Wonder Woman is here, and we dive deep into the suddenly-refreshing waters of the DCEU – with additional talk of Batman, the Justice League, Aquaman, and the cult of narrative around projects of this scale. Plus, Price’s Disney boycott finally worked, and with Sense8 on its way out, peak TV may have finally peaked.
Director: Alan Clarke
Screenplay: Al Hunter
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Philip Davis
Running Time: 67 min (broadcast version) 68 min (director’s cut)
BBFC Certificate: 18
TV has been enjoying a new golden age over the last 10 years or so with a wealth of talent coming from and moving back to the format. There are plenty of classy, genuinely great series being produced around the world, from popular high budget HBO productions like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, to classy British offerings like Sherlock and slick Scandinavian crime sagas like The Killing. The TV movie however, still has some stigma attached to it. The more recent big TV events have all been longer format or at least mini-series. Few one-off features have made waves recently as not many seem to get made. I think too many people are of the mind that if a film is any good, why didn’t it get released in theatres or at least get a good home release before being streamed to our regular channels at no extra cost.
In Britain though, there was once a long tradition of classy feature length television drama. Known largely at the time as ‘television plays’, series such as Armchair Theatre and Play for Today, running from the 50’s until the 80’s, would present audiences with an original one off film/play in each ‘episode’. Two time Palme d’Or winner (as of yesterday) Ken Loach made a name for himself in this format with the 1966 television play Cathy Come Home and fellow Cannes favourite Mike Leigh also made a number of plays, including Abigail’s Party. The television play format fizzled out in the mid-eighties though as series became more popular.
Between 1985 and 1994, the BBC tried to keep the flame burning though, with Screen Two and Screen One, which brought back the idea of one-off original TV features, this time shot on film. Previously, television plays tended to be studio-shot affairs, more like live plays. One of the directors contributing to this series was Alan Clarke, who had made a number of controversial TV films and a couple of theatrical features since the mid to late 60’s. He died from cancer at only 54 years old but his last production was released on Screen Two, the football hooligan drama The Firm, which courted controversy again, but has held a strong reputation over the years and is now being released in a special collector’s edition Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK by the BFI, packaged along with another of Clarke’s controversial films, the short Elephant.
Alex de la Iglesia is a filmmaker who delights at putting mayhem up on the screen, be it clowns with machetes fighting in the Spanish Civil War or the painted living-statues on La Puerta Del Sol knocking off a bank with shotguns. With his latest film, My Big Night, he gets to dissect his penchant for high-energy artifice and at the same time indulge in screwball farce.
Opening with a pop-funk musical number that is as toe-tapping as it is glossy and fake, we are dropped into the midst of a large TV network, furiously shooting its live New Year’s spectacular. Only, it is actually October, the audience members are paid extras, and everything is staged. The food and drink are as plastic as the smiles and the laughs. The studio is embroiled in a massive labor protest after recently laying off hundreds of employees, and the street outside threatens to erupt into war. Meanwhile, on the main sound-stage, the show must go on. The special is weeks behind and the non-union staff and players are forbidden to leave the lot until this over-budgeted clusterfuck is complete.
Making fine use of his large stable of regular players, in addition to Spanish musical icon Raphael, who had kind of a spiritual cameo in the climax of Alex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus but here is more central to the story playing a grotesque hybrid of himself and Tom Jones. Several overlapping stories are quickly established and developed over the course of 24 hours. The two ‘power-couple’ hosts (Hugo Silva, Carolina Bang) are fighting over their exposure in the script as well as their marriage. The son of the headlining act Alphonso (Raphael), played by Carlos Areces in a blonde buzz cut and moustache, has hired an assassin (Jaime Ordóñez) to speed along his inheritance, but the killer has designs on being a songwriter and is a massive fan. Two conniving women steal the sperm of a Fabio-esque pop-star (Mario Casas) in the hopes of blackmail. (I will not spoil how they, ahem, pull this off.) The camera operators nearly kill an extra during a tricky crane shot, and his schlubby replacement (Pepón Nieto) is forced to bring his senile, cross-bearing mom onto the set, and, oddly, is flirted with by a woman way out of his league (Blanca Suárez). The owner of the network (Santiago Segura) is still working his way through a downsizing list and the two lesbian producer-editors (Carmen Machi and Carmen Ruiz) feel they may get the axe.
Deadites, goop, and gags abound in the second teaser trailer for the Starz Network forthcoming Evil Dead series with Bruce Campbell. It looks pretty low budget, but this may be by design, and somehow, they seem to have not shit the bed on this one. Let’s Go.
As moviegoing continues to die and digital content takes over, we look at how Fox’s Gotham is getting it wrong, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (may be) getting it right, and Netflix is getting us all headed towards the future with its Crouching Tiger 2 deal. Plus, the velvet funnel.
Director: Brent Hodge (What Happens Next? The Dan Mangan Documentary)
Screenplay: Brent Hodge
Producers: Brent Hodge, Lauren Bercovitch
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 79 min.
My first encounter with a Brony came out of, what seemed to me at the time, left field. John de Lancie was on stage at a convention, humorously skirting a question about some technical aspect of an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that he shot 10 years ago, when a guy wearing a black t-shirt that read “I’m 20% Cooler” and a headband with pink fluffy ears walked up to the microphone to ask a question. De Lancie smiled when he looked over at the 20-something and when the guy asked de Lancie about Discord, the actor’s smile widened. The crowd erupted in applause, cheers and whistles and de Lancie went on to answer, at length, about his experience voicing the popular TV character. I looked over at my friend and started a conversation that went something like this:
Me: Ummmmm… Did I miss something?
Her: It’s a “My Little Pony” reference.
Me: Like the TV show I watched when I was a kid?
Her: No no. The new “My Little Pony!”
Me: There’s a new “My Little Pony?”
Her: Yeah! And it has a huge following of grown men.
The Trekkies eventually took over again but my interest had been peaked and I spent a good part of the following Monday getting myself acquainted with a fandom that, until a few days before, I hadn’t even know existed.
Directors: Colin Teague, James Kent, Jamie Payne
Writers: Philippa Gregory, Emma Frost, Malcolm Campbell
Producer: Gina Cronk
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Amanda Hale, Faye Marsay, Eleanor Tomlinson, Juliet Aubrey, Janet McTeer, Max Irons, James Frain, Aneurin Barnard, David Oakes
MPAA Rating: 18A
Running time: 580 min.
Author Philippa Gregory has been writing historical based romance for decades and though adaptations of her novels have come before, none have managed to garner much attention or fanfare. BBC, the go-to for period dramas, took on the task of adapting Gregory’s “The White Queen,” the first in a trilogy of novels set during the War of the Roses. What’s interesting about Gregory’s take is that the story is told from the point of view of the women who toiled behind the scenes to shape not only their lives but history.
“The White Queen” opens shortly after Max Irons is crowned as King Edward IV. A womanizer, he falls for a beautiful widow who stops him on the road pleading for her husband’s lands and moneys be returned to her so that her sons may have something to inherit. Smitten, Edward spends the night with Elizabeth Woodville (newcomer Rebecca Ferguson) promising to make her queen, a promise he delivers on against everyone’s wishes. As Queen, Elizabeth proves to be a force to be reckoned with, guiding Edward in affairs of the state which pit her against Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick who is known to many as “the Kingmaker” for his ability to make and dethrone kings as it pleases, or more accurately, benefits him.
Mamo returns from the midsummer dregs to talk about how fans advocate for their favourite properties online; how the format and nature of television is shifting and changing in the Netflix age; and how porn and non-porn bends the rules of reality and fantasy and how that’s a good thing. None of which has anything to do with Sharlto Copley.
To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo316.mp3
Mamo returns to audio podcasting to look at what James Gandolfini did for the evolution of television – and by extension, perhaps, the evolution of everything we (and Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) have been talking about.
To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo311.mp3
Directors: Michael Apted, Paul Almond
Starring: Michael Apted, Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Tony Walker, Neil Hughes
Producers: Michael Apted, Claire Lewis
Running Time: 144 min
BBFC Certificate: E
The hugely ambitious and critically acclaimed Up series continues on through it’s long journey with 56 Up, which aired in the UK this May. Network Distributing have just released this, the latest instalment, on DVD after releasing a box set of the rest of the ‘episodes’ at the end of last year.
For those that haven’t heard of it, the Up series began in 1964 with Seven Up! At the time it was just a World in Action special on ITV (one of the main UK TV channels) which set out to look into Britain’s rigid class system and was inspired by the Jesuit saying “give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man”. The programme had a simple structure of asking basic questions about the lives and prospects of 14 seven year old children who all came from varying backgrounds in the UK. In the first film the intention was to make a political statement about the mapping out of these children’s lives and how they seemed destined to follow in their parents footsteps from an early age due to Britain’s class system. However, Michael Apted, who was a researcher on Seven Up! went back to interview the group seven years later in 7 Plus Seven. Again, the intention was political to see how closely the children were sticking to the routes we assumed from the previous film (or were even described in great detail by the upper class participants). However, that proved so popular Apted ended up repeating the process every seven years and continues to do so to this day.
I know I am late to the Walking Dead party, this is always the case with TV stuff. But with the DVD coming out today and having a chance last night to watch the entire first season in one sitting (Thanks Anchor Bay!), I can now see why all the writers of the show were summarily fired, or moved onto other projects (depending on which side of that story you accept.) I like the look of the zombies (CGI Blood is surprisingly not annoying!) and the abandoned Atlanta setpiece (not a single car on the road going into the city though? Seriously? I guess it makes the above screenshot work.) Don’t get me wrong, the production in handsome, and the acting is certainly serviceable, but here are some questions to level at the creators (or fans) of the show, that need to be addressed if the show is going to shake its Season 1 growing pains and aspire to something.
Warning *Potential Spoiler Elements to Follow*
1. What is the show about?
Survival, disease outbreak, decay of social order? Sure those are a given in any modern zombie treatment, at this point, you very likely cannot do ‘zombie’ without them. I am not asking for the levels of blunt social commentary that (ahem) plague the last three Romero-Zombie movies (and are handled pretty damn elegantly in the first three), or even implying that the series should be a concise or coherent allegory – but after 250+ minutes of show, that I cannot actually figure what the show is about is a little crazy. Family ties vs. surrogate community (the greater good)? The country vs. the city as a nurturing force? Energy Crisis? (the show begins and ends on a discussion of conserving energy.) I think solid dramatic shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire or Deadwood (even genre-shows like Battlestar Galactica) work because they ask interesting questions of our times and morals. I’ve yet to see The Walking Dead do anything interesting with its story other than fulfill the usual tropes (to again cite Romero – Night’s holing up in a house, Dawn’s entrapment in a storefront, Day’s medical science in a government/military institution. Is Season 2 going to be “The Road?”