Star Trek Beyond (2016): The Reboot Series Finally Captures Classic “Star Trek”

Star Trek Beyond

    “Star Trek Beyond,” is a film that best captures the spirit of the Star Trek Franchise than probably “The Undiscovered Country.” That film has a better story and is one of my all time favorite Star Trek Films but this film is still really good and I enjoyed it a lot more than “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which at the end of the day depended way too much on conspiracy and fan service rather than showing the spirit and cost of adventure the way this film does. Non-spoiler thoughts…this film has great action, comedy and characters and is well worth your time to see it on the big screen.

    “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by Justin Lin, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk.

     The story takes place 3 years into the 5 year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself at a crossroads with the possibility of promotion and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is pulled back into Vulcan after a major death.  They and the crew are put to the test though when they are lead into a trap and must face Krall (Idris Elba) who destroys their ship, forcing them to adapt to the planet and keep him from getting the superweapon he seeks.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – This movie captures the wonder of the World of Star Trek. We get the Utopia of Yorktown, the horrors of war via Krall and tons of alien species and first contact opportunities.

Yorktown – Yorktown is a like a giant snowglobe in space and looks like how I always imagined a advanced space station actually looking (in the tv shows they never were able to capture it like it is on film, they are just stations, this is a city). I loved this area and I like that we spent time here to humanize our crew and see how the Federation has achieved Utopia.

The Writing – Minus the writing of Krall, the writing is a major pro. Every character is given things to do, characters change and aren’t just rehashing the same story (Kirk, Spock and Uhura had the same story twice in the last two reboot films). Simon Pegg being a Trekkie and one of the writers is one reason I think why this worked so much.

Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and stunning and captures the old look of the show while modernizing it for the screen. It feels dreamlike and from it the adventure of this great series.

The Comedy – The comedy is gold, especially anything with Jaylah and Scotty and McCoy and Spock. The dialogue is quick and witty and always moves the action forward.

Use of Ensemble Cast – The cast all has things to do and it keeps the story strong! Uhura and Sulu are protecting the hostages and the device, Chekov is with Kirk, McCoy is Spock and Scotty is with Jaylah. Each of them are working to find one another and defeat Krall and it leads to great comedic and dramatic moments.

The Cast – The cast is the strongest part of this film, these actors have come to inhabit these characters.

Chekov – R. I. P. Anton Yelchin…you really inhabited this role. This is a film where Chekov is with Kirk for a lot of it and later teams up with Scotty since he knows tech. almost as well. We see him be the hero and the problem solver and his relationship with Kirk is pretty great. You’ll be missed Anton…

Sulu – John Cho is fantastic as Sulu and in this we get to meet his husband and daughter at Yorktown and from there see the reason why he is fighting so hard to defend it. In this he get to see him fly the Franklin, fight with the Enterprise until Krall’s drones destroy it. It is great seeing him and Uhura team up.

Uhura – Uhura is the primary protector of the hostages and the device that Krall is trying to get. She only loses when Krall threatens a crew member forcing the crewman to reveal her hand and where she’s kid the device. Uhura is ready to die to protect it though. We also see that her and Spock still have a great relationship even though they may or may not have broken up. Zoe Saldana is fantastic.

Scotty – Simon Pegg is really great in the role of Scotty and in this we see him as the major problem solver, whether it is fixing the Franklin, finding the crew and Krall or working with Jaylah on traps.

McCoy – Karl Urban really owns the role of McCoy and in this we get to see his friendship with Spock grow as they are stuck together for most of the film. It is great seeing their dynamic as McCoy’s cynical optimism is contrasted beautifully with Spock’s cold clear logic and duty driven decisions. This eventually leads to them taking on Krall by kidnapping one of the drone ships since Spock needs someone to monitor his injury he received when the Enterprise was destroyed and McCoy is the only one who knows about it.

Spock – Spock is faced with a decision in this…to stay with the crew or to return to Vulcan to help create more Vulcans. Ambassador Spock has died and no Vulcan is once more lacking limited leaders and there still aren’t very many of them. Over the course of the film he decides to stay for the crew though, not because of future Spock and I really like that. He discovers that it is out on the frontier he can protect Vulcan best and the realization that the entire crew is his family now and will be (he sees a picture of the crew when they are older that Ambassador Spock was keeping).

Kirk – Kirk like Spock is faced with a decision to stay or get a promotion and go as when we first meet him his life on the ship has become mundane and he expresses how trapped everyone feels out in space for so long. It is powerful as he is really talking about himself. Krall reminds him of why he is out there too and even though he loses the Enterprise he decides to stay to Captain and because the Captain of the newly built Enterprise-A we see being built at the end of the film.

Jaylah -Sofia Boutella is awesome as Jaylah and I hope she becomes part of the main crew. She is the one who helps them all team up as her home is Krall’s old Federation ship the Franklin. It is thanks to her and Scotty that they get it running and are able to use it as a base to free the hostages and to confront Krall and his drone forces. She also has a somewhat romantic thing with Scotty and is an orphan whose been fighting Krall all her life. Suffice to say she is awesome.

The Idea of Krall – The idea of Krall as a former Space Marine turned alien warlord is cool. Peace doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who gain honor from combat and live from it (one reason the Federation fights the Klingons every generation even after the treaties). There was so much more that could have been done with this idea if he had just been fleshed out more as a character.

Remembering the Dead – R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Both of them were given time to be remembered as Spock remembered Ambassador Spock and the final scene was fade to black with “For Anton” in memory of Anton Yelchin. The two of them were amazing and have left a legacy on this universe and the world.

Okay: Krall/Balthazar Edison – Idris Elba is good at humanizing this ex-marine turned alien Warlord and his acting is great, it is just the writing for Krall is only so-so so I’m putting him at okay. We never get explanations of why he turned into an alien or how using people turned him back into a person.

The Cons: Villain plan – The villain plan is to destroy Yorktown, which if Krall want the Federation at war, that isn’t going to help…since there is no way could escape, it was do the most damage and die…which I expected more from a man who had lived hundreds of years. He should have had a better plan.

How did Balthazar become Krall and Revert Back? – Balthazar was a M.A.C.O. (Pre-Federation Marine) who is maid captain after the Xindi and Romulan wars and finds himself abandoned on the planet. Something happens that causes him to become the alien Krall and he is using people to turn back into a person. This is never explained.

Pacing – The pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes everything is going too fast and we have no time to really soak in what our characters are going through, and other times we linger too long. This is most true at the beginning but by about a third of the way through the film this isn’t as much of an issue.

   The villain isn’t bad but he is where most of the holes in the plot are. Sometimes the pacing can be a little jarring, and I was bored at one point because of it…but the payoff when they arrive on Krall’s world is fantastic and almost everything after that works. This is a film that reminded me why I’m a Trekkie and I can’t wait to go back and review the other films so I can rate them all against one another. This a film well deserving of it’s place in the Franchise and some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies this summer.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Diablo III – A Solid Return to the Franchise With Addicting Gameplay and Some Story Issues

Diablo III

    My general rule for games and shows is that I have to finish watching them or playing them before I do a review. This is a big reason why I don’t tend to as many game reviews. I’m a completionist on games that have an actual ending. Luckily “Diablo III” does and with it the chance to review the 3 aspects of a game that I will be judging upon. Story, gameplay and the overall experience of the game as a whole.

    I have been a big fan of the Diablo Franchise since the first game, which was one of the first games I ever beat. I still remember saving the game right before I faced Diablo and returning to my save to kill him multiple times with my warrior who I had got his mana high enough to lay down a bunch of fire walls that destroyed the minions surrounding Diablo and brought down his health. Besides Starcraft and Warcraft II, Diablo was my introduction to the great worlds that Blizzard has created, and I look forward to going back and reviewing more of those classic games as well as the expansion to this game, “Reaper of Souls.” Suffice to say I am a huge fan of these Universes (Though I think Warcraft went downhill after “The Frozen Throne”) and can’t wait to return and review the games.

   The story of Diablo III takes place after the destruction of the Soulstone at the end of “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” and the world has gone quite as evil starts to rise again as the mysterious Black Soulstone arrives on the scene and a mysterious figure falls from the sky leading the Hero go and investigate the incident in New Tristam and meeting up with Leah and her Uncle Deckard Cain who have been investigating the surrounding events.

The Gameplay: Pros – Exploration – The exploration aspect is one of the great things about all of the games of the Diablo Franchise. The maps are expansive but not boring since there is always a dungeon to raid or an event to take place in that keeps you on your toes and gives you a chance to try out new tactics or see another part of the world.

Rewards – The reward system is fantastic. From getting different flags with symbols, winning achievements and of course gear for your character so you can tackle the next area or a more difficult area. The rewards reward you for challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Combat – I play Witch Doctor as my main and I much prefer his mixture of spell and pet based combat. The Demon Hunter is my secondary in Diablo III pre- “Reaper of Souls” and I found her combat style still fun, but a bit too slow for me. The Witch Doctor rewards quickness and taking on as many enemies as possible which I enjoy.

Skills – The game has both active and passive skills. I have a pet based Witch Doctor so the skills I chose were to strengthen pet life or give me more pets be it stronger gargantuans, more fetishes or more zombie dogs. Besides that I play him somewhat like a mage and enjoy using fire based abilities. Each character has a diverse range of skills and options too and it is much clearer on what they and how they can work together than in “Diablo II.”

Okay – Most Boss Battles – Most boss battles were easy but the ones that provided a challenge were a lot of fun. The Butcher and King Leoric when I first started took a lot to take down and the Belial fight was fun too even though he couldn’t touch me. Some of the minor bosses in the High Heavens were fun too. Overall the bosses could have been more challenging and been given more area attacks or abilities that would not down half you health automatically. That would have helped with their threat and made the game more fun.

Difficulty – The difficulty was normal in my first playthrough which was too easy for me. I beat the game really fast. After I increased it by two I had a bit more of a challenge, Act Bosses weren’t any harder though, only mini-bosses and Elites. That is why I’m putting difficulty at okay. Difficulty should be across the board…Act Bosses should be more difficult than mini-bosses and Elites.

The Story: Pros – The World – The world is fantastic and in this we get to explore Sanctuary, Hell and the High Heavens…which is a first since in the past games the only places you could explore were Hell and all over Sanctuary.

New Tristam – New Tristam is a great gothic area that I greatly enjoyed as we got see King Leoric return and learn his tragic backstory (he is another pro, I liked the whole drama surrounding his corruption and how his son was the hero from the first Diablo who became Diablo). The zombies and cultists give it an amazing gothic feel and there is so much history. The fact that this is the only Act with Deckard Cain helps too.

Caldeum – Caldeum is a lot of fun as you get to help refugees and deal with the Cultist and Belial threat. The world has a lot of history to it and here is where you start to learn about the Nephalem and meet the awesome mad character Zolton Kulle (another amazing character who is pretty much immortal and created the Black Soulstone) and visiting his prison to get him back his body is a lot of fun.

Bastion’s Keep – Like in “Lord of Destruction,” this area is one giant siege that you have to fight back before facing the one responsible in their lair. You see the destruction of war in this and a lot of characters you aren’t able to save as demons swoop out of the air to carry warriors away. You feel Azmodan bringing his full force in this one and it makes for a fun act.

The High Heavens – The High Heavens is where you learn most angels hate you and it is only when you save some of them that they come around and see you are helping free the world from Diablo. Diablo almost wins in this and it is great seeing what a corrupted Heaven would look like.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of the Diablo Franchise, especially the villains as often they are given tragic or distinct motivations that make them a lot of fun to face.

King Leoric – The King is back and in this we learn he started going mad after a failed war against Westmarch and how is corrupt adviser (Who you fight after Leoric in the first game) is a big reason why he’s losing it. I felt bad for him and as you go to face him you see everything he’s lost as all the dead shells who you fight were once humans and men who served under him before he lost everything to Diablo.

Zolton Kulle – This guy is fun and hilarious. He’s sarcastic, he mocks those who trapped him and he keeps his deal up until the end. I wish he was a follower since his witty remarks are a nice break from the genuine feelings from your followers or Leah.

Maghda – Maghda has a great design and has butterflies wings from creatures carrying her. She is a threat throughout Act 1 and 2 and a constant presence. She also kills Deckard Cain cementing her as a more relevant bad than a lot of others you face. Her fight was hard too when I raised the difficulty by 2 as she had adds over the entire map and they were changing into stronger figures so it was a race to kill her in time. I wish the Act end bosses had been that challenging.

Adria – Adria is Leah’s mother and a witch who hooked up with the Dark Wanderer (Diablo) from the last game. Her story ends abruptly when she turns Leah into Diablo using the Black Soulstone and we never get her full motivation. I liked her journal though as it showed that there was persecution she faced to a degree and her being outside of town showed her to be an outcast.

Belial – Belial corrupts New Tristam and Caldeum. My issue with his story is that Maghda is his only real minion outside of those she raises and his reveal of being the child Emperor wasn’t that smart of a plan for the Lord of Lies. Belial’s Act should have been an investigation with more NPC interaction and with the option of Belial outricking you. I think that would have made for a better first fight as he could have defeated you if you didn’t find out who he was in time or if you accused the wrong person. After all of that there could be the minion and true form fight. I still liked design and location and the fact that he had a follower who you faced all through Act 1. It made him more of a threat.

Azmodan – Azmodan is the strategist of Hell and manged to overthrow the Prime Evils when he and Belial took over. He does a great job causing destruction but should have shown up in Caldeum. He isn’t even on the stage until after Belial is defeated and since he’s defeated in one act we never get to see his full threat. His design and minions are great though and it is a long Act to finally take him down.

Diablo – Diablo is back as the Prime Evil and holds all 7 Evils within him. It is cool that he becomes this, though I wish it had been shown better in appearance and in the final fight. Diablo is a character with plans within plans and that is why the games are named after him I think. He always finds a way to live, which makes him a good antagonist.

Imperius – Imperius is the leader of Heaven and hates humanity and those who defend humanity because of the demon blood that exists in all humans. He doesn’t change either and it is only when Diablo incapacitates him that you are able to save Heaven. I like his stubborness though as Diablo II only had angels helping unless they’d been turned into a demon.

Deckard Cain – Cain has a small role in this and helps you fight Leoric before he is killed off by Maghda. It was great seeing him again but I get why he had to die as it pushes Leah to desperation leaving her open for her mother to corrupt and maker her Diablo’s vessel.

Tyrael – Tyrael is the Angel of Justice from the last game who destroyed the Worldstone to save Sanctuary. He ends up leaving the Council of Angels when they choose to sit back and his arc is reclaiming his place in Heaven as a defender of humanity as he becomes mortal and the first Act is him figuring out who he is and working to stop the Evils.

The Player Character – The player character is fantastic. I loved the Witch Doctor lore and how he is character who calls upon the dead in the unformed lands for his power. He is a smart character with good intentions who is a bit of a paladin in mentality but quick to anger (this applies to all the player characters I think) which sets up them becoming the new Dark Wanderer and vessel of Diablo or a Prime Evil if Blizzard chooses to take that route.

Okay – Leah – Leah is an idea, not a bad idea though I hate the “Anti-Christ” meme of her being the child of Diablo so Diablo can possess her. That I found uncreative and Leah doesn’t help. She’s well meaning but beyond caring for her uncle and figuring out her powers she doesn’t feel fully fleshed out, so I’m putting her at okay.

Followers – The followers each have unique stories but I felt that they should have had more outside of their quests. I like when they interact with one another but they should have been given more quests outside of the one you get for loyalty. I also would have liked more followers as each of them could have been a much greater exploration of the regions of the world in each Act.

Cons – The Villain Taunts – The villain taunts are annoying and especially after killing a lot of minions and mini-bosses rang false. There was no danger of them winning and in the case of Azmodan I was literally attacking him in his home. Belial at least had the excuse of not having home field advantage (Same with Diablo in the High Heavens and he seemed about to win at least). I would have liked to see more lasting damage to the world if they were doing taunts like if every time they taunt the room you are in a no-name npc dies from the voice. That way it would show just how powerful these villains still are.

  This was a gamer that I kept coming back too and have already beaten twice with my Witch Doctor. There is so much replay value in this game and that was even before I bought “Reaper of Souls” which only increased the overall replay value. Each of the heroes has a different play style and within that play style so much you can accomplish with gear and different builds. The story is also interesting enough that I like seeing villains and characters again. The weakest parts are Leah, Adria and Diablo. Adria’s backstory and her going to Diablo should have been fleshed out this game as well as where Diablo was the whole time and how she was able to bring him out and make him the Prime Evil. Besides these issues though, the story knows exactly what it is and even though I would have preferred the bosses be a lot more difficult in my playthroughs (even as I increased the difficulty, only certain bosses ever gave me much of a challenge as my Witch Doctor). It is still a game for any lover of gothic, blizzard or RPG games.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and one of my favorite games.

Ghostbusters (2016): A Decent Comedy With a Villain and Climax That Don’t Work

Ghostbusters 2016

   For being one of the most politically controversial films this year, “Ghostbusters” was actually enjoyable. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it great as it did have a major villain issue and the finale went on a lot longer than it should have, but it had enough going for it in the main characters and the comedy that I was entertained. This film didn’t have to be made, as goes for most films that have been turned into soft reboots and Franchises and that mentality is one I dislike in Hollywood as I want more original stories. Given all of that though, if you are looking for a decent comedy you will no doubt be entertained by this film.

  The film was directed by Paul Feig who was also one of the writers, with the other writer being Katie Dippold. The producers were Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal.

   The story involves Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) seeking out her friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) from her past when Abby publishes their book on the paranormal and ghosts and Erin realizes her tenure at Columbia at risk. When they reunite they find themselves pulled into the paranormal and must stop the villain raising ghosts around town while facing the city of New York who doesn’t believe them.

The Pros: The Comedy – The comedy is a lot of improv but works overall. This is largely due to the chemistry between the leads. I prefer the dry humor of the original but these 4 ladies are fantastic.

Charles Dance – He plays Wiig’s boss at the University and is great at being stuck up and overly conservative. He only has 2 scenes but they are quite funny and that is largely due to Dance’s charisma.

Kevin – Hemsworth is an underrated actor and this movie really showed that he can play both the hero and the dolt as Kevin is a hilarious beefcake model who has to learn basic skills over the course of the film.

The Cameos – Murray as a skeptic, Aykroyd as a Cabbie, Ernie Hudson as Toles’s Uncle and Potts as the Hotel Desk Clerk where the most memorable ones. I would have preferred a sequel and passing of a baton if they were going to make this film but since they didn’t, I’m glad they got to at least show up to remind us of the classic film that started everything.

The Leads – The four leads are the best part of the film. It was very smart casting on Sony’s part as this could have easily been with the Adam Sandler crew (seriously Sony, stop giving him money) or any other comedy group. I liked who they chose since they weren’t going for a 3rd film.

Dr. Erin Gilbert – Wiig is great at being the nervous professor who is always trying to overcompensate. She is someone who is unsure and is the who really helps illustrate the quirks of the others. Her arc is getting confidence and healing her friendship with Abby.

Dr. Abby Yates – It is Melissa McCarthy, she is one of the better comedians when she is in her element and given decent writing. She is here and it is awesome to see her in the Aykroyd role as the believer in the paranormal who is the most competent businesswise because she’s had to live off nothing because of how out there her career is.

Jillian Holtzmann – Jillian is crazy and offputting and was probably my favorite character in the film. She’s very much someone who isn’t quite there and because of that her friendship with Abby made sense. McKinnon is fantastic and I can’t wait to see her in other stuff.

Patty Tolan – Leslie Jones does a great job as the one who knows what is going on and whose fear was the most believable. She sold a lot of the scenes for me because of how in it she was. Her scenes were the most natural it felt like too and it felt like she wasn’t doing as much improv as the others which gave strength to the overall film.

Okay/Con: Been Here Before – The original “Ghostbusters” is a classic for a reason and I have fond memories of it and look forward to reviewing it, “Ghostbusters 2” pretty much re-did the same story over again in a weaker way and plotwise this story suffers from the same problem. I hate that this is common and this was a rightful issue with “The Force Awakens.” If you are going to have original characters, tell an original story. The Four starting a ghost hunting business and having to face their own doubts, the city as an enemy and a supernatural foe is exactly “Ghostbusters 1 and 2.” This main cast deserved better as they had good chemistry.

The Cons: The Villain – I can’t remember his name or anything about him besides the fact that he was someone who hated being bullied so wanted to bully the town. He dies, becomes a ghost, posses Kevin and wants to cause the Fourth Apocalypse. The fact that his name isn’t even memorable and his actions are cliche are a major problem with the film.

The Climax – The fight goes on way too long and just keeps going and going. The animation isn’t all that great for the ghosts either so it stands out as well. I missed how quite and subtle so much of the action was in the original compared to this. This one is going loud and “Marvel” Movie climax and it takes away time from our characters who we really needed more time with to get their motivations more fully.

  This is a film that could have been awful, the trailers certainly made it look like it would be awful…and if the villain had been more front and center as unmemorable as he already was, the climax gone on another 5 minutes…it would have been worse. Luckily the actual film itself was entertaining. The humor worked for the most part, I cared about the leads and if you are looking for a decent comedy this summer, you will probably enjoy this.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10

The Secret Life of Pets (2016): Depends on the Cute Factor and the Story is Weak

The Secret Life of Pets poster

  When I review films I usually break it up into pros, cons and okay…this film there isn’t much to say on it so I’m going to write about it in a small essay form. The film isn’t bad, but it isn’t even close to good and was even boring at times, which is one thing no story should be. The idea of pets living another world when humans are away is intriguing, it just never gets all that complex the way other films of the same nature have done. The film did make me want to watch the “Despicable Me” films since I heard those were good, and they were from the same studio who did this film, so it has that going for it at least.

   The film was directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, written by Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio and produced by Chris Meledandri and Janey Healey.

   The story involves Max (Louis C. K.) and life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) and how it changes when she adopts Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound leading to Max and Duke trying to kick each other out of the house leading to them getting lost and Max’s friends having to rescue them while Duke and Max must learn to get along.

    The story is a lot like “Toy Story,” with Max as Woody and Duke as Buzz, but unlike “Toy Story” the writing never rises that high. More often than not it depends on what we associate with animals (lazy cats, over excited dogs) to get the humor across while never rising up to deep characters like a Pixar film.

     This isn’t Pixar but I was hoping to actually care about the characters. Besides the ending when Max and Duke repair their issues with one another, I cared less about them. If there were good side characters this wouldn’t be so bad…

     There are two interesting side characters, Gidget who has a crush on Max and Snowball who is leading a rebellion against humanity with a bunch of abandoned pets. They are each interesting because they have personality traits that stand out. Gidget is obsessed with Max and extremely naive (talks to a hawk who wants to eat her) but can befriend anyone and Snowball is crazy but shows that he just wants to be cared about at the end of the day when a little girl adopts him. Seriously, these two could have carried the film and brought it up to maybe a 6 or 7, but we are left with the bland leads going through two folks learning to get along which we have seen in animation done better, and this time it isn’t even done in an interesting way.

     At the end of the day this was a predictable film that lacked in humor and and characters with depth. This is bad because if the leads can’t carry a film I need other characters who are around enough or comedic enough to keep me entertained. This film failed on this basic part and in the end wasn’t an enjoyable drama or comedy. The soundtrack like the characters didn’t stand out so I can’t really recommend that either.

    If you have kids and don’t want to see “Finding Dory” again I’d tentatively say you should see it. The kids may be entertained, but they deserve better. Take them to “Finding Dory” instead or show them one of the many amazing animated shows currently on television.

Final Score: 5.2 / 10

The Lobster (2016): A Great Concept Film on Relationships That Never Delivers

The Lobster

       “The Lobster” is a film that could have been a favorite film had it been more succinct, knew more clearly what it was trying to say and had cut some of it’s scenes down. It isn’t a bad film but the longer the film went on the less I liked it. It started out great and by the end was merely good. The whole idea of critiquing courtship, love and relationships is really cool, and there was so many ways this film could have worked. Non-spoiler thoughts, it is worth checking out, it just isn’t great, it is only good.

    The film was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who also was one of the writers and producers. The other co-writer was Ethymis Filippou and the other producers were Ed Guiney, Ceci Dempsey and Lee Magiday.

       The film takes places in a dystopian future in which all people must be in a marriage or else they are transformed into animals. They also hunt the loners a rebel group who lives outside the hotel. The story follows David (Colin Farrell) who finds himself single when his wife leaves him for another man forcing him to find a partner in 45 days or else he’ll be transformed into the animal he chose, a lobster.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is cool and left me with questions…what lead the world to become only run so that marriage is what matters over all else? The idea that people could be transformed into animals is really cool as well and the film does a good job showing that presentation (and leaving the question open if the transformations ever really happened). So there is a lot to like about the world.

The Premise – A person having 45 days to find a partner is a fascist dsystopian world is an interesting one. There is so much you can do with it.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is a beautiful and does a great job giving the film a modern feel but also an older feel too, which is the nature of dystopia. This is the future but has reverted to a twisted version of the past.

The Characters – The characters are interesting and most of them manage to be 3 Dimensional even though their names present them as concepts.

Lisping Man – John C. Reilly is good at non-comedic roles! In this he plays the Lisping Man who is insecure because of his lisp and wants to fit in to the group. He is punished for masturbating at one point and has to put his hand in the toaster when it is turned on. It is implied he is changed into an animal as he would have been punished after David steals his stuff when he hunting David after David has become a loner.

Hotel Manager – Olivia Coleman makes a wonderful villain. She is empathetic and harsh and in the end meets her own tragic end when her husband claims to love her but shows he will shoot her if it means his survival, destroying their relationship which was the plot of the Loner’s Leader.

Heartless Woman – The Heartless Woman is a great antagonist as she kills David’s dog that belonged his brother and we see her cruel to all those around her. She is transformed at the end so is given a just end.

Loner Leader – The Loner Leader is driven to destroy all relationships (except her parents). I never got her motivation as it seems her and the Maid are together at one point, but then she kills her to keep control over the Short Sighted Woman…I liked her as a character but her lack of motivation was a con.

the Maid – I liked the Maid. She saves David from the Hotel and works with the Loners, even though their leader has the Short Sighted Woman kill her to keep control over the Short Sighted Woman. I got her motivation though, she was in an abusive relationship that society kept her in, the Loners were her out.

Short Sighted Woman – Rachel Weisz is a good actress and is pretty intense in this where she communicates in commands at first but grows to have communication through eyes and hand signals with David when they are getting around the Loner rules about no relationships. She is blinded by the Loner Leader at one point which leads David to rescuing. I hated that she had her agency taken away and never had a name as she was the one telling the story and is set up to be David’s equal.

David – Colin Farrell is a pretty fantastic actor. In this he is a bigger awkward guy who doesn’t get people but shows he will do anything to have connection and to survive…to a point. At the end we never know if he stabs his eyes with the butcher’s knife to stab his own eyes out so he and the Short Sighted Woman can be blind together.

When Commonality Leaves in Relationship – All the relationships are based on past commonality or false commonality (one person creates bloody noses on himself so he can be with a girl who actually has that problem). I think that is the need for connection and how commonality is that first step. This plays it to it’s absurdest conclusion.

The Awkwardness of Courtship – The awkward courtships show how people will work in any social environment no matter how unhealthy (the loners and the hotel) to find and be with someone and how it is awkward within the confines of communication allowed and on the dependence of commonality in order to communicate.

The Cons: The Pacing – The pacing was all over the place. Some scenes lingered way too long, at one point after the Hotel it feels like it should be over and other scenes are short like when the Short Sighted Woman and David get together. This film needed a better editor.

The Ending – Does he cut out his eyes or not? If they want to leave it ambiguous, why not when he escapes the Hotel since the Short Sighted Woman serves no purpose within her own agency.

The Narrator – The narrator interjections from the Short Sighted Woman were annoying at times. I kept looking for the character but she doesn’t actually appear for a long time.

The Short Sighted Woman’s Story  and Dis-empowerment of a Lead – This character is made blind and everything she does is for David. At times it looks like she wants to escape because she has a desire to do so but that stops after she is blinded. She is someone who has been out in the wilderness a lot longer, she deserved to have more of an identity that didn’t revolve around David.

   This was a good film but the cons eventually overwhelmed everything else. A more powerful concept film could have achieved the same purpose in a lot less time. A perfect ending would have been him escaping the hotel and leaving the rest up to mystery as even the Short Sighted Woman is never given name, even though she is the narrator and seems to be set up as a main character when we see that she is a loner and can give that perspective…that never happens though because she is more concerned telling David’s story, and as great of job as Colin Farrell does, detached characters can only give so much before they become boring. His character eventually suffers from this due to pacing. I would still recommend this film though, for what it is, it is worth checking out.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – A Fun Adventure That Gives Justice to the Characters and Plot

Hellboy 2 Poster

        The blog is finally back! I’ve been on a bit of haitus since I’ve been moving to a new apartment, my sister got married this week and I had car trouble in Seattle and had to replace a flat, which took a few days. There are reviews upcoming, the first of which is this one that I’ve been working on. Enjoy.

       “Hellboy 2” is a lot of fun. This is a film that takes everything that worked about the first film and focuses it (with some of the same problems still around as well) and creating a few new problems. It is the better film though, as the characters in this are more memorable and Hellboy isn’t the only character driving the plot this time. Non-spoiler thoughts, check this film out if you like the Hellboy comics and enjoyed the first film.

    The film was directed and written by Guillermo del Toro and produced Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin.

    The story involves Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and the team working top the evil elf Prince Nuada from summoning the immortal Golden Army from ancient that nearly wiped out humanity before.

The Pros: The World – Guillermo loves the dark world of fairy mythology (see “Pan’s Labrynth”) and here he gets to show and express that love in the mythos on display. His world is fascinating and all characters look so real and alien. This is really him in his element as this film had some of my favorite character designs.

The Soundtrack – Danny Elfman once again creates a powerful score! This is a guy who specializes in dark fairy tales and that is what this Hellboy film is. he does a masterful job capturing the tragedy and loss in scenes and the soundtrack is worth checking out just for what it is.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is stunning. While the last film was too dark at times this one embraces the dark but also the light to create beautiful contrasts in locations and characters, giving the film and otherworldly feel. Guillermo Navarro did a fantastic job.

The Introduction – A little Hellboy is being red a story by his adoptive father Trevor (yay, John Hurt is back!). It is a touching scene as we learn that fairys and humans lived in harmony until humans started destroying the land leading King Balor to create a Golden Army of magic. He regrets it all after the death toll rises and makes a peace treaty with humanity. His son leaves in exile as he wanted humanity wiped out and he and his daughter hide the pieces so the army may never rise again.

The Characters – The characters are what drew me into the world of Hellboy (though Hellboy isn’t as interesting as Abe of Krauss in my opinion) and they are the reason I will continue to see these films.

King Balor – The King is awesome and shuts down his son when his son tries to call for war again. It takes his son killing him for him to be stopped. I wanted more of this guy as he was a fascinating and powerful character.

The Goblin Smith – This guy makes a deal to save the life of Hellboy and we learn he was the smith who made the Golden Army and fears his creations. He brings Liz to the Angel and she makes the deal to bring Hellboy back even knowing it could lead to the end.

The Angel – The Angel sees Hellboy’s future and in it only destruction. She is a dark and haunting figure with eyes of a large cranium and great black wings. She has my favorite design in the film and if they make more I hope we see her again. She saves Hellboy’s life.

 Hellboy – Hellboy’s arc is learning to communicate with Liz and work on a team. He is by the end and has rubbed off on Krauss who rebels against the agency. His arc is cool as we see even though he is stupid, his heart is in the right place and he is a talented fighter.

Liz – Liz makes the choice Hellboy made last movie where he risks all to save her, she does the same this film. She is the one who has gotten control of her powers (I would have liked to see more of how that happened) and is the one helping Hellboy become responsible.

Abe Sapien – Abe has a character arc as we see him love and lose as he brings the crown to Nuada that awakens the army (and rightfully calls out Liz and Hellboy for doing the same thing). Sadly not all love works out as Nuala dies to save them all. It is a touching scene and we see how perceptive Abe is. I really liked his character after this film.

Prince Nuada – The Prince is in it for revenge and has a great design as a dark warrior. He trained for centuries and his plan nearly works because he is the only one who doesn’t love and only wants to control. Luckily he is stopped in the end by his sister, who it turns out was the only one who could unless the heroes were willing to kill her by killing Nuada.

Princess Nuala – Nuala should have got more screentime. We see she is compassion and a healer, while her brother is the warrior and she is shown to be wise as she knows that the war will only end in the destruction of all as the Golden Army is only built to destroy. She also falls in love with Abe and is lovely until she kills herself to stop her brother keeping up the theme of tragedy that pervaded the film.

Johann Krauss

 Johann Krauss – Krauss is awesome! He is pretty much immortal because he is living ectoplasm in a suit. This leads to him being both smarter and stronger than Hellboy and a better leader on all counts as he doesn’t depend on brute forcing his way through situations. He does see the value in it though and resigns from the agency with the rest of them as they are tired of being tools, given that Hellboy’s existence is shown to be just a tool for his father to cause the end of the world. All of them, including Krauss, reject that control.

Okay: The Ending – It is cool that Liz and Hellboy are going to be parents, the freeze frame for the final shot was a bit annoying though.

The Cons: Disposable Agents – So many agents die, they are basically red shirts and I feel the stakes would have been hire if they’d felt more like characters rather than disposable bodies.

The Prince’s Long Term Plan – What was his plan after humanity was wiped out? He never talks about it and it seems that the Fairy Realm is largely afraid of him. He lived only for revenge when he could have been so much more since he wanted to rule and killed his father to do so.

  I enjoyed this film much more than the first one largely because the side characters got a lot more exploration while still keeping the Hellboy mythos key with him being son of a Demon Lord. The price and cost of choices was explored really well too and using the Fairy World to do so was masterful since in mythology they are all about dealmaking. Krauss was my favorite character and his character growth was a big part of what made the film so fascinating outside of the great world and character designs that we’ve all come to expect from Guillermo del Toro.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

“Game of Thrones” Season 6 – Of Payoffs, Drama and Passing the Books to Create a Nearly Perfect Story

Game of Thrones Season 6

     First off I should give a warning. This review is going to contain spoilers. These are books that I’ve been reading for a long time and this was the Season where so many of our questions about where George R. R. Martin is going where finally answered. For non-spoiler thoughts, this was easily the best season of television this year. I’d rate above “Better Call Saul,” which for me was pretty untouchable this year. The reasons behind this is due to this being a story with consequences. There is death and Houses change as new powers rise and others fall. This season was drama at it’s best.

     David Benioff and D. B. Weiss really created something spectacular and took us places we had never been before in the books.

      The story is all about dealing with the consequences of last season. Jon Snow is dead, the High Sparrow nearly controls King’s Landing, Dany is missing in action as the Slavers plot against Meereen, Arya is training and Sansa escapes with Theon from Bolton held Winterfell.

SPOILERS ahead

Hodor

The Pros: The World – The world is expansive this season and in it we get to see the consequences of all the relationships and build up among the survivors and the choices they’ll make to continue surviving or to build something greater. This season really explores what happens when major players in “The Game of Thrones” make decisions to change that world.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Djawadi is one of my favorite composers at this point. This season he gives us probably the greatest song to come out of this series.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpHMq8qbfM. Suffice to say his music is a major part of what makes this world so dark and rich.

The Battles – The action is the best this show has been show far with battles on par or surpassing the “Battle of the Wall” and “Battle of Blackwater.”

Siege of Riverrun – This is smaller battle but huge in that it showed that the Blackfish is as prideful as Ned and it nearly costs his family everything…and he can’t even hold Riverrun anymore after Jaime uses Edmure Tully to take control of the castle and have it surrender similar to how Ramsey used Theon to take Moat Cailin.

Battle of Slaver’s Bay – This is a pretty fast battle but it is amazing! Dany flies Drogon and destroys the fleet of the Masters before Grey Worm kills two of the Masters leaving one to spread the word that Dany is not someone to be messed with. The Son’s of the Harpy are also killed by the Khalasar that Dany now owns.

Jon and Sansa

Battle of the Bastards – Battle of the Bastards is amazing! We have Jon and some of the smaller Northern Lords and Wildings arrayed against the Boltons and the major houses in the North. Rickon is killed to spark of the battle and Jon pulls and Ned and almost gets himself killed since he doesn’t listen to Sansa that Ramsey will try to play him. The battle is nearly lost by Jon until Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger leads to the Vale rescuing them and Jon’s final showdown with Ramsey at Winterfell where he is finally defeated and the Stark banner rises again. Wun-Wun dies in the fight.

The Characters – The characters are what drives Martin’s stories and a lot of them have some great moments this season. The list is extensive but I wanted to give credence to as many of the people who had moments.

Brienne – Brienne is Jaime’s consience and helps him find a way to capture Riverrun with limited bloodshed. She is sworn to Sansa now and is doing a great job as she saves her from Bolton troops when Theon and Sansa first escape and is their envoy in the North when they recruiting Houses against the Boltons.

Tormund – This guy is awesome! He is able to convince the free folk to stand with Jon as he believes Jon will be the one who will be there at the end fighting them against the dead. Their friendship is amazing and he a lot of great moments this season and some funny moments where he is crushing on Brienne but clearly doesn’t know how to talk to her.

Roose Bolton – Roose’s role is short in this but what we see is that the Boltons would probably still own the North of Ramsey hadn’t killed him after he and Lady Frey had a son. His death is the end of House Bolton…Roose could have taken control of the North, he is a Tywin type personality.

Ramsey Bolton – Ramsey is pretty unhinged per usual, but manages to show enough diplomacy to keep the big Houses under him in the leadup to the Battle of the Bastards. He has been untouchable for so many seasons and the Battle of the Bastards is his first loss besides Sansa and Theon’s escape. He pays the consequences finally too as Sansa feeds him to his hounds.

The High Sparrow – Jonathan Banks really did a great job creating a charming villain. The High Sparrow is someone who embraces poverty but also takes advantage of people to rule through fear and the power he sees the Seven granting the Church. He wins through most of this season until Cersei’s final plan leads to his end. Banks truly made this role memorable, in the books he never stood out to me.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger saves the day and we see he is still the same creeper who sold Sansa to Ramsey in the first place. He is going to be hardest thing for the Stark’s to deal with as he is the reason Ned is dead as well as Rob and Cat. He can’t be trusted and I hope Sansa uses her influence to blackmail him for control for as long as need be before he is ended.

The Hound – The Hound is back! In this a Sept nurses him to health and he stays with the peaceful folks until the bandits exploiting the Brotherhood without Banners attack and kill them all. The Hounds gets revenge and later joins the Brotherhood. So great seeing him again.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm is a great soldier but has to deal with dealing his injury and diplomacy as Tyrion’s approach is much different from his. Seeing his relationship with Messandie is really sweet too and I can’t wait to see him Westeros.

Messandei – Messandie like Grey Worm is unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones and uncomfortable with it. Much of their arc is acclimating to Tyrion and negotiating between the free people the compromises Tyrion makes.

Yara – Yara is awesome! In this we see her nearly win the Kingsmoot after Euron kill’s Balon, until Balon arrives forcing her and Theon to run. When they run we see she cares for Theon but also doesn’t trust him because of Moat Cailin and the past. We also see she isn’t bad at diplomacy too as she flirts with Dany but is willing to work with Dany’s terms for capturing the Iron Islands and making her Lord even if means giving up the worst aspects of Reaver culture.

Hodor – Hodor is the hero in this. In a flashback we learn he was once a boy named Wylis who loses it all when Bran wargs into his mind when he has traveled back in time as he orders Wylis to “Hold the door!” against the dead and White Walkers leading Wylis to say the command over and over again until he becomes Hodor. It is a powerful scene and one of the more tragic moments in the series.

Melissandra – Melissandra is at least hundreds of years old so we know she knows some of what is going on in the wider world. In this she faces consequences for burning Shireen as Jon exiles her from the North after she brings him back to life.

Davos – Davos is Jon’s Hand at this point and still can’t quite see the bigger picture. He does help recruit houses to Jon though which helps the Stark’s take back the North.

Margery Tyrell – Margery is smart but sadly stupid people keep her from living. In this we see her negotiate for Loras’s release (even if he has to become a Faith Militant in the process) and manages to get her Grandmother out of King’s Landing which ends up saving her mother’s life. Natalie Dormer is wonderful in this role and I’m sad she’s dead from Cersei’s brilliant and horrible plan.

Lady Mormont – Lady Mormont is amazing! She is a 12 year old who is Lady of her House and sends Jon 62 troops to the “Battle of the Bastards” but also comes herself. She also unites the Houses behind Jon as the new King of the North. She is all around amazing and is phased by nothing.

Olenna Tyrell / The Queen of Thorns – Olenna is one of my favorite characters along with Margery (I’m very much a Tyrell). In this we see her attempt to save her grandchildren but is outmaneuvered by the High Sparrow forcing her to leave on Margery’s prompting back to Highgarden so that the Tyrell name will live on. Now she is last of the House and is plotting revenge against Cersei’s for destroying her family.

Cersei Queen

Cersei Lannister – This season is really Cersei’s rise as everyone underestimated the ends she’d go to when she is backed into a corner and still wants everything. In the end she gets everything. She is the one who gains it all (the Throne) and loses everything in the process. She is isolated, alone and ruler of all. What a great villain and Lena Headey really does a great job humanizing her.

Jaime Lannister – Jaime is kind of screwed at this point. He wins Riverrun and we see that he cares for Brienne but he is also willing to do everything for Cersei, though that may not be the case anymore with her going Mad Queen. Jaime is someone who has a conscience and tries to make the best choices for his own ends but also ways that will make it less bad for his enemies. He has awareness that Cersei does not and I can see that coming into play next season as Cersei did the thing that he killed the Mad King over when the Mad King was threatening to do it.

Arya Stark – Arya is a face changer but also not “no one.” Her arc this season is reclaiming her identity and beginning her rampage on Westeros against all the people on her list. At the end the season she feed’s Walder Frey his son’s and kills him.

Sansa Stark – Sansa has risen as one of the major players in the Game of Thrones as she saves the Starks from Jon’s stupidity and even manages to shut down Littlefinger’s advances. Sophie Turner brings so much to this role and it is great seeing Sansa as the one calling the shots in her own life finally.

Jon Snow – Jon is back and still has Ned’s stupidy. He is still a great character but he played easily by Ramsey during the battle as he rushes to save his brother in what is clearly a trap. He also doesn’t want to fight for a long time too as he is done with fighting after the Night’s Watch killing him. After he get’s over himself though he becomes a decent commander who the North is willing to unite behind, eventually crowning him King of the North.

Vaerys – Vaerys is all about the big picture but has his own rightful hangups too as when Tyrion seeks out a Red Priestess he critiques her religion and the followers even as it is shown there is something going on given she was able to figure out his backstory. He also unites Dorn and Highgarden against King’s Landing and as possible allies of Dany in her conquest of Westeros.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion is the wisdom in it all as his biggest challenge is integrating into a society that he is alien too as we see when he tries to make friends with Grey Worm and Messandei and isn’t all that successful at it. He is Dany’s hand by the end and we see that he is there to make her aware of the choices and consequences in the game of thrones and to avoid the pitfalls of her father.

Daenerys – This season is where Daenery’s once again rises as she destroys the Khals, the Sons of the Harpy and the Masters as well. In this she gets her army and her ships from Yara when she backs Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands under the condition that they will no longer pillage and rape. Dany is set to be a great leader as from Tyrion she is learning the cost of ruling and the cost of different choices…as the season ends with her sailing to Westeros to begin the conquest.

Daenery’s Destroys the Khals – This scene is amazing as Dany shows she is fireproof and burns the Khal’s alive during their trial of her, leaving her in charge of their people and giving her a giant army in order to take Meereen and Westeros.

Sansa’s Revenge – Sansa feed’s Ramsey to his dog’s after shutting down his mind games. Her look at him is powerful too during it all as you see how hardened she is and that she has become the ruler.

Arya’s Revenge – Arya feeds Walder Frey his son’s before killing him and avenging Robb and Cat. It is such a great moment and one of the best this season.

The White Walkers – The White Walkers were made to be weapons against the First Men is what we learn from the Children of the Forest, Bran even see’s a flashback of the Night’s Kind getting made. It is pretty amazing. We also see the Night’s King’s Power too as by touching Bran in the vision allowed him to enter the lair of the Children of the Forest and wipe out the Children and the Three-Eyed Crow.

The Tower of Joy – R+L does in fact = J! Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen! We get some great flashback sequences of Ned taking the Tower of Joy and his last moments with Lyanna who we saw in past flashbacks.

Hodor’s Sacrifice – This was one of the most powerful moments in the show. The death of Wylis and birth Hodor which was also the death of Hodor. I think he was a hero as he was protecting Bran throughout the series even before all it and was clearly one of the few good people on the show. R.I.P. Hodor.

Cersei’s Master Plan and the Mad Queen – The plan is beautiful. Qyburn and the little birds (homeless kids) kill Maester Pycell, Wildfire is ignited below the Great Sept leading to the death of the Tyrells, Kevin Lannister and all the Sparrows leaving Cersei victories. The cost though is Tommen who can’t handle being without his Queen and the depths of evil his mother would go to.

Overthrowing Patriarchal Power – Patriarchal power being overthrown is a major theme this season. From the Sand Snakes killing Doran and his heir, to Sansa’s killing of Ramsey, Cersei’s destroying of the Church and Dany’s killing of the Masters and the Khals. All of these stick with theme and show it done beautifully as the powerless become powerful.

Okay: Euron Greyjoy – Euron is just a Pirate King and he doesn’t look as interesting as he does in the books where they played that up. In this he is though and looks the role but is almost too generic. He also didn’t protect his boats so Yara and Theon were able to steal them. Hopefully he’s a better villain next season.

Theon Greyjoy – Theon is okay, he isn’t a dick anymore (in more ways than one) but he is nearly invisible. He has a great moment when he stands up for Yara at the Kingsmoot, but I’ve never really liked the character even if I don’t hate him now.

Dorne – The Sand Snakes took over and Doran Martell is dead now. This felt like a waste, I’m putting it as okay because the Queen of Thorns sets them right as they are in it for revenge against Cersei at the end and ready to ally with Daenerys when Vaerys proposes to them that she is their means of avenging their family.

The Cons: Fast Travel – This show does a lot of fast travel and isn’t very good at showing how much time has passed between traveling. This is something I think they could work on next season just so when characters meet and they are separated by great distance…that it means more.

This was one of the best season’s of storytelling I have ever watched. This is the season of drama and payoff and you can tell that they are ready to this show in 2 more seasons. This season really showed that they can. The characters that aren’t as strong still stand out. There are so many big character moments that I had to give them their own section just to really recognize how big those moments where. If you’ve been with these characters for this long and seen their drama in the books everything is even stronger. The choices have consequences and every choice has so much history behind it. This is the Game of Thrones and many will die before the end, but at least their deaths won’t be meaningless as we see heroism in characters like Hodor or the depths of evil that some characters will reach, like Cersei.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The good far outweighs what few flaws there are.

Daenerys and Tyrion