Thursday, 28 July 2011


Scene of crime: Film

Defendants: Writers Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo

Case for the defence:

I give you Annie (Kristen Wiig), whose already depressing life sinks deeper when the bride's most recent 'best' friend, Helen (Rose Byrne) resents that a childhood friend should have the privilege of being maid-of-honour.

Annie takes her position as well as a broke and lovelorn girl can, but where her life seems pretty bad before, it gets worse – before long she's organising a meal that leads to explosive diarrhoea, sparking a panic (and air marshal) on a flight and destroying a bridal shower. Not only that, but she spurns the advances of a genuinely nice guy, Officer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd) in yearning of use-them-and-lose-them Ted (Jon Hamm).

But when bride, Lillian, goes missing, it's not long before Annie steps in to save the day.

Witness statements:

"As Annie, Kristen Wiig, the film's co-author, is wonderfully good, able to behave quite crazily without being so exasperating that she loses our sympathy. It's her film and it's going to make her a star.

"Vomiting and diarrhoea jokes are not entirely new nor perhaps the apex of Western civilisation but the routine here, already famous, is destined to be a classic of its kind, the reference point. If you are going to do the uncontrollable emissions thing, having your sufferers, who have just ingested an "authentic" Brazilian meal, dolled up in bridal wear in a super-expensive all-white boutique, with just one loo, is a pretty good start - and they sure make the most of it." – David Sexton, the Evening Standard

"[T]here is something in Bridesmaids that is particularly interesting: how it offers a male, or male-seeming dimension that is not featured in all the other sugary girly-romcommy treatments of engagements, bridal showers, wedding ceremonies, etc: the world of status-envy and career-disappointment. It is the women's relationship with each other, and not with men, that is central.

"Obviously, Bridesmaids does resemble the Hangover template a little: one Bridesmaid, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is in the Zach Galifianakis role. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but what's striking is how fresh and unusual the comedy looks." – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian


Chick flicks and Judges don't have a great history. Just check out the Sex & The City girls in the Black Museum at the Grand Hall of Justice. It's been known to make even some Cadet Judges turn pale.

The first half of the film is well-scripted, but during the second half I found my finger twitching on my lawgiver's trigger. The first half was relatively tight, but in the second characters were dropped and some scenes went on just a bit too long. Case in point, the 'freak out' scene at the bridal shower. Likewise, the drive-bys as she attempts to get love-interest Rhodes' attention, while funny, should have been kept tighter.

In addition, she dropped two characters, the newly-wed friend and the tired-mother friend, in the second half, making me wonder what she was doing having them if they went nowhere, particularly after some strong setting up for greater things in the first half.

Despite this, it's a well written film with a believable love-interest and moment of triumph that makes up for the other unbelievable parts.

Verdict & sentence:

Mumolo and Wigg, you sail pretty close to the wind in some parts, particularly in the second half. If you can cut this film from 2 hours 5 to 1hour 50 I will let you go without warning. Despite that, I think you have potential and that my judgment or your next film will be more positive.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Hour

Scene of crime: BBC Two

Defendants: Writer Abi Morgan & Producer Ruth Kenley-Letts
Case for the defence:

Your Honour, The Hour is a new serial set in the BBC of 1956, following the career of rising news star Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) as she is made producer for a new programme, also called The Hour. She is joined by an earnest Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) as a principled, indeed, rather too highly principled, reporter, although it takes a good few interviews and prods to get him in with them.

Fronting the programme is married ladies-man Hector Madden (Dominic West) who waste no time flirting with Bel, piquing Freddie. However, there's more to The Hour than office and sexual politics. An Egyptologist is murdered at a station and Freddie sniffs out something more than a simple stabbing and MI6's name is soon bandied about.

Freddie's unconventional ways of getting evidence are not just limited to bribing the police (not, I hasten to add Your Honour, an encouragement any should try to corrupt a Judge) and being friends with a debutante who seems to know more than a little something about the late Egyptologist. She too is found hanging by Freddie.

Bel's problems, are of a more worldly nature and soon discovers that controlling Hector may take up a lot of her time.

Witness statements:

"A love triangle in the early BBC was not deemed sufficient attraction, however. So an extraneous thriller plot has been rudely inserted into the mix. A brilliant academic is nastily murdered by being stabbed in the throat. A blonde deb (Vanessa Kirby) who may have been the prof's lover comes to warn her old pal Freddie that there's a conspiracy afoot. Then he finds her hanging from the shower, while a sinister chap lurks on street corners doing the Standard crossword as a broad indication of occult intelligence. What can it all mean? That the producers didn't have the confidence to do it straight, without this melodramatic underpinning, I'd say.

"Nor for all the creditable suitings and sets, have they found a style other than that of the usual period costume drama, camping it up." - David Sexton, The Evening Standard

"It isn’t Freddie’s pomposity I mind, so much as the drama’s. At times it appears to be less a story than an exercise in upbraiding the past for failing to live up to the politically correct ideals of the 21st century.... I wouldn’t want to give up on The Hour too soon. Abi Morgan, its creator, wrote 2003’s Sex Traffic, which won eight Baftas.

"Maybe next week’s episode will jettison the waffle about broadcasting and prejudice, and turn into a gripping thriller focused on Freddie’s mysterious murdered man. I hope so, but I have a bad feeling we’re in for more 21st-century sermonising. 'You know, we really oughtn’t to be smoking all these cigarettes – we’re creating a cancer timebomb. Oh, and do stop patting my bottom, sir, or in 55 years period drama audiences will look upon you most unfavourably.'" - Michael Deacon, The Telegraph


Touted as a 'British Mad Men'? Well, it has suits and smoking, I give you, and period soundtrack – you can't miss that, it's so loud it and consistent it obscures most scenes. But in terms of characters and story? No, in fact, I'm giving Morgan and Kenley-Letts a year for false representation.

On with the findings. Well, to start with Freddie's continual calling Bel 'Moneypenny' for no real reason bordered on making viewers think that was her name, and the historical inaccuracies of missiles in 1956 Russia is sloppy. Add six months to your sentence, Morgan.

But the most infuriating finding is that Freddie is just not sympathetic. He's meant to be principled, but bribing an officer for information is not good at the moment, and his principles are pontificated and pompous, not sympathetic. He didn't even try to save his debutante friend's live after cutting her noose (from a shower head – 1950s Britain must have built them a damn sight stronger than anything since).

As for the plot... I think there was one but forensics are still examining it. There's a TV show starting, and a conspiracy by the end of the programme, but it takes a long time getting there. Unlike me and my sentencing.

Verdict & sentence:

What did I tell you? Justice is swift. The Hour was turgid and dragged, and obsessed with the USA – apparently BBC news in 1956 only focused on America. This just highlighted the many flaws in the programme, from unsympathetic protagonists to making something exciting dull, and just too little believability.

To sum up the programme: worthy and turgid. To sum up the sentences: life. Take them away.

Friday, 1 July 2011

How to be Good

Scene of crime: Literary

Defendant: Nick Hornby

Case for the defence:

How to Be Good, published in 2001, is by my client, Nick Hornby, your honour . His story is that of Katie Carr, MD, and her husband, David Grant, the self-styled "angriest man in Holloway". It starts with her affair and almost Freudian slip of a request for a divorce.

But instead of the expected arguments, David goes to a spiritual healer, DJ GoodNews, who removes his anger and replaces it with a naïve, muscular do-gooderism. GoodNews soon moves in and encourages David and by extension his family – Katie and their two kids, Tom and Molly – and then their neighbours to take in the homeless. While Molly sides with David, as she did before GoodNews' laid his healing hands on her and took away her 'sadness', Tom refuses and sides with his mum, seeing it all as crock.

David works with GoodNews on a book, "How to be good", but while this fails to materialise, Katie's situation and take on family life are different by the end.

Witness statements

"Having established the promise of the scenario, however, it seems that Hornby does not quite know where to take it. The homelessness project fizzles out before it has really got started, David's faith in GoodNews wanes, and when Katie's self-examination threatens to be something darker, more destructive in the manner of, say, Hanif Kureishi's Intimacy, Hornby pulls the plug on seriousness and deflates her despair. Her story thus ends a little unsatisfactorily, drifting between social comedy and the mundane compromises she makes to preserve faith and love. You might say that, by the end, the questions this engaging book opens are too big for the lives it describes." – Tim Adams, The Guardian

"''How to Be Good'' is replete with Hornby's trademark wisecracks, aperçus and put-downs[...]But in the end, this oddly retro novel is hamstrung by the unequal contest between Katie and GoodNews, and by Katie's monotonous hand-wringing. ''High Fidelity'' and ''Fever Pitch'' grabbed the reader by the lapels because the narrators -- the record store owner and Hornby himself -- while slightly touched in the head, were true originals. Katie Carr, Hornby's marionette in ''How to Be Good,'' is a far less entertaining M.C. She is the kind of intelligent, practical woman who builds first-class societies but second-rate novels." – Joe Queenan, The New York Times


A Nick Hornby book set amongst North London Guardian readers. Hornby, you can get away with it once, twice, and just about three times, but this is too much. I'm itching to sentence you just for that. You should write about what you know, so I'm giving you 200 hours community service outside of Holloway so you can get to know other bits of BritCit. Don't worry, you'll be protected from most juve attacks. Hope you have your own body armour as we're all out at the moment.

You wrote this in 2001 but even by then it must have seemed dated with late-1990s references to 1-2-3-4 Get with the Wicked, 'crazyily down with it' lady vicars, and fretting about comprehensive kids who ought to be more loveable in principle then they really are.

But those aren't the worse sins. It's the lack of story, the picking up and dropping of themes, and generally ambling like a senior citizen in a motoped that infuriates me most. And I get infuriated easily. GoodNews is a poor pun on a a non-religious Gospel. Yet it never gets anywhere past one convert, David, and no real guidance. The How to be Good within How to be Good is never really shown and so it's never sent up or discussed. It's a plot device.

Unlike your other books Hornby, you rely too much on tell. And Katie does tell, mainly to us the readers and Judges, but also to her one-dimensional non-listening friend. As a Judge perps tell me a lot of things, but I need evidence and it's in desperately short supply here. As such, you fail miserably.

Verdict & sentence:

Automatic five years hard labour for reminding me of Richard Blackwood's existence. Add a further four in the isolation cubes for depending on telling over showing, and a further three for slipping for previous good form. You also used a very flimsy pun with GoodNews, so we'll round it up to 15 years.

But where do you think you're going Hornby? I'm not done with you yet – I've many other of your books to deal with. You're going back into the holding cells.