TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE RETURN OF DOCTOR MYSTERIO (2016)

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Image result for the return of doctor mysterioSeason: X15 Story: 1 (107) | 1 x 60m | Production Code: 10.1
Broadcast: 25 December 2016
Rating: ∗∗∗

Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin
Producer: Peter Bennett

Script Editor: Nick Lambon; Director of Photography: Ashley Rowe; Music: Murray Gold; Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad; Editor: Adam Green; Costumes: Hayle Nebauer; Visual Effects: MILK; Special Effects: Real SFX; Prosthetics: Millennium FX

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Justin Chatwin (Grant), Charity Wakefield (Lucy), Tomiwa Edun (Mr Brock), Aleksandar Jovanovic (Doctor Sim), Logan Huffman (Young Grant), Daniel Lorente (Teen Grant), Sandra Tees (Reporter), Tanroh Ishida (Operator), Vaughn Johseph (U.N.I.T. Soldier).

Synopsis: The Doctor spends Christmas in New York, but this time he is not the only hero in town. A deadly alien menace is poised to attack the city, and the Time Lord will need all the help he can get to stop it. Fortunately, Manhattan has its own protector in the form of a mysterious masked superhero.

Comment: Moffat riffs on the current saturation of comic book heroes in our multiplexes with middling results. The positives are Capaldi’s increasing comfort in the title role – his charisma and energy light up the screen – and the surprisingly effective Lucas as his companion.  The alien invasion plot, however, is a little weak as is Chatwin as Grant/The Ghost. Some nice in-jokes for comic book fans help make this an entertaining, if slight episode.

TV Review – JACK TAYLOR Series 3 (2016)

jack-taylor-series-3JACK TAYLOR: SERIES 3 (2016, Ireland/Germany, Colour, 3 x 90m)

Iain Glen as Jack Taylor
Siobhán O’Kelly as Garda Kate Noonan
Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy
Jack Monaghan as Darragh Noonan

Based on Ken Bruen’s crime novels. Jack Taylor is an Irish ex-cop, on the wrong side of forty who has become a finder with a sharp tongue and a soft heart. He takes on the cases the police won’t touch, no matter how hopeless. He’s pig stubborn. He defends the lost and the broken. He’s good because he looks where no one else looks, talks to the people no one else talks to. Moreover, he knows every back street in his hometown, Galway, knows the seed and breed of everyone in it. But small towns have big memories, and like Jack they are quick to anger and slow to forgive.

Iain Glen returns for a third series of Jack Taylor and his character has been mellowed. Gone too are Nora-Jane Noone as Kate Noonan (replaced here by Siobhan O’Kelly) and Killian Scott whose character is replaced by Jack Monaghan as Noonan’s nephew. The episodes are adapted from Ken Bruen’s novels with varying degrees of success, but this still remains an entertaining series with Glen compelling in the lead.

Cross (17 November 2016) ∗∗∗  d. Stuart Orme; w. Marteinn Thorisson. Guest Cast: Erin Gilgen, Alan McKee, Ross McKinney, Shane Robinson, Lalor Roddy, Killian Scott, Elva Trill, Sinead Watters.  Misplaced passions come to the fore when a young man is found crucified. Joined by eager new assistant Darragh, Jack learns that the victim’s brother had been implicated in the death of a woman, and now her family are out for revenge on a biblical scale. Effective episode is more conventional in its thrills and mystery, But Glen is excellent as a slightly mellowed Jack Taylor. Traces of humour as well as the macabre. [15]

Headstone (24 November 2016) ∗∗∗½  d. Stuart Orme; w. Marteinn Thorisson. Guest Cast: Christopher Fulford, Ian Beattie, Fiona Bell, Diarmuid Noyse, Roisin O’Neill, Peter Campion, Simon Boyle. Jack is asked to locate a former nemesis of his who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom, while also supporting Kate as she prepares for a major operation of her own. Grim and violent, but laced with dark humour. The plot is standard fare. [15]

Purgatory (1 December 2016) ∗∗∗  d. Charlie McCarthy; w. Marteinn Thorisson.  Guest Cast: Laura Aikman, Rory Fleck Byrne, Christopher Fulford, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Sarah Jane Seymour. While still dealing with the fallout from the previous episode’s events, both Jack and Kate become involved with investigating the murder of a young intern who worked at the Irish branch of a large American game software company. This is probably the least effective of the three episodes in this series – the only one in all the series not directed by Stuart Orme. There is resolution to a number of arc threads that have been spread across these three movies. [15]

TV Review – CRISIS IN SIX SCENES (2016)

Crisis in Six Scenes (TVS) (2016; USA; Colour, 6 episodes; 140m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; pr. Helen Robin; exec pr. Erika Aronson; ph. Eigil Bryld.  Cast: Woody Allen, Elaine May, Miley Cyrus, John Magaro, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Rappaport.  A comedy that takes place in the 1960’s during turbulent times in the United States and a middle class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down. It is basically a movie into six episodes, which admittedly each progress the plot. Whilst not amongst Allen’s strongest work, it does raise some laughs and has moments that suggest he still has much to offer – notably the scenes with May’s marriage counsellor and her clients. It’s great to see Allen in front of the camera again too and he still has his comic timing. He and May spark well, if a little tentatively at times given their age. Cyrus is okay as militant revolutionary who takes over their household, but Magaro struggles to convey the academic won over by the activist. It’s all light, frothy fun – if a little forced – with the odd telling thing to say about passive and aggressive objectors. However, it only rarely captures the spirit of the times and often seems divorced from the world it describes – which may have been deliberate on Allen’s part to suggest how distanced the characters were from world’s events – merely catching up via TV. Edited down it would make a fairly decent movie.

TV Review – THE MUSKETEERS (2014-6)

THE MUSKETEERS (2014-2016, UK, Colour, 30 X 60m episodes) ∗∗∗∗

Cast: Tom Burke (Athos); Santiago Cabrera (Aramis); Peter Capaldi (Cardinal Richelieu – series one only); Howard Charles (Porthos); Alexandra Dowling (Anne of Austria); Ryan Gage (King Louis XIII); Tamla Kari (Constance Bonacieux); Maimie McCoy (Milday de Winter); Luke Pasqualino (D-Artagnan); Hugo Speer (Captain Treville); Marc Warren (Rochefort – series two only); Matthew McNulty (Grimaud – series three only); Rupert Everett (Governor Feron – series three only).

Created by Adrian Hodges
Executive Producers: Jessica Pope; Adrian Hodges (series one and two); Simon Allen & Simon J. Ashford (series three)
Music: Murray Gold, Paul Englishby

Series One (2014) ∗∗∗½
Set on the streets of 17th Century Paris, the Musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Aorthos, are far more than merely royal bodyguards for King Louis XIII; they are inseparable, loyal unto death and committed to upholding justice. when D’Artagnan arrives in Paris to avenge his father’s death he soon impresses the three Musketeers and quickly discovers kindred spirits in these boisterous soldiers. Together they must fight for honour, for valour and for love, whilst outwitting the shadowy Cardinal Richelieu.

Series Two (2015) ∗∗∗∗½
The Musketeers return in a stunning second series that explodes from the screen with more thrills, action and adventure than ever before. As France teeters on the brink of war with Spain, the death of Cardinal Richelieu has left a void that could yet be filled by an even darker threat. More mercurial and combustible than the Cardinal, Rochefort has a concealed agenda that may bring the whole realm to ruin. Vividly evoking the grit and grime of 17th century Paris’s mean streets, this gripping take on the iconic classic is visually spectacular and bursting with invention.

Series Three (2016) ∗∗∗½
Heroes on the battlefield, the Musketeers return from the Spanish front to a Paris seething with resentment, a city on the brink of starvation. The corrupt Governor Feron has been running the capital for his own ends, aided by the brutal Red Guard. But behind Feron hides an even greater menace. Lucien Grimaud is a vicious gangster with a powerful hold over the governor. While Feron might be reasoned with, Grimaud deals only in chaos and rage. Ordered to the heart of this simmering crisis, the Musketeers must face their most treacherous test yet. It’s a task that will challenge their allegiances to the crown, throw their personal lives into turmoil and compromise their loyalty to those they love – and to each other.

A series that started a little shakily in trying to establish a serious tone amidst the good humoured banter and the swashbuckling action, ultimately found its stride during a riveting second series dominated by Warren’s colossal performance as the scheming spy Rochefort. The final series took an even darker turn but drained a little of the good humour and spark from between the leads. A splendid penultimate episode set us up for a fan-pleasing finale that would tug at the heartstrings and thrill in even measures. Mixing standalone episodes and both season and series long plot threads concerning intrigue in the palace, it was always interesting and often enthralling. The cast was strong with Maimie McCoy making an alluring and evil Milady, whilst Burke is perfect as the brooding Athos. Gage was delightfully eccentric as King Louis and Dowling stoic as Anne, who has a secret she must keep from the King. The location work and photography are superb and give the series its authentic and rewarding period feel.

A blu-ray of series three alongside a collection BD box-set containing all three series will be released on Monday 15 August and comes highly recommended.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE HUSBANDS OF RIVER SONG

THE HUSBANDS OF RIVER SONG
1 episode / 56m / 25 December 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Alex Kingston (River Song), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Greg Davies (King Hydroflax), Rowan Polonski (Flemming), Robert Curtis (Scratch), Chris Lew Kum Hoi (Alphonse), Phillip Rhys (Ramone), Anthony Cozens (Concierge), Nicolle Smartt (Receptionist), Liam Cook (King Hydroflax’s body), Nonso Anozie (Voice of Hydroflax).
Plot: It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas Carols and Comedy Antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant Robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is? All will be revealed on a starliner full of galactic super-villains and a destination the Doctor has been avoiding for a very long time.
Comment: Christmas specials have been a hit-and-miss affairs over the years and this particular episode demonstrates the inconsistency perfectly. Obviously written as a fun romp with a seasonal theme it is often amusing, but seldom challenging. That is probably the point. Who wants heavy drama on Christmas Day other than fans of Eastenders? This episode, therefore, is not meant to be a serious addition to the series, merely an entertaining diversion. As such it provides contrast when compared with the majority of series 9 through the lightness of its approach. Capaldi demonstrates his true range by being as adept at comedy as he is at drama. The plot really isn’t worth scrutinising and the whole episode is merely contrived to re-introduce Alex Kingston’s River Song. Her return is welcome, but her seeming inability to recognise the new Doctor even when presented with his TARDIS seems inappropriately dim. Their scenes together, however, demonstrate a strong chemistry given the high level of association the character has with the Matt Smith era. In all this is an enjoyable, if light, addition to the annual Christmas Day outings.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – HEAVEN SENT / HELL BENT

HEAVEN SENT / HELL BENT
2 episodes / 119m / 28 November & 5 December 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Rachel Talalay
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jeanna Coleman (Clara), Donald Sumpter (The President [Rassilon]), Ken Bones (The General), Maisy Williams (Ashildr [Me]), T’Nia Miller (Female General), Malachi Kirby (Gastron), Clare Higgins (Ohila), Linda Broughton (The Woman), Martin T Sherman (Man), Jami Reid-Quarrel (Wraith), Nick Ash (Wraith), Ross Mullen (Wraith), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Dalek), Jami Reid-Quarrell (The Veil).
Plot: Trapped in a world unlike any other he has seen, the Doctor faces the greatest challenge of his many lives. One final test. And he must face it alone. Pursued by the fearsome creature known only as the Veil, he must attempt the impossible. If he makes it through, Gallifrey is waiting… Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor faces the Time Lords in a struggle that will take him to the end of time itself. Who is the Hybrid? And what is the Doctor’s confession?Comment: Heaven Sent is an experimental episode in that it is practically a single-hander for Capaldi set in a Matrix-like world from which he is looking for an escape. The most impressive aspect of this story is that Capaldi holds the attention throughout with a tour-de-force performance and the direction and photography conjure up nightmarish visuals. When, in Hell Bent, we finally move to Gallifrey, the scale increases and the focus turns toward the Doctor’s attempts to rescue Clara from her fate in Face the Raven. In doing so he also tries to unravel the mystery of the Hybrid. Many options are touted for the identity of the latter and this is left pretty much open-ended. There are some moments that will have long-term fans cheering and others that will have them fuming. This closing two-parter is nothing if not challenging. On the whole it delivers a conclusion that should satisfy most.  Series 9 has been a strong one, but one in which Moffat’s high level concepts and sometimes confusing narrative may have left some of the show’s broader audience cold. I for one would like to see the balance tip back toward simpler, plot-led sci-fi mysteries with the occasional high concept story next year.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – FACE THE RAVEN

FACE THE RAVEN
1 episode / 47m / 21 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Sarah Dollard
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Jovian Wade (Rigsy), Maisie Williams (Me [Ashildr]), Simon Manyonda (Kabel), Simon Paisley Day (Rump), Letitia Wright (Anahson), Robin Soans (Chronolock Guy), Angela Clerkin (Alien Woman), Caroline Boulton (Habrian Woman), Jenny Lee (Elderly Woman).
Plot: The Doctor and Clara are reunited with Rigsy, the `pudding brained’ grafitti artist who gained the Time Lord’s respect by helping him face off an invasion by inter-dimensional beings known as the Boneless in Bristol. Together the trio investigate a strange alien world hidden on a street in the heart of London. They soon discover this unusual road is sheltering some of the most fearsome creatures in the universe – including the immortal Viking Ashildr, who the Time Lord last encountered in the 17th century in the guise of noblewoman-turned-brigand `Lady Me’.
Comment: Well-paced and intriguing episode with its primary purpose being to set up the exit of Clara and lead into the two-part season finale. The hidden street in the centre of London is a neat idea and eerily gothic with the tension kept high through atmospheric camera work and the idea of a countdown tattoo. Capaldi is again in top form and he and Jenna Coleman play Clara’s exit scene with nice understatement. Williams makes her third appearance of the series and it is likely we will see more of her before the two-parter finale is done as the episode ends on a cliffhanger with the Doctor being teleported out to who knows where.

TV Review – MADIGAN: THE MANHATTAN BEAT (1972)

Madigan: The Manhattan Beat (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 73m) ∗∗∗  d. Alex March; w. Roland Wolpert; ph. Jack Priestley; m. Quincy Jones.  Cast: Richard Widmark, Murray Hamilton, Ronnie Cox, Tony Lo Bianco, James J. Sloyan, Jennifer Harmon. A police detective is asked to break in a new colleague, a recent college graduate and finds his life in danger in the course of tracking down assault suspects and a possible murderer. Standard TV adaptation of 1968 movie benefits from NYC locations and a strong performance from Widmark. Premiere episode of a short-lived addition to the NBC Mystery Movie series. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – SLEEP NO MORE

SLEEP NO MORE
1 episode / 45m / 14 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Reece Shearsmith (Gagan Rassmussen), Elaine Tan (Nagata), Neet Mohan (Chopra), Bethany Black (474), Paul Courtenay Hyu (Deep-Ando), Zina Badran (Morpheus Presenter), Natasha Patel (Hologram Singer), Elizabeth Chong (Hologram Singer), Nikkita Chadha (Hologram Singer), Gracie Lai (Hologram Singer).
Plot: Video recovered from the wreckage of Le Verrier Space Station details how the Doctor and Clara became entangled in a rescue mission. As the footage plays out, a horrifying secret is uncovered, one that might threaten the life, sanity and species of anyone who watches. Comment: Experimental episode using the popular found-footage horror genre as the basis for a confusing monster takes over space station story where the viewer is never sure if what they are seeing is real, fabricated or imagined. The sandmen are a creepy design and the inter-cutting between shifting viewpoints helps keep the tension high. Capaldi is looking increasingly at home as the Doctor now, having settled down his characterisation. I’m not really sure I got the whole thing and will probably need to re-watch to dig out some of the subtexts, but I did enjoy this episode for its willingness to bring a new twist to a more traditional Who plot, which it executed pretty well..

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION

THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION
2 episodes / 93m / 31 October & 7 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Nicholas Asbury (Etoine), Cleopatra Dickens (Claudette), Sasha Dickens (Jemima), Rebecca Front (Colonel Walsh), Abhishek Singh (Little Boy [Sandeep]), Samila Kularatne (Little Boy’s Mum), Todd Kramer (Hitchley), Jill Winternitz (Lisa [Drone Op]), Gretchen Egolf (Norlander), Karen Mann (Hitchley’s Mom), James Bailey (Walsh’s Son), Aidan Cook (Zygon), Tom Wilton (Zygon).
Plot: The Zygons, a race of shape-shifting aliens, have been living in secret amongst us on Earth, unknown and unseen – until now! When Osgood is kidnapped by a rogue gang of Zygons, the Doctor, Clara and UNIT must scatter across the world in a bid to set her free. But will they reach her in time, and can they stop an uprising before it is too late?
Comment: A somewhat heavy-handed political allegory enlivened by some atmospheric visuals and a towering performance from Capaldi, who has really grown into the role of the Doctor. Jenna Coleman is also excellent in her dual-role as Clara and Zygon duplicate and Ingrid Oliver is again appealing as Osgood. The Zygons are an effective classic monster and the plot concerning a faction group looking to break the peace treaty brokered at the close of Day of the Doctor is involving. The story occasionally suffers from some over elaborate ideas, which lack follow-through such as the UNIT jet being shot down and no-one seemingly blinking an eyelid. I’m also not sure I still get the whole dual-Osgood scenario, but it did set up a splendid finale which gave Capaldi the opportunity to deliver one of the most passionate speeches in the series’ history. Capaldi’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Baker at this best as The Doctor argues ethics and values with the Zygons and Jemma Redgrave’s UNIT commander in an attempt to restore the treaty. Stirring stuff then in a story that ultimately satisfies despite its none-too-subtle political messaging.