Thursday, 31 March 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E17 - 'Flash Back'

With the previous ending with Cisco's (not entirely accurate) revelation that Jay Garrick, the man who they had all grown to trust, had actually been Zoom all along, Barry seems to be more committed than even to finding some way to improve his speed. Despite his best efforts, though, it seems that no amount of research will allow him to find a way to close the significant gap between his own speed and that of the other speedster he had encountered.

After witnessing what had happened to Trajectory, in the previous episode, Barry has come to accept that Velocity-9 simply isn't an option – but, he is clearly running out of idea. But, of course, inspiration often seems to come from the strangest places – so, it feels oddly fitting that an almost entirely unrelated conversation with Wally West will be the catalyst that allows Barry to come up with a new plan of action.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Review - '11.22.63', Episode 7 - 'Soldier Boy'

The one concern I had, going in to this episode of 11.22.63, was exactly how much emphasis the series intended on placing on Jake's injuries – and, in particular, on the implications of his potential memory loss. It had just struck me as too obvious of a delaying tactic, intended to add some extra tension to the series, as a whole – and, it had come across as a little contrived.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, Jake's memory loss did go on to become a significant feature of the penultimate episode of 11.22.63 – leaving him struggling to recall even the most basic details of his mission, and of the life he had managed to build for himself in the 1960s. He had even managed to forget his long-time partner, Bill Turcote, entirely – who, thanks to this own machinations, was currently locked away in a mental institution.

Bill's fate, in this episode, struck me as especially tragic, given the fact that he had always struck me as such a genuinely sympathetic character. With the series skipping over as much time as it had, it can be easy to forget that these two men had been working together, and supporting each other, for a couple of years before they had their sudden, and not entirely convincing, falling out. The fact that, in all of that time, we were never really given the opportunity to see Bill as a genuine asset to Jake, and his mission, feels like much more the fault of the show's basic structure, and the writers, than it does either character, himself, or George MacKay's performance. This is, after all, a young man who was willing to devote a fairly significant portion of his life to Jake's mission.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E13 - 'A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen'

Endings are hard – I can understand that. Coming up with a truly satisfying end can be the most difficult part of telling a good story.

Around this time, last year, I remember being a little bit disappointed by the way in which the first season of Daredevil ended. It had been a serviceable enough ending, if I remember correctly – but, it hadn't struck me as being on quite the same level as the rest of the season, up until that point. It had just seemed to lack something of the dramatic tension that the season had been so careful to build up. Unfortunately, as it turns out, I had a similar reaction to the final episode of this season, also.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E12 - 'The Dark at the End of the Tunnel'

The second season of Daredevil has contained more than its fair share of fantastic moments, overall. Honestly, looking back over the season so far, there isn't been a single weak or disappointing episode – which, on the surface, would have to make this season something of an improvement over the first, which did have its occasional weak-points.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E11 - '.380'

With all of that build-up to the Hand's attack on the hospital, at the end of the previous episode, it was actually a little disappointing to see it play out in a somewhat underwhelming action sequence, here. I can understand, of course, that this wasn't ever intended to exist on the same level as the more pivotal sequences – but, the staging of the scene and the choreography of the action both just seemed to be a little off. Claire's willingness to take on highly trained ninjas, alongside Matt, was another great little character defining moment for her, though – and, Matt's desperate leap from a window in order to save her, after she had been shoved out, was pretty great.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E10 - 'The Man in the Box'

After so many genuinely tense and exciting episodes, it feels like a bit of a shame to come to an episode that slows things down as much as this one does – especially with the end of the season drawing so close. Coming at this point in the season, an episode such as this one simply feels like too abrupt a break in the momentum that the previous episodes have managed to build up. At the same time, though, I suppose I can understand why it might have felt necessary – after all, with such a rapid stream of revelations and new developments, giving the characters (as well as the audience) a bit of breathing room to properly process everything that has happened is actually quite useful. Of course, that doesn't really change the fact that this is might be one of the slowest paced episodes of the season.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E09 - 'Seven Minutes in Heaven'

While I had no real way of knowing, for certain, whether Wilson Fisk would make an appearance in this season of Daredevil, I can honestly say that I would have been pretty disappointed if he hadn't. He is, quite simply, much too important a character (and, Vincent D'Onofrio did too good a job of playing him) to be set aside for an entire season. Because of this, the previous episode's reveal that it was actually Wilson Fisk behind Frank Castle's unexpected decision to derail his own trial (all so that the two men would have an opportunity to meet, face-to-face) was definitely a welcome one.

Review - 'Arrow', S04E16 - 'Broken Hearts'

This season's initial promise of an Oliver Queen committed to a happier and more hopeful outlook seems to have momentarily set aside as we move firmly into 'post break-up' territory with Oliver and Felicity.

Here, we see Oliver at what might be his lowest point, so far, as he is forced to accept that his chance at a happy life with Felicity may have been lost – ruined by his own insistence on keeping secrets from the woman he intended on marrying. Felicity, meanwhile, seems to decided to hide whatever she might be feeling behind an almost aggressively cheerful mask, while taking passive-aggressive pot-shots at Oliver whenever the opportunity presents itself.

It all feels very real, of course (or, at least, it does in a heightened and melodramatic sort of way) – but, its not exactly a lot of fun to watch. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards were as good as they have always been at portraying this phase of their respective character's increasingly complicated relationship, of course – but, as someone who has only ever been vaguely tolerant of the time spent on it in the past, I can't really say that I felt all that invested in what I was seeing, here. It's not that I have any real issues with romantic sub-plots, in general – I've just never been a fan of the overly melodramatic way that romance is handled on the sorts of shows that The CW puts out. In that regard, at least, I suppose I just don't fit the target demographic.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E16 - 'Trajectory'

The Flash returned after its month-long hiatus with an episode that, at first, felt distinctly 'stand-alone' in nature - something which would have felt especially disappointing to those in the audience still impatiently waiting for some elaboration on the big reveal, regarding Zoom's identity, from a couple of episodes ago. While this episode may not have connected to the 'Zoom' plot-line that has been driving this season directly, though, it did ultimately make room for some surprising, and indirect, connections which managed to push things forward on that front, regardless.

As the episode opens, Barry is still clearly obsessed with his efforts to become faster, in preparation for his eventual return to Earth-2, and his re-match with Zoom. His latest effort, we soon learn, involves attempting to build up enough momentum to leap over an impressively wide canyon - something which, in a scene which manages to be both tense and amusing, he ultimately fails to achieve (leaving him in need of a quick rescue from Cisco and his net-carrying drones). It was a great moment, overall - and, one that manages to adequately display Barry's own determination, without forgetting the humour that makes this group of characters so endearing.

Review - '11.22.63', Episode 6 - 'Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald'

Taking the opportunity to jump forward in time, once more, the sixth episode of 11.22.63 picks up six months after the attempted murder of Jake and Sadie, and Bill's failure to identify the shooter at the attempted assassination of General Edwin Walker. It also, interestingly enough, allowed the episode to skip over the immediate consequences of Jake's decision to reveal the truth to Sadie - moving ahead to a point in time where Jake has, presumably, managed to convince Sadie that he is actually from the future, and that he isn't simply crazy (while I'm not entirely sure I buy this sudden transition, I do have to admit that there is something endearing about Sadie's constant requests for Jake to tell her something about the future).

While they may have lost their only chance at a clear lead, Jake obviously isn't ready to give up - although, it seems that Bill might be.

Bill hasn't exactly been the most useful partner that Jake could have had - but, in the past, his earnest desire to help and his tragic back-story has, at least, made him a somewhat sympathetic figure. The impression that I have always had, regarding their partnership, is that Jake was motivated as much by this same sympathy as he was by the desire to have some back-up when he agreed to let Bill help. The previous episode ending with Bill's very genuine feelings of guilt and remorse about letting himself be distracted was also a strong moment for the character.

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E08 - 'Guilty As Sin'

I think that my main issue with Matt and Elektra's plot-line over the past couple of episodes is the fact that the audience already knows more than they seem to. It was, for example, already clearly indicated that they weren't really dealing with the Yakuza, despite what Matt may have still believed - and, it was also fairly obvious that this whole story-line would become much more interesting once we were finally able to move beyond this 'red herring'.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E07 - 'Semper Fidelis'

Over the past couple of episodes, Daredevil seems to have settled into a comfortable groove with its telling of two very distinct, yet equally fascinating, stories. First, we have Elektra drawing Matt into an increasingly tangled web as they investigate Roxxon Corporation, and its connections to the Yakuza. Then, we also have the trial of Frank Castle, which is going ahead despite Foggy's best efforts, following Frank's unexpected decision to plead 'not guilty'.

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E06 - 'Regrets Only'

The previous episode of Daredevil might have taken its time, somewhat, in developing Elektra, as a character, and in revealing the details of her past relationship with Matt to the audience - but, this episode wastes no time in picking up on the plot-threads set in motion, there. Beginning with the Yakuza riding through the streets of Hell's Kitchen, the episode soon gets right to the action - providing the audience with a great little action sequence that gives us our first proper look at Elektra, in action. Sure, it might have come across as a little silly that this group of hardened thugs, apparently, only brought a single gun with them (leading to a straight-forward action sequence when that gun is, inevitably, taken from them) - but, it was still a scene as well-choreographed as anything else we have seen on Daredevil, so I'm willing to let that little detail slide.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E05 - 'Kinbaku'

When taken together, it is easy to imagine the first four episode of this season of Daredevil serving as its own, essentially self-contained, mini-series. There were still loose ends and unanswered questions, of course - and, there is still plenty of room for further development for the Punisher, as a character. But, overall, those four episodes told a clearly defined story which reached a logical conclusion.

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E04 - 'Penny and Dime'

After mistakenly labelling the previous episode as the end of what, I suppose, you could call the 'Daredevil v Punisher' arc in my last review, I do have to admit that this episode actually felt like a much more fitting conclusion to that particular story-line. There was such a strong sense of finality to this episode, in fact, that I could have easily imagined it serving as a perfectly respectable season final - yet, of course, we haven't even reached the half-way point of the season, yet. This is especially interesting, to me, since it clearly suggest that this second season, as a whole, is set to be structured very differently to what we saw in either the first season of Daredevil or Jessica Jones - with the season being made up of mini-arcs which, while connected, are also essentially self-contained.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E03 - 'New York's Finest'

While the season's first two episodes really boiled down to setting the stage for tense physical confrontations between these two very different Marvel characters, the third makes the very deliberate decision to slow things down. The intent here, obviously, is to take the opportunity to delve right into the extreme ideological differences which separate these two men in their efforts to do what the believe to be right - with Daredevil's Catholic faith and his belief in justice coming up against the Punisher's single-minded willingness to simply kill the people he believes deserve to die. Most interesting, though, is the fact that all of this revolves around what it, essentially, a recreation of what could very well be one of the greatest moments that the two characters have ever shared in the pages of the comic-books.

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E02 - 'Dogs to a Gunfight'

The first confrontation between Daredevil and the Punisher, which ended the previous episode, did a fantastic job of establishing the fact that these two characters operate on a same level - and, sure, the 'cliffhanger' ending was a bit of an unnecessary flourish (since, of course, there was never any doubt that Matt would survive), but that entire action sequence was still very impressive, overall. The first episode of this season of Daredevil really didn't waste any time in getting straight to the action - and, thankfully, the second episode does an admirable job of maintaining that momentum.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E01 - 'Bang'

While there may have been the occasional, very brief, dip in quality over the course of its first season, Daredevil still managed to pretty fantastic, overall. It was a great introduction to this darker and grittier corner of Marvel's ever-expanding cinematic universe set in motion by Marvel's deal with Netflix (which was eventually followed by the equally impressive Jessica Jones) - and, it certainly felt as though it would be a tough act to follow.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Film Review - 'Headhunters'

By day, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a corporate headhunter renowned for his ability to find the best person for a particular job - but, by night, Roger freelances as a professional art thief. His strategy is simple. First, he carefully maneuvers conversations with wealthy clients to the topic of art, in order to find out whether they happen to have any expensive pieces in their collection. Next, he makes a series of 'harmless' inquiries to find out when they're next going to be out of town. Then, while they're gone, he breaks in to their houses and steals the piece of art - replacing it with a copy, and selling the original. With his partner, Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander), able to use his position at a security company to temporarily shut off the security system in his target's house during the burglary, Roger's criminal activities are practically untraceable.

Despite his carefully maintained outward appearance of confidence, Roger is actually a man plagued by insecurities - particularly with regard to his beautiful wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund). Everything he does, including his art theft, seems motivated by his belief that she will inevitably leave him if he cannot maintain their high-class life-style. His latest efforts involve financing the opening of Diana's own art gallery - something which is clearly putting a fair amount of strain on his expenses.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Review - '11.22.63', Episode 5 - 'The Truth'

11.22.63 is a series only set to last for eight episodes - so, it would be fair to go in assuming that the creator's would have a vested interest in keeping things moving forward at a fairly steady pace. At the same time, though, the basic structure of its central plot-line seems to have been deliberately set-up in such a way that there is plenty of room left to explore its various side-plots.

Overall, the series has done a fairly good job of maintaining a proper sense of balance between its various elements. Jake's blossoming romance with Sadie has managed to add a very genuine emotional core to the series that it may have lacked, otherwise - largely due to the natural chemistry that James Franco and Sarah Gadon have been able to display whenever they are on screen, together. At the same time, there has also been enough attention paid to the mission to prevent JFK's assassination that the series has never actually lost sight of its intended end-point.

But, the series has also gone out of its way to keep those elements separate - to such an extent that it has often felt as though they could easily be scenes from two entirely different sorts of shows. The fifth episode of 11.22.63, though, is clearly intent on changing that.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Film Review - 'Jackpot'

Imagine if The Usual Suspects were directed by Quentin Tarantino. That might be overselling this darkly comic Norwegian crime film a bit, sure, but the comparison still stands. Jackpot (Arme Riddere) does, after all, blend the basic premise of a story revealed through flash-backs during the coarse of a police interrogation, made famous by The Usual Suspects, with the occasionally extreme (and, occasionally disturbingly amusing) use of violence which Quentin Tarantino has managed to refine into something of an art-form. That being said, though, Jackpot is also a film that is also perfectly capable of standing on its own - taking those different elements, and blending them together into a genuinely entertaining, if absurdly violent, crime caper.

The tone of the film is set right from the opening scene - with a group of the most generic 'college students out for a good time' stereotypes imaginable (the sort of guys who randomly exchange 'high-fives', for no apparent reason - that's really all the characterisation they are given, here) stop off at a strip-club in Sweden, as part of their sordid adventures. They head in, looking to enjoy a show, only to find themselves themselves confronted by a room full of men with guns. Their arrival seems to be all it takes to set things off - as the men promptly open fire.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E08 - 'Night of the Hawk'

Following the new lead uncovered at the end of the previous episode, Rip Hunter set a course for the 1950s as the latest episode of Legends of Tomorrow began. It was, of course, just another in a series of increasingly impressive shifts in both location and tone. Following up episodes devoted to exploring the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the future dystopia of a city overrun by crime, and a ship stranded in deep-space with something as seemingly mundane as small-town America seems to suggest that the creator's of this series are becoming increasingly comfortable with its outlandish premise - and, it is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for when Legends of Tomorrow was first announced.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Some Thoughts About The New 'Ghostbusters' Film.

Ghostbusters is one of my favourite films. It has been for a very long time. The franchise, as a whole, is one that has always appealed to me. Ghostbusters 2, despite not being able to meet the standards set by the original, is still a film that I have always enjoyed - and, the animated series, The Real Ghostbusters (given that title due to some hilariously convoluted rights issues) has always been another of my favourites.

The fact that I never quite managed to find the time to play the video game that came out a few years ago (which reunited much of film's original cast) has become something of a private shame, for me. I've heard nothing but good thing about that game, though - so, I'm still adamant that I want to play it for myself, at some point.

Game Review - 'BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea, Episode 2'

Burial at Sea: Episode 2 marked the end of the BioShock franchise - at least, as far as Ken Levine and Irrational Games were concerned. It was intended not only as the final piece of the puzzle for the increasingly complex tale, but also the final project for Irrational Games. So, naturally, the pressure to ensure that it made for a worthy conclusion must have been fairly high.

With Booker DeWitt's story, essentially, over and done with, Burial at Sea: Episode 2 casts the player in the role of Elizabeth, herself - picking up shortly after the end of the first part. Of course, something seems to have gone wrong. Elizabeth can't seem to remember why she came back to Rapture, or what she had intended to do once she got there. And, her ability to open doorways to other dimensions seems to have vanished. All she knows is that she seems to be stuck in Rapture, and that Sally, the young girl from the previous episode, is still in danger, and needs her help.

Game Review - 'BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea, Episode 1'

Burial at Sea wasn't the first piece of downloadable content to be released for Irrational Game's first-person shooter, BioShock Infinite. But, it is the first piece of story-driven content to be added - so, it was the first that I was actually interested in having a look at.

One thing that did genuinely concern me about the idea of story-driven DLC for BioShock Infinite, though, was how well it would actually fit with the story that had already been told. If you've played BioShock Infinite through to the end, then you know that things were wrapped up pretty neatly. Sure, there may have been some dangling plot-threads left over - but, by the end, they were also essentially meaningless. After all, by the end of the original game the time-line had been altered to such an extent that Columbia didn't even exist anymore - and, more importantly, it never had. Or, at least, that is how it seemed at the time. Focusing the DLC on a side character like Daisy Fitzroy, and the tension between the Founders of Columbia and the Vox Populi, may have seemed like a possibility back when people began speculating - but, it would have also been entirely superfluous.

Game Review - 'BioShock Infinite'

I don't care much for first-person shooters. That might be an odd way to start a review of one - but, it's true. For every one that I've willingly played over the years, there are a handful of others that I avoided like I might catch something from them. And, for those that I enjoyed? I enjoyed them in spite of the fact that the were FPS games - not because of it. So, why am I owning up to this in the opening paragraph of this review? Well, so you know where I stand, obviously. It's not just that I don't enjoy the game-play, either (I do, at times) - it's just that FPS games don't usually offer what I tend to look for in the games that I play.

Some have, though. The original BioShock, for example, was one of those that I did enjoy - so, that seemed like reason enough to spend time with BioShock Infinite.

The year is 1912. Cast in the role of Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent (what's a Pinkerton, you ask? Come on, this is the Internet - look it up) who is currently struggling under the weight of crippling gambling debts, you will find being taken to a mysterious lighthouse in a clearly deliberate parallel to the opening scenes of the original game. Booker has been given one last chance to clear his debts by rescuing a young woman from a strange city. Moments after arriving at the lighthouse, Booker finds himself shot into the sky - getting his first glimpse of the flying city of Columbia in a reveal that easily rivals that first underwater view of Rapture.