Whether you love him or loathe him, agree or disagree with him. You can’t ignore Piers Morgan. He’s on your TV. He’s been debated in Parliament. Even if you’ve got him blocked or muted, he’s on your Twitter timeline.
Through years of influential roles in journalism and broadcasting, Piers Morgan has positioned himself as a high-profile cultural commentator. He’s a divisive figure, best-known for his abrasive and combative interview style. For the past few years, he’s been the co-host of Good Morning Britain, an ITV show that boasts impressive viewing figures. It’s his experiences co-hosting this show, that provides the backdrop for his book. ‘Wake Up’ deals with issues of gender, Hollywood hypocrisy, identity politics and, free speech.
The book was originally intended to be a series of short essays, where Morgan would give his opinion on modern life. But then Covid 19 happened so the focus shifted. It’s told in diary form written between January-July 2020. Morgan examines all of the hot topic subjects one by one, as they occur. 2020 has been such a crazy ride, that I’d forgotten half the events Morgan talks about at the start of the book.
He makes some compelling arguments and he makes them well – for example when calling out Hollywood hypocrisy, he cites Natalie Portman’s speech at an awards show. Portman decried Hollywood’s lack of female directors, despite owning a production company that has only hired one female director, Natalie Portman.
At times, the book can come across as tabloid sensationalism and, I disagree with Piers Morgan on a lot of issues. However, I found Wake Up to be an interesting, engaging and entertaining read. Morgan argues that cancelling people isn’t the answer, instead, we should listen and find common ground. On that, I agree with him.
November’s Torchwood release was recorded entirely during lockdown. I wonder how long it will be before I stop mentioning things have been recorded during lockdown?
The Three Monkeys once again pairs everyone’s favourite Torchwood odd-couple, Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) and Tom Price (Andy Davidson). Unlike their previous team-ups, this is relatively light in tone.
Andy’s heart-breaking tale about his uncle was bizarrely partly based on a real story Burn Gorman told writer James Goss. In 2009, post offices up and down the country were installed with new computer systems. These systems showed massive discrepancies in the accounts. Even after the system was proved to be at fault, post office owners were wrongfully prosecuted for embezzlement. Goss wondered what would happen if this story was given a Torchwood twist and, The Three Monkeys was born.
Although lighter in tone, this audio brings everything we’ve come to expect from a James Goss release. It’s filled with tragic elements and deep character explorations. All perfectly directed by Scott Handcock, who allows the more serious moments to breathe. Iain Meadows’ sound design is flawless and tugs on the heartstrings, when Andy talks about his Aunt and Uncle. The setting of a car is inspired and makes the story feel confined and intimate. It’s like we’re sat on the back seat listening.
As always, Gorman and Price work insanely well together, Andy’s optimism mixed with Owen’s cynicism makes for an interesting dynamic.
Torchwood: The Three Monkeys once again shows that Torchwood on Big Finish, is Torchwood at its very best.
It’s difficult to believe it’s been 14 years since ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’ took the world by storm. Things have changed a lot since those heady days of 2006, as Borat himself remarks “They’ve all gone calculator crazy” (obsessed with our phones).
When we first catch up with Kazakhstan’s fourth most famous celebrity, he’s doing hard labour in a gulag. After the release of the first film the country felt he had turned them into a laughing stock. It caused exports of potassium and, pubis to plummet. Borat became a pariah, with all but one of his kids despising him. Premier Nazarbayev offers him one last shot at redemption, he’ll receive a full pardon if he travels to America and gifts Johnny the monkey to Vice President Mike Pence.
So, how does a sequel mockumentary work when the entire world knows the character? Pretty spectacularly it turns out. The film mostly follows the same plot structure as the first, they’re happy travelling together for a bit. Then they have a falling out, then they reunite. For the most part, Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat in disguise, the public stunts are mostly performed by his daughter, Tutar, played excellently by newcomer Maria Bakalova.
Cohen is a dedicated method actor and reportedly stayed in character for 5 days straight, whilst shooting this. That’s quite a commitment to the craft and it shows, he’s easily the Peter Sellers of our time.
What follows is a cutting satire of our modern-day lives, mixed with a really sweet Father/Daughter bonding narrative. Bakalova and Cohen are completely believable as family. It’s amazing what this humble Kazakh duo can get people to do. When Borat casually asks a store owner if a can of propane would gas 20 Gypsies, the store owner replies with “maybe the bigger one”. He also happily puts Tutar in a cage. However, because Borat is in disguise so much, certain scenes can feel more like Cohen’s ‘who is America?’ than a straight up Borat sequel.
Like the first film, this gleefully basks in its very un-PC humour, but that is part of what makes it work so well. This is a serious work of social criticism, that also happens to be incredibly hilarious. Cohen and director Jason Woliner have made the unthinkable funny- which might just get us all revaluating how we think about racism, bigotry and sexism. Is it offensive? Yes. But if you are easily offended, don’t watch it. It’s only a film.
Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, October 23, 2020
Ianto Jones is Torchwood. Ianto Jones is the defender of a deserted city, a lone crusader who keeps the empty streets safe.
One day he meets one of the few survivors. She needs his help – because she’s being chased by a darkness. A darkness which says it loves her.
Ex Machina is the debut Torchwood story by writer, Alfie Shaw. Shaw says he came up with the idea, after passing a book shop he used to visit with an ex. He suddenly felt like the shop was off-limits to him. Along with mutual friends etc. That’s something that really resonated with me whilst listening.
This audio focuses on fan-favourite Ianto, as he tries to help Abigail, who can’t understand what’s happened to her parents. In every photograph, she’s impossibly alone. Even in the memory, she has of moving to Cardiff, it’s just her at 6-years-old in the car. Alone. The only tether she has to her old life is her neighbour Mrs. Evans – and she has problems of her own.
Gareth David-Lloyd and Laura Aickman work extremely well together. This audio was recorded remotely and entirely during lockdown. It’s a testament to the actor’s abilities and Big Finish as a whole, that you’d never guess. Perhaps the remote recording helped the performers feel isolated, like their characters. Jacob Dudman also puts in a fun performance, as a completely unlikeable character.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Torchwood on Big Finish is Torchwood at its very best. This is another top-notch entry in the range.
With the exception of The Jungle Book, I haven’t enjoyed any of the Disney live-action remakes. It’s not that I’ve thought any of them were terrible, it’s just that none of them hit me the same way. However, I was genuinely interested in Mulan. It’s packed, with a cast full of martial artists experts and on paper is arguably, the only Disney film that could really work as live-action.
This version of Mulan vastly deviates from the 1998 source material. There are no musical numbers and the romantic subplot, is nowhere to be seen. It also replaces the wisecracking dragon, Mushu, with a soaring phoenix whose presence beats you over the head, with obvious metaphors.
With a cast consisting mostly of Chinese actors, with costumes and sets so impeccably designed. It seemed like a sure-fire hit. The film does look genuinely beautiful in places, the blend of New Zealand and China’s locations is seamless. However, the film doesn’t really have a lot going for it. There’s some really dodgy CGI and green screen work and, as great as her performance is, Liu Yifei never convinces as a man. She’s recognisably a woman throughout, it’s difficult to suspend your disbelief when the film isn’t even pulling off its central promise.
The film has many promising parts but fails to bring them together in a satisfying way. The action set pieces, that should be spectacular are either bad or mediocre, which is a shame considering the film boasts a cast that includes Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, and Gong Li. These are all actors renowned for their martial arts expertise. This could have been so good.
Mulan 2020 is just Mulan 1998, with the fun taken out. My advice would be to wait until it’s free to stream on Disney+.
In the first episode of the highly anticipated second series of Ghosts. Alison and Mike try to find new money-making ventures to fund the restoration of Button House.
When a photographer takes a photo of the property, for a potential wedding venue. He spots a blurry Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas) in the upstairs window. The photo of the house goes viral, with social media users dubbing her “the grey lady”. When paranormal fans from far and wide show up at the house, Mike spots a lucrative opportunity. He convinces Alison they should give people an authentic haunted house experience. Unfortunately, Julian (Simon Farnaby) has convinced the rest of the ghosts to go on strike.
Made by most of the creative minds behind Horrible History, Ghosts was a personal highlight of 2019. With so many comedies nowadays having a bleak edge, It’s refreshing to see a family-friendly comedy, that reminded me of the type of shows I watched with my parents as a kid.
An unspecified amount of time has passed since we were last with the residents of Button House. As soon as she wakes up in the morning, Alison checks the bathroom is clear of specters, so Mike can use it. She then attends to the Ghosts needs. She starts records, helps with crosswords, turns pages in books, opens laptops, and, times the Captain (Ben Willbond) running a lap, he feels he isn’t achieving his best. This was a great way to show the passage of time and just how comfortable the residents have gotten with each other. Mike even has a board, with photos and sketches of the ghosts. So he can picture who Alison is talking to.
Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe have such great natural chemistry and remain totally believable as a kind-hearted couple, who are completely out of their depth. They also deal with the disbelief young home-owners experience, when they tell visitors they own the house. The rest of the cast are all equally outstanding, everyone involved with this is at the very top of their game. There’s even a great guest turn from Colin Hoult, who never disappoints. My personal highlight was Pat (Jim Howick) and Thomas (Mathew Baynton) pretending to be 80s disc jockeys.
2020 has been a dark year for us all, it’s great to finally see some light.
Ghosts returns tonight at 8:30 pm on BBC One. With all episodes on iPlayer after that.
Stars Charlotte Ritchie, Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, and others.
Reunion films are tricky. They have to rekindle the magic that made them successful in the first place, be new and innovative enough to entice a new generation and, please life-long fans who’ve been writing the new installment in their heads for years.
Comedy films are doubly tricky, as society’s sensibilities change so much during a hiatus of a decade or longer. But, where the likes of Dumb and Dumber to and, Jay and Silent Bob reboot fell. Bill & Ted Face the Music soars.
It’s been 29 years since Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, but Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves instantly fall back into their titular roles. It’s like they’ve never been away.
Our heroes are still trying to write the song that will unite the world. They’re older now, but they remain just as kind-hearted, as when we last saw them.
After a hilarious session at couples therapy, Bill and Ted are visited by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their future-dwelling mentor Rufus (named after Carlin’s real-life daughter), who brings news of universe ending proportions.
What follows is a fun adventure, told mostly in real-time, written by the franchise creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. The duo have delivered a most outstanding script. They’ve allowed Bill and Ted to grow and evolve, they’re still recognisably the characters we fell in love with in 1988. But they’ve changed, as we all do.
There are enough callbacks to the prior films, to please fans. But nothing that would put off a newcomer. William Sadler as Death remains a highlight, he’s so absurd and uncool, that he ends up being most triumphant.
The handling of the late great George Carlin’s Rufus is done with love, respect, and admiration. It even brought a tear to my eye.
Whilst Bill & Ted are off having adventures, we also follow their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), who are traveling through time, attempting to assemble the greatest band of all time to help their dads fulfill their destiny. Both are completely believable as the daughters of Bill & Ted, I would happily take a spin-off with these two at the helm.
If any criticism can be leveled at this, it’s in the handling of Bill & Ted’s wives Elizabeth and Joanna. We barely see them. However, with a runtime of only 91 minutes, some characters are always going to feel underserved. Hopefully, we’ll get a comic book, that shows us the princess’s adventure.
The entire film is an utter delight from start to finish. Their careers may have taken them in vastly different directions over the years, but Reeves and Winter have remained very close. That trust, natural chemistry, and understanding absolutely shines through.
This film offers a message of love, hope, unity, friendship, and, an utter joy for music. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a shining beacon of pure unadulterated pleasure. It might just save the universe.
Stay for the end credits.
Bill and Ted Face The Music will come to UK cinemas on September 16th.
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