Weekly Roundup (10/2/13)

Okay, hands up…I missed a week. My excuse is that last week I dedicated an evening to watching the SuperBowl, I had a big deadline that I had to meet (more on that in the next few weeks) and I also started a new job. The new job is pretty exciting – I’m on a 4-week temporary contract with Film4.com, so hopefully you’ll start to see some of my work there too if all goes well. Anyway, that all means that I have a fortnight of stuff to catch up on, but I’ll try and blast through it fairly quickly, otherwise I could be here until next week.

Suburgatory

Right, TV stuff. So 30 Rock ended, Community  returned, and I blasted through the first season of Suburgatory too for good measure. The latter’s a show that I became interested in when it played on E4, mostly because I fancied the pants off its lead actress, Jane Levy. Turns out the show is legitimately pretty good though, if not for its generic plotlines but for its strong ensemble cast. Levy and Jeremy Sisto have great chemistry as the father-daughter leads, while the likes of Cheryl Hines and Alan Tudyk are relentlessly good fun – and the only characters I’m not really on board with are the friends, Lisa and Malik. Like I said it’s not always groundbreaking plot-wise, but I like the central idea for the show and it excels whenever it peers through Tessa’s (Levy) mask of maturity and shows her for the vulnerable young girl she is. I’m really looking forward to catching up with Season 2 now.

Community S04E01

As for Community, well it came back but it didn’t come back the same. The first episode felt like a fan-made episode, but from an incredibly well-connected fan who’d managed to get all the real cast members involved. The sitcom deconstruction thread was still there, except without the deconstruction bit, and crucially the episode fell short of Dan Harmon’s Community in both the intelligence and humour departments. Here’s hoping it improves as it goes on, but it now seems likely that the show I loved has gone forever. 

30 rock

30 Rock ended, and I’m glad it did. That’s not because the show was no longer funny, far from it – the final season was arguably the show’s best and a huge improvement on the two or three that preceded it. But had it not been the show’s final season I think it would have continued on at that standard – average episodes of a formerly great sitcom that still happened to be peppered with the odd amazing gag here and there. What we got instead was a near flawless 13-episode season with a perfectly judged, poignant yet reliably silly final episode. These truly were the best days of my flerm.

flight

Right, let’s get onto the movies. This could have been a rather fallow section had I actually written a blog last week, but now it’s a veritable feast. From the films released on February 1st I’ve actually only seen Flight (Cineworld West India Quay, Screen 9) but I found it pretty interesting. It’s certainly flawed; the soundtrack is way too on the nose, the Kelly Reilly subplot could be removed entirely and it wouldn’t change the film a jot, and it’s nothing if not predictable. Denzel’s brilliant (although he’ll still be lining up behind Day-Lewis and Phoenix on Oscar night) and he completely sells his character’s plight. The plane crash sequence is utterly compelling, in fact it’s so staggeringly good that the rest of the film never had a hope of matching it, except for maybe the bits with John Goodman who steals scenes with ease. For me though it was just great seeing Robert Zemeckis directing live action again. I love the way he constantly moves his camera (but always with a purpose) and the way he seamlessly incorporates CGI to the point where it becomes invisible. If Flight is the catalyst that spurs a new wave of Zemeckis-directed features then I’ll forgive it all its faults. And for a Flight bonus, check out this month’s Empire magazine where I have a little sidebar about whether any major airlines would show the film on their in-flight entertainment system. 

Wreck-It Ralph

One of this week’s new releases I actually saw as far back as November last year, and that was Wreck-It Ralph (Empire Leicester Square, Screen 1). Now anyone who calls this a return to form for Disney must be straight tripping, or they obviously haven’t seen either the excellent The Princess and the Frog, or the even more excellent Tangled. Wreck-It Ralph is good, but it isn’t a patch on either of those. I whole-heartedly agree with Robbie Collin’s points that the film’s arcade setting is decades out of date and that there’s very little going on beneath the surface, and I personally also had a real problem with the middle act (which happens to be entirely set in the Sugar Rush game) when the pace lags and the focus shifts away from Ralph. Visually I felt it was all a little sub-Pixar, and even as a non-gamer I felt it didn’t have as much fun with its video game references as it could have. It’s still enormously good fun though, and the final act definitely redeems the second as it ties up all the strands of the plot satisfactorily, but I couldn’t help but feel it was somewhat of a wasted opportunity as a whole. I’m sure there will be a sequel, and if there is then there’s every chance we’ll get something much better when the exposition is shunned and Disney can dive straight into the storytelling. 

warm-bodies

I’ll briefly talk about Hitchcock (Cineworld West India Quay, Screen 10). The film’s biggest crime is how dull it makes one of cinema’s most fascinating directors, and similarly the story of him directing one of cinema’s most fascinating films. Hopkins isn’t great, but even if he was you wouldn’t be able to tell under all those prosthetics. It’s not awful, but it’s crushingly pedestrian and that’s frankly unacceptable given the subject matter. Finally, I caught Warm Bodies (Cineworld O2, Screen 10) which was fun and sweet-natured, if a little inconsequential. I really wish Jonathan Levine had committed to established zombie lore a little more, and hadn’t started off with his zombies being as human as they were. I’m surprised I liked it as much as I did, but I think what won me over was just how good-natured it was and that I liked pretty much every principal cast member, and that made up for some of the many illogical plot conceits.

IGIAY-17:5:12-GK_01658.RAW

I also attended screenings this week for Maniac and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, but I’ll be publishing reviews of those elsewhere at a later date. One film that I reviewed elsewhere was released this week though, so head over to HeyUGuys and read my review of I Give It A Year (Odeon West End, Screen 1).  

You can actually also see some additional stuff from me regarding a couple of those movies over at HeyUGuys. I interviewed Teresa Palmer and Nic Hoult about Warm Bodies (they weren’t my questions though – I was filling in for Dave who was snowed in on the day), and as you’ll see from the video I was a bit ill at the time, and I think the risk of infection freaked them out a bit. Luckily I wasn’t ill for my other interviews with some of the talent behind I Give It A Year. You can watch my interview with director Dan Mazer and also my interview with Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall by doing some diligent link-clicking, and during the latter I manage to congratulate Spall on his penis!

Being back working has meant that I’m not writing as much for The Playlist (I’m down to one piece a day), but here’s what I have written about for them over the last two weeks: Lizzy Caplan, Michael Keaton, Lily Collins and Sam Claflin, The Chaperone, About Time, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, some music videos, Silicon Valley, Terence Stamp, Zoe Bell in Django, Dancing on the Edge, Hatfields & McCoys, Cobie Smulders and The Oscars.

That’s it for this week, and things should be back to normal next week. Oh, and before I forget, you should totally check out the podcast that I present. It’s called Raging Bullshit and it’s awesome. Subscribe at http://raging.libsyn.com/ or search ‘raging’ on iTunes. If you’re a filmy person then we’d love to have you on as a guest too, so just tweet me. 

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