Content Burnout & Terrestrial Channels

There is a lot of content out there right now that I intend to consume at some point. Despite that, I could only muster the effort to go and see Joker. Besides that, and sports, I have only really watched The Office over the past 7 days. Oh, and like 2 thirds of Star Wars A New Hope. I am at the point where the ships go to shoot up the death star. Besides that, I just haven’t had the attention span to pick up something new. 

I have already seen the office in its entirety once, and watched odd episodes countless times, so watching through it again isn’t giving me anything new, it’s just allowing me to switch off and enjoy some silly jokes and the incredible man that is Michael Scott. I assume this is something other people sometimes struggle with, the urge to play games or watch shows & movies just goes and you just want to tune out for a bit instead.

I have a list of old films to see, to try and fill in the gaps in my movie knowledge, and there are countless shows I would like to experience. I haven’t even listened to many podcasts aside from some football-based ones which is only happening because I enjoy laughing at Tottenham so much. I think it’s very important to do that by the way. Laugh at Tottenham. Their fans have been smug for a few years and at this point their most successful period in history brought them a third-place finish and a loss in a final.

Ha.

Football aside, it feels like I am suffering from what I would call content burnout. That urge to watch something new just isn’t there, so I have gone back to something I already know so I can just have it on while my brain is thinking deeply about sweet sweet fuck all. Well since Sunday it’s been thinking about Joker but that’s just the nature of that film.

In other news, Rick and Morty Season 4 has been confirmed for November and I am going to have to sort out channel 4 for the first time since I moved out nearly 3 years ago. I have lived without any terrestrial television now for a few years and the only thing I miss is Match of the Day. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV provide me with so much content, which combine with YouTube and Video Games mean there is always another thing to watch or play. I am assuming that I can download an App for Channel 4, hopefully it works better than the ITV app.

The ITV smart tv app is one of the most frustrating things I have ever used. The channel is called ITV. TV is literally in their name and yet, they do not have the function to watch their channel live within their app on smart TV’s. I even reached out to ITV about it, and by reached out I mean sent them a shitty email, and they responded with “Unfortunately our TV application doesn’t allow you to watch normal TV”. It was the final nail in the coffin, and I streamed the England game another way.

I am not sure how I got to this, but what I am trying to say is Fuck ITV. In fact, all the terrestrial channels, except the BBC, are more than welcome to do the same. Actually no, fuck the BBC. I just remember they moonlighted as a paedophile shelter for a bit & not even Match of the Day and Killing Eve can redeem something that ridiculously horrific.

So yeah today’s post started out about me feeling burnt out on content and ended with me say Fuck the BBC and all its friends. Maybe I should try and get more sleep.

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

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Captain Marvel Review

By now we are used to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and this is the 21st movie in the enormous franchise. Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be led by a female character, and only the second superhero movie ever after DC’s Wonder Woman. Could Marvel produce something as good as DC’s best? 

First of all, I have to say I think Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. She’s a top-tier talent and kudos to Marvel for picking such a talent to play the new face of the MCU, and that is certainly what this movie is setting her up to be. She worked hard to do her own fight scenes and does everything she can with what she was given to do. I don’t like to delve into negatives too quickly, but Captain Marvel runs into an issue I was a little concerned by going in.

The issue is one I like to refer to as “The Superman Problem”. This film starts out with Carol Danvers as a powerful and skilled warrior, and ends with her being an even more powerful and skilled warrior. Superman is an indestructible, undeniable solution to almost every problem. In a similar vein, Captain Marvel felt a little too powerful at times in this film, and she is never really threatened by anything she comes up against (spoilers, she doesn’t die in this film).

The problem this movie has is that this new infallible hero isn’t even given a weakness like Superman’s Kryptonite, she is just a force of nature whose solution to all problems is to shoot beams at the problems. There are superb hero moments, but they don’t feel as earned as in some other films we have seen. Think Spiderman Homecoming, when he’s terrified under the crushed building calling for help, in that moment we saw the vulnerability of Spiderman. Captain Marvel has no vulnerability to speak of in this film.

That being said, the beams she is shooting to solve her problems do look cool, and as we have come to expect in an MCU film, all of the action scenes are well done. The stand out for me being ironically one where her beams of light aren’t there as weapons for her, and she has to show her fighting prowess. The other, more spectacularly shot scene is the one we catch a glimpse of in the trailer, with Carol Danvers flying through space blowing up ships.

Good action is expected by now in these movies, what has kept the MCU going for so long is its excellent character development. Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L Jackson, is brilliant in this film and this showcases everything we love about the character we have seen countless times to date. He has more screen time here than in any other film, and we learn a few things about him that we didn’t know before. Some of this film could spawn some considerable questions about other films in the MCU, and a few of them directly relate to thing Fury has said in movies we have seen.

The 90’s setting that allows for the creation of plot holes in movies we have already seen is an excellent excuse for a lot of references to 90s culture. We see Troll Dolls, hear Nirvana, and get to witness the inside of a Blockbuster for the first time in years. These references are all nice window dressing, but to be honest this could have been set a few days before infinity war and not much would have changed for this actual movie. That being said, they do bring some nostalgia with them, and that plays into some of the funnier moments. 

Aside from Nick Fury, we have Talos played by Ben Mendelsohn and Yonn-Rog played by Jude Law. Both are excellent actors in their own rights, and Law is really solid in his role. Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie for me though, playing an antagonist with a twist, and someone I really hope we see more of in the MCU going forward. I didn’t expect the turns this movie took, and therefore this film provided some of the most interesting world building to date in the MCU. It’s an odd thing but we seem to be reaching a point where Marvel is aware people know the comics, and are going out of their way to do things that will surprise us. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say I thought there were some really smart storytelling choices made in this film.

What I think is difficult to quantify with these films is why it’s any better than say Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, and honestly I am not sure it is. It’s certainly not down with the likes of Thor: The Dark World, but because of the nature of the MCU it’s almost impossible for this to rank in the top echelons of the MCU given how deep in we are and how many characters we have seen combine. Captain Marvel is a return to a true origin story in the MCU, and one that doesn’t fall into the trappings we have seen in previous first outings. The final fight isn’t against a villain with exactly the same powers (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Black Panther all spring immediately to mind), and there is no really blatant sequel set up.

This film extends the lore of the MCU in a more natural way then we have witnessed before. It gives us insights into characters we have seen before, but from a time before we knew them, and I am not just talking about Fury. Captain Marvel is yet another good film in the Marvel universe, and it got me even more excited for Avengers Endgame. If that was possible. The first end credits scene made me realise just how desperate I am to see that film. I can’t wait. Only a month and a half away.

Good: Excellent Action, Solid acting all round, MCU continues to expand and some great 90s nostalgia. Goose the Cat is awesome, and the Marvel Logo at the start will make you cry.

Bad: Script felt a little empty in some ways, leading to a mildly underdeveloped hero. Superman Problem needs to be addressed in future movies and I didn’t like how Fury lost his eye (Spoilers I guess…)

7/10 – Carol Danvers joins the MCU, and immediately becomes Thanos’ biggest problem. 

 

Fighting With My Family Review

The world of wrestling was a source of much entertainment for me as a child during the early 2000s. I had the likes of the Rock, Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Triple H in their prime and I was absorbed by the stories they were telling. Towards the end of my time following the WWE, I enjoyed the rise of John Cena, Kurt Angle was a big star and Batista was an absolute animal. What’s missing from this troop of names? The females of the WWE. I do not follow it much now except for an annual WrestleMania viewing, but I have heard over the last few years that the Women’s division is the new hot thing in the industry, and not just because of Scantily clad women.

Fighting With My Family tells the true story of WWE Star Paige, delving into the trials she endured on her journey from her English wrestling family to the top of the WWE world. Starring a few unknown actors alongside a couple of familiar faces, this is a film focused very much on Paige’s journey, with the subplot of her families various struggles along the way. Writer and first time Director Stephen Merchant is behind the camera, and as a fan of his work, particularly The Office, so I was looking forward to a witty, cleverly funny script and intrigued by the storytelling ability of Merchant as a director.

Merchant’s first effort behind the camera is excellent, directing the actors brilliant and getting some great performances out of the main cast. Florence Pugh stars as Paige, real name Saraya Knight, giving a performance full of heart and embodies the character well. She’s likable enough to get us on side at the same time as being clearly a bit of a social outcast. You feel like part of her journey and that goes down to both the actress and the direction of Stephen Merchant to get the audience invested in the film.

The other stand out for me is Jack Lowden as Saraya’s brother Zak. His journey is arguably even tougher for him to deal with than his sister’s, and again I felt invested and connected with the struggles he was going through. These two characters act as the heart and soul of the movie, both sharing the first act equally before the movie focuses on Saraya’s journey. Lowden shows a wide range in this performance, with highs and lows being engaging moments.

The side characters of the film include the parents and the WWE coach. First off Nick Frost is funny in his role as the father of the siblings, but I felt he struggled a little to live up to the performances around him in the more emotional scenes. Lena Headey is transformed in the role, with her unrecognisable when compared with the sinister Cercei she plays in Game of Thrones. She is almost the opposite of Frost, thriving in the dramatic scenes and none of her funnier lines really hit me how they should have. Vince Vaughan is the best of the three for me, displaying a blend of the serious acting with his comedic timing that I felt matched the tone of the film just right.

The rise to stardom of Paige is an interesting story to have picked, as even in the film its established as being a reasonably common path. Dwayne Johnson, the biggest star the WWE has produced when it comes to branching outside of the ring, hints at having a similar story himself in this very movie. Whilst it’s easy to appreciate the look at the journey, I don’t necessarily think there is anything shocking or unusual about this story, making it a little bit predictable even if you didn’t know the details beforehand. This wrestlers life after the end of this movie has more drama and twists than the story this film tells, both in the ring and outside of it.

Fighting With My Family delivers a thoroughly entertaining insight into the world of professional wrestling and the hard work required to make it to the top of the chain. The comedic touches of Stephen Merchant really bring the film together. Without those it would have been a solid film, but with them it’s a really good one. Boasting some top performances and a healthy side dish of Dwayne Johnson being himself, Fighting With My Family is a great time.

Good: Excellent performances, well-directed, and some good laughs make this an all rounder of a film.

Bad: Has a predictable and not particularly remarkable story for the wrestling world.

8/10 – Fun for the whole family.

Velvet Buzzsaw Review

Last week I watched Nightcrawler, the first time director Dan Gilroy and star Jake Gyllenhaal combined, and I really enjoyed it. It gave me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw which is their second time teaming up. Could it live up to the excellent Nightcrawler?

I went into Velvet Buzzsaw knowing very little about the film. I knew it was a satire of the art world, and that something odd goes on, but beyond that I had no idea. The film starts out towards being a satire on the art world and the pretentious nature of some of the people the world contains. I have met some people in the art world who I could see in parts of the characters in this film.

Those characters are all played by some really talented actors, led by the enigmatic Gyllenhaal. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat), Toni Collette and Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) are all really solid. I am happy for Ashton and Dyer as they both have shown some talent before, and this feels like a good next step for them. John Malkovich is John Malkovich, and he’s always entertaining but does seem a bit underused in a film I think he was perfect for.

These solid performers inhabiting quite interest characters sets up a thoroughly intriguing film. For the first half I was very in, and was interested in seeing where the plot went. What happens from around halfway into the movie I have to say really did not work for me. The attempt at satirising the culture of the art world is nearly brilliant, but the script largely disregards this and steadily falls into an odd, nonsensical slasher film. It’s not a spoiler, but the final third of this film is basically a horror movie with no real explanation to what is happening. Things just go wrong, people die, and the way everyone dies is just put down to “It’s a curse”.

I did think the film was going to reveal something in the third act that would have really been an interesting twist and I think this needed that kind of momentum shift towards the end. Things ramp up in a way, but for me it’s all just gore porn and the characters introduced in the first act melt away and become generic victims. This really detracted from the movie for me.

I was a big fan of director/writer Dan Gilroy’s work in Nightcrawler, and whilst the direction in this film is really good, the script starts so high, and deteriorates into a generic horror film. Fans of that genre may find it works well, but as excellently shot and executed as the death scenes are, they just aren’t what I look for in a film. They aren’t predictable deaths, as in the way people go out is very different. One in particular, the “Paint” death is probably the best way to describe it, is very artistic and really beautiful to look at from a cinematic standpoint.

The way the films shot is truly great, and the cinematography, particularly a couple of the landscape shots at night, are up there with the hyperspace crash scene from Star Wars in that they are like pieces of art on their own. However, the fact that my favourite part of the 2nd and 3rd acts is a couple of landscape shots really shows my level of enjoyment for this film.

Velvet Buzzsaw flirts with being a really engaging, intelligent film, then wastes its solid start on an unexplained phenomenon that takes over. I really hope slasher fans find this film entertaining, as I really struggled to past about the 60 minute mark.

Good: Excellent cinematography,  solid performances and next steps for some young actresses, Gyllenhaal does his best.

Bad: Satire morphing into slasher could be done very well, it isn’t here, and it ruined the film for me.

4/10 – Promising start wasted.

 

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

Nightcrawler was a film I missed back in 2014, despite it looking like a film I would really enjoy. Jake Gyllenhaal received heaps of praise for his role as Lou Bloom, but no Oscar nomination which many saw as a snub. Would his performance live up to my expectations?

The short answer to that question is Yes. What’s more, he was definitely snubbed an Oscar nomination. In a year when Christian Bale received one for American Hustle, I think Gyllenhaal more than deserved a place on the list of five for that year. He disappears into the character of Lou Bloom and the intensity he brings draws you into the film.

The character himself is unneringly creepy and yet somehow you’re complete with him on the journey. You don’t quite route for him on the level of Joe from Netflix series You, but it’s a similar feeling of cheering for a bad guy at times. Lou is very clearly, from the first moments of the film, a bad guy. He’s out for personal gain, and that’s it. He’s close to being comic booky in his motivation being so self-centred and his lack of empathy towards others is shocking. Gyllenhaal plays him so well, that what seems like vulnerable moments you realise are calculated moves to manipulate people.

His employee for the duration of the film is played by Riz Ahmed, who shows more talent in this performance than I have seen from him on any other film. He’s not given a very well.developed character, but he is entertaining and makes the most of playing off Gyllenhaal’s performance. I think the sidekick role suits his mannerisms and he’s much more at home here than he was in Venom.

First time director Dan Gilroy begins his directorial career with a brilliant effort. He gets the best out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and one of the main parts of a directors job is pulling the best from his cast. His direction combined with some good editing make this feel like a well put together film made by a seasoned pro, not a first time effort. He also directs Gyllenhaal in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which is next on my queue to watch so I hope he’s continued his solid start.

The films story is kind of paper-thin in a way, it’s all about Lou Bloom, and that’s the crux of the entire film. As such there’s no real story to be engaged with, just the question of what the manical character is going to do next. This kind of took away from the film for me, as there is no plot to keep you engaged. It’s as good a film could be without a decent plot though, with the performances really coming through to make this a very enjoyable film.

Nightcrawler is a film I think a lot of people will enjoy. It’s got one of the best acting shows of the decade for me, and that alone makes it worth 2 hours of your time. We often see Director/Actor partnerships develop in the industry, most famously Scorsese and Dicaprio. It’s given me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw, as the duo of Director Dan Gilroy and Gyllenhaal clearly enjoy working together. Hopefully there is a bit more to chew on in the story department, but Nightcrawler is a great start to the duo’s creative relationship.

Good: Acting, Cinematography and all round good film-making techniques on show. Character driven film.

Bad: Story is thin, and no real lessons learned by the characters by the end of the film.

8/10 – Worth it for Jake on his own. 

Green Book Review

I remember seeing the first Green Book trailer and being surprised by how enjoyable it looked. It’s got two of my favourite actors in Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, and that alone set my expectations quite high going into the film. I did see some reviewers criticising its handling of sensitive issues, which gave me reason to be a little worried. 

We are introduced to Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and immediately you can see what kind of world this guy is from. He is a tough Italian American working class man, just trying to provide for his family however he can. The 60s setting is absolutely nailed, and you can straight away believe the world and the characters in it. Mortensen is great in his role, coming off to me as a genuine well-meaning guy, who doesn’t take life too seriously. Being a white Italian American family in the 1960’s there is a sense of unease around black characters which is uncomfortable to watch at times, but the film doesn’t let that dominate the film.

Tony’s job search leads him to Doctor Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who employs him to be his driver for his tour around the deep south of the United States. At the time, black musicians were scarcely seen doing this kind of tour, and the title “Green Book” comes from the actual book of the same name, that gave a list of all the safe places a black person could stay in the deep south. The fact that such a preposterous and stupid thing was being done just 60 years ago is sickening in itself, the fact that there are likely some places that are still like that is just beyond comprehension.

The racist actions some characters take in this film are shocking and I do see why some people feel these topics should be dealt with and commentated on in a more in-depth way, but to me these events are presented as an attitude that Doctor Shirley was driven to change. The story here is not one about Racism in the Deep South, as much as that is a part of the film. The real heart of this film is in the relationship that develops between two people from completely different backgrounds, coming together and learning from one another.

The two lead actors are absolutely brilliant in their roles, and I completely agree with the nominations they have both received. As I mentioned previously, Mortensen becomes Tony Lip and is unrecognisable. That’s something for me as I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings film, and he plays my favourite character, so to see Tony Lip and not Viggo Mortensen performing is something. Mahershala Ali is never anything less that good, and unlike Alita Battle Angel, this film gives him plenty to work with. The intensity in his performance is perfectly undercut by the nuance in some of the glances and moments when he gives away the vulnerability beneath his confident and classy demeanor.

The dynamic between these two is brilliant and their chemistry carries the film. The journey the two go on and the influence they have upon each other grows throughout the film, and by the end I felt uplifted and happy for them both. Each of them have a couple of real stand out moments, and I think it’s those moments that might put the Golden statues in their hands.

I was surprised to see Peter Farrelly directed this film. He is a comedy director, and whilst this film is funny in its own right, it’s a massive departure from something like Dumb and Dumber. The subtlety this film uses to tell its story is not something I’d have thought was in his toolbox, but it’s a welcome surprise. I am now looking forward to his next more dramatic film, whatever that may be.

Green Book is not a film about race, it’s a film about friendship, and how it can spawn between even the most unlikely of people. That is the message here, and yes it does touch on some very important issues, they were not the aim of this film. There is a story there to be told, but for me the story we got was beautiful in its own right.

I watched this film the same day I watched Fate of the Furious. I love movies.

Good: Two brilliant performances and an uplifting story and some great piano playing.

Bad: Handles the race issues a little lightly, and never threatens to delve too deeply into them, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment though. Supporting cast are all decent at best, but they’re not in it very much.

8/10 – Thoroughly enjoyable film, to reach that top-tier it needed to dive into those sensitive issues and handle them well.

The Fate of the Furious (2017) Review

By now everyone knows what to expect with a Fast and Furious film. Mad stunts and car chases, a nonsensical story, a few touching moments and a title that throws doubt over what the franchise should actually be called.  

Here is the run down of the names:

The Fast and The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and The Furious Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious, Furious and Fast, Fasten and the Furious, Faster and Furiosa, Infinity Fast, and of course Fast and Furious Pod Racing – A Star Wars Story.

Fast 8, as I shall refer to it for the remainder of this review, picks up with a Dominic Toretto who has finally settled into a normal life, coffee with his partner, crosswords by the pool, settling feuds with street races in a car that is exploding, getting into a good book before bed, you know the normal lives we all lead. The opening scenes are incredible to watch, the way it’s done so seriously despite the clearly mental things happening on-screen I found to be hilarious, although I am not sure that was the intention.

An encounter with Charlize Theron’s Cipher leads him to have to go against everything he stands for, and from there we have the events of Fast 8. This films plot is predictable, ridiculous, and absolutely pitch perfect for what this franchise has become. Cipher could actually develop into a rather interesting character judging by the glimpses we get into her psyche and motivations behind what she wants to do. Rather than delve into this, she is given a little hint of that flavour and then left to be a generic villain.

The rest of the team from Fast 7 return, minus franchise legend Paul Walker after his unfortunate passing a few years ago, and the film uses The Rock to step into the void that Walkers character leaves. Dwayne Johnson could make pouring a glass of water entertaining, and he drives the movie well. My favourite parts of the movie are his interactions with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, which bodes well for the next film in the franchise, this years (Deep breath) The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. Their chemistry is fantastic, and you can see why the two have been paired up for their own movie. The rest of the team has always been there, but never really stepped up to be leading characters, so it’s good for the franchise to branch out from just Vin Diesel leading the way.

This being a Fast and Furious film, there is an abundance of action and chase scenes. How everyone know where to go is explained in quick, absolute word salad car crashes of dialogue that sound like they’re making up words. “If we dooble the soodle and double down on the shaba we can stogey it and then we will find exactly where we need to go” is an actual, legit quote from the film*. A lot of the film is there just to fill in gaps between action sequences, and I was conscious of that watching the film. I found myself staring into space waiting for the next round of explosions and crumpled bumpers to arrive.

The action we do get is over the top, crazy good fun. The laws of physics are applied sparingly, with the rock climbing out of a car, hanging on with one arm, skidding along the ice on his shoes, travelling at 100s of miles per hour, then of course he reaches down and redirects a torpedo that is propelling itself along the ice. That’s just one, 15 seconds example, from a film that’s over 2 hours and 15 minutes long. You don’t ever feel that length, because the film has very few slow moments, but it shows the point that fast and furious has reached.

Overall Fast 8 delivers exactly what I expected, a batshit crazy two hours where you have to suspend your disbelief just as much as an Avengers film. These are super hero movies, just with no powers. Well no powers yet, I would not put it past them for that to happen at some point. Oh no wait, check out the trailer for Hobbs and Shaw, Idris Elba is bulletproof. The time is now. If you can shut down your brain for a few hours and just enjoy the craziness for what it is, there isn’t much better than the Fast franchise for this type of stuff. If you want an action film on a similar scale but less ridiculous, find yourself a recent Mission Impossible film.

Good: Mad action, Great one liners, and if you’re a big fan of the word “Family” it is said an incredible 44 times.

Bad: Plot is an afterthought, Everyone has forgotten Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) murdered one of their tight-knit “Family”, and he’s welcomed in. Dom Toretto is more capable than Superman.

6/10 – Epic, Dumb, Crazy and Dumb, but still kind of fun. 

*It’s not, but it might as well be.