A week in film – 2016, week 13

This week’s post is going to be episodic as anything, because there aren’t many parallels which can be drawn between the weird – and often infuriating – selections I’ve made over the past seven days. The TV shows don’t gel with each other, and the films even less so. There aren’t even many connections which can be drawn between the two mediums. All in all, the week has been a tonal mess: a genre mash-up which I cannot explain. So, bear with me while I try…

To try and link them, I guess it could be said that the three principle TV shows I’ve watched this week are all a bit weird and colourful: Jane the Virgin in its tone, The Aliens in its execution, and Yonderland in basically everything. When Jane The Virgin first aired last year I wrote about it then, but deciding to revisit it now it’s made an appearance on UK Netflix has, so far, been a fairly rewarding experience. I was charmed by those opening episodes then, and I’m charmed by it now. Gina Rodriguez is really, really good as Jane, a woman who gets artificially inseminated by mistake and, in those opening few episodes (I watched the first two), has to discover this and then try and come to terms with it. I did give up on it when I was watching it last year, but there’s every possibility that now it’s in a more binge-friendly format I’ll go the distance with it.

While The Aliens isn’t in a binge-friendly format, I haven’t fallen out of touch with it yet. It’s really well shot and it is enjoyably strange, while sometimes skirting quite close to the obvious (to be fair I’m not sure I watch a show where someone somewhere doesn’t have father issues). Still, I’m genuinely interested in almost every character – especially Lilyhot, who has the most intriguing and currently undisclosed backstory in the show. Plus its music cues are great, and there was a scene in which a group of bombed-out aliens were sat watching the sunset/landscape shots in Grand Theft Auto (‘It’s a very violent game’). If it keeps throwing up these funny, odd moments, then I’m not going to stop watching it until it’s done.

As for Yonderland, I’ve only watched one episode, but God, it’s funny. From the Horrible Histories team (I will watch that one day as well), this is a comedy about a put-upon mum who travels to a fantasy world through the utility cupboard and finds out that she is their chosen one. If the concept sounds bananas it’s pretty indicative of the show as a whole – but as I said, it is funny. The sort of funny where if one joke doesn’t quite land another will be along in a second.

I’ve obviously also watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but we’ve reached the point now where I watch it every week so I don’t feel like I can refer to it in the same breath as shows I’m introducing to my routine. Back after the midseason break (of a grand total of one week in this country – thanks, UK scheduling), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. indulged in another one of those jet-setting episodes. This episode, set in Bogotá and with lots of Spanish and lots of Inhumans, was pretty interesting at the time…but I can’t imagine it sticking in my head for too long. For starters, we started off on the wrong foot when it had lots of Fitzsimmons stuff in the ‘previously on’, but almost none in the actual episode. I don’t have time for that. Also, a ‘three months in the future’ sequence which is clearly meant to make you think, ‘Oh my god, one of my favourite agents will die!’ but wasn’t great at making it look interesting. A sequence in SPACE which looked a bit dull. Good grief. Otherwise, though, it’s Inhuman-of-the-week again with a bit of Hydra thrown in, and some Ward – or not Ward any more – to creep me out. So much raw meat. Eurgh.

The films I’ve seen have been equally unrelated, in genre and in quality. Starting the week with The DUFF (that’s Designated Ugly Fat Friend, if you didn’t know – which I didn’t) was probably a mistake, but I didn’t seem to dislike it as much as the housemates I was watching it with did – in fact, while I couldn’t even pretend that it was good, I couldn’t deny that I’d enjoyed it. Then again, I’m not sure if the chemistry between Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman had convinced me that I was watching a better film than I really was. Their scenes, great. The rest, a series of Mean Girls rip-off scenes which didn’t work as well as that film does at its weakest.

To go from that to Zootropolis, which I’ve concluded is my favourite Disney animation in years, was a bit of a shift. Zootropolis, named the much-more-effective Zootopia in the US, is a crime movie for little kids where the detectives are animals, and the investigative duo at the centre are a rabbit (‘Don’t call me a bunny’) and a fox. In this city predators and prey are living in harmony together – up to a point, which becomes even more confused when predators start going missing or turning ‘savage’. But, like all the best animations, it isn’t just a movie for kids – I mean, for starters, I didn’t expect to ever see a Disney movie which uses the word ‘bloodlust’ in its opening line, crams itself full of meta jokes, or has an extended sequence referencing Breaking Bad, but my world is a better place now I have. Zootropolis is completely wonderful, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde are my heroes, and the animation’s gorgeous. If I haven’t seen this again by next week’s post, consider that a surprise.

Then, to move from Zootropolis to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice the very next day…Batman v Superman, a film to which I HONESTLY went hoping I’d be able to write an impassioned defence of afterwards; a film which managed to make me both furious and deathly bored at the same time. A film which made me question whether I ever liked superheroes in the first place. But, then again, as this film feels the need to drone on until the final scene where it (to the point of insult) completely changes its tune, is there even such a thing as a hero in the first place? Their world might be grim, but both of these ‘heroes’ kill hundreds, thousands, to sate their own personal appetites for vengeance, and only react if they can make it all about them. These men philosophise, badly, while hitting each other for no discernible reason – until they’re suddenly mates ALSO FOR NO REAL REASON. Nothing makes any sense whatsoever. Neither Batman nor Superman, these famous ‘heroes’, have any discernible character. I’m expected to root for them, but no-one’s telling me why – and in fact, they’re both so bloody selfish and horrible in this film that I’d actively root against them if that didn’t mean endorsing Lex Luthor and his Ninja Turtle. For a sufferer of low blood pressure, one thing that can be said about this film is that it’s a temporary cure, and to be fair, while Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is entirely wasted and, outrageously, never even given her first name, she is great with what little she has. It’s not worth the two and a half hours of your life, though. Yeah, I may be naïve to want my heroes to actually be heroic, to represent something better than we are but should try to be – but if that naïvety means I don’t like or respect a film like this, then it’s serving me well. I’ll be sticking clear of DC for a while…

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