Top 5 ‘foreign’ TV shows to get excited about


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Despite what the bulk of my reviews on this blog so far would have you believe, I do actually watch TV/films that have been made in places other than the US of A. To prove it, here’s my top 5 shows to check out from the rest of the world. All but #4 have already aired in their home countries so should be available already, or very soon, in your part of the world. Or if you let them pass by the first time round, maybe I can convince you to take another look.

1 – Top of the Lake

OK, so this is a New Zealand, UK and US co-production, but I’m still classing it as non-American. Jane Campion created, directed and wrote it with Australian Gerard Lee, until now only known for Australian productions like ‘Sweeetie’ (another Campion co-write) and the very average ‘All Men are Liars’. It stars Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss and Campion favourite Holly Hunter, who of course is no stranger to New Zealand after they worked together on The Piano in 1993.

Top off the Lake is a seven part series about a detective from Sydney (Moss) investigating the disappearance of a 12 year old pregnant girl. I think by now we can expect high quality from Campion, and judging from the trailer, even if the story doesn’t live up to her promise, at least we’ll have seven hours of stunning NZ scenery to look at. I also want to see how moss handles doing an Australian accent. It’s an extremely difficult one to master.

Interesting side note – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation originally agreed to fund the project but pulled out when American Moss was cast in the lead. Slightly hypocritical of them I think, especially when you consider all the Aussie’s currently working in Hollywood. Luckily BBC Worldwide came to the rescue via Australia’s UKTV.

2 – Bron/ Broen/ The Bridge

This is a Danish/Swedish production about a murder which occurs on a bridge (you don’t say!) between the Danish and Swedish border and follows a detective from each country, Sofia Helen as Saga Noren from Sweden and Kim Bodina as Martin Rhode from Denmark. The first series debuted in 2011, a second series will air later in 2013. There is also an American remake coming soon with Diane Kruger but I’ll be trying this one out first.

Interesting side note – Britain and France have decided to play copycat by announcing they will produce a series abut a Frenchman found dead in the Channel Tunnel, called “The Tunnel”. Oh. Such creativity.

3 – Vikings

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, chances are you will be interested in Canadian-Irish co-production Vikings. I’ve always been interested in mythology but I’ve never got around to reading up on Viking lore. Despite more historical inaccuracies than you could throw a Norse hammer at, I’m still considering this show educational. Like Game of Thrones it’s also brutal, bloody, dirty and there’s a fair bit of sexicals. The story follows Radnar Lodbrok, the first Viking to land in Britain and set about turning it into his personal shopping mall, where he seemingly plunders, kills and enslaves to his heart’s content.

Interesting side note – lead actor, Australian Travis Fimmel, had a very successful past life as a Calvin Klein model. This is what he looks like in Vikings:

vikings_travis fimmel

This is how millions knew him (but probably not his name) in the 2002:


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Top 5 US TV shows to get excited about this summer


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Let’s pretend I haven’t mentioned the fact that every time I get excited by a new film or TV show it ends up being a piece of poo. Months of torturous anticipation followed by crushing disappointment is just part of a Film/TV addict’s life.

Trailers will always excite me. I will never learn. So here’s the top 5 reasons I’ll  be giggling with excitement and squealing with joy as the summer offerings from the TV gods filter down to my part of the world.

All air dates listed here are all US premieres, so find a way to get your hands on it or be prepared for a bit of a wait if you’re anywhere else in the world. I’ve also included some cleverly cut marketing propaganda trailers to see if I can excite you too.

1 – Orange is the New Black

I have three things to say about this; Jenji Kohan – creator/writer of Weeds. Drug smuggling/women in prison. Netflix streaming entire 13 episodes all at once. Just watch it.

OK, that was four.

US Premiere – July 11

2 – Dexter

It’s (allegedly) the final season for our favourite serial killer. And thank goodness. I thought after Season 1 they’d never be able to make it last. I mean, just how many serial killers are there in Miami for Dexter to kill? How can a whole police department not notice a serial killer working right alongside them? But look at that, they stretched it to 8 seasons and apart from a couple of so-so seasons in the middle there (the same can be said for most long running shows though) it’s remained top quality entertainment.

I really hope Dexter forgives Hannah and they drive off into the sunset to live happily ever after with their brood of slightly messed up kids. But somehow I don’t think it’ll end up quite so tidily.

US Premiere – June 30th

3 – Ray Donovan

Liev Shrieber stars as a ‘fixer’ for the rich, famous and corrupt. It’s on Showtime so you know what that means – lots of violence, swearing and sex. Excellent.

Also L Word fans will be excited to see Shane Kate Moennig returning in a new (lesbian) role.

US Premiere – June 30th Continue reading

Man of Steel – not so super


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Nat thought – serves me right for getting excited by the trailer.

I thought Man of Steel was going to be fantastic. I mean look at the comic credentials of the people behind it. It’s the superhero movie making dream team; directed by Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300), written by David S Goyer  (Dark City, Blade, the Dark Knight trilogy), produced and story by Chris Nolan (the new Batmans of course) and even a score by the fabulous and ubiquitous Hans Zimmer (responsible for pretty much every second film that comes out of Hollywood – I’m serious, look him up).

What could go wrong? A whole hell of a lot, so it seems.

It must suck to work so hard on something for years, something that the whole world is waiting for and then have it so easily dismissed as a failure. Well, a critical failure. Let’s face it, it’ll make a bucket load no matter what’s said about it.

And some people will probably really like it. I mean, if you compare it to Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s limp attempt from 2006, Man of Steel is Citizen Kane. But compare it to all the films I’ve mentioned above and it’s… well… it’s Superman Returns. And that’s the problem. Since we’ve been shown in recent years just how good comic book adaptations can be, our (my???) expectations are super high (sorry) right from the get go.

So… since my creative juices are too sad to come up with anything original and exciting for this review (not that I normally do anything original or exciting) here’s a Sergio Leone rip off summary instead…

The Good

1. Henry Cavill looks the part and he can act. Plus the poor guy had to eat mountains of chicken for nine months to look like this.


2. The suit rocks – you can exhale now.


3. The opening sequence on Krypton looked amazing. Russell Crowe did well as Jor-El, Michael Shannon’s Zod is fleshed out to be more than just the megalomaniac Terrance Stamp version from Superman 2. The Krypton back story is satisfying, if maybe a bit PSA-ish. I felt a bit like it was a lecture aimed at Australia for depleting all their natural resources. Or maybe that’s just my own cultural guilt complex.

Here’s Zod being all scary alien general on a mission.



And if those muscles are real, then props to Michael Shannon for eating half as many chickens as Henry Cavill to look like that. Continue reading

Star Trek Into Darkness – the non-Trekkie review


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star trek

Nat thought – no surprises here, except you may enjoy it more than you thought you would.

I’m not a Trekkie. But I have been forced to watch the odd episode of Generations. Somehow I didn’t die of boredom. In fact, I kind of enjoyed them. Don’t tell my Dad. But that hardly makes me an expert. So I won’t be able to discuss the bazillion references in this latest reboot by JJ Abrams that no doubt had long time fans pooping their pants in excitement. On the plus side, I won’t be able to moan about all the bits they left out or changed either.

You don’t need to be a Trekkie to enjoy Into Darkness. But if you’ve never seen anything Star Trek related before, you may want to check out Abrams’ Star Trek reboot from 2009 for a bit of back story. It’s not essential though. There’s nothing too confusing going on, except maybe why we have to see ‘Dr’ Alice Eve in her underwear.


Oh OK. I see. Marketing…

Actually, I don’t think they needed to resort to sex to get the twenty-something demographic to watch. I think that audience would already be drawn to it by the sight of all those block-coloured, tight tops.


But maybe they wouldn’t quite remember where they’d seen that before…

star trek 2

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Orphan Black – the sci-fi answer to never having to endure another Octomom


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Nat thought – here’s how to save on star salaries and keep your budget down; make the lead actress play nine roles.

Season 1 of Orphan Black is the most enjoyable ten hours I’ve spent sitting in front of a small square box in quite some time. There’s lots to like, but most would probably agree that top of that list has to be the chameleonic performance of lead actress Tatiana Maslany.

“Who?” you ask. Yeah, that’s what I said too.

But first, let’s get the plot out of the way. We first meet British Sarah, a bit of a small time thief and hustler. Well hang on, that’s like saying someone’s a little bit pregnant. She is a small time thief and hustler. When she witnesses a woman jumping in front of a train, what do you think someone like Sarah is going to do? Yes that’s right, steal the dead woman’s purse. But when she realises that dead woman, Beth, looks exactly like her, she hatches a plan to impersonate her so she can get her hands on a big ol’ chunk of Beth’s money.

But it’s not quite that simple, and not the least because Beth was/is a cop, and the discovery of yet more women who look exactly like her means Sarah’s life is suddenly a teeny bit complicated. It’s good news for us though, as over ten original, action packed and intelligently written episodes, Sarah discovers she’s one of not two, but nine identical females.

Cue evil corporations, human cloning, men with tails, a psycho-bitch Russian assassin, subterfuge, double crossing, secrets, answers, sciencey stuff, a pissed off housewife and a little bit of lesbian drama chucked in there in case none of the above held your attention.

Apart from the plot, the writing and Tatiana Maslany, the one thing I love about Orphan Black is that I’ve never seen any of these actors before. Except Leekie – anyone remember Max Headroom?. Well, what I mean is, I don’t recognise them off the top off my head, but I’m sure a visit to IMDB might prove me wrong in a couple of cases. In any case, there’s no baggage, no “oh look, it’s Joey from Friends and there’s Jack from Lost“. It’s so unexpected to watch a show and not have to suspend disbelief because you’ve seen six of the actors in three shows each over the last year (although I doubt Canadians get to share in that joy since half the cast are Cannucks).

And then there’s the Canadian lead actress Tatiana Maslany, who as you might have guessed, I’ve never seen in anything before. She’s so phenomenal  at playing all her roles, you actually forget it’s the same person. And that’s all down to Maslany having the talent to give each character such defined, but still nuanced, traits. Plus it helps that she’s so good with accents (she does British, German, Russian, American and suburban housewife).

Here she is as Sarah…


And Beth…


And Alison…


As Cosima…


And scary cray cray Helena…Helena

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Side Effects – Soderburgh’s swan song?


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Nat thought – watching this film may cause boredom, shock, renewed interest, more shock, confusion, then admiration. Not necessarily in that order.  

Director Steven Soderburgh must be tired. Correction – he must be bloody exhausted. In the last five years he’s given us Ocean’s Thirteen, Che 1&2,The Girlfriend  Experience, Haywire, Magic Mike, Side Effects, other stuff I can’t be bothered typing and the yet to be released Liberace film, Behind the Candelabra. I don’t know how he does it, but Soderburgh seems to make one or two films a year. And, much like Danny Boyle, he further refuses to be a lazy git and stick to the one genre. Over the decades he’s given us heist comedies, martial arts action, historical biopics, thrillers, Sci-Fi, drama… hell, sometimes he even writes em too. 

While his films may not end up on your top ten lists, you can pretty much be guaranteed that sitting down to watch a Soderburgh will lead to a quality couple hours of entertainment. And that’s more that can be said for half the rubbish that makes it to our screens, right?

Side Effects started out by trying to prove that last paragraph wrong. At the end of the first third – which is about Rooney Mara’s character Emily dealing with depression whilst trying to put her life back together after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from jail – I was pretty depressed myself. I was so bored, every time Jude Law came on the screen all I could think about was wondering when he was going to give up and just shave his head. That little tuft at the front is just looking a bit silly now, don’t you think?


And it’s even worse when he’s wet.

jude law hair

Yes Jude, you’re starting to look a bit… errr… avian.


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Hannibal – version 5.6, the one on the telly


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Nat thought – fantastic start, but will it become just another paint by numbers cop show?


We’re currently up to episode five (episode four having been pulled last week in reaction to the Boston bombings) and I’m scared. After the first two episodes this was because the imagery and tone of Hannibal are so creepy, but now at episode five, I’m just scared that what had the potential to be the best thing I’ve seen on television in years, is about to turn into a formulaic, procedural cop show. Albeit a beautifully gory one.

It seems violence is TV’s new frontier. Shows like Game of ThronesVikings and now Hannibal are all laying the blood and guts and splatter on thick, trying and somehow succeeding to push the boundaries of censorship. Hannibal has truly disturbing images of horrendous murders, made even more disturbing for me because I’m moved to use words like ‘beautiful’ to describe them. 

The thing I enjoy most so far about this show is that nobody knows what Hannibal (the man) is, and indeed if you’d never read/seen any of the books or films or heard his rhyming nickname (if that’s even possible), you might not even guess yourself yet. But you might perhaps wonder why there’s so many scenes of him eating. For us in the know, there’s subtle hints in the script and lots of kind of ‘wink wink’ food imagery. Thankfully it doesn’t slap you round the face with it, but know what’s going on or not, it’ll still give you chills.

Now is it just me or is Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal almost impossible to understand? Sooooo much of his dialogue is lost to me. Maybe I need to watch some other Danish people speaking English to acclimatise to the accent. Maybe I should just turn on the subtitles.

I’m actually not sold on Mads yet, although as an actor I’ve enjoyed him in other roles. To me, Hannibal is supposed to be charming, and that’s a big part of his dastardliness, and I don’t think Mads is. I don’t want a Hopkins impersonation, and I totally understand the desire to have a different interpretation, but I just find his Hannibal cold. Or wet. Or cold and wet.

Although going from the picture below, maybe he warms up a bit later on…


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