Monday, 29 December 2014

Boardwalk Empire Series Finale : A climactic trip to Nucky Thompson's past creates no paradox

Last night I saw the last episode of Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese's trip into cable TV via the history of Prohibition and Atlantic City - and rather frustratingly it ends so well you want to go right back to the start and watch all five series again.

Thompson gets a glimpse of the future but never escapes his past
I had thought from from fairly early on that compared to the other classic American cable TV Boardwalk Empire is a bit 2nd division, in that generally it coasts along in a fairly low gear compared to the classic material. It seems to have characters and subplots that are completely superfluous and go nowhere, unlike say it's closest contemporaries, The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad. None of those classic shows for example have room for a character like Boardwalk Empire's Van Alden who seems to wander aimlessly from one identity to another.

With it's final and fifth series Boardwalk Empire had leaps forward a decade into the 1930s to show all the characters dealing with the FBI crackdown and the effects of Wall Street Crash of 1929. At that same time we are shown flashbacks to the 1880s and 1890s showing Nucky Thompson's early life and career as an up and coming Sheriff in the seaside resort becoming Atlantic City. We seen young Nucky's desperation to escape his surroundings, and how that desperation sets up the monstrous personal conflicts in the first two series.

Where Deadwood and Martin Scorsese's own Gangs of New York depict the imposition of a corrupt governing apparatus over a lawless America, and the Sopranos and The Wire show how criminal networks operate smoothly alongside the government, Boardwalk Empire fits neatly in between, showing the creation of the criminal networks, supercharged by the madness of Prohibition. In effect Steve Buschemi's Nucky Thompson starts as a version of Ian McShane's bar owner from Deadwood, and finds himself by the end reluctantly forced to compete with the likes of Tony Soprano.

And "reluctantly" is one of the standouts from the others here, made all the more impressively obvious from the series finale. I won't give away any spoilers but the reason behind Nucky Thompson's series long disillusionment and disengagement from his business and family is, at the series climax, laid bare in a way that casts nearly all of the characters from the show in a new light. One of the delights of Deadwood is that it plays with your expectations of who is the 'hero' right from the start. Boardwalk Empire does the same, but it only becomes apparent at it's very end.

I wondered in a previous post if Breaking Bad would end well compared to other series finales. I thought the happy ending of Breaking Bad was a barely believable moral cop-out and easily the worst thing about the entire series. Not long after saw the end of Hugh Laurie's House M.D. and thought pretty much the same. Much as I love the end of Sopranos part of it's shock is the moral ambiguity.

So this.. "look ! surprise! bad guy doesn't get come-comeuppance!" series ending is getting pretty stale for me.
In direct contrast the end of Boardwalk Empire elevates it into one of the best.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


see below
This is 'live read' of a script against a movie by live actors, in this case a version of Empire Strikes Back with some great casting, including Stephen Merchant as C3PO and Aaron Paul as Luke.

Sounds like a lot of fun.

But what the world really needs now is a similar live read but of Team America : World Police, and not just with recasting the characters..
(For characters I'm thinking Sir Anthony Hopkins as Spottiswood, and maybe Aaron Paul again as Gary)

But how about getting the actual FAG actors lampooned in the movie to do their own voices? Alec Baldwin would probably gnaw his arm off to play himself.. Michael Moore..
And Matt.. Damon..

Come on who doesn't want to see that?

Noone apart from the obvious - and that's why it should happen.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Let's all watch The Interview on Christmas Day

A lot lot better than critics are saying. A room full of others agreed it is the best Seth Rogan movie by a distance, and the James Franco character is a fantastically entertaining twit right up there with Burgundy and Zoolander. For those worried about the politics it is best summed up as this; 
there are North Korean bad guys and North Korean good guys but nearly all of the Americans are idiots. Rogan and Franco deserve a lot more credit for what is a pretty funny and entertaining parody of FROST/NIXON - shame for them it is stolen from under them by Vancouver's own Diana Bang, playing insane hot and hilarious North Korean Colonel Sook.

The North Korean hack on Sony is a rare bit of good international news and we should treasure it.

I've just heard they've actually taken The Interview from release, as a response to threats from North Korean hackers. That is - I think -  much worse for Sony's security, as every other hacker on the planet (particularly the ones who don't like North Korea) will now be after that movie. In fact every torrent client in the planet will be downloading that on the planet in about a week - and apparently it's not a bad movie.

Why don't we all make it a highlight of our Christmas viewing? maybe after the Queens Speech (about 3pm GMT for those who don't know)

Other reasons to be jolly -

On an artistic level Sony are suggesting this is so embarrassing to them they will sell the studio. Andrew Garfield is the only decent thing about recent Sony pictures, but everyone knows this, suggesting this is even good for Sony's (current) Spiderman.

Even on a hacking level this is probably good news - the North Koreans are probably using loads of "one use spells" that Chinese hackers have been saving up to use against the West for years.

Thanks Santa, you're awesome
(but remember to change your password later to a passphrase with 16 characters and letters)

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Jaine Fenn at Bombay Sapphire Distillery

A few days after seeing William Gibson at the British Film Institute, I found Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series, at recently opened steampunk splendour of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.

I highly recommend this place before it turns into a tourist trap.

Jaine (left) swooped in with quite a talented collection of fellow gin connoisseurs including musicians, fellow Gollancz writers such as Alex Bell (The Ninth Circle on the right above) and one of Jaine's science SMEs, Liz The Chemist, who was kind enough to give me a lift.

This, Python fans, is a juniper bush. During the tour we get to experience various slightly wierd gin ingredients before selecting them...

.. to become part of a cocktail constructed later 
My favourite gin cocktail turns out to be -  Aviation

In fact - don't go there. I like it just the way it is.

Monday, 1 December 2014

If only American war movies were so honest

This made me laugh - probably accidental comment on Italian ("macaroni combat")World War
II  movies on wikipedia 

The red highlight is mine

Note to self - watch Eagles over London

Shock horror - new Imperial Stormtrooper is B.. British

Anyone reading some of the comments on the Star Wars trailer would have been pretty shocked to read allusions to riots in Ferguson and fried chicken.. (I spotted them first - depressingly - on the ailing aintitcoolnews)

In response to that this is a good article - Of Course There Are Black Stormtroopers in Star Wars

It alludes to one slightly overlooked stereotype in Star Wars -
"Everyone we meet in the Imperial officer corps, for example—the chain of commanders that Darth Vader is always Force-choking out—is white (and seemingly British)."

So having established the Imperial officer class is British the VII trailer reveals that at least one of the Stormtroopers is as well. Aside from the race thing... and lets not forget Chiwetel Ejiofor as  a posh British Imperial officer in Joss Whedon's "Serenity"... it is entirely consistent.

Most obvious Imperial villainy in movies for last 40 years has had a a massive Union Jack on it all the way through and there has never been a peep about it over here (Nothing like say, The Patriot).
Nearly 20 years after we handed Hong Kong back - it's just nice to be noticed.

In all seriousness if Max Von Sydow (Swedish) turns out to be an Imperial officer this is obviously further dispersing the racial/national stereotypes set previously. It's almost as if someone has given this some thought.

If you look at the the back of the suit incidentally- I think Boyega is a TIE pilot, probably shot down in battle with the Falcon in the trailer. So look out for more fuss when it turns out the black guy is more than just a grunt.

And one more shout out for Attack The Block.  It is kind of like watching the original version of The Blob with Steve McQueen, it's an ingenious, fresh, fun movie lit up by a star obviously on the way to bigger things.