The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 2 – The Zerg Campaign – Destiny of the Overmind

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“My children, the hour of our victory is at hand. For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the greatest of creation’s children. We shall be… Perfect.” -The Overmind

We continue the Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews with Episode 2, the Zerg Campaign. This campaign is masterful at showing you the zerg perspective and the creepy destructiveness that defines their species.

The story picks up where the last one left off as the Overmind has created you a Cerebrate (living brain larva) to control a brood and protect the chrysalis which holds a special weapon that will be the future of the Zerg.

The first few missions involve you getting the chrysalis out of Tarsonis while other Cerebrates like Zsaz and Daggoth show you the ropes and give you help in your quest. Eventually you have to defend the chrysalis until it hatches, revealing Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades of the Zerg. With her, you then destroy Raynor’s base as she tells him to never challenge her or the Zerg again.

From here you are helping Kerrigan develop as an agent of the storm as she has psionic abilities she still must unlock so you invade a terran science vessel to get the information. it is here that Zsaz fears Kerrigan being the death of the Zerg as he sees her as too strong willed and she tells him nothing will stand in her way.

Next you are challenged by Tassadar and the Dark Templar on Char. Kerrigan goes to face him and destroys the Dark Templar on the planet only to discover it was a ruse by Tassadar in order to kill a cerebrate. After the Overmind is in mourning and it is up to you as Kerrigan to destroy Zsaz’s brood after which you hunt down the Dark Templar and run into Zeratul who is in charge of the Dark Templar you are hunting.

Next is the invasion of Aiur as Zeratul’s killing of the Cerebrate gave the Overmind a glimpse into his mind as to the location of Aiur and the knowledge of their shared heritage as creations of the Xel’Naga. It is than you begin the invasion and establish a foothold to get the crystal that is needed to summon the Overmind to Aiur. After is the final battle in which the Overmind is summoned over the first Xel’Naga Temple on Aiur that you destroy in the mission. It is here the Overmind tells you his goal that now the Zerg will be perfect as they were made to be “Perfect Essence” and Protoss were “Perfect Form” and that now that Aiur belongs to the Zerg, the Zerg can absorb the perfection of form making them unstoppable.

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Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Gameplay – The gameplay is fantastic with the Zerg and helps you understand the strategy of how to play them. The Zerg win by creating lots of units at once and overwhelming force, since most of their units are the weakest in the game. In the campaign you experience how to best use this and most of your enemies have large bases and usually start out higher on the tech. tree than you do.

The Cinematics – The Zerg Cinematics are great, you see Kerrigan’s destruction of the science vessel, what she witnesses inside the Chrysalis, the Zerg attacking Aiur and the Overmind appearing on Aiur. In each of these it has the haunting, creepy feel to it that defines the Zerg as a species so welle.e

Kerrigan the Queen of Blades – Kerrigan as a Zerg is one of the best antagonists in any video game or science fiction story. She was made a Zerg against her will and is now infested to the point that she only knows destruction, though at the same time she independent enough that the Cerebrates and Overmind cannot stop her from doing what she wants. She is their perfect agent, free willed and dangerous enough to wipe out any threat that comes their way. A fair amount of the missions are taking care of her chrysalis, but once she is awake she is a lot of fun to play as to watch her conquer in the name of the Swarm. She is the Overmind’s Dragon in Episode 2.

Zsaz – The Cerebrates don’t really have free will as we know it as everything they do is for their father the Overmind, but Zsaz is the only one who calls out and sees the dangers of Kerrigan’s independence. He sees the dangers of her humanity which makes him an interesting character.

Daggoth – The largest of the cerebrates, Daggoth is the one who is the closest one to a second in command. He is the one who has Kerrigan destroy Zsaz’s brood when the Overmind is out of commission from his depression and it is he who helps defend the Chrysalis sending you his special Hunter Killers.

Tassadar – Tassadar is the Gandalf of this campaign. He sends an illusion to trick Kerrigan and sees how her anger is leading to her destruction. He is wise and smart and the first real example we have of the protoss. He is the one who first hurts the Overmind too, since he is the one who is distracting Kerrigan so the Cerebrate Zsaz can be killed. To quote him, “So long as you continue to be so predictable, O Queen, I need not face you at all. You are your own worst enemy. “

The Overmind – The Overmind is fascinating. He is one of the earliest creations of the Xel’Naga and seeks to destroy what they left behind to become greater. It is his seeking of perfection, and also revenge that leads him to attacking Aiur so that he can have perfection of essence and form. This creature is fascinating and I like that he is triumphant in his campaign as he is a much bigger threat than Mengsk ever was and sees the big picture. He is the one who tells us of the Zerg and Protoss creation by the Xel’Naga and thought of creating Kerrigan as the Queen of Blades.

Okay: Zeratul – We see him briefly at the end of the Campaign when Kerrigan is hunting down the Dark Templar. He has his famous “Though we strike at you from the shadows, do not think that we lack the courage to stand in the light,” during the fight. Tassadar is given a bit more characterization though as he interacts with you in a few instances. Zeratul only does so once.

This campaign is awesome, and more difficult than the Terran Campaign, as it assumes you know the basics. The characters in this are really cool, which is interesting when you are giving character trates to giant brain larva (the Cerebrates) and an all knowing, consuming brain (The Overmind) but Blizzards writers and art team made it work. This campaign is better than the Terran Campaign of Episode 1 and I definitely recommend it.

Final Score for this campaign is 9.3 / 10. Would have been higher if Zeratul had got more moments and more characterization of the Cerebrates.

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Jaws (1975): Terror and Politics in a Tourist Town

Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” is a beloved classic for a reason. It is also a film that I had not seen until quite recently. This actually applies to a lot of Spielberg’s work, so one of these weeks I will be doing a Steven Spielberg week since his style, for better and for worse, it so distinct.

“Jaws” is based off the book by the same name by Peter Benchley, who also wrote the screenplay in this instance (which is a pro for the story) along with Carl Gottlieb. The writing and the world are very solid and serve the film extremely well.

The story takes place in the small tourist town of Amity, whose income almost entirely relies on people coming to enjoy the beach. It kicks off with a bunch of kids partying and one of them going out to swim and getting killed mysteriously. Brody the Sheriff later finds her body and suspect a shark, which the mayor covers up because he doesn’t want to cause a panic or hurt the local economy. He continues to cover it up after the scientist Hooper arrives and confirms the shark they captured, did not have a big enough bite and that the shark is still out there. From here the story unfolds as the shark strikes again and Brody, Hooper and the eccentric fisherman Quint have to stop it.

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Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Soundtrack – John Williams does an excellent job scoring this film, especially with the memorable shark approaching theme in how it causes tension. The only thing I don’t like is when he goes whimsical, which I think might be more Spielberg’s fault than his since it clashes with the rest of the movies tone.

Rising Action / Tension – The Tension in this film is palpable, you never see the Shark until the very end, so it is the hidden underwater threat. This is done well in how Spielberg shows us the Shark’s point of view when it is stalking it’s human prey on a few occasions. Whenever he gives us the human point of view we are left in the dark until it is too late, even at the end this rule applies.

The Three Leads

Brody – Roy Scheider does a good job as the detective who is torn between his duty to the local government and the mayor, and to protecting his family. He pretty much goes along with the mayor with only slight protest until Hooper reminds him that they can confirm the Tiger Shark was the killer by cutting it open. They do so and that keeps him fighting again and making sure the beaches are being scoured by police to protect the visitors. Brody also gets the final kill and is the one who doesn’t give in to Quint’s machismo as Quint destroys the radio when he is calling for help as the Shark has destroyed their boat.

Quint – This guy is the fisherman and shark hunter with a major chip on his shoulder. He’s had a few marriages and thinks the only measure of a person is physical strength. He does have some great moments connecting with the guys though, especially with Hooper as they swap shark stories and he opens up about the fact that he fought in World War 2 and why he has such a depressed outlook on life. When his ship sunk he saw sharks kill most of his men which gives him a “Moby Dickish” relationship to them, and like Captain Ahab he dies fighting Jaws at the end. Robert Shaw is good in this role.

Hooper – Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic in this role. He’s the college educated guy who studies sharks for a living and loves them. He’s the outsider and his connecting with Quint over scars from the sharks is pretty fun as they are all getting drunk. He can be annoying sometimes, but you get where he is coming from as Quint doesn’t listen to anyone. He is also the one who motivates Brody to action and actually doing something about the shark. He’s my favorite character in this and one of my favorite actors.

The Mayor – The Mayor is good as the corrupt guy just going after the bottom line, until the 4th of July when the shark strikes again and he is forced to recognize he’s been wrong all along and this his child could have died. He has sleaze and charisma, making him and interesting secondary antagonist who comes around to neutral.

Okay: Brody’s Family – They are mostly there as a motivator. They don’t hurt the plot in any way, I just never felt connected to them as people. They only existed as possible victims of the Shark.

The Townspeople and Tourists – Are all pretty one note, they are doing their thing, but none of them really stand out as unique. They are more of the setting than anything else in the end.

Con: The Chase and Change of Tone – There is a seen where Brody, Quint and Hooper have attached barrels to Jaws and are chasing after him and the music gets all whimsical…there is still 30 to 40 minutes left…the victory music was declared way too early and clashes with the fact that Jaws destroys their ship later and eats Quint. The score should have just stuck with tension…cause even when they are chasing Jaws, the boat and are characters are still getting hurt by Jaws.

This film is a classic for a reason. I love how it explores the small town politics and how distinct the three leads are as characters. Hooper has to be one of my favorite characters in any films and it is awesome seeing a young Richard Dreyfuss. I would definitely recommend this film. It is a classic for a reason and has an amazing score to go with it along with the amazing direction of Steven Spielberg.

Final Score is 9 / 10.

 

12 Days of Doctors – The 10th Doctor – Series 2, Episode 1 – “The Christmas Invasion” – The Doctor as a Super Hero

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We continue 12 Days of Doctors in the count up to 12th’s first adventure with David Tennant as the 10th Doctor in his first Adventure “The Christmas Invasion.” David Tennant was my first Doctor and the Doctor who got me into both the current series and Classic Series because of how masterfully he played the Time Lord of the Doctor. He also has some of the best arcs this season, especially in Series 3 which has the most solid arc in the series thus far in my opinion.

The writer for this episode is Russell T. Davies and the director is James Hawes.

The story is that the Doctor is dealing with his new regeneration as the Sycorax attack Earth on Christmas in order to conquer Earth. From here it is up to Rose, Mickey, Jackie and the Prime Minister Harriet Jones to deal with this new threat as the Doctor is out of commission going through the cost of having just regenerated.

Doctor and Companions

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor – For an episode about us meeting the new Doctor, we don’t actually spend that much time with him, since he is out of commission finishing the regeneration for most of it. When we do see him and who he is, which is mostly at the end it is a man who is arrogant (destroys the Prime Minister for defending Earth), kind (defense of humanity) and savvy (he uses “Lion King” to describe humanity’s potential). He is also the youngest looking of the Doctors up to this point and has the youthful energy of a younger man. David Tennant owns this role, but the problem is how he is written, which I’ll go into later. It is really here where the Doctor as a super hero who doesn’t need help to save the day really starts to show…which carries on in the series and later with the 11th Doctor.

Rose Tyler – Rose is good in this but the writers don’t give her much to do. Most of her arc is accepting this new Doctor as the Doctor, which is important but she doesn’t get to fight the Sycorax and only stalls for time for the tea to take affect (which she doesn’t even realize it’s doing).

Prime Minister Harriet Jones – Reveals the darker side of the Doctor after she destroys the Sycorax ship at the end. Which it makes sense why she does, as she tells the Doctor, “Your not always around and we need to be able to defend ourselves.” The Doctor rewards that with getting her fired leading to the rise of a powerful enemy later in the series. Thanks a lot Ten. She is an awesome character, and the only human with any agency.

Torchwood – They lost a third of their men we hear but they still manage to destroy the Sycorax ship in retaliation for the innocents killed and the fact that the Sycorax are space orc thugs.

Okay: The Minor Companions – Jackie and Mickey are there getting used to the new Doctor. Their roles are similar to their first appearance as the reasons to get Rose to stay. Mickey has some great moments with her as does her mother since it is nearly Christmas, but they don’t get nearly enough exploration as they deserved, which is strange since the Doctor is out of commission for most of the episode.

Cons: The Sycorax – These guys are space orcs. Both in design (skulls and capes) and intent (enslavement of the human race). Why the Doctor expects them to respect their word is beyond me, given their leader goes back on it and tries to kill him during the Fight for Honor at the end. These guys never show up again, which I think is good. They are a weak concept and there is nothing unique about them. They are mindless baddies just out for conquest with a lazy design.

The Doctor as a Super Hero – This is a trend I can’t stand that was especially prevelant in Matt Smith’s time as the 11th Doctor, but really starts here. There are all these human characters, but the only one who can save the day is the Doctor. So we see humanity getting schooled by the aliens up until the Doctor wakes up and when they do stand up he shuts them down. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. I’m saying this as a fan of the Tenth Doctor too, he was my first Doctor and David Tennant is fantastic, it is just how he is used which is the problem. The Doctor always works best when he needs to be rescued, when he’s a Time Lord not Superman. This episode and some others, he is Superman and it is a trend that hurts the story further down the line, that really starts here in the new series.

I would recommend this episode nonetheless, it is a great introduction to the 10th Doctor (my Doctor) and also a fun adventure, even if the Doctor is way too overpowered and the villains are pretty lame. It at least establishes Torchwood and humanity as able to fight back…which we haven’t really seen since UNIT has yet to appear in this series.

Final Score is 7.8 / 10

11th Doctor

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Stupid Fun With Good and Bad Moments

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

I’ve been a fan on Ninja Turtles for a while, even if at this point it is more of a passive fan and respect for such a crazy premise that has gone through so many iterations and managed to remain fresh while still staying true to the core characters (April, The Turtles, Shredder, Splinter). It is really from this place that this film can really be seen for both what it did well, and also how it failed.

There have been tons of iterations of the Ninja Turtles, some of which I haven’t seen or only seen briefly. For example, I haven’t read the original comics, I’ve only seen a little of the 80’s version, haven’t seen the anime version, saw most of the 2003 series and the Future Turtles and the first two live action movies as well as the CGI film and the new 3D animated series going on currently which I haven’t seen. Each of these brings or takes away something different. I have a soft spot for the 2003 series since it was serious but could be funny, and what got me interested in the lore in the first place, and April was an active character who didn’t always need to be rescued. Later on I’ll be reviewing all of them since this 2014 version already has a sequel in the works.

This film was directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay’s company. Michael being attached to this franchise was and still is worrying to me in regards to what some of the issues were and the future of the franchise…also the fact that it was written by 3 people (Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty) and it shows.

The story this time around is April is a reporter trying to get out of the fluff stories so she begins following up on vigilantes who are fighting the Foot Clan (the terrorist organization) that is terrorizing New York City. When they capture and hold her and other hostage she discovers the Turtles after being rescued and the story unfolds from there as she learns they were the turtles she’d helped raise as a child in her father’s lab and the reasons on why he was killed, as well as Shredder (the Foot Clan’s leader) and what his plans are.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Opening – The opening credits are done in the style of the original comic book, which is awesome. I wish the whole movie had been done that way, or that they will do one in that style at some point. Black, White and gritty with sparse color.

The Action – Unlike Bay’s “Transformers Franchise” you can actually see what is going on. The fight between the Shredder and Turtles on multiple occasions is pretty awesome, as well as the escape from Sack’s lair on top of a snowy mountain.

The Turtles – Leonardo – Leonardo is great as the leader and being the balance between the happy-go-lucky of Michelangelo and the seriousness of Raphael. You get why he is the leader as he manages to be the one who figures out how to defeat Shredder near the end.

Raphael – He is threatening but has a good heart. You get that in his final scenes where he is rescuing his brothers from Sax and Shredder and confesses his love for all of them. It is actually a sweet scene. He has more depth than the guy who wants to dangerous and this helps get past his douchy exterior (he has oakley’s and is trying to look gangster).

Donatello – Is an Erkil style nerd, but within the story it makes sense, since their identities came from popular culture, since it was popular culture and Splinter who raised them. He is a good character though he gets his moment to shine in the mountain scene and whenever he gets the chance to hack a system or computer.

Michelangelo – Comes off as creepy…thinks April is his girlfriend even though she says nothing to show this and keeps trying to win her heart. It eventually becomes harmless when you see her with her camera man and the fact that he is basically a thirteen year old who has a crush on the teacher. He has quite a few funny moments in this.

Shredder – He is big and threatening and his plans of conquest make him a mini-Bane (though not nearly as fleshed out or cool). He still manages to defeat the Turtles on multiple occasions and Splinter. He is a worthy foe for sure. I liked Tohoru Masamune in this role.

Okay: April – Megan Fox actually isn’t bad, she isn’t good either though. She doesn’t elevate the okay sript and is the definition of safe…which is a shame considering how many times she saves  the Turtles and fights Sacks. Her plot is a bit contrived though, the big bad Sacks who is the billionaire industrialist wanted the mutagen from the Turtles to gas the city for money and to cure them while letting Shredder take over and her dad knew this so burnt all his material before getting killed. Oy vay…it’s like “The Amazing Spider-Man” all over again. None of that is needed.

Erik Sacks – Adopted by Shredder, all he wants his money. William Fichtner is great in the role, but his character is so weak and shallow. I expected more from someone raised by the fascinating antagonist of the Shredder. Money means nothing to guys like Shredder, and you’re his adopted son?

Splinter – Raised the turtles with a Ninjitsu book, yeah there isn’t much here for this character sadly. His plot is contrived, He is the old mentor figure without much there.

Karai – Shredder’s second in command of the Foot Clan is pretty much there to lose in every fight unless the Shredder is on hand. I hope they fix that in the sequel. She is great in the other material she appears in, but doesn’t do much but get beaten again and again in this. She isn’t a bad character, just not much there.

Cons: Vernon Fenwick – This guy is a dudebro and it is terrible. He hits on April on multiple occasions when she clearly isn’t interested, and unlike Michelangelo who everything is a joke to, this guy feels like his manhood is at stake. Give me a break…I wish Sacks had killed this guy. He is useless, give us Casey Jones instead. This guy is only there to do bad romantic jokes when no romance should even be there.

Eyes on April – This occurred less than I thought it would, thankfully. But it was still creepy when the Turtles first size her up…and any scene with Vernon…what a terrible character. He is there just to talk about her body it feels like. He has a moment where he fights with her against Sacks at the end, but than gets a nice car right after to flirt with…he is a much bigger problem than anything the Turtles do.

The Writing – The writing is a con in that Sacks’s plan is terrible, Splinter training the Turtles to be Ninja’s is contrived and Vernon Fenwick should not be in this film. I don’t know anyone who saw it who thought he was a needed or in any way redeemable character.

Would I recommend this film? If you like Ninja Turtles, it is worth seeing if only for it very much has it’s own flavor and flair. Is it good as a movie…no. Is it enjoyable, yes. It is isn’t bad either, it just is in no way a great or good film. I would still rate it above all of Bay’s “Transformers Franchise” though…and it got me interested in seeing the other Ninja Turtles works, which we’ll do as a week one of these times on the blog.

Final Score is 7 / 10. Okay, enjoyable fun with obvious problems.

 

Lucy (2014): Marvel, Make that “Black Widow” Movie

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“Lucy” is a movie that has garnered controversy for a lot of reasons. One which I think is justified (all the Taiwanese Characters in this film are gangsters or passive characters) and some which is not (the 100% use of brain premise is crap).

Here is the science on why using 100% of your brain and won’t give you god-like powers and why it is a myth that that we only use 10%: http://www.wired.com/2014/07/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-10-brain-myth-explained-in-60-seconds/

Now that the junk science of the premise is out of the way we can get into the real problems, with the story and I’ll get more into the Taiwan issue later, and also where it stands tall.

“Lucy” was written and directed by the French director Luc Besson, and produced by Europacorp.

The story of “Lucy” is around Lucy (Scarlett Johansson, a college student who is forced into becoming a drug mule when her boyfriend blackmails her into delivering a mysterious package to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik of “Oldboy” fame). He is than shot and the drugs that she was given are surgically put into her body. After they break she is given superpowers as the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: Lucy – Marvel…Disney, please be paying attention. A “Black Widow” movie would be amazing. Scarlett Johansson has the talent for this as demonstrated in “Winter Soldier” and demonstrated as soul lead in this film. She plays vulnerability (calling her mom when she is feeling connected to everyone and everything) to hardcore (taking out the gangsters) and all the other feelings. She owns this role and is a hero worthy of Ridley from the “Alien Franchise” and Sarah Connor of the “Terminator Series.” We need more heroines like her, and definitely more who are women of color. At this point I’m up for any action star though that breaks out of the white male with stubble hero trope.

Mr. Jang – He should have been in charge of an international gang. Having all the gang members we see Lucy fight or who threaten Lucy just promotes horribleness of the other, which is a shame for what it promotes, and the fact that Choi Min-sik is fantastic! He is a worthy foe and manages to destroy most of the people who stand against him. I want to see more of his work now beyond just this and “Oldboy.” The man is a master of his craft. In this he is so cruel and frightening that you see why Lucy is afraid and you get why he is such a threat. He should have been  given an international crime syndicate given he was selling global.

Professor Norman – Morgan Freeman is here once again as the great mentor. Lucy reaches out to him when she realizes what has happened to her, given it is her theory she is living. He is the one who tells her to give and create with what time she has, which she embraces, even when he begins questioning it. He is great in this role and is there to explain a lot of what is going on.

Pierre Del Rio – He is the awesome French detective who helps Lucy stop the other mules and defends her when she is giving all her knowledge in creating a super computer. He is a great character and is the love interest that reminds her of her humanity. As he says to her at one point when she’s defeated some of Mr. Jang’s minions with her mind. “Why do you need me?” She kisses him. “As a reminder…” It is a sweet moment and he is great in the guy in over his head who does the right thing. Also, he is a French actor of arabic descent, the actors name is Amr Waked. Can’t wait to see him in other things!

Lucy’s Goal – Lucy’s goal and mission is good and admirable. She takes all the knowledge she gets from the Universe in the process of becoming one with it and gives it to Mr. Norman and the science team. She believes harm comes from ignorance and that full knowledge can stop that. It’s actually a pretty big endorsement of philosophy and science and one thing that I really loved in the film.

Cons: How Taiwan is Handled and Racism – The biggest Con is what I brought up at the beginning. Most of the gangsters are Taiwanese except for the first surgeon who puts the drugs in the mules. This is bad and could have easily been countered by a single nice person in Taiwan standing up for Lucy. We get none of that and the characters are all evil or passive. That isn’t fair to Taiwan or the Taiwanese people and was horrible writing on Luc Besson’s part. Mr. Jang should have been the head of an International Crime Syndicate, he was cruel and smart enough to do so. That also, could have easily solved this issue.

Editing – There are some strange editing moments, like going between the African savannah and and Lucy’s situation at the beginning. As well as seeing the missing link Lucy too. It was jarring, same with the going between Lucy’s predicament and Professor Norman’s explanations.

The problem in how Taiwan was handled and the editing really keep this film from being great. It is a good action film that has a good point about science and an awesome heroine but doesn’t realize it’s full potential because of how it handles Taiwan. Would I recommend it? If you are looking for a heroine of the likes of Ridley and Sarah Connor, Hell yes I recommend it. But know these problems. This was written and directed by one guy and whatever issues he had with Taiwan really come out, which is a shame cause it does bring the film down beyond just the editing issues.

My Final Score for this film is 8 / 10. Good but not great and giving a much needed heroine to cinema. Also, Marvel…Scarlett Johannson is amazing. Get on that “Black Widow” film!

12 Days of Doctors – The 9th Doctor – Series 1, Episode 1 – “Rose” – The Consequences of the Time War

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We continue 12 Days of Doctors with “Rose” and the first adventure for the 9th Doctor. “Rose” is the episode that brings the Doctor back on the air, this time under direction and show runner of Russell T. Davies. The episode was also written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Keith Boak.

Before I get into the details of the episode, I love it. It has mystery in how the reveal the main premise, and the minor characters are treated with respect (Jackie and Mickey) which makes Rose’s world real that she leaves behind…which we hadn’t seen as much before with past Doctors. Suffice to say, I can see why this series planted the seed that keeps the modern Doctor Who and continuation of the series running to this day.

The story of “Rose” is that Rose is pulled into the Doctor’s world when he arrives on the scene to save her from an attack by Autons (the plastic men from “Spearhead from Space”) who are here to colonize Earth since the Nestene Consciousness’s worlds were destroyed by the Time War that the Doctor fought in. From here the Doctor and Rose must face this threat with each other and Rose tries to make sense of this mysterious stranger and help the Doctor save the day.

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Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston is like how his Doctor describes things, “Fantastic!” He has a chip on his shoulder from the War (the details of which we learn later in the series) but even here we see how he is trying to write the wrongs of the Time War he fought in, and how impossible it feels for him. He still doesn’t kill as a first resort and though he is standoffish, he is kind. He clearly cares for Rose and for humanity as he defends humanity by their potential to the Nestene Consciousness on why they deserve to live. I know he didn’t stay because of trouble with the Producers and others on the show, but I wish he’d gotten more than a season. The 9th Doctor had the most complete arc, which we see the beginning of here. He is the PTSD Doctor healing from the war, and it is here with Rose that the healing really starts. Without a doubt, one of my favorite Doctors.

Rose Tyler – A controversial companion because of how she is romantically involved with the 10th Doctor later and other things, shows herself a very good companion in her first episode. She saves the Doctor from the Nestene Consciousness and is willing to leave her life behind to go on adventures with the Doctor by the end of the episode, even being in a romantic relationship with Mickey and caring for her mom aren’t enough to keep her there. She also sees the things the Doctor misses, like the Ferris Wheel being the giant device the Nestene needs to control the plastic in the city. Suffice to say, she starts out great! Rose will get her own blog post another time.

The Minor Characters – Mickey her boyfriend is well meaning but kind of oblivious making him a very human character, and he does see the big picture too as he is fine with Rose adventuring with the Doctor. Jackie is the concerned Mom who is single and lonely, but also practical, once Rose’s work get’s destroyed by the Doctor when he is trying to stop the Nestene Consciousness, Jackie is the one trying to help Rose get money and find work.

The Nestene Consciousness – It is great seeing this antagonist again, though the bad CGI was worse than the tentacles that were props used in “Spearhead from Space.” I’ll take real props and models over okay or bad CGI any day. Still a great character though, this creature is a survivor from the Time War and just trying to live. It knows it is more powerful than us so sees it having a right to Earth by that alone. As a desperate refugee you can kind of see how desperation probably lead it to thinking that way. RIP Nestene Consciousnesses of the Time War.

The Consequences of the Time War – The Nestene is the first of the refugees we will meet and shows us for the first time, the Doctor is not all good and has done and been a part of great wrongs…the Time War being one of the greatest of these. Because of these he and the Universe is scarred and episode shows that without explicitly telling us. It is brilliant.

Okay: The Doctor’s Past Regenerations – We see that the Doctor has lived for a long time when a conspiracy theorist shows Rose pictures of the 9th Doctor throughout Time. Sadly there is no reference to the other Doctors, which I think doesn’t help the episode. We get that later, but this time it would have been nice to see that the 9th Doctor was connected to the ones before.

Con: The Special Effects – I’ll stress what I said before, give me models and props over bad CGI anyday. The bad CGI shows in this first season and doesn’t help the case at all. In many ways it limits creativity and the realness of it since the Doctor is just talking to a Green or Blue Screen in the end. If it was good it wouldn’t be so bad, but when there is bad CGI it really stands out.

I recommend this episode for sure. Christopher Eccleston is great as the Doctor, and the episode begins Rose’s arc into self confidence and the Doctor’s healing and dealing with the consequences from the Time War…which is an arc I’ll be covering later and eventually doing an entry about. This is where I think people should start who don’t know about Doctor Who, it introduces you to the world, the Doctor and the adventure as well as setting a few arcs in motion that payoff later in this new series.

My Final Score for this episode is 9 / 10. It is very good.

christopher eccleston Ninth Doctor

Noah (2014): The Meaning of Humanity

Noah-2014-Banner

We end the first Apocalypse Week with Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah.” This was a film I’ve been curious about for sometime since Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors and it really does have an all star cast, and the subject matter is interesting.

I’ve always been interested in mythology, whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Greek, Norse, Egyptian or other…there are so many rich stories that have conflict and premises that are left pretty open ended giving a lot of creative leeway, assuming the director has vision. Aronofsky clearly did for this film.

The story is that after Abel was killed by Cain, Cain’s descendants spread throughout the world and over industrialized it the point of making it a wasteland while hunting down the descendants of Seth who saw it as their duty to protect the world. The story begins with Noah and his father Methuselah doing the ritual of Seth for caring for the Earth. They are than attacked by a tribe of Cain who attack Methuselah. Noah believes him dead and we flash forward. We than see Noah dealing with visions from “God” of the Earth being destroyed which sets the story in motion as Tubal-cain and his men attempt to take the arc and Noah’s wife Naameh and family try to save more of the line of Cain and humanity as Noah resists at every turn. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is fantastic, but I wouldn’t expect any less of Darren Aronofsky. Some of the moments that stand out though is when Noah tells the creation story and it shows us the creation of the universe and the evolution of life on the planet. The other scene is when the flood occurs and the descendants of Cain are destroyed as they fight the Watchers (fallen Angels defending Noah and his family).

The Music – Clint Mansell is one of my favorite composers and he does a great job creating tension in this film. We see this especially when Noah believes it is his duty to keep man from spreading so when Ila is pregnant he plans on killing her children if they are girls. The music has it set so that the ship feels claustrophobic and being trapped with a mad man (Noah). It is brilliantly done.

The Writing – The screenplay is top notch, Aronofsky and Handel did a great job. Every characters’ lines feels real and it does mostly showing rather than telling. Especially as Noah is facing the consequences of what he has done. We are presented with dilemmas. The Canaanites who are men are bad people trying to enslave and kill Noah and his family…but the women and children are innocent…and Noah does nothing to save them. His wife and Ham call him on this, but he ignores it, blinded by his religious devotion to a being who doesn’t speak clearly and maybe is all in his head. It is really awesome.

The Watchers – Giant Rock beings that were once angels who came to fight for humanity. These guys are cool. They start out resistant to Noah and his clan because of how Cain’s line turned on them but in the end fight for Noah as they are rewarded with being returned to Paradise and Noah and his family treat them kindness. They have great designs and good voice acting.

The Line of Seth – They are vegetarians and planters. Tenders of the garden of the world. Kind and only willing to fight as a last restort seems to the theme. They are survivors, but mostly because they know when to run.

The Line of Cain – These are the warriors. Anything weak is prey and the story is empire. In extreme cases they are cannibals because they’ve killed off most of the animals and hunted them to extinction. They are the apocalyptic survivors in the apocalyptic world they created.

The Characters – The characters in this film are really solid. No one is really wasted except for Noah’s son Shem who is mostly a passive character and is only there to protect Ila.

Methuselah – Anthony Hopkins is great as Methuselah. He is found to be alive after Noah receives some of the visions and gives Noah the magic seed that creates an oasis of life that Noah and the Watchers use to build the arc. He doesn’t go with them and dies in the flood after a moment of bliss when he finds a berry. Why he decides not to go is unknown. He seems to be there as a guide and a counter to Noah as he gives Ila the ability to have children when she was barren before.

Naameh – Jennifer Connelly supports Noah but always reminds him of life, which he mostly ignores if it isn’t animal and plant life. She sees the bigger picture and fights him when he plans to kill Ila’s twin girls. You can see how powerless she feels given that she’s expected and told to follow Noah, when Noah, especially when they are on the arc and before hand in how he saves no one else and has gone insane. You can see the trials she faces dealing with that. She is the one truly good person in the film.

Tubal-cain – Played by Ray Winstone, he is the primary antagonist outside of Noah. He is a king and believes that humans were made in God’s image in order to dominate rather than to care and create. He is the one who tries corrupting Ham and almost succeeds as he taps into Ham’s anger at his possible partner being left behind by Noah in Tubal-cain’s attack. He fights to the end and is a crafty and interesting foe. He is survival of the species in the most extreme sense, though his inability to see how in ancestors had destroyed all life is sadly missed. I wish that had been brought up in the many talks he had with characters.

Ham – Played by Logan Lerman, he is the character walking the line between the way of Cain and the way of Seth. In the end when they find land he chooses to go his own way. He wants to learn how to care, since all his actions are tied to his own wants and desires. He does this really well too and you can see why he hates Noah for a lot of the film.

Ila – Emma Watson is the most successful of the “Harry Potter” cast post “Harry Potter” and rightfully so. She is damn talented. We see that hear too where she was a survivor of an attack on the mine where her family was raising her and Noah and his wife take her in. She is barren and it implied she was cut as a child. Because of this she has a lot of fear connecting but is able to heal from literally and figuratively after speaking with Methuselah. She is a great character and defends her children to the end. It is her showing them their innocence that staves Noah’s hand.

Noah – Is he mad? This is the big question throughout the film. So much of the film you are left wondering if it is all just in Noah’s head as he thinks God wants to annihilate man completely given the near extinction of all life by many of Cain’s line. You can see where he is coming from too as miracles do happen throughout the film. The big issue is when the daughters are born and he has to break away from what he believes God’s message is. He believed God wanted them to restore the Garden, so after they help the animals all survive…they would die out. What he misses in his nihilism is that humans are part of the world too and it is only after accepts that that we see him deal with the guilt of letting the innocent Canaanites die and the fact that he nearly killed his grandchildren and planned on doing so for quite a while once he knew they would be born, and if they would be girls. Russell Crowe does this really really well. He is good at playing complex mad characters, which Noah is. We see him wrestle with his decisions and face the reality of his character relationships. He eventually becomes a drunk when they reach land once more but is brought out of it when he is reminded once more of life carrying on…showing that he has changed from the man he once was.

The Message – The message is dilemmas. Is humanity redeemable? What makes a civilization worth saving or not saving? What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we we have as human beings? This film deals with all of this and lets us make our own decision. Noah is not a good person, but he is a human being. It is through his eyes that we are shown the question and can judge Noah for the decisions he makes. This is powerful and makes the film truly a masterpiece.

I’m glad this is how Apocalypse Week ends. This is one of the greatest films I’ve watched, though I can see why so many were torn about it. The thing to remember is to take it on it’s own merits. Like all films it is a story and a good story at that. What message you choose to take from it is up to you as Daronofsky leaves it pretty open ended. He leaves the hope for us with Seth’s line surviving after the flood, but doesn’t say that the flood was Just. That is up to the viewer. The actors and actresses, cinematography, music and writing are phenomenal and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a great film based off fantasy and mythology that lets you find the meaning in it.

Final score is 10 / 10. Shem isn’t a great character, but he isn’t bad. None of the minor characters who don’t get exploration hurt the film in anyway.