24 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E16 "Paradise Lost" review

"Paradise Lost" is one of the most uneven episodes of Agents of SHIELD in a long time. It's a clear attempt to return the shows focus to the season-wide plot that made the first half of Agents of SHIELD third season feel so fresh, something I've been clamouring for since the mid-season finale - but "Paradise Lost" fails to really balance all three of the plots that it deals with, resulting in an episode that varies wildly from genuinely interesting to... well, a bit boring, frankly.

Now that SHIELD have learned that Ward has somehow returned from Maveth, "Paradise Lost" sees Coulson sending Daisy and Lincoln to find out more information about ancient Inhumans from someone Lincoln used to know, while the rest of SHIELD investigate a facility owned by the company Gideon Malick's version of Hydra took over last week. Meanwhile, Gideon begins to realise that he may have bitten off more than he can chew with Hive, and we get to learn more about Gideon's past in a series of flashbacks.

21 April 2016

The Jungle Book review

There are an awful lot of people who insist that some films must be seen in the cinema in order to really appreciate them. Now, I love going to the cinema as much as anybody (and significantly more than most), and I see as many films on the big screen as I can - but I'm yet to see a film that has been described as a "cinema experience" that has also been just a genuinely good film. I mean, think back to films such as Avatar or Gravity - they're inarguably visually stunning and technologically impressive, but can you really say with any kind of certainty that either of them are genuinely good films? I think the lack of impression that either have actually made on pop culture at large answers that question.

That being said, The Jungle Book is probably the closest we've gotten to a film sold as a "cinema experience" that is also legitimately worth seeing as just a good movie. Predominantly inspired by the 1967 animated version, this live-action (can a film that is 99% CGI really be considered live-action?) remake follows Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves, as he travels through the jungle to live safely in a human village thanks to the threats of Shere Khan, a tiger who wants him dead.

18 April 2016

Revisiting Man of Steel

At this point it seems pretty safe to say that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice didn't exactly set the world on fire. A box office disappointment and an unmitigated critical disaster, it's the kind of film that will be best remembered for the sheer level of "What the shit is going on" on display throughout, a movie that even a lot of die-hard Man of Steel apologists have to admit simply doesn't work - which makes me want to take a look back at the first film in what would later become known as the DC Extended Universe.

Because Man of Steel is, at best, a divisive movie. Even a full three years after it was released you can still find people arguing about it online, and it's usually an argument based around one of two things - either that Superman isn't meant to kill people, or that Superman didn't do enough to stop the destruction of Metropolis. And there is a very good reason why these two in particular are the most common complaints that people have with Man of Steel.

17 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E15 "Spacetime" review

I've been criticising Agents of SHIELD since it's return from it's mid-season break for one very frustrating reason - for the most part, it has felt as if the season wide plot established by the seasons first half has been dropped in favour of the "monster of the week" type structure that defined the shows first season. But I'm beginning to feel like I may have been just a little short-sighted.

Without noticing it, Agents of SHIELD has been subtly progressing the season wide plot each episode, making fairly significant changes to the position of both SHIELD and Hydra within the show while focusing on smaller stories each week. We certainly aren't in the same place now as we were when the show returned after it's mid-season break, but the way that Agents of SHIELD has chosen to show those changes has made it feel very natural, to the point where it's been difficult to really notice that some fairly important shifts have taken place.

14 April 2016

Hardcore Henry review

Hardcore Henry isn't the first film to experiment with the idea of the audience being put directly in the shoes of a character within the movie. It's not even really a rare technique - there has been a lot of found-footage films over the years that for the most part replicate the effect that Hardcore Henry is going for, which means that the question of "Can a film work when told from a first-person perspective?" was answered long before Hardcore Henry ever hit theatres. Yes, it can, and we've seen that it can multiple times before.

Which makes Hardcore Henry's failure as a film all the more difficult to swallow. This isn't an experiment in film-making that just so happens to have failed, it's an indulgent attempt to one-up the music video on which director Ilya Naishuller made a name for himself. In fact, it seems generous to really refer to Hardcore Henry as a film - lacking all the things that make a film a film (such as a story, characters, structure, themes), Hardcore Henry is instead nothing more than a 90-minute long music video, and I do mean that in the most derogatory way possible.

10 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E14 "Watchdogs" review

There has been a problem with Agents of SHIELD that has gone unaddressed for a long time now. It's never been a huge problem, just a minor frustration from time to time, but it's been there ever since the start of the second season and has shown up in a variety of ways in various episodes. And it all boils down into one, very simple question.

"Exactly how big is SHIELD now?"

It's not an unfair question. Between the enormous "garage" we see from time to time, the many extras that have appeared over the course of the last few seasons, the large scope of Coulson's SHIELD and the fact that they actually had a freaking Helicarrier in storage at one point, it seems safe to assume that they are fairly large - at which you point you have to ask how they have managed to stay underground given the hundreds of employees they have, the large areas of land they must use and the cost of all that military grade equipment. There is an inconsistency there, one not helped when "Watchdogs" has Coulson call Mack into work on his time off thanks to resource issues caused by the loss of Bobbi and Hunter.

6 April 2016

Eddie the Eagle review

Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle follows Michael Edwards, an Olympic hopeful who after failing to qualify for the 1984 Winter Olympics in downhill skiing starts training for the 1988 games as Britain's only ski jumper. Moving to a training facility in Germany, his sheer determination to compete in the Winter Olympics despite his lack of experience or ability soon wins over ex-Olympic ski jumper Bronson Peary, who agrees to coach him.

Eddie the Eagle is as traditional a film as you are likely to see, following the tried and tested formula of the sports biopic pretty much to the letter and hitting all the same beats that you've seen before in the exact order you would expect. But I don't really mean this as a bad thing - it may not subvert your expectations or revitalise the genre, but it's still an incredibly well made movie with two great performances from Taron Egerton as Michael Edwards and Hugh Jackman as the fictional Bronson Peary.

3 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E13 "Parting Shot" review

It's rare that something setting up spin-offs actually works. Films like Iron Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and even Avengers: Age of Ultron to some degree have suffered by trying to set-up other films, bending over backwards to include unnecessary scenes that simply don't matter to the story at hand. It almost always feels cheap, a decision made by studio executives that reduces the quality of the thing you are watching in order to squeeze more money out of the next thing they have planned - so it's refreshing to see Agents of SHIELD do it well, especially when the show itself has been much-maligned by people because of its status as a spin-off in the first place.

After stowing away on Gideon Malick's plane at the end of last weeks "The Inside Man", "Parting Shows" opens up by showing us that Bobbi has been arrested before flashing back to explain how that happened. It's an episode focused almost entirely on setting up the upcoming Most Wanted spin-off show, but the reason that "Parting Shot" works is that it isn't trying to fit this set-up into an episode with something else going on. "Parting Shot" is very much Bobbi and Hunter's episode, putting them in the spotlight and (most importantly) giving them a proper send off, a satisfying ending even if you were to never watch Most Wanted. It sounds simple because it is, but you'd be surprised how often things trying to set other things up fail to do this.