Thursday, August 11, 2022

My Review of American Horror Stories 2x04: "Milkmaids"

 


Written by Our Lady J
Directed by Alonso Alvarez

Pastor Walter (to Thomas): "Never trust a milkmaid."

Er, actually if this episode was anything to go by, it's more a murderous child that you shouldn't be trusting. The milkmaids in question were actually trying to do some good for their smallpox infected village. Too bad no one actually bothered to listen to them.

Yes, the milkmaids included a current prostitute named Celeste (Julia Schlaepfer) who had sex with the absolutely abhorrent Pastor Walter (Seth Gabel) who spurned her once he had seen her sores and pusses while at the same time also being talked into another cure for smallpox by grief stricken father, Thomas Brown (Cody Fern).

The cures for smallpox in this episode were either puss by Celeste or eating smallpox victims hearts. Neither was a particularly appealing prospect but in terms of characters, this was an episode where the male characters were anything but sympathetic. Walter aside, both Thomas and his psychopath son, Edward (Ian Sharkey) also had their terrible moments.

As the episode unfolded we learned that Thomas was married to Celeste and took Edward away from her and when Celeste reunited with the latter, she ended up dead as a result. Not to mention that Thomas was willing to kill Celeste when he realised that she was involved with fellow milkmaid and woman of science, Delilah (Addison Timlin).

The romance with Celeste and Delilah was the better part of the episode. Some great chemistry with the two of them as we saw a newish take on the faith vs. science debate regarding the smallpox plotline. Too bad that the relationship ended on a deadly note.

As for the smallpox plot, it was done decently and hopefully by doing it here, it'll likely stop the main series from doing something more current. However given some of the rumours circling the upcoming season, this might not be the only time we see this sort of theme in this franchise.

- This episode was meant to be the seventh one this season but got moved up. I'm still not sure why episde have been shuffled this year.
- This episode was written by Pose scribe Our Lady J while Julia Schlaepfer played Alice in The Politician.
- For some reason, this episode wasn't online this morning but at least it got released a few hours later.
- Chronology: 1757 New England.

Milkmaids definitely had some really gory moments that made me glad that I wasn't eating anything at the time. Gory stuff aside, its definitely the strongest one since the opening episode and this season has continued to show an improvement.

Rating: 8 out of 10

My Review of Harley Quinn's 3x05: "It's A Swamp Thing"

 


Written by Rachel Pegram
Directed by Vinton Heuck

Constantine (to Harley/Ivy/Nora): "I hear you're looking for a thing down in a swamp. Might I be of service?"

You really can't keep a certain Hellblazer down for too long, huh? With The Sandman having Jenna Coleman playing two versions of Constantine, it was also time for another animated appearance from Matt Ryan to enjoy.

Now his appearance here isn't the main feature of this episode. John's appearance was more of a means to get to Swamp Thing (Sam Richardson) as Harley, Ivy and a fairly intolerable Nora Fries met the bloke in a bar, got super drunk with him and then left him to nurse a hangover while they went to the swamp so a certain someone could help them find Frank.

Needless to say, it didn't pan out too well to begin with as Nora hooked up with Alec Holland and then dumped him when he appeared to be a bit clingy (something of a theme in this episode) and then we had both Ivy and Swamp Thing mulling over their past friendship before reaching a compromise. Naturally, Ivy's abilities to find Frank was inside her all along.

Speaking of Frank, yup, we learned that Bruce Wayne has him and wants to find out what Ivy has done to him. At least that mystery got quickly solved but I'm starting to dislike this show's portrayal of Bruce/Batman. Also as someone who genuinely does like the Bat/Cat romance, this show's depiction of it has got to be the worst version in any continuity I've ever seen.

Catwoman has been portrayed as such an unlikable character that when this episode actually had Bruce and Selina break up during a therapy session with Music Meister (Larry Owens), it was something of a relief. I'd be fine if the character didn't reappear for the rest of the season. 

- While John didn't interact with King Shark (boo), he was later seen wearing a blue t-shirt about taking a shark. I hope we see Constantine again in the show.
- I'm not sure why Bruce thought gifting Selina two cats named after his dead parents was such a smart idea.
- The show seems to be struggling with both Clayface and King Shark at the moment.
- Chronology: From where the last one left off.

It's A Swamp Thing does get points for it's title guest character, one of my favourite characters briefly appearing but it also loses points for the Bat/Cat stuff and far too much of Nora Fries than needed for this one.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Review of The Sandman's 1x03: "Dream A Little Dream Of Me"

 

Written by Jim Campolongo
Directed by Jamie Childs

Johanna Constantine (to the demon): "Run along and fuck off back to hell."
Morpheus: "You have no idea what you have done."
Johanna Constantine: "I do though. I have just tripled my fee."

You wait a while for more Constantine content and you get enough all at once. With Matt Ryan set to appear in the Harley Quinn series and the HBO Max show apparently still going ahead (I'll believe it when it actually gets released), a right issues meant that John Constantine was off-limits for this show. However his ancestor, Johanna Constantine was up for grabs and a gender swapped version of John has also turned out to be fair game too.

Let's make no mistake, the Johanna Constantine we saw in this episode was in fact a female version of John Constantine, complete with a variation of his backstory and some of his ex-lovers to boot, as well as his most tragic mistake and encounter with the Sandman. That's fine, because throughout the episode it actually worked better than I expected.

Now I'm not gonna deny that a part of me would've loved to see Matt Ryan reprise his role on this show or even had Taron Egerton (who voiced John in the Audible version) on here but credit to Jenna Coleman, I think she did a fantastic job of nailing the core mechanics of the character. I can even see why some are now lobbying for a spin-off for the character, though I wouldn't expect it to happen.

In this episode, we saw Johanna getting a call from her mate, Erica (Meera Syal) or Ric the Vic about a clandestine wedding between a royal family member and a fit but shit footballer. Needless to say one of the pair happened to be housing the demon, one that Morpheus wanted to talk to before Johanna sent it on it's merry way to hell. While Morpheus might not have been pleased about Johanna's actions, he did manage to however persuade her to help him retrieve his sand.

The sand in question being left with Johanna's ex-girlfriend Rachel and because it's Constantine, you can easily tell that things were going to go to hell for Rachel due to her exposure of the sand. At least Morpheus gave Rachel a peaceful death and Constantine herself seemed to renew a little faith in humanity in Morpheus. The latter then ended the episode by taking his new raven, Matthew (Patton Oswalt) to hell in order to get information on his missing helm.

As for Ethel and John Dee, their story took another interesting turn. Ethel spent most of the episode resolute that her murderous son should remain a prisoner, only to sacrifice her life, give him her protection amulet as he escaped his prison after learning the truth about his father. Not so coincidentally, John Dee also had a chance encounter with the Corinthian, who was encouraging of Dee making his destination.

- In this episode alone we saw Johanna lose Astra (but not her arm) to the Newcastle incident, had a Mucous Membrane poster and even the proper way to pronounce Constantine as well. Also mentions of exes such as Sarah, Oliver and Kit Ryan along with Chas and Renee.
- Ethel talked about living for 116 years before she passed on her amulet to John. The latter also mentioned that the ruby only works for him now.
- Mad Hettie (Clare Higgins) appeared in this episode, mostly to warn Johanna of Morpheus looking for her. She's 280 years old. 
- Chronology: The episode went between London, UK and Buffalo, New York.

Dream A Little Dream Of Me made for an extremely satisfying use of Johanna Constantine and her scenes with everyone was truly fun to watch. Yes, there's a part of that would've preferred John but the show managed to make Johanna just as well and even Morpheus had his softer moments too. One of the best episodes so far.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

My Review of The Sandman's 1x02: "Imperfect Hosts"

 

Written by Allan Heinberg
Directed by Jamie Childs

The Fates (to Morpheus): "You have asked your questions."

Picking up from where the ending of the first episode left off, this episode split two storylines with the inevitability of later converging on one another. Both Morpheus and his rogue creation, the Corinthian have their mission but only one of them made some actual progress this episode.

For the Corinthian might have managed to track down an older Ethel Cripps (Joely Richardson) in New York, his attempts of getting her to play by his rules didn't pan out as well as he had hoped. Ethel was prepared for the Corinthian and while she might have gotten rid of Dream's tools, she was smart enough to find a way to send the Corinthian back to the Dreaming itself. Just in time as he was to gouge her eyes out.

However the Corinthian didn't stick around in the Dreaming and nor did he take kindly to Lucienne's attempts to get him to do as he was told. He's determined to get rid of Morpheus once and for all and heels going to get the tools in order to do. Meanwhile Ethel still seems to have retained the ruby, something which has also driven her son, John Dee (David Thewlis) to insanity given that she's had to keep him prisoner. 

As for Morpheus, he took a journey himself here to make a deal in order to get some answers. This involved visiting infamous brothers, Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry) in order to destroy their pet gargoyle, Gregory. Morpheus did give them a replacement one later named Goldie/Irving but it didn't stop Cain from taking his frustration out of his more passive brother, thus living up to his murderous reputation.

However Gregory's sacrifice did manage to get Morpheus an audience with the three Fates -  Mother (Nina Wadia), Maiden (Dinita Gohil) and Crone (Sound Faress) and they were a rather cryptic bunch. The only proper lead they provided to Morpheus was that Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman) had his sand pouch while not being specific enough on the current whereabouts of his helm and ruby.

With the next episode leading into the introduction of Johanna Constantine, Morpheus mentioned to Lucienne of having history with another Johanna Constantine in the past. It seemed to be a positive relationship but will this one? We all know that Constantine can be a slippery character from time to time. Morpheus would do well not to underestimate her.

- While Ethel does look older, she has to be using some kind of enchantment to slowly her aging. At this point, both her and John Dee should be dead.
- Lucienne insisted on Morpheus adopting a new raven, which he didn't want to do. Of course, thanks to spoilers we know he's going to change his mind.
- While the ruby was mentioned to be in the Cripps possession, a demon in hell has the helm.
- Chronology: From where the previous episode left off, mostly in the Dreaming and New York as well as London for the Constantine cameo.

Imperfect Hosts might have a considerably shorter runtime but it definitely didn't waste time either. Morpheus's scenes with the Fates were creepy but moved the storyline along and while the Corinthian was mostly outsmarted this episode, he's still determined to beat his creator.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, August 08, 2022

My Review of The Sandman's 1x01: "Sleep Of The Just"

 


Written by Neil Gaiman And David S. Goyer And Allan Heinberg
Directed by Mike Barber

Morpheus (to Lucienne): "I will not have dreams and nightmares preying on the waking world. I will bring them all back. I made this realm once, Lucienne. I will make it again."

And here we have the comic that seemed to be the hardest to film. This series has been routed about for years but finally Neil Gaiman with the combined help of both Davis S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg have managed to bring this series to life and this opening episode kicked things off on a glorious note.

Lord Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), also known as Dream or the Sandman. He's one of the Endless, the controller of both dreams and nightmares and ruler of the Dreaming. He's also in the hunt for a rogue nightmare named the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) who has taken to terrorizing the waking world. Unfortunately for Morpheus, someone interrupted his mission in a big way.

The someone in question being an occultist named Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) who was trying to capture Death in order to bring his favourite son, Randall back to life. However his least favourite son, Alex (Laurie Kynaston) eventually became tired of his father's abusive behaviour and wound up killing him while also continuing to make his father's mistake and not releasing Morpheus back into the world.

It's a mistake that cost the world with many falling into a deep sleepy sickness and many others unable to sleep as a consequence of Dream's entrapment. Also, Alex really messed up by killing Morpheus's raven, something which the latter took into account big time when deciding on an appropriate punishment for Alex before his reunion with loyal librarian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong).

The last moments of this opening episode saw Dream facing a few harsh reality checks. Notably that many of his subjects had abandoned him (except Lucienne) while his Realm was slowly crumbling around him. With his vital trinkets removed from him by Burgess and later the latter's mistress, Ethel Cripps (Niamh Walsh), Dream certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to regain his former glory.

As for the Corinthian, he's aware that Dream has been released and while he was responsible for helping Burgess keeping his creator imprisoned for over a century, he's not that bothered by Morpheus on the loose. Instead he's too busy gouging out eyes of innocent men and talking about making the world in his image. Classic villain stuff basically but he does make for a suitably creepy baddie, especially when it's revealed he has teeth for eyes.

- There's a nice title sequence for the series but it's placed at the closing credits with only Dream, Corinthian, Lucienne and Matthew the Raven (Patton Oswalt) confirmed as regulars.
- A season trailer gave further looks into characters such as Johanna Constantine, Death, Desire, Despair, John Dee, Merv the Pumpkinhead to name a few.
- Tom Sturridge spent a lot of this episode naked and trapped in a glass cage before Morpheus's big escape.
- Chronology: Mostly 1916 and 1926 Wych Cross, England with a look into both London and Berlin not to mention 2022 towards the last few minutes of the episode.

Sleep Of The Just kicked off this dreamy series on something of a modest note. You get the rundown of who and what this world was all about with some strong performances from both less and guest characters here. It's safe to say that Netflix could be on to a winner here.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Friday, August 05, 2022

My Review of Harley Quinn's 3x04: "A Thief, A Mole, An Orgy"

 


Written by Tom Hyndman
Directed by Juan Meza-Leon

Court of Owls Leader: "Let the grand Owl orgy begin."

A few weeks ago, The Boys gave us Herogasm. This show decided to go a bit Eyes Wide Shut as the Court of Owls made their debut with this episode. Needless to say, it was something that generated a myriad of reactions from a few characters here.

For Harley and Ivy, there was a sense of horror as they realised exactly what the Court of Owls go up to on a Wednesday evening but at the same time, the two of them had concerns at hand. One was to find the missing Frank, which they failed to do and two was of course some relationship conflict with secrets and lies spilling out with the pair. 

Ivy's determined to terraform Gotham but Harley'a driving her to distraction so Ivy lied about Catwoman imposing stricter house rules while Harley smashed up security cameras. Of course these things get revealed, along with the revelation of Ivy and Catwoman being a former thing. The ladies fight and then make up with one another. Then realise that Frank's still missing and identifying a mole will be the key to getting him back.

Then there's Jim Gordon. He's still annoying in his pursuit of becoming the mayor, while ignoring Barbara's sensible advice in favour of Two-Face's more unethical methods. By the end of the episode, the bumbling idiot did however manage to get blackmail material in order to bankroll his campaign.

As for Catwoman, yup she's letting Harley, Ivy and everyone else stay at her place but she took too much delight in watching Harley and Ivy fall out while Bruce barely tolerated Gordon's presence. However both of them did leave before the orgy stuff actually went ahead.

- Sy Borgman was back this episode, hooked into the wifi system of Catwoman's place while Clayface and King Shark were members of Harley's band.
- Joker and Bane being members of the Court of Owls wasn't too shocking. Someone give Bane his pasta maker though.
- Probably the worst thing we saw at the orgy was Mrs Clause spanking some guy who Gordon had briefly talked to in the bathroom.
- Chronology: Not long from where the previous episode left off.

A Thief, A Mole, An Orgy was a lot of fun with a very intriguing take on the shadowy organisation in this episode. There's a possible danger of the Harley/Ivy fight and make up dynamic getting a bit overused but this was still a great episode.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, August 04, 2022

My Review of American Horror Stories 2x03: "Drive"

 


Written by Manny Coto
Directed by Yangzom Brauen

Marci (to Paul): "I'm not doing this for the likes. I'm doing this as a public service. I am ridding the world of entitled assholes who think they're all that."

Okay, so the premise for this episode seems to be the combination of Urban Legend meets Promising Young Woman and boy, does this episode get it twisted in a way. I don't know what's going on with Manny Coto but he seems to have gotten his mojo back this season.

Anyways the episode focused on a young married bisexual woman named Marci (Bella Thorne) who has an open marriage, much to the clear frustration of her caring husband Chaz (Anthony De La Torre) and judgemental friend, Piper (Billie Bodega). Not that Marci's too bothered as she's having some fun times in her car with various men and women.

However the other reason why Marci's behaviour became a cause of concern for her loved ones was down to the fact that a serial killer was on the loose and people have gone missing. The episode allowed you to believe that Marci was going to become a victim of this mystery killer. It even went as far as to give a false impression as to who the killer might be as well.

This was where Paul (Nico Greetham) factored into things. Even though I knew there was a likely misdirect, even I entertained the idea of him being a killer and Marci going all vigilante to stop him. However this episode had a much different idea and one that actually worked so much better too in my opinion.

Revealing Marci as a serial killer and Paul as the good Samaritan who unwittingly signed his own death warrant by trying to save her was quite the surprise. Needless to say Marci gave Paul the lowdown on her method and the type of people she's been targeting before the poor guy suffered a pretty horrible off screen death in which Chaz disposed of his body.

Speaking of Chaz, he was about to leave Marci because he felt excluded only for her to turn around and give him a more active role in her work. I guess the couple who slay together also stay together. As for Piper, yup, it didn't end well for her either.

- Wyatt (Austin Woods) was also another of Marci's victims. The actor popped up last season on the parent series as a hustler.
- Marci told Paul that she had killed six people before she killed him. 
- The title sequence for this episode had a bit of a BDSM theme going on for it. Paul and Piper were bound and ball gagged before being killed off here.
- Chronology: I'm assuming 2022 in LA.

Drive was a pretty satisfying episode with a surprisingly solid performance from Bella Thorne as the morally grey serial killer. Even the slightly shorter run time managed to work in the episode's favour and it does seem like this season has gotten it's groove.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, August 01, 2022

My Review of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

 


Written by Lukas Heller
Directed by Robert Aldrich

Jane (to Blanche): "Then you mean, all this time, we could have been friends?"

Ah, yes, the film that somewhat launched a sub genre with hagsploitation and revived the careers of two legendary Hollywood icons while at the same time generating its own iconography along with the leads being anything but friends during and after it's turbulent production. 

Based on the Henry Farrell novel of the same, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? opened in 1917 with vaudeville star Baby Jane Hudson (Julie Allred) going from entertaining a happy crowd with her cutesy rendition to her father to being an almighty brat backstage while her sister, Blanche (Gina Gillespie) looked on, determined to be a bigger success than her bratty sister.

Cut to several decades later and the roles between sisters certainly reversed. Blanche became something of a credible actor with hit movies while Jane immensely struggled. A car crash involving the sisters would then reverse their outcomes once again as the two became more dependent on the other to a very toxic degree.

The wheelchair bound Blanche (Joan Crawford) now found herself as the mercy of an increasingly unstable Jane (Bette Davis) and the latter spent the majority of the movie both physically and psychologically tormenting her more successful sister to such a shamelessly dark and rather camp degree. It also didn't help Blanche that every time she tried to find a way to thwart Jane that the latter would strike back to such a venomous degree.

You, if there was ever a movie that really amplified dangerous sibling rivalry, it's definitely this one. Jane's mistreatment of Blanche certainly crossed so many lines (including the murder of Blanche's only ally, house maid Elvira), it's almost a miracle that she didn't straight up kill Blanche while she was at it. Needless to say that Bette Davis owned the role.

It's truly a powerhouse performance that Bette Davis gave here, making Jane Hudson into one hell of a dangerous, scary, almost tragic and childlike villain of the piece. Jane's actions are horrifying to watch but they're absolutely compelling between the love/hate relationship she had with Blanche, not to mention her sanity chipping away. The final scene alone at the beach with both sisters felt bittersweet and tragic.

As for Joan Crawford, it's a less showy performance but it's also one of her best performances nonetheless. Although Blanche was seen as the more rational and outwardly sympathetic of the sisters but like Jane, she too had an underlying darkness within, especially when she confessed to wanting kill Jane at the start of the movie. In another life, maybe the two of them would've been friend.

- Victor Buono has a nice role in the movie as an accompanist while Davis's daughter, BD also briefly appeared as a neighbour's daughter who disliked Jane.
- Davis and Crawford would reunite with the director of this movie for a similarly themed film called Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, though Crawford would be replaced during production.
- The movie would get remade in the 1990's for television and with some significant changes made to the source material.
- Chronology: 1917, 1935 and with the majority of the movie taking place in 1962. The movie was released in theatres on Halloween of that year.

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? has undeniably earned it's place in cinema history and it's certainly aged well as a movie too. Both Davis and Crawford give it their all and play off one another beautifully. They're so compelling to watch here.

Rating: 9 out of 10