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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sapphire and Steel (1979-82)

I saw it first when I was a kid. I don't remember what age exactly, but it blew my young mind. I saw some of it again in my twenties. It blew my mind once more. You can guess where this is going... yup, and again in my thirties, mind blown. During all that time I encountered nothing else quite like it, so in my experience it's unique.

Wikipedia notes that the show's creator, Peter J. Hammond, gave it the working title of The Time Menders; and while not as seductive or as pleasing to say as Sapphire and Steel, it does a better job at describing what the series is as a whole.

The enigmatic duo are 'operators' that fix time when it goes wrong or when parts of it leak or break through barriers into other parts. It's known that there are 127 operators in total, of which Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) are two. Their full role is a mystery, but part of their job is to mend fractures that exist between temporal states; they're a line of defence, preventing the malicious side of past, present and future from destroying itself and everything within it. Time itself is described as a corridor that encompasses all things, so in a way the operators are like interdimensional hall monitors maintaining order.

Joanna Lumley is radiant and sympathetic as Sapphire, although she can paradoxically be sometimes cold and detached at the same time. David McCallum is austere and methodical as Steel. Yes, both are like their names, but I've often wondered if the names came first or if the personalities preceded them.

Stories (called 'assignments') are multi-part, so while there are 34 episodes in total there are only 6 assignments and it's best if you make time to watch all of one assignment in one sitting. Each assignment has a resolution but don't expect to have all questions answered. It's deliciously cryptic but not to the point of bafflement. The editing and use of sound are excellent, keeping events tense and flowing, always engaging and often eerie - at times even chilling.

I feel that the low budget actually works in the production's favour. The feeling that we're on a sound stage adds to the unsettling nature of the environments. It's almost as if for the duration of the assignment they've lost the intangible sense of safety that we unconsciously attribute to traditional notions of reality.

34 episodes, approx 25 minutes each.

5 side doors out of 5

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Net Edition: Kamen Rider Backwards-Kiva:
Queen of Hell's Castle (2008)

A rare moment of Sosuke being nice to Bomper.

If you’re going to watch these, you’re going to have to be okay with Yuri and Otoya coming to 2008 because they feel like it. Though, if you aren’t, that means you can’t possibly be down with the series. If you don’t like the show, why are you interested in watching its dedicated movie and related materials? You. Get out.

The production value is a little lacking, with Kivat’s vinyl figure mostly being puppeted from corners of the screen and Reykivat being reached for from offscreen. However, these do bleed into one another very satisfyingly and there’s a wealth of reaction gifs waiting to be mined from them all, most especially those of Jiro.

I’m not sure how someone as amazing as Nago-san can manage to get even better, but he does, by several magnitudes. I think it has something to do with the triumphant return of Deneb’s shopping music. Also, Taiga’s alternate universe character being an absolute boss. I’d love to say that Otoya steals the show, but everyone brings their A-game, to be honest. His shenanigans tie into Kiva’s Hyper Battle Video, which I've spoken about here.

Yes, as is obvious from the art, these were released on DVD with the Go-Ongers' net movies. You should absolutely watch them before seeing the film they preface.

5 Tales of Trains, Hand-puppets and Bunny Girls Named Jennifer out of 5

Engine Sentai Go-Onger: Bom Bom! Bom Bom!
Net de Bong!! (2008)


The net movies for the Go-Ongers' dedicated cinematic excursion are a bit special amongst their peers, in that they are not all set prior to the film they accompany. The first three take place prior to its events, with the third concluding on them henshining and heading to the scene. The fourth takes place during it, and the fifth sees their return. The going ons are definitely silly, but they have a purpose, unlike those in their DVD special.

The main focus is predictably the main trio of villains and Bomper, the Go-Ongers' navigation robot. While it's nice that the starting points of the film's in medias res opening are shown, these still really aren't required viewing as everything on display there works perfectly fine as a cold opening.

From the end of the third short through to the fifth, the tone appropriately shifts with the events of the film. Regardless, given how sacred that is to me, I personally think that these should be watched some time after you've viewed it. Definitely not on the same day. The series is good at balancing its off-the-wall humor, but when it does go full-on serious, that needs to be respected. The film is unquestionably one of those times.

On some random day when you want to see a nice helping of Yogostein, Kitaneidas, and Kegareshia's shenanigans, this can be very much the ticket. You can watch them after Gran Prix 24.

3 Friends Who Raid Your Fridge While You're At Work out of 5

Monday, October 10, 2016

Running Scared (1986)

Not to be confused with the movies of the same name that came out in 1972, 1980, 1986, and 2006 (it's a popular title), this Running Scared is a British TV mini-series that was written by popular children's author Bernard Ashley. Around the same time he wrote a tie-in novel of the same name, but I haven't read it.

By chance, fourteen-year-old Paula Prescott's grandfather is in the wrong place at the wrong time, witness to a crime by local gangster Charlie Elkin (Christopher Ellison – yes, DCI Frank Burnside), a vicious type involved in car theft, jewellery heists, protection rackets, etc. Charlie and his moll (Hetty Baynes - the future Mrs Ken Russell) will do anything to prevent the old man from informing the Filth.

For reasons I won't spoil, Paula (Julia Millbank) gets involved. The young girl has a mystery to solve and a moral dilemma to overcome, so she enlists the help of her best friend, Narinder Sidhu (Amarjit Dhillon). Together the two girls uncover more than they bargained for, about both the wider world and their own families.

It's set in London's East End and more often than not resembles a soap opera of the era. It's even possible to imagine that in a Square not too far away Arthur Fowler is slowly going off his rocker while sitting alone in front of a blank TV screen.

While the mystery is what drives the story forward, it's equally a study of working class London and the racism that was rife within it. Because it's aimed at teens it doesn't get too violent, but anyone that's witnessed British racism in action knows that what is threatened and implied in the series was often actualised in real life.

It won't please everyone, but I don't recall many other kid's shows from the era being as open about such a subject matter, so for that it gets a thumbs up.

6 episodes, approx 25 minutes each.

3 cockney toe-rags out of 5

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-10)


Nothing I’ve personally experienced is a better representation of absurdist humor, as I understand the concept, than ATHF. This review is going to be intensely brief, because it’s the exact sort of thing that can only be appropriately discussed by quoting lines from it. Don’t let anyone on youtube tell you different, or get upset at you because of it. It’s genuinely the only manner of discourse that makes ANY sense, because this show makes NO sense. It’s not intended to. When you watch these ten to twelve minute episodes, expect the endings to be sudden, both in terms of narrative and logic. They follow an anthropomorphic group of fast food items and their sweatpants and wife-beater sporting neighbor. Master Shake is an ego-driven (essentially powerless) megalomaniac, Meatwad is an adorably naive weirdo, and Frylock mostly tries to ruin their fun, while still usually contributing to it in some fashion. Carl...Carl is god. Plenty of ancillary characters crop up repeatedly to fuel their timeless shenanigans, as well.

If you’ve never seen a second of the show, go watch a few clips. There are loose plot structures afoot, but you really won’t be missing anything in terms of context and being spoiled isn’t actually something that can happen, here. As long as you’ve seen the above four in action, you’ve seen enough to make a decision. Outside of the episode Robots Everywhere, I don’t personally feel that the quality drops noticeably or objectively over the course of the core show’s run. What I mean by that is that the last few seasons were actually given new names, which all still contained ‘Aqua.’ Those later seasons are not on DVD, and consequently, I do not have them and have not seen them. I’m not one for watching things on television as they air, so this is mostly how I’ve experienced the series. Know that the seasons don’t perfectly match up with what is included on each DVD volume. Two episodes of Season 1 are on Volume 2. Season 2 is spread across Volumes 2 and 3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force proper is available on seven dedicated releases and a shared volume branded as the season entitled Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1. There’s also one movie.

I said ‘objectively’ in the previous paragraph because, to me, the first few volumes FEEL more iconic. I believe this is simply because I’ve watched them enough for most of their lines to become permanent references in my cultural repertoire. The episodes on the fifth through eighth volumes are not any less creative or in any significant way lacking. I simply haven’t committed the same amount of time to them. I should fix that.

Guess this wasn’t so brief after all~

5 Unfathomable Scumbags out of 5