Seeking A Friend

Seeking A Friend for the End of the World was a movie I avoided for a long time, I mean a long time. Do you have those movies which you come across and the little man in your head tells you that you’d probably really like but for some unknown reason you tell your little man to go to hell and you never watch it? It happens with hyped movies a lot for me, there are so many movies which people rave about but for some strange, more than likely emotionally unhealthy reason, I convince myself that I’ll hate it so I don’t watch it. At least for not a long while afterwards. I’ve got a lot of issues I know.

Sadly Seeking a Friend is one of those films which slipped straight through and onto the keeper. Until recently that is and all I can say now, having finally seen it is, what an absolute gem of a film. It is such a perfect little intimate tale of two lost, broken people who just happen to come together only weeks before an asteroid is due to hit the earth and destroy all life. The story is fairly simple (and yes there is spoilers ahead for anyone who has not yet seen it. But come on man it’s been out for years now so you can’t really gripe if I spoil it for you), the story opens with Dodge, played by the always wonderful Steve Carell, sitting in his car with his wife as they listen on the radio as news comes in that the final solution to the incoming asteroid has failed and in three weeks time all life will cease to be. Looking over at him she realizes that Dodge isn’t the man she wants to spend her last days with and in a panic promptly legs it out of the car and into the night, never to be seen again. Over the next week or so Dodge drifts along in a daze, still going into work as an insurance salesmen (seems even in the end of time people still want to know how much money they can get), attending a painful dinner party at his best friends house which results in an uncomfortable set up and everyone deciding this would be the best time to do heroin.

That is until he meets Penny, Keira Knightley, an English girl who has been living downstairs in his apartment block for the past few years but never has spoken to, though due to extreme laziness or apathy she has been collecting his mail which had from time to time been left in her letterbox mistake. After escaping the city one night when rioting erupts in the streets the two embark on a cross country trip desperate to find some sort of comfort at the end of the world. For Dodge it’s tracking down his childhood sweetheart and for Penny it’s finding a way home to be with her family, you know the story and can probably guess the outcome. For me the magic is in the players, Carell and Knightly work so well together and weave in and out of the side characters (also played by some very well known faces) and look mismatched but so believable as they come together at the end, which is truly the end which was another moment I enjoyed. It would have been so easy to have a happy ending (and it is in a way) but the way the film ends lends a gravity and beauty to these two people who decide that at the end of the world it’s just in each others eyes that they wish to be.

It’s a lonely film, a quietly beautiful film complemented by some great performances. I can’t wait to see it again.

Three Tiered Jelly (The Mengele Effect)

The return of the X Files has been a hit and miss affair to say the least but the latest episode of the limited series run finds the show again firing on all cylinders. Written by Darin Morgan and harking back to some of his finest work (Humbug, Jose Chungs from Outer Space and the sublime Clyde Bruckmans Final Repose) ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ stands up with some of the finest comedy episodes the series has done. In fact, it was such a good episode that there was even a rare spark of life behind David Duchovny.

I won’t go too in depth of at this point (I’ll delve more into the season as a whole after it completes its run) but this episode proves that when The X Files stands its strongest it is in the single story format. ‘Forehead Sweat” finds Mulder approached by Reggie Something, a grey suited man dripping with forehead sweat who tries to convince Mulder that someone is using the Mandela Effect (Or the Mengele Effect) to erase peoples memory and change the past. Indeed Reggie even goes in depth into previous X File cases in an effort to remind Mulder that in fact he, Reggie, was an original member of the X Files and he was there from the outset, even before Scully arrived. The banter back and forth between the three is fantastic, and the writing is at it’s sharpest in a long time. There is a lot to take in this episode and I won’t ruin the brilliant comedy here (plus one very bad pun) but it is one of those episodes that will need a re-watch to take everything in. It is a nostalgic piece and reminds me why I used to love this show so much back in the day.

I have never shied away from my dislike of the mythology of the show, each brick that’s placed into that wall just shows time and time again that there is no solid plan in place for the story arc. They are usually poorly written, convoluted and way too far up there own backside. The monster of the week has always been the series’s bread and butter but that doesn’t mean that there is no room for character development. In fact the underlining theme for the latest episode (in fact the last two) has been how Mulder and Scully are people out of time, that the world has moved on and the dark landscape of the conspiratorial that they moved through just doesn’t exist anymore. Just who are they now that they have gotten older, having given everything to the pursuit of the truth and now all they have left is each other, perhaps not even that. This will probably be the last run of the X Files and I do hope they focus on the two as they struggle to find a place in the new world around them. Sadly though I think it’ll end on more of the same but there’s is always room in the realm of extreme possibilities to be pleasantly surprised.



A Not So Silent Voice

Anime can be beautiful. I’m not talking just about the stunning artwork that can be found in certain forms of anime but actual omnipresent beauty, and beauty isn’t something you find much in film of late. Indeed movies with beauty, with true beauty, with moments that capture our breath and leave us gasping, wide eyed and innocent at the screen are quite few and far between.  Naoko Yamada’s ‘Koe no Katachi’ does this with a subtle grace that transcends its medium and becomes something truly memorable.

Shoya Ishida is in the sixth grade when he first meets Shoko Nishimiya, a young girl with a severe hearing disability who has just transferred into the grade school. From the outset Ishida begins to bully her and the girl is very quickly marginalized from the rest of her class. As much as Nishimiya is sweet and innocent, trying again and again to reach out to her fellow classmates for friendship and understanding, for connection, she is met only by cruelty. The opening of the film which shows the horrific bullying Nishimiya endures of a daily basis is raw and brutal. Ishida, as are his classmates, horrid, ugly and unlikable in the extreme as the film begins and things only get worse for the girl. One day Ishida pushes things to far when after he violently rips out her hearing aids, Nishimiya is quickly taken out of school. Everyone quickly points their fingers at Ishida as the person to blame. The boy is ostracized by his classmates, his friends turn swiftly on him and he is left to spend the rest of his days at school as an outsider and pariah. He learns to look down, to avoid contact and interaction and he learns to be alone.

As time goes by Ishida is haunted the memory of Nishimiya and after an unsuccessful suicide attempt he decides to seek her out. Ishida turns from someone who is so very easy to loathe into a person we feel for, a person we pity, a person we truly want to find happniess. As the story moves along and he is forced, rather bewildered, into making human connections with Nishimiyas little sister Yuzuru and a new best friend Tomohiro Nagatsuka, another outcast at school who instantly becomes devoted to him, Ishida starts to see the world again through the deafness of his lonliness.  A Silent Voice is a story about redemption. It’s a story about the broken and the incomplete. It is about finding a peace with ourselves and those we choose to let into our lives and that while we cannot change the crimes of our past we can move on from them. The artwork is  breathtaking, the use of space and movement are perfect and the sound direction and soundtrack are sublime. It is a movie to be experienced without expectation.

It is a love story, a story about us and who we seek to be.



Here We Go Again

Regeneration episodes are tricky beasts. When I was about eight years old I can recall sitting cross legged on my parents living room floor and watching transfixed as Tom Baker (my Doctor) regenerated into a dashing Peter Davison. They still really hadn’t got a handle on a natural fluidity of the regeneration process so each death was as different as the Doctor was who was regenerating. This year sees the end of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor and show runner Steven Moffat in Twice Upon A Time and as stories go it’s, well, it’s alright.

Capaldi is an exceptional Doctor who has been time and time again let down in the writing of his tenure. His first season was the weakest of all the new Who, yes there were some crackers like Listen, Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express but most of the season was lop sided and badly conceived. It was as if they had no idea themselves as to what this new Doctor was about. He was gruff and unapproachable. An alien and that was all they seemed to have. However, all that can be said of the seasons failing one of them is not Capaldi. He is truly brilliant and his own long history with the character, and the love he has for the role shines through in every scene and I wish that he had been given something truly magical, something a little more moving as his final run. While the 10th Doctor shared much of the same moments with both David Tennant and Russel T Davis jumping ship that version was given a long love letter goodbye and it truly is heartbreaking when he also regenerates against his will. “I don’t want to go” is a beautiful last line before the devastation of his change into number 11. Moffats own first go at a regeneration storyline when Matt Smith left. while not as emotive as Tennants. it did have some lump in the throat moments. Capaldi never got that level of feeling and I think that’s such a tragic end.

Twice Upon A Time finds Capaldi’s Doctor at the South Pole refusing to regenerate after battling the Cybermen and losing both Bill and Nardole. Here he crosses paths with the first Doctor (the always brilliant David Bradley) who is himself on the verge of his first ever regeneration and, in fear of not being himself anymore, also refuses to move on. Here they meet long time Who contributor and Moffat’s Sherlock collaborator Mark Gatiss as the Captain, Pearl Mackie returns as Bill (well kind of) and adventure ensues. Which is kind of the problem. The story is just not that memorable, it’s serviceable yes but it was written by the man who wrote The Day of The Doctor for the 50th anniversary  which is a story that hits all the notes you could want. It showed thought, it showed love and it showed a true understanding of the characters. There was little to none of this here. Bradley’s Doctor was only there for the nostalgia and Capaldi’s wish to somehow have the first Doctor in his run, Bill wasn’t really Bill and Clara showing up had no point and meant very little and at the end of it all, 12 is left alone on the battlefield with everyone gone and nothing left. Once back inside the TARDIS he decides that maybe one more lifetime wouldn’t be so bad and stops fighting, and waits for the change to take him. Matt Smith had some awesome lines in his final moments as the Doctor and Capaldi should have been given something equal to sink his teeth into, to be able to show the depth and feeling of his Doctor but his lines were one dimensional and flat. The only line that had any true worth (apart from not eating pears) was his final line, “Doctor, I let you go”, which as much as elevens last lines of “I shall always remember when the Doctor was me”, was written as much for Capaldi as anyone else. So we are left, as the dust settles and Jodie Whittaker waits to fully take her place in the TARDIS  and with moments of brilliance from the 12th Doctor, it is with true sadness we say goodbye to him.

Bring on 13!