Wednesday, 28 June 2017

iZombie: Looking for Mr. Goodbrain, Part 1

"It was a grudge boink."

Into the two-part season finale, then. We begin with Ravi admitting to Liv that he's the source for the story with the big front cover photo of her in full-on zombie mode on the cover and getting away lightly. He gets less lenience from his old boss Katty Kupps. That's his last ever such bollocking, though, as Katty is promptly murdered and Liv spends the episode on what turns out to be her rather promiscuous brain. For this late in the season the form of the episode, at least, is closer to story-of-the-week than one might expect.

It's bizarre to see Liv made up to look human, at last worried about her anonymity; she looks so unlike herself. But the investigation proceeds as usual, with a nicely written scene where Ravi discreetly calls out a witness for her racism. Liv's flirtiness is anything but, though, and we're left feeling a little uncomfortable about what this means for her relationship with Justin.

Most tragic, though, is Major's rekindled relationship with a besotted Natalie, who invites him to Italy to live happily ever after. This automatically means that everything has to end in tears, and the episode ends with an explosive finale as the zombie Harley Johns kills everyone at Major's goodbye party except for Justin and Major himself. Dramatic stuff, and there's still the finale to go...

Monday, 26 June 2017

IZombie: Conspiracy Weary

"Did we just have a three-way?"

It's a dramatic opening, as both Liv and Blaine rescue Ravi and Don E from the zombie truthers while Fillmore Graves clear up; that's one problem that seems to be well and truly solved. This leads to a hilarious scene with Liv, Blaine and Don E all munching on truther brain and proceeding to spend the rest of the episode as wild conspiracy theorists.

Meanwhile, Peyton continues to investigate the dominatrix killer's death and makes some interesting deductions, not least that his daughter Tatum is a zombie. And what's up with Shawna, putting her sex life with Major all over social media?

The episode climaxes with Liv and Clive investigating Harley John's cabin where they find a secret underground hideaway- and the deep irony of a zombified Harley. But worst of all is that Ravi's apparent friend from the zombie triggers turns out to be a reporter and she has a full expose, and the photo is Liv in full-on zombie mode. Is the secret out?

This is, again, superb. At this stage of the season it's all arc, arc, arc but the show is never too busy for wit and fun.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Doctor Who: World Enough and Time

"Hello. I'm Doctor Who."

Wow. Not sure what the Andrew Marvell quote has with anything, and I did English at uni, but this episode is extraordinary from the initial teasing (apparent) regeneration sequence, with us knowing full well that Peter Capaldi is around until Christmas, to the final, utterly wrenching body horror of our discovery that Bill has been turned fully into a Tenth Planet Cyberman.

The episode starts, though, with a few minutes of fantastic dialogue between a TARDIS crew that has never had such chemistry, and the addition of a seemingly reformed but utterly magnificent Missy is the icing on the cake. Her dialogue is witty, metatextual and glorious. But then the storytelling is equally and non-linearly magnificent as the Doctor tests out Missy's Doctoring skills with a distress call from a 400 mile long ship falling into a black hole, where time passes more slowly at one end of the ship than the other. We get alot of necessary exposition, Bill fulfilling the companion's narrative role here, as the Doctor explains his history with Missy in flashback, Bill gets shot, and... for those of us who've listened to some Big Finish, it all goes very Spare Parts, in the best way possible.

This is, of course, revealed to be a Mondasian ship, and the (ahem) genesis of the Cybermen, as it's very nicely put by John Simm's Master, superbly revealed after having played a friendly character in prosthetics all episode long without fooling me. It's all done quite brilliantly, and John Simm's Master looks positively Delgado for the first multi-Master story. The implausibility of Mondas being Earth's twin planet is nicely glossed over too. Thi is an episode to truly remind us of Steven Moffat's considerable talents.

All this and we get Venusian Aikido too. We're being spoiled. This is, and I know I keep saying it, extraordinary even by the very high standards of what we can surely start calling the best season since Season 27.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

iZombie: Return of the Dead Guy

"So, you know, discipline me!"

I know I've been away a bit; I moved house last Tuesday. But last night I binge watched three iZombies and it's Doctor Who tonight. I'm back, even if we are all surrounded by boxes. Myself, Mrs Llamastrangler and Little Miss Llamastrangler are all loving the new house, even if our conveyancer has been an absolute tit throughout.

Anyway, iZombie is already moving away from the stories of the week as the finale approaches. The zombie truthers have Don E, whom they plan to starve into Romero state while torturing him, all live over the Internet. Meanwhile, Ravi is trapped while Major spends the entire episode having sex with the somewhat odd Shawna. In other news, Blaine speaks fluent Bengali(!) and we get an interestingly kinky scene between Liv and Peyton. But the whole episode is about the zombie truthers and what Liv discovers from eating the brain of the dominatrix killer; it seems it was indeed him after all, but the hanging was murder and not suicide.

We discover that Clive likes Dark Side of the Moon and, it seems, does not share my opinion that, after The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Syd Barrett's solo career was far more interesting than that of Pink Floyd, who became cold and impenetrable when then abandoned their whimsical English psychedelia phase. Ooh, controversial.

The return of Mr Boss, and Blaine nonchalantly turning the tables, is fun. And the end, with Liv and Blaine going full on zombie mode to rescue Don E, promises more fun to come.

This was good. More than usually good.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light

"Death by Scotland!"

Usually my Doctor Who blog posts are fairly long ones as there's always something fannish for me to carp on at length about, but for once this time there isn't: we have a proper story of the week with very few returning elements, which is nice. It's often, as here, the stories that aren't trying to be "big" or "epic" that are, quietly, often the best ones. Instead we just get some bloody good writing from the only real returning element, Rona Munro.

Munro is, of course, the only writer to have written for Doctor Who, on proper telly, in both this century and the last, and after the 28 years(!) since Survival she again delivers a mystical, feminist, magnificent piece of writing exploring the themes of colonialism, gender, and sexuality in the rich historical setting of first century Pictland, where there's the mystery of the 9th legion and the temptation to quote Tacitus' famous "They make a desert and call it peace" is simply impossible to resist. We are shown proud, thoughtful and very young warriors on both sides and given a beautiful fairytale touch as we learn why crows make the sound they do. This is, quietly, one of the best episodes of the season. Even the CGI monster is brilliant.

Once more the chemistry between Bill and the Doctor is wonderful- I love Bill's explanation that the Doctor "always ends up being the boss of the locals"- and Nardole is as entertainingly sardonic as ever. But most intriguing is the sexual tension between the Doctor and a Missy who may actually be a reformed character, something which desperately needs to be explored in depth.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

"He would have an enormous Schwanstucker!"

Ok, so Gene Wilder excels, in the best performance I've ever seen by him, as Victor Frankenstein's grandson Frederick, who he plays in a delightful pastiche of Vincent Price. Gene Hackman is great too, and ends his scene with a splendid ad-lib. But the film is really about Marty Feldman, whom we must all worship. I mean, one of his ad-libs even caused Aerosmith to write their most well-known song. That's impressive.

The film- in monochrome, utilising the same sets, using deliberately similar opening titles- is a superb pastiche of James Whale's two Frankenstein films. The humour is classic early Mel Brooks, but the sense of a cast having fun, and the ad-libbing, make the film. Marty Feldman, though, shows again what paragon of comedy he is.

There aren't as many laughs per minute, perhaps, as later Mel Brooks films, but the jokes are funny, and just as gloriously Jewish. This is a pastiche specifically of the Universal Frankenstein films by James Whale, in monochrome, using similar opening titles and even using the same lab equipment, with riffs on several scenes. But this is a world where you can get on a train in New York and get off at a "Transylvania Station" where things are still very Mittel-Europe and Ceaucescu's regime is nowhere to be seen. It's the world of Mel Brooks at its very best.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Jessica Jones: AKA It's Called Whiskey

"Ok. So there's you, me, the big green dude and his crew."

It's an eventful third episode as Jessica and Luke bond over their superpowers, taking the chance to give us a bit of exposition on what they can both exactly do in between extremely frequent bouts of the kind of sex you get between a woman with super strength and an invulnerable man. That bed stood no chance.

Jessica half-tells Luke about Killgrave before mutual lust interrupts. And we get our first "Sweet Christmas!". But the set piece is Trish arranging a phone in from prison with poor Hope, believed by no one, in which the idea is thrown out that Killgrave exists in a hope that other victims come forward. But the whole thing comes to a distinctly menacing end as Killgrave himself Rings in with threats.

Trish, incidentally, is Patsy Walker, not (yet?) Hellcat but with a comic and fans, although it seems Killgrave "always thought her television show was shite". That's quite a revelation. After a significant alteration with a mind controlled cop, though, Jessica manages to trace Killgrave to the luxury apartment where he's staying in the inevitable early confrontation that the rhythms of storytelling require. She looks through a window and sees Killgrave- and that's when we see: it was Jessica who pushed Luke's wife under that bus, killing her, at Killgrave's order. Not wonder she breaks up with him at the end. Awfully, though, he thinks that she just simply can't deal with being with a widower.

Creepier than all that, though, are the many stalkery pics of Jessica, put there for her to find, with "See you later" written on one to make it clear that the whole show was for her benefit. Killgrave has plans for her. This is gripping telly.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Doctor Who: Empress of Mars

"We're British! Mars is part of the Empire now!"

You can always rely on Mark Gatiss to bring a good bit of fanwank, but this time round he does a splendid tale of post-colonialism in the format of a mummy film (shades of Tomb of the Cybermen crossed with Zulu) which has things to say about the colonial Victorian mindset, war, and more about the Ice Warriors than we've ever seen. We even get Alpha bleeding Centauri back, played by your actual Ysanne Churchman. And, just to rub in that this is written by an uber-fan, we get a delightfully gratuitous rehash of Mike Yates' "RHIP" line from Day of the Daleks.

It's so delightfully steampunk, so very Space:1889, for a bunch of Victorian soldiers from the First Boer War in 1881 to come across a Martian spaceship and be taken to Mars by an Ice Warrior whom they nickname "Friday". There's plenty of room for some fun with the tally-ho Victorian attitudes contrasted with the Martian martial attitude. The happy ending for the dishonoured colonel is positively heartwarming.

The Doctor and Bill continue t have excellent chemistry too, and I can't believe they have so little time together. I loved Bill's referencing of both The Terminator and The Thing (she's one of us) while the Doctor, in a move my two year old daughter would approve, instead chooses Frozen as his obligatory pop culture reference. But the dialogue sparkles and the chemistry between the two of them is a joy to behold.

But, for this old fan, the real meat of this episode is that, however much they may have appeared five times before, we've never before seen the Ice Warriors in their natural habitat, on Mars, or had any real reference to their history or culture. But this time we meet an Ice Queen, learning of how the whole race has slept for 5,000 years (linking nicely with The Ice Warriors), and how the oxygen is now escaping and the planet will soon be lifeless. It's a splendidly fanwanky moment as Alpha Centauri, last seen in, er, 1974 in Monster of Peladon, who welcomes the entire population of Mars into the Galactic Federation, a "New Golden Age", and presumably a New Mars.

But the end, with Nardole having to enlist Missy's help to pilot the TARDIS back to Mars, ends with a hint of sexual tension between the Doctor and a reformed/reforming Missy. What's happening here...?

Friday, 9 June 2017

iZombie: Twenty-Sided, Die

"That's from an impotent proctologist, by the way. Enjoy it."

So iZombie does a D&D episode and, while not so chock full of geeky in-jokes as you might expect, still manages to be fun, engaging and give a fairly accurate (and hopefully attractive to potential newbies) impression of that splendid hobby. Mind you, not that I'm at all current, but the game they're playing seems to be using the old pre-AD&D that I, Rules Cyclopedia aficionado that I am, tend to use whenever I have a rare chance to game. Interestingly, though, the case is left unconcluded (hints of Russian cyber stuff- very topical!) and is handed over to the FBI- and, inevitably, a certain individual. Meanwhile, Peyton continues to remind us of that dominatrix case bubbling under. I'm sure both of these cases are going to lead somewhere big.

But we start with  Ravi undercover with the zombie truthers, forced to out himself and pretend to be working on a cure to prevent them kidnapping zombies, starving them and turning them full on Romero, which is, er, nice. This is obviously going to lead somewhere unpleasant.

Curiously, Baracus tries to persuade Peyton to drop the dominatrix case just before someone tries to assassinate him at his fundraiser; I suspect it's deeper than we know. Liv and Justin continue to be a sweet yet doomed couple, and we end with truther bloke showing Ravi a full-on Romero zombie- Don E, whos been on drugged WWII air ace brain. Just say no, kids.

But nothing- nothing- in even this splendid episode can top Clive and his dwarf PC, Earl. Please can we see more of this D&D campaign?

IZombie: Eat a Knievel

"I didn't get called here to present a Darwin award..."

An engaging story of the week this time as a Jackass-style prankster gets his just comeuppance in a solid whodunit which, much as though Liv on Jackass brain is overly similar to frat boy brain from a couple of seasons ago, gives us some good character moments for both Ravi and Clive in their contrasting reactions to this kind of "entertainment".

We start with a real shock though, arc-wise, as Vivian Stoll quickly realises that Major is no longer amongst the undead and then, suddenly, is killed in a car crash from right out of left field. His replacement seems rather worrying.

Meanwhile, Blaine's deliciously evil dad comes to realise that Fillmore-Graves is a largely zombie operation, while his now equally evil son is heard listening to "Nearly lost You" by Seattle's own Screaming Trees. Why does the baddie in iZombie have the best taste in music? We also get to see that Liv and Justin are a properly heartwarming couple which means, of course, that Justin is doomed.

We end with Blaine (now seemingly a zombie once again) avenging himself on his dad in a delightfully evil fashion while Liv and Ravi go undercover among the zombie truthers. We end, as we often have of late, on a cliffhanger. The season is really hotting up.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land

"Worse than that, you had history. History was saying to you, 'Look I've got some examples of fascism here for you to look at. No? Fundamentalism? No? Oh, OK, you carry on."

So at last this three or four-part mid-season arc comes to an end and it's a perfectly well-structured and composed piece of narratively interesting dystopian drama. I like it. It's good. It certainly continues this season's run of form. And yet... Toby Whithouse's script, while good, lacks a certain extra sparkle.

Not that it isn't a compelling scenario, and one with real power in our current era of "fake news"; the monks, after last week's dramatic denouement, have ruled the world utterly for six months, and have falsified all of history to force people, chillingly, to believe that things were always this way. We see first hand how those who question this new narrative are arrested and disappeared.

One of those who still remembers, much as she thinks she's going mad, is Bill. Yet the Doctor, it seems, is the Monks' propaganda mouthpiece and there's a wonderful scene where he goes full force propaganda to Bill and Nardole, convincing them, but not we of the audience who know the Doctor much better, that he really believes all that stuff. The dialogue, and Peter Capaldi, are superb here, much as the reveal that the Doctor is (duh) obviously anti-monk comes as no surprise whatsoever and is played for laughs. 

And then there's Missy, finally shown in the vault and allowed to say cool stuff while utterly stealing the episode and, interestingly, seeming to have a genuine crisis of conscience in spite of her lingering villainous habits. Is it me, or did she also remind you of the evil simprisobed sister from the last episode of Sherlock?

Yes, the whole episode inevitably feels rushed given the scale of what it's depicting, but the episode ends up working, despite the somewhat forced denouement with Bill being all heroic and cool, being a bit forced. It's a good episode. The fact that an episode like this should be my least favourite of the season so far just goes to show what a bloody good season it is.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Blue Velvet (1986)

"Why are there people like Frank?"

It really is about time I got round to blogging a David Lynch film, frankly. It's inevitable when you review a large number of films (Blue Velvet is my 377th, quite shockingly) that certain omissions get more and more embarrassing, and David Lynch was at the top of that list.

Blue Velvet is, of course, at once very, very good and very, very weird. It may not break the fourth wall or break its linear narrative beyond a few minor flashbacks, and it may make narrative sense, but that uncomfortable sex scene with Dorothy and Frank goes beyond just weird and deeply uncomfortable into just plain weird, and just as weird are the whole scene at Ben's and, well, the entire characters of Dorothy and Frank. Into this very odd world come the picket fences and more or less wholesome characters of Sandy and Jeffrey.

But Jeffrey is no innocent, literally driven by morbid curiosity and having an affair with Dorothy at the same time as he tries to woo the very innocent and very vulnerable Sandy. It's tempting to see this as a film about the male gaze, centred on Jeffrey's spying voyeuristically from Dorothy's closet but essentially driven throughout by Jeffrey asserting his male gaze on the female sexuality and female life that surrounds him.

There's a lot more going on here than I've spotted, of course, not least the significance of the music, but there's no doubting that this is a splendidly shot, deeply multilayered and utterly superb cinematic classic. With some very '80s decor.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

IZombie: Dirt Nap Time

"Maybe you should explain my boyfriend history to him?"

"It is a bit like being a drummer for Spinal Tap."

A fairly good murder mystery this week as Liv and Clive investigate the death of a pre-school teacher with a fatally tangled love life while Rose McIver is, as ever, hilarious after consuming pre-school teacher brain in a much-needed comedy episode. It's a satisfying A-plot, yes, but let's just leave it there and talk about the arc stuff, shall we?

It turns out, in spite of Major's big confession, that Liv is not so much mad at him as mad at whoever stole the other 15 cures. Is it Blaine? Is it Don E? It could be either, although both deny it. Yes, it could be a third party, but it would be just like iZombie to suddenly reveal that it was Blaine all along. We also have further developments in the dominatrix case, surely still unresolved, as the "killer" is suspiciously leaned on by someone and ends up hanged in his cell. But Peyton has a favour to ask- will Liv eat his brains to find out what happened?

Major is hiding his non-zombie status from everyone at work except Justin and is getting away with it so far. After all, he's a former suspected serial killer; who would employ him other than Fillmore-Graves? Still, it's interesting to see the gang in Don E's zombie speakeasy. But the episode ends with acute drama as Blaine has been shot, courtesy of his father, and seems to be nearly a goner, while our favourite zombie-hating racist has footing of a very zombie Justin...

This isn't even a particularly stand-out episode but it had me hooked.iZombie at the moment is superb and hotting up.