TV review: ‘Falling Skies’ S3 EP3 “Badlands”

This review contains SPOILERS

Starring:  Noah Wylie as Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, Will Patton as Captain Daniel Weaver, Colin Cunnigham as Pope, Drew Roy as Hal Mason, Connor Jessup as Ben Mason, Maxim Night as Matt Mason, Sarah Sanguin Carter as Margaret, Doug Jones as Cochise.

Series created by:  Robert Rodat

Episode Directed by:  David Solomon / Written by:  John Wirth / aired in the UK:  30/07/13

What’s this episode about?

Soldiers from the 2nd Mass and Pope’s Berserkers are standing guard for the anticipated attack from the Espheni when they come under fire from unknown aggressors…

In review

“Badlands” could probably be best described – in Star Trek terms – as a ‘bottle show’ in that the events of the episode take place in and around Charleston with virtually no visual effects (save for the beamer attack at the cliffhanger, there’s no sign of the Volm or Skitters), no doubt employed for budgetary reasons so as to save the ‘big guns’ for another week.  This is no criticism as this episode is well placed, building anticipation of the Espheni assault (to head straight into the said attack would have been a little jarring in my opinion) whilst providing a lot of character focus.

The attack from the shooters together with the deserted, crumbling locale has airs of Saving Private Ryan as one of the assailants takes aim at Crazy Lee (Luciana Carro) who is subsequently shot and becomes impaled – through the head – on a rebar.  This gives one of the show’s peripheral characters a few moments to shine (along with more meat to chew on for Maxim Knight) and more layers to Pope as he mourns for his fallen comrade, becoming enraged and once again butting heads with Tom Mason by placing blame squarely on his shoulders.  It’s refreshing that Mason doesn’t argue the point, adding legitimacy to Pope’s reaction.

Meanwhile, Crazy Lee’s shooter is captured, a human women (Lt.  Fisher, played by recurring Continuum actress Luvia Petersen) who eventually breaks her silence and reveals that she is part of a team sent by President Benjamin Hathaway, in office at the time of the alien attack.

Further dramatic character moments ensue as Anne continues to be unsettled by the continued strange behaviour of Alexis, of which only she is witnessing, allowing Moon Bloodgood to expand the range of her character as she becomes frustrated and dismayed that no-one believes her (even losing her cool with Lourdes at one point).

Hal regains the use of his legs but believes that he may be acting as the mole under Karen’s control and despite Maggie’s resistance vows to turn himself in.  Despite all this, Jeanne Weaver is supervising the construction of the ‘Liberty Tree’ – a monument to all those who have fallen since the alien invasion two years ago.  It’s an appropriate sentiment (whether intentional or not) by the writers, reflecting the real world losses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Badlands” comes to a close at the heartfelt unveiling of the Liberty Tree, interrupted by aerial bombings from a squadron of Espheni beamers…and was that a little smile from Alexis?

The bottom line:  “Badlands” provides some decent focus on the characters of Falling Skies, an element of the series that is rarely absent but allowed a little more time to breathe this week, between the action of the previous episode and what we may see in the next.

Falling Skies Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox (UK).  Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – a year on

So five years have passed since the release of The Dark Knight (check out the retrospective here) but it’s also a year since Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy came to its epic and hotly anticipated conclusion…


It’s been eight years since the last reported sighting of the Batman and eight years since the events surrounding the death of Harvey Dent, forcing Bruce Wayne into ‘retirement’ and seclusion.  The passing of the Dent Act has meant that the streets of Gotham are safer but in this time of complacency the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul and The League of Shadows threatens to re-emerge – Gotham’s reckoning is at hand…

Taking time out from Gotham City to write, produce and direct the inventive sci-fi heist thriller Inception, Christopher Nolan would soon calm the anxieties of many a Bat-fan and confirm a third and final instalment of his Dark Knight saga.  Following a tightly secretive production and a series of hype inducing trailers – the end result was presented to audiences in July 2012 as The Dark Knight Rises.

The main principle cast reprised their respective roles, giving arguably their best performances of the trilogy – particularly Christian Bale, fresh from Academy Award success having received a Best Supporting Actor nod for The Fighter.  Michael Caine featured in a slightly smaller, but no less significant role as Alfred and Nolan brought across more of his Inception stars – Tom Hardy as the film’s main villain – Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Blake) and Marion Cotillard (Miranda) together with Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle) and Full Metal Jacket’s Matthew Modine (Foley).  Liam Neeson appears in a neat cameo during a dream sequence, giving a realistic twist to the immortal (making use of a ‘Lazarus Pit’ to periodically rejuvenate) comic book counterpart of the Ra’s Al Ghul character.  We also saw another appearance by Cillian Murphy as the ever wicked Jonathan Crane.

When announced it was perhaps with both excitement and trepidation that the film’s main villain would be Bane – the hulking (sorry Marvel), muscle-bound, spandex and wrestling mask sporting character from the classic Knightfall comic book saga of the early 90’s.  Bane, despite his appearance is a great character much improved by a reimagining that remains true to the comics (gone was the spandex with the wrestling mask replaced with a more functional version serving to release painkillers) and given validity and stature by Tom Hardy together with some great dialogue.  If Batman Begins gave us the idealist in the form of Ra’s Al Ghul, The Dark Knight the anarchist in the Joker then The Dark Knight Rises presented us with the terrorist – Bane, excommunicated from The League of Shadows but non-the-less seeking to fulfil Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan to eradicate Gotham.

Anne Hathaway proved a treat (more than just mere eye candy) and is easily the best screen interpretation of Selina Kyle to date.  Referred to simply as the ‘Cat Burglar’ as opposed to Catwoman, she was given a more realistic and functional look (which the comics have continually leaned towards), her goggles flipping upwards – and given cleverly placed camera shots – the upward curves of which look suspiciously (and pleasingly) like those iconic cat ears.

Prior to release of The Dark Knight Rises there was much speculation as to the true identity of Marion Cottilard’s character, Miranda Tate and with a well handled twist we discovered that Tate was indeed Talia Al Ghul – daughter of Ra’s and another significant character of Batman mythology (in the comics she mothers Wayne’s son and future Robin, Damian).

This brings us to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, cast as Detective John Blake – a twist on the Robin character (or probably more Nightwing here).  The screenplay (once again by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan from a story by Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer) cleverly set up Blake as the likely successor to the cape and cowl, from his unease at the use of firearms to his eventual frustration – and loss of faith in – ‘the system’.  This set up also provided the trilogy with a satisfying closing scene.

Wayne Manor had finally been rebuilt and in terms of the on-screen hardware, the Bat-pod made a welcome return but the limelight was well and truly stolen by Batman’s new vehicle:  the ‘Bat’ – obviously Nolan’s version of the Batwing.  As with the Tumbler, the Bat was a well-designed military-grade reinvention of Batman’s iconic flying vehicle and allowed for some exhilarating action sequences in The Dark Knight Rises.

The action and excitement is second to none, from the Police pursuit of the Bat-pod, Batman’s initial (almost deadly) bout with Bane, Bruce Wayne’s escape from Bane’s pit prison right through to the edge of the seat climax through the streets of Gotham.  Despite a longer running time, the pacing seems to flow better than The Dark Knight.  True there is the odd plot-hole but the running time would have to have been significantly extended to fill in every detail and we’re not reading a novel after all.

The Dark Knight Rises built to a thrilling final act with Bruce Wayne’s afore-mentioned triumphant escape from Bane’s pit-prison, returning to Gotham to don the Bat-suit one last time as Gotham’s police battles Bane’s mercenaries all leading to Batman once again facing off against Bane, the betrayal of Miranda and the revelation of her true identity and Bruce Wayne’s apparent sacrifice, saving Gotham from the detonation of a nuclear bomb.


The Dark Knight Rises proved divisive amongst some fans (despite positive critical reception and another healthy $1 billion plus at the box office) but for the majority (this writer included) it was a breath-taking and fitting final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s foray into the world of Batman.

The film is of course still fresh in the minds of cinemagoers the world over and I’ve found that it holds up just as well after several Blu-ray viewings since last summer’s theatrical release.

The production was as strong as the previous entries and resisting the lure (and no doubt studio pressures) of 3D, Nolan decided to once again employ the IMAX format (shooting over an hour of footage with the cameras, roughly double that of The Dark Knight) allowing even more grand and epic visuals (kudos once again to cinematographer Wally Pfister).  Hanz Zimmer’s (sans James Newton Howard this time out) score is more than worthy of a mention easily conveying the anticipation, tension and excitement of every scene.

With The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne’s story came full circle but leaves the Batman legend to endure.  Although I would still rate Batman Begins as arguably the best of the series, The Dark Knight Rises comes awful close.

The closing moments of the film have been (and still are) endlessly discussed and dissected with two outcomes:  Bruce Wayne is dead or…Bruce Wayne is NOT dead.  I’m firmly in the camp of the latter, it seems that Nolan ideally would have liked to kill off Bruce Wayne to end his Batman story but ultimately did not want to alienate die-hard comic fans.  Nor would the studio allow someone to kill off a 70+ year old icon – there can really be no Batman in the long term without Bruce Wayne (notwithstanding Dick Grayson’s tenure in the comics prior to the current ‘New 52’ run).

The evidence is there:  the software patch to the Bat’s autopilot system, the missing pearl necklace from the items in Bruce’s Will and his acquisition of the ’clean slate’ programme – however, it is all presented in a way that if you choose to believe Bruce is dead then, in fairness, each point could be argued.  Regardless, the debate over the finale of The Dark Knight Rises will perhaps never be settled.

When we next see Batman up on the big screen it will be in the recently announced (as yet untitled) Batman/Superman crossover with Man of Steel director Zack Snyder at the helm (and a screenplay from David S. Goyer) with a new actor to don the cape and cowl.  Although we are unlikely to see as sophisticated and artistic a take on the Batman mythos as presented by Christopher Nolan it’s reassuring that the character, so ingrained in popular culture, will continue to endure…we can only hope that there isn’t a return to the dark (and camp) days of Joel Schumacher’s tenure!

Top three moments of The Dark Knight Rises:

  1. Russian scientist Dr. Pavel has been captured along with another hooded man and taken into a plane where he is questioned by American agents.  Bane is revealed as the other man as a cargo plane flies above, heavily armed men dropping down to facilitate Bane’s escape with Pavel and the destruction of the plane…with no other survivors.
  2. After recovering from his back injury and a number of failed attempts to escape from Bane’s prison, Bruce Wayne summons all his will and strength to make one final climb – he ascends as bats swarm out of a crack in the wall, finally reaching the surface…and freedom.
  3. Batman has supposedly died saving Gotham City one last time.  Commissioner Gordon mourns, only to discover a replacement Bat-signal has been installed on the roof of the GCPD building; Blake collects items left to him in Bruce’s Will – giving his legal first name as ‘Robin’; Alfred relaxes at a French bistro where he sees Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle sat not too far away; Blake arrives at the destination Bruce Wayne has sent him to, he discovers a cave, a swarm of bats rushes forward and the ground elevates beneath his feet…the new Dark Knight…Rises!
Another superbly cast ensemble  for the conclusion to Christopher Nolan's well crafted Batman film trilogy.

Another superbly cast ensemble for the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s well crafted Batman film trilogy.

Film review: ‘The Wolverine’ (spoiler free)

The clawed one is back and he’s hurting…


Starring:  Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi

Directed by:  James Mangold / Written by:  Mark Bomback and Scott Frank / 126 minutes

What’s it about?

Living in isolation, a chance encounter leads to a grieving and haunted Wolverine travelling to Japan where an old acquaintance offers him the opportunity to become mortal…

In review

Hugh Jackman returns for his sixth outing as Logan/Wolverine and it’s evident that he relishes the role as much as ever, passionately conveying the complex layers of everyone’s favourite (Batman aside) gruff hero.  More significantly I’m happy to report that The Wolverine is shoulders above the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine, released back in 2009.

Following a short flashback to Nagasaki in 1945, The Wolverine sees Logan at rock bottom and living out a meagre – almost primal – existence up in the Canadian mountains.  He is tortured by persistent hallucinations of his beloved fellow mutant and late X-comrade Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who he was forced to kill for the greater good (see X-Men: The Last Stand).  Encountering the raven haired Yukio, he travels to Japan and is faced with the proposition of becoming mortal but soon finds himself becoming embroiled in a conflict between Japanese clans and the threat of a deadly foe, whilst falling for the enigmatic Mariko (Okamoto).

Although chronologically The Wolverine takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand, seeing the latter is not absolutely essential to give the former context (but, hey, no doubt you’ve probably seen all of the other X-Men films anyway) and nor does it (thankfully) rely on reference to the afore-mentioned X-Men Origins.  That’s the beauty of this film, although it is clearly linked to 20th Century Fox’s expanding X-Men cinematic universe (and those links will certainly deepen with next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past – be sure to stay for the tantalising post credits scene) it firmly and capably stands on its own and gives us the Wolverine solo flick we should have had four years ago.  There’s a much stronger narrative that draws on the highly acclaimed Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic book storyline of the 1980’s and explores one of the most interesting themes of the character, namely the pain that comes with immortality as Logan sees all those he dares to care for fade around him as time marches on.  It’s also a journey of rediscovery for Logan as tries to come to terms with who and what he is, although this has been explored countless times in comic books and their big screen counterparts (Spider-Man 2 – to offer a vague example) it’s a theme I personally never tire of as it allows for some deconstruction of the characters we become invested in.

The cast is fairly decent if – beyond Jackman – relatively unknown with more than adequate turns from Okamoto and Yamanouchi but it is newcomer Fukushima and the slightly underused Khodchenkova that stand out from the crowd as ‘sidekick’ Yukio and the sexy, fiendish villainess called Viper, respectively.  That they are the only other mutants in the film aside from Wolverine himself is a testament to righting the wrongs of Origins which relied too heavily on random mutant overload and video game pyrotechnics.

Those expecting all out action on the epic scale of Avengers Assemble or Man of Steel may be a tad disappointed (but in fairness would you really expect it from this particular film?).  Granted, there are a number of beautifully staged and thrilling action set pieces (highlights of which include a riveting roof top chase and the subsequent white-knuckle fight atop a speeding bullet train) and ninja duels but for the most part, The Wolverine is a drawn out character piece which although threatening to verge on sluggish around the middle act is non-the-less a reminder that the heroes are just as compelling as the heroics themselves.  This being said The Wolverine’s climax does descend into Iron Man-esque CGI chaos that although highly entertaining does feel a little at odds with the rest of the film.

All in all, Copland director James Mangold handles the drama and action with aplomb and The Wolverine never becomes muddled despite the switching of pace between those various scenes.

The 3D post-conversion is rather good, with a decent amount of depth that enhances the action scenes nicely and leaves you feeling like you are actually watching a 3D film without drawing you away.

The bottom line:  After navigating some rocky terrain, Wolverine is back with vigour and hopes for further solo outings.  Whilst it may not be the familiar summer superhero blockbuster, The Wolverine tells a good story with interesting characters whilst still providing some decent action thrills.

See it if you like… X-Men, X2

The Wolverine is in cinemas now.

 What do you think of The Wolverine?  Leave your spoiler-free comments below!

Hugh Jackman is back and better than ever as Logan/Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman is back and better than ever as Logan/Wolverine.

‘The Dark Knight’ – five years on

Has it really been that long since the release of Christopher Nolan’s mega-hit sequel to Batman Begins?  Who can forget the impact that The Dark Knight had, triumphantly leading the charge of cinematic comic book heroes in both scale and stature?

Of course as with any film, time moves on and the dust settles so let’s take a look back at The Dark Knight and see how it holds up five years after its explosive theatrical release…


Having saved Gotham from Ra’s Al Ghul and The League of Shadows, Bruce Wayne continues his war on crime as the Batman and will soon face a dark threat that will push him to the limit.  An unstoppable force will meet an immovable object…

With the critical and commercial success of Batman Begins a sequel was a given, leaving nightmares of Batman and Robin truly behind.  Director Christopher Nolan developed the story with Batman Begins co-writer David S. Goyer (screenwriting duties being shared by Nolan with his brother, Jonathan).

July 2008 saw the release of The Dark Knight, pitting Bruce Wayne/Batman against (as teased – nay, promised – in the closing moments of Batman Begins) his most iconic nemesis:  the Joker.  Nolan’s mandate of a ‘heightened reality’ provided a fresh and credible interpretation of the character whilst staying true to what was envisaged in the comics.  The Joker of The Dark Knight was everything fans expected:  psychotic, maniacal and homicidal (drawing on the darkest takes on the character in the comics – Alan Moore and Brian Bollands’ The Killing Joke clearly being an influence) right down to the purple suit and sadistic sense of humour.  However, instead of the traditional chemically-induced green hair and white skin (as in the comics and Tim Burton’s Batman), this Joker had long unkempt hair, dyed green, and used make-up – smeared on like war paint, with scars either side of his mouth providing that perpetual menacing grin.

Christian Bale continued to own the role of Bruce Wayne and delivered an even gruffer, still gravelly voiced Dark Knight (how Clint Eastwood might sound before his morning coffee?).  The excellent Aaron Eckhart joined Bale and the returning cast (Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman) as Gotham District Attorney Harvey “Two-Face” Dent.

Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes, picking up the threads of the Rachel Dawes character bringing her own nuances to the role and providing more emotional turmoil for Bruce Wayne as he contemplates a life beyond Batman.

With the destruction of Wayne Manor in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne relocates his Batman HQ to the underground ‘Bat-bunker’ beneath the docks of Gotham’s harbour.  Sadly it was goodbye to the Tumbler but hello to the ‘Bat-pod’ and a new modular plated Bat-suit was donned, making Batman’s thrashing of Gotham’s low-life that much more efficient.

The Dark Knight also featured another great score from Zimmer/Newton-Howard (the highlight being the Joker’s theme – evoking the menacing, clowning and mischievous nature of the character) building upon the themes of Batman Begins.

It’s also worth mentioning that as with the key relationships established in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight presented the relationship between Batman and the Joker perfectly with Bruce Wayne being pushed to the limit, all treated as just good fun by his nemesis – knowing that he will never break his one rule of never taking a life.

The Dark Knight continued Christopher Nolan’s mission to present a cinematic Batman in a way never thought possible and is an example of how the source material could be interpreted in a serious, relevant, but still entertaining manner, presented in epic proportions.


It’s fair to say that much of the focus at the time of The Dark Knight’s release was around the tragic death of Heath Ledger, stoking the curiosity of cinemagoers.  Ledger’s unnerving performance as the Joker still captivates just as much as it did on first viewing (fully deserving of that posthumous Academy Award).  This really is the main attraction of The Dark Knight and a large part of what makes it a strong and worthy, albeit not superior, sequel.  Many will disagree with me and declare The Dark Knight as the best of the series but it was easily improved upon by The Dark Knight Rises in my books.

The Dark Knight has often been cited as transcending the comic book genre and been compared to classic crime thrillers such as The French Connection and Heat which are fair observations.  At times The Dark Knight does feel more like those films and with Nolan’s push for realism it does tend to stray a little from its comic book roots.  It’s a shame that the CGI/physical set compliment to the Chicago location employed in Batman Begins was not continued in The Dark Knight but despite some loss of the ‘feel’ of Gotham City the visual scale was certainly grander and Wally Pfister’s cinematography remains breath-taking.  The film’s striking visuals were aided by the use of high resolution IMAX cameras (the first feature film to do so) which are now being employed by more and more filmmakers (J.J. Abrams shot portions of Star Trek Into Darkness using IMAX and Michael Bay will utilise the new 3D version for Transformers 4).  The focus of the story is also centred more on the anarchy of the film’s main villain and the spiralling tragedy of Harvey Dent as he undergoes his transformation from hero to villain.

Despite those minor grumbles this is still an excellent film some repeat viewings later, visually undated thanks to technical foresight (the afore-mentioned IMAX technology is a key example) and enriched by the well-crafted screenplay, epic scale production values and strong cast performances.  It is a solid middle chapter with arguably the strongest villain of the trilogy in Ledger’s Joker.

Top three moments of The Dark Knight:

  1. A group of Joker-masked criminals set about a heist of the Gotham National Bank, each determined to keep the proceeds of the endeavour for themselves by eliminating each other one by one until only one remains – the architect of the whole affair who believes that whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you “stranger”!
  2. Harvey Dent declares himself as the Batman and is taken into custody before being transported across Gotham in a GCPD van escort.  The Joker has already planned to capture Dent but didn’t bet on Batman being one step ahead…
  3. The interrogation of the Joker ensues, but Jim Gordon may have made a mistake when he decides to let Batman handle it…

Check out the GBUK classic film review of Batman Begins here

Coming to the blog next week:  a look back at The Dark Knight Rises

The late Heath Ledger brought an incredibly powerful, mischievous and unsettling performance to the role of the Joker - gaining rightful recognition with a posthumous Academy Award.

The late Heath Ledger brought an incredibly powerful, mischievous and unsettling performance to the role of the Joker – gaining rightful recognition with a posthumous Academy Award.

TV review: ‘Falling Skies’ S3 EP2 “Collateral Damage”

This review contains SPOILERS


Starring:  Noah Wylie as Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, Will Patton as Captain Daniel Weaver, Colin Cunnigham as Pope, Drew Roy as Hal Mason, Connor Jessup as Ben Mason, Maxim Night as Matt Mason, Sarah Sanguin Carter as Margaret, Doug Jones as Cochise.

Series created by:  Robert Rodat

Episode Directed by:  James Marshall / Written by:  Bradley Thompson & David Weddle / aired in the UK:  23/07/13

What’s this episode about?

As the 2nd Mass plan an assault on a nuclear power plant which the Espheni are utilising for fuel, Tom and Anne’s newborn daughter begins to exhibit signs of advanced intelligence…

In review

In “Collateral Damage”, the plot thickens in more than one instance.  Maggie questions Hal about his mysteriously muddy boots whilst inadvertently stoking the flames of jealousy as she jokes around with “battle buddy” Lars (Jared Keeso), the true intentions of the Volm are once again debated and we witness more unsettling moments as the week-old Alexis begins to display developed behaviour far in advance of a newborn child – fully mobile, never crying and even basic speech (uttering the word “Mama” in one scene, much to the disturbance of Anne)!

The story opens with Ben and new pal Deni (Megan Danso) observing activity at the power plant and provides one of a few shocking moments during this episode as we see the enemy using harnessed kids as slave labour (much as was shown in the season premiere), discarded like a broken tool once they succumb to radiation poisoning – carelessly tossed away on a pile of corpses (another World War II analogy?).

As Weaver lays out the 2nd Mass’s plan to take out the plant, Tom’s aide Marina (Gloria Reuben) recommends enlisting the expertise of the eccentric (aren’t they always?) nuclear physicist Roger Kadar (Robert Sean Leonard) to ensure that they can safely destroy the nuclear reactor without risk of fallout.  With the mole still a concern (and the identity of who is once again teased) the details of the plan are kept tightly under wraps so as to retain the element of surprise.  This results in a small team lead by Weaver (unbeknownst) being used to draw fire from the enemy as Tom leads the attack on the reactor, facing off against mutated harnessed kids – another of the episode’s shocking moments.  With heavy casualties (and Lars among the wounded) dissent grows amongst Pope and the Berserkers, angered by the execution of the ‘plan’ and the loss of life so that it could be achieved.  Although Pope has always been a thorn in Mason and Weaver’s side, which ordinarily would become repetitive, there is a real sense that this time it’s building somewhere – could there be mutiny on the horizon?

It also seems that Matt Mason is approaching his rebellious teens as we see him fooling around with dynamite and refusing to go to school – even losing his temper with Anne reminding her that she is not his mother (which leads to reconciliation and a promise from Tom to be a more active father).  So, some nice character development and an opportunity for the young Maxim Knight to develop some acting chops hopefully beyond just being the token “bratty” kid.

As the episode comes to a close Cochise congratulates Tom and Weaver on the success of their plan but warns against complacency divulging his belief that the Espheni will stage a massive retaliatory strike on Charleston.  With Weaver’s continued trepidation towards the Volm we’re left uncertain as to whether they can be truly trusted…we shall have to wait and see (strangely there’s no mention of the rebel Skitters but that will no doubt be another story as the season progresses).

It’s often cited as an unwritten rule that shows really start hitting their stride in their third seasons and Falling Skies happily joins the ranks of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ronald D. Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica in this respect (it’s interesting to note that this episode’s writers were writers and producers on the latter).  “Collateral Damage” leaves you with no doubt that there is much more to come.

The bottom line:  Falling Skies continues to build in quality and scope, it looks like this is going to be another exciting season and a trend that will hopefully follow in the show’s fourth season and – further renewals permitting – beyond!

You can read the episode 1 review here

Falling Skies Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox (UK).  Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

‘Man of Steel’ sequel in 2015 will be a Batman/Superman film…

Following on from my recent post about hopes for what direction a Man of Steel sequel might take (which you can read here), Warner Bros Pictures have now officially announced the next stage in the DC Comics cinematic universe…a Batman/Superman film penciled in for a Summer 2015 release!

The announcement was made at the San Diego Comic-Con by non-other than Man of Steel director himself, Zack Snyder together with actor Harry Lennix (who played General Swanwick in the recent blockbuster) – quoting from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  Whilst Snyder has denied that the Batman/Superman film will directly adapt that seminal masterpiece (there’s already the excellent two-part animated adaptation anyway), it’s assumed that it will be one of the sources Goyer will draw from together with elements of other stories (much as was the approach with the Dark Knight films).

Zack Snyder is to direct with a screenplay from David S. Goyer.  Henry Cavill will return to don the red cape and the search for a new Bruce Wayne/Batman will no doubt be surging ahead (cue ensuing speculation).  It seems that Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas will have reduced involvement this time out as they will serve as executive producers.  This is only natural as their producing roles on Man of Steel were probably more to serve as a transition from the immensely successful Dark Knight trilogy to the burgeoning big screen DC Universe.

My main hope is that the film doesn’t focus too heavily on any conflict (especially physical, as will obviously be tempting given their legendary face-off in TDKR) between the two über icons.  Granted it’s likely when the two heroes meet – each with their often opposing values and philosophies – but their relationship is arguably just as interesting when they combine the yin and yang of their ideals for the greater good.

But what threat will unite DC’s biggest superheroes?  Given the hints already made in Man of Steel it seems only right that Lex Luthor steps out of the shadows…will he perhaps be joining forces with one of Gotham’s rogues?

Anyway, this really is mind blowing news for comic book fans the world over – the very notion of a Batman/Superman always an exciting prospect.  The project will be an important and necessary stepping stone to the inevitable Justice League (now rumoured to be heading to screens in 2017) and the correct approach in establishing the wider cinematic DCU.

What are your thoughts on a Batman/Superman cinematic team up?  Leave a comment below!

TV review: ‘Falling Skies’ S3 EP1 “On Thin Ice” – SEASON PREMIERE

This review contains SPOILERS


Keep watching the skies…

Starring:  Noah Wylie as Tom Mason, Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass, Will Patton as Dan Weaver, Colin Cunnigham as Pope, Drew Roy as Hal Mason, Connor Jessup as Ben Mason, Maxim Night as Matt Mason, Sarah Sanguin Carter as Margaret, Doug Jones as Cochise.

Series created by:  Robert Rodat

Episode Directed by:  Greg Beeman / Written by:  Remi Aubuchon / aired in the UK:  16/07/13

What’s the series about?

Opening six months after a devastating alien attack, Falling Skies follows the soldiers of the 2nd Massachusetts regiment and the civilians under their protection as they fight to repel the invaders…

The story so far…

Following the first season finale, Tom Mason returns three months later after being held captive by the alien ‘Overlords’.

The 2nd Mass is taking up temporary refuge in an airport hangar when a visitor arrives in a plane with a message that remnants of the U.S. government are massing in Charleston, where a safe haven has been established.

As the 2nd Mass begins their journey to Charleston they encounter one of the ‘Skitters’ (the Overlords’ subjugated foot soldiers) who claims to be leading a rebellion against their masters.

When the 2nd Mass finally arrives at Charleston Tom finds that the leader of the community is his former mentor, Arthur Manchester (Terry O’Quinn).  When Manchester refuses to allow a rendezvous with the leader of the Skitter rebellion, Weaver and Mason decide to take action leading to a coup by Charleston’s General Bressler (Matt Frewer).

As the second season finale closes, the 2nd Mass are shocked by the arrival of another alien species – will they be enemy or friend?

Episode review

Picking up seven months later, “On Thin Ice” sees the tide of war turning in favour of the human race, thanks to the support of new alien allies the Volm.  Earth’s new friends have furnished the resistance with advanced weaponry and technology – including a device to safely remove harnesses – to battle the invading ‘Esphani’ (as they’re known to the Volm – just as you were beginning to know your ‘Skitters’ from your ‘fish heads’!), who the Volm have been pursuing across the cosmos – helping to liberate occupied worlds along the way.

The episode opens with an action packed rescue of Jeanne Weaver’s harnessed boyfriend Diego from a mine and an ambush by a couple of ‘Mega Mechs’.  By the time the series titles appear it’s clear that much like the previous season, Falling Skies is back with verve.

At first it all feels a little bewildering as we’re dropped into the middle of proceedings all these months later.  Reassuringly, most of the missing detail is divulged via some necessary and well serving character dialogue.  Tom Mason is now the elected leader of the New United States with Dan Weaver a Colonel, the Volm have established a base outside of Charleston leaving a representative (enter Hellboy star Doug Jones’ character – the pleasantly mannered, well spoken ‘Cochise’) attached to the resistance.

It’s not all so rosy though, Pope and his band of rag-tag ‘Berserkers’ are still as brash as ever, there is growing dissent regarding the allying rebel Skitters (sporting Braveheart-esque face paint) and suspicions of a mole, with the ensuing investigation leading to disastrous consequences for one character.  Weaver in particular makes his grievances known to Mason especially with regard to the Volm, leading to a neat Churchill/Roosevelt/Stalin analogy from Mason.  I’ve always enjoyed the growing camaraderie between the two ‘brothers-in-arms’ and this scene is a highlight of that, given all the more subtle complexity given Mason’s new status as ‘President’.

Meanwhile Hal Mason, having lost the use of his legs, is being plagued by ‘nightmare’ encounters with Karen – who has taken over as the new, human, Overlord.  The birth of Tom and Anne’s daughter provides a celebratory occasion but ultimately produces eerie overtones.  All of this provides some interesting conflict, the basis of all drama.

Largely, the character relationships are more or less as we left them last season – no major criticism in that there has been reasonable character development thus far.  Amongst all of the dark dramatic elements there are moments of hope, a Citizen’s Forum allows Tom Mason to rally the cause of the human spirit – which actually works well here compared to some of the more ‘syrupy’ moments from the first season.

“On Thin Ice” closes with Tom’s revelation to Weaver that the Volm are constructing a weapon (represented by some nicely detailed CGI) to destroy the alien towers that will prevent the Volm reinforcements from entering Earth’s atmosphere.  Things seem to be going well for humanity in their war with the invaders…just how long will it all last?

It’s all off to a promising start and I eagerly await the coming instalments, made all the more enticing as the show has already been renewed for a fourth season (to air in summer 2014).  Now if only they could increase the episode count to 13 a season…

The bottom line:  Falling Skies continues to rise the ranks of the ‘must watch’ list, amongst all the alien intrigue and action there is the human drama reminding us that like all the best sci-fi it tells stories that relate to the human condition.  It’s a series that is well worth your attention, even if it is a little short at ten episodes a season.

Did you know?

Series creator Robert Rodat served as screenwriter on Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning World War II drama Saving Private Ryan.  Spielberg of course serves as Executive Producer on Falling Skies.

Falling Skies Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Fox (UK).  Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

'Cochise' (Doug Jones) is one of Earth's new friends as new allies the Volm help humanity take the fight back to the invaders...

‘Cochise’ (Doug Jones) is one of Earth’s new friends as new allies the Volm help humanity take the fight back to the invaders…

Film review: ‘Pacific Rim’ (spoiler free)

Time to do the monster mash…


Starring:  Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro / Written by: Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro / 132 minutes

What’s it about?

A rift between universes opens at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean allowing colossal and aggressive creatures to cross over and set about the annihilation of the human race.  As more and more of the creatures invade, the world’s governments unite to develop a defence resulting in the construction of the giant robotic ‘Jaegers’ – operated by two human pilots connected via a neurological link.

As the ‘Kaiju’ adapt and fight back, the Jaegers are made obsolete and all hope is lost until a former military commander approaches a washed-up Jaeger pilot with a plan to eradicate the Kaiju threat once and for all…

In review

Pacific Rim is a visual monster (I’ll try and leave the puns there) on a scale that is fully worthy of an IMAX 3D viewing.  It’s Godzilla and Cloverfield on steroids, every inch as bold and heavy as Transformers and served up passionately by Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro.

It’s a shame then that aside from the epic destruction (Hollywood certainly loves destroying America this summer) and the exhilarating Jaeger/Kaiju ‘fights’ the story is a little thin (although we are presented with a fairly satisfying explanation as to why the Kaiju are invading) and the characters, for the most part, are not all that interesting.  Sure, Raleigh Becket (Hunnam) serves adequately as the film’s likeable hero – benefiting from the support of trainee pilot Mako Mori (Kikuchi) – and there is the usual restrained yet nuanced performance from the always watchable Idris Elba (permitted use of his native English accent) as former military man Stacker Pentecost but quirky scientists Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), despite providing some levity, verge on annoyance.  There is also del Toro’s very own Hellboy Ron Perlman as black market dealer Hannibal Chow (where did del Toro get all these names?) who is fun but perhaps a little too cartoonish.  In the end you may find yourself coming away feeling a little empty with any lingering thoughts likely to be focused on the visual elements.

With regard to the afore-mentioned Jaeger/Kaiju confrontations this really is what you came to see and on that level Pacific Rim hits all the marks (sorry, I did say I would try and refrain from cheap puns), they’re fast and energetic leaving you feeling the weight and gravity of every strike and blow as the landscape crumbles around the duelling behemoths.  They are the true characters of the film (you could argue the Jaeger named ‘Gypsy Danger’ is the main star), each one varied in design and intricately detailed.

Between these confrontations the pace of Pacific Rim begins to drag a little with middling efforts to evoke interest in the characters.  The climax will however leave you on the edge of your seat gasping for air as all CGI hell is unleashed upon the audience.  The door is left open for potential sequels but unless there’s a stronger and more engaging story next time around their validity would be questionable.

The bottom line:  Pacific Rim is a feast for the eyes and a noisy, fun summer blockbuster.  As long as you don’t expect a strong narrative and memorable characters then for the most part it’s an enjoyable and epic ride.

Viewers note that there is a mid-credits scene.

See it if you like… Transformers:  Dark of the Moon, Cloverfield

Pacific Rim is in cinemas now.

Have you seen Pacific Rim?  If so, what did you think?  Leave your spoiler free comments below!

Gypsy Danger - meticulously designed and arguably one of the stars of 'Pacific Rim'.

Gypsy Danger – meticulously designed and arguably one of the stars of ‘Pacific Rim’.

Sam Mendes returning for ‘Bond 24’ in 2015

A few weeks ago I published a post on the subject of Sam Mendes returning to direct the next Bond film (which you can read here) and it’s now been confirmed that he will indeed be taking the reins for the as yet untitled 24th big screen outing for Ian Fleming’s man from MI6.

So, just a (fairly) quick follow up on the matter.  This is of course good – if not entirely unexpected – news, all the more as the wait will not be too long with an October 2015 release date (UK – a November release is scheduled for the States) set.

Mendes is certainly not the first director to tackle more than one Bond film – even two or more consecutive outings, John Glen firmly holding the record as director of five films (of varying quality) in a row with two very different Bond actors (the fun but cheesy Roger Moore and the vastly underrated Timothy Dalton) between 1981 and 1989.  Sometimes this turned out well – Terence Young directed 007’s first and second cinematic outings, Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) and sometimes it didn’t…Guy Hamilton helmed the much lauded Goldfinger (1964) but returned for the rather awful Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

With John Logan once again on screenwriting duties (he is also contracted for Bond 25) we can rest assured that the story for Bond 24 will be rich and explore every nook of Bond’s psyche, much as Ian Fleming did and I’ve no doubt that Daniel Craig will provide another strong performance.  Under the direction of Mendes Skyfall presented us with a sharp, complex and beautifully visualised spy thriller (more reminiscent of films such as Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy) that paid homage to the character’s roots without it feeling stale.  I rate it as one of the best in the series although I feel that there ARE superior Bond films with Casino Royale remaining my choice as the best of Daniel Craig’s tenure (thus far).

All in all it’s good to see that Bond 24 is moving ahead and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

What are your thoughts on Sam Mendes returning for another Bond?  Leave a comment below!

Comic book review: ‘Superman Unchained’ #2

Snyder and Lee continue their exploration of the Man of Steel…

Written by:  Scott Snyder / Pencilled by:  Jim Lee

What’s this issue about?

In “The Fall”, the terrorist group known as ‘Ascension’ continue their technological attacks as Superman attempts to uncover the mysteries surrounding the satellite fragment retrieved from the Andaman Sea…

In review

Pretty much maintaining the quality of the premiere issue (you can read the spoiler free review of SU#1 here), Superman Unchained #2 hits all of the same marks whilst furthering the current storyline.

Once again the issue opens with an exciting and epic (not to mention beautifully illustrated) action sequence as Superman works quickly to prevent Dubai’s Burj Khalifa from crashing to the ground, whilst also battling a prototype construction robot commandeered by the Ascension group (worthy of a multi-million dollar film I’d say).

Snyder’s script flows well, moving between the large action pieces and the story exposition without it jarring and a Batman cameo is always welcome as Clark pays a visit to the Batcave where he enlists the investigative skills of the Dark Knight Detective (sporting a Superman detection-proof suit!) in an attempt to unravel the enigma surrounding the handprint marked satellite fragment.

After a climactic battle with General Lane and his latest ‘toys’, the issue comes to a close with another tasty cliffhanger as Lex Luthor escapes prison to “save the world” and another epilogue story by Snyder/artist Dustin Nguyen picking up threads left earlier in the main story.

There’s nothing really else that can be said about Jim Lee’s artwork that hasn’t already been said many times over, he is one of the best in the business and among the visual highlights is a large spread of the Batcave (yes he’s done that before, as have other artists, but it never becomes tiring!) that I’m confident most readers will devote more than a passing glance to.  I hope Lee (together with inker Scott Williams and colourist Alex Sinclair) will stick around for as long as possible.

Perhaps my only reservation is not necessarily with this title itself but the question that hangs over any Superman comic book series – how can the scale be maintained month after month without it becoming stale and monotonous?  The answer may lie in Snyder’s characterisation (the inner monologue during the Dubai scenes is fun and the dialogue between Clark and Bruce Wayne/Batman carries the complexity of their relationship) and storytelling to maintain reader interest between the action – I look forward to seeing how this develops over coming issues.

The bottom line:  Superman Unchained #2 is another solid issue in this still very new series.  Whilst there are always reservations as to how well a Superman title can hold up month on end, I have faith that Scott Snyder and Jim Lee will continue to deliver for some time yet.

Superman Unchained #2 is out now in print and digital formats from DC Comics

Superman Unchained #2 features more fantastic artwork form Jim Lee (with Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair).

Superman Unchained #2 features more fantastic artwork form Jim Lee (with Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair).