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

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spartacus: War of the Damned (2013)

Spartacus... That is not my name.
The 3rd and final season of Starz's bloody and melodramatic retelling of the legendary Spartacus pulls no punches. The action is plentiful and still as over the top gory as viewers have come to expect from the series. The plot is also ramped up with a new and excellent antagonist in Marcus Crassus who is both extremely cunning and intelligent as well as having the resources to enforce his will however he sees fit. Unencumbered by the faults of past romans sent to kill Spartacus makes him a dangerous foe for Spartacus who also must deal with a fracturing of his army as well as the coming winter.

Knowing full well that this would be the last season of the show, the producers and crew spared no expense. Everything from the sets to choreography is much more polished and enhanced while the plot's stakes are raised. It still felt a little rushed given the limited 10 episodes and it's a shame it had to end just as all the actors finally seemed to find the characters and the original melodrama of the show was creeping ever closer to regular drama. The fast paced story and action though is exactly what the show has always delivered and more and won't disappoint fans.

Buyer's Guide:
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray box sets and on iTunes.

History already spoiled it for you out of 5

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Battle Angel (1993)

A cyber-doctor named Ido finds the broken body of Gally on a scrap heap. He becomes her Geppetto, but the Pinocchio similarities end there because the short OVA was concerned with deeper and darker aspects of the human psyche. It may look colourful and adventurous, but it’s definitely not for kids.

To understand Gally it’s necessary to understand the class structure of the world in which she exists. It's an exaggerated version of our own. Scrap Iron City is a dark, violent, poverty stricken semi-slum that attracts those with a love of violence and nurtures its beginnings in others. Spine-thieves and brain-eating mutants are common; they keep the black market stocked with fresh produce.

Situated high above the City, suspended, protected and isolated, hangs Zalem, home to the rich and fortunate. Zalem takes the best of what’s available from beneath and spits out the waste and crap. The extreme class division breeds jealousy and contempt amongst the lower class.

Beneath the social commentary and violence beats a fragile love story. Gally has no past, no memories. In order to find purpose she must live in the moment, meaning her heart guides her actions most of the time. Her determination and love for the people in her life gives her strength. Like Ido, she strives to make life better for the people she cares for, but the human element and her inexperience with emotions mean things don’t always go to plan.

Fights are bloody, and they’re over quickly. The short running time necessities it but it also means that nothing is wasted; there’s no stretching of scenes and no filler. The animation holds up well considering it’s two decades old at time of writing and didn't have a huge budget to work with.

It's a short series (just 2 episodes) but packs in a lot of content. It’s a shame there wasn't more. Think what could've been achieved with 12 episodes!

It's currently OOP in certain territories. This is the part where I’d normally call James Cameron a giant shit for buying the rights to Battle Angel and then halting its re-release, but I don’t want to give him the time of day, so let’s pretend that I went on a tirade and everyone loved it and agreed with me.

4 late realisations out of 5

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions (2002)

Cracking Contraptions is a colourful collection of animated shorts from the award winning Aardman Animations featuring their most successful creations: Wallace, the enthusiastic inventor, and Gromit, his long-suffering pet pooch.

The shorts are best described as slices of life. Each adventure features one of Wallace's crazy labour-saving inventions that go awry. Gromit knows that if he's to ever have the quiet life he craves he'll need to prevent disaster and then clean up the mess. The idiom 'a dog's life' applies to Gromit in more ways than one.

The episodes were created to slot into the BBC's 2002 Christmas TV schedule, between the soap misery and the festive crap, meaning episode length is much too short for any extensive character development to happen. They rely instead on your knowledge of the claymation duo from the previous W+G releases. If you haven't watched those yet, I recommend you do because they're fantastic.

The collection was released as a limited edition R2 dvd that's now hard to find, but Aardman have since posted them all on their YouTube channel (HERE).

10 episodes, approx 3 minutes each.

3 developments out of 5