Endgame – thoughts (no spoilers)

     It begins and ends with Iron Man. That is as spoilery as I will get in this look at the conclusion of the Infinity War saga, Avengers: Endgame. The Russo brothers were always going to be up against it trying to top Avengers: Infinity War. Not only is it an epic film, story, and piece of filmmaking, it also has one of the best endings in modern cinema. 

    Though pretty much every MCU film has been guaranteed to bring the audience back, the anticipation for this movie has been off the charts. Endgame has only one, albeit slight, problem. You know, because of the nature of the genre, they are going to win.

   Obviously, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Anyone of a certain age will remember the frustrating, unsatisfying, endings of many an episode of the visually impressive Michael Mann show, Miami Vice from the mid-eighties. Life is hard and, at times, unfair enough. We want to see our heroes win. 

   The knowledge of them winning is one thing, how they are going to win is another. Having watched the film, I am confident that even that one smug person you know, who always knows what’s going to happen, will not be able to second guess this one. 

   There are so many elements at play, so many things one just could not have guessed at, no matter how many comics you have read or how many times you have seen the twenty-one previous films. All of the rhetoric and theorising is over now. Most of it is wrong. 

   The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen Mcfeely is masterful. There are nearly fifty speaking parts in the film. Fifty. To have so many characters interacting, without the feeling that some are just getting lines because they are on the screen is hard. Just ask any of the actors in Fox’s X-Men films how that feels. 

    The Markus/Mcfeely script has humour, emotion, suspense and still manages to tell a compelling story that one is invested in. At three hours long, the film is a test of one’s bladder if you are foolish enough to enjoy that giant Coke whilst watching the trailers. 

   Truth be told, the film does not feel three hours long, the set up from Infinity War giving Endgame an oppressive urgency that does not let up until the final act. The film answers just about every question you could possibly have had about the story arc over its twenty-one film run.

   As much as there are those who like to know what happens before they see it, I promise this film can only be truly enjoyed if you see it spoiler free. It would be a massive disservice for me, or anybody else, to reveal any of the plot points if you had any intention of seeing the film. 

   As one would expect, the film looks magnificent. You should see this film on the biggest screen you can find. The Russo’s, unsurprisingly, really added to their reputation as masters of the genre, having directed four – including Endgame – of the MCU Infinity War arc films.

That they directed the best of all the films is also a case that could be made for the brothers, having helmed two Captain America films, Civil War and The Winter Soldier, as well as the Avengers pair.

    Music also plays a big part in the film, setting the mood and scene, different melodies denoting different heroes. A veteran of some one-hundred-and-twenty-six films, Alan Silvestri is the man behind the music, a name familiar to just about anyone who watches films.

   The MCU, behemoth that it is, might seem, with all of the money and star power, to almost be bullying the competition, with any other film released around the same time as their films getting completely overshadowed. 

   What the MCU films have done is raise the standard expected from a blockbuster and, even more relevantly, multi-strand story telling. If others who follow can do half as well as the MCU have, cinema could be very interesting over the next decade. Go and see Endgame.    

After Life – review (Netflix)

    If you have read any of my reviews on Vocal.media or on WordPress, you know that I’m a fan of both film and television. Though I have been concentrating my efforts on Netflix films of late – you’re welcome – my true love is serial television. 

   Even before my favourite show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hit the screens, I enjoyed Starsky and Hutch, House on the Prairie, The Six Million Dollar Man and many other shows of the seventies and eighties.

    Those older shows, even though episodic, usually told an entire story per episode, a murder would get solved, a bad guy caught, world disaster avoided, whatever the issue, regardless of scale, it was generally sorted out in one episode. Sometimes the writers would lose their minds and make you have to wait an entire week for the conclusion. Madness!

   Then Steven Bocho changed everything. In 1981 Hill Street Blues, an ensemble cast, police show, introduced the multiple episode story arc, where the main story would run over several episodes or even a season as smaller stories happened in each episode. It changed the landscape of television and is pretty much the norm now. 

   Moving beyond what Bochco instigated and even what many of my favourite writers of today began their careers with, is the bingeable format that is the expectation on streaming services now. No longer does one have to wait a week to see what is going to happen in a show. A ten-episode arc? Clear the weekend, Netflix and chill. 

     Like I have written before, besides the star or director of a show or film, the thing that gets me to want to watch a show is who it is written by. For the most part, many of my favourite writers ply their trade on the other side of the water; Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Amy Sherman-Palladino – Gilmore Girls is one of the best-written shows ever. Fight me. 

    Here in the UK, there are certain writers whose reputations precede them. Lynda La Plante, Richard Curtis, Charlie Brooker and, of late, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Another well-known writer on these shores, though he is always thought of predominantly as a comedian, is Ricky Gervais. 

   Having risen to global prominence after writing, along with Stephen Merchant, The Office. Gervais went on to create, with Merchant in collaboration once more, Extras. Gervais brilliance is never more evident than in the film The Invention Of Lying. 

    An excellent comedy where the premise is actually the title of the film, it is a romantic comedy where Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a man who lives in a world where he is the only person capable of telling a lie. 

   This year Gervais has written, directed and stars in a six-episode, dramedy on Netflix called After Life. Gervais is Tony Johnson, a journalist on a local newspaper whose life spirals into depression when his wife, Lisa ( Kerry Godliman) dies of cancer. He watches videos of his departed wife that she had recorded for him when she realised she was going to die.

    Suicidal of thought and seeing no point in anything, Tony says the only reason he has not killed himself is because of his dog. He visits his dementia ravaged father, Ray (David Bradley) every day in the nursing home, but sees little point in that, as his father always asks for Lisa, something Tony finds particularly wounding. 

   Tony’s brother-in-law, Matt (Tom Basden) is also his boss at the newspaper. He puts aspiring journalists Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) to work with him, so as she can gain some experience, and to try and lift him out of his depression. Tony is angry. Angry at the world. 

   I must admit, I found the first episode of After Life really difficult to enjoy. It is bleak, punctured only briefly with the blackest of humour. I left it after that and only returned again after a couple of people told me how good it was. The second episode had me hooked. 

   The writing of the show is so poignant and observant, Tony’s pain is used as a magnifying glass of the human condition. Even though he seems to have the greatest reason to be miserable, suicidal, it shows that even as he feels his life is at its lowest possible ebb, others around him have stuff going on too. 

    Every character is wonderfully observed, no character is added just for comedic effect. Every person in the story has a reason to be there, has a story to tell even if it does not get told. It is, if you can get past the heaviness of the first episode, an astounding show. Quite, quite brilliant. Gervais is a genius. Watch it. 


Sniper: Ultimate Kills

    The words ‘ultimate’ ‘sniper’ and ‘kill’ are very popular when it comes to creating film titles. Put any one of those words into the search bar on IMDB and a whole slew of variations pop up. It seems that many a filmmaker has the same idea as to what makes a good title. Or they’re just lazy. 

   So, what do you get if you put all of those high impact words into your title? You get Netflix’s offering, Sniper: Ultimate Kill. It is a title that almost has an exclamation mark without needing to add it, every word emotive and riddled with finality. 

    A Colombian drug lord, Diego Paolo (Fausto Garrido) goes to see his mistress. He is heavily guarded and sees her in a remote location. His mistress (Janeth Barreto) prepares for his arrival. When he arrives, he joins her in the bedroom. The bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and Paolo lounges in the bath waiting for his mistress. As she disrobes and joins him in the bath, his brain is splattered by a sniper bullet. 

    Ex-marine sniper, Thomas Worthington (Conrado Osorio), is struggling with PTSD. Guilt, brought on by his many years of killing, causes him to commit suicide. At his funereal Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins), a marine sniper, wonders if he might end up the same way. 

   He voices these concerns to Richard Miller (Billy Zane), one of his superiors. Miller tells him he does not think he is likely to go down the same route.

      He has a job for him to do in Colombia.  He is to go and help the DEA with the apprehension of Jesús Morales (Juan Sebastián Calero), the drug lord who is having all of his rivals killed. Morales also has a sniper in his employ. They nickname him El Diablo. Such is his proficiency he is said to always get his man. 

     His father, Thomas Beckett (Tom Berenger), is head of operations down in Colombia. Heading up the DEA is Kate Estrada (Danay Garcia), she has been hunting Morales for a long time. They get intel that Morales is going to be at a specific location, but they only have twenty-four hours. 

    Estrada mobilises her men and leads the operation to apprehend Morales. Beckett is to back her up. When they get to the location, it turns out to be a trap and Estrada’s team is wiped out, including one of her good friends, captain Garza (Lucho Velasco). 

   Back at the base of operations another department head, this time from Homeland security, John Samson (Joe Lando) wants to know why the operation went bad. They all agree that they must have a mole. Samson wants them to cancel the operation. Beckett argues for forty-eight hours more time. 

   They go and try to lie low in a safe house. Santiago Caledrón (Pedro Jose Pallares), the spotter for Beckett, watches for any issues, The safe house turns out to be compromised as well. Estrada goes to see a friend in the town, Father Carlos (Jaime Correa). Father Carlos tells her about El Diablo.

    Morales is trying to expand his operation. El Diablo visits him at his house wanting to know where his money for the Beckett job. Morales tells him that Beckett is still alive and he is fired.  Beckett, Estrada and the remaining team members look for another safe house. They are attacked once again.

   This time, all are killed except for Beckett and Morales. Unable to trust anyone else, they team up to try and find both Morales and El Diablo. Estrada has El Diablo’s girlfriend, Maria Ramos (Diana Hoyos) address. In the confusion, during the attack on the convoy, Estrada goes to find Maria alone. 

    When she confronts Maria, she is set upon by Morales henchmen. Beckett catches up with her and kills most of the assailants. They get El Diablo’s true identity from a locket worn by Maria. Estrada goes to father Carlos to get them off the streets. 

    Beckett starts killing Morales top guys to flush out Morales. Morales is forced to reemploy El Diablo. El Diablo has father Carlos kidnapped in an attempt to flush Beckett and Estrada out. Father Carlos is killed during the execution of the failed plan. 

    During father Carlos’ funeral, Beckett sees the henchman who escaped before. He catches him and finds out where Morales is. Morales is arrested. They need to take him to the States but they know that he will be a target of El Diablo. They decide to use Morales to flush El Diablo out.

    They tell Samson that Morales will be in a dry cleaning van, the security convoy being a decoy. When the dry cleaning van is blown up by El Diablo, they not only have their mole, Samson, they also know where El Diablo is. Beckett kills him. Samson gets arrested. The end.

    At ninety-three minutes long, Sniper: Ultimate Kill is not a long film. It meanders along nicely, trying occasionally to be deeper than it actually is, with the exchanges between characters that are supposedly close, mundane at best. 

    Chad Michael Collins, who looks like a less intense, less gnashy, Michael Fassbender, is perfectly adequate as the lead. He is believable enough as a marine sniper, he just does not have a great deal to do. 

    Danay Garcia’s Estrada is not much better, the character hitting the clichéd woman-in-a-man’s-army demanding respect, with a surly disposition and emotional when in private, not an admirable role. Old troopers, Berenger and Zane, turn up for the pay cheque, doing no more or less than their respective performances require. 

   Felipe Calero’s El Diablo and Juan Sebastián Calero’s Morales, both make good antagonist. Unfortunately, as there is no interaction between the protagonist and the antagonist, you never get a sense of anything beyond either side doing their jobs. All of the threat comes from perceived issues and holes in the intelligence. 

   The film is shot okay and directed by Claudio Fâh, though there is a very strange shot decision when Beckett is chasing down the henchman and he carries the camera, so we can see him running, as he runs. That pulled me right out of the story because it was so out of place. 

   With a screenplay by Chris Hauty, the script is perfunctory rather than inspired. With great lulls between the action set pieces and not much emotional pull, it is left to the music to inject some sense of purpose into proceedings. Frederik Wiedmann, the man behind the music, puts in far more effort than the film deserves. 

   Sniper: Ultimate Kill is ninety minutes of forgettable pap. I cannot think of a reason to watch it, though conversely, I cannot say it is truly awful either. It’s just meh.  


Viking Destiny – review

   Let’s talk about the title. Viking Destiny. Viking. Destiny. Not ‘A Viking’s Destiny’ or ‘Destiny of the Viking’. Viking Destiny. Is it about the destiny of the Viking people? Well, it sort of is. Let me explain, even if it does not explain, satisfactorily, the terrible title. 

   The Viking king, Asmund of Volsung (Andrew Whipp) leaves his pregnant wife, queen Alva (Victoria Broom) in labour because his people are in a battle for the kingdom. Though they are victorious in battle, the queen dies whilst giving birth to a baby girl. 

   Distraught and confused, his duplicitous brother, prince Bard (Timo Nieminen) persuades him to swap his daughter, who he says is cursed due to his absence at her birth, for his son, who is not only a male heir but will show his people and potential enemies, that he is not weak. The king agrees. 

   Twenty-one years later, Helle (Anna Demetriou), unknown to her, daughter of the king, is being secretly trained by Lord Soini (Will Mellor). She is a capable warrior. Elsewhere, the king watches his son’s, Hakon (Taylor Frost), feeble attempts at sword wielding. He is not a warrior. 

    Bard, ever egged on by the god of mischief, Loki (Murray McArthur), tells his niece, who still believe him to be her father, that to be favoured by the king, she must defeat his enemy, a mystical animal that dwells in caves. Craving his favour, Helle goes to the caves. 

   It is a trap and Bard sends men to kill her and her cousin, who has gone with her in an attempt to persuade her that she would be a better heir to the kingdom, as neither knew the other was with the wrong father. As they fight for their lives in the caves, Asmund is awakened by a dream. He comes and saves Helle, but is immediately killed by Bard’s men. 

   Hakon allows Helle to escape whilst he tries to fend off Bard’s men. She escapes and runs off to the forest. Bard, now the ruler of Volsung, is a tyrant. Loki still whispers in his ear and he wants the head of Helle. 

    Helle meets Vern (Laurence O’Fuarain), Tarburn (paul freeman) and Tait (Kajsa Mohammar) who are part of a group of travellers. She settles with them. Back in Volsung Lord Soini has gathered all those were loyal to the Asmund and gone in search of Helle. Bard has his right-hand man, Kirkwood (Ian Beattie), also out searching for the princess. 

   Helle, now found by Lord Soini and those loyal to her as the rightful heir to Volsung, is reluctant to go to war. She is visited by Odin (Terence Stamp), who persuades her it would be in her best interest. Shortly after embracing her duties as a leader and also persuading the travellers that it is in their best interest to fight as well, Bard and his cronies find them. 

   A battle ensues. Helle and her support crew win and she takes her mantle as the rightful queen of Volsung. The end. 

    This is not on a scale of some of my recent reviews, in terms of terrible, but it is still pretty bad. It looks quite good, as in the costumes, not the filming. The filming is patchy. No, that is not true, the filming is good. It is the editorial choices that are bad. Especially with the battle or fight scenes. 

   A lot of the largish scale battle scenes just look like LARPing, with everybody moving with such careful, staccato precision, you just don’t believe they are fighting. In the smaller, better-choreographed fights – Helle training, Bard and Helle, Asmund killing Steiner (Martyn Ford) – the fights look quite good, which make the battles look even worse in contrast. 

   The IMDB description of the film is more exciting than the actual film is. She does, indeed, flee her kingdom but only as far as the forest. That’s hardly travelling far and wide. The acting is good, though I am sure Terence Stamp only turned up for the pay cheque. Everyone commits to their part, such as it is, with Demetriou’s Helle and Nieminen’s Bard being the standouts. 

   Written, directed and produced by David L. G. Hughes – way too much name – it is more a case of jack-of-all-trades and master of none. The story is under written, the directing lax. With a relatively okay set up and stakes high enough to drive the story, Hughes completely ignores any sort of story arc or escalation of tension, going for easy mean, with Bard being bad, snarling throwaway lines. 

   This film is only slightly saved by the commitment of the actors to the material. A weaker cast would have made this film an absolute disaster and totally unwatchable. It is still not very good and I could not truly recommend watching it unless you love everything Viking. 

The Darkness Should Come Later

    The final X-Men film under Twentieth Century Fox films will be released early in June before the rights to the characters are absorbed into the MCU juggernaut. Simon Kinberg gets a final chance to erase the debacle that was The Last Stand. Kinberg wrote The Last Stand, with directing duties going to Brett Ratner. 

    With Ratner now persona non grata in Hollywood, and director of X-Men Apocalypse, Bryan Singer, heading in the same direction as Ratner, it fell to Kinberg to make his directorial debut in a series he has been involved with since the risible Last Stand.    

    Though he has many writing credits, Kinberg is predominantly known as a producer. Of the films he is credited with writing, one could say that the results have been mixed. Of the better films he has been involved with – Days Of Future Past, Apocalypse  – he has written the screenplay from another person’s story.

     On Dark Phoenix, not only is he producing and directing, but he has also written the story and screenplay. For those who do not know and look to IMDB, the names credited with the story – Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Dave Cockburn, wrote the original, staggeringly brilliant comic story, The Dark Phoenix Saga.

    That story was a complex web, involving Mastermind, a mutant who manipulated what a person could see and was part of the Hellfire Club, a band of mutants who want to gain vast power, both political and financial. The Hellfire Club was somewhat bastardised for the film, X-men – First Class. 

    In the comics, Jean Grey, who would become Phoenix and then Dark Phoenix, was at one point living a dual reality as Mastermind, aided by a device from mutant telepath Emma Frost, had her believing she was a member of high society in the eighteenth century.

    Her confusion and struggle to wield the cosmic Phoenix power resulted in her committing a heinous act and attracting the attention of the Shi’ar Empire and forcing a standoff between the X-men and the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. 

   The X-men lose and Jean, realising her unlimited power could be a danger to all that she held dear, commits suicide. 

    Unlike the MCU’s carefully mapped out, cleverly structured over-arcing story leading to the highly anticipated Avengers Endgame, the X-men films have been a mishmash of loosely connected films with varying quality.  

    I am not averse to films deviating from the source material, especially when it comes to comics. To make an exact replica of a comic is a little pointless. It is simply animating something you would have already seen.

    Watchmen faithfully follows Alan Moore’s comic of the same name. It is as though the comic was used as a storyboard for the film. Unfortunately, because it so rigidly follows the comic, it is somewhat lacklustre.

    The MCU has made some adjustments to characters from the comics, mostly when it comes to the costumes and for the sake of the story. For the most part, the elements that are, for the comic book fans, important, have been kept. Over at Twentieth Century Fox with the X-men, there was no such consideration.

    Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has always been the best and most popular character in the X-men franchise. Jackman should never have been considered for the role, as the character in the comics is five-foot-three, compared to Jackman’s six-two. 

   It is a credit to Jackman’s commitment to the role – especially in the phenomenal Logan – that comic book fans embraced him to such a degree that him giving up the role has left a big hole for some actor to fill. 

     The ignoring of one of Marvel’s most popular character’s height is a minor grievance compared to the litany of mistakes and ‘artistic’ decisions that have been made in the X-men cinematic universe under Twentieth Century Fox.

   The characters of Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Marvel Girl, who formed the original X-men, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, were interesting, fleshed out, plucky teenagers. With the exception of Jackman and Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy who played old and young versions of Charles Xavier/Professor X respectively, and Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender, who portrayed old and young Magneto, the other characters have been poorly represented in the franchise. 

   I will go and see Dark Phoenix, even though I’m not filled with joy at the prospect. Perhaps Kinberg will do what James Mangold did and follow an awful film, The Wolverine, with a modern-day classic, Logan. I can only hope. 


Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent) Netflix show – review

     Watched a new show, to me at least, on Netflix in keeping with my efforts to watch and review lesser known shows so that, perhaps, you do not have to. The show is a French serial, Dix Pour Cent, English title, Call My Agent!. A comedy-drama, it is the story of a Parisian talent agency, ASK, and the relationships of the agents with each other, their actors and life in general. 

    When the owner and primary shareholder of the agency, Samuel Kerr (Alain Rimoux) dies whilst on vacation, his widow, Héléne (Gabrielle Forest), turns up at the offices of ASK and informs the remaining agents that she wants to sell her shares in the company to the highest bidder, throwing the future of the agency into turmoil. 

    An excellent ensemble cast sees most of the characters taking centre stage at various points in the varying stories. If pushed to say who is the central character of the show, I would have to say, Andrea Martel, the complex, driven, sexually aggressive lesbian played by Camille Cottin.

    Andrea links most of the main protagonist. Her closest friend and a man whose desire to be a good agent clashes with his moral compass, Gabriel Sarda (Grégory Montel), butts heads with her and comforts her, listens to her. 

    Camille Valentini (Fanny Sidney) is a young woman from Cannes who turns up at the agency and startles Mathias Barneville (Thibault De Montalembert) one of the leading agents at ASK. He is also the de facto leader after Samuel’s death.

Mathias is cordial toward Camille but seems reluctant to have anyone know that he and she are acquainted. He tries to pay her off so she will go away. Camille instead boldly asks Andrea to employ when her previous assistant walks out unable to take the pressure of working for her anymore. Andrea gives her the job and Camille becomes part of the ASK family. 

   Arlette Azémar is a longtime talent agent. She smokes too much and brings her dog to work. There is also Hervé André-Jezak (Nicolas Maury), the camp, gossipy assistant to Gabriel, who takes Camille under his wing, even as Noémie Leclerc (Laure Calamy), Mathias’ assistant eyes her with suspicion, having caught her on a couple of occasions in clandestine conversation with Mathias. 

     I watched the entire first season in two days. With episodes running at just under an hour, three episodes take up a fair chunk of one’s evening. That being said, it is not time that is wasted when it comes to this show.

Even as a non-French speaker and thus forced to read the subtitles – it has not been dubbed into English. Not a massive fan of dubbed shows anyway – I perhaps miss some of the subtleties of the native speech.  Having said that, the acting is so good and the characters and stories so compelling that this show is an absolute delight.

     With ASK being a fictional Parisian agency, the show still manages to have an air of authenticity by having real actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves as clients of ASK. This, I would think, must be particularly appealing to French viewers, giving the vibe of a peek into their working practices, even if one knows it is scripted. 

    The show is beautifully shot, utilising the city of Paris without resorting to cliched scenery. There is no Eiffel Tower on view in this show. Fanny Herrero is the brilliant mind that has conceived this show. She is the showrunner and contributes to the writing on the show. 

   Call My Agent! Is a truly entertaining and brilliant show and I will be watching the second season in between watching all the other Netflix fare that is available. The show almost makes me want to learn French so as to appreciate the nuances of the language. I think I’ll stick with learning Spanish for the moment but I heartily recommend this show. Absolutely worth a few hours of your time.   


Getting Back On The Horse…

I was, earlier in the year, writing a blog a day, posting every day – not here, I have a few blogs – but definitely posting consistently. A few things happened to derail my posting; laziness was one, I visited the cinema less frequently and I decided to make a film after an almost four-year hiatus.

So I made the film – The Good, The Bad And The Tennis – and then…nothing. I have been messing about with editing and Da Vinci Resolve colour correction software and looking into all sorts of myriad FCPX plugins – they really need audio enhancement!  – basically, I have been procrastinating.

Though I have begun writing a sequel to my last short, even though I am not a massive fan of sequels, not bad ones anyway, there are a few classic ones – Godfather part two, Rocky two, Terminator two.

I am feeling that I need to get back to blogging, writing random thoughts at least, so as to allow space for creative, plot and story breaking thoughts. That’s the hope anyway. I am determined to not let another extended period of navel-gazing halt my filmic output.

It is my desire to be a filmmaker, storyteller, and since it is entirely my decision if I pursue that particular goal, let the pursuit begin.


Critically Speaking

In my opinion….what should have happened….I don’t think he should have….why didn’t they do….and other challenging phrases, can be seen or heard from armchair critics everywhere. Criticism is, in our hyper-connected world, an enthusiastic pastime of many a keyboard warrior.     

   Whether it is the vitriol of the YouTube viewer, snarkiness of uppity Facebookers or the absolute conviction of the film geeks on IMDB, in the democratic world of the interweb, every opinion is valid, every voice has a right to be heard, right? Not really.

    There are certain subjects that people feel they can venture not just their, less than expert, opinions on, but they also feel the need to explain how it might be improved. There are things that, strangely, opinions are less forthcoming on. Though, especially here in the U.K., drinking is pretty much a national pastime, very few venture opinions on wine. The same holds true for food. Everybody eats, yet few opine with angry authority.

   With music, as I have said before, it is highly emotive. One feels music, the like or dislike is pretty much immediate. The same with pictorial art; you know whether you like a picture or not.

   When it comes to film and television, however, much like sport, everybody is an expert. Whether it is a Hollywood blockbuster or a YouTuber’s funny short, the litany of opinion supporting or deriding it can be overwhelming. This not to say that the opinions are not valid, or even wrong. I have myself vented or ranted about a film or programme that I found less than appealing, even as others have found the same output to be good or great. But, like many others who review, I am here to be shot at and, in effect, reviewed myself. I’ve also, to very little fanfare, made a few films.

   Does that make it okay for me to pontificate and criticise the works of others? No, not really. The reason I review films or television programmes is that I enjoy writing and I love film and television. For myself, writing is an emotional release. My writing does not, however, extend to barbarous comments in fan forums.

   The keyboard warrior is the worse sort of critic, hiding behind a cryptic handle, whilst venomously spewing caustic comments at those who would bare their souls, via their works and creative efforts, for mass consumption. Not that many of them ever have a constructive or, god forbid, reasonable commentary. Typing with misguided authority, there seems a belief that if they had made the film or show, if they had picked the actors, if they had written it, it would be so much better. Of course, it would.

   In a time where, unlike even a decade ago, anyone can get a film, of some description, online, to allow all and sundry to give their tuppence worth on their creative efforts, anyone who feels they can do better should prove it. Leave the keyboard alone, shoot something.

Worthy Sequels

As an aspiring screenwriter, I, like many, sometimes get caught up in the haughty conceit of thinking of film sequels as a tasteless, feeble and gratuitous attempts to elicit the hard earned from the film-going masses.

   Why can’t they write something new? We wail, convinced that if – when – they read one our brilliant works or even just an outline, they would find the next great tentpole movie. Of course, if that were to happen, we would never do a sequel. No. Nope. Never. A sequel is the laziest kind of movie. What self-respecting scribe would take on a sequel gig? Stop shouting about Joss Whedon and Alien 3! He was trying to help! Never diss Joss!

   Anyway, as much as there are one or two films that may have gone somewhat sequel-mad, following the tried and tested formula of getting progressively worse – Police Academy, The Terminator, Die Hard, The Matrix, Resident Evil, Jaws – to name a few. Sequels are not always a terrible idea, some stories naturally lend themselves to an extension. You want to know what happened next. Sometimes the sequel tops the original.

   One of the best sequels ever made (if you have not seen it, stop reading now and go and watch it! You should hang your head in shame!) is The Godfather part two.

     Generally speaking, films of books tend to depart from the source material. Sometimes it’s because some aspects are unfilmable or would be prohibitively expensive to make, though with the rapid advancements in CGI a lot of things that were considered unfilmable in the past, are now even possible on a home computer! There was also the egos of creatives involved, director or writer thinking they have come up with a better filmic view, or even the studio just wanting a more audience-friendly film.

    Whatever the reason many a book to screen translation has ended up an unholy mess. The Godfather and its brilliant sequel were written by Mario Puzo. Puzo also wrote the book so understood the nuances that needed to stay in the film and script. As an aside, he also happened to write the Christopher Reeves’ Superman one and two. Pity he was no longer around to help Zack – it’s too damn long! – Snyder! Though studios generally like to keep the authors away from the films – looking at you Anne Rice – director Francis Ford Coppola, a man known for getting his way,  was team Puzo. The Godfather part two is truly an astounding sequel.

   Another egomaniac director, James Cameron, who generally hits home runs, though his insistence that the truly awful Terminator: Genisys was a good film has put him on my laminated hate list forever, what he did do was make one of the greatest sequels ever in T2.

   The advance of computer graphics in the intervening seven years between films, allowed Cameron to bring an exciting, bigger spectacle to the screen, whilst still retaining the relentless urgency of the first film. Not only did we see a newer and more dangerous terminator, we believe the story.

   For an X-men fan, especially of the Chris Claremont era, Bryan Singer has a lot to answer for when it comes to the X-men canon. Having taken extreme liberties with almost every aspect of the X-men history, from their ages, group make up, founding members and costumes, it’s a wonder his X-men is watchable at all. Of the films he has made, the sequel to his first X-men film is probably his best. With a cracking opening, introducing a battling, teleporting Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner, the film thunders along nicely, showing fantastical set pieces amid a modern take on oppression due to differences. After the first X-men film, with all its faults, fans were unsure as to whether he could follow it up. X2 tops the first film.

   Staying with the super powered, the most surprising sequel, especially considering its predecessors, is Logan. If you suffered the two previous standalone outings of the Wolverine franchise you have my sympathies. What is truly surprising about Logan is not how utterly brilliant it is, it’s that it was directed by the same person who did the Wolverine! James Mangold directed the risible The Wolverine, a film so bad it made me angry. Logan is possibly the biggest improvement in a franchise I have ever seen or heard of. From the opening scene – no spoilers – through to the final resolution, Logan is as close to a perfect X-men film as cinema has ever got.