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.