August 25, 2016
15 years ago Asako's daughter was assaulted and murdered her school gymnasium by a mysterious stranger. The murderer was never found by the police, and Asako was so incensed with her daughter's four friends - who could not describe the man - that she demanded they all pay penances for their failure. Now the fourth of those girls - now women - has given Asako the name and address of the man that killed her daughter, and offered her the long-awaiting chance for revenge.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's five-part miniseries Penance saves the best for last with this crushing and masterfully claustrophobic finale. Each of the first four episodes showcased one of the four girls, and showed how the effects of Emili's murder effectively ruined their lives. Now it is Asako's own turn to see how badly her life has been destroyed, and the causes stretch way beyond her daughter's death and all but lay the blame for everything at her feet. This is not happy television.
August 24, 2016
Dragonheart was released in 1996, with its publicity pretty much entirely riding on the sight of a computer-generated dragon flying around and speaking with Sean Connery's voice. The explosion of CGI in Hollywood following the release of Jurassic Park led to a bunch of these sorts of effects-driven, high concept films. Some were hits, some were flops. Most of them have, over the last twenty years, fallen by the wayside. Dragonheart feels like a sort of middle ground film. It has its fans for sure, and was successful enough for Universal Pictures to develop at least two direct-to-video sequels, but it never quite managed to grab the public imagination in any sort of long-term fashion. These days it seems half-forgotten.
The road crew spend the night awake and talking during an all-night bus trip. Phil reminisces about his first days as a roadie. Milo (Peter Cambor) regrets not expressing his feelings to Kelly-Ann (Imogen Poots) earlier. Reg (Rafe Spall) makes an unpleasant discovery about why he was hired to join the crew in the first place.
The calibre of talent involved in Roadies means that sooner or later the law of averages is going to result in a half-decent episode. It had happened once already earlier in the season, and it is a huge relief to see it happen again: "The All-Night Bus Ride" is an oddly strong episode whose only significant flaw is that it does not link up so well to the rest of the season. In some respects it is a glimpse into an alternate universe where Roadies does not suck.
August 23, 2016
Human Ranger David Martell (Dylan Neal) orders a retreat during a pitched space battle, breaking a cardinal rule of the Rangers - to never retreat in the face of the enemy. Rather than get exiled from the order entirely, he is assigned the command of a decrepit and potentially haunted starship and give escort duty for a group of ambassadors on their way to a conference. The convoy is attacked, putting the lives of all the ambassadors in Martell's hands and revealing a new alien menace that threatens the entire galaxy.
Babylon 5 ran for five years 110 episodes. Its follow-up, Crusade, lasted only one season of 13 episodes. J. Michael Straczynski's third attempt for a Babylon 5 series lasted just under 90 minutes. I feel there is a law of diminishing returns to this franchise. The Legend of the Rangers was a 2002 TV movie produced as a pilot to an intended ongoing series for the Sci-Fi Channel, but of course no such series ultimately eventuated. Having watched its sole episode, I am not entirely surprised.
I couldn't tell you why the last issue fell slightly flat and this issue worked so well. Claire Roe's artwork for one feels a lot more accomplished. The script, by Julie and Shawna Benson, is much stronger and packed with a lot more story. If you are an old-school fan of Birds of Prey, I suspect this book will satisfy your nostalgia. If you're new to the team, this issue works as a perfect new origin.
DC Comics have really made this Rebirth scheme work. The New 52 was nowhere near this accomplished or of such a consistent quality. I figured I'd be sticking to a small number of titles going through this initiative, but instead I'm reading more DC titles than I was a year ago. It looks like I'll be reading this one too. (5/5)
DC Comics. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1. Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson. Art by Claire Roe. Colours by Allen Passalaqua.
Under the cut: reviews of Black Widow, Descender, Invader Zim, Poe Dameron, and The Wicked + the Divine.
August 22, 2016
With careful planning and plenty of luck, four British officers have successfully escaped the walls of Colditz Castle. Now for Captain Pat Grant (Edward Hardwicke) and Flight Lieutenant Phil Carrington (Robert Wagner) the real challenge begins: crossing Germany to reach Switzerland before the Nazis find them.
Colditz effectively comes full circle: it started outside of the castle, with officers sneaking their way desperately across enemy territory. This first season finishes that way too, with Grant and Carrington doing their best to masquerade as Flemish construction workers as they edge ever-closer to the Swiss border. It is a tense, wonderfully dramatic and hugely entertaining finale.
The Enterprise investigates unusual life signs on a deserted, storm-wracked planet. When the away team returns to the ship, three of them - Data (Brent Spiner), Troi (Marina Sirtis) and O'Brien (Colm Meaney) have been taken over by alien entities intent upon taking over the ship.
"Power Play" is essentially Star Trek: The Next Generation as an action thriller: high on plot and tension but low on actual depth and character. It is also a 'bottle show', using only one set that isn't on the Enterprise and keeping the number of guest performers to a minimum. Within those two restraints it is a pretty entertaining hour of television.
August 21, 2016
Briggs Land is the latest comic series from writer Brian Wood. It retains the very high quality of mature, intelligent writing I have come to expect from his work, which has included some great ongoing books including Rebels, Northlanders, Black Road and The Massive. If the quality of this book continues in the same way it goes with this first issue, I think Wood has another great book in the making.
It is provocative stuff in some ways, since he is basing his story around an extended family of anti-government isolationists, many of whom are openly racist and at least one of whom is a self-proclaimed and proud Nazi. Despite the challenge, he manages to isolate the more likeable characters within the group and make the story about them. Mack Chater's artwork is excellent and adds to the grounded, realistic tone. Lee Loughridge's colours are, as always, excellent. I'll be keeping up with this book as it goes: it has huge potential. (4/5)
Briggs Land #1. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Mack Chater. Colours by Lee Loughridge.
Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Doctor Who, and Green Arrow.