Give Divergent a Chance Snooty Face

Divergent

Sit down kids I want to have a word with you. I’m going to tell you an incredible story, the story of how I met your mother…. Nope, sorry, wrong topic. I want to tell you why Divergent is worth your time and shouldn’t be dismissed as another Hunger Games rip-off. For an introduction to Divergent have a look at my previous post.

First a disclaimer. When I say Divergent is “good” and “worth your time” I mean that it is good relative to other series in this genre and worth your time if you enjoy YA novels set in a dystopian future. This is not going to win Oscars or Man Booker prizes so take your snooty face and get out of here.

Because I believe in consuming any and all media without judgement (HA!) I have read both the Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies. As I have said in the past the Divergent series “are not great works of literature but they are engaging, engrossing, very quick to read, and in my opinion are superior to The Hunger Games.” As Divergent star Shailene Woodley has said the two are as alike as Star Wars and Star Trek; both feature a female lead fighting for freedom in a dystopian future but the journeys they take are very different.

I was not a fan of The Hunger Games and despite it being a quick read took forever to read the first book. It wasn’t until I was faced with overnight coach trips to and from Amsterdam that I found myself isolated enough to consider finishing the trilogy. Sadly in my mind the series just got worse and worse as our “strong female lead” Katniss Everdeen continued to spend her time worrying about boys and having things happen to her rather than take much action herself. For balance I know plenty of people who love the books and these opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the BBC (why would they?). Yes I enjoy the films in their own way but I can’t be sure how much of that is down to the sheer amount of Jennifer Lawrence they involve and the amount of leeway I am willing to give her.

KatnissTris

Divergent is better than The Hunger Games (there, I’ve said it again) because “strong female lead” Tris is strong, female, and leads. Tris makes decisions, takes action, and never passes out during climactic battle scenes. More importantly the Divergent series gets better with each edition. While The Hunger Games declined in quality before boring me senseless in the final book, soon to be two whole films, Divergent not only is at its best in book three but actually explains the myriad of grievances I had in the beginning. Plot holes become part of the plot meaning that what could be seen as a weak opener is made more coherent when the series is looked at as a whole.

The result of this is that you might need to give Divergent a chance even after having seen the first film. Reviews are a little mixed and I am worried that this might turn people off what has the potential to be a solid teen franchise. I haven’t seen the film yet (angry glance at PR agencies) so can’t comment myself but I am pretty confidence that some of the story’s weaknesses will be addressed later on in the trilogy.

Most importantly of all the Divergent book trilogy is being adapted into a Divergent film trilogy meaning that the final book will not be split into two money-grabbing, story-stretching films. I think we can all be thankful for that.

Divergent is in UK cinemas from 4th April 2014 and I need someone to go with.

Mild Concern for Jeff Goldblum’s Laugh

Jeff Goldblum's Laugh

Some news of a blogging nature today as I have joined the writing team over at the Prince Charles Cinema’s new blog Jeff Goldblum’s Laugh. Essentially this means that once a week, or more perhaps, I will be posting my usual witterings over there too. This may take the form of posts unique to their blog, cross-posts appearing both there and here, and some revamped and rejuvenated posts from the archives here at Mild Concern.

I will never abandon my humble home at Mild Concern and with any luck we’ll still have contributions from other writers so let’s just think of Jeff Goldblum’s Laugh as my way of getting some of my words to a larger audience.

Excitingly Mild Concern turns four this Saturday and fingers crossed this year will be even better than last year when we branched out into interviewing directors, I shared my face on Al Jazeera, and we finally got a star rating featured on a DVD cover.

And with that I leave you with hugs and kisses, and Jeff Golblum’s laugh:

Mild Concern on The Stream (Oh, and John Pilger too…)

Hi Mum I'm on the telly

A question that has long been asked of me; “when are you going to go on Al Jazeera and annoy an Australian film director?” Well my friends the time has come! Last night I briefly appeared on Al Jazeera show The Stream to put a question to Utopia director John Pilger. The full show is embedded below and you can either watch the whole thing to hear Pilger’s thoughts on Australia’s treatments of its indigenous people or skip to around 20 minutes in to see me broadcasting live from my bedroom.

Please note that I say words and do not fall off my chair at any point. For a sneaky peek behind the scenes I offer you a screenshot of what I could see on my laptop.

Al Jazeera - The Stream Screencap

Please note the fact that I have John Pilger’s Wikipedia page open. Like a pro.

A Short Note on Jesse Pavelka’s Buff Bod

Jesse Pavelka

As readers of EntertainmentWise will already know I recently trundled down to the entertainment site’s offices to discuss casting rumours surrounding the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The interview was originally filmed but has since surfaced without the footage included – the fact that I arrived sweaty, windswept, and with no idea what to do with my face when it wasn’t talking may have contributed to this decision.

Regardless the interview was good fun and gave me an insight into what it is like for the people I interview. The write up of my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey casting rumours can be read over at the EntertainmentWise site.

Well, almost. This particular paragraph raised an eyebrow or two:

Ouch! Instead Tim is favouring a much less known star, model Jesse Pavelka. The US fitness expert is well known for his buff bod, which Tim reckons is a definite plus for the role: “As a model he would be attractive and willing to do probably anything to get this role. He’s a blank slate, you can apply any character you like to him.”

I am not denying Pavelka his buff bod, though it’s not a phrase I’ve used before (I once called someone a “dish” and that didn’t feel right for anyone involved), but he is not my favourite to play Christian Grey. My personal favourite, if (and when) forced to pick one, is Matt Bomer. Why? Because he can actually act and last year had all my female friends rushing to lust over him in Magic Mike.

As for Matt Bomer’s buff bod… he’s the one on the right:

As for the Felicity Jones plug… OBVIOUSLY that was me. I am nothing if not determined and persistent.

A Poem of Mild Concern

Poem

A few weeks back I came across The Poetry Takeaway who offer to write custom poems for free to anyone brave enough to approach their stall. When I say “came across” I mean I deliberately went out on a hunt for their stall because the idea of someone writing me a poem simultaneously intrigued me and promised to stroke my ego a little. I was assigned poet chef Dan Simpson to whom I gave my Mild Concern business card (yes I have business cards!) and the brief of writing a film related poem with the title “Mild Concern”. An hour later he had written the below:

A twentieth century drumroll please
cast pearls before the asteroid theme
roar into opening credits
fade from black to silver screen.

A mouse moves across a desk
a finger is depressed
machines carry out their orders
a loading screen is refreshed.

There’s something slightly worrying
like a secret and wild slow burn
the atmosphere is lightly anxious
this is a case for Mild Concern.

Oh yes, we have our own official poem. Take that other film blogs!

Continue reading

Loving, Hating, and Tolerating How I Met Your Mother

howimetyourmother

In 2005, I was pushing two American television shows on everyone I knew: one was Veronica Mars, a teen private eye drama, which, after being cancelled in 2007 is on its way back with a crowdfunded film. The other was How I Met Your Mother, a Friends-esque sitcom that’s now into its eighth season and has a ninth (and last) promised. Seven years ago, I was introducing Ted Mosby and co to all my friends, now I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I ever watched the show, let alone still do. What changed?

A quick recap: the slightly shaky premise of How I Met Your Mother is that in the year 2030, a man called Ted Mosby is telling his two teenage children the story of how he met their mother, with a lot of digressions to the varying antics he and his friends got up to while living in New York during their twenties and thirties. (Personally, if I was telling my kids the story of how I met their other parent, I’d skip all the other people I slept with en route but I’m repressed like that.)

Although American and showing a real lack of ethnic diversity amongst its regular cast (apart from Ranjit the taxi driver and Barney’s Brother of Colour), HIMYM did a pretty good job of showing what life was like for western middle-class, urban twenty-somethings in different relationship situations. It had distinctive, easy to like main characters, comprised of long-established couple Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen, serial womaniser Barney Stinson, career-focused Robin Scherbatsky and Ted himself, trying to find The One. It made smart, snappy observations about modern day life and gave them catchphrase-friendly names. It used its format cleverly – in the episode How I Met Everyone Else, Future Ted was unable to remember the name of a girl he dated, resulting in her being referred and addressed to as ‘Blah Blah’ for the whole episode.

HIMYM was one of those rare sitcoms that, for a while at least, didn’t just make you laugh but made you care for the characters at the same time. Lily leaving Marshall made me weepy and when they got back together again, it made me smile somewhere deep inside.

himym-castHave you met Ted? (And Lily, Marshall, Barney and Robin?)

Given the whole premise of the show, HIMYM has a history of potential-mother fake-outs. We questioned whether each woman Ted had a relationship with could be The Mother: Victoria, Stella and Zoey were all possibilities, but it began with Robin. HIMYM’s very first fake-out when way back at the beginning Future Ted told his kids about his first date with “Aunt” Robin.

And in that very first episode was the root of one of things that went sour. I got so sick of the roundabout that was Ted and Robin. We learnt in episode one that Robin was “Aunt” to his children, once round with them was enough to learn why it could never have worked, why did we have to keep seeing them sabotage each other’s relationships? A little bit of foreshadowing works but this tendency has leaked out across the rest of the series. There are now too many incidences of advance knowledge that we are working our way towards, making a lot of plot developments seem pointless.

So, I don’t understand why we had to witness Ted steal Victoria away from her impending marriage, when we knew full well that they were never going to make it as a couple. Or suffer the indignities that Robin is putting herself through to get back together with Barney when we’ve already known for months that she’s going to (I’m ten episodes into Season 8).

Possibly more infuriating than too much advance knowledge given to the viewer, is not enough background established by the writers. Almost every episode features an instance of retconning and it’s very tiresome. Frequently Future Ted tells us about something that the gang “always” did but that we’ve never seen before. The series used to actually build up its plots but when Robin broke up with Nick because he was stupid, there had been no previous examples of his stupidity before that one episode.

The characters I loved so much have become caricatures of themselves. Acceptable personality traits have been exaggerated to the point that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be part of that group. Ted’s pedantry and snobbishness is no longer just quirky. Robin is shallow, horrible to people and has gone way beyond self-involved. Lily has reached new levels of manipulation of her friends, Marshall is increasingly wet and pathetic – whereas Barney, meant to be the moral vacuum of the group has probably remained the most consistent. Holding him to such low standards means that when he makes a generous and mature action, it’s a pleasant surprise.

I have so many other gripes: how Lily’s bi-curiosity is treated as either a trivial joke or something for the men to drool over; how every single main character has either been left at the altar, broken off an engagement or tried to end someone else’s wedding; the lack of depth to any of Robin’s relationships away from Ted or Barney… so why am I still watching?

Well, familiarity makes for comfort-viewing – it’s the TV equivalent of putting on an old hoodie and it’s not as if I’m putting myself out by trying to keep up with USA pace; I catch up in blocks on 4oD when I’m having a quiet evening. But mostly, it’s because I’ve been sucked in by the whole premise of the show: I’m waiting to find out who the mother is. Even though I expect I’ll be disappointed by however they set about revealing her to us, I just want to know. Which apparently is enough to make me tolerate a once-loved television series that I wish had ended four seasons ago.

And all of this brings me back to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) I’m extremely ambivalent about donating to the project, so ambivalent that I haven’t done so yet. As well as not being thrilled at the idea of paying a media giant for anything other than for my cinema ticket (as previously commented on by Tim), I’m worried that the legacy of a brilliant television series will be damaged by a bad feature-length film. And if something else I once loved is going to be ruined, I don’t want to be personally responsible for it.

1,000 Posts Later…

Mild-Concern

Mild Concern – Snobbish, scatty, ill-informed, inconsistent, and not as funny as it thinks it is

Back in 2010 I was an unemployed film fan living in a village in the Midlands who thought a good use of his time would be to write his thoughts down in the form of a blog. I already had the domain name mildconcern.com after a very brief attempt at making my own web comic; an endeavour that fell flat when I realised that I had no drawing ability and no real concept to use. And so a website was born! There was yellow everywhere (#fffc0f to be precise) and most posts were my gut reaction to news items. The advantage of having no job meant that I could be relatively up to date with the goings on of the film world and respond without even pausing to think… or proof read.

A few months later I moved to London to seek my fortune and was forced to keep the site updated in the early morning or late at night, occasionally checking that the site had not collapsed in my lunch break. It was in London that strange things started to happen; bit by bit PR agencies were getting in touch and wanting me to see their films before they were in cinemas. No more rushing back from Cineworld Solihull to compose a review no one had any interest in. Now I was rushing home from Vue West End, realising the film wasn’t out for another two months, making no notes, and hastily composing a review the day before the film came out.

Over the years (three of them in total) I have gathered a few friendly film enthusiasts into what I will inaccurately call my team. The first to join was Kat, a friend who had become tired of emailing me my typos and wanted direct access to sub-edit my posts. Then we got young Stephen, who once sent me a photo of himself with baked beans in his hair, followed by Lizzie, who sometimes writes for the Guardian (!!!!!), and most recently Ollie, a media lecturer who writes the sort of article I would never think of. And let’s not forget Rach who provided us with the most quotable review ever and got me through the Oscars, and Mel who gets me through the all-nighters.

You may also have noticed that the yellow is no longer #fffc0f but has shifted to the endlessly classier #ffea01. See the difference for yourself:

Yellow

I can’t believe we ever got away with the frankly gaudy #fffc0f. Amateurs.

Over those 1,000 posts we briefly went viral, angered fans of Kevin Smith and Derek, possibly induced epilepsy with numerous animated gifs, got mathematical, called two Camerons a prick, disappointed many fans of Fassbender’s penis, and possibly got a little carried away in Photoshop. I almost convinced a former submissive to review Fifty Shades of Grey for us but it wasn’t to be. The Felicity Jones tag has got a fair bit of use and a look at the tag cloud reveals more than I am comfortable with about things I love and love to hate:

Tags

How is Footloose not bigger?

What is this navel-gazing in aid of? Partly for some self-congratulation, partly to thank those who contribute to the blog, but mostly to thank anyone who actually reads what goes up here; those people who aren’t just trying to win a TV. We’ve reached 1,000 posts and I am a little bit proud.

To finish I will reveal what our star system means, because Kat and I figured it out and in true Mild Concern style forgot to share it with anyone else:

Total Panic

Quite Unsettled

Mild Concern

Rather Pleased

Absolute Amazement

And now to publish without proof reading. Enjoy yourself Kat!

(Kat’s note: A mere two corrections – Happy 1,000th post!)

Investigative Journalism in HMV with a Bobby Moore to Spend

HMV

Following on from the slightly disastrous Bloggers’ Secret Santa in which I managed to inspire apathy in a video blogger (watch her reaction here) MoneySupermarket have a fresh endeavour for us humble bloggers. The new challenge is called What’s in your pocket? in which we are encouraged to celebrate life’s little wins by being given £20 to spend any way we like to put a smile on our faces. I could think of only one way to spend that money and that was by helping out a friend in need; HMV. Continue reading

Film Club #1 – Black Pond

Black Pond

If Mark Kermode can have a film club then so can we!

The idea is that at sporadic intervals we will suggest a film for everyone to watch, our loyal readers will then watch the film (within the next day/week/month), and then people can share their thoughts in the comment section below.

“Do you have enough readers for this to even remotely work?” I hear you ask. I’m not sure but let’s give it a try.

The first film is my pick and I have chosen the 2011 British comedy Black Pond. The film’s plot is hard to describe but loosely put it involves a dysfunctional family gathering for dinner which is attended by a stranger who promptly dies.

The film has a strange dry humour that hits my comedy sweet spot. It was nominated for the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut and the writer/directors won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. It also features the film debut of Simon Amstell and the return to acting of a post-scandal Chris Langham.

Enjoy some fresh British film-making talent and let us know what you think in the comments.

Black Pond – trailer from Black Pond film on Vimeo.

Buy the DVD. Watch the Film. Share your thoughts.