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.

The 5 Best HBO Shows

The American television industry had shockwaves running through it this week as president Michael Lombardo left after 33 years at the network, 9 of them as network head. Lombardo has spearheaded some of the networks most loved programming, notably he was responsible for guiding Game Of Thrones into development. The future for the network is now somewhat uncertain, not in a “they’re going out of business” way, but in a “wonder what’s happening next” way. Longtime collaborator Terence Winter quit halfway through development of the second series of Vinyl, Westworld had production halted when it was decided it needed retooling, and Game Of Thrones is suffering from rumours that it will end after another two seasons (or in other words; the time it takes George R.R. Martin to decide on a verb). So let’s celebrate the network with this, a look at the best work they’ve produced. This isn’t ranked by order of popularity, or critical success, just personal preference, so statistically nobody will agree with this, if that’s the case, comment and tell us where I went wrong.

5. Sopranos

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One of THE shows of the 2000’s. It was almost like they saw Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and said “Awww, Britain thinks they can make gangster related media, how adorable” and reclaimed America as the centrepiece for gangster films and television shows. I said “almost like”, the pilot was actually ordered in 1997, so it’s just a coincidence. But meh, still an awesome show. The effect it had on television cannot be understated, it could easily be argued that it was this, not Breaking Bad that legitimised television as an artform, not as a stepping stone on the way to film. If it wasn’t for this there wouldn’t be Six Feet Under, there wouldn’t be The Shield. It was this, more than anything, that legitimised HBO as a network that provides high concept dramas, a network that will produce content you wouldn’t get anywhere else. This was a show that could only really be done on this network, it was too brutal, too uncommercial to be made by anyone else.

4. Game Of Thrones

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A show so good it deserves its place here despite me having never seen an episode. A show once described (not by a critic, or anybody important, but by a woman behind me on the bus) as like “Merlin with muff”. Everyone knows roughly when Harry Potter was published, and it’s the same with a lot of book adaptations, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to discover the first book was published in 1996, yet most people weren’t aware of it until the TV series (the series didn’t really pick up until A Feast Of Crows in 2005). Without the show the book series would be highly regarded, but with it? It’s become a cultural phenomenon, and shown that you can do not just high concept, but high budget adaptations too. If the show was made sooner then the chances of Harry Potter being a TV series instead of film would be much higher, and we might have got Rik Mayall as Peeves, AS WE DESERVE!

3. Veep

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A show so good that it’s replaced The Office as evidence that American adaptations of British sitcoms can occasionally work out. Is this better than The Thick Of It? Not quite, but is it worthy enough to be discussed on its own? Definitely. It wasn’t really the easiest show to adapt, ABC attempted it in 2007 with Michael McKean (of Spinal Tap and Better Call Saul fame) and Oliver Platt in the leads. They made the pilot, and by all accounts it was pretty awful, they turned it into a conventionally shot sitcom, removed all improvisation and swearing, and then were surprised when it didn’t work. It would be like if you remade Transformers and took out all references to any robots, removed baking from Great British Bake Off, or added jokes to Joey. So when a second adaptation was announced, people were kind of worried. Then it was announced that Armando Iannucci would be directly involved and people were excited again. Then it was announced that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the lead and I became very excited as I was a massive Seinfeld fan. I was slightly concerned how an American version of this would be, but it’s just as sweary and brilliant as the original. The original was good, but it didn’t have the line “That’s like trying to use a croissant as a fucking dildo, it doesn’t do the job, and it makes a fucking mess”. It’s probably helped not just by Iannucci as showrunner (at least until the 5th season when David Mandel took over almost seamlessly), there’s other talent behind the camera too. The list of director’s is like a who’s who of British television comedy: Chris Morris, Chris Addison, Tristam Shapeero etc. This show is a mesh of British and American talent, and is all the better for it. Long may it continue (still needs Peter Capaldi though)

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm

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Seinfeld is undoubtedly one of the biggest American sitcoms of all time (sadly, one which has never really got the love it deserves over here) so it was always going to difficult for the creator, Larry David to pull off that greatness again. Yet he managed it, this show not just matches his previous show, at many times it beats it. Seinfeld had a weak period, the last two seasons in particular are nowhere near as good as the earlier seasons, but Curb hasn’t suffered that problem. The first season is a little off as the show is still finding its feet, but the second one is just all kinds of brilliant and details the character attempting to make a show after the success of Seinfeld, so lots of meta-comments and the media, lots of in-jokes, and a season long story arc. Basically, all the pretentious stuff that film students love. Oh yeah, the cameos. Because Larry David plays himself, and he konws famous people, there’s a lot of celebrity cameos; Ricky Gervais, John McEnroe, Mel Brooks all send themselves up beautifully. The Ricky Gervais one is important because he also made a cameo-heavy sitcom: Extras. There’s one major difference between the way the cameos are handled thought: Extras is defined by the cameos, episodes can almost be titled after them. People think “oh, that’s the Samuel L Jackson episode”, or “that’s the Orlando Bloom episode” and that’s how they’re defined, in Curb, the story comes first, and it’s all the better for it. The best one is probably Michael J. Fox, where he uses his Parkinsons as an excuse to be a bit of a dick in one of the best “I shouldn’t be laughing at this” moments, of which the show has plenty (a highlight is the episode where a holocaust survivor has dinner with someone from the TV series Survivor, and they argue over which one is the true survivor).

1. Last Week Tonight

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An odd choice for number one, I know. Not the funniest, not the best made, but definitely the most important. Like a surprisingly high amount of American political comedy, this owes its existence to The Daily Show. When Jon Stewart took a break from the show in 2013 to make Rosewater, he handed the show over to John Oliver, who filled the role admirably. That’s not an easy role to fill, as anybody who has been on the comments section of the facebook page of the show since Trevor Noah took over can attest (for the record, I think he’s doing an excellent job). John Oliver’s stint was so successful HBO offered him a series. Unlike the Daily Show this only has one episode a week, so isn’t really suited for extremely topical stuff. But what this does mean is the areas they do focus on, they REALLY focus on, aiming for them like US Military planes aim for terrorist training camps, only unlike the military, this show usually hits what it’s aiming for. Whether he’s creating Jeff The Diseased Lung in a segment on tobacco companies, or starting Our Lady Of Perpetual Exemption to show how televangelists should by all rights be told to go f*ck themselves with that knife-penis from Seven, this show constantly creates amazing segments which are perfect for sharing on social media. His reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris last year was particularly fantastic, basically telling ISIS “if you gigantic arseholes are hoping to win a war of culture with France, good fucking luck”. To me, a personal highlight will alway be his war of words with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, which led to the corrupt former executive to respond, calling him a “comedian fool” in a really badly made video. It’s weird, you’d think a guy who (allegedly) diverted relief funds from a Haiti earthquake appeal, and illegally sold black market tickets (not allegedly, this definitely happened, and he was punished for this million dollar making fraud by being made to pay back $250,000) would have enough money to make sure his videos were of a better production quality.

Recasting….The Saga Of Darren Shan (a.k.a: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant)

Vampires_assistantWelcome, welcome, welcome. We’ve been doing this for a while now and thought we’d try a new series: Recasting. In this we’ll both be looking at established franchises and casting our ideal movie versions. Throughout the series we’ll be looking at franchises such as Batman, Justice League, Artemis Fowl etc. But we’ll start with The Saga Of Darren Shan, a literary franchise which isn’t well known, but is well regarded. Now, this has already had a film adaptation (to stretch the definition): Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. But our casting for this will probably be different. In fact, I’ll be surprised if we had any cast members at all from the film. So, let’s begin.

NOTE: We will be using pictures from the Darren Shan manga (yes there is one, and it’s awesome) for comparisons, as its a WAY better adaption of the books.

Darren Shan

Played in the film by: Chris Massoglia

Asa Butterfield as Darren Shan

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Darren

Though at this point 18, with his timid and youthful look he could easily pass for around 13-15 (as young as he’s played before). That is still older than the 11 year old Darren at the start of the series, but this is Hollywood so having him start a bit older I think is fine, as long as they don’t make him seventeen or something (¬_¬ looking at you thoa who shall not be named). Having already led films like Hugo (amazing), Enders Game (decent), and X+Y (pretty good), he’s already proved himself as a capable leading man with a talent for heart and action. And his natural timid deminer I think would suit Darren, who’s always been shyer and would give him room to grow into the badass he becomes later in the series.

c977213066ca47b4191dd9c41aee4108This was actually the hardest one for me. I had to find a young enough actor who would age well with the series. One who could have both the youthful naivety of the first few books, with the fight of the last few. So in the end I decided to go with: Nicholas Hoult. When you watch About A Boy you just see the look of innocence on his face. Someone who still has hope and joy, then you watch Mad Max: Fury Road years later and you realise he will cut a bitch

 

Larten Crepsley

Played in the film by: John C Reilly

Peter Capaldi as Larten Crepsley

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Because who fucking else. If his run as the Doctor has proven anything, it’s that he can be dark and brooding when he needs, but also light, funny, and heartfelt. He has the look, he has the presents, he is Larten Crepsley. And no one else could possibly do better.

Going to keep this short, and keep it simple. As this is the one where I feel we may have chosen the same actor. Peter Capaldi, from The Thick Of It, Neverwhere, and a small indie low budget show called Doctor Who. It’s got to the point now where I don’t even have to think a bout it, if I read Crepsley, I read it in Capaldi’s voice. It just works so well, not only in dialogue but in the clothes and actions too.

 

Steve Leonard

Played in the film by: Josh Hutcherson

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Logan Lerman as Steve Leonard

Though typically known for his more timid troubled characters, like in Perks of being a wallflower (best film of 2012) and Fury (damn good flick), it’s that same bitter darkness I believe could lend well to Steve’s chasteveracter, as he is so messed up and troubled. He also has a much broader physical presents than Asa Butterfield, and his ability to come across sweet and caring as well as intense as fuck (again Perks of being a wallflower) I can definitely see him in a strong opposition to Butterfield.

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Ok, this was hard, I needed someone who could appear friendly but also have an undercurrent of psychopathic killer. As such I settled on Iwan Rheon, better known from Misfits. He played a nice character in that, but I feel he could pull off angry psychopath quite well. 

 

 

Mr. Tiny

Played in the film by: Michael Cerveris

Jim Broadbent as Mr. Tiny

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Again I have to agree with my writing colleague; Jim Broadbent has that perfect mix of charmingly harmless but with this clear dark undercurrent to him that would lend perfectly to Mr Tiny. Because Mr Tiny needs to have an off charm and humour to him, he can entertain you while also being able to make you shit yourself. And that’s Jim Broadbent in a nut-shell.

6bbd588d2b6338484eab45604d594f641382363851_fullThis was actually quite difficult as well. As he has to be someone who has all the capabilities of being charming and lovely, but also just pure evil at the same time. As such, in the end I went with Jim Broadbent, Horace Slughorn from Harry Potter, and Slater from Only Fools And Horses. This is an actor who looks like everybody’s favourite uncle, albeit an uncle you’re fairly certain keeps dead bodies in his basement. Actually, now I think of it, he’d pretty much just be bringing back his performance from Hot Fuzz.

Others

Gary Oldman as Mr. Tall

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An odd choice, but a good one. Mr Tall has 78422always been an ambiguous character, the leader of Cirque du freak and possibly so much more, he needs to loom confidantes with a tinge of menace, but also be a kind soul who can sympathies with his many freak comrades. So of cause Mr Oldman not only has the acting range to pull off all of the above, but he has the stoic look and presents to match.

Some of the others I felt would work:

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Kurda Smahlt: Chris Addison. Also from The Thick Of It. I feel he could pull off the huhnervous and manipulative nature nature of the character quite well.

 

 

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Vancha March: Ryan Reynolds. Specifically: Bearded Ryan Reynolds. A slightly sarcastic loudmouth vampire fighter. I feel he’d do well.hu