Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Review of Justice League (2017)

Written by Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
Directed by Zack Snyder

Superman: "I'm a big fan of of the truth. I'm also a big fan of justice!"

The world needs Superman. No, really, it does and not just because of who a certain country has as president but also because this movie goes out it's way to remind viewers that Superman is needed by everyone and especially because of the impending war that was hinted during Batman V. Superman after the latter's heroic sacrifice to save the world.

For those in the dark, yes this is a movie about Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) assembling a team of meta humans - The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in order to defeat the rather powerful alien Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and stop his plans to use three mother boxes from destroying the world but the only way they can do that is with Superman's help and he's currently dead.

The first half of the movie succeeds in portraying a miopic world without the man of steel as Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) struggle without Clark and both Bruce and Diana are determined to honour his memory by making their team work but when Steppenwolf proved to be more of a bother than anticipated, the plan to revive Superman suddenly became viable and needed for the second half of the movie.

I was surprised with how quick it seemed that Superma re-entered the fray and delighted that he was in more of this movie than the trailers would let you believe he'd be. Pithy comments about Cavill's moustache to one side, Superman's return is actually pretty glorious as his initial past tensions with Batman are dealt with swiftly, his reunions with Lois and Martha beautifully poignant and his assault on Steppenwolf glorious.

The team are fantastic to watch but once Superman is added into the mix during the final act, it feels complete. Until then, it's mostly forming with both Aquaman and Cyborg being somewhat reluctant to join the team to counteract with The Flash's boyish enthusiasm while Batman and Wonder Woman, despite some of their own conflict and exorcising their own demons are the ring leaders of this new gang of friends.

Steppenwolf on the other hand, is probably one of the movie's problems. He's given a decent amount of screen time, has a simple motive, proves himself to be pretty dangerous as a baddie and is voice well enough but he's not the most charismatic or engaging of villains. He's admittedly better utilised than Doomsday but he's definitely not going to go down as a classic cinematic villains. The Parademons on the other hand are pretty effective, feeding on fear and also playing their role into Steppenwolf's eventual defeat.

On the other hand, Steppenwolf is successful at connecting the characters together though. For instance, his mission to retrieve the mother boxes gives us looks into both Themyscira and Atlantis with the likes of Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) and Mera (Amber Heard) getting some screen time while Silas Stone (James Morton) also returns, playing his role into Victor's backstory and being one of the few civilians willing to stand up to the baddie of the piece before being rescued by the League.

The personal stakes are done pretty well. There is insight given into each hero as Arthur's issues with his mother are hinted along with Barry's determined to exonerate his father, Henry Allen (Billy Crudup) along with Victor's own anger towards his own father for saving and cursing him at the same time. The one thing the movie completely succeeds in is that it gives every single member of the team the perfect amount of screen time. No one character dominated the other, all of them complimented each other and we're given a good look into all of their distinctive personalities and traits,

As for the humour, this is definitely where Joss Whedon's rewrites over Zack Snyder come into play and while my opinion of the former has soured in recent times, most of the humour does work in the movie's favour and helps to make the team more joyful. I'll admit there are some bits that seem forced but overall, it adds a lot of levity to proceedings and after critics going after previous movies for not having enough humour, it's a tad hypocritical of them to pick the movie apart for injecting some lighter moments into proceedings.

In a lot of ways though, this movie does feel like the ending of a chapter though. If rumours are to be believed, we might be getting a new Caped Crusader in later installments of the franchise and even this movie hinted at Bruce struggling a little bit over the alien threat at times. However, Affleck acquits himself well in this movie but it's really Gadot, Miller and Cavill that are the standouts of the team though both Momoa and Fisher are also on fine form.

Regardless of critical bashing, this is a movie that justifies it's existence as well as a potential sequel to boot. I want to see more of this team along with hinted other members joining up as well. This movie blended both humour and the danger well and made me root for each team member as well. There needs to be another outing for them.

- Post Credit 1: Superman and The Flash having a race, which is played for laughs. We don't get to see who wins though.
- Post Credit 2: Lex Luthor escaping prison and meeting up with Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) to set up his own little Injustice League.
- While Iris (Kiersey Clemons) was cut from the movie in order to make the thing two hours, JK Simmons appeared as Commissioner Gordon. We also got some great snarky humour counrtesy of Alfred in a few scenes.
- There's a few Easter Eggs in this movie, including Green Lanterns and Shazam parts, which should nicely set up some future movies.
- Standout music: Sigrid's Everybody Knows, Junkie XL's Come Together, Danny Elfman's Batman theme, John Williams Superman theme, most of the score music was pretty on point to be honest.
- Chronology: I think a year has passed since Batman V. Superman. We had a lot of the action in Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, Iceland and Russia as well as Paris too for scenes.

I'm not going to pretend that Justice League is the best superhero movie ever made or that it's even the DCEU's best effort either. It has it's flaws, which I've already pointed out but the good far outweighs the bad and for me, it's a successful attempt of bringing some of the franchise major's heroes together and it's deserving of a fair chance and a sequel in my opinion. It also feels like the end of one chapter for the DCEU but not the end in itself. This movie might be far from perfect but it's nowhere near as deserving of the bile it's unfortunately generated and this movie itself did display that it's taken previous criticism on board and is trying to find a compromise without losing it's identity for the most part. That in itself deserves credit.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Review of Legends Of Tomorrow's 3x06: "Helen Hunt"

Written by Keto Shimizu & Ubah Mohamed
Directed by David Geddes

Sara: "Everyone put on your best digs because we are going to save Hollywood."

The timing for this episode in light of so many scandals at the moment is certainly interesting. What happens when you take one of the most legendary historical female figures, add some 1930's Hollywood glamour and sexism and then throw the Legends and a few baddies into the mix? The answer is another gem of an episode.

For weeks, the title for this episode somewhat confused me and while there was no reference to the Mad About You actress, the Helen of the piece did however come from Troy, having been displaced into Hollywood and suddenly thrust into the spotlight overnight with Damien Darhk as her agent for good measure.

Every week this show pulls something off that's so mad it shouldn't work but yet it does and here was no exception. Bar Paly herself was pretty spot on casting for Helen Of Troy and played the role with the right amount of sympathy for the character as Helen was desperate not to go back to her own time while at the same time bonding with the Legends, mostly Zari throughout the course of this episode.

With a delightfully barbed commentary on Hollywood ethics throughout this one, the episode could've ran the risk of being too preachy but avoided that with some jovial humour, especially with the girls freeing Helen from the sleazy executives while at the same time also coming up with a solution that didn't involve sending her back to Troy.

Instead Zari came up with the brilliant idea of sending Helen to Themyscira, which now means that Wonder Woman does exist in the Arrow universe after all, even if we're unlikely to see the character on the small screen any time soon though (still, there's Justice League tomorrow). Zari's overall role in the Helen side of this episode just continued to highlight why she's quickly become a fantastic addition to the series.

As for everything else, we had the delight of a Freaky Friday with Jax and Stein swapping bodies, which got played for laughs but also had a serious undertone to it as well. The addition of the duo helping out Stein's crush, Hedy Lamarr and the episode highlighting the latter's inventive side too was another excellent move on this show's part.

In general though, this episode was pretty exceptional with the female characters. I mean it's always been great with it's female characters but this week, it did feel like they went the extra mile. Along with Sara, Amaya and Zari helping Helen, Hedy solving the body swap with Jax and Stein, the episode also utilized both Eleanor and Kuasa well as Sara discovered the former's connection to Damien while Amaya also learned of her connection with the latter to boot.

- Sara was taken out of commission by Eleanor in this episode, so I guess she'll be sitting most of next week's Grodd adventure out.
- Jax being a fan of the Police Academy movies didn't surprise me but Stein's reaction to it was funny nonetheless. I also hoped that Nate took a shower between scenes this week.
- Damien wanted Sara and the gang to stop interfering with the anachronism, probably for Mallus though.
- Chronology: 1937 Hollywood and 1263 BC on Themyscira.

Helen Hunt was another in a slew of impressive episodes we've had this season. When it comes to female characters, this show has always been great but this episode did a far better job with it's girl power than another show did last week and I loved the mix of Helen and Hollywood as well.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Review of American Horror Story: Cult - Great Again

Written by Tim Minear
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Ally (to Kai): "There is something more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man. A nasty woman."

The fact that the show waited for the finale to have Ally turn that particular turn of phrase into a moment of female empowerment might have shown some restraint on a season that was as far from restrained when it came to the political commentary this season.

At times, it's even surpassed Supergirl in terms of laying it on a bit thick at times but unlike the latter, it was also able to mine it a little better as Kai's downfall was played out in a manner that felt less eventful for his ego than he probably would've wanted it to be. Ally managed to convince him that Speedwagon (RIP?) framed Winter before she had the FBI put a stop to his night of 100 Tates plan and send him to prison.

I don't think anyone was shocked that prison wouldn't be a deterrent for Kai. It was obviously going to be the perfect breeding ground for another cult, one that he could easily control and Ally was obviously smart enough to see that he would make an attempt of getting even with her. For a woman who spent the first half of the season panicking over clowns, she's certainly come a long way these last four episodes.

I liked that she anticipated that Kai would manipulate someone like Gloria and was smart enough to get the prison officer first. Kai didn't see it coming and it led to his actual death when his misogynistic tirade against Ally during the debate with the other councilman led to Beverly blowing his brains out.

This episode stripped Kai of his dignity and made him suffer for his misogyny in a pretty big way. It also brought the end of his regime while also ending the series with Ally now in a bigger seat of power with the ambiguity of whether or not the SCUM manifesto really will be acted upon. If Ally's learned anything from Kai, it should be that she can't murder everyone who doesn't bend to her will and she's already killed a lot of people the last few episodes.

Funnily enough, I'm actually surprised that Beverly didn't end up being part of her kill ratio. Beverly admitted her role in Ally's early season breakdown and she worked out pretty fast that Ally killed Ivy in revenge of that but instead she ended up being Ally's campaign manager and Kai's killer. I'm not sure if that's enough in itself to redeem Beverly but neither is it a major issue for me as well and I can't really complain, considering that Ally herself has gotten away with multiple murders as well.

- Lana Winters got a mention in this episode but not an appearance. I guess having her play Susan Atkins in the previous episode was enough double duty for Sarah Paulson this season.
- Oz had a plush elephant and mint green cupcakes for his birthday, so he was getting visual reminders of his other mother. I do wonder if he suspects that Ally killed Ivy too.
- No appearance from Lily Rabe or any past murdered character this season. We did get another Manson hallucination though.
- Chronology: Straight to 2018 for most of this episode.

Great Again rounded off what was an initially shaky before becoming brilliant but still pretty full on politically charged season to a brilliant ending. I actually think this is one of the show's strongest finales with both Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters really owning their characters and this season alone along with Adina Porter, so I definitely hope she's back once again and that we won't have to wait too long to know what the next theme will be.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Review of Empire's 4x05: "The Fool"

Written by Janeika James & Jasheika James
Directed by Howie Deutch

Lucious (to Claudia): "Stop calling me Dwight. My name is Lucious."

And he's back people. Well, it only took five episodes and while I was expecting something slightly bigger to have Lucious resurface and Dwight slip from Claudia's grasp but getting a glorified spoof scene from Demi Moore's most infamous movie, Ghost was as good a way to trigger Lucious's memories as anything.

The timing is great for the show as entertaining as Dwight has been, it was time for Lucious to make a return and it's timing for Claudia wasn't great. Her slow but determined campaign to get Dwight to herself came crashing down after they (predictably) had sex following their music/colour/paint session.

Speaking of colours, Claudia well and truly showed her own when she revealed to Lucious that she was interested in writing a book and became visibly angry when Lucious reminded her that he now knew who he was even if Cookie herself was too distracted to actually take that on board. Then again there is next week for Cookie to really process that Lucious is back and it seems that we're not rid of Claudia yet even if her grip on Lucious has diminished.

Of course when the episode wasn't drip feeding us Lucious coming back to the fore, Cookie also had to deal with the board wanting to oust her, so she roped in Eddie to help keep her seat and make some music with Lucious and Jamal. Forrest Whitaker really does class the series up and I do like his interactions with the Lyons so I'm hoping he's going to be around for a bit longer this season.

As for Angelo - anyone else getting bored of this guy now? Like Shyne, he's a character I feel the show could afford to lose and this week, he was even more annoying than the latter. His constant slut shaming remarks to Warren to one side, the vitriol he showed for both Jamal and Hakeem (including getting the latter to punch him) was too much. Like I said, can we just lose him already?

Of course Hakeem responded rashly by trying to run away with Bella, but at least he was stopped by having both Tiana and Cookie working in his best interests while Jamal still couldn't get a clue that Warren is betraying him, even if the latter seems to be showing some genuine feelings for Jamal at this rate.

- Detective Rose managed to play Andre and Shyne off each other this week. Does she know more than she's letting on?
- No Tory or Anika this week. They're also really spacing out Diana's appearances as well.
- Standout music: Hate The Game by Tiana and Do You Remember Me by V. Bozeman.
- Chronology: Not long from where the last episode left off.

The Fool did a good one in bringing Lucious back to the fore and while it's nice he's back, the show really needs to take the likes of Andre and Shyne out of the equation as neither of them add anything to proceedings nowadays.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Review of How To Get Away With Murder's 4x07: "Nobody Roots For Goliath"

Written by Daniel Robinson
Directed by Nzingha Stewart

Oliver (to Connor): "I'm sorry. I've been lying to you. We know who killed Wes."

And thanks to this episode, we also know that it's a male victim and right now, there seems to be only two candidates as to whom might be dead by next week's mid-season finale. One candidate would be a bad move on the show's part and the other would be a case of not tapping into some further potential.

The first person the body could be that's been looked over could be Connor. Last season, Wes was killed and it really cemented that even the Keating 5 (now 4) weren't immune to death but after killing Wes off so soon and having his death still drive the narrative of this current season, would they really bump off another main character so soon? Also if Wes's death generated outrage from fans, I'd dread to think what a possible Connor death would do to fans as well.

On the other hand, in the last two episodes, Connor has been ridiculously content. Working with Annalise has given him a spring in his step and things are going so good with Oliver that he tried to propose to the latter before being told about who killed Wes. I don't want to read too much into it but given the way TV works, it might not look good for Connor.

The other possibility though is Simon, whom this week was a little humanised through his interactions with Oliver. We learned this week that he needed the job at Caplan & Gold to prevent him from being deported and despite his hostility towards the Keating 4, he has been nice to Oliver any time they've interacted this season.

In some respects, Simon is likely to be the dead man walking more than Connor as he's a character that's about to get caught up in the gang's scheme against Laurel's father. Despite hating himself for even thinking it, Oliver was willing to throw Simon under the bus and in previous seasons, Oliver never would've done that one. He's become as complicit as the rest of them in his own way.

On the other hand, Asher did do his best to try and act like a moral conscience to the whole scheme as did Frank but both Laurel and Michaela got them on board and with Connor in the know, that just leaves both Bonnie and Annalise (and Isaac) to get roped in as well by next week.

As for the rest of the episode, we saw an interesting dynamic with Annalise's scenes with both Isaac and Jackie as she realised what both of them were like while the class action storyline came to a satisfying enough conclusion as well but it also felt like it was a little rushed so the focus could squarely be on that fateful night.

- Michaela proved her love for Asher by destroying her wedding dress. She would've been better off selling the dress, not dousing it in ketchup.
- Going by this episode, at least we can rule out Asher/Bonnie hooking up and Simon does seem to like flirting with Oliver as well.
- Nate came in handy for one scene with Annalise and Bonnie but other than the show really doesn't know what to do with him any more.
- Chronology: Two days until the events of Live, Live, Live.

Nobody Roots For Goliath would be the calm before the storm but it seems more like it was bringing about the inevitable storm as the gang united in outing Laurel's father as a murderer. With either Connor or Simon likely to be on that operating table, at least it's not long til we find out who the unfortunate victim is.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Friday, November 10, 2017

My Review of Gotham's 4x08: "Stop Hitting Yourself"

Written by Charlie Huston
Directed by Rob Bailey

Nygma: "Winner takes me and featuring your champion, Solomon Grundy."

Oh Ed, I'm actually surprised with that motormouth of yours that someone hasn't actually succeeded in killing you at this rate. Then again, you are the Riddler and plot armour exists for a good reason, even if your attempts of antagonising Oswald from afar were always going to backfire on you.

A part of me wasn't surprised that Nygma would take his grudge out on Penguin by lampooning the shit out of him during the fights in the Narrows and while he might have played his former friend like a certain fella who shall not be named here, the one thing I took out of it was Cory Michael Smith's flair for physical comedy.

The bummer though for me was the fact that Oswald didn't directly confront Ed on his open mocking of him and instead decided to send both the Sirens and Firefly in order to deal with the blabbermouth riddle man as a result.

For Eddie, the worst thing that happened to him as getting tied up and gagged by Selina but other than that, he nearly succeeded in turning Butch/Grundy against Tabitha and thanks to Leslie and Barbara dealing with Firefly and a treacherous Cherry alone, Nygma lives to mock Oswald for another day.

The arc with Nygma has been fun to watch and I quite liked that even when he was being a jackass he actually managed be rather helpful with Leslie. Her decision to defy and turn everyone on Cherry (along with Babs shooting the latter) meant that she now became the leader of the fight clubs and if she can rein Eddie in a little, then Leslie truly might find her calling in the city without having to cross paths with Gordon again.

Speaking of Gordon though, this episode he became Captain and Bullock got a demotion. While I haven't been as invested in their bromance as everyone else, I did feel bad watching the two friends fall apart in this episode but on the other hand, Harvey wasn't the only being dumped by Jim this week. It seems that Sofia too also got the cold shoulder from Jim as he made his annoyance towards her manipulation of his promotion more apparent.

For all of Sofia's strategic moves, it seems that her luck might be running out a little though. This week when Oswald wasn't smart over Ed taking the piss out of him and training up a kid into becoming a future serial killer, he also seemed to be getting a clue that Sofia isn't quite the friend she's making out. I really hope for Sofia's sake she's got a back up plan because she'll probably need it by next week.

- As Nygma dressed up in Oswald's usual look, the latter has been updating it as well. I'm actually starting to miss them interacting now.
- Leslie got to smack Barbara and the latter seemed not disappointed that Butch/Grundy was alive in this episode too. Nygma also referred to Tabitha as Tigress and wore some outfits not dissimilar from Batman Forever.
- No Bruce or Alfred this week.
- Chronology: Not long from where the previous episode left off.

Stop Hitting Yourself was a bit of a fun episode. The Narrows plot could've gone the way all these Fight Club type stories on genre tend to go and be utterly dire but it turned out to be rather entertaining and I'm loving this current Sirens line up as well as Nygma getting some of the lines along with his ass handed to him a little.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, November 09, 2017

My Review of Legends Of Tomorrow's 3x05: "Return Of The Mack"

Written by Grainne Godfree & Morgan Faust
Directed by Alexandra La Roche

Sara (to Rip): "Do you remember when you told me you had nothing left to teach me?"

Last week: the ET meets Stranger Things homage but this week it's "vampires" and the return of a certain guy who won't stay down in a rather delightful and bonkers episode that also saw the Legends finally made away that Mallus is going to be an ongoing problem for them, but only because Rip didn't have a choice in telling them.

While the show has survived and even thrived without Rip and Sara continues to prove why she's a better leader than Oliver/Barry/Kara combined, I am also glad that the show isn't a 100% done with him even if by the end of this one, it seems like Sara and the rest of the Legends (and even the Time Bureau) might well be.

Taking the action into 1895 Victorian London due to Nate looking for outliers, the main plot revolved around men being kidnapped and drained of their blood in order to raise Damien Darhk from the dead and of course, Nate ended up being "vampire" bait if not actually drained himself. This coupled with Mick's previously unknown obsession with vampire slaying added to the comedy of an episode that took some serious turns.

First of all, this Mallus threat is emerging as the most compelling of the main baddies in the CW DC shows at the moment. While it does seem like this universe might be overly relying on Damien (this is literally the third time he's either been the Big Bad or in a group of them), the addition of his daughter Eleanor, along with Kuasa does show that Mallus is smart in who they're recruiting even if they're also giving me a Great Intelligence vibe.

Speaking of Eleanor, the episode never reveals that she's Damien's daughter but with Courtney Ford's casting (she's also Brandon Routh's real life wife) that cat was already out of the bag. I enjoyed her scenes with Zari and along with Kuasa, I'm glad that the show is adding more female antagonists into the mix. Plus it really does seem like she's pretty similar to her father in a lot of ways.

Keeping with Zari, this episode confronted the notion of her wanting to save her brother head on and also used it as a means of getting Eleanor to steal Zari's totem as well before the latter reclaimed it. Three episodes in and Zari is working out well for them and I am loving the friendship/connection they're building between her and Amaya as well.

Another thing I loved about this episode was the fact that Stein had more to do as well. First of all, one of his ancestors was responsible for Nate getting kidnapped while present Stein realised what Jax and Ray were doing and although initially angry, he also understood why Jax wanted to help him get back home. The show's continuing strength is how it's mixes up the character interactions and there was plenty of that this week. Also, it really is dawning on me that Stein won't be on the Waverider much longer and that's a bit sad, but not if he gets a happy ending though.

- We got a cameo from Curtis this week, who also told Ray and Jax about Damien just as Sara, Rip and Nate discovered the body. Oh and Rip had way too much with the Sherlock references. Ava also seems to warming to Sara as well.
- Vampire connections: Dominic Purcell appeared in one of the Blade movies, Mick was reading Dracula, the actress playing Eleanor has been in The Vampire Diaries and True Blood and Nate outed himself as a Twilight fan.
- Standout music: I'll give you three guesses. No, I'll do one better .... - who'd have thought that Damien was a 90's r'n'b fan?
- Chronology: 1895 Victorian London.

Return Of The Mack continues the fun streak the show has been having this season but at the same time, it really went out of it's way to advance the Mallus plot, add Damien and Eleanor in the mix and show us why Sara has become a better captain than Rip as well.

Rating: 9 out of 10