Worker bee

You’re a worker bee, when it comes to hard graft you’re far better than me.
Pushing to achieve you leave yourself with barely a second to breathe, you tend to get in too deep, so fast you can’t leave.
Pur-lease you tell others you’re just getting started, while others are smarting you’re sticking your arm out, chancing, taking risks, getting licked and making moves.
Yet whatever you do you tend to stay true… to yourself in your journey to ultimate wealth and riches.
Moving up with your fellows bees you learn to get along, you’re not bitches you’re strong, you learn to please and grease the wheels lest they look at you with unease.
And as you appease and squeeze them for all they are worth you get ahead of the pack and establish your turf.
Yet it hurts, this work, you’re relentless and ruthless, you were always taught it pays not be toothless.
Maybe it’s time you chilled out and listened to some smooth hits? Mellow you out, yeah that’ll work.
But before long you start to go beserk, goddammit you hate to shirk work. Let’s face it though you’re no Captain Kirk, you ain’t no hero.
For the most part you’re nothing but a zero, a flunkey, a worker bee, if someone has to suffer you’re the one that bleeds, you’re the one that takes a hit for the team.
Yet push on you must, it’s a disease that breeds in you like a virus. Maybe it’s something that we all have inside of us?
Most kick up a fuss when asked to go the extra mile but you dial it up, there’s something about work that gets you in the gut.
It’s tough but you’re a worker bee and the thought of that pollen is just too sweet.
To your fellow bees you probably look mean but at the end of the day who doesn’t want to be the one to protect the queen?

Homeland: The Drone Queen

A world without Brody. There’s no denying Damien Lewis is a very fine actor. I’m a big fan and his departure at the end of the last season of Homeland did leave a void, but it was almost like his character, Nicholas Brody, had become bigger than the show. With him gone everyone can settle down a bit and get on with things.

Particularly Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes), now station chief in Afghanistan. The episode (and latest season) starts with her hesitantly authorising a missile strike. Her team watch a big screen stoney-faced as buildings blow up. They then bring out a cake for her birthday with her nickname, ‘The Drone Queen’, written in icing.

homeland_612x380

This disturbingly blasé approach to ‘the war on terror’ won’t be lost on the audience. In fact, it won’t be lost on the characters. Carrie may have hardened up to the realities of her job or just be putting on a good show of it, but someone coping less well is the former hitman with a heart of gold, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), now stationed in Pakistan.

His conscious began to knaw away at him last season and his moral crisis continues here. His pain is clear to see and appears to be in direct contrast to the rigid exterior Carrie has built up for herself.

homeland40101058rjpg-9074b7_960w

One of the other main stalwarts of the show, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is now a private contractor advising the US government on the current conflict. He’s also questioning his stance and decisions made in the past, perhaps in a more reflective way, but it’ll be interesting to see how his influence on Carrie plays out now that he’s not directly calling the shots on behalf of the government.

For a season opener it’s not all moody introspection though. There’s a tense and dramatic sequence involving the (possibly corrupt) station chief in Pakistan, which sets up the story for (probably) the next few episodes in an intriguing way.

homeland

Carrie, as ever, remains a conflicted and eminently watchable character, and with Brody out the picture she’s back to centre stage. No doubt a few new characters will emerge to put her off her stride and make her question her choices.

Either way, it feels like this show has somewhat turned a corner and it will be interesting to see where the writers take the story. The opening episode focused on the American’s use of drones, as did the whole of the latest season of 24, but this show is almost the opposite in terms of tone and style. So how they build on this premise will be key. If the first episode is anything to go by, it looks like a running theme to develop could be the degree to which each character questions his or her decisions.

The conflict of the moral compass you might say.

There’s no doubt after the first two seasons Homeland holds itself to a high standard. The last season suffered a bit of a wobble but I’m keeping an open mind on this one.

Has 24 always been a guilty pleasure?

redWith the recent airing of the first two episodes of 24 (this season entitled Live Another Day) we have the return of CTU and Keifer Sutherland’s most iconic character, Jack Bauer.

For some this means excitement. For others trepidation, or even a sense of weariness. ‘We’ve seen all this before.’ ’24 is so dated.’ ‘TV has moved on, it’s all about Breaking Bad these days.’ And so on, you might imagine audiences would exclaim before running for the safety of Game of Thrones or something.

The thing is, love it or hate it, you know what you’re getting with 24. Bauer, his face locked in a permanent scowl, on a one-man mission to threaten as many people as possible in a single day; moles inside CTU; a truculent head of station who refuses to listen to reason until the last possible moment, a chief of staff at the Whitehouse with an axe to grind. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It’s all part and parcel of what made the show so appealing. It was hardly mentally taxing, it reassuringly ticked the boxes each season yet… somehow it was captivating. And you found yourself caring about the characters, particularly Bauer. A man who puts himself through the mill time and again. The quintessential TV action antihero.

For this season they’ve shifted the action to the UK – specifically London – with the focus on the American’s use of drones in the Middle East (at least initially). Chloe is back looking a lot like Lisbeth Salander (she’s a European hacker now, what do you expect?). 24lad-enemyofstatetrailerWe’ve also got some new faces, including a new standard resident CTU hottie – previously we’ve had Nina Myers and Michelle Dessler, this time we get Kate Morgan played by Yvonne Strahovski – as seemingly the only person who is smart enough to figure out what Bauer is up to.

Oh, and of course Bauer is doing his usual, trying to save the President, a job – in the world of 24 – with possibly the shortest life expectancy of any you care to name, Bauer’s included. Yet, with all the organisations protecting this exalted position, you know it’s going to come down to one man to save the day and take the fall for all the people he’s killed along the way.

But that’s the point. It’s in much the same way Batman gets hunted at the end of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. We hunt him because he can take it. In fact this is probably why they brought the show back, there’s still life in Bauer yet.

The problem with resurrecting a show like this after a few years in the doldrums is twofold: you gave it new life because audiences missed it, they wanted more of that world and those characters. But they also want something new. And so the show’s producers have opted, in some ways, for the safest of risky approaches – set it in ‘edgy’ East London and make the baddies British.

Hats off to them for the first part, they largely avoided red buses and shots of Big Ben (they couldn’t resist a few), yet they couldn’t help themselves with the odd bit of casting with ‘cor blimey’ cockney accents. yvonne-strahovski-24-live-another-dayAnd also posh and mysterious uber-baddie shrouded in shadow (bit of a Sherlock nod there) is literally the safest bet when it comes to bad guys, at least Americans think so.

But this is nit picking. Like many others, when I first heard they were bringing Bauer and his gang back I sighed. Do we really need this show on the small screen again? Then you start to watch it, the little orange clock slams those seconds onto the screen – tick, tick – and I’m pleased to say I felt excited. And a little guilty, but still… excited.

Bauer, go do your thing. Just don’t expect us to praise you for it in public.

Oblivion: Cruise, Kurylenko, Riseborough – an effective team?

5170522a5a42e-Oblivion_01-510x340Does Oblivion cut the futuristic mustard? Yes and no. The last Cruise sci-fi film I can recall that was any good was Minority Report (more a noir thriller, but anyway) – so this latest offering has a lot to live up to. Actually, looking back through his filmography, he’s not been in that many sci-fi films, perhaps with good reason, but we’ll come to that later.

In terms of Oblivion, the story begins by telling us earth as we know it has been ravaged and left largely uninhabitable, the result of war with an invading alien species known as scavengers (scavs). Humanity won the war but lost the planet. As a result the human race is leaving earth on a giant ship called the Tet. In order to do so they’re sucking energy out the oceans to power their voyage into space.

With the planet still inhabited by scavs, drone machines roam the earth protecting the big ocean-sucking machines. Maintaining the drones are Jack (Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), Cruise-Ship-Oblivionwho live in a sort of suspended bubble dwelling in the clouds. As they near the end of their maintenance assignment Victoria is more than ready to leave, whilst Jack is still quite attached to planet earth and begins to have other ideas.

All of what I’ve just described takes place in the first few minutes, so if you hit the cinema five minutes late you’ll have missed a lot of plot. However, never fear! What you’ll find over the next two hours of cinema time is essentially a game of spot the sci-fi reference, as the film is literally littered with them.

To backtrack a second, it all begins with Jack doing his maintenance rounds on the planet’s surface, fixing drones, bombing around on a motorbike, doing his Tom Cruise thing. Scavs are hinted at in teasing, telling shots – Jack is being watched but he doesn’t know it. This part, for me, is the most effective – taking its cues from films like Moon, I am Legend and so on. There’s a sense of loneliness and isolation, one man surviving against the odds, clinging on to his humanity. It’s also tense, edge-of-the seat stuff – director Joseph Kosinski uses space and silence well in this apocalyptic setting to play on our fears of the unknown.

Film+Review+Oblivion_KaufFrom there we have ‘major plot point 1’ when a ship crashes in Cruise’s maintenance sector. He investigates, only to find and rescue Julia (Olga Kurylenko) a woman he’d been dreaming about for some time. Not every day the woman of your dreams comes careering out the sky to crash on your doorstep is it? Well this is Hollywood, keep up.

Needless to say Julia has a noticeable impact on Jack. This is when the movie begins to show its hand and the scavs aren’t all they appear to be. Neither is anything else for that matter. Much like the first five minutes, there are a lot of twists and turns near the end, so you’d better be on your A-game come the finish; nudge nudge, wink wink.

In terms of performances, Cruise does ok. I mean, it’s not a dramatic stretch for him. Kurylenko doesn’t have a vast amount to do other than run around and pout a bit. The biggest revelation, for me, was Andrea Riseborough. She gave her character depth and oblivion_7c9f9ffbefa5afdf19ac4563d6bd23cbcomplexity in what was essentially a small but vital role.

This film was Kosinki’s baby, taken from a half-finished idea and a half-finished graphic novel, sold to the studio and the star on some beautiful concept artwork. But that’s exactly what it is, a half-finished film. First half with Jack alone on the planet’s surface, maintaining drones, building the tension and silence was suspenseful and beautiful. Indeed, the film in general was a visual joy, all clean lines; blue, white and grey. Polished, futuristic, yet wistful, eerie and a touch ominous. As soon as it revealed its hand the tension fizzled out and we had a standard Tom Cruise action tale. No bad thing, but it could have been so much more, simply by doing less. Often the hardest thing to achieve.

Overall, a decent, beautiful looking sci-fi with a promising start, that perhaps loses its way a little in the third act, but does so in an entertaining fashion.