Sunday, 30 June 2013

MSN TV: ITV's YOUR FACE SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Week One


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed ITV's new entertainment reality show YOUR FACE SOUNDS FAMILIAR, where six celebrities impersonate famous pop acts.
Britain's Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway have finished for the year, and X Factor is still a few weeks away, so ITV have bought the format to a Spanish show that essentially just adds an element of random choice to a Stars in their Eyes celebrity special. Wouldn't it make more sense to just revive Stars in Their Eyes and tinker with the format?

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Friday, 28 June 2013

This is one of the best fake DOCTOR WHO trailers I've ever seen! Do you agree?


The trailer I've embedded above is 100% fake, but it's one of the best fakes I've ever seen. It appears to mix body doubles and CGI, so isn't solely a matter of re-editing existing footage together. I only hope the actual 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who is as epic and exciting as this fan-made teaser. It's even in stereoscopic 3D, if you have a pair of those retro glasses to hand. Well worth a look!

Letterboxd: ABRAHAM LINCOLN - VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), THE NAKED GUN 2½ - THE SMELL OF FEAR (1991) & SIGHTSEERS (2013)

I fear for our children's sense of the world, when crap like ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER teaches them the 16th President of the United States slaughtered the undead with an axe in his spare time. The poor tykes already believe the Apollo space program was an excuse to search for an extra-terrestrial robot, according to a TRANSFORMERS sequel. If you're going to churn out these 'what if?' scenarios, I prefer fiction mixing with fiction. That's the sole reason the long-gestating PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES doesn't bother me as a similarly insane concept.

Seth Grahame-Smith, the ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER screenwriter adapting his own book, also penned the aforementioned Jane Austen mashup, so he's clearly one of those people whose creativity only stretches to chimeras. And if you're going to do that, you really need to know your stuff and have something refreshing to bring to the equation—just ask comic-book maestro Alan Moore, who's dabbled with this sub-genre in THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and LOST GIRLS.

Timur Bekmambetov is the director tasked with bringing Grahame-Smith's idea to life, and does so in the manner you expect from the "visionary" behind superficially flashy movies like NIGHT WATCH, DAY WATCH, and WANTED. He's the Kazakh version of Zak Snyder, only less interested in crafting something of dramatic worth. (I'm not a complete Snyder apologist, but you do get the sense he wants to be better than he is.)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.3 – 'The Harsh Light of Day' & ANGEL, 1.3 – 'In the Dark'

Buffy: Harmony's a vampire? She must be dying without a reflection.

One of the worst episodes in quite some time, "THE HARSH LIGHT OF DAY" was a horrifically inert and tedious melodrama, which once again made Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) appear far too naïve and clueless for my tastes. You can argue that she's supposed to be strong, resourceful and confident in her role as The Slayer, in stark contrast to what she's like in everyday life, but I don't buy into that. Jane Espenson simply wrote her very poorly here, and I didn't find much about her romantic exploits with Parker (Adam Kaufman) especially interesting or involving—mainly because we barely know the guy, so it wasn't much of a surprise when he was revealed to be a love rat. Indeed, if you're not part of the Scooby Gang, chances are you're a terrible human being or a monster of some description.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review: CBS's UNDER THE DOME


written by Brian K. Vaughan (based on the novel by Stephen King) | directed by Niels Arden Oplev

There are two Stephen King's occupying my mind-space: the justly renowned author of horror classics Carrie, 'Salem's Lot and The Shining; and the originator of corny screen adaptations like The Tommyknockers, The Night Flier and Dreamcatcher. There are notable exceptions to the tendency for King adaptations to be useless or forgettable, of course: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is my favourite movie (although King hated it), Misery and Carrie were terrific, Pet Sematary's pretty good, the It miniseries contains the scariest villain ever, Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption's a masterpiece, and the same director's The Green Mile was also rather good. I even enjoyed The Mist. King has a chequered history with film and television, let's put it that way, but I was still optimistic when I heard his 2009 novel Under the Dome was being turned into a CBS TV series.

MAD MEN, 6.13 – 'In Care of'

written by Carly Wray & Matthew Weiner | directed by Matthew Weiner

The brilliant finale of Mad Men's sixth season offered the possibility of a fresh start in sunny Los Angeles for both Don (Jon Hamm) and Ted (Kevin Rahm), who want it for very different reasons. Don's running away from his mounting problems again, dragging Megan (Jennifer Paré) back to a place he remembers them being happy (and where he's always felt a sense of freedom), while simultaneously avoiding daughter Sally's (Kiernan Shipka) cold shoulder between summer visits. It won't solve any of the issues he has, but escaping is what he's always done, because avoidance is easier than decisive action.

Interestingly, Ted wants to escape for a very different and noble reason: he senses the approaching end of his marriage and family life, thanks to his love for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), and would rather make a swift exit than allow a new relationship to blossom. Understandably, Peggy was incensed that Ted's made this decision on both their behalves (the day after they slept together), but I have a feeling she'll come to realise he was right to end their romance relatively early. It's very hard to imagine Don taking Ted's steps in the same situation, because he thinks more from his heart than his head.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

MSN feature: if TV comedies were haircuts, what style would they be?


Over at MSN today: there's something a little different, as they've cut me loose in the 'features' section. So, partly to promote BBC Four's salon-based sitcom Quick Cuts, I asked the question on everyone's lips: 'if TV comedies were haircuts, what style would they be?'

TRUE BLOOD, 6.2 – 'The Sun'


written by Angela Robinson | directed by Daniel Attias

The prospect of sitting down to write a formal review of True Blood every week has finally broken my will, but I'm going to endeavour to jot down thoughts on each episode this season. This will probably amount to the same word-count, so you're really not going to miss too much in terms of reading material. It's just much easier to compile a series of random thoughts about this show, categorised as "truly good", "truly bad" and "truly forgettable".

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Letterboxd: JACK REACHER (2012) & THE NAKED GUN - FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD! (1988)

Having never read the source material, Tom Cruise's physical mismatch of this film's eponymous hero didn't bother me. More frustrating is seeing Cruise again playing Ethan Hunt from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, only in a grittier context. He even gets another female co-star to be wasted in the terrible Rosamund Pike; who joins recent love-interest disasters Cameron Diaz, Paula Patton, and Olga Kurylenko.

Most of what makes JACK REACHER enjoyable appears to come from the adapted novel (a cool moment, a fun line of dialogue, an effective twist), together with director Christopher McQuarrie's assured hand keeping the boat steady. There's an impressively realistic car chase in the vein of BULLET, and most of the action scenes are pleasingly raw and interesting--including a frankly hilarious bathroom assault, where two goons attacking Reacher wind up hurting themselves in their enthusiasm to club their target to death. It's like something out of HOME ALONE.

JACK REACHER's not great and I can't see any sequels on the way, but there are some good moments that stops it from dying, despite an insane 130-minute runtime. I particularly enjoyed the presence of saturnine director Werner Herzog as the villain, who only actually appears in a few scenes but is utterly mesmerising.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.13 – 'Savoureux'


written by Steve Lightfoot, Bryan Fuller & Scott Nimerfro | directed by David Slade

This excellent first season of Hannibal has been a mind-game between a 'man touched by God' and a 'man possessed by the Devil'. The finale "Savoureux" allowed unhinged profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and sociopath Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to continue their merry dance, and it managed to keep you on tenterhooks despite the fact nobody watching seriously expected Lecter to be unmasked and strapped to an upright gurney. The character's just too much fun in the outside world; which is actually very interesting, seeing as the preceding films struggled once Lecter achieved the same freedom.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Bryan Fuller outlines HANNIBAL's future

For a show that has such poor ratings (hovering around 2 million for 13 weeks), Bryan Fuller's very optimistic about the NBC show's future. It helps that Hannibal is an international co-production, meaning NBC doesn't have to shoulder all the financial burden, and it's nice to have a show that's a critical hit capable of scooping big awards, with a fervent online presence. (I'm genuinely astonished by how much fan-art and animated .GIFs this show has inspired.)

Indeed, Fuller's so optimistic he's happy to let people know about his very long-term plans for future seasons. In a recent interview, Fuller also mentioned that an online streaming company approached him about continuing Hannibal if NBC were foolish enough to axe it, so I'm hopeful Fuller's seven-season plan will come to pass. This is Bryan Fuller's design:

Warning: the following quote contains spoilers for Thomas Harris's books:

LOVEFiLM to stream THE WALKING DEAD

It's interesting to see European market leader LOVEFiLM take up the fight with Netflix—which is still an inferior service in terms of content and choice in the UK, but has the benefit of splashy exclusives like House of Cards and Arrested Development.

LOVEFiLM's owned by Amazon, so they were able to show the drama/comedy pilots Amazon US streamed across the pond, and recently acquired The History Channel drama The Vikings. And now, they have their biggest catch: AMC's The Walking Dead.

Season 1 is already available to stream on Lovefilm Instant, with the subsequent two seasons debuting over the next 18 months. The Walking Dead will nevertheless retain its UK debut on Fox (formerly FX), with Channel 5 having the terrestrial rights (they're about to start season 3, incidentally).

As a LOVEFiLM subscriber myself, this pleases me, but it won't really affect my viewing habits. I think LOVEFiLM need a big exclusive, like The Vikings, that more people genuinely care about. Maybe some original content would also be persuasive, if the quality's Netflix standard.

[source: The Hollywood Reporter.]

Thursday, 20 June 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.2 – 'Living Conditions' & ANGEL, 1.2 – 'Lonely Hearts'

Willow: Happy hunting.
Buffy: Wish me monsters.


Cher's lyric "do you believe in life after love?" was a cute nod to Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) life as she struggles to adapt to U.C Sunnydale, and "Believe" is the favourite song of her infuriating roommate Kathy Newman (Dagney Kerr); a cheerful student with bad pop-culture taste (the greatest insult in the Buffyverse), who labels the contents of their communal fridge and irons her jeans. (Who doesn't iron jeans? Just me?)

"LIVING CONDITIONS" was a surprisingly enjoyable and rather funny episode, with most of the events affecting Buffy coming from a human level. There were cloaked demons with burned faces and luminous eyes with a mystery that would eventually lead back to Kathy in a surprising way, but for the majority of its runtime "Living Conditions" found pleasure in Buffy's reaction to someone so diametrically opposed to herself. Naturally there was the problem that Buffy leads a double-life as The Slayer, which creates an immediate distance when she's sneaking out in the early hours, but just in general Kathy was something of a nightmare to live with. She was also a huge stereotype, but a peppy performance from Dagney Kerr helped keep things moving along.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

MAD MEN, 6.12 - 'The Quality of Mercy'

written by Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton | directed by Phil Abraham

History's been subtly (and not so subtly) repeating itself throughout season 6, which some have claimed is a sign Matthew Weiner's running out of ideas. I'm not sure that's strictly the case, but we'll be in a better position to judge halfway through next year's (final?) season. While Don's (Jon Hamm) philandering behind second wife Megan's (Jessica Paré) back has been the most obvious callback to earlier seasons, it was a lovely surprise to discover that enigmatic Bob Benson (James Wolk) is another identity thief like Don Draper. 1960's conmen love double initials, don't they! This season's been pretty unnerving for several reasons, and I've loved how the writers have woven that into the pop-culture of the time: movies like Planet of the Apes and this week's Rosemary's Baby, but also the scaremongering Nixon advert.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

TRUE BLOOD, 6.1 – 'Who Are You, Really?'


written by Raelle Tucker | directed by Stephen Moyer

I'm monumentally bored by True Blood. It's been a shadow of itself for years, of course, but this could be the season where my waning interest leads to me skipping weekly reviews. What can you really say about each episode these days? All you can do is list the moments that caused you the greatest and least pain. The show feels like a prison for its (mostly) talented actors, who must be itching to escape their HBO contracts; and even the mild hope showrunner Alan Ball's departure may have a positive impact feels unlikely after this uninspired premiere.

Monday, 17 June 2013

MSN TV: BBC1's THE WHITE QUEEN


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the first episode of the BBC's new ten-part period drama THE WHITE QUEEN, based on the novels by Philipa Gregory...
It's Sunday night so the BBC have another period drama based on a best-selling novel to charm the exact same audience fond of these things. It's a shame Auntie isn't more experimental with the literary works they choose to adapt; but the unspoken edict is to comfort the masses and The White Queen will effortlessly achieve that aim.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Picks: 17-23 June 2013 (The Borgias, Burn Notice, Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, Happy Endings, etc.)


Below are my weekly picks of the most notable TV shows airing on UK screens. Please enjoy, and don't forget to bookmark this page, and/or let your friends know about it via social media...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

BARB: UK ratings body to officially measure mobile viewership

BARB, the UK's official ratings body, recently announced they're going to start measuring the use of online catch-up services from August 2013. This information will be used in official reports concerning how many people watch any given TV show via computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

We're not at the stage where online viewership is automatically included in the "overnights" (BARB's ratings for the previous day's TV shows, which often get inflated when you factor in the week's catch-up views and repeat showings), but we're close. It's surely only a matter of time before the UK gets comprehensive information about the viewing habits of its entire population, and perhaps many "low rated" TV shows will see a significant bounce when those watching on mobile devices are included.

Do you think that will ever happen? Do you actually watch shows on devices other than a television, routinely? Or are traditional overnight figures going to remain largely unchanged?

Of course, the big change we're long overdue is a system where BARB calculate viewership without merely taking a sampling of 5,100 homes (11,500 participants) and using their data to extrapolate what 58 million people are (most likely) watching. But then you start wandering into Orwellian territory, if you're not a willing participant and your television is telling an outside agency what you're watching. And even if there was some kind of opt-in scheme for 'anonymous automated feedback', chances are only a certain type of individual would participate... and that would skew results more than the current system. Yeah, it's a tricky one...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.12 – 'Relevés'

written by Chris Brancato & Bryan Fuller
directed by Michael Rymer


The plot of this season's been wound so tightly I'm excited to see how next week's finale plays out. "Relevés" didn't have any distractions from the central storyline involving teenager Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen); as their lives continued to entwine in fascinating ways. Abigail was involved in her father's murders (but only Lecter knows that); Dr Lecter's a serial killer who's been trying to protect her (while acting as The Copycat of various murders the FBI are involved with); and Graham's losing his sanity (with only Lecter aware this is happening), but has found enough clarity to realise recent murders he's been investigating are the work of the same copycat. It's quite a tangle of secrets and manipulations, but the person with the upper-hand is undoubtedly Dr Lecter—as trusted confidant to the damaged Abigail and Graham.

Friday, 14 June 2013

GAME OF THRONES: a third season of dismemberment, marriages, dragons, eunachs, torture, and amassing armies

"We have to warn them; or before winter's done, everyone you've ever known will be dead."

The days of toil getting through season 1 seem a very long time ago now, having finished the third season. It's such a rich and complex world that George R.R Martin's created that it took awhile to get to grips with the regions, histories, and peoples of Westeros. To be honest, there are still characters whose names I couldn't tell you off-hand, and a few storylines I've lost the thread on, but the important stuff has crystallised now. This was the best season of the show yet and one of the best things on television, so I thought I'd take this post-finale opportunity to give some broad thoughts on the key storylines and events:

Letterboxd: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) & RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012)

I didn't know much about Liberace before seeing this film, and after seeing it I have zero intention on catching up with the entertainer's body of work—although his piano skills are unquestionable. But giving you an appreciation for Liberace's act is not what this film wanted to achieve. It's a gay rom-com set primarily in the 1970s.

Michael Douglas is tremendous in the lead, Matt Damon's very good playing his lover Scott Thorson (this film's adapted from his autobiography), and Rob Lowe is hilarious as a plastic surgeon with one fixed expression. Steven Soderbergh directs with his usual skill and economy (using this as his movie swansong), but BEYOND THE CANDELABRA wasn't a story that held my interest for the duration. I think the biggest problem for me is that Liberace came across as pretty creepy too often (arm-twisting Scott into going under the knife to resemble himself when he was a younger man), and the film didn't communicate why Scott fell under Liberace's spell so easily. I think it was supposed to be because Liberace was more than just a rich and famous boyfriend; he was a brother and father figure for Scott, too. But the script kind of fudged that too much, so you just saw their romance as something a little too bizarre and doomed from the start.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Trailer: ALAN PARTRIDGE – ALPHA PAPA


The full trailer of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa debuted today, giving us a more rounded idea of what this unlikely movie's about. It seems that years-old reports about Alan being a hostage negotiator have proven accurate, although I seem to recall the idea was originally going to take place at BBC TV Centre and the culprit was al-Qaeda. Now it's the North Norfolk Digital radio station (well the BBC TV Centre has closed), and the villain's a disgruntled ex-employee called Pat (Colm Meaney)—whom Alan was secretly responsible for getting the sack.

ANGEL, 1.1 - 'City of...' & BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.1 - 'The Freshman'

Angel: Los Angeles. You see it at night and it shines; a beacon. People are drawn to it. People and other things. They come for all sorts of reasons. My reason? No surprise there. It started with a girl.

Once genre shows achieve a certain level of success and popularity amongst a lucrative demographic, it's common for a spin-off to emerge. Sometimes these are cynical enterprises aiming to exploit a fan-base's appetite for the original, but sometimes there's a genuine vision and intention to do something interesting with a character or story avenue that's proven popular. It strikes me as acceptable for Buffy the Vampire Slayer to create a parallel TV series for its hunky 'vampire with a soul' Angel (David Boreanaz), seeing as that character's antics were squeezed dry as Buffy's beau. Transferring Angel from a sunny small-town to the dark streets of Los Angeles also gives the show a different vibe (is this the Deep Space Nine to Buffy's The Next Generation?), although the 'CITY OF...' pilot didn't feel like a creative about-turn. After all: you don't want to scare off hardcore Buffy fans in the first hour, do you?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

MAD MEN, 6.11 - 'Favors'

written by Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner | directed by Jennifer Getzinger

A very good ante-penultimate episode, but if I'm honest it didn't sink its fangs deeply until the dazzling final moments with Sally (Kiernan Shipka) walking in on her father, Don (Jon Hamm), having sex with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini), the mother of the teenage boy she has a crush on. It was a real shock in a drama that hasn't delivered one in awhile (when you stop to reflect on it), and everything that followed was sublime. Don's look of pure panic and confusion, with almost no idea what to do next, allowed Hamm to turn in a terrific performance and show a side to his character we've never seen before. A man who can sense his life's house of cards about to collapse, and is powerless to do anything about. Damage limitation will be difficult, that's for sure.

The ensuing dinner table scene, with a flustered Don returning home to a meal cooked by Megan (Jessica Paré), having to appear normal in the company of his crestfallen daughter, was so uncomfortable it actually hurt to watch. To then add Sylvia's husband into the mix—here to thank Don for his string-pulling efforts in keeping his son away from war—was almost excruciating to watch. No wonder Sally snapped and ran to her room, forcing Don to make a mewling excuse for his actions on the other side of her locked bedroom door. Sally isn't an idiot, and my feeling is she won't buy Don's story about "comforting" Mrs Rosen after she heard bad news. Okay, so she fell for the grandma story that burglar told her a few weeks ago, but that was probably the moment she woke up to life's realities.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

DOCTOR WHO showrunner Steven Moffat: should he stay, or should he go?


Steven Moffat took over the running of Doctor Who from Russell T. Davies in 2010, and will have executive-produced approximately the same number of episodes by the end of series 8 next year. My guess is he'll vacate the 'throne' next year, with a successor taking up residence 2015's ninth series. But will the show miss him when he goes, or does it need a fresh creative direction pronto? Below are 5 reasons Steven Moffat's tenure has been a fantastic thing for Who over the past few years, but also 5 reasons it'll be a relief when he calls time on himself.

Monday, 10 June 2013

MSN TV: Channel 4's THE RETURNED


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed Channel 4's premiere of excellent French supernatural drama THE RETURNED (aka LES REVENANTS), which concerns a small-town experiencing the inexplicable resurrection of townsfolk...
It's remarkable to have a French-language drama on primetime UK television, but things have been headed that way for awhile so I'm glad Channel 4 took the plunge. Some of the best modern horror's been coming out of France (À l'intérieur, Martyrs) and highbrow audiences have already been enjoying Euro crime thrillers like Spiral and The Killing, so it makes perfect sense to bring subtitled drama to the masses. The fact The Returned concerns "zombies" is maybe enough to draw wider interest, so I'm hopeful this premiere's mood and intelligence counteracted any superficial disappointment over the lack of Walking Dead-style action and gore.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Picks: 10-16 June 2013 (Big Brother, Dates, Hell's Kitchen USA, Micro Monsters, Mock the Week, The White Queen, etc.)


After a few week's break, my TV Picks resume; once again, highlighting the most notable new/returning shows to UK screens...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Review: Netflix's ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT - The Complete Fourth Season


written by Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, Richard Rosenstock, Caroline Williams, Dean Lorey, Jim Brandon & Brian Singleton / directed by Mitchell Hurwitz & Troy Miller

It's relatively common for British shows to continue past 'cancellation', if only as irregular specials (The Vicar of Dibley, Only Fools & Horses). Many UK shows even have long gaps between runs, too, such as Fawlty Towers--where four years separates its two series. Owing to its more business-like nature, cancelled television shows don't get revived as often in the US with the same cast or crew involved; and if they do it's usually because they were highly successful once (Dallas, 24), and not low-rated commercial flops a niche audience adored. That said, things are changing in the wake of Veronica Mars getting a $5.7m movie through Kickstarter donations, and the rise of on-demand providers looking for exclusive shows with a ready-made online fanbase...

BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT 2013 finale


It was the Britain's Got Talent final last night on ITV, which was somewhat overshadowed by a bizarre act of sabotage from 30-year-old orchestra member Natalie Holt (also of musical group Raven Quartet, who didn't make it through BGT last year). The violinist invaded the performance of Richard and Adam's opera singing, to throw eggs at Simon Cowell while smiling happily, before being escorted off-stage by security. The hilarious/outrageous moment can be seen in the embedded video above. The incident occurs at 1:45.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Letterboxd: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

I loved JJ Abrams' bold, colourful and kinetic reboot of the STAR TREK franchise—which wasn't as intellectual as some fans would like, but retained the spirit of the 1960s series in terms of emotion, characterisation, and pure fun. I understand the criticism that Abrams spliced STAR TREK with STAR WARS (his true childhood love) and the subsequent movies are thus a weird cross-breed, but his 2009 reboot was so much fun and cast so brilliantly that I found it impossible to take any criticism too seriously.

However, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a different matter entirely. There are obvious problems and frustrating moments for fans, although it works perfectly fine as a 'rollercoaster blockbuster' that almost literally doesn't stop moving for more than a few minutes. It's a breathless spectacle with several stand-out sequences and tense action beats, with Abrams exhibiting much greater confidence and clearly enjoying the increased budget ($190m to its predecessor's $150m)--which goes even further now they don't need to develop and design this parallel universe from the ground up.

Television to watch this summer


Summer is finally here, so... what's on television? Wait, you're not seriously thinking of going outside or—gasp!—booking a holiday somewhere hot and sunny are you? No, no, there's still plenty to watch on television with your curtains closed and a chilled beverage to hand. Here are my vague TV-viewing plans over the next three months:

Friday, 7 June 2013

Trailer: LUTHER (series 3)


The BBC have released the first trailer for series 3 of Luther, starring Idris Elba, which I've heard will premiere sometime in July on BBC1. Continuing the format of series 2, it will tell two stories over four episodes, and the big new co-star is Sienna Guillory (Eragon, Inkheart). Ruth Wilson will also reprise her role as serial killer Alice Morgan, and Warren Brown returns as loyal DS Ripley.

Interestingly, BBC America have previously announced that series 3 will be shown across four nights from 3-6 September, so I wonder if the BBC are planning a similar "event" for the home audience. I hope not, because Luther's a pretty dark and gruelling drama. I think you need the traditional week-long gap between episodes to take it all in. A nightly trip into the world of John Luther may send a few people over the edge, don't you think?

MSN TV: MAD DOGS (series 3)


Over at MSN TV today: I have reviewed the MAD DOGS series 3 premiere, starring John Simm, Phillip Glenister, Marc Warren, and Max Beesley.
Mad Dogs has somehow made it to a third series, and a concluding fourth series had already been filmed. In many ways its longevity boggles my mind, because it worked perfectly well as a four-part miniseries back in 2011, and I saw little need for the story to even continue. For the most part, I thought series 2 was a mess that was only marginally rescued by the late addition of genre legend David Warner as ex pat gangster Mackenzie.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

HANNIBAL, 1.11 – 'Rôti'

written by Steve Lightfoot, Bryan Fuller & Scott Nimerfo
directed by Guillermo Navarro


Another fantastic episode that worked as a follow-up to the mid-season two-parter about the Chesapeake Ripper, where Dr Abel Gideon (Eddie Izzard)—now convinced his psychiatrist Dr Chilton (Raúl Esparza) made him believe he was the Ripper—escaped from custody and began targeting the people who treated him in the asylum, giving them Colombian neck-ties (whereby the victim's tongue is fed through a throat cut). Yes, it's another cheerful episode, but if you're a fan of the serial killer genre Hannibal remains one of the best examples—arguably the best from a TV standpoint.

What I'm really enjoying about the show just lately is how effectively it's turned Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) from 'offbeat genius profiler' to someone hanging onto sanity by their fingernails. It was always odd whenever the show gave us scenes of Graham standing in a crime scene, as the environment around him slipped back in time, but now his psychological talent is disintegrating. I loved the sequence where he was having a nightmare; dreaming of a glacier melting, sending a tsunami towards the "totem of limbs" from "Trou Normand", while his bedroom flooded with water and his bedside clock melted in a probable nod to Salvador Dali's painting The Persistence of Memory.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

MAD MEN, 6.9 & 6.10 – 'The Better Half' & 'A Tale of Two Cities'

Below is a double-bill review of the last two episodes of MAD MEN, to prevent me falling behind on AMC's broadcast. They're a little briefer than usual, forgive me.

written by Erin Levy & Matthew Weiner | directed by Phil Abraham

"The Better Half" was a great episode about the duality of people, which was very apropos seeing as Megan (Jessica Paré) is struggling to convincingly play twins on her TV show. It was occasionally a little oddball, but in a more measured and entertaining way than the episode that preceded it. I particularly enjoyed seeing Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) accidentally stab boyfriend Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) in the stomach with a makeshift spear, which led to him taking the opportunity to dump her.

As always with Mad Men, there was a great deal to savour and chew on regarding everyone's behaviour and various symbolic events and incidents. It was great to see Betty (January Jones), now physically returned to her blonde bombshell heyday, essentially having a one-night stand with her ex, Don (Jon Hamm), who's top dog when it comes to extra-marital affairs. It made me pine for the earlier seasons when those two were a couple, because I think Jones works much better in Hamm's company. They just work together, in a way Hamm and Pare don't quite manage to.

Twitter'd: ALEX CROSS (2012)


My live-tweets of crappy movies continued on Wednesday evening with crime thriller ALEX CROSS, starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox and Ed Burns. (You can read my previous live-tweets here.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

DOCTOR WHO's regeneration game

It's happening again. Every time the BBC announce the current actor playing the lead in Doctor Who has quit, the rumour mill goes into overdrive and the internet is quickly awash with articles speculating about a replacement. After three series and a 50th anniversary special, Matt Smith is stepping down as The Doctor this Christmas. A Christmas Day regeneration is more than likely, echoing how Smith himself inherited the role from David Tennant in 2010's "The End of Time". (I think an Easter regeneration would be more apt, but there you are.)

So who's going to play The Doctor next? It's a fun guessing game, but one that's extremely unlikely to be predicted correctly. I know quite a few people (including myself) correctly named David Tennant as the new Doctor shortly after Christopher Eccleston quit, but that was mainly because he'd starred in Russell T. Davies' Casanova around the same time. But he still wasn't a household name back then, so I don't recall him being linked to it very seriously beforehand.

HANNIBAL, 1.9 & 1.10 – 'Trou Normand' & 'Buffet Froid'

Below is a double-bill review covering the last few episodes of HANNIBAL, to prevent myself slipping too far behind NBC's broadcast. The low-rated but critically-adored crime drama was renewed last week, too, so I'm very pleased we'll be getting a second course...

written by Steve Lightfoot
directed by Guillermo Navarro

After a few weeks spent exploring the eponymous Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) returned to the spotlight in "Trou Normand"; an episode that also picked up the storyline with Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl). The case-of-the-week storyline was characteristically gruesome, with Graham helping Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) catch a killer who has exhumed his previous victims on a beach and assembled them into a morbid "totem pole" of limbs, heads and torsos. This show is so adept at creating striking, macabre visuals--never let it be said otherwise.

I also liked the theme of the episode being "legacy", once it became clear the serial killer, elderly Lawrence Wells (Lance Henriksen), had created this monument as part of a bizarre "retirement plan"--with a lovely twist that he'd unwittingly killed his own son, his true "legacy", in the process. A special mention must go to cult hero Lance Henriksen, who did so much with his one scene towards the end of the hour—and whose role in '90s crime thriller Millennium (itself inspired by Thomas Harris's novels) was nicely subverted from hunter to hunted.