Now that she's at her aunt's house, Sarah has an opportunity to dig deeper into her mother's past. Everyone she asks gets teary-eyed and walks out of the room, so she looks herself for clues, and finds shocking evidence that Arfeen and her mother were once married. Meanwhile, the flashback segments show Afreen who has travelled abroad to study, and his family's frustration (in particular his mother) at him phoning Saba constantly but showing almost complete disregard for his own family.
The series continues to give us a little piece of the cake at a time as what Sara begins to unravel in real time we are presented with in the past timeline. A little more information of Arfeen and Saba's past is detailed here but there isn't too much too report, aside from the already mentioned news that the two were once married.
Performances and direction were OK. A little below-par from the usual standards since Arfeen's mother and sisters at times delved too far into the Bond villain caricature trope and the music, which usually goes hand in hand with the images so well, was bombastic at times and over the top. It derailed scenes that should have been emotional whilst upping the cringe- factor. Aside from that it was a decent episode.
Delaney acts swiftly in making allies for himself. He acquires eyes and ears in the form of a whorehouse, partners himself with his father's old lawyer, initiates a spy network through the streets of London and settles all his father's financial debts. However, there's one debt still to be payed – a widower of James' father has revealed herself, an appearance which would only serve to complicate the matters of James' inheritance, to which she is now owed half. Delaney seeks out a meeting with the President of the US through a spy he discovers, which shows just how lofty his ambition is. The East Indian Company makes a futile attempt on his life, but it leaves a wound.
Just as good as the opener of the show, this episode contains some terrific lines of dialogue and equally superb consume work. The acting is very good, especially by the powerhouse that is Tom Hardy. His character has an unnerving screen presence but is shown to be far more intelligent and well- informed than he seems. His only Achilles-heels seems to be his unsettling and almost supernatural visions of his former life which is still a mystery to us and a life which disturbs him greatly.
From the creator of Peaky Blinders and Locke, Taboo concerns James Keziah Delaney, played by Tom Hardy at his creepy-weirdo best, who returns to 1814 London in order to claim a legacy left by his father after a mysterious 10 year absence spend in Africa. He finds himself at odds with the greedy East India Company, who want the land that Delaney has inherited, amid a war between the British and the Americans.
Episode 1 had an enigmatic and eerie atmosphere, personified by the spooky James Delaney who brings with him not only shovels and keys but a mysterious past. The question on all the characters' lips are "Is it true?" in references to numerous, freaky rumours about his activity in Africa. He's a most intriguing character who is shown to be haunted by actions he committed whilst working in the British army and in his time in Africa but is also well informed of the political climate and unwilling to let go of his inheritance. Heads are turned and knives are being sharpened by not only the East India Company but by Delaney's own half sister and her husband, a man who wants the contents of the will for himself. It is also revealed that James and his sister had adulterous relations.
Delaney works fast. Within the first episode he has already made a few enemies for himself and discovered that his father was poisoned into madness. Now he seeks revenge.
Al in all, I found the opener to this series to be very engaging and I'll definitely be continuing the series. Just one thing I want to talk about is the special effects and the cinematography. I thought the CGI was terrific. There's a lot of landscape and background shots of buildings and ships that don't stick out at all and they genuinely look real. They also don't draw attention to themselves; there's no cheap zooming-in of the CGI, which would only serve to distract the viewer and ruin immersion. Shows like Game of Thrones could learn from this.
I wanted to like it, but just couldn't bring myself to do so
The Departed is a remake of the two year old Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs (a superior film in my opinion) and concerns an undercover cop (DiCaprio) in an Irish mob in Boston and a mole in the police force (Damon) who attempt to weed each other out before they themselves get caught.
Its 20 minutes into the film before any of this happens, or even the title appears for that matter. Before it does we get something of a prologue with Irish mobster Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson and based off of real life Irish mobster Whitey Bulger) narrating about his environment, the Knights of Columbus, JFK and black people. It's the only narration we get throughout the whole movie and immediately after the Rolling Stones' Gimmie Shelter is unleashed at full volume accompanied by short and slightly fragmented scenes of violence from Costello's heyday and DiCaprio and Damon's introduction into their fields of play in the film. It's all a bit disorderly and has an amateurish feel to it, as if someone told a random fan to make a short Scorsese movie and they proceeded to throw all the clichés at the screen – DiCaprio, narrations, Gimmie Shelter, people getting shot in the back of the head, lengthy tracking shots, 'the whole nine yards' as police captain Queenan (played by Martin Sheen) would say.
If I was to find a rational explanation for the way the opening of the movie feels so detached from the rest of the film I'd say it's because the start of the film showcases an older time, a previous generation. It was a time more wild and animalistic where the only surviving character of that environment is Frank Costello. It reminds me of Gangs of New York and the opening battle sequence, where the only person to come through the endeavour was Bill the Butcher. Everyone else involved in the battle had either died when the film's main story happened or took their place in the new world of (somewhat) order and stability. It's why the Butcher sticks out so much in the movie. Not only because of the terrific and wild performance by Daniel Day Lewis, but because he is essentially a caveman in an insurance salesman's world and towards the end of the film even he knows he has no place in the new ever-changing America. Similarly, Jack Nicholson's Costello comes off as someone who belongs in a different time away from the tuxedos and police warrants. It's not only him though; many of the characters in The Departed come off as lions and wolves used to roaming the wild trapped in suits and behind wooden desks and piles of paperwork.
The jarring pacing of the film was a real problem for me. I had no sense of how much time had elapsed over the course of the movie and the one time a character had the chance to explain he merely shrugged "long time, long ****ing time" which I agreed with completely. With a runtime of 2 and a half hours the movie is unable to match the brisk pacing of, say, Casino or Goodfellas and instead comes across as a dozen or so clumsily put together scenes in which characters talk tedious topics to each other, with the odd frame of unadulterated violence garnished in. I'm serious – while watching a Scorsese mob & cops film I was actually checking to see how long was left because I was so bored. There is no tension throughout the movie at all which made me unresponsive to scenes that were clearly meant to shock and awe. The dialogue is often vague and meaningless, and only of service when it is used to forward the plot. Take the scene between DiCaprio and Nicholson at the dinner, where they talk about DiCaprio's father, school, sadness all until I thought to myself what the hell are they talking about? To which, to my amazement, DiCaprio responds by asking "what the **** are we talking about?!" Yikes!
The ambling and dreary nature of the movie might have been elevated by some decent acting. But despite the cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone and Jack Nicholson it pains me to say the performances were shambolic: DiCaprio was shaking, shrieking and squirming so much that it made Costello look like an idiot for not realizing that he was the rat in his crew, Damon looked like an awkward schoolboy as the 'villain' of the picture, Sheen seemed to be attempting to say his lines without spitting out his fake teeth, Winstone decided that the shooting schedule was the best time to start experimenting with every accent known to man, and Wahlberg's profanity-fuelled, nostril-flared cop with little-man syndrome was so irritating that I hoped he would get shot in the head or thrown off a building. Ironically, he's the only major male character that survives the runtime. Nicholson was the best of the bunch, bringing weight to his role where his presence is felt throughout the whole movie in spite of him playing an extension of his Joker/R.P McMurphy characters. But even he, it seems, is somewhat sleepwalking his way through the film only waking up for the odd rat impersonation here and there. And nobody is buying that Boston accent for a second.
Editor Thelma Schoonmaker adopted a frantic style that didn't sit well with me. Some cuts ran for a spit second and we were constantly jumping from scene to scene, camera angle to camera angle. Maybe it was supposed to come off as sharp and gritty, but it just felt unprofessional and clunky. Maybe substituting Scorsese's coked up direction, which undermined any possible nail-biting from me, for a more subtle but equally stylish director would have been better. I always thought the plot to The Departed would fit snugly into Michael Mann's filmography.
Josh concerns a schoolteacher, Fatima, who goes in search of her missing nanny, Nusrat, in the village where the woman lives. It is eventually discovered that she has died after having been apparently run over by a car, but Fatima suspects foul play and has her fingers pointed at the village leader Khan. Meanwhile she attempts to reopen a food bank for children that used to be run by Nusrat, a function that directly takes away power from the ever-watching Khan. Slowly but surely she rallies the villagers in a crusade against the corrupt Khan and motivates them into standing up for themselves.
Now Josh is a competent film. It's not world changing but it does its job. Personally I feel the story does not have enough meat to it; it lacks a certain punch to make it fully connect with me. I know it's a true story and it's definitely one worth telling but maybe it would have been better as a TV special or something. I don't know. There just isn't enough oomph to it for me to call it a good film. It's decent, nothing more.
The acting is pretty good all round. There are no faults I find in any of the performances. The acting, unlike most modern Pakistani movies, doesn't feel 'movie-like' but realistic and nuanced. There's not a lot of exposition and more is implied than said or shown. For example there's a scene where Nusrat is being violated and it's unclear whether she's being tortured, raped or merely harassed. On its own it's a very disturbing scene, and part of its brilliance is the ambiguity of what these thugs are doing to her. The impact of the scene is lessened though near the end of the film where it is told to the audience through a news reporter that she was indeed raped. More on the ending later.
Director Iram Parveen Bilal did well to showcase the unsure tension- filled atmosphere of the village once the protagonist gets there. The cinematography is also very nice for the most part. Things are a tad formulaic during the sense in Fatima's home town with her privileged media friends.
Josh is a story about power, individualism and fighting the statues quo. At times it sides dangerously close into becoming a preachy girl-power fest but manages to keep on the rails. You get the idea when watching that Iram is making a commentary on the flaws of modern day Pakistan but, like the film itself, it's a competent message but not quite strong enough to be a heavy hitter. I did like the opening line though, something about the modern Muslim's prayers and deeds being present, but his heart absent.
By far the best thing about this movie was the character Gulsher. One of Khan's elite enforcers, he is shown to have a complicated relationship with Nusrtat. It's implied he used to be her student and she possibly even fed him with the food bank. He's torn between his respect for her and his loyalty to Khan. Once she dies he is deeply affected and remains distant and stressed throughout the remainder of the film. He even helps a kidnapped Fatima escape, in a sense. It's not clear whether he had any part in the beating and rape of Fatima.
Once element that does not work for me is the ending. Throughout the film Fatima attempts to use her friends in the media to point their cameras at Khan and his mafia-like control over the village, in order to push lawful sanctions and topple his regime. But just as the film builds steam with the political side it kind of just cuts to a couple of quick news reports telling us that Khan is going to be put away for a long time. And what's with Khan's son being shot accidentally by the rebel villagers who attempt to rescue Fatima after she gets kidnapped by Khans thugs? Unless that happened in real life I don't see what this adds to the movie, aside from serving as a distraction for the villains so Fatima can escape.
In the past, Arfeen's arrogance proves too much for his parents, and they agree to allow him to be wed to Saba. The two enjoy some conversations with each other, and Saba paints a picture of Arfeen, her first of a person. She becomes saddened when Afreen leaves Pakistan for a course. Saba's younger sister is very involved Arfeen and Saba's relationship, often expressing her distaste at Saba's constant remembrance of him when he is not present. We frequently cut to present times, where Saba's sister, now middle aged, phones Afreen wanting to speak to her niece, a (harshly-spoken) request that he denies. Meanwhile, Sara is introduced to members of her family that she has never seen before, including Afeen's two sisters. Sara is invited to stay with one of her aunties with the promise of showing her Saba's old home, a request that Afreen reluctantly accepts.
I'd like to start off by saying what exactly happened in the ending of episode 3? As stated in my last review, Afreen's family receives some devastating news and we cut to black before anything of note is revealed. But episode 4 acts like this scene never took place. So what was all that about? That's pretty weird. Maybe it'll be revealed later on but that's pretty poor editing and pretty much the only bad thing about the episode.
As she grows in confidence Sara is asking more and more questions, but is getting very little back from Afreen. No doubt part of her motivation to move in with her mother's relatives to get some answers. For some reason, though, I feel as though she's throwing herself into pit full of wolves. Since Arfeen and Saba's family are shown not to be on speaking terms, it makes the situation even more problematic for Afreen to have his niece in the hands of those who might not have the best of intentions.
Before Sara leaves for her relatives, Haider and her share a scene together in the garden. He essentially asks about what went on with her when she left the kitchen a couple of episodes back and she basically replies that she took offense to him speaking so openly about her and her mother on the phone to his friend. The two understand each other a little more by the scenes end and it would have been quite a decent scene too, had it not been concluded with a cheesy romantic stare- off between the two. And so concludes the director's effort in avoiding atypical Pakistani drama clichés. It was nice while it lasted.
Back to the past now, and Saba's sister is starting to become an intriguing character. She started off as just another female bit- part player like all the other cousins but her continued closeness to Afreen and Saba whilst the two are together, coupled with her thoughtlessness at expressing whatever is on her mind to her sister, suggests she could turn out to be quite a danger to the two, as is alluded to by her phone call to Afeen in the present day where her tone is resentful and her tongue: tough. However, in the past scenes her smiles behind Saba's back whenever Saba is joyful does suggest that she does want what's best for her sister's happiness. It seems something went awry along the way.
I think I've yet to mention the music in this series. It is great. There's a couple of short pieces, often sad and nostalgic - they are repeatedly played and they fit perfectly with the scenes that they accompany. The compositions really are class. Not to mention the main theme of the series which I couldn't get out of my head all day.
Taking place mostly in the past, we are invited to explore the roots of Arfeen and Saba's relationship. Arfeen's family's resolute stance on his marriage proposal is only matched by his stubbornness in the matter. He falls completely head-over-heels over her and goes out of his way to meet and converse with her. The two are shown to have great chemistry and enjoy each other's company amid the displeased neighbourhood. They are like two roses intertwined together surrounded by a barren land. It seems as though Arfeen's parents have reluctantly begin to accept his longing for Saba as a wife, but they are met with some visibly devastating news in the form of a cliff-hanger which concludes the episode. Meanwhile the wires between Haider and Sara have begun to spark.
The situation with the Afreen and his family is hazardous though not uncommon in Pakistani culture. The family wants the son to be married to a respectable girl of their choice OR the son wants to be married to a hubba-hubba girl of his choice BUT the son is being stubborn and wants his freedom OR the family won't budge. It's like this dilemma is a compulsory part of your upbringing if you are from the subcontinent. It can often lead to grudges and discord. It's a shame that the inception of marriage, one of the most beautiful things in Islam and in life itself, can often be done through disharmony. Afreen's case is such an example.
I have reasons to side with the family's view but I also have reasons to side with Arfeen's. I won't go into that since we'll be here all day but its worth noting that if these people were following the Sunnah that they preach so much, they wouldn't be in this situation.
Arfeen's mother irritates me slightly. I can't tell whether it's because of the actress or the character but I feel frustrated at her. Every time Arfeen says something, she repeats it by putting emphasis on every single syllable before unleashing her Malcom Tucker-like response whilst spinning her Tasbi a little faster (without actually reciting anything). He could say "Mum, I'd like a cheeseburger" and she'd be like "You want a cheeseburger?! Then go and get your cheeseburger – just don't expect your mother to be here when you get back!" The character of the father, though not seen as much, appears much more restrained and his grief over the disobedience of his son seems realistic and, dare I say it, a tad touching.
The rest of the family play their part in acting superior and display their ignorance over the whole situation. After all, not a single one of them has acknowledged that Arfeen is in love with a woman. That's no small thing. Constantly cursing him over it is only going to strength his sense of unity with her because she'll be his only source of comfort.
Whilst Sara attempts to settle into the household and Arfeen continues mourning the death of Saba, the episode is dominated by flashbacks which begin to unveil the connection between all the main characters. We learn that Afreen and Saba first cousins, and the latter's extravagant and liberal nature caused her disrespect within the neighbourhood. She was a known as a 'haraab' woman, or bad seed, for her characteristics. However, it is these characteristics that caused Arfeen to fall in love with her, and he asked his parents for her hand in marriage. They defiantly refuse, to his anguish. Meanwhile Sara is ever-so-slightly getting closer to Arfeen's son, something that is picked up on by Haider's hot female neighbour who drops by to say hello to the new guest. Needless to say there was a clear underlying menace in her greeting, which was more of a way of saying "hands off; he's mine."
It's a decent episode that has laid down the foundations of future instalments to build on. As the flashbacks of the past are unravelled, the future beckons with both sets of stories just as interesting as each other. Saba's way of living is definitely a danger to her family's respect and is against the ways of Islam, but her relatives' arrogant attitudes and aura of superiority is unjustified. In reality, such attitudes only further alienate the person who already feels so different from her family.
In a rare light-hearted moment it was funny to see Arfeen drool all over Saba when she was working on some plants, but to the disgust of his aunts and sister. Later on, their deep conversation right in front of Arfeen's aunt may be a sign of their pure attraction for each other but the Aunt's irritated reaction is also understandable. After all, Saba did just plonk her backside down in front of a male guest and start chatting away whilst he was in discourse with his aunt. We have to remember what kind of culture and society that this family is shrouded in.
Back to the present day, and Sara's fear of someone being outside her room and her staying up in the dining room for 2 hours is a direct effect of loving a loved one who was also a protective figure. Her closeness with Haider is a sure sign of her, whether consciously or unknowingly, attempting to fill the shielding void left by Saba.
When Haider makes dinner for Sara, and she skives off after getting upset hearing Haider discussing on the phone with his neighbour about why Sara is here. He gets quite irritated by this and isn't afraid to show her this. I thought this was quite interesting, as it means at least Haider has gone past the level of fake nicey- niceyness and is telling it how it is, which again is a sign of closeness.
As part of my quest to improve the level of my Urdu, I've started the series 'Meri Zaat Zarrae Benishan' which translates to well, I don't actually know what it translates to. Oh well – that's why I'm here I guess.
The first episode opens with a man named Arfeen Abbas and his adolescent son Haider living a seemingly comfortable life. He gets a knock at the door and the servant informs him that a girl called Sara is awaiting him. The mention of the girls' name distresses him and he immediately rushes to the door. He greets her pensively and she hands him a letter. Visibly shaken after reading it, he asks her where a woman named Saba is, and she tells him that she died four days ago. Though shocked and lamented, Arfeen manages to regain his composure and after asking Sara her address the two go to her home and collect her belongings so that she can stay with him. Upon returning Arfeen introduces Sara to his son Haider and tells him of Saba's death. Haider seems a bit indifferent to Sara but treats her nicely. There's also an aunt or someone who's informed of Saba's death over the phone by Haider, who in turn tells her husband. It's worth noting that the three elders who are informed of Saba's death are extremely sad, naturally, but there also seems to be a hint of guilt in their mourning.
In terms of language, I found 'Meri Zaat' a little more difficult than the relatively easy 'Jawani Phir Nahi Ani' film that I watched and reviewed as the first part of my Urdu challenge. However, I think this is more to do with the fact that we are not supposed to know exactly who Saba and Sara are and what their relationship to the other characters are just yet. I kept scratching my head thinking 'Well why is everyone seemingly so guilty and who is this Saba?' but obviously we'll find out later.
Now onto the episode itself. I thought the acting all round was good. The grief shown by Arfeen felt natural and authentic and kudos to the directors for not making any of the scenes sappy and melodramatic. When Arfeena and Sara go to the latter's house, where Saba also lived, it is a very touching scene. Arfeen breaks down as he grabs Saba's slippers as they bring back memories of her. Each and every part of her home, including the compactness if it, amplifies his grief. It is a most moving scene, and done it a mature fashion. The scenes after this too were very well done – Arfeen attempts to continue his day, having dinner with his son and making Sara feel welcome, all whilst getting teary-eyed every couple of hours or so until he retreats to his study. I think the show-makers did very well with showing how people react to a death. It all felt very real.
The actions of the son call for admiration too. He seems to be the cliché gym-going, headphone wearing young adult but at least after the news he chooses to stay at home instead of going to a function of some sort, and regularly goes to his father asking if he is OK and needs anything – even kneeling down by his father's side. It's not much, but it makes a difference. I doubt you'd see many children act like this where I live.
The key player is likely going to be Sara, whom we know very little about at the moment.
And that's about it. 'Meri Zaat' has started off heartfelt and intriguing, and I look forward to continuing the series.
Planet Earth returns for another hour of beautiful images in ultra HD, this time focusing on glimpses in the world's jungles.
Though I'm not taking anything away from the brilliance of the series nor the sufficiency of the episode, "Jungles" does feel a step down from the previous two episodes, if only for the reason that they were so brilliant. Aside from one or two scenes, this episode doesn't show much that Attenborough hasn't already given us in other documentaries.
Notable segments from this installment include a cute spider monkey, a youngster, learning to climb and sway from tree to tree as her older siblings do, and then father coming to the rescue when she gets stuck. Charming stuff.
There was also a shocking segment which showed us dolphins in the jungle! That was really something. And a little creepy too – just imagine your swaying though the depths of a waterlogged jungle and all of a sudden an entity spewing out water out of its blowhole. You'd have no idea that it was a dolphin of all things. It was interesting to see that in the Diaries segment the crew initially thought they were tracking a single dolphin, and it was only until they got a drone camera up in the air that they realized there was an entire school of them.
All in all a satisfying episode in an already-terrific series.
Moving on from the great-but-forgettable 'Jungles', this latest entry in the series opens with a magnificent sandstorm reminiscent of the terrifying but awe-inspiring ones shown in Attenborough's 'Africa' series. It was always going to be a great episode since there's so much to do with deserts, from showcasing the beauty of the scenery to the surprisingly richness of the wildlife. OK, so maybe 'richness' is pushing it a bit, but the little life that can survive in a desert is going to be something worth seeing, for one reason or another. And 'Deserts' is definitely worth seeing.
There are many great segments in this one. The one that comes first to mind is a lion pride attack on a giraffe (yes, in the desert!). One particularly awesome moment is when the leader of the pack races in front of the fleeing animal before jumping into the air with all of its limbs off the grand and digging its claws into the giraffe. However, the power of the giraffe's run is enough to knock the lion aside in mid-air and onto the ground. And he throws in a couple of kicks to the big cat for good measure. It's not just the content but the way its shot too. There's some magnificent wide long-distance images of the lion pride chasing down their pray.
Staying with the images, and we are treated to some utterly beautiful ones of the desert scenery. We are also shown how some deserts change throughout the year, from dry and parched wastelands to becoming thriving greenery. It's on par with the beauty of the images from the 'Mountains' episode.
Other notable segments include a fight between a scorpion and a bat, an absurd swarm of locusts moving across land and a beetle that finds an incredible way of literally conjuring up water from thin air.
Pablo's transformation is getting worse and the crew make their way to Ash's home so that Ruby can do some kind of spell to help him. A town mob has also gathered outside the house attempting to take out "Ashy-Slashy" since they of course are blaming the recent deaths on him.
The highlight of this episode is the return of Ellen Sandweiss reprising her role as Cheryl, Ash's dead sister from the original movie. The Kandarian demon has returned and, I'm not sure how since Cheryl was buried, but it possesses her or at least takes the form of her and begins to attack Ash and his friend. The fight in the hallway was intense for season 2's standards. There's a particular shot of deadite Cheryle gliding and cackling across the hallway that is pretty creepy. But my complaints about the overuse of bottom of the barrel humour from the last episode remain, and the death of one of Ash's buddies at the hands of evil Cheryl does little emotionally as a result.
He ends up taking her out in front of the mob who begin to warm up to him, just as he's bumped on the head by Baal. No doubt in the next episode he will attempt to seduce Ash to do his mischievous bidding.
Oh and by the way, I hope Kelly dies. She is really annoying!
Ash finds himself getting arrested and Ruby and co. end up having to free him. The group, along with some other bit players including a disgruntled cop and one of Ash's ex-girlfriends, end up being trapped in the police station but someone called Baal, who it seems is our new big bad. Meanwhile Pablo is starting to change into the Necronomicon. You read that right.
Apparently a seductive, powerful phenomenon, Baal was a bit of a disappointment when he finally revealed himself. He just looked like the creepy guy who got held back in college 10 years in a row and sits at the back of lectures cat calling female students. Still, Baal skinning people and removing skin that he stole off of people was really cool – definitely a highlight of the season. The skinless baddie was also quite cool, although the prosthetics did look a bit too stiff. A couple of buckets of grease wouldn't have gone amiss. As stated, Baal takes off the skin off victims and wears theirs as his own. As a result, the people in the station know that one of them is Baal. In an episode that homages John Carpenter's The Thing, there's arguments and sweaty palms all round as each accuses the other of being the anomaly.
I do feel they need to tone down the comedy in this series or at least rework it. Season 1 had me squirming at the violence and then laughing out loud a second later at something funny. In the second series however it seems they are throwing in a joke at every possible opportunity, some of which are funny and most of which are not. Dramatic tension and genuine horror is becoming a rarity. The dick jokes and fart gags could be spaced out a little more to give time for some scares.
Planet Earth II's second episode rises as high as any of the mountains showcased in it. It's difficult not to get repetitive when describing the episode and the series as a whole. How many times can you punch in adjectives like mesmerising, majestic, stunning, gorgeous and spellbinding before you say "Just watch the damned thing!"?
What I remember most from 'Mountains' was, not so surprisingly, the shots of the mountains. Some of the drone and helicopter footage managed to capture incredible images that really have to be seen to be believed. Accompanied by a Hans Zimmer score much better than the one in 'Islands' and David Attenborough knowing when and when not to narrate, you are often left with magnificent shots of the camera elegantly making its way through the cloud-high mountains in graceful fashion.
My favourite animal segment was of the horned creatures in Arabia. The way they were able to keep their balance and move at such speeds on such steep surfaces was incredible. I've never seen anything like that before. First their movements were shown in slow motion, detailing every dangerous step, and then in real time showcasing their incredible reaction skills.
Another gift from Planet Earth was an extensive glimpse into the life of the elusive snow leopard (although I had to fast-forward the part with the males trying to score with the female, as I had family members watching). It was an honour to even see one leopard let alone to see their way of communication, combat and feeding. There were some funny bits too: most notably a bobcat constantly diving head-first into snow and a montage of grizzly bears scratching their backs against trees which made them look like they were boogieing.
The 'diaries' segment (a 10 minute epilogue showing some behind-the- scenes stuff in each episode) was very cool as well, showing to what great lengths the filmmakers go to capture their images, including jumping off of mountains on parachutes with cameras on their heads.
I was apprehensive about seeing Jawani Phir Nahi Ani simply because it looked like a cheap knock-off of the atypical crappy MTV-style Bollywood film you see so often today. Gosh, I hate modern Bollywood. Most of the films are shockingly bad and judging by the poster and plot description it looked like Jawani Phir Nahi Ani was looking to emulate the crappy-ness. However, I can safety say I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, there were a lot of cringe-worthy slapstick moments and Spielberg-esque sappiness that you often get with modern Pakistani and Indian comedy movies, but they were far and few between and, if I'm honest, pretty funny when present.
There was no problem with the language for me, thankfully. I watched the movie without subtitles and understood what was going on. A couple of sentences here and there escaped me but I was happy that I got the gist of what was going on. It did good for my confidence.
Jawani Phir Nahi Ani follows a trio of men who are frustrated with their demanding and military-like spouses. One of their friends, a single divorce lawyer, comes to visit and after seeing their state promises to take them on a trip to Bangkok in order for them to be rid of their depression, temporarily at the very least.
The movie's story structure can essentially be broken down into 4 main parts. First we are introduced individually to the three stooges and their mundane lives. The character intros were pretty amusing, my favourite being the fat dude who has a job as a phone help desk operator. The bombardment of humdrum calls mixed in with the downright weird ("Say my name slowly" asks one creepy dude) cause him to scream down his microphone and beat it to death against his keyboard. His aims to seduce his wife when he gets home are only returned with a sharp slap to his chubby face. The second guy is a cop whose intense training and efficiency in the line of fire offer noting when facing his terrifying wife and the third guy is a film director who has married into his wealth and cheated on his spouse too. Speaking of which, I was a little shocked and disappointed at the amount of vulgar language, drinking and talk of cheating that took place in the film. Remember, this movie comes from The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I would have thought it would have needed to go through some strict censorship board. That being said, Pakistan doesn't exactly have a history of making movies fashioned in Islamic mould. My thoughts go back to all those times I've seen scantily clad women prancing around in front of men in '70s and '80s Lollywood pictures. But you should judge a movie based on what it is, not what you wanted it to be, which is how I was able to enjoy the film.
The trio's single friend comes over to visit, and the wives instantly take a liking to him. He sees how depressed his mates are, and invites them to one with him on a trip. Naturally, the three friends do not see how this would be possible, since they'd need the permission of their uber-stuck up and irritable spouses. But the divorce layer must have seen his fair share of Laurel and Hardy flicks, because he feints terminal illness in order to trick the wives into thinking that letting their husbands go to Bangkok with the lawyer will do him some good, at least on an emotional level.
This brings us to the second stage of the movie – the actual holiday to Bangkok. And it's here that I discovered that the film is a musical. And not a very good one. I gave the songs a chance but I ended up having to skip them. They just weren't very good. As a rule I usually don't skip thins, even opening credits, but I just had to here. I'm not even really a fan of musicals in general.
During the holiday whilst the lads are enjoying themselves the single lawyer finds a gal who might just evolve into a special someone for him. And her father is a special someone too – a local mafia kingpin! The scenes with this guy throughout the movie are definitely a barrel of laughs, as he coaxes the un-willing lawyer into marrying his daughter. Needless to say, the lawyer takes the first available trip back to Pakistan.
I have to say I was raising my eyebrows at how these men had deceived their wives and were enjoying themselves, regardless of the nature of their women. I mean, is the film condoning such behaviour? However, it all made sense during the next section of the movie, where the wives catch the husbands in an airport. In a difficult to watch scene, each wife expresses their disappointment and declares that they are leaving their husbands. After they leave the trio turn on the lawyer, as he refused to tell the wives that it was his idea to go to the trip. Some harsh words are exchanged, and some meaningful ones are too as the lawyer tells the lads that if they really did care about their wives as they say they do then they wouldn't have come with him in the first place.
It's interesting to note that the sappy moments in the movie, which are so common in modern Lollywood cinema, are more satirical than anything else. At the very least they parody the ultra-serious nature of other Pakistani movies. You think you're about to roll your eyes once someone begins a teary-eyed and heartfelt speech, but then the guy who he's talking to will say something stupid and comical, killing the first guy's momentum. It's scenes like this which give the movie emotional weight whilst not sacrificing its comedic core.
After the Delta's rampage in the last episode, Ash attempts to tame his baby. Pablo gets locked in the car with a chick who was already trapped inside, and the Necronomicon starts to play its games with Pablo once again.
Meanwhile Kelly and Ruby team up to hunt down and kill the rest of her 'children', which they manage to do so.
Neither segment was really that interesting, and overall it's a so-so episode. Kelly and Ruby's scenes were more of the same of what we've already seen and there was nothing particular note-worthy of Ash's chase of the Delta. The episode wasn't scary and nor was in particularly funny. It wasn't bad, it was just kind of there, hovering between the world of mortals and the realm of the Kandarian demon.
If you're unfortunate enough to come across a review of mine for a nature documentary, I have to apologise for using the word 'thing' a lot, which is something I do. I love animals, and I love nature documentaries. But I'm terrible with the names of specific animals and locations. So I end up saying things like 'that thing that chased that thing in that place over there'.
I've yet to complete Planet Earth. I've seen bits and pieces here and there, and a few whole episodes, but haven't sat down to watch the series in its entirety. Still, I was thrilled to hear the series would return on Sunday 06/11/16.
As is the case with most documentaries with Attenborough involved, Planet Earth II's first episode was nothing short of breath-taking. Entitled 'Islands', it treats us to some amazing landscape and establishing shots. Some of the runtime is also used to present how lava naturally forms new land. Seeing the volcanic matter spew out of the ground in ultra HD is something to see.
10 minutes or so are dedicated to a specific group of animals or a single animal in an area in the world, showcasing a slice of his or her life. Each of these segments brings something brilliant to the table. There are a number of great ones, one of which involves a swimming sloth, another showing the hardship of the life of penguins in taking care of their young, and an amusing one involving a type of bird who spends days waiting for his girlfriend to arrive on a date so they can get jiggy with it. The penguin story takes up a lot of the show's runtime and it's definitely worth it. Just seeing all those animals, thousands of them, all in the same frame is just incredible.
By far the best segment is the one involving a group of baby iguanas who have just hatched. They raise their heads above the ground and make their way towards the rest of the groups towards the coast. However, between here and there lies a treacherous landscape, hiding an enemy. As one iguana makes its way across the grains, in the same shot a rapid 'racer' snake creepily follows it. Then another. And another. And tens of more. And you can see where they get the name 'racer' from, as those things can really shift. The first iguana makes it, but now the snakes are ready for the rest. The entire scene is incredibly tense. It's like a Hollywood chase scene. Actually, scratch that, it's better. Some of the shots they managed to pull off were mesmerising. It's awesome how they managed to form a coherent story from the images which in turn complements just how great the footage was in the first place. Seeing the iguanas run for their lives as the snakes give chase keeps you on the edge of your seat better than half the films that Hollywood churns out nowadays do. Some of the iguanas don't make it of course and it was a welcome surprise to see the usual kid-friendly BBC nature documentary not afraid to show a bit of blood and guts.
If I had to nit-pick about something, I'd pick the music. Though at times the swelling of the trumpets formed a harmonious unity with the images, a lot of the time it had that horrible droning sound you get from a lot of movies in recent years. Needless to say I rolled my eyes when I saw a certain name on the credits for the music – Her Hans Zimmer.
Friday the 13th: Part II, for some reason, decides to spend the opening seven minutes recapping the events of the first film via a dream from Alice, the only survivor from the group of campers from the first film. It's bad enough that I had to sit down and watch the bland and boring F13 let alone have it recapped for me. The summary includes Jason popping out of the lake in the end (which is a confusing mistake because of certain events later on). After she awakens in her apartment, she spends the next couple of minutes being scared by phone calls, cats and other stuff before being unceremoniously bumped off. We later come to find that her killer is the kid Jason who drowned in Camp Crystal Lake all those years ago.
Now pondering on just how Jason, who we'll find out to be quite a doofus, managed to track down Alice is one thing, but we must first ask ourselves just why the hell is he not a decomposing sludge of flesh at the bottom of a lake? So did he not die all those years ago, and fake his death? If so, why was his mother seeking revenge? Or did he die and then come back to life? But then why was he a kid in the final scene in F13 Part 1 and a grown man in this film? The only explanation is that the jump scare sequence in the first movie was a dream sequence. But that still doesn't explain just why this guy decided to start prancing around killing people. Unless of course it's revenge for his mother's death. But wouldn't the two have met somewhere down the line and Mrs. Voorhees would see that her son wasn't dead? Then why was she seeking revenge in the first place? Unless he was hiding from her too, and he didn't drown all those years ago, instead managing to escape the lake and p*** off into the woods?
Argh. I've spent more brainpower trying to decipher the absurdity of F13: 2 than the ambiguity of 2001 or Mulholland Dr combined. The truth is that the people who worked on the first film never intended for Jason to become a villain nor had any thoughts for a sequel. The guys who made this film decided to do just that and ran with the idea, but never actually explained it in any of the sequels, I've been told. At least the Halloween movies had that thorn cult thing and the Freddy Kruger films told us why a normal man was able to go into the dreams of children. Come on Miner, this is just not on.
If you can accept Jason's return (and judging by this franchise' box office returns, people did) then F13: 2 still does not make for compelling viewing. You see, everything that I've talked about in the first paragraph happens in the first 10 minutes or so and the movie is 1 hour 26 minutes long. That leave just a little over an hour for the actual story to take place. And it's just the same as the first film – a group of horny teenagers are camping near the lake for whatever reason (these lot are a bunch of trainee councilors or something), dick about for a while and have some dull conversations with each other. Every so often, we're spared another agonizing discussion about who-bloody-cares because anyone who goes for a wee alone is taken out by an 'unknown' stalker. Then, a female is chased for about 15 minutes and apparently kills her stalker and she lives happily ever after, but not before we a gifted with a cheap jump scare which apparently is a dream sequence. Wham. Bam. I feel I've been ripped off, ma'am. That was the setup of both this film and the first one and the world of the internet tells me the sequels are no different. Oh joy.
It wouldn't be so bad if there was actually some talent behind or in front of the camera. The actors are a bunch of charisma-free wooden planks and the long, boring and overused POV shots of Jason doin' a bit of the ol' window-peeping feel like they go on forever. They're also accompanied endlessly with that irritating 'Kill kill kill' score played on a loop. The director must've either thought he was expertly building up tension (spoiler alert: he wasn't) or needed to pad out scenes in order to justify a theatrical-worthy runtime. Not to mention the ultra slow-mo in scenes that are supposed to be frantic, and yet kill any possible tension.
When F13: 2 isn't boring you to sleep it's ripping off better films, like Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood with two scenes: one where two people are impaled with a spear while they're banging away in bed, and another where a woman decides to get naked and swim in the middle of a bloody creepy-ass lake in the middle of the night in the cold for no bloody reason.
There's no style. There's no draw. There's no signature that makes me think "Yes – That is Friday the 13th and that is why I watch these movies." Neither of the films I've seen have had the atmosphere of Halloween, the class of A Bay of Blood, the grittiness of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or the furious nature and inventiveness of A Nightmare on Elm Street. So what's the appeal? A few cheap jump scares and watching teenagers get killed one by one? Sorry, that's not for me.
This episode is a bit of a step down from the opener. Ash travel's to his town's morgue to find the Necronomicon which Ruby hid from her children in a corpse.
The reason for my less than favourable opinion of this episode is mainly due to the disgusting scene in the morgue where Ash literally has a fight with an intestine reel which pulls him into a corpse's ass hole. The corpse instantly begins sh**ing all over Ash's head and its dick flaps all over his face. I mean, that's taking it a little too far now. It wasn't funny, just repulsive.
Before said scene there was a shot of a naked female corpse torso, which surprised me since female nudity is becoming less common (you know, feminism and equal rights and yada yada yada). I should have known it was only there to be a balancing act for the dick in the face scene.
Whilst all this is going on there's also a cringe worthy scene involving Kelly and a security guard. The dialogue is surprisingly bland in it.
AvED is back on form with a fine entry in the second series. Ash's past in his hometown is given further development, especially in terms of his father whom he is on poor terms with due to the Ash's time in the cabin and his subsequent reputation. There are some heartfelt scenes for the main characters where they motivate each other to continue the fight after each of them seems to want to give up for one reason or the other. Ash's moments with his father (including a rodeo-ride face off) are definitely the highlights but Ash's delta going on a Christine- like rampage is also great fun (aside from some dodgy CGI here and there). Pablo is having steadily worsening visions since the Necronomicon latched onto his face towards the end of the first season and Kelly has a moment where she reflects on the fact that she hasn't amounted to much in life. In her thoughts, anyway. Ruby seizes this opportunity to coax Kelly in going along with her, just the two of them, to find the book.
Ash and his dad end up reconciling after the former saves his pops from a deadite. Its only after Lee Majors tells Ash that he's proud of him and begins to reveal something incredibly important that he's run over by the raging delta and croaks. Figures. His death was played out a bit weirdly though. It went from uber-serious to comical one he had been run over. I guess I just found it oddly timed humour off-putting because of the whole father-son thing. A good episode though.
Outstanding. Tragic. Moving. That's how I described Heart of Ice the first time I watched it as a kid. Or rather, I would have done if my vocabulary was advanced enough to say anything passed "that was wicked!" Even as what, a six or seven year old, I found the backstory of Mr Freeze incredibly poignant. What was previously a gimmicky and generic villain from Batman's vast rogue gallery had been transformed by writer Mike Mignola (also the creator of Hellboy) into the definitive Mr Freeze story.
The result of Mignola's work was a tragic figure whom you can't help but feel sorry for, in a scientist who is driven by desperation to revive his wife, who has a terminal illness and he's therefore placed her into a coma. The business man who is in charge of the works catches wind of this work and, out of greed, demands the operation to be shut down. There is a clash between Victor Freeze and the businessman, resulting in the death of his coma-ridden wife and a disfigurement of Freeze, whereby he can now only survive in sub-zero temperatures and has therefore created a suit to help him survive. In what is one of the better revenge stories in the Batman universe, Freeze, armed with a gun that turns things to ice, sets out to avenge his wife's death and freeze the entire city of Gotham.
This Emmy-winning episode was enough to elevate Mr Freeze to the elite level of Batman's nemeses, side by side with the likes of the Joker and Two-face. Where Freeze is special though is the sad backstory. There are many 'little moments' in this episode that I remembered from my childhood: The villains leaving a man behind, Batman sneezing in the Batcave, and Victor Freeze's dejected cries of "Nora! Nora! Noraaaa .!" The music was also as-per-usually fantastic and the dialogue ("revenge is a dish best served cold") superb.
Ash is back baby! And he's living the dream in Jacksonville. That is until, as fate would have it, Ruby is unable to control her demon children who attack her, searching for the Necronomicon which she has hidden. Ash's par-tays are cut short as deadites turn up in his dream town, followed by Ruby who asks for Ash's help in controlling her children.
They end up travelling back to Ash's hometown where his backstory is expanded on with Lee Majors playing his estranged father. It's interesting seeing the town's reaction to Ash and his reputation as a freak who killed his friends in a cabin.
There is blood and guts galore in the opening of season 2, with plenty of laughs. There's not much to criticize, except maybe that the show's frantic pace does mean the chances for scares are lessened meaning the show's pretty much turned into a full-on comedy. Oh and also Lucy Lawless. Can't say I'm a fan. As someone whose supposed to be this mysterious creepy being (and the writer of the Necronomicon!) she just doesn't cut it I'm afraid.
Part II of TCATC is a visual disappointment. The animation is noticeably poorer than Part I due to the animation being done by Akom. The Japanese company Sunrise did the animation for the first part, and they did some of the best animation for this show. But here characters look weird, they move awkwardly, and there is a lack of flow in the quality of the picture.
Still, the story itself is a serviceable follow up. Batman fends off a baddie from killing Catwoman/Selina's assistant while she is away, and then sends her into hiding, but not before the assistant enlightens Batman with the fact that Catwoman is deeply in love with him. But more importantly, Bruce Wayne has a date! And on said date, whilst both Bruce and Selina are in the car, they are attacked by a vehicle with one of Red Claw's thugs at the wheel. This car chase, though entertaining and a showcase of Bruce's willingness to take risks when not dressed in the Batsuit, is probably where the animation is at its poorest. The cars move peculiarly and the skid that eventually sends the villain's car off of a bridge seems to defy the laws of physics.
After this, Red Claw and her crew perform a train heist where they successfully manage to steal the virus that they've been looking for. Batman is unable to stop them and also surprised that Red Claw is a female, to which she replies you've finally met your match", "not surprising it's a woman!" I thought this was interesting as it's more of a reference to how Catwoman is ultimately Batman's weakness. And she is of course a woman.
The climax of the episode takes place in the military base, where Batman and Catwoman are captured and hogtied and Red Claw reveals she has threatened Gotham by blackmailing them with a placebo virus in exchange for billions and, in typical Bond villain fashion, decides to leave the virus with Batman and Catwoman before pissing off, without shooting them. Naturally, the Bat and the Cat work together to free themselves and Batman, in spectacular fashion, ends up blowing the entire base up with a conveniently-parked fuel truck and a hand grenade.
After the cops arrive on the scene and all the hullabaloo is over, Catwoman makes her way back to her apartment. She is greeted by Batman, who mentions he has not reported her to the police, "yet." In a rather touching exchange, Catwoman remarks "So you do care (about me)?" after which we hear a click and the camera (do we still call it a camera in animation?) moves down to show us that Bat's has cuffed Catwoman.
Before we fade out and the epic closing theme starts, Batman remarks "More than you'll ever know." Touching stuff.
Overall this is a fine episode but rather let down by some dodgy animation.
OK so here's the deal – I need an excuse. An excuse to revisit one of my childhood memories Batman: The Animated Adventures. I never managed to see the series in its entirety due to the channel it was aired on becoming too expensive for my family and me. But what I did see of it I absolutely adored, including the feature length movies and the eventual follow up series Batman Beyond. And though it's difficult not to come across as an old phobey whose struggling to remove his nostalgia glasses when saying this, I do believe that cartoons like Batman and X-Men are far better than most of the ones kids are getting today.
Anyway, if a family member barges unexpectedly into my room and demands an explanation as to why I, a grown man, am watching a children's cartoon show I obviously need an excuse prepared beforehand (It'd be easier providing an explanation for watching porn), so that excuse, dear readers, is that I am watching this animation for a 'blog' or 'review site'. Surely it'll work, right? If not, I'll just put my hands up and say "the cartoon is on the screen to distract you from the 16 porn tabs at the bottom of the screen."
So here it is – hopefully the start of a review of each individual episode of B:TAS. I hope I manage to do better than I did with The Sopranos, where I started reviewing the first few episodes and then ended up binge watching the entire series.
The first thing you notice about the series is the remarkable opening title sequence – a moodily lit chase sequence that perfectly establishes the nature of the Batman character. It's a great example of visual storytelling. The score from the opening also borrows heavily from the Tim Burton Batman film. Speaking of which, the music in On Leather Wings, and the series as a whole, is outstanding. Shirley Walker and co. did a great job, and their varied and expressive music is an integral part of the series just as much as the characters, voice work, animation and stories.
On Leather Wings is a prime example as the tension-filled score throws us into the city of Gotham, in which a winged beast is terrorising and stealing from pharmacies, injuring doctors and scaring the crap out of anyone who gets close enough. The cops blame Batman, as they do, and it's up to the man in black- I mean, the man in grey, black, blue and gold- to bring an end to this menace and find out just what is going on.
Overall OLW is an excellent introduction to the dark, stylish neo noir-esque nature of The Animated Series. Terminology used can often fly over the heads of kids, as it did mine when I was younger, and the episode genuinely provides some scares if you're a kid, of course.
Batman's showcases his detective skills as he attempts to track down the fiend. His relationship with Commissioner Gordon is introduced as is a quick glimpse at a pre-Two Face Harvey Dent.
As anyone familiar with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will have guessed when watching, the winged beast, or 'man-bat', turns out to be one of the scientists, Kirk, who is unable to fight off his addiction to his alter-ego. The scene in which he reveals himself is a bit weird as I didn't see a reason why he wanted batman to know unless it was a subconscious call for help. The subsequent chase through the Gotham night sky is a highlight though, and Batman's fight with man-bat in front of the police is enough to clear his name of the crimes. Batman ends up knocking the beast out and takes him back to his lab, where he develops a way to find a cure. It all ends on a rather uneasy note as Batman is unsure whether the antidote will last.
This episode is a fine introduction to the series and I look forward to watching the rest of them. One of the things I noted was the 'little details' that end up making a big different in the long run. For example, when man-bat is fighting Batman a female scientist, one of Kirk's colleagues, walks in on them and is shocked but cries "Kirk!" so she is obviously aware of his frequent transformations. Man-bat then turns to her and emotes a sad expression before talking off, possibly out of guilt and embarrassment. Its things like that which add depth to the characters and makes the series stand out amongst many of its kid.
This episode opens with Catwoman, the thief in the night, doing what she does best with a feline friend. She is tracked and eventually chased by Batman through the rooftops of Gotham. Immediately the one-off relationship between Batman and Catwoman (voiced by the lovely Adrienne Barbeau) is established as they both are unable to deny there is something going on under the radar between the two, despite them both being on either side of the law.
TCATC is another fine episode of The Animated Series. There's a lot going on in this one, including the mob's affairs, Batman and Catwoman's relationship, and corporate business warfare. The main storyline involves Selina Kyle (Catwoman), who is a business woman passionate about wildlife, having her attempts to buy a piece of land for wild cats muscled out by a company who happen to be secretly in league with a terrorist known as Red Claw. This Red Claw character, for whatever terrorist-y reasons, needs the land as there's a hidden military base underneath it and from there she (yes, she) can carry out her dastardly plan of unleashing a toxic poison in Gotham.
As I said already, there are a lot of elements at play in this episode and it's a compliment on the writers' parts that all of these things, such as Selina's donate-money-win-a-bachelor date with Bruce and an exciting police car chase come together to form a cohesive story.
Being rubbed out sends Selina iffy vibes, and she dons her Catwoman outfit and takes a trip to the headquarters of the company who is refusing her purchase of the land, hoping to find evidence of villainous activities. Which she does, of course, seeing as though they are you know, villains. However, she doesn't manage to do this without alerting Red Claw and co. to her trespassing, and the episode closes with one of their men spying on Selina through her apartment window, having been send there by Red Claw. And I don't think he's there to deliver cupcakes.