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Summer of Rockets: Episode #1.1 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
6/10
Episode 1
23 May 2019
Well it has been three years since Stephen Poliakoff's last drama series, Close to the Enemy and six years since Dancing on the Edge.

In Summer of Rockets Poliakoff goes further into the 20th century to 1958 and in the era of Cold War paranoia.

There is a hint of the series being semi autobiographical. Poliakoff's father was Russian Jewish inventor and hearing aid designer who was married to an aristocrat. Stephen did go to a boarding school that he hated.

The series begins to show that these people were outsiders. Samuel Petrukhin (Toby Stephens), a Russian-Jewish emigre and his family along with his black colleague Courtney (Gary Beadle) having problems getting into the Royal Box at the races.

As his son Sasha becomes ill, only Kathleen (Keeley Hawes) the wife of a war hero turned politician Richard Shaw MP (Linus Roache) show concern.

Later Samuel makes a new smaller hearing aid for her aunt. He also invents a pager system.

Yet suddenly Samuel and Courtney notice they are being followed by some strange men in a car. They think they are from a rival firm.

The first episode had a languid pace, some stilted delivery of lines and not much of a plot. Richard Shaw suffered from post traumatic stress and may have hidden secrets.
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The Pact (II) (2012)
3/10
No pact
23 May 2019
Annie (Caity Lotz) reluctantly comes home for her mother's funeral. Only to find her sister Nicole has disapered in her mother's house and later, so does her cousin Liz.

Spooky things are happening at the house, it seems to have a malevolent past.

Annie goes to the police and then to a psychic. The film consists of mainly bland characters.

The film has a few tense scenes but it is really a generic horror thriller. Some of it makes no sense, especially there being no pact of any kind.
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Gentleman Jack: I Was Just Passing (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
6/10
I Was Just Passing
22 May 2019
There was a swagger and drive in the first episode that reflects the character of Anne Lister. This 19th century woman was an enterprising landowner in the Yorkshire village of Shibden thanks to being left everything by her uncle.

Lister was also a lesbian who has returned home after a failed relationship. Her lover has decided to marry a man. Lister does not want to remain hidden.

She arrives in Shibden after taking the reins of a carriage when the coachman is injured.

Pretty soon Gentleman Jack as she is known to the locals is collecting the rent, turfing out tenants who are behind on the rent and plans to mine for coal which she realises is valuable.

Suranne Jones gives a strident and confident performance in a busy first episode.
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Spooks: Episode #2.3 (2003)
Season 2, Episode 3
6/10
Episode 2.3
22 May 2019
MI5 agents in the field are in danger as the MI5 computers are being repeatedly hack by cyber terrorists.

Suspicion falls on Gordon Blaney, a member of a socialist anarchist group with a violent past. Zoe goes undercover as a teacher in a school that Blaney works in. She finds that he is just a mild mannered and dedicated teacher.

Danny goes undercover at a small socialist newspaper to find out if they have any links with cyber hacks. Danny finds that they are just paranoid nobodies.

Harry Pearce finds that the cyber attacks are linked to a dead field agent and someone traumatised by it.

I think the editing made it easier to work out the culprit in this one. The portrayal of the damaged person was done well.
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Years and Years: Episode #1.2 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 2
6/10
Episode 2
22 May 2019
We seem to have gone further forward into the future but none of the cast seem to have visibly aged. A bit of a misstep.

Mike Pence is now President of the USA. Other places such as China seems to have got leaders for life.

Edith Lyons has come home but she has been gravely affected by the blast on the Chinese man made island.

Meanwhile a bizarre accident to the sitting Labour MP by a delivery drone leads to Vivienne Rook's rise to political power.

The episode triggers another doomsday scenario, a run on the banks. This is something more chilling and more real after the 2008 banking disaster.

I did wish there was a bit more in the way of some more darkly comic humour. Some of the domestic stories involving the Lyons did not grab me. I did like the Blink reference.
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Not Going Out: Whodunnit? (2019)
Season 10, Episode 6
6/10
Whodunnit?
22 May 2019
An episode of Antiques Roadshow and a broken vase leads to Lee playing Hercules Poirot.

As Lee is being blamed for the broken vase, he brings all the suspects around to his front room.

It turns out all of them could had got into the house and all of them had a motive to handle the vase.

I think Lee Mack always wanted to play detective and lampoon the whodunnit format and has a whale of a time here.

I confess that I did twig the likely culprit early on.
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Chernobyl: Please Remain Calm (2019)
Season 1, Episode 2
6/10
Please Remain Calm
22 May 2019
So far the Soviet men in charge have played the blame game and tried to contain the catastrophe. It is a case of whatever has happened it is not that bad.

It is only when nuclear physicist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) eventually gets through to Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard) of the devastating scale of this disaster is when this drama in all its grey muted colour palette springs into action.

Director Johan Renck makes good use of sound to display the eerie tension around Chernobyl. The final stages of the drama is almost silent as three volunteers go to manual turn the correct valves to release water.

As for the Soviet Union. The rest of the world became aware of the disaster and there was no hiding place. Radiation was being shifted to the rest of Europe by wind and rain.

It was unfortunate that the actor playing Michail Gorbatchev was a little unconvincing.
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What We Do in the Shadows: Pilot (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
5/10
Pilot
21 May 2019
I thought the movie What We Do in the Shadows was an absurd comedy horror with the comedy being one note.

My thoughts on this pilot spin off were similar. Nador, Lazslo and Nadja are vampires in Staten Island and so far have failed to conquer America.

They live in a creepy old house decorated with crepe paper and looked after by Guillermo their slave who longs to be a vampire.

Their shortcomings are exposed when Baron Afanas visits from the old country.

The most true to life character is Colin Robinson, the energy vampire. The office bore who drains people of all energy.
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6/10
Rumpole and the Younger Generation
21 May 2019
The pilot for Rumpole of the Bailey was shown on the BBC. The series started on ITV as the BBC dithered whether to commission a full series.

I was rather startled that this episode is set in 1967. It might explain Rumpole's dark plumage.

Rumpole as ever is down the Old Bailey defending young Jim Timson of a violent assault. He is a member of the Timson clan, notorious for being on the wrong side of the law and the keep Rumpole gainfully employed.

The case against young Jim looks strong, his alibi is weak. It seems a long standing family feud could be his undoing. The date of a Rolling Stones concert could be the luck that Rumpole needs.

Back at chambers, it is expected that Rumpole might be expected to be named as the new head of chambers by his aged father in law. Despite his wisdom and experience, Rumpole has never been interested in taking silk. Things might change as a new younger and upcoming barrister shows more enthusiasm in dragging the chambers by the lapels.

Leo McKern shines when Rumpole is in full verse or blusters his way here and there. It neatly follows the pattern laid down in the Play for Today apart from this being set in the 1960s.
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Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema: The Heist (2018)
Season 1, Episode 2
9/10
The Heist
21 May 2019
The Asphalt Jungle, Rififi, The League of Gentlemen. All these movies were influential in The Heist genre.

Mark Kermode deconstruct The Heist movies, itself spun out from film noir into its own distinct brand.

I like Kermode's style as he explains how the past affects the present. Jack Hawkins makes an appearance from a drain wearing a tuxedo in The League of Gentleman. In the Ocean's 11 remake, George Clooney leaves prison wearing a tuxedo.

The various car chases in Baby Driver owe a lot to The French Connection, Drive, Freebie and the Bean as well a musicals. He has a sly dig at Quentin Tarantino as he shows how Hong Kong crime thrillers influenced Tarantino for films such as Reservoir Dogs.

Kermode also highlights the gender imbalance in these movies. Women are often decorative or just femme fatales in these type of films. Exceptions are movies such as Set it Off.

This an enjoyable episode, it allowed me to see some films in a new way. I remember the scene in the cafe when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet for the first time in the film Heat, I can even recall some of the dialogue. I never noticed that the background characters are almost invisible, just leaving the main actors as mirror images of each other and it was films in a German Expressionist style.
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Hatton Garden: Episode #1.1 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
4/10
Episode 1
21 May 2019
Film and television companies seem to be falling over themselves over the Hatton Garden safety deposit box robbery of 2015. You would have thought that a bunch of old geezers have never robbed anything before or had a movie about over the hill criminals fighting incontinence or erectile dysfunction but can still handle a big drill. I can think of Going in Style and The Old Man and the Gun as two recent films.

Jeff Pope has made a name for himself when it comes to writing real life crime docu-dramas. At the beginning we are told that some elements have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes. Unfortunately it was a still a bit dull.

67 year old Brian Reader (Kenneth Cranham) is the ring leader who has set up the job and bossily tells everyone off, especially Terry Perkins (Timothy Spall.) These are old lags, maybe past it. They have done time and the job is not as well planned as they thought.

One of them has tripped a silent alarm, the lookout Kenny Collins (Alex Norton) nearly missed the security guard who has come to check it out as he went to get some fish and chips.

So far the characters are charmless and you get them talking about the ageing thing. Bladder problems and bad backs. They talk about the jobs they pulled 40 years ago but nothing about how unsavoury they were back then.

There was an economy in the writing as we see the old lags trying to break into the vaults. So at least you did not get the entire episode of the gang preparing for the robbery. However at four parts this one could be a long stretch.
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4/10
Shame that the film was rather charmless
20 May 2019
Director Shane Meadows switches from gritty to an absurd comedy drama which fails to take off.

Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) is a small time criminal who catches his ex girlfriend and the mother of his daughter Shirley (Shirley Henderson) being proposed on the television show Vanessa by her new boyfriend Dek (Rhys Ifans.) She turns him down.

This gives Jimmy and opportunity to get down from Scotland to Nottingham to win back Shirley.

Jimmy though is being pursued by a gang that he double crossed back in Scotland. Although Jimmy is confident of winning back Shirley as Dek is a lovable weed, his daughter Marlene is not so easy and she has developed a bond with Dek.

Meadows aimed to make a quirky spaghetti western set in the Midlands. Ricky Tomlinson plays the country and western obsessed brother in law of Jimmy.

It does not work as a modern day western and it does not fly as a comedy. Ifans character has heart but is too much of a wimp which unbalances the film. The character of Jimmy has no charm and the script forgets that Shirley is living in Dek's house. If she takes back Jimmy, she potentially ends up homeless. You might even come to assume that Shirley is a bit dim.
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Pose: Pink Slip (2018)
Season 1, Episode 7
6/10
Pink Slip
19 May 2019
Elektra has always been the haughty one. A kept woman but things change rapidly for her. Her man Dick Ford likes his womwn with a bit extra and throws her out because of her surgery.

Elektra has no money as it went on her surgery. She is behind on the rent of her rented house, her flock abandon her. Much worse she is reduced to dance for money in order to survive.

The House of Abundance is running on empty.

Blanca throws out Lil Papi for breaking the house rules. Blanca sees a difference between drug dealing and Angel selling her body even if Lil Papi does not see the distinction.

As we enter th finale, the tables have turned for Elektra. She has seriously miscalculated what her suger daddies were looking for.
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The Professionals: Cry Wolf (1983)
Season 5, Episode 7
5/10
Cry Wolf
18 May 2019
Susan Grant keeps having visions of a masked man. She thinks she is being stalked.

Her mother knows Cowley and talks to him about the matter and he assigns Bodie and Doyle to the task.

Bodie believes her story is plausible. Susan works for a left wing campaigning charity and suspicion falls on an older work colleague.

It is not long before it is discovered that the threat to Susan is real but Cowley needs to find out the motives.

The villains have really gone out for a drawn out plan which Susan is only a small cog in a bigger wheel.

Bodie develops a plan by thinking on his feet when Susan finds herself in imminent danger.
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Knight Rider: Knight of the Drones (1984)
Season 3, Episode 1
6/10
Knight of the Drones
18 May 2019
Bonnie is back. She was always the more convincing engineer for KITT than April ever was.

Bonnie is working as a researcher at a university department. Her mentor happens to be David Halston who heads a company with malevolent intentions.

With the help of a ghetto blaster that turns into a robot, he has broken an inmate from jail. Together he is rounding up a gang to break into a vault in the depths of San Francisco.

It is good to see KITT going up and down the streets of San Francisco. It is nice to see Jared Martin playing the slimy villain, so long being in the receiving end of JR Ewing's wrath in the 1980s Dallas.

The transforming robot is a bit ridiculous even when shown on screen such as the way it manages to initiate a breakout.
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White Gold: Episode #2.5 (2019)
Season 2, Episode 5
6/10
Episode 2.5
16 May 2019
Vincent has been sent to Malta to launder some money for Ronnie. He turns it into a family holiday and gets an offer to sell Timeshares. It is the new wild west and very profitable. It might mean that the family has to move to Malta. There is just an issue with squaring all this with Ronnie.

An incensed Martin quits his job and goes to Malta to declare his love for Carol. He ends up getting sunburn on his feet. Carol realises that Vincent knew of her affair.

Joanne who is short of salesmen turns to Sam in desperation. It turns out that she is a natural saleswoman. However Sam is not comfortable being a saleswoman and lying to people.

There seems to be an air of moving on by many of the characters in this episode. Vincent realises that Joanne wants to destroy Vincent's marriage.
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Action Point (2018)
3/10
This ride breaks down
16 May 2019
Action Point is Jackass meets Bad Grandpa.

Johnny Knoxville plays D.C. who tells his granddaughter of his time as an amusement park owner back in the 1970s. The days when kids had dangerous fun and took personal responsibility for their actions.

When a rival park owner opens a theme park nearby, D.C. ups the stakes by removing all the safety precautions from his rides. He also has wild animals running wild in his park. It is a hit with his kids.

A lot of the action looks like a series of tame Jackass style stunts and the film is just one long sketch and it is not a very good one.

For a silly comedy it is not funny and it has been done better.
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Fleabag: Episode #2.3 (2019)
Season 2, Episode 3
6/10
Episode 2.3
16 May 2019
Fleabag is in awe with her sister's new office. It is massive. Claire is nervous as she has to arrange a Women in Business award presentation.

Fleabag is doing the catering and she breaks the award.

At least it allows her to have a close conversation with Belinda played by Kristen Scott Thomas. Belinda has won the Women in Business award and she is an older woman who tells Fleabag to enjoy life and flirt.

Fleabag goes back to her Catholic priest. She learns he is pursued by foxes and has had sex in the past, before he joined the priesthood. He certainly plays hard to get but he also catches something else about Fleabag. That glance to the camera she does.

The relationship between the sisters can easily switch to being abrasive. Families eh.

The relationship with her priest friend is certainly intriguing. I like the way he tells Fleabag rather casually how he normally deals with women who fancy him.
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Russian Doll: A Warm Body (2019)
Season 1, Episode 3
6/10
A Warm Body
15 May 2019
Nadia thinks there is a religious dimension to her repeat death experiences. She needs to find out more about her building, it may had been once a Jewish religious institution.

To get to the Rabbi she needs to be married. She turns to her ex boyfriend John for help. After he has served his usefulness, she blows him off.

However a homeless man called Horse attracts her interest, he in turn is interested in cutting her hair.

Nadia seems to grow as a person more, she still drinks to much. There is something about Horse that makes her care. I also think there is something in her relationship with John that might have landed Nadia in this predicament.

I do like the way we see some layers developing here. Hence why the series is called Russian Doll.
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5/10
The Donkey Sanctuary
15 May 2019
Peter really does have the weight of the world on his shoulders. No wonder he has the nightmare of him being the corpse on the beach.

Peter gets his daughter a job in a burger van, she really is not cut out to flip burgers.

Wherever he goes he keeps seeing the migrant woman being harassed. Peter eventually offers her a sanctuary on the coach as he makes his way to the donkey sanctuary.

I get The Detectorist vibe about this show yet even in the second episode, the laughs were rare. It just seems that the term sitcom has been replaced with the term dramedy. Only when the diminutive Peter confronts the driver honking him and then runs back to his car as the other guy was much bigger, it was the only time I laughed.
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7/10
The Romcom
15 May 2019
I have never been a great fan of Romcoms. Maybe when I see the leads on screen, I know that is not me. When I saw Four Weddings and a Funeral, it was not even a life in Britain I could even recognise.

However writers Mark Kermode and Kim Newman have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the movies. Kermode guides you to the essential ingredients of what makes a good romcom; how they emerged from the musicals of the 1930s.

Kermode looks at the modern classics such as Pretty Woman, When Harry met Sally and Four Weddings, even though the movies try to subvert the conventions of romcoms to some extent.

Kermode broadens his horizon, he looks at Bollywood where characters still break out in song and dance numbers. Then there are darker rom coms, the David Cronenberg remake of The Fly or the Japanese film, Audition which subverts the genre for something more sinister.

One of the reasons I liked this episode is Kermode is always highlighting something interesting or offbeat. Such as the way he focuses on images in a film like Punch Drunk Love and then it neatly segues into Superman the Movie.

Nick Freand Jones is the Executive Producer of the series, many years ago he was heavily involved in Moviedrome.
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Years and Years: Episode #1.1 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
7/10
Episode 1
15 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
After the first episode, I needed some comedy. I put on The Silence of the Lambs for some light relief!

Light relief in Years and Years is having sex with a robot called Keith.

I did wonder after the death of his partner. Whether Russell T Davies would look to the dark side of human nature and in the last 10 minutes it reached meltdown.

This is the Doctor Who episode Turn Left with the dial turned up to 11. Davies takes potshots at a future where intelligent thinking is old hat and anyone can become a leading politician by talking sensationalist garbage. Emma Thompson certainly plays an amalgamation of Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage.

It starts off in the present, in fact with last minute editing the first episode had this morning's news headlines including the death of Doris Day. We are introduced to the Lyons family in Manchester. So far it could be Queer as Folk. We then fast forward to the future. Things are not that rosy for the Lyons siblings and their families, at the edges there are tensions. Then again there are tensions in a world.

Davies offers sharp writing in this episode, a fast moving state of the nation piece. He does inject this drama with humour but the outlook might be pessimistic.
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Inside Out (I) (2015)
6/10
In your head
14 May 2019
Pixar makes a cartoon about depression and it is aimed at kids.

Riley is a happy 11 year old girl whose parents have moved from Minnesota to San Francisco. Being apart from her friends and her hockey team has upset the balance of her her core memories and five emotions of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling.) Joy is the main controlling factor in Riley's life.

It is Sadness though that threatens to unbalance Riley and in the turmoil the two emotions of Joy and Sadness get moved to her Long Term Memory compartment. This leaves Fear, Disgust, and Anger in charge of her brain, the Headquarter and they do not know how to control Riley now she is in her new school in the big city. Riley gets moody withdrawn and sad. Her parents worry that their sweet little child has gone.

Joy and Sadness need to find a way back to the Headquarter before permanent damage is done to Riley and they do this with the of a childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind.)

This is a multi layered story shown in a colourful and frenetic way. Kids would enjoy that side of it. However Inside Out is also a bittersweet film. While I appreciated the cerebral subtext of the film, as a feature length cartoon the story did feel clunky at times.
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Atomic Blonde (2017)
4/10
Neon lit action
14 May 2019
This stylish but vacant action film is set in in 1989 when Germany and the city of Berlin was still divided by the Cold War and the Berlin wall.

After a British spy is killed trying to smuggle out a secret list of spies including that of double agents. MI6 send in Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to retrieve the list of agents and find the spy's murderers.

As soon as she arrives in Berlin her cover is blown. Broughton has to work with the local station chief David Percival (James MacAvoy) who she does not trust as he has gone wild in Berlin's seedy side.

The film is told in flashback as Broughton is debriefed by MI6 Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and a CIA operative Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman) who she resents.

The film has some comic book kinetic action sequences as Broughton is pursued by eastern European secret police and spies while east Berlin is facing civil unrest.

Atomic Blonde is based on a graphic novel which is emphasised in its visuals but it has characters that lack depth. Theron as some nice kick ass moments especially the stairwell scene but the film's plot is just so muddled. MacAvoy chews the scenery. The film's soundtrack is all over the 1980s which could leave the viewer confused.
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Spooks: Episode #2.2 (2003)
Season 2, Episode 2
7/10
Episode 2.2
14 May 2019
A prescient episode of Spooks, broadcast two years before the London bombings of 7th of July.

It features a stand out performance by Alexander Siddig. He plays an Algerian spy Ibhn Khaldun who wants to defect to Britain and work for UK intelligence.

Tom uses him to infiltrate a mosque in Birmingham. Its Afghan imam is recruiting vulnerable youths to be suicide bombers.

Tom is unsure if he can trust Khaldun and unsure of his agenda.

Ruth Evershed makes her debut in this episode, she and Harry go on to create a special relationship in Spooks.

This a tense, unnerving episode right from the beginning when a young man is thrown out of a window.
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