Friday, 8 July 2011

Review - Shameless U.S. Series 1 Episode 3 Aunt Ginger

Episode three of Shameless U.S. Aunt Ginger, makes its most bold leap away from the British original yet.

Frank comes under scrutiny when a government official suspects him of cashing in social security cheques that don’t belong to him but to his 93 year old (dead) Aunt.  An amusing sequence of events follow as Frank, and inevitably the whole family, attempt to find an old lady to impersonate her. 

Possibly due to the fact that the show’s original creator, Paul Abbott, is on-board as executive producer, this entire plot was in keeping with the type of scenario that is typical of the U.K. Shameless, whilst being completely fresh and new.

As mentioned in my initial review of episode one, the appeal for a British audience of watching an American remake of a much loved and successful show can’t really steam much further beyond satisfying a simple curiosity.  However, whether this was a deliberate aim towards attracting British viewers or not (I doubt it was), ingesting this series with sharp new angles will undoubtedly offer a broader appeal for audiences.  Watching a like-for-like show, just with different faces, only serves to make the production vulnerable to negative comparisons to the U.K. version.  It is easier for viewers to become frustrated with what the show isn’t rather than noticing what the show is.  This brave shift away from the regimented reproduction of the original gives Shamelss U.S. a more solid texture and identity.

Continue reading at SimplyTelevision. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Review - Shameless U.S. Series 1 Episode 2 Frank the Plank

Episode two of Shameless US continues to follow the same storyline as its British counterpart. Frank Gallagher (William H Macy) goes missing… “yeah but he goes missing all the time” come the retorts, but today is disability allowance day, therefore his disappearance is actually taken seriously, he never misses it.

After a lot of worry Frank eventually turns up in Canada (it was France in the UK version).  The change in location is handled well.  Surprisingly the script is still almost a carbon copy of the UK Shameless, proving just how solid the writing of the original show actually is and its ability to transcend across cultures whilst retaining a solid impact.  One scene in particular demonstrates this between Frank and his youngest daughter Debbie (Emma Kenny).  Despite Frank’s alcoholism and inaptitude as a parent, he is the apple of Debbie's eye, and when she asks him if he took any pictures of Canada (Frank was in a police cell) he tells her he now knows “every inch”.  The scene is just as touching as the UK original.

As a whole the ensemble cast of Shameless US is really coming into its own. They are all finding their feet as individual characters whilst effectively proving to be a solid family who truly care for one another. 

Continue reading at Simply Television ... 

Friday, 24 June 2011

No More Potter Books Confirms Rowling at Pottermore Unveiling.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, has confirmed that she will not be writing any more novels about the world of Harry Potter.

At the Pottermore press conference, where the mystery behind her new website was revealed, Rowling said:

“I have no plans to write another novel.  I’m pretty sure I’m done on the novel front. But it was fun while it lasted.” 

Instead, she revealed that Pottermore was a new project that is purely online focused.

Fans of the wizarding world will be able to interact with the novels in more depth. 

Rowling explained that she'd been hoarding extra information that would interest fans for years which has now been put onto the Pottermore website:

“I generated more material than ever appeared in the books. I thought, ‘Who would ever want to know the significance of all the difference wand woods?’ Now you can go and see. It's such a rich experience to do it this way.”

But the large build-up to the unveiling of the mysterious website has caused some frustration.  Some who were expecting a ground-breaking announcement have instead branded it ‘potterbore’.

The website is also a way for the multi-million pound author to have the sole rights over Harry Potter e-books, which the site will sell exclusively in multiple languages.  Rowling said:

“E-books are here and here to stay. Later than a lot of people, I for the first time downloaded e-books and it's miraculous for travel and for children in particular. I feel great about taking Harry into this new medium.”

People can register to Pottermore from 31st July, and the website will be fully launched in October.

You can see Rowling's announcement below.

What do you think? Disappointed that there will be no more books?  Will you be signing up to the website?

Shameless U.S. Series 1 Episode 1 – Are American Remakes the Ultimate Compliment?

Shameless is part of a long line of TV serials that have been noticed for their success in Britain and picked up by American producers to be remade for a U.S. audience. Other TV serials that have been adapted for the American market include The Office, Being Human, and Skins.

There is a popular notion that Americans are currently pining over anything British, whether it’s actors, singers, writers, directors, presenters, or royalty.  Yet it was only about a decade ago when British drama went through a crisis of wondering why it never lived up to the standards set by the U.S.  Shows such as The West Wing, 24 and The Sopranos stood on a pedestal, with their big budgets, beyond the reach of British drama.

Now it seems that the U.K. TV industry cannot help but blush at the dizzy heights of a U.S. network coming along to remake their show.  After American drama has been viewed as something to aspire to, it seems that interest from across the pond is now the ultimate compliment.

But do these inherently British shows translate successfully to U.S. TV?  British audiences are far more used to seeing American entertainment than the other way around and unfortunately it seems that British shows are not being given the same chance to infiltrate the American psyche to allow its audiences to relate to original British drama.  Instead, it seems they have to be remade, with almost the exact same script, plot, and storyboard but with American faces, accents, and locations.

Continue reading at Simply Television ... 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

ITV to Make a New Series of Lewis

ITV have announced that they have recomissioned a new series of Lewis, starring Kevin Whately, as Inspector Lewis, and Laurence Fox as his partner, D.S.James Hathaway.

The names of three new episodes have been released as Generation of Vipers, The Age of Foolishness, and Death of the Author.

Generation of Vipers will be directed by David O’Neill (Law and Order UK) and Toby Stephens (Jane Eyre, Die Another Day) will guest star.

Rachel Bennette, Simon Block and Russell Lewis, the writers who created the original series of Lewis in 2006 as a spin off from Inspector Morse, starring John Thaw, will remain on the popular drama, writing a number of the episodes.

ITV Controller of Drama Commissioning, Sally Haynes, said:

“Lewis and Hathaway have become a formidable partnership not only in terms of cracking murder cases, but also in terms of their popularity with ITV1 viewers.  We are thrilled they are returning to work on some great new stories.”

What do you think? Are you excited about these new episodes? 

This article also featured on Step2inspireTV

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

BBC Announces New Borrowers Film

The BBC have announced they are making a new Borrowers film for TV, showing on BBC one this Christmas.

The cast includes Christopher Eccleston, Stephen Fry and Victoria Wood.

The 90-minute film is an adaptation of the classic children’s novels written by Mary Norton which tell the tale of a family of ‘little people’ who live under the floor boards of ‘human beans’.

Juliette Howell, of Working Title Television, the company that will be producing the drama, spoke of the collaboration with writer Ben Vanstone who has written for Merlin and EastEnders:

"I couldn't be more thrilled with Ben's take on this classic story. It feels fresh, original and above all funny. The perfect Christmas treat."

Christopher Eccleston will play Pod Clock, farther of the borrowers family, whilst Victoria Wood plays Grandma Driver, who knows the borrowers exist in her house and is determined to hunt them out of there.  Stephen Fry plays scientist Professor Mildeye who also knows of the ‘little people’s’ existence and will go to any length to capture them in order to resurrect his academic career.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, said that this is a ‘contemporary’ version of the classic tale, whilst keeping its original ‘charm’.

Filming will begin this summer for five weeks, with Tom Harper (Misfits, This is England) as director.

What do you think of the variety of talent working on this Christmas special? Who remembers Ian Holm as Pod Clock in in 1992 BBC TV serial, or more recently Jim Broadbent in the 1997 movie?  How will this compare? 

This article can also be found at Step2inspireTV.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Terrifying Final Trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Released.

Am I alone in being completely moved by this trailer?

Since they did decide to split the final installment of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows into a two-part film, I am left wondering from this trailer why they didn't just name the second half: The Battle of Hogwarts, as that is what this final chapter will eventually be known and remembered for. 

Although the deathly hallows are, of course, still present in this second part, verbal reference to them in the trailers is non-existent.  Instead, attention is firmly focused on the battle (and destruction) of Hogwarts and the final duel between Harry and Voldermort.

The mystery behind what the deathly hallows actually are is eventually discovered at the end of The Deathly Hallows Part 1.  How could anyone forget the spectacular piece of animation that so tentatively relayed this mythological story (click here to see that magical sequence by Ben Hibdon).  So, due to the films being split, I'm sure a change in title to match the focus of each movie would not be too confusing for viewers.   

Ben Hibdon Image see an interview with the animator here.

However, I would not attempt to argue this case beyond just making this simple short point.  Possibly this was a discussion that the studios had when the films were in pre-production but inevitably the need for fidelity to the books and the reassurance for Potter fans that the books have not been 'messed with' would undoubtedly hold priority.

This principle of fidelity to the books, however, can sometimes seem like a bit of a contradiction.  I completely accept that films need, yes need, to change certain aspects of the narrative created in books because a straight transposition from novel to screen, line by line, scene by scene, just doesn't work.  One is an inherently visual medium, a medium for the senses, the other is an assault on the imagination through the written word.  The two are not the same, and if they were there would be no point in attempting to re-tell a story so that an audience can have the liberty to experience these ideas in different forms. (For a quick insight into adaptation and how difficult a craft it can be see the exquisite film Adaptation, staring Nicolas Cage)

Yet, whilst the Harry Potter movies seem to pride themselves on achieving fidelity to the books, there are parts that deviate from the them for seemingly no reason at all (see my review of The Half Blood Prince for further reflections on this).  And there is one part in all of these trailers for The Deathly Hallows Part 2 , which I'm sure will not have escaped the attention of most Potter fans, and that is when Voldermort and Harry fall together from the roof-top of Hogwarts. 

I do not remember this scene from the book and, unless there appears to be a good reason for adding it in when I see the film as a whole, I will probably be oh so slightly bugged by it.  I like it when films are brave enough to change material from books, but with a film like Harry Potter, which has constantly walked the fidelity line whether rightly or wrongly, it only makes it all the more glaringly obvious when a scene deviates from this stickler of a rule.

To summarise, deviation from the books is made more obvious through the consistent attempt to stick to them throughout the series.  And if you're going to change anything my small suggestion would be to change the title (to The Battle of Hogwarts) one that is more fitting with the main narrative focus of, what is sadly, the final installment of Harry Potter on the big screen.

Thoughts, fans and non fans alike?

Benedict Cumberbatch to play the Dragon ‘Smaug’ in The Hobbit

Sherlock star, Benedict Cumberbatch, is set to play Smaug the dragon in the up and coming two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit.

It was revealed by Deadline that he will play the dragon using motion capture, the same technique used to create Gollum, played by Andy Serkis, in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Cumberbatch was already confirmed as the voice of another character, Necromancer, in the film.

The two part epic, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is in fact the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and shares the same director, Peter Jackson. 

There will also be some familiar faces from the Rings films including, Elijah Wood (Frodo) Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Opposite Cumberbatch will be Clash of the Titans and Tamara Drew star, Luke Evans who will play Bard the Grim, who singlehandedly takes on Smaug. 

Cumberbatch will also join his Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman as lead character Bilbo Baggins.

The Hobbit Part 1 is due to hit cinemas in December 2012 and The Hobbit Part 2 a year later in December 2013.

Can we expect more of the same from Peter Jackson? How will Benedict Cumberbatch fair up as Smaug?

This article can also be found at Step2inspireTV

Thursday, 16 June 2011

BBC Confirms no Full Series of Dr Who in 2012

After much speculation the BBC has officially confirmed that there will be no full series of Dr Who in 2012.
BBC 1 controller Danny Cohen made the announcement, which was then relayed to the public via journalists on twitter, reporting:
“There won’t be a full series of Dr Who in 2012, but a special run for the anniversary in 2013.”
This means that only some of the fourteen new episodes commissioned for the next series of Dr Who, starring Matt Smith, will be airing in 2012 with the remainder in 2013.
Until now it had been unclear as to when these episodes would run, causing people to question what was going on behind the scenes with the much loved programme.
The BBC’s Entertainment correspondent, Lizo Mizimba tweeted:
“Danny Cohen’s comment that Stephen Moffat needed time for Sherlock hence shorter DW run wasn’t meant to be serious.”
But the mid-season break in the current series of Dr Who has not been popular with fans.
A BBC spokesman said that the decision to split the series into two parts was taken by head writer Stephen Moffat for “narrative” reasons, not for financial reasons as was first speculated.
What do you think, should fans be worried about the future of Dr Who?  Will there be another unpopular mid-season split?  What can be expected of the special anniversary run in 2013?

Article also featured on Step2inspireTV

Want More Potter? JK Rowling Launches Pottermore

JK Rowling has launched an official website and Twitter account called Pottermore.

The website currently shows a simple teaser logo and the words “coming soon” with JK Rowling’s signature below it.

In true potter style Pottermore was unveiled through several clues that fans had to piece together to discover the name of the new website.

The “Secret Street View” challenge placed the clues across ten popular Potter sites, each one given it’s own co-ordinates which pointed to a different letter in Pottermore.

But the mystery hasn’t ended there, what exactly this website is all about is still to be revealed and has had fans in an excitable frenzy over what will appear on it.

A spokesperson from said, upon seeing a sneak preview of the website:

“It is breath taking in scope, detail and sheer beauty.”

Speculation is already mounting about whether this will mean additional books to the Harry Potter saga. However, Rowling has previously made it clear that she is currently working on several new projects and is unsure about whether she would write another Harry Potter book.

A popular belief amongst fans is that this will be a much-welcomed Harry Potter encyclopaedia.
What do you think? Could this be the beginning of more books in the Harry Potter saga? Or is this just going to be an extension of the wizzarding world where fans can enjoy all of Rowlings ideas?

Also featured on Step2inspireTV

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

First Trailer for Inbetweeners Movie Released

Lads holiday in Maliaaaa!

That's right, it's gonna be messy, the first trailer for The Inbetweeners Movie has been released.

The trailer shows nothing but the reactions of the much loved foursome, Jay, Simon, Will, and Neil walking through the nightlife hot-spot of Malia, Greece.

With girls in hot pants, bright lights, alcohol, and some thugs thrown into the mix, Inbetweeners fans will be left to fill in the messy gaps with this first teaser of the film.

Despite being set in Malia, parts of the film have been shot in the Spanish resort of Magaluf, which is also known for its wild nightlife.

The Inbetweeners movie is due to hit cinemas 19th August 2011.

My Thoughts:

There has been speculation as to whether this award winning TV series should be made into a movie at all. Other sitcom turned movies have tended to generate an average reception, the comparisons most obvious being Kevin and Perry go Large and Bean the Movie.

But before these ambitious productions get slated for just being plain rubbish on the big screen, let's remember that the British sitcom and the blockbuster movie are worlds apart in terms of format. The reason a show like The Inbetweeners works is because each week you go back to the same premise, four teenage boys trying to get 'in there' with teenage girls and climb the social ladder. Each episode is 30 minutes long making for a punchy laugh-a-minute narrative, which is perfectly paced for a hilarious awkward comedy climax.

An hour and a half movie (as an approximation) takes away the very foundations upon which a show like The Inbetweeners is built and works. A gag-a-minute goes from a possible 30 on TV to having to achieve 90 in a movie. A tight and slick plot line goes from a satisfying climax 30 minutes in, to making an audience wait over an hour to get that hit.

Before judging this movie, people should throw caution to the wind, and accept that this is The Inbetweeners in movie format, obvious as it sounds. In placing these well loved, successful, characters into a different format to what fans are used to, it is inevitable that some of the boxes that are ticked for the TV show will not be for the film.

The reception of the British sitcom turned movie, in general, has suffered from this infirmity. They are drawn out versions of what we get on our TV screens, you find out more about the characters, you are invited to care more, to go on a journey with them. It seems that, in this instance, movies are to TV what a helicopter ride is to a roller coaster. One's an exciting adventure in which to take everything in, the other is an adrenaline filled quick fix you can keep going back to. Where disappointment in the British sitcom turned movie occurs is the failure to recognise this difference.

By highlighting this distinction I am not presuming that The Inbetweeners Movie will not be a success, I thoroughly hope it blows me away and can achieve a sleek, punchy, plot that will have me regularly rolling in my seat. But if it is that you end up sitting there feeling the impatient wait for the next gag - expect it, it's been stretched three times past its usual billing order and may well fall victim to the same mediocre reception that is symptomatic of the British sitcom movies that have come before it.

What do you think, can The Inbetweeners prove a success on the big screen?

Also featured on Step2inspireTV

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

First Trailer Released for Twilight: Breaking Dawn

The first trailer for the latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, has been released.

The trailer was shown exclusively at the MTV Movie Awards.

Here, Bella can be seen walking down the isle to a waiting Edward. Jacob is seen angrily getting his top off (what else?) and there is a short clip of Edward destroying the marital bed, a scene famous from the novels.

Twilight stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, were present at the awards when the trailer was unveiled.

My Thoughts:

The wide shot of Bella’s mum walking down her garden in killer heels (a shot I can only presume was used to show off her legs) is completely superfluous. I get that the trailer clearly has a storyboard, which is: “let’s start off with everyone’s reactions to a mysterious envelope (which turns out to be a wedding invite)”.

My problem with this is that it works on paper but that’s about it… to feature Bella’s mum in one of the opening shots when she barely features in any of the movies is just plain confusing for viewers who have just a basic knowledge of the film. Where I also think my problem stems from is that it just looks completely unnatural: “I’m so happy about my daughter’s invite that I’m now going to pretend I have a catwalk in my own back yard whilst continuing to wave the invitation in the most smug and annoying way possible.”

Now, before this looks like a jealous attack on the leggy female, I also take issue with Aro’s receiving of the invitation. Since when do the Cullens play happy families with the Volturi? I know Aro wants Bella changing into a Vampire, but I doubt even a room full of humans to drain the blood out of could insight a reaction quite that happy in Aro.

I am aware that I may be starting to sound like an ignorant purist whose one and only definitive version of twilight is the one that exists in my head. That is not the case. I’m just not prepared to drool over the whole franchise when really some parts of it are poor, books included (particularly the ending of Breaking Dawn).

On the positive side, excellent choice to throw in a clip of Edward breaking the marital bed, hilarious in the book. I have no doubt this will translate as succinctly to film as the comedy did in New Moon and Eclipse, where the scenes could have been written solely for the screen.

I look forward to further trailers that may show a different side to Breaking Dawn, however, I do see my mixture of enjoyment and disappointment as a sign of things to come…

What do you think has the trailer wet your appetite for more Twilight? Will this latest film live up to the book? Or are you just plain fed-up with the mushy tale?

Also featured on Step2inspireTV

Monday, 6 June 2011

Clip from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Released.

Could this clip reveal the dramatic ending to the Harry Potter movie saga?

The clip shows Voldemort as he is about to perform the Avada Kedavra curse on Harry - the death curse for those that don't know.

The short teaser was debuted at this weekend’s MTV Music Awards.

The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the eighth and final movie from Warner Brothers, putting a definitive end to the wizard’s adventures.

But will the ending be an unexpected shock?

Not for those who’ve read the books, but judging from this clip the twists and turns of the final tale may surprise a few.

To view the clip on Step2inspireTV click here.

To watch the trailer click here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Review

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is ITVs cosy Sunday night drama for this week. I say cosy because this production was based on an infamous Victorian murder case, notorious for the brutality in which a three year old boy was killed, yet people of a sensitive disposition need not worry, audiences are well and truly guarded from the gruesome details.

Adapted from the best-selling non- fiction book by Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher opens in 1860 and follows the murder investigation of Saville Kent from the point of view of detective inspector Jack Whicher, Paddy Considine. It quickly begins to look like an inside job at Road Hill House, but getting evidence to back up his suspicions is what becomes the drive of the narrative. Whicher is eaten up with frustration at the case, which is helped in no way by the local Superintendent Foley, Tom Georgeson, who seems determinedly apt in miss-direction.

Inevitably Mr Whicher’s frustrations transcend to the viewer, as they are never treated to any extra reveal, which so frequently occurs in detective dramas. Instead, being limited to Whicher’s point of view, whose only real confidence is in his knowledge of the criminal mind and its motives, it becomes tragically apparent how much guesswork and simple self-belief was involved in the criminal justice system in the 1800s.

Paddy Considine’s sincere and textured performance was very accomplished; without it the drama could have been left quite dry. And the eventual culprit (or culprits depending which way you want to look at it) pulled off the feigning of their innocence so well that, although it was clear they were guilty, I was left unconvinced of their capabilities of cold-blooded murder. As a result, this dramatization of a real-life case felt more like a soft, inoffensive fiction.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher does build up tension and mystery well and is an exciting whodunit, with enough ‘suspicions’ still left over at the end, rather than proof, that will keep you guessing about what really happened in the murder at Road Hill House for a long time afterwards.

To catch-up please click here.

This review is also featured at Step2InspireTV.

Monday, 18 April 2011

TV News - ITV to Bring Titanic to our Screens

ITV are set to bring back Titanic as an epic new TV drama.
Written by Jullian Fellows of Downton Abbey fame, the production is being made to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the disastrous sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Quinn Taylor of ABC Network said: “The tragic tale of the Titanic has retained a powerful hold on people around the world for almost 100 years, and this new miniseries will offer a compelling take on this epic, tragic story."
Set to jump on board is a whole host of British talent, including BAFTA award winning producer Nigel Stafford Clark (Bleak House), actress Sophie Winkleman (Peep Show) and actor Stephen Campbell Moore (Ashes to Ashes).
The drama will feature both fictional and historical characters, from steerage to the upper classes, whose lives will interweave in mystery and romantic plot lines.
Viewers are warned not to expect a happy ending, after all this is the ill-fated story of the Titanic and death is an inevitable conclusion for some characters.
Filming for the four hour long episodes is set to begin in Hungary at the end of April.
What are your thoughts? Do we really need another dramatisation of Titanic? How might this one be any different? Can the romance ever live up to Leo and Kate's?
(You can also read/reply to this discussion on Step2InspireTV here)