Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (1)

This continues a post begun last week.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One Where No One's Ready (Series 3, Episode 2) -
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Completely self-contained and effortlessly acted by everyone involved - as if, at this very moment, all the actors completely understand their characters. Rewatching Series 3, it’s when Friends knew how good it was. The look and feel of the show changes dramatically. Notably, Joey’s hair is completely different. But this episode showcases the nuanced characteristics of each role. Monica, cut-up about Richard. Ross and his strict time-keeping. Joey and Chandler, playing off each other to great effect. “Could I be wearing any more clothes??”. The Ross and Rachel dynamic plays out, proving why they are so good – and bad – together.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (2)

This continues a post begun last week...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Prom Video (Season 2, Episode 14) –
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There is a sense that Kaufman, Crane and Bright realised how much we loved dress-up Friends episodes after this one. Soon enough, we had The One with all the ThanksgivingsThe One with the Flashback and The One that Could Have Been Part I/II. Admittedly, these episodes are often the reason there are chronological inconsistencies, but The One with the Prom Video is a stand-out moment. Ross’ moustache (“Misster Kotter”) and the first appearance of fat-Monica and original-nose Rachel are for the books, but the backstory between Rachel, Monica and Ross is front and centre – and the realisation for Rachel as to how long he has loved her. The fact that Ross is playing the keyboard only hints at another brilliant episode later (The One where Chandler crosses the line in Season 4) when he plays his “sound”.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (3)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One Where Ross Finds Out (Season 2, Episode 7) –
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Considering the entire first season has Ross hankering after Rachel. And then, starting the second season, they still aren’t together because of Julie. It is lovely when it finally happens. Then again, it doesn’t last long (in a show-running moment of genius, the next episode is The One with The List.) Ross - and his long face - leaning on the Central Perk door. Rachel, struggling to open the door. That music. Could be the most memorable moment of the entire ten series.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (4)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Morning after (Season 3, Episode 16) –
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We’ve established how Matthew Perry can’t sob. David Schwimmer though, really can. I’ve met some folk who despise this episode arguing it is too serious, but it is worth noting how the entire third season builds up to this. In fact, the ‘copier girl’ is mentioned within the first few episodes of the season. The jealousy over “Mark” is gradually built up until his unplanned/planned comforting of Rachel while Ross, the “dinosaur guy”, scores with the young thing all the boys fancy. The conflicted argument about whether they were “on a break”, begins here. As almost half of the episode relies on Jennifer Anniston and Schwimmer alone, it is a testament to their acting chops that it holds up. Ross, desperately seeking comfort in Rachel’s arms, remains a moment whereby you’d need a heart of stone not to crumble a teeny bit.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Walk among the Tombstones (Scott Frank, 2014)


Liam Neeson, hunting down dastardly criminals, is something of a pull at the box-office. From Taken to Non-Stop, Neeson seems to perfectly portray the hero who can save the day. A Walk among the Tombstones seems to seek the pace, and urgency of Taken, but tries to balance it out with a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-like investigation. A Walk among the Tombstones is a modern example of a star-led drama that, without the star, falls into B-Movie throwaway film fare.

Apart from a 1991-set brief opening, the bulk of the film is set during 1999. Multiple nods to the Y2K virus hint at an end-of-days fear, but this is neither effective nor intertwined with the plot (except the “People are afraid of the wrong things” tag line). The main thrust of the story is the hunting of two serial killers, who expertly target the wives and children of drug-dealers. Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), member of alcoholics-anonymous and ex-Police Officer, is sought out to find the culprits of the heinous crimes. Reluctant at first, Scudder is drawn to solving the crimes to atone for his own sins. Due to his lack of computer-skills at the library, he befriends a homeless boy, TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) who is street smart and thinks fast, and together they piece together the murders – and work out who might be next…

It is simple thriller-by-numbers. The serial-killers, who ride around slowly in a van, are villains in every way. No nuanced characteristics or well-constructed motives, they’re just evil. Not only do they attack and torture women, but they have a strange fetish whereby they cut off breasts using wire. Scudder, alternatively, is the good guy. The tortured soul who seeks forgiveness (not for the shooting of three burglars without trial it seems, but something “worse”) and spends his days attending AA meetings and eating in greasy-spoons. The opening nods to Dirty Harry, and the pervert-accomplice Jonas (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), even looks like a tubbier version of the crazed-hippy in Don Siegel’s classic. Eastwood’s iconic role was known for his shoot-first, ask-questions-later form of police work. A Walk among the Tombstones teased the controversial idea that this brutality holds emotional and psychological consequences. Instead, it seems that Matt Scudder is Harry Callahan without the panache.

Unfortunately, reconfiguring and reflecting on the film only highlights further flaws. First and foremost, women are merely victims in the film (failing the known Bechdel test I assume). The opening credits depict glowing white skin of a sexy blonde woman, only to reveal that she is bound by gaffer tape and is in fact a victim to the serial killers. Jonas, the accomplice who, though helpful and a chatty, is also a peeping tom. He is depicted sympathetically and is almost played as a victim of the serial killers himself. Considering his direct connection and assistance in her kidnap, he gets off lightly in how he is treated. TJ, the wonder-kid who should surely be more vital, gets short shrift and could be removed completely from the film with little change to the story itself.

A Walk among the Tombstones, borders on offensive. Its approach to crime and justice is fatally flawed and Matt Scudder, a complicated character, is reduced to simple clichés. It’s worth noting that Matt Scudder features in 18 novels, whereby he attends his first alcoholic anonymous meeting in the fifth entry to the series. Whether his tales could be told better as a television series, or if director Scott Frank simply crammed too much into one film, this current incarnation is a misfire. Surely Scudder deserved better.