Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 4 - Review

My review of last week's episode

Well, overall, a bit more reasonable than last week. Damning with faint praise? It's the best I can do.

Ellie has had her Worst Day Ever, so now it's Alec's turn. The episode starts as he has disturbing flashbacks to when he found Pippa Gillespie's body, which makes him cry like an increasingly boring character looking for sympathy. He also faces the prospect that he might have been wrong about the whole Sandbrook case and manages to alienate both his wife and his daughter and the murdered girl's dad, Ricky Gillespie, and Ollie (who's still a jerk).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 3 - Review

My review of last week's episode.

There was a moment while watching this episode that I actually exclaimed, “Poor Ellie.” That pretty much sums it up. Last week, Chibnall was reaching, this week he lost balance completely. But by a curious magic (characters I’m attached to, music, setting, cinematography), I still can’t quite disregard the series.

The cliffhanger from last week resolves fairly quickly. After a brief quarrel with a strangely unhelpful Ellie, Alec drives off to find that Claire and Lee have retreated to her cottage. Why? Claire mutters something unconvincing. Lee knocks Alec down and is macho and generally Suspicious which is a good sign that he’s innocent. (Once again, I’m startled by how different James D’Arcy is in this role—even if he doesn’t have much to do but smirk in a sleazy fashion and show off his biceps.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Foyle's War - Elise - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: Trespass

Sam: "Do you remember Hastings, Mr. Foyle? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields...and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?"

Foyle: "No, Sam. I can't recall the taste of food... nor the sound of water... nor the touch of grass."

I can't believe I haven't used this joke before. Then again, after two hours of the grayness of post-war Britain, Mordor's starting to look pretty good. Like The Return of the King, this episode deals with corruption, dramatic death scenes, and a few too many endings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 2 - Review

My review of last week's episode

Agh...did you have to do it like that?

Broadchurch hasn't been above sacrificing strict logic for melodrama, but, unlike other shows, it simply glows with heart - which makes it hard for me to count its flaws against it. Central to this is the teddy-bear herself, Ellie Miller. Colman is simply not aware she's on screen. She's not going to stretch any moment longer than it needs, and there's no affectation about her performance. Alec Hardy is a more conventional hero: the moody, broken, secretly noble knight in tarnished armor. His hesitations, staring nervously away to let the tension build, are more distracting than tense.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Foyle's War - Trespass - Episode Review

While the events of the past few weeks have added tons of relevance to tonight's Foyle's War, they've also made it difficult for me to view the episode with anything close to detachment. This modern material feels rather out of place in Foyle's noir world, but it's still compelling, and complicated enough that I wasn't able to second-guess the narrative as much as usual.

The episode starts with a young Jewish student, Daniel Woolf, ranting about Britain’s broken promises to his people. His teacher, Elizabeth Addis (see last week’s episode), points out that he’s being a bit cynical about his host-country, but as it turns out, his criticisms may not have been strong enough. That’s foreshadowed when he is assaulted right outside of the building by two thugs. Oddly, his parents want to keep the whole incident quiet.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Broadchurch - Season 2, Episode 1 - Review

Given that I invested far more emotion in the first season of Broadchurch than I have in any TV show for years, it's fair to say that my expectations for the second season were extremely high. Sharpening my red pen, I glared at the laptop screen and just dared Chris Chibnall to ruin these characters so I would have something to complain about.

But despite a somewhat melodramatic, music-heavy opening, Broadchurch 2.0 is instantly compelling and nearly flawless. After the lukewarm Gracepoint, just the atmosphere alone is enough to evoke positive response, but Chibnall's writing is exceptional, and the acting is, as ever, superb.

I'd better go ahead and say that this will have spoilers not only for season 2, but also, necessarily, for season 1.

Foyle's War - High Castle - Episode Review

My review of the season 7/series 8 finale

Foyle's War isn't quite sure of its own purpose anymore. In the beginning, it was clearly a Golden Age whodunit. While Foyle was far too averse to melodrama to gather the suspects in the library, there was an inevitable confrontation. He would listen to the monologue of a self-satisfied killer, and then slice through their moral superiority with the blade of truth. Or something.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - A Decent But Disappointing End to Jackson's Middle Earth Saga

My review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The most frustrating thing about the Hobbit movies is how I can't quite manage to dismiss them completely. Reading my review of the first film is an amusing, if somewhat embarrassingly effusive, flashback to when I was still optimistic about the franchise. My second review had internalized the cynicism to some extent, but was still reluctantly positive. And with the third installment, yet again, I kind of enjoyed the film.


Throughout the two and a half hour run-length of The Battle of the Five Armies, I was fighting to hate it. Part of the problem is that Peter Jackson still shows flashes of his old genius, though marred by his utter lack of restraint. The film begins with the quick, dramatic dispatching of Smaug the dragon by Bard and Bard Jr. (really Bain). This act is accomplished using a cobbled-together bow to launch a giant arrow off of Bain's shoulder. The shoulder thing was a neat idea, a great element of added personal tension, but to convince us that a makeshift bow would launch a huge arrow off a little boy's shoulder...uh, no.