Tag Archives: 2015

About Ray / Three Generations Review: Progressive or Regressive? (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

 Due for release originally in September 2015, About Ray was awaited by many in Hollywood and in the general population. The story of a transgender teenage boy, seeking to begin hormone replacement therapy is a simple but progressive one – as we all know, transgender people aren’t always highlighted in a positive way in the media. The closest we’ve had before was The Danish Girl, which was a great movie but a rare one in its subject matter.

However, just after its premiere in 2015, there was great backlash from the trans community; this was mainly directed at the casting of Elle Fanning as the title character Ray. Many spoke out against About Ray (also alternatively titled Three Generations) due to the casting of a cisgender female actor as a transgender male character. But I’ll speak more on this matter later. Due to the backlash, the general release was pulled and only recently (13th February 2017) was it announced the movie was to be released in May this year with the title Three Generations.

How did I watch this film if it wasn’t released publicly? My best friend, transgender himself, found it and we viewed it recently, because it had been a mystery to us all since 2015. This review will be a share of my opinion, as well as the opinions of my friends. So let’s have a look into this new-normal story.

The story focuses on mainly three characters: teenager Ray (Fanning), his mother Maggie (Naomi Watts), and his lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon). Also featured in the movie is Ray’s father Craig (Tate Donovan), and Craig’s brother Matthew (Sam Trammell).

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The movie’s main plot is Ray, aged sixteen, trying to get his mother and father sign paperwork to allow him to begin his medical transition. In all honesty, it has a realistic view of families with a transgender child – one of my best friends, a transgender male, is still having a tough time getting his parents to understand his gender, and he told me he felt like he was watching scenes from his own home life. That is a great viewpoint to display, because it holds a sense of realism for the viewer; even someone who isn’t going through any similar experiences.

I will also give kudos to the people working on this movie by having Maggie be a respectful character towards her son: she faces her own doubts on signing the paperwork, and has fears on what could happen to Ray in the future, but she doesn’t try and get him to change his mind or go back to being her daughter, because he isn’t her daughter. He’s her son. It breaks the negative stereotype for trans characters in the media, who usually face hardships and isolation and is treated harshly for being “different” in their society. It gives hope. And it shows when Maggie is constantly correcting people. No one more than her own mother Dolly, who still refers to Ray as “she” and “her”, and even uses the old excuse of “maybe she’s just a lesbian” (spoken by a lesbian, funnily enough). She changes every “she” to “he”, and combats the lesbian comments: “he’s not a lesbian, he’s a boy”. A separation of sexuality and gender is so important in the LGBTQ community; and when it’s clearly stated by someone on a screen, there’s no ignoring it. It sends out a good message to non-LGBTQ viewers, and that’s all that these people aim for.

This movie has great leaps forward, but there are still stereotypes played towards; but then again, this was to be expected.

Ray is characterised as what the typical transgender teenager is usually seen as: quiet, bullied, artistic (he is shown composing music and filming short movies on his phone to document his transition), and with an abnormal family life. Ray’s parents are separated, and he doesn’t have regular contact with his father Craig. Furthermore, Craig is the most hesitant about Ray’s transition; he is the character who uses his birth name most frequently throughout the movie. There is a scene where they are sat together to discuss his signing the paperwork, where he asks Ray if his absence from his life is the reason for his being trans. But points scored for Ray’s constant correction.

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There are twists, and turns, and the story is one that opens your eyes. However, it lacks elements that could have derailed it from the “normal” view of trans individuals, and therefore relatable to more transgender individuals worldwide.

It’s a step forwards, but more steps are still needed. The movie has a happy, albeit abrupt end, and it represents the overall look of the movie: it had the potential to finish happily, but it felt unfinished. It felt as if there were missing pieces that could have completed the story of Ray and his still-learning family.

To finish, let me give my best friend’s view on the casting of Elle Fanning as Ray: Elle was cast because, despite the full existence of talented transgender actors, the character of Ray had not transitioned in any way past appearance (masculine clothing and short hair). Many transgender actors have transitioned physically and medically, and therefore would not be suitable for a pre-everything trans teen; the forcing a trans actor to de-transition enough for the role would be a strain on their mental health and cause them dysphoria. The casting of Elle Fanning was appropriate, but only for a role such as a pre-everything teenager, who still has breasts and a high-pitched voice. If the character of Ray had begun testosterone, and changes in his body were taking place, it would then be best to cast a transgender male actor.

Keep everything in mind if you view Three Generations in cinema from its May release. It’s progressive – but it could still be improved.

Rating: 5/10

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TEN BEST LIVE-ACTION MARVEL TV CHARACTER PORTRAYALS

Marvel TV shows have been a big extension to the MCU since Agents Of SHIELD debuted in 2013. With four shows currently in this universe, and a number more still in production, we have got lots to enjoy. There has been some fantastic performances so far in the last three years and I am sure Luke Cage this month will continue the trend. With ABC making a great start with the Agents side of the MCU and Netflix bringing us The Defenders, this list had a great mix of portrayals. Honourable mentions go to Mike Colter’s Luke Cage who narrowly missed the list, though will be right in the Top 10 from the previews of his upcoming series. Elodie Yung giving us a great Elektra really did well and Agent Carter actors James D’Arcy for being Mr Edwin Jarvis and Wynn Everett as she became the villainous Whitney Frost!

  1. Deborah Ann Woll – Karen Page (Daredevil)

All heroes need something to keep them grounded and Karen is definitely a character that is needed in the show.Deborah Ann Woll is cast well as the love interest to the title character and is at the centre of the story in both seasons. Karen may not be the toughest character, but she is willing to do all she can to help her friends and fight for justice. Her life changes when she comes to Nelson and Murdoch, but it is her investigation into The Punisher which really shows her worth.

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  1. Clark Gregg – Agent Phil Coulson (Agents Of SHIELD)

The man who was the backbone to the MCU throughout phase one was warmly welcomed back when talks of a spin-off begun. His death was maybe not liked by many, but there is a lot of good that came from this. First, we got a great mystery which lasted quite a while as to how Coulson came back to life. Clark Gregg embodies Coulson perfectly and he is a fan favourite. For a character that was made especially for the MCU, you can find him in all the different medias of Marvel and I am grateful for how much we get of this brilliant character.

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  1. Elden Henson – Foggy Nelson (Daredevil)

Every show needs some comic relief, and it works better if they also become the heart of the show. Foggy Nelson, best friend and business partner to Matt Murdoch. Their friendship changes forever when Foggy finds out Matt is actually Daredevil. As a lawyer, Foggy is definitely very resourceful and willing to do all he can to help those he cares about, that includes Matt and Karen. For most of the series, he is a source of humour and a break from the gripping drama in the show. But from the moment he finds a bludgeoned Matt in his apartment, that is when Foggy became his best!

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  1. Ming-Na Wen – Agent Melinda May (Agents Of SHIELD)

What happens when you get a character that is able to overshadow your main star, you get Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May. Known for her nickname The Cavalry, May is one of the toughest agents in SHIELD history. The character at one point stopped doing missions after something big happens and her life is in tatters. Though she may not be too social with her team, she is very protective and can kick the arse of any person that gets in her way. You wouldn’t want to get in a fight with May, but you would definitely appreciate her assistance if it was needed.

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  1. David Tennant – Kilgrave (Jessica Jones)

A man who is able to manipulate any person just by talking to them, Kilgrave is indeed a very dangerous character. He hasn’t got super strength, he can’t fly and can’t shoot beams from his hands, but he can control practically anyone. At one time, he was able to bend the will of Jessica Jones for his own gain and she had since lived with the nightmares of her actions. Kilgrave proves numerous times he is not to be messed with and David Tennant brings to the MCU his best performance since starring in Doctor Who.

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  1. Charlie Cox – Matt Murdoch/Daredevil (Daredevil)

From the first episode, we know that Matt Murdoch has been fighting crime both in and out of the court room for some time. Matt Murdoch is just truly wanting to get justice in his city. After his father died, he wanted to do all he could to protect the innocent. His path leads him to face The Kingpin and later the vigilante The Punisher. Daredevil was one of the first MCU heroes to prove just how vulnerable they can be, seeing Matt an inch from death is really hard to watch, but it may just be the most intriguing thing about the man without fear!

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  1. Hayley Atwell – Peggy Carter (Agent Carter)

Much like Coulson, Peggy has been a backbone to the MCU for quite some time. Since her debut in Captain America: The First Avenger, she has appeared in other Cap films, a short and in Agent Carter. Taking her role as a founder of SHIELD, Peggy continues her fight against those who could threaten the world while still holding some hope of seeing Steve again. Fighting her way through a sexist 1940’s America, Hayley Atwell gives her greatest performance as she gives the world the first true female hero in the MCU!

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  1. Jon Bernthal – Frank Castle/The Punisher (Daredevil)

Anyone who is a fan of The Punisher character will know that it’s not been easy to make this character appeal to an audience (Looking at 1989 and 2008 on this one). But, Jon Bernthal not only does a great job, but he steals the show every time he appears. He is more than a match for Daredevil, he has one of the greatest revenge stories in the comic book world and he honestly believes he is doing the right thing. Tormented by the death of his family, his path for vengeance and personal pain won over everyone…no wonder he is getting his own TV series!

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  1. Krysten Ritter – Jessica Jones (Jessica Jones)

For anyone who has seen Krysten in any other show, you will know her versatile she can be. Appearing in shows such as Breaking Bad and Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23 was proof of her dedication, Jessica Jones is no exception. The character has not had the best of upbringings (how many superheroes actually did?), but she still tries to do what’s best. After her initial altercation with Kilgrave, Jessica struggles to get her life back together. She becomes a private detective and also has some powers too, not someone to mess with. PTSD plays a big part in the show, and to see the suffering Jessica has been through and goes through in the first season, you can’t help but feel for her. Sure she is drinking a lot, having sex with someone she is investigating and generally not caring about a lot of people. Inside, Jessica Jones is a character I feel the most for as she seems to put on such a strong front to forget her past.

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  1. Vincent D’Onofrio – Wilson Fisk/Kin gpin (Daredevil)

Coming up with a villain like Kingpin was a masterstroke for Marvel Comics, seeing him on screen is even better. Michael Clarke Duncan made the character fantastic in the 2003 Daredevil movie, but Vincent D’Onofrio made for a superb addition to the cast. We see him gradually in the first few episodes, but we know who he is immediately when we finally meet him. Wilson Fisk starts as a very private businessman who eventually comes to the light when he looks to “save” his city. We also get to see what made him into the Kingpin by seeing flashbacks to his childhood and also watching him fall in love with this to-be wife Vanessa. Don’t let this sensitive side fool you, he will still beat you to death (thinking of a certain car door scene). Definitely a powerful character and the best portrayal from Marvel’s TV line-up.

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Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

Constantine is finally coming to Blu-Ray and DVD

The strength of the short-lived NBC show is unbelievable. Since the show finished airing in 2005 after just 13 brilliant episodes, we do seem to find it hard to let go. On a recent post, I revealed Matt Ryan’s John Constantine as my favourite DC character on TV. If you have seen this show before, chances are you will want to watch it again very soon. For those who haven’t, here is everything you need to know about the upcoming release.

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RELEASE DATE

As of this moment, the release is set for October 4th 2016 in the US. Although at the time of writing, there was no UK date set. Hopefully this will be rectified soon as I would very much like to own a copy of one of my favourite shows from the last few years. Worldwide I am not too sure on when it will be released, but it is a better promise than saying IF it will be released.

WHATS IN THE BOX

Being called The Complete Series, you know you will have all 13 broadcast episodes of the Hellblazer adaptation. The extras are there, just not too many to get excited about. First we have the Constantine Trailer (trailers have always been a popular feature). There is also Behind The Scenes footage for the release too. For the Comic-Con lovers amongst us, there will also be the 2014 SDCC panel which features cast and crew of the show from before it made its debut and finally a feature known as ‘DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014’.

WHY YOU SHOULD BUY IT

As we know, there has been a lot of internet buzz around Constantine returning in some shape or form. The biggest moment so far was Matt Ryan reprising his role for an episode of Arrow (please make more appearances, that was a great one!). With Matt Ryan coming back again to play the character for the animated feature Justice League Dark, there is certainly an audience for his take on the DC character. I think this may get some wheels into motion for potentially a new Constantine series (still think CW should have done Constantine Season 2 instead of Legends Of Tomorrow) and if popular enough, plenty more from this character in the future. Plus if you haven’t seen the show, I guarantee that having this in your collection will be a wise move and one you won’t regret.

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Constantine: The Complete Series is out October 4th in the US and will be available through Amazon and other retailers. Expect international release dates soon!

Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

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TEN BEST LIVE-ACTION DC CHARACTER PORTRAYALS (ARROWVERSE and GOTHAM)

Superhero TV shows have generally been a strong force in animation form for many years. With certain exceptions such as Batman 1966, Lois and Clark and Smallville, there has never been such high quality comic based shows on TV at one time. With DC ruling the roost on The CW and Fox, Marvel’s MCU taking Netflix and ABC by storm and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Outcast making some damn fine TV! So, the first in a number of countdowns, I wanted to give some top 10’s based on more current comic book shows and the characters that feature within them. With the short lived Constantine being hugely popular, Arrow creating a massive TV universe and Gotham giving us some great origins on much loved characters.

This list was not easy to write, but there was so many to choose from. Honorable mentions go to Morena Baccarin’s Dr Leslie Thompkins in Gotham, her partner and good cop Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon and Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells and Reverse-Flash in The Flash. I want to know who you would say was portrayed best as opinions will always vary. This is my personal list, so take this as you will.

  1. Harold Perrineau – Manny (Constantine)

Portraying an original character in a comic book show is not always seen as a great idea, but Harold Perrineau pulls it off so well as the angel Manny. Guiding Constantine on his journey to prepare for the oncoming war with evil, Manny appears at times of great need (even when John really could do without seeing him). Sometimes a very insightful character and a moment or two of comic relief, it is a shame that we may not see him spread his wings in Constantine’s future anytime soon.

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  1. Teddy Sears – “Jay Garrick”/Hunter Zolomon/Zoom (The Flash)

Trying to top the brilliant work by Tom Cavanagh in season one was never going to be easy, but Teddy Sears takes you on one hell of a journey in season two. Revealing himself to be Jay Garrick at the start of the season, he claims his speed was stolen by another known as Zoom! The twist here is that Jay is actually Hunter Zolomon AKA Zoom and he has hatched a plan to destroy all universes and speedsters…including Barry. Who knows if he will run again into the lives of the STAR Labs team.

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  1. Emily Bett Rickards – Felicity Smoak (Arrow, The Flash)

Originally a minor character, Felicity grew to be one of the most important characters in the Arrowverse. Originally an employee of Oliver’s step-father Walter, Felicity proves herself to be a welcome addition to Team Arrow. Originally only wanting to save Walter, Felicity eventually joins the team full time and is vital in helping Oliver become more understanding and find new methods to deal with crime. Though many see their romance as annoying, Felicity really does make a big impact in the show and I hope she will do for a long long time to come.

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  1. David Harewood – “Hank Henshaw”/J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter (Supergirl)

One of the biggest surprises of Supergirl was the revelation that head of the DEA Hank Henshaw was actually the Martian Manhunter. Having been nearly killed by the real Hank Henshaw, Kara and Alex’s father saved J’onn and in return J’onn promised to look after Alex and Kara as much as he could. A character with a huge heart and one of the most heartbreaking backstories in comics, he fights his inner demons and becomes a true hero who eventually gets the recognition he deserves.

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  1. Manu Bennett – Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Arrow)

Probably the greatest rival to come up against Oliver, Slade Wilson originally helped Oliver Queen survive on the island and gave him the help he needed to escape and find his family. After Slade was injected with the “mirakuru”, he finds himself stronger than ever before, but his mind suffers from the chemical. He personally wants revenge against Oliver after what happens to him in regards to Shado and losing his eye. Killing Oliver’s mother and almost destroying the city was indeed enough to push The Arrow to his limit!

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  1. Danielle Panabaker – Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (The Flash, Arrow)

When she had her cameo in Arrow, I was not too sure how much I would like this character. But from her first episode, Caitlin is shown to be a great part of the STAR Labs team. She is shown to be very distraught over the particle accelerator explosion which seemingly killed her fiancé and at times being cold towards her friends. Though Caitlin is indeed, in at least one life, destined to be the villainous Killer Frost, she proves a true friend and a heart to the show. She knows how to take on enemies without powers of her own and will do anything to help you.

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  1. Stephen Amell – Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Arrow, The Flash. Legends Of Tomorrow)

The man behind the Arrowverse, Oliver Queen returns to Starling City after five years being presumed dead. When he returns, he takes on the mantle of The Arrow to fight the crime in the city as part of his promise to his father. Originally wanting to take on this crusade alone, Oliver later gets assistance from John Diggle, Felicity, Roy Harper, Sara Lance, Laurel Lance and even his sister Thea. Though Oliver may be sometimes hard to trust, he does care about his friends and family and does show a lighter side with his friend Barry/The Flash.

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  1. Grant Gustin – Barry Allen/The Flash (The Flash, Arrow)

After getting caught in his lab as the STAR Labs accident happened, Barry Allen became The Flash. Originally unsure if he deserved his powers, Barry would go on to become one the greatest heroes in existence. With a pure heart and mind, Barry is definitely the best person to have on your side when in trouble with a meta-human. When Barry developed his powers and begun travelling through time, we see him truly get emotional with anything around his deceased mother when he sees her in the past. We want Barry to have a happy ending, but has he destroyed the world to get it?

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  1. Robin Lord Taylor – Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Gotham)

The only Gotham character to make it into the list, but there is a good reason why he is this high! Robin Lord Taylor from episode one managed to make Penguin probably the best portrayal of the character in any medium. Danny DeVito done a great job in Batman Returns, Nolan North makes a great performance in the Batman Arkham games but it is Taylor’s take on the character which is unique and intriguing. Starting as an aspiring gangster, he eventually takes control of the Gotham underworld and uses many means to get what he wants. Whenever his version of Oswald Cobblepot takes to the screen, I am glued!

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  1. Matt Ryan – John Constantine (Constantine, Arrow)

You know you have done a character right when you have a fan and cast campaign to get you to be the character again (eventually appearing in Arrow Season 4) and then becoming the character again for an animated movie (2016’s Justice League Dark). Am I right? Matt Ryan embodies the character perfectly and does everything right. He smokes like a chimney, isn’t afraid to be rude, enjoys being an arse to people and fights demons with ease. The look is also done right, down to the hair colour and the clothes. We may have only had 14 hours of TV with John Constantine, but I am sure Matt Ryan’s version of the character will be around for a long time…and maybe that petition to get a season two of Constantine will also become reality one day!

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Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

With Captain America: Civil War just a couple of months away, the start of Phase Three will see some huge changes come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With favourites such as Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Spider-Man about to debut in the world, there is plenty of excitement growing for the upcoming movies. But, we should not forget the past. The 12 films in the series so far have proved just how far the series has come. With a great majority of films doing a splendid job, tight casting and some of the most memorable scenes in cinema through the 21st century. The MCU is definitely going to leave a huge mark on cinema history forever. Let’s see how the films so far rank from worst to best…

  1. Iron Man 2

Maybe the obvious choice, but it had to be. First off, we get Mickey Rourke after he wowed in The Wrestler and Sin City being given very little in terms of character development and being made to look too much like a slimmed down Iron Monger suit. We finally get Samuel L Jackson making his first full appearance as Nick Fury, but where exactly does he go for a majority of the film? Then we had Terrance Howard being replaced (though I did grow to like Don Cheadle a lot more from Iron Man 3 onwards). Though not a bad movie on its own, it is certainly misguided.

  1. Thor: The Dark World

Now, in my defence I think this film is very funny and the chemistry between the cast was great. It definitely gave us a better look at Asgard and was the first MCU film to really feature alien planets prominently. Though, the lack of menace from Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith and the story was almost non-existant. It did seem the film was just throwing ideas at a wall, hoping something would stick. Though seeing Stellan Skarsgard running around in the nude at Stonehenge is definitely something fun and unexpected, it couldn’t save the film.

  1. The Incredible Hulk

Don’t make Edward Norton angry…oh, they did! Clearly a huge improvement on the unrelated 2003 ‘Hulk’ by Ang Lee, this film still had a lot to prove. Luckily, the biggest improvement was the actors who stepped up. While Edward Norton may not be the favourite Hulk anymore, he certainly made a good attempt at being Dr Bruce Banner. With Liv Tyler being the heart, Tim Roth proving to be a top villain and William Hurt giving us the true General Ross, what could go wrong? Well not much, but from this film we could see it seemed almost unrelated to the MCU, save for that little post-credit scene which I still believe is a flash-forward to ‘Captain America: Civil War’.

  1. Iron Man 3

After The Avengers did the best job possible for superhero movies, it was then left to Robert Downey Jr. and his friends since 2008 to somehow continue after this peak. While it was not as good as the 2012 team-up, it certainly did keep the entertainment levels up. Breaking the previous formula slightly from the first two films, we see Tony Stark go against someone with powers. The extremis-powered Killian was certainly a good match for strength and proved to be a greater danger and a better villain than some that came before.

  1. Thor

We get to meet Thor, God of Thunder and our first true “alien” for the Avengers. But also, we get to meet Loki. Possibly the best villain the MCU has shown, Loki really gets to have fun and he really gets to show his descent into evil with emotional consequences. The fight between the “brothers” is certainly a highlight for the MCU and to see the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins take the part of Odin was too great to be true. The film may not be perfect, but it is a fun piece and will be regarded as taking a huge step in the development of the MCU.

  1. Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Bringing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together for the second time was no easy task, and the ripples of it still resonate nearly a year later. Joss Whedon had previously done so much for the MCU from taking on The Avengers and giving his touch to phase 2 overall. Though Whedon has said about his struggles with the movie, he certainly did give 110% and maybe put in a bit too much into the runtime of the movie. Setting up many elements for phase three, bombarding many characters into the film and not giving them the necessary breathing space, it was a huge task. Though the film is great, I am sure we could have had a few changes. Ultron was great though!

  1. Ant-Man

Funny name? Think it’s a gimmick? Well, it isn’t. Many didn’t know that Ant-Man actually came to comics before many of the Avengers you may know, and it was a worthy wait to see him finally come into the MCU. Bringing a huge amount of humour and truly creating a different character for the screen, it was indeed a lot of fun to finally explore the world from a different perspective. Plus, how many comic actors can really make a character who is a thief become a popular film hero? Paul Rudd really made this character his own, and I am sure Civil War will see him shine again!

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger

We had Iron Man, we had Hulk and we also just had Thor. To complete The Avengers, we needed the super soldier from the 1940’s. Going back in time, we get a few ties to the other avengers in regards to the serum which would later be adapted and create the Hulk, or even Howard Stark meeting Cap before his son would by 70 years. Also, we get to see a character that possibly is the most vulnerable of all the heroes we had seen so far. Plus, the iconic Red Skull is well achieved by Hugo Weaving, and we need Red Skull back! Plus we got Peggy Carter, and she is awesome!

  1. Iron Man

Iron Man kicked off the MCU, and he made the Marvel world cool again. The bad taste of Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four made the mid-2000’s a bit dull for comic adaptations. Iron Man though, proved you could be fun and serious. Robert Downey Jr. made himself the coolest guy in Hollywood by taking this B-list Marvel character and making him challenge and better many heroes that came before. Also, it showed that big stars wanted to be in superhero movies, a trend which still continues today.

  1. The Avengers

The results of years of work paid off in a huge way. The highest-earning superhero movie of all time, and for a great reason, and some of the greatest fun I have ever had at the cinema. Seeing the return of Loki, we saw the god come to earth to claim it as his own. The Avengers then assemble and bring everyone on their A-game to make a brilliant work of art. Also, who knew that a superhero movie could be that funny, and the biggest laughs coming from the Hulk of all characters? Definitely a spectacle in cinema.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The film which many people apparently dreaded (many people felt mixed on Cap, and few were originally interested in his next solo outing). Coming out in the UK in MARCH! Yes, that is MARCH. It seemed too early of a date to become a blockbuster, but we was wrong. Captain America came back on fighting form and within minutes, proved himself to be one of the most popular characters in cinema today. Chris Evans took the superhero to new heights and brought in “The Dark Knight” of the MCU. It was gritty, intelligent, tough, fun and had heart throughout. The reveal of Bucky may have been obvious from day one, but nobody cares when you leave that film thinking “Captain America is F***ING AWESOME!”. He may not fly, have weapons coming out of his arms or can turn green, but he certainly knew how to fight his critics.

  1. Guardians Of The Galaxy

Where do we begin? This film was almost doomed from the start. An unknown group of heroes, a director known more from Slither and the live-action Scooby Doo films (Yep, he wrote them. No joke!) and how about the idea of a sentient tree and talking raccoon being friends? Well, you was wrong! This film was just incredible. It was a hug punch of adrenaline into the mainstream and showed that risks should still be taken in Hollywood. The film was just a delight for the eyes, the music from the 1970’s was a perfect complement to the visual treat and the acting was second to none! James Gunn is currently making the sequel, due to be released next year. If it is half as good as this movie, I will be very happy indeed.

Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

Doctor Who: The Husbands Of River Song. “Now you’ve met me, you’ll do your very best to forget me.”

Doctor Who has been making some rather fitting endings over the last few weeks. In ‘Face The Raven’, we saw a well-constructed exit for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman, how we miss you already). But, it looks like it is time to give a farewell to one of the longest recurring companions since the show came back. When Alex Kingston first debuted in 2008 as River Song for the ‘Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead’ two parter, many assumed she would not return and that her role as a companion of The Doctor would be more for the books or Big Finish audio productions. But, Alex has surely become one of the favourites in the New Who Era. In ‘The Husbands Of River Song’, we find the archaeologist is waiting for a surgeon to help her husband, King Hydroflax. The servant Nardole (an underused Matt Lucas) finds The Doctor and is convinced this is the surgeon they are waiting for. River comes face to face with The Doctor (the man who she is supposed to be married to), but she does not recognise this new face and doesn’t realise it is the Time Lord in front of her. So, apparently King Hydroflax is dying and a surgeon is needed to help him, where in reality there is a rare diamond lodged in his head (which is slowly killing him) and River wants it to sell. Though, it is very much only a head which Hydroflax has as it is attached to a huge red robot body. When River’s plan is discovered, what does she do? She steals the head and intends to sell her diamond while the king is very much alive and very angry.

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You wouldn’t think Greg Davies could do much as just a head, but there is a certain humour and depth to a character that has no body language he can use (and the SFX look rather good for that side of it, all hail King Hydroflax the CGI team). So, the body searches for its controller, and borrows the head of Nardole to help it out for the time being. They come across the TARDIS and Peter Capaldi finally gets to do what all Doctor Who actors have probably wanted to do, do the “it’s bigger on the inside” bit and it is funny. We eventually get to see the fallout of River’s desire for money as she finds herself and The Doctor in serious trouble. With one husband looking to get revenge on River, another husband who ends up going against his will to find River and finally discovering her husband The Doctor after she tearfully states how he never truly cares for her like she does for him. With so much going on towards the end, the execution to bring stability back is a little muddled but overall the fun has been had throughout. Over Christmas, you look to have something which is simple and entertaining. For 80% of this episode, that is exactly what you get. But, it is also nice to see some loose ends tied up to River Song. First, we see how she acquired that Sonic Screwdriver. Also, we finally get to see their supposed last night together, and the scene is beautiful and almost heart-breaking. For a character we saw die in her first appearance, it feels this really is the leaving point for Professor Song.

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Steven Moffat said he thought at one point this may have been his last episode of Doctor Who, and he does indeed write a fun story. At times the story is stretched and just played out a bit too much, but Christmas viewing is worth it when it is this easy. The laughs are good; a few humorous moments come from The Doctor trying to tell River who he is. As usual, Peter Capaldi does a stellar job as The Doctor. Alex Kingston, you will be sorely missed if this is your last episode. To see links back to her first story and others, it was a great way to show Moffat can stick a landing (even if it was over many years). The supporting cast do get swept away in this, though Greg Davies does give  a certain menace and humour in his portrayal and initially Matt Lucas is good fun. I just wish there was more from Nardole, the same for Ramone (Phillip Rhys) who just gets a minimal amount of time to show himself. The other villains are basically a robot body who does seem to have a funnybone and the combination of Flemming and Scratch barely do anything except look rather cool (the head trick that Scratch does was rather fun, and a bit freaky for just after Christmas Lunch). So, we don’t know when Doctor Who will be back on. What we do know is that we have at least one more series with Peter Capaldi leading the way, and it is supposed to debut at some point in 2016. My recommendation? Save this episode for Christmas viewing or when you don’t wanna think too much. Yes we get a lot on the River Song arc, but we don’t really get back into the main thrust of Doctor Who and it is nice to have a break in the show after what was a rather intense and fantastic series 9. Also, how many people noticed in the opening credits where we had the snow effects and the planets replaced with baubles! That was brilliant! Though I feel Moffat has got very few episodes left in him, it will be good to see him do one more episode with Douglas MacKinnon directing and he really needs to think about getting Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Dredd) and Andrew Kreisberg (The Flash, Arrow) to write for the show. How cool would it be? Well, 2016 isn’t far away…

Final Rating: 8/10 (all because of that last 10 minutes)

Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

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Episode Four: The Best Things In Life Comes In Threes

Doctor Who is over, but it is now time to explain my three favourite episodes of 2015. Also, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got a new trailer, but did it give away too much? Also, a few thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens before I saw the movie, and what does it mean to you? Hear the latest podcast now! Remember, this Sunday I will give a full review on the podcast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and what I thought of it all…

http://thesingingwhovian.podomatic.com/entry/2015-12-13T16_06_54-08_00

P.S. I want to give massive thanks to singer/songwriter/beatboxer and friend Dana McKeon for creating a fantastic new theme tune for the show!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “You don’t know a thing about me, what I’ve seen… we all need to run.”

**BE WARNED, MINIMAL SPOILERS AHEAD**

 

So, how can I describe this film without giving any of the spoilers? First off, the film is a huge achievement in what can be created in the world from George Lucas. Taking place around 30 years after Return Of The Jedi, we begin the story on the planet of Jakku. Jakku was where a huge battle had taken place many years before, and looks set to see more action from its earliest moments. We learn the FIRST ORDER has come to take over from the Empire and looks to defeat the Resistance, and the FIRST ORDER are tough. We are steadily introduced to our new lead stars, as they burst onto the screen in a fantastic way. From X-Wing pilot Poe, Scavenger Rey and Stormtrooper Finn, we get to see them introduced gradually over the first ten minutes. The amount of practical effects is evident greatly in the opening moments, and sets a great tone for the rest of the movie. Of course, we also get to meet new droid BB-8 (the best practical invention I have seen on screen for a long time). Also from the opening few minutes, we meet the main villain, Kylo Ren! From the very beginning, we know how powerful Kylo is (and there is a good reason he follows the path originally for Darth Vader). This is a character who controls the FIRST ORDER (the new Stormtroopers, who can actually aim well and mean business), very powerful with the force and owns a cool lightsaber. He has one main ambition, to hunt down a certain Jedi.

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From the very beginning, we know we don’t need to rely on the old cast to make this film entertaining. The laughs are constant, especially during the first hour of the movie. The action makes a perfect blend of CGI and props really explode on the screen. Nothing beats the thrill of when you see Han Solo and Chewbacca first appear on the screen (I kid you not; there was an applause in that screen!). To have the millennium Falcon flying through the danger is always exciting, and the arm rests on my seat in the cinema definitely had plenty of wear from my grip (not force grip). To see the interactions of characters old and new is superb, whether it is BB-8 making friends with a familiar looking protocol droid or even Finn and Rey getting help with a smuggler and his hairy companion. Also, the number of villains in this movie may seem rather huge, but they all link back to the one cause. Kylo Ren may be the one we follow, but he is not the one in charge. Supreme Leader Snoke is a villain who looks to be the new emperor, but be sure to see more learnt about him as the film series go on.  Also, we see you can get bigger and better with the construction of Starkiller Base, a planet which is turned into a weapon (sound familiar? It seems like the Dark Side like to keep their plans huge!).

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Remember, this is only the first of three new films in the main series. There is a certain amount of set-up in this movie, there is just so much going on and that last scene will be both slightly irritating and breath-taking. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega steal the show as Rey and Finn, both injecting a new blood to the system. Their combination works well on many levels and hopefully shall continue to grow in Episode VIII. Adam Driver portrays a convincing villain in Kylo Ren, his actions will have you both feeling bad (there are some issues) for him and hating him (when you see what he does, you will hate him!). Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford lead the pack and provide central roles to The Force Awakens. Han Solo and Chewbacca do the same as they did in Episode IV and win fans over within seconds of appearing on screen, and Han is still a smuggler with a heart for adventure (wait till you see what he has recently acquired). There isn’t much to go on, but Andy Serkis brings a strong menace with Supreme Leader Snoke. When we next see him, it should be a chance to see the extent of his powers.  Carrie Fisher gets back into the Leia role nicely, and joined by Anthony Daniels as the popular C3PO definitely will please lifelong fans. There are too many characters to single out, but all play their parts well. Though I was hoping to hear “It’s A Trap” from one returning character, but it never pans out that way (but still very cool to see him).

Chewbacca and Han Solo in a still from the Star Wars: The Force

I must say, this has become my favourite film made by JJ Abrams (and only two lens flares that really stood out), and his writing partnership with Lawrence Kasdan (using Michael Arndt’s original and expanding on it) shows that they had the job down to a tee and Lawrence can still do top notch work like he did for The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. George Lucas has passed this onto the safest of hands, and the future looks great. Having the opening text crawl is still the chill that sets you in for a great ride. The effects make the original trilogy not look out of place, making a good blend of what we saw and keeping the same look that we had back then. The film is not perfect, but it is superior to many films you will see this year. A few quarrels in regards to screen time for some characters are questionable and pacing is at times a bit off, but overall I loved this film. The excitement of two lightsabers striking each other is what we build up to in any Star Wars film, and this fight really does impress. It is a long wait now to May 2017 to see what comes next, but that last scene definitely shows you why you will want to watch the next one. Also, you know that Mark Hamill hasn’t been shown much in promotion, you will soon find out why! Also, look out for what happens when Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, definitely will be the cool guy from this point onwards) shoot’s at a certain character, and soon regrets it.

A superb film, a pleasure throughout and the nostalgic trip which is easy to absorb. A great start to the follow-up trilogy we wanted. Best of luck to Rian Johnson, May The Force Be With You!

Final Rating: 9.5/10

Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

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Doctor Who Series Nine Review

Another series has come to an end, but what a great series it was. Seeing a more settled Peter Capaldi lead this series, he gets to show a superbly fun streak while keeping the deeply moving moments when needs to. From busting out guitar solos to heart-wrenching speeches, it was a fantastic series which built upon the 2014 run and came out high. Jenna Coleman may now have left, but we got some great episodes featuring Clara to show how much we shall all miss her. Plus, who can forget appearances from Reece Shearsmith, Maisie Williams, and even Ingrid Oliver coming back as Osgood.

  1. The Zygon Inversion by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat

Not by any means a bad episode (compared to series 8 which had a few weak episodes), but arguably I felt this conclusion to the Zygon two-parter lacked much substance to me. I felt at this point Clara was very much just being sidelined to make Osgood appear to be a replacement. The threat from the rogue Zygons never feels as grand as it should, there isn’t that worldwide ramification which is teased in the first part and to see Kate Stewart minimalised is a crime. But, the speech from Peter Capaldi does really stand out as one of the best acting movements from the Scottish actor.

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  1. Under The Lake by Toby Whithouse

Following on from one of the most thrilling two-parters ever, Toby Whithouse had to give a story which could keep the same attention as Steven Moffat had done for the previous two weeks. Though it seemed some of the cast was wasted to short parts, the characters of Cass and Lunn really make a good mark as the double act. But Morven Christie is superb as O’Donnell, it is just a shame that her great presence is then minimalised in part two. The tension builds nicely and makes for a great conclusion, which I will discuss later…

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  1. The Woman Who Lived by Catherine Tregenna

When we see Ashildr after so many years, we find that she is almost nothing like the Viking girl we met in ‘The Girl Who Died’. Maisie Williams proves to be the best guest star of series 9 with her appearances in the show. This one sees her very much become traitor as she looks to trick The Doctor to get away from earth and explore the world, but the alien Leandro looks set to make his own plans (I have to admit, he was a weak villain in an otherwise strong story). Also, it was nice having a companion-lite story and who would have thought Rufus Hound was cast so well? It may not be a classic, but Catherine Tregenna should come back!

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  1. Sleep No More by Mark Gatiss

This episode took me by surprise, making a twist to the found-footage genre and giving it a Doctor Who episode was definitely out of the ordinary. On first viewing, I was greatly impressed. But, the second time really was a killer. I still get a great chill from that last scene, as it really does infuse a horror element to the show with an effortless performance from Reece Shearsmith. The creatures themselves were a great invention, though I would think this story could be expanded upon and a follow-up could be better.

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  1. Hell Bent by Steven Moffat

The finale came and wow! First off, The Doctor is back on Gallifrey and is finally free from billions of years stuck in his confession dial. Though the Time Lords ask for his help, he merely despises for their actions and eventually dethrones Rassilon. The humour is great and to see many story strands conclude here is all well and good. But, as much as I loved Jenna Coleman, bringing Clara back really seemed to destroy the outstanding exit scene she was given just two weeks prior. On the plus side, we do get to see a second TARDIS and Ashildr returns.

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  1. The Zygon Invasion by Peter Harness

The Zygons exploded back onto the screen this year, and they brought Osgood back with them too. With the fear of a fracture in the treaty between human and Zygon, The Doctor is called upon by UNIT to help stop everything going to hell. The choice to have a mostly female led cast was genius and highlighted the best in Doctor Who with Osgood, Kate and Clara. The cliffhanger may not be the most stunning in its history, but the Clara reveal was well played and really made the stakes high.

INVASION OF THE ZYGONS (By Peter Harness)

  1. Before The Flood by Toby Whithouse

A two-parter unlike any other, this second part saw The Doctor travel over 100 years to the past to see what happened to cause these ghosts to appear. As well as meeting the mole-like Prentis, we also get to see The Fisher King, one of the most haunting and creepy monster’s to appear in the show. The combination of three separate actors bringing The Fisher King to life was indeed impressive and how long will you be questioning if Beethoven really made his own music?

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  1. The Witch’s Familiar by Steven Moffat

Fighting the Daleks, stealing chairs and drinking a cup of tea from an unknown source was just the starters of this episode. Seeing two hero/villain double acts fill the majority of the episode was impressive. While Clara and Missy teamed up to save The Doctor, The Doctor and Davros were getting chatty and some serious and fun moments evolved from that. The joke about the only other chair on Skaro will be a long lasting one. Also, kudos to the special effects team, Skaro looked really cool.

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  1. The Girl Who Died by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat

Jamie Mathieson wrote the superb ‘Flatline’ last year, and it was not an easy task to follow on from that. But, he did so and more. A Viking village is attacked by alien race The Mire and young Viking Ashildr declares war against the warrior race. The Doctor and Clara then have just 24 hours to train the village to become warriors like those they have lost. Putting in many great jokes, some stunning action sequences and seeing The Doctor talk baby again. A winning episode which finally tells what helped the Time Lord get the familiar looking face he currently holds.

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  1. Heaven Sent by Steven Moffat

Imagine being stuck in a loop for billions of years, being chased by a creature that can’t die and won’t stop. Imagine being all alone with no companions and no exit. The Doctor literally punches his way out of this nightmare trap over the years and slowly wears a wall away until he is free. Seeing a vulnerable and frightened Doctor, it was a great in-depth look into the mind of our hero and a story which could never be replicated. A grieving Time Lord after losing his friend is a dangerous thing.

HEAVEN SENT (By Steven Moffat)

  1. Face The Raven by Sarah Dollard

We knew it was coming, but who would have thought the death of Clara Oswald would have been so moving? Jenna Coleman provides one of her greatest performances as she does her best to save friend Rigsy and tries to be like The Doctor. Learning the hard way she can’t be like the Time Lord, the ultimate price is paid for trying to be more than human. The Doctor physically and mentally is shaken by the series of events, and even looks to destroy former ally Ashildr after she sets up the trap which puts all these events into motion. Seeing Clara fall to the ground will haunt Doctor Who fans for many years to come…

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  1. The Magician’s Apprentice by Steven Moffat

To start off on such a massive high is a huge gamble, but started what was to be a fantastic series can’t be denied. With The Doctor missing, Missy and Clara working together and the best axe battle of all time, there was a lot to enjoy. The biggest surprise comes in the opening minutes when The Doctor meets a young Davros on a battlefield and leaves him to die. He then goes to hide, knowing that Davros survives the events and is looking to get him. With the pace being hectic, yet grounded, we have such a strong opener which floods the screen with references and characters. All perfectly placed, all pieces move towards what becomes the biggest ever cliffhanger in the history of the show!

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Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

 

Episode Three: To Galaxies Far Far Away

Episode three of the podcast is now available. Reviewing the series finale of Doctor Who, ‘Hell Bent’ presents a story of two halves. Also, details on that christmas special and what me and Tara B are hoping to see in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Listen in now…

http://thesingingwhovian.podomatic.com/entry/2015-12-06T08_06_15-08_00