Ben’s Month of Reviews: The Macra Terror

Thanks to the power of animation and modern technology, many of the Doctor Who stories lost in the 60’s have been restored. Particularly badly hit is Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor, a fan favourite and beloved by many but unfortunately still relatively underserved in the complete story front. Only seven stories (a third of his total) are complete and whilst stories like The Ice Warriors, The Moonbase and The Invasion are thankfully mostly around they are filled in with recreations or animation. It’s the latter format which 2Entertain has chosen to give the completely lost Troughton stories new life. His debut The Power of the Daleks was animated in 2016 and up next is The Macra Terror, a somewhat obscure but influential story from his first season. If the name “Macra” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re the big crab things from Series 3’s Gridlock. This is their debut however and it’s a fantastic dystopian narrative brought to life with fantastic animation that honours the style of the 60’s whilst updating it to a new audience.

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Good Omens mini-series review

Sooo, I’m an idiot and accidentally published the Stranger Things 3 review literally a day after my Spider-Man one so we got two reviews in a row. Well, it’s been a over a week since the last review so it’s once again time to dive into my totally-not-messed-up-at-this-point Month of Reviews and take a look at the Good Omens mini-series that debuted on Amazon Prime earlier this year. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the mini-series has been making waves due to its fun story, unique mythology and amazing dynamic between series leads David Tennant and Michael Sheen. As a huge fan of Gaiman’s work and as someone who wants to get into Pratchett, this series was a must watch for me. That plus the “Doctor Who effect*” was put into effect and I just had to check this out. Not only is Good Omens hilarious and unique, it’s also intelligent and ingeniously written in its perfectly paced six episodes.

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Avengers: Endgame review- The perfect end (spoiler free)

Eleven years ago a film by an untested studio, directed by an indie director with a star who was no longer seen as bankable and based on an obscure comic book character from a company that went bankrupt a decade before was released. From this singular film came the biggest, most ambitious and risky endeavour ever put to film- make Marvel comics cool to the mainstream. Obviously Blade, the X-Men and Spider-Man were all successful but Iron Man kickstarted a decade of interconnected films, bringing obscure comics into the mainstream and changed Hollywood forever. All this leading to the Endgame. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is my generation’s Star Wars, and the hype and anticipation for Endgame has been unprecedented, eclipsing even that of Return of the King and Deathly Hallows Part 2. In my lifetime, only The Force Awakens had this much riding on it. Was it worth the wait? Was Infinity War too high of a bar?

In short.. Endgame surpasses expectations. It is the perfect ending for this journey that started with Iron Man. It’s three hours long but is perfectly paced, never dull and an experience that has to be seen on as big of a screen as possible. Watching this film with a group of Marvel obsessed friends, at midnight, surrounded by a full cinema, in 3D is an experience I will never forget. It is my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I will have to watch it a couple more times to see if it reaches the heights of my Holy Trinity of Comic Book films (Batman Returns, Spider-Man 2 and Logan if you’re interested).

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Resolution review- The episode we’ve been waiting for (MAJOR SPOILERS)

In case you missed the heading, this review will contain HUGE spoilers for the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special, Resolution. If you haven’t seen the episode yet then watch it before coming back. Trust me- it’s more satisfying.

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Aquaman review- The King of Atlantis gets a film worthy of the throne

For over seventy years Aquaman has been DC’s resident joke character. Thanks to some silly interpretations and the cheesy nature of the early comics the character, despite being one of the founding members of the Justice League and a constant in pretty much every lineup, has been seen in pop culture as “the fish dude”. This is in spite of his rich mythology and rebrand as a fighter and a warrior in the New 52. One of my primary concerns about the DCEU tackling Aquaman was built on the awkward attempts to make everything ultra serious yet still trying to make Aquaman a joke- in Justice League he made no impact as he simply stood around making jokes about how he talks to fish whilst the film tried desperately hard to make the audience take this inherently silly character seriously. It just didn’t mesh well. Jason Momoa was a good choice for the character but unless Aquaman’s world was treated with respect he simply wouldn’t translate well to the big screen. Well, the fears have been washed away (ooh, water puns, how original) by James Wan’s brilliant film that embraces the comic book campiness and adventurous tone of films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark whilst balancing it out with actual respect for the mythology and world building, creating a film that’s both immensely fun yet also being quite serious. See DC, this is what you should have been doing from the start!

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It Takes You Away review- Just watch this one… just watch it

Do you know why I love Doctor Who? The ideas. Over 55 years this show has always striven to be the most imaginative, daring and bold television show on the planet. Stories that focus entirely on ideas are among my favourites- Tom Baker’s Warrior’s Gate is a wonderful piece of science fiction, Kinda and Enlightenment are my two favourite Peter Davison stories, The God Complex dissects the Doctor’s character by forcing him to battle the very idea of narrative and Ghost Light, the infamously complex and divisive story from the original run’s final season, is one of my all time favourite stories in anything ever. Whilst Series 11 has so far been strong on character and stories, in terms of pure ideas it’s been a bit behind. Until tonight. It Takes You Away (I assume the title refers to how the episode blows your mind) is not only the best episode of the series by a long shot (and remember, I consider both Rosa and Demons of the Punjab to be masterpieces and like everything else barring Tsuranga Conundrum) but one of the most original, bonkers, crazy, delightful, imaginative, complex and heartfelt stories the show has done in a looooong time, perhaps ever. Ed Hime, take a bow.

After being explained the script multiple times Bradley Walsh was still confused.

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The Ghost Monument review: Chibnall goes old school

After last week’s epic introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor, Chris Chibnall has restored Doctor Who to a level of popularity not seen since the 50th anniversary. He has followed this up with a fairly risky episode (although not as risky as next week… oh boy…) which evokes the show’s beginnings- The Ghost Monument is an incredibly slow burning episode, evoking the show’s early epics like The Keys of Marinus and creating a fully fledged alien world for the characters to learn to adapt to. Whilst not as impactful as last week’s this was a nice exploration episode that focused on making these disparate individuals work together.

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The Woman Who Fell to Earth review- The Thirteenth Doctor is here to stay

After months and months of waiting, we have finally reached The Thirteenth Doctor. Yesterday saw the debut episode of Jodie Whittaker’s era of Doctor Who, and it was worth the wait. Whilst far from being the greatest episode ever, The Woman Who Fell to Earth is a very enjoyable, refreshing start to what I hope is a solid season of Doctor Who. This episode channelled the best of the Tennant/Smith years and had a similar vibe to last year’s The Pilot, except with added freshness and darkness.

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Solo review- Is the Force strong with this film?

It seems like only yesterday the film world was divided over the quality of The Last Jedi. In reality, it has been five months although that is admittedly a short time for Star Wars films to premier. Solo, the stand alone Han Solo prequel film, has been mired with some difficult behind the scenes issues and a bizarre marketing campaign, but now it’s here the whole world can experience the finished product. Is it worth the wait? I think it is. This is a fun and unique entry into the Star Wars saga and well worth a watch.

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Ready Player One review- Spielberg’s still got it

Of all the filmmakers working today, Steven Spielberg has been fortunate enough to stay relevant and beloved. In a career of over forty years, he has rarely put a foot wrong and still makes films to this day, tackling every genre imaginable and captivating the minds of millions. Everyone has their favourite Spielberg (mine is and will always be Jurassic Park) and his rare ability to effortlessly switch from serious drama to fun spectacle is what makes him a cinema giant. His recent films have mostly been more focused on slower, more mature historical dramas, which is why his return to big budget, spectacle driven film making has been so anticipated. I could not wait for this film to come out, although I was slightly worried that it would just become “Nostalgia- The Movie”. Well, Spielberg made sure it was a lot more than that.

In 2045 (tune in when that year actually happens to see if we have the OASIS. It’s 2018 and we don’t have Jaws 19, replicants or crazy Mexican scientists who look like Patrick Troughton) the world has advanced to the stage where virtual reality is the norm, and the OASIS is where the world’s population to escape the grim real world. The OASIS was built by James Halliday who built the simulation around his childhood nostalgia. After his death, his avatar reveals to the gamers that he has hidden three keys in the OASIS that will lead one gamer to unlock an Easter Egg that will allow them control over the OASIS. Parzival, real name Wade Watts, wants the Egg desperately, and his quest to find it leads him to come into conflict with the sinister Nolan Sorrento and IOU, who want to commercially exploit the OASIS.

First thing first- it’s clear what film will win Best Visual Effects at next year’s Oscars. This film has highly innovative and amazing visual effects that show how Spielberg is the master of innovation. Not content with jump starting the blockbuster and revolutionising CGI, he and his team of effects artists create a fully realised world made entirely of computers that both looks real and does not suffer from uncanny valley like motion capture. The OASIS looks amazing and I have a hunch this is the start of a revolution of technology in film. It’s worth watching this film on the big screen.

Like Jurassic Park before it, this is a very loose adaptation of the book. It’s not completely different, rather it takes the plot and characters and changes them to fit the film format. The references are toned down a lot, which is a good thing. Here, the references are more subtle. There’s the Delorean (I only watched Back to the Future this year so I actually get the reference), DC heroes, Godzilla, even a sneaky Jurassic Park reference (nice one Spielberg) and a great Serenity appearance that I missed but got told was there. My favourite reference is the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. I won’t spoil anymore, but it’s a great reference nonetheless.

Despite all the references, the film is still strong even if you don’t understand all of it. The action scenes and dynamic direction make the film hugely entertaining, and despite the characters not being too complex, they serve the functions of the plot well. The third act gets really good and emotional, as Spielberg effortlessly turns the film into something deeper than it appears. The film is also surprisingly funny, especially iRoK, a snarky weapons expert who helps the villains but clearly cannot be bothered with it. The plot is different from the book but very clever, and I loved seeing the characters work everything out through clever investigation. Even though I’ve read the book, I was left guessing as to what was going on and there were several great twists that I didn’t see coming. The film builds and builds to an epic and bonkers final fight. I didn’t get all the references, but my screening did.

There are many interesting questions raised about whether or not nostalgia is good and how people can be corrupted by it. Sorrento is a great villain who isn’t just pure evil- despite his actions you understand who he is as a person. This is juxtaposed with Halliday, who is given a lot of depth for a character who dies before the film begins. I like the central conflict between Parzival and Artemis, as one treats the quest as a game whilst the other is more serious about it. My favourite character in the film is Ogden Morro, played by one of my favourite actors, Simon Pegg. He’s not in the film too much, but his scenes have big impact and are very entertaining.

In conclusion, if you were unsure whether or not to check this film out, I recommend it. Even if you don’t understand all the references or in-jokes the film is entertaining enough in its own right. Spielberg still has his touch and I hope the success of this film will lead him to more innovative blockbusters like this (though not Indiana Jones 5. Please not). If sci fi isn’t your thing I don’t think this will change your mind, but if you are interested in checking this out because of Spielberg then it’s worth it. I can’t wait to see what he does next.