Best of British TV: In The Flesh

Published 19/03/2013 by crimsonghad

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In The Flesh is a new zombie drama on BBC Three (Sunday 10pm or repeated a lot). However, it is not about zombies. It is about love, fear, discrimination and intolerance. It has far more in common with This Is England than The Vampire Diaries. It is also not the too awful for words hip ‘yoof’ nonsense you can get on BBC Three. What In The Flesh is is a very good and unique drama something that is to be commended in this day of televisual saturation.

We see the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and how people are being treated for this illness. In fact that they are not ‘zombies’ but suffer from ‘Partially Deceased Syndrome’ (PDS) an excellent touch of bureaucracy added to political correctness and humanity. This is a wonderful twist to the traditional and, frankly, done to death concept. You don’t see much zombie killing action; instead we are treated to the human side of something which has been portrayed as monstrous in every interpretation up until this point.

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Already the writing has provided some chillingly brutal and moving moments (without giving spoilers away some characters doth protest too much, methinks) where my heart was racing. After just one episode that is some achievement. The writer Dominic Mitchell deserves high acclaim for his script as it has managed to create a range of characters that you can relate to.

The beautifully innocent Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) is the PDS sufferer who is brought home to his parents after rehabilitation – including copious amounts of brain stimulating drugs, fake tan and contact lenses to make him look normal. His family ratchet up the fear factor superbly well, while The HVF (Human Volunteer Force) could just as easily be seen protesting against immigration, taxes or budget cuts as the ‘rotters’ who are being introduced back in to their community. Their HVF leader Bill Macy (Steve Evets) and Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham) have a menacingly dangerous charisma that will surely only lead to increased problems and danger within the neighbourhood but you are engrossed in how they will do so.

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Only one episode has aired and yet it already has the feel of something which can last far longer than the three parts afforded to it. George A Romero has spent a lifetime making zombie movies and yet a simple twist like that employed by In The Flesh has breathed life in to a stagnant genre.

FHM Review– A first time buyer’s perspective

Published 09/03/2013 by crimsonghad

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I am a 27 year old male who had NEVER bought a copy of FHM. Seriously. Never. I had read parts of it before from friends’ copies and a very lovely woman once bought me an issue of it many years ago, extolling the virtues of said magazine – I think Jennifer Ellison was in it if anyone remembers when she was famous. As I was going on holiday I wanted to purchase Empire magazine (big film fan, obviously) to read and as I’m always looking for a bargain I saw this offer for Empire and FHM for £5 and decided, what the hell. I’m not the type to shit all over something without giving it a chance (unless it’s called Splash!) so I actually sat down and read pretty much every word in the March 2013 issue of FHM. Now that I’ve alienated all human beings with this first paragraph I’ll continue with a review.

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Yesterday was International Women’s Day and what better way to celebrate than by reading something which is so empowering towards women… In fairness there is some good stuff in FHM and I will start by highlighting that:

  • Jobs Down Under – about relocating your life from UK to Australia and tips from 4 or 5 separate people who have done so successfully
  • The Greatest Summer Holiday –  a section devoted to approx 10 destinations that will see you have the best holiday ever possible

I have actually torn these pages out and will keep them. There is some genuinely good advice and I might very well use them for myself. Even so I have a couple of issues. Firstly, all of the people in Jobs Down Under are men with their partners briefly alluded to. Secondly, all of the holiday destinations are male with the emphasis on booze, birds and beach.

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Now the bad – and there is a lot of bad. I’m even going to split it in to insulting towards women and not abusive towards females. I’ll save the invective for later:

  • Adverts – as with all magazines the proliferation of adverts to articles increases throughout and I know the target audience is male but Jesus Christ there is a lot of metrosexual shit.

Designer clothes, James Bond, posh alcohol, clothes again, more clothes, men’s perfume (aftershave I think it’s called), vitamins, watches, shoes, clothes again, film ad and shampoo ad featuring a footballer. Every single advert feels like it is targeted specifically towards a mid 20s-40s rich, middle class London yuppie type and it just seems depressing to me.

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  •  Adverts within articles – half of the actual articles are basically just adverts for products.

Some examples being an article about Dan Ackroyd’s new vodka range morphing in to a celebrity alcohol advert, a coffee making piece which merely sought to sell a range of expensive accessories, and 14 (yes 14!) pages of style tips for cunts men which was just a very long advert.

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  • Dull attempts at funny stuff – there are a few articles about Pancake Day for men, a man’s best friend: dog vs. mate and The Bloke Test.

This month’s ‘bloke’ was Danny Trejo who just seemed dumbfounded to be asked such questions as “have you ever followed through on a particularly exuberant fart”. I found them uninspiring and tedious rather than utterly offensive but, hey, maybe some guys find that funny. Each to his own.

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Other articles I won’t talk about because you could find them in any magazine include: an interview with an astronaut and a footballer, reviews of film, video games, theatre, readers’ letters, biker gang stories – none of these are particularly bad or good.

 

However, there is a whole long list of articles offensive to women:

  • Scantily clad women in insulting terms – men buy these magazines to look at soft core porn. That is the first thing I will say. I am not going to criticise for the ridiculous poses because it’s clichéd and is there for titillation. Is it wrong? Yes. Will it change? No.

What I take offence to is the actual language highlighted in these articles, “I’m quite old fashioned. It’s the man’s role to look after the woman” says Chloe Cummings who is famous for being Abby Clancy’s cousin and is “a bit of a psychic”. Setting the women’s movement back a hundred years there Chloe. The actual interview is too boring and depressing to even repeat on here.

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  • Get A Massive Crush On Alicia Vikander – she was nominated for BAFTA rising star award this year and has been awarded the Kermode Award for best actress for her role in the sensational, A Royal Affair. Here she is reduced to a picture in an article NOT EVEN ABOUT HER.

This article is actually an interview with Adam Deacon (winner of BAFTA rising star last year – in a tenuous link to Vikander) where he is promoting his new film on DVD. If I was Deacon I would be insulted. If I was Vikander I would be insulted.

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  • Close The Deal With Beautiful Women – I am shit with women. It is a fact. Just ask any woman I’ve ever dated and they’ll tell you. I can do with some advice but fuck me this was a depressing read. 7 pages of tips for men to get women in to bed! This made me angry.

They dressed women up in scantily clad outfits reducing them to mere caricatures and then proceeded to label them in specific terms which men could access via following the advice written on the page. I mean really? I just found this insulting to my intelligence. I can see how there is some well-meaning advice in there (hidden very well admittedly) but it is just dumping women on a plate and saying, “There you go guys, come and fuck us. This is how to do it. It will definitely work.” It made me feel ashamed to be a man.

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  • Win a Date with Georgia, Franziska or Rosie – this is another 8 pages of nearly naked women but this time it is self promotion for the world renowned FHM 100 Sexiest Women 2013 edition (vote now!)

Again, I have no problem with the naked women as that’s the purpose of the magazine. I also have no problem with FHM promoting their magazine’s 100 Sexiest Women as that edition is presumably the biggest selling of the year and to use wrestling parlance (since they review wrestling games in one of the articles) is the equivalent of Wrestlemania. My problem is them giving a date away with one of the 3 models they’ve chosen to flaunt in their lingerie. Once more women have been reduced to objects for no real reason. What is the purpose of this? Does anyone reading think they will get an ACTUAL date with someone they’ve never met and who probably have boyfriends in any case? Is the magazine trying to drum up business by using aspirational techniques? Are they sex slaves who will fuck anyone on command? I just don’t know.

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  • Judd Apatow: FHM Hero – I like Judd Apatow films. They are blokey in a geekish, immature but appealing way. This interview I did not like. Not because of Apatow but FHM.

In Empire magazine Apatow was also interviewed about his new film This Is 40 which also happens to star his wife, Leslie Mann. They are both interviewed together in a funny, bickering and informative format that is well executed. Good job Empire. In FHM Apatow is interviewed alone with lots of blokey references to his past films and upcoming films (pretty much all of which star Mann in some way). So why is it that Leslie Mann gets no reference until paragraph 11 out of 12? And when she does get a mention it is thoroughly condescending, “Spot [Mann] in This Is 40, in which, if you can prize your eyes away from Megan Fox rolling around in a bikini, she plays spouse to Paul Rudd…surely directing your own missus in a sex scene with a good friend is kinda weird, right?” Ugh. Everything about that wants makes me want to punch the page, the writer and myself in the face. Leslie Mann is pretty much shot down in the tiny piece of an article she is afforded. Terrible.

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  • Great Sexy Moments In Life #12 – this is the last thing I’m going to moan about but it’s basically page 3 but 3 pages from the back.

What is the purpose of this? Beth from Manchester is just eating some grapes answering inane questions. ‘A pretty girl nibbling on some grapes’ it says in the sub-heading. Yes, that is it. That is the purpose. To have a pretty girl. There is no substance to the questions. There is no reason for it to be there *sigh*

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Ok, well I hope anyone who has read this is as thoroughly depressed as I am. A couple of redeeming articles will not make me buy this again. It is insulting to women and also to men I would suggest.

Dancing on the Edge

Published 09/03/2013 by crimsonghad

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I like Stephen Poliakoff – I really do. And I am a history graduate with a love of the changing race relations and politics of the early 20th century. I should have loved Dancing on the Edge.

I was a big fan of Shooting The Past, Perfect Strangers, The Lost Prince, Gideon’s Daughter and Joe’s Palace to name a few. I even defended him on Twitter after the negative  backlash of the first episode of Dancing on the Edge. I love his lazy, laid back and deliberately slow style. It always makes his work stand out and it feels like you are watching a real event rather than just some show. And for £8.5m budget you would expect so too.

However, even I gave up after the second episode when nothing had happened in 2 and a half hours. Sure he had his normal royal family obsession, Nazis, garden parties, obsession with dark rooms and beautiful cinematography but is this enough? No.

From what I’ve read in the brilliant Guardian episode by episode blog nothing happened in the last 3 and a half hours either.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/series/dancing-on-the-edge-episode-by-episode

Please return to form soon Mr Poliakoff.

Best of Current British TV: Utopia

Published 18/02/2013 by crimsonghad

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A superbly twisted thriller with a somewhat unique outlook on our future selves, Utopia was heavily propagandised by Channel 4 during Christmas and New Year with our screens constantly awash with the garish yellow nightmare normally associated with **SPOILER ALERT** Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. Has it lived up to the hype?

In the first 5 episodes – the final one to be screened tomorrow – it has grown from an out and out murder a minute see how many ways you can make me have nightmares you complete and utter bastards to a labyrinthine plot of devilishly complicated metaphysical concepts allied to a sinisterly simplistic solution to all our coming woes. If all this seems complicated, sorry, it is a bit. But please watch it because it all makes sense when you see this shit going down. Or just read the plot here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(TV_series)#Plot

The writing by Dennis Kelly is superb as he uses throw away popular cultural references with these entangled plotlines to keep the viewer engaged when it would be so easy to lose everyone amidst a sea of nonsense (Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J. J. Abrams on Lost I’m looking at you! And by the way whatever happened to that Abrams guy…?) and in doing so the show hurtles along at such a pace that you barely notice that an hour has gone. Even the most simplistic of lines, ‘Where is Jessica Hyde?’ takes on a menace one cannot possibly have imagined when the chillingly brutal Neil Maskell utters it to his next victim.

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Which brings me to the acting. Some superb performances, not least by Maskell as ‘Arby’, Alexandra Roach as the wonderfully foul-mouthed drug dependant ‘Becky’, Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s strange-accented antihero ‘Jessica Hyde’ and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the morally conflicted heart of the story ‘Ian’. My favourite performance though must go to Adeel Akhtar for his wonderfully unhinged ‘Wilson Wilson’ so good they named him twice. A character who could so easily fall in to parody or seem like a comic book geek but has been given such a rounded performance that he is hilarious one minute, ominously vulnerable the next before becoming a terrifying presence soon after. Superb.

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Utopia has certainly lived up to the hype in my opinion. Very rarely do you get such a complex drama that can also entertain the masses on British television as the budgets cannot always accomplish everything the writers set out to do.

Source Code: Review

Published 03/02/2013 by crimsonghad

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Groundhog Day meets Speed meets Quantum Leap – this is how best to describe the fast moving, confusing and ambitious film that is Source Code. Luckily I’m a big fan of all three and so I also adore Source Code. Duncan Jones has just been announced as the director of World of Warcraft and Source Code has its UK network premiere tonight so the timing for this review is perfect.

The film is about Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who awakes on a train in Chicago. He has no idea how he got there or what he is doing there – his last memory was flying a helicopter in Afghanistan – but the passenger opposite him Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) knows him and calls him ‘Sean’. We eventually realise that Stevens is in fact in the body of teacher Sean Fentress – Quantum Leap style – in a parallel dimension and that he has to find a bomb that is on board the train – Speed style – before it blows up. However, every time it does blow up Colter awakes in a capsule as himself with only a camera link to Captain Colleen Godwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr Rutledge (Jeffery Wright) as company. We are told that he has a repeated eight minutes – Groundhog Day style – inside the ‘Source Code’ (a kind of time realignment device) to find the bomb and bomber to stop an impending attack in this world. Both worlds alter slightly on each occasion as time is running out to save the world from the catastrophe. Following? No? Tough. Watch the film. It’s a unique and intriguing movie dealing with time, space and string theory in about as simple way as possible.

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At the heart of this complex film is a burgeoning love story between Colter and Christina as these two slowly evolve an eight minute relationship which takes place over an hour and a half of film time. This is where the film excels as Colter is forced to come to terms with the reality of his situation within his own world with Godwin and Rutledge as company.

Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors and gives a superb performance with a constantly evolving character who has to deal with so many things. Likewise, Monaghan and Farmiga give good performances in roles which are very constrained due to the nature of the film but are crucial to our perception of the worlds.

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Director Duncan Jones, meanwhile, does a fantastic job of balancing the claustrophobic and paranoid elements with the requirements of an action film as there are only really three major locations throughout the movie. It runs at such a fast pace and yet manages to keep the audience involved because of the emotional investment and character driven essence of the performance. You can see elements of his previous film Moon in this as that has similar constaints of space and dealt with paranoia and claustrophobia as a main theme.

Other films you can compare Source Code to include Looper, Deja Vu and Inception as they are all thought provoking, intelligent films that you can invest in because of how the material has been handled with a loving care that blockbusters all too often fail to follow. Some people will interpret the ending in a different way to that of the writer and director (available on the DVD commentary) but that is the beauty of the film. It is not the greatest film you will ever see but I defy anyone to watch it and be bored or dissatisfied as it reaches out to you with action, love and an intelligence that encompass many different tastes.

Dead Man’s Shoes: Review

Published 28/12/2012 by crimsonghad

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Put simply Dead Man’s Shoes is a revenge movie in the tradition of Straw Dogs, Mad Max, Death Wish and Once Upon A Time In The West but set in the rather less glamorous location of Matlock, Derbyshire. One man avenges the poor treatment his handicapped brother suffered at the hands of a drugs gang by exacting a concerted, bloody revenge. In these times of heightened feelings towards gun crime in America, following the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, films like this are all the more likely to be studied and castigated for their portrayal of a romanticised violence and yet those who condemn it are missing the point.

 
The director Shane Meadows is a particular favourite of mine. His localised Midlands stories have a charm to them that is very unique, very personal, very British. He tends to cast original actors for their raw energy and character rather than actual ability. Sometimes it works (Paddy Considine, Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun) sometimes it doesn’t (most of the others) but in this particular case the lead character of Richard (Considine) is perfectly cast as a disturbed ex-soldier who shows no fear or remorse. He becomes consumed by this need for revenge and nothing or no one will stop him as he is accompanied by his brother on this journey.

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Considine himself also wrote the script with Meadows and long-time Meadows co-contributor, Paul Fraser and this is shown in the performance as Considine’s own personal influence seems to shine through. The thoughtful musings and conversations between Richard and his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) were a chance to show the character as loving and relatable when the fact that he was murdering people should have disconnected the audience with Richard. The mob mentality often displayed by young groups of males is to the fore as these men tormented a young disabled boy and yet when confronted by their own mortality seem to be scared, remorseful and almost affable. It is up to the viewer how they wish to react.

 
This is a film about vengeance but it is also a love story because of two strands: Richard and Anthony as well as Mark and his family towards the end. These bookend the film as the viewer has travelled from violence at the beginning through copious bloodshed to the end. Dead Man’s Shoes does not preach or glamorise violence. It just shows all actions have consequences and that revenge is not always what you wished.

 

Tyrannosaur: Review

Published 27/12/2012 by crimsonghad

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Bit behind the times with this review of Tyrannosaur but deaths, domestic violence, animal killing, sadism, child maiming and women on a hen do. On the surface this seems like an X-rated version of The Hangover – I’ve never seen that or the sequel(s) so I’m presuming – but watch it. It is sensational. As with all the best films it is a love story that is so much more than that simple premise.

And there are no dinosaurs. Sorry.

The acting is uniformly superb. Eddie Marsan is at his best as disturbingly tranquil psycho, James. Peter Mullan’s Joseph is the heart of the film with his detachment from life and his gravelly voice could send women to climax in seconds – I’ve never seen that so I’m presuming.

Last but not least, Olivia Colman. Wow. Just wow. I’ve heard how good she was in this film but Christ on a bike she is brilliant. And Christian. And not a generic lovely, insulting Christian but an in-depth character with so many levels it would make Tetris blush. Tragic, loveable and beautiful in equal measure I can’t think of a better female lead performance in movies in recent memory. Only perhaps Vicky McClure in This Is England 86 and 88 along with Emily Watson in Appropriate Adult on TV. She deserved all the awards she obtained and more on top.

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To the writing. Paddy Considine was already a superb actor and writer. Add director to that now. The understated why in which he treated such delicate, horrific subject matter is masterful. I won’t give away the plot because doing that would be a disservice to a film that demands you watch and pay attention to it. Suffice to say it is hard to watch but it will reward you so well.

If you like serious, well-written, superlative acted drama then please watch Tyrannosaur.