Friday, September 27, 2019

My Review of How To Get Away With Murder's 6x01: "Say Goodbye"

Written by Sarah L. Thompson
Directed by Stephen Cragg

Annalise (to Sally): "My name's Annalise Keating. People think I murdered my husband. I didn't but I helped cover it up."

When it was announced a few months ago that the sixth season was going to be it's last, it felt right. The show has been a fun, madcap ride since it's debut in 2014 but the time has come for the show to end and if this opening episode is anything to go by, this is going to be a messy last season.

Is it a shock that perhaps Annalise wouldn't survive this season? Maybe not in some ways, considering the messes she's been cleaning up and getting into since the beginning but the opening and last scenes certainly were a little bit surprising in a way.

This episode alone Michaela made a veiled threat to kill Annalise after it was revealed that the latter knew the former's birth father but I can't see Michaela being the one to actually kill Annalise. Assuming of course that Annalise actually dies and there isn't some twist along the way, undoubtedly. It can't be that simple really.

Annalise did spend a good portion of this episode in a fancy rehab, working on her demons after spiraling from the news of Emmett's death and Laurel's disappearance. The rehab scenes are done reasonably well enough with Annalise contending with a rather annoying roommate in Sally, though the latter did get a little more interesting when she confessed to hating her children. Other than that, I'm glad that she was a one off character, well at least I hope she was.

As for Annalise - rehab was a good way to get her to exorcise some demons and she even turned it around by getting Connor, Oliver, Asher and Michaela to effectively do the same thing and essentially forget about Laurel. I was hoping this episode would give us something on Laurel's whereabouts but it didn't and even Annalise herself seems to have given up on Laurel for the time being.

As for the rest of the episode - we got some sexy times with Connor and Oliver as well as Michaela and Gabriel, Asher doled out some decent love advice, Frank and Bonnie were trying to keep things together in Annalise's absence and Nate turned his attentions on to Tegan and the fact that Emmett's body was taken away to London and his results came back with no foul play. Nate versus Tegan might be interesting to watch for a while.

- It seems that Gabriel's mother is going to be another problem for Annalise to deal with as she's spying on her son.
- Aside from removing Emmett, there aren't any major regular cast additions this season.
- Laurel's voice was heard but she wasn't physically in the episode. I hope they don't drag her disappearance out for too long.
- Chronology: Not long since the events of the previous season finale.

Say Goodbye certainly seems like it's preparing us for the end but I can't help but shake the feeling that we've got an obvious twist awaiting us. I'm not convinced that Annalise is actually dead but I am intrigued enough to see what will lead to that funeral sequence though. I'm also hoping the Laurel bit isn't dragged out as well but other than that, a great start to the season.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Review of American Horror Story: 1984 - Mr Jingles

Written by Tim Minear
Directed by John J. Gray

Jonas: "Ghosts aren't real."
Margaret: "There are ghosts in the bible and you're here so they must be real."

Yeah, we're exploring ghosts again. It was obvious from the moment that Richard tried to bump off Jonas the hitchhiker that something was amiss and at least the episode didn't waste time explaining what.

Jonas being a spirit that cannot move on from his guilt over Mr Jingles camp slaughter does make me wonder if he's the only we're seeing this season. I don't think Margaret is a ghost but the episode certainly upped her darker side with her brazen dismissal of Hopple's warning about Jingles being on the loose as well as her questionable alliance with the Night Stalker to boot.

Is it wrong that the best moment from this entire episode was seeing Margaret and Richard - both God and Satan's overt advocates chatting like they were best mates as the former cleaned up the latter and sent on his way to kill Richter? Maybe but it doesn't stop that scene from being highlight of the whole episode as we got a little insight into Ramirez's past which Margaret had zero problem using to her advantage as well. Of course this is an alliance that will probably go south very fast by next week.

Keeping with the revealing stuff, I was a little surprised that Brooke's backstory included a wedding that turned into a bloodbath, courtesy of a psychotic would be groom. Still though, it was an amusing flashback not too dissimilar to something we saw during Scream Queens second season and it's nice that while Brooke might be testing everyone else's patience with her crying about killers that Montana seems to be mostly on her side.

Then there was Xavier. I didn't make a note of the threatening phone call from last week but here it was quickly resolved as it turned out that he has a history in gay porn, despite being straight and the only way to get Blake off his back was to get a replacement for the latter's movies. Of course Mr Jingles somewhat saw to Blake but in a surprising move, Xavier seems to be rather regretful when he discovered that Blake had been murdered.

As for the rest of the episode when the Night Stalker wasn't trying to finish Brooke and getting irritated with Jonas not dying, you had Jingles dispensing of some bodies with two groups in two different cabins, looking for keys and awaiting a rather sinister presence knocking on the doors. Aside from Rita nearly getting killed, I don't think any of the regulars (or even Ray) are likely to die this early in the season just yet.

- Chet admitted to taking steroids and despite the press releases, it seems like the show might be honing in on Brooke being pairing with Ray instead. Montana clearly fancies Brooke though.
- Amazing it took just two episodes to slip in a Ghostbusters reference, courtesy of Margaret mentioning Dan Akroyd.
- Standout music: Nice Day For A White Wedding, anyone?
- Chronology: From where the premiere episode left off as well as a flashback to Brooke's wedding in 1983.

Mr Jingles didn't really explore much with the title character but he certainly added to his body count while the Night Stalker and Margaret provided the best scene of the whole episode. I liked the character bits we got here and certainly didn't mind the episode being largely set at night. Overall, a little better than the opening episode.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

My Review of The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012)

Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by Jay Oliva

Batman ( to Mutant Leader): "You don't get it, son. This isn't a mud hole. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon."

Split into two movies, this is another one of those animated adaptations of one of the more vital Batman comics out there as we move into a world where Batman (Peter Weller) and Commissioner Gordon (David Selby) find themselves not being able to embrace the idea of retirement while Gotham finds itself at the mercy of the Mutants and their not so bright Leader (Gary Anthony Williams) as the latter plans to destroy the city.

To be honest, I don't greatly care for the Mutants stuff, having watched it on Gotham's fifth season and that one episode of The New Batman Adventures (which lifted a particular scene as well) but it's diverting enough stuff as an not so retired Batman battles with them, initially loses but at the same gains a new Robin (Ariel Winter) in Carrie Kelley and also his own group of vigilantes not so imaginatively named Sons of Batman for good measure.

The Mutant Leader does make some kind of a threat by killing off the Mayor as well as causing some initial injury to Batman before their muddy final battle but even in this one, the Mutants are characters that somewhat play a smaller fiddle to the other baddies we're more familiar with.

First of all, there's Harvey Dent (Wade Williams) - he's seemingly free of his Two Face persona with a surgery that has him fixed cosmetically but mentally he spirals in a big way, unable to rehabilitate himself and it's pretty tragic to watch play out as Batman realises that his former friend is too far gone for redemption.

Then there's the Joker (Michael Emerson). He's not in many scenes in the movie, but he's locked away at Arkham in a catatonic state before the resurgence of Batman in the public eye managed to trigger him back to life. Keeping him in a smaller role was probably a good thing, considering how big his part in the second movie will be.

As for the main focuses - both Batman and Jim have some interesting moments as they talked about retirement but neither able to commit. Alfred (Michael Jackson) mostly kept in a role of trying to get Bruce to be sensible while Carrie made a decent impression as the new Robin, earning her stripes throughout the movie.

- Not surprisingly, Bruce is estranged from Dick and he was rather clinical about Jason's death as well in this movie.
- Gordon's replacement was Ellen Yindel, who seemed to be more critical of vigilantes. Lana Lang popped up as a support for Batman's actions while Dr Wolper was the opposite.
- Some nice visual nods to the likes of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Swamp Thing.
- This movie came out around the same time as The Dark Knight Rises while the second part of this movie was released a year later.

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is a decent set up for what should be a better second half, even if the Mutants weren't that interesting as baddies. In another universe we would've gotten a live action version of this comics, despite many elements that would pop up in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My Review of Titans 2x03: "Ghosts"

Written by Tom Pabst
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen

Donna: "You know I love you and I want you to be happy but there's ghosts in this place. They should know that."
Dick: "They know enough."
Donna: "You wanna teach them to be better than us? Tell them what happened."

I think by the next few episodes, Dick isn't going to have to tell the new gang about the old gang's former screw ups because the end of this episode certainly implied that they'll get a first hand demonstration thanks to Deathstroke stepping out of retirement.

It wasn't too much of a surprise this week that Doctor Light and Deathstroke were actually working together and it's almost a good thing too as the former is not the most compelling of baddies here. While he initially outsmarted the original Titans halfway through this episode, he allowed himself to be outsmarted a lot by Jason until Slade appeared at the end to even the baddie score.

Then there's Jason. He's been a loose cannon since his introduction and this week he lost his patience with Rachel (though in his defense, she did nearly kill him) and even butted heads with Jason before getting Gar to help him locate Doctor Light. There's been a theory looming around for a while that Jason's Red Hood arc might be at the hands of Deathstroke instead of you know who and after this episode, I wouldn't be at all surprised if that's the direction the show decides to go.

As for Rachel, it's nice that she can talk about her dark side and here she was able to give Kory a bit of a rundown about it while bonding with Rose over bad fathers. The scenes with the female characters, including a brief one Kory had with Donna have been fantastic this season, though Dawn hasn't interacted too much with Rachel and Donna and we do need Kory back in the mix.

Speaking of Kory, her captor turned out to be former lover and bodyguard Faddei and their scenes were decent enough. We got a bit of an insight into Kory's relationship with her family, notably her sister Blackfire, who we'll be seeing later in the season before she managed to give Faddei the slip and not a moment too soon as well.

As for the boys - well, Hank went from being annoyed with being drawn back into the Titans circle to actually bonding a little more with Dick. He's still not a fan of Jason, which is amusing but at least Jason does seem to have a friend with Gar though. Like Dawn, I find that Gar has been a little underused so far this season but hopefully that will change soon.

- Good training session with Dick and Rose in this episode. Hell, her swordplay gave Dick some neat batons but he's being a little too willing to trust her.
- It seems that Rose's brother, Jericho (Chella Man) is dead and there's an implication that Aqualad (Drew Van Acker) is dead too. We're seeing both characters in the next episode.
- Jason was the only one to get into costume this episode. The show does need to start having the characters suit up more.
- Chronology: From where Rose essentially left off.

Ghosts wasn't my favourite episode but it's another strong contender and with so many character moments, it's fantastic to see how much the show has greatly improved. For a villain who hasn't essentially done a lot in the current time, the show is really selling Deathstroke as an effective threat to the gang, both old and new.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Review of American Horror Story: 1984 - Camp Redwood

Written by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Directed by Bradley Buecker

Mechanic (to Brooke and company): "Turn around, go back to the city. They never should've opened that place again."

Ah yes, the cryptic warning from a random stranger that our protagonists naturally chose to ignore for reasons or whatever. After four seasons of present day and near future mayhem, it was time for the show to go back to the past and given the title of this season, I don't need to tell you which era, huh.

Taking in and shamelessly ripping off the likes of Halloween, Friday The 13th and I Know What You Did Last Summer (90's but who's really counting), this opening episode sees naive Brooke Thompson (Emma Roberts) survive an attack by Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa) before joining new friends Montana Duke (Billie Lourd), Xavier Plympton (Cody Fern), Chet Clancy (Gus Kenworthy) and Ray Powell (DeRon Horton) into becoming counselors at Camp Redwood.

The main action of this season will be a summer camp, an idea that previously was going to be used as the backdrop for Scream Queens second season before the idea was scrapped for it's hospital setting instead. Whether or not the camp and the overall slasher idea can be maintained for the remaining nine episodes of the season remains to be seen but so far, it's off to an interesting enough start.

It's a little bit of a relief to see Emma Roberts not play a bitch for once though I'm not sure if Brooke's naivety won't grate as the series goes along. As for the rest of the younger group and this is a very youth oriented season, I found them rather polarising to be honest. Montana has a bit of spark about her and I didn't mind Ray but both Xavier and Chet somewhat grated in parts of the episode, even if the latter was given a bit of an interesting backstory, tying into Kenworthy's real life profession. His acting wasn't as bad as expected but he's still the weakest of the younger cast though.

As for the older cast - former Pose actress Angelica Ross stood out the most for me as Nurse Rita Chambers and she's a character that I'm hoping doesn't turn out to be evil or die during this season. I did like the backstories given to main villain Benjamin Richter/Mr Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) and surviving victim Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) as the latter reopened the camp and Jingles found himself escaping a mental hospital to finish his previous work as Brooke found herself reunited with the Night Stalker by the end of this one.

Last but not least, there was also former Glee actor, Matthew Morrison being cast as the horndog activities director, Trevor Kirchner. He got a memorable hook up scene with Montana but like Chet, I found him to be one of the weaker characters of the episode. I did like Chef Bertie (Tara Karsian) as well as doctors Art (Mitch Pileggi) and Hopple (Orla Brady) who reminded me of certain characters from a movie I mentioned earlier in this review.

- The title sequence is already one of my favourites and I loved how they really embraced the 80's aesthetic for it.
- Brooke is clearly named after A Nightmare On Elm Street protagonist Nancy Thompson and the aerobics scene with the gang was a shout out to Perfect, though that was released in 1985.
- Standout music: For me, the use of Bananarama's Cruel Summer stood out the most but this season is going to have the best soundtrack.
- Chronology: Summer of 1984. Mr Jingles original attack on the camp took place in the summer of 1970.

Camp Redwood isn't the strongest opening episode we've had for the series but it's a good one to kick off this slasher themed series and I can't help but get the impression that we're going to get a Roanoke style mid-season twist. The absence of certain cast members is noticeable but not to the point that it took me out of enjoying the episode. The potential for this to be one of the best season is definitely there.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Review of Titans 2x02: "Rose"

Written by Richard Hatem
Directed by Nathan Hope

Rachel (re Rose): "Face it, Dick. You can’t resist a bird with a broken wing."
Dick: "I wouldn’t say I can’t."
Rachel: "C'mon, you helped me, you helped Gar."
Dick: "I didn't help Jason."
Rachel: "Can anyone help Jason?"

Well, no, not really as Jason is kind of a law unto himself but at the very least this season so far has slightly tempered down his more annoying qualities as he spent most of this episode either training Gar, being encouraged by Dick to be his better self or quickly figuring out that soon to be new recruit Rose (Chelsea Zhang) is actually Slade Wilson's daughter.

I like that this episode didn't waste time with that reveal and it made for a satisfying end scene around the same time that Dick had actually managed to talk Rose around into joining the Titans at the same time that Doctor Light (Michael Mosley) attacked the pair of them. Yeah, needless to say this episode wasn't sluggish at all in things going on.

Rose is one of a few new characters we've yet to meet and like her father in the previous episode, she made an interesting enough impression. I don't know for certain if Rose is being sent in as a Trojan horse for her father's revenge plan or if she is genuinely in need of getting away from her father or someone more dangerous, but either way, the character is off to an interesting start.

Also interesting is the Titans 2.0 or Next Generation set up here. It's not surprising that Dick's methods for training Rachel, Gar and Jason would be met with some commentary from his new recruits but I did like Jason and Gar's training scene and the fact that Dick treats Rachel like an equal during their coffee run as well. With Rose in the mix and former members slowly coming back int the fold, this dynamic is going to be fun to watch over the course of the season.

The old members in particular haven't been shy about wanting to return to the Tower. Maybe not Hank as he genuinely seemed to have found a niche in helping kids stay off drugs but Dawn certainly had no problem suiting up in order to take down some meth dealers and the more said on the buddy cop team up with Kory and Donna, the better.

Seriously, Kory and Donna are an excellent pairing as the two of them spent of this episode trying to track down Shimmer and while it took a while for it to happen, the end result was satisfying. I have no doubt that Donna will be seeing Shimmer again while the episode also saw someone from Kory's home world snatch her in the middle of the street. Hopefully this will be also quickly solved as well as Doctor Light is posing a problem for both generations of Titans at the moment.

- Roy Harper got a nice mention in this episode, courtesy of Donna. With Arrow ending this season, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in Season 3 of this show.
- Bruce Wayne made another appearance in this episode when Dick needed advice about Rose. Still not sure on Iain Glen but he does play off well enough with Brenton Thwaites.
- We were in San Francisco, Chicago, Wyoming and Gotham City this week, location wise.
- Chronology: Three months since the events of Trigon.

Two episodes in and there's a noticeable change for the better with this show. The writing is so much stronger, the characterisation, especially for characters like Jason and Hank has improved for the best, the pairing of Kory/Donna is a great choice and Rose did a great job of introducing the title character and in some ways felt a little more like an opening episode than last week's effort.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My Review of Titans 2x01: "Trigon"

Written by Akiva Goldsman & Geoff Johns & Greg Walker
Directed by Carol Banker

Jason (on the news): "Titans are back, bitches!"

Well, after a first season of meeting these characters, having them come together for the Trigon storyline, I think it was a bit overdue that we'd actually get the team and get them properly but before all of that, we had an ongoing problem of demonic proportions to deal with.

After his far too late introduction at the end of the first season, Trigon (Seamus Dever) had to be dealt with rather abruptly but before Rachel got to send him back to the same dimension she pulled him out of, Trigon did his best to possess the rest of the main characters and even came close to having poor Gar killed off for good.

The possession scenes were pretty good in this episode. We got to see both Dick and Jason duke it out in a rather impressive fight sequence while Kory came close to killing Rachel as Donna confronted a childhood tragedy and Hank and Dawn lost themselves in hedonism. Gar was the only one not influenced by Trigon and therefore was the very one to pull Rachel out of the darkness after her heart broke and daddy darkest gave her some cool new powers to boot.

It was great to see Rachel be the one to save Dick, send her father away and break the spell that everyone else was under but there's no denying that the first half of this episode was a slightly rushed wrap up to the first season and Trigon storyline altogether. I'd complain about that, but seeing as we've got better stuff on the horizon, I'm not going to.

The better stuff being the arrival of Deathstroke (Esai Morales), who thanks to Jason's big mouth on live television has now come out of retirement and it's pretty obvious that he's got the Titans in sight for his next big mission. The version of Deathstroke hasn't done anything yet and already he seems like he's going to a great antagonist for Dick and company to contend with this season.

Speaking of contending, with Deathstroke looming about, the Titans have essentially reformed with Dick taking Rachel, Gar and Jason under his wing in a familiar location while Donna, Kory, Hank and Dawn have gone off to do their own thing for a while but they'll be back sooner than later as will a few other new faces not introduced into this one.

One face we did see in this episode, albeit briefly was Bruce Wayne. Iain Glen is without a doubt a good actor and probably the most left field casting for Bruce since, well, ever and while I did like that Bruce and Dick cleared up some past issues, I'm not sure I buy Glen as Bruce at all. At times his accent slipped a little and I don't believe that he would intimidate anyone as the Caped Crusader. Maybe other appearances will change my mind but for now, I'm not really feeling him in the role.

- The title sequence is still the same and there was a tribute to Warren Appleby (1974-2019) at the end of this episode.
- DCUniverse really need to start properly promoting their shows better than they are as there's still no promos for the next episode.
- Next week's episode will debut Rose Wilson/Ravager with Superboy, Krypto and Jericho coming soon after that.
- Chronology: From where Dick Grayson left off.

Trigon is somewhat rushed conclusion to the previous season and more of a prologue to this season than an actual premiere, but episode wise, it's hard not to see the clear improvement the show has had since it's rocky debut last year. The characters are definitely stronger, the team has come together, we got glimpses of the past and we have a great new villain. It might have taken longer than the writers hoped but the show seems to have found it's groove.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

My Review of Superman/Shazam!: The Return Of Black Adam (2010)

Written by Michael Jelenic
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos

Superman: "So you're what this is all about."
Shazam (re Black Adam): "I'm his replacement."
Superman: "Then let's replace him."

First of all, I was a little surprised by how short this movie was. I assumed like most DC Animated features, it was around 70-80 minute mark but coming in at 25 minutes, this little feature had a lot of ground to cover and managed to do it rather neatly.

We meet young Billy Batson (Zach Callison) living on his own, feeding rats, being nice to neighbours and getting his ass kicked when trying to defend a homeless man (Kevin Michael Richardson) from a group of punks and that's all before meeting Clark Kent (George Newborn) for breakfast as the latter is writing a piece to help Billy out of his dire situation.

As Billy mused over how being good hasn't particularly paid off for him, Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo) arrives on the scene, knowing that Billy has been earmarked by the Wizard to be his successor and naturally Black Adam isn't happy with that prospect, so he tries to kill Billy while also dealing with Superman for good measure as well.

Of course given the length of this movie, it's a little surprising that we have to wait until the last ten minutes before Billy encounters the Wizard and becomes Shazam (or Captain Marvel) but when it happens, it's a rather glorious moment as Shazam proves himself as a hero even though it takes Superman to make sure that he doesn't stoop to the same levels as Black Adam.

Black Adam's defeat is also done rather as well as he succumbs to old age rather than allowing Mister Tawky Tawny (the homeless man in disguise acting as Billy's guardian angel) banish him for another couple of thousand years. The movie then ends with a nice moment where Billy also got to get his own back on the bullies that beat him up to begin with.

- I noticed two of the Seven Deadly Sins, Gluttony and Lust are replaced with Selfishness and Injustice.
- It seems like Billy doesn't even have Mary or Freddy in this universe as neither of them were mentioned at all. We do know that his parents are currently dead.
- The title of this movie is a homage to Superman and Shazam's first crossover series.
- Chronology: I'll assume it was 2010 given when the film was released.

Superman/Shazam!: The Return Of Black Adam is a solid romp with the title characters getting a fun meeting and Black Adam being utilised pretty well. Now, I do wish it had been a bit longer and that we had met some of Billy's foster family but other than that, this was a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 7 out of 10