How We Got Through…February 2017

Film

The Girl With All The Gifts

Actually really disappointed I missed this last year now. A lot less cliche than I thought it would be. I wasn’t completely sold on it until one moment; there’s a scene where shits going down and a doctor is standing in front of a window, in background you see someone running towards the window, you assume it’s a soldier but it’s one of these evil dastardly zombie people, who bursts through the window. This achieves one of those rare things in film; a surprise which hides nothing prior to it. You are shown everything you need to be shown before it happens, yet it still somehow shocks you. Probably the best non-comedic zombie film of the last few years.

Split

Nothing inherently wrong with this movie, I just never brought the central concept. It’s like if I was watching a film where Ryan Gosling plays a character who is too ugly to get a date, they’d need to be a moment in the film which means you can buy the central concept as otherwise you’ll just be sitting there thinking “yeah this is BS”. This film never has that moment, as such it kind of fails. The acting in it was superb though, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress after last years The Witch, whilst James McAvoy does fantastic facial work, it gets to the point where you can tell which personality is in control of him from a still shot of his face.

Lego Batman Movie

Will probably not be the best film I see this year, but will definitely be the most fun. The quickest I’ve been sold on a film so far, usually it’s taken me about ten minutes into a film to think “okay I’m into this”, this film sold me in the first sentence. Plus, there’s a Christian group in America protesting it and calling it “gay propaganda”, so you have to see it, even if only to annoy them.

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Zootropolis

Still one of the greatest animated films of 2016. Big downside is it doesn’t seem to have led to more work for Ginnifer Goodwin, which is a shame as she was fantastic in this and deserves more roles.

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Red State

Has some fantastic monologues in it, which Michael Parks knocks out of the….erm, area. Him and John Goodman stand head and shoulders above everyone else in the film. I think it’s more interesting than good, I don’t think it really works as a horror film, horror is a REALLY difficult genre to direct well as everything needs to work, you need the right music, the right lighting etc, if just one of those things doesn’t work then you won’t scare people. Also the film has serious pacing issues, especially in the opening third which half-asses its way into building the universe, but doesn’t do it well enough. Despite that there is something inherently watchable about it, I think it’s because the story is interesting, it just should have been better told.

Inside Out/Lava

I have a huge problem with this film, every time I sit down to watch it my allergies start playing up so it always looks like I’m crying. The allergies get particularly bad during the scene where Bing Bong dies.

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Damn ninjas

La La Land

I liked it, but I didn’t love it, and I feel it wanted me to love it. It looked fantastic, and the soundtrack was good, it just left me feeling nothing. Probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I felt Ryan Gosling’s character was a bit of a dick and the romance made zero sense. It’s biggest flaw I feel is its dependence on music, if you took away the songs you’re left with a fairly average story. Whilst the songs were good, they all sounded a bit too familiar, every song sounded like another one, so when you listen to the soundtrack you just think “what song does this remind me of?”, “wait, this has same tune as the song from The Muppets sequel”, and “Seriously, what is this one? I think it’s Amanda Palmer but I’m not sure”.

Rings

Unpopular opinion time; this film should not have been a horror, it should have a psychological drama with scary moments. I feel under the service of this story is a really solid detective/ghost story, but it’s restricted by being a horror so puts in scares which don’t do much to enhance the film. Also, I’m getting very annoyed with films being ruined by their trailers. I’d seen two trailers for this; one of which I saw back in November and was mainly focused on one of the characters in the shower and freaky shit starts happening. A well made scene, but it’s also the final scene of the film, it takes place after the “monster” is supposed to have died, so after the “death” you just sit there thinking “I know it’s not the end as we haven’t seen the scene which the entire advertising campaign was based around”. Especially since I think the revelation at the end was supposed to be a twist. It would be like if The Usual Suspects had the tagline “Kevin Spacey is….Keyser Soze”. On the plus side the way the film opened was fantastic and was one of my favourite 10 seconds of cinema of the year so far. They put the Paramount logo into the film itself, by showing it on tv screens on an airplane. They also distorted the logo as it was playing. I love when films do things like that, it grabs your attention immediately.

Manchester By The Sea

A lot has been said about the performances of this film, I feel enough hasn’t been said about how good the script is. It’s so good that the dialogue doesn’t feel written, it was like they just filmed people talking naturally. It was also the lack of words that was masterful, there were moments where most films would have had characters deliver impassioned monologues, the kind of monologues which sum up their characters and the film, monologues which are so masterfully written people will quote them for years. This film doesn’t have monologues in that moment, it condenses those moments down to a single line. But you understand everything in that sentence, you feel the weight of that sentence, how crushing it is and how much is held within it.

TV Show

Not Going Out

I don’t know what it is but it seems to have lost something. I think it’s because of how the concept of the show has changed. It used to be about two friends, one of whom was living with the other ones ex in a flat in London. Then it became two friends, one living with the other’s sister. Then one of the cast members left and it just became a standard flat sitcom. Now they’ve moved out of the flat and got a family. It’s good that the story has progressed and it’s interesting to chart the change throughout the seasons, but the new series seems more like a spin-off than a continuation. Also the show has still refused to answer one question; why are these two characters in a relationship. Before they were a couple it was clear there was an attraction from one character to the other, but there was never any indication that there was any attraction the other way. The most likely solution is probably Stockholm Syndrome, but they don’t outright say that due to the terrorist connotations, bloody political correctness.

Book

The Saga Of Darren Shan – Darren Shan

My favourite vampire story. A 12 book series detailing someone growing up, and handles it very well. When you read the earlier books the sentence structure is very childlike, which makes sense considering he is a child, yet as the series develops the author changes the style to a more mature style as the character ages. It’s subtle enough that you might not consciously notice, but on a subconscious level it does register with you and is a genius bit of storytelling. If you haven’t read it I should warn you; it gets VERY weird towards the last few books.

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Songs/Albums

I Will Follow you into the dark – Death Cab For Cutie

How did I not hear this song before? This is a song I should have heard for the first time when I was a bitter cynical 15 year old, I would have clinged to this song like a barnacle clings to a ship, like chewing gum clings to school tables, like I cling to the idea that there’s an adequate way to complete this simile. As it is I heard this when I was a bitter cynical 30 year old.

Actual Results May Vary – Babypuncher

One of the best songs from a simply amazing EP released last year (available for free download here). The lyrics in this song are simply sublime. My favourite line being:

“I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me, but we can both be broken together”

That line resonated so much with me when I first heard it, and sums up the feelings of characters in a script I’m working on at the moment (a longer version of this). This is a perfect song to listen to whilst sitting on a train in the rain and looking out of the window.

Please Come Home – Dustin Kensrue

Unpopular opinion here, I prefer his solo stuff than his stuff with Thrice. Although it can be hard to get past the feeling he sounds like that guy on your college course who carries an acoustic guitar everywhere and plays Wonderwall shirtless under a tree like a dickhead (that’s actually pretty much the genre it’s listed as on my ipod).

Best song:  I Knew You Before.

If the rest of the album was as good as this song, it would be one of my favourite albums.

I’m With Stupid – Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann makes me feel things, and I’m not ashamed to say that. Has the perfect mix of snarky and heartfelt, like a clinically depressed comedian. Also has a line which I absolutely love for some reason:

“Row, row, row your boat

gently down the stream

hope you drown and never come back”

And you have to love an album which is melodic and beautiful yet starts with the line

“you fucked it up, you should’ve quit”

Best song: Long Shot

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Why We Love…The Lego Batman Movie

To put it simply; it’s very very funny. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that even by the end of the year I’ll still consider it one of the funniest films of 2017. That’s kind of a weird thing to say really, I mean, if you had told me five years ago that one of the funniest films of 2017 will be The Lego Batman movie I’d have thought you were insane (I’d also wonder why you travelled back in time just to tell me about The Lego Batman movie instead of telling me something useful). I remember when The Lego Movie was first announced and everybody was cynical, saying it will be a stupid merchandise-driven film that will lack originality and wit. Then it was released, and all those fears were smashed into oblivion, it was funny, heartfelt, and had genuine warmth. Safe to say, expectations were high for The Lego Batman movie, and thankfully this matches, and exceeds them. From the opening narration:

“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music. Edgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos. Really long and dramatic logos. DC. The house that Batman built. Yeah, what Superman? Come at me bro. I’m your kryptonite”

That sets up exactly what type of film you’re about to watch; a film that’s very silly, and gloriously so. It then gets sillier, there’s an odd faux-mance between Batman and the Joker which culminates in Joker teaming up with Voldemort, Sauron, Godzilla and King Kong.

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Yes, this film is silly, but it also has so more nods and winks than a flirtatious mute. If there’s a reference to previous Batman films to be made, this film will make it. You can tell that whilst the film-makers are making jokes about Batman and the mythos, they do have a genuine love for the character and his world, they’ve clearly done their research. References to not only previous films, but also very very obscure villains (who’d have thought that Condiment Man would finally make an appearance?).

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The story is really good too. There’s a tendency in comedy films to think the story isn’t important, this is very very wrong. Perfect example of this is Airplane, that film only works because of the story, yes the jokes are funny, but they’re funny within the context of a serious situation, the story itself isn’t comedic, but it has comedic situations in it. My rule of thumb for determining whether a comedy films story is good is this: would the plot also as a serious film? I think this one would work, it’s a story about a lonesome superhero dealing with his isolation whilst also maintaining a mutually destructive rivalry with the Joker (which is also one of the themes from the seminal piece The Killing Joke). 

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Now if only this could have been made with the same love

Since I saw it I’ve been trying to think how to sum it up in one sentence, and I think I’ve finally found it. The sentence which best describes everything about this film, so here it is: this film is basically Deadpool for children. And we all know how great Deadpool was.

The Five Best Sitcom Romances

Valentine’s Day is this week, which means we’re only a few days away from the best day of the year; 15th February, otherwise known as “Reduced Chocolate Day”. So with that in mind here’s my five favourite romances from sitcoms (you probably could have guessed that from the title).

5. Titus and Erin – Titus

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Holy hell some of this was hard to watch, not in a “this is awkward”, or “this is terrible” way, but in a “this is so brutal and honest”. It’s a relationship on screen where one of the first defining moments is them cheating on each other, the two of them realised that they are both so screwed up, so full of neurosis and anger, that they are perfect for each other. Based on the relationship of the lead writer/actor Christopher Titus, he’s not ashamed to put everything out there, to say that during relationships you’re going to hate each other at times, but it will all work out in the end.

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Except that’s not the case. I mean, it is in the show, but not in real life. In real life his wife cheated on him, lied to the courts and said that he beat her and their children in an attempt to get custody of their children, then divorced him, leaving him more messed up than he already was. That knowledge makes it REALLY hard to watch this show at times, you know that every time the character (and by extension, the writer) is gushing about how fantastic she is, and how much he loves her, you now how it ends. It’s heartbreaking and emotionally devastating,

4.Darryl and White Josh – Crazy Ex Girlfriend

This  blog originally ended with “finally did something I never thought possible. I went an entire sitcom-based blog without once mentioning Crazy Ex Girlfriend.” then I would put a picture of a quote from it, then “damn”. But whilst looking for a quote I found this:

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How could I forget this? It’s not the main relationship of the show, but it’s definitely the best in terms of how happy it makes the characters. The way this started was a masterclass in how to set up a relationship in sitcom. There was one or two small moments between the two characters, and the moments were very very small, like “could easily be ignored or never referenced again as it was a one-off joke” thing. There was then nothing for a few episodes. In that time the audience started writing fan fiction about the two characters, and making comments on youtube videos saying how cute a couple they’d make. Then eventually Darryl admitted to himself that he was bisexual, and they’ve been together ever since, and because of the way it was built up the fandom rejoiced as it seemed like they had made it happen. They’re supportive of each other, different enough so that they retain their own personalities/provide balance, and it’s not one sided at all, you can see why both of them are into each other. They’re just so adorable together, it’s perfect.

3. Gavin And Stacey – Gavin And Stacey

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A sitcom that admitted from the outset that it was about a romance, which was kind of risky as if the central relationship didn’t work, then the entire sitcom would fail. Luckily the couple worked, and we got to chart the entire course of the relationship through the show. One of the best things about this show is also kind of annoying; it’s only three series. I do wish there was more, but I realise that new series would be a bit pointless, the story has been told. It’s like they had a definite end point and the entire series was building towards that, so adding any extra would feel less essential, unless they had a story they were desperate to tell.

2. Marshall and Lily – How I Met Your Mother

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A very very honest relationship. Despite being one of the most perfect couples in television from the last few years, these two do argue, a lot, and not just silly arguments. They are angry, hate-filled and deeply personal arguments. Yet apart from a few moments, you never feel they’re going to split. You somehow know deep down that no matter what they do, they’ll stay strong and will stay together.

1. Pam and Jim – The Office

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So adorable and perfect for each other. Even a bitter cynic such as myself can’t help but feel slightly warm inside at the way these two interact. The key to this relationship; John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer. The actors behind the characters do so much to make it work. There’s subtle nuances to the things they do, little looks they give each other etc mean that they don’t look like two actors playing a couple, they look like a genuine couple, the two share an innate warmness that radiates from them and is a testament to sitcom romances. There are some people who believe that once they got together their relationship suffered and they became insufferable, these people are wrong. Jim and Pam for life!

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So there’s that done. And happy chocolate day everyone.

 

How We Got Through…January 2017

Let’s face it, this year has not got off to a good start. Not even a month in and we’ve already lost John Hurt, our governments have been so devastated by that news that in tribute they’ve decided to turn the world into a fully interactive version of 1984 running 24/7  . In times of crisis we have two options; we can either 1) Help solve the problem. 2) Ignore the problem and lose ourselves in film, television, video games and music. Obviously we did number two. So here’s how we got through the first month of this year

Film

A Monster Calls

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This is not an easy film to watch on an emotional level, one of the few films I’ve seen lately that seeks to emotionally blackmail the watcher. Definitely the best looking film I’ve seen at the cinema this year (note: it’s the only film I’ve seen at the cinema this year). One of the few downsides is Sigourney Weaver’s English accent, which is slightly uneven throughout. Reminiscent of a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and a Neil Gaiman book, can be best described as a modern day fairy tale. Bayona did a fantastic job of directing this, whilst the Liam Neeson tree is telling stories (it’s an odd film) the film switches visual styles so it almost becomes a living watercolour painting, it’s awe-inspiring and genuinely new, never seen anything that was done like this (the closest is when Hermione was telling the stories of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the style switched to a weird animated one). The only previous film I’ve seen of his was The Impossible, and that was in 2012 so can’t remember too much about it, but I can remember being really impressed with the way he directed certain moments in it and was really good at creating visual tension, which is a good sign for his next film; the Jurassic World sequel.

Tyrannosaur

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Whilst A Monster Calls is bleak, it cannot hold a candle to this. A film which begins with someone kicking a dog to death, gets progressively bleaker, and then culminates in the lead character decapitating a dog and sitting there with it’s head in his lap, with tales of domestic abuse and rape in the middle. If you know someone who is annoyingly optimistic and happy, show them this film, you will break them. Still a major disappointment that Olivia Colman didn’t win a BAFTA for this, didn’t even get nominated which is a shame as I truly believe she’s one of the best British Actresses around at the moment, nobody can wring emotion from a story like she can.

The Lego Movie

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This was mainly to recover from Tyrannosaur. Brought for £5 from Morrisons and I feel like I cheated them somehow by getting it so cheap. The film equivalent of a rainbow emanating from a bowl of skittles and raining sunshine and joy onto people below. One of the few films this year which has made me genuinely laugh out loud multiple times, which takes some doing as I’m a miserable bastard.

Books

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Slightly too anvilicious in it’s environmental message, but otherwise it’s fantastic literature. Brilliant characterisation as well, the series is basically about somebody becoming a hero over the course of 8 books, and he was very evil in the first book so it was a long journey. A tale of growing up, a tale of greed, and a tale of humanity. One of the the best children’s book series I’ve ever read, it’s basically Die Hard with fairies, if the lead character was Light from Death Note. A film adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh is hopefully on the way, and he’s a director who I feel can really do it justice.

TV Shows

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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I know, I go on about this all the time, but there’s a reason for that; because I love it so much. Funny, heartbreaking and with songs so catchy it’s almost suspicious.

Insert Name Here

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An odd panel show on BBC (previous episodes available on iPlayer) about people. Basically they answer questions about historical figures and celebrities who all share the same name. Each episode focuses on a different name, so, for example, the episode this week was based on Charlie, so you had the teams answer questions about famous people called Charlie. Hosted by Sue Perkins, with Josh Widdicombe and Richard Osman From Pointless (to give him his full name) as team captains. A show which I can’t imagine working on any other channel than the BBC, and which wouldn’t be made by any other country than this one. Very very funny, and you learn a lot too.

 

 

Music

Lonely Daze – Kate Tempest

Completely different from what I imagined Kate Tempest would sound like, but oh so good. A wonderful piece of lyrical storytelling that you can just put on and lose yourself to.

Stars – Nina Simone

I first heard it in Bojack Horseman, and it has stuck with me ever since. Beautifully emotional, like proper tears and angry shaking emotion. The kind of song you’d drink yourself to death to.

 

So that’s how we got through this month, what did you use?