30 December 2015

The Must See Films of 2015

Wow, and I thought that 2014 had been pretty great. It's been another fantastic year for cinema in 2015, a fairly consistent quality (bar a few stinkers) interrupted by soaring highs at frequent intervals, from films that have showcased new talent in-front and behind the camera to films that prove there is still life in long-running or dormant franchises. Box office be damned, we're talking pure quality here, and it's worth being able to know which films you should have seen in 2015.

As such, below is a list of films that I would consider the "Must See" films released in the UK in 2015. These aren't necessarily the best films of the year, the most artistic or the most "worthy" - these are just great films that I can see having a certain amount of longevity to them, films that impress in a variety of different ways by doing something or multiple things so well that it would a crying shame to have missed out on them.

Bearing in mind that I haven't seen every film released this year, in release date order...


A film about both the risks and rewards of extreme ambition, Whiplash follows aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neiman as he is tutored by esteemed conductor Terence Fletcher at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory. With brilliant performances from both Miles Teller and J K Simmons, a great jazz soundtrack and a director who manages to make an extended drum solo one of the most captivating sequences of 2015, Whiplash was an early addition to this list and has firmly remained here ever since.

You can read my full review of Whiplash here.

26 December 2015

Doctor Who Christmas special "The Husbands of River Song" review

The Christmas specials of Doctor Who have always been somewhat light hearted affairs for the most part, low stake romps that are more focused on entertaining as much as possible in the space of an hour or so than they are adding anything of canonical value to the Doctor Who universe. And that's OK in my books - a Christmas special is a Christmas special, something to be enjoyed while dinner is still going down and everyone is a little bit sleepy. And from that perspective, "The Husbands of River Song" is a fine episode of Doctor Who.

21 December 2015

Supergirl S1E8 "Hostile Takeover" review

Supergirl’s mid season finale arrived this week, bringing back some characters that haven’t been seen since the beginning of the show and some moments that reflect on DC’s recent attempt at a live action Superman. Was it a culmination of all the progress made since it’s start or a reminder of the wasted potential that defines the majority of the first half of the series?

18 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

Is Star Wars the most iconic franchise of all time? I think it might be - its impact is felt everywhere, from basic character archetypes that have been reused time and time again to more explicit references and homages in everything from The Simpsons to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's a franchise as influential as it is recognisable, one that has touched every aspect of pop culture since it was first released in 1977 - and now, nearly 40 years later, we find it circling back around and touching itself. Furiously, under the covers in the dead of night.

14 December 2015

Supergirl S1E7 "Human For a Day" review

Most television shows have a structure to set each episode around and for good reasons. It grounds the characters into set roles and allows a casual viewer to continue to watch the show even if they miss the occasional episode. It also can easily make a show repetitive and feel like no progression is being made to the overarching plot. This was something that Supergirl had already started to fall victim to, but luckily the latest episode brings an alternative take on the shows established formula. It shakes up the structure of an episode by introducing a scenario that allows the characters take the spotlight rather than the effects and villains. Sure, the idea's introduced may be overly used, especially in Superhero stories, but it's well executed and the benefits for the show are obvious.

11 December 2015

Krampus review

Opening up with Bing Crosby's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" played over shots of stampeding customers fighting for bargains in a store, it's pretty obvious from the get go that Krampus isn't going to be quite like any Christmas film you've seen before. An entertaining mix of the "family regains their long-lost festive spirit" Christmas film and a pre-teen friendly horror, Krampus follows a fairly normal family over the Christmas period as they are terrorised by Krampus, the dark side of the Santa Claus story who punishes those without a festive spirit.

If that sounds like the general plot to dozens of low budget, straight-to-DVD horror films, that's because it is - but Krampus certainly doesn't deserve the association. It's the kind of film that you don't really see getting made any more, a pre-teen friendly horror that genuinely tries to scare its target audience, and it's surprisingly effective - creepy and frightening without relying on gore, Krampus is the kind of film that would have scared the bejesus out of me as a kid while still being suitable for anyone over the age of about 10.

7 December 2015

Supergirl S1E6 "Red Faced" review

Supergirl's latest outing is a great improvement over the last few episodes. It finally delivers on some of the potential the show has been promising from the start but hasn't been delivering on. A mixture of a strong story along with improvements in nearly every area of the show lead to an episode that this show has sorely been needing. While not perfect, it's a great stride that can hopefully be built upon into future entries.

The episode's title serves a dual purpose, referencing the entrance of DC character  robot/android Red Tornado who makes a rare live action TV appearance, while also referencing the main theme of the episode, anger. All the various aspects of Kara's life are finally starting to wear her down. Between her boss, friends, love life and family, her built up frustration starts to get the better of her, resulting in negative consequences for not only Kara but Supergirl as well. At the same time the Army is interested in testing their new android, designed for threats such as Supergirl, with obvious consequences.

Doctor Who S9E12 "Hell Bent" review

Opening up in a vaguely familiar diner located in Nevada, "Hell Bent" sees The Doctor telling the story of his time on Gallifrey to a waitress that works there. To say any more about the way the story develops would be to spoil it, but as the season finale it should be obvious that "Hell Bent" seeks to tie together the various plot threads that have been set up throughout season nine.

3 December 2015

Bridge of Spies review

Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies follows American lawyer James Donovan during the Cold War as he defends KGB spy Rudolf Abel against charges of espionage before being asked to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between the USA and the USSR in the wake of a U-2 spy plane being shot down over Soviet territory and pilot Francis Gary Powers being captured.

Despite being based on an event that occurred over 50 years ago, Bridge of Spies seems very applicable to the modern day at times thanks to the way it takes a look at the dangers of wrong-headed nationalism. As Bridge of Spies shows us with multiple different characters, people both then and now are all to quick to dispose of human rights and civil liberties the second they feel threatened, ironically destroying the foundation of the thing that they think they are trying to protect. We see it when Abel is denied constitutional rights during his trial and we are seeing it now as various countries are giving their Governments greater powers while making them less accountable for their actions, and Bridge of Spies questions the logic of sacrificing principles for security through its main character, James Donovan.

30 November 2015

Doctor Who S9E11 "Heaven Sent" review

Any regular (or even semi-regular) readers of Screen Nerds should know by now that I'm no Whovian. I think it's fair to say that the show is inconsistent in terms of quality - for every truly great episode of the show since 2005 we've had our fair share of mediocrity and worse, and I've never tried to make excuses for a show that I believe could and should be a lot better. So when I say that "Heaven Sent" is a legitimately great episode of not just Doctor Who but television as a form of entertainment, I want you to know that this isn't coming from a place of wishful thinking.

Following on from last weeks "Face the Raven", "Heaven Sent" sees The Doctor materialising in a water-locked castle with only one other inhabitant - a slowly shuffling shrouded creature that never stops walking towards The Doctor. We watch as The Doctor tries to figure out where he is and how to escape a prison that seems to have been designed just for him.

29 November 2015

Supergirl S1E5 "How Does She Do It?" review

Supergirl continues to entertain and annoy into its 5th episode. This episode focuses on the balance between playing multiple roles not only for Kara, but for her motley crew of supporting characters. Aside from generic romantic sub-plots and forced dialogue, there are a considerable number of bright spots to be excited by. As the series continues though, these bright spots are starting to get more tarnished by the rough edges that appear throughout the rest of the episodes.

From the advice of the DEO, the government organisation that Kara's sister works for, Kara is told to not try a juggle all the responsibilities in her life at once and to take things one at a time. Basically this has no impact on the plot or episode in general at all. She still leaps into action the first chance she gets and even asks to have more responsibility at work. The only resolution to this are a few 'inspiring'  words of wisdom from her boss, Cat, towards the end of the episode. For the rest of the episode, it's broken down into forced romantic sub-plots, more focus on Maxwell Lord and Kara babysitting Cat's son. The plot moves along at a relaxed pace and feels far more cohesive than the previous entry. The problems start however, when the show decides to focus on the love triangle between Kara, Jimmy and Lois Lane's sister Lucy.

26 November 2015

Jessica Jones season one review

If Daredevil managed to prove anything back when it was first released, it was that the ABC stylings of Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter were not going to define the TV side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Significantly darker than anything we'd seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far but still managing to avoid the joyless grit of films like Man of Steel, Daredevil used it's tone to tell a fascinating long form story with one of, if not the, best antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at that time. Sure, Daredevil had issues (ones that are becoming increasingly apparent in the wake of Jessica Jones), but it created a baseline for the Netflix/Marvel Studios shows that Jessica Jones adheres to nicely.

It is the same Hell's Kitchen from Daredevil that we find ourselves in for much of Jessica Jones. We follow our titular character as she attempts to make a living for herself as a Private Eye, but Jessica is significantly more than she appears - gifted with super-strength and very limited flying abilities, she gave up her attempt at super-heroics after a prolonged encounter with a man who can control minds, Kilgrave, left her with severe PTSD.

25 November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 review

The trend of splitting up the final book in a series into two parts for the film adaptation isn't one that I'm generally a fan of. It often simply feels like a way to get another film out of a franchise before it ends, a cheap way for a studio to earn some extra money at the cost of quality, and in some ways the Hunger Games series falls into this trap - having read the books on which the films are based, I can say with some certainty that Mockingjay, the final book, didn't need to be spread out over two films. It's the shortest of the three books and could have easily been adapted from page to screen and kept at a reasonable length, avoiding the slower pace that put some people off The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (and will put those people off The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 in the same way).

That being said, I liked The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 precisely because of how different it was to the films that came before it, and I like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 for much the same reason. We start the film as District 13 begins its assault on The Capitol, and follow Katniss, her camera crew and her combat unit miles behind the front line of the war as they continue to make propaganda films in the booby-trapped streets of The Capitol.

23 November 2015

Supergirl S1E4 "Livewire" review

Kara's story continues into its 4th episode of Supergirl, with Kara facing a new threat while at the same time spending some time with her family for the holidays. Unfortunately the show is starting to show some cracks despite its good intentions and strong start to the series. It proves Supergirl can no longer rest on the goodwill earned by its willingness to fully embrace its comic book roots and needs to start setting the stage for the story that will play throughout the series. This episode is a disappointing indicator into what the show could lazily fall into yet also highlights the potential this series has for opening up to a new audience. 

Doctor Who S9E10 "Face the Raven" review

"Face the Raven" sees The Doctor and Clara receive a phone call from Rigsy (a character introduced in last seasons "Flatline"), who is concerned that he has no memory of the previous day and has discovered a tattoo of meaningless numbers on the back of his neck. Fairly normal stuff for someone of Rigsy's age  really - until he points out that the numbers on his neck are counting down as time goes on. Intrigued, The Doctor, Clara and Rigsy set about trying to find out who gave Rigsy a countdown, what happens when it has counted down, and why.

16 November 2015

Doctor Who S9E9 "Sleep No More" review

Ah, the found-footage film. Popularised by The Blair Witch Project and imitated often since, it may be the most abused and overused novelty film-making technique in use today - I can count the number of good found-footage films on one hand, but that hasn't stopped everyone and their mothers from thinking that their films would greatly benefit from poor camera-work and a nauseous audience. So naturally, it was only a matter of time until Doctor Who picked it up.

Set on an abandoned space station, we follow a rescue team who were sent to investigate the lack of communications coming from the space station in question. They soon bump into Clara and The Doctor, and not long after they all run into the only surviving member of the space stations crew - the inventor of a sleep-replacement machine known as Morpheus.

8 November 2015

Doctor Who S9E8 "The Zygon Inversion" review

Opening up with an effective and creepy 'something clearly isn't right' scene that follows Clara as she watches the cliff-hanger ending of "The Zygon Invasion", "The Zygon Inversion" quickly explains how Osgood and The Doctor survived the plane crash before sending them straight into the belly of the beast, heading into London to confront Bonnie as she seeks out the Osgood Box in order to start the Zygon/Human war in earnest.

7 November 2015

Supergirl S1E2 "Stronger Together" review

Following a strong start, the second episode of Supergirl focuses on Superman’s legacy and Kara trying to live up to it. After a few unsuccessful heroic acts and the indirect advice of her friends, she decides she has to start small and work her way up. This involves learning to control her powers as well as continuing to track down the escaped aliens from the ship that appeared with her when she appeared on earth.

It continues the confident characterisation of the protagonist and action that made the first episode stand-out but fortunately at a much slower pace than last week. This gives time for the characters to breathe a bit more and see Kara’s relationships with them start to develop. Melissa Benoist continues to suit the role of Supergirl very well, balancing the optimism and naivety of the character, while showing enough presence to sell the superpowers she displays.

2 November 2015

Supergirl S1E1 "Pilot" review

Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Arrow, The Flash. DC have consistently proven that they are far more capable at creating a great TV show then they have so far at showing that they can make a great movie; at least, one that doesn't star Batman. Their TV shows can capture what makes a character iconic and fully represent the best parts of a comic book experience.

Their recent live action shows have shown a steady improvement embracing the fantastical elements of these universes: growing from the dark realistic Batman-like world of the first series of Arrow to the light-hearted dimension hopping and always entertaining world of The Flash. Riding the wave of the critical and commercial success of these shows we now have the latest live action show, Supergirl, developed by a team including two of the main producers who worked on both The Flash and Arrow (Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg) that shows confidence and sets a very promising precedent in its first episode.

1 November 2015

Doctor Who S9E7 "The Zygon Invasion" review

The first part of a two-parter (is this entire season actually going to be two-parters?), "The Zygon Invasion" acts as a follow-up of sorts to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary episode, 2013's "The Day of the Doctor". In it, we find out that since the human/Zygon treaty was created in "The Day of the Doctor" there has been an operation to allow Zygons to live on Earth by having them disguise themselves as humans. Unfortunately, being denied the right to be who they are, a small percentage of the Zygon population has become radicalised and seeks to take over the world.

Spectre review

It's no surprise that the director of Skyfall, Sam Mendes, was bought back to helm Spectre. Both a critical and commercial success, Skyfall did a lot to reignite audience interest in James Bond after Quantum of Solace proved to many people that this new "gritty" Bond wasn't worth paying attention to, in spite of Casino Royale being amongst the very best films that the Bond franchise has to offer (and my personal favourite - although I'll admit that I haven't seen all that many Bond films). As such, Mendes' return to the franchise that he revitalised is a welcome one, with Spectre showcasing all the things that made Skyfall as notable as it is - but also unfortunately suffering from many of the same flaws.

As M attempts to keep the 00 program alive after MI6 and MI5 are merged, Spectre starts with Bond on an unofficial mission in Mexico given to him from the previous M. Using a ring he finds on his target to enter a secret meeting in Rome, Bond begins his investigation into Spectre, an organisation that he seems to have some kind of link to.


30 October 2015

Five film recommendations for a great Halloween

The situation: It’s the night before Halloween and you have a group of friends heading over for some scary, spooky times. The problem, you have a considerable lack of scary spooky films, you and your friends have already seen all the classics and you don’t really feel like spending too much on the latest films. Well, maybe I can help you out there. All of these films can be found at HMV on offer for 2 for £10 or cheaper at any second-hand store. This is a list of spooky scares done cheap.

Option One - Rec

We’ll start with a pretty well known horror film. Rec is a Spanish found footage movie made before the found footage ‘shaky cam’ style of movie was done to death. Personally, I think this is one of the best examples of this style of film-making alongside Chronicle and Troll Hunter. It follows the story of a TV crew trapped in an apartment building locked down due a virus being found in the area. The film crew work their way up the building showing the effects of the virus on the people living in the building and end up having to survive any way possible. It’s very well paced, building tension throughout the film with a good few jump scares thrown in for good measure. It uses the location, lighting and the filming style to create a tense atmosphere with characters who aren't the most dislikable people on the planet and react like actual people in these situations, which is annoyingly rare for a horror film. Avoid the disappointing American remake and stick with the original. While the ending isn't fantastic, the ride towards it can be genuinely creepy and well worth a watch. 

25 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E6 "The Woman Who Lived" review

Damn it. I thought we'd seen the last of those Sonic Sunglasses.

Picking up from the semi-cliffhanger ending of last weeks "The Girl Who Died", "The Woman Who Lived" has The Doctor (noticeably Clara-less) running into Ashildr (now going by the name of Me) around 800 years after he last saw her in 17th Century England. Both she and The Doctor are looking for the same item - her believing it to be a valuable gem (having taken up robbing people in the last 800 years or so in order to stave off boredom), and him on the hunt for alien artefacts on Earth.

22 October 2015

Crimson Peak review

Part Gothic romance, part supernatural horror and part Downton Abbey-esque period drama, Crimson Peak isn't an easy film to classify beyond "it's a Guillermo Del Toro film". Set around the turn of the 20th century, we follow Edith Cushing, aspiring writer and daughter of a wealthy American businessman as she is introduced to and falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe, an English Baronet who is desperately in need of funding to better extract the valuable red clay that resides under his family home, the dilapidated Allerdale Hall. The two of them are soon married, and Edith accompanies her husband back to England with his sister, Lucille Sharpe, to live in Allerdale Hall.

20 October 2015

Beasts of No Nation review

Set during a civil war, Beasts of No Nation follows Agu, an ordinary young boy, as he tries to survive after being forced to flee from his village. Found and trained by a rebel militia called the NFD, Agu begins working as a child soldier under the control of the Commandant, who soon takes Agu under his wing.

Beasts of No Nation is not a pleasant film to watch. It's uncompromising, brutal, frequently disturbing, and all too real in its portrayal of war and the war crimes that are committed by soldiers on both sides of a conflict like this, each believing that they are justified in the horrors they commit thanks to the 'worthiness' of their cause. But it also does a fantastic job of making sure that you understand that Agu, our main character throughout Beasts of No Nation, is just a kid, as are the many child soldiers that still exist in the world today.

18 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E5 "The Girl Who Died" review

Set in a small Viking village which has lost all of its warriors, "The Girl Who Died" sees The Doctor and Clara having to come up with a plan to help the villages remaining inhabitants fight off an invasion by the Mire, a species that Doctor refers to as the greatest warriors of all time. Amongst the people of this village is a young girl named Ashildr, who blames herself for anything that goes wrong in the village thanks to her belief in prophecies and the supernatural.

15 October 2015

Sicario review

No more than about half an hour or so into Sicario we find our main characters on a mission to retrieve someone from a Mexican prison and transport them back to America. Everything has gone smoothly picking him up, but on the way back to the border they notice someone following the convoy in order to report on their movements, and not long after they find out that the border crossing is backed up with traffic. Sitting in the traffic jam, they slowly notice cartel members in other cars, but the voice in their ears tell them that they can't engage until they are engaged - so they sit in their cars, waiting for the cartel to make the first move before an intense burst of gunfire and violence over a matter of seconds concludes the confrontation. It's the kind of scene that leaves you breathless, a master class in building tension that makes you think "Wow. Nothing this film can do from now on can top that".

Unfortunately, Sicario actually doesn't manage to top that.

Sicario follows FBI agent Kate Macer as she joins a team of Delta Force operators who are attempting to hunt down the people in charge of a Mexican drug cartels.
Led by an adviser for the Department of Justice, Matt Graver, they begin operations in Mexico in order to draw the leader of the cartel back into Mexico.

14 October 2015

Hands on with Guitar Hero Live and Rockband 4

Go back a few years and the problem of having yet another plastic instrument taking up space in your house seemed like it would never happen again, but apparently both Activision and Harmonix think that enough time has passed for people to spend more money and find the floor space for a new one. Personally, I love rhythm games and I’ve put more than too many hours into both the Guitar Hero and the Rockband franchises, so I'm totally up for some new entries. However, whether the general audience is on board for more remains to be seen.

At the Eurogamer Expo this month both Rockband 4 and Guitar Hero Live were on display, and both were high on my list of games I wanted to try out. Since the over saturation of the market, only games such as Rocksmith have tried to fill the guitar playing void left by these franchises. This is now their chance to win back their previous audience as well as trying to gain some new fans at the same time.

12 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E4 "Before the Flood" review

In my review of last weeks episode of Doctor Who I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing how "Before the Flood" would conclude what I believed had the potential to be one of the best stories the show had produced since Stephen Moffat took over as show runner. Well it turns out that my optimism wasn't misplaced - after seeing "Before the Flood" I can confirm that the "Under the Lake" and "Before the Flood" double bill is indeed one of the best stories of Doctor Who since David Tennant left the show. Maybe I'm psychic (paper).

After a brief monologue from The Doctor explaining the concept of the bootstrap paradox before the opening credits roll (reminiscent of last seasons "Listen") we are sent straight back into the action, picking up right from where we left off at the end of "Under the Lake". "Before the Flood" is fairly neatly separated into two parts, one half following The Doctor and a couple of the bases crew members in the past as he investigates the spaceship they found, and the other following Clara as she and the crew members that stayed on the base wait for The Doctor to return.

9 October 2015

Hands on with Assassin's Creed Syndicate

I'm not really big on Assassin's Creed. I haven't played an Assassin's Creed game since Assassin's Creed 2 (despite owning most of them on Steam) and I've never been overly impressed with them anyway - fun free running mechanic and historical settings aside, I've never really found anything about them to be particularly enjoyable, from the repetitive combat to the dull present day parts of the story that focus on Desmond.

Maybe I'm not the best person to be doing this.

Regardless, I had the opportunity to play Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PS4 at the
2015 Eurogamer Expo (more commonly known as EGX), spending about 15 minutes on an assassination mission that gave me a couple of different ways of approaching my target. Naturally, I tried to do it sneaky - under the guise of having been caught by a guard (who was secretly on my side) I started to work my way through the building, avoiding getting too close to enemies who would be able to tell I wasn't really a prisoner, focusing on remaining undetected and slowly but surely making progress towards my target before finally pouncing on her. That failed and I died though, so I ended up punching my way through with ease.

Hands on with Just Cause 3

If I'm being perfectly honest, Just Cause 3 is the reason I decided to attend the 2015 Eurogamer Expo (more commonly known as EGX). I'm a big fan of Just Cause 2 (which must be one of my most played Xbox 360 games) and I've been looking forward to a sequel for some time now, an anticipation that has only been heightened by the game play footage and trailers released recently.

I spent 20 minutes with Just Cause 3 in total, which was running on PC and played using an Xbox One controller. The demo opens with Rico leaning against a fancy looking sports car, looking calm, collected and inherently cool as he smokes a cigarette. After a second or so, he flicks it away from him, stands up and... that's the end of the only scripting or forced direction that the demo of Just Cause 3 contained. From then on I was given complete freedom of choice of what to do, the only limit being the amount of time I had to play with.

4 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E3 "Under the Lake" review

It seems like it's been a long time since we had a 'base under siege' episode, which is a shame - as far as Doctor Who episodes go they are often amongst the best (such as The Waters of Mars or Midnight) thanks to the way they confine The Doctor to one space and make him use his own intellect in order to solve the problem at hand. Not only that, but the focus on the monster of the episode often makes them more... well, not scary exactly, but at least more tense that the average episode of Doctor Who.

"Under the Lake" sees The Doctor and Clara stumble upon an underwater mining station that, as we learn from the episodes pre-opening credits scene, is apparently being haunted by what appear to be ghosts after the crew of the mining station found a spaceship. After accidentally making the ghosts target them, The Doctor and Clara join up with the remaining crew members in order to try and figure out what is going on.

2 October 2015

The Martian review

I have very mixed feelings about Ridley Scott. Despite directing one of the best science fiction films of all time and one of the best horror films of all time (Alien on both counts) I'd find it hard to disagree with anyone claiming that Ridley Scott's filmography is something of a mixed bag, especially as of late. His last five films have all seen a somewhat muted reaction from critics and audiences alike, and his inability to leave his older films alone (does anyone actually want a sequel to Blade Runner or another prequel to Alien?) has seen some people question whether or not he still 'has it'. It's not an unfair question really - his ratio of good to bad films has been slowly getting worse for nearly a decade.

After seeing The Martian, I can confirm that Ridley Scott still 'has it'.

The Martian follows botanist/astronaut Mark Watney as he attempts to survive being stranded on Mars after a sudden storm separates him from his crew, who are forced to abandon their mission and return to Earth. Presumed dead by both NASA and the crew of the Hermes, Mark must figure out a way to produce food and water on the inhospitable red planet while also attempting to work out a way to make contact with NASA without any of the equipment he needs to do so.

27 September 2015

Doctor Who S9E2 "The Witch's Familiar" review

I said last week that I was very nearly done with Doctor Who altogether. A combination of poor pacing, a lacklustre story and an overwhelming amount of fan pandering made "The Magician's Apprentice" one of the worst episodes of Doctor Who I thought I had ever seen, an episode so bad that I was certain the the second half of this two-parter would be unable to make up for it. Following on immediately from "The Magician's Apprentice", "The Witch's Familiar" first deals with the continued existence of Missy and Clara (obviously - anyone who genuinely thought they might be dead must be an idiot) before jumping back to the main portion of the episode - a long overdue conversation between The Doctor and a dying Davros.

21 September 2015

Doctor Who S9E1 "The Magician's Apprentice" review

It should be clear to anyone who read my reviews of Doctor Who season eight that I am no 'Whovian', the name that the fandom of Doctor Who refer to themselves as. I haven't really enjoyed watching Doctor Who since David Tennant left the show, my interest only sparked in the show again when it was announced that Peter Capaldi would be playing the newest incarnation of The Doctor. So I stuck with Doctor Who through it's shaky eighth season, always willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and another chance being as it was Capaldi's first run on the show. But after watching "The Magician's Apprentice", this review was nearly titled "Why I won't be reviewing Doctor Who anymore".

The story this time has The Doctor stumbling upon a planet in the midst of a war. On the battlefield, he finds a child in dire need of help - trapped on a small patch of land, booby traps block the scared child's route to safety. But when the child reveals to The Doctor that his name is Davros, he has a rather important choice to make about the fate of the child.

17 September 2015

Legend review

Set in London during the 1960's, Legend tells the story of gangster twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray from the viewpoint of Frances Shea, Reggie's girlfriend and later wife. Already self made men by the time the film starts, Legend is mainly concerned with Reggie's relationships with both Frances and Ronnie, but also tries to take a look at the investigation into the Kray's by Scotland Yard and the events that led to the twins downfall.

8 September 2015

American Ultra review

It can be hard to write a review. Sometimes I find it difficult to look at something critically because of how much I enjoyed it, and at other times it can be hard to find something good to say about something I strongly disliked. But this time, a complete lack of any feelings one way or the other makes reviewing American Ultra hard, a film so unremarkable in every way that I'm certain I'll have forgot I even saw it in a few months.

American Ultra is the story of Mike Howell and Phoebe Larson, a couple of unambitious stoners who live together in the town of Liman, West Virginia. Unbeknown to Mike, he's really a secret CIA asset from an Ultra program, a highly trained killing machine who can be activated with a coded phrase. When the person responsible for the Ultra program that created Mike learns that he is to be taken out by a rival CIA agents operation, she travels to Liman in order to activate Mike and save his life.

28 August 2015

Ranking the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

To say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is anything less than a resounding success is to deny the billions of pounds taken at the box office, the vocal critical acclaim many of these films have received and the over-whelmingly positive reception audiences have had to this universe. If that somehow doesn't convince you, take a look at the number of studios that are now attempting to set up their own cinematic universe - they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all.

Now that Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is completed, I've decided to rank the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in order of quality. This list is by no means anything other than a subjective list of which Marvel films I like the most, from worst to best. As such, it is 100% correct and if your opinion differs even in the slightest then you are wrong, scientifically. Do with that what you will.

12. Iron Man 2

The worst of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films so far, Iron Man 2 suffered from poor pacing, a badly written story and a need to "set up" the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which led to an overly long middle section that just about gets by on the charm of Tony Stark alone (and an admittedly strong opening). Devoid of much of what made Iron Man so good, Iron Man 2 remains Marvels only major misstep to date.

20 August 2015

The Man from UNCLE review

After Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels put Guy Ritchie on the map, his follow up film Snatch solidified his reputation as "that British Gangster films guy", the inter-connected structure present in both making his films stand out while quickly becoming something of a director trademark. So imagine my surprise when the Ritchie directed The Man from UNCLE contains one of the most straightforward plots I've seen this year, which as a Cold War era spy film would have benefited greatly from a bit of the unique convolution that Guy Ritchie is most well known for.

Set in 1963, The Man from UNCLE follows American CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Russian KGB agent Illya Kuryakin as they attempt to stop the wealthy, Nazi associated Vinciguerra family from building a private nuclear weapon. To do so, they need the help of German engineer Gabby Teller, whose uncle works for a shipping company owned by the Vinciguerra's.

14 August 2015

Fantastic Four review

Expectations can be a funny thing when trying to evaluate something, and to say that expectations were low for Fantastic Four would be something of an understatement. Between the extremely negative critical reaction and the poor box office takings that the film has seen so far, Fantastic Four will probably end up being the go-to bad film of 2015, another talking point for people who have chosen superhero films as their particular hill to die on. But knowing this going in to Fantastic Four (as well as hearing about the allegedly severe issues that director Josh Trank faced in production) makes the viewing experience a completely different kind of beast, leaving me to wonder about what could have been rather than what was provided. Because although the final product was on the whole a bad film, it would be dishonest to act like Fantastic Four doesn't show real potential at times.

Fantastic Four follows child genius Reed Richards, who after being discovered by Franklin Storm, director of the government funded Baxter Foundation, helps Victor von Doom, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm complete their work on a "Quantum Gate", a teleportation device that transports matter to a different point in space. After their initial expedition using the Quantum Gate goes horribly wrong, Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Reed's best friend Ben Grimm learn that their biochemistry has been altered, the change manifesting itself as the emergence of super powers.

10 August 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation review

It's easy to be sceptical of Hollywood in the modern day, with 2015 marking the release of the seventh film in the Fast and Furious franchise, the fifth film in the Terminator franchise, the eleventh and twelfth films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now the fifth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise, alongside a gluttony of reboots and spin-offs that leave little room in the release calendar for new intellectual properties to emerge. Hell, later this year we are going to be seeing the release of the seventh Star Wars film, the fourth Hunger Games film and the twenty fourth(!) Bond movie - critics of this system have a valid argument when they point out an over-reliance on pre-existing properties.

On the other hand, 2015 has been a great year for cinema so far, sequels and all, and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is no exception. Once again we follow IMF agent Ethan Hunt as he attempts to do a mission that some may describe as exceedingly difficult - this time, to prove the existence of The Syndicate, a rogue organisation ("An anti-IMF" in the words of Benji) that have been committing acts of terror all across the globe.

5 August 2015

BoJack Horseman season two review

I was a big fan of the first season of BoJack Horseman, which despite a handful of mediocre opening episodes really upped it's game from it's mid point onwards, delivering a solid animated series that was not only genuinely witty but also delivered one of the most on point emotional gut punches ever seen on TV, the kind of profound character work that would have been rightly recognised as near genius in a non-animated show.

Season two of BoJack Horseman picks up the threads left by the first season, predominantly focusing on how BoJack's life has changed since the publication of Diane's book about him. Despite his new found positive attitude and the fact that he has been cast in his dream role as the lead in a biopic about his childhood hero, his insecurities about his skill as an actor start a spiral of self doubt that quickly pushes him into old habits and self destruction.

28 July 2015

Inside Out review

It would be dishonest to refuse to acknowledge that the argument that "Pixar ain't what they used to be" doesn't have some compelling evidence, their increased focus on sequels and prequels over the last few years helping to somewhat reduce the excitement and anticipation that the release of a new Pixar film once cultivated. As if as a response to that particular criticism, Pixar releases Inside Out, reuniting the team behind Up (incidentally, my favourite Pixar film) for their most creatively intriguing film to date.

Inside Out mostly takes place inside the mind of Riley, an 11 year old girl from Minnesota who is moving house to San Francisco with her parents. Like all people in this world, her feelings are controlled by five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) who each control Riley at different times. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving in San Francisco, Joy and Sadness are accidentally ejected from Headquarters (the control centre for Riley's feelings) and have to explore the rest of Riley's mind in order to get back, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust in charge of Riley's feelings in the mean time.

20 July 2015

Ant-Man review

It'd be wrong to start talking about Ant-Man without first taking a look at the difficult production history it has faced. Originally pitched to Marvel Studios by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish in 2003, Ant-Man spent the next 11 years going through various drafts before it was due to enter production, with Wright set to direct, in 2014. But just days before filming was set to begin, Wright dropped out of the project citing creative differences, leaving Marvel Studios scrambling to find a new director who was willing to take on Ant-Man. The director they found was Peyton Reed, who along with Adam McKay and Paul Rudd proceeded to rewrite parts of the script before filming began.

Taking place shortly after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man has us following Scott Lang, an ex-convict down on his luck who is unable to pay the child support required to see his 6 year old daughter. After breaking into the house of ex-SHIELD agent and scientific genius Hank Pym, Scott is tasked with becoming the new Ant-Man in order to pull of a heist that will stop nefarious businessman Darren Cross from selling the secret to the Pym Particles, the science behind the suits ability to shrink, to the highest bidder.

15 July 2015

Revisiting The Terminator

The film that put James Cameron on the map, The Terminator is quite rightly seen as a science fiction classic, a film that has had enormous impact on modern pop culture thanks to both the lasting impression that The Terminator made and the huge career boost that James Cameron received afterwards. Without The Terminator, I very much doubt that we would have seen the rest of James Cameron's filmography come to fruition, never mind the number of actors that he has since helped turn into film stars.

The story follows Kyle Reese as he travels back in time from a post-apocalyptic future in which an artificial intelligence known as Skynet has taken over the world. His mission is to protect Sarah Connor from a killing machine known as a Terminator that was also sent back in time to kill her thanks to the fact that she is destined to give birth to the leader of the human resistance.

9 July 2015

Terminator Genisys review

I don't think anyone will be surprised to find out that Terminator Genisys is a bad film - no one can have expected good things from the fifth film in a franchise that should never have been a franchise in the first place. But it is the way in which Terminator Genisys is bad that really stings, its determination to reset the Terminator universe getting in the way of the (very few) good ideas that it contains, wiping the slate clean of two quite rightly classic science fiction movies and replacing it with... well, this shit.

Set in an alternate timeline to the one seen in The Terminator, Terminator Genisys has us following Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor and a T850 model Terminator known as "Pops" as they attempt to stop Skynet (known here as Genisys) from being activated and causing Judgement Day in 2017.

21 June 2015

Jurassic World review

Dinosaurs are inherently cool. I don't know many people that didn't go through a dinosaur stage as a child, fascinated, intimidated and intrigued by the fantastical look and sheer size of creatures that once existed on the world we now inhabit. So when I say that Jurassic World is spectacular, I mean that in the strictest definition of the word - that it provides spectacle and scale and a sense of insignificance that is almost impossible to avoid when your film is about dinosaurs.

It is also amongst the most incompetently crafted films I have ever seen.

Set on the same island as the original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World follows a couple of kids as they travel to the titular theme park for a weekend with their aunt, Claire, who pretty much runs Jurassic World and is getting ready to introduce the Indominus Rex, a new dinosaur that has been created from scratch, to the general public. Obviously, everything goes according to plan, the kids have a great time and the no-one has to reset the parks 'Days since last accident' counter.

11 June 2015

Agents of SHIELD S2E22 "S.O.S Part 2" review

An immediate continuation of "S.O.S Part 1", "S.O.S Part 2" sees Hunter and May continue the search for Bobbi while Coulson and his team prepare to retake the SHIELD ship from Jiaying and the other Inhumans, who are planning to wipe out SHIELD with the artificial Terrigen Crystals that they have created. Meanwhile, Skye and Mac (who are already on board) attempt to disrupt the Inhumans plan from inside the ship.

8 June 2015

Community season six review

Community is kind of a hard show to talk about. Despite it's huge ambition and innovation, it feels like Community never reached it's potential due to a number of reasons, the largest being plain bad luck. It'd be hard to argue with anyone that stated that the show peaked nearly 5 years ago - it'd be even harder to argue against the idea that the show maybe should have been allowed to die at the end of season 3. Between Community dropping main cast members and failing to recreate the same sense of energy that the first three seasons have, lines from the theme tune ("I can't count the reasons I should stay. One by one, they all just fade away.") become eerily prophetic for anyone trying to figure out if this is a series as worth returning to as it once was.

That being said, it's a little hard to complain too much when Community is still funnier and more "out there" than many sitcoms airing today just because it used to be even better. Season 6 of Community has the remaining members of the study group joined by Frankie Dart, a consultant hired by Dean Pelton, and Elroy Patashnik, a failed inventor who enrols at Greendale as a mature student, as they form a committee attempting to improve Greendale.

1 June 2015

Agents of SHIELD S2E21 "S.O.S Part 1" review

Following on immediately from when last weeks "Scars" ended, "S.O.S Part 1" is the first half of what is meant to be viewed as a feature length finale, frustratingly split into two halves by Channel 4 for broadcast in the UK. We follow Hunter and May as they attempt to rescue Bobbi from Kara and Ward, while pretty much every other character attempts to deal with the fallout of Gonzales' death at the hands of Jiaying when the Inhumans vs SHIELD war begins in earnest.