Monday, 30 November 2015

Film Review - 'These Final Hours'

These Final Hours is a film based on a very simple premise - the question of what we would do with the time we had left if we knew that we were going to die. It's probably not a terribly original premise for a film, sure - but, it's still one that seems worth returning to, on occasion. On top of that, there's also the small matter of the end of the world - as we find ourselves on the verge of an unstoppable extinction-level event - as a massive meteor collides with the Earth somewhere in the North Atlantic.

Picking up moments after the actual impact (and, presumably, after days of escalating fear and panic as the meteor approached), and with approximately twelve hours left until a wave of fire and ash sweeps over Australia, These Final Hours brings the audience into a world were most seem to have already given up entirely. Suicide has become depressingly common - as have acts of violence and depravity. For James (Nathan Phillips), though, the only real concern is making it to a massive party, where he can spend his final hours making sure that he wont actually feel anything when the end finally comes - even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), behind.

On his way to the party, though, the limits of James' selfishness are tested when he comes across Rose (Angourie Rice), a young girl recently kidnapped by two men. Realising that even he can't quite bring himself to leave the girl to whatever fate her kidnappers have planned, he sets out to rescue her.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E05 - 'The Host'

Things looked pretty grim for Ash and his fellow 'ghostbeaters' at the end of the previous episode. Ash was left unconscious after the demon, Eligos, unsuccessfully tried to force its way into his head. The fact that Ash's efforts to fight off Eligos in his own private dream-world had also resulted in him attacking Kelly in the 'real-world' certainly hadn't done much to win the confidence of his allies - with Ash now bound and gagged after being knocked unconscious by Pablo. Kelly, herself, is still possessed by Eligos - with the demon clearly set on causing more mayhem as it plays the innocent victim in order to keep attention focused on Ash. Pablo and his 'Brujo' uncle (Hemky Madera) have no way of knowing where the true danger lays, of course - so, they begin preparations to try to exercise the demon that the mistakenly believe is possessing Ash.

This is the third episode the feature Eligos - and, it is certainly great to have a mini-arc based around a particular threat. It's the sort of focus that this series probably needs, if it's going to be able to maintain any sort of long-term appeal. Also, even if Eligos, itself, remains a largely unknown figure, it is still the most genuine threat we have seen, so far. Deadites might be comical creatures, for the most past, but Eligos has been genuinely intimidating over the past couple of episodes - and, that continues here.

Review - 'Doctor Who', S09E11 - 'Heaven Sent'

There was a moment from an episode of Doctor Who from a few years back which I couldn't help but be reminded of as I watched this episode. It was from, I believe (though, I could be wrong), Matt Smith's first episode as the Doctor - and, it was a moment that was intended to give us a glimpse of how the Doctor observes the world around him. In this moment, we had time seeming to slow down around the Doctor as he observed his surroundings - and, we saw him picking out details that were too small, and too far away, for any ordinary person to have any real hope of noticing them. It was a pretty great moment, over all - one that did a remarkable job of showing just how different the Doctor truly was.

The reason why I bring this up, now, is because this episode does something very similar - just with more of a creative flourish. Much like that moment from Matt Smith's time as the Doctor, this episode gives us a very interesting internal look at how Peter Capaldi's Doctor goes about solving the problems that confront him. Here, we see that, in times of very real danger, the Doctor will actually imagine himself safely back in the TARDIS - his thoughts moving faster than the action taking place around him as he tries to work out some way to save himself. It is another fascinating display of exactly how different this centuries old alien figure truly is - and, the sight of the Doctor safely in the TARDIS and talking to himself (or, an imaginary version of Clara, in this case), while the 'real-world' danger plays out in slow motion on a screen, was a creative way of visualising it.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Film Review - 'Knights of Badassdom'

After being dumped by his girlfriend, part-time mechanic and aspiring musician, Joe (Ryan Kwanton), looks to a bottle of whiskey and an impressive bong for comfort. After a night of drinking and smoking pot with his two closest friends, though, he wakes the next morning to find himself laying in the back of a van and dressed in what appears to be an impressively authentic looking suit of armor. It seems that his friends, Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn), are heavily involved in LARP (or, live action role-play, for the uninitiated), and have decided that dragging Joe along to a weekend-long LARP event would be the best way to take his mind off of his troubles. Joe is, perhaps understandably, a little irritated with his friends, at first, though gradually allows himself to be talked into taking part.

Later, Joe meets up with the rest of his companions for the weekend: Gwen (Summer Glau), who is only reluctantly taking part in order to look after her cousin; Gunther (Brett Gipson), Gwen's cousin, a player so invested in his imaginary life that he cannot seem to break character even when confronted by an actual monster; and, Lando (Danny Pudi), a player not above breaking the rules of the game if it means he can win.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Film Review - 'Odd Thomas'

Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin - and, yes, 'Odd' actually is his real name. It was a typo on his birth certificate, apparently) was born with the ability to see dead people - an ability which he inherited from his mother. After seeing the toll that this ability took on his mother, first-hand, Odd grew up believing that he needed to be careful about who he could revealed his secret to. Still, Odd was a young man who clearly also wanted to do the right thing - believing that his ability was a gift that he was obligated to use. So, that is exactly what he has done - devoting his time to helping spirits resolve their issues whenever he can, while striving to keep the rest of his life simple and uncomplicated.

Along with the ability to see spirits of the dead, though, Odd is also able to see creatures called Bodachs - demonic entities who are drawn to pain and suffering. With his life-time of experience dealing with supernatural matters, Odd has learnt that the presence of a Bodach tends to indicate some manner of tragedy in the future. So, when he sees a swarm of the creatures, all centred around a single man, Odd is understandably worried that something bad is about to happen. His fears also seem to be confirmed by a dream in which he witnesses people being gunned down by a mysterious figure. So, with the aid of his long-time girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and local chief of police Wyatt Porter (Willem Defoe), both of whom are aware of Odd's ability, he sets out to investigate - and, hopefully, avert a tragic event.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Film Review - 'Dredd'

Judge Dredd is a character with a long, and often very violent, history. The character's first comic-book appearance was in an issue of the British science-fiction anthology series, 2000 AD, back in 1977 - and, his previous film appearance Sylvester Stallone's fan-displeasing effort, released in 1995 - a film which even someone as unfamiliar with the source material as I am would have to admit failed in a number of ways. If there is any character who deserves another chance in film, it would have to be Judge Dredd. Thankfully, with 2012's Dredd, he received just that.

The film's opening narration tells us everything we need to know about this bleak world. With much of America reduced to a barren wasteland, what's left of human civilisation survives in massive walled-off cities. In these massive cities, desperate citizens struggle to survive while criminal elements constantly threaten to bring the whole system crashing down into a state of anarchy. In this bleak and violent world, the task of enforcing order rests on the shoulders of the Judges - officers who, essentially, have the power to act as judge, jury and, if necessary, executioner. In Mega-City One, the most feared of these is Judge Dredd - a single-minded and terrifyingly efficient champion of the city's harsh take on the concept of 'justice'.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E13 - 'AKA Smile'

Much like the previous episode, this finale for the first season of Jessica Jones was very restrained - lacking in much of the tense excitement that we had from the last episode of Daredevil earlier in the year. Of course, it's more than likely that this was entirely intentional. Jessica Jones had always been a smaller-scale and much more personal story, in general - so, it makes sense that it would end the same way (though, before I get to the review, I should admit that I'm not going to be trying to tip-toe around any major plot-points in the way that I usually do - so, feel free to stop reading, if that's an issue).

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E12 - 'AKA Take a Bloody Number'

For the penultimate episode of this first season of Jessica Jones, this was a rather restrained episode. Luke Cage's return at the end of the previous episode, after an extended absence, wasn't exactly a surprise - but, it was certainly welcome. I've enjoyed the interaction that we have had between the Luke and Jessica, so far - and, Mike Colter's performance has me fairly convinced that his own series is going to be well worth watching when it is finally released next year.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E11 - 'AKA I've Got The Blues'

Throughout the course of the season, it has been fairly clear that the only real reason Jessica has been reluctent to kill Kilgrave was because of Hope. It was the reason why she chose to stay and fight, rather than run, at the end of the first episode - and, it has been her primary motivation ever since. Jessica needed either a confession, or clear proof of Kilgrave's mind-control ability, in order to have Hope released from prison - neither of which she would be able to get if he were dead.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E10 - 'AKA 1,000 Cuts'

Jessica Jones has, so far, been a series of consistently high quality. It has been tense, exciting, occasionally genuinely funny - and, most importantly, it has managed to darker themes and subject matter in a way that has not felt gratuitous or unnecessarily provocative. It hasn't been perfect, of course - there have been some weaker elements over the past nine episodes. But, this tenth episode of Jessica Jones would have to be the lowest point of the series so far, for me.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E09 - 'AKA Sin Bin'

Given everything that we have seen and heard about Kilgrave, and the horrible things he has done to the people unfortunate enough to cross his path, it is probably fair to say that he was never going to be a sympathetic figure, even after the recent revelations about his childhood. But, this episode does continue with the trend begun in the previous one of trying to make him understandable.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E08 - 'AKA WWJD?'

Much like with the previous episode, things took a strange and unexpected turn in the eighth episode of Jessica Jones. While things got increasingly out of hand in the previous episode, though, this time, the stranger turns that the episode takes actually become a significant strength, as things go in an unexpected, though still very dark, new direction. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E07 - 'AKA Top Shelf Perverts'

The seventh episode of this first season of Jessica Jones was strange. Very strange. That's really the only word I have for it.

After Jessica was forced to confess to her part in the death of Luke Cage's wife, to prevent him from killing an innocent man, Luke seems to have decided to leave town - and, Jessica is even more of a wreck than usual. Feelings of guilt and self-loathing have clearly taken a heavy toll on her, at this point - and, we even join her just as she is being tossed out of a bar.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E06 - 'AKA You're a Winner!'

After a brief misstep a couple of episodes ago, Jessica Jones rallied to offer up the best so far with the previous one. Now, moving into the sixth episode, it seems that things are going to continue at that high level of quality for the time being - with this being, over all, another great episode.

First of all, I have to say that I am, personally, very relieved to know that there was actually a purpose behind the scene of Hope being severely beaten in the previous episode - and, that the show isn't going to waste any time in getting to it. Of course, the revelation that Hope was pregnant with Kilgrave's child, and that she had actually paid another prisoner to beat her in the hope that it would cause a miscarriage, is still a very disturbing one - but, it fits with what we have seen of Hope's story, so far, so it doesn't feel gratuitous, at least.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E04 - 'Brujo'

Ash vs Evil Dead continues to move at a rapid pace as we come to the fourth episode of the season. Amanda found herself trapped in the 'Books from Beyond' storeroom with a Deadite, only to be saved, at the last possible moment, by Ruby. Ash, Pablo, and Kelly, meanwhile, made their way toward Pablo's shaman uncle, hoping to find more answers, only to find themselves pursued by a cloud of demonic smoke.

The cloud of smoke may, in fact, be the most interesting aspect of the episode when you consider the clear implication that this smoke is what character's have actually been reacting to whenever the camera came rushing toward them during the franchise's iconic 'first-person chase' scenes. The exact nature of this smoke is still a mystery, of course - but, it is interesting to finally have a clear idea of what is going on behind the camera during these sequences. The sight of this massive cloud of smoke chasing their car down the high-way was certainly a visually impressive image. Although, I do have to admit that the CGI work that went into that brief shot of a car being tossed aside by the smoke was a little shaky.

Fortunately, though, Pablo's uncle also turns out to be a very real shaman, with very real power - as it is only the protective wards that he has placed around his property that allowed them to escape.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E05 - 'AKA The Sandwich Saved Me'

The fifth episode of Jessica Jones provided us with the best indication we have seen, so far, of the damage that Kilgrave does to the people he preys on. That could, in fact, even be the predominant theme of the episode, as a whole - with Jessica, herself, drawing attention to the 'Before Kilgrave/After Kilgrave' distinction as she looked at a picture of her drug-addled neighbour, Malcolm (Eka Darville), from only a few months earlier. The picture showed a healthy, and happy, young man working toward a career as a social worker - though, now, he is a drug addict set to spy on Jessica, and to take photos of her for Kilgrave.

Review - 'Doctor Who', S09E10 - 'Face the Raven'

I still have absolutely no idea what to make of the end of the previous episode of Doctor Who. I'm, also, still very confused by the way in which that strange, and very bleak, ending was simply left hanging as we were moved directly into an entirely new story. I'm still convinced that it is a plot-line we are going to be returning to, sometime - though, for now, I suppose we just have to put the previous episode aside and accept whatever this new episode has in sore for us.

Returning from another of their, seemingly regular, off-camera adventures, the Doctor and Clara are caught by surprise when the phone on the TARDIS suddenly starts ringing - something that usually only signals bad news, since so few people have the number and they only tend to call when they need help. This time, it turns out that the call is from Rigsy (Joivan Wade), a returning character from one of the more interesting episodes from last season (the one with the two-dimensional aliens). The Doctor is a little bothered that Clara would hand out the TARDIS's phone number - but, it turns out that Rigsy does have a genuine problem. He has a number tattooed on his neck that seems to be counting down on its own, and no memory of how he got it - or, even, of anything that had happened to him the day before. It's hardly the most imaginative set-up for a new story you could think of - but, it is still well don, here. And, also, the sight of that tattoo slowly counting down, with the numbers shifting and changing, makes for a great image.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E04 - 'AKA 99 Friends'

Realising that Kilgrave has been watching her for weeks, now, Jessica's paranoia begins to get out of hand as we move into the fourth episode. Kilgrave's spy could, after all, turn out to be just about anyone - anyone innocent bystander who could have suddenly found themselves compelled to follow Jessica, and take photographs of her, without truly understand why. Jessica is determined whoever it might be that is spying on her for Kilgrave, though - believing that it could, quite possibly, give her another means of tracking Kilgrave down. Her own experience with Kilgrave, after all, taught her that the effects of his mind-control abilities wear after eventually - so, they would have to meet regularly so that Kilgrave can 'top them up'.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E03 - 'AKA It's Called Whiskey'

After what, I suppose, we are left to assume had been a mutually unsatisfying one-night stand in the first episode, the realisation that they both possess superpowers seems to be more than enough to convince Jessica and Luke to give it another try as the third episode picks up right where the second left off. It makes sense, of course. These are two people who are clearly every attracted to each other, but who are both too used to the idea that they have to hold back to avoid hurting the people around them - the thought that they don't have to have to hold back with each other is bound to be appealing (though, to be fair, the way in which Jessica tore off Luke's shirt felt like something out of a much cheesier show than this one has been, so far).

So, good for them, I guess. They were obviously enjoying themselves. Hell, they even managed to break Luke's bed.

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E02 - 'AKA Crush Syndrome'

The previous episode of Jessica Jones had ended with the very clear indication that everything Kilgrave had done to Hope (Erin Moriarity), the young woman who Jessica had been hired to find, had all been intended as a part of Kilgrave's elaborate plan to hurt Jessica. It had been Kilgrave himself, after all, who had directed Hope's parents to Jessica - and, it was Kilgrave's own intent to leave Hope somewhere he knew Jessica would find her. The fact that he had left Hope with a final order to murder her own parents had seemed like the final part in this phase of whatever Kilgrave has planned for Jessica.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Review - 'Jessica Jones', S01E01 - 'AKA Ladies Night'

With all the talk, over the past few months, about how Netflix's latest Marvel series, Jessica Jones, was going to be moving into thematically darker territory than even Daredevil was willing to delve into, I have to admit that I had actually grown a little concerned about this new series. 'Grim' and 'dark' aren't necessarily the same thing as 'mature', after all - and, there is often a very fine line between taking on darker subject-matter in a way that is done well, and taking it on in a way that just feels gratuitous. I was genuinely a little concerned that this could turn out to be a series which revelled in its darker themes, simply for shock value.

While there is, of course, still plenty of time for my concerns about Jessica Jones to be proven right, I can now safely say that it doesn't happen in the first episode, at least.

Review - 'Daredevil', S01E13 - 'Daredevil'

And, so, we reach the final episode of the first season of Daredevil. The one where Matt Murdock finally takes on his new superhero persona - and, the one where Wilson Fisk finally becomes the true 'Kingpin'.

The thing that has always been so fascinating about Wilson Fisk, throughout the season, is that he did genuinely seems to be believed that was he was doing was for the good of Hell's Kitchen - it was just that, for obviously reasons, most others would disagree. It was this, as much as anything, that made him into such a fascinatingly complex figure. As well as that, there was all the character's clear loneliness, and sense of isolation - and, the clear indication that the love that has grown between Wilson and Vanessa throughout the season is, actually, very genuine. It was this, more than anything, that made him such an oddly sympathetic character. Honestly, having Wilson Fisk frantically trying to propose to Vanessa while in the process of being arrested for his crimes managed to be both funny and sad - funny because it was such an absurd moment, but sad because it seemed to indicated that something that he had come to value was coming to an end. But, of course, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Review - 'Daredevil', S01E12 - 'The Ones We Leave Behind'

In the previous episode, we saw that Karen was, under the right circumstances, quite capable of crossing a line that Matt Murdock has, so far, refused to cross. With her life at risk, she grabbed hold of the first opportunity she was provided with to snatch up a gun and shoot Wesley - leaving him laying dead, as she made her escape. There is, of course, a strong argument to be made, here, that she simply did what was necessary - after all, she does not have Matt's enhanced sense, or his martial arts experience. All she really had was the gun she was able to snatch while Wesley was preoccupied with trying to intimidate her - that, and her willingness to use it.

Review - 'Arrow', S04E07 - 'Brotherhood'

It's probably fair to say that I didn't dislike the third season of Arrow quite as much as some other viewers seemed to - but, still, I do have to admit that it did have more than it's share of weaker elements. So far, though, the fourth season has been a significant improvement in a variety of ways - and, the season's seventh episode may very well be the best, so far.

The fact that this was going to be an episode focused largely on John Diggle was the first clear highlight, for me. Diggle has always been a strong presence on the show - a great character who has, unfortunately, often seemed underutilised. Here, though, we have an episode that directly draws directly from Diggle's own recent past by finally providing some clear answers regarding the assassination of Diggle's brother years earlier - though, of course, the answers we are given aren't necessarily ones that Diggle, or the audience, were expecting.

It was only recently that Diggle learnt that his brother might not have been the good, and honourable, man that he had always believed him to be - with the files that Quentin Lance has managed to acquire for Diggle suggesting that his brother had been heavily involved in a variety of illegal activities. Now, though, Diggle learns that his brother actually wasn't even dead, after all - as, during another confrontation between 'Team Arrow' and Damian Darhk's soldiers, Diggle has the opportunity to unmask one of these 'Ghosts' only to learn that it was Andy Diggle (Eugene Byrd), himself - seemingly alive and well, and working for Damian Darhk.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Review - 'Daredevil', S01E11 - 'The Path of the Righteous'

It was interesting to see the pieces begin to fall into place for Matt, in this episode. As we move closer to the end of the season, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Matt Murdock is coming closer to that moment when he finally takes on the identity of 'Daredevil'.