CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: LEGENDS OF TOMORROW – TURNCOAT

DC's_Legends_of_Tomorrow_title_card

MAIN CAST

Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Chuck)
Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (Edge of Tomorrow)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Dominic Purcell (A Fighting Man)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Suspence)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Randall Batinkoff (As Good As It Gets)

Legends of Tomorrow delivered a Christmas-themed episode in feburary 2017 , making it only about a month-and-a-half late to the party. But when time travel is involved, you can always argue that’s Christmas somewhere (or some-when). “Turncoat” allowed Legends to keep delivering the fun, frantic action it’s been doing so well in season 2, while also going to some pretty dark and dramatic places along the way.Granted, I had my concerns going into this episode. Legends has been particularly strong since returning from its midseason hiatus, and it didn’t seem like reverting to the familiar formula of “The Legends go back in time and protect a famous historical dead dude” didn’t see like the best way of keeping the hot streak alive. And if this episode had focused mainly on the fight to protect George Washington (played by Randall Batinkoff), it probably would have floundered. The show’s portrayal of Washington was about as bland and straightforward as its Ulysses S. Grant from earlier this season. With his penchant for flowery speeches and obsession with military decorum, it’s like he walked straight out of an elementary school history textbook.Fortunately, Washington himself was more or less an afterthought here. The real focus was on the painful reunion between the Legends and their old captain, now rebooted as a nihilistic villain who’d rather trample over history than safeguard it. As fun as it was watching Arthur Darvill play Rip as a cowardly American hippie in recent episodes, it’s even more entertaining watching this new version. Perhaps in part because he doesn’t just come across as a brainwashed tool of the Legion of Doom. There was a real weight to Rip’s words as he reflected on his past self’s willingness to be manipulated by others and his failure to save his own family. While the new Rip may be a product of brainwashing, there’s little denying that he already existed somewhere in the old Rip’s mind. Once again, it’s great to see the writers pushing the character in such new and dramatic directions rather than simply roll him back into the cast as if nothing had changed.Evil Rip helped keep the conflict grounded throughout the episode. There was certainly plenty of the familiar Legends charm to go around. Mick’s narration in the opening credits alone took care of that, to say nothing of Ray’s mad dash through the Waverider’s air ducts or Professor Stein’s hilarious Dr. McCoy homage. But despite the healthy dose of humor, “Turncoat” actually proved to be one of the darker episodes of the season. Sara very nearly died at Rip’s hand. Jax was forced to take over as captain and found himself on the brink of shooting Rip. Professor Stein nearly had a panic attack while trying to save Sara. And while everything generally worked out in the end, there’s no getting around the fact that once again, the Legends allowed another priceless artifact to fall into the Legion’s clutches. This is a team that loses even when they win, and that’s a major source of their appeal.That dark turn definitely worked in Jax’s favor. He’s a character who tends to be used for comic relief or as a foil to Stein, so it was nice to see Jax front-and-center and really dealing with some complicated emotional baggage as he confronted Rip. His game of cat-and-mouse with Rip was nothing if not suspenseful, and his struggle to stop himself from killing his old captain felt very genuine. By the end it was hard not to root for Jax to gun down Rip given the emotional gauntlet he had just been through. Luckily, the writers seemed to know when to ease off the gas and let the darkness recede in favor of some good, old-fashioned Christmas charm. That impromptu celebration helped balance out the otherwise glum conclusion to this week’s conflict, while also reminding us what a tight-knit group the Legend shave become since first banding together to hunt Vandal Savage.It really seems like Legends of Tomorrow can do no wrong lately. Even in an episode that ran the risk of retreating into simpler, more formulaic time travel fare, the show managed to deliver a wildly entertaining adventure that balanced dark character drama, sexual tension and wacky superheroics. The debut of dark Rip Hunter is just one more inspired addition to a show that already has so much working in its favor.

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REVIEW: THE WHITE QUEEN

CAST

Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible 5)
Max Irons (Red riding Hood)
Faye Marsay (Game of Thrones)
Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk)
James Frain (Gotham)
Janet McTeer (Insurgent)
David Oakes (Victoria)
Eleanor Tomlinson (Jack The Giant Slayer)
Juliet Aubrey (Primeval)
Caroline Goodall (Hook)
Freya Mavor (Skins)
Elinor Crawley (Ordinary Lies)
Amanda Hale (Catastrophe)
Veerle Baetens (The Verdict)
Michael Marcus (Lucan)
Michael Maloney (The Young Victoria)
Hugh Mitchell (Nicholas Nickleby)
Rupert Young (Island at War)
Robert Pugh (Love Bite)
Rupert Graves (Fast Girls)
Andrew Gower (Outlander)
Shaun Dooley (Cuffs)
Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow)
Emily Berrington (Humans)

As a history buff I was sceptical about this series but I was also interested to see the story of these historical women who helped shape history as we know it today.  The series is based on the Cousins War series written by Phillipa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl. The Cousins War consists of five books, each focusing on a different woman who has a hand in the battle for the crown of England. The first book is The White Queen focusing on Elizabeth Woodville; the second book is The Red Queen looking at the mother of Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort as she looks to secure her son’s position as a future king. The Lady of the Rivers looks at the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta Woodville, a Burgundian Duchess who marries out of duty before marrying a lowly squire for love. The Kingmaker’s Daughter follows the daughter of Lord Warwick, Anne Neville, and her journey as she is sold as a pawn in her father’s bid for power before finally becoming the Queen of England, wife of Richard III.The series follows the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville; three women who are largely forgotten in history. With its debut it has received mixed reviews; the daily mail found the inconsistencies laughable – the drainpipes in the background; the telegraph believed it left much to be desired on all fronts; however Harry Vennings reviews that “somehow the show succeeds as a historical drama” despite being “unashamedly romantic in it’s approach”.I myself was sceptical but have since jumped on the bandwagon and was hooked. It is the women who are the focus of the show as they plot to stay in power or gain power, or simply to just stay alive, and they are interesting in their own right. The one who stands out from the beginning is Jaquetta Woodville, former confidante of Margaret D’Anjou, who made her first appearance in episode 4. Jaquetta is a very shrewd woman who knows how to take care of herself; the best example is her trial in which Warwick accuses the Lady Rivers of witchcraft and she leaves the kingmaker speechless – I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it is a great scene.The character who grew on me is Anne Neville who was a sweet but naive young girl forced to grow up fast as she is married off to the Lancastrian Prince Edward and heads off to battle in the train of Margaret D’Anjou, even gaining respect from the self proclaimed “Queen Militant” who I found fascinating too. A woman in a man’s world with a husband incapable of remembering what day it is never mind ruling a kingdom; so she takes a stand to secure her son’s crown. When you think about it, would you stand back as someone steals what you believe rightfully belongs to your child? Wouldn’t you at least try to fight for their inheritance? By the end of episode five I had a great respect for the vilified “she wolf” and the kingmaker’s daughter.My least favourite is Margaret Beaufort who seems as if she has some kind of mental disorder the way she walks around talking to God. She is not very likable, but you can understand that she hasn’t had a happy life – she was only twelve when she was married and pregnant with her only child Henry. She was then forced to give him up and marry another man, but her life is devoted to her son and God and she believes that her son is the next King of England, so she becomes determined to see it come true.The series has received a lot of negative reviews, but personally I enjoyed the show. It’s not The Tudors but it isn’t meant to be and I like that it brings the women to the foreground.

REVIEW: ROBIN HOOD (2010)

CAST

Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Max Von Sydow (Minority Report)
William Hurt (The Host)
Mark Strong (John Carter)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Eileen Atkins (Cold Mountain)
Mark Addy (Game of Thrones)
Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow)

In 1199 A.D., Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). A veteran of Richard’s crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. Disillusioned and war-weary, he gives a frank but unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct after the King asks him to answer him honestly. Though the Kings commends him for his honesty Robin and his comrades – archers Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and soldier Little John (Kevin Durand) – find themselves in the stocks.
When the King is slain during an attack on the castle, Robin and his men decide to free themselves and desert. They come across an ambush of the English royal guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), an English knight who has conspired with King Philip of France to assassinate the King. As Godfrey flees Robin attempts to shoot him but only succeeds in wounding Godfrey’s face with an arrow. Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights to return to England. As they depart, Robin promises one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), to return a sword to his father in Nottingham.
As Robin and his men become drunk on the voyage, they awake too late to flee unnoticed and Robin is forced to assume the identity of the slain Loxley and publicly inform the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), who orders harsh new taxes to be collected, dispatching Sir Godfrey to the North to do so – unaware that Godfrey will instead use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.
Robin and his companions head to Nottingham, where Loxley’s elderly and blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), asks him to continue impersonating his son, to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. However, Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), is initially cold toward Robin, but warms to him, when he and his men merrily recover tithed grain for the townsfolk to plant. Godfrey’s actions incite the northern barons, who march to meet King John. Speaking now for Sir Walter, Robin proposes the King agree to a charter of rights to ensure the rights of every Englishman and unite his country. Having realized Godfrey’s deception, and knowing he must meet the French invasion with an army, the King agrees. Meanwhile, the French marauders plunder Nottingham and Godfrey murders Sir Walter. Robin and the northern barons arrive and stop Godfrey’s men.

As the French begin their invasion on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover, Robin leads the now united English army against them. In the midst of the battle, Robin duels with Godfrey, who attempted to kill Marion and flees until Robin finally succeeds in shooting him with an arrow from afar. Philip realizes that his plan to divide England has failed and calls off his invasion. When King John sees the French surrendering to Robin instead of himself, he senses a threat to his power. In London, John reneges on his promise to sign the charter, instead declaring Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) announces the decree as Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham. Marion narrates their new life in the greenwood, noting that they live in equality as they right the many wrongs in the Kingdom of King John.

Helgeland wrote a clever script, showing Medieval ideology and a complex political situation. His previous Medieval film was A Knight’s Tale, which he wrote and directed. But with Robin Hood he seems to have grown up as a writer and gives this film a little more of a complex plot and shows a bigger picture. He also cleverly mixes different aspects about how the legend has changed, like how Robin starting as a commoner and pretends to be a higher ranked man. The film also covers its bases by showing the two sites places that claim to be Robin’s home, Nottingham and Barnsdale. However this film felt like an origins story, a start to a new film series. This is Robin Hood that has not been seen on screen like this before.  Robin Hood is also historically suspect, with events and dates being changed and made up, some ideas and culture also seems to be the victim of artistic license. But Scott knows that storytelling requires character development and show a more balanced picture, particularly with historically set films. At least this film does accept that it is a piece of historical fiction.