Penny Dreadful: The End (Review)


It was always safe to assume that Penny Dreadful was going to end on one hell of a downer and the series did not disappoint. When the end finally came, after Showtime slapped the last two episodes together for the grand finale, it was a crescendo of depression all around. The characters, the viewers and the storyline all bypassed melancholia completely.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives looked one step from dead this season; signposting that things were not going to end well for her and they did not.

The last two episodes, “Perpetual Night” and and “The Blessed Dark” both took place back in London.  Chandler, Sir Malcolm and Kataenay all arrive at the docks to find them swarming with rats.  Heading to the mansion they find Vanessa gone and the building full of vampires.

There is a desperate fight and things look pretty bad for the trio until Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks) wielding a pistol and a knife. After the battle, she cauterizes the bite on Sir Malcolm’s neck and introduces herself to Ethan. 

Cat tells the men of the killing fog and the darkness. She also explains that finding Vanessa is high on her list of priorities as well.

Chandler goes to find Victor Frankenstein,  to treat Sir Malcolm, and at the lab, the doctor (Harry Treadawayinteracts with Lily (Billie Piper) and it does not go well. John Clare (Rory Kinnear) enjoys his family while his son is dying. The youngster coughs up great gouts of blood and soon dies.

Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) tells all the prostitutes to leave as Lily is gone. Justine (Jessica Barden) shoves a knife in Dorian’s chest with no effect. The women all leave in a panic except for the tiny prostitute. She refuses to return to the old life of “being on her knees” and Gray breaks her neck. 

Ethan goes to Victor’s flat and a  little boy  vampire tells offers to lead him to the doctor. Malcolm and Catriona do  a little verbal sparring.  Dr. Seward arrives and joins the “Save Vanessa Ives Party.”

Lily reveals the death of her baby and this sad tale prompts Frankenstein to  release the object of his desire.Ethan is lead into a trap. Dracula speaks with Chandler (repeated the “creatures of the night” line) and the lead vampire threatens Ethan with death.

Victor releases Lily

Dr. Seward takes Malcolm and Cat to question Renfield (Samuel Barnett) and later Seward “regresses” her former secretary to learn where Vanessa is being held. 

Vampires surround Ethan and he battles the ever increasing horde. Morphing into a werewolf Chandler begins killing the things.  Kaetenay arrives and changing into a werewolf also helps his “son”   wreak havoc on the fanged creatures.

In “The Blessed Dark: the Penny Dreadful gang are reunited after Chandler and Kaetenay defeat the vampires. The boy vampire reports to Dracula on the two men’s victory over the vampires he opts to wait on their arrival.

Ethan learns from Kaetenay that the old Apache made him a werewolf and after a short and bitter argument, Chandler accepts his fate and swears to save Vanessa. Seward walks with Renfield in his mind and Lily returns to Dorian to find Justine dead and the prostitutes gone.

Lily learns from Gray that immortality means loneliness  and a lack of passion. She leaves. Victor and Jekyll have words and the Bedlam doctor tells Victor that his father has died and he is now Lord Hyde.

Frankenstein joins forces with Malcolm, Seward and Cat to save Vanessa.

After John Clare’s son dies, he is horrified to learn that his wife wants to have the boy resurrected by Dr. Frankenstein.

Sir Malcolm, Seward, Chandler, Frankenstein, Hartdegen and Kaetenay converge on the slaughter house. Ethan and Kaetenay enter via another entrance and the rest find a room full of rats and eviscerated corpses hanging from the ceiling. The group find Dracula and are surrounded by vampires.

Asking Dracula about his daughter Mina, Sir Malcolm learns she was only a pawn. He tells the rest of the group that they should leave and they refuse. Telling his colleagues that he would proudly die alongside of them, Sir Malcolm starts the  battle.

Sir Malcolm, Victor, Dr. Seward and Catriona all prepare to fight Dracula

In the sewers, Ethan and Kaetenay fight their way to the main group. The two parties join and they clear the room of vampires.  Dracula begins battling the rescuers. Chandler breaks away and finds Vanessa.  The two talk and she explains that it is too late.

Ethan fulfills the prophecy and saves Vanessa by killing her. Dracula, sensing  Vanessa’s death, flees. The fog departs and the sky clears, the “end of days” has finished. John Clare buries his son in the sea and then goes to visit Vanessa’s grave.

Penny Dreadful delivered a splendid, if ultimately depressing, end to its three season run. A far ranging tale that included so many icons  in the world of classic horror. The British specialize in this type of costumed horror. (Anyone who doubts this should look at old Hammer films as proof of their expertise.)

The final fights were brilliantly choreographed and quickly paced. Short and impressive, these were the highlight of the last show in the season. Ultimately  however it was heart breaking that Vanessa Ives had to die. (Although Eva Green must have been relieved to get out of that corpse-like makeup.)

Vanessa Ives looking pale as death

Showtime have wrapped up Penny Dreadful with a funereal tone that feels spot on for the story and its characters.  If you have not seen the finale, stop reading this and head over right now to see the end of this fantastic three season run.


Man Up (2015) Simon Pegg and Lake Bell – A Very British Rom-Com (Review)

Written by Tess Masters (The Love Punch, My Family) and directed by In-betweeners maestro Ben Palmer Man Up is a rom-com of a very British sort, where the filmmakers go back to the make-believe England created so brilliantly by Richard Curtis

Man Up Simon Pegg Lake Bell.

Written by Tess Masters (The Love Punch, My Family) and directed by In-betweeners maestro Ben Palmer Man Up is a rom-com of a very British sort, where the filmmakers go back to the make-believe England created so brilliantly  by Richard Curtis in films like Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Despite perhaps a tad too many homages to previous Pegg films, like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the film does deliver some genuinely brilliant comedic moments.

Rory Kinnear manages to almost steal the film as the creepy, stalker-y former class mate of Bell’s character and Olivia Williams (Sixth Sense, Dollhouse) gives a great cameo performance as the soon-to-be ex of Pegg’s character. There are a number of familiar faces in the film as supporting characters. Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott and Harriet Walker are among the quality performers in the film.

The plot, where a mid 30s singleton female, Nancy (Bell) who is a bit of a wallflower manages to meet Jack (Pegg) a 40 year-old man who was meant to meet a 24 year-old girl on a blind date. As meetings go, this one clicks due to a Hannibal Lector quote from Jack, which Nancy was quoting earlier at the start of the film.

Man Up works for a number of reasons. Firstly, both Bell and Pegg are playing a version of Simon Pegg that exists on screen.  This makes their becoming a couple almost inevitable.  These two people are essentially the same person, their humor and their mind-sets are the same.

The two meet, the result of mistaken identity, at the train station. Jack thinks that Nancy is Jessica, a 24 year-old triathlete, who his mate Tom set up as a blind date. Nancy inadvertently stands in the right spot holding the book Jack expects to see, a DIY book on living.

Despite the need to reach a bit for suspension of disbelief, the film’s set pieces convince.  The “Duran Duran” “Reflex” scene is magic. The couple, arguing on the dance floor, pause dramatically as the opening bars of the song begins. Each takes the position of the “dance” that goes with the song, eyes perfectly straight and focussed. They then begin the dance and continue the disagreement.

Later, in the same club, but at the bar, the drinking scene also resonates with a comic interchange that is perfectly executed.  Flaming cocktails have never been so funny.

The bowling scene, which happens earlier than the dance scene, allows both characters to get increasingly raunchy, uninhibited and fun as they consume more alcohol while playing the game. Bell is cute, funny and sexy as hell as she postures and plays.

Rory Kinnear enters the scene as a clerk at the food stand at the “novelty bowling alley” who has obviously had a thing for Nancy since school.

The film follows the two on their journey to true love and the ending, while silly,  is memorable and damned funny, and will make the viewer tear up a little. The “homages” were a little obtrusive and in some cases that bit too obvious.

For example, when Nancy races Jack back to the classy wine bar/restaurant there is a scene lifted right from the second of the cornetto trilogies, Hot Fuzz.  This is not the only reference to other films in the trilogy, but the whole thing is saved by Bell’s character “strategically puking.” Other instances are not.

Other scenes, which look brilliant, also stretch the realm of believability. The crowd of drunken teens racing the streets of English suburbia in the middle of the night would surely result in police action, but, despite the fact that no one,apparently, notices what looks to be a drunken riot, the scene does work, just.

Man Up succeeds by having two main characters who are quirky, likable, slightly naive and  who love all the right things, for example Silence of the Lambs and “Duran Duran.”  The role of Jack is one that Pegg could play in his sleep, a slight variation on a character he created initially in Spaced. Bell plays the female version of the Pegg character beautifully and this is what makes the film work so well.

Romantically and comedically the film entertains.  (How can any film not be funny when it includes the Bl**job Paradox.) Kinnear helps the proceeds with his creepy/funny classmate  and the rude (“F**k the past!”), yet cheesy ending still works and it sums up the film’s appeal in the final moments before the end credits roll.

Man Up is a four out of five stars, there really were a bit too many “homages” in the film and this did cost the movie a full star. It is airing on Netflix at the moment. Head over and get your Simon Pegg fix and fall in love with Lake Bell, but not before admiring what Kinnear brings to the film.

The Imitation Game Benedict Cumberbatch is Quirky British Hero (Review)

The Imitation Game Benedict Cumberbatch is Quirky British Hero (Review)

The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch as the quirky British war hero Alan Turing is a fascinating film, it strives to be somewhat autobiographical in nature, while it gives a truncated version of Turing’s contribution to the mastering of the Nazi code machine Enigma. The movie also tells of the horrid injustice done to the man who could be called the father of the modern day computer. Alan was a homosexual at a time when it was against the law in England and after the war the man was prosecuted under the Draconian laws of that time and rather than go to prison, Turing opted for chemical castration, aka hormonal treatment. Two years after his conviction the 41 year old secret war hero was found dead from cyanide poisoning.

We Need to Talk About Kevin should be called We Need to Talk…Period

I really enjoyed this film. I had waited eagerly for it to come out in the cinema after watching the teasers and trailers. From the glimpses given us, we the potential audience saw what looked like the making of a mass murderer. The small snippets also gave the impression that Kevin was born damaged. In other words, born bad or evil.First of all I have to take my hat off to the three principal actors here.   Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller all gave a real tour de force in the way of performances. At no time did I not believe fully and totally in their characters. I of course have long loved the acting talents of Ms Swinton. I first became aware of her massive talent when I saw her in Constantine with Keanu Reeves. So honestly I really expect no less than the best from her performance. John C Reilly gave a thoroughly great turn as the father who doesn’t really know what is going on. The real jewel in the crown though, is Ezra Miller as Kevin. This young actor sold it. He has been acting since 2008 and it shows in his masterful performance as the troubled and troubling teen.

Director Lynne Ramsay along with Rory Kinnear did a brilliant job of adapting the book for the screen. In the book everything is told via the mother in letters. By using flash-backs, flash-forwards and present time inter-play they solved the problem of telling a story in a monotonous fashion. And the story is a good ‘un.

Essentially about Kevin, the story shows us his birth, child-hood and all the events that appear to show that he will ultimately turn out bad. He does indeed fulfil our expectations, but rather than believing that Kevin was really bad from the womb, we find that he had a lot of help from mum and dad.

Tilda Swinton as Kevin’s mother is a mixture of post natal depression, passive aggressive anxiety and sullen silence. She fails to bond with Kevin when he is born and never really manages to connect with him in a maternal way. It is almost as though she were the same mental age as Kevin. She at no time takes on the role of “grown-up.” John C. Reilly as Kevin’s dad comes across as one of those “matter-of-fact” dads. He always seems to be on the side of reason and understanding, but only on the most superficial level.

This dysfunctional family then decide to have another child (although decide is probably a bit of a misnomer, it appears to be the result of a drunken love-fest) And of course the entry of another child causes more problems.

Ultimately when the film’s events began to all come together to show what happened on the fateful day, I felt that they didn’t need to talk about Kevin at all. They just needed to talk. No one and I mean no one ever sat down and really spent time talking about anything. Problems were discussed very lightly if at all. The other apparent thing about the film was that Kevin took after mom. Dad placidity was not evident in Kevin’s personality. No, Kevin seemed to have gotten all the “good stuff” from mom’s gene-pool.

All in all this was a powerful film. Disturbing and thought provoking, this is not a film to be taken lightly. So if you are looking for a film that you can set back and eat popcorn and drink fizzy and enjoy, you might want to give it a miss. But if you like a film that makes you think and talk about it long after you’ve seen it? This one hits the mark.

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