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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 21:50 by Spindles

Reading's Sub89 is a fantastic venue. I've had the pleasure of attending several gigs there of late and I've always had a great evening. Granted the majority of the gigs I've been to have been nowhere near sold out, but there have always been enough people there to make it a good night. Tonight is no exception. As Nordic Giants take the stage, there's probably about seventy or so people there who quickly fill up the dance floor and prepare themselves to be blown away.

Having not seen Nordic Giants before, I was interested to see what they had to offer. The dual screens on the stage flicker into life and begin to weave a futuristic tale concerning the collapse of society accompanied by an intricate score from the heavily costumed duo that comprise the band. What follows is a phenomenal show from an obviously incredibly talented pair of performers who play all manner of instruments between them including trumpets and an intriguing guitar / violin bow combination. The pairing of short film visuals and the music make for an awesome immersive experience and I particulary enjoyed picking out the animated homages to films such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Ponyo, The Wall and Summer Wars among others. If you do get the opportunity to catch these guys I would highly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of horror and sci fi.

On to the main event and 65daysofstatic launch headfirst into the evening. Opening with the anthemic Heat Death Infinity Splitter sets the bar for the rest of the evening extremely high and the band look like they are not out to disappoint. The evening is justifiably focused on tracks from their most recent album, Wild Light but there are also tunes there to keep fans of their earlier releases happy including the outstanding Retreat! Retreat! with Matt DIllon's samples from Singles being the closest the band come to having a lyric over the course of the show. As the audience lose themselves to the music, so too do the band and after what feels like far too brief a period of time it's all over barring a fantastic rendition of what the band state is probably the first tune they ever wrote and which is gratefully received by a satiated crowd who see them off the stage with rapturous applause.

The UK music scene currently has some amazing talent on offer and 65daysofstatic are most definitely at the forefront of that offering. Tonight's show is absolute proof were it ever needed that we no longer live in an age where bands require a traditional line up in order to captivate audiences. The post-rock/instrumental scene is definitely on the rise and I cannot urge you enough to get out there and try some of it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Rating:
10
Topics:
Friday, July 18, 2014 - 13:53 by Bren

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not your average Summer Blockbuster.  Sure, it’s got explosions, monkeys on horseback dual wielding machine guns, and a very simple plotline; but it also has so much more than that.  It has beautiful character moments that would usually hit the cutting room floor, a better standard of acting in the motion caption performances than you’ll see in many blockbusters, and a reflection on the dangers of institutionalised fear, hatred and mistrust.

The film is set ten years on from the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and humanity has been all but wiped out by the Simian Flu. Caesar is now head of a growing nation of apes and has built a home for his community in the Muir Woods outside San Francisco.  We see the beginnings of the caste system from Planet of the Apes, and see that the tenets of Ape law have been established.  

This community is threatened after a chance encounter with a group of surviving humans who wander into the woods.  This encounter leads to the discovery of a larger group of human survivors holed up in the city, who need access to a dam deep in Ape territory to try and restore power to their sanctuary.

It is upon this plot device that the film bases much of its human vs ape interaction, and through it develops a genuine feeling of rising tension and drama.  Uneasy alliances form and Caesar becomes a beleaguered leader, persistently counseling for peace even in the face of calls to war from his friend and General, an ape named Koba who was mercilessly experimented on and tortured by humans in the pre-Rise era.

That you feel for Caesar, as he is burdened with trying to do the right thing in the face of the inevitability of mob rule, is all down to the incredible performance from Andy Serkis.  I really cannot praise the motion capture performances enough.  They make you care about the apes, and they bring you into their world with subtle and nuanced performances that help you suspend disbelief entirely.  

One of the most striking things for me was how the typical movie tropes of father and son reconciliation/redemption arcs, enemy become ally story arcs, and final confrontations; just seemed more real here.  Lines and interactions that would have seemed cheesy in a normal film with human actors, just seemed to fit better and feel more genuine when one of the characters was a CGI Ape.  This is due, in no small part, to the connection that performances create with the audience. So again, kudos to the motion capture team.

Not to be outdone by their CGI counterparts, there was also some great acting from the human cast as well.  This was a major improvement on “Rise” which, aside from John Lithgow, I felt was pretty weak on the acting front. 

The film isn’t without its weaknesses though, and I felt that the pacing could have been improved a little.  The film could have been 10 minutes shorter and not really lost anything from the narrative.  Also, the ending wasn’t as fulfilling as I would have liked, and makes it feel a little like a place holder, second installment film in an inevitable trilogy.  I’d expect to hear a “War for the Planet of the Apes”, or similar title, to be announced fairly soon.

I can live with these negatives though given that the rest of the film is really very good indeed.  Recommended viewing for those who want more from their summer blockbuster movies. 

Rating:
8
Topics:
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 23:58 by David

I confess! 

Even without the aid of Cardinal Fang, Cardinal Biggles and a comfy chair.... I confess! 

I like Monty Python... 

Controversial eh? 

No.

There's a reason for this :

1969. The end of the 60's introduced us to a few things that altered the world around us, probably forever. For me - four things made the most impression :

Apollo 11 lands on the moon. 
Led Zeppelin introduce us to the heavy sound that will spawn a million riffs. 
A long haired, bearded and ragged man introduces a strange new comedy programme with the word "IT'S!", Liberty Bell played and there was PYTHON.
And l was born. 

NASA stopped going back to the moon in the early 1970's, Led Zep disbanded in 1980 with the death of John Bonham, Monty Python went their separate ways in 1983 and the death of Graham Chapman looked like that would be that. So, for my whole life there've been three great things that influenced me, a love of science driven from the dawn of the space age, rock music (when I was old enough to appreciate it) and being SILLY. 

I would argue, and that wouldn't be the five minute argument, it would be the full half hour for £5, that being silly is the most important of the three to me. I never saw the moon landings, Zep, or Python live, I was too young for all of them, so it was TV repeats, video and then Youtube. The only thing left was being silly and after the final performance of the "Dead Chapman Sketch" (Norwegian Chapmans stun easily), there would be no Army Colonel to tell me to "Stop That!"

Forty five years after Monty Python first appeared (no - one expected them, their chief weapon was surprise....etc..), they are playing some shows, and I was lucky enough to see the first night. This is a once in a lifetime gig, if you can get to see it. These are comedy rock stars, and some of them, at least, don't want to be doing farewell tour after farewell tour. Michael Palin has said he won't go on the road, presumably having been all over the world for the BBC there must be loads of countries that wont let him back in, probably because they don't want foreigners coming around being nice to people.

This was Python without the cheap BBC sets, this was a slick, well put together stage show. BIG lights, BIG Video screens, a BIG orchestra, a BIG chorus line. This had all the hall-marks of Eric Idles' hollywood-ization stamped (possibly with a 16 ton weight) all over it. The content however was very familar. If truth be told, the Pythons could probably have stood on an empty stage and shouted into the audience,"OK - 'Spanish Inquisition' - OFF YOU GO", and then waited around for the audience to start, finish and then applaud the sketch on their own, and everyone would have had a jolly good time. 

What we did get was a replay of many of the Python's greatest and, in a few places, some not so greatest hits. There were Llamas of the Dangerous type, Albatross' of the Interval type, Penguins of the Exploding type, Kangaroos of the Philosophical type and a Parrot. There were lots of video clips from the original series that served as distractions for scenery and scene changes, only one new one, at the beginning of the show, with a time travelling blue box ... yes, that's right... the "RETARDIS".Honestly, that's what THEY called it, please don't turn up at my house with flaming torches.

The sketches had been cut together to feed from one to another a lot more smoothly than they would have ever done on the tv show, which worked particularly well in the second half alongside more of the most famous material. I don't think there were any major omissions from the famous sketches, the only thing really missing was Graham Chapman, who appears to have made some pitiful excuse about not appearing on account of death. Lazy sod, plenty of other dead stuff turned up.

Some material was updated, "Blackmail", for example, was a lot longer and contained the input from a guest celebrity. Although said celebrity managed to fluff his lines and came across very amateur dramatics.The "Penis Song" has now been extended to include all genders and preferences and has left me with a tune in my head that is deninitely not one that I can burst into song in public with or they'd stick me in the dock, and I won't...come...back!!.There was also Ballet. That's right BALLET!!

We roamed the world, from China to Finland and Australia, presumably to make Mr Palin feel at home, or is that NOT at home? On the performance front, age hasn't been too unkind, although Terry J needed queue cards quite a bit, Gilliam was, as usual, playing grotesques, Idle was clearly loving it and despite Cleese having a gravelly throat, watching him struggle not to laugh whilst performing with Palin was fantastic. It was also nice that they included Carol Cleveland, although there didn't seem to be a lot for her to do.

I have to say, especially after 2 weeks reflection before writing this, that I wish they'd tweaked things a bit more, because although it was great to see all this live, I knew it TOO well. This could, of course, be viewed as "GET A LIFE YOU SILLY MAN" so its my own faultI On the other hand, Led Zeppelin played the O2 in 2007, I didn't get to see that (damn you, other 2 Million people trying to get tickets at the same time...), no-one complained that there was no new material, there were no cries of "OH, NO , not Stairway to Heaven .. AGAIN!!, BOOOOO , WHERE'S THE NEW STUFF!"

This was also a stage show on the edge. The edge of music hall, the edge of turning into Variety (yes with a capital V), the very form of entertainment that these guys wanted to get away from in the 60's. Its easy to see why they wouldn't want to keep trotting this out and becoming a sad shadow of themselves. These are the FINAL shows. They make this very clear at the end with two slides on the big screens.

Graham Chapman 
1941 - 1989 

and 

Monty Python 
1969 to 2014 

All of the evidence points to this being the end of the road for Python. These shows are money driven and this is plainly intimated, the interval screens displayed a "Merch-O-Meter", they're getting back money that they lost in a law suit over "Spamalot" and John Cleese is paying for another divorce. So, we are left with the end of the third of my four (FOUR, there are FOUR, THINGS), life changers from 1969. There will shortly only be me left to carry the torch. What we need then is a silly, rock, astronaut to put things back in order, an "Urban Spaceman" if you will. Hang on..That's Neil Innes !  Wasn't he sort of in Monty Python as well? He wasn't in the live show!

So, was the forty-five year wait for me to see this worth it? This one's a bit of a paradox. I wish I'd been a bit more surprised by the material.The guy sitting behind me clearly was, I thought he was going to have a heart attack with laughter!

BUT...

If I hadn't known it quite so well, would I have wanted to go? After careful consideration, I'll give this one a rating of 

SPAM out of SPAM. 

Rating:
8
Topics:
Saturday, July 12, 2014 - 11:22 by Spindles

It's the perfect day for a gig at the Bowl, warm, slightly overcast and, most importantly, not raining. Just as the first band is due to hit the stage all the early birds who have staked a claim to their spot for the day recieve a surprise treat as Mr Vedder performs a solo, acoustic version of Porch to rapturous applause. This sets the over-riding tone for the day that, despite the size of the venue, the band manage to inject a wonderful feeling of intimacy into the proceedings.

Eddie calls up the first act of the afternoon, hardcore punk supergroup, Off! who rattle through a barrage of short, punchy numbers which easily get the crowd fired up for what is to come. Mike McCready then introduces Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to the stage, who present an impeccable, if slightly lacklustre performance. Don't get me wrong, they're a great band and the performance was flawless, I just felt that their level of audience interaction was a bit too low as a support act and that they started to drag a bit towards the end of their set.

Most of that feeling was probably down to the high level of anticipation ahead of Pearl Jam's eventual appearance. When they finally do arrive on stage, it's with the wonderfully melodic Pendulum which ease us gently into the set. This is followed up by the trio of Wash, Nothingman and Black which you would have to have a heart of stone not to well up by the end of. Once the crowd has been suitably emotionally satisfied the gig erupts with the explosive combination of Go, Brain of J, Comatose, Save you and Hail Hail. Eddie pauses briefly between a couple of these tunes to make sure everyone down in the pit is doing okay. The underlying reasons for which do not need re-stating here but it's clear that, as a band, they care deeply about their fan's welfare. It's during one of these moments that we get one of the funnier quips of the day as Eddie lays down the law that you should probably only be crowd surfing if you're small enough that you think he would kick your ass. His 'taking care of your neighbour' speech segues wonderfully into Mind Your Manners followed up with Do The Evolution, Got Some and Lightning Bolt. After another humorous interlude about beer carriers it's time then to take it down a notch with the beautiful Nothing As It Seems accompanied by Boom Gaspar on keys. A couple more of the bands more melodic anthems follow with Given To Fly and Sirens before everything kicks into high gear with the last few tracks of the first set: Corduroy, Even Flow, Let The Records Play, Spin The Black Circle and a phenomenal rendition of Rearviewmirror belt out across the venue leaving in their wake a lot of very happy fans.

The audience are given a brief respite as the stage is reset with chairs, the candle lamps are lowered and the universe lends its hand to the proceedings by providing a massive, glowing full moon which rises majestically over the back of the park. The band return to stage armed mostly with semi acoustics and, in the case of Jeff Ament, a particularly lovely acoustic upright bass and perform their offering of Yellow Moon back to the universe. Eddie then relates a story about music that inspired him as a youth before being joined on stage by Simon Townshend and performing a heartfelt rendition of Townshend's I'm The Answer. Next up is a rarity from the Pearl Jam vaults, Footsteps before tribute is paid to Andrew Woods with covers of Chloe Dancer and Crown of Thorns. A superbly elongated version of Better Man sets us up for the sprint to the finish line with Jeremy, Lukin and Porch, complete with a patented Vedder crowd walk in which he became so absorbed that he barely made it back to the stage just in time for the big finish.

The second encore kicks off with a cover of The Beatles' Rain and the band are accompanied for this number by George Harrison's son, Dhani. Tonight's rendition of Daughter morphs into something very different as Eddie fumes at the hypocrisy and cruelty of unjustified conflicts and killings taking place around the world. His eyes blaze as vents his frustration and the song segues into a cover of Edwin Starr's War and the audience eagerly respond in kind. We're definitely approaching the end of the evening as the big guns of Blood and the endlessly anthemic Alive whip the audience into a fury before capping off the evening with a blistering rendition of Rockin' In The Free World accompanied by the whole of Off! providing tambourine support. The relentless applause at the end of the set co-erces the whole band to the front of the stage to take a bow before heading off for either a massive party, or a well deserved end of tour rest. Playing for over three hours, Pearl Jam prove once again beyond a shadow of a doubt that their longevity and success are both hard earned and well deserved. A thoroughly enjoyable evening and one in which it felt very much like one of the biggest bands in the world just invited you into its front room for a bit of a sing, a glass of wine and a nice chat.

Rating:
9
Topics:
Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 13:59 by David

It's Dragon time again. 

It's 5 years on and we're introduced to new and improved village of Berk, upgraded to be a dragon paradise complete with all the facilities any fiery, flying pet could want. The Viking teens from the first movie are now young adults and it looks like we've been spared the details of the teen angst that would ordinarily occur. Which begs the question of how exactly would a Viking teen rebel? Take up the harp? Start bathing regularly and wearing pinstripe suits?

Except...

There is one person in this happy picture that's not entirely comfortable with this scaly idyll. Yes, you're way ahead of me here, Hiccup, son of Stoick the Clan Chief and best buddy with the coolest of all of the flyers, Toothless the Night-Fury. 

Whilst the rest of the citizens of Berk are enjoying a Dragon-Racing tournament (dont be fooled, it's Sheep-Quidditch), Hiccup and Toothless are happier exploring further afield. Toothless because he's having fun with his rider and Hiccup, because growing up as son of the guy in charge means the dreaded "RESPONSIBILITY...!!".

Dad wants Hiccup to take over the reigns and is pestering his frequently absent son for permission to hang up his forge (blacksmithing being a remarkably down to earth day job for the guy in charge, perhaps we'll see the next generation of the Royals serving up latte with little chocolate sprinkle crowns...). 

Anyway...

The trouble with running away from things for long enough, is that you eventually run INTO something, in this case a bunch of dragon trapping mercenaries looking to blame someone for a lost cargo.  This encounter sets off the main plot, introducing a bad guy Drago Bludvist (in name only at this point), looking get his hands on all available dragons for military purpose. A platoon of Dragoons perhaps? 

A quick escape later, and we're underway with the main narrative. Several, in fact, brought together nicely for the final third act of the film that puts huge numbers of dragons on the screen at the same time without all that Transformers style "What?..Who.?.Does anyone know what's happenning?" shenanigans.

For an animated family film, there are a number of main characters that are streets ahead of some live action performances, although the main villain is a bit one dimensional. The characters are mostly well rounded and non-preachy Gerard Butler has mellowed as Stoick. Jay Baruchel has retained his quirky charm, which actually suits the more confident Hiccup even better this time, and his relationship with Astrid (America Ferrera) is sweet without being sickly.

The relationships have evolved nicely and the characters behave towards each other in a way that makes perfect sense given the ending of the previous film.  

There is one major character however who appears to have been educated by consortium, either that or their accent is off on a tour of Scandinavia, via Dublin, Glasgow and Newcastle. 

The dragons are great once again, and come across as all sorts of fun, at the top of the pile is Toothless. He is brilliantly animated, with a wonderful set of facial expressions and mannerisms that really sell it to us that this could be a living creature, and we even catch a glimpse of a very different side of him. This transformation is so well done you realize what trouble they'd all be in if he suddenly took a liking to Viking-burgers.

Dragons and people come in all shapes and sizes and, if anything, the people do fare a little worse,  you can forgive the variety of the mythical creatures, but some of the villagers are a bit over the top. If you stood Hiccup next to his father for example, their shadows would make the number 10.

The only thing that I'd really call out as a negative (apart from the distraction of the migrating accent - via Wales and Belgium ), is that the pacing is a little off. The villain takes a long time to actually appear (although he does appear in the shadows of a flashback earlier on in the film) and the second act is probably a little too long before we get to first of the major action sequences . 

The pacing is a small gripe to be honest, but makes a difference if you are part of the younger end of the audience, as testified by the 6 yr old atomic powered fidget that I brought with me. Once the big dragon fighting sequences kicked off, the control-rods were back in place and critical mass was avoided. 

There are some structural similarities between this film and the last, but it's not always about doing something new, it's about how well you do things, and this film does them very well indeed.

The big dragon fighting sequences were indeed big and had dragons in them, they also had big dragons in them, and even better they had big dragons having big dragon fights , so all in all everything was covered off nicely.

Oh. It also has baby dragons in it … awwwww... Useful, plot relevant, baby dragons...

As sequels go - this is a great one,  it's smart and it's grown-up, remarkably so at times. It's exciting, funny, emotional, scary, sad and exhilarating, and it's nice to be able to root for them for a change, now for the next one just don't repeat yourselves too much... Oh.. and get a new voice coach...

Rating:
9
Topics:
Friday, June 20, 2014 - 09:49 by Spindles

Wow, so... That season went by pretty fast then. Before we begin the long, harsh winter before the arrival of Season 5 let's take a look at this year's finalé episode, The Children.

Picking up immediately where we left off last episode, we follow Jon Snow leaving The Wall on his way to to deal with Mance Rayder. It all seems remarkably civilised given recent events and I can't help but wonder what the Proper Northern Drink was with which they toasted they dead. Snakebite and Black? Maybe a BlastAway? Or a bottle of Dog perhaps? Regardless it all suddenly goes to shit as a massive army appears out of nowhere and trounces the wildlings. I've got absolutely no clue how they got there, but it seems to be Stannis and The Onion Knight fresh from their recent trip to the Iron Bank. I can only imagine that they bought some kind of teleportation device with the money to have gotten there so quickly when every other journey on the show takes months to travel even the smallest of distances. Continuity problems aside, Stannis saves the day. Yay!

Back to King's Landing and The Mountain is hanging on by his fingernails and seems to have been given to a mad scientist for experimentation. This will obviously go swimming well and have absolutely no repercussions later. Cersei sticks a preliminary dagger into her dad and then prompty goes off and jumps on Jaime.

Over in Mereen, Daenerys, having won the war against slavery, seems to be losing the battle for the people. Also, the fact that she's been ignoring her dragons all season finally has some repercussions as they start toasting small children in order to get some of her attention. And, speaking of burnings, all the dead of the Night's Watch and the Wildlings are set ablaze as everyone takes a moment to mourn their losses before the zombies attack.

I'm not kidding either... Cut to Bran's group as they finally find the tree they've been looking for and they are suddenly set upon by a full on horde of zombie skeletons. During an epic battle, in which we lose yet another character, the skeletons SUDDENLY START EXPLODING!!! Holy shit... Okay Game of Thrones, you've got my attention. What follows is a bunch of blaggy exposition that I'll probably need to re-watch about five times to unpick. Something about children, trees, ravens and the fact that Bran will fly.

The travesty that follows I can barely put into words. Brienne and Podrick finally run into Arya and The Hound. This escalates quickly into a scrap after the Hound finally admits that he's actually looking after Arya and that she's better off with him. It's a brutal fight in which the tide changes several times before Brienne finally kicks The Hound off a cliff. Damn you Martin for making an utterly unlikeable piece of shit into my favourtie character and then taking him away. I'm currently in denial about it as we never actually see him die. Until I see his corpse I'll be awaiting his return.

And so, to Tyrion's fate. Unfortunately I managed to spoiler myself quite badly on this one by reading the blurb on the back of one of the books so I already knew of Tywin's ultimate fate. There's a last brief moment between Jaime and Tyrion which underscores how well these two have performed together all series, again, I salute you gentlemen. In another of this episodes wtf moments, we find out not only did Shae stab Tyrion in the back, but she also went and slept with his dad. What follows is brief and vicious and results in yet another coffin. This season's bodycount is truly astounding. There's still time for one final murder to cap off the season and it's at the hands of Tyrion, in the khazi, with the crossbow. It's dark, it's funny, it's quiet. It's the complete opposite of nearly every other death in the show and as such is truly wonderful.

We round off the episode with a lot of the characters seemingly setting sail for Braavos as Tyrion and, apparently, Varis steal off in the night with Tyrion packed away in a little box with his happy meal for the journey. Arya cashes in her coin from back in season 1 and with a Valar Morghulis she's off.

That's it for another year then folks. Keep an eye out on the site for news of next season as we get it, and I'll see you same time next year.

Quote of the week:

Brienne
I swore a sacred vow to protect her.

Arya
Why didn't you?

Rating:
9
Topics:
Monday, June 9, 2014 - 20:47 by Spindles

Hello, good evening and welcome to tonight's Axe Factor final 2014.

It's been a tough competition so far but tonight we're going to see the final showdown between three of Westeros' biggest bands. Audience favourites, Jon Snow and The Night's Watch have been wowing us all season with their capacity for self delusion, over indulgence and general buffoonery. Ygritte and the Wildlings, very popular amongst the more rural types, have been warming up for tonight with bouts of raping, pillaging and sacking across the lands south of the wall. Then we have tonight's surprise finalists, Mance Rayder and the Woolly Mammoths, who came seemingly out of nowhere and stole not only our hearts, but also our lungs, our livers and quite possibly our spleens.

First up tonight we have a lovely little ditty from Ygritte and the Wildlings in the form of 'I know you didn't fuck that bear' performed flawlessly around a blazing campfire. A wonderful opening gambit which serves to whet our appetite for the inevitable head to head between her and Jon later on in the show.

After a brief interlude from Sam performing that classic , "I'll never leave you again, except for right now, when I'm going to shut you in meat locker for your own protection", we're in for a real treat, one of the finest examples of a 1980's Tooling Up montage that I think I've ever seen. Kenny Loggins would have been proud.

And that's enough of that metaphor for now. With the introductions over, let battle commence.

The battle itself was stunningly executed, with action taking place in different areas of Castle Black and The Wall. As commanding officers start dropping like flies or going into hiding, it's not long before Jon Snow takes charge of the Night's Watch. The action barely relents for the entire episode and the death toll quickly escalates. Standout moments of the battle in my humble opinion were: The Scythe, The Giants, Ghost entering the fray and Ygritte's final fate.

When the dust finally settles, the Night's Watch have prevailed. At what cost though? At this point I'm really not sure who's left alive in Castle Black other than Sam, Jon, Gilly and Slint but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. Although, right now it's all about Jon going off on his own to try and take out Mance. 

All in all, an excellent episode I thought, well realised and directed by Neil Marshall. The panning shots throughout Castle Black in the middle of the battle certainly give a good idea of the scope of the set and how much effort went into this battle. In saying that though, there's only so long that a massive battle can hold one's attention and it was the small bits of character interaction in the midst of all the chaos that really made this a standout episode. While it didn't have the the same gut-wrenching episode of last season's Red Wedding, it was certainly another notch in the epic episode nine post.

Now let's see how everything gets wrapped up next week.

Quote of the week:
Jon
I'm not much of a poet

Sam
No, you're really not are you?

Rating:
9
Topics:
Friday, June 6, 2014 - 20:49 by Spindles

The failed CIA sting pushes Prime Minister Fry into demanding access codes and schematics for the drones and he also gets his first inkling of Heller's deteriorating memory. Now that his only other lead is gone Heller pulls a spectacular U-Turn and gives Jack exactly what we always knew he would, absolutely everything, including Kate.

The terrorists seem to be entering a very famiiar phase for 24 as the family fractures a bit with the daughter now getting cold feet after being sent to deal with her sister in law. 

Mark has a bit of a whine at Jack about Audrey and is summarily shot down in flames as Jack dismisses him completely out of hand. There will be a reckoning between these two later when Jack finds out that Mark's planning to hand him over to the Russians. Bringing the Russians into play seems like a bit of a strange move, especially given recent tensions, but I imagine that the writers and producers couldn't have predicted the recent situation so it'll be weird to see how this plays out.

Prime Minister Fry takes the normal decision of assuming Jack is going to fail and send a squad after him. Here we go again... Will these people ever learn to leave him to his own devices. I fully expect this to go very badly by the end of the episode. Plus, it looks like series crossover isn't limited to the Americans as Jo from Spooks seems to be on payroll with British Intelligence. 

Jack and Kate undertake a very risky plan with Jack selling the mission by telling her that they will likely both be killed. Nice bedside manner as usual sir. The plan goes fairly well with Jack passing the usual undercover tests as Kate gets the thumbscrews applied and MI5 step in to fuck everything up. Long and short of it is that all the baddies die, Chloe's computer plan works and they get the data, loads of the british troops get blown up. It's great to see Yvonne Strahovski pulling off some serious fu again, it's a damn sight more visceral than Chuck and whets the appitite for more of this before the end of the season.

One of the CIA computer geeks uncovers some evidence that may exonorate Kate's husband and the first mole of the season is uncovered as well as a sinister British sounding baddie on the phone. 

All in all, another pretty slow episode with some very familiar ground being trodden. Once again, I'm left hoping that things pick up a bit an we get a few genuine surprises before the season is out.

Rating:
6
Topics:
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 22:52 by Spindles

Wow... That was... Yeah.... Before we get onto exactly what that was, let's deal with the rest of what is surely a pivotal episode, certainly in terms of ongoing plot and personal character developement.

Firstly, the Wildlings Strike Again. This time, Ygritte's merry band of rapists and murderers take out the brothel near Castle Black and all it's inhabitants and punters save for Gilly and her baby. Gilly is either one of the luckiest or unluckiest characters in the show with everything that's happened to her since we first laid eyes on her and I'm still not settled on which category she belongs to. Jon Snow and the Night's Watch get all wound up about the massacre and decide what they are going to do about it: precisely fuck all, opting instead to sit around in relative safety and drink wine.

A brief conversation about the fate of Grey Worm's little worm takes place and we wonder whether he is more endowed than we have been led to believe. But apparently not, it appears that both his pillar and his stones have long since crumbled away.

Speaking of missing schlongs, Reekon gets a final pre-mission chat from Ramsay Snow before being sent to take Moat Cailin. This looks like it's going to fail miserably until one of the troops takes matters into his own hands and accepts the offer of a bloodless surrender with the promise of safe passage home. The only passage they actually get to see is their own back passages being pulled out of their throats as Bolton gleefully skins the lot of them. 

Around the kingdoms, The Dread Pirate Littlefinger plays his wife's death out at a tribunal as a suicide, aided by Sansa, who finally reveals her identity and decides to back up his story. Now vindicated he launches into full on manipulator mode whipping the Vale into an anti Lannister frenzy. Over in Mereen, the shit hits the fan as Ser Mormont recieves a pardon from King's Landing for spying on Daenerys and is summarily booted out of the kingdom. Either this came completely out of the blue, or I missed this when it was first set up. All seems a bit odd to me and I'm not really sure of the motivation behind getting rid of him. Ah well... We'll see. Ramsay finally gets his Grand High Bastard award from his dad for appendages rendered. How sweet.

Arya and The Hound make it to the Eyrie, and, upon discovering the fate of her aunt, she bursts into hysterical laughter. So do I. And, finally, Sansa hits her goth phase and turns to the dark side. 

Tonight's pre-match entertainment comes in the form of another wonderful Tyrion and Jamie conversation. Another sparkling dialogue gents, I applaud you. Your gallows humour this season has truly been one of the consistent highlights. Tyrion's insights into beetlecide form a lovely parallel with the genocides currently taking place across the kingdoms. It's a wonderfully rambling tale which is cut suddenly short and left hanging in the air without any real resolution. A bit like what was about to happen in a couple of minute's time if I'm honest.

What follows is a wonderfully choreographed fight in which Oberyn dominates The Mountain while listing all of his misdeeds. The Princess Bride homage is delightfully obvious, 'My name is Oberyn Martell, you raped my sister. Prepare to die!' Just as we're all happy that he's killed the beast, The Mountain suddenly leaps on top of The Viper and literally crushes him like a grape. Stu Francis would be proud. Assuming, of course, that he's on the list of children's entertainers that it's still okay to mention. 

Tyrion is found guilty... Which I find a bit odd as I'm pretty sure The Mountain is dead too... So not really sure what's going on now. Ah well... Roll on next week and the hopefully epic episode nine.

Quote of the week:
Guard
Who would pass the Bloody Gates?

The Hound
The Bloody Hound 

Rating:
9
Topics:
Friday, May 30, 2014 - 14:48 by Spindles

5 hours in and everything finally starts to ramp up a gear. There were so many Bauer Bingo moments this week that I had a hard time keeping track of them. From more 'Putting people on speaker's and 'Within the hour's to some of my personal favorites such as 'Doing it my way'.

The episode starts out simply enough with Bauer in custody and Morgan in possession of the flight key. Morgan puts what's left of her shattered career in Jack's hands, which, despite moments of kudos, can never end well. She gets the data to Chloe who quickly pieces together the evidence that proves the drone was hijacked by Al Harazi. All the men in the show eat big slices of humble pie as they have to admit that our Whispering Wonder and the Bauer Babes were right all along.

As we leave the male cast attempting to choke down their portions of humilty, we see Naveed attempt once again to turn Simone against her mother by leaking their location in Margot's demand video and planting evidence that would help exonerate Simone when the cavalry finally arrive. Sounds like a foolproof plan to me.

Jack finally has a sit down chat with Heller and breaks out the ultimatum I've been waiting for. He says he has a lead on an arms dealer and the only way to get him to talk is for Jack to go in under cover but as a legitimate agent once more. Heller doesn't bite as he the CIA have uncovered the location from the video and are sending in a team so Jack's lead is irrelevant. We can see where this is going from further away than the satellite surveillance.

Margot informs Naveed that his plan to get them all caught has failed and that his services as drone pilot are no longer required since her son has been busily playing Drone Simulator 2014 during the ad breaks and reckons he's now good enough to take on the real thing. She cackles maniacally and swivels in her black leather chair as she outlines the impending fate of the rebellion.

So, all the President's men and Prime Minister Fry (YAY!) sit down with bags of popcorn to watch the attack on the compound. Morgan, having now been sidelined, gets a flash from her spider sense that this was all a bit too easy and couldn't possibly be real as Jack hasn't been involved in any way in the gathering of this intel. She passes the data over to Chloe, who quickly proves that the baddies are setting them up and enlists Admiral Ackbar to convey his customary warning to the troops. The CIA team storming the building get the warning and attempt to retreat just as the first drone blows the whole place to bits. So guess what folks? This means that Jack now has the only lead doesn't it? Who'd have thunk it?

The episode closes with Margot despatching Naveed with a bullet to the brain.

In amongst all the chaos there was a lovely moment where Jack and Audrey finally get to have a conversation, which is both sweet and uncomfortable in equal measures as Jack basically tells her that he's only going to wind up getting her into more trouble if she stays with him. After nine seasons of this, we cannot help but agree.

All in all a much higher impact this week, with the first of likely many big explosions and a mass culling of the CIA's resources. We all know what's coming next and can't wait to see Jack go undercover and put the thumb screws to whoever this arms dealer guy is in the coming weeks. Bring it on.

Rating:
8
Topics:

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