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Torchwood: Miracle Day – Rendition (Review)

Rendition serves as a demonstration of the flaws with Torchwood: Miracle Day. While some of those flaws – the flaws inherent to the production between the BBC and Starz, the difficulty with scale – were built into The New World, Rendition hits upon quite a few more. Most obviously, it’s an entire episode dedicated to filler. Pretty much the only plot line that advances in a meaningful way is that involving Oswald Danes. Otherwise, Rendition feels like a bit of a holding pattern, a time-wasting exercise designed to pad out the season to ten episodes.

Dead on arrival?

Dead on arrival?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Embrace the Wolf (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the episode Elementary, Dear Data.

The concept behind Embrace the Wolf is quite ingenious. The execution is slightly less so. Recognising that Star Trek: The Next Generation had a recurring interest in Victorian London, in Data’s interest in Sherlock Holmes, it seemed quite logical to drop Redjac into that scenario. Redjac was the non-corporeal serial killing entity introduced in Wolf in the Fold, one of Robert Bloch’s contributions to the second season of the classic Star Trek. As part of Wolf in the Fold, and playing into Bloch’s fascination with the notorious serial killer, Redjac was explicitly identified as the spirit of Jack the Ripper. As you do

So, pairing up Data’s Sherlock Holmes with Redjac’s Jack the Ripper should make for a decidedly pulpy adventure. Unfortunately, the end result is a little generic and unsatisfying.

Wolf in the holodeck...

Wolf in the holodeck…

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Hannibal – Relevés (Review)

For a show about a serial killer and the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit, Hannibal is often surprisingly deep. That’s not much of a surprise, given the quality of the staff working on it, but the show is absolutely stunning meditation on identity and personality. In a way, that’s one of the smartest things about Fuller’s first thirteen episode season, building on the foundations set by Thomas Harris to construct something that fits quite elegantly while remaining its own distinct entity.

Relevés is the penultimate episode of the first season, and the point where – having used Roti to clear away some of the clutter – the show starts tying up a lot of those loose ends. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the episode is the amount of suspense that Bryan Fuller and his staff can wring from the set-up – despite the fact that we know how this story ends, Hannibal manages to engage us so completely in the telling that what we already know seems almost irrelevant.

Things are heating up...

Things are heating up…

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Hannibal – Buffet Froid (Review)

Buffet Froid is the most strikingly horrific episode of Hannibal to date. Of course, the show is very much a horror story and enjoys its fair share of grotesque imagery. This is the series, after all, that gave us the makeshift angels, the do-it-yourself cello and the human totem poll. However, Buffet Froid plays most obviously on the imagery and iconography of horror. This is the episode where people have no faces and skin comes off at the slightest touch and the serial killer is waiting for you under your bed.

As you might imagine for a show with such complete control of its own atmosphere, Buffet Froid works very well indeed – providing what might be the most horrific episode of the show to date.

The doctor will see you now...

The doctor will see you now…

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Hannibal: Coquilles (Review)

I feel a little bad now. I spent a lot of time in Amuse-Boche and Ceuf complaining about the possibility that Hannibal might turn into a serial-killer-of-the-week procedural, at a time when the networks are over-saturated with that sort of forensic drama. However, Coquilles manages to be a pretty superlative hour of television despite feeling like a pretty conventional “catch the serial killer” story. The key is in the execution, with Coquilles serving as a rich character-driven drama that just happens to involve the hunt for a gruesome serial killer.

It also helps that the “angel maker” feels like a refugee from an early draft of a Thomas Harris novel rather than a bland psychopath of the week.

Served...

Served…

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Reckless Guardians: The Rise and Fall of Cinematic Responsibility…

I actually quite enjoyed The Rise of the Guardians. It is probably the most visually assured animation from Dreamworks to date, the cast are all having a great time and the plot is simple but effective. However, I just didn’t wind up feeling an emotional connection to the central character, Jack Frost. Jack is an embodiment of an abstract concept – a “guardian” appointed by “the Man in the Moon” (or “Manny” to his friends). The bulk of Rise of the Guardians is about Jack learning to embrace his new position and everything that comes with it – to swallow his insecurity and to accept that he has been chosen to do a kick-ass job.

Still, it remains quite difficult to connect with Jack Frost, and I wonder if it’s the same problem that made Pixar’s much-maligned Cars 2 so difficult to swallow. Rather than learning to temper his unreliable inconsistency, the movie asks an irresponsible character to effectively embrace the flaw completely.

Note: This article contains a few spoilers for Rise of the Guardians.

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Non-Review Review: The Invisible Man (1933)

We’ll begin with a reign of terror. A few murders here and there. Murders of great men, murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction. We might even wreck a train or two. Just these fingers around a signalman’s throat, that’s all.

The Invisible Man is a classic, sandwiched between James Whale’s celebrated monster movies – Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The movie was renowned at the time for its special effects, which still hold up remarkably well on the snazzy new blu ray issued by Universal Pictures. However, the film itself is still fantastic on its own terms, featuring a great leading performance from Claude Rains, a witty script and some fantastic direction from Whale. I think it’s also quite wonderfully telling that The Invisible Man manages to feature the story of simultaneously the most human and the most inhuman of these Universal Monster Movies.

The freak who came in from the cold…

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