It’s been a little while since I did an Amazon Prime review, so I thought I’d sort that out! To be honest I haven’t been watching an awful lot of Prime, I was pretty heavy into mainlining Bates Motel and catching up (finally) with The Walking Dead – I had fallen a couple of seasons behind so essentially watched season 4 & 5 in quick succession, as you do. You would think I would have had enough of zombies, but what do I do, I start watching it from the start (season 1-3 are on Prime so far) for giggles – what can I say, Daryl addict for life!
On a somewhat related note I am approaching my one year membership anniversary with Prime. There was a bit of debate in our house as to whether to keep it – there are definitely some niggles we’ve had. The technical glitches with Sony Bravia where we get content errors streaming Prime have been mostly sorted by unplugging our wireless modem (we have a wired connection to the telly), for no explicable reason other than um…I don’t know. Both Amazon and Sony have numerous forums of complaints on the subject, yet when you contact either they fob you off as if they’ve never heard of such a thing, giving you the bog standard refresh your system type advice, which solved nothing.
I have read that Sony re-routes everything through its own servers, which may be the source of the problem.
At any rate, Amazon Prime is really our only option for streaming at the moment, and it does carry enough shows and films to merit the cost (plus the other Prime features). That said were I to critique the content I do find it a bit irksome the number of shows that they only upload a series or two of with no seemingly intention of continuing, as well as their chop and change removal of films – I’ll put something on my to watch list, for it to become unavailable on Prime, so I remove it, and then a couple of weeks later it’s back – this does drive me a bit nuts and tbh has led to less bothering with films on my list, other than just watching the ones that appear as quickly as possible. Ok enough jabber, let’s get to it!
Alias: I never watched Alias, other than an episode or two, when it aired originally. How is this show 15 years old?! Gah, mind blowing. It’s fairly mindlessly enjoyable spy stuff from J.J. Abrams. CIA vs. bad guys SD6 pretending to be CIA. I don’t find it nearly so serious or intense as it takes itself and mostly tune in to see double agent Sydney Bristow do karate/kung fu etc. kicks in colourful wigs and cocktail dresses. Seeing a female lead get to use lots of James Bond type gadgets is fun. Oh, Bradley Cooper I DO enjoy in this. And I’m not even a B.Coop fan really, but I find him much more likeable playing the slightly nerdy best friend type character. It’s slightly dated with the incessant techno whenever Sydney (Jennifer Garner, who I do like despite her propensity for excessive pout face!) goes on an international spy mission. It’s a bit formulaic, but I’m slightly invested in seeing how it plays out. The bad guys are fun: Slaone, Sark and Sydney's mom Russian spy Irina are good nemesis's all. Victor Garber is enjoyably stern as her spy dad. Am I the only one NOT rooting for her to get together with Vaughn? (or as I call him Yawn!)
The Walking Dead: You don’t need me to tell you about The Walking Dead, I am sure, but I will say that starting this from season one after not having seen it (it’s never really been in reruns here) since it first aired is a lot of fun. Rick is so hopeful and such an unequivocal GOOD GUY, I do think the character arcs on this show are so underrated. Carol is especially interesting after seeing what a badass she has evolved into in season five, it’s just startling to watch them all from the beginning. Season five got so, so dark, watching season one felt like a palate cleanser almost! And Baby Daryl with short hair, so cute!! Even Carl was cute! I still think the pilot is one of the best pilots ever.
Ray Donovan: Season one: I enjoyed this show, it’s gritty and dark drama - maybe not for everyone though.The story arc is well played out if a bit cliched, and Jon Voight is especially good in it as Ray's career criminal dad. I also liked Ray’s brothers, Brit Eddie Marsan is predictably amazing as he is in everything, and youngest brother Bunchy is sympathetically played by Dash Mihok. Things I liked less: bratty teenagers (why does every decent show get let down by this? Am I the only one who could do without Dana Brody et al?). Anyway it’s weird how many shows are about fixers these days, non? Ray is a Hollywood fixer type, played by looming Liev Schrieber. I’m a longtime Liev Schrieber fan but if I’m honest I felt his character was a bit underwritten and morose (tbf there is reason revealed for this in the finale). Nevertheless I enjoyed the drama and L.A. seediness, and I am curious to see how it progresses. Whether Amazon will add any more seasons remains to be seen.
Extant: Season two is now airing I believe exclusively on Prime in the U.K. I’ll be honest I found season one a bit of a struggle but I stuck with it. Season two is more fast paced but I’m still not entirely convinced on it. It’s set somewhere in the not too distant future (they don't specify but technology is pretty dramatically more advanced), about an astronaut (Halle Berry) whose husband designed a lifelike robot boy to be their son, and oh btw she was impregnated in space by an alien life form who is now causing trouble on earth. I just find there are too many unlikeable (and not in a fun way) characters in it, and too much obscurity regarding the aliens. I do like the little robot boy actor though, he is eerily good. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan and David Morrissey are welcome additions to the cast.
The Man in the High Castle: (Amazon pilot, picked up for a season): Based on a Philip K.Dick novel set in an alternate universe where the Germans won W.W.II. Right away this has an intriguing premise going for it. It’s set in the late fifties/early sixties I think, mainly in America as far as the pilot went. America living in an oppressed totalitarian state is a frightening prospect, not to mention they forgot to invent rock and roll! It’s very enjoyable and spooky stuff, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it as as a series.
Mozart in the Jungle: (Amazon Originals): How have I not watched this before now? A comedy (/drama?) about a New York symphony orchestra does not sound a likely proposition, but this quirky whirligig of a show is just super moreish. Gael Garcia Bernal stars as the newly hired conductor Rodrigo- “Maestro” as he’s called, an eccentric genius brought in to liven up an orchestra that’s gone a bit stale under the direction of Thomas (Malcolm McDowell). Lola Kirke plays young oboe player Hailey, whose essence and story line felt so eerily Girls hipster-ish that I wasn’t surprised when I looked her up to find she is the sister of Girls' Jemima Kirke. Tbh she’s perfectly fine but in my opinion the best bits are Gael, the divine Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell. The orchestra backstabbing and politics are a hoot. The music itself is invigorating and makes me want to listen to classical music, which I admit I have fallen out of the habit of doing. Season two comes out in Dec., I can’t wait.
Imitation Game: Oscar nominated film that is actually very good shocker! I admit I wasn’t thinking this would be anything more than the usual fusty British biographical noble/boring drama. I tend to think Benedict Cumberbatch is (whispers) a tiny bit overrated (I found the last series of Sherlock unbearably pleased with itself). Well, I will eat humble pie on this one. This film about Nazi code-breaker Alan Turing is in turns funny, heart-breaking, and yes noble, but in a really moving and uplifting way. I LOVED it. Keira Knightley is also good in it, she and Benedict C. make a great team. Any other year Mr. Cumberbatch would have won the Oscar, he was heart-wrenchingly good in this.The story of Turing's genius in the face of such adversity and maltreatment is one that deserves to be told, and learned from hopefully.
Mademoiselle C.: Fashion documentary about Carine Roitfield, seemingly ageless French fashion editor/muse/icon who I admit I knew little about before this film. Did I come away knowing much about her? Erm, not really. Ms. R is an enigma, though a pleasant one, a sort of living breathing "Je Ne Sais Quoi", but damn can she put together a skirt and blouse. And the eyeliner, I became a bit obsessed with how a woman her age can pull off so much eyeliner. It’s just a fun little peek behind the scenes of the fashion world, worth watching for Karl Lagerfield awkwardly trying to speak to a toddler or Tom Ford using his actual housekeeper in a shoot if nothing else! It is awe inducing to me how the fashion glitterati live and think, almost an alien universe. Unlike the Anna Wintour documentary, The September Issue, there isn’t an air of heightened terror in everyone involved, and so you get a bit more of a gawp/leeway with the behind the scenes fashion craziness.
Effie Gray: After seeing Tom Sturridge in American Buffalo I was curious to see what films he was in on Prime – sadly not many, but this curio caught my eye. It stars Dakota Fanning as Euphemia, a young Scottish girl who married the rather creepily standoffish art critic John Ruskin, played by Greg Wise. She moves into his stately family home, where he lives with his parents, and realizes that her husband isn’t really interested in having a wife at all. It’s all very repressed and British. Greg Wise is suitably stern, but the unremitting gloominess of it erred too much on the side of dreary for me. Ruskin's perversions are hinted at but not addressed with any depth. Emma Thompson produced and has a small role, and her scenes bring much needed light. Sturridge plays the painter John Everett Millais, who falls in love with Effie. It is an interesting treatise on how a woman of the time would cope with being stuck in a miserable marriage with seemingly no way out. It was just a bit “gray” all in all, but I’ve seen worse films, and it is interesting for its historical/art world biographical element.
Other films recently added to Prime which I would recommend include:
Drive (Gosling, and fab soundtrack), The Painted Veil (lovely), The Kids Are All Right (Ruffalo!), and Before Midnight (fair warning though this one is kind of a depressing finish to the Before Sunrise trilogy, but worth watching if you are a fan of the other films).