The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
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REVIEW: Batman: Under the Red Hood by Judd Wunick.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 75 mins


Although the character was controversial and hated, the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, was a shocking one that remained in place for a long time in DC comics canon. Still, he returned to life in an arc almost as famous as the one that killed him. But how would the adaptation of said arc go?

Five years ago, during a mission in Bosnia, Jason Todd is murdered by the Joker, his mentor, Batman, mourning him. Now, a mysterious hoodlum has taken up the mantle of the Red Hood, an identity once used by the Joker. As the new Red Hood takes control of criminals on the streets and threatens the operations of Black Mask, Batman must unravel the identity of this killer with familiar moves and who knows his identity. But when he learns the truth, that Red Hood is Jason Todd reborn, Batman will be forced into a deadly confrontation of not only his former protégé, but his own mistakes and morals…

The story is perhaps the weakest part of it. True, it’s quite well-done, very tightly adapted with little left to waste, but this also has it feeling somewhat lacking, and Black Mask seems to turn to the Joker for help too easily. Still, it’s a fairly dark and mature work with the right emotional beats and some great dialogue.

The cast is stellar. While Bruce Greenwood is an excellent Batman, as is Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, it is Jensen Ackles, best known for playing Dean Winchester in Supernatural, who shines as the Red Hood. He has the right mix of cockiness, rage and sorrow for such a role. John DiMaggio is a surprisingly excellent take on the Joker too, showing a more thuggish and powerful side to the infamous villain.

The production values are pretty stellar too. The CGI effects are used well for certain sequences, not quite seamlessly, but done well, and the fight scenes have a lot of energy. The film is suitably moody, for being a dark Batman film.

Overall, while not perfect, Under the Red Hood is a damn good example of a Batman animated film. Dark, moody, but in just the right way…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
2,950
REVIEW: Harley Quinn Episode 8: LODRSVP, Episode 9: A Seat at the Table, and Episode 10: Bensonhurst by Tom Hyndman, Jordan Weiss, and Laura Moran

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: HQ1.8-1.10, 3X25 minute episodes


So, here I am with the next lot of episodes of Harley Quinn. The series takes a somewhat darker turn in these episodes, but how well will that go? Let’s find out…

The Legion of Doom finally invite Harley to them, with her potentially being asked to join their ranks contingent on a vote…but Lex Luthor confides in Poison Ivy that she has to join them too, or Harley won’t get her dream. But when Ivy’s cautionary words are blown away by Luthor accepting Harley in regardless, it opens up a rift between the two friends, and the Joker conspires to make it worse. Friendless, Harley goes back to where it all began in her family home at Bensonhurst, but while assassins lurk in the shadows, Ivy soon needs help from her estranged friend…

Once more, the series shows a mostly excellent blend of dark comedy and DC fanservice. True, the increasing pathos in the series could have been handled a bit better, with some of the drama coming off as a touch contrived, and there’s also some of the cringier elements still present. But overall, these were enjoyable episodes.

Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell are excellent as Harley and Ivy respectively, giving some meat to their troubled relationship, and making it all the more heartbreaking when things go badly wrong. The rest of the crew do well, especially in the scene where the crew leaves Harley. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito oozes suave Machiavellian menace as Lex Luthor.

The production values are, as before, pretty good. Indeed, for some of the more emotional scenes, we have more than a few bits of good cinematography to heighten the emotion of the scenes. Not as superlative as some anime stuff, but still, there’s some atmospheric moments.

Overall, this was a good lot of episodes. Here’s hoping that the season finale is as good, if not even better…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
2,950
REVIEW: Dune: Part One by Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth, based on the book by Frank Herbert.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 155 mins


Despite some controversies around the franchise, Dune remains one of my all-time favourite books. Yet despite this, I felt dissatisfaction for both sets of adaptations so far. David Lynch’s film, while visually striking, royally sodomised the story, while the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, while keeping much of the story, had some rather blatant signs of a low budget. But would this film adaptation bring about the best of both worlds?

Millennia into the future, galactic society is in a feudal system, and interstellar travel is dependent on the Spice, a psychoactive drug that is found only on a single planet: the arid Arrakis, more commonly known as Dune. Until recently, the planet was exploited by the ruthless Harkonnens, but the Emperor of the known universe has put the honourable Atreides in charge instead. But it is really a trap, and Duke Leto Atreides knows it. His son, Paul, trained in mysterious techniques by his mother, Leto’s Bene Gesserit concubine Jessica, is plagued by prescient dreams, and fears he is not up to the task of succeeding his father. But he must soon, for Arrakis is a world of death, and between the Harkonnens, the hazards of the desert, and the Fremen, torn between pragmatism and prophecy, the Atreides will be hard-pressed to survive…

If there is a weak point to this adaptation, it is the story. Even the pragmatic decision to only adapt the first half of the book only does so much, and many elements, like foreshadowing the traitor’s reason for selling out the Atreides, as well as the political machinations of the Landsraad, fall by the wayside. Plus, there’s some pacing problems, with the fall of the Atreides happening a little over halfway into the film, and I honestly feel that in many regards, the screenplay of the miniseries was superior. Yet these are relatively minor quibbles: the story is actually a damned good adaptation that manages to retain the feeling of the book, while being practical and pragmatic.

The cast is stellar. For all Kyle MacLachlan and Alec Newman’s talents, Timothée Chalomet is, in my mind if nothing else, the definitive screen version of Paul Atreides, helping give Paul the insecurities and weaknesses of the book version. Oscar Isaac is great as Leto, and Stellan Skarsgard gives a surprisingly understated performance as Baron Harkonnen. Of the remainder of the cast, particular standouts are Jason Momoa having the time of his life as Duncan Idaho, and Sharon Duncan-Brewster, as a genderflipped version of the conflicted Liet-Kynes.

Production values are, well, absolutely brilliant. The style of this movie manages to be both distinct from the David Lynch film and the miniseries, while showcasing the epic scale of the story. And we even have distinct differences between the various cultures that feel surprisingly natural at times. In other words, this part of the film is easily the best.

Overall, Dune: Part One was a great adaptation of a great book. Disappointing in some areas, true, but I fear that is due to my own expectations…

****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
2,950
REVIEW: Harley Quinn Episode 11: Harley Quinn Highway, Episode 12: Devil’s Snare, and Episode 13: The Final Joke by Adam Stein, Jane Becker, and Tom Hyndman

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: HQ1.11-1.13, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, at long last, with the final episodes of Harley Quinn’s first season. But how well would these episodes do? Let’s find out…

Poison Ivy needs help, entrapped in the lair of the Scarecrow. Harley is the only one who can save her, despite their estrangement, and even if she can persuade her former crew to help with the rescue, the odds are grim. Ivy’s inner demons, Scarecrow’s plans with her pheromones, and a coalition between three of Gotham’s worst supervillains stand against them. Can Harley and her crew prevail? And will Harley be able to regain their trust and friendship, as well as that with Ivy?

As before, the episodes are quite excellent, but there are times when they are full of cringe. Still, the insight into Ivy’s psyche and childhood are intriguing, and we get some great humour. True, the series ends on something of a cliffhanger, but in a good way.

As usual, Kaley Cuoco is brilliant as Harley, as well as Lake Bell as Poison Ivy. Indeed, they get more than a few juicy emotional scenes, including their attempts to reconcile, as well as Ivy’s apparent demise at the end of the second episode. The rest of the cast do well, with one highlight for me being Alan Tudyk being at his most vile as the Joker, and Wanda Sykes playing the vicious Queen of Fables.

The production values are still pretty damn good. Pride of place goes to the eleventh episode, with Ivy’s nightmare-riddled mind and the chase on the titular highway being the highlights. And that’s without going into the climax of the final episode.

Overall, while nowhere near perfect, these final episodes of this series of Harley Quinn were excellent. And now, I’ll be waiting very impatiently for the next season to come out…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 1: The Shield Hero, Episode 2: The Slave Girl, Episode 3: Wave of Catastrophe and Episode 4: Lullaby at Dawn by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi


TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH1-4, 1X45 minute and 3X25 minute episodes

Having read the first four light novel volumes of The Rising of the Shield Hero, I was going to come to watch the anime adaptation sooner or later. But the anime was controversial partly due to its debut occurring during the peak of the MeToo movement, given that the main character is falsely accused of similar crimes. But on its own merits, would this isekai series hold up?

Naofumi Iwatani is an average otaku living an average life in Japan, but he is suddenly sent to a fantasy world by an enchanted book, along with three other Japanese, ending up in the land of Melromarc. The quartet have been chosen to become the Cardinal Heroes, each blessed with a sacred weapon, though Naofumi seems to have gotten the short straw when he only has the Holy Shield. And soon, his existence takes a turn for the worse when his chosen companion, Myne Sophia, falsely accuses him of raping her. Ostracised by the very people he is supposed to protect, as well as his fellow Cardinal Heroes, Naofumi is forced to use a demihuman slave, Raphtalia, as an ally. But can Naofumi trust anyone ever again? And is it worth fighting for a world that despises him?

While there is much in the first episode that is on the nose post-MeToo, the plot itself is actually a good subversion of the usual isekai fare. It’s a fairly faithful rendition of the original work, too, and while it gets more than a little too dark and angsty, and has a few disturbing implications, it never loses its enjoyable nature, especially towards the end when Naofumi begins to realise he has at least one ally in this world, and maybe more. I do think some bits could have been done without or explained better, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The cast for the dub is well-chosen, with Billy Kametz stellar as the initially easy-going but later brutally cynical and mercenary Naofumi, bringing forth both his harshness (which admittedly gets overly much, even with his situation) and humanity. Erica Mendez also brings forth Raphtalia’s own transformation from timid child to confident and loyal young woman. Faye Mata also shines as Myne, aka Princess Malty, bringing across her seemingly sincerely good nature, before getting her teeth into the villainy, and despite Faye Mata not being a fan of this character, she does it well.

Kinema Citrus does an excellent job in bringing the light novels to life. While the animation in general and battle scenes in particular are worthy of praise, another point is the look of the Waves of Catastrophe. The eerie CGI, looking like an oil spill in a crimson sky, actually makes the Waves look menacing and eldritch.

Overall, this was a good, if controversial, adaptation of a good book series. I’m looking forward to more…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
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REVIEW: Batman- The Long Halloween: Part One, by Tim Sheridan, based on the comics by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 85 mins


The Long Halloween is considered one of the most seminal stories in the Batman franchise. Often considered for adaptation for the big screen, an animated adaptation was finally produced last year. But how would the first part stack up?

It is the early days of Batman’s time as a vigilante, having an uneasy but firm alliance with Captain James Gordon of the GCPD, and newly-elected DA Harvey Dent. Their crusade to take down the Falcone crime family has recently hit a bump, when an informant is murdered on Halloween. More members of the Falcone crime family are killed on holidays, and Dent and his wife are targeted by the Falcones. As their personal lives become strained, this triad must find out who is the Holiday Killer…even if it is one of their own…

The Long Halloween is one of the best storylines of Batman for a reason, so there’s always a danger to either adapting it verbatim or taking liberties. This adaptation tries for a middle ground between the two, and while successful more often than not, there are some elements in the adaptation that don’t sit well with me. Nothing major, for the most part, it’s still the brilliant story I enjoyed, and streamlined and tidied up quite well, but some parts, like Selina deducing Batman’s identity (and in earshot of Albert Falcone) at the climax, don’t quite do it for me.

Jensen Ackles is understated but good as Batman, with Josh Duhamel as Harvey and Billy Burke as Gordon rounding out the trio of heroes. Naya Rivera works fairly well as Catwoman, while Titus Welliver gives Carmine Falcone a chillingly normal performance that only works to underscore his menace. David Dastmalchian is chilling as Julian Day, while Troy Baker is scarily like Mark Hamill as the Joker.

The animation style admittedly takes more than a little getting used to, but it suits the noir nature of the story. The action scenes are well-animated, and Gotham is portrayed with seemingly anachronistic hybrids of Depression-era styles and modern technology that is reminiscent of the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films that actually hits the right spot. And the pacing works quite well, even if one or two action scenes feel a bit gratuitous.

Overall, the first part of The Long Halloween was enjoyable. Not perfect, but certainly a good example of how to do an animated Batman film…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 5: Filo, Episode 6: A New Comrade, Episode 7: The Savior of the Heavenly Fowl and Episode 8: Curse Shield by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH5-8, 4X25 minute episodes

So, it’s past time that I returned to The Rising of the Shield Hero’s anime adaptation. But how well would that turn out? Let’s find out…

Naofumi Iwatani has few allies in the world he has been summoned to, and he needs more. On the recommendation of the slave trader Beloukas, he purchases a Filolial egg, one which hatches into a Filolial. But as useful as the bird is in thwarting the latest of Malty’s schemes, it is to Naofumi and Raphtalia’s shock that Filo shows an ability to transform into a human girl. As Naofumi travels the land, his reputation begins to change for the better, especially as he cleans up after the other Sacred Heroes’ messes. But an encounter with a zombified dragon will cause Naofumi to unleash a dangerous power he has little control over…

These episodes adapt the second volume, which had less actual plot to it, which is somewhat to its detriment. This isn’t to say they’re bad episodes, as they not only show Naofumi’s reputation being rehabilitated, but the idiocy of the other Heroes, as well as Naofumi bonding further with Raphtalia and Filo. They just lack a certain firmness of plot.

The characters are the highlight, though, with Billy Kametz as Naofumi and Erica Mendez as Raphtalia doing quite well in their roles. A particular highlight for Kametz is when Naofumi unlocks the Rage Shield, showing both chilling anger and desperate remorse. They are also joined by Brianna Knickerbocker as Filo, and while the character does get annoying at times, Knickerbocker plays her role pretty well herself.

The production values are, for the most part, good. There are, admittedly, a few parts where Filo’s Queen Filolial form looks noticeably off-model, but otherwise, the majority of it is good. A highlight from both an animation and sound design viewpoint is when Naofumi unlocks the Rage Shield, with Naofumi’s voice given a crackly, radio-static effect that could have sounded cheap, but sounds chilling instead.

Overall, these episodes were a good continuation of this series. Here’s hoping the next ones continue this…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,377
2,950
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Macra Terror, Reanimated by Ian Stuart Black

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial JJ, 4X25 minute episodes


Not so long ago, the BBC began animating otherwise missing episodes of Doctor Who. While doing so for video has been around since the DVDs started coming out, these animations were mostly of one or two episodes missing from an otherwise mostly-complete story. But now, entire missing or mostly-missing stories are being animated and released. One of the earlier ones was one of Patrick Troughton’s first stories as the Doctor, The Macra Terror. But how well would this reconstruction go down?

An experimental use of the Time Scanner to see into the future leaves the Doctor and his companions disturbed. But they find no monstrosities with giant claws at their next destination, but Medok, a fugitive from an otherwise peaceful and idyllic colony. The Doctor and his companions are welcome, but the Doctor soon realises, with Medok’s help, that there’s something nasty beneath the veneer of the colony. As Ben succumbs to brainwashing, turning on his friends, and the mysterious Controller watching over all, the Doctor, Polly and Jamie will soon learn that the colony have been infiltrated by the vile Macra…

The story isn’t much to write home about. True, it’s a somewhat interesting one, with some very blatant nods to Nineteen Eighty-Four that have become even more relevant today, and it does retain the interest of the viewer. But many elements are more than a little cheesy by even the standards of the Troughton era of the series, and I am rather annoyed that one of the more entertaining scenes from the original story was removed from the first episode.

Patrick Troughton is a delight as the Doctor, as always, and Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, and Michael Craze are good as Jamie, Polly and Ben, the latter showing a slide into indoctrination that sets up conflict. The rest of the cast isn’t quite so good, with Terence Lodge as Medok being just a touch too OTT, even for a supposed madman, and Peter Jeffrey as the Pilot being somewhat bland. Better is the menacing Ola, as played by Gertan Klaube, and Denis Goacher as the Macra-controlled voice of the Controller descends wonderfully from calm assuredness to hysterical paranoia.

One part I feel extremely ambivalent about are the production values, particularly the animation. On the one hand, I am glad that they didn’t adhere slavishly to what little existed of the source material, at least where the action and the Macra were concerned. But the cheap animation and the desire to basically enhance the action well beyond what was on the screen in the 60s left me feeling both intrigued and annoyed. I wish they had adhered to the telesnaps more in some regards, and the Macra are too-well animated in comparison to the rest of the production, let alone their counterparts in the original TV show. Plus, Dudley Simpson’s music tends to be more comical and dissonant than truly sinister at times.

Overall, this reanimation of The Macra Terror is a decent enough one, but too many changes in the animation hobble what was already a somewhat average, if intriguing, story…


***
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 9: Melty, Episode 10: In the Midst of Turmoil, Episode 11: Catastrophe Returns, Episode 12: The Raven Invader and Episode 13: The Devil of the Shield by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH9-13, 5X25 minute episodes

So, here I am again with The Rising of the Shield Hero. But how would the next episodes turn out, those leading to the halfway point of the series? Let’s find out…

Just before leaving for the capital of Melromarc to find a means to treat Raphtalia’s cursed wounds, Naofumi and his party come across Melty, a girl of noble birth with a fascination for Filolials, allowing her to bond with Filo. But when Naofumi realises that she is Malty’s younger sister and the Crown Princess of Melromarc, he refuses to have any more dealings with her. But the next Wave of Catastrophe is nearly upon Melromarc, and with it comes a new nemesis, an enigmatic woman known as Glass. Even if Naofumi survives, there’s already a conspiracy lurking in the shadows, backed not only by Malty, but by the Three Heroes Church, intending to damn him forever in the public eye…

This set of episodes has perhaps one of the better plotlines, coming as it does from one of the better-plotted novels. Indeed, it even adds a few new scenes not originally in the novels to try and add more to the characters, with one welcome scene being that of Melty confronting her father and showing his love for her, something that wasn’t in the original novels. And of course, we get not only the plot threads about the threat of Glass, but the Three Heroes Church coming to the forefront as a threat. It doesn’t quite reach a somewhat perfect level, but it’s still good.

Billy Kametz and Erica Mendez do well as both Naofumi and Raphtalia, with Brianna Knickerbocker adding her talents as Filo. They are certainly run through the emotional wringer this time. I do think Jackie Lastra’s voice is a bit too deep to play Melty, but that aside, her talents bring the at-turns mature and immature princess to life. So too does Morgan Berry as the enigmatic Glass.

Production values-wise, this show still manages to do very well, despite some hiccups in the animation of Filo in prior episodes. The Wave once more proves to be the best set-piece of the series, with the animation really hitting home how hostile this phenomenon is, and the fight scenes do pretty well too. These five episodes seem to really be more polished than the last lot.

Overall, while not perfect, these episodes of The Rising of the Shield Hero were pretty damned good. I look forward to the rest of the series…


****½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks, Reanimated by David Whitaker

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial LL, 7X25 minute episodes

The Evil of the Daleks was a milestone serial in Doctor Who for many reasons. It was the last, and many consider the best, Dalek story of the 60s, and the last story of Patrick Troughton’s debut season as the Doctor. It was the first story to feature Victoria Waterfield, who would go on to become one of the more popular companions of the Second Doctor. But with only the second episode available in the archives, this story was animated to be ‘complete’ once more. But would this gargantuan epic collapse under its own weight? Or would it live up to the legend?

The TARDIS is stolen, and the Doctor and Jamie track it down to the dubious antiques dealer Edward Waterfield, who turns out to be a time traveller. Abducted to Victorian times, the Doctor learns from Waterfield and his compatriot Theodore Maxtible that they had been ordered to bring him here by the Daleks. The Daleks, holding the TARDIS and Waterfield’s daughter Victoria hostage, force the Doctor to run Jamie through a test to derive the Human Factor, something that will make them more powerful than ever. But as the experiment goes through, Jamie, in trying to rescue Victoria, begins to lose faith in the Doctor, believing him to be a collaborator with the Daleks. The Doctor, meanwhile, believes that the Human Factor could be used against them…but even his suspicions about their true plan may not be enough…

Seven half-hour episodes is already a pretty lengthy proposition for a Doctor Who story to sit through. And yet, through the expertise of veteran write David Whitaker, the story turns out to be an excellent one. We have a deeper exploration of the mores of the Doctor, showing him in a manipulative light long before his seventh incarnation, and even loyal Jamie finds his bond tested. There’s also the shocking scene of a trio of Daleks acting like children, and of course, there’s the chilling introduction of the Emperor and his reveal of the true plan. True, some bits are badly dated, especially the character of Kemel, but that’s very much of the time the story was made.

The cast is particularly stellar in this, with Patrick Troughton on fine form as the Doctor, while Frazer Hines as Jamie gets some meaty moments, including a scene where he calls out the Doctor on what he thinks is callousness. Deborah Watling does fairly well in her debut as Victoria, as does John Bailey as her increasingly distraught father, and Marius Goring as the treacherous Maxtible. Even Peter Hawkins gets to mix things up as voice of the Daleks, portraying not only the rank and file Daleks, but also the humanised ones with childish aplomb, and the Emperor with sinister bombast.

Although the animation is fairly cheap and takes liberties with the source material, it feels better than before. I’ve noticed an attempt to stay more true to the remaining visual material in the form of the telesnaps, and there’s some surprising highlights. In addition, despite the rather chintzy efforts for The Macra Terror, Dudley Simpson’s work is better in this story, including a rather chilling theme for the Daleks that takes unexpected cues from the theme music of the series.

Overall, The Evil of the Daleks deserves its place as a classic of the series. Although somewhat long by modern standards, and shamefully missing from the archives, this recreation manages to capture something of the impact of this superlative story…

*****
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 14: Everlasting Memory, Episode 15: Raphtalia, Episode 16: Filolial Queen, and Episode 17: A Promise Made by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH14-17, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, continuing with the anime adaptation of The Rising of the Shield Hero, with the second season due to be released soon. But how will this lot of episodes do? Let’s find out…

On the run with Princess Melty, Naofumi and his allies must find a place to take refuge. But even the residence of the friendly Lord Reichnott is no refuge, for a vicious rival lord, Idol Rabier, kidnaps him and Melty. Raphtalia knows Rabier and his sadism all too well, having once been his slave. But Rabier’s last spiteful act unleashes a beast that is slain by another Filolial Queen like Filo. But Fitoria, the legendary Queen of All Filolials, has an ultimatum for Naofumi: he and his fellow heroes have to work together, regardless of any mitigating factors, or she will be forced to kill them…

This is one of the better parts of the series, and for the most part, it’s adapted quite well. We have some rather sad moments with Raphtalia recalling her past, and despairing over the body of her friend Rifana. The main problem, I feel, is that they changed what happened from the novel, where Raphtalia actually does cut Rabier down, instead of Naofumi talking her down briefly. It doesn’t quite feel right.

Billy Kametz is good, as usual, as Naofumi, but it is Erica Mendez in particular who gets to shine as Raphtalia. She goes through the wringer, portraying Raphtalia at different stages of her life, as well as the depth of her emotions as she goes through rage and despair. I don’t really like Fitoria that much here, but to do her credit, Cristina Vee does well, and I actually find her performance superior to that of the original Japanese actress, Sakura Tange, giving Fitoria more of a veneer of maturity than Tange.

The production values are, as before, on par, with some great action set pieces. One of the highlights is the dinosaur-like dragon monster pursuing Naofumi and his allies, only to be confronted by Fitoria and her underlings. There’s some nice emotional moments too that work well with the cinematography.

Overall, these episodes of The Rising of the Shield Hero go from strength to strength. Let’s hope this trend continues…


****½
 

Quatermass

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Dec 7, 2010
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REVIEW: The Batman, by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 175 mins

When I heard about The Batman, I had to wonder if we needed yet another reboot of the Caped Crusader. Still, I thought I would give it a go, go in with as open a mind as possible, and see how good it was. But was it any good?

Bruce Wayne has been waging a campaign against Gotham City’s criminals for two years now as his alter ego the Batman. Save for Lieutenant James Gordon, the police treat him with suspicion, and criminals treat him with fear. His crusade is in danger of consuming him, and then, a mysterious killer called the Riddler begins leaving messages for him, claiming to clean Gotham of corruption. But the corruption runs deep, and between this brutal serial killer, the criminal gangs, and his own obsession, Bruce may not survive this…

The story is quite an excellent one, but I do have two very specific complaints about it. The first is its running time: I feel that it could easily have been about half an hour shorter with some nipping and tucking here and there, without compromising the story. Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn’t feel like a Batman film. It feels like someone took the plot of one or two crime thriller films, put the names of DC characters into it, and put it out under the Batman name.

This isn’t to say the characters are bad. Robert Pattinson makes a surprisingly excellent Batman and Bruce Wayne, going through a proper character arc as he realises how much his crusade hurt Gotham, both in inspiring the Riddler and allowing the corrupt to take advantage of his father’s funds. Andy Serkis as Alfred is woefully underused, while Jeffrey Wright is brilliant as Gordon. The rest of the cast is also brilliant, like Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, Colin Farrel as Cobblepot, and Paul Dano as the Riddler, but they also don’t feel enough like their comic book counterparts.

Despite my issues with the running time, much of the rest of the film is pretty good. The look of Gotham is a suitable mix of grungy and proud, and the music is also pretty enjoyable. Plus, the action and drama scenes are handled both pretty well, and Batman’s costume was a refreshing change in style compared to previous iterations.

Overall, this film could have been better, felt more like a Batman film. But in the end, it was still a damn good film.


****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 4: In the Kingdom of the Dwarves, Episode 5: Hero King, Gazel Dwargo, Episode 6: Shizu, Episode 7: Conqueror of Flames and Episode 8: Inherited Will by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS1.4-1.8, 5X25 minute episodes

Having started reading the novels of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, I thought it was well past time I started watching the anime again. But how well would this block of episodes that covers the remainder of the first novel do? Let’s find out…

Rimuru may have founded his settlement, but he needs skilled artisans and the like to bring it up to snuff. But a sojourn to the Dwarven kingdom of Dwargon proves to be a bittersweet experience for the reincarnated Japanese turned slime. And more trouble is to come, for a group of adventurers sent to investigate Rimuru’s settlement includes Shizu, a famed adventurer who, like Rimuru, was once a Japanese. Saved from the firebombings of the Second World War by the Demon Lord Leon Cromwell, and forced to act as the prison for the malevolent spirit Ifrit, Shizu is a danger to others, no matter what her feelings on the matter are, and Rimuru’s settlement may be consumed in Ifrit’s flames…

Given that the first volume of the light novels concentrated on worldbuilding, there isn’t that much plot here, just Rimuru feeling his way through the new world after establishing himself there. Plus, I felt the interlude in Dwargon in particular was tedious and irritating. That being said, the parts focused on Shizu were considerably better, with Shizu discussing her life and traumas and regrets hitting all the right notes emotionally, climaxing with Rimuru giving her a peaceful end and gaining a copy of her body in the process.

Brittney Karbowski is great as Rimuru, giving him an impish and perverted air when needed, but also a gentle and compassionate one at other times, and it actually does suit Rimuru’s later human form. While Bruce DeBose and Randy E Aguebor are impressive as Kaijin and Gazel respectively, the true plaudits of this lot should go to Dawn M Bennet as Shizu. She really makes you feel for this stranded woman who is haunted by her cursed existence, and goes a long way to make you sympathise with her.

The production values are, on the whole, pretty good. While this seems like a standard fantasy world in some ways, in others, particularly with the Dwarves of this series, it does have some innovation. The animation does work for the most part, but I did wish that the fight between Rimuru and Ifrit was a little more exciting, though the animation of Shizu’s past was spot on.

Overall, these episodes were quite enjoyable. I can’t wait to watch more of this series…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 18: A Conspiracy Linked, Episode 19: The Four Cardinal Heroes, Episode 20: Battle of Good and Evil, and Episode 21: Naofumi’s Triumphant Return by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH18-21, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, once more watching a bunch of episodes of The Rising of the Shield Hero. But how would these episodes, that bring to a close the first major story arc, turn out? Let’s find out…

Ordered by Fitoria to try and get the other Cardinal Heroes to see reason, Naofumi is dropped off near one. Unfortunately, it’s the one least likely to listen: Motoyasu, who believes Naofumi responsible for the demises of Itsuki and Ren. But an ambush by the Three Heroes Church proves the real culprits, with Pope Balmus determined to launch a coup d’etat, even if it means betraying his erstwhile ally, the treacherous Princess Malty. Can Naofumi swallow his pride and work with those who have hounded him to stop an even greater foe?

I feel somewhat ambivalent about these episodes. I certainly feel that the battles against Motoyasu and Balmus could have been trimmed down to fit two episodes rather than three, and I also feel that some elements changed too much with the trial, with Naofumi showing what could be seen as unwarranted mercy to those who did him too much wrong to forgive. Still, the catharsis of seeing not only Balmus but Malty and the King get their well-deserved comeuppances is still present, and the psychodrama of Naofumi nearly succumbing to the Shield of Wrath and being pulled out of it by his allies was good.

Billy Kametz as Naofumi and Erica Mendez as Raphtalia go from strength to strength, as does Faye Mata as the delightfully repugnant Malty and Xander Mobus as the obnoxious Motoyasu. Christopher Smith is clearly having the time of his life, chewing the scenery as Pope Balmus, even if his voice doesn’t quite match the Pope’s usually serene expression. And Katelyn Gaunt does well in her first more substantial scenes as Mirelia.

Animation-wise, there’s much to commend it. True, I feel some of the action scenes could have been a little better, but otherwise, they work out. The CGI used for the Cathedral spell is particularly beautiful and yet sinister, giving a much-needed unearthly air.

Overall, these episodes of The Rising of the Shield Hero closed out the main story arc of this season. The last four episodes would be something of a coda, but that’s fine…

****
 

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REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 9: Attack of the Ogres, Episode 10: The Orc Lord, and Episode 11: Gabiru is Here! by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS1.9-1.1, 3X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, once again watching That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. This isekai series is charming, but would the next episodes do well? Let’s find out…

Rimuru may have gained a human form, but his trials and travails are still coming at him. A group of ogres attack him and his villagers, believing him to be the one behind the massacre of their village. But even once that is cleared up, they have a major problem: a massive Orc army is on its way, led by an Orc Lord. And the one behind that army may be the underling of a Demon Lord, like the very one that ruined Shizue’s life…

These episodes begin the Orc Lord story arc, and while some parts are better than before, others are still pretty damn cringey. I do like the introduction of the Ogre characters, even if the misunderstanding trope is a bit overused, but it feels more like laying down the groundwork for the conflict to come, even if it’s done in a good way. It just feels more like incidents than plot.

Brittney Karbowski is wonderful as Rimuru, as usual. We also get the debut of a number of actors as the various Ogres. Ricco Fajardo as Benimaru and Michelle Rojas as Shion are particular highlights. And while I can’t stand the character of Gabiru, I wasn’t expecting the more foppish and camp portrayal after reading the novel, with Austin Tindle giving it his all.

As usual, the production values are quite good. Some of them, particularly animating Rimuru’s abilities in the first episode, are pretty spectacular. Plus, there’s some sight gags I either missed from the novel, or weren’t used, like Gabiru’s sycophants using reflective shields as makeshift spotlights during his proclamations.

Overall, these episodes of this series were pretty good. I just hope they’ll improve, and not just stay the course…

****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: The Rising of the Shield Hero: Episode 22: Four Heroes Council, Episode 23: Cal Mira Archipelago, Episode 24: Guardians of Another World, and Episode 25: The Rising of the Shield Hero by Keigo Koyonagi, based on the light novels by Aneko Yusagi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: ROTSH22-25, 4X25 minute episodes

So, here I am, at long last, about to watch the last episodes of the first season of The Rising of the Shield Hero. But how well would these episodes turn out? Let’s find out…

Naofumi may have had his name cleared, but his problems are far from over. In advance of sending the Cardinal Heroes to Cal Mira Archipelago to help them get more powerful, the Queen orders them to share their power-up methods, only for them to disbelieve each other. As they head to Cal Mira, Naofumi and his party make the acquaintance of a pair of adventurers, the boisterous L’Arc Berg, and the gentle Therese. But when a Wave threatens Cal Mira, Naofumi will soon realise where L'Arc and Therese’s loyalties truly lie…and why they, and Glass, want them dead…

Although the previous episodes comprised a proper story arc, it feels like they deliberately adapted this to show how Naofumi has come to terms with his destiny, to have his character come full-circle, and this is a good thing. I’m glad they removed some of the more tedious elements of the fifth novel, abbreviating the grinding, though I feel more could have been done with Naofumi’s conflict over Glass and her allies trying to save their world. The lead-up to Rishia’s suicide attempt was also omitted, to my annoyance, as it showed Itsuki’s nastier side emerging, as well as Ren’s revelation of his aquaphobia, which makes his later behaviour puzzling.

Billy Kametz, Erica Mendez and Brianna Knickerbocker are great as usual as Naofumi, Raphtalia and Filo. Alejandro Saab does well as the boisterous L’Arc, and Erika Harlacher is good as Therese. Morgan Berry manages to get an opportunity to give Glass a little more humanity this time, compared to her previous encounter.

Production values are good, as usual. The battle against the Wave at Cal Mira and the subsequent battles are pretty enjoyable. I do think some music, like Glass’ theme, are a bit too whimsical, though, despite the soundtrack being normally superlative.

These episodes were a fine end to a fine season. I can’t wait till the second season comes out on home video…

****
 

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REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel Part III- spring song by Akira Hiyama, based on the visual novel written by Kinoku Nasu

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 120 mins

So, here I am, at last, embarking on the final instalment of the Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel trilogy. But how would this conclusion to this story go? Let’s find out…

The end is nigh. Thanks to Zouken Matou’s manipulations, Sakura Matou has snapped, embracing her inner darkness and becoming a vicious, monstrous being, one whose very existence threatens the world. In order to fight back, Shirou will sacrifice everything of himself, but will it be enough? Can Sakura be saved? And can anyone stop the vile evil that is Angra Maniyu from being born into the world?

One of the glaring weaknesses in this film is the plot, which is a crying shame. It still manages to hit the right notes emotionally, with some iconic moments being given some great coverage, and even a new sequence showing how the Grail was created in the first place. But there’s some plot holes caused by the abridging of the story that are noticeable, like how exactly Illya learns of Angra Mainyu, how she gained the Dress of Heaven, as well as how Shirou was saved in the dénouement.

The cast all do well, with Bryce Papenbrook as Shirou giving some very heartrending scenes. We also have Cristina Vee enjoying herself as Sakura, showing that there’s more to her darkened state than just plain malice. Mela Lee as Rin, Melissa Fahn as Medusa, Crispin Freeman as Kirei, and Stephanie Sheh as Illya do great, and Kari Wahlgren finally gets to show how different and yet so similar Saber Alter is to her original version.

As for production values, well, ufotable pull out all the stops here. There’s many highlights, but perhaps the best in terms of battle scenes are two, happening at more or less the same time: Rider’s clash with Saber Alter, and Rin confronting Sakura and her minions. Other scenes have some great imagery, like Shirou biting the bullet and using Archer’s arm for the first time, with great imagery of himself confronting and surpassing Archer, as well as viewing Berserker’s past as Heracles.

Overall, despite some plot holes induced by the abridging of the source material, this was a brilliant ending to the Heaven’s Feel trilogy.


****½
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by Steve Kloves, from the book by JK Rowling.

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 140 mins

A long, long time ago, I watched the first two Harry Potter films, but I never got around to watching the remainder. Part of the reason, I believe, was due to my disaffection with the fifth book in the series, and I dropped the franchise as a whole for some time. Still, it’s past time I picked up the films at least where I left off. But how would the adaptation of the third book turn out?

After an incident involving his relatives, Harry Potter leaves for Diagon Alley, only to learn that there is an infamous escaped fugitive on the loose: Sirius Black, who is the only known escapee of the wizarding prison Azkaban, and who may be targeting Harry. Kept in the dark by those in the know, affected by the demonic Dementors sent to track Sirius down, Harry has a lot on his plate this year. But what link does Sirius have to his past? Who is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, and why does he know Harry? And can Harry escape portents of death both real and imagined?

I have to admit, for all that it edits and abridges the original novel, this film did so in a way that works. True, there’s a few omissions that are a bit glaring, but overall, a masterful job was made of adapting the story and making it more cinematic and streamlined. Plus, the addition of some moments that add to the magic and humour helps make up for some of the things that were omitted.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint show that, for all their youth, the actors playing the Golden Trio are brilliant actors all the same, with Radcliffe in particular getting a powerful moment after Harry learns the ‘truth’ about Sirius’ betrayal, one that wasn’t in the original book, but is actually the better for it. While Michael Gambon loses some of the whimsy and eccentricity of the late Richard Harris’ take on Dumbledore, he loses none of the authority, and Alan Rickman as Snape manages to show a brief moment of humanity in defending his students from danger in an otherwise antagonistic performance. David Thewlis is soulful as Lupin, while Gary Oldman, while only briefly appearing as Sirius, manages to portray the man’s anguish and insanity, but also his better qualities.

Alfonso Cuaron was a newcomer to the series, but he helps bring the films a new look, one that balances the sensibilities of a children’s book series with the darkness and maturity that began with the third book. The production values are also pretty damn good, considering how divisive some of the effects in prior films (*cough*, Dobby, *cough*) have been, and there’s some interesting editing choices. It’s dark and atmospheric, and oh so right.

If there’s ever an exemplar of a Harry Potter film, it is The Prisoner of Azkaban. Some parts could have been better, but even then, those are minor grievances for an otherwise perfect work…

*****
 

Quatermass

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REVIEW: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 12: The Gears Spin Out of Control, Episode 13: The Great Clash, Episode 14: The One Who Devours All, and Episode 15: The Jura Forest Alliance by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, from the light novels by Fuse

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: TTRS1.12-1.5, 4X25 minute episodes

It’s past time I looked at more episodes of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. But how would this isekai series fare as another story arc comes to a close? Let’s find out…

Rimuru and the other people under his care have been approached by a Dryad, Treyni, who pleads with Rimuru to put an end to the Orc Lord and his army. Meanwhile, Gabiru, smarting from his humiliating defeat, is coaxed by the sinister Laplace to lead a coup against his father, believing in vain he can beat the Orc Lord. But can even Rimuru beat this powerful, rapacious beast and an army over 200 thousand strong?

The second half of the adaptation of the second novel goes along fairly well, elucidating some moments quite well. Plus, I have to admit, the scene where Rimuru takes on the sins of Geld, as he puts it, was a pretty emotional scene. It was by no means perfect, but it was pretty damn good.

Brittney Karbowski does very well as Rimuru, giving the slime a childish voice that nonetheless runs the gamut of emotions. The rest of the cast do well, with Vic Mignogna chewing the scenery as Gelmud as he throws a tantrum, while we have Austin Tindle actually managing to make Gabiru as likeable as he is annoying. Jim Foronda manages to tug at our heartstrings as much as be horrifying as Geld and his successor, and the various Kijin actors do great.

The production values are pretty good. We see quite a lot of spectacular battle scenes, and while the animation is not on a par with, say, Ufotable or Cloverworks’ work on the Nasuverse adaptations, there’s quite some unexpected spectacles here. Plus, even for the more gentle moments, it works out.

Overall, this was a fitting, if not perfect, end to this particular story arc. I can’t wait to watch more…


****½
 

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Galaxy 4, Reanimated by William Emms

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial T, 4X25 minute episodes

Of the various animated missing stories so far released, only one comes from the First Doctor’s era. Galaxy 4 is not on many fans’ wishlists of missing stories to watch, even if the finding of the third episode over a decade ago was miraculous enough. But would the animated release change my opinion, at least?

The Doctor, Steven and Vicki land on a desolate planet somewhere in Galaxy 4. They soon find that conflict has come to this world: an expedition of the Drahvins, cloned female soldiers led by the ruthless Maaga, are facing off against the Rills, hideous aliens whose robot servitors are dubbed by Vicki as the Chumblies. Maaga claims that the Rills are the enemy, and worse, the world they are stranded on will explode within 14 days. However, the truth may not be what it seems, for the Doctor will discover that the world will explode even sooner, and that the Rills are not the monsters the Drahvins claim to be…

The story is a rather simplistic one with a simplistic moral. In addition, there’s some considerable need of polish in parts. Still, the moral is still a good one, and there’s an undeniable tension as the world the story is set on creeps closer to destruction. The story itself is an enjoyable one all the same, despite its faults.

The main cast of William Hartnell, Maureen O’Brien, and Peter Purves do well enough as the Doctor, Vicki and Steven, even if they do have a point that the characters are a little out of character in some regards. Stephanie Bidmead is good as the vicious Maaga, though not stellar, while I expected something a little more alien than Robert Cartland’s performance as the Rill’s voices, though their character is at least decent.

Production-values wise, well, the animators, unlike with The Macra Terror, only do so much to enhance the story. True, they include some little sequences that weren’t intended, to say nothing of certain sets and effects that wouldn’t be possible on the budget of the time. And the animation is clearly cheap and basic. And yet, there are times when it truly shines, including in the climactic sequence, where Maaga’s final moments are appropriately chilling.

Overall, while below par for a Doctor Who story, Galaxy 4 was decent enough. I just wish it was better…

***
 

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