28 February 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E8 "Many Heads, One Tale" review

Do you remember that point in Agents of SHIELD when you pretty much gave up on the show actually mattering to the films? I do. It was part way through the first season of the show, just as Thor: The Dark World was coming out, and we had the crossover episode "The Well" which in no way actually crossed-over with Thor: The Dark World. Set entirely after the events of Thor: The Dark World and having literally almost nothing to do with it, I realised that the events of the show were effectively meaningless to the film, and that thanks to the way Marvel Studios were working it was likely to stay that way forever.

Since then, Agents of SHIELD has done a complete turn around, reacting to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in a big way before introduced Inhumans to the world and setting up the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now, "Many Heads, One Tale" has given us new and vitally important information about Hydra, shining a new light onto the history of the organisation and their ultimate goal while also bringing together all the seasons plots so far under one roof in what may be the best episode of the show so far.

That #ItsAllConnected hashtag doesn't seem so silly now, does it?

26 February 2016

Bone Tomahawk review

I've always found it a little strange that people point to the Western as an example of genres dying out due to over-exposure, usually in retaliation to a film based on a comic book being released. Although it's true that the Western isn't as popular as it used to be (with dozens of them coming out each year throughout the 50's and 60's), it also clearly never went away in any meaningful capacity, and recent films such as True Grit, Django Unchained, Slow West, The Salvation and The Hateful Eight have more than proved that there is still value to be found within the genre yet.

Enter Bone Tomahawk, which uses the trappings of the Western to deliver a slow burning and truly disturbing horror film. Set in the late 1800's, we follow a four-man party from the frontier town of Bright Hope as they attempt to find the towns Deputy Sheriff, an injured prisoner and the wife of one of the party, all of whom were taken from the town in the dead of night by members of a cannibalistic, incestuous tribe of cave-dwelling Native Americans.

25 February 2016

Agent Carter S2E5 "The Atomic Job" review

No matter how you feel about Agent Carter it is impossible to deny that the show loves a good caper, and "The Atomic Job" continues to deliver in this particular area. The main plot sees Peggy, Jarvis, Daniel, Rose (the SSR receptionist) and Doctor Samberly (an SSR scientist) attempt to steal the core from a couple of unused nuclear bombs before Whitney Frost and her husband Calvin Chadwick can get their hands on them.

"The Atomic Job" is not as good as last weeks "Smoke & Mirrors", and I feel that is thanks to the shows aforementioned penchant for escapades. We have not one, not two, but three separate heist-esque set pieces this week, first showing us Peggy and Jarvis breaking into a facility before following a disguised Peggy as she attempt to steal a key from a member of the Council of Nine, which acts as set-up for the main heist from which the episode takes its name.

21 February 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E7 "Chaos Theory" review

I don't think I'll ever not be impressed with the speed at which Agents of SHIELD is progressing in its third season. I was so sure that the show would choose to slow down a little bit here and take a look at where May's true loyalties lie - but instead, Agents of SHIELD plays its hand straight away, doing more in this one episode than we would have seen in up to half a season of Agents of SHIELD in the past.

Putting several of the seasons sub-plots to the side for now (while tying others into the main story of the episode in a really organic way), "Chaos Theory" is predominantly focused on dealing with the 'Andrew is Lash' revelation of last week. For the most part we follow May, who wastes no time at all in confronting Andrew after doing some basic fact checking to ensure that the theory given to her by Werner von Strucker is at least plausible.

18 February 2016

Agent Carter S2E4 "Smoke & Mirrors" review

It's always interesting to see a TV show do something a little different from time to time, and although "Smoke & Mirrors" isn't the huge change that we saw from Agents of SHIELD's"4,722 Hours", it's still nice to see the show experiment with a slightly different structure - in this instance, using several different flashbacks to show us both Peggy Carter and Whitney Frost as children, and how their experiences of growing up in a patriarchal society shaped who they are. At the same time, we continue with the main plot of the season, which sees the SSR continue their investigation into Calvin Chadwick, this time by attempting to gain information from his driver.

It's another pretty good episode to be honest, one that uses the aforementioned flashback scenes quite well. It's interesting learning more about how both Peggy and Whitney ended up being who they are, but more interesting is seeing the ways in which their broad experiences of growing up in a male-dominated society give them more in common than they might actually think, even if the details of those experiences differ by some margin. It's really quite sad to see a version of Peggy that isn't the cool, capable spy that we all know and love, and although Whitney's story suffers somewhat from us having not known her for very long yet, her experiences go a long way towards making you understand why she is the way she is.

14 February 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E6 "Among Us Hide..." review

As great as last weeks "4,722 Hours" was, I imagine that some people were a little disappointed that we had another full week to wait until the cliffhanger ending of "Devils We Know" was resolved - I know that I was, despite the change in pace and overall quality of "4,722 Hours" offered viewers. Fortunately, "Among Us Hide..." simply isn't messing around when it comes to story progression,  continuing the strong sense of direction that has defined season three of Agents of SHIELD so far.

Dealing with the aftermath of "Devils We Know", "Among Us Hide..." follows May and Bobbi as they are officially assigned to the "Kill Grant Ward" mission, with Hunter benched after choosing his revenge on Ward over an innocent persons life. Frustrated by this, Hunter instead joins Mack and Daisy as they try to figure out who Lash really is, while Coulson finally manages to organise a date with Rosalind a tour around the ATCU facility.

11 February 2016

Agent Carter S2E3 "Better Angels" review

The return of Howard Stark to Agent Carter is hardly a surprise given his role in the first season, but one that I've been interested in seeing nevertheless. He's a very important character really, in many ways the "ground zero" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. This is the man who fathered Tony Stark, helped create Captain America (and in turn, also helped create The Hulk, although only through the use of his research), retrieved the Tesseract after it was lost at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, and helped set-up SHIELD, an organisation he would work with for the rest of his life.

My point is that with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy (so far, at least), Howard Stark has had an impact on every corner of this universe, and it's nice to see a character with that legacy get his time in the spotlight. And he has that chance that in "Better Angels", an episode that reintroduces Howard (who is now directing the first ever comic book movie) when Peggy needs help infiltrating the secret organisation behind Isodyne Energy, and then again when researching the effects of the still mysterious Zero Matter liquid.

7 February 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E5 "4,722 Hours" review

After Agents of SHIELD dropped the monster-of-the-week style structure in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it pretty much settled into a certain way of presenting itself that hasn't changed much since. Each episode splits the main characters up into different groups and follows them as they do their own thing, the episode cutting between the various plot lines (often three an episode, I've noticed) until the episode is over. It's an effective way of keeping an episode moving for sure, but it was never going to set the world on fire either, so seeing Agents of SHIELD break that pattern and fully devote an entire episode to just one story certainly makes for an interesting change of pace - one that pays off in droves.

"4,722 Hours" details Simmons' stay on the alien planet that she was rescued from in "Purpose of the Machine", as well as explaining her somewhat strange behaviour since she was rescued and her urge to return to the planet. And that's it, for the whole episode, a significantly different title card letting audiences know that this episode of Agents of SHIELD isn't going to be like the others.

4 February 2016

Agent Carter S2E2 "A View in the Dark" review

Continuing the plot of "The Lady in the Lake" (an indication that the second season of Agent Carter will be less procedural that the first?), "A View in the Dark" sees the SSR attempt to find out more about what killed Calvin Chadwick's assistant by investigating further into Isodyne Energy, a potential lead that is quickly ended thanks to a convenient "radiation leak" inside the laboratories. Fortunately for the SSR, Dr Jason Wilkes is interested in working with them to expose Isodyne Energy, but before long he ends up directly in the line of fire of the shady secret organisation running things from behind the scenes.

Opening up with a hilarious sparring sequence between Peggy and Jarvis, "A View in the Dark" is instantly a more compelling and robust 45 minutes of television than the scene-setting season opener was. I said in my review of "The Lady in the Lake" how funny James D'Arcy is as Jarvis, and that is still very much true here - he's a legitimate comedic genius, both verbally and physically, and remains the highlight of the show in my eyes. He is required to give a demonstration of the special features that Howard Stark added to his leisure car at one point, and the mixture of discomfort and resignation he displays (along with the exasperation of Peggy) makes for another funny scene which despite adding barely anything to the story is still well worth the time it takes up thanks to the comedic abilities of James D'Arcy and Hayley Atwell.

3 February 2016

Spotlight review

Set in the early 2000's, Spotlight follows a team of investigative journalists working for the Boston Globe as they look into claims that a local Cardinal knew that a priest was committing child molestation and did nothing to stop it. Spurred on by the newspapers new editor, the team soon find out that the problem is much bigger than they initially suspected, and before long they are looking for hard evidence that many cases of abuse have been covered up by the Catholic Church, which has then simply reassigned abusive priests to other parishes where they can continue to abuse children.