We Wenches are creatures of The Book, but we also enjoy stories in other formats. Here's a selection of what we've been watching and enjoying on TV/streaming/movies lately.
I’ve been glomming on Killing Eve, which is a British spy thriller TV series where a female intelligence officer tracks down a female psychopathic assassin. It’s based on the Villanelle books by Luke Jennings which I haven’t read so I’m not sure how close the show mirrors the books, whether the book or the TV series is better, or whether it matters! The series has won multiple awards and been highly praised, not least because all the major characters are women and it’s written by women. It certainly has a different sort of take on the spy genre. It’s quirky and comical at times and the dialogue is funny and sharp. The obsession that both Eve and Villanelle develop for each other is fascinating to watch
I also went to the cinema to see Apollo 11 on the big screen as it’s that sort of film! I thought it was an amazing piece of documentary film making and was completely riveted by it. The way it’s put together with never-before-seen footage and audio is very immediate and the rocket launch quite nerve-wracking! It left me speechless and overwhelmed – stirring stuff.
As a follow up I watched a new documentary series about the solar system, The Planets, with Professor Brian Cox which was also fascinating. Since they couldn’t go on location to Jupiter and Mars they filmed a lot of it in places like Jordan and Iceland, which I’ve visited, so that was even more fun!
I'm probably a bit behind most people in watching TV, as I don't currently have a TV and don't subscribe to any TV or movie service. But I do watch some TV shows on "catch-up TV" a free-to-air service from the ABC here in Australia, watching mainly British shows on my laptop.
I enjoy crime shows of the serious-but-not-too-violent kind, and I've just finished watching Series 6 of Endeavour, which is about the young Inspector . This young Morse is a little bit sanctimonious, but then so was the old Morse, and I like this young one much better. I was found series #6 a bit challenging as it seemed to be heading down quite a depressing route. But without too many spoilers, I can say that the last episode was extremely satisfying, and I'm looking forward to the next series.
The other crime show I enjoy is Shetland, set in the Scottish Shetland Isles. I'm currently watching series #4. The various characters are portrayed and the crime stories are excellent. It's based on the series of books by Ann Cleeves, and Theo, one of our regular wenchly readers, recommended I read the books. The first one in the series is called Raven Black, and having seen the TV version of it, I'm finding the similarities and the differences fascinating. Thanks Theo.
Maybe I should also include this link — it's a scene from one of the Sharpe episodes, where wicked George Wickam (played by Douglas Henshall — aka Jimmy Perez from Shetland) is in a duel with Sharpe.
I also enjoy a quiz/panel show called QI. QI stands for "Quite Interesting" and the questions are all about really obscure and bizarre facts, but the real appeal of the show is that all the panellists are comedians, and the show is largely unscripted and off-the-cuff, apart from the questions. It's funny, clever, irreverent, risqué and very entertaining. And almost every time you think you know the answer to a question, you're wrong — because they're very cunning questions
Pat weighs in:
I just saw the movie Yesterday with Himish Patel as the lead. We don’t attend movie theaters much, but this was where our daughter wanted to go for her birthday, and the film seemed perfectly innocuous, so we obliged. Really, this is a movie for the whole family. We have some serious critics in our three-generational party and not one of them found anything wrong except the resemblance to a TV character in a particularly cool scene I don’t want to give away. If you haven’t watched Once Upon A Time, the TV show, you have nothing to worry about. <G>
Essentially, Jack Malik, the protagonist, is a washed-up musician. He writes good songs, sings well, has done everything he and his manager know to do, and he’s ready to quit. The movie completely downplays the transition, letting it crop up in pieces through the film, but there’s a world-wide blackout, Malik is hit by a bus, and wakes up in the hospital in a parallel world where the Beatles never existed.
What follows is a fun morality tale encased in wonderful music and showmanship as he claims the Beatles music as his own and becomes a huge rock star. Did Jack fail on his own because of his looks? Because of his music? Should he make it rich based on music he knows—even if the world doesn’t—that he didn’t write? There’s a lovely romance woven in as well. It’s light and fun and uplifting, perfect summer watching—and you’ll leave the theater singing, which is how every good movie should end.
So many great choices on TV now, with great storytelling and fascinating characters – sometimes I need to watch less TV! My household is Guys (most have moved out and come home to visit), and that usually determines programming, so I end up watching shows that I wouldn't have tried otherwise.
That's how I became a huge Game of Thrones fan (and drink my tea from a "Not Today" cup, for you aficionados). The final season was intense, mythically powerful – and flawed, leading to great discussions in our GoT-watching family. The Guys also got me hooked on Stranger Things, a fascinating, brilliantly creative series that evokes the teen-centric adventure and supernatural movies of the 1980s. If it gets too ooky, I look away until I'm told that stuff is off the screen. Being raised by a pack of males has toughened me as a viewer and sharpened me as a critic and story thinker, though I don't have their tolerance for dark elements. That's all right, they don't have my tolerance for "Dancing With the Stars."
Lately we've been catching some British mystery series, making our way through "Shetland," which Anne also mentions here. I love its strong writing, great characters, challenging mysteries – just exceptional all around. FFavorite is Vera, which centers around a middle-aged female detective in Northern England, complete with complex mysteries, a strong regular cast, and a curmudgeonly main character who gets more interesting with every episode. No wonder Vera has been going for nine seasons!
Thoughts from Jo:
I prefer books, just simple written-word books, over other formats.
Audiobooks seem very "grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you along” kinda things. They demand that you pay attention or you'll lose the narrative. It's hard to flip back a page or two, hard to skip the [Pick one: (1) explicit sex scenes, (2) explicit fights, (3) not-quite-riveting descriptive narrative.]
The visual formats seem . . . overwhelming.
Low-key TV is fine. I watch it on the small screen of my laptop where I can pause at will and all the visuals are there to remind me where I am when I come back. I watch screen while I’m splitting my interest with something else. Dinner, for instance. Or brushing the cat.
My cat has been groomed within an inch of her life over many an episode of Miss Marple.
But movies on the big screen seer my eyeballs and shriek in my ears. Too much. Too much. If I were part of a small pre-technological tribe, at Midsummer's Eve I’d be the one way outside the circle of orgiastic dancing, making dim sum and popcorn balls for the après-shenanigans and darting back and forth to put wood on the fire.
All this said, I do enjoy TV. I’ve been watching paranormal stuff lately, many of them on rewatch, because I'm thinking about Paranormals. No surprises in my picks, really, and nothing new to the screen: Lucifer, Constantine, Things, Supernatural, Dresden Files, Dr. Who, Travellers.
I recently finished watching all the seasons of Endeavor, and have not yet found a new series that tickles my fancy (I don’t watch a lot of television, as books really are my go-to relaxation . . .as the other Wenches are raving about Shetland, I think I’ll give it a go.) That said, I've seen two wonderful movies in last month. Pat has already mentioned Yesterday, which I also heartily recommend. It’s a delightful, warm-hearted, feel-good movie, with a very clever script terrific acting (for me Lily James really stole the show.)
I also really enjoyed Booksmart, a coming-of-age film which takes the classic high graduation angst and the night-before party night and gives it a feminist twist. The smartest girls in the class are feeling that being the “nerds” and never partying in order to study has been worth it because unlike their slacker classmates, they’re going to top-tier schools. Then horror of horrors, they suddenly discover that other kids have all gotten accepted at cool schools, too while having a good time in high school. Determined to have one night of fun before they graduate, they decide to crash the cool party . . . and the fun begins. It’s hilarious—and be warned, a bit raunchy—as they run into their teacher working as Uber driver, and all manner of other mix-ups and mash-ups. The friendship between the two girls is more complex than it first seems, and explores modern teenage angst. All in all, I thought it was smart, funny and wonderfully acted.
I'm another who likes my entertainment light and not very gory. We've been enjoying a new series suggested to me by a fellow Anglophile: Shakespeare and Hathaway. Set in present day Stratford on Avon, it features Lou Shakespeare, a former beautician, and Frank Hathaway, a slobby former police detective. By the end of the first episode, they're partners in a private investigation agency. Adding to the fun is their receptionist, Sebastian, a struggling actor who needs a day job, and loves going undercover in different roles.
We've also been enjoying The Good Karma Hospital,which features a young female Anglo-Indian doctor who decides to go to India to work after a sad break up. She's never actually been to India, and she finds herself working at a colorful hospital a dedicated staff and not enough resources. Fun with a colorful cast of characters. Lastly, we're waiting for Season 12 of The Murdoch Mysteries to be released in time to take on vacation.
So that's what we've been watching. What have you been watching that you enjoy?