Sunday, 30 March 2014

Is Marvel's Agents of SHIELD all Tahiti? (Captain America : the Winter Soldier) SPOILERS

Does Captain America : the Winter Soldier's total indifference to Agents of SHIELD point to something.. magical?

I don't rate Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series at all, but seeing Captain America : the Winter Soldier yesterday makes me think the season finale might be something quite daring for a network tv show.

First off,  Captain America : the Winter Soldier. 
Never mind the super hero stuff, Winter Soldier is the best pure action film since Skyfall, and would make possibly even more money as a standalone action film than it would as just part of Marvel's Phase Two. Astonishing that the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, are more know for directing episodes of Arrested Development. I would guess they will be big names henceforth.
On a Marvel movie level I would put Winter Soldier above Avengers, just below the first Iron Man film. I could write much more gushing praise but there are plenty of other reviews and discussions of the various geeky plot points available which I will not revisit here. Here I am more concerned with what Captain America : the Winter Soldier suggests about the runt of Marvel's litter, the mysteriously dull and involving Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series, supposedly written by master tv writer and director the of the Avengers, Joss Whedon.

I have come to loath Agents of SHIELD. This was my reaction to the heavily hyped episode which tied-in to Thor : Dark World (which I loved)

Agents of SHIELD is the worst thing I've ever seen with Whedon's name on it.
I'm sick of defending this show and the 'tie in to Thor The Dark World' was my final straw. It was two minutes of kids tv fronting tagged onto an 'Asgard'
story that could have sat in a box of reject scripts from the Man From UNCLE for 40 years.
Right now AoS is juvenile garbage and makes The Avengers look like The Seventh Seal. There is too much other good stuff on to be wasting time on it.

Having given the revelations of Captain America : the Winter Soldier some thought I think we might have to re-evaluate Agents of SHIELD. It may be disconnected and silly for a reason.

Remember the event which kicked off Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is the death and apparent resurrection of Agent Coulson in The Avengers. That, and Coulson himself, has remained pretty much the centre of the show. Since then the tv series has been mainly criticised  for having next to no connection to rest of the shared Marvel universe - the only major characters to have guested on the show so far are Asgardians (Lady Sif, Lorelei) in the close orbit of Loki, god of mischief and illusion, who is co-incidentally the villain who killed Agent Coulson in the Avengers. Interestingly Loki kills Coulson with the staff he uses to warp the minds of several other characters in the movie.

Meanwhile in the film world, Captain America : the Winter Soldier seems to have next to no connection to Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series despite being primarily about SHIELD. (The only reference to Coulson in the movie apparently is a briefly glimpsed poster in a SHIELD office that says "COULSON LIVES!"). 

If we take Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series at face value Coulson has been running around the world on assignments for a while now and none of the Avengers so traumatised by his death have become aware that he survived.  Emotional plot points left hanging unused like that? This is all very un-Joss Whedon and quite quite mysterious.

I've not been paying full attention to Agents of SHIELD for a while and I'm sure those that like the show will say that Coulson's death and resurrection has already been sufficiently explained (really?) but fans of Ben Kingsley's inspired performance in Iron Man 3 and the new One Shot All Hail the King might respond that these Marvel writers like a plot twist, and are not beyond twisting it right back again.

Another thought - 
we now know after the HYDRA revelations in Captain America : the Winter Soldier, that a more accurate title for the tv series  would be "Marvel's Agents of Nazis". Are they going to re-title it or does this show have a deliberately short shelf life?

What is Joss Whedon up to ? How 'real' are the events in Agents of SHIELD? Fans of Buffy and Dollhouse will know that Whedon loves messing with the reality of his characters and the mind of his audience...

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Darjeeling Limited is just the (long) epitaph to Hotel Chevalier

I'm sure I will grow to love Grand Budapest Hotel after repeated viewings but as mentioned in previous post I thought it was underwelming at first viewing. It has one or two set pieces that may well be up with the best things Anderson's ever done, one murder scene in particular could have come straight from Hitchcock, but even after some crystalline G&Ts at Barbican's Gin Joint, Grand Budapest Hotel seemed as lightweight and sugary as Medl's cakes.

(I notice now looking at the wiki that the hotel itself looks a lot like the pink masterpieces created by Mendl in the movie, doubtless this will a lot more significant when I watch it minus the gin).

I thought I noticed a note of dissapointment with others in the cinema - if you are suffering a similar come-down can I suggest you revisit another unloved Wes Anderson movie that improves significantly on repeated viewings. A few days previously I rewatched The Darjeeling Limited and The Royal Tenebaums. I had not planned to watch RT yet again (6th time?) but so enjoyed Darjeeling Limited and it's accompanying short film Hotel Chevalier so much I couldn't stop myself.

 I was aided by a bottle of the new Apothik wine that is very delicious and which I am prepared to blog at length given sufficient encouragement - hint hint.
Like Grand Budapest Hotel, first time I saw Darjeeling Limited I was pretty disappointed but it has improved hugely over time. It helps to be aware of it's minuses beforehand. What irritates most is that Darjeeling Limited is it so close to being a direct sequel to Royal Tenebaums and yet isn't. Similar characters, obviously Anderson's own acting troupe and similar themes leave you feeling that at any moment Darjeeling Limited will be revealed as the imediate aftermath of Royal's funeral at the end of RT, which irritatingly must have taken place at a similar time and location (New York) to the funeral of the Wittmans father in DL. Superficially DL is a road (or rail) trip, but it is this is slowly revealed to be another twisted family saga about the loss of a father figure, together a mssed up funeral told in flashback.

It is rarely funny but vintage Wes Anderson. The device of having a separate short film, Hotel Chevalier, played before Darjeeling Limited is a strange one and perhaps seemed a great idea during development (to make use of Nat Portman?) but in retrospect that is a scene from the main movie that should have been integrated during release. It is quaint to have it as a separate piece but I'm sure makes issues for schedulers and looks like stunt of arthouse pretension. According to the wiki Hotel Chevalier was concived as a totally separate story and was only linked to Darjeeling Limited afterwards. We are to regard them as two separate stories linked by a character. Fox Searchlight apparently did not even know about the existance of Hotel Chevalier during production of Darjeeling Limited and make no money from it. Hotel Chevalier does come with a mood and sexual emotional charge missing from Darjeeling Limited, which consequently seems like an anti climax.

 That is perhaps the best way to enjoy it, to see the ten minutes of Hotel Chevalier as the main feature and the 91 minutes of the Darjeeling Limited as a long epitaph which explains Jack Wittman's isolation and need for cathartic release and subsequent spiritual engagement. And Indian cough medicine. Darjeeling Limited is rarely funny but vintage Wes Anderson charming, with some of the slo-mo musical highlights seen in the early films and so missing from Grand Budapest Hotel.

Final thought - Is Wes Anderson dong with Darjeeling Limited's soundtrack and iconography for Indian cinema what Quentin Tarantino criticised for doing with Hong Kong cinema?

I think my long delayed trip to Paris be based at Hôtel Raphaël in Paris, the setting for Hotel Chevalier. Full post will follow. There are a lot of reasons I like Hotel Chevalier - here is a less obvious one. Why is Nat Portman's hair so short? She's just come straight from playing Evie V for Vendetta.

Thanks - internet - for the glorious Wes Anderson fan art

Saturday, 8 March 2014

I'm sure there is a German word for..

I'm sure there is a German word for the feeling you get after a cinema trip when a trailer has completely upstaged the main film you went to see.

I remember sneaking into see Poltergiest in the 80s with a friends and being really hyped and excited because it was the scariest Spielberg movie since Jaws and the first adult film we'd got entry into. Then, before it started, I saw trailers for John Carpenter's The Thing and Blade Runner and though I really enjoyed the main feature my attention was by then elsewhere.

Just saw Grand Budapest Hotel at the Barbican and was a little disappointed. It has a kind of "Tim Burton does the Marx Brothers" charm but seems more of a cartoon than his previous work. Overhyped I think, critics are perhaps overcompensating for the lack of attention given to Wes Anderson's previous movie, the classic (I think) Moonrise Kindgom.

And it was somewhat blown out of the water by this trailer

.. which makes Under The Skin look like the scariest Kubrick film since The Shining (and all the more scary because Stanley has been dead for quite a while now)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

2014 : The Year Of The British Siesta (World Cup Kick Off Times)

World Cup 2014 - Your guide to all the fixtures, dates and kick-off
times. Times are BST.


June 12 Sao Paulo, 2100: Brazil v Croatia

June 13 Natal, 1700: Mexico v Cameroon

June 17 Fortaleza, 2000: Brazil v Mexico

June 18 Manaus, 2000: Cameroon v Croatia

June 23 Brasilia, 2100: Cameroon v Brazil

June 23 Recife, 2100: Croatia v Mexico


June 13 Salvador, 2000: Spain v Holland

June 13 Cuiaba, 2300: Chile v Australia

June 18 Rio de Janeiro, 2300: Spain v Chile

June 18 Porto Alegre, 1700: Australia v Holland

June 23 Curitiba, 1700: Australia v Spain

June 23 Sao Paulo, 1700: Holland v Chile


June 14 Belo Horizonte, 1700: Colombia v Greece

June 14 Recife, 2300: Ivory Coast v Japan

June 19 Brasilia, 1700: Colombia v Ivory Coast

June 19 Natal, 2300: Japan v Greece

June 24 Cuiaba, 2100: Japan v Colombia

June 24 Fortaleza, 2100: Greece v Ivory Coast


June 14 Fortaleza, 2000: Uruguay v Costa Rica

June 14 Manaus, 2300: England v Italy

June 19 Sao Paulo, 2000: Uruguay v England

June 20 Recife, 1700: Italy v Costa Rica

June 24 Natal, 1700: Italy v Uruguay

June 24 Belo Horizonte, 1700: Costa Rica v England


June 15 Brasilia, 1700: Switzerland v Ecuador

June 15 Porto Alegre, 2000: France v Honduras

June 20 Salvador, 2000: Switzerland v France

June 20 Curitiba, 2300: Honduras v Ecuador

June 25 Manaus, 2100: Honduras v Switzerland

June 25 Rio de Janeiro, 2100: Ecuador v France


June 15 Rio de Janeiro, 2300: Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina

June 16 Curitiba, 2000: Iran v Nigeria

June 21 Belo Horizonte, 1700: Argentina v Iran

June 21 Cuiaba, 2300: Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina

June 25 Porto Alegre, 1700: Nigeria v Argentina

June 25 Salvador, 1700: Bosnia-Herzegovina v Iran


June 16 Salvador, 1700: Germany v Portugal

June 16 Natal, 2300: Ghana v United States

June 21 Fortaleza, 2000: Germany v Ghana

June 22 Manaus, 2000: United States v Portugal

June 26 Recife, 1700: United States v Germany

June 26 Brasilia, 1700: Portugal v Ghana


June 17 Belo Horizonte, 1700: Belgium v Algeria

June 17 Cuiaba, 2300: Russia v South Korea

June 22 Rio de Janeiro, 2300: Belgium v Russia

June 22 Porto Alegre, 1700: South Korea v Algeria

June 26 Sao Paulo, 2100: South Korea v Belgium

June 26 Curitiba, 2100: Algeria v Russia


Match 49 - June 28 Belo Horizonte, 1700: Winner A v Runner-up B

Match 50 - June 28 Rio de Janeiro, 2100: Winner C v Runner-up D

Match 51 - June 29 Fortaleza, 1700: Winner B v Runner-up A

Match 52 - June 29 Recife, 2100: Winner D v Runner-up C

Match 53 - June 30 Brasilia, 1700: Winner E v Runner-up F

Match 54 - June 30 Porto Alegre, 2100: Winner G v Runner-up H

Match 55 - July 1 Sao Paulo, 1700: Winner F v Runner-up E

Match 56 - July 1 Salvador, 2100: Winner H v Runner-up G


Match 57 - July 4 Fortaleza, 2100: Winner Match 49 v Winner Match 50

Match 58 - July 4 Rio de Janeiro, 1700: Winner Match 53 v Winner Match 54

Match 59 - July 5 Salvador, 2100: Winner Match 51 v Winner Match 52

Match 60 - July 5 Brasilia, 1700: Winner Match 55 v Winner Match 56


July 8 Belo Horizonte, 2100: Winner Match 57 v Winner Match 58

July 9 Sao Paulo, 2100: Winner Match 59 v Winner Match 60


July 12 Brasilia, 2100


July 13 Rio de Janeiro, 2000