Saturday, 16 July 2016

On 16.7.16 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

The Man sits at the end booth of a lonely roadside diner. Person after person comes to sit opposite him and talk. The Man makes Faustian deals with these people; they tell him something they want – for their husband’s Alzheimer’s to be cured, for the girl from a magazine centerfold to love them, etc. – and he gives them a task in return for that happening – from fathering a child to setting off a bomb in a restaurant. The only other condition is that they return to the diner regularly to update him on the details.

That’s the idea behind The Booth at the End, a show that may have passed over your radar when it first aired in 2010, followed by a second season in 2012 – but both seasons are now available as one DVD set. Sure, the concept may seem strikingly minimalist in a post-Breaking Bad TV landscape, in which we expect our shows to be blockbuster epics; this is exactly the opposite, as each season has just one set, with the stories playing out entirely over the diner table.

And yet these dialogues are remarkably compelling; Xander Berkeley’s Man interrogates his visitors with laid back sincerity, refusing to give direct help but guiding them into analysing their own flaws and desires, and the show invites us to take the same inquiring attitude. Even when some stories in the second season drag, there are more hits than misses and the pace keeps it watchable; each season is comprised of five twenty-two minute episodes, so you can easily binge the whole thing in one night.

Monday, 4 July 2016

On 4.7.16 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

A gang are tasked by a Russian mafia boss to steal data from a high security facility, but there’s no way they can lift it before the cops show up. Their idea is to initiate a ‘Triple 9’ scenario – if a police officer is shot elsewhere in town, all the cops will converge there, giving the gang their opportunity. Luckily, two of the robbers are corrupt officers themselves, and one has an overzealous new partner who could be the perfect target.

The key to a good genre film is to provide the familiar thrills of the genre in question while finding an original hook that sets the film apart. As a crime flick, John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 ticks these boxes – you’re never far from a car chase or a heist (the opening chase sequence is particularly suspenseful), and the ‘cops within the gang’ angle provides a fresh take on a well-worn dynamic. It also has one hell of a cast list.

But Triple 9 fails to live up to all its promise. The story becomes more convoluted than it really should and the big heist sequence is a let-down, as certain plot points contrive to get everyone into place. And then, rather than satisfyingly tying up all its character stories, the film’s final act descends into repetitive, nihilistic nastiness. 

Triple 9, then, is reminiscent of Hillcoat’s Lawless – a promising crime movie that ends up disappointingly mediocre.
On 4.7.16 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

The Club follows a group of priests and their housekeeper living in an isolated town, but it’s as far from Father Ted as you could get. This is a house where priests are sent to repent for horrible crimes that the Church won’t report to the authorities for fear of scandal. Yes, Pablo Larraín’s film deals with the horrific sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, already brought to our attention this year by the awards-sweeping Spotlight.

One day, a new priest joins the house and is immediately accosted by Sandokan, a man he’d abused as a child, leading to the priest committing suicide. This draws the attention of Father Garcia, a younger priest intent on shutting the ‘retirement home’ down.

Where Spotlight excelled was in drawing attention to the horrors of the scandal by giving voice to its victims rather than the Church’s attempts to defend itself. The Club has a much tougher ask, and many viewers will be understandably put off by the very idea of a film focusing on characters who could commit such monstrous crimes. However, this is no clichéd and undeserved tale of repentance; Larraín and his co-writers approach this subject matter with no agenda other than to explore the psychological and moral complexities behind the situation.

The film, however, would not be half as interesting without the character of Sandoken, who sticks around in the town to torment the other priests. He’s a very complex figure, his views on sexuality and religion having been screwed up by his childhood traumas.

But don’t expect a dramatically satisfying ending; perhaps fittingly for the very real issues it explores, The Club is a melancholy film which offers more questions than answers. Ultimately, it's a tough but recommended watch.

Time Lord con artist Drax is the latest old acquaintance to re-acquaint with Tom Baker’s Doctor, as well as Lalla Ward’s Romana, as he draws them into his latest scheme. Under the employ of wealthy businessman Charles Kirkland, Drax and the Doctor must travel to Altrazer, a city lost in time, and steal the hidden secrets of Kirkland’s rival. 

The idea of Altrazer as a kind of “temporal Atlantis” is a great plot device; our heroes find themselves caught in a maelstrom of all the planet’s potential futures, caused by Time Lord technology. And yet as the plot develops, this element gives way to a number of twists revolving around Drax and his machinations, leaving the Doctor and Romana questioning who the mastermind of this scheme really is.

To say too much about these twists would be to spoil the fun, but fun is what they are. Dorney’s highly imaginative script offers playful takes on what we know about Time Lords and packs a lot into the play’s one-hour running time without ever becoming convoluted. 

The Trouble with Drax is a perfect mix of comedy crime caper and offbeat time travel adventure and is one of the highlights of this Fourth Doctor series. It’s the first time Drax has appeared in a Big Finish audio, but by the end, you’ll be crossing your fingers for the Time Lord wheeler-dealer to return sooner rather than later.