Thursday, 19 October 2017

Star Wars Rebels S04E01 & S04E02 "Heroes of Mandalore"


Sabine leads a mission to free her father from the Empire, but finds that a past mistake has been resurrected with deadly consequences.
What I thought
Having known for months that the first episodes were Mandalore centric, I really wasn't looking forward to this double part opener, but I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps my buildup of being sure I'd dislike it helped me to appreciate it more? I've never been a fan of Mandalorian culture. Aside from the Fetts, whom were merely wearing Mandalorian armour, everything else about Mandalore has been more of a Mandabore for me. Sure, they look super cool in their armour and have amazing gadgets, it's just everything else seems to be, well, dull. There's clans all over the place falling out with each other, and it seems to be one civil war after the other and a constant competition as to who is the best clan. Therefore, it was somewhat unexpected that I enjoyed this opening hour long episode, most likely because the action really helped keep the boring Mandalore politics out of matters ... most of the time.

It's great that the episode starts with action, and pretty much continues with battling the Empire for the duration of the double-parter. Ezra, Kanan, Chopper, Sabine and her Mandalorian chums are attacking an outpost to rescue Sabine's dad, who'd I'd forgotten existed. After taking down just a handful of imperials and cutting down walkers in the usual Jedi style, they find that there's no prisoners in the compound in record time. That's impressive searching abilities. The intel that her dad was there was supposed to be irrefutable but wasn't. Therefore, when new intel drops that her father is instead being transported to the capitol to be publically killed, naturally they seriously doubt it's authenticity. No wait, they don't. Sorry. They simply just believe it and instead launch a plan to intercept the convoy. Saxon, the brother of the other Saxon who perished last season, and the one in charge of the Imperial Mandalorians, says it was his plan to lure Sabine in to the deserted compound, but then doesn't seem to expect the attack on the convoy? I dunno. I gave up at this stage in trying to work out the logic. Anyhow, naturally the Rebels and Mandalorians rescue Bail Organa from the transport. Oops, nope, I mean Sabine's father. Well, it's an easy mistake. They look like they were separated at birth. This episode then ends with Sabine's father giving her tips in painting ... or was heading that way, until Saxon unleashes the Empire's new weapon on Sabine's mum, brother and co, with what is basically a walking electric wielding walker. UNLIMITED POWER! It's a super end, not least that we're rid of a few Mandalorians, but also the scene of the destruction is breathtakingly heartbreaking to see.

In part 2 it's all about destroying the weapon she helped create. Bo-Katan isn't happy with Sabine over her creation, and who could blame her, but for the sake of a long drawn out argument, she's easily convinced to forgive all that and help take the weapon down. Sneaking in using jetpacks, which Ezra seems to have mastered by this point after a rather embarrassingly comical performance in part 1, they enter the hanger bay of Saxon's star destroyer. Luckily the weapon is just inside. That's very convenient. When Sabine and Bo-Katan go off to locate the actual heart of the weapon, we find that it's just a trap by Saxon, as he uses the weapon on them. Not wanting to fry them, he needs Sabine to increase the yield of the weapon to it's maximum potential, using his threat to kill Bo-Katan as the bargaining chip. Here's where it goes into cartoon overdrive, when Sabine agrees to his demands (naturally tricking him) presses a few buttons, warns him not to use it, which of course leads to him pressing the button that sets the weapon on all Imperial armour instead. I'm not sure what's ridiculous more. That she could make that change so quickly, or that Saxon was stupid enough to think she'd done it in a few button presses. Anyhow, a quick darksabre through the weapon and it's time to bail out of the imperial ship quickly, as the weapon's core seems to be so powerful that it ultimately takes down the whole Star Destroyer. When it comes to Star Wars Cartoons, it's not enough to cripple a ship, you have to absolutely blow it up!

Right at the end, and for no particular reason that I can see, all the Madalorian clans decide to follow Bo-Katan, whom Sabine gives the darksabre for the iconic raised sabre pose.

It wasn't anywhere near as bad an episode as i feared. Despite it being all on Mandalore, the politics was not as potent as the action. There's a lot of 'WTF' moments, but this is a cartoon at the end of the day and therefore I try to overlook as much of that as I can and just try to enjoy matters. However, despite all the action, it did feel a little like a "did we really need an hour to get to this point?" kind of episode. The good news is that perhaps we can all move on from the Mandalore/Sabine thing now and get back to the Rebellion.

Verdict 6/10 - Decent opener full of action, and thankfully not as stuffy with Mandalorian stuff as I feared.

What I liked:
  • Lots of action! 
  • Ezra's comedy moments helped cheer matters up.
  • Empire's weapon was pretty impressive.

What I didn’t like:
  • Contradictions. One minute the heroes are taking out two TIE fighters and the next they are pinned down by two stormtroopers. 
  • I know the weapon was on reduced power, but Sabine and Bo-Katan did recover amazingly quickly.
  • Saxon not being able to increase usefulness of weapon but is convinced by Sabine's 5 second tapping of buttons that she's significantly increased the weapon's yield.
  • That core in weapon took down a whole Star Destroyer? 
  • Mandalorians are easily swayed to hop sides aren't they?
  • Don't want to be mean, but it would have meant more if Sabine's mum and brother had been wiped out by the weapon.
  • I don't know why, but I was a little surprised by Sabine's Dad's references to Jedi.
The view after the weapon was deployed was stark and emotional.

Ezra provides the comedy in episode 1 as his flying is a disaster.

Saxon; with brains like he had, he was never going to last long.

Nothing is ever as delightful as a Star Destroyer in a destructive descent.

We have another new Mandalore leader. Ok, she was previously a leader, but she's back now. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Star Trek Discovery: Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2

The anticipation level I had about this show was simmering very nicely. Sure, the trailer hadn't done much for me, but surely I couldn't be as unsure after watching the opening episodes than I was after watching the trailer? Well, seems that is possible. Now, I've watched every Star Trek TV Series, the films and even the rebooted films (aside from the third one). Admittedly I didn't enjoy the new rebooted films, and I wasn't the biggest fan of Voyager, but I welcomed a return to Trek in the timespan between 'Enterprise' and the 'TNG' onto TV. I also was well chuffed that it was 'canon' Trek, and not the new timeline from the rebooted films. I loved 'Enterprise' so more of that with some bells and whistles would suit me fine. So, what did we get then?

Having watched the opening two episodes, I'm feeling quite flat. I'm trying to 'cling on' to aspects of what I saw in the hope that I'll feel inspired to keep watching the series but there's so little there to really say I enjoyed. Let's do a little recap ...

Things start off with the new hairless crustacean version of Klingons. Tick. That was the best way to start. Introduce the menace early. Then we get two of the new cast on a desert planet trading compliments and conversation as if written from an educational textbook between each other. Yes, let's meet Captain Philippa Georgiou and Michael Burnham as they essentially walk miles to fix a water well with a phaser and then walk around in circles to create sand patterns of the starfleet insignia. As great as it is to see Starfleet helping other civilizations and boldly going, this is a little dull due to the dialogue by two characters who seem unable to show emotion even in the heat of a desert. Sure, Michael has been raised as a vulcan so it's a little hard to show anything remotely emotional I guess. Plus, she's been called Michael since birth. Some mistake with the birth certificate I gather and someone who can't spell Michelle right. Ok, I made that bit up. If it was true it would have been more exciting than this segment though. The groan in my head when sand patterns helps the ship find and rescue them was deafening. How exactly did that insignia help through a heck of a lot of clouds and an incoming storm?

We then have Michael doing what she ends up doing for the next two episodes; being impulsive, self-indulgent, pompous and about as likeable as phaser pistol to the head. If you've seen the actress in The Walking Dead, you'd think she was playing the same person for they are almost indistinguishable. She goes off in a funked spacesuit to investigate a nearby oddity, finds an ancient ship of amazing decorative sorts, gets into a two second battle with a klingon that also seems to be suited up and standing around on the hull of the ship, kills the klingon and narrowly gets back to the ship alive. She exits the medical bay dressed in bandages around the important bits, looking like a half dressed mummy, and starts blabbing onto the Captain about Klingons being everywhere. Captain eventually believes her as they have somehow managed to serve together for seven years without killing each other, and hey presto, big bad Klingon vessel comes out of invisibility cloak nearby. It then shines like a massive lightbulb, summoning all Klingons to come join them and unite the Klingon Empire together. We know this as we are treated to several long arduous scenes of the new styled klingons talking to each other as if they are speaking about one word every 10 seconds. Nice to see the language of klingon's being used but boy does it go on and on and on. It really doesn't help in any way to stimulate the audience. But anyhow, at least when the 24 factions of klingons all warp in to join the massive ceremonial klingon ship, we can get back to some normality and see proper klingons, right? Nope, don't be daft. All Klingons now lack hair, any real traditional forehead and instead look like they've been swimming with starfish for a few years. Even their ships barely resemble anything we've seen before. Apparently, humans haven't seen Klingons for a 100 years. Now where have I heard this story setup before? Oh yeah, Battlestar Galactica.

Michael demands in a rather teenage manner relentlessly at her Captain to fire first on the Klingons but she won't. No worries though, because in true adolescent style she ignores the chain of command that she's served for 7 years and nerve pinches her captain and attempts to assume control in the most unconvincing manner ever. Naturally, for apparently tension purposes only, the Captain recovers from the assault in record breaking time and comes out waving a phaser about. Sadly, before she can shoot Michael and spare us another hour of listening to her blabbing on, all hell breaks loose as federation ships turn up and it's like fireworks in space. I've not got a clue what's going on as it's damn hard to tell with lense flare and more background objects than at any landfill site. Basically the federation loses this battle, mostly thanks to the best scene of the battle which is a klingon ship cutting up the admiral's ship in half. Michael is sent to the brig ... during a battle ... because rules are rules folks. One of the bridge crew gets injured and is asked to walk to the medical bay. Hang on. If he can walk there, why can't he continue at his station? Anyhow, he gets lost, walks to the brig. Easy mistake huh? He's then blown up as miraculously, and damm annoyingly, the brig is all but destroyed, except for the bit where Michael is standing. Later she bores the ship's computer into helping her get to safety for fear it might try to kill itself if she keeps talking any longer. She's then back on the bridge with zero security people about and not one person really surprised or caring. Rules go out the window and she and the captain transport to the Klingon vessel after disabling it in the most un-federation like manner ever (bomb in a body), and go after the main baddy, which results in Michael shooting him just a few minutes after she said that they need him alive or he'll become a martyr. Oh well. Sadly still, the captain is killed just moments before so I guess we'll have Michael feeling guilty for that for the rest of the series. Then, just to help set us up for a cliffhanger of sorts, we have Michael in a court martial meeting, in the darkest of rooms ever. Quite how the judges can see each other, let along anything else, I don't know. Are they still into saving energy? Naturally she pleads guilty to all charges and is sentenced to life imprisonment, which naturally won't happen as we all know she's a star of the show. So, quite pointless to end with that one.

Final thoughts? Well, after thinking "We've got a whole season of this?" my next thought was something like ... 'meh'. It's not horrendous. It's not brilliant either. Critics apparently loved it but they most be smoking weed and stoned still from the rebooted films if you ask me. This is more Star Trek than the rebooted films, but only just. The modern sci-fi style of lens flare overload is everywhere, including the modern trend to have camera angles that look impressive but do nothing to help you engage with the story or understand what is going on. We only got introduced to three of the new crew in this opener and now one of them is most likely dead as a dodo. The Captain was a little Janeway like but, and even I thought this impossible, less interesting and likeable. She almost displays more humanity on a few occasions, giving us genuine emotional facial features but they were too far and few between, with most of the time all she did was give orders and reread Starfleet protocol manuals at us. Michael was so much like her Walking Dead character that I half expected her to put a knife to her captain's head instead of the vulcan nerve pinch. She's portraying a Vulcan-Human as if this is a B-movie; i.e. badly. It's as if she's so much naturally like a Vulcan in real life that she hams it up ridiculously in the show. The only other crew character we see anything of is Saru, an alien, but far more likeable than any of the humans in Starfleet in this show, thanks to his Scooby-Doo like ability to want to get away from danger and crisis. He's the only breath of fresh air on a ship that thus far is rather stale.

There's far more of the crew to meet and it's almost certain we will over the course of the season but why we couldn't' we have seen more of them in the opener, I don't know. They decided to ignore most of the crew and just go straight into a Klingon versus Starfleet storyline. Probably most of that crew we're never see as that ship is already fodder. I guess we're heading to a new ship and crew, which is very much welcome because this lot were only just about bearable because most of the time I couldn't see them due to lens flare. And what of the new Klingons? Why? This needs some explanation, that's for sure. I'm a little lost here. Why have the Klingons changed so much across the lifetime of Star Trek but humans stayed the same?

I love Star Trek but even I'm having a hard time with this show. However, there is plenty to go, and with a heck of a lot of crew not even covered yet, there's promise of there being people much more interesting than those we've seen so far. Star Trek needs interesting characters, just as much as all the alien stuff. So far there's only been two to try to identify with and one of them is about as interesting as a brick and likely to be shoved down out throats as the star of the show for the whole season. This could be a long road, getting from here to there ...

Rating 6/10 - There's some promise here but it's incredibly hidden behind a lot of annoying and unlikeable issues currently.

What I liked:

  • Like the ancient feel to new klingons and design. 
  • Starfleet ship looks cool on outside and the instruments are an electronic delight.
  • Lieutenant Saru; thank goodness for this character. Entertaining in every scene he was in.

What I didn't like:

  • Lens flare alert!
  • Some really unuseful camera angles.
  • Why is everyone in Starfleet suddenly so pompous and arrogant?
  • Did we really need another 'Vulcan/Human with issues' character?
  • Sarek? Did we really need him either?
  • Long distance mind-meld communication. No thanks.
  • Cringe inducing sand insignia moment.
  • Nice touch with old theme in new theme but at start and end? Didn't need it twice.
  • Flashback scenes didn't really work most of time.
  • Not the most interesting klingons and they are very very chatty in a manner that makes it tedious to watch.
  • Hologram communications? WTF? Even 'Enterprise', Voyager and TNG didn't use that form of communications!
  • Only introduced to 3 of crew in episodes 1 and 2.
  • Isn't Commander Michael essentially just playing the walking dead character? i.e. Dull, opinionated. Not sure how her and the captain served for 7 years together without hitting each other.
  • Captain is/was very goody goody but that's starfleet although she always looked like she was going to end up dead.
  • Since when do a Captain and 'Number One' go alone to launch an attack on an alien ship?

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Twin Peaks Season 3 (The Return): The Finale

Yes, this is my first review since episode 8! It's been a long hard struggle for me, finding words impossible to describe what I've seen between that episode and the finale. It's safe to say that from episode 9 up until 15, I've really found it hard to care or stay interested in a lot of what I've been watching. Aside from anything at Twin Peaks Sheriff's department, the FBI, Evil-Cooper or Dougie, everything else I honestly did not get attached to, and there was a lot of stuff in those episodes that just skipped me by. That stuff was mainly for those who'd seen the previous two seasons of the show. For those, like me, who'd just started watching with the opener of series 3, it was just fodder, and a lot of stale fodder that was never going to be engaging or make enough sense to get our teeth stuck into.

Episodes 15, 16 and 17 were for the most part very good. Sadly though, for all the hope of a build up to a Cooper show-down, we didn't really get it. Everyone came together for episode 17 but good Cooper had very little to do, and didn't even get any screen time with evil-cooper as he'd been taken down just before he got there! I'd loved Dougie, and I'd really enjoyed the return of real Cooper, but there was not enough real Cooper interaction in the finale to really justify any grand return for the character. It felt like he was left standing outside the front door instead of being welcomed in, which is exactly where we headed for the finale hour. Whereas I was largely totally following episode 17, the last hour I mostly found so dull that I couldn't really be bothered to play too much attention. Ok, so it's a parallel world of sorts etc, but it was full of nothing much aside from the most rubbish sex-scene I've seen in ages, unlike the epic-dougie sex scene earlier in season, and lots of driving in the dark. I've found watching traffic cams more stimulating. I don't mind watching something with little happening in it, but this took the biscuit, or donut or mug of coffee.

Overall, how would I rate this season? Would I recommend it to anyone? Hmmm. There's been some great surrealism in the show, not least in the opener, where it was at it's best for me. There's been some great comedy with Dougie, and there's been much intrigue with the FBI, evil Cooper and at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's department. However, it feels for me that all that only encompassed 40% of the entire season, leaving me for vast majorities banging my head on wall during long musical endings, and watching paint drying scenes of people I'd never seen before nor really could care about.

Twin Peaks isn't a show I could binge on, nor is it something i think should be binged on. You need space and time to assess what you've just watched with this show although I'm still none the clearer even after hours of debate in my head.

It's been a long ride this season, maybe 8 episodes longer than we needed, but like a marriage, it's had some great moments, along with hours of idle time. But, just like a marriage, it should be honoured, held in high regard and respect, and cherished for the union it is.

Finale Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Twin Peaks S03E10 "Laura is the one"

I think I can safely say that this episode marks the moment when everything is starting to come together in a cohesive way. Finally, a few more things made sense this week; not least when FBI Director Gordon Cole "saw" Laura, they worked out that the white haired lady is communicating with Evil Cooper and they obtain a photograph from the apartment we saw in opening episode which shows Evil Cooper in that glass structure. Tying together all the different parts is essential for a newcomer like me, so I was very pleased to see such explanations so obviously spelled out this episode.

Dougie! What can we say? He has his doctor's checkup, as his wife and doctor both notice he's lost weight and looks in peak shape. I was expecting much more from an examination as the doctor didn't get into the mental side of things at all. Surely he noticed his behaviour and limited communication skills??? Then there's the Dougie sex scene! LOL. That was just amazingly funny.

Remember the guy who ran over the kid a few episodes ago? Well the sicko is back and he kills a witness this week and also seems in cahoots with one of the police officers on order to remove evidence. This guy is totally off his head and sick. He also steals money off his family in a rather surreal scene.

Aside from that, we've the organization in background that hire the dwarf now trying to pin everything on Dougie with the Casino's issue of not getting an insurance payout. Seems more hitmen might be going after Dougie? This can only be superbly entertaining.

Rating 7/10 - Enjoyable and thankfully revealing this week even though I'm still baffled by most of it.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Twin Peaks S03E09 "This is the Chair"

What I thought

I'm still struggling a little now that we're half way through season but this episode was very welcome as it was much easier to follow, absorb and enjoy.

Evil-Cooper is very much alive, as expected, despite taking multiple shots to the chest. We saw him getting seen to by those "miners" shortly after he was taken down. This week he's meeting up with yet more contacts for a new ride and gun. Interestingly, he sends a text message to the lady with the white hair (yup, I'm rubbish with names) which is very curious given that she's with the FBI who go to identify the man with the missing head.

Dougie gets some screentime this week but not a lot as it's mostly the police guys in the station talking to themselves, his boss or doing their thing arresting the dwarf guy in a semi-comical fashion. The laughing police guy is frustratingly amusing. There's also more evidence that Dougie is starting to slowly remember things as he stares at a USA flag and power socket this week.

At Twin Peaks Police HQ the guys get their hands on more information in the form of some small papers showing coordinates and dates, which happen to have been foreseen and are only a few days away! Curious. They also have a hint that there might be two Coopers.

There's more ridiculous dramatic confessions from the librarian killer guy from many episodes ago this week which explains a lot, as he and the lady killed had a paranormal blog and were dabbling in things to do with another dimension, Seems they made contact and then things went seriously wrong.

Didn't care much for last 5 or so minutes, as it's another segment in the bang bang bar with a band playing and a couple characters talking things out. Don't think I've actually watched an episode through to the end because of the musical interludes - something I just don't like in my TV.

Rating 7/10 - So, decent stuff. Nothing too cryptic for my well confused brain this episode and also dripping of explanations.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Colony Season 2 Episode 1

After what has been an incredibly long time in the UK, finally Season 2 started this last week on Sky Atlantic. We were treated to a 'Previously on ..' segment to quickly warm our memories up, before we launch into ... 45 minutes of a flashback. Yes, we went to before the alien occupation. In fact, hours before, as we see Will with his then work partner, Devon, having their disagreements before being sent to investigate numerous VIPs that have gone missing.  There's a massive EMP attack, which takes out everything electrical, including transport. With panic around the city, Will has Katie get the family to safety, which in his view is their bar business in town. Right, because that's safer than anywhere else, right? Initially I wondered if this was just a brief flashback or we'd be going to and fro for the whole episode, but no, it went on until the last few minutes, leaving me with little doubt that one of the main reasons for the flashback was to setup Devon. Indeed, we return to Will right before the end, being on the other side of the wall as he was at the end of Season 1, looking for his son. After a beating by a gang who are less than helpful, he heads to a house where he's greeted by a gun being held at him by ... Devon. Cue the dramatic conclusion music and the credits. Yes, this was pretty predictable from that perspective.

However, all in all, it was very interesting to see what happened on that day, especially the very little actual alien activity. We hardly saw anything extraterrestrial, aside form the massive blocks of wall flying through the air and landing in place. This show's greatness is keeping the alien's in the background, if they are actually aliens at all! We don't know do we? Maybe it's a major government coverup? Who knows. But by keeping the mystery at arm's length, the show has an awesome backdrop of mystery, fear and the plain unknown that in itself is the prime draw for me to this programme. We learn along the way more about Broussard, who seems to be a genius at working out when to leave a building before it's demolished. Why the rest of the troops didn't think like him I have no idea. We also find out that the EMP took out his mother's life support, thus giving him even greater resentment of the alien arrival. Proxy Synder we see coming into 'power'. He's probably my favourite character in the show, although he didn't really get to do an awful lot this episode aside from look mystified as he was escorted about with little to no information on what was going on.

Rating 7/10 - An enjoyable opener which I hope the payoff of the long flashback wasn't just so we had Devon setup for her introduction at the end. The arrival of the aliens in a very stealth and invisible manner was done amazingly well, and really helps propel this show high in the watchability factor for me, aside from of course, having likable main characters.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Twin Peaks S03E08 "Got A Light?"

Well, what are we to make from that??!?!? Quite easily the most weirdest "out-there" episode since the opener of this season. After seeing evil-cooper in the getaway car be tricked by his driver and shot, we spend the rest of the episode in some psychedelic drug-fuelled utopia of visuals and audio, with brief flirtations into anything comprehensible. We have flashes of lightning, with these rather poor and ugly looking individuals "helping" evil-cooper (or maybe not helping?) before we are then taken back to the 1950s and the testing of the atomic bomb, with a long series of visuals on what you might imagine it's like inside the reaction. Next we're taken to those same figures and lightning flashes around an old petrol station, before we head it seems to some obtrusively darkened building on an island where there's a victorian-era dressed lady and the giant, who seem to sort of react to more banging noises and a drum of sorts, before the giant goes to their home-made cinema of sorts, watches what we just watched for last half hour (but in seconds) and then seems to ascend, project light matter out of his head, generate a ball, which has Laura Palmer's face in it, which the other lady then sends to Earth. Yes, the Planet Earth. Still back in the 50s, we have a courting couple ending their night out, the scruffy men from earlier arrive, kill people in a radio station, start broadcasting the same words recursively, as everyone in the nearby town listening to radio dies. The egg sent to Earth is born as some weird insect which goes into the mouth of one of the town's inhabitants. Quite frankly I'm baffled.

There were minutes when this episode was tiresome, not least 4 minutes of the Nine Inch Nails near the start, but the majority of this acid-trip experience was nonetheless intriguing although there were so very few aspects of it I could cling to and interpret. Is the 50s when all the issues in Twin Peaks started? Is this the start of it all? Was Laura Palmer born this way? Are these supernatural forces powered by nuclear matter? Do they have an interest in it? Was this all kicked off by evil-cooper being shot, or just a flashback that was going to happen anyways?

Much like watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, this episode took us through all manners of visual candy and conflicting details that swish around in our minds like a mess of little details to form some sort of soup that will taste nice but you never know what was in it. It was a bit too much for me on several occasions but it also was undoubtedly amazing at times and a very intriguing passage of play.

Rating: 6/10 - I thought the tea I was drinking had really gone to my head watching this.