29 November 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E6 "A Shattered House" pushes the show in new directions

"A Shattered House" has Coulson and Co reacting to an attack on the U.N by Hydra agents claiming to be SHIELD,  part of plan to further tarnish the name of SHIELD in response to the recent infiltration of Hydra by Agent Morse and Agent Simmons. Coulson attempts to limit the damage done by bargaining with a senator that is both very vocal and very involve in the ordeal, while Agent May, Agent Hunter and Bobbi Morse go on the offensive, taking the fight to Hydra.

"A Shattered House" is another episode that contains multiple plot threads pulling in different directions, focusing more on creating and maintaining a season wide plot, while at the same time having a villain for a part of the episode to focus on. Parts of the episode feel much more standalone than the series has been recently, and other parts of the episode are much more character driven. The ending of "A Shattered House" is entirely set up for the rest of the season, and it's super exciting to see where they are going with the show - a statement that I wouldn't have been able to say with a straight face for most of the first season.

27 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 shakes up the series in a big way

Despite having devoured the books when I first got my hands on them, I'm not a massive fan of the previous Hunger Games films. Both The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were adequately made science fiction/action films for the young adult audience, but I never saw what was so special about them to the world at large, and I particularly didn't get all the praise that was heaped on Catching Fire, which was for the most part a repeat of the first film with changes to the yearly gimmick of the Hunger Games. If I hadn't already read the books, I would have been worried that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was going to again repeat the formula of the other two films if it hadn't of been for the last few minutes of Catching Fire, showing us the beginning of a revolution taking place and Katniss waking up in District 13 after being rescued from The Arena as part of a long planned rescue mission.

It turns out that District 13 is and always has been at war with The Capitol, whether The Capitol know it or not. Led by President Coin, District 13 is a militarised state that exists entirely underground, preparing for a full on offensive on The Capitol when the time is right. They need Katniss to play the Mockingjay again in a series of propaganda films in order to keep the fires of the revolution burning in the districts, but The Capitol still has Peeta, and is using him as a counter weapon to try and calm the tension by providing a more reasonable, peaceful figurehead to Katniss and her apparent thirst for the blood of The Capitol.

21 November 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E5 "A Hen in the Wolf House" continues moving the season forwards

"A Hen in the Wolf House" returns to the season wide plot that was sacrificed last episode in order to tie the 3 main story threads that have been introduced so far together, using everyone's favourite, flower-dress wearing woman and her manipulative ways to unite (and pull apart) the various factions that the show is currently focusing on.

The main story here follows Agent Simmons, still deep undercover within Hydra, as she discovers that they are preparing to utilise the Obelisk seen in previous episodes as a large scale weapon - as soon as they can get their hands on it. While passing this information back to SHIELD, her message is intercepted and Hydra's Head of Security quickly becomes very suspicious of the goody two shoes ex-SHIELD employee. Meanwhile, Raina is on a mission to retrieve the Obelisk for Hydra from Skye's father in order to save her own skin.

14 November 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E4 "I Will Face My Enemy" shows us The Cavalry in full force

"I Will Face my Enemy" sees a disconnect from the season wide plot that has been building up over the previous 3 episodes. The main plot follows Agent Director Coulson and Agent May as they attempt to steal a painting that mysteriously survived a monastery fire, and that has also been carved with the strange markings that both Garrett and Coulson started drawing after the injection of the GH-325 serum. The story of the episode itself is lacking in comparison to this seasons other episodes, but its fairly obvious that this episode exists for one reason only - the entire thing is building up towards a pivotal fight scene starring Agent Melinda May at the end of the episode.

13 November 2014

Interstellar - Visually stunning, ambitious, and yet ultimately, flawed

Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors that can walk into a meeting with a studio and walk out with $150 million to spend on an idea. He's a smart director, frequently creating some of the best blockbusters around with a strong sense of direction, a realistic feel and an intelligent, larger than life idea. I'm a big fan of Nolan's work, with Inception being one of my favourite films, a larger than life concept grounded in reality, filled with great performances and a strong thematic core.

Interstellar follows Joe Cooper, an all American ex-Astronaut turned farmer, who is very aware of the fact that his planet is dying as dust storms frequently ravage the planets surface and crops wither and die thanks to a micro-organism known as Blight. After discovering some strange gravity anomalies in his daughters bedroom that lead him to a secret NASA facility, he reluctantly agrees to leave his family and travel to a different galaxy in order to seek a new habitable planet for humanity. 

9 November 2014

Doctor Who S8E12 "Death in Heaven" ends the season on a whimper

"Dark Water" left Doctor Who in a position to deliver one of the best season finales that Doctor Who has ever had, with the monstrously evil Missy having seemingly already put her plan into action, Danny Pink trapped in the Nethersphere, about to delete his emotions and Clara trapped in a room with a Cyberman. There are so many places to go from here, and the no doubt emotional story of Danny confronting the child he killed could have taken up half an episode in itself.

Instead, "Death in Heaven" fails to deliver on any off these cliff hangers in any real way, instead choosing to take the final episode of both the season and the two-parter in an entirely different direction. What could have been a finale compromising of three separate story threads instead opted to tie them all together into one anti-climactic and ultimately unsatisfying ending.

6 November 2014

Nightcrawler shows us the dark side of ambition

Nightcrawler opens with a series of still, serene shots of the best side of Los Angeles, shots of Ferris Wheels and beaches and brightly lit streets, before cutting to our main character, Lou Bloom, as he cuts down a metal fence for scrap. It's a grim, dirty train yard we find ourselves in, a stark contrast to the colourful and safe view of LA we saw a second ago. A graffiti covered train rumbles past in the background, and a rough looking security guard confronts Lou about being in a restricted area. Lou spots that the security guard is wearing a nice looking watch, and under the guise of handing the security guard some ID, attacks him. Lou is wearing that watch for the rest of the film, a reminder that if Lou wants something, he will get it.

Nightcrawler follows Lou as he attempts to become the most successful nightcrawler in LA. A nightcrawler is someone who races to accidents or crime scenes and films as much as they can, selling the footage to news stations, who pay better the more graphic the footage is. After making his first sale, Lou realises he needs better equipment and more manpower, hiring the down on his luck Rick as an intern, paying just $30 a night.

4 November 2014

Doctor Who S8E11 "Dark Water" is incredibly dark

It seems to have been a very long time since the last two-parter Doctor Who episode, with Moffat himself declaring way back that these elongated episodes were the main problem with Doctor Who, despite them frequently being the best episodes that Doctor Who has ever offered. And now, Moffat has gone and ended season 8 on a two-parter that he wrote himself.

"Dark Water" is the penultimate episode of Season 8 of Doctor Who, and naturally expands on what's been teased throughout the last 10 episodes. The spoilers start almost as soon as the episode does and don't stop for the whole run time, so details are going to be light - but this episode deals with the mystery of Missy and The Promised Land/Nethershpere, the recurring plot thread that has been dangling all season.