Friday, 31 March 2017

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

"There's no horror here we don't create ourselves."

Every so often I have to watch a trashy-looking genre film with quirky casting and this Roger Corman-produced piece of '80s sci-fi schlock, featuring the splendid Sid Haig and a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund, seems to fit the bill. The experience has been... interesting.

There's an obvious Alien influence in the bickering, working class crew of an alien spaceship but none of the visual grittiness and the plot, once you get past the awful cliched dialogue, is really rather different. There's a fair bit of world building with humanity enthralled by a mysterious "Master" who eventually even becomes relevant to the plot and it eventually becomes clear, after a series of increasingly gory deaths by '80s special effects including a suspiciously rapey-looking incident including a giant worm, that the planet's monsters are simply the crews' fears made manifest. So far, then predictable.

Then we get the ending, where the film really tries hard to be something more than a B movie by attempting to be all metaphysical and philosophical. It's a good try, it really is, but there's no escaping the fact that this is, well, a B movie, and strictly one for those of us who like that sort of thing.

Grimm: Blind Love

"You know, I hate to admit it- but you are one damn fine-looking man!"

At last we get an episode that isn't an episode of the week- hallelujah. Yes, we end with the reset button being pressed and no deeper character changes as a result- that would have happened in a superior show like Buffy- but who cares? Grimm gives us A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it's perfect, with all the star-cross'd lovers and... Hank. Oh, Hank.

The script and the cast are clearly having a lot of fun here, and it's infectious. There's a bit of arc stuff, too, seemingly presaging Diana's surely inevitable slide into darkness as Sean quite happily allows her to have fun torturing her foolish and unfortunate kidnapper. And she misses her Grandma Kelly- how much longer can she go without understanding what is going on? And I note that she casually slips to Sean that the symbols she's drawing are from the basement.

But all that's for later. This is a last chance to have some real fun with this bunch of characters and is no doubt the precursor to things turning very dark indeed from next week onwards (five episodes to go!) but it's such a joyous thing that this episode exists.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Labyrinth (1986)

"It's only forever. Not long at all."

This film is all about two departed individuals- Jim Henson, the creative mind behind a fantasy film whose fantastic beasts are, in the best possible way, Muppets; and the similarly missed David Bowie, arguably the greatest solo artist who ever lived and a true genius right up until the end. I can't help observing, though, that this major Hollywood starring role came at a time when his career had entered it'd mid-'80s slump, having failed to match the commercial success of Let's Dance and not really to experience a sustained career renaissance until (unorthodox opinion alert) Earthling. In this film he's the same age I am now, a sobering thought.

But what of the film? Well, it's '80s Hollywood fantasy in the best possible way, redolent of both Time Bandits and The NeverEnding Story in that it plucks a child from the world of the mundane and plucks them into a world of fantasy and adventure. Indeed, the first two thirds of the script bear the indelible imprint of the great Terry Jones, however much his contribution may have been changed. Certainly, the great Sir Didymus, a part of popular culture whom I am now finally able to know, reminds me of nothing more than the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail which was, I believe, a Jones/Palin scene.

Jennifer Connelly is splendid as the teenage, fantasy obsessed lead and Bowie is, well, magnificently himself as the Goblin King, with plenty of musical numbers to match. I suspect the fantasy world is based on items within Sarah's bedroom; certainly the Escher painting finale is. And my fellow Doctor Who fans will be reminded not only of Castrovalva but, because of a certain riddle, Pyramids of Mars. It's a picaresque, absurdly humorous little movie that channels Alice in Wonderland in the most splendidly '80s way possible. Not to be missed.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 6: Gelignite

"There's no such thing as a blameless party in a divorce!"

So this is the one where Margaret isn't allowed to marry the man she wants because he's divorced (his wife left him) and, frankly, because he's a commoner. And all because the Queen is allowed, through the Royal Marriages Act 1772, to veto any of her relatives.' marriages before they're 25. It's hardly fair although, of course, the same could be said of hereditary succession. Being in the Royal Family is a (very) gilded cage. To be royal is not to be free. We end with the two sisters very much estranged.

That takes up most of the episode, but we also get some foreshadowing of Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal courtesy of Ed Stoppard, who played Brian Epstein in Cilla; Stalin dying in the background; and Princess Margaret delivering a speech in Rhodesia at the end which is staggering in its casual racism. And it seems that Philip is spending less and less time with Elizabeth.

Dramatic and unusually self-contained as the episode is, it feels very much like foreshadowing...

Monday, 27 March 2017

X-Men (2000)

"Well, what would you prefer- yellow spandex?"

I've blogged so many Marvel films but, Deadpool aside, no X-Men ones. The reason is simple, of course: my film-watching life didn't start when I started doing films for this blog back in 2011, and by that point I'd already seen the first three. But I now remember very little of them and it's time to go back to what was arguably, with Blade not being seen by the general public as a superhero film, the beginning of the Marvel cinematic age we live in.

And it's good, faithfully showing both the premise and the characters from the comics  Patrick Stewart is an obvious choice for Professor X, although it's odd that he doesn't adopt an American accent, but Ian McKellen was born to play Magneto. But what really works, I think, is the decision to use Rogue and Wolverine as POV characters to justify all the exposition, odd though it is to see a very young Anna Paquin as another Southern belle so soon after marathoning True Blood.

The film keeps the plot simple and allows the characters to breathe, benefiting, I think, from the fact that Chris Claremont's run on the title set a style of almost soap opera, with characterisation a strong point. In that sense, I suppose, you can argue that the franchise is more suited to TV than film, but the richness of the characterisations cannot be other than a benefit. Wolverine and Rogue are well-sketched here, and it's noticeable that there's only time to hint at the depths of the likes of Storm or Cyclops.

It's an interesting choice for Magneto's character to have an early Holocaust flashback, evoking Schindler's List by use of monochrome, but it adds texture. And the treatment of bigotry against Mutants is designed well to evoke homophobia rather than the original Civil Rights era metaphor for racism. It's gruesomely fascinating to see Senator Kelly get his heavily CGI comeuppance, mind, and turning him into a kind of mutant evokes the creepy conclusion of Freaks. But it's a solidly constructed film, with a suitably visual finale at the Statue of Liberty and a sequel-hunting coda with Xavier and Magneto. It's a fine beginning to the franchise.

Oh, and on an actor-spotting note... the Toad is played by the same actor as Darth Maul!!!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Grimm: Breakfast in Bed

"He won't let you sleep."

Hmm. Nice central idea- a Wesen that's a kind of cross between the Sandman and Freddy Krueger, that eats your sleep and drives you mad; potentially a ripe grounding for a good horror tale. But it never quite comes off, and the episode just ends up being a rather predictable whodunit with a fair bit of CGI. With this season I'm getting less and less tolerant of the stories of the week, especially mediocre ones like this. Still, I liked the literal red herring.

Arc-wise there's not much going on. Most interesting, probably, is Sean saying straight up that "I'm done with Black Claw". This leads to Meisner's ghost later saving his life because "This time you chose the right side, Sean". That Anselmo Baledin bloke looks a bit miffed, though. I'm sure he'll be back.

The only other event of any interest is the gang managing to decode those strange makings that Eve put in the basement; it's a kind of astronomical calendar and it points at a date: 24th March- in the future...

But, aside from those two things and the red herring joke, this episode is eminently skippable.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Genghis Khan (1965)

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

Oh dear. This film is not very good, Where to start? Well, how about with the arse-clenchingly awful fact that all but a very few characters are played by white actors in yellowface, with James Mason's jaw-droppingly stereotyped performance as Kam Ling being quite something to behold. No amount of accounting for the different social mores of 1965 can let us escape from the fact that this is all incredibly racist.

Oh, the location filming looks impressive and epic, and you can tell that the film is trying to be Lawrence of Arabia. But this is somewhat undermined by the fact that this is a film about Genghis Khan that focuses mainly around inter-Mongol squabbling, the extensive interlude in China doesn't particularly involve him conquering the place, and there's a general lack of conquering going on. In fact, late on in the film, a quick burst of narration jumps smoothly over the conquests of China, Russia and India and jumps unconvincingly into the conquest of Khwarezm. Where's all the stuff we want to see in a film about Genghis Khan?

I accept that a film like this has to show a certain amount of historical inaccuracy, but making the film mostly about the rival between Temujin and his Mongol rival Jamuga is such a waste. And so, ultimately, is the film.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 5: Smoke and Mirrors

"Borrow it, Ma'am? From whom? If it's not yours, whose is it?"

And so we come to the coronation, that watershed in British television history where a ceremony both elitist and inclusive (Phil let the TV cameras in) finally made telly a true mass medium. It was also, as we see here, a battle of wills between, inevitably, tradition- the Dukes of Norfolk have arranged all coronations since James II- and the radical modernising zeal of, er, Prince Philip. In 1953 he was very much the outsider, and has the fear of revolution of a continental royal..

It;s nice, then, that we begin with a flashback to 1937, as George VI lets little Lilibet help him with practising for his big day. It's also a brilliant showcase for David as a character- forbidden from the event, he may host a small party in Paris, mocking the ceremony as it is screened, but he is not so cynical as he seems; he is wounded that he never lasted long enough to have a coronation of his own.

This is also the point where Queen Mary dies, a very present link with the Victorian past. The same could be said of Churchill, who now sits during his audiences with the Queen. But the centrepiece is the ceremony itself, much of which is simply shown as was, complete with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Ronald Pickup) fluffing his lines. It's a deeply moving and powerful piece of mumbo-jumbo. But we end with Elizabeth and Philip's marriage in an awkward place.

More very good drama, as we can expect from Netflix. The Crown is, perhaps, in the "very good" caegory rather than being one of the all-time greats, but at the halfway point I'm very much enjoying it.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 4- Act of God

"Be careful out there. It's a real pea-souper!"

This episode is interesting in that it deals with the great smog crisis of 1952, where a mixture of weather and pollution caused 10,000 deaths and the elderly Churchill, interested only in foreign policy, showed no more ntetest until his job was seen to be in peril; this isn't widely know today, much like Churchill's second ministry as a whole.

In other news Phil takes flying lessons with the man who's shagging his sister-in-law- Elizabeth manages to get Churchill to agree to this as a quid pro quo- and Queen Mary is dying. This shouldn't be surprising; after all, she was born in 1867, the year of the Great Reform Act and the Ausgleich, but for Elizabeth it's a race against time to speak as much as she can with the person who seems to have formed her ideological view of monarchy.

We get to know Clem Attlee a little in this episode, no longer prime minister yet, next to Churchill, seeming to be relatively young. And, most heartbreakingly, Venetia develops her hero-worshipping crush on Churchill to a peak, only to be killed by a traffic accident in the smog. So that's why the character has been so heavily emphasised.

Interesting that Elizabeth's view of monarchy is extremely conservative, an updating of the Divine Right of Kings to the context of parliamentary democracy, whereas Philip is much more modern, believing in such radical concepts as the separation of church and state. It's inter sting, too, that the constitutional question of whether she is able to sack Churchill on grounds of age and irrelevanc is never really resolved in theory; even Tommy Lascelles leaves the question open. Only Queen Mary is there to give a firm answer, and she won't be there for long.

More fascinating, cerebral stuff that avoids Daily Mail-style fawning in favour of ideas and characters. This is good telly.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 3- Windsor

"I know he's Winston Churchill and all that, but remember who you are!"

This episode plays a clever trick in constantly juxtaposing Elizabeth's first baby steps as monarch with the abdication, in flashback, and present day waspish emptiness of David, the former Edward VIII, with the now dying Queen Mary standing in judgement over everything. Alex Jennings is perfectly cast.

Elizabeth is now faced with the full weight of being Queen, dealing with her first red box still marked for "the King" and feeling nervous about her first audience with Churchill, who soon puts her right about how such things are done. But she's under pressure to ensure that the kids keep Phil's surname, and to stay in Clarence House rather than Buckingham Palace, both to please Phil and smooth her marriage, and both doomed, as we see.

It's interesting to see the character of Ernst Von Hannover, a reminder of the family's German roots who happily chats in German with Queen Mary. And it's ominous to see that Townsend's wife has left him; the affair between Margaret and himself, in the 1950s, is another thing that can only be doomed.

The unpopular David manages to do a little deal with his old friend Churchill, breaking the bad news about the surname and palace to the Queen in exchange for no cut in his allowance. Phil is not happy, feeling emasculated; these are days long before feminism. But most interesting is the chat between Elizabeth and David. He may have apologised to Albert for denying him an "ordinary" life, but Elizabeth has been denied one too. Although her definition of "ordinary" is not how most of us would use the word.

Good, well-constructed drama, and still gripping.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Grimm: The Seven Year Itch

"Check to see if there are any reports of a naked man in a park sometime last night."

"Uh, this is Portland; I might have to narrow that down."

Another story of the week and, while not as good as last week's, it's an interesting idea; an immortal Wesen, 200 years old, who only awakens every seven years to eat a fat person. Lovely. I suspect that this pattern doesn't apply from birth, as that would lead to an awkward childhood. At least this week I was a little less crushingly disappointed to be getting a story of the week. And there's a nice, trope-bending moment at the end when the baddie's putative female victim turns out to be a Wesen and eats him instead. Reminds me of the first ever scene of Buffy. Not sure it's nice to make a larger lady into a hippo though.

There's still good arc stuff, though. Meisner is seemingly determined not just to give Sean a "half-assed haunting". It's confirmed that Rosalie is carrying triplets ("I love you and we can do this" says Monroe), which made Mrs. Llamastrangler cry. And Nick is still tempted by his precious; we all know where that subplot is going.

More disturbingly, it's only Diana's intervention that saves Eve, trapped below the house, seemingly by all the writing that seems to be down there. There's clearly a big reveal coming about the writing, but there's also an interestingly simmering tension between Eve and Adalind.

We end with Sean using his engagement ring as part of a test to see if Meisner's ghost is indeed real- and the results are explosive. Literally.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Yellowbeard (1983)

"Three farthings for a lump of shit please..."

This film is, well, not all that good which, considering that two of its three writers were Peter Cook and Graham Chapman, is rather bewildering. But it just isn't much good. And it killed Marty Feldman.

That isn't to say that there are no laughs at all, of course, nor that it isn't a pleasure to see the talents of those in them tags down there, plus Spike Milligan, Nigel Planer and even an eyebrow-raising from a very Let's Dance era David Bowie. But the whole thing never really takes off, perhaps partly because the script isn't great but in large part, I suspect, to a rather flat directorial style with no comedic timing or flourishes. Also, I have to say, the constant rape jokes don't exactly make for comfortable viewing.

Still, Graham Chapman is good, as is Marty Feldman in his last film, although Peter Cook is somewhat wasted in a straight man role. And the character of El Nebuloso is superb, with the scenes of Cheech and Chong, the acid pool and the torture device being the closest the film gets to being Pythonesque. But the film as a whole is a bit of a damp squib and worth seeing only for Monty Python or Peter Cook completists.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 2- Hyde Park Corner

"I thought we'd have longer."

This second episode is a superbly crafted piece of drama, significantly better than the last one, entirely concerned with the slow but inexorable demise of George VI, the race to tell Lilibet and Phil- stuck in Kenya many decades before mobile phones- what has happened, and give us our first glimpse of the changes that must happen now that she is Queen Elizabeth II. Earlier this episode Lilibet curtseyed to her grandmother, Queen Mary; now, Mary curtseys to her.

Oh, and I've just realised why I recognise Pip Torrens, who plays Tommy Lascelles; he was Mr Cholmondely-Warner in Harry Enfield and Sons. It was the scene where he speaks sternly to Townsend about what he's up to with Margaret that made me realise. Blimey.

We also get the first of no doubt many scenes of Phil being vaguely racist as the royal couple touch down in Kenya, we get introduced to Churchill's new secretary Venetia, who will no doubt play an important role later on, and we begin to see both how Churchill is slowly losing it (except for big set-piece speeches, of course) and how frustrating this is, despite royal rebukes, for Anthony Eden, perpetual heir to the premiership and the Prince Charles of the 1950s Tory party.

But the episode centres around the urgent yet calm, uneasy yet rehearsed flurry of activity that follows the King's sudden death one morning; we see as the news slowly circulates and plans spring into action. Amongst all that are small character moments, though, with Phil facing down an elephant and Elizabeth showing her war mechanic skills. And there are hats everywhere. Lots of hats.

But there's no denying that this is a very impressive piece of telly. More please.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 1- Wolverton Splash

"I've signed myself away."

"Or won the greatest prize on Earth."

Yes, I know: yet another TV series on the go and so very many plates spinning. I eventually finish them all, you know me! Everything will be followed to its conclusion at some point. Well, perhaps not Detectorists...

Anyway, let's turn to The Crown, a new-ish (I'm slightly behind the curve, as usual) Netflix drama which has gleaned quite a lot of critical acclaim and stars Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth II from the time when a pubescent Paul McCartney used to perv over her and Matt Smith as everybody's favourite casual racist, Phil. Both are rather good. The script takes an interesting tack, though: the era depicted is staid, with rationing, pre-'60s stultifying puritanism and a truly crap popular culture, but the script plays against this. King George VI in his first scene- which shows just how mollycoddled by servants monarchs are,-drops the C bomb quite casually. That's an interesting choice and drops a hint that this programme may be a little interesting to someone like me who isn't exactly an ardent royalist.

(There. I've said it; not really a royalist. That isn't to say that I want a republic right now- I don't think our age has the appropriate regard for constitutional propriety or civil liberties for such major constitutional surgery and I think we should carry on, ideally with some Scandinavian-style reform, with some kind of constitutional monarchy. But if you were making a new country from scratch then of course you'd have some kind of republic and it's silly to pretend otherwise.)

But perhaps the most interesting piece of casting is John Lithgow (the baddie from Santa Claus: The Movie!!!) as Winston Churchill. He's far from obvious until you see his extraordinary performance which strikes that difficult yet perfect balance between impression and performance. Ben Miles is good too as  royal equerry Peter Townsend, so very proper as he secretly shags Princess Margaret.

Anyway, Phil and Lilibet are getting married. It's all very grand, especially for the austere 1947. She says "obey", which raises eyebrows. The Tories "win" the 1951 election, and Churchill gets to recycle his famous line about Attlee and the empty taxi. But this episode is essentially about the warm relationship between Lilibet and Phil, his difficulty- '50s gender roles being what they are- in adjusting from naval life to the life of a royal "wife", and how the  news of the King's cancer is so slowly kept from him but how, in spite of the denial and the stiff upper lips, it's killing him.

This is actually rather good.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Grimm: El Cuegle

"We live in a world full of, you know, people with shoes."

As stories of the week go, this is a good one: a baby-eating Wesen that sees the future and only eats future Hitlers and serial killers. It's just that the last thing we want after the last few episodes of high excitement is to go back to another story of the week. Perhaps, in fact, this isn't a good time for one of the better stories of the week to happen as it's likely to be unappreciated although, I suppose, I can hardly argue for a bad one.

On to the arc stuff, then. Sean gets bollocked by his Black Claw bosses and he takes it out on the newly reinstated Nick, Hank and Wu. This new working relationship is going to be awkward. But Sean is being visited by the (literal?) ghost of Meisner. There are also some awkward explanations to a rather powerful Diana (my money's still on her for the season Big Bad) about the change in domestic arrangements (it's lovely to see Nick and Adalind back together, unless you're Eve/Juliette...). There's also a big reveal: Rosalie is carrying more than one baby. Twins? Or a litter?

We get further development of how Rosalie and Monroe are determined to up sticks to a safer place to raise their children; by the laws of TV this is bound to happen at an awkward moment. Monroe displays, with some help from CGI, his new protective fatherly urges when he discovers that this week's baddie seems to be a baby eater.

That's it for the arc stuff but, to be fair, I would have enjoyed the story of the week stuff a lot more if it hadn't been shown at this point. A good episode on its own terms but not necessarily what we want to see at this point. I suspect next week will be similar, though.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

"Do you know where you are, Bartolome? I'll tell you where you are. You are about to enter Hell, Bartolome, HELL!... The netherworld. The infernal region, The abode of the Damned... The place of torment. Pandemonium. Abbadon. Tophet. Gehenna. Naraka. The pit... and the pendulum!"

One of the first films I did for this blog was Roger Corman's House of Usher; I didn't expect it to be quite as long until the next one of his Edgar Allan Poe films which happens, coincidentally, to be the second one made. I seem to have accidentally managed to do them in order so far.

This is a far superior film to its predecessor, with the use of a blurred and tinted picture for the flashbacks being a particularly inspired directorial flourish and Vincent Price being superb. Only the very end of the film is faithful to Poe's (very) short story with a plot invented to sound vaguely Poe-like, utilising many of his tropes, not least of which is premature burial. It works, and the plot is superb with a fantastic twist.

This is a profoundly gothic film in which the sins of the past- both before and after the twist- threaten to destroy the well-meaning but helpless present generation with the sheer weight of their evil. In this case it is the tortures of the recent Spanish Inquisition which weigh oppressively on the present, and the acting and superb direction Jane this a genuinely powerful and disturbing film. I'm left to ruminate that gothic horror is fundamentally progressive: it is fascinated by the past but all too aware that bad things happened there.

I was expecting a bit of campy fun with this film but instead, in spite of John Kerr's dodgy acting, I found a genuinely excellent film. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 2 ("The Kingsroad")

"A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone."

I blogged the first episode of Game of Thrones on 18th September 2015 so... yeah. There won't be quite as long before episode three. Promise.

I'm still getting a handle on the setting; this is a fantasy world with only light fantasy elements- so far we've seen dragon eggs but dragons appear to be semi-mythical, and dire wolves seem not to be overtly supernatural. It's a gritty, realistic mediaeval world which is obviously going to focus on the power games surrounding the eponymous throne, and I've heard that this is based on both the Wars of the Roses and the Anarchy of the twelfth century. But Robert Baratheon is certainly no Henry VI; I'm not sure how strong a king he is but he appears laddish yet weighed down by kingship. I suspect he's not all that long for this world, given the apparent premise of the series.

Daenerys is interesting in the sense that she's getting a lot of screen time and her situation- marital rape in the context of semi-forced marriage- is horrific and surely would not be depicted so prominently if she were not eventually to end up powerful and fortunate in spite of it. Her brother claims Robert's throne. Hmm.

Meanwhile, Robert's only son Joffrey is a right little sod, as his behaviour towards Arya and her poor friend illustrates. Sansa is happy enough to marry him, but then she'll be queen. She's so motivated towards this that she's ready to lie under oath about her sister. But I suppose that being queen- a glorified womb- is the best a woman can hope for in this society. Certainly Arya's tomboyish ways are a fascinating way to explore the theme of what we can't really call feminism.

And then there's Tyrion. He's still a sot and a shagger, but there's a more intellectual side, too; he may be a semi-outcast just because he's a dwarf but, crude and direct though he is, he isn't shallow. And his relationship with the literal bastard Jon Snow (not yet a Channel 4 newsreader) is interesting. Jon, a very naive bastard, is off to devote his entire life to guarding the northern walls from whatever lies beyond, which none of his legitimately born relatives would presumably stoop to. Ned is proud but, when he says That "When we next meet, I'll tell you about your mother" I'm left suspecting that, one way or another, they won't ever meet again. Let's see if I'm right.

Meanwhile Catelyn Stark is keeping watch over the thankfully not-dead Bran but, after being attacked, she's off to tell her husband about her suspicions regarding the Lannisters. And, while she's away, Bran wakes- and he knows too much. Why do I get the feeling that the immediate future of the Stark family is not set to be a happy one?

Absolutely superb telly, this.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Legion: Chapter 2

"We're having a romance of the mind."

More non-linear narrative and superb acting this week as Melanie and the mysterious Ptonomy begin to uncover the secrets of David's past through "memory work". It's already clear that something big is being repressed. What isn't clear is what Melanie wants, but she's insistent that David is not mad and that everything that's happening is a manifestation of his mutant powers.

The "memory work" is both fascinating and probably a literal iteration of an unreliable narrator; I hardly think a real small child would be read such a terrifying bedtime story. And it's interesting that David's father, even in memories, always has his face in shadow.

The romance between David and Syd becomes sweeter, despite the tragedy of her being unable to be touched. We see that odd creature again. But most disturbing is what happens to David's sister Amy, the stuff of nightmares; insisting in spite of what she's told that David was indeed held at the institution, she is locked up for "paranoid delusions", bait for an obvious trap. This is good stuff- weird, but good weird.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Legion: Chapter 1

"How does that make you feel?"

I haven't read a lot of Marvel stuff concerning Legion, or David Haller, but I know he's supposed to be the mutant son of Charles Xavier whose many personalities each have a distinct power. But he's a pretty obscure character, and at first glance an odd choice to be lead character for a new TV series.

The premise, while seemingly not hugely  faithful to the source material, is intriguing: we begin with David, seemingly  suffering from disassociative personality disorder, in the Karkaesque world of a TV mental institution where trying to prove that you're sane is, as the cliche goes, a paradox. The love interest is, of course, called Syd Barrett, an appropriate nod to the crazy diamond and, with the '60s rock soundtrack, in keeping with the vaguely '60s aesthetic where it is not even clear whether all this is happening now or back in said decade, further disorienting the viewer in this intriguingly on-linear and creatively shot show. I don't know where this is going but it's cleverly done, intriguing, and has more than enough human interest to balance out its somewhat abstract visual and narrative style. David Haller's experience of the world is not straightforward, and writer-director Noah Hawley doesn't seem to see why ours should be either. I like that.

You've got to love Lenny, and although she's literally dead by the end of the episode I'm sure she'll remain a fixture. Things are getting intriguing already, too; it's quite a bombshell when we learn that the authorities know perfectly well that David is not mentally ill but does, in fact, have considerable mutant powers- is this set in the same universe as the X-Men films? What's society's attitude to mutants? Who are Melanie and all of her friends? What's the story with Syd? I'm sure we'll have fun finding out.

Grimm: Oh Captain, My Captain

"You're not my Daddy!"

Such a brilliant episode for most of its length, this. The asymmetrical battle between Nick's little gang and the all-powerful Renard, backed by Black Claw, seems to be continuing space, with desperate measures being taken against him and both Hank and Wu adapted to life among the unemployed. What a crying shame, then, that all this is so suddenly and unconvincingly overturned at the end, by deus ex machina, to restore the status quo. I hate reset buttons, especially when they come from out of nowhere like this. Looks as though we can expect a few stories of the week, then. How very disappointing.

It's a good episode while it lasts, though. And an early flashback of Nick's mother remind new us that Diana has enormous powers, for good or I'll. I still have my money on her for the season's big bad. Nick's being made by Eve to look like Renard so he can publicly resign as mayor is clever plotting, a superb piece of acting by Sasha Roiz, and a great opportunity for character moments- it's hard not to notice Eve perving at the naked Nick. And it's clever that the two are adds are wearing different coloured ties until the fight at the end, when only Roiz's performance shows us which Renard is which.

So, a good, exciting episode, with one more surprise at the end. Will Renard now reconsider whose side he's on? But it's so very deflating to face more episodes of status quo and one-off tales yet again.