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Jessica Jones – AKA It’s Called Whiskey (Review)

Although Jessica Jones is the central character of Jessica Jones, the show does a pretty great job of building its ensemble.

The characters who exist in orbit of the title character all feel surprisingly well-formed and nuanced, three-dimensional and grounded. Although Jessica Jones is not always plotted in the most organic or logical way, it goes to great efforts to add layers to its characters. Over the course of the thirteen-episode season, even minor players like Malcolm or Simpson are revealed to be much more than their initial appearances would suggest. (Although this turns out to be a mixed blessing in the case of Simpson.)

jessicajones-itscalledwhiskey28a

If Jessica Jones has a weaker sense of structure than Daredevil, it has a stronger sense of its own ensemble. This is obvious from the outset. Rather than incorporating the show’s awkward mandatory comic relief into the primary cast as Daredevil did with Foggy, Jessica Jones relegates Robyn and Ruben to recurring status. As AKA Take a Bloody Number demonstrates, this doesn’t prevent every possible awkward tonal mismatch between comic relief and tragic drama; however, it does allow the rest of the cast room to breathe.

AKA It’s Called Whiskey is largely about building up the characters around Jessica, without sacrificing her role in the larger narrative.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Vanishing Point (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Vanishing Point continues the “remix” formula that we’ve come to expect from the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise. In particular, Vanishing Point is a rather heady Star Trek: The Next Generation cocktail. It has shades of Remember Me, Realm of Fear, The Next Phase and even The Inner Light – with a healthy dose of Brannon Braga’s questions about the nature of reality. All of these elements blend together to form Vanishing Point, an episode that feels overly familiar and rote despite an intriguing set-up.

It is a shame that it doesn’t work better. Vanishing Point brings us back to the idea that Archer and his crew are pioneers in space exploration. The teaser reminds us that the crew of the Enterprise still don’t take the transporter for granted – that it is still something of a mystery to them, despite the audience’s familiarity with the device. Vanishing Point feels like the first time that Enterprise has emphasised this sense of novelty and inexperience since the first season.

Reflections...

Reflections…

However, the episode feels like something of a disappointment. The entire story turns out to be a gimmick and a twist. There is nothing wrong with this sort of storytelling. After all, the franchise has played these sorts of games before. Indeed, some of Braga’s best scripts – Frame of Mind and Projections come to mind – touch on similar ideas with similar twists. The problem with Vanishing Point is that these twists seem a bit too loose or too disconnected to properly resonate.

Vanishing Point feels like the rough sketch of a good episode doodled quickly on the back of a napkin, a collection of connective clauses all designed to keep the story ticking for forty-five minutes before ending on a fairly stock twist. There is a great deal of potential here, but Vanishing Point never quite delivers on it.

Trip Tucker: Space Tourist...

Trip Tucker: Space Tourist…

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Star Trek – The Changeling (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Changeling, an episode so good that they made it twice.

Sarcasm aside, The Changeling is mostly interesting for reasons outside the episode itself. It is the first contribution from John Meredyth Lucas, who would become the show’s producer towards the end of the season. Lucas took over from Gene L. Coon and is notable for being the first production staff member on Star Trek to direct an episode from his own script, with Elaan of Troyius in the show’s troubled third season. The Changeling arguably had an even bigger influence on the franchise, serving as a template for the first feature film.

Probing problems...

Probing problems…

Okay, “template” may be a slight exaggeration. However, you can definitely feel the influence of The Changeling on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. However, that may simply be because the script to The Changeling hits quite heavily on some of Gene Roddenberry’s pet themes. It has a villainous robot outwitted by emotional humans, Kirk besting a god-like entity, and larger philosophical questions about religion and theology.

Even outside of the themes that resonate specifically with Roddenberry, The Changeling hits on a variety of other classic Star Trek tropes – from a threat leaving nothing but dead star systems in its wake through to an abundance of dead red shirts. There’s an argument to be made that The Changeling is one of the most archetypal Star Trek episode. If you were to bake a Star Trek episode from a stock list of ingredients, it would look a lot like this. For better or worse.

Melding metal...

Melding metal…

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Space: Above and Beyond – R & R (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

R & R is what might be described as a “monkey’s paw” situation.

Space: Above and Beyond finally gets to air on Friday nights. It had been promised a Friday night slot in early development, before Fox moved it to Sunday to make room for Strange Luck. Glen Morgan and James Wong had been promised the coveted Friday night slot again in January 1996, but it never materialised. Finally, late in the season, Fox manage to air an episode of Space: Above and Beyond on a Friday night. That episode would even air directly before The X-Files. And not just any episode of The X-Files. Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”, a classic.

Everything is Coolio!

Everything is Coolio!

However, as the Host himself points out in R & R, everything has its price. Here, it seemed like Fox had chosen the most stereotypically network-friendly episode of Space: Above and Beyond to air in that Friday night slot. So there were hot young people at night clubs, celebrity cameos, romance, angst, melodrama, absurdity. It is one of the most grotesquely heightened episodes of Space: Above and Beyond ever produced, to the point that Hawkes picks up and drops a drug addiction as only one of the episode’s three primary plot threads.

R & R is not a good episode of television. It is the weakest that Space: Above and Beyond has been in quite some time, and the weakest it would be from this point onwards. It seems like a cruel irony that it finally managed to get that Friday night slot it so desperately wanted.

Chalk it up as a misfire...

Chalk it up as a misfire…

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Non-Review Review: Grand Canyon

Lawrence Kasdan is probably more famous as a writer than a director. The talent behind such classics as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and… er, Clash of the Titans, Kasdan has made a name for himself as the writer of all manner of big-budget spectacle. However, he has also established himself as a director of much quieter fare, such as The Big Chill and Grand Canyon, an early nineties ensemble drama built around the notion that all of life’s troubles seem relatively small if put in the proper perspective. Occasionally just a little bit too heavy-handed for its own good, it’s still an interesting little piece with a nice cast.

Happy families…

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Justice for the JLA: Warner’s New Stand-Alone Superhero Team-Up…

News broke during the week that Warner Brothers are planning a new Justice League movie, apparently for 2013. Reportedly Ryan Reynolds has not been approached to play the Green Lantern in the film, and – based on comments from both film makers – it’s unlikely that Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot or The Dark Knight Rises will play into the film in any meaningful way. One might consider that something of a marketing faux pas, as that would represent a fairly intense lead-in into the movie (as opposed to the four-odd years Marvel has been teasing The Avengers). Indeed, it has been suggested that the proposed Justice League movie might stand entirely on its own two feet, completely distinct from the superhero movies that Warners are churning out. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this was exactly the plan with the company’s last aborted attempt at a Justice League film.

Justice for all?

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Non-Review Review: True Romance

True Romance is one of those films I’m surprised never found a stronger audience, even retroactively. It features a screenplay from Quentin Tarantino which really put the future director on the map, but it also features a huge number of pre-stardom appearances from actors as diverse as James Gandolfini, Brad Pitt and Chris Penn. The movie holds together fantastically, but perhaps it works better as a collection of scenes than as a fully-realised movie – but, when the scenes are this good, that’s not necessarily a heavy criticism.

It's Whirley ride...

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