How We Got Through….May 2017

Films

Snatched

Not bad, just disappointing. Very bland, the kind of film you see and then immediately forget. Shame as it has some very good moments in it, but some of the jokes fall flat and land not with raucous laughter, but with silence. Same with directing too, a lot of the visual and editing decisions are kind of strange. All in all it seems like every part of it was a first draft, every shot closing not with “perfect, one more for safety” but “that will do for now”. Same with the script, entire scenes seem like bits which should have been taken out in a second draft.

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Joan Cusack is really good in the small amount of scenes she’s in though

Colossal

One of the best films I’ve seen all year. Oh it’s flawed as hell (particularly in terms of time and establishing exactly “when” certain scenes take place in relation to each other) but all those flaws do is take it from a 10/10 to a solid 8. Anne Hathaway gives a performance which equals Rachel Getting Married (which if you haven’t seen, you really should, it’s superb), and Jason Sudeikis is creepier than I ever thought he could be, the kind of performance which makes you think he could easily move into more dramatic roles, or play a serial killer. So well written too, so much so that I immediately looked into the writer and made a note to watch everything he’s done. It’s also extremely unique, I can’t think of a film to compare it too, stands alone in a genre of one, and I can’t see anybody doing it better.

The Promise

A 2 hour film about the Armenian genocide, no, wait, come back, it’s actually REALLY good. Brutal without being exploitative, which is the risk you take when doing a film like this. If you don’t do it right it can come off like you’re exploiting the reality for the sake of drama, you have to stay grounded enough, and honest enough, for the film to work. It also REALLY annoyed a certain group of people, who flooded IMDB with negative reviews of it, calling it propaganda and lies without a hint of truth, saying that the genocide never happed. Most of these “reviews” were posted before the film was even released, so you know they’re definitely trustworthy. Oscar Isaac is REALLY good in this by the way, believable throughout, but special mention has to go to Marwan Kenzari, who plays his character with such conviction, and does such wonderful facial work throughout that it’s one of the most genuine performances of the year. I would highly recommend seeing this, and not just because it annoys genocide deniers (which is always fun)

Sleepless

I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as f*cking tedious as this was. You’d think a 90 minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen are because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There’s some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shakey cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shakey Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shakey Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time, yet considering everybody in the cinema stood up the very second the credits started, I don’t think it’s going to be looked forward to that much. Maybe I’m spoiled by John Wick, which set my standards unbelievably high, but still, not a great film, it’s not even a good one. In fact, probably one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

Suburban Gothic

See, now this is dumb fun. Very very fun. I can’t remember who told me to watch this, but whoever it was; thank you very much. Best watched whilst drunk and with other people. It’s on netflix now so if you’ve got that, watch it, and if you don’t, get netflix, watch it, then cancel after the free month.

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TV Shows

The Office (US)

A US remake that is without a doubt superior to the original. I have a major issue with the UK version; the main character starts off disliked, then ends up with all the characters embracing him, without changing anything about his personality. His character does not deserve his happy ending, all he’s done is bitch and moan and be bitter and spiteful, he should not be the good guy and it feels like it’s done mainly because he was played by the writer. The US one handles it differently, because it has more episodes it allows the main character to have more depth and be a fully developed person, so he comes off a lot more likeable. This show is also helped by the fact that Jim and Pam are one of the best relationships I’ve ever seen in television, so often everything about them is said just with a look, or with body language, you could watch it in silence and get a sense of how they respond to each other.

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It also provided me with a lot of good Cover Photos for facebook

Books

1000 Years Of Annoying The French

A book that’s pretty self explanatory, a look at complex history of anglo-french relations. Definitely has an English bias, but never really comes off as hateful and angry. Fascinating read which goes in depth into a lot of historical fallacies, and tries to examine why the two countries occasionally seem like one of those couples who constantly argue and cheat on each other, yet still stay together for some reason.

Cash

Really interesting, but I don’t think you need to read it more than once. Very honest about his own flaws, yet seems to hold back when discussing others. So it’s interesting but kind of frustrating, yet it makes sense, a biography shouldn’t be entirely about settling old scores, and I’ve read many biographies which have been ruined by hot angry and bitter the person has seemed.

The Damned United

Almost exactly as good as the film, and the film was amazing. Possibly the only sports story where the hero comes from ahead and loses.

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Also a reminder of how quotable Brian Clough could be

Death Note

One of the best (read: the only) manga series I’ve read. Fantastic character work, it can be difficult to write genius’s as sometimes writers just research a lot of information and have the characters repeat what they’ve researched, so it comes off kind of sterile and bland. The two main characters in this are obviously incredibly intelligent, but this isn’t shown through facts and figures, it’s shown through logic. They come to nonsensical conclusions, and then explain how it’s not only logical, but the only possible thought you should have (much like the Sherlock series often did). Kind of an intellectual cold war between the two characters, they both KNOW whom the other one is, but need to try to get the other one to drop their guard and reveal more information.

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This quote is life

 

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Why We Love….In The Loop

It’s election season! Which, just like the football season, is something where the losing team get to claim it’s a close result if they lost by 40 points, and the winners get to claim “nobody can question us” when they win by 4. They both run far too long, consist of people straddling the poverty line claiming “they’re just like us” about millionaires who wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire, and are likely to dominate the news for months on end. Unless you’re The Sun of course, who decided, in the middle of election season, that THIS was the most important bit of news in the world:

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Hold the front page: women have bums!

Due to the standard of political reporting by newspapers these days (which basically consists of “insult the party that our owner doesn’t support) is it any surprise that people are disengaged with politics? Almost every election now, no matter who wins the results are the same; the largest section of the results belong to non-voters. This is particularly weird when you look at some of the most dominant TV shows of this millennium; The Thick Of It, Veep, The Daily Show are some of the most well-regarded comedies ever made. It’s the same with drama too, particularly in America where The West Wing and House Of Cards are so well liked that if you say you don’t like them you’re likely to get thrown out of whatever room/building/spaceship you’re in. This shows that it’s not politics that people don’t like, it’s the state of politics. It’s like how if you refuse to eat rancid food, it’s not because you don’t like food, you just hate the option offered.

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So, this film in particular. A spin-off from the aforementioned The Thick Of It, featuring just four of the same characters, yet most of the same cast. This film gives a wonderful yet bleak view of what it actually means to be a modern politician; often thrown out of your depth, being put into no-win situations by other people, going from debating going to war whilst in Washington one week, to discussing someone’s garden wall falling down the next. This isn’t glamorous, it’s not sexy, it’s certainly not aspirational.

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Adapting a TV series to a feature length film is never easy, the path to successes like The Naked Gun and 21 Jump Street is littered with the corpses of Guest House Paradiso, Magic Roundabout, and countless Saturday Night Live films. This film works though, and I think part of that is because it uses different characters but the same actors. So you have actors who know the best way to play their roles, but new viewers don’t have episodes worth of character development and history that they need to know to enjoy the film, everyone starts on equal footing. The returning cast are in an odd position, people like Chris Addison now have to act alongside established acting behemoths like James Gandolfini, and the British cast more than hold their own. It also helps that it’s REALLY well done, the plot of this is extremely intricate and well developed. I spoke a short while ago about how you can have Friends on in the background and still get the gist of what’s going on, you definitely cannot do that with this. In fact, to be honest I’d recommend not even sneezing lest you risk missing someone’s facial reaction which then sets up the next plot development. If you don’t pay attention to this, you will be confused, actually even if you are paying attention it could still confuse you, but in a good way. Not in a “the screenwriters have no idea what they’re doing” way, in a “there is so much subtext in every line that I think I misread someone’s intentions”. It’s also REALLY funny, endlessly quotable, not just the political lines, there’s one line in particular I’ve always loved and will probably adapt to a facebook status at one point:

“Have you ever seen a film where the hero is a builder? No, because they never fucking turn up in the nick of time.”

The political stuff also works really well; where you have American and British politicians deciding whether to go to war based on dubious intelligence (good thing THAT’s not still an issue right? Right?). This film is actually quite rare in that it doesn’t present politicians either as evil, or as crusaders against evil. They’re just people who are put into situations they don’t understand by their bosses, which is something everyone can sympathise with. This somehow does the impossible, it makes politicians human. For that alone it deserves accolades, and for everything else, it deserves adoration.

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Oh yeah, it’s also kind of sweary, but never in a way that comes off as crass and infantile, which is a really fucking hard thing to pull off.

Why We Love…Arrested Development

I think it’s best summed up by a sentence I heard which compared this and Big Bang Theory: one is a dumb comedy about smart people, one is a smart comedy about dumb people. This is probably one of the smartest sitcoms that’s existed, if not “the” smartest. It’s not a show you can watch in the background. I remember many hours playing Football Manager in the early 2000’s (actually I think it might have been Championship Manager, but that’s not important right now), and I’d always have Friends on in the background, because that show is the epitome of background noise, you don’t need to pay to much attention to it, you can just have it on in the background and tune in and out, not really missing much (in fact I’d say you can probably start watching any episode halfway through and immediately figure out what’s happening). That’s definitely not the case here, you have to pay attention to it, it’s pretty much the only sitcom I can think of which feels like it a written test at the end of the episode to test how much you remember.

 

Related to that point; thank God for netflix. This is a binge-watching show. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like watching this one episode a week, there’s so many call-backs and running jokes running throughout the series that I feel unless you watch them in quick succession you’re at risk of forgetting certain things; you’ll still find it funny, but not as much as you could. It could be because I’ve binge watched it that I, personally, find it difficult to remember specific episodes. The episodes are so interlinked and connected that it can be difficult to differentiate between them (with the exception of the fourth series where each episode focused on a different person). Although this itself turns out to be a good thing as it means when you want to watch a certain moment you usually have to watch two or three episodes to get to it, by which point the show has pulled you back in and you have to watch every episode again.  That’s not to say it doesn’t have great standalone moments. Do you have access to the internet? Then congratulations, you’ve almost definitely seen a gif or screencap from this show. Including two which everybody should have stored up so they can post them as reactions to certain news items:

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80% of news items are made funnier by those reactions (the other 20% are mainly football scores). You may have noticed this blog has been a bit different to the ones I normally do about this kind of thing, it’s more rambling, less coherent, a bit more like it’s been drunkenly written at 1am. That’s because it’s really hard to get across how great this show is, it almost transcends sitcom and stands alone as it’s own thing. It’s achieved a cult status and devotion that many shows would love to have (only sitcoms I can think of in the last few years to have achieved something similar are It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Community). So you want to know why you should watch this show? Go up to a fan of it, and ask about it, see the excitement and genuine excitement in their eyes as they talk about their favourite moments, the passion they talk about this show with. Or, just watch the damn show in preparation for the new series.

How We Got Through…..April

Films

Life

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Pretty darn good sci-fi. You watch it and think “you know what would be awesome? If x happens”, and then it does happen, or something better happens. Was worried when I saw the trailer that it would be another cliche “parasitic alien takes over people”, but nope, this is an alien beating people using pure brute strength. And the ending? So harsh, absolutely perfect for the genre. Definitely need to see it again, if only to see whether the opening scene was one shot or whether it just had minimal cuts.

Boss Baby

Better than the abysmal trailers would make you think it is. Some genuine laugh out loud moments.

Scream Film Series

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This was the first horror series I liked growing up. I had watched a few horror films before (enough to recognise and be aware of the tropes and conventions) and it was amazing to see this film not only acknowledge them, but tear them apart as well. It seemed to fall apart slightly in the third one (which, fun fact, until I purchased the box set, was the only one I owned on DVD). The impact of the series has been lessened somewhat by the fact that everybody now does what it did. It’s like watching Seinfeld in a modern context, you think “but why does everyone go on about this? It’s just doing what every other sitcom does”. In reality the reason Seinfeld does what every sitcom does now, is because they’re all following its lead. What was once revolutionary is now standard. Will probably be the series that I blog about this halloween (because it’s good, and because I think it’s the only horror franchise I own which I haven’t already blogged about).

Their Finest

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Have you seen Suicide Squad? You know that bit near the end where the fire guy goes “we’re family”, and the audience is like “how? You’ve only known each other for like a day”? Basically that happens here, certain things between characters don’t feel earned enough and feel kind of forced. Which is a shame as it’s actually a really good story, with great performances and impressive dialogue. When I went to see it there were trailers for Dunkirk, and Churchill. So that’s three films this year which are based around World War 2, oddly high amount for one year. If was World War 1 I’d understand it is 100 years since. Has some pretty good lines about truth in film, well, more accurately, the importance of lies in film.

Going In Style

A tale of two films in terms of directing. The opening section is really weirdly shot in terms of colour, kind of ugly. But once the story gets going and the heist gets going, it starts to look a lot better. The main performances are good, but Joey King, who plays Michael Caine’s granddaughter is really good in the short amount of time she’s given. Logical story, but sadly one that doesn’t have the guts to stick the knife in emotionally when it should.

Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2

Did you enjoy the first one? Then you’ll enjoy this. Just as impressive, funny, and brilliant as the first one. Also it has a brilliant soundtrack, possibly the best one of the year so far. Short I know, but it’s highly likely I’m going to give this a blog of its own at some point.

Fanboys

Wall to wall Star Wars references, and I get the feeling if I had actually watched Star Wars I’d realise the references are also ceiling to floor.

Table 19

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I enjoyed it, a lot. It’s what I deem “social mystery” film. Where the audience has to work out why certain characters are who they are, what caused them to be like that. It’s like an Agatha Christie murder mystery if the victim was good manners. It’s a hard film to describe the plot about without it sounding really bad, it’s mostly just people talking. But the characters are so well created and acted that it works. A lot of people dislike this film, and I kind of see why, nothing really happens. But to me it was wonderful, one of the most emotionally honest films I’ve seen in a while.

The Belko Experiment

Not really a fan of it. For this film to work you need it to be one of two things:

  1. Really stylish and brutal.
  2. Really clever.

This is neither. It seems to run out of ideas by the end of the trailer. It would be a really good short film, but for it to be a full length feature it needs something else, it needs a twist, it needs to amaze and surprise you in the final third, it needs something, ANYTHING that you didn’t see coming. As it is….nothing.

The Night Before

Not a bad Christmas film, but not one I can imagine being needed to be seen again. Basically the film equivalent of drinking a Bucks Fizz at breakfast, acceptable at Christmas, a bit weird at any other time of the year

Madagascar: A Journey Diary

Extremely personal, and touching. Everything a short film should be.

Books

Hitchhikers Guide

Really funny, but also kind of bleak and says a lot about humanity. Which is kind of what all good science fiction should do, it should be used to hold a mirror up to humanity and expose all our flaws. Straddles the fine line between being smart and incomprehensible, in the most glorious way possible.

Music

A Poet’s Life – Tim Armstrong

A really good album to listen to in the summer, so of course I listen to it in April. Relaxing and mellow, really good to chill to.

Cex Sells – Blaqk Audio

A LOT of people hate this, probably because it’s not A.F.I. I like it though, if A.F.I is the sound of Davey Havok going through teenage rebellion, this is the sound of him having cocaine-fuelled orgies with strippers.

Blink 182

A really good album, but not very Blink. At least, not the Blink we were expecting at the time.

Dude Ranch – Blink 182

Listening to this album it’s easy to see how they became one of the biggest pop-punk bands. The melodies, the lyrics, and the occasional hint of darkness are all there. It would take until Enema before they perfected their style, but the basic elements of it are here for everyone to see. Nowhere is this more evident than in Dammit, surely one of the greatest pop-punk songs made?