Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Review: GHTTB:LoM 1.3 and 1.4

A bumper review this week, as I won't have time next week. In fact, its a lot more interesting to review two at once for me because I no longer have to see each one in isolation.

Life On Mars, Series One, Episode Three
"Could be a gang. Could be a gang of trained eagles, ninjas for all we know." Sam Tyler

The problem with a police procedural drama is that unlike most Monster-A-Week type shows, the actual case has to be as intriguing and compelling as the show's main drama. This episode especially achieved that, while holding onto a firm number of themes to do with loyalty and sacrifice. It also provides the series' first real surprise twist, although it became the predictable shoot-out near the end, to my chagrin.
     The main case this week was of a death in a textiles factory - the same building where Sam lives in 2006. Most of the evidence (and Gene's gut feeling) pointed to angry unionists trying to kill who they saw as a traitor. Gene picks on one particular friend of the victim who had fought with him that night, Ted Bannister, while Sam demands firm evidence and doesn't believe the old and overweight suspect could have done it. Having heard from his doctors (and from another few subliminal sources) that he needs to keep fighting, he accepts a bet from Gene to prove him innocent.
     After a long-winded inquiry where it seemed all the evidence pointed towards Ted being the killer, he reluctantly confesses to murder to save his factory and its workers from being shut down. On a final visit to the factory, Sam notes that the belts on the machine the victim was working on are brand-new, and deduces that they snapped, launching out and killing the victim. Bannister went back to try and clean up, to save his factory. Meanwhile, it turns out Bannister's son is involved in another subplot, an armed robbery of the factory.
     This episode was about Sam's fight against the past - the fight to enforce his modern techniques, the fight to save Ted Bannister (and the others, due to the inevitability of the plight of the factory workers) and the fight against death in the real world. Sam/Gene dysfunction is the richest goldmine this series has for its first few episodes, and there's a fine display of it here. Instead of being more of the same drama, though, the main case lends its own qualities. Police Procedural at its finest.

Life On Mars, Series One, Episode Four
"Slipped you a mickey, tied you up and bounced on your ding-a-ling!" Gene Hunt

Woah! A much more frantic and fast-paced episode than last week, Episode Four takes a mixture of series mythology (if you can call it that) and a decent storyline, one that would pop up in different forms throughtout the Gene Hunt Time Travel Bonanza - Police Corruption.
     The main plot surrounded landlord Steven Warren, who owned a large group of estates, and informed the police of troublemakers in exchange for criminal immunity and the occasional bribe. When Sam learns of this practice he is disgusted, and openly refuses Warren's money. Warren then sets Sam up in a Honey trap, luring him with the scared dancer Joni Mitchell. When Sam;s words of advice actually persuade Mitchell to try an escape she is killed, spurring Gene to finally stop taking bribes and to finally breakdown Warren's regime.
     A strong subplot involved Sam tracking down his troubled Mother, introducing himself as Sam Bolan (after Mark Bolan, lead singer in T-Rex). Unable to reveal his true identity, he wrestles with his maternal goodwill and his common sense. This provides a chance to really develop the depths of Sam's problems and his character, as he adapts to face the troubles always faced by a time-traveller.
     I enjoyed this episode mainly because it managed to portray a larger range of themes. It had messages against corruption and against standing back while bad things happen. It jumped rapidly between elation, melancholy and anger, culminating in a triumphant and well-earned finale. A rare commodity in Life on Mars, this episode also saw some background development for Gene, who shows he actually does have a more sensitive side.
      This episode's mood changes may be jarring, but they ultimately work as a fast-paced transition between the general dysfunction between Sam and the rest of the department towards more cooperative attitudes. It's a rite-of-passage, a sign that at this half-way point in the series, Life on Mars knows exactly where it's going.

Thanks.
      

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Super Sunday: Blood Diamond

Here to finish off African November, we go to Sierra Leone...
Super Sunday
Blood Diamond (2006)

The one thing present in all of this month's films is a historical background, because the continent's story is powerful enough to dramatise on its own. What should be a land of paradise, strangled by disease and greed, bought out by Europe and America. Nowhere is this more epitomised than in the core of Blood Diamond, the most critically aclaimed of this month's films and one of the best.
     1998, and Sierra Leone is under the grip of a terrorist organisation called the RUF, led by nicknamed Captain Poison (David Harewood). This is the Sierra Leone Civil Car, where the RUF cut off the hands of eligible voters and train young boys as soldiers. Their main source of income is the illegal smuggling of Diamonds to the Western World - "blood diamonds".
     Soloman Vandy (Djimon Honsou) is a fisherman with a loving wife and family, and is particularly proud of his son Dia, who goes to school. When their village is attacked by the RUF, Soloman gets seperated from his family, and is sent to a diamond camp, where he finds 100 carat diamond and buries it in the sand.
     Elsewhere, and expert smuggler and white mercenary Danny Archer (Leonardo Di Caprio) is having some trouble getting his next payload due to his British associates cutting off all ties. However, when he hears about Soloman's find, he rushes to try and aquire it. He bumps into journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Conolly) who disagrees with his practices. Danny tries to work with Soloman to get the diamond so he can leave Africa, but Soloman has one prerequisite - find his family, and save his son.
     The pacing is incredibly fast, jumping through locations because of the fast-moving nature of the RUF attacks, as our protagonists scramble either through jungle or through battlefields. (And sometimes both.) Indeed, the film is packed with high-budget action scenes, saved from being an unnecessary distraction by them actually advancing the plot. A lot of this violence is also perpetrated by children, further nailing in the anti-war messages. With all of this action going on, it's surprising to find that Blood Diamond also offers many moments that advance character and actually give insight into plight of the native peoples.
     To conclude, Blood Diamond is a tight action-thriller with excellent acting, direction and pace, which isn't afraid to take its strong historical context and message and dilute it with excellently executed action scenes to excite the average moviegoer. An absolute triumph.

Thanks.

Review: Merlin 3.12: The Coming of Arthur (Part One)

Morgana takes the throne.
As the end looms, the first half of Series Three's finale took up the reigns and did what we expected it to - a powerful, tense 45 minute drama where our heroes are broken down to their knees. I don't know which I'm happier about; the quality of the episode, or the final eradication of the mindless filler that has mostly consumed this series.
     There's been a great battle between Camelot's and Cenred's forces, the battlefield within the latter's territory. Everyone lies dead, apart from Sir Leon, who is found by native druids and restored to health using the fabled MacGuffin Cup of Life. When Leon returns to Camelot, Uther uses his brain for a change and realises that they need to recover the cup before Cenred does. Standard fantasy fare then; find MacGuffin, save the realm.
A worried Uther.
     Arthur and Merlin are sent on the quest, but because of Morgana, Cenred's forces get their first (Arthur and Merlin's brief inprisonment in a slave camp couldn't have helped matters either. With the cup of life, the scheming Morgause makes an army of immortal soldiers, knocks off Cenred and then completely destroys Camelot, declaring her sister the Queen in front of Uther's angry face.
     The plot isn't anything new or exciting, but it certainly fresher than anything else so far this series. Especially fine-tuned was the acting of the three male leads Arthur, Merlin and guest Gwaine - firm feelings of brotherhood in times of stress. The light jabery between them felt at least a little reserved, which was more realistic than what is the usual.
     Away from the actual story, and the main area of extravagance this week was in the production - excellent costumes (and lots of costumes); brilliant, tense direction and a soundtrack the ties it all up in a neat little bow. Indeed, this year the main budgetary focus seems to have been on the sandwhiching two parters, something that made episodes like Goblin's Gold and The Changeling a little lacklustre.
The poorly named "Cup of Life".
     Overall, the first half of The Coming of Arthur is an excellent story by the series' standard, with realistic dialogue/acting and a sense of tension and motion that sweeps one away. However, in the little detail, the finale also keeps the idiosyncracies of the series and puts them in a clearer, more serious context. It also neatly wipes out any of the usual filler episodes that plague us so deeply. And for that I must thank it.

Thanks.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Review: Misfits 2.3

 "You think I risked my life travelling through the dimensions of time to sniff your knickers?"

Seeing as Misfits only has six episodes to work with per series, its a good sign that Series Two used its middle-episode to make a leap in its plot. At the same time, all of the characters got a decent look in and significant development, and they manage to fit some comedy in there as well. Spoilers.
     The more interesting plotline was that of Alesha and Superhoodie Simon. After saving Alesha several times, the Masked Man brings her to his "lair", where he almost immediately reveals his identity as Future Simon. They meet again throughout the episode, and Simon's revelation that she eventually falls in love with him makes Alesha apologise to Barry (mine and Nathan's name for Present Simon). Future Simon's ability to touch her gives Alesha more comfort and warmth than she has had since the Storm, and she starts to doubt her relationship with Curtis (who's already looking into shacking up with the Future Girl from last episode.)
     The main plot, however, surrounded Vince, a tattoo-artist friend of Kelly's. He takes the power to control tattoos to new extremes, warding off Nathan by making him fall madly in love with Barry. This provides a funny distraction from the plot advancement, with some excellent lines. When Vince makes Kelly fall in love with him, a now more confident Barry manages to, with help from Simon, stop him. With a bag of peanuts. After that, a Kelly+Nathan romance was definitively ruled out, to the cries of a thousand shippers.
     Our main areas of Character Development are Alesha and Simon, for obvious reasons. Alesha finally becomes more than a three-dimensional sex machine, showing a more human and sensitive side than her usual gobby self. Her rightful protestations about Future Simon's sudden appearance in her life are counterbalanced nicely with his ability to satisfy her emotionally (and physically.)
     Simon, on the other hand, is given potential. Along with our Superhoodie, Barry also gets his own Crowning Moment of Awesome when he disables the villian with a bag of roasted peanuts (he had an allergy, it makes sense in context.) This extra dimension yet again makes Simon one of the more interesting and thoguhtful characters on the show, and it helps that we can see the parallels between Future Simon and Barry.
     Now we're at the half-way point, I'm glad that Misfits is making ground on its plot, something that otherwise lacked in Series One, while still managing to work in a lot of character. The two plots both had pace, intrigue, and while they didn't work with each other there was still a lot of room to move. The development may feel a little forced, but that reinforced Simon's idea of prophecy that ran throughout the episode. This was a fun, enjoyable episode with a lot of good development.

Thanks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The images were removed from this article because it was garnering an unfair amount of coverage for its images alone.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Review: GHTTB:LoM 1.2

"Are they all like this in Hyde? It must be a bloody dangerous place." Gene Hunt.

Second episodes, as I've said previously, are the clincher. They have to live up to the promises of the pilot fairly quickly without giving the game away. This Life on Mars 1.2 did, with a fairly simplistic crime that none-the-less provided adequate drama behind-the-scenes as Sam and Gene wrestled each other's policing styles. It also blended in a lot of problems that Sam faces because of 1970s attitudes in Policing and Medicine...
     The group manage to hunt down Kim Trent, a known burglar who's been attacking many places across Manchester. However, there isn't cohesive evidence and Gene wants to fake it. Following his modern policing morals, he lets Trent go. When a cleaner at the police station is then killed in one of Trent's burglaries, he and Gene are forced to try and meld their styles of policing to find firm evidence and convict Trent for life.
     The crime itself wasn't very interesting in its scale or concept; the episode rather carried itself off of the emotional ride faced by Gene and Sam's dysfunction. This was interesting to watch, with our relative hindsight as the viewer - do we support Sam's by-the-book approach, or Gene's passionate need for justice? It also made the ending all the jucier, as both sides worked their magic: Gene used his methods to track down and rescue Sam and the witness, able to beat up the suspects along the way, and then the witness was able to give viable evidence.
     The episode also incuded many hallmarks of the GHTTB on the whole; Sam hearing people in the Real World, being haunted by a TV character and making modern pop-culture references. These are what make the series what it is and early on they're used quite well.
     To finish, this episode delivered on its promise of 1970s action as well as exploiting the superb acting of Simm and Glennister to give an entertaining experience. It didn't have many particluarly exciting concepts, but its dramatic potential made up for it.

Thanks.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

SuperSunday: The Last King of Scotland

Super Sunday
The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Moving away from South Africa, this week's film takes a look at another African regime, that of Idi Amin (played here by the incredibly convincing Forest Whitaker) in the 1970s. The film is based off of the book of the same name, a fictionalised account of the experiences of Amin's Scottish doctor Nicolas Garrigan (James McCavoy). The film has a fell that rather parallels the development of Amin's reputation with the outside world - it starts out comic and light and eventually develops into a powerful, tense drama that strikes at the heart of his regime.
     Dr. Nicolas Garrigan has spent the majority of his life in the shadow of his older, more successful father. Desperate to get away from the bleek Scottish lochs, he goes to Uganda to help the sick and poor. Immediately, Nicolas is swept away by Amin's charm and public spirit, and when he helps him out after a small road accident, the dictator signs Nicolas up as his personal physician. As he rides the high-life, it soon becomes apparant to him that Amin's regime isn't as glorious as he had imagined.
      A British Film Council production, Last King of Scotland has some interesting concepts at hand, but it feels a lot more like a documentary on Amin's rule, especially during the main core of the film. The comedic feel at the beginning is an excellent juxtaposition for the tension at the end, and the transition between the two is exceedingly subtle. At some points it felt like it was making comedy from Amin's mad philosophies, but I think this is needed to counteract the brutality of his ideals. To quote Nicolas, "You're just a child, that's why you're so f**king scary."
      Not that our protagonist is entirely sympathetic himself, although he does gain a sort of "redemption" at the end. Like Wikus and Gregory, Nicolas at first goes along with the evil regime. He has other problems though, as he has very little concept of the dangers of Uganda, and tries to seduce two married women (one of whom dies because of it.) His punishment at the end of the film really redeems him in more ways than one; not only is he being punished, he's also proving Amin wrong.
     Overall, I think this is a very well crafted film that despite having very little atmosphere, has a number of concrete themes and very good characterisation. The two leads are utterly convincing, and I had trouble seeing Whittaker in other roles afterwards. If you want a good British film with a historical turn, this is the one to watch.

Thanks.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Review: Merlin 3.11:The Sourcerer's Shadow

What should have been a predictable and formulaic episode actually surprised me by managing to patch up some of its problems with good characterisation and a fresh perspective on events. This week we once again use the "Tournament where someone uses Magic" plot, which is as old as the second freaking episode. I mean, it was even used earlier this series. Luckily the formula is flipped on its head, and we have another decent subplot running by it.
     In our main plot, we see gormless-bastard weakling sorcerer Gilli (Harry Melling, pictured far right) arrive in Camelot for the Open Tournament, which anyone (Men, in other words) are able to enter. He uses magic to help him along, and Merlin (Colin Morgan) actually cottons on for once. They discuss how his father died because he feared Uther and how he thinks Merlin has betrayed their kind, and how with his magic Gilli finally feels respected as a person. Merlin ends up consulting The Dragon (John Hurt) when Gilli's next opponent turns out to be Uther. It's advised that Arthur shouldn't see his father die by magic, and so Merlin counters Gilli's magic in the fight. Everyone forgives everyone and Gilli promises to come back in two episodes.
     The surprisingly interesting subplot this week was similar to Misfits in that it involved tension between father and son, this time between Arthur (Bradley James) and King Uther (Anthony Head). Arthur really didn't want his father fighting, but a mixture of Uther's arrogance and meddling by Morgana (Katie McGrath) led to him doing so anyway. the real climax of this subplot came mid-episode, when Arthur and Uther were forced to fight, and the former was forced to let his father win to preserve his dignity.
Game: Spot the obvious villian.
     The thing that saved this episode was how realistically it served up its characters. Gilli felt like a bullied individual, in his mannerism and speech, and so it was all the more jarring when we saw him fighting and killing. Morgana was actually subtle for once, dropping little hints instead of obvious proclaimations with evil grins. Arthur showed genuine concern for his father's wellfare in realistic ways, something we don;t usually see. Uther... well, he was a bit of a dick.
    The formula this week should have been tiring due to its overuse by the series, but the use of a protagonist using magic instead of an enemy helped breath some life into it, along with a superb, character-driven subplot. This episode beats down its first impressions and presents an entertaining and worthy story, something that Merlin should do more often.

Thanks.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Review: Misfits 2.2

This episode of Misfits was a bit of a mixed bag in its focus and ambition. On the one side, it looked at the down-to-earth troubles of family life, while on the other it put down some more sci-fi roots. While it was Nathan-centric, it also kept a strong grasp on the rest of the crew for the majority of the episode.
     The main story followed Nathan as he met up with his long-lost half-brother, who had, feeling annoyed and neglected because of their screw-up of a father, had proceeded to kidnap him. The two bonded over the episode, and the experience helped Nathan to improve his relationship with his father and make more effort not to end up like him.
     The other story, and the more honestly interesting one, followed the other group as they both searched for the BMX Biker and took drugs which altered their powers. It felt less focused than Nathan's storyline, but he was effectively woven throughout it and the Club Scene is incredibly interesting. To keep the series fresh, Overman temporarily reversed their powers using the drug element. This wasn't just a gimmicky move, though, as the temporary powers did wonders to advance the plot and even set up future plotlines:
     Kelly, as a mind-reader, suddenly had to say everything that came into her head, forcing her to blurt out her feelings about Nathan. Sex-controller Alisha's touch made people repulsed, invisible Simon was loved by everyone, and back-in-time-travelling Curtis flashed forward, showing several events to come. Simon also followed a wounded BMX Biker after he once again saved Nathan from death, and tracked him down to a house - a house where the gang later found a woman from Curtis' trip.
     One thing that was upped this episode was the level of grotesque. For every realistic and honest scene with Nathan and his dad, there were scenes of him doing ridiculously crude things. I don't mind punctuative swearing and bad habits, but there does come a point where spending the first few minutes of your episode watching someone rub cream on their arse is just too far.
     Honestly, I really enjoyed this episode. It had both the ambition to advance the overall storyline, and the patience to take time out with a gritty tableu of Nathan's father troubles. I don't want to know what goes on in Howard Overman's mind, but this episode was nonetheless interesting and exciting to watch and I'm once again looking forward to next week.

Thanks.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Review: Catch A Fire

The One That Got Away
Catch A Fire (2006)

Writer-and-producer team Shawn and Robyn Slovo have a grand story to tell. Their father was the head of the South African Communist Party, a major Anti-Apartheid force. Here they present the dramatised version of the struggle of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a man from Secunda in South Africa whose treatment by the Apartheid government, in particular Man-In-Black Nic Vos (Tim Robbins), leads him to take up arms and try to free his country.
     If nothing else, Catch A Fire is an excellent character piece, and does well in portraying both sides as basic human beings. Indeed, the two main characters are very similar in the beginning; both are family men with two daughters each, a wife that they love over everything else and views that only just follow their side of the Apartheid. The humanisation of Vos really helps to eradicate any feeling of (pardon the term) black and white morality, and seeing as he here is the amalgamation of many real people, it goes a long way to push the idea of forgiveness given towards the end.
     In many places, focus on character overrides plot. This is especially jarring in the beginning, where we know very little about our setting other than a few facts and figures. Indeed, the true horrors of apartheid don't start to appear until around the twenty-five-minute mark. Regardless of this slow pacing near the beginning, Chamusso's false capture really sets things going. The atmosphere is kept high throughout using a soundtrack of both background singing and the characters themselves chanting Anti-Apartheid songs.
     Inevitably, your enjoyment of this film depends on your enjoyment of this genre as a whole. Catch A Fire is a moving tale of courage and loss, but one with strong characterisation and a brilliant atmosphere. The plot may be a little thin in some places, but once it gets going there is a stirring pace that makes for a thrilling and heartbreaking movie experience.

Thanks.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A Few Words: Your Song, by Ellie Goulding

Littlewoods recently asked singer Ellie Goulding to record a cover version of Elton John's 1970 hit Your Song for use on one of their Christmas adverts, and she's also released her own video for it. Watch the video. Now.


(Thanks to elliegoulding for that video)

I reviewed Ellie's debut album back in May, and raved about how I was blown away by the skillful melding of folk and electronica. Maybe just to prove that she's actually a decent ballad singer as well, her rendition of Your Song stands out immediately from the original by being lighter and more poignant. Some are even guessing it'll be a Christmas Number one, which I look forward to after Ellie's otherwise lacklustre chart performance.

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Review: GHTTB: LoM, 1.1

Life on Mars: Series One, Episode One

I've often spoken about how it's important to set up your stall cohesively but quickly. The only thing that Life on Mars has going for it is the nostalgic richness of the 1970s environment, and so the first five or so minutes in the present really fail to catch one's immediate interest...
     It's only when work-obsessed DCI Sam Tyler gets knocked down in a car crash that the story really starts to unfold. You see, Tyler happens to wake up in 1973 to a soundtrack of David Bowie, demoted to DI and forced to work with the much more instinctive DCI Gene Hunt. Hunt is a loudmouthed, misogynist bigot, and he's captured the heart of the nation.
    As an opener, LoM's first episode does wonders to get you in the mood for some 70s police prodecure, as well as stamping down its strange style. Only Sam is particularly well characterised at this point, with the others merely empty shells of their particular character trait.
     Of note (of course), is the soundtrack, which is an excuse on its own to watch the show. A mix of some of the best songs of the 1970s (however unchronological) gives the show a great atmosphere. Adding to this are the nostalgic flares all over the place, and, at least for me, the recognisable places in Manchester where the series was filmed.
     Overall, the pilot shows us the ropes of the series, and gives basic outlines of its characters. It firmly lays down the cutesy, nostalgic atmosphere, while having a gritty murder to get along with. It is a little unnerving to see Sam go on mad rants as he tries to wake himself up, but that's part of the series and it would seem odd without it.

Thanks.

SuperSunday: Goodbye Bafana

Super Sundays
Goodbye Bafana (2007)

Billie August presents this moving true story, following the life of James Gregory, prison warden to influential black-rights hero Nelson Mandela. The tale is beautifully shown by August's skillful direction and excellent choice of filminh locations. This film is not only emotionally potent, but beautiful.
     James Gregory is an average white man in 1970s South Africa. He's a prison guard, wildly suspicious of the black population, and has a similarly strung wife and two kids. However, his childhood knowledge of the black language Xhosa means that the South African government put him in to watch over Nelson Mandela. In the prison he starts to get to know and empathise with Mandela. Looking further and further into the horrors of Apartheid, Gregory starts to fight between his duties of country, and of conscience.
     I can't talk much about "plot", so to speak, as this is a true tale, but it is dramatised exceedingly well. All three leads play their parts to the full, and the genuine feeling of fraterntity between Joseph Fiennes and Dennis Haysbert makes Mandela's release at the end of the film all the more powerful. The film presents an exceedingly positive view of humanity on the whole; in all of our petty, rascist  squabblings, the worst of us can still rise above it and treat other with respect. This is emphathised by Mandela and Gregory's relationship throughout the film.
     As above, the film is aesthetically beautiful, which counterpoints the harsh dealings occuring in the prisons and really helps to highlight the plight of these peoples. August's direction is superb, with wonderful shots and a flexible attitude in regards to setting and character. The music score only reinforces the film's poignancy as well as fitting perfectly with the setting.
     Ultimately, this is a perfect dramatisation of the long period of Apartheid. The film takes no prisoners in regard to the idiotic and harmful nature of white-black rascism but it also paints a positive picture about the goodness of humanity. A must-see.

Thanks.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Review: Merlin 3.10: Queen of Hearts

The entire special effects budget for Series Three.
Once again, Merlin relies on the strength of its characters and the acting of its leads to craft a good story. This episode was a decent watch through the majority, although there were many areas treated a little too kiddishly for my tastes. This episode was written by Howard Overman (Writer of Misfits. His latest Merlin effort this series was the atrocious Goblin's Gold.), and it shows, with intense character drama and a comedic tone that ran alongside the tension instead of detracting from it.
     Morgana's prophetic dreams guided her to attempt to seperate Arthur and Gwen, preventing either from taking the throne. She organised a quiet meeting between them in the forest, and then led Uther to find them. Angry at finding his son with a serving girl, Uther (the bastard) orders Gwen banished. When Arthur says that he will go with her, and return to put Gwen on the throne, Morgana changes tactics and sets Gwen up as a witch. As she is readied for execution, Merlin cottons on and disguises himself as an aging wizard to clear Gwen's name.
     The romance between Arthur and Gwen no longer feels forced, with Overman's sublte and realistic dialogue allowing for plenty of touching but realistic scenes. In fact, everyone in the cast got great lines (except for Merlin, see below) and a good chance to stretch their acting muscles.
     I have only one issue with this episode, as captioned. While disguised as the old sourcerer, Merlin really fails to fit the part, meaning that he is more or less recognised by everyone (luckily only in the form of, "Have I met you before...?") I don't think this is Colin Morgan's fault; I think it's poor scriptwriting on the part of Overman, such a shame in an otherwise brilliant episode.
     Overall, Howard Overman's story may have some small issues regarding innapproriately placed humour, but otherwise it's a realistic, character driven piece that makes use of its main players well and never lets up the pace.
     Next week: Mindless filler!!!

Thanks.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Review: Misfits 2.1

There are just some shows that I can't, ney, won't miss. Misfits is one of them. Main writer Howard Overman is a bit of a mixed bag; his other projects include terrible comedy Vexed and some of the best and worst of Merlin. However, his project here is perhaps one of the most ambitious and high-quality programs on television today, with realistic and gritty dialogue with potent drama to boot.
     The first series (which I hope to be reviewing in the new year, once I get the boxset) did an excellent job of setting out the show's stall. Five (good-hearted, generally) delinquents gain superpowers in a freak storm. It may seem like a light and fluffy premise, but the show's general realism with the material it is given is a breath of fresh air. It may not be for everyone, due to the highly crude and sexualised content, but it's certainly something which I refuse to miss.
     Now onto the episode itself. The characters are very well utlised here, each displaying their own abilities and personalites as the events around them tried to knock them down. The enemy this episode, after newly-immortal Nathan was returned from the grave, was an ex-aquaintance of outcast Simon, who had become obsessed with him during their time shared in a psychiatric unit. She gained the power of shape-shifting in the storm, and provided quite a bit of fun out-of-character acting. Mainly, this episode was a character excercise for Simon, who, after his weak status in Series One, has turned out to be one of the series most powerful and interesting characters. Other additions include a cocky new probation worker, the promise of an end to their probation service, and a mysterious stranger who stalks the group.
     Despite some light crudity, the episode is both gripping and hilarious, and the acting is yet again spot on. I think Misfits is actually better than before, now that all of the main pieces are aranged on the board. I'm quite intrigued by the blooming storyline, and I certainly won't miss this next week.

Thanks.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Gene Hunt Time Travel Bonanza

Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. I've mentioned these two shows twice before, near the end of their final bow. I like to call them (for future reference) the Gene Hunt Time Travel Bonanza, mainly because of the all-important character, DCI Gene Hunt.
     Like with Red Dwarf and Survivors, I will be reviewing each episode of these series individually, every Monday here on Audenshaw Reviews. What with my lack of posts due to school work, I hope these will satiate your appetite.
Thanks.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Review: Merlin 3.9: Love in the Time of Dragons

Richard Wilson, who in this episode plays a piece of wood.

What an unremmitting piece of old hogwash. This week, Merlin decided not only to pull out the old chest of Merlin Plotlines, but also focussed on by far its weakest character. This is not only irritating, but also worrying as we approach this year's finale. With a fourth series now in planning, will I get my Uther-death?
     The plot is basically the standard filler - 1.) Magic comes to Camelot. 2.) Merlin sees this. 3.) People in the court don't believe him. 4.) Merlin is right. 5.) Magic thing tries to kill Uther. 6.) Merlin and Gaius stop the creature.
     This time round it's Gaius himself who's being incredibly ignorant, as he swoons over his lost love (Pauline Collins, of many, many roles including both Classic and Nu Who). Unfortunately, she is under the influence of a "Manticorn", which is supposed to be this horriffic, fearsome creature and so is portryed as an obviously CGI cross between a dog, scorpion and Patsy Kensit.
The Manticorn. Should I be frightened at this point?
    The story should have some promise, giving Gaius a love interest that isn't an obese pixie, but it doesn't because for some reason, Richard Wilson has gone all wooden. Yep. The actor responsible for the glaring, mad rage of Victor Meldrew cannot act as if in love, and is instead wooden and stern. I can't help but think that this was what ruined the episode most of all.
     Elsewhere, and for once (to my obvious relief), t'was Arthur that believed Merlin, and had Pauline Collins put away while Gaius sulked and Merlin tried to get rid of the beast. In the end, Gaius stopped sulking and we had a "happy" ending, but it felt a little OTT as magical endings on Merlin tend to do.
     In conclusion, Love in the Time of Dragons is pointless filler with terrible acting from its focus and a hideously obvious CGI monster. It's the same cut-and-paste format that I've seen too many times on Merlin, and I just hope that the Mythology episode next week can bring my spirits back up.
 
Thanks.

P.S. My apologies for posting Super Sunday on Saturday. To make up for it, here is a fun Merlin cartoon I found on the internet.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

SuperSunday: District 9

Kicking off African November here on Audenshaw Reviews...

District 9 (2009)

From the man who brought us The Lord of the Rings, District 9 is an action-packed sci-fi social commentary on miliarisation and the evils of apartheid. It rarely lets up on its breath-takingly powerful and sometimes tragic journey of discovery, and provides not only a scathing satire but entertainment in its own right.
    The plot follows an alien ship that has landed over Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1990. Its occupants are thousands of ill and starving "prawns" that are apprehended and then segregated by the weapons company MultiNational United into an area known only as District 9. As MNU attempts to move the prawns out of Johannesburg, company head Smit elects low-rank employee Wikus Van de Merwe (Shalto Coply) to head the operation. Wikus is elated, until unfortunate circumstances force him onto the side of the Prawns in an attempt to save both his life and the lives of the aliens.
     The majority of the film is composed of faux security and archive footage, and is presented like a documentary on the events of the film. This is a flexible and insightful method of filmmaking, and director Neil Blomkamp's expert skill only reinforces it. The CGI necessary to create the film is incredibly immersive and realistic, and Coply's skill in interacting with his imaginary environment is astounding.
     The plot is a little Anvilicious in places, but not without reason as anvils need to be dropped. The character development in both Wikus and his main Prawn ally Christopher heps the flow of the film immensly, as we watch a deliberately ignorant and obnoxious bureaucrat transform into a tragic and sympathetic everyman. We also see vicious villians Smit and army general Koobus get their rightful just deserts, which is made so much greater by their strong characterisation and how their actions echo with reality.
    The film's mixture of strong satire and awe inspiring action means that there is something for everyone - if you're not watching for the politics, then there's still the massive alien weaponry on show. This is a great film, of unusually high quality for a Summer blockbuster, and a must-watch.


Thanks.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Reviewing the Situation

Long term readers of the blog will remember my second ever review, first written on the 8/12/09, of the 2009 Audenshaw School Play, Grease the Musical. Well, nearly a year has passed and now it's coming up to the time when I will review this year's school play, Oliver! the Musical. There is one difference this year, however - I am starring in the play!
     Despite this, I'll try and make my review as critical and (hopefully) entertaining as possible. Expect Review: Oliver! the School Musical Version on 18th December, as part of Audenshaw Reviews Anniversary Month.

Thanks.