The Quatermass All-Purpose Media Review Thread

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Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#22
Penfold said:
To be honest, I have never listened to any Big Finish audio's so have never felt in a position to reply to your reviews. Still doesn't stop me from reading them though. :laugh:
*points at Penfold*

You have no excuse not to listen to any! You can listen to a few for free (and importantly, legally) via Big Finish's official Soundcloud page!

https://soundcloud.com/big-finish/sets/complete-free-big-finish

I recommend Cuddlesome. Silver Lining isn't too bad, though it's a Bernice Summerfield story with a Cyberman rather than a Doctor Who story. And you can get many of the early Doctor Who audios as cheap downloads via the official Big Finish website.
 

Penfold

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 29, 2009
9,077
3,050
Worthing
www.lenbrookphotography.com
#23
Probably true about no excuse but I do have enough difficulty finding the time to do all the stuff I have to do. It's one of the reasons I very rarely go into the Games Threads. I cannot remember the last time that I could just sit back and listen to an album.
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#24
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Natural History of Fear by Jim Mortimore

TYPE: Audio drama

DETAILS: 8Q, 4X30 minute episodes


There are some stories that can only be told in an audio medium, and some Doctor Who stories Big Finish have done exploit this. One that I have heard of is The Natural History of Fear, which plays around with the concepts of identity and society. But how would it work out?

Light City. A totalitarian metropolis in the Divergent Universe where the populace is suppressed by infotainment broadcasts of the Doctor’s adventures. Those who show deviation from mental norms are visited by the Conscience, the head of the local thought police, and their memories and personalities changed. In charge of the Conscience is the Editor, a ruthless and obsessive man, and effectively inquisitor of the vast metropolis, trying to ferret out the seeds of revolution, even as he dances along the line of heresy himself. The Editor, the Conscience, and a female Prole showing deviant behaviour appear to be the Doctor, C’rizz, and Charley. As a revolution looms on the horizon, and the Editor slides into madness, a horrible truth will be unveiled…

The story is an intriguing one, taking many cues from various dystopian stories, as well as offering commentary on Doctor Who and the production of TV and audio dramas as well. However, it’s the core concepts, and the ending twist, that elevate this story truly above the norm. This is a brilliantly dark and harrowing story, filled with psychological horror and a contemplation of the nature of personality, memory, identity, and society. To say much more is to spoil the brilliant twist at the end.

One of the problems with discussing the characters is that the cast double and even triple up on the characters, partly due to the fluid nature of identity in this story. The regulars all do well, though it is Paul McGann’s chilling performance as the obsessive Editor, and India Fisher as the female Prole/Nurse who steal the show especially. Geoff Searle also has an interesting performance as the pivotal minor character of the Disk Jockey.

Sound-design wise, the story is quite well done. One sound effect used well is a spinning top, given variations, as well as a distinctive droning noise used for announcements. Little music is used, but this is to the story’s benefit, though there’s some interesting changes to the opening theme to suggest a show within a show, along with a nod to Big Finish’s roots in the unofficial Audio Visual fan audios.

Overall, The Natural History of Fear is a very unconventional Doctor Who story, but in a good way. It asks some very pointed questions, and leaves a lot of unease with the listener long after it’s finished…


*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#25
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 6.3, 1X45 minute episode



When I first heard that Neil Gaiman would be writing for Doctor Who, I admit that I was excited. Neil Gaiman is, after all, debatably the highest profile writer to have ever worked for the TV series. But even so, there was some trepidation. Would Gaiman’s story be a triumph, or fail spectacularly?

The Doctor receives a distress signal from the Corsair, a Time Lord stranded in a pocket universe. Landing on the sole world in that universe, the TARDIS seems to lose its soul, and soon after disembarking, the Doctor discovers the strange inhabitants of the world. The mad Idris, who calls him her ‘Thief’; Aunty and Uncle; an Ood called Nephew; and the world itself, a living entity called House. But soon, House’s true colours emerge, and while Amy and Rory are trapped in the TARDIS, with House in control, the Doctor is stranded with only Idris for company. But Idris is none other than the TARDIS, her soul forced into a humanoid body. And soon, it becomes a race against time for the Doctor and Idris to get back to the House-controlled TARDIS shell, where Amy and Rory are fighting for their lives…

Neil Gaiman is on fine form with this story. It’s a dark, lyrical distillation not just of his own preoccupations, but also of what makes Doctor Who great, with much of the story being a celebration of the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS. It’s one of those stories that comes together just perfectly, with a mixture of humour, horror, adventure and pathos.

The regulars do pretty well, though I have to say that Karen Gillian as Amy is, as usual, one of the weaker members of the regulars. Matt Smith gets a chance to shine as the Doctor, playing opposite Suranne Jones as the delightfully insane Idris, and through her, the TARDIS. Michael Sheen is also excellent, giving an excellent, if somewhat generic, deep and dark voice to House.

Production values are pretty good. Although the location sequences are filmed in yet another bloody quarry, at least it works for the junkyard that is House, and we get to see TARDIS corridors for the first time in a very long time. The whole episode comes together just perfectly for once, a fine story given a fine execution.

Overall, The Doctor’s Wife is one of those episodes that is a vindication, that the new series is worth watching. It is magical and wonderful, deserving all sorts of superlatives.

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#26
REVIEW: The Prisoner: Departure and Arrival by Nicholas Briggs, based on Arrival by George Markstein and David Tomblin

TYPE: Audio drama

DETAILS: TP1.1, 1X80 minute episode


One of the most bizarrely obtuse series from the Sixties was Patrick McGoohan’s spy-fi thriller The Prisoner. Noted for its keeping viewers on edge and confused almost as much as protagonist Number 6, it has a cult-following to this day. While reaction to the recent re-imagining by AMC was mixed, there was some more cautious optimism for a new re-imagining done by Big Finish as an audio drama. But would merely adapting the first episode of the series do any good?

In the wake of a mission to Belgium, at the height of the Cold War, a secret agent known as ZM-73 abruptly resigns. Abducted, he wakes up to find he is no longer in London, but in the mysterious Village, filled with advanced technology. An idyllic place, nobody seems willing to tell him anything, save for the Village’s apparent administrator, Number 2. Those in charge of the Village want to know why he resigned. ZM-73, now forced to adopt the identity of Number 6, refuses to cooperate, sparking off a battle of wits and psychological warfare. But with a mysterious entity known as Rover guarding against escape, and even the fellow residents possibly being jailers, Number 6 will be hard-pressed to prevail…

The story, being an adaptation of the first episode, Arrival, will feel very familiar to fans of The Prisoner. However, not only does it have many elements that help make it feel fresher (including modern-day technology that would have been very futuristic in the Sixties, when this episode is set), but it also adds intriguing new elements that add to the mystery. It does feel like a bit of a rehash at times, one has to admit, and at times, it feels a little annoyingly camp (partly due to the way the Villagers act), and the cliffhanger ending is a bit confusing, but it still works out.

Number 6 is written as far more aggressive, and somewhat less likeable than in the show, although there are elements of humanity in some scenes (with the climax being a case in point), and his anger is understandable given his situation. He’s written as more overtly and hotly angry than Patrick McGoohan’s interpretation. That being said, Mark Elstob, a relatively obscure actor, is a surprisingly excellent successor to Patrick McGoohan, who manages to capture the spirit of McGoohan’s Number 6, without obsessively aping him. John Standing is good as the first Number Two, but I find him a touch too irritatingly jovial and no patch on Guy Doleman’s version, sadly. Celia Imrie is another matter entirely as the new Number Two, her venomous and authoritative performance promising much for the next episode. Sara Powell is wonderful as a very Caribbean Number 9, a ‘new’ character who fills the role of Number 24 in The Schizoid Man (the next episode adapted for this boxset), as well as the Number 9 from the episode Arrival. She gives this role her everything, and one feels sorry for her as the target of Number 6’s suspicion and ire.

Sound design wise, the story is excellent. There’s a few small areas of complaint. When Rover first appears, the distinctive roar isn’t as audible as it should be. An even bigger complaint, sadly, is Jamie Robertson’s theme for The Prisoner. It doesn’t feel the same as Ron Grainer’s own tune, and I have to say it’s a bit disappointing, feeling generic in the same way the original theme didn’t. Sorry, Jamie Robertson.

Overall, Departure and Arrival is a brave attempt, and an ultimately very successful, if not superlative, attempt to get The Prisoner onto audio. With surprises even for fans of the series, it’s worth a go, so far…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#27
Anyone actually reading this thread? Well, I'm back, with my first anime review...

REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 1: Summoning Ancient Heroes and Episode 2: False Start by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ1-2, 1X45 minute and 1X25 minute episodes


I have to admit, I’ve been on a Fate/Stay Night kick for the last little while. I’ve decided to start watching the various anime series with the anime adaptation of Fate/Zero. To make it fairer, I am watching the series in blocks of certain episodes that consist of a particular part of the story, with the first two episodes, though with the first episode being almost double length, it might as well be three. But how would I find the initial episodes of the dark prequel to Fate/Stay Night?

Every sixty years, the Holy Grail War comes to Fuyuki. Seven Mages, chosen by the Grail itself, summon the spirits of heroes or Servants to do battle for them. To the victor, the one with the last Servant standing gets any wish they desire from the Grail. The von Einzberns, one of the founding families of the Grail Wars, have recruited ruthless mercenary and assassin Kiritsugu Emiya, the Mage Killer, who has had a child, Illya, with one of their Homunculi, Irisviel. But upon summoning his Servant, King Arthur, Kiritsugu is rather cold to the woman whose true name was Arturia. But he is far from the only Master. Some, like Kariya Matou, want to win to save the life of another. Others, like ambitious student Waver Velvet or arrogant academic Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald, want prestige. And some, namely Tokiomi Tohsaka and Kirei Kotomine, are colluding. Some are quite possibly insane. With Servants ranging from Iskandar to Bluebeard, everything converges on Fuyuki, where the Grail War is soon to begin…

While the story itself is only in its preliminary stages, and bogged down somewhat in exposition needed for such early episodes of the series, these are still quite good episodes. The writing foreshadows some of the darkness to come, and anyone with a passing knowledge of the events of Fate/Stay Night knows that events are not going to go well for many involved. Even so, there’s enough here for someone without such knowledge to not be left at sea. It also doesn’t shy away from some of the darker elements of what is known as the Nasuverse.

So far, all the characters brought in are interesting. Matthew Mercer, better known to me as Leon Kennedy from the Resident Evil games, is perfect as the world-weary Kiritsugu, and Bridget Hoffman as the gentler Irisviel. Although Kari Wahlgren doesn’t get much time as Saber/Arturia in these two episodes, she makes enough of an impact, as does Jamieson Price as Rider/Iskandar (or, Alexander the Great to you and me). Of the other Masters, it is surprisingly Waver Velvet who impresses me, in that he could easily have been annoyingly bratty, but actually manages to walk that very difficult tightrope between annoying and sympathetic, a rare feat for a character like him, and Lucien Dodge voices him well. It also goes without saying that Crispin Freeman is effortlessly striking as Kirei Kotomine, a man with a dark destiny, as those familiar with the later (chronologically-speaking) instalments of the franchise will know.

What can I say about the animation? Breathtaking is the word I would use. While the animation of the original Fate/Stay Night anime has aged, to some degree, somewhat badly, Fate/Zero is truly beautiful. There are some odd choices in a couple of scenes (in the first episode, Risei Kotomine and Tokiomi Tohsaka circling Kirei while explaining the Grail War and their plans gets old real fast, even when they change up the shots), but overall, it’s good. There’s even some pretty good use of CGI for some good effect, including a rather horrific sequence in the first episode involving what Zouken Matou puts his adopted granddaughter Sakura through in the name of ‘training’.

Overall, while marred by a few small issues, the first two episodes of Fate/Zero certainly whetted my appetite for more. Here’s hoping the rest of the series continues the high standard…


****½
 

Jack Remillard

Lance-Corporal
Oct 27, 2009
439
2,275
#28
Quatermass said:
REVIEW: Deadpool by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: 108 mins


I haven’t had any desire to see any X-Men films since the second one. But when I found out that a movie starring Deadpool in the lead role was coming out, I was intrigued. True, I hadn’t actually read any of the comics fully (let the cries of ‘heretic!’ commence), but I had played the video game, and what little I had read anyway showed me that Deadpool was a character I would like. Of course, given that the movie Deadpool was released by the very studio that, to quote Deadpool himself in a teaser, sewed his f***ing lips shut the last time around, well, I wondered whether I would like the movie, even with the awesome trailers…

Wade Wilson, mercenary, has been spending time scaring away stalkers from teenagers and spending time with girlfriend Vanessa Carlyle. Unfortunately, shortly after proposing to Vanessa, he learns that he has terminal cancer. Approached by a shady organisation who offer to cure his cancer and grant him superpowers, Wade reluctantly accepts, only to find that said organisation are creating superpowered soldiers as slaves, and he will never see Vanessa again. After a torturous awakening of regenerative powers, he escapes, but at a cost: although his powers heal him of his cancer, they have left him disfigured, and he is reluctant to allow Vanessa to see him like this. He makes it his task to track down Ajax, the man who made him like this, and force him to undo his disfigurement. Helped and hindered by Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead of the X-Men, roommate Blind Al, and his friend Weasel, Wade Wilson, now Deadpool, embarks on a roaring rampage of revenge, but will he succeed?

The storyline itself is actually quite simple, even by comic book movie standards. This is by no means a bad thing, for the script is chock-a-block full of references, humour darker than the event horizon of a black hole, and plenty of action. Such things paper over the cracks very well, as does the fourth-wall breaking and recursive timeline. It’s violent and ridiculously puerile, but I can live with that. Hell, I can enjoy that if its put together well enough, and it is.

Most of the characters, while not exactly deep and meaningful, are pretty good. The star of the show is, of course, the improbably Stan Lee-esque alliteratively named Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. His performance as the infamous Merc with the Mouth carries much of the film, especially as much of it, he is wearing a mask over his face. Morena Baccarin is great as Vanessa Carlyle, giving a heart to the proceedings, even if the game of ‘my life is worse than yours’ one-upmanship she engages in gets ridiculous. TJ Miller as Weasel, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, and Brianna Hildebrand as the improbably named Negasonic Teenage Warhead are also quite good. The villains are somewhat generic, but still do well. The biggest disappointment is Colossus, who is seems to be a parodic caricature of himself, frankly (and not helped by the CGI).

The production values of the movie in general are pretty good, with the movie moving along at the right pace, and the flashbacks and flashforwards happening at the right time. It does look, at times, a bit low-budget compared to similar films, but for this film, it works. My biggest complaint is Colossus. The character himself was bad enough, but when paired with a CGI body that is one of the worst-looking CGI characters I have seen in a fairly high-budget film, well, yeah.

Overall, though, Deadpool was highly enjoyable, despite a simplistic script, somewhat dull villains, and a crappy Colossus. The rest of the film, happily, worked overtime to overcome such deficiencies…


****
Deadpool is great fun. Loved the opening credits sequence. :laugh:
 

Jack Remillard

Lance-Corporal
Oct 27, 2009
439
2,275
#29
Quatermass said:
REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar by Steven Moffat

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: Serial 9.1/9.2, 2X45 minute episodes



Of late, I’ve had something of an anhedonia when it comes to things I enjoy, so it’s about time that I try to fix that. And it is thus fitting that my first review of this thread is the first story of the new series of Doctor Who. Despite the names of the episode titles, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar is not a fantasy story. It not only features the return of Missy, the female Master, but also Davros and the Daleks. Of course, throwing in popular elements for a story doesn’t necessarily make it good…

The Doctor is missing. The mysterious and malevolent Colony Sarff, a minion of Davros, is trying to seek him out. Missy, having survived her last encounter with the Doctor, has also noticed the absence of the Doctor, as she has been given a Confession Dial, the Gallifreyan equivalent of the Doctor’s Last Will and Testament. Luring Clara and UNIT to help her find the Doctor, they track him down to England in 1138, where he is having one last party. But Missy and Clara soon get caught up in a vicious game Davros intends to play with the Doctor’s life. Is Davros truly dying? Can Clara and the Doctor trust Missy? And what does it all have to do with a chance encounter the Doctor had with Davros when the creator of the Daleks was still a child?

Once more, the Daleks come in for their annual contractual obligation appearance. Davros makes a return from the grave, as does Missy. And yet, despite all of this, this turns out to be an excellent story, examining the relationship between the Doctor and Davros, as well as that between the Doctor and Missy. Filled with wit and good dialogue and intriguing themes and even some surprising poignancy in the interaction between the Doctor and Davros, this is how Doctor Who was meant to be, after some of the shakier parts of the previous season. Hell, we even have an explanation for how she survived the last encounter (which is more than you can say about some Anthony Ainley appearances), and while there are some cracks, they have been expertly papered over so much that you can ignore them, and just enjoy the show.

Peter Capaldi has truly found his feet as the Doctor, the character also having finally found his time travel legs. Jenna Coleman is good as Clara, especially considering what happens to her in the second episode. This is the first full story I have seen with Michelle Gomez as Missy, the female Master, and she is a delight, somewhere between John Simm and Anthony Ainley, delightfully flamboyant and unrepentantly wicked. Julian Bleach makes a welcome return as Davros, not embarked on a genocidal plan, but as a subtle manipulator who could have come from the Davros in many of the Big Finish audios, as well as Revelation of the Daleks. We even have touching moments, like Davros and the Doctor sharing a joke, or Davros opening eyes we always thought were scarred shut.

The production overall is quite good. Not brilliant, but it does its job well. Skaro and the city of the Daleks looks like an updated version of the world seen in the Sixties stories, with a variety of Daleks from stories past and present shown, like in Asylum of the Daleks. And it is shown how chillingly effective Julian Bleach’s mask as Davros is when the villain opens his real eyes. You actually think you are looking at a real being. The effects of Colony Sarff are somewhat noticeable, but forgivable.

Overall, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar is a story that you hope for: one that has the elements fans yearn for, but also has the magic and the emotion. Seriously, good start, Moffat. Seriously.

*****
I loved a lot of this story. Some of the Moffat-ier aspects involving the Daleks didn't quite work for me, but generally a pretty good story.
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#30
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 3: Land of Fuyuki, Episode 4: Blade of the Demonic Spear, and Episode 5: The Vicious Beast Roars by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ3-5, 3X25 minute episodes


Watching Fate/Zero’s initial episodes pretty much ended the drought I had of not watching new things. However, I needed to watch more, which meant the next three episodes, which form a small arc in of themselves, and featuring the first real battles of the series. But how would they go after the first two episodes?

Arturia, Kiritsugu and Irisviel make it to Japan, but even as they prepare for their first battle, Kirei Kotomine and his father have colluded with Tokiomi Tohsaka to deceive the other Masters. Soon, Arturia and Irisviel are drawn into the first true battle of this Grail War, against the honourable Lancer and his rather vicious Master, a battle that is soon crashed not only by Rider, aka Iskandar, but Archer, aka Gilgamesh, and a mysterious Berserker, a dark knight wreathed in eldritch smoke. It looks set to be a battle royale between Servants, but there’s more going on than meets the eye…

After the exposition of the previous two episodes, as well as some interesting character development, I have to confess that the story quality went down somewhat for these three episodes. I think part of that is a function of the fact that much of these three episodes involve the first battles between the Servants, with most of Episode 4 being taken up by a battle between Lancer, aka Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, and Arturia. That being said, there’s some good humour, including Iskandar considering Bill Clinton, of all people, to be one of his potential foes.

The characters and voice acting prove to be quite good, though I am not fond, as yet, of Maiya, a newcomer to this story. Lancer is another matter, already showing some promise to be a foil to Arturia. There were some nice moments, including Irisviel revealing her desire to see the outside world, and Arturia’s valour. Of particular note is David Vincent’s Gilgamesh, who gets more screentime here, in these episodes, as well as Jamieson Price’s Iskandar, and, of course, Kari Wahlgren as Arturia.

The production values in this are much like the last few episodes, with the fight scenes being done very well. One interesting choice was how Berserker was animated using a modified CGI image that gives the character a very nightmarish look. It’s certainly very beautiful, even if the colour palette is limited by the nocturnal setting of much of these episodes.

Overall, while not quite as good as the first two episodes, I still thought a lot of Fate/Zero with these episodes. I look forward to the next ones…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#31
Jack Remillard said:
I loved a lot of this story. Some of the Moffat-ier aspects involving the Daleks didn't quite work for me, but generally a pretty good story.
I agree. True, the only truly bad Dalek story of the Moffat era was Victory of the Daleks (partly because it had so much wasted potential: it had elements of The Power of the Daleks, back from the Troughton era), but this one was actually a really good one. Not least because Moffat actually wrote Davros as good as other authors have for some of the Big Finish audios.
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#32
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 6: Night of Schemes, Episode 7: The Evil Forest, and Episode 8: The Magus Killer by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ6-8, 3X25 minute episodes


It’s time for the next batch of episodes of Fate/Zero. I have to confess, I am actually enjoying this series. Hopefully, it’ll maintain its high standard from beginning to end, but for now, I’m settling for the next mini-arc, of sorts, of the series…

On their way home, Arturia and Irisviel are accosted by Caster, aka Gilles de Rais, who believes Arturia to be Jeanne d’Arc rather than Arturia, and in his madness, believes Arturia’s denials to be a twisted curse. Meanwhile, Kiritsugu goes to extraordinary lengths to try and kill the Master of Lancer, Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald, only to realise that Kirei Kotomine has taken advantage of it to try and learn more about Kiritsugu. A truce is called in the Grail War to track down and destroy Caster and his twisted Master, but Kiritsugu seems to think it better to target other Masters during the truce, bringing him further into conflict with Arturia. But soon, Caster comes to them, demanding Arturia fight him. While Irisviel and Maiya flee into danger, Kiritsugu is forced to confront Kayneth El-Melloi, who is stalking him through the Einzbern Castle. With attacks on three fronts, can Kiritsugu and his comrades prevail?

The story is heating up once more, with an emphasis on Caster and his obsession with Arturia, mistakenly believing her to be Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc. We also get to see some interesting battles, with Arturia and Lancer facing off against Caster, and Kiritsugu Emiya fighting against Kayneth using a magically enchanted ball of mercury that nonetheless looks awesome. I wish I was making stuff like this up. We also get glimpses of plots behind the scenes, including that between the Kotomines and Tokiomi Tohsaka, and even an intriguing brief glimpse into Kiritsugu’s past. There’s even some comedy with Irisviel’s driving and an extended discussion between Rider and Waver over trousers (no, really). Overall, though, it was more action and some character conflict than plot. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing per se, it’s just not as good as the first two episodes.

The voice actors are on par as they should be. We’re starting to get more insight into the characters, including Kiritsugu and Kirei, including a look into Kiritsugu’s actual desires, outside of the Grail War, and Kirei’s desire to find meaning. Of particular note is Dan Woren as the delightfully deranged Caster, getting more screentime to chew the scenery, though others get a chance to shine.

Values in this set of episodes are quite high. Of particular note are Arturia and Lancer’s battles against Caster, along with Kiritsugu’s running battle against Kayneth. I really enjoyed the latter, with CGI being used to great effect for the Volumen Hydragyrum, the aforementioned magical blob of mercury.

Overall, I enjoyed these episodes of Fate/Zero. I can’t wait for it to pick up for the next little while, though…


****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#33
REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 9: Master and Servant, Episode 10: Rin’s Adventure, Episode 11: The Grail Dialogue and Episode 12: The Grail’s Invitation by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ9-12, 4X25 minute episodes


With this story arc, I reach the approximate halfway point of the story of Fate/Zero, one episode away from the season final, itself the beginning of another arc. Of course, this arc is more of a loose one than before, a slightly more eclectic mix of episodes that, while they further the story, are a bit more disjointed. But would I enjoy them in spite of this?

In the aftermath of Kayneth’s disastrous assault on the Einzbern Castle, an attack that cost him his ability to use magic, his fiancée Sola-Ui forces him to give up control of Lancer to her, despite Lancer’s feelings on the matter. Arturia too is clashing with Kiritsugu over Caster, whose lair Rider and Waver infiltrate and destroy. While Rin, the young daughter of Tokiomi Tohsaka, embarks on her own endeavour, Arturia, Rider, and Archer engage in a battle of words and ideologies that may prove more damaging to Arturia than any battle she has fought so far, and Kirei Kotomine struggles against the darkness in his soul, a darkness Archer wants to bring forth…

Disjointed though this lot of episodes might be, they still prove to be an interesting selection. We get insights into Lancer’s past, a nice little mini-adventure for Rin (chronologically later one of the key characters in Fate/Stay Night itself) as she saves some of Ryuunosuke’s potential victims, and a both comedic and tragic drinking party of sorts between Arturia, Rider, and Archer, where the former’s resolve and ideals are deconstructed or mocked by the other two. That scene, from what I know of the series to come, serves as the first major iteration of the deconstruction of heroism and kingship that recurs in the series. We also get one of the most awesome sequences in the series: the unveiling of Rider’s ultimate attack, the Ionian Hetairoi, as well as something odd happening to Irisviel, the homunculus weakening.

Character development is pretty good all-round. As mentioned before, we have an episode focusing on Rin, giving her a heroic edge, while we have some development, welcome or not, with Arturia, Rider, Archer and Kirei. Indeed, much of that regarding Arturia, Rider and Archer was done in episode 11, which is a little hard to watch, considering how badly Rider attacks her ego, albeit without malice.

The production values of these episodes are as good as before. The highlights include Rin fighting off Ryuunosuke and Rider using his Ionian Hetairoi, both being spectacular mixes of normal animation and CGI. Overall, it still keeps things spectacular.

This quartet of Fate/Zero episodes continue the high standard set for the series. I hope to see episodes in the future that continue this…or surpass it.

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#34
Long time, no review, huh?

REVIEW: Fate/Zero: Episode 13: Forbidden Banquet, Episode 14: The Bloody Battle of Mion River, and Episode 15: Golden Radiance by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, from the light novels by Gen Urobuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FZ13-15, 3X25 minute episodes


At last, I’ve restarted watching Fate/Zero, watching the three episodes that bridge the end of the first season, and start off the second season. It’s been a long time, but did absence make the heart grow fonder? Let’s find out…

As Waver has second thoughts about being Rider’s Master, Caster, inspired by the twisted philosophy of his serial killer Master Ryuunosuke, plans a grand spectacle. As the deranged Servant summons a massive monster within Fuyuki’s Mion River, the remaining Servants and Masters gather. Most intend to destroy the monster before it can attack the city’s populace, but other Masters have their own agendas. A desperate plan is launched, but will it be enough to save the city from Caster’s behemoth?

This set of episodes manages the correct balance of brilliant action, story, and character development. We have more insight into Rider/Iskandar’s ideals and character, as well as the twisted philosophy of Ryuunosuke, and the battle and its conclusion are well written. There’s some pretty poignant scenes too, such as the death scenes of Ryuunosuke and Caster, as well as Arturia finally unleashing Excalibur.

The focus in characters here, as mentioned above, are on Iskandar and Waver, along with Ryuunosuke and Caster. However, we get some examination of the characters of Tokiomi and Kariya, when they confront each other, and neither come off at all looking good, despite Tokiomi’s well-meaning decision and Kariya’s devotion to helping Sakura. Finally, Archer, aka Gilgamesh, shows more of his arrogance…and a disturbingly deepening desire for Arturia.

The high point of these episodes, though, is the action. The ending of Episode 13 in particular is spectacular, and the action sequences of the Servants facing off against Caster’s monster, not to mention Archer and Berserker getting involved in an aerial dogfight between Berserker’s hijacked jet and Archer’s ancient Babylonian airship (I wish I was making this stuff up). And, of course, there is the scene where Arturia uses Excalibur, and Caster’s final moments.

Overall, I’m wishing it didn’t take me so damn long to get back to Fate/Zero. Absence does make the heart grow fonder…

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#35
REVIEW: Fate/Stay Night: Episode 1: The First Day, Episode 2: Fateful Night, Episode 3: Opening and Episode 4: The Strongest Enemy by Takuya Sato, based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi

TYPE: TV series

DETAILS: FSN1-4, 4X25 minute episodes


I’ve decided to take a break from watching Fate/Zero, and instead, began to watch the first four episodes of its predecessor series, the original adaptation of Fate/Stay Night. Based on Type Moon’s visual novel, and in particular the first route, the Fate route, this anime series was probably what introduced most of the world to the story of Fate/Stay Night. But being an earlier adaptation, how well would it stand up today?

Ten years ago, the Fourth Holy Grail War came to an end, an end that caused a fire that ravaged much of the city of Fuyuki. Shirou was one of the survivors of the fire. Adopted by the Magus known as Kiritsugu Emiya, Shirou has a small amount of talent in magecraft. But he lives what he thinks is an ordinary life, even with mysterious deaths and the like beginning to occur. But a fateful encounter while he was leaving his school late at night drops him into a life or death battle royale between seven Magi and their chosen warriors. The Fifth Holy Grail War has started, with heroes from throughout history and myth chosen to be Servants…and Shirou has now become the Master of the Servant known only as Saber, a swordswoman with a stoic demeanour. But Shirou must struggle between his ideal, to become a champion of justice, and the reality, where the Masters and their Servants must fight to the death…

Let’s face it, the concept alone makes it worth watching. But even after watching Fate/Zero, this story, while still dark, has quite a bit of charm, discussing various themes relating to heroism. In fact, the moments of comedy, already more frequent than in Fate/Zero, actually help matters. It actually gives the story an element of normality and domesticity that Fate/Zero’s rather more bleaker elements lacked, and this helps contrast it with the more darker and fantastical elements.

Character-wise, well, most of the characters are at least interestingly-written to a degree, though the English voice-acting, while not bad or even subpar, doesn’t always match up. Shirou is both fascinating and infuriating, though his comments about Saber, while well-meant, do come off as chauvinistic, and his doormat tendencies do come off as a bit irritating. Rin, Archer, and Saber are fine enough, as is Illya. However, I have to confess, of the characters introduced so far, I enjoyed Kirei Kotomine and Taiga Fujimura best. While I do prefer Crispin Freeman in the former role, Jamieson Price does a very good job anyway, and the latter is a major source of much-needed comic relief.

Production values, well, at the time, they doubtless would have been quite good. Not cutting edge, but certainly up to the task of the story. And while they certainly pale in comparison to that used for Studio Deen’s own movie adaptation of the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/Stay Night, or Ufotable’s later adaptations of both Fate/Zero and the Unlimited Blade Works route, it does fairly well. It does certainly feel a little flat by comparison to the Ufotable adaptations, and the fight scenes aren’t anywhere near as exciting, but they do a good job considering. While some of the music is rather generic synthesiser stuff that sounds like it came from the Nineties, sometimes, it pulls off some pretty good moments.

Overall, the first four episodes of Fate/Stay Night, despite its age, were pretty good. I hope it becomes superlative…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#36
REVIEW: RWBY: Episode 1: Ruby Rose and Episode 2: The Shining Beacon by Monty Oum, Kerry Shawcross, and Miles Luna

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RWBY 1.1-1.2, 2X12 minute episodes


So, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge into the late Monty Oum’s CGI web series and English-language anime RWBY. Set in a fantastical world, with both science fiction and fantasy elements, it’s garnered a huge following. But how would I do with it? Well, let’s find out…

In the world of Remnant, the people are perpetually under siege by monsters known as the Grimm. The academy of Beacon trains Hunters and Huntresses to destroy the Grimm, and Ruby Rose, herself the daughter of a famous Huntress, wishes to join them one day. Foiling the attempts of criminal Roman Torchwick when he tries to steal the magical substance known as Dust, Ruby is then given a chance by Beacon’s headmaster, Professor Ozpin, to attend Beacon earlier than she normally would. Ruby has at least one friendly face at Beacon: her older half-sister Yang. But between snooty heiress Weiss Schnee, the aloof Blake Belladonna, and the out-of-his-depth Jaune Arc, will Ruby be able to make friends, and more importantly, teammates?

The episodes are short and don’t allow for much story, and so suffers somewhat for it. And yet, the writers managed to create a fairy tale-world that at once is not out of place in either Western style or even anime. Even the small hints we’re given of backstory promise more to come, with something of a cultural depth to this fantasy world. And the humour does work somewhat. It does lose a bit of balance at times, though.

It’s perhaps too soon to tell about the characters, but Ruby and Yang, both characters who could have been incredibly irritating, actually manage to come off as endearing, most of the time. So too does an apparently jokey character in Jaune. I believe this to be partly due to the writing and partly due to the acting of Lindsay Jones, Barbara Dunkelman, and Miles Luna respectively. Weiss, however, is fairly unlikeable (at least at this point), and Blake, well, is somewhat enigmatic.

Production-wise, well, the animation style takes some getting used to, and I have to confess to being annoyed that most of the extras are shown as black silhouettes with no detail whatsoever. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, given the possible limitations of the software used for the CGI, and let’s face it, the rest, well, there is little to complain about. Sound design, music, animation, art direction, it all comes together for, if not a seamless and perfect whole, then pretty good.

Overall, the first couple of episodes of RWBY are promising. I hope that the later episodes are even more so…

****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#37
REVIEW: John Wick by Derek Kolstad

TYPE: Movie

DETAILS: JW1, 100 mins


I’ll have to admit, I’m not generally a fan of the pure action movie. The few I do have some sort of interesting twist to it, like the spy-fi of the Bond films. And yet, I was intrigued by what I had heard about the unassumingly-titled John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves, one of my favourite actors (even if some don’t consider him to be so). Would my choice of watching be a good one?

John Wick seems to be an ordinary man, struggling to deal with grief after his wife passed on. But when Iosef Tarasov, heir to Russian crime boss Viggo Tarasov, kills Wick’s dog and steals his car, he awakens something dark within Wick. For Wick is a former underworld assassin, feared and famed as ‘Baba Yaga’, a boogeyman in criminal circles. And Iosef Tarasov had killed the last gift from Wick’s late wife, sparking off a chain reaction. Can Wick truly avenge his wife’s memory? Or is he in danger of falling once more into the darkness?

Okay, let’s face it. The story is fairly simple and bare-bones. But there are tantalising hints of a deeper history and culture in the dark world that Wick goes through. And we see Wick trying his best not to get swallowed up by the darkness of his old life once more, with great dialogue and scenes, and even some rather wry, even dark humour. Nothing is really wasted.

Certainly, none of the characters are. Keanu Reeves, often derided for his understated acting (which many have labelled wooden), is perfect as Wick, being able to show the man’s pain at the right points, as well as showing the stoic badass he is for most of the film. The rest of the film is very well-cast, with Alfie Allen (of Game of Thrones fame) as Iosef, Michael Nyqvist (from the original adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium books) as Viggo, and Ian McShane as Winston being particularly of note. And I also have to love the dry performance of Lance Reddick as Charon, the concierge of the Continental.

Everything on the production side is slick and virtually flawless. I have to admit, jaded as I am about action sequences in films, I was still impressed by them. Everything just worked for me, with no discordant notes, so I don’t think I can say anything about it.

Overall, John Wick surprised me, and in a good way. A great film, even if violent and dark.

*****
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#38
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 1 by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS1, 75 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


Normally, no fan production would reach the dizzying heights that Red vs Blue did. And yet, this machinima, based on the Halo franchise, managed that very thing. But how would I enjoy the first series of this phenomenon?

Blood Gulch, easily one of the most strategically-worthless plots of land to ever be warred over. And yet, two disparate groups of soldiers fight over it. On the Reds are the gruff Sarge, the lazy Grif, the sycophantic Simmons and the stoic Lopez. On the Blues, the tetchy Church and the would-be ladies’ man Tucker. With the Reds gaining a rookie in the eager Donut, and the Blues gaining foolish newbie Caboose, the war in miniature is about to heat up, and that’s before the mysterious Freelancer Tex gets involved. Flags, teleporters, artificial intelligences and ghosts are just some of the antics that these opposing forces get up to…

The story, frankly, is an excuse plot, and it has artifacts of its once-episodic nature as a web video series. The plot is very thin on the ground, and exists mostly to enable the antics of the two squads of soldiers. That being said, the humour is pretty good most of the time, with some promising running gags and even promises of things for the future.

The characters do take a bit of time to get going. Of these, Matt Hullum as Sarge, Burnie Burns as Church, and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex are the most interesting. The rest take time to come into their own, and I think they’ll do better in later seasons, though I’d prefer them to do it now.

Technically, the series is rather undemanding. True, there’s a lot of novelty for a machinima series to be mainstream, but in comparison to later efforts, it’s somewhat staid and dated, with the characters restricted in their actions. That being said, the set-up of various gags is quite creative with the limited set-up.

Overall, while rather dated and with an excuse story, Red vs Blue’s novelty does help bring it up to par, even if it doesn’t surpass it.

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#39
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 2 by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS2, 95 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


So, what next for Red vs Blue? Well, it’s time to get onto the second series. But how would it turn out?

It’s been months since the events at Blood Gulch that led to the demises of Church and Tex, and only now is a medic, the pacifistic DuFresne, has been dispatched. But as the Reds and Blues clash once more, questions remain. As robot revolutions arise and the sadistic O’Malley plots, the two teams of Blood Gulch may end up in deeper trouble than before…

Storywise, this just seems to build on the gags already done for the first season, though there’s some new gags. Certainly, there’s a funny look in Caboose’s mind, and there’s hints of a greater conspiracy going on. Overall, though, it’s still an excuse plot going on, and the series ends on a cliffhanger even worse than the previous one.

The various characters are now starting to grow into their own, and the series is a little better for it. I still prefer Matt Hullum as Sarge, Burnie Burns as Church, and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex. That being said, Matt Hullum also pulls double duty as Doc and another character, and Joel Heyman does a good job as both Caboose and O’Malley.

Once more, the production side of things is not very demanding or sophisticated. The best thing one can say about the whole thing is that the gags work well with the limitations involved. Otherwise, well, it’s fairly unsophisticated…for now.

Overall, Red vs Blue’s second season maintains the standard from the prior season. Here’s hoping it gets better…

***½
 

Quatermass

Sergeant-at-Arms
Dec 7, 2010
7,782
2,950
#40
REVIEW: Red vs Blue: Season 3 by Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum.

TYPE: Internet video series (home video release reviewed)

DETAILS: RVBS3, 135 minute-long omnibus of web episodes.


The prior season of Red vs Blue ended on something of a major cliffhanger. Having enjoyed it so far, I wanted to get on with the next series. But how would that go?

The Reds and the Blues are scattered across strange locations thanks to the machinations of the AI O’Malley. And now, another Freelancer has entered the picture, Wyoming, who has been hired to take Tucker out. But when an accident seemingly sends them hurtling through time, the Reds, along with Tucker and Caboose, have to find their way through a strange future, while Church, stranded in the past, may get a chance to change the present by preventing some deaths, and causing others…

Okay, the story’s still pretty much a vehicle for the comedy. It’s starting to actually show more signs of a deeper plot, and the time-travel shenanigans of Church, while they get samey after a while, nonetheless are cleverly written. And the comedy is, for the most part, on point. I just wish they’d get to the actual meat of the matter they have been hinting about in the previous season.

As usual, it’s Matt Hullum as Sarge, Doc and O’Malley, Burnie Burns as Church, and Kathleen Zeulch as Tex who do their best in their roles. That being said, the characters are growing more and more interesting, or at least funny. Hullum’s Wyoming, unfortunately, was an interesting character in concept, but nonetheless doesn’t come off in the execution, unlike Matt Hullum’s other roles.

The technical part of the series actually gets elevated partway through, with the Halo 2 engine being adopted (for the most part) after the explosion. While it doesn’t do anything spectacular, it does elevate the look of the series. That being said, the characters don’t really do much beyond what is in the game.

Overall, this series was enjoyable enough. I just wish there was more, or that they’d get to the point…

***½
 

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