CC – Good Morning Call (2016)

‘Hate to Love or Love to Hate?’

With a title like Good Morning Call it is quite hard to gage just what you are in for when it comes to this Japanese drama tv-show, nor are you able to predict both the levels of awe and frustration you feel while you watch. Take what you know western drama shows to be like, and then, forget it completely. To put it lightly, JDramas completely flip the concept of the ‘western’ drama tv-show, and then some. This being the first Japanese drama, or ‘JDrama’, I’ve watched, whatever expectations I had – if any – were definitely blown away in a whirlwind of screaming girls, borderline ridiculous facial expressions, and a protagonist pair which I honestly hated to love. Setting this aside, Good Morning Call (2016) brings you a selection of fascinating characters in a situation which seems to go from bad, to worse, to unbelievable…with a side of solid humour, but hey, that is this part of the genre.

Meet Nao (Fukuhara Haruka), high school girl, just moved out of home to live closer to her new school, and hopelessly in love with one of the ‘top three’ Uehara (Shiraishi Shun’ya) – the ‘top three’, we soon discover, are the three most popular and handsome guys in the school, one for each year. Uehara has just moved out in order to live alone, away from his older brother and his fiancé. It is here that things start getting crazy: one rental agreement fraud, a suspiciously smug looking elderly realestate agent, and a reluctant decision made by two almost strangers later…Uehara and Nao are living together. This turn of events leads way to not only the slowest burning love story between two teenagers, but also to the introduction to a character who makes you question why Nao likes him at all. It doesn’t take long though before Nao finds herself almost hating her new housemate, and you finding yourself wanting the secondary love interests to ‘get the girl’, even though you know there is no way they will.

After finding at watching some other JDramas as well, (one, Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo (2013) is very similar in premise), it is easy to see this plot line as a popular trope. This is understandably so, you can’t help but get sucked into the series of endless mistakes being made by Nao in her persute or Uehara, or even get on board with the cycle of rejection her childhood friend Daichi (Sakurada Dôri) endures at the hands of his unrequited love for Nao. It is here you realise you beginning to not really like Uehara at all, as the main love interest he is surprisingly standoffish, quick tempered, and in some cases just plain rude, redeemed only – in the eyes of Nao – by his handsome face and popularity. Daichi, on the other hand, is doting, kind, and for one he actually likes her. So while you know that Uehara will always have Nao’s attention, you can’t help but sympathise with Daichi, and even after just one episode, you can tell this will be a somewhat frustrating show to watch.

Yet, somehow, you still want to know more…

After just one episode with a love sick female lead, and an almost unlikeable love interest you can see there is still a certain charm to the show which you don’t see in ‘western’ drama shows, and it is this which draws you in. You’d expect the main character to be likeable, tolerable even, but Nao – though sweet and good intentioned – is completely oblivious to the feelings of those around her in her persuit of Uehara, and you find yourself endlessly frustrated by her antics. Uehara on the other hand isn’t much better, as a love interest he is almost unreachable, and increasingly more rude as time goes on, even if it is provoked by Nao’s occasional stupidity. It is here you find yourself completely invested in the fate of the side characters: Daichi and his love for Nao, her two similarly clueless best friends, and the guy who works at the Ramen Café. Not many shows could manage to hold an audience with such a frustratingly unlikeable main pair, yet Good Morning Call (2016) has cleverly collated humour, charm, loveable side characters, and the pull of such a ridiculous premise to keep you watching.

CC – Better Call Saul: ‘Uno’

img_0940‘An Origin Story for the Origin Story’

The silence is agonising; broken only by the ticking of the courtroom clock, the shuffling of papers, and the impatient click of a pen. It’s easy to tell they’re waiting for someone, by the time over a minute has passed, you feel like you’ve been waiting just as long as they have. An officer of the court finally leaves the courtroom to collect the mysterious ‘someone’, it is only now that a voice breaks the silence saying this:

Think back…your brain…it’s just not all there yet. Uhh…if we were all held responsible when we were nineteen- I remember what it was like to be a kid. Think back.” – James ‘Jimmy’ McGill

As with the both introductions of James ‘Jimmy’ McGill/Saul Goodman at the beginning of this pilot episode of Better Call Saul (2015), the first thing you become familiar with in terms of his character is his voice. The first, through the unseen ‘Better Call Saul’ commercials which introduce a character with a very big presence, a stark contrast to that of the Saul we see on screen. The second, is paired with the shadow of the speaker, Jimmy McGill on the wall of the bathroom, arms outstretched in an almost exuberant gesture. From those two quite similar introductions you get to see both the Jimmy McGill of the present, and the future embodiment of that same man, Saul Goodman. This choice in scene sequence for the first ten minutes of the show not only sets up the bold character for this series but also instils curiosity within the viewer. Leaving them with a sense of wanting to know more about how this character manages to end up in such a state that his old work advertisements would bring him to tears.

As a pilot episode, ‘Uno’ sets up a trajectory which both the plot, and main character will follow for the remainder of the series. It sets up the tone, theme and motive of both major and minor characters for the rest of the series with ease while not completely giving away the main plot. As events seemingly go from bad to worse, climaxing at the end of the episode as Jimmy has a gun held to his face and is steered inside a stranger’s house, you can easily tell just how this show simply won’t be just another criminal law show, whether you know the origins of this show or not. It isn’t just Jimmy as a main character though who makes this pilot episode so rich in terms of storytelling. The choices made by writer and director Vince Gilligan in terms of the overall design of the episode, take a much more ‘show rather than tell’ technique which, interestingly, is quite far apart from the direct storytelling methods used by our criminal lawyer protagonist in his day to day life. This not only enables for small scenes to tell a much larger story than that which could be said in words, but also in this way highlights both the benefits and constrictions narrative can have on the message one is trying to get across. In terms of Better Call Saul (2015), as a criminal defence lawyer Jimmy becomes a story teller, trying to convince the jury of his clients’ innocence or even in the act of trying to pick up more clients.

It is here that it is easy to see the importance of the connection between the introduction of Jimmy first in voice then in face, and that of his profession as a criminal defence lawyer. It is all in the story which Jimmy tells each time he takes on a client which determines his livelihood. As the episode progresses and you see just how much his work means to him versus how much he is actually getting back from it, you begin to sympathise with this character. So, whether you get caught up in the strong, and almost cliff hanger styled ending or the carefully compiled humour in the show, it will always come back to the complexity and strength of character of Jimmy McGill to keep you interested. This is a clever technique as Jimmy originated as a well-loved minor character in Breaking Bad (2008), the show which Better Call Saul (2015) is the spinoff of. As without Jimmy, there would be no Better Call Saul (2015) at all.

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E12 ‘The Doctor Falls’


So, half a bag of salted caramel popcorn, one glass of icy water, and a mug of hot tea later I managed to compose myself enough to write this review of the Doctor Who Series 10 finale ‘The Doctor Falls’ (more like ‘the waterfalls of Anna’s tears’).

“I do what I do because it’s right. Because it’s decent. And above all it is kind, it’s just that. Just kind.”

Woah. Just, woah. I didn’t think it was possible to fit that many different emotions into one episode of Doctor Who but it is – albeit it was an hour long special. It most definitely is, and I was not prepared. We start this episode panning across idyllic green fields dotted with what look like scarecrows, but on closer inspection you can see that they are in fact ‘early stages’ Mondasian Cybermen. Soon we see a horse drawn cart filled with chattering children roll up outside a large cottage. Here one of the children looks up to the clear blue sky, a look of worry on her face, the numbers in the sky clearly read ‘507’, the spaceship’s floor number. All, it seems, is not well. By nightfall my feelings are confirmed, as rogue Cyberman come to collect the children for upgrading, but in a surprisingly, and possibly even comical fashion, the farmers fight them off with shotguns. By morning the Cybermen have been strung up as scarecrows in the fields, and the village is back to its peaceful state. That is until a spaceship crashes through the floor and falls back to earth in a cloud of dust. As the dust and smoke clears a bulky figure appears: a Mondasian Cyberman steps forward cradling a lifeless Doctor in its arms.

Cue opening titles, as well as much stress on my part.

As if the team being stuck on a Mondasian Cybermen production/colony ship, Bill being turned into a Cyberman, and there being two incarnations of the Doctor’s old foe the Master hanging around wasn’t bad enough. Add these two incarnations of the same evil mastermind working together and you’ll have a solid recipe for chaos, and apparently, some excellent time transcending banter. The Doctor – though now in a wheelchair due to some previous injury inflicted by Missy and the Master – is having none of it. He sits through the pair waltzing together on the rooftop of the hospital, as well as enduring their baiting talk of Bill’s death and their pride in the Cyber Foundries on Level 1056. All the while he is waiting for his fail-safe to kick in. It does so, bringing all the Cybermen coming to their location after he managed to change one piece of data in their system to search not only for single hearted-humans but two-hearted Timelords as well. At this point, though, the Doctor is basically very definition of smug.

“You two, you should know by now, when you’re winning, and I’m in the room, you’re missing something.”

The Doctor’s smug demeanor is short lived as he promptly gets electrocuted by one of the rogue Cybermen, much to the amusement of both incarnations of the Master. Just before the Master, Missy, and Nardole leave in a space shuttle to a lower level he is saved by Cyberman Bill, but only just. At this point we’ve come full circle with what we now know to be Cyberman Bill carrying the Doctor away from the burning shuttle. We spend the rest of the episode trying to save the town, and thus from here on in things go from bad to worse, to even worse, and then, of course, we are left with an almost happy ending.

As far as series finals go, this one has everything. Not only does it pit the Doctor against a single classic villain, but he faces off against two! One of which has two incarnations present, which makes everything more interesting. Including a scene where both Missy and the Master quite literally stab each other in the back only to laugh manically at the hilarity of the situation. In all honesty, it was one of my favourite parts of the episode, and a fitting ending for such a long running character on Doctor Who.

For Bill, all hope wasn’t lost – quite literally – as in this episode, “tears are hope”. Remember Heather from episode one? Beautiful Heather who stole Bill’s heart? Well she found Bill again, to save her, and though I hoped to see more of Bill in future episodes, I couldn’t be happier with her ending. Who doesn’t want immortal lesbian aliens traveling together? Probably quite a few, but I honestly can’t think of anything better for Bill. It is here though that we return to the Doctor’s fate as foretold in part one of this story. In all honesty, I was ready to pack my bags and leave this show for dust if Stephen Moffat (Writer and Producer) were to spring a surprise early regeneration on us. Thankfully, I’m still sitting here, but I have a feeling that whatever happens to the Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas Special this year, it won’t be good.

Overall, I am all cried out, and in need of more tea and a good night’s sleep. The series finale this year went beyond expectations and really blew me away, I am honestly finding it difficult to find too much fault in it, other than maybe the actual plot of this two-part story. Though it worked well to tie together loose strands of story and connect episode 1 to episode 12, the whole ‘make Missy good’ idea let it down a little, even if that particular plan of the Doctor’s didn’t work. The Master/Missy duo however, absolutely shone! This series of Doctor Who definitely delivered in part, as some episodes were a little lacklustre, but all in all Series 10 has been a blast! I definitely have a soft spot for Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor, and as for Bill, I absolutely loved her!

Rating: 9/10

I’ve linked my other reviews of Doctor Who series 10 below if you haven’t read the others and are interested in having a look at those too!

Enjoy your week,
Anna 🙂

Doctor Who Series 10 Reviews:

TV Review: Doctor Who S10E11 ‘World and Enough Time’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“Well, I am that mysterious adventurer in all of time and space known only as Doctor Who, and these are my disposables – Exposition and Comedy Relief.”

So, the Doctor Who series final time is upon us and they really started us off with a solid first half to this two-part finale. Albeit a little confusing and/or emotional, depending on whether this is your first time watch or if you’re a seasoned Whovian. The episode opens on the TARDIS materialising in a thick layer of snow surrounded by mountains, which would be fine if the Doctor didn’t step out only to collapse to his knees in the snow. If possible, he looks older, and his hair is much longer, or at least much messier than we have ever seen it this series. None of this spells for a good outcome to this series, especially as his hands and face start to glow with regeneration energy (Timelords have the ability to change their body when death is imminent). As the opening credits roll for the second time this series, dread is among my other not so positive emotions which follow me into the rest of the episode.

Moving away completely from the first scenes of the episode, we are back in space. A large cylindrical spaceship is suspended in space, one end pointing directly into a massive Black Hole. To top it all off, once the TARDIS materialises within this spaceship, it is not the Doctor who steps out of those doors, it is Missy. Yes, Missy, villainous Timelord who has been locked away in the vault for most of this series for various crimes. She is followed by her “plucky assistants, Thing One and the Other One”, Bill and Nardole respectively. She claims to have followed the distress call of that particular space ship hovering before the Black Hole, it is seconds before a siren blares though the speakers, and any humour in Missy’s words suddenly dissipates. It is here however that we discover the Doctor is in fact sitting, feet up on the TARDIS console monitoring the situation as a test for Missy. Flashbacks to before the spaceship confirm that the Doctor thinks he can turn Missy ‘good’. At this point, to only make matters worse, a panicked, blue skinned man runs into the room and demands to know if anyone in the room is human. Everyone is too shocked to answer so he pulls out an alien looking gun and repeats the question.

“Are any of you Human? … One of you must be human! They only come up if they detect human life-signs! … They take them away.”

As the Doctor hears this he intervenes, and for a moment it looks like he’s going to tell the man that he is the human one, before Bill speaks up first, and his face falls. Almost instantly, the man points his gun on Bill and the Doctor goes into panic mode while trying to talk the man out of shooting his friend. Then as the lift holding the mysterious intruders reaches their floor and pings to notify they have arrived, the man shoots. The camera pans down to show a gaping hole in Bill’s chest, and then as she falls to the ground the ‘Intruders’ walk in. Telling them to stand away and that Bill will be repaired. This is all well and good, but the mechanical voices are very recognisable though at this point, with the creatures still looking relatively humanoid, the Doctor doesn’t quite make the connection to what they are. As Bill is taken away, the Doctor leaves a message in her head that he will save her and to wait for him. This however, is easier said than done, as time moves slower at the end of the spaceship closer to the Black Hole, so the few minutes conversation the Doctor has with the group before going to get Bill, marks weeks for Bill in what can only be described as the hospital from hell.

I have serious mixed feelings about this episode. Though one level it has been very cleverly written so to slowly introduce the big bad for the final two episodes this series. For those who don’t follow the Doctor Who hype but have background knowledge about the show, the creatures would be still easily recognisable. Plus, there is nothing creepier than a dark hospital where the faceless patients can only speak through an automated voice. Especially when they only say things like ‘pain’ or ‘kill…me”. On the other hand the ‘death’ of Bill is something which I can’t get behind in any way, even though it drives the plot of the episode. Her ‘death’, and what happens as a result at the end of the episode, honestly turned me into a sobbing mess, something which my family questioned wholeheartedly. You can’t spend eleven episodes with such a great character and not feel something. Especially when the Doctor’s reaction is so heartbreaking. In addition, the aim to try and make Missy ‘good’ is a near impossible plan if you ask me – there is no way that Missy could ever be completely good. She may do a good deed, but that doesn’t make her ‘good’.

Overall, this episode is something which though cleverly plotted, and extremely creepy, has much to be criticised. Only if in terms of a characters wasted potential. I highly doubt this is going to be the last we see of Bill, it’s Doctor Who, they always find a way, but there is no ignoring the fact that as a character Bill has not been treated kindly this episode. The reintroduction of both a classic monster, and an old foe will make for an interesting last episode this series. I am interested to see how the last episode of this series unfolds.

Rating: 8.5/10





TV Review: Doctor Who S10E10 ‘The Eaters of Light’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

“That’s the trouble with hope. It’s hard to resist.”

This week the Doctor takes Bill and Nardole to Scotland to discover the truth about what happened to the Ninth Legion Roman soldiers. As according to the Doctor, “she [Bill] thinks she knows more about Romans than me”, which in his eyes is completely ludicrous. So in true character the Doctor sets out to prove he knows more, and thus win the bet. As it turns out, neither of them know as much as they think they do, yet neither are completely right or wrong. This was honestly to be expected (even the Doctor can’t know everything – otherwise he wouldn’t keep traveling). So now, our TARDIS crew start this journey divided: Bill heading towards the river to check for the legion trying to leave, and declaring that she would bring back the Doctor a Roman Centurion; While the Doctor and Nardole go in search of the legion’s last battlefield.

Bill soon comes across one of the locals who is quick to simply turn on her and chase her through the woods. It’s not long before Bill falls down a concealed hole in the ground, twice over the space of two consecutive episodes, is this becoming a habit? Only she is oddly surprised to be met with the tip of a sword, even though a Roman soldier is exactly what she was looking for. In the meantime, the Doctor and Nardole are wandering the Scottish moors in search of the battlefield, and unsurprisingly, are at this point rather unsuccessful. They do, however, come across talking crows (something I am still piecing together, as honestly, I still can’t see what they really added to the story). Leaving the talking crows behind, the pair continue to walk only to be ambushed by a group of young locals and, of course, captured. This “time wasting’ ordeal leads to the Doctor losing his patience, but in his rather dramatic terms, “Does everyone hear that [silence]. Do you know what that sound was? That’s the sound of my patience, shattering!”. Marking the first of the Doctor’s ‘perfect’ moments this episode.

Mirrored, is Bill’s much more, well, relaxed situation with the Roman Centurion, for now. Deciding to now find the Doctor, Bill leads her new friend into the woods only to be attacked by something which at first looks like a glowing ‘land octopus’, alien type thing before they reach safer ground until daylight. Eventually Bill finds the rest of the eight remaining of the Ninth Legion, but not without losing her new friend to the monster. It’s not long before the Doctor and Bill meet up again, but this also means a meeting of the locals and the Romans. This goes as smoothly as you would think. With one group previously out to destroy the other, and those victims of the slaughter rightly hating them for it. As far as well-made plans, this one is a near disaster, or even, some would say a lost cause. Here is where the Doctor comes into his own, uniting the enemy against a common cause. Which in this case, is an alien which devours light to survive.

If anything, this episodes star moment, was the Doctor’s speech to the opposing sides, trying to convince them to unite against the alien which would surely spell the end of them all. Made better only by Bill starting the conversation, not over the immediate problem though, but discussing language. The one thing, which because of the TARDIS translators, is common between all parties. Asking the question that if they now all sound the same, what do they sound like? Answer, “we sound like children”. Through his speech, the Doctor basically asks them all to grow up and start fighting the right battles, as here, everyone has done some sort of wrong. By the end of the speech it is easy to hear the self-projection the Doctor is imposing on their current situation. The seemingly cowardly warriors, all trying to save themselves and those they love. All in all, it is another powerful performance from both Peter Capaldi (the Doctor) and Perl Mackie (Bill). You can’t help but get completely caught up in the emotion of the situation when either of them start to speak.

Overall this episode, was carried mostly by the writing of the script, as well as the stellar use of each character’s unique personalities to fuel the plot. My only fault would be in the actual story line and monster of the week, the latter of which lacking the motive and the fear factor it really needed. Other than that, this episode had the perfect combination of lots of great banter, interesting side characters, and excellent moving speeches. A really enjoyable episode, and definitely a contender to be one of my favourites this series.

Rating: 8/10