Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Update

I thought I'd best let my adoring fans know that I won't be updating the blog as often as usual until September 22nd as I have a big exam on that day, and have a lot of intense revision to do on top of my usual husband and father stuff. Not only that, I even have to nip into the office a couple of times. I know. How awful. So bear with me if I don't update as much as usual for three weeks. Of course, that doesn't mean no updates at all!

This seems as good a time as any to explain what's coming up after True Blood finishes; one episode to go! Essentially the plan is to undertake a final push on Buffy and Angel to finally finish the Buffyverse after, er, five years. Obviously, there will still be films of an eclectic nature whenever I feel like it. And new episodes of Doctor Who, Class and Sherlock when they occur.

On top of that, I'll continue to slot in the last few episodes of Agent Carter whenever I can. Then there's Daredevil Season One to finish, and I intend to carry on with the Netflix Marvel stuff. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is unfortunately a casualty of my Sky Plus failing to record Episode Four, and my failing to spot this until after the repeat so I'll need to acquire a subtitled version somehow; the episodes you download from Sky are subtitle deficient, annoyingly. I'll get to that when I can.

So that's the current plan. I may slot in some other stuff on a whim should the mood strike me, of course. Any requests, comments etc?

Friday, 26 August 2016

True Blood: Love Is to Die

"I'm choosing the true death."

Bill is choosing to die because Sookie will never be able to move on while he's alive, as she could never quite manage to with Alcide. Hmm. Not sure I buy that either from the character or as a plausible motivation from a more diegetic point of view, but it's written well enough that you can't see the joins so I'll let it pass. Development of this takes up much of the episode.

Elsewhere Sam leaves for a new life in Chicago with Nicole and the bump, and Jessica starts to properly reconnect with Hoyt, telling him "the story of us" while Jason seems to be getting on rather well with Brigette, who's just dumped Hoyt. He's resisting the temptation to shag her, though... and this is Jason.

This is fascinating to watch, knowing as we do from our privileged position outside the text that this is the penultimate episode of True Blood ever. Big things happen, such as Bill releasing Jessica and Eric finally giving Ginger the fucking of her life after fifteen odd years of frustrated celibacy for her. But the Yakuza are after Sookie, which will provide a bit of conflict for the final episode.

But this episode, quite rightly, is fairly short on incident and long on letting all the characters be themselves for one last time. I've no idea where all the pieces will land in the finale- will Bill die? Will Sookie use that exploding ball power and lose her specialness? Will Jessica and Hout get back together? I have no idea; im sure there are some twists and turns to come. But I'm also sure the finale will be fast and furious, so it's wonderful to have a slow episode like this. Sublime, again.

True Blood: Almost Home

"Even as the cure you're still the fucking problem!"

We begin with Eric seemingly about to kill Sarah, until he unexpectedly is cured by her. Could there be hope for both of them? And eventually for Bill? Apparently not; after spending much of the episode building up to the moment, the episode ends with our friends all surrounding Sarah in her cell and Bill able to drink his cure... and, after putting everyone to so much trouble to get him cured, he refuses. Well then.

In other plot threads, Lettie Mae and Lafayette finally convince the Rev to join them in their V trip to find Tara's spirit. It seems she wants closure, and peace with her mother; it seems Lettie Mae was a good mum until she was abandoned by her abusive husband, and it's nice to see that acknowledged as a mother and her departed daughter finally reconcile. It's still shocking how little Tara is in this season, though. She's always been my favourite character.

(Incidentally, Tara's dad is played by Malcolm Goidwin, Clive from iZombie...)

Hoyt argues with his girlfriend Brigette about having kids, as Jason realises that Adilyn and Wade must be with Violet. Indeed they are, and about to be tortured to death, until they (and Jessica, and Jason, the only man who ever rejected her) are finally rescued, and Violet suddenly killed, by... Hoyt. There's a surprise. And things seem to be moving towards him and Jessica getting back together, amnesia or no amnesia. But wouldn't they just split up again for similar reasons?

Superb. As is every single episode at the moment. True Blood seems set to end on a real high.

True Blood: May Be the Last Time

"You're gonna die tonight."

Death stalks this episode. Bill is dying, obviously, but Sarah Newlin is being pursued by those who wish her dead, and hallucinating about her imminent death. And the episode begins with her sister Amber, after a change of heart about "Noomi", dying at Eric's hands after revealing that Sarah is the cure for Hep V. Gus isn't happy.

Meanwhile, Andy and Holly desperately search for their missing children, who may also soon be killed. But no; Violet has taken them to a well-equipped boudoir where they can have sex amongst crops, nipple clamps and assorted dildos. It really is awfully thoughtful of her. The two teens are, needless to say, overwhelmed.

Arlene, meanwhile, having had his blood, is having erotic dreams about sex concluding with sex on the pool table. Sarah seems safe for now as, in a nice bit of satire, Gus doesn't want to use her synthesised blood to find a cure for Hep V, but to create a product that people need to take for the rest of their lives. It's all about profit. And Eric has a 49% stake.

We get a sweet flashback from 1855; Bill is told by his dying father to marry Caroline, the girl next door whom he has never met, in order to acquire her land so his mother will not starve. Such was life. But their initial meeting is sweet, and they end up finding happiness. For a while. That's all we can hope for in this transitory life.

Sookie deals with an unhelpful cameo appearance by Ritger Hauer as Niall as Sam has a nice chat with Arlene about Nicole's ultimatum. And, rather sweetly, Keith wants to be with Arlene even though she's Hep V positive and they can't have sex. 

We and with Adilyn and Wade tied up and in danger, while Sookie and Bill make love for the first time in ages. Extraordinary, as always this season.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

True Blood: Karma

"There are some woodpeckers moving into my frontal lobe..."

It's the day after the party and Alcide is still dead, the world is still a hard place and Bill has Hep V. It's quite the hangover.

The direction is superb from the start as Eric and Pam fall into the hands of the Yakuza and the mysterious "Gus". Meanwhile Lafayette and Lettie Mae go on a V trip to find Tara, Bill realises that, without a Vampire Rights Act, he has no rights to bequeath his property as he wishes- a clear reference to the injustice of a situation (true in many US states in 2014) where gay couples could not marry. Still, at least he gets to kill a symbolic homophobe.

And Violet, knowing that Jason is cheating on her with Jessica, is desperate to please him, changing her tune fast as she says that she is his and dresses up to give him a loving blow job. You feel desperately sorry for her, blunt and brutal though she is. But it isn't enough, and when Jasin goes running again to Jessica she is howling with rage and despair. It's over.

Gus has an interesting chat with Eric and Pam, albeit one conducted under very formal circumstances; the Yakuza Corporation has lost face with the tainting of Tru Blood. They, like Eric, want Sarah dead and there is, for the moment, a confluence of interests. 

Elsewhere, Andy goes hilariously mad at finding Wafe in bed with Adilyn, and the shouting match between him and Holly is no less funny, the whole thing being both written and played for comic relief. And Nicole announces that she's had enough of Bon Temps and she's taking her pregnant self off home; is Sam coming? It's quite the ultimatum.

The most heartbreaking moment is when Sookie realises that, not only is Bill irrevocably dying with Hep V, but he got it from her. Ouch. No wonder the two of them are growing close once again.

Amber and her annoying sister Sarah aren't getting on well at all. That is, until it turns out that Sarah is the cute firHeo V and Amber isn't going to die. This is, to put it mildly, something of a turning point for the season.

We end with Sookie and Jessica crying over Bill's illness, but not before Violet finds Adilyn and Wade and takes them away. What is she planning?

Another superb episode, needless to say.

True Blood: Lost Cause

"I have been your sex slave for fifteen years, Eric Northman, and we ain't never had sex!"

It's the aftermath of the big battle, and there's a lot of healing to be done, especially for the bereaved Sookie. This being Bon Temps, it's decided (by Lafayette, mostly) that the solution to this is a party at Sookie's. A good time is had by all, and it's left to Nicole, an outsider, to point out how weird this is, and what awaits place Bon Temps has become.

Eric and Pam meet Sarah Newlin's estranged vampire sister, Amber, who has Hep V. She wants Sarah dead too, which usual ful. But everyone else is partying, except Bull who stands outside experiencing flashbacks from the Civil War. We now learn of his scepticism towards the cause of "freedom" to own other human beings, although of course he must be shown to have such views, or he would lose our sympathies. Interestingly, it is this scene that gives the episode its title as Bill knows the war is futile.

There are lots of little character moments; Andy is finally able to forgive Jessica for what she did. Indeed, the wounds and even the distinction between human and wan pure in Bon Temps appear to be slowly withering away. Good. It's a season about subtle shifts, character development and, I think it's clear by now, no Big Bad. It's refreshing.

There are deeply touching moments; Lettue Mar makes a dignified tribute to Tara. Andy makes a sweet proposal to Holly- and she says yes. There is death, but life goes on. Sookie and Arlene have a lovely long meaningful chat about losing your man. And Jessica sees James and Lafayette, who've grown increasingly close, fucking... and Lafayette stands his ground, insisting that Jessica has been neglecting him and that he deserves as much happiness as straight, white people! As for Jessica, she still has Jason, Violet or no Violet.

Meanwhile, Eric and Pam learn that Sarah Newlin'sparents are truly evil; they're at a fundraiser for Ted Cruz and the far right Republican Party. Fortunately they're all massacred by the Yakuza; things could have got nasty. 

The party offends unpleasantly, as Lettie Mae stabs Willa, desperate for her blood. And the episode ends with Eric finding Sarah... and Bill realising he's infected with Hep V.

Another brilliant episode, then, typical of the season. But I'm not sure what the present day "lost cause" was intended to be.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

True Blood: Death Is Not the End

"Please don't turn into a rat!"

If the episode wasn't already excellent enough, it ends with a top tune from Bob Dylan that I admittedly know best from the cover by Nick Cave and P.J. Harvey. But I digress. This is another superb episode of excellent, character-based writing and all centred around the devastating effect of a death- in this case Alcide's- in a very different way from the superficially similar use of Terry's death last season.

News travels. To a trailer park in Jackson, Mississippi, as a priapic father discovers he has lost a son. To an oil rig just off Anchorage, Alaska as Aston discovers he's lost a mother- and it's a shock to see Hoyt again. Both are to converge on Louisiana, as are Eric and Pam; Eric wants Sarah Newlin dead, but first there is the matter of Willa, his neglected progeny.

Cue a flashback, as the Magister (remember him?) meets Eric and Pam as they arrive in Shreveport for Eric, the rebel, to be made sheriff of Area 51 as punishment; this is an interesting retconning of the character which reconciles the Eric of the first season with the much more rebellious character he has become. Also fascinating is that the small business they initially ran was a video store with a poem section. Most fascinating of all is Ginger who, before her mind was destroyed by regular glamouring, was a highly intelligent postgrad student specialising in vampire lure. We see her choose her life, in a way, but it's impossible to argue that she knew what she was in for, and we mustn't forget that she's been horribly abused over the seasons. Her life, once full of potential, has been wasted. Much like Alcide's.

Sookie uncovers traumatic memories from Holly, revealing that the Hep V vampires are holding Arlene and the other hostages at- where else?- Fangtasia. Sam, we discover, is rather keen to rescue Nicole and the baby. No one can mourn properly while other friends are in danger. 

There's a big raid, exciting to watch, and all the people we care about are rescued from the Hep B vampires with the help of Bill- and Pam and Eric. Eric tells Sookie that he has a month left, and has been spending the time he has travelling. Death haunts everything in this episode; indeed, this season. Arlene nearly dying, and seeing the spirit of Terry as she nearly goes, is deeply moving even to an atheist like myself.

Sam is well and truly out as a shapechanger; Vince is killed; it seems the forces of bigotry and mob rule are in retreat for now. We are left to reflect on yet another extraordinary piece of television.
 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

True Blood: Fire in the Hole

"I'm as big a fan of the French vagina as you are, Eric"

Another episode of superb characterisation, delightfully leisurely pace and beautiful writing here in what is shaping up to be an unexpectedly excellent season. We begin with Sarah Newlin, having swapped her addiction to fundamentalist Christianity to some faux-Hindu hippy "guru" out in LA.

Eric, meanwhile, knows he's dying and has become apathetic. What has he to live for? Cue a retcon and a flashback to the Rhone Valley in 1986, where we learn about Sylvie, a previously unmentioned human love of his. The Authority, and Nan Flanagan, end up killing her and arresting Eric and Pam; that crowbars in a good reason for him to retrospectively hate the Authority. 

Elsewhere, Bill no longer feels when Sookie is in danger after his transfusion. And relationships are shifting; Violet can't give Jason the family life he wants, and James connects far more with fellow druggie Lafayette than he does with the distant Jessica. Bill, meanwhile, has a flashback of his family in 1862, on the eve of war. All this is fascinating.

We end, though, with violence, chaos, Alcide's shocking death, and the urge for one more episode...

Monday, 22 August 2016

True Blood: I Found You

"Don't you try that NRA hillbilly shit on me!"

One episode later and, after an initially worrying first episode, it all looks so different. Can it be that True Blood has found its mojo again? This is all I wanted: character-driven storylines where character serves plot, not vice versa; bloody good writing and acting; and actually being about something, in this case with the return of Eric turning Hep B into a proper, functioning AIDS metaphor.

The whole thing is just a superb script, superbly shot, slowing down to deal with the interiority of its characters; what True Blood has always done best. We begin with a dream sequence in which Jason has sex with Eric (Eric is the bottom!) while Sam is a good mayor and all the characters we know and love are brilliant in handling a crisis which personally affects them as much as anyone. People can be magnificent. And then we have Vince, the epitome of small-minded bigotry, which is depressingly effective at whipping up a mob. People are great as individuals; as a group, less so. Consider 52% of my own country, for example.

Arlene, Holly and the pregnant Nicole are also heroic, in captivity and waiting to die as food but not giving up. Bon Temps is cut off but its population is good in an apocalypse.

We get a disturbing sense of the town's future of the neighbouring town of Saint Alice, its population entirely dead, and this made personal for us through the diary of an obvious parallel for Sookie. It's the apocalypse, but this is used as a jumping off point for character development. 

The episode is triumphant, and the end, with Pam finding Eric in France, promises even more...

Thursday, 18 August 2016

True Blood: Jesus Gonna Be Here

"Your God and my God can get a hotel room and have a circle jerk for all I care - I'll be in hell, having a three way with the devil."

Meh. I know I started last season with a palpable lack of enthusiasm but felt things improved towards the end, but this feels worth. It feels like a show trapped in its own mythology, about nothing other than itself, plodding along with nothing to say about the world. Bon Temps is full of humans and vampires together bonded against Hep vampires and... that's it. There's a cool scene with Pam, and James has an interesting and druggy chat with Lafayette. Oh, and Tara dies.

Obviously Tara will be back, and soon. That would be a cheap way to kill a major character, just to liven up a dismaying my lacklustre season opener but... well, what else is there? Sookie and Alcide's relationship is fraying. Jessica is starting to connect, against the odds, with Adilyn, whom she is sworn to protect. Pam is in Marrakech hunting for Eric, who isn't in an episode for the first time in ages.

There's an obvious new villain in Vince, an annoying bigot. Jason finally gets to have sex with Vioket by acting domestic baby, as she's always secretly wanted him to. Lettie Mae and the Reverend Daniels seem to be more central characters, which is interesting. And Sookie's concluding speech is brilliant. But... I hope the season improves.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

"Fool! One day he will learn to obey the law of Gwangi, or like his brother he shall perish!"

Yes, I know- Cowboys and dinosaurs! This was not a film I could stop myself watching, especially as the dinosaurs are provided by Ray Harryhausen himself.

And it's pretty much what you'd expect. We have standard B movie plotting, characterisation and acting from a cast who, in large part, are veterans of '50s flying saucer and monster movies. We get a half-hearted romance, some conflict, some Wild West flavour, a Lost World valley full of prehistoric creatures- well, some of the more visually arresting and cinematic ones, at least- and a grand King Kong-style climax in an old Spanish colonial church. The only surprise is that the vaguely racist portrayal of American Indians you might expect is unaccountably replaced by a vaguely racist portrayal of gypsies for some reason. Oh, and Harryhausen's stop motion effects have unfortunately dated in a way his fantasy creatures in other films haven't, but they're still fun.

The film is very silly, yes, but it's played straight, well-executed and fun. I recommend beer, mind...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

"Our old school marm got her throat cut by a fast-moving tumbleweed."

Yes, this may be exactly what you expect from Seth MacFarlane, with his signature style humour, and pretty much Ted in the Wild West. But you say that like it's a bad thing.

This is great; a standard-ish Western plot gives the framework for MacFarlane to have fun and do what he does, including a prostitute who will do anything for her clients but won't have pre-marital sex with her boyfriend, plenty of observational humour and even a cameo from Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown, three years before Marty arrives in 1885.

The music, direction and style are done like a proper Western, which works brilliantly as a contrast to the humour, and MacFarlane himself succeeds magnificently as a leading man, even if he basically is Brian from Family Guy whenever he opens his mouth.

All this and we get a cameo from Ryan Reynolds too!

iZombie: Salivation Army

"This is Seattle, not Sleepy Hollow!"

Where to begin? This is a truly epic finale that changes everything, introduces a new baddie and seems to fire the starting gun on the zombie apocalypse. If it wasn't for the fact that it features the lead singer of the awful Matchbox Twenty as himself it would be truly awesome, but we can't have perfection. It seems Du Clark likes fake grunge crap, which is truly evil. At least Blaine likes the real thing.

The whole episode consists of Liv, Major and Clive in a mission to Max Rager to infiltrate a party while everything goes wrong and wild zombies- I love the way they're referred to as "Romeros"- are let loose. I suspect next season will be very different. 

At last Clive now knows everything and can play a full part in this big episode, full of big things happening. Don E is shot as Me Boss takes over. Drake becomes a Romero, which sucks for Liv but probably bodes well for her and Major. Blaine helps Ravi to save Peyton- his character is clearly being majorly revamped.

We end with Du Clark, after much twirling of his moustache, getting his comeuppance at the hands of a bunch of hungry Romeros as Major lets him doe. And it seems we have a new big bad, with a zombie now in charge of Max Rager...

An awesome episode of an awesome season of an awesome series. iZombie deserves to be much more ubiquitous.

Monday, 15 August 2016

iZombie: Dead Beat

"Juries today- they've seen every episode of CSI!"

Oh dear. Major has been arrested and evidence of him being the Chaos Killer looks pretty damning from the FBI's point of view. Not that it matters; far before that happens he will turn into a zombie in prison and start the apocalypse (although, surely, some random zombie is bound to be strayed and imprisoned at some point anyway; the apocalypse is inevitable). Oh, and Ravi has to explain it all to Liv.

I love the awesome lawyer provided by Max Rager, but this whole episode is adrenaline-fuelled and awesome. We discover that Major's frozen bodies have vanished, presumably because of Max Rager. Du Clark is going to sell the company to a military contractor for loads of money. But through it all is the suspense of whether Major will get his brains in time. It's truly nail-biting.

The real punch-the-air moment, though, is Liv finally telling Clive everything... and dramatically proving to him that she's a zombie. Finally! Clive, being a good bloke with integrity, immediately releases Major- at the horrible cost of his relationship with a furious Dale. We end with a vision of the once frozen zombies in a cage in Du Clark's basement. This is truly addictive telly.

One more to go...

iZombie: Reflections of the Way Liv Used to Be

"Like me for my antidotes, love me for my anecdotes."

A swotty student is murdered and it's all linked to study drugs and a corrupt undercover cop within vice. It's a nice whodunit, if inevitably a bit perfunctory at this late stage of the season, but we get to see Liv on swot brain, and it's really underlined how unusual Clive is for not being at all corrupt.

Meanwhile, amnesiac Blaine's employees are taking advantage and claiming to be in charge. Ravi tells Liv that Major is a) the Chaos Killer, except without the killing part, and b) a zombie. And Vaughn fails to win a "father of the year" award for his treatment of his zombified daughter Rita. There's a lot going on. We even meet the most annoying of the frat boys from Zombie Bro again.

It's all about the ending, though: Dale and get FBI mates arrest Major for being the Chais Killer. Two episodes to go. This season is amazing.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

iZombie: Pour Some Sugar, Zombie

"That was like interrogating a puddle."

There's a murder just outside a strip club, and Liv ends up eating stripper brain. This is a particularly good and clever whodunit, but we're far too close to the end of the season for that to be the only focus of the episode, much as it takes centre stage more than it has lately. 

Peyton's new roommate is Peyton, meaning that they, Major and Ravi have a Friends thing going on- nice bit of metatextuality going on there. And the twist here is that stripper brain gives Liv an insight into Mr Boss that Peyton is eager to glean; cue comedy scenes of her trying to get Liv to have a vision. And the episode gets bonus points for Ravi humming "The Stripper".

It's good to see Johnny Frost again: he's the same actor who played Spottswoode in Team America: World Police, you know. 

The end of the episode is littered with bombshells, though. Post-cure, Blaine has amnesia! Ravi opens Major's safe and realises he's the "Chaos Killer"! Liv realises that Drake is an undercover cost, and missing! And... Major is now a zombie.

Excellent stuff. But,considering all the arc-related bombshells we get, I suspect that it's the last big emphasis on the weekly whodunit we will get until the end of the season...

Friday, 12 August 2016

iZombie: He Blinded Me... with Science

"You Americans and your violence!"

This week's murder victim is a research scientist who ends up burned to a crisp; cue Liv acquiring scientist brain. We also get some rather dramatic arc stuff to remind us that the season finale is not far off.

Ravi learns that Blaine is a zombie again, and Blaine learns that his days are therefore numbered. While Liv and Clive navigate a good if a little perfunctory murder mystery involving a pair of twins and Max Rager being used as a red herring, Major calmly explains to Vaughn do Clark that he slept with his daughter and Liv rather naughtily does some undercover work behind Clive's back- will this come back to bite her? And what of the captive full-on zombie in Max Rager's basement that Liv sees clearly in a vision?

This is, perhaps, a rare example of the murder mystery plot feeling like an afterthought with all the arc stuff going on; iZombie is usually perfect in judging this balance. But it's an exciting and entertaining episode, especially the (admittedly predictable) ending where Liv, suspecting Drake to be a bit dodgy, arranges to confront him... and he doesn't turn up because Major kidnaps him. Ouch.

But even that doesn't beat the unexpected moment where Rita is scratched by the Max Rager captive zombie, and is imprisoned by her increasingly pantomime villain-sequel father...


Thursday, 11 August 2016

iZombie: Eternal Sunshine of the Caffeinated Mind

"Your lips are moving, but it's the system working!"

Another excellent murder mystery this week, with a coffee shop (how very Seattle), positivity brain and  boyfriend who pretends to be French, complete with outrageous accent. 

We also have Ravi's attempt at a cure for zombieism not going well, much like his attempt to chat up a girl who, shock horror, doesn't get his Star Wars references. She is, naturally, the killer. All right-minded people know Star Wars.

We end with Blaine being kidnapped by Mr Boss and cronies while singing A Whiter Shade of Pale, having his throat cut and being buried in a shallow grave. It hardly takes a genius to realise that at the end of the episode he will rise as a zombie, but it's an entertaining sequence. As is Liv finding out that "Gilda" was the Rita who was sleeping with Major, punching and evicting get.

This is very good stuff and the finale is getting awfully close...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

iZombie: The Whopper

"I invented the orgasm, Clive."

It had to happen: Liv eats the brain (via the usual brilliant food montage) of a congenital liar. What also had to happen was Clive noticing Liv adopting personality traits of the victims for her visions. It would have stretched credibility for him not to have noticed something by now; how soon until he discovers the whole truth?

Meanwhile it's all happy families as Blaine's apparently dead zombie dad leaves him sod all in his will while leaving everything to his abusive old nanny- nice bit of character background there for our poor little rich kid. 

Things don't end there, of course; Blaine soon kidnaps Major, discovers the truth, gets his dad back to be tortured into another will, and insists on deciding which targets on his list Major gets rid of yet. Meanwhile, there are still signs that Drake is something of a dodgy choice of boyfriend for Liv, and the death of the zombie rat indicates that neither Blaine nor Major will live long after reverting to zombiedom. Ouch. That's a bit of a bombshell. 

For the second episode in a row there isn't really a murder mystery as opposed to the arc plot, but it's a bloody good episode, climaxing with our heroes finally discovering the tainted utopium..

iZombie: Physician, Heal Thy Selfie

"You're a disgrace to your country's proud history of functional lushes!"

Liv is getting on well, if you know what I mean, with zombie Drake, while Peyton and Ravi continue go get on very well for exes, getting sloshed together on a regular basis. But this week's murder starts off with three corpses... and no heads. Oh dear.

However, Liv still gets to eat a brain, via one of those delightful culinary montages that have become a real highlight of the show, that of a true social media obsessive. Cue everything being tweeted and Facebooked.

Peyton's boss, Mr Baracus, is apparently dead; he most certainly ain't going on no plane. Major spends much of the episode squirming over the fact that he stated that Baracus was not a zombie, yet he so clearly is; this allows Du Clark to look suitably menacing to whet our appetites for what is no doubt coming later in the season. Meanwhile, Liv checks out the background to Drake; is he boyfriend material? 

Also notable is the meeting between Blaine and a delightfully menacing Me Boss, who clearly established himself as the alpha male, and Peyton's failed attempt to resign over buggering up Blaine so badly. Baracus ends up in Major's freezer. It's an odd episode, all arc, arc, arc with only a superficial murder mystery, but a good episode nonetheless.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

iZombie: Fifty Shades of Grey Matter

"Think of something gross, like Margaret Thatcher."

Another good murder mystery here, centred around an erotic novel, a sexless marriage and puritanical snobbery. The murder mysteries are consistently good in iZombie. But we also get some interesting flirting between Liv and zombie Drake, plus loads more arc stuff.

I don't like Dale any more; she hates tea. What sort of person hates lovely, divine tea? She and Clive seem to be on Major's heels but he manages to escape their clutches... at the cost of having to give up poor Minor.

Blaine is still helping Peyton with taking down Mr Boss, and they're getting on well. Very well. Intimately well. Very appropriate for an episode all about sexual temptation. Liv resists the charms of Drake... just. Peyton (who likes a drink) doesn't. She ends the episode horrified to find out, from both Dale and Liv, what a monster Blaine is. This is a turning point.

A good episode, managing to link the arc stuff and murder mystery by theme and make neither seem rushed. That's good plotting.


Monday, 8 August 2016

iZombie: Method Head

"You know what would be fun? A zombie show where the zombie's the star!"

iZombie is back after the Christmas break, and this time the murder takes place on the set of Zombie High, a TV show. It's all a bit metatextual and the murder mystery side delivers well.

But there are all sorts of arc threads going on at full pelt. To start with, Ravi has to confirm to Liv and Major that there's no way they can have sex without him developing a sudden taste for brains. We're now very focused on the quest for that tainted utopium, now narrowed down to a mere 100 acres.

Liv is still in the doghouse with Clive, although that situation, predictably, doesn't survive the episode. They were never just going to drop the format like hat and iZombie, while not rigidly so and while very much running with multiple plot arcs, is nevertheless a very formulaic show deep down, and long may it remain. Unless, you know, they do something else cool.

Anyway, Liv on actor brain is cool. Major is having to tread an increasingly fine line with the delightfully villainous Vaughn Du Clark (an absurdly Frenglish surname, that), and Dale of the FBI is on Blaine's trail. iZombie just continues being brilliant.

iZombie: Cape Town

"I make time for justice!"

More than a little influenced by Kick-Ass, this episode deals with the humiliating death of a real life "superhero" and, as the last episode before the mid-season break, ends with a rather neat parallel as Liv's own excesses of vigilantism lead to her apparent downfall, with Clive no longer willing to work with her.

It's cleverly done, not only in terms of the thematic parallels but in having s light-hearted episode turn dark at the very end. What will Liv do now? Has superhero brain cost her purpose in life? Before then, though, there's much to enjoy. I love Ravi's enthusiastic attitude to the Fog, Mr Boss being all sinister again, and Major's character-building (and info-dumpy) chat with a zombie lady, formerly a high class call girl who enjoyed life, now being forced to have sex with Blaine's clients in return for brains. She wants Major to kill her, and takes a lot of convincing to be frozen instead. Her story is devastating, and a reminder of how the very structures of our patriarchal society can be so horribly misogynistic with a real human cost.

We end not only with Liv no longer working with Clive but with the apparently cured rat returned to zombie-ism. Is there no hope? An extraordinary episode.

iZombie: The Hurt Stalker

"They're like drummers in Spinal Tap..."

It's an interesting twist: Clive's stalker ex is murdered with his gun and he's a suspect, if a little half-heartedly, meaning he's off the case and Liv and Ravi get to show what they're made of. It's also a good showcase of Clive's character- calm, methodical, good under pressure, but with individual quirks and a deadpan humour. This is the best Clive episode yet, showing a hinterland of gumbo cuisine and Game of Thrones fanboyishness, which really goes to open him up as a character.

Meanwhile, Liv has paranoid stalker brain, which makes her paranoid about Major and is not good for her relationship. It's also an episode that sees her spend a few days in jail until she's released- and given brain- just in time. We get a final revelation that Major has a secret- he's keeping the engagement ring. He has hope.

For once the mirder mystery is a bit perfunctory- acceptable every now again- but this is a fine character episode.

Friday, 5 August 2016

iZombie: Abra Cadaver

"And I very much have a penis."

This time the conceit is a locked room mystery where a stage magician is murdered by another stage magician. And (SPOILERS) the murderer is a female version of Teller, as in Penn and. Brilliant. This is surely the finest episode so far in terms of the central mystery. Woe betide any magician who betrays the secrets of the Magic Circle.

I love Ravi's attitude and his excitement at the sheer coolness of Liv having a magician brain. It's also a very morbid, goth brain, mind.

We also get an awkward moment between Ravi and Peyton- they're definitely just friends for the time being. And Clive is sleeping with Dale, the FBI lady. Not a lot of arc stuff this episode, then. But there's an awful lot of awesomeness.

iZombie: Max Wager

"Aren't Brits supposed to be repressed? What would Judi Dench say?"

Liv and Major are now publically a couple again, and the episode pretty much revolves around the question of whether they can have any kind of sex which doesn't end in Major acquiring a sudden taste for brains. There's also a murder mystery, of course, and a brain that turns Luv into an inveterate gambler. It's also an episode that gave me great difficulty in choosing the opening quote: "That is the sound of a man's sphincter shrinking" came a close second. Just so you know.

There's a scene where Peyton is visited by the hitherto mysterious but very menacing Mr Boss. I love that they've cast a short actor to play him as a jovial and superficially nice guy who is clearly deeply terrifying underneath it all. I also love the strip poker; the sexual tension between Liv and Major is really quite palpable.

There's a nice resolution, much as its a bit soon after the basketball episode: the murder was ordered by Clive's basketball hero. Less nice is Blaine killing and eating his vegetable of a grandfather, but it's interesting to end with Blaine's zombie father being kidnapped by Major as another one for the freezer..

Yep. More good stuff.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

iZombie: Love & Basketball

"So far it looks like all our problems could be solved by condoms and rock salt..."

Another episode, another theme, another type of brain (basketball coach) and another solid and entertaining murder mystery made even more entertaining by basketball Clive's fanboy side. But we also have Liv and Major wanting to get back together; can it work? Is there a way they can have sex? Can they rekindle their relationship?

We also get cricket fan Ravi explaining to Americans what a nightwatchman is; points for that too. Meanwhile, Max Rager send Gilda to sneakily obtain some of Liv's blood for the development of Supermax. Supermax is clearly going to be both a Very Bad Thing and a big part of the season finale, I'm expecting.

Ravi obtains some boat party utopium, which is good, and spars with an unfriendly and vaguely racist pathologist from Tacoma; I suspect he will turn up in a later episode as an annoying obstacle. And Blaine sings The Cure's "Friday, I'm in Live". It may be a terrible pun in context but, for a baddie, Blaine has worryingly good musical taste. I'm reminded of David Cameron liking The Smiths. Alas, the utopium is destroyed, so no cure yet.

We end with Liv and Clive together again, seemingly, and the widowed Mrs Suzuki has something for Clive- a human brain kept in the fridge by her late husband...

The murder mystery, visual style characterisation and wit are as good as ever- I love the chapter titles. And now the season arc is ramping up. I'm loving iZombie. It really ought to be more widely seen.

iZombie: Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues

"I hate that phrase 'made love'. It's like sex went and hired a PR firm."

Another solid murder mystery this week as iZombie does country. It's a tale of tragedy, love and heartbreak while Liv plays country guitar.

Meanwhile, Major is still going off the rails and he and Liv are on cold and awkward terms. And Peyton gets an ally in taking down the mysterious Mr Boss- Blaine. It's a story-of-the-week episode but with a lot of season arc set-up happening behind the scenes.

This isn't a landmark episode but it's a good one; the resolution is clever. And we seem to end with Liv and Major possibly getting back together as he seems to hit rock bottom...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

iZombie: Real Dead Housewife of Seattle

"I've never had a lady who lunches for lunch..."

This week is a particularly well-constructed murder mystery, playing by the rules, and the revelation of the killer is particularly satisfying. That box is ticked, and it's an important one. But we also have characterisation, and a story arc that is gathering pace.

Major is still being made to go after zombies for Max Rager, and kidnaps a particularly nice-seeming one. Vaughn, from Max Rager, had sex with the victim, who was married to an important member of the board, and is threatened by him... leading to death by zombie. And yes, as the wife and I thought, Liv's new roommate Zilda is a Max Rager spy... and she's seducing Major.

Meanwhile, Peyton is back- and she's been appointed district attorney and effective utopium czar for Seattle. I wasn't expecting that. It's also nice to see that she's calmed down, is fine and realistic about Ravi moving on, and is still a good friend to Liv. But where is her arc going?

A particularly good episode in a series that continues to be brilliant. More please.

Richard III (Dominic Cooke, 2016)

"So wise so young, they say, do never live long..."

And so the BBC's Hollow Crown series comes to an end with Benedict Cumberbatch excelling as our antihero in Richard III. Much emphasis is placed on the direct continuation of the Henry VI plays; we begin with a "Previously" montage and the cast is the same, adding a certain richness; Sophie Okonedo in particular has been magnificent as Margaret from Henry VI's young bride to the embittered young woman we see here. But the stand-out performance is obviously Cumberbatch, from the very beginning.

This, unlike the previous two instalments, is based on a play I know well, so I will not be treading over the same ground here as I did in uni essays many years ago. Suffice to say that this play, though still an early one, is deliciously addictive tale of the pursuit of power, and its central billion is one of the greatest in all drama. But it feels very different seen in sequence, with Richard and many other characters familiar from earlier plays.

Visually, this is a claustrophobic production of the play, with Richard often seen in a dark room with a chessboard (symbolism much?), and even the climactic battle scenes shot closely and claustrophobically, giving us a vivid impression of the fear, violence and chaos. There's a lot of visual storytelling here, helping with the abridging of the play.

This, and the whole second series of The Hollow Crown, has been a triumph. Now, if only they'd filmed Cumberbatch's Hamlet...

 


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Henry VI, Part 2 (Dominic Cooke, 2016)

"O tiget's heart wrapped in a woman's hide!"

The cast also includes Stanley Townsend, Sam Troughton and Jason Watkins and is a superb assemblage of actors not all of whom, alas, can be tagged. This is a superb array of performances.

Anyway, the BBC continue their Season of Shakespeare's Henry VI plays plus Richard III under the Hollow Crown imprimatur, and it's awesome. Here, despite the title, we have the very end of Part 2 and all of Part 3, much abridged. I've seen and read a lot of Shakespeare but these television plays are my first experience of the Henry VI plays.

These plays are early; Shakespeare was much younger when writing them than he was for his more acclaimed plays, so the theme of kingship is not dealt with in the subtlety of the plays he would later write for the decades prior to Henry VI's accession. The dialogue and characterisation are sublime, though; Queen Margaret is delicious, and it's so fascinating to see the young Richard of Gloucester, slowly forming into the Machiavel he will eventually become. Benedict Cumberbatch stands out, obviously, but Sophie Okonedo gives the most memorable performance as z superb Margaret, and Stankey Townsend's Warwick deserves mention too, as does Adrian Dunbar's Richard of York.

It's a gloriously bloody play, with Richard of York's sadistic dispatching at Margaret's hands as its centrepiece. Henry, again, is shown to be a peaceful, harmless wet blanket- something which, for a King, paradoxically engenders civil war, death and untold misery, as Henry sees at his defeat by Edward IV, with father killing son and vice versa. No wonder he goes mad. And in allowing his armies to be commanded by a woman ("The Queen has more success when you are absent"), he fails at what a King was expected to do.

It's a superb production of a gripping play, one I'm glad I've seen. And the end- with Richard plotting his own way to the throne- makes me excited for the next instalment, one much more familiar...


iZombie: Zombie Bro

"You're like that box of chocolates from Forrest Gump- you never know what you're gonna get."

This time we get an episode set in the bizarre world of American college fraternities; one can't help but think that all these keg parties would be somewhat unnecessary if only the Americans would lower their drinking age to something sensible (I mean, 21???!!!!) and put bars on campus. Still, it's their decision. Anyway, frat boys are a thing, and it's a very weird institution.

This week Liv dines on the brain of a murdered frat boy and gains the urge to play silly drinking games; Rose McIver is utterly magnificent here. It's a fun episode and a good whodunit, tinged with real tragedy in its resolution. 

Meanwhile Ravi goes out some utopium as "research", which leads Major to tag along and do the same, with inevitable consequences; the stuff is essentially ecstasy. But the death of Ravi's zombie dealer leads him (and Liv) to realise that there's a zombie serial killer about. If only they knew who it was..

Meanwhile, we meet Blaine's equally nasty father-a zombie, of course. And we end with the bombshell that Major is now a utopium addict. Another excellent instalment of a promising season, then.

Monday, 1 August 2016

iZombie: Grumpy Old Liv

"Are you eating that or impregnating it?"

Time to start a new (and slightly longer) season of iZombie, and Liv is estranged from her family who, for obvious reasons, do not and cannot know why she refused to give blood for her gravely injured brother Evan. It's deeply unfair, potentially very upsetting viewing and thus not dwelt upon. We shall have to wait and see if there's a good narrative reason for it happening.

In the meantime, though, Liv is doing what she does, eating brains, having visions and solving crimes. This week's cerebellum-based meal is a bitter, gimpy and vaguely racist old man. The racist side is, again wisely, not dwelt upon. 

Meanwhile, Major is still aimlessly unemployed and Peyton is still AWOL. Liv has a new roommate who is described as being boring because she works for her country's tax authority. Ahem. Still, at least she's made interesting at the end by virtue of being an undercover spy for Max Rager. The killer (spoilers) has a t-shirt emblazoned with "T-shirts are passĂ©" which made my wife and I laugh. He also has his alibi of watching Arsenal vs Chelsea in a pub, and correctly refers to the sport as "football", yet he's an American in America. Wow. We may have buggered up our relations with all our neighbours a few years ago, but it seems the relentless march of British sports continues apace, even into the USA. 

Oh, and Blaine is now a funeral director, using the brains of the deceased to feed his zombie clients. Lovely. But, if he doesn't help Liv find the story behind the tainted utopium, the side effects of the cure may kill him. It seems he isn't quite in control. Even worse, we end with Max Rager blackmailing Major into embarking on a zombie killing spree. It's a superb start to what promises to be another brilliant season.



Blacula (1972)

"You shall be... Blacula!"

Oh my God. The hair! The clothes! Must be the early '70s. Great fun, though. This is my first Blaxploitation film but it certainly won't be my last.

On reflection I should probably have watched Dracula: A.D. 1972 first: it's not unlikely that it was an influence. But I loved this. Oh, the plot was generic Hammer-style stuff and there's not a star in sight, but the very moment I heard the line above being declaimed by Dracula I knew I'd love this film.

This is, plot wise, a modern Dracula with '70s black American vernacular and an arrestingly frequent use of the word "faggot" we have a Van Helsing in the form of s detective, and even a Lucy. We have an early '70s depiction of a gay couple. We have an unlikely doppelgänger of Blacula's beloved. And we have a showdown, a final tragic suicide by sunlight, and a genuinely impressive concluding visual effect involving maggots. 

I enjoyed this muchly. Next time I see a blaxploitation film, though, I want Pam Grier!