Tag Archives: live action

Merlin (2008 TV Series)

BBC

AKA: The Adventures of Merlin

Status: Complete (5 seasons/65 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 (if I’m being honest about the show’s merits) or 6 of 5 (if I’m expressing my undying love of this amazing show)

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but there are certain events which are so deeply a part of Arthurian legend that I can’t honestly consider them spoilers and as such, I may discuss the show’s treatment of them, at least a bit. So if you want a completely spoiler-free impression of this show, just go watch it . . . seriously, what are you waiting for?

Into the heart of Camelot, a kingdom where Uther its king has long made the practice of magic a capital offence, wanders a young man for whom magic is such an integral part of his being as his own breath. Merlin. He’s been sent by a desperate mother to be mentored by the one person she trusts, Uther’s court physician Gaius . . . but deeper and more ancient forces of destiny are at work than a mother’s worry. Merlin rapidly becomes fast friends with the Lady Morgana’s serving girl, Gwen, and just as rapidly gets on the bad side of the prattish prince Arthur. But just because Arthur’s a prat doesn’t mean Merlin wants to see him dead, so he manages to save the prince’s life (secretly using magic) and get himself rewarded by becoming the prince’s manservant (what an honor!). Destiny is at work, though, bringing these two together–the Once and Future King and Emrys, the greatest sorcerer to ever live who will help this king unite the land of Albion, little though they may know it. They may, in time, even become friends, although you’d be hard pressed to get Arthur to admit it.

I love Merlin so very much, and it’s one of those shows that gets better with time–both as you get further into the series and as you watch it again. Certainly, it has its faults (which will be discussed in a bit), but the characters grow on you so very much and their relationships are so rich that the problems with the show are easy to overlook (or at least I have found it so). Essentially, this show is a loose retelling of Arthurian legend–and I mean it when I say it’s a loose retelling. There are certain things that carry over strongly from the classic tales such as names/characters (Arthur, Uther, Merlin, Guinevere, Sir Gwaine, Lancelot, etc.) and events (for instance, you can probably guess how the story ends right from the beginning, the tragedies of Morgana and Mordred, etc.). There’s a lot of original material too, though; the Arthurian legends are only a rough framework for what is essentially an original story. As I said above, there are some things this show doesn’t do so amazingly. The first couple seasons can be a bit repetitive (there are memes; just saying) if you’re looking at the plot of each episode in relation to the other surrounding episodes. This does get better as the show progresses, and I also find that it becomes less noticeable as the characters and their relationships grow on you–the episode framework becomes a background on which the characters are displayed, rather than the main focus of the story. The passage of time is a bit strange and hard to keep track of, too; obviously, only about 5 years passes for the actors, but clearly more time does in the lives of the characters over the course of the show . . . it’s just hard to tell how much time, since the actors haven’t aged to match the passage of time (ignoring the times when Merlin goes old, which are fabulous). The other problem I’ve noticed (and I know I’m not the only one) is that certain characters, particularly Uther and Morgana, are (while brilliantly portrayed by their respective actors) written in an overly one-sided sort of way. For instance, I find it hard to believe that Uther could be so utterly single-minded in his hatred of magic as he is portrayed to be. And Morgana’s change of heart seems too abrupt, too lacking in internal conflict, even considering all that she went through to get to that point. But despite its faults, Merlin is one of my absolute favorite shows ever. Merlin’s character is just brilliantly portrayed (thank you, Colin Morgan), with enough internal conflict and richness of character to totally make up for any lacks elsewhere. And there are so many other brilliant characters–Arthur (obviously; Bradley’s work here is fabulous), Gwen (highly underrated; I adore her), Gaius(amazing mentor character), Gwaine (how can you not love him?!), Leon (also highly underrated), and so many others. The relationship between Merlin and Arthur is so good, too. You can clearly see how they both change over time through their growing friendship, going from basically despising each other to “you’re the only friend I have and I couldn’t bear to lose you.” There’s this great bromance between them, full of sass and humor and teasing, but stemming from a friendship that runs deep. And Colin and Bradley do such a great job of portraying this!!! There are plenty of other cool fantasy/legendary aspects of this show, heartbreaking plots, breathtakingly funny bits . . . but it’s their friendship that makes me love this show so very much.

Created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps, & Julian Murphy/Written by Julian Jones/Produced by Julie Gardner & Bethan Jones/Starring Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Richard Wilson, Anthony Head, Nathaniel Parker, & John Hurt/Music by Rob Lane & Rohan Stevenson

5 Comments

Filed under Media Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016 Movie)

Heyday Films

My rating: 4 of 5

1926, New York City. Something magical is wrecking havoc, and the magical community is desperately trying to keep the whole thing under wraps and the muggles out of it all . . . which would be easier if there weren’t obsessive, outspoken muggles crying witchcraft from the street corners. Enter into the mix a bumbling young idealist from England carrying a suitcase (bigger on the inside, naturally) full of magical creatures just dying to get out and roam the city. Obviously, trouble is going to ensue, especially when said wizard manages to get himself and his (possibly illegal) creatures seen not just by a muggle but by a straitlaced ex-Auror as well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a fun jaunt in the world Rowling’s creation. It’s clearly Rowling’s work, but on the other hand, it’s most definitely not Harry Potter, by any means. And it was odd to me that there was this big plot involving the entire local magical community and tying the story into the whole Harry Potter storyline . . . but that part of the story felt almost artificial or forced to me. Like it was there to tie everything together and to make Newt’s story bigger and more exciting, only I wasn’t really interested in that part of the story. But there were other parts of this movie that definitely made up for my not loving the big plot part. For one, the setting was really interesting–1920’s New York, with the added bonus of getting a peek into American wizardry, what’s not to love?! And all of the creatures . . . there’s a sense in which parts of the story almost feel like just a catalogue of magical creatures, but they’re so interesting/cute/wonderful that it’s totally okay. Even better (absolutely without a doubt my favorite part) are the main four characters and their interactions. Newt Scamander himself is the best. He’s a hearty helping of Eleven, a touch of Merlin (especially the sass and attitude), a bit shy and awkward, but thoroughly idealistic and devoted to his creatures and his mission to protect them and educate people about them. I don’t know; I just really enjoyed his personality and the unusual friendship he develops with the others. Jacob, Tina, and Queenie are also rich, well-developed characters who were cast brilliantly. I really loved that they weren’t your typical likeable protagonist types, none of the four were; they’re awkward or bristly or just unusual, and I loved them for it and for the friendships they formed. I would really love to see more of these characters. I think their small (but significant) personal story was what made this movie, and it is certainly what would make me recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to anyone looking for a quirky, magical tale.

Written by J. K. Rowling/Directed by David Yates/Produced by David Heyman, J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, & Lionel Wigram/Music by James Newton Howard/Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, & Carmen Ejogo

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

BBC

My rating: 4.5 of 5

NOTE: This TV special takes place following The Husbands of River Song” and immediately preceding series 10 of Doctor Who. It’s relatively spoiler-free, but you should still be sure to watch “The Husbands of River Song” first because you’ll miss half the feels of this episode if you don’t.

On Christmas Eve of 1992, the Doctor is in New York, trying to stabilize the mess he’s made of time there. That night, he encounters a young boy named Grant and accidentally gives the boy superpowers (don’t ask; it’s the Doctor) . . . and a strict command to never use those powers. Twenty-four years later, the Doctor returns to New York to investigate an alien invasion (surprise) only to encounter Grant–who is living a double life as both nanny to a small baby and local masked superhero “Ghost.” So much for never using those powers. . . .

At first, I was kind of exasperated with the writers for choosing a superhero story–I mean, that’s basically the only sort of movie that seems to be coming out right now! And honestly, I’m not the superhero movie type. But “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is Doctor Who, and I have to admit that it brings in the best of both worlds. You’ve got all the quirkiness and geekiness of Capaldi’s Doctor (absolutely brilliant!) and the classic Who alien invasion story. Plus you’ve got a good guy trying to protect the people he loves and live up to the ideals of the old superhero comics he read as a kid . . . all the while keeping his true identity a secret from the very clever and insightful (except as it regards him) journalist that he works for. The lightness and action of the superhero plot (and the sweet, innocent romance they work in) actually do a lot to counterbalance what may otherwise have been a very dark and angsty story (if you’ve watched “The Husbands of River Song,” you know why). On the other hand, the interactions between the Doctor and the journalist, Lucy, are humorous on the surface but serve to draw out and develop the Doctor’s inner turmoil, which is neat to see. In any case, I would definitely recommend “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” to any fan of Doctor Who.

Written by Steven Moffat/Directed by Ed Bazalgette/Produced by  Peter Bennett/Music by Murray Gold/Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin, & Charity Wakefield

2 Comments

Filed under Media Review

Sherlock (TV series)

BBCSherlock

My rating: 5 of 5

Dr. John Watson has come home from Afghanistan due to a war injury, and he’s having trouble adapting to civilian life . . . financially and psychologically. So when an old friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes–a most interesting and unusual man who is willing to share the rent for a flat–John finds himself rapidly accepting the offer. Life with the self-proclaimed “consulting detective” soon draws Dr. Watson into a whirlwind, solving crimes and assisting Holmes in whatever capacity he can–certainly in a medical one. Perhaps even as a friend, whatever the sociopathic  Holmes may say.

Why do I love this series so much?! I’m a huge fan of Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories–I grew up reading them. As such, I usually hate movie/TV versions of the stories since they almost always get important stuff wrong. Sherlock gets it right. Rather than trying to re-create a Victorian setting and Victorian characters while still making it interesting for a modern audience, the creators immediately scrap all that and go for a modern London setting. Instead of trying to pull details from the classic stories, they pull feelings, ideas, and inspiration. So it feels right–but also fresh and exciting. The plots are intriguing, and I really love they use of hour-and-a-half episodes to allow a full development of individual plots within the episode. Steven Moffat’s touch on the show is pretty evident, which I (as a big Doctor Who fan) really love–you’ve almost got a Doctor-Companion dynamic going between Sherlock and John, and it works beautifully. The characters and the character dynamics are spot-on perfect–very, very fun to watch. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But I really think Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is the heart of the show, the one who makes you really care. And the interactions between the two . . . priceless. The other characters/cast members are brilliant as well, from those who show in nearly every episode (like Mrs. Hudson & DI Greg Lestrade) to Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty to those who only show up briefly in one episode. I loved the camera angles, the production, and the creative use of screen text to show Sherlock’s though processes. All around, Sherlock is just brilliant–highly recommended!

Created by  Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat/Written by  Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, & Stephen Thompson/Starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman/Based on the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note: Currently this series is ongoing, with three (3-episode) seasons and one special currently available.

Update 02/12/2017: I just finished watching the fourth season (which brings the series up to a whole 13 episodes. Yay! I definitely enjoyed this season and found it to be in keeping with the previous seasons in most regards. There were definitely some surprises though, and I found the almost surreal quality of the episodes to be unique and intriguing–difficult to follow sometimes though. I’ll be interested to see if a fifth season comes to be; the end of this season almost felt like a good-bye, but I haven’t heard an official announcement that the series is completed. We’ll see, I guess.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review

Neverwhere (TV series, 1996)

BBCNeverwhere TV

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Richard Mayhew had a nice, normal life with a steady job and a fiancée ready to order every aspect of his life perfectly. But one evening on the way to an important dinner that all changes as Richard stops to help Door, a young girl who is clearly injured and frightened. Following that moment of doing the right thing, he finds himself suddenly unnoticeable and unmemorable to everyone in normal London society. Thus, he is forced to seek Door and her strange companions in London Below, a strange world that he had never even been aware of previously. And somehow, Richard finds himself caught up in this huge adventure to find who murdered Door’s family and to get her safely to the Angel Islington. All poor Richard wants is his old life back, or so he thinks.

So, I’m pretty sure I came at the Neverwhere TV series completely backwards. I mean, the Neil Gaiman book Neverwhere is based on the TV series, but I read the book first, ages before I was even aware that there was a TV show. Having read the book first, I was expecting to be a bit disappointed in the screen version (I usually am), but I  was willing to give it a try since it was also written by Neil Gaiman. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the TV version is actually quite good. I think the actors picked for the characters are excellent. Richard and Door are absolutely perfect, as is Hunter. The Marquis was . . . well, I was expecting someone a bit more Johnny Depp, but Paterson Joseph’s portrayal of the role definitely grew on me over the course of the story. And seeing a younger Peter Capaldi as the Angel Islington was fabulous (although I hardly know what to make of him without a Scottish accent and a gruff attitude). The plot is concise (there are only 6 episodes of 30 minutes each), but it feels complete; I was actually quite impressed by how much story was fit into such a brief series. I would say that comparing the book and the TV show in terms of plot, they are remarkably consistent. One of the things I loved best about this show was the wonder and magic that was expressed in such simple ways. While a modern story would likely use sparkly lights and huge special effects to express these ideas, this show uses mystery, blurred graphics, and a lot of subtle suggestion to get the idea across. There’s a dark Alice in Wonderland feel to it all that’s absolutely perfect. Basically, Neverwhere is a great show that I highly recommend to anyone who likes a good urban fantasy.

Created by Neil Gaiman & Lenny Henry/Directed by Dewi Humphreys/Music by Brian Eno/Starring  Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Hywel Bennett, Clive Russell, Paterson Joseph, Trevor Peacock, Elizabeth Marmur, Tanya Moodie, Peter Capaldi, & Earl Cameron

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Media Review

Doctor Who, Series 7

BBCdoctor who series 7

13 episodes + specials

My rating: 5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

The Doctor has left Amy and Rory to their own devices for too long, as is rapidly clear to him when the three of them are kidnapped by the Daleks to clean up a mess the Daleks made for themselves–and unsurprisingly, the Doctor is as worried about “fixing” Amy and Rory’s marriage as he is about surviving this mess. Obviously, he succeeds on both counts . . . with a little help from a mysterious souffle-making girl by the name of Oswin Oswald. The Ponds are naturally swept up into the wonder of traveling with the Doctor again, while still trying to balance their normal life as well, which isn’t the easiest of tasks. But seriously, how could they choose one or the other? Years later (well, it’s hard to tell, with a bunch of time travelers), the Doctor is on his own again (vowing never again to get involved or care) when he once again encounters Miss Oswald–living a completely different life with no knowledge of their former encounter (nor of the fact that she had died then). Tragically, Clara Oswald dies this time also, but the Doctor is left with the niggling feeling that something impossible and wonderful is going on, a feeling that is remarkably confirmed when he receives a phone call on the TARDIS line–from Clara Oswald, living in the present day with once again no knowledge of their former encounters. Well of course the Doctor has to get her to travel with him then, doesn’t he?

I enjoyed the 7th series of Doctor Who so much! Although it really felt like 2 series kind of smooshed together. The first 5 episodes with Amy and Rory (and River, some) are fantastic, very much tying in with the former series involving this wonderful family. I really love the vibe between them all, the way they really are family; it’s different from any other Doctor/companion relationship I’ve seen, and it’s wonderful. I think the way Moffat tied up the Amy/Rory arc of the story was very well done, especially in how true it was to the character of all the individuals involved. There was an inevitability about it, and a rightness as well, that made the ending of their story satisfying, even though I was very sad to see them go. They might be my favorite group in Doctor Who to date; maybe even one of my favorite character groups period. The special episode between the two parts of the series, “The Snowmen”, is one that you really need to watch to get a full appreciation for the story as it goes ahead from there, even though seeing the Doctor (especially Matt Smith’s Doctor who always seems impossibly chipper) being depressed and lonely is pretty depressing to watch. Which is probably why perky, demanding Clara Oswald is a welcome new companion. It’s hard to understand exactly how she and the Doctor relate to each other, possibly because she’s sort of a chameleon, changing to suit the occasion a bit. Whatever the case, the dynamic between Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith works really well. The story writing for this part is mostly episodic, although there is an overarching plot. The scripts are interesting (including a fantastic episode written by Neil Gaiman!), and they highlight the characters effectively; I don’t think there was one episode this series that I didn’t enjoy.

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna-Louise Coleman, & Alex Kingston

 

1 Comment

Filed under Media Review

Doctor Who, Series 6

BBCdoctor who series 6

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, & Arthur Darvill

14 episodes

My rating: 5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

Newlyweds Amy and Rory find themselves waiting at home, settling into normal life for a bit–but it’s not as though the Doctor’s keeping quiet. No, he’s plastering himself throughout history like a big, flashing “look at me” sign. Then they get an invitation to meet up in Utah of all places, where they encounter not only the Doctor but also River Song who had apparently also been invited. But in the middle of a nice picnic reunion by Lake Silencio, they are interrupted by (of all the absurd things) someone in a spacesuit rising up from the lake and killing the Doctor. Devastated, the three friends return to town . . . only to run into the Doctor, alive and well! Also significantly younger and completely unaware of what’s just taken place. So it’s off on adventures again, but with Amy, Rory, and River very concerned about the Doctor’s future–when they have time to worry about anything besides the creepy, unmemorable invasion that’s overtaking the earth and the fact that Amy may or may not be pregnant(?).

I really enjoyed the sixth series of Doctor Who. I think it’s a solid follow-up of series five, keeping the same characters and deepening their relationships in a very enjoyable (sometimes quite suspenseful) way. Overall, I think the suspense level was higher in this series than perhaps any other series I’ve seen so far–it worked really well that way. There’s a lot of overarching storyline this time, which is fun. I really love how the whole thing with River Song, which has been previously intriguing but maddeningly mysterious, is gradually unfolded over the course of the series. She really is a most enjoyable, fascinating character–plus she brings out all sorts of interesting sides to the Doctor that you’d never see otherwise. The growth of Amy and Rory both as individuals and as a couple is really neat to see too, especially as they go through all the craziness with the baby together. And even though there is definitely a huge overarching plotline to this series, there’s a nice variety of episodes presented as well (bonus points for a Neil Gaiman episode!). I’d definitely recommend Doctor Who, series 6, to anyone who has enjoyed the previous series–but I’d certainly recommend watching at least series five before trying this series or you might be a bit lost.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review