When you have been knocking around the internet movie landscape since the middle of the 1990s like a few of us, it’s hard not to just become bitter, jaded and cynical with the absolute state of huge swathes of the current entertainment offerings.
While supremely untalented writers rooms seem to take perverse pleasure in destroying beloved characters and franchises, just so they can clumsily insert their own sensibilities and feel good about themselves, your average Ouposter just looks on and shakes their head in resignation.
That said, it is not all doom and gloom out there. There are some nuggets of entertainment joy out there, usually on streaming. Here are our views on just a few things out there we recommend for your televisual viewing over the festive period.
You want the good stuff? We got the good stuff right here…
Gangs Of London
Finally people are catching up! I know it’s very much frowned upon in polite circles to say “I was into that before it was cool!” as it makes you sound like Harry Knowles, but for Gangs Of London I will make an exception, as it felt like I was shouting into the void on this for two years.
I have been singing the praises of this show from the rooftops since it first aired in Spring 2020 on Sky TV, before being shown on Cinemax in the US. It’s glorious. Violent, blood soaked, densely plotted and expertly choreographed. Every other episode seems to have an immaculately staged set piece. The shootout at the Traveller site, and the attack on the farmhouse really stand out in my mind from season one.
The series was created by Gareth Evans, best known for The Raid movies and his style shines through, especially in the fight scenes. I genuinely can’t say this loud enough, watch this show. Watch it from the beginning and start now.
Just don’t watch it with the kids in the room. You’ll see why.
SAS: Rogue Heroes
As the show says at the very start of each episode, “Those events depicted, which seem most unbelievable… are mostly true.” and they really are. Ben Macintyre’s gripping true history novel is adapted for the screen by Peaky Blinders Stephen Knight, telling the story of the creation of the world’s first special forces unit who waged a campaign of mayhem against the Germans in North Africa in World War II.
At first it seems like it shouldn’t work, with a modern soundtrack layered over a historical tale, but it just does. The eccentricity of David Stirling and his men is great fun as we see just how unconventional they were at the time.
The cast is excellent, the locations suitably sand-swept and stickily hot, and the action well staged and convincing. My only regret is that I binged it far too quickly and now I have to wait for season 2. Will they cover the remainder of the North Africa campaign? Or will they time jump to Oman, or the jungles of Malaya to tell a different story from SAS history?
I was very, very late to this show, primarily because it’s on Apple TV+ and, frankly, who the hell has that? Well, it turns out I do because it is currently free with Sky TV and so I loaded up this, settled in, and was blown away.
Remember Spooks, or MI:5 as it was called in the US? Well, it’s like that but with a more sardonic humor layered into it. Gary Oldman is immense as Jackson Lamb, the grumpy, ill-mannered slob of a disgraced operative in charge of Slough House, where MI5 agents who have screwed up are sent for administrative purgatory.
Kristin Scott Thomas in beautifully cold and calculating as Lamb’s foil inside the Security Service and the plot will have you hitting “next” on your remote about as quickly as you can. Very, very definite recommendation.
I love this show. Started in 2018 by Taylor Sheridan, Yellowstone has become a genuine phenomenon, with 2 spin-offs so far and everyone is talking about it. Kevin Costner puts his best gravelly voice forward as the patriarch of the Dutton Ranch. This has been in his family since 1883 and you can see how that came about on the show of the same name.
There are occasional flashbacks to various time periods, mostly in the childhoods of his children. His oldest son was killed early in the show and his youngest is somewhat separated from the family with no interest in taking over the ranch after John’s death. John’s daughter Beth is possibly the strongest female character ever put to film, and that is in no way a criticism. She’s absolutely terrifying and vulnerable all at the same time. Fiercely loyal to her father and in love with his head ranch hand, she’s complex and fascinating.
Rounding out his children is his adopted son Jaime, a sympathetic character who will never quite get the respect of his father as his natural children but can’t stop getting in his own way. Any sympathy you might feel for him gets destroyed through Jaime’s constant self-destruction and bad choices.
There’s Rip, the aforementioned ranch hand who runs the day to day of the ranch with an iron fist but also with a sense of justice and complete loyalty to John. The ranch is always up against the modern world encroaching on Montana in general and the native Americans who still believe the land is theirs. Of course alliances are created and destroyed as necessary in ways that would make Game of Thrones proud.
I absolutely love this show and never thought a show about cowboy gangsters would work but it absolutely does. “Gangsters” may be a bit harsh, the family does want to do an honest day’s work as their family has done for generations but the world just may not let them. And they will fight dirty, if they must, against the world.
Give it a shot.
Tulsa King is another Taylor Sheridan creation though I don’t think it’s in the same universe as Yellowstone. Could be, who knows. Stallone has created in my mind a third timeless character, after Rocky and Rambo. Who knew he still had it in him?
Dwight Manfredi has been released from prison after 25 years. He was loyal to his mob family and did his time without giving up any of his mob cohorts. His reward is to get exiled to Tulsa to start a “branch office” if you know what I mean. He’s estranged from his daughter, there’s some fun fish out of water aspects to his story as he’s not just a man out of place, but given how long he was in prison, he’s a man out of time too.
Still he is a man of action and decisiveness and it doesn’t take too long for him to get himself set up in Tulsa and stirring up waves of trouble. His no-nonsense approach to life is a breath of fresh air in this stilted politically correct world we live in nowadays. But he also has a lot to learn about the world as well.
Forces are working against him and complicating matters is he just found a new romantic interest that happens to be an ATF agent. Biker gangs, former associates, and the economics of the present day (cash is becoming useless!) are all obstacles he has to overcome.
It’s early in the show’s run but I found myself riveted from the beginning. Stallone totally owns the role and it’s great to see him working at the top of his game. He makes his age work for him and there is a tinge of sadness and regret lining everything he does. I can’t recommend it enough so far.
I went into a long article regarding all of Jack Ryan on film and on tv here so I won’t go into it too much, but suffice to say I think the long form storytelling has really opened up Jack Ryan to great success. John Krasinski has made the role his own and really takes the best parts of enthusiasm Alec Baldwin brought to the role with the world weariness Harrison Ford did. It’s a good take and I loved both seasons.
Many did not like Season 2 nearly as much and though I didn’t think it was quite as good as Season 1, I did enjoy it plenty. After watching dreck like Avatar 2, give me Season 2 anytime. Season 3 starts on December 21st and I’m all in for it. If you like more realistic spy dramas, you can’t go wrong with this series.
Mayor of Kingstown
Yet another Taylor Sheridan show that is absolutely killing it, can this dude do any wrong? Jeremy Renner plays the main character Mike McLusky who is the right-hand man for his older brother Mitch. They are two of three brothers who act as power brokers between police, criminals, inmates, prison guards, and politicians.
Mike spent his childhood dreaming of getting out of Kingstown but finds himself in a position of power that he never really wanted. Mike was once an inmate in the Kingstown prison and rose to the rank of “Shot-Caller” for the White inmates.
Mike has one foot in each world – the criminal, the business, and the political and he is not afraid to manipulate his adversaries to get things done. To put it bluntly, he’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty.
His older brother Mitch played by Kyle Chandler is the “Mayor” after their father, the original “Mayor”, died.
The third brother Kyle, played by Taylor Handley is a detective for the Kingstown Police Department, often battling with the choices he is forced to make assisting his two older brothers with their dealings, as well as the questionable tactics his fellow officers employ on suspects.
Rounding off the main cast is the always-brilliant, Dianne Wiest. She’s mother to the McLucksy boys. She’s a college professor who volunteers to teach inmates in the female prison.
Like all of Taylor Sheridon’s work, this is filled with copious amounts of realism, violence, and interweaving story arcs that always pay off. The best way to describe it’s The Wire meets The Sopranos meets Breaking Bad.
The Mayor Of Kingstown first aired in November 2021 with the second season due mid-January 2023, so you are not too late to catch up and keep on top of things.
For All Mankind
To be honest I’m not quite sure how this show is not bigger than it is because it’s a sci-fi show created by Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica and (proper) Star Trek fame. The man has pedigree.
Set in an alternate timeline in 1969, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov becomes the first human to land on the Moon, therefore beating the Americans and causing them to take drastic measures in order to catch up, and even try to overtake their counterparts.
So imagine that the space race never ended, and it resulted in partial colonization of the moon as well as moon mining and the inevitable greed involved for political territory often teetering on the brink of World War 3.
Long story short, we have just finished the third season and each season takes place over the course of a decade. We start with 1969/70 which leads us up to the 80s, then the 90s. Season 4 is naturally going to take place in the noughties.
What I particularly love about this show is how technology that we abandoned over the decades is actually used for everyday purposes in this show, due to the fact it was required, developed, and improved upon for the space race. It’s a really interesting take on an alternative timeline mankind could have taken.
I will say that it does get a little “woke” at times as it does touch upon themes of “allowing” women astronauts in the early 70s, there is some racism and of course a bit of gay propaganda. However, it’s all handled very well, isn’t preachy, and like Star Trek before it, actually demonstrates that by putting our differences aside, we get to witness what mankind can actually achieve.
You know I detest all that woke crap so for me to recommend this to you, just shows how well it’s handled. I stated at the beginning that I didn’t know why this show wasn’t bigger than it is, but the reason being is the original marketing focused on the woke aspects, which really did do it a disservice. Oh, it has a kick-arse soundtrack for each season too!
There are three seasons to dive into with season 4 due to air in Winter 2023.
With Netflix’s 1899 just launched which I’m going to bury myself in over the much-needed Christmas break, I thought I would recommend its predecessor, Dark. I say predecessor but the shows are not linked, it’s just that 1899 is made by the same people.
Dark is a German science fiction thriller television series. Yes, it’s foreign but you will quickly adapt to the audio dubbing, and trust me, it’s really worth it.
It ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2020. The story follows characters from the fictional village of Winden, Germany, as they pursue the truth in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance. As the investigation widens, things start to get weird as a sinister time-travel conspiracy that spans several generations begins to become exposed.
The first season of Dark begins in 2019 but later grows to include 1986 and 1953. In Season two, there are additional storylines set in 2053 and 1921. Season 3 introduces a parallel world tethered to the first season while also adding a new 1888 storyline and 2019 and 2052 in a second world.
As you can tell, it is a bit of a head fuck but I’m (Wikipedia) making sound a lot more complicated than it is. However, you will need to keep on top of things because you will meet alternative versions of each character, all interacting through the various timelines, but as long as you stay focused, you’ll love this show. It really is a great show and has won critical acclaim.
Gangs Of London… Again
Any show that’s been created by Gareth Evans is worth a watch in my opinion, and this is definitely worth the watch. Talk about dark and gritty, and full-on brutal, I’m used to extreme cinema, but even I was shocked at some of the violence.
On top of that, you have a brilliant cast of players, from good good guys to downright evil bad guys. Joe Cole, who plays the main “villain” (and I use the term loosely) is great, someone you can really get your teeth into.
The other thing is the style of Evans as a director, he doesn’t just get into a fight scene, he builds the tension first and then manages to choreograph these really intense fights in a small space that are just amazing.
I know we’re supposed to be talking about new stuff, but honestly, I am happy sticking to the ‘old favourites’ when it comes to TV. I have binge-watched Modern Family, The Office (US), Brooklyn 99, and Parks and Recreations. I think some of the writing in these shows is excellent and very funny.
Honestly, Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreations, is probably my favourite character in any TV series. He would very much fit here in the Last Movie Outpost. He’s hates everything modern and moans a lot. He is my spirit animal.