Review: “Shooting Fish” (Film)

For the next review in my “1990s Films” series, I thought that I’d take a slight break from Hollywood films and take a look at a comedy film from 1997 called “Shooting Fish”.

I wanted to include this film in the series because I saw it on rental VHS when I was about ten. Although I remembered very little about it, it has the distinction of being the first “12 certificate” film that I ever saw and, to my ten-year-old self, this fact alone was the height of coolness! So, when I saw that second-hand DVDs of it were going fairly cheap online, I just had to get a copy for old times’ sake.

So, let’s take a look at “Shooting Fish”. Needless to say, this review may contain some mild SPOILERS.

“Shooting Fish” follows two con artists called Dylan and Jez (played by Dan Futterman and Stuart Townsend). Their goal is to raise £2 million by scamming and cheating as many rich businesspeople and aristocrats in London as they can, in order to fulfil their lifelong dreams of living in a stately home.

£2 million? How difficult could it be?

Their latest swindle involves selling fake voice-recognition computer systems and, to make the scam work, they need a fast typist. So, after placing an ad in the paper, they end up hiring a medical student called Georgie (played by Kate Beckinsale).

However, in the middle of a “demonstration” of the system, she becomes suspicious. So, Jez and Dylan tell her that they are raising money for orphans (which is technically true, since Jez and Dylan were orphans when they were younger). Glad to help out with a good cause, Georgie decides to join the gang….

Yay! Crime!

One of the first things that I will say about “Shooting Fish” is that it’s slightly more of a subtle and understated comedy than I’d expected.

Although there are quite a few amusing moments and it’s a rather “feel good” kind of film, it often isn’t really the kind of “laugh out loud” comedy film that I’d originally expected.

Most of the comedy is dialogue-based/ character-based, but there’s also some visual humour too. Like this amusing number plate which reads “A T05 DF”.

In fact, the thing that it reminded me most of was an excellent TV series called “Hustle” that appeared a few years after this film came out.

However, although “Shooting Fish” has some of the slick cheekiness of “Hustle”, the narrative sometimes feels a little bit less focused. Whilst “Shooting Fish” certainly contains it’s fair share of amusing capers and audacious schemes, it is also slightly more of a character-based drama too. Whilst this adds some emotional depth and drama to the film, it also takes some of the focus off of the main characters’ many amusing cons, swindles and tricks.

The dialogue is fairly good, but the film’s pacing doesn’t always feel quite right.

Another slight problem with “Shooting Fish” is the lack of attention to detail.

Whilst the elaborate heists in a TV show like “Hustle” are somewhat silly, the audience is distracted from this by the many small details and clever plot twists that the show’s writers have added. On the other hand, there are some scenes in “Shooting Fish” where you’re left thinking “how the hell did they get away with that? Someone would have noticed!“. This film is very much a ‘style over substance’ film sometimes.

Case in point, this scene involving a jockey and a “hidden” helium baloon springs to mind. Somehow, not even the other jockeys notice it…

For the most part, the story of the film is reasonably good. However, there are a couple of parts of the story that seem a little bit contrived (eg: a plot element about recalled £50 notes). Still, given that this is a slightly stylised feel-good comedy caper movie, then these parts of the film can be excused for this.

Likewise, the tone of the film is somewhat interesting too. Whilst some parts of the film are fairly stylish and slick, many other parts of the film are somewhat slow-paced and understated. Whilst this gives the film a bit more complexity, it does detract very slightly from the comedic elements of the film. Even so, as I mentioned, this is more of a frequently amusing light-hearted feel-good film than a “laugh out loud” comedy.

There’s also the inevitable romantic sub-plot too.

The characters in this film are reasonably good, with the friendship between Jez and Dylan being a central part of the film. Plus, since Dylan is a more extroverted character and Jez is a slightly more geeky and introverted character, the contrast between their personalities helps to add some interest to the film.

Likewise, their uncertainty about how Georgie will react if she learns the truth about their plans to raise £2 million for orphans is also an important part of the film too. But, whilst Georgie has an interesting backstory, she sometimes comes across as a somewhat old-fashioned and “posh” character in a few scenes.

Although the “posh” element of her character is explained (somewhat unexpectedly) at one point in the film.

This film also contains a couple of interesting cameos from well-known actors too. To modern audiences, the most noticeable of these is that a certain then-unknown actor called Peter Capaldi happens to have a brief role in the film.

[Insert amusing “Doctor Who” reference here.]

In terms of lighting, style and set design, this film is absolutely excellent!

Not only are the flashback and daydream scenes in this film filmed using some really cool purple and green filters, but a similar effect is also used in the background of another scene in the film too. Not only that, many of the location designs in the film look suitably distinctive and detailed too. Best of all, there’s also a fair amount of cool-looking high contrast lighting too 🙂

Seriously, I really love this effect! More films need to use it!

And the lighting in some scenes is amazing! I’ve said it many times before, but people certainly knew how to use lighting properly during the 1990s!

Musically, the film is fairly good too. Although I (surprisingly) didn’t recognise any of the songs in “Shooting Fish”, they all seem to go fairly well with the events of the film.

All in all, this is an amusing feel-good film. Yes, the narrative could have probably been a bit more focused. Yes, this film can occasionally have more style than substance. But, it isn’t a bad film. If you’re looking for a light-hearted drama film or something that is vaguely, sort of possibly similar to “Hustle”, then this film might be worth watching.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Review: “Doctor Who – Into The Dalek” (TV Show Episode)

2014 Artwork Doctor Who Into The Dalek Review Sketch

Whilst I don’t plan to review literally every episode of the new series of “Doctor Who”, I’ve just finished watching a recording of the latest one (since I missed it when it was originally shown on Saturday evening) and I thought that I’d take a look at it here.

But, before I go any further, I should point out that this review will contain SPOILERS. You have been warned.

“Into The Dalek” starts out in spectacular fashion with a fighter pilot called Journey Blue trying to outrun a Dalek mothership in an asteroid field. However, the Dalek ship is gaining on her and it manages to fire on her ship. But, a second before her ship explodes, the TARDIS appears and the Doctor rescues her.

After the Doctor returns Journey to a nearby military ship called the Aristotle (which is hiding behind a large asteroid), the captain of the Aristotle wants to kill him in order to keep the location of the Aristotle secret from the Daleks.

But, once the captain learns that the mysterious guest is called “The Doctor”, he decides to spare his life because there is a medical matter that his crew needs help with.

The soldiers lead the Doctor to a room, which contains a malfunctioning Dalek that is leaking radiation. To the Doctor’s astonishment, the Dalek actually seems to possess a rudimentary conscience and it wishes to join the humans in their war against the Daleks.

So, after returning to Earth and finding Clara, The Doctor returns to the Aristotle where, along with Journey and a couple of other soldiers – they are miniaturised into order to go into the Dalek (hence the title of the episode) and repair the radiation leak that threatens it’s life…..

One of the first things I will say about this episode is that the set design is absolutely amazing. Seriously, the Aristotle looks like something from “Aliens”. Not only that, the scenes set inside the Dalek are especially cool and they have a very grimy and industrial “Blade Runner”-like look to them too.

Plus, one rather disgusting part of the Dalek’s anatomy also looks like something from the “Alien” movies too. Seriously, this is sci-fi set design at it’s best 🙂

The writing in this episode is fairly good, although the story is a lot more “serious” than most episodes of the previous series were and there is a lot of heavy-handed introspection about morality, ethics and war. As a fan of military sci-fi shows like “Stargate SG-1” and “Battlestar Galactia”, I was kind of interested to see how a (mostly) pacifist character like The Doctor would react to these kinds of situations.

Another interesting theme in this episode is how the Doctor reacts when he sees a “good” Dalek for the first time. Since he has spent most of his life fighting with the Daleks, this really freaks him out and he spends most of the episode trying to work out whether or not he can trust the Dalek.

And, yes, the episode gets a lot of drama out of all of this stuff – especially in one brilliantly ironic plot twist about three-quarters of the way through the episode, just after the Doctor links his mind to the malfunctioning Dalek’s mind (in an attempt to show it everything good that the Doctor has ever seen). It’s probably just my extremely twisted sense of humour, but I found this scene absolutely hilarious.

In my review of the first episode of this series of “Doctor Who”, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether Peter Capaldi was a good choice of actor to play the new incarnation of The Doctor.

If “Into The Dalek” is anything to go by, he might make a fairly good Doctor – yes, he’s grumpy and cynical (and probably interprets the role in a more “old school” kind of way), but he has all of the eccentricities that you would expect from The Doctor.

Also, it might be the different chemistry between her and the new Doctor, but Clara isn’t really as much of a likeable character in this series as she was in the last one. And I was kind of disappointed at the end of the episode when The Doctor declines Journey’s offer to be his new companion because he doesn’t like working with soldiers.

Seriously, now that the Doctor is more gloomy and cynical, it just somehow makes a lot more sense for his companion to be a badass fighter pilot rather than an “ordinary” schoolteacher.

All in all, this is an extremely good episode of “Doctor Who”, with lots of drama and some absolutely brilliant set design. Yes, you probably have to have watched at least a few other episodes of the show to get the most out of this episode (since it relies fairly heavily on the mythology of the show), but it’s still one of the best episodes that I’ve seen so far.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get five.

Review: “Doctor Who: Deep Breath” (TV Show Episode)

Yes, I can't draw dinosaurs very well...

Yes, I can’t draw dinosaurs very well…

Well, I’ve just finished watching the feature-length first episode of the new series of “Doctor Who” on BBC1, so I thought that I’d write a quick review of it here.

However, before I go any further, I should point out that this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned.

“Deep Breath” starts out in spectacular fashion with a T-Rex wreaking havoc in Victorian London. Prehistoric reptililian alien detective Madame Vastra, and her wife Jenny, have been called to the scene to investigate. Shortly after they arrive, the T-Rex looks like it is in trouble and – a few seconds later – it vomits up the TARDIS.

When Clara and the newly-regenerated doctor (now played by Peter Capaldi) emerge from the TARDIS, the Doctor mentions that they were trying to escape from the dinosaur and that it must have eaten the TARDIS before they could jump through time.

So, of course, they have to start looking for a way to get the T-Rex back to prehistoric times. But, the Doctor is still recovering from his regeneration and is in a very confused state. Not only that, there are also a mysterious spate of murders on the streets of London by a creepy-looking robot that the team have to investigate…..

One of the first things I will say about this episode is that it’s a lot more “serious” than most episodes of “Doctor Who” are. The sets are gloomier, the dialogue is more emotional, there’s more “drama” and the new Doctor even makes me look upbeat and cheerful by comparison. Yes, there are a few absolutely brilliant funny moments, but the general atmosphere of the whole episode is a lot gloomier than usual.

Not only that, the main storyline (about a group of robots who need to harvest body parts in order to survive) is also surprisingly dark too. Yes, don’t expect a proper horror movie here (hell, it’s pre-watershed for starters) but this is probably about the closest that “Doctor Who” has got to this.

Plus, there’s at least one scene which is vaguely reminiscent of “The Terminator” too. And, whilst all of this was kind of cool, it was slightly unexpected and a pretty major departure from the tone of the show over the past couple of series.

Still, despite the seriousness of the episode, there are some absolutely brilliant moments here. The best is probably a brilliant line from Madame Vasta (which anyone who has ever been in the closet and/or had to hide a part of themselves will probably relate to) when she is talking about why she hides her reptilian face under a veil in public: “I do not wear it [her veil] as a courtesy to people, but as a judgement on their hearts“.

At the moment, I’m still unsure whether or not I think that Peter Capaldi was a good choice for the new Doctor. I don’t know, he’s grumpy, morose, cynical and slightly unbalanced and, well, this is such a jarring contrast with the previous few Doctors. No doubt that I’ll possibly come to like him after a few episodes, but his portrayal of the Doctor is probably something of an acquired taste.

Still, the writers of the show obviously recognise this fact, since a lot of the emotional drama in the episode comes from Clara getting used to the new Doctor (with a hint that she may or may not have fancied the previous Doctor) and from the new Doctor himself getting used to being old, grumpy and Scottish. And, as you might expect, there are at least a couple of sly references to the upcoming Scottish independence referendum in this episode.

Even so, Matt Smith fans will probably be pleasantly surprised near the end of the episode since he puts in a brief cameo appearance to both remind us what an absolutely brilliant Doctor he was – and how different the current Doctor is.

The special effects in this episode are as good as you will probably expect and there are a couple of fairly well-choreographed action scenes too. Even though it’s a lot more serious and gloomy than the show has ever really been before. As I said earlier, the new Doctor is something of an acquired taste and I’m still not quite sure whether I like him or not.

If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, then it would probably get a four.

(I’m also not sure if I’m going to review every episode of the new series, but I might review a few of them).