Tuesday, 21 November 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE - podcast review out now

"Did you ever fight a hippo?" SPOILERS AHEAD! DC have been struggling to satisfy an audience as they attempt to establish their own cinematic universe, and now, five movies in, they release the big guns with Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder. With Superman dead (yeah, ignore the poster), Batman has to put together a team of meta-humans, including The Flash, Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, to fight off against the big bad Steppenwolf. While definitely a step in the right director, Justice League suffers in the same old ways that the other movies did, resulting in something that is messy, but at least knows when to laugh at itself. Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill.

We mention Mindhunter and Wonder Woman in this podcast. You can check out our reviews of these programmes and films here and here.

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Monday, 20 November 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE - podcast review out tomorrow

DVD Roundup: Summon an Army of Spiders edition

Isn't it nice when movie studios can work together. And honestly, its about time that the MCU included arguably their most famous hero. The third cinematic incarnation of Spider-Man in 15 years, Homecoming cuts out the origin story that we're all thoroughly familiar with and jumps straight to Peter Parker's existential crisis. Funny, and with a hint of John Hughes, we also get to see some of the after effects of all the explosions from previous films, as bad guy the Vulture is direct result of Tony Starks disaster capitalism, a delicious piece of continuity that I enjoy. Listen to our full podcast review in the player below.

The unexpected hit of the summer, The Big Sick tells the - roughly - true story of how Kumail Nanjiani, who plays himself, met his real life wife, and how they stayed together after she fell into a coma. While I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, The Big Sick breaks through the cliché's and delivers one of the best jokes of the year. Listen to our podcast review in the player below (a double bill podcast with Dunkirk).

I've a bit of a love/hate relationship with Sofia Coppola. She creates great looking worlds that are at once whimsical and dark, with a kind of glamour aware its in crisis. However, they always strike as slightly, well, vacant. Happy to linger on details, but uninterested in character development. The Beguiled has a great cast and an interesting premise (wounded soldier recovers in an all-female school and starts messing around with them), but considering its source materials pulpy origins, don't expect much psychological investigations.

When something is criticised for being too violent, I think "maybe this is something I want to watch". I've only seen the first episode so far, but I'm definitely interested. Kit Harington with a sword? Yes. Attractive sets? Yes. Brutally realistic torture? Huh, so that's where the phrase "hung, drawn and quartered" came from. Plus, of course, its about the motherfucking gunpowder plot of 1605, maybe one of my favourite historical events from these British Isles. Yeah, I'm looking forward to the next two episodes of Gunpowder.

Sunday, 19 November 2017


50. “Mrs. Peel – We’re Needed!”


“Look — (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) — But There Were These Two Fellers...”

Turning on my television, one Sunday morning, I found an unfeasibly young-looking John Cleese, wearing a bow tie, trying to prevent a woman from entering a room containing shelves filled with eggs, on which were painted clown faces, as a mark of copyright. (There is a real Clown Egg Register, but they moved to using ceramic eggs in the 1980s.) Later, I saw a group of henchmen taking orders from Punch & Judy puppets, before killing their targets using slapstick, and also a comedy writer, played by Bernard Cribbins, wildly spouting one-liners before he is killed, in a room filled with scrunched-up pieces of paper, filled with aborted attempts at writing a joke.

Yes, I also thought “The Avengers” – the “actual” “Avengers,” not the Marvel Comics one - was supposed to be about espionage, but this episode, using the long title above, came during the show’s sixth and last season in 1968-69, by which point it had become a parody of espionage shows, of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, and of itself. In the United States, “The Avengers” was shown on ABC, the same network as the Adam West “Batman” series, and even if the punches and gunshots were real here, the overall tone was much the same. In fact, the story of the show shares some similarities with a later ABC show – “Happy Days.”

When it began in 1961, “The Avengers” was the story of a police surgeon, Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry), who is contacted by John Steed (Patrick Macnee) to solve cases, with stories that played the idealism of the former against the professionalism of the other. Hendry was the star, and Macnee did not spear in every episode. A few episodes of this first series still exist, and they are very engaging, with quite a bit of grit and grime you do not expect if you have only seen the later episodes. In the early 1960s, UK television dramas were filmed as if they were live broadcasts of a stage play, with multiple cameras, sets and a few film inserts, with as much tension coming from this set-up as from the stories themselves – a couple of fluffed lines will make their way through, but it doesn’t matter.

Ian Hendry would leave “The Avengers” for a film career, and the show was changed – Steed’s character became more defined as working for a branch of British intelligence, and his trenchcoated look was swapped for Saville Row suits. A couple of different helpers were tried, but the impact of Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, a tough, leather-suited anthropologist with skills in hand-to-hand combat, defined a new sexual tension that became integral to the show - Macnee and Blackman would later record the novelty song “Kinky Boots” together.

When Honor Blackman would leave for her own film career, starting with “Goldfinger,” “The Avengers” stopped production for six months, in order to work out how to proceed. This is where the “Happy Days” analogy comes in, as “jumping the shark” comes from the moment Arthur Fonzarelli jumped over a shark tank on a motorcycle, and the show stopped being about Richie Cunningham. With “The Avengers” handed over to a team that dealt more with film than TV, the show was consciously turned into the most expensive advertising campaign for British tourism, with stately homes and countryside on view. This attracted ABC, who began commissioning episodes of “The Avengers” for the US, with the UK seeing them later – this change of affairs turned the studio-bound show into a Technicolor action spectacle shot entirely on film, and shot like a feature film, with the equivalent of a million-pound budget for every episode.

The characters changed again. John Steed was the epitome of a gentleman spy, with the origin of his orders no longer explained, apart from saying that he, and his sidekick, “were needed.” Plots could now incorporate science fiction, comedy, or whatever the writers wanted, anything as an excuse to show off the style of the show. A need for Blackman’s replacement to be someone also with “man appeal” – “m. appeal” - created Emma Peel, with Diana Rigg’s character holding their own as much as Cathy Gale, with superior skills, including in chemistry (both scientific and sexual – Macnee thought Steed and Peel did go to bed together away from the camera).

The last series of “The Avengers”, with Linda Thorson’s more innocent Tara King replacing Rigg’s Peel, was supposed to be a return to a grittier type of story, but this swung wildly with stories in the older style, which led to the episode featuring John Cleese and Bernard Cribbins. When ABC cancelled the show, no-one in the UK recommissioned it, and the show died - until French and Canadian investment led to “The New Avengers” in 1976.

By the end of the 1960s, the influence of “The Avengers” was very much in evidence – we would not have the ATV/ITC string of more outlandish shows like “The Persuaders!”, “The Champions,” “Jason King” and “Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)” - although they can also claim their lineage from “The Saint,” starring Roger Moore, which itself became more frivolous over time. The superficial gloss of “The Avengers” is fascinating to watch back, reflecting its time perfectly, but now I know what the show was like when it started, that has also become a good watch, even if it is entirely unrelated to what it would become.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) - Richee Review

Another day, another Adam Sandler film on Netflix. This one comes with an all star cast, and no, it's not his usual entourage of idiots. Sandler is joined by Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Emma Thompson. This film strays into a dramatic story with Sandler shouting at moments to bring in comedic elements. 

The story follows Danny Meyerowitz as he goes to stay with his father after breaking up with his wife, and his daughter heading of to college. Danny's father Howard is a former artist/ art teacher in a new relationship with a slightly extravagant Maureen. As Howard plans to sell off the family home, Danny is unhappy to learn half-brother Matthew has a hand in it. When the father is taken ill, the three step-siblings have to pull together for each other.
So the good thing about the film is the quality of the acting, as everyone in this does a good job. Now that's out the way, lets talk about the bad. Firstly, no matter how well acted the characters are, they're also all bloody unlike able. The story is generic and boring, following the same old dysfunctional family story I've seen time and time again. Then finally, the film wasn't funny. Fair enough, it's a dramatic story, but with the actors cast you know they were trying to make certain scenes funny, like Sandler getting road rage, or Sandler's daughters and the awkward films they watch.

There really isn't much to say about this one. I found it very dull, multiple plot points seem pointless, and the struggles the family go through I just didn't care about because of how much I disliked them. Throw in some pointless cameos from Sigourney Weaver and Adam Driver and you have the Meyerowitz Stories. Final verdict 3/10: another bad Adam Sandler film, this time due to it's tedious story over the usual stupid story where Sandler is the hero, at least they didn't go down that angle this time. Richee 


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

THE SINNER - podcast review out now

We all make mistakes. Instead of watching Paddington 2, we stayed in and watched another highly rated Netflix crime series. The Sinner, based on the book by Petra Hammesfahr, sees Jessica Biel played a mother and wife who inexplicably murders a man on a beach. We all know she did it, but why did she do it? Co-starring Bill Pullman as detective Harry Ambrose, we break down the plot of this drama and wonder, is it as good as everybody says it is? Should we have watched Paddington 2 instead?

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