TV: Daredevil Review (‘A Slow Burning Triumph’) – Spoiler Free

April 16, 2015

I tend to start my reviews of Superhero movies with “I like Superhero movies”, but in spite of that, I’ve never been especially fond of Superhero TV shows.

The likes of Arrow, The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left me so underwhelmed that I never bothered to watch anything more than one or two episodes. They seem dodgily acted, not especially well written and often weighed down by existing lore that we should apparently know but might be unaware of.

So there was always a risk that Daredevil might not grab me, especially considering the bad reputation the movie had.

Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case

Daredevil Review – Spoiler Free Thoughts

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Daredevil.

The problems I outline above don’t apply to it much at all.

Yes, it helps to know that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, New York was badly damaged by the events of the first Avengers movie, and that the nature of the rebuilding works and organised crime in Hell’s Daredevil-Netflix-LogoKitchen are spawned from that, but that’s all.

Even if you hadn’t seen that film, it spells it out for you anyway.

Beyond that, Daredevil exists in its own world, and it rooted in a more realistic setting than some of Marvel’s other offerings. None of the characters possess cosmic powers or are mutations. Daredevil is just a blind guy who has built his other senses up to make his lack of sight a non-issue. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is just a powerful underworld crime figure who isn’t intent on destroying the universe and doesn’t wear any daft costumes.

So that’s all great.

Moreover, because it’s written like that, then the entire nature of the show becomes more adult than you usually get from Marvel.

As part of that, the fight scenes come across as grittier and more realistic. Instead of the explosive, cartoon-like ‘violence’ of the movies, the director seems to have made a conscious choice to approach Daredevil more like The Raid. For those who like that sort of thing, the fight scenes and the action sequences in general are well produced and meticulously executed.

But for me, the more – indeed the most – enjoyable aspect of Daredevil is the characterisation.

You come to expect drama like this to have characters with very clearly defined positions. One is all good, the other is deep-rooted in evil. Look at the Captain America movies as an example of what I mean. He is the good old All-American boy fighting off against the evil German with the red skull for a head. You know who is right and who is wrong.

Daredevil is different. The team behind it have made a conscious decision to make the character of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin – someone who you could have sympathy for. His means might be questionable, but his motives appear to have some good in them, and his background is one you might feel empathy towards. On the other hand, the part Daredevil plays in proceedings is often questioned, not only by his friends but by the man himself.

By setting the story up to be less black & white than the norm, it made it a lot more interesting for me.

And I should also note that part of the credit for that must also go to the actors involved, and especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk. He makes every scene he’s in a delight.

Finally, I would say that by releasing all episodes on NetFlix in one go helps the viewer enjoy the show more. Or at least it helped me.

Without question, Daredevil is a slow burner which builds a story over almost 13 hours of television. But that allows it to come to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion. If it was on for only one episode per week, you might think it moved too slowly, with some episodes not advancing the overall story-arc much, but by having episodes available in bulk, you can watch it over the course of a week and get a greater appreciation for what each one is trying to achieve.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to watch it all in one day, but I absolutely would suggest watching it.

Because it’s well worth your time.

It’s a slow burning triumph.

 

Remember to buy my books folks; they are available on Amazon. Read about them here


Games – Dragon Age: Inquisition Review (or “Tenure Over Challenge”)

April 12, 2015

Before I finally bought Dragon Age: Inquisition for the PS4 I spent weeks checking all the usual sites in the hope of a price reduction. To me, I thought it was important to wait until it went down in cost before I stumped up my cash for it.

I wanted value for money, even though I was depriving myself of a game I wanted for a long time just to save myself about £4.

That seems a bit daft, doesn’t it? But we’re conditioned to expect that the RRP of almost anything will reduce in the near future, so it’s something that we do.

Anyway, after waiting that long, I’ve finally ‘finished’ it today and my overall play time amounted to 68 hours (though you could probably reduce that by 5-to-7 hours for times when I’ve left the game on and gone dragonageaway for a bit).

Obviously then you’ll be reading this and thinking that a) I must have enjoyed it and b) I certainly got my money’s worth.

And I suppose that’s true, but even after all that, I’ve come away from it with a sense of mild dissatisfaction. I’ve devoted all that time to playing a game and don’t really feel like I’ve achieved anything.

A game like Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t much of a challenge, or at least not in the way you want from a video game. Yes, the early parts are insufferably tough because you don’t know what you’re doing (it took me about 10 hours to understand the point of the War Room) and you don’t have a character powerful enough to defeat any enemies, but that doesn’t mean the game itself is challenging. To ‘finish’ it (and I say ‘finish’ because there’s probably still 20-30 hours of mundane side quests where my character collects stuff that I could complete if I wanted to) you just have to spend enough time playing it.

This isn’t like an old-school game where you would have to show skill and dexterity to complete one level before moving to the next. Instead, it’s just a game where everyone will win if they play for long enough. To that end, it’s a bit like the way school children these days are taught that winning doesn’t actually matter; everyone gets a medal for taking part.

And is that rewarding? Is that a good use of my time? Maybe it isn’t? Maybe I didn’t get utility from it after all? Ultimately, all I did was walk around, holding down the R2 button every time I came across an enemy and engaged in dialogue with other characters.

To some, that latter point might be the game’s big selling point. There does appear to be a rich narrative and deeply considered world in this game that you could invest in if you want, but really, I’ve got no interest in that sort of thing. I hate cutscenes with a passion, because they are never any good. It’s ropey voice acting and a script from the pen of someone who probably isn’t good enough to write for TV or Hollywood. Big whoop. Hold me back.

In fact, I paid so little attention to the story that by the time I got to the end and faced the final boss, I didn’t actually know who he was or why I was fighting him. That can’t be good can it? Based on how long I played it, that’s like watching four full length 24 episode seasons of a TV show and not knowing who the characters are by the end of it.

But by the very fact that I did play it for that long, I must have enjoyed it, right?

I think I did, but when putting my thoughts down on here it doesn’t seem like it.

Perhaps it’s just that I got to a point where I’d had enough of playing it? Perhaps the diminishing marginal returns of enjoyment I got from it sharply declined to zero at around the 65 hour mark when I decided that enough was enough and I had to play the final quest of the main story mode?

Either way, at this stage it feels like it’s been an ultimately confusing experience.

I think I’ll go back to playing FIFA, Call of Duty, Mercenary Kings or Super Mega Baseball for the next wee while.

My gaming pallet needs cleansed.


TV – House of Cards Season Three Review

March 26, 2015

Seeing as the third season of NetFlix’s House of Cards has been available for a few weeks now, I’ll admit I’m late to the dance with this review, but I’ve been busy and unable to devote the time to actually watch it.

Well…until earlier this week anyway.

And so having started it a mere three days ago, I’ve now finished it.

That’s a good sign, right?

Of course it is. Once again, House of Cards provided another entertaining 12 or so hours of drama and I’m glad I watched it.House_of_Cards,_season_3,_promo_image

But it wasn’t without its faults.

For me, this season felt flat compared to the previous two, and that’s only natural considering what this show actually is. The original concept is about a malevolent politician lying, cheating and ruthlessly trampling over anyone who gets in his way in his path to the top of the political totem pole.

And so when Underwood achieved that at the end of Season 2, it restricted both where Underwood as a character and the overall show itself could go.

As President, Underwood couldn’t be as evil as he had been in the previous two seasons. There’s certain things – such as murder or outright blackmail – that are off-limits to a Presidential character but in terms od realism and the American ideal of what their Commander In Chief should be. And so what’s left is him trying to manipulate situations to do the right thing rather than the selfish thing.

It made me think “Am I supposed to think badly of Underwood for trying to eradicate unemployment or solve the crisis in the Middle East?”. It was a weird one.

And just as weird was the fact that his opponents in the season were mostly bad eggs who you hoped would falter.

His wife, for example, came across as an arse, even though I think we were supposed to be rooting for her. Or maybe we weren’t and I’ve just picked that up wrong.

Really, at times it felt like an episode of the West Wing with less likeable characters.

Mainly though, I think the fault with this third season is that it didn’t build up to a satisfactory conclusion. It ended limply with the sort of cliffhanger you wouldn’t even expect to see before a commercial break. Certainly this is a season that is half way through a story arc relating to Underwood’s inevitable reelection, but I don’t see why that couldn’t have just stretched another couple of episodes to reach a climax that would leave you wanting more?

Now I’m coming across as negative, I know that, so I feel I should reiterate that I mostly enjoyed it. But those are still problems.

What will the final conclusion to House of Cards be then? Unlike the UK version, Underwood can’t go to war with a monarchy and neither can he hold on to power indefinitely like Francis Urquhart did. A US President has a time-limit. He can only be there for two terms and once he’s over the hump of that reelection, it’s plain sailing from there.

Do NetFlix have the balls to make the US President into a proper villain? I’m not so sure. And I don’t even know how feasible it is?

Mind you, they seemed happy enough to put the boots into Wal-Mart.

Anyway, we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see how it goes, but if this show isn’t going to end on a whimper, I suspect some more inspired writing is definitely – pardon the pun – on the cards.

 

 

Remember to buy my books folks; they are available on Amazon. Read about them here


Movies – Cockneys vs Zombies Review (or “The Best Zombie Movie Ever”)

March 7, 2015

Let’s face it; while Netflix and Amazon Prime market themselves as having a great selection of movies, all you really get is a couple of big name titles and then scores and scores of bargain bin efforts that would usually be found on channels like Movies For Men and – back in the day – Granada Plus.

So when you decide to put on a random film from Amazon Prime on a Saturday night, you don’t expect much.

But as it turned out, I was very pleasantly surprised by Cockneys vs Zombies!

Movies – Cockneys vs Zombies Review: What’s It About?

If that’s not a self-explanatory title, I don’t know what is? It’s a Zombie invasion of the East End, and a small group of youngsters – in the middle of a bank robbery to find funds to save an old folks home – get caught upcockneys-vs-zombies-dvd-001 in it.

Cockneys vs Zombies Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

While a rating of 5.9 on imdb might put you off, you also must consider that it gets 4 stars on Amazon, 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.4/5 from TimeOut Magazine.

Cockneys vs Zombies Review: Who’s In It?

The younger ones are played by the likes of Michelle Ryan, Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway, while actors such as Alan Ford, Richard Briers, Honor Blackman, Tony Selby and Dudley Sutton play the older ones.

So it’s actually got a strong cast.

My Thoughts

Zombie movies are formulaic, so you know what you’re getting in terms of a plot. At the same time, any comedy Zombie movie will also look to follow the pattern set by Shaun of the Dead.

But I’ll go on record and say that I think Cockneys vs Zombies is better than Shaun of the Dead; hell, I’ll go on record and say that it’s the best Zombie movie I’ve ever seen!

Why? Because not only is it well written – better written than most movies from this genre – it’s just so damned funny.

The humour and comic timing of the actors is spot on, but it’s more than that; it’s the dialogue and the delivery of it.

To me at least, there’s just something hysterical about lines like…

“Oi, Zombies! Get the fuck out of my East End”
“You can ‘av some an’ all, twinkletoes” 
“Come on you Zombie Slags”
“…and if I have to, I’ll round up ever nutter from Bermondsey to Camden Town and we’ll sort this out ourselves!” 

…and so on.

Hell, Danny Dyer has made a career out of acting like that, so a bunch of experienced actors larging it up like Dyer on acid will always go down a treat.

And what better way to finish it off than with a specially written Zombie song by Chas n Dave?

Honestly, this film was just so much fun to watch, and running at just 90 minutes – thats 90 consistently funny minutes by the way – it doesn’t out-stay its welcome.

If you’re like me, you’ll see the name of the film and just assume it’s crap, but it’s really not.

There’s no doubt about it; you should give it a go if you’re on Amazon Prime.

You won’t regret it.

 

Remember to buy my books folks; they are available on Amazon. Read about them here


TV: The Bridge Review

February 27, 2015

There are people out there who won’t give subtitled television a chance.

The idea is that you’d be ‘reading’ rather than ‘watching’ the TV.

And while I can understand that, I’d suggest that you’re missing out on some cracking shows if that is how you think.bridge

Take The Bridge for example.

A joint Danish and Swedish effort, this is a crime drama that has so far run for two seasons since 2011.

And it’s brilliant.

Season One deals with a cross-border serial killer whose style is to bring some of society’s inequalities to the surface (i.e. he kills homeless people to emphasise how society doesn’t care about them etc).

Season Two concerns eco-terrorism.

Both run for an engaging 10 episodes each and have plots that neither outstay their welcome nor leave anything out. Everything and everyone in the show is in it for a reason, and all story-arcs are fully explored.

What I would say is best out it though is the way the two lead characters – the socially unaware Aspergers-suffering Swedish detective, Saga Noren and the friendly and emotional Danish cop, Martin Rohde – are written and performed.

Both characters work so well together, and Noren especially (played superbly by Sofia Helin) is just a revelation. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone like her in TV before, at least not in a lead role. It’s her bluntness and inability to understand how some of the things she says and does aren’t ‘socially acceptable’ (such as openly discussing her sex life or misreading sarcasm) that make her such a joy to watch.

And that’s the key here. You soon forget that you are reading subtitles and just become engrossed in each episode.

Without question, this is a show you’ll want to watch, and you can find it on NetFlix if it does interest you.

I can’t wait until Season 3!

 

 

Did You Know I Have A Book Out?

I’ve just released my second book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – The Modern Era.

You can find out more about that here.


Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era Now Available

February 26, 2015

Hi guys,SG_Cvr_04

Just an update to let you know that at long last, Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era is now available on Amazon. Prices vary in different markets depending upon exchange rates, but it hovers around the $9.50/£6.50 region.

You can buy it to use on any smartphone, tablet or ebook reader.

For anyone who doesn’t want to buy from Amazon, perhaps because of geographical restrictions, you can buy a PDF to use on any device directly from me and pay through Paypal. Just get in touch either through the blog or through the Stuart Reviews Stuff Facebook site for more info on that.

The book deals with reviews from Rose through to Last Christmas and also contains the Stuart Reviews Doctor Who ‘Colossal 258′, ranking all the Doctor Who stories from worst to best.SG_Cvr_03

Spoiler Alert: As a random example, The Long Game is ranked #194.

If you’ve followed the blog over the years, I’m sure you’ll be interested to see how my own personal rankings differ from the flavour of the month style rankings by fandom in the Doctor Who Magazine.

At the same time as launching the second book, I’ve also gone back to Book One and sorted out some of the niggling formatting issues and any errors/spelling mistakes that people have pointed out to me. If you’ve already bought the book, you’ll be able to get an updated version through Amazon.

So I hope you buy it, and if you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon.

The links to the books are…

Book One
Book Two

and for the US Store…

Book One
Book Two

Cheers,

Stuart Milne

 

 


Movies – Selma Review (or “Watch As Oprah Winfrey Abuses Her Producership”)

February 14, 2015

To start this review of Selma with a wee blurb about my opinions on the genre of biopics would simply be retreading over old ground; ground that I only recently covered in my Theory of Everything review.

So I won’t.

Instead I will forgo my usual format to simply state that I found it an interesting and well acted, but not necessarily entertaining movie. Selma_poster

To learn about an issue is one thing, but it doesn’t necessarily make for must-see viewing, and I think that’s the problem here.

Or is it?

Perhaps Selma isn’t meant to entertain, but rather – 50 years on from the historically significant events of the march in that unassuming Alabama town – to inform those who never knew, or remind those who may have forgotten.

Because while American shouts from the rooftops about how it’s the greatest country on the planet, those boasts are juxtaposed against the sheer ignorance of its society back in those days (and possibly even now). It also should make people begin to understand why there is still tension to this day in areas of the country, as we saw recently in Ferguson.

Away from the story and message of the movie, the main thing that stuck out for me was the egotism of Oprah Winfrey, who – despite playing a character who was no more than an extra and played zero part in the unfolding of events – ensured she appeared on screen as much as possible. She felt like an extra who was trying to steal the spotlight with the help of the director.

That bugged me; it really did.

So Should You Go To See Selma?

As biopics go, I’d say there are more entertaining ones out there, not least the recent and aforementioned Theory of Everything.

But Selma carries with it a weighty message and an important history lesson that plenty of people in my generation and younger – outwith the US at least – should be made aware of.

Just don’t expect a rollercoaster of a plot along the way.


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