Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Review of American Horror Story: Cult - Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag

Written by Crystal Liu
Directed by Rachel Goldberg

Valerie: "You've taken my art, you've taken my life. You've taken my motherfucking legacy."
Andy: "Who are you kidding? Shooting me will be the only thing you'll be remembered for. I am your legacy."

Okay, this was an episode I was not particularly looking forward to watching or even reviewing. I'm far from the biggest fan of Lena Dunham, who I think it's fair to say is at best, a rather divisive and polarising figure, so having her on the show as infamous radical feminist Valerie Solanas in this rather flashback heavy episode was the sort of thing you've could've made a drinking game out of and ended up with liver failure as a result.

In flashbacks we get the famous moment where a dejected Solanas shoots Andy Warhol (played by Evan Peters rather skillfully) and automatically become a cult icon in her own making as we're briefed on her backstory (abused by stepfather, prostitute, given children up, etc) as she forms her own group of psychotic man haters that would even make the worst of the Tumblr crowd shudder a little (or give them some bad ideas).

Of course with Dunham somewhat dominating proceedings in her guest appearance, the episode also brings back Frances Conroy as a cigar smoking radical feminist, who is quickly revealed as an older version of Solanas's lover, Bebe Babbot who decides to round up Winter, Beverly and Ivy and give them a harsh lesson on how men tend to shaft women once again.

Throughout the flashbacks we got to see Valerie's cult of man hating murderesses in action as they apparently were the real Zodiac killers going about knocking off couples in a bid to make Valerie's SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto into a reality while the two token gay men involved were forced to degrade themselves in an attempt to prove their worth only for one of them to get hacked to bits anyways.

I have to admit that I nearly lost the will to live sitting through Valerie's scenes and I honestly wondered if the episode was deliberately going out of it's way to take the piss out of radical feminists and the more woke male feminists to boot. It certainly did more to make me feel less sympathy for Solanas rather than any, although I will admit that Dunham excelled herself during the moment where Valerie lamented about her tainted legacy while Evan Peters being on rather top form as Andy Warhol, which should bode well when he plays other cult leaders in later episodes.

As for the present day stuff, the episode did have some surprises. Less so with Beverly suddenly rebelling against Kai but more that the latter was a few steps ahead once again. In a handful of scenes he was able to manipulate the girls into murdering Harrison while also revealing that Bebe is working for him as well. With Kai's cult status growing, he's certainly proving to be more and more dangerous as his own original cult dwindles.

- Ally was missing for this episode but we know that she was released and Meadow was announced as Kai's would be killer.
- Men Lead, Women Bleed? No wonder Winter was more than happy to kill Harrison, who did admittedly seem somewhat misogynistic anyways.
- The return of Jamie Brewer in this episode along with Dot Marie Jones was a nice surprise here even if they were a part of Solanas's cult.
- Chronology: From where Mid-Western Assassin left off along with 1960s and 1970s flashbacks for Solanas's story.

Well, this was certainly a divisive episode. Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag for it's intentions for being a feminist episode, did more to highlight the more destructive side of it that social media has been doing for a while now. I will admit that there were some good performances and shocking moments but other than that, it's a bit of a frustrating one.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Review of Empire's 4x03: "Evil Manners"

Written by Matt Pyken & Carlito Rodriguez
Directed by Bille Woodruff

Diana (to Cookie): "It's time we put these hostilities behind us."

Big difference between what one says and what one does, huh, Diana? This week Diana seemed more determined to continue on her mission to take out the Lyon family while Angelo seemed to prefer to drink himself into a stupor and call Warren a whore and add nothing else of value to an otherwise enjoyable episode.

Diana got a minor victory at the start when her cousin the bank clerk guy was able to reject Cookie for money but she ended up having to save face when Cookie was able to charm those women at the photoshoot they all shared. I hope Cookie is smart enough to see through Diana's "let bygones be bygones" facade because Jamal is sinking further in Warren's clutches.

Jamal really had all the hit and miss material this week. On one hand, I loved that he was honest to Lucious about their past and I enjoyed all their scenes together but he was unable to stop Shyne from figuring out that Lucious has memory loss and he certainly was reckless in telling Warren about Lucious, which mean Diana has one more trump card she can now play with.

Of course when Jamal wasn't revealing things he shouldn't have, the episode gave us some interesting flashbacks to Cookie's time in prison where it seemed like the women were more keen on being her friend than an enemy. They tied in fair enough to her current situation at the photoshoot and again, I liked that Cookie was honest to Lucious about being in prison for seventeen years.

As for the rest of the episode, when Shyne wasn't vying for more albums and settling for five, Andre and Detective Rose seemed to be playing mind games with one another while Hakeem seemed determined to keep Anika away from Bella as best as possible with Tiana taking on a more neutral role. Both plots were decent enough but the best stuff was with Jamal, Cookie and Lucious this week.

- Who was that woman that Diana had to mess with Andre? By the way, Diana views Andre as the Scarecrow, Jamal as the Tin Man and Hakeem as the Cowardly Lion.
- No Claudia, Tory or Porscha this week.
- Standout music: Rantionale's Tethered, Hakeem's Shut Up and Jamal/Hakeem's Chase The Sky.
- Chronology: Not long from where the previous episode left.

I enjoyed the episode. Evil Manners certainly showed a lot of DuBois scheming and while Cookie managed to inadvertently get one on Diana, Jamal on the otherhand wasn't so quick to see through Warren though. Add some great music and bits of Lucious's memories trying to surface and this was a goodie.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Review of How To Get Away With Murder's 4x03: "It's For The Greater Good"

Written by Erika Harrison
Directed by Nicole Rubio

Michaela (to Isaac): "He’s dead isn’t he? Everyone around us dies. That’s what we do."

I have to admit, I am loving the cliffhanger moments this season. To recap - Laurel went into premature labour, the baby's missing, Frank's consoling her, Isaac is looking for Annalise who is also missing, there's blood on the elevator of Annalise's apartment and now we've got Michaela outside the baby unit lamenting about him being dead.

I get that we're meant to think in this case the "he" is Laurel's son, but I get the feeling the "he" is actually someone else in the mix. I've read some theories this week about it being Simon but would Michaela really be distraught if someone like him died? Probably not under normal circumstances but if the Keating 4 and company played a role in his death, then maybe yeah.

I mean, it might not be Simon either but I definitely don't think that Laurel's baby is actually dead, even if there's the chance that for some reason Michaela might believe he is. I am however still trying to figure how Isaac is going to get involved with the rest of the gang when so far, his interactions in the present day have been restricted to Annalise and even then it seemed like she was about done with him this week

Isaac this week did seem more of a hindrance to Annalise than an actual help with him publicly getting her to hand over urine sample during her cases and being dismissive of her cases as well, so I am wondering how he ingratiates himself into her fractured inner circle in the next few episodes. I did love Annalise challenging him and this week, she was on fire, case wise.

Having her turn the other lawyer (played excellently by Marianne Jean Baptiste) in order to free her client was pretty nifty, even if she did have to deal with the likes of Bonnie and Nate playing her at her own game this week. I have to admit, both Bonnie and Nate came off worse to me in that scene than Annalise did but at least Bonnie did something good with hiring Laurel.

Speaking of Laurel, I knew it was going to take a bit for her to get Michaela to risk her position at Caplan & Gold to avenge Wes but at least the episode didn't drag it out. The competition between Michaela and Simon played out well enough and I like that Michaela has Tegan on her side but I guess maybe we should be taking Simon a little seriously if he's going to have a bigger role this season.

As for Connor and Asher - I'm bored of their mutual moping and they were the weak links of the episode for me. I did like that the gang organised an intervention for Connor even if it didn't take and I liked the introduction of his dads too, which was a nice surprise but aside from some fit go go dancers and Oliver being the smart one in the bunch, the plotline was the least engaging this week.

- Jasmine appeared in the episode, only to be killed off. I sort of knew the show was going to do this but I'm surprised they did it so quickly though.
- Frank really does need a bit more to do this week but I do like that he's slowly working his way into everyone's good books again.
- Who else aside from Frank knows where Annalise lives now?
- Chronology: From where I'm Not Her left off.

It's For The Greater Good was the strongest episode we've had so far. The main mystery is moving along nicely and there's some great stuff with Annalise, Laurel and Michaela but both Asher and Connor are in need of some better material at the moment but other than that, the season is solid so far and the cases have been interesting too.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Friday, October 13, 2017

My Review of Gotham's 4x04: "The Demon's Head"

Written by Ben McKenzie
Directed by Kenneth Fink

Ras (to Bruce): "You're finally beginning to see things clearly. The question is: are you strong enough?"

Have I mentioned that Gotham are doing a far better job with their depiction of Ras Al Ghul than the Arrow universe did? Well, even if I have, it bears repeating as this episode really showed what a magnificently dangerous man Ras well and truly can be when pushed into a corner.

Now I wasn't shocked that he killed kindly museum guy Niles, who had the misfortune of examining the knife that Bruce bought at the auction that Ras was so desperately keen on acquiring. I was however shocked that the show actually went ahead and allowed Ras to slit poor Alex's throat when Bruce refused to hand over the knife towards the end of this episode.

Considering the amount of things that the show has done in it's four seasons, seeing an innocent kid getting murdered was by far the most shocking they've done. I liked the character of Alex. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the room but he was sympathetic and it was nice to see Bruce interact with someone his age range that wasn't Selina for a change. Had things been different, Alex might have been a good friend to Bruce but Ras certainly put an end to that one.

Of course when Ras wasn't killing people to get his knife, he was sending a bodyguard with a dog man creature named Anubis to try and do the same thing while formally introducing himself to Gordon in an attempt to play nice. The latter stance almost worked until Alfred blew both Gordon and Ras's mutual scheming against one another.

Still though, this was a truly excellent episode for Ras where he definitely emerged as a big threat and even with him being shipped off to Blackgate, I didn't need the trailer for next week to inform me that he would get out of his prison sooner than later. Of course, it wasn't just Ras that fared well in this episode.

Both Bruce and Gordon themselves were on fine form and it was nice to see the pair of them actually working together to try and stop Ras. I also liked that Gordon was a lot more competent in this episode than usual and that he actually gave Bruce some pretty sound advice as well. This is a version of James the show needs more and more.

Saying that though, I don't think Gordon really understand what he's done with bringing Sofia back to the city. In this episode alone, it seemed like she was able to play off both Oswald and Gordon while at least letting them both think that they have her sussed out. Now this side to Sofia, I'm also in favour of. I'd rather see Sofia using both Jim and Oswald than being played so easily by both.

As for Oswald, when he wasn't testing Sofia out as a potential threat, he was also having to deal with Nygma's frankly pathetic attempts at revenge. I have to admit, I loved the rapping riddles bit (mainly for Zsasz's reactions) and I also loved the moment where Oswald and Edward finally faced off and the former stopped Fries from freezing the latter as well. Oswald not putting Edward on ice again will probably come back to haunt or maybe it'll be the beginning of a truce between the two. I imagine we won't have too long to wait for an answer to that one though.

- Benjamin McKenzie (Gordon) wrote this episode after directing last season's These Delicate And Dark Obsessions. He really should write/direct more for the series.
- How gorgeous does the Iceberg Lounge actually look? I love the umbrella light especially. It's just in this episode I really got a proper look at the place.
- No Selina, Ivy, Tabitha, Butch or Bullock in this episode and Barbara was relegated to at least two scenes. We did get some more of Harper though who seems okay, character wise.
- Chronology: More or less from where They Who Hide Behind Masks left off.

Now that was brilliant. The Demon's Head certainly showed us that Ras mean business as an antagonist this season and the excellent team up of Gordon and Bruce really worked well for the episode with the Oswald, Nygma and Sofia subplots. Can Benjamin McKenzie write another episode for the series?

Rating: 9 out of 10

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Constantine - Trailer For Animated Series Released/Legends Of Tomorrow Appearance Confirmed

One of the many highlights from last week's New York Comic Con was the confirmation that a certain petty dabbler still has more life in him just yet.

Matt Ryan played the role of exorcist and conman, John Constantine in NBC's Constantine series, which ran for 13 episodes between 2014-2015. Following the series cancellation, Ryan reprised the role in Arrow's fourth season in the episode titled Haunted, before appearing in the Justice League Dark movie and in 2018 the character will headline his own animated series on the CWSeed.

The trailer, released during the weekend showed Constantine up to his old tricks in a church surrounded by demons but it seems that this time around he can swear as well as smoke in his new form.

However, viewers won't just have the character in animated form to enjoy once again as it's also been confirmed that Matt Ryan will also be appearing in the ninth and tenth episodes of Legends Of Tomorrow's third season as well. The spoilers for the appearances sound genuinely exciting as Constantine's appearance on the series will coincide with the return of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) and introduction of new antagonist, Mallus.

"As for the character of Constantine, we knew that an alienated, chain-smoking, bisexual, world-weary demonologist would feel right at home among our Legends. His appearance in episode 310 will involve the following: a revisiting of Arrow season four and the events following that season’s finale episode; a confrontation with this season’s Big Bad on Legends — the name we’ve only heard whispered until now Mallus; some hot sex — something that has been in short supply on the Waverider thus far in season three; and Damien Darhk, because how can you do an episode about dark magic and not have Damien Darhk? More than anything, the episode promises to be scary as you know what — tonally it’s The Exorcist meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Demonic possession in a mental institution, what’s not to love?"

The fact that they're also talking about the character's bisexuality is promising, considering that his own series did seem to skirt around the subject. I'm also hoping that beyond his two scheduled appearances that perhaps we might see more of the character in the future.

Constantine - Animated Series Trailer:
Legends Of Tomorrow Spoilers:

Constantine will air on CWSeed in 2018 as will his appearances on Legends Of Tomorrow.

My Review of Legends Of Tomorrow's 3x01: "Aruba-Con"

Written by Phil Klemmer & Marc Guggenheim
Directed by Rob Seidenglanz

Ray: "You're gonna steal the Waverider?"
Sara: "We're gonna fix our mistakes."

And we're back. Picking up from where things went all a bit The Wedding Of River Song, the Legends find themselves in a messy 2017 but they don't have much time to dwell on it because Rip just set up a new group of helpers called the Time Bureau in order to fix the mess Sara and company somewhat created.

The Time Bureau are just like the Legends, except they wear suits and are mostly humour defunct but they're not quite as good at fixing things as Rip would have anyone else believe as this episode also demonstrated. With the exception of the rather uptight Agent Sharpe, the rest of the Bureau are mostly background men doing and saying little of consequence. Sharpe on the other hand made her disapproval of the Legends known while also potentially being into Sara if rumours are anything to go by.

Of course with what I assumed was going to be the main plot somewhat resolved in the first two minutes, Rip effectively broke up the Legends and sent them on their separate ways. Nate and Amaya broke up as the latter went back to Zambesi and the former became a hero in Central City. Then there was Ray working on some holistic app with an annoying wonder kid while Sara worked in a store in Star City with an irritating boss, Stein got to learn he was going to be a grandfather, Jax dropped out of college and Mick actually got his vacation in Aruba with a hitch of course.

The hitch being Julius Caesar whom Mick managed to apprehend before the Time Bureau somewhat botched things up and Sara rebelled by reclaiming the Waverider, assembling her team and trying to send Caesar back to his own time and it would've gone pretty well if Nate hadn't blundered things but then the episode would've lost a few minutes.

Simon Merrills did a great job as the leader of Rome and I really enjoyed his scene with both Mick and Sara throughout the episode. I also liked the team up of Sara and Sharpe fighting Caesar's men as much as I had enjoyed Jax's rather weak impersonation of Ares as well. Of course with Caesar being sent back to his own time, memories erased and both Rip and Sharpe holding different views about the Legends, the episode also dropped an important clanger on us - Mallus.

Although this season is giving a resurrected Damien Darkh, his daughter Eleanor and Amaya's villainous granddaughter, Kuasa in later episodes this season, it seems that Mallus will be the main antagonist this season. However, they're also going to be a threat that we're going to be waiting to see until the second half of the season but I'll enjoy hearing more about the character until they make their way onto the show.

- Rip is now a recurring character this season and it seems that we'll be losing Stein while also gaining Zari as the season plays out.
- Kid Flash was working with Nate in this episode and we got some Felicity shade from Ray's boss as well.
- It seems this season will have eighteen episodes, which is a good thing.
- Chronology: Mostly 2017 but there was also trips to 49BC and 1942 Zambesi. It's also been five years since Rip last saw the gang.

A fun opening episode. Aruba-Con set up a lot of potentially exciting prospects while also hinting at some serious dynamic shifts at the same time. I've missed how utterly bonkers this series can be and this episode served as a perfect reminder of how that continuously works in it's favour. Welcome back, Legends. You guys might screw up time but you're a lot more fun than Rip's new project.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Review of American Horror Story: Cult - Mid-Western Assassin

Written by Todd Kubrak
Directed by Bradley Buecker

Sally (to Ally, re Kai): "He needs to be stopped."

Keeping with bringing in some past players in one-off guest roles, this week was the turn of Mare Winningham to pop up in the series as an unfortunately short lived antagonist to Kai. Sally Keffler had everything on paper to really bring Kai's cult to an end, so of course she had to die horribly but if we're lucky then perhaps Winningham will be back next season in a bigger role.

Here though, Sally directly challenged Kai's manipulation of people's growing fears and decided to run against him and if that wasn't enough of a potential threat to him, there was also the fact that she didn't even question Ally's claims about Kai having his own cult of murderers in the mix but unfortunately when the chips were down, Ally was still rather useless to have around.

First of all, she hid in the bathroom while Kai and his gang arranged for Sally to be killed and make it look like a suicide. I liked that Sally openly defied Kai and had his number before she was murdered but her death was one of two victories for Kai in this episode.

The other one came courtesy of Meadow, who was actually playing a long con with Ally. Her devotion to Kai led her to getting Ally to rescue her from Harrison and Jack while at the same time telling Ally everything about the cult and taking some temporary sanctuary at Rudy's office before a public event lead to a shooting of Kai, Meadow's suicide and Ally being arrested.

In terms of long cons, it seemed a little obvious in retrospect as Kai seemed a little too adept at winning over Meadow's resistance but it played out rather well, even if Ally was a little too suckered into things. Then again, along with Ally's gullibility, this episode also really went to town on how much Ivy actually hates her wife. Maybe not enough to kill her but definitely enough to gaslight the hell out of her as she confessed to Kai that her inability to give birth drove a wedge between the two of them.

I do like that there's some conflict with Ivy but the way in which she's driven Ally to the brink of insanity and the fact that she wants to take Oz off her doesn't do a lot to make me sympathise with her either. On the other hand, with Ally now in the know and hopefully not confined to prison for too long, I am hoping she comes out stronger now.

- This episode was edited in light of the recent tragedy that happened in Las Vegas. I still thought the scenes were pretty effective though.
- Jack is literally the only cult member whose backstory we know nothing about. I assume we will soon though. Kai also offered Winter to Ivy.
- Both Sally and Ally likened Kai to Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones etc and we all know by now we'll be seeing Evan Peters playing those roles in future episodes.
- Chronology: April 2017 but also November/December 2016 flashbacks and a flashback to Oz's birth as well.

An absolutely brilliant episode. Mid-Western Assassin might have been obvious in the way it played out Ally's downfall but it was fantastically done with some genuinely gripping moments as Kai just showed the lengths he really will go to get what he wants. As for next week's episode, there's one guest star I'm looking forward to and another I'm really not but hopefully the upward swing with this season continues though.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Review of Empire's 4x02: "Full Circle"

Written by Craig Brewer & Eric Haywood
Directed by Craig Brewer

Lucious (to Claudia): "You're the only one I can trust."

And that statement is not a good thing. As we've suspected, Claudia is not going to be a good influence for Lucious and her manipulation of him certainly came out in this episode, especially as the end scene meant that she got her claws into Lucious pretty good.

I actually don't mind Claudia as a baddie though I'm not sure how long she actually can have Lucious on side, especially with Cookie back living in the house but she certainly played a role in Leah being taken out of the mix. Of course Cookie was the main factor as Leah unwisely confessed her murder of Tariq to her, which even surprised me.

The upside of things is that Leah got sent away and Anika with a new hairdo got released from prison, although that had more to do with her using Bunkie's murder to get Cookie and Thirsty to spring her out of jail rather than Leah's own confession. Going by the trailer for the next episode, it does look like we're going to have an Anika vs. Hakeem/Tiana fight for Bella though before Diana also gets involved with things.

Going back to Lucious though - the episode confirmed that he's not faking his memory loss. A scene with Uncle Eddie (Forrest Whitaker) proved that his memory loss is genuine. Speaking of Eddie, he's an interesting new character from Lucious's past that the episode added into the mix and I thought Whitaker played off well with both Lucious and Cookie here too, so I'm interested in seeing more of him.

Another new interest character also added into the episode was Detective Pamela Rose. Andre nearly had sex with her in a bathroom at a bar he was and then later it was revealed who she was. With Nessa clearly out of the picture, it looks like Pamela will be both a love interest and a potential antagonist for Andre this season.

As for the rest of the episode, there was a subplot where Jamal and Becky clashed over a song and the latter ended up giving it to Tory. To be honest, I was on Becky's side with this one as I think Jamal came across pretty unprofessional throughout the whole thing. On the plus side, I did like the singing session with Jamal and Warren when they were on their own though.

- Cookie's face is in the opening credits. I meant to point that out in my previous review.
- We never did learn the movie that Jamal was doing a song for, other than the mention of a hero's journey.
- Standout music: Both Jamal and Tory's take on Appreciated and Hakeem's She's A Monster.
- Chronology: Five months since the previous season finale as emphasised by how much time Anika has been in prison before her release.

Full Circle (not sure what came full circle here to be honest) was a little stronger than the opening episode. Some interesting new characters with Eddie and Pamela added into the mix and nice character bits as well. Too bad the ratings aren't as great for a season that's really promising so far.

Rating: 8 out of 10