Sunday, 17 December 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: BOJACK HORSEMAN


53. “Mr Peanutbutter’s so stupid he doesn’t realise how miserable he should be. I envy that.”



17/12/2017




It has been over a week now since I saw what is, for me, one of the defining moments of television I have seen this year – the fact it was first shown last year means I should have come across it earlier.

It involved a character whose self-worth had dropped to zero – he was told, by his friends, on many occasions, that his own destructive behaviour, which has led him to lead a lonely life, cannot be blamed on others, for it is just who he is. Now, with this behaviour leading to the death of a friend, he drives to the desert, in order to kill himself. He puts his foot down on the accelerator pedal, and lays back in his seat. Something stops him – putting on the brakes, he gets out of his car, and looks across the desert to see a pack of wild horses, running to... who knows. For the first time in a very long time, the character has hope in his eyes. All the while, the music playing has been Nina Simone’s live cover of Janis Ian’s song “Stars” – “We always / We always / We always have a story.” As the credits begin, Simone’s final piano crescendo dies down – “The latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with / And the latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with / And the latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with…” The record ends, the credits end, the episode ends.


I was devastated – I am still trying to find a copy of Nina Simone’s 1976 Live at Montreux album. For all the decades “The Simpsons” proved that animated TV shows can have emotional plots and situations, it is “BoJack Horseman” that, in unrestricted space afforded it by streaming on Netflix, transcended the sitcom altogether, into comic drama. “BoJack Horseman” was a show that initially received questionable reviews, as it was not clear why we should follow a has-been former sitcom actor who hates himself, but treating character development like a drama, while continuing to treat the comedy like a sitcom, is something that makes the regular sitcom format stale. Not resetting the status quo at the end of every episode helps too, especially when you turn to the binge viewing that Netflix encourages. (Having said that, this paragraph took four hours to write, because research turned to enjoyment - just go watch the show.)

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Brutal Truth: Star Wars The Last Jedi - By Guest Blogger Steven

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD.

Just a mere two years ago, something was awoken in Star Wars fans across the globe. Snoke told us so in the opening line of the first trailer for Episode VII. Was it our hope? Was it our faith? Was it that feeling called optimism; could Star Wars once again return to the glory days of the original trilogy? As the sun sets on 2017, whatever it was, has gone. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson unloaded a 12 gauge shotgun and dragged out the cold, lifeless carcass of everything Star Wars represented and sold it for billions of dollars to audiences worldwide. 

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." To be clear, I have no bias against the Disney era of Star Wars. The Force Awakens was a thoroughly watchable journey, based loosely on the plot of A New Hope, which balanced nostalgia with a healthy amount of humour. A plethora of new and energetic characters combined effortlessly with the cast of the original trilogy. Han Solo brought the quality and his eventual death gave us the drama. Only the lack of screen time given to Luke Skywalker and the lazy similarities to Episode IV held back this film. 

The follow up was 2016's spin-off, Rogue One, a film I simply rank as my third favourite from a galaxy far, far away. By Christmas 2016, Disney had miraculously pulled off the impossible and recovered Star Wars from the politically charged, CGI-mess fests which are known as the prequels. As the credits rolled on Episode VII, JJ Abrams had successfully teased the fans and left us with a delicate cliffhanger with an intriguing finale. As Rey handed Luke his old lightsaber, JJ completed his handover to Rian Johnson. Who is Rey and where does her connection to the force stem? Has Snoke been lurking in the background throughout the saga? Has he always been the ultimate puppet master, manipulating those from the dark side of the force? Why is Luke Skywalker in hiding and how powerful has he become? Ultimately, can good ever truly overcome evil? Since leaving the two apprentices, Rey and Kylo, embarking on their education down the light and dark sides of the force, respectively, we the fans have debated and pondered the aforementioned questions, amongst others, for twenty-four long months. 
 Surely with all of this new energy and the limitless possibilities, a cinematic moment of history similar to that of Darth Vader's fatherly confession to Luke in Episode V would be a certainty. This is not going to go the way you think! Sadly the film which was delivered by Rian Johnson is nothing more than 152 minutes of questionable cheese; a fluff piece so out of sync with the history of Star Wars, that even still after 24 hours of leaving the screening, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Suddenly the problems which plagued the prequels; Jar Jar Binks and Anakin's issues with sand seem like a distant memory. Nothing more than a blip on George Lucas' now bulletproofed reputation. Was this really a Star Wars film I endured? I remain confused how a Star Wars film could conclude without the sound of a single lightsaber clash against another? 

Maybe I missed this moment while my head buried in my hands, as one embarrassing joke or scene played out after another. The awkward and often forced humour which cluttered the script was topped off by a humiliating scene of near-death experience, as a decomposing Princess Leia drifted lifeless through space. Instead of allowing the now-deceased Carrie Fisher the opportunity to depart the saga gracefully, the director chose for her character to learn the power of flight, so she could glide through space wreckage onto the landing bay of a cruiser. Thanks to this ridiculous idea, we can all look forward to CGI Princess Leia making a return for the next instalment. This was just one catastrophic error in a movie strewn with many more.

Finn's side plot to find an infamous code-breaker on a planetary sized Monte Carlo; and then ultimately back onto the First Order's dreadnought which had all the while been engaged in the slowest and least inspiring chase of a Resistance cruiser, which was oddly under threat from an ill-conceived Poe Dameron led mutiny, wound up being entirely fruitless and an utter waste of time. Not even the acting talents of Benicio del Toro who had been picked up along the way, could salvage any reason for his character's existence. However thanks to the visit to this new gambling-mad planet, Cantonica, the audience were treated to at least one writers strangely placed and not-so-subtle opinions on wealth inequality, arms dealing and animal rights. The lessons on morality did feel a little hypocritical coming from a film being produced by one of the world's wealthiest conglomerates.
 As for the journeys of our main protagonists and antagonists, their education in the force and the questions we had been left with since 2015; be prepared for disappointment. Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That's the only way to become what you are meant to be. The only logical explanation I can summon is that Rian Johnson had never watched a single Star Wars Episode, or he simply despised the saga and has now staged a master plan for its demise. The other possibility is that JJ Abrams forgot to pass the memo which would detail his ideas to follow on from The Force Awakens. Throughout all of the confusion and clutter which is The Last Jedi, you will not find any fluid or sensible attempt to explain the ultimate vision which had been born from Episode VII.

Snoke, the all-powerful Supreme Leader who's potential links to the Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis which had created a buzz of excitement following TFA, was the first character to fall victim of a lazy and botched screenplay, as he found himself decapitated by his own apprentice after no more than 20 minutes of screen time. Captain Phasma faired no better as she too met her demise after less than 5 minutes of screen time. Once again the valuable lessons from past mistakes had been ignored. Before the fans had enjoyed an opportunity to learn about the history and background of these latest on-screen villains, they had met their untimely deaths, mirroring the similar feat of both Darth Maul and Boba Fett. As for the background of Rey and the question mark over her lineage, we the audience were offered the game-changing revelation that her parents were nothing more than 'filthy junk traders' who had sold her for booze. No connection to the Skywalker, Kenobi or Palpatine bloodline after all and thus another missed opportunity to create some form of depth to a story fast losing all purpose and reason to continue. 
 The greatest insult of all was saved for the treatment of Luke Skywalker himself. The hero of the original trilogy, the Jedi who sought after the good in his father where others saw only evil. The character who inspired movie goers across the world was now reduced to nothing more than a coward; a hermit who briefly considered murdering his own nephew in his sleep. Mark Hamill had told director Rian Johnson, "I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you've made for this character (Luke Skywalker)." I can understand why. The hero who had once taken on the Emperor now chose to hide away on his private island, allowing others to fight and die on his behalf. Before the credits rolled on this shit-shower of a film, the legendary character of Luke Skywalker was killed off in the least poetic and unexplainable way possible, adding zero contribution to the future of the saga. With only the two apprentices, Rey and Kylo, remaining for the final act, still having received little training from their now deceased mentors, it is difficult to understand where the direction of Star Wars is leading.

Never mind the strange decision to retain the only character left from The Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia, soon to be portrayed in CGI. As Kylo Ren states in the film, "let the past die". Maybe Rian Johnson felt this idea was a necessity in order to create his own vision of where Star Wars should go?Maybe one day we will call these choices brave? For now, I call them an insult. Let the past die but not in this manner. Overall The Last Jedi is a poorly written and poorly planned excuse of a film which is nothing better than a disgrace to the legacy of those films which had come before. Where the saga can go now, I simply do not know, but at least we can always rely on John Williams to provide a terrific soundtrack. Final Rating is 2/10 Steven.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

THE DISASTER ARTIST / THE ROOM - podcast review out now



The best worst movie ever made? James Franco plays the lead and directs in The Disaster Artist, the story behind the notoriously bad Tommy Wiseau film The Room. Also starring Dave Franco, Alison Brie and Seth Rogan, The Disaster Artist is a loving portrait of a ridiculous and mysterious man trying to live out his dream of being an actor in Hollywood with his best friend Greg Sestero. We also have our Virgin Viewings of The Room, and wonder if it possibly the worst of the worst films we have ever reviewed on the podcast.

We also discuss some of the other bad films we reviewed in this podcast. Listen to our reviews by clicking on the title: Troll 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

You can download this episode directly here.

Make sure you subscribe to us on itunes here and leave us a review, as well as following us on twitter and facebook.


Monday, 11 December 2017

THE DISASTER ARTIST / THE ROOM - podcast review out tomorrow


DVD Roundup: "When life gives you shit, you make Kool-Aid" edition


The Hitman's Bodyguard is a standard buddy caper comedy featuring popular actors Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, but there is something about the film that is just off. The comedy is stale, and there is an over emphasis on a lame romance plot then the subplot of a dictator being tried for war crimes. To say the tone of this film is uneven would be an understatement. Still, Richee enjoyed the shrieks and the music and the explosions, so if you're into that kind of thing, then you'll enjoy The Hitman's Bodyguard. Listen to our full podcast review in the player below.



I've only really been aware of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire for about 18 months now, and I've got to say I fell hard and fast for it. A complex story with complex characters, and the end so tantalisingly close to completion as to drive your mind wild with theories. Season 7 was much anticipated, and while I loved it for just being able to see those characters and that world again, and to answer more questions, there was definitely something lacking in it. On the whole it left me slightly unsatisfied, but Game of Thrones is like a puppy to me, I can't stay mad at it for long. Read my full review of Season 7 here.


After a mass of Stephen King adaptations this year, none fell as hard as The Dark Tower (well, maybe not as much as the abysmal one and only season of The Mist). Confusingly, this film is a continuation of the books, and not a straight adaptation. While the plot of saving the world we know in a world we do not, and the inclusion of Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, makes for an interesting film, the heavy reliance on shoddy visuals and clunky dialogue make for a disappointing watch for fans and newcomers alike. We didn't see this film, but it has been lauded as one of the worst films of the year.



I've only seen the original series, but Twin Peaks was a wonderfully surreal and discombobulating show from the master of dreamlike and fearful cinema. The Return frustrated many people, garnering criticisms for being slow, boring and purposely confusing. While I haven't seen the third season, I can't believe that David Lynch would make an easy and nostalgic show for us to fall back into 25 years later, and these criticism make me want to watch the show even more. Sometimes you need something a bit more difficult to chew on to get even more enjoyment.

Friday, 8 December 2017

TEMPLE (2017) - review


Horror is told in the details. A suggestion that is accelerated until its terrifying, a myth that is retold until it becomes reality once more, and an atmosphere that is cultivated until it is palpable. Unfortunately, Temple is none of these things. It may be easier to list the cliche's this film uses rather than explain the plot, but lets not be droll. Three American tourists go to Japan. One is a student studying religion, the other is her boyfriend, and the other is another photography friend that can also speak Japanese. Love triangle. The Bad Boyfriend. The Beautiful Girlfriend. The Well Meaning Guy. They discover a hand written book on folk tales with a description of a mysterious temple. The Well Meaning Guy goes back and buys it from a little boy while The Bad Boyfriend is off cheating. After finding the directions for the village from a friendly waiter, they all go off together to find it, after the appropriate amount of warnings from concerned locals.

We spend half the movie building up to them arriving at the temple. A little boy helps them find it. There is an unusually Western-style sculpture of a woman representing the kitsune, the fox shape shifter. The little boy warns them not to stay there after dark, but of course they do. Cue lots of running around in the dark, the pitch blackness, and shadowy monsters. Government officials in Japan are questioning the survivor of the attacks, and of course, they somehow have something to do with it all.


The film is in love with Japan in the first half, the camera constant looking around at the neon and the traditional signage through the avatar of The Well Meaning Guy, helped along by director Michael Barrett's history in cinematography. The pleasing visuals are however dropped in the later half, as the encroaching night time results in us watching a film made mostly out of darkness. It becomes very hard to make out anything, and considering this is the part of the film where the monsters are, you would hope for maybe a well timed flash of light from a torch.

At a short 78 minutes, you would hope that they'd manage to squeeze a lot of plot into a short amount of time, but somehow they even able to skimp on that. The plot is threadbare, and the dialogue seems clunky. Considering The Beautiful Girlfriend's interest in religion, you think maybe she would have more to say about the myth of the kitsune. From what I've read before, kitsune's seem more revered then feared, and while this spirit is a shape shifter, it seems like a more malevolent yokai. Plus, that sculpture seems way too Western, and considering Western influences in art didn't start filtering into Japan until the 19th century, it kind of betrays the ancient curse thing they've got going on in this film. Unless the temple was placed there to lure in unsuspecting tourists?


While the first half of the film attempts to setup the dull relationship of these characters, it kind of nosedives in the later half, with scares being on cue and the twist being obvious from its very first hint. There is no atmosphere during Temple's pivotal scares as no background has been giving to this temple and its demon, apart from the standard "keep away" and "its dangerous". The ending is almost laughable it its predictability, and a sore way to end a movie with so much source material at hand in the form of Japan's rich and fascinating mythology.

3/10

Layla

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

PADDINGTON 2 - podcast review out now


Due to the massive success of the first movie, the little bear from darkest Peru more then deserved a sequel. Directed by Paul King, Paddington 2 sees our young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) be convicted of a crime he didn't commit, all because he wants to get an extra special gift for his Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday. Starring Hugh Grant as one of the most dastardly villains in cinema this year, Paddington 2 is a pure delight to watch, a visual wonderland and a masterclass in storytelling. Also starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Brendon Gleeson.

You can download this episode directly here.

Make sure you subscribe to us on itunes here and leave us a review, as well as following us on twitter and facebook.


You can listen to our review of The Sinner, the show we watched instead of Paddington 2 on its first week of release, and of which we greatly lament, right here