Monday, 31 August 2015

Manic Monday: A Tribute to the Maestro of Horror

© New Line Cinema | Source: Buzzfeed
Wesley Earl “Wes” Craven, the legendary director of numerous horror classics such as Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street, succumbed to brain cancer on Sunday at the age of 76. For that reason, we would like to dedicate this Manic Monday to him and his nightmarish creations. Below you will find a list of Craven's movies and a collection of some of his best scenes that will help you understand why Wes Craven is and always will be the Master of Horror.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

Deadly Friend (1986)

Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

List of Wes Craven Movies

© Lobster Enterprises | Source: wescraven.

The Last House on the Left (1972)
A pair of teenage girls are headed to a rock concert for one's birthday. While trying to score marijuana in the city, the girls are kidnapped by a gang of psychotic convicts.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.

Deadly Blessing (1981)
This film is set in Amish Country, at a local farm, where a woman's husband is mysteriously killed by his own tractor!

Swamp Thing (1982)
After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster.

Invitation to Hell (1984)
© Blood Relations Co. | Source: wescraven
A family moves to a suburban town only to be coerced into joining a suspicious club.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In the dreams of his victims, a spectral child murderer stalks the children of the members of the parents that killed him.

The Hills Have Eyes part 2 (1985)
A group of bikers, which includes some of the survivors from the original film, embark on a journey by bus to a biker race near the desert of the infamous incidents. However, because of a mistake they are late and decide to take a shortcut through the desert. 

Deadly Friend (1986)
Paul is a new kid in town with a robot named "BB". He befriends Samantha and the three of them have a lot of good times together. That is, until Samantha's abusive father throws her down some stairs and kills her.

© PolyGram | Source:
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.

Shocker (1989)
After being sent to the electric chair, a serial killer uses electricity to come back from the dead and carry out his vengeance on the football player who turned him in to the police.

The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Two adults and a juvenile burglar break into a house occupied by a brother and sister and their stolen children and can't escape.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?

Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Maximillian is the only survivor from a race of vampires on a 
Caribbean Island, and as a vampire, he must find a mate to keep
 the line from ending. He knows that a child had been born to a 
© Swampfilms | Source:
woman who had a vampire father, and he searches for her in 

Scream (1996)
A killer known as Ghostface begins killing off teenagers, and as the body count begins rising, one girl and her friends find themselves contemplating the "Rules" of horror films as they find themselves living in a real-life one.

Wishmaster (1997)
A demonic djinn attempts to grant its owner three wishes, which will allow him to summon his brethren to earth.

Scream 2 (1997)
Two years after the events of the first film, a new psychopath dons the "Ghost face" costume and a new string of murders begin.

Carnival of Souls (1998)
A young girl witnesses the brutal rape and murder of her mother 
© VTC | Source:
by a circus clown and begins to have nightmares when the carnival comes back to town when she is an adult.

Music of the Heart (1999)
Story of a schoolteacher's struggle to teach violin to inner-city Harlem kids.

Scream 3 (2000)
Ghostface pays Sidney and her friends a third visit while they visit the set of "Stab 3", the third movie based upon the Woodsboro murders.

Dracula 2000 (2000)
A group of thieves break into a chamber expecting to find paintings, but instead they release the count himself, who travels to New Orleans to find his nemesis' daughter, Mary Van Helsing.

Cursed (2005)
A werewolf loose in Los Angeles changes the lives of three young
 adults, who, after being mauled by the beast, learn they must
 kill their attacker if they hope to change their fate to avoid becoming 
© Dimension Films | Source:
werewolves too.

Red Eye (2005)
A woman is kidnapped by a stranger on a routine flight. Threatened by the potential murder of her father, she is pulled into a plot to assist her captor in offing a politician.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
A suburban American family is being stalked by a group of psychotic people who live in the desert, far away from civilization.

The Breed (2006)
A group of five college kids are forced to match wits with unwelcoming residents when they fly to a "deserted" island for a party weekend.

Paris, Je T’aime (2006)
While visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery, a young woman breaks up
 with her fiancé, who then redeems himself with the aid of advice 
from the ghost of Oscar Wilde.
© Dreamworks | Source:

Feast (2007)
Patrons locked inside of a bar are forced to fight monsters.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)
A group of National Guard trainees find themselves battling against a vicious group of mutants on their last day of training in the desert.

The Last House on the Left (2009)
After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging the parents of one of the victims.

My Soul to Take (2010)
A serial killer returns to his hometown to stalk seven children who share the same birthday as the date he was allegedly put to rest.

Scream 4 (2011)
© Dimension Films | Source:
Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.

* All information taken from Wes Craven’s official website:

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Scene to Remember: What is a Weekend?

© ITV/ PBS | Source: Deadline

Oh how I love it when we introduce a new category for our blog! To be fair, this one isn't actually new, but has unjustly been neglected by us since the beginning... But no more! 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Data Base: White Collar (2009 - 2014)

©Exclusive Suit 4 you | USA Network
 Series Premiere23 October 2009
Series Finale18 December 2014
Genrecomedy, crime, drama
Country of OriginUSA
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes81
Running Time 42 min.
ChannelUSA Network
Developed byJeff Eastin
Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Willie Garson, Tiffani Thiessen, Sharif Atkins, Marsha Thomason
Guest Stars Worth MentioningHilarie Burton, Alexandra Daddario, Joe Manganiello, Treat Williams


In White Collar Neil Caffrey, a smooth and sexy art forgerer and con-artist, is caught by FBI  special agent Peter Burke after a seven year chase. Charming and skilled as he is, Caffrey is able to negotiate a deal where he helps Burke and his team in the NYC White Collar division in exchance for his freedom. Even though Neil is given an ankle bracelet to secure his whereabouts at all times, he never quite loses his former ways. Still, in Peter Burke he finds a mentor and more importantly a true friend.

Yay or Nay?

While (on paper) this looks like yet another crime show, White Collar is so much more. Of course there is the weekly case that (most of the time) Neil has to help on officially, while secretly trying to score the goods for himself. This is a show about a trickster, which in it's setup has a lot of comic potential as well. It's a breath of fresh air compared to those other dark and gloomy crime shows out there, as there seldomly are life and death situations and the show doesn't take itself all that seriously. White Collar is also a show about relationships and unlikely friendships. Loyalty and kindness are two qualities that are very important to the characters and the criminals of the main cast are more of a gentleman thief than anything else. Fans of whitty dialogues will find what they are looking for here and the dynamic between the cast members is something to enjoy as well. Fancy costumes and great shots of NYC complete the picture. Definitely give this one a go :)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Film Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

© 20th Century Fox | Source: getfreshminds

 USA; 98 min.; adventure, romance, fantasy, comedy
Director: Rob Reiner
Writing: William Goldman
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle
Cast: Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, André the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Mel Smith

 Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!                                                                                   Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I lately read William Goldman’s fabulous, witty, satirical, fairly-tale-like novel The Princess Bride and as you can already guess, I whole-heartedly loved it from start to finish. However, the book doesn’t really take itself seriously and proves oftentimes unreliable in its claims at historical accuracy or even the author’s writing process itself (there’s neither a Florin, nor a Morgenstern and accordingly no book written by him that Goldman could have read as a kid and so on.) That’s why I ended up doing a lot of doublechecking on Google and was thrilled to realise that the novel has been made into a movie, and according to the online critics a good one at that. So the moment I finished the novel, I turned to the film (you can watch the whole thing on YouTubeeven in HD.) 

The novel raised my expectations for the movie, to an almost unfair degree. I hoped for action, adventure, swordfights, witty dialogues, the most beautiful woman in the world, the strongest man in the world, the “inconceivable,” pirates, sharks, the Zoo of Death, the ROUSes (rodents of unusual size) and the kiss that is described as such: “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”
Oh, and not to forget:

© 20th Century Fox | Source: memegenerator

As you can see I was really looking forward towards this one. The list above is fairly long. Easy-peasy for a book that can have as many pages as the author so desires, but a movie with only a limited amount of screen time (in this case precisely 98 minutes) will find it hard to include so many things without seeming jam-packed and rushed. So, unfortunately I must inform you that the Zoo of Death didn’t make it onto the screen and the sharks have been replaced by shrieking eels, but apart from that it’s all there.

But let’s start at the beginning. In the style of Goldman’s story of how he first came across the novel, the movie starts with an ill, bedridden boy (Fred Savage) who is read a story by his grandfather. Note that the grandfather is played by no other than Lieutenant Columbo, Peter Falk, who leads the narration and does not shy away from interrupting every now and then. Mostly when there is kissing involved. Yuck!

The story he tells his grandson is about a girl called Buttercup (Robin Wright), who lives on a farm and meanly orders around the farm boy who only ever replies “As you wish.” What he really means though is “I love you,” and one day, all of a sudden Buttercup realises that she loves him too. They kiss (a kiss interruptus though - thanks Frank and Peter) and then the farm boy, whose name is Westley (Cary Elwes), departs for America to earn the means he needs to provide his love with the kind of life he feels she deserves. Shortly after he left, Buttercup receives news that his ship has been attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves anyone alive. So Westley is apparently dead and Buttercup vows never to love again and we are only just five minutes into the movie.

Five years later Prince Humperdinck of Florin (Chris Sarandon) decides to take Buttercup as his wife and she, assuring him that she does not and will never love him, agrees. Before the marriage takes place, Buttercup is kidnapped by a most curious trio. The head of the group is the clever Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), then there is the Spanish master fencer Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the strongest man in the world, the giant Fezzik (André the Giant.) They bring Buttercup into the bordering country Guilder and make no secret of their intention to kill her there and incite a war between Florin and Guilder. However, before they cross the border, a mysterious man in black catches up with them and tries to abduct their abductee. For that he has to challenge each of the three in their master discipline, resulting in a battle of swords, a battle of strength and a battle of wits.

© 20th Century Fox | Source: funnyand
I think that is enough to make you rightfully curious to watch the movie and you really should. The Princess Bride is the kind of classic movie that is suitable for everyone regardless of age. Children will love the fairy tale-like story of the beautiful princess in distress and the exciting plot as such, whereas adults will also cherish the humour and the parodic elements that ridicule the conventions of sword and sorcery movies. 

Plus, seeing as the movie is fairly old (it was filmed in 1987!) it provides us with a somewhat different viewing experience from what we are used to nowadays. For example, I found the obtrusiveness with which the music underlined the action scenes utterly comical. Every clash of swords or even the battle of Fezzik’s sheer mass against a locked door is accentuated with tuba and trombone. Or just look at the often overdone acting by Miracle Max (Billy Crystal – a chocolate-coated pill to revive the dead, anyone?) or the Albino (Mel Smith), which reminds a little of a Monty Python movie. But then this silliness is deliberate and although it’s sometimes a little too much for my taste, it fits into the self-ironic tone of the movie. 

On a whole, the cast is doing a brilliant job, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin especially so. They really manage to fill out their roles and there is a kind of chemistry between them that makes their exchanges hilarious to watch. And the movie version of Buttercup is far more likeable than her book pendant, who is more of a nuisance on two legs with peas for brains.

Lastly, note that The Princess Bride goes way back to a time before CGI and when there was still a limit to what could be done with special effects, so I think the performance of the ROUSes, who were played by actual people in costumes (duh!) and dubbed by director Rob Reiner himself, deserve some extra credit, which they now get from me. Well done.

© 20th Century Fox | Source: buzzfeed
So you see The Princess Bride is a charming, forthright, witty, storybook-like classic that can be enjoyed on various levels and is accordingly suitable for all age groups. It mixes an adult kind of humour with a childlike sense of wonder and if that’s still not enough for you, try making a drinking game out of every time Inigo says his catch phrase. 

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepeare to die."

Drunken stupor guaranteed. You’re welcome.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Film Review: Lost River (2014)

© Warner Bros. | Source:

USA; 95 min.; drama, mystery
Director: Ryan Gosling
Writing: Ryan Gosling
Cinematography: Benoît Debie
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Reda Kateb, Barbara Steele, Torrey Wigfield, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes 

The wolves, if they're not already at your door, they're gonna be there very fucking soon.” – Dave 

Ryan Gosling has always been a sort of spirit animal for the BSP crew since, obviously, there's much to be admired. Not only is he an actor who has proven multiple times that he can bring characters of all dispositions and genres to life. No, he's also a producer, musician and, as of late, a screenwriter and film maker. His directorial debut Lost River premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 to rather unfavourable reviews. I, however, do not see the need to advertise for a new BSP spirit animal. In fact, Lost River, despite all the negative buzz, genuinely impressed me, further proving that Gosling will continue to increase his influence on the movie industry.

But let's talk plot first: In her struggle to keep her family afloat, single mum Billy (Christina Hendricks) encounters the shady banker Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) who offers her a job at Cat's (Eva Mendes) bizarre burlesque club. In the meantime, Billy's teenage son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and his friend Rat (Saoirse Ronan) have to deal with the violent outbursts of the town bully, aptly named Bully (Matt Smith). That's the story in a nutshell for you.

I admit, the film is difficult to access if you head into it expecting a conventional narrative, a plot-driven piece or a kind of character study. Gosling certainly values style over substance. Here, the stars are neither the characters nor the story, but the mood. Shots of abandoned, rundown buildings, overgrown areas and mysterious lakescapes evoke an all-engrossing atmosphere of loneliness and hopelessness. Trapped in a setting overtaken by natural forces and decay, the characters find themselves without any prospects – and yet they cling to their surroundings, to their memories of times and places gone by. The use of neon lights and a sometimes beautifully melodic, sometimes upbeat electronic score by Johnny Jewel give Lost River a haunting, dream-like quality. The visuals stayed with me long after the film was over.

The characters aren't as memorable, due to a lack of depth. Their relationships with each other are broken down to basic emotions of love, hate and responsibility. On the one hand, this gives them an everyman quality, making it easy for viewers to connect with their emotions and struggles. On the other hand, it doesn't make them all that interesting. Fortunately, Gosling gathered a talented cast capable of making the most of their respective roles, despite the absence of fleshed-out character profiles. Especially former Dr. Who Matt Smith, who's usually cast as the cheeky nice guy, has the opportunity to shine as a vicious brute. His Bully is menacing, lulling his victims into a false sense of security only to strike them twice as hard.

I enjoy how Gosling embraces a very postmodern approach to his material. The influence of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn, two directors I hugely admire, is omnipresent. The scenes in Cat's nightclub seem like a prolonged version of the "Llorando" scene from Lynch's masterpiece Mulholland Dr. (2001). Furthermore, Gosling interlaces the moody, beautiful melancholy of his film with snippets of absurdity and relentless violence, reminiscent of Refn films such as Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011). While I appreciate Gosling's efforts to pay homage to these cinematic treasures, there are moments when I find myself looking for his very own thumbprint on the movie. In future projects, I'd love to see him add a bit more personality to his already attractive web of intertextuality.

However, the Canadian has to be applauded for the way in which he manages to raise a number of topics within an only 95-minute time span. Lost River can be regarded as a commentary on nostalgia and how we tend to burden ourselves with idealisations of the past when, really, we should be looking towards the possibilities that lie ahead of us. It explores the connection between violence in fiction and real-life brutality. It sheds light on our understanding of entertainment, and – on another postmodern note – challenges our perception of what is real and what is only make-believe. These themes, however, are never force-fed to the viewer. They vanish, re-appear throughout the film and linger in the background again. They're subtle and yet strong enough to endow the film with an intriguing complexity and food for thought.

Lost River isn't a crowd pleaser. Only viewers who are willing to put visual power, cinematic intertextuality and a broad range of underlying subject matter over complex plot structures and characters will find pleasure in Gosling's first feature film. It's Lynch-ian, absurd, dark and brutal; yet enchantingly beautiful and delightfully mysterious. Call it artsy-fartsy if you must, but I revelled in its atmosphere and engaging music. While it heavily relies on looks, I don't find it to be merely an empty, pretty shell. For me, Gosling has shown that he harbours the spirit of an up and coming director, and has thus rightfully secured his position as BSP spirit animal. So yes, the job's taken. Please refrain from sending your applications.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Manic Monday: The Richest of the Rich

© Disney| Source: blogs.disney

If you take a look at the list of the richest people in the world, you will find it mostly dominated by business magnates, investors or chairmen of some big international companies. Just check out the Top 3 of 2015:

Source: Forbes

Not all that interesting, is it?

I didn’t think so either. The sheer numbers are impressive and Bill Gates’ position at the top of the list didn’t exactly come as a surprise. So why am I writing this then? Well, it’s just a little introduction to a much more interesting list I stumbled across lately: The Forbes Fictional 15.

Each year (save for last year, I guess) Forbes Magazine publishes a list of the 15 richest fictional people from books, movies, comics, television and video games. Take a second to contemplate whom you would see in such a ranking and then have a look at this video or the list below to find out who really were the richest of the rich in 2013.

15. Jay Gatsby ($ 1 billion)
14. Mary Crawley ($ 1.1 billion)
13. Mr. Monopoly ($ 1.2 billion)
12. Lara Croft ($ 1.3 billion)
11. Walden Schmidt ($ 1.3 billion)
10. C. Montgomery Burns ($ 1.5 billion)
© Warner Bros | Source: lotr.wikia
9. Tywin Lannister ($ 1.8 billion)
8. Christian Grey ($ 2.5 billion)
7. Richie Rich ($ 5.8 billion)
6. Bruce Wayne ($ 9.2 billion)
5. Charles Foster Kane ($ 11.2 billion)
4. Tony Stark ($ 12.4 billion)
3. Carlisle Cullen ($ 46 billion)
2. Smaug ($ 54.1 billion)
1. Scrooge Mc Duck ($ 65.4 billion)

And here’s a nice infographic with the list from 2012:

© Forbes | Source: manilagawker

Did you guess right? Feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Data Base: Prison Break (2005 - 2009)

©AMB Wallpapers | Fox
Series Premiere29 August 2005
Series Finale15 May 2009
Genreaction, crime, drama
Country of OriginUSA
No. of seasons4 and a movie
No. of episodes81
Running Time42 min.
Developed byPaul Scheuring
StarringDominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller,  Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper, Sarah Wayne Callies, Wade Williams, William Fichtner
Guest Stars Worth MentioningMuse Watson, Marshall Allman, Leon Russom, Barbara Eve Harris, Stacy Keach, Robin Tunney


Clever and straight-forward Michael Scofield suddenly breaks all his patterns and lands himself in maximum security prison to safe his brother Lincoln Burrows from an unjustly death penalty. As the name of the show suggests, there's an elaborate break out plan and a group of inmates with unique skill sets and a budding sense of cameradery. Being the "nice guy" in prison also has its benefits when Michael enarmours Sarah Tancredi, the young and beautiful prison doc. In four seasons Prison Break tells the story of two brothers trying to uncover the conspirary behind Lincolns stint on death row.

Yay or Nay?

For anyone who loves a good deal of suspence, crime, and action this prison drama is just right. The ingenious plans of Michael Scofield and his amazing foresight will keep everyone at the edge of their seats. Especially season one will remain a masterpiece of television for many years to come. A good main cast of characters makes you root for the unlikeliest of people and conveys a sense of cameradery and collective achievement. There are also a few great relationships that really pull at your heart strings. While the show wears off a bit after season one (let's face it: how many times can you break out of prison and still keep it plausible and fresh?), it is still well worth it to keep watching, since there's a bigger picture behind it all. But careful: not everyone will come out alive! Yet, with a special live-action revival in the plans at FOX at the moment, I strongly suggest you take on this wild four-season ride!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Manic Monday & Trailer Check: The Walk (2015)

© Sony Pictures Releasing | Source: YouTube screencap

Today's the day that Manic Monday and Skyscraper Appreciation Day fall together. For this excellent occasion, I was looking for a topic that is suitable for both our slightly suicidal minds at the beginning of the week and our adoration for impressively high-built architecture. After some searching around, I'm sure that I have found it in Robert Zemeckis' upcoming cinematic endeavour, The Walk. Let's check out the trailer.

In the opening shot, the camera quickly runs up a highrise - storey after storey after storey. Nothing's audible except for the wind howling around the skyscraper. Finally, when the camera has reached the rooftop, a young man appears. He walks to the edge of the building, eyeing another highrise some metres away. Music anticipating thrill, excitement and danger sets in while the camera grants us a look down into a vertigo-inducing abyss.

The Walk is the story of Frenchman Philippe Petit and one of the most spectacular high-wire acts in history. When in 1974, he came up with the plan to stretch a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York to walk from one building over to the other, his attempt was not only illegal, but also bound to put him in mortal danger. As far as movie premises go, this one will most certainly spark the interest of an adventure-loving, the-extreme-cherishing audience.

However, the trailer also has us know that the visual execution will fit the spectacular nature of the plot. We are promised an IMAX 3D experience, and the fast-paced tracking shots up tall buildings as well as the multiple glances down heady heights can only profit from a three-dimensional build-up.

The illegal aspect of Petit's story indicates that the film might also harbour a heist-movie-like quality: the act between the Twin Towers has to be planned without other people noticing, stealthy undertakings lead the high-wire artist and his crew through ventilation shafts and on the run from watchmen. As indicated by the trailer, this might add another layer of thrill to the film.

With Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead and other cast members including Charlotte LeBon, James Badge Dale and Sir Ben Kingsley, The Walk features actors who are certain to shine with talent and likeability. It'll probably be easy to be engrossed in Petit's adventure and to root for his success.

This well-done trailer promises an engaging thrill ride that will bring audiences to dizzying extremes visually and make their pulses race plotwise. I personally cannot wait for The Walk to enter cinemas. But however manic your Monday may be, BSPeeps: don't try this at home! Please appreciate your skyscrapers from afar. 

Wide Release:  9 October 2015
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Sunday, 9 August 2015

Features: Top 3 - Movies That Are Better than Their Books

Source: tysonadams
As the name Big Screen Philosophers already implies, our blog is focused on TV and movies. However, today is national Book Lovers Day, so we thought of a way to sneak some books into our posts. That’s how the idea for this Top 3 was born – a Top 3 of movies that are better than the books that they are based on. Hold on, you might say, shouldn’t it be the other way around with Book Lovers Day and all? Maybe, but then where would be the challenge in that, since almost every book is better than its adapted counterpart? Finding cases in which it is different was – especially for a hardcore bookworm such as myself - extremely difficult and I almost feel like betraying a good friend by making such claims. But here’s what I found.

Top 3 Movies That Are Better than Their Books

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Based on: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (2003)

Okay, I really feel like a heretic for adding a book of the Harry Potter series to this list, but regardless of how much I love J.K. Rowling, The Order of the Phoenix was very long and very angsty. Its movie counterpart gave a condensed version of the events and didn’t take us quite so deep into Harry’s cranky mind. Thank God for that.

© Rowling | Source: goodreads
© Warner Bros. | Source: harrypotter.wikia

2. The Prestige (2006)

Based on: The Prestige by Christopher Priest (1995)

The brothers Jonathan and Christopher Nolan took up an intricate, mysterious and often confusing novel and turned it into a fascinating and especially beautifully filmed adaptation that will keep you under its spell from start to finish.

© Priest | Source: goodreads
© Warner Bros. | Source: moviepilot

1. The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014)

Based on: The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien (1937)

It’s amazing just to think about how Peter Jackson made a 542 minutes long adventure-packed, epic trilogy out of a (children’s!) book with no more than 293 pages.  There is more action, more character development and the back stories are far more detailed and tie in perfectly with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Need I say more?

© Tolkien | Source: goodreads
© Warner Bros. | Source: filmofilia

So these are the three movie/book pairings I could come up with. How about you? Which movies would you add to the list?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

TV Show Review: Banished Season 1 (2015) [Spoilers]

© BBC Two | Source:

UK, Australia; 7 episodes; history, drama, period
Channel: BBC Two
Creator: Jimmy McGovern
Cast: Orla Brady, Ewen Bremner, MyAnna Buring, Ryan Corr, Brooke Harman, David Dawson, Ned Dennehy, Cal MacAninch, Rory McCann, Joseph Millson, Nick Moss, Adam Nagaitis, Genevieve O'Reilly, Jordan Patrick Smith, Russel Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Joanna Vanderham, David Walmsley, David Wenham

Sin all you like but do not ask it of me. I am on this earth only to gain the Kingdom of Heaven for my immortal soul. I cannot do that by watching people eat each other.”  – Reverend Johnson

And with this uplifting quote, welcome to a special edition of our regular TV Show Review segment. You might wonder, why-oh-why is there a need for a special edition, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And it is, indeed, a desperate time for Jimmy McGovern's Banished: It has been announced that the TV series will not be back for a second season, despite exceptionally high ratings for its home channel BBC Two.

The show sounds like a dream for fans of historic fiction, drama and beautiful Aussie coastal shots. Set in 1788, it deals with the first British penal colony established in New South Wales, Australia. The story revolves around the convicts as well as the officers and soldiers in charge of maintaining order within the involuntary community. It revolves around convict women who are meant to serve as sexual entertainment for the soldiers to keep the men's spirits up. It revolves around the logistical challenges that come with organising a settlement in the middle of nowhere, with not enough food, no infrastructure or places to demand help from. And, last but not least, it revolves around men and women who were pushed off to a foreign continent, for no plausible reason at all, to live there under degrading circumstances and at the mercy of those who are in charge.

Banished fell flat with critics, though. Sam Wollaston from The Guardian ridiculed the show by giving it the tagline "18th century Australia or I’m a Convict Get Me Out of Here?", and Ceri Radford from The Telegraph saw it as "a cross between Lost and the 'before' part of an advert for Aussie hair conditioner". Not really a shower of praise and enthusiasm, right? Although I can't help but applaud the creativity of these comparisons. Well done, Sam and Ceri.

Anyway, there may be some truth to all of the above, but I still can’t help feeling an urge within me to stand up for this little UK-Australian co-production. So, for this review, allow me to join the ranks of those who have tried their best to make Banished return to our tellies, either by showing support in a specially founded Facebook group, or by filing a petition asking for the renewal of the series. I, for my part, now intend to give you five reasons to #BringBackBanished.       

© BBC Two | Source: YouTube screenshot

Reason 1: Oh-the-Potential.
Banished deals with the British settlement of Australia. It is, of course, an uncomfortable topic within Brit history, and the show has been criticised for its neglect of indigenous characters so far. It is true, the colony seems like a teeny-weeny microcosm, completely unaware of its surroundings. We merely hear about 'savages' endangering the settlers, and that protection against those 'wild ones' is needed, but we never actually encounter native Australians within the show. To be honest, I think that leaving out the indigenous people in the first season is a clever writing choice. This way, we're presented with the ignorant and prejudiced nature of the settlers, and how they go about taking over the land like they have every right to. The absence of a native voice within the plot just goes to show the absence of a native voice within the minds of the British settlers.

Jimmy McGovern, who also is the writer of the series, has indicated that he does not want to use native characters as a mere plot devise, he wants them to be represented fairly. Now that the British view has been established, season 2 is the perfect time to bring in some fleshed-out indigenous characters to establish a different view on British colonisation. Television usually has a hard time putting native characters and their views into focus. Banished has the opportunity to offer marginalised perspectives. TV can only profit from this.

© BBC Two | Source: The Guardian

Reason 2: Why So Serious?
There sometimes is a discrepancy between the look and the feel of the show. I enjoy how the crew manages to give the characters a dirty and dishevelled exterior. It's easy to sense the labour executed in tropical heat, and I even imagine that I can smell the sweat in the air from hard work as well as the salt water on people's skin after they've taken a refreshing dip in the Pacific. In this sense Ceri Radford is right, the whole thing does appear like an ad for a hair conditioner. But anybody who has ever been to Oz knows what the heat of the sun, constant bathing in salty water and the lack of a comb can do to your flowing mane. You're bound to look like Shock-headed Peter who just came out of a broken hood drier. So, yes, I'd say that Banished does a good job depicting the outward conditions of those characters, all set against the romantically beautiful backdrop of the Australian nature.

The tone of the first season is not quite as fixed yet. It's drenched with melodrama, exaggerated shouting and tears to fill the whole of Lake Macquarie with. And to this I say: So what? People seem to assume, since Banished can easily be categorised as a period drama, that the show is meant to be straight forward in its approach, leaving no room for fooling around or downright chewing the scenery. I admit, I was also irritated at first, but once I had accepted that the show was more a soap than a historically accurate educational program, I continued to enjoy the heck out of Banished. I'm not quite sure if McGovern and his team really wanted me to laugh every time I did, but I did it anyway. Convict Tommy Barrett (Julian Rhind-Tutt) repeatedly shouting "Are you an informer?" at his devastated best friend James Freeman (Russell Tovey), because he suspects him of having turned into a snitch for the guards and officers, is just so very over-the-top that not smiling over this kitsch fest would count as a wasted opportunity.

TV doesn't have to be serious all the time – even if it acts under the pretence that it is. I love myself some cheesy, involuntary ridiculousness. Whatever entertains, right? And Banished has managed to create, in midst of all its social criticism, an atmosphere which walks the line between serious character conflict and a hoot set somewhere at world's end. It's weird, really. A wild mélange of heartfelt sympathy for the characters and a whirlwind spiral of laughable what-the-heck moments, but it's good fun – and certainly never boring.

© BBC Two | Source: YouTube screenshot

Reason 3: The Peeps Act Their Hearts Out.
Banished is an ensemble piece and, luckily, has gathered a group of actresses and actors who work very well together but also are up to their individual challenges. David Wenham as Captain Arthur Phillip, the 1st Governor of New South Wales, channels the necessary authority for his role. Joseph Millson as the power-hungry Major Robert Ross shows his villainous qualities while, at the same time, embracing a softer, more innocent approach to his character. The way in which he tries to steal the convict Katherine McVitie (Joanna Vanderham) away from her lover, Corporal MacDonald (Ryan Corr), is utterly despicable. And yet, Millson manages to also bring out the Major's vulnerable side, his longing for honest affection. It’s a twisted portrayal, really. David Dawson is severely underused in his role as Captain Collins, but I like how he continues to let his growing insecurities about ethical questions shine through.

Tovey, Rhind-Tudd and MyAnna Buring, who plays the latter's wife Elizabeth, find themselves in midst of most of the melodramatic action, and I like how they embrace the style. They unleash all they have: They scream loudly, cry hysterically, suffer deeply and battle their inner conflicts for the world to see. While those performances are anything but subtle, they definitely fit into the context of the show and feed its deliciously soapy nature.

Genevieve O'Reilly's Mary Johnson is the character I enjoy the most. While her husband Reverend Johnson (Ewen Bremner) is busy seeking the moral high ground and usually ends up providing some – intended – comicality, Mary delivers honest heartbreak. I feel for her grief over her stillborn babies and her desire to finally start a family. Her blossoming friendship with convict Anne Meredith (Orla Brady) and her husband's inability to fully comprehend her emotional distress make for an engaging storyline.

© | Source: BBC Two

Reason 4: After All the Exhausting To and Fro, We're Finally Good to Go!
Plot-wise Banished is a rollercoaster ride. It has its moments. The general concept of the show is to portray the troubles of colonial life and, from a British perspective, the series succeeds in doing so. I also enjoy how power structures are uncovered and the way in which the show demonstrates how life under absurd rules and constant threat of punishment forces people to take inhuman measures.

However, a detailed look at the individual storylines shows that things have gotten a bit out of hand. In all the seven episodes which form the first season either Barrett or Freeman are in danger of being hanged, and most often they manage to escape their fate. The way in which this story goes in circles is rather tiresome, especially since other main plots also are trapped in repetition. Major Ross' attempts to lure in McVitie go back and forth, as does Macdonald's jealousy. Now that Barrett has finally met his fate on the gallows and Ross has captured McVitie's heart (as horrendous as it is), the show is ready to wander into some exciting directions. Rather than to constantly wobble through the character's repetitive actions, there now is room to explore the consequences of those actions.

Additionally, there's room to tread onto new exciting paths to further enhance the story. The wilderness is ready to be explored. The focus can shift from Ross' love life to his power ambitions. Captain Collin's wish to do right by the convicts can be expanded upon. The Johnsons’ marriage can be put under further scrutiny, and life in the colony in the face of a lower and lower amount of supplies can be further looked into. There's still a lot to be discovered.

© BBC Two | Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Reason 5: What'll be the next Bushtucker Trial?
Season 1 ends openly. Nothing's settled, the characters are left in grim states. This cannot be it. Freeman has come to terms with the fact that he had to function as the executioner at his best friend Tommy's hanging. His mind is in turmoil and he basically has all the other convicts against him. What are his options? Flee into the wilderness? Remain at the colony, always fearing for his life? And what about Elizabeth? She has lost her beloved hubby at the hands of a very dear friend. Will she forgive? Will she have sweet revenge by plotting to take out everyone responsible for her loss?

What will be the main policy at camp now that Captain Collins, in an attempt to free the convicts of old burdens, has burnt all their criminal records? Will Captain Phillip turn into a tyrant because he's simply fed up with all those convicts doing as they please and stuff? Will his alcohol supply go down? Will he finally start dating his housekeeper? And will anybody still deny that this is a soap?

Will Major Ross once again try to overthrow Phillip and seize power? Who will be the next one to beat good-for-nothing, whiney Private Buckley (Adam Nagaitis) into a pulp? Will Reverend Johnson find somebody who'll build him a church, while there still aren't enough houses for everybody? Will there ever be a ship bringing new supplies, or was this whole colony thing only an attempt to rid Britain of that nasty, Grumpy-MacGrumpypants blacksmith who had it coming in episode 2?

But, most importantly: Can McGovern come up with a decent explanation why, all of a sudden, Kitty McVitie has fallen head-over-heels for Major Ross, the man who forced her to have sex with him and continued to pick on her former sweetheart MacDonald? I mean, seriously? A bit of chatter, a gift and some extra food can't have made her develop sincere feelings of love for her violator. Get a grip, McGovern! And get a grip, BBC Two! We need some closure here.

© BBC Two | Source: RadioTimes

Banished is far from being perfect – but then many shows aren’t, and they still continue to bring out new seasons. I won't deny that there is a huge amount of cheese and kitsch and plot stagnation going on but, despite all this, the series manages to entertain me both sincerely and involuntarily. The characters work well together and I'm definitely interested in their fate. The cast does a wonderful job bringing their respective roles to life, and, due to the temporal and spatial setting, Banished harbours the potential for fresh perspectives and stories that are seldom shown on television. I'd like to see the series continue, to see it improve and explore new ways and, yes, to be honest, provide some more soapy fun to my everyday life.

Please, BBC Two, reconsider your decision to end this show. Re-check your budget and other investments and give us the chance to travel back in time to witness the birth of a new nation. Let us be Banished, please.