Category Archives: Review

Doctor Who – Listen Review

Otherwise known as the episode with the ending that split the Who fanbase clean down the middle. Spoilers follow, obviously.

Episode four of Capaldi Who (as it shall henceforth be known) managed to be a better horror movie than most modern horror movies. The premise; that we are never truly alone, and that there’s always something hiding in the corner of your eye, is actually taken from a short Doctor Who story written by Moffat a few years back. Unlike that story however, the beastie of the week is left much more to our imagination (to the point that there very well may never have been a monster for the entire episode).

It’s this last reveal that will inevitably disappoint some. Many of us will no doubt have been on the edge of our seats waiting for the jump scare reveal of some ugly space nasty from the end of time, so it’s understandable that some may feel shortchanged by the final reel rug pull – that there was probably never anything there. Of course, no one ever explicitly said there was nothing there (after all, who moved The Doctor’s chalk?).

And naturally, we should get the big divisive “thing” out of the way first. The “thing” in question of course being the scene with a young (like, small kid young) Doctor. Fans who aren’t steeped in 50 years of Who lore might not know that this was in fact one of very, very few glimpses of The Doctor as a kid (possibly the second ever, but I could be wrong).

For some, this spoils the mystery of The Doctor’s character somewhat. Personally, I thought it was done subtly enough, and was a nice tough. It also seems a few people were ruffled by the fact that once again, Clara turns out to have had a seismic impact on his life. It should however, be pointed out that she only told him not to be scared, whereas a lot of people are acting like she wrote “BE THE DOCTOR” in neon lights over his bed. Like I said, it’s a divisive moment. At the end of the day, we got to see a glimpse of a young William Hartnell Doctor, and that’s awesome.

The first thirty minutes or so are terrifying enough to make most parents seriously consider showing it to their kids. The scene in Pink’s bedroom is properly unsettling, and one can’t help but wonder if Moffat decided at the last minute to write in that there was never anything there, just because he realised he might have gone a little too far.

For the most part however, there was a lot to like about this episode. It was brilliantly directed, it was suitably creepy, and it all looked amazing. I probably don’t need to tell you that Peter Capaldi continues to find ways to impress as The Doctor, be he comforting a small child or stealing coffee, he exudes a kind of rude charm. Jenna Coleman also continues to enjoy the transformation of Clara from Plot Device to actual character, and she’s all the better for it.

The date scenes helped elevate the episodes more somber moments, and showed us a little more of Danny (or Rupert) Pink (who is still brilliant). Although, the number of companions the Doctor has accidentally met when they were children is now getting slightly ridiculous. Evidently, Steven Moffat reaaaaallly likes that idea.

This is perhaps, the first episode of Capaldi Who where the 12th Doctor has felt right at home. Dark, brooding, and very scary, with enough laughs to keep us happy. This is the kind of Doctor Who most of us have been expecting from the trailers, and this is the kind of Doctor Who that I for one, want much, much more of.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath Review

 

Don’t look in that mirror, it’s furious. 

There’s one question that needs to be gotten out of the way first of all, and it’s a question no one should ever have actually asked. Is Peter Capaldi any good as the 12th Doctor? Of course he is. He’s Peter f***king Capaldi. Let’s move on.

Actually, let’s not. That wouldn’t make for a very detailed review. Let’s talk about how he handles the lighter, funny moments with a wide eyed charm that puts Tom Baker and David Tennant to shame. Let’s talk about how when you’re watching him ride through foggy London town on a horse in his nightgown, you forget that he’s a man in his mid 50s, and absolutely believe he was Matt Smith a few hours ago. Let’s talk about how Capaldi, with his attack eyebrows and frown lines has created a Doctor who has the potential to be the darkest and most unsettling yet, going by the unclear way things ended in this episode. 

So Capaldi is the tits. We knew that though. The episode itself is pretty great too, with echoes of Robot, Tom Bakers first outing as the Doctor. To help ease us in to perhaps the most radical change in time lords yet, we’re given the ever reliable Jenny, Vastra and Strax to fall back on for comfort. They seem to show up at the times when we’re wondering if this is really The Doctor, to remind us that yes, it is. They’re also immensely entertaining and likeable, as always, with Strax knocking Clara out with a copy of the Times being a highlight (I really want a spinoff).

The story begins as it means to go on, with a T Rex spitting out the TARDIS. These deranged, yet beautiful visuals continue, as the same dinosaur lights up London as she spontaneously combusts, half faced men lurk in the lamplight, and restaurants take flight over the city as balloons pop out of the roof. It’s like a steampunk UP, with more human skin and organ harvesting, and less rubber balloons and talking dogs. 

The monster of the week in fact, is probably this episodes only weak link. It’s basically cut and paste from a previous Tennant story, and vague allusions from The Doctor to the fact that he swears he’s seen all this somewhere before doesn’t excuse the fact Moffat’s basically just self plagiarised. 

Probably the highlight of the entire episode, maybe more so than The Doctor himself, is Jenna Coleman’s Clara. Here, she gets more character development in one hour than she had in a year. The fact Clara was a companion for half a season and two specials, and we’ve only just now seen her angry, is a testament to the woeful character development she suffered in season 7. The scene in the restaurant with her and The Doctor (their first proper scene alone together where no one’s fainting or crashing) is a joy to watch. This could be the best Doctor/companion pairing since Ten and Rose, and we can only hope the rumours of Coleman’s departure are untrue, because she could be one of the greats. 

So that’s that… Deep Breath has begun easing us in to what looks to be a much slower, considered, and meatier Doctor Who than what we’ve had for the past few years. With a brilliant, angry, (Scottish!) new Doctor and a fantastic companion rife with unexplored potential at the helm, it’s safe to assume it’s gonna be a whopper.

Dig those new titles too. Very timey. Such wimey.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review (8/10)

It’s been said a thousand times before and it’ll be said a thousand times again; Spider-Man’s most enduring quality stems from his alter ego, Peter Parker. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine ourselves as millionaire playboys with suits of hi tech armor or batmobiles and we can’t really see ourselves as Kryptonian gods or super soldiers from World War II

Peter Parker is the everyman. Long before most other comic books, Spider Man gave equal attention to the troubles of the man behind the mask. We’d see spidey fight the Vulture and then deal with the fallout in his personal life as he missed a date or his aunt fell sick (for the hundredth time). In short, we love Spidey because we know that feel.

This is important, because no matter what your opinion, you can’t deny that The Amazing Spider Man 2 is the most spidery Spider Man film yet. What I mean to say is, this film absolutely nails the essence of Spider Man. While it may (ever so slightly) suffer from one villain too many, for better or worse it shows us Peter’s hectic world as he tries to balance his two lives, a job, an on/off girlfriend, college, the mystery of his parents, and a whole three supervillains. It’s still better than Spider Man 3.

While the overstuffed plot can occasionally feel like it’s simply setting up future sequels and spin offs (almost every supporting character we see eventually turns out to be a villain in the comics, such as Alistair Smythe and Felicia Hardy) it absolutely manages to be an entertaining flick in its own right. It’s no Dark Knight, but it doesn’t need to be. Like Spider Man himself, it’s larger than life, colorful, and fun.

Perhaps most importantly, they made Spider Man funny. Finally. From the pitch perfect (and massively entertaining) opening chase sequence right into some of the darker moments our webbed amigo still cracks wise, because that’s what he does and that’s how he deals. While the first Amazing showed us a glimpse of this, number 2 goes even further with it and given some of the events later in the film, his sense of humour goes a long way in telling viewers about Peter Parker’s strength of spirit and adversity in the face of mechanical rhinos and weird Goblin dudes.

In the hands of a lesser actor, this confident, smartarse Spidey may have come across as an annoying dick, but Andrew Garfield, having grown up a fan himself delivers the definitive Spider Man with a pitch perfect sense of drama, humor, and physical comedy that never feels over the top. Together with Emma Stone (still an awesome Gwen Stacy) they make every scene they share so adorable you either want to hug the screen or throw up, depending on how cynical you are.

Sadly, it’s the villains that bring the film down ever so slightly. Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn is just the right amount of spoilt playboy and simmering crazy person, but when he does finally snap it somehow becomes a bit too much, a little cartoony. It doesn’t help that compared to Spider Man’s all new, so beautifully faithful to the source material I want to cry suit, The Green Goblin still doesn’t really resemble the Green Goblin. Besides being green I mean.

Conversely, Jamie Foxx’s pre Electro performance is so over the top, Jim Carrey, haha this is what boffins are like, that I found myself glad when he fell into a pool of eels and decided to not talk as much. Visually however, Electro is stunning and his fight scenes with Spider Man are easily some of the films highlights, including an awesome Times Square showdown that almost outdoes the final setpiece (actually I think it probably does.

What’s most annoying about the villains though, is that they both feel crammed in to the point that neither gets a satisfying arc. Again, it’s clear things are being set in motion for the future but as a standalone film in this respect it left me cold.

Those niggles aside, I truly believe that this is the best Spider Man film yet. Funny, heartwarming, and with enough set pieces to satisfy the kids who just wanna see Spidey punch the shiny blue guy.  Without the need to retell the origin story, we’ve been offered our first pure glimpse at the start of a new Spidey universe. If this film is anything to go by, it could go absolutely anywhere.

 

The Time of The Doctor Review (9/10)

Well, a big shout out to Steven Moffat for turning me into a crippled emotional husk on Christmas day. As a longtime fan, I’ve always loved regeneration stories. I know the show is all about change (how else would it have made it to 50 years?) and I’m pretty much always ready to see a new Doctor take over and move things forward.

Matt Smith was The Doctor. Without a doubt, from the moment his head popped out of the TARDIS asking a young girl for an apple he has continued to absolutely own the role without faltering. Kind, funny, great dress sense, a pro at physical comedy (he could make walking through a door fascinating viewing) and above all, he had a great rapport with kids.

He was definitely the kids’ Doctor, and please don’t read into that as a dig or a downgrade, because kids are the hardest buggers to please. Capaldi is going to have a serious job winning the nippers over after Matt’s big brother act.

The episode itself tied up issues that have been plaguing me since the end of series 5. Seriously, I thought we’d never find out who blew up the TARDIS. And it turns out Gallifrey is knocking around behind the crack in the wall, back in 2010 I’d never had guessed that. Sadly, a lot of the exposition felt a little rushed and The Christmas element really did feel shoehorned in. Just be bold and ignore the fact it’s Christmas day. No one will care, because Doctor Who is on an that’s enough.

Still, the scenes with Clara’s family were sweet (and no sign of those bloody kids) and watching The Doctor pretend to be her boyfriend really made me realise how much unused potential the pair have.

There were, fittingly for 11’s last stand, a horde of aliens and nasties from all over. Some of them didn’t get much to do (like The Weeping Angels) and anytime The Daleks are involved it’s pretty much a given that they’re coming out on top. But it wasn’t about them, it was about Smith and all they needed to do was provide a fitting backdrop to his swansong.

The idea of The Doctor sticking around for centuries to protect a small town is nice. I’m glad the TARDIS was out of the equation for the first few centuries though, or I’d never believe in a million years that he would’ve stayed. 11 essentially got to enjoy some kind of retirement, even if he did have to fight off the odd wooden cyberman every now and then.

And then the end. Bloody hell. A rule that has been hampering Doctor Who is finally bloody gone. The Doctor can now regenerate another 13 times, so every Tabloid writer or smug so and so that comes up to me gleefully informing me that “Doctor Who has to end soon” can go into hibernation for at least another half century.

Matt Smith doesn’t go lying down, or in a self referential drawn out mess of goodbyes (cough, Tennant, cough). He explodes with energy, taking out as many Daleks with him as he can (and it’s a lot).

While it would have been nice for Clara to come running into the TARDIS, only to find a new man, it’s only fitting that Matt gets a proper goodybe. Young, as we remember him. What a doozy it is too, anyone that wasn’t a blubbering husk by the time the bow tie is on the floor, or by the time that cameo came about is a cold hearted fiend.

Then, without warning, or a glow of light, 11 is gone. It’s as if Matt sneezed himself into Capaldi. In thirty seconds I was already convinced by him, although conflicted. Because, to paraphrase the eleventh Doctor’s final words; I will always remember when The Doctor was Matt Smith.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

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No matter how things change, some things always stay the same. The Zelda series, for all its continued innovations and original ideas in moving forward has always retained a comforting air of familiarity. The first new Zelda since Skyward Sword, A Link Between Worlds is actually a sequel to the revered SNES classic A Link to the Past. Does this new title manage to push the series forward in exciting new directions, or is it bogged down by dewy eyed nostalgia?

Thankfully, the game achieves the former with just a healthy dose of the latter. This game oozes innovation and a sense of freedom I’ve not felt since the first Zelda. Longtime fans will have a blast seeing what’s changed and what’s remained in this loving recreation of the SNES Hyrule while we also get to explore the entirely new world of Lorule. Both worlds are filled with fiendishly clever puzzles, moody dungeons and all manner of secrets and collectibles to keep the completists happy.

The story leaves a little to be desired, with your standard Zelda collect X amount of this then X amount of that quest. However, the game does have a truly surprising twist up its sleeve and is peppered with likeable and charming characters throughout. The most prominent of these is Ravio, the salesman who sets up shop in your gaff and is responsible for the games biggest shake up: The item rental system.

The rental system is designed to allow players the aforementioned freedom to move around as they wish. Technically, you could run off with all the items within the first few hours and buy them to keep soon after that-at a price. For the most part, this system works and being able to go anywhere and do anything after previous game’s increasingly restricting hand holding is truly liberating.

Sadly, stumping up the rupees to get all the items is far too easy and the idea that if you die, you lose any rented items just doesn’t work. This is because the game is really, very easy and with a few fairies you can blitz through without ever dying. The only incentive to buy the items and not just rent is so you can upgrade them later on.

What the game lacks in actual challenge from death by enemies, it makes up for with some of the series’ most ingenious puzzles. A lot of this is down to Link’s new ability to merge into a wall and become a painting, Paper Mario style. This system actually turns everything you know about Zelda on its head and more than a few times, I was staring at a chasm or conundrum for minutes, only to realize all I needed to do was jump into the wall.

Each dungeon has it’s own unique feel and atmospheric music. In fact, all the music in this game is outstanding, be it a remix of an old classic or a completely new score, your ears are always in for a treat.

Graphically, the game looks just OK. When you slide up the 3D, it really pops but if you’re playing on a 2DS don’t expect anything too special.

My biggest problem with A Link Between Worlds is that it just doesn’t go far enough with the changes it’s begun to implement. It’s as if Nintendo didn’t want to go any further in case it started to feel too different to what’s come before. Despite this, it’s a short, sharp, charming adventure that easily sits among the best of Zelda and is undisputably the finest of the handheld titles. If Nintendo take what they’ve started here and keep pushing, Zelda should be in very safe hands.

Day of the Doctor Review (10/10)

50 years ago, William Hartnell, Verity Lambert, Sydney Newman and others perhaps unknowingly unleashed so much more than just a television program. They let loose a cultural icon, a legend, a modern fairy tale that has spanned decades and captured the hearts and minds of many generations of fans.

Day of the Doctor is a piece of television that has been fifty years in the making, make no mistake. Possibly the most anticipated and hyped piece of television ever, the all important question is, did it deliver?

Thankfully, God yes. Day of the Doctor was thrilling, funny, heartbreaking, scary and exciting. It was nostalgic without dwelling on the past and forward thinking without alienating the long time fans. If anyone else could come up with a better story for the 50th, I’d genuinely like to see it.

The story was a fairly typical Steven Moffat timey wimey affair. The three Doctors all had their own separate adventures which tied in together beautifully.

Matt Smith’s started with a fantastic reference to Totters Lane and Coal Hill, two key locations in Who lore and quickly delved into an adventure with mysterious paintings and UNIT. It was only right to reference such an important group in the 50th and The Brigadiers daughter afforded the next best thing to the great Nick Courtney himself. She’s also a fantastic character in her own right, which helps.

David Tennant’s return was a thing of absolute joy as we finally saw what happened with Queen Liz and got a mini adventure with The Zygons (who looked fantastic). Seeing Ten interact with Eleven was hilarious, as The Tenth Doctor, with all his swagger looks disdainfully at the flappy awkward clumsiness of The Eleventh.

And then there’s John Hurt, who finishes off the trinity of Doctors for this episode. His war Doctor was played artfully, a vague menace lurking underneath those tired eyes and a weariness, yet still with that mad Doctor spark. Finally seeing The Time War playing out was a dream. Daleks killing and exploding all over the shop in such excess and on such scale was brilliant.

Throwing Hurt into the mix with Tennant and Smith made for some fantastic scenes. Hurt obviously representing the old guard as he  questioned much of what the two young Doctors did. Hurt disgustedly asking, “Timey Wimey?” to Tennant’s sly “I don’t know where he got that from” was a particular highlight.

Then we had the game changing ending, a fanboy baiting sequence in which twelve (or was it thirteen?) TARDISes blitzed through a Dalek fleet to save Gallifrey. See? The classic Doctors were in there after all (kind of). And Gallifrey falls no more? A brilliant move. Seeing the Doctor finally find a way to move on with the whole Last of the Time lords schtick is refreshing and should make for an interesting ark in the next series.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to end this review without mentioning (but not in detail) two masterfully subtle cameo appearances. One of which looks firmly and excitingly to the future while the other was a beautifully done nod to the past.

After 50 years, The Doctor has finally stopped running and is genuinely out there to find something. Day of the Doctor was nothing short of a perfectly balanced, thrilling adventure that seamlessly sets up the future of the show while paying tribute to the past. Here’s to another 50.

Doctor Who at 50: The Movie (6/10)

Paul McGann though guys. Am I right? AMIRIGHT? I am. Sadly this ill fated feature length pilot was the 8th Doctors only proper TV outing and it was unfortunately, not very good.

McGann is fantastic in this, make no mistake. He was flirty and funny and mad and had all the makings of a great Doctor. He was also forced to work with what someone who never watched Doctor Who thought a Doctor should look like. The result was a step up from the question marks and bright colors of the 80s costumes,  but still a little silly for 1996.

A lot of the problems people had with it at the time are admittedly, not real an issue with the hindsight of the modern series. Kissing a companion? He does that every other episode these days. Riding a motorbike? The Doctor rode one up a building just last series.

This doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s riddled with problems though. In an odd attempt to make it gritty we have The Doctor being gunned down by a street gang and The Master breaking a woman’s neck. Needlessly violent, quite frankly. The way The Master is handled is another issue.

Why is he able to turn into a living pile of goo? We may never know. Why do The Daleks of all things, accept requests all of a sudden? No idea. Why, why, for the love of God why is The Doctor half human? We’re probably better off not knowing.

Thankfully, Paul McGann has been afforded a chance to prove himself with a superb range of audio stories and more recently with his surprise appearance in The Night of the Doctor. Still, it just makes one wonder… what might have been if the 8th Doctor got his own series and Doctor Who stormed the 90s?

Doctor Who at 50: Remembrance of the Daleks Review (8.5/10)

It’s hard to remain objective when writing about your all time favorite Doctor. However, I’ll try to exercise some restraint. McCoy is the first Doctor I can really, properly remember watching. My dad started us on a watch through the entire show when I was quite young, but towards the end of that first go through Who, I have so many distinctive memories of the McCoy era (mostly being scared shitless by the Curse of Fenric and Ghost Light).

So Remembrance is really my first Dalek story (growing up a Who fan in the 90s was tough). I still absolutely adore everything about it, from the fifties setting to Daleks blowing each other up, even more so now. My added knowledge appreciates the subtle references to the very first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Chld.

But removing my rose tinted shades, is it actually any good? Well, yeah. This was the time when Doctor Who was finally starting to get back on its feet and get really good again. The trouble was, most people had stopped bothering with a show they thought was about dodgy sets and grown men in stupid costumes acting silly.

McCoy is on form here, his seventh Doctor had moved away from the clownish berk that he was in his first series and has begun to develop into a thoughtful, brooding, slightly menacing Doctor. His companion Ace is also the first companion to show real signs of developing and a result is a well rounded, likeable character. A refreshing change of pace from Bonnie Langford.

The story itself is slightly confusing, with two separate Dalek factions battling it out over some ancient Gallifreyan artefact but it does’t matter. The kid in you will always leap at the chance to see Daleks blowing the shit out of each other. It’s also the first episode to show the world that they can indeed go up stairs, silencing all those smart arsed little pricks.

We also have a brilliant last episode reveal of Davros, who over time has become so batshit mental that he’s now convinced he is in fact a Dalek, and his confrontation with The Doctor is still a fantastic moment. It’s easy to see why The Daleks become scared of The Doctor, here, he coolly faces down their emperor and tricks them into blowing up their home planet. McCoy. Rocking the Dark Doctor decades before it was cool.

No one knew that this would be the last Dalek story of the classic series, but really, it was the perfect way for The Doctors most popular enemies to bow out. Also, one last time, Daleks. Blowing each other up. That’s worth the ticket price alone guys.

Doctor Who at 50: Mark of the Rani (6/10)

Well you’ve gotta feel bad for anyone who’s expected to play an authoritative, centuries old time lord while wearing a clown costume, haven’t you?

To the casual observer, Colin Baker was the start of the end for Doctor Who. Not so. Baker himself did a fantastic job (you need any more proof, listen to his Big Finish audio plays where he has some classic stories). Doctor Who fell apart for a number of reasons but Baker was most definitely not one of them.

Mark of the Rani is an example of some of the strange choices made by the writers at the time. Why did The Rani have a device that could turn people into trees? Why did the Rani’s TARDIS look like a tantric sex dungeon? Why was The Master standing in a field dressed as a scarecrow all day on the off chance that in all of time and space the Doctor would go past there and then? We may never know.

Colin Baker makes an interesting Doctor. Not as young as Davison but still younger than the rest, and yet the closest Doctor we’ve had to Hartnell since Hartnell himself. His grumpy, unpredictable and brash nature had all the makings of a truly great Doctor, if only he’d had some better stories and a more sensible outfit.

There isn’t an awful lot I can say about Mark of the Rani mostly because I’m doing these reviews for the 50th so I want to be kind.

It’s a decent enough romp, even if it really doesn’t make that much sense. Honestly though, if you want a classic sixth Doctor story, go check out his Big Finish stuff. It’s really, really good. Seriously.

Doctor Who at 50: Caves of Androzani Review (10/10)

The fifth Doctor smacks of missed potential to me. It’s not that he ever had any really awful stories, they were all pretty solid. It’s just that he was plagued by an overcrowded TARDIS which meant none of the companions ever really had much to besides bitch and moan (and occasionally get possessed or try to kill The Doctor).

So what happens when we declutter the TARDIS and give Peter Davison just one companion to deal with? We get the best Doctor Who story ever. Fact. The downside? It’s Davison’s swansong. Typical.

The Doctor and Peri land on Androzani minor, take a poke around and then… well it’s all downhill for the pair from there. They’re both immediately poisoned and swept along by events beyond their control. In this episode they’re kidnapped, shot at, beaten, imprisoned… This is par for the course on Doctor Who but it never felt so urgent before.

A lot of this is down to the superb direction of Graeme Harper. Everything in this episode just felt so real, so gritty and surprisingly  for an episode of Doctor Who in the 80s, actually well lit.

This story sums up Peter Davison’s Doctor as the fallible, human one of the bunch. He is completely helpless to control events for this entire story. He’s barely the hero of the piece (not that this story even has a hero) and scrapes through on luck.

Of course, he sacrifices himself in the end to save Peri and also has that badass moment where he commandeers a ship and crashes it back onto the planet to save his friend, all the while staving off a regeneration. So in that respect, we see Davison at two extremes. The vulnerable Doctor we’ve come to know and then this desperate, almost savage side of the fifth Doctor that we have never seen before.

I could talk about Caves for hours, but considering these are meant to be mini reviews, I’ll leave it here;

Caves of Androzani was the absolute peak of the classic series, which makes it all the more frustrating that it all went downhill from there (which had nothing to do with Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, so shut up). An episode that still stands up even today, fast, dark, gritty and action packed, this was modern Doctor Who years before Chris Eccleston came on the scene.