SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

audiobook, book haul, books, currently reading, kindle, Ricky Gervais

So the book buying ban is going swimmingly. Only another 12 books have been added to the collection. This week I’ve bought 3 new actual books, 2 ebooks, and, a whopping, 7 audiobooks. Admittedly, 2 of those audible purchases were with 2 of the credits I’ve been letting stack up so I didn’t exactly pay for them this week. I’m trying to get better at not using up all of my space though and have spent some of today sorting out things I no longer need/want. It’s hard because I’m a pathetic hoarder. I need to go on a TV show like obsessive compulsive cleaners or something and just have someone else sort my life out. I’ll just sit over here reading so I can decrease the size of my TBR pile. Currently it’s taller than the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building). 
Currently Reading

  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey
So, my sleeping pattern hasn’t exactly gone to the picture perfect plan I’d painted last week (huge shock!) but I’ve still continued reading this week. As I get further into this, I’m getting more worried that this is turning more into rom-com territory than it is Black Mirror. If this all ends up with the main character falling in love with the guy who planned the whole Girlfriend Experience then I’mma be pissed. I’ll keep you posted.

Recently Purchased 
  • Books

So, I caved and bought three books this week. I’m not proud of myself but I’m super happy with all of them. So, what am I gonna do?

    1. Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh: The latest cookbook from one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, is all about desserts. Two of my favourite things, the  second being sugar, coming together in a gorgeously designed book. I had to have this. If you haven’t checked out of Ottolenghi before then you should. His recipes are so flavoursome and interesting.
    2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood: So I already have a couple of copies of this book but I saw a post on Waterstones’ Instagram that made me impulse buy another. This new, hardback edition of the book is bloody gorgeous. It’s all black with a bit of red and loads of embossed details. I fell in love instantly. Check my Instagram soon.
    3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen: When buying The Handmaid’s Tale I had the choice of paying for delivery of buying another book. Clearly, I went with the more expensive option and bought another book. I love Bruce Springsteen (but, really, who doesn’t?) and have wanted his memoirs for ages. I’m probably going to end up getting the audiobook because it seems like the best way to do it. But having a paperback copy too can’t really hurt.

  • Kindle books
    1. Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets by David Thomas Moore (ed.): This book appeared on my BookBub email one day and it sounded too intriguing to miss. This is a collection of stories from a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy writers that takes the famous detective in a whole host of new directions. It sounds kind of fun and silly. I’m not expecting greatness but what harm can it do? Especially at the price I bought it for.
    2. Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: This is one of those books that most bookish people seem to have read so, again, when it appeared cheap on BookBub I decided it was time to try it out. It’s a crazy mystery set in a bookshop. How am I not going to love this?

  • Audibooks

  1. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: This is one of those super exciting Audible original dramas that has such an amazing cast that I couldn’t refuse. I don’t think I’ve ever read Treasure Island. My knowledge of the original comes from my love of the Muppet version. Now, consideirng how faithful Mupper Christmas Carol is to the original, I’m gonna say that I’m aware enough of the story. Still, this adaptation should be pretty good.
  2. Believe Me by Eddie Izzard: I’ve loved Eddie Izzard’s comedy for many years and think he’s an incredibly inspirational and interesting person. To be quite honest, I used to have a tiny crush on him back in the day but, let’s face it, I have a tiny crush on just about everybody. So, I was super excited for the release of his memoir earlier this year. Rather than buying the book, I decided it was better to hear the audibook. There’ll be something about hearing Eddie speaking his own words that just makes it better. I can’t wait.
  3. The Butterfly Effect With Jon Ronson by Jon Ronson: To be honest, this one was free so I didn’t exactly buy it nor did I really look into it before I did. It’s about porn and the tech industry. Not exactly my usual topics for light reading but maybe something interesting.
  4. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Another book that I’ve never read and thought I should change it. And why not save myself some time by listening to it instead.
  5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Why did I buy this? It cost me 50p. If something is so criminally cheap then I really cant’ pass it up. Simple as that.
  6. The Podfather Trilogy – Season Four of The Ricky Gervais Show: I love the Ricky Gervais podcast and used to own a copy of all of the seasons. I lost them somewhere along the way so when these turned up cheap on Audible I thought “why not?”. I love Karl Pilkington and the relationship he has with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is just glorious. It’s so hard to listen to these and not die laughing. I need these for when work is getting me down.
  7. Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete Fifth Season: See above.
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Modern Family
I’m meant to be ending my subscription of NowTV at the end of this month so I can finally get back to Netflix. However, it was my plan to also watch the first season of Westworld before I do that. However, I keep finding excuses not to do it and am, instead, still making my way through all of Modern Family again. This, in itself, it fine but I’ve already seen it. I need to use this time for good.

  • The Breakfast Club
This week I went all nostalgic and watched a film I’ve loved since I was a teenager. Read all about my trip back in time in my last TBT review.

TBT – Stardust (2007)

films, fucking sweet, Mark Strong, meh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Neil Gaiman, review, Ricky Gervais, Robert DeNiro, rom-com, romance, TBT

When it comes to romantic comedies I can’t say that I’m a huge fan. I’m much too cynical and, if we’re being honest, it’s all been done a thousand times before. Boy meets girl. Boy tries to make girl fall in love with him. Stuff happens. Happily ever after. I just never find it an incredibly inspiring to sit down and watch them so I avoid them. However, if ever there was going to be a writer who could change my mind about the whole concept it would be Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is the much loved fantasy, horror, science fiction, anything else you can think of writer who has penned such notable works as The Sandman comic book series as well as numerous novels and short story collections. Stardust is, in a way, Gaiman’s own The Princess Bride  (incidentally, this is one of the few romantic comedies that I genuinely adore). Now, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I would recommend his books to anyone. His writing is like magic. There’s nobody quite like him. Yet, I’ve never really been a massive fan of any adaptations of his work. Well, that’s not quite true. I like them but I can’t say I love them. I could read and reread Gaiman’s work any number of times but I don’t think I’d ever watch one his films or TV shows more than once. Except maybe Coraline because that was fucking awesome. There’s something that just gets lost in translation and I don’t have that same connection with them. It’s why I never rewatched this film until I needed something to review for today… and it’s why I’m in no real rush to watch it again.

We’re all pretty familiar with swashbuckling romances, right? A handsome young man goes off on an adventure to win his fair maidens heart and must overcome all the obstacles in his way. Stardust follows that basic plot but gives it a decidedly Neil Gaiman spin. The plot, adapted from Gaiman’s original novel, follows Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) a resident in a quiet little village called Wall.The village has been named for the stonewall than runs along it that, legend tells, separates merry old England from the magical realm of Stormhold. Tristan has fallen in love with the beautiful but selfish Victoria (Sienna Miller) but is about to lose her to his rival Humphrey. Until, after spotting a shooting star in the sky, Tristan promises to bring his love the fallen star in exchange for her hand. Unfortunately, this means a trip beyond the wall and into the unknown.

It also turns out to be rather difficult as the star has turned into a stubborn and sassy young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes) and Tristan has a hard time persuading her to come with him. Then you have the added problem of a trio of witches, headed up by the vicious Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who want to track down the girl, eat her heart and receive immortality. Finally, as if that weren’t enough, Yvaine has taken possession of a ruby that belonged to the recently deceased King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole) who has declared that the first of his make heirs to find the stone will be the next rightful ruler of the land. All parties end up chasing down the hapless pair as they slowly make their way back to Wall before Victoria’s birthday.

That’s the main problem with Stardust really. There is a lot going on and it all gets a bit haphazard on screen. The plot manages to stay fairly faithful to the book but, in a desire to manage this, everything moves quite quickly. It gets pretty confusing and there are some liberties that are taken to ensure that some sort of narrative structure exists. Things don’t naturally fit into place and there are several awkward moments that are intended for the sole purpose of holding things together. It’s a tad messy and could easily have been fixed with a bit of careful editing.

There are plenty of star studded cameos throughout the film with supporting characters popping up to play their small part in Tristan and Yvaine’s epic journey. It is an inspired cast but some of these moments just feel unnecessary or uncomfortable. By far the best and the worst is Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, the man in charge of an airship that farms lightening. Though he has the reputation of a fearsome pirate, Captain Shakespeare is a campy relic that should have been left in the 70s. As fun as DeNiro is in the role his performance just feels a bit like an outdated relic.

Aside from that we have turns from fantastic British comedians and comedy actors which work in varying degrees. The ghosts of the the Kings dead sons, all of whom have fallen in the family tradition of brother killing brother in the race for succession, just about work as they hang around like Hamlet Snr. and weigh in on their siblings failures. Ricky Gervais’ time on screen just seems like a desperate attempt to let him be the same character he always plays. I could have done without it. Ultimately, it feels as though the sheer number of famous faces is a bit of a gimmick and it just adds to the already complicated nature of the film.

It tries desperately to let the narrative survive but it comes at the expense of good storytelling. There are obvious comparisons to The Princess Bride and the work of Terry Gilliam but Stardust neither has the original of Gilliam nor the heart and soul of Rob Reiner’s great romantic adventure. Stardust is a sweet and perfectly enjoyable film. There are some great moments and, thanks to Pfeiffer and Mark Strong, couple of incredible villains to amp up the tension. However, it loses itself in the scope of what it is trying to achieve. It’s trying to be a bit of every genre it can think of and it tries to flit between drama and comedy without any real thought. It’s silly but neither it’s not quite silly enough. It’s scary but not quite scary enough. It’s romantic but not quite romantic enough… oh, you get the idea. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not a great one either. I mean, it’s not a great sign when the thing I love most about this film is the Take That song that plays over the credits.

Tuesday’s Reviews – David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)

films, fucking awful, review, Ricky Gervais, television

I don’t these days I’d describe myself as a big Ricky Gervais fan but I’ve been a huge one. I loved The Office when I first saw it and Extras has a special place in my heart (mostly for Patrick Stewart’s cameo but still. I kept with him through the dodgier moments of Derek and Life’s Too Short. I still listen to his podcasts and laugh until it hurts. Back in the day, his stand-up was both hilarious and cutting edge. I was there with everyone else in terms of worshipping everything the comic did. Then he went to Hollywood and I kind of lost faith with him. From the laughably bad Ghost Town, the dismal and cliched The Invention of Lying, and the embarrassing brief appearances in the Night at the Museum films, it wasn’t the Ricky Gervais I knew. Then the final series of Derek was a bit shit and Gervais just got more unreliable. Unreliable and more egotistical. In the run up to the release of Special Correspondent Ricky was often quoted talking about how fucking great he was. Which would have been fine if the film itself wasn’t so shit. So, when it was announced that David Brent, a character that means a lot to me and a great many people, would be coming back in a feature film, I couldn’t help but feel kind of apprehensive of his return to old material. Then my old work friend saw it and told me it was awful… and he didn’t hate Special Correspondents nearly as much as I did. So, I put off watching the film and went into it expecting to be cringing, crying, swearing revenge on Gervais, or all of the above.

Aside from a few special appearances and a series of YouTube videos that I couldn’t bear watching for more than a few seconds, Ricky Gervais hasn’t played David Brent since 2003. That’s a gap of 13 years between the final episode of the BBC2 series and the character’s move to the big screen. Gervais has been keen to point out that this isn’t an The Office film; probably because some of its stars have gone on to bigger and better things at this point. I mean Martin Freeman is a huge name these days, Lucy Davis is currently starring in Wonder Woman, and Mackenzie Crook has done some stuff since Pirate of the Caribbean… I haven’t seen it but he’s definitely done it.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, right? After all, it was David Brent that was the driving force of the humour in the series so that’s all that matters. Well, kind of. Brent was the figure of fun within the series but you also had enough happening around him that he was always diluted and humanised. It’s Tim and Dawn that people loved and it was Gareth that was the lovable weirdo. Brent was always the pathetic try-hard that was sort of annoying. How well could a film hold up with just him at the helm?

Well it’s okay because Brent is not alone. The film reintroduces us to rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) who we first met in a Comic Relief sketch in 2013. In that sketch Brent was attempting to make it as a Simon Cowell type by managing the up and coming Johnson. In Life on the Road, the larger than life ex-manager of a paper company is still harbouring his dream of becoming a rock star and is self-funding a short tour with his band Forgone Conclusion. Johnson is being taken along for the ride but finds that his talents are not being used as much as he’d like. Brent throws all of his money into organising a tour that only a handful of people turn up to. He is so driven by a desire for fame that he can’t see how damaging the whole thing is.

If I had to sum up Life on Tour it would be like those people on X Factor or something who think they have talent and then are humiliated by the show when it turns out they have zero singing ability. It takes the whole awkward cringe comedy to a level beyond anything we’ve seen on The Office. At least during the two series of the show Brent was an idiot but he was still a lovable one. There is little here beyond meanness. The comedy comes from his utter lack of self-awareness and his need to please people. The series ended with him finally growing some balls and telling Finchy to fuck off. In that moment there was hope for David Brent. That hope has all but disappeared here and Gervais is back to cheap laughs and trying to push people’s buttons.

If Life on the Road teaches us anything it’s that, without Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais has no ability to reign himself in. It’s exactly the same story that we’ve seen before but when he has this kind of freedom everything just gets out of control. There is nothing to bring the narrative together and the whole thing feels more like a sketch that has been elongated thanks to some averagely funny songs that go on way too long. You kind of get the impression that, like Brent, Gervais is using this film to act out any fantasies he may still have about being a rock star. There needed to be more structure and more discipline for this to ever work alongside the TV show that is so perfect and so loved.

Still, there are funny moments and there is always going to be some joy in watching Gervais play David Brent. I mean, by now, the character fits him better than a Sergio Georgini jacket and all of the familiar gurns and noises bring memories flooding back. The problem is that there was no need to bring David back. He had a perfect ending in 2003 and Gervais should have stuck to his guns and not brought him back. It feels like Gervais is trying to profit on the Alan Partridge vibe by constantly bringing back a much-loved character successfully time and time again. But David Brent has never been Alan Partridge and Ricky Gervais has never been Steve Coogan. There is a mean and desperate quality to Gervais’ writing for this character that just doesn’t work in this context. He tries so hard to shock and offend the “humourless PC brigade” but his comedy has ceased being edgy. Ricky Gervais is bringing this character back into a society that is no longer shocked by these things. It all just seems lame.

I didn’t hate Life on the Road as much as I expected but this shouldn’t be taken as any kind of positive. I expected to turn it off halfway through. I ended up managing to watch the entire thing without feeling too bad. Still, this is nowhere near the level of brilliance that we associate with the show that first gave us this character. Instead of reintroducing us to a great comic creation this film just reminds us what we’ve been missing. It’s beginning to look as though the shrewd comic force of the Gervais/Merchant partnership wasn’t the loud and outspoken Gervais after all.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, currently reading, Netflix, recently watched, Ricky Gervais, Sherlock Holmes

I honestly thought I’d done quite well in terms of book buying this month. I thought I’d managed to reign in my desires and only buy a few books each week. The other day I had to take a monthly book haul photo for one of the Instagram challenges that I’m taking part in. Boy was I wrong. I’ve gone a bit wild without even realising. I seriously have to get this under control because I don’t have the space for them or the time to read them all. I just can’t help myself and there are so many great books coming out that it’s never going to end. I’m just going to have to be brutal and get rid of a load of stuff that I’ve either read or will never read. It’s so difficult to actually decide what can go though. Ah, being a book nerd is always so hard. At least I’m getting somewhere with the reading. I’ve managed to get through some pages this week. It feels good.

Currently Reading

  • The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
I started this when I went away last week and I bloody love it. It’s one of the books on my ‘Anticipated Books of 2017’ list and it’s as good as I hoped it would be. I was worried at first that it would the same old “trying to be gritty” kind of story but the friendship at the centre of the story is excellently written. I’m looking forward to finishing this soon and hope to read more from Whitaker in the future. It’s one of those rare occasions when a debut novel actually lives up to the hype and I’d already recommend it to everyone. 

Recently Purchased
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Classics Reimagined) by Arthur Conan Doyle
I have more copies of Sherlock Holmes novels than I’d ever need and I really don’t need any more. However, as soon as I’d bought the Pride and Prejudice edition of these Classic Reimagined I just had to try and get a better set. Where else would I start than a set of stories that I already loved wholeheartedly? And I’m glad I did. The book is gorgeous (check out my latest Instagrams for the proof). I won’t be in a rush to reread the Adventures but I’m having a blast just looking at the pictures.
  • Alice in Wonderland (Classics Reimagined) by Lewis Carroll

My middle name is Alice so when I was growing up I think Alice in Wonderland had a a bigger impact on me when I was a kid. I became Alice and I had all sorts of pictures and related stuff in my room. I loved the book and the film so much and I still do. I had to reread it a few years ago during my final year of my undergraduate and it’s amazing how much joy it still gave me in that environment. Normally I avoid critically analysing books I love but this was one of the few exceptions. So I’m always looking for gorgeous copies of this book. This was another one I absolutely needed to add to the collection.

  • The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
I bought this during a trip to the bookshop for another book. I couldn’t find that one but got so excited seeing this that I bought it immediately. I’d seen that Simsion had a book coming out this year but hadn’t really paid attention to the date. So when I realised it was here I kind of lost control a bit. I’m quite excited about this and plan on taking it up as soon as I’ve finished The Animators. I enjoyed The Rosie Project but was annoyed enough by certain elements that I didn’t rush to read the sequel. So I really want to see what Simsion has to offer outside of Don Tillman’s bubble.  

Recently Watched
  • David Brent: Life on the Road
I had been planning on seeing this when it first came out at the cinema with some guys from work. As with all social gatherings with my coworkers these days it never happened. I’ve now finally seen it. And I’ll tell you what I thought on Tuesday.

  • Netflix binges: Cuckoo and Riverdale
I finished watching Cuckoo series 1-3 as I was packing to go on holiday and I really enjoyed it. I loved the first series with Andy Samberg because I love Andy Samberg and think Greg Davies is one of the funniest men alive. I was shocked to discover that Taylor Lautner, who I’d always ignored thanks to his Twilight links, was actually really funny too. I now love this show and I will look forward to the release of series 4 when it comes.

After Cuckoo I was at a loss for what to watch so decided to finally watch Riverdale. It had been starring at me for a while but I just didn’t think I’d like it. I’ve caught up with all the available episodes and I’m still unconvinced. I mean it’s okay but it kind of feels like a YA version of Twin Peaks. Something that is fine for people who haven’t seen Twin Peaks. This is the kind of premise that has been used countless times before and Riverdale doesn’t have enough going for it to make it seem fresh. The only joy I could see comes from having an understanding of the characters in their original format… something I don’t really have. I’ll keep trying but this just feels like it’s not going anywhere interesting or new.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Special Correspondents (2016)

films, fucking awful, meh, Netflix, news, review, Ricky Gervais

I’ve recently started watching Extras again on Netflix and have been loving the reminder of how amazingly funny Ricky Gervais is. The Office was a game changer in terms of British comedy and the first series of Derek was amazing despite the drama in the press. Gervais is a great comedic talent when he’s using his skills in the right context. The Office and Extras were the same kind of cutting, I don’t give a shit who I offend attitude that got him in trouble with The Golden Globes. It’s not the same attitude he used when writing The Invention of Lying. When Gervais forces himself to so conventional Hollywood then it doesn’t work. It lacks bite and originality. So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to his Netflix original film and probably would have missed it. Until he went all fucking pompous about it and announced how good it was because he was doing it all himself. Now if you make those kind of claims then you have no where to hide.

Ricky Gervais, according to himself, knows what’s funny. It’s making something on your own and not by committee, apparently. I get where he’s coming from but, after watching Special Correspondents, I really wish he’d had at least one person with him. Instead, Gervais has taken on the role of actor, writer and director for his Netflix remake of the French film Envoyés Très Spéciaux. Well I guess that could be the reason that Special Correspondents doesn’t quite work as you want it to. I mean maybe all of the jokes, subtle dialogue and original narrative got lost in translation somewhere?

The film follows radio journalist and minor celebrity Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) and his geeky sound engineer Ian Finch (Gervais) as they are tasked with covering a possible uprising in Ecuador. Thanks to a mix-up of envelopes, the hapless Ian throws away the tickets and passports so the pair are unable to leave the US. Rather than face their boss the pair hide away above a local restaurant and proceed to phone in nightly reports. Realising that they have to up their game to keep the public interested in their radio station, Frank starts to make up increasingly outrageous and exciting stories about the escalating violence and political intrigue.

When the pair release a fake story that has massive political implications they are told to get to the American Embassy asap. Of course they can’t so Frank and Ian set-up a fake kidnapping to buy them some time. They are turned into overnight sensations and Ian’s awful wife, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) takes every opportunity to throw herself into the spotlight. She releases a charity single to raise ransom funds and gives out interviews to anyone who asks. Never once mentioning that before Ian left the couple were separated after Eleanor slept with Frank.

There was a lot of potential within Special Correspondents to take a satirical look at the world of modern journalism. The idea of false news reports and reporters not being where they are supposed to be is a potentially huge and very real issue. Gervais chooses to ignore these chances and, instead, goes down an increasingly farcical route. Everything is so over-the-top and handled so clumsily. The story never feels as if it’s taking place in a real world inhabited by real people. Any potential critique we could have seen has been lost in favour of a stupid fake-kidnapping plot. From there the narrative struggles along to find an ending that is satisfactory only in the sense that it means the whole sorry affair is over.

Hands down, Special Correspondents doesn’t work because it just isn’t funny or clever enough to do what it set out to. There is a noticeable lack of jokes and the ones that do sneak into the script are woefully underplayed or dealt with so badly. There is no real chemistry between Eric Bana and Ricky Gervais so their blokey banter never lands where it should either. There is no bromance here. It’s all just dull. Which would be fine if there was enough finesse to make this a different film. The story is an unoriginal hodgepodge of ideas we’ve seen a thousand times before, the characters have no development and the Gervais’ direction is dismal. He has no concept of pacing and, for someone who is regarded as being so funny, he has no idea how to make a fucking joke land.

There is no subtlety at work here and Gervais turns to dialogue to ensure the audience feels what he wants them to feel. Every sentence uttered by one of the characters is intended to tell you everything you need to know and not have to waste time forming your own opinions. It’s just the same old Hollywood guff that, had you not know of Gervais’ input, could have been written by anyone. Rather than the unique and interesting character studies of his early television work, we are faced with stock characters going on the usual journey of emotional growth. It’s all just paint-by-numbers stuff. Even the romance is shoehorned in and dire. It’s an insult to Tim and Dawn that Ian and colleauge Claire Maddox (Kelly MacDonald) are allowed to get their happy ever after because they certainly don’t deserve it.

Special Correspondents goes to prove what we’ve all know for a while: Gervais just isn’t suited for Hollywood. He needs the intimate television experience to get to grips with his characters. He works best in shorter formats with much less scope. He got lost in the excitement and vastness that this project offered him and it’s fallen flat. Of course, we also know this won’t matter to him and the criticism will wash over him. I expect more of this shit to come to Netflix in the coming years.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, currently reading, Marvel, murder, Ricky Gervais, television, women, X-Men
I so nearly got through this week without buying a single book but the Kindle store and Buzzfeed have coerced me again. It’s been so hot recently that it’s been perfect reading weather but I always find myself avoiding the sun. I’m one of those incredibly pale individuals who comes out in a rash and burns completely if anyone even mentions sunshine. If I’m going to be reading outside I’ll be dressed like a Victorian and sitting under the biggest parasol I can find. Although, I love having an excuse to go outside for some Instagram opportunities. It gets a bit dull just working with the same background every time and shooting from above. Unfortunately, the heat has made me even lazier than usual and I’ve neglected my account for a few weeks. I’m trying to get back into it but I’m not feeling incredibly creative right now. Good to see that whatever happens elsewhere I’m always failing in at least one area of my blogging life.
Just Finished
  • Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald (Kindle edition)
Still not sure of this one as I’ve only just finished it. I enjoyed most of the book because it wasn’t actually a crime thriller. Siobhan MacDonald presents a great character study in the guise of a crime novel and the first three quarters are addictive, if quite slow. What MacDonald has created is an interesting and engrossing family melodrama about two identical families thousands of miles apart. I’d have like to have seen more deth in the relationship instead of the setting up of misdirection. It’s in the last quarter that everything really falls apart for me though. The last three or so chapters feel rushed and clumsy as the killer reveal is shoehorned in. There are two novels here and neither of them are developed as well as they should be. Although, it’s a decent début novel and I MacDonald actually managed to fool me… which in itself is noteworthy. 
Recently Purchased
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (Kindle Edition)
This is one of the novels shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. I admit I first became interested in it based solely upon the squirrel book cover. However, the synopsis on the back sounds promising enough so when it appeared on the Kindle store for only 99p I couldn’t resist. I’ve only heard good things and the books normally nominated for the Women’s Prize are worth checking out. 
  • X-Force #8 (March 1992) by Mike Mignola , Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld
Another week, another Domino comic. Yes, I’m still stuck on this obsession. This edition marks her first real appearance in the comic books.
  • Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Think I saw this on one of those What to read right now style book lists and it sounded intriguing. Albeit in a ‘is this YA or not?’ kind of way. I’m still not really sure if it’s YA or not but I’m willing to give it a go. The story of a young girl lead astray by the new girl at her school. We’ll see how it goes but feedback seems positive as far as I can tell.


Recently Watched
  • Special Correspondents
Good thing you won’t have to wait Tue many days to hear my thoughts on this. 
  • Orphan Black
Now I’ve wanted to watch this for ages but never got around it until now. I’ve loved everything about the show so far but I hate starting something that is already so well-established. Anything that already has more than 2 seasons by the time I start it just feels like a slog I’m not ready for. There is a huge part of me that just wants to read ahead on Wikipedia instead of watching the story progess. I don’t want to commit my time to a show with four seasons unless I know it’s building to something good. If it’s not worth it I know there’s something better out there. My attitiude to television shows is a pretty good mirror of my attitude to relationships.

Recently  Played
  • Heavy Rain
I recently went on a PS3 game buying spree to get all those games that I never got the chance to play when they came out. There’s loads in the pile including Beyond: Two Souls and Bioshock Infinite. I’m super excited about them all but I started with this one. It’s a great game but I have to say the controls are fucking annoying. I find it so irritating and slow going to get through a chapter. Still, the narrative is great and the visuals are worth it. Shame I’m so late to the party. 

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Muppets, review, Ricky Gervais, sequel, Tom Hiddleston, Ty Burrell

I, as you probably know, am an unashamed Muppet maniac. I vehemently defy anyone to tell me they aren’t funny. It was a bleak world when the Muppets ceased to appear on the big screen. Thankfully I was not the only person who thought so and back in 2011 Jason Segel and his co-writer Nicholas Stoller set out to reintroduce the Muppets to a modern family audience. Their resulting film proved to be a hit with both critics and audiences alike and Disney swiftly signed up the furry stars for a sequel. This sequel has been hotly anticipated and, for a time, it seemed that a week didn’t go by without another big name star signing up for to play a role in the second part of Kermit and co’s comeback. The first real piece of news was that Jason Segel wouldn’t be returning and, to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. Don’t get me wrong Jason Segel did a great job with the script and is a decent enough actor but I was kind of bored by his whole romantic plot. I’m a bit traditional when it comes to my Muppets and I prefer hilarious chaos rather than romantic comedy. However, I did enjoy the film and felt it was as successful a comeback as everyone else. Unsurprisingly, I have spent the year eagerly awaiting the release of the follow up: if only to experience more of Bret Mackenzie’s sensational compositional work.


The major thing to realise upon the opening sequence of the follow up to 2011’s rebranding effort, The Muppets, is that both Kermit and Miss Piggy are present. If my memory serves me correctly this is the first film in which everyone’s favourite diva swine is present from the get go. After the success of their first (ok their 8th) outing the Muppets realise that they have been rewarded with a sequel so set about trying to find a decent plot. Handily the Muppets use their opening number sets out to lower the expectations of its audience by explicitly stating how disappointing sequels usually are.

Wondering about the best way to build on their recent success they decide that the only way is to embark on a World Tour. Joining them is the mysterious Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who cunningly takes control of the gang and leads them to various European capitals. Along the way he orchestrates a plan to replace Kermit with the newly escaped Russian villain, Constantine, whilst shipping Kermit off to a Serbian gulag run by Tina Fey.  Constantine and Badguy plan a series of thefts in order to pull off the greatest robbery of all time. A plot that leaves plenty of room for typical Muppet hi jinks.


However, unlike the first film Muppets Most Wanted ultimately lacks narrative structure and focus. The various plot lines meander along too slowly and drag out any dramatic or emotional potential. Rather than having a main aim (i.e. getting the gang back together to save the studio) and having smaller subplots along the way, you might be hard pushed to pick out one specific story as the main focus. We have the mistaken identity between Kermit and Constantine, Serbian prison, a series of robberies, the CIA and Interpol investigation, Walter’s rescue plan, Miss Piggy’s attempt to get Kermit to commit, and gulag’s annual revue. Phew. As if that wasn’t enough, the hotchpotch of stories is littered with as many pointless celeb cameos as Disney could possibly afford. (Now y’all know by now that Tom Hiddleston can’t do anything wrong in my

eyes but his seconds long part was both unnecessary and so built up in the marketing campaign that it’s laughable.) It lacks the heart of the previous film and, at times, just feels pretty shallow and desperate.

I guess, despite my initial celebration, this film misses Jason Segel: not on screen necessarily but certainly behind the computer. The script isn’t as tight or clever and ingenuity is replaced with spectacle. The reason The Muppets worked so well was because Segel was so utterly invested in bringing the group back onto our screen. His emotional connection was evident throughout his script and in his performance. His interaction with the puppets was amazing: certainly much better than Ricky Gervais who seems to carry everything out with an ironic or knowing glint in his eye. There is none of the tenderness that either Segel showed or Gervais has been known to show in other projects. His performance is an underwhelming, self-conscious show of the comedian at his most gurning.


To make up for this downfall the other two significant human roles are both memorable and joyous to watch. Tina Fey brings out her best dodgy Russian accent to play a character so dripping in stereotypes that it sort of becomes ok again. The scenes set in the gulag may be distracting to the plot but they are packed full of great Muppet-y humour. Even if the cameos from Jermaine Clement, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo weren’t used to their fullest potential. However, it is Modern Family’s Ty Burrell is the most prominent performer 
and, spectacularly, has the most amazing chemistry with Sam the Eagle. Burrell plays a Clouseau-esque Interpol agent alongside Sam’s CIA agent as the pair follows the clues to find the burglar. He brings about some of the biggest laughs and turns a song written as exposition into one of the stand-out numbers.  

Great musical numbers is something this film offers in spades thanks to more sterling work from Bret Mackenzie (one half of comedy duo Flight of the Conchords). Mackenzie was the person who brought the Muppets their first Oscar thanks to his incredibly well written song ‘Man or Muppet’. That song aside, I felt the soundtrack was a bit hit and miss though. There weren’t too many original songs and most of them were good but forgettable. This time around Mackenzie hardly ever falters. It is thanks to the musical numbers and their routines that the audience are able to stick with the hodgepodge that is the plot. I downloaded the OST as soon as I’d watch the film and I’ve not been able to stop singing them since.


Yes, Muppets Most Wanted may not be as accomplished or as neat a film as The Muppets was but, if I’m honest, I enjoyed it just as much (if not more). I can’t deny that this is probably mainly down to the Mackenzie but this feels like any other Muppet film. It’s silly, chaotic and feel-good. The Muppets are true to form and, Gervais aside, their human counterparts breathe life into the dwindling narrative: Tina Fey and Ty Burrell work well with the puppets and serve to highlight their co-stars instead of drawing focus. Of course, in my heart I know that I would have been happier if there were fewer shameless cameos and a tighter script but, as for showing the Muppets’ continued potential, I’d say Muppets Most Wanted does well enough.

Although, if Beaker, the Swedish Chef and Fozzie are doing what they have been for years then I guess I’ll always be easily pleased.