Puppy Love

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Benportrait1As you may, or may not, remember (depending on what you think of my writing), the last review I wrote was on BBC 4’s ‘Detectorists’ a comedy I for one really appreciated. In my review I made mention of another new BBC 4 comedy called ‘Puppy Love’ and, while I have a bit of time to kill (when I should be revising the inner most workings of Mitochondria sounds fascinating doesn’t it), I thought I would write down what I thought.

I started to watch this series with a fairly high amount of optimism, which, if you know me, is a rare thing. However, now the series is finished I would like to tell you what I really think. Set on the Wirral, the series follows ‘Naomi Singh’ played by Vicki Pepperdine (on the right of the picture) as she deals with her new purchase, a Golden Retriever puppy called ‘Charlie’, and ‘Nana V’ portrayed by Joanna Scanlan (On the left of the picture), an eccentric dog trainer who ‘grew up in children’s homes so dogs are my life’.

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Now the preamble is done I will get straight done to it. I desperately wanted to like this series, but I couldn’t. The premise is a can of comedy gold because, in all honesty, who doesn’t know a person that’s struggled with a dog? Pepperdine and Scanlan attempt to use this to their advantage, and to be fair there are a few funny moments (mainly in episode 1), such as the Hurtlocker-esque beginning and a few well-executed double takes from Pepperdine. Despite this, it was a rarity for me to laugh at all during the following episodes, and I can’t really put my finger on why. I wasn’t a big fan of any of the characters, and for me to find a sitcom funny I usually have to be able to relate to what I’m watching. I just couldn’t connect with these characters at all. Spoiler alert; almost everything that can go wrong for Pepperdine’s character does go wrong, but the character is such a bumbling moronic busy body (bit of an oxymoron, but that is my opinion) that I can’t sympathise with her. Therefore, as a result, I can’t laugh with her or at her due to irritation.

I found that the episodes were over reliant on weight jokes, whether they be spoken or visual, as Joanna Scanlan regularly removes various items of clothing. As a result of this, I found that the script lacked an edge, and that it was becoming too obsessed with laughs about the overweight woman in her bra rather than proper, witty humour. I also found that Nana V’s constant sexual fantasies about a new man every episode became incredibly tiresome (I know how old that makes me sound but it is true). The ending is also very moralistic (didn’t think that was a word until I typed it into word) and can be seen a mile off. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just something I thought I would mention.

Perhaps the issue is that, in being released so close to ‘Detectorists’, I am making an unfair comparison. If BBC 4 had released one of the two programmes next year they might be sitting on two positive reviews. ‘Detectorists’ would definitely still be on top, but giving a time gap would enable me to appreciate ‘Puppy Love’ a bit more.

I am aware that I have given the series a bit of a battering, and I do feel a bit bad. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Puppy Love’ is no ‘Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps’, but it does come up short compared to ‘Detectorists’. If BBC 4 is going to keep commissioning comedies (and I really want them to), I think the channel will have to step up their game.

After reading a few other reviews of the series, I can confidently tell you that I am in the minority of not being overly keen on this comic effort from Scanlan and Pepperdine. If you agree, disagree, or just want to have a shout at me for being such a cynical old git, please post a comment below.

– Ben

Jurassic World

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Well, here it is, our opinion piece on the ‘Jurassic World’ trailer. It’s a little late, but we thought we should release it anyway. If you have any opinions on our opinions, or on the trailer itself, please leave a comment.

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Lewis: I’m not really sure where I stand on this one.

Ben: I think it starts off really well

Lewis: Yeah, I’ll agree with you there, it looks brilliant until they reach the genetically altered dinosaur bit.

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Ben: That’s what I was thinking… The fact they have the park open now is brilliant, but I’m not sure about the genetically-altered bit. I think they’re trying to follow the initial idea from the first film with the whole ‘man playing God’ idea. Also, in order for them to show the development of the park, they had to let it open, and in order for it to be open it had to be safe, which rules out the Tyrannosaurs and ‘Raptors being the ‘bad guys’, leaving them with the genetically-modified-dinosaur option.

Lewis: Very true, sir. You can see near the end of the trailer that it looks like they’ve trained the ‘Raptors to help Chris Pratt out like a pack of hunting dogs or something along those lines. Obviously I understand that it’s a sci-fi film, so I shouldn’t really be complaining about realism, but for some reason I just don’t like the direction they’ve taken things. And you’re right; it’s definitely going after the ‘Playing God’ angle. Now that they have the dinosaurs under control they got too cocky and their arrogance gets the better of them.

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Ben: I really dislike the whole sea world ‘let’s train the ‘Raptors to work with Chris Pratt’ thing. Pratt’s Character seems to be a merge of Muldoon and Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) from the first film, which is hardly original. You can tell what is probably going to happen; firstly, the GM dinosaur will start killing people, then kill a Tyrannosaurus (which is the filmmakers’ way of telling us this new creature is a badass), then more people will die,  then Chris Pratt and the ‘Raptors will kill it and all will be good again…

Lewis: You’re probably right, and Chris Pratt’s character is definitely the clichéd action-adventurer, but I honestly still think the film will be good. It’s Jurassic Park (World), how couldn’t it be?

Ben: I’m not convinced that it will be anything better than average. The Jurassic Park franchise is one of the prime examples of sequels that never should have happened. And, like another set of films that never should have happened (Star Wars), I think a huge over reliance on CGI will prevent a proper story developing.

Lewis: I’m hopeful about the storyline, as I don’t think they would let a movie this big that stems from such a classic be less than average. Admittedly, the odds are against me (with Star Wars as a prime example), but I’m trying to be optimistic. Who knows, maybe Universal were so obsessed about whether or not they COULD make a new Jurassic Park movie, that they never stopped to think if they SHOULD? (Do you like the reference?)

Ben: Very good. The thing is you say that, but Universal let Jeff Goldblum loose in Jurassic Park 2 (an actor whose success I can’t understand,  since he just plays himself over and over), and Jurassic Park 3… Well, the less said about that the better. Those two films tarnished the first. Perhaps I’m being too much of a cynic, but with the multi-part finales (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Hobbit etc.), can you blame me for thinking that this is just another money making scheme?

Lewis: Nah I don’t blame you for being cynical, I’m trying very hard not to be (which goes against my very nature), but the second Jurassic Park wasn’t THAT bad! And as for Jeff Goldblum, he’s great.
With most films these days being remakes, crappy sequels or dull originals, it’s tough to be optimistic about any of them. But I honestly think it’ll be alright. It’s not going to be original Jurassic Park standard, but you can’t really expect it to be.

Ben: Quite right. I think the best endorsement I can give it is that when it comes out; I will go and watch it.

Lewis: Same here, we’d be stupid not to!

Planet Terror

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Hello constant reader. I’m sorry for not publishing much recently, I actually have had coursework to do, and I’m not just using that as a cover story this time. Anyway, I’d like to announce that we have another new contributor to The Minimum Effort, and his name is Connor. So sit back, have a read of his review-thing, and may the grammar gods forgive me for what I’m about to let him post. – Lewis

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you can’t not like zombie movies. you can’t not like exploitation movies.
‘planet terror’ is a movie you can’t ‘dislike’.
that’s a fact. moving on.
to give a brief history; exploitation films were prevalent in the 1970’s and were bad action movies. bad in a good way though. they’re intentionally bad. and that’s not a case of ‘it’s so bad it’s good’. it’s just action. no real story. they were made purely for the intention of entertainment and nothing else. there’s even subgenres for people who have film… fetishes i guess; sexploitation, mexploitation, blaxploitation and more. they’re all rough, tough, harsh, brutal etc.
exploitation movies have a few fundamentals – super low budget (hence ‘exploitation’), attractive women, guns, explosions, nudity. anybody who wants to learn more, just google ‘roger corman’, that should sort you for a while.
anyway, robert rodriguez (tarantino’s best friend for everyone who doesn’t know anything about film other than some quotes from “pulp fiction”) wanted to make a tribute movie like that. quentin did too, and he subsequently made “death proof”. however, rodriguez made one of the best movies i’ve ever seen, and i’ve seen a fair few movies.
planet terror is basically your standard zombie movie in terms of story – some infection manages to spread, people are becoming zombies, a group of people have to kill them all and stop them taking over the world. the word ‘antidote’ is said a couple times just to help things make sense. i wasn’t even paying attention to the dialogue.
none of that’s original, however, what is original is: a woman with a machine gun for a leg, a british man who collects testicles, some guy seriously obsessed with bbq sauce, a cameo from fergie, a mexican gangster riding a pocketbike, earl mcgraw (a character in “from dusk til dawn” and “kill bill” (which is one of my favourite movies)), a cameo of bruce willis talking about how he killed bin laden, tarantino as a rapist, and a whole load of gore very similar to that of john carpenter’s “the thing”. it’s actually very akin to john carpenter’s work, which is a huge bonus for any movie. listening to the audio commentary (yes, i watch the special features) there’s endless references to carpenter.
i literally just watched the movie. i just finished it and i don’t even remember what even happened, and yet… i don’t care. it was awesome. it’s all action, some stupid storyline, blood & guts, cheesy one liners, zombies, what else could you want? its uniqueness is something i admire enormously.
what’s most worth mentioning–for me–is the fact that rodriguez chose to give the movie that old scratched look. if you, like i do, remember watching old westerns on tv that were all aged and grainy and scratched to pieces because it was the only remaining film reel left before it got made for tv, then that makes this movie so much better, because it’s something i haven’t seen in at least a decade. the first time i saw “shane” on tv it looked like the film itself had been dragged through the desert. if you don’t have any idea what i’m referring to, tyler durden (brad pitt) explains it perfectly in “fight club”. essentially, digital enhancement destroyed the genuine cinema experience. what’s best about it in planet terror is that if you pay attention, as the story turns darker and bad things happen, the film gets more scratched. i actually made it even more grainy using something on my computer and it only made it better.
this movie goes as far as having a part where the film burns out, a screen simply reading ‘missing reel’ appears and we jump about 15 minutes further into the movie without having to actually watch all that stuff develop. as far as i can remember, the only other movie that deteriorates and burns out is “the muppet movie”. i want to see more of it, it’s a great move that leaves you to fill in the gaps. in planet terror’s case it has this effect: everything’s fine–missing reel–eveything’s on fire. and suddenly there’s a couple of new characters and the whole cast is in the one place somehow. genius.
rodriguez’s lineage includes “sin city” and “machete”. it also includes all of the “spy kids” movies, and “sharkboy and lavagirl”. as far as genres go, he covers all grounds. to add to that, he writes the soundtracks for his own movies (as does john carpenter) so the movie deserves more respect than just being a silly b-horror. it’s more than that, and people who like film will understand that.
lewis and i had once written a few pages of a dodgy b-movie called “cocktopus” which was lost. it was made to be on the syfy channel, it had a random cowboy, no morals, a child who gets precisely what they don’t deserve, horrendously unfunny jokes (although, that’s the way dick pauls), blatant references to other movies (“planet of the apes” in our case), ludicrous premises, general stupidity all round. it would’ve been underrated and become a cult classic, guaranteed. honestly, planet terror reminds me exactly of that because all of those things are in this movie. so there’s something extra in this film for me personally. but then again i only remembered this after i’d watched the movie, so don’t worry.
i realise this extra long review barely even talks about the movie, but i love it, and i’ll put it this way: if i owned a cinema this would be the movie i’d show every friday at midnight. frankly, it’s one of those movies that you just have to love for what it is: it’s fun. it’s really fun. watch it.

– Connor

(DISCLAIMER: ALEX, DON’T WATCH IT)