DVD REVIEW: PENELOPE KEITH’S HIDDEN VILLAGES SERIES 2

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Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages Series 2 picks up were the first one left off. It’s another look at some places that are off the beaten track, are quintessentially British, full of eccentrics and befitting the term “villages.” The former star of To the Manor Born and The Good Life delivers another bright and delightful program about a topic that is clearly rather close to her heart. This is particularly so when you consider that she has been living in a village herself for almost 40 years.

This time around Keith produces four episodes that focus on Devon and Cornwall; Cumbria and The Lake District; Royal Deeside; and East Sussex and Kent. In episode one Keith visits a number of coastal cities and looks at how fishing and mining played a role in village life. She also sees some troyboats race, catches the Polruan ferry and attends Oak Apple Day. Keith is a keen gardener so it’s fitting that she also has a turn around some large private gardens where Camelia and rhododendrons were first introduced and where large plantations of Darjeeling tea are now being grown.

The picturesque, Lake District is the setting for episode two and it’s here that we learn that these farmlands were the inspiration and home of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. The series focuses on a number of literary references (and not just the excerpts that Keith has highlighted from her 1932 travel book, the Batsford Guide.) Keith also describes Wordsworth’s Grasmere and East Sussex is where you will find Batemans, the former home of The Jungle Book’s author, Rudyard Kipling.

This series contains some exquisite shots of green, British landscapes. At the Royal Deeside, the audience is also treated to views of Balmoral Castle and acres of royal land that is used to grow vegetables and plants. This neighbourhood (and Braemar specifically) is also where the Highland Games are held. These are complete with dancers, bagpipe players and the hammer toss. The final episode includes a visit to Robertsbridge, the home of the cricket bat as well as trips along a steam train and a glimpse at the Beresford Hotel or one where The Beatles, Petula Clark and other famous people were once guests.

The second series of Hidden Villages is certainly not essential viewing. It’s another gentle travelogue of rural England and the countryside as well as its coverage of the secrets and traditions of those places. This series looks absolutely gorgeous and Penelope Keith has a personality and presenting style to match. Her enthusiasm and optimism is infectious and the series will make just about anyone want to become a member of the village green preservation society.

Originally published on 3 October 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/penelope-keiths-hidden-villages-series-2-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

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Cancer is a cruel disease. It’s also a very common one. It’s estimated that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with it. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is a comprehensive and informative documentary series that offers us a history of cancer (including how researchers came to understand the disease) plus how treatments have been discovered and what happens next in this important field.

This series is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee who also appears here as a talking head in this program. The show is directed by Barak Goodman and it counts Ken Burns as an executive producer. Over the course of the filming, two individuals from the production team would die from cancer, including narrator Edward Herrmann and producer, Laura Ziskin.
The DVD is divided into six, hour-long episodes although in America it was presented as three, two-hour long programs.

The show combines interviews with: researchers, advocates, oncologists, patients, philanthropists and other doctors and nurses working in the cancer field. It combines archive footage and photographs (that are presented in the best quality video and audio.) Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies  is ultimately a very important documentary because it hits home that no one is immune to cancer and that this disease has a number of causes, including some that are unknown while others that can be linked to inherited genes, viruses, chemicals, etc.

In episode one we learn about how cancer has been around for hundreds of years. It was even mentioned in some Ancient Egyptian scrolls. The focus then shifts to the pioneers, the mistakes and breakthroughs of the last 100 years. Some of the first major breakthroughs were by Sidney Farber or the father of modern chemotherapy. In the following episode there are discussions about surgery and radiation and the idea that some of the drugs that treat cancer can also cause this dreaded disease.

By the 1940s the medical fraternity still considered cancer as a single disease that would have a single cure. A lot of research would follow and would aid in the understanding of this disease. This resulted in some researchers looking into the role of oncogenes (genes that under some circumstances can transform a cell into a tumour cell) as a way of detecting and fighting cancer.

There is a discussion about the horrific radical mastectomies that were once routine and believed to be the best treatment for breast cancer. This was later disproven and different trials lead to the discovery of better treatments (including certain drugs.) There was a shift in thinking about cancer to encourage prevention and early detection. The series ends with the formulation of the HPV vaccine that can account for a substantial number of breast and ovarian cancers.

Cancer: The Emperor Of All Maladies features clear and concise descriptions of cancer including its evolution and the way we think about, understand and treat this disease. It offers possible treatments for the future (targeted therapies and immunotherapy) as well as what has worked and failed. This documentary straddles the lines between hard science and history as well as offering up the real, human impact of cancer (by showing actual cancer patients and their families.) This documentary is essential viewing because it covers such a fundamental issue for humans as we stare down the barrel of either being diagnosed with the disease or knowing someone that has been there.

Originally published on 11 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/cancer-the-emperor-of-all-maladies-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: VINYL SEASON ONE

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A story clouded by lost brain cells, self-aggrandisement and bullshit. This is what the TV series, Vinyl sells you. It’s a heady dramatic turn through the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and hedonism that was the music industry in New York in 1973. This ten part TV series is a slow-burning, nuanced one that feels like a love letter to the period and the genre and a celebration of the redemptive power of rock ‘n’ roll.

This program has got a pretty impressive pedigree to say the least. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger is a creator and producer along with Martin Scorsese (who also directs the pilot). Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos) is also a creator and executive producer and the series stars Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire). Vinyl takes in both fictional and real-life events and artists and it is clear that it has been meticulously researched as it is very true to the period. While the series starts off a tad slowly, the later episodes really hit more of the right notes and will hook the viewer in.

Cannavale stars as the record executive, Richie Finestra and the principal owner of the fictional label, American Century. He is a liar and coke fiend but despite these vices has also managed to maintain a friendship with his business partner and the head of promotions, Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano who puts in a strong, dramatic performance). Finestra is married to Devon (Olivia Wilde) a former model and associate of Andy Warhol’s (John Cameron Mitchell). Devon is now sober and a restless mother to two young children.

The fortunes of the owners of American Century looked set to change when Polygram wanted to buy the company. But at the eleventh hour Finestra sees The New York Dolls and his interest and enthusiasm in music is restored. The deal is off, he decides to keep the company and attempt to turn their fortunes around for the better. The label is home to some jocular A & R reps and an ambitious coffee/drug girl Jamie Vine (an enchanting, Juno Temple) and she discovers a young, punk outfit The Nasty Bits (lead by Jagger’s son, James).

The soundtrack to this series is fantastic with David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, “Life On Mars” and “Jean Genie” played alongside tracks like “Hey Joe” (made famous by Jimi Hendrix), The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pink Floyd’s “Money”, The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress” and two Eddie Cochran hits that Led Zeppelin liked to cover, “Somethin’ Else” and “C’Mon Everybody”. In some instances the original track is used, in others it is a live version or a cover. The series also portrays some famous musicians in their youth- like Bowie (Noah Bean), John Lennon (Stephen Sullivan), Elvis Presley (Shawn Wayne Klush), Bob Marley (Leslie Kujo) and Peter Tosh (Aku Orraca-Tetteh), among others.

The series is not a perfect one. Some of the sub-plots are not satisfactorily explored (many of the female characters feel like quick punctuation marks to the whole tale), the flashbacks are sometimes a tad confusing and the pilot was overlong (at 113 minutes). But once you sit back and immerse yourself and get into the groove there is a lot to enjoy in this vibrant series. The individuals navigate through difficult marriages, a murder investigation, creative issues, brushes with the law and the mob, sexism and the tragedies of drugs and more. Vinyl is an enthusiastic look at the seventies but it’s not hagiography, the filmmakers are happy to show the real and raw grittiness of the environment, and this is especially important when the story is told through the eyes of the troubled main character and particularly as we follow his downward spiral.

The visuals in this series – like the soundtrack – seem quite true to the era. The colour palette looks like it could have come from an old video from the seventies and the costumes, scenery and props are also fitting for the decade. The special features on the Blu-ray are satisfactory and include audio commentaries, a featurette and some “Inside the episode” looks at the program with Terence Winter.

Vinyl is a sprawling TV series and a rich look at an exciting chapter in music. It stars a bunch of mad misfits and details their manic misadventures through friendship, booze, drugs and other excesses from this colourful period. In all, this is one fun and nostalgic look at the grit, glitz and glam that was the seventies New York music industry. Rock on!

Originally published on 13 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/vinyl-season-one-blu-ray-review/

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DVD REVIEW: PENELOPE KEITH’S HIDDEN VILLAGES

penelope keith

 

Ray Davies of The Kinks once sang about being a member of the village green preservation society but as Australians the concept of the “village” is a rather foreign one. Thankfully, we have someone like actress, Dame Penelope Keith of To The Manor Born fame to navigate our way through this quintessentially British phenomenon. Her gentle travelogue TV series, Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages is a quaint and breezy look at English culture and tradition.

Keith is a villager herself, having lived in Milford, Surrey for almost 40 years. For her TV show however, she takes her guidance from a 1932 book called the Batsford Guide. It was a series of books that chronicled many different aspects of village life. It also featured some beautiful illustrations by Sir Brian Batsford. In this three-part TV series Keith offers us some stunning visuals of her own (read: verdant landscapes, grand gardens and buildings, thatched cottages, etc.)

Dame Penelope is a very natural and charming presenter. It is obvious that she is very enthusiastic about the subject matter as her style is very positive, luminescent and self-deprecating. She also manages to find the right balance between being informative and interesting. In Norfolk she tries her hand at the local dialect and giggles at place names like: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and Little Snoring. She also watches clog dancing, bell-ringing and a synchronised dance routine involving wheelbarrows. She visits fetes and shops and travels via small plane, goes fishing at sea and even develops a need for speed around a racing circuit.

This light-hearted series is certainly not essential viewing but it is a pleasant and nostalgic ride through village life as it celebrates progress, tradition and other quirks and foibles that make life so much fun. Keith is a very charismatic presenter and she manages to strike a chord with the audience as well as the villagers (even the more eccentric ones). This quaint program is a very pleasant one that will challenge our thinking of the sleepy world of villages- make us jealous and perhaps even want to live there.

Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/penelope-keiths-hidden-villages-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/luke-warm-sex-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: MATILDA & ME

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The documentary, Matilda & Me is more about the latter than the former. It’s a film that looks at Tim Minchin’s background and history, charting his rise from aspiring actor to successful comedian and renowned theatre composer. The movie is ultimately a fun and vibrant one about two great characters- the fictional, Roald Dahl creation, Matilda and the clever and creative larrikin, Minchin.

The film is written and directed by Minchin’s sister, Nel Minchin as well as Rhian Skirving (Rock n Roll Nerd). The former gives us quite a personal look at her brother Tim, showing us old photographs and home movies and narrating Tim’s story. Mr Minchin may have been introduced to theatre and creative things while still at school but he was an unlikely choice when it came to Matilda. There was a long road to success and some of this journey even included some couch-surfing at playwright, Kate Mulvany’s place. But it seems that the stars aligned with Matilda because this strange choice of composer would write some award-winning lyrics and music for the Roald Dahl classic.

Matilda & Me features a diverse range of interviewees. There is Mr Minchin himself as well as his siblings, Dan and Katie, wife Sarah and friends Andrew Denton and Eddie Perfect. There is also Dahl’s cool wife, Felicity, Andrew Lloyd Webber and actress, Mara Wilson, who played the lead character in the 1996 film. There are also interviews with those involved in the stage production like: playwright, Dennis Kelly, director, Matthew Warchus and the four girls selected to play the lead character in the Sydney production: Georgia Taplin, Bella Thomas, Sasha Rose and Molly Barwick.

The story is ultimately an inspiring one just like the book. It shows how Minchin went from a modest childhood living on a farm and near the beach in WA to becoming hot property thanks to a successful and award-winning musical playing on Broadway and in the West End. Minchin himself is quite an engaging and interesting character. He can be quite outspoken and vocal (the recent Cardinal Pell song is testament to that) but he is also quite modest and quick to downplay his hand in the success of the show.

The DVD extras include some behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews. They include subjects like “Meeting the Matildas”, “A look at the magic of Roald Dahl” the “When I Grow Up Song” and interviews with associate choreographer, Fabian Aloise and actor, James Millar who plays the scary principal, Mrs Trunchbull in the Australian adaptation.

Tim Minchin may have set some tongues a wagging with his blue eye makeup, long hair and bare feet but he was the perfect person to work on the stage adaptation of Matilda. Roald Dahl’s magical tale has been given a new life on stage and Matilda & Me captures some of that enchanted pixie dust and the essence of the creative driving force behind it all. This documentary puts its spotlight squarely on Tim Minchin’s star and gets an intimate look at the creative composer who took the story of a little girl and ran with it and a man that looks poised to do a whole lot more.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/matilda-me-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: TALES FROM THE ROYAL WARDROBE AND BEDCHAMBER

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They say that clothes make the man. So the two documentaries released on one DVD, Tales from the Royal Wardrobe and Bedchamber could offer an interesting glimpse into some rather intimate details with respect to English monarchs. Historian, Dr Lucy Worsley offers up a program that has its moments and provides some good historic context but at other points feels like it’s too flimsy an idea to stretch out over two whole programs.

Dr Worsley is the chief curator of the historic royal palaces. In these programs she traces the English monarchy back over 400 years and offers up some insightful information about the power of the reigning monarch’s costumes and what actually went on in their bedrooms. In some cases the clothes were used to present an image and drive home the message of power to affirm who was in charge. In the case of Queen Elizabeth I, she once wore a dress that had eyes and ears all over it to show that she was all-seeing and all-hearing. King Edward VIII on the other hand won little praise with his daggy safari suits which screamed “leisure and comfort” rather than dedication to his post.

These documentaries do have their share of interesting moments but one can’t help but wonder if the actual historic material has been watered down and that the matters presented have been played up for their entertainment aspect. It’s curious that Dr Worsley is a female presenter and we wonder if this meant the program couldn’t be more serious and hard-hitting and instead had to be flippant and focus on style over substance.

It must have been fun for Dr Worsley to wear replicas of some of these great garments. The impractical outfits of the truly wealthy women look nice but are so silly that the wearer would require servants to dress them and assist with the tying and untying of the corset. But seeing this historian play dress-up does mean it is a bit hard to take what she says seriously because it feels like the whole thing has gone from being informative to a rather throwaway, fashion parade.

Tales from the Royal Wardrobe and Bedchamber feeds right into the public’s fascination with the royal family including their bedroom habits and the personal statements they choose to make with their choice of clothes. While it can be pleasant and entertaining at times, it can also be quite hollow and flimsy at other moments. In all, this is a rather tenuous and indulgent look at the royal family and all of its trappings.

Originally published on 14 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/tales-from-the-royal-wardrobe-bedchamber-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: THE FAMILY LAW

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For too long, Australian TV shows have been white-washed and white bread but a series like The Family Law looks poised to change all of that. The SBS dramedy feels authentic in its depiction of the Law family living in Queensland in the nineties. The show has real heart and it will make you laugh and it’s no surprise that it has become a swift favourite among viewers.

The program is an adaption of writer, Benjamin Law’s 2010 memoir of the same name. The TV series was also co-written with Marieke Hardy. It uses some of the vignettes from Law’s memoir where he describes growing up as a gay, Asian kid in Australia. The TV show also fashions it all into a cohesive whole by making it seem like it all took place over one long, hot Australian summer.

The six-part series is mostly told from Law’s perspective. He is a creative, enthusiastic and well-meaning middle child who is close to his large family, especially his mother. Here, Law is played by the well-cast, Trystan Go, whose acting credits include the theatrical production, The King & I. But one character’s star shines the brightest out of the Law family and that is Ben’s mother, Jenny (played by the wonderful, Fiona Choi). Jenny is the family matriarch and a rambunctious, eccentric and colourful character. Jenny can be inappropriate at times and a no-nonsense and kind woman at others. She also has no filter and has by far, some of the funniest lines.

The Law family also includes the hard-working father, Danny (Anthony Brandon Wong (who plays a villain in several Matrix films)). Danny is thrown-out of the Law house and is forced to sleep at the restaurant he owns. There are also Ben’s four siblings- Candy (Shuang Hu), Andrew (George Zhao), Tammy (Karina Lee) and Michelle (Vivian Wei). The show is a warm, relatable and amiable one that focuses on Ben’s teenage life- from aspirations of fame and entries into school talent quests, to his parent’s wedding anniversary and marriage break-up to family Christmases, engagements and visits from friends.

The special features are interesting and include a trailer as well as a series of featurettes where there are interviews with Law, the actors and director, Jonathan Brough  (It’s a Date, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane). It is fascinating to learn that the production team went to great lengths to make the setting feel like a cosy, lived-in family home. Law referred to it as a “lasagne of shit” and this is particularly obvious in the mountains of laundry and family bric-a-brac. It’s also nice to see the real members of the Law family meeting their counterparts (they make a cameo in episode one which is lovely and rather funny).

The Family Law is a fun, Australian family show that expertly straddles the lines between drama and comedy. The show has some funny moments but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting some real drama and emotion. In all, this is a long-overdue program about a dysfunctional Asian family that everyone can enjoy thanks to its rich tapestry and depiction of modern Australian life that is full of off-beat irreverence and colourful shenanigans aplenty.

Originally published on 5 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-family-law-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: DUMB CRIMINALS

dumbcriminals

 

There’s a great quote at the end of Billy Madison by the school principal. It goes a little something like this: “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response where you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for it”. This is a very apt way of summing up the film, Dumb Criminals. It’s a silly story based on the real-life mishaps and misadventures of some stupid crooks and their partners in crime.

The film is a spin-off of a web series by the same name. It’s by prolific writer, director and producer, Paul Fenech, who is also the creator of Housos and Fat Pizza. It’s fair to say it doesn’t require a large stretch of the imagination to go from those other TV programs and their brand of cult comedy and offensive humour to reach this current instalment (and once again, Angry Anderson makes a cameo).

Dumb Criminals is about two former bikies and crooks named Rabbit (played by Fenech and as a sidenote his surname is actually the Maltese word for “rabbit”) and the pokie-loving, Rongo (Kevin Taumata). The pair are uncles to Sharley (Sage Matchett), the daughter of a Bogan single mum named, Sharnelle (Elle Dawe in a role that isn’t a million miles away from her Shazza character on Housos). Sharley needs expensive medical treatment in a Swiss hospital, which will cost $150,000. So Rongo and Rabbit decide to plot, scheme and rob in order to get the family the necessary cash. The only problem is they’re pretty inept criminals and they count a pothead and ice addict among their mates.

The movie features lots of Australian stereotypes: Bogans, bikies, druggies, ethnics and large-breasted bikini-clad women. It’s a wild ride that sees the madcap group travel all the way to Las Vegas to pull off a job. The only problem is the humour is very slap-stick and one-note, which can get rather tedious. In one interview Fenech called himself Australia’s answer to Adam Sandler because they share the same sense of humour and appeal to the 15 year old in all of us. That’s fine when we are teenagers but this doesn’t necessarily translate when you become an adult. In fact, the current news story involving local heroes, James Ross-Munro and Kane Wiblen’s efforts in thwarting two thieves at Oporto has packed more punch into a YouTube clip than this film did in its 90 minutes. Enough said.

Dumb Criminals really does live up to its name. It stitches together some of the silliest real-life crimes played out by people: from stealing a tyre off a cop’s car to using black texta on your face to rob a store because you forgot to bring a mask. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and requires you go to in with very low expectations. But even with all of this in mind you can’t help but think these dirty deeds are like a poor man’s Housos.

Originally published on 10 January 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/dumb-criminals-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: GIRLS SEASON 4

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Since it first aired in 2012, Girls has always been a divisive program. It comes as no real surprise seeing as the show’s creator, executive producer and occasional writer and director, Lena Dunham polarises people. Over the years Girls has inspired some heady debates and sent the characters on some emotional rollercoasters. Series four builds on all this while also seeing these young ladies growing up and maturing.

This season sees a lot more of Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath gracing our screens. Hannah accepts a prestigious spot at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It means her already rocky relationship with boyfriend, Adam Sackler (the excellent, Adam Driver) is tested to the limits. The pair have “no plans” when they set out on a long distance relationship of sorts. It’s not entirely shocking that Hannah lasts about five minutes in Iowa but the real surprise is the carnage that awaits her back in New York.

The lives of Horvath’s friends are similarly complicated and messy. Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) is battling her own inner demons and finally joins AA. She also begins dating an awful artist named Ace (Zachary Quinto). Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) finally passes that pesky, final subject and graduates and gets a huge wake-up call. She discovers that landing a job in the real world is not as easy as it looks. But she does redeem herself by helping her ex-boyfriend and friend, Ray Ploshansky (Alex Karpovsky) out when he runs for local office.

Poor Marnie (Allison Williams) isn’t as lucky. She has an affair with her musical collaborator, Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) even though he’s still dating his girlfriend, Clementine (Natalie Morales). Marnie and Desi have a tumultuous relationship and even end up getting engaged towards the end of the season. But things aren’t quite as quaint and breezy as the indie folk songs they sing (in real life these are written by Dunham’s actual boyfriend, Jack Antonoff of the band, Fun and Williams actually can sing).

The show doesn’t stop from pulling the hard punches with issues like abortion, homosexuality, addiction and home births just some of the things that are tackled. Dunham and her writing team continue to write witty and well-constructed programs where there’s more than a few home truths about friendships, careers, love and sex included in the mix. There are also some great moments of tension and lightness featured in this dramedy and the cameos include Spike Jones, Gillian Jacobs, Marc Maron and Maude Apatow, to name a few.

The special features on the Blu-ray edition are excellent. There are lots of deleted and extended scenes as well as audio commentary with Dunham, her fellow actors and crew. There’s two different blooper reels a well as music videos of Desi and Marnie singing “Breathless” and the latter going solo on “Riverside”. There is also an “Inside the episode” segment where Dunham discusses each instalment as well as a making of featurette.

Girls is a great little program that is bittersweet, relatable and beautiful. It’s a bold TV series where dysfunctional relationships and awkward people are put to the test and the main characters negotiate the lines between adulthood and the steps preceding it. In all, this is a show that examines maturity and expectations with a more realistic frame than sitcoms like Sex In The City and Friends ever did. As such, it makes for art that resembles life and stuff that doesn’t hold back on its constant rawness and glory.

 

Originally published on 31 December 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/girls-season-4-blu-ray-review/

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