BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E4 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Spitting Image‘s fourth episode saw an increased emphasis on the doings of Michael Gove, pop star Adele, and Ivanka Trump. It was about as focused as last week’s episode in this regard (which also focused on a few main characters, mainly Prince Harry and Megan Markle), there thankfully being no return to the chaotic scatter gun approach of Episode Two.

However, there was nonetheless a notable drop in quality from last week. Many of the jokes weren’t relatable (I still find the “Priti Patel is a vampire” thing unintelligible, only now it’s unintelligible and tedious) and many of the others have been well and truly overdone by only the fourth episode (I’m thinking Emmanuel Macron’s overly long lascivious tongue). The joke about Adele’s weight loss and everyone’s fixation on it was mildly amusing the first time it was told in this episode, but not the second time — let alone the fourteenth. We get it, we get it already! Here comes another joke for the umpteenth time: Ivanka Trump is a vacuous person. Okay, okay. Stop it, please, stop the “joke” already. My God, stop. On the up side, Jurgen Klopp was, once again, amusing, although not quite as “funny” as he was in Episode Two. And the “The dress is blue and black… I heard ‘laurel’” joke was admittedly funny, albeit five years out of date. When your best joke in a twenty-four minute sociopolitical satire relates to a five year old viral meme about the colour of a dress, you need to ask yourselves some serious questions.

The main “joke” about Gove seems to be that his cheeks look like two giant bollocks. Heady satire indeed(!) Speaking of which, however, the puppets are wonderful. We get a long look at Piers Morgan, and it’s truly delightful. The puppets really are magnificent. A shame the episode wasn’t. Another tawdry song number rounded off what was a pretty poor, if not totally worthless, fourth instalment. It has made me YouTube the songs from Not the Nine O’Clock News; now that was how to write a funny comedy song!

I haven’t given up hope yet, but I’m getting the feeling that Season One might end up being best viewed in a single twenty minute “Best Bits” compendium.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.chortle.co.uk/images/photos/small/spitting-image-michael-gove.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E3 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Check out my film and TV review blog here

The third episode of BritBox’s Spitting Image was a bit less random than last week’s outing, focusing more on a few key characters. This was necessary as it gave us a bit of time to develop the jokes, insofar as the jokes are developable and not just the same gag repeated and reheated.

We see a massive increase in the presence of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. The jokes were mostly obvious — Harry is a bit of an idiot, he’s posh, he thinks he’s run away to freedom but is actually more under-the-thumb than ever — but these punches nonetheless landed and were funny. The line involving “chukka” made me laugh, encapsulating in a few words Harry’s total detachment from reality like never before in his life.

We started to see significant time committed to ridiculing the totally ridiculous Labour front bench. This was nice, and it’s unclear why the Shadow Cabinet hasn’t been featured that much already; perhaps it’s fear of offending the left, or perhaps it’s just that this ridiculous Labour frontbench is beyond satire. In any case, Starmer was portrayed as the only competent one, all his team presented as incompetent toddlers in need of direction. I’m not sure if this is particularly on the nose, however, as his team is generally seen (by critics) as an example of positive discrimination gone awry with incompetents being overpromoted due to having ticked the right boxes.

Episode Three did just enough to nudge a good rating, but it’s still marginally weaker than the season opener. Spitting Image still seems to be finding its way. It’s a show that the world needs, and it’s a show with a great weight of history behind it. Therefore, I’m willing to give it time to come of age. But it’s still not hitting the right notes.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.expressandstar.com/resizer/qmFY-KcFAe0HGD9SVntsX4S8jUE=/1000×0/filters:quality(100)/arc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-expressandstar-mna.s3.amazonaws.com/public/DTMEWWFY5ZBXRNPIFF24GXDVEI.jpg

BRITBOX REVIEW: SPITTING IMAGE S1E2 #BRITBOX @BRITBOX_UK

Let’s just get straight to it: Spitting Image Episode Two was much weaker than the season opener. No amount of new regular characters can save it. And boy were there a bunch of new characters! We were absolutely pelted with them. Sadly, the scattergun approach usually leaves the viewer grimacing rather than grinning, and this episode did not break that pattern.

It seems they have made the microscopic coronavirus a regular character; it’s boring and pointless. Boris was as underwhelming as last week. Cummings is still good, his reptilian shtick not yet boring although not as funny as last week. Thunberg is amusing, and it’s nice to see them lampooning a person with a learning difficulty. Not because I enjoy mocking disabled people, but because we live in an age where lampooning a person like Thunberg is considered haram due to her autism; satire is there to expose the ridiculous in everyone and everything, and it cannot have sacred cows or else it is toothless. Her autism itself was not mocked, and that is the key.

Stand out stuff was Jurgen Klopp finding the positive in everything including bricks through the window. Very funny and helped me just about get through what was, otherwise, a mostly boring 24 minutes. Frankly, the Klopp stuff were the only parts where I actually laughed out loud as opposed to merely smiling — that is, where I smiled at all.

Generally forgettable stuff, but some shoots of hope remain for this series.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://e3.365dm.com/20/08/1600×900/skynews-boris-johnson-spitting-image_5058070.jpg?20200804162514

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E1 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

check out my film/series reviews website here

Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show that helped define an era (the ’80s-90s Conservative governments) and which was internationally syndicated and remade in dozens of countries. It has gone down in TV legend, so much so that there have been several tries at rebooting it or copying it. But October 2020 is when the show was finally rebooted, exclusive for the BBC-ITV joint delusion venture to rival Netflix: BritBox. But can reality ever live up to the memory of this now fabled show?

Episode one was surprisingly on point in terms of style and gags; you would never have thought the show had been off air for around 25 years. However, just like the good old days, many of the gags fell flat. And just like the good old days, many other gags had an inspired insanity about them (I’m thinking an extra-terrestrial, insectoid, baby-eating Dominic Cummings… if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will).

There was some lampooning of the right, as you would expect, but thankfully the left wasn’t immune, either, Lewis Hamilton and Greta “Magical Autist” Thunberg coming in for fire.

One bizarre weak point left me scratching my head. The guy doing Boris Johnson just wasn’t that good. He was weirdly restrained. Boris Johnson himself makes a better parody of Boris Johnson than this Boris Johnson parody did. Quite odd, and a bit of a flat note.

All in all, this wasn’t the sharpest satire I’ve ever seen. However, it was much better than the knock-off Newzoids (2015-2016). Many jokes landed. It seems to be taking swipes at all. And the trademark mix of heady satire and toilet humour has continued. Worth watching, although I’m not sure if it’ll be good enough to help make BritBox a success.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/x/6/9/0/3/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.1420×800.1x68f9.png/1569726636839.jpg

Netflix Film Review “A Stranger Outside” a.k.a. “Babysitter’s Nightmare” (2018) #NetflixReviews @britt_underwood @JakeHelgren @MarkGrossman @JetJurgensmeyer @ShanicaKnowles

A baby-sitter finds herself trapped in a house playing cat and mouse with a masked serial killer. Sound familiar? A Stranger Outside is standard ’90s Scream-style shlock, albeit without the self-awareness. But it wins points for some interesting plot ideas. For example, the baby-sitter is really a nurse who has taken the gig as a way of getting some easy cash after suffering a career and confidence crisis due to the death of a vulnerable child in her care.

The first half of the movie was trite, and the acting was a little over-the-top, although our lead Brittany Underwood was giving a decent turn. The less said of the performances by her co-stars Mark Grossman (boyfriend Jeremy),  Michael Chandler (incompetent Dr Mixer), Jet Jurgensmeyer (baby-sittee Toby), or best friend Kaci (Shanica “No Relation” Knowles), the better. Things really fall apart in comedy style when the killer starts a-killing. The Scary Movie-like knife thrusts, slicing through pieces of paper, cowering beside counters, and hysterical screaming were beyond absurd; imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.

This film is also oddly disjointed. The first half, a 90s throwback cliché, albeit mildly entertaining. The second half, a spoof movie not realising it’s a spoof movie. Indescribably awful, but in its awfulness, thoroughly enjoyable nonsense. A jumble of decent scenes and terrible scenes, passable acting and insanely awful acting, make for a diverting 90 minutes.

So bad it’s almost good. But not quite.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://occ-0-300-299.1.nflxso.net/dnm/api/v6/0DW6CdE4gYtYx8iy3aj8gs9WtXE/AAAABSEWykCWvsN3qIoOuQSUpoUIgFV-p1C40cukDIinptleaSzG4WfMIxFNvLfP98jWEITc-ViMwCSLAzDLVTmWT6X4t47S.jpg?r=c9d

 

Netflix Film Review “The Son” a.k.a. “El Hijo” (2019) #NetflixReviews @JoaquinFurriel @martinagusman @cianocaceres @heiditoini @leodago_ @leoysubrayo

check out my film review blog at www.moviereviewsblog.com

Lorenzo is a middle-aged artist who is about to have a baby with his much younger, sweetly vulnerable wife Sigrid. But as soon as she falls pregnant, her behaviour becomes more and more distant, sinister even. Or– is it all in Lorenzo’s head? It’s only when the baby is born that Lorenzo and the viewer truly plunge headlong down the rabbit hole.

The film starts with a hot sex scene. Usually a bad sign. However, not so here: The Son was a tense psychological thriller, brilliantly acted by all. Lorenzo’s headspin into wretchedness and/or madness is masterfully constructed by Joaquín Furriel who is almost unrecognisable. Heidi Toini, who plays his Norwegian wife Sigrid, gives a brilliant performance which, like the candlestick-silhouette illusion, could equally be read in two completely different ways depending on perspective; is she an innocent and worried mother or is she a sinister evil plotter? Lorenzo’s best friends Julieta and Renato are equally magnificently played by Martina Gusman and Luciano Cáceres.

Candlestick, or silhouettes? The Son masterfully plays with our perception of reality.

I couldn’t breathe throughout I was that spellbound.

This is honestly one of the best movies I have seen in the last year or two.

It could also be one of the worst.

Why?

Despite being almost perfect, the ending lets it down. But not because it was obvious or forced or too twisty or too straight-forward. Rather, the film just ends. Abruptly. You’ll understand when you see the film, but it’s like it’s missing the last two minutes. All the plot threads are pulling together when the final incident happens and — we don’t get to see the resolution. I had to think about the ending. That’s not a bad thing, the old thinsky ambigui-ending. And I think I know what happened. No spoilers, of course. But then again, judging from other people’s comments, everyone seems to have interpreted the ending differently. There is a line between teasing the viewer and being a pricktease, and with The Son we’ve crossed it; frankly, this movie will leave you with blue balls. It’s actually unacceptable that a movie this brilliant in so many ways should end with the cheap, “We’re not gonna show you!” shot at ambiguity. The writer and director should have had the balls to pick one of the possible outcomes and go with it. I have to warn you: this film is magnificent, but the bad ending — no, actual lack of an ending — is pretty disgraceful and will be, for many a viewer, film-destroying. Perhaps the book on which it is based can shed some light.

So, four stars out of five, or two out of five? I’ll have to give it a three, the weirdest and most atypical three star movie ever.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured images from https://www.megadede.live/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/vcytE1v9e4RGjdhDYobbkFUNJxB.jpg and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Richard_Beasley3/publication/319407054/figure/fig5/AS:553636499787777@1509008635552/Optical-illusion-faces-or-candlestick-or-both.png

Netflix Film Review “The Occupant” a.k.a. “Hogar” (2020)

In the 1990s, Javier Muñoz (Javier Gutiérrez) was a world-eating advertising executive. But twenty years later, he is washed up, yesterday’s man, and a joke to all in the profession. With mounting debts and no prospects, and in spite of the pleas of his suffering wife (Ruth DÍaz), Javier desperately clings to the scraps of his former enchanted life: the dream apartment, the car. But you can only run for so long. For most people, facing the music is a wake-up call to adjust their lifestyle and their expectations; for Javier, it’s a call which wakes up something far more sinister, an obsession which will not die.

The film is beautifully acted throughout, and our leads are deeply convincing. Not only Gutiérrez and his on-screen wife played by Ruth DÍaz, but also the supposed dream couple Tomás (Mario Casas) and Lara (Bruna Cusí). Javier’s journey is front and centre, dramatic, and thoroughly believable. He manages to remain somewhat sympathetic, despite clearly sociopathic tendencies. It’s a testament to both the writing and the acting, not just of Gutiérrez but of his co-stars, that we retain a kind of complicit, twisted, semi-loyalty to Javier, and believe his character arc completely. The other characters’ journeys are no less important, and are equally convincing.

Where once he sold manufactured dreams to the masses, he now craves that dream himself, a truth beautifully referenced through the first and last scenes of the film. The film had a poetic elegance. It was hard-hitting without moralising, and unambiguous as to where right and wrong lie whilst still drawing us in to sympathise with the wrong.

A really wonderful movie, albeit with a somewhat sour ending which may not sit well with a Spielbergian audience. Not sure about the title “The Occupant”; the Spanish title Hogar “Home” fits much better.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://culturalhater.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/the-occupant-2020-movie-review.png

Netflix Film Review “Mirage” a.k.a. “Durante La Tormenta” (2018) #100WordReview

A foreboding storm is the backdrop to the sad tale of a boy who witnesses a murder and in fleeing the scene is run over and killed. Twenty-five years later, an eerily similar storm forms which seems to create a link to the past. Can Vera save the boy? And what consequences will follow from this?

Mirage is a mind-bending mystery crime time-travel film. Beautiful in every way. The ending is shocking and totally satisfying; it doesn’t wipe out our journey as time travel films often do.

5/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/asnozZh17f4Rv9Ro1rETAEEAFOt.jpg

 

 

Netflix Film Review “My Teacher, My Obsession” (2018)

Riley (Laura Bilgeri) moves with her father Chris (Rusty Joiner) to a new town for a fresh start. Struggling to make friends, she eventually joins forces with fellow loner Kyla (Lucy Loken). Things are going well as Riley’s personal life begins to blossom, until it becomes apparent that Kyla is obsessed with her father and will stop at nothing to have him.

My Teacher, My Obsession is a fairly standard obsessive stalker-seducer movie which brings little new to the game. Having said that, the plot is generally well constructed and the characterisation is relatively believable. However, Chris’ vulnerability and struggles to resist seduction by Kyla should have been set-up more convincingly. Also, Kyla’s mother’s naivety regarding her daughter’s true nature doesn’t quite ring true.

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this he was surely given the role. He isn’t a bad actor, but he was miscast. He was particularly unconvincing as a teacher and father, although he does grow into the role of tormented potential seducee later on in the film. The wardrobe department also flunked the exam; I found myself constantly distracted by the bizarrely ill-fitting clothing that Joiner was dressed in.

Laura Bilgeri and Jana Lee Hamblin (Kyla’s mother) were convincing, trying their best to find the throughline in this script which sometimes sagged.

All in all, this is an entertaining TV movie, bubble gum for the brain. Generally competent, if trite, though woefully miscast in the case of Joiner.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BZTI1YTA5ZTMtZjZkYy00ZWVkLTgwMTYtNWM2ZDQ5M2M4MDk5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTYxMjExMzY@._V1_.jpg

 

Netflix Film Review “Calibre” (2018)

check out the 150 word review here

check out my film blog here

Two thirty-ish childhood friends, Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann), meet up after a few years for a weekend away in Scotland to celebrate Vaughn’s impending fatherhood; a kind of paternity stag do. Ironically, to hunt stags — all at Marcus’ expense. But when an incident happens, their trip is turned into a nightmare that which will change their lives forever.

There’s an awful sense of inevitability from the very start of the film, even before the truly shocking and gut-wrenching inciting incident. We know something awful is going to go down. The film gripped me with a suspense I haven’t felt for a while.

The countryside, almost a character itself, oozes Britishness and is both beautiful and haunting. Indeed, the cinematography is beautiful and effective throughout, never drawing attention to itself but is quite magnificent. I particularly enjoyed one shot of Vaughn’s dinner. The sound design is understated but truly powerful and sells the film magnificently. 

The writing is tight and fat-free but never feels shoehorned or with an inevitable end-point. The film is marked by highly convincing motives and actions and reactions from all of our characters throughout. This is sold by some truly phenomenal acting, including from supporting characters.

Vaughn, a shy but nice bloke; Marcus, his larger-than-life but slightly unbalanced friend. We get the impression that Vaughn had emotionally distant parents and was a bully victim; Marcus seems to have the self-confidence and slightly self-destructive side afforded by a more privileged upbringing. But almost all of this was subtly and carefully implied rather than being explicitly stated. It felt like our two leads had a lot of backstory to work with and were therefore able to deliver a very convincing throughline. The film’s first act sees them having a highly believable lad’s bonding session. If you’re a man, this kind of sesh will definitely be familiar, true man-on-man bromantic bonding.

The finale was satisfying and totally appropriate with a final shot which made us feel complicit.

Calibre reminded me of the excellent Eden Lake: a tranquil countryside retreat, an incident in a forest, local townsfolk who seems a little on edge and present a constant threat. But in recalling Eden Lake, a truly gritty and realistic movie, Calibre made me realise how theatrical Eden Lake was by comparison. I was fully gripped and absorbed, whereas Eden Lake now seems a little bit “horror movie”, emphasis on “movie”.

This was writer-director Matt Palmer’s first solo feature length film after several horror short films. So the title “debutant” seems a little inappropriate. None-the-less, this is a debut solo feature, and it a remarkable accomplishment.

This film was tense and boding from the outset. It’s hard to think of how this could have been improved. Everything was magnificent. I am sorely tempted to give this a five star rating, but I only give five star reviews to films that I immediately think, “Wow, this will go down as one of the greatest movies in history”. Calibre was too simple a story and too simply told to ever be classed as one of cinema’s greatest works. But even though Calibre may not have changed the cinematic game, it is, none-the-less, a phenomenal movie which I cannot recommend highly enough.

4/5

featured image from https://kayoustore.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/WEB-6.jpg