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Star Wars: Rebels – Spark of Rebellion

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I never watched The Clone Wars.  There, I said it.  The idea never really did anything for me, and I’m a huge Star Wars geek that actually LIKES the prequels, but when I saw the trailer for the Clone Wars movie and saw a baby Hutt (apparently, Jabba’s son – I don’t even WANT to know how he made him!), I decided no thanks, and steered clear.  So when Star Wars Rebels was announced, I was sceptical, but the setting intrigued me, placed just 5 years before the events of Episode IV, the premise promised a much more Star Wars feel from my childhood, with the less flashy Old Republic designs and the more Imperial utilitarian feel to the ships, buildings and planets.  So I gave it a shot.

Best decision ever.

There are some great character designs.  I was expecting to find the main protagonist, Ezra, a 14-year old street urchin, to be incredibly annoying, as with most child/teenage characters, but he actually isn’t… In fact, none of them are, and each design evokes the Star Wars universe, in particular Zeb, the strong arm of the Ghost crew, who is based on a concept design for Chewbacca by the great Ralph McQuarrie.

The chase scene early in the episode is wildly entertaining, but feeling more like Indiana Jones than Star Wars, with even the soundtrack taking an Indy lilt as the titular Rebels weave their way through the city.  Speaking of the soundtrack, it is heavily reminiscient of the original trilogy’s soundtrack, taking several beats from Episode IV in particular, which helps to capture the magic and excitement of the movies.  The battle scenes throughout are just as exciting, with my fears of Disney making every skirmish with the Empire resulting in a hundred A-Team moments being completely unfounded (For those of you who don’t get that reference, then shame on you!  The A-Team was notorious for having no-one die.  A hundred bullets would be fired by the guys, but there wouldn’t be a scratch on anyone.  Cars would explode, and helicopters would fall out of the sky, but people would always get out).

The Star Wars accent game kicks in too, but instead of Asian Neimodians, we get the very, VERY English Imperials, with the higher the rank, the posher they become, but all the voice work of the principal characters is well done, feeling natural and fitting in well with the character they belong to, with the exception of a brief cameo from Obi-Wan Kenobi, which sounds like someone doing a poor impersonation of Ewan McGregor.

On the whole, if this episode shows only a small portion of what this series brings to the Star Wars table, I’ll be a very happy chappy indeed, as this might just tide me over until Episode VII’s release in December next year.

And in case you were waiting for the eye-rolling referential quote about what I thought about it;

The Force is indeed strong with this one…

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The Walking Dead – No Sanctuary

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The Walking Dead is one of the few series I’ve managed to stick with all the way through.  I never made it all the way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, I only made it 4 episodes into Lost, and as controversial as this may be, have only seen the first two seasons of Breaking Bad.

So that alone should demonstrate just how much I like this series, and therefore just how much it pains me to say that the last season was weak tea.  The overall season arcs didn’t seem strong enough to carry the entire season and so the fourth season seemed very anaemic.

But nevertheless, after the season close with Rick and the rest trapped in Terminus inside a train carriage, I was looking forward to seeing how they were going to escape and make good on Rick’s closing words of how the residents of Terminus were going to feel stupid when they find out they’re “screwing with the wrong people”.

It seems that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of disappointment with the previous season, with a few people falling by the wayside (Greg, I’m talking to you!), and it seems that the producers and writers have either heard, or thought the same thing when approaching season 5.

From the short resolution to the predicament season 4 closed on, all the way to the end of the episode, it seemed to never let up, making for easily one of my favourite episodes since season 3… Hell, maybe even the second season.

Themeatically, the episode seems to revolve around change and the loss of humanity.  Just what does it take to survive in this particular apocalypse?  How much of your humanity do you give up in order to cease being the prey and become the predator?  What does it take to instigate the change? And possibly is there any way back?  These themes best exemplified by Rick Grimes, the former police officer and moral compass for the last four years with a single line from him “Nobody gets to live today.”, and his decision to let any fallen members of Terminus to turn.  And of course Carol, who’s evolved from abused wife to legitimate badass who could probably take on John J. Rambo.  And this is one of the strengths of this series, and a reward for anyone who’s stuck with it, to see how these characters have changed so much since their introduction.

On a final note, some friends have mentioned to me how they feel that the Terminus leader, Garrett is just a carbon copy of last season’s Governor, so I’ll say here for posterity, they couldn’t be more wrong.  The Governor was a fantastic character, driven by grief, passion and more than a little bit of insanity.  Garrett however is a different kettle of fish.  He runs Terminus clinically, dispassionately because he has to for the sake of it’s residents, and so they don’t return to being, as he says “the cattle”.  As a famous villain once said, all it takes is one bad day…

Bring on the rest of the season.  I personally cannot wait.

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Gotham – Pilot

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I love The Batman.  I’ve read the comics, played the games, watched the movies, and loved the cartoon (the one from the 90s on Saturday mornings).  I think I might’ve even eaten the shaped spaghetti pieces…

When WB announced that they were making a series centred around James Gordon, before he became commissioner and chief ally of The Dark Knight, I was curious, and a little wary.  What is The Batman without The Bat?  What is Gotham city without his adversaries?  It was this wariness that I felt when I watched the first episode of Gotham today.

There are plenty of moments that’ll give a Batman fan a grin, from a brilliant translation into live action life of Harvey Bullock, played by the suitably dour Donal Logue, to several other cameos such as Catwoman (or in this series, more like Kittengirl), Carmine Falcone, The Riddler, Poison Ivy and what I suspect will be the beginning of a weekly game of “is that going to be The Joker?”.  I particularly enjoyed Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald ‘don’t call me Penguin’ Cobblepot, with his slimy, almost perma-nervous energy giving him an slightly dangerous edge… He would’ve made a pretty good Joker…

There were several characters I remain unsure of, and some I just don’t like.  Jim Gordon seems very one-dimensional at the moment as the only honest cop, etc.  The man might as well be wearing a white hat, tin star and a couple of silver six-shooters, if they wanted to make it plainer.  Here’s hoping as the episodes continue, the writer’s will put some meat on his bones so we can engage with him more.

Alfred.  The backbone of The Batman in many ways, should have been ably performed by the usually excelleny Sean Pertwee, but I felt ultimately let down, as I compared him to previous incarnations played by Michael Gough and Michael Caine (As a sidenote, I’m interested to see how Jeremy Irons plays out in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).  One of the things I loved about Caine’s version of Alfred was how he would slip from a very prim and proper received pronunciation English, to a very warm and more human cockney accent as his concern or love for Bruce Wayne shone through.  With Gotham’s incarnation, it just seems that there’s been a cockney ragamuffin bundled into a suit.  He just doesn’t seem to be the butler type.

So onto the one scene that does need to be addressed.  Once again we yet again see the defining moment in Bruce Wayne’s life.  The mugging and murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.  For me, this has been done over and over again to the point of this being now so unnecessary, that I actually chuckled to the overdone screams of anguish from young Bruce as he knelt beside his slain parents.  Come on guys, we really don’t need to see it anymore… I think everyone in the western hemisphere and beyond knows how Bruce became Bats!!

In summary, is was OK.  Aside from a few nods to the Batman universe, this would be yet another procedural cop show alongside all the other CSIs, NCISs, Castles and all the rest.  Here’s hoping it becomes something more than that.  It certainly has the chance to become something great, despite this lackadaisical start.

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Sherlock: His Last Vow Review

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Spoiler warning. Read at your will…

Oh my Gaaaad! Where do we even begin? Moriarty is alive! Sherlock murdered someone! Mary is actually a trained killer! John allowed his eye to get continuously flicked without straight up screaming in rage – as we assure you we were at the screen.

We knew that this episode was going to be one big ball of dramatic and emotional moments, but nothing prepared us for the constant twists and turns that happened so swiftly that not only did you simply have to stop trying to make sense of it and just ride the wave of insanity, but it also gave you simply scream out loud moments, as well as Moffat and Gatiss’s now trademark little hints at what future series have in store. But all shaking excitement aside, let’s talk about Sherlock’s third and final episode of season three – His Last Vow – shall we?

The episode began with Mary and John enjoying marital bliss whilst Sherlock had gone AWOL for the first month of their marriage. John is as skittish as ever to fight some crime – we know that he enjoys danger as much as Sherlock enjoys eyeball tea – and voluntarily fights his way into a crack den to find his neighbour’s son.

Oh, it turns out Sherlock’s there too, doped up to the eyeballs. But it’s for a case! Not because John was married! Or is it? Who is telling the truth? Is Sherlock actually on dr- HANG ON. JANINE IS IN THE FLAT? JANINE IS SHERLOCK’S GIRLFRIEND? Was anyone extremely, extremely glad that it turned out he was using her to get to the bad guy, whilst she was using him to sell tabloid stories?

Our reactions were exactly like Johns. It didn’t matter whoever this Charles Augustus Magnussen fella was, as Sherlock.was.in.a.relationship.

But Mr dead-behind-the-eyes shows up and yes, he’s a dreadful human being who is utterly cold, ruthless and pees into 221B Baker Street’s fireplace before swiping the sweat off his hands and dropping the tissue onto the floor. Ugh, scumbag. But it turns out that Magnussen isn’t the only villain we had to look out for.

On sneaking into Magnussen’s lair to claim the incriminating evidence for Sherlock’s client, who had enlisted his help against Magnussen as he is blackmailing her, they find him already with a gun to his head. It’s none other than Mary, John’s wonderful and nice wife. She shoots Sherlock in the chest, cueing the aforementioned scream of horror, as Sherlock quickly deduces how to prevent himself from dying.

This brings us to what has to be the most heartbreaking moment of the series. Mary and Sherlock meet so he can hear why she shot him/was in Magnussen’s apartment etc. She thinks she’s speaking to Sherlock, but it turns out lurking in the shadows sits a wretched John. WE DIDN’T WANT THIS FOR YOU JOHN.

She explains she worked for the CIA and was basically a terrible human being, and Magnussen knows exactly what she used to be. Since John (eventually) forgives her, he and Sherlock bargain for the information he has on Mary in his so-called vault. Sherlock gives him Mycroft’s laptop, holding plenty of crucial British secrets, in exchange for Mary’s files. Turns out there are no literal files, it’s all up in Magnussen’s mind palace! Oooo Sherlock has a mind palace too! Twinsies!

So…the vault is in Magnussen’s mind, and after an utterly humiliating scene in which he flicks John in the face repeatedly, just because he could (seriously, it was difficult to watch), Sherlock realises the only way that Magnussen could be defeated is murder. One shot to the head, and Sherlock has done it, strengthening what feels to be the main subject this entire series – an examination of Sherlock’s humanity. He didn’t kill Magnussen for his own purpose, he did it for John and their friendship.

As a result, he is being shipped off on an undercover mission that will definitely kill him. As he boards the plane and we glance worriedly at our watches…the 90 minutes nearly up…we had almost resigned ourselves to our fate of waiting for Sherlock to head back from Europe and jump straight back in with the good old detective stories. Instead…instead. Oh instead.

The televisions begin to flash. Lestrade looks horrified. Mrs Hudson screams bloody murder (Hudderz, we love you) and Molly looks about ready to pass out. Sherlock’s plane turns around and lands back in good old England, where he belongs.

It’s Moriarty kids. He’s back. Did you miss him?

Side notes 

We found out who Redbeard is! Sherlock’s loveable childhood dog! Also, a sidenote on this sidenote, how cute was mini Sherlock?!

“The other one”?! There’s another brother?! Any bets that it will be played by either Steven Moffat or Matt Smith?

Whey, hello again Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents! Can we please see more of the family dynamic in season four please?!

So Moriarty. We have two years of speculating how he faked his death. Feel like something like this has happened before. Fingers crossed Derren Brown is involved!

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