TV Column: Out of the box

Out of the box

A couple of days ago I managed to watch Chronicle, starring three actors I’ve never heard of (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan, if you must know). Quite a B-grade sort of movie to all intents and purposes, but nonetheless interesting for its totally different take on superpowers.

Three teenagers have a close encounter with ‘alien’ material that happens to be hived under a field. The result is that all three wind up with tele-kinetic powers.

I have to confess that despite enjoying the bonanza of superhero movies that came our way in the recent years, I was always ticked off by the fact the heroes always seem to use their powers for the good of mankind. Rather simplistic.

Chronicle is anything but. Our three anti-heroes immediately discover that potential for fun and games within their new powers. And for one of them, this potential soon turns into something a heck of a lot darker.

The movie is shot in what I refer to as The Blair Witch Project style, with the protagonists constantly filming every mundane event on their camcorder. The movie is the result of footage gathered from this camera – you would think that by now the style would have started to bore us. And yet, it doesn’t and director Josh Trank uses it to very good effect.

Watch if you want to move away from the sanitised – if spectacular – superhero powers of The Avengers, Spiderman and co.

Elocution, baby

The only time I do listen to the radio is in my car while driving to and from work. More often than not, the choice of music is hardly up my street but I do enjoy keeping tabs on the ‘local angle’.

Which is how some weeks ago I found myself cringing while the, erm, newscaster on a particular radio station proceeded to conduct a ruthless massacre of the Maltese language.

At first I thought that maybe this was because she was more used to using English. But no, she also proceeded to give the most painful (and unintentially funny) pronunciation even to the English phrases and surnames.

The penny dropped when I realised that the news bulletin reminded me of those classroom sessions when the teacher would pick the most bashful/less proficient student to read out loud. The pain and uncertainty in this newscaster’s voice was pretty much the same. The girl just couldn’t read her way out of a paper bag.

After stumbling her way through most of the bulletin, her patience was further taxed by the appearance of that rather weird name, Ricky Gervais. If she used it three times, the surname was given a different pronunciation all three.

Much hilarity on my part ensued, of course. I wonder what the driver in the next lane made of the mad woman shaking her head and thumping her fists on the steering wheel.

Sherlock-Cumberbatch factor

Was rather pleasantly surprised last week to see TVM running the ‘new’ Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch (sigh, drool). Heavens know that July isn’t exactly a happening time on local telly.

To be fair, it’s hardly a happening time on foreign channels either but the Maltese offerings tend to be particularly dry. Seriously, how often are we expected to watch re-runs of shows that had their heyday some three decades ago?

The Toby Haynes/Euros Lyn/ Paul McGuigan offering is anything but passé, despite the fact that TVM is still on Season 1. Here’s hoping they follow suit immediately with Season 2, which was only aired by Italian channels a few months ago.

If there’s one thing that bothers me about local telly it is the way we seem to be under the impression that good tele-series stopped with the demise of Keeping Up Appearances, ’Allo ’Allo and the like.

It’s all very well to focus on locally produced shows, but why should we resort to Youtube or cable TV for the more contemporary productions? Maybe some decent investment is due.

Reality bites

Reality television is being taken to even more ridiculous levels. Italia Uno have just wound up the channel’s latest trovata, Il Mammone, and good riddance too.

I only discovered this show by chance while zapping – I kid you not, the whole thing was like a train crash. My fingers kept trying to switch channel but morbid fascination prevented me from completing the act.

Italy is a country famous for breeding generations upon generations of ‘mummy’s boys’. I always thought of it as a bad thing. I mean, who wants to be saddled with a man whose idea of independence is when he manages to brew coffee single-handedly, right?

The Italians seem to disagree with me and at the moment are busy celebrating a legion of seriously incapacitated ‘men’ whose lives are dictated entirely by their mothers.

The point of the show, in case it wasn’t obvious, was to find the right women who are ready to put with these mammoni – and by ‘right’, I mean that they have to be approved by mother dear, of course.

Can television sink to lower levels, I wonder.

An edited version of this column was published on The Sunday Times.