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AHS goes to pot - the worst episode yet
What happened? This was a delightful, clever show that pushed you to your boundaries of fear but knew when to hold strike and when to hold back. When to show the light and when to show the darkness within the light.
But this episode was just grotesque torture porn with no value. We had eye gougings, tongues cut out, rape with a spike, throats slit, entrails hanging out of bodies... it's unrelenting vile and not one character is even remotely likable to balance it out.
What I particularly thought AHS was good at was making it feel real - this was real life, but perverted and corrupted... a dark undercurrent to reality. But this episode was just pure fiction, pure silliness - even down to the off putting camera filming.
The scenes were grotesque - again the cruelly in previous seasons was based on that it was a dark strand of humanity. Whereas this is just dark. And sick for the sake of being sick and to shock.
The only plus point is the the hotel itself is a wonderful Art Deco hotel, and I give it a point for that!
Such a shame. What happened?
Dark Matter (2015)
A very well travelled path in comfortable old shoes
Watching this show, it all feels very familiar. From the characters to the stories, everything reminds me of everything. There's definite Firefly, Buffy, Stargate and Andromeda - and spots of Farscape.
I find myself predicting plot points with alarming frequency, the show is not exactly beating a new or distinctive path right now.
That said, I love most of the shows I've mentioned above. With that familiarity, Dark Matter is an easy watch. It feels a bit like an old friend, a good pair of shoes... easygoing and comfortable.
The low budget really shows... and every show is a bottle show pretty much. I do hope that as time goes on and budget allows that they explore more of the world they are creating - because the glimpses we get are very interesting.
Ultimately, this show has a lot of potential.... the cast is (I'll come back to this point) not given characters that are particularly unique but they are likable, and they work well together. I think they offer a good platform to do greater things.
I look forward to seeing where the show goes next.
The Expanse (2015)
SyFy redeems itself and saves sci-fi in one swoop
Only four episodes in, but wow! This has re-energised my love of sci-fi and has been the best output from SyFy since Farscape and BSG.
Thematically, this will appeal to those that loved BSG in the early days. It reminds me of Babylon 5 quite a bit too.
It's sprawling sci-fi space opera... within just a few episodes I feel there are so many doors I'd love to open, to peek inside, to know everything from how the doors work to who is behind them... all the stuff that entertains proper sci-fi geeks like me.
The cast is interesting, varied... doesn't feel like it has any heavy hitters (yet) but I love that it's not all white American. It adds to the feeling that we're looking at Earth etc. rather than countries.
So much promise... I do hope it now goes the distance.
Stargate: Atlantis: Outcast (2008)
Scraping the bottom of the barrel
Stargate Atlantis is really showing the cracks by this point.
I can almost see the writing room now...
1: "Let's take a change of pace, let's delve into John's past. Let's have him deal with a loss in his family and we can learn more about him, what made him the man he is and his family."
2: "But we need to spice things up... how about... replicators! Replicators turn up."
1: "Didn't we do replicators recently?"
2: "Oh it's been at least two episodes."
1: "Well how did they get there?"
2: "Well we have a human make them... and we can say they're not really replicators. But kind of replicators."
1: "Are we not losing the emotional story, the backstory for John?"
2:"But he gets to shoot stuff!"
3: "Can he shoot stuff alone?"
2: "Good point. We should probably send an alien to the funeral too. Every cop has his partner..."
3: "Let's throw in an SG1 person too, as they're back on earth. That'll be gold... and it sure to bring in fans."
Stargate: Atlantis: Harmony (2008)
The worst of Stargate Atlantis and maybe Stargate in total
The opening moments are so predictable... two hot girls, McKay is interested in the third sister... will she be ugly or will she be young... ugly or young.
Oh young. SURPRISE!
And she's so annoying. The trouble is, the Stargate writers can only write so many types of personalities. So just like Laren is attempting to be Vahla, this young girl is like them both. They are written in the same style, despite this being a young girl she just is a puppet for that writing style.
Dreadfully uninteresting, unfunny... and no surprise this show - and indeed the Stargate franchise - was on its last legs at this point.
File under jumping the shark
I remember Stargate Atlantis started to go downhill, and upon a rewatch I think this may be it.
After such well written and tightly crafted episodes, this one feels very below par.
The ensemble spark is gone, to make away for another Rodney episode. the trouble is it doesn't do anything for Rodney that hasn't been done before... and in fact isn't great for him because when you add up what he does in this episode he's not as brilliant as he often is. He just makes do until the others arrive.
Then Sam Carter... oh dear... what a forced and strange inclusion. It felt like they owed the actress a favour. Scrap that... she owed them a favour. It was completely unrealistic that even in his state Rodney was seeing her like this - and it did nothing for Sam, just making her look a dozy bimbo to amuse Rodney.
Not a good episode at all.
The Fall (2013)
Very interesting, but far too neat and romanticised for its own good
I watched all first season five episodes in a row, so this show certainly did something right. A good cast, an interesting setting and a story that's interesting from the start all help.
But - it suffers from being too neat, too trite. The cop vs. the killer, quite a tired concept. And everything is far too neat.
This is a person that's killing people. Plain and simple. Be offended. But they go out of their way to make the killer "complicated". There's nothing wrong with that, people are people. People do bad things. Realising they are multi faceted and that there is no "100% evil" person is an interesting concept.
But they almost take it too far... just making him considerate, liking children, hating abuse, troubled past, troubled childhood (they mention the troubled childhood a lot, just so you know he has issues). He's very hot. Not saying evil people can't be hot, but it's all meant to make the viewers feel conflicted. To admire him, yet be appalled.
Then on the flip side you have the cop... she's complicated too, of course.... she pursues men, that's how 21st century we are here! She wants to lure him in. Because she's that kinda girl. She even painted her nails to get him! "Did she just give her number to a serial killer?" remarks a character, just in case you didn't realise that they're both complicated.... and....
Could she be a clever manipulator too, just like him? Good vs evil... different sides of the same coin?
Yes, they were that obvious.
Then there's the mirroring, the foreshadowing, the characters talking while they show you the "other side" at the same time.
He's there while his children are singing happily, not a care in the world. Do you know who HAS got a care in the world? The woman who was almost murdered. So let's splice these scenes together, because that's clever drama!
There's also the secondary characters, who come and go... setup, but not fleshed out. Because they're season two. Everything feels scheduled to within an inch of its life.
It's an interesting show, good performances... but it just needs to lighten up. Blur the edges. Not making everything answerable and planned. Then it could move from good to great.
Is this a joke?
I love sci-fi! I love BSG, I love seeing 'Six'. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, Stargate et al. So I'm forgiving of sci-fi. I'm watching TNG season 1, and trying to find so many high points in it. I'm an optimistic.
Yet I've seen this. Well 30 minutes of it. Trying to be forgiving, as all sci-fi has shaky starts.
I can't! I can't be forgiving. This may be the worst pilot I've ever seen. The writing is horrific. So horrific that I thought there was some clever thing going... a certain language style that I wasn't getting. Lambic pentameter perhaps? Why does everyone talk so strangely?
No, it was just bad.
Every sentence was one of these three things: question, statement, exposition. Listen to every conversation. It was all of these three, heavy on the exposition.
A typical conversation (okay, I improvise!):
1) I am concerned by something. 2) I too am concerned that you are concerned, and I will now look concerned. 1) We have been here 60 years, and we have all partaked in this swimming pool at this location in our 60 years in space. 2) I agree. So now we should be concerned that the sister of the brother of that diplomat lies here dead. 1) I agree. She is dead by a mosquito, despite mosquitoes not being on this ship in 60 years. 2) I agree. I heard that Mr X liked mosquitoes, and was in the Mosquito laboratory of which our ship does not have. 1) I agree. I'm am concerned. Let's go to Mr X - who is the sister of the president of our spaceship that does not have mosquito laboratories - and solve the issue as to why sister of the diplomat is dead. 2) So she you think she was murdered? 1) I cannot say that, bus she is dead through unnatural means! I am concerned. 2) You look concerned! 1) I am concerned. I knew her in flight school. We were friends, but not too much friends. We disliked each other. But liked each other somewhat. So I am indifferent to her.
I can't get over how badly it is written. Maybe it's a joke that will become apparent later. But the characters just go around saying what they think and feel, like androids explaining stream of thought. It's exposition on speed. I'm not getting it. Just terrible.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
An unparalleled triumph
There are few films that leave me with a feeling that will remain with me for a long time, but this has done it.
It is rare to meet a story that speaks so well for the human condition... that asks who we are, what motivates us, and what links us together.
This film will speak to people who like me often sit there and think of different times, the Roman era to name just one example, and think what were the people like? What motivated them? How in all their fears and inadequacies was there someone just like me sat in this same region hundreds of years ago thinking the same thing.
Cloud Atlas takes that, wonderfully, with interleaved stories that stand on their own merits but have common threads.
There are connections between the stories - much like someone could write a book 2000 years ago and now people follow it as if it were unquestionably true - about how things can influence the future. But aside from these small connections they are separate stories. They are not meant to be A + B = C. They are meant to portray commonalities.
The actors being reused works but also fails a little too. It perhaps at times tries to draw the narrative together a little too much. And some of the makeup and character choices are questionable (men as women, women as men and Asians that look like Vulcans). And this is the only reason I drop it a point - because it's hard for any film to be 10/10. Occasionally it snaps you out of the movie, but thankfully rarely.
I see some people have rated this 1/10 which to me is offensive. I appreciate that it may not be to everyone's taste; but the effects. The acting. The scope. Something warrants it to be the worst possible rating. But perhaps I'm not surprised. Some people in this world will contribute nothing. This masterpiece of direction, music, acting, special effects and locations by wonderfully talented people is worth the bottom rating of 1/10, but their 5 minute review is their 'contribution' to us. But it's nothing. They will die, and their words will be forgotten.
But some people stand for something. Make a mark, either on some one, or some thing... through standing against inequality, or creating beauty. And they will echo on. This is a story for all those people that have made the life we live today, and all those that will make a mark for years to come. And that is Cloud Atlas.
Total Recall (2012)
A vivid film, probably done a disservice by its Total Recall connection
This is a good movie. Fun, action etc. all as expected. But what it does best is setting a very vivid future of Earth. In this way it does better than the original by keeping the action solely on Terra. We get to see a distinct vision of the future, and if you just pause on any city scene you'll see the extreme care and detail that has gone into make this future Earth real. It was wonderful seeing this world - and I want to see more and I think any sci-fi fan will get a buzz just by being immersed in the movie.
The thing is by being called Total Recall it does itself a disservice. Rather than being a new distinct branch of Dick's story it of course hangs on to the original, with the name and various nods to the original plot.
But the original film is iconic and fun and a huge fan favourite - and a quite different beast. You start comparing two very different films because you have to.
The new film tries to be better, but ultimately is shackled by its past.
It should have been called something else - and it would have done so much better in its own right.
All that said - I enjoyed it. But just see it as its own version, not as a remake, and you'll enjoy it more.
One final word - what was with all the weird lights flashing all over the screen all the time? That was the key distraction.