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The Flash (2014– )
7/10
Not as dark as Arrow but shows early promise
7 October 2014
As a big fan of super hero movies and television, I was very much looking forward to the first episode of the Flash. Particularly given Arrow is one of my favourite shows, and this new version is a spin off, or at least heavily connected to that series.

As with Arrow, many of the elements and characteristics of the original comic book hero have been kept, although many are also adapted or even ignored to appeal to a more modern and mainstream audience.

As with the original comic book character Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is a police scientist, or CSI investigator in this case, who is still a highly moral individual despite his history and profession. This was an important aspect of the character that had to be kept as it was central to who he was. In Justice #8 (2006), Batman says, "Barry is the kind of man that I would've hoped to become if my parents hadn't been murdered." Like the original character Allen is also always late, however unlike the original Barry Allen this version is much younger, and is not married. He does however still reside in Central City.

Of course viewers of Arrow will already be somewhat familiar with this version of Barry Allen, as he was introduced to audiences in the second half of season two of that show. This was a good move by the producers, as it creates an existing connection between the character and the audience before the new show actually airs.

The series starts with a flashback from Allen's past when his mother was apparently killed by some strange (electrical?) phenomenon. His father was jailed for the murder and remains in prison, although Barry believes him to be innocent and has been investigating the death on his own for many years. No doubt, this investigation will be a continuing theme throughout the series, or at least the early seasons.

The circumstances that transform Barry Allen into the Flash are again similar to the original comic book in that he is struck by lightning and doused by a mixture of chemicals. Although in this version a particle accelerator built by Star Labs triggered the storm when it blew up after being turned on for the first time. I suspect this too will play a major part further down the track.

Particularly given Allen awakes from a nine month coma in Star Labs (or at least what was left of it after the explosion), and that is where he discovers his new powers, and also how to use and control them. Star Labs and its owner Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), also supply Allen with his suit. But is Wells helping Allen for purely altruistic reasons, or has he another agenda that will reveal itself it coming episodes?

Jesse L. Martin (Law and Order), plays Detective Joe West who helped raise Barry after his father was sent to prison and works alongside him. His daughter Iris West (Candice Patton), who of course was Allen's wife in the comic book, is more like a sister in this series, although Allen wishes for more.

While it had its faults I really enjoyed the first episode of the Flash, and look forward to seeing the direction the show will take. The production values were high, which is to be expected as DC and Warner Bros. are behind the series, so the special effects were also of high quality. The acting was solid, and the script while not providing anything really new, did allow for some intriguing possibilities in the future.

If you're a fan of super hero shows, and in particular Arrow, I highly recommend giving this series a go. While at this early stage I would not wish to compare the two, one thing that is obvious is the Flash will not be as dark as Arrow. Whether that's a good thing or not, is entirely up to you. 7/10
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Gotham (2014– )
8/10
Batman without Batman, but it works.
23 September 2014
I must admit to being quite surprised by many of the negative reviews towards Gotham, as I think it is the best pilot I have seen since Sleepy Hollow.

Perhaps some, even though claiming to be looking forward to the series, just cannot wrap their heads around a show about Gotham that does not feature Batman.

To me that's one of the attractions. Of all superheroes, Batman's city has always been the most interesting and included so many more larger than life characters than any other.

While in the Batman films we get to see glimpses of the way Gotham ticks, and some of the background of those characters, Gotham the series will give us a far more detailed explanation.

The first episode introduces us to a young Jim Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock.

Bullock of course is the grizzled veteran, entrenched in the fabric of the city, while Gordon is the ideological rookie finding out the hard way of how the city functions.

Ben McKenzie plays the young Gordan, and unlike some reviewers here, I thought he did a great job in the pilot. I never watched the OC, and only the odd episode of Southland so had no preconceptions prior to Gotham, which is sometimes a good thing when watching a new series.

Bullock is played by Donald Logue (Law n Order SVU, Sons of Anarchy, Vikings), who also did a fine job. The relationship between the two, will obviously be an important part of the series, and they bounced off each other well. Particularly given it was only the first episode.

Of course another aspect of the show will be to show the origins of Gotham's villains. In the pilot we meet Oswald Cobblepot played wonderfully well by Robin Lloyd Taylor. I've never seen him before, but I think he will make a fantastic Penguin down the track.

A young Selena Kyle/Catwoman is also introduced, although it is mostly in the background. On one such occasion she witnesses the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which is the central theme of the first episode.

However I must admit that I agree with another reviewer that this scene could have been done better, and with a lot more impact. It is probably the weakest part of the pilot, but again unlike others, I thought the dialogue between Gordan and a young Bruce Wayne to be reasonably well done.

Edward Enigma/Riddler also makes a quick appearance.

While mostly keeping true to the familiar faces of Gotham, such as those mentioned above, the makers have decided to add their own villain in Fish Moroney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith. Whether Fish adds or detracts to the story, we will have to wait and see, but what is obvious already, is that she is a nasty piece of work who wants to run the city for herself.

Perhaps what stands out the most in the pilot is Gotham itself.

The cinematography is exceptional for a television series, and this television version of Gotham seems to be based mostly on Chris Nolan's view of the city, which is definitely not a bad thing.

The screenplay seemed quite strong, although of course it is early days, and the cast were also very solid, especially for a pilot.

I was thoroughly impressed with the first episode of Gotham, and while there were flaws, the overall quality of the show more than made up for them, and I look forward to the coming season. A tentative 8/10 at this early stage.

UPDATE AFTER FOUR EPISODES

When I first reviewed Gotham after the pilot, I gave it a tentative 8/10. I may have to change that to a 9, a score I very rarely give.

All the cast are growing into their roles nicely, particularly Ben McKenzie as Gordan and Robin Lloyd Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot. So too David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne. While previously I was a little critical of Gordan and Wayne's first meeting, the relationship is becoming very interesting, as we get to watch the early seeds of Batman being planted in the young Bruce's psyche.

As I also said earlier the creators have chosen to use the same view of Gotham as the Chris Nolen trilogy. Which to me being so recent in memory adds to the series as it seems almost a prequel to the three Dark Knight movies.

The story lines are very well done so far. As much as anything this a political television show, albeit without the politics we know. As bad and corrupt as some of our elected officials may be, they are nothing compared to those of Gotham, which is essentially run by organised crime.

While the series may centre on a young James Gordan, as the title suggests it is more so about Gotham. The layers of corruption that embed the city, and the characters that inhabit it, which of course is what eventually leads to Bruce Wayne becoming Batman.

After only four episodes, Gotham has already become one of my favourite shows, and am really looking forward to see where it goes. 8.5/10
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Z Nation (2014– )
2/10
Lots of gore, but not much more.
22 September 2014
It is not often I will give up on a series as quickly as I did this one, but it was just so bad, I only got half way through the second episode before giving up.

Other than lots of killing of zombies in all manner of bloody ways, the show has virtually no redeeming qualities whatsoever. None of the characters are likable in any way, shape or form, and the script is hollow and inconsistent.

In fact it is actually amazing how loathsome the cast are. How can the makers of this show expect to attract an audience when the viewer cannot invest with any of the lead characters. They really are that unlikeable that I wanted to kill them. However I just settled for switching off the show instead.

These are a group of human survivors who are strangers, with cars,food and weapons, who are on a mission to 'save the world' so to speak, and have joined together to do so,yet will not help any other survivors unless there is something in it for them. They really are a bunch of arseholes.

Another major issue I had was the inconsistent behaviour of the zombies. Zombies are not complicated creatures. See person eat person. Yet in the second episode while walking up stairs filled with zombies, two of the characters are brushing past them, yet hardly any zombies actually reach for them.

Another thing that annoyed me was when they were driving through zombies mowing them down. They left the windows down for God's sake.. Seriously, if you're going to be running over the undead, surely you have the sense to wind up your window so as you do not get splattered, and infected yourself.

Usually when I see a show as bad as this, I wouldn't trash it like this, as no matter what I may think, someone has gone to a lot of effort to produce it and deserves kudos for doing so. But this is one show that should never had gone to air. It is truly awful.

Indeed unless you are a zombie yourself, or at least have the same intellectual capacity as one, I'd steer clear, and perhaps spend the time doing some of those nasty chores you've been putting off. It will be more enjoyable, and they won't get in the way when all the good shows begin their new season in the coming weeks.
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Supernatural (2005– )
9/10
One Hell of a Road Trip
17 July 2014
I remember really looking forward to watching Supernatural when it was first advertised on Australian TV. Unfortunately, the week before it started I got a new job that required me to work nights, so I missed it. Much to my regret, I did not tape it, and by the time I finished up at that job a couple of years later, I had pretty much forgotten about Supernatural.

About two years after that I came home fairly late from work one night, and while flicking channels came across Supernatural. The particular episode I had happened upon was 'Lucifer's Rising', from season four. Usually I would not have left it on as I hate coming into a series after it has started, but for some reason, this time I did.

Half an hour later I was hooked. I subsequently went about obtaining copies of all the previous episodes, which I finished watching the day prior to the next episode airing. It was a marathon session of Supernatural. 80 odd episodes in less than a week. Yet when I had finished I still hadn't gotten enough. I couldn't wait for the next episode.

Five years later and I still look forward to watching the next episode of Supernatural.

For any that have not watched the show before, Supernatural centers around two brothers – Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), who as the title of the show somewhat suggest, hunt down, banish, or kill supernatural beings that threaten the mundane among us.

The boys were raised to be 'hunters' by their father, after he discovers their mother - who died when Sam was still a baby - and Dean about five, was killed by a demon. Although Dean is enthusiastic about the 'family business', Sam wants a normal life, and is at college studying law when the series kicks off.

However Dean shows up unexpectedly with news their father has gone missing. Sam reluctantly agrees to help him for a few days, but upon his return to college, his girlfriend is killed in the same way as their mother.

Sam quits college, and he and Dean continue the search for both their father, and the demon responsible for the two deaths.

Unable at first to find either their father, or the demon, the two brothers continue to hunt down other supernatural creatures. While in the first season these are mainly spirits, ghosts and some minor demons, with each new season the boys become aware of, and battle more powerful creatures of lore.

Over the next nine years they face all manner of supernatural beings including angels, demons, witches, ghosts, vampires, reapers, demigods and leviathan. They square off against Lucifer. Meet and better Death on more than one occasion (even earning his respect in the process), and they even save the world from the apocalypse.

Along the way many new characters are introduced, both good and evil. Some become regulars, while others, although memorable, make only one or two appearances. There are also some, such as the previously mentioned - Death, who continue to make the odd appearance from season to season.

As Sam and Dean's knowledge and experience grow, the lines between good and evil become less black and white. Creatures who they once would have killed, sometimes become necessary allies, and occasionally even friends. They make bargains, some small, but others with far reaching consequences, and they learn more about the parts they personally play in the great scheme of things.

Even though many of the episodes stand alone, Supernatural is a continuing story, and that may put some new viewers off. However it shouldn't, as the central theme changes from season to season, and enough references are given to explain what is going on at any given time. Of course, if the show hooks you in as it did me, you can always watch previous seasons. Although given that this review is written between the ninth and tenth seasons, you might want to give yourself more than a week!

The main constant throughout the show though, is Sam and Dean. The series while of course concentrating on the supernatural, also follows the relationship between the two brothers. Although apart from the odd moment, this is done subtly, so that the obvious love the boys feel for each other is not pushed down the viewer's throat.

However it is a vital part of the show, as although either one would die for the other in an instant, either one will also make deals with far reaching consequences to keep the other alive - or to bring him back from the dead. This is particularly true of Dean, who believes that protecting Sam is his main reason for being.

Another constant about Supernatural is Dean's car, a black Chevy Impala. Although it does get smashed up from time to time, and even occasionally completely wrecked, it always somehow manages to get repaired, and this too is important. For really, at its heart, Supernatural is basically a story about two brothers on a very long road trip, that just happens to have a lot of nasty creatures involved. And if you're going to go on an almost decade long road trip, you may as well do it in a cool car. 9/10
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8/10
The Amazing Spiderman 2:
5 May 2014
Rebooting the Spiderman franchise so soon after the very successful Sam Raimi trilogy was never going to be an easy task for Director Marc Webb. The three films, featuring Toby Maguire as Peter Parker/Spiderman are the fifth, sixth and seventh highest grossing superhero movies ever – a testament to their popularity.

While Webb did introduce a few new elements into the story, including a more confident Peter Parker played by Andrew Garfield, and a continuing subplot concerning Peter's parents, it did not reach the heights of its predecessors.

That may also turn out to be the case with The Amazing Spiderman 2: Rise of Electro. If so it will be through no fault of those involved in the film, for they have done – if you'll pardon the pun – an amazing job.

The chemistry between Garfield and Stone was one of the positives to come out of the first film, and that has continued, and even improved in the second. So too has the performance of Garfield. His honest portrayal of Peter Parker, of the highs and lows he goes through as a teenage superhero, have you investing in the character as the movie progresses.

He takes the time to talk to those he has rescued, even while chasing a truck through the city, and when he catches up with the criminals is never short of a wise crack.

Despite this sometimes teenage brashness, Peter Parker is a nice kid, and warming to Garfield was not difficult.A scene in which he protects a young boy from bullies is a fine example of this. His conversation with the boy could easily have been condescending, instead it was as I said – honest.

There are better villains, and more of them. Jamie Foxx is a bit over the top as Electro, but as the whole concept of an electrified glow in the dark villain is too, that can certainly be forgiven. Dane Dehann is suitably creepy as Harry Osborne, and later the Green Goblin, while the always delightful Paul Giamatti makes a short, but memorable appearance as the Rhino at the end of the film. Both should be back for the third installment.

The special effects, as expected are excellent, and not particularly overused considering the genre. The story is cohesive and interesting, giving the cast something to work with, and they all do their jobs well. Too often, a decent story is neglected due to the overuse of CGI. That certainly isn't the case here. In fact the two Marc Webb films are two of the few I would actually recommend seeing in 3D, particularly when Spidey is swinging through New York.

While Marc Webb's first foray into the Marvel universe was not as successful at the box office as both he and Marvel would have liked, I am certain this one will do a lot better. It certainly deserves to.
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6/10
Couple of hours of fun, but nowhere near as good as the first
16 April 2014
I was never a big Captain America fan growing up. I cannot recall buying a single comic book of his, even though most of my pocket money as a child was spent on comics. That being said though, I thoroughly enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger, released in 2011.

The most impressive aspect of the first film was the credibility of the storyline. Albeit, one based on a comic book character. It did not overuse computer generated imagery (CGI), and the way in which Captain America was brought from the 1940s, to the 21st century was (given the genre), plausible.

The same cannot be said for its sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Even for a movie based on a comic book superhero, the storyline is, dare I say it, comical. While the premise and origin of the assassin known as 'the winter soldier' is perfectly acceptable, everything else in the film is just too over the top. However perhaps the films' biggest fault lies in that it seems to completely ignore the existence and events of 2012's 'The Avengers'.

Given the circumstances Captain America finds himself in, it is unreasonable to think that other members of The Avengers would not be called in to assist him. Particularly given that the algorithm the film centres on comes up with Bruce Banner's (The Hulk) name as a future threat. Not to mention the discovery that Tony Stark's (Iron Man) father's death was not an accident, as previously thought, and the fact that the fate of the world is at stake.

This was not the case with either Iron Man 3, or the second Thor film. Both were released after The Avengers, yet both followed on smoothly from the events of that film. In Iron Man's case, coming to terms mentally with what occurred in The Avengers, and Thor having to team up with his adopted and now imprisoned brother Loki – the villain of the ensemble film.

The film makers could have concentrated more on the antagonism and personal connection between The Winter Soldier and Captain America. Instead it is just one small part of a convoluted myriad of senseless sub plots that do not really come together, nor fit in with previous films set in the Marvel universe.

Of course the special effects are amazing, but there is nothing new of note, and it has all been seen before. If anything, the film relies too much on CGI, which while being momentarily satisfying, is hardly memorable.

The acting is solid, but nothing more. Although given what they have to work with, the cast hardly be criticised for that. Even Robert Redford's presence in the film cannot raise it above its own mediocrity.

However, despite all of the above Captain America: The Winter Soldier does provide a couple of hours of escape from the real world. And as long as you leave logic, and any great expectations at the door, those two hours can also be entertaining ones.
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9/10
Must see if your'e an INXS fan - Should see if you're not.
25 February 2014
INXS are arguably Australia's greatest music export. As such they hold a special place in the nation's psyche. Many Australian's can tell you exactly where they were when the news of Michael Hutchence' death was made public. So you can imagine that any film or television depiction of the band would have to be made with this at the fore front of the producers' minds.

This is particularly true of those, such as myself, who grew up in the 80's, bought their albums, and saw them live when they were at their peak. I still consider the 'Australian Made' concert that I attended in January of 1987, to be probably the best I have seen. INXS headlined the show, as at that time they were the biggest act in Australia. Later that year they would release 'Kick', and become for a while, 'the biggest band in the world'.

The show was promoted very heavily. Radio stations were playing INXS specials, Toyota started a new national advertising campaign using 'New Sensation' as the theme, and there were articles about the show and the band throughout the media.

So did it live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding yes! Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS part one deals with the early years of INXS, up until, and just after the release of 'Kick' – their most successful album in 1987. Although a long-time fan, the show shed light on much I did not know about the band, particularly when it came to Chris Murphy - their manager.

The show kicks off (pardon the pun) with INXS playing in front of a sold out crowd at Wembley Stadium in 1991. Footage from 'Live Baby Live' is interspersed with the actors, which perhaps surprisingly works extremely well.

This leads into an interview with Tim Farriss played by Nick Masters talking about the Wembley gig, adding that it wasn't always this way. This interview is the introduction to the story which then goes back to 1979, when INXS were still the Farriss Brothers, and living in Perth.

This technique, of an interview with a band member leading into another part of the story is used throughout the show, and works well. It allows for time to be skipped and shifted without confusing the viewer, even if they are unaware of the history of the band.

The story then shifts to the bands' early years in Sydney, where they get their first manager in Gary Morris, and release their first album. After Morris becomes a born again Christian he introduces the band to Chris Murphy, who, after meeting them decides to give up a lucrative business to manage INXS full time.

The remainder of Part One deals with the rise and rise of INXS, the extent they had to go to, and the risks Murphy was willing to take to make INXS 'the biggest band in the world'.

Part two covers the later years of INXS, mostly concentrating on Michael Hutchence - his increasing isolation from the band, and the downward spiral he finds himself in after being assaulted by a cab driver.

The final scenes depicting Hutchence's death are handled sensitively and extremely well. The day after Part Two was screened, message boards in Australia were filled with comments about how emotionally powerful these scenes were, and how they brought back the same feelings of grief, and or emptiness that were felt 15 odd years ago.

Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS is fascinating viewing. The script is very solid, and the production values are high. It is very well directed by Daina Reid (Paper Giants: The birth of Cleo, and Howzat: The Kerry Packer Story), and as has already been mentioned, the use of archive footage interspersed throughout is done extremely well.

The cast do an amazing job, particularly Damon Herriman (Justified, Vegas), who plays Chris Murphy, and Luke Arnold (Black Sails, Winners and Losers), is absolutely outstanding - in the most difficult role given the circumstances - as Michael Hutchence.

And of course if you are an INXS fan the soundtrack is fantastic.

I cannot recommend Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS highly enough, even if you are not a fan of the band. Perhaps the only negative I can say about it is that if, like me you grew up in the eighties, you will sadly be reminded of the amazingly horrendous fashion of what was otherwise an awesome decade.

9/10
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RED 2 (2013)
7/10
You're never too old to save the world
16 November 2013
There are times when you go into a movie expecting so much, and walk out disappointed. Occasionally your expectations are small, and you are blown away. With Red 2, you get exactly what you would hope for, and expect – more of the mayhem and over the top action of the films predecessor - 2010's Red (retired extremely dangerous).

As in the first film, Red 2 sees Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) trying to live the quiet life, although this time with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), his onetime case worker. While on a shopping trip to Costco, Frank's former partner and best friend Marvin (John Malkovich), approaches Frank and warns him that, "they're coming," just before Marvin's car – with Marvin apparently in it – explodes in the Costco car park.

While attending Marvin's funeral Frank is taken by government agents to a 'secure' location to be interrogated about a classified cold war operation named 'Nightshade'. While being questioned, a team of opposing government agents, led by Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) invades the building, wanting Frank for themselves.

Against all odds, Frank escapes, and against even more odds is met outside by Sarah, and the very much alive Marvin, who - as was a habit in the first film - had faked his own death, again.

What follows is an hour and a half of outrageous, over the top and tongue in cheek entertainment, as the trio fight to clear their names, and save the world from nuclear disaster at the same time. All while being pursued by Horton and various other government agencies around the globe - as well as the worlds 'best assassin', Han, played by Korean actor Byung-Hun Lee.

Dame Helen Mirren returns as the gun toting MI6 agent and assassin Victoria, as does her occasional 'friend with benefits' Ivan, played by Brian Cox. They are joined by Sir Anthony Hopkins as former weapons designer and scientist Edward Bailey, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Katja – a Russian agent and former love interest of Frank.

Director Dean Parisot has done a more than decent job handling this very diverse and experienced group of actors. Although only his third feature film, he has directed a lot of highly successful television shows, including Justified, The Good Wife and Modern Family, so is used to working with an ensemble cast.

While the plot is fairly predictable and the script unexceptional, it does give Parisot enough to develop the characters, and their relationships with one another. Malcovich's Marvin is wonderful, and Helen Mirren is obviously enjoying the vastly different role as a government assassin; and is a stand out as Victoria. Mary-Louise Parker also does a great job as Sarah, as she goes from a naive former case worker to a fully-fledged member of the RED team, and Bruce Willis is – well, Bruce Willis.

Red 2 won't win any Oscars, but it will keep you entertained for a couple of hours – and that's what it sets out to do. Yes, it is full of clichés, and most of the action scenes are impossibly over the top, but again, that's what it set out to do. Red 2 is a film that does not take itself too seriously, and neither should you. 7/10
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Sleepy Hollow (2013–2017)
8/10
Headless in the right direction
17 September 2013
The television series Sleepy Hollow is very loosely based on a short story written by American author Washington Irving. First published in 1820, 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' is the tale of Ichabod Crane - a school teacher who unsuccessfully competes with Abraham Van Brunt for the hand of Katrina, the daughter of a wealthy farmer. On the night of his rejection by the girl, he is chased by a headless horseman, and is never seen again. This leaves Abraham (who it is later implied was the horseman) to marry Katrina.

The story has been adapted to the screen many times, but with the very little success. By far the best being director Tim Burton's 1999 version - Sleepy Hollow, starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.

That being said, I was looking forward to seeing what direction this show would take after first reading about it a few months ago. I wasn't expecting too much, but I've always been a sucker for a new sci-fi or supernatural show.

As is the case with most screen adaptations of Irving's story, the only resemblance to the original is that it is based in the fictional town of Sleepy Hollow,and that some of the characters share the same names. As I said earlier, very loosely based.

Without giving too much away, Crane and the Horseman rise from their separate graves at the same time some 250 years after they killed each other in battle. The Horseman (as is pretty standard) is after his head, and it is up to Crane to stop him. The kicker in this, is that the Horseman is actually one of the biblical Horsemen (Death), and if he gets his head back, it will somehow trigger the beginning of the apocalypse.

Naturally, immediately after his resurrection, the Horseman starts beheading people and Crane is arrested on suspicion of the murders. After his arrest, he meets Officer Abbie Mills (who witnessed the Horseman kill her partner), and realising that Crane is important, goes against her superior's orders and teams up with him to stop the Horseman.

After just watching the pilot, I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. While perhaps a little far-fetched, the premise of the story is interesting, and open to many possibilities further down the track. The production values were high. The script seemed pretty solid and the acting and interaction between the actors was surprisingly good considering it is just the first episode. Tom Mison in particular did an excellent job as Ichabod Crane.

Sleepy Hollow definitely shows lots of promise, and if you're a fan of shows like Supernatural, Grimm, Once Upon a Time and the like, I highly recommend you give it a try.
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Oblivion (I) (2013)
7/10
Oblivion reaches for the stars – and almost makes it
9 August 2013
Based on an unpublished graphic novel written by director Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion is set in the year 2077, on an Earth rendered mostly uninhabitable due to sixty years of war with alien invaders known as 'Scavs'.

Most of humankind has migrated to Titan, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are stationed on Earth to maintain drones that service gigantic power reactors which supply energy for the new colony. From station Tech 49, Jack flies down to the surface to locate and repair the drones, while Victoria monitors him from the station, hundreds of feet above the surface of the planet.

Due to security protocols, Jack and Victoria's memories have been wiped, and their only human contact, albeit by radio, is with Sally (Melissa Leo), who is based on the orbiting space station the 'Tet'. Although Jack's memory has been wiped, he continually dreams of a young woman in a New York untouched by war.

When a drone goes missing, Jack descends to the surface to locate it, but what he finds makes him question everything he believes in.

Oblivion is visually stunning. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda - who won last years' Oscar, and also worked with director Joseph Kosinski on 'Tron Legacy' – has done an amazing job in his first sci-fi movie.

The script, written by Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt is solid, also attempting to be as accurate as possible concerning the science involved within the story. An important element for many sci-fi fans.

Tom Cruise does a fine job as Jack. No matter what you may think of Cruise personally, he is a fine actor, and one of the few that can easily make the transition between drama and action and pull it off successfully. Or, as in the case of Oblivion do both.

He is ably supported by the rest of the cast which besides Riseborough and Leo also includes Olga Kurylenko as Julia, and Morgan Freeman as Beech.

Joseph Kosinski has done a fine job of bringing his graphic novel to the big screen. Although the film is a sci-fi flick, there is enough drama and twists in the plot to appeal to a broader audience.

Oblivion may not be the best sci-fi movie ever made, but it holds its own compared to many in this genre, and is a highly entertaining couple of hours. 7.5/10
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8/10
Not quite amazing, but very entertaining
27 December 2012
I must admit I wasn't expecting much from The Amazing Spiderman. I knew the special effects would be great, but I had my doubts whether Marc Webb would be able to add anything new and interesting to the Spiderman franchise, particularly since it has only been a few years since the Sam Raimi version was in theaters.

Well he did, and he didn't.

The casting of Andrew Garfield as Spiderman/Peter Parker was a great choice. Gone is the klutzy and nerdy Peter Parker played by Toby Maguire in the Sam Raimi version. In his place is a normal kid (although very intelligent), who while not being the most popular student at his school is not the class dork either.

This version of Spiderman also concentrates more on what happened to Peter's parents, and the effect that has had on him. The discovery by Peter of his father's suitcase and the ensuing investigation, is what leads him to becoming Spiderman. This investigation into his parents' disappearance will apparently be one of the common threads that will tie in future installments of Webb's Spiderman.

Gone also was The Daily Bugle, J Jonah Jameson and Mary Jane Watson, and although they will all return in The Amazing Spiderman 2, due out in 2014, I did miss the rantings of JJJ, portrayed so wonderfully well by J. K. Simmons in the previous version.

Marc Webb has instead used Gwen Stacey as Peter's love interest in his adaptation, played very service-ably by Emma Stone, and to be honest the chemistry between Stone and Garfield is much better than that between Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played Spiderman and MJW respectively in the Sam Raimi films.

Denis Leary who is always good joins the cast as Gwenn's father – police Captain Stacey, and as is becoming a trend in super hero movies, big name actors are playing the parts of the hero's parents, or in this case uncle and aunt, with Sally Field and Martin Sheen taking on the roles of Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Both, as usual give very polished performances.

The excellent Rhys Ifans plays the one armed Dr Curt Conners, who used to work with Peter's father at Oscorp until he disappeared, and since then has been struggling to complete their work on cross species genetics on his own; unable to discover the final equation that will allow it to go forward.

Peter supplies Conners with the equation, and following pressure from his boss at Oscorp tests the formula on himself. Of course it has unintentional side effects, and as well as repairing his lost arm, turns him into a giant lizard who then wreaks havoc throughout New York; as well as trying to turn everyone else in the city into creatures like himself.

And the battle between Spiderman and the Lizard begins. As expected the special effects are great, and although I am not usually a fan of 3D, I highly recommend seeing The Amazing Spiderman in that format if possible, as the scenes of him swinging through New York are (no pun intended) amazing.

Marc Webb has done a fine job. There are holes in the script and story, but they are not that noticeable, and it can get a bit clichéd at times, but these things are to be expected in a big budget film such as this; however they can also be forgiven.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Amazing Spiderman, and am looking forward to the next installment of Marc Webb's version, which at this stage will see Jamie Foxx playing the villain Electro and is due out in 2014.

7.5 out of 10
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Transporter: The Series (2012–2014)
6/10
Good entertainment, awful script
21 December 2012
I have just finished watching the first episode of Transporter: The Series and you can see how it has cost a reported four million dollars per episode to make. Unfortunately all that money didn't buy a good script.

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the first episode from an entertainment perspective; it's just that I wish that the makers of action film and TV would place a little (or a lot) more emphasis on a quality script.

However I have only watched the first episode and am hoping the story lines and scripts improve, as there are many positives to the show that while not fully compensating for the poor screenplay, make it an enjoyable hours' entertainment.

The action scenes are very good, as you would expect with this kind of budget. The car scenes,which of course there are many (it is about a transporter after all)are well executed, and the fighting scenes are very reminiscent of the three films starring Jason Stratham.

The locations are also recognisable from the films, including Frank's house before it was blown up, and François Berléand reprises his role as Inspector Tarconi.

Chris Vance tries his best, and does extremely well considering what he has to work with, and while he is not Jason Stratham, I think he will grow into the role nicely, and will prove to be a good choice as Frank Martin.

Hopefully the script and story lines improve, because Transporter: The Series certainly shows promise, and is well worth a second and perhaps third look.
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9/10
Christopher Nolen has outdone himself
4 December 2012
I had been eagerly anticipating the opening of this film ever since I heard that it was going to be made. However I didn't think Christopher Nolen would be able to surpass 'The Dark Knight Returns'; he might come close, and that was all that I hoped for. My two main concerns were trying to find a villain that would stand up in comparison to Heath Ledger's Joker, and the casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.

I thought Tom Hardy was outstanding in 'Warrior', but his performance as Bane is brilliant. Unlike some others, I think the voice is perfect, and some of his monologues are amazing. His version of Bane is obviously very intelligent (unlike the Bane in Batman and Robin), and that coupled with his physical capabilities, violence and merciless single mindedness to his task, make him a terrifying adversary for Batman.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman really surprised me. I was one of the many who doubted she could pull off the role, but she handled it easily, and the interaction between her and Batman/Bruce Wayne really worked. Another newcomer to the franchise, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was also very good as Blake, particularly in a scene where he is rescued by Batman. The look of adulation on his face is perfect, and much of his character is summed up in that one look.

Indeed most of the actors did their jobs exceedingly well. Michael Caine as usual was fantastic, as were Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman; but perhaps the most improved performance was from Christian Bale. That's not to say he didn't do a good job previously, he did, however I think he just nailed Bruce Wayne/Batman in this third installment.

If I had to find fault in any of the acting, I would have to say I was disappointed in the performance of Marion Cottilard. Who as another reviewer said 'seemed to be going through the motions', and I found Matthew Modine to be a bit annoying, although perhaps that was just the character.

The story itself takes up eight years after The Dark Knight Returns, and much has changed in Gotham. Batman has retired after taking the blame for Harvey Dents crimes, and Gotham is free of organised crime.

The arrival of Bane in Gotham brings Batman out of retirement, but is he what he once was, and has he underestimated this new threat.

Nolan has attempted, and I believe succeeded in bringing Batman to life. Unlike previous versions, Nolan's Gotham is not comic book, it is a real city. Also unlike previous incarnations, much of the action takes place during the day, even more so than The Dark Knight Returns.

There are many references to the first two films in the trilogy, yet you do not necessarily have to have seen them to understand and enjoy the third. Although I would highly recommend that you do, if you haven't already.

Christopher Nolen has outdone himself. It is very rare that a movie with the hype surrounding this one prior to release lives up to expectations; rarer still when it exceeds those expectations as The Dark Knight Rises does. The only one that springs to mind recently is LOTR The Return Of The King.

Although it runs for 165 minutes, it doesn't seem that long, and each of the six times I have watched it I wanted it to keep going. I want to know what happens next.

Christopher Nolen has said this was the last installment of his version of Batman and that it was up to someone else to reinvent the caped crusader in the future. However I hope he changes his mind. The ending, although closing off this particular chapter, has left the door open for another Nolan version. I believe all the actors are open to doing more; even Christian Bale, who also said this was going to be his last.

Hopefully The Dark Knight Rises again soon.
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