LEGION- TV Review

Alright so this show was originally shown back around Feb/April time but I have only just got to watching all of it in just over one week with my wife. I had read and heard so many good things about this show, seen many funny and quirky gifs and clips. Right back then months ago, I did start to watch the first episode but well…life got right in the way. This happens from time to time.

So with LEGION what have we got? This is a show connected to the X-Men comicbook and film series. Not exactly a real spin-off show, but the characters do come from that same place and in future the show may overlap with the films. This is not just the X-Men you already know for small screen pleasure. No, this show and this main character LEGION/David Haller are both very complex, tricky things to understand right away but enjoyably so.

This is not a superhero comicbook show like the Arrow, Flash, Smallville and others. Legion or David is a very sick and confused young man and also a mutant-but he does not know that part right away. He is diagnosed with schizophrenia and in a mental hospital. We meet him when some unusual men in suits come to question him one day. This does not go well. Soon after David is outside, having escaped with a young woman called Sydney (also a patient inside) and he goes with her to join a secret group who say they can help him with himself and the real truth.

From the very start this is a highly unusual quirky, funny, strange show. If you have been becoming bored or tired with the very familiar mutant heroes of the X-Men world, well here we get a much more troubled and difficult character. David narrates his past early in the show but how much of it is the real truth? How much of it is real memory, fantasy or even thoughts from his other personalities?

So while that does seem very challenging to get to grips with there is steady regular humour through the series. It knows that the premise is bizarre and kooky so it gives us that with a sly wink and knowing style. It often pays homage to films such as 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, One Flow Over the Cuckoos Nest and many others. There are regular often hilarious musical sequences cut between the equally very dark and troubling memories and forces show within David and chasing him.

Like the Deadpool movie, this show offers us something much different to the usual superhero action and buff and beautiful perfection all the way. LEGION can almost be uncomfortable at times, as it focuses on personal psychological trauma and mental states. It is based on a comicbook, but like the recent Netflix Marvel shows it can come across as very real and quite powerful emotionally at times.

Will everyone like this show? Possibly not. Will everyone keep track of it, follow the plot and understand it all the way to the end of the series? I’ll be honest there were two or three times at least where I almost lost track and had to stop and mentally go back a little. This is not a simple action adventure run-of-the-mill show like Legends of Tomorrow or Arrow. At times you have to pay really good attention to where the story is with this crazy gem.

Alright so it doesn’t perhaps work all the way right through the series, but really just about. It could simply be that we’re watching a superhero comicbook tale but the villain is not a totally straight forward regular kind of enemy we see in the Marvel or DC movies. David is not exactly a simple nice or likable hero character and so far into the show we almost think it could be that we really don’t like this guy any longer. He new mutant friends are also a damaged and interesting bunch of characters. Some of them not telling the whole truth, some of them scared, confused or angry with him and events around them.

Like I said earlier though it is often a very funny show, but it is a show which balances very well a number of dramatic and emotional styles. The producers and writers obviously had a good deal of courage and faith in this very different comicbook show but it has really worked for them.

If you are a fan of the X-Men films and the Marvel Netflix shows you should really give this a go right now.

 

James E. Parsons is author of two SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century books out now in all good bookshops and online shops. His first horror novel is due late 2017.

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Hemlock Grove:season2 Review

Yes it did take me a while to get down to watching all of season one of this horror show but it has pulled me in and I am heading right on to the very end now.

A few days ago I finished up season two of the show. This is where I try not to drop in any spoilers for those of you yet to watch the show-I’ll try my best. Actually best not read this post until you’re done with season one.

So at the end of the first season a few main characters were killed off, in fact it was surprising just how many continued to be maimed, chopped down, slaughtered in quick succession. There were a few mysteries left to keep us curious and wanting more such as the secret experimental project of doctor Johan and what happened to the baby and where Peter and Roman ended up soon after.

So while the infamous werewolf transformation scene may have been extremely bloody and graphic (plus physically implausible) there was actually very little monster wild wolf action. The focus was mostly on the aftermath of the wolf attacks around town, the tensions between the schools pupils and their suspicions of Roman and Peter, and the tensions between Olivia Godfrey and her brother-in-law Norman. Many secrets to hide while the blood spills and bodies pile up.

With start of the second season and new character in her twenties called Miranda comes to stay with Roman in his new plush house after her car is hit on the near roadside. She soon meets Peter who is working at the car repair place, and they spend time together. Eventually she brings them back together. Peter’s mother Lynda Romancek has been jailed by authorities and so Peter and his cousin Destiny begin to make use of her supernatural gypsy skills and his wolf powers in an attempt to free her. Roman meanwhile finds his own problems as his family history changes him, and his desire for blood makes him desperate.

The two characters of interest in this second season are new girl Miranda, who finds herself trapped  at the home of Roman and curious about what he is hiding and the link with him and Peter. Next we find that Roman’s sister Shelley is alive and on the run, hiding from all and moving in the shadows until she takes refuge in the basement of an abandoned house where a friendly young little boy meets her. Over the season Shelley opens up as a character much more, and she becomes more than the simple vague monster image she had previously been.

There is a shift on tone in this season, and in some ways it works better but only so far. The wicked love triangle of Miranda, Roman and Peter is interesting especially toward the end of the season when all the macabre craziness arrives.

As this show was basically competing with American Horror Story, it wanted to set itself apart with a distinctive style that was not seen in AHS. This is of course the times where Hemlock goes very bizarre and quite Freudian with the horror elements and the family tensions. It remains often very soap opera and camp but this is part of the charm in all honesty.

It is great to see Destiny get a lot more screen time as she really is good fun and could probably even lead her own show. Toward the end of the season it is almost like David Lynch is directing Hammer House of Horrors. It becomes even more ludicrous and funny (intentionally all of the time? This could be debated). You know that this is an over the top macabre and melodramatic show, and if you want just that then that is what you get and it goes up a few more notches.

James E.Parsons is author of the science fiction books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available from amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and other good bookshops internationally. His first horror novel is published in 2017.

Class-Doctor Who spin off series 2016-short review

Are you a huge Whovian? Been watching Doctor Who for decades, years or only just begun recently? What do you like most about the show? Have you seen any of the spin-off related show from over the years such as Sarah Jane Adventures or K-9?

At the end of 2016 we were taken to a familiar school in the world of Who over the years, Coal Hill academy. While there was a break from the Doctor and his own adventures last year, this location and a group of teenage characters came along to keep us entertained.

CLASS does come from the same place as Doctor Who (and even features him at the end of the first episode) but it is quite a surprisingly different show. This may have shocked or actually upset a great many people judging from the very mixed response in the last couple of months since it first aired in the UK on BBC3.

The eight episode series does have a loose story thread but starts with individual tales. This episodes are similar to quite a few Who episodes but edge closer to other sci-fi films and tv shows such as The Twilight Zone, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, X-Files and more. The series had been aired late night on Mondays on BBC1 due to the gore, blood, violence and occasional swearing at times.

A good few loyal Doctor Who fans may have been very surprised, and I know some have just not been impressed or happy with it at all. Why is this? It is really so bad?

Since Doctor Who successfully returned long-term in the mid-00’s and has been on the small screen ever since, the show creators have taken some inspiration and chances with that success at times, with casting, scripts and other projects. One successful early spin-off show which quickly gained a big fanbase was Torchwood. It was connected to Who and came from there but had its own set of characters and stories goin on separately. People loved that show and especially the lead character Captain Jack Harkness and his golden age Hollywood style adventure hero antics and fascinating sexuality. That show though did largely stay in the same area where the whole family could watch it together, all ages.

This probably does not really apply with CLASS. Your very small kids should not see most of this. I mean, its not as excessive as any actual 15 or 18 rated horror films but it does almost get to that level, almost. Some fans therefore may feel this betrayed where it comes from and what it should be coming from the world of Doctor Who.

This isn’t the main issue that most people have had with the show. Usually reactions I’ve read or heard take aim of the low or clichéd quality of the scriptwriting. Some thought the characters were terrible, just really predictable. Others may have commented on the acting.

For me personally, I actually did enjoy the series for most of the time and like a couple of people I know, I think it probably did get better toward the end. Some thought the opposite was true.

Well look, they couldn’t just go and make another Torchwood (though the fans have been waiting for that show to return for years now) and in a way it is like seeing a more naughty, offensive and slightly subversive part of the Doctor Who show where the lead character goes missing and the cameras turn to others around him, but for eight episodes.

I’m over twice the age of the young characters but I could mostly still believe them and understand their lives, even if sometimes maybe too tragic.

Like Doctor Who over the last decade and more it is brave at times to include people and issues relating to our modern times- gay characters, people of ethnic minority background, other countries and not have them simply be ‘joke’ characters but the ones we connect with and invest our interest in. But really the best character is Ms. Quill, who comes from Doctor Who and she acts like he ever rarely does. She is regularly aloof, obnoxious, sarcastic, funny, bored, self-interested even nasty. So then of course this all makes her very watchable and entertaining all the way through. And like the present Doctor at least, she is not young-well, she is probably middle aged at a push. While most of the series looks at each individual young character and their issues while some random wild alien invasion takes place, toward the end Miss Quill is revealed as a very interesting character.

The series comes to a highly dramatic and possibly OTT ending but this does probably leave things open for the show to return. If that will happen is yet to be confirmed. I would like to see the series return and maybe some of the flaws in the scripts and writing could be smoothed out with it next time.

 

James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His SF books Orbital Kin & Minerva Century are available now from Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WHSmith, and other good bookshops. His first horror book is published later in 2017.

 

Black Mirror Series3 Review

From one a week, to all in one weekend. The new series of this modern and often disturbing sci-fi tv series has switched from UK Channel4 over to Netflix. The budget has been increased greatly, the locations, visual effects, soundtrack all bigger this time. But does that make it better?

In the space of just over a couple of years this series has successfully become the modern equivalent of The Twilight Zone of The Outer Limits for modern times. Some episodes have been darkly comic, satirical while others have been almost too terrifying to think about for too long after watching.

Like the previous two mini series, the shows continue to jump ahead from known daily life modern technology such as smart phones, the internet, A.I., social media, online games and more. There are some differences this time, but there are enough familiar things to keep you interested and guessing like before.

Okay, so I really don’t wish to give spoilers and so I’ll try to keep things brief but informative with my casual review of the new series here.

Episode 1-Nosedive

The series starts with a fairly light and humorous episode. This looks at social media and how desperate we might get to gain top marks from friends and others, and what it would mean in society. Things go tragically wrong for the young lady who needs more likes and stars. A good start, reassuring us that the show has not simply gone all ‘Hollywood’.

Episode 2-Playtest

This one doesn’t seem to radical really. It follows a young guy needing some quick cash who signs up to test out a new experiment videogame. Ah, seems a walk in the park at first…safe word stop…stop…stop…! Actually ends up being pretty intense and dramatic. Reminded me of the underrated David Cronenberg movie Existenz.

Episode 3-Shut up and dance

Okay this one is in some ways funny to begin with, seems quite low budget, back to basics but the idea here soon gets very chilling and horrible. Very nasty, very tragic episode.

Episode 4- San Junipero

This is the episode that almost anyone can watch and will find it very sweet, very emotional, nostalgic. If you experienced or grew up in the 1980’s (I was a young kid back then) you will love this one. But as it moves along, this one moves from beautiful, romantic, time-travel (sort of), to bitter, difficult, tragic but philosophical and sombre tale. Very touching.

Episode 5-Men against fire

Much like Call of Duty or a military near future tale with parallels to recent warfare, this may not be the most original episode or best. It reminds me at times of 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Full Metal Jacket- which is not a bad thing. Again, this one ends with a quite nasty and very troubling close but does perhaps make us question what our governments and military may be tempted to do in the name of war or victory.

Episode 6-Hated in the nation

So this final episode is feature length. It is just under one hour and a half. Now, some people have said that this one could have been much shorter, that it dragged on too long possibly. I don’t think I felt it was too long. I did enjoy it, even though it is very much like a crime/detective drama/thriller CSI style show. It considers the dangers of social media in connection with A.I. and almost nano-tech alongside the quick reaction hate mentality of the masses. This one is probably more of a slow-burn longer lasting fear tale, which will stay with us for a while in a different manner to the other episodes.

So has the show changed far too much in the leap over to Netflix, or the way we can in theory watch the entire series in one go rather than one per week as in the past?

Some of that is just how we can watch much television these days on catch-up, but no, thankfully I think this series at least has retained the basic founding idea of what the show is and how it show be. Well done with this one Charlie Brooker, I look forward to more=if I can bare to watch through my fingers…

 

James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century (SF fiction) both available now in paperback, ebook and hardback from all good bookshops internationally.

 

 

DOCTOR WHO: THE WAR ON ZYGONS

So did you see the latest episode of the new Peter Capaldi series of Doctor Who at the weekend? It was the second in a two part tale named ‘The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion’. The classic tall, tentacled blotched and angry alien race returned but this time after a small radical group decided to step up and challenge the human race once again.

The first episode had a few nods toward Invasion of the body snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing besides other paranoid sci-fi thrillers, as it became less clear who were human and who were Zygon. Quickly the agressive Zygon groups made clear their intentions, took hostages and began killing humans without hesitation.

By the second part of the story, things had progressed, with more definitive divisions appearing among Zygons, factions revealed and a situations which was not what all Zygons wanted. Between this Osgood returned to the show, but with a number of surprises as she was central to the tale.

Now, at times genre shows can have episodes which sometimes don’t feel right or comfortable, sometimes offering a very serious or with a tone which is not the usual kind for that show. With shows like Doctor Who, science fiction and fantasy series, they deal in escapism, unreal tales of adventure, things we just don’t see in the real world. Sometimes though, they draw parallels with real world events and issues. At times this works, other times it can just feel very forced.

With this two part Zygon tale, there were some very clear thoughts about war, how we engage in wars and why, why we fear other groups, people, nations. This was a tale about Zygons attacking humans, but we are in a real world with constant, regular bombardments and warnings of ‘terror’, reasons to be afraid, reasons why we should be ready as people and as a nation to defend or attack.

Like certain terror groups we may know from recent years internationally, the Zygons who lead this new attack are gradually revealed to be just a smaller, radical group. So many other Zygons already living among humans in a kind of peace, do not wish to attack or rise in such a way. This can make us think of tensions between East and West internationally.

Many of us may have seen this tale and these parallels as fairly obvious, basic or even crass, but there is also a younger audience watching this great and loved cult sci-fi show.

Already much praise has been put out toward Capaldi and the final scenes around the ‘Osgood Box’, his dialogue about war and terror, fear and peace.

Did this two-part story go too far in making suggestions about terror, modern international war and peace or was it some very well balanced Who scripts, resulting in some honestly very challenging and relevant issues toward the end? Should Doctor Who draw these kinds of links with the modern world or should it keep to wobbly large monsters and Robin Hood adventures?

Do we all go into space? -Science Fiction in tv and film

This is 2015, I’ve just finished writing my new science fiction novel, now I am taking a short break to catch up with films, blogging and more; and now I am just thinking about who we see in many of these films and television shows set out in deep space.

I am sure that casting is better than it has been in the past, we have come far over the last few decades but in some ways I feel that we’re still not seeing a true depiction of the people from all walks of life and culture around us represented on screen.

How often do we see characters of Asian, Eastern background included in science fiction shows or films as part of the main cast of characters? How many lead characters might be gay or LGBT? Does it matter to the show or story?

They should not be pushed in for the sake of it, but they should also not just be omitted because it might be difficult or a challenge to include them easily.

This is something of a regular, increasing topic thankfully I believe, and we are seeing changes and gradual discussion.

Shows like the urban fantasy LOST GIRL include lesbian or bisexual characters, vampire horror drama TRUE BLOOD really explored gender regularly, and new show PENNY DREADFUL has lust and sex involving characters of all sexual orientations. But what about sci-fi?

Science fiction can tend to steer clear of sex and relationships, focusing more on technology, space exploration, alien contact. At times though, alien species in the past have been metaphors for minority races, and racial tensions explored as seen in Star Trek and Alien Nation among other shows.

Often these days some ask about the lack of black actors in big lead roles. Are many just not interested in science fiction work, or does it come down to the writing and casting?

What I might be considering here overall, are thoughts about real potential future space travel and exploration-which countries might explore the known planets around us first or who the successful teams of astronauts might be comprised of and where they may come from?

Are space ship crews and starfleet members always going to be simply American?

CONTINUUM:THE TIME OF HER LIFE (TV SHOW)

I have just spent the last few days catching up with the last few episodes of the third series of this time-travel science fiction series. The final series will be heading our way soon, even after it tried to keep the figures up and has had some very good strong writing and casting over the first three series.

This great show from Canada (the one one in recent times being Lost Girl) has confidently been a show giving us a near future tale set in 2077, where a female patrol officer Kiera gets sent back in time to our present 2015 (or 2012 when the show began) along with a group of fugitive radical criminals who she has to track down in order to return to her family in the future.

With some episodes set in the dystopian future where there are hi-tech police but sinister crime groups, and then mostly the series follows Kiera in our present time as she meets up with tech-genius Alec Sadler when he is still a teenager, and they attempt to trace the radical group in our time.

It has often been a surprisingly good show, and had many moments when it has drawn upon current topical themes and modern events in politics, news and relating to terrorism, the internet, evolving new technology and more. One of the strong points has been the successful use of a well written and well acted female lead character, one who is very intelligent, emotional when needed, and also does kick real ass at times.

One of the other very good elements of the show has been how it has on a number of occasions when they have shown that both the supposed ‘good guy’ characters-Kiera, the present day police force and detectives and news media may at times be doing bad things, and even some of the previously established ‘bad’ characters can do things which then show them to be good people in some ways, which has been intended to reflect our real world and how at times the media can portray figures as simply ‘bad’ or ‘good’ with no other sides to the stories.

So we recently did learn that the show, like many other sci-fi or fantasy shows, is soon to be axed but has after obvious strong audience support been granted a final mini series to close up the story. This is really frustrating as I personally have viewed it as possibly one of the most challenging and engaging current genre shows, brave and confident to sometimes ask viewers to question our world, our lives, how we see the things around us in our present times, and how our views may even possibly greatly affect our future.

While I am still watching the third series (which I believe has finished over in the U.S. now) and it is possibly nearly half way through, it has shown to be continually or even more challenging more than a month in. This could actually be one real reason why the show was dropped-some viewers may have been highly confused with the extreme time jumping and alternate versions of characters from various time-lines suddenly entering the series-which was actually really great and could have happened sooner I now think. Beyong this, it is still pushing the audience, flipping back and forth in time, just when I thought that had all settled down, and there are still mysteries around, various characters waiting to change the rules and get control of the present, tomorrow or both.

It now is reminding me a little of the last Joss Whedon series Dollhouse, which again was cancelled early but regularly challenged the audience and eventually used the early ending date to really twist the tale around and go out with a defiant head held high. As one of the very most topical, provocative and interesting sci-fi shows in recent times, I hope that Continuum can have similar end unless it does find some way to keep going for a while.

ASCENSION-TV SERIES: SPACE RACE MYSTERY…

I have recently finally watched all three feature length episodes of this short new science fiction tv mini series, and now I am looking back over it again. Now there are currently a good number of various science fiction, fantasy and comic-book inspired new television series running, all competing for our attention and viewing figures.
Other series are still running for the usual twelve to twenty or so episodes, but this new bold series was suprisingly set for just three feature length parts. This I only learned late, but actually did add a strong structure and dramatic pace to the show.

The show focuses on a secret unknown space mission which took place in the late 50’s, with all of America never learning about it in any way. The crew and passengers on board this spaceship spent around fifty years there, moving through space with the intention of learning more and seeing more. With a mysterious death at the start of the first episode, the peaceful community of passengers onboard begin encounter dangers they have never seen in all of their time in space.

As the show progresses, there are more mysteries and revelations as we learn more about the reasons for the space mission and just what is taking place onboard. The visual style, direction and budget all impress and give us a very unique modern science fiction show unlike most others in recent times.
The show does start off fairly slow and like a detective mystery in space, but gradually a number of other characters and events show us more, with layers of secrets and lies, tensions and fears challenging all on the spaceship Ascension.
I assume that being a very short mini series, it allowed the makers to hold a larger budget, giving the show a visual style which looks very much like a Hollywood sci-fi movie. It moves along much like a good science fiction novel, with a largely interesting collection of characters and drama. I think it seems to have not really gained the ratings figures that it may have hoped for, but I do think that it has a good number of well written elements, even though some of it may be flawed or needing of editing in parts. By the end of the series, it reminds us in some ways of shows such as The X-Files, Dark Skies, Defiance and others which some topical themes of government cover-ups, corruption, class tensions added into the story. This series may not be what many expected from the early adverts and poster publicity, but it is worth seeing. Could there be another series to follow it up? It may not happen, I hope that we do see where the story could continue.

THE WALKING DEAD:DIFFICULT DEAD…

This very gory splatter filled horror TV series has been on air for a round two years now, with the second series soon ending in the UK. I have to admit that I have not really paid too much interest in the second series so far, as I think that I’ve lost some interest. Now, I do really want to like show with very impressive full-on CG gore, high drama and big scares with classic horror monsters on our screens. This is zombies though, who along with vampires have really reached overload, with zombie themed books, films, comics, games, all over everywhere we look. Does this mean that we’ve become desensitised to their terror now? Are they just boring, when we see them every day, in all directions and forms of entertainment?

I do wish to like this series still, and I want to support high quality genre television which is continuing strongly in most forms. So why have I lost interest with the dead ones? Well, even with the first series it was to some degree, not completely fresh or original but a new experience for television I think. The budget and production values were surprisingly good, and suggested fine things ahead. I came to it late, but then managed to catch it all very quickly on repeat.

Again, like some other genre shows now, some of them are almost blurring into one another, with desperate groups of people evading some terrifying gangs of either zombies, werewolves, vampires or something similar to that. They owe much to the storylines of shows previously such as LOST or HEROES, though not always but with so many genre shows appearing over the last half decade or so with increasing regularity now many are emulating others, showing signs of familiarity

THE WALKING DEAD is actually originally adapted from a fine successful comic book series, written by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard.  I do think that I probably would enjoy a lot and stick with if I began reading it. So I am wondering about the differences between horror in graphic novel/comic book form and horror on the screen in series form-is one better or more successful than the other? Why is that?

Comic readers might have different attitudes or interests than more relaxed television viewers which could mean that the comic version might have different storylines, structure that just might not adapt well to television, but then the TV series can probably display better certain levels of extreme dramatic horror scenes that the comic could only begin to suggest.

I hope it is still doing well, and a third series seem to be appearing too, along with a videogame. It’s the undead, they just keep coming back for you…