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Iron Fist – Black Tiger Steals Heart (Review)

And so it becomes a little clearer what exactly Iron Fist is trying to do with the Hand.

Black Tiger Steals Heart reveals that Madame Gao is not the leader of the Hand, but instead one faction of the Hand. Presumably, Nobu was the leader of another faction of the Hand on Daredevil, although his interactions with Gao never seemed anywhere near as charged as they might otherwise be. Black Tiger Steals Heart properly introduces the character of Bakuto, a mysterious figure who has been lurking at the edge of the narrative since he was introduced as a friend of Colleen Wing in Felling Tree With Roots.

“Ay, Macarena!”

Bakuto is ultimately revealed to be a major player in the Hand, a character with ambiguous motivations and impressive influence. Black Tiger Steals Heart immediately sets Bakuto up as a cool idealist with progressive values and socialist leanings. He attracts young followers who seem genuinely devoted to them, arguing against capitalism as a philosophy and suggesting that the power of disaffected youth can be channeled in a more constructive manner. Contrasted with Gao’s capitalism or Rand Industries’ exploitation, Bakuto makes a lot of sense.

Bakuto is ultimately revealed as a sinister cult leader looking to exploit the young people placed in his care, turning them into weapons through which he might wage war upon the establishment. Bakuto’s reinvention of the Hand away from Nobu’s Asian mysticism or Gao’s magical capitalism continues the theme of the Hand as a stand-in for American anxieties about foreign belief systems. In this case, Iron Fist treats the Hand as a reactionary critique of left-leaning social movements like Black Lives Matter or Bernie Sanders supporters.

Enjoy this, because this is the only Asian Iron Fist that you’re going to get.

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Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth originally aired in 1964.

We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth.

– who are the Daleks trying to convince?

Watching the early years of Doctor Who, I often find myself struggling to measure the quality of a show as against its importance to the series as a whole. Sixties Doctor Who has perhaps an unfair reputation when it comes to quality. In fact, as a rule, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on my trips back to the archives for these reviews. However, it’s often much more interesting to look at the context and the legacy of these classic episodes, as the show begins to define what it is and what it isn’t, what it can do and what it can’t do.

In that context, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a massively important story. It features the first returning monsters of the series (go on, guess!), the first departure of a companion, the first invasion of Earth, the first aliens in London. The list goes on and on. There’s an incredibly vast influence that The Dalek Invasion of Earth has on the half-century of Doctor Who that follows. It’s nearly impossible to deny the shadow that this adventure casts.

However, it’s also a very flawed piece of television, for all its iconic status. Indeed, watching these six episodes I’m more often struck by what is important rather than what is good.

The Daleks of London...

The Daleks of London…

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Non-Review Review: White Elephant (Elefante Blanco)

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Elefante Blanco is visually stunning. Director Pablo Trapero makes excellent use of the film’s setting to construct compelling and powerful images, as characters get lost amid the slums or wander through the ruins of the long-abandoned shell of what might have been the largest hospital in South America. Unfortunately, for all the visceral and visual energy that Elefante Blanco packs, it feels remarkably shallow and trite in its portrayal of life inside those slums, and the challenges facing two priests trying to help the community get back on their feet.

Don't worry, we can build on this...

Don’t worry, we can build on this…

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Non-Review Review: Robot & Frank

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Robot & Frank is perhaps best described as a live-action Pixar film, a lost script or concept from that period only a few years ago when it seemed like the studio could do no wrong. The beauty of films like The Incredibles or Toy Story 3 was the way that these fantasies allowed us to engage with incredibly adult issues in a disarmingly wondrous way. Up could deal with the pain of loss in great detail, because it was really the story of a man flying his house to South America, right? Finding Nemo could play out the darkest fears lurking in a parent’s subconscious, because it was really about cute fish, correct?

And so Robot & Frank provides a wonderful vehicle for the exploration of what growing old really means, and how we cope with the challenges that it presents. Because, after all, it’s just a film with a cute-looking robot butler, right?

Frank'll test his metal...

Frank’ll test his metal…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 5 (Review/Retrospective)

With The Spirit Archives, Vol. 5, we get our first real taste of what The Spirit looks like without Will Eisner. I’ve always felt like The Spirit belonged to Eisner in a way that very few iconic American comic book characters belong to a particular creator. The Spirit belonged to Eisner in the same way that The Adventures of Tintin belonged to Hergé. I am fond of Darwyn Cooke’s revival of the character, and there’s something interesting about the Kitchen Sink anthology series, but those exist mainly as curiosities or companion pieces to Eisner’s work on the character.

In many ways, this stretch of strips, published by Eisner’s staff and colleagues during his army service, feels the same sort of way. It’s more of a historical curiosity than an end to itself.

Lighten up…

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Non-Review Review: The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

In many respects, The Creature From the Black Lagoon feels like a brass band funeral for the golden age of the Universal monster movies. The subgenre would continue ticking over for quite some time. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy would be released the following year, The Creature From the Black Lagoon would spawn two sequels for the two years following, and Universal would try a spate of monster movies up until The Leech Woman in 1960. However, it’s clear that – by 1954 – the golden age of the Universal monster movie was well over.

And I think that part of the reason that The Creature From the Black Lagoon works so well is because it’s almost a mournful eulogy for the genre.

Out of the depths…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Franz Sanchez

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

As far as James Bond’s on-screen adversaries go, Franz Sanchez stands out for a number of reasons. Like Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos, Robert Davi seems like he might have wandered on to the set from a nearby sound stage. While the murky and subtle double-agent from For Your Eyes Only could have arrived from a John le Carré story, Franz Sanchez looks to have wandered out of Miami Vice. Licence to Kill represented an attempt by the producers to make Bond topical again, with mixed results. It’s still one of the most divisive films in the series.

Part of that attempt to modernise Bond was the decision to cast the character as a morally ambiguous anti-hero out for revenge, in contrast to the clean-cut morality of earlier adventures. However, Sanchez himself was also by-product of the attempt to modernise Bond. Bond was no longer hunting a spy, an assassin or a madman with plans of world domination. Instead, Bond found himself confronting a thug running an international drug cartel.

It’s all keeled over on him…

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