Saturday, 28 December 2013

Best of 2013- The Last of Us

So I caved in a bought a Playstation 3 back in September. After sticking with the Xbox 360 and suffering two bouts of the “Red Rings of Death”, I came to the realisation that it was probably the best time to experience what Sony had to offer. With the “next-generation” of consoles around the corner, they perfectly ended with The Last of Us. I’d always been jealous of Sony’s lineup and its exclusives. The likes of Gears of War and Halo had originally attracted me to Microsoft’s console, but their exclusives had steadily been in decline over the last 3 years. My jealousy spawned from one studio in particular, Naughty Dog. 

Naughty Dog has always shown a creative and impressive side to every element of their games. Whether it be story, characters, environments, graphics or gameplay, there’s a distinct attention to detail that remains consistent throughout. From Crash Bandicoot back on the Playstation to Uncharted 3, they have remained at the forefront of both Sony and the gaming industry in general. The Last of Us represented a thematic departure as they ventured into a more mature and horror orientated project. Set in a post-apocalyptic USA that has been devastated by a fungal virus, the game follows Joel, a gruff and tragedy stricken soul as he has to escort Ellie, a 14-year old orphan who may hold the key to a cure, to a resistance group known as the Fireflies.

This isn’t necessarily a complex story, but one that focuses on the development of characters, both between their interactions with others and within dynamic changes in circumstances and the environment . The game doesn’t feel the need to drown the player with exposition about the cause of the disease, or the immediate stages of the apocalypse, instead it paints its picture through Joel and Ellie eyes and the remnants and testimonies of other survivors. The story’s pacing is immaculate, understanding when a certain atmosphere or “scene” should linger. Every chapter isn’t seen as a desperate need to impress with constant action and twists and turns. Subtly is key and Naughty Dog handles it perfectly while providing some of the most emotionally powerful scenes I’ve experienced both in film and the gaming industry for a long time. 

While the story is superbly well-written, it’s the characters that really stand out. 2013 really demonstrated both the importance and rewards of having strong characters. Bioshock Infinite, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Tomb Raider all portrayed their games specifically through the eyes of the protagonists, and managed to build a real emotional connection with the player. Having spent all her life amidst the apocalypse, Ellie’s character is alien to the concept of human life before the infection. Whether it be the sight of an ice-cream truck or an arcade machine, there’s an innocence but underlying tragedy as she tries to imagine a former civilisation. She’s a believable and endearing personality, not one that needs their hand to be held, but not someone oblivious to the horrors and acts that are occurring around her. It’s a perfect balance that works well in connection with Joel, and in the context of the story. 

As an actual game, The Last of Us continues Naughty Dog’s strict attention to detail. Uncharted 2 set the bar on “next-gen” graphics, and still remains impressive 4 years after its release. Since then the studio has embarked on a mission to further showcase the limits of Playstation hardware, and it’s fair to say they have succeeded. Like the game’s refreshing approach to the apocalypse setting, Last of Us’s colour palette is vivid and expansive. The emphasis on the overgrowth vegetation, the changing seasons and the sense of abandonment encapsulates the studio’s philosophy of visually telling a story and creating an distinct atmosphere. The A.I., while spotty for Ellie, is unflinching in its portrayal of a desperate and hostile society. Enemies regularly flank, and realistically react to changing situations causing firefights to be a test of anxious conservation of ammo and tactical awareness. The combat is visceral, violent and uncompromising. While crowds cheered at the Sony Press Conference in 2012 as Joel slammed a guy’s head into a desk and shotgunned another’s face off, the game is unrelenting in it’s depiction of survival and demise. Whether it be escaping the clutches of a ‘clicker’ or witnessing a public execution, The Last of Us paints a fearful image of humanity’s descent into violence and remorselessness.  

The Last of Us provided a fine end to the Playstation 3’s cycle.  As a film fan, it’s a visually stunning and incredible piece of storytelling, a persistent area of criticism by those of don’t truly understand the merits of the gaming industry. As a game, it’s an intense and gripping culmination of versatile mechanics and an unbelievable sense of immersion. Naughty Dog has created something that will undoubtably be remembered for decades to come, and has provided an experience that, while sounding cheesy, truly accentuates our “take for granted” lifestyles. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Best of 2013- Kurt Vile's "Wakin On A Pretty Daze"

Smoke Ring For My Halo was my favourite album of 2011. Since then Kurt Vile has steadily climbed up my “Favourite Artists” list and has gained attention of many, to the point of getting honoured by Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia with his own “Kurt Vile Day”. Therefore his fifth studio album was one that I was particularly looking forward to. 

Vile’s genre and style is a difficult one to fully define. He himself finds it challenging to name the key artists that have inspired him. Yet his work is never far from the term “psychedelic” , and is usually followed with nods to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. In my own unsophisticated words Vile’s music is a mixture of hard-hitting accents and rhythmically enticing uses of finger-picked acoustic notes, i.e. folky, rocky, psychedelic bliss (?)

Wakin On A Pretty Daze is a mild departure from the pure yet low-fi tones of his previous works. What’s particularly apparent about this album is the looser composition of each song’s multiplicity of melodies. Calling it a succession of tuneful montages would be a simplistic and offensive analysis, as each individual track is composed of tight progressions, segments and tones. The 8-minute opening track “Wakin On A Pretty Daze” is a good example of Vile’s vivid pursuit for the “perfect song”. A series of heavy acoustic chords enhanced by his traditional finger-picking, solos and inventiveness that perfectly blend into a meditative yet invigorating experience. 

But Vile’s musical understanding and application has the capacity to let a simple set of chords resonate throughout an entire piece. “KV Crimes’” punchy guitar and vigorous solos harken back to his blue-collar, lo-fi, classic roots. Meanwhile “Was All Talk”s finger-picking arrangement with a striding drum-beat suits the newly enlisted synth undercurrents perfectly. 

Wakin On A Pretty Daze is one of my favourite albums of 2013. While at times it feels slightly over-produced and lyrically uninteresting, Vile’s consistent and persistent strive for intricately balanced and fulfilling songs is one that never seizes to impress. Mirroring the title, this is an album that has a meditative and mystic charm that lasts well after its solid runtime. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Favourite Film and TV Characters: B.M.O

While not the first choice for many Adventure Time fans, B.M.O is one character that I myself don’t fully understand my own fondness for. After only watching the cartoon series for the last couple of months I’ve already become somewhat addicted to its bizarre and outright wacky concept of animated comedy. Comparisons have often been drawn to the likes of Ren and Stimpy and Courage the Cowardly Dog, and it’s fair to see why. While Adventure Time definitely plays it more child-friendly and whimsical in tone, the show’s creator Pendleton Ward doesn’t cower away from exploring some of his more eccentric and vivid sentiment and imagery. 

The entire show has a barrage of insanely “unique” and hilarious characters that cater for a wide audience. From Jake the Dog, a talking canine voiced by John DiMaggio who can manipulate his body into different shapes, to Lemongrab, an immensely creepy “experiment gone wrong” with a lemon for a head and a tendency to scream, Adventure Time isn’t short on variety. Yet amongst the craziness of it all, B.M.O has always stood out. While not a lead character per say, B.M.O manages to create an instantaneous connection even with his/her limited screen presence. 

Following on from the show’s surrealistic and “imaginative” entirety, B.M.O is a cross between a Gameboy and the original Macintosh. He/she (its gender is unknown) is Finn and Jake’s “living video game console, portable electrical outlet, music player, roommate, camera, alarm clock, toaster, flashlight, strobe light, skateboarder, friend, soccer player, video editor and video player”. There’s a joy to simply watching B.M.O walk into a room on its adorable little legs, or doing a kick-flip on a skateboard. Maybe it’s the notion that amongst candy people, walking mudfish and a psychotic heart voiced by George Takei, there’s a walking/talking/singing Gameboy that plays Abraham Lincoln Football on the screen. 
Personality-wise, B.M.O is a difficult one to summarise. Naturally protective of Finn and Jake, there’s a childlike wonder to its interactions and understanding of “normal” behaviour.  He/she regularly sings about emotions and human experiences such as friendship and pregnancy, offering a Pinocchio parallel. It regularly speaks to its reflection, known as Football, and teaches it the joys of real life. Yet it has some rather sinister motivations in certain instances. The simplistic yet precise animation of B.M.O’s body language and facial expressions goes a long way in adding further charisma and charm to the character. From its bouts of happiness to its scepticism over Jake and Finn’s intentions, B.M.O constantly shifts its personality but manages to remain enthralling throughout.

One particular episode sees B.M.O investigate the whereabouts of Finn’s sock. Not an interesting plot on a basic level. But with Ward’s twist of it being a 1950’s crime noire story animated in black and white, its a really bizarre and interesting look into B.M.O psyche. B.M.O narrates the entire episode and this highlights one feature of the character I can undoubtably justify, it’s voice. A lot of my love for B.M.O rests on its voice. Niki Yang, who also plays the Korean speaking Lady Rainicorn, offers a charming and rather cute personality to B.M.O. Whether it’s the “Engrish” nature of her accent or the fact that the character itself isn’t too sure on what’s going on, Yang brings an endearing quality. The line “B.M.O Chop. If this were a real attack, you would be dead”, is spurred at the most random timing, like many of her appearances, yet still manages to stick in the brain. 

While I keep hammering the essential notions of a true “character”, both in this feature and in my reviews, B.M.O is an odd exception to the “laws” of that criteria. It, like many of the show’s components, isn’t fully explained and honestly doesn’t need to be. While many have tried to read into the sketchy and convoluted question of B.M.O’s gender and feminism, what’s wrong with taking something at face value. B.M.O isn’t your typical animated character, and nor should he/she be. If character design or voice-acting has the capability to gain your attention and subsequent affection, then that’s enough for me to appreciate that individual. I genuinely want a real-life BMO. That’s not sad is it? -_-

Friday, 29 November 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: A Predictable Letdown

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D launched on Channel 4 back in September. After the show’s pilot managed to acquire an opening figure of 3.1 million viewers, recent statistics had seen its audience halve after only 3 episodes. But is this a surprise?  

Marvel’s The Avengers or Avengers Assemble smashed the box-office back in 2012 and brought back some solidarity to the Marvel Universe’s rather hit and miss “filmography”. Proving both to be a financial success and an enjoyable film, Joss Whedon managed to carve out the team dynamic, whilst also developing them as individuals. Its success has seen a substantial growth in Marvel’s audience and expectation both towards the comic book culture and their new cinematic endeavours. 

The fact that they had decided to continue the franchise via a TV series had always puzzled me. I guess why stop at films and comic books when television has found its modern calling and major audience. But to make a series about S.H.I.E.L.D is one that has the potential to go into different paths, to expand Marvel’s Universe and continue to construct the Avengers mythos. From a comic book perceptive, S.H.I.E.L.D has always been an interesting organisation. While I can’t declare myself as a comic expert, Nick Fury, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye’s narratives have all hinted or explained a varied picture of S.H.I.E.L.D. What are it’s true intensions? Secrets? Who’s genuinely in charge? What are it’s diplomatic and “worldly” limits? There’s an X-Files or Torchwood quality that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D could have utilised. Whether it would be to unfold its ulterior motives or simply introduce new superheroes, there is already a wealth of television that has similar traits and narrative structures to be inspired by. But after watching every episode so far, the series has failed to really employ it’s material and resources into any genuine quality. 

One area that has remained a persistent blight on the Marvel Universe is Agent Phil Coulson. While many have heralded him with cult status, I don’t quite understand it. If it’s his charming personality, I’m not seeing it. Is it because he’s funny? To me his character always ruined the tone that a particular scene was attempting to portray. His dry smile and monotone deliver may fulfil the shallow notions of a “secret-agent”, but in all honesty there isn’t anything remotely interesting about him that justifies his popularity.  And when a lead character has initially left a sour impression, there isn’t much hope for 6/7 episodes of him.

This problem doesn’t stop at Coulson. Simply put, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is void of any absorbing characters. Whether it be the cliched, Scottish tech guy, or the stern, tough dude there’s a blasé attitude to the show’s idea of a “team”. If you’ve read any of my reviews then you will have noticed my emphasis on creating interesting, engaging and realistic characters. Both a film and especially a TV series rely on creating a thread between the audience and those personalities on the screen. In terms of a TV series, the dynamic remains largely the same but over a differing timescale. For example; Heroes accomplished this challenge perfectly. It carefully crafted a varied and interesting bunch of 12 leads and threw them into a set of new situations and exposed them to certain circumstances. It understood the limits of it’s budget and it’s overall scale/ capacity. Yet it had the necessary narrative elements to encourage persistent character development. S.H.I.E.L.D has neither the engaging, intense plot or the sheer presence in its performances to achieve those sorts of results. In a very blunt statement, if that crucial connection between the audience and the team isn’t developing within 2/3 episodes, then you’re going to struggle to maintain interest. 
Another gripe revolves around the show’s tone. Marvel had managed to regain an essence of seriousness back into its franchise, while maintaining an undercurrent of humour. Yet Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D suffers from a conflicted disposition. Marketed as a sophisticated and “exhilarating” look into the secret organisation, it’s been nothing but lame one-liners, cheesy dialogue and a haze of monotony. There are moments when the show achieves some of its intended serious notes, whether that be an action sequence or an intense negotiation. But there’s an incessant need for some smug remarks to soil those brief glimmers of something good. 

This lack of balance unfortunately affects each episodes’ stories. With only Coulson’s “hazy past” after his death in The Avengers acting as the bridge through the series, the thought would be that they would have the manoeuvring space to flesh out individual plots.  A great example is The X-Files, more precisely its one-off cases. While it constantly got sidetracked by the whole Mulder’s sister/ Scully abduction narrative, the series had a great understanding of writing unique and intense stories that both focused on the main duo and the bizarre events that transpired. S.H.I.E.L.D attempts to mimic this, but in a rather superficial capacity. Episodes feel redundant and the lack of creativity is bewildering under the circumstances. I can understand the budgetary pain of cameos or introducing some of Marvel’s other characters, but everything is far too narrowed and centred on the “Battle of New York”. Logically it’s an understandable concept, but S.H.I.E.L.D shouldn’t simply be portrayed as just a “clean up team”. 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D had definite potential, without a doubt. But the manner in which creator Joss Whedon and the various TV Studios have taken has been rather questionable and disappointing. With a wealth of material, characters and story-lines available from S.H.I.E.L.D’s comic book roots, it’s a shame that some of that creativity couldn’t have transferred into a fully-fledged TV series. Yes the visuals are impressive and the production design is stellar, but those can’t measure up to the superficial nature of the show. Terrible characters, and tired, uninteresting stories bring a barrage of questions over its intended purpose, outside financial gain. There’s nothing here that screams second season and on the basis of viewing statistics, I’m struggling to see the benefits of another. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: Gravity

This week: I review/ waffle  Alfonso Cuaron's latest sci-fi thriller Gravity. Has his time away from the director's chair further developed his grasp on thematic and visually stunning story-telling? And is it worth paying extra for 3D? 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Game Review: Batman Arkham Origins

This week, Nick and Jack give their thoughts on the third instalment of the "Arkham" franchise. Does this build on the stellar nature of the previous two? Or is it suffering from a lack of innovation? 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: Captain Phillips

This week, I review Paul Greengrass' latest film Captain Phillips. Does he successfully manage to translate the extraordinary and intense events of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009 onto screen?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Things A "Movie Lover" Collects: Statues/ Figures

A very recent and expensive voyage I’ve taken has been into the world of overly priced and highly addictive action figures and statues. Namely Hot Toys and Sideshow, my unfortunate obsession with the Marvel Femme Fatale ‘Black Widow’ and the LiveForFilm website brought them to my attention after their Avengers line had been announced. Hot Toys, a Hong Kong based company, specialises in 1/6th and 1/4th representations of iconic and recent film characters. Acquiring film licences such as The Dark Knight, Predator and The Avengers, the end result has been a stream of specularly recreated figures that are simply works of art. From the headsculpts and costumes to the buckles on their footwear, Hot Toys’ artists/ craftsmen spend an incredible amount of time and effort to implement these intricate details and screen accuracies: 

On the other hand Sideshow, an American distributor of Hot Toys, has also made a name for itself through their foray into 1/4 scale statues. Similarly attaining licences from Iron Man, Star Wars and actual comic books, they have produced an impressive breadth of highly detailed and well crafted representations. With prices ranging from £200-500, my collection only comprises of Black Widow from Iron Man 2, obviously:

I myself had always had an apprehensive train of thought towards the idea of collecting statues and figures. Back in the good old days Star Wars was the craze with the re-releases in the cinemas. Naturally my brother and I collected the figures, sets and ships that are all currently presiding in the attic. Gundam Wing and Totoro Plushes increased with my exposure to my Japanese roots, but the thought of spending £155 on a “toy” never crossed my mind. But are they worth it? Some people collect these things as an “investment”, and while I stand to make a tidy sum if I were to sell them, to me their simply works of art created by fans and enthusiasts of films and cinema. I love the characters and, for the most part, the films. While the likes of Sucker Punch and The Spirit were absolutely terrible, their costume designs and visual look always appealed.  A larger percentage of my collection surrounds The Avengers, primarily because of their creative and unique designs. Whether it’s Captain America’s iconic red/white/blue design, to Iron Man’s impressive stature, there’s a joy in gazing upon each figure and changing their poses. 

In a cynical light, the hobby could be labelled as glorified ‘doll collecting’, but after spending a lot and time staring/ displaying them, I can’t help but appreciate these as a near-perfect, artistic and physical representations of beloved film characters. Like the rise of vinyl toys, these optimise the new pop-cultural nature of "art" in general. Mind you, my wallet is crying. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Update on the Blog and Podcast

Hey Guys. Just a little update about what's going on with the podcast and the blog. On this episode I just talk about stuff I've managed to see, play and ermmmm....remember? 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Things A "Movie Lover" Collects: Posters

It’s kind of strange that it wasn’t until I was 17 that movie posters became a huge deal. To be honest, up until that point my room was a barren space populated by a desk, bed, wardrobe and bookshelves. My walls had a number of music and swimming certificates and the odd poster of Keeley Hazell. Frankly the idea of “collecting” hadn’t escaped rocks or random trinkets, meanwhile my general notion of film and cinema was rather woeful. However over the last 5 years, especially and strangely during my time at university, I’ve accrued a wide number of different screen-prints, movie posters, comic-art and bus shelter ads. 

My first official film poster was this: 

My Neighbour Totoro remains an all-time favourite film. But instead of simply acquiring a crappy copy of the original movie poster, I decided to look on eBay, another recent craze of mine. While not an original piece of art (I wish), the poster depicts the original designs of the characters (as found in the Art Book). I don’t believe I’ve actually seen one like this anywhere, so I’m guessing it’s pretty rare. Even though Mei’s name is spelt wrong, it’s still an amazing piece that captures the unique creativity and charm of Miyazaki’s work. I have a similar styled poster for Laputa: Castle in the Sky. 

My second year of University saw my craze with covering walls step up a notch. This time it was screen-prints. With the release of Scott Pilgrim I sank into an embarrassing obsession with the comic and the film, to the point that I start to dress like him; the Parka, Adidas Superstars II, and the Smashing Pumpkins’ T-shirt. In hindsight, Scott Pilgrim kickstarted my voyage into comic books and its associated culture. The result was me managing to scoop up a limited edition print from the highly talented artist Kevin Tong (check his work out). Limited to 600, I absolutely love this print and was quite fortunate in acquiring it. 

Those familiar with film merchandise or film posters will have undoubtably heard of Mondo. Based in Austin, Texas, Mondo has become the epitome of film art and more importantly continues to showcase the revival of film posters being celebrated as a genre of art. Artists like Ken Taylor, Olly Moss and Tyler Stout have introduced their incredible designs, composition and artistic skills to create fascinating and highly sought after pieces that take influence from great artists such as Reynold Brown and Drew Struzan. The sheer success and popularity of Mondo has led to an epic rush at the sight of a new poster. Initially costing customers $40, prints sellout in a matter of seconds. The downside of these ‘limited’ runs is that scumbags start selling them on afterward at extreme prices on eBay. I’ve managed to acquire two; Olly Moss’s Black Widow and Kevin Tong/ Bryan O’Malley’s Battle Royale. Both illustrate different approaches to film posters and the varied nature of the art. I should brag that these are currently worth 6 times their original price tag. A bit of an investment me thinks. 

Recently I collected a number of “Bus Shelter” ads. My male tendencies are at the heart of this. None are particularly based on films, but rather actresses I have a crush on; Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence. Not much to say, but there’s something quite satisfying (or weird) in having a 160cm tall Scarlett Johansson on your wall.  

So there’s a quick run-through of my obsession with film posters. I have a number of other pieces of memorabilia that I’ll be showcasing/ showing off in the next coming weeks. Apologies for the constantly changing nature of my articles.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Nick's Top Ten Bond Films (Part 2)

5. Goldeneye 

Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond definitely reignited the franchise after a longer than expected hiatus. Removing the violence and dark tones of Licence to Kill, the film continued with the action packed direction of Bond with a brilliant tank chase around St Petersburg and the exhilarating finale in Cuba. With a great support cast including the trademark Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyn, Famke Janssen as the femme fatale Xenia Onatopp and Alan “I am invincible” Cummings as Boris, Goldeneye has remained a huge part of my childhood. I also particularly like the chemistry between Q and Bond in this film, with the line “Don’t touch that, that’s my lunch” being a favourite line of mine. All in all Brosnans’ Bond debut was his best.  

4.  Licence to Kill 

With the campiness of the Roger Moore Bond series in the past it was refreshing to see a grittier and serious Bond, as composed in Ian Fleming’s writing. Personally, Timothy Dalton is my favourite Bond of all time and it’s unfortunate that he only appeared in two films. Looking back, I believe he was probably ahead of his time and the mainstream audience didn’t really adapt to the sudden change in tone and persona. But I could easily see him perfectly fit in with the current era of Bond and the modern espionage genre. The film itself typifies the modern gritty nature of Daltons’ Bond with it’s violence and stern demeanour.  Many fans complained about the amount of violence in the film, however as Fleming stated the books weren’t made for schoolchildren but for an adult audience. Along with the dark tone it has some brilliant action scenes, with the final truck scene being the most memorable. It also has a pretty awesome villain in the form of Sanchez played by Robert Davi, and not forgetting a young Benico del Toro. 

3. Living Daylights 

Even before this film was released many fans and critics were writing off Dalton as the new Bond. Yet it had become increasingly evident that the franchise was faulting under it’s general campiness and an ageing Roger Moore. Dalton came in with a new, reinvigorated approach to the icon with Living Daylights, and he nailed it. A truly fantastic debut performance enhanced a well-written film containing another one of my favourite car scenes involving the return of Aston Martin in form of the beautiful Vantage. From the film’s opening in Gibraltar to the brawl on the back of a Hercules plane, Daylights is an intense and highly enjoyable.The film also has another one of the more stand out Bond girls Kara Milovy played by Maryam d’Abo who, like Eva Green and Jane Seymour, has more of a purpose than simply eye candy. My only problem with this film is that the major villains General Koskov and Brad Whittaker are not sinister or threatening enough to really be remembered, they seem rather jokey than serious. 

2. Goldfinger 

Most people you ask would say this is quintessentially the film that made the James Bond series. From the memorable characters of Goldfinger, Pussy Galore and Oddjob to the Aston Martin DB5 and Shirley Basseys’ booming opening, Goldfinger oozed style and character. With Connery at his peak as Bond I don’t think I need to say much more… but it isn’t my number one. 

1. Casino Royale (2006) 

With “Casino Royale” being Fleming’s first Bond novel, it was the perfect platform for Daniel Craig to make his mark as James Bond and to reboot the franchise after the terrible Die Another Day. Daniel Craig revived the serious and grittier side of Bond following on from where Dalton left off, which was the right way to go with the changing nature of the modern “action film”. The film captured the quintessentially notions of a true Bond film; intense action scenes, exotic locations, a memorable villain, a gorgeous Bond girl and the suaveness and style of Bond. Yet the hallmarks of a very modern imagining of the character and franchise are present. A versatile and charming Eva Green managed to reignite the need for a key chemistry between Bond and his lover. This is perfectly handled when the two  are conversing about the mission on the train to Montenegro. Their rapport also produces most of the humorous aspects within the film as well as showing both characters’ vulnerability. The pacing, editing, score and production values have pushed the franchise back into the limelight, and while I hated Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, it’s good to see people getting back into the spirit of “Bond”. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Give Ryan Gosling Some Lines, Please.

Ryan Gosling’s popularity has exploded ever since the 2004‘s lovey-dubey/schlock-fest The Notebook, yet one thing has become evidently clear; he’s a man of few words. While some may demote his career and popularity to his good looks, I think Gosling is a genuinely talented actor with “good looks”. But after the likes of Drive, The Place Beyond The Pines and Only God Forgives his performances have been summarised by his blank stares and frustrating muteness. I understand that the writers/ directors intend this as an artistic portrayal of character development, but I’m not seeing it 100%. Sure, if you read into the film as an entirety; the supporting characters, story and dialogue (what little there is), you could conclude on the rather stale constructions of his various characters. But a script goes a long way to bring personality and emotional attachment to the individual. 

The Ides of March, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl and Blue Valentine demonstrate that Gosling understands and is fully capable of giving a decent performance. Lars is a thought provoking film that remains distinctly innocent and endearing even with its rather strange nature. Here he plays a socially awkward yet charming man who develops a romantic relationship with a sex doll. His delicate psychology lead to the local community  accepting “her”, in turn building their own relationships with her. As creepy as that sounds, Gosling’s character is central to the film’s success. In hindsight, his performance is in stark contrast to his recent form and roles. Playing a socially inept individual, he really drives the fragile and timid nature of his character home. The film actually spends a lot of emphasis and time on Lar’s development as an individual within the context of his relationship both with the doll named Bianca, his family and the locals. The struggles of his past, especially with his father, also are reflected in Gosling’s strong performance.  He got nominated for a Golden Globe and for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role as Lars, yet it’s slightly disheartened to hear that hardly anyone has seen the film. 

In contrast Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film, stars Gosling as a Thai boxing coach/ drug dealer caught in the middle of his mother’s violent search for justice. Suffering from being more “style over substance”, Gosling’s role in the film is just frustrating. While Drive teated on the edge between tedium and understanding with the long pauses and awkward stares, the film managed to still created an interesting side to “The Driver”. Only God Forgives on the other hand, fails to do anything remotely engaging as a whole. The basic sense of empathy is there for his situation, but there’s little to talk about in regards to his performance. With the lack of any real dialogue in the film’s first 15 minutes how are we supposed to connect to his character? 

Ryan Gosling’s popularity has stemmed from his confidence on screen and undoubtably his good looks. But seeing him in a more “independent circle”, has shown that he is a capable performer. While he is planning a hiatus from acting to get behind the camera, I still believe he has the capacity to become something more than a attractive dude with a blank stare. So I plead to the film industry, give Mr Gosling some more lines. I don’t even mind if he hasn’t got a shirt on, as long as he’s saying something. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Nick's Top Ten Bond Films List (Part 1)

When anyone mentions the name “James Bond” the first thought in my mind is not the iconic lines, the action packed scenes, the gadgets or even the many Bond girls. Instead I reminisce about my Dad recording all the old Sean Connery and Roger Moore films shown on late night terrestrial television on VHS every week for me and brother to watch. As a kid, each and every Bond film I watched was a mesmerising and exhilarating experience that really captured my imagination. This early fixation elevated Bond above the likes of Star Wars and it soon became my favourite series of films of all time. However by the time I was a teenager and after seeing The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, I came to realised not all was what it previously seemed. In addition to watching the endless reruns on the Sky 007 channel, including the 1967 version of Casino Royale and the Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again, there are definitely some films in the series that are much better than others. Therefore I have decided to pick my personal “Top Ten James Bond Films”.

Now before everyone shoots me down I would like to explain why Skyfall, which won praises from critics and fans alike last year, does not make my personal top ten. First of all the plot is essentially just a mash up of narrative elements from other films. The NOC List from Mission Impossible, the makeshift defences of Home Alone and various elements from it’s own franchise which leaves the film rather unoriginal and uninspired. This then leads on to one of my main problems with Skyfall which is that it isn’t really a James Bond film. Instead it delves into the tedious relationship between Bond and M. In fact, Skyfall is more an M film than anything which unfortunately ruins the quintessential essence of Bond and the franchise, similar to my thoughts of The Dark Knight. Furthermore the likes of Naomie Harris as Ms Moneypenny and Bérénice Marlohe fail in their roles as “Bond Girls”. Lacking both screen-time and chemistry with Daniel Craig, neither gave a memorable or charming performance. Oh and don’t get me started on Adele’s theme song, let’s just say even I can rhyme every last word.  

10:  Dr No 

The first James Bond film in the franchise and the first appearance of Sean Connery would probably not make most people’s “Top 10 Bond list”. The main villain Dr No is shortsighted and the film suffers from inconstant pacing. But we mustn’t overlook that the film brought us such memorable lines as “Bond, James Bond” and “Shaken not stirred”. The film plays very much into Ian Fleming’s original style of writing in the franchise. The exotic locations, the beautiful women and martini’s are all played out in a rather tense story of espionage and intrigue.

9: Live and Let Die 

As I previously stated I don’t like Roger Moore’s portrayal of James Bond; camp, unfunny and his over-reliance on gadgets. He isn’t ruthless or brutal enough to be the cold hearted and promiscuous character that is James Bond. However his debut film did have some positive elements including a great set of vehicle chases; the motorboat and the bus. It also has some notable henchman in the form of Tee Hee with his pincer arm and the immortal Baron Samedi with his sinister laugh, which made up for the rather average nature of Dr Kananga / Dr Big as the main villain. In addition Jane Seymour as Solitaire is one of the more beautiful Bond girls and thankfully has some semblance of purpose, other than eye candy in the film. 

8: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 

Okay, I admit George Lazenby is probably the worst actor ever to play James Bond in history, though Roger Moore is only marginally ahead of him. But the great story and the performances by Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas make up for Lazenby’s weak performance. I particularly like the decision to make Savalas a more serious and threatening portrayal of Blofeld instead of Donald Pleasence’s dubious one. Along with the beautiful settings of Switzerland and the heart-breaking ending, this was a Bond film that left an endearing impression. 

7: From Russia with Love 

The second film in the franchise introduced us to some of the most recognisable and ubiquitous characters including Desmond Llewelyn’s Q and Bonds’ main arch villain Blofeld. More importantly it launched the notion of  “henchman” into the Bond series with Red Grant, played brilliantly by Robert Shaw. His confrontation with Bond is one of the more intense fight scenes any of the Bond films. From Russia also builds up more of the humour and suaveness from Dr No which is a result of Connery growing into the role. We are also introduced to the first Bond gadgets in the form of the attache case with the compact sniper rifle. From Russia arguably became the film that sparked the audiences’ appreciation for what made a true Bond film. GoldFinger would come to reinforce and personify this. 

6. Tomorrow Never Dies 

The second Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan definitely carried on from where Goldeneye left off. Though the “Murdochian” villain’s plot of starting a war between China and Britain just to gain first media coverage is quite stupid and unrealistic, the film still has its highlights. One of which is the Bond girl portrayed by the excellent Michelle Yeoh. Here she’s a much more serious supporting character that manages to match James Bond’s wits and expertise. In addition it includes the remote control car which produces one of my favourite Bond car set pieces as well as the one Bond villain that always brings a smile to my face, Dr Kaufman, with the best line “Did you call the Auto Club?”    


Saturday, 10 August 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: Only God Forgives

This week: Jack and Nick review Nicolas Winding Refn's new film Only God Forgives. But it soon becomes apparent that they've got differing opinions, and some angry ones. 

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: The World's End

This week: Jack and Nick delve into the final instalment of the "Cornetto Trilogy". We argue, f**k up references, and waffle about stuff in our usual incoherent manner. But is The World's End a satisfying ending to Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's hilarious series?

Favourite Film and TV Characters: Jaw's Matt Hooper

When thinking about characters in Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws, many would instantaneously reminisce about Robert Shaw’s Quint. But for me Richard Dreyfuss’s performance as Matt Hooper really captures my love for the film. Jaws is undoubtably an all-time classic and would easily find its way on my Top 5 list, and that’s mainly down to the film’s characters. Even with my strong interest in sharks from my childhood, it was the interactions and contrasting personalities that really attracted me to the film. The three leads present a set of unique and memorable characters that, through the course of the film, form strong relationships and converse in “charming” exchanges. 

Hooper for me, manages to stand out amidst the sheer presence of Robert Shaw’s sublime performance. Sure he doesn’t have the quotable qualities and iconic appearance, but it’s his reactions and mentality to the events that occur that really makes him an engaging character. From his smile to his witty banter, there’s an undeniable charm that resonates and adds humanity into the terror that ensues. To be honest other than Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl, I’ve never seen much of Dreyfuss’s other work. While these are arguably his most successful films, I’ve never really followed his career until seeing the dreadful Piranha 3D. That being said, from my limited viewing he always leaves a strong impression. His challenging performance in Close Encounters proved his commitment to a role, and that’s no different here in Jaws. 

Hooper’s introduction into the film is perfect. Amongst the hustle and bustle of fisherman trying to claim the bounty on the shark, there stands Hooper wearing a denim jacket trying to make sense of all the commotion. He’s presented as though he’s the “saviour” of Amity Island, even though nobody can quite quantify it. He also remains the only sane person throughout the first two acts of the film. And therefore there’s an immediately absorbing quality to his character. Additionally Dreyfuss and Spielberg thankfully didn’t simplify Hooper to fill the role of the comedic relief. On the sea, his focus and determination show his understanding of the environment and psychology. What's particularly fascinating about him is the undercurrent of contrast that dynamically makes his entire character. His rugged appearance hides his academic and wealthy background that Quint immediately questions/discredits. The early respect for Brody is flipped when they set sail to kill the shark, as he witnesses his incompetence. His changing attitude to Quint as they share stories starts to show the competition/ similarities between the two. These moulding components speak a lot for Spielbergs’ direction and Dreyfuss's exploration of the character.

Likewise, Hooper’s tone towards the rising body count is somewhat clouded by his love for sharks. And that’s a very interesting facet to him. His to-and-fro mentality throughout the course of the film, sees him constantly shift from “Wow, this is incredible” to “Oh crap, we’re going to die!”. Even with his light-hearted approach to the situation in hand, this never distracts from the film’s construction of tension, but rather enhances it. When the shark expert starts to loose his nerve, then you know for sure that the situation is bad.  

My favourite scene follows Brody and Hooper trying to convince Major Larry Vaughan to close the beaches after their discovery. Their attempts to warn him of an impending catastrophe are futile as  Hooper perfectly says “I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU ON THE ASS!”. I have a huge grin every single time I watch that moment.

Jaws will always remain a personal favourite. For all the sniggering at the sight of a shark jumping on the backend of a boat, the film still manages to leave a lasting impression. Its premise, its writing, its score and its characters all culminate in a film that’s had a huge impact of many people’s childhood, cinema experiences and exposure to sharks (an unfortunate one during the time of the film’s release). If I’d have been cheap, I would have simply stuck the three leads together because of the fantastic chemistry and “bromance” between them. But narrowing it down, Hooper’s charming and humorous charisma just resonates with me more on a personal level and is one taps into my “inner child” as a shark-lover. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: Pacific Rim (Spoiler Alert)

This week Jack and Nick frantically argue about Pacific Rim or "Robots Vs Monsters". Does it fulfil childhood fantasies? Or is it a giant mess of averageness? 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Thank You Ryan Davis

Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis passed away at the age of 34. I never personally knew Ryan, but I, like the entirety of the Giant Bomb Community, felt like I did. His stories, opinions and bellowing laugh provided years of entertainment that will never be forgotten and will continue to be cherished. In this "mini-podcast" I offer my thoughts on an amazing individual who inspired this podcast, and reignited my love in gaming. 

My condolences and sympathy go out to his family, friends and co-workers.

Thank you Ryan Davis.

Monday, 8 July 2013

RespawningCouch Podcast: Audio Review: A Field in England

After much delay I finally get round to reviewing a film, emphasis on the "review". This time I attempt to make sense of Ben Wheatley's A Field in England whilst dealing with extreme temperatures and hay-fever. Apologies for the "allover" nature of the review, which ironically mirrors the film. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cinema Reviews (?)

I graduated from the University of Nottingham back in 2012. A year on and I’ve not really matured from the laid-back student of those good old times. My current and temporary job, until next year when I’ll be flying off to Japan, is that I’m a “Sales Assistant” for a fairly well-known High Street store in the UK. My job focusses on this idea of “Consumer Satisfaction” and we’re essentially brainwashed into seeing everything through the eyes of the customer. Over the numerous months I’ve been working there, I’ve come to view the retail world in a rather more critical/cynical manner. From crappy service at Tesco, to awesome discussions at Jumbo Records, I arguably now take this rather too seriously. You may be thinking “Jack even more critical? That’s not possible” and “What has this got to do with films and stuff?”. 

Well, with ticket prices going through the roof I feel that cinemas need to up their game on the “cinema experience”. I’m not talking about IMAX or 3D, but rather the atmosphere, staff, film diversity and general quality. With the film industry struggling to attract a consistent base of customers, I’ve unfortunately seen numerous cinemas close down. My earliest memories of films in general came from childhood birthday parties and Friday evenings. After a meal at Pizza Hut, we’d simply go to our local cinema and watch everything from Batman and Robin to Toy Story. I’m still an strong advocate for going to the cinema and spending the £6 to see Jaws even when its on ITV4 every-week. The giant screen, the loud sound system, a pint in one hand (in selected theatres) and a bag of popcorn in the other, there’s something quintessentially satisfying when watching The Avengers or Hot Fuzz in a packed audience. 

But after the collapse of common courtesy and general manners in regards to both members of staff and as a customer, it’s increasingly become a frustrating affair which distracts from the actual film. Even if I’ve seen the greatest film ever made, I still have this nagging sensation in the back of my head that remembers the uncomfortable seats or the irritating smugness of staff.  I’ve been to the UK’s smallest cinema to the barrage of multiplexes that occupy our ring roads and retail parks. All range in prices, size and more importantly quality.  Lousy service at ticket desks, or amazing Q&A sessions with directors and actors, leave strong and lasting impressions on that particular cinema. I’ve come to expect a lot more now from cinemas and so too do many others. 

Over the next “few” blog posts I intend to share my thoughts on the cinemas I’ve visited from York to Japan. A “Review of Cinemas”, you could say. This may sound like a rather mundane and questionable excuse to post actually content on this blog, but with my wallet increasingly questioning VALUE and some lousy cinema experiences, I’d thought it might be interesting to put fingers to keyboard. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Man of Steel Review

I’ll admit the superhero genre is getting out of control, and I share the same views of many film critics that it’s starting to ruin the medium. I loved The Avengers and The Dark Knight Trilogy, but when I see the upcoming likes of Thor 2, The Wolverine, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Captain America 2, The Avengers 2 and a multitude of others, it’s very distressing. A new Superman film was therefore always in the works after the failure of Superman Returns and with the recent profitable nature of Batman and the various Marvel’s assets. I had no problem with that up until Zack Snyder was attached to the project. His last film Sucker Punch didn’t provide justification for why Warner Brothers or DC would hand over such an influential and important comic-book franchise over to Snyder. So, does Snyder finally find his A-Game?

The film follows the origins of Superman, the ‘Man of Steel’. Krypton is in imminent, planetary danger as its core goes haywire. Meanwhile General Zod attempts a coup on Krypton’s Council, but his failure lead him to his imprisonment. The legacy of the Krytonian race rests on Jor-El and Lara sending their son to Earth. Kal-El, A.K.A Clark Kent crash lands in Smallville where he is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Now grown up, Clark attempts to discover who he is? Who are his real parents? And what his purpose is? Meanwhile General Zod returns to threaten the human race in order to protect his own. I’ve not read many of Superman’s comics, and therefore don’t fully understand the entire story around the hero. But the entire purpose of a reboot and origin story is to educate the audience on the narrative surrounding a particular hero/villain. To be honest, if it fails to do that in an engaging and entertaining level then it's failed. Here David S. Goyer and Snyder, with guidance from Nolan, have created a film that deals with the basic mythos surrounding the character, but in a well-structured and dignified manner.

This film portrays Superman as an outsider on a planet that would dissolve into fear and panic if he were to reveal himself. Goyer’s screenplay does well to demonstrate this conflicted nature of the character and his uncertainty over his existence. The traditional distinct personas of Clark Kent and Superman are swapped for a more subtle definition of the two. Here, Clark is still finding his purpose on Earth and beginning to understand his impact on humanity, thus has remained relatively secret. This torn nature between the character is further developed through his interactions with Zod. Both have the desire to bring Krypton back from the ashes but in different manners, to the point that Superman questions his personal motives and determination. 

Henry Cavill certainly looks the part and adds a modern twist on our preconceived notions of the character. He’s not the matured and “leader/savour” of humanity, instead Goyer and Snyder write him as the extraterrestrial he is. His longing for justification and to conform into society is one that Cavill’s “subtle” performance really highlights, even with the minimal dialogue.  Amy Adams offers a solid and charming performance that thankfully doesn’t deteriorate into a typical damsel in distress. There are the beginnings of a romance between the two, but it isn’t an instantaneous reaction that often feels too forced in many films. As a matter of fact, many critics and fans have actually criticised the lack of the traditional romantic chemistry between the two. But I would be inclined to argue that it wasn’t necessary to definitively engage with this integral element within the narrative of Superman’s origins. 

Michael Shannon is genuinely threatening as General Zod. While his hairstyle is questionable, Shannon brings his own slice of madness to the proceedings. It’s over-the-top at times, but its a performance that manages to still bring some empathy towards the character and his reasoning behind his actions. Russell Crowe gets a surprising amount of screen-time, and puts it to good use. It’s obvious that he enjoyed the role and the freedom with the character, which results in some great moments between father and son. Meanwhile the likes of Kevin Costner, Antje Traue and Diane Lane offer a strong supporting cast that are integrated into the narrative and Superman’s own character development relatively well. 

Looking back at all of his films, what Snyder constantly does well is presentation. 300, Watchmen and even Sucker Punch showcased his ability to create visually attractive cinema with engaging set-pieces. Man of Steel continues Snyder’s style of film-making and thankfully brings back the grandeur and gravitas we associate with Superman. From the off, the planet of Krypton is strikingly realised, definitely showing the “alien” nature of the superhero’s background. Simple touches like the “sonic boom” whenever Superman flies away or the dust on his cape, add a lot to the actual visualisation of the character. This certainly goes a long way in the film's many action sequences.

I had some major problems with The Avengers, and one of them was the final “Battle Scene”. It lacked scale and a sense of threat for the inhabitants of New York, making it feel rather subdued. Here there’s a strong sense of power and force to each confrontation as planes get destroyed, trains get thrown and buildings collapse. The population of Metropolis crumbles after ever blow, resulting in a surprisingly high body count for a superhero film. It’s fast, manic and there's something immensely satisfying in seeing Superman punch someone through a building or grinding their faces against endless roads, which this film hates. Hans Zimmer’s score continues his strong form, with some really emotional and intense tones and tempos that complement the ensuing drama and action. My one slight problem with the film becomes clear in the last 20 minutes as the CGI and quick editing start to turn into a sensory overload that increasingly becomes drawn out. In hindsight, the final act simply diverges into a chaos of fistfights, quick exposition and irrelevant “adventures” with Daily Planet journalists. But to be fair, I'm just nitpicking at this point. 

Man of Steel is everything I wanted from a Superman film; a solid and engrossing story, interesting characters and intense action. The press haven’t been too kind to the film, and I wonder whether that’s the stigma attached to Zack Snyder’s name. Sure it’s got its problems, but like my uncontrollable love of The Raid, Man of Steel proved that if a film entertains you to the point of wanting to watch it again, then it’s a pretty successful one. The impressive feat of any comic-book film is whether it consequently gets people interested in the character, and with myself wanting to see what they do for Man of Steel II, I think that about sums up my thoughts on this one. 


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Favourite Film and TV Characters: Dick Solomon

My interest in Television has steady decreased over the last few years. Whether this is due to a lack of time, or a lack of interest is somehow unclear . Many would actually argue that some of the all-time best TV series currently grace our screens e.g. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. However if I were to create a “Top 10 Favourite TV Shows” list then 3rd Rock From The Sun would undoubtably be on it. Growing up, my exposure to sitcoms or just comedy itself was still in the capable hands of The Simpsons, Black Adder and my feeble understanding of Frasier. 3rd Rock From The Sun was one of those shows that managed to build itself on simplicity and a creative angle that justified the over-the-top nature of its characters. Instead of your typical bunch of friends, a gay couple or a cuuuuu-razy family, the show centred on a team of alien researchers that land on Earth. Sure it took the same methodology and principles as many others sitcoms, but it’s the cast of extremely charismatic and memorable performances that perpetuates this over many of its rivals. Whether it's a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt or a clumsy, romantic Wayne Knight, there was a wealth of personalities that blurred the behavioural lines between the extraterrestrials and genuine humans. My personal favourite is Dick Solomon. 

Dick Solomon, played by John Lithgow, is the High Commander of the alien research team. Thrust into a new body and into a new world, he soon becomes Professor of Physics at Pendelton State University. Lithgow has never truly made it as a “big name” within the industry. True his involvement in Shrek and recently Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dexter have seen him return to the limelight, but his role as Dick clearly showed his varied and charismatic charm, which particularly stand out. As a youngster my favourite comedians tended to centre on the physical dynamic of comedy i.e. Jim Carey or Rowan Atkinson, rather than the slick talking or witty banter of the likes of Frasier Crane or Jerry Seinfield. Lithgow’s character offered a step into a slightly more matured sense of the genre. He maintained the over-the-top movements, body language and reactions, but had the capacity to deliver the sophisticated and clever elements of the script. His comic timing was sublime, and his general delivery managed to portray the bizarre nature of his character. 

Being an alien, Dick’s perceptions of the world are based on the childlike sense of wonder and discovery that humanity experiences. He constantly wants more of the world’s “positive” notions and sensations, whether that be the feeling of “sharing” or the delights of baked goods. This great blend of infantile personality coupled with his older exterior, prove to form a highly likeable and accessible character. At the age of about 8/9 at the time, my understanding of certain episodes themes or subject matter never materialised further than Dick’s constant screaming, similar to my attachment to Homer Simpson. As I’ve grown up, his character has developed into a more understandable and even more humorous presence. Underneath his mugging and general over reaction lay a changing personality that was being exposed to different individuals and concepts, that I myself was similarly undergoing. In that respect and in a slightly weird way, I connected with Dick and the rest of the “family”’s various characters. That’s not to say I’m some sort of extraterrestrial.

Looking at it now as a “young adult”, Dick still remains engrossing and hilarious. None of that early charm has been lost, instead its been further enhanced by my now mature comprehension of the writing. What I admire Dick for is his confounded look at everything, and his weird mannerisms. He is  highly intelligent and eloquently spoken individual that even Einstein would be jealous of, yet he doesn't understand the concept of a tissue box. In the end, whether it’s him beating a printer with its own toner cartridge, or the sheer panic and fear at the sight of jelly, there’s something simple and funny in watching him do and react to everyday, mundane activities. His lovey-dubby, juvenile relationship with Mary Albright is an undoubtably cringeworthy affair, yet is one that remains charming throughout the predictable ups and downs. As a professor, his interactions with his class are absolutely hysterical. He frequently belittles them with his expansive knowledge of the Universe, and lectures them on his sexual experiences and his latest forays into human life. His entire “development” as a character throughout the show’s 6 season spread is thorough, but never detracts from our immediate and initial attachment to him. 

Whenever I talk about Dick Solomon, or 3rd Rock from the Sun for that matter, it saddens me to hear that many haven’t watched or heard of the series. Those that have, tend to criticise the over-the-top nature of the show. But how is that different to the likes of Friends or Frasier? Whatever the case, Dick Solomon is inarguably one of my favourite characters to grace the screen. From his joyous laugh, to the sheer look of amazement as he discovers the simplest of things, Dick is a loveable and charming individual. John Lithgow’s performance is simply hilarious and consequently landed him 6 Emmy Awards through the course of the 6 series. In the end, I love this show and I love him as a character. And “By-god...I’m gorgeous!” is a catchphrase that rarely gets old.