Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Review of Batman: The Movie (1966)

Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson

Commissioner Gordon: "Penguin, Joker, Riddler... and Catwoman, too! The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!"
Batman: "We've been given the plainest warning. They're working together to take over."

And long before the likes of Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and even Christopher Nolan had the idea of villainous team ups in their respective Batman movies, back in 1966 and following the first season of the hugely successful and camp as tits TV show, this movie decided that four villains really was better than one and hey, they were right too.

The villains in question being Catwoman (Lee Merriweather briefly replacing Julie Newmar), the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) as the four of them banded together in a hilariously OTT scheme involving a few world leaders, not to mention a subplot that probably pleased fans of a certain romantic pairing.

Having Catwoman pose as a Russian journalist named Miss Kitka and embark on a brief romance with Bruce Wayne where the two of them ended up being kidnapped halfway through the movie was an amusing enough subplot, given a bittersweet edge when Batman became aware of his paramour's true identity.

As a villainous pair, the foursome worked extremely well, though a part of me was surprised to actually see Penguin as the ringleader (though he was the more level headed at times) of the gang but I do think all four villains got the right amount of screen time and it's not like the series itself wasn't prone to having team ups either.

As for the Dynamic Duo, both Adam West and Burt Ward continue to be on fine and rather campy form as both Batman and Robin with the movie showing both of them at their best. They're a great team to watch and the fight scenes and sleuthing moments (like knowing when Penguin was in their midst) are brilliant to watch.

The actual plot itself isn't the best with the highlight containing a moment where Batman is literally running around with a bomb to dispose but there's so much fun within the movie itself between the cast and crew, it's hard not to see the enjoyable side of things.

- Originally a sequel was planned which could've introduced Batgirl earlier but was dropped due to low ratings for the main series.
- Never mind shark jumping, this movie went one better with actual shark wrestling at the start of the thing.
- The movie was originally intended to serve as a pilot for the TV series itself but that was later changed.
- Johann Martini's "Plaisir D'Amour" is used in the movie but not credited though.

As a movie, Batman certainly had a lot of wonderfully daft and campy moments that would later look almost tame compared to what Joel Schumacher would do with the franchise 31 years later but as a movie of it's time though, it's an unbridled joy, best utilising it's Dynamic Duo and fantastic foursome of villains to boot.

Rating: 7 out of 10

My Review of Constantine (2005)

Written by Kevin Brodbin And Frank A. Cappello
Directed by Francis Lewis

Lucifer: "Hello, John. John, hello. You're the one soul I would come up here to collect myself."
John Constantine: "So I've heard."

Over the course of this year, I've gotten a little more into the character of John Constantine than before. I've read some of the comics (more the New 52 ones), got an action figure, watched NBC's short lived but entertaining version of the character, caught the Arrow episode he appeared in and of course, decided to rewatch the movie that had Keanu Reeves himself in the role.

Coming out a few months before Batman Begins, this 2005 adaptation of the Hellblazer himself is actually a pretty solid adaptation. Considering that some of Alan Moore's previous creations haven't always gotten satisfactory big screen offerings, this felt consistent enough to what the comics have done (pulling in two essential arcs while telling a standalone story) and then there's the leading man himself.

I'll admit that unlike Matt Ryan in the recent television series, Keanu Reeves doesn't look, sound or dress the part of exorcist, petty dabbler and conman John Constantine but he certainly inhabited the role convincingly enough, portraying him as a cynical, lonely-ish figure doing his best to get to heaven by actually helping those in general.

The person in need for the movie turned out to be Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) whose twin sister, Isabelle had psychic powers and ended up killing herself and getting a ticket into hell. I have to admit that in some parts, Angela felt like a stand in for some of the other female characters from the Hellblazer comics but I did like the character and I really liked that while the movie alluded to an attraction between her and Constantine, they actually avoided an onscreen romance between the pair.

While Reeves is undoubtedly great in the lead role, there are others who slightly out stage him though. The obvious candidate being Peter Stormare's depiction of Lucifer himself during the movie's climax while Gavin Rossdale added some slimy appeal to Balthazar - both of whom seemed a little keen on exercising control over John and the fight for his soul and so on.

There's also a notable performance from Djimon Hounsou as the neutral Papa Midnite and the more said about Tilda Swinton's depiction of the androgynous angel Gabriel, the better. Shia LaBeouf is pretty decent as Chas but he's given too little screen time to really make an impact in spite of an excellent death scene itself.

The movie's use of the spear of destiny along with it's depiction of hell is surprisingly effective as is it's depiction shot of heaven too. Overall, the movie certainly has some nice moments of horror, solid and engaging performances from the lead characters and the fact that a sequel hasn't materialised over the year has maybe helped added to giving the movie a bit more of a cult status too.

- In the Arrow universe, Lucifer himself went on to play Count Vertigo. Maybe he'll get to meet the other version of Constantine at some point, yeah?
- The movie originally was meant to be called Hellblazer but was changed to avoid confusion. It was also meant to be released in September 2004 but was delayed for February 2005.
- You didn't miss the post credit sequence, did you? I did on original viewing. However I didn't prior to this review though.
- The movie used Ravenscar for Dodson's sister as well as alluding to John trying to commit suicide himself and being damned as a result.

As a regular horror movie, I think Constantine did hit enough effective notes and even as a comic book series being adapted for the big screen, it's a lot better than expected. While it would've nicer had Keanu Reeves really embraced the role like the series would later do, he does lead the whole thing pretty well and there's plenty worth recommending with it too. It's an underrated enough gem.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Festive Treats & Finales

With Christmas being something of a hit and miss period for new stuff, I thought I'd look at three highlights and some continued viewing of a certain Netflix series as well.

And Then There Were None: And when the BBC weren't finding a new way to add another variation of Dickens on their Christmas schedules, they also went for another adaptation of a certain Agatha Christie classic. Roping in the talents of former EastEnders scribe, Sarah Phelps and the likes of Aidan Turner, Sam O'Neill and Burn Gorman to name a few, this three part adaptation certainly went down a treat with Phelps sticking faithfully enough to the source material while differentiating it enough from previous versions. Definitely one of the highlights from the last week.

Downton Abbey: Six series, 52 episodes and five Christmas specials and it was finally time for ITV to say goodbye to their biggest hit in the last decade. While the writing for later series have had a hit and miss quality to them, this was a satisfying final episode for the long running show. Edith finally got her happy ending as did Thomas and the show signalled at a rather positive future for the majority of the characters at the same time. I have no doubt in the next few years that a prequel series or a big screen movie for the main show will happen but for now, this was a lovely farewell to the show.

Jessica Jones: In 2015, I watched seven out of thirteen episodes for this show with the intention of viewing the remaining six within the first half of January. Since the last time I blogged about the show, the episodes I've seen have truly delivered. Seeing flashbacks to Jessica's sort of superhero days and first meeting with Kilgrave were exciting along with Malcolm cleaning up his act, meeting Trish's mother and of course, Kilgrave getting his claws into Jessica and Luke finding out what really happened to his wife. This show is well and truly delivering on every level.

Mrs Brown's Boys: With this series contracted for Christmas and New Year specials until 2020, you'd kind of hope at some point another series (between movies and stage productions) would actually surface. The latest Christmas special introduced Mark's old flame Bubbles to be a thorn in Betty's side, mildly touched on sexual harassment with Cathy and her female boss as well as some funny moments involving Agnes and Winnie while this year's Christmas tree could literally pack a punch. Overall a fun episode but maybe it's time for another series instead just specials, yeah?

Scream Queens: I reviewed this show for nine episodes before my patience got the better of me and I had to detach myself away from it. I did however catch up with the finale and it turns out that the killer was a fairly predictable choice but on the plus side, the Chanels got some appropriate comeuppances and they didn't kill off Jamie Lee Curtis. That being said, considering how much of a tonal mess the show was and that ratings weren't exciting glowing, will FOX either axe the show for good or give it a pity renewal? I know which one I'd do to be honest.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Review of Doctor Who's 9x13: "The Husbands Of River Song"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

The Doctor: "Hello sweetie."
River: "You are so doing those roots."

On a list of unexpected things to happen in Peter Capaldi's era of Doctor Who, I actually thought that River Song showing up in a Christmas episode was one of them. It felt like her story had naturally wrapped up during the events of The Name Of The Doctor but between Clara finally exiting the show and the new companion yet to be revealed, a stopgap was needed and this was certainly a fun enough one to be had.

Let's get the immediate negatives out of the way first though - the story itself is thin. Painfully thin. It revolved largely around River marrying an annoying robotic dictator named King Hydroflax (Greg Davies putting in an okay but hardly memorable performance) just so she could retrieve some diamond (called a Halassi Androvar) that she'd later sell to the highest bidder all while spending most of the episode not realising the surgeon she hired for one husband was actually her other husband with a totally new regeneration cycle and so on.

It's amusing enough and allowed for some decent comedy, though it's a little over half the episode before River actually realises that she's in fact travelling with the Doctor but before then he's getting a crash course into how much of a bad girl his wife can be when she doesn't realise that he's right by her side.

Moffat seems like the idea of some of his female characters being bad and while River's attitude towards murdering Hydroflax is pretty cavalier at times, it's still not quite as dark as it could've been. Hydroflax isn't sympathetic or threatening enough to really care about as a character or antagonist and his eventual death is literally down to his own body betraying him than River actually committing the deed.

On the villain scale, it's actually the rather odd looking Flemming that had more potency as a baddie but even he wasn't given too much screen time to truly engage with. Keeping with the limited screen time, both Matt Lucas and Phillip Rhys are similarly underused as the predictably comic assistant Nardole and River's other spouse, Ramone. It's a shame but in some ways, perhaps the underuse of the guest actors was intentional for the overall excellent dynamic between this particular Doctor and his wife.

The episode's biggest strength is the chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston and the pair of them have it in spades. In some ways it's almost a shame that this might be the only time that River will appear in Capaldi's era but as a final look into the character, despite the iffy main threat, this kind of works as a swansong.

There's enough flirting to satisfy Moffat's writing prose, fun banter between the Doctor and River but more importantly, after so much talk about it, their trip to Darillium is finally realised onscreen and it's rather beautiful to watch. There's a slight contradiction to a minisode on the Series 6 DVD but overall, I really do like that we finally got to see this moment as it's pretty perfect and overall ended the episode on a lovely note.

Also in "The Husbands Of River Song"

Alex Kingston finally got her name in the opening credits and they were given the Christmassy treatment as well.

The Doctor: "Do I know you?"
River: "You most certainly do not."

River's sonic trowel looked utterly ridiculous on screen, especially compared to the sonic she was later given by the Doctor.

The Doctor (re Hydroflax): "You're talking about murdering someone."
River: "No, I'm not. I'm actually murdering someone. Cheer up, get a saw."

River: "It's a little bit bit sexy."
The Doctor: "Why is everything sexy now?"

Keeping with spouses, River has also had two wives and was married to Stephen Fry as well as the Doctor being married to Cleopatra.

The Doctor (to River, re TARDIS): "My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed."

Flemming (to River): "Is the gentleman here for dinner?"
The Doctor: "Yes, he is."

The Doctor's reaction to the TARDIS - well, Peter Capaldi certainly gave that moment the right amount of welly it needed, didn't he?

The Doctor (re himself): "He sounds awful."
River: "I suppose he is. I never really thought about it."

River (to Flemming): "You should know, I have a significant history of escaping."

I liked the references to past Doctors in this episode and I even liked that Clara's exit had no real focus here too, which made sense.

River: "He's the Doctor. He doesn't go around falling in love with people and if you think he's anything that small, or that ordinary, then you haven't the first idea of what you're dealing with."

River: "That's Darillium."
The Doctor: "Always good to know where we're going."

No news about Series 10 has been revealed. Come on, BBC - tell us something now. I think audiences have waited long enough at this rate.

The Doctor: "Those are the singing towers, aren't they?"
Alphonse: "Yes sir, but it's just the wind."

Standout music: The use of  "Hark, The Angels Sing" at the start of the episode and some older music from Murray Gold used throughout.

The Doctor: "Times end, River. Because they have to. Because there's no such thing as happy ever after. It's just a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is so hard."
River: "No, Doctor, you're wrong. Happy ever after doesn't mean forever... it just means time. Little time. But that's not the sort of thing you could ever understand, is it?"

Chronology: 5343 in Mendorax Dellora for most of this episode, then Darillium towards the end. Notice the use of Trap Street during a certain moment too?

For a Christmas episode, we've had stronger ones than The Husbands Of River Song and we've had worse ones too. I do think that maybe the Hydroflax plot could've been scrapped with more focus on Darillium but the lighter tone was welcomed after the predominantly darker ninth series and both Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston played off each other so well.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Review of Gremlins (1984)

Written by Chris Columbus
Directed by Joe Dante

Kate: "What are they, Billy?"
Billy: "They're gremlins, Kate, just like Mr. Futterman said."

And here is one of the best Christmas movies that I should've reviewed for this blog ages ago. It's only in the last few years that I've rewatched this movie as I got it and it's delightful sequel on DVD back then.

Coming out in the mid-1980s, on paper this wouldn't seem like the most festive of ideas for a Christmas movie but on screen, you can really see it. A young banker named Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) gets a new pet for Christmas, a mogwai named Gizmo and all he had to do was not feed it after midnight or get the poor thing wet.

Of course those are the very things that happen and soon Gizmo is sprouting out some siblings and unlike Gizmo, they're more on Santa's naughty list than nice as they terrorise the neighbourhood in epic style as they transform into something more ghastly and terrifying.

I really love this movie. Gizmo is a pretty cute little creature with a sense of naivety and Zach Galligan makes for an engaging and endearing protagonist as Billy Peltzer as does Phoebe Cates as love interest, Kate. The Gremlins themselves are delightfully mischievous and dangerous as villains (that moment where a stairlift becomes a death sentence is horrifying and hilarious in one go).

I do however like the slightly bittersweet twist of the movie's ending where Gizmo's original comes back to claim. It's a surprising little moment but it does work and with the knowledge of a sequel, we know that Billy and his new friend are reunited eventually.

- In Cantonese Chinese, mogwai means devil, demon or gremlin. The Mandarin pronunciation is mogui.  That I did not know. Appropriate for Gizmo's siblings though.
- Because there was no CGI when this movie was being made, all the Gremlins were animatronics.
- Tim Burton was originally considered to direct the movie.
- Both Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez were considered for the role of Billy prior to Zach Galligan getting the part.

Just an all time classic Christmas movie. Gremlins is the perfect blend of naughty and nice and definitely something to give you some Christmas cheer for the festive period. Just remember not to feed any Mogwais you may receive as a present after midnight though.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Review of Home Alone (1990)

Written by John Hughes
Directed by Chris Columbus

Kevin: "Merry Christmas ya filthy animals and a Happy New Year."

Well, we all know this movie, don't we? I'm going to be slightly controversial with this review by starting off with admitting that this while a great movie, is not my favourite Christmas movie and that I slightly prefer the sequel. I'm also going to admit that despite a great performance from Macauley Culkin, Kevin McAllister is not one of the most likeable of child protagonists we've ever had in a Christmas movie.

Granted, his parents (John Heard and Catherine O'Hara), siblings and other relatives aren't exactly the most likeable of people either but considering some of the damage and chaos that follows Kevin, maybe they had the right idea in leaving him behind while the decided to go to Paris for the Christmas Holidays.

And then there's Kevin's unholy acts of terrors on bumbling burglars Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern). In fact, considering the amount of pranks and hijinks that Kevin subjected them to, it's amazing that both burglars made it out of this movie alive, never mind later pop up in the New York based sequel.

Not to mention the fact that Kevin gravely misjudged kindly neighbour Old Man Marley (Robert Blossom) as well but at least the latter came to Kevin's aid when the burglars suddenly got the better of his dangerous pranks.

Okay, on a serious note, I do like this movie a lot. It's certainly an iconic one from the early 1990s and a career defining/restricting movie for Culkin and there isn't a bad performance throughout. While it does get a little sugary at the end (it's a Christmas movie, it's in the rules somewhere), there's enough fun and mayhem to keep things moving along that the saccharine moments at the end are more moving for it.

- The movie that Kevin watches on video tape is not a real film, but footage specially created. It was called Angels With Filthy Souls.
- Apparently the concept of this movie came about during the filming of Uncle Buck.
- This was the highest grossing movie of 1990.
- There's some kind of legend of Elvis being in this movie. Considering he died over a decade before this movie was made, I find that kind of doubtful.

Excluding most of the sequels, imitations and that strange YouTube Culkin himself did about a week ago, Home Alone does remain a deserved classic. It's a bit strange to think that this movie is now 25 years old but it's certainly aged pretty well though and one that no doubt will be watched by many over the Christmas period and possibly more than once too.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When We Rise - ABC Commissions LGBT Miniseries

Move over HBO it seems.

Yup, ABC have commissioned LGBT mini-series, When We Rise as an eight hour/episode event and it will be made by Dustin Lance Black (Milk) and Gus Van Sant, the latter of whom will produce the series and direct the first two episodes.

The miniseries will focus on the latter generation of leaders in the LGBT equality movement. According to the press release, the series will ....

“chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to its successes today.”

While casting for the upcoming miniseries has yet to be confirmed, When We Rise has been in discussion with ABC for the last two and a half years and it'll be interesting to find out the other names that will be attached to the project.

More Details:

I'll post more details on When We Rise as they become available.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: ITV's The Sound Of Music Live

Written by Ernest Lehman
Directed by Coky Giedroyc

The hills are alive with the sound of music.

And instead of bothering to air Jekyll & Hyde yet again, ITV decided to air something a little more ambitious last night with their version of this particular musical in front of a live audience for the course of two and a half hours.

In recent times, this live musical theatre television has become a trend on American television with the likes of this one, Peter Pan and recently The Wiz all going down to varying degrees with audiences and generating much social media commentary and in that regard, ITV's first attempt actually captured that trend pretty well too.

The casting was fine enough form with former EastEnders actress Kara Tointon taking on the role of everyone's favourite singing nun/governess Maria Von Trapp while Downton Abbey's Julian Overden played the role of Captain Georg Von Trapp, Coronation Street's Katherine Kelly as the Baroness Schrader, Pointless Alexander Armstrong as Max Detweile as well as Maria Friedman as as the Mother Abbess and Mel Giedroyc playing housekeeper Frau Schmidt to name a few.

With over two hours at this performance's disposal, there was plenty that could've gone with this production but for the most part, I think things went smoothly enough. It helped that the majority of the cast could carry a tune and had enough familiarity to draw in casual viewers but even with some editing choices of the source material, the moments that essentially matters to the iconic musical were retained and nicely realised onscreen.

The star of the show and deservedly so was Kara Tointon. It's hard to take on a role so iconic as Maria and given the inevitable comparisons that were going to made to Julie Andrews, I really do think that Tointon truly excelled throughout the entire production. After this, I definitely think there are going to be some bigger roles in her near future.

As for ITV, this could've been an absolute shambles but it really worked out a lot better than expected. Doing some editing for time probably worked in it's favour, the stage looked well, the numbers worked well and considering the discussion this generated last night, I have a feeling that The Sound Of Music Live has kickstarted a future trend for the station.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Review of Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Written by David Newman And Leslie Newman
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Santa Claus: "Don't you know who I am?"
Joe: "Sure, you're a nut."
Santa Claus: "I'm Santa Claus."
Joe: "Right, and I'm the tooth fairy."

For the next few days, I'm going to be reviewing a slew of Christmas movies and one of them is this underrated little gem from the mid eighties, which I was surprised to read wasn't as popular as I had thought it had been.

Before Tim Allen really took on the role of old Saint Nick, it was David Huddleston who had donned the role and this movie began with him taking on the role and learning fairly quickly that time isn't an obstacle when it comes to delivering presents to children all of the world.

The movie however focuses on two children in particular - homeless kid Joe (Christian Fitzpatrick) and rich girl Cornelia (Carrie Kei Heim) as the two of them form a friendship while the latter's power hungry and corrupt businessman uncle BZ (John Lithgow on good, hissable form here) is using Santa's more underappreciated of elves, Patch (Dudley Moore) to boost his profits with some magic dust.

Throughout the movie, there's a good talk about morality and friendships as well as a solid chemistry with most of the main characters. The North Pole also looks quite beautifully depicted onscreen and there's certainly a nice sense of wonder and magic within the movie without things getting too saccharine for it's own good.

It's hard to pick a star from the movie, but I guess given the billing of it and the emphasis in the second half of the movie, perhaps it's Dudley Moore. He certainly plays Patch with the right amount of good intention and naivety to make for a believable protagonist and both Cornelia and Joe are well written enough child characters.

- Burgess Meredith, famously known as the Penguin in Batman 66 TV series and movie has a nice role here as the elder elf. Santa's wife is also played by Daisy from Keeping Up Appearances.
- Real deer were trained to pull the sleigh during certain moments in this movie.
- There's a comic adaptation of the movie courtesy of Marvel.
- Paul McCartney was originally going to write and perform a theme song, but his record label declined.  That's interesting.

An underrated Christmas movie but one I have a lot of affection for. Santa Claus: The Movie is definitely a nice one to watch over the holiday period if you get the chance to. Like most Christmas movies though, most of the adults don't always come across well however.

Rating: 8 out of 10

A Different Kind Of Hero

This will probably be my penultimate TV jumble blog for 2015 and it's a bit of a superhero themed one (minus one show possibly) so here goes ....

Arrow: Well, that episode certainly gave us a version of Little Drummer Boy we're unlikely to forget, right? Oh and Felicity might be dead thanks to Damien Darhk, except I get the distinct impression that she won't be but the show needs it's dosage of Oliver angst to keep things ticking over though. I did like the mid season finale and Damien has certainly been a much more interesting villain than Ras turned out to be. Then there was also the previous episode which crossed over with The Flash and served to set up Vandal Savage/Hawkman/Hawkgirl for Legends Of Tomorrow. That one I liked a little more to be honest.

Jessica Jones: It finally debuted after months of hype and I decided to watch most of this Marvel show quicker than I did with Daredevil. So far, I've seen four episodes but what I've seen, I've pretty much enjoyed to be honest. Krysten Ritter has been perfect as the caustic former superhero while David Tennant has provided an all too real sense of menace to Kilgrave. The detective noir vibe has certainly worked in the show's favour and the supporting characters with Trish, Luke Cage and Hogarth have also worked really well so far. Definitely a must see.

Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD: UK viewers will be delighted to know this airs on E4 in January but in the US, it recently finished up and the last few episodes have been great. For fans of Fitz and Simmons, there's been plenty to admire and the escalating feud with both Coulson and Ward certainly took a more interesting than expected turn. It'll be interesting to see how the show moves forward following the note it ended on but it should make for a very watchable second half.

Once Upon A Time: Last few episodes have been a bit of a bust. The Emma/Hook centred Broken Hearts was one of the worst episodes the show has done but things did pick up slightly with the mid season finale finishing the Dark One plot (though not Camelot it seems) and bringing in the Underworld. There was also some entertainment with Regina finding a way to get Zelena out of the picture and hopefully when the show returns in March, the pacing will be a bit better.

Supergirl: Continuing to fly the flag for great superheroes, this show has gotten better and better to watch and the mid season finale was certainly an interesting note to end on. Astra's been a great antagonist all season long and this episode added some needed grey area to the character. Coupled with the arrival of Non, Hank's secret identity revealed to Alex and Cat working out that Kara's Supergirl, I can't wait for the show to return next year.

The Flash: First of all, that little nod to Batman: The Animated Series episode Christmas With The Joker was one of the best things ever. Then there was the team up of Captain Cold (before he got other ideas), the Trickster (minus junior this time) and Weather Wizard to give Barry something of a danger filled Christmas. This show continues to hit it out of the ballpark and between giving Patty more of an edge, having Harrison at ransom to Zoom and introducing Wally West, the ante on this show keeps getting upped and it's wonderful to watch. As for the Arrow/Legends Of Tomorrow episode, that was another gem too. Vandal Savage is a delightfully theatrical villain, isn't he?

- Megalyn Echikunwoke will be reprising her role as Vixen for the second half of Arrow's fourth season. She'll first appear in episode 14.
- Matt Nable will reprise his role as Ras Al Ghul for Legends Of Tomorrow. Sky1 have the rights for the upcoming series.
- Gotham will be adding Melinda Clarke, Michael Bowen and Lori Petty for the second half of Season 2.
- Teri Reeves will recur in the second half of Once Upon A Time an older, warrior version of Dorothy Gale.
- Sarah Paulson will reprise her role of Billie Dean Howard for the season finale of American Horror Story: Hotel.
- Channel 5 will air the new series of The X Files. 5* will air Heroes: Reborn.
- Homeland and The Affair have been renewed for further seasons by Showtime.
- Adam Stafford has been cast as Geomancer for the second half of The Flash's second season.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Recap/Review: American Horror Story: Hotel - She Gets Revenge

Wrapping for a few weeks for the Christmas, the series decided to deliver an episode where some loose ends got resolved (possibly just one really) and vengeance was served pretty well too.

Written by James Wong
Directed by Bradley Buecker

Jealousy's A Killer: And this week, both Donovan and the Countess highlighted yet again their utter selfishness by bumping off the competition. What the hell was the point in adding Rudolph and Natacha if they were going to be dispatched off so quickly? Why not just prolong Tristan a bit longer then instead? I did like Donovan dancing to Hotline Bling and telling the Countess he killed Rudolph but judging by the way this episode ended, I will not be devastated if he's dead after this episode. Matt Bomer's a great actor but Donovan's been a pretty pathetic and selfish character to actually enjoy, not to mention how horrible his relationship with the Countess has been to watch as well.

Guns At The Ready: This episode opened with the threat of both Iris and Liz deciding to end their suffering by killing themselves and then ended with the two of them banding together to kill the Countess and Donovan (I imagine only one of them will be dead next episode) in such a delightfully OTT fashion. In between all of that, the pair of them gifted Miss Evers with a new dryer while Liz reconnected with her son, Douglas who thankfully turned out to be understanding and not crazy. While both Liz and Iris have done terrible things, I have enjoyed their friendship over the course of this season though, but I still wouldn't stay in the Cortez, even if they took over the place.

Out Of The Hotel: And this week saw some actual progression with John and Alex. First of all, they admitted (at long last) to being terrible parents before rounding up all the vamp kids created by Alex and locking them in with Ramona and then taking Holden and getting out of the Cortez. Also during the episode, John claimed his ninth victim, learned about vampires in a way and incurred Sally's wrath by dumping her as well.

Legacies: If anyone will be more annoyed by John exiting the Cortez than Sally, I imagine it would be March who spent this episode making it clear that he had plans for John that extending the Ten Commandments killings. March also had some fun by rubbing it into the Countess for killing Will in the hotel as well when he wasn't setting a poor contracter alight too. Other than that, he didn't do too much to affect things this week.

Smarter When Dead: Not really but at least Will figured out the Countess's true intentions with him when she was confronted by his ghost briefly in this episode. Will at least seemed to have some concern about what the Countess might do to his son but aside from a new suit and seeing his 'wife' for what she truly is, I'm not entirely convinced that Will's IQ just became he's dead though.

The show returns in January and along with a character from a previous season making her stay at the Cortez.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

First Looks: Shadowhunters & The Magicians

I haven't done this one in a bit but it seems that at the start of 2016, we are going to have not one but two magical themed shows as both Shadowhunters and The Magicians look set to make their respective debuts on ABCFamily/Freeform and SyFy next month.

Shadowhunters is the television adaptation of  The Mortal Instruments books by Cassandra Clare and following that the movie adaptation didn't pan out so well, I'm not entirely sure the series is destined for similar success. However for those curious, the cast as follow is Katherine McNamara as Clare Fray, Dominic Sherwood as Jace Wayland, Alberto Rosende as Simon Lewis, Emeraude Toubia as Isabelle Lightwood, Matthew Daddario as Alec Lightwood, Harry Shum, Jr. as Magnus Bane and Isaiah Mustafa as Luke Garroway. I have to admit I am somewhat interested in how the show handles the relationship between Alec and Magnus but aside from that, I'm not sure if this will be a series I'll regularly watch though.

Then there's The Magicians. Also based on a book series from Lev Grossman and executive produced by  Michael London, Janice Williams, John McNamara, and Sera Gamble, this 12 part series had a slightly better trailer for it. Characters for the show are Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwate, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice Quinn, Stella Maeve as Julia, Hale Appleman as Elliot, Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson, Arjun Gupta as Penny, Rick Worthy as Dean Fogg and Anne Dudek as Professor Sunderland. This one might slightly appeal to an older crowd though not by much.

It'll be interesting to see which one of these magical shows can truly bewitch audiences when they debut next month.

Shadowhunters - Trailers/Spoilers:
The Magicians - Trailers/Spoilers:

Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABCFamily/Freeform from January 12th while The Magicians airs Mondays at 9pm from January 25th.

Monday, December 14, 2015

LGBT TV 2015: Highs/Lows/Missed Opportunities

Okay, this might not be an entirely definitive list. There are probably some omissions, due to me either not getting round to seeing certain programmes or simply forgetting stuff but without further ado, here's a look at some of the most prominent of LGBT programmes - either for the excellent representation, terrible representation or simply being a missed opportunity.

Starting this off on a good note ....

The Best

Sense8 (Netflix)

There were so many things this excellent summer series had going in it's favour from the makers of both The Matrix and Babylon 5. Some of the most notable was the diversity in it's casting, the fact that it was filmed in eight different countries (which really did translate onscreen) and of course, the fact that a good portion of the cast were LGBT. In the first season we saw the relationship between transgendered hacktivist Nomi (Jamie Clayton) and free spirited Amanita (Freema Agyeman) as well as semi-closeted actor Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and the rather lovely Hernando (Alfonso Herrera). Both relationships were treated with utter sensitivity throughout the captivating series.

How To Get Away With Murder (ABC/Universal)

If only every second season can be good as this show. I feared that How To Get Away With Murder might have suffered from the cursed sophomore slump but has managed to actually subvert it so far. Not only that but Season 2 is seriously becoming close to edging out Season 1 in terms of craziness too. More importantly, the show's handling of Oliver's (Conrad Ricamora) HIV and his relationship with Connor (Jack Falahee) has developed so wonderfully onscreen. Watching this show, you do have to wonder why can't all LGBT writers get it as right as Peter Nowalk is currently doing.

Empire (FOX/E4)

Has there ever has been a show that has risen so spectacularly? In less than a couple of episodes, Empire went from a surprising rated well mid season series on FOX to becoming literally the most talked about network drama in the last five years and it's easy to see why. It's a modern musical equivalent to Dallas, has been more of a singing monster hit than the ended Glee and upped the soap antics with the Lyon family and the record company. More to the point (and excluding the blip we had with the Skye Summers plot), Jamal Lyon has become one of the most fascinating gay characters on television with Jussie Smollett proving to be a commanding presence and soulful singer.

Cucumber/Banana/Tofu (Ch4/E4/4OD/Logo)

16 years ago, Russell T/ Davies gave UK viewers Queer As Folk on Channel 4 and it certainly changed the landscape of television. In 2015, he went one step further with three interconnecting shows, all airing on connecting channels and while the shows in question might have divided some viewers, they did however provoke discussion. Not only that - they also examined what it meant to be LGBT in the present day, the division between young and older members of the community, the dangers of revenge porn, unrequited love, growing apart from family and friends as well as the ending of a long term relationship. Basically, these shows fucking rocked.

London Spy (BBC2/BBCAmerica)

Recently finished up on one channel and awaiting airing on another, I did a series overview of this five part spy series from writer Tom Robb Smith and starring Ben Whishaw, but covering myself again - there were moments that frustrated me, but the moments that didn't outweighed things. The love story between Danny (Whishaw) and Alistair/Alex (Edward Holcroft) was interesting and tragic but the friendship between Danny and Scottie (Jim Broadbent) and the ongoing quest to find out who killed Alex certainly kept the show watchable at all times.

The Pretty Good/Rather Great

Looking (HBO/SkyAtlantic)

The bad thing about this show was the moment it got it's groove in it's much improved second season, it was also the same moment that HBO decided to call time on the series. While a movie scheduled for 2016 will tie up any loose ends, it's a shame that apart from that, audiences won't get to see any more of Agustin (Frankie J. Alverez) and Eddie's (Daniel Franzese) relationship, which was the best thing about the second season. Far more interesting than seeing Dom and Ritchie just hanging around or the somewhat tedium surrounding Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Kevin (Russell Tovey). Hopefully the movie should end things on a good note though.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

To be honest, the third season of Netflix's most famous of shows wasn't it's best one but it was still an extremely watchable one as Piper/Alex (Taylor Schilling/Laura Prepon) reunited, got back together and then broke up over the 13 episodes while Ruby Rose made a memorable debut as the intriguing enough Stella. There was also a delving into transphobia with Sophia (Laverne Cox) towards the end of the season and the growing friendship between Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Tiffany (Taryn Manning) was pretty affecting.

Glee (FOX/Sky1)

One of three of Ryan Murphy's shows to make this list and while the show's final season wasn't capable of avoiding the odd stinker (mainly the Sue focused ones), it did have Kurt/Blaine broken up and then married (when the latter wasn't briefly with Karofsky) as well as Santana/Brittany. Not to mention the final episode showed us the gang's futures and Beiste's transition was dealt with a good amount of sensitivity, even if it could've been tackled earlier in the show's run.

Boy Meets Girl (BBC2)

BBC2's sweet natured comedy focusing on transgender woman Judy (Rebecca Root) meeting and starting a relationship with younger man, Leo (Harry Hepple) was one of the surprise hits of the last few months and within six episodes we got to see the relationship develop naturally with both Root and Hepple playing off each other extremely well. I do hope a second series is imminent.

Atlantis (BBC1/BBCAmerica)

A surprising addition to this list but a worthy one. Atlantis might have been a show with some of the laziest writing known to man at times and it's cancellation might have definitely been brought on itself but one thing it managed to get right in the second half of it's second season was the blossoming relationship between Pythagoras (Robert Emms) and Icarus (Joseph Timms). It's a shame we only got about five episodes of the two of them together but at least the show ventured where it's predecessor Merlin could never go though.

The Bad

Quantico (ABC)

You had one character (Simon as played by Tate Ellington) pretending to be gay for reasons too convoluted to entertain while the other character, Elias (Rick Cosnett) seemed to suffer various degrees of character assassination and ineptitude within the first half of this show's debut year. Bad form, show.

Scream Queens (FOX/E4)

It's a shame that for his first post Glee project and sticking with FOX, that Ryan Murphy had to resort to one of the most regressive tropes going. While the comedy/horror series could be entertaining at times, it was riddled with problems (not actually being scary, nastiness of main characters, humour trying too hair, pacing etc) and one of them being the irritating plot of Nick Jonas's Boone pretending to be gay. It's 2015 for flip sake. How can any writer think that sort of storytelling is even interesting to watch in the slightest? On the other hand, it's depiction with Chanel 3/Sadie Swenson (Billie Lourd) was marginally better.

American Horror Story: Hotel (FX/FOXUK)

Okay, not gonna lie - I do prefer Hotel that tiny bit more to Freak Show and while there's been a healthy dose of LGBT characters, the actual quality in them hasn't been something to write a glowing letter home about either. Let's be honest, they're either murderous (Lady Gaga's the Countess), revenge obsessed (Angela Bassett's Ramona Royale), not very bright (Cheyenne Jackson's Will Drake) or their relationships have been too brief to really care about (Denis O'Hare's Liz Taylor with Finn Wittrock's Tristan Duffy). Basically we're in desperate need for another Lana Winters, aren't we?

The Wasted Potential

Constantine (NBC/Amazon Prime)

I caught this series months after it's cancellation and mostly in preparation for Matt Ryan reprising his role in Arrow's fourth season (yay Nyssa/Curtis/alive Sara). Constantine as a series itself was actually pretty enjoyable for the most part but the show's decision to literally ignore the character's bisexuality (something which the latest comics have been more proud of depicting) infuriated me to no end and highlighted a horrible pattern with David S. Goyer as well (DaVinci's Demons, anyone?). Not to mention some of Daniel Cerone's comments on the issue were similarly annoying as well as patronising. It's kind of a shame the show only lasted a season but the writers decision not to have John as an openly bisexual character was met with deserved criticism. I can only hope the more the character pops up in the Arrow universe, the more the writers for those shows will go where Goyer/Cerone failed to go with the character.

Now that's my look at some of the highs and lows of LGBT TV in 2015. What are yours?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

London Spy - Series Review

I was going to review this episodically but in the end, I decided to wait for the whole of BBC2 five part series, London Spy to air before reviewing it in one complete blog. Here goes nothing.

Written by Tom Robb Smith
Directed by Jakob Verbruggen

Love stories are always interesting to watch, even if you're not the most romantic of people such as myself and the love story between hedonistic Danny Holt (Ben Whishaw) and mysterious Alex/Alistair Turner (Edward Holcroft) becomes the very backbone of this whole saga. It's an interesting one in which the two of them meet up, fall in love, challenge each other's perceptions on certain things and then one of them goes and mysteriously dies. That would be Alex/Alistair in this case and his death became the very thing to throw Danny into a life and death saga into trying to find out what exactly happened to his lover over the course of the series.

At every opportunity, it seems that Danny is having everything thrown against him - his distant, unsupporting family, his reputation and even a moment in the middle of the series where it's discovered he's HIV positive. Not to mention the fact that Alex/Alistair was actually a child prodigy/spy and the people he worked for along with a controlling mother (played excellently by Charlotte Rampling for two episodes) go to various lengths to stop Danny from uncovering what actually happened to his lover until the last episode revealed everything in a somewhat frustrating manner.

For five episodes, this show certainly moved at a polarising pace. There were times when I'd find myself begging for actual action to take place (my hopes of Danny being an actual kickass spy never materialised) while other times, the slow and intimately revealing conversation between Danny and various characters were just a testament to the writing and acting being on top form. I don't know if this is a controversial opinion (and neither do I care if it is) but the more the show progressed, the less interesting Danny's relationship with Alex/Alistair became and the more gripping his budding friendship with retired agent, Scottie (a knockout performance by Jim Broadbent) instead became.

I do love that following the likes of Cucumber/Banana/Tofu on Channel 4 that BBC2 did give us this interesting series and while I would've preferred a bit more gadgets and stunts at times, I can appreciate the depth that writer Tom Robb Smith went for with Danny's characterisation and the people he interacted with throughout the series. There were some notable performances from the likes of Samantha Spiro, Lorraine Asbourne, Harriet Walter, Mark Gatiss and Adrian Lester.

The ending though was undeniably unsatisfying, though perhaps hinted at a potential promise of seconds and if that happened, then maybe I might get my wish of Danny becoming a kick ass spy after all. Hopefully with him living to tell the tale and moving on from Alex/Alistair's death as well.

London Spy aired on BBC2 and will air on BBCAmerica in 2016.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Recap/Review: American Horror Story: Hotel - She Wants Revenge

And finally, the wedding that no-one wanted to see became a thing and the unlucky groom ended up not living long enough to regret it. Also other things happened.

Written by Brad Falchuk
Directed by Michael Uppendahl

They're Married: And it lasted far shorter than expected. Will made a series of bad judgements in this episode, so his death was somewhat inevitable and not that devastating either. Not listening to the jealous Miss Evers about the Countess was his first mistake. Then he married her and was something of an asshole about his newly discovered stepson, which the Countess (understandably) did not like one bit. Then he got sealed up in a segment of the hotel with Ramona and she killed/fed on him while both the Countess and Evers watched with a sense of glee. Will, you were pretty and you'll stay that way as a ghost. You were also incredibly dumb and this show could've handled your bisexuality far better than it actually did but thems the breaks it seems.

The Exes Club: If only Will had actually sat down and talked to Rudolph, Natacha, James, Ramona and Donovan beforehand, right? Nah, he still would've been a dead man but it's interesting that excluding Tristan, pretty much of all of the Countess's paramours are all still into her again. Even Ramona in spite of her determination to kill the Countess will probably be clamouring for her soon enough, though this episode had Donovan betray Ramona after getting back with the Countess but on the plus side, we got a rather touching backstory with Ramona and her parents when she wasn't drinking from a porn star and making Will into a permanent resident in the Cortez. If two of the Countess's loves can survive, I'm going with Ramona and maybe Rudolph.

Husbands Meet: I was actually surprised that James didn't directly kill Will himself in order to scupper the Countess's big plans but then again, maybe he did indirectly by making sure he saw/reacted badly to her son at the most convenient of times. This episode explored March's devotion a little more to the Countess and also Miss Evers unrequited love for March too. March didn't do a lot in this episode but every scene he had was still fun to watch though.

Three's A Crowd: Ah, the Countess. When she wasn't lamenting about men ageing, making terrible choices and surrounding herself with sycophants and traitors, she was also plotting to make herself a widow, romped with Donovan and even wanted to take out Natacha in the trio with herself and Rudolph. I actually think the last few episodes could have all of her lovers (not Tristan) band together and ultimately take her down. Then again, with this show, it wouldn't be that simple.

In Other News: That vampire kids plot from a few episodes back resurfaced when Alex realised that her act of kindness has resulted in a lot of chaos. It's not the most exciting of storylines but I get the feeling it'll be quickly tidied up by next week though and at least Alex was trying to sort out her own mess here. Other stuff that happened included Iris giving a not so original commentary on porn (she killed the director/female performer while Donovan took the male one) while Sally and John were no shows this week and Liz made her growing hatred for the Countess pretty clear at every given opportunity.

Next week, we've got Natacha going after the Countess and Alex roping in John to resolve the vamp kids problem.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

First Look: Doctor Who Christmas 2015

Now with the finale having aired, Clara Oswald departing the TARDIS for her own one with Ashildr, Peter Capaldi will return for his second Christmas special as the 12th Doctor in an episode titled, The Husbands Of River Song. So, you know who's back then ....

The general synopsis reads as ....

"It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas carols and comedy antlers," reads the synopsis for the festive episode. "But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is?"

Compared to the darkness in the latter half of the ninth series, this sounds somewhat lighter by comparison.

Rounding off the cast for this year's special include Phillip Rhys as Ramone, Rowan Polonski as the alien Flemming as well as Robert Curtis as Scratch, Anthony Cozens as Concierge, Chris Lew Kum Hoi as Alphonse and Nicole Smartt as Receptionist. As for the 'husbands' in question, both trailers released for this special kind of spoiled that one but looking at the pictures, I think it's a safe bet to say that both Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston are going to make for a great brief partnership.

Trailers & Other Info:

Doctor Who's The Husbands Of River Song will air at 5.15pm on Christmas Day on BBC1 and 9pm on BBCAmerica. Cinema viewings will be on December 28th and 29th for US folk.