A pot pourri of reviews

Dark Mirror.

Dark Mirror is a series of one-off stories about modern technology, either how it affects us or how it might affect us in the future. Charlie Brooker (sometime Guardian wit) does his best work with political satire (the first and last episodes) and strains himself to get sufficient material for the rest, none of which were worth more than a ten-minute vignette.

Mrs Brown’s Boys (Third Series).

I knew of Mrs Brown’s Boys, but was at a disadvantage, having never seen it before. Once I got to know the characters, I was on a sounder footing with it.

The programme revolves around Mrs Brown and her family, which is not wholly boys, neighbours (well, the slightly dozy Winnie), and friends, with everything shot at home or in the pub. The performances appear to be done live, hence they film through the spontaneous retakes that sometimes interrupt.

I don’t know whether there’s ever been anything else between Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys, but the latter has the same sort of surreal humour as the former. Must see if I can find the first two series sometime.

Witchblade.

I’m trying to recall how it is I read the comic on line many years ago, but I can’t, and I certainly read it long after the TV series (2000) had come and gone.

Sarah Pezzini is united with the Witchblade so that she can go on cut-price adventures in New York, battling supernatural forces, Mr Blond (who may or may not be on her side) and Mr Blond’s minion (or son), who is in love with her.

I’m not surprised the series didn’t last even if Yancy Butler’s alcoholism hadn’t been a contributory factor in its cancellation. It didn’t help turning the second series into a reboot in which Pezzini has visions of the events which happened in the first. Another problem, I think, i that it took itself a bit too seriously. Mr Blond being outed as a cross-dressing Nazi in suspender belt and stockings being leaked on the Internet in some colossal rant about predictive texting on mobile phones might’ve been just the shot it needed.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

This time it’s contemporary satire. Shield has been infiltrated by the NSA Hydra, led by Robert Redford (who also leads Shield). Only Captain America can save the day, but he has to fight the Winter Soldier, who’s actually his old friend, Bucky, who was captured by the Germans and given a metal arm with, strangely enough, a red star on it.

There’s a big fight on some flying battleships, which are reprogrammed to shoot each other down. Oddly enough, where the other two blast each other’s engines to pieces, the third only sustains a minimal amount of damage so that it can crash into a building.

Another competently done action flick in the seemingly endless Marvel series which has plenty of fighting and explosions for Third-World audiences, and a bit of satire for good measure.

Pacific Rim.

Most of the few comments about this which I’d seen on line were dismissive. It’s the live-action version of RahXephon or Neongenesis. One after another, the kaiju have been coming through a wormhole and wrecking havoc on Earth. Humanity responds by building giant mechas which can only be adequately controlled by two people who happen to be compatible. But the construction of a massive wall around the Pacific is seen as the ultimate, but rather wrong answer.

It may not exactly be how the Japanese would do mecha anime, but a lot of the elements are there such as the nitwit scientists who discover that the attacks are a prelude to an invasion or the somewhat shy Japanese girl who wants to be on the team (and gets to be without the unnecessary ado which would be found in the American version).

A film for anime fans, but won’t make a lot of sense to anyone not familiar with this sort of thing.

Lucy.

Lucy has to deliver some blue powder to some Korean gangster (no, I think this one comes from south of the 38th parallel) who then decides to use her as a drug mule by shoving the drug, which is some sort of baby-grow powder, inside her. The bag leaks, and Lucy develops superpowers, eventually turning herself into a computer and transcending time and space.

There were times when the film was reasonably engaging, and times when it was just being overindulgent because it had nothing of consequence to say.

Jupiter Ascending.

A sci-fi faerie tale about a girl called Jupiter Jones who happens to be the reincarnation of the mother of the galaxy’s ruling family, whose various ageing, but eternally young offspring all want to use her or kill her. Don’t worry. She has a space werewolf to protect her. The family’s especially dirty little secret is that they harvest planets inhabited to create the elixir that keeps them perpetually young. Well, there you go – satire on the parasitic consumerism of the tiny minority who have most of the money.

Having started life as a cleaner on Earth, even though Jones may own the whole planet, she goes back to being a cleaner, and she doesn’t quite hate her life so much. So another message – common people, know your place.

Last Knights.

A fantasy romp in which Morgan Freeman is executed for clashing with a corrupt official and Clive Owen pretends to be an alcoholic while secretly plotting his revenge.

Good triumphs. Well, sort of. Good gets massacred and improbably survives a twenty-foot fall off a balcony on to some fairly hard-looking flagstones to give the corrupt official the lumps he richly deserves. But the emperor decides someone needs to be punished because an attack on his officials is an attack on him.

Another of those weird fantasy films where everyone has a different accent.

Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Samuel L. Jackson is some nutjob who wants to kill off a lot of people to save the planet from being destroyed. It sounds like the same sort of weird logic that fuels Intelligent Design. Only the Kingsmen can stop him. Perhaps.

In the meantime, some new recruits are being put through their paces to see which of them can ultimately shoot a dog and become part of this elite band.

At the end of the day, Eggsy thrashes the chief henchman and the villain, saves the world, and snogs a princess before he pops home to give the local bully a smack or so.

If the film had focused on one side (the main plot) or the other (the selection of a new recruit), it might’ve worked a little better even though the two parts were eventually melded together as Eggsy took up where Harry had left off.

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