Heroes Reborn – impressions


‘A fantastic opportunity – that fails miserably’

Heroes Reborn

When I first heard they were bringing back Heroes … one of my favourite TV shows, I was overjoyed.  I know the show had had some significant problems after season two, and struggled to really find the magic of series one again, but with a fresh approach and new characters…I was hopeful this was going to be good.  Creator Tim Kring certainly hyped it up enough with it’s reveal at comic con the other year, and with a handful of returning characters – I was very optimistic.  It also started out pretty positive.  The new characters and the story following on well from that cliff-hanger ending had our people with powers outted and then summoned to a big public event – only for a terrorist attack to leave hundreds dead.  A strong, shock opening and it grabbed me…returning character Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) was there and was a strong character to lead old fans into a new era too.

But after a few episodes it slowly began to dawn on me that something was wrong.   Initially the performances and the special effects felt a bit cheap.  The acting wasn’t especially bad, but the dialogue and the overall approach to how it was shot just felt cheap…and I mean TV cheap in a way it has not been in a while.  Then add to that plot threads that seemed to leap all over the place, and once time travel was brought on board (something the series has always struggled with) it began to get silly – very silly.  The show focuses on at times a World of Warcraft-like videogame world where videogame character Miko can jump from that world into our own … certainly imaginative but delivered with 90s-era CGI that looks awful.  Add to this the big bad being a female leader of a corporation that wants to wipe out mankind and transport a chosen few hundreds of years into the future (!) – and the plot is just ridiculous, throwing away any credibility or real-world believability even on a superhero show.  Tim Kring has clearly forgot what made Heroes in the first place so engrossing and vital … but with a glut of comic-book adaptations on TV these days, this had nothing to make it stand out and give it an identity.  The exclusion of major characters from the past such as Peter Petrelli or Claire Bennet was a big mistake especially when Angela, Peter’s mother (who seemed to have forgotten her son exists) makes an appearance, as well as there being several references to Claire in the storyline.  It’s insulting to fans and clearly a misguided attempt at starting afresh – but nobody, me included wanted this.

Heroes Reborn has unsurprisingly not been renewed for a second season.  There was a lot of potential, but none of that was put on screen despite the maker’s best efforts.

Very sad.

Unbreakable


Viewed – 04 May 2016  Blu-ray

I’m on a bit of a M Night Shyamalan binge of late and so we come to his acclaimed thriller blending comic book myths with mystery.  Starring Bruce Willis as the soul survivor of a train crash who comes under the watchful eye of comic book aficionado Samuel L Jackson who believes Willis may have super powers.  This one’s a strange beast and has a pretty weird vibe through out, with performances not unlike a David Lynch film.  Everyone here apart from the principle leads talks to each other like they are under some hypnotic spell or in a dream.

unbreakable willis

Slow burning and certainly intriguing, with some imaginative camera work … yet this was more ‘er…what is going on?’ than ‘ooh…what’s going to happen?’, and what seems like a low budget lets this down when actually getting to see said train crash would have given this viewer something to latch on to.  One scene especially felt off, with Willis’ son pointing a gun at his father in the belief he’s indestructible; it’s both over-acted and comes out of nowhere and makes the kid look a complete nutter.  Add to this sleepy support from Robin Wright as Willis’ estranged wife and it’s left up to Jackson’s complex ‘Mister Glass’ to save the day.  Here at least Jackson makes for a foreboding and fascinating presence with a tragic back-story, but comes off as a bit of a wack-job from the off with a series of crazy theories.  Willis does manage to carry the film well and is emotional and for the most part convincing, but at times goes along with things a bit too easily.

M Night Shyamalan’s movie can’t escape the shadow of The Sixth Sense with a similar but less understandable weird atmosphere, and a twist towards the end that whilst a shock, also comes off as ‘why?’.  With a bit more ambition this could have been a real gem as the idea has plenty of potential but fails to make the most of it, concluding with a solid final act that’s all too little too late.

The Blu-ray suffers from some smudgy black levels and a loss of detail to distant shots.  Close up detail fairs better however and the blue-tinged colour palette still looks very effective.   James Newton Howard’s eerie score is brought to life in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as uncompressed PCM 5.1 and dialogue is sharp and there’s decent ambient effects to the soundtrack, if a little subdued.  Extras however make up for any shortcomings on the movie with two in-depth docs ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘comic books and superheroes’ as well as some shorter featurettes and a gimmicky multi-angle section.  Again, like Sixth Sense no commentary from Shyamalan which would have been welcome.  Overall, not a bad all-round package for a fun if rather overrated experience.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

Ant Man


Viewed – 16 January 2016  online rental

Yes it’s taken me a while to get around to this one and perhaps my slight fatigue with the amount of comic book movies being churned out was a factor, but I can’t argue with the quality of the output and this latest is no exception.  Paul Rudd plays a down on his luck former cat burglar newly released from prison and trying to rebuild his relationship with his young daughter and ex-wife.  However the lure of the criminal world is always in the background thanks to a trio of never-do-well friends he’s forced to shack up with.  At the same time a high-tech company is on the verge of a breakthrough to create a suit that can shrink a man down to the size of an insect, but are missing that key formula that only former company boss Michael Douglas knows.

Ant-Man

This was a fun movie, with Paul Rudd mostly known for comedies on fine form with a few good one liners and suits the character well.  An ageing Douglas also adds some acting weight to proceedings and we also get Lost’s Evangeline Lilly looking hot in a black haired bob as Douglas’ daughter.  With thoughts back to Honey I Shrunk The Kids I got a buzz out of the shrunken perspective, to the point I wish the movie had stayed in that mode for the majority of the run time.  However that would not make for much variety and so we get an army of ants at Ant Man’s command and a villain out to create his own suit.  Casting of the main bad guy could have been better (what is he out of again?) and the three friends are little more than annoyances rather than being particularly likeable.  Ant-Man’s circumstances leading up to becoming a hero, are also pretty contrived, which ultimately stops this becoming a classic.

AntMan Douglas

But the action is very well done, the jumps from a shrunken Ant Man to full size and different plays with that are very well realised and the effects were state-of-the-art.  Above all I still had a good time with this.  One of Marvel’s more obscure creations, granted – but I was left thirsty for more.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

Birdman_2014-8

This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5