Monthly Archives: January 2011

The End Of The World… As We Know It

I think it’s about time for another rant. And such rants start best in the situation that I currently find myself: thoroughly drunk and in a state of mental exhaustion. And what better thing to rant about in such a complete mess that I exhibit at the moment than the end of modern humanity? Oh I wouldn’t worry, it’s not me that is dragging down society, at least not yet. However, let me point you in the direction of Tool Academy (E4, Mondays), a show that genuinely makes me weep for civilization, yet at the same time delivers me from the brink of self-induced torturous oblivion. You see, this is a programme that shows us how awful we all could be, if we put our minds to it.

It would probably make sense now to outline the programme for you all. It’s what most critics would have done halfway through the first paragraph, but forgive me for taking a slightly different stance, I’ve little concept of blog construction at the moment. Tool Academy starts off life as Britain’s Ultimate Lad, where 12 guys are entered into a competition to show who is the most self-important, preening, dopey prick of the bunch. They flex, drink and flirt with all and sundry to assure themselves of the ultimate title: the guy that every other man in Britain wishes he could get away with being.  One ‘lad’, Liam even takes a prospective mate into the mens bathroom on a night out to a strip club to have his way with, protesting his girlfriend isn’t worth that much to him. However, what they do not suspect is that it is their significant others who have entered them into this competition, to show them up as complete idiots, commitment phobes, show-offs,  drinkers, gamblers and any other adjective that would describe these lads-turned-tools. These men must earn a renewed respect from their significant others and be the best HAB (doesn’t sound as culturally significant the other way round, does it?) that they can be to win the grand £25,000 prize. Some of the contestants don’t take this too well, such as Jake, who instantly flies off the handle at all production crew available. Which, to be honest, I’m surprised not to see from many other of the prospective morons.

What makes this programme truly interesting/disgusting is the pattern of relationships that you see within the show. Where Big Brother started as a ‘social experiment’ of putting freaks in a house and watching the sparks fly, Tool Academy furthers by applying the same rules to a set of two morons who happen to be mating. Watching this programme adds a further dimension that BB never could: it not only makes you feel good about yourself, it allows you to look at the people you surround yourself with, and think, “well, at least they’re not complete arses either.’

The real challenge with these programmes is trying to decide which sex comes off worse. You get an extreme close up at the line-up which is designed to repulse you: the guys who drink and get stoned too much, the man who lets his girlfriend do all the work around the house, helpfully signposted with such monikers as, “Stoner Tool” and “Tipsy Tool”, you know, just so you can disassociate these people with actual problems and addictions. Liam becomes “Randy Tool”, in case people might forget that hey, that’s the prick who cheated on his girlfriend. It all kind of reminds me of 1984’s ‘newspeak’.  But before you get to truly judge these men, you get to meet their WAGs, which levels the playing field somewhat. For instance, one woman enrolls her boyfriend because he doesn’t drink, yet he dances, and has a decent relationship with his mother. According to her, it makes him, ‘a bit gay’. Another trusts her fella ‘110 percent’ yet checks his texts for any sign of infidelity. The women on this programme seem to be able to find any single slight problem with their men, and are able to  change them in a way they’d only previously bragged to girlfriends that they could.

While this juxtaposition is still sinking in, you get to see ‘Temper Tool’ Jake once again in full revolution mode, kicking in the door to the girls dorm to demand his girlfriend pack for a trip home. Which never comes. At the end of the first week, two get sent packing. One is too vain and arrogant, the other too obsessed with his football career. However, it only takes a 10 second apology and declaration of love to turn the significant others legs to jelly.

One thing that slightly makes me uncomfortable with this is the fact that we could never flip such a concept on its head, and have a Bitch Academy, where some of the relationship difficulties included; not being up for sex enough, not doing enough housework and putting a career before relationship (all issues raised in Tool Academy). It just all seems a bit too depraved, and however addictive a programme it may seem, we surely can’t be seen to give these people any more self-importance, can we? I mean, I’ll stop watching…after the next episode. I mean, they’ll be doing a lie detector test, and I miss Randy Tool sweating while trying to explain himself to Naive Bitch.


2011 in Film: What To Expect…

For all the great films we’ve had coming out in the past few years, 2011 seems to have a particulary special mix lined up for us. Some look fantastic, some look terrible, some look like pure batshit insanity. But there are several events to look forward to this year.

Particularly for superhero fans, as there are many films of that ilk coming out this year. Because of The Avengers movie being announced for 2012, and the jaw dropping levels of awesome that will bring of itself, some new superheroes need to be brought onto the movie scene to join Iron Man. Thor and Captain America are definitely getting releases this year, and a new Hulk (I know, already?) is being touted for production. Also coming out this year are Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern, and what looks to be an incredibly awful piece of tripe called The Green Hornet starring Seth Rogen.

The Harry Potter franchise is set to finish this year too, and fans who were too lazy to read the books will finally get to see how it all ends. For fans with even less taste and sense, the copycat beginning-of-the-end Twilight saga movie will be coming out, and I hope Mr. Pattinson will soon follow suit, just to disappoint the legion of fans he’s built up.

Fans of Matt Damon will get to see him quite a lot this year, and hear him in some cases, when he narrates Inside Job, a documentary about the recent financial collapse. First though, you get to see him play a disillusioned psychic in Hereafter which, from the looks of the trailer, might make me incredibly angry/nauseous. However, the piece most fans are looking forward to is the Coen brothers remake of True Grit. However, I’d much rather see the 1969 original with John Wayne, before attempting to see Damon portray a cowboy.

Now one cowboy film that must be seen this year, if only to be believed, is Cowboys and Aliens. Which is exactly what the titles suggest: An alien spaecship planning to take over the world lands in the Old West in 1873. I…I actually don’t think anything more needs to be said, it is along the same logic that Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus became so popular.

Other big names coming out this year include Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (a franchise hoping to be more popular now that Bloom and Knightley have departed) and Transformers: The Dark of the Moon (a franchise hoping to keep any semblance of popularity now it has got rid of Megan Fox yet kept Shia Labeouf). Also Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Sherlock Holmes 2. You could almost call it the year of the number 2.

However, what I have gathered you all here today for is to review the new Oscar-tipped sensation, The King’s Speech starring; Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon and Ramona Marquez (a.k.a the little girl from Outnumbered). It follows the story of Prince Albert (Firth), the Duke of York and later to become King George VI (any who consider that a spoiler, learn some damn history), who suffered from speech impediments. The plot follows him and therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) over the course of the several years up until his speech to the nation on the day that war was declared against Germany in 1939.

Before I hear any moans of, ‘Ohhh, not another costume drama’, let me tell you that I am usually doubtful of their merits. Having grown up in a house that welcomes almost any period/costume drama into its bosom on a fairly constant basis, I know of the genre far too well. And it usually seems to me like a fairly easy ratings winner, to adapt a book or event, add Maggie Smith or Judy Dench in a old style dress and watch the ratings roll in.

But The King’s Speech contains as many belly laughs as quite a few comedies coming out in cinema of the past few years. Where I’ve found many period dramas fell stale, this feels fresh and alive. The script is quick and full of witticisms. And the acting should be worthy of at least 3 Academy Award nominations this year. Colin Firth has won much praise and Oscar buzz for his role, and I couldn’t agree more. The stammer he developed for the role reportedly stayed with him for weeks afterwards, and he pulls off a multitude of emotions superbly well. Geoffrey Rush as a supporting actor bounced wonderfully off of Firth and having more than enough quips of his own. The beauty of the story is the therapist making sure he is on a par with the royal, so as to best befriend him, and the chemistry between the two works better than any partenrship I saw in the past decade. And finally a nod should go to Bonham Carter as doting wife to the Prince/King. She plays a quiet role, but the film would undoubtedly be the poorer for it.

So, there is a variety of films for all cinemagoers this year. I have no idea how any of them will turn out, good or bad. So, I can only give you one tip: go see The King’s Speech.

Beyond The Fourth 2010 Awards- Best Actor

Happy New Year!

This next award is one I’ve had brewing for several days, but I decided to take some time off over the new years celebrations. Not only that, but this is an award that I’d found very difficult to decide. I had a clear idea in my head of who I was going to nominate, but what to say about their performances has had me stumped. So here goes, my nominations for Best Actor 2010…

Matt Smith- The Doctor (Doctor Who)

I think it is safe to say that Matt Smith faced the most daunting challenge of any British actor in reent years. Not only stepping into the shoes of a straight-up British institution, nor the fact that he was set to play the youngest Doctor in the series history. But the task that he had of following David Tennant, who was highly commended as the best Doctor since Tom Baker, is almost worthy of a special Biggest Testicles award of its own.

So, how did he do? Surprisingly well, and the secret to his success only becomes more clear when compared to the previous Doctor. Tennant played the role with vibrancy, full of life and energy. Things happened at a hundred miles an hour, most problems had a quick yet complicated solution, and The Doctor was always in control.

The question on every Doctor Who fans lips was therefore, “How can Matt Smith match that?”. The answer was simple: he really couldn’t. Nor was he required to. He played the role a lot gentler than his predecessor, keeping the quirky side (“It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”) In essence, he was the strong silent type to Tennant’s charging madman. And coupled with Moffats excellent dialogue, it worked tremendously.

Benedict Cumberbatch- Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock)

If there’s one actor I’ve been dying to see more of in the past couple of years, it is this man. Not purely for the reason that he has the best name in the business, but his portrayal of Stephen Hawking a few years back had a real impact on me. So I was delighted to see the first trailer of him playing a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Even more so after watching the first episode to see that he had nailed the essence of Sherlock. What people rarely knew about the character was his slightly unpleasant nature, his will to solve puzzles and cases without caring of who the people were. Cumberbatch’s depiction was slightly autistic, a pure logical mind at work, but with enough bravado and linguistic wit to turn it into an emotionally flawed genius. He seems to have a good future ahead of him, with a second series of Sherlock later this year and a part in the new Spielberg movie War Horse, so I can’t wait to see more of him. He was easily the best thing about Sherlock…

WINNER: Andrew Scott- Jim Moriarty (Sherlock)

…until this guy shows up. Despite only having 5 minutes of screen time in a series that was 3 hours long, he managed to steal the pivotal, most memorable moment of the series. In complete contrast to Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, Scott overacted the part of Moriarty to the extreme, as evidenced in this clip of their showdown at the end of the series.

I really don’t have much else to say about this nominee. I kind of hoped the clip would say it all. Amazing.

Iwan Rheon- Simon (Misfits)

As a group, the Misfits cast are called upon more than others to say and do the weirdest things. What most young actors would baulk at, Robert Sheehan and Lauren Socha in particular seem to take in their stride. In fact, it is hard to recall a scene where Nathan (Sheehan) is not spouting an extremely offensive monologue while simulating various sexual acts. But when required to be emotional and serious, they do a very good job of it. And no-one more so than Iwan Rheon, who plays invisibility prone loser Simon. The second series allowed him to branch out in terms of personality from someone who played a very quiet and minor role, into what some people would say to be the spearhead of the group. Although as a character Nathan is much more watchable, louder, brasher and funnier, the performance by Rheon keeps the whole thing ticking and makes each episode, in terms of a plot, thoroughly worth returning to.

So, those are my nominations for Best Actor, and while I’m sure there were excellent actors in period dramas such as Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs, it is the performances you remember that are always the special ones.