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Thursday, July 28, 2011



Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun, thrilling boy’s own adventure that capably delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Captain America origin story. Not a bit more, not a bit less. It’s the 80% student of comic book films – the kid that just coasts on his natural intelligence and charisma without going the extra mile.

This ‘origin’ film tells a story that most Cap fans will be familiar with and the uninitiated will pick up pretty easily. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is the skinny kid from Brooklyn who can’t get into the army. He volunteers for the Army’s Super Soldier program and soon has to match wits and muscles with the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Bookended by codas that set things up for films to come, Captain America is pretty fun, pretty thrilling and pretty satisfying.

The First Avenger’s biggest asset is undoubtedly its cast. Chris Evans is fantastic as both skinny Steve and super Steve, never any less than likeable, charming and passionate – though it feels like the script and suit might just be holding his full range of charisma back. Hugo Weaving gives Loki a run for his money as my favourite Marvel movie villain to date and Hayley Atwell sells the toughness of Agent Peggy Carter beautifully. Having the most fun, though, are Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones as two of Rogers mentors. Everyone in this film is great, kicking ass and all with just enough of a twinkle in their collective eye.

My main concern going in was director Joe Johnston, who forced out ‘The Wolfman” last year and watched it die both critically and at the box office like the half-formed mutt it was. Would the man behind Jurassic Park 3 turn his recent cold streak around and do justice to the Cap? For the most part, he absolutely does. The film looks great with a nostalgic sheen, great action and beautiful make up and costumes. He doesn’t waste time with two many extraneous characters like the later X-Men films or Spider-man 3 and most of all, focuses clearly on one hero and one villain. This is all good, solid directing that ensures Cap a strong critical and commercial ride.

Here’s my one complaint, though, and it’s not so much a complaint as it is wishful thinking. I feel like Captain America had the opportunity to be truly great but Johnston plays it a little too safe. Considering Captain America’s straight-laced nature, there’s an opportunity to play his adherence to rules and dedication to what’s right a little more for real comedy. There’s an opportunity to really have his romance with Peggy Carter make us feel something, but again Johnston holds back, instead choosing to create false tension with random side characters.  Hugo Weaving always feels like he could really go into memorable evil psychopath mode but again, the movie holds back, not wanting to err on the side of being too cartoonish. I would venture that nothing in this film is truly bad, a rare feat, but nothing in this film is truly great, either – and that’s fine. Better the movie pass the commercial and critical tests and set up a sequel rather than go the way of Green Lantern. Maybe those opportunities for greatness will be seized in the sequels now the character has been established, and fans of the comic books will certainly recognize where the groundwork is being laid.
There are some concerns that the film won’t do well overseas because the American patriotism won’t play, and that’s certainly an unavoidable consequence of having a superhero called Captain America. The word of mouth should spread, though, that this is just an old-fashioned good vs. evil movie, and the fact the Americans are the good and the Nazis are the bad doesn’t really come into play. We’re more looking at two divisions of those armies going to head-to-head and Evans is a charming enough lead to make you forget about the more patriotic aspects of the story. It certainly didn’t bother me – I only had one real problem with Captain America and that was the baffling-for-the-uninitiated cosmic cube stuff. Marvel need to release a pamphlet or something on what’s going on there.

Captain America also features a great musical sequence from the deservedly prolific Alan Menken, some nice character work, lots of shout-outs to fan boys and in my screening, a post-credits sequence and trailer for a certain Marvel team-up. While the Avengers trailer only disappointed mildly due to its brevity and short cuts, I would say that the post-credits sequence is not worth hanging around for at all. If your bladder is bursting, just go. It’s not worth the damage.

Captain America: The First Avenger is on par with Thor as far as Marvel’s harder-to-sell heroes go and Johnston and his actors have done a more than credible job. For me, the whole movie was even with Thor on pretty much every level. It’s a really good comic book movie that sets up the mythology with style and has an above-average cast.

I wouldn’t dream of asking more than that.

TELEVISION: Crownies Review

(This review covers Episode 1-3)

The ABC took a pretty age-old approach to selling Crownies. Sex sells. ‘Sex, lies and magistrates’ was the tagline.

Sure enough, there’s lots of cleavage. There’s a set of lingerie. There are a lot of pretty people.

Unfortunately, it’s like when an Australian Idol contestant tries to be sexy. The ‘sexiness’ is all so forced – dropped into the plot purely because it should be there, not because it rises organically from proceedings. That’s to begin with, at least. Episode three manages to create some chemistry between two of the five leads – and that’s far sexier than randomly putting girls in their bra.

A couple of those girls are among our leads for this show – the five young Crownies whose trials (Ha!) and tribulations will form the basis of this show going forward. They’re all pretty good and immediately distinguishable from each other. The standouts at this stage are the continually flustered Hamish Michael who brings a real humanity to his role and Indiana Evans for her breezy charm and casual intelligence. This is not to denigrate any of the other five leads – they’re all very good.

Oh man, though. Midway through the first episode the primary prosecutor of the DPP absolutely smashes apart a defense team during a negotiation, and you can’t help but cheer for her as she does it. Despite the young cast being front and centre, it’s Marta Dusseldorp as Janet King that absolutely sprints away with the show. Disappointingly, she’s barely in the second part of the season pilot.

The rest of the adult cast is professional and competent though they don’t stand out like Dusseldorp does. Essentially, though, Crownies has an attractive, competent, charismatic cast. All that’s left is to do something worthwhile with it. On that basis, I think the show succeeds. While the first two episodes try to tackle way too much the third episode contains the focus somewhat and that results in a much, much better show. The cases are contemporary without feeling ripped-from-the-headlines and the issues involved generally have enough shades of grey to keep them interesting.

It takes slightly longer for the personal storylines to have as much impact as the legal ones. The young cast mostly make horrifyingly idiotic mistakes and sleep with people that shouldn’t be anywhere near their social circles if they had a shred of decency. Those forced plot developments that populate the first episode do make way for more complex storylines as the episodes progress and the characters begin to intertwine in ways that are more fun to watch.

Overall, do I want to watch a fourth episode? You bet I do. Once the third episode was over I was actively looking forward to the fourth and seeing how the series would progress. In fact, Crownies might be one of the best Australian-produced TV shows I’ve seen this year. No hysteria, not too much attention seeking, just classy, decent Aussie drama.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Interchange Bench - Round 18

The tangents fly as @ScubaStv Allen and Andrew @Intheboxseat Williams discuss all of the round 18 AFL action! E-mail your badly thought out jobs for AFL players to

Monday, July 25, 2011

TV: Dinner Date Australia Review

Dinner Date Australia features one single girl going on three blind dates with three men – with one twist – they’ll all be cooking for her and she’s picked them out on the basis of their menus.

Let’s get one thing out of the way.

If you’re tuning into Dinner Date Australia because you want to see Manu Feildel, forget it. Feildel spends about one minute onscreen during this and I don’t reckon he would remember any of the names of the people involved. He doesn’t get involved in the segments or offer any cooking advice, he is just the guy top-and-tail-ing the segments. This is a role where his French accent is a bigger asset than any sort of cooking expertise he may or may not have.*

*Hey, and he just won Dancing with the Stars! Isn't that lucky considering he has this new show coming up?

Now that’s out the way, what is Dinner Date Australia? The answer is pretty simple - it’s ‘Perfect Match’ meets ‘My Kitchen Rules’. The production values are MKR 101. The premise is pretty hard to screw up - just capture all the awkward tension and charm of a first date and include lots of delicious looking food. It’s not easy to go wrong - and sure enough Dinner Date Australia is a solid, vaguely amusing, slightly depressing hour of utterly disposable television.


Set in Sydney in the 1920s, Underbelly: Razor follows the razor gangs of the 1920s and the battle for the underworld between vice queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh.

I have an ongoing problem with the Underbelly series – how can I enjoy a program where I hate all the characters?

Every Underbelly series has been almost exclusively populated with the most annoyingly stupid and selfish people known to man. We’ve been asked to sympathise with criminals, prostitutes, crooked cops and so much more. Maybe I’m too straight-laced, but you would need some of the most charming actors on the planet to make me care about what happens to anyone in these shows.

This wasn’t such a problem in the first series, which was genuinely explosive drama and had enough charming actors to see it through – while also being fantastically of the time. It was undeniably Australian television at very close to its finest.

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities however, was incredibly skeevy – to the point of unwatchability – and descended into completely mad plotting hell in its later episodes.

Underbelly: The Golden Mile was just solid and unspectacular – not as bad as series two but nowhere near as good as series one.

So that brings us to the fourth series of a show with stagnating, if not diminishing returns – Underbelly: Razor. Here we have what is basically the Australian sibling of Boardwalk Empire – a crime series set in the twenties and invoking all the social mores and visual signifiers of that age – flappers, pinstripe suits, hats. So many hats. More importantly, though, this was a chance for a Brand New Underbelly. A chance for the reinvention of the series. A chance to really achieve something.

So what did we get?

We got the same old Underbelly. Just with more hats.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The (Pod) Casting Couch - Harry Potter 7.2 & Top 4 TV shows that should be movie

A really fun podcast this one!

The West Australian's Shannon Harvey (@Choc_Bomb) and movie critic Simon Miraudo (@simonmiraudo) missed last week's review of the final ever Harry Potter film - so here we present their opinions. Also, a very entertaining discussion on our favourite TV shows that we think should get the big screen treatment. Enjoy - and send us your choices or feedback or @podcastingcouch on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


So today it was announced that a Captain Planet movie is in the works - a live-action version of the no less than outstanding 90s edutainment cartoon. Now of course this is in essence ridiculous - BUT. What if rather than teenagers flying around in an utterly un-aerodynamic yellow jet with power rings that bind together to summon the world's greatest 'mullet'-ed superhero - we went with a Batman Begins style gritty reboot with adult stars? Oh, the casting decisions we could make...

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Interchange Bench - Round 17

Lots to take in during this episode of The Interchange Bench, including Nat Fyfe's own personal theme song, questions o' the week, muppet of the week and of course Tweets of the Week. And in order of David King, we ask our listeners what is the weird question you'd like to ask in a post-match interview? E-mail us (oh, please e-mail us) at
Featuring Andrew Wiliams (@IntheBoxSeat) and Steve Allen (@ScubaStv).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The (Pod) Casting Couch - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Just two members of the Podcasting Couch this week to review the film where IT ALL ENDS - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two. Does the series wrap up appropriately? Find out here!

E-mail us at with your thoughts on the last ever Potter!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The stench of the Oscars lingers only slightly round these here parts. Sure, The Social Network lost to The King’s Speech, but we all knew that was going to happen. It was the Academy Awards, after all. For real, daring, swerving award-giving, we need to turn to….

…The Emmys?

Perhaps one of the most stuck-in-the-mud award ceremonies in town, the Emmy nominations will be announced in the next few hours. Will there be surprises? Will there be drama? Will there be comedy?

Probably not, but nonetheless, here’s my breakdown – and as usual, I’ve separated each category into who I think will be nominated, and who I think should be nominated - after the jump...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Interchange Bench - Round 16

The Interchange Bench takes a long hard look at Round 16 - with Andrew Williams (@IntheBoxseat), Steve Allen (@ScubaStv) and @Atkinson_Tom. E-mail us your most improved player to

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The (Pod) Casting Couch - Mid Year Review

A little bit different this week - we look back at the year so far, with Shannon Harvey (@Choc_Bomb), Quickflix critic Simon Miraudo (@quickflix), Laura Hewison and Andrew Williams. Follow us on Twitter (@podcastingcouch) and tweet us your best and worst of the year, or e-mail us at

Subscribe and rate on iTunes! We'll love you forever.

The Interchange Bench - Round 15

The Interchange Bench (Andrew Williams @Intheboxseat and Steve Allen @scubastv) review all the weekend's footy action.

Rate and subscribe on iTunes!

Television: Can of Worms Review

I’m going to call it – Zapruder’s Other Films is the greatest production company name of all time.

It’s also got a pretty good track record. Here are some of the shows produced by Zapruder’s Other Films.

CNNNN (Gold)

The Gruen Transfer/Gruen Nation (Platinum)

Enough Rope (Brilliant, often watercooler level brilliant)

Hungry Beast (Useful in places, misguided in others)

30 Seconds (Reasonable)

David Tench Tonight (Okay, so they’re not infallible.)

Where does Can of Worms (Monday, 8:30pm – Channel Ten) fit on this scale? At this stage, sadly, it sits closer to David Tench than Enough Rope. Though you can see Zapruder’s fingerprints all over it, Can of Worms has made some pretty severe missteps in production – missteps that need righting before the ship has any chance to sail.