The Emmys 2014 Review

The 66th Primetime Emmys 2014 (presented by Seth Meyers) came with some surprises as well as some predictability. Kicking off from the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, an array of television and movie stars rubbed shoulders for this momentous event.

One of the biggest winners of the night was Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston for his portrayal of Walter White. Due to the sheer popularity of this show, it was unsurprising that he received the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award. He beat tough competition from the likes of Jeff Daniels (Newsroom), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Woody Harrelson (True Detective), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards). Had McConaughey won, he would have made history by holding an Oscar as well as an Emmy.

Breaking Bad was very successful throughout the night with the likes of Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn receiving Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress awards. Moira Walley-Beckett won Outstanding Writer for a Drama Series and the show received the coveted Outstanding Drama Series award.

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In the midst of the awards, there was a touching in memoriam tribute with a rendition of Smile performed by Sara Bareilles. This included the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Walker, Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney. This was concluded with a lingering shot of Robin Williams. His close friend Billy Crystal (and his co-star in the 1997 comedy Fathers’ Day) then appeared onstage and took us down memory lane with some thoughtful and funny anecdotes involving the late actor. It was a very fitting tribute, and Crystal did a good job.

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Back to the awards, another big win was for the British television drama Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; they received Outstanding Lead Actor/Supporting Actor in a Miniseries. Sherlock writer Steven Moffat also took home Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries. This was somewhat of a surprise but was well deserved.

Jim Parsons received his fourth Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series due to his performance in The Big Bang Theory. He beat competition from the likes of Ricky Gevais (Derek), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Louis C.K. (Louie) and William H. Macy (Shameless).

Julie Louis-Dreyfus received Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Veep – smacking the lips of Bryan Cranston on the way to the stage as part of a gag regarding their scene together in Seinfeld years before.

Colin Bucksey received Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries with Fargo’s Buridan’s Ass. Fargo also received Outstanding Miniseries.

Modern Family received three awards including Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Comedy Series.

Another of my personal highlights was Weird Al Yankovic’s performance in which he parodied the likes of: Homeland, Scandal, Game of Thrones and Modern Family.

The full list of winners and nominees are below:

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Ty Burrell – Modern Family

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy

Louis C.K. – Louie

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Allison Janney – Mom

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Gail Mancuso – Modern Family

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep

Outstanding Reality Program

The Amazing Race

Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries

Steven Moffat – Sherlock

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries

Kathy Bates – American Horror Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries

Martin Freeman – Sherlock

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries

Colin Bucksey – Fargo

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries

Jessica Lange – American Horror Story

Outstanding Miniseries

Fargo

Outstanding Television Movie

The Normal Heart

Outstanding Writing in a Variety Show

Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles

Outstanding Directing Variety Series

Glenn Weiss – 67th Annual Tony Awards

Outstanding Variety Show

The Colbert Report

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad

Outstanding Director in a Drama Series

Cary Fukunagwa – True Detective

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

Anna Gunn – Breaking Bad

Outstanding Writer for a Drama Series

Moira Walley-Beckett – Breaking Bad

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad

Outstanding Comedy Series

Modern Family

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad 

 

By Robert Spence

What If (The F Word) Review

What If (2013) (or The F Word in the US) is a romantic comedy directed by Michael Dowse and written by Elan Mastai. This is based on the play Toothpaste and Cigars written by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Megan Park and Rafe Spall.

Synopsis: Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is a former medical student, and has recently broken up with his girlfriend due to her cheating on him. He is British, and stays in Toronto with his sister and nephew. One night whilst at a party, he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) who is the cousin of his best friend Allan (Adam Driver). There is an instant connection between the two, and they quickly become inseparable. The only thing is she has a long term live in boyfriend named Ben (Rafe Spall).

Throughout the story Wallace must keep his true romantic feelings for Chantry at bay whilst maintaining their friendship.

When I initially saw the trailer for What If, I was curious to see this. Good romantic comedies are hard to come by these days because of their formulaic structure as well as their often mediocre performances, but this movie seemed different. I am glad I took a chance with this one.

What If is a quirky romantic story filled with a lot of heart. Yes, this is not an original concept, or anything too complex but there is something very fresh about this. Since 500 Days of Summer (2009), I was waiting for a worthy counterpart and this movie serves as one.

A charming quirkiness is omnipresent in the story, and we quickly see this with the dialogue between Wallace and Chantry as they congregate by a fridge with magnets that spell words. Although they exchange weird banter between each other, we instantly see their connection which paves way for their relationship throughout. Some of the best scenes in this movie are the two merely talking, but we see them flourish as a result. This is not a conventional mainstream romantic comedy, which is part of its charm.

Although Radcliffe will always be known for Harry Potter, he has proven in recent years that he can really act and does not need to ride on the coat-tails of his most famous role. This recent performance cements this, and we can see that he can be funny as well as charming in a movie about relationships as opposed to wizards and witches.

This is the first time I have seen Zoe Kazan in a prominent acting role, and she is very likeable. Her relationship with Radcliffe is believable and filled with chemistry. She also reminds me of Zooey Deschanel with her piercing blue eyes and effortless wit.

Wallace’ best friend Allan played by Adam Driver is one of the stand out performances with regards to humour, and serves as the main vehicle for comic relief in the story. His towering height juxtaposed with Radcliffe’s small frame portrays them as the ultimate odd couple, but Driver comes away with some of the best one liners in the movie.

I highly recommend this movie if you fancy a decent romantic comedy with some wit and charm about it. Go and see it.

By Robert Spence

The Inbetweeners 2 Review

The Inbetweeners 2 (2014) directed/written by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris. This is the sequel to the 2011 movie and is a spin-off from the 2008 television sitcom.

This movie stars: Simon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Blake Harrison.

Synopsis: The four friends have moved on somewhat since their last adventure in Malia where they had their first lad’s holiday. Will (Simon Bird) is still as geeky as ever and attending university. He is still as disastrous at making friends and talking to the opposite sex. Simon (Joe Thomas) is also at university and is now in an unhappy relationship with Lucy (Tamla Kari) who he met on holiday in the first movie. Her character is the polar opposite of what she was before and is very overbearing and clingy; therefore, Simon is trying his best to dump her. Neil (Blake Harrison) works in a bank and is as dopey as when we last saw him.

After receiving an email from Jay (James Buckley) about how good Australia is (because he is having a gap year there), the gang decide to join him for a month’s holiday. However, when they arrive, things do not go according to plan resulting in some hilarious circumstances.

Being a big fan of the original series and movie, I was expecting big things from this sequel. I did, however, have reservations that it would be very samey in places. However, as soon as I got past the opening scene my reservations diminished as the first laughs bellowed from the cinema hall.

In my opinion, this is better than the original and the writers seem to play around a bit more with the narrative structure which results in a less formulaic story. The writers have also managed to make this just as funny as the original, and there were a few occasions where I was crying with laughter.

Out with the four friends, there is an array of other funny interesting characters who complement the story well. The movie really explores the notion of travelling, and finds humour in some of these situations – i.e. staying in hostels and being on the road. No doubt this will spark a frenzy of people desperate to backpack and experience similar things.

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All four of the main characters have great chemistry which is what has made the show and movies so successful. The funny script as well as their onscreen chemistry will undoubtedly result in this surpassing the original as the most successful British comedy of all time. As I do not want to spoil any of the gags in this movie, all I can say is watch this movie because it is definitely worth it.

By Robert Spence

Outlander – Season 1 Episode 1 – Sassenach – Review

Outlander (2014) is a historical multi genre television series based on the best-selling novels written by Diana Gabaldon. This was developed by Ronald D. Moore, and the opening episode was directed by John Dahl.

Starring John Heffernan, Nell Hudson, Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan.

Synopsis: The story begins in 1945 with combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) 6 months after the conclusion of World War II. She peers into a shop window and receives a flashback of her time there. We witness her nursing a dying soldier, and the harsh realities of war. After hearing the war has finally come to an end, there is much celebration.

Back to reality, and Claire travels with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) to Inverness in Scotland to bridge the time they have spent apart since the war. He has accepted a teaching position at Oxford University which he is due to start two weeks from then. It is apparent their time apart has made an impact, and this is somewhat of a second honeymoon for them. They explore the sights, and become better acquainted.

After exploring the forest on her own for plants, Claire begins hearing strange buzzing noises. After inspecting further, they seems to be descending from a large standing stone. She edges closer and touches it.

Darkness, and Claire wakes up on the ground in what appears to be the same place; however, she has travelled back in time to 1743. After exploring, she sees red coat soldiers engaging in gunfire. They shoot in her direction causing her to run away. She stumbles across the double of her husband dressed as a red coat, and his name is Jonathan Randal (also played by Tobias Menzies). This is clearly an ancestor of Frank’s. He tries to rape her when suddenly she is rescued by a Highlander. After she screams for help, he knocks her out. She awakens and is taken to a safe house with other Highlanders. She gives a fake last name for safety, and meets a handsome injured Highlander named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). After helping him, she gradually begins to realise that she is no longer in the 20th century, and must find a way to return home.

After hearing rumours of these novels being adapted for years, it is good to finally see this story onscreen. As there is currently eight novels in this series, it is clear to see why this has been adapted for television.

I was impressed with the initial episode of this show. The majority of this episode establishes the protagonist Claire and her current life as well as some backstory. We see the trauma she has gone through during the war, but her resilience at getting on with her life.

It does seem like the target demographic of this show is aimed towards women due to the romantic elements along with a female protagonist; however, this would not deter me from watching the rest of the show and enjoying this story.

Caitriona Balfe is relatively new on the acting scene, and has recently come to prominence in movies such as Now You See me (2013) and Escape Plan (2013). She is very likeable, and there will not be a problem with an audience connecting with her. Her chemistry with Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser (the main love interest in this story) is good, and this initial spark in the opening episode paves way nicely for the rest of the show.

Male or female, if you like a good love story, then I would recommend this show. It will not be the next Game of Thrones but seems to be shaping up as a nice adaptation to the popular novels.

By Robert Spence

A Long Way Down Review

A Long Way Down (2014) directed by Pascal Chaumeil and written by Jack Thorne. This is adapted from the Nick Hornby novel of the same name.

This movie stars: Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul.

Synopsis: On New Year’s Eve, disgraced ex television presenter Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) is about to jump off the top of a building when he is interrupted by single mother Maureen Thompson (Toni Collette), the young politician’s daughter Jess (Imogen Poots) and cancer sufferer JJ (Aaron Paul) who have similar ideas.

Startled, Martin gets in his car and drives away. Having a crisis of conscience, he picks all of them up. As Jess has just been hurt by her boyfriend, Martin drops her off at a nightclub to confront him. The concerned others look for her minutes afterwards. Later, they find her in the hospital. Jess escapes unscathed, and the three others wait for her. They all discuss their respective problems and individual reasons for wanting to commit suicide. The group eventually make a pact to wait six weeks until Valentine’s Day to attempt suicide again. Afterwards, things spiral when the media become involved, and the characters find themselves in places they never thought they would be during the next six weeks.

Some of my favourite movies are adapted from Nick Horny novels such as About a Boy (2002) and High Fidelity (2000); therefore, I have always held him in high regard. After seeing this movie, my feelings have grown stronger. This story takes the subject of suicide and injects some nice comedy which results in a moving narrative.

This movie has been written in such a way that allows all of these characters to impact on the viewer in some way with their individual idiosyncrasies, but also allows the viewer to relate to the character’s feelings of despair at various points in the movie.

There is a nice cast in this movie, and the four leads interact effectively and have good onscreen chemistry. Pierce Brosnan plays the disgraced ex daytime television presenter Martin Sharp well, and serves as the main protagonist of the story. As the story begins, the character’s voiceover quickly establishes the turmoil he is in. After unknowingly sleeping with a fifteen year old girl, he is no longer employable anywhere. We see his desperate attempts at trying to get back on top. His character’s selfishness and superficiality is at times frustrating, and the viewer clearly sees that his image is one of the most important things to him.

This juxtaposed with Toni Collette’s character Maureen Thompson is somewhat different. Mauren is a middle aged single mother who cares for her disabled son. Her whole life revolves around him, and seems unhappy about the way her life has panned out – however, she has no resentment for her son. Toni Collette delivers another strong performance, and seems to be a natural at portraying English characters. This brought me back to her performance in About a Boy.

Imogen Poots is a young acting talent who has proved impressive in the performances I have seen her in to date. She is articulate and charming in her portrayal of Jess. Her character is very intelligent, articulate and provides a large part of comic relief to proceedings. She has a bright future ahead of her.

Aaron Paul portrays the enigmatic JJ who claims to be dying of brain cancer. Throughout the narrative, we know the least about him which makes the viewer want to find out more. Aaron Paul plays these mysterious damaged characters well, and I saw echoes of his Breaking Bad character Jesse Pinkman here. He is another actor with a bright future ahead of him, and this is his second collaboration with Imogen Poots. They are also seen together in Need for Speed (2014), and also display nice onscreen chemistry together.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this story. Dark comedies are not that common, and are highly effective when done well. As already stated, the characters are intriguing, which results in a moving story. I did my research into this movie beforehand, and commercially this did not do well at the box office and received a lot of negative reviews. Therefore, going into this movie my expectations were not to a high standard. However, I am glad I saw this and I recommend anyone else to do so.

By Robert Spence

Under the Dome – Season 2 Episode 1 – Heads Will Roll – Review

Under the Dome (2013) is a science fiction American television show adapted from Stephen King’s popular novel of the same name. The series was developed by Brian K. Vaughan, and Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer on the show.

This episode was directed by Jack Bender and written by Brian K. Vaughan.

Starring: Mike Vogel, Rachelle Lefevre, Natalie Martinez, Britt Robertson, Alexander Koch and Dean Norris.

Show Premise: A mysterious invisible dome appears in the town of Chester’s Mill without explanation. This cuts the town off from the outside world and forces the town’s inhabitants to seek answers. The dome brings with it strange supernatural side effects which tests the town in a number of ways. This is a fight for survival to rid the town of the dome, and to ultimately re-connect with the outside world.

Episode Synopsis: This season begins just where the last one left off. Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara (Mike Vogel) is about to be hanged by James ‘Big Jim’ Rennie (Dean Norris) and Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch) when a white light descends upon the town. Suddenly, the majority of the town’s imhabitants faint and are unable to wake up.

As the episode progresses, the dome begins displaying new symptoms – for instance becoming magnetic. This causes everything nearby to flock to the dome and stick, causing mayhem in the process.

As a result, high school science teacher Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome) has an idea to try and combat this. She hypothesises that the dome can manipulate electromagnetic fields which affects some of the people’s brainwave; therefore, she hatches a plan along with others to try and build a magnet to stop this happening.

We are also introduced to a character who perished last season; for instance Dodee Weaver (Jolene Purdy). She visits Big Jim in the form of a ghostly figure to give him some home truths. Jim murdered her last season in cold blood.

There is a new addition to the town in the form of Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill) who along with Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) finds a girl drowning in a lake but manages to revive her. As the episode progresses, there are some interesting consequences to the character’s actions.

There is a lot going on in this episode which is reminiscent of the way the first season panned out. There are many characters in this show with their respective motivations and goals; however, they are all interesting enough to warrant further viewing.

Due to the way the first season ended (on a cliff-hanger with Barbie about to be hanged), I remember being initially quite annoyed. I was frustrated at the fact the season ended in this way, and said to myself I would not bother if it was renewed for a second season. Having said that, curiosity got the better of me and I tuned in. I was glad I did because ultimately this is a very interesting concept for a show, and is equally interestingly executed.  However, the fact this is adapted from a Stephen King novel is no surprise.

There is some clear character development in this episode – mainly from Big Jim and Junior. They seem somewhat reformed despite being the main antagonistic forces last season. Throughout the first season, they were blinded by the dome and began controlling the town by any means possible. As the second season begins, clear repentance is conveyed with an overall theme of sacrifice being prevalent.

This was a good opening episode for the second season and I advise you to check this out – even if you were frustrated by the way the first season ended.

By Robert Spence

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) directed by Matt Reeves, written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. It stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Synopsis: Following on from the first instalment, this story begins in 2016. A viral-based drug known as ALZ-112 created in the Gen-Sys labs to initially cure Alzheimer’s has killed off the majority of the human population, but has had a significant impact on apes – thus providing them with incredible intelligence and potential. Caesar (the ape James Franco’s character Dr. Will Rodman took into his home and brought up in the first movie and played by Andy Serkis) leads a new generation of intelligent apes and has built a large community away from the very few humans left. The world is extremely different from where we left off and the progress the apes have made from the last time they were seen is astonishing. They have the ability to talk, and are able to ride horses among other things. After a group of humans stumble across the apes in their forest (with one of them accidentally shooting an ape), Caesar orders the humans to leave. These humans are led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his second wife Ellie (Keri Russell), Kemp (Enrique Murciano) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) who is the shooter of the ape.

These humans are genetically immune to the virus which is why they have survived, and live in a guarded tower in San Francisco. Due to the humans running out of resources, their best way to gain power to help them connect with other possible survivors is from a hydroelectric dam in the ape’s territory. After Malcolm makes a deal with Caesar, he gives them three days to do what they need to do and then leave the ape territory. However, things become more complicated. Caesar’s second in command named Koba (Toby Kebbell) holds a grudge against humans due to being mistreated in the first movie. As a result, he is scarred for life and does not trust them.

Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is the leader of the remaining survivors in San Francisco, and tells Malcolm that if he does not return after a few days, then they will be coming after him. Koba does everything in his power to manipulate the apes to attack Dreyfus’s survivors and cause a full scale war despite Caesar’s want for peace.

This is one of the best movies I have seen this year, and there are many reasons for this. Having watched the 2011 reboot a few days prior, the original was fresh in my mind for the latest offering. When I first saw it three years before, I remember being very impressed by the look of the apes, and how real they were. However, this is taken to a completely different level in this movie. The visuals are stunning, and you will be blown away with just how great the apes look. This was my initial perception mere minutes into the movie.

This new world is established perfectly, and the viewer is instantly immersed in the community Caesar and the apes have built for themselves. Caesar is a good leader with strong morals, and it is highly understandable as to why he is the leader. He has come a long way since we last saw him, and has clearly taken on board what he learned from being brought up by Will. Caesar also has a wife named Cornelia (Judy Greer) who has a new born baby at the beginning of the movie, and they also have a child named Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) who is old enough to fight alongside Caesar. Andy Serkis is impressive once again as Caesar, and seems to be the go to guy when it comes to motion capture.

Jason Clarke is also impressive as Malcolm and is likeable enough throughout the story for the viewer to root for him. He builds a strong bond with Caesar reminiscent of Caesar and Will’s relationship. Gary Oldman’s performance is great as usual, and never disappoints in any of the roles he takes on. There is a very touching scene where Oldman’s character Dreyfus is able to view pictures of his deceased family which is extremely poignant. When he cries, it is really moving and a testament to his acting talents.

The writing and directing is also fantastic, and all of the characters are believable. Koba makes an effective antagonist, and is believable. His hatred for humans is understandable due to what he suffered at the hands of a minority of them, and his fight scenes with Caesar are impressive.

I urge anybody to see this because it really is fantastic. This will do very well at the box office, and I hope the third is just as good as this one.

By Robert Spence