Showing posts with label Full Stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Full Stars. Show all posts

Thursday, 19 June 2014

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 5.16 & 5.17 - 'The Body' & 'Forever'

BUFFY: She's cold.
OPERATOR: The body's cold?
BUFFY: No, my mom. Sh-should I make her warm?

A diamond in the fifth season's rough, THE BODY was nevertheless frustrating to me because it proves (like most other Joss Whedon episodes he writes and directs), that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is capable of much more than it usually provides its audience. I'm not saying the show needs more introspective and depressing episodes like this, but it would be nice to see the maturity and artistry more often. And if that's what Angel is supposed to be providing, it needs to study every inch of "The Body".

Monday, 26 May 2014

HANNIBAL, 2.13 – 'Mizumono'

written by Steve Lightfoot & Bryan Fuller | directed by David Slade

The finale of Hannibal's second season is tough to review, because the ending's so utterly devastating and appears to herald a significantly different future than many fans envisaged. It may be easier, this week, to simply tackle how the writers have chosen to create a new beginning from an apparent ending. The "punctuation mark at the end of the sentence", as Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) himself mentions at one point. Needless to say, huge spoilers to follow if you're behind the NBC broadcast...

Monday, 21 April 2014

MSN TV: Channel 4's FARGO, 1.1 - 'The Crocodile's Dilemma'

Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the excellent TV adaptation of the 1996 film FARGO, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, which had its UK premiere on Channel 4 last night...
We're seeing a good deal of big-screen properties transfer to the small-screen lately: Hannibal, Bates Motel, From Dusk till Dawn, the upcoming Rosemary's Baby, etc. The thinking appears to be that audiences are so consumed by TV, studios need to cut through this digital din by pitching remakes of stories with which people are already familiar, or else lean on brand recognition. On hearing about a Fargo mini-series, the very idea felt pointless. Fortunately, screenwriter Noah Hawley (Bones) knew there was no improving on the Coen's original production so he wisely decided to tell another "true crime" story with fresh characters.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Over at MSN TV: I've reviewed the premiere of HBO's TRUE DETECTIVE, starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as two detectives on the trail of a serial killer in mid-'90s Louisiana, which debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic last night. (This is a rewrite of my original review, coloured by the fact I've now seen five episodes ahead.)
Anything new from HBO never fails to elicit high expectations and excitement, such is the case with True Detective. It also has the advantage of starring two Hollywood heavyweights in Harrelson and McConaughey, plus a short eight-hour commitment with the promise season two will tell a different story.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Letterboxd: ROBOCOP (1987) • RUSH (2013) • THE PURGE (2013)

★★★★★ (out of five)

I bore people with this story, but ROBOCOP is a formative movie for me because of the sequence where blue-eyed cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) has his body torn apart by gunfire from a group of howling, reprobate criminals, led by ringleader Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith).

It was a moment of cinema that introduced me to the brutalities of the art-form, and to this day I'm bewildered my parents let me watch this at the tender age of 8 or 9. It was a moment of bad parenting, it's fair to say, and one never repeated (I had to sneakily watch things like ALIENS, PREDATOR and HIGHLANDER on VCR in my bedroom), but nevertheless I'm grateful in the sense ROBOCOP became a significant viewing experience.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

INSIDE NO. 9, 1.2 – 'A Quiet Night In'

written by Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith | directed by David Kerr

It's fair to say the most popular episode of Psychoville (certainly the most inventive) was episode 4 of series 1, which appeared to be filmed in one long continuous take (although actually there was one surreptitious cut). It was a masterpiece of performance and choreography for both the actors and film crew, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's similar gimmick in his movie Rope. The response to that episode was so favourable that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have come up with another novelty half-hour for their new series Inside No9, as "A Quiet Night In" unfurled without (much) dialogue.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

MSN TV: BBC1's DOCTOR WHO - 'The Day of The Doctor'

Today over at MSN TV: I've reviewed one of the most eagerly-anticipated TV events of the year -- the DOCTOR WHO 50th anniversary 3D spectacular, "The Day of The Doctor". Matt Smith is united with his predecessor David Tennant, with John Hurt and Billie Piper along for the ride...
A television show celebrating a half-centenary is rare, but doubly so for a drama that began life as a Saturday night schedule filler in 1963. In fact, it's worth remembering Doctor Who is the first show to cross this particular milestone. Hype and expectations for this anniversary special were sky-high, but no matter what your opinion is of showrunner Steven Moffat, he has the imagination, capability, and beating fan-boy heart to ensure a rousing spectacle with zip, wit and humour. And despite criticism Moffat tends to favour plot gymnastics over heartfelt emotion, I was heartened to find The Day of The Doctor built on relatable issues of regret, loss, hope, heroism, teamwork, and redemption.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

BREAKING BAD, 5.14 – 'Ozymandias'

"My name is ASAC Schrader and you can go fuck yourself" – Hank Schrader
written by Moira Walley-Beckett | directed by Rian Johnson

The title refers to the Shelley poem of the the same name, about a proud king's crumbling legacy, so it was fitting that "Ozymandias" marked the moment Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) self-made empire came crashing down all around him; leaving death, disillusionment, and despair in its wake. After last week's thrilling climax, it was inevitable this hour would contain a devastating aftermath, but writer Moira Walley-Beckett really blew the whole show wide open, leaving a gaping wound bleeding everywhere. If you're still sympathetic towards Walt, you need your head examining.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

BREAKING BAD, 5.13 – 'To'hajiilee'

written by George Mastras | directed by Michelle MacLaren

I have a constant feeling of sickness in my stomach whenever I watch Breaking Bad now, and it's getting worse as we approach The End. This ache is something to be grateful for, because I'm so conflicted about what's happening to all the characters. Should I follow my head or heart when it comes to deciding whose side I'm on? Is there even a "side"? Obviously Walt (Bryan Cranston) is the villain of the piece, and yet I find it difficult to hate him because he's the lead character whose downward spiral we've witnessed. I understand Walt, even if his actions are sometimes hard to sympathise with. Jesse (Aaron Paul) is established as the flawed hero with a stronger moral compass, and yet seeing him take delight in helping bring Walt down leaves a bad taste in my mouth. He would likely be dead if it wasn't for the fact Walt's morals have always been malleable. Theirs is an acrimonious split worthy of Jesse James and Robert Ford, and I keep praying for a reconciliation of some kind. More fool me? Hank (Dean Norris) is the hero, but because the show's told the majority of its story from the perspective of "the villains", it's not always easy to find catharsis in moments when Hank Schrader outsmarts Walter White.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 4.10 – 'Hush' & ANGEL, 1.10 – 'Parting Gifts'

Little Girl: Can't even shout, can't even cry / The gentlemen are coming by / Looking in windows, knocking on doors / They need to take seven and they might take yours / Can't call to mom, can't say a word / You're gonna die screaming, but you won't be heard.

Joss Whedon's "HUSH" is so fantastic that it frustrated me Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't achieve anything close to this level of quality more often, while also making you realise the standard of its Rogue's Gallery is oddly limp—content to simply throw cannon fodder vampires Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) way for easy-staking, in-between the occasional demon with varying coloured make-up jobs.

The sublime villains of "Hush" (levitating, be-suited ghouls known as 'The Gentlemen', who steal voices and harvest hearts) were mesmerising and genuinely terrifying creations, but they worked so well because they tap into so many basic human fears: primarily the inability to communicate. I hope this episode means more imaginative monsters will be along soon, because the creativity of The Gentlemen puts all the others in the shade.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

MSN TV: AMC's BREAKING BAD, 5.9 - 'Blood Money'

Over at MSN today: I've reviewed the incredible mid-season premiere of BREAKING BAD's fifth season, "Blood Money", which is streaming on Netflix UK and Blinkbox soon after its US transmission on AMC.
One of the great television injustices has been Breaking Bad's treatment by UK broadcasters, with Fox (formerly FX) and 5USA doing a poor job publicising it when the series aired here years ago. It's quite simply one of the best TV shows of the past decade, and arguably one of the all-time greats. More accessible than The Wire and more riveting than The Sopranos, Breaking Bad has at least achieved cult status on British shores (thanks to the online community's adoration), and I'm overjoyed Netflix and Blinkbox secured deals to stream the last episodes so close to US transmission. What's more, it has blasted its way back on to AMC, its US cable network home, with record ratings of nearly 6m viewers.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Warning: the following review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the Spartacus: War of the Damned finale, which hasn't aired in the UK at time of writing.

As I've mentioned before, the only reason I stopped reviewing Spartacus halfway into its 'Vengeance' season is that the show had evolved into more of a straightforward action-adventure drama with lashings of blood and rampant sex. There's nothing wrong with that, but the first two seasons ('Blood & Sand' and 'Gods of the Arena') were, to me, more interesting because of a narrower focus and smarter political elements. I just wasn't sure what purpose my reviews were serving beyond putting into words a sense of weekly excitement, shock and awe. So I stopped writing about Spartacus, but I never stopped watching. And while the later 'Vengeance' and 'War of the Damned' seasons probably aren't my favourites, they were astonishing spectacles that never forgot to balance character with action.

Friday, 5 April 2013

TV Review: NBC's HANNIBAL - 'Apéritif'

Thomas Harris is largely responsible for creating modern serial killer fiction with his 1981 novel Red Dragon, later turned into the Michael Mann movie Manhunter. His 1988 follow-up, The Silence of the Lambs, made that belief unquestionable after Jonathan Demme adapted it into an Oscar-winning movie. From then, the pop-culture dominance of serial killers being cruel and unstoppable forces of nature (Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween) took a back-seat, as audiences were suddenly bewitched by the dichotomy of killers demonstrating sharp intelligence and sophisticated tastes. Lecter was a modern-day Dracula.

TV didn't ignore this trend, most notably in the 1990s work of Chris Carter: Harris's books were undoubtedly an influence on the FBI backdrop for The X Files, although it was the less-successful Millennium that was more indebted to Red Dragon (both in its focus on 'human monsters' and the quasi-psychic gift of its lead investigator).

Thursday, 17 January 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 3.13 & 3.14 - 'The Zeppo' & 'Bad Girls'

Cordelia: (to Xander) Boy, of all the humiliations you've had I've witnessed, that was the latest.

It's strange "THE ZEPPO" aired after "Helpless", because the previous climax where Giles (Anthony Head) is fired as a Watcher and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) reassesses their relationship had little bearing here—despite an irrelevant "previously on..." preface. Besides that scheduling oddity, almost everything else about this Xander (Nicholas Brendon) showcase was excellent. Maybe this is to be expected because Dan Vebber's script purposefully upended the show's formulas and patterns, but there still plenty to recommend even without its format-breaking structure and peculiar tone.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

DOCTOR WHO – 'The Snowmen'

written by Steven Moffat / directed by Saul Metzstein

The Christmas specials of Doctor Who have a unique potential to make fans of those who don't give the show a moment's thought during the year, as most British households containing Whovians will force their entire families to watch this seasonal episode. The eighth such festive special since Who's revival, "The Snowmen" was easily its best. There are various reasons for this, but it probably helped that the Christmas schmaltz was kept to a minimum (it was more of a winter-themed episode than anything trying to get us drunk on holiday spirit), and writer Steven Moffat tends to be at his best when an episode has a clear goal and intention. Here it was the introduction of a brand new companion in sassy barmaid/governess Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), whose first encounter with The Doctor (Matt Smith) echoed that of any newcomers to the series...

Friday, 16 November 2012

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 2.17 & 2.18 – 'Passion' & 'Killed By Death'

Angelus: Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief.

This season's seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer mature in many ways, but "PASSION" is probably the moment it truly came of age. Angel (David Boreanaz) may have stolen the thunder of Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau) since he lost his soul and went Evil, but it's easy to see why the writers prefer using him as the arch-rival. His attachment to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends gives Angel's despicable activities the edge over Spike's humdrum desire to kill The Slayer, and "Passion" gave us a wonderfully tense hour as Angel upped the ante. Sneaking into Buffy's bedroom to sketch her while she sleeps was the epitome of creepiness, and also worked on the level of an obsessed ex refusing to let a relationship die—from the perspective of Buffy's concerned mother (Kristine Sutherland).

Sunday, 30 September 2012

DOCTOR WHO, 7.5 - 'The Angels Take Manhattan'

The fan-favourite Weeping Angels (frightening "living statues" that can only move when nobody's looking at them) terrorise New York City in Doctor Who's mid-series finale; an episode that also serves as a bittersweet farewell to companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). Steven Moffat's the man behind the script, and although his time as showrunner's been pockmarked with plots favouring smarty-pants complexity over heartfelt emotions and character, I was relieved The Angels Take Manhattan" was so satisfying in a down-to-earth way.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

BREAKING BAD, 5.8 - 'Gliding Over All'

They could happily rename this show Broken Bad now. The mid-season finale of season 5 was a remarkable hour of drama, shot through with involving and unexpected consequences. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) still has his supporters amongst the show's fan-base, but it's surely impossible to sympathise with him after the slaughter he conducted here. The proverb says "the darkest hour is before the dawn", so it was perfect that once Walt started to see the light and turn away from his drug-making, to make amends with Jesse (Aaron Paul) and rebuild his marriage to Skyler (Anna Gunn), his leg was caught in a snare that's laid dormant for awhile. And it was all courtesy of the late Gale Boetticher; arguably the first regrettable casualty of Walt's Heisenberg persona.

Monday, 27 August 2012

BREAKING BAD, 5.7 - 'Say My Name'

The bliss of Breaking Bad is when the hard work pays off, and "Say My Name" saw a number of subplots come to a head; particularly regarding Mike's (Jonathan Banks) involvement with the business, Walt's (Bryan Cranston) desire to take his empire up a level, Jesse's (Aaron Paul) hope to break free of this mess, and Hank's (Dean Norris) luck trying to tie-up the stalling Fring investigation. It was, as you'd expect from this show when it's in sight of a half-season finale, absolutely magnificent.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

MAD MEN, 5.11 – "The Other Woman"

This has been a terrific season of Mad Men (how many shows can say that in their fifth year?) and "The Other Woman" marked another delightful highlight. A sublime episode on every level, it was a fascinating study of how women were perceived, exploited and undervalued in the '60s (and perhaps still are to some extent). The core moral dilemma was astutely drawn, as Pete (Vincent Karthesier) discovered that Herb Rennet (Gary Basaraba), head of the Dealers Association and member of Jaguar's selection committee, will guarantee SCDP win the lucrative and prestigious car account if they accept his indecent proposal to sleep with Joan (Christina Hendricks). An outrageous line of thought that stunned the partners, although Pete was already a step ahead in bringing the matter to Joan's attention first—who was amused by the ridiculousness of the situation, yet over the course of this episode came to see the benefit of accepting the dirty deal. But this was Pete as his slimiest; rationalising the whole proposal for his own benefit, not giving a damn about Joan's feelings, despite claiming to.

This was quite an unsettling episode in many ways, making us reconsider our opinion of some major characters. Only Don (Jon Hamm) outright refused to entertain Herb's offer, assuring Joan in person that SCDP can win the Jaguar account on creative merit alone. The others were uncomfortable with it—especially Roger (John Slattery) and Lane (Jared Harris)—but were still willing to let events happen with minimal fuss, almost hoping Joan would swallow her dignity out of company loyalty. Considering Roger's feeling for Joan, hearing him say he just doesn't want to pay for the event to happen out of his own pocket was quite a shock. So much for chivalry.

At least Lane gave Joan some solid career advice (although it also benefited him), suggesting she refuse the $50,000 offer to sleep with Herb and instead ask for a 5% share in the business. So while it was still an awkward and despairing moment when Joan arrived to spend a night with Herb, it means Joan's now a partner in the first after 13 years. But is that really a win, with everyone knowing she got there by selling her body?

On the flipside, a woman with real creative talent slipped through Don's fingers. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), tired of being mistreated and taken for granted, finally decided to put her career ahead of her sense of loyalty to "mentor" Don, accepting an amazing offer t become rival firm CGC's chief copywriter. That parting moment was perhaps the pinnacle of an already amazing episode, with Don planting a lingering kiss on the hand of Peggy, arguably his best protégé, reducing her to tears (real ones, as it happens, as Moss later revealed she was unaware Hamm would tenderly take her hand like that). The Don/Peggy relationship has been a cornerstone of Mad Men from the start, so it's very interesting to see it change so quickly and dramatically. There's no bad blood, but it'll be interesting to see how Peggy gets on. Will she thrive away from Don with Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm), or have to come back begging for her old job? Will this mean a reduced role for Moss next season? Has Ginsberg supplanted Peggy entirely?

Another fabulous sequence was the Jaguar pitch from Don, armed with Ginsberg's (Ben Feldman) breakthrough idea ("Jaguar. At last, something beautiful you can truly own). I always adore the pitching scenes of Mad Men, mostly because they're genuinely good and don't smell too artificial, and the way this one was interspersed with Joan sleeping with Herb was a masterstroke. Just like the sports car, Joan was a beauty you could own for a price.

There was even a similar objectification for poor Megan (Jennifer Pare) this week, as she attended an audition she'd dutifully prepared for all week, only to discover the panel of men were only really interested in her looks—asking her give them a twirl, rather than impress them with her acting. She didn't get the job, either, which was perhaps a double knock to her confidence.

"The Other Woman" was a remarkable episode. SCDP may have won the Jaguar account, but they sold their soul to do it (which is what Joan represents, in my mind). Don was particularly displeased about hearing the "good news" from Roger, knowing that his excellent pitch was undermined by the likelihood they perhaps only got the account thanks to Joan's self-sacrifice. That look Don gave Joan, when she assembled with the other partners, was one of such confusion and umbrage. Beautifully done.


  • Fantastic to see Freddy Rumsen again, giving Peggy some fatherly advice she decided to take.
  • It's easy to see Don as a voice of reason and champion of women's liberties because of his response to Joan prostituting herself, but let's not forget the insulting moment when he threw money at Peggy's face over what her perceived as her desire to go to Paris for an ad campaign she'd secured. It was misogynistic in its own way, and the moment he lost Peggy as a copywriter.
  • A less in-depth review this week, or so it feels to me. Sorry, I'm just away on holiday and busy with other things until the weekend, but wanted to get this review done to avoid a backlog. And because I just hate seeing the blog sitting idle for too many days. Feel free to comment and continue discussion of anything I probably forgot to mention.
written by Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner / directed by Phil Abraham / 29 May 2012 / Sky Atlantic