Sunday, 27 February 2011

Review: Being Human 3.6: Daddy Ghoul

George meets the apparently late George Sands Snr. (James Fleet)
The passage of time and a worn and cynical view have resigned me to the fact that Being Human has uprooted from its comedy upbringings and now survives mostly as a quirky drama. Such was ever apparent in this week's significantly lighter outing, which managed to throw in a few more laughs alongside the now-usual dramatic slog. Series Three has now overcome its shakeyness and can be taken on its own merits - an increasingly enjoyable examination of human nature.
     This week's sitcom undertones came from established actor James Fleet, best known for his work as the loveable ditz Hugo Horton in Richard Curtis' Vicar of Dibley. Here he gives an appropriately straightforward performance as George's father, George Sands Snr. Having seen an add for his father's funeral in the local newspaper, George went to said funeral and encountered his father, whom he believed to be a ghost (thus the title). George is persuded that his father's unfinished business lies in the household that he was forced to leave three years ago after becoming a werewolf - his mother left Sands Snr. for an arseholish P.E. teacher (Danny Webb, who has also been in everything) because she thought he wasn't exciting enough. After an impromtu meeting with a bag of crisps reveals that George Snr faked his death, George and Nina manage to convince him to go round and win his wife back.
      Fleet and Webb are fighting not only for their in-story wives, but also for the best comic performance: Webb as the ridiculously angry and obnoxious ex-P.E. teacher; Fleet as the understated, tragic cosmic plaything. In the end it's Fleet's rise from insignificance that makes him stand out in this episode, as is right for the eponymous character.
Nancy speaks with a deranged Herrick.
   Meanwhile, Mitchell and Annie are suffering the consequences of Nina's anonymous tip-off last week, as detective Nancy (Erin Richards) comes-a-knocking, asking about the Box-Tunnel-20. She's quickly shooed away, but Herrick, whom Mitchell has been trying to make drink blood, is enthralled by the blood left by a gash on her leg. Determined to get to the truth, she visits again and while visiting the bathroom is nearly eaten by Herrick, who resists and shows her the book containing the Box Tunnel 20 newspaper clippings. Jason Watkins is yet again incredibly subtle in his acting style, every nuance of his inner dichotomy coming out on screen. He makes this subplot, and yet all of the other factors are working well in unison; Lenora Crichlow has gone back to her non-annoying persona and Aiden Turner's flexible despair is perfect.
     This week continued Being Human's streak of brilliance, throwing us a perfect salad of comedy and drama that puts this series' early episodes to shame. It's everything I could want in a comedy drama - fun and tense in equal measure. I'm quite hoping that this brilliant run lasts us through to the finale, which creeps ever nearer.

Thanks.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Gettin' that Friday Feeling

Just thought I'd drop by to announce that from next week, Being Human Series One and Two will be reviewed on Fridays, replacing my Misfits reviews.
    I've also dropped my Outcasts reviews permanently, although things do look to be getting better in the long run. Ashes to Ashes reviews will resume as promised next week.

Thanks.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Review: Being Human 3.5: The Longest Day

A frightened and confused Herrick
Pure f*****g gold. I must say, my expectations for this episode were waivering slightly - the decision to "resurrect" Series One villian Herrick at the end of the last series was very rushed and, as we've seen, has taken quite a while to pay off. But pay off it has, and this episode excells in delivering a perfect mix of all the themes that Being Human holds to its heart. There weren't any sudden jumps in tone or attitude; everything flowed into one another and made for a powerful experience. Add in the opportunity for some fan-speculation, and you've got yourself the perfect formula.
     While wandering around near the acute psychiatric ward, George notices Herrick and is visibly shocked. Somewhat luckily for him, Herrick has absolutely no idea who or where he is. After alerting Nina, the two, hoping to avoid the police photographing the vampire, take him home and pretend that he's Nina's uncle Billy, an identity that Herrick seems to accept. Annie and the two Werewolves, while at first cautious, eventually decide that he's harmless company for the moment. A paranoid Mitchell has other ideas, and is hell bent on either staking Herrick or finding out how he was ressurrected.
      Two unlikely visitors arrive (seperately) to spoil Mitchell's rampage - manic social worker Wendy (Nicola Walker, whose comic relief character not only sews together the episode but stands out as realistic and wonderfully understated) who has arrived to check up on "Uncle Billy"'s care, and then Cara (an ex-regular Vampire played by Rebecca Cooper, in one of the more sympathetic portrayls of her character). Mitchell finds out from Cara that Herrick was resurrected by her blood, and upon learning that Herrick (who now only knows her as "that woman that bled on me") is disgusted by her she stakes herself.
Wendy. "Bloody Druids on the Motorway"
     Wrapping up, Wendy is sent away nicely by Nina after a really quite fun exchange. Herrick is starting to get suspicious after realising that Annie was invisible to the social worker, and later finds Mitchell's book of newspaper clippings about his activities that he requisitioned off of Grahame, and shows it to perceived Niece Nina, who in her anger at Mitchell informs on him to the Box Tunnel 20 helpline. Meanwhile, George has confronted Mitchell about his mad behaviour and threatens to permanently end their friendship if he stakes Herrick. Mitchell "realises" to himself that the Wolf-shaped bullet could be Nina, who already hates him with a passion.
     Following on from last week's lessons about the Pack, George and Nina started to act a lot more pack-like in nature, ganging up on Mitchell who they perceived as a potential threat to their unborn child. Following internet theories, Herrick himself didn't seem to be able to smell the two Werewolves, and made many, many self-referential puns about dogs ("Come on, throw the dog a bone", etc.) as if to suggest that his murder by George's claws had left him with something more than amnesia.
Herrick's rushed "resurrection".
     The subtlety and wit in this week's script was amazing, and so was the tremendously powerful and damn flexible acting that put it to screen. This is, I must say, the best episode of the series so far, no doubt assisted by the acting talents of the understated Nicola Walker and the menacing presence of Jason Watkins as Herrick. Good bloody job.

Becoming Human, Episode Four
Ok, now that I'm over the whole time thing, I can take a look at the episode critically. Like usual, we didn't progress much past a single scene, but that scene did manage to get across a decent coformplexity of character across the spectrum for all three characters. The only actor whose a bit rusty is surprisingly the most experienced; Craig Roberts felt at times like he was just reading his lines.

Thanks.

Break

As I break from school I too break from reviewing for a week. Outcasts will likely be reviewed in a four-parter next Friday; Lost and Ashes to Ashes will be resumed after the break.

As far as I am aware, Josh will still deliver his weekly dose of No Ordinary Family on Wednesday, so you should have something to entertain yourselves with.

Thanks, Archie.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Josh: No Ordinary Family: Episode Seven (review)

NO ORDINARY MOBSTER
JIM/GEORGE: After failing to imprison mobster; Luka, George enjoys himself at his own surprise birthday party before taking home colleague; Amanda. As the pair arrange a date Amanda is shot down and George assumes it is the mobster who he threatened to bring down his gang leader. So without asking Jim gets invovled and takes matters into his own hands confronting Luka, but Jim's mask slips and Luka sees him. Luka then tries to get out of his jail sentence by informing district attorney George that he saw what he thinks is the police's 'super-cop'. Yet, the pair strike a deal, and Jim who had previously feared for both his and family's lives, is spared. But when Luka is taken to his cell, the mysterious Watcher who also knows Jim is involved in some way, kills Luka to stop him telling about the supers.

STEPAHNIE: Dr King attempts to stop Steph carrying on the research of a late doctor who used to work at Global Tech. He was researching super powers alike the Powells' but Dr King tells Steph that this work led to Dr Poulsen's suicide later on. This is confirmed when Steph visits the doctor's disabled wife who informs her that Poulsen came home one night, injected them both and they had superpowers for a while. Then the powers faded and the doctor, in insanity, killed himself as he saw his wife's ability to walk again disappear. But, behind Steph's back, Dr King tellls Watcher to spy on the Powell's to see what they know. Also, it seems the Poulsen's story about losing powers leading to death is a lie.

JJ: When Katie's internet date with a stranger goes wrong and she is stood up, JJ soon steps in. Steph has asked Katie to further JJ's intellect by tutoring him but he has other ideas. He creates a faux identity online and organsises a date with Katie but of course he chickens out of telling her the truth and leaves her alone. But soon enough, the Watcher appears and pretends to be Katie's date - Will.

DAPHNE: When a boy at school suddenly splits from his moaning girlfriend, Daphne agrees to go on a date with him to the Modernism art museum, where the girlfriend didn't want to go. Daphne has no idea about Modernism so borrows her dad's art books, makes JJ quick-read them and she is able to hear what he's reading. So, the date goes successfully but Daphne is immediately broken-hearted when the boy gets back together with his ex-girlfriend the next day.

Finally, the return of the series story arc provides viewers with the best episode of No Ordinary Family so far. My predictions about this Guggenheim written installment was correct. Though it acted as a preview to the a major storyline it did brilliantly well as a normal episode. It was fantastic to see Romany Malco's George be given an episode for himself to gorge on with a surprise relationship. Also, it's great to see the Powell's secret powers being observed by the mysterious, dangerous Watcher who I've been wondering about for a while. Plus, the story foretold by Mrs Poulsen was something I almost believed, it would of been interesting if the secret was kept silent for a little longer. Instead the suspense of wondering if the Powells would go mad, damn you ABC for ruining mystery. Anyway, sucessful characterisation and gradual expansion of Daphne in the series.
Thanks, Josh.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

News: Assorted Discontinuations.

I very much doubt that I'll be reviewing the rest of these series' of Waterloo Road, although I'll still be on the lookout for a particularly good or bad episode.
     The Gene Hunt Time Travel Bonanza will also be going on a short break for a forthnight, after which I can look upon it with fresh eyes. Ashes to Ashes is particularly a tedious series to review, and doesn't get really interesting until later on.
     For the next two weeks, I'll be reviewing Outcasts on the Friday slot in place of Misfits.

Thanks.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Review: Being Human 3.4: The Pack

Annie supports Mitchell after he catches werewolf Thomas
After an uneasy start, Being Human meets its half-way point with a newfound gusto, mixing the tones of the previous two series' while capitalising on a lot of aspects we're only just familar with. This episode in particular dealt with the tale of Mad Dog MacNair, giving newfound significance to everything that happened in Episode One. For the first time so far in this particular series, all of the subplots feel equally worthy of attention, and the balance between comedy and drama is pitched perfectly.
     Nearing full moon, and George and Nina are out in the woods, looking for Thomas, whom George saw last month. They track the scent back to the MacNair's motorhome in the woods, where they've broken down. MacNair tries to keep Thomas (Michael Socha, whose awfully familiar voice made this feel like an episode of Misfits in places) away from Nina, as apparently the teenager is getting hormonal. After sneaking into the house at midnight to give Nina a gift, Mitchell catches him and both Macnairs end up staying there until after Full Moon. Problem is, MacNair is a vampire killer, and Mitchell's paranoia from his purgatory visit drives him to not only search through the motor home, but to return to Richard and Emma's, where he advises them to take MacNair for a dogfight.
Richard and Emma prepare for the fight.
     Meanwhile, at the hospital, Nina has been running some tests on Michael after noticing Werewolf scars on his back, which would suggest that he wasn't born a werewolf. The results come clean; Michael is not MacNair's son, and was simply a child he was forced to adopt after scarring him during the Full Moon. George, Nina and Michael go back to the motorhome to pack up, but the Vampires sent by Mitchell circle in, and Mitchell and MacNair have to form an uneasy alliance. At the fighting ring, Richard is killed by a werewolf Macnair, which makes me quite happy. The MacNairs' plot really stands as the dramatic backbone of the episode. This is where the real quality lies; the subtlty of MacNair's anger and Thomas' frustration; Michael Socha portrays a youth brought up by MacNair's brutality
     The "comedy" subplot once again was Annie's forté; her character has so much dramatic potential, potential wasted early on in the series' run. Even this subplot had transformed into something dark and ugly by the end. The basic idea was that Mitchell and Annie are having a little trouble dans la chambre, courtesy of the fact that Annie is, in fact, dead. After several hairbrained schemes, she comes up with a plan so lazy in script-writing terms it ceases to amaze - she now apparently has the ability to sense what other people are sensing as long as she is touching them, and uses this to feel a party girl while she has sex with Mitchell. Mitchell's past sex life hasn't really been that successful, in terms of, say, survival rate, and so I've very little idea why she would even suggest this in the first place.
     It was entertaining and ultimately well structured, giving us a strong dramatic story with a lot of appropriately comedic elements. Annie is really useless as a character and has been for a long time now, and is now hanging off of Mitchell like a wet sponge. Unless her character can regain some of her old depth, Being Human is going to become slowly more tedious and less of a weekly watch for me.

Becoming Human , Episode 3
Again, far too short. If five minutes is to become the standard, then I'd at least appreciate something actually happening during the course of the episode. Nothing really standing out at the moment.

Thanks.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Review: Lost 4.6: The Other Woman

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.

Juliet and Goodwin in 2004.
After last week's episode, can anything beat it? This week focuses on Doctor Juliet Burke, an ex-Other (island native) that has jumbled up with the Survivors. She exists for really no other reason than to form an irritating Love-Quadrangle between Her, Jack, Kate and Sawyer, one that serves little purpose to the plot in the long run and one that gets on my nerves every time I see it (having already reared its head a few times this season.) Despite that, Juliet's episode turns out to be surprisingly intelligent and a fascinating watch, if still plagued by the mundanities of her character.
     Juliet's present story concerned the exploits of freighter scientists Daniel and Charlotte, who've disappeared off into the forest with a bag full of gas masks. Knowing exactly where they're going, Juliet follows them, with Jack and Kate close behind. Along the way, there's some tedious talking where Juliet refuses to talk about where she's going. When Juliet gets to the destination, known as The Tempest Station (about half-an-hour before the other two) she thinks she's come to stop them releasing the poisonous gas that Other-leader Ben Linus used to kill the island's other inhabitants back in 1989. Shame; turns out they're actually here to stop the gas themselves, which they do after some tense countdown action. That all sorted, Jack and Juliet have a snog. Yawn.
"This should get you started"
     Elsewhere in the present, and questions from other members of the group push Locke to get some answers out of Ben, who seems happy to oblige, as long as he's allowed to sleep in his own bed and eat with utensils. I always love these prisoner scenes between Locke and Ben because while Locke may seem in control, the subtlty in Michael Emerson's acting always carries across his sense of subliminal power. Ben is, in fact, the real star of this episode, as we'll see.
     Our flash timeline is this season's only use of the conventional flashback formula, which makes it a bit of a rarity. It does, however, provide us with some much needed Contunuity Porn, by sending us back to the time when the Others ruled the island. Juliet arrives as a means to try and fix the island's fertility problems (anyone conceived on the island unintentionally kills themselves and their mother from with the wound). While still attending mandatory therapy sessions with the fiesty Harper Stanhope, Juliet strikes up a friendship (and then a relationship) with her husband, Goodwin. Harper confronts Juliet about the affair, but says she's more worried for her husband's safety because of Ben. Ben, you see, has an incredible crush on Juliet and would be mighty pissed if anyone got in the way. Ergo, Ben sets it up so that Goodwin is killed by some of the survivors of 815 (as he was, two seasons ago), and then tells Juliet that she is his. It's a nice contrast between characterisations; while both have that underlying sense of authority, the past Ben is much more desperate and impulsive, while the present Ben has learnt from his mistakes and takes all the time in the world.
Boring.
     Aside from the Quadrangle-stroking, my main pet peeves this episode were two particular characters, Kate and Charlotte, who were competing to see who could be more annoying - Kate, which her redneck attitudes, and Charlotte with her terribly acted voice and general douchebaggery. I know they try, but Charlotte in particular simply has no reason for being so obnoxious. It makes watching Lost painful, which it should never be.
     While the episode should have focused more on Ben than its own central character, The Other Woman was entertaining and intriguing, managing to satiate the fangirls' (or fanboys', I don't know) appetite for the silly Quadrangle while also giving us some excellent acting from Micael Emerson and a fun, continuity-filled backstory for Juliet. It could have been slightly smoother round the edges, but when it did something right, it was very good.

Thanks.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Review: Misfits 1.6

"If you could just see yourselves! It breaks my heart. You’re wearing cardigans! We had it all. We fucked up bigger and better than any generation that came before us. We were so beautiful! We’re screw-ups. I’m a screw-up, and I plan to be a screw-up until my late 20s, maybe even my early 30s. And I will shag my own mother before I let her… or anyone else take that away from me!” The tailend of Nathan's rooftop speech.

Nathan, in his finale suit, goes it alone.
Having used its five weeks to develop its characters without doing anything with them, there is very little plot left to form a finale. So, in a strange turn,1.6 gives us one of our first independant storylines that manages to be both conclusive and downright epic. A brilliant and appropriate twist on the Zombie genre, Series One's finale celebrates all of the series' attitudes while laying down plenty of leeway for Series Two.
     Given the power to control people through words, the all-sensible Christian Rachel has begun "recruiting" teenagers into a new society, known as Virtue. At first Virtue, with their pale and sensible style, simply bemuse the Misfits, but after Alisha and Curtis are turned, the others decide to do something. They try and rescue to two converts but Kelly is turned, Simon locks himself away with the frozen corpse of Sally and Nathan is cornered by the zombie-like converts. After being saved by the first appearance of SuperHoodie, Nathan apologises (to no avail) to a converted Kelly and then comes up with a plan. Dressing in a grey suit (the same one as in the Series Two finale, funnily enough) he sneaks into the Virtue-controlled community centre and takes Rachel hostage, culminating in an extraordinary speech (seen above). However, Rachel makes to escape, and in the struggle both she and Nathan fall to their deaths. In a shocking cliffhanger (as far as we were concerned at the time) it turns out that Nathan is in fact immortal and alive inside his coffin.
     This episode, while being a little more plot heavy than the rest of the series, still managed to fit in a lot of character development across the board, with the unfortunate exception of Curtis (who, as we'll see, has begun his evolution into walking plot device). Nathan and Kelly shared some touching moments and she was visibily distraught after his death, Simon giving her a compliation of all the videos he had recorded with Nathan on them. Simon, still mentally recovering from his accidental murder last week, became a little more secure and authoriative, gaining some well-deserved respect amongst the group. Alisha's transformation allowed us to take a look at her insecurities, with her "reasons" for having changed feeling a lot more sincere than anyone else's.
Rachel "recruits" using her persuasive power.
    The Virtue organisation itself is a fascinating concept philosophically. Who could complain about a system that makes people into productive members of society? The same system, unfortunately, that robs people of not only their free-will, but their ability to make up their own minds of subjective topics. It was a little disappointing that the plotline of this first series has been dumped so quickly, but the fact that the show instead gave us an intelligent social commentary is an idiosyncratic sign of its brilliance.
     A slightly irrelevant finale, Misfits 1.6 ties up Series One but leaves a lot open for the show's return, tempting us like a fish intently following a small grub on a fishing line. Overman delivers exceptional character development and dialogue in an extremely watchable hour of drama. 1.6 also ties up my Misfits reviews until the show's return in Autumn, so I'll see you then!

Thanks.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Opinion: Waterloo Road 6.12

Ruby wades in.
The hubub surrounding single-gender teaching having evaporated overnight, Waterloo Road ticked on by like it usually does, continuing its subplots and throwing a few more specific (all the while ridiculously melodramatic) threads at us. It's maybe symptomatic of Waterloo Road's format, but each week's exaggerated plots are getting tiring by this point. Take this week, an incident claimed by one of the staff to be the "worst thing Waterloo Road could have seen in its life". Said character obviously wasn't around for the suicide pacts, explosions, stabbings or attacks by a JCB.
     Our two main plots unique to this episode were interesting but not focussed or refined enough to stand out. Miser English teacher Grantly Budgen has been getting the raw edge of the saw recently, his wife dying slowly of Alzheimers and his flat neglected and (a bizzarely TV version of) untidy. A worried Ruby decides to help out, so steals his house keys, fills his fridge with food and cleans his entire house from top to bottom, all in half an hour, as if she were some form of cleaning Superwoman. Elsewhere, a student named Billie gained the sympathy of ex-student and secretary Franscine by claiming that her mother wanted to adopt her teenage baby, in a scenario that eventually resulted in an insane Billie hanging her baby over a stairwell.
     Along the sidelines, our weekly subplots persist. Francesca and Jonah continued to flirt with more innuendo than a Carry On film, Josh got jiggy with Weirdy Pervert Nate and Jess's inquiries to Bex about the mysterious Hodge resulted in one of her trademark tantrums. After being subliminally "hyped" for the first term of Series Six, it's a real disappointment that Bex's character has turned into this walking tantrum dispenser.
    I think I might stop reviewing every episode of Waterloo Road in the long term because there just isn't enough notable differential in quality between episodes. The show's idiosyncracies make it decent mid-week entertainment, and there's nothing to comment on unless otherwise. 6.12 was a standard episode of the show - an entertaining hour of madness and melodrama.
  
Thanks.

Review: Outcasts: 1.1 and 1.2

The history of small-scale BBC Sci-Fi is a little dire to say the least. Last year's "The Deep" was a torpid mess, and 2008's Survivors was a challenge to sit through. Outcasts, however, promised a change to that, taking on a much more epic scope. Hyped like nothing else, the show was commissioned in 2007 and went through several stages of development hell before being spat out as the twice-a-week drama we see before us. Does it live up to the hype?
     Suffice to say that it's a little hit and miss, as the "epic" tale of the planet Carpathia drove on without any real sense of tension or urgency. The first hour served as Exposition central, painting the background of what is an interesting premise, but one one that we've seen many time nonetheless. Escaping from an Earth ravaged by a US-China war, the colony of humans on alien planet Carpathia try to get along without killing each other. One of the show's main issues at the moment is, indeed, its scale - we were promised a planet-sized sci-fi adventure and yet we only get to see a small, unimaginatively designed fort (named, appropriately enough, Forthaven) and a few minor landscapes (a hill and a patch of desert). There's hardly anything seperating this new planet from Earth, apart from the presence of slightly advanced tech, and a few dust clouds caused by the planet's twin moons.
      Character focus is incredably disproportionate, the first episode spening the majority of its time on irrational maverick Mitchell Hoban - a character killed at the end of the episode. Much more enthusiastic were Protection and Security (PAS) officers Cass (Daniel Mays, who'll pop up in Ashes to Ashes Series Three) and Fleur (Amy Manson, of Being Human fame), neither of whom were developed particularly well. Also on show were the tediously monotone President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) and neurotic mother/head of PAS Stella (Hermionie Norris, essentially playing her character from Spooks.) Our special new character was apparant researcher/pedophile/Evanglical American Julius Berger. Amongst others.
     A strange mix of characters with disproportionate development isn't always a bad thing - Red Dwarf has had its problems there, and don't get me started on Survivors. The issue with Outcasts is its staunch seriousness and "sci-fi hardness" - there's relatively little to dig our teeth into aesthetics wise. Meanwhile, over on ITV, Primeval have the exact opposite state of affairs, as if they've stolen all the fun as compensation.
     Of the two hours, the second was superior as it mixed up the pace a little more and there wasn't the same amount of elongated exposition. Sci-Fi needs to have something to say about Humanity, while all our protagonists do is mope and worry about "making the same mistakes again," as if a small settlement is going to fight a nuclear war. Against itself. Every time the show's myriad of subplots try and show some flare, some bright little spark, it just gets flattened again.
    You're on the right track Outcasts, but you're one hell of a disappointment.

 Thanks.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Josh: No Ordinary Family: Episode Six (review)

'NO ORDINARY VISITORS'
JIM: Jim's self restraint is tested when his overbearing in-laws unexpectedly come to visit the Powells, forcing the family to not use their powers. So, Jim struggles to keep his mouth closed when Steph's father constantly degrades him. Meanwhile, Jim is sneaking out of the house during the night, assissted by George, to investigate the spike of home invasions in Pacific Bay. The police have no leads on who is part of the invasions but with Daphne's help Jim draws up a portrait of the gang-leader whose face was burnt by the son of the victimised family. Eventually, the news get hold of the image and the attacker sees his own face, making him go out to finish off the boy. But, just in time Jim saves the teenager - Trent, as the criminal fires shots. Finally, because of Jim's suspicous actions during the night, Allan (Steph's dad) wrongly accuses Jim of cheating on his wife but all is resolved when Jim tries to explain about the Powells' powers and the in-laws believe Jim is doing charity work. Jim is also finally accepted by Allan to of married the latter's daughter.

STEPHANIE: Steph is unable to use her powers of super speed when her parents come over, as she tries to persuaude her mother - Barbara that she has changed and she isn't always busy. Barbara soon becomes suspicous as she finds lots of trainers and snack bars in the master bedroom but Steph says the shoes are for the poor and Jim says the bars are for him. She is also unable to do any of her work at Global Tech but stil has chance to invite Katie to a disastrous dinner where Allan and Barbara explain their suspicions. The episode ends seeing Barbara tell her daughter that she wished she had been like her daughter when she was her age. This makes Steph happy.

JJ: Allan sees his grandson still as an idiot who he can take advantage of and get money off when the pair play pool. This frustrates JJ who is also being forced to keep his powers a secret but then Jim, also annoyed, allows JJ to use his super-brain. This gets JJ to beat his grandfather, win quite bit of money as well as Allan's beloved car. But JJ cannot drive this for two years, yet he has a car ready and waiting and his grandparents realise he is cleverer than they thought.

DAPHNE: Daphne discovers that when she touches another's skin she can not just hear their thoughts but see them too. This allows her to see the attacker who invaded the victimised family's home by touching Trent. But, after she helps the police by giving them a description of the criminal, Trent is tracked down and is just saved by Jim. Afterwards, she checks with Trent what happened and as she expected he denies anyone was involved with his escape. To end the episode, Daphne gets JJ's new car until he is legal to drive it.

Overall, one of the less strong episodes because of the lack of proper drama, filled with uncessary humour. Yes, I liked the idea of the Powells hiding their powers from the grandparents but a lot of the storyline wasn't needed. I was hopeful for a darker, more high octane episode after witnessing the opening minutes but I was disappointed when the exciting plot was nearly forgotten and used as an add-along. Also, the absence of the story-arc returns to annoy me, I think it's superb and yet ABC fail to show it in the episodes successing the pilot. Otherwise, it was an alright episode but not one of the best at all, I'm disappointed with Ali Adler's script here considering the other great installments he's wrote. Maybe Marc Guggenheim's 'No Ordinary Mobster' next week will make up for this week.
Thanks, Josh.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Review: Being Human 3.3: Type Four

"I thought we were supposed to be the scary ones?"
While last week tried for some dark humour, this week hit the funnies at my end of the spectrum, all the while supporting a brilliant plot that pulled on the heartstrings. The balancing of the four subplots worked incredibly well, with the central line holding the others together while subtley expanding the series' mythology. Notably, it contained a lot more intimate comedy moments, much resembling the tone of the first series in its quirky mix of group comedy and exaggerated gore.
     In the hospital morgue, a corpse awakens and frightens the coroner. While walking through a town centre at midnight, Annie is chased by the gobby Welsh girl, and is eventually invited back into the house so as not to arouse suspiscion. Aside from the smell (no doubt emphasised for Nina and George). Annie strikes up a connection with the girl, named Sasha, and a midnight trip to the morgue by her and Mitchell reveals that around two weeks ago, these "Type Four"s started appearing and the doctors started burning them alive. Through deduction, it's revealed that the Zombies were caused by Mitchell's escapades in Purgatory two weeks ago, essentially closing the door to the afterlife. Refusing to accept her death, Sasha visits her boyfriend (who rejects her) and eventually goes on a girls' night out with Annie and Nina, where she collapses. Brought back to the house, she finally loses consciousness and Sasha is able to properly "pass on".
Sasha, a "Type 4."
     Mitchell's storyline split off mid-episode, as he kept bumping into apparent "fan" Grahame, a relatively recently turned vampire. He starts coming round and chatting to Mitchell's friends, working at the hospital and following him around. Eventually Mitchell works it out; Grahame is one of the Box Tunnel 20 that Mitchell savaged in Series Two, and has come back to tell Mitchell (and his friends) about how he's going to become more famous, by carrying out a similar stunt. He eventually tracks him down on a train from Barry Island to Cardiff, and stakes him before he can kill anyone and spread the idea that Mitchell's actions are a good thing.
     As usual, George and Nina get relegated to the side, and that's not a bad thing considering their presence last week. Type Four's werewolf plot also concerned the events of Lia, in which the two werewolves had sex during a full moon. Apparently the pill doesn't work for werewolves. Nina's parental issues with her abusive mother make her want to get rid of it, but George wants a say in the matter. The other minor thread was Mitchell's acceptance of Annie's crush on him.
     The lighthearted tone of the first half hour was a much appreciated salve; an attitude Being Human holds ever less these days. The episode's shift in tone around the middle from that lightheartedness into something slightly darker and more serious is smooth but noticeable. The episode's complete ignorance towards last week's fiasco is also interesting, supporting my case that it was nothing more than a backdoor pilot. The undoubtable star of the show is Alexandra Roach, who manages to pull of incredibly subtle character development as Sasha accepts her death and finally realised what was missing in her life.
Grahame offers a hand in blackmail.
      Ultimately, Type Four was a massive improvement on last week, and on the rest of Series Three so far. It brought back a kind of nostaligic yearning for the days of Series One, where the show's main aim was comedy and the drama came extra. The characters were written perfectly and realistically, especially the eponymous character who stole the show without overshadowing anyone else.   


Becoming Human
Not a lot to say this week, other than it was far too short and took far too long to be released online. By the time the BBC Engineers had fixed the problem, I was past caring, and the episode itself was a disappointment. Its problem was simply its brevity - something easily remedied. Get with it, Beeb.

Thanks.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Review: GHTTB: A2A 1.1 and 1.2

Ashes to Ashes, Series One, Episode One

Gene makes his entrance.
"It's a tough, screwed up world out there, but if you follow me you might just get through it."

Life On Mars was almost universally loved by the general public, and the public demand was still running high. The creators hadn't liked their two-year run, and so commissioned a sequel show with a definite three-year-run to compensate. Set in the Eighties and named after another Bowie song, Ashes to Ashes takes a very different look at the Bonanza, and such is obvious from this, the first episode.
     DI Alex Drake is the detective-psychologist responsible for covering the suicide of DCI Sam Tyler, whose apparent delusions about 1973 make him an interesting case. One day, while driving her young daughter Molly home from school, she is called out to investigate hostage-taker Arthur Layton, who has asked for her by name. Layton takes Molly hostage but then lets her go and disappears. After dropping Molly off with god-parent Evan, Drake is held hostage by Layton, who explains to someone on the phone that he knows how her parents died, back in 1981, and that he's going to tell her the truth. When Alex tries her psychoanalysis on him, Layton simply shoots her and she wakes up on  barge in 1981.
     Dressed as a prostitute and having woken up in the midst of what looks to be a sex/drugs party, Alex ends up being arrested as a witness. After some misunderstandings due to her dresssense, she eventually accidentally reveals that she is the team's new DI, brought in to replace Sam Tyler, who was finally "killed" in 1980, along with Annie, whose role in the team has been replaced by airheaded "Shaz". The team are trying to find the source of the drugs, the cheif suspect being David Markham (Adam James, who plays his stereotypical arsehole character).
     Alex is otherwise preoccupied; thinking she's in Life On Mars, she calls her fellow officers "constructs" and tries talking into phones. Convinced that Layton is the cause of her delusion, as Sam believed his father was the cause of his, she searches into his 1981 life to try and find a way to set him up. Everything turns up roses and Layton ends up being arrested in a quite frankly epic gun battle.
     Like the Test Card Girl in LoM, Alex is haunted by recurring spirits, in this case a ghostly Pierrot clown (like the one from the series' eponymous music video) and the explosion of the car containing Alex's parents. She also repeats her daughter's name a lot, which I know from experience will become very grating. (Much like PEH-TER!)
     In comparison to Mars' opener, A2A 1.1 conveys its ideas and setups with a lot more subtlty, as well as being simply more enjoyable - it's better written, is more colourful, and generally takes more time to laugh at its own sense of grandeur, like the 80s did. It doesn't have as much sheer mystery as the ambiguity of the beginning of the Bonanza, because we've seen (or believe we've seen) a case exactly like it with Sam. An exceedingly good start.

Ashes To Ashes, Series One, Episode Two
Oooh dear. After such a good start, Ashes returns with a rather unfocussed episode that has a good few ideas but ends up collapsing into a self-congratulating mess. In an ironic way, it suffers from faults that plague a lot of shows in the 80s itself.
     The central premise is simple enough; An Anarchist on the Isle of Dogs is planning to blow up several street parties celebrating the marriage of Charles and Diana. It's convaluted by: a dog blowing up; Alex chatting up and bonking a Thatcherite businessman, and Gene's intention to "stamp" Alex's behind with a Metropolitan Police stamp.
     Not a terrible hour by any rate, but not like the powerful and cohesive plotlines that the Bonanza usually throws at us.

Thanks.

Review: Lost 4.5: The Constant

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.

A dying Desmond calls his consant, Penny.

I enjoy Lost the most when it's presented as a primarily sci-fi based show with a few mystic elements. Sci-fi often channels the emotive, as well as being a little more coherant than "a wizard did it". The Constant is a Desmond-centric episode, so one knows (based on the character's track record with time-travel) that something funky is going to happen.
     A break from formula this week, as during the flight over to the freighter Desmond suddenly wakes up in a Scottish barracks in 1996, with no knowledge of the Island. Jumping back and forth between 1996 and 2004, the confused Desmond thinks he's in the former. It's revealed, once they get on the freighter, that this is a product of passing the invisible barrier between the Island and the outside world. Daniel Faraday, on the Island, explains to Desmond over the phone that he needs to find him in Oxford.
     On leave from the Army, Desmond meets the 1996 Faraday, who confirms his future self's theory and explains to Desmond that he's become unstuck in time; his consciousness is jumping back and forth, with no constant inbetween. A Constant is something notably similar in both time zones. Remembering heartbroken girlfriend Penny, he finds her and begs her to give him her number, on condition that he will only ring it in eight years. He skips back, and rings Penny from the freighter, who answers and reveals that she's been looking for Desmond for the past three years.
Desmond wakes up in 1996.
     This episode could have so-easily gone wrong, with an experimental format and a lot of sci-fi-babble concepts at play. But it didn't, and the roller-coaster ride of intrigue and emotion is only made more potent through the singular focus on Desmond. It was also a good hour for Michael Faraday, who despite acting like little more than Mr. Exposition does also provide some great irony in the discreapancies between his future and former selves.
     An episode so good, then, that it leaves very little to be said. The Constant hits the right buttons at the right time, with the right mix of elements and expert direction, as well as a beautiful score from Michael Giacchino. Lost at its best.


Thanks.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Review: Misfits 1.5

Sally "seduces" Simon at his house.
If there's one character for whom we see the effects of character development, it's most certainly the perplexing and complicated Simon, the first character to display his abilities and, until Series Two, to properly control them. As one of the most interesting characters in the show, his episode gives us a similarly intelligent episode that not only deepens and muddy's his character, but also advances the plot.
     Simon, alone and depressed, is chirped up when suspicious Sally makes advances and inquiries into his limited social life. She takes him out to a drink, pretending to be his girlfriend to annoy old school bullies, and then he invites her back to his house, where she steals some of his tapes. Eventually, in the Community Centre at night, Simon finds out about what she's been doing and, angry and protective, he accidentally kills her. Both Simon's psychotic turn and Sally's persuasive fascade are very well acted and come off as quite chilling. Simon undergoes a personality change between Series One and Two, and in Series One he slowly heads towards psychotic madness, elements of which can be seen here.
     As if to relieve the mind of the horrors of the main plot, the two subplots took on a lighter theme. Curtis, having saved girlfriend Sam in last week's temporal tale, tries to break up with her but suffers from a Groundhog Day loop caused by his own guilt. He eventually breaks out of it using one of Nathan's lines from Spiderman. Nathan was busy himself, having become the victim of a child affected by the storm, and given the ability to make any man act like a father to it (not a very good power in the long run, one would think). Ultimately the former was a nifty cleanup operation and the latter was fairly unnecessary, but both added a light touch to an otherwise skin-crawling episode.
Nathan takes a baby hostage.
     Despite having a lot going on, the episode kept a fascinating pace that ran all of the subplots smoothly into one another, climaxing them off one-by-one and ending with the grand finale of Sally's untimely death. In some ways it's a better finale to this series than the one coming up. Join me next week, when I finish off my Misfits reviews with 1.6.

Thanks.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Opinion: Waterloo Road 6.11

A Yob and a Dog.
 Waterloo Road, like its respectable colleagues Casualty and Holby City, is more of an American soap-like drama than any of its dramatic comrades, which by their nature makes formal review near-impossible. I only tend to watch these programs for the rare occasion that they do something good, and the rest of the time to snark at everything out of place.
     "Out of place" is a key term to describe the events of Wednesday's episode of the serialised drama, set in the titular School. The second half of Series Six, or the "second term", begins with something fully intended to shock the hearts and minds of good-natured, civilised people everywhere - seperate-gender education! "scare chord". As a subject and supporter of single-sex education, the episode at the start bemused me with its mad gender stereotyping, which soon turned ugly when the episode concluded on the notion that any group of boys left in a room together will cause the utmost pandemonium in minutes.
     That was the backdrop, but the main conflict came from two sides, appopriately gender opposed. The masculine threat was from stereotypical nothern dumbass Kyle Slack, whose complete lack of social skills leads him to bring his angry dog into the school. The character is, however, given a smigeon of sympathy, with his fondness for his canine friend and his overbearing, brutish mother. Such sympathy is not offered to our feminine conflict, Bex Fisher (a very out of place Tina O'Brien, who amazingly still stretches into a uniform), daughter of elderly headmistress Karen. Bex ran away two years ago and has just recently returned, worried about a stalker (hilariously named Hodge) and acting mysterious in an attempt to make us watch next week. She called the Rape card that led to Mr. Slack's rampage.
Because even Tina O'Brian has to pay the bills.
      Elsewhere, and the myriad of subplots boggle the mind. Troublemakers Finn (who seems to have had his character toned down a shade since he attempted to enter into a suicide pact in Series Five) and teacher's son Josh (implied to be gay, but not specifically since the BBC are a bit scared of that sort of thing) tried to get a dog to fight Mr. Slack's aforementioned rottweiler, while the latter was worried by the arrival of he who can only be known as Scary Pervert Guy, who seems fairly interested. Another strand, incredibly predictable and disturbing, is another Teacher/Student relationship, between enterprising Spanish teacher Francesca (Anglo-Indian actress Karen David) and equality-loving Jonah. Teacher/Student relationships are very common in this program, it seems - the climax of Term One of Series Six was the final revelation to Karen that Vice-Head Mr. Mead had bonked another one of her daughters, Jess.
     The episode went quickly from bemusing to offensive, with its subplots that demonise not only the poor and underprivelaged, but also managed to piss off the entire male gender. I know it's probably intended as satire (although I've given the show too much in that direction of thought in the past) but it still stinks of the reverse-sexism that the masses are soaking up at the moment. And yet. This show is addictive, not only because it presents a only-slightly-larger-than-life view of the school system, but is written best as a comedy.

Thanks.

Josh: No Ordinary Family: Episode Four (recap) & Five (review)

EPISODE FOUR - NO ORDINARY VIGILANTE (RECAP)
A man whose son was murdered years ago, is out to deliver his own justice by shooting purse snatchers at a city park. Jim is then seen at the crime scene and is mistaken for the vigilante. Dr. Francis Chiles (Reggie Lee) becomes suspicious of Stephanie and Katie's behavior at the lab. JJ's mathematical abilities begin to increase and he uses them to join the football team. Daphne uses abilities to find out where a party is being held (from the Wikipedia page).

EPISODE FIVE - NO ORDINARY QUAKE (REVIEW)
JIM: After the mall that Jim and the rest of the Powells are shopping is victim to a strange earthquake, George thanks to his source in the police discovers it was man made. Supposedly it is a concussion grenade used by someone so that they have the chance to raid pharmacies across the city, stealing anti-epiletic drugs. It turns out that it is in fact a young girl, Rebecca Jessup, who is another super using her ability of shock waves so she can steal the drugs which he thinks can stop her condition. It is revealed she has been held prisoner by Dr Dayton many times before and her fate isn't shown after she is knocked out by Watcher. Jim and George have involvement with this storyline.

STEPHANIE: Stephanie is suspicous of JJ's strangely intelligent moments including when he saves a woman using his intellect in the mall. But, she is distracted elsewhere when Jim lies to her telling her a tape of him using his powers is in the police when in fact he wants her to get CCTV of the quake in the mall. Also, Steph employs Katie to crack a encrypted file they have found which has research on super-humans. She thinks this will help her understand the Powell family's problems with their powers.

JJ: After saving a woman from some wreckage in the mall and becoming a member of the football team, JJ is asked by his suspicous mother to be tested. He knows she thinks he has powers and he doesn't want her to know, so asks his friend to pee in the cup for him. So, while Katie tests the pee for traces of powers JJ absent-mindedly breaks the code for the files on her computer. Katie soon gets the truth out of JJ and she immediately tells Steph who passes it on to Jim. Also, JJ's friend didn't pee in the cup, his girlfriend did who turns out to be pregnant. At the end, JJ decides to quit the football team as using his abilities is cheating, and is knocked down when he tries to run for a try.

DAPHNE: Daphne is trying to get an after-school job on the other side of town when she sees both her English teacher and friend at a coffee shop. So, after using her mind reading abilities, she assumes the pair were sleeping together and are now over. She then accidentally humiliates her friend when she tells all to the principal. But it turns out that it was the friend's mum who was dating the English teacher and so again Daphne feels stupid.

Yes, this was yet again a brilliant episode which introduced a bit more humour like episode two but less action and drama. The brief involvment of the series story arc cheered me up slightly as it had been absent previously but it does need to be developed. Also, the story of JJ's friend's girlfriend being pregnant was unecessary and I was dissapointed Kay Panabaker's Daphne didn't have a bigger role. One episode she needs something of her own storyline instead of being an add-along to the rest of the character's plots. However, a strong, decent episode and I'm looking forward to next week's edition with anticipation - No Ordinary Visitor, when the grandparents arrive, how will the Powells cope?
Thanks, Josh.