Boardwalk Empire – Season 4

Boardwalk-Empire-1Boardwalk entered its fourth season off the back of a superb third series as one of the most consistently entertaining shows around at the moment. Things were going to be different this time round though with Nucky (Steve Buscemi) and Margaret Schroeder’s (Kelly Macdoanld) relationship a thing of the past and his tyrannical reign of the criminal underworld not as secure as it once was.

Nucky’s storyline is no longer the main attraction come this fourth series and the stand-out plot this time round comes with the arrival of Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) causing Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) numerous problems. Also Al Capone (Stephen Graham) continues his usual bully tactics this time becoming involved with Michael Shannon’s Nelson Van Alden character who seems a lot less crazy than he has in previous seasons. Season four saw the usual slow burn and tension building that we’ve come to expect of the show, with impending explosions constantly bubbling just below the surface ready to blow by the final few episodes and it doesn’t disappoint. In this series despite Nucky perhaps not being as central a character as he originally was his empire is under more threat than it has ever been and although the character will never show it it’s clear that soon things will come crumbling down around him. The strongest point as always with Boardwalk is its writing and that’s no different in season four but there is not a single element of the show that isn’t done superbly well.

It’s pleasing that a programme of this cost and intelligence can manage to keep going in a climate of television where studios want to make cheap, accessible shows but Boardwalk is one of a small flurry of shows marking a revolution that exemplifies how the format can be the best way to tell great stories. With Breaking Bad over it’s time Boardwalk deserves a place as the best running TV show on our screens and in my opinion, it is.

 

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

anchorman-2-trailer-467The Channel 4 news team has finally reassembled after years of Will Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay searching for funding for a sequel to what has become, possibly, the biggest cult hit comedy of our times. So big that it may transcend the term of ‘cult’ as it is loved by so many people. Interestingly the first Anchorman was a box office flop but it’s popularity grew with word of mouth and it’s endlessly quotable dialogue. The Legend of Ron Burgundy is easily one of my favourite comedies of all time, it’s ridiculous humour proves the perfect platform for Ferrell’s style of performance as well as bringing the best out of all it’s other cast members. The film deserves the place it has a modern cultural phenomenon, put it does put a lot of pressure on this sequel that comes nine long years after the first instalment.

I am pleased to say that The Legend Continues will not disappoint anyone whose a fan of the franchise. The team have created a very well crafted plot that stops Anchorman 2 falling into the common issue of being repetitive. Ron Burgundy is offered the chance to present the news on what is the first ever 24 hour news station and decides it’s time he reunited his news team in the process. The adventure that ensues again provides Ferrell’s comedic way the best platform he has ever had. Burgundy is easily his best character and what works in this film, actually better than the first one, is the plotting. The film was never going to quite live up to the quotable best of the first and it’s important not to go in expecting that, Anchorman 2 is at its best when it’s original and the lack of snappy one-liners is actually a blessing in disguise. If they’d have tried to simply re-create what worked well in the first film this movie would’ve flopped and it’s in the moments where the film refers back to its predecessor that the laughs drop off. ¬†While for the most part the film is very funny it does spend too much just repeating old jokes, there are two or three scenes which more or less are exactly the same as the first, and in doing so detract from the originality and the spark that can be found in other scenes. Clocking in at 119 minutes it’s almost a whole half hour longer than the first and that, quite simply, is too long. As a whole it would’ve worked much better just to cut out the references and hark backs as the new material is strong enough to stand on its own two feet.

Overall Anchorman 2 is a triumph, it could well have been pushing the boundaries of funny and in turn ruin the first films legacy but Ferrell and the team do a fantastic job of progressing their characters and bringing fresh, new material to the table. It’s over-long but this movie will not let you down.

Misfits – Series 5

Misfits_-_Season_5_-_Cast_Promotional_Photos_(2)_FULLMisfits has easily been e4’s best original drama from the past two or three years but this year it was time for the asbo-superhero show to draw to a close. Now with a completely different cast from when the show started out Misfits had become a slightly confused entity. Despite this I thought series four was on of the programmes strongest overall, mainly because it took everything back to basics; the writing had become over-complicated by series three and the upheaval of cast members meant that they had to start again from scratch. With it’s fifth and final series though, Misfits badly fails to deliver.

In the past Misfits has been a eclectic mix of comedy, drama and action, every element being well thought-out and completely fresh and original. Series five however lacks the fresh-faced bite it once had. There aren’t many darker moments and only one episode of the series where we get a flash of the horror element that the show so successfully pulls off in previous seasons. The cast interaction is awkward too, and by this series it becomes impossible to look past the fact that these people actually live in the community centre and the support worker isn’t even bothered by it. The support worker, played by Shaun Dooley, it must be said is the programmes strongest character and the funniest, a dangerously insane man with homosexual tendencies that he doesn’t really know how to express but by episode eight even this joke is wearing thin. I’m also a big fan of Joe Gilgun’s Rudy and think he makes a great central character but what it comes down to in series five is the writing being off the ball. There are too many episodes that just feel like filler with the odd hint at the overall story arc that then is rushed together in the final episode and limply flops to a climax. Not to mention the fact that they kill a character off and then have him come back moments later, it seems too set on having a happy ending to let that happen, never a strong way to end something.

In the past Misfits has provided some of the best TV moments, and was one of the freshest drama ideas that has been produced in recent times so it’s a real shame that it’s final series fails to deliver and cap off what should be remembered as a very important milestone in British drama.

 

The Marshall Mathers LP 2

eminem-mmlp2-1383321799This is a bit of late review with the album having been out for well over a month now but this is a such a high profile release that I can’t help but have my say. Eminem hasn’t really been on form since The Eminem Show which was way back in 2002. Since then he’s quit music and come back with two very mediocre albums and failed to make himself stand out in modern hip hop, after being the genre’s defining force when he was in his prime. This time out he opts to cash in on the success of one of his truly great albums with a sequel record.¬†

One thing that remains apparent throughout The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is that Eminem still has one of the best flows in the business, his knowledge of the language and ability to bend any word to fit in with what he wants it to is pretty much unrivalled. This record is easily his best lyrically since The Eminem Show, as a matter of fact, there’s a case for this record having his best rhymes ever from a technical perspective. On the single Rap God he spits faster than even Busta Rhymes could dream of. The problem is though that despite his lyrical prowess there is something lacking from the new reformed Eminem, something that’s been missing for over a decade. He’s far too obsessed with poorly written, trashy hooks which are made even worse by his dreadful singing voice, his last album, Recovery, was riddled with them to the point where it was almost unlistenable, TMMLP2 contains a number of these too, the aforementioned Rap God containing one of the worst of the lot. The record feels confused as to what it wants to be, at times it breaks new ground and gives Eminem’s superior rhymes a breath of fresh air with production that strips things back to basics and adds an edgy bite to his lines, the best of which probably being Survival. Whereas other tracks make the same mistakes as Recovery did trying too hard to be a chart topping success lazy and uninteresting beats and, in doing so, not making the most of what Eminem’s best at: rapping. See the Rihanna featuring Monster for an example of this.

Overall this record is easily the best Mathers has come out with since his comeback and it beats Encore too, but this is still not the Eminem of old. There’s a bit more of the angry, bitterness that littered his early and best material but it’s much more forced and lacks the authenticity he once had. It seems he’s confused as to what he wants to do and too much like he’s making music to be successful than as a release of emotions. The track with Kendrick Lamar is a massive disappointment too.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

dos4The blogs been a bit rejected of late, due to a hectic final few weeks of term but what better way to get things back up and running than with one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Part two of Jackson’s prequel trilogy takes us right to the climax of Tolkien’s book but opts to change much of the story in favour of a more action packed, crowd-pleasing adventure that can be stretched out to three two-and-a-half-hour films. I was pleasantly surprised with the first offering, An Unexpected Journey, and had every reason to believe that The Desolation of Smaug would be even better. Unfortunately, though I found it to be a much more flawed affair.

One of the main issues with the first movie was the sheer amount of dwarves none of which we had a long enough time with to get to know and understand, this issue remains throughout this second movie the only dwarf I can remember the name of is Thorin and then there’s James Nesbitt and the handsome one, which brings me to my next point. The films worst moments came from ‘the handsome ones’ love story with the new female elf, Tauriel, an entirely new character invented by Jackson and his team to make up for the lack of women in the story. Tauriel herself isn’t a bad character but the corniness of the pairs romance reaches levels of corniness that the original trilogy never even came close to (OK, maybe the original’s did come quite close, but it was a bit acceptable when they weren’t major parts of the plot). I was sceptical going in about the return of Legolas, who also doesn’t feature in the book in order to give the film some sex appeal, but I was pleasantly surprised by his role, very few lines for Bloom and lots of stunningly choreographed fight scene which inject the movie with some much-needed adrenaline. It did seem a slight cop out, however, that whenever Bilbo and his gang found themselves in trouble it just so happened that their pointy-eared friend was just round the corner to come and save them. Legolas’ prominence in the action scenes also means that we see very little of Gandalf, something that could well be fixed in the extended version, but nonetheless left me feeling like there was something missing here. The films strongest moments come in the final half an hour or so when Bilbo confronts Smaug, the effects used to design the formidable dragon are simply astounding, by far the most impressive CG rendered creature you’ll see this year and the film picks up some pace and really starts to hit stride in any scene the dragon is involved in.

Overall, I may be being slightly harsh about The Desolation of Smaug and perhaps after repeat viewing the film will grow on me somewhat. But after first viewing it must be said that it was a slight disappointment. That said it certainly sets up the final part well, and my buzz for the series is still flickering away inside.