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Showing posts from May, 2017

Dead Men Tell No Better Tales

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Pirates of the Caribbean films. The Curse of the Black Pearl was a brilliantly clever, funny, and exciting adventure that’s easily the best swashbuckler movie since the days of Errol Flynn. The second and third films were typically bad sequels, but still enjoyable guilty pleasures. And the fourth was okay, but not very engaging or memorable. However with each film in this series, you’re guaranteed some creativity in the world, characters, action, and visuals, that are worth something, even if the plots are convoluted and drawn out. Dead Men Tell No Tales is coming six years after On Stranger Tides, and is the first in the series not to be written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Does this signal a return to form for this series or spell its ultimate doom?
          The cursed ghost of a Spanish naval captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) has been freed from captivity in the Devil’s Triangle along with his crew, and seeks revenge on Jack Sparrow (…

Doctor Who Reviews: "The Pyramid at the End of the World"

I was expecting little of “The Pyramid at the End of the World” (the title didn’t help much). The return of the monks from last week wasn’t a very promising idea, and there’s nothing to its look that would suggest anything other than bland. That however isn’t what the episode ends up being. It’s actually fairly decent and competently executed.
          Shortly following the events of “Extremis”, Bill’s actual date gets interrupted by the Secretary General of the U.N. who takes her, the Doctor, and Nardole to a pyramid that has mysteriously appeared over the fictional country of Turmezistan. Inside the pyramid are more of those monk aliens who set a doomsday clock for the human race. However they’re not trying to destroy the world, as we soon discover, but are rather predicting it, and offer their protection in exchange for the humans’ consent -but it must be “true” consent as they define it. The Doctor immediately opposes this idea, having reason not to trust them, and sets …

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Ebb Tide"

It’s quite appropriate this episode is called “Ebb Tide” as it recedes from the intense action of the previous couple episodes, and isn’t thoroughly interesting in any of its stories. In fact a lot of the plot direction feels like it’s just trying to get characters to certain places for the final two episodes.
          Vanessa’s been transported after the last episode, awakening in a manger strangely enough. Before she does, Renfield once again creeps on her, licking and nearly biting her before Dracula stops him. He puts on his Sweet fa├žade again once she awakes. She happily returns to Murray Manor where she meets Caliban. They share a visit during which Caliban confides in her his desire to see his family, but inability to owing to his monstrousness. Vanessa sympathizes, and tells him he should attempt to reconnect. She also, now recognizing him, asks if he remembers working in the asylum, which of course Caliban does not. But she tells him he showed her incredible kindnes…

Back to the Feature: Oliver! (1968)

So clearly I didn’t learn from Thoroughly Modern Millie, because here I am tackling another musical.
          But this isn’t any musical, it’s Carol Reed’s Academy Award winning version of Lionel Bart’s stage hit Oliver! based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I’ve loved the book long enough that I have seen this musical performed a couple times on stage, but never got around to seeing the movie that was the toast of 1968. I was never huge on the musical, as when it came to Dickens as a kid, I was very much a purist, and this show in particular was a little too watered down from a story that was actually pretty dark. I mean it pulls no punches in how dangerous and grimy the underworld of London crime was in the 1830s, and the violence is by far Dickens at his most graphic. But I’ve learned to be more open-minded since then and besides, I’ve seen worse variations of this story.
          The premise for the few who don’t know, is about an orphan boy forced to go through chil…

Breaking the Covenant

Sir Ridley Scott definitively returning to the Alien universe should be a great thing. The film he helmed in 1979 is a sci-fi horror masterpiece, brilliantly directed, performed, and with some of the greatest atmosphere, visuals, and perfectly-built tension in either genre. One of my favourite films, it spawned one great sequel from James Cameron, one poor sequel from debut director David Fincher, and one horrible piece of garbage from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. After a couple crossovers with the Predator franchise (one okay, one terrible), Ridley Scott made the disappointing pseudo-prequel Prometheus. His follow-up, Alien: Covenant, is meant to form the connective tissue between that film and the original. 
          Set in 2104, a ship called Covenant is on its way to a planet for colonization. It’s crew consists entirely of couples and is also carrying a thousand other settlers in stasis as well as two thousand human embryos to start a new world. But when they intercept a radio t…

Doctor Who Reviews: "Extremis"

“Extremis” is a really cool title. Just putting it out there. And it’s a word that should be used more often in everyday language.
          There are a number of cool and promising ideas in this episode. It’s about the Doctor on a mission from the Pope for god’s sake, and so it definitely has its share of good moments. However as a whole, it doesn’t really come together sadly.
          I was surprised when after only five episodes, we get the reveal of what’s inside the vault: it’s Missy, whom the Doctor’s committed to guarding for a thousand years. In the present however, the Doctor gets a message from the Pope who has called on him to help uncover the secret of an ancient text called the Veritas, kept in the secret Vatican library. Everyone who’s attempted to read it has committed suicide. The Doctor brings along Bill and Nardole to find out what’s so fatal about this book while also discovering other secrets in the process.
          Oh yeah, and every so often the episode…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "No Beast So Fierce"

The last act of “No Beast So Fierce” is amazing! It’s some of the most tension-filled, yet action-packed, satisfying sequences this show has given us. The episode leading up to it is okay -some good, some bad, mostly dropping breadcrumbs that’ll have to be followed up on soon with only three episodes left.
          The fact that nothing in Caliban’s life will ever not be a tragedy was restated for a start when Caliban desiring to be closer with his child gives him water and even talks to him in the voice the son would recognize. Of course, it’s a little inconsistent that Caliban sounds exactly like his former self while Lily (thankfully) has nothing of Brona’s bad Irish accent to her. His son thinks he is an angel while Caliban assures him his pain is only fleeting. And then the kid opens his eyes and is utterly horrified, driving Caliban away with his screams. Again, it seems a bit of an overreaction considering apart from a pale complexion and some stitches at the ends of …

King Arthur: The Once and Only King

The Arthurian legend has been adapted hundreds of times over the centuries, into poems such as Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, book series’ by T.H. White and Stephen Lawhead, multiple BBC series’, and numerous films including Camelot, First Knight, and even Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, one of their more forgettable animated films. King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword is the latest interpretation, one brought to us by Guy Ritchie of all people, and his signature is all over this movie, but not exactly in a good way.
          During an apparent war between humans and mages, the sorcerer Mordred attacks Camelot, and though King Uther (Eric Bana) is triumphant in killing him, his brother Vortigern (Jude Law) stages a coup that results in Uther’s death. His young son Arthur escapes to Londinium, and years later is tasked with pulling his fathers’ sword Excalibur from the stone, defeating Vortigern and taking his rightful place as King of the Britons. 
          The frantic edit…

Doctor Who Reviews: "Oxygen"

Zombies in SPAAACEE!
          Well, not technically, but close enough. And “Oxygen” has some fun with the idea of dead bodies stalking slowly towards you spreading a “virus” that makes you one of them. I’m not saying it’s The Walking Dead, but I think someone on staff was watching that.
          Unable to keep away from space, the Doctor, Bill, and a scolding Nardole travel to a mining station in the future where company mandated robotic suits supply their wearers oxygen for a price. But a lot of these suits have turned on the crew and its up to the TARDIS team to save the survivors and figure out what’s going on.
          One of my favourite Doctor Who writers and indeed one of my favourite writers in general was Douglas Adams (his “City of Death” is still one of the all-time best Doctor Who stories). His brilliant wit, bizarre ideas, and sense of satire made for some very unique episodes. “Oxygen” is nowhere near a Douglas Adams calibre script, but its’ ultimate subject ma…

Guardians 2 is Heavy on Humour, Low on Story

There’s an episode of Futurama where Leela believes she’s found her mysterious homeworld, but the reality is revealed to be far less idyllic than it appeared. This was an old story trope when Futurama did it seventeen years ago, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plays with the same outline, but in a more serious manner. Only slightly more serious.
          The Guardians of the Galaxy are still roaming the cosmos as protectors-for-hire when they run into a powerful alien being called Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be the father of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt). He takes Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) to his home planet, but while Peter gradually becomes transfixed by its lush richness and the secrets of his own identity, the others wonder if it’s too good to be true. Meanwhile, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan)still seeks revenge, and the ravager Yondu (Michael Rooker) is drawn into the fray due to his history with Peter.
          As you …