The Boys: Season One

boys1This was great. An eight-part series based on a comic book that I’d never even heard of written by Garth Ennis, the same guy behind Preacher (a comic book which I read several years ago via the graphic novel reprints, and which was also turned into a tv series on Amazon). The Boys comic book was published between 20o6 and 2012, so as far as comic geeks are concerned, its ancient history already, but it’s interesting to note its ‘age’ because it possibly informs its approach. Basically it’s a superhero book that is consciously the opposite of all the standard comic book tropes of traditional Marvel/DC superheroes. It takes the premise of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, in postulating that superheroes are real and living in our real world, and what they and the world would be like- basically, what would the world be like if Superman was real? In Watchmen, Superman is Dr Manhattan, a scientist of the Cold War transformed into a being with Godlike powers, who grows increasingly withdrawn and distant from human affairs that unravel in his wake during the cold-war 1980s. In The Boys, Superman is Highlander, a complete and utter self-centered dangerous asshole who feels he is above the law- possibly above any authority in the world. Indeed, the superheroes here are as unaccountable as real-life celebrities appear to be in our world, using their power and wealth to manipulate the media in their favour (no, I don’t like celebrity culture).

Basically, in The Boys all the superheroes have gone Corporate, they are celebrities whose brands are used to sell anything from beers to cereals, and whose popularity and powers have generally corrupted them so that they become reckless and self-centered and endanger the safety of the public and the world at large. The title of both comic and tv show refers to “The Boys”, a clandestine group of ordinary people who are at odds with the superheroes, intent on breaking through the lies and abuse of their powers, uncovering the truth about them, revealing their wrongs and hunting them down… and blowing them up if necessary (or putting a power drill to the test).

boys3Even for someone like me who loves the Watchmen graphic novel and movie (and hopefully the HBO spin-off series incoming this Autumn), The Boys is like a breath of fresh air. It deliberately sets out to undermine the traditions of the genre, full of gratuitous violence, sex and swearing and sending up most every standard trope that is celebrated in most any Marvel or DC superhero movie. We like to imagine that most anyone given superpowers would be like Captain America or Spider Man or Ant Man, you know, basically good and decent and set on ‘doing the right thing’ but the truth is, people aren’t inherently noble, are not generally incorruptible- people are usually greedy and selfish and self-centered, and most people given super powers would as likely be jerks abusing those powers as they would becoming noble, selfless heroes.

These guys lie and kill with wild abandon, and with no supervillains to keep them in check or validate their existence they run amok abusing their powers/position and manipulate public opinion through corporate videos and events. We can recognise the manipulation of social media and celebrity culture and it all looks pretty realistic.

The Boys benefits from coming out of nowhere, I think, as it constantly surprises. I gather many things are changed from the original comic book (some characters have changed sex and race, for instance) but part of the fun remains spotting the representations of familiar superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Aquaman, and how The Boys variants are shown as horrible jerks and twisted shadows of the DC counterparts. It can run fast and loose and isn’t at all weighed down by, say, seventy years of comics mythology that weighs down the traditional superhero characters- and as it deliberately intends to shock and surprise it just gets wilder and funnier and, yes, quite disturbing at times. The wanton gory human collateral of the superheroics is a brutal reminder of what the traditional genre movies rather forget- you cannot destroy skyscrapers or cities etc without killing dozens or hundreds of regular innocents, and watching HIghlander gorily cut apart dozens of ‘terrorists’ because they are not American, or leave a plane of civilians to die because he messed up the rescue, can be very sobering indeed. He could be a hero like Superman, but instead he’s an asshole, because he’s only human, afterall. And the Boys need to take him down.

Yeah, great stuff, and very well done. Its gory and violent and funny and quite a surreal commentary on the celebrity-obsessed, social media culture we are living in. The cast and the production design and scripts are terrific and I really can’t fault it at all. I look forward to season two next year.

The 2019 List: August

glow3Hey, August- a month of holidays and sun and.. well, no holiday for me and not really that much sun. How else to explain somehow getting through this lot when I should have been out having a good time getting on the beach etc?

TV Shows

99) The Big Bang Theory Season Three

100) Another Life

105) The Big Bang Theory Season Four

109) The Big Bang Theory Season Five

111) Glow Season Three

114) The Boys Season One


101) Johnny English Strikes Again

102) Hotel Artemis

103) Flatliners (2017)

104) Shazam!

106) Final Score

107) Fahrenheit 11/9

108) mother!

110) Hunter Killer

112) Aquaman

113) Overlord


(Another) Sign o’ the Times

I’m beginning to think I’m living on some other planet to most folks, and that the title of this blog is getting more pertinent than ever. I read on the news today that Avengers: Endgame has broken UK records for digital downloads. In its first week it has totalled 335,400 downloads.

Who are these people buying digital downloads? Who are these people who have abandoned physical formats and jumped onto this digital train to God only knows where? I don’t get it. I don’t think I ever will. Ever since I ‘lost’ my digital purchase of Robotron on my old Xbox 360, a few dozen digital albums I bought on Virgin Music several years ago and my digital copy of Blade Runner that mysteriously vanished from my Flixster account, I’ve sworn off digital anything. I don’t trust it. Far as I can see, nobody ‘owns’ anything when they buy something digitally, its instead just a license and I can trust any vendor about as much as I can trust Rancors are vegan.

But digital is certainly popular with someone. Me, I can easily wait an extra week or two to buy a copy on 4K disc if its a film I really want to see at its best, or on blu-ray or wait a few months longer to see it on streaming via Prime or Netflix or maybe Sky. But I’ve got shelves of discs behind me that most folks are just not interested in, home video collections going as out of fashion as decent Star Wars movies.

The BBC news report also states that as far as Avengers: Endgame is concerned, its widely expected that it won’t appear on other platforms such as Sky, Netflix or Amazon and will instead other than digital sales will only appear on Disney’s own Disney+ platform for streaming. As long as physical disc formats are still in the mix and I have that choice, then I’m reluctantly fine with the situation (to a point) but I am sure we can all see where the future is eventually heading.  Sign o’ the times indeed. I’m feeling old enough these days without this nonsense.



overlord1Overlord should be a guilty pleasure, a pulpish, b-movie blast. It reminded me a great deal of Planet Terror, a film I really do consider a guilty pleasure. It has that same kind of madly self-indulgent, OTT approach, but Overlord certainly isn’t anywhere near as bold as Planet Terror was. Instead of grindhouse this film is way, way more mainstream, and yeah, plays things surprisingly (considering its as gory and violent as it is) safe. I find myself thinking that had Overlord been a Quentin Tarantino flick, it could have been great- it just needs that edge, that wild dialogue and those crazy shocks that Tarantino is so famous for, which its lacking.

Which is, yeah, a case of me moaning more about what it isn’t rather than what it is, which possibly isn’t fair, but the film rather seems to have set itself up this way, promising a pulpish World War Two horror film that is pretty wild. But it isn’t, really. The bad guy Nazi’s are pretty routine when they possibly should have been super-pantomime villains, hysterically crazy-funny. They should have been really ‘Out There’ and instead they seem quite pedestrian bad guys; it’s almost as if the film wastes its Nazi menace. Which is a little odd, considering the main bad guy villain Wafner is played by Pilou Asbæk, who was so wild in Game of Thrones as the insufferably annoying Euron Greyjoy. Asbæk is quite neutered in this, and his performance sums up the rest of the film too. And don’t get me started on the utterly anemic mad scientist in this.

Maybe it should have been more of a War movie than it is a horror movie? I mean, it isn’t really scary as it is, and maybe that’s because it fails as a horror film.  I don’t know. I just get the feeling this film could have been a riot, and it wasn’t. Despite the gore and violence, it’s quite uninvolving and comes across like the PG-certificate cut of a proper R-rated picture. So bloody weird, frankly.



Last Week: This Matrix may have a score to settle

matrix1Well, Warners are bringing The Matrix back. Its been rumoured before, but the announcement this week seems more official: Lana Wachowski (one half of the Wachowski, ahem, sisters who brought us the original trilogy) is signed up, as is Keanu Reeves and (somehow) Carrie-Anne Moss. Presumably shooting next year for a 2022 release, who knows, there’s still plenty of time for it to fall apart. Keanu is, as the Hollywood parlance goes,  rather ‘hot’ at the moment, with his John Wick films doing so well, which likely explains why Matrix 4 is finally happening. The Wachowski’s have struggled post-Matrix (although I did really enjoy Cloud Atlas) so in some ways it’s a little surprising that Lana is even attached to the project, but I guess it keeps the fans onboard. Speaking as a fan of all three Matrix movies (I actually have a sneaky adoration of the second one in particular, as freakish as that may seem) I’m intrigued to say the least at seeing what might happen next. At their very worst, the Matrix trilogy is odd and confounding and subversive and full of good (and bad) ideas, and I’ll take that over the generic fodder we seem to get lately. I just hope they bring the Architect back.

It will be in some company, what with future Marvel, DC, Star Wars and Avatar movies in the offing over the next decade- it rather makes me wonder where they’ll all fit in on the release schedules. Where will ‘ordinary’ non-genre movies fit in, I wonder?

Mentioning Star Wars, it has likely not escaped anyones attention that the trailer for The Mandalorian, Disney’s new flagship show headlining its November Disney+ launch, was revealed this week. Of course it’s impossible to judge anything from its trailer, but it at least looks ‘Star Wars’. To be honest, I thought it looked like a neat idea for a proper Star Wars standalone movie, like Rogue One, and that its almost a pity its a mini-series rather than a movie. It could be great, but here in the UK we don’t know when we are getting Disney+ anyway, so it becomes something of a moot point.  Sign o’ the times indeed. People get used to downloading/streaming torrents, they aren’t going to be inclined to subscribe when it eventually arrives, especially if its been seen ‘by other means’, but Disney may have a situation in the UK with Sky having rights to so much Disney content. Actually makes me wonder, if Disney pulls all that content, what on Earth will Sky have to actually air?

Not that Sky are unique in that situation, but they are particularly open to some damage there. Content is king, afterall, and as streaming avenues open up and content becomes tied to particular streaming channels, a whole new world opens up and the old content providers, whether it be Sky or Virgin Media, whoever, could be in trouble.

Funnily enough, I’m reminded of when Battlestar Galactica‘s two-part pilot was edited into a theatrical release over here in the UK,  and wonder if Disney would consider launching The Mandalorian over here in cinemas this Autumn if its first episode/s could work as a standalone item. Afterall, it’s all just digital files on hard drives these days, there’s no expense making prints like back then. Might keep the hype train rolling and divert people from those torrents.

So anyway, this week real-life issues got in the way somewhat regards writing posts here. I did manage to watch some stuff though – other than the execrable mother!, or Hunter Killer and Aquaman (three things that I did manage to post about), I did complete Season Three of Glow (which was fine) and watched a few episodes of The Boys (which is pretty great). Also my copy of the Ghost Story expanded soundtrack from Quartet Records arrived, but I haven’t really had proper opportunity to listen to it yet. Its a big, lush, romantic score, quite complex in orchestration and unlike the scores we get these days (it dates, of course, to 1981).

On the subject of scores, as I didn’t mention it in my Aquaman review, I feel the moment is right to point out that Rupert Gregson-Williams Aquaman score was, like the film itself, all over the place tonally. Sometimes symphonic and grand, sometimes it was all ‘Daft Punk’ channeling Tron Legacy, at others it was all Bear McCreary BSG. I suspect we hear the temp track revealing itself. But the source music used was something else entirely… did I hear the most horrible mutilation of Toto’s Africa that has ever been inflicted upon Western Civilization? I actually looked on Amazon and they even included it on the official soundtrack album. Ye gods. I’ve listened to the track (Oceans to Oceans) on Youtube and still cannot quite believe it exists. Isn’t Donald Trump being President enough of a cross for us to bear?


aqua1Less is  more. Its a lesson that patently escapes most modern filmmakers (and producers/studios) on the evidence of most blockbusters these days. Aquaman is a film that squeezes two or three films into its 2.5-hour running time; when I was watching it I felt oddly divorced from what was going on, almost absently watching it, and it only occured to me afterwards that it was likely because I simply couldn’t keep up with it. Aquaman is really The Aquaman Trilogy in one huge package, and in doing that it repeats the same mistake that blighted Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and others.

Maybe its my age, and maybe it’s the only way to maintain the ATD-impacted younger generation’s attention and stop them getting bored, but there’s so many relentless plot points and acton scenes it leaves the film all blockbuster without any substance. Case in point: when Aquaman is smuggled into Atlantis and counsellor Vulko (Willem Dafoe?wtf?) issues him with plot exposition triggering another quest the momentary stillness is immediately broken by another attack and another fight sequence incase that three-minute exposition has set the young’uns to sleep.  Indeed, what is the point of Black Mantra in the film? It seems that in any well-conceived project he’d be the nominal ‘bad guy’ for a whole film but here he’s almost an afterthought, appearing and then disappearing until he pops up again for an action sequence and then gone again, resurfacing (sic) for a mid-credits sequence at the end.  I suspect his character could be entirely cut and the film would be largely unaffected.

There’s a good movie in here somewhere, I think, but it’s probably about an hour long, and the other hour could be likely edited into a satisfying Aquaman Pt 2. Chucking it all together just makes it feel insanely aimless and scattershot. Its hardly unusual in this, it just mirrors how so many films are now. Films seem to lack the confidence to take their time, add some weight and space. We used to blame it on the MTV generation, but is that even a thing now? And who watches TV commercials anymore- surely we can’t blame the tight editing of commercials these days now that we skip through them.

It certainly highlights the comparative success (as a movie, if not box office) of Shazam! which I watched a week or so ago and really, really enjoyed. The entire plot of Shazam! would likely have been reduced to 40 minutes in Aquaman. Its a shame, because Aquaman‘s cast is pretty good on the whole, and the production design quite impressive, albeit perhaps mind-bogglingly OTT, but its all for naught, its all overcooked and.. well, you know, if it was a meal you’d be stuffed and chucking it all back up an hour or two later. Pardon the image, but that’s how this film felt. Such a shame. Less is more.

Hunter Killer

hunter2Gerard Butler’s finest gift is appearing in daft tosh such as this and yet acting as if he’s in some classic serious arthouse flick. Its as if winking to the audience like Arnie always did is beneath him- no small feat considering the lines of dialogue he delivers and the preposterous plots of the films he so frequently stars in (and produces, no less).

And we have a winner here- 31 producer credits listed to this film! I thought the 23 I noticed last week while watching Final Score would take some beating but I was obviously mistaken. There’s a few films I could name with less actors than the number of producers for this one (there’s just something that feels wrong when the number of producers outnumbers the cast).

The sets are magnificent though- it’s clear the production design was a huge undertaking and the submarine sets really are quite convincing (although I’m not sure about all those flat panel screens, it wouldn’t surprise me if that turned out accurate). It would appear that the production tried to cement the film in some sort of physical reality before launching into its crazy Tom Clancy-on-steroids plot.

Anyway, not much else I can mention regards this nonsense, except that perhaps someone should reign in Gary Oldman before he does himself an injury chewing up the scenery with his ludicrous over-acting. He’s much better than this kind of film, and he knows it, but he should keep it to himself instead of hamming it up onscreen. Just take the paycheque Gary and don’t draw attention to yourself.

Sadly, I should think this was likely one of the very last films that Michael Nyqvist made before his death in 2017. It was quite a jolt seeing him appear onscreen, and it’s quite a good, albeit subdued performance. Pity he and Gary couldn’t have had a scene together- that would have been nuts.


motherHmm. Let’s get the positive out of the way first- this was possibly the nearest I’ve yet seen to a dreamstate, that is, the sense of being inside a dream, that I have ever seen in a movie. The strange, disorientating, anxiety-ridden sequence of events closely mirrored the feeling I have had in dreams, of being inside/outside of events, the sense of bewilderment and things not really making any sense. If Darren Aronofsky’s aim was to achieve that sense of being in a dream in this film, indeed if that’s what this film really was, a repeating, never-ending dream loop, then I’d say he succeeded, triumphantly.

On the other hand, if he was making some commentary within a deliberately obtuse narrative, some kind of biblical morality tale or something that held within it some kind of meaning, then he failed utterly and the film is garbage.

I don’t refer to films as garbage very often. Flawed, usually. Directors, producer, actors etc don’t in my experience deliberately try to make a ‘bad’ picture- I certainly hope that every film project is made with at the very least, the best of expectations from the start. Outside forces, whether it be cost overruns, location issues, studio interference, there are all sorts of reasons why films can turn out lousy. But when a filmmaker is given pretty much complete creative control, and indeed Final Cut, then the buck stops with him/her. And I think that’s where mother! stands. Its a misguided, wholly self-indulgent piece that fails to connect.

You can be obtuse. I don’t mind David Lynch going all weird at times during his recent Twin Peaks television project. Its fun to try to make sense of things, and indeed, while we may grasp at some explanation and fail, there is always the sense that Lynch himself or his collaborator Mark Frost has a roadmap, that there is some narrative framework there that may elude us, but it’s there. I didn’t get that with mother! and neither did I care. I didn’t empathise with any of the characters, it was all happening at some distance and I didn’t care for it at all. What’s the point of a film if it doesn’t connect in some way and engage the viewer? Surely when you make a film, you enter into some kind of contract with the viewer of that film, even if it’s intended to confuse, to at least make some kind of sense or suggest there is some underlying meaning, even if the viewer cannot grasp it. Somebody can watch Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and be confused by it, but they can have some sense of a narrative arc to the film, the sense that there is some kind of ‘message’ or intention on the part of Kubrick to at least challenge the audience. If only a challenge to watch it again and try to piece together some interpretation.

Here’s a film, rare that it is, that I have no wish to ever see ever again.

Last Week: Warning- Disney loves the Alien

ndisneyDistressing news last week (at least I think it’s distressing, your own mileage may vary) was that Disney, having now gobbled up 20th Century Fox, is looking at all the IP its bought and is looking at ways to maximise the potential returns. One of the first properties under its uncanny eye is Alien, and it has been reported that it is looking to reboot the franchise.

Dear God. I hope that doesn’t mean a remake of the original Alien.

Now, I well understand that this also means we can finally dump Prometheus and Alien Covenant in the trash bin and pretend they never happened, because once the reboot button is pressed, then essentially everything prior becomes non-canon, and, well, as we won’t be getting a third prequel from Ridley Scott, the two films are pretty much even more useless than they were before. I’ll be honest, I was rather forlornly hoping that Ridley had another Alien film in him to tie things up with those Engineers and save the day but, alas, it seems its not to be. Maybe this is a good thing.

But they’d better keep there hands off remaking the 1979 movie.

Rebooting Alien. What the hell does that even mean? Do they go back to the Dan O’Bannon/Ron Shusett original treatments and start from scratch? Does that mean a redesign of the Alien and dropping Giger’s creature? There’s a special circle of Hell waiting for any execs crazy enough to make that move. Giger simply is Alien. His dark twisted horror/sexual imagery is the core of the film’s Lovecraftian dread. There’s all sorts of subconscious tensions and fears in that stuff. Maybe they could recreate the creature in CGI fully recapturing those proportions of his paintings that really confound the limitations of a man in a suit. I’d go with that. But let’s not lose the creature.

So what do Disney do? What the hell has that Mouse got in its head? Making a movie set in the same Alien universe, but maybe set after Alien, or Aliens? Pretend that everything from Alien 3 never happened?

Or does it go the Another Life route? Crew the Nostromo with a hip young crew of beautiful people, white, black, gay, straight, bisexual, oversexed, ultracool, dressed in cool fashionable clothes with perfect haircuts. Send them into space with a slick spaceship carrying a payload of water to a climate-change ravaged desert Earth and have them detour to a planet and a flying saucer with a Made In the USA sticker hidden of their sight in a cunning ploy by the Weyland corporation to field test their new bio-warfare toy on an alien Love Island?

God leave it alone Disney. You’ve messed up Star Wars, just leave Alien alone. Its not your thing. This isn’t about selling children’s toys/merchandise or creating Nostromo rides at Disneyland. Alien is Heavy Metal, its hardcore adult horror. I know it hasn’t been that for years, really, but let’s just pretend that 1979 film is Out Of Bounds.

Whatever next? Reboot Planet of the Apes (again)? Reboot Die Hard (again)? Hey, I can see it now- it’s the grudge match everyone’s been waiting for- its Aliens versus Apes in Weyland Tower, a corporate skyscraper under siege by eco-terrorists, and our only hope is a bitter detective visiting town to see her ex-husband who works on the 99th Floor. Can Jane McClane alert the authorities of the terrorist attack before they can steal the Weyland Biowarfare files, while somehow surviving the attention of talking Apes and slimy Alien Face Huggers? It may be Easter, but those Eggs aint for kids mutha—-r.  Kerching! I can hear those cash registers ringing, I’m on fire. Talk to my agent, Disney, I’m sure we can do business.

Fahrenheit 11/9

flintI really thought this film was a distressing but tragically fitting document of our times: like many of us, perhaps, Michael Moore cannot quite believe the world we are living in. “Did we dream it?” he asks, as if doubting his own sanity. The title is a nod to Michael Moore’s most famous documentary film, Fahrenheit 9/11, here cleverly inverting the title to Fahrenheit 11/9, and referring to the election of Donald Trump on 9th November 2016. Yes, in this film Moore examines the broken American political system, the lies, hypocrisy, lack of gun control, corporate mendacity, and chiefly the rise of Donald Trump and how the impossible happened, how it came to be that he got elected. There’s plenty of people in his sights, including, perhaps most distressingly of all, the Republican party’s opposition, the Democrats and the the rise (and Democrats own destruction) of Bernie Sanders. Everybody in power is dishonest, in it for themselves- the whole system is corrupt, leaving the ‘little people’ (yeah, I sneaked in a Blade Runner reference), the general public, left behind poorer and ignored in its wake. Its all oddly reminiscent of John Carpenter’s They Live, sadly.

Seeing what amounts to politics and our own political elite here in the UK, with the bewildering machinations of our self-serving Westminster politicians, the media manipulation, their convenient soundbites and aversion to answering genuine questions, while Brexit overshadows everything, it’s easy to see parallels between Moore’s arguments and what is happening over here.

A particularly harrowing section concerns Flint, Michigan, a city whose water supply was poisoned in 2014 by its Republican governor Rick Snyder who enriched his corporate cronies/sponsors by building an unnecessary pipeline that literally poisoned the people, leaving children with dangerous, life-changing levels of lead in their bodies. Moore shows how the authorities manipulated evidence and outright lied to the public, denying there was any problem. Worse of all, Moore’s film presents a damning indictment of then-President Barack Obama, who closed ranks with the corrupt Snyder by visiting Flint and delivering a patronising and empty speech in which he lied and even made a blatantly condescending  pretense of drinking a glass of water. That a man so widely well-regarded as a noble and genuine leader, could be such a charlatan and fail to do anything to help, is shocking indeed. He comes across as badly as Trump himself, who is naturally the real villain and target of the film.

Its really all quite depressing, and it’s certainly difficult to describe any of it as entertaining (some footage of school gun attacks is particularly harrowing). Moore paints Trump as a Devil incarnate, even showing footage of Hitler and the Nazi rise to power in 1930s Germany under audio of Trump’s inane speeches. That section felt a step too far to me, but it certainly made its point about how an intelligent, liberal and open Germany of the 1920s could become what it did, reminding us that what could happen there could happen here- indeed, Moore reflecting that it is happening, right now, and people seem powerless to stop it.

Netflix has all sorts of documentary films on all sorts of subjects, but this one certainly is well worth anyone’s time if they want to ponder on the political state of the world we live in, the corruption and the lies, all that stuff that rightly makes us all angry. You may not agree with Moore’s point of view, but his argument is quite harrowing and the film something of an eye-opener. America is not the America we thought it was. Let’s hope the United Kingdom does not follow suit- mind, we have Boris as Prime Minister now. Maybe John Carpenter was right all along. The aliens are here.