Thursday, 26 May 2016

True Blood: Keep This Party Going

"This isn't a fight."

"Yes it is!"

Ooh, intriguing- Lafayette is about to become a vampire, and loyal to Eric?

We also hear about a missing vampire, very old, in the Dallas area; this is a plot thread if there ever was one, and Eric will shortly be involving Sookie, whether Bill likes it or not. We get crucial scenes establishing the togetherness of Sookie and Bill, all loved up; something is therefore going to go pear-shaped for them very soon.

We see Jason's experiences at the absurd and transparently pointless "leadership conference". He's a fool, and everyone knows this; others have to wait years to get on the course, years of abstinence from sex and alcohol, two things that I for one could not live without. No wonder we begin to see signs of resentment. I wonder also if Sarah, a himbo on the surface, may really be the manipulating hand behind it all.

We see more about Maryann, ensconced in Sam's bar for several hours. She eats a huge amount of food; whatever she does- and everyone seems to be in high spirits- must clearly take a lot of energy.all very curious. Apparently she's from Cape Cod but, when Sookie reads her mind, she hears a language other than English. And she's powerful enough, and cruel enough, to turn poor Sam into a dog at will.  Curiouser and curiouser. Still, at least she's brought Tara and Eggs together- quite clearly on purpose.

This isn't a good episode for Sookie; she falls for Jessica's transparent plea to look at her family from afar; it's obvious, at least to the viewer, that she means to kill her abusive dad. Bill arrives to save the day, but he's not best pleased with the gullible Sookie. At all.

There's a lot going on this season; this is absolutely fascinating.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

True Blood: Nothing But the Blood

"My ass is magnetic now!"

Season Two, then- but we continue straight on. There's even a reprise. The body isn't Lafayette: it's that fraudulent "exorcist", which is a relief. Not for Andy, though: Bud isn't impressed with his behaviour and, arguably, he could even be a suspect. His career, post-Rene, seems to be going quickly downhill.

Tara's mother doesn't take the news well, but then she's a bitch. And it's glorious to see the bollocking she gets from Maryann. Less glorious is the position of Lafayette, being kept as a prisoner by Eric and in far from luxurious circumstances, quite a contrast with his cousin.

Sookie isn't pleased to find out about Jessica; Bill had two weeks to tell her. It's a bloody good job for him that he earned all those brownie points in the season finale. Sookie doesn't like secrets. I suspect they're going to clash later about other secrets still to be revealed.

We find more of Maryann- Sam burgled her, aged 17, and stole a huge wodge of cash with which, presumably, he proceeded to set up in business. I'm not sure, at this stage, whether the big bad if the season is going to be her or religious cult leader Steve Newlin, who has the gullible Jason in his clutches for an expensive "leadership course" which he can suddenly afford after the death of his and Sookie's paedo uncle.

Maryann is fascinating, supplying her guests with both pot and good conversation yet treating her British underling like shit. And she clearly isn't human. What is clear, though, is that Tara and Eggs are getting on very well. I hope Tara doesn't get her heart broken.

A lots being set up for the new season and it could go in any direction.whatever, this is still bloody good telly.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

True Blood: You'll Be the Death of Me

"So... collecting stray black people, that some kind of hobby of hers?"

This is the exciting finale we were all expecting- we know it's Rene from the start, so what we get is a thriller where he tries to kill Sookie before he catches her, a showdown in a cemetery where Sam shows himself to be brave and resourceful and Bill nearly suffers death by sunlight in his desperate attempt to save Sookie, therefore earning himself enough brownie points to set against a number of sins. He'll need them.

Tara's life seems to be looking up- her new surroundings with Maryann are rather pleasant, and she seems to get on rather well with Eggs, a young man whom Maryann has also taken in. But who is Maryann? And how does she know Sam? Questions are artfully posed for the following season.

Andy Bellefleur, having gone after Jason so strongly, may have buggered up his career. What a pity; it's disturbing that someone like him managed to become a detective in the first place. No wonder he turns to the bottle. But Jason's time in prison seems to have brought him disturbingly under the wing of the anti-vampire- and fundamentalist- Fellowship of the Sun. This probably won't end well.

We end with Bill experiencing the problems of "fatherhood" and the discovery of a body on a car... could it be the recently attacked Lafayette? Fortunately, those of us with box sets don't have long to wait.

Monday, 23 May 2016

True Blood: To Love Is to Bury

"You are the worst maker ever!"

The penultimate episode, and (SPOILERS)... the last shot confirms it's Rene who's the killer. I wasn't exactly sure it was him, but he was heading up my suspect list by this point. 

But so much else also happens this episode. The increasingly disturbing relationship between Jason and Amy continues up until it's violent and unexpected end, but she was always a wrong 'un; there's a very clever moment when Amy states that "What we have- it's beautiful" as the camera lingers on the bloody mess that is what's left of poor Eddie.

Tara seems to reach rock bottom here, arrested for drink driving. Sookie, meanwhile, is distracted from Bill's seemingly permanent absence by investigating all the murders and using Sam as her Watson, something which she finds oddly and endearingly enjoyable. It's a very interesting love triangle, and one with three very well-developed corners.

Lafayette gets a moment of awesomeness as he gets to skewer the state senator he's been sleeping with for his crude homophobic and anti-vampire electioneering- but it's interesting how the series seems to simultaneously show that the normal state of affairs for vampires is to be evil, yet to oppose them is to be prejudiced and socially conservative. I'm not sure that this binary opposition quite works.

Jessica turns out to be unexpectedly awesome; far from the appalled, Christian, innocent little girl she seems to be, she's overjoyed at being a vampire and the prospect of glorious revenge for her life of abuse. Go Jessica.

The worst thing to happen in this most eventful of episodes, though, is Lettie Mae. Never mind the number of times her daughter has bailed her out, she refuses to do the same for her daughter out of sheer arrogant hypocrisy, all as part of her performance at being a devout Christian- and performance it is. I hope she gets her comeuppance. She's the worst person in this series. Poor Tara. She's homeless and abandoned... but, when all seems lost, she's saved and taken in by the mysterioysMaryann. Who is she? What does she want? This is nicely done: as one season ends, the seeds of the next are sewn.

Things return to the status quo by the end, as Bill returns and Jadon is attested yet again. But only we are privy to the killwr's identity. Will he strike again? This is the best and most masterfully crafted chapter yet. Season finale here we come...

True Blood: I Don't Wanna Know

I'm "I used to scratch your butt in the parking lot at the bar!!!"

A theory: are all the episode titles the names of songs we hear during the episode?

Anyway, we begin with what could be described as an awkward conversation between Sam and Sookie. He's a "shape-shifter", apparently. Werewolves exist too. They're bad. He's really sorry for not telling her sooner etc. And, of course, Tara doesn't know. Awkward.

Meanwhile Tara goes through her expensive and horrible, horrible exorcism and Amy explains to Jason that her psychopathic tendencies towards vampires are perfectly fine because "I am an organic vegan, and my carbon footprint is minuscule. So that's all right then.

Things get worse for Tara: she discovers that, yep, the "exorcism" was indeed all a scam, but the placebo effect appears to be working for her mother. What to do? It's a realistic reaction from a multi-layered and very relatable character. I love Tara.

Bill's "sentence", it now seems, is to kill and turn a teenage girl called Jessica- and she's played by none other than Deborah Ann Woll, she who plays Karen Page in Daredevil. Another superb instalment.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

True Blood: Plaisir d'Amour

"There's vampire in your cleavage..."

Apparently Bill is in trouble with Eric, "sheriff of area 5", for killing Longshadow while saving Sookie, which means he has to go on trial and stuff. This is dodgy. Why are vampires on the cusp of legality and civil rights of they presume to operate an entirely parallel legal system? If I were Sookie then I would simply tell Eric that, if he has a problem, he should simply call the police- and, if he doesn't, call them herself. Simples.

Ok, perhaps realistically that wouldn't help now, I grant you, but the State simply can't tolerate this in the long term.

Meanwhile, Amy and her himbo bitch Jason are keeping Eddie in the basement, milking him for blood like a cow while they have trippy hippy sex. Tara is being treated little better, beating charged $800 for some deeply unpleasant quack "exorcism". Oh, and someone has killed Sookie's cat when she gets home. So, you know, all sweetness and light.

But, as the series is nearing its end, things inevitably get worse. Tara dumps Sam out of nothing but self-loathing. Eddie tells Jason his life story, and it's a tragic one: it's clear that vampires, as a minority, can be a metaphor for sexual orientation rather than race and, tragically, Eddie stillhasn't embraced his true self as a vampire. And now it's too late.

We end with a big reveal- that dog that's been hanging around the bar is in fact Sam. Wow. Wasn't expecting that. This sublime series has such a capacity to shock and surprise.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

True Blood: The Fourth Man in the Fire

"I don't think my boyfriend likes silver!"

Yeah, this is another good episode, let's just say that straight up. A lot of it consists of Amy's and Jason's trippy relationship, full of good sex, good drugs and bad vibes, especially when Amy gets Jason to help her kidnap Eddie, the rather docile vampiric source of Lafayett's supply, so they can presumably use him as a V-Juice cow until he dies. Lovely.

Bill isn't dead. Quelle surprise. And he makes quite an entrance. Cue lots of sex and a happy Sookie. Poor Tara isn't so happy, with her mother having swapped hardcore addiction to drink with a hardcore addition to religion, which she is pushing on to her daughter with appalling aggression. Poor Tara isn't having an easy time of it, and manages to mess up her ambiguously sexual relationship with Sam. Poor Tara.

We end with Sookie being summoned to (groan) "Fangtasia by the mysterious boss-man Eric, "sheriff of Area Five", who uses her to find out who's been embezzling money off him. She finds out who, but only at the cost of a perilous cliffhanger...

Oh, and a prediction: one of either Arlene or Rene will die before the wedding.

True Blood: Burning House of Love

"I don't know how to be with somebody."

An episode about relationships here as, in an interesting contrast with Buffy losing her virginity to Angel, Sookie's post-deflowering relationship with Bill continues to develop realistically and nicely, to Sam's increasing annoyance. Well, until Bill's apparent death, that is. Meanwhile, Jason gets together with the superficially nice and hippyish Amy, whose tendency to quote Crowley and desire for a good-looking but thick partner she can manipulate set alarm bells ringing.

Sookie spends much of the episode on Cloud Nine until Bill's apparent death (much as we, the viewers, know damn well he's not really dead), so much so that she's happy for him to, we, feed on her every day. There's a dark side to this, though; Bill has no qualms in simply killing Sookie's paedo uncle. It's clear that vampires have no respect for established legal structures.

The exorcism is weird, creepy and, if not being carried out by a black person, would constitute a vaguely racist mockery of West African Animist customs. But I suppose that's the point; the descendants of slaves are so alienated from their own Bantu cultural heritage that vaguely racist stereotypes are all they have. Poor Tara has to foot the bill for this nonsense and you just feel more and more sorry for her. And then the quack in question starts aiming a particularly nasty hard sell at Tara, whose wise scepticism is sadly undercut by her lack of self-esteem. Poor Tara.

There are only so many ways of saying, episode after episode, that this is brilliant television. But it is.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

True Blood: Cold Ground

"You is a stupid bitch, Jason Stackhouse."

This extraordinary episode is, at its core, an examination of how a murder is so deeply wounding both to a family and to an entire community. All sorts of things are horribly uprooted and Sookie, being telepathic, is overwhelmingly bombarded with people's horrible, casually bigoted, indecently nosy thoughts. The fact that such a determined non-sweater drops the f-bomb at a funeral speech is a dramatic example of this, doubly effective coming from her. Bereavement is both deeply alienating- how can other people understand, and how can we tolerate the sheer absurdity of trying to express our complex feelings via platitudes? The performance of how we're "supposed" to feel is deeply, appallingly, overwhelmingly onerous, and only with Bill- her relationship with whom has caused so many harsh judgements) does she find solace.

Jason finds out in the worst possible way, and an awful rift develops between the siblings. Tara is a true friend but, as other people always do, has problems of her own, not least her awful, abusive mother trying to blame her alcoholism on a "demon" and get Tara to pay for an expensive exorcism.

On a more prosaic note, is Bill right to suggest the murderer is going after the lovers of vampires? Was Sookie the intended victim? Jason dives deeper into addiction to V-Juice in spite of his experiences. It seems fitting, though, that as Jason blahs his way through reverse cowgirl with some randomer, Sookie is gently and meaningfully deflowered by Bill, her true soulmate. And he bites her...

This is the most extraordinary episode yet. Wow.

True Blood: Sparks Fly Out

"Excuse me, who ordered the hamburger with AIDS?"

Bill has weird musical tastes, which makes sense. The older you get, the more open-minded you become, and the less tolerant of MOR chart fodder crap. I like him more and more. The highlight of another excellent episode, however, is Jason demonstrating to Lafayette exactly what happened to his penis without anaesthetic by means of a sausage. Er, nice. At least, for balance, Lafayette gets a scene later on where he deals magnificently with a homophobe.

This episode focuses on the talk given by Bill, a former Confederate soldiers, to a disturbingly large number of people who seem to think that supporting said cause is in some way not blatantly racist. No wonder Tara feels so uncomfortable. And no, I still don't understand why Americans don't treat people like this as traitors but, well, it's their country, not mine. Bill gives a good speech, anyway.

Interesting to see some myths dispelled, too: vampires can enter churches, touch crosses, appear in mirrors- this is a much stripped down and secularised take on the vampire myth. But the bigger revelation is how Bill was turned into a vampire, against his will and because of the very integrity that drives him today. His tale is truly tragic: his forced separation from his wife and children is simply unimaginable.

Poor Tara continues to suffer from her unfortunate crush on Jason, an absolute slut who, V-Juice or not, inevitably betrays her with the first girl he comes across. Tara is a deeply sympathetic character, but so are so many others. 

A brilliant episode. But, just when it seems the stakes can't get any higher, Sookie suddenly finds her frandmother's viokentky murdered corpse...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

True Blood: Escape from Dragon House

"I got gout of the dick!"

Dawn being dead isn't good for Jason: it seems that the last two women he's slept with have been murdered. Oops. Understandably the local constabulary are raising the odd eyebrow and there is much gossip in Bon Temps, particularly from a rather unpleasantly nosey aunt. Worse, Jason has to swallow all the V-Juice in the back of the police car for fear of being caught with it, and much of the rest of the episode consists of the delightful details of what this does to his cock. Still, at least he and the lovely Tara get to bond a little over his intense genital  pain. Still wouldn't want to be him though, although for the first time in my life I have to praise some wanking acting.

Still, Sookie and Bill are having "fun" at the vampire bar Fangtasia (groan), where we first meet the old any mysterious boss's vampire Eric and his strangely sexy underlying, Pam. There's also an interesting chat between Sookie and Sam which makes explicit the thematic parallels between vampires and black people on this, the Deep South. Race is foregrounded as a theme as Sookie points out that Sam is supporting "separate but equal". Meanwhile, Bill is pulled over in his car by a cop because of his race. We've got plenty of time to see if this theme develops much. We have vampires, black and white characters, the complex legacy of the 1861-65 War of Secession and so many apologists for the slaveholders, like Sookie's grandmother.

We also get flashbacks to Tara's childhood and her abusive, alcoholic mother. Poor Tara. It's a compliment to all involved that I'm getting so attached to these characters.

This is one addictive series; I'm actually on episode nine as I write...

Monday, 16 May 2016

True Blood: Mine

"If we can't kill people, what's the point of being a vampire?"

We begin to meet more vampires, and it's definitely seeming as though Bill is the exception in not being evil and highly menacing: is this what we're intended to think? So far it's far from clear cut that vampires should indeed be treated as a minority deserving of rights, but we'll see how things progress. Bill explains that vampires become evil from living in nests, but that hardly lets them off the hook.

We're told of Hepatitis D, a vampire disease which weakens them and which, by the law of Raymond Chandler's revolver, will eventually threaten Bill's life, I strongly suspect. Sam and Tara (I love her) chat about their respective unattainables, Sookie and Jason and, in a refreshingly honest and unpuritanical scene, end up having some no-strings sex to deal with their mutual drought. Good.

Sookie is still yet to be deflowered, much as her libido is clearly getting intense by now, but she shags Bill only in her dreams. We learn more of Tara's mother issues- she now has to stay with Lafayette which, given the wine and ganja there, seems not to be a bad choice. The episode ends on a pop cultural note as Sam wishes for "Buffy or Blade" to come to Bon Temps. The gripping plot and characters continue to unwind in this already-excellent series.

We finish, again, on a cliffhanger: Sookie's found another body...

True Blood: The First Taste

"Do doctors know that V-Juice can do this?"

"No. We wanna keep it that way."

This series is addictive: I may only be blogging the second episode but I'm up to the fifth, much as I will spend the rest of this blog post behaving as though I hadn't. Suffice to say that it continues to be awesome. I appreciate the way that this is one continuing story; there may be themes for individual episodes but there are no stories of the week.

After the expected rescue, much of this episode consists of Sookie and Bill chatting and getting to know each other; he's just saved her life (so they're even) and given her some mildly superhuman abilities (including increased libido for this virgin!) in the process. We also get to realise just how, er, unintelligent Jazon is as it turns out he couldn't possibly have committed the mirder of which he's accused: it was that bald, tattooed vampire, right?

Bill later chats with Sookie, her Gran, Tara and Jason about how he fought, in the 1861-5 war of secession, for the rights of wealthy white people to "own" other people and, indeed, that his own parents owned slaves. Tara is, unsurprisingly, unimpressed. It's quite shocking to see, as a foreigner, how rural Louisiana can seem so racially integrated and yet so many seem invested in deeply unsavoury causes and symbols. And I can't understand why other Americans don't see this sort of thing as treason. Oh well.

We end with yet another cliffhanger and several huge incentives to keep watching this splendid series.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

True Blood: Strange Love

"I know every man, whether straight, gay or George motherfucking Bush is terrified of the pussy."

I'm in the middle of several TV series, some in uncomfortable hiatuses (I will finish them all, but Agents of SHIELD and Grimm are delayed because of Sky Plus being crap- don't use Sky), so why not start another series? 81 episodes: how long can that take?

So far I'm impressed; first episodes are usually awkward and lacking because of how exposition-heavy they have to be and all the different jobs they have to do. This isn't. The premise- vampires going public and facing the prospect of citizenship following the Japanese invention of synthetic blood, while vampire blood is are relational narcotic for ne'er-do-wells - is nearly imparted via screens within the screen within the first few minutes, the Louisiana setting is gorgeous and atmospheric, and the characters are both well-written and hugely likeable, a huge credit to both the cast and the writing. So far I love Tara to bits and Lafayette is awesome too.

The characters are not just likeable but all well-rounded from the start, particularly Sookie and Tara. And then we have Sookie's brooding, Byronic vampire love interest Bill, Angel to her sort-of Buffy and hints of a dynamic which is an obvious influence on Twighlight, but pleasingly with much more sex and much less Mormonism; this is HBO, after all. Speaking of sex... yes, Jason. 

A cliffhanger ending, an atmospheric setting, great characters already, a fantastic theme tune... this promises to be good.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Little Nicky (2000)

"Remember you have to shove a pineapple up Hitler's ass at 4pm..."

Every so often I just have to blog an utterly crap film to provide balance and, well, this "comedy" is as awful as they come and completely unfunny. It stars Adam Sandler. Oh, wait... that's a tautology.

Literally the only funny joke in the entire film concerns the turning of Coke into Pepsi, and that was only worth a mild titter; how this ever got made with any serious expectations of at all being funny is utterly beyond me. And, even more incredibly, beyond the awful Sandler this turd of a script actually managed to attract a decent cast who would all, doubtless, have been more gainfully employed elsewhere. It's a shame, as the central conceit- a power struggle on Earth between the three sons of Satan- is a good one.

Reese Witherspoon deserves praise as Nicky's valley girl Angel mother, and Harvey Keitel is good even when phoning it in as he is here, and rightly so. But no amount of polishing can save this turd.

This is the worst film I've seen in 2016. Yes; worse even than The Black Knight.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

GoldenEye (1995)

"I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War."

I saw and enjoyed this film at the pictures back when I was an 18 year old student at Liverpool University, briefly: I ended up dropping out and getting my degree later. I must admit, though, that disappointed as I am on a second viewing I can't entirely blame this film.

So why did GoldenEye disappoint this time round? Well, to a large degree it's Pierce Brosnan. He really is shockingly rubbish, just phoning in his performance and displaying no charisma whatsoever, something which is not the case with his non-James Bond career.

But it's more than that: it's the script. It feels as though, after a six year gap, they've forgotten how to do James Bond. Only Desmond Llewelyn connects this to any previous film, and really does suddenly look so shockingly old. And the attempts to make ironic references to Bond's inevitable sexism- his combative relationship with the new female M and the new Moneypenny's flirtatious mention of "sexual harassment"- just aren't as clever as the film thinks they are.

Where are the glamorous locations? Yes, it's the '90s, and Russia is fleetingly friendly if also incredibly corrupt, but Siberia is no place to set a Bond film, and brief scenes in St Petersburg and Cuba don't make up for that. Xenia Onatopp is a genuinely brilliant and very Bond character- a female assassin who kills her victims by squeezing them with her legs and a delightfully Freudian nightmare for men- but there's not much else here that's brilliant.

It's hard not to compare this with the Austin Powers films- and unfavourably- given the conscious contrast between the social mores of the '60s and '90s, respectively. And you can tell it's the '90s when bond starts the film with a bungee jump. But this is a slow, ponderous film that takes ages to get going and just lacks oomph. Not their finest hour. In fact, I'm so underwhelmed that I'm going to press pause on watching the Bond films for a bit.

Oh, and we have the bizarre absence of the proper Bond theme tune at the very start. Legal reasons?

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Licence to Kill (1989)

"There's more to this than just your personal vendetta!"

Meh. After a good Bond film we get a very late '80s action thriller, all very War On Drugs and macho, very Arnie or Sly or Bruce but not awful, if pretty average for its type- and then James Bond is crowbarred into this genre he doesn't suit, and it all gets rather awkward.

Essentially, Bond is the best man at Felix Leiter's wedding, a drug lord has Leiter's bride murdered and leaves Leiter for dead, and Bond spends the film out for revenge, in spite of the official disapproval but unofficial help from Q, and even an unofficial "good luck" from M. The whole thing feels utterly out of character, which is a shame because Timothy Dalton is outstanding here. But the whole thing stinks of '80s antihero vigilantism and the sort of depressingly uncritical view of the WR on Drugs that you would expect from 1989. Still, Robert Davi is superbly menacing as Sanchez.

This isn't a bad film, per se; as a film of its type it's perfectly decent if not great. But as a Bond film it adds nothing to the character or the franchise. Vigilantism bad; law and order good. That goes right back to Aeschylus and Bond really should know better.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Henry V (1989)

"I'm afeared there are few die well that die in battle, for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument?"

This is the second screen adaptation of this play that I've seen and blogged after The Hollow Crown, albeit one made twenty-three years earlier, and the differences are stark from the opening scene, where Derek Jacobi's chorus awakens us by lighting a match. This introduces two themes: this production's constant okay with light and it's claustrophobic feeling, indoors and on small sets as much as possible and with the location scenes shot so as not to look expansive. Hal finds the crown as uneasy as did his father is the clear message, and his guilt over being an usurper's son, paralleled by his anxiety over the war being just (because sending people to their deaths and their bereaved dependants into penury because of who should be King is totally just, right?) is reflected in the visuals.

Kenneth Branagh is a suitably angsty Henry. Yes, the speeches are present and correct, but this is not a jingoistic Henry V but an anxious one.

The rest of the cast excellent too, including a surprisingly unshouty Brian Blessed, whose message to Charles VI reeks of a menace he hasn't exuded since he was Augustus in I, Clavdivs. And, on top of those mentioned in the tags, we didn't have room for Derek Jacobi, Robbie Coltrane as a splendid Falstaff in scenes nicked from the Henry IV's, Robert Stephens, Paul Scofield, Harold Innocent and a very young Christian Bale. I particularly enjoyed Ian Holm's Fluellen, discoursing on Pompey the Great- for Shakespeare, all Welshmen are in some way his old classics teacher!

This is a superbly visual production, superlatively acted and directed. The emphasis on sparse lighting, points of light in the darkness and claustrophobia gives us an individual version of the play from Kenneth Branagh that is highly effective. A fine film.