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Self/Less: when a terminally ill millionaire has his mind copied into a young and healthy body he gets a second chance at life… but there’s always a catch. This one has a great, high-concept idea at the core, however it deliberataly shifts lanes into a generic Bourne-type action movie instead; shying away from the higher brow sci-fi elements. It’s not all bad though as the action is to a decent standard, the story is a bit different, and because it’s a Tarsem Singh film the look and design is fantastic (although it’s nowhere near as styalised or ‘Tarsemmy’ as his other movies). The emotional scenes are also stronger than you’d expect from a film like this. Reynolds is great at portraying a new man; and I love how he isn’t afraid to take on more risky and interesting pictures than his peers: stuff like Buried, RIPD, The Nines, Deadpool. While Self/Less won’t be going down as a Sci-Fi (or action) classic, it’s a both solid and interesting enough to keep you entertained – and maybe even think a little – for two hours.

Score: 6/10

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There are very brief glimpses of Tarsem’s visual flare

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Stoker Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown,

Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a ChanWook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.

Score: 7.5/10

Stoker Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown

The Good Wife Eli Gold Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Diane Lockhart Will Gardiner Carey Agos Kalinda Sharma Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

After five series’ (and renewed for a sixth) this show is obviously a big hit in the ‘States, but The Good Wife (TGW) in an unsung hero of the UK TV schedules – big props to Channel 4 and More4 for giving it a punt, and sticking with it. As a late-20s guy that loves Action & B-movies, It’s not the type of show I thought I’d like, but here’s a bunch of reasons that will hopefully convince you to give this a spin!

The Good Wife Alicia Florrick Hot Sexy - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Women: unlike 99% of other TV shows the main character is a strong, powerful, hard-working mother (don’t run away!). She’s written well, brilliantly acted, fleshed out, and what’s more – she’s surrounded by other equally capable ladies – Diane, Kalinda, and dozens of other minor, characters. It’s a sad time when around 50% of all movies fail the ridiculously simple ‘Bechdel Test’ – and ½ that pass do so by the skin of their teeth – but TGW puts women front and centre, making it a refreshing change.

The Tech: I work in IT and the tech in TGW never fails to amuse and impress, not just the kind of gadgets they use day-to-day – but the way in which cutting edge technology is often the centerpiece of a story arc, or the focus of a case. There are entire episodes based on Bitcoin, search algorithms, NSA surveillance, Reddit (Scabbit), Silk Road, drone murders, leaked documents, Anonymous, ISPs turning over IP addresses, memes, video game murders, and a recurring Google-esque client – ChumHum. You watch it and think “WTF TGW, this exact case was in the news last week!?!?” It’s easily the most tech-savvy show on the planet.

The Good Wife Peter Florrick Alicia Florrick Will Gardiner - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMajor characters: Although Alicia is the eponymous Good Wife, there are around ten recurring characters that come in and out of the spotlight throughout the seasons. Kalinda Sharma, Will Gardner, Peter Florirck, Eli Gold, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos, and to a lesser extent, the kids and grandparents. All of these enjoy a good share of screentime, character-building and season-spanning story arcs, that bring some much-appreciated depth to the cast – making them way more than “The husband”, “The Boss”, “The Competition”.

THE GOOD WIFE Dylan Barker Colin Sweeney Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerMinor and recurring, characters: arguably the show’s best feature is the ability to craft great minor characters with very little time. David Lee (Family Law!!) is one of the best lawyers on TV; Colin Sweeney is deliciously creepy; quirky lawyer Elisabeth Tasioni, politically incorrect Senior Partner Howard Lyman, the ever-scheming Louis Canning (Michael J Fox), promiscuous brother Owen, morally sound Clark Hayden, those are just off the top of my head. These characters – and many more – are so good that you cross your fingers every episode, hoping they re-appear and you get enough time to have a proper catch up with them.

The Judges: interestingly, the show has a small roster of regular judges, each with their own personality, leniency threshold, quirks, and history with Lockhart/Gardner. You find yourself thinking “un-ohhh, this is the strict Judge” or “Yeeess, this one fancies Alicia”, or “Is that in your opinion?” Technically another bunch of minor recurring characters, but they’re definitely worthy of their own spot on the list.

The Good Wife Judge Charles Abernathy Dennis O'Hare - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

The main reason that all of these characters are awesome is that the casting for the show is phenomenal. I can’t think of a single actor who you could say was totally mis-cast. Re-inventing actors so inseparable from their big roles – Chandler Bing, Ugly Betty, Marty McFly – making them work alongside relatively unknown / under-rated actors. Someone somewhere has outstanding vision – like a Tarantino of the TV Sphere – making something special out of people with fairly unremarkable careers. It’s a true anomaly of TV. The guest appearances are also often surprising: Eddie Izzard, Method Man, Anna Champ, Sarah Silverman… it feels like everyone is lining up to appear in the show.

The Good Wife Judge George Kluger Jeffrey Tambor - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker  The Law: probably the most important aspect of a legal program – and not that I’m a qualified lawyer or anything – but it’s one of the few shows when the law is complex, believable, but still completely accessible (usually through some ‘approach the bench’ exposition). The show’s also not obsessed with Lockhart Gardner winning every case, and you sometimes see the flipside when they have to knowingly defend a guilty party… There’s so much fiery courtroom drama that you’ll soon find yourself walking around shouting phrases like Objection! Sustained! Over-ruled! Leading the witness your honour!! STRIKE THAT!! RECUSE YOURSELF!!!

Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan BakerThe dynamics: it’s baffling that a show with such a super-broad appeal, and so many angles, still works this well. Ultimately, it appears to have been pitched at more senior viewers (median viewer age is 61 years old, and rising), yet it’s very tech-savvy and has a lot of explicitly gay/bisexual characters. It’s supposed to be about a lawyer, but that’s not even ½ of the runtime as family and politics feature heavily. It flips between serious drama, social commentary, and contemporary comedy so easily that it must be enviable to other show writers. You can watch the show as booth case-of-the-week, or appreciate the larger stories that bridge episodes and seasons. On paper it would look committee’d to death – a show that really shouldn’t work – but it’s a true anomaly.

The Good Wife Kalinda Sharma and Blake Calamar Parking Lot Baseball Bat Stand Off Fight Fashion Boots Jacket - Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Zach Grenier, Matthew Goode, Chris Noth, Titus Welliver, Scott Porter, Michael Ealy, Jill Flint, Monica Raymund, Anna Camp, Michael J. Fox, Carrie Preston, Dallas Roberts, Gary Cole, Dylan Baker

 

it’s just a shame that the title is so bad. “The Good Wife” – bleurgh! It instantly repels most male viewers (probably wimin’ too); it’s just so frustratingly vague that anyone flicking through the TV Schedules could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. It could be a show about housewifery, it could be a melodramatic soap opera, hell – it could even be a softcore Movies For Men / Cinemax / Bravo style show.

 TL; DR? Short Version: this is a peach of a show, and you should be watching it.

A Single Man: [Blu Ray] – Follows an over-educated, depressed homosexual suicidal lecturer! The role could have been totally melodramatic Oscar Bait, but was played realistically by Firth. Stunning performance, well-earned gongs. He’s simply great to watch, and is the intense focus of every scene. The colouring / sound mix playfully tweaks with what you see and hear for around the first hour, but by the end it’s overused with some ridiculous gray = sad / colour = happy scenes. For being such an intense story, it’s very slow burning – with a few dramatic peaks to keep staleness at bay – I feel the drama could have been milked a little more. It’s undoubtedly well directed; every shot is stylish and looks cinematic, even scenes like a man on the toilet! The Blu Ray isn’t very watchable: much of the film has a stylistic (read as: shitty) diffusion / grain to the picture to set the era and tone. Overall, it’s quite a plain non-eventful story, boosted by a brilliant central performance.

Score: 6.5/10