Gotham, Season 2 “Knock, Knock”: A Review.

Show: Gotham.
Season: 2.
Episode: 2 “Knock, Knock.”
Released: 2015.
Running time: 44 min.

For the second episode of the season, this was an aptly titled episode that upped the tension even further then one would suspect for so early in the season with copious mass murder, the emergence of the Maniax’s, and a nice bit of contention between Bruce and Alfred.

For one, the character of Jerome Valeska, who first appeared in the season one episode “The Blind Fortune Teller,” with perhaps one of the best one episode appearances in the season as the future Joker played by Cameron Monaghan, certainly came into his own this episode, cementing his place for the rest of the season. He is a delightful mix of the Keith Ledger’s Joker and the Mark Hamill Joker, wrapped up with a bit of his own unique flare in a fun murder burrito. The actor’s body, his tonality, and his facial expressions, particularly in the eyes and the mouth, and let’s not forget that laugh! An actor who certainly owns his character and how to use the character’s inherent presence.

The side arc with Bruce and Alfred is a bit of a mixed bag. With Bruce having lost his parents and being so young but at the cusp of being a teenager during this contentious time and trying to sort out the mystery surrounding his parents murder, a dangerous endeavor, the appearance of the first real disagreement between the two was good to see, adding an element of realism to the relationship, providing some needed growth in the chemistry of their dynamic. Then that little element of realism is tossed out the expensive window with how the arc played the argument out. Alfred, even if he was fired, has been stated as being the boy’s legal guardian, which I am pretty sure is something Bruce can’t fire him from, and Alfred, considering how protective and responsible he is of Bruce, would not leave him alone in the mansion and would have at least alerted another adult. Duty over responsibility is not Alfred’s thing.

It was also a relief to see Bullock return to being a cop early in the season, a reassurance that he will not be benched after all this season. His whole being engaged to Scotty, a brief character from the previous season, was a surprise, but given how they portrayed her this season, it is safe money that the two will likely part ways over his decision to return to being a detective before the end of the season.

The plot in this episode was kept at a brisk pace as many things went down this episode. The massacre at the police station in particular was a surprise, as it has a feel of more a mid-season at the very least vibe. The reason this is so, is because often television shows that start with the punchy stuff early are expected to outdo themselves as the plot progresses, particularly for the season climax. It’s not bad to come out with the intense stuff early though, it’s been done successfully before, just not always, and not for second seasons usually, which is why it was a bit of a surprise. If they can maintain this flow of upping the anti that they have been doing so far without overdoing it, then it should be well worth the ride of admission indeed to see where this all goes.

Despite a few quibbles with the Bruce and Alfred side story, this was an overall great episode with a great full on introduction to the Future Joker, and set-up for later episodes with the edition of Lucius to the Wayne household, Barbra Kean coming out of the woodwork, and this new head villain, we are all eager to see where the promise of this episode goes, kudos to the show’s team or a job well done!

* Gotham Season 1 Review, Gotham Season 2 Premiere.

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Goodnight Mommy: A (short) Review.

Film: Goodnight Mommy.
Written and Directed by: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.
Released: 2014 (eng sub 2015).
Running time: 93 min.

This is a Austrian Horror film about two brothers who have a contentious relationship with a woman that they doubt to be their mother whom returns to them after plastic surgery.

This is a movie about ambiance. Everything from the amazing
cinematography, the rife symbolic imagery, to the character portrayals is
about the experience of hallucinating. Even though you
know early on the secret surrounding the two boys, its not about
revelation of the secret surrounding them, so much as watching the fallout of that realization, and some of the extremes it can go to.

The child actors were natural with just a hint of something off, without being to much one thing or the other, the mother was a bit…off as a mother figure, but that could be considered as the key part of the plot, or in general a portrayed faulty person being interpreted through a skewed lens.

A great deal of obvious film making talent went into this Austrian
masterpiece, a bit laid back here and there, not an overly jump scare kind of film, which is perfect for the story being portrayed, adding yet another layer to the definition of Horror.

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The Simpsons, Season 27 Premiere: A Review.

Show: The Simpsons.
Created by: Matt Groaning.
Season: 27.
Episode: 1.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 23 min.

The premiere of the twenty seventh season of The Simpsons started off with a rather tired show cliché of Marge and Homer separating (after yet another cliché of Homer being declared with yet another health problem) and it seems like a standard Homer pisses off Marge, he does something that makes her forgive him eventually, and they end up back together again at the end of the episode. Then there is a groan worthy it’s a dream cop out part way in, but then things seem more interesting when it seems that maybe the show will do something new for a change and actually have the separation/possible divorce stick, but no, they pull off the same cop out in the end, and the glimmer of promising revitalization in the eye of the show is suddenly swirling down the toilet.

Many people have wondered whether The Simpsons should have ended long ago, having long past it’s prime, and with a season premiere like this, you can see why people would say that. The writing was lazy, the animation on the drug high was creative, but its heavy recycling of long recycled Simpsons tropes, with only a change-up cock tease going for it, that in the end leaves you annoyed and dissatisfied with this lack luster episode.

For the show’s sake, hopefully there are a few better episodes later in the season, you can only ride on the coat tails of past success nostalgia, temporary gimmicks, and Treehouse of Horror for only so long.

Gotham, Season 2 Premiere: A Review.

Show: Gotham.
Season: 2.
Episode: 1 “Damned If You Do”.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 44 min.

The first episode of the second season is mainly about placing the various characters from the previous season, and a few new ones, onto the platforms by which their new arcs will begin.

This episode started off with a quick pace, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) getting fired then making a deal with Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) that ultimately saw him compromise his own moral vanity outright for the first time on the show, and the results from that, whether he compromises himself further or not is a question situated for the later episodes in his and the viewers minds, so the start of the main protagonist’s arc was well established.

Bruce (David Mazouz) starting where we left off with him in the last episode of the previous season with the mysterious passage and room behind the fire place and resolution with it was good to see, his progression as a character is showing some promise as we see him developing further into the type of man his future self is destined to be, though the big reveal so far of the hidden room (or possible future bat cave) was a bit anti-climactic so far, even if it did contain a rather interesting last minute advice from his father. It was fun seeing him processing into blowing it up though.

Penguin is consolidating his power base now that he is in change, it will be interesting to see in where he goes trying to keep it, and along with his deepening partnership/friendship with Gordon, and we hope to see more of his delightful mother this season hopefully, and how his relationship with her will fall out.

Sylina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) being one of Penguin’s lackey’s meanwhile was a bit of a surprise, particularly given her independent nature, even if she did join Fish’s crew in the end of the last season, there had been this element of a being of sucked in by Fish’s charisma that likely lead her to joining, here, there is nothing significant so far that is expressed in motivating her to staying, it felt a little weird for her character, but it could lead to some things later so no early judgments yet.

Finding Detective Bullock as a barman and no longer a detective was also a surprise as well, and one can hope that they haven’t benched the character for the season, and as Gordon’s partner and friend, has one of the better character dynamics on the show.

Barbra Kean (Erin Richards) is perhaps the most interesting development outside of the addition of both new and old antagonists. She was one of the weaker characters of the first season (though to give Richards credit, she did the best she could with what she had), with the only note of interest being when she goes insane in the tail end of season one, but otherwise not much of a character all around without the development as the other characters, pretty much a victim character all around with a brief moment as a love interest (which she was even worse as), a Mary-Jane coo-coo for coco puffs style of character. Her addition into the second season is a surprise because she was such a weak character, hopefully her character will get a boost development wise if she is going to be recurring steadily throughout the show or become one of the mains.

The story of the episode over all is a standard setting your ducks in order set-up, though it has done decently well in hooking the viewers in for the season, but is perhaps not as strong as episodes from the first season, but still a promising start for the new season.

*Gotham Season 1: A Review.

Gotham, Season One: A Review.

Show: Gotham.
Made By: DC Entertainment, Primrose Hill Productions and Warner Bros. Television
Season: 1.
Running time: 44-49 min.
Released: 2014.

Gotham is an American Crime Drama adaption of DC’ Batman franchise developed by Bruno Heller (HBO’s Rome, and CBS’ Mentalist) that focuses on the timeline just after Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered, focusing on a younger James Gordon before his days as commissioner, Bruce Wayne, the origins of carious future supervillains, and the power plays of current ones.

This has to be the best DC adapted to television show anyone has had the pleasure to witness. It hit all the buttons right across the board, thus it is not a surprise that has quite a fan following and is well regarded by other critics.

The cinematography was brilliant; they knew how to utilize the camera for the optimum effect without going overboard, particularly with framing shots, long shots, and establishing shots. The special effects did a decent job in creating the gritty noir ambiance that is a titular trait of the fictional Gotham.

The music was exactly what you expect from something from the Batman-verse, despite the timeline, and helped to enhance the tone of an episode or character.

The utilization of the outfits was also effective in the visual enjoyment of the show, particularly the Penguin’s slightly debonair creepy suit, the subtle nod to future Joker’s outfit that Cicero wore during “The Blind Fortune Teller” (season 1 episode 16) and the gangster Fish Mooney’s wacky-sexy outfits, portray the unique styles and looks of each character and also give subtle nods to the source material at the same time.

The characters meanwhile is where the show really shined, forming them by utilizing the source material, but making them separate enough entities in and of themselves to make them unique without diverging to harshly from who they were in the comics, building each character from the comic canon into what they will later be with a refreshingly gorgeous respect for character development.

The best of the characters would have to be Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), two antagonists that vie and clash for their own convoluted grasps for power.

Fish Mooney is a gangster with power in the leading crime family running Gotham, a femme fatale that takes her archetype to heart and uses it as just another tool to get what she wants from those around her. She is fearless, convoluted, and is willing to play with both criminals, victims, and the law alike. Jada Picket Smith owns this character, utilizing her body movement, her facial features, and her amazing voice to portray Fish with a professional attention to the detail and dedication to the show that comes out in her performance.

The Penguin, or Oswald Cobblepot, is a youthful underling who moves up in the ranks through guile and the occasional good old fashioned stabby-stab insanity from time to time. He has yet to develop his debonair aspect that Penguin from other Batman materials has, and he can come across as a little snively from time to time, but he utilizes his intelligence and combines it with his ambition in such a way, that as wormy as the guy is, you can’t help but be fascinated by his progress into becoming the future Penguin with power we all know he was in Batman. Robin Lord Taylor like Smith for Mooney, utilizes his body movement, facial, expressions, and voice to project the character’s personality well, merging with the penguin look and making it a part of himself as he portrays the character, adding just a touch of sinister naiveté at times.

Finally we look at the other great strength of the show, the story, and boy is it good! Using the Death of the Waynes, which in the comics was briefly explained catalyst for Bruce becoming Batman, and turning it into this primary story arc of conspiracy was a smart move on part of the show’s writers. The conspiracy is well paced, just the right amount of mystery and twists, drawing in the various main characters in this domino effect of action and reaction. Which is what a main overarching story arc should be, particularly with this story’s premise.

The other arcs that run through the season centering specific characters outside of the Wayne murders are also interesting, convoluted, and well-paced. Each character has well defined motives, and each is challenged in different ways, making or breaking the characters as the show progresses. For example, Gordon’s challenge in morality and his definition of duty to the law, you can see the personal struggle of this central protagonist as he treads that personal and political edge, what you need for a main protagonist. With antagonists like Penguin, you see his rise, his failures and his victories to become the supervillain he is in the source material, yet still rough enough around the edges to leave plenty of room for more development. Fish Mooney’s arc is the best of the lot watching how her maneuverings and manipulations both win for her and lose for her. Every episode that centers on her are always the most riveting to watch because you never really know what to expect.

The individual episode arcs (some running for 2-3 episodes), were fascinating little origin stories into characters from the Batman Rouges gallery primarily (Joker and the Scarecrow for example), as well as introducing themes such as vigilantism in its proto stages into Gotham, even details like Detective Bullock’s keen antagonism towards to Batman in the source material explained through his experiences with The Spirit of the Goat (Episode 6) and The Red Hood Gang (episode 17).

Overall this was an enjoyable first season, a definite grade A start and then some, setting up the players, the plot for the following seasons, yet stands on its own in strength. It makes one excited to see what awaits them in the next season to come.

Gotham trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwOPA2upeCA

Gotham Season 2 Premiere: A Review.

Blindsight: A Review.

Short: Blindsight.
Created by: Florian Puchois.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 2.39 min.

This is a computer animated short about a person who creates the world around him visually, using a contraption that creates Polaroid brail pictures.

This was a lovely animation that puts an interesting turn on the construction of perception. It utilized elements and time splendidly to express its theme, and the Polaroid brail as a means was an innovative touch, including the element of artificial aides into the theme.

The music was a good choice, keeping it upbeat, the colour palate was visually appealing, and the character design was a nice simple utilization for the theme.

A great animated short as an example of exploring the theme of perception, keep up the good work!

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Screen Squinty’s “The Visit” Review.

Film: The Visit.
Made by: Blinding Edge Pictures and Blumhouse Productions.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 93 min.

The Visit is urban legend style horror (possibly a bit of comedy) film written and directed by M. Night. Shyamalan about two children Rebeca and Tyler who go to visit their estranged grandparents John and Doris for the week and during their stay notice something increasingly odd is going on with the elderly couple.

From a technical perspective, the found footage style worked well with the film and the filmmakers were fairly consistent in maintaining the style throughout. It added an extra layer of experience for the viewers of the children, and combined with a good use of environment (tight confining crawl spaces, sprawling fog shrouded farm land), enhancing the horror and humour elements, the technical were pretty solid.

The characters worked well, each actor pulling of a stellar performance, particularly Deanna Dunagan as Doris; you can tell she was having a blast playing her role. The older girl was the least enjoyable, coming across as perhaps a bit to pretentious, but that could be purposeful, possibly a mild self-parody at some filmmakers in general.

Narrative wise this was perhaps one of M. Night. Shyamalan’s tighter stories; there was the absence of the inexplicable plot holes that existed in some of his other films (Signs for example) or a weak climax (The Village for another example); the plot progression flowed well enough, and though it took a bit of a slow start in the beginning, it did use that slow start to establish the two protagonists well.

The manipulation of tension was one of the stronger parts of the film. A sense of “will it or wont it” sinisterism that purveys some of the scenes, like the one where the protagonists are playing under the porch when they are suddenly beset upon by their rather creepily scuttling grandma only to have her pop out after them from under the porch after them and proclaim in an amused manner that she was just playing. It turned the moment of tension and jump scare into a moment of playful eccentricity, making it more a “what the Fay Dunaway was that?!” type of scene, but in a good way. This sentiment is carried out throughout the film, and keeps the sense of slightly skewed tension well.

While the film does have its flaws here and there, it’s an enjoyable watch with some good tension, great acting, and decent cinematography. One of Shyamalan’s better films as of late.

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Sunnyside: A Review.

Series: Sunnyside.
Season: 1.
Episode: 1
Running time: 20 min.

Sunnyside is a Canadian Sketch comedy series that features various skits throughout the city of Sunnyside such as a couple with a bleeding wall, a coffee house run by Shaytan, and an advice giving manhole instead of internet.

This show has some hits and misses in humour depending on your tastes, but some of the jokes are original and spoof some standard tropes from other genres, such as the bleeding wall, a trope from horror. Some of the jokes can fall a little flat here and there, but combined altogether into this wacky little town, it actually works. The best joke that worked for this particular first episode would have to be the down on his luck shmuck who finds a top hat that makes him lucky. His progress and resolution of the joke was well executed, particularly as it was entirely without dialogue for this skit.

The acting was not bad, but you could tell that some of the skits worked better or worse with the cast then others, though you can tell there is some love for what they are doing with some of them and comes out in the skits.

Not a bad start to this show and while it’s no Saturday Night Live, its own thing without trying to be like other skit shows, and that’s good and an overall decent start to this series.

*Sunnyside first episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V27hjg4K08I

Heroes Reborn Premiere: A Review.

Series: Heroes Reborn
Episode: Premiere episode.
Season: Mini-series.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 1 and a half hours.

Heroes Reborn is an event miniseries that is considered a continuation of the original science-fiction series Heroes (2006-2010). It stars a combination of new and old cast in a world that the evolved humans, or Evo’s, are out of the closet with the general public, facing discrimination and suppression thanks in particular to a cataclysmic event (introduced in Dark Matters)in which many people died. Various people are drawn together a year later by some greater mystery in the horizon.

From the technical end of things, standard fair for the most part in cinematography, nothing that really stands out overall in that quarter, unlike the show’s prelude. The point of contention would have to be the computer animation for Miko in the videogame parts. While they weren’t heinous, with the budget that the production company has to make this show, they were still pretty sub-par and you would think they would fork over money for better CGI for such a big time production, even as a miniseries for television. Miko’s part is supposed to reflect an actual present day videogame, video games now-a-days have way better graphics.

The characters were… a mixed bag to say the least.

Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman reprising his role) and Quintin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) from Dark Matters were the most enjoyable for this premiere, their byplay with one another is fun to watch, and both show a promising character dynamic for future episodes as their motivations become further in sync with one another. The close second was Tommy Clarke (Robbie Kay) who shows some promise as an engaging character once they pull him away from the teenage melodrama. The weak parts would have to be Miko Otomo (Kiki Sukezane) so far; her character is…well, as one dimensional as her videogame persona, and there is no clear way to define her except awkward to watch, though whatever her story is, or is going to be, will hopefully improve her in later episodes.

The story…whoo…now there is another mixed bag.

There is some solid mystery, particularly working off of the prelude Dark Matters that was released prior to the premiere. The looming threat in the horizon is well hinted at, and there are a couple of plot lines that show promising development. Despite all that, this has yet to show the promise that the premiere of the original Heroes possessed. There was also an odd character arc going on with Miko and her fanboy, possible red-shirt hopefully, Ren and the whole videogame father needs rescue subplot going on. Frankly it was like these parts were written by an otaku working out some sort of amateurish fanfiction. It was just plain jarring compared to the rest of the narrative, what there is of one so far.

Overall there is some promising things here, such as the big mystery, some decent visuals here and there, a few good characters, but it has yet to really live up to the hype that this miniseries gained. Further future episode clip reveals hold some promise, something that will hopefully signal a gaining improvement as the show progresses, so we shall see.

*Heroes Reborn trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FLHB2zB_cA

Heroes Reborn Dark Matters Prelude: A Review at https://screensquinty.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/heroes-reborn-prequel-dark-matters-episode-review/

Screen Squinty “La Luna” Review.

Short: La Luna.
Made by: Pixar.
Released: 2011.
Running time: 7 min.

This is a computer animated short directed and written by Enrico Casarosa that premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France and was later paired with Brave (2012). It is about three generations of laborers who clean stars off the moon.

The animation style was very much like the illustrations from a child’s book with simple lines, yet unique characteristics as well as colourful and eye-catching. The use of gibberish dialogue forces the viewer to perceive the dynamic between the three characters strictly by action, which was well utilized in this short. The use of objects such as the hat and cleaning tools was a clever way to express the arguments and resolution.

This is more a story of the arguments of two generations (grandfather and father) trying to raise another generation, the son, in different ways that they both think to be the better, with the son eventually finding his own way of interpreting tradition. Working the theme of next generational contention though a child-like contemporary folktale worked well with the moral being expressed.

A great little animation that kids and adults can appreciate.

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*La Luna can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzNio77XA8k