Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E08 - 'Ashes to Ashes'

Whatever the end-point for this first season of Ash vs Evil Dead is intended to be, it seems as though the series took a significant step in that direction with this episode, as Ash finds himself back at the cabin where all of his troubles began. It was something that the audience must have suspected was coming from the very beginning, of course - after all, to not revisit the iconic setting of the first two films would have felt like too much of a wasted opportunity. It was something that many fans probably would have argued simply needed to happen - and, that fact seemed to have been confirmed by the show, itself, as Ash learnt that the cabin was exactly where he needed to go to undo the damage that he had unwittingly caused.

So, Ash's eventual return to that secluded cabin was all set to be a big moment for the series. And, it is definitely treated in that regard in the episode's opening moments, as Ash seems to display hesitance, and genuine fear, for the first time. Of course, it turns out that, despite his best efforts, Ash wasn't going to be alone at the cabin for long.

With the previous episode making such a big deal out of Ash's surprisingly selfless decision to leave his team behind, in order to spare them the gruesome deaths that he had every reason to believe would come for them at the cabin, it did feel like a bit of an anti-climax to have Amanda turn up so soon after Ash, himself. Honestly, the way that whole sequence played out was strange - with Ash only just arriving, and reaching the cabin's front door, before turning to find Amanda just behind him. It gave the, somewhat implausible, impression that she had actually been trailing along behind Ash, without him noticing, the entire time - and, left me suspecting that her sudden appearance might have actually turned out to be a Deadite trick, of some sort. It seemed like such a strongly hinted at development, in fact, that I actually found myself feeling a little disappointed when it soon became obvious that this wasn't going to be the case - and, that this was really Amanda.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Film Review - 'Sword of Desperation'

Sword of Desperation is a movie about Samurai, - and, one that features a central protagonist who we are told, early on, happens to be an expert swordsman. It even has the word 'sword' right there, in the title. So, going in without any prior knowledge, it would probably seem perfectly fair to assume that the film you are about to watch would turn out to be some violent and action-focused epic.

With that in mind, it's probably worth pointing out right from the start that this isn't really the sort of film that Sword of Desperation is. It would be more accurate to think of the film as a historical drama - a period piece which just happens to be based around Samurai. It is a slow-moving and thoughtful sort of film, really. The type of film that isn't afraid to linger on the quiet moments between its cast. The film's focus is kept entirely on its somber and stoic central protagonist - a man with a clearly troubled past. It is, in the end, really something of a reflection on that trait of absolute loyalty to one's lord which defines the classic image of a Samurai.

With all of that being said, though, the film does all lead toward a seemingly inevitable, and fantastically shot, action set-piece at its conclusion - one that is, really, everything that a fan could want. But, that single scene aside, the film's primary purpose is clearly to offer a faithful and accurate recreation of the life of a Samurai living on the Edo period of Japan.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Film Review - 'Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow'

The human race is slowly, but surely, losing a long and drawn out war against an invading alien race. Millions have already died while the Mimics, named for their ability to anticipate and adapt to any strategy the human military try to use against them, seem unstoppable. In the course of the entire war, there has only been one significant victory for the human race - where, in her first battle, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) somehow managed to kill hundreds of the creatures (earning the dual nicknames the 'Angel of Verdun' and 'Full Metal Bitch' in the process).

In the midst of all of this, we meet Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), an officer who has never seen actual combat, and who is determined to keep it that way. Cage's role is purely PR - spinning the human race's war efforts to the media as best he can. When Cage is sent to London and placed under the command of General Brigham (Brandon Gleeson), though, he learns of a plan to send him to the front line of the next big battle, in order to document the planned battle on the beaches of Normandy as part of the military's propaganda campaign. Cage, naturally, isn't interested in putting himself at risk - even going as far as trying to blackmail the General in his efforts to talk his way out of the assignment. Though, Cage only succeeds in getting himself arrested. Now, instead of simply documenting the battle, General Brigham pulls a few strings to make sure that Cage will have to fight in it - a form of revenge that the General probably found amusingly fitting.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E07 - 'Fire in the Hole'

The first season of Ash vs Evil Dead is only going to be ten episodes long - so, it feels like it is well past time that some sort of focus. Thankfully, Ash's realisation that he would need to return to that original cabin in the woods, in the previous episode, did manage to give us a clearly defined end-point, at least. And, although this episode was, essentially, little more than another in a series of largely episode encounters with demonic creatures, it did have the benefit of context. Ash's desire, here, was the reach out to some potential allies, and secure some much needed new weaponry, as he prepared for that final confrontation at the cabin - so, while this was all simply another detour, it still managed to feel like one that actually had a sense of purpose behind it.

Here, Ash and his growing support team (with Pablo and Kelly being joined by Amanda) made their way out to secluded militia camp briefly mentioned in the previous episode - believing that Ash's old buddy, Lem (Peter Feeney) would be able to introduce them. Unfortunately, by the time they actually arrive Lem has already been possessed by a Deadite, and he has made his own way to the militia camp. Currently under attack by a creature that they don't understand, this group of backwoods survivalists are even less inclined to trust a group of outsides than they might have been, otherwise.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E09 - 'Dark Waters'

The Flash brought us to its mid-season break with an episode that, while perfectly entertaining on its own, felt much more like a standard episode than it did any sort of finale. Arrow, on the other hand, has managed to bring us to this point in its own season with an episode that provided all of the drama and tension that its spin-off seemed to somewhat lack.

Oliver's mayoral campaign promise to clean up to the pollution if Star City's bay may have placed him publicly at odds with Damian Darhk - but, it also seems to have won him the approval of the city's residents. There were even an impressively large number of volunteers eager to turn up and take part in the clean-up operation - and, as the episode opens, we see this operation in progress, with Oliver feeling some well-deserved pride in what he had been able to achieve. Everything seems to be going quite well - at least, until the clean-up project is suddenly attacked, and many of the innocent volunteers are left seriously injured.

Understandably furious, and knowing Damian Darhk must have been the one behind the attack, Oliver soon comes to the conclusion that the only way he might be able to hurt Darhk would be to strip away the secrecy that he depends on, and draw him out into the open. Despite knowing that doing so would make Oliver, and everyone close to him, a public target, Oliver's team agrees - and so, Oliver arranges a public press conference in which he reveals Damian Darhk's identity as the leader of the 'Ghosts' who have been terrorising Star City, in the hope of turning the city against him.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Review - 'The Flash', S02E09 - 'Running to Stand Still'

As mid-season finale's go, this episode of The Flash felt relatively low-key - lacking in much of the tension and drama that we had in the episode that brought us to last years mid-season break. Barry's encounter with Zoom, a few episodes ago, felt like it would have been a much more appropriate way to end things, here - what with it being every bit as tense a confrontation as Barry's first official run-in with the Reverse-Flash. But, maybe that's why the decision was made to place that episode earlier in the season? Maybe it was felt that the two episodes were simply too similar?

Whatever the reason, the tense and dramatic confrontation which could have brought us to the break actually happened a few episodes ago - and, what we have in its place is, essentially, a 'Christmas' episode. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course - this is still a very entertaining episode. It is simply an episode that lacks much of the tension that the audience may have been expecting.

But, in saying that, the episode makes up for it by simply being a lot of fun - as you might expect, given that this is the episode were Mark Hamill returns to play the Trickster, once more.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E06 - 'The Killer of Killers'

The strangest aspect of the fact that Ash vs Evil Dead limits itself to half-hour episodes is the idea that each episode will be required to significantly limit its scope. So far, it has seemed as though each episode has really only had enough room for a single encounter, of a single confrontation. This hasn't actually been a problem for the series, so far, to be fair - and, in fact, the previous three episode actually fit together quite nicely to form a plot-arc concerning the team's battle with the demon, Eligos. And, even the first two episodes of the season were set up to lead into each other in a way that maintained some sense of progress and forward momentum.

But, with this episode, we have something of a transitional period between the 'Eligos' arc, and whatever is coming next. This is a self-contained 'filler' episode, basically - and, as such, it becomes the strongest argument, so far, against the creator's decision to limit themselves to such short episodes. Not because of any dip in quality, of course. Rather, it's because the episode simply feels a bit slight - something which is especially noticeable coming right after three episodes devoted to a single story-arc.

Leaving behind the burning remains of Pablo's uncle, Ash, Kelly, and Pablo find their way to a nearby diner, where they plan their next move. Ash has come to realise that a trip back to that original cabin in the woods seems to be in his immediate future - but, displaying a nice bit of concern for his new friends, he announces that he plans on going alone. Kelly and Pablo aren't willing to be left behind, though - with Kelly, in particular, seeming more angry and determined after her first-hand experience with demonic possession.

Review - 'Doctor Who', S09E12 - 'Hell Bent'

So, it turns out that everything we had seen and heard about this episode before it actually became available was a classic case of deliberate misdirection. We were led to believe that this final episode of the ninth season of Doctor Who would be tense and exciting - and, that it would concern itself primarily with the Doctor's revenge against his own people. Because, of course, that was the big revelation that we ended the previous episode with - that the ones who had worked so hard to lure the Doctor into such an elaborate trap were the Doctor's fellow Time Lords.

By the time that the Doctor had been able to escape from that strange prison (which, it turned out, existed within the Confession Dial that had been featured throughout the season), he had clearly seemed to be angry enough to turn on his own people. Even the promotional trailer for this episode had been cut together in a way that made it look as though this was exactly how things were going to play out.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Film Review - 'No One Knows About Persian Cats'

Ashkan and Negar are young musicians, and a part of a thriving underground music scene in modern Tehran. They live in a world were performers require permits to be allowed to actually play their music, and where musicians who attempt to play without a permit risk arrest if they are caught. Each of the two has, in fact, previously spent time in jail for the sake of their music - and, they are each clearly prepared to do so again, if necessary.

The two musicians are, perhaps understandably, eager to leave Iran in order to be able to perform elsewhere – particularly, at an indie-rock festival to be held in London which they are hoping to be able to attend. But first, they need money. They need to arrange for passports and visas. And, perhaps most importantly, they need a band.

They are aided to Nader, a fast-talking (quite literally), and somewhat shady, businessman who seems to know how to manoeuvre around the rigid laws of Iran. Nader is suitably impressed by their music, and so sets about doing all he can to help them – putting them in contact with someone that can arrange fake passports, as well as introducing them to a wide variety of different Iranian bands.

This is a film which is, at heart, really about the music. The search for band-mates is clearly used as a means of weaving in a variety of performances from actual Iranian musicians – and, the film will quite unashamedly bring things to a temporary halt in order to let the performance play out. One thought that occurred to me, early on, was that the film had actually started to feel like a more serious and dramatic take on The Blues Brothers - what with the obvious emphasis on 'putting a band together', and a story that was really only present to serve the music. It's probably a good thing, then, that the music is actually very good.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E08 - 'Legends of Yesterday'

The first part of this year's The Flash and Arrow cross-over event was, admittedly, a bit of a mess. It has some fantastic moments, sure - but, it was saddled with the task of introducing a variety of new plot-elements, while also finding space for a sub-plot to advance the show's own seasonal arc. It was a fairly straightforward example of an episode spreading itself too thin, in the end. But, as we move into the second half of the cross-over, with the latest episode of Arrow, we can do so knowing that all of the necessary set-up is out of the way - which will, hopefully, result in a much more focused episode.

Fortunately, that does seem to be the case, here, as we open with a flash-back to ancient Egypt, for a brief glimpse at the first lives of Hawkman and Hawkgirl - along with Vandal Savage, himself. A plot-line concerning continuously reincarnated lovers, and the immortal man-man who repeatedly murders them, is really just the latest in a long series of blows to the commitment to 'realism' we once had with the first season of Arrow - but, actually taking us all the way back there was still unexpected. At this point, I think that the creators have proven that they're willing to do just about anything.

In the present, 'Team Flash' and 'Team Arrow' are still united in their efforts to protect Kendra and Carter from Vandal Savage - though, for the moment, they are forced to content themselves with hiding out on a farm until they are able to learn something of use. Barry and Oliver had, after all, only barely been able to escape from Savage once he had gotten his hands on the Staff of Horus in their last encounter - and, that had only been because Savage was momentarily distracted when he had sensed Kendra's abilities emerging.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review - 'The Flash', - S02E08 - 'Legends of Today'

While last year's big cross-over event, essentially, boiled down to nothing more complicated than a pair of loosely connected stories, it had still been fun to see the cast of characters from each show interact with his other. This year's cross-over event, though, seems to have set its sights a little higher - telling a single story which spans both shows while, at the same time, properly setting the scene for Legends of Tomorrow when it begins early next year, by introducing us to its villain.

Here, the focus of the story is Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee), who finds herself targeted by Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) - an extremely dangerous, and seemingly immortal, figure who has arrived in Central City to kill her. Fortunately, though, Cisco happened to be with her when Savage made his attack - and, Cisco was able to call Barry. Following a brief struggle, Savage makes his escape, and Kendra is safe, for the moment. Barry, somehow (honestly, given the brief encounter, this isn't very clear), comes to the conclusion that Vandal Savage's abilities are mystical in nature and, therefore, well beyond his own experience - leading to the decision to take Kendra to Star City for help. But, of course, Vandal Savage follows.