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Strike Back: Shadow Warfare – when an undercover Section 20 agent is executed in cold blood Scott and Stonebridge set their sights on the killer and his terrorist organization. For this first time, this season pulls out some big names with the likes of Martin Clunes (best death face ever), Dougray Scott, Robson Green, and Rhona Mitra. And when you thought it wouldn’t be possible, everything is EVEN MORE ridiculous, funny, cheesy, trashier and sensational than the previous outings: a sexy Russian agent-babe is introduced in one scene, and literally a having vodka sex (with Scott, obvz) in the next one; a gay transvestite pensioner hard-man starts prison riot; and only Strike Back could have the Real IRA team up with Muslim terrorists and get away with it. This is the first season where the different directors stand out as the opening two episodes have computer-game / John Woo slow-mo vibe, with epic music and everything exploding; the middle six feel more ‘traditional’ action episodes, and the final two play out more like 24 episodes with the focus being on twists and reveals (and some poorly handled shaky cam action). The overall story and structure stick to previous season formulas, but hey, every plot thread in Strike Back is just chasing McGuffins to serve up more action scenes. When things aren’t being blown to shit, the drama stuff is well handled, characters get a bit more time to develop, and the show still isn’t afraid to pull punches or shock the viewers with main cast killings. I’ve pretty much ran out of superlatives and phrases to describe how good Strike Back is because it’s so consistent in delivering five top-drawer action B-movies season after season. The show gives its audience (14-40 year old boys) exactly what they want: action, babes, guns, nudity, explosions, gadgets… and the fact that this rollercoaster series ends with a sex scene says it all really. The tagline for this season is “The world’s not saving itself”; but Strike Back is definitely saving the action TV genre.

Score: 8.5/10

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STRIKE BACK REVIEW 

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STRIKE BACK: PROJECT DAWN REVIEW

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STRIKE BACK: VENGEANCE REVIEW

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Sicario Poster Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Denis Villeneuve

Sicario: a young SWAT member joins a ‘special activities’ task force that may or may not be as legitimate as they first appear. The acting, direction, and visuals are gorgeous and often spellbinding; the characters and plot however… not so much. Very little new ground is covered, particularly with the characters: a naïve by-the-book agent (Blunt), mysterious and dangerous man-with-no-name (del Toro), the charismatic but cynical and amoral team leader (Brolin), questionable American operations, yada yada yada. The central character – who is already an unnecessary audience surrogate – has an even more redundant BFF to more explicitly vocalise her thoughts and attempt to let the dummies at the back know what may be happening (not much is actually revealed until the last 20 minutes). There’s a few nerve-shreddingly intense scenes like the border crossing, tunnel raid, and the last supper; which are paired with bursts of ultra-bleak violence and very graphic gore, which make the movie more grisly – although these felt like they were chasing notoriety, and ‘sexing up’ the otherwise flat tone. The daytime scenes look fantastic, downside being that some of the low-light or night-vision scenes are harder to follow. While Sicario looks fantastic, has the big names, and some dark and memorable scenes it’s far less effective than a straight-up drama like Prisoners: it feels a bit like a Steven Seagal/SWAT plot viewed through another character, and with an arthouse guise – leaving me with the impression that it’s more a film for the critics than the public. Like the pacing, story, shots, and characters, Sicario is intentionally slow and steady.

Score: 5.5/10

Sicario Sunset Silhouette Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Denis Villeneuve

 

The Purge Anarchy Flag Banner Poster Landscape Stars Stripes Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel G., Michael K. Williams

The Purge Anarchy: America remains a prosperous and healthy nation thanks to the continuation of The Purge – a 12-hour window where, once a year, all crime is legal. Instead of a single home invasion this is spread over a metropolitan ‘downtown’ area over several families & plots, which come together in order to form a ‘multi-racial, rich-and-poor misfit bunch fighting against the odds’ scenario – luckily for the gang there’s a gruff anti-hero among them. This leaves the film creeping into more generic survival thriller territory; however what’s lost in immediate plot is compensated for with a more interesting take on the purge itself, seeing the bigger picture with military contractors, organised protection, organised crime, class wars, and flat-out buying poor people to butcher all coming into play here. Retaining its real-world and ‘realistic’ roots really help generate and maintain a sustained sense of threat, and the world is unquestionably dystopian and off-kilter enough to feel creepy throughout – other than the central characters everyone else feels like a dark caricature. Ultimately, The Purge movies work best if you buy into the conceit; for me the concept is brilliant and Anarchy is more ambitious and interesting than the previous purge, but in doing so becomes a little bit more familiar.

Score: 8/10

The Purge Anarchy Group Misfits Punisher Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel G., Michael K. Williams,

Archer Logo - Sterling Malory Archer, H. Jon Benjamin, Lana Kane, Aisha Tyler, Malory Archer, Jessica Walter, comptroller, Cheryl Tunt, Judy Greer, Cyril Figgis, Chris Parnell, Pam PooveyFor those that don’t yet know about this piece of TV gold, Archer is a smart, fantastically written, genuinely funny and raunchy animated adult comedy. It follows the world’s deadliest secret agent, Sterling Archer – a James Bond parody – at his mother’s spy agency ISIS. The show has the advantage of combining two great genres: mixing the world of ‘spy parody’ with ‘workplace comedy’ – and trust me when I say that fans of either genre should be watching this.

Like any other comedy worth it’s salt, there’s a long list of running gags and references that hardened fans will pick up, adding a much deeper appreciation. Here are my favourite gags:

Archer 01 - Cyril Hello1) Cyril’s welcome: Every time the ISIS sex-addict accountant-turned-field-agent Cyril is caught in a compromising situation he lets out the most innocent and child-like ‘Helloooo’. He even gets to say “Olllaaaaaa” when he gets caught in a Mexican quandary.

Archer 02 - Lana Kane YUP NOPE2) Lana’s Yep / Nope: The pronunciation (and frequency) of these two words uttered by Lana are so infectious that they will soon creep in to your everyday vocabulary. By the time season 3 rolls round it’s a full on catchphrase. It’s never a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with her, but an attitude laden YUUUUUUP or NOOOOOOPE.

Archer 03 - Krieger - I'm not a SERIAL Killer

I’m not a serial killer…

3) Krieger: there are too many standout krieger moments to warrant picking one out – his elaborately pimped out vans are ridiculous, he has a manga girlfriend who’s beamed from a projector, and so many grim and sinister ‘scientific’ projects that are always going wrong – he is easily the darkest aspect of the show.

Archer 04 - Do you want ants? Because thats how you get ants - may as well start an ant farm4) Do you want ants? Every time a piece of food is dropped on the ISIS carpet someone makes a remark about getting ants. It starts as a throwaway line, but is mentioned frequently enough to beome an in joke. It’s so ridiculous and out-of-place that it gets you every time – “We might as well just start an ant farm”

Archer 05 - Lana's man yetti shovel scoop cricket bat hands Lana Kane5) Lana’s Hands: Poor Lana. Despite being one of the hottest cartoon ladies ever drawn (is that OK to say?) everyone comments on her man / shovel / yeti / monster / cricket bat hands. Any time she touches someone these are likely to be brought up – even though they look completely normal. Poor Lana, although she doesn’t help herself by using them to death-grip her colleagues.

Archer 06 - Barry Bionic Barry Other Barry6) Archer / Barry rivalry: the relationship between Archer and his nemesis Barry, from ISIS competition ODIN, is so twisted and bitter that it has to be laughed at. Archer has dropped Barry from a great height (twice) and broken up his engagement, to which (Bionic and / or Other) Barry has returned the favours.

Archer 07 - Malory Archer7) Malory Archer: aside from the fact that not even she knows who archers father is (could be one of five men) Malory appears to have slept with almost every male character, from ex-colleagues through to Burt Reynolds. She’s also the, most stubborn, alcoholic and least PC character, continually spouting the most risqué and offence-courting dialogue.

Archer 08 - Passwords Guest8) Passwords: working in IT, this is particularly funny to me because it’s so close to the truth, yet played for laughs in the show. Every password to every database and ‘mainframe’ computer in the whole of ISIS is ‘GUEST’.

Archer 09 - Phone Elaborate Voicemail Prank Ringtone Mullato Butts

BOOM! Birthday Voicemail!

9) Archer’s Phone: a double-header: firstly, he has the most elaborate voicemail pranks you could imagine, some spanning +30 seconds, and usually aimed at his mother. He also has a completely awesome, but totally unexpected ringtone (Mulatto Butts) going off at the most inappropriate moments of his covert operations.

Archer Banner Poster TV ShowOf course, there are dozens of other jokes and smaller characters that keep re-appearing. Archer’s childhood flashbacks, and his obsessions with rampages, Lacrosse, turtlenecks/tactlenecks, significant historical names, and cars. Pam “Shit Snacks” Poovey as the shockingly incompetent, badass and blabermouth HR manager. Cheryl / Carol “You’re not my supervisor!” Tunt as the glue-eating choke fetish secretary. Archer’s life-long live-in male servant Woodhouse, and all of his innuendo & heroin. The ever disabled / able ‘Gay’ Ray Gillett. Brett “gunshot wound” Buckley, ODIN Boss Len Trexler, Nikolai Jakov (Khhheeaadd ov Kay Gee Bee) and so forth. Put all of these individual elements together and you have an unmissable comedy show.