Category: TV


UNFORGOTTEN: LE PASSE DETERRE

Review by C.J. Bunce

British crime dramas deserve some credit as a group–and PBS Masterpiece for re-airing them.  Viewers never quite know what hoops the police will jump through next, the twists and turns a series will take, and what unlikely villain will end up at the end of each whodunnit.  That’s the test of all mystery series, whether you’re watching a strange villain and almost as strange cop in Luther or the tempered, well-intentioned Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart and her skeptical partner Detective Sergeant Sunny Khan tracking down 40-year-old crimes in Unforgotten.  With its fifth season currently in production, PBS is now streaming the first three seasons as part of its Passport membership, a chance for U.S. viewers to get caught up on the show.

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Grace d

Review by C.J. Bunce

The star of the original Life on Mars is back as a detective solving crimes in the new BritBox original series from IPT, Grace John Simm, also known for his run on Doctor Who, State of Play and other British dramas plays Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a cop sent down to desk duty a few years ago for embarrassing the bureau by bringing in a psychic to help solve a crime.  When a former colleague rises up the ranks and pulls D.S. Grace in to a high-profile case, viewers get to meet the next great TV detective.  The first episode of Grace is now streaming in the U.S. exclusively here on BritBox via Amazon.

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With Amazon Studios releasing a new, full-length trailer for its six-part series Good Omens, showrunner Neil Gaiman discussed his creative process for the book and the show at this weekend’s South by Southwest (SXSW 2019) conference and festival in Austin, Texas.  Check out his panel interview below, with Gaiman discussing the series and his creative process.  Gaiman co-wrote the novel Good Omens on which the series is based with Terry Pratchett way back in 1989.  Pratchett passed away in 2015, and now, led by Gaiman’s efforts, twenty-nine years after its creation the book is on its way to a TV adaptation later this spring.

In Good Omens the end of the world is coming, and opposite personalities in the form of an Angel and Demon are brought together to form an unlikely alliance to stop Armageddon.  They have lost the Antichrist, an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days, sending the pair to find him and save the world before… The End.  The series combines the talents of Douglas Mackinnon, who directed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who, and it stars David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viva Blackpool) and Michael Sheen (Passengers, Doctor Who, Tron: Legacy, Frost/Nixon, Alice in Wonderland).  Other big names appearing in the series include Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit, Star Trek Into Darkness), Jon Hamm (Baby Driver), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Muppets Most Wanted), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Michael McKean (Clue, Laverne and Shirley), David Morrissey (Doctor Who, The Walking Dead), Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards, Isle of Dogs), and Brian Cox (Shetland, RED, Doctor Who).

First, take a look at the new full-length trailer for the series, followed by the discussion with Neil Gaiman this weekend at SXSW 2019, and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The three 90-minute episode television series is one of those staples of the BBC that is both refreshing and infuriating.  It’s refreshing because it avoids all the padding that is so commonplace among those direct-to-binge, 10-episode shows premiering regularly now on Netflix and other streaming providers.  But it’s infuriating to find a series that is so well written and produced, you love the characters and wish there was more.  Much like another great 4.5 hour series we loved, BBC’s 2011 series Zen starring Rufus Sewell (reviewed here at borg), in BBC’s Quirke, Gabriel Byrne inhabits his lead character in one of his best performances, leaving viewers wishing the series would have continued for a few more seasons.  First airing in the UK in 2014, Quirke is now available on the BritBox streaming service, along with Zen.

Byrne (Vikings, Assault on Precinct 13, The Usual Suspects) plays Dr. Quirke, the chief pathologist of the Dublin city morgue in the 1950s.  He has an affinity for alcohol, his brother’s wife, and solving murders, partnering on- and off-the-books with the local police inspector played by Stanley Townsend (Ashes to Ashes, Sherlock, Zen, Galavant).  In what feels like three gritty Irish noir movies, we learn about the doctor’s family struggles as his past and future collide, as he investigates an orphanage siphoning babies from Ireland to Boston, as he connects the deaths of two women found dead from suicides, and as he tracks down the whereabouts of a missing friend of his daughter.

The focus of Dr. Quirke’s life is the well-being of his niece, played by Aisling Franciosi (Game of Thrones, Vera), who is really his biological daughter, raised by his step-brother and his wife when the girl’s birth resulted in the death of Quirke’s wife 20 years ago.  Quirke was adopted into his family, and years later his father (played by Michael Gambon (Harry Potter series, Doctor Who, Cranford)) continues to treat him with disdain, but he hides his own secrets.  Along with the Professor Dumbledore actor, look for the actress behind Harry Potter’s mother (Geraldine Somerville) as Quirke’s sister-in-law, and the actress behind Batman’s mother in Batman Begins (Sara Stewart).  Other genre actors include Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story’s General Dodonna (Ian McElhinney) as an influential politico, Ella Enchanted and Mr. Selfridge’s Aidan McArdle as the politico’s nephew, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Life on Mars, and Master and Commander’s Lee Ingleby as one of the men attracted to Quirke’s daughter, and Merlin, Doctor Who, and Humans’ Colin Morgan as a journalist.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What appeared from its movie trailer to be a dramatic account of a real-life British archaeological discovery from the early 1940s is actually so much more.  Based on a novel by John Preston, The Dig finds Carey Mulligan (Doctor Who, Promising Young Woman) as Edith Pretty, a widow whose estate she initially purchased to one day excavate the giant mounds that sat upon it–to pursue her and her husband’s interest in archaeology.  These mounds were once thought to possibly hold artifacts or remains from as far back as the Roman imperial era.  She enlists the help of an excavator approaching the end of his career, Basil Brown, played by Ralph Fiennes (Skyfall, Schindler’s List, The English Patient, Harry Potter).  What they unearth becomes the greatest discovery from British antiquity, but this isn’t a rousing adventure like Raiders of the Lost Ark.  While it shows the slow process and procedure behind an actual dig, the film explores life at the precipice of change, missed and almost missed opportunities, the fleeting nature of life, and the survival of humanity through what we leave behind.  It’s a powerful film that merits consideration for Best Picture when the Oscars are announced next month, and possibly other nods (the 2020 Oscars contenders include films released through February 28, 2021).  It’s easily the best dramatic film in the past 14 months.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of the 1978-1990 television series All Creatures Great and Small may think it’s… unthinkable… to remake such a solid adaptation of James Herriot’s landmark series of books.  And yet here we are in 2020 with a brilliantly good, cleverly funny adaptation worthy of the source material and every bit as good as the earlier successful series.  The first season is currently airing on PBS Masterpiece, and also available for streaming online.  The autobiographical stories follow the exploits of a young veterinarian, James Herriot, in 1940s Yorkshire as he gets his footing in a rural office in a tiny town where the people are more difficult than his challenges treating the local animal life.  This is one of the greatest examples of uplifting, heart-warming drama and British humor and–possibly a surprise to those outside of England–a study in a wide range of dialects and personalities in a single village.  The small cast is perfect, and it features some actors you’re likely to be familiar with from other genre shows.  Even better, the new All Creatures Great and Small, UK Channel 5’s highest-rated drama ever, has been confirmed for a second season.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are a magical team.  Usually Pegg takes the driver’s seat, but not so in the Amazon Prime series Truth Seekers, which puts Pegg back in the office of a British telecom company and Frost on the road as chief broadband installer.  If you ever wondered what The X-Files might look like if produced in England, here is your chance.  With better special effects and even some better scares than the 1990s show featuring agents Mulder and Scully, Truth Seekers is also full of good British humor, the kind that would make it the perfect sequel to the 1999-2001 series Spaced, starring Pegg and Frost.  And it has the supernatural and horror elements that keep the content right in the veins of their big screen Cornetto Trilogy films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, their pop culture references in Paul, and secrets from afar of Frost’s Attack the Block.  It also has two of the best award-winning British actors you could hope to find in an eight-part half-hour horror comedy.  Truth Seekers has been streaming for a few weeks, but we want to make sure you don’t overlook this one.

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Happy October!

Your annual list of scary, ghostly, spooky, creepy, slashery, and generally monstrous films is back.  The goal?  Not to miss your favorite Halloween movies in October, and maybe find some new favorites.  You’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and modern.  Syfy′s “31 Days of Halloween” is back, along with Freeform′s “31 Nights of Halloween” (which continues to be a dozen or so movies played over and over all month, with some kind of world record to be set with its too-many-to-count airings of Hocus Pocus).  As always AMC doesn’t kick in with its “Fear Fest” until October 14, and as with last year you can get caught up on The Walking Dead, and The Terror all airing throughout the entire month (you’ll have to check the AMC website for the last week of the month, as they don’t release their listings this far in advance).  Best of all, TCM hosts Godzilla with 17 movies airing Fridays in October, and 41 horror classics on Thursdays–really your best bet for the season.  You’ll find this year another Stephen King movie marathon, some Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Vincent Price, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kruger.  Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month so you may want to check the Disney website for updates.

We’ve bolded some of our recommendations and asterisked other notable events in October.  If you missed last year’s new Halloween movie with Jamie Lee Curtis, find it streaming on Vudu and other services–it’s not to be missed (and you can catch all the past entries in the series on AMC).  Also, if you missed Netflix’s latest seasons of Stranger Things or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, now’s a great time to catch up.  And with showings of both Predator and Hellboy movies, you might as well catch the new releases on Vudu, The Predator and Hellboy (2019).

All month long on streaming services and premium channels like Netflix and Starz you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more, plus series like The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  If all else fails, you can find your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (all these are highly recommended, and you can catch many of these airing this month, too).  Need more recommendations?  Check our past recommendation lists here.

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything, especially useful for many of the marathons, which often play in reverse order (?!).  All times listed are Central Time:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A worn-down cop that looks like Johnny Fever (from WKRP in Cincinnati) with a partner that looks like Korg (from Thor: Ragnarok) with a tough-as-nails front desk gal who evokes Janine Melnitz (from Ghostbusters), and a human adopted by a dwarf fresh off a hike to the big city (like Elf in Elf), encounter a rebel woman who wants to make a fantasy world act like our real world… with the aid of a dragon.  It’s a little bit The Librarians and very much Vagrant Queen.  And it’s filled with characters out of the Tolkien fantasy world and adapting characters from a Terry Pratchett series of novels.  It’s the light-hearted fantasy series The Watch, airing Sunday nights on BBC America in the States.  You can catch the first episodes this morning on BBC America, and the third episode tonight.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery, and the new Hugh Laurie four-part star vehicle Roadkill may not be the Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Derry Girls, The Woman in White, Mr. Selfridge, Zen, Quirke, or Sherlock, but it’s better than most of the UK series that have made it to the small screen in the past few years.  Airing in the UK on BBC One this past Fall and first in the U.S. as part of PBS’s Masterpiece series, it is now available on Amazon and DVD (still the PBS choice platform for British productions).  A lucky show that finished production before the pandemic kicked into full force, Roadkill will be a must-see for Laurie fans, and its angle on politics and telling a politician’s personal story should be enough to keep other anglophiles interested.

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