Friday, 4 July 2014
Sunday, 29 June 2014
As we approach the final episodes of 24: Live Another Day, I cannot help but feel that the series has been hoisted by its own petard. Despite the ever-increasing high-standard of television drama, 24 has been a guilty-pleasure for many during the last decade. Initially, a fun minute-by-minute “real-time” television show, it has become a farce. Heroic Jack Bauer seemed to become the unluckiest man to live, demanding our trust, as America (and now the UK) are bombed each year (for each series). Eight series, an awful television special (24: Redemption) and now a new 12-part run proves the formula works. But this is not down to Kiefer Sutherland’s sometimes-rogue, sometimes-ally CTU agent. Here are five reasons 24 doesn’t need Jack Bauer…
Jack Bauer has become a joke
Chronologically, Bauer is a widow, an ex-druggie, an international criminal with enemies in China, Russia and virtually every emerging superpower. He killed Ryan Chappelle for god’s sake! He is a torturer who has lost his mind a teeny bit, and seems to find it perfectly acceptable to make demands to the President of the United States. I thought “we don’t make deals with terrorists”? President Heller, though conflicted, makes a deal with a man who, hours before was holding people hostage – let alone his actions over the past fifteen years. None of this makes sense and it’s difficult to root for a broken man who simply needs a rest. A new lead would give the plots more credence.
Clearly, owing a debt to James Bond and Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer is modelled on characters that hold a 2-hour film on their own. But the current season is 12-episodes long. It worked in the first season perhaps, and in fairness, the whole of CTU is his “team”, but as Tony Almeida and Chase Edmunds proved it’s fun when he has others and every time we begin a season it’s all “Jack is Back”, when in fact a decent team has much more space to play with the narrative. How about, stop killing off other cool characters and let a few of them take a little ownership of the show?
New actors will rejuvenate the series
Consider the introduction of an agent who is younger, fresh-faced and, heaven forbid, less patriotic. Maybe steal Michael Pitt from Boardwalk Empire or Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones? And simply pass the baton. A younger lead (and please, not an unknown “Son” from Bauer’s past) could introduce a new government agency, new dynamics and set-up a new tone to the show. In fact, maybe if the lead role was a little less holier-than-thou, it might make the whole “You have to trust me!” conversations much more interesting as we shout at the screen to not trust him! Opposed to knowing that they “don’t have a choice” anyway.
Jack Bauer could become a cameo role for special episodes
I don’t want to forget Jack of course. He’s paid his dues. But a surprise return would be all that is needed. Maybe Bauer actually becomes the President’s bodyguard and we only see him in passing. I’m sure Kiefer Sutherland could still take his percentage of the profits as Executive Producer, but a four-episode arc whereby our new lead teams up with Jack would be welcomed. Or if a villain returns – the long-lost relative of Salazar or Nina Myer’s twin sister, like Hannibal Lector, our new lead seeks advice from “an old friend…”
24 is ultimately about real-time action
I enjoy 24 for this. The right-wing, Murdoch-politics, granted, is a stretch – but it fits the series. I love the scale of the series – the moment at the start of Season 6 when the bomb actually does explode in LA killing so many people – and we see the fall-out of it was inspired. Though Bauer is interesting, I don’t believe he is integral to the story. The “Unique Selling Point” of 24 is the real-time, President-and-agency, explosive action (and, strangely, Sean Callery’s strangely dated score) – everything else is switchable.
Relying on Jack Bauer stops 24 from growing and improving, and until his central role becomes supportive, 24 will always feel a little too ridiculous. And it’s a shame, become there is nothing else like 24 on TV and this crucial change will mean the end of 24 forever …
Originally written for Flickering Myth on 15th June 2014
4. - this was inevitable. Indeed, have parodied everything from to Surely was going to get Simpsonified sooner or later. As Springfield Gorge replaces The Wall, it only seemed inevitable that Mr Burns became “Burns Landing”…
3. Almost on another level completely, is now pixellated and broken into an 8-bit music track. The slow rise of “Yoshi’s Island” seems to fit perfectly as the buildings can often rise in the game play itself. The close-up’s of pixellated features only add to it’s charm. But the age-old battles of Mario VS throwing-hammer-Goomba only brings back my own broken-hearted memories. Too much time on this game in my youth…
2. - more an impressive mash-up of Disney movies rather than a new-video in its entirety, it does showcase how diverse the Disney canon is. Takes about 20-seconds to really hot up, but it then becomes perfectly-placed as the towers and trees from to hold a medieval charm that links it directly to Trains in and the Arabian night of then remind you of the wooden-elevator of The Wall and the Dothraki Lands. Disney as a universe has never been so beautiful…
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...
To Rome with Love (Dir. Woody Allen/2012)
You could easily mistake this for a foreign film considering the amount of Italian spoken. Indeed, Woody Allen is a writer who has sharp wit and snappy dialogue sewn up in the English language, at least the Italian verbal acrobats don’t seem out of place. To Rome with Love is familiar Woody Allen, recycling his best narrative devices – a kind-of, but-not-really imaginary figure (The Purple Rose of Cairo); a glorious, picture-postcard location portraying flowing, Trevi fountains and Roman ruins (Manhattan, Midnight in Paris); seduction and adultery dominating multiple plot threads interwoven amongst an ensemble cast. Even Woody himself is acting! But Mighty-Aphrodite-prostitutes in Penelope Cruz, Fellini references to fame and irrelevant bookends by a traffic director busy the true purpose of the film. Almost a selection of thoughts from Woody Allen’s brain, rather than a solid story. It stands like a stone sculpture but it’s a little shaky at times.
Sunday, 1 June 2014
Located in London, Edge of Tomorrow is initially a fish-out-of-water plot, fused with a socio-political edge. The charming, cheeky Major Cage is a high-ranking official who appears on TV but doesn’t fight himself. Confronted by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), he is ordered to serve alongside the troops in France (in an invasion modelled on the opening attack in Saving Private Ryan). Glibly, he refuses. He attempts to bribe the General too, only to wake up in make-shift army barracks on Heathrow’s airstrips. What begins as a subtle criticism of those in power lacking awareness of those on the front line is soon forgotten though, as the time-travel plot begins. Suddenly, the focus is primarily on Tom Cruise’s need to survive. It harks back to the socio-economical subtext of Elysium, which again, is forgotten about once one-man’s survival is at stake.
Outside of Cruise, the majority of roles are standard caricatures for a sci-fi/war genre film. Almost immediately after waking, we repetitively meet Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton), a Kentucky-born disciplinarian. Reciting lines of literature to rank himself amongst the hard-nuts of army officers in cinema, his approach is so stern as to direct gambling soldiers to preposterously eat their own playing-cards. Emily Blunt herself seems bland and lacks authority to truly support her ‘Angel of Verdun’ credibility. Against Ellen Ripley or Sarah Conner, the angel would have her wings clipped.
But Edge of Tomorrow is not aiming to showcase complicated characters, or make profound political points. In Gareth Evans’ The Raid, many noted the computer-game progression of the narrative. Level-by-level, working your way through the building, to the big-boss at the end. Edge of Tomorrow is the same, with “extra lives” and advanced weapons to make the stakes higher. Except some people (though not the target-market for this film perhaps) don’t play computer games – let alone play them for the nearly two-hour runtime of this film. For some the relentless action is too chaotic. The frustration with repeating a sequence can grate, while the more profound elements are left to the side for the sake of a plot-beat that keeps you engaged. Edge of Tomorrow does manage to showcase some breath-taking war-torn landscapes while the comedic-moments as Cruise plays with his time-travel skills are fun. But the story lacks the philosophical scope of The Matrix, and misses the political points of District 9. This is fun, goofy action, with a quirky unique-selling-point, but it can’t break free from the formulaic core at its centre. It feels like we’ve seen most of this before.
This post was originally written for Flickering Myth on 1st June 2014