30 May 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E21 "Absolution" review

My biggest fear going into the third season finale of Agents of SHIELD was that it would constantly be passing YoYo's cross between characters in order to keep us on our toes about who is going to die. Character death can make for excellent television when done well (hell, just see the latest episode of Game of Thrones for proof of that), but by having the advertising for the finale lean heavily on the fact that someone would die, I began to worry that Agents of SHIELD had nothing else to offer beyond that. It felt cheap, an easy way to raise the stakes without doing any of the legwork required to make it actually matter.

Thankfully, Agents of SHIELD has proven me wrong. Although there is an element of "Who's it going to be?!?" here, I'm glad to see that it isn't even close to being to focus of the episode. Instead, "Absolution" is content to simply let the SHIELD vs Hive story that the show has been building to since the mid-season finale play out, and in that respect it doesn't disappoint.

23 May 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E20 "Emancipation" review

Now that's more like it. After last weeks "Failed Experiments" disappointed in a big way thanks to it's status as filler, this weeks "Emancipation" chooses to make up for that in a tight, important episode that smartly acknowledges the events of Captain America: Civil War before quickly getting on with what the show has been building up to for some time instead.

This week sees Coulson trying to convince General Talbot that the Secret Warriors need to remain a secret in the wake of the Sokovia Accords (which apparently included a clause on the registration of enhanced people - new to anyone who saw Captain America: Civil War), while Hive continues his experiments to turn regular people into Inhumans. But the main plot has Daisy hacking into SHIELD and talking to Lincoln, who is still cooped up inside his own little quarantine and getting more frustrated with his situation by the minute.

20 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse review

There is a short scene in X-Men: Apocalypse that sees several of the new characters discussing the quality of the films in the original Star Wars trilogy, all of them agreeing that the third film is always the worst. It's an obvious piece of meta-commentary on the original X-Men trilogy that takes a shot at X-Men: The Last Stand while praising director Bryan Singer's original two films, which is gaudy enough on its own - but those paying attention will remember that X-Men: Apocalypse itself is the third film in this new timeline. Is this just a staggering lack of self-awareness, or a direct acknowledgement from the film-makers that they've badly messed up? It really doesn't matter. X-Men: Apocalypse is a bad film all the same.

The story this time sees the various characters we've been following over the last couple of X-Men films reunite in order to try to stop an ancient mutant named Apocalypse and his four horsemen from taking over the world. It's a simple tale of good vs bad basically, far removed from the more soap-operatic, character driven drama of the previous films in the franchise, and unfortunately X-Men: Apocalypse suffers for it.

16 May 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E19 "Failed Experiments" review

Opening with a brief flashback that shows us how Hive was first created by the Kree, the main plot of "Failed Experiments" sees SHIELD on a mission to try and kill Hive, or at least find out if they even can. At the same time, Fitzsimmons continue their work on an antidote for his ability to control Inhumans, while Hive starts work on a process that will turn regular humans into Inhumans.

I've got to say, I find myself quite disappointed with "Failed Experiments". Last weeks "The Singularity" was a surprisingly good episode of Agents of SHIELD that went to some interesting places while dealing with the consequences of "The Team". "Failed Experiments" seems to want to do the same, the problem being that it ends up hitting many of the same character beats as last weeks episode without really adding anything new. Again, we see Daisy threaten someone we know she cares for deeply thanks to Hive's influence; again we see the lengths Lincoln is willing to go to in order to help Daisy. It's repetition for no reason, something that even the first season of Agents of SHIELD managed to avoid.

13 May 2016

Green Room review

There can't be many people who have seen Blue Ruin and don't class director Jeremy Saulnier as one the most promising up-and-coming directors right now. It's a fair assessment; Blue Ruin is nothing short of a minor masterpiece, an incredibly well-made examination of the nature of revenge that instantly marked Saulnier (and his distinctively grounded, melancholic style) as one to keep an eye on. It's a film that exists firmly in the grey area of morality - one of it's many strengths - but Saulnier's follow up to that is as black and white as it gets.

Green Room follows touring punk rock band The Ain't Rights as they reluctantly agree to play a gig at a Neo-Nazi club after learning that the gig they were meant to play has been cancelled, leaving them broke with no other options. Despite opening up with a deliberately antagonistic cover of The Dead Kennedys "Nazi Punks, Fuck Off", everything is going well until they end up becoming unwilling witnesses to a murder that the Neo-Nazis want to cover up. Trapped in the titular green room, it's now up to The Ain't Rights to figure a way out of this mess before they are hacked to pieces by skinheads.

8 May 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E18 "The Singularity" review

It's no secret that the best part of Agents of SHIELD is and always has been the duo of Leopold Fitz and Jemma Simmons, collectively and affectionately known as Fitzsimmons. Their semi-romantic, will-they-won't-they friendship has been an important part of the show since the first season, and people genuinely care about them; something well-known by the shows writers, who take every opportunity they can to tear them apart, test their friendship, and break them in every way they know how. Fitzsimmons have been through a lot over the course of the last two seasons, so when an episode finally gives them the break that they deserve it feels both hugely satisfying and totally earned.

It is that which makes "The Singularity" such a good episode of Agents of SHIELD. The main story sees SHIELD dealing with the fallout left from last weeks "The Team" while also trying to get to various Inhumans that they know about before Hive can, but it is the side-plot that sees Fitzsimmons searching for someone who might have created a cure for Hive's mind control that really held my interest throughout.

5 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War review

A common criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that each film only exists to set up the next. It's an unfair one, in my eyes; for the most part, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are in the habit of reacting that which came before more than than they are setting up future ones, something that helps make this constantly evolving world feel incredibly natural. Yes, Avengers: Age of Ultron can only happen thanks to the events of Avengers Assemble and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it never feels like those films only happened so that Avengers: Age of Ultron could. It's a careful balancing act that Marvel Studios haven't always pulled off, but when it works it works wonders.

As such, Captain America: Civil War is a reaction to... well, a lot. The world has grown weary of the Avengers since Sokovia fell out of the sky in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and after another Avengers mission results in civilian casualties an international agreement called The Sokovia Accords is created to stop the Avengers from operating without oversight from the United Nations. Those that sign the Accords can continue to work as an Avenger under the UN, but those that don't - such as Steve Rogers - have no legal right to involve themselves in those kind of conflicts; something that becomes a big issue when a still in-hiding Bucky Barnes is becomes the primary suspect behind a terrorist attack.

1 May 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E17 "The Team" review

Last week I said that I was disappointed with "Paradise Lost" thanks to how varied the quality was throughout. Although the main story of the episode was interesting, the other two side-plots only really existed to set up storylines for later on, and the episodes overall slower pace killed a lot of the momentum that the season had been building. I said at the time that it is now up to this weeks episode to not only be a significantly better episode, but also to provide a satisfying continuation of the story left unresolved by "Paradise Lost" - and "The Team" manages to do just that.

Picking up where we left off in "Paradise Lost", "The Team" opens up with Daisy and Lincoln forming the Secret Warriors in earnest before heading to the location where Coulson and Co (now fighting off wave after wave of Hydra goons) were redirected to by Giyera. But the main thrust of the episode takes place after the opening rescue mission, and deals with the paranoia experienced by SHIELD when they find out that Ward-thing (now officially referred to as Hive) may be controlling one or more of the Secret Warriors.