The superhero comedy Thunder Force has just arrived on Netflix! It’s a spoof with plenty of laugh out loud moments. My favourite riff was the star-crossed romance between the bad-guy Crab (Jason Bateman is a half-creant (not a half-Korean!) with the arms of a crab) and the Melissa McCarthy character – they go on a date to a fancy restaurant and the waiter recommends the seafood platter before realising his terrible mistake.
Basically, Miscreants are superpowered baddies who are making everyone’s lives a misery. Cosmic rays gave powers to all those with a pathological gene, you see. A ‘normal’ kid (later played by Octavia Spencer) loses her parents because of Miscreants, and swears to become a geneticist one day, so she can create ‘normal’ superheroes to punish the Miscreants. Her best friend at school is a body-positive girl (later played by Melissa) who can more than handle the male bullies.
Cut to the chase: our friends become superheroes and then have to take on the Miscreants! That’s all the plot the film needs, and has really. But that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in anyway. The gender politics of the film are well handled without ever being too shouty. The flaws of our lead characters ring true. And Melissa turns in one of her best performances to date, tbh. The whole thing is refreshing and life-affirming. WATCH IT. It scores a heartfelt 8 out of 10 from me.
Well, I watched the first three episodes of The Terror on the BBC. That seems like giving it a fair crack, really. It certainly breaks the ice. LOL. It tells the historical tale of the ill-fated British ships named The Erebus and The Terror which sought to discover the North-west Passage back in the 1840s. This puts us in mind of one of the key sub-plots of the novel Frankenstein, of course. We are expecting some sort of monstrous horror from the off, therefore.
One of the producers is Ridley Scott, so it should have some chops, right? Well, the setting in the icy wastes is convincingly done. The costuming and the claustrophobic life on the ships is beautifully evocative of the era. The dialogue is interesting and engaging, and the internal politics are diverting, and they do build a sense of tension. The cast is top-notch. So what’s not to like?
Sadly, this series provides us with its own spoilers right from the beginning. It states several times over in the opening sequence that everyone ends up dying or disappearing. And the start of the second episode makes sure to hammer it home yet again. Therefore, we’re just sat waiting to see each of the characters die in a fairly anti-climactic manner. The episodes do try to create ‘spooky’ moments that cannot be rationalised, but then we understand that there’s just a big polar bear on the loose and killing everyone. Oh. So what? The polar bear might be controlled by a vengeful Inuit. So what? But the manner of the deaths seems poetic and symbolic of the individual’s own sins punishing them. Yeah. So what? AND WHERE’S THE TERROR IN ANY OF THIS?
Sheesh. What a waste of time and money. The series would have done far better to get writers who understand the plot-beats and mechanics of horror. I really wouldn’t bother with the show if I were you. But that’s just my opinion.
Back when David Tennant was the Doctor, there was a rather superior episode in which human DNA was spliced with Dalek DNA – giving us an awesome hybrid. The episode was full of fresh ideas, intrigue and potential, and entitled ‘Evolution of the Daleks’. Yesterday (New Year’s Day), the BBC gave us an episode called ‘Revolution of the Daleks’, in which the same ideas were retrodden, but without any of the original freshness, intrigue or potential. It was a veeery tired episode, in truth. There was a lack of complexity in the plot: it was simply a journey from A to B, with zero surprises along the way. The sound mixing was utterly awful, as if the sound people involved had fallen asleep on the job, or got bored and drifted away to do something more interesting. It was nearly impossible to catch anything the Daleks were saying – because there was just crashing, dramatic music drowning everything out. No wonder this was the episode in which Bradley Walsh and the character of Ryan decided to bow out – shrugging and explaining to the Doctor that they had better things to do. And the Doctor herself was at a loss throughout, too. She was having an identity crisis along the lines of ‘Hasn’t all this happened before? And wasn’t it better the first time round? Why have I become so much less than I was? I’m lost. Who am I?’
Were there any saving graces at all? Hmm. The narrative about Daleks needing the DNA ‘purity’ of a master-race, even if they’re exterminating some of their own ‘offspring’, and the Trumpian American businessman, not to mention the ‘security’ obsessed British PM, gave us a very hammy flavour of social comment… but nothing too insightful really. And there wasn’t any mention of covid, so it all felt a bit ‘out of date’, ‘past its sell-by date’, ‘lost in time’, etc, when the Doctor is meant to be timeless! At least the Doctor’s assistant Yaz should at last get some decent screen time and character development in future episodes, now she’s not being eclipsed by Bradley. Indeed, the overtones of a possible lesbian relationship between the Doctor and Yaz might at least offer some surprises.
A drunk Australian mercenary (Chris Hemsworth), grieving for the loss of his son, is paid to go out to Bangladesh to play ‘white saviour’ and recover the kidnapped son of a drug lord. That’s it. That’s the whole plot. The End. Is it a spoiler to tell you what is pretty much the logline?
Okay, there are good reasons to watch this film. A lot of Indian and Bangladeshi talent (direction, actors and stunt-people) have gone into this movie, and it’s refreshing to see a ‘different’ way of making a movie. It’s interesting that you don’t need a massively convoluted plot if you have some decent motifs, thoughtful scenes, and well choreographed sequences. There is something refreshingly innocent or honest – rather than tiredly cynical – about it. Indeed, this movie is honest enough to show us the true poverty, squalor and street-gangs of Dhaka. (Okay, it might be a touch cleaned up/sanitised for western audiences – I don’t actually know.)
It would be easy to complain that I needed sub-titles to watch this movie… cos Hemsworth completely grunts his way thru this movie. I had no trouble understanding the Indian and Bangladeshi actors, by contrast. It would be easy to say that the shooting of hundreds upon hundreds of corrupt soldiers and police got boring after an hour or so. It would be easy to point out that the silly revenge moment at the end of the movie could have happened at the start and spared us having to sit through hours of murder and mayhem. But that would be to distract from the few saving graces that the movie had.
If you’re struggling for something to watch during the lockdown, you might want to watch this movie, although it’s very dissatisfying in many ways. It scores an understanding 6 out of 10 from me.
Started watching the new metaphysical fantasy series on Netflix: Warrior Nun. I want to hate it, but I can’t… cos the plotting is pretty tight (based on a Canadian combic book, init), the tempo is high, it understands its genre ‘beats’, there are moral dilemmas and problems to solve, and there’s just enough character development for us to care. Plus: it’s got some freshly original ideas in it. Oh and it’s easy on the eye! That’s a pretty good set of ingredients, all told.
Basically, there’s a Catholic order of female templar knights whose job it is to retrieve holy artefacts so that they don’t fall into the hands of demons and unleash hell. But the lead knight dies in an ambush and her power (her ‘halo’) has to be hidden, in a desperate moment, in the body of an incidental dead girl. Unexpectedly, the halo resurrects the girl and she goes out to enjoy her newfound life… with the forces of both good and evil out to claim her as their own. Neat, eh? It works philosophically and politically.
Watch the first episode and think ‘hmm, alright’. Watch the second and think ‘heh, this is getting quite good’. It scores a respectable 8 out of 10 from me.
Some critics have said that you can’t spoof Eurovision because it’s already so self-aware that it’s a satire of itself. Those critics are nitwits. Let me tell you: if you like anything about Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams or Eurovision, you’ll love this movie, and you’re guaranteed to cry like a baby at the end (unless you are hard-hearted, in which case you don’t like Eurovision anyway). The thing that works so well about the film is that the humour is affectionate rather than spiteful, and the film absolutely gets the ‘spirit’ of Eurovision.
Ferrell and McAdams play two musical Icelanders from a small fishing village who are obsessed with making it in Eurovision. They make offerings to the local elves, they play weddings to perfect their skills, and they suffer the mockery of everyone they know (including Pierce Brosnan, who wonderfully plays the role of Ferrell’s long-suffering father). The head of the Icelandic bank is dead-set on Iceland never winning Eurovision (as it will bankrupt the country and reveal he’s been syphoning off funds), so he sees to it that the worst possible Icelandic band wins the national competition: Ferrell and McAdams (who are the band ‘Fire Saga’), by hook and by crook, therefore win through the nationals and make it to the semi-finals in Edinburgh. Enter the conniving Russian act (played superbly by Dan Stevens, with his entry song ‘Lion of Love’) looking to split up our romantically innocent Icelandic couple!
What more could you want? Oh, yes. Costumes. Check. Cheese. Check. Extreme camp. Check, darlings, check! Look, it’s the most watched movie in the world right now (making Netflix very happy), and there’s a good reason for that. The lockdown really isn’t that much fun, and this movie reminds us that we might just have fun again one day.
Like the Amazon Prime show Alex Rider, Hanna tells the tale of a super-teen who has been abused and/or experimented upon by society (i.e. mean adults, the older generation, etc). The Hanna series is based upon the 2011 cult movie of the same name, so has tight plotting, just like Alex Rider (based on the Horowitz novels). Why is there a proliferation of series like this? Well, it’s the state of the world today, isn’t it? Who’d wanna be a teen in the modern era? Not me. It’s either a) become an unfeeling monster to survive or b) end up exploited and collateral damage. Bleak?
You bet. Bleak. But it makes these shows relevant, insightful and important. It exposes the brutalisation of youth (the key theme of the dystopian YA genre)… and there is still a dash of hope to be found. Our young protagonists, by hook or by crook, manage to survive while still holding on to their humanity. So it’s not all doom and gloom. Thank goodness for that. Hanna has great action sequences, touching humour, heart and… deep, deep understanding. Definitely worth a watch. 8.5 out of 10.
Once more Amazon Prime shows Netflix how it’s done. Get yourself a top notch author (e.g. Anthony Horowitz) of fantasy, thrillers or whatever, take their brilliant novel(s) and turn them into a TV series. Easy, right? You’d think. Yet Netflix still believes that getting themselves hack scriptwriters who really don’t have the craft or genre-knowledge required to write a quality fantasy or thriller novel will result in a great TV show: meaning we end up with utter junk like Bright, The Dark Crystal travesty, etc.
And I was ready to hate the Alex Rider series. Well, it’s YA, isn’t it? A cheap knock-off of James Bond. But my nephews and niece like the novels, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And wow! It’s tightly-plotted, superbly acted (well done Otto Farrant, not to mention Vicky McLure), veeery inner city London, init, masterfully directed, properly multicultural and refreshingly cheeky (in the style of Kingsman, if you’ve seen that). Honestly, do yourself a favour and start watching it today, even if you have to pay the evil of Amazon for the privilege. This is one deal with the devil that it would be sinful not to take up.
Fans of The Good Place and the Matt Damon movie Downsizing will love Upload. It’s got some lovely near-future ideas in it, intelligently balancing the potential positives with the satirically dystopian, and serves up ten tightly-plotted half-hour episodes. I know people who watched all ten episodes back-to-back!
An app developer called Nathan (played by Robbie Amell) is in a driverless car accident and dying. Fortunately, his rich girlfriend is on hand to offer him a digital afterlife – if he’ll just sign here so his consciousness can be uploaded. Against his better judgement, he wakes up to find himself in the hotel of Lake View – a sort of eternal hotel full of awful people. He realises that the afterlife is effectively a prison. But how can he escape the machine? Is there a way to be downloaded back into a living body? And why does he have particular gaps in his memory.
He finds there are precious few ‘people’ he can trust. He has a ‘handler’ who seems nice, although she’s employed by the owners of the Lake View app/digital platform. He’s monitored at all times. And everything seems ‘loaded’ against him.
Sounds dark, right? Actually, it’s very funny and bitter sweet. They’ve got the tone and sense of wonder spot on. Amazon Prime, you’re really leaving Netflix for dead at the mo. During lockdown, the big stuff I’ve been watching has been the Bosch new series, all the series of Elementary and now Upload. I’ve not switched on Netflix in ages. Upload is a 9.9/10 for me.
A ship of mercenary police called the Judoon turn up and surround Gloucester. And start killing grannies, as you do – their knitting needles are classed as weapons, you see. The Judoon are space rhinos who have been tasked with finding a particular fugitive for their client.
Captain Jack Harkness then comes bobbing through with warning of a lone cyberman – in an episode yet to come.
And Jodie is fretting about the Master – who’s still out there somewhere.
A black tour guide called Ruth turns out to be who the Judoon are looking for, but her bio-shield allows her to avoid the scans and escape with the Doctor. Turns out (spoiler)… Ruth believes she’s the Doctor (a bit like ‘the black slayer Kendra in Buffy moment’). And Ruth has her own TARDIS. Jodie-Whittaker-as-Doctor gets all confused, believing Ruth to be a future version of herself, but Ruth says she has no memory at all of Jodie-as-Doctor.
There seems to be a split in the timeline. In Jodie’s timeline, Gallifrey has been destroyed… but not in Ruth’s. And the mysterious ‘client’ who’s after Ruth is from Gallifrey!
And that’s the episode. It comes at you from all angles. There are twists and turns – but remains coherent (mainly). It’s the best episode of the series by a good chalk. There are jokes, some terrible acting, the Doctor (Ruth) knowingly using a gun to kill someone, and more. It all works! Hurrah!