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Newsroom HBO Election Coverage Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

The Newsroom (Season 1): a news team bring their show back to old-school and trustworthy coverage of the stories that really matter – which proves to be a controversial decision for the network and the viewers. The first thing you have to tune in to is writer Aaron Sorkin’s unrealistic ping-pong-ping-pong rapid fire dialogue. Sorkin feels like the Tarantino of scriptwriting, everything seems to make it to the screen unedited, and you can hear him through the lines, smugly asking you: “Can you hear just how smart this show is!? Did you catch that cultural reference!? Can you keep up OK? Are you impressed? Please admire me…” The show is split into two main areas – the elite production team that are trying to bring facts and ethics back into news broadcasting, and two personal love dramas between various employees. The news stuff/cable network politics is absolutely dynamite and I could watch it all day; it’s dramatic, informative, well-researched, well-written, eye-opening, and makes for some of the best acting, speeches, and #scenes I can remember watching. The love angles on the other hand completely torpedo the show: it’s old writers writing unrealistic dialogue for youths; actors struggling to play dated neurotic caricatures; stretched out sub-Dawson’s Creek relationship arcs. I hate fingering people out, but it child over-actor Alison Pill plays the most unlikable love-interest in history – a terrible actress/character combo. To top off the stupidity, there’s a throughline of abysmal slapstick moments like people walking in to doors, falling over objects, ‘hilariously’ struggling to put trousers on, and general ACME antics that would perfectly match this song. When one of the female characters gets splashed by a passing Sex and the City tour bus playing the show’s theme song, I wanted to chew my fists off – this potentially great show is jumping sharks in season 1.

Newsroom HBO Will Anchor Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

It’s ironic that a ‘highbrow’ concept about how stupid TV has become, decides to devote over half of its runtime to shitty, banal and moronic will-they/won’t-they love stories, aimed squarely at the very idiots it’s trying to scold. Worse still, this is clearly Sorkin’s idea as HBO doesn’t tend to shy away from serious, engaging, and intellectual television. More than anything else, it’s a shame that the scathing, and brutally honest critique of US mainstream culture (especially tabloid press & broadcasting) loses out to second-rate soap opera stories. I can’t remember any other TV show that is so brilliant at some things (news, drama, dialogue), and inept at others (relationships, interactions, dialogue). You’ll be fist-pumping the air one minute, then tensing up in maximum cringe mode at the next. It gives with one hand, then pisses all over both of your hands. I could watch Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterson all day – and there’s a phenomenal mini series praying to be edited out of this – but in the current form, The Newsroom is one of the most frustrating TV shows you’ll ever watch.

Score: 4/10

Newsroom Cast AMC Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

Newsroom Sexy Sloan Hot Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Hope Davis, Chris Chalk

Looper: when time-travel is invented the mafia use it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen called ‘Loopers’. The first 30 minutes of Looper is a stunning, high-concept, fast-paced, interesting sci-fi/physics thriller; last 15 minutes is an action-packed, satisfying finale; the problem lies in the middle hour, which is a bog-standard – stretched-out – farmyard drama, where any notion of sci-fi takes a back seat. The future is sensibly crafted, rooted in today’s world but with more decay/poverty – the setting, technology and small details are great at fleshing out the era. Not unlike Brick, there’s a bit of a retro/Noir vibe running through the props, locations, names etc. JGL absolutely steals the show, not only with a solid performance, but by convincingly echoing the mannerisms of a young Bruce Willis – even if the make-up looked way more like Buster Keaton. For a while, I thought that Looper was going to out-do Primer, but it went off-track for far too long. There’s no arguing that there’s a great concept at the heart of the movie, however it feels like the balance between sci-fi and drama had been made less even in order to widen the film’s appeal. Would have been an unbeatable 80/90-minute hard sci-fi film, but at 2 hours it feels unnecessarily long.

Score: 5.5/10

Dumb and Dumber: slapstick, gross-out, knockabout comedy about two terminally stupid friends crossing America to return a briefcase to the rightful owner. The film delivers as a comedy by setting the gag-gun to rapid fire, covering everything from black comedy, actual toilet humour, the absurd, ridiculous and Carrey’s brand of physical rubber-facery. Re-watching as an adult, it’s also surprisingly perverse and dark, with lines like “split you like an old piece of firewood”, “Rapists’ wit”, and Lloyd Christmas perversely listening to people getting nasty in the next room. Considering he’s acting alongside a out-and-out comedian Daniels isn’t overshadowed, with some fantastic comedy delivery/timing – which isn’t easy when the characters are this stupid. The Farrelly’s do a top job at making this all kind of fit together coherently, and the film’s topped off with a decent indie-rock soundtrack. ‘Silly’ doesn’t begin to describe how stupid Dumb and Dumber is, and despite being 1990s to the core it is still genuinely funny, and full of so many quotable lines (and fond memories for anyone that watched it over and over on VHS!!). A true comedy great.

Score: 7/10

we've got no food... we've got no jobs... our pets heads are falling off!!

Traitor: An Ex U.S. Military bomb expert gets entangled with some Islamic radicals and ends up in a terror plot. I hadn’t even heard of this as it probably got swamped under by the glut of newfangled middle-eastern war & drama flicks. This begins in Yemen and the first 30 minutes is dedicated to unraveling the enigmatic main character – pretty much the crux of the whole film. After a short ‘Arabs in Jail’ section the pot focuses on acts of terrorism in France and America. Other than some heightened drama towards the end the film juggles the old civil liberties Vs greater good dilemma, what it is to be a Muslim following the Qur’an today, and painting an accurate picture of terrorist activities in the Western world. Don Cheadle holds his own well as the only main but really just has to look solemn or the most part. Guy Pearce could have been anyone, playing the stereotypical “hot on the heels” cop. Ditto Jeff Daniels in his role. The film looks pretty good and has a few memorable scenes but just doesn’t really grab you; how do you connect with a guy who’s BFF is an extremist and is plotting to kill innocent people? Hyper topical terrorist thriller that you should only check out if you like this type of film.

Score: 4/10

The Lookout: a brain-damaged guy gets taken advantage of because of his part-time job in a bank. Not just any bank though, the lamest bank in history with huge windows, a remote location and high-risk employees! The natural dialogue made everyone seem quite normal and believable, with the exception of ‘Bone’, who looked like a tardy Agent Smith from the Matrix. Both Levitt and Daniels do a fairly decent job with their difficult characters. The Vigilante memory loss section at the end is when the film really kicks in to gear (like a ‘Diet Memento’) but was too little too late for me, and the action scenes aren’t well-edited. It’s an OK film but with lots of dubious aspects: like how despite causing a fatal car crash, and having brain damage, Chris Pratt is allowed to drive!? The only thing the film really taught me was that money is power… pretty deep stuff.

Score: 5/10

Away We Go: indie-feeling (but big-budget) love and road flick about a mid-30s ‘loser’ couple that are soon to be parents, in search of the perfect place for their kid to grow up in. While it doesn’t sound like much, there are two things that won me over: the fantastic script and the excellent blend of comedy, drama and offbeat characters. The acting’s of a pretty high standard, tugging at the heart-strings a few times. There’s some genuinely funny slapstick scenes but some of the more subtle lines delivered the biggest belly laughs. A couple of questions could be asked – like how can they afford their trip – but the only big flaw is that I’ll never see Maggie Gylenghall as the saucy secretary again. The ending feels a tad premature, but it’s a damn good story nonetheless. Definitely worth a watch.

Score: 8/10