His Dark Materials Episode Four Armour Review: Great Character Interactions.

4 and a half stars
Directed by Otto Bathurst, the fourth episode of His Dark Materials “Armour” is definitely the best episode so far, introducing two new central characters that look to be some of the most interesting of the series.
The first of these is Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Joe Tandberg), the iconic armoured bear of the series.
Iorek was definitely the character I remembered the most from the film adaptation so I was excited to see him return.
And he did not disappoint, with the build up to him joining Lyra being perfectly handled, unlike in the film where I remember him joining up the moment he met her.
Tanberg also does a great job voicing the character, giving Iorek’s voice the animalistic feel it should have.
The CGI for the character is likewise fantastic.

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Iorek CGI is perfectly handled, with him not looking out of place at all. 

Lyra eventually convinces Iorek to join their cause by helping him find his missing armour, leading to the memorable scene where he emerges in it, ready to fight the Magisterium’s soldiers.
However, although this scene is great, it does raise a bit of a plot hole about why the soldiers don’t just shoot where Iorek isn’t armoured?
Still, this does not completely ruin the scene.
The second interesting character to be introduced in “Armour” is Lee Scoresby, played in a charismatic performance by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
An airman who exceeds in thievery, Lee’s eventual decision to ally himself with Lyra is just as well built up as Iorek joining her.
Originally coming to Trollesund to find Ioreck, Lee and his daemon Hester (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) have many humorous interactions with Lyra as she misleads him about the Gyptians being after his services.
The moment he realizes this and still manages to convince the Gyptians to hire him and Iorek is comedic cold, and the two joining shows just smart Lyra is in gathering allies.

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Miranda does a great job of portraying both Lee’s comedic and serious side.

Speaking of allies, Farder Coram seems to succeed in gaining the support of the witch he had a child with, Serafina Pekkla.
This leads to a moving performance from James Cosmo as Farder Coram tearfully tells Lyra the story of how he and Serafina lost their child and grew apart as a result.
All of the scenes in Trollesund are great, with amazing character interactions that can also bee seen in the scenes with Mrs Coulter, who is as manipulative as ever.
She manages to turn her demotion around, convincing Cardinal Sturrock (Ian Peck) and Father MacPhail (Will Keen, Dafne Keen’s father) to send her North because she has Lord Asriel.
Not only this but she is allowed to ask the alethiometer a question and asks it who Lyra is, most likely referring to the prophecy surrounding her.
Although, one problem I do have with Coulter’s manipulation is that we never see her force of armored bears capture Asriel.
I heard we don’t see him get caught in the book either but we saw his expeditions in the North researching Dust so I don’t see why we couldn’t have got a scene of his capture.

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Despite not seeing Asriel’s capture, the scene where Coulter manipulates the Cardinal shows how smart she is with Ruth Wilson doing an amazing job.

Coulter’s manipulations also leads to the scene between her and Iofur Raknison, the king of the armoured bears, where she offers him a baptism in exchange for his help.
I have to say, I think the design of Iofur’s armour is excellent, giving him a real menacing presence that kind of makes me wish Ioreck’s armour had got an update from the movie.
So, overall, despite a few minor problems, “Armour” is a fantastic episode of His Dark Materials and my favourite of the four episodes we have got so far.

His Dark Materials Episode Three, The Spies Review: Parental Twist Number Two.

3 and a half stars
The third episode of His Dark Materials “The Spies” is the weakest of the season so far.
Not to say that it is bad but there are just a few things holding it back from the quality of the first two episodes.
For starters, “The Idea of North” ended with the cliffhanger of Lyra and Pan being kidnapped by the Gobblers, only for them to immediately be rescued by the Gyptians at the beginning of “The Spies.”
It kind of made it seem like they had just made a contrived cliffhanger to get viewers to tune in next week, as opposed to doing it naturally by perhaps having the Gyptians finding Lyra after she escapes Mrs Coulter.

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The ending to episode two should have been the Gyptians rescuing Lyra not the Gobblers pointlessly kidnapping her.

Directed by Dawn Shadford, the rest of the episode is pretty good, detailing Lyra’s time with the Gyptians nicely.
In particular, I liked her growing bonds with Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff) and Farder Coram (James Cosmo).
It is from Ma Costa that we get the second parental twist in two episodes that Coulter is Lyra’s mother.
While expected, both because I have seen the movie, and by Coulter’s obvious dodging of the question about Lyra’s mother in the previous episode, I found the explanation of Lyra’s birth to be very interesting.
The backstory of Asriel and Coulter’s affair, leading to Coulter’s husband trying to kill Lyra which forced Asriel to kill him, adds complexity to both characters and their relationship with their daughter.
Not only does it again show how far Asriel is willing to go to protect Lyra, despite his coldness towards her, but it also explains both Coulter’s love and disdain for her.
She loves Lyra because she is her daughter but, on the other hand, she hates a part of her because Lyra’s birth led to the death of her husband and damaged her reputation.
This also shows how cruel the Magisterium is because Ma Costa explains that Coulter’s husband murdering Lyra would have been legal their eyes because of the dishonor to his wife.

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The reveal of Lyra’s mother leads to interesting character revelations about Asriel, Coulter and the Magisterium.

And so, the explanation about Lyra’s parentage and birth is the most interesting part of the episode, even if it is a bit obvious.
The second best scene is easily Tony (Daniel Frogson) and Benjamin (Simon Manyonda) breaking into Coulter’s apartment to find information about the kidnapped children.
Thankfully, Tony escapes but Benjamin is captured, leading to a great cut where Coulter mimics her daemon in her attack pattern on Benjamin.
Before she can get any information out of him, though, Benjamin sacrifices himself by intentionally falling down the elevator to his death.
It is through Lyra’s attempts to figure out what happened to him and Tony that we get the first usage of the alethiometer as she uses it to try and find them.
From this, it looks like the alethimoter will be different from the movie because it does not give the holder visions, like in the adaptation, rather it just points to an image.

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Lyra learns to use the alethimoter quicker than any expert and without books. I wonder if there is a reason she was able to do this or is just because she’s special? It will seem like a reach if she just randomly figured it out.

However, despite learning to use the compass-like object, Lyra is not completely on top of things because Coulter sends soldiers to find her.
It is here that my other problem with the episode comes in because it is a bit ridiculous that the highly trained soldiers with dogs cannot find Lyra or the Gobbler the Gyptians kidnapped.
While this and a few other moments are distracting, the rest of “The Spies” is solid with Boreal continuing his search for Gruman and learning he was from our world rather than his, raising some interesting questions.
Coulter also knows who Lyra is with at the end of the episode because of her spy beetles, which adds more danger for our lead characters.
Overall, “The Spies” is a good episode of His Dark Materials which, while not quite as good as “Lyra’s Jordan” and “The Idea of North,” is still very enjoyable with a lot of character building moments.

His Dark Materials, Episode Two, The Idea of North, Review. Don’t be Molded Lyra.

4 stars
“You must let me mold you” Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter tells Dafne Keen’s Lyra over lunch, serving as the the first of many warnings signs of the possessive and almost psychopathic behavior she displays.
Again, directed by Tom Hooper and written by Jack Thorne, the second episode of His Dark Materials “The Idea of North” focuses on the growing cat and mouse game between Lyra and Mrs Coulter as Lyra slowly comes to realise her true intentions.
Having seen the first adaptation, I knew Coulter would not turn out to be a good person and Wilson does a great job portraying her complex personality and the abusive bond she forms with Lyra.

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Coulter’s friendship with Lyra quickly turns volatile and Lyra refuses to be molded.

Although, Coulter is shown to care for Lyra somewhat as seen by her crying outside of Lyra’s door, however, she is not above hurting Lyra to get her to act the way she want, as seen by her having her daemon attack Pan to hurt Lyra.
Through this it is made clear that if Coulter cannot convince Lyra to be molded then she will do it by force.
This manipulative trait is also made clear through how she acts kind to the abducted children like Roger and Billy (Tyler Howitt), making them believe the letters they write will get to their loved ones, only for her to burn them when she leaves with a satisfied look on her face.
Such a look is also apparent when she tortures Lyra through Pan before accidentally revealing that Lord Asriel is her father, and this reveal does seem to bring a temporary moment of humanity to her, the only moment in the episode that her affection for Lyra seems genuine.
Basically, what I am saying is that Wilson steals the episode with her great performance as the manipulative Coulter.

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Wilson pulls off Coulter’s abusive character perfectly, portraying both viciousness and weakness.

That is not to sell Dafne Keen short, though, because she is also amazing as Lyra slowly coming to the realization of how cruel Coulter is and refusing to be molded.
This results in great scenes like when Lyra throws her knowledge of Dust in Coulter’s face.
However, her big revelation about Coulter being connected to the Gobblers does not come through her own investigation but through a random journalist named Adele (Georgina Campbell) informing her, leading to her escape.
Said journalist is then immediately captured and killed by Carlo Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) when he crushes her daemon in his hand.
Seriously, though, how unlucky is Adele to have a butterfly for a daemon?
All it would take is for someone to accidentally step on it and she’d die.
Talk about bad luck.

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Adele is killed very quickly upon being discovered showing the brutality of the Magisterium. 

As well as killing the journalist, Boreal plays another interesting role in the episode by traveling to another dimension which appears to be our own.
He is looking for the man Asriel claimed had been murdered in the first episode by presenting his head, which Boreal now believes was not him.
Boreal hires someone to track the man down, showing his snake daemon to appease him.
Now that I think about that, though, it is kind of funny how the villains of this series are all telegraphed by their stereotypically evil daemons.
A snake, a bug, a lizard, what’s next a rat?
Anyway, other characters that the episode focuses on are the Gyptians whose hunt for the missing children remains unsuccessful, although they are getting closer.
Sadly, Lyra now looks to be one of the children they have to save because she is kidnapped by the Gobblers at the end of the episode after escaping from Coulter.
All in all, I found “The Idea of North” to be just as good of an episode as the premiere episode, making His Dark Materials look to be another hit show this year, quality wise.

His Dark Materials, Episode One, Lyra’s Jordan Review: Enter the World of Daemons.

4 stars
HBO has put out many amazing shows in 2019 from Chernobyl, to Watchmen, to the final season of Game of Thro-oh wait, no, that last one sucked.
Anyways, while HBO did not make its latest show, merely distributed it, that show, His Dark Materials, looks to be another great one nevertheless.
Based off Philip Pullman’s successful trilogy, the story is set in a world where people’s souls manifest as talking animal companions known as daemons.
If this sounds familiar to you but you have not read Pullman’s novel then you probably recognize it from the earlier movie adaptation, The Golden Compass, which got a less than stellar reception to say the least.

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Will the new His Dark Materials series go on to be as badly received as The Golden Compass or will it be better?

I have only seen this film once when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty good, although, to be fair, I was only nine and I could not tell the difference between a good and bad move to save my life back then.
In any case, even if The Golden Compass really is as bad as I don’t remember it being, His Dark Materials already looks to be miles better than that film adaption, if the first episode “Lyra’s Jordan” is anything to go by.
Directed by Tom Hooper, and written by Jack Thorne just like every other episode will be, the episode mostly follows the titular Lyra at the beginning of her adventure.
Lyra is played by Dafne Keen who I am glad to see is getting more work.
I loved her performance in Logan and I cannot wait to see what she does with the role of Lyra.

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Dafne Keen does a solid job in the first episode of His Dark Materials.

Speaking of the X-Men, James McAvoy is also in the series, playing Lyra’s guardian Lord Asriel.
McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance, especially in an impassioned speech he delivers to his colleagues about Dust to get more funding for his research, which is considered heresy by many.
It is with this and many other moments in the episode that the anti-religious themes of Pullman’s story can be seen.
Along with Keen and McAvoy, another actor to watch out for in this show is Ruth Wilson who plays the sinister Marisa Coulter.
Another thing I enjoyed about “Lyra’s Jordan” is how the daemons are shown to be incorporated into the world.
We get a Gyptian ceremony in the episode, which shows how they celebrate when a daemon settles as a single animal.
Many of the daemons are established from Lyra’s Pan (Kit Connor) and Asriel’s Stelmaria (Helen McCroy).
Then there is the fact that all of these daemons have great CGI.
The downside of this is that they did not have the budget to animate many side characters’ daemons, which are just never acknowledged, but this is better than having a bunch of completely fake looking daemons running around.

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The Daemons are very well animated, blending seamlessly with the actors as can be seen by this shot of Lyra and Pan.

And, as stated, the daemons that are in the episode are incorporated so well that it makes the world feel lived in by them.
However, this has a negative effect on the characters as a Gyptian child is kidnapped after the celebration of his brother’s daemon.
Many Gyptian children are revealed to have been kidnapped by the end of the episode
by the so called Gobblers.
Even children who aren’t Gyptians like Lyra’s friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd) are taken and this is one of the reasons why Lyra departs with Coulter at the end of the episode, with her alethiometer in hand.
Overall, the first episode of His Dark Materials, “Lyra’s Jordan” is a solid start that has me interested to see where the series will go.
Hopefully, this will be liked by fans of Pullman’s novel and not go on to be regarded as another The Golden Compass.

Logan claws its way to the top as one of my favourite movies

5 stars
I know, I know, I’m about 8 months late for this review but I have been wanting to talk about Logan for a while now.
What motivated me to talk about it was the film’s director James Mangold announcing they are currently planning a spin off movie starring X-23, Laura, played by Dafne Keen.
I am very excited about this since I am not only a fan of X-23 and her story but love Logan, with one of my favourite things about it being Dafne Keen’s performance.
So, based on this recent announcement, I have decided to finally review what is, not only one of my favourite films of the year so far, but one of my favourite films ever.
I know this is big talk considering that the film only came out about 8 months ago but I honestly do not feel like I am exaggerating.
I loved Logan from start to finish and it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart after all the years they have played Logan and Charles Xavier.

Logan and Charles

Where do I begin with this movie?
It is odd that the best super hero movies are not actually super hero movies?
The Dark Knight was not a super hero movie, it was a crime thriller.
Similarly Logan is not a super hero movie but a western.
Whenever a super hero is adapted to a different genre outside the norm it usually results in an instant classic, which The Dark Knight and Logan both have in common.
However, (and I know this is a controversial statement) I love Logan more than I loved The Dark Knight.
I can understand why people think The Dark Knight is the better movie but I just disagree with this because I connected with Logan far more than I ever did The Dark Knight.
Let’s start with the main characters.
Each and every one of them are incredible with Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen all giving Oscar worthy performances.
And yes, I said Dafne Keen deserves an Oscar based on her performance.
She may only be 12 years old but that does not change the fact that her performance is on par with Jackman and Stewart’s.
If they had not got the right actor to play Laura then the entire film would have fallen apart so the fact that they not only found the right actor but someone who gave one of the best performances in the film, is nothing shot of extraordinary.
This is why I’m so excited about the recent announcement of an X-23 spin off film being in the works.

Logan (2017) Directed by James Mangold Shown: Dafne Keen

Lets go back to Jackman and Stewart now.
As I said, these two both give Oscar worthy performances, bringing a much darker tone to their characters.
These are not the Logan and Xavier that we know from previous films, these are much darker portrayals.
When we first see them it is very clear so much has happened since we last saw them.
Both are broken down, mirror images of who they used to be and it is so tragic to see them this way.
However, it’s not just them that give noteworthy performances.
Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce and Stephen Merchant’s Caliban are both greatly performed by both actors, with Holbrook’s Pierce coming across as a very charismatic villain and Merchant’s Caliban bringing not only a few rounds of much needed comedy to the film but sympathy as well.
The only character who was not done right was Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice, who was very uninteresting.
I have heard people complain that not only Rice but Pierce and the film’s other villain (who I won’t spoil) were not developed enough.
However, I feel like these people are missing the point.
Logan is not The Dark Knight.
This is an intimate story about family, change and death.
It is not a film about the duality between the hero and the villain.
To have the villains be like the Joker and steal the show would have overshadowed the storytelling and the message would have been lost so it is good that these villains are underdeveloped.
And just because they are underdeveloped does not mean they are bad.
Donald Pierce is an incredibly charismatic villain and is entertaining whenever he is on screen.

Logan Pierce

Also the surprise villain is the perfect foil for Logan and fits in with his story.
The one exception to this, as I said earlier, is Zander Rice but he is one flaw in an otherwise exceptional film.
As I mentioned the themes of the film are family, change and death and these themes are fantastically portrayed.
A common complaint I hear is that the story is too simple but in a lot of instances simple is more.
Look at Mad Max: Fury Road for example.
This movie has the simplest of premises and yet it is one of the greatest action movies ever made.
The same can be said for Logan.
The story may be simple but it needed to be in order to portray the themes I mentioned earlier correctly.
You do not even need to have seen an X-Men film to love Logan.
It not only works as a continuation of the X-Men universe but as its own standalone film.
The film’s R16 rating also works great with the type of story they were trying to tell.
Making Logan a PG film would not have worked well with the film’s darker themes.
What is great about the violence though is that it never feels gratuitous.
Every severed head and cut throat feels earned…. with one exception.

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There is a scene of partial nudity in this film that feels thrown in just because the film had an R16 rating.
It felt like the film’s director was saying “well this movie is R16, we might as well throw some boobies in there!”
However, other than this one short scene, every curse word and use of violence felt earned and not thrown in because of the film’s rating.
As I mentioned earlier, Logan is more of a western than a super hero movie so it only makes sense that Logan’s music is that of a western.
The score is very effective at drawing out emotion as well, whether that emotion being excitement, horror or sadness.
Speaking of sadness, if you do not tear up at least once during this movie then you have no soul.
This movie is incredibly heart breaking and I still tear up watching it, even after multiple viewings.
And that is the main reason I love this movie so much because it made me feel something.
There are a lot of movies that draw emotion out of me but there are so few that make me feel like Logan did.
I felt excitement, fear, horror and, of course, sadness all in one viewing experience that leaves me feeling emotionally drained every time and yet I can’t stop watching it.
Logan is a masterpiece of a movie.
It is an excellent film with thought provoking themes about family, change and death that is filled to the brim with emotion.
The only flaws the movie has is the Rice character and one individual scene where it felt like they were exploiting the film’s R16 rating.
Other than that, Logan is a masterpiece.
And on a side note I also believe it has the best movie trailer of all time as well.
If you have not scene Logan yet, where have you been?
Stop reading this review and go watch it.
You may feel emotionally drained afterwards but you won’t regret it.