Big Things Have Small Beginnings

It should be noted that if you haven’t seen ‘Prometheus’, you shouldn’t be reading this…at all.

By now, for most of you, the cat is out of the bag. Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to sci-fi has well and truly landed and has thus far split critics and fans right down the middle. To be fair to Scott, I’m fairly sure that this reaction is exactly what he expected, and more to the point, what he had hoped for. There are always going to be haters. Some people even seem to like to hate, because it makes them seem cool, or whatever. Hell, I can almost guarantee that when ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ drops in six weeks time, the first people to turn their noses up at it will be the relentless Nolanophiles who have deconstructed every pixel of every photograph on every website. As discussed in my previous blog regarding ‘Prometheus’, the most anticipated blockbusters are becoming more and more succeptable to an almost unrealistic standard of expectation. While ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ will find it easier to tick people’s boxes for the simple reason that it is the ‘epic conclusion’ to a franchise that is only seven years old, the public reaction (so far) to ‘Prometheus’ can be partially attributed to the fact that this is Scott’s first venture into sci-fi since 1982. Let it be known, I am in no way using that fact as an excuse for anything. In fact, the last thing I want is for this piece to come across as defensive. I’m very much of the mind that the film does just fine speaking for itself.



Prometheus: A victim of it’s own hype?

I hate to refer to the economy to begin a piece, but, in the midst of this ‘double dip’ recession, it seems that more people than usual are turning to their friendly neighbourhood cinema for an experience to make them feel good about themselves. Ironically, this is one of the more expensive routes to happiness, but it has to be noticed that more and more people are going to the cinema regardless of the apparent lack of money that everyone is going on about.

‘The Hunger Games’ is approaching $700 million at the worldwide box-office. ‘The Avengers’ has recently cruised past the $1 billion mark and will only be slowed by a brief MIB3 shaped blockade, and will most probably be almost brought to a halt by ‘Prometheus’ next week. Saying that, the 12A certificate held by ‘The Avengers’ may mean it still draws huge numbers as opposed to the mass-appreciated ’15′ with with ‘Prometheus’ was bold enough to accept. Who’s to say? All I know is that come July 20th, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ will leave all of these films in a very large, loud, Batwing sized wake. All of these massive films in just the first seven months of 2012.

In our efforts to embrace escapism wherever possible though, are these heavy-hitters becoming victims of their own hype? And whose fault is that?



Hungry for more?

I read The Hunger Games trilogy on my kindle. There are many pros to a kindle (I’m able to carry tens of thousands of pages in the weight of a novella, being among them), but there are also inevitable losses. One of those is the lack of cover art and the inability to be able to flick backwards and forwards within the book’s pages to jog memories around names or see how much is left of the chapter.

Other than being mildly inconvenient and less attractive, the other thing this does, in a Roland Barthes-esque way, is destroy pre-conceptions around the book which can be built up from the blurb on the back, the ‘Richard and Judy Book Club’ permanent sticker on the front or the carefully chosen quotes from famous people. Even after reading all three books, I have trouble remembering the author, to be honest. That would be Suzanne Collins, by the way (and also, good name). Take of that what you will – the kindle/e-reader argument is one to be had another day.


TV to Watch: Friday Night Lights

Sky Atlantic had its first anniversary last week, and in that time the channel has shown a wide range of critically acclaimed US shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under and Game of Thrones. Starting on Sky Atlantic tomorrow (14th) is probably my favourite US show of all time (bold statement I know), and that is Friday Night Lights. The show previously aired it’s first two seasons on ITV4 but now you will be able to watch the complete series for the first time in the UK (outside of watching the Region 1 DVDs as I did). Spanning five seasons Friday Night Lights explores the world of high school football in Dillon, Texas; a small town that thrives on football and worships the teenagers that play for the Dillon Panthers. So why should you watch it?

First of all it doesn’t matter if you have zero knowledge or interest in American football. I knew very little about the sport when I started watching the show, and five seasons later I know not much more about the rules of the game. Take it like this; you don’t need to be an expert in drug distribution or police surveillance work to enjoy The Wire and the same goes for the American football backdrop in FNL. It is part of the fabric of the show but it isn’t necessarily the real focus; the community, the kids in the team and family life is what matters here.

Friday Night Lights began as a book that tells the story of a high school team in Odessa, Texas in 1988 that was then adapted for the big screen by Peter Berg in 2004. The film scored an impressive five stars from Empire Magazine but didn’t even make $1 million in the UK (it made $61 million in the US). This is likely through poor distribution thanks to the American sport centric theme and a similar pattern can be seen with the recent baseball movie Moneyball, which despite awards buzz and a big name star with Brad Pitt, only made just over $1 million in the UK (and $75 million in the US). Sports themed movies are a hard sell if the sport isn’t popular, and this is probably why it has taken so long for FNL to properly hit UK screens at primetime. The show struggled for ratings in the US even, despite being a critical darling. It was only in its fifth and final season that the award nominations finally starting coming in, with Kyle Chandler (Super 8, King Kong) winning Best Actor at the 2011 Emmys for his role as Coach Eric Taylor.

At the centre of it all is Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor (Connie Britton -Spin City, American Horror Story) who are one of the best representations of a married couple to grace the screen, big or small. They fight, they laugh, they talk like real people and they also care about their jobs and the kids that they work with. Connie Britton played the role of the coach’s wife in the film Friday Night Lights and didn’t want to initially take the TV role, as her part in the film had been cut to shreds. Creator and director Peter Berg assured her this wouldn’t happen again, and he was correct as Tami Taylor is one of the strongest female characters that TV has ever seen. Coach Taylor is often a man of very few words, but when it comes to inspirational speeches he is king, and they will possibly leave you a little misty eyed.

The show is shot in a somewhat documentarian style, with the first episode really evoking this method. It’s not all shaky cam though so don’t worry about that. It is just something that adds to the realism. Shot on location in Austin, Texas, you get the sense of what this community is like and several of the minor speaking roles are played by non-actors; including the pastor and a jewellery shop owner adding to the authentic Texan feeling.

As it is set in a high school, you would expect a roster of stereotypical characters; the lead quarterback douchebag, the head cheerleader bitch, the bad boy, the arrogant one, the arty one, the one who doesn’t care about football, the slut and the nerd. While elements of all these characters exist, they play on these stereotypical elements; turning them on their head rather than having it as a central characteristic. Certain high school experiences are featured such as first loves won and lost, as well as social issues such as racism, financial woes and abortion. Don’t worry, it’s not an after school special and doesn’t lean towards the preachy.

Will you be watching? Have you seen the show before and want to watch it all over again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday Night Lights begins on Sky Atlantic Tuesday, February 14 at 8pm and you can watch the trailer here.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!”

BAFTA Awards 2012

Thankfully, the commissioners at the BBC finally got their act together and convinced Steven Fry to return to BAFTA hosting duties after a five year sabbatical. Replacing Jonathan Ross (host for the last five years), Fry gave the award ceremony an immediate sense of class and authority, and with Billy Crystal back as Oscars host (a last minute substitute for Eddie Murphy) it looks like this years award shows are keen to at least get some things right.

I know. I’m standing on the border of cliché town but don’t worry, I’m not going to the gift shop and I certainly won’t be buying the T-shirt. Of course, as a disgruntled film studies grad and a multi-award winning film geek, there are going to be some awards that I disagree with and some I down right cannot understand. Having said all that, for the most part, I can at least see the reasoning behind most of the Academy’s choices. For those of you who came here before going to IMDB. Here’s my thoughts on last nights winners and losers. Most news shows today will be regurgitating their post-Golden Globe platitudes as once again, the dominant film of the night by some distance was of course, The Artist.

Jean Dujardin does his best trophy impression


The Descendants Review

Supposedly, George Clooney has wanted to work with Alexander Payne since 2004. Back when Payne was crafting his first Oscar winner Sideways, it’s reported that Gorgeous George declared his interest in the role of Jack. Payne did the unthinkable, rebuffing Clooney in favour of a lesser known actor and the role eventually fell to Thomas Hayden Church. Church knocked it out of the park and went on to collect a well deserved Oscar nomination in the process. Whether or not Clooney could have pipped Morgan Freeman to the 2005 award we’ll never know but, one thing’s for sure, he’s the man to beat in 2011.
happy family

Blu-ray Preview: 23/1/12

Only those closest to me know that my full name is actually Bernard Lewis Raymond Swift. So, when Sony offered to name their latest technological leap after me, I was incredibly flattered. After a brief market scrap with the boringly titled HD DVD, B-Lew-Ray became the dominant HD home entertainment format of choice ,and as prices drop, the format is threatening to overtake DVD as the new standard.

Of course, fifty percent of that last paragraph was bull shit but I promise that what follows will be a combination of facts and personal opinions that will hopefully allow you to optomise your spending in this period of economic crisis. As you might expect, the weeks directly following the festive period tend to be a little thin on the ground regarding big releases but there is at least, this coming week, a vast cocktail of titles coming your way.

“We just come from a bad place.” – a look at Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame’

Over the last few years or so, it seems that the meaning of taboo has gotten lost. For the most part, we have become desensitised to extreme violence and sexual content. Hell, violence is becoming forever sexualised, with sex being occasionally and manipulatively violencised (I’m not the first person on the internet to ever use that word before). And religion? You can pretty much say or depict it in any way you please without hardly offending anyone, it seems. That infamous scene in 1971′s ‘Straw Dogs’ has become entirely socially irrelevant. In fact, not only has it been all but forgotten about, it’s been remade this past year to the sound of little controversy. Where a certain film’s graphic scenes of torture once ignited conversation about how they made us squirm, we all now laugh at the many sequels that followed, praising the most creative ways in which a filmmaker can take a life. So what is left to shock us? What is left to challenge our principles and arouse what is left of our senses?



Jean Dujardin: Is History On His Side?

There’s been substantial debate amongst my peers and I, as to whether or not Jean Dujardin could actually win the Best Actor Oscar. As we await this years nominations it’s safe to say he’s going to be up against it. If the Golden globes are anything to go by he’s likely to be up against five of the biggest names in the business. Whilst Dujardin should walk the Globes only ‘Comedy Musical category’ when the Academy inevitably make their selection from the Globes’ ten, the Frenchman is going to have to userp one of either Clooney, Pitt, DiCaprio, Gosling or Fassbender in order to make the final five. It’s a tough ask but it made me curious about just how often international performances are recognised by the academy. What follows is the fruits of my diligent labour which I have collated for your statistical pleasure.
Dujardin at Cannes


The Artist – Review

It would seem that contemporary Hollywood’s current love affair with the silent era isn’t going away anytime soon. Following on from last years Hugo, a love letter from Scorsese to pioneer Georges Méliès, this weekend sees the release of Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist.
Valentin and Miller


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