Archive for April, 2010

504: The Time of Angels

‘Don’t blink!’ – The Doctor

Wow. Just when you start to despair and bang your head against a wall, Moffat returns in style and pulls one out of the bag.

The Doctor’s future wife, River Song, sends him a cunning message that draws the TARDIS to a crash site on a planet long abandoned. The ship they were chasing contains the last remaining Weeping Angel, a statue that has laid dormant for hundreds of year and is now being supercharged by enormous amounts of radiation…

The plot is fairly simple, like all ‘Part One’ episodes: bucket loads of setup, tension and loss as the Doctor suddenly finds himself miles out of his depth. What makes it so good this time around is simply that the Weeping Angel enemy is so, so brilliant.

Moffat has had the foresight to take what was scary – i.e. not blinking or you die – and up the ante significantly. The Angel now has far more power than any of the others previously encountered. This one can come get you through TVs, switch off lights and, most brilliantly of all, get inside Amy’s head.

The production values are consistently high, the acting top-notch throughout and the ideas flying off the screen. This is Moffat going for the jugular of the children watching and with any luck night lights will remain on across the nation.

There are a few problems, though. The amount of supporting characters means that there aren’t many real characters in the Church Squad. They turn up just moments before you know they’re going to get it in the neck, which is a disappointment. And another point – one that certainly seems to rear its ugly head time and again – what is with the BBC and their casting of ethnic actors? The first two characters that die are… wild guess… black! It’s a surprise that the Angel isn’t black, just to complete the image.

Still, that aside, this is a really thrilling return to form that will keep its viewers glued to their screens for the conclusion next week. Hopefully it won’t go the same way as all the other ‘Part Two’ episodes and be full of exposition.

8/10

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Linksageddon

Posted: April 21, 2010 in Review
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Phew. I was falling behind on my work, then I received Splinter Cell: Conviction, which had a deadline of two days on it. Now I’m really behind on my work and yesterday I went to the press screening of Hot Tub Time Machine (oooh, get you with the travel). Somewhen I’ll be going to Derby to do a game preview and I hope to be back on top of my work by then. I probably should stop playing Modern Warfare 2, but I’ve become an achievement whore.

The Cleveland Show: Episode Twelve
Pure Pwnage Teh TV Show: Episode Three
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Ashes to Ashes: 302
The Cleveland Show: Episode Thirteen
Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

Many thanks to Alex for his simply inspired Churchill-based rant which made it into the Doctor Who review.

502: The Beast Below

‘It’s a… tongue.’ – The Doctor

Last week’s opener was an absolute barnstormer, kicking the Doctor back up into high gear. This week sees the pace lagging once more.

The Doctor and Amy travel hundreds of years into the future and discover a massive spaceship that houses the entire country. Unfortunately, there are sinister forces at work on Starship UK, as the Doctor quickly finds himself up against a hideous, smiling enemy.

It’s an episode in two parts. The first part is roughly half an hour long, with expert precision in setting up the arena, the villains, the world and the characters. The second half is the final fifteen minutes, and it’s here that everything goes completely to hell.

The setup is great, fantastic even, with a genuinely creepy enemy in the form of the rotating head Smilers and the location is a hugely interesting one. Liz X is a wonderfully campy, gun-toting Marvel ass-kicking bitch that brings an enormous amount of fun to the episode.

Matt Smith is, again, brilliant in the Doctor’s fairly hefty shoes, bringing humour, charm, wit and genuine glee to the role, while Karen Gillan is still both smoulderingly sexy and so innocent she’ll make most of the male viewers feel very bad about themselves. There’s even, quite brilliantly, a link to next week’s show, which is something that really needs to be done all the time, because it creates a sense of continuity in the show.

The problem is that the final fifteen minutes, the dungeon scene, to be specific, utterly destroy all the prior goodwill. It’s so jarring and random that it really feels like the BBC filmed it at the last moment because it was too heavy on the political commentary that runs rampant throughout the rest of the episode. The Doctor’s character changes randomly, Amy’s character, Liz X, the children, even the revelation at the heart of it makes no goddamn bit of sense and it’s so infuriating.

Nothing is explained or resolved. Why are kids being dropped down lift shafts for bad scores? Why is everyone afraid of the Smilers? What are the Smilers? Why are the Smilers there? Has the power never cut out, not even once, in over two hundred years?

It’s a crushing shame because the Doctor was just getting back to his feet. If the final ten minutes had a better twist – actually, that’s the wrong word because even twist endings make sense – and there was some kind of explanation for any of the events, then this would be just as enjoyable as the first episode. As it is, this is simply disappointing.

6/10

Avatar

In 3D, this is a cinematic spectacle the likes of which will never be seen again. Sadly, the story sucks seven ways to Sunday and it’s got predictability stamped all over it in big letters. Still, if you can watch it in 3D, do it.

4 stars

Sherlock Holmes

A cast so strong they could lift buildings with their talent combine on a story that’s so rich it could feed a whole continent. However, Rachael McAdams and Mark Strong are both completely underused, while some of the sleuthing is relegated to the background for the sake of looking smarter than it actually is. Sequel now.

4 stars

Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson stars in a revenge thriller where all the mysteries have obvious answers and everyone is a massive dick. Tries to have the emotional depth of The Constant Gardener, wants to have the action-tastic pace of Taken, ends up as messy and bloated as The Departed. Written by the same guy, too.

3 stars

Princess and the Frog

Nice to have an old-style animated film once in a while, but this is unlikely to restart a craze. A few good characters and a couple of decent jokes, but too many songs and too much lag in the script weigh the whole thing down. Still, retro’s nice now and again.

3 stars

Valentine’s Day

A portmanteau film where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else, starring a huge number of talented actors, as well as Jessica Alba. A few neat twists manage to elevate it up above crapness, but the film is too mushy and preachy for its own good. Bradley Cooper is one to watch out for – clearly the thinking woman’s Robert Pattinson.

2 stars

Liiiiiiinks

Posted: April 9, 2010 in Musings
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Here we go again:

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
The Cleveland Show: Episode Eleven
Sonic Classic Collection
Pure Pwnage Teh TV Show: Episode One
Ashes to Ashes: 301
Doctor Who: 501
Red Steel 2
Pure Pwnage Teh TV Show: Episode Two

I know you might not be interested in reading all of them, but if you pick one and click on it a few times a day (you don’t even have to look at it, just open the page a few times), you’ll really be helping me out.

Kick Ass Review

Superheroes wouldn’t survive long in today’s world. It’s fine for Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men and the like to preach about not killing their enemies, but it wouldn’t solve anything. Evil should be eliminated, not scolded – maybe the Punisher got it right.

Here to evolve the idea of a superhero is Dave Lizewski, (Aaron Johnson) a high school student whose only reaction to crime is to want to kick its arse. After having enough of being robbed at school, mugged on the street and standing by as the same is done to others, Dave buys a wetsuit online and becomes the superhero vigilante Kick Ass.

Unfortunately for Dave, the only real powers he has are courage and a slightly elevated pain threshold – he can’t even weild his baton weapons effectively. However, that doesn’t matter after he’s filmed standing up to a group of thugs – Kick Ass becomes an instant internet hit, a symbol of truth in a world of lies.

Sadly, this is just the beginning of Dave’s problems as there are already two superheroes operating in secret – ex-cop Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his arse-kicking daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). The two are sworn enemies of drug baron Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a loner who chooses to become supervillain Red Mist. Worse still, Dave’s love interest Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) believes him to be gay.

There is no part of this film that doesn’t work. Absolutely everything is pitch-perfect – the casting, acting, directing, editing, writing, costumes, sound, music, design – all of it is completely brilliant, utterly hilarious and one hundred percent convincing.

Every character is fully three dimensional, with depth, personality and traits oozing out of every pore. It’s a story made up of stories, with all the cast combining to form a wonderfully satisfying whole. The good guys are likeable and sympathetic, the bad guys detestable yet motivated and even non-costumed characters Clark Duke and Even Peters provide non-stop laughs with their very presence. Particular stand-outs include Big Daddy’s twisted and hilarious, yet ultimately believable and loving relationship with Hit-Girl, as well as Chris’ utterly convincing character arc. Massive props, too, to the burly bouncer played by wrestler Nelson Frasier Jr, whose every line is hysterical.

The plot is mature and intelligent, seeing Kick Ass accidentally getting dragged into a world he’s not ready or prepared for. Everything in it makes sense and it rattles along with the speed of a runaway freight train – not bad for a film weighing in at just under two hours.

The best part is the sense of realism that surrounds the whole thing. The best shot, the best fighter, the strongest, the fastest, the smartest always win, no exceptions. A child, couldn’t fist fight an adult in real life and the same is true here, only much funnier and more violent.

It’s an examination of what it really means to be a superhero. Is it about standing up for what’s right or is it about killing those that do wrong? The film suggests that both answers are right, depending on the severity of the crime. It’s a thoughtful note, one that aids to deepen the intelligence of a movie that, on the surface, doesn’t appear to have many brains about it.

If there is one small complaint to make, it’s that some people might be put off by the hyperviolence commited by children. But then again, if the sight of an eleven year old girl slaughtering legions of goons doesn’t tickle you, then the glory of Kick Ass is not for you.

Funnier than most comedies, more exciting than most actioners, this is Kick Ass, hands down the film to beat this year.

5 stars