Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Film Review - 'Batman: Under the Red Hood'

Anyone familiar with Batman's long comic-book history would have to be familiar with the event which he considers to be his greatest failure - the death of Jason Todd, the second person to fill the role of 'Robin', at the hands of the Joker. It was a moment which must have come as something of a shock to those reading back in the 1980s (even if it was the result of a reader vote).

When Batman: Under the Red Hood opens with an animated recreation of this moment, it proves to be a very effective method of setting the tone of what is to come. It is a moment that is as shocking and brutal as it must have seemed in the pages of the comic, when it was originally published. The audience may not know where, exactly, the film is headed at this point - but, based on this opening scene, we can be reasonably confident that it is going to be somewhere dark and violent.

As we move into the film, proper, it has been several years since the murder of Jason Todd - though, the moment still haunts the Dark Knight. But, this is not the only failure to weigh on Batman's conscience, though - and, it seems as though another is about to be brought back from the past.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Film Review - 'Superman: Doomsday'

Just as Bane is probably best known for the time he once managed to break Batman's back, Doomsday's greatest claim to fame would have to be the time he managed to kill the Man of Steel, himself. Of course, unlike Bane (who went on to become a fixture of Batman's rogue's gallery), Doomsday was actually only ever created for that singular purpose.

It was back in the early 90's when the original 'Death of Superman' story-arc was published - and, if we're all being honest, it would probably be fair to say that the entire thing was as much a publicity stunt as it was a legitimate story-line. Superman has always been DC's most iconic character, after all (although, it would be very easy to argue that Batman is more popular) - so, it was never likely that he would be gone, for good. But, the idea of Superman dying still managed to catch on, among comic-book readers - and, the particular issue in which the deed was done went on to become the highest selling in the character's history.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Film Review - 'Where The Wild Things Are'

When I was a child, I had the distinct honor of being cast in a school play based on Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. I played a tree. That was fair enough, really - after all, I wasn't really the sort of child capable of memorizing lines, or of maintaining my composure in front of an audience.

What was I thinking about as I stood there with my arms held over my head, though? Honestly, I can't remember. I was probably still too young, at the time, to have discovered Star Wars, or the simple joys of watching Hulk Hogan tossing people around a ring - both of which took up large chunks of my childhood. The one thing I can say for certain is that I probably wasn't thinking about Where The Wild Things Are. It may be a classic, and an important part of the childhood of many people around the world, but I just don't remember ever reading it - or, of having it read to me.

So I suppose it would be fair to say that, going in to a film based on this classic children's story, I simply didn't have the feelings of nostalgia that it seemed clearly intent on playing on. In the end, though, I decided to give the film a chance anyway. And, ultimately, I was glad that I did.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 9 - 'A Kingdom Divided Against Itself'

The previous episode's reveal that Thomas, the boy we had been led to believe was immune to the virus, was actually an asymptomatic carrier of that same virus may not have been entirely unexpected, given the circumstances (with a few episodes still to come, there was bound to be some sort of last-minute complication) - but, it still made for a genuinely dramatic moment. Rather than providing a possible cure to the virus, we are now left with the unpleasant implication that this innocent child has been unknowingly infecting any number of people he has come into contact with, including (quite possibly) his own father - all while displaying no signs of the virus, himself. While this episode doesn't concern itself with exploring the trauma to be found in that particular angle, the revelation concerning Thomas's true status for the rest of the cast.

Review - 'Containment', Episode 8 - 'There Is A Crack In Everything'

With its effective mix of character drama, and genuine tension, the previous episode of Containment managed to earn itself a spot as the best of the season, so far – or, at least, it was for me. It certainly provided the most genuine sense of excitement and danger that we have had with this series, since the brief 'flash-forward' of the first episode. But, of course, as we move into the aftermath of the attack on the data recovery centre, there did seem to be a definite danger that the series could fall back into its old, somewhat inconsistently paced, ways.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Film Review - 'Warcraft'

For anyone who might still be unfamiliar with the Warcraft franchise, a quick glance at the long-running MMORPG, World of Warcraft, might suggest a level of complexity that would have to seem intimidating, and perhaps even unwelcoming, to a new-comer. World of Warcraft is, after all, a game that has been around for over a decade, at this point – and, it has seen a fairly steady stream of updates that have sought to push the game's overarching story-line along. Even before that, there were the three 'real-time strategy' games which began the franchise – with the first, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, being released in 1994.

Fortunately for new-comers, though, it is this first game that the film turns to for its inspiration – kicking things off with a story-line which, when compared to the complexity to come, actually feels fairly straight-forward. Here, we have the orcs, a war-loving race desperate to flee from a dying world, who invade Azeroth in search of conquest and a new home. The humans of Azeroth, meanwhile, find themselves forced into a desperate war with these savage invaders – fighting to protect their homes, and the people that they love. So, with each side having something very real to fight for, the stage is set for an epic confrontation.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Review - 'Cleverman', Episode 1 - 'First Contact'

Drawing on the varied mythologies of Indigenous Australia for its inspiration, Cleverman offers something that has always seemed to be depressingly rare, to me – a science-fiction/fantasy series from my own country which might actually be worth watching. With it's largely Indigenous cast, it also directly addresses issues of representation by creating great roles specifically for Aboriginal actors, of course – but, as a life-long fan of science-fiction and fantasy, I'm comfortable with my own priorities.

Taking place in the near future, Cleverman tells a story of a world in which mythological beings have recently re-emerged, only to find themselves caught up in a world that hates and fears them. Finding themselves forced to endure increasingly harsh treatment from both the Australian government, and the Australian people, these 'hairypeople', as they're called (due, obviously, to their appearance), soon find themselves rounded up and forced into a sort of internment camp – which they are not allowed to leave, and where they receive very little in terms of support.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Film Review - 'Little Big Soldier'

Two people, who have every reason to hate each, other find themselves forced to work together toward a common goal - and, over the course of their adventures, they develop a grudging sort of respect for each other. There are certain to be a truly absurd number of stories, in whatever medium, which could be adequately summed up by that single sentence - so, it's not exactly the most original basis for a film.

That doesn't mean that it can't still serve as the basis for an entertaining film, though. After all, all you really need is an interesting context within which this fairly conventional premise can be placed. Here, for example, the two in question are a reluctant and cowardly soldier (Jackie Chan) and a stoic general (Leehom Wang) who, despite being on opposing sides, find themselves thrown together in a desperate struggle to survive.

The setting is ancient China, in a time when the country was broken up into many warring factions, each vying for power (a period referred to, by historians, as the 'Warring States' period). Two of these faction had, in fact, only recently engaged in a particularly bloody battles, as the film opens - leaving the Soldier and the General (neither of whom are ever named, in the film) as its only survivors. The Soldier, who survived thanks to a modified breastplate containing a collapsible arrow which allowed him to fake his own death, quickly realises that there is likely to be a sizable reward for the capture of an enemy general - and so, he quickly takes the wounded general as his prisoner, and sets out to make the journey back to his own faction's camp.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Film Review - 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'

One thing I should probably admit before I even start is that I'm not very familiar with the work of Morgan Spurlock. I've heard of Super Size Me, of course. That film is probably what he is best known for, after all - and, it seemed to cause a bit of a stir, at the time. But, despite that, I was never actually willing to take the time to watch it, for myself. To me, it was just the film where some where some aspiring 'celebrity documentarian' took it upon himself to 'prove' that a diet consisting of nothing other than fast-food would be unhealthy.

As profound insights go, this struck me as existing on the same basic level as 'if you forget your umbrella on a rainy day, you might get wet'. It just seemed like a pointless film - and, I didn't really have time for it. So, considering my complete lack of interest in his most famous piece of work, I suppose it is fair to say that I'm not really a fan.

But, maybe I'm not giving him enough credit? As I said, I've never actually seen his most famous film - so, maybe there is more to it than I think there is. It was, after all, a film which earned him enough recognition to allow him to move on to other projects. Projects such as, for example, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - a documentary film which, unlike its predecessor, is devoted to exploring a topic that I actually am interested in.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Film Review - 'X-Men: Apocalypse'

Following the wildly successful release of Deadpool, earlier in the year, X-Men: Apocalypse finds itself in the somewhat unusual position of actually being the second film set in the franchises newly rebooted time-line – taking place in the aftermath of the time altering events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. At the same time, though, thanks to some increasingly convoluted internal chronology, this actually still does serve as the first film of the reboot franchise. Deadpool was, after all, a film set in the 'present day', while this film takes place in 1983.

Does that all seem a little too confusing? Well, as a life-long fan of both science fiction and fantasy, I haven't had any real issues keeping track of it all. But, I can imagine it as something that might need to be explained to any audience-members who haven't been keeping tabs on the franchises film history.

After the time travel shenanigans of the previous film, though, X-Men: Apocalypse also seems to be a film determined to present something a little more straight-forward to the audience.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Film Review - 'Batman: Gotham Knight'

Batman: Gotham Knight is something a little different for fans of DC's line of animated films. Rather than a single, self-contained, feature-length story, this film presents the audience with a series of short stories, each based around the figure of the Dark Knight - and, each developed by a different team of writers and animators, and a different director. It was also intended to be something of a collaborative effort between DC, and the various Japanese animation studios tasked with bringing the film to life.

What this means, for the audience, is that each of these stories is going to have its own distinctive look and feel - with the selection of short films varying to an occasionally drastic degree.

The central idea with Batman: Gotham Knight is that this sequence of short stories is intended to fit into the continuity established by Christopher Nolan's trilogy of films - with the sequence of stories taking place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, in particular. It's really the same basic idea that we had with The Animatrix, which was released during the height of popularity of The Matrix, and its sequels.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Some Thoughts About 'Chronicle: RuneScape Legends', A Week After Launch

Chronicle: RuneScape Legends (just Chronicle, from here, on) is an interesting blend of board and card game developed by Jagex – the development team best known for the long-running RuneScape MMORPG. As someone who has never spent very much time with RuneScape (and, none at all, over the past few years), I'm not really in any position to comment on how, and why, this new game seems to be linked to the RuneScape franchise – but, in the end, it doesn't seem to matter all that much.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Review - 'Containment', Episode 7 - 'Inferno'

For the past six episodes, Containment has been a series that seemed content maintaining a slow and steady pace. That brief 'flash-forward' that we saw in the first episode may have given us a fairly clear idea of what was coming – but, it soon became fairly clear that the series was going to take its time in actually reaching that point.

In theory, it has always felt as though that was probably the right choice. After all, with more time devoted to giving us the opportunity to actually get to know this varied cast of characters, the tension and drama that was certain to come (eventually) could only prove to be more effective. Unfortunately, in practise, this hasn't always proved to be the case.