The Good People of London Fallen

Just as “bourbon and poor choices” led Mike Banning to become the secret service super machine, beer and poor choices led us to late night Netflixs and London has Fallen.

If you saw the first instalment, the second is no surprise. A forgein guy (with religious and ideological issues tastefully removed) had a revenge plot against western civilisation. He didn’t throw the first punch, he probably says in a delicately accented voice, but he is going to change the world forever. Errr…probably not.

The film isn’t going to win any awards, except biggest fearmongering effort of the year or lamest sequel since every other lame sequel. What is most interesting is the good people of London. By good, I mean obedient and invisible.

London is a backdrop, a stage prop that falls into place behind the actors and does very little apart from having a number of recognisable landmarks that get destroyed. The people of London end up being insignificant.

When it becomes obvious that the army of terrorists are dressed like emergency services, the chief inspector pulls all emergency services and sounds the air raid siren (do they still have one covering the city?) so only the terrorists are left. Now Banning can kill everyone he meets without worry about identifying them because they are carrying a non-standard issue machine gun. Handy.

But would the people of London be so obedient without emergency services and CCTV surveillance? I sure hope they wouldn’t. While anyone’s first thought would be riots and public disobedience, might there not be a second reaction? Given the absence of obvious protection would not Londoners rise up to protect themselves and their families. I like to think so.

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You can’t get more B-movie than Violated (1953)

Crime B-movies are a dime a dozen. There are more crime B-movies than a there are porterhouse steaks in a butcher’s shop. Except Violated would be a steak a little too bloody with too much gristle.

From the opening sequence, which contains an unseen vicious murder, an unseen killer and lots of screaming, to the ending, which provides a convenient psychological answer, the doctors tell us it was “subconscious compulsion right down to the hair fetish,” Violated is the very epitome of B-movie.

The premise of the film is everything you might expect: a violent crime with sexual motivations by an unknown individual investigated by the police. There are a couple of suspects, some explanations from a doctor and a couple of possible victims (in this case a young girl starting a modelling career and a burlesque dancer).

The police are as wooden as the plain room sets they inhabit. It’s not worth your while distinguishing one cop from another, they are all one formless entity only in the film to help the viewer figure out the identity of the murder. At one point, a roomful of cops are interviewing a suspect and one, I can’t remember which and it doesn’t seem to matter, says you’ll talk “you dirty rat.”

One of the most interesting elements of the film is the reaction of the police. A cop fires into the air after hearing someone shout “Hey, stop that guy.” It makes you wonder whether the film is being overly dramatic or the fifties were a very different time. Let’s hope it was the former.

Look out of the lynchpin of the police’s investigation, it’s a suit sent to the drycleaners with hair on it. A far cry from modern police procedurals and crime scene investigators, but it works in the movie as does the killer’s explanation. After the doctor puts the guy under, we get a brief explanation

The killer’s failure to go through with marriage because her “was afraid of having children” leads the doctor to ask, “Was your childhood so terrible?” Of course it was, how could it not be. The first problem was “I once saw my father cry,” but then it turns out the killer saw “A man was stroking my mother’s long beautiful hair and kissing her.” Who was that man? Well, he’s not in the film, but he also wasn’t his dad.

Violated even has a moral for us, more of a warning if you like. Want to know what we should look out for to avoid this morally corrupt individuals? Look for the guy that helps you pick up papers when you drop them. If you’re not careful he’ll turn out to be a sexual monster with a pair of scissors.

My favourite parts of the film? Easy, couple of burlesque dancers getting into a quick cat fight and the creepy killer as he goes down a fire escape. Forget the wooden cops, this actor was going out Stanislavsky on the part.

Watch Violated online. The extended shot of the burlesque dancer in a top hat is the very definition of gratuitous. 

 

Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry. It sounds a little like a cross between a kids programme and an adult film, it’s neither. If you haven’t already seen the trailer you are missing out. At first it looks like a gimmick and after a few different shots you realise it is a serious film shot completely in first person.

There is nothing new under the sun, just better versions. Hardcore Henry looks like a much better version of the 2005 film Doom, staring Dwayne Johnson. Now Doom was a box office boom, bringing in less money than it cost to make. There have been other, better first person movies like the 1947 adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel Lady in the Lake. Hardcore Henry is a lot more, well Hardcore, in terms of violence and action.

Is it going to be easier to watch Hardcore Henry than The Blair Witch Project? Probably, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make any money. At the very least, someone found a good use for a GoPro.

Hardcore Henry

Agent Carter

Agent CarterAs the second season of Agent Carter draws to a close, I start to realise that I have been subject to a story that stretches beyond super villains, mobsters, spies and corruption. Although, to be honest, I must have been distracted by all the Marvel superhero connections.

In season one, Agent Carter was a marginalised agent working secretly for Howard Stark while also finding herself marginalised by the male agents. Season two has taken a different approach with the characters of Whitney Frost and Jason Wilkes. Issues of gender have been enhanced with race and social status. The aptly named zero matter, which already exists in the Marvel universe, has been used to good effect in the story of characters who find themselves restricted by social conventions and given opportunities to subvert morality under the influence of the unknown, unimaginable and uncontrollable power of zero matter, which for most of the series consisted of Whitney Frost using black goo to absorb people.

Having a show with a main female character leads to an inevitable marginalisation of the show. The fact that it is a period drama, doesn’t help, especially when it is going to be compared to Agents of Shield which is more directly connected to the Avengers movies.

A better comparison is the Marvel shows on Netflix, Daredevil, with a male main character and Jessica Jones, with a female main character. While Daredevil gets a higher status because of the familiarity that may exist because of the less than successful Ben Affleck film or a hugely successful five decades of comics, does that really account for the show’s success in relation to Jessica Jones?

The issues of female characters on TV (and in film for that matter) continues to be of concern. Just look at Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman. Sure she is going to get her own film, but she still needs to be introduced by Batman and Superman just as Superman needs a little helping hand from the cinematic successes of Batman. In Agent Carter, the writers and producers have taken a more proactive approach to the situation of gender and race in the setting of the 1950s.

Whitney Frost is striving against objectification while also absorbing the attention and compliments of men (when she isn’t literary absorbing men). Jason Wilkes is intangible for most of the series. His ability to make a physical impact reduced to nothing and occasionally become completely invisible and disappearing altogether. A little being of Richard Wright influence there? Probably a little too heavy for superhero show. Which brings us to the al important question of whether dealing with such weighty issues adds to the entertainment of the show and whether it should be renewed.

Why it shouldn’t be renewed is easy. This series does what other series don’t do. After the first Captain America film, it is no longer directly connected the cinematic franchise. Sure, it could be made relevant, but if one thing is being made clear with the Agents of Shield TV show, if the show can’t fit in with the film, it won’t. There have been little attempts to even suggest that the film could connect to the show. I mean, Fury appeared in the Age of Ultron, why not Agent Coulson? Well, there was that whole ‘Coulson got killed’ plot point to explain from the first Avengers film.

Why Agent Carter should be renewed is more difficult. Should the show be renewed just because it is doing something that no other show is doing? Part of me says yes, but if it can’t attract the viewers then maybe people aren’t ready for the ideas or the ideas aren’t being presented in an appropriately appealing way. Do we need difficult issues presented in an appealing way? Kinda yes. In order to introduce difficult ideas, they have to be presented in an accessible manner. Sure they are difficult but people won’t seek difficult ideas without motivation. Why would they?

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man Season Finale

Lucky Man

Lucky Man has been delivering a high standard of contemporary crime drama with a supernatural twist all season…until the finale. I think I was watching a first edit or an uncut draft. Or maybe I missed a section. All season it has been gripping drama. I think I tuned out for a while in the episode because I ended up finding myself folding laundry and finding that much more interesting.

There was no revelation (unless you call the boring reason behind Golding’s name, me, I didn’t care), there was little tension, there was no insight to any of the interesting plotlines that have been running for the previous nine episodes, there were no new developments, no character advancement, no big confrontations, no cliffhangers. I couldn’t give you any spoilers if I wanted to.

The highlights of the episode were Harry jumping from a roof and winning the jackpot on a fruit machine. Yes, that would be the headline: Harry wins Fruit Machine Jackpot.

Instead, one of the bad guys lures Harry to a hotel to try and surprise him with a silenced gun. Given the whole, ‘Harry wears the lucky bracelet’ and the intricate framing of Harry and his brother for murder, it just seemed stupid. Probably more St Pancras hotel product placement than actual plot. Maybe they sent the writers home after episode nine and just told the actors to wing it.

I ended up feeling bad for Golding. All that intricate manipulation to be left with no clue what he was doing. Instead, he looks like a complete idiot standing by a pool with no idea how to get Harry to kill himself. It made it relatively fitting that he runs off into the shrubbery at the end of the episode. Hang your head in shame Golding. I suppose there is always season two.

Daredevil vs Gotham

On a regular day of the week I consider myself more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are the Holy triumvirate we revered and respected when we were young. We watched their exploits and wondered at the absolute certainty with which we knew they would continue. Thor, Hulk Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, they were around. I knew who they were but we weren’t close, like the big kids who hung out on corner of my block. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, they were different. Unlike the angel and demon that sit on your shoulder giving you good and bad advice, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were inspirational, voices of reason and truth, dependable and thrilling.

Even with the tidal wave of Marvel films, I usually only visit at the weekend. I watch, as do others, for two hours and then get on with my life. This extended introduction is not meant to bore you (hope it didn’t), it is meant to give you a sense of the how significant it is when I say that Daredevil is a much better TV show than season one of Gotham.

It is not that the absence of Batman. Gordon is a great character and I love crime shows. It should have been good and it didn’t deliver.

Daredevil made no pretentions to individual episodes. It had a sense of purpose and convinced you something significant was happening. Despite moments of uncertainty, the show provided a sense that it had meaning. Gotham just limped along like a lame penguin. I mean Fish Mooney on the island? Why? So she can get off and get pushed off a building? Sorry, I don’t see the point. Daredevil had a clearly defined bigger picture. Of course, the creation of a hero and a villain are not exactly difficult storylines, but wasn’t that also what was happening with Gordon and the Penguin? The difficulty facing Gotham was its own immediate success, or at least the sense of it, that turned a 13 episode show into a 23 episode show. In retrospect were those extra episodes worth the pain?

It is not without some significance that I say that the Daredevil TV show is much better than the Gotham TV show and urge you, if you haven’t already seen season one of Daredevil to go out and watch it before you miss the start of season two.

Criminals in The Gambler (2015)

A film about a self-destructive English professor who owes a number of gangster a huge amount of money. Mark Wahlberg plays a privileged university lecturer and ex-novelist which opens the movie up for critical analysis and the more I think about the movie, the less I think I like the movie. Or least the less I like what the movie represents.

On the surface there is some gambling (as you’d expect from the title), there is some existential angst (he is an English professor) and there is a little romance (did I mention he was an English professor). If you are following the main character’s search for meaning or success in life, you are following a version of Fight Club less elegantly portrayed and without Brad Pitt.

The gangster reminded me of Guy Richie’s self-indulgent narrative mess Revolver in they verge between stereotypes and teachers who attempt to deliver life less after taking on role of surrogate fathers. John Goodman actually refers to himself as an Uncle. Goodman’s ‘fuck you’ philosophy is an attempt to guide Wahlberg into an awareness of what he wants out of life. Other gangsters indulge Wahlberg’s character with almost unending support that exceeds even his mother’s own generosity (we’ll get to her in a moment). They reprimand his bad behaviour. What else are goons for? And they ultimately release him into the world. Were you trying to pretend the film might not have a happy ending? We end up criminal who are racial stereotypes out to help Wahlberg, celebrating and relishing his successes.

It is the releasing of Wahlberg back into the world that is ultimately most perplexing about the criminals. These are friendly criminals. As Wahlberg’s debt grew increasingly larger I began to feel frustrated. Why the hell would they throw money away on this guy? He is obvious a self-destructive gambler. They had to see that. When they threatened his mother it was irrelevant.

Which brings me to him mother who isn’t a criminal, but Wahlberg mentions Hamlet so a brief moment about his mother. I liked the literary allusion to the play. Wahlberg’s mother rejected her father and enjoys a love/hate relationship with her son. She flatters and adores him while also being frustrated by his dependence. Wahlberg seems to need to push her into a position to reject him because he seems incapable of releasing himself from his mother’s attentions. I suppose that is one way getting out of mother’s day.

When threats are made against a couple of Wahlberg’s students I felt there was appropriate narrative movement. It made sense. It didn’t make sense that Wahlberg cared or that after he was able to resolve all of his own self-inflicted debt with a far-fetched game of chance, all was forgiven. What this movie could have used was a more tragic Hamlet inspired ending with Wahlberg achieving a self-realisation at a moment too late to resolve the destruction that his actions would inevitably bring upon himself and others. I could have used a ‘finding yourself screws everyone around you’ message. But that might have been asking too much.