Don’t think TMINE is ignoring you, Southbank Centre. You may not have your own Events category here yet, but you soon will at this rate, because you’ve got yourself another TV event, this time in September.
Richard Ayoade: Ayoade on Top
Date: Thursday September 5 Timings: 7.30pm-9pm Venue: Royal Festive Hall
In a London exclusive, the writer and director reflects on his award-winning films, comedy and perhaps the best cabin crew dramedy ever filmed in conversation with Adam Buxton.
Ayoade first burst onto our screens as the character of Dean Learner in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and Maurice Moss in the Emmy Award-winning The IT Crowd, for which he was awarded a BAFTA as Best Performance in a Comedy.
In addition to directing and co-writing Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, he has adapted and directed Joe Dunthorne’s novel Submarine for the screen, and is the co-writer (with Avi Korine) and director of film The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg.
Hear from Ayoade as he reflects on making comedy and films, and argues for the canonisation of View From the Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, as a cinematic masterpiece.
Drawing on his latest book, Ayoade on Top, the author takes us on a journey from Peckham to Paris by way of Nevada and other places we don’t care about.
Along the way we encounter unforgettable and forgettable characters, descend into madness and ascend to the sublime summit of a film that celebrates capitalism in all its victimless glory.
In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, FX In the UK: Sundays, BBC Two. Starts May 19
As a rule, TV versions of films aren’t usually that much cop. Sure, there are exceptions (eg Hannibal, La Femme Nikita), but largely you watch a movie, tune in to see the TV series and are disappointed that either it doesn’t capture the strengths of the original or it’s just the movie again and doesn’t do anything new. FX (US)’s adaptation of What We Do In The Shadows is therefore a rarity, as it both embodies many of the movie’s best qualities and transcends them to become its own, even better beast.
I wasn’t hugely impressed when I recently watched 2014’s What We Do In The Shadows in preparation for this FX adaptation. Three vampires flat-sharing in New Zealand? You could predict most of the jokes just from that description. Lots of jokes about whose turn it is to clean up after the latest round of blood-sucking, house meetings, that sort of thing.
Perhaps what you might not have predicted is just how many darker vampiric horror tropes the movie would incorporate, but given it was by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), I was expecting something a whole lot funnier.
Directed by Waititi and written by Clement, the first episode at least of What We Do In The Shadows seems to be an attempt to get the formula right this time.
It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.
The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.
It’s time for a move again. With new shows launching on Thursdays and a couple of Sunday shows finishing, I’ll be switching “What have you been watching?” back to Mondays, starting next week, to give myself time to watch everything. (This was a bad idea. I’m sticking to Fridays for now)
In terms of new stuff, still sitting in the viewing pile somewhere are The Astronaut Wives Club, Complications and Killjoys, which I should be getting round to reviewing on Monday or Wednesday, but I did manage to watch Dark Matter this week, as well as…
Humans (UK: Channel 4; US: AMC) We’ve discussed this a bit already in the comments section elsewhere, but this UK-US co-produced remake of SVT’s Äkta Människor is a surprisingly good bit of sci-fi, imagining a parallel world where robot humans are being created to replace people in sectors ranging from mining to social care to prostitution. Tom Goodman-Hill (Mr Selfridge, Cabin Pressure) decides to buy a ‘synth’ to help out around the house, much to the annoyance of his often-absent wife (Katherine Parkinson, apparently unable to escape the IT crowd), particularly when her children decide they like the new arrival (Gemma Chan from Bedlam) better than their mum. The problem is that Chan and a few other synths may be a little bit more alive than they’re supposed to be…
The show does a decent job of imagining this parallel world, from all the applications that the robots are put to through to the little details about how they’d operate in practice. It also wisely chooses to focus not just on questions of artificial intelligence but how we react to synths – we might like labour-saving devices that do the cooking for us or even read bedtime stories to our children, provided they don’t look like prettier, younger women whom our children can bond with and prefer. Similarly, in the case of engineer and synth inventor (?) William Hurt (Challenger), we might well want to keep an old android around, even once it’s malfunctioning, if we’re starting to dement and the android has the only memories of our dead wife.
The show’s a little too “made in the UK” for my liking, with its prosaic, unimaginative direction making it look like it has a budget of £3.50. Nevertheless, it’s a smart, sometimes creepy, sometimes touching show that I’ll be making an effort to tune in for next episode.
I’ve already passed third-episode verdicts on The Whispers, Westside and Stitchers, so after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal and Strike Back: Legacy, as well as the season finales of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, and the first new episode of the returning Tyrant.
But first, movies!
Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) (iTunes) I’ve already given a lot of the background to this elsewhere, so I won’t go into it in great detail, but suffice it to say a very different adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune was developed in the 1970s by surrealist director Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain) and this movie is a documentary that runs through the history behind it.
It’s a fascinating movie, but watching it, one can’t help but feel that firstly, Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been an absolutely stunning but utterly silly movie with often little more than a passing resemblance to the book. Secondly, it’s surprising how much influence a non-existent movie can have, since without it (or if it had ever been made), there’d have been no Alien and a number of movies would have lost some of their most important imagery. Thirdly, it makes you realise just how crazy mental you need to be to produce at least certain kinds of art.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) (iTunes) X-Men: First Class/Kick Ass’s Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman adapt Mark Millar’s comic The Secret Service to give us a fond homage to Roger Moore-era James Bond, with Colin Firth, Jack Davenport and Michael Caine a bunch of posh secret agents who have to let chav new blood (Taron Egerton) into their top secret organisation when they have to deal with a tech billionaire (Samuel L Jackson) who wants to save the world from nasty polluting human beings.
At times, Kingsman feels like a retread of Vaughn and Goldman’s previous movies, mixing in the school training and spies of First Class with the superbly choreographed fights and ultraviolence of Kick Ass. What largely differentiates the movie is its Englishness, the movie satirising Moore’s Bond and (American) movies’ concepts of what an English gentleman should be while simultaneously taking ownership of it to give something a young, male working class audience to aspire to.
The movie’s final scenes involving a Swedish princess are a little disheartening after the largely good work that preceded it, even if it is another Moore satire, but generally a good viewing and by the end of it, you will accept Colin Firth can be an action hero. Mark Strong is also in there as a Q-like Scotsman, but no Welsh or Northern Irish members of the nation were apparently invited to join the Kingsmen.
Jurassic World (2015) Bigger but not better retread of Jurassic Park set 20 years after the original that imagines a world now jaded about the return of once-extinct dinosaurs so regarding trips to the expanded ‘Jurassic World’ theme park island as little more than trips to the zoo. Consequently, the company behind it decides to bring the crowds back to create a brand new dinosaur by cross-breeding the more dangerous parts of a whole bunch of other dinosaurs – belatedly bringing in former US navy sailor turned Velociraptor trainer Chris Pratt to check out their security. Want to have a guess if it’s good enough or not?
Despite looking excellent, giving plenty of head nods to the original and some oftentimes smart writing, Jurassic World is nevertheless a little dead inside. Characters are either underdeveloped or plain annoying, so we don’t really care enough about them to feel frightened when bad things start to happen. Indeed, you’ll probably care more about the poor herbivorous dinosaurs getting a pasting at the hands of Indominus Rex than about whether Pratt survives to make it to a second date with the perpetually high-heel clad workaholic theme park executive Bryce Dallas Howard, who turns out not to be too shabby with a gun.
All the same, despite not hanging together well as a movie, there are some good individual moments that’ll stick with you afterwards.