The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#61
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Episode 4: Finding the Will to Fight, Episode 5: Dancing After School, Episode 6: Mirage and Episode 7: Reward for the Desperate Struggle by Kinoku Nasu, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSNUBW5-8, 4X25 minute episodes


So, having watched more of Fate/Stay Night’s original adaptation, I have gone back to watching Unlimited Blade Works. But having been impressed by the high standard of the episodes so far, would this continue? Or was I going to be disappointed?

Recovering from the aftermath of Berserker’s attack, Shirou has a number of problems. While ensuring his alliance with Saber is still intact and getting the approval of Taiga Fujimura and Sakura Matou is easy enough, dealing with Rin, who believes he isn’t taking his role seriously, is another matter. An attempt at stealing his Command Seals, however, is interrupted when a student is attacked by another Servant, and Rin and Shirou enter into a truce, a truce Rin’s Archer Servant has trouble accepting. But of considerable concern is Caster, who is draining the life from people all around Fuyuki City…and she now has her sights on Shirou…

I have to admit, the story elements here are pretty on par. True, there were a few bum notes here and there, but it’s certainly a more superior version to the original adaptation. It actually feels better, despite the bum notes, particularly Rin’s attack on Shirou. There’s even a humorous scene in Episode 7 where Caster points out how much alike Shirou and Archer are, something that fans of the franchise will know means she’s more spot-on than she first thought, making the ensuing argument darkly comical.

That being said, the various cast members do well. Bruce Papenbrook as Shirou, Mela Lee as Rin, and Kaiji Tang as Archer all play their roles brilliantly, with the latter getting some pretty strong character development, as well as a very dark moment that, given what happens later in the series, seems to be rather portentous. Melissa Fahn, despite only having a few lines of dialogue, is good in her debut as Rider, but it is Todd Haberkorn as the Kojiro Sasaki Assassin and Megan Hollingshead as the sinister and sultry Caster that shine as the debut voices.

Production-wise, well, what can I say? We have a more spectacular version of the Shirou vs Rin showdown than the original adaptation, not to mention other enjoyable battle scenes, like the Saber vs Assassin and Caster vs Archer and Shirou battles in the final episode of this selection. And the CGI effects are better integrated into the experience, making them considerably more enjoyable.

Overall, while not quite at the same level of the debut episodes, I have to admit I enjoyed these episodes of Unlimited Blade Works. Here’s to the next lot…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#62
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 17: Branded as a Witch, Episode 18: Decisive Battle, and Episode 19: The Golden King by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN17-19, 3X25 minute episodes


Now we come to a part of the Fate/Stay Night anime that wasn’t part of the Fate route. In other anime series, this might be considered filler, though the elements are partially derived from the Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel routes. And it’s time to see if that was a wise decision…

Having dealt with Berserker, Shirou, Rin and Saber resolve to deal with Caster, who seems to be stepping up her plans, and Illya knows who she is: Medea of Colchis, the infamous witch of Greek myth. What’s more, her Master is no Magus, but one of their school teachers, Souichirou Kuzuki. But Kuzuki turns out to be not only apathetic to the cost of Medea’s plans, but also a ruthless ex-assassin. Medea decides that she needs a Magus to act as a catalyst to summon the Grail, at the cost of everyone in Fuyuki…and she chooses Sakura Matou. What is Sakura’s hidden link to Rin? Can Shirou, Rin and Saber prevail against Medea, Kuzuki and Assassin? And who is the mysterious figure, clad in golden armour, watching these events unfold?

I think some elements are a bit jarring. As immoral as Medea and Kuzuki were in the canon story, I’m not sure they would have gone as far as they did, and Rin seemed to be a little too enthusiastic in rescuing a sister she hadn’t acknowledged. It’s not necessarily that these moments are bad, they just felt crowbarred in. All the same, it was nice to have these elements from other routes acknowledged, and Medea’s backstory and the revelations about Arturia and Kiritsugu were done fairly well, even if the latter partly jars with Fate/Zero (which was written later).

The voice actors all do fairly well. Of particular note is Tara Platt oozing malice as Medea, and Patrick Seitz as the grim and stoic Kuzuki. Grant George, meanwhile, makes a good debut as Gilgamesh, while Mela Lee gets in some very good moments as Rin.

While nowhere near the level of the Ufotable productions, there’s still some excellent production values here. Some of the fight scenes are the best that the series has done so far. And there’s some beautifully-animated scenes showing Medea’s past, as well as that of Sakura and Rin.

Overall, these episodes mark the beginning of the end for the first adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. Here’s to the last episodes…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#63
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Episode 8: Winter Days, Whereabouts of Mind, Episode 9: The Distance Between Them, and Episode 10: The Fifth Contractor by Kinoku Nasu, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSNUBW9-11, 4X25 minute episodes


So, after a bit of a hiatus, I’ve gone back to watching Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. We’re coming up to the halfway point of the series, and things are heating up. But how would these episodes go?

In the aftermath of Caster’s abduction of Shirou and Archer’s attack on him, tensions are running a little high. Saber seems to disapprove of Shirou mimicking Archer’s style of swordplay, and Rin has forced her Servant to stop targeting Shirou. But the danger isn’t over. Shinji, in a moment of supreme cruelty, orders Rider to begin draining mana from everyone in their school, only to be stopped by the Master of Caster. As Shinji is given a Faustian deal by Kirei Kotomine, Rin and Shirou investigate who is Caster’s Master, but even as they find out who it is, friction between Archer and Rin, along with everyone else, is growing…

Okay, so, this bunch of episodes aren’t as stellar as the previous ones. I think this is partly because the momentum has evened out a little, and despite a couple of major incidents, the story is relatively quiet. Relatively being the operative term, as it’s more about the character interactions and increasing tensions between them, though the resolution of the Rider battle does seem a little abrupt.

Shirou and Rin do well, with Bryce Papenbrook and Mela Lee giving their all to performances that give the characters depth. However, Megan Hollingshead as Caster and Lex Lang as the cold and ruthless Souichirou Kuzuki are particularly brilliant during the tenth episode. And there is, of course, the collected tones of Kari Wahlgren as Saber, and Kaiji Tang as the sardonic Archer.

Production-wise, well, Ufotable does an excellent job. The Blood Fort Andromeda sequence is suitably horrific, and the battle between Shirou, Saber, Rin, and Caster and her Master is very well done, being one of the best fights in the show so far, despite its brevity. And the music during said sequence is one of the best in the series so far.

Overall, these episodes were pretty damn good. Not perfect, but hey, not far from it…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#64
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Pilot by Steven Moffat

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 10.1, 1X50 minute episode


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve bothered to watch any new Doctor Who, and I am yet to watch any of the tenth series, the last to feature Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, and Steven Moffat as the showrunner. But I decided I would try to remedy that. So, here I am, watching the first episode of Series 10…

Bill Potts works at the canteen of St Luke’s University in Bristol, but she finds herself intrigued by the lectures of the mysterious Doctor, who has been a lecturer there for decades. The Doctor, having taken note of her desire to learn, takes her on as a student, but soon, something strange happens. A girl Bill is attracted to, Heather, who has a strange star-like pattern in her iris, has been strangely distracted by a strange puddle…a puddle that consumes Heather, taking on her form and pursuing Bill, forcing her to flee with the Doctor…who turns out to be a time-travelling alien…

Okay, there’s not a lot of plot going on, save for introducing Bill, as well as reintroducing the Doctor (and Nardole) in such a way that new viewers won’t be alienated. Personally, I am a little dissatisfied at the lack of plot and the wasted potential in some moments (including the contractual obligation appearance of the Daleks, and a wasted moment for the Movellans), but there’s plenty of nice moments, and there’s some great dialogue and some nods to the past. Plus, there’s the Vault and the mysterious promise that seems to be keeping the Doctor from his travels.

Peter Capaldi is on fine form as the Doctor, while Matt Lucas is becoming more interesting as Nardole. Newcomer Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts is…well, she takes time getting used to, because she seems, at least initially, rather bland and generic as a companion (ethnicity and sexuality aside, which shouldn’t matter anyway), though her savvy nature and her tendency to ask the right questions at the right time do well to give her an edge she needed. Stephanie Hyam is interesting enough as Heather, both pre- and post-puddle-ification, though I wish more of the former was done.

Production-wise, well, it’s decent enough, though there isn’t much in the way of demands on it until later in the episode. Certainly, there are a lot of nice touches in the Doctor’s office, and the makeup and choreography of the Heather creature are chilling, like something out of Silent Hill or FEAR. That being said, there are times when the CGI effects of the Heather creature are a bit…naff, frankly. Not bad, just…it could’ve been better, especially at some points.

Overall, while nowhere near perfect, The Pilot is certainly a good new beginning for Doctor Who


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#65
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Recreation by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS7, 95 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, at long last, I come to the second part of the Recollection trilogy of Red vs Blue. But how would I find it? Well, let’s see…

Church, aka the Alpha AI at the heart of Project Freelancer, is no more, but the repercussions are being felt. With only one Blue member, Caboose, still opposing the Reds, the balance of power has shifted, and not for the better. And Caboose’s attempts to change the salvaged Epsilon AI fragment into Church bear surprising fruit, one that will lead him, Sarge and Grif to Tucker’s last known whereabouts, a desert where an archaeological dig is underway. But those present at the dig have their secrets, the Meta lurks in the shadows, and Agent Washington, desperate to gain his freedom, makes a deal with the devil…

Okay, the story seems to have gone back to a slightly more comic one, certainly less dark, for the most part, than the previous season. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and considering it has the lead up to the resurrection of a beloved character, it works out fine. There’s some pretty good dialogue (including “You will fear my Laserface!”, which makes sense in context…somewhat), and the comedy does manage to hit more than miss, even if the plot is still somewhat thin on the ground.

As usual, the cast is on fine form, with Joel Heyman as Caboose, Matt Hullum as Sarge, Geoff Ramsey as Grif, and Joe Saldaña as Tucker taking centre stage. Heyman’s Caboose has certainly become more endearing as time goes on. I do think the ending revelation about Washington, while understandable, does seem a bit like a swerve in character, though, and CT doesn’t really do much as a villain.

Production values, well, they’re fairly good for what they are as a machinima. It helps that a new environment is used for part of the story, of a desert temple. True, it’s not much what we haven’t seen before, just a little more ambitious. Then again, that’s going to change with the next season, so I’ve heard.

Ultimately, Red vs Blue: Recreation is enjoyable enough. But maybe the best is yet to come…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#66
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Revelation by Burnie Burns.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS8, 115 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, now I come to the third, and final, part of the Recollection trilogy of Red vs Blue. And this is the point where the late Monty Oum began making his mark on the series. But how would that do?

In his desperation to wipe the slate clean, Washington has teamed up with the Meta. His goal is to capture Epsilon, who has now regained some of his memories. And Washington is willing to trample all over anyone in his path. The Reds and the Blues are forced to go back to where it all began, one of the Project Freelancer bases, and learn some hard truth about their existences, even as Church, and a new version of Tex, gain new bodies. But with Washington and the Meta after them, can they survive?

Well, the story has gone back to the darker elements from Season 6, albeit with the right mix of humour. That being said, there are some frustrating swerves in character (namely with Washington and Text) which mar the enjoyment I have of the series. Even so, the climax is certainly a satisfying one, leaving things open for further seasons, but bringing this particular story arc to a good conclusion.

Burnie Burns as Epsilon Church is on fine form, as are most of the characters. Kathleen Zeulch makes a welcome return as Tex, and Joel Heyman does well as Caboose. Everything else works fine, if not particularly stellar.

The biggest draw this time, however, are definitely the production values. With Monty Oum’s involvement, the action scenes are ramped up significantly in quality, with a number of spectacularly animated set pieces that dramatically improve the series, and its potential for combining humour with action. If I had less problems with the storyline and character development, I’d be ranking this as perfect.

Overall, while not perfect, this season of Red vs Blue marks a wonderful climax to an intriguing trilogy in the series. Here’s to the next one…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#67
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 9 by Burnie Burns.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS9, 115 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, hot on the heels of the eighth season, I embark on the first half of what is known as the Project Freelancer saga of Red vs Blue, a two-season story arc showing the shady past of the series, and how it impacts on the present day. Given the high quality of the previous season, I had high hopes for this one. Time would tell whether those hopes would be fulfilled, or quashed…

A few years in the past, Project Freelancer, under the dubious orders of its autocratic Director, Dr Leonard Church, sends their operatives on dangerous missions so secret, even they don’t know what the true purpose is. And when newcomer Tex arrives, her skills and apparent favour with the Director rubs many the wrong way, including prodigy Carolina. Meanwhile, in the modern day, the Epsilon iteration of Church, stuck within the AI capture unit, is in a memory of Blood Gulch, but things aren’t as they should be. He’s desperate to lure Tex here, but why? And what events of the past have a bearing on the future?

Okay, I’ll be honest. The modern day segments are a major downturn in quality in terms of both writing and comedy. There’s a few funny bits, but it feels tired and also-ran, much like Church is feeling with his various simulations. However, the writing on the Project Freelancer sequences are top notch, and even though there’s less humour in those sequences, what there is is on the ball. Plus, the story elements in those sequences are interesting.

For once, the Blood Gulch crew are not the most interesting characters. Indeed, their writing (but not their performances) is rather mediocre. That being said, the Project Freelancer characters are all interesting, with particular praise going to Jen Brown as Carolina, John Marshall Reed in an expanded role as Director Leonard Church, Shannon McCormick as Washington and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex. And a pre-Meta Agent Maine, with a couple of actual spoken lines, including the hilarious, “Too high.”

Production values are the highlight of this season. While the modern day segments use the standard Red vs Blue setting, the Project Freelancer uses pretty high quality machina animation all the time, with the heist of the Sarcophagus and the freeway chase having the best action scenes seen so far in the series. The direction and cinematography just blows me away.

Overall, the ninth season of Red vs Blue was a mixture of the mediocre and the supreme. Here’s hoping that the next season is much better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#68
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 10 by Burnie Burns et al.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS10, 160 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.



I have to admit to being disappointed by Season 9 of Red vs Blue. The quality was inconsistent, with the present scenes being rather poor, but the Project Freelancer flashbacks being excellent. I hoped that the tenth season, which continues and concludes the Project Freelancer saga, would do better. Well, let’s find out…

Ghosts from the past haunt the present. In the past, Agent Carolina struggles to do her duty, becoming obsessed with surpassing Agent Texas, an obsession that is alienating her comrades. Meanwhile, Agent Connecticut defects to the Insurrection out of qualms of conscience, and Sigma, the AI Carolina gave to Maine to help the injured Freelancer communicate, is plotting something of his own. In the present day, Carolina is ordering the Reds and Blues around, so intent on revenge on the Director of Project Freelancer, she doesn’t care who she alienates, not even her old comrade Wash. As Carolina grows increasingly frustrated with the Reds and Blues’ antics, Epsilon Church is increasingly drawn to her side…but soon, things will reach a breaking point…

Well, I have to say, the story on both sides is brilliant. After the present day segments of the previous season were rather lacklustre, it’s not only a return to form, but also a rise in quality. Action and introspection are used very well, and I have to admit to enjoying this season a lot more, harrowing though it was at times.

Jen Brown as Carolina takes up centre stage, including in the present day, and while she could easily become very unsympathetic, her portrayal barely manages to stay on the right side of the line, helped by the flashbacks to Project Freelancer’s past. Burnie Burns also does well as Church, filled with conflicting loyalties. I have to say that I feel that Elijah Wood was badly underutilised as the villainous AI Sigma, which is a shame, as the few times he’s on screen are chilling in his understated acting. Everyone else does quite well.

Production values seemed to have gone even higher than the previous episode. The action sequences, mostly in the flashbacks but also in the present day, are brilliant, thanks to the late Monty Oum. Highlights include a number of zero-g battles, and a climactic showdown between the Reds, Blues, and, well, a bunch of very familiar robots.

If I had to pick one season of the series to hold above all others, well, this’d be it. I enjoyed it very much, a few minor roadbumps of characterisation aside…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#69
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 11 by Miles Luna.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS11, 120 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


Hot on the heels of finishing Season 10 of Red vs Blue, I’ve embarked on Season 11, the first season of the Chorus Trilogy. But would I enjoy it? Well, let’s find out…

Having successfully dealt with Project Freelancer’s last remnants, the Reds and Blues have now crashlanded on another world. Once more, they have fallen into the patterns they once had in Blood Gulch as they wait to be rescued. As Washington’s command grates on Tucker, a lonely, depressed Caboose finds a friend to replace Church…a very lethal robotic friend. And Sarge’s own attempts at building a robot may cause further trouble. But they are being watched by mysterious soldiers, and it turns out that the world they’re on is not only inhabited, but in a whole lot of strife…

Okay, so the story isn’t quite on the par of the last two. It’s not bad, it’s just gone back to the familiar Blood Gulch Chronicles stuff, and after the Project Freelancer story, I’m a bit spoiled, admittedly. Okay, it’s nowhere near as mediocre as the stuff done for Season 9 in the present day, for which I should be grateful, and there’s developments towards the end of the season, but I feel it could have taken a shorter period of time to get to the point.

I think, of the regulars, it is Joel Heyman as Caboose and Shannon McCormick as Washington (as well as the second Lopez) who get the most focus here, with much of the season being about their relationship, as well as Wash struggling to fit in with the Blues. You also have the newcomers, like Shane Newville as the belligerent combat robot Freckles. And, of course, there’s Miles Luna and Gray G Haddock as mercenaries Felix and Locus respectively. It’s early days for those two, but they certainly made a good impression.

Unfortunately, in this season, they cut out the Monty Oum-style action scenes, and it’s to the detriment of the series. It’s not even made up for by the improved graphics. What’s more, the sound mix of the home video version does make it somewhat hard to discern some dialogue, especially that of Freckles, whose dialogue would be hard to discern already with the voice distortion.

Overall, while a noticeable dip in quality compared to the season before it, this season does promise more to come. I just hope it delivers…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#70
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 12 by Miles Luna and Burnie Burns.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS12, 160 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, here I am, coming to the second part of the Chorus Trilogy of Red vs Blue. The first season, while enjoyable, didn’t quite get me until later in the season than I would have liked. But hopefully, the second season of the trilogy would rectify that…

Simmons, Grif, Caboose and Tucker have been recruited by the New Republic army, a rebel group trying to take back the colony of Chorus from a corrupt government with the help of the mercenary Felix. But between misfit soldiers with inflated expectations of the Blood Gulch soldiers and Tucker’s own doubts about his leadership skills, they’re in for a rough trot. Meanwhile, Sarge, Wash, Donut and Lopez have been taken by the Federal Army of Chorus…but they find that, despite the sinister reputation of the mercenary Locus and the earlier claims of Felix, the Federal Army is not as bad as they thought. Someone is manipulating the civil war on Chorus to their own ends, and a shocking betrayal is in the works…

Okay, the story is a major improvement, closer in style to the Recollection trilogy and the Project Freelancer seasons. It manages to juggle the comedy and the drama in equal measure, and has some major twists. I still think a bit more development should have been given to members of the Federal Army, as the focus on the New Republic felt like everything was off-balance, but otherwise, the story was on par.

I personally think, aside from the lack of notable characters on the Federal Army’s side, they spent a bit too much time with the New Republic, with a number of characters who were basically expies of the original Blood Gulch Crew, but without the character and with a few new quirks to disguise the reheated characters. That being said, Joe Saldaña as Tucker gets his time to shine, as does Burnie Burns as Church, Shannon McCormick as Washington, and Jen Brown as a much better Carolina. Miles Luna is brilliant as the sardonic and cynical Felix, while Gray G Haddock pulls excellent double duty as the rather foppish Doyle and the sinister Locus. Rounding off the cast are a couple of RWBY cast members going against type, with Arryn ‘Blake Belladonna’ Zech doing a brilliant job as the mildly deranged Dr Emily Grey, and Lindsay ‘Ruby Rose’ Jones as Kimball.

Production-wise, it’s gone back to a mixture of standard Red vs Blue and Monty Oum-style action sequences. The series looks wonderful, as did many of the fight scenes. The sound mixing on some of the voices, especially Locus’, did provide a bit of a problem at times, though.

Overall, I enjoyed the second part of the Chorus Trilogy. And I intend to finish the third part before long…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#71
REVIEW: Doctor Who: Shada Special Edition by Douglas Adams

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 5M, 160 minute omnibus special edition


Shada. The legendary Doctor Who story that was never completed due to strike action, written by Douglas Adams. Although the serial saw the release of the existing footage in the 90s, and an audio drama and crudely animated webcast was released in 2003, the closest the show has gotten to completion was Gareth Roberts’ admittedly enhanced novelisation. But now, the BBC have gone back and used animation and the original cast to complete most of the missing scenes. But how would that turn out?

The Doctor and Romana have come to Cambridge to speak to the eccentric and forgetful Professor Chronotis, an ancient Time Lord who has retired to Earth in the 20th Century. Chronotis, nearing the end of his lives, wants the Doctor and Romana to return a book called The Ancient and Worshipful Law of Gallifrey to their homeworld. Unfortunately, a researcher called Chris Parsons has borrowed it. Even more unfortunately, the enigmatic and ruthless alien scientist Skagra wants it, for he believes it to be the key to Shada, the Time Lord’s long-forgotten prison planet. Why does Skagra want to go to Shada? What does it have to do with the legendary Time Lord criminal Salyavin? And can the Doctor and Romana stop Skagra’s plans?

While admittedly Shada has its fair share of plot holes, and sometimes the humour does get a bit tired during the initial episodes, it’s actually one of the better stories of the season. It’s a crying shame this one was scuppered as opposed to some of the others, with an intriguing villain and concepts. True, it doesn’t have the sophistication as Gareth Roberts’ novelisation, but it’s a good story all the same. The writers of this version are to be commended for managing to get the necessary edits to dialogue (to cover for the deaths of Denis Carey and David Brierley) to work, though it’s a shame some of the scenes I knew of didn’t make the cut.

The highlight of the story are the characters more than anything else. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on fine form as the Doctor and Romana respectively, even in the segments where they voiced the same characters after years. The same could be said about the other cast members. Denis Carey is a delight as Chronotis, while Daniel Hill as Chris Parsons and Victoria Burgoyne as Claire do well enough. The particular highlight is Christopher Neame as Skagra, who is easily one of the more understated Doctor Who villains, a refreshing change from the more hammy villains, with one of the more interesting ‘take over the universe’ plots.

Production-wise is where things do go down a bit. The Cambridge scenes are beautifully filmed, and the studio scenes set in the rooms of Chronotis are fine. The more futuristic scenes, those that were actually filmed, are admittedly a bit dodgy, and I have to say, I’m glad they used animation to cover for these. The animation is a touch cruder than I would have liked, but it works pretty damn well, considering, and the fact that they bothered to do proper model filming, in a manner similar to that done in 1979, gives verisimilitude. Mark Ayres’ score is very like Dudley Simpson’s in many regards, though I feel he overuses one of the music cues from City of Death a little too much.

You can’t call it perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I frankly prefer Gareth Roberts novelisation, but still, Shada is a good story that should have been made. It certainly would have raised the standard of that particular season more than what ultimately finished the season, The Horns of Nimon

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#72
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 20: Distant Trace of a Dream, Episode 21: The Star of Creation That Divided Heaven and Earth, Episode 22: At the End of Wishes, Episode 23: Holy Grail, and Episode 24: The Ever-Distant Utopia by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN20-24, 5X25 minute episodes


So, finally, I come to the last episodes of the original adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. I am eager to see whether it concludes the series satisfactorily. Well, time will tell…

Shirou is struggling with his growing feelings for Arturia, one that leads to an argument between them. But even as they reconcile, the anomalous Archer Servant who slew Caster arrives. His real name is Gilgamesh, and he intends to make Arturia his bride, whether Arturia wants to be or not. But even after barely driving off the powerful Servant, Shirou and Arturia are not out of the woods yet. In fact, the true mastermind behind these events is revealed: Kirei Kotomine. The malevolent priest intends to unleash the evil hidden within the Holy Grail upon the world, and Shirou and Arturia may not be able to stop him…

Storywise, it’s the grand finale, and while there’s a few bum notes with the way Shirou argues with Arturia, the rest of it does well. The remaining plot points are tied up the way they should, and there is a rather grand finale, with a very tearful ending. Heartwarming, but tearful.

Of the characters, Grant George gets to ooze malevolent smarm as Gilgamesh, while Jamie Priceson gets his time to shine as Kirei once the latter’s evil comes forth. I do think some parts of Shirou’s character could have been handled here, though, as some elements can be misconstrued as chauvinistic, something that happened quite a bit in the series. Still, Michelle Ruff gets to do well as Arturia.

Production wise, well, again, this isn’t quite as good as the Ufotable stuff. However, they did set aside some of the budget for the final clashes, and it certainly works, even if it’s not up to the benchmark Ufotable set with its later adaptations. Especially chilling are the sequences when Shirou is engulfed in the curse of Angra Mainyu, as well as more than a few parts of the final clash between Arturia and Gilgamesh.

Overall, a good end to a good, but not stellar series. A shame it couldn’t be as good as the Ufotable adaptations, but it’s still enjoyable all the same…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#73
REVIEW: Game of Thrones: Episode 1: Winter is Coming and Episode 2: The Kingsroad by David Benioff and DB Weiss, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT1.1-2, 2X60 minute episodes


I have only watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels. It’s past time that I started getting back to watching them, and what better way to do so than to start again from the beginning? Then again, absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder, and repeat viewings don’t necessarily turn out well…

In a world where seasons can last for years, the continent of Westeros is the setting for political manoeuvring on a grand scale. Ned Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and ruler of the North of Westeros on behalf of his old friend King Robert Baratheon, is hearing disturbing news. A deserter from the Night’s Watch claims to have seen the infamous White Walkers, absent for millennia, Robert’s advisor, Jon Arryn, has died, and Robert intends for Ned to take his place. As Ned wrestles with the decision to accede to Robert’s wishes, across the Narrow Sea in Essos, Daenerys Targaryen, one of the last of the royal family Robert overthrew to take the throne in Westeros, is being married off to a brutal Dothraki warlord, so that her obsessed brother Viserys may have an army to take back his throne. A storm is brewing, and the Stark family may get caught right up in it…

Now, I have to say, having read the original books, the adaptors have done a superlative job of distilling and condensing the essentials. Not only that, but they have admittedly removed or changed some of the more concerning elements of the story, though others remain. The sex and violence can be more than a little offputting, and the changes can be jarring to fans of the books, but to those who persist, there are great rewards.

Whoever did the casting for the series understands the difference between an all-star cast, and a stellar cast. Sean Bean and Michelle Fairley are great as Ned and Catelyn, Mark Addy, Lena Headey, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Robert Baratheon, Cersei Lannister, and Jaime Lannister also do well, and frankly, if I were to list every bit of good casting, I’d be here all day. But some in particular spring to mind. A major difficult in film and TV is getting good young actors or child actors to play the roles, but they did well here. While Sansa Stark is irritating this early in the story, and won’t become sympathetic until later, Sophie Turner is a delight, as is the brilliantly energetic Maisie Williams as Arya and Jack Gleeson as the obnoxious Joffrey. Kit Harington also does well as the brooding Jon Snow, while Emilia Clarke portrays Daenerys Targaryen in just the right way as this scared young woman being thrust into a dangerous world. Peter Dinklage steals the show as the sardonic Tyrion, though, justifying his later awards, and his prominence in the opening titles.

One of the difficulties of doing such a series is trying to look cinematic on a budget, and I have to give it to the makers by succeeding. Then again, it helps that, despite being a fantasy series, there is little in these first couple of episodes to need prominent and noticeable CGI effects (aside from matte paintings). Plus, the sheer amount of effort they try to take to portray different cultures shows. And the music by Ramin Jawadi just adds to it all.

Admittedly, some of this attitude comes from being the beginning of the series, with a good impression being made. Nonetheless, it’s a very promising beginning to the series, even the second time around…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
2,950
#74
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 13 by Miles Luna and Burnie Burns.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS13, 170 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, at long last, I come to the last season of Red vs Blue’s Chorus Trilogy. But the first two seasons of the trilogy set expectations pretty damn high. Would they be fulfilled?

Charon Industries’ scheme may have been exposed, and the malevolent mercenaries Felix and Locus may have withdrawn for the time being, but the strife rocking Chorus is far from over. In fact, the battle for the colony is about to enter a final stage. While Felix and Locus recruit convicts from a prison ship to supplement their army, the Reds and Blues struggle to keep the Federal Army and the New Republic from tearing each other to pieces. Soon, they learn that the alien buildings dotted around Chorus may be key to either an overwhelming victory…or a crushing defeat. Will the alien AI Caboose dubs Santa help them? What troubles Locus? And can anyone survive the Purge?

Well, after the shaky beginning of the trilogy, each season goes from strength to strength. Here, we have what is probably the most sentimental season yet, with great dialogue, themes about the nature of bravery, cowardice, and what it means to be a soldier that wouldn’t look out of place in a Metal Gear Solid game, and just straight-up awesomeness. True, the series ends on a major cliffhanger, and a very tragic one at that, but still, it works.

I can’t really say anything about the cast in general that hasn’t been said before. Gray G Haddock gets some good character development as both Doyle and Locus, particularly the latter character, who goes through some surprising developments. More of Jen Brown as Carolina and Burnie Burns as Church is given, and Asaf Ronen makes a surprising and brilliant return as the Counsellor, as does Matt Hullum’s portrayal of Doc, who now has O’Malley as a split personality as opposed to an AI fragment. Adam Ellis does very well as ‘Santa’, the ominous but ultimately good alien AI.

Production values are pretty damn good. At times, they’re too good: the action sequences are frequently rendered far better than the machinima sequences, and the difference in picture quality can be a little jarring. That being said, we have some of the best fight sequences in the series, with Carolina’s fights against Sharkface, as well as Washington and Carolina double-teaming against Felix and Locus to prevent the Purge. And the music and sound all work together swimmingly, as does the cinematography and direction.

Overall, this season was the perfect capper to the Chorus Trilogy. I’m not sure what could beat it, frankly…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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#75
REVIEW: Fate/Grand Order: First Order by Ayumu Sekine

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 70 mins


I love the Nasuverse, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would watch Fate/Grand Order: First Order. An adaptation of the Fate/Grand Order RPG, I had some hope that it would be enjoyable. But would that hope be misplaced?

The Chaldea Security Organisation: an organisation dedicated to ensuring the continuation of the human species. Using a fusion of science and magic, they observe the state of the world’s future. But as new recruit Ritsuka Fujimaru is brought in, Chaldea learns that humanity will go extinct in mere years. The source of the problem seems to be not far in the past, in Fuyuki City in 2004. Events force Ritsuka to team up with the harsh Olga Marie Animusphere, director of Chaldea, and the withdrawn researcher Mash, who turns out to be a Demi-Servant, as they fight Servants throughout a post-apocalyptic Fuyuki. But are they too late to save humanity?

Okay, let’s face it. The story is pretty crap. It’s thin on the ground with nice concepts, but to tell the truth, it’s little more than stuff for fans of the Nasuverse. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an attempt at a backdoor pilot for a Fate/Grand Order TV series, and if that was the case, then it would be better served as such. As it is, it leaves a lot up in the air.

Character development is mostly non-existent. That being said, I enjoyed Erica Mendez as Mash, of the new characters, the others being relatively flat archetypes. Kaiji Tang makes a welcome comeback as Archer, though, and Tony Oliver gets to do a Caster version of Lancer. Kari Wahlgren also does well as a corrupted Saber, well before the release of the adaptation of Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel.

The real star of the show, however, are the production values. While not quite at the level of Ufotable, Lay-duce has given the movie quite a good look. The fights are pretty spectacular, especially that between Caster and Archer. If there is something worth watching about the film, other than stuff for the fans, it’s the fight scenes and production values.

Overall, Fate/Grand Order: First Order was a disappointment. While Nasuverse fans will be sure to enjoy it, it’s not going to be really substantial…

***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
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#76
REVIEW: Doctor Who: Knock Knock by Mike Bartlett

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 10.4, 1X45 minute episode


I’m trying to watch episodes of Doctor Who, particularly from Peter Capaldi’s time, that I haven’t watched yet. Having thought that Knock Knock might be a good one, I decided to give it a go. But would my instincts be correct?

Bill is trying to room together with a group of friends from university, and after some searching, they receive an offer that seems too good to be true from a mysterious landlord. True, the house is old and seems to creak a lot, with few modern amenities, but it’s a small price to pay, right? Well, the Doctor, helping Bill move, has his suspicions, suspicions that are soon proven correct when the landlord shows his true colours. With things moving in the walls, and people disappearing, can the Doctor and Bill save anyone?

The story is pretty good, being an atmospheric variant on the ‘base under siege’ story, and with some excellent dialogue and a good and tragic twist regarding the landlord character. Unfortunately, it’s not without its flaws, given a questionable climax that isn’t foreshadowed as much as it should have been. It’s also rather simplistic, even for a story of this length. Not bad at all, just…a bit dodgy, rather like the houses at the start.

While Peter Capaldi does fine as the Doctor, Pearl Mackie’s Bill isn’t characterised as well as she had been in The Pilot, not bad, but a dip below par, more due to the writing than Pearl Mackie herself. None of the students really stick out to me, really, which is a little more to the detriment of the story. However, David Suchet is a delight as the enigmatic and malevolent landlord, with the best of the acting done when his secret is revealed, and Mariah Gale as Eliza is also good.

The story is directed very atmospherically, and the production values, while not perfect, are certainly what help keeps the story from falling down as much as it could have. True, the dryad bugs are a bit conspicuous in terms of CGI, but the realisation of the wooden Eliza is surprisingly well-done. The sound design is the real star, keeping up the atmospheric nature of the story, with eerie knocks and rustling happening at the right points.

Overall, Knock Knock was a very good, but flawed story. A little better bit of plot logic and character development could have made this a true classic…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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#77
REVIEW: Game of Thrones: Episode 3: Lord Snow, Episode 4: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things and Episode 5: The Wolf and the Lion by David Benioff and DB Weiss, and Bryan Cogman, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT1.3-5, 3X55 minute episodes


So, I now re-embark on the next few episodes of Game of Thrones. But with the honeymoon period over, could it sustain the high quality it had? Let’s find out…

At the Wall, Jon Snow begins to truly realise that he may not be able to get what he desires, and his attempts to help others may only make things worse. Ned Stark arrives at King’s Landing to find that Robert has spent money carelessly, and the crown is deep in debt, a debt that seems set to worsen as a tournament in his honour is held. A deepening rift occurs between Ned and his oldest daughter, with Sansa becoming more obsessed with grooming herself to catch Joffrey’s favour, while Arya begins to take swordfighting lessons. Catelyn intends to warn her husband about what happened to Bran, only for husband and wife to receive notification from Catelyn’s old friend, the smug Master of Coin Petyr Baelish, who directs Catelyn to a suspect. As Catelyn acts precipitously, Daenerys begins to realise she has more power than her brother…and her brother is far from pleased…

Okay, the storyline is still pretty damned good, with some nice little moments and scenes that weren’t in the books that help humanise the characters more. But by the same token, there are some elements, like how Jon and Sansa’s discontent with their circumstances, that could have been handled better, when instead, they come off as bratty at times, even if they are vital parts of their development. Some elements seem a little gratuitous to me (some sex and a bit of the violence: it’s no wonder the term ‘sexposition’ was coined for this show), but others do fit in.

There’s a lot of good characters here. Of the already introduced ones, Sophie Turner does her best with a frankly bratty Sansa, and Maisie Williams as Arya is a delight, while Emilia Clarke is clearly coming into her own as Dany. Sean Bean dominates as Ned Stark, as does Peter Dinklage as the cynical Tyrion, and there’s a lovely moment between Lena Headey’s Cersei and Mark Addy’s Robert that helps humanise them, rather tragically when you know what’s coming. Of the newcomers, Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger and Conleth Hall as Varys, along with Julian Glover as the seemingly doddery Pycelle are wonderful.

Production-wise, well, we’re really starting to get into the cinematic stuff now. It’s amazing what they manage to do on a budget for a TV series. Some CGI does end up being a bit conspicuous, but it still works out, and each location in the series has a distinctive flavour due to the designers.

Overall, while not as great as the initial episodes, these episodes of Game of Thrones do manage to keep a high standard for the series. Time will tell whether it stays that way…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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#78
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Episode 11: A Visitor Approaches Lightly, Episode 12: The Final Choice, and Episode 13: Time of Departure by Kinoku Nasu, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSNUBW12-14, 1X45 minute and 2X25 minute episodes


After a bit of a hiatus, I’ve come back to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. Having reached the mid-point of the series, I hoped I would enjoy the events within. Time would tell…

After the battle with Kuzuki and Caster, Shirou is still feeling the after-effects of using Projection magic. His attitude to magecraft intrigues and frustrates Rin, who decides to take him and Saber on an outing. Caster, however, makes her move in a fashion that exposes how deeply scarred Shirou is. Soon, Shirou may be forced to stay out of the Holy Grail War…but Rin is about to face a betrayal from an unexpected quarter…

This part of the story has a number of unexpected twists and turns. It starts off with some further development of the relationship between Rin and Shirou, though it seems to be one step forward and two steps back for a good chunk of it. There’s some lovely moments, though I do think there is a bit of a bum note at one point.

I think part of the problem is the characters. Rin’s rejection of Shirou at the end of Episode 12 and her implied death threat seemed to contrast with her concerned behaviour earlier a little too much, though that admittedly was partly due to Shirou’s warped psyche, another slight but noticeable sticking point. Nonetheless, the cast do well, especially Mela Lee and Bryce Papenbrook as Rin and Shirou, along with Kari Wahlgren as Saber, Kaiji Tang as Archer, and especially Megan Hollingshead as Caster.

The production values, as expected, are stellar for this. It may have been because of the rainy and smoky environs, but I did think that the fight that ended with Caster gaining control of Saber looked a bit drab and dreary in comparison to previous Ufotable animated fights. Still, the rest is pretty impressive, and up to snuff.

Overall, while not perfect, the next few episodes of this adaptation of Fate/Stay Night was enjoyable. I look forward to the next episodes in the series…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
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#79
REVIEW: Game of Thrones: Episode 6: A Golden Crown and Episode 7: You Win or You Die by David Benioff and DB Weiss, and Jane Espenson, from the novel by George RR Martin

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: GOT1.6-7, 2X55 minute episodes


So, here I am, continuing with Game of Thrones, watching two of the key episodes of the series. But would it maintain the high standards set so far? Let’s find out…

In the fallout of his confrontation with Jaime Lannister, Ned is ordered by King Robert to stay as his Hand, despite both Ned’s and Cersei’s protests. However, his delving into further intrigues leads him to make a shocking discovery about Joffrey’s parentage: that he and his siblings are the product of incest between Jaime and Cersei. Tyrion hits upon a strategy to save himself from his predicament at the deranged hands of Lysa Arryn, while Lannister forces attack the Riverlands in retaliation for Catelyn’s kidnapping of Tyrion. Meanwhile, Jon receives some shocks, and Dany gains the love of the Dothraki, but has lost that of her brother, with devastating consequences…

So, we finally get to the meat of the story, with a number of really excellent twists. True, there are some rather gratuitous scenes (like that where Petyr Baelish discusses his philosophies while tutoring a couple of prostitutes, one of the most infamous early examples of what later got called ‘sexposition’), and there’s a few other hiccups. But overall, it manages to stay of good quality.

I’ve already praised a lot of the various actors and characters. True, Sophie Turner’s Sansa is still very unlikeable at this stage (and will be for some time), but there’s plenty of others to praise. Certainly Sean Bean as Ned and Lena Headey as Cersei do well in a key scene in the second of these episodes, as does Peter Dinklage as Tyrion as he fights to keep himself alive. And Harry Lloyd as Viserys manages to give his character some small humanity in his last scenes, while Emilia Clarke is showing Dany coming into her own.

Production-wise, it’s as good as usual, making things look cinematic on a TV budget. True, there are a few dodgy elements. The CGI molten gold at the end of Episode 6, for example, looks a touch fake. But these are fairly minor quibbles.

Overall, while not perfect, these two key episodes of Game of Thrones were damned good.


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,424
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#80
REVIEW: Westworld: Episode 2: Chestnut by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: WW1.2, 1X60 minute episode


I’m actually a little irritated that it took until now for me to get back to Westworld. I had enjoyed the first episode so much, and yet, I didn’t go for the next one. Still, better late than never, now that I actually have watched it…

The consequences of Ford’s mysterious updates are still being felt, with Dolores haunted by hallucinations, while Maeve, on the verge of being decommissioned due to lack of popularity, is suffering flashbacks to a past she never knew she had. Meanwhile, William, a guest new to Westworld, has been dragged to the place by his hedonistic and vicious colleague and future brother-in-law, Logan, to experience the park’s dubious delights. And while the Head of Programming Bernard engages in an affair with Operations Leader Theresa Cullen, the Narrative Director Lee Sizemore begins work on a new storyline for the park, one bloodier and more grotesque than before…

Okay, now that the honeymoon period is over, the real nitty-gritty of the story can begin. I admit, I went into this knowing one of the twists in the series, and while it does help me understand what’s going on, it does feel like they are trying a touch too hard to obfuscate certain elements, and the affair between Bernard and Theresa seems a little…I dunno, out of place? But these are mere minor quibbles in an excellent story, with deeper themes gradually appearing, and a rather scathing speech by Dr Ford at the end of the episode that seems to be poking fun at HBO’s frequently sex-and-violence-filled fare.

While Evan Rachel Wood continues to do well as Dolores, of the Hosts, it is Maeve, surprisingly, who gets some development. Thandie Newton has to be commended for managing to do some very difficult scenes, including a nightmarish sequence where Maeve wakes up while being repaired towards the end of the episode, shortly after suffering from a different nightmare. There’s of course the enjoyable performances of veteran actors like Anthony Hopkins as Ford and Ed Harris as the Man in Black, as well as Jeffrey Wright as Bernard.

Production values are, if not flawless, then pretty close to it. The contrast between the actual production areas of Westworld and the park proper is a good one, and it helps make the aforementioned sequence involving Maeve very nightmarish. And, of course, there is Ramin Djawadi’s music that adds more to the whole thing.

Overall, while not perfect, this episode of Westworld was very enjoyable, if somewhat dark. Then again, what else would you expect from an HBO series?


****½
 

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