Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Doctor Who - Deep Breath (S08E01)


Last year was a pretty immense one for Doctor Who. It marked its fiftieth anniversary with the huge spectacle of "The Day of The Doctor", then had to say goodbye to Matt Smith, who left the series after three seasons. It was bittersweet because he was so great in the role and it was sad to see him go, but also because, as good as he was, it felt like he could have been even better if the show around him had been more audacious. Under head writer Steven Moffat, the show had lost the inconsistency that plagued its earlier years under Russell T. Davies, but it rarely hit the same heights that it reached when it was taking big, crazy risks that didn't always pay off. It didn't become boring, but it did lose its unpredictability, particularly as it tried to become more serialised in its storytelling, often at the expense of making good individual episodes of television.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Film Review: Cheap Thrills (2013)


The question at the heart of Cheap Thrills, the debut feature of director E.L. Katz, is a relatively simple one: If pushed, what are people capable of doing for money? In that respect, it feels like the darker, dirtier cousin to Adrian Lyne's Indecent Proposal, but instead of depicting a situation in which a billionaire pays a million dollars to sleep with another man's wife, Cheap Thrills shows what happens when people are so desperate that they'll do anything to pay the rent, no matter how violent or disturbing.

Film Review: Magic in the Moonlight (2014)


It's unfortunate that the plot of Magic in the Moonlight, the latest film from Woody Allen, has the slapdash, I-must-make-a-film-every-year-so-to-hell-with-second-drafts quality that has come to typify some of his recent works. This is not necessarily because the film is bad - it's a perfectly diverting and delicate trifle that gets by on gorgeous scenery and a handful of insanely charismatic actors - but because its effervescent surface hides one of Allen's most intellectually curious films in years, one that addresses death, religion and the afterlife in a way that suggests that these ideas are preying on Allen's mind more and more as he inches closer to his 80th birthday.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shot/Reverse Shot: Knowing Too Much


Inspired by a recent viewing of Escape From Tomorrow, a psychological horror film which was filmed in secret in several Disney theme parks, Joe and I decided to talk about the issues that arise from knowing too much about how a film was made. This includes positive examples - Escape From Tomorrow likely wouldn't have received half the attention it did without its backstory, and the appeal of Richard Linklater's Boyhood is tied directly to its unique process - and negative ones, such as the way in which film blogs and websites pick apart troubled productions and generate negative buzz long before a film ever sees release. It's a fun discussion that we'll no doubt revisit in the future, since studios revealing too much about their films is not a problem that will go away any time soon.

Note: There are some audio issues with this episode stemming from a problem with my microphone, so I apologise in advance for the background buzz throughout. It's not so bad as to make the episode unlistenable, but I'll try to make sure the issue doesn't occur in future.

As always, you can stream the podcast using the link below, or preferably (from our point of view) you can subscribe using iTunes. If you choose the later, please rate it and leave a review because it helps us to get more listeners, and also gives us something to obsess over. Speaking of which, you can also Like us on Facebook, assuming that you do.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Shot/Reverse Shot: Marvel


This weekend saw the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest wildly successful blockbuster from Marvel Studios. To mark the occasion, Joe and I went to see the film - sadly not together, because that would have involved international travel - and then sat down to discuss the film, as well as to have a broader conversation about what Marvel has achieved since the first Iron Man was released back in 2008.

The episode is very light on plot details about Guardians of the Galaxy, so if you haven't seen the film yet the episode won't spoil it for you. However, we do talk a little bit about the post-credits scenes from 10:40 to 16:10, so if you haven't seen the film please feel to skip ahead during that portion of the show.

As always, you can stream the podcast using the link below or preferably (from our point of view) you can subscribe using iTunes. If you choose the latter, please rate it and leave a review because it helps us to get more listeners, and also gives us something to obsess over. Speaking of which, you can also Like us on Facebook, assuming that you do.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)


The Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU as all the cool kids are calling it, exists in a curious dual state. Within the broader ecosystem of blockbuster cinema, it's a uniquely ambitious attempt to replicate the breadth of storytelling on display in Marvel's comics; a shared fictional world in which dozens of superheroes, gods and aliens coexist and flit between each others' stories. Within its own ecosystem, however, the films are weirdly risk-averse. They conform to a rigid plot structure, they don't make much room for personal expression on the part of the directors - with the notable exceptions of Kenneth Branagh's canted angles in the first Thor and Shane Black's narrative trickery in Iron Man 3 - and they have a uniformity of tone that makes them feel consistent, but rarely surprising. The latest addition to the canon, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, in some ways feels like Marvel's first step into a larger world, while also reinforcing the notion that, as far as the studio are concerned, formula is king.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Shot/Reverse Shot: The Alternate 100 - Part 3


We're really cooking with gas now. As we speed through the Shot/Reverse Shot Alternate 100, we talk about Hollywood's historical and contemporary squeamishness when it comes to depicting inter-racial relationships, the ephemeral and symbiotic relationship between a director and a composer, and take time to share our weird, disparate memories of the year 1997, and how they may or may not relate to visions of past dystopias.

As always, you can stream the podcast using the link below, or preferably (from our point of view) you can subscribe using iTunes. If you choose the later, please rate it and leave a review because it helps us to get more listeners, and also gives us something to obsess over. Speaking of which, you can also Like us on Facebook, assuming that you do.

Film Review: A Most Wanted Man (2014)


John le Carré's fiction is marked by a key contrast between his methodical plotting and the sweaty desperation of his characters. The spies that populate his novels are often middle-managers trying to achieve a small victory in a conflict in which they no longer believe, and who sacrifice their chance to be a whole person in the pursuit of a greater good. They live only half a life by agreeing to look through the windows of people living their own. One of the reasons that Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold remains the definitive feature film adaptation of le Carré's work is that it manages to create an air of tragic inevitability, a sense that there are forces at work that will crush the characters no matter what they do, while also imbuing its characters with a faint yet potent belief that maybe they'll be the ones to escape a situation that has already claimed so many lives.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Film Review: Begin Again (2013)


Writer-director John Carney had a surprise hit in 2007 with his lovely, lo-fi romance Once, in which a man and a woman (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) fall in love while composing music together. It was a thoroughly charming and winning story - one that was given extra resonance when the two leads fell in love in real life and toured together as The Swell Season - that felt like a scruffy, raw debut album, the kind that people fall madly in love to. If Once was Carney's "Funeral", then Begin Again is his "Neon Bible"; a slicker, more polished sophomore effort that has much the same romanticism that its predecessor had, but lacks that sense of intimacy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Film Review: Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)


Making a film is such a difficult, complicated process that it's a wonder most films get made at all. So many things can (and often do) go wrong at every stage of production, from last-minute changes in casting to loss of financing, that if you were to compare the number of films that were successfully made since the dawn of cinema to the number of films that weren't, the second number would be vastly larger than the first. As such, there are literally thousands of "what if" scenarios out there of films that could have existed but, for one reason or another, never came to fruition. Whether it's Orson Welles' Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola's Megalopolis, or Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the central appeal of these films remains the same: An unfulfilled promise that we can imagine, sometimes aided by storyboards or test footage, but will never see properly realised.

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