits it received. With all elements working at a high level, it is the direction from Juan José Campanella, who brings the non-linear plot together masterfully. Without having seen it, the 2015 American remake seems incredibly pointless.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Social Network (2010)

The heavy reliance on Aaron Sorkin’s generally outstanding dialogue leads to a few awkward moments, but I’m really just nit-picking. This is a masterpiece and one of mine and my wife’s all time favourites. That’s why we chose it as our last film together before becoming parents.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

TV Review Round Up – May 2022

My last free month before becoming a father was spent trying to watch as many series and films as possible. Peaky Blinders ended up dominating most of the time, which was fine by me. Due to the whole baby situation, blogging may be sporadic for the next little while!

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TV Review Round Up – March & April 2022

Life has gotten in the way of blogging recently, so I’m a little behind. Luckily, I’ve still been able to get some films and series watched and will do my best to summarise the latter here. Check out my Letterboxd for a few recent film reviews.

Hawkeye (2021)

The MCU’s fifth television series is certainly not their worst, and is for the most part a pretty fun ride. A lot of the murmurs prior to the show’s release were surrounding their apathy for Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) himself. Luckily for those people, Barton takes a backseat here with Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop very much front and center. So much so, that if you don’t like the actress or her perky performance here, you’re not going to like the show.

The chemistry between the two main characters is strong, Barton’s weariness at first clashing with Kate’s youthful confidence and energy but eventually forming a believable master-protégée bond. The series is a little too glossy for it’s subject matter and the use of known characters in cameos or supporting roles (not sure it’s been long enough to use spoilers?) is unnecessary and inconsequential to the story. As little more than an excuse to bring a new character into the MCU, Hawkeye’s consistency and clear ideas leads to it being one of the overall better superhero TV series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Anatomy of a Scandal (2022)

A fictional tale of British MP James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) who is first exposed as having an affair then accused of rape. Courtesy of David E. Kelley, the six part series starts off a little rocky, with some forced drama and plot conveniences, and throwing in creative flair when it really isn’t needed. The spine of the series is Sienna Miller as James’ wife Sophie. An underappreciated actress who tends to get pigeonholed into suffering wife roles, Miller has a habit of elevating the material. Here it’s a little stronger, her character guiding the audience through some moral predicaments. The last two episodes close out the story quite well, and overall I thought it was an entertaining story told fairly well.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Inventing Anna (2022)

The latest from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, Inventing Anna is a fascinating true story that is unfortunately milked to complete dehydration over an unnecessary ten episodes. Starting quite strong, with intrigue throughout and some of the more interesting plot points emerging later on, there’s simply too much excess in between. Julie Garner’s Russian/German heiress/fraudster Anna Sorokin/Delvey is the focal point and it’s a fascinating performance of a fascinating character. Anna Chlumsky is the journalist trying to fill in the gaps in Anna’s story, and enough of her life is told naturally over the course of the series without having to add in extra bits about her pregnancy and home life. Nor is it necessary to see the sex life of one of the men Anna swindles.

I didn’t intend to watch this but was caught up when my wife put it on. So it obviously has the ability to grab the attention but with ten episodes all at least an hour long, it’s quite an investment for the return.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Collateral (2018)

A police thriller where unusually, almost none of the drama comes from the police or their investigation themselves. After a delivery driver is shot, Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan) quickly realises there’s a lot more to the murder than it appears. What creator/writer David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) has done is to grab quite peripheral parts of this story and try to weave them in as crucial elements. It never quite works and you’re left wondering why we’ve spent four episodes on certain plot threads when they’re almost inconsequential to the murder investigation we’re directed to believe the series focuses on. Still, it’s only four hours worth of viewing and worth a watch if you like the British style of crime drama.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Doom Patrol – Season 1 (2019)

Superhero series and films are popping up constantly these days, and many of them run with taglines to the effect of “you’ve never seen superheroes like this before!”. In the case of Doom Patrol, you really haven’t. Following a core group of five hugely flawed and deeply tragic characters, brought together by Timothy Dalton’s Niles “The Chief” Caulder; the series covers some really serious material but is steeped in complete absurdity. The result is not jarring – just the opposite – one of the more fascinating, complex superhero shows I’ve seen. The main five – Dianne Guerrero, April Bowlby, Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, and Joivan Wade – are all excellent, forming the oddest “superhero” “team” I’ve seen. A success that has been renewed for a fourth season, I’m looking forward to plenty more of this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Last Kingdom – Season 5 (2022)

Nearly two years in the making, the fifth and final season of the cult historical drama The Last Kingdom has been both much anticipated and dreaded by its devoted fan base. While a chance to dive back into the constantly eventful world of 9th Century Britain after a relatively disappointing fourth season is more than welcome, having to say goodbye to Bernard Cornwell’s cast of characters, brought to life by one of TV’s best ensembles, is the definition of bittersweet.

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