How We Got Through…March 2017

Film

A Cure For Wellness

As you can read here I liked it, but it made me want to self harm. It’s basically this years Nocturnal Creatures, but not quite as great. I do wish Celia Imrie was in it more, she was in the trailer but her role in the film was really nothing more than an extended cameo. Mia Goth was superb however, as was Dane DeHaan (which reminds me, I really need to see Chronicle)

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“Why don’t we do the poster for Slither, but sexy?” “Genius! More cocaine”

Deadpool

Still very very funny, still lacking a compelling story though, but it’s so funny that that makes up for it. One of my favourite soundtracks from last year, although there were a lot of REALLY strong soundtracks last year; Deadpool, Edge Of Seventeen etc all showed that art of the mixtape method of soundtrack making isn’t dead whilst Moana and Kubo showed how you can use a soundtrack as an extensive mood piece for the film.

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Get Out

As you read here, really really good and I can’t wait to see it again to catch things I missed the first time. Got an almost perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, and it fully deserves that.

Hidden Figures

It was good, I wouldn’t call it “Oscar Worthy”. The main trouble with these sorts of stories is it’s impossible to have a good villain. The key to a good villain comes in two separate flavours:

  1. The “nobody knows anything about him” (usually used in horror films)
  2. The “I can see his point, but he’s very very wrong”.

Because these films are character pieces you can’t have the villains be the first one, so you need the second one. But they never work in these films for one simple reason; there’s no logical defence of racism. There’s no way of seeing their point. I had similar problems with Selma too, the villains are so clearly wrong that they don’t make compelling characters. Now I know this is what it was actually like at the time, and it is a truly fascinating story, but it does mean as a cinema experience it never really stays with you. So really my problem isn’t with the film, it’s with reality not conforming to my expectations, so maybe the problem is me.

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Definitely not with the performances which were strong all round

John Wick 2

If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll enjoy this. It’s basically the first film, but more so and in a way that never feels like it’s walking in the same footsteps. One of the first times in a while I remember leaving the cinema and being incredibly excited for the sequel.

Kong: Skull Island

I went into this with low expectations. I was thinking “but I’ve already seen everything, how can spectacle cinema work in this day and age? And you showed too much Kong in the trailer, you idiots, you ruined everything I hate you”. Looking back at it, that may have been an overreaction. The film was, well it was solid. It showed that spectacle can still work in a post Avatar world. It’s not a “I must buy this film immediately”, kind of film, but if it’s on on TV at some point, grab a couple of mates, get some beers in, and leave your brain at the door.

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Logan

One of the best films I’ve seen this year, without a shadow of a doubt. Fully deserves all the plaudits praising it, and more so.

The Great Muppet Caper

I always assumed The Muppets weren’t self referential until the new films came out, like all generations I assumed it was my generation that invented meta-comedy as we’re all so much smarter than all the previous generations. Yeah, I was wrong, and I’m an idiot. Some people say a good film is one that makes you ask questions, the major question of this film is “how the hell did they do that bicycle scene? That’s superb”

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Books

We Need To Talk About Kevin

A very very good book, but not a very nice one. Has a unique way of telling the story and very rarely comes off as exploitative. I’ve yet to see the film but I’m very excited to get round to it.

TV Shows

I should point out; a LOT of these are going to be BBC based. I went on a website I frequent to see what will be taken off netflix soon. There was A LOT of BBC based stuff coming off at the end of the month. As such I had to watch a lot before it got taken off. I got halfway through Doctor Who (which I was watching whilst I was reading Hitchhiker’s Guide, never do that as it creates a weird mash up in your head) and whatever legal issues there were with contracts ending etc was resolved, and a lot of the stuff stayed on. I went off list for no reason.

Extras/The Office

First season of The Office; very very good. Second series; still good. Christmas special; he tried so damn hard to make the main character likeable it’s like he forgot the point of his own story. Extras however is the point where Ricky Gervais just started angrily complaining about the state of comedy in a smug “I’m better than you all, only my comedy is true comedy” way. Which would be admirable if one of the points he was making wasn’t about people releasing comedy singles in-character, which he has since done.

Fawlty Towers

Surprisingly, I had never seen this show before, not all of it anyway. I’d seen an episode or two here and there, but never the whole thing. I get why people love this, very very funny. Does more in 14 episodes than most comedies could hope to do in 14 series.

That Mitchell And Webb Look

Like all sketch shows it’s a bit repetitive but not as obviously as most shows of the genre. I think the reason for this is the history behind it. A lot of sketch show characters have the catchphrase as the joke; so every line in the script is building up to a new way to say that catchphrase. This show tends to put the catchphrases at the start, due (it would seem) to the shows history on radio, which necessitated you put the catchphrase first so that the audience would know which sketch you were in. Has some sketches which are just brilliantly funny (I will never not find a way to use “our caps have got skulls on them, are we the bad guys?” in political discourse). But is also one of the few sketch shows which made me hate life and cry, the “Dementia Sherlock Holmes“. Completely heartbreaking.

The Trip

Yes, it is very up itself, but it is also very very funny, and features two actors self-evaluating every criticism they have of themselves, and they have a lot. New series starts next month, but not on the trusty BBC, instead on Sky Atlantic.

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The Wrong Mans

I’m a sucker for long-form storytelling, particularly in sitcoms (it’s one of many many reasons why I love Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Bojack Horseman), and this has a fantastic story thread running through it. It’s hard to explain just how tightly and intricately plotted this is without it seeming like hyperbole. Hopefully now that James Cordon is huge in America this will start to get strong DVD sales.

Twenty Twelve

Very very BBC. Not going to change your life, but a pleasant enough way to wile away the hours. Funny and enjoyable, just not very memorable.

Music

Shenanigans

Weird to think this is now halfway through Green Days career in terms of albums released, six albums either side of the releases of this and International Superhits. But let’s forget about how this makes me aware of my own mortality and focus on how good this album is; B-sides which are better than most bands release as singles. “Ha Ha You’re Dead” is still one of my favourite songs by the band but you can’t say that without sounding like a hipster douche who’s all like “oh, you probably won’t know my favourite song by them”, and nobody likes those kind of people.

Best songs: Ha Ha You’re Dead

Do Da Da

Suffocate.

Also check out; they have this album called Dookie that you might not know about, pretty good. Also, check out this other super rare album that nobody knows about called American Idiot

All That She Wants – Wizo

I love pop punk covers of songs, and this is no exception. The original is a simply wonderful slice of summer pop (and yes, to me that is a genre) and a pop punk version of it suits it so well.

Podcasts

Toku Podcast

A podcast about video games, biscuits, films, biscuits, tea, biscuits, tv shows, and biscuits. The two hosts are extremely likeable, funny, smart, and kind of strange in the most wonderful way. They spent a long time discussing which avengers would be which biscuits that was hilarious ((in case you were wondering what my choices would be: Iron Man; Jammie Dodger. Captain America; Hob Nob. Hulk: Those oat biscuits that crumble all the time. Spider-Man: Jaffa Cake (is it an avenger, is it a cake? Nobody knows)).

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They also have the best episode titles

So that’s that for this month; I’ll see you in April unless I get hit by a bus and die, then I might have to delay until May.

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.