Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stanley Park

Stanley Park:
Sometimes TV Is So Trashy Its Brilliant, And Funny

Every year in June, the BBC does something brilliantly wonderful, they take three pilot episodes, and air them, and the one that gets the most positive feedback both in the press and from viewers, they turn into a series. Now this is brilliant in the simple fact it almost guarantees them to hit a homerun with the following series, many have come from this I'm told, but the only one that sticks out in my head at the moment is Being Human's original pilot, which though alot different from the series that came from it, was the best pilot for 2007. One of this years contenders, is a twisted but at times hilariously funny and completely dark black comedy called Stanley Park. Set in Croydon, a south London suburb, in a fictional estate for which the show is named, it focuses on the interweaving lives of those who live thee, focusing on four teenagers who you are never really sure if they like each other, but their complete dysfunctionality is what keeps them friends, because deep down, they do truly need each other.

The story is narrated by our main character, as most of these sort of things go, she goes by the name "Dirty" Debbie, and well, Debbie is a mess. Its hard to tell from the start if Debbie is delusional or is so truly wrapped up in her own world that she can't see the truth right infront of her eyes. Debbie lives with her Aunt Pat in the estate of Stanley Park, and well, to say she acts and dresses like a complete slut would be an understatement. She writes insanely bad pornographic stories that all of her friends laugh at either to her face or behind her back, and is proud of the fact she makes and designs her own clothing, at one point making a joke about how no one can resist an outfit with two wonder bras sewn into it. She sees nothing wrong with her behavior, and truly believes that she is as hot as she claims she is. She also compares herself to Carrie Bradshaw from Sex In the City.

You also meet her friends, "Bent" Ben, the young man who everyone around him believes to be gay, but he claims not to be, though its very obvious that he is, his way fo speaking, his actions and movements, he claims that another girl they all know is his girlfriend, but everyone laughs this off. "Raggity" Anne is Ben's best friend, or his "beard" as Debbie calls her, (Beard is a term for a woman that a gay man is very close to that he also uses as an excuse not to tell people he's gay for those that don't know.) Anne is a shy, emotionally unstable girl who has alot of trouble fitting in, she feels that she is inviable, even among her friends, she is sort of dating Lee but not dating him until the actions of Debbie in the pilot episode ruin that. The final member of their group is Lee Stevens, a young man who is rather confused about his life and where exactly he is going in life, he is kind of dating but not dating Anne, until Debbie, intent on seducing his other brother decides on seducing him instead, simply because he is there at the time, and not his brother.

The rest of the cast is, Debbie's Aunt Pat, whom she lives with after her mother was hit by a truck leaving a dry cleaner's shop, Pat is a middle aged woman that keeps telling Debbie its alot better to just sleep around instead of having a steady boyfriend of loved one, Pat has a long distance relationship with a man in Albania but dates and sleeps around with out telling him about it, for she feels its none of his business or concern. Pat tends to lie about some of her dates to save face with Debbie and those around her. Others are The Stevens family, Lee's parents Julie and Rob Stevens, and Lee's older brother, Harry Stevens, whom Debbie is very smitten with, as well as Harry's fiancée Sadie, who sort of forced Harry into marrying her after she asked if they would get married one day and he says he thought they would, and she stands up and announces to everyone in the pizza place they're in they're going to be married, then claiming he "can't take it back on a technicality like not actually asking.", thus leaving Harry stuck and feeling unable to get out of it.

The cast is pretty well thought out, Holliday Grainger leads the cast as Debbie, I loved her earlier work that I've seen, she was Ruby on the series "Demons", and her recurring role on the series "Waterloo Road" not long ago was really good too. She plays Debbie with the right amount of clueless and sluttishly sexy and just enough confidence to be dangerous. Jennie Jacques, who I'd only really known from her role on "Desperate Romantics", plays a shockingly good Anne, at times you can't tell if you wanna hug her or cry with her or cut yourself with her, or maybe just start bitchslapping people. And newcomers Joe Cole and Richard Southgate as Lee and Ben both turn in good performances as well. Antonia Thomas as Sadie, Harry's soon to be wife, is a complete turn around from her other role of note as Alisha on the series "Misfits", where she plays a totally different role, which was a surprising find, but very welcome.

So I guess the big question is, would I like to see this as a series? Sure I'd love to see it continue, its both funny and meaningful at times, and though slightly formula at times, but you get that with all shows at some point or another. there is alot of promise and the chance to find a guilty pleasure series out of it all, so if you haven't seen Stanley Park yet, give it a look, the pilot's pretty easy to find on the net if you look for it, and it was really rather enjoyable over all. Its sort of like Shameless meets Skins meets Sex In The City, but with out the shame or depression that would come from watching Sex In the City, but don't let that get you down on it, seriously, its really worth a look...



Friday, June 18, 2010

Alice In Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland:
Another Trip Through The Opium Stained Looking Glass

In the long history of fictional literature, there are not many tails that stand the test of time the way that the much beloved chronicles of of a young girl named Alice, who though both "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" and "Through The Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There". Now there is much debate over these stories given how controversial their nature is, and how they've been remade and reworked so many times that at times its hard to tell their original form and altered ones. Most assume the Disney 1951 version is close to the original, then they read and discover its really a butchered gutted and hallowed out shell of the story, making it light and happy and pretty, when its not really all that happy or light and friendly. And though many joke off the differences, there are those who wish that there could have been made, a true to book adaption made for theaters, and though its not a direct adaption, Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland set out to be a continuation of the two books, being set in the future of the books timeline.

The film does a good job of bringing the animated and the literary versions that have been done the world over all together. But you would expect that with the work of Tim Burton, probably the only director who could have actually made this film and make it work. The cast as a whole turns in an excellent performance, not just Johnny Depp like most people would have assumed at the beginning of the film's creation. I actually find Mia Wasikowska as Alice to be the greatest of the entire cast, simply because you truly believe she is Alice, and that she has her muchness. but this is no real surprise, Mia was incredible in the brilliant film Suburban Mayhem, so why would she be any other way in this. Depp, as everyone expected, plays a very good, and surprisingly large role given how little you see of the Hatter in most variations of the story, and Helena Bonham Carter plays a very good, all be it over the top, Red Queen, who has elements of The Queen of Hearts mixed in with her original character's portrayal, Bonham Carter does a great job countering the mostly bland and slightly annoying Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, who just comes off as completely pure and good and great and makes you wonder if she's so pure and kind and good that she farts in pleasant smells as well, and surprising in casting, but not surprising in how good of a job in the role, Crispen Glover does an incredible turn as The Knave Of Hearts, I found myself wondering if Glover's revitalized career and recent years fan following might counteract Depp's similar standard of doing things, but thankfully I was wrong, they both actually compliment each other well, and I'd like to see more of it in the future honestly. And though half the cast are infact CGI, you find yourself loving them as well, Steven Fry shines as he always does in his role of Chessur, The Cheshire Cat, but its Alan Rickman's role as Absolem, the iconic hooka smoking caterpillar that takes it for the non-human roles honestly, Rickman uses the dull monotone voice he uses for Snape in the harry potter films to deliver the character and his wise and knowing nature perfectly. I was also delighted to find out they actually refer to each character by their real names, not their titles like in most adaptions, I hate that..

The plot of the film, though new material really does a great job keeping you informed and respectful of the original, and truly does a great job of merging, here is the basic outline...

Troubled by a strange recurring dream and mourning the loss of her beloved father, nineteen-year-old Alice Kingsleigh attends a garden party at Lord Ascot's estate, where she is faced with the expectations of marriage and of the society in which she lives. Unsure of how to reply and increasingly confused, she runs away to chase after a rabbit in a waistcoat, and accidentally falls into a rabbit hole. She is transported to a world called Underland where she is greeted by the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Dodo, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They argue over her identity as "the right Alice," who it is foretold will slay the Red Queen's Jabberwocky on the Frabjous Day and restore the White Queen to power. They consult Absolem[9] the Caterpillar, who decides that she is "not hardly Alice." The group is then ambushed by the Bandersnatch and a group of playing-card soldiers led by the Knave of Hearts. Alice escapes and flees into the woods.

The Knave informs the Red Queen that Alice has returned to Underland and threatens her reign, and the Red Knights are ordered to find Alice immediately. Meanwhile, the wandering Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat, who takes her to the Mad Hatter and March Hare. On the way to the White Queen's castle, Hatter relates the terror of the Red Queen's reign, and comments that Alice is not the same as she once was. The Hatter helps Alice avoid capture by allowing himself to be seized instead. Later, Alice is found by Bayard the bloodhound, who wishes to take her to the White Queen, but Alice insists upon helping the Hatter, so they go to the Red Queen's castle.

The Red Queen is unaware of Alice's identity and therefore welcomes her as a guest. Meanwhile, the Hatter persuades the Queen to let him serve as her personal milliner in an attempt to delay his execution. Alice learns that the Vorpal Sword (the only weapon capable of killing the Jabberwocky) is locked away in a case inside the Bandersnatch's den. The Knave attempts to seduce Alice, but she rebuffs him. She later manages to retrieve the sword and befriend the Bandersnatch. The Knave finds her with the sword and attempts to arrest her. Alice escapes on the back of the Bandersnatch and delivers the sword to the White Queen. The Cheshire Cat saves the Hatter from execution, and the Hatter calls for rebellion against the Red Queen. The resistance flees to the White Queen's castle, and both armies prepare for battle. Alice remains unsure about the expectation for her to champion the White Queen, and meets once more with Absolem. He reminds Alice of her past visit to Underland (which she mistakenly called "Wonderland" at the time) thirteen years earlier, and helps give her the courage to fight the Jabberwocky.

From there the all out battle for the future of their world begins, Alice fights the Jabberwocky, you see all of the rest of the cast join the fray, I'm not used to seeing The Mad Hatter with a scotish broad sword, but I guess anything is possible, I loved how the battle scene didn't just focus on Alice and The Jabberwocky, that would have just been kind of annoyingly predictable, it focuses on everyone, on both sides and how they all rise up to fight for what they believe in, and continue until Alice has slain the Jabberwocky, at which point the Red Queen finally gets whats coming to her, for all of her time of mistreatment of others, after that Alice is returned to her world, where she refuses to marry her annoyingly uptight suitor and instead sets out in control of her own life to live out her father's dreams and ideas, Absolem, in butterfly form, is on her shoulder as she goes.

There really isn't much to say thats not ravingly good about this film, even if you aren't able to get into the story of it, the visual story and colors and F/X will keep you entertained all the way through the film. Its truly worth seeing if you haven't yet.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Shutter Island

Shutter Island:
Do Not Trust Your Eyes, Or Your Mind

Shutter Island is one of those kind of films that I live for, its kind of a mix of modern storytelling and a twist on a classic film noir style delivery. Alot of times these days we sort of miss the point of what film noir stood for when we try to recreate it, but thankfully, this film, thanks to the brilliant Martin Scorsese, but really, is that a surprise to anyone? Marty Scorsese has been one of the most dependable and reliable film makers of all time, as well as one of the most beloved by the fans, which is whats important over dependability or reliability, after all they do it for the fans, not us critics, I think alot of people forget that. Though Marty does an incredible job, this film would be nothing at all with out the second coming of Leonardo DiCaprio, who is just incredible in this film. I know that I, like many, downed the hell out of Leo giving his start in the business, he was horrible on that barely watchable series Growing Pains, and he was just so horrible in that Titanic film that shouldn't have become as big of a hit as it was, but after taking a good many years off, and being careful when picking his roles, and making them mean something, instead of just being put out as that pretty face who people will go to see simply because he's a pretty face, Leo has redeemed himself in my eyes, as I am sure he has with many others as well, and for those that are still on the fence on if he really has come into his own, seriously, watch this film, you will be amazed at just how good it is.

But remember, pay very close attention from the very start, otherwise the twist in this will knock you for a loop. Here is the plot...

In 1954, U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), go to the Ashecliff Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island. They are investigating the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a patient said to have vanished from a locked room. Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the head psychiatrist, explains that Rachel was institutionalized after drowning her three children. During the search for Rachel, Teddy sees a lighthouse but he is told it has already been searched. The Marshals question the staff and learn that Rachel's psychiatrist, Dr. Sheehan, left for vacation that morning. Teddy asks to see the hospital personnel files but Cawley refuses. That night, Teddy has strange dreams about his wife, Dolores Chanal (Michelle Williams), who had died in a fire two years before. During this dream, she tells Teddy that Rachel is still on the island, as is Andrew Laeddis, the man who started the fire in which she died. In the morning, they interview patients from Rachel's group therapy sessions, one of whom, after creating a diversion for Chuck, passes Teddy a warning to run. Later that day, Teddy explains to Chuck the real reason why he took the case: after being transferred to Ashecliff, Andrew Laeddis disappeared, so he took it upon himself to investigate the institution. During Teddy's investigation, he met George Noyce, a former patient who claimed that the institution was performing experiments on humans, so Teddy sets out to bring it down.

Its at this point that the movie its its stride, when it becomes not a pulp style detective story, but a hard edged thriller that takes you on a roller coaster all the way through every single conspiracy possibility as of 1954, and every single insane and inhuman medical treatment used on the mentally ill, all leading up to the very twist that will either throw you completely off the ride, or make you grip your hands to the safety bar tighter because you just can't look away, and if you are quick on the uptake, this is where you'll start to get the feeling of what the twist in this film is before you find out the truth about whats really going on, on shutter island, and like with most twists, it will either make you love it, or hate it, this ofcourse is up to your personal likes and dislikes, but I personally love a good twist, as long its not that bullshit kind of one like in Hancock or something, I hated the hell out of that, after you find out the real nature of Shutter Island, you are finally given the true background of the story, and the complete truth. And though you're left in the end to wonder just how this story will truly end, you're also left amazed at what has gone on. This truly is a must see for so many types of move fans.

As a whole, I loved this film, I loved Martin Scorsese's continuing of his trademark filming techniques as well as his attempts at different things, sure Shutter Island might never be seen as iconic as say "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" or my personal favorite of his "Alice Doesn't Live Hear Anymore", but thats fine, Marty doesn't need to hit a home run to make an incredible film, and make no mistake, this is incredible. Leonardo DiCaprio brings in another solid performance as well, you don't really sit there and think "oh look its Leo DiCaprio talking like he's from Massachusettes and getting his Jack Webb on.." you really believe in his character and when he sees his visions through out the film, you really feel for him and feel as if you're having them as well, sure its not Leo from "Whats Eating Gilbert Grape" or "Romeo + Juliette" or even "Gangs Of New York", but that doesn't matter, he is so very solid in his method in this film and shines brighter then he has in afew years.

There are many other good performances as well, Ben Kingsley puts in an almost chilling performance as Dr. John Cawley, Shutter Island's head of psychology, but then to be fair, Ben Kingsley normally brings the A-Game when he does a role, and makes everyone else around him try and do just as well. The normally not exactly great in most things Mark Ruffalo makes a surprisingly good turn here as U.S. Marshal Chuck Aule, I've never really been a fan of Mark's work, mostly sloppily written chick flicks or romantic comedy, but he showed that he can be more then just the kind of dorky lead or secondary lead. And ofcourse, Heath Ledger's widow, Michelle Williams who plays Dolores Chanal Daniels in flashbacks and visions, but still turns in with a great performance. And a short but very memorable role by the great Jackie Earl Haley fresh off playing Rorschach in Watchmen and before playing Freddy Krugar in the new Nightmare On Elm Street. This whole cast is just amazingly good, and you all really should watch it if you haven't, and remember, look at everything, and constnatly pay attention, there are clues to the truth through out the whole film, and it will all make complete sense when its all said and done.

Oh and for those that wish, here is the trailer...



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I miss ya Jim....

Can't believe its been 20 years sense he died... and imagination and creativity died with him... I'll always remember you my friend, for all that you taught me.

this world was never ment for one as brilliant as you, shall always miss you Jim Henson...