The Blogscars!

Well that pithy attempt at a punny title went awry.

Don’t worry, this is not a post on injured bloggers, or deformed blogs for that matter.

Credit: Oscars.org

Hey! It’s award season, and I’ve been nominated for my first blog award…

The Liebster Award!

I feel like I’ve just starred in Jerry Maguire and won Best Supporting Actor, only the Blog Gods have given me more than two minutes to exclaim my thank yous. Or perhaps that’s just down to my lack of being constrained by a rapidly flowing, live three hour televised window.

This is all very suave. I don’t really know what I’m doing, a bit like Jacqueline Bisset at this year’s Golden Globes. Okay, maybe not that bad. Or externally influenced. I digress, taking my lead from the business’ best and most bumbling in doing so; this isn’t about me, this is about all of you brilliant people – and occasional spam-bots – who read my film ramblings. Particularly, a huge thanks to the wonderful Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade whose insightful, funny and positively effervescent blog is a must read for film fans, television nuts and life folks in general! Check it out now if you haven’t already done so (though I’m sure you have). I’m also following Cara’s awards blog layout, because it’s far too nifty to ignore.

The Liebster Award rules, then:

  • Nominated bloggers must link back to the blogger who nominated them.
  • Nominees must answer the eleven questions set out by their nominator.
  • Nominated bloggers must also select eleven other terrific blogs with less than 200 followers – though a few of mine are a little above that figure – nominate, and then prescribe them eleven tantalising questions (or, make up some head-shakingly unimaginative queries, as I have done).
  • If nominated, you cannot nominate the person who originally nominated you.

Anyone else starting to verbally trip over that nonimate, err, nominate word?

Enough about rules, down with the machine! etc.

Let’s get going with Cara’s questions, all about FAVOURITES:

1. Vacation spot?

Being Scottish, I’ve spent many a holiday abroad over in Spain (we’re very particular, apparently). I did go to America a few years back though, when I played football (soccer), and absolutely loved it. The whole team went over; we paired off and lived with American families for most of the trip, and I was based in a wooded, pristine Pennsylvania neighbourhood. After spending a day in New York, I eulogise over returning.

2. Color?

Red, as you can probably tell looking at my blog’s header and logo!

3. Dessert?

Shockingly, I’m not a big dessert guy (or a big guy in general, so it’s not really that shocking after all) but I do enjoy vanilla ice-cream stacked on top of a warm chocolate fudge cake every now and again.

4. Black-and-white movie?

It’s a Wonderful Life, without question. That film is delightful.

5. Superhero?

I’ve never read a comic book, so purely based on films and television shows, Batman. Chris Nolan made Batman cool again. Don’t ruin it Snyder.

6. TV show?

This is a tough one. I watch far too much TV, and often have upwards of ten different series’ recorded and ready to watch. I’m gonna have three, because ‘down with the machine!’ etc., remember? Two that aren’t on anymore but are crazily different and therefore I cannot separate: Friends and LOST. I got into Friends over in the States actually. We watched it almost every night and I became glued, such a smartly humorous, charming show. LOST, I watched from start to finish as it aired on the tele. It gets a bad rap for the finale, but it absolutely had me going. A truly stupendous first season. Of the current shows on air, it’s gonna have to be The Walking Dead. I’m intrigued by the whole zombie/apocalypse (and zombie apocalypse) genre. Having said all of that, True Detective begins over here tomorrow and I’m big on Matt McCon at the moment – we’re on a nickname basis.

7. Book?

I don’t read as much as I should, but off the top of my head I’m going to pick The Hobbit. It’s all very adventurous, and funny, and good-natured.

8. Beatles song?

“Let It Be”. Sorry for being so generic!

9. Dog breed?

Labrador, like the little guy in those Andrex adverts!

10. Beverage?

I’m a sucker for Citrus Oasis, or any other orangey drink. Alcohol-wise, I’ve only really ever tried Budweiser, and haven’t consumed alcohol since!

11. Nerdy franchise (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, etc.)?

Nerdy franchise? Hmm, evidently I’m quite a nerd when it comes to anything in the film (and television) Milky Way, but The Lord of the Rings is my favourite film trilogy/franchise so I’ll go with that!

Now, here are the magnificent 11 I’d like to give a shout-out to!

Since I’m all about the big screen, I’m going to compile a completely random, totally unserious list of film questions. Now then, should you guys choose to accept them (and please don’t feel the need to if it’s not your thing, or you’ve already been nominated!) here are my 11 quick-fire questions:

  1. Name one film that you have yet to see, but should’ve seen by now.
  2. Do you keep a list of every film you watch, and when?
  3. What is the first film that comes to mind when you read the following word: Guitar?
  4. What is your favourite Leo DiCaprio film?
  5. Name a film that you personally dislike, but that everyone else seems to love.
  6. What is your first film-related memory?
  7. Do you listen to any film podcasts, or radio shows, or watch any television review shows?
  8. Does the phrase “Hello to Jason Isaacs” mean anything to you?
  9. Was The Phantom Menace really THAT bad?
  10. What is your favourite film that is underappreciated elsewhere?
  11. When you hear the name Shia LaBeouf, what type of meat springs to mind? 

Have fun!

Oh, and if I’ve utterly messed all of this up and ruined the award-chain, I will repent at the feet of the Blog Gods for the rest of eternity.

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Shockingly Good Television

Warning: There will be spoilers (and blood, probably).

Bear with me here, for I am still reeling from last night’s instalment of Game of Thrones (“The Rains of Castamere”). Having recorded the episode to watch later, I browsed through Twitter only to discover an outcry of shock, fury, tears and every other emotion that is not necessarily a positive one. ‘The Red Wedding’ as I believe it is commonly known as amongst dedicated fans of the show (the ones who know everything about everyone, like those guys on Sky Atlantic’s Thronecast — very impressive) certainly lived up to the hype and proved itself to be one of the most shocking television moments I have ever witnessed. If you do not watch Game of Thrones you are missing out — and are also probably a bit fed up with the content that the internet has relentlessly regurgitated over the last day or two.

Therefore, rather than another top five films from me today, I have decided to pick my most shocking television moments. I must stress that I have not seen every television show in the world (in actual fact, I really have not seen that much — particularly older shows), therefore if a stand-out scene from the television show that you watch is not included then it is probably because I have not seen it yet — I have never seen Dexter or Breaking Bad, for example. No, these are the most shocking moments from the shows that I have watched. Also, they are in no particular order, because that would call for more effort than I can muster up after last night’s Game of Thrones malarkey.

Ned Stark’s beheading — Game of Thrones

(Season: 1, Episode: 9 — “Baelor”)

“I hope that’s a rubber sword.”

After being betrayed at the hands of the Lannisters following Robert Baratheon’s death, Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is executed in front of a clamouring crowd at King’s Landing.

This was the audience’s first warning from author George R.R. Martin and show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss to stop watching if we did not approve of the death of main characters – because it is going to happen. A lot, evidently. There are three things make this so shocking: the shows willingness to kill off main characters without hesitation; the presence of Ned Stark’s two daughters, Sansa and Arya, at the execution; and King Joffrey’s ruthlessness and lack of mercy towards Stark, even after the latter had confessed to treason and sworn allegiance to the Lannisters. That Joffrey is a bugger. The only unsurprising aspect of this death is that it was at the expense of Sean Bean.

Jack is ordered to kill Ryan Chappelle — 24

(Season: 3, Episode: 18 — “Day 3: 6:00 a.m. — 7:00 a.m.”)

“Dude, i missed.”

As a result of their inability to find terrorist Stephen Saunders in time, Jack Bauer is ordered to kill CTU’s Regional Division Director, Ryan Chappelle.

Although he was never the most popular character in the show, the death of Ryan Chappelle was certainly despairing, not to mention unexpected. This cemented Bauer as a man willing to do whatever needed to be done in order to save the majority. The direct involvement of the President of the United States, David Palmer — he was the one who assigned the task to Bauer — makes this all the more shocking. Chappelle’s revelation that he had no friends or close family, along with Jack’s apology for failing Chappelle, only added to the sombre nature of this scene, telling fans of the show that, sometimes, the bad guys really do get their own way.

Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes are both set in limbo — Ashes to Ashes

(Season: 3, Episode: 8 — “Episode 8”)

“Pub?”

It is revealed that Detective Gene Hunt and the rest of the police officers (including Alex Drake and Sam Tyler) are all dead and left lingering a form of purgatory.

This one caught me off guard, mainly because I was expecting a completely different ending (one which I cannot remember — it was three years ago). It turns out that every episode in both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes is actually a depiction of “restless” police officers who are, unknowingly, seeking a way to “move on” — symbolised by ‘The Railway Arms’ pub. Hunt is the only character who has known this from the beginning, and has been acting as a guide for newly bereaved officers. The limbo explanation is not the most shocking on the list, but it was a nice twist and a fitting end to the show.

Rick kills Shane — The Walking Dead

(Season: 2, Episode: 12 — “Better Angels”)

“That’s not how you play Statues!”

Knowing that a troubled Shane is about to kill him, Rick is forced to turn the tables and act first against his best friend.

The death of Shane at the hands of Rick is arguably the most shocking, and heartbreaking scene, to come out of The Walking Dead thus far. Again, the death of a main character plays a part in the shocking nature of this scene, but the emotional attachment to both characters is also a major player. The audience had known that something was brooding between the pair since the beginning of season one as a result of Shane’s affair with Rick’s wife Lori, but for it to result in the death of Shane was certainly alarming. The proof is in the pudding as far as ratings go, because as a result of Shane’s untimely demise, the episode after this one (Episode 13, “Beside the Dying Fire”) drew over nine million viewers, up from just under seven million this time around, and breaking all sorts of records at the time.

Dr. Thredson is Bloody Face — American Horror Story: Asylum

(Season: 2, Episode: 5 — “I am Anne Frank (Part 2)”)

“I’m too old for this.”

Lana discovers that the man who has helped her escape the asylum, Dr. Thredson, is actually the brutal serial killer, Bloody Face.

Throughout the second season of American Horror Story, the burning question had been: who is Bloody Face? Though many were accused, it was Kit Harrington, a young man blamed for the disappearance of his wife, who was singled out eventually. It sort of made sense (well, apart from the audience more or less knowing it was not Kit due to events broadcast at the beginning of the season) that he was the killer, right? Wrong. It turns out Bloody Face was actually the doctor assigned to help both Kit and Lana, Dr. Thredson. In case you have never seen American Horror Story before and are unaware, it really is, well — mental. This is definitely not the most shocking event on the list, but having Zachary Quinto portray an evil, nasty and downright creepy serial killer was a touch of genius at the pens of the writers.

The flashback is actually a flashforward — Lost

(Season: 3, Episode: 22/23 – “Through the Looking Glass”)

“I left my shaving kit on the island… WE HAVE TO GO BACK!”

Jack’s apparent flashbacks throughout the episode are revealed to be flashforwards, divulging that he and Kate have both escaped from the island somehow.

“We have to go back!” And just like that, Lost hits another home run. This one really blew me away. Known for its signature flashbacks throughout the first two seasons, and majority of the third, Lost creators J.J. Abrams and Cartlon Cuse, masterfully lulled viewers into a false sense of security as Jack’s flashbacks in the finale of season three turned out to be flashforwards, revealing that he and Kate (who is meeting Jack in the scene) were off the island. For the first time in 72 episodes, the audience finds out that some characters have left the island – the whole aim of the characters in the show in the first place. In true Lost fashion, viewers were left with an almighty cliffhanger, with so mention questions remaining unanswered: How did they get off the island? Who else is off the island? Why does Jack really want to go back? And so on. By a distance this is one of the most shocking and surprising moments on this list — it still gets me to this day!

David Palmer’s assassination — 24

(Season: 5, Episode: 1 — “Day 1: 7:00 a.m. — 8:00 a.m.”)

“I want to play a game.”

As he is discussing his memoirs with his brother, David Palmer is shot in the neck by a sniper, and killed.

The assassination of former President David Palmer kicked off season five with a massive bang. Not only was he very popular amongst fans (at least in my view), it also appeared as if the show was gearing up for another season dominated, in part, by his presence. But it was not to be. There are a number of elements linked to Palmer’s assassination which made it so shocking: the attempted murder of fellow prominent individuals in the show, Chloe O’Brien, Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler (the latter was successfully eliminated) and the revelation at the end of the season that the man behind the orders was current President, Charles Logan. This one came out of absolutely nowhere, particularly for me as I did not watch the series when it aired (presumably word had gotten out that Dennis Haysbert, the actor portraying David Palmer, was leaving the show). 24 had a knack for surprises, but this was certainly one of the most shocking.

Carrie blows her cover in front of Brody — Homeland

(Season: 2, Episode: 4 — “New Car Smell”)

*I’m too good – she’ll never find out.*

Having been unsuccessful at getting Brody to admit he is working with a terrorist, Carrie storms into his hotel room and exclaims she knows who he is and what he is doing, before Brody is taken into custody.

It was fairly obvious that something similar to this was going to occur at some point over the course of the season, but not as early on as episode four. Carrie, believing Brody is on to her after a briefly showing anger during a conversation between the two of them, ends up storming up to his hotel room — with nobody else around — and blowing her cover in front of him. This was a tremendous moment in the shows short history, as the audience was provided with another amazing performance from Claire Danes (and Damian Lewis). As I mentioned a moment ago, this happened so early on in the season that it was hard to believe — at the time I wondered how the writers were going to fill another eight episodes. Thankfully the scene was more than warranted, as the happenings in this episode ended up prefacing events which occurred in the best episode of Homeland thus far — “Q&A”.

Ross says the wrong name at the altar — Friends

(Season: 4, Episode: 24 — “The One with Ross’s Wedding”)

“Wait… you’re not called Rachel?”

As he is in the middle of saying his vows during his wedding to Emily, Ross accidentally blurts out Rachel’s name instead.

Of all the names, Gellar. This was probably a lot more awkward than it was shocking, but it still was shocking nonetheless. The most unexpected moments are often left for the end of an episode, or better yet, the end of a season, and this one closed season five — leaving viewers reeling. The Ross/Rachel dynamic was more or the less the core of Friends throughout the shows existence, and I am willing to bet that the vast majority of fans did not want Ross to marry Emily when this episode aired (in 1999 I was watching Scooby-Doo, not Friends… I still watch Scooby-Doo), so when it looked like there was nothing else stopping the marriage from happening, Ross, in all his glory, surprised everyone — including himself — saving the day in return. Another great moment which kept the audience guessing and left them in high anticipation of season six, I am sure.

Charlie’s death — Lost

(Season: 3, Episode: 22/23 — “Through the Looking Glass”)

I have nothing.

Charlie sacrifices himself to save Desmond, after turning off the transmission blocker and potentially saving everyone else on the island.

The finale of Lost season three really was a shocker alright. In fact, this particular moment is the most shocking in my experience of watching television shows, more so due to who was involved and what was happening to him, rather than it happening out of nowhere. Around the middle of season three it became apparent that Desmond could see into the future and had foreseen Charlie’s death. After Desmond had saved Charlie various times, everyone (well, me) began to believe that Charlie no longer had death in his foreseeable future. That was, until that damn Jack needed somebody to swim to an underwater Dharma station and turn off the transmission blocker. But again, after Charlie had swam down (followed by Desmond) and turned off the jammer, it appeared that he was in the clear. That was, until that damn Mikhail started flooding the station with water. Unselfishly, Charlie locked the door of the room he was occupying in the station in order to contain the flooding, whilst at the same time warning Desmond that the boat near the island was not Penny’s. A highly emotional moment. Somebody pass the tissues.

The end of Matt Smith as The Doctor — Doctor Who

(Christmas Special 2013)

It has not happened yet, but when it does I will weep.

I know Matt. I feel the same way.

So there they are, some of the most shocking television moments I have witnessed. Little Mo clobbering Trevor with an iron was another one that did not quite make it. As I wrote earlier, I have not seen every television show that has ever existed, and therefore I imagine there will probably be a second part to this blog post when I have watched more — hopefully including scenes from shows like Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy and Dexter.

Comment below with the small screen moments that shocked you the most if you like!

The Following

When I first saw the The Following advertised on Sky Atlantic, I knew I would be hooked. Two intriguing characters pitted against each other in that ‘good versus evil’ format that we are so used to seeing on television and at the cinema these days. In my opinion, the format still works — although it is no longer enough just to have a straight up ‘good guy’ and a straight up ‘bad guy’. As an audience, we have been completely saturated in this genre and modern day television characters cannot just have one layer: they must be like ogres, because as Shrek says, “Ogres have many layers”. Okay, I may have added the “many”. That is what made season one of The Following so compelling and consistently interesting — the main characters (particularly the two leads) were completely multi-dimensional in their thoughts and actions, and as a viewer I had no idea what was coming next.

Ogres + Onions + Layers = The Following. It all makes sense.

The show follows FBI agent Ryan Hardy, played exceptionally well by Kevin Bacon, and his desperate attempts to recapture serial killer Joe Carroll, portrayed wonderfully by James Purefoy, after Carroll’s escape from prison and subsequent unification with his cult of followers. From the outset, these were the two characters that kept me returning to the show each week — as it should be as they are steering the ship. Kevin Bacon is a very accomplished actor (he should probably ditch the EE adverts though as he is entering Go Compare Man territory) and his representation of a worn down, broken — both literally and figuratively — FBI agent who has hunted Carroll for years was spot on. However, the real shining light in season one of The Following was the scary, psychotic and yet fiendishly charismatic serial killer Joe Carroll. This is James Purefoy at his very best, and his very best is exceedingly good. Both Purefoy and Bacon play off of each other with ease, and their chemistry is the driving force behind the shows haunting atmosphere. Even as the surroundings change, the dynamic between the two stays the same.

“Dude, these pages are completely blank.”

As a result of running for fifteen episodes, season one was not over-encumbered with storylines, instead just scratching the surface of what the show can become in the coming seasons. The 15 episodes enabled creator Kevin Williamson to begin to develop effective supporting characters like Carroll’s estranged ex-wife and Hardy’s lover Claire Matthews (played by Natalie Zea) and Jacob Wells, a fairly young and inexperienced member of Carroll’s cult. Other actors who have each added to the show in their own unique way include Shawn Ashmore (of X-Men fame), Annie Parisse, Warren Kole (who is terrific in his role) and Valorie Curry. For me, there is no weak link in the cast thereby avoiding the sometimes detrimental effect that can have towards the likeability of a show in its premier season.

The cast of season one.

Each episode adheres to a consistently high quality set by those prior to it. The use of flashbacks throughout episodes is a very effective method of allowing the audience to understand who each character is and how they got to where they are. In particular, the flashbacks involving Hardy meeting Carroll back when he was a professor of English literature are well done. Time is given to various characters during each episode in order to keep the proceedings fresh and mobile, and enabling the actors to portray their respective characters in the light they wish to.  One of my biggest qualms about television shows is their misuse of actors and in terms of The Following, this is not the case.

Boasting consistently high ratings in the US and with a final episode which ended on an enormous cliff-hanger, The Following looks in good shape as it prepares for its second season. Going forward, the key to this shows success will be its ability to maintain the inescapably hostile atmosphere and creepily poetic dialogue.  If you have not watched season one, I recommend you check it out before season two hits television screens.

The Following Season Two will begin airing sometime at the start of 2014.

The Following Season One is available to pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray.

Let’s talk about film

As this is my first venture into the world of WordPress I have decided to ease my introduction into such world by way of film (and occasionally television).

I don’t expect this blog to pull up any trees with its content – rather, it is just a way for me to express my delight (hopefully) or my disappointment (hopefully not) at all things film-related.

I plan to write reviews – and I type that term loosely – of films that I have a particular opinion on or significant reaction to; post news regarding developments in the realm of casting or new film announcements; and preview upcoming films that have caught my attention.

At the end of all that please remember that this is an opinion blog, meaning anyone can agree or disagree or like or dislike what they read and that’s absolutely fine. We all have a huge variety of views and tastes and that is what makes sitting back at home or in a cinema and watching a film such an engrossing and enjoyable experience.

(P.S: If you are watching a film at the cinema, please no talking or using mobile devices or eating loud food stuffs – soft rolls with a light filling only.

Oh, and hello to Jason Isaacs.)