Friday, August 29, 2014

Batman: The Animated Series - Episodes 81-85 Reviews

The fourth and final season of Batman: The Animated Series was the shortest and it certainly had a mixed bag, in terms of episodes.

Episode 81: The Terrible Trio

What does that fox, vulture and shark say? Who cares really as this episode took three idiotic rich guys who decided to embark on a bit of petty crime in order to sate their need for excitement with one of them willing to kill his girlfriend after she accidentally deduced that they robbed her father. It's an okay opening episode, but we've had better ones (The Cat And The Claw, Shadow Of The Bat etc) and as a set of one-off antagonists, this particular trio are not ones that I would be in a hurry to ever see again to be honest. 6/10

Episode 82: Showdown

I honestly thought following the events of Avatar that the series was done with Ras Al Ghul but it seems that the writers had at least one more story for him and interestingly, one that did not feature Talia as well. I guess it's believable for a man who's lived for several centuries that he would've fathered more than one child and this episode has some nice flashbacks to his other child's altercations with the famous Jonah Hex. It's a surprising twist in the episode and while Ras has had better adventures (namely The Demon's Quest two parter), this was a decent final run for his character on the show. 7/10

Episode 83: Catwalk

I am the cat that walks alone - these are words that became apparent for both Catwoman and Selina Kyle in the final appearance for the character in the series and it's an unusual exit episode for the character. I knew realistically that it was unlikely the series would end with her and Bruce Wayne/Batman ever settling down and this episode certainly ended their truce as Selina realised that she couldn't give up her identity as Catwoman any more than Bruce would ever be able to give up his identity as Batman. I'm not sure if the episode needed a double-cross/near kill from Scarface and the Ventriloquist but their appearance in the episode and hostile alliance with Catwoman certainly didn't hurt the episode in any way. It's an interesting exit episode for Catwoman and the best episode from this final season as well if I'm being honest. 9/10

Episode 84: A Bullet For Bullock

With so little episodes left to go, there's time for another team up of unlikely characters and this time around, it's the pairing of Batman and Bullock himself. I've never been the biggest fan of Bullock but this was a truly great episode for him as he had to team up with the Caped Crusader in order to avoid being killed and with the amount of enemies that Bullock's made, it really could've been anyone who could've taken him out. Of course, the actual would be killer is pretty obvious within the first five minutes of the episode but the episode is joy just to see both Bullock and Batman having to work together and trust each other. The fact that it's set during Christmas is interesting too, though probably not as iconic as Christmas With The Joker. Still though, a very enjoyable episode. 8/10

Episode 85: The Lion And The Unicorn

The series finale and one I'm wondering why so low key? I mean it's great to have a tie to the opening episodes with Red Claw's return (though her plot here is no different than before) and I appreciate taking the action to London and giving us some backstory on Alfred but for a final episode, it's a bit too small as a story. I know the series often had tonnes of episodes with various Rogue Gallery members appearing together and what not but perhaps one more of them or even another altercation with the Joker would've been a better series ender. That being said, this is a solid episode, just not a spectacular one for the series though. 7/10

The next and final blog relating to Batman: The Animated Series will cover the TV movies, Mask Of The Phantasm and Sub-Zero.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

American Horror Story: Freak Show - Official Poster/Airdate/Teasers/Spoilers

Following the show's recent Emmy win for the likes of Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates for American Horror Story: Coven, the promotional material for American Horror Story: Freak Show has started to come in thick and fast.

The promotional poster for Freak Show is certainly laced with spoilers. We've got Kathy Bates as the bearded lady, Angela Bassett having three boobs as well as Sarah Paulson as the two headed lady and there seems to be something up with Jessica Lange's arms as well. Michael Chiklis is definitely the strongman of the bunch along with Evan Peters and I'm fairly certain that Emma Roberts is trapped in a particularly sticky position as well. I'm not too sure what exactly is meant to be freaky with Denis O'Hare, Frances Conroy and Finn Wittrock's characters but the WirSindAlleFreaks hashtag translates from German as 'we are all freaks', tying into Lange's character Elsa Mars being a German ex-pat.

Adding to the show's guest list, Matt Bomer, who has previously worked with co-creator Ryan Murphy in other projects such as Glee, The New Normal and The Normal Heart will be appearing in one episode of the upcoming season. Bomer will be playing a role that's 'very warped' according to Murphy. Other guests  and recurring actors in the new season include Jamie Brewer, Gabourey Sidibe, Patti LaBelle, John Carroll-Lynch and Wes Bentley. Also tiny teasers have started to air now - three of them so far titled, Admit One, Lick and Spotlight and like previous season teasers, they're delightfully twisted.


American Horror Story: Freak Show will air Wednesdays 10pm on FX from October 8th and will air for UK viewers on FOX shortly afterwards.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Review of True Blood's 7x10: "Thank You"

Written by Brian Buckner
Directed by Scott Winant

Sookie: “I can’t let go.”
Bill: “It’s time. Thank you.”

After seven seasons, I’m not sure I could let go of this madcap show either and that’s in spite of the fact that this season has largely been polarising in parts. As for a final episode, this felt more like a chipper version of Chosen than a more nihilistic version of Not Fade Away. If you get those references, you’ll know what I mean.

The main point of this finale was of course Sookie and finally putting a nail in the coffin to both her relationship with Bill and Eric. It seemed that last week’s interaction was the last time Sookie and Eric got any onscreen interaction, so it was really up to the episode to end things with Bill once and for all.

I did think it was a tad selfish of Bill to ask Sookie to use her light in order to kill and I’m glad that when it came down to it, she opted to stake him in his coffin in the cemetery instead of giving up the last bit of light she had left inside her. As for the scene itself, I think it hit the right note. Bill was ready to die and the last episode was in need of a major kill and his death had the impact that both Tara and Alcide’s should’ve done earlier in the season.

More to the point, the show took up the flash forward route in order to show us that Sookie married an unidentified man (we literally didn’t see his face) and was pregnant while Jason started a family with Bridget and Hoyt and Jessica tied the knot before Bill met the true death. If Sookie was going to marry someone, maybe it should've been Alcide instead of an unknown stranger though.

Speaking of Jessica and Hoyt – the wedding was rushed, a little cheesy with Andy’s ‘love is love’ speech but it was still a lovely moment in an episode where the latter and Jason managed to patch up their differences and move on but was it one step too sweet in a final episode low on big kills? Minus Bill of course.

However, let’s be reminded of the fact that not everyone got a happy ending here. Mr Gus Jr went up in a ball of flames thanks to Eric’s quickness with a gas canister and a light and the Yakuza themselves never got to pay Sookie that house call they intended to either. Of course, the only person who got a worse fate than them was Sarah Newlin herself.

She only got one single moment of her freedom back before being recaptured by Pam, having her blood synthesised into the internationally popular New Blood while being locked in the basement of Fangtasia going out of her mind, being fed off by rich vampires and haunted by Steve as well for good measure. If she wasn’t such a horrible person, I might actually feel sorry for Sarah but her own bigotry and stupidity sealed her fate in the end.

As for Eric and Pam, their outcome was pretty. I wouldn’t have minded if one of them had perished in this episode (is that controversial, opinion wise?) but I did like them getting rid of Gus and his irritating cronies and becoming billionaires with the New Blood while maintaining their hold on Fangtasia. As fates go, it was a nice one for the mischievous pair.

Also in “Thank You”

Nice cameo from Adele in this episode encouraging a younger Sookie to persevere. We also got to see a younger Tara but not Rutina Wesley though. At least Lafayette and James seem to be happy.

Bill: “You deserve everything. You deserve the world.”
Sookie: “What if I all want right now is to see you live?”

Bill legally left his house to Andy. Andy ended up letting Jessica and Hoyt continue to live there as well.

Pam (re Gus): “I thought you were gonna kill him.”
Eric: “Humans are slow.”

Sarah: “I’m a horrible person, aren’t I?”
Pam: “Yes dear, you are.”

I had to laugh at Sarah’s horrible attempts of seducing Pam, only for the epic knock back she received from the latter.

Tara: “Who do you like?”
Sookie: “I don’t like anybody.”
Tara: “You know my secret, you have to tell me yours.”

Andy (to Jessica/Hoyt): “The love you two share is beautiful and love is love, plain and simple.”

Sookie could read Bill’s thoughts during the ceremony. For a moment, I actually did begin to think the writers were going to turn him human.

Sookie: “You know what I am, right?”
Reverend Daniels: “You’re a telepath.”
Sookie: “I’m a fairy.”
Reverend Daniels: “No kidding.”

Sookie: “I love you, Bill Compton.”
Bill: “I love you too.”

Standout music: Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”, which was an interesting choice for a final song.

Steve (to Sarah): “Let’s say what we’re thankful for. Personally I’m thankful you’re losing your fucking mind.”

Chronology: With the four year jump, it’s either Thanksgiving 2014 or 2015, isn’t it?

For a series finale, I’m not sure “Thank You” will go down as one of the best but at the same time, I’m not sure it deserves to be a maligned one either. This final season really could’ve been better thought out and executed as a collective whole (something I’ll write about in a later blog) but even though this episode was a little saccharine at times, I actually enjoyed it more than I probably should’ve done. A good ending overall.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x01: "Deep Breath"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley

Clara: “I don’t think I know who the Doctor is any more.”
Madame Vastra: “It would seem my dear, you are very wrong about that.”

For someone who not so long ago jumped into the Doctor’s time stream and interacted with his previous selves, you would think that Clara Oswald would know the Doctor the best out of everyone but this episode proved to be something of a crash course for the impossible girl as she struggled to at first accept her friend’s new look.

I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism for this particular choice but it seemed that it wasn’t so much that Clara didn’t like not having her Doctor looking like her gentleman friend but more that she didn’t really know who the man was that was standing before her. The same man that now looks older, is a bit ruder and somewhat more prone to leaving Clara to deal with the baddies under some serious stress as well.

It’s not just Clara that had to get used to a new Doctor – the audience did too and there was a certain directed commentary at the younger side of the audience with the discussion of the Doctor older looks and demeanour, explicitly with the barbed comments that Vastra had made to Clara about wearing a veil. It was those comments that provoked a strong reaction from within Clara and despite her trepidation with the new Doctor, she wasn’t exactly ready to throw in the towel just yet, was she?

Last season there were some complaints about Clara not having much of a personality. This episode alone certainly added a fire to the character that she might have been previously lacking but more to the point, it gave Jenna Coleman some meaty material to work as she struggled to hold her breath when surrounded by Clockwork Droids and even had to put her fear to one side when the Half Face Man/control node threatened to kill her. If this is a sign of things to come, then Clara will definitely become a far better character to watch this upcoming series.

Of course Clara wasn’t the only one providing able support for the Doctor. This episode alone had the events set in Victorian London, so the Paternoster Gang were out in force, providing the Doctor somewhere to recuperate and also able assistance when things went to pot with the Clockwork Droids as well for good measure.

While Strax does remain the same comedic character (notably with his interactions with Clara this week), I actually think this episode added a lot more depth to Vastra and Jenny and in particular their relationship. Both women got to explain to Clara and the audience the dynamics of their marriage and the veil they also wear in relation to society’s attitude while at the same time finally sharing a kiss in one of the loveliest moments from the series. I’d even go as far as to say now that this might be my favourite appearance of the gang so far. I also hope contrary to some fan opinion that it is not the final appearance either.

As for the man of the moment, in case anyone was thinking that I had forgotten about Peter Capaldi – do I really need to say he’s brilliant? Okay, then – he is, from start to finish with every single interaction with everyone in this episode. He’s certainly not going to be a fools suffer gladly type of Doctor and his whole ‘I’m not your boyfriend’ speech to Clara (along with a certain phone call) means that the two of them are definitely going to have a very different but interesting dynamic. Already in this episode alone, there was a biting chemistry between Capaldi and Coleman and it’ll be interesting to see where the remaining episodes take it.

Last but not least – the Droids/Half-Face Man, overall, I think they were a great use for a returning monster. They provided some suitable gore (murdering a dinosaur for an optic nerve, a balloon made of human skin, etc), were a nice throw back to a popular Tenth Doctor episode and there was also the hint of the series arc here as well – the promised land. As for whether or not Half Face Man jumped or was pushed, I think it was the latter.

As for the mysterious, Mary Poppins inspired Missy – she’s another of Moffat’s mystery women, played with a creepy charm by Michelle Gomez, who thinks the Doctor is her boyfriend and might let him keep his new accent. I don’t know if Missy will be a friend or foe but I do think it’s obvious that she’s the woman in the shop and that she made sure Clara and the Doctor met at the restaurant. Out of all the theories that are currently circling the internet about her, I really like the idea of her being death personified. It’s the one I’m sticking with for now until something else comes along.

Also in “Deep Breath”

I don’t like the new theme tune or title sequence. I even think they might be the weakest we’ve had so far but on the other hand, I will probably get used to them.

Clara: “That’s him, that’s the Doctor.”
Madame Vastra: “Well then, here we go again.”

Aside from meeting Missy, we also met Courtney (the bratty student who told Clara to ‘do it’), who’ll be recurring this series as well.

Jenny: “Oh, I see, so people are monkeys now, are they?”
Madame Vastra: “No dear, people are apes. Men are monkeys.”

Madame Vastra (re the Doctor): “You thought he was young.”
Clara: “He looked young.”
Madame Vastra: “He looked like your dashing young gentleman friend. Your lover even.”

Brian Miller, the husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen played the homeless man that the Doctor demanded a coat from.

The Doctor (to Barney): “I am Scottish. I can complain about things. I can really complain about things now.”

Jenny (re posing): “I don’t understand why I’m doing this.”
Madame Vastra: “Art?”

Clara made a comment about having a poster of Marcus Aurelius while Strax told us that she was 27, narcissistic and liked ‘men doing sports’. Let’s not forget the egomania as well, shall we?

Clara (to the Droid): “Is there a lot of that on demand?”
The Doctor: “I don’t think that’s on the menu. I think we’re the menu.”

Clara (to Half Face Man): “If the Doctor is still the Doctor, he’ll have my back.”

This episode confirmed that a connection between the Doctor’s current look and the previous appearances of Caecilius and John Frobisher will be made over the course of the series. As for the cameo of the Eleventh Doctor – it wasn’t needed but it added nicely to the episode though.

Half Face Man: “I will not die. I will reach the promised land.”
The Doctor: “There isn’t any promised land.”

The Doctor (to Clara): “I am the Doctor. I have lived for over two thousand years and not all of them were good. I’ve made many mistakes and it’s about time I did something about that.”

With Confidential and Behind The Scenes/Lens proving popular, this series is accompanied by something called Doctor Who Extra, narrated by Matt Botten.

The Doctor (to Clara): “I’m not on the phone, I’m right here, standing in front of you. Please just see me.”

Missy: “Hello, I’m Missy. You’ve made it. I hope my boyfriend wasn’t too mean to you.”
Half Face Man: “Boy-friend?”

Chronology: Mostly 1894 Victorian London, present day Glasgow and wherever ‘Heaven’ is actually set.

For an opening episode, “Deep Breath” was certainly different. I’m not sure it completely needed to be over 70 minutes (cinema screenings be damned, lol), but the extra time did allow for many great character moments, the beginnings of a wonderful new Doctor with Peter Capaldi, a nod to some of Moffat’s familiar tropes while promising for a new dynamic as well. Overall, I’d say the episode was a success.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gotham - UK Broadcaster Announced/Legend Reborn Documentary

With a month to go, it seems that for UK viewers at least for now, Gotham has found itself a home.

Channel 5 announced over a fortnight ago that they will in fact be airing the 16 episode Batman prequel series and on Monday before the launch of Celebrity Big Brother had actor Benjamin McKenzie (James Gordon) introduce a two minute trailer for the series. While there weren't any new clips (from what I could see) that were shown, Five did announce that the would be airing Gotham close enough to US transmission, though a specific date was not confirmed. Given their sketchy history with US shows though, I am hoping that Gotham somewhat fares better than others have done in the past.

Elsewhere several new character shots have been released. Not only are there new ones for our main players but we've finally gotten ones for Victoria Cartagena (Renee Montoya), Andrew Stewart Jones (Crispus Allen) and John Doman (Carmine Falcone) while it's also been revealed that former Dexter actor David Zayas will be taking on the role of other influential mobster, Sal Maroni. More excitingly, FOX have released a 22 minute documentary (streamed in four parts), titled The Legend Reborn, featuring interviews with cast and crew members on the upcoming series and a lot of new clips, including a look of Oswald Cobblepot's (Robin Lord Taylor) mother as played by Carol Kane, the power struggle between Oswald and Fish, the connection between Fish and Bullock as well as a look into Renee and Barbara's past. If that doesn't get you excited for this series, possibly nothing will now.

Cast Pictures/Video Links:

Gotham will air Mondays 8pm on FOX from September 22nd and shortly (I hope) afterwards on Channel 5 for UK viewers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Batman: The Animated Series - Episodes 76-80 Reviews

The third season came rather quickly and it ended as quickly too as the final five episodes see a few more Rogue returns and the start of another interesting alliance as well.

Episode 76: Harley's Holiday

It might have taken the show it's sweet time but we finally got an episode with Harley Quinn that not only didn't feature the Joker but as far as I can remember, it didn't actually mention him either. It's a bonkers episode with Harley's attempts of going straight not lasting and all because of a misunderstanding with a paid/unpaid dress and briefly taking Veronica Vreeland (less annoying in this episode compared to past appearances) hostage. I really felt bad for Harley here. While she did almost give into her crime committing ways a little too quickly, it did feel like she actually wanted to change for the better and even Batman seemed to sympathise with her plight as well. The last scene between Harley and Batman is priceless, especially for the shared reaction of disbelief between Robin and Poison Ivy. 9/10

Episode 77: Make 'Em Laugh

Speaking of the Joker - this was an interesting episode for him. At first it just appeared that a bunch of light entertainment people were unsuccessfully trying their hands at crime, then it looked like the Mad Hatter was controlling them, only for it then to be revealed that it was the Joker involved all along. I found the fact that the reason behind this escapade was something more mundane (a disguised Joker losing a comedy competition, gets revenge on the judges by ruining their reputations) worked pretty well in the episode's favour but the ending did seem to go a little overboard with the Clown Prince getting royally embarrassed as he was being arrested. Still, at least he didn't get royally spanked like Robin did in this one. 8/10

Episode 78: Batgirl Returns

Maybe it was the success of Harley & Ivy, but whoever thought of an episode where Batgirl and Catwoman team up to solve a crime, you have my thanks. As a team, the pair of them work so well, that you don't actually miss the Dynamic Duo (handy considering that Batman's relegated to a dream sequence/Bruce is in Paris on business and Robin's kind of a third wheel here) and while it was a little predictable that Catwoman always intended to steal the Jade cat, my only disappointment is that Batgirl didn't allow her to get revenge on Roland Daggett once and for all. On the plus side, I really liked that this episode implied another future team up between Selina and Barbara. It's just a shame that it never came to pass but at least we'll always have this episode. 9/10

Episode 79: Lock Up

Now this was an interesting one. I was a little curious to see an episode where perhaps the residents of Arkham Asylum (Harley, Scarecrow and Ventriloquist/Scarface) were being mistreated and they were at the hands of the volatile/power mad, Lyle Bolton who then became crazed vigilante named Lock-Up. The same vigilante who then kidnapped Summer, Gordon, some doctor and the Mayor in order to set a crazed example before he ended up being eventually taken out by Batman and Robin and locked up in Arkham himself. Like Baby Doll before it, it's one of those episode I found more interesting than expected. 8/10

Episode 80: Deep Freeze

The third season came to the conclusion of bringing back someone we really hadn't seen for ages. With the likes of Killer Croc, Clayface and even the Riddler, part of Mr Freeze's impact has been down to the fact that he didn't appear a lot in the series. In fact, this was his second and final appearance (of sorts) and while he's not strictly the antagonist of the episode (that would be Walter and his daft plot to freeze Gotham), there was some nice enough continuity to his previous adventure and he seemed initially taken in with Walter's offer before coming to his senses courtesy of the Dynamic Duo. The last image of the story as Freeze found himself relocated to the perfect (for him) environment is certainly striking. 8/10

Next blog I will be focusing on The Terrible Trio, Showdown, Catwalk, A Bullet For Bullock and The Lion And The Unicorn.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Batman: The Animated Series - Episodes 71-75 Reviews

And just like that, I've managed to get to the third season where a new title sequence and name was put in place to highlight that the show was more about Batman & Robin than just one of them. As for the first five episodes, a little bit of a mixed bag.

Episode 71: Bane

I have to admit over the years, I've gone from not liking the character of Bane (my first experience of him was his appearance in 1997's Batman & Robin) to finding the character more interesting thanks to Tom Hardy's take on the character in The Dark Knight Rises. For his only appearance on this show, the character (voiced by Henry Siva), Bane managed to hospitalise Killer Croc, use Robin as bait and nearly did some damage to Batman, mainly at the behest of Rupert Thorne and the overly ambitious Candace. As an episode, it's not bad but not as engaging as I hoped it would be though. 7/10

Episode 72: Second Chance

Following his antics in Shadow Of The Bat, this episode attempted to follow the trope of seeing if Two-Face could be reformed as a character and when he went missing, both Batman and Robin were perhaps a little too hasty to accuse both Rupert Thorne and the Penguin for his disappearance. It's a solid story but not one that particularly does anything too new with Dent's struggles with his duality. Still though, I liked the reminder of Dent's friendship with Bruce, something which the final scene of the episode highlighted rather nicely. 7/10

Episode 73: Riddler's Reform

It's rather a shame that the Riddler didn't have more episodes to his name in the series but on the other hand, perhaps that's also the reason why his three episodes (excluding the cameos in The Worry Men and Trial) have effect that they do then. This episode in particular saw Nygma toying with the idea of going on the straight and narrow or at least making people think he was while he continued to commit more crimes before eventually being outsmarted by Batman. The end scene in particular when Nygma is sent back to Arkham is surprisingly unsettling but as a final story for the character, it's excellent. 9/10

Episode 74: Baby Doll

I have to admit, this wasn't an episode I thought I would particularly enjoy. The premise didn't strictly excite me but the execution of it though was wonderful. A former child star (who still looked like a child) wanting to recapture the fame she had with a cheesy television show by holding her former co-stars hostage shouldn't have worked but there was a genuine sense of pathos to this story with Baby Doll being irritatingly cutesy, surprisingly menacing and even tragic as well during the final moments. A surprising gem really. 8/10

Episode 75: Time Out Of Joint

Out of the five episodes here, this one I found the weakest of the bunch. I liked the Clock King's debut story but for some reason (and despite the playing around with time), this story seemed to lack the same spark that his first story had, even with the continuity of the Clock King wanting to finish off Mayor Hill once and for all. It's not a bad story as such but it's just not that great either. I was expecting something a lot better than what we got here.  6/10

Next blog I'll focus on Harley's Holiday, Make 'Em Laugh, Batgirl Returns, Lock Up and Deep Freeze.