Review Season 5 Episode 3 : Archer Vice : A Debt of Honour (Spoilers!!!)

Cokey Monster

Cokey Monster

So despite Mallory’s comments at the end of episode one it turns out that setting yourself up as a drug cartel isn’t that easy. I guess those Mexican’s know a thing or two (just in case it isn’t obvious I’m paraphrasing the show here not making crudely stereotypical statement about race. Although those Irish.)

After debacle down in Florida the Archer drug clan are down 2 kilo’s of cocaine (not including whatever Pam ‘The Cokey Monster’ Poovey has gobbled down) and have $1 million of counterfeit money.

Don’t worry though because whilst Cyril is searching for the “Scrooge McDuckian Vault” and Archer and Lana are buying guns and bullets Pam has swapped the counterfeit money for some highly tradeable commodities.

What’s that? The phone is ringing. I wonder who it could be?

Oh it’s the Yukuza. They want their pills (I don’t think I can spell Amphetamines, but there goes spell check making me a liar again) back plus since it’s a debt of honour Pam’s head.

Yep, it’s a great set up for a highly enjoyable episode of Archer. Not only did I enjoy the plot of this episode much more than the last one, but I also thought the jokes hit home more.

No doubt in part this is because the trailer from the end of episode 1 seemed to have far fewer clips from this episode than it did the second.

Highlights from this episode include the insights into the Tunt family history. Such as the uncle who bankrupted himself digging for the Underground Railroad so he could sell slaves back to the South in 1890 and the great grandad who filled the natural history museum with all the animals.

The standout bits however, go to the increasing number of visual gags that they seem to be including in this season. Little body language bits that really add an extra dimension to things.

“What kind of Mother do you want to be Lana?” Mallory says whilst nudging her with a glass full of scotch.

So overall this was an immensely enjoyable episode of Archer Vice. I’d give it an A- or  4 and 3/4 floor model Cadillacs filled with pills (didn’t make me a liar that time did you spell check)

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Review of Fake or Fortune Episode 2 Constable

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Episode 2 of this season’s Fake or Fortune focused on not one but two paintings which might be Constables. One Constable belongs to an old English Lady and the other belongs to a retired American couple living in the Detroit Suburbs. Each has an interesting back-story. One having potential links to known friends of Constable. The other having at one time being thought of as an authentic Constable and being owned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts before then falling from the warm embrace of the Catalogue Raisonne.

I thought this episode was better than the previous episode which seemed to meander as there was a lack of content to fill the episode. This episode however managed to provide insight into Constable’s artistic process as it broke down just how Constable approached painting by sketching the scene before hand and utilising a grid system. That part of the show was particularly interesting especially given how Phillip Gould traced the alleged Constables to authentic Constables by showing how the alleged paintings fit into Constable’s known manner of working.

Added to this were the human elements such as the 19th century painter and dentist who also ‘touched up’ Constables’ in order to make them more sale-able.

Overall a very enjoyable painting detective story. Recommended.

Review and Thoughts on and from Man of Steel

Even the actors were yawning (understandable but you still need to put your hand over your mouth Mr Shannon)

Even the actors were yawning or in pain (understandable but you still need to put your hand over your mouth Mr Shannon)

I ummmed and aaahhhed about bothering to write about this. After all Man of Steel (MofS) was out some time ago and so a review of it is hardly prescient to the wider world. Plus there will be around 1/2 a trillion million billion reviews on the film out there so fresh ground would be hard to hoe.

Ultimately though I have decided to write about MofS because, I have some strong opinions about the the film.  I have strong opinions on the character Superman and I think this film is an interesting comparison to other Superhero/comicbook movies. Plus I only watched MofS for the first time yesterday.

So cards on the table time I am not a big Superman fan. I never really read comics growing up but I sure as hell watched a lot of cartoons. Spiderman, X-men, Batman, assorted other marvel/DC comic characters. I had enough of a background to make an informed decision of whether I liked Superman or not. I did not like Superman.

I have always found Superman an incredibly boring character. In the parlance of modern video games he is too OP. Superman is indestructible. He is super strong, super fast, can fly, deflect bullets and is just generally a God. There is no threat of him being defeated because, he can’t be. I don’t find him an accessible or interesting character.

Look its Superman (well it might as well be)

Look its Superman (well it might as well be)

Even in MofS where Superman is facing other Kryptonians and he might be beatable there is still no interest. This is because, I don’t care about Superman. In MofS Superman is to charisma as off white paint is to colourful. He is just dull and nothing is done to make him a likeable character. The script may be partially to blame for this but I feel confident in calling it Henry Cavill is an awful actor.

Cavill clearly got the role because, he looked like Superman. A fact which was confirmed in his interview on the Graham Norton show.

Beefcake

Beefcake

This interview focused on the kickass exercise regime which Cavill had undergone to look like Superman because, acting is unimportant but Superman’s abs will give the women something to look at. The same goes for every other character in MofS they are all throwaway and I don’t care about any of them.

In particular the addition of Laurence Fishbourne and the other journalists was redundant. All they did was add extra running time to an already over long film.

This was a film of plot point to plot point there was no character development that I found interesting or realistic. Superman saves a school bus. You’d think the parents of the other childrenwould be down on their knees thanking him but they seem vaguely annoyed did they not love their children?

This was supposed to fit into the idea of how would humanity would deal with the emergence/discovery of a powerful alien living amongst them? I seem to remember Slumberman commenting about the idea that my earth-dad thought I would need to hide myself as humanity wasn’t ready for me but bio-dad wanted me to save humanity/ act like an example to others. This could have been an interesting idea to explore. It never was. I found this especially annoying as by having Superman surrender himself to the human’s there was an opportunity to do this.

Exploring this idea is not an action scene though and as such the idea is quickly dropped. Instead Zac Snyder gives us a bunch of throwaway actions scenes that are dull and forgettable. Although I should say I have no problem with Superman killing Zod. Zod was trying to commit genocide. I don’t know why people seemed to get hung up on this but then as I said I don’t care about the character of Superman.

I was so bored watching it. Although the film did generate some questions and thoughts. Firstly, why does technologically advanced Krypton not have video and instead use weird fluid metal?

Secondly, isn’t Superman’s dad also a bad guy. Zod was defeated in his insurrection attempt and placed in the phantom zone. So by stealing the codex all Superman’s dad was doing was impose his political beliefs that babies made by bonking are better than clones on his entire people. Who gave him the right to decide this for an entire civilization?

Third Superman destroyed a town in Kansas near his farm when fighting Lady Zod. I think the US government would have noticed this and have used it to narrow down where Superman’s earth-mom lived. Why then is Superman so confident at the end that no one could find out where he “hangs his cape”? Oh right he’s stupid.

Fourthly, exactly what did David S Goyer contribute to the writing of the Nolan Batman trilogy?

All those films are so good (compared to MofS even the 3rd Batman looks like a masterpiece) but everything Goyer writes without the Nolan brothers is awful.

That Da Vinci TV show sucked the big one and his credits are filled with awful awful projects like Jumper and Flashforward. How does this guy keep getting work?

Fifthly, what do producers do? How could Nolan allow his name to be attached to MofS. Surely he is rich enough already.

Lastly, how long can the film studio’s keep churning out these CGI laden dull periless films and expect people to keep going to them? Out of all the superhero films over the last decade and a half (!) I would content that only the three Batman films, Spiderman and the first Iron Man film are actually good films. That means that 15 plus superhero films made a lot of money but were at best poor or satisfactory. Of course they still made a lot of money.

So there you have it Superman Man Of Steel 1 out of 5 but a lot of questions.

Review Archer Season 5 Episode 2 – Archer Vice: A Kiss While Dying (spoilers ahoy!)

"Kind of like the A-team but we sell drugs"

“Kind of like the A-team but we sell drugs”

This episode was good but sadly not as good as the above line (although that line is from this episode). I’ve watched this episode twice now. Well,l one and a half times and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. After the previous episode (see review here) really set the stage for the season and was amazingly bold I am left wondering if there was any need for a lot of the stuff in this episode.

The episode begins with Pam bringing in a huge forklift full of cocaine that was last seen at the ISIS office. The rest of the gang Kreiger, Cyril, Lana etc are moving into the “enormous gilded aged mansion” (Archer’s words) that is going to be the HQ from now on. The hook for the rest of the episode is now set up as Archer, Lana and Pam are all going to Miami to sell some of the coke.

Now this is the point where the trailer from the end of the last episode really steps what would have been a great joke. Mallory announces Pam is going to Miami with them to which Pam says “like the three musketeers” to which Mallory replies “kinda”. Que cut to Pam in a full body cast made of cocaine (I know its a visual gag and doesn’t work when I’m writing it here but read generously). I would have laughed if the trailer from the end of s5ep1 had not already shown this and Pam’s ‘snacking’.

This moment kind of explains my ambigous feelings towards this episode. Much of it could have been done better. For a show that trusts its audience so much and is so clever they could have had Archer and co start off in Miami going to see the contact. Then there could have been cuts back to the new HQ to bring in the other characters like Cheryl or it is Carol who remembers. It would have made for a much tighter episode.

Anyway, there are some good moments in the rest of the episode including the laugh out loud line of Archers “Potato, Patreason” and Cryil calling out Mallory

“only if you promise to periodically micromanage it and emascualte me”

Mallory “I thought that went without saying”

I have a sneaking suspicion that the episode will grow on me the next time I watch it, but for now it was not a favourite. A 3.75 stars out of 5 or a B. Still worth watching though.

Review Fake or Fortune

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One of the TV best programs currently being made its return this Sunday. I’m not talking about Sherlock or the rather dull looking reboot of The Three Musketeeers. I’m talking about BBC’s ‘Fake or Fortune’ presented by Fiona Bruce with art expert Phillip Mould. In this show the presenters try to prove the provenience of a piece of art.

In the past they have tackled paintings by Monet and other great artists. In this episode they are trying to prove the authenticity of an oval painting by artist Edouard Vuillard whose work ‘Le Grande Teddy’ is the image for this post and features heavily in the episode.

Now I know nothing about art. I couldn’t tell a Matisse from a Van Gogh. This show is great though. Watching it is like watching a real-life murder mystery (minus the bodies of course) unfold as the show chases the history of a work down through the rabbit hole of rumour and intrigue.

Is the alleged Vuillard be authentic and worth a fortune or is it a fake? I won’t ruin the surprise.

I can’t recommend this show enough. If you’ve missed it or are from outside the UK it is worth tracking down.

Review Archer Season 5 Episode 1 – White Elephant (Literally many plot and joke spoilers)

Change can be a very good thing

I am a huge Archer fan. It is the most consistently funny and clever show knocking around at the moment. It’s like Family Guy on speed back when Family Guy was great. Archer also tends to use literally and figuratively correctly which I am ashamed to say is something the pedant in me really appreciates.

Anyway coming back off the saddo tangent. The launch of the new series of Archer was always going to a must watch TV event. I am not going to lie though I was somewhat worried by the cryptic/teasing statements of the cast and crew at (i think) comiccon that they were going to change things.

Within the first thirty seconds of the episode though I knew that ‘we’ the audience were in good hands (Spoilers about to start). The tone of the opening as Archer comes into the ISIS office set to classic music followed by, wait for it, an FBI raid was a fantastic development. Yes ladies and gentlemen Archer is about to become an ‘official’ criminal.

I say ‘official’ because the arrest of everyone by the FBI reveals an hilarious twist. One that in retrospect makes a whole lot of sense. ISIS has never had any authority or permission to conduct espionage operations so Archer has always been a criminal. This brings the first of a number of great lines (I’m paraphrasing slightly)

Lana “I asked you like 50 times if we had permission”

Mallory “and like fifty times I lied”

as usual the voice actors delivery for this was perfect.

From the arrest the episode moves onto interrogation and everyone (surprise!) tries to save their own skin only for Mallory to  swing immunity for everyone through some unknown means.

Bonus points go to Archer continuing to using the word “figuratively” correctly because back at the now defunct ISIS HQ that line sets him up to ask “What are we going to do with literally, not figuratively, a ton of cocaine?”

Que the reveal of literally a mountain of cocaine (and I just used literally wrong, curse the modern idiom!) and the soon to be immortal lines in response to lets become a cartel

Mallory “Well if Mexicans can do it”

We then get treated to an extended trailer to the rest of the series. In which I spotted movie references to The Fugitive, Life of Pi and Miami Vice and I’m pretty sure there were many many more.

Anyway time for a review 4.5/5. It literally (damn!) misses out on a 5 because it was too short (that’s what she said. Boom!).

Review of Sherlock S3 E3 ‘His Last Vow’ (spoiler freeish)

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So before I begin just the usual caveats that if you want to watch Sherlock be careful about reading this review. I am not going to go through things plot point by plot point but anyone who reads this will have the impact of ‘His Last Vow’ lessened.

Oddly I am not sure that I enjoyed this episode as much as the previous two. That is not to say it wasn’t as good or that it was not a better put together story just that this one was tonally completely different to the previous two episodes. The comedic tone has been replaced by something much darker. Although the stakes have not been set up in the same in the same way as they were against previous villains. I really enjoyed the previous two episodes whereas ‘His last vow’ was more gripping if not as edge of your seat as the Irene Adler or season 2 finale.

However, as I look back at the clues that were present in previous episodes to certain events that transpired in episode 3 I am of the opinion that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat adopted that comedic tone as a slight of hand. The effect of which was to stop people looking to deeply at the actions and motivations of certain characters. In my case this trick worked probably better than they writers could have ever hoped for. Instead of looking for betrayal from certain characters I was expecting tragedy so to have these expectations subverted was just good writing.

Furthermore, this episode for me had the best moment of the series. Simply because, the writers followed the situation they put Sherlock in to its logical conclusion given Sherlock’s self confessed sociopathic tendencies. Other shows would have avoided having the main character do something “evil” for a good cause in case it alienated the audience. Instead they would have manipulated the plot through hoops in a manner that was never convincing. So to have the Sherlock do what a sociopath would do. What was logical. Was great.

Lastly of course is the ‘twist’ at the end. I’m not sure whether it was a good thing for the writers to go back to this well again. Ever since the end of season 2 until this season’s beginning they placed themselves into a corner and required themselves to explain the seemingly impossible. By setting up season 4 as they have they have done the same again. Unless that is the ending was orchestrated by Sherlock himself, but that doesn’t seem too likely.

A solid 3 and 3/4 stars which I am going to round up to 4 out of 5. Not great but very good.

Review of Pay as you Play by Paul Tomkins

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From the outset it is fair to say that this is a book for football diehards only and even then it reads like more university essay/blog more than anything else.

As such despite the interest there is in seeing in statistical form that Sam Allardyce achieved his initial success on a shoestring budget and that money has got more and more crucial to achieving things in the Premier League (big shock I know) I didn’t feel there was enough to justify this being a book.

It might have been an enjoyable blog post but it was a slog to read as a book. If you want to read an fun and interesting book about statistics, money and sport try Moneyball.

Chris Christie and liberal media double standards

You may have noticed that GOP governor Chris Christie has gotten himself into a bit of trouble recently by causing a traffic jam on a bridge. It is of course right that questions are being asked.

What I want to know is why the media is not also focusing on the staff of a dangerously liberal President whose staff did the same thing and were caught on video tape doing so! This was filmed for an NBC documentary.

The establishment strikes back on World War One

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Narratives are important in politics. I’d go so far to say they are key. In today’s modern society (although the same was almost certainly true for supposedly ‘less’ complex societies) there is no one

single cause for anything. It isn’t much of a rallying cry or newspaper article to say this though. Arguments therefore tend to focus on one clear simple story to explain things. Rather disturbingly this was the same line of propaganda use by Goebbels and Hitler.

Greedy bankers for example were an important cause of the Credit Crunch but they were not the only cause. Politicians and the media focus on bankers and bonuses however, because it gives them a clear repeatable narrative. Equally, the EU has had many good and some bad effects on the UK life and there are still greater areas where it has had little or no effect at all. Listen or read anything about the EU in the British press however, and you are likely to get a very unambiguous Brussels is bad/evil/a dirty kraut empire message.

A simple clear narrative is the stuff that day to day politicking is made of.

With this in mind the nascent discussion over WW1 and its centenary this year is particularly interesting. The standard conception of WW1 has been shaped by anti-war poetry such as Wilfred’s Owen ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and more entertainingly ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’.

These narratives of WW1 both focus on the futility of the war and the idiocy of the upper class ‘donkeys’ that led an entire generation ‘lions’ to their deaths. WW1 broke forever notions that people should be kept in their place and that ruling elites were to be trusted for they know best.

Dan Carlin had a nice line about this in his most recent Hardcore History podcast saying that

Here’s the thing this war (WW1) is going to teach. If you watch the charge of the light brigade and you think it is a magnificent brave a doomed attack on the part of incredibly courageous men what happens if after the charge fails they send another one and the same results occur and then they send another one and the same results occur they do it again and again at what point does this wonderful doomed romantic celebration of the military heart become something obscene”.

WW1 hammered home lessons of regarding war and authority that still resonate today. A number of right wing politicians such as Michael Grove, Nigel Farage and conservative newspapers such as The Express and The Telegraph don’t like this very much though. They are attacking this prevailing idea of WW1 as being lefty fantasy. They want to build a narrative that stresses how Germany caused the war (on balance I agree with them) and how patriotic the British soldiers were.

These revisionist ‘historians’ are for example pointing out that General Haig was quite liked by the men he commanded even though his tactics killed a lot of them. They present this fact as if is was some sort of zinger that decides the argument. There is no reason why it should. A personal endorsement from the soldiers to their commander doesn’t really hold any wider significance about WW1 then the popularity of George W Bush in the USA to this day should tell us about what a cold analytical verdict from history will say about his presidency.

So whilst these right wing revisionists focus on building a narrative of WW1 being about heroic self-sacrifice. A war akin to WW2. They want to ignore the lessons the war taught about the blinkered nature of elites and class.

They want to change the narrative of WW1 so they can begin to take Britain back to a time where the people in charge (people like them) were respected and seen to be competent. The public should not fall for their game.