Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Branagh is a great Poirot but a bad Agatha Christie storyteller

​Murder on the Orient Express 2017..would leave you with a very warm feeling about a potential Poirot movie franchise
IF​​
The classic 1974 version never existed
And
The first hour wasn’t so much better than the last hour


Like last years surprisingly watchable Magnificent Seven remake,this movie is crawling out from under a classic and though Branagh is a good director, he is no Sidney Lumet.

This is less of a problem in a dashing introductory first hour when (like the  Magnificent Seven remake) a smartly written take on the material and some sharp storytelling make this look like a new Sherlockian movie franchise in the making.

Branagh does a great job with Poirot breathing  real life into a character I had previously thought was a bit of a cold fish. You might say this reinvention is Robert Downey Jnrish without the martial arts. He manages to capture the difference between Holmes and Poirot - the |Belgian isn’t a deductive super computer but a sufferer of obsessive compulsive disorder who has turned it into a talent and a lifestyle.



As soon as it runs into Christie’s brilliant plot however (arguably THE whodunnit murder mystery, based on the most shocking crime of the 1930s) it falters. Lumets classic version in 1974 only barely holds the 6+ plot threads together but it does with hefty dopings of horror and tragedy.

Branagh, good as he is cannot do this level of juggling, resulting in a confused, rushed middle and then overstages the finale. Is this a common Kenneth Branagh as director thing? more interested in characters than plot? (based on this and the first Thor film you would have to say that's a yes).

In several earlier moments he has Poirot surveying crime scenes directly from above with the camera slowly descending from above into the room. It’s very subtle and effective - then we have a climax that looks right out of a bad DC superhero movie. Does it really need the Last Supper shot? That must be a hideous cliche by now. I loved it in Watchmen but please this material doesn’t need to play postmodern games with classic images - it should be classic images itself.

Performances are generally ok though some of the more senior cast seem to think they are playing alongside Peter Ustinov and Elizabeth Taylor.

It is definitely watchable and based on this I’d certainly watch the proposed Death On The Nile sequel but I would hope it has a different director. These books are from one of the premier female novelists of all time - so how about a female director - what is Patty Jenkins doing between Wonder Woman films?

One nitpick- if you can flawlessly create 1930s Istanbul and gorgeous mountain vistas with the wonder of CGI, could you not also add some cold breath effects to the actors supposedly standing around high up in a mountain range in huge piles of snow?

I saw this on a free screening with Searcys who have never served me a bad cocktail, and have always sent me away happy if not entirely sober.


Manufactured Culture War Outrage Calendar 2018 (UK)

For all our Russian friends, inspiration for British social media content for next year


​thanks to @webofevil
and @acjimbo

Monday, 30 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 : It's No Game

It's over a week since I saw BLADE RUNNER 2049 a second time and I'm still thinking about it a lot. The dam has just burst. Prepare for random thoughts.


BLADE RUNNER 2049 is not only better than the original, by having characters you actually care about, it makes the plot of the original movie 20% better by giving that slightly abusive Deckard and Rachel relationship some consequence.

Apparently BLADE RUNNER 2049 has been a box office flop. I'm neither shocked or disappointed by this because it means I'm not going to hear theories on it from some empty headed trendy who only went to see it for Ryan Gosling.

Gosling is brilliant, better than Ford in both movies (and Ford is pretty good in this one). Gosling seems to be playing a ghost version of his doomed character from DRIVE and his work with  Ana de Armas as Joi makes for a level of hearbreak we never get anywhere near in the cold, sometimes brutal original movie.


Officer K/Joe and Joi are just about the best screen couple I've seen all year. It's horrifying when Joi is destroyed and absolutely devastating when 'Joe' finds (or is reminded) that Joi is essentially a very smart App, and the important bond he has established with this 'woman' actually meant absolutely nothing beyond his own mind.
It was a nightmarishly relatable moment.

According to Slash Film podcast review, the hero of Kafka's The Trial is 'Joseph K', who thinks he is the center of a huge conspiracy, only to find is a minor functionary. Gosling's Officer K/Joe is an instant classic movie character, tragic on several levels. The narrative's flirtation with the plot twist from ANGEL HEART is all the more tragic and pathetic when it is revealed to be a cruel tease.

Wow that was a lot of spoilers wasn't it!
Tough. You should have paid to see the movie instead of waiting to see such a breathtaking cinematic experience on your shit television.


The debate used to be
IS DECKARD A REPLICANT?
It's now
CAN DECKARD'S MANGY DOG TALK?

This movie is worth seeing more than once. After the three way love scene, between K, Joi and Marriett you hear Mackenzie Davis (also great as a kind of Pris 2.0) say to Joi
"There is not as much to you as you think" .
The first time you hear it this is needlessly cruel.
The second time, when you know what Joi is, this is cruel, accurate and heartbreaking all round.

Apparently this and other scenes are getting flak for their portrayal of women. I'm not going to defend this movie from feminists because most feminists I know have a brain and won't be offended by this movie. Like the similarly devastating and disturbing HER, there is nothing in this movie that makes me think
"wow losing my emotions to an App controlled by a immortal, omnipotent, all powerful faceless corporate is a great alternative to some sweet but dozy bird I might find on Tinder".

Denis Villeneuve has instantly become, like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan, someone whose entire back catalogue now needs to be watched. I wasn't knocked out by ARRIVAL (or INTERSTELLAR for that matter) but SICARIO is a classic. I hope he's not bitten off more than he can chew with D U N E.

Another great scene, another great actress, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, who isn't really a powerless male fantasy figure
Standing in for Bowie (see below), Jared Leto is actually great as Wallace, 2049's frustrated Tyrell. The Slash Film podcast  summed up Wallace perfectly;
"He's the CEO of Samsung coming on stage decades after Steve Jobs (Tyrell) has left and taken all his secrets with him".

As we know Denis Villeneuve is a D U N E fanatic did he cast Jared Leto because he wants Jared Leto as Leto?

I have had issues with the BLADE RUNNER since it was the crushing disappointment of 1982 but the more I see it on better quality medium the better it gets. The first time I saw the BLADE RUNNER FINAL CUT at my friend Rob's house in dazzling HD I had a genuine Philip K. Dick moment when I thought the characters in the Philip K. Dick movie looked more real than we did in the reality that was watching it.

DANGEROUS DAYS BLADE RUNNER DOC 1 The brutal love scene in original movie was more originally more tender according to Sean Young but it was cut to look like abuse. If they were "made to be together" as Sean Young says in one cut scene, this makes Tyrell even more of a cruel god.

The more I watch the original the more intriguing Edward James Olmos's character Gaff becomes as he is obviously some form of handler for Deckard, whatever he is.

For all my re-evaluation and late appreciation of BLADE RUNNER, if you want something genuinely Philip K. Dick from the 1980s, that also screams 1980s in all it's vulgar glory, Paul (STARSHIP TROOPERS) Verhoeven's TOTAL RECALL seems a little forgotten today.

C4's ELECTRIC DREAMS, a Philip K. Dick anthology show from the channel which originally brought you BLACK MIRROR. is worth a watch. A little patchy, the most mind bending thing I've seen it in so far is Benedict Wong's spot on Mancunian accent in the episode"Impossible Planet"
Benedict Wong is also in one of the BLADE RUNNER 2049 short films  (BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "2036: Nexus Dawn") so you know he's a Philip K. Dick fan.

One of the other shorts, BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "Black Out 2022", should be a full length movie and I would guess will be one before long.

DANGEROUS DAYS BLADE RUNNER DOC 2 While doing painstaking model work to ensure that every microscopic light source in the cityscape for the opening of the orginal movie looks real,
Douglas Trumble's exhausted Special Effects crew gets a trip to director Ridley Scott's breathtaking actual sets. They are gobsmacked to find beautiful interiors like Tyrell's office with light dancing around like Midsummer Nights Dream from no realistic sources whatsover.
Later, graffiti on piece of  tiny modelwork is shown to say "RIDLEY IS GOD"

We speculated in the 80s that the ultimate cyperpunk accessory would be cybernetic eyes what would show you the world as if shot by the Scott Brothers. (You could have a dropdown that could switch between Tony and Ridley).

Anyway.. back to BLADE RUNNER 2049

When listened to on headphones. soundtrack to BLADE RUNNER 2049 by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, just like the astonishing Vangelis soundtrack for the original, will put you right back in the movie, even when you are actually just queuing up for a flu jab at Boots.

Jóhann Jóhannsson was the original choice for the BLADE RUNNER 2049 soundtrack before Denis Villeneuve decided quite late on to go with Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. (If we we got is a last minute rush job it is all the more impressive). Jóhann Jóhannsson is a brilliant modern composer  which means eventually we will get a probably excellent variant soundtrack for this movie before long.

The soundtrack for the BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "Black Out 2022" short, by Flying Lotus is also good and should be expanded to album length. (While we wait for the live action movie of these events).

Bowie was the original choice to to be Wallace because Denis Villeneuve and Ridley Scott considered him to be hugely influential on Blade Runner and cyberpunk aesthetic.
As I've mentioned elsewhere cyberpunk was coined as a term AFTER Blade Runner to describe the look and concept. So what Bowie music inspired Blade Runner?
Diamond Dogs? - no, too 1970s, too glam
Outside? - no, a response, a reflection back from the 1990s

You'd need something from the big technological/style bang of the 1980s as it sloughed off the 1970s, something like this.

This is the sound of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and eventually literary cyberpunk being born screaming into life


**UPDATE** Now I come to think of it Bowie's 'Heroes' and 'Low' are much more influential on both actual movie soundtracks.


One final note.
When Denis Villeneuve needed a location to show a defunct dying Las Vegas he chose a Stock Exchange (in Budapest). I wonder how ironic and prophetic that will seem when we finally get to see BLADE RUNNER 2075?


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Some comfort for USA football fans - watch World Cup as Netflix

USA have not qualified for the next world cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago. Urgh. One of the reasons association football is so exciting is comparative lack of scoring, meaning any one mistake can be hugely consequential and if you leave it to fate in this sport, fate will bite you on the a*se.




I know, I'm an Englishman, and because of that I can offer some comfort from similar disappointment in the past.

It's a sad fact but I nearly always enjoy football tournaments more when my own team does not qualify. I won't go into the details as it's depressing but watching World Cup as a neutral is far better.

Forget it's a sport you should be a part of, and if you really want to enjoy it, treat Russia 2018 as something more like a Netflix subscription.

Brazil, Belgium, Spain and France all play football like a movie directed by Luc Besson.
They will be out of this world to watch and it will probably be an experience like STAR TREK : DISCOVERY.

Germany are not far behind on the good to watch stakes but also have an admirable hypnotic sheen that would be like binge watching THE CROWN.

Italy, Uruguay and Argentina will be dramatic and gripping like BREAKING BAD

All the African teams will be as crazy entertaining as UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

Any English speaking teams will be hard to watch but with air of unmissable eventual tragedy, like BETTER CALL SAUL. England will typically take this to a whole new level and add awkward tragi-comedy that wouldn't be out of place in THE OFFICE.

Like STRANGER THINGS? Need an unlikley story of no-hopers winning out in a far off fantasy world - Iceland! Qualified! Iceland!

 and finally.. to get to the he hosts of the World Cup 2018.. Have you seen ICARUS? The Russians have very little concept of fair play on current form and I would expect some of the antics with referees, officials, social media and mysterious information release to look quite a look like HOUSE OF CARDS (though MR ROBOT prob more appropriate).

If you really cannot watch as a neutral

  • N Ireland
  • Rep. Of Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

are all in the playoffs and might still qualify

But for sheer entertainment I would follow Belgium

Monday, 9 October 2017

HBO-no : THE NIGHT OF vs VINYL

Someone in the pub last week suggested I reboot the blog with a comparison* of The Orville vs Star Trek : Discovery.  Well...That's not how this works. Too predictable.
It has irked me that this blog has been a one note promo site for HBO up until now. The only reason I've not covered Westworld tv is that it pretty much blew my mind beyond rational analysis.  (In the meantime, try this)

so instead this is

HBOs Emmy nominated THE NIGHT OF
vs
HBOs one season failure VINYL



The one season of HBOs VINYL is flawed but fun and still worth a spin

VINYL was a much anticipated music related HBO drama about New York in it's amazingly creative 70s. I nearly said heyday LOL. This is the hell experienced an shown in THE NIGHT OF from the other perspective.

American Century records is a music company about to get a ringside seat to the birth of Punk, Disco and Hip-Hip, if the slightly cartoonish but entertaining staff and clients can keep their hands off the powder and each other. Co-written by Mick Jagger and directed in parts by Martin Scorsese, who where both there at the time so should know.

Is it great, classic HBO - No
Is it still entertaining - Yes

This is best seen as a long movie, as it was cancelled after one season and isn't coming back, I think it was ultimately too much like MAD MEN. It was released unfortunately at the same time as HBOs other hope for the future, WESTWORLD, and was just steam rollered for attention by that far superior show.

Writing is ultimately the problem with VINYL, which tries to easily recapture the dynamics of MAD MEN only to find that apparently straightforward story was a lot more complex than it looked. That said compared to the plot aerobatics of WESTWORLD even MAD MEN might not have lasted long.

VINYLs main issue is it seems to be more about cocaine then music. I can see this being authentic for the time, but hardly makes the characters sympathetic in the austere world of today,

Bobby Carnivale a great actor and a real scene stealer in Boardwalk Empire but not sympathetic enough to lead the series. Seven seasons of Don Draper was just about enough thanks, and Draper did have enough wrinkles in his background and behavior to make him understandable and ultimately pitiful.

Had it been possible to rejig VINYL in the face of big egos like Jagger and Scorsese it should probably have been all about Ray Romano's character, Zak Yankovich, head of promotions who is the most likable face in the chaos.
American Century is nearly bought out by a German company, which is a problem as Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant is virulently anti-German
For a story heavy with 70s rock cliches this has some great female characters,
Olivia Wilde is great as the magnificent Devon Finestra, a survivor of Andy Warhol's social circle and Factory favourite. Juno Temple is an ambitious assistant who just burns up the screen.  Annie Parisse as Andrea "Andie" Zito, a previous manager at the company with an lot of unexplored but interesting history tries to restore order but only creates her own chaos.

That said, for all the casting masterstrokes, one major casting disaster is having Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall's son as a early John Lydon type punk at the heart of the action. Just telling the events as they happened would have been far preferable to a fantasy of events told from the perspective of those being rebelled against. A blatant piece of Hollywood nepotistic casting like this is a great pointer to what drove the punk movement in the first place.

Also isn't the timeline off? English punk bands before the New York Dolls? if those punks been more like Ian Dury and Dr Feelgood this would have made sense. In fact - why wasn't the punk section of VINYL just all about the New York Dolls? Were they too boring? (this is a joke).

So, its got a lot of issues, but if you try and see it like AMERICAN GODS with a good soundtrack and less like a documentary it's at least fun.

There are scenes from this one season failure of a show which have stayed with me all year.


 There is a surprisingly affecting scene when American Century tries to rescue Elvis from the tomb that is his Las Vegas career
 Or when the junior record exec try out a new sound as a dance record



Perhaps the most interesting part of VINYL is it's failure - it shows HBO experimenting and trying to get things right. This show was redeveloped endlessly, as was WESTWORLD, and sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Example - The cameos and inserts of real legendary musicians into the narrative is clunky and awkward and perhaps would have been better done with real footage back protected onto the scene.

I've a high tolerance for this kind of thing from HBO and recently tried very hard to like JOHN FROM CINCINATTI before it's pretentiousness overwhelmed me. Even then that had plenty to like.

Can you regard VINYL, and surfer soaps trying to be Shakespeare, and even minor successes as TREME and HUNG as HBO classics? Obviously not, but are they better than some of the mainstream garbage we are served every day as decent TV?

Fox's EMPIRE is a successful tv show about the music business, about to go for it's 4th season. It's entertaining enough in a trashy way like the best mass market tv. I enjoyed Season 1 last year with a bottle of wine while writing out Xmas cards.

Something keeps EMPIRE just about watchable, performances and music mainly.
But it's garbage compared to VINYL.

The real issue is wether experiments like VINYL are worth the effort when there is so much other quality HBO and cable shows that don't get the attention (SHOW ME A HERO). But, If you are that much of a fan of how these shows are put together even the interesting failures are worth a look.



THE NIGHT OF is hard work

THE NIGHT OF has won and been nominated for many awards.

In contrast with Vinyl I was really looking forward to this. I now realise to write this honestly I'll have to watch to last two episodes of The Night Of, and this is annoying because I hate it.

It's another show set in New York, but this is a hell hole rather than any kind of living place.

It's unbelievable. I don't believe any kid with any background would be stupid enough to get into that situation. Naive? Where did this kid grow up? Narnia? He's supposed to have spent 20 years growing up in Queens NY!
Did he ever leave the house or did they home school him in a oxygen tank.? They are supposed to be Pakistani-Americans,  not the Amish.

If you are bored, like me, of seeing Muslims as naive, ignorant magnets for violence, you should instead watch MASTER OF NONE , which is very refreshing and funny.

THE NIGHT OF seems, for HBO original shows, a very unsophisticated take on race which puzzled me until I read on the wiki
"based on Criminal Justice, a 2008–09 British television series"
Hmm. That's depressing.

Just to clarify, I'm not Muslim or Pakistani and I'm not offended by this portrayal.
I'm just bored with it.

 Also

The gritty detail is laughable

John Turturros feet... honestly. This is a potentially interesting character reduced to the level of a joke, and that ailment isn't that funny.

Economics of New York taxi firms? If it was this much of a drag they wouldn't operate on a day to day basis. Does Uber exist in this universe? Honestly I'd rather watch Misfit Garage.

Lawyer politics ZZZzzz
(and yet I loved S1 of Damages and love Billions)

Gritty detective on his last case about to retire Zzzzzz

Want a vision of New York as hell? avoid this and watch Jacob's Ladder. The Night Of is like The Wire written from a suburb. If you need that level of grit and authenticity watch SHOW ME A HERO instead.

The Positives -
As usual with HBO casting and acting is top notch all round

While being fully aware of the critical reaction to both shows I have a bit of an itch already to rewatch VINYL despite all its many flaws, while you really would have to pay me to to watch THE NIGHT OF again.

(I'm aware most viewers and reviewers do not share my opinion on this show)


Finally You can tell a lot about the quality of the shows in this golden age of tv by the titles. It seems obvious but is worth reiterating.

VINYL's titles are exciting but overcooked

THE NIGHT OF's titles look (to me) like a dull knock off of TRUE DETECTIVE





* OK - Star Trek : Discovery vs Orville

I can see why people hate Star Trek : Discovery, but its flaws are 90% promotional - this is NOT set in universe we were familiar with and does not link up easily to other series. But, if you can get over the details up to Ep 3 it's a well written, smart, beautiful show with already some of my fave characters on tv.

The narrative before this was that The Orville was real the Trek show, if so it's everything about TOS that I used to hate - predictable, flat, dull to watch despite being set in outer space, and aliens which are not anything like alien enough. The worst crime is it's not funny while trying hard to be. I've given up already. And I would count myself a Seth McFarlane fan.

FYI the entire first season of Star Trek : Next Generation absolutely stank out 1987 before turning into the phenomena we know and love in later years.



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Excuses excuses

Aside from political meltdown and other issues I've been trying to learn guitar.

Without much success I have to say, though if I use blogging as displacement behaviour to avoid that at least I'll get this done.

30 years of real mix tapes

This blog is not dead

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I can be bothered to edit 12 posts in the Draft folder

In the meantime, I started this

https://mixtapesfrom1987.blogspot.co.uk/

after I found a huge bag of mixtapes in my attic