SLOUCH POTATO: 24/02/16

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Tom Pheby returns to the slouch.


THE X-FILES - BACK ON FAMILIAR GROUND
Now, last week I was slightly ungenerous to the revival of this classic show, which really didn't work in my humble opinion. It was great to have Mulder and Scully back, sure, but it simply didn't feel right. I think that conclusion was probably based on my own unrealistic expectations of an iconic series, and as a result I feared the worst for the remaining five parts.

Initial impressions of the second episode 'Founders Mutation' by James Wong was wow, we are back on track, not only story wise and atmospherically but also dictatorially. It had that undeniable X-Files tone, it   looked visually great and both Anderson and Duchovny were back to their intriguing and absorbing best. The relationship that was such a key element to the show is starting to re-establish itself, but also individually we got to see the torment of loss that was barely spoken of but still troubled the pair deeply.

They arrive at the scene of a scientists suicide, not even this was ordinary. The poor chap decided to thrust a letter opener into his right ear (so X-Files). But this is just a thinly veiled excuse that leads to genetic manipulation and a bigger Government conspiracy. There's also a man bleeding from every orifice, mysterious flocks of birds and strange high pitched noises that manage to bring Mulder to his knees. Take note Scully!

Yes, this is real X-Files, a glorious mixture of science fiction and horror, executed with genuine style and originality. But it wasn't all dark, Mulder was on form with his pithy wit and there was an hilarious scene were Duchovny meets an acquaintance of the deceased in a bar. The FBI agent suggests they go somewhere quiet so they can talk, they head to a cupboard and the man drops to his knees and makes a grab for Mulder’s belt.
"You said you wanted to talk"
"Yes, but I don't think it means what you think it means"
"You guys are all the same, you say you want to walk on the wild side but when it comes to it, you are repressed"
It was an amusing and surprising scene, with Mulder completely out of his old school (skool) comfort zone. His mischievous humour continued throughout with his usual deadpan delivery, this was only matched by the endless well of compassion from Scully, who saw obvious parallels between the children in the story and their own son.

Yes,we get to see Sculder (William), the result of that brief moment when Mulder stopped staring at the skies and Scully put down her scalpel to enjoy an unexplained physical encounter. Both Agents had dreamy sequences of what might have been if they had not put their son up for adoption for his own safety. You get the impression that in this season or the next their paths will cross.

Mulder and Scully, is there a better combination of characters? They continue to provide opposing views, yet they occasionally swap standpoints and challenge each other whilst remaining immensely loyal, that's an interesting and intense combination. They have a history that allows this interchange and it makes them all the more compelling. I may have been unforgiving of Episode 1 but I'm positively thrilled that the show is beginning to find its feet. On this evidence, it's back to stay. I wanted to believe and my patience has been rewarded.


A LIFE ON SCREEN: STEPHEN FRY
Anyone that casually throws in a word such as 'cartilaginous' at the end of an awards show is alright by me. Stephen Fry, actor, author, writer, director, presenter and comedian, is a man who appears overly blessed with gifts. They say he is now an institution, a national treasure and other nonsensical fatuous things but Fry takes all this in his stride, somewhat embarrassed by praise and awkward with any form of admiration or recognition.

He points out early in the piece that he was expelled from three public schools, held on remand for stealing credit cards and was an unruly influence in his formative years. We are talking about the right Stephen Fry aren't we? Yes, the mountainous, affable comic,with a brain the size of Botswana. Fry very kindly makes us feel slightly less ordinary by exposing the rough edges to his personality and by discussing his much publicised battles with depression and bipolar disorder. It's all done from the point of view of those that have had a lifelong association with him, such as Hugh Laurie, but more importantly from the lips of the man himself.

His stories are wonderful and immensely entertaining and I am unapologetic for including them in this piece. Whilst at Cambridge University a friend commented to Fry that most of the people in attendance seemed to be called Ashley. Fry thought about it briefly and then realised that his fellow students were saying the word actually. You can practice in a posh voice if you like.

He also recalls a meeting with some financial backers, where he was hoping to convince them that he was up to the job of portraying Oscar Wilde, after briefly disappearing from public life due to depression. This was for the 1997 film Wilde directed by Brian Gilbert, and Fry was willing to do almost anything to get the part. So whilst waiting for the thumbs up he was approached by a possible Japanese financier. He was slightly taken back when she bluntly asked "How much bum f-ck in movie?" Fry replied "Just as much as is necessary and no more."

This was a fascinating portrait of an eccentric talent, Fry doesn't truly realise what gifts he possesses or why people have taken to him with such affection. This programme was a joy as is the man himself.


STARRING ADAM WEST
There were four actors destined for big things in the early 60's; Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Roger Moore and Adam West. All had those classic, handsome and sculpted good looks that the studios were desperately looking for. By 1966 Eastwood was starring in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, McQueen had appeared in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape plus Navada Smith and Roger Moore had featured with James Garner in Maverick and taken the starring role in The Saint as Simon Templer. In the same year ABC studios offered Adam West the lead role in an action/comedy/adventure series called 'BATMAN', he accepted believing it was a good career move, and at the time, it was.

As the show developed it became a colourful, lighthearted, slightly camp romp with delightful flourishes of comedy. It premiered on January 12th and became ABC's most successful series in 23 years. West was a massive star as a result, at a time when the industry manipulated it's actors and typecasting was a genuine threat to anyone's career. "If you do it for too long, the chance is you're gone" was very much the vibe in Hollywood. West had taken the role, relished the fame it gave him and was professionally fulfilled, yet by 1968, BATMAN had finished and the star found it difficult to move on.

This programme showed an energetic 80 year old at a relaxed and content point in his life. He still acts, he's also an artist but not in the conventional sense, but then Adam West has never been conventional. The way he played the caped crusader was at least 98% Adam West and that playful humour is still evident as he rolls out the charm at various Comic Cons all over America. West has found a new army of new fans from his cartoon exploits in Family Guy, which gave him the opportunity to realise his comic potential, and he is as loved for that, as anything else

There was a sad point in the documentary when it was revealed that West had been continuously overlooked for a star on the Hollywood walk of fame., which is laughable when you note that Paula Abdul and Farrah Fawcett managed to bag one for their questionable contributions to the entertainment industry, but towards the end there is a light at the end of the tunnel as family and fans, continue to campaign on his behalf. West is vaguely disappointed, mainly for the fans, but it shows what Hollywood is. It's a place that can make your dreams come true, give you fame and fortune but it can also cast you aside when it's done with you.

West accepts that Batman was a good and bad thing in a career spanning fifty plus years, and thankfully he did manage to turn it around after the lean times but you can sense the hurt and disappointment masked by a smile. If you are not a fan then you may find this over does the details, but I enjoyed every second, from his farm boy upbringing to his brush with stardom. However, it's his fight to re-establish himself and provide for his family that are the crux of the piece.


DVD HEAVEN OR HELL - ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a travesty of a film for many reasons. The first being that Hollywood completely bastardised a piece of classic British folklore. The second is that there are more Americans in the cast than there are currently working in the American embassy. Thirdly, I have no desire to see Kevin Costner's arse under any circumstances, not even when performing his ablutions in a waterfall!

Furthermore, the script is dire, predictable and flabby. The acting is desperate and unbelievable, Robin (Costner) is unconvincing and uninspiring, and Christian Slater's accent makes me want to hurt someone, mainly the casting director. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Marian fairs no better, one minute she's an accomplished sword fighter and the next minute she's making curtains whilst screaming in a high pitched voice from a lofty tower whilst waiting to be rescued. Morgan Freeman strives to make the character Azzem credible but he needn't have bothered, his part required little in the way of acting talent and could have been played by Will Smith or Julie Andrews for what it was worth. There's an idea! Robin the Musical, I'll call Lloyd Webber if he's not too busy.


However, it does have one genuine saving grace - Alan Rickman. The late actor positively stole the film with his particular brand of evil Sheriff (which incidentally has never been equaled) and the delivery of his lines. No matter how ridiculous the script he was given, he was sublime. In one scene he rants at the rogue Robin in the rafters,
"I'll cut your heart out ....with a spoon"
Rickman makes the whole film instantly more watchable. He had the knack of effortlessly combining drama and comedy with spectacular results overshadowing the rest of the actors in any given scene. It would have taken something astonishing to prevent him from doing so and its abundantly clear that Costner was punching way above his weight in this. Once he discovered Rickman was was cast as Nottingham, he should have got a taxi and shot his agent.

Rickman hogs all the best lines. The only time the film only comes alive is when he is snarling or growling to anyone within ear shot. When Gisbourne asks why a spoon and not an axe? Rickman replies in a throaty rasp,
"It's dull you twit, it will hurt more."
The only one who seemed to have any sense other than Rickman was Sean Connery, who probably picked up his own bodyweight in cash to appear at the end for about 30 seconds.One suspects his golf tournament didn't start until 10 O'clock and the bar was probably closed.

Truth is, there hasn't been a decent Robin Hood film to date. Russell Crowe's attempt was equally naff and forgettable but I'd happily watch that before delving into Prince of Thieves again. Maybe they should re-release it on DVD with just Rickman's scenes. That would be DVD heaven but as it is, it's firmly in hell.


Tattoo Fixers
Tattoo Fixers is a quirky show that has three highly gifted tattoo artists (Sketch, Lou and Jay) on a mission to save the public from a series of bodged artworks and self inflicted illustrations which were undertaken largely whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Enter Michael, who had '12 inch' tattooed on his stomach with an arrow pointing downwards, the result of a lads only holiday with friends. Patrice, who works in a chippy, had an tattoo of her nan on the right side of her stomach which unfortunately resembled Ken Barlow from Corrie with a hint of Pat Butcher. There were other assorted gaffs such as demonic stars on the anus (who thinks that's a good idea?), a penis on the index finger, and tats of a bottom, a squashed rose, a traffic cone and a holiday logo.

Then there was Emma, one of those kooky super fans who spends their time and money paying homage to a star by buying cups, t-shirts, posters, mouse mats and stalking them all over the country. Rather spookily Emma wants a picture of Cheryl Fernandez Vezini between her shoulder blades, where she can't even see it.

This show takes TV into the realms of madness, a realm where people need supervising to make a cup of tea without harming themselves, or they need to be assisted to prevent them from having a relationship with vegetables. The art was fantastic, the artists amazing, but the show itself needs removing. 

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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