Archive | Featured articles

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


November 19, 2015

Review: Into The Badlands 1x1 (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Posted on November 19, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Into the Badlands

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, AMC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon Instant Video

There is a famous paradox. Although Knight Rider claimed it was Zeno's Paradox, it's not. But it is at least a paradox. Here it is:

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

What's the answer? Into the Badlands. How so? Because it's an actual, real-world test of that paradox. It takes the unstoppable force that is the Hong Kong martial arts movie and confronts it with the immobable object of an AMC TV series.

Despite the likes of Indonesia's The Raid coming along to challenge them, Hong Kong martial arts movies are, of course, the fastest genre in the world. If you have any interest in martial movies, you watch Hong Kong martial arts to see the best - and fastest - martial artists the silver screen has to offer. I'm most partial to classic Jet Li myself, but Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan et al have all formed part of my viewing habits since Jonathan Ross's Son of The Incredibly Strange Film Show revealed their delights to me back in the 80s.

And the slowest genre in the world? AMC TV series. The network practically fetishises slowness:

Even its fastest shows - Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul - have a glacial chill to them, and that's before we consider the almost geological time scales over which the likes of Mad Men, Hell on Wheels and Halt and Catch Fire operate.

And Into The Badlands is a deliberate attempt to bring these two genres together. Rather bizarrely the brainchild of Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, it stars Daniel Wu, an American actor but the star of dozens of Hong Kong martial arts movies.

The show is set in a post-apocalyptic America. This isn't that surprising: martial arts date from before guns and are made largely redundant by the presence of guns, so a martial arts movie usually needs to have a reason for there to not be any guns - something somewhat problematic in modern-day and even historic America, but not so hard in a post-apocalyptic, post-technological society. Unles you turn the guns into a virtue, of course.

As with most other post-apocalyptic societies, everything's become weirdly patriarchal and feudal in Into The Badlands, with seven 'barons' now running America, following a series of wars. Each has made their territory safe and stopped the wars by getting rid of guns. In return, everyone either learns how to be a 'Clipper' - martial arts soldier cops - assuming they're male or goes to work in the fields picking poppies or getting married to the Baron.

Wu plays one such Clipper, who patrols the territories, enforcing the justice of his increasingly unstable, increasingly bewived Baron (Marton Csokas from Falcón, Rogue, The Equalizer, The Bourne Supremacy). One day, he comes across a peaceful boy sought after by another Baron, 'The Widow', only to discover that he gets superhero killing powers at odd moments. 

What will he do? WIll he take the boy into the lawless 'Badlands' between Barons' terrorities, looking for the boy's mother and answers to his own past? And will he do it before the Sun expands into a Red Giant and dies (aka the next AMC Upfronts)?

Continue reading "Review: Into The Badlands 1x1 (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)"

Read other posts about: , ,

November 12, 2015

Review: Blood and Water 1x1-1x2 (Canada: Omni)

Posted on November 12, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Blood and Water

In Canada: Sundays, 10pm, Omni

Everyone knows that Canada is a bilingual country: while most provinces are majority English-speakers, many have sizeable numbers of French-speakers and Quebec, of course, is 80% Francophone. What's less well known is that Canada is a very diverse country - Toronto, Canada's largest city at 2.7 million, is claimed by many to be the most ethnically diverse city in the world, with 50% of its population foreign-born; and of the country's 35 million inhabitants, more than 1 million speak a Chinese language at home.

Not that you'd know that from the average Canadian TV show, of course. 

While the TV shows themselves fail to reflect that diversity on-screen, the country's TV networks do their best to serve the community. The Omni network airs programmes in 20 languages to communities encompassing at least 20 cultures, ethnic programming comprises 60% of the Omni stations' schedules. However, until now, this has largely been foreign acquisitions, sport and news.

But Omni's now breaking out into original drama with Blood and Water, one of the first, if not the first trilingual dramas to grace Western TV screens. Shot with an almost entirely Chinese-Canadian cast in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, it's a cop drama that sees Steph Song (Achar!, jPod and former FHM Asia #1 Sexiest Woman in the World) having to investigate the murder of a prominent billionaire's junkie son, experiencing both political and cultural pressure from inside and outside the police force as she does so. She also has to cope with her recent diagnosis of uterine cancer, as well as the disrespect and different working methods of her more experienced white, male partner (Peter Outerbridge, who's best known from ReGenesis but was also the original Murdoch of The Murdoch Mysteries). 

Despite being only eight episodes, neatly bundled into 25-minutes chunks, the show's less compelling than you'd hope, almost fetishing its trilingualism, with there more drama in who's choosing to speak which language when and to whom than there is in most other scenes. Song's personal issues make you worry more about the quality of Canada's much-vaunted healthcare system than they do about her, while her being the universal butt-end of both civilian and cop disrespect lacks anything by way of subtlety.

It is thoughtful, though, lovingly shot and the interrogation scenes do make you feel like you're learning how police use psychology to get information from people. All the same, despite its virtues, I'm not sure the mystery, the characters or the politics are compelling enough to make me want to watch any more of it.

November 12, 2015

Mini-review: Donny! 1x1 (US: USA)

Posted on November 12, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Donny Deutsch

In the US: Tuesdays, 10.30/9.30c, USA

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes"

- Andy Warhol, 1969

"In the future, everyone will have their own TV show for 15 minutes"

- Me, now

Donny Deutsch isn't someone I'd ever heard of until Donny! I had been quite interested in seeing Donny!, thinking it might be a new sitcom starring Donny Osmond. After all, how many famous Donnys are there, and any self-titled show that ends in an exclamation mark surely has to involve someone famous and be a sitcom, right?

But no, I soon realised my mistake. "That's not Donny Osmond," I thought. And I was right - you don't get much passed me.

A Google search later and I soon discovered that Donny Deutsch is a former advertising executive and a regular guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe, a judge on NBC's version of The Apprentice, and the former host of CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and CNN's (Get to) The Point

There you go - that's me educated.

Anyway, apparently, having done all this now qualifies him to have his own sitcom. He's not an actor, but having seen Larry David do Curb Your Enthusiasm and been an adman for years, both he and the USA Network thought he could do something similar. 

Donny! sees Donny Deutsch playing a version of himself who hosts a Dr Phil-esque/Jeremy Kyle-esque talk show called Donny! Something of a narcissistic idiot, this Donny is surrounded by much smarter women who have to pick up the pieces of the disasters he creates by sexting stalkers, offering to sleep with his daughter's teachers to get her out of trouble or trying to boost his ratings by confessing that he once had a mole that could have become a precancerous growth.

Then, every so often, he turns to camera to try to sell us something. Not an in-show product at that, but a real product that real-world advertisers are paying him to flog to us. And everyone on the show wonders who he's talking to.

I so hope Campbell's soup gets in on the act.

I'm not quite sure what USA was thinking. All its recent comedies have been awful (eg Benched, Sirens, Playing House), yet here it is, trying again, with what is pretty lukewarm material at best. I'm assuming it simply thought that given that Starz (Blunt Talk), Showtime (The Comedians), ABC (The Muppets) and Lifetime (UnREAL) have all recently had TV shows about fake TV shows, it needed one, too. Oh, yes - and Deutsch stumped up $175,000 to fund his own trial episode.

Whatever the reason, despite having its heart roughly in the right place and having some traces of imagination, this is six episodes of completely avoidable narcissism that Larry David did better. Hell, Jack Dee and even Ken Finkleman did better. Not Paul Reiser, mind - I'll give Deutsch that much.

Anyway, all the funny bits are in the trailer below.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 396 397 398 399 400  

Featured Articles

Twin Peaks

Lynch at his best in years