Starring: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, JR Ramirez, Carrie-Anne Moss, Janet McTeer, Callum Keith Rennie, Rebecca De Mornay (yes, that one), John Ventimiglia, Terry Chen and Hal Ozsan
Vomit Incidence: Episodes 5 & 6, people, avoid episodes 5 & 6!!!
The super-powered anti-social alcoholic private investigator returns in this second season of Jessica Jones delivered in 13 binge-worthy episodes, but it is any good? Does the (spoiler alert) demise of her nemesis Kilgrave (David Tennant) at the end of season one mean that Marvel’s sulkiest superhero has lost her mojo? I’ve watched all thirteen episodes over the course of two weeks and I’m sadly going to have to go with – yeah, kinda.
I enjoyed the first season, I really did. I even (this causes me actual physical pain) loved David Tennant as Jessica’s nemesis – the mind-controlling Kilgrave. The noir style was well done, the characters were engaging and Krysten Ritter was spot-on as Jessica, in short, everything worked really well together. Season two however is the complete opposite. The first six episodes are painfully average and the content could have been covered in one maybe two episodes max. The remaining seven episodes are redeemed only by the relationship between Jessica and Alisa (the superb Janet McTeer) and Krysten Ritter’s performance.
It’s almost as if they took a look at what made the first season so good then went ‘fuck it, let’s do the complete opposite!’. We don’t need an antagonist for the hero to beat (yeah you do), we can ditch the noir night shoots for most of the episodes (wtf?), we don’t need to have Jessica investigate any actual cases (still do), also everyone wants to see stuck up self-absorbed Trish relapse into drug addiction then get super-powers like she does in the comics (no, we don’t). Gah.
Even the addition of Janet McTeer as Jessica’s re-animated she-hulk mother didn’t provide the much needed spark. Despite a promising start as Alisa jumps about murdering people to protect the creepy-ass doctor who created her (think the Frankenstein plot but not as clever) she’s relegated to the odd comedy aside and a clunky redemption (really, they happened across a replica of the car crash that nearly killed them both, did they? How convenient). There were some really nice moments between mother and daughter, especially towards the end, but it should have been a side plot, alongside some sort of bad guy to defeat.
Speaking of bad guys, much was made of Kilgrave’s return in this season. In fact he’s only in one episode, and he’s not alive, just a David Tennant-shaped vision taunting Jessica when she’s under pressure. And it’s not even creepy little shit Kilgrave, which we know Tennant can do well, we get comedy ‘end seasons of Doctor Who’ Kilgrave instead. Some subtlety would have been nice.
I’m aware this has been a bit of a negative rant, but that’s only because Jessica Jones was one of my favourite new Marvel characters when season one came out. She’s like my spirit animal (apart from the drinking – doesn’t go well with vomit-phobia, drinking) and I feel a bit let down after watching these latest 13 episodes. Ritter is still fantastic but she really isn’t given anything exciting to do. If they get a third season (not sure about that myself) here’s hoping they either dredge up a decent bad guy for her to fight or (never thought I’d hear myself say this) bring back David Tennant. The show needs him.
Show rating: 4/10 – disppointing lack of coherence and bad guys
NB OCD: 5/10 Trish’s drug habit giving rise to several unpleasant interludes in episodes 5 and 6 and one even commits the heinous act of cutting straight to vomiting WITH NO WARNINGS. Dammit, people. That is NOT ON.
Director: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac
Vomit Incidence: Two – bloody and noisy
After her soldier husband returns from a secret mission near to death a biologist signs up for a dangerous foray into an unstable environmental anomaly hoping to find answers which could save him.
OK, first things first, A LOT has been said about this film only getting a Netflix release in the UK, rather than a cinema one as in the US. So bloody what? Some of us much prefer the comfort of our own sofas and relish the lack of human contact we normally would have to endure on a trip to the cinema. Yay for Netflix I say!
But is it any good? Actually it really is. Not that I was too worried, Alex Garland has a pretty decent track record and Natalie Portman is usually a good indicator of quality material (Thor 2 notwithstanding). The film is part sci-fi, part horror and features all female leads which is fantastic to see, even if one of them seems to have overdosed on mood-stabilisers for some reason.
I can’t divulge too many plot details for fear of spoiling it for you but if you’re of a nervous disposition then you may want to hide behind a cushion when the bear turns up (another benefit of Netflix film releases – can’t really hide behind cushions in the cinema). You also might want to have the headache tablets ready for the end of the film, it is truly beautiful but utterly mind-boggling.
Emetophobes be warned, the vomiting occurs within the first 30 minutes of the film. Watch out for Oscar Isaac after he has a drink of water and the Natalie Portman waking up from her sedation. You have been warned. Also if you’re not a big fan of wiggly viscera and people with half a face, this may not be the ideal movie for you.
Vomiting and migraines aside, this is an imaginative and thoughtful sci-fi movie and the visuals are absolutely stunning. The ending might be a little confusing and leave us with more questions than answers but then sometimes that can be a good thing. More films from Mr Garland please – whatever format they are released in they are first class.
Film rating: 8/10 (loses a point for a slow first 20 minutes)
NB OCD: 5/10 – Vomiting is bad enough but bloody vomit – that’s just plain unnecessary.
Director: Paco Plaza
Starring: Sandra Escacena, Bruna Gonzalez, Claudia Placer, Ivan Chavero
Vomit incidence: One, minor
A teenage girl already charged with looking after her three younger siblings makes life infinitely worse for herself when she attempts to contact her dead father via Ouija board. During a solar eclipse. Duh.
You can probably tell from the above précis that I have seen A LOT of films where someone (usually a teenage girl) thinks that contacting dead people using a glass and some cardboard is a great idea. It honestly never is.
This Spanish horror film, despite the marketing campaign suggesting that people have been so terrified they have had to switch off, really isn’t scary at all. The cast is uniformly excellent (especially the young siblings) and the ideas are solid but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. OK, there’s the solar eclipse angle but, apart from providing some initial spookiness, this is never really explored. Even ‘Sister Death’ the obligatory blind psychic nun (every movie should have one) doesn’t really have much input.
The very minor vomit incidence occurs when the malevolent spirit decides that Veronica shouldn’t be eating meatballs. Sadly this is one of the better scenes so you will either have to steel yourself or miss out. Sorry guys but I survived it, you will too.
I know I’ve been a bit churlish about Veronica in this review but it’s not a bad movie. The spirit is suitably menacing and the actors do a great job of making you care; you really do feel for Veronica by the end. But if you’re looking for a scary movie you’re probably best off watching The Ritual instead. Sorry Vero.
Film rating: 7/10 – lose one point for allowing a four year old with the attention span of a lettuce to draw the all-important protection symbols on the walls.
NB OCD: 2/10 – Unpleasant but endurable tomato sauce regurgitation
Billed as the story of Jim Gordon before Batman, the Gotham TV show has seemingly struggled to gain the buzz of the other DC TV outings such as The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl. As a massive fan of the show I’m going to give you 5 reasons why I consider Gotham to be better than every other DC show around. By the end of this hopefully you’ll all want to p-p-p-p-pick up a Penguin too…
1 – The Casting
I watch a lot of TV shows, I mean A LOT, and I can’t think of one with better casting than Gotham. Cockney kickass Sean Pertwee as Alfred? Perfect. Adorable yet amazingly self-assured David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne/Baby Batman, spot on. The villains too, a major part of the Batman universe and relatively easy to mess up (yes, I’m looking at you Batman Forever) have been note perfect to date.
Of course I can’t conclude this section without mentioning another key section of characters so often effed up in superhero shows but knocking it out of the park in Gotham – the strong female characters. Yes, finally we have some! From Bruce’s catty sweetheart Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) through the S & M stylings of Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) to Jim Gordon’s psychotic ex Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and not forgetting the unkillable (nearly) Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), the girls of Gotham are NOT to be messed with. Well, not unless you like having your body parts removed one by one that is. Bravo ladies.
2 – The Tone
The tone of shows and films set in Gotham over the years has varied somewhat drastically (understatement of the decade). You have the wonderfully camp sixties Batman, the gothic gloom of Burton’s films and the more realistic (Chicago-looking) tone of Nolan’s film versions and the….well… Lego tone of Lego Batman. Our Gotham has sensibly toned down the gothic a little (Arkham Asylum notwithstanding) but kept some of the glorious lunacy of the sixties. It’s difficult not to when you have villains with names like The Riddler, Dr Strange (no, not THAT one) and The Scarecrow running around murdering people.
On the whole though I’d say that the show gets the balance between the darkness and light just about right. There’s a lot of humour which keeps the show from going all Snyder on us. Phew.
3 – The Deaths
There are A LOT of deaths in Gotham. The mortality rate must be through the roof. We’ve had shootings, stabbings, disembowellings, defenestration (look it up), poisoning and, my personal favourite courtesy of Penguin, death by rocket launcher. Of course this is Gotham though, so death isn’t always permanent. It seems to be mainly the villains who get reanimated, much to everyone’s relief in Season 2 when ‘the guy everyone assumed was going to turn into The Joker’, Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) was unduly offed by one of my favourite characters – Theo Galavan. “No!” We all shouted (or I did anyway) until we realised that Hugo Strange was keeping the best villains on ice for later use. Hoorah!
Anyways, it goes without saying that Gotham is not always for the faint-hearted. There’s blood, creeps and good old fashioned murder in pretty much every episode. I love it.
4 – The Penguin
I had to pick my favourite villain for this bit and, although given a close run by Edward Nygma aka The Riddler (the absolutely spectacular Cory Michael Smith), there was only ever one baddie that was going to get a whole section to himself. It had to be the one and only Oswald Cobblepot otherwise known as The Penguin and played to perfection by Robin Lord Taylor. If this show wasn’t called Gotham and it wasn’t about baby Batman and Jim Gordon, it could easily have been called ‘The Rise and Fall, and Rise Again and Another Fall of Oswald Cobblepot”. OK, so it’s not as snappy a title but it’s pretty accurate.
Penguin has been in the show since the beginning and, despite the numerous murders and atrocious acts Batman’s future nemesis has committed he’s still managed to remain a sympathetic character. It’s a testament to Robin Lord Taylor’s performance that this version of Penguin has become my favourite. It’s no mean feat to out-penguin Danny Devito. An honourable mention should also go to Gotham’s hairstylist. Is it just me or does Penguin’s hair reinvent itself every time he does? Loving the season 4 spikes by the way.
5 – The Batman
OK, so I can’t rave on about a show about the evolution of Batman without talking about the (not quite) caped crusader. It’s taken a while (3 whole seasons) and a lot of ‘on the job’ learning (including clones, beatings, broken hearts and batcave discoveries) but our little Bruce Wayne is finally ready to take his first steps into crime fighting at the start of Season 4.
OK, so his mask is a little off (by which I mean crap) and his cape wafting technique needs a little work but he has the ninja skills, the refusal to kill people (Snyder take notes here) and the glowery pouting of The Batman down pat. He’s also gathered that an important part of fighting crime is standing on the edge of tall buildings looking pensive. So what’s missing? Well it’s the Bruce Wayne persona that needs a little work. He’s too bloody nice to people. Bless him. I suspect that will come in time and I, for one, look forward to seeing this in Season 5 (hint hint FOX).
So there you have it, five reasons you should be watching this underrated show. So what are you still doing here? UK people, Season 3 is finally available on Netflix so get watching.*
* I wanted to include a ‘same bat-time’ reference here, but I ran out of brain.
art by @vanguardcomic