Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30
50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy, Monday, 9pm, Sky 1
There’s a rumour going around Hollywood at the moment that Sylvester Stallone‘s planned next step for the Expendables franchise is an action spectacular with an all-female cast, currently nicknamed ‘The Expendabelles’. Whether it will actually happen remains to be seen, but if and when it does, we suggest that Nancy Ashmawy, mother of Baz and star of Sky’s newest reality travelogue, have a part to play.
Over the past 10 years, Nancy has watched daredevil Baz throw himself into some of the most dangerous situations the world has to offer, primarily in the RTE series How Low Can You Go. Back in 2008, the Irish Independent called it "Wish You Were Here meets Jackass", which was a fairly apt description as Baz and his compatriots travelled the length and breadth of the world looking for new and exciting ways to get themselves in trouble.
As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree because Baz is back on the road and this time his dear old mum wants in on the action. At 70, Nancy is joining her son on his latest adventure and she’s going to be his guinea pig as they try everything from the world’s highest skydive to swimming with sharks and everything in between. Basically, their itinerary is something in between a bucket list of things to do before you die and a shopping list of things Baz can convince his ma to do against her better judgement. "We’ll see, we’ll see" is basically Nancy’s catchphrase as it’s her immediate reaction to every new idea Baz presents to her. She’s the real star of the show too as, unaccustomed to the cameras and production techniques that her son is, she rises above any of the TV clichés we’re familiar with and just gets on with the job as any irish mammy would.
In this first edition, the duo’s first stop is Las Vegas where they take some weapons training (including one hilarious encounter with a taser gun) before accompanying bounty hunters on a real-life manhunt. We’ll also see them jump out of a plane, learn some stunt driving and more, but the beauty and charm of 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy isn’t in the situations, it’s in the relationship between Baz and his mother. You can’t fake that, and as they squabble and laugh their way around the world there are some wonderful moments on show, including Baz finding himself unexpectedly racked with guilt after a particularly hairy moment. How far is too far? He seems to think it’s up to him, but Nancy is no shrinking violet. You’d almost be inspired to hit the road with your own mum after seeing this.
Netflix’s homegrown hits House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are both currently filming their new series in the States, and while we’re waiting for those, this brand new Netflix-exclusive animated comedy might be just the tonic. BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) is, well, a horse that used to star in his own sitcom Horsin’ Around, but 20 years later he’s a washed-up actor who drinks too much and needs to get his life back on track.
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul also appears (as BoJack’s aimless housemate), along with Alison Brie and Amy Sedaris, rounding out a cast of comedy and drama talent that’s perfect for the task at hand. On a side note, we tend to admire Aaron Paul keeping a low profile since the end of Breaking Bad, but he’s going to need to get back on the horse soon (sorry) if he’s not going to fade into insignificance.
Kate Bush: Sensual World, Wednesday, 9pm, Sky Arts 1
As you might be aware, the enigma that is Kate Bush is about to make a return to the stage for her first live concerts in more than 30 years; in other words the world is about to go Kate Bush crazy, so here’s an opportunity to see why everyone loves her so much in the first place.
This programme is based around an interview the reclusive and idiosyncratic singer gave in 1989, in which she talks about her early enthusiasm for music and her young ambition. "I didn’t want to be famous," she says, "I didn’t want to make lots money.
I didn’t want to be successful, but I desperately wanted to make an album that I hoped people would like to hear." And hear it they did; Kate has sold millions of albums, but live performances have been so rare that tickets for her upcoming 22-night residency in Hammersmith Apollo sold out in a matter of minutes.
Doctor Who, Saturday, 7.50pm, BBC One
Fans around the world are waiting with bated breath to see Peter Capaldi make his debut as the iconic time lord. This is one of those moments where it’s probably worth tuning in, even if you’re not a fan.
For better or worse, it is a moment in TV history. Capaldi is best known for his genius portrayal of Downing Street spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in political satire The Thick of It, and we can only hope he brings some of the caustic wit and withering put downs from there to the Tardis with him.
He probably won’t swear as much – pre-watershed. We’re glad they’ve cast an older actor as the Doctor, after David Tennant‘s crumpled hipster Doctor and Matt Smith’s science student Doctor. This first episode of the new series is titled ‘Deep Breath’ and is directed by none other than up-and-comer Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England).
Lucy (15A): Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman
Since hitting the A-list just over 10 years ago, Scarlett Johansson has shown herself to have an instinct for roles that will get bums on seats, while also stretching her as an actor. Looking through her back catalogue, there’s a lot of action movies and science fiction, but they’ve all got an existential quality that sets her apart.
This year, we’ve already seen her in Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, a slice of sci-fi weirdness that defies classification, and Her (well, her voice), a film that served as a paean to the potential future but also as a warning about our reliance on technology.
Scarlett’s definitely on an existential vibe right now, and so we arrive at Lucy, a thriller based on the premise that we humans only use a fraction of the brain’s potential, and what might happen if that was to increase. It was explored before in 2011’s Limitless, but where Bradley Cooper used his new-found brainpower to make cash and score girls, here it’s going to be put to good use pondering the mysteries of life, the universe and everything. Oh, and violently dispatching wave after wave of gangsters.
Lucy (Johansson) is an American student living and working in Taiwan. Tricked into delivering a mysterious briefcase by her sleazy boyfriend, she’s taken hostage by ruthless gangsters, who beat her and threaten her before surgically implanting a quantity of illegal experimental drugs in her abdomen. She’s told to take a flight to Europe where the drugs will be retrieved. However, when she’s kicked in the stomach by one of her captors, a large quantity of the drug is released in to her system and Lucy begins to experience increased physical and mental capabilities. Got all that?
Director Luc Besson and Scarlett are a good match in Lucy; he’s got the same sense as her when it comes to combining spectacle and drama, and equal time is given to action and dazzling visuals as the focus on her transformation from trampy student to god-like being, who can control time itself. However, this transformation is where the film also suffers.
As Lucy becomes more of an intellectual and metaphysical giant, she leaves everybody behind, including us, the audience. Around 2/3 through we’re lost as Lucy marches towards her objective – Morgan Freeman’s professor of evolution – whose help she needs, but it’s not clear why to anyone but her. On her heels are the aforementioned Taiwanese gangsters, who just want their drugs back. Despite their penchant for cold-blooded murder, there’s no sense that they’ll be any match for Lucy if, and when, they get to her.
All in all, Lucy is a competent thriller with a twisty-turny plot and a riveting, dedicated performance from Scarlett. But a muddled third act, and a clumsy hint at a sequel, let down what could have been a great addition to the ‘serious sci-fi’ pantheon.
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