“Dark Matter” Season 1 – Amazing World and Premise, Just Needs More Fleshing Out

Dark Matter - Season 1

   “Dark Matter” is an amazing show…easily the best science fiction show since “Continuum” (which this show has a lot of similar themes to). The fact that the creators of the comic book that the show comes from wrote for “Stargate” is probably one reason it is so good. At the end of the day it is a character driven show with the mystery at the core driving the plot. Before I get into spoilers I seriously recommend this show. If you like science fiction, you’ll enjoy Season 1.

    The show was created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie.

  The premise involves the crew of the the “Raza” waking up with no memory of who they are. Each of them takes a number identity as their pasts unfold over the course of the show and deal with the threats of the Galactic Authority, criminals and competing Multi-Corps.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The universe is fantastic! We have the Galactic Authority, governments and nations and Multi-Corps all in a dance for power and influence with our crew of the “Raza” caught in the middle of it all.

The Premise – The premise takes a deep high concept premise of starting over with no memory and gives us the crew of “Farscape,” or “Firefly,” a group of outcasts who clash but have good hearts at the end of the day.

The Characters – The main characters are the strongest part of this show and it is great seeing Roger Cross again, as he was fantastic in “Continuum.”

The Android – Zoie Palmer is a wonderful Android! She’s easily the best version of this type of characters since Brent Spiner’s Data and it is great seeing her choose to become more human over time. She is the one most looking out for the crew through Season 1.

One – One learns he is Derrick Moss who took the face of a criminal named Jace Corso in order to find the person who killed his family. His drive to find his past is a major part of his identity as he nearly kills Three when he suspects Three of being the one responsible. He is the idealist of the bunch too, where Three is the cynic and he at one point has a relationship with Two as the reveal of her secrets don’t change how he sees her.

Two – Two is the captain of the “Raza” and is a designed organism. She has super strength and can survive almost anything. The organization that created her made her a slave and when the crew rescues her near the end of the season it is great seeing her and the crew get revenge. Melissa O’Neil is fantastic. Her other names are Portia Lin when she became the Mercenary captain and Rebecca when she was first created.

Three – Three is the cynic who was one of the biggest criminals and murders, who also had a past too as he meets his lover early on and loses her. He has a good heart at the end of the day though and even saves One a few times, even though he hates him. Anthony Lemke has great charisma in this role.

Four – Four learns he is a fallen prince who was framed by his Step-Mother. His real name is Ryo Tetsuda and he is the most hardened of all of them besides Two. He even kills his mentor after after his mentor attempts to bring him in but lets him go after all his men have been killed by the crew of the “Raza.” His story still has a long way to go but I like the pieces in play. Alex Mallari jr. did a wonderful job of speaking with his eyes as he is the least outspoken of the crew.

Five – Five is the hacker and the glue of the crew as it her core desire for them to be family that really makes it so they all work. She is the least trusted and the youngest but is a survivor as much as any of them…She is also the one who helps them find the good in themselves and holds one of the plot “Mcguffins” that drives the narrative. Jodelle Ferland does a good job in the role.

Six – Roger Cross is an actor I want to see more of, he was one of the best parts of “Continuum” and here he is the betrayer and also one of the core members of the crew as he is the steady presence the way Five’s kindness is. His reveal is learning that he is an agent of the Galactic Authority that changes everything leads to the end of the season (this reveal is hidden until the end).

Fighting Corruption and Finding Redemption – One of the major themes of the series is the fighting of corruption and seeking of redemption. When our characters learn about who they are they usually go against it as they were pawns of the Multi-Corps who cared nothing for life. This leads to them being idealistic thieves who do their small part against it all.

The Nature of Self and Identity – The nature of self and identity is a major theme. From the Android exploring what it means to feel and have emotions, to our characters who are seeking out their past so they choose what to do in the present. In all of that choices are made and even though our characters aren’t who they were before, they are still themselves.

What if You Had  Second Chance? – Our characters start out with no knowledge of who they were and as they learn who they once were they are given the choice to become someone different. Their self without what hardened them into criminals are the idealistic ones who are fighting the good fight and it is when one chooses their past life that they lose everything.

Okay: The Minor Characters – A lot of the minor characters are pretty forgettable. They aren’t bad but none of them made the list of pros for a reason.

 The Ending and Reveal – The ending involves the crew turning on one another as it is revealed one of them is knocking out members of the crew. In the end it is revealed Six was an agent for the Galactic Authority and is taking them away to prison at the end of the episode.

Okay/Con: Early Season Dialogue – Early season dialogue is choppy and a bit to tell rather than show. It gets better about halfway but it is something to keep in mind. This was a major thing that kept the show from being great.

 Lack of Clear Antagonist – There are a lot of antagonists in this show when what really could have helped focus the early moments where it lagged could have been countered with a strong villain. This show has “Farscape” tendencies and really needed a Scorpius. Maybe they’ll be one further down the line but everyone being an antagonist in some way can only sustain a show for so long.

    This was a show that clearly has so much more potential and I’m glad that it has a Season 3 coming. The characters change and each episode we learn more about the world and mystery of it all. It isn’t as great as the graphic novel series “Saga” but it is cut from the same cloth and could even surpass “Continuum” in regards to this type of show, it really all depends on how the writers choose to handle the characters and world they’ve been given. I hope the show doesn’t go on forever, but it deserves a great end.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 2 – “The Lying Detective” – Character Development and Confession…This was Needed and Succeeded

the-lying-detective-1

“The Lying Detective” is up there with one of my favorite episodes in “Sherlock.” This is an episode that captures the best parts of what made so much of Series 2 work. What drives this story is the core relationship between John and Sherlock, especially as it relates to family aka Mycroft and Mary. This gives it power as there is an underpinning of vulnerability that pervades the entire episode.

The episode was directed by Nick Hurran and written by Steven Moffat and produced by Sue Vertue.

The story involves Sherlock regressing back into addiction as he seeks to take down a man he suspects of being a serial killer (Culverton Smith). John hasn’t seen him for weeks but finds himself pulled back into Sherlock’s game as the plot to take down Culverton unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Set-up – The episode starts out with Culverton confessing to his friends he’s a killer and wiping their memories of the incident. Immediately he is established as a powerful antagonist and we get Sherlock’s obsession with him.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is once again beautiful, it continues to be one of the strongest aspects of this show.

The Action – This is an action heavy episode and the tension stays high through everything. I honestly didn’t know what would happen at times and that made the narrative stronger.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price’s score is really on display this episode as we get the haunting terror of Culverton the drug fueled isolation of Sherlock and John’s loneliness. The music feeds the narrative and strengthens it.

The Characters – The characters have always been the best part of the show and thankfully Moffat manages to develop many of them this episode, rather than keeping them static.

Molly – Molly appears briefly and does a good job at balancing out John as she is the second Doctor who John requests before he’ll help Sherlock take down Culverton.

Culverton Smith – Toby Jones is so good at playing creeps. In this we see his obsession and safety in being a billionaire and tied to politicians and businesses. It takes Sherlock entering Hell for him to confess what he’s done though when he is caught he shows that he’s been holding all this in and still feels happy as he’ll be even more famous once him being a killer comes out. He’s a sick individual and it makes for an interesting character.

Mrs. Hudson – Mrs. Hudson helps bring John and Sherlock together as we see she has a nice car (her drug lord husband) and that she doesn’t take crap from anyone. This is a great Mrs. Hudson episode as we see how she notices things and knows Sherlock and Mycroft better than anyone. It was a nice twist and it added a lot of depth to her character.

Mycroft – Mycroft is a lizard for most of this episode when he isn’t looking after Sherlock and trying to be a good brother. We also see that he’s trying to protect his sister, which John first figures out in the episode. There is more to this reveal than anyone knows though as shown by the final reveal.

Sherlock – Sherlock goes into Hell to take down a killer and to seek out John again as we see that he really does act from emotion and isn’t detached from it. This instability is explored deeply in the episode as we see him question reality even as he is getting more connected to other aspects of reality. It’s tragic in many ways and I felt for him when he finally starts dealing with his addiction and John forgives him. Sherlock finally shows affection which we see he’s always wanted to some degree (whether from Irene or John).

John Watson – John is dealing with loss this episode as he sees Mary in his mind’s eye and talks to her. He is dealing with anger, denial and sadness and also shame and regret for the affair he had. After he confesses this to Sherlock mind Mary leaves and we see him begin to heal as it is also only from him arriving that he saves Sherlock from Culverton (a callback to the first episode of the series when he stops another killer).

Eurus – Eurus is the other Holmes and has embraced the mind fully as we see her as John’s therapist at the episode’s start. We don’t know her motivations yet but she helped take down Culverton and at the end of the episode is about to shoot John. There are Moriarity aspects to her and I really want to know her more as she is a villain with a lot of potential.

The Reveal – Eurus is Mycroft and Sherlock’s sister! This was cool as she’s John’s therapist and we see that she was playing everyone. We don’t know her motivation yet but the hints that she might not be all together there and Mycroft’s fear of her leave a lot to hope for. Moffat writing her helps mellow out the hype though. He’s set up a lot of badass female antagonists and failed to have them payoff.

Confession and Healing – A core part of this episode is confession and healing. Culverton’s confession to his friends is what leads to his demise as it gives Sherlock what he needs to take him down, John and Sherlock confessing to one another leads to healing with them both feeling the loss of Mary and helps reestablish their friendship and gives us the heart and theme of the episode.

Okay/Con: Everybody is Getting Together – Lady Smallwood gets together with Mycroft and it implies it could be serious someday, John wants Sherlock to get together with Irene when he learns that she texts him. This is cute in some ways but having everyone hook up had romantic comedy aspects to it that took me out of the episode.

The Cons: Pacing – There are some pacing issues, it starts out strong has great rising action but sort of teeters off when John sees the confession tape from Mary and when Eurus reveals herself to John to shoot him. If this had been a bit smoother the episode could have been perfect.

This was Moffat once again at the head of his game. Every major character gets development and Sherlock’s psychology is explored and isn’t justified. This is a story that wants to explore the darker parts of human nature and what humans are capable of, and it succeeds. It isn’t a perfect episode as the romances that get set-up through the episode feel a little off sometimes and it does have pacing issues, but that doesn’t take away from the core power of the narrative and character development that takes place. This was such a great episode that really captured the core relationships and mystery, which made this show so great in the first place.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 1 – “The Six Thatchers” – Of Secrets, Betrayal and a Needless Death

the-six-thatchers

     “Sherlock” is a show I greatly enjoy but have a complicated relationship with at this point, and this episode does a great job capturing everything I like and hate about this show. Oh it is still a favorite, I still like “Doctor Who” for all the crappy stories that have come out of that show (the good still carries) and the same rules apply to “Sherlock,” and as it both so happens both are current Moffat projects and his writing problems become more apparent the longer I’m in both enjoying and critiquing his worlds he is showrunning or involved in.

      “The Six Thatchers” was directed by Rachel Talalay, written by Mark Gatiss and produced by Sue Vertue.

   The story involves Sherlock being pulled from exile to solve the Moriarity hack. Issues soon become more complicated though as Sherlock gets back into being a detective expecting Moriarty’s game to be revealed in time as a destroyed Margaret Thatcher bust ties him into conspiracies tied to Mary, Mycroft and British intelligence as a whole.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Sherlock” is a fascinating one. You have sociopaths, spies, geniuses, serial killers, governments and countless other players all with agendas and games that it is up for John and Sherlock to solve. It more often than not makes for a fascinating journey.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful as always and I enjoyed the use of blue to show drowning as that is a major theme of the episode. Our characters are isolated, each in their owns ways and it is in their isolation that the drama plays out.

The Characters – The characters are compelling and usually the best part of the show. All of them are flawed and it makes for good drama.

Greg Lestrade – Lestrade has become a bit of Sherlock fanboy at this point, though I like that he is still a member of the team, even if it just to bring cases and to remind Sherlock at least a little of his humanity. Rupert Graves is fantastic as always.

Vivian – Vivian is the one who is responsible for the death of Mary’s mercenary team and in the process of that one of them blaming Mary. She’s a secretary who is always listening and even outsmarts Mycroft. I have respect for her for that and even though I hate the writing choice, she does kill Mary which is more than any other villain has done up to this point. Marcia Warren does a good job.

Ajay – Ajay was a member of Mary’s mercenary team who blamed her for them all dying. He is a tragic figure as it was him keeping his mouth shut that lead to him being tortured into insanity. I felt bad for the guy as he wasn’t a bad person to begin with, just flawed like Mary.

Mycroft – Mark Gatiss is the best version of this character thus far and it is wonderful seeing him in over his head and his organization being compromised. This was an episode where we see brilliant Mycroft does not know anything and that he was played just as much as everyone else by Vivian’s manipulations.

Mary – Mary being a secret agent was made to finally work in this and it is dealt with in a respectful way, we also see that she is a great mom and a wonderful partner to Sherlock. I could have watched many more episodes of her team ups as even if her relationship with John is falling apart, she keeps Sherlock human in many ways. Her death by Vivian was a tragedy in more ways than one that I don’t know if the show could ever recover from fully. Amanda Abbington in the end made this show better.

John Watson – Martin Freeman is such a charming actor, even though this episode does a lot to show he can be just as awful as Sherlock. We see him cheating on Mary even as he’s doing a great job raising the kid and we see him feeling inadequate to her, which is stupid given he is good at what he does. In the end his arc returns to the stupid status quo it was at the end of last season. John hates Sherlock for not saving Mary. We’ve been here before and I hope Gatiss can write himself out of this hole. He never should have killed her character.

Sherlock – Sherlock is his usual sociopathic self with many more moments of humanity now though…from his conversations with Mary and Lestrade or his awareness when he’s being a jerk. Cumberbatch of course is wonderful in the role and that there isn’t much more I can say on that. The one thing that is different is how the episode was filmed makes Sherlock much more of an alien and isolated…and it works.

The Reveal – The real that Vivian had did everything to cover up her selling state secrets was beautiful. She was humanized even as a villain and in the end it is Sherlock’s stubbornness that helps lead to Mary’s death. The episode is a tragedy and the reveal works towards that.

Okay/Con: John and Sherlock Hating Again – We were here in Series 3 and we’ve been there before even before that. This is a tired trope and it loses power each time it happens. Unless we are doing their own individual stories, we know this isn’t going to last, so it cheapens the drama.

The Cons: The Death of Mary and an Overall Problem – “Sherlock” is not very good in how it handles it’s protagonists who are women. This article goes into a whole of a lot better.( https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/01/sherlocks-women/512141/ ) and in the end it serves no purpose but to bring us back to the needless drama of the two. Mary’s death was pointless and she didn’t even get to get her own justice against the one who had wronged her. Mary was a plot device for Sherlock and John’s drama just like Adler was and that is a problem with this show that could be easily fixed by simply writing these protagonists as players rather than pawns of the plot.

     I really like that “Sherlock” is back and I appreciate the fact that it was good rather than sucking like the beginning of Series 3. I don’t know if Moffat and Gatiss’s problem with writing women who can be part of the team or at least not objectified in some way will ever happen, but until it does I will critique it when I see it and enjoy it for the art that does come out of it. Moffat and Gatiss are extremely talented men and I know just how much they are capable of in this show and their other projects like “Doctor Who.”

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” – The Doctor’s Story is Good but the Romance is Terrible

return-of-doctor-mysterio

     I got to say, I’m looking forward to someone taking over Moffat’s reigns for “Doctor Who.” Moffat at the end of the day is a safe and average showrunner but great at individual episodes when someone else is running the show. The best episodes in the reboot were Moffat episodes but some of the worst episodes happened after he took over and proceed to ruin the 11th Doctor in many ways, as well as Clara. I could write a whole blog post on the matter but will wait and do a Moffat retrospect after he finishes up this Season, which will be his last season with “Doctor Who.”

       Steven Moffat was the writer of “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” with the director being Ed Bazalgette.

    The story involves the Doctor working on a device when he runs into young Grant, a child waiting for Santa who ends up eating a rare item that turns him into a Super Hero. Years later the Doctor returns and helps Grant deal with his double life and the threat of Shoal of the Winter Harmony.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful, “Doctor Who” continues to look the best it ever has ever looked.

The Action – The action, when it is there is rather clever and I liked the threat of the Shoal of Winter Harmony and how they were camp but still managed to hold threat.

Shoal of the Winter Harmony – These are an alien species of living brains that body snatch. These guys were fun and a nice addition to the Whoniverse. They even manage to infiltrate UNIT at the end, which could work but given how horribly The Great Intelligence was handled, I’m hoping they aren’t the big bad for this season.

Nardole – Nardole is great and awkward and Matt Lucas plays him beautifully. He calls the Doctor out but that is mostly because he gets social cues worse than the Doctor. He is also the connection to River, which is why the Doctor keeps him around, even though it helps as last episode was saying good-bye. Again, everything with the Doctor is the strongest part of this episode.

The Doctor – The Doctor is the best part of this story. He’s taken to bringing snacks on outings and is doing his best to stop the Shoal while dealing with the loss of River Song. His arc is making peace with the loss and accepting new beginnings. It is really well done as he is not nearly as mopy as 11 was after Amy and Rory died. Capaldi truly owns this role.

Remembering River – The core of the episode is the Doctor missing River after “The Husbands of River Song,” as it is after that episode she dies at the Library. This was the core of the plot that made it good and I wish this had actually been explored more, not through the weak Grant and Lucy romance.

Okay: Lucy – Lucy is the reporter who figures out what is going on with Shoal of the Harmony Winter and also the Doctor. She isn’t bad but she feels phoned in. She empathizes with the Doctor losing River but Nordale does it so much better. She or Grant should have been the only character, them both being around weakened both their plots.

The Ghost/Grant – This character is meant to be Superman (the flying, super strong, etc.) and Spider-Man (the awkward nerd) and he does that well, he also isn’t super memorable either and his core desire being romance just wasn’t strong enough to get me invested in the character. His double life plot just feel tacky and the backstory with Lucy just felt contrived.

The Cons: The Romance – The romance is just awful, it is awkward, feels tacked on and doesn’t feel real at all. All the best bits this episode are with the Doctor and the rest is forgettable or okay (the two main characters).

  This was an okay episode. I enjoyed it for the story where the Doctor drove the narrative but the hackneyed romance really brought this down. This is an episode that I’d recommend if you are a fan of Capaldi as he does have some great moments…but he is literally the only reason to watch this episode. The Super Hero stuff feels out of place mostly due to the romance and even though I liked the villains the romance took away from their threat. Again, see this if you are fan of the show but outside that, this is just an okay episode.

Final Score: 7 / 10

“Supergirl” Season 1 – How Superman as a Character Can Work

supergirl

   “Supergirl” is one of the most underrated shows on television. After watching “Season 1” I can’t believe it took the CW to save the show given that the writing on this show runs laps around “Arrow” and is even comparable to the best of “The Flash” and “The Defenders.” This is a show that gets the Superman mythos and does some amazing things with it.

    The show was developed by Ali Adler, Greg Berltani and Andrew Kreisberg.

    The premise of the show is Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) was sent from Krypton to look after Superman but due to mishap she knocks Fort Rozz (an alien prison) out of the Phantom Zone and arrives after Superman has already grown up. She is adopted by the Danvers family but after having a normal life starts something more as new threats arise tied to her past on Krypton.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The DC Universe is a great world and this is coming from a guy who was only really a fan of Superman as he related to Bruce Timm’s Justice League and JLU or Batman: The Animated Series. This Universe goes in depth and makes it count and honestly made me want to seek out the best Supergirl and Superman comics.

The Action – The action is solid. There is a lot of stuntwork and for a show with a limited budget every death and hit counts. That is saying a lot given “Supernatural” and to some degree “Marvel” have been slinking away from this.

The Characters – The characters were the strongest part of thsi series and drove the action since a lot of the villians were very much “villain of the week” even if they directly related to the plot (with a few exceptions). I cared about the main cast and all of them grew on me.

Indigo – This is the “Supergirl” Brainiac and she is great for what she is. She revels in extinction and manages to be one of the greatest threats in the last half of the series.

Astra – Astra was fantastic and the actress Laura Benati does an amazing job in the role as both her and Supergirl’s biological mother. Astra is complex, she was right about the destruction of Krypton her approach of mind control is just wrong and even she realizes that at the end. I really wanted her to be the final boss, but Alex killing her complicates her and Supergirl’s relationship is a fascinating way.

Cat Grant – Cat is wonderful, she is quite narcissistic and she uses her podium to advocate for others while still trying to remain fair. She is someone using the pulpit of the talking head for better and I really like how she helps Supergirl grow. We also see her step out from under her mother’s foot and fully become empowered. She is a feminist, CEO, advocate and all around fantastic character who Calista Flockhart does wonderfully.

Maxwell Lord – This character is the Lex Luthor to Supergirl except rather than being a villain all the time he buys into her hope. He is portrayed as a self serving objectivst through most of the series but changes in the end when Cat Grant and Supergirl show him that people can be better. I really liked this character and hope he appears in “Season 2.”

James Olsen – I didn’t care about Jimmy Olsen until this series. He dies in “BvS” I heard but honestly…I don’t know the character. This series showed me what he means. He is Superman and Supergirl’s tie to the life of normal and what you can accomplish just by living. He is my favorite character at this point and Mechad Brooks is an actor I’d love to meet someday.

Winn – Winn is the brains that every series like this has. Sisko is it in on “The Flash,” Willow on “Buffy,” etc. He works and it great and I like that he is the Toymaker’s son…but his whole crush on Supergirl was awkward, though I’m still counting him a plus.

Martian Manhunter -J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is my favorite character on the show. He’s a survivor who learns to trust a bit more and mercy over the course of the show from “Supergirl.” Can’t wait to see what they do with him in “Season 2.” He was one of my favorites in the original Bruce Timm “Justice League” along with that versions “Green Lantern” and obviously “Batman.” This one is more fleshed out though and more relateable which is only a plus. Seriosuly, watch the show to see his reveal.

Alex Danvers – Kara’s sister Alex is pretty fantastic. She’s a protector who can see the bigger picture and helps Kara grow through the show. She is truly both sister and mentor and I really love their relationship.

Supergirl – Kara Danvers is a wonderful character, she is the refugee trying to fit in and at the same protect her adopted world even though so much is out of her control. What she wants is what “Man of Steel” missed the point of. Superman is one of us both because he has to be and wants to be and their is even more responsiblity in that. Kara Danvers aka Supergirl captures that beautifully and watching “Season 2” now I hope for many more seasons. She shows us the dilemma of being different but a part of a community but also the power of hope. We can inspire in our actions and she does with mess ups and learning throughout the show.  Melissa Benoist rules in this role. She’s the first character of this type I’ve actually cared about…even Thor I could care less about as she captures the role of power and responsibility so much better.

Getting the Archetype of “Superman” Right – Superman should inspire us to be our better selves. As Clark Kent he is meant to be us and show us that the impossible can relate to the daily struggle and Kara in her job captures that so well. Even in classic “Superman” I didn’t feel this or animated Superman, but I got it with “Supergirl.” For once the narrative was captured perfectly on screen on my Superman is so iconic and it was in the amazing Supergirl who is everything in her own right using those archetypes.

Okay: Non – Non was an unformed idea. He wasn’t Zod but he wasn’t Astra. He should have been full Green Peace or full Dictator but instead we got the inbetween and that just hurt the narrative. He was okay and wasn’t bad but he wasn’t good.

The Final – Myriad controls Superman forcing Supergirl to work with her allies (Martian Manhunter and Alex her sister) to solve it. They do but I never got Non’s aim. He never felt wholly formed like Astra and that hurt the overall narrative.

Monster of the Week – There are a few “Monsters of the Week” like Red Tornado and Livewire that could have been more and they worked but it showed the show playing it safe. Which is why I only rated it as okay.

  This is a series that was severly unnderated. Kara Danvers in her arc is sympathetic and I got a lot of Buffy from “Buffy” vibes from her. She’s doing her best in the circumstances she’s in and at the end of the day want’s to succeed but also be more. She’s human but has all the abilities to accomplish more in the saving from disasters and there is power in that. That is the core of the Superman mythos. If you have the power to make a difference in another way, do so. That in and of itself is empowering and this show knows that way more than “The Flash” which in way embraces the alien part more so (Flash being a Meta-Human) than Supergirl. I highly recommend this series. It is well worth your time and CBS just gave up a gem to the CW.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Top 5 Films of 2016

rogue-one

       This was an amazing year for film! An animation was at it’s best with even sequels being good like “Kung Fu Panda 3,” and “Finding Dory.” Action films were great in films like “The Nice Guys,” “Doctor Strange,” “Star Trek Beyond” and “Rogue One.” We had an amazing western in “Hell or High Water” and the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” and a fantastic high concept Sci. Fi. film in “Arrival.”  These are my honorable mentions by the way, that I highly recommend you go check out.

     Of course we also had duds which I’ll give a dishonorable mention to here as well. The bloated crap of “Batman v. Superman,” the unfocused mess of “X-Men Apocalypse” the hack jobs of “The Jungle Book” and “The Secret Life of Pets” and even the boring “Warcraft” film which I really wanted to like. Beyond this there were a few that were decent that didn’t make the dishonorable list or honorable mention and sure as hell would not make my Top 5.

  So without further ado, here are my Top 5:

Captain America Civil War

5) Captain America: Civil War

Director Joe and Anthony Russo

      This position was really a toss up between 2 other films. “Moana” and “Zootopia” were vying for this place as I enjoyed both of those greatly and loved the larger points they made in their narratives. What kept them from getting this spot was too much Shakira in “Zootopia” which took me out of the film and the fact that “Civil War” took more risks while “Moana” played it safe and did the Standard Disney Hero Arc. In “Civil War” there was no hero arc and what we see is how the debate between security and freedom isn’t a simple one, especially in a world full of Gods and vigilantes. I wish it had grappled more with the question but it did not let the question take away from the core drama. This is the second year of my doing this that the MCU has had a film make the list with 2014 being the year “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Winter Soldier” were in my Top 5. This studio clearly has the art down and even has me excited for the overly rebooted Spider-Man because of how human and awkward they make him in this film. I enjoyed this film more than “The Avengers” and that is a favorite film, so folks I seriously recommend this film and can’t wait to see where they take the Franchise, though I wish this film had truly grappled with death and loss rather than the drama of the philosophical war of ideology, and that kept it from being higher on the list.

9.7 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/captain-america-civil-war-2016-amazing-characters-in-a-story-that-explores-war-and-responsibility/

Deadpool poster

4) Deadpool

Director Tim Miller

   “Deadpool” is an amazing satire and deconstruction of the entire Super Hero genre as a whole and it does it with a limited budget and cast…This was a film the studio was expecting to fail but now it has changed the Super Hero paradigm. From making Rated R Super Hero films a thing again and making raunchy humor okay. I laughed so much during this film. This was the best comedy I saw all year and the only real cons that keep it from being perfect is the fact that it does look cheap at times and the villain was only okay. Deadpool really needed a good foil to work off of. If you haven’t seen this film and you like a great comedy or want to see the beloved super hero film torn apart (as a fan of the Super film I loved it) you should see this. The comedy starts with the opening credits and never stops and manages to have a good emotional core that drives it all.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/deadpool-2016-a-hilarious-satire-of-super-hero-films-and-a-brilliant-action-film-romance-and-comedy/

moonlight-poster

3) Moonlight

Director Barry Jenkins

    This was a powerful film written and directed by Barry Jenkins that tells a story of a young African-American boy growing up and wrestling with and coming to peace with his sexuality in a world everyone around him is hurting or hurting others. It is in this story of trauma that he is shaped as we see him as a boy, a teenager and finally a man and how different major events shape him as he seeks peace in the turmoil of everything around him. The only reason this film didn’t get Number 2 or Number 1 is because some characters drop out and are never brought up again and I felt that the ending did go on a bit long and could have all happened in one location. Besides that this is easily one of the best films of the year.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/moonlight-2016-a-beautiful-exploration-of-sexuality-trauma-and-healing/

everybody-wants-some

2) Everybody Wants Some!!

Director Richard Linklater

    “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a film I expected to hate when I saw the preview. A bunch of college kids who party and want to get laid…why on Earth would I want to watch that? Suffice to say this a film that is so much more than that. This is a film that reveals the complexity of people as individuals, in groups and wrestling the big questions like finding one’s purpose. I loved this film and found it to be perfect. It was a deep film that managed to still have fun and the basic premise of college kids wanting to get laid before college is still there but there is so much more going on and the reasons behind all of it get explored too. This film gave us a great ensemble cast and captured so much of the complexity of what makes humanity fascinating.

Final Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/everybody-wants-some-2016-a-beautiful-exploration-of-groups-sexuality-and-purpose/

Kubo and the Two Strings

1) Kubo and the Two Strings

Director Travis Knight

This is the first year since I started my Top 5 Films of the Year that an animated film has made the Number 1 stop. “Inside Out” made Number 2 last year but was beat out by “Fury Road” but here “Kubo” beat “Everybody Wants Some!!” and there are a few reasons why. Kubo is a film that not only deals with growing up but it deals with trauma, loss and forgiveness better than any film I saw this year. This is a story ripe with mythology and Laika’s animation captures it beautifully as we see Kubo’s hero’s journey as his relationship is explored with his parents, aunts and Grandfather. I was in this film all the way and as great as the other films were the ending of this film hits the hardest. The film is haunting, inspiring, funny and creative and at the core it explore that when you leave on an adventure you come back changed, and sometimes you lose people along the way. This core simple message solidified this film as the best film of 2016 for me.

Final Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/kubo-and-the-two-strings-2016-a-masterpiece-of-animation-with-an-unforgettable-story/

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – The “Star Wars” Mostly Works But Drags Though the Ending is Fantastic

rogue-one

     “Rogue One” is a good movie. It isn’t a great movie…not by a long shot as it has structurual problems and a lot of the characters don’t have arcs and this goes for the overall structure too. If you want an experience in the “Star Wars Universe” though, this is a good experience of that, and for what it’s worth it is better than “Return of the Jedi” but I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like that film and only finds it okay.

      The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanual.

      The story involves the Rebels getting the plans for the Death Star as told through the eyes of the group that comes to be Rogue One, lead by the extremely rebellious Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of the man (Mads Mikklesen) who designs the Death Star under threat from his former friend Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Star Wars” in that galaxy a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…is one that I care about. I am a fan and not just of the Original Trilogy, I love KOTOR, the Thrawn Trilogy, The Clone Wars (3D and 2D) and Rebels. I grew up on the games that are no longer cannon and this is sci. fi. fantasy in it’s base form. This film captures so much of that as we really see the breadth and strength of the Empire and that is one thing that kept me in this film through it all.

The Cinematography – Gareth Edwards knows how to direct and this film is beautiful in the scenes that are shot, especially those of the Death Star and the Space Battles.

The Action – The action is the strongest part as the action has consequences. Characters die and like “The Empire Strikes Back,” we see the consequences of the Rebellion. This can’t be stated enough and knowing that the Rebellion is only going to suffer more in the coming film lends this film strength.

Grand Moff Tarkin as Character – The character of Tarkin is fantastic even if the CGI is really good video game CGI but not quite there CGI. I still enjoyed the things he did even if how he looked was a little distracting. They should have just got a look a like, they did in “Revenge of the Sith.” Beyond that though, his character is a wonderful snake who is using and disposing people to meet his final ends of holding his power and position and destroying the Rebellion. He is the greatest threat outside of Vader through the film.

Darth Vader – We got to Vader’s Palace on Mustafar! The fact that this is even a thing makes me happy as it fits, the “Dark Side” gains it’s power from pain and rage and that is where Vader lost everything so Krennic visiting him here (and getting strangled for trying to assume on Vader) gives us more to Vader’s mystique. He also kills a lot of the rebels and shows why he is one of the only 2 Sith in the Galaxy.

K-2SO – Alan Tudyk is wonderful as the cynical reprogrammed Imperial Droid and he is the only one of the “Rogue One” rebels with an arc. He goes from uncaring from someone who sacrifices for others. I really like how cynical he is and how nihilistic he is about everything. He is very Marvinesque (From “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and it works. It sucks the other cast members weren’t given an arc.

Getting the Plans – Getting the plans is really well done as we see Jyn and Cassian go undercover at the Imperial Intelligence homeworld to get the plans that Jyn’s father implanted in the system. It is really well done and it is this battle and heist that is easily the best part of the film. There is cost, consequences and action…it is a shame we couldn’t have gotten more of this earlier.

The Final – The rebels barely escape Vader with the plans and all of the Rogue One characters die. This is powerful and I like that for the first time since “Empire Strikes Back” the Empire felt like a threat. “Star Wars Rebels” is mostly miss on this issue sadly and most “Star Wars” lore is about the victories…but all that does is make the Empire look weak. This film did some work to change that with the final.

Okay: Rogue One Team – Bunch of guys from a Temple Guardians (a cynic and a blind man) to a rebel intelligence agent (Cassian) to K-2, an Imperial Pilot who joined the rebellion (Bodi) and Jyn. Outside of K-2 most of these folks are just there. They don’t get any arc and are just pulled along by the plot, which is sad as the idea of all of these characters was good, but none of it went anywhere.

The Ersos – The Father and Daughter relationship was supposed to be central but it wasn’t. Mads and Felicity did fine with what little they were given but we didn’t get anything on their relationship to the Empire or Krennic. They were pulled along by the plot rather than shaping the plot. This isn’t a con as it didn’t make me angry and it wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t good either.

Orso Krennic – This dude is just a pawn which for a guy who is the main villain was a waste. I cared about him more than Hux from “The Force Awakens” though as Krennic was fighting against a system that wanted to crush him. Hux was at the head of his game and was still winy.

The Cons: CGI Lore Characters – Leia and Tarkin look like video game characters. I get the look they were going for but it still looks not quite right. It worked in the story but it also took me out of the story. They should have just used look alikes.

Extremely Slow First Half – I felt like I was nodding off early on until the Death Star is finally used. This is due to characters not fully being developed and the film going way to slow. There were so many missed opportunities for character development and growth in the first hour that were never taken.

Character Arcs? – None of the “Rogue One” cast have character arcs…and they need them for us to fully feel their loss. Outside of K-2 I cared way more about Vader and Tarkin since I knew from from prior works…this film needed to develop the main cast and it failed to deliver.

   This was a film that I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars. I enjoyed it even though I wouldn’t call it great, it isn’t “The Force Awakens” (a film with characters that had actual arcs and growth) but it is better than “Return of the Jedi” and easily my 4th favorite “Star Wars” film. There was the potential to do so much more, either making this a complete heist type film (an under appreciated genre) or make this an ensemble film. I wanted to love Bodi, I wanted to care about to Orsos…but I was never given the chance too. We didn’t get exploration of what they really desired and were fighting for and that went for the rest of “Rogue One” which makes the deaths matter not nearly as much as they should.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10