spectreI’m not at my best this week thanks to a cough/cold combination that’s laying me low, so interesting political thoughts will have to wait for a while. However, I did manage to go and see Spectre the other night and it’s prompted a few thoughts, which I thought I’d share. Spoilers follow, so look away now or don’t click the read more button if you want to avoid them:

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p11650192_p_v8_aaI’ve long been a sucker for historical what-ifs and tales of alternate worlds where history went differently, so I was very happy to discover Parallels on Netflix the other day (other ways of watching it may be available). It’s billed as a film, but is clearly a TV pilot still looking for a home, both for the fact it’s packed full of exposition and little conclusion and is also clearly two separate episodes bolted together. Turning unaired pilots into movies is nothing new, of course – they’ve made great schedule-filler for many channels over the years – but the actual status of Parallels seems a bit more ambiguous than other failed pilots as hope of it becoming a series (on Netflix or elsewhere) appears not to be completely dashed.

That makes it hard to decide how to review it: as a one-off, or on its potential to become a series. As a one-off, it’s interesting but frustrating as it’s an idea with a lot of imagination but nothing much gets resolved and it ends with you left with a lot of questions about what happens next. As a potential series, those questions are setting up a lot of future plots, but there’s not been much in the way of building up interesting characters you want to spend time with as they search for those answers. (Potential spoilers follow)

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(I’d stopped doing these, but then this dropped down through the space-time continuum and I felt NWTW deserved resurrection to share it with you…)

Film Review: Nighthawk (no stars)

Big-screen remakes of old TV series are not uncommon, but there’s a good chance that Zack Snyder’s new film Nighhawk may just have killed them off for good, hopefully along with his career. A terrible script that’s poorly directed is one thing, but I’ve never seen one so horribly misjudged in tone, casting and everything else as this. To some, what follows may count as spoilers, but I choose to call them protectors instead, because hopefully they’ll protect you from any desire you may have to go and see this film.

It begins looking just like a horrendously-miscast version of the TV series it’s based on. It’s World War Two, somewhere in France, and café owner Rene Artois (Channing Tatum) is secretly an agent of the Resistance, working to help fugitive British airmen escape the Nazis. At the same time, he’s trying to avoid his wife (Lea Seydoux in a bad wig) and keep up his affairs with two waitresses (Kelly Brook and Keeley Hawes, neither of whom seem sure about whether they’re meant to be doing French accents). All this is happening under the noses of two inept German officers (Ray Winstone and Alexander Armstrong) and all seems set for an inept farce, especially when SS officer Herr Flick (Adam Sandler) arrives on the scene.

At this point, everything goes so bad you begin to wonder if someone has filled the cinema with hallucinogenic gas. A cackling Herr Flick guns down a field of Resistance women and the priceless painting they are carrying (incredulously referred to throughout the film as The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies) is soaked in their blood and things begin going to hell. Literally. Suddenly, Edith’s singing is not just bad, but has the ability to warp holes in reality, and all involved – the cafe staff, the surviving resistance, the Nazis, even an undercover British agent with an inexplicable speech impediment (Paul Bettany) – find themselves on the same side as demons swarm over the French countryside (which looks oddly Californian most of the time) and Great Old Ones prepare to rise from the inky depths.

Several insanities, rendered limbs and buckets of blood later, we reviewers had managed to get ourselves out of the cinema and wondered just what had gone so wrong with our world. At what point does everything – even ‘Allo! ‘Allo! – have to have a a grim and dark retelling in the hands of ‘Visionary Directors’? What is gained by watching Winstone slur his way through a tongue twister about how the drug in the mug and the candle with the handle on the gateau from the chateau are needed to prevent Great Cthulhu from devouring Paris?

I tell you, if Jason Statham’s Fairly Secret Army is as bad as this, I might stop going to the cinema altogether.

(thanks to Jennie Rigg for some of the inspiration for this)

Not Watching This Weekend: Eggbound 2: The Powdering

"I still have a very particular set of dietary requirements."

“I still have a very particular set of dietary requirements.”

The Pitch: Following the unexplained success of Eggbound, a sequel was inevitable. With production set to start, no original script was available so another script was press ganged into service, with names hastily find-and-replaced to match the original, and no one really caring that it moved the franchise into a whole other genre.

Brendan McPuncherson, the world’s most inexplicably Irish accented and still egg-dependent CIA agent is on a visit to London to meet an equally inexplicable friend who happens to be a Professor of Science at the Queen’s London University of Sciences. After a scene in which McPuncherson mentions the quality of British eggs (special marketing consideration: the British Egg Marketing Board), his friend is brutally murdered by a group of vaguely Eastern European terrorists (played mainly by actors taking a few weeks off from EastEnders) who want access to ‘the Device’ created by Brendan’s friend. Brendan discovers it amidst his friend’s cluttered office in a castle, and accidentally activates it, which sends him and the chief terrorist back in time to the Blitz. Brendan finds himself hunting London both for Albert Einstein, the only man who might be able to understand the Device and send him back to his own time, and for a source of egg-based protein in a country under rationing. Meanwhile, the chief terrorist falls in with a group of upper-class Nazi sympathisers, ready to use his knowledge to overthrown Winston Churchill and let the Nazis win the war.

Can Brendan find Einstein in a world where he’s weakened by only being able to eat powdered egg that he has to specially prepare every thirty minutes? Will the plucky Cockney girl he meets be able to help him and convincingly pretend to have a sexual attraction to an aging actor while deploying an accent even Dick Van Dyke would wince at? Which actor will get the chance to don the fat suit and carry the unlit cigar to play a curiously cheerful Churchill? How many historians will die laughing when attempting to watch the film and catalogue its inaccuracies? Will the promotions department be able to resist publicising it as ‘Finally, Liam Neeson Punches Nazis!’?

The Cast:
Brendan McPuncherson: Liam Neeson
Chief Terrorist: David Tennant
Plucky Cockney Girl: Mila Kunis
Deputy Chief Terrorist: The bald one from EastEnders who’s not a Mitchell brother
Chief upper class Nazi sympathiser: Tim Pigott-Smith
Other terrorists: That one from EastEnders who used to be in Hustle, Vinnie Jones, A couple of non-speaking Polish extras looking uncomfortable
Nazi sympathising aristocrat who realises the error of her ways, then sacrifices herself to help McPuncherson escape: Someone from Downton Abbey
Albert Einstein: Mark Gatiss
Winston Churchill (and most of the budget, because someone’s got to get the money to keep the Old Vic going): Kevin Spacey

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Not Watching This Weekend: The Remake

"I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements."

“I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements.”

It has come to our attention that barely weeks after its official release, one of the earliest projects of Not Watching This Weekend Studios is now being remade by a rival fantasy production studio. This gang of young upstarts, apparently known as The Conservative Party have announced plans to remake Not Watching This Weekend’s classic British comedy The Empty Chair.

Rumours also persist that this remake will change the script of the original debate, and rather than featuring a Prime Minister battling his way across a gridlocked London to avoid an empty chair, this version will instead feature a Prime Minister and his team who are so poor at negotiating that he manages to get himself into a situation where he rules himself out of any debates, and then ends up looking flabbergasted when they go on without him. (There’s talk that this will then lead up to a comic twist where the PM who can’t negotiate with TV companies will insist that he has the ability to renegotiate the entire country’s relationship with the European Union, but we think that would be straining credibility even for the Carry On Voting-esque farce this version appears to be becoming)

Some hopes for a good film were raised with news that an Old Etonian had been cast as the lead, but it appears that Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne were all unavoidably detained elsewhere when the casting director called, so the lead role will instead be played by one of the current leads of BBC Two’s Wednesday lunchtime comedy-drama Politishout! Whoever this guy is, the next David Tennant he most certainly is not.

Unfortunately, after consulting with our lawyers, it turns out that we do not have the power to prevent this remake taking place, but they do assure us that it will likely only have a short run in cinemas before disappearing. They also believe that the very existence of it – and its near inevitable box office failure – will prevent any future remakes from taking place, because surely no one would want to recreate a bomb like this.

We look forward to not watching David Cameron in his Empty Chair, and then continue to not see him for many years to come.

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Not Watching This Weekend: Helmer

"an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment"

“an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment”

The Pitch: It’s the early days of Twitter, and someone’s had an idea for a parody account. Surely, nothing could be more amusing than a right-wing Tory MEP who continually misunderstands things, gets his facts wrong and continually blusters and insists he’s right regardless? So, our protagonist creates the account, and finds the perfect picture to illustrate it in an illustrated dictionary’s image for ‘harrumph’. The account – called Roger Helmer MEP – begins to pick up an appreciative audience

Soon, though, our protagonist discovers that someone, or something, else is posting to the Twitter account and it’s even more in character than he’s ever managed. Curiously, he also starts to notice references to things that Roger has supposedly done in the news, and gradually he begins to realise that not only has his parody Twitter account developed sentience, it has begun to manifest itself into the real world. Soon, a person claiming to be the real Roger is giving speeches in the European Parliament and having an impact in politics, culminating in him breaking free of his creator by defecting from the Tories to UKIP (which, the film implies, may be yet another parody that’s gone too far). Now completely free of his creator’s control, can anything stop Roger Helmer?

The Cast:
Roger Helmer: A CGIed version of Geoffrey Palmer from Fairly Secret Army
Roger’s creator: Craig Roberts
Nigel Farage: Chris Morris


Not Watching This Weekend: Eggbound

"I have a very particular set of dietary requirements."

“I have a very particular set of dietary requirements.”

The Pitch: Following a freak accident on a previous mission, inexplicably Irish-accented CIA agent Brendan McPuncherson must now eat a raw egg, crushed in his own hands, every thirty minutes or he will die a slow and agonising death. Now he’s back on the job (and carrying a large amount of eggs in his car) when he discovers some disturbing news. The chief terrorist he thought he killed in his egg-related mission is still alive, and is now planning to kill every chicken in North America in an attempt to gain a twisted revenge on McPuncherson. High-speed chases over cobbled streets, cardboard tray tampering, the world’s highest stakes egg and spoon race, Liam Neeson eating a quite incredible number of eggs and the catchphrase ‘No! Duck eggs don’t work!’ feature in this high-albumen thriller.

Likelihood of this movie actually happening if the Liam Neeson Punching People genre continues: Higher than you’d hope
Likelihood of endless sequels with minor twists and increased punching: Depressingly high
Likelihood of Fox News headlining a discussion ‘Are Our Chickens Safe?’: Pleasingly high

(Based on an original Twitter conversation with Justin McKeating, who writes much better stories than me)

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