Thursday Thoughts – How much power do TV audiences have?

Fox has been on something of a killing spree of late. After cancelling 5 shows in as little as 2 days, you have to question whether channel bosses will still have anything to run by the time they’re finished.

Amongst the massacred was Brooklyn Nine Nine. The decision to call time on this much-loved cop show was met with shock and outrage from fans (myself included). Cries of disbelief rang out across social media and soon these turned into campaigns to get the show back. In the space of just 36 hours, the show has died, been buried, and then was resurrected by Fox rival, NBC.

This reinstatement of the Nine Nine raises the question of how much power audiences actually possess, especially when it comes to TV shows. With films, it’s all fairly clear cut – if the film makes enough money, you tend to get a sequel, whether you asked for it or not. With TV, it’s not quite the same kettle of fish, however there is obviously a correlation between audience numbers and show survival rates as one of the most common reasons for cancelling a show is low ratings. Quality doesn’t seem to be a real deciding factor here either, which means this selection process is quite unfair. Shows that are actual works of art are take from us far too soon, while others that are tripe at best go on forever purely because there’s a larger audience watching it.

However, it would seem that there is hope for those good shows that come to an untimely end. Resurrections do happen – they have now saved two shows that I hold very close to my heart (one being B99, the other being Ripper Street). And on both occasions, these decisions have been brought about by the actions their audiences have taken, mainly in the form of kicking up one hell of a fuss about some idiot’s momentary (but HUGE) lapse in judgement.

So, TV audiences have power, but exactly how much do they have? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, but we definitely have a decent say in what makes the cut and what doesn’t. I don’t have the statistics for the Brooklyn Nine Nine revival handy, but I know that in the case of Ripper Street it took only 12,000 signatures on a petition to get Amazon to take the show on. In the grand scheme of things, 12,000 really isn’t a massive number either when you think about the 3.38million people that watched the show on average.

But here’s the thing – we are very spoilt for choice when it comes to what we watch on TV now. More so than ever before. There’s a lot of things to watch, but the actual audience size hasn’t increased as quickly, which in theory means that each new show and channel added stretches that audience thinner. Suddenly, 12,000 is a significant number of viewers for a channel to lose if it displeases them, and it’s also a significant number of viewers for a newer kid on the block to think about winning over. These two things coming together were ultimately what saved Ripper Street’s ass, and they will create similar dynamics in future that will save other shows. Why? Because in this world where everyone’s attention is being fought for constantly by at least 10 different entities, it’ll be the ones that give audiences what they want that come out on top. We as an audience must remember that we are the most important people to these TV stations, and also streaming platforms too. Without us, they have no purpose and therefore would cease to exist. NBC are giving the people what they want by saving Brooklyn Nine Nine, just as Amazon did when they saved Ripper Street. I do not doubt for a second that they will benefit from their decision, but regardless of however it turns out, they will be known to millions as the people who saved B99, and that kind of testimony packs a punch. And the only people who can provide that testimony are the audience, which is why they wield so much power.

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Review – Justice League

So I saw Justice League a while ago around the time it came out. If I’m completely honest, I had never held out a huge amount of hope for it – besides Wonder Woman, none of the films part of the DCEU had amounted to much, and given the nature of this film, I didn’t expect it to be any different.

Justice League centres around Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as they try to get a few other superheroes together in order to save the world from something or other. However, and I’ll warn you now that this is the first grumble coming up, I think they should’ve been more concerned with saving audiences from that godawful CGI that was literally everywhere. I’ll leave Moustache-gate alone for the moment, though it will get what’s coming to it, don’t worry. My biggest question is, did the outdoors get used at all during filming? Honestly I don’t think there wasn’t a scene where special effects weren’t used in the whole film. I wouldn’t have minded so much if they’d have been good but… they were shite. And as for that feckin’ moustache – let’s just say that it was that bad it resulted in me spending the longest amount of time I ever have in my life staring at other people’s top lips. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Do you ever feel that a film has been so rushed that you walk away from it struggling to catch your breath? When is DC going to learn not to do this? I think the only film this hasn’t happened with is Wonder Woman. Beyond that, they just don’t take the time to develop stories and characters. As well as that, there seems to be very little congruence between characters in the origin films and when they appear in these ensembles. I thought there was a huge difference between the Wonder Woman here and the one in the origin film, and this was not something that sat right with me.

I think that’s it for the general moan… oh wait, sorry – Ben Affleck as Batman, I really don’t want to sounds as though I’m going out of my way to hate on the man because I’m not. I just feel the need to point out that for me, he ain’t Batman. I’m not saying he does a bad job or anything like that – just that somebody else owns that role in my eyes and there’s very little he can do about it.

Now, believe it or believe it not, i do have some positives that I can share with you. Please bare in mind, however, that one of these isn’t exactly something that is wholly essential to the film for all audiences, but it certainly made the film less insufferable for me. I am of course talking about Jason Mamoa’s part in the film, and I doubt anybody needs much imagination to figure out why I enjoyed his role so much. Now for a serious highlight though – Ezra Miller as The Flash/Barry Allen. This is probably the only part of the film that I couldn’t find any fault with. The character was funny, and it didn’t feel like Miller took himself too seriously in the role. The two of these things married together and meant that he was actually a joy to watch – more than can be said about much of the rest of the film.

So those are my less than brief thoughts on Justice League. All you needed to know really was that it’s probably the most poorly spent $300million of recent times, but I decided to give you all the gory details anyway. You’re welcome.

Review – A Quiet Place

It’s very easy to underestimate the power of sound.

In a lot of good films where it is used well, noises and music can become almost like an extra character. The people behind A Quiet Place knew this, and decided to go one step further by making sound the focus of the entire film.

Let me tell you, it worked. I mean, it really worked, very well indeed.

The film takes place in, presumably, the not-too-distant future, and depicts a world that we quickly find out has been overrun by monsters that hunt their prey via sound (and which we get to see plenty of throughout the film which made a massive change for once). In order to stay alive, all living things have to make as little noise as possible, as once these creatures find you, they generally don’t leave until they’ve killed you.

A Quiet Place sets the scene in a way similar to 28 Days Later. You’re introduced to a world that has been almost entirely abandoned by everyone. Straightaway you know that something major has happened, but exactly what that is only begins to be revealed a few moments later. In one fast, and very early, change of pace, the film shows that it isn’t messing about. I was surprised because I didn’t think it would deliver on what it was dangling in front of me. I was wrong. It was a horrifically intense start to a film, and I loved it.

In terms of intensity, the film starts just as it intends to go on. I don’t think it’s entirely inaccurate to say that I lost the ability to breathe properly for the duration of the film. I’ve seen many a film and TV show that has mastered building tension in numerous scenes, but I honestly cannot say that I have been as on edge for a whole 90 minutes as I was watching this. And this is all because of sound. If we tallied it up, I reckon there was only about five minutes worth of dialogue in the whole film. The rest of it was noise and music, both of which were ALWAYS put to their best use to achieve the effects intended by director John Krasinski, who also starred in the film.

The main performances in the film allow you to really jump onboard with the high stakes that even the moments of less tension point towards. A massive battle for survival is endured by everyone, and after you see the extremes that this family has gone to in order to survive, you are completely behind them in everything they do. Emily Blunt is a talent no matter where you put her, and obviously things are no different here. Her character Evelyn has a few different layers that are added to as the film progresses, and she does a fantastic job of showing a woman who is trying her best to survive, but also a mother who would do whatever it takes in order to protect her children. Krasinski provides us with a performance that portrays similar objectives, but of course we see a more paternal approach from him in terms of this. We know that both these actors are good at what they do as we’ve had the chance to see their work on multiple occasions, however the two younger stars of this film, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, are simply wonderful, and I think both have their moments where they do, in fact, outshine their on-screen parents. There’s an overwhelming sense of maturity displayed in both of their performances, and this whole idea that the circumstances under which they are living has robbed them of their childhood is another reason why you want them to beat the odds. Both are smart and know what they need to do so that they don’t get killed – there’s no whining despite the constant fear that they both inevitably have. They just get on with it, which is more than can be said for a lot of the characters that have appeared in every other horror/thriller type film that I’ve seen.

I think another key thing to point out in relation to the performances is the use of sign language within them. It just brings another dimension to the film where you have to give people credit for what they’ve done. As well as this, it massively boosts the accessibility of the film too. Recently there’s been a lot of talk deafness and cinema following the success of short film, The Silent Child, and this film shows that sign language can be a massive part of film and be successful, and that a film doesn’t necessarily have to be about deafness in order to contain sign language. As film, this has a lot to shout about, but in terms of creating cinematic experiences for all, it has broken down barriers and shown that it is possible to create great films that everybody can watch.

It’s important to point out the all-consuming nature of A Quiet Place. I’ve never known a film like it if I’m completely honest (granted, I’m not that old, so it’s not the most impressive statement, but just go with it for a second). I saw this film with decent sized audience, and because I booked quite late, I had been forced to take a seat in the centre of the auditorium. Now, if I had have had my usual seat (back and centre, widely regarded to be one of the best seats in the house), I wouldn’t have been as aware of the people around me, which would’ve meant that I wouldn’t have experienced the atmosphere that that auditorium held for more or less the entirety of the film. It was almost as if we were all in sync. We’d all jump together. We’d all hold our breath together. Most notably, however, everybody was as silent as they could be for the whole time. The film had us all in such a vice-like grip that none of us felt able to make a sound either, much like the characters in the film. The writing and the ways and means by which it translated onto the screen have produced something that is a phenomenal example of how a film can move mass groups of people, and restores my faith in the fact that people will go out of their way to watch good films that don’t necessarily fit into the mainstream.

A Quiet Place is a fantastic film, and I really do think it’s going to be one of the most talked about this year. It confirms how important sound is in film, and also offers a masterclass in building suspense, keeping you on edge throughout. The characters are the kinds of people that you can actually vouch for, and as a result you are even more invested in a film that has already refused to loosen it’s grip on you. I love the fact that we get to see plenty of the monsters that are the cause of everything (unlike a recent monster movie sequel we’ve had unleashed upon us), but the fact that sign language plays such a key part in the film too is something that I think will create something of a legacy as I can’t think of another film that has featured signing so heavily that hasn’t been Oscar-bait nor has featured deafness as main part of the story.

Review – Tomb Raider

I get excited about some films – who doesn’t? However there are some that I get more excited about than others, even if critical acclaim isn’t guaranteed. Tomb Raider was absolutely one of those films.

Anyone who has been paying attention to my Twitter activities recently will know that I was buzzing for the release of this film. I was also desperately hoping that it would succeed where more or less every other mainstream video game movie had failed before. The odds were stacked against it, but I still kept the faith.

What we have here is a film that rises, I believe, head and shoulders above all others that we’ve seen within the video game genre. I honestly do think that the bar has been raised here. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying that Tomb Raider is perfect because it certainly is not. It won’t win Oscars and it won’t be remembered as one of the greats, but it is a damn site better than anything we’ve been offered before.

The film is based on the 2013 reboot of the game franchise that showed us the character of Lara Croft before she really became the Tomb Raider we all know now. Alicia Vikander takes on the role of a 21 year-old Lara who is working as a bike messenger to avoid going broke as she refuses to accept her inheritance following her father’s disappearance seven years before. Just as she is about to bite the bullet and sign his death certificate, she becomes aware of the circumstances under which he disappeared, and decides to pursue the mystery herself. Before long, she’s on a mysterious island, and it is there that she embarks upon the journey that sees her blossom into the character that everyone the world over is aware of.

I’ll do what I always do and talk about the performances first. I really think Alicia Vikander has done a good job as Lara here. I know her casting was met with a lot of criticism, especially when the first looks at the character came out, but she has brought a far more relatable character to the table than we’ve seen with any other version in the past, in both the films and the games. What I liked about Vikander’s performance is the journey she took the character on. You start off with someone who is very naïve and essentially still a child, something that is captured at it’s best in the scene where Lara arrives in Japan and almost falls foul of a group of pick-pocketers when looking for Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who is her companion throughout this film. By the end of the film, you’re presented with someone who has matured immensely because of their experiences, and the character you see in the very final scene of the film is almost a completely different person.

As far as the cast goes, Vikander is definitely the main star of the film. There are a few notable names involved, but they all play roles that sort of make up the scenery around Lara. Dominic West plays Richard Croft and I think it’s a role he was dead suited to to be completely honest. It would have been nicer to have possibly seen slightly more of him because he has a lot of talent to put to use, however, where we did get to see him, he and Vikander really captured the father/daughter dynamic that is so important to this franchise, and that’s the main thing.

Walton Goggins looks like he has fun playing Mathias Vogel. Rather like a James Bond villain, we’re first introduced to him around the halfway point of the film, and straightaway you know that he’s absolutely one of the bad guys. As much as Goggins lavishes playing this character and his form in playing some other unsavoury guys in a couple of other well-known films, I must admit that Vogel is quite forgettable. I’m someone who can name a lot of villains from a lot of the films I’ve, but when pitched against a hero as iconic as Lara Croft, the people creating the bad guy and the person gifted the task of playing that character really has to go above and beyond to stand out and be remembered. Goggins put in a good effort, but it didn’t quite stand up for me.

One of the main reasons this film is better than many others before it is that it has a story that is actually isn’t completely nonsense. The adaptation from video game to big screen has happened a lot more smoothly here than it has in the past, perhaps because the source material, as far as I’m aware, was acknowledged a hell of a lot more with this film. There are scenes that have been lifted straight from the game, and there are a lot of nods to the game – both the 2013 reboot which this is largely based upon, but also the games that came before it – with a number of moments throughout the film. For example, there is a point here where Lara pulls a massive splinter out of her side, and this is something that is clearly inspired by a sequence right at the start of the 2013 game. There are a few plot holes here and there, and definitely some things didn’t quite add up for me, such as the ‘reveal’ at the end of the film, but when it comes to comparing what we have here with what we’ve been given in the past, I really shouldn’t be complaining too much because this really is on another level to what we’ve seen previously.

I also just want to add that I really like the fact that nobody tried to sexualise Lara in any way here. She is purely an action hero in this film. She gets hurt, she gets dirty, she gets scared, and she doesn’t get romantically involved with any of the men in the film, which I think has always been one of the (many) downfalls with the Angelina Jolie films. Dare I say it, she’s been portrayed in a way nobody would think twice about if she was a bloke?

So, while it does have it’s faults, I am honestly so happy to say that they’re finally gone and done it – Tomb Raider is the video game movie that we’ve been waiting for, and is 100% the adaptation that this beloved character deserves. Vikander brings us a realistic Lara Croft and maintains focus on the qualities that made her such treasured character in my eyes. The many tips of the hat to the games are also very welcome here. Yes, there may be some terrible dialogue buried in here, and some of the finer details don’t come together quite as neatly as I’d like, but this has triumphed in many places and we truly should celebrate that.

Review – Black Panther

There’s always a huge amount of anticipation surrounding Marvel films. Black Panther was no exception.

It would seem, however, that excitement for this film was on another level entirely. On the film’s opening weekend, people seemed to struggled to get seats unless they were booked well in advance. This begs a massive question.

Did the film truly warrant such high levels of anticipation?

Almost immediately Black Panther sets the tone for what we can expect. The film’s first sequence centres around Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), but he is flanked by two terrific women in the form of Lupita N’yongo as Nakia and Danai Gurira as Okoye. One of the biggest takeaways from the film for me was that the women, although not necessarily the main characters here, all had very prominent roles and not once did any of them feel like a token piece.

I really liked the cast and all of the performances from each member. Obviously Boseman takes centre stage as the Black Panther himself. He was very good, but what I especially like, and I’ve kind of said this already with my point about the women in the film, was that so many of the other performances were allowed to shine just as brightly. Letitia Wright gave us one of those performances and she was simply terrific. She absolutely nailed the little sister role here as Sheri, and is definitely one of the many highlights of the film.

There was, or course, a smattering of very familiar faces that were part of this film, and a couple in particular I thought were cast very well, even if they didn’t feature too heavily. Forest Whittaker and Angela Bassett both got to play two of the most well-respected figures in their community, and given some of the roles and films they’ve been part of, I thought that was a very nice touch, regardless of how intentional it was.

I was slightly disappointed Andy Serkis didn’t stick around for longer. He was a loose cannon and was brilliant because of this fact – it’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of him.

Another thing I’d have liked to have seen a tiny bit more of was the combat scenes. I thought these were so well choreographed. They looked awesome! I really would have loved to have seen one or two of the bigger action sequences swapped out for some more of these because I really thought they looked great.

There were some very interesting creative choices made about what was featured in the film and how it was portrayed. One thing that comes to mind is the female warriors fighting for T’Challa’s tribe. It made me think of how it’s lionesses that hunt for a pride of lions, and although the film is obviously technically more about panthers (it’s in the name I guess), I still thought it was a subtle nod to the women involved here. I also liked the internet culture references made, but also how there was a real tribal feel to the entire film – it was a fantastic way to marry old and new customs together and is something that hugely contributes to the wider greatness that the film has.

So, you might have worked this out for yourself by now, but Black Panther gets a very strong seal of approval from me. There was so much about this film that I completely fell in love with that I can forgive it for the flaws that it had in a couple of areas. It’s a really well-rounded film that delivers on everything it set out to do, and then does a bit more when you read between the lines. Was I right in anticipating it so much? Absolutely so.

Review – The Shape Of Water

Probably one of this year’s most talked about and most hotly anticipated awards season films is The Shape Of Water. It’s a film that I hadn’t been too fussed about seeing initially, but one thing led to another and I ended up going to see it anyway.

Well, AREN’T I GLAD THAT SUCH A FORTUNATE SERIES OF EVENTS OCCURRED AND I DECIDED TO GIVE IT A SPIN! What a wonderful film it turned out to be! Very moving, surprisingly funny and gloriously original. I can’t quite believe that I almost gave this one a miss.

Perhaps what had put me off seeing this film was the premise. Essentially, it follows a woman who falls in love with a merman. Any regular visitors may know that I am not a hopeless romantic, hence why this wasn’t a film that popped up on my radar. However, I did feel that, for the most part, The Shape Of Water wasn’t dead soppy with the way it portrayed any of the relationships in the film, and I can’t complain about that one bit.

i really loved the some of the performances in the film, and also what a golden bunch of characters was featured. Sally Hawkins is delightful as Eliza. There was something about her performance that meant it was just really lovely to watch. The pairing of her and Octavia Spencer’s very chatty character was genius, and I think the two really brought out the best in each other on-screen.

Michael Shannon plays a good bad guy, I’ll give him that. There were countless times where I thought he just absolutely owned the role of Richard Strickland. I actually despised his character, and that was a wonderful feeling to have. To put it simply, he was a nasty man with an agenda, and Shannon played it brilliantly. Loved it!

No matter what you think of this film, you can’t deny that it is original. Writer and director Guillermo Del Toro does what I believe he’s quite famous for by now by treating us to a story that is rather like an adult fairytale. It is a superbly fantastical with some romance, friendship and a bit of violence and brutality thrown in for good measure. It’s a real mix, but nothing that’d be a far reach from anything that any of us would’ve had read to us as kids I don’t think. It was definitely very different, and I liked that about it very much.

So, after enjoying The Shape Of Water far more than I had expected to, it would seem that all I can do is sing it’s praises. I loved the characters and the performances that went into bringing them to life. There was terrific variety in what I got to see in the film too, and as for originality – well, this ticks all the boxes on that front for me. The Shape Of Water gets a solid recommendation from this girl at least.

Review – Chicago

I’m not a massive fan of musicals, but that didn’t seem to have much bearing on my thoughts on Chicago. For a while something had been drawing me to this film, but it was only recently that i got a chance to watch it.

The film follows murderesses Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) as they attempt to escape the hangman’s noose. Velma is a veteran showgirl, while Roxie is a wannabe. Both hire Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), a hot-shot lawyer who has never lost a case, to get them off death row.

I thought the three lead performances were very impressive here. As far as I’m aware, everyone did their own singing and dancing here, and given some of the numbers throughout the film I was quite awe-struck by this fact. Zeta-Jones was devilishly good as Velma Kelly. You really got the impression that she was willing to do absolutely anything to be in the limelight. Zellweger was great as she took Roxie through the transition from bit of a no-hoper to someone who saw the full potential of the situation they were in and sought to exploit it. She blossomed into a character who was an apt rival to Velma and she knew it. Watching the pair trying to figure out how to get one over on each other was very entertaining, and definitely one of the main plus points of the film.

Richard Gere also fitted right in as Billy Flynn. He fancied himself as as a big as the likes of Velma which created an interesting dynamic. Gere captured the smugness and egocentricity of Billy perfectly, meaning there were three main character with huge personalities all fighting for centre stage. Terrific!

Chicago is a fully immersive film. It’s full of 1920s glitz and glamour and really enables you to lose yourself inside the story. There was a lot of attention to detail involved in the whole production, and it all paid off. The costumes, hair and makeup are fantastic, and the sets completely fit into the 1920s landscape. It’s such a visual feast, and as a result you’re never in any doubt about when these stories are taking place, and this works very well in the film’s favour.

The entire film was full of so many amazing scenes, however two stood out for me. The ventriloquism with Gere and Zellweger’s characters was awesome! This was another of those moments where the hair and makeup crew came into their element. They made Zellweger look like an actual puppet and I had thought they’d had a giant Zellweger ventriloquist dummy made. That’s how good it was. The second scene that blew my socks off was the final number where Velma and Roxie perform together. It was a great way to end the film, simple as.

All there is left to say really is that Chicago is an absolute knock-out. It really took me by surprise by how good it was. All of it’s elements work together in a wonderful symphony that truly is very well put together. I can’t remember what this film was up against at the Oscars in 2000, but I have to say that I think was probably well deserving of it’s Best Picture win.