Falcon's Blog

The Good Place

Greetings, ‘The Good Place’ is an American comedy series that ran for four seasons from 2016 to 2020. There were 53 episodes made in total. It was created by Michael Schur, one of the creative forces behind the smash TV hits of the American version of ‘The Office’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’. He was also a co-creator of another rating success, the police based comedy ‘Brooklyn-99’. ‘The Good Place’ stars Kirsten Bell of ‘Veronica Mars’ and Ted Danson who is famed for his performance in the globally renowned ‘Cheers’. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Many Jacinto and D’Arcy Carden are also among the main cast. The music was composed by David Schwartz who had previously worked on providing the score for ‘Reaper’ and ‘Arrested Development’.

The story begins when Eleanor Shellstrop opens her eyes to find herself sitting in a chair in an empty waiting room. She has no memory of how she got there or where she even is but she is quickly brought up to speed when a person, who identifies himself as Michael, welcomes her into his nearby office. Once inside, Michael breaks the news to Eleanor that she was killed when a line of shopping carts rolled down a hill and pushed her into oncoming traffic. He advises Eleanor that she has been brought to the Good Place after her death since she had worked tirelessly as a lawyer defending convicts on death row during her life. Michael explains that admittance into the Good Place, a heavenly utopia of which he is the architect, is based on morality points that are collected during a person’s life and these are determined by every choice they made on earth whether they be morally good or bad. Eleanor is told that her actions on earth earned her a particularly high score and she is informed that those who earn negative points are damned to spend an infinity being tormented in the Bad Place.

The Good Place

After the welcoming, Eleanor is introduced to her soul mate, a Senegalese ethics professor called Chidi, who she will share a house with for all eternity. Michael leaves the two alone and once he is gone a panicked Eleanor reveals the truth to Chidi that everything Michael believes about her is completely wrong. In her life, Eleanor was an amoral and uncaring individual who sold a dietary supplement to the sick and elderly while she knew the product didn’t work. Chidi, an indecisive man, is immediately unsettled by the news and is eventually persuaded to keep her secret despite the ethical complications that it raised. The two try to keep calm and interact with other residents of the Good Place, including socialite Tahani Al-Jamil and Buddhist monk Jianyu Li who has taken a vow of silence, but things start to go badly wrong with the Good Place as it suffers glitches such as unusual weather patterns. Michael, the architect, is perplexed by this but the deeply uncomfortable Chidi and Eleanor realise that it is her presence that is causing the havoc around them.

I thought the premise for this show was really quite unique and I like how it brought up ethical and philosophical theories in an entertaining way which, if done wrong, could have easily bored the viewer. There is a twist ending at the conclusion of the first series that is very impactful and it is an easy detail to miss due to how cleverly the story is crafted. The characters, which form a considerably large cast, are very likeable and they do learn to grow as people as the series progresses. As ‘The Good Place’ has a fairly low number of episodes, I believe that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and that it covers enough ground to satisfy audiences by having shown all that needs to be shown by the end of it. I would recommend this programme to anyone looking for something light-hearted and a bit different from other shows.

Plot=9/10

Characters=8/10

Special Effects=7/10

Overall=8/10

Quote of the Day

It's disgusting the way they splash this stuff all over the newspapers! What is journalism coming to? You're laying on top of the queen with her legs wrapped around you. And they call that news. They can't kick you off the force, Frank! It's just not fair

Captain Ed Hocken

The Naked Gun

Written by Falcon, Sunday 25 September 2022

Ethel and Ernest

Greetings, ‘Ethel and Ernest’ is a 2016 animated film from the late British cartoonist and author Raymond Briggs and it is a biographical adaptation of a book from 1998 based on the lives of Raymond’s parents. Briggs is perhaps best known for his festive cartoons such as ‘The Snowman’, a short that is without words bar the well-known rendition of ‘Walking in the Air’, and the ‘Father Christmas’ films starring Mel Smith as Santa Claus. Naturally, the plot for this movie is much less fantastical as it is a dramatic retelling of the lives of Ethel and Ernest Briggs from the 1920s to the 1970s. Among the voice cast is Brenda Blethyn as Ethel, Jim Broadbent as Ernest and Luke Treadway as Raymond. The music was composed by Carl Davies who also created the score for the ground breaking documentary ‘The World at War.’

The story begins in London during 1928 when a young Ethel, a lady’s maid with strict notions of what prim and proper behaviour constitutes and that it should be adhered to, catches the eye of the local milkman Ernest. After some time in which the smitten Ernest tries to garner Ethel’s affections, the two hit it off and they are married within a few years. Despite not being particularly well off, they manage to scrape together enough money to buy a suburban house that they would live in for 40 years. With Ethel giving up her profession to become a housewife, the Briggs become a family unit in 1934 when Raymond is born. The three are able to enjoy a few blissful years together but there are dark clouds on the horizon that threaten that peaceful life.

Ethel and Ernest

The dreaded fear that many hoped to avoid had become reality when the Second World War comes to the fore and Ethel and Ernest decide to evacuate their son to the countryside as London is rocked night after night during the blitz. Ernest does his part for his country and helps out in the war by becoming a fireman, tackling the fires caused by continuous Luftwaffe bombing raids. The traumatic years eventually do come to an end with the surrender of the Axis powers and the Briggs are once again reunited with their son. As the years go by, the ageing parents struggle with the rapidly changing society they find themselves in whether it be difficulties with technological advancements such as television sets becoming more common in British households or long held social mores being challenged by more liberal minded youths.

Despite some of the horrific years that ‘Ethel and Ernest’ cover, I’d describe it as being a fairly gentle film that can be quite poignant at times during its more emotive scenes. The eye-catching artwork in particular brings a uniqueness and charm to the story. Like one of his other works, 1986’s ‘When the Wind Blows’ in which an older couple try to survive a nuclear strike that had been launched on Britain, an iconic British signer made a song specifically for the film’s soundtrack. David Bowie had performed an original song with the same title as the film for the opening scenes of the earlier movie while Paul McCartney sang ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ during the credits of ‘Ethel and Ernest’. I enjoyed both of these films, which Raymond stated were both based on his parents, and I’d encourage you to check them out if you haven’t done so already.

Plot=8/10

Characters=8/10

Special Effects=8/10

Overall=8/10

Quote of the Day

You already know enough about me. Any more and you're going to get a headache.

Kira

Xanadu

Written by Falcon, Monday 22 August 2022

Doctor Sleep

Greetings, ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a 2013 novel by acclaimed horror author Stephen King and it is a sequel to one of his most famous books, ‘The Shining’ which had been released decades earlier in 1977. Like its previous instalment, ‘Doctor Sleep’ had also been adapted into a film which was shown in cinemas in 2019 and stars Ewan McGregor as the now adult Dan Torrance. To my understanding, this picture received a positive reception but there are notable differences between the movie and the novel as the adaptation follows on from the story told in Kubrick’s iconic film as opposed to King’s original work. While I was looking forward to experiencing ‘Doctor Sleep’ I was all too aware that it would be unlikely to live up to its previous novel and I believe that I was right in that assessment after reading through it. I do intend to watch ‘Doctor Sleep’ at some point despite not being the biggest fan of the story it is built upon and I hope that it can justify its rather long runtime.

The story begins shortly after the horrific events that had transpired in the haunted Overlook Hotel with Wendy and Daniel Torrance now residing in Florida. Wendy is recovering from the physical damage her former husband, the possessed Jack, had inflicted upon her with a Roque mallet while Danny has been psychologically traumatised by all that has occurred. Not all the ghosts that haunt him are metaphorical though. One night Danny is making his way to the bathroom when he discovers a putrefying figure in the bathtub. The ghoulish woman is none other than Mrs Massey, the horrifying spectre from Room 217. Knowing how dangerous these evil spirits could be, Danny and Wendy seek help from Dick Hallorann. Dick, the former chef at the Overlook, is also gifted or cursed with the powers of ‘the shining’ and helps Danny conquer the ghostly apparitions by instructing him to mentally visualise locking them inside a box.

Doctor Sleep

This technique works when Danny next encounters Mrs Massey and he imprisons her in a box, sending her to the deepest darkest depths of his mind. The next ghost to haunt Danny, Horace Derwent, receives the same treatment and it seems Dan will no longer be tormented by the spectres with his new found powers. The years go by and a now adult Danny has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become an aggressive alcoholic. The drug helps numb his powerful shine but his excessive drinking and partying also leads him to live a turbulent life which he struggles to leave behind. In his journey to sobriety, Danny will encounter a little girl named Abra Stone whose powerful shine allows her to reach out to him mentally. Dan had never meet one so strong in the ways of the shine and, unfortunately for him and Abra, this powerful ability also attracts the dark forces of the vampiric True Knot.

While it has its moments, I would consider this to be one of the weaker King books that I have read so far and I would put that down to the fact that there are quite a few bland characters, particularly the relations of Abra Stone, who inhabit the book. Another big failing was that it had no sense of place which is especially true when you compare it to ‘The Shining’ which was primarily set in one location and took its time to make the Overlook Hotel a sinister environment. In this book the characters were constantly moving across states and it was hard to appreciate the atmosphere of the locations because of this. Additionally, there was a specific twist towards the end of the book which didn’t work for me and it seemed quite forced in my opinion. While I found ‘The Shining’ to have its fair share of unnerving moments that are to be expected in a horror novel, the villainous True Knot led by the loathsome Rose the Hat didn’t conjure up much scares in comparison to their ghostly counterparts. In spite of my initial criticisms, it was pleasant to be reacquainted with Danny Torrance once again in a new adventure.

Plot=6/10

Characters=6/10

Wording=7/10

Overall=6/10

Quote of the Day

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Rhett Butler

Gone with the Wind

Written by Falcon, Wednesday 27 July 2022

Legend

Greetings, ‘Legend’ is a 2015 film by director Brian Helgeland who had previously directed ‘A Knight’s Tale,’ which was released in 2001, and was also involved in writing the screenplay for ‘L.A. Confidential’ which came to theatres in 1997. ‘Legend’ stars Tom Hardy in a dual role as the notorious British gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, alongside notable actors such as Emily Browning, Christopher Ecclestone, Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton and Paul Bettany. The music was composed by Carter Burwell who created the soundtracks for both ‘The Founder’ and ‘Being John Malkovich.’ The soundtrack also contains contemporary songs from the 60s including works from artists such as Burt Bacharach, Marvin Gaye and Santo and Johnny.

The plot is set in London during the Swinging Sixties and follows Reggie Kray, an important figure in the English underworld, as he walks about in his territory and does his best to avoid the ever watchful authorities. It is clear that Reggie is well known in the impoverished London streets and gets on surprisingly well with most of the residents although some do take exception to the former boxer turned gangland thug. His twin brother, Ronnie, is institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital for paranoid schizophrenia but is released under duress as the hospital staff are not so subtly threatened to do so. Reggie is advised by a concerned employee that his identical twin is mentally unstable and highly aggressive so it would be for the best for Ronnie to take his medication daily.

Legend

With Ronnie now walking free, the Kray twins are ruling large swathes of London and getting into territorial skirmishes with the rival Richardson Gang. Reggie is the more astute of the two, essentially leading ‘The Firm’ alongside their business partner named Leslie Payne, while Ronnie derives great enjoyment from fighting and indulging himself in his homosexual desires. While running the business, a young woman by the name of Francis catches Reggie’s eye. The two hit it off much to the disapproval of Francis’ mother who dislikes the gangster’s immoral lifestyle. Things seem to be going well for the Krays as the sadistic Richardson Gang’s operations become hampered by the police but the good times aren’t going to roll on forever as Ronnie’s uncontrollable psychotic problems become a bigger and bigger hindrance to ‘The Firm’s’ criminal activities.

While I liked this film and believe the actors all gave good performances, especially Hardy as two distinct people, it seemed to lack a certain quality that would make it stand the test of time. While there was a noteworthy charm to it, ‘Legend’ isn’t going to rank amongst other gangster flicks such as ‘The Godfather’, ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Casino’. This is partially down to some pacing issues in which the movie seemed to drag on without a clear purpose. It could also be down to the heavy focus on the relationship between Reggie and Francis that, while there was definitely some onscreen chemistry, it wasn’t the most interesting part of the premise. Despite its flaws, I would still recommend this film to any fans of mobster movies.

Plot=7/10

Characters=7/10

Special Effects=6/10

Overall=7/10

Quote of the Day

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

Dr Rumack

Airplane!

Written by Falcon, Wednesday 29 June 2022

Tomb Raider: Legend

Greetings, ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ is a 2006 video game which was developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive, a company which is currently known as Square Enix. This is the 7th main entry in the popular Tomb Raider series that started ten years prior to this game in 1996. It serves as a reboot by providing the iconic Lara Croft with a new origin story and is the first instalment of the ‘Legend’ trilogy which also consist of ‘Tomb Raider: Anniversary’, a remake of the original game, and ‘Underworld’ which is as a direct sequel to ‘Legend’. The franchise would be rebooted once again in 2013 with a grittier tone in ‘Tomb Raider’. The cast is fairly small, with only a handful of key characters, and the role of Lara being played by Keeley Hawes is the most notable of the voice talent involved in the game. The music was written by Dutch composer Troels Brun Folmann who also worked on other Tomb Raider games.

The game begins in Bolivia where Lara is searching for an ancient artefact in the ruins of Tiwanaku. She believes the artefact, a stone dais, is a magical item that is linked to an important moment in her past. As a child, Lara had been involved in a deadly plane crash over Nepal alongside her mother who is named Amelia. Once these two sole survivors had emerged from the crash, the Crofts stumbled across a Nepalese monastery in the Himalayan Mountains after days of searching for shelter. The young Lara had found a stone dais inside the holy place. The inquisitive girl accidently activates the magical item and causes her mother to vanish before her eyes through some mystical portal.

Tomb Raider: Legend

The story reverts back to the present day in which Lara finds a similar stone dais in Bolivia with the help of her support team in Zip and Alister. Lara is soon attacked by a troop of mercenaries and discovers that they are acting on orders from one James Rutland, an aristocratic individual who wants the magically infused item for himself. It is stated that there is also a personal vendetta between Croft and Rutland as during a previous expedition in Peru some years prior, Lara was forced to leave Rutland’s lover and Croft’s old friend, Amanda Everett, to die in a cave in. After a short confrontation with the mercenaries, James, who came to Bolivia in person, reveals to a shocked Lara that Amanda had survived her ordeal in Peru with the assistance of a supernatural guardian.

This video game was an enjoyable one to play with some challenging puzzles that required a bit of thought to work out and a fun if repetitive combat system during the action phases. I am not overly familiar with the Tomb Raider series, outside of watching the films starring Angelina Jolie from the 2000s and having a basic understanding through cultural osmosis, but it is a property that I have been interested in exploring for some time due to its well-earned reputation. While ‘Legend’ was a good way to pass the time, I did find the story a bit confusing which attempted to tie in Arthurian legend and thought the antagonists were kind of non-descript and generic. Despite this, I still have a positive opinion of this title and would argue that it is worth your time if you are looking to immerse yourself in an action-adventure and puzzle game.

Plot=6/10

Characters=6/10

Graphics=8/10

Overall=7/10

Quote of the Day

For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal. We had a serious problem with Billy Batts. This was really a touchy thing. Tommy'd killed a made guy. Batts was part of the Gambino crew and was considered untouchable. Before you could touch a made guy, you had to have a good reason. You had to have a sitdown, and you better get an okay, or you'd be the one who got whacked.

Henry Hill

Goodfellas

Written by Falcon, Sunday 29 May 2022

The Founder

Greetings, ‘The Founder’ is a biographical film from 2016 that was directed by John Lee Hancock, who is also known for directing ‘Saving Mr Banks’ a few years prior in 2013. While ‘Saving Mr Bank’s was about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney creating the ‘Mary Poppins’ movie, ‘The Founder’ is about the transformation of McDonalds from a small family orientated restaurant into a globe spanning empire. It stars Michael Keaton as businessman Ray Kroc, Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds brothers, Richard and Maurice, with Laura Dern and Linda Cardellini in supporting roles. The score was composed by Carter Burwell who mostly works with the Cohen brothers in films such as ‘Raising Arizona’ and ‘Fargo’ but was also involved in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ and Netflix’s ‘Space Force’.

The plot begins with Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman, travelling across America and trying to sell his wares to restaurants in 1954 through a charismatic pitch. After failing to shift much of his product, Ray becomes increasingly frustrated with his lack of progress and relies on recorded speeches to inspire him in his darkest days. The record explains that what makes a man successful isn’t his vision, his natural talents or his intelligence but his persistence and his ability to keep getting up after being repeatedly knocked down. With this mind-set firmly entrenched, Ray believes that he will eventually find his path to wealth and power as a golden opportunity will arise if he just keeps working on it with gritted determination. That very opportunity comes one day when a request for an unusually high number of milkshake machines is made by two brothers named McDonald. An intrigued Ray travels down to the McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California with the milkshake machines in his car.

The Founder

As he arrives, he sees a throng of people standing in line to get their orders in. Kroc is now even more curious and he joins the line of customers who vary in age range. Once he gets to the top of the queue, Ray is baffled by how different it is to any eatery he has been at before and is shocked to learn they only have a limited menu but are producing quality food at a rapid rate. After getting his meal, he learns that he can eat it anywhere due to the disposable and minimal wrapping. Kroc sees very clearly that this was just the moment he was waiting for. An opportunity that could start a franchise and revolutionise the gastronomical experience. He meets the McDonalds brothers and despite initial rebuffing from them on an offer to build their restaurant into a chain, Ray keeps coming back as per his inspirational record’s instruction and refuses to give up his dream.

I really liked this movie and found it interesting how easy it was to sympathise with the struggling Ray Kroc at the beginning until slowly but surely he became more and more ruthless as the film progressed. Keaton brought a real sleazy charm to his portrayal and I found him to be one of the highlights of the film alongside Offerman and Lynch’s performances as they struggled to contain Kroc’s intense ambition. It will be of no surprise to anyone that ‘The Founder’ ends on a sombre note for the McDonalds brothers but it is a fascinating tale to learn how their unique business idea became such a giant transnational corporation once it was guided by Kroc’s hands. This is one movie that I’d definitely recommend to others.

Plot=10/10

Characters=10/10

Special Effects=10/10

Overall=10/10

Quote of the Day

Young men love risk because they can’t imagine the consequences.

Bert Cooper

Mad Men

Written by Falcon, Thursday 28 April 2022
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