Review

Jessica Jones season two review

Genre-wise Jessica Jones is a mashup between the superhero and noir genres. When time came to choose between the conventions and traditions of the two, the first season ended up leaning more towards its superhero influences. Despite the hero’s bad choices and the show’s moral complexity, season one had Kilgrave as a clearcut villain – the season’s final arc followed the traditional superhero structure of climbing towards an action set piece.

Season two goes the other way, with morality never being so clearly defined as the final episodes of season one. Some viewers may find this disappointing – while there are compelling villains in season two, none of them are as overtly and undeniably villainous as Kilgrave. Instead the second season has more of a focus on moral complexity.

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A show about moral complexity, watched over by an all-seeing eye. / Krysten Ritter by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Jessica begins the season broken and having now killed out of choice, wrestling with the knowledge that she finds it easy to end a life. Anger management plays a big part in the second season, as do the themes of drug addiction, domination and bad parenting. Season one puts a focus on loss of self-control caused by outside manipulators (Kilgrave, Dorothy, Hogarth), while in season two the focus is on loss of self-control from within (anger, addiction, distrust). But the big difference between seasons two and one is that season two leans more heavily into the moral uncertainty, at one point making a persuasive case that Jessica might end up being the villain of this story.

Once again Jeri Hogarth blurs the line between antihero and villain in a way that reminds me of Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes. She’s cold and ruthless, but with a sensitive, broken side – a mirror in the corporate world to Jessica Jones’ working class equivalent. Widely shared leaked shots from on set showed that Kilgrave returns to the show despite his death. My worry going in was that the show would repeat what Heroes did with Sylar, keeping an iconic villain around past the natural end-point to his story. Kilgrave’s appearance is big enough to have an impact but not to stretch credulity.

Season two doesn’t give the audience everything that they might have liked in the first season, but tackles a lot of the same dilemmas from a different angle, and with the same high quality writing and performances. Having just completed my first viewing of season two, I’m not sure which of the two seasons is my favourite, because of the different styles and goals of the stories each tells. While undeniably told with the same tone, in terms of storytelling choices season two zigs where season one zagged – it acts as a sort of companion piece to the first season.

Conclusion: In some ways season two tells a different type of story to season one, but both reach a similar high standard.

Review

Review – Black Panther

Given that Black Panther has become a cultural phenomenon, there’s been a lot of hype and backlash around the discussion of the film. Stripping all that away, how good is it?

Firstly it’s a good example of an action adventure – the characters are likeable and spark off each other; there’s a compelling story that flows through the film and doesn’t overstay its welcome; the locales (in both Wakanda and South Korea) are colourful and engaging; and there’s some really spectacular and fun action set pieces. That is the primary scale that Black Panther should be judged against, against films like Doctor No, Armaegeddon and the like. By that standard it measures up well – I’d be surprised if there’s many better action films released this year.

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It’s a REALLY good example of the genre, but Black Panther is still a fantasy about a man in a mask beating people up. / Black Panther screencap via Variety.com

Continue reading “Review – Black Panther”

Review

Review – Bright

Dealing with racism through the metaphor of supernatural beings in a world very similar to our own, Bright is superficially similar to the vastly superior Alien Nation. Will Smith plays the mildly racist cop Daryl Ward, with Joel Edgerton as his stoic Orc partner Nick Jakoby. In a world full of fantastical creatures but little magic, the discovery of a magic wand sets off a chaotic night with Ward and Jakoby protecting the wand from the various groups intent on wielding its’ power. There’s also some stuff about a prophecy, but if you’ve ever seen that trope in action Bright won’t surprise you.

Continue reading “Review – Bright”

Review

Neill before Blomkamp! That’s How the Naming Convention Works

This weekend sees the release of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium in the US and UK, in which 23rd century Matt Damon declares war on a space station to force them to cure his cancer. I’m starting to suspect the twist may be that he’s a mental patient and it’s all in his head.

Waging a war against a space station is a challenge, as I know from personal experience.
Waging a war against a space station is a challenge, as I know from personal experience.

Although it’s only Neill Blomkamp’s second feature film (after the excellent District 9) he made a number of short films, all of which are available on Youtube, all of which I watched, and reviewed to give an idea of his career so far.

Click here to read Marathon Man: Neill Blomkamp

Review

Chill-ermo del Terror!!

He directs horror films, is what I was going for with the title – I was doing a Simpsons Halloween special credits thing, you know, trying to be amusing. And yes, I suppose you could probably describe his work more accurately as dark fantasy, but…

Yeah, anyway, my point.

This weekend sees the release of Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s new film, in both the US and UK. (And possibly some other countries as well.)

Ahead of this, writing for the Ann Arbor Review, I’ve re-watched some of his biggest films – Mimic, Hellboy and the majestic Pan’s Labyrinth, which I was surprised to learn is only 7 years old, such is it’s status as a modern era classic.

He's also very cuddly.
He’s very cuddly.

I’ve reviewed the trio, looking at their strengths and weaknesses against each other, to help you decide whether you should spend your hard-earned money on his new release.

Click here to read Marathon Man: Guillermo del Toro

Review

Almodovar!

Despite being a highly acclaimed director, with two Oscar wins and two more nominations, Pedro Almodovar doesn’t seem to have that much mainstream appeal in the English speaking world.

This is indicated to an extent by how slowly his films move around the world. In the era of simulatenous worldwide releases for blockbusters, his latest film, I’m So Excited! was released in Spain back in March and in the UK in May, but is only just being released in the USA this week.

A black and white photo of a director with a notably colourful visual palette. Pretty sure there's some irony in there.
A black and white photo of a director with a notably colourful visual palette. That’s pretty ironic, right?

Writing for the Ann Arbor Review, I’ve looked back at some of Almodovar’s older films – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; Time Me Up! Tie Me Down!; Bad Education and The Skin I Live In.

If nothing else, you’ve got to admit he’s got a flair for naming his films.

Click here to read Marathon Man: Pedro Almodovar

Review

Studying for Monsters University

Pixar is one of the great creative companies of 21st century cinema, impressively prolific and entertaining to a wide audience. This wekeend sees the release of Monsters University, the not particularly anticipated (as far as I can tell) follow up to Monsters Inc.

Of all the ‘what would cartoon characters if they were real’ memes, this has to be the least terrifying.

But I’ve taken a look at some of the less celebrated Pixar films – Monsters Inc., Cars, Ratatouille and Brave,¬† and I’ve been impressed… at least by the films that didn’t feature characters with combustion engines.

Click here to read Marathon Man: The Lesser Pixar Films