Tuesday’s (ish) Reviews – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

comic book, comic books, films, fucking funny, Marvel, review, Robert Downey Jr, Spider-Man, super powers, superhero, teen movie, Tom Holland

I’ve always felt that Andrew Garfield got a bit of a rough deal when it came to his time as Spider-Man. He is now widely considered the worst version of the character to appear on screen but it’s hardly his fault. Now, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man and thought Garfield did a really good job with the character of Peter Parker. Yes, he wasn’t the same geeky, isolated young man that we’re used to but we’re living in a world where geek is cool. Garfield gave Peter some sass and it could have worked really well for him because Spider-Man has always been the sassy one. The films didn’t work because Garfield was bad but because he wasn’t given the right material. Sony fucked up the reboot in order to get it out in time. I think the things would have been very different if the actor had been given more of a chance and there had been more thought in the whole thing. Plus, there’s a lot of weird nostalgia surrounding Toby Magurire’s time as the character that I don’t really get. He’s not that good. It’s just that he was the first major big screen version of the character. It just boggles my mind that so much of the stuff I read before I saw Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the web-slinger was focused on how great Maguire was and how shit Garfield was. Let’s be honest, we could do better than both of the attempts Sony made and his brief time in Civil War showed that maybe Holland had what it took.

First off, I have to say it is super refreshing that the third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years doesn’t feel the need to remind us of how the superhero came into being. We all get it by now: radioactive spider bite, superpowers, move into heroics. Yes, there is a brief reference to it but it is so underplayed that it doesn’t matter. Instead, the main action picks up shortly after the evens of Captain America: Civil War as Peter Parker is eagerly awaiting his next call to assemble. Instead, he is left dealing with petty street crime and helping old ladies carry their shopping. Safe to say, the young man is bored. Until he stumbles upon a black market that is selling weapons made out of salvaged alien technology. Run by the mysterious Vulture (Michael Keaton) who literally, thanks to his mechanical wings, swoops in and steals the technology from under the government’s nose.

Spidey, keen to prove to Tony Stark that he can handle the big stuff, starts investigating the Vulture’s gang but constantly finds himself out of his depth. Especially as he’s also trying to make his way through highschool unscathed and get noticed by school hottie, Liz (Laura Harrier). As well as being influenced by the MCU in general, director Jon Watts clearly takes a lot from the coming-of-age films of people like John Hughes. There are countless on-screen references to high-school comedies and there is one particular Ferris Bueller joke that is totally on point. This is a Peter Parker who really is living in two worlds and trying to balance the two. He is an awkward but intelligent young man who worries about girls and grades just as much as he worries about stopping bad guys.

Despite only being on screen for a few minutes in Civil War, Tom Holland had already made a massive impressive on fans of the MCU before Homecoming came along thanks to his portrayal of Peter Parker. It is the best on screen version of the teenager that we’ve ever seen. Holland’s Parker feels the most realistically young version that we’ve ever seen and has been updated for 2017 teenagers. He is techno-savvy but awkward in a way that doesn’t come across as annoying. He reacts to getting superpowers the way that most of us would have done at that age. We can all empathise  with his fanboy reaction to the likes of Tony Stark. He gets caught up in the bigger picture and tries to run before he can walk but it is done with the best intentions. The character definitely has that Marvel sense of development that was lacking in both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s turns. Holland finally gives us the Peter we deserve.

That is not to say that I agree with the people happily declaring that Homecoming is the best superhero movie of the year. I really enjoyed the film and did so as soon as I heard the arrangement of the ‘Spider-Man theme song’ playing over the film’s opening sequence. It is a light-hearted and fun affair that captures the spirit of the character. However, I confess that I felt there was a bit of a disparity between it’s two identities. I realise that the film wanted to situate itself within the MCU whilst also ensuring that this was a Spider-Man film in it’s own right. However, it just feels a bit too confused. It just doesn’t feel enough like either. We have the standard MCU final showdown that is kind of underwhelming in the grand scheme of things but then we also have the teen movie moments like high school parties. Individually these things are fine but they just seemed a bit too at odds for me. I’d have preferred one or the other. I think future Spider-Man films with Holland have the potential to be superb if he can remove himself from the Avengers. This film seemed more about taking the character and showing us that he was firmly part of the family instead of giving him a solo outing.

Still, this isn’t something that really hindered my overall enjoyment of the film. There is plenty to love about the film and, despite my annoyance, it’s always nice to see more RBJ and Jon Favreau on screen. Of course, the greatest strength, after Holland, is clearly Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The Vulture isn’t the biggest or baddest villain that we’ve ever seen in the MCU but he is perfect. Keaton plays him so well and he feels like a realistic result of the increased super-activity in the MCU. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the Vulture and Peter Parker come face-to-face for the first time and the whole scene is perfect. Keaton doesn’t overplay the character but still manages to be chilling and terrifying. Spider-Man: Homecoming has some mistakes, that can’t be ignored, but it’s been 13 years since we last had a film about the character to get really excited about. I see a great deal of potential with this incarnation.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

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We’ve known for a while that Hugh Jackman was on his slowly moving towards his final outing as the character he’s played since 2000. For 17 years Huge Ackman has continued to prove that nobody could have been cast in the role of Wolverine and has gained a phenomenal number of fans. So when the first details of Logan were announced it became a clear the whole thing was going to be fairly emotional.., and that was before the trailer sound-tracked by Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ was even released. I’ve been excited about this film for a long time but I was also faced with a certain amount of trepidation about seeing it. Not because I thought it was going to be bad (everything we were shown pre-release destroyed any fears regarding quality) but because it’s the end of an era. It’s a bittersweet sensation that Hugh Jackman is finally able to do great things in the character’s first R rated outing just before he leaves the role (almost certainly) forever. Suffice it to say I was struggling to hold back the tears as the film went on and was only prevented from bawling like a baby thanks to the awful guy we were sat next to and his inability to shut the fuck up. It’s weird but I can’t help mourning the loss of this character. He’s become so iconic through Jackman’s interpretation and the X-Men movie franchise is always going to feel like it’s missing something now. Thank fuck the big guy went out on a high though, eh.

Logan was primarily billed as an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline. I think that description is taking more than a few liberties but there are some distinct similarities. The year is 2029 and mutants have become a rare breed. They are no longer being born and the remaining few are slowly dying out. Amongst them are two familiar faces; Logan (Hugh Jackman), now ageing and losing his healing factor, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose deteriorating brain function is causing his mutant power to get out of control. They are also joined by a new face; Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who is able to sniff out mutants. The three are in hiding in Mexico where Logan has the Prof holed up in an old water tower and pumps him full of drugs to hold off the seizures for as long as possible. The end goal is to make enough money ferrying drunks around in a limo so the group can buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.

Of course, things have never been that simple where Logan is concerned. He is soon left in charge with the first mutant to be born since everything went tits up. This young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) is being hunted by a team of mercenaries lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who is working on behalf of smarmy scientist, Zander Rice (Richard E Grant). In order to escape the bad guys with guns, Logan takes his new charge and the dangerous nonagenarian on the mother of all car journeys to take her to safety. Whilst Logan is already struggling with his deteriorating powers, he must also come to terms with his new found role of father as he attempts to keep Laura and the Professor safe.

When it was announced that Logan would be Wolverine’s first R rate movie experience audiences got excited. Last year Deadpool showed us that comic book movies and adult only violence could mix really well. However, Logan is an entirely different film. Whilst Deadpool still appealed to the child in all of us, Logan is all maturity. If it wasn’t for the frequent unsheathing of adamantium claws and bionic hands, this wouldn’t feel like a comic book movie at all. This is The Road or The Last of Us. It is a tale of survival but not on the global scale that the X-Men are used to. It’s a very clever and emotionally wrought film. The focus is on ageing and responsibility. It is a character driven narrative that features big action sequences rather than the action based X-Men films we’re used to. Thor the violence, that has been such a huge talking point in the run up to the film, is really neither here nor there. Yes, there is a lot of fight sequences where arms get chopped off and metal claws pierce people’s skulls but it is completely secondary to the story. It’s almost as if it’s there because it has to be. Rather than Deadpool, which almost made the violence it’s biggest draw, Logan relies on its emotional resonance to leave the biggest impact.

So much of this film rests on the actor’s involved and thankfully the 3 main characters are superb. For the most part, Laura is mute but newcomer Dafne Keen does incredibly well to with bringing the character to life on screen. She is silent but deadly and super cool. Her relationship with Logan is slowly realised as the pair come to rely on each other. It’s adorable and loving. However, it can’t hold a candle to the main relationship on screen: namely the one between Logan and Charles. We are faced with a situation almost directly opposite to the one that emerges from the first film. In X-Men Logan comes to Xavier as a dangerous weapon with no idea of his history and the Professor teaches him how to control his powers. In 2029, it is Charles who is the dangerous mutant who Logan must keep controlled using drugs. The pair have come through so much but have a deep love for one another. It is a testament to the actor’s friendship off screen that the onscreen partnership is so strong.

Logan is unlike any other superhero movie out there. It is darker and more brutal that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It lacks the requisite lashings of hope to keep an audience happy at the end. It shows the dark side of humanity and an incredible bleak future. This film is the best comic book movie offering I’ve ever seen. In fact, Logan is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, Rather than dealing with mass death on a unrealistic scale, this focuses in on the all-too-real issues of mortality and the legacy we leave behind. Just as Jackman is moving on from the character shrouded in the respect and adoration that comes with it, Logan is faced with a reputation that he is struggling to live up to. He can no longer be the man that he once was and, instead of facing off with the bad guy, he aims for a quite life taking care of his elderly father figure. Logan still suffers from some questionable decisions and is far from being the perfect film. However, considering the other solo offerings we’ve seen, it is certainly the best outing we’ve had for the character. Hugh Jackman dominates in the role of weary ex-superhero and, if this really is to be his last onscreen appearance as the mutton-chopped anti-hero, I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better way to end his tenure.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Films I’m Looking Forward To This Year

Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, comic book, comic books, films, Harrison Ford, Hugh Jackman, Kenneth Branagh, list, Marvel, Spider-Man, Star Wars, super powers, superhero, Top 10, Wolverine

So last week I released my list of books that I’m most looking forward to (probably not) reading this year. So I decided, as it’s that time of the month when I need to create a list of 10 random things, that it was only fair that I put down on e-paper the films that I’m most excited to see this year. It turns out that was really fucking hard. There are a lot of great films coming out and I’m super excited about all of them. Even really surprising ones. I mean, had you asked me this time last year, that I’d be quite looking forward to seeing Michael Keaton star in the story of the founder of McDonalds I’d have thought you were mad. Now, however, I think it looks pretty good. I mean I love Keaton and it stars the internet’s favourite man’s man Nick Offerman. Plus, there was a point when I didn’t think I wanted to see The Social Network but that turned out better than expect. I also, even more shockingly, became fairly interested in the Justice League film. I’m still not ecstatic about the release because the last two films in DC’s arsenal were utter dogshit. I think it’s basically just down to Jason Momoa though. And Batfleck. But, before I get distracted by sexy superheroes, I should present the list… with more than enough sexy superheroes.
Ten: War for the Planet of the Apes

I really enjoyed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011. The rebooted franchise has created some fantastic pequels so I’m incredibly keen to see what’s coming next.

Nine: Blade Runner 2049

Of course I’m excited about the prospect of Harrison Ford returning to the role of Rick Deckard but there is still a part of me that worries. It’s been a long time. Still, everything we’ve seen so far looks good and gives a positive feeling. Plus, director Denis Villeneuve directed last year’s Arrival which everyone seemed to fucking love. So it’s probably in safe hands.

Eight: Murder on the Orient Express

Probably not going to be top of too many people’s lists but I think I’m going to enjoy this one. It’s Kenneth Branagh directing himself and a shitload of really famous actors to retell the classic Hercule Poirot tale. Yes, we all know who did it but that’s not the point. It’s about watching our favourite Belgian detective work out those “leetle grey cells” to figure it out. And, at this point, I think I’d allow Branagh to play anybody.

 Seven: Alien: Covenant

I know it received mixed reviews but I kinda liked Prometheus. I mean it was a bit of a fucking mess but, for the most part, I think it was a decent film. I get why people were upset though. It was billed as the epic prequel to one of the best films ever made but it didn’t even feature the titular alien creature. So, this year’s follow up should make amends for that if the poster is anything to go by. Really, this could be a retelling of the first Alien film and this would fair better than Prometheus. Plus, you know, Michael Fassbender is fucking weird in this role.

 Six: Logan Lucky

I’m kinda getting sick of Steven Soderbergh telling us he’s retiring and then making another film. Or at least I would be sick of it if it wasn’t for the idea of another Soderbergh film. It’s been 4 years since he made the announcement and now he’s back making a comedy about a robbery duing a NASCAR race. It’s got an interesting and star-studded line-up. What we know about the plot sounds kinda ropey but it’s fucking Soderbergh. How can you ignore it?

Five: Thor: Ragnorak

I know Thor isn’t everyone’s favourite part of the MCU but I’m a massive fan of his first film. I think the second was kind of dodgy but I still have faith in this series. The huge-armed Norse God is back for his third film and, for anyone that knows anything about Norse mythology will know, Ragnorok can only mean trouble. Thankfully, Thor is helped by his pal the Hulk and Marvel’s newest sign-up Doctor Strange. We’ve lost the unnecessary and bland Jane but I’m sure nobody, Natalie Portman included, is crying about that.

Four: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was a sort of surprisingly huge hit when it came out 3 years ago. It introduced us to the ragtag bunch of people who accidentally get caught up in trying to save the world. Their second film promises much of the things that made the first one great so obviously I’m excited. But, as we’ve learnt by now, Marvel sequels don’t have the greatest track record. I mean, to date, only 1 follow-up manages to equal/improve on the first film: The Winter Soldier. At the worst we have Iron Man 2 (happily improved upon with Iron Man 3) but the rest were all just kind of meh. So, I do have a fear that Guardians 2 will just try and replay all of it’s greatest hits without offering up any new material. As much as I love him, I need more than just “I am Groot” but said in a baby voice now.

Three: Spider-Man: Homecoming

If Civil War taught us anything it was that a Marvel controlled Spider-Man film could be the best thing ever. Then the trailer for Homecoming was released and it definitely backed up the claim. Tom Holland looks set to steal Andrew Garfield’s crown as best portrayal of the web-slinger. Still, this is the 3 time in about 15 years that this franchise has been rebooted and it’s the 3 different actor to lend his face to the role. I’m not sure it was necessary and, more worryingly, I feel that Marvel are pushing Tony Stark too much. Maybe his role will work in the film as a whole but, from what we’ve seen so far, this could very easily become the Iron Man show. And that would be an injustice.

Two: Star Wars Episode 8 

Well, duh! Rogue One was the best Star Wars film to be released since the originals and it got me incredibly excited for what’s coming next. The Force Awakens did a great job of bringing us back into the world but left so many things unanswered. This is the time to find out. Plus, it’s directed by Rian Johnson who also did Brick and Looper so we’re in pretty safe hands.  

One: Logan

There was really no other choice for the number 1 spot. Logan is a key film this year for so many reasons. Mostly because, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman is finally saying goodbye to the character. It’s so weird to think that he’s been playing the guy for so long. He basically is Wolverine at this point. I can’t imagine anyone else having taken the character this far if Jackman hadn’t got the role. Add to that the fact that it’s the character’s first film to receive an R-rating. Last year’s Deadpool showed us that it’s no bad thing to make comic book movies just for adults so it feels right that Jackman should get to show us what Logan can really do for this final time. The comic book Wolverine was always an incredibly violent character and that’s not really been able to come across in any of the others. We need to see him really letting his anger out. I’m so fucking pumped for this film.

Tuesday’s Review – Doctor Strange (2016)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, comic book, comic books, fucking beautiful, fucking weird, magic, Marvel, Rachel McAdams, review, super powers, superhero, Tilda Swinton

I used to be one of those Marvel fangirls who would go and see a new release as soon as it was out. Now I tend to take my sweet time because there doesn’t seem to be any need to rush. I’m guarateend to love the film regardless but it’s becoming more like doing a Where’s Wally instead of watching a film. There can be no denying that Marvels films have become more than a little predictable of late. An underwritten big bad threatens the world and the good guy/guys have to save the day, probably involving something huge crashing to the ground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a system that has worked for them and gives the audience everything they want from a superhero film. However, with the arrival of Phase 3 this year it was definitely the time to see something different. That started subtly with Civil War where we saw the good guys facing off against each other for a huge showdown. It wasn’t everything we hoped it would be but you can see that it’s starting to break the mould. The problem is that the formula is safe and adaptable enough for different themes, heroes, and genres. Marvel don’t want to risk losing fans when they know what works.

Which is why Doctor Strange always seemed like a massive risk. Of course, there are always anomalies and Marvel are always keen to take on a project that breaks the pattern. In 2015 Ant-Man took us away from the big time heroes like the Avengers and gave us a smaller tale that became more like a crime caper. Problems behind the scenes meant this was full of issues but it showed that there was room for different think. Like Ant Man, the story of Stephen Strange wasn’t one of the most widely known outside of comic book circles and wasn’t necessarily going to fit into the existing MCU. I mean, the minute you introduce magic into the world of superheroes then everything changes. Power is no longer measurable on a normal scale: this isn’t just about size and physical strength. Magic widens the limits of the possibility and means the rule book just got blown up. It could very easily have fucked up everything Marvel films has been doing over the last 10 years.

So Doctor Strange had a huge job to do: it needed to introduce us to its newest hero and explain the world of magic. It’s a big task that fills the 2 hour running time. Although, the first act is rather slow to get us anywhere. We first meet the egotistical but brilliant brain surgeon, Stephen Strange, who gets into a car accident that destroys his career. He’s helpless and desperate to get back to what he once was. If I’m honest, the first 30 minutes of this film was basically just an episode of House with Benedict Cumberbatch taking Hugh Laurie’s place as British actor playing a doctor who’s also a huge dick. I get that we needed to see why Strange was so desperate to get the use of his hands back but it all felt a bit too much like a parody.

When all hope looks lost, Stephen is directed to Nepal and a mysterious group of people who helped supposedly heal a man who couldn’t walk. Stephen meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who allows him to see the hidden dimensions that have remained hidden and sets him on a journey to learn to use magic for himself. As he learns, Strange learns that, as well as all the wonders he never knew about, there is untold danger within these different dimensions that constantly threaten humanity. It is up to Ancient One and her sorcerers to keep darkness away from the Earth. Darkness that is being summoned by her ex-student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), to destroy humanity. Its up to Stephen, his mentor, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), to stop him.

There is a lot to take in when you watch Doctor Strange and the typical format of a Marvel film isn’t really the best place to try something so new. I mean Thor had to introduce much less than this and it had a hard time teaching the audience about Norse mythology whilst also leaving enough time for fighting. Doctor Strange only just manages to keep a handle on everything it’s trying to do and manages to introduce magic to the MCU in a really trippy and awesome way. When Stephen first meets the Ancient One, she sends him on a journey through dimensions that will definitely give a few hippies some 60s flashbacks. It’s a visual feast and is an incredible film to watch. The many out-of-body experiences and crazy architectural remodelling bring a new freshness to the usual superhero film. This manages to feel like every other Marvel film but, in so many ways, is something completely new.

Although, that isn’t to say it comes without its problems. Benedict Cumberbatch is remarkable in the title role as is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Both are reliable actors who enjoy playing the outcasts of society and so they are well suited to the roles. The rest of the cast are more forgettable. Rachel McAdams is given especially short shrift as fellow doctor and love interest, Christine Palmer. Chiwetel Ejiofor, whilst setting up his role for the next instalment, makes a limited impression and the always delightful Mads Mikkelsen finds himself in the role of another underdeveloped Marvel villain. The main two aside, it is only Benedict Wong who makes any kind of lasting impression and that has little to do with the script.

Doctor Strange is a good film; it’s a very good film. I was super excited to see it and I was incredibly happy afterwards. However, it would be wrong to say that this is the turning point for Marvel. It is a fresh and new film in the midst of every other punch ’em up superhero film but, really, it’s still the same old Marvel underneath. Every time it looks as if a storyline is being allowed a modicum of freedom then its pulled back in. Despite the new ideas at play, this is the same structure as every other Marvel origin story and has the same flaws we are sick of seeing. It shows great potential for the future but Marvel really need to start giving their writers and directors more freedom. It was so close to perfection.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Luke Cage Streets Trailer

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So I’ve decided to forgo my usual Tuesday review in honour of Netflix’s latest Luke Cage trailer. With only a matter of days before the first series of Marvel’s latest television series kicks off on Friday, we have been offered another trailer showing us what to expect from the series that we’ve all been waiting impatiently for. This may seem like something of a cop out, and in a sense it is, but I can’t help it. I’m really fucking excited about this show. Luke Cage was the best thing to come out of Jessica Jones (David Tennant aside obviously) and Mike Colter was just perfect as the bullet proof barman. Let’s all be honest, as great as I think Kristen Ritter’s performance was, Jessica herself is kind of irritating. The whole troubled past, drunk thing just didn’t get me. She was too self-righteous and holier than though in a way only rivalled by Buffy Summers. The whole ‘I can do this without help from anyone ever” thing is just dull. Accept help. It worked for the fucking Avengers. Despite this, her brief relationship with Luke was fantastic and it was a massive shame when he left the scene. It was a long wait for this series.. and I say that as someone who only watched it a matter of months ago. God help all the people who watched the series when it first came out.

So the latest trailer for Luke Cage shows us a lot of stuff we’ve seen before but, crucially, it really introduces us to some key characters. We get a better look at the people Luke will be fighting against for most of the series. We see more of the gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and his cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), a local politician. Both of these antagonists look as though they’ll easily hold their own against the villains of Netflix and Marvel’s established shows. Cottonmouth is classic gangster who wants to control everything and uses strength and power to get it. He doesn’t care who he hurts and thinks he’s unstoppable. Dillard looks complex and her position as politician will only be complicated by her relationship with her cousin.

The series is setting out to be more of a Western with a lone hero trying to save his town from the bad guy. It looks really bloody exciting. After all, if there’s one thing the trailer continues to highlight it’s that Luke Cage will be non-stop action and violence. There is plenty of gunfire, punching and, threatening to keep everyone entertained. Luke is a phenomenal character who deals with a super abilities that he doesn’t want to help people who need him. He’s a normal guy who comes home to find his hometown is going to shit. He is the only person who is really in a position to stop it.

The trailer also gives us a closer look at the people who will help Luke change his town. Rosasrio Dawson reprises her Daredevil and Jessica Jones role of Nurse, Claire who helps Luke realise who he could be. We also see Luke getting advice and encouragement from Misty Knight (Simone Missick), a local police detective who is interested in Cage. These are the people who will help Luke become the hero that he is destined to be whether he likes it or not.

Ultimately, Luke Cage looks like a fantastic addition to the Marvel/Netflix catalogue. It feels more political in nature to the previous offerings and adds great social insight. Showrunner Cheo Coker is keen to point out the connection between the show and classic hip hop and continually subverts racial stereotypes. Luke’s outfit of choice is a hoodie which he wears as he smashes expectations of young,, black men causing trouble. Luke Cage isn’t just the show we’ve all been waiting for; it’s the show we all need to see. It has an important message, is thrilling and still has time for jokes. The trailer’s cameo appearance from Method Man is unexpected and a great moment in the middle of the action. Luke Cage respects the classic character but updates him into a familiar world. It’s real but empowering. I can’t bloody wait. Is it Friday yet?