American Horror Story

American-Horror-Story-logo-wide-560x282I was a bit late getting on board with American Horror Story, not because I didn’t want to watch it but because I just have so much stuff to watch, but a few weeks ago I got to the end of its second season. From the creators of Glee (I know, right, wtf?) AHS has taken the form of an anthology series meaning that each season it’s own premise, storyline and characters, although some of the actors remain in the cast. Season one which has since been named ‘Murder House’ told the story of a family as they move into a new house with a strange recurring history of murders. And season two which is named ‘Asylum’ takes us on a journey through a mental asylum mainly set in 1964. It’s been a hit show for FX and its ratings have been solid throughout with a third season titled ‘Coven’ due to air from October.

From the off AHS throws everything its got it. In both seasons you are bombarded with different horror conventions with the show having used about every well-known element of the genre within it’s first episode. What I found with both seasons is that while their first halves were incredibly intriguing hurling a huge amount of action at you and setting up some complex mysteries that need to be solved as they go on the scare factor drops drastically as the writers are rushing for an explanation for everything that’s happened and neither season has a very satisfactory summary. Particularly in Asylum which I found left a large amount of questions unanswered. In Murder House everything is explained, from what I can remember, but it’s explanation is really just a bit of a cop out making the whole mystery of the season seem like not much of a mystery in the first place. Despite this there’s still something keeping me involved with the show, I’ll definitely be watching season three as it comes out and I think the reason is that this whole premise is brimming with potential. While its story arcs are somewhat lacking in intelligence there is a lot AHS does right. One of the best factors of the show is its casting with the recurring cast members, particularly Zachary Quinto, Jessica Lange and Evan Peters who play lead characters in both seasons, delivering fantastic performances and showing their diversity by playing very different parts. Also exemplary is the artistic direction of the episodes it’s clear a lot of though has gone into making this show just look really cool, with effective artistic shots and top quality editing making the show fun to watch even if its plots aren’t up to scratch.

While its first two seasons don’t fully deliver on the promise of their first episodes AHS is a show that has the potential to be the definitive tv horror programme, all it needs to do is come up with an idea that stays scary for thirteen episodes and doesn’t get so complicated that it can’t be fully explained. Easier said than done I guess but hopefully the shows writers will get there with Coven.

Star Trek Into Darkness

76251355166072-hh-27766r-2 (1)J.J. Abrams follows up his hugely successful re-imaging of the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek Into Darkness. Following the further exploits of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew Into Darkness sees them face their biggest threat, Khan. Not being an old Star Trek fan at all I had no idea who Khan is but in Into Darkness he is revealed to be the greatest threat to the Enterprise ever. Where the first film was a bit slower paced and spent more time setting the scene, this sequel is relentlessly fast paced stuff with huge action set pieces every five minutes.

In my opinion Into Darkness takes all the good elements from the first film and multiplies them. Then the worst parts of its predecessors are either scrapped and cut down significantly. There are still the odd nerdy jokes, some absolutely awful lines from Bones (Karl Urban) there’s another Leonard Nimoy cameo all of which keeps the old Trekkies happy but is not as present as it was in the first so, for me, I preferred that stuff cut down. Then in terms of everything else everything is on such an epic scale that it would be impossible to get bored. The casting of Benedict Cumberbatch is the most inspired choice, he sizzles and snaps in the role bringing a similar but much more evil character than in Sherlock. Zachary Quinto really shines through here as well, although Chris Pine at times seemed melodramatic or a tiny bit hammy. It’s two hour ten minute run time flies by with probably the best CG I have ever seen, every shot looks as close to perfect as it could get and when you’re treated to one of the many, many action scenes it’s impossible not to be completely consumed in the movie.

The plots slightly simpler than the first one and there’s less character development but its counteracted with stunning action sequences and one of the greatest movie villains of recent years. It may not please the Trekkies quite as much but for a new fan like myself Into Darkness could not be better. If this is what Abrams can do with Star Trek I can not wait to see how he revives Star Wars in 2015. A far better movie than Iron Man 3 let’s hope the rest of the summer blockcbuster’s are up to this standard.