iZombie, Season 4 | Ronin | Dragon Age: Origins, "The Brecilian Forest"
A whole lot of action!
TV review - iZombie, Season 4
Season summary: Seattle is now a walled-in city meant to keep its 10,000 zombies from escaping into the rest of America, while the search for enough brains to feed the zombie population continues. (Amazon Prime Video)
What does it say about a show when its best season so far is so utterly different to how the show started that it might as well have been a new show launched? Going from iZombie's first season to this fourth one is quite the huge jump, and it honestly feels more like an X-Men TV series now, with the same premise of a bickering group of outcasts struggling to be accepted by humanity or wanting to go to war with them.
My enjoyment of this fourth season actually makes me appreciate the second and third even less, because if this is where the show was headed from the start - or even just willing to try and get to this point - then it should've done so a lot quicker. Season 1 is its own thing and season 4 is its own thing, with the two seasons in-between making a mess of the transition.
But I did enjoy this season quite a lot, helped immensely by the presence of Isobel (Izabela Vidovic), even if it was just for a few episodes. Her presence, and the impact it had on the main cast, was immense and I was sad to see her leave the show, but she continued to influence events, all the way up to the season finale and what was another high point of the show for as Liv (Rose McIver) makes a huge sacrifice for Clive (Malcom Goodwin) that feels completely earned.
This was also the first season that I felt actually nailed the pacing of the season-long arc, with things feeling like they were always building to something big and, for me, delivering on that set-up. It's a good thing too, because the personal lives of the main characters finally became a little too repetitive. With one season left, I really hope the actors were given better material to work with rather than the split and reconcile act that crops up yet again this time around.
iZombie's fourth season is my favourite so far, but it's so far removed from the original premise of the show that it's even hard to think of it as being the same thing anymore. The characters are still fun too, although their love lives are becoming stale and repetitive - outside of Clive, who gets a lot of time devoted to him this season. Now to hope that this improvement continues for the final season...
Movie review - Ronin
Movie summary: A freelancing former U.S. Intelligence Agent tries to track down a mysterious package that is wanted by the Irish and the Russians. (IMDb)
I remember loving Ronin, but it had been a while and I have to admit that it doesn't quite live up to how I good I imagined it was, even if it is still very good. That's thanks mainly to Robert De Niro as Sam and Jean Reno as Vincent, who make for a great leading pair and always make every scene they're in - which is most of them - that much better.
Saying that, they're so good that they do overshadow the rest of the cast a little. No-one else is poor or even mediocre, but their characters are either not given the chance to be explored in as much depth as Sam and Vincent or the actors just can't match the efforts of the top two. It's something I hadn't noticed before, despite appreciating De Niro and Reno's performances, but really stood out this time.
The reason for that is that it finally sank in how little plot there is: there's a case containing something wanted by the Irish and the Russians, with lots of betrayals and action scenes along the way to the final shootout. I get that you could be easily reductive about a lot of films, but the better ones usually have something more to them to lift them up and I think Ronin is lacking now thanks to technological advances.
By that, I mean the action sequences and, in particular, the car chases. Ronin's are still up near the top of the list, but it does feel like every new great car chase automatically slots in above it thanks to being able to get much closer to the action with a far higher sense of speed - it just doesn't feel as tense as it used to watching the Paris chase here when the camera is so far back and you can see the clear space between the vehicles on the road.
I do think the movie goes on a little too long though, with just one betrayal too many and it really does feel like you could cut about 20 minutes out of Ronin without losing very much at all. Not to spoil too much, but when Stellan Skarsgård's character manages to wriggle his way out of difficulty yet again, it does start feeling like the movie is taking the piss a bit.
Despite all the negativity above, I do want to firmly state that I still enjoyed Ronin and would recommend watching it at least once, if only to see how action sequences have changed over the years - this and Mission: Impossible - Fallout would make a great double bill, if only to contrast and compare the Paris chase sequences. And the fact that it can be compared so closely to such a modern film? Sure sign of just how good it was to watch when originally released in 1998 and for years afterwards.
Ronin remains a very good movie, but it does feel like time has started to catch up with it and it doesn't quite have the same impact it once did. It does feel a little on the long side now, with one twist too many for how slight the story is. De Niro and Reno form a great central pair though, even if they do make everyone else around them feel like they don't quite posses the same depth.
Game play - Dragon Age: Origins, "The Brecilian Forest"
Heading into the greenery of the Brecilian Forest one more time made me realise even more just how far games had come since Dragon Age: Origins was originally released in 2009. While the art direction and layout here is good enough to sell the illusion of being in a forest, it's amazing how thin in the ground the trees and vegetation really is.
It doesn't help that the area is split across two maps for you to explore, rather than one giant area that tends to exist as just another large area in open-world games these days. Plus, there are only certain paths you're allowed to take rather than being free to go where you want, which allows you to discover things at a steady rate, but still feels limiting in comparison to modern games.
Another thing that struck me as weird is that the forest feels a lot like a dungeon thanks to being unable to change your party and needing to head to the Dalish Elf camp at the edge of the forest in order to do so. It makes sense from an in-universe perspective - how would a new party member know where to find you at a random location in the forest compared to an obvious landmark like the camp? - but still feels outdated.
As for the area itself, it's filled with enemies to fight, so you'll get a decent test of your party's combat skills and one encounter will leave you starting a fight with three of your four party members knocked unconscious. Fortunately, I had Wynne as my sole survivor and she quickly brought back the others into the fight, which ended quickly, but that could've been tricky otherwise.
There's not much to do from a character standpoint though, so I'd advise that you make sure to bring characters you don't know that well and you can break up the relentless combat by getting to know them better. Oh, and unless you do head back to the Dalish camp to change your party, make sure you have at least one rogue with decent lock-picking before finishing up and heading for the werewolves' lair...