Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 Review

Re-watching a film right before a sequel is sometimes a bad decision. On the one hand it ensures you're up to speed with everything that's happened before jumping back into the franchise's world again. On the other hand it means there's more opportunity to draw comparisons and discrepancies. I don't regret re-watching Blade Runner before going to see 2049, but unfortunately for me it meant 2049's validity was put into question almost immediately when the entire premise of the original - that replicants can only live for four years - became superfluous in 2049's opening crawl, stating the Nexus 8 generation of replicants (somehow created around the time the first film look place) have no live span. And once you start to question the validity of a film's continuity the suspension of disbelief is hard to get back.

So when K's (Ryan Gosling) investigation into the bones he discovers hidden by another older model replicant indicates the robot had carried to birth a child you have to just take a breath and go along for the visually breathtaking ride and not think too hard about it. That's a shame though, because much like the original, there are some interesting ideas here, about identity, memory, morality and love but they get lost in translation. Instead of pondering these themes you're trying to uncover 2049's puzzling mystery: who is the child to the replicant and the human, and why does everyone want it so badly? It's a welcome addition to the more straight-forward narrative of the original, but again, there's too much going on to fully enjoy it - which is really quite a feat for a film you can also describe as slow-paced.

Gosling is fine, but he's outshone by the late arrival of Harrison's Ford's Deckard, and he basically suffers from the same problems Harrison had with Deckard in the first film but in reverse. Ford had to play a human that you could potentially believe was a robot, whereas Gosling must play a robot that you just might think is human. Ana de Armas and Robin Wright both perform well, but their characters are mostly unnecessary filler, particularly Armas's Joi whose hologram characters existence confuses me. Sylvia Hoeks is the standout as the beautifully menacing replicant Luv, assistant to the underused Jarrod Leto's Wallace, head of the Wallace Corporation.

If you liked the first film, it's highly likely you'll enjoy 2049 even though it's a highly more convoluted version of the original.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Gypsy 1.1 Review: The Rabbit Hole

I have an interest in psychology, and as such, I've always enjoyed watching therapist characters on television. I've always been adamant the best part of The Sopranos was Tony's therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi, and more recently several characters on Hannibal proved just how entertaining these characters can be to watch. It's surprising, then, that something like Gypsy hasn't come along earlier. While it's being dubbed a 'psychosexual drama/ thriller' I propose that it's something far simpler - a character drama, and not in the This Is Us sense.

Series with therapists often risk becoming boring because a fundamental part of their job - therapy sessions - involve a lot dialogue being spilled out like exposition. The audience aren't being shown anything, there is no action occurring, and so it a lot more difficult to keep people entertained when two characters are just sitting in a room. What allows fictional psychologists to become so interesting is that they don't do much talking in their sessions - they listen - so while whatever character spills out their lives problems to them the therapist can remain relatively enigmatic.

Enter Jean Holloway, a New York psychotherapist played by Noami Watts. She initially seems competent at her job, telling her elderly patient Claire Rogers that she needs to respect her daughter Rebecca's boundaries. Jean receives several calls from her own mother throughout the episode which she promptly ignores and one can't help but think that Claire might become a stand-in for Jeans own parental problems. Later at a staff meeting a colleague is telling her and some others about his patient who is planning to propose to his girlfriend, but he's anxious because he is still cheating with his co-worker. Jean is quick to say that he should't marry her when another co-worker tells her, 'that's not for us to decide, we're here to address his issues, not make his decisions.'

And so Jean is revealed to be more than an average therapist. It becomes increasingly evident that she wants to get involved in her patients lives, and that she has done so before, her husband Michael (Billy Crudup) asking, 'you're not getting emotionally involved again, are you?'. Whether it is to help them, or for own personal interests (professional or otherwise) remains to be seen, but I can already she Gypsy being one of those enthralling series in which we continuously watch its lead in Jean, make increasingly bad decisions, but yet we can't look away, and sort of hope she makes the wrong choices for our entertainment.

Jean literally goes down 'The Rabbit Hole' in this episode, stalking (it may seem a harsh word, but it's clearly what she's doing, and assumedly her behaviour is only going to get more questionable as the series progresses) her client Sam's ex-girlfriend Sidney while she works at the coffeeshop. We know from Sam's therapy session that he's still taking the break-up hard 8 months on, and so the questions is, why does Jean assume the alias of 'Diane' the writer and befriend Sidney? Is it to get Sidney's side of the story, a more balanced opinion? Sam certainly loses a lot of audience sympathy when Sidney reveals his clinginess. Or is Jean intrigued by the way Sam is obsessed with Sidney? Did she go to 'The Rabbit Hole' to find out who this amazing woman was for her herself? Did she go because she herself has never loved someone that much (she seems restless with her husband Michael), or being loved that much? It's Jean's enigmatic motivations that will continue to make Gypsy an intriguing series to watch, so when instances like Sidney brushing her hand over hers evokes a question in both the character and the audience, 'why is she here?'. 

Despite Jean's elusiveness there is still a lot of talking throughout the aforementioned therapy sessions. Sam tells her he went to return some of Sidney's things under her guidance, which she knew having almost been spotted by Sam at the coffeeshop. But Sam goes on to tell her about Sidney's dead father leading him to think she has trust issues, and ironically, Jean is shocked. Sam's revelation contradicts a story Sidney told 'Diane' about her father being in prison - and suddenly Gypsy has highlighted something very important. Just because there's a lot of talking, it doesn't mean anything is actually being said. Sidney has lied to either Sam or Jean, or even both, and just when both Jean and the audience thought they were starting to grasp her character, we are now uncertain of everything. Gypsy's tagline is 'Who are you when no one is watching?' and it highlights what most already know. We are us, yes, but we are also different versions of oursleves depending on who we are with, for better or worse. Jean is obviously a character still changing, as we all do throughout our lives, and it'll be interesting to see where Sidney's arrival takes her.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Oz Comic-Con 2017: Sylvester McCoy

Had a long but fulfilling weekend at Oz Comic-Con this past weekend. Started off early Saturday morning with my first panel being Sylvester McCoy at 11.00am. I was joined by my great uncle and my second cousin, who are huge fans of Lord of the Rings (he plays Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit films). I went to see him for his portrayal of the seventh Doctor (1987-1989). Everyone has 'their Doctor, the one that made them fall in love with the series and him and Colin Baker are mine, having watched their series on VHS as a young child after it was cancelled. It was a very fun panel, McCoy very spritely for a man of 73 went into the audience himself with the microphone to ask questions, his hat and and cane very reminiscent of his Doctor's hat and umbrella, in case anyone in the audience didn't know who he was.

He says his most memorable moment from Doctor Who occurred while shooting scenes for 'Survival' in the desert and one of the actresses dressed up as Cheetah Person, unable to stand the heat, stripped down to her underwear and went over a sand dune, essentially walking off set. He also noted that his favourite part about Doctor Who was working with all of the great British actors. Coming from theatre it was good to see friends, new and old alike, that also did a lot of stage acting before working on Doctor Who.

On that infamous cliffhanger in the first episode of the 'Dragonfre' story, he says he doesn't exactly know how the scene became so ridiculous, referring to an episode in which his character hangs off the cliff made of ice with his umbrella. He says it made sense in the script but things often got lost on the editing room floor, on this occasion he seems to think an entire episode's worth of material was condensed from a four to a three part story, but they left the scene in because is was literally a good cliffhanger despite no longer making any sense in the context of the episodes. You can see the cast and crew discussing it here:

On if he any creative control over the character he revealed that he was initially surprised how violent his character was sometimes, assuming this heroic Time Lord would use more logic and reason to defeat his enemies. As such, a lot of the more action driven sequences were handed to his companion Ace, mentioning this scene in 'Remembrance of the Daleks'.

On if he could wear any other Doctor's costume he said definitely not Colin Baker's (the Sixth Doctor), which he actually had to wear when he started on the series after Baker had a falling out with the series. He said he thought Christopher Eccleston's Doctor (the Ninth) had a pretty good costume, and he praised the actor for successfully bringing back the character of Doctor Who in a cool and more accessible way, rather than the posh iterations he was previously portrayed as, his northern accent being a large part of that.

On whether he has a favourite TARDIS interior he admits he doesn't really see the difference between a lot of them, going on to say that the police box set used for the exterior of the time machine definitely always looked - and smelt - the same, jokingly saying he definitely thinks some crew members would use it as a toilet while they were shooting on location.

When asked that constantly popular question of whether or not he thinks there will ever be a female Doctor, McCoy says no. He thinks Doctor Who is such a financial success for the BBC that they'd be too afraid to do it now, but that it's something they could have tired to do back in the original run when there was more creative freedom and not so much executive meddling.

On Doctor Who's cancellation in 1989 he says he didn't really know it was done until after the fact. He had initially signed on for two seasons and Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) had told him to not to do more than three (a sort of unspoken rule of the series, especially since it's revival with three of the last four incarnations only doing three seasons, and seven of the twelve only doing three overall). During his second season they asked him to sign for two more seasons, he was reluctant, but rather than leaving after two seasons and being responsible for ending the series he agreed to another two - only for the BBC to put the series on hiatus after his third season, practically cancelling the series. He went on to compare the situation with his more current work on the recently cancelled Netflix series, Sense8. He said the Wachowskis told him his role as 'The Man of Hoy' would be expanded in the series' third season only to find out that it had been cancelled. He has yet to be contacted about returning in the two-hour movie Netflix has announced to finish the series.

McCoy recalls that as revenge for his unwillingness to do something like that the writers gave him an incredibly long speech in which the Doctor basically talks a Dalek to death in the same story.

He also went on to discuss what he tried to bring to the role, saying that when he started as the Doctor the series had been running for 25 years so it had lost a lot of its mystery. He wanted to bring that back and explore the sadness of a character that had lived that long and whether he was a good person. But he also noted the vital need for the series' comedic aspect to balance that out.

On the success that is Doctor Who he says he still surprises him how popular the series is. He goes to countries like Brazil and Sweden that have never even aired the series, so he expects his appearances to focus on The Hobbit, but then majority of his fans are Doctor Who fans. He says that good word of mouth and the arrival of the internet have ensured that the series lives on, even its old incarnations.

Catering to the Australian audience, McCoy, noticing a questioners strong accent remembers how a famous Australian he worked with on The Hobbit, Cate Blanchett, would often let her 'bogan' slip out. He recalls when they were standing together on the red carpet for The Hobbit, about to meet Prince Harry, that he told her not to say anything stupid. Prince Harry passed Blanchett without a hitch, but when he asked McCoy what it was like working with Peter Jackson his response was: 'I didn't like him that much. He made sure I was always covered in shit.'

On rumours that he didn't like working with Sebastian the hedgehog on The Hobbit - he says they're absolutely true! When he first went onto the set it was just him and Peter Jackson and his amazing treehouse, he had a blast, but once the CGI hedgehog was added in everything changed. He took it all away from me basically, he joked, he stole my thunder. He thought when they were shooting he couldn't believe who much screen time he was getting, only to be upstaged by a computer generated hedgehog upon the films release.

That wasn't the only difficulty McCoy had with special effects on set, noting that during one scene in which he is riding on HORSES on a completely green screen the directer had to remove some padding to get a particular shot, but once the shot was complete the padding wasn't put back on and McCoy fell off. Luckily, shooting in New Zealand he appreciated how good at rugby they were, praising a crew member who dived and prevented him from hitting his head on the ground.

And speaking of McCoy's head, he revealed that he was up for another Lord of the Rings role in the original trilogy - that of Bilbo Baggins. He said what was most annoying about not getting that role was that they made the actor who played Bilbo, Ian Holm, where a wig that looked exactly like McCoy hair. He joked that he tried to convince them they'd save money on wigs had they cast him instead.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

I Smell A Spin-Off: The Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted

Original Show: The Vampire Diaries

Spin-off Idea/ Description: Ten or so years after the end of The Vampire Diaries Lizzie and Josie Saltzman have grown into strong-willed and powerful young witches - thanks to the teachings of their parents Alaric and Caroline at the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted. It is a school for untrained witches, werewolves and any person who has been adversely involved with the supernatural. There, they can come and learn more about it, particularly how to control it and use it for good. But when your parents are running the school, and your struggling to juggle teenage hormones and powerful magic, the girls soon start to rebel against their teachings and seek out information about their past that their parents have always tried to hide.

Possible Title Ideas: Young and Gifted, Coven Of Our Own, Magic Awaits, Within These Walls.

Idea originated from: During the events of The Vampire Diaries Finale 'I Was Feeling Epic' Caroline Forbes opens up 'The Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted' with the help of Alaric, Jeremy Gilbert and Dorian Williams, who all teach there.

Format: Serialised drama

The show would be similar to: The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hemlock Grove.

Will it feature any stars of it's parent show?: All the aforementioned characters. But wouldn't it be super cool if they could also bring Georgie back somehow to keep Alaric company?

How about any of guest stars?: There's the opportunity for plenty, but you wouldn't want too many too often lest it become a Vampire Diaries reunion series. Bonnie, Matt and Peter could show up every now and then. And there's plenty of other Vampire Diaries characters that could come back for this series like Valerie Tuelle or Kai Parker. And that's not to mention anyone from The Originals.

Possible plot ideas: So many. As mentioned above you'd want a lot of time focused on the students living in the boarding school and their struggles, mainly Lizzie and Josie and their difficulties being the daughters of the headmistress and a teacher at the school and how the other students treat them because of this. In seeking to know more about their covens past the girls will discover Caroline is not their real mother which will cause a lot of conflict, and could potentially lead them to discovering Kai. Caroline will struggle trying to be the perfect example all of the time, particularly if she is somehow drawn to turn off her humanity switch or is involved with a questionable love interest. Alaric has always still harboured feelings for Caroline and finds it increasingly difficult to work with her, plus their different styles of parenting often put them at odds. Jeremy and Dorian have a budding bromance but they, and all the teachers at the boarding school, often disagree over the best way to deal with potentially dangerous students. Some are more forgiving of their students fatal mistakes than others. A student/ teacher affair would be cliche but also interesting depending on who it was.

Target Audience: Probably what The Vampire Diaries original audience looked like - the young female demographic.

Could it work as a show?: Absolutely. If Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters has taught us anything if that there is plenty of material to be mined from following the lives of conflict teenagers that have supernatural abilities.

Could it ever actually happen?: Yes! Co-creator/ executive producer of The Vampire Diaries Julie Plec told TV Line in response to question about a possible spin-off, 'It’s a wish, not a promise, but I do think there are more stories to be told. I think The Originals has the opportunity to visit with some of these characters, and I think there are future shows down the line that can be spawned out of this world and could tell good stories. It’s a hope for the future if nothing else.' It sounds like we may have to wait until The Originals is over to see whether this comes to fruition or not, but like Plec herself said, here's hoping it will happen.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Good Place Season 1.1 - 1.2 Review: 'Everything Is Fine' & 'Flying'

Eleanor Shellshrop (Kristen Bell) opens her eyes to discover that she is dead and has entered the afterlife, and is now in 'The Good Place'. Michael (Ted Denson), the first-time architect of this particular neighbourhood, explains that there are 'distinct neighbourhoods within the good place each containing exactly 322 who have been perfectly selected to blend together into a blissful harmonic balance.' At their first orientation session Michael explains that the reason they are all in the good place is because during their time on Earth every one of their actions had a positive or negative value - and only those with the highest score get into the good place. Eleanor is shown into her new home, a quaint and bright cottage of the Icelandic-primitive style that perfectly matches her essence and features many clown paintings, and is introduced to her soulmate, Chidi (William Jackson), who was an ethics professor when he was alive. But as Eleanor explains to Chidi in confidence, there's a major problem - the 'Eleanor' to which Michael thinks he is referring too (who spent her life as a lawyer getting innocent people of death row) is not her, just another woman with the same name. This Eleanor is a saleswoman that made a living by tricking old and sick people into buying fake medicine. Obviously, she becomes pretty concerned that when Michael finds out she'll be sent to 'the bad place'.

The pilot episode, also titled 'Everything is Fine' was very exposition heavy, as you can tell from above, as it tried to quickly accommodate Eleanor and the audience to 'the good place'. It was handled well, but such a large exposition dump leads to further questions. Just as Eleanor and Chidi tried to ask Janet (D'Arcy Carden, the neighbourhood's informational assistant) about 'the bad place' I had similar questions. Why do they need to eat and sleep as if they were still functioning humans? Wouldn't a lot of these people have found a soulmate while alive, and wouldn't it be weird for them to immediately start a new relationship with a new person in the afterlife? Who works at all those yoghurt shops, surely not other good deceased people? If Eleanor and Chidi are soulmates why do they live in separate houses while Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), another pair of soulmates who are Eleanor's neighbours, live together? It was nitpicking, yes, but that's the sort of scrutiny a high-concept series invokes. Thankfully the series was able to start to balance itself a bit more in its second episode, 'Flying', after a bizarre ending to the first in which giant ladybugs and flying shrimp started to cause havoc in the neighbourhood.

Chidi realises that Eleanor's presence is the cause of the mayhem, but she asks him if he will help her learn to be good in order to prevent her from eternal damnation in the bad place. Chidi struggles with what to do for the episode as Eleanor tries to prove herself good by helping to clean up the neighbourhood, only for her to ditch her duties in order to go flying with the others for their Day 2 Orientation. Naturally Eleanor feels bad and eventually cleans up the entire neighbourhood when her bad deed resulted in a rubbish storm prompting Chidi to give her a chance.

The series could very much become too heavy-handed with its metaphors and lessons of the week, as well as it's orientation into the good place, but for me personally the most exciting part of The Good Place is its potential for future discussions of morals and ethical philosophy. Most sitcoms will aim for being funny over its characters being good (see the success of a series like It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia), so it's refreshing that at least for now The Good Place looks as if its primary focus will be Eleanor's attempts to learn to become a better person. So for now, I'm willing to forgive its predictability. And who knows, maybe there's a lesson or two the series could teach the audience in the process.

Rating: 3.5/5

Favourite quote/ scene of the episode: When Tahani, after seeing how her silent soulmate Jianyu has helped Michael says, 'Maybe I should be silent too.' She's silent for two seconds before saying, 'Oh, that was wonderful! So cleansing!'

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Unreal 2.8 Review: Fugitive

The end of last week's episode posed the question as to what Rachel and Quinn would do without one another, but wasn't really a question that Fugitive was all too concerned about deleting into. Rachel's stay at the psychiatric facility was simultaneously surprising at and not so. I would have thought the series would have wanted to play up this situation, but at the same time a prolonged stay there would have seemed out of focus for the series so understandably Rachel was quickly brought back onto the set of Everlasting. Coleman confronts Quinn about letting Rachel's mother take her to the facility but Quinn reminds him that Rachel called her - so things must be really bad and perhaps she needs some time off. Coleman insists that he is in love with her and goes to get her, but not before he catches Yael in his office looking up the footage of Romeo's shooting and she reveals that *GASP* she's actually an undercover reporter writing a book called 'Reality TV Kills' and wants Coleman to help her get the dirt about what really goes on behind the scenes at Everlasting. I like the idea that we don't really know Coleman's intentions with Rachel even after he gets her out of the psychiatric facility, does he really love her, or is he in it for himself and to get revenge on the series? I think his character is still conflicted about this, which makes for good viewing. Adding the Yael reveal is just too much though, and it is an unnecessarily soapy trope for Unreal to go down when when know it's capable of so much more.

Another somewhat soapy reveal was the true nature of Rachel and her mother's dysfunctional relationship - she was raped at their home by one of her mother's patients when she was  12. I do like they are are trying to explore what makes Rachel such a fascinating character but I'm not sure that I like the simplification that all her problems stem from the fact that she had been raped as a girl. Having been easily coerced (thanks to the drugs she was on from the hospital) by Coleman to record all the unethical things she knows that Everlasting has done over the years I guess Rachel felt compelled to tell him about that too. It was probably the wrong decision, her mother seems to have always told her that no one wants to deal with damage like that (although she was likely just protecting herself and her practice), and she's partially right. An already torn Coleman is going to have a lot more to think about. He lays awake staring at Rachel before meeting with Yael, seemingly willing to help her in exposing Everlasting and theoretically also ruining Rachel in the process.

The other parts of the Fugitive focused on the making Everlasting and as usual that weren't nearly as entertaining as the character insight into Rachel and Coleman. Darius was still missing after the shooting so the producers had to keep coming up with Survivor-esque challenges in which the ladies had to know all the answers to questions about Darius to avoid elimination, and then vote each other off. Jay eventually finds Darius thanks to eliminated contestant Ruby who lets him know when Darius contacts her and asks to meet. He tells her that he wants to quit the show and be with her and now that he's had his back surgery he can't play football and can focus on being abetter person. But she's not interested after being dumped on live-television, believing he practically told the world that she's too demanding. Jay tries to comfort an agitated Darius and tells him that without his football career his best chance to get anywhere with his life is to finish off Everlasting and marry the entitled Tiffany to set himself up. Back on set the other girls have turned against Tiffany though, and despite Quinn, Chet, and Jay's attempts to manipulate the situation they decide to vote her off. Until Darius appears at the last second and votes off Jameson. It sort of annoys me that after all the set-up they did with this boring producing of an episode of Everlasting that Darius can just come in and get whatever he wants. I'm sure that it wouldn't actually work since everything they filmed prior lead to a different conclusion, but anyway. Darius makes it clear he doesn't want Rachel anywhere near him and that he only talks to Jay and from now on he does the series his way. Quinn seems to think that it will makes things interesting, but I can't imagine anything more boring if he's already chosen Tiffany with two weeks left (although of course we all know her make-out session with Chet is going to come back to haunt her, so there's that at least).

Quinn also spent the episode fielding questions about having children from John Booth and while I'm not particularly adverse to Quinn having a love interest that's not Chet, I always hate how series' think it's okay to have an older couple talk about children so soon in their relationship because they are old and their biological clock is ticking. They've still only been dating for a couple of weeks, writers! Baby talk is too soon. Apparently not for Quinn though who agrees to keep dating John because she doesn't completely hate the idea of starting a family with him. Perhaps this is because of Rachel? It was made clear to her that Rachel is not her family in this episode, so whiteout her she doesn't have one at the moment. Perhaps another bad decision that will come back to haunt her.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Preacher 1.9 Review: Finish The Song

Emily is called to Tulip's house where Tulip explains Cassidy's true nature to her - that he's a vampire - so that she can continue to feed him small animals until be gets better after being left to burn by Jesse outside the front of the church. Tulip, having waited long Jesse and seeing what he did to Cassidy, has finally decided to travel to Albuquerque to kill the man she has wanted revenge on for so long. After feeding him a hamster she calls Miles, who she now considers her boyfriend and lures him into Cassidy's room before shutting the door. Saying it like that makes it come across as a drastic decision on Emily's part, but the series did so well into building up to this all season with their relationship. So when Emily starts to talk about Mile's to Tulip at the beginning of the episode you know that Emily feels like she has gotten herself in too deep with Miles (and possibly even Jesse as well) and with the knowledge that Cassidy is a vampire decides to do something that'll at least give her some sense of control in her life that is becoming increasingly crazy.

Having escaped from the back of Sheriff Hugo's police car, Jesse was on the run and still planning to bring God to church the following Sunday to prove to Quinncanon and the rest of the town of his existence. After stealing Fiore and DeBlanc's direct phone to heaven he shows up at Tulip and Emily quickly leaves telling him that she has to pick up her kids without a word about Miles. Inside he finds a better-healed Cassidy and he apologises for letting him burn for so long, the pair then get started on deposing of Miles' body (and collecting a hand of God to use the telephone). Jesse also calls Tulip and leaves a voicemail apoligising to her, although it's potentially too late, with her having arrived at Albuquerque and looking ready to kill her man.

After failing to retrieve Genesis from Jesse, Fiore and DeBlanc organise plans to go to hell via a travel agent - unable to return to heaven for fear of God's wrath (and because, thanks to Jesse, they have no phone to contact him). They take a shuttle to hell and find 'The Cowboy', who after all this time watching his seemingly unrelated journey we realise has been eternally repeating his own personal hell in Ratwater. He shoots DeBlanc and asks Fiore what job they have for him and Fiore tells The Cowboy that they want him to kill a Preacher.

Rating 3.5/5