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Showing posts from 2019

Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood (2019) - Review

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The ninth (apparently) film from Quentin Tarantino, 'Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood' is the legendary writer/director's tribute to late 60's Hollywood, from television to cinema, 160 minutes of call-backs, tributes and references, that also revolve around the murder of actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie here). Naturally, being a Quentin Tarantino film, the story doesn't play out quite as one would expect, and the potential criticisms with Tarantino turning a real-life tragedy into one of his films is certainly something the man himself tries to overcome with the finished film.

Set in 1969, 'Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood' follows ageing cowboy legend Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggling to propel himself back into stardom. Known for his turn as a classic cowboy in western series 'Bounty Law', Dalton has struggled to keep his career going beyond that, and with the help of his stuntman/driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), tries to figure…

Doctor in Distress? The Series 12 Conundrum

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Its difficult to be a Doctor Who fan on the internet without coming across outcries from certain members of the fan base about how "terrible" Series 11 was. Aired from 7th October 2018 to 1st January 2019, Series 11 (or Season 37) featured not only the show's first female lead with Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, but a larger and more diverse ensemble cast with Bradley Walsh as Graham, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Mandip Gill as Yaz. This, coupled with the series' emphasis on real-world issues - including episodes focused on Rosa Parks, the Indian partition, 17th Century witch trials, a mock-Amazon company and a Trump-esque billionaire - caused many people to call the series "overly-political", in spite of the obvious argument that this was nothing new. Whilst some journalists will publish articles on "PC Who", many fans took this idea further, moaning about "SJW Doctor Who"...whatever that means.

For the record, Doctor Who has alwa…

Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw (2019) - Review

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With the sudden surge in popularity for the 'Fast and Furious' films in recent years, it's no surprise to see the franchise spin-off two of its most popular leads into a film. 'Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw' (alternatively titled 'Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw') stars Dwayne Johnson and Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, with Vanessa Kirby playing Shaw's sister and Idris Elba playing a one-off villain.

The plot is rather confused and never fully established, starting off with Vanessa Kirby stealing a mysterious virus from a van, and somehow linking this all into Idris Elba as a cyborg mercenary working for a shadowy organisation (named sequel set-up). The CIA and MI6 have to work together to send in Hobbs and Shaw to find Shaw's sister and stop whatever Idris Elba is up to...which is never entirely clear. Elba's motivations are a bit odd at best, and there's something about the virus murdering everyone on the planet…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 6 Review

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'Inescapable' might just be the best episode so far in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s sixth season, centring entirely around Fitz and Simmons as they find themselves trapped inside a Chronicom mind prison, and have to face their fears together.

Whilst the meta aspects of 'Inescapable''s trippy, mind-bending dream sequences may seem obvious - Fitz is haunted by his potential for evil, Simmons is haunted by the fears and anxieties she'd locked away in her music box - they do serve to give the episode stakes. The characters' inner demons are given physical form to pursue them through the maze of their own shared dreams, which helps to keep up the pace when things seem to be getting a little too slow. Once everything is all resolved and FitzSimmons are back together as a unit though, so are their demons - in a rather humorous end to the episode.

It's probably worth mentioning that Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstringe are both fantastic throughout the …

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 5 Review

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After the baffling tonal inconsistencies of 'Code Yellow', Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to get back on track with 'The Other Thing' - an episode that feels like it's simply there to set things up for later.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. abandoned its villain-of-the-week format a long time ago, but it still feels somewhat dissatisfying when episodes feel like smaller pieces in a larger puzzle. It's as though the show is being produced for a streaming audience, bingeing the entire season in one go, as opposed to working as week-to-week entertainment. It's also at this point that I really started to feel the length of this season - and we're only five episodes in. I had thought that a shorter, thirteen-episode season would benefit the show, and while it might in the long run, I don't think that the story has gone very far in five episodes.

May has been captured by Sarge and his accomplice (whose name escapes me, but she keeps mentioning butte…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 4 Review

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When did Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. become DC's Legends of Tomorrow?

'Code Yellow' starts off with Deke having reinvented himself in 2019 as the head of a tech/games company, with a girlfriend (played by Executive Producer Maurissa Trancheon) and a revolutionary new system called "The Framework". Sound familiar? Oh, and obviously the episode opens with a cheesy action sequence of Deke fighting some aliens in a corridor and then seducing Daisy in a fake-out dream/game sequence so obvious that for me at least, the episode started on the wrong foot.
With this and the previous episode, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be trying to embrace a more humorous approach, with a style of meta-humour similar to that of DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Deke's look towards the camera in the pre-titles sting was a bit too on-the-nose for me, especially given how grounded Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has tried to be for so long. If the show wants to head into a new direction,…

Doctor Who: Season 10 (1972-73) - Review

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The Three Doctors. The terrible Drashigs. The final story with Roger Delgado's Master. The return of the dreaded Daleks. And the departure of beloved companion Jo Grant. Doctor Who's tenth season packs a lot into five serials and twenty-six episodes, and thanks to the new Blu-ray Collection, we can now revisit the stories remastered in HD.
The season opens with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and their U.N.I.T family investigating a mysterious black hole that threatens the entire Universe. Realising the catastrophic threat it poses, the Time Lords send Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor and William Hartnell's First to help out, giving us 'The Three Doctors'. Or, more accurately, the Two-and-a-half Doctors, as Hartnell barely appears in the serial due to bad health. Troughton and Pertwee are a wonderful double-act, and the story's villain Omega is a great antagonist, but despite solid build-up, the story never goes anywhere. The produ…

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) - Review

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'Spider-Man: Far From Home' is the twenty-third film in the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe, the concluding chapter in their third phase of films, the fifth film to feature Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man, and the second installment of this third live-action film iteration of the character. In short: 'Far From Home' is a sequel to 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' and a direct follow-up to 'Avengers: Endgame', meaning that if you are one of the (apparently few) people who didn't see 'Endgame' (and statistically speaking you probably did, as it made a colossal $2.7 billion worldwide), 'Far From Home' will spoil almost all of the major twists in that film - and so will this review, so be warned.

With Planet Earth saved after the Universe-shaking events of 'Avengers: Endgame', everyone is still trying to adjust to the five years that technically never were. Those "snapped" by Thanos are back living the lives they le…

Dracula Untold (2014) - Review

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In an era of shared-universe mega-franchises, it's difficult not to distinguish the finished film 'Dracula Untold' from it's clear cynical, money-grabbing ambitions. Universal once had a success franchise with their Universal Monster movies, including 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein', 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' and more, and in a post-Marvel Studios era, they want to try again - properly this time. Everything is connected, and one day Dracula will team-up with the Wolf-Man and Frankenstein to fight the Mummy. But not today.

'Dracula Untold' was released in 2014, and was set to start what was later dubbed as the "Dark Universe". Despite making a fair $217 million against its $70 million budget, the franchise was rebooted in 2017 with 'The Mummy', a $190/345 million flop that turned in $407 million, but not any profit for the studio. Alas, neither started the Dark Universe that Universal had been hoping for, but both coul…

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks (1973) - Review

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With Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 10 set to be released on Blu-ray next month, the BFI screened the newly-remastered edition of 'Planet of the Daleks' on Saturday, complete with restored picture quality, brand-new CGI effects work and 5.1 surround sound mix by Mark Ayres. Starring Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant, this serial was part of Doctor Who's anniversary season, and saw the return of Dalek creator Terry Nation to pen all six episodes. This serial also acts as a direct follow-up to 'Frontier in Space', forming what was intended to be a twelve-episode epic, akin to Nation's own 'The Daleks' Master Plan' in 1965.

The story sees Jo Grant helping a wounded Doctor back to the TARDIS. They escape the Ogron Planet, and the TARDIS materialises on Spiridon - a jungle planet home to the invisible Spiridons. As Jo journeys through the jungle to find help, the Doctor encounters the Thals - inhabitants of the planet Ska…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 3 Review

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'Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson' is a rather bizarre episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., attempting a more bizarre and humorous installment without actually having the story to justify this. The tonal shifts throughout the episode border on the bizarre, and do serve the remove a lot of the tension. On the one hand, it's a story about Team Space SHIELD (Daisy, Simmons, Davis and the other one) desperately trying to find Fitz (and Enoch), coming so close and yet again losing him at the last possible second. A new threat emerges in the form of a hunter Chronicom, and the episode ends on a very dour note with a short epilogue showing Sarge's plan coming to fruition.

The issue here isn't so much with the story as much as the execution of said story. Initially the scenes of Enoch trying to blend in at an alien casino are fun, and a welcome relief of tension, but then Daisy, Simmons and Davis get high off some alien drug and the whole thing meanders about with …

Men in Black: International (2019) - Review

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I'm not entirely sure how 'Men in Black: International' came to fruition. Originally it was supposedly a crossover with Sony Pictures' own '21 Jump Street' franchise - which is baffling in itself - and clearly there was some debate as whether to make a sequel or straight-up reboot. The angle that 'International' goes for is that of a spin-off to the Men in Black trilogy with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, focusing instead on new agents M and H, played by Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth respectively. Emma Thompson returns from 'Men in Black 3' as Agent O to bridge the gap between the series', but this film is very much focused on its new cast.

Tessa Thompson plays Molly, who after befriending an alien and witnessing a Men in Black encounter endeavours to find out exactly who MIB are, and how to work for them. Twenty years later, Molly finally encounters MIB again, and is recruited on a probationary basis by Agent O (Emma Thompson), and s…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 2 Review

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The struggle with reviewing individual episodes of a serialised show like Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that each episode naturally builds on the last. Not enough Sarge or Fitz in Episode 1? Give them more focus in Episode 2. And surprise surprise it actually works really well, even if it does highlight that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would perhaps work best as a binge-able streaming show as opposed to a week-to-week network drama. Each episode is considerably more action-packed and engaging than standalone episodes of Marvel's Jessica Jones (or most of the Marvel/Netflix shows), but that partly comes with the format of a network television drama - you need to keep the audience hooked, not just to come back next week but to sit through horrific amounts of adverts.

'Window of Opportunity' dedicates a lot of its time to setting up Sarge and his team, establishing their dynamic with one another and teasing their threat to planet Earth, which is thankfully handled with m…

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) - Review

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'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' the twelfth and penultimate installment of the X-Men film series, acting as a send-off to the main series whilst next year's 'The New Mutants' has ended up as an unexpectedly standalone coda. The entire franchise has been cut short by Walt Disney Pictures, who during post-production acquired the assorted assets of 20th Century Fox and made the decision to end this run of X-Men films to make way for a new rebooted series as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making 'Dark Phoenix' the exciting (?) finale to twenty years' worth of films. Until that next film comes out...eventually.

The film has been re-tooled into a satisfying finale during post-production, and the marketing has leaned more towards nostalgic love for the X-Men films as a whole as opposed to building excitement for this entry. The new marketing push has even produced a new, more comic book-inspired poster to sell the film, but despite their best efforts, it's h…

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) - Review

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Whilst many large-scale film franchises have flopped recently ('The Mummy' (2017) didn't start its Dark Universe series, 'Pacific Rim: Uprising' is still without a sequel, 'Hellboy' (2019) bombed quite spectacularly, among many others), it's surprising to see one succeed that isn't a superhero franchise. 'Godzilla' (2014) was an interesting film in that it had spectacular trailers and a rather boring end product. Nevertheless, it made $500 million and thus it started the MonsterVerse, followed by 'Kong: Skull Island' - a considerable improvement, and another moderate hit. Now though, the Monsterverse is going for the top spot with two new entries - first, 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters', and the next year 'Godzilla vs. Kong'. It's a risky move for Warner Bros Picture, but they clearly have confidence in the franchise to produce two entries back-to-back.

'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' is supposedly a se…

Good Omens (2019) - Review

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The brainchild of legendary authors Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, 'Good Omens' is the tale of an angel Aziraphale and his demon friend Crowley, who are both deployed by Heaven and Hell respectively to start Armageddon. Quite frankly though, the world is full of too many nice things to get destroyed in the apocalypse, so Aziraphale and Crowley agree to prevent it by any means necessary.

Despite many attempts to get an adaptation produced in the years since the book's publication, its only recently that Amazon finally produced one, with the wishes of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman working as its screenwriter and executive producer. It's a masterful adaptation, and about as accurate as you can realistically get to the original novel without simply recreating it. New scenes are added, concepts are elaborated on and elements are removed for the sake of telling a cohesive and amusing story in six installments. It's not a word-for-word adaptation, but it'…

Doctor Who: Series 8 (2014) - Retrospective

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I remember 2014 being a very exciting year for a Doctor Who fan. Despite having yet another nine-month wait for the next series, news, leaks and spoilers were abound. We were just coming off the back of the show's 50th anniversary year, and I was still riding high on the celebrations of such an event. We had a new Doctor in Peter Capaldi, a relatively new companion in Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), and a whole new era to look forward to. Steven Moffat's era B, if you will. Throughout the year we had official photos from the new years, vague behind the scenes snaps, the usual Radio Times episode guide and the World Tour - as the first episode 'Deep Breath' screened in seven cities across five continents, building the excitement in the weeks before it aired on BBC One. I had come back from a week's holiday just in time to see Episode 1, and was absolutely ecstatic.

It saddens me somewhat to say that when I revisited 'Deep Breath' a little while ago, I found m…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 1 Review

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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for its sixth season after what seemed to be it's definitive ending last year. Whilst I felt that Season Five was a rather small-scale season to go out on - more because of the low production values than the story - and that a definitive, planned-out ending would be better than running the show into the ground, I was encouraged by the news that a sixth season would only consist of thirteen episodes, and be set after Coulson's death in the Season Five finale. About a year later, Season Six has arrived in the UK, set to be followed by a thirteen episode seventh season next year.

'Missing Pieces' is very much a slow-build episode, pulling together a few strings and setting multiple ongoing storylines in motion, making it a rather uneventful self-contained episode but no doubt an integral part of Season Six. I felt very much underwhelmed by this opener, but that's mainly because of how little it can really achieve in forty mi…