Tuesday’s Reviews – The Boss (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Boss (2016)

You know what I’m getting bored of? Watching Melissa McCarthy movies and cringing. As a huge Gilmore Girls fan I’ve loved her from way before Bridesmaids propelled her into the big time. She’s an adorable, funny, intelligent and beautiful performer. It’s just a shame she never gets the chance/gives herself the chance to show it. To be fair, she has surprised me with the likes of The Heat, which I found funnier than I thought I would. However, for every jewel in the crown there are at least 3 stones with massive flaws. Unlike most of the internet, I’m still hopeful about Ghostbusters and have faith that McCarthy will one day get the roles she deserves. Until then I’m stuck watching shit like The Boss.

Although, there is obviously a demand for films in which McCarthy demonstrates her now standard practice of shouting, punching people, pratfalling and swearing. It’s what she’s been doing ever since she left Stars Hollow behind her and is clearly a tactic that she isn’t willing to drop any time soon. I’m not saying it isn’t something that she doesn’t do well but I do think she’s pushing herself into a hole she soon won’t be able to crawl out of. I the right hands, mainly those of Paul Fieg, she can and has done remarkably funny things. Left to her own and, in this case, her husband’s devices McCarthy never quite manages to reach perfection.

In the boss, much like in the dismal Identity Thief, McCarthy plays a lonely sociopath who has great skills in one area but is otherwise shit at life. Her character here, Michelle Darnell, is a tycoon of the business world and attempts to teach people to go out and get what they want. She heads massive seminars that look more like stadium tours and makes massive business deals between helicopter rides. When she is caught doing some dodgy deals by her rival Reanult (Peter Dinklage), Darnell is sent to prison for four months.

When she gets out of the clink, Michelle embarks on a scheme to regain her wealth with the help of her ex-assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel. Inspired by a girl scouts-esque group selling thousands of dollars worth of cookies, Michelle starts her own troupe selling Claire’s delicious homemade brownies. Obviously, things don’t run smoothly and the gang encounter turf warfare, backstabbing and dirty play. All the while being careful to prevent Renault destroying her once more.

There is nothing unsurprising about The Boss and the plot meanders along as you would guess. I say meanders because it seems to take a fucking age to get there. This is a pretty short film but everything seems to take way longer than it should. I don’t really understand how scenes can drag whilst the end result still feels so full of holes. To be fair to the script, the plot is focused and sticks to what it wants to achieve. Unfortunately, it never seems sure of what that is. The tone flip flops depending on where the comedy is coming from and Michelle’s character goes from an utter imbecile to a calculating genius in the blink of an eye. The Boss is never sure if she’s a cold, cut-off figure or an emotional and caring agony aunt.

Basically, this is a film that was written to allow Melissa McCarthy to be as vile as humanly possible to a group of teenage girls. The characters or the concepts don’t really come into play. The script just manufactures situations in which she can call young girls lesbians as an insult and threaten their mothers. When the sheer volume of violence and swearing fails to draw a laugh then we fall back onto the old faithful physical comedy. If there’s a dip in the action then god knows Melissa is willing to fall down a fucking flight of stairs. What a trooper.

None of the this really makes sense and nobody’s motivations are ever really clear. Michelle wants to make money yet she’s more than willing to give most of the money raised to other people. She is a ruthless tycoon who hates family but she readily bonds with Claire’s daughter without any trouble. Then there is Peter Dinklage’s Renault who hates Michelle and plots her downfall. Although, there is never really enough justification for the level of super evil to which he aspires. I say aspires because Renault is the shittest villain imaginable and even more of an embarrassing role for Dinklage than the one he played in fucking Pixels.

That’s the thing about The Boss. Every one who played a part in it could and should have done better. Nobody comes out of this looking good. McCarthy gives it her all but with the lousy script and terrible premise, she never gets the material to really shine. You can’t fault her energy or passion but it’s not enough. Under the direction of her husband, Ben Falcone, she just flounders. It made me uncomfortable to watch this film and it had nothing to do with the vulgarity. I’m tired of seeing actors I love and respect doing such utter shit. It has to stop.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Before I get on with my latest rundown I have a bit of an announcement. As of tomorrow, I’ll be forgoing my usual Monday post for about a month. Now before you all start bemoaning the loss of such a popular, well written and thought provoking segment (cough cough), this isn’t down to laziness. In order to kick start my future career I am about to start an online course in digital marketing. In order to get the most out of the course and attend the lectures I want to take a bit of pressure of in regards to the blog. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back soon with more petty annoyances and crazy rants soon. Now, on with out scheduled broadcast.

I nearly made it through the week without buying any books but bloody Penguin had to go and do it again. On May 26th PRH released their new Pocket Penguins and they’re fucking gorgeous. I could easily have bought them all but I resisted and only purchased 2 so far. No doubt I’ll get the set but I’ll hopefully have the self-control to be able to stop myself doing it all in one go. Seriously though, these things are bloody beautiful. The colours and the embrace of the traditional design are just amazing and the size is ideal. Penguin have a history of creating books that looked good and, most importantly, were great to read. I’ve always loved the publishers and why so many of their books line my shelves. Probably unread. They’re so striking and good to look at. I doubt I’ll ever be able to resist a Penguin.A fact that is hell on my bank balance.

Currently Reading
  • Jaws by Peter Benchley
Still plodding on with this. This book is much longer than it needs to be but I’m still embracing the trash. The crazy flirting scene between Brody’s wife and Hooper is both magical and super creepy. I’m enjoying this more than I know I should because it is trashy. I guess I understand why it was such a bestseller but it really doesn’t deserve to be. I admire Benchley’s knowledge of sharks but his novel doesn’t half go on a bit. 
Recently Purchased
  • The Betrothed (Pocket Penguins) by Alessandro Manzoni
A Gothic tale set in Italy in the 1600s. I may have graduated from my Postgraduate degree nearly 5 years ago but I still fondly remember my research in the Gothic. It may be a little dodgy these days but I adore classic gothic literature. With it’s fainting women, Wandering Jews, secret love, and horny aristocrats. This sounds ideal and it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package too. 
  • The Master And Margarita (Pocket Penguins) by Mikhail Bulgakov
One of the greatest Russian novels of the twentieth century, I’ve always wanted to read this but never got round to it. The devil turns up in Moscow and causes havoc. Only the Master and his lover Margarita can resist the Him. Bulgakov’s novel is a satirical look at Stalinist Russia and I’m looking forward to finally tackling it. I don’t have a great history with Russian literature beyond Nabakov so we’ll see how this goes.

Recently Watched
  • The Boss
I don’t understand why Melissa McCarthy keeps pulling a Simon Pegg and making these kind of films. Want to hear me work out my issues some more? Come back Tuesday. 

  • Robocop (2014)
To be honest, I didn’t finish this one but I felt it warranted a mention because, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I saw Gary Oldman in a film and wasn’t instantly attracted to him. If that’s not a good enough reason not to continue watching a film then I really don’t know what is.
  • Game of Thrones
I’m still in fucking mourning after the last episode of GOT. So many emotions: Hodor, Summer, Jorah. I’m in such a fragile state. As much as I love George RR Martin I sort of want to slap him for breaking my fucking heart every time. I’m loving the show now it’s so removed from the books but I still can’t wait for The Winds of Winter. It’s tipped for the second half of the year but I swear we’ve been fed this line for the past couple of years now. I know he doesn’t want to rush and I respect that. However, it’s hard not to let my fan feelings come out and those feelings aren’t as patient. 
TBT – The Princess Bride (1987)

TBT – The Princess Bride (1987)

This week I bought something that I have wanted to own for a fucking age but didn’t let myself get. In finally embraced my love of The Princess Bride and bought my very own “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” t-shirt. I don’t even have it yet but it’s already one of the greatest things I’ve ever owned. I think I was inspired by the title of my Tuesday review because it’s the only thing that comes into my head whenever I see those bloody “Hello, my name is” stickers. Consequently, I’ve also spent the last few days starting imaginary duels with anyone who crossed my this week. “You ate the last biscuit, prepare to die.” “You’re walking too slowly, prepare to die.” “You cut in front of my in a queue, prepare to die.” That kind of thing. So I absolutely had to watch Rob Reiner’s film adaptation to try and get over my current obsession. Plus, my impression of Inigo could do with some work.

The Princess Bride wasn’t terribly successful on first release but found cult status once it was released on VHS. It’s exactly the kind of film you want to curl up and watch when you’re stuck in bed with flu. Probably because the story begins with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his sick grandson a bedtime story. It is the love story of Buttercup (Robin Wright) and farm boy Westley (Carey Elwes) but, don’t worry, it’s not one of those kissing stories.

The Princess Bride takes the conventional fairy tale romance and has some fun with it. Much in the same way he did for This Is Spinal Tap, Reiner really embraces the genre before amping things up as much as he can. It’s a clever and very successful approach that will have children and adults alike entertained. It features swashbuckling strangers, a Spaniard out for revenge, a 6-fingered man, a friendly giant and inconceivable situations. The Princess Bride is exciting, funny and self-aware enough to know what it’s doing.

When Westley goes off to make his fortune his ship is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts and he is presumed dead. Years later, Buttercup is set to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) until she is kidnapped by a trio of rogues. Their leader, the Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) is being paid to start a war between the Prince’s nation and their neighbouring kingdom. He is aided by Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and gentle giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Unfortunately, they are being pursued by the Man in Black who appears to be after Buttercup for his own reasons.

Rob Reiner directs with his tongue constantly in his cheek and William Goldman’s script satirises the world of fairly tales and storytelling. It takes every silly conceit of the stories you were told in your youth and turns it up to 11. It is a world full of silly names, silly dialogue and silly people. However, underneath that runs some decidedly unfunny themes: namely true love, family, honour, suffering and friendship. It always manages to find the perfect mix between serious and comedy and carries it all off with a huge dose of charm and heart.

The Princess Bride is much cleverer than it appears and has fun making itself appear to be a lesser film. The cast play their parts beautifully and manage to be both playful and take the whole thing seriously. The story, littered with gags a-plenty, is played fairly straight but the film fights against realism. The sets are all dodgy, the stunt doubles all obvious, and the continuity is all over the place. It looks like a shoddily made film but it doesn’t matter. The film is fantasy that you are willing to follow. The Princess Bride may not be the greatest film you’ll ever see but it’s inconceivable that you won’t enjoy it. If anyone asks you if you want to watch it you need only answer “As you wish”.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

At the moment I’m being really bad at checking out small indie films because I’m so busy. I used to stay pretty up-to-date with film news but I’m lacking a bit of motivation as far as that’s concerned these days. So the only movies I really know anything about these days are the big ones. By which I mean comic book films. It’s starting to feel as though I only watch films in or related to the MCU. Something that I don’t have a major problem with but the only time I really get my fix of, for lack of a better term, “proper” films is over awards season. Turns out my viewing habits are, like my reading habits, pretty lazy. So I’ve started trawling the internet for inspiration when it comes to my Tuesday reviews. Trying to find films that I would otherwise have missed completely. Sometimes this is a hugely unsuccessful venture and it’s a huge disappointment and I regret wasting my time. Then there are the rare gems that end up being much better than I thought. Today’s review is, thankfully, of a more positive bent. After all, any time I get to watch Sally Field at work is going to be worthwhile.

I really liked Hello, My Name is Doris but it wasn’t because it was a well-written, funny film. The reason this film works so successfully comes down to Sally Field who, even when she’s given nothing to work with, gives it her all. The character of Doris is nothing more than a collection of quirks than a fully fleshed character. She wears strange clothes, collects junk, and laps up cheesy romance novels. It is only in the hands of Field that she becomes someone an audience can care about. We cheer for her wins, commiserate her losses and cringe at her mistakes. It is only thanks to Field that we pay attention to Doris at all.

Something that she needs the rest of the people in her life to do. Doris Miller lives a very unassuming life on Staten Island with her elderly mother. Every day she catches the ferry to the job she’s had for more years than anyone can remember. Her colleagues don’t give her any heed and see her as nothing but a relic from the company’s past. Her life is full of collecting junk, feeding her cat and reading romance novels. She’s not exactly happy but she has her routine. Until, one day, her mother dies and her whole life begins to spiral.

With her brother and his wife (Stephen Root and Wendi McLendon-Covey) beg her to move out and sell her mother’s house, Doris refuses and chooses to stay in the piles of old magazine and shampoo bottles. This is the life she knows and there is nothing that can tear her away from it. Except for John Fremont (Max Greenfield), the new boy at her office who makes a throwaway comment about Doris’ glasses and sparks something in the old gal.

With the encouragement of her friend Roz (Tyne Daly) and the help of Roz’s 13 year old granddaughter, Doris finds out John’s interest and manufactures a chance meeting at an EDM gig.The pair then form a strange but engaging friendship where Doris breaks out of her comfort zone and John confides his secret fears. All looks good for Doris before she discovers John has a girlfriend (Beth Behrs). How can the 69 year old keep up with her delusion when faced with such a lovely and sweet rival?

The problem with Hello, My Name is Doris is that the film doesn’t know which way it wants to go. It tries to embrace the sweet friendship between the pair whilst also showcasing the dicey depths of Doris’ stalking and still allowing for a slight chance that the two may find romance. Rather than picking a side it tries to have its cake and eat it. It’s a bit of a mess. Laura Terruso, who co-wrote the script with director Michael Showalter, tries to include bits of every genre and gets herself all in a muddle.

There is so much that the film either didn’t need or didn’t embrace enough. The script isn’t exactly mind-blowing and the comedy mainly builds from a stretched out joke about hipsters. For much of the time you can’t really tell if the writers are making fun of Doris or suggesting that she is the only sane one in a sea of modernity. Then you have the unnecessary fantasy scenes where Doris acts out her romance with John. It’s an unnecessary gimmick that adds nothing to the real plot and feels so fake you won’t even mistake them for reality.

Hello, My Name is Doris could have been another well-meaning but forgettable indie flick with a cast of bright young actors had it not been for one vital ingredient. All this film really needs is Sally Field letting go on screen. She has the ability to really speak to an audience and create characters from very little. She knows comedy but also carries the vulnerable scenes expertly. The scenes where the film flies are the private ones where Doris indulges herself and her new life. The scene where she cheekily gets John to inflate the ball that her boss has replaced her chair with. The moment she first hears his favourite band and dances round her room with a youthful exuberance that belies her age. The gig she attends with John where she fools a room of young hipsters into thinking she’s one of them. These are the moments that make the film soar.

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

After a few weeks of being so good about not buying books I’ve completely lost my resolve this week. I spent time on Amazon tracking down cheap second-hand books that I’ve wanted to read. I managed to get the list down from 10+ to four but it still feels like a bit of a fail. Something that isn’t made easier by the fact that each week more of the books on my ‘most anticipated of 2016’ list are coming out which means more books to buy. It feels weirdly overwhelming. There is a massive price to pay for being a book lover. Until I become a millionaire and have both the funds and the time to indulge my passion I’ll always have some feelings of guilt surrounding my book buying/reading habits. Still, there are worse things I could be doing with my time and money. Better not get too worried just yet.
Currently Reading
  • Jaws by Peter Benchley
It’s kind of trashy and nowhere near as good as Spielberg’s film narrative but I’m enjoying reading this novel. It’s a fairly easy read and all the shark focused sections are really detailed and interesting. This was a book that became a bestseller upon its release in 1974 and stayed there for a long time. At the moment it’s hard to see why and it’s painfully clear why Spielberg made so many adjustments for the film. Still, it is fun so I’ll stick with it for now. 
Recently Purchased
  • The Likeness by Tana French
I first heard about this book years ago and was interested by the concept. However, as we all know by now, I’m not exactly a fan of police thriller type books. Still, after seeing its title crop up on another ‘Books you need to take on holiday’ list I decided fate was trying to tell me something. I can’t imagine I’m going to love this book or wildly go after the rest of this series but I also can’t imagine it’s going to be anything other than harmless fun. We’ll see. 

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I know I know. Bandwagon. Jumping. I get it. This book was everywhere and nominated for pretty much every award. I just couldn’t justify buying it in hardback for full price when I was trying to be so good. So I’ve been watching the price steadily go down until I finally bit the bullet. I can’t wait to read this. 

  • The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

I count Margaret Atwood amongst my favourite authors because, quite frankly, she deserves it. I have adored pretty much every book I’ve read and love her style and the way she approaches her subject matter. However, I realise that, when it comes down to it, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of her work. There is still plenty out there for me to read and enjoy. Starting here. 

  • Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

This was on the same list as the first book and it sounded so interesting. A model receives facial reconstruction after a fatal crash and feels as it she has lost her identity. Her life then becomes entangled with an unhappy teenager also called Charlotte. I’m not sure what to think of this novel but the concepts intrigue me. 


Recently Watched
  • Hello, My Name is Doris
My love of Sally Field knows no bounds so I was excited for this. What did I think? Tune in on Tuesday.
  • Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds was always a favourite of my family when we were growing up and I continue to adore it to this day. It hasn’t exactly aged well but there is a timeless quality to it. It’s so well crafted and the little touches make it so much more than a puppet show. Going back to the series always gives me a warm dose of nostalgia… although I’m pleased to report that, as a grown-up, I no longer have to run from the room when that man gets burned in the Sidewinder episode. That was some intense shit.

TBT – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

TBT – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

If it wasn’t for Iron Man 2 then I could safely say that Captain America is my least favourite film in the MCU. I’m not saying it’s the worst but it’s one of the ones I enjoyed the least. Prior to the hero’s first outing under the Marvel films banner, he was a comic book character I cared very little about. I knew about his major stories but, as a British comic book fan, I always found the patriotism too much to handle. Plus, he’s so fucking good and pure. It gets kind of boring you know. I like my heroes to be at least a little bit flawed and not so judgey. Then, of course, Winter Solider went and became one of the best Marvel movies of all time and I had to rethink my opinion on the whole thing. I’m not saying I’m completely head-over-heels about Cap but his trilogy of films is one of the best series of films Marvel has managed to create. So, with that in mind, I decided to rewatch the film that started everything off. Turns out I’d forgotten just how fucking creepy the CGI of tiny Steve actually is. I’m still having nightmares.

Watching this film again now, it becomes much more apparent that this was merely a way to rush forward to The Avengers. The release of Joss Whedon’s sensation was fast approaching and audiences had not yet met the leader of the super hero team. Although that is not to say that it was terrible but it lacked the precision and detail that we had seen in the likes of Iron Man. It feels like more of a nostalgia event than a slick super hero adventure. I guess one could argue that Captain America has always been somewhat camper than his fellow Avengers and the sort of hokey feel is incredibly fitting. Whatever excuses you can muster there is no denying that this is feels the most cartoonish of all the Marvel films to date.

The First Avenger presents the origin story of Captain America (Chris Evans) who started life as a skinny boy from Brooklyn and quickly became a symbol for America during the war. After desperately trying to sign up for the army and being rejected, Steve Rogers has a chance encounter with a scientist who promises to make his dreams come true. With the help of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) turns Steve into the greatest soldier the world has ever seen. Steve is strong, fast and, most importantly, good-hearted. He is quickly paraded in front of the nation to bring hope to the people and lift everyone’s spirits.

Captain America isn’t the big break in army that Steve hopes and the closest he gets to stopping Hitler is punching an actor in the face every night. That is until he discovers his childhood best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and his entire division have been captured by the evil Nazi science division Hydra. When he single-handedly rescues the group Steve is allowed to bring together his best men to stop Hydra’s diabolical schemes. Unfortunately. the Nazi group aren’t just making military grade weapons. Under the leadership of the psychotic Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), Hydra have gone rogue and have their heart set on even more power.

I have to admit, I loved the 1940s setting for this film and would happily have held off on explaining how Steve came to join the Avengers in favour of more Nazi chasing. Some may find the mixture of classic 40s technology with science-fiction weirdness a bit off putting but I absolutely adored everything about the image of a super strong solider fighting a Nazi death ray. This is the kind of great twisting of historic events that has been used so effectively by the likes of The Watchmen and Inglorious Basterds. It’s great and I’d love to see much more of Steve and friends romping around in 1940s Europe.

The films narrative is fairly cohesive in comparison to many comic book movies and  has a fair few interesting twists. We see the progression of an honourable man turned from victim into hero and getting the chance he has strived for. It may be sentimental drivel but, in these hands, Steve’s story is worthy and inspiring. I even find that I can’t disagree with the fairly dicey romance plot because Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is so darn adorable and badass that I see why Steve would fall for her so quickly. The First Avenger isn’t the most engaging or original origin story but it does what it needs to. It sets Cap up as the righteous hero that we will see him be for his next 3 films and tells us that he really fucking loves his best friend. It’s not the most memorable plot but it’ll do.

Much like the film as a whole. It’s enjoyable and, certainly, I found myself liking it more this time than I did after the first viewing. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are both fantastic in their roles and Tommy Lee Jones, as the gruff Colonel, does what he does perfectly. The action is as good as any comic book fan would want and the setting is well realised. However, there is so much here that could be better. Domic Cooper and Sebastian Stan are shunted into the background and not allowed to flourish as such key figures should. Hugo Weaving’s villain is very one-note and clichéd that I’m kind of embarrassed for him. The dialogue is cringey in a way that transcends the whole “getting to grips with the era” thing and there are some weird directorial choices throughout.

This is by no means a terrible film but is a film that, quite clearly hasn’t pushed itself. It needed to do a job and it needed to do it quickly. It goes as far as it needs to and no more. In a manner in keeping with the idea of rationing, each aspect of the film seems to have been pushed only as far as it needed to tell this story with no sense of embellishment or added excitement. It’s as serious as Steve when he’s standing up to a bully but without the depth, sophistication or deft touch as many films in this genre. It will never be my favourite film in the MCU but, as it turns out, it paved the way for many of them.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

There was plenty of ridiculous drama that went into me finally getting to see the third film in the Captain America trilogy that I’m loathe to bring up. However, I have no other way to introduce my new topic so I’m going to retell the whole petty tale. I have a friend whom I love unconditionally but she’s a huge fucking drama queen. She’s recently got into a new relationship and is, obviously, all about spending her time with her new boyfriend. As such, she’s difficult to tie down for cinema trips. I’d promised her I’d watch this film with her because her new man isn’t much of a film lover and hates comic book movies. Problem is, she won’t commit to a date because she doesn’t know when he’s free. Considering how desperate I was to see this film I got understandably annoyed about her unwillingness to pick a date. Not a problem you might think, I can go without her. Unfortunately, if she ever got wind of the fact that I was contemplating going with someone else then she’d start thinking I’d replaced her with someone else. You see, fucking drama! At 28 I really don’t have time for that school playground bff bullshit so I’m incredibly unsympathetic about the whole thing. Which is exactly why I snuck off to the cinema with a mutual friend behind her back and why I’ll never tell her I’ve seen it. I love my friends to the ends of the Earth but nobody keeps me from the MCU.

Marvel films seems to understand Captain America more than any of its other heroes. He’s the only hero who’s sequel was better than the first and is the only one that has the strongest overarching narrative. These films are built on the friendship between Steve and Bucky and it is Cap’s struggle to save his best friend that has made these films worth watching. Civil War marks the culmination of everything Captain America and Winter Soldier have been preparing us for. I love you Peggy but we all know that Steve’s real OTP is James Barnes.

Civil War pretty much picks up after the events of Age of Ultron where the new Avengers are on a mission in Lagos to prevent Crossbones high-tailing it out of town with a vial of some deadly disease. In the drama Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) inadvertently creates chaos trying to stop Captain American (Chris Evans) being blown up. As this is just the latest in a long line of destruction for the super team politicians of the World unite and attempt to restrict the movements of Earth’s heroes. Unfortunately, the pals don’t all agree to the Sokovia Accords, named after the country that suffered during the battle with Ultron.

Cap disagrees with government control and refuses to sign the accords, something that Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has an issue with. Cap and his ever loyal sidekick , Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are told to hand in their guns and badge and leave the super life behind. Unforunately, that is exactly the same time that a bomb explodes at the UN causing the death of the King of Wakanda supposedly by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) himself. Captain goes against the government to find his friend first and discovers that Bucky has been set up.

This starts an increasingly ridiculous situation that pits superhero against superhero to either protect or capture dear old Buck. Both Iron Man and Captain America have their followers who are fighting for various and, quite often, flimsy reasons but, provided we see a massive punch-up, I guess it doesn’t matter. Team Cap includes: Bucky; Flacon; Scarlet Witch; Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); Ant Man (Paul Rudd); and ex-shield agent Sharon Carter. Team Iron Man is made up of: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); War Machine (Don Cheadle); Vision (Paul Bettany); and the mysterious Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). I have an issue with the need for people to take sides but I can’t deny it creates quite a spectacle. The airport showdown is, quite possibly, the greatest scene in the MCU so far.

Captain America: Civil War makes me feel quite conflicted if I’m honest. I totally enjoyed it and the fan girl in me squeed for the full 3000 hour run. However, I felt like it was trying to do too much to the extent that things weren’t as good as they could have been. The airport battle was fucking intense but getting there was difficult and never felt like the logical end to the events on screen. It was never explained in such a way that didn’t make it all feel like a massive stretch. Motivations aren’t clear and most of the choices just don’t make sense for the characters we know and love. I mean I still have no fucking clue why Hawkeye is even fighting. Didn’t he retire? Why does he give a shit?

Plus, there was the desire to introduce so many recurring and new characters that it seemed a bit messy and bloated. It’s a long film and there were time when it felt like it was dragging. Although, I don’t really know what I’d want to lose because Spider Man and Black Panther were two of the best things about the whole thing and I’m super excited about their solo outings. I just wish the whole thing about the Sokovia Accords had had been cut out and it came down to a fight centred on Cap and Bucky’s friendship. I mean that’s essentially what the trilogy has been all about and is the only real reason that Steve would turn his back on his fellow Avengers. The government twist just made things messier.

Still, this was the film that Avengers 2 should have been. It was a great meeting of so many characters and was funny, dark and emotional. The actors all did a great job. Paul Rudd managed to be funny during the most intense moments and Tom Holland looks set to be a great Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans manage to play their familiar roles with added depth as both Tony and Steve find themselves going down dark paths due to recent events. Tony’s continued declining mental state is both devastating and fantastic to watch. In terms of the characters coming together Civil War gets it right and it feels like it makes amends for the sequel to The Avengers.

However, it tries to do too much and include too much. The overall big baddie is pretty unnecessary and there are a few plot twists that I think we could have done without. Still, despite all of my natural criticisms, I couldn’t help but love this film. It shows that Phase 3 is going to be wild. Thanks to the plot looking at the consequences of extreme power, it shows that we are moving into more grown-up territory and a more mature MCU in the future. It explores some great ideas and, at the end of the day, gives the audience what it wanted from this story. Super heroes beating the shit out of each other. And, if I’m honest, it fucking rocked.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Picking the right book has a massive impact on everything. Okay, that’s incredibly melodramatic but this weeks selection has left me in a bit of a reading slump because I’m just not inspired. In fact, it’s making me quite angry about how much lost potential there is. It makes me want to pick up a pen and write the book it should have been. As much as I don’t want to look down on YA fiction I find that I just can’t help it. It’s obviously an age thing or a literature student thing. I’ve been reading great works of fiction for a long time now and I just find YA so childish. I admire anything that gets young people (and older I guess) reading but I just wish they didn’t speaking down to their readers so much. Unless, YA now means anyone under the age of 10? Adding a few swears into a childish book does not making it more adult. It just changes it from a U certificate to a PG. Young people aren’t idiots so can YA writers please give them some fucking credit? Surely they want what all readers want. Well written/developed characters. YA ignores depth in favour of plot twists and it’s fucking stupid. But this is fast turning into a mini-rant so I’ll leave it there.
Currently Reading
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Had this one on my shelf for a while and only started reading it because my twin threatened to steal it from me. It’s just the same old issue with me and YA. I don’t get it. The characters seems so unrealistic and the issues raised are just inconsequential. I mean, I get that young people worry about romance and stuff but when I was a 16 year old I’m certain I wasn’t anywhere near as whiny and ridiculous as the characters on the pages of these books. For The Rest of Us, Patrick Ness has decided to focus on the ‘normal’ people that are living on the outskirts of a major apocalypse. It’s like that Buffy episode “The Zeppo” that followed Xander on his coffee run instead of the battle to close the Hellmouth. It’s an interesting idea except for the fact that these supposedly “normal” people really aren’t. It sounds like a silly point to criticise but this feels very much like fiction. Plus, because it’s a parody, it’s sort of silly fiction. Everything is tongue-in-cheek and Ness is regularly stopping the narrative to give a massive wink to his audience that I can’t get to immersed with the story. It feels like a wasted opportunity to do something clever. I wish it had been done in a more serious manner and not in such a YA way.
Recently Purchased
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Another find thanks to Instagram. Saw a picture of this on Penguin Books page and fell in love with it. It’s so bright and beautiful that I almost didn’t care what it was about. Luckily, it sounds like a pretty good read. Two elderly widows, one white and one black, live next door to each other but don’t get along. One day the two women find themselves brought together and, amidst all the bickering, they soon find themselves softening towards the other. Can the octogenarians become friends or are they too long in the tooth? I can’t wait to find out. 

Recently Watched
  • Captain America: Civil War
Oh my god, I finally saw it and I’m still getting my head around it. Was the source of great debtate between me and a coworker yesterday. My thoughts on this will fill a Tuesday review and a Monday mini-rant. So that’s something to look forward to. 
  • Eurovision song contest
As a proud Eurovision fan I happily watched last night but, with every passing year, I find that the entries aren’t exciting me too much. I miss the old days when people weren’t afraid of having fun and being a bit camp and fun. Now, for some reason, the contest is seen as a way to make a genuine presence in the music industry. It just doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Plus, Australia? I mean it was getting to be a massive stretch of the Euro bit anyway but this is insane. 
TBT – Extras Series 1 Episode 3 "Kate Winslet"

TBT – Extras Series 1 Episode 3 "Kate Winslet"

In my continual effort to never watch a new television show ever, I took to Netflix to watch Extras recently. It’s been great to relive the series that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created after The Office had become such a huge success. Extras was the potentially dangerous second album that just wouldn’t live up to its predecessor. Thankfully it was a great follow up even if it lacked the edge that made The Office so great. Of course, re-watching any series always brings up the question of favourites. So I spent much of my time watching trying to decide which episode that I loved the most. I’ve always thought that Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and David Bowie were my favourite guest stars because they were all so fucking funny. Although, in terms of whole episode I don’t think they all stand up as well as this one.

Looking at it now the Kate Winslet episode of Extras holds an even greater significance thanks to her line “If you do a film about the Holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar.” A few years after she spouted these words Winslet won her first Academy Award for The Reader. So, if it goes to show nothing else it’s that Ricky Gervais understands the politics behind Award season and Kate Winslet’s career choices better than we could ever have imagined. I’m not trying to suggest that Gervais is prophetic but if you wanted to present evidence to justify that claim you’d want to start here.

Kate Winslet may not be the most memorable of all the guest stars in the whole run of Extras but she is undoubtedly one of the strongest. Many of the big favourites (including my top 3) survive mostly due to quotable lines and absurb scenarios. In fact, non of my favourite 3 are really that important to the plot of their episodes and exist only to play with the actor’s reputations. Winslet sticks around way longer than P Stew or David Bowie and has more of an impact than McKellen. She’s one of the few cameos who actually move the narrative forward.

She’s also incredibly willing to poke fun at herself. Though she appears on set as a nun caught up in WW2, Winslet’s character comes out through her conversations with Andy and Maggie between takes. Maggie is bemoaning the fact that her new boyfriend enjoys phone sex whilst she has no clue how to approach the subject. Winslet overhears and, in a very matter-of-fact way, offers help and suggestions to get things going. The relationship between Maggie and Andy is what makes the show so perfect and Winslet’s presence only makes that dynamic flourish.

The interactions with Winslet are the kind of uncomfortably hilarious scenes that you could image watching and, during the grand finale of that plot line, the connection between her and Gervais is just amazing. The pair work well together and, in terms of writing as well, Gervais seems to understand the star wonderfully. This episode, more than a lot of the others, portrays a very well written and rich part for the cameo in question. It’s not just based on a crass mirroring of the  star’s perceived nature but a very clever self-parody by a phenomenal actress.

Season 1 may have suffered in comparison to season 2 because the show was still trying to find its feet. The humour doesn’t always stand up as strongly or hit its mark as well as its follow-up but there is plenty to love about this episode besides the potty mouthed Kate Winslet. The episode’s secondary storyline involves Andy trying to woo a fellow extra. There are some genuinely adorable moments in the midst of all the traditional awkward moments and the montage showing Andy spending time with the lady in question is a stand-out moment.

Although, this episode really deserves the title of “best episode” mainly because it showcases everything about that this show got right. Other episodes may have a mix of these but Kate Winslet’s turn just works in harmony. It understands its characters, gives its guest star enough room to let loose and lives up to the comedy its trying to be. Extras had a huge desire to make it’s audience squirm in their seats and there are enough uncomfortable moments in this episode to guarantee they’ll feel awkward watching it. It has to be one of the most cringey but addictive episodes of the whole series. A fact that, in my book at least, makes is the only real candidate for best episode ever.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Special Correspondents (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Special Correspondents (2016)

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.