Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Review of Gotham's 3x15: "How The Riddler Got His Name"

Written by Megan Mostyn-Brown
Directed by TJ Scott

Nygma (to Lucius): "Oh come on, Foxy. I'm the Riddler"

It's been three months since the last episode and apparently now we're in the official second half of Season 3, which almost makes me wonder where those other three episodes (let's call them the other Jerome arc) fit into things but we're back and if this is what we can expect in the final eight episodes of the season, then we're off to a good start.

Ever since putting a bullet into Oswald and leaving him for dead, poor Edward has been at a bit of a loss for himself. It seems that terrorising intellectual types and murdering them when they fail to solve his riddles isn't quite as fun as Nygma thought they would be, so needless to say, he decides to up his game this week.

Being challenged by the dripping hallucinations of Oswald, whom Nygma seems to deliberately bring about every time he chewed on a pill in this episode, Edward gets the bright idea of bagging himself an enemy to go along with his newfound villain status. The candidate for this accolade of course was going to be Gordon but this episode decided to take a clever turn by having Lucius unsuspectingly take on the role instead after intercepting one of Eddie's deadly riddles.

It's moments like this that I truly find myself loving this show. Having Lucius be the thorn into Nygma's side is a far better proposition than Gordon. Aside from the fact that Lucius has been savagely underused ever since Chris Chalk was made a regular back in Season 2, this episode served as a great opportunity to highlight how great Lucius actually can be as a character when the writers actually give him something to do.

Lucius's scenes with both Bullock and Leslie during Nygma's terror campaign were great but his one on one moments with Nygma were truly the best part of the episode. For a moment it looked like Lucius was almost reaching out to Edward before the latter embraced his new criminal identity and life on the run after failing to kill Bullock as well for good measure.

Of course another great thing about this episode was when we weren't getting Nygma haunted by Oswald and mulling over their friendship, the latter also turned up to be alive and was being looked after by Ivy of all people. Now I wasn't surprised that Oswald would be alive (then again, who would've been?) but this was the second surprise pairing of the week and it was only a brief scene. Still, there's more to come with Oswald being on the warpath though.

As for the rest of the episode, the other two plots were merely okay. Bruce failed to patch things up with Selina but he did manage to get replaced by his clone and seemed to be in a snowy prison of sorts, which had some Batman Begins callbacks to be honest. Of course, the Court of Owls stuff worked alright in the background.

As for Gordon, he reconnected with his uncle and seemed to have a reasonable amount of scepticism about Frank's motives for seeking him out right now. I liked that Gordon was taken away from the main Nygma plot this week but he's going to be an even bigger pain in the backside for the Court of Owls for Bruce, so I'm not sure why Kathryn is even indulging Frank's attempts to manipulate Jim into joining up.

- Barbara, Butch and Tabitha sat this episode out and aside from one scene alloted to Selina, Ivy and Leslie each, this definitely felt like a very male centred episode. Also Nygma kept called Lucius 'Foxy'. I'm just saying.
- The tagline for the remaining episodes this season is called Heroes Rise.
- I absolutely loved Oswald's risque little musical number - a version of Amy Winehouse's Wake Up Alone. Can we please have a musical episode next season, writers? Go on, you know you want to.
- Chronology: A couple of weeks since the events of The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies.

How The Riddler Got His Name might have seemed relatively simple in terms of how Nygma finally embraced his identity but it certainly made for a compelling little episode and along with giving Lucius some much needed screen time and that musical number, how could you not love this one?

Rating: 9 out of 10

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Review of Doctor Who's 10x02: "Smile"

Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Directed by Lawrence Gough

Bill (to the Doctor): "Stop trying to keep me out of trouble!"

Going back to the tradition of Series 1 to 5 of this revived series, we've had the present day opening story and now we've gone into the future as the Doctor bestowed Bill with the choice for her first TARDIS trip while Nardole mostly sat this one out.

Enter a trip to the planet Gliese 581d and both the Doctor and Bill have ended up on a world where the only inhabitants seem to be some rather harmless robots that communicate in the not so extinct language of emoji, which amuses Bill but not so much the Doctor. Aside from the opening sequence that ruins the surprise, alarms also pop up when the Doctor and Bill get to wear mood badges that they can't see.

The planet itself is largely empty for the most part so there's a lot of screen time for solely the Doctor and Bill, which in some ways almost made this episode into a two hander of sorts between the new friends. It mostly works as both the Doctor and Bill are given a little more insight into how the other ticks during a crisis.

I know it's only been two episodes but the rapport between Capaldi and Mackie has certainly rejuvenated the show and while the student/mentor dynamic has been explored before with Seven and Ace, this version with Twelve and Bill is already turning out to be equally dynamic.

For all the questions that Bill asks the Doctor (and they're still reasonable ones), she also figures out certain things by herself. She certainly was able to deduce what had happened to a lot of the colonists that came to the planet and did her best to try and calm down a distressed child in the midst of a near battle between the remaining colonists and the bots themselves.

Speaking of the bots, the idea of them using the emoji language (hence them being labelled as Emojibots to a point) seemed really daft when I first read about this episode but it was effectively done and they managed to have a decent level of menace to them as well. I mean, they turned people into fertilizer and their inability to understand grief had disastrous consequences all around.

However while the episode a lot that worked in it's favour (beautiful character bits for our TARDIS duo, gorgeous location work and mostly satisfying baddies), the last few minutes slightly undo all the good work beforehand. The Doctor's resolution between the Vardy/Emojibots is a bit too pat and the few guest actors they have in the episode, such as Ralf Little's Steadfast are criminally wasted that it does make the episode a little frustrating.

Of course two episodes in though and the current series does seem to have a nice spring in it's step. The characterisation for the Twelfth Doctor is easily the best we've had, Bill is working out wonderfully and the mystery of the vault isn't soaking up too much screen time although the Doctor did mention that he had a promise to keep in relation to guarding it. Plus any episode that ends on the note of an elephant standing on the frozen Thames in the snow deserves an extra point or two.

- Apparently the Algae King fancies the Doctor. Bill also ate some blue algae jelly during the episode as well.
- "I'm happy, hope you're happy too" - gotta love a David Bowie reference, don't you? There was also a Erewhon reference too.
- Did I mention the gorgeous location work this week? Valencia translated beautifully on the screen as a different world.
- Anyone spot the allusions and similarities to the likes of The Ark In Space, The Happiness Patrol and The Beast Below in this one?
- I'm still convinced what's in the Vault has been spoiled online now. Not mentioning it for those who still want to be surprised though.
- Mina Anwar, who played Goodthing in this episode also played Rani Chandra's mother, Gita in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

After the much maligned In The Forest Of The Night, I wasn't particularly enthused with the idea of Frank Cottrell-Boyce returning for another episode. Smile however, while it won't go down as a classic, certainly was a step up from Boyce's previous effort. While the resolution was extremely poor and guest characters savagely underused, the episode itself was more watchable than expected, so that's a good thing.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back In Jail Again

A look into some of the shows I've been watching over the last few weeks.

Arrow: With the show set to return for it's final batch of episodes next week, the previous two were rather good offerings. Not only did we have Oliver temporarily broken down by Prometheus but we also had the latter's identity publicly exposed when the gang finally realised that having Bratva around to solve the problem wasn't such a bright idea. As well as that there was also Felicity sinking deeper into the whole Helix subplot and that looks set to take more focus in the next two episodes. We still could do with more of Thea though.

Once Upon A Time: I've seen five more episodes since the last blog and things have certainly heated up a bit. The show finally cured the ongoing Snow/Charming sleeping curse problem, wrote out both the other Evil Queen and Robin, temporary got rid of Hook, brought back Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar, Ariel, Tinkerbell, Blackbeard etc. It also delved more into the lingering threat for the remainder of the season and thankfully, it's the Black Fairy because Gideon is too mopey and boring to really work as a threat. The scenery chewing Black Fairy on the other hand is something of a better adversary for Emma as the last few episodes have been hammering home the final battle thing for a bit now.

Prison Break: And it's back. As the TV revivals continue apace (Twin Peaks next month too), FOX decided to serve a fifth helping of this prison drama and the issue of Michael Scofield actually being dead doesn't factor because he's alive and stuck in a prison in Yemen and when Lincoln and other past characters aren't trying to break him out, Michael is also making friends (a gay character, another guy called Whip, etc) to do the same thing along with some other political prisoner type. I have to admit that while it's nice to see the gang nearly all back, the main plot is feeling a bit too reminiscent of 24 for my liking so far. On the other hand, I'm also intrigued by the grudging alliance between Sara and Kellermen though and T-Bag's new hand.

Santa Clarita Diet: I somewhat put off watching the final two episodes of this show for a bit but last week, I got round to watching them and I have to say, it was a solid way to end the first season. I liked the introduction of Portia deRossi's scientist character and I definitely liked the consequences of Sheila becoming more feral as well while poor Joel ended up getting locked up by the end of the last episode. Story wise, I think the show has covered itself well for it's second season in that regard.

Supergirl: Kara/Mon El - this series Olicity? Nope, not really but since becoming a couple not so long ago, they've generated some controversy as a pairing, especially as the last two episodes introduced Mon El's parents and let's just say that Rhea isn't someone you'd want as a mother in law. As a villain though, you can tell that Teri Hatcher is having fun in the role and it's great that she's going to be around at least for the final few episodes as well. Other than that, we've had subplots with Winn's girlfriend and Alex/Maggie meeting the latter's ex for good measure too.

The Flash: After the delightful musical crossover with Supergirl, things took another magical twist with Abra Kadabra popping up on the show. Aside from being one of the best guest villains going and more doom surrounding Iris's impending death, the episode's biggest highlight was the arrival of Killer Frost at the very end. It's been a while coming and the season has teased it for the longest while but at long last we're finally going to see what the show will do now that Caitlin has succumbed to the dark side.

- Ricky Martin has been cast as Antonio D'Amico, the long term lover of Edgar Ramirez's Gianni Versace for the third season of American Crime Story.
- Billie Lourd, Alison Wright and Billy Eichner will be appearing in the seventh season of American Horror Story.
- Katie Cassidy, Julian Harvaky and Rick Gonzalez will be regulars for the sixth season of Arrow.
- A trailer for the Krypton prequel series has emerged online.
- Both Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are leaving Once Upon A Time.
- Marvel have a series focusing on Squirrel Girl called New Warriors in the works.
- The Big Bang Theory has been picked up for a further two seasons and a Sheldon prequel spin-off will also be in the works.
- Freeform also have commissioned a mermaid series named Siren.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Review of Feud: Bette And Joan's: "Abandoned"

Written by Jaffe Cohen & Michael Zam
Directed by Helen Hunt

Mamacita (to Joan): "I told you the next time you throw something at my head I leave."

Joan Crawford really was becoming her own worst enemy and in this episode alone, she had virtually alienated any and every ally she could've had. The episode began with her increasingly feeling out of the loop with production of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte in full swing and ended with even Mamacita wiping her hands off Joan.

And the thing is and maybe it's down to Lange's performance in this one, but my sympathy for Joan wasn't really there. I get that she felt left out of the buddy/ally routine that both Bette and Aldrich but the way Joan halted production and generally seemed to throw a hissy fit did her next to no favours with this particular episode.

Joan had gotten to a point where she had seriously overestimated her own clout and when Aldrich basically told her to get her act together and stop trying to make script changes of her own, it should've been a hint. However it took the threat of being examined by a studio doctor, being sued for $100,000 and being replaced by Olivia de Havilland for the lesson to really sink in.

The thing is though while Mamacita was completely justified in finally abandoning Joan, the vase wasn't strictly aimed for her head this time around. That said though aside from one revealing exchange between Joan and Bette about talent and beauty, Joan showed no real insight here and continued to make her circumstances far worse than they needed.

Not that it was plain sailing for Bette either. At different points in the episode, both Victor and Aldrich castigated her for her treatment of Joan while BD herself had managed to marry Jeremy behind Bette's back too but in the end in relation to the movie itself, Bette maintain some professionalism and took her producer role with some seriousness too.

Unlike Joan, Bette was the one who tried to keep production going and in the end, Joan was traded in for a less demanding actress with Havilland. Heck, the episode even ended a little with a not so subtle 'screw you' to Joan as Bette, Olivia and Aldrich posed with a certain drink for photographers while Joan's health ended up taking an actual hit by the time the closing credits emerged.

- History wise, Mamacita might have left Joan a lot later than what this episode indicated she did. However I don't blame her for finally having enough.
- Much as I've enjoyed seeing Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell in the series, has she really been necessary though?
- Nice use of Sweet Charlotte towards the end of the episode as well.
- Chronology: I guess 1963/1964 considering the production of the movie in question.

Abandoned stumbles a bit as a penultimate episode but it's still got some great moments though. The obvious highlight is the beauty vs. talent conversation between Crawford and Davis along with the former losing ally after ally. Just one more episode to go now.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Review of Doctor Who's 10x01: "The Pilot"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Lawrence Gough

Bill: "Doctor what?'"

Can you believe that it's nearly been a year since Pearl Mackie was first announced as new companion, Bill Potts? In that time we've also learned that this tenth series will be the last for Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, several returns have been confirmed and heavily rumoured and Nardole is also a regular? Not to mention we've had the rather polarising Class air and a fairly disappointing Christmas special with The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. Time does sort of fly really.

Onto The Pilot and it's something a mission statement to behold. After two more series of Clara Oswald, a dark tone, apathetic advertising and a less family friendly timeslot, this series seems to be a welcome return of the basics with an opening episode that's both accessible but at the same time sets up the essentials for both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi's final run.

First of all, our new girl herself, Bill Potts. If you were hoping for someone tonally different to both Amy and Clara, then Bill manages to achieve that within seconds of meeting her and then continuously throughout the episode.  For all the sometimes unfair accusations that Moffat is given towards the way he writes for women, you can tell with Bill that he's making the effort to be different here.

On a personal note, Bill might be one of the most relatable companions the show has done so far. There's a lot with her that I can directly identify with (sexual orientation, race, family background, love of sci-fi etc) but my own feelings aside, I just love that in one episode she's managed to endear herself with even people who have been more than vocal in their weariness for the current era and that in itself is quite the achievement.

Bill works on a lot of levels but the biggest one seems to be the overt fondness both her and the Doctor have for one another. The episode started with him confronting her about sneaking into his lectures and then offering to teach her on the side and pretty soon when the main threat of the episode was stalking Bill, she was soon catapulted into the Doctor's exciting and dangerous world.

Seeing Bill working the Doctor and Nardole was something of a treat and already I think we've possibly got one of the most striking TARDIS teams in the show's 54 year history. It's one of those dynamics that you don't expect to work but somehow it really does look like it's going to and I can't wait to see how the three interact for the rest of this series.

As for the threat itself, well it involved the girl of Bill's affections - Heather (Stephanie Hyam) being taken over by some space oil/water type creature and chasing after Bill throughout the ends of the universe before the latter was able to convince the thing possessing Heather to eventually let her go. In some respects, it's a bit of a rushed resolution to the main threat but considering the character building up in other areas for this episode, I didn't mind so much.

Keeping with the character stuff, a lot of hype was generated towards the reveal that Bill would be the show's first openly gay companion and given that Moffat himself can be a mixed bag for LGBT characters, I thought the depiction of Bill's sexuality was actually brilliant. There was no doubt that Bill was gay but it was written in a manner that was respectable and believable and the somewhat star crossed love story of sorts with Heather also had a nice level of poignancy to it before it came to an ending.

Of course the highlight then was having Bill call out the Doctor for trying to mind wipe her. I really hate when the Doctor pulls that and aside from obvious reminders of both Donna and Clara in recent times, I did like that Bill was able to stop him before he went through with it. Of course, I'm also curious as to why the Doctor is at that particular university and what he's hiding in a vault, though if I'm right, I have a feeling the tabloids might have leaked the latter spoiler.

As for Nardole, I think the jury is still out on him, character wise. I mean he works well enough with the Doctor and Bill and the episode revealed that he's got a robotic body but I'm still dubious as to whether or not the show actually needs him in the long run. On the other hand, he didn't hinder the episode in any way and he got some good lines so there's that.

- The Doctor had a row of old sonic screwdrivers (that has now been added to the dictionary) on his desk and pictures of Susan and River for good measure along with Clara's theme music.
- We got to see an edited (for the better) version of the Friend From The Future scene that introduced Bill last year as herself, the Doctor and Nardole got caught up in a Dalek and Movellan war.
- Bill and Heather: an ode to William Hartnell and his wife, Heather McIntyre. Then again, this episode was from a man who decided to call the show's 828th episode, The Pilot after all.
- The original title for this episode was A Star In Her Eye, in relation to the defect that Heather had. Bill's foster mother, Moira (Jennifer Hennessey) was also Valerie in Gridlock.
- Along with Doctor Who Extra bits for this series, we also have an After Party series on YouTube with Christel Dee. Australia also have a Takeover series as well.
- Chronology: Mainly 2017 England. We did get to see Australia for a brief moment and went 23 million years into the future as well.

The Pilot definitely was an interesting mission statement. On one hand, it sort of riffed off several other episodes (Rose, Midnight, The Waters Of Mars, The Lodger) while on the other hand, it actually did make for a good jumping on point for people who have slipped away from the last few series. Bill already made a wonderful impression and with both Mondasian Cybermen, two Masters on the horizon and other imminent returns, this is certainly shaping up to be an interesting final run for Moffat and Capaldi alike.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Review of Empire's 3x13: "My Naked Villainy"

Written by Joshua Allen & Jamie Rosengard
Directed by Cherien Dabis

Guiliana (to Lucious): "I'm about to make your wishes come true."

This episode started with Lucious in bad condition and then ended with the not remotely shocking revelation that he has a past with Guiliana. In between that though he had to deal with Andre and Anika making their own power plays while continuing to be a lingering threat to Cookie and Angelo's relationship.

The last few episodes have been signposting the beginning of the end for Cookie and Angelo due to the former being hooked on Lucious and this episode really had to hammer home the point even more. When Cookie wasn't being accosted in the street by fangirls over Jamal's ode to his parents dangerous love, even Anika was dismissive of Cookie not being in love with Lucious.

Angelo himself even had his own mayoral victory upstaged by Lucious gatecrashing Leviticus and playing You're So Beautiful before Giuliana took the wind out of the latter's sails. I think the question now with five episodes left to go, will Angelo and Cookie break up in the finale or before then? The trailers show that Cookie is certainly put out of place by Lucious/Giuliana working together soon, so I imagine it's going to be soon enough.

Of course when things weren't pivoting on either being love with Lucious or wanting to get one over on him, business wise as Andre managed to successfully do this week, there were some other plots worth getting into.

Hakeem went from being oblivious to the fallout of Kennedy's attack during his birthday antics to actually taking on board the advice both Jamal and Cookie gave him in relation to misogyny and victim blaming, especially when both called out some of his past music. Hakeem's attempts to amend the situation with a female friendly song were actually pretty good, even if Andre tried to scupper the whole thing. At least Hakeem is showing some maturity though.

- Anika asking Cookie to look after Bella was a surprising moment but I can actually believe that despite their mutual hatred, Cookie would be the best person to look after Bella though.
- Jamal and Delphine (Estelle) played Lucious and Cookie while flashbacks also showed Cookie peddling drugs for Lucious as well.
- Standout music: You're So Beautiful by Lucious and Jamal/Delphine's Dangerous and Hakeem's Special.
- Chronology: A couple of days since Strange Bedfellows.

Solid enough episode. My Naked Villainy had some good bits in it (Jamal schooling both Hakeem and Derek, Nessa doing something similar to Andre) and it was nice to see Hakeem actually do something mature as well but the whole Guiliana/Lucious/Cookie/Angelo quadrangle really could go either way in the last few episodes though.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My Review of Feud: Bette And Joan's: "Hagsploitation"

Written by Tim Minear & Gina Welch
Directed by Tim Minear

Jack L. Warner (to Aldrich, re Bette/Joan): "If you think it's Twilight for us, it is Midnight for them."

Much as I do loathe the Jack Warners of the world, there's no denying that his words, unpleasant as they were also happened to be true. All of them needed another big hit on their hands. Warner and Aldrich needed a hit. Joan wanted another movie that could give her proper buzz and Bette probably wanted more than television spot.

The answer to all their possible problems - a movie called Whatever Happened To Cousin Charlotte (later named Sweet Charlotte) following into a genre that goes by the unflattering name of hagsploitation, which Jack seemed taken with as it meant that he could 'degrade' actresses on their last line, career wise.

Getting both Joan and Bette to agree to the project was down to Aldrich, who had to persuade both of them to put their differences aside to work with each other again while also making their own demands (Bette wanted some creative control, Joan to be paid upfront). Aldrich also later made some of his own demands to Warner while his marriage to Harriet was falling apart behind the scenes during this episode as well.

Of course when Joan wasn't working on this new project with Bette and trying to present  united front with her rival (half assed Oscar apology, matches as a symbolic gesture), she also had two other plotlines in an episode that was heavily focused on her.

First of all we saw her on the road promoting her movie, Strait Jacket with the director William Castle, which was a fun way of opening the episode and then there was the threat of a sex tape that her brother Hal was threatening to leak. The latter gave us more of an insight into Joan's family history while also revealing that the tape wasn't real.

Another interesting point of this episode was seeing the cracks in Joan's relationship with Mamacita as well. The latter has always been Joan's only real ally (especially as Hedda showed her true colours this week) but even her limits were tested this week when she threatened to leave Joan if the latter threw anything else at her head again. Going by next week, it seems she'll make good on that threat too.

- Having John Walters as William Castle was a nice bit of guest casting. Murphy managed to keep that one under his hat.
- Hedda was dying in this episode and even then the episode managed to make her horrible as possible. It was nice to see Pauline and Victor Buono again though.
- If you want to know more about the genre of Hagsploitation, here you go .... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho-biddy
- Chronology: 1964 going by the release of Joan's movie and production on Sweet Charlotte.

Hagsploitation was another suitably strong episode. As the series comes closer to it's end along with both Bette and Joan's careers on the decline, this episode showed the desperation from both to have another major hit but history shows us, only one of them stuck out their would be second venture together.

Rating: 8 out of 10