Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

.hack//Quantum (2012)

A three-episode OVA set in the ever-expanding MMORPG .hack Universe (The World R:X). The setting will be familiar to long time fans, as will the references to 'Pluto's Kiss' and the 'Descendants of Fianna'. Everyone else may struggle at first, but once you know that a 'PK' is a Player Killer (one who targets and kills other players within the game world) you should be able to pick up on what is happening easily enough. It's not rocket science.

The main characters are a mixed bunch. They're stock types but surprisingly well-fleshed out despite the short running time. One is clumsy (Sakuya), one is sensible (Mary), and one is smart (Tobias). Together, using the character models of Kite, BlackRose, and Balmung, respectively, they get themselves into dangerous situations and together must get themselves out of the same.

The first episode is the standard introduction episode, but if you stick with it you'll be rewarded with more emotional content in episodes two and three.

Music is by Kow Otani, a name many anime fans will recognise. The .hack music is an integral part of the franchise, one that Otani both pays homage to and imbues with his own style.

3 episodes, approx 25 mins each.

3 pick ups of all the things! out of 5

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ghost Adventures: Season 3 (2010)

In the third season the paranormal investigating trio continue their Ghost Adventures through a variety of fascinating locations including the dismal conditions of an archaic prison, a derelict hospital arcanely forgotten, the decaying site of an arms manufacturer, and the solitude existence of a lighthouse awash with trauma.  Episodes begin with a history lesson on each site and surrounding area.  These are expertly conducted as they evoke the right mood through a mixture of archival images and 2nd unit footage.  After this the team performs a preliminary analysis of the grounds and while fun will be had, the crew wastes too much time on pointless hijinks and lame skits.

With their X-cameras set up the true investigation begins when they go dark, using only their night-vision cameras for sight.  The crew's style remains intact as they rouse up the spirits, utilizing provocation and trigger objects, even offering up their own energy to be used against themselves.  Though when something supernatural does occur, too much chatter ensues which contaminates evidence, making it difficult to decipher in the review.

The Ghost Adventures crew has come a long way from their pivotal documentary on the paranormal happenings in Virginia City, Nevada and have established an investigative approach unique to their own as they have experienced many of the most dangerous and intriguing hauntings across the world but they should leave the comedy antics to professionals and focus more on the exploration and analysis of the spiritual unknown.

Buyer's Guide:
Available as 3 disc set containing all 10 episodes of S3.

3 idiots playing golf on "the haunted green" out of 5

Nutted by Borderline

Chocky (1984)

Chocky is adapted from the novel of the same name by John Wyndham. I've not read the book, so can’t comment on how accurate or faithful the adaptation is. It features a young boy, Matthew, who is contacted by the titular Chocky. Chocky speaks only to Matthew, using him to ask unusual questions of the adults. The change in his behaviour soon draws attention to the boy.

I’d not seen the TV series since I was ten or eleven-years-old. Since then, I've assimilated so much sci-fi that the concept no longer seems fresh, but viewing it from an adult perspective, sympathising for the first time with the parents of young Matthew as well as Matthew himself, gave me a whole different insight into what the series was actually about. It intrigued me as a child and was somewhat frightening. I'm now aware that it touches on a number of deep concepts I'd little opinion about back then: science, religion, family and cognitive development. It doesn't delve too deeply or get too preachy because it is a kid’s show after all, but the themes are there and they're important to the narrative.

Thematically, it takes a dramatic turn in the final episode, cranking up the drama but still manages to keep it within kid-friendly levels. Adults will understand the terror that's implied, but kids hopefully won’t. It occurred to me during those moments that the same drama was present all along in a slightly different form but was underplayed so as not to frighten a young audience.

If you have fond memories of the show from way back (don’t count the years, you’ll get depressed) I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with a reunion. It’s dated visually but the important parts hold up well under scrutiny.

If you’re new to it you may have certain preconceptions of what a TV show should deliver that may not be met. Shame on you.

6 episodes, approx 25 mins each.

3½ swirly things in the corner of your room out of 5

Sunday, May 20, 2012

THE YOUNG ONES - The Complete Series [1982, 1984]

"We can do just exactly whatever we want to do. 
And do you know why?
Because we're young ones! Bachelor boys!
Crazy, mad, wild-eyed, big bottomed anarchists!

The early ‘80’s saw a lot of change in culture, attitude and all around lifestyles.  With all these changes, a new breed of entertainers, suitably labeled The Alternative Comedians, were rising from the underground scene. They were crude, angry and out to offend anybody who didn't know what a Sid Vicious was.   The British wave of Alternative Comedians were fueled by their love for punk rock music & Monty Python and their hatred towards Margaret Thatcher.  The AC scene was mostly known through comedy clubs and people heavily involved with the movement, as it wasn't part of the mainstream yet. Then a group of these offbeat reprobates gathered together and were allowed to bring their special brand of comedy to the BBC2 television station. 

The Young Ones ran for 2 series, consisting of 6 episodes each, in 1982 and 1984.  A loud, surreal and violent sitcom, thinly disguised as a variety show with a musical performance each week and strangely timed sketches inserted through out each episode.  It followed the lives of four immensely unlikable undergrads just barely making ends meet by holing up together in a rundown public house.  At first it seems like it's just violent slapstick humor and jokes involving bodily fluids, but with a little knowledge of the era, the message it was trying to make and what it took to produce the show, you might see quite a bit more under the surface. 

The DVD transfer is a little spotty at best, but it can be forgiven seeing as the quality of something filmed 30 years ago isn't expected to be crystal clear.  Be warned though, the Extra Stupid Edition contains extra stupid edits and cut down episodes for licensing reasons.  You'll be wanting to get the Every Stoopid Episode edition as it contains the episodes in their original presentation and an extra disc of special features that are actually quite interesting to watch. 

It might not be for everybody, considering how disgusting these characters and crude jokes are but if the thought of combining Fawlty Towers and Married…with Children appeals to you, then The Young Ones is probably right down your urine-soaked alley.

12 episodes.  35 minutes each.

Buyer’s Guide:
As stated above, there are two editions of the complete series on DVD.  Go with the Every Stoopid Episode set.  It has yet to be released on Blu-Ray.

4 tampon rodents out of 5

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SPACED: Series 2 [2001]

They say that the family of the 21'st century is made up of friends…

…not relatives

After working together on Asylum, you would have thought Simon Pegg, Julia Stevenson and Edgar Wright would have had all the kinks ironed out for the first series of Spaced.  However that wasn't the case and they ended up with a somewhat hit and miss run…that is until the second series.  Firing on all cylinders, Spaced: Series Two is a significant improvement from the first 7 episodes.

Rapidfire American pop culture jokes both in your face and subtle, constant use of dance music and quirky remixes of famous film & TV themes, chaotic editing and stylistic photography make for a simple yet hilarious delight compared to most sitcoms.  With it's countless Star Wars references (multiplied from the first series), Spaced might not be for everyone as some of the jokes are so subtle or obscure it will surely fly past you and come off as just plain weird.

It manages to perfectly capture the 20-something world of being broke and easily annoyed while equally fantastical as well without ever really breaking the mold of real life.
If you ever looked at a bag of oregeno and wondered if you could smoke it, played DOOM till the sun came up, wondered what Dana Scully looked like naked or stood in line for 3 hours to see The Matrix, then Spaced is the show for you.

7 episodes.  24 minutes each.

Must See Episodes:
2x05: Gone
A wonderfully constructed episode that wraps up like an episode of Seinfeld. 

Buyer’s Guide:
Dvd box set of S1, or box set of S1+S2 together are finally available in North America after years and years of legal issues.

4 Prayers to our lord, our saviour, Buffy The Vampire Slayer out of 5

Spartacus Vengeance (2012)

Freedom is not a stick of wood to be presented as a bone to obedient dog. It is a thing all men deserve.
Spartacus and his band of rebel slaves have escaped their shackles and now hide in the wilderness raiding Roman caravans and shipments to survive as they are hunted as fugitives. Gaius Claudius Glaber is sent to deal with them as it is seen as his mess. Spartacus must overcome not just the Romans, but also infighting between factions within the rebels as he tries to fashion them into some sort of useful fighting force.

Season 2 sees the late Andy Whitfield replaced with Liam McIntyre who slips straight into the role and dare I say I liked him much better. His gravely voice and presence makes him seem much more a part of the melodrama. Also returning in a much larger role is Craig Parker as Glaber who was criminally underused in the first season and is the primary scene chewer in the absence of Batiatus. Many returning characters and a bevy of new ones make the show feel fresh and still the same with all the changes.

The show feels much more open now that locations and stories are no longer confined to just the ludus and arena. New characters, locations and grander storylines are now possible with the same over-the-top production filled with violence and nudity that the show is known for. Quite an improvement while still being somewhat cheesy and indulgent, though I am less inclined to see that as a problem now.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray box sets.

4 Heightened Body-Counts out of 5

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2 (2011)

The world we know is gone, but keeping our humanity? That's a choice.
Following the events of season 1, the band of survivors leave Atlanta and start to make their way to Fort Benning, but are derailed by zombie hordes. What follows is a season full of missing persons, morality decisions and anti-hero antagonism.

After the departure of showrunner Frank Darabont audiences are treated to an extended 13 episode run despite a reduced budget which can be a bit noticeable for those who pay attention with less dynamic camera angles, less shooting locations and less of the zombies. While the most is made of the first two, less of one of the main draws is quite jarring. Whether it makes the show less of itself or makes their sparse appearances more memorable is up to the viewer. There is also the issue of some characters fading into the background, mostly T-Dog who is given precisely zero interesting arcs while seemingly every other character experiences some sort of change or growth. The conflict between Rick's morality and Shane's cold survivor logic is the main drama replacement for the zombies. Neither is really wrong and the back and forth is very interesting, sometimes irritating, but wholly great. The extended character drama is a nice trade off for the reduced budget limitations which are minor irritations if the viewer is inclined to let them go.

Episodes to See:
Ep. 11. Dale-centric episode that is at the heart of the humanity and morality of the show.
Ep. 13. Action packed finale with many things coming to light and plenty of teasers for next season and fanwank.

Buyer's Guide:
Available in DVD and Blu-Ray box sets, both regular and limited editions. Also on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.

3½ Carl is never in the fucking house out of 5