31 March 2016

Agent Carter S2E10 "Hollywood Ending" review

For a show that has been slowly crafting an incredibly interesting story over the previous nine episodes, it has to be said that Agent Carter has somewhat dropped the ball in the season finale. Conveniently and unconvincingly dealing with the cliffhanger ending of "A Little Song and Dance" as soon as possible, "Hollywood Ending" goes on to deliver an unsatisfying conclusion to the season wide story, an uninspired affair that is quite easily the episodes biggest and most noticeable flaw.

Well, that and the complete lack of musical numbers this week.

27 March 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice review

At one point during Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Lex Luthor is tasked with giving a speech. It's not a good speech - despite clearly having certain concepts and themes that he intended to talk about, he seems distracted, unable to really process his own thoughts or communicate his ideas to the audience. He rambles on for a while, trying over and over again to make himself understood, but it's all for nothing - by the end of his speech, we only really have a basic idea of what he was trying to talk about, and any context for those thoughts or meaning behind them is entirely lost thanks to his inability to express himself properly. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is that speech, and director Zack Snyder is our rambling, incoherent Lex Luthor.

The basic story of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is incredibly simple, but you wouldn't know it from reading a full plot synopsis. After Metropolis was destroyed in Man of Steel, both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor independently decide that Superman is simply too dangerous to be allowed to live. In essence that's it, but there are so many extraneous plot details and unnecessary scenes that the whole thing collapses under the weight of itself long before our two main characters ever even meet.

Agents of SHIELD S3E12 "The Inside Man" review

Following on from last weeks reveal that General Talbot is now in charge of the ATCU, "The Inside Man" sees Director Coulson and General Talbot attend a meeting of world leaders in order to discuss the Inhuman outbreak. However, Coulson believes that Hydra leader Gideon Malick may have an inside man at the meeting, and as such he brings along Hunter, May and Bobbi in order to find out who that might be.

The biggest issue I have with "The Inside Man" is the exact same issue I have with the show as a whole -  as usual, I have no idea if the film side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is ever going to pay any mind to the TV side of things. That was OK when Agents of SHIELD was operating in the shadows of the larger universe, but the scale of the Inhuman outbreak and the response to it means that it should have had pretty big ramifications on the rest of the universe by now. But the fact is, it is really unlikely that Captain America: Civil War will in any way reference the fact that there are many more super-powered people in the world now, which (given the focus on ensuring powered people are responsible for their actions) only helps make Agents of SHIELD feel even less relevant to the world it inhabits.

25 March 2016

Agent Carter S2E9 "A Little Song and Dance" review

Opening with a knowing, tongue-in-cheek dream sequence before transitioning smoothly into a vibrant musical number, "A Little Song and Dance" isn't quite what I've come to expect from an episode of Agent Carter, at least throughout the first few minutes. This isn't a bad thing - it's a hugely entertaining sequence that I enjoyed very much, and although it doesn't really fit in very well with what the rest of the episode is actually about, it does show us where Peggy's head is at regarding Dr Wilkes and Daniel Sousa, as well as giving us the much awaited return of fan-favourite New York waitress Angie, from the first season.

Beyond that, "A Little Song and Dance" is as captivating an episode as Agent Carter has ever produced. Picking up on where "The Edge of Mystery" left off, we at first split our time between watching Peggy and Jarvis try to escape from captivity while Daniel Sousa, Jack Thompson and Dr Samberly attempt to deal with the situation they have found themselves in after firing the weapon.

23 March 2016

Daredevil season two review

Most people (myself included) thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Daredevil. It wasn't perfect by any means, hampered by an increasingly meandering story as it went on and a finale that dropped the ball in a multitude of ways, but as an introduction to this new part of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe? It did a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the Netflix shows, something followed up by and capitalised on by the significantly better Jessica Jones.

Although the second season of Daredevil fails to reach the heights set by Jessica Jones, it's still an improvement over the first season in nearly every way - primarily thanks to the way that show-runners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez seem to have listened to and acted on criticisms of the first season. The most obvious strength that the second season has over the first is also the most simple - the second season of Daredevil has enough going on to actually justify it's length.

There are two fairly distinct stories at play in the second season of Daredevil. The first sees the introduction of fan-favourite character Frank Castle (also known as The Punisher) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a murderous vigilante who is terrorising Hell's Kitchen as he seeks revenge for the death of his family at the hands of criminals. The other sees Matt reunite with Elektra Natchios, an old girlfriend from Matt's time in college who is significantly more dangerous than she may appear at first glance.

22 March 2016

Zootropolis review

Since 1995, Pixar have been pretty much the undisputed champions of Western animation, and it isn't difficult to see why. While their biggest competitors were making entertaining but ultimately childish films for younger audiences, Pixar have been creating mature films with interesting concepts, engaging characters, robust narratives and increasingly intelligent themes, all while still managing to appeal to audiences of all ages.

But the gap between Pixar and its rivals has been closing for some time, and Zootropolis (or Zootopia as it is called elsewhere) is a great example of a non-Pixar film that manages to reach the same heights that Pixar have been reaching fairly consistently for the last two decades. It isn't quite there, and at times you can definitely tell that it is a Disney film rather than a Pixar film - but for the most part, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the distinction is ceasing to matter.

20 March 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E11 "Bouncing Back" review

Opening up with a brief "3 months from now" teaser that seems to be hinting at big things for the finale of Agents of SHIELD's third season, "Bouncing Back" is an episode that despite being forced to do a lot of set up for future episodes (a common problem when a show comes back from any kind of break) still manages to entertain in a big way thanks to a compelling story and a greater understanding of what people have always wanted from this show.

The main plot sees SHIELD travelling to Colombia in order to deal with an incident that they believe is related to the Inhuman breakout. A shipment of guns has been stolen from the police, but it soon transpires that not everything is as clear cut as it may seem. Meanwhile, Director Coulson (and his new hand) restarts the search for Gideon Malick after being given the go ahead by President Ellis, first introduced in Iron Man 3.

17 March 2016

The Witch review

When I think of horror films, two things come to mind - torture porn and jump scares. As far as genres go I've always seen horror as the least worthwhile thanks to the amount of films that rely on one or both of those things to elicit a reaction from the audience, and my complete lack of interest in either has resulted in me dismissing the genre almost entirely. But I'm currently in the process of learning that horror doesn't have to be just gore and surprises - good horror is so much more, atmosphere and tension and imagery all combining to create something that isn't just scary in the moment, but something that stays with you for a long time afterwards.

Happily, The Witch meets my criteria for good horror. It's a film that really got under my skin without ever trying to making me jump, a film so full of tension that it never felt the need to overwhelm me with excessive violence. Set in the 17th Century, we follow an extremely God-fearing family as they attempt to make new lives for themselves after being banished from the plantation on which they used to live. Unfortunately, the forest that they choose to settle down next to is inhabited by a witch, and it isn't long before hysteria begins to tear the family apart.

Agent Carter S2E8 "The Edge of Mystery" review

Following on immediately from the cliffhanger ending of last weeks "Monsters", "The Edge of Mystery" sees Peggy and Daniel attempt to free Dr Wilkes from captivity by trading him for the nuclear bomb cores that Whitney Frost wants. Meanwhile, Ana Jarvis lies in a hospital bed, trying to recover from the gunshot wound inflicted by Whitney Frost and wake up from the coma she has subsequently fallen into.

As a title, "The Edge of Mystery" is apt, and not just because it sounds so fantastical. This is an episode that skirts right up against one of the most out there, comic book-y concepts that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced so far, but the shows refusal to push the audiences suspension of disbelief that little bit more (or, more likely, the shows lack of necessary budget) means that it does only feel as if we are on the edge of something bigger and better. As much as I'd like to see Agent Carter take that step into the unknown that is teased towards the end of "The Edge of Mystery", I can't help but think that the show either won't be willing to or simply won't have the time to go as far as I want it to - but I'm more than willing to be wrong about this.

13 March 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E10 "Maveth" review

In a lot of ways I feel sorry for those who jumped ship during the first season of Agents of SHIELD. In fairness, I don't think anyone was really happy with the superhero-lite crime procedural that Agents of SHIELD was when it started, but those that stuck with it have since been rewarded with a rich and interesting show that isn't afraid to change based on fan feedback. Are things too episodic and self-contained for you? Well here's a Captain America: The Winter Soldier related twist and a move to a more long-form type of story telling. Not enough super-powers? Well here's the introduction of the Inhumans. Things still moving a little slow for you? Here's a vastly quicker pace and a much more eventful show.

My point is that in doing this, Agents of SHIELD has gone from being an OK show to a good show to a great show, and the mid-season finale "Maveth" only further confirms that Agents of SHIELD knows what people want to see from it. Picking up from where we left off in "Closure", "Maveth" follows Coulson, Ward and Fitz on the alien planet as they search for revenge and the ancient Inhuman respectively, while the rest of SHIELD prepare to assault the Hydra-fortified castle where the portal is located - one half of the team trying to gain control over the portal room, the other on a mission to find and rescue Simmons.

11 March 2016

Hail, Caesar! review

Well, it's definitely a Coen Brothers film.

Off-kilter, unfocused and (as always) totally unique, your mileage will vary with Hail, Caesar! depending on how much patience you have with the Coen Brothers' particular brand of film-making. Even within the ranks of just their comedy films it has to be one of their least accessible to date thanks to a focus on theme over story, something that goes a long way towards explaining why popular opinion of this film differs so much between critics and audience.

Set in what is commonly referred to as the Golden Age of Hollywood, Hail, Caesar! follows Capitol Pictures head of production Eddie Mannix over the course of a standard working day. This sees him try to deal with a number of issues facing the studio, including the disappearance of star Baird Whitlock, the pregnancy of the unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran, the constant presence of rival identical twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker, and a falling out with director Laurence Laurentz thanks to the studio mandated casting of Western star Hobie Doyle in his latest prestige picture.

10 March 2016

Agent Carter S2E7 "Monsters" review

"Monsters" may well be the most eventful episode of the second season of Agent Carter so far, a brisk pace quickly taking us through several big plot points. After Dottie was taken captive by the Council of Nine (now led by Whitney Frost) in "Life of the Party", we follow Peggy and Jarvis as they attempt to break her out and take her back into SSR custody. Meanwhile, the vial of blood that Dottie successfully obtained from Whitney can now be used to try to restore Dr Wilkes' physical body.

In my review of "Life of the Party" I talked about how I was beginning to feel that Dr Wilkes was holding the story back, his presence in episodes a constant reminder that his story hadn't really developed since the second episode of the season. I can see now why that was - his return to corporeal form seems to be important to the direction that the show is now heading in, and even if it took too long to get here (it's been a good 4 episodes or so since he as a character had something to add to the show) it looks like he might be very important again to the way that things are progressing, and I'm glad to see him return to the forefront of the show, at least for now.

6 March 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E9 "Closure" review

Opening up with a scene that I'm sure will pretty much kill portions of the Agents of SHIELD fandom as well as reminding us why we all love Director Coulson, "Closure" offers anything but what the title of the episode would indicate, its position in the season meaning that it has a lot of set up to do as it attempts to ensure that all the characters are in the right place for next weeks mid-season finale "Maveth".

It's a fairly straight forward episode in a lot of ways, using SHIELDs hatred for ex-agent Grant Ward and the reveal of Hydra as a significantly older organisation than we previously thought in order to get everyone in roughly the same place by the end of the episode. As far as side plots go, there really aren't any - with the entire team taking part in the new Kill Ward mission, it is full steam ahead, and one of the unfortunate problems this creates is that "Closure" feels rushed in it's back half.

3 March 2016

Agent Carter S2E6 "Life of the Party" review

My main complaint about last weeks episode of Agent Carter, "The Atomic Job", was that it lent a little too heavily onto the "mission of the week" structure that the show has been using, delivering three different missions in the space of about 40 minutes when one longer, more detailed heist would have been more satisfying. It wasn't a massive issue really, just one that limited the episode from being anything other than just good enough - but I'm pleased to say that "Life of the Party" doesn't make the same mistake.

The entire episode revolves around organising and then carrying out just one vitally important mission, in this instance to steal a sample of Whitney Frost's blood in order to attempt to cure Dr Wilkes of his non-corporeal condition. However, Peggy is still badly injured from her fall in "The Atomic Job", so they have to turn to the only other woman they know who is as capable as Peggy is... and that just so happens to be Dottie Underwood, still currently being held in SSR captivity.