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A) really bored
B) Internet stalking me
C) wondering where my review of The Hurt Locker is
D) my ex.
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House of Cards: Chapter 39 (2015)
Feelings on season 3: Slick, bingeable, and engaging, but not without its share of missed opportunities and coming off as too impressed with itself at times
I came into House of Cards rather late in the game. It was just a mere two weeks prior to season 2 and I was in bed with my ipad, sick as a dog. There was nothing else on Netflix that piqued my interest, so I decided that I would check out some of their original programming, and House of Cards was my pick mostly because of Kevin Spacey. I ended up really enjoying the first season and finished the whole season in 4 days. Season 2 I finished in a day and a half. It's just how well crafted the show is, how well done and acted and well put together the show manages to be that gives it its kick. So with all the anticipation and hype surrounding season 3, I watched the first 3 episodes before going to a friend's party and watched the rest the next day
One thing I will say about this season was that it's exactly what you want from House of Cards. Excellent acting, rather tension filled plots, gorgeous cinematography and meticulously well-crafted subplots about political happenings. Kevin Spacey's deliciously diabolical performance and Robin Wright's sexy yet dangerous portrayal of his wife has always been something I've really loved about the show. This season has those trademark qualities. However, it does show a rather different side to their relationship, where even Claire begins to question her husband's actions. There's one particularly powerful scene in episode 6 where they have an argument over a gay man's suicide in prison over their homophobic laws which climaxes in them making bold statements about their positions. There's a problem though, this is executed well enough in the first half of the season, and then there's a scene in the second half of the season where she reads Yates' book about her and Frank and becomes upset because they're labeled as a "power couple". This didn't seem to make any sense. In seasons 1 and 2 she would do whatever it took to find out what your weakness was and exploit the hell out of it. Here she comes off as an easily upset snitch
There are a good number of flaws with this season and while they aren't enough to make this a bad season, they definitely drag it down. I was really thrilled about the idea of introducting a subplot about the happenings in Russia, but the problem was that it lasted one episode. It felt like the writers thought, "hey, folks, remember the powerful rape victims subplot from last season? Let's make something like that but with victims of homophobic laws! Except we have to make way for other plots so we can only give it one episode." Frank and Claire in Russia was indeed awesome, but again, it lasted only one episode, making it feel pointless. In addition, Doug Stamper being alive was something I thought could work, and in fact I did enjoy his first few appearances, but as the season went on, he became creepy and obsessed with Rachel Posner, who herself only gets one episode (spoiler alert: it happens in the finale) and she herself is reduced to a begging mess. Not to mention, I love that this show seems to burst with confidence about its story lines and what not, but this season almost feels like the show has finally believed its own hype. There are a number of scenes where the writers seem to be shouting at you "LOOK HOW IMPRESSIVE THIS SHOW IS". The debate scenes in particular definitely seem to reek of this. Frank never really digs up any real dirt on Heather Dunbar and it's rather frustrating to see Frank be reduced to someone who is easily defeated, especially considering in season 1 he got away with killing Russo by posioning him with exhaust, and in season 2 how he threw Zoe into the train tracks and got away with it? Welp, he keeps getting defeated at every turn and it's frustrating to watch at times
However, what keeps this season still worth watching is that in spite of all the flaws, there's still just enough good to keep you engaged. Kevin Spacey's amazing performance works wonders. There's suspense and tension throughout. The "inner monologues" scenes are still a thrill to watch, the show is still slickly shot and gorgeous looking. I also really loved the subplot with the writer and how he tries as hard as he could to get as much info about the Underwoods as possible yet at the same time took a treacherous turn in sleeping with Baldwin, the journalist who tries but keeps failing to take the Underwoods down. I also liked Heather Dunbar trying to run against Frank as well. This may be the worst season yet, but even in spite of all the flaws, it still is worth binging, with just enough suspense to keep you satisfied
Finale rating:7/10 Overall season rating: 7/10
Better Call Saul: Mijo (2015)
If Vince was setting out to outdo himself, he succeeded
Alright, that's a bit hyperbolic. So far we are two episodes into the show and I am not sure if I would call it better than Breaking Bad. But this episode is miles ahead of the pilot. So far, I'm beginning to wonder if we should even call this show a "spin off" at all, because while that is indeed what it is, it's turning out to be something so much more. Last night had one half consisting of nothing but suspense thrust in your face, and a second half consisting of mesmerizing character development and well executed drama courtesy of Vince Gilligan. Of course, on Sunday night, the last we saw of Jimmy McGill was that he got held at gunpoint by terrifying drug dealer Tuco (if you remember how scary he was in Breaking Bad, you're in for a surprise- He's ten times more terrifying here!), and this episode picks up right where it left off
We discover that the old lady that the twins messed with was Tuco's grandmother, and Tuco keeps the twins captive in his house and simultaneously repeatedly threatens Jimmy. This leads to a beautifully tense scene in the Albuquerque desert that leads to the twins almost getting brutally tortured and slaughtered in the desert, but Jimmy manages to negotiate with Tuco and they get away with broken legs. Just this scene alone is enough to convince you that this show is not just another spin off. It's thanks to a mix of stunning cinematography, intense dialogue and incredible performances, and the eventual scene where the twins' legs are broken is intense and horrifying. Jimmy's facial expressions just sell the scene completely
After this and the brilliant moment where he can't even be on a date without thinking of said incident we get an incredibly compelling scene that furthers the relationship between him and his brother, where Saul is aware of his mental illness but doesn't want to tell him. Then we get to see a bit more of his lawyer skills and this is where the show's masterful editing is noticeable-showing how frenetic his life is
In short this was an absolutely excellent episode and proof that this spin off was a great idea. The writing is tight, the suspense hasn't died a bit and all the trademark Gilliganisms are there while the show still stands on its own. Cannot wait for next Monday
Better Call Saul: Uno (2015)
It's all good, man.
Well, It sure feels good to have the Breaking Bad universe back.
I actually was under the impression pro or to starting writing this review that I wouldn't be saying that at all and instead judging the show on its own merits from the start, but after tonight's extended series premiere, I experienced an overwhelming sense of nostalgia back to late September to Mid-October 2013, when I finally swallowed my dumb pride and checked out (and subsequently got addicted to) Breaking Bad. It did take a while to experience that feeling though- in the opening scene, we are treated to a black and white montage of a post-Breaking Bad Saul Goodman (known here as Jimmy McGill), stuck in a dead-end job at a Nebraska Cinnabon, rolling dough, spreading cinnamon powder and slathering said mixture with frosting before slicing it into several different buns for the masses to eat. However, after that, things quickly pick up: we skip to some years later in Albuquerque, where Saul, now a lawyer, practicing his speech to a tired and overheated courtroom where three nineteen-year-olds are being prosecuted for defiling a dead body and also performing sex acts on its severed head That may seem like an odd way for a network television series to start, but do remember what show it's attached to and all the graphic violence it got away with, and there you'll realize just why we've been needing another opportunity to escape to the Breaking Bad-verse again. In fact, it doesn't take long for our beloved Saul Goodman to return to form. He's his usually sassy and clever self, from calling out two twin skateboarding scam artists and attempting to blackmail him and his brother for damaging his car, to angrily bitching out a parking lot attendant, to even going back to said skateboarders and attempting to help them, the Saul-isms we know and love are here. Yet at the same time, Gilligan is able to achieve the drama he is known to master- in fact, Saul's characterization is where a lot of the drama falls into place, and the brief insight we get into his life- including living with his seemingly mentally ill brother
In terms of its technical aspects, Better Call Saul is certainly no slouch either. In fact, the show is visually stunning, as any show shot in New Mexico ought to be. The shots of the Albuquerque desert are as beautiful as ever, and the high-def look is absolutely eye-catching- the colours of the skate park that Jimmy visits near the beginning of the psiode pop out, and the show is as well scored as ever too. But in terms of suspense is where the how really nails it. The final 5 minutes where the Twins mentioned earlier attempt to blackmail an unsuspecting elderly Hispanic lady are intense enough, but your jaw is guaranteed to drop when you find out who she is connected to
To be honest, all my expectations were met, and I look forward to Monday nights if subsequent weeks keep this pattern up. Vince Gilligan doesn't need to make a first impression, as he has already done so, but this is a great first impression for Jimmy McGill and I cannot wait to spend more time in the Breaking Bad verse
In the Flesh: Episode #2.6 (2014)
The rotters prepare to raise the dead a second time while simultaneously, Mitchell decides to bury his own legacy
The series 2 finale of In the a Flesh sums up perfectly what this series has been like: moments or promise buried beneath a topsoil of sheer mediocrity. It's sad, really; despite the first series being nothing short of devastating and absolutely beautiful in its streamlined beauty, it only seemed inevitable that its second season would show Mitchell getting trigger happy with his pen and replace legitimate suspense with cheap shocks and cliffhangers. I can't think of a scene that sums this up better than the final scene of this finale: moments after being buried, two mysterious workers dig up Amy Dyer from the muddy grave to experiment on her. So this is how the series ends, not with closure but with a cheap shock. But what do I know, it's what the whole second series has been like
The biggest problem with this series finale is that it's just clear that Mitchell has nothing left to say. We go back and forth between the inevitable second rising (spoiler alert: it doesn't happen), Kieren's parents being afraid of him and Maxine Martin's continuing grief over her son and naturally there's enough material to make for an interesting finale, but Mitchell goes a convoluted way about it; Simon is blackmailed into murdering Kieren to start the second rising. Wait, didn't we see this before? Oh, that's right, we saw the same thing in the last season, Rick's father blackmails him into murdering his gay lover! Considering not only did it happen last season, but EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO IN NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. Similarly, we are given a nonsensical twist: suddenly Maxine wants a second rising so she kills Amy just so her dead son can rise from his grave. Wow, it's like Dom thinks we are all morons
It's a shame to see this show go to hell. Luke Newberry's performance has been getting progressively poorer this series, but I don't blame it on him entirely- Mitchell's awful writing is ultimately the biggest source for blame here. The direction has also been getting cheaper and the shaky camera is seriously annoying and getting worse
But ultimately the biggest problem here is that we are just getting the feeling that Dom is writing the second series because of how popular the show is and not because of how passionate he is about it. We've so for gotten nothing but fan service for the sake of fan service and plots that go nowhere. Luke Newberry and Emmett Scanlan are seriously drop dead gorgeous men and it is indeed very pleasing to see them kissing but it's hard to feel that form of flattery when you consider the show is throwing in the fan service for the sake of it. Add to that a confused plot and the lack of energy and ideas and you have proof that this show didn't need a second season. If this show is picked up by Amazon for a third season then I'm afraid of what Dom plans to inflict upon us next. It's a good thing this is only a television show or else I'd think Dominic Mitchell is a 10 year old who doesn't know a thing about proper scripting
In the Flesh: Episode #2.5 (2014)
We interrupt your regularly scheduled In The Flesh for another episode of The Simon Monroe Show
This is gonna be a strange review. When I heard that Simon was getting his own backstory episode. I was excited. For much of series 2's run, I was under the impression that Simon was the only character I had any respect for. Kieren had turned into a whiny little brat and Amy wasn't on screen enough to leave an impression- sadly that seems to have made its way into this very episode. We get more of her relationship with Philip and of course, a revelation that had been built up to, and it's a very touching scene- where while out camping, Amy is able to feel raining on her face. Sadly, it feels like it's come mere episodes too late
Much of the episode is spent at Norfolk, following the experiments performed on Simon. The episode devotes much time and graphic detail to Simon and all the vicious torture and experiments on him, and it's very hard to watch nonetheless. The problem being here that they're the only interesting scenes. Simon's backstory aside from the torture just isn't interesing at all. We get what could be an emotional scene- Simon is welcomed back into his home by his father and is promptly kicked out for killing his mother in his untreated state, but it's so choppily handled and unemotional
There's also a pretty Unimpressive subplot about Kieren being accused of freeing rabids. Except its so hamfisted and forgettable, it may as well not even be in the show. The parents sudden whiplash from "it's okay son" to "you did it and you're different now you are insane" just isn't well handled enough. It's a shame because given how much suspense is built up, aside from flashbacks nothing happens in this episode. Simon spends much of it cowering in a hotel room corner. But at least it's better than what comes next
In the Flesh: Episode #2.4 (2014)
Now that's more like it
I didn't have particularly high hopes for this episode to begin with; Fintan Ryan was one of the writers of the previous episode and the whole episode was a complete mess. However, my expectations for this episode, which were low, were not only met but also greatly exceeded. Maybe Fjntan writes best when he isn't co-writing? Maybe, but the main point is, this was an unexpected burst of brilliance and for once, the series has finally matched the brilliance of the first series. Although it's also simultaneously troubling to know that it's far better than any episodes penned by Dom himself
For once, we get a direct continuation of the previous episode. Fintan Ryan actually understands what the show likes. Philip is also finally given some proper character development; the subplot involving a tape of him visiting a PDS brothel is suitably tense and he, for once, becomes a likable character. Furthermore we get some proper development of his relationship with Amy. Of course, we already knew that Amy and he got on well. But it's taken a step further here and the show is better for it
More development is given to Simon and Kieren. They love each other but Kieren is troubled by the group that Simon is in. Things aren't made better when two members of Simon's group free rabids from the lab they were helping at. The scene is well executed suspense thanks to both tight as air pacing from Dom and some great acting. But we also get more on their new relationship. Of course, Poor Amy sees them betray her, in a touching scene where she sees them kissing and starts to cry. She is adorable and endearing largrely in part thanks to Bevans' performance
Ultimately the best scene is when Kieren and Simon come to dinner at Kier's family's house, and as expected with Jem's slimy boyfriend, it's an unpleasant experience. Not only can the PDS not eat, but they have to listen to all the stories about zombie killing. Which leads to an excellent and powerfully performed scene where Kieren gives an impassioned and stunning monologue about what it's like to be a rotter. Alright, it's got the subtlety of a clown with his dong hanging out, but that hardly matters when Luke recites such a memorable speech. It's one of the best scenes I've seen in TV and stuck with me long after the episode ended
Save for a rather unnecessary fan service moment near the end where Kier and Simon wipe each other's makeup off, which felt thrown in there just to give fangirls another scene to fawn over, this is 56 of the most stunning minutes of television ever. It's just a shame that it's in a season that is mostly unsatisfying
In the Flesh: Episode #2.3 (2014)
A pig's ear
So Dominic Mitchell decides to continue this anthology-alike season structure. That could be either a good thing or a bad thing. The problem though, is that there's only so tar you can push an allegory and in an anthology type structure, it doesn't work. This means that one week, the show is focusing on GLBT issues and the next, it's focusing on a man trying to get his wife back. Yes, that's what this episode is about for the most part. We focus on a character who, for the previous two episodes, was little more than a background extra and got little more than a minute of screen time. I have no problems with a show trying to give a minor character the spotlight, but the problem is that Freddy is just boring
He's hotter than an ad for Trojan condoms, sure, but he's hardly given enough development aside from... well, oh look, I was married to a beautiful lady one time and now she's off with this Indian dick because I'm dead. The closest thing to likable he gets is a touching scene in the episode's finale, when he tries to make it up to his wife by helping hive her gifts to help her survive should a second rising happen. Then he forgets to take his shot and turns rabid. Then he tries to get her to kill him with a hammer. Sadly we have to sit through... 50 something minutes of mindless filler to get to it
That's another problem with the season as a whole: 6 episodes. This clearly turns out to be more episodes than Dom can handle. In recent interviews promoting the show, Dom stated he had something of a "series bible" to help guide him through. To many this may seem as though he has it all planned out; to me this shows that he's overwhelmed by this sudden success and is scrambling to make sense of a second season; the anthology format doesn't help because it only proves that he has little left to say. The sad thing is that if you were to cut the "oh let's go into the life of X character" episodes or at least condense the parts that actually matter into one episode, you would get a pretty decent episode
Elsewhere, Simon has this PDS rebels group and also teaches Kieren to subordinate a rabid. The rebels group is the best part of this episode, but there's not enough of it. Kieren is also starting to become bloody annoying. Of course, this isn't Newberry's fault; he's doing what he can to help portray him well, but if you're agreeing with Simon's rebel ways for much of the episode and not liking the protagonist then there's something fishy afoot
I really wanted to like this episode but in all honesty, despite some good moments involving better Simon character development, the show just continues to prove to us that we should have waved goodbye to it at the end of its series 1 finale. For a show that tries to put humanity into zombies, the irony is that Dom has trouble letting the dead rest. When the best scene is Simon and Kieren kissing, you know the show is failing
In the Flesh: Episode #2.2 (2014)
For once, the show becomes too subtle for its own good
If there's one thing that bothers me about the second series of In the Flesh, or at least the very idea of there being a second series, it's that Dominic Mitchell lacks an ability to provide a sense of contrast. I don't mean just within the context of the episodes itself, but compare series 1 to 2. They're little different and aside from the second series being more tense, it rarely becomes more than just plain In The Flesh 2.0. That said, despite this, and a rather rough and anticlimactic start to the series, episode 2 is an improvement but it still has some issues that tend to get in the way
No doubt the episode begins brilliantly enough, with Jem's nightmare about seeing her class become rabids. It also sets up the tone for the episode rather well. Much of it is focused on Jem and we haven't gotten some proper development yet. In tact, the episode's best scene happens when she fails to kill a rabid and is lectured by a fellow classmate for it, despite her time in the Human Volunteer Force. Growing tensions between her and Gary are brilliantly executed. And probably the best and most involving subplot of the series happens: the murder of a rabid in the woods. It's of Jem's own classmate and someone who could have been a love interest us. This is the moment where the show reaches first season brilliance. Shockingly enough, this is the one episode where Simon's absence doesn't equate to a substantial drop in quality
Which sadly is to say that when the episode isn't focusing on Jem, it suffers. The good part is that Maxine is finally beginning to get some proper development. The idea of the Give Back Scheme is a good plot device, but the problem is that we are given an all too obvious plot device to spearhead it: the travel ban. We already can see it from miles away that Kieren won't be able to travel, and that's a problem. Given the pressure from the WBC type church group expy you think it would be further explored
Not to be too negative though, despite these flaws, I enjoyed the episode for the most part, and it does get the show in the direction it should be going, even if it's just a light push. Dom Mitchell does his best when he realizes what the show really is: a show that focuses on social issues with some light horror thrown there for good measure. Thankfully the taste help elevate it too, but the big issue is that the cast seem to be more into putting this story first than Dom and that's a problem
In the Flesh: Episode #2.1 (2014)
It's a set-up, nothing more.
I was taken by surprise last year when I sat down to watch all three episodes of the much acclaimed, deservedly BAFTA winning BBC3 miniseries In the Flesh. Alright, sure, the science of the show is ill-thought out. But it hardly matters when Dom Mitchell managed to take a compelling story and use zombies in a thoughtful way. I saw a bit of myself in Kieren, I loved the curveballs and the clever ways they managed to lead us on with he story, and of course the allegory for the denial of civil rights. However, when I found out there was second sires, it just so happened to be midway through its run here in Canada and two episodes away from being finished in the UK, and I also had to ask why. Sure, more Kieren would be great. But Rick is dead and the ending provided enough closure. Nonetheless I decided to give it my attention
The problem with stretching what started as a miniseries into a full series is that there has to realistically be more to the story. The problem is, there's both enough story for a second series and not enough story for an extended series. The episode started well enough with an introduction to the "Blue Oblivion drug" as mentioned in the first episode of the first series, in an impressive attack sequence. Despite the rather unnecessary opening title card which feels like an after thought and doesn't fit the show at all, things continue well enough. Jem has made up with Kieren and Amy is back and has a boyfriend Kieren. New villain Maxine Martin is brought in as an allegory for US right wing nut groups, because the show needs to remind us yet again that it's an allegory
The problem with Maxine is that she's too typical and too paper thin. Let's not blame this on the actress; she does a good job considering what weak character material she is given, but Maxine feels too... stock. Simon Monroe however is the best of a whole roster of new characters however; he's both charming and creepy and expertly played by the ever wonderful Emmett Scanlan. The problem however though is that Simon is so good for the first four episodes that when he's not on screen, the show suffers. That isn't to say Luke Newberry isn't great, he is, but Kieren, a character who once was one of the best and most heartbreaking protagonists of all time feels like a secondary character by comparison
Overall this isn't a bad start to a season but there was definitely mire they could have done with the concept. It does set up the premise very nicely, but the problem is that it's little more than a set-up. Nonetheless it is nice to return to Roarton even if it's just for an hour
Shingeki no kyojin (2013)
Flawed? Yes. Fun? Definitely.
I'll admit that I wasn't going to check this show out to begin with. I had been disillusioned with Anime for a good period of time since the early 2010s; I didn't have anything against it but for a while it was all starting to seem the same to me. I guess years of being into Anime can do that to you plus the massive amount of shows you check out. So even the cool costumes I was seeing at conventions weren't enough to persuade me to check the show out, and even the sparkly text and histrionics about this supposedly being the "Game of Thrones" of anime could. But a week ago or so, my resistance finally reached a breaking point and I found myself on Netflix scrolling for twenty minutes straight looking for something to watch. After several minutes straight of trying to resist its pretty looking poster, I gave up and began watching it. And to my surprise, my low expectations were immediately exceeded with its gripping opening scene and I had gotten up to 8 episodes that night before heading to bed, finishing the show two days later
I'll get the bad things about this show out of the way first, because there are quite a few of them: For one, the pacing is incredibly slow. I realize this isn't anything new in anime and DBZ had been the king of slow pacing, and thankfully it isn't a bother most of the time, but there are moments when its anime-ness begin to shine through- extended imagine spots and entire conversations did get rather frustrating. There are a few episodes that do rely on the characters not knowing what's on the outside of the wall, to the point where it causes the characters to act stupid at times. But then there is also the subplot where Eren becomes a Titan after being swallowed by one, and with a simple gnaw on his hand, can become a titan at will. There are a few situations that could be solved by him becoming a Titan, but he doesn't. In some situations it's effect but in others it's frustrating. And lastly the ending is a bit of a cop-out. I know it had to happen but even still it was somewhat unsatisfying
But like any patient viewer I didn't let these spoil the show and just sat back and appreciated it for what it was: a stunning piece of storytelling and visual mastery. For all its flaws, there were enough high points to dull them; be it some rather unexpected twists in the stories or even just the few moments where you can just sit and appreciate the visual beauty. In addition, the action scenes are truly fantastic and well done; it's been ages since there have been action sequences this exciting in anime. It's always a joy watching the gas tanks shoot steam and watching the characters fly at full force of one of the titans to attack it. And the characters; the first time I've felt any attachment of any kind to the characters. Part of them is that none of them are written to be perfect and all have their flaws; there's a sense of moral ambiguity in each and every piece of character development. It was always interesting watching Eren try to balance out the power of being able to become a titan at will and the responsibility that should be exercised; for a major plot point spent on a female titan, he is faced with the choice of becoming a titan killing the other titan, or letting his friends fight. Of course, he realizes the hard way that both decisions have consequences- it's the moments like this that make Attack on Titan a wholly satisfying experience
Attack on Titan is flawed no doubt, but bear with it- watching it is a truly rewarding experience. Sure, go for the badass costumes and epic action sequences, but stay for the grand scale storytelling and the visual brilliance. Even despite the flaws, it's clear that Attack On Titan's creators have poured nothing but love into it. It's fun to watch and is very interesting, but it also has parallels to Japanese war history and even throws some unexpected curveballs as a nice bonus. While I'm not sure my enjoyment is enough to have gotten me back into anime as a whole (though that "Knights of Sidonia" show does look awesome), I can say that you can count me as a supporter and a fan and while it is a shame we have to wait for a year to see the next season, I'm excited to see where this show goes next
Doctor Who: Last Christmas (2014)
A few flaws here and there but for the most part a total blast of an episode
I'll admit my expectations weren't particularly high for this episode; I enjoyed Season 8 a good deal but have always been rather iffy on the Christmas specials, and was not particularly knocked over by last year's Time of the Doctor rubbish. So the whole day I was worried as to what Moffat could possibly dream up this time for the episode. Sure, a bad special is never enough to ruin a whole Christmas for me but even then, after being not so thrilled by some of the promotional materials, one of which included a scene of Santa car- locking Rudolph the Reindeer, and Clara waking up to find Santa and his elves on her rooftop. For a while I got bad flashbacks of that The Doctor, The Widow and The Painful Childishness, so I sat down to watch this trying not to feel that same pain. As a result, my low expectations were not only met but greatly exceeded. Sure, we did start off with that rather unsavoury opening but from there on, as the episode unfolded it quickly became more involving and engaging
It's a pretty simple plot- on paper. The Doctor and Clara are whisked away to an arctic base and are faced with a threat of deadly aliens that much resemble the Facehuggers from "Alien". But there's a twist. The aliens put their victims to sleep and use their subconscious to keep them trapped there to kill them. Clara finds this out the hard way when she gets attacked by one. But when she wakes up, things suddenly get a lot more tangled and hard to distinguish. The very problem is that concept would be, on paper, very easy to mess up and make all timey-wimey, but thankfully this isn't the case; it's very easy to follow constantly shocking. Moffat mixes influences from Inception and 1980s horror flicks such as Alien and The Thing. The creatures themselves are absolutely terrifying and well done; Nick Frost's performance as Santa Claus is fantastic and though he isn't in the episode long, he does a killer job. But in particular the last 20 minutes are gripping and intense, ws The Doctor and the crew race to get themselves out of the dream
Of course there are a few things that prevent it from being perfect- for one, the Danny Pink dream sequence does feel a bit unnecessary and shoehorned in to pander to the fangirls. Also, who on earth is paid to do the aging effects? While not quite as bad as Time of the Doctor's awful aging effects that made J. Edgar's aging effects look tame by comparison, old!Clara still absolutely was cringe-worthy and at times you could even see Jenna's real skin poking through
But thankfully these flaws were very minor and few and in between, and weren't in many shape or form enough to ruin what was a very solid and fun Christmas special. This Christmas special was, for the most part, a success, and I had lots of fun watching it, and thankfully I won't feel embarrassed to recommend it tomorrow at work. It was the perfect way to wind down a very fantastic Christmas and I am greatly looking forward to re- watching it when it hits blu-ray. Now if you excuse me, I'm off to have a tangerine
The longest and most expensive trailer ever made
I have a rather wishy washy relationship with The Hunger Games. I had read and watched Battle Royale before but I love the idea of people being forced into a fight to the death by the government. It's terrifying and so that's why I even read the book in the first place. Because knowing it takes place in the future, I wanted to see how Collins would interpret it and how it was marketable to young kids- hell, I was in grade 9 when I watched Battle Royale, and I remember throughout that year loaning my bootleg copy to several friends and before you know it, almost half the school was talking about it. And so that's why the idea of THG excited me- even though BR is an adult movie first and foremost, teens can relate to the issues presented, and i can say without exaggeration that I was not let down, because even though it's wasn't as good as BR, I was pleased that the intensity and brutality of BR was not lost with Collins' interpretation. Sure it isn't the most well written book, but it was so intense I found myself on a cold autumn afternoon in 2009 at home, on the edge of the couch and frantically turning each page to see what happened next
And then the sequels came, and I was disappointed. CF had so many great ideas but didn't utilize them properly, and Mockingjay was a mess of ideas that failed to resemble a story. Skip to a year and a half after the release of Mockingjay, I was at a midnight screening of the first movie, and as much as I found it problematic as an adaptation, it at least was entertaining. A year and a half later, I'm back at the same IMAX auditorium to see the sequel, and amazingly, I loved it enough to consider it one of my favourite films of the year. It captured the intensity the book couldn't. The ideas were there, but a book wasn't the best way to capture it. Now it's a year later and I'm just back from a preview showing of Mockingjay Part 1 and wondering why I was left so cold even though I went in knowing exactly what I was in for. Gut instinct, maybe? I hope
Mockingjay is not going to change your mind about the book if you didn't like it, but because of my completist ways, I went and saw it anyway. And the problem was that it was too much like the book- a scattered collage of entertaining bits with equal amounts of filler. In fact, this film is beginning to make me wonder if maybe the series only seems awesome because of the first book's honest storytelling and the second movie's sheer intensity and electricity
The problem here is that it only makes Collins' seeming inability to balance out blazing hot action with quiet drama, and a movie-exclusive problem is that it seems to fail at emotion and drama altogether. The scenes where a brainwashed Peeta is forced into feeding the districts pro-Capitol propaganda as a devastated Katniss watches should be heartbreaking and saddening- problem is they are for the wrong reasons. They're heartbreaking and devastating because there's so many blown opportunities and you could almost imagine the writers go, "have them start crying, that will trick the audience." The same thing happens when Katniss visits District 8 all armed with a documentary crew and visits a hospital only for Snow to have soldiers blow it up. I should be sad and depressed to see this hall ending but the only thing that depresses me is how horribly executed it is with no emotion
I'm not even going to get started on the fact that this really did not need to be two movies because if anything, I do think there was a way splitting it into two movies would have improved the story as a whole. The book's problem is that the first half is too slow and the second half is too rushed. They could easily trim an hour of fat and being some stuff in from the second half to make the film more intense. The book lacks emotional connection the same way this movie does, and so there's so many opportunities. Problem is, it's too much like The Deathly Hallows, where part 1 was filled with padding to the point where the whole thing could easily have been one movie
So what did I like? Well, I loved the storming and bombing of the hydroelectric dam. I loved the ca few flying in to rescue the hostages. I loved the final conversation between Snow and Peeta. I loved the bombing of the forest. I loved the emergency sheltering. These are enough to warrant the 5/10 I gave it, because those scenes were truly gripping and engaging. Had these kinds of intense scenes been in the movie more, maybe, just maybe I'd have walked out with some level of anticipation for the next part
Otherwise there's really no reason to spend hard earned cash to watch a two hour trailer for the actual payoff. The whole thing feels like a big, two hour long trailer. It's clear they only did this to make the audience want to wait for the next part. Oh, I'll be dressing up in my district outfit and going to see the next movie for sure but not because I'm excited to because at this point I feel obligated to do so
The Devil's Carnival (2012)
Does what it says on the tin, but not very well
I'll start off by saying that even as a huge Repo! fan and one of its biggest supporters as far back and the trailer's leaking in 2007, I was rather mixed with my feelings towards this movie. While I was happy to see the two Darrens and Terrance even getting any work at all. I'm friends with all 3 of them on Facebook and followed their updates about this religiously, but even then I couldn't help feeling a bit on edge about this film
For starters, I think the biggest problem can be found in its length: 55 minutes. For one, a film that has the mercy if being this short shouldn't feel padded out. But the problem is, it does. It runs 55 minutes and you'd think that should be more than enough time to fit an actual story, but the problem is, there's little story and tons of character porn. Character porn is a term I use to describe a production that has so many characters that it's practically overflowing, and that's exactly the problem here, instead of trying to focus on a story, it forces all these extra characters in and it feels excessive. Which is a shame because watching it, you get the sense that this production has tons of potential with it's fascinating concept of 3 people sent to hell and sent through a carnival where they're forced to face their sins and how they died- each set piece is a metaphor for Aesop's fables. The fables aspect is interesting but wasted here considering the only major tale touched upon is The Scorpion and the Frog, which leads to a rather unsavoury song called "Trust Me"
Speaking of which, the music. From what I hear, at the tours if you wanted to get an autograph from the folks attached, you had to drop 20 bucks on a soundtrack. Well, no bloody way could you force me to drop 20 bucks on this soundtrack when the music is so... dull. Part of Repo!'s charm was that it tried various styles of music- Italian folk music, industrial metal, electronica, punk rock, dance-pop and as many styles as there were, it all came together to form one extremely cohesive piece. Here, it's all carnival music and while there are a few good pieces, it feels like they went way too far with it. Some tracks don't even need to be songs ("MISS ME, MISS ME, NOW YA GOTTA KISS ME!"). The final track "Slither in the Mud" is a weird mix of awesome and terrible at the same time- it's always lovely to hear Zdunich's deep and velvety voice, but it can't elevate rather insipid songwriting. Oh and the credits. If I heard "la la la, it's off to hell we go!" Or "you're in the devils... CARNIVAL!" again I was going to murder everyone in the room
It's a shame because there's so much potential. Darren Bousman is extremely talented and sophisticated as a director, and Darren and Terrance are unparallelled as opera songwriters but when it comes to writing a more traditional musical they can't manage. The cast is impressive with Emile Autumn, much of the Repo! cast and Sean Flanery, but they're wasted and I didn't care about any of the main characters. It's pretty looking and has some interestingly entertaining bits but not enough
The Maze Runner (2014)
It's like The Hunger Games, but 100x more confusing!
If you liked The Hunger Games but felt it didn't nearly have enough rules, then The Maze Runner is for you!
The Maze runner takes place sometime in the future, where a young man whose name I forget so I'll refer to him as his slang name he gets called, Greeny, wakes up in an elevator and is constantly taunted and teased by all the other ones for not being as gifted and able as the others despite the fact that he only just woke up there. In particular, a kid who looks as if his mother has been giving him Botox injections since he was a toddler stands as the big boss and Jorjen from Game of Thrones stands as the kid who is all "don't worry, guys, he couldn't possibly harm us" nice man with an awful British accent (strangely despite the fact that the actor portraying him is British). Then there's plenty of others but for the first twenty minutes or so, apparently these guys are the only important characters in the movie
Anyways so they're surrounded by a maze and nobody can go in at night or they'll be devoured by these monsters called "Grievers" which look like John Malkovich's character in The Hitchhikers Guide to the a Galaxy but with bigger legs. And this is where the film starts to get really problematic. First off, this apparently takes place sometime after the apocalypse, but how on earth did whatever company that made this get all that metal? And if they truly wanted nobody to escape, the walls didn't need to be that high. The height that they are seems to be trying too hard to impress the audience. And as for the Grievers, many problems there too. They can apparently climb the walls. Why don't they? And why are they even there in the first place??? They seem to be thrown in just for the sake of having a big bad guy. They don't even explain it at the end during the typical "we need this explanatory monologue to tell the audience why this movie makes sense and they're wrong to be confused" scene at the end. If you don't have a reason for these creatures then your movie is stupid
So anyways, the kid from Teen Wolf, I mean Greeny, and the obligatory Asian guy get locked in the maze for a night and by sheer miracle, Greeny is able to outsmart a griever. Alright maybe it isn't a miracle because Greeny seems to have no problem outrunning him and seems to know what to do, and things only get super complicated when he's squeezing himself through a big set of closing walls and boom, bye bye Griever. So when they get back to the center, he tells them he killed one and instead of being happy they get mad at him. Again, no explanation given why. So he gets promoted to "Runner" status and while out in the maze, where they go find the Griever corpse, they find something lodged in its brain: a canister that acts as their key to their base. Anyways while out in the maze he and wither find that there is a hole where the Grievers get in through, then suddenly the maze goes apeshit on them and they try to make it back to base. Then suddenly a girl pops up! But for some reason she isn't that important. Or maybe she is because she keeps pretty much info dumping the plot.
Ugh, I'm going to stop here because the more I type the angrier I get about this movie. But the whole time, I kept thinking about the hunger games, but this had more rules than it, more plot details and at a few points it got so confusing that it felt like a brain workout to continue watching. And not the good kind like Donnie Darko or an early Cronenberg movie. But that here are so many story lines and rules and plot details that. It was almost like they shoved an entire trilogy into one movie. I would say maybe the book is better but considering the book was written by a middle school student, I don't even think the movie even has that advantage.
Mind you there are some things I liked about the film. It looked pretty and the special effects a re decent, so they get my 3/10 rating for that, but wooden acting and nonsensical plot really does it in
The X Files: Hollywood A.D. (2000)
"One more pun and I'll pull out my gun"
It was Jon Pertwee, the actor who played the third incarnation of The Doctor who coined the popular saying "It's easy to be silly, but it's difficult to actually be funny". And I cannot think of a show where this phrase applies better to than The X-Files. As great as the show is, comedy and The X-Files has very seldom worked well. One of my favourite pieces of TV of all time is the season 5 episode "Bad Blood", a pitch-black comedy episode with tons of post-absurdist humour and off the wall hilarity mainly due to the episode's "he said she said" nature. But that was a one time deal. Watching Mulder and Scully pratfall their way through this episode was about as painful to watch as you'd expect, and not in the good way. Thank god this was the last comedy episode ever in the series, especially seeing as the dreaded "c" word and The X-Files go together like black oil and vodka
I remember it just as clear as day when the advert for the episode aired on ITV. The plot was threadbare enough and the idea of a satire of Hollywood may have seemed like a good idea on paper, but it was wasted with cheap and tasteless gags that simply just did not work at all. In tact, the bath tub phone call scene is without a doubt one of the worst moments in The X Files history and a testament to just how far the show had fallen in the 2000s. And to top it all off we get a painfully unfunny zombie dance sequence at the very end. In a way I guess this episode was to be expected as much of the episodes surrounding it were just dreadful but back then this made my then-7 year old self feel embarrassed to be a fan of the show. And years later it's still painful to watch, maybe even more so than the first time
Doctor Who: Kill the Moon (2014)
When they leave the beach, stop watching and make up your own ending
"Spiders on the Moon". I kid you not! Remember that movie "Apollo 18" that came out 3 years ago? As scared as I am of spiders, I will admit it that based on the promo materials that out the spiders front and center we were going to get another Apollo 18. But here's the thing: Doctor Who can get away with almost anything. I mean, look at series 2: one episode you got an adventure set on another planet and the next a post-absurdist black romantic comedy. And seeing as this series has been pretty solid so far you'd think the trend of consistency will be continued. Well, it seems for the most part it has
The thing about this episode is that the first 35 minutes of it are absolutely brilliant. It came damn near close to being a 9/10 but it was ruined by an utterly lame climax and a scene where Clara has a huge bitchy hissy fit at The Doctor which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's a shame because just look at the first 35 minute alone. Scary and atmospheric stuff on the same level of episodes such as The Web of Fear or even Blink. The spiders are shown in minimal glimpses and it works to a great effect. As usual, Capaldi is absolutely brilliant and in full command here. For those first 35 minutes we are under the impression that we have the first really engaging episode since last season's "The Snowman"
However things take a bit of a turn for the worse at the end when Clara comes up with a brilliant plan to get everybody to turn their lights off if they want the creature killed and then to top it all off, she saves it at the last minute. And then of course, that rant. Why is she so mad at The Doctor?? The Doctor told her that he isn't going to be there all the time to make the tough decisions and that someday she will need to stand up and make them for herself. Even the female astronaut with her tells her that thousands of people will die because she can't make an unfair decision. I don't normally side with the whole "DW needs better female characters" thing but this rant really left a black mark on her character and here I'm beginning to side with them
Though I won't be too negative, for the most part I did enjoy this episode and given that it did succeed in creating a real claustrophobic atmosphere in the first two acts, it's the first time the show has done that in a while. Scary episodes are the ones I like most and so given next week is also a scary episode the series could be finding a new consistent ground. Though with Moffat anything can happen.
Doctor Who: Time Heist (2014)
Please, just once can we have a season where 2 or 3 episodes in a row aren't about the same thing? I mean, it isn't that I haven't been enjoying the season so far, I actually really have been, but as Theo Robertson here correctly pointed out in his reviews of Robot of Sherwood and now this, 3 episodes in a row have been centred on androids, and now 2 in a row are focused on The Doctor (this one including Clara) losing their memory of how they have ended up where they have ended up. Don't you think it's getting a little repetitive? Note to Moffat- please watch how you arrange the episodes. This time, the pair have ended up in a bank with no memory of how they got there and they are being told to rob a bank by an unknown source. Now this is an interesting concept but as the episode goes on, you realize just how paper thin it really is
The plot has been explained in the above paragraph so there's not much point in delving too far into it, except for the obligatory twist: at the end, it's revealed that The Doctor, Clara, Psi and Saibra weren't there to rob a bank so much as they were there to heal and rescue two creatures captured by Mrs. Delphox (Hawes), the bank's main teller who has been taking advantage of their powers. In a way, the twist is kind of like "Hide" from last season, except while it was clever and well done there, here it just kind of felt tired and bloated. In fact, despite Capaldi giving a great performance here, and he really isn't capable of giving a bad performance period, when he wasn't on screen it was the clever Saibra and the really smoking hot Psi who were what lit up the screen. They both were interesting and clever additions to the plot, as humanoid cyborgs. But face it, if it weren't for them the episode would really have suffered greatly.
In spite of its thin-ness, this episode isn't really bad, and is actually pretty fun, but it really is quite forgettable, and in fact, I've already forgotten a good chunk of what happens in this episode. It's also very predictable from start to finish and so painfully by-the-numbers that it just completely lacked spark and energy that was evident in the previous four episodes. As a standalone episode it probably is very good, but when compared with other caper-type episodes is when it really falls apart
"The Room" for a new generation
This year, a swords and sandals epic got released that had clunky dialogue, cheap digital camera work, extremely wooden acting and hardly even a dash of historical accuracy, in addition to an extremely loud soundtrack that overpowered the dialogue (which wouldn't have been a problem if the music weren't so overly cheap sounding). Nope, I'm not referring to 300: Rise of an Empire. I'm referring to Ivan Pavletic's "epic", 476 A.D. Part 1: The Last Light of Aries The film is apparently a part 1, yet it's hardly even 90 minutes long and worse yet, it's hardly a movie. For one, the film was made on a small budget and it shows. It boasts overly cheap and cringe-worthy green screen effects, the audio editing is horrendous and the dialogue sounds like it was recorded in a decompression tank. The rather unattractive and uncharismatic actors mumble through their lines as if English is their ninth language, but it's hard to blame them when the script is so paper-thin. Speaking of the dialogue, if you love dialogue either that appears to have been written by someone whose first language clearly isn't English, or love cliché dialogue from films such as Gladiator ("Rome... is calling me"), then get a load of this. Actually, while I'm at it, good luck trying to understand ANY of what the characters are saying because it's so hideously poorly mixed A particularly bad offender is Ivan Pavletic himself, whose accent can be described as a drunken Croatian cyborg. He recites half the dialogue like he has no idea what any of it is supposed to mean, AND HE WROTE THIS DRECK. The result is something reminiscent of Tommy Wiseau's disasterpiece "The Room", except cheaper. And it's obvious that there's only forty minutes of of intent here because the majority of the film is looped shots and stock footage. Oh speaking of which, go on youtube and look at the hilarious sex scene that apparently opens up part II that makes the sex scenes in "The Room" seem like a Coppola creation. And is worse than anything that came before in part I. Before it is a hilarious nightmare sequence cobbled from stock footage and done on Adobe Ultra and it truly must be seen to be believed. One must wonder if like Wiseau himself Pavletic had any intention on making more sex scenes But what truly baffles me most about this movie is how on earth it managed to make it into any cinema. It is completely unprofessional and looks like it was thrown together in ten days. Is it like the Special Olympics? Or are people just afraid of saying no to someone whose head clearly isn't in the right place? (Pavletic does rhyme with pathetic after all) or is the film business riddled with yes men willing to enable this guy's clearly delusional fantasies? I do believe we moviegoers have a right to know
Doctor Who: Listen (2014)
It's been a budding practice since the series' revival in 2005 that Doctor Who has had a slower, less CG-heavy money-saver episode twice every season. Of course, these are known as "bottle episodes", where an episode is written with a small cast and set in very few locations to save money. However, this even goes back as far as the classic era, with a bottle episode being added to the beginning of the story "The Mind Robber", Well, it looks like we have already reached that four episodes into the eighth series, and not only does this practice usually allow for more tension, but it in this episode's case, it's allowed for a very complex plot. And strangely enough, it's the best episode in the season so far. Here, Moffat has gone back to his more psychological roots that showed in episodes under Russell T. Davies' running such as "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "Blink", and that's why the episode is so great- Moffat knows what can creep us out and he uses very little do do so, achieving a great amount of creepy tension.
The Doctor suffers a tiny mental breakdown in the TARDIS from spending so much time alone, and begins questioning what happens when he's alone, and if he's really alone at all, period. Admit it, you sometimes feel that way too. After a bad date with Danny Pink, Clara finds herself in The TARDIS once again, with The Doctor asking her about dreams she's had and if she's ever faced a threat under the bed. They end up at Danny Pink's childhood home in Gloucester, an orphaned children's home, and all three end up facing a fear of Danny Pink's: an unwelcome ghostly presence. But there's more to it than this: The Doctor is still afraid of something that has been troubling him- being alone in the dark. Which ends up in them at the end of the universe, facing a threat that scares The Doctor to no end. Alright, given how complex and easy to spoil the plot is, that's what I can say about the plot without outright giving the whole damned thing away. The episode really must be seen to be described. The episode perfectly mixes creepy suspense and disturbing tension with laughs and even emotional value too.
As I mentioned earlier, the episode is a lot slower, and more psychologically-based, which is something we haven't seen from Steven Moffat in a long time. A common criticism of how he's written while show-running was being a bit more bombastic, and while I've liked nearly all of what he's done, it's nice to see him write a story based on childhood fears again- I mean, the guy once made us afraid of friggin' statues. And so seeing him handle the topic of being alone was a joy, and he brought his usual charm to the episode. In fact, he also made me cry, even, with the final scene. Of course, you know what it is, if you've seen it, but it's a very powerful and emotionally compelling scene, and even gives a shout- out to a previous incarnation of The Doctor. It's hard to describe without giving it away outright. And it's sold by a brilliant performance from Jenna Coleman. Speaking of performances, Peter Capaldi really has come into his own as The Doctor, and in this episode, especially shows us The Doctor's more emotional and raw side. And yes, Samuel Anderson is in this episode again as Danny Pink- this time I didn't find him so annoying like I did in "Into the Dalek". How often have you heard a Whovian say that?
In short, this is definitely a welcome return to form for Moffat, and also a welcome return to a slower and more thoughtful "Doctor Who", in addition to being the best episode in no while. It's haunting and very emotional. If the series continues its consistent streak it's been on lately, then we are definitely in for the best series in a while. Of course, next week is a more adventure-based episode, and seeing as this show has gotten away with being anything from action to horror to a post-modernist black romantic comedy, as long as it's good is what really counts.
Presque rien (2000)
Its French title couldn't be any more accurate if it tried
You read the plot outline for this and think, "oh, good, finally a realistic gay movie that tries to make people aware of what gay people go through a lot of the time". At least that's what I thought when I read it. But soon as I began watching the film I felt like some big con was pulled on me, having been taken in by the sparkly text and histrionics surrounding this film. As much as I love France, I do have a love it or hate it relationship with their film industry, given their rather avant-grade nature, which works on a lot of occasions and doesn't work on a lot of others. And so I found it very hard to stay awake during this film, and I have a very long attention span mind you, and can usually stand slow-paced films. But this film isn't even slow paced, it has NO pace at all. And that isn't even the worst thing about it
For one, I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket to France for a third time to see if hot gay French guys really are only attracted to the male equivalent of a plain jane, because Cedric and Matthieu seem to have a very high sex drive and half of their scenes together feature them either naked or having just finished sex. The one outright sex scene is not hit at all and reminded me of the sex scene in the 2003 disasterpiece "The Room" (except at least I could laugh at now poorly done that scene was). Thankfully we do get to see their dongs, but the scenes are too darkly lit. But it's not just the sex that's painful to watch. The stiffness (no pun intended) of the acting and dialogue (at least the 10 minutes of dialogue there is) just painful- in fact, almost all the actors here seem to be just in it for the paycheck and mumble through their lines as if French is their fourth language and given the script, or lack of, it is hard to blame them. Stephane Rideau tries to lighten things up a bit and save it, but even he can't. He's the only actor here who appears to be enjoying what he's doing
But generally also just how boring the film is, is what the film suffers from most. I mean do we need to watch 5 minutes of a family eating spaghetti in silence? Do we need 5 minutes if a cat eating spaghetti? Do we need two minutes of the lead actor rubbing his penis? Do we need 5 minutes off he lead actor staring off into space? Seriously if you cut down all the fat, the film would probably be 30 minutes long. Believe me, the emperor truly has no clothes
I realize not a whole lot of movies do the gay community justice, but there sure are a lot better gay movies out there. True that a lot of them are formulaic rubbish but even then a lot of them Are a lot better than this
Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood (2014)
More fun than shark week
Mark Gatiss is one of those writers whose name immediately sparks the type of "either you love it or you hate it" reaction. He's been particularly known for having a more "adventurous" sense of storytelling and it has worked on some occasions and on others... well, you probably get it by now. "Robot of Sherwood" is no different. I've been noticing a lot of love it or hate it reactions to the episode from the IMDb boards since catching its Space channel airing here in Canada, and I'll be honest: I wasn't totally surprised. And even more unsurprisingly, I fell in the "love it" camp. I say this because I've been a huge fan of Mark Gatiss since starting Doctor Who, and have caught as much if his work as I can (I even met him this year while vacationing in London and got an awesome picture with him). I knew what to expect, and was not disappointed. The preview last week promised us a whimsical adventure with The Doctor and Clara in Nottingham 1190, and that's exactly what we got. In a totally unexpected turn of events, this is also our third episode in a season that deals with robots (hence the title). A little repetitive? Maybe, but here the robots are well executed and utilized.
The episode opens with The Doctor and Clara in the TARDIS, where The Doctor asks Clara where in all of space and time she wants to go and what she wants to see. Her answer? Robin Hood. Of course, The Doctor is doubtful of his existence, but a step outside his TARDIS into 1190 Nottingham later, he's proved wrong, ending in The Doctor bringing a spoon to a sword fight... and winning. During an arrow spitting contest, The Doctor discovers one of the officials is a robot... in fact, there's tons of robots, which leads to Nottinghamshire under attack by robots from outer space. Nothing too deep, of course, and yet the episode is better for it, be cause it doesn't try to be anything more than what it says on the tin. Gatiss gives us a full-on 45 minute action-packed episode, and it doesn't disappoint. But even for a more action-packed episode, there's still tons of suspense and intrigue, and moments of the expected Doctor Wit- such as when he escapes from being tied up with much ease, and his trick of tipping over Robin Hood into a pond during a sword fight, which Robin himself ends up learning too. The robots admittedly look pretty typical, with lasers bursting from their face, but they nonetheless are terrifying and watching them cause terror in the kingdom is relentlessly fun to watch. Oh and Clara isn't so annoying this time, being more back to her Soufflé girl self. And the finale, including the arrow with the homing device, is a true blast and one of the more action-packed finales in recent Doctor Who history.
Of course there are a few flaws in "Robots", but they're far and in between- the middle of the episode is a little sluggish, the humour in the episode does get a little too silly at times, but they don't detract from the overall fun. After all, this is escapist Doctor Who- an episode that revolves around the sheer fun and camp it promises. Capaldi is in fine form as The Doctor and breaks away from the usual dark feel that his Doctor has given off, opting for a more upbeat portrayal, and yet he manages to pull it off. Which leads to another reason as to why I loved this episode- you can tell everyone involved had a fun time making it. And it rubs off onto the viewers too: watching the cast enjoy what they're involved in makes for a more fun experience. From the pulse-pounding action to the moments of hilarity, "Robot of Sherwood" a fun romp that reminds us of why Doctor Who is so fun to watch in the first place.
Oh, and no Danny Pink, too. There's another reason to love the episode.
Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (2014)
A good Dalek episode when it tries to be a Dalek episode
I'll admit that I didn't really have high hopes for the episode to begin with, and that was down to mostly one thing: the fact that this was only the Doctor's second adventure with Capaldi at the helm and it was already a Dalek episode. Of course, this was the first Dalek story in two years, but even then it felt as if Moffat and co. felt as if Daleks were the be-all- end-all of the series, when really they aren't: they didn't appear as often in the original series as people think they did (to reiterate: Hartnell got four Dalek stories, Troughton and Baker only got two, Pertwee got three, and Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy all got one each), and a lot of fans of the classic series consider the seasons without daleks as some of the best seasons. But nonetheless I sat back and let myself be proved wrong by Moffat.
The concept of the episode is pretty interesting, if rather quite done before: The TARDIS materializes on board a military fleet after The Doctor rescues a soldier named Journey Blue. Taken into captivity by Uncle Smiley, the head of the fleet, The Doctor uses his name to be able to get out of the situation. Except he is given one thing he must do: care for a Dalek. Not just any Dalek: a good Dalek. So he goes to present day earth, grabs Clara and takes her back, and it's here where we realize they have to go into the Dalek (hence, the title) to see how he got so good all of a sudden. The concept, as Theo Robertson here correctly pointed out, is very reminiscent of the film "A Fantastic Voyage" as well as the 1987 comedy "Innerspace", and a few nods to both movies are given. The episode succeeds when it's actually a Dalek episode: for one we get a rather long and unnecessary opening at Coal Hill school, and we are introduced to Clara having a new boyfriend by the name of Danny Pink. It feels pointless and tacked-on, especially when Danny Pink only gets 2 minutes of screen time. When Clara finds The Doctor, that's when the episode really begins to pick up. The Daleks are back to being scary again by doing what they do best: trundling through corridors, screaming "EXTERMINATE" and zapping some poor sucker in its path. And so when they're on screen, they're terrifying and a pleasure to watch, especially after seeing them neutered.
On the topic of Capaldi though, which is another issue I find with the series so far: Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. Not in a bad way, the issue is that he's such a great actor that whenever he was not on screen, my interest began to wane. Undoubtedly he's the best of the NuWho Doctors so far, and I can see him going on to be considered one of the great Doctors; he seems like a mix of the first doctor, the third doctor and the fifth doctor, and so I really hope that he doesn't end up having to carry the episodes by himself, or otherwise he'll be a great doctor let down by weak scriptwriting. Nonetheless though, as per usual he was a pleasure to watch, even in the third act when he talks to the Dalek face to face in his shell. His acting here was emotional gravitas not seen since Tennant's portrayal, and let's hope he continues this path.
Overall, despite the few gripes I had, I enjoyed the episode and while it's a bit too early to tell yet, I can tell things are looking up for the eighth series of the show. In fact, next week was written by one of my favourite writers (Mark Gatiss, who wrote undoubtedly the best episode of 7.2 "Cold War") and it's about Robin Hood. This could end up being my favourite series since series 2, and if the show continues down the darker path with the newer Doctor, it may achieve a new sense of greatness.
Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)
Despite some flaws, a solid and satisfying opener.
To say that the latest season of Doctor Who was much anticipated would be one hell of an understatement. With over a year to go before its premiere, a new actor stepped up to the plate: Scottish actor Peter Capaldi, known for his gutter mouthed presence on the BBC Two satirical series The Thick of It. His first appearance was by way of minimalism in the 50th Anniversary Special,- a shot of his hand, and a shot of his eyes. He then filled Matt Smith's clothing in the 2013 Christmas special, with the question that left us hanging: "Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?" And now, he's here. The Twelfth Doctor's opening story isn't exactly a million miles away from what we've seen in previous first episodes in the previous 51 years the show has been on the air- for one, there's the obvious "post-regenerative crisis", the story is rather familiar, and most importantly, it's mostly a set-up episode.
And yet at the same time, it manages to accomplish a lot in the first episode. For one, it's feature length at 87 minutes long, and the episode manages to accomplish setting the tone for Capaldi's less wacky and more grounded portrayal- though that isn't to say he doesn't have his outbursts of zaniness. The plot bears a lot of similarity to the third Doctor's opening episode "Spearhead From Space", with the main threat here being humanoid automaton-type clockwork robots. The threat is established quite late into the episode, but it does work. When we first see the Doctor, he's stuck in something of a daze- he blurts out a lot of nonsensical phrases, mixes people's names up, and, of course, faints. A dinosaur romps through Victorian London and spits up the TARDIS- before continuing to roam through London in a very confused and afraid state. Of course, in a later scene, during The Doctor's post-regenerative crisis, he attempts to tell the dinosaur that he'll get him back to his time, but he dies. He disappears for a while continuing to struggle to accept his latest regeneration, but when he does accept it, it's here where he and his companion Clara get tangled in a dangerous plot- they become prey to murderous automatons.
It's a pretty simple plot, really, and sometimes, simple is what's best. Here, Moffat doesn't delve too much into the techno-babble that has plagued the previous season, and leaves it to The Doctor, Clara, Madam Vastra and Jenny, and our favourite potato-shaped Sontaran Strax to carry the episode with their wit and charm. Capaldi is full of his usual snarky and cynical charm, and you can tell right off the bat that he's going to take the show for quite the walk. Coleman really gives an excellent performance as Clara as per usual- she emotes a lot more and watching her struggle to accept the new Doctor is very powerful. Of course,a s per usual Doctor Who tradition, the imagery is the strongest point- with the special effects really having come a long way, and gorgeous cinematography, it's no wonder Steven Moffat wanted to be seen on the big screen.
Of course, the episode isn't entirely perfect. For one, the new version of the Doctor Who theme is really quite awful- not the episode's fault, obviously, but the new theme's main hook played on a rather off-key sounding synthesizer, it is kind of distracting. The main baddie "Half Face" is quite lame- he isn't in the episode much, and for a reason. He isn't really given much to work with, and while he does shine a bit near the end, it's a bit half baked. Also, a rather gratuitous cameo by Matt Smith near the end felt very unnecessary and gratuitous, seemingly thrown in there to pander. But these faults don't detract from what is an overall solid episode- after all, it's an opener, and it does its job. Let's just hope the next 11 weeks will hold up. And based on the preview shown before the ending credits, it looks like we are in for one hell of a ride.
The Expendables 3 (2014)
The Expendables trilogy now has its Godfather III
First off, nobody expects a film like The Expendables to be amazing. Even the cast and writers are aware of it, which is why the first two movies in the series succeeded. They were merely an excuse for our favourite childhood action stars to blast people's brains apart and utter cringe-worthy one-liners, and sold themselves as such, and that's why the series worked in the first place. The series was pure trash and it embraced it, and so did we. I mean, how can anyone expect a film with a scene where Chuck Norris makes a Chuck Norris joke to be anything deep? If we want Shakespeare, we'll watch Shakespeare, simple as that. And so it leads you to wonder exactly how on earth The Expendables 3 ended up the way it did. The first red flags were raised when it was announced earlier this year that the film would be rated PG-13, and that was just the start
First off, the plot is pretty much the same as Expendables II, but with less action and more boring revenge BS. Then there's the moment where Sly Stallone (let's just say it's easier to remember the stars by their real names rather than their character names) disavows the team and brings in all these boring new people. The Spider-Man wannabe who can climb elevators- so what? The chick. There's no other reason for her to be in the film other than to be the chick. I can't remember any of the others right now because they're THAT forgettable. From there on, there's pretty much no reason for Stallone to continue with the mission. Other than revenge, etc. But of course, naturally, he continues, gets himself in trouble with his own stupid actions, blah, blubbety blip, and we get one of the most boring action sequences in history this side of Man of Steel, complete with dreadful editing and camera too close to the action
There's also the fact that the film is PG-13, and it shows- the violence is not only toned down, but it also constrains the plot from being any more interesting in any way. We get boring gunfight after boring gunfight with some hand to hand here and there. Speaking of which, there's very little action here- there's a grand total of 4 action scenes in the film and the only one of which is interesting, being the end one- but even then, it's not as interesting as it should be. When Stallone and Gibson finally square off, the fight lasts for like a minute and then boom. Over.
The one saving grace of the film is the addition of Snipes, Banderas, and Gibson. There's not much for them to work with in the first place, but they make the most of what they're given to work with, and they really do try. Banderas is an annoying loudmouth, but at least his endless talking in his scenes do liven up the pace. Snipes is always a pleasure to watch and his fight scenes are the best thing about the film, but he's under-used. Gibson always has even one of my favourite actors and his portrayal of a villain here is brilliant. I've always thought he's been the perfect guy to play a villain, and despite the cringe worthy dialogues he's given here he does what he can to brighten the atmosphere with his portrayal
Otherwise there's really no reason to see this film. It's pretty much The Godfather 3 of the franchise- the sequel that was not needed and did nothing to advance any character or plot, was just recycled and had no reason to exist. And furthermore there's an Expendables 4 in production. This is despite the fact that the film leaked onto the web early two weeks before its release. To me, whoever did that must have realized just how awful the film is and leaked it as a warning, that or Lionsgate is doing this for more PR and is disguising it as an accidental leak just to cause more publicity. Either way, avoid this one like the plague.
Gojira tai Mekagojira (1974)
The 1970s aren't particularly known for having the best Godzilla movies, but when Godzilla was good, he was very good, and this is one of those cases. In fact, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is highly regarded by fans if the franchise for this reason- it's pure cheese and completely bizarre, but it actually also has drama that works (bet you thought you'd never heard anyone describe any of the Godzilla films from the 70s in that fashion) and a good plot too. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that this was Godzilla's 20th anniversary, and so they decided to cut the bullshit and show him as a destructive force while still keeping him an anti-hero. Not that anyone in particular goes to see Godzilla for anything other than a man in a rubber suit whaling on nothing's, but while this film offers that, it has a good story and even some very interesting plot twists that keep the story all spiced up. It's also short and set at 84 minutes and it rarely fumbles.
As the title itself gives away, Godzilla faces off against... Godzilla. That's two Godzillas for the price of one- but this is a gigantic cyborg Godzilla, and you wouldn't expect the thing to work so well- but the execution is so tight and well done. In fact, it's revealed over the course of the film that Mechagodzilla is controlled by aliens from an external source. The basis for Mechagodzilla is that he appears when a black mountain rises, and when a red moon sets, two more monsters appear to destroy him. When he first appears, you're immediately greeted with a surprise as you think he's Godzilla, then he begins brutally beating Angurius- who is usually his ally. When actual Godzilla shows up is when we see him turn into a cyborg. The fights are especially well done and the last fight is just absolutely brutal. It's great to see the brutality returned to Godzilla after years of him being reduced to a camp type
Plot and character wise it succeeds too. You can actually care for the characters, even if you're not here for the characters. There's a subplot involving a statue which also succeeds due to the intrigue. A classic moment appears on a scene on a ferry where it's revealed one of the workers is an undercover alien, which is a very effective and shocking plot twist. It also results in a very impressive chase and action sequence, which cant be said for a lot of scenes set on a ferry
But ultimately the most memorable moment of the movie happens when the Azumi priestess goes to the island where King Caesar, Godzilla's ally in this movie, rests, and sings an ultra catchy yet haunting hymn to wake him up. It's an actual full three minute song and her vocal range is on full display, making every minute of it believable. The fight that ensues afterward is awesome too. While a lot of the 1970s Godzillas are rather forgettable and at times bad, at least this film actually succeeds in being enjoyable primarily because it's well written, has enough of Godzilla to go around and even the non Godzilla scenes are effective- much like the new Godzilla. An absolute recommend in every sense.