Benny Views is here for all your film recommendation needs

I’m conscious this site has offered tumbleweed for a long time – sorry about that – but there has been progress elsewhere… I’m happy to have finally rebranded and launched a separate film site – Benny Views – the culmination and aggregation of at-a-glance movie reviews I’ve accumulated over about a decades worth of screen watching. You can filter by category, or use the easy site search in the navigation menu, or simply scroll to browse and find something that tickles your fancy. Hopefully it’ll help you discover the gems worth watching when algorithms are serving the same old guff over and over every time you log in to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and the like.

Let me know what you think, and please do share with your friends if you like it.

The all new 3D silence: an indication the third dimension has at last been welcomed by audiences, or merely tacit resignation?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, almost every visit to a film site would have you clicking through endless diatribes of the hotly debated views surrounding 3D cinema. Albeit hovering uncertainly in cinemas on and off since the 50s, it was Avatar in 2009 that essentially detonated the 3D explosion, with director James Cameron bragging that the film had been built from the ground up for over a decade with 3D in mind, and heralding new 3D technology to boot. It smashed box office records and wowed audiences the world over, breathing new life in to a cash cow that would soon have industry executives rubbing their hands with glee. But even after the initial hysteria around the new wave of so-called ‘RealD’ technology, the web remained awash with naysayers. In fact, by the end of 2010, following Avatar’s triumphant release only a year earlier, critics and pundits were already harbingering the decline and inexorable doom of 3D [1][2][3][4], and by the fall of 2012, 3D was widely regarded a dying format [5][6][7][8][9]. Yet here we are, at the close of another year replete with 3D releases, and there is an unsettling, ominous silence. The detractors are mute, the fever has subsided – is it resignation or acceptance?

Back in October 2012, a reader poll in SFX found that 42.25% of respondents “hate” 3D, with a further 28% saying that they “can’t see 3D” or it causes them problems. Only 13.75% responded positively [10]. Albeit a very specific sample and a year ago, the response still seems to bear true now:

Continue reading “The all new 3D silence: an indication the third dimension has at last been welcomed by audiences, or merely tacit resignation?”

What is a ‘Proto-feminist’? I thought you’d never ask…

Here’s an annoying article which will attempt to piss all over your enjoyment of the BBC’s modernisation of classic Conan Doyle: Sherlock: Is Sherlock Sexist?

If you can be bothered to read the whole lot (hopefully you’ll be as irritated as I was) then feel free to continue commentary below – the Guardian saw fit to close their comments section already.

Anyway, I object to the article on a number of levels, none of which I can be bothered to explain in detail – perhaps ironically for a blogger? – but expressed most simply, it’s because I think Sherlock is a cracking good show. Jane Clare Jones is apparently not such a fan, and here is a provocative quote of hers I’ll leave you with which jumped out at me for it’s flagrant arrogance and self-rectitude. It’s a lovely, accurate, unbiased definition of a woman with her views:

…a “proto-feminist”, a woman of great intellect and formidable agency…


Damian Lewis and ‘Homeland’ Update

Further to my previous excitable post regarding Band of Brothers/ Life star Damian Lewis’ new show ‘Homeland‘ – IMDb is now reporting the series has a pilot release date of October 2011. It’s going to be a long summer…

Homeland centers on Marine Sergeant Scott Brody (Lewis), who returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, and Carrie Anderson, a driven CIA officer who suspects he might be plotting an attack on America.

The Demise of Dr. Gregory House MD.

For a long time House has been hailed as the Sherlock Holmes of medicine and the show enjoyed not only exceptionally healthy viewing figures, but the respect of health workers and viewers alike. It had a great reputation based on light hearted humour and intriguing medical problems, and each episode offered intrigue, if not excitement. Unfortunately, House is dying, and unless something major is done about it, he won’t be saved.

Where did it all go wrong?

Let’s start with the shameless recycling of story lines and themes:

  • House & Cuddy
  • House & Vicodin
  • House & Happiness
  • Trust vs Cynicism
  • Science vs Faith
  • Foreman vs Ambition
  • Foreman vs Relationships (remember Thirteen)
  • Taub vs Relationships (wife and adultery)
  • Chase vs Relationships (cameron and girls in general)
  • Wilson vs Relationships (wait…I’m seeing a trend here…)

Every episode these days thinly disguises one of the above themes with an emotional or moral dilemma, but House isn’t didactic. Nothing is learned. The episodes conclude with more or less the same resolution every week: House is selfish, but has his character developed? The answer is always the same: no.

Further, House epitomises the classic and somewhat misogynistic stereotyping of men as ‘the head’ (rationale, logic), women as ‘the heart’ (love, honesty). We began with Cameron, then we had Amber (the only woman whose focus was logic and they branded her “psycho-bitch”, killed her off within a season and then brought her back as an irritating hallucination). Now we’ve got Masters, who is basically Cameron – I even saw a hint of love interest from Chase towards her back in episode fourteen (just prior to Cuddy’s award ceremony).

Recently they attempted to mix up the standard formula (which they’ve used for seven seasons) – patient falls ill, House and team try and fail to diagnose, in the final few minutes they work out what was wrong, treat it, and inevitably learn some cheesy moral lesson in the process (which they take nothing from and repeat the following week). But instead of true novelty, the unorthodox episodes we’ve been offered have been gimmicks. A couple of episodes scattered here and there as a brief respite from the usual slog, but the flights of fantasy, be they hallucinations, music videos, computer games, film references or 1950s dreams aren’t enough to convince this viewer that he’s watching something new, different and worth his continued time.

There have been plenty of chances for the writing team to spark some fresh story lines. Take for example what could have been a terrific ending or at least a fantastic twist to the story: House going in to the mental hospital at the end of season five. Within two episodes, season six was back to the traditional formula.

In this season alone there has been tonnes of room for potential new story arcs and development:

When Cuddy’s mother is admitted there was a definite chance to throw a spanner in the works between House and Cuddy. What if she had died?

When Cuddy falls ill, there was the opportunity to cause a major controversy and stir and take the season in a new direction by killing her off (or somewhat less drastically, leaving her incapable of running the hospital for a while). Instead, they used it as an opportunity to take things back to square one, House returns to Vicodin (apparently sourced from the same bathroom supply he’s had since ever) and the two separate, leaving the writing team with lots more emotional tension to regurgitate. After all, it’s not like they haven’t covered all this ground before…

Aside from all of the above problems, the script itself has deteriorated significantly since the early seasons. The wit has dried up, replaced by a dry sarcasm that is much less droll and ergo much less entertaining than before. If they are to continue this series, they really need an imaginative innovator on their writing staff, or at least someone who is prepared to move away from the same cast, story lines and episode structure. Failing that, not even House and his team of emotionally stunted caricatures will be able to save the show from a gruelling death.

Damian Lewis to front ‘Homeland’

Wow. How have I missed this little tidbit?! I like to keep an eye out for this sort of thing and if it slipped through my net chances are many of you won’t know of it either, so even though it’s relatively old news (late Dec 2010), I draw your attention to…

Showtime, the cable network behind numerous top quality tv shows (think Dexter, Californication, The United States of Tara), is developing a new series called HOMELAND, and in the lead role is none other than Brit hero Damian Lewis. The domestic terrorism story isn’t exactly original, but could be considered politically relevant I suppose, and nonetheless provides a lot of leeway for intrigue and excitement. Damian Lewis plays Sgt. Scott Brody, a Marine who returns to the US after over 8 years of captivity in Baghdad, Iraq and is instantly the subject of a CIA investigation suspecting that he is colluding and conspiring with his former kidnappers. Hopefully this homegrown terrorism plot won’t give in to scenes of such flagrant patriotism and the like as 24 did, but will instead be driven by the strength of it’s characters and plot lines. Knowing that Damian Lewis is generally very cautious and particular in his choice of roles gives me quite a lot of confidence that we won’t be disappointed.

Homeland will also star Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride), David Harewood (Blood Diamond), Laura Fraser (A Knight’s Tale) and Claire Danes (Stardust).

If, by some unfortunate fault in your upbringing, or through amnesia or whatever, you are unaware of Damian Lewis, he’s best known for his roles in Band of Brothers (nominated for a Golden Globe) and Life, although he was also terrific in The Escapist, Dreamcatcher, The Baker, and pretty much everything else he’s been in. (If you’re of an older generation, you may have been a fan of the 2002 mini-series The Forsyte Saga in which he was very convincing as the machiavellian Soames Forsyte. In fact, he particularly excels at sinister characters.)

With the track record both Showtime and Damian Lewis can boast, I have little doubt that this will be a show worth following. My only fear is that often the best shows don’t last long (see my eulogy of Terriers) – hopefully this one will get the ratings it needs to live a long, fruitful and above all, entertaining life!

Homeland still has no pilot release date but is due out in the fall this year.

Terriers cancelled because the public majority watches shit.

Terriers, starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, was a phenomenal show that did not deserve to be cancelled. The marketing team deserved to be fired, their strategy was atrocious, but the real creators of the show definitely earned another shot. I could rant for ages about how frustrating and disappointed I am in FX’s decision, but when browsing news articles I found someone who already said it succinctly. Here’s what she said, and you can add to her list Rubicon, another terrific series that never received the exposure it needed and was hung out to dry:

(Tribute to unknown user, Nicole, because she summed it up better than I could have.)

Mon 12/06/10 2:18 PM
I’ve been checking for news over the last few days and dreading hearing this. I can’t blame the network for cancelling it I suppose (the numbers were spectacularly bad), but I DO blame them for terrible marketing which is a direct cause of the bad numbers. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s hard not to blame the network outright and be pissed that they didn’t give it a second chance with a new strategy next year, given all of the critical acclaim.
And I do think that EW could have done more to promote it – it’s clearly a show that critics love, and while other critics were going to bat for the show (Sepinwall, Mo Ryan, etc), has EW even mentioned the show other than Ken Tucker’s online recaps? I do recall seeing a nickel-sized blurb at the bottom right corner of the Bullseye on the last page of a recent print issue, but c’mon.
Sadly though, this is mostly just a reflection of the plague of bad taste. As long as the majority likes crap, that’s what we’re going to get. And the majority has proven again and again that crap is their favorite thing ever. Tons of my own friends have never seen Arrested Development or Freaks and Geeks or Terriers and yet will discuss the intricacies of Dancing with the Stars or American Idol or the freaking Kardashians for hours. Welcome to the underserved minority, people with discerning taste. It’s pretty lonely.

For people who didn’t see the show, it was not to do with dogs or dog racing. It was named Terriers because the two main characters, private investigators who stumble upon a dangerous conspiracy, were tenacious and hot-tempered. It was probably the best show on TV (after Dexter) until it was cancelled. I blame the public. Yes. You.

Quote of the Day

Genius line from Arrested Development when Lucille is angry that Michael didn’t allow George-Michael to sell Gob a banana.

It’s only a banana, what could it cost? 10$?

– Lucille Bluth (Season 1, Episode 5)

The latest ep. of ‘An Idiot Abroad’ the funniest?

The latest and final installment in the Sky One comedy documentary An Idiot Abroad, following Karl Pilkington and his obscure, peculiar exploits as he visits the seven wonders of the world, was undoubtably the funniest episode of the series.

Despite seven prior episodes with footage from all across the world as he visits the wonders, including trips to previously cannibalistic tribes, real life ‘elephant men’ and gay nudist beaches, the final episode finds Pilkington sat with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant against a totally white backdrop discussing highlights of the show with more hilarious results than anything beforehand.

The show was described by the Guardian as: “ball-achingly dull”. And in Karl’s own words: “I thought I was going to be the new Palin, until I found out – I didn’t know much.”

It’s not the first time it’s been suggested that Pilkington isn’t a stand alone comic, but that he needs his ‘founders’, Gervais and Merchant to really flourish.

As a trio they enjoyed phenomenal, record breaking and unimaginable success with their multiple seasons of podcasting, a medium more or less pioneered by Gervais, and yet when Karl released his own podcast, it flopped, releasing only one 12 minute episode in December 2008.

He’s released a number of books, although as an owner of three of them I can attest that whilst amusing, none echo the comedy of the podcasts or XFM radio show.

I think what the final episode reveals, is that Karl’s humour needs prompting – he needs to be probed by comics to reveal his comedy. Alone he’s a dimwitted, pessimistic presenter who will raise a smile, as a team, the trio will have you laughing so hard it hurts in a matter of minutes. Let’s call it a symbiotic relationship (for Karl at least, the other two seem to manage fine independently). Don’t get me wrong, “I love his kooky outlook on life”, but he needs back up. I really hope that Gervais and Merchant aren’t going to take a backseat now he has received so much celebrity and fame.

Unlike a TV series, that really needs reeling in after a couple of seasons to leave the audience wanting more (something Gervais and Merchant have proved brilliant at before), podcasting can go on and on without running dry. Indeed, I feel sure there is still a massive demand for The Ricky Gervais Show podcast to resume, and no doubt it would still top the iTunes charts.

It was always Gervais’ plan to make Karl a household name, but I’m not aware his plan went much further. Now he’s reached his goal, what’s the next step for the trilogy? The final episode of An Idiot Abroad seemed almost like the podcasting set up, except viewers could observe the facial expressions of the group, an added dimension. I think it’d be really worth them pursuing a show along these lines, even if only as a video podcast as whilst another Pilkington show would no doubt be watchable, it’s just not the same without his collaborators’ involvement.

Any thoughts on Pilky and the brains?

Penry-Jones. Rupert Penry-Jones. The ideal James Bond?

Penry-Jones, who really was in Spooks and frankly ought to continue the trend as Bond.

Further to my previous post about Benedict Cumberbatch, I thought I’d also spotlight another great actor yet to receive the recognition and exhibition platform they deserve: Rupert Penry-Jones. (Curiously, he also shares a first name with my brother, although that too is totally unrelated to this blog post…)

Penry-Jones’  career appears to have been much less acclaimed than Cumberbatch, perhaps unfairly, given that as Adam Carter, the frontman in Spooks from 2004-2008 he really proved to be worth his salt. Most recently starring in gripping ITV drama Whitechapel, he’s also set for the lead in BBC legal drama ‘Silk’ for which I could find very little information except this vague BBC link.

I think he’s an actor that would suit the big screen in similar roles to the small screen parts he has taken on. He simply needs more exposure. He usually plays a smooth, sharp witted, often dangerous character, but boasts a real charisma and natural charm. He’s ruggedly good looking (as most film friendly faces tend to be). In fact, he wouldn’t be misplaced as James Bond. (Oh come on, everyone knows he’s blond now!) Seriously though, I’m fully behind that idea.

Rupert, if you land that role, you owe me a pint. And a burger. In fact, maybe we could go see a movie? (I wonder if anyone else uses their blog to set up a (b)romantic dinner and drinks with actors they admire? I’m not trying to set a trend or anything, but if it works…)