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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


February 9, 2011

Review: The Chicago Code 1x1

Posted on February 9, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Chicago Code

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by Sky 1/Sky 1 HD. Coming soon

'Gritty' seems to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To many, it means 'realistic' - that it depicts the seamier, less pleasant parts of life. To others, it just means 'looks a bit grimy'.

The Chicago Code - formerly called Ride Along - is gritty. A cop show set to a backdrop of corrupt Chicago city politics, it wants you to believe that it's gritty in the sense of realistic. But to be honest, although it has Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) as show runner and principal writer, in a post-Wire, post-Southland world, it doesn't really succeed - it just looks a bit grimy.

It's not half-bad and it features the likes of Jessica Beals, Jason Clarke (Brotherhood) and Delroy Lindo, but it's not as cutting edge as it likes to think it is. Here's a trailer, followed by a featurette in which you get to hear Clarke's normal Australian accent.

Continue reading "Review: The Chicago Code 1x1"

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January 27, 2011

Review: Portlandia 1x1

Posted on January 27, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Portlandia

In the US: Fridays, 10.30/9.30c, IFC

The Independent Film Channel isn't well known as a haven of comedy - more for earnestly liberal movies - but I'll tell you what is well known for comedy: Saturday Night Live (at least it used to be). So imagine what would happen if you married IFC with SNL.

Portlandia, that's what.

It's essentially a comedy sketch show set in the (supposedly) earnestly liberal city of Portland, Oregon, a place where Steve Buscemi has to buy a 14-part series of books about a woman's journey from a feminist book store in order to use the toilet and people have to investigate the farm their organic chicken has been reared in before they'll eat it in a restaurant. Executive-produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring in most of the roles SNL's Fred Armisen and the most underrated female guitarist of all time, according to Rolling Stone magazine, Carrie Brownstein - collectively known as ThunderAnt - Portlandia isn't 100% funny but it is one of the top two US comedies of the last year or so and if you like Flight of the Conchords, you'll probably like this, too.

Here's a hint at its hilarity and there are other videos over here:

Continue reading "Review: Portlandia 1x1"

January 27, 2011

Old Gems: Archer's Goon (1992)

Posted on January 27, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Archer's Goon and Howard Sykes

Diana Wynne Jones is a name that'll be familiar to some, but won't ring a bell for others. However, she is one of the most celebrated authors of children's fantasy books around. Small wonder that the BBC would turn to adapting one of her most famous award-winning novels, Archer's Goon, back in the early 90s.

The premise is relatively simple: normal English schoolchild Howard Sykes (Jamie De Courcey) comes home from school one day to discover a huge man (the eponymous Goon, played by Morgan Jones) in his house, claiming that he's owed 2,000 words which he has to give to someone called Archer. It turns out that 13 years earlier, Howard's dad, Quentin, agreed to write 2,000 words each quarter for a town official called Mountjoy, in return for not having to pay any taxes. However, he's forgotten to do it this quarter.

Eventually, Howard and the Goon go to meet Mountjoy who reveals that the town is secretly run by seven wizardly brothers and sisters: Archer, Shine, Dillian, Hathaway, Torquil, Erskine and Venturus. Each one 'farms' a separate industry, with Archer farming money, electricity and gas, Shine looking after crime, Dillian minding law and order, and so on.

Armed with this new knowledge, Howard and the rest of his family go looking for the wizards, trying to work out exactly what Archer needs with all those words. The siblings try to stop them, resulting in their various industries taking action against the family (musical instruments rebel, for example). Of course, when they discover Hathaway lives 400 years in the past and Venturus lives in the future, it all becomes a lot trickier…

The six-part BBC adaptation was actually pretty faithful to the books, thanks in part to Wynne Jones's close collaboration with the producer and the scriptwriter Jenny McDade. It had a reasonably star-studded cast, with Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger on Only Fools and Horses) playing Quentin, Susan Jameson (the queen in The Queen), Andrew Normington as Torquil, Annette Badland as Shine and Clive Merrison as Hathaway. It was also surprisingly complicated, with the eventual revelations about the identities of the siblings (the clues are all there if you can spot them) making it a cerebral affair as well as a fun one.

Joyfully, you can watch the whole thing over on Veoh, read in great detail about each episode, or watch bits of it on YouTube. But here's how the first episode begins:

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