We Need To Talk About Claire Temple.

TV At some point in the not too distant future, I'm going to write a listicle (or whatever the millennials are calling them these days) about my top ten favourite characters from the whole of the MARVEL cinematic universe and it's while watching Daredevil's second series that I realised just how high Claire Temple is one that list. Of all the characters we've been introduced to across the franchise, the she's the one who feels the most grounded and likeable and most importantly makes you wish that MARVEL would make a show or film in which superheroes are backgrounded rather than foregrounded, incidental rather than main characters, in which its about what it's like to live in a world where navigating rush hour could also include dealing with major disruption due to a contest of champions.

As is customary I spent the whole of yesterday working through all the available episodes of a Netflix MARVEL series in order to avoid the inevitable spoilers, beginning at around half seven in the morning (the series was uploaded an hour earlier than usual) and finishing just after midnight. As is also customary, this was time well spent as Daredevil's second series, whilst for my money not being quite as brilliant as Jessica Jones and slightly more formulaic, is still like nothing else on television and you should definitely watch it at your earliest convenience. Anyway since it's Saturday night and I have the itch, here's some odd comments about this run of episodes huddling around some numbers for comfort. Obviously this is supposed to be read after you've seen all the episodes because SPOILERS.

(1) Having run a whole story through thirteen episodes and finding themselves becoming slightly bogged down around episode ten with Nelson vs. Murdoch and essentially seeing Matt and Foggy talking through the previous nine episodes of exposition about the Daredevil and things, season two is instead segmented into three clusters of four episodes then a final resolving installment. The first four introduce The Punisher, the next four are about Elektra, the final four are about returning to themes and characters from the first series and the final episode climaxes The Hand story.

Unexpectedly The Hand and The Blacksmith aren't revealed to be connected in some way, and I think that has to do with the series working as an origin story for The Punisher (much as Jessica Jones did for Luke Cage), who along with Karen's participation instead ultimately resolves his own story. A less brave show might have attempted to put Daredevil in both climaxes somehow, but the writing is deft enough for us to view this as an ensemble piece rather than just the Daredevil show. My guess is that if there is a third series, Elektra will have even greater agency than she does here, hopefully, whether she's to be the antagonist or not.

Will we now see a show about The Punisher or will he continue in or one of the other shows. I'd like to see him spin-off if only so that s3 of Daredevil doesn't feel like a retread of this, that instead of Daredevil, we're watching Daredevil and The Punisher each year. I think he's strong enough, especially if he travels outside of Hell's Kitchen, takes his fight elsewhere. The fear might be that his Death Wish brutalism is too much to sustain him on television as an anti-hero without it all tipping over into machismo. The trick will be to find interesting enough supporting characters and a story which justifies the killins'.

(2) More noticeable in this series is the story editing is even closer to comic books, and the "meanwhile" approach to cross cutting between scenes. On dozens of occasions, threats between champions even brutal fights are intercut with character moments or expositional action related to another storyline and just sometimes the viewer is forced with having to juggle three or four different tones within minutes. Sometimes it jars, usually it worked well enough that our tension is kept going throughout. In that way there feels like less luls overall than the first year.

(3) Back to Claire Temple briefly. Her appearance early on suggests that she's not going to have much more than a cameo in this run of episodes (not unexpected given the Rosario Dawson's presumed schedule) and yet there she is later in the series receiving some proper character development which suggests that her story is going to weave its way through all of these MARVEL series, her arc next being picked up in Luke Cage. Perhaps her resignation here will be catalyst for her setting up the clinic for superheroes or vigilantes which appears in the comics? It goes without saying that Dawson is glorious in all of her scenes, somehow finding a more naturalistic tone against the wanton mayhem surrounding her.

(4) Elektra has a flashback. Kingpin has a flashback. Frank Castle gets no flashback. Everything we learn about the incident which was a catalyst for him to become The Punisher is through exposition and investigative dialogue. Another series might have had brief shots of him remembering fragments of the tragedy, but the producers realised that the brutally we have in our imagination could only be diminished through terrible shots of his wife and children being gunned down (perhaps also conscious that this origin in particular is a pretty generic example of fridging albeit from an earlier period). The show also heads off into the psychology of him making the choice to take the law into his own hands in a way that none of the films has, I don't think.

(5) If there's one weak moment, it's the return of Fisk, the most telegraphed, least surprising twist since every Doctor Who Dalek story built up to the appearance of the pepperpots at the end of the first episode like some mystery even though their name is in the title. But the flashback to his time in jail, along with the callback to his meditative art piece certainly gave worth to his reappearance. Perhaps my only real disappointment is that because he's such an integral part of Daredevil he's rightly been placed in this series which means he won't be available as an antagonist in the Spider-man films and the more outlandish approach to the character that would offer, not least as a key part of Black Cat's origin.

(6) They've dealt with the Foggy and Karen bystander problem with the first series in which they mostly reacted to events. Of the two, Karen is best served and while its clear that Elodie Yung's Elektra is supposed to be character that everyone is supposed to coalesce their interest around, in places Deborah Ann Woll practically walks off with the thing, shining like a baking sun against Charlie Cox's purposefully shadowy understated Matt. Does Foggy joining Carrie Ann Moss's law firm mean he's now going to turn up in the next series of Jessica Jones? Or Luke Cage? Good god, I love how all of this is connected.

(7) All of which said, I don't see how The Defenders series is going to work at this point. Presumably the rich worlds of secondary characters will intermingle in a similar way to the characters in The Avengers films, most of them having met one another given the number of shows which are in production now, but foregrounding the four main characters is going to be a tricky business, as is finding a story which means that they won't jar. Plus how many series will have per year before Defenders debuts? MARVEL/NETFLIX hasn't yet given an indication of the new release date structure now that Jessica Jones has gone to a second series and we have to assume both Luke Cage and Iron Fist will be granted multiple season orders too.

Ariana Grande's Impression of Jennifer Lawrence.

TV On the basis of this and her musical impressions, to an extent Grande's a loss to the world of variety. At least if her musical career dries up she has another entertainment off-ramp.

"No one has ever quoted me back to me before."

Film In the midst of a fairly bog standard rewrite of a press release at The Hollywood Reporter about how Warner Bros is producing twelve films for the Chinese market including Miss Congeniality and Blended (yes, that Blended), is the news that my favourite film of all time is receiving the same treatment. I think. Um:
"When Larry Meets Mary (romantic comedy) — Wen Zhang directs Song Jia and Bao Beier in a story that proves it takes time to find true love."
I mean it has to be, hasn't it?  Although When Harry Met Sally had a range of distributors across the world back in the day, Palace Pictures (would you believe) for the theatrical and then MGM in the home market (accounting for the rubbish transfer on the dvd) the original production company, Castle Rock is currently owned by Warner Bros.

Here then are the new Harry and Sally, I mean Larry and Mary, Bao Beier and Song Jia:

The director Wen Zhang is mainly known for his acting, although he does have a television credit.

Well, I'm intrigued as I always am with remakes.  How much of the original script and characterisation will survive?  Or the structure?  Anyway, a Google Alert has been set up and I'll keep you posted.

The Screaming Room.

Film While we're on the subject, numerous film directors, many of whose work I adore are backing a new venture called The Screening Room (proposed by Sean "Napster" Parker) in which a consumer pays $150 for another set-top box and then $50 a time to rent a film on the day of release at the cinemas, with the added incentive to cinema chains that they'll receive $20 from that $50 for effectively allowing it to happen.

Because that's what this is really about.  Film studios still need cinemas to project their product and cinemas won't do that if they're also competing with a home streaming service which is why consumers would have to pay $150 to even access the films even though a Roku or Fire Stick and Amazon Video app would do the same thing.

And does. Stephen Fingleton's The Survivalist was released at cinemas and on demand on the same day. Here it is on Amazon Video.  The Veronica Mars film too was VoD on its week of release, although that also illustrated the stranglehold the cinemas have on distribution in that the film company had to hire the screens in order to show the thing.

Netflix is trying to break the stranglehold but only some IMAX screens would carry the Crouching Tiger sequel in the US and Beasts of No Nation? well, Wikipedia, do tell:
"Netflix bought the worldwide distribution rights for around $12 million. The film was simultaneously released theatrically and online through its subscription video on demand service on October 16, 2015, with Bleecker Street handling the theatrical release. Considering the online release a violation of the traditional 90-day release window of exclusivity to theatres, AMC Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark, and Regal Entertainment Group—four of the largest theater chains in the United States—announced that they would boycott Beasts of No Nation, effectively downgrading it to a limited release at smaller and independent theatres. The film was also theatrically released in the UK on October 16, 2015, in Curzon Cinemas."
So what this is also about is how so many of us would prefer to pay to see the film at home, even at a premium rate, even on a small screen, than have to endure the process of going to the cinema, of having to deal with our fellow audience members, a potentially shitty projection, horrible sound and a general sense of being forced to watch something in less than optimal circumstances.

I can see why they're scared.  Their business model is in peril, in much the same way that music venues were when recorded music was introduced and radios have been when with the addition of streaming.  Both became smaller, streamlined and there was pain, lots and lots of pain.  But they coped and adapted.  Which is what cinemas need to do.

If they'd been really clever at the start they would have been the companies offering video on demand in the first place.  You wouldn't visit Amazon Prime to stream a film, you'd be visiting the Odeon or Cineworld app or something run by a consortium of them all making films at home.  But they didn't.  Instead, we'll continue to wait the 90 extra days to see these films in our own home.

Amazon Prime Studio, a list.

Film Almost this time last month, I wrote about how it was possible to find out which items a studio had available on Amazon Prime through the search box.

A month later I've realised I was overdoing a problem which Amazon had fixed themselves.

On this page it's possible to see all of the studios participating in their video on demand service.

Click each of those and it's possible to see all the films on offer from that studio.

From there you can also click to see what's available through Prime.

They don't have subscription streaming deals with all the studios (Netflix and NowTV and whoever having tied up the rights to others), but here's a list of everything on Prime by distributor, sorted by date added.


Entertainment One

Film Chest

High Fliers



Momentum Pictures

The Movie Partnership

MVP-Screen Media

NBC Universal

Twentieth Century Fox

Studio Canal

Warner Bros

WHE Orbital

As you can see some of them are actual studios and others are redistributors for other material.  Film Chest looks like old Hollywood stuff which has fallen out of copyright and the are classic home release distributors.

In terms of interest I'm not sure how useful this is other than as the digital equivalent of those booklets which fall out of dvds listing all the wares that studio has to offer and in at least being able to see which studios has done deals with for future reference.

The accuracy is interesting.  Hannibal is listed as the sole MGM release but is presumably here because Universal had the original UK domestic distribution rights.

Netflix sidebar:

Netflix is odd.  If you search for Disney or Netflix you get everything Disney or Netflix.  But search for Curzon or Artificial Eye or Paramount or any of the other studios whose content they have it treats it as a proper name.

My Favourite Film of 1955.

Film In 2014, my Mother bought me this Rogers & Hammerstein boxed set for Christmas and that's when I first saw Oklahoma!  As with most musicals of that period it was impossible to watch without knowing some of the songs.  You might like to correct me but I have a strong memory of Roy Castle singing O What A Beautiful Mornin' either on Record Breakers or a variety show probably All Star Record Breakers.  I knew every lyric to The Surrey with the Fringe on Top right up until Harry's ex-wife Helen and Ira interrupt he and Sally whilst conducting a karaoke incident in a department store ("Six years later you find yourself singing "Surrey with a fringe on top" in front of Ira!").  What I especially love about the musicals of that period is how the shots always hold on the performers for much of the length of the song, which is especially notable in Oklahoma due to all the location filming.

But of course, being from Liverpool, the song with the greatest resonance is You'll Never Walk Alone which I think is played in every local hospital during the maternity process because we seem to know the words during what we think is our first listen even before we know that it's from a musical, even before we know it was recorded by Gerry Marsden.  Post-Hillsborough too, it's become near possible to hear so synonymous has it become connected with the tragedy.  It was on deep rotation between emergency messages and dedications on Radio City in 1989, I think, along with Eternal Flame by The Bangles.  That's also still a difficult listen in its original form.  That's why the pop version by Atomic Kitten always seemed like an interesting choice.  Did they know?

One of the reasons the song, You'll Never Walk Alone, I mean, still runs through me is because about three years later in the middle of my A-Levels, I spent three nights at Liverpool Cathedral as part of a mass choir of local schools singing that and a range of other hymns, a thousand voices.  I've mentioned this before, notably in 2007 when memories of that night bubbled up again after hearing three of the songs on a recently bought compilation which had been put together to cash in on Euro 96.  Our school, the Blue Coat was there, along with many others. We were told at the time these would become the radio gold standard, but apart from the cassette of the recording which I've stored somewhere, I'd heard nothing in twelve years. Now here we are on a cd released four years later. Not that I was expecting royalties.

Not having thought about it for years, it was quite a surprise to have the sound, the epic sound, filling the space around my head through the headphones I bought for that year's Proms. All kinds of details I'd forgotten, like the fact that we had to redo You'll Never Walk Alone many times because we were naturally singing the Gerry Marsden version when they'd licensed the Rogers and Hammerstein original which has slightly different notes around 'the sweet silver song of a lark' which on hear in I noticed we still didn't get quite right with half of everyone singing one version and everyone else singing the other.  On reflection, to have a choir of school children that large singing in any kind of a comprehensible way and largely behaving themselves was an incredible achievement.  But as one of these photographs shows, it wasn't the first time a thousand voices attended the church.

There was teenage angst too.  I had a very quick, but very deep crush on a girl called Claire from St Julie's School, who was sitting in front of me because she'd been cross with someone from my school because they'd been picking on me. I liked her so much.  Painfully shy, I didn't really get to speak to her until the last night (having walked around the cathedral outside for ages trying to pluck up the courage to ask for her phone number) and then we only really talked for a few minutes because my parents came and picked me up. I got her phone number, but never did call her because that would have been an even greater effort for someone who'd spent his puberty in a boy's school with teachers and family members as his only female contact.  Years later I was sat in the passenger seat of a car in a garage forecourt and saw her with some friends heading into the shop, her face illuminated briefly in some headlights.  Would have been a bit weird if I'd said hello.

Since this event I’ve been to concerts and events in which thousands upon thousands have piled into an enclosed space together, sometimes singing. I expect there were close to that many in a typical school assembly. Except on those occasions I hadn't really thought about it and hadn't been given a number. Eight hundred. It seemed like a lot and as we worked our way through Take Five of The Old Rugged Cross, in that massive space it sounded like it too. Perhaps that's why, during the Proms every year I can imagine the power of the organ and the BBC Singers despite not having been in the Royal Albert Hall.

Imagine my surprise then whilst thinking about writing this piece in finding the original album we recorded on Spotify.  Perhaps my favourite thing about it is you can tell these children are from Liverpool and the surround areas.  The accent is unmistakable.  But also the passion with which we sing You'll Never Walk Alone, just those three years on from Hillsborough, none of us unaffected by those events, the words bursting out of our chests.  As I listen again now, I remember that I cried.  Was that why I was picked on?  Was that why Claire defended me?  I don't know, I don't remember that.  But the atmosphere, I'll never forget the atmosphere.  Oh and having to do several retakes of The Old Rugged Cross because the alarm on someone's digital watch kept going off and the microphones were sensitive enough to pick it up even in a cathedral sized recording studio.

All Snaits.

Music All Saints have a cover story in The Observer today and the interview does the usual business. For example they have to explain to the interviewer what Dinner Date is during a discussion about the kinds of television they watch:
What programmes are we talking about? 
Natalie: All the Housewives …

Melanie: Whatever is the worst TV you can imagine – we watch worse than that [laughs]. I like fighting, swearing …

Nicole: She likes fighting, swearing, drinking. A lot of sex. Mel actually got me into a few that I didn’t even know … Dinner Date.

Sorry, what’s Dinner Date?

Melanie: Whaaaaat!

Nicole: It’s amazing. It’s like Come Dine With Me crossed with Blind Date in someone’s house.

Melanie: There’s no sex on that one though. That’s like a daytime one.
There's also a section about Mel's socks. No, me either.  I wonder if they've ever shopped in All Saints.