Salt and pepper man

Poetry

The other day I went to go and shave.
And saw my face had started to grow and change.
My stubble was silver.
This was a low blow and no token phase.
Cos lately, ‘I’m getting old’ has become my go-to phrase.
But left me wondering, what the hell happened?
Is just over a decade in London enough to leave me battered?
Exhausted each day so I collapse all knackered.
I mean, what gives?
It’s not like I have kids.
What’s that phrase?
Something about if the cap fits.
Cos I probably say ‘I’m getting old’ enough each day to score a hat trick.
So yeah, I can’t ignore the matter at hand.
Is there a way to halt the process?
Should I start to fathom a plan?
Put the word out and gather a clan.
Build myself a team of guys in their 30s and 40s.
Kinda like The Expendables.
But young dads with steady jobs.
We can be Team Sensible.
Or Team Dependable.
And meet up to discuss when we became so terrible.
And work out the point at which we turned spherical.
Or maybe talk about how, on nights out now, we decline those chemicals.
Cos drugs aren’t for us.
We’ve got enough aches and pains.
If we add a comedown on top we won’t escape for days.
Cos it’s the little things that amuse me now.
Like how I put my hands on my knees (with a sound effect) to get up from a chair.
Makes me think life should come with a clause.
A Buyer Beware.
But it’s not like we can trade in our bodies when we’re under fifty.
For me, it’s all about that afternoon sleep.
I get a sick kick when slumber hits me.
Probably the same kids get watching Disney.
Or a cowboy does when he necks a whisky.
But aside from naps, there’s other things to mention.
Like they say sport’s supposed to give you energy.
Get you high on adrenaline.
But don’t listen to the lies that exercise is peddling.
Cos I’m knackered after a workout.
A broken specimen.
Should have trained harder till my muscles were armour like a Trojan regiment.
However a lot of the time, I wish I’d stayed home.
As nights in are the new nights out.
But ‘Netflix and chill’ should not mean sex.
Instead, why can’t we talk?
There are plenty of subjects.
Or instead sit in silence like inanimate objects.
Letting TV numb us as paralysis onsets.
Yeah, that sounds good to me.
But while I’m at it, here’s another thing.
Somehow, still, I get labelled a millennial.
To get down with the kids, I could backtrack and use snapchat.
But this is no way credible.
Cos that group follows a path I just wouldn’t tread at all.
Which is maybe regrettable.
But that’s more than cool.
I mean, soon I’ll be 35.
I’ve got other fish to fry.
Cos often I get stuck on the side of life’s highway.
Wishing I could hitch a ride.
Or at least my brain insists I try.
Despite the fact that getting old has me mystified.
And makes me think I need to punch through to my desired reality with fists that fly.
Cos I just want new experiences.
Like, to see Versaille.
And see Brunei.
And get better at cooking Thai.
And baking pies.
Perhaps learn to stay out of trouble with an alibi.
(On a side note, someone should have said this to Sam Allardyce. But he messed up. Then they had to sack the guy).
But I’ll stop there.
Cos life’s all about sacrifice.
Or so they say.
But I like to fantasize.
And self-indulge with fantastic rhymes.
Cos it’s more inspiring than telling lies.
Especially to myself.
Which is, frankly, the most telling crime.
And, if I’m honest, is one I just can’t abide.

Groundhog boy

Poetry

When I wake each day.
And think about leaving the house.
I tend to freeze up.
Cos I’m shrouded by doubt.
Forced to bear my stare in the mirror.
But all I find is a frown.
Is this it?
I say, glancing down.
Sizing up my figure like I haven’t realised it’s round.
Cos I’m tubbier these days.
Always saying I’ll hit the gym.
Get ripped and thin.
Build a hard body all sculpted.
One that’s fit for kings.
But right now I’m more pauper material.
Stuck in a dream that feels forced and ethereal.
Wanting to scratch my skin from within.
But not really sure that the cause is bacterial.
Like there’s tiny critters invading my veins.
Breaking me down and planning my burial.
More likely something else troubles me.
This is I ponder as I’m sat drinking bubble tea.
Then a thought seduces me lovingly as it’s introduced suddenly.
I want a simple life.
One that’s calm and puzzle free.
Where it’s totally normal to demand a shrubbery.
Cos there’s a lot to learn from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Like how to not charge through life on a silly quest.
Where the end goal seems to be to slowly fail.
Cos when it comes to the human existence.
My body’s more ill-equipped than I’ll admit.
All whispy, spectral and grossly frail.
At best, I’m a phantom man who can’t fathom a plan.
As I amble along this ghostly trail.
Cos words are dead on my lips from life’s perilous hits.
So my creative flow is mostly stale.
And the story I’ll probably tell at the end.
Will likely be that of a lonely tale.
But maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion?
And these words I say are a shakedown, extortion and not to scale.
But in all honesty, I have been feeling lately like I’m locked in jail.
Trapped battling my own personal monster, like Captain Ahab.
With no real clue how I stop this whale.
As it drags me down to the ocean’s floor.
Salt water in my lungs.
Sneaking in like a Trojan Horse.
Till I’m as numb and cold as a frozen corpse.
But this got me thinking.
Everyone needs an antagonist, right?
One that can fight like Tyler Durden.
Because an alter ego is probably the only thing to help me break life’s chains.
So I can be more certain and free of burden.
But whether I get one or not.
It might now be the case that I’ve lost the plot and I’m way off topic.
Spouting nonsense like a lost prophet.
Why can’t I just stop it?
And be practical for once.
So I think in specifics.
Instead of simply resorting to gimmicks.
Painting a picture that doesn’t exist.
And then persisting by forcing the image.
Which is stupid.
Because I’m a force to begin with.
And it’s time I took myself by the scruff of the neck.
Otherwise, middle of the road is as good as it gets.
And I can’t settle.
It’s just not in my nature.
I’m much better at rebelling with truth than being a faker.
But to win, I need weapons to attack my psyche.
Give me a sabre, give me a razor.
Hell, I know origami, I’ll even do it with paper.
Watch me put in work on these rogue thoughts like they’re manual labour. 
Cos I’m relentless. 
And won’t stop with detractors till I weed out the traitors. 
Lay waste to their negativity till they’re nothing but vapour. 
So at the end, in the smoking rubble.
There’s stands a lone figure, a stranger.
All lit up like a saviour.
Turns out that it’s me. 
I’ve broken free.
And become stronger through failure. 
Cos I’ve emerged from my chrysalis.
And I’m all the more greater. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming – review

Film

So Spidey is back – and now with added baby-faced Tom Holland. Back in the day Tobey Maguire had three goes at the role with Sam Raimi directing: Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007). Then Andrew Garfield had a crack with Marc Webb in charge: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

And each, arguably, suffered from the law of diminishing returns. Spidey wasn’t dead but he had been battered pretty thoroughly. Then he popped up, teasingly, in Captain America: Civil War (2016)played by a young Tom Holland. And everyone loved his – albeit short – take on the character. Seems Spidey had returned and this time he was part of the MCU.

Hooray, this felt fresh and well-timed.

So we get Spider-Man: Homecoming a year later. Now some say this version of our arachnid hero is the best yet. Not just because having a younger actor play the role REALLY works and makes more sense (he’s supposed to be a schoolkid), but also because Tom Holland just seems a better fit as an actor than Maguire, and certainly Garfield.

Because, frankly, Holland plays to his strengths, making him cocky and intelligent yet vulnerable and with a big heart, which, naturally, brings him to Tony Stark’s attention. For you see, with Homecoming, he’s very much Tony’s protégé, with Tony a sort of tough love father figure towards Peter.

And as part of that tough love, after helping Stark out in Civil War he gets cuts loose, and told to basically stay out of trouble until he’s called upon, with Happy (Jon Favreau) his reluctant minder.

During which time hard-as-nails salvage guy Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is nicking alien artifacts found during the aftermath of the chitauri attack on New York and turning them into weapons – and in doing so becomes the Vulture.

So little Peter has to prove he’s got what it takes to bring Toomes down, change from boy to man, and prove his hero status to become a fully fledged Avenger.

Which is all well and good. But the nice touches for me in this film come from things we’ve not seen before. THANK GOD the filmmakers didn’t show us how Peter got his powers and came to live with Aunt May. We’ve seen it so many times. Save for a quick line about being bitten by spider and how his aunt has been through a lot, that’s it. Great, let’s move on.

More thought along similar lines has also gone into Peter’s suit. As it’s made by Stark it comes complete with gadgets galore and a PA, but with a little twist to contrast Iron Man’s JARVIS. So from the types of web he can use (grenade, taser) to the suit’s modes (kill, surveillance), it adds a lot more to Spider-Man in terms of his capabilities as a hero and how he can fight.

Yet, as Tony points out, he needs to be a hero without the suit (much like Tony’s own journey in Iron Man). So there’s a couple of pivotal – and fairly emotionally weighty – scenes where we get to see what Peter is really made of. And it helps, of course, to have a worthy foe, because in Michael Keaton we get both comic book pedigree (Batman, Birdman) and oodles of charisma, where he can flip from charm to menace at the drop of a hat (he should really play baddies more often, it suits him).

Ultimately, it’s great that Spider-Man is with Marvel now. Sony, for all their efforts, never really found their groove with this character. And given the fact that Marvel just continue to go from strength to strength as they expand their universe, it’s encouraging that Spider-Man is now a part of that. Roll on Thor: Ragnarok.

Baby Driver: the musical that wasn’t

Film

Edgar Wright first came to most people’s attention with his Cornetto trilogy: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013). In-between, he threw in a career highlight – the utter batshit curveball that was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). For lo, it contained a truckload of cool music and a baby-faced lead (Michael Cera), whose character was part of the delightfully named indie band Sex Bob-Omb.

Uber cool, and oh so fun.

He then went off to do Ant-Man and it all went tits up.

But a true measure of a person’s character is how you bounce back and, with Baby Driver, he’s come back blazing – with a crime flick he’s had brewing for quite a few years, and is quite possibly his best work to date.

The movie features a baby-faced getaway driver, Baby (Ansol Elgort), who’s prodigious behind the wheel but wants out of a life of crime. One last job and all that… However, bad boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) has leverage so Baby, for now, must play the game. Not just with Doc, but also his ragtag group of unhinged robbers, in particular Bats (Jamie Foxx) and Buddy (John Hamm) – who both can’t get the measure of Baby and suspect him of not taking this crime stuff seriously.

Hamm and Foxx are blinding casting. They practically steal the film from Elgort. But you’d expect as much. Ansol has to play the straight hero and it’s always the case that the baddest bad guys get to have all the fun.

Bats, like his name, is batty, batshit, a live wire, totally unpredictable and definitely not a team player – which begs the question as to why he’s there. But why not? He’s mad and has skills, which makes robbing banks more fun, no? Buddy, too, starts with the charm (easy for Hamm), doing his Bonnie and Clyde thing with wild wife and partner in crime Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). But he, too, is not a nice guy. Hamm plays him just on the right side of menacing and cartoonish. Close to caricature at times, but events unfold which cause him to turn on Baby in a deliciously evil way – and this arc is some of the best work Hamm’s done in years.

Moreover, inbetween burning rubber for bad guys Baby has another story. Of love, with the impossibly gorgeous Deborah (Lily James), who literally has nothing going on in her life and falls for Baby’s strong and silent shtick straight away (this only happens in the movies).

But first, he’s got bad guy stuff to do before they can run off into the sunset.

Now this may sound like I’m being cynical but I’m just poking fun.

Yeah, Wright steals a lot from loads of movies, but all filmmakers do. As long as you put your own spin on your work it can feel fresh and fun – and this film really does (96% Rotten Tomatoes). It’s also worth saying that not for a long time have I seen a film that weaves music into its fabric quite so effortlessly. It’s balletic at times and almost a musical (although there’s no bursting into song particularly).

Also, with Tarantino off the boil these days (close to retirement?) it’s left to directors like James Gunn and Edgar Wright to fly the flag for music in film in oh so delightful ways. (We can’t have Hans Zimmer do every score now, can we? And Christopher Nolan does seems to monopolise his time anyway.)

But other than music, there’s no real common ground between Guardians of the Galaxy and Baby Driver – except a sense of fun. I mean, the latter probably shares more DNA with Wright’s Scott Pilgrim and plays like the demented lovechild of Heat, The Town, Natural Born Killers and Reservoir Dogs, but hopped up on sugar, coffee and optimism.

Or Drive if it had a sense of humour. Boom.

There’s very little fat either.

Wright wrote the screenplay and it nips along at a decent pace, each character getting their moment. But Wright, smartly, keeps the focus on Baby, who’s in pretty much every scene.

And what casting Elgort is.

At the time of Scott Pilgrim I remember thinking THAT lead came out of leftfield, but turned out to be genius. I mean, who would’ve thought Michael Cera could pull off fight scenes so convincingly? And here, as Baby, Elgort is an inspired choice.

I knew little about him (The Fault in Our Stars fame and was on the shortlist for the young Han Solo movie) before this film, but reading up, he’s as much a musician as an actor. Even took ballet lessons as a kid, which makes sense, given some of the scenes in Baby Driver required, athleticism, shall we say? (And I don’t mean sex, if that’s what you’re thinking.)

His journey is interesting too. A strong and silent getaway driver (Ryan Gosling in Drive?) who connects to his past by listening to old cassette tapes (Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy?) means he’s following in the footsteps of some big actors. But he owns the role. Particularly when he could have been all but swallowed up by the bigger actors like Spacey, Foxx and Hamm swanning about the place.

Wright has talked about a sequel – which would be the first time he’s done that in his career. To me, this film feels fairly complete as a story, but I’d be open to the idea if it was a REALLY good story. The studio is keen, so we’ll see.

But if you were on the fence, go see this film. It’s so much fun. And if you were expecting a Hott Fuzz type affair, this ain’t it. Wright evolves with each film so you can’t really pigeonhole him. I’m excited to see what he does next.

Glow: ladies, wrestling and Alison Brie

TV

So Netflix have a new show out from the creators of ‘Orange is the New Black’. And I have to say, when I first saw it I thought it looked cool. It’s set in the 80s, everyone has big hair and bad ass neon costumes, and most of the characters are women who are trying to break into the male-dominated world of wrestling. Oh, and it’s got the awesomeness that is Alison Brie as the lead.

So yeah, it intrigued me. However, a little voice in the back of my head reminded me that I fell for this type of marketing recently with Jamestown (‘from the makers of Downton Abbey’ – turned out to be a dull period drama where not a lot really happened).

Anyway, with GLOW I remained hopeful. And, if you’re the kind of person that skips ahead to the ending I can reveal I wasn’t let down as much with GLOW as I was with Jamestown, as it got better as it went on, but wasn’t an instant classic. Which is slightly surprising given the cast, show’s creators and the whole concept. But we’ll get to why shortly. 

So GLOW is about ladies that wrestle. That are, indeed, gorgeous. The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Clever eh?

We open with Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), a struggling actress killing an audition with a commanding monologue. Turns out she was reading the man’s part meant for Steve Guttenberg. 

A strong scene that demands your attention. The patriarchy was very much alive and kicking in the 80s (still is, in many ways). This show could be really good if it keeps this up.

So back to Ruth. She’s tenacious after many knockbacks in the acting world. So when she gets the chance to, she jumps at the opportunity to be part of a new, all-female wrestling show. (If that isn’t a sport positively dripping in testosterone then I don’t know what is.)

Quickly, she establishes herself as key villian, ‘Zoya the destroyer’ in the line-up of ragtag performers, opposite her former best friend Debbie ‘Liberty Belle’ (Betty Gilpin) – the hero if you will – and sparks duly fly.

So far so good.

Jumping ahead, near the season’s end the show gets into its stride, with the finale going for a Dodgeball feel, complete with sly, well-observed fight commentary from GLOW’s producer Sebastian ‘Bash’ Howard (Chris Lowell), which is a hoot to watch.

But this sort of stuff makes you wish there had been more of this earlier on in the season. Because once you reveal what you can do as a writer, you set your own bar that much higher. So as an audience we expect this level every time. But maybe that’s why they left the best stuff until the end? Anyway…I digress.

Along with Ruth we have half a dozen other ladies to get to know and they all get a scene or two, but it feels slightly jumbled. Plus, Ruth is frustratingly unsympathetic as a character to begin with, and the focus seems to drift from her to one or two others, without a clear idea of where the story is truly going. And the bold, feminist opening of the start seems to have been slightly forgotten in favour of just a straight up comedy. 

That said, there’s memorable scenes every episode and the sharp writing mostly continues throughout. Also, a highlight from more or less the off is the show’s schlocky B-movie director, Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), whose sardonic humour and world-weary view make for a nice contrast to the sparky group of oddballs and rejects with whom he’s trying to mould into something resembling professional. (It’s important to note that he’s not a dick to women specifically, but to everyone, as his own career is somewhat on the slide.)

I’ll end by saying that the encouraging signs were there in the final third of the season though. As the show seemed to come together and most of the characters felt like they had more of a sense of purpose and began to spark off each other in delightful ways as a group.

Moreover, Alison Brie’s performance, despite taking a while to warm to, was really the heart and soul of the whole thing. And we as an audience perhaps warm to her as her fellow wrestling team warm to her as things go on. Which you could say is really clever writing, if it was intentional. 

There is also the fact that, as the season took its time, we’ve barely scratched the surface with most characters. So there’s a lot more story to tell. Plus the feminist angle really only got touched on from time to time, so that’s also ripe to push a lot further. 

So if they do renew it, the future’s looks bright for the lycra-clad gorgeous gang. All hail the ladies that wrestle. 

Finding my voice

Poetry

When I started writing and performing.
I took a lot of inspiration from battle rap.
Thinking, if I could master my nerves.
Then with the rest of the scene.
I figured maybe I could handle that.
But my early material was pretty basic.
I didn’t rate it.
I just didn’t think I had the knack.
Cos crowds were daunting.
And would give me the hump like a camel back.
So on stage I’d shake.
That adrenalin taste proper prepping me for a heart attack.
So I’d try and project.
But my voice would wobble.
Like a CD that keeps skipping parts of tracks.
So I doubled down to beat the nerves.
And began upping my tempo with faster raps.
But found that they didn’t land with the crowd.
Like a baseball player finding that he’s last to bat.
So I went back to basics.
Began to tell stories that were way more personal.
Which had a reaction.
So I became more purposeful.
And my writing got tighter and practically surgical.
Cos now I was cutting to the core of the matter like I was slicing vertical.
My pen and verses now had purpose.
No longer was I writing merciful.
My emotional baggage all over the place.
Like a busy airport type of terminal.
Cos as a problem, this was workable.
Now my material leapt off the page.
But it had taken so long to get to this stage.
By never pushing myself, how was I expected to change?
Cos this situation had left me intense and deranged.
Selling myself short had become a senseless exchange.
So to preserve my sanity, I now write every day. 
Flexing my emotional muscles so that they get exercised. 
Purging demons with my pen till they’re exorcised.
Digging into my psyche.
Seeing which parts of me will be next in line.
Cos it’s amazing how, with words, you can get this high.
Although the process kind of has me petrified.
Not long ago I muddled along with the masses. 
Now I feel like I’ve left that tribe. 
In uncharted territory.
Wondering if I should dive in properly and test this vibe. 
Is it worth it, this poetry? 
Should I invest the time? 
At this point your guess is as good as mine.
Because our complex emotions are as deep as the ocean.
They ebb and flow. 
And if you fight and suppress them.
You’ll fast discover that they’re a worthy foe.
Feelings will peck at your mind. 
Taking flight when you reach for them like a nervy crow. 
It’ll be like you’re lost in a blizzard. 
Trying to see your way through blurry snow. 
Yeah, this is how your journey goes. 
Maybe you’ll turn to religion. 
This is probably what the clergy hopes. 
Just don’t make snap decisions.
Thinking you can strengthen your position with an early vote.
But I’m making it all sound like a murderous chore. 
Is expressing myself really worse than before? 
It’s like pre-poetry I was trapped in a room.
And writing has helped me burst through the door. 
So now my language has tactics.
Like scrabble, my words do backflips.
Cos all I’m ever doing is learning to score. 
So each time I put pen to paper it’s a game and cathartic.
Every day, I get better with letters.
Cos I’m just taming my artist.
In a state of psychosis I explore my neurosis.
Cos I’m a Doctor at this and my mind is my TARDIS.
And as I get more bold and evolve, I’m proud to say that my resolve is the hardest. 
My imagination infinite.
Like space, with its cold and its darkness. 
It’s where I find my creative place.
And reveal my true face. 
It’s where I’m the calmest. 

Jamestown: season one review

TV

In 1610, Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. At first, men only. Then a few years later women came, by way of being purchased as wives. In the same way one might buy tobacco at the time.

Which is a decent idea for a TV show, if you think about it. It’s cinematic, there’s lots of vast landscapes and ideas to explore and adventures to be had. And, weirdly, it feels fresh. Especially if you come at it from a feminist perspective.

Which you’d hope that Bill Gallagher, the guy behind this show, did do. Because, among other things, he’s had a hand in Downton Abbey, Lark Rise to Candleford and The Paradise. So he can do period drama and he can do compelling characters.

Plus, he’d heard about this slice of history and thought it would make an interesting canvas upon which to showcase his skills. No matter that Terence Malick had already had a crack at it, with the film The New World in 2005. Gallagher must have figured that, with Sky Atlantic backing him, he could tell a compelling story on the small screen on a juicy budget.

After all, he had worked on Downton Abbey. And everyone loves that.

Sadly, he hasn’t replicated his past successes. At least not to the same extent. Which is baffling, because all the component parts were there for a winner. It’s a period we haven’t much seen before, it’s got Native Americans, the untapped wilderness of Virginia, hunting for gold, politicking, fights for power, lusting, and a sexy cast.

And I say sexy because that’s how Sky marketed it. Sexy, but more importantly, feminist with it. Because the advertising had my partner and I thinking it’d be a show about women fighting their corner and controlling their destiny; in a time when they were literally sold as property and shipped off to a new world.

However, after a promising first episode, our enthusiasm quickly petered out as the show failed to live up to its hype.

Because the real problem is, that NOTHING MUCH REALLY HAPPENS. Ok, there are a lot of characters to introduce but we never really stick with any of them long enough to get that invested. And each episode seems to jump between them with no clear focus as to who our main protagonist is and what the thrust of the overall story is supposed to be.

Ultimately, screenwriting should only do one of two things: reveal character or drive the story forward.

And Gallagher doesn’t do much of either. You could argue that maybe two farmers, the Sharrow brothers, are the key focus. Silas (Stuart Martin) the quiet hero, just looking for a peaceful life with his new – but questionably acquired – wife Alice (Sophie Rundle). And Henry (Max Beesley), the intense and violent older brother, laser focused on finding gold that’ll shift the balance of power in the town in his favour.

The problem is I’m reaching for these two as the clear protagonist and antagonist of the show. Both Henry and Silas’s storylines meander along and neither character has that much agency. Silas, in particular, just reacts to things, rather than driving his story forward.

It probably also won’t escape your notice that I’m talking about two male characters when I had hoped this show would be feminist. Which is another gripe, as Gallagher sets up a host of promising female characters, then seems to only give them limited screentime when they should probably be the focus throughout.

For example we have Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick), betrothed to Samuel of the Virginia Company, and in a position as a Lady of standing in the town. Immediately we mark her out as the most Machiavellian character; plotting and scheming and twisting the town’s men round her little finger. Which is great to see. (Almost Cersei-esque a la Game of Thrones.) But too often she drifts for entire episodes, hovering in the background when she should be dictating proceedings. Which is, frustratingly, down to the show’s writers rather than Battrick’s performance.

Then there’s Alice (Sophie Rundle), betrothed to Henry but suffers a sexually violent act (another one on modern TV, how original) at his hands before they wed. He goes off in search of gold and she weds his brother Silas (with whom she’s conveniently fallen in love almost straight away). And whilst she has the potential as a character to bring righteous retribution in Henry’s direction, she seems to be largely stuck in ‘wet blanket’ mode, relying on Silas to protect her, which is a shame.

There’s also Verity (Niamh Walsh), married to the town drunk. She’s the fiestiest character and seems to get the best lines in terms of defending herself and her fellow females against the town’s boorish men. But she also waxes and wanes frustratingly, never progressing or shaking things up. 

And that’s pretty much how the whole season goes. Teasing you with the glimmers of interesting storylines and complex characters, then shying away from fully realising any of them. 
Maybe it’s the fault of shows like Game of Thrones, which just set the bar too high. But I don’t buy that. I think that this show is trying to play the long game and let things unfold over many seasons. But you just can’t do that these days. With so much good TV out there you need to be grabbing the viewer straight from the off, and keep them hooked EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. 

Sadly, this show doesn’t. So, if I was marking it, I’d say 5, maybe 6 out of 10. And I’d be very surprised if it got a second season. Which is a shame, but it would be its own fault.

Wonder Woman: a review

Film

Sitting in the pub with my partner after having just seen Wonder Woman, we got down to the tricky job of dissecting the latest DC offering in a balanced way, lest we get carried away with the hype. (I say we, I’d better recuse her from this review henceforth – as all these opinions are my own. And she’s die-hard Marvel anyway.)

Because when I say hype, I mean the fact that this is the first* superhero film (from Marvel or DC) to have a female lead (Gal Gadot) and director (Patty Jenkins).

*Captain Marvel will have a female lead, director and two female screenwriters, but it’s not out until 2019.

Which, in 2017, is a somewhat ridiculous state of affairs. I mean, how have studios ONLY NOW become dimly aware that women can create good movies that’ll get you a decent return on investment? They can write them, direct them, act in them and produce them. And audiences want to see them. What a revelation. It’s a crazy world in which we live; this Hollywood sausage fest.

But I digress. I’m a guy so I’m part of the patriarchy and thus part of the problem. And it is still a problem, as the backlash to the women-only screenings of the film have demonstrated.

So it’s clear we needed this film to do well.

Not only from a feminist point of view, but also commercially. Because after the slamming DC took with Batman v Superman and Man of Steel and Suicide Squad they badly needed a hit. Not that we can force this film to be good through sheer willpower, of course. But we can hope.

And happily, it’s decent. There you go, there’s my review. You can all go home now. Oh, you want more? Ok fine.

To bring you up to speed, Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, lives on a hidden island inhabited solely by women (Amazonians), which is led by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). We meet Diana as a wild child who wants to be a warrior, which is against her mother’s wishes. This is because the land in which they live was created by Zeus to protect them from the God of War, Ares. And Diana, of course, is special.

Then we jump ahead to her all grown up and now the best fighter on the island. She’s ready for a scrap but with no enemy. Luckily, WWI fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) literally crashes into her world; when his plane falls into the sea.

She rescues him and meets her first man. Then learns of the outside world and the fact that it’s engaged in the biggest war in history. Naturally, she suspects Ares is behind it and wants to help. So she joins Steve on his return to civilisation before they take on evil bad guys.

Plot wise, that’s the setup.

And suffice to say, after the relatively damp squib that was Suicide Squad (Margot Robbie aside), this story feels fresher. Perhaps because it’s simpler and the WWI setting helped. Perhaps because it’s got more humour than the last two DC movies. Whatever the case, it’s an exciting ride and fits comfortably in the middle of the DC pack. (Which is no bad thing, sitting behind, in my mind, the likes of The Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen.)

Gal Gadot very much looks the part, too. Lithe, limber, exotic, and immensely beautiful. The one question that hung over her is whether her acting chops were up to it? After all, she’d really just had a few Fast & Furious films to her name. For the most part she’s convincing in the role.

We have to remember she has a lot of screentime and needed to hold the audience throughout. It helped having Chris Pine alongside her and the two worked well together. Trevor as the weary spy, the realist, the pragmatist. Diana as the optimist, full of love and new to the world of man and his murky moralities.

And on the feminist front it has a few nice touches in the script. Such as when Steve and Diana discuss the ‘pleasures of the flesh’ and whether men are needed, other than for procreation. And when Diana is trying on clothes and remarks, ‘How am I meant to fight in this?’

Ultimately, this was a tough gig for both Patty Jenkins (who hadn’t directed since Monster in 2003) and Gal Gadot, to not only deliver a superhero film, but also ensure it was as feminist as it could be, and also got a big return for the studio. No pressure then. Happily it’s smashed the Box Office and seems to have been a reasonable hit with feminists.

I guess the question for DC is, what next? For if they’re clever they’ll introduce more female characters into their movies and, perhaps, it could be their unique selling point over Marvel?

You could argue that female superheroes are nothing new (Catwoman, Aeon Flux, Lara Croft), but this feels like a turning point. In that Hollywood are actually putting some effort, talent and budget into these movies now.

Smoking used to be cool

Poetry

Remember when smoking was the way to be seen?
Back when all our idols did it. 
From Sean Connery to James Dean.
A cigarette hanging lazy from their lip.
So cool it made me wanna fake scream. 
Or get all starry-eyed and daydream. 
Then the world changed, and our bodies became temples of health. 
Now I could live longer.
And perhaps play a different hand to the one I was dealt. 
With quinoa and wheatgrass and gluten-free bread. 
I could be better. 
But a voice inside screamed to be shot in the head. 
Cos I missed the days of whisky and decadence.
Where I twerked in clubs, my body all twisty and elegant. 
And the way I flirted had a kind of trippy intelligence.
But now I just spend my days in health stores and coffee shops.
Damn.
It wasn’t long ago when Friday night dinner was one that I double dropped.
But even back then I was burning out.
And needed a plan to stop the rot. 
Cos this lifestyle couldn’t last, and before long would have to stop. 
So I ditched the night-time narcotics for fitbits and yoga mats.
With weekends spent browsing for more wholesome hits.
Like curtains and cushions and toaster racks.
Knowing this was way worse than my youth.
But somehow, now, I was kinda trapped and loathe to act. 
Cos my joys, it seemed, were cups of tea.
I had to grow up and face that fact. 
But life is never as black and white as people say. 
Sometimes, when you clear an obstacle, you still get wet like a steeplechase. 
But this is the glory of the human existence. 
And shouldn’t be a lethal race. 
So if I’m having a good time and not hurting anyone.
Should I be punished for my ‘evil traits’?
But whatever. 
Right now, on the table, lurks that cigarette. 
Its rush of calm is in my grasp. 
So where’s the harm if I go ahead and take that bet?
Look at it, laying there all seductive.
The sunlight framing its silhouette. 
With witnesses around I try and ignore it.
And attempt to casually feign regret. 
But in reality can’t hide my dismay.
As I put it down so it’s laid to rest. 
Cos frankly, I’ve been racking up debt for decades. 
So maybe now it’s time I paid that cheque?
Cos ribbons of impurity continue to unravel in my mind. 
And get me thinking, should I save these threads? 
Cos I need both the rebel and the sensible. 
And if I don’t feed them equally.
Then I may as well be as good as dead. 

Floating voter

Poetry

So… you gotta admit.
Theresa May’s snap election is about as underwhelming as a crap erection.
Cos when it comes to picking compelling leaders.
It seems, as a country, we lack invention.
Now we’re stuck sweating over our future with apprehension.
I mean, take the farce that is brexit.
Ooh. Can we change our minds? Do we have to leave? Is there a way we can test it?
I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND!
I wasn’t fully invested.
And somehow, now, we’ve taken the red pill.
So down the rabbit hole we go.
But who leads us? Jeremy Corbyn?
Does he even understand Wonderland?
Or under him will we be stuck endlessly falling?
Either that, or in fact we’ll be trapped with a mad harridan in a dead dream.
Aka Theresa May, the Red Queen.
But wait, maybe it’s better we just stop and do pot with that caterpillar.
He’s liberal and likes to chill.
And knows how to counteract the red pill.
Plus I bet, hanging with him, we’ll realise Wonderland ain’t all that bad.
If only we had clocked earlier.
That everyone trying to influence us was no more than a passing fad.