Monday, 31 January 2011

Review: Being Human 3.2: Adam's Family

"You know what I feel? Hungry."
Brian Dooley, this episode's writer, has one previous Being Human credit; 1.4, where he created the idea of Vampire Porn. Similarly perverted concepts are present in this episode, which suffers from the typical issues that plague Being Human on the whole, but also brings along its own, as if the episode is a private plot-hole garden party. So far, this series has depicted the Welsh as a bunch of sexual deviants, something which both irks and offends me.
     The point of the episode was essentially as a back-door pilot for an online spin-off show (see below) starring the titular Adam, a 46-year-old Vampire stuck with the body and mentality of a horny 16-year-old. He's played by child star Craig Roberts; ironic, as his last role was as a "breather" in the three series of CBBC show Young Dracula. Needless to say that he works brilliantly with the material given to him, which puts his irritating character arc soley down to that very writing. It wasn't clever, it wasn't gritty - it was just a basic demonisation of the teenage stereotype.
     With George and Nina tied up with Adam, Mitchell and Annie were left to rather jarringly form UST and, for the former in particular, to brood and be frightened. Local vampire agent Richard tracks Mitchell down and passes on the message of the Vampire Elders, who are mighty pissed at what Mitchell's been doing. They want to send him on a slow boat to South America, which, judging by all the death-threats coming out of the television, he's pretty eager to jump upon. But then, of course, he's got his sudden relationship with Annie to consider.
A gorrilla is one thing. This is another entirely.
     Meanwhile, in hospital, Adam's 80-odd dad dies, leaving him without a food source. Having heard that Richard's family has a good food supply, they go to their stately home and discover the truth; the family feed on a leather-bound gimp who enjoys being fed upon. Leaving Adam to his happy devices, the two doubting werewolves return to save the boy from the ritual they're about to put him through - namely, killing the gimp and then having sex with Richard's wife Emma on the billiards table.* Adam chooses to leave, and is sent off on a train somewhere North.
     The main episode was, quite simply, a shambles. The Mitchell subplot was incredibly dull, and the main ridiculous. While it did manage to express some of the complexities of the teenage mind, it eventually fell back on the horrendous stereotype that this group is subject to. Kevin and Perry, eat your heart out. Even the message about parenting was skewered by the fact that Adam eventualy just grew up in a heartbeat. It wasn't captivating, or overtly interesting beyond the bile fascination of seeing how low the episode can sink. Other Pet Peeves this episode include the ever more annoying Lenora Crichlow and the inconsistancy of Mitchell's condition. Also, gimps? Doggers? Is this really what the show has fallen to?
The cast of Becoming Human.
     On a more positive note, the actual 12 minute pilot of Becoming Human was far better written than the actual episode. Adam was much more bearable, new love interest and werewolf Christa (Leila Mimmack) was portrayed as a realistically moody teenager, and the comic relief character, ghost Matt (Josh Brown), was by far more identifiable and funny than anything in the current series of its parent show.
      Being Human is beginning to feel bereft of life, an ironic situation considering its content but a valid comment none-the-less. There's none of the fun, none of the chirpy sitcom ideas that made the series watchable. The show and its characters are designed for a comedy drama, and the absense of the former is beginning to show.

Thanks.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Few Words: Red Dwarf Extras

Red Dwarf - Only The Good "Alternate" Ending


The originally filmed ending to Only The Good, this would have neatly left the series open for other incursions later on, and as such neatly explains Back To Earth in canon. It's not a good ending by any stretch, and it doesn't tie the series to a close, but what it does do is present a logical, funny end to Series Eight and it doesn't feature the fucking Grim Reaper.

The Red Dwarf Children in Need Special


Children in Need usually offers up some fun stuff, not all of it worth more than five minutes of your time. Here's a Youtube video of the Red Dwarf Children In Need episode from between Series VII and VIII, and is, in my opinion, several times funnier than either of those series combined.

Thanks.

Review: GHTTB: LoM 2.7 and 2.8 (Finale)

The end grows nearer for the twisting tale of Sam Tyler.

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Seven
We begin our penultimate pair with an episode that gives Gene his just desserts as a character, putting him on the run and, as in 2.3, a more vulnerable character. However, more focus is given to Sam and his new colleague, acting DCI Frank Morgan.
     After witnessing the trial of crime-lord and briber Terry Haslam, Gene goes out on a drunken bender. Upon waking up in the morning, he rings Sam and tells him how he has woken up in Haslam's house, with his blood-soaked body lying opposite. Gene is arrested but escapes, as the evidence piles up against him. Sam eventually finds Gene, and together they work out the identity of their muderer - the man Terry Haslam was about to be convicted for assaulting.
     The episode often feels... empty, intangible. There isn't much to it; a basic run around with a few snarky remarks here or there. There's no tension, no doubt that Gene is 100% innocent all the way. In fact, it's more of an extended prequel to the finale.

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Eight (Finale)
"If you can feel, you're alive. If you don't feel, you're not."

Hour Sixteen, and the show needs a great finale of its two year journey, and for the journey of Sam Tyler. We knew this day would come. So, how does the episode tie up the loose ends left by the series? Well, to put it simply, very badly. Instead of putting all the pieces together to make a pretty picture, the episode prefers to carve the puzzle pieces into new shapes and then cry when they don't fit together any more.
     The main plot with the supporting cast had Gene lose all character development just for the sake of plot, putting his officers on the line in a risky sting operation featuring a train robbery. Sam was, as usual, averse to the idea, this time provoked by his newfound belief that Frank Morgan is in fact the surgeon operating on his brain. Working with Morgen, who tries to convince Sam that this is in fact 197 and that he went mad in the accident, Sam botches the sting and manage to wake up in the present. Worrying for his health, Sam sends off a psychologist's report to DI Alex Drake in London (Ashes to Ashes, here we come!) and then, upon realising that he can't feel his life, commits suicide. This somehow lets him arrive back in 1973, where he sorts out the robbers with a few gunshots and they all drive off into the sunset.
     The episode did absolutely eff all to bring the series to a hilt other than bringing the titular character back to the future, and it even reneged on that side of the bargain. It seems as if this episode was written some time back in Series One, because there is absoultely no character development present from previous episodes. Considering that Gene just got off a murder charge, is it really sane, even for him, to do something as stupid as here? No, it isn't. What a dissappointing end to an otherwise decent series.

Thanks.

P.S. Come on, you know me better than that. The GHTTB returns next week, with Ashes to Ashes!
    

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Review: Lost 4.4: Eggtown

Kate faces trial. for a history of bad episodes.
Ah, Kate. Never before has the "Ms. Fanservice" character been so disasterously empty, so vapid and void of any likeable characteristics, so troublesome and irritating and yet so revered by the plot. She is a character that didn't deserve to live beyond the first series, and exists soley as a means of causing conflict between the characters. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Kate-centric episode, and carries around her usual selfish, unlikable shade like the plague. Luckily, it seems to be saved by its suddenly more noticably brilliant performances from the rest of the cast, emphasised by the central character's nihilistic presence.
     I'll deal with the Flashforward plot first, since that at least follows a cohesive, if dull, storyline. A few years after the return, and Kate is being put on trial for all the shit she did to her stepfather (blowing his house up) before she fled to Australia and boarded Oceanic 815. Her defence is less useful than a ham sandwich at a bar mitzvah, however, because before fleeing she confessed to her dying, disabled mother. Their only defence so far is to call in Jack (who manages to weasel in everywhere...) as a character witness, telling the tale of the Oceanic 6 to a crowded courtroom as he would to a small child. After persuading her mother to let her go, she gets off scot-free, and is revealed to be taking care of Aaron, the son of fellow survivor Claire. If I'm honest Kate was played against type here, as although she was still moody and irritating, she at least found some honesty and proffessionalism. The opposite of what happens in the present.
Kate, in her natural habitat.
     Speaking of the devil, Kate is buzzing about Locke's camp to prevent that particular trial from ever taking place. The episode, unlike last week, tries its best to give us a few moments for other characters and hopefully take our minds off the main lead. Here's the lowdown: Kate is trying to interrogate Freighter boy Miles on what the outside world knows about her and her absurdly long list of crimes. In return, Miles wants a few minutes to give a ridiculous ransom demand to Ben. She does this, and it all goes to plan. Hmmm. Oh, and she fucks Sawyer inbetween. (Or at least pretends to, it is later revealed. I really couldn't care.) Having seen the trial, we know the answer to her question, and any tension in the episode is forever lost, like this damn programme.
     Elsewhere, and any scene without Kate seems to be a vast improvement. Usually boring Koreans Jin and Sun share some heart-warming talk about where their baby is going to live, that ultimately leads to nowhere, and Jack calls the freighter and discovers that after a day or so, the helicopter with Sayid and Desmond still hasn't arrived. A nice set up for next week's episode, then, which covers that very fact. Locke had some great scenes with quiet schemer Ben, that really don't belong with anything else this episode has to offer.
"Taken from my own bookshelf..."
     This episode is certainly more enjoyable than last week's retread of old storylines, even if the motivations behind certain character's actions are a bit iffy (summed up nicely with Kate's mantra, and motto, of "Do you know who I am?",which provides some rare non-sexual double entendre.) It is certainly quite bad in a lot of places, but in those sections it often crosses the border into So Bad It's Good. If anything can be said of it, it's that I wasn't bored, which is a one-up on most Kate episodes. It seems as if the writers are either trying to compensate for all the Kate-Hate by throwing a lot of other characters in, or they've simply identified how empty the character is and knew that they couldn't fill an episode with it. Either way, it shows that the writers care, which is nice. Eggtown (weird title excluded) was an episode that would have been perfect if not for the horrifically bad character at its centre, but considering that, it made a decent ommelete with rotten eggs.
     Next week, the best episode of Lost that I've seen. Only the fifth... out of fourteen. God help me with this series.

Thanks.
      

Friday, 28 January 2011

From The Archive: Opinion: Alton Towers Trip 2010

Back in early 2010 I promised a review of my trip to Alton Towers with school. It took me a while to get around to writing it, and when I did write it I wasn't very happy with the results. I felt I was being over-analytical and too formal, and that I was letting my personal prejudices to do with rides etc. get in the way.
     Regardless, I've decided to dig up that review from my Archives and finally, around six months later than promised, post it on the site. Keep in mind my own reservations, and read on.

-------------------------
Written Summer 2010. Trip occurred in July 2010.

I've been struggling to get round to writing this, mainly because at the time, I felt more of an indifference towards the park then any particular strong opinion. Regardless, it's time for me to take a look at the money-sink that is Alton Towers, and whether we should let it walk over the park's history.
     I made it my aim this time to show my partner around the park, as he had never been before. It was therefore in my best interests to explore every area of the park, looking at design, enjoyment and hospitality. Despite my position that adrenaline thrills are a waste of time, I tried to keep an unbiased view.
     As always, the park is a very immersive experience - several theming devices and a constant source of music make the surreal areas more believable. The main areas of the park looked at Pirates, Jungles, Tech Parks and then more kiddie themed Fairytale and Cloud Cookoo Lands. These areas are well-spaced and connected, with several routes between them, and the maps are fairly clear as well as being colourful and a good display of what's on offer.
     In my last visit, I was badgered by stall-owners as I walked past, to my great annoyance. This has been eradicated, although the prices are still sky-high. Alton Towers is a pure cash-cow; designed to sink as much money as possible from its customers. And, it seems, it is succeeding.
     And now to where I wanted to go on this trip; the two areas of the park most true to its spirit and yet also sadly rejected - the Towers themselves, and the Gardens. Before entering these areas, park-supervisors actually asked us whether we wanted to go in there, or whether we were simply mixed up. And this shouldn't be the attitude; both are well-kept areas of historical significance, and are quite beautiful in their own way.
Castle Gardens
     Alton Towers itself was a settlement looking back to around 1000B.C., but the current castle was built as an extension to a hunting lodge after the English Civil War in the 1600s. The castle is now used for weddin ceremonies, although it is fully possible to explore the ruins, taking a look at the old kitchens and the several writing rooms and lounges. The rooves offer a great view of not only the park but also the surrounding countryside.
     The Gardens on the other hand are much more well-preserved. Straddling a valley between two of the park's main areas, Charles's Talbots gardens are just a wonderful work of art, taking from many different cultures and perfectly understanding the subtlties of garden design. There're the Roman colummns, the large Eastern Pagoda, the Lily Pond, the statues, and many other interesting sections.
     So, I conclude. Alton Towers has a great atmosphere and you can have a really fun time. The sheer amount of care and effort put into keeping the park clean and safe is astounding, even in the areas where less emphasis is placed on people visiting. However, some of the park staff can sometimes get in the way of your enjoyment, even though they do it less than in the past.

Thanks.

Review: Misfits 1.4

Curtis lands six months in the past.
The best episode of Series One in terms of plot and character drama, 1.4 focuses on Curtis and explores not only his past, but the pasts of all the Misfits. It's a flashback episode, intertwined with some delicious Sci-Fi and the usual character comedy. While somewhat predictable in its sci-fi trapping, the episode's character moments (courtesy of Mr. Howard Overman) tied it all up with a pretty bow.
     Our main plot focus looks at Curtis, who goes to the community one day to find his ex-girlfriend Sam released from prison. Feeling regret about the events six months previous, his power kicks in and he is sent back to the dingy, Skins-esque nightclub where it all took place. Following his instincts, he runs from the police and flushes the drugs he's been given down the toilet, before having to face the angry drug dealer, who kills Sam.
Nathan irritates Beverly.
His Regret-o-matic (that's a cool name; I might use it more often) kicking in again, he follows a more thought-out course of action in which he stashes the drugs under a car-tyre and is able to continue with his athletic career. However, a jump back to the present shows the direct consequence of his actions; in this timeline, his Regret-o-matic wasn't there to save his friends at the community centre. Jumping back again, he gets himself arrested but takes all the blame off of Sam. Not that much of a complicated time-travel plot; simply a double case of Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but it fits quite snugly and it's unlike anything Misfits has thrown at us so far.
     Nathan happened to be committing his particular crime at the same time, harrassing bowling-alley worker Beverly (a name that Nathan mercilessly mocks). This is all played for humour, but there are a good few moments featuring Dexter Fletcher as Nathan's absent father Mike (later to be seen in 2.2.). Fletcher seems the perfect choice, a parallel to Nathan's carefree attitude but in a much more groggy and cynical state. We also saw a drunken Kelly get engaged to by her boyfriend while breaking into the car of probation worker Tony and his girlfriend Sally. We also see Simon get rejected by one of his friends, who texted him an invitation by accident. Unlike other shows, where this would just be fluff, a lot of this character work was useful in previous episodes or will be useful in the future.
Ex-girlfriend Sam is out of jail.
     Despite the series' Character-a-week format (at least in Series One), this episode really benefitted by involving all characters in the nightmare. It often helped soften Curtis' gritty, drug-fuelled fear sprint into something more deep and certainly more interesting to watch. It's a well crafted hour at that, with plenty of parallels throughout. As the series heads towards its end, this episode shows us just how good it can get.

Thanks.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Review: Being Human 3.1: Lia

Lia (Lacey Turner) lays out Mitchell's (Aiden Turner) future.
Being Human is a surprise-hit indie show, developed as a comedy-drama three years ago on student-oriented channel BBC Three. The premise was simple; a werewolf (the melodramatic George, played by Russell Tovey), a vampire (dark Mitchell, played by Aiden Turner) and a ghost (madcap trauma victim Annie, played by Lenora Crichlow) share a bedsit in Bristol and try their best at "being human". Series One tended to focus more on the comedy aspect, developing the storylines lightly and ending with a vampire-empire centred finale. The expanded second series upped the ante by adding George's accidental werewolf girlfriend Nina (Sinead Keenan) and finishing with a riproaring two episodes, in which Mitchell let himself go and killed a train-passage's worht of people and Annie was exorcised into Purgatory.
     That's not necessarily to say that the finale was good; it was far too convenient and rushed, relying more on a sort of awe factor rather than having any skill. Regardless, Series Three, which brings with it a move to Barry Island in Wales, needs to tackles the issues it left behind. Thus it begins, with three distinct storylines.
"I saw another one. Another one of us."
     Our main plot sees a depressed Mitchell forced to go into Purgatory to retrieve Annie. There, he is guided through his past killings by strange guide Lia (a wonderful Lacey Turner, playing a much more chirpy version of her character in Eastenders). After seeing over 100 years worth of killing, Mitchell finally arrives at the Carriage, where Lia reveals that she was in seat E12, and makes him see the error of his ways. He demands punishment for his actions (kinky...) but she releases Annie anyway, on the condition that he knows that he will be killed by "a wolf-shaped bullet". I'm very glad that the producers used an episode to sort this out, and didn't simply sort it out in five minutes as has been done before in some other shows. It's also a good character study of Mitchell, a character for whom we've had paradoxical development.
     Rather strangely for Being Human, this week we had a Guest Plot of sorts. Werewolf father and son, known only as MacNair (played by Robson Green and Micheal Socha, brother of Lauren Socha, respectively), live a quiet life in Barry. As it's nearing the full moon, a group of vampires (who have a terribly rascist attitude towards other Specials) kidnap Daddy MacNair and make him rip up an innocent bystander. Elsewhere, George is out doing his Werewolf preparations in the forest and runs into Thomas MacNair, who he chases until he ends up arrested by police (who suspect him of dogging). Nina is forced to come to his rescue and they transform together. These two lines were played off against each other, with brilliant tension. Yet again, the effects used for the werewolf transformation sequences is animatronic rather than artificial, which makes it more realistic in comparison to the recent US remake's CGI.
George (Russell Tovey) sees Thomas (Michael Socha).
     As to guest stars, this episode's were a consistantly brilliant bunch. Lacey Turner was clearly having fun with the part, bringing a light-hearted complacancy underlay with madness, as well as a flexibility when made to be serious at the end. Big-time actor Robson Green does his stuff, with an underrated portrayl of a bitter family man driven to the edge. Michael Socha follows in his sister's footsteps, a brilliant start to his career.
     This opener is the strongest so far in terms of drama, but it does have its flaws. The George and Nina storyline seems mundane and simply a way of moving them around; it's not like we haven't seen the "need to find a place to transform, NOW!" situation before. In the end, the only thing that line brought to the table was a few injections of absurdity and sex to the preceedings, as if BBC Three don't thing the students can handle their absence. There was also a pretentious voiceover at the end from Annie. Seriously, VOs are a no-no for a big drama, especially when badly spoken by Lenora bloody Crichlow.
     In light of that, this opener certainly could have been stronger in a few areas but overall it sets the tone of Series Three and the Purgatory line is an entertaining and dark character study of Mitchell, by the far the show's most interesting character. It's sort of a Rimmer situation; you identify that a character is strong and deserves emphasis, but not when that emphasis takes over everything else. It was a shame that the episode couldn't hit that needed balance. If it had, it would have gone from entertaining, to brilliant.

Thanks.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Review: GHTTB: LoM 2.5 and 2.6

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Five
Sam sees signs of his condition everywhere.
 "I can just about handle you driving like a madman, and treating women like beanbags, but I'll say this only once Gene: STAY. OUT. OF CAMBERWICK GREEN."

Something like this had to happen sooner or later. In an artificial world scenario, there'll always be one episode so completely psychadelic and mad that it defies explanation. Very strangely, this doesn't hinder this episode's strength, which lies in its use of techniques like flashback and unreliable narration, ideas alien to the series.
     The episode's calling card was that Sam has been given an accidental overdose and has thus been down and out for a few days. While he's been asleep, Simon Lamb (Reese Dinsdale, terrific actor. He's always being sad and deppressed, though) has come in asking for the release of Graham Bathehurst, the boyfriend and suspected murderer of a girl murdered last year. His family has been kidnapped by an unknown figure making the demands, and the approaching deadline forces Sam to go over the case files from that time last year (through use of flashback). I won't spoil the ending for you, but it is very good and connects well with the rest of the episode.
     Finally, an episode where the police procedural takes precedent over the sci-fi but doesn't completely overshadow it. The two aspects compliment each other, make each other stronger and more potent. When Sam goes into a deeper coma because of new stimulants, you share his frustration and want to get back to the case. It seems a little strange that this episode is improved by Sam's rather backseat position, but that's maybe because our 1973 vs 2006 argument is getting a little tired. But no, because it's that argument, that drama, that fuels this episode and makes it the best episode of the series.

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Six
"I could murder an Indian"
Toolbox

Episode Six takes a look at the birth of "immigrant culture" in Britain during the 1970s, a result of the Ugandan expulsion of Asians. In-universe this includes the father of Sam's 2006 girlfriend, Maya. As an episode examining prejudice it displays 1970s attitudes but doesn't say much about them, instead tying it in with the future storyline. It also tries to tackle the issue of heroin, bundling both in one go.
     Ugandan-Asian Depak Gandhi is shot, and found with Turkish heroin. Sam finds the victim's girlfriend Layla (a pre-Misfits Alex Reid). A prejudiced Gene goes round the local drug-dealer Rocket to find out more info, and after more heroin deaths employs local enforcer "Toolbox" (Ian Puleston-Davies, who's been in everything) to get info out of him. They "trace" it back to Depak's brother Ravi, who joint-owned the record store suspected of dealing out the heroin.
     After realising the Layla (real name Lesley Roy) is Maya's mother, Sam takes info from a skinhead about an antiques warehouse where the heroin is being stored. They raid the warehouse and Gene calls in Toolbox for further "investigation". When Sam and Annie try and get Ravi in safely, all three are knocked out by Toolbox's men. In the climax, it is revealed that Toolbox has been behind everything; the drugs, the shooting, and the racially motivated attacks.
The episode is very busy because of all the things it is try to do, an because of that it doesn't really manage to do any of them. It does, however, provide an interesting and thoughtful piece of entertainment, unfettered by any overt cultural references. It's very potent and concentrated, and comes off as a little over-serious for it. At the same time, Gene's flair for euphemistic similie and metaphor provide the reverse. Life On Mars is a study of contrast. Ultimately this episode provides at least an inspiration for thought about the issues at hand, but its mix of concentrated seriousness and thick, convaluted plot makes it something more than quiet Friday-night entertainment.

 Thanks.

Review: GHTTB: LoM 2.3 and 2.4

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Three 
Red? Or Yellow? Sam fights mental indecision.
Episode Three is quite a potent hour whose central theme runs constant throughout and never lets up, as well as pulling the nostalgia strings on a common terror of the Seventies. It's the first episode to really make us both connect with Sam and the opposite: the first episode to show us Sam's more fallible side. Protagonists are like scientific theories; they're only valid and correct if we can see them being falsified.
     Sam's "falsification" came when he misjudged a suspected IRA bomb attack that led a cocky Ray to end up in hospital. In the real world, the coma was beginning to alter Sam's sense of judgement and decision making skills - presenting him with exaggerated dilmemmas like choosing which wire to defuse a bomb with. His internal struggle actually overshadows (and compliments) the main plot of the episode, which sees Sam struggle with an Irish-hating Gene and a distrusting department. This sort of thing was what 1.2 was aiming for, and a second round has made the format much sharper.
     If there's anything negative I have to say, then it's that Ray's lack of sympathetic characterisation makes it more likely for the viewer to side with the over-confident Sam, who in the end turns out to be right that the bombers weren't IRA. It seems a tad pointless that in an episode showing our protagonist's weakness he is proven right anyway. Otherwise, the episode is very strong and a sign that Series Two knows what it's doing with its characters. Good character drama and a chilling callback to a more dangerous age.
    
 Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Four
 Gosh. Life On Mars dives into the other main Seventies preoccupation, with an episode designed to look at... crappy parties? The script is crude; a long line of sex jokes and cultural references, with the only connection to reality being a vague appearance by Sam's beloved Auntie Heather (Katherine Kelly, currently Becky in Coronation Street) who hasn't been mentioned before this episode and will never be mentioned again.
     A woman is found and Sam recognises her distinct perfume, identifying her as a Boudoir Lady (of which Sam's Aunt was). They get info from Boudoir lady Denise Williams (Georgia Taylor, currently playing insane doctor Ruth in Casualty) about the activities of local car-dealer Roger Twilling, who holds private sex-parties and "employs" the girls to hang out.
     After a lot of faffing about using Surveillance (cueing a barrage of future-related jokes), Sam and Annie infiltrate one of the parties as "Tony and Cherie Blair". After they bust the sex party, they discover that the real murderer is Roger's jealous wife Carol (played chillingly by Eva Pope, of Waterloo Road fame). The plot itself is basic crime-show fare, and the things that both help and hinder it are the character fuzz around it.
    Not the most awful episode in the series (no episode is truely awful, just a little dull) by far, but the entire plot's reliance on corny seventies nostalgia really isolates a lot of viewers from the party. On the positive, the "fuzz" as I call it is quite funny most of the time, even if it slowly dates as we edge ever further away from 2007.

Thanks.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Red Dwarf lands on Dave in 2012

Red Dwarf was a brilliant Sci Fi comedy that ran on BBC Two from 1988-1993 and then 1998-9. The series was then ressurrected for a three-part special in 2009 by Dave. Long term readers will know how much I love this show, seeing as I've reviewed every episode.
     Before now any news of any more Dwarf has been confined to rumour and speculation. A few days ago, main actor Craig Charles revealed to Real Radio that, "…they’ve commissioned another series of Red Dwarf, We’re gonna film at the end of November December and January." This is the first solid evidence we have that there will be new Dwarf, and adding to that, "The plan at the moment, and this could change,  is that we record the new series in front of an audience" for the first time since 1998.
     I'll certainly be watching in.... a year's time, and hopefully Audenshaw Reviews will still be around to review it.

Thanks.

PS: I'd like to thank Obsessed with Film for breaking this news and indirectly bringing it to my attention.

Review: Lost 4.3: The Economist

Note: If you want to understand these reviews, I'd direct you to Lostpedia's Season Four portal. All of the images in my Lost reviews have been taken from Lostpedia, and the plot there goes into greater detail.
Sayid sets off in the Helicopter.
Settling into the usual Lost routine, this episode focused on Sayid, the series' Iraqi badass. Sayid's episodes always have similar themes of love and honour, and someone usually ends up dead at the end. The Economist didn't shy away from this generalisation and instead embraced them, setting up an interesting if predictable flashforward storyline as well as advancing a few trivial character movements around the island.
     Sayid intends to go to the Freighter in Frank's helicopter, and so organises a trade-off - if he can get Charlotte back from Locke's camp, then they'll take him to the freighter. Sayid sets off with Kate and Miles, the latter of which is also going to try and find Ben, as per the freighter's mission. When they get there, Hurley tips off Locke and they are captured, leaving Sayid trapped with Ben, Kate with Sawyer and Miles on his own. Locke and Sayid make their own deal, as the ex-Republican Guard member has his suspicions about the freighter and trades Miles for Charlotte. At the end of the episode, Sayid goes off in the Helicopter, with Frank, Desmond and Naomi's corpse.
     Another interesting (if brief) subplot was Daniel's attempts to check the distance between freighter and island, revealing that there was half-an-hour's worth time difference between the two. It was a fun piece of Sci-Fi that really spices the show up for me, and it's the start of this series' more scientific tendencies.
Elsa and Sayid.
     The flashforward timeline saw Sayid as a hired assassin for Ben, killing off businessmen. One day, on a mission, he tries to infiltrate an "Economist" through their assistant, Elsa, who Sayid goes ahead and bonks. Then, he is surprised when she shoots him in the shoulder, and runs back to Ben crying. You could tell that both parties had some Genre Savvy going on, and I was surprised when the otherwise expert Sayid didn't notice. It didn't connect with anything in the present, and the motivations behind Sayid helping Ben aren't explained until 4.9.
     The themes of honour and love etc. would certainly be a lot more potent if they weren't such well-worn fascets of Sayid's entire character. It feels a little stale, something that could have been sorted out in five minutes but was stretched queasily over three-quarters of an hour. Maybe it's just my British-grown appetite for tension and fast pacing that makes me a little irritated by the slow, drawn out recesses of US shows, but Frank could have said "Ok, hop in," and the episode would acheive the same amount.
Ben "consoles" Sayid.
     Regardless of that spectre hanging over it, the episode does have some positives, however trivial they may be. I loved the fun Sci-Fi goings on with Faraday and his experiment, which itself called upon greats like Back To The Future. It's a sign of good things to come. Unfortunately, at the moment, the series is trotting along at too slow a pace for me. I want something to happen, goddamnit. That, and the episode had nothing new or expressive to say or do, and was simply shifting people around.

Thanks.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: Misfits 1.3

Alisha gets ready to use her power for a night on the town.
God, is it the middle of the series already? Episode Three is quite mixed, a dull blade in an otherwise sharp series. It isn't that the plot, which is spread out over Alisha, Kelly and Simon, is particularly bad in any way; the problem really belongs in the episode's lack of focus or punch. Regardless, this week's episode managed to advance a lot of plotlines that were stilted by last week's Nathan smorgesboard.
     This episode's main labour was to give some much needed development to Alisha. At this point in the series the character comes across as (and, quite frankly, is) a shallow whore, and that doesn't make a sympathetic character. What results is quite an interesting interpretation of her situation, watching her first exploit her powers in an nightclub and then watching the negative aspects as she is unable to have a meaningful physical relationship with Curtis. My only bug here is that the character doesn't change that much - she's still immature and sex-obsessed, except this time she has to find other means of doing the deed.
     Much more interesting, if absurd, tales were to be found elsewhere. Simon's moments throughout the episode were scattered and subtle because of it, and Iwan Rheon's acting is what makes it so real. Just the ten second shot of Simon sitting alone and invisible in the changing rooms has evoked even philosophical thought from some reviewers. The episode also revealed that "shygirl" is their probation worker Sally, who was Tony's fiance. The other strand saw Kelly affected by previous assault victim Jodie, whose alopecia led her to develop the ability to make other people temporarily bald. Despite the mildly comical element, it felt good for her character, which gets stereotyped elsewhere.
Balded Kelly (left) and Jodie (right) have a heart-to-heart.
      The group-plot was a very loose and swiftly managed dilemma where Simon, upon wandering to the Underpass, finds that construction workers are busy digging up the ground where the two bodies from the centre are buried. After some time-travel solved tension, the group bury the bodies in concrete. More or less sorted, then.
     Excepting the "shygirl" element and the permanent burying of the bodies, the episode didn't hold much actual weight. Howard Overman has often been about Character over Plot, and that is nowhere more obvious than here. It's always been a major benefit of British Brevity that we're able to cram a lot more plot and drama into a shorter series, avoiding the long, drawn-out messes that can occur with some US shows (e.g. Heroes Series 2 and 4). It feels a waste, then, that the plot here was so subtley done it was rendered intangible.
          If 1.3 had some cohesive narrative, something to definitely strive toward, then it might just manage to be one of the more compelling episodes so far. But it just doesn't, instead presenting itself as a fruit-salad of plot scraps left over from the premise. Not a good sign. But the next episode makes up for it, surely? Join me next week and we'll find out.

Thanks.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Just Another Lonely Sunday

Back in September, when I created the Super Sundays concept it was to make sure I had something interesting to review each week. TV was slow and I didn't have much to work with. It's the new year, and times have changed, so from hereon in I am discontinuing Super Sundays until further notice. This will leave Sunday as a free-for-all, which this month I will be filling with Life On Mars.

Thanks.

Josh: No Ordinary Family: Episode Three (review)


Today, I have decided to organise the individual plots for each of the four main characters into sections so it's easier to read. So, here is my review of 'No Ordinary Family' episode three - No Ordinary Ring(each episode title starting with 'No Ordinary' by the way).

Jim: Jim is still practicing his super-human skills with George just in case he is needed for a crime, but for now he jumps his way to be on time to the tuxedo shop for a new suit for a wedding the Powells are attending. He misses the wedding but turns up at the reception where the procession are robbed of their prized possessions by an armed gang. They also take Stephanie's ring, so then Jim and George find out all weddings in the area are being targeted by the gang so they go to a wedding where Jim fails to capture Steph's ring. But second time around, after he throws one of the gang off the roof onto a police car, George gets hold of Steph's ring which was found on the arrested man. But, the offender isn't proven guilty of robbery so gets off. Meanwhile, Jim organises a moonlight dinner with Steph on top of an expensive restaurant where he returns her ring.

Stephanie: Steph, is closer to being able to get her plant project going but Doctor King asks her to take part in a physical test. So, naturally Steph is worried about her blood test as her blood is now full of weird DNA so Katie offers her blood up to the nurse. But then Steph reminds her that both their blood was taken when they took the job at Global Tech, so their blood won't match and both could end up fired. So, Steph uses her powers to break in Global Tech at night with another employee's card, and swaps Katie's blood with an old sample of hers. She thinks she's got away with it but Dr King has noticed the break-in, checked the CCTV and seen a strange blur near the testubes - STEPH!

Daphne - Daphne's childhood friend who she hasn't talken to for years, asks if she can come round to the Powells as they haven't done so in ages, when in fact when Daphne reads her mind, she doesn't want to be alone. So, when her friend comes round Daphne reads her mind again and discovers that her parents are splitting up, but when she asks her friend about it she thinks Daphne is weird so runs off. Daphne then complains to her parents that she needs to talk to someone about her abilities and her friend is the one, and as she tries to explain to her friend she gives in to her parents' pleas and lies to her friend. Meanwhile in her life Daphne is suspicous of Jim's vigilante actions and discovers he is fighting crime.

JJ: JJ is still being accused of cheating at school as well as being blackmailed by Daphne as she is keeping his secret about his powers. He is doing her homework and in return, she does him a favour by reading the mind of a girl he likes. But the girl thinks he's a tool but Daphne lies and says she only dates Jewish boys. So, JJ uses his genius brain to quickly learn Hebrew and he pretends to do religious things when the girl comes over to study. He freaks her out when he reveals he's trying to be Jewish, she's confused so leaves, leaving JJ to have a go at his older sister for lying to him.

Opinion: Congratulations to ABC for creating yet another great episode of this hit drama, because it was just as good as the first two. Of course I was disapointed that they skated over the previous murder of Yvonne with only a brief mention from Jim. Also, I was slightly annoyed that they didn't include the story arc about Dr King and the Watcher but nevertheless the main plot was strong and interesting. The comic inclusion of Jim trying to dance was pretty funny and I liked the slow-mo break in from Steph. Also, I like how the show dealt with Daphne's storyline about lying and I thought JJ's storyline was a bit cheesy but still of good proportions. I'm looking forward to next week's episode and I hope you are for this review!
Thanks, Josh.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Josh: No Ordinary Family: Episode 1&2 (recap)

"You can't fly but you can jump." George.
Plot: 'No Ordinary Family' is an American television series from the company - ABC, which is a sci-fi, comedy drama which began airing last year in September over in the USA. But, on British channel; Watch (part of the BBC), it began last week with a double-bill.

Episode One sees the Powell Family, who are dysfunctional family living in fictional Pacific Bay, California. Father and police sketch artist; Jim (Michael Chilkis) decide to take the family on a holiday to South America as they do not talk much to each other anymore and he feels left out. But, all goes wrong when their plane crashes into a river in Brazil, which seems to give them supernatural powers. Jim is first when he saves his colleague Detective Yvonne Cho (Christina Chang) from a gunman in the office, by catching one of the bullets. So along with his friend and comic book fan; George St. Cloud (Romany Malco) he develops his new abilities by trying to fight crime and discovers he can jump miles at time and is super-strong. He does this and is able to successfully draw perfect images of the offenders for his superiors.

Meanwhile, his wife; Stephanie (Julie Benz), discovers she can run incredibly fast, can heal quickly and has a really fast metabolism which helps her keep slim. So, with her friend and lab-assistant (Katie Andrews -Autumn Reeser) at her company; Global Tech, she uses her powers to her own advantages. This includes getting a sample of the water in the river that her family were subjected to in Brazil but she finds nothing in it. But at the same time she is in the middle of a project about an amazing plant which intrigues her boss. But her boss; Doctor Dayton King (Stephen Collins) is more or less the bad guy, who employs 'The Watcher' (another 'super'(Josh Stewart) to keep an eye on other supernatural humans, which leads up to the murder of Yvonne in episode two.

And then we go back to Jim and Yvonne's children; JJ (Jimmy Bennett) and Daphne (Kay Panabaker) who also have powers, but JJ keeps his secret as the powers he owns make his parents proud. You see JJ, has gained a 'super-brain' and is now highly intelligent unlike his previous self which was rather 'dumb'. But this causes his disbelieving teachers to doubt him and accuse of him of cheating, which makes Jim upset. On the other hand we have Daphne, a rebellious teenager who is dating the bad boy of her school, who is now telepathic. This new power is hard for her to handle at first but then she controls and is able suss out her boyfriend is cheating on her with her best friend.

Opinion: An exciting and addictive double-bill of this US drama has intrigued me to review it because I think that it is so good. In comparison to other US super-hero shows like Heroes and Smallville, which I never watched as I think them not good, this is a feel good family show. It has all the basic elements of a normal superhero themed programme and all the original abilities you get with it but this show has a nice twist to it. The show has light-hearted humour, strong fantasy action and an interesting adult take on both the parents and children's lives. It also has a good focus on topics such as teenage sex, dyslexia and relationship problems. If people reading this haven't already tuned in then do, you haven't missed much important plot because I've summarised all here. Tune in tonight at 8pm on Watch, I urge you, this is a great show that I'll be reviewing here every Wednesday starting tomorrow.
Thanks, Josh.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Review: GHTTB:LoM 2.1 and 2.2

Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode One

"Is this ringing any bells?"
Sam Tyler

Life On Mars returns with an interesting episode that throws us in at the deep end, examining what happens when the ideologies of Hunt and Tyler switch places. It also confronts a question no dout screamed at the television set several times during Series One: why doesn't Sam use his hindsight to catch criminals before they act? On the whole, it's also a lot more fortified and tangible than previously.
     Under the glare of the public eye, Gene and Sam investigate the murder/mugging of a man on a bus. Evidence leads them to casino-owner Tony Crane (Hustle's Marc Warren) whom Sam knows as a crime-lord murderer that Sam put away in the 90s, and whom he believes is torturing him by his bedside in 2006. While Gene is acting By-the-Book for the press, Sam is desperately driven by his conscience to try and find/manufature evidence that will get Crane sent down.
    It's not like it hasn't been done before, but the hindsight-induced characterisation flip between Sam and Gene still makes interesting television. Simm's acting is exemplary here; you can see his sheer desperation and also perhaps his loneliness. This is one of the first episodes, as far as I've seen so far in this marathon, that uses a lot of Chekov's guns to achieve its aims, e.g. Lunatics given no fair trial; Sam's invention, several decades early, of the "stinger" for stopping cars. It also kept very strong ties to the present day, a dynamic that I like. Often Mars feels slightly polarised between its Crime and Sci-Fi genres, and it's in episodes like this one that the two blend perfectly. There are also, finally, hints that Sam may be able to return to the future. A great start to the series.
 
Life On Mars, Series Two, Episode Two
"You don't have to play the clown. You're better than that."

After last week's straightforward tale, Episode Two presents us with a newfound complexity and potency. It also does some more to adress Police Corruption (at least before that topic becomes stale, which it will.) It also, unfortunately, begins to give credence to the Everyone Is Jesus In Purgatory ideas in the Ashes To Ashes finale. Shouldn't bother about that now though. On to the plot.
    Our main plot concerned the capture of "Dicky Fingers," a police witness stolen from under Sam's nose. Under the advice of honoured Superintendant Harry Woolf, Gene goes after gangster Arnold Malone, who tips them off about a bank job he's planned. Dicky, in interrogation, actually gives evidence against Woolf, claiming that he's a crime boss behind the scenes, to Gene's anger and Sam's surprise. Sam intends to take the accusations seriously but Gene, in his love of his Superintendant, tells Woolf everything. Woolf laughs it off, but overnight Fingers disappears. Sam stakes out Woolf but he lets Gene know, leading to some... drastic measures. Fingers is found dead and the evidence stacks up against the superintendant, as doubts start to creep into Gene's mind. They investigate and find firm evidence, after which they confront a gun-toting, desperate Woolf.
     The subplot in this episode covered Tyler's black superintendant, Glenn, who, having died in 2006, appears in 1973 as a young officer. Sam tries to persuade him that he shouldn't play on his skin colour just to survive in the racist world of the time, but is then disappointed when he ends up caught up in Woolf''s corruption. This subplot easily provides the best moment of the episode, in the downright inspirational speech Sam gives to a worrying Glenn.
     This episode is really about idols. Both leads find their idols, their inspirations on the police force, in a disappointing state: Gene with his treasured Superintendant Woolf, and Sam with the now youthened Glenn. It's a fable about how you should never model your life directly off someone elses, how independance is important. Not bad for a small-time crime show, in my opinion.

Thanks.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Review: Lost 4.2: Confirmed Dead

Note: If you want to understand these reviews, I'd direct you to Lostpedia's Season Four portal. All of the images in my Lost reviews have been taken from Lostpedia, and the plot there goes into greater detail.

In the past, Miles talks to a ghost.
Season Four uses its second episode to lay down the ground rules concerning this year's quirks, making use of flashback to show us the new roster of characters coming our way, and how exactly they got involved in the first place. Meanwhile, events in the present turn into a somewhat farcical run-around as the survivors meet the freighter people and vice versa.
      Flashbacks show us scientist Daniel Faraday being upset at the discovery of a false wreckage for Oceanic 815, spiritualist Miles Straume getting rid of a ghost, anthropologist Charlotte Lewis finding a polar bear skull in Tunisia, pilot Frank Lapidus informing Oceanic that the pilot in the wreckage isn't the one that was on the plane, and Naomi (who died last episode) talking with mysterious Abbaddon about how and why she needs top assemble this motley crew. I can appreciate that this episode was caused by the Writers' Guild Strike, but it would have been so much better to display the essence of their character instead of (in Charlotte's case) simply using them for mixing up the plot. I think the most well done of these on a character level is Miles' segment, perfectly capturing his abilities and his personality well.
Charlotte "lands".
     Meanwhile, on the island, Daniel meets with the survivors, as well as Miles, who reveals that Naomi's request to "Tell my sister I love her" was in fact a warning signal. Jack and Kate explain what happened. Meanwhile, Locke's group get funky about their "destiny", and they run into Charlotte hanging upside down. Frank lands, send out a flare and both teams set out to move towards it; Charlotte is shot (not fatally, she's serupticiously wearing a bulletproof vest) and, after some coaxing, Miles reveals why they're really on the island. And it's not to save the survivors - it's to find a man. A man called Ben Linus, the leader of the island's natives who is currently being held by Locke's group. (Again, I direct you to Lostpedia.) The story doesn't waste any time in getting everything into position and blowing away any doubts about how quickly the rescues are going to happen. Unfortunately, this can often feel rushed and out of pace. Again, I can only blame the writer's strike for this.
     Confirmed Dead is an episode with some very interesting ideas and a vested intention of setting out the season's stall before throwing the viewer back into the flashforward world. It does suffer because of the Strike, but what we do have is quite impressive considering those conditions. Otherwise, it's a firm story that pushes the plot along with some enjoyable drama and mystery to chew on.

Thanks.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Review: Misfits 1.2

Nathan meets helper Ruth.
Second episode, and Misfits shows us just how gritty it can be in this controversial and absurd episode. Both its storylines revoved around the charismatic Nathan, and they surprisingly manage to touch on a vital message about our treatment of the elderly. It feels a bit of a shame that perhaps the already most vocal character is emphasised in lieu of the others, but I feel that it's important to add some more sentimental characteristics to his otherwise obnoxious nature.
     The group are made to help out at an OAP party, where Nathan is otherwise unoccupied. He sees and chats-up a pretty helper girl called Ruth, who after a drunken night in the community centre end up having sex, during which she transforms into an 82 year old woman. It turns out that Ruth was a pensioner affected by the storm, given a power that satisfied her desire to look young again. Nathan tries to avoid the now-rapidly aging Ruth until he goes round to apologise, and in a touching scene finds her dead in the armchair.While the dark absurdity of this plot in some areas made it feel a little crude, the lack of melodrama provided a refreshing change to the sentimental US drama that was prevalent at the time.
Nathan is "savaged" by Jeremy.
      The main subplot (although it was so woven in with the main that one wouldn't think it was one) surrounded Nathan's home-life, specifically his ailing mother and her boyfriend Jeremy, whom Nathan hates. The gang discover Nathan's step-dad naked on the estate, and later on in the night he appears again, acting like a dog. Nathan's mother has kicked him out of the house, and when he returns to warn his mother about her boyfriend's activities she already knows. He's also been affected by the storm, and is nightly given the mind of his favourite childhood Jack Russell. This subplot is as ridiculous as the main but doesn't hesitate to face the domestic issues apparent in today's youth.
     Elsewhere, a few strands of plot did develop, although not very significantly: Curtis found a mysterious, accusing letter on the inside of his locker, and Simon started chatting online to someone called "shygirl". I think the problem with a Character-A-Week format is that other characters too often get stuck on the sidelines, often having nothing to do before suddenly getting a single week of character development and then nothing after. Series One, in fact, doesn't have an episode that focusses on Kelly, which is a shame.
     As an episode of Misfits 1.2 was fairly standard, taking a mixture of the satirical, cynical and grotesque and creating an entertaining drama. As a Second Episode it was just as successful for the same reasons, showing how far the show was willing to stretch the boundaries, and how these stretches could be played realistically.

Thanks.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

No. of Writing Staff: 2

One of my fellow online writers, and one of my peers, is "The Doctor", or Josh Stoddard. He, inspired by this website, created his own blog called "Josh's Blog." As I've recently mentioned, I'm looking for guest writers on Audenshaw Reviews to add some variety and specialisation to preceedings. I of course went to Josh first, as he has some blogging experience. For the next 8 weeks (plus a recap week), he will be reviewing the US Drama "No Ordinary Family" on Wednesdays. I welcome him to the team and hope you'll enjoy his writing midweek.

Thanks.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

SuperSunday: Moon

Spoilers Follow. Science Fiction in 2009 was shrouded by the release of 3D epic Avatar, a film now recognised as nothing more than a lazy (albeit very pretty) recant of old Western classic Dances with Wolves. But this review isn't about Avatar. It's about the other major Science Fiction film released in 2009, directed by the son of musical legend David Bowie, Duncan Jones. That film was Moon.
     The film stars Hollywood supporting man Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a worker nearing the end of his three-year work period as a maintenance worker on the titular satelite. His company, the Korean Lunar Industries, employs him to take care of the automated diggers that harvest the helium 3 needed for Earth's clean fusion energy. Problems with communication satellites mean his only communication with home are videos sent by wife Tess, who was pregnant with daughter Eve when he left.
     Two weeks to go before he returns home, and Sam starts to hallucinate. On his way to fix a harvester he crashes, and when "he" awakens in the base his suspicions are aroused. Sam goes back to the rover, and brings back his body. It turns out that both Sams are clones, built from the DNA and memories of the original Sam Bell, who is now back on Earth. Now the two Sams have only a limited amount of time to try and expose the secrets of the base and hopefully escape before the "rescue team" arrive to clean them up...
      Behind all of its ilicit technobabble, Moon is really a parable about sollitude and deceit. The first Sam we see, Sam 4, has lived for three years in the desperate hope that one day he will return to his wife - who, as we later find out, has been dead for many years. In a way, the discovery of this deceit frees him for the little time he has left (clones die after three years, probably of some form of radiation poisoning), and allows him to eventually make the sacrifice that allows Sam 5 to send himself back to Earth. Who are we meant to see as the villians here? Lunar Industries, for creating the program in the first place? Or the original Sam Bell, who willingly gave his DNA and helped create the hundreds of clones stored in the base?
     The vital variable that makes the film work is the outstanding acting by Sam Rockwell and stand-in Robin Chalk. Rockwell manages to portray two sides of one man - the loose, relaxed Sam 4 versus the paranoid but determined Sam 5. His charting of a man's steady breakdown due to sheer loneliness presents a tragic look at the human condition on the whole, and the film would be nothing without it.
Sam examines the model he works on.
     As supporting characters go, the ship computer GERTY (voiced by, of all people, Kevin Spacey) certainly helps to stir the tension with his HAL-reminiscient overtones, and then turns out to be a subversion as, heartwarmingly, he helps the two Sams to escape. I think that was what Jones was going for; playing on the ever-increasing public mistrust of technology. One could say that it's quite clever; one could say that the whole film is quite clever, in the way it plays on so many science fiction tropes and preconceptions to form its own, semi-realistic warning for society.
     If you want to follow the masses, go to Avatar for your Science Fiction. Or, you could look towards a certain British director and his smaller project, Moon, which is an excellent melding of high-standard acting, direction and storytelling. The decision, ladies and gentlemen, is yours.
Thanks.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Review: Lost 4.1: The Beginning of the End

Note: If you want to understand these reviews, I'd direct you to Lostpedia's Season Four portal. All of the images in my Lost reviews have been taken from Lostpedia, and the plot there goes into greater detail.

The year before, Lost had thrown at its already tired viewers a series that was so divisive in quality it carved a significant dent out of the fanbase. They'd finished this mix with one of their famous end-of-series cliffhangers, one that would prove to be the best one of the series - a glimse at some of our castaways off the island. This "flashforward" device would come to define Season Four and make it in particular my favourite. Lost had crossed its halfway point but was still content to throw out question after question on its unsuspecting audience...
     Jack has made contact with the team on the freighter that send now-injured parachuter Naomi, and he and the rest of the survivors around him are elated at the prospect of being rescued. However, the freighter is having troubles with the locating signal and ask for Naomi to be put on the phone - something made difficult by her injured escape into the woods. Eventually she is tracked and fixes the phone, leaving a coded message for her colleagues before dying.
Desmond tells of Charlie's demise.
     On the other side of the island, Desmond swims ashore from where he and Charlie were trying to shut down the station responsible for blocking the phone signal. There, he reveals to Hurley, Sawyer et. al. what we already know; Charlie died in the station, but not before revealing to Desmond his discovery that the freighter people were unsafe. Hurley is stressed and saddened by his best friend's death, and as the group head back towards Jack he goes off on a mad tangent. On his travels, he meets with Locke, who killed Naomi. Locke manages to convince Hurley that Charlie was right, and the people on the freighter should be treated with extreme caution. Both groups eventually meet up and Locke calls for the survivors to pick sides - come with Locke to the Others' secure barracks, or goe with Jack and risk the freighter. After this has happened, the freighter's helicopter sends down another parachuter, and we get out cliffhanger.
    In the flashforward, we see Hurley driving recklessly and eventually getting put into a mental instition, where he gets a vision of Charlie asking him to go back to the Island. Jack later comes to see him, worrying about whether he's revealed their secret. It turns out that Jack, Hurley and Kate are part of a famous group known as the Oceanic Six, and presumebly the public assume everyone else is dead. Hurley asks Jack to go back to the island but he point blank refuses.
Hurley refuses to aknowledge Charlie
    Like all good Lost episodes, "The Beginning of the End" mixes the traumas of its central character - Hurley in this case - with the main plot surrounding everyone else. Some shows would be too hasty to clean up after cliffhangers, and wouldn't bother to, as Lost has here, issue important developments like Charlie's death and Locke's actions against Naomi. Often the show is accused of being too isolating, too locked out to new viewers, and quite a bit of the dialogue here supports tht, but most of the time it stood up on its own.
     Is it wrong to say that my favourite part of this story was the music? Michael Giacchino has composed a wonderfully potent and beutiful score for the show over the years, and indeed won an Oscar for his work on Disney Pixar film Up in 2009. One of the things that I love about the lengthyness of American shows is that they have the ability to spend more time on quiet moments like this (not that many use that ability...).
     The Beginning of the End (an adequate title, as we cross the halfway point) is an episode which mixes the outstand and the understated, one with no qualms about jumping from exciting action scenes to deep emotional sequences filled with stirring music. As season starts on Lost go, it tickles the mysteries while not exciting them - a perfect way of easing the viewer into the season.

Thanks.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Review: Misfits 1.1

The "Misfits" get their powers.
Channel Four, as a company, always held a strange position around the TV dinner table - BBC the responsible mother figure, ITV the precocious teenager and Channel 5 the little brat in the armchair. C4 and its various spinoff channels hold the role of "quirky uncle", sitting on the sidelines and firing off obscure, under-the-table jokes and ideas. In essence, Four was the eptiome of the "alternative," and couldn't escape its mixture of reality shows like Big Brother and its weird comedies.
     Then, in 2007, E4 premiered Skins, an innovative and gritty teen drama. Suddenly, "innovative and gritty" became E4's thing, the channel nearly typecast as showing either American reruns or "innovative and gritty" dramas, and parodied as such. Oh well, they said. Howard Overman (a mainly BBC writer, know for Hotel Babylon, New Tricks, Hustle and Merlin) was brought in to write a show of his own creation. That show was a Skins-reminiscient superhero drama called Misfits. It was, indeed, "innovative and gritty". With that in mind, how does the premier of this new show fare? Let's just say it didn't do badly.
     Misfits 1.1 is quite strong in terms of storytelling because it holds the show's characteristic energy and determination, firmly setting down strong characterisations while pushing forward an amusing and mildy intriguing plot. Of note is the way that the show manages to dodge many of the main tropes plaguing the superhero genre, keeping it firmly about character instead of spectacle.
     As you should know (if you've read any of my Misfits reviews so far), the episode focusses around a group of  five six delinquents working on their community service - cocky irishman Nathan, chav Kelly, sexy Alisha*, shy Simon, runner Curtis and thug Gary. The episode starts with the six being adressed on their first day by frustrated probation worker Tony, each being very strongly characterised from the off. We get our Mass Super Powering Event - a storm, which imbues all of the characters with their abilities.
The five six characters paint some benches
     While not wearing now, the episode uses Misfits' commonly seen "freak of the week" plot, where the group are stalked by a super-powered murderer. Here, Gary is offed by a power-induced-rage filled Tony, after which he attempts to assault the group while they hide from the storm in the Community centre. Simon is the first to mention his abilities (turning invisible when people ignore him), followed by Kelly (who'd been hearing people's thoughts.) After a few conveniences, Alisha and Curtis' powers are also revealed (a sex-inducing touch and time reversal, respectively) and Kelly manages to dispatch Tony with a whack from a fire-extinguisher. They, frightened at being blamed for the two murders, drag the bodies away and buy them under the motorway.
     As an introductory episode, 1.1. does a very good job of painting the pattern that the series will follow. The most refreshing thing is of course the more-or-less realistic dialogue - the powers aren't the core focus of the series, and there isn't any melodrama beyond Nathan's usual madness. A sign of good things to come, perhaps?

Thanks.

*Spelt differently in subtitles, promotional material and other sources, as well as in these reviews. For the remainder of my Misfits reviews, she shall be refered to using one i - "Alisha".

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year News

Happy New Year, everyone. I'm sure you're all looking forward to 2011 as I am, and here at Audenshaw Reviews I've shaken up some of the schedules. You can see the January schedule here.

I'm also looking for Guest Staff, so if you're interested please leave a note in the comments. Please remember that if you want to write for the blog, you will need to set up a Blogger account. Also remember that I get no money to do this and neither will you.

Thanks. Happy New Year.