The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

Welcome to the Sir Terry Pratchett Forums
Register here for the Sir Terry Pratchett forum and message boards.
Sign up

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#41
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 4 by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS4, 100 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.



So, here we come to the next season of Red vs Blue. But would it be any better than before? Let’s find out…

As the Blues investigate a mysterious alien that has appeared in O’Malley’s former base, the Reds are trying to adjust to getting back to Blood Gulch. But a rift forms between Simmons and the other Reds when they believe him to be delusional. The alien requires the Blues to help it on its quest, but can it be trusted? Is Simmons having a psychotic break? And what the hell is going on?

Ugh, this is starting to get samey. True, the humour’s still up to par, with the alien subplot being quite good, but I thought there’d be a bit more plot by now. I just want more.

In terms of characters, well, as usual, it’s Matt Hullum as Sarge, Doc and O’Malley, Burnie Burns as Church, and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex. The others, well, they’re fine enough, with Jason Saldaña beginning to get some more development as Tucker, including a catchphrase that will stick with him for some time. But I want more.

While the technical abilities of the series are up a bit, thanks to using the Halo 2 engine, it doesn’t really go beyond the usual gags. There’s a few new things here and there, true, but by and large, it’s more of the same. A shame, really.

While not bad, and certainly entertaining, the fourth series of Red vs Blue didn’t offer any major improvements. I hope it does before long…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#42
Been a while since I've done a Doctor Who story here, huh?

REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio by Steven Moffat

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 10.X, 1X60 minute episode


Doctor Who, at least in the TV series, hasn’t really dealt with superheroes that much. But in this story, the 2016 Christmas special, at least one superhero makes his debut. But how would that turn out?

In 1992, the Doctor, while on one of his misadventures, accidentally gives a sickly young boy superpowers thanks to an alien artifact. Over 24 years later, Grant Gordon is now all grown-up, taking a job as a nanny to reporter Lucy Fletcher, and acting as the superpowered vigilante known as the Ghost. Lucy, along with the Doctor and Nardole, are investigating the mysterious Harmony Shoal corporation, which is a front for an alien invasion. And between a plot to take over the world and the conflict of secret identities, the Doctor and Grant have their hands full…

Okay, let’s face it, the plot is really nothing to write home about. In fact, it wouldn’t look out of place in a comic book story, particularly from the Silver Age, with somewhat B-movie undertones (and frankly, has been done before to some degree or another and better in prior episodes of the series). That being said, the references to various superheroes and comic book series are pretty fun. The story is entertaining, just fairly lightweight.

The particular highlight of the story are the characters. Peter Capaldi is on fine form as the Doctor, and Matt Lucas does quite well as Nardole. Justin Chatwin (whose most famous, or infamous, role prior to this was as Goku in the anime adaptation flop Dragonball Evolution) is actually quite good as both Grant Gordon and the Ghost. The other actors are fine enough.

Production-wise, this story is fairly good, but there’s a few howlers on the special effects department, mostly on backgrounds with New York. The realisation of the Harmony Shoal brains and their victims is considerably more competent, and the costume on the Ghost is pretty good. All in all, it’s a fairly decent production.

Overall, The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a decent enough Doctor Who story. Some parts don’t quite mesh, but it’s still entertaining…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#43
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 5 by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS5, 120 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.



Okay, here we are with the last season of the Blood Gulch Chronicles arc of Red vs Blue. But would it be any improvement on the prior seasons? Well, let’s find out…

A spaceship has landed, bearing the sister of Grif, as a new recruit, seemingly for the Reds. Meanwhile, Tucker, against all odds and the laws of nature, has given birth to a bouncing baby alien. But even as the teams begin to fracture, new revelations will arise, and the spectre of O’Malley, aka the AI known as Omega, rears his ugly head again…

Okay, the story isn’t really going anywhere. True, the gags are funny, and that’s pretty much what sustains the score of the series, and we do get some small closure into the whole overarching conspiracy storyline. But I’m left rather unsatisfied at the end of it all.

Once more, it’s Matt Hullum as Sarge, Doc and O’Malley, Burnie Burns as Church, and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex that do best. That being said, Tex’s characterisation towards the end of the series doesn’t seem written out that well, even with her earlier-established mercenary nature. Everything else is…well, okay.

What have I said about the production values that I haven’t said before? Well, at least this time they’ve tried to vary things, mostly from the camera movements and such, being a touch more ambitious. But nothing really impressive.

Overall, the final series of the Blood Gulch Chronicles manages to bring things to a decent, but dissatisfying conclusion. Here’s to the next story arc…


***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#44
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Reconstruction by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS6, 120 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


Welp, at last, I get on to the sixth series of Red vs Blue, where things start to get somewhat more serious. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, let’s find out…

Valhalla Outpost 17-B has been attacked by a mysterious entity known only as the Meta, a mysterious figure stealing AIs. Project Freelancer has dispatched one of their top agents, Washington, to investigate, and his search for answers leads him to Blood Gulch, to find the people who have the most experience dealing with the Omgea AI that the Meta has obtained. The Reds and the Blues have been scattered, though, and Washington must track down the scattered members. As Project Freelancer is subject to an increasingly hostile investigation, and Washington drags the Reds and Blues into his hunt for the Meta, the Reds and Blues will learn revelations that will shock them to their very core…especially Church…

Okay, I have to admit, this series makes a major turn for the better, story-wise. The gags are still there, and the story still frustratingly holds stuff back, but we finally learn what the hell was going on in Blood Gulch, and having a surprising revelation around Church late in the series. The darker storyline actually works better than the previous seasons.

As usual, it’s Matt Hullum as Sarge, Doc and O’Malley, and Burnie Burns as Church who do best, though the other cast have certainly come into their own. And the professional Washington, as played by Shannon McCormick, is a delight as a straight man to the comedy. And the Meta is also a brilliant menace.

On the production side, there is a noticeable leap in both cinematography and special effects, with the characters doing things they haven’t done in previous series. It’s not as great as, say, animating the characters from scratch as a few of the later series do, but even so, it does quite well. It certainly feels more polished overall than the previous series.

Overall, Red vs Blue: Reconstruction is a promising start to the Recollection trilogy. I certainly look forward to the rest of the story arc…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#45
REVIEW: RWBY: Episode 3: The First Step, Episode 4: The Emerald Forest and Episode 5: Players and Pieces by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 1.3-1.5, 3X12 minute episodes


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve watched any more of RWBY’s first volume. So I felt it was past time I revisited the series, and watched more episodes. Let’s see how that goes…

The initiation for the prospective students of Beacon Academy has begun! Literally hurled into a forest crawling with the monsters known as the Grimm, the students must survive and make their way to their goals. What’s more, the first person they make eye contact with will be their partners during their education…which is bad news for Ruby when she encounters the haughty Weiss. And, of course, there’s the inept Jaune making eye contact with Pyrrha Nikos. But even if the would-be Huntsmen of Beacon make it to their goal, can they make it out of the woods alive?

While the story is still somewhat thin on the ground, much to the detriment of this bit, this little mini-arc still has considerable promise. It certainly delivers on both the action and the comedy part, with much of the third episode taken up by spectacular battles the later-named Team RWBY and Team JNPR have against some oversized Grimm. I just wish there was something more.

As before, my favourites for this series are Lindsay Jones as Ruby, Barbara Dunkelman as Yang, and Miles Luna as Jaune. That being said, Kara Erbele’s Weiss is starting to show some small improvement, and the (briefly seen in prior episodes) Pyrrha Nikos is also enjoyable. So too is Lie and Nora, the former made all the more poignant by the fact that he is voiced by the late Monty Oum.

After some of the minor disappointments of the first couple of episodes, this one shows off some more of the potential in terms of the production. The action is well-choreographed, the sound effects and music work out, and the designs on the Grimm are pretty nasty and intimidating. Overall, it works pretty well.

In the end, I’m glad I came back to RWBY. This action-packed set of episodes promises much to come…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#46
REVIEW: Overlord: Episode 1: End and Beginning, Episode 2: Floor Guardians, Episode 3: The Battle of Carne Village, and Episode 4: Ruler of Death by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL1-4, 4X25 minute episodes


Having read the first Overlord novel (not to be confused with the video game series Rihanna Pratchett has worked on, despite not dissimilar themes), I thought I’d give the anime series a go. But how would that do? Well, let’s find out…

Yggdrasil, a special virtual reality MMORPG of the 22nd century, is about to be shut down. Momonga is the current head of the Guild Ainz Ooal Gown, a guild comprised almost entirely of inhuman players and NPCs…but there’s no more players, and on a whim, Momonga stays beyond the point the servers should be shut down. But then, something happens: Momonga is transformed into the lich he was playing as, and the NPCs are coming to life, with intelligence and wills of their own. What’s more, Ainz Ooal Gown’s base of operations, the Tomb of Nazarick, has apparently been transplanted into a new world. But even as Momonga and his new subordinates work to consolidate their position, they will be drawn into a skirmish between kingdoms, one which will begin cementing Momonga’s reputation…

Story-wise, this is actually quite a good adaptation of the first novel in the series. It’s pretty well-paced, but as noted with my review of the novel, there isn’t much plot to the novel, beyond setting things up for later in the series. But it’s very enjoyable all the same.

Character-wise, well, they’re all the interesting ones from the novels. It’s interesting to hear Christopher Guerrero (who, as GeneralIvan, collaborated frequently with Team Four Star of Dragonball Z Abridged fame) play Momonga, switching between a rather endearingly nerdy and nervous voice, and his more familiar deep, raspy tones. Elizabeth Maxwell is also great as the sycophantic, dangerous, and deranged Albedo, swinging between lust and lunacy with gleeful abandon.

Production-wise, well, this is done by Madhouse, who did great jobs with Hellsing Ultimate and Death Note, amongst others. True, there’s some notable CGI sequences that are a bit blatant, but it’s nothing too bad. Everything seems to work together well.

Overall, these episodes of Overlord do very well. I can’t wait to watch more.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#47
REVIEW: Overlord: Episode 5: Two Adventurers, Episode 6: Journey, Episode 7: The Wise King of the Forest, Episode 8: Twin Swords of Slashing Death, and Episode 9: The Dark Warrior by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL5-9, 5X25 minute episodes


So, after watching the first arc of the Overlord anime, I decided to watch the second. But how well would it do? Well, let’s find out…

In order to gain more information, as well as something of a reputation, Momonga goes forth as the adventurer Momon, accompanied by the Pleiades battle maid Narberal Gamma. Unfortunately, getting into adventuring is not as easy as it looks, though an offer to escort a talented young pharmacist back to Carne Village is too good to refuse. But even as they fight off monsters and deal with the famed King of the Forest, a plot is happening in the city of E-Rantel, one that will see it overrun with a legion of the undead…

Again, plotwise, it’s a pretty good adaptation of the second volume. Maybe it was just me, but the plot actually feels better when transferred to TV, even if a few moments are left by the wayside. There’s enough humour and horror for the story, and it feels of a piece with the rest of the series.

Christopher Guerrero is a delight as Momonga/Ainz. And while many of the characters are pretty good, feeling like they stepped right out of the books, two in particular stand out. Namely, Morgan Berry as the skittish Nfirea and Mikaela Krantz as the sadistic and vicious Clementine, the latter being particularly enjoyable, showing the mixture of childlike nature and absolute cruelty.

Production-wise, well, it’s still pretty much of the high standard expected from Madhouse. Though I have to be frank, the conspicuous CGI in some scenes, especially the ogre scenes, does get a bit distracting. However, the final fights of this story arc in the ninth episode are well-done.

I enjoyed these episodes of Overlord, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the first series…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#48
REVIEW: Overlord: Episode 10: True Vampire, Episode 11: Confusion and Understanding, Episode 12: The Bloody Valkyrie, and Episode 13: Player vs Non-Player Character by Yukie Sugawara, from the light novels by Kugane Muruyama

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: OL10-13, 4X25 minute episodes


So, here I come to the third and final arc of Overlord’s first season. Having enjoyed the original novel based on this arc, I had a lot of expectations for these episodes. Time would tell if I would…

On a mission for Ainz to find new warriors, the vampire Shalltear Bloodfallen, while fighting mercenary Brain Unglaus, goes on the rampage thanks to her lust for blood, a rampage that leads to her being attacked by unknown assailants. Ainz, told by Albedo of Shalltear’s seeming betrayal, must determine whether Shalltear is rebelling of her own will, or whether some outside influence is involved. Even so, it seems that Ainz may have to face his greatest enemy in the form of an NPC one of his friends created, and it would be a hardwon battle…

Once more, this story is a pretty superlative adaptation of the relevant novel, the third in the Overlord series. While some parts are trimmed away, most of these scenes are non-essential, and a few extra scenes are added for clarity, like who was behind Shalltear’s brainwashing, as well as foreshadowing for another series. In addition, the fight scene at the end is well-done, even adapted as it was from the books.

As usual, Christopher Guerrero shines as Momonga/Ainz. Felecia Angelle gets a wonderful chance to shine as Shalltear, more than previous episodes, being legitimately scary and awesome. Elizabeth Maxwell gets perhaps one of her best emotional performances as Albedo, while Eric Vale (better known to me as Trunks in Dragonball Z) gets to ham it up ridiculously as the hilarious and OTT Pandora’s Actor.

Production values are pretty good, with wonderful special effects being used at the right time, with one of my favourites being Shalltear’s massacre of the bandits, as well as the climactic battle. The latter, though, I had hoped for a bit more spectacular animation, particularly at the beginning (awesome-looking spells aside), but as it goes on, it doesn’t disappoint at all, and the tension certainly ramps up in the right way. It certainly does well to wrap things up for the series.

Overall, I really enjoyed the final arc of the first season of Overlord. Here’s to the next series…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#49
REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 130 mins


Humour is something that can very easily backfire. This goes doubly so for superhero movies. For every Deadpool, there is a Batman and Robin. But how well would the third Thor film go in mixing humour with what has been a more serious saga to date?

Thor is ill at ease. Haunted by visions of a cataclysm engulfing Asgard, he returns to his home, and conscripts Loki into a search for his father. But Odin is dying, and warns his sons about his firstborn, Hela, goddess of death, who will be unleashed on his own demise. His warning comes too late, and Thor and Loki are lost on the hedonistic world of Sakaar, while Hela is free to impose her will over Asgard, and in time, the universe. Forced into gladiatorial games, dealing with old friends, former allies, and new enemies, Thor must find a way to escape Sakaar and stop Hela’s ambitions…but can he?

Perhaps one of the biggest strengths of Thor: Ragnarok is that it’s a near-perfect blend of humour to go with the overblown science fantasy of prior instalments. True, some of the comedy at the beginning is somewhat cringeworthy (particularly the play Loki commissioned), but the rest of it is pretty on-par. It seems like the fitting capstone to the Thor movies done so far, and the humour helps sell it, especially as it goes hand in hand with the drama.

Chris Hemsworth gets a lot more to show off as Thor, not just the dramatic parts of the role, but more of the humour, while Tom Hiddleston as Loki is a delight as always. While I have to confess to not being that sympathetic to Valkyrie, Tessa Thompson plays the role superbly, as does Mark Ruffalo playing the Hulk and Banner, and Jeff Goldblum playing the Grandmaster. Cate Blanchett seems slightly miscast as Hela, which is no slight on her acting ability, just some subtle thing that doesn’t seem right for the role.

Production values are superb. Well, it’s a Marvel Comics film, they’re all of high quality. The film goes with the camp vibe that the story provides, a mixture of Jack Kirby’s style and the essence of Flash Gordon. There’s even cheesy 80s-style synthesiser music that SHOULD be crap, and yet, it manages to be actually good.

Overall, I have to confess that Thor: Ragnarok, despite a few bum notes, is my personal favourite of these films. It’s camp, cheesy fun, and it knows it…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#50
REVIEW: Westworld: Episode 1: The Original by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, from the movie screenplay by Michael Crichton

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: WW1.1, 1X70 minute episode


Adapting a film to a TV show is a risky proposition. What may work on the big screen may not work at home, even with HBO bringing its usual mixture of deep storylines, complex themes, and sex and violence. I decided to take a risk with HBO’s adaptation of Westworld, but would it be worth it?

The time, the future. The place, Westworld, a western-themed amusement park for the mega-rich, allowing them to indulge their whims and desires. They can be the heroes of the stories, helping out the townsfolk, or perhaps be the villains, raping and/or murdering the android Hosts without consequence. But something is changing, and not necessarily for the better. Hosts Teddy and Dolores go through the motions of their loop, alternately terrorised and helped by the mysterious Man in Black, who seems to have his own agenda, while the eccentric owner of Westworld, Dr Ford, has been causing trouble with his alterations to the latest software updates for the Hosts. As this latest update causes minor problems within Westworld, programmer Bernard must figure out whether it is dangerous or not, and as a couple of the Hosts begin glitching out, that may very well be the case…

When you think about it, the original film was a dry run of sorts for Michael Crichton to do Jurassic Park (hi-tech theme park, the attractions going awry). Perversely enough, this is as if Jurassic Park was done with the sympathies more for the dinosaurs, or in this case, the Hosts. Then again, considering the themes that this series will explore, like the nature of artificial intelligences and consciousness, it’s hardly surprising, and it’s also hardly surprising that, as an HBO series, it goes to some pretty dark places. But it’s done in an enjoyable way, and I have to confess, I’m looking forward to how the series develops, given the questions it’s asking.

Everything in terms of character and casting seem spot on. On the human side, particular praise should go to Anthony Hopkins as the eccentric Dr Ford, who seems to be hiding something already, Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, one of the more sympathetic staff of Westworld, and Ed Harris as the vicious and sardonic Man in Black. On the Host side of things, I have to give credit to Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, James Marsden as Teddy, and Louis Hertham as Dolores’ father Peter. In fact, they probably have the tougher acting jobs, having to go between their more lively personalities as Hosts in the narrative of the park, and have more dull, Uncanny Valley-evoking mannerisms while being repaired, and they do so well, with Hertham’s acting chops being put to the test during the closing act of the episode.

HBO often has the highest standards of production values, and Westworld is no different. The location filming in an iconic location of the Wild West helps matters, and the contrast is very notable between the more earthy locales of Westworld proper, and the complex that oversees the operation of the park. Special effects are great, even if not as many chances for it to really shine are shown. Ramin Djawadi has some interesting music, including Western-style orchestrated themes of familiar tunes, with the climactic bandit raid being set to a Spaghetti Western-style rendition of Paint it Black.

Overall, I had to say that I could find no fault with this first episode of Westworld, save for the fact that there’s more to come, both from the content of the episode, and the fact that this is the first in a series. I’m looking forward to the rest of it…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#51
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 16: The Terminus of Honour, Episode 17: The Eighth Contract, Episode 18: Distant Memories, and Episode 19: Where Justice is Found by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ16-19, 3X25 minute episodes



After some trepidation, I’ve gone back to Fate/Zero, in time to watch one of the turning points in the series. But will it prove absence making the heart grow fonder? Let’s find out…

In the aftermath of the defeat of Caster, Kiritsugu embarks on his most audacious plan yet, one that ends with Lancer, Lord El-Melloi, and Sola-Ui dead. Their deaths and the manner by which they were caused cause an even greater rift between Kiritsugu and Arturia than ever before, with his determination to win the Grail at any costs and his disdain of honour clashing with Arturia’s ideals. Meanwhile, Kirei is forced to consider what his father’s death means to him, and where his true loyalties and desire lie, leading him to a shocking betrayal. And finally, we catch a glimpse into Kiritsugu Emiya’s tortured past, and see the tragic story unfold of how an innocent boy living with his father in the Philippines became the ruthless killer today…

Holy crap. Even after the excitement of the battle against Caster and his summoned monsters, this series doesn’t let up. True, this part of the series is lighter on action, especially after the fight between Lancer and Arturia, but a number of shocking events and revelations take place, as well as a look into Kiritsugu’s past and motives.

Kiritsugu Emiya is perhaps both at his least and most sympathetic in these episodes, with his motives being laid bare, along with his utter ruthlessness, and Matthew Mercer does well in not only portraying that, but also the pain he felt during his actions in the flashback sequences. Crispin Freeman also does well when he is making his turning point as Kirei. And, of course, there is Kari Wahlgren as Arturia who, while furious with Kiritsugu for his actions, nonetheless understands more about her Master than he would like her to.

Production-wise, well, what more can I say than I have already? While the fight scenes aren’t as spectacular as the previous ones, they still work well, and the direction is superlative of the various emotional scenes. The imagery invoked is also oft-disturbing, like when Lancer dies, cursing those around him. This series really is of the highest quality, and I hope to watch more of it.

Overall, I’m at the beginning of the end for Fate/Zero…and I can’t wait.

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#52
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 20: Return of the Assassin, Episode 21: Knight on Two Wheels, and Episode 22: All the World’s Evils by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ20-22, 3X25 minute episodes


Well, hot on the heels of my prior review comes my review of the next three episodes of Fate/Zero. It’s the beginning of the end. But how well would this be?

Kiritsugu Emiya makes his final preparations, but the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Kariya Matou, desperate to win the Grail War and Sakura’s freedom, enters into an unholy alliance with Kirei Kotomine, an alliance that will have the worst of consequences for him. Irisviel is abducted by Berserker disguised as Iskandar, a misdirection that may cost Iskandar and Waver their lives. And Kirei intends to find out what Kiritsugu’s ideals are for once and for all...and crush them…

Okay, this story, a few action elements aside, is something of a comedown from the previous episodes. This isn’t to say they’re actually bad: we have a great chase sequence between Iskandar and Arturia, an exploration, albeit briefly, of Maiya’s past, a lovely scene between Waver and the man whom he tricked into believing he was his grandson, and a tragic confrontation between Kariya and Aoi Tohsaka, the woman he loves. It just feels slightly lesser than the previous lot of episodes.

As usual, we have some great characterisation from the various actors. Matthew Mercer and Crispin Freeman are on form as always as Kiritsugu and Kirei. Kari Wahlgren as Arturia and Jamieson Price as Iskandar also are on fine form, as is Bridget Hoffman as Irisviel and David Vincent as Gilgamesh.

Production-wise, well, what can I say? The highlight in terms of action is the aforementioned chase sequence, and there’s some wonderfully directed sequences. But compared to the last few episodes, it doesn’t really have that much of an impact.

While still great, this penultimate batch of episodes from Fate/Zero didn’t do it for me as they could have. But the finale is yet to come, and here’s hoping it goes out with a bang…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#53
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 23: The Sea at the End of the World, Episode 24: The Last Command Spell, and Episode 25: Fate/Zero by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ23-25, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here I am at last watching the final part of Fate/Zero. But would it meet expectations, or fall at the final hurdle? Well, let’s find out…

The stage is set for the final showdown. As Iskandar confronts Gilgamesh, Arturia learns to her despair that Berserker is none other than Lancelot. And Kiritsugu and Kirei battle to the death, only to be subsumed in a mysterious substance welling up from the Grail, where Kiritsugu is confronted by the essence of the Grail, wearing the face of his dead wife Irisviel. She makes him an offer that will see his wish come true…but at a most terrible cost. Zero hour is approaching, and with it, the final act of this tragedy…

Hoo boy. The story here is pretty damned brilliant. My only complaint, albeit a substantial one, is that everything seems crammed into the last few episodes, especially Episode 24, with little time to linger on some parts of the narrative that, I felt, needed it. Still, we have some brilliant scenes and a marvellous deconstruction of Kiritsugu’s wish, as well as an ending that promises much for Fate/Stay Night’s adaptations.

Once more, the cast is superlative. Matthew Mercer and Crispin Freeman engage in a battle of character and ideologies as Kiritsugu and Kirei, with Bridget Hoffman also providing a sinister turn as Angra Mainyu masquerading as Irisviel. And Kari Wahlgren gets some heartrending scenes as Arturia, first having to confront Lancelot in battle, and then being forced to destroy what she believes is her chance at redemption.

On the production side of things, the fight scenes are brilliant, like Gilgamesh wiping out Iskandar’s army, or Arturia facing off against Lancelot, or Kiritsugu and Kirei’s battle. Everything seems to come together brilliantly in the end, sound and visuals and direction. It certainly promises great things for the Ufotable adaptations of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel.

Overall, while not a perfect ending, the final three episodes of Fate/Zero were pretty damned close. I look forward to beginning anew on Fate/Stay Night’s adaptations…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#54
REVIEW: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate by Mitsutaka Hirota, from the video game written by Hideki Kamiya

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 90 mins


Video game adaptations aren’t always the best of films for a number of reasons. That being said, I was willing to give Bayonetta: Bloody Fate a go, partly because I am yet to play the original game on which this anime film was based, and partly because I thought, being an animated film, it might be a decent adaptation. But would I be correct?

Meet Bayonetta, one of the last Umbran Witches, fighting against the monstrous angels of Paradiso. Pursued by journalist Luka Redgrave, who believes Bayonetta responsible for his father’s death, Bayonetta is investigating the Ragna cult, and their leader, Balder, the head of a massive corporation. Bayonetta intends to confront Balder, believing him key to recovering memories she has lost before she was discovered at the bottom of a lake. But between pursuit by Luka, attacks by angels and the mysterious Jeanne, and needing to protect a girl called Cereza, Bayonetta has her work cut out for her…

Okay, I have to confess, while I doubt that the game’s storyline would have been a really deep one, I still feel it would have been better than this. I think it’s partly an artifact of abridging the already simple plot of the game to suit a 90 minute movie, and for what it is, it’s very entertaining. But it’s a cliché-riddled mess that goes from incident to incident, with very little time for character development.

I have to say, the characters aren’t really that great. Oh, Bayonetta is interesting, as an amoral angel-fighting witch with seductive, BDSM overtones can be, and Hellena Taylor does a damn good job. But I have to confess, none of the other characters really grabbed me, with Cereza proving to be annoying, and Balder being a run-of-the-mill ‘save the world by destroying it’ lunatic, albeit with some added bits, and the voice acting does well enough with the characters they are given.

Where Bayonetta: Bloody Fate really shines is the production values. Gonzo really pulled out the stops for animating this, and the movie is a visual masterpiece, for the most part. The CGI on some of the angels do actually jar somewhat, more so than usual for CGI objects in anime. Other than that, though, the beautiful animation does a brilliant job at bringing the game imagery to life, and it’s a shame that the rest of the film isn’t up to the same standards.

While entertaining and beautiful-looking, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate is by no means a great film. Hell, it’s pretty below average. But for a video game film, that’s frankly not too bad.

***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#55
REVIEW: RWBY: Episode 6: The Badge and the Burden, Episode 7: Jaunedice and Episode 8: Forever Fall by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 1.6-1.8, 3X12 minute episodes


So, once more, I come back to RWBY. And it’s about time. Let’s see how they do…

It’s tough being the leader of a team of wannabe Hunters. Ruby’s more childish antics infuriates the privileged Weiss, leading to confrontations that have them rethinking their priorities. But Jaune Arc, leader of Team JNPR, has an even greater problem. Cardin Winchester, the leader of CRDL, is an unrepentant bully, and he has the wimpy Jaune in his sights. And Jaune is hiding a secret that may bring him further under Cardin’s power, and what there is of his pride will prevent Jaune from seeking help, even from his teammates…

Much of this little arc focuses on poor Jaune. I have to say, I don’t like it, but that’s partly because I’m not fond of seeing bullying onscreen, though Cardin getting his just desserts is satisfying. Certainly, the themes of what it takes to be a leader and the friendships developing do help. Unfortunately, the short time of the episodes does hamper things a little.

The characters do fairly well so far. Ruby and Weiss get some development, but it’s Miles Luna as Jaune and Jen Brown as Pyrrha who are the major stars, as the latter two episodes focus on them, though I have to headdesk at some of Jaune’s decisions. Episode 7 also has the delightfully hyperactive Oobleck, played with aplomb by Joel Heyman in a very different manner to how he played Caboose in Red vs Blue.

Overall, production values are pretty good. True, we didn’t have as many of the fight scenes as in previous episodes, but we had a few good ones, and some pretty damned good cinematography. Everything seems to work fine, albeit not wholly perfectly.

While somewhat short and at times a little unsatisfying, these episodes of RWBY still maintain the quality of previous episodes. Here’s to the last ones of Volume 1…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#56
REVIEW: RWBY: Episode 9: The Stray and Episode 10: Black and White by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 1.9-1.10, 2X12 minute episodes


So, here I am at the last two episodes of Volume 1 of RWBY. But would the series go out with a bang? Or a whimper?

Team RWBY may have settled in, but some problems remain. When they go to scope out the competition for the upcoming Vytal Festival and the tournament, events trigger an escalating argument between Weiss and Blake about Faunus and the White Fang. And when Blake’s past membership of the White Fang, and her status as a Faunus, is revealed, she flees Beacon in shame, determined to find out how low the Fang has sunk with the help of fellow Faunus Sun Wukong. Meanwhile, Ruby has made the acquaintance of a strange girl called Penny, who is more than she seems. And soon, there will be a clash between RWBY and their new friends, and the forces of White Fang and Roman Torchwick…

Story-wise, it’s a fairly good one. It lacked something of a punch for the season finale, even with the battle in Black and White, but there was an exploration of conflicting attitudes, not to mention enjoyable dialogue. Plus, there’s one hell of a scene at the end of Black and White, with the introduction of more key characters.

Of particular note in this set of episodes is the relationship between Weiss Schnee and Blake Belladonna, with Kara Erbele and Arryn Zech getting to shine. Michael Jones and Taylor McNee as Sun Wukong and Penny Polendina also make some pretty good debuts. This was certainly more successful in terms of character moments than action.

Once more, what action there is is pretty damn good, with the battle in Black and White pretty damn exciting and well-choreographed. Not only that, but the emotional moments, of which there are plenty in this episode, are handled quite well. It wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped, but it was still good.

Overall, these last episodes of RWBY Volume 1 were pretty damned good. Not perfect, but it certainly promises more to come…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#57
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 5: Two Magi (Part 1), Episode 6: Two Magi (Part 2), Episode 7: Despicable Act, Episode 8: Discordant Melody and Episode 9: Moonlit Elegance by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN5-9, 5X25 minute episodes


So, at long last, I decided to continue with the original adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. I hoped that the next lot of episodes would be to my liking. Well, let’s find out…

Shirou may have reluctantly decided to participate in the Grail War, but his means of doing so are causing concern. Rin Tohsaka seems torn between killing him to remove a rival and having him as an ally, choosing the latter when another Servant starts attacking others. But their differing personalities and attitude to magic cause some friction, and Archer thinks Shirou’s ideals will lead him to an untimely end, or worse. Meanwhile, Shinji Matou reveals himself to be the Master of Rider, and offers an alliance and information. But Saber, chafing at Shirou’s overprotective attitude and unwillingness to have her fight, decides to take matters into her own hands…with potentially disastrous consequences…

The story still goes pretty well, but I think that some of the character conflict seems a touch contrived at times. Still, we get some intriguing revelations and twists. And the humour, when it’s there, works out.

I think part of the problem is that the relationship between Shirou and Saber isn’t as good as it could be, and while the acting is on par, the character development isn’t. And Rin varies pretty much from unlikeable to moderately likeable. That being said, the debuts of Rider, Assassin, and Caster are handled well, and Karen Strassman, David Vincent and Tara Platt respectively do the roles well, especially Strassman, varying from sultry menace to quiet, introspective decency.

If there’s one thing that makes up for the bum note of the character development, it’s the production values. They do take something of a step up in these episodes, with a number of well-animated fights. While not up to the standard of the Ufotable fights, they nonetheless are more enjoyable. Other elements of the production are fine enough, but not stellar.

Overall, this bunch of episodes of Fate/Stay Night had many ups and downs, but managed to keep to something of a standard…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#58
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 10: A Peaceful Interlude, Episode 11: Fresh Blood Temple (Blood Fort Andromeda), and Episode 12: Tearing the Sky by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN10-12, 3X25 minute episodes


So, with these episodes, I reach the midpoint of the original adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. But how well would it go? Let’s find out…

Determined to be of some use for the battles ahead, Shirou undergoes rigorous training by Saber and Rin in swordplay and magic, with the two girls impressed by his potential. But Shinji Matou, not trusted by either Shirou or Rin, decides to trap Shirou when he finally has Rider activate her Noble Phantasm, Blood Fort Andromeda, while Shirou is at school. As students and teachers lay dying, Shirou is forced to summon Saber to help him combat Rider, but the final clash between Shirou and Shinji, along with their respective Servants, will cause surprising secrets to be revealed…assuming anyone survives it…

This short section of the story doesn’t have that much in it, beyond some pretty intense battles. That being said, it does have some much-needed clarification of Shirou’s character. And it certainly is tense, even if some parts are lacking.

We have some much-needed character development between Shirou and Saber, with Saber growing to like Shirou more, and Shirou explaining his reasons behind his annoyingly reckless behaviour. Certainly, this is the highlight of these three episodes, as they mostly exist to finish the arc of Shinji Matou. Everything else is somewhat thin on the ground.

That being said, we have a few good sequences. The climactic fight between Rider and Saber, while not as good as it could have been under Ufotable, nonetheless manages to be of a very high standard as far as this adaptation is concerned. Everything else is…fine, I guess.

Overall, this set of episodes are still good ones. Not superlative, but certainly enjoyable.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#59
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Episode 0: Prelude, Episode 1: Winter Day, Fateful Night, Episode 2: When the Curtain Goes Up and Episode 3: First Battle by Kinoku Nasu, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSNUBW1-4, 2X45 minute and 2X25 minute episodes


It seems odd that I would change to a more recent adaptation of one of Fate/Stay Night’s storylines or routes while only halfway through another adaptation. And yet, that’s what I did, going to Ufotable’s adaptation of the ‘Unlimited Blade Works’ storyline (the other anime version adapting the ‘Fate’ route), a sequel of sorts to their adaptation of Fate/Zero. How well would that go?

Rin Tohsaka, the daughter of the late Tokiomi Tohsaka, determined to reclaim her family’s heritage in the Holy Grail War. Shirou Emiya, the adopted son of the now-deceased assassin Kiritsugu Emiya. Archer, an enigmatic, arrogant Servant who can’t remember his name. And Saber, aka Arturia Pendragon. Ten years after the previous Holy Grail War stole Rin’s father and Shirou’s memories, it has started up again, with these four, and many more, brought together. While Shirou struggles with the situation he has been dumped into, Rin must decide whether Shirou is ally or enemy. But in a clash between heroes from history and myth, can anyone survive to claim the grand prize?

Now, as highly as I rated the original adaptation, that was admittedly because of rose-tinted glasses and the excellent story. But the story of this adaptation is leagues better for a number of reasons, and having found out that Kinoku Nasu himself, the original writer of the visual novel, wrote the screenplay doubtlessly helped. Not only that, but many subtle nods are made to Fate/Zero, spottable by keen-eyed viewers.

It helps that the characterisation and voice acting is much better, with a whole prologue episode (based on a similar sequence from the game) devoted to Rin, and making her more sympathetic than she was in the original adaptation. Mela Lee’s much improved performance helps matters. Bryce Papenbrook is also superlative as Shirou, giving him more texture and depth. Saber is also given more sympathetic moments compared to her more stoic, icy demeanour in the original adaptation, and Kari Wahlgren continues the superb job she did in Fate/Zero. Kaiji Tang, meanwhile, manages to do as well as Liam O’Brien as Archer, and Crispin Freeman continues his chilling performance as Kirei.

It’s unfair to compare the animation Studio Deen did to what Ufotable did a decade later with better technology and techniques, and yet, I have to. What Ufotable did is light years beyond Deen’s stuff, even taking differences in the story into account. The initial clash between Archer and Lancer is considerably more spectacular, as is the extended battle between Saber and Berserker. The direction is also better, as are the effects. This feels like the definitive adaptation of Fate/Stay Night already, even from these few episodes, and I wish that, even as they now adapt the ‘Heaven’s Feel’ storyline as a trilogy of films, they’d also go back and remake the adaptation of the ‘Fate’ route.

Overall, I have to say that I’m really impressed with the adaptation of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. Here’s to the next few episodes…

*****

I think what I'll be doing is alternating between episodes of the original adaptation, and episodes of Unlimited Blade Works.
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,380
2,950
#60
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 13: Winter Castle, Episode 14: End of the Ideal, Episode 15: The Twelve Trials, and Episode 16: The Sword of Promised Victory by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN13-16, 4X25 minute episodes


So, now we come to just over the halfway point of the original adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. Given how I’ve just started watching the Ufotable adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works, I may have been spoiled by it, and thus will view this adaptation in a less reasonable light. Well, let’s see if that was the case…

In the aftermath of Saber using her Noble Phantasm to deal with Rider, Shirou has realised some things. The first is that his Servant is none other than Arturia Pendragon, who ruled Britain disguised as the male King Arthur. The second, and more unpleasant, revelation is that Saber is in danger of disappearing from the world unless she gets more mana…and the only way may be to force her to attack other people for power. But as Shirou wrestles with the dilemma, he is kidnapped by Illyasviel, who gives him an ultimatum: join her, or die. Rescued by a weakened Saber and Rin while Archer buys them time with his life, Shirou must find the power within himself to fight, even as Illya and the seemingly immortal Berserker hunt them down…

Well, we’re certainly getting somewhere. In this arc, we had Illya trying to deal with Shirou, as well as further elucidation of Saber’s true identity as King Arthur, or rather, Arturia. It’s pretty good as far as character development goes, especially where Saber and Shirou are concerned. Not stellar, but certainly good, with some creepy scenes involving Illya, and a surreal scene where Shirou donates his magic circuits to Saber.

Certainly, the developing relationship between Shirou and Saber is interesting. And Liam O’Brien’s Archer, while quite unlikeable at times, gets to go out with one hell of a bang. Actually, Stephanie Sheh’s creepy performance as Illya is the highlight, though Michael McConnohie’s performance as Berserker seems rather anaemic, to be honest, like he’s just phoning it in.

Most of the animation is fairly good, with the highlight being Archer’s final fight against Berserker, as well as Shirou, Saber, and Rin facing off against the beast, especially during the climax. The surreal scene where Shirou donates some of his magic circuits to Saber also works well. But the final episode watched had a couple of noticeable flaws, which was a shame.

Overall, while nowhere near the standard of the Ufotable adaptations, this one was fairly good. I can’t wait to watch more of it…

****
 

User Menu

Newsletter