review

13 Reasons Why

Clay Jenkins is unwittingly drawn into the events surrounding the death of Hannah Baker, a friend who could have been more, with emotional, devastating consequences.

Narrated by Hannah Baker, performed beautifully by Katherine Langford, over thirteen episodes (each representing the side of an old-school audio cassette), we follow Clay Jenkins (played by a perfectly cast Dylan Minnette) as the story unfolds and the secrets of those around him intertwine with the stories that lead up to Hannah’s suicide.

Whilst it could be argued that Hannah is an unreliable narrator, the way the story on the tapes ring true for those involved, and their steps at damage limitation, are a crushing weight for Clay and others, especially as the truths get darker.

A large cast does lead to some characters falling to the way side – Jeff and Montgomery – whilst the core characters are so well crafted that it’s impossible not to be drawn into events.  It’s not just the teenagers that feel isolated as the parents of Clay and Hannah have to deal with ones erratic behaviour and the loss of the other, respectively.

A show that has drawn controversy, with some even arguing it is ‘dangerous’, 13 Reasons Why is an exceptional series with an incredibly timely story.  The feelings of isolation and the behaviour of their peers can cast a shadow on the lives of anyone, even if they seem fine on the outside.

A bold series that tackles suicide and its aftermath, rape, drugs, violence and peer pressure, if 13 Reasons Why can do one thing, it should be to start a conversation about the risks and threats, not silence the discussion.

 

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Riverdale (The Return to Netflix)

I was never a fan of Archie comics – it was a bit too apple Pie America for me.  On top of that, there were no superpowers involved.

Having signed back up to Netflix at the recommendation of couple of friends, I was drawn to Riverdale and thoroughly engaged by it.

Imagine a cross between The OC and Twin Peaks, and you’ve got Riverdale.

A series in which Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica are caught up in a maelstrom of murder, duplicity and the underlying darkness of small town America.  An investigation into the death of Jason Blossom unveils the cracks in the otherwise perfect Riverdale and consumes everyone involved.

With a cast that includes KJ Apa as the red-haired Archie, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica, the roles are large, the characterisation deep and the performances compelling.  Add to this Luke Perry, Madchen Amick and Skeet Ulrich to the mix, and the cast is as talented as it is broad.

As the story develops, we get a feel for the darkness that envelopes Riverdale, whilst the love of the this group of high school students evolves, not just between the principles, but amongst the supporting cast of characters, too.

With so much potential, it’s hardly a surprise that we’ll be getting a second season.  But, where next…

This Is The End

The End of Days approaches and the celebrities of Hollywood are ill prepared for the chaos that ensures.  Thankfully, Hollywood’s modern day Brat Pack are spared, but must fight their way through the final days of the world.

Playing exaggerated versions of themselves, Seth Rogen (and his sensible friend, Jay Baruchel), James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson must fend themselves, totally unprepared for real life, let alone the events that transpire.

“I don’t want to die at James Franco’s house.”

The overly artsy Franco, a far too nice Jonah Hill, the reliable friend-t-all Rogen and the sensitive Robinson form a wonderful cast of characters.  Save for Baruchel, the principle cast are deliberately dislikeable, playing on their lack of real world experience and over-sensitive reactions to everything that goes on around them as they try to survive the apocalypse, boredom and fracturing friendships, especially when the arrogant Danny McBride joins the fray.

“You guys act like you’re so high and mighty.”

The film could have been a self-indulgent mess, designed to rub the ego of it’s young, popular cast, but it manages to be highly entertaining.  It’s self-deprecation at its finest, showing Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s skill as writers, whilst also showcasing the cast.

There’s a touch of Shaun of the Dead in This is the End, a knowing, self-deprecating script, comfortable with its cast and not afraid to take a few pot shots.  It revels in its silliness and excels in the story it tells.

 

David Brent: Life on the Road

Films adapted from TV comedies fall in to two distinct camps – The Inbetweeners at one end and, right at the other end, deep in the quagmire, Harry Hill, Keith Lemon and everyone else who is popular on TV, but less so on the big screen.

Many years after he’s left Wernham Hogg, Brent is now a travelling salesmen of sanitary products embarking on one last shot of stardom.  On a limited and shambolic tour with his band, we join David on the road as he seeks a record contract.

“You don’t have to be on stage to be worth something.”

David Brent may just nudge The Inbetweeners from its lofty perch, telling a story that covers all the bases that The Office was famous for – the awkward humour borne of Brent’s misplaced and misguided confidence leading into the beautiful moments of heartfelt emotion that hint at the brilliance that Ricky Gervais would have if he wrote drama.

At 95 minutes long, Gervais gives us a three part story that wouldn’t be out of place in a TV miniseries – this is how the film feels and it’s a very comfortable feeling.  There isn’t a big-screen feel to David Brent’s adventure, and nor should there be.

“I was a rock star”

Whereas other pretenders to the TV-to-film crown may have tried to mask their shortcomings with spectacle, Ricky Gervais confidently strides through the film knowing that he’s the centre of attention.  Very much like The Inbetweeners, these are characters we’ve seen grow, performed with such conviction that it just works.