Gangs of London S2 review

GoL S1 was one of the best seasons of TV available to watch back in 2020. Sope Dirisu was a revelation as ostensible lead Elliot (paging 007 producers), whilst Gareth Evans’ patented extreme kinetic action elevated every episode in which it featured.

For S2, Evans has stepped away from showrunner to executive producer and this has an inevitable effect.

In his place steps up episodes director Corin Hardy, a man with a keen eye for bloody brutality, which results in more unsettling, gruey ultraviolence than ever before but at the expense of the controlled choreography and coherently captured action scenes that so elevated S1, such as those previously seen in E1 or E5, despite the many attempts featuring numerous characters (Elliot, Luan and Lale, most notably) across this slightly inferior second season.

What is maintained is the unpredictable twisty-turny narrative and Machiavellian character motivations that makes predicting the plot practically impossible as everyGangs and their war dogs vie for control in the power vacuum left by the (apparent) demise of the once all-powerful Wallace family.

It’s compelling TV overall with a consistency of storytelling and performance to it’s eight episodes that makes it an easy show to binge until it ultimately lands in a place that has you hooked for S3, should it come to fruition.

Favourite 2022 TV seasons…

…from a certain point-of-view:

#5
#4
#3
#2
#1

2022 also seen:
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Return to Hogwarts
Cobra Kai S4
After Life S3
Toast of Tinseltown
The Book of Boba Fett S1
Hit-Monkey
Pam & Tommy
Moon Knight  
Pentaverate
Wellington Paranormal S4
Barry S3
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Ms Marvel
Chivalry
I Am Groot
The Newsreader
Discovery S4 
The Resort
Cobra Kai S5
Brassic S4
She-Hulk
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
The Old Man
Save Our Squad with David Beckham
Tales of the Jedi
Blockbuster
Limitless with Chris Hemsworth
The Handmaid’s Tale S5
Strike: Troubled Blood

2022 Started but unfinished:
Gangs of London S2
Willow
Tulsa King (a serious contender for top 5)

No time watchlist:
Minx
House of the Dragon S1
Tokyo Vice
The White Lotus S2
The English
Welcome to Wrexham S1

Favourite 2022 TV episodes…

…from a certain point-of-view:

#5 Barry S3E6 – 71ON
#4 Only Murders in the Building S2E4 – Here’s Looking at You
#3 Andor S1E6 – The Eye
#2 The Book of Boba Fett S1C5 – Return of the Mandalorian
#1 The Handmaid’s Tale S5E7 – No Man’s Land

Other notable 2022 episodes:
Hit-Monkey E8
Peacemaker E5
Wellington Paranormal S4E5
Brassic S4E7
Star Trek: SNW E4

Favourite 2022 UK film releases…

…from a certain point-of-view:

#5
#4
#3
#2
#1

2022 also seen:
The Protégé
The Tender Bar
Fistful of Vengeance
Kimi
The Adam Project
Windfall
Deep Water
Naked Singularity
Boiling Point
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Interceptor
Jurassic World: Dominion
Turning Red
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Spiderhead
Thor: Love and Thunder
The Contractor
All the Old Knives
Ambulance
Lightyear
Bullet Train
The Princess
The Gray Man  
Thirteen Lives
Jackass Forever
Jackass 4.5
Last Seen Alive
Minions: Rise of Gru
Clerks III
Chip n Dale
Samaritan
Scream
Werewolf By Night
X
Uncharted
Beast
Emily the Criminal
Best Sellers
Disenchanted
Morbius
See How They Run
The Lost City
GotG Holiday Special
Falling for Christmas
Moonfall
Knives Out 2
Amsterdam

Invincible Compendium Vol.3 comic review

In the words of Invincible in issue #108 after the latest unforeseeable plot pivot: “Holy fuck.”

It should come as no surprise by now that this comic is completely unpredictable. It also continues to be absolutely addictive, compelling consumption and, once I started, all 1080 pages were devoured faster than the Scourge virus wiped out the majority of the Viltrumite race. Too soon?

Despite this deserved out of this world praise, I did find that this final stretch of storytelling became a little too overreliant on instant retcons, so just as you’re getting used to the newest status quo, it suddenly changes on you by jumping through time or space and continuing apace. It’s a minor niggle but felt like a creative crutch that creator Kirkman relied on far too much, resulting in this probably standing (or should I say flying?) as my least favourite collection amongst the stratospherically highly rated three.

Speaking of criticisms, one of my chief complaints about ICV.2 was its depowering of Eve. Well, it’s safe to say that imbalance has been readdressed here. I love her depiction throughout this compendium and how Kirkman interweaves her maturing story with Mark’s own. She is essentially co-lead throughout this extended arc and the book is better for it.

Ending in as natural a place as you could hope for but also somewhat too soon (in issue #144), I can truly understand why those that were reading along in real time monthly rate this comic so highly. Fifteen years of near unbroken, expanding, complete storytelling. This consistent.

That makes this comic run pretty darn Invincible.

The Handmaid’s Tale S5 review

Intelligent. Challenging. Infuriating. Intoxicating. Beautiful. Compelling.

There really is nothing quite like The Handmaid’s Tale on TV.

S5 takes things full circle and doubles down on the oppressive entitled power of men and complicated relationships between women in Gilead. Even when they’ve escaped from the controlling clutches of the country formerly known as the United States. If you can ever truly escape…

The focus for this season is the June – Serena power dynamic and how both women have been changed by their time under an oppressive dictatorship regime.

I don’t know what the intentions were for the series after season one covered Atwood’s original novel. I’m sure they couldn’t have foreseen the spark that exists between the rightly celebrated Elisabeth Moss and the surprisingly unsung Yvonne Strahovski. She’s every bit as good as Moss here, her performance now consistently elevated in order to match Moss’ own. If you’ve ever watched even a single episode of the show, you know what a compliment that comparison is.

What this culminates in is one of the best episodes of TV this year as June and Serena are forced to work together in order to survive No-Man’s Land between Gilead and Canada unscathed and alive and out of the clutches of those that would wish to do them wrong.

What this episode managed to do was shift your allegiance, once again, for a character and a relationship that you never would have believed possible considering what has come before. It’s log form storytelling of the highest calibre from all involved. With a bastard of a sting in the tail.

It’s also a trick the sixth and final season will have to perform again, if we’re to believe the transcendence of a central oppressive figure into secretly avenging angel as seen in Atwood’s eventual official novel sequel The Testaments and hinted at here. It was hard to stomach upon first reading. Hopefully the show may go some way to make it more believable and palatable?

Either way, I’ll be tuning in to discover how The Handmaid’s Tale reaches its intelligent, challenging, infuriating, intoxicating, beautiful, compelling conclusion.

Ofquality.

Limitless with Chris Hemsworth series review

I’m not sure, I have no empirical evidence, it’s just my supposition, but I assume [unlikely] creator Darren Aronofsky chose the title for his documentary series based on the Limitless looks of protagonist Chris Hemsworth.

The show is much more than this, but if there’s such a thing as too good looking it’s Chris Hemsworth in close-up.

He puts his impossibly handsome features, chiselled physique and on-camera charisma to the test through the six episodes of this show as he overcomes extreme challenges tangentially related to health and fighting the aging process.

He tests his stress levels, his shock resistance, his fasting facility, his core strength, his memory and his acceptance of the inevitable.

Each episode offers the viewer an entertaining hour as he trains for the final challenge, as well as some life skills you can genuinely implement into your own everyday lives: positive self talk, [emergency services] box breathing, final 30 seconds cold shower, short/timed fasts, cardio workout plans, regular sleep patterns, memory testing, etc.

Of course, some [all] are a lot easier if you’re a famous movie star and you can just install a sauna into your family mansion, for instance…

You also get related sideways stories each episode. Early episode interludes are inspirational but these tail off in terms of interest as the series continues as some feel forced to fit the episode themes.

It all appears to come from a pure place as the health-conscious Hemsworth is determined to find the best ways to extend his blessed life alongside his kids and wife for as long as humanly possible.

Despite their celebrity privileged status, this sentiment is easy for all to relate to. It’s Limitless. Just like the depth of blue in Hemsworth’s eyes…

Blockbuster series review

Most first seasons of shows don’t tend to be their best. I find this is especially true of sitcoms.

Take, for example, Parks and Rec. That show takes a season, arguably a season and a half, to truly find itself. Yet, once it does, it transcends its uneven beginning to become something truly sublime and one of the finest series of all-time.

Of course, there are also exceptions to the rule. The Good Place is the one that most obviously comes to mind. It’s arguable that this show had its identity right from its initial high conception and never bettered what it managed to achieve during its initial season.

To the sitcom in question: Blockbuster. Whether it will even get beyond a single season is currently unclear. Does it deserve a chance to develop and grow to prove whether it can progress beyond its middling first ten episodes?

I’d say there’s enough here that there wasn’t in either Space Force (I didn’t return for S2) or The Pentaverate (if there is one, I won’t be returning for S2) to entice me back.

The best thing about Blockbuster, by a country mile, is Melissa Fumero. She elevates every scene she’s in and is a cut above any other performer amongst the otherwise very average ensemble.

Randall Park has been great in his bit parts in MCU offerings, but doesn’t have the charisma or range to lead such a show. It’s partly the performance but it’s also the writing.

Vanessa Ramos is the credited creator and showrunner and she has previous with Fumero having written 20+ episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as well as shop-based sitcom shenanigans having written a similar amount of the long-running Superstore but something hasn’t quite clicked just yet here.

Perhaps, just like the aforementioned P&R, they need to add a new element to the mix to bring this concept to its full potential and make Blockbuster the hit its name suggests?

Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi series review

Visions was aptly named. For better or worse, that animated anthology series showcased a wide range of possible stories – in a range of disparate animated styles – set in the Star Wars galaxy.

Tales of the Jedi is much more in keeping with what has come before from the animated end of the galaxy, showrun as it is by Master Jedi Dave Filoni.

Because of this, I would argue it is much more consistent than Visions without ever hitting a single high (The Ninth Jedi) or low (T0-B1) a mark as the anime show.

Compromised of six short 15-20 minute episodes, despite their brevity these three character-focused chapters from distinct eras in Jedi Dooku and Ahsoka’s life add considerable depth to their characters.

Dooku benefits the most with a complexity of understanding to his fallen Jedi and gradual fall to the Dark Side arc explored and explained in a way that the simplistic Prequel depiction failed to present.

It’s nice to see some returning faces familiar from animated or live-action but I’m not convinced every new piece of Star Wars material needs a Yoda-species character as seems to be the case in our current era and enjoyed the participation of Yaddle the least.

I’m loathe to call this a perfect time-filler show, as despite being compact each story adds genuine gravitas to the Galaxy, but it’s great viewing for when you have some spare few minutes here or there and want something you can pick up and put down as-and-when.

Save Our Squad with David Beckham series review

It’s safe to say this series hit my sweet spot, aiming, as it does, to explore the importance of positive role models for young people and promoting the idea that hard work and commitment is the driving force for success.

Plus, of course, David Beckham.

It’s short, too short really, at only four episodes, so doesn’t require a long investment. The more time you spend with the grassroots Westward squad though, the longer you want the series to last.

This doesn’t break the mould, it’s a classic underdog story and documentary about bringing some Golden(balls) shine to a deprived and disheartened community. 

What it does display is Becks’ natural charm and charisma and innate sense of, I want to say normalcy, at least that’s what comes across in his interactions with the impressionable teens. He’s one of those rare iconic celebrities that has somehow always projected a grounded sense of reality despite his elevated situational status. It’s all here on full display. He genuinely seems to care for these boys, this team, this project.

You’ll be swept up in the football action and want the boys to win because they are so winning. Football is their life and they all want to make it big, but what’s so heartwarming to see is that there’s barely a mention of wealth and fame but dedication to the sport. It’s bred by their inspirational coach, Ade Abayomi, who knows the value his guidance offers after over a decade in the role. He’s inspirational. You’ll have your favourites (Kuro) and the showrunners clearly do too (Rio; Ethan) but you’ll enjoy spending time with each-and-every one and their immediate family.

To borrow a contemporary slang phrase, this show is top bins.