Category Archives: Reviews

Review [sort of]: Vikings

vikings history channelMy partner and I are avid game of thrones fans, but waiting all week has become a drag so, queue; Vikings. A historical drama by the history channel. There is a lot to take away from this series, and maybe a few things that could be left behind. I’m just happy that historical and fantasy fiction is hitting the mainstream.

I won’t give anything away, but I will say that right off the bat, Vikings is slow. Really slow, and seems to be dotted with gratuitous and seemingly unnecessary violence. It feels like very little of the action drives the plot. It does build the characters though, and there are some great ones.

Characters

Ragnar!

I’m not sure if it’s legal to have a Viking inspired show/movie/book without a fella named Ragnar (Travis Fimmel). He’s a mean machine. He basically chops everything and has about as much depth as a mid-summer puddle. Fimmel has a bit of a curse when it comes to being a Viking warlord; HE IS ALWAYS SMILING. We were watching it through and my partner said, ‘I wish he’d wipe that stupid grin off his face.’ He always looks like he’s up to something… Which he is.

Lagertha the Shield Maiden

Played by the babe-genius Katheryn Winnick, Lagertha is Ragnar’s wife and as much a Viking as her husband. I had never heard of a Shield Maiden before I started watching, but I’m glad I did.

While there are few historical accounts of their actual existence, but quite a bit in folklore. I’m sure that in the real world they wouldn’t have been quite as babelicious as Winnick, but we live to dream.

Earl Haraldson

Gabriel Byrne’s smugness and impressive moustache cannot be denied. A true draconian villain with a dark past. The Earl is a fellow who I couldn’t help but feel was entirely incompetent. It’s like he couldn’t make a single right-move. That said, Byrne is great, and the Earl a necessary and interesting villain.

Setting

Absolutely stunning! Gorgeous costumes, beautiful scenery. You really feel like you are in the Viking era. I have a lot of Norwegian friends and this series made me long to return to the Norde. The boats they have constructed are incredible. I don’t know what the budget for this series was but the sheer amount of detail that has gone into just about every aspect of set and costume design is phenomenal. An interview with the costume designer Joan Bergin is available here.

The regular focus on gutting of fish is also very Scandinavian.

Historical Accuracy

Like any historical fiction piece it has its flaws. I have spent a lot of time researching the Viking era and I found it quite true to life. With only a couple of moments where I narrowed my eyes and thought ‘oh no, I don’t think so.’ I would recommend it as a fantasy research tool.

Plot

zzzZZZzzz – It’s been done a million times, and then a million times again. I won’t go into depth obviously but you’ll see what I mean.

I’d recommend any fan of fantasy or historical fiction should check this series out. It is a lot of fun, and truly inspiring for all those fantasy writers out there.

Has anyone seen it? What do you think of it? What’s the deal with Ragnar’s blue eyes?… A wee bit creepy.

Thanks for reading,

Cortez

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Power Rangers Samurai Review

power rangersFrom time to time I get bitten by the critiquing bug, and this time it bit hard as I watched Power Rangers Samurai as I got ready for work… Just because you are a childrens show does not mean you should ignore every aspect of quality production. Writers, directors, actors should be ashamed of themselves.

Acting

The characters in Power Rangers Samurai, are flat at best, invalids at worst. Najee De-Tiege portrayal of The Blue Ranger is not only wooden, but also unrealistic. Lines like “I have no time for snacks while training” and “I have accepted the samurai life” are delivered without feeling or true commitment to the role. De-Tiege’s performance is as appealing as a prune-juice diet… It’s pure diarrhoea. It makes me sick to see a young actor throw his career away on a poor performance.

Special Effects

CG was appauling. The worst I’ve seen in ten years. The robots, otherwise known as zoids have no joints. They run stiff legged and for a some time I was sure I was having an acid flashback. Why a developer would choose to use pyrotechnics over CG special effects i beyond me. But, true to the Power Rangers saga, poorly choreographed action sequences are combined with random sparks and explosions to create a truly appalling atmosphere.

Writing

The dialogue in Power Rangers Samurai was cliche… In fact, it may actually be considered “Retro”. How a writer can produce this script and still sleep at night is beyond me. They need lessons in basic story telling. The plot was predictable and the humour sparse and hammy. It has gotten to the point where the Power Rangers Franchise has given up on building suspense and simply showing stuff. Poo poo, power rangers, you have lost your way.

Costume Design

Costume design is where Samurai really comes into its own. The product of a meth affected concept artist who has watched far too much tentacle porn; the character design was… Interesting. The battle I watched was between a half headed squid monster who summoned a bunch of bondage slaves with chains to rope down the power rangers robot. The costumes where detailed, but destroyed my suspension of disbelief. They stick out, and are quite clearly men in suits and not monsters. Very let down.

Oriental Twist

It should be noted that the power rangers have been given an oriental twist, and now have to write calligraphy to summer their robots (I think). I think this is to compete with the anime market which invaded sometime during 1998 and has well and truly set up shop in the childrens market. That said, I think they’ve taken it a little too literally. Just because kids like a bunch of big eyed fruitcakes fighting each other with tazos, or monsters or… whatever… doesn’t mean they want to see anything that’s remotely Japanese.

The Wrap up

In closing. I feel raped. A kind of sinking shame that I sat through 25 minutes of it. I want to tell someone but I fear being judged. In the twenty years that Power Rangers has been going, with their latest instalment Samurai, they have truly lost their way. On a scale of Cat to Walrus. Walrus being OK, Cat being pretty bad… I rate Power rangers Samurai; Marmot.

…. I am aware this is a children’s show… I’m mucking around.

Fantasy inspired jewellery and art on Etsy:

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Mankind: The story of all of us Review

Documentary? Or entertainment? This series really blurs the lines.

If you can set up your enemy so they think one thing, while you do another thing, you’re going to gain an advantage on the battlefield.

The tactical equivalent of “ice-cream is cold,” and one of the many gems you’re going to come across in Mankind: The story of all of us.

Mankind: the story of all of us
The history channel tells us what I hoped everyone already knew.

If Richard “Mack” Machowicz talks to me like I’m an invalid one more time I’m going to tear his eye out and skull fuck him to death… Or at least I would, if he wasn’t an ex-navy seal, and would do a lot worse to me, if I even suggested it… Which I did… Leave me alone, Rich… I wasn’t aware that the History channel’s demographic were mentally challenged, which his interviews certainly imply, so it leads me to believe they are pandering. Pandering to a broader market of half-wit history buffs who really just want to tell their mates how messed up the Aztecs were.

To kick it off: An unforgiving planet…

Every episode starts by referring to Earth as an unforgiving planet. Wrong. Jupiter is an unforgiving planet, it’s mostly made of wind. Mercury is an unforgiving planet, it’s a million degrees and has the same name as a poison. Earth is the gentle caress of teen love. In the world of planetary alcoholism, Earth is a Bacardi Breezer.  If you were playing some kind of life-building video game and had to select a difficulty between easy and hard – Earth would be below Easy in the “I just like the pictures” category.

Now onto the review.

Cinematography

Has no place in documentaries! I’m just kidding. There’s nothing I love more than a rasping voice played over a bunch of LARPers fulfilling a lifelong dream. Seeing the action is brilliant. But when they take it to the point of slow motion sword swings, and drawn-out-tension-building… Just stop… In one scene they actually said that the chap was about to get his head lopped off, then played it out as if it was the crisis point at the end of a Statham film. I was waiting for the guy to snap the executioners hand in three places then somersault into a waiting helicopter. It didn’t happen, and I knew it wouldn’t. So what’s the point?

The CG was passable in places and laughable in others. All in all, Mankind: The story of all of us, was very unreliable. Sometimes it had me immersed, and other times it jarred me to the point of wondering whether it was a documentary or B-grade cinema.

In the world of documentaries, however, it is brilliant. By far the best I have seen. I particularly liked the their portrayal of Cortez; the sneaky Spanish bastard. So, for cinematography, it gets a solid 4 out of 5, simply because I haven’t seen a history docco done any better.

Content

First of all I think I should note my bitter hatred of historians who imply fact. History is one big detective story, and it pisses me off when theories are stated as anything but. Mankind: The story of all of us, is horrendous in this respect. The content is portrayed in a god-like manner, that insinuates that it is, without a shadow of a doubt; true. But it’s not. Most of the content in this series will change drastically should backward time-travel ever be invented… Shutup Stephen [you smartypants… I’ll take a moment to recommend Into the Universe, a very interesting and entertaining series].

There was a lot of “the greatest blah blah in the world,” “the strongest blah blah in the world.” It gets annoying. But, it is intended to be entertaining (I hope), so I guess that’s what people want, and with the budget I’m guessing, Manking: the story of all of us, had, it needed to make some coin.

All in all, it was interesting. I am not a history buff, but I do know a lot more about a broad range of eras than most, and I didn’t learn much… Sounds smug, but yeah, I knew it all before. One thing that I didn’t know, and had actually researched without avail was how they made metals back in the day. Removed ore from stone, and made steel, etc – Mankind: The story of all of us, answered this for me and I’m very appreciative.

Pros 

Cinematography – For a history documentary, it was awesome.

Entertainment – It was definitely that. Despite feeling like its target market was 14yr old boys, Mankind: The story of all of us, was entertaining… I watched all 12 hours of it after all.

Informative – Most definitely. It covered a lot of material in a relatively short space of time.

Cons

Every commentator – While I have no idea why Brian Williams was there, I’m glad he was. His silky voice made for a much better narrator then the actual narrator. For the most part, I felt like the commentators were pointless figures, put in to substantiate the series. While I’m sure there were a few occasions, I can’t actually remember them contributing anything that could not have simply been said by the narrator… Except Brian Williams, you legend amongst men.

Timeline – The way the series was structured was jarring. One minute they’re talking about crossbows, the next minute they’re firing cannons. I understand that they wanted to illustrate that the invention of a trigger would lead to rifles, but it was still annoying. I would have cut that bullshit out. People know there is a trigger on a gun, they don’t need to be told it.

Entertainment – A lot of the time, I felt they went overboard in trying to make the show entertainment. They tried to add tension to it, like there was a chance we’d actually go extinct……….. I’m not going to illustrate the stupidity in that, because it could actually be done. But, I was never immersed enough to care whether or not they characters lived or died, and knowing they’re dead rendered it pointless.

All in all; I give it 4/5 

It is an ambitious project and I’d say they pulled it off. I spent most of the time watching the 12 part series thinking “this is a wank” but at the end of the day; I watched it. It was interesting, in the same way an action movie is; it’s predictable, but it has pretty colours and loud noises.

For a history buff, it’s entertainment. For someone who doesn’t know Captain Cook from Captain Planet, it would be incredibly informative, and might just hold your attention.

My hat comes off to you, History Channel. While there was a lot that could be improved, it makes me excited about the future of history documentaries… No more will they be a greying old man in a trench coat, prattling on about the rise and fall of nobody cares.

Cortez