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March 22, 2017

Review: Snatch 1x1 (US: Crackle)

Posted on March 22, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Snatch

In the US: Season 1 available on Crackle

Guy Ritchie is the sort of director who wants not nuffin to do with not none of that auteur theory. That's lardy dah, ponces' talk, that is.

Yet you can spot a Guy Ritchie movie a mile off, innit? You got the hypermasculinity and the sexual objectification of women, ain't ya? You've got the obsession with and eulogisation of working class, English crims - the kind that only someone ultra-posh who's the son of a baronet has, right? You've got the casting of proper working class, hard actors, who hopefully are crims, too. You've got the slow-mo, you've got the rhyming slang, you've got the monickers, and you've got the stylisation that lets the audience know it's not quite for real, that it's all just a bit off from real-life - that it's all just a bit of bantosaurus rexing.

Case in point, guv'nor - like anyone in London's used guv'nor seriously since The Sweeney - is Snatch, Guy Ritchie's 2000 movie about a diamond heist and a 'pikey' boxer (Brad Pitt). Bants and sexual objectification right there in the title 'cos it has a double meaning, don't it? And all as authentically East End as the Islington filming locations.

So what happens when you take the auteur out of the auteured, which is what we now have with Crackle's Snatch? You get something as soft as a soufflé, that's what.

Owing almost nothing beyond its general feel to the original movie, it sees Luke Pasqualino (born: Peterborough) playing the Cockney son of notorious banged-up Cockney bank robber Dougray Scott (born: Glenrothes). He's doing his best to pay off the debts, but his get-rich schemes with posh boy Ruper Grint (born: Harlow) aren't working and the local Cockney lone shark's going to take his Cockney mum's flower shop off him if he doesn't pay up - and quick.

So he puts everything they have on a fight involving his 'half-pikey', half-Cockney boxing star Lucien Laviscount (born: Burnley). Except that makes everything worse. 

Fortunately, Cockney moll Phoebe Dynevor (born: Manchester) is still miffed at Cockney Cuban-wannabe Ed Westwick (born: Stevenage) for taking her share of the takings at his club, so enlists them in a cunning scheme to rob Westwick that should help Pasqualino, Grint and Laviscount make thirty grand, easy. It just involves a heist…

Now, not for a second does any of this ring true, from the Manchester filming locations masquerading as the East End because the East End doesn't look like the East End any more through the wobbly accents through the idea that Pasqualino is in any way related to Scott through the action scenes through the amiable Cockney geezers that populate this florist-envying underworld through the laughable prison Scott's banged up in through every other thing that happens in the show.

But unlike Ritchie's Snatch, which was clearly sending itself up while simultaneously worshipping at its East End altar, this Snatch clearly half-believes in its nonsensical vision of the E postcodes that would make EastEnders seem like a Ken Loach documentary. Not totally, but the self-satire has been very clearly bleached out of the formula. Some of the cast are even taking it all seriously.

It's also a very pale imitation of Ritchie's style. Snatch seems to get bored of trying anything visually exciting after the title sequence, after which it's business as usual. There's very little humour, Laviscount is completely comprehensible, and the minimal action in the show fails to excite even slightly. In the least Ritchian move possible, Dynevor even gets lines, character and motivation, while never having to take even some of her clothes off. Not once.

However, as Dynevor and indeed most of the cast seem to be about 15 years old, playing dress-up in a modern-day, London-based Bugsy Malone, that's not such a bad thing.

And yet… there's still a grudging "not bad" quality to it. Sure, writer/creator Alex De Rakoff (The Calcium Kid, Dead Man Running) is British, the cast are British, Rupert Grint is an executive producer and it's filmed in Britain. But this is Crackle, a US internet network, not BBC Three.

Sure, there's a token American supporting character (Stephanie Leonidas from Defiance - ironically, the only member of the cast who is born: London), but there are no lingustic concessions, no forced explanations for dialogue or settings. It's probably the most authentically British TV show made for a US network that I've ever seen. It's just that for Brits, it's not properly pukka, y'know?

If you like weak, semi-comedic crime dramas, Snatch might work for you. If you want to see Rupert Grint doing something a bit different from Harry Potter for a change, it's worth a punt.

But if you're a fan of the original movie, a fan of Guy Ritchie or - heaven forfend - a proper Londoner, born and bred, best to steer clear of this one, me old china and head out for a cheeky Nando's instead.

March 16, 2017

Review: Trial & Error 1x1-1x2 (US: NBC)

Posted on March 16, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Trial and Error

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC

Certain satires want to define and even gut a genre. It was nigh on impossible to watch Newsnight once The Day Today was on the air, chat shows looked stupid once Mrs Merton and I'm Alan Partridge kicked in, soap operas were unwatchable after Soap and can anyone take the BBC seriously at all now W1A regularly skewers it?

Trial & Error would like to be a skewering piece of satire. But it faces two problems on that score. For starters, it largely relies on the audience having watched the likes of Netflix's Making of a Murderer and HBO's The Jinx, being a parody of true crime documentaries. I'm not sure what the overlap with NBC's audience is, but I doubt it's very big.

The plot sees John Lithgow playing a poetry professor who appears to have murdered his wife. Lithgow seems more concerned by his roller skates and the cable company than he does about her death, so is the prime suspect, particularly when he turns out to be more than a bit gay and having an affair with his personal trainer ("Sexuality is fluid… and sometimes my fluids go towards men").

To defend him, his father-in-law (Bob Gunton) hires one of those 'northeastern lawyers' because they seem so crafty (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but winds up with the less-than-crafty newbie Nick D'Agosto (Masters of Sex, Gotham). D'Agosto assembles the best defence team the small Southern town has to offer. Unfortunately, that's Sherri Shepherd (Sherri), who's not only dyslexic enough to spell trial as trail (The Trail being the original, more cryptic name for the show), she has rare brain disorders that cause her to pass out from excitement and to laugh at tragic events; Steven Boyer, who may not be dyslexic but he's stupid enough to accidentally set fire to exhumated bodies; and an investigator who has relieve himself sexually whenever he gets excited. And there's a lot of excitement.

None of which is very funny, so the show's second problem is that it relies on the tried and trusted method of stereotyping southerners for about 90% of its jokes. On top of being hugely stupid, Boyer has a sister who is also his cousin and he has bad dentistry. Prosecutor Jayma Mays (HeroesGlee) is highly sexed, constantly propositioning D'Agosto whenever he comes to her office and has an accent that makes her name hard to understand. She's okay with that, though, but woe betide you if you pronounce Judge Horsedich's name wrong, though, as she's mulling over any of the archaic laws still on the statute books in town, such as the forbidding of 'buggery' and 'death by bear'.

If you laughed at any of that, well, you're easier to please than I apparently am.

The show does at least respect the forms of the documentary, and has a pretty firm grasp of local news reporting, too. And there was a scene in the second episode involving Lithgow's roller skate wrench that was actually quite moving (you'll understand if you see it).

But if I make it to three episodes, it'll be a miracle. Skewering the genre? You'll have forgotten about Trial & Error by the end of the week.

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March 9, 2017

Review: Time After Time 1x1-1x2 (US: ABC)

Posted on March 9, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Time After Time

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, ABC

Kevin Williamson's arm slumped to his side, the remote control loose in his grasp. The room was silent now, silent as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

"When Alexander saw the depth of his empire he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer," he repeated to himself. "So right. Hans was so right."

Williamson was inconsolable. He owed everything to serial killers. Everything. His entire career had started with Scream but how he wished that he could escape them now, to develop sweet, lovely little shows. 

But every time he'd strayed, every time he'd tried to develop a Dawson's Creek or Hidden Palms or adapt another young adult book to make a Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle, he'd been forced to return to the minds of these misogynistic sociopaths. Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last SummerScream 4 and then The Following had all drawn him back in.

Except now The Following had been cancelled. What was he to do? Three seasons of The Following. Three! He must have exhausted every serial killer permutation in the book. Worse - people were becoming jaded with serial killers. They had… over-kill!

Williamson would have chuckled at that, if there had been even the slightest trace of joy in his life. There was nothing left. He ruled… nothing.

If only there were some way to make serial killers better, to truly catch the public imagination once again, just as they had all those years ago.

If a light bulb could have appeared about Williamson's head, it would have done. All those years reading books hadn't been for nothing after all! What if he could bring the most popular serial killer ever into modern times to save him? What if he could bring Jack the Ripper himself into the present day?

And he knew just how. He reached over to his bookcase and took out Time After Time by Karl Alexander. He opened it. In the hollowed out centre of the book was the DVD of the movie, Time After Time, written and directed by Nicholas Meyer.

He put the disc into the machine and pressed play on his remote control.

Yes, this will work. And he already knew how he could turn it into a TV series. Just with someone a bit hotter than Malcolm McDowell or David Warner…

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