Archive for Television

Death in Paradise Series One

Okay, confession time… Before buying the DVD of this series (and series two), I had only ever seen one single episode of Death in Paradise. Not being an avid tv watcher, I’ve completely missed this, and it was only by chance that, while flicking through the channels, I saw this and thought, well, why not… And the rest is history.

Death in Paradise is a kind of mystery drama with a bit of comedy thrown in, and is based on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie, which is a mixture of cultures (The history of it is “It was claimed by the French, who lost it to the British, who lost it to the Dutch, who lost it to the French, who gave it to Britain”), is hot all year round, with most of the days being sunny. It stars Ben Miller as the sun-and-sand hating British policeman, called Richard Poole, who was sent to Saint Marie to investigate the death of his predecessor, with the help of the Saint Marie police force – total number of people: 4. And despite his hatred and discomfort with the sun and sand, he finds that his boss in Britain along with the Police Commissioner of Saint Marie has conspired to keep him on the island after solving a puzzling mystery as the new chief of the Saint Marie policeforce. As if that wasn’t enough, he discovers that working alongside him will be a half-French native of Saint Marie, detective sergeant Camille Borley, played by Sara Martins, who he has encountered in the proceedings.

All throughout the series, there is a number of murders occurring, leading some people to comment that it was the “Midsomer of the Caribbean” (“Midsomer Murders” is an British police series about police in a small, quiet village in mid-England, which seems to have a rather disproportiate number of people getting murdered – I suppose, a US equivalent might be something like “Murder, She Wrote”?), but it’s only a side part of the series, the main focus being on the relationship between Richard Poole and Camille Borley, and in some ways plays up on the stereotypes of the differences between English and French people (which does see Camille occasionally going “You are SO English!” and Richard going “That’s just so French!”) – the program was created as a joint British-French venture, hence why they probably play up on it.

Some people do question the popularity of the series (regularly getting around 6 million viewers in the UK – out of a population of 60 million), but I can see the reasons for that.

Firstly, despite the murders, it’s basically light-hearted, there’s no swearing at all and the comedy just lightens the mood, so it’s very family-friendly, and a lot of people are watching it partly for the whole “will-they-won’t-they” aspect between Richard and Camille.

Another reason for it is because the BBC scheduling team have been clever with when they’re doing the first broadcasts, with it taking place in late autumn, middle of winter, that sort of thing. As the series is filmed in the French territory of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, there’s that aspect of just seeing the sun and the sand and the sea, and the beautiful ladies and just dreaming about being there. That’s a very attractive prospect for anyone in the middle of a British winter, which is typically gloomy and drizzly, basically.

Okay, Richard’s a sun-hater and complains about the weather – even though he contributes to the discomfort by insisting on wearing a suit and all that – but honestly… When I was watching it, I was so thinking I would love all that sun and everything. I’d probably need a year or so to adjust to the temperatures, obviously (When I visited Heavenly in Las Vegas, we both agreed that the best time for me to come over was clearly going to be late autumn or early spring as if I went in the middle of the summer, I’d be melting the whole time I’m there! *heh*) but once I’m more used to it, I would be so loving it, I guarantee you. Far better being somewhere where there’s lot of sun than having to put up with gloomy weather and drizzly rain and the chill that we get and all that – especially when sometimes it just gets so dark in the winter that you’re basically switching the light on before 3 in the afternoon.

(As an aside, I would like to point out that I’m probably not your average Englishman… I have a natural revulsion to things like hankerchiefs on heads and wearing socks with sandals and the like… But I’d have to admit there are probably a couple of things that Camille would be saying “You are SO English!” at me!)

With regards to the murders, it does reminds me very much of the Agatha Christie style of working, it can be a little bit convoluted and the way that Richard works and somehows realise how it happened being likewise, but just like the Agatha Christie novels and adaptations, it just somehows clicks.

And in the end, I wasn’t actually watching it for the murders, I was more watching it for the human aspect of it, with Richard and Camille and the other people in the force (Dwayne played by Danny John-Jules, Fidel, played by Gary Carr, and the police commissioner, Selwyn Patterson, played by Don Warrington) and Camille’s mother, Catherine, played by Elisabeth Bourgine – especially the way Richard will insult Catherine on occasions (the chicken soup description is brilliant).

So, what would I be giving it? Well, let me stress this: If any of the factors weren’t present, it honestly wouldn’t be anywhere near as good, and the murders and all that aren’t the best. But like I said, you don’t end up watching for the murders, but for the human relations, seeing what’s going to happens between Richard and Camille and so on. (Having said that, it has been announced that Ben Miller is to leave the program sometimes during Series 3, and another person, Kris Marshall, is coming in as a new detective called DI Humphrey Goodman. It’s always a bit of a concern, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that I thought he was all that good at – but then “My Family” was a pile of excrement so that may have been a contributing factor – but unlike some people I’m not going to dismiss him out of hand.)

For some reason, it just all works. It shouldn’t have, but it really does. 5/5.

Noir volume One: Shade of Darkness

(Please note: I got the original Noir DVD set, which is all individual – you can get the whole 26-episodes set in one pack. This first volume covers episodes 1 to 5.)

The problem with anime like this is that the way it’s done in Japan and the way it’s done in the West, appears to be just how much information you’re given at the start. Certainly, with a few of the series, you’re watching this episode, say it’s one of the first ones, and while you might begin to know some of the characters, and what they do, and while you may know the “world” around them, what’s happening, what time period, etc, you tends not to know that much about the underlying story.

Take Noir, as an example. You have two assassins, one who live in France, and the other living in Japan. The one from Japan, Kirika, has no memory, and at the end of the first story, all you know is that she woke up about a year or so ago, with no knowledge, apart from the fact that she is “Noir”. She also know how to kill people, she can do all these things, but she don’t know why she knows.

The only other thing we know at the end of the first episode is the fact that she knows Mirielle somehows, and has a watch whose tune Mirielle recognises.

That’s it. There are people after Kirika, but you don’t know why, or what for, and Kirika asks Mirielle to help her find out who she is, and Mirielle accepts, but with the condition that once they finds out who she is, Mirielle will kills her, as she’s an assassin who’ve always worked alone.

The next few episodes basically handles assassination jobs, and which only advance the story by saying that Noir is a famous name in the underworld. It is not until, really, episode 5 – which I’m guessing is the reason it’s featured on the first volume of the DVD, as normally most DVD volumes usually only give 3 or 4 episodes – that the first major glimpse of the world behind the “normal” world is given with the name of the Soldats, and a hint as to just how powerful they are.

I remember the very first time I saw this. At the time, while I liked the art of the series, I was, to be honest, not really getting into the story at all, simply because there was so litle given away at the start, and all the flashes of other people – the vineyard surrounding a crumbling building, under clear blue weather – just left me perplexed, because as far as I saw, they had nothing to do with the story, and nothing’s ever mentioned of them.

Like I say, I love the artwork, but I do have my other problems with it. There is a fair amount of repetition going on in most of the episodes, with flashbacks and so on. I think the intention was to try and reinforce the point, and sometimes the flashbacks does work fairly well, but really, after seeing basically the same thing for the fifth or sixth time (no exaggeration), you do get bored with seeing the same thing over and over again, especially the point with Mirielle’s childhood memories.

Now, obviously, you do find out more as the whole series progress, but right at the start, it is very difficult to get into it, because you are really starting with very little to go on with.

After I saw it the first time, I thought, well, it looks good, but… And I wasn’t going to buy any more (plus, at the time, I was still getting the DVDs for Final Fantasy: Unlimited series, anyway). However, a few months later on, I was looking at my DVD collection for something to watch, that I hadn’t seen for a while, and I saw this, and I thought, well… Maybe the second time will be better.

And it was. Not much better, but the underlying hint of a great story was there, and the lure of seeing something get unwrapped bit by bit against what is a more “normal” background… Well, I decided in the end that I’d get the second volume and go from there.

The problem with this DVD – and Noir, really, since this would typically be the first DVD that you’d buy if you were checking it out (Although I know that, since the 7 volumes came out, it has now been released in one single multi-DVD set, and for a price that’s much cheaper than I was getting it. (I don’t regret buying the individual DVDs by the way, just nowadays, you can get it cheaper. Or you used to. Don’t know if it’s still being sold…)) is that you are really at a complete blank for the start of the story, and while things might be interesting enough – seeing the start, watching the two ladies carry out their jobs, etc – basically… While you know there’s more to this, you don’t know what it is, and you’re basically just watching them get acquainted with each other, which is difficult, especially in Kirika’s case, as she’s not the most communicative of people. It does improves on the second time round, but that might be because you know what happens in episode 5 and maybe further. I suppose it really depends on how willing you are to give it the time it needs to gives you the story. If you’re someone that really want at least a general idea of what’s going on to begin with, this isn’t a series that I could recommend for you. However, if you’re happy to just let the story develop in its own way and its own pace then… I’d definitely recommend it. Not because of what is in the first five episodes, but because I’ve watched all of Noir, and I know what’s going on.

That makes this volume a difficult one to rate. Really, if you watch this on its own, you will feel like it’s almost going to be a waste of time, as you just won’t even begin to scratch the layer off the story and get the full picture. However, if you watch this as the first part of the Noir series, it’s a good start, if a little irritating. So I would give this 3.5/5.

Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Will Bring Marvel Universe to TV

To the surprise of no one, ABC has confirmed that Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been picked up to series from Marvel Studios, bringing the cinematic Marvel universe to television for the first time… and Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson back to life, in the process.

Whedon, who wrote and directed last year’s Marvel’s The Avengers in which Coulson was killed, directed and co-wrote the pilot episode along with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, his collaborators from both Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and the short-lived Dollhouse series; the two will act as showrunners for the new series.

The official ABC description of the series goes like this:

  • Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. Coulson’s team consists of Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), highly trained in combat and espionage, Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) expert pilot and martial artist, Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker); brilliant engineer and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) genius bio-chemist. Joining them on their journey into mystery is new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet). From Executive Producers Joss Whedon (“Marvel’s The Avengers,” ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”); Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” pilot co-writers (“Dollhouse,” “Dr.Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”); Jeffrey Bell (“Angel,” “Alias”); and Jeph Loeb (“Smallville”) comes Marvel’s first TV series. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is produced by ABC Studios and Marvel Television.
  • It’s not exactly Marvel’s first TV series; the animated side of the company has been running Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on Disney XD for some time, with the latter show about to be replaced by the more movie-friendly Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH series.

    Viewers will get their first chance to take a look at the show this Sunday, when a special trailer for the series (which leaked online yesterday, before being quickly removed by Disney’s ever-vigilant lawyers) airs during the season finale of Once Upon A Time on ABC. -By Graeme McMillan

    The Following

    The Following centers on former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and his attempts to recapture serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) following the latter’s escape from prison. Hardy soon discovers that the charismatic Carroll has surrounded himself with a group of like-minded individuals (which he met while teaching and while in prison), and turned them into a cult of fanatical killers. When Carroll’s son Joey (Kyle Catlett) is abducted by his father’s followers, the FBI discover that it is the first step in a wider plan for Carroll to escape custody, humiliate Hardy, and murder his ex-wife Claire (Natalie Zea).

    Upon watching the first episode of The Following I was instantly hooked. It felt as if I was watching an action movie from beginning to end and sadly after the first 3 episodes for me the thrill was gone. What started off as an amazing new take on TV Action/Drama showss left me not caring about how the season ended or would end. There were so many moments when you would be thinking “yeah right” or “are they serious?” because of the constant escape acts or how conveniently everyone happens to be involved in the cult at the right time to hinder the fugitive Joe Carroll from being caught. There were way too many twists, too many people involved and not enough realness to the story to make it seem believable.

    Don’t get me wrong it is entertaining at first and it’s definitely 10xs better than Hemlock Grove but I don’t plan on keeping up with the show any further.

    Spartacus: Vengeance Ep.1 – “Fugitivus”

    Alright so this past Friday Spartacus viciously returned to the Starz lineup. With the passing of it’s star Andy Whitfield, producers were tasked with finding a proper replacement to tell the story of the “Bringer of Rain. Liam McIntyre, handpicked by Whitfield himself, manages his scenes as best one can expect. His Spartacus is much less collected than Whitfield’s, all of his actions from his fighting to his interactions with fellow gladiators teeming with a nervous fury. More often than not this simply betrays the fact that the character is not being portrayed by actors of similar stock. McIntyre is jarringly taller than everyone else, which ironically makes him seem more vulnerable in a world where anyone over 6 feet tall routinely gets their ass kicked (Theocoles,Big Dude from Gods of The Arena finale).His overall demeanor conveys an air of “substitution”. Here’s hoping that he settles into the role and finds his cool like Whitfield ultimately did.

    The principles of the ensemble cast have all returned save for everyone murdered in last season’s finale (R.I.P Batiatus). Manu Bennett reprises his role as the caustic Gaul-in-love Crixus. He leads his own army in tandem with Spartacus’ at the onset of season 2. Peter Mensah returns as Oenomaus, the former doctore of the House of Batiatus and overall sage of the series. Lucy Lawless comes out of nowhere freaking Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) the hell out as the once-assumed-dead Lucretia Batiatus. Viewers of the 6 episode prequel “Gods of The Arena” will recognize some familiar faces in upcoming episodes.

    A staple of the Spartacus series has been its high quotients of sex and violence. The trend continues in “Vengeance” with copious amounts of copulation of all types. Seriously. If you’ve seen it on redtube then you saw it in the first episode of this season. They waste little time in being as shocking as possible without having to put up that strange records keeping info that’s at the beginning of porn flicks. YOU know what the hell I’m talking about. In terms of violence its what we’ve come to know and love about Spartacus. Somebody will get gutted and lose 40 pints of blood and oddly still have enough life in them to say something absolutely vulgar. Every fight scene will usually leave everyone and everything in the scene drenched in blood. Good stuff.

    All in all it was a solid opening to my favorite show on television. The cast that I was used to seeing performed as if very little time had actually passed which is a great thing. I found myself imagining how Spartacus 1.0 would have performed in scenes and just made myself sad. Amazing how one season of a show made Andy Whitfield a legend. A stark reminder of how unfair life is.