“Voltron: Legendary Defender” Season 1 – An Amazing Space Fantasy Full of Humor and Drama

Voltron

   “Voltron: Legendary Defender,” is one of the best animated shows I have seen. It is one of those like “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” that manages to have both innocent humor and a deeper message beyond the simple fantasy that the story entails. There is philosophy worth exploring in this story and it makes me want to see the original (Beast King GoLion and Voltron: Defender of the Universe) that inspired this new take on it.

    The series is a Korean-American animated show that was produced by Dreamworks with Netflix.

    The premise involves our main characters discovering the Lions that are made to form Voltron and the Castle where Princess Allura and Coran have in hibernation. Their leader is Shiro who escaped from the Galra Empire as together the five soldiers create Voltron to liberate the Galaxy from the evil Galra Empire.

This review contains SPOILERS, so be warned.

The Pros: The World – The world it takes place in is wonderful! The Galra Empire has created civilizations of refugees (Coran and Princess Allura) and even those who aren’t refugees are civilizations that are caught in the crossfire or enslaved to their power. This gives a powerful reason for Voltron that the story uses to full degree.

The Soundtrack – Brad Breeck created an amazing electronic 80′ style soundtrack that is able to capture tension and the wonder of Voltron magically. I seriously can’t wait to play games to this soundtrack.

The Animation – Studio Mir did an amazing job on their animation! It reminds me of old 80’s anime mixed with the much clearer colors and lines of modern anime making it very much something that has no comparison.

The Comedy – The comedy is innocent and wonderful…Hunk is used for comedic relief but there is also great stuff done with Coran’s larger than life personality and the rivalry between Keith and Lance.

The Civilizations – The civilizations are great! They have unique ways of speaking and looks and history that you really have to see for yourself. They aren’t just aliens of the week, they are people in their own right.

The Characters –  The characters are the strongest part, they are simple archetypes given depth and made memorable in the process.

Commander Sendak – Sendak is one of the greatest commanders of Emperor Zarkon and we see why when he nearly captures the Castle and manages to drive Shiro into a trauma filled rage. What happened to him is still up in the air but I’d like to see him again. His robotic arm is pretty amazing too and I like his bat-like design.

Coran – Coran is the comedic relief for a lot of it but we see that he is a good mentor too as he helps the soldiers grow up and we see that what keeps him going is his love for Allura and following her and guiding the main crew. He is a character who in lesser hands would have only remained comedic relief but rose beyond it.

Princess Allura – Allura is amazing! She is a healer (she heals an entire planet) a warrior (She rescues Shiro) and a well rounded character who mourns her family and her father but has to let them go in order to save them all. She is probably my favorite character in this series. She is an amazing space elf (look at her design and her place within this universe, her and her people are space elves).

Witch Haggar – Haggar is a better vilain than Zarkon…her creatures cause the most damage on planets and she is the one who destroys Allura’s wormhole that leads to the crew getting separated at the end of the season.

Emperor Zarkon – Zarkon was once the Black Paladin (Shiro’s role) which makes sense why he wants to claim Voltron. This fact alone gives him so much depth, he is Sargeras, Morgoth and every other fallen Paladin in fiction and he’s been winning for a while. At this point our heroes have only liberated 2 world and injured his capital. He’s fine and a great threat for future seasons.

Pidge – Pidge lost her father in the war against the Galra (he was captured) and her story is a girl going undercover to become a soldier to find and rescue her dad. She is amazing and it the tech and hacker whose arc is realizing that others have lost their dad’s too and dedicating herself fully to the Paladin Cause.

Hunk – Hunk is the comedic relief who is a coward until he discovers why they fight when helps liberate a world, from here we seee him become a leader and find his confidence. He is still the Bolan/Sokka of the group but he grows up.

Lance – Lance is the guy who thinks he is everything and his arc is being knocked down pegs and finding humility. He was explored the least this season, so I’m curious where his arc goes. What arc he does have is getting over his hatred of Keith.

Keith – Keith is amazing! He takes on Emperor Zarkon on his own which gives Shiro time to free Allura and get back into his lion. His arc is getting over his rivalry with Keith and learning when to fight as he is the angriest of the group and always ready to fight.

Shiro – Shiro is the leader whose arc is facing his trauma and helping the rest come to believe in the cause. He is the oldest and has a mech arm from experiments that were done by the Druids. He is pretty amazing and his arc is still going to be taking control of the Galra tech as it has been used against him a few times now.

Voltron – Five multi-colored Lions that care about the Paladins in them and become a giant mecha-Knight. This creature is amazing and I can see why they give time to have the sequence where it is created, cause it is really cool.

Facing Trauma – Another theme is the facing of trauma, whether it is Allura facing the death of her father and people and letting go, Shiro healing from his torture and the crew facing the fact that they are soldiers unprepared for the war. This theme of trauma is faced on a individual and civilizational level.

Justice – The theme of justice is one that pervades the film. Pidge decides to stay rather than look for her dad, Hunk discovers courage and Allura faces the loss of her family…in all cases the need for justice against the Galra Empire helps our characters to grow.

Okay: The Ending – The ending leaves things open for future seasons, which at this point I don’t like as much due to “Firefly.” Unless you know that you are going to get another season don’t have a cliffhanger ending. Assuming that nothing bad will happen and we get a Season 2, I liked the fact that the Lions and crew are now all separated throughout the galaxy.

  This is a show I’d highly recommend. Netflix has been putting out gold and chances are you will see me reviewing many of Netflix shows. This was a show that had solid base and managed to give depth to a simple premise and characters and in the process create a memorable story that I can’t wait to see unfold. Whether you like animated shows or animes or don’t…this is a show that is worth checking out.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Voltron Legendary Defender

The Jungle Book (2016): Great Cinematography But Extremely Boring and Slow

The Jungle Book

     As someone who wasn’t a fan of the original animated “The Jungle Book,” I think this was a movie that wasn’t made for me. The original is better though by leaps and bounds…as this at the end of the day this was a film that bored me so much I fell asleep during part of it. That hardly ever happens to me during films. So before non-spoiler thoughts, the amazing voice cast can’t save this boring film that would only really work as a movie playing in the background for kids…I don’t know how much of their attention it would be able hold of it is the core focus.

      “The Jungle Book” was directed by Jon Favreau who was also one of the producers while being written by Justin Marks. The other producer was Brigham Taylor and the film is based off the book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling.

    The story involves Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) telling the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and how his arrival changed everything in the Jungle while he and the other animals must deal with the threat of Shere Khan (Idris Elba) who wants Mowgli and any who support him dead.

     The film is beautiful, but that is about the only thing positive I can say about it. The Special Effects look great and manage to make some of the action meaningful, but there isn’t much to say beyond that.

    This is a film with an amazing voice cast…Murray as Baloo, Kinglsey as Bagheera Nyong’O as Raksha and Elba as Shere Khan is brilliant casting…but the writing is so bland and the characters are so one dimensional that none of it matters. Mowgli has a few chase scenes but they hold no power since he starts out doing a fake chase and the action is so slow…it doesn’t matter if there is an amazing voice cast since they just seem to exist. Nothing meaningful really happens beyond Mowgli making new friends.

    This was an uninspired film and it doesn’t give me much hope for the other films that Disney turned live action from what were originally their animated films. I hope “Beauty and the Beast” is good, but if it is like this film it is going to be really boring and not worth anyone’s time. A story has to have meaningful action and change and I didn’t see that in Mowgli’s story or in relation to the characters around him, they are all just kind of there and there isn’t any music to give it more life like the animated film where at least music can keep a boring or simple story interesting.

    If you have kids, they might enjoy it…but honestly just take them to “Finding Dory” or get them a Pixar film or “Zootopia.” That is a much better use of their time and your time and you’ll be a lot more entertained and experience a film that would actually have purpose.

Final Score: 3 / 10

Suicide Squad (2016): The DC Cinematic Universe Finally Discovers Fun

Suicide Squad poster

     Why couldn’t DC have given us a film like this sooner? This is a film that still is dark but shows that you can have fun and be dark, this is a film with a soul. It isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination but this is the fun that DC has needed for a very long time in their movies. This is the core reason, besides some great performances and characters that really make this a film worthy of checking out.

SPOILERS ahead

       “Suicide Squad” was directed and written by David Ayer and produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle.

      The film involves Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) putting together a group of meta-humans to work under the radar for the U.S. Government. Things go wrong though when one of the group, Enchantress (Carla Delevinge) rebels as well as the threat of the Joker (Jared Leto) who is seeking to save Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) from Waller and her organization.

The Pros: The Aesthetic – The aesthetic of this film is wonderful! This is a film of color contrasts where you have bright pinks, whites, red and purples with dark grey hues. Doing this ended up illustrating the personalities of our protagonists against the world they were a part of and reacted to.

The Tone – The tone is dark but there is humor that runs throughout it. This is a film that knows our heroes are crazy and broken so embraces it and lets them be themselves. This tone is a huge part of what makes this film work.

The Soundtrack – Steven Price did a great job choosing the songs for this album. We here Eminem, Queen and countless other songs that help capture the roaring crazy of our heroes and their world and situation.

The World – The world is a dark nihilistic world in which there are no heroes and a moral grey exists in all choices where there are less bad options but no good ones (Superman being celebrated for example I’d consider moral grey, he was never a hero to me in these last two films). Because of this it allows moral complexity to our protagonists and everyone’s shadow or light is revealed over the course of the film. There is good and bad that exist in all the characters in this film and no real villain besides Enchantress.

Amanda Waller – Viola Davis is amazing as Waller. She puts the Squad in line on multiple occasions and we never see her really break. She also manages to blackmail Batman into covering up her Squad’s operation and she doesn’t bat an eye when he threatens her. She knows she is the one who breaks people for the greater ends and we see that so many times in this film.

Bruce Wayne/Batman – Batman is the reason Deadshot and Harley are in prison as Batman saved Harley from drowning when her and the Joker were on a rampage and Waller gave Batman a tip to take out Deadshot when he was around. The after credits scene was him and Waller making a deal with him getting more info on the Justice League in return for him covering up the events of the film. Ben Affleck really is great in this role.

The Joker – Leto’s Joker isn’t scary, he’s a lot of fun though. The man is a high energy gangster who is all about Harley and ruling over the gangs of Gotham. In this film his soul goal is the rescuing of Harley and it ends with him succeeding. Can’t wait to see him in action again against this world’s “Heroes.”

The Squad – The chemistry between the Squad is what really drives the film. If they had no chemistry this film wouldn’t have worked and would have been a throwaway rental rather than the good film that it is.

Captain Boomerang – Jai Courtney can act! After some of his past performances I didn’t think he could since he comes off as so bland. As Boomerang he is wonderful though as he fights and trolls everyone around him but shows that he can step up for others as we witness in the final fight.

Kantana – Kantana has the Sword of Souls that holds her husband’s as she took it from the man who killed him with it and has been avenging him since. She is awesome and I wanted to see more of her character. She is the serious character contrasted by the more laid back nature that everyone else has.

El Diablo – A gangster who accidentally killed his family with his fire power and is redeemed when he uses his power to stop the villains and save the team. I liked him and felt he should have had more interactions with the team before the end.

Killer Croc – Croc is amazing and my favorite character in this film besides Waller, Joker and Harley. He is fun, comfortable in who he is and shows he has humanity and that rejection by people won’t stop him from helping them.

Deadshot – Will Smith was alright…Deadshot having a daughter humanized him and his humor worked. At times it was hard to see Deadshot since it felt like the celebrity of Will Smith melted through but other times it was clearly Smith’s version of Deadshot so I have to respect him for that. He had great chemistry with those around him and Smith’s Deadshot never stopped being an anti-hero.

Harley Quinn – Margot Robbie owned this role! Also I have to say, I’ve wanted to see live action Harley on film for a long time. Margot owns this role and I hope she gets her spinoff film. In this we see her agency in regards to the Joker with the implication that the two of them have always been broken and that’s why there is something strange between them. Can’t wait to see where her story goes after Joker broke her out at the end! The Squad was like family to her, now we’ll see if that was all words and wanting someone since she thought Mr. J was dead or if she actually meant it.

Okay: Col. Flagg – Bland protagonist overall but I like that he kept threatening the crazies. He was a person who wanted control and could never be Waller so in the end lost control and was part of the Squad.

Enchantress – A Gozeresque villain who does a lot of damage and could have been a lot more. Her “Ring” Witch form is great and I liked her in the final fight, but her motivation was weak. Everyone wants to rule the world…give us more…

The Cons: The Government – Faceless agents except for Waller. This was a missed opportunity since we could have seen more people than Waller who have valid reasons to question and be against the Justice League.

Slipknot – Shows up and has his head blown off. No character at all.

Slow Motion Action – I hate slowing down fights, this slowdown almost ruined the final fight which had been fine prior. There is no reason to do this and it is stupid almost every single time it is used.

Too Much Tell Not Enough Show – We get a lot of backstories told to us that should have been shown in character interaction not Waller or someone else telling us the backstory. The Squad’s chemistry could have easily revealed those stories naturally.

    At the end of the day this was a good film that I would recommend. DC finally discovered these things called jokes and fun and actually managed to use them! See Snyder, these aren’t alien concepts! I didn’t like Ayer’s bullet time stuff but he did a good job of choosing this cast and letting their natural chemistry flow through the sometimes stilted dialogue. This is a flawed film but it is a film I’d watch again if only for the soundtrack and all the scenes with Joker, Harley, Killer Croc and Amanda Waller. DC, pay attention to this film, don’t lose the ability to laugh at yourself and have fun. The Suicide Squad new this and in the end it was part of the reason I cared about what happened to them. Ayer has finally brought humor and heart to a franchise that has desperately needed it.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Better Gameplay, New Class and a More Immersive Story

Diablo III Reaper of Souls

    “Reaper of Souls” is one of the best expansions I’ve played. “Diablo III” was already a game I’d beaten at least twice before buying it and the expansion improved upon some of the problems in the story from the first game as well as adding a lot of other elements that raised the replay value and made it so I continued to put time into Kengin my Witch Doctor and continue to put time in until this day. This is what a great expansion is supposed to do. Blizzard really does know how to make great expansions…from “Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne,” Starcraft: Brood War” and “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” I have yet to be disappointed in any of them in how they’ve improved both the gameplay and changed things up in the story on the ones that came before.

The Pros:

 Gameplay – Things have been improved immensely with Bounties and Nephalem Rifts that give you the chance to face challenging foes and discover amazing worlds like the Cow Level, Whimyshire (Where you kill Unicorns, Teddy Bears and Flowers) and the realm of Greed where you fight another one of the evils who is a fat Goblin who gives you tons of great awards just for entering her realm after killing one of the Treasure Goblins. This is one reason I keep bringing my Witch Doctor back and I can’t wait to take more characters through the the game.

 Difficulty –  In this the bosses are more difficult and you feel their difficulty in the later levels of Torment. I really appreciate that Blizzard has the Torment difficulties as Normal and Expert were too easy and my Witch Doctor didn’t even die until I’d gotten a few levels into Torment. Dying adds stakes and it makes you appreciate the enemies and Nephalem Rifts and Infernal Machines allow you to face those challenges beyond facing the bosses on higher difficulties for Bounties from Tyrael.

SPOILERS ahead

Story – I’m going to start with the story. Act V reveals more about your character beyond them being just a noble archetype of whatever they are playing and gives your character anger and emotional investment. You see this in the hunt for Adria as your hero gets angrier for her escape and using of her daughter and also anger at Maltheal for his slaughter of the innocents of Westmarch as you learn over the course of the story he’s gone mad and wants to solve the problem of evil by destroying all those with Demon Blood, which is all the members of Sanctuary since humanity was born out of Angels and Demons who had children together and just wanted to escape the Eternal Conflict.

The World – The world is expansive in this one and it is a pretty large act. You get to go Westmarch, which is this wonderful large Gothic town who we learned last game defeated Tristam in a war but is now in the middle of a Civil War and ends with no one in control to rule. There are the Battlefields of Eternity which have scavenger demons all over the place and portals to new dimensions and there is the Pandemonium Fortress, a haunting angelic fortress that feels like a fortress of death, a fitting place for Malthael to make his home base. It is also a prison too so you get the chance to face some powerful angels and demons there.

The Characters – The characters are wonderful and it is great seeing Tyrael and Imperius’s relationship to Malthael as they mourn their fallen brother but will not call him, though they will help you get to him to kill him. It is powerful seeing their conflicted loyalties as Tyrael realizes you could be the destruction of all at the end and Imperius respects you even as he hates you for the same reasons as Malthael and for walking all over Angelic Ground in the Heavens. Adria gets some backstory too as we see how persecution lead her to Diablo…though I hate that in the end she is just another Demon Boss. All the characters have more revealed about them and the fact that Diablo is free at the end gives me hope that we’ll see the Seven Evils return.

The Crusader – The Crusader is the added class and I’ve been leveling her up right now as  I continue to work on my Witch Doctor and some of the other classes. I like how they are tied to the same realm as the Paladins but also very different. I named one of mine after a friend and I really enjoy their playstyle as back in College and High School the Paladin was my main in “Diablo II” and the Warrior was my main in the first “Diablo.” She is my secondary to Kengin who is my main character.

Malthael – Malthael is one of the best villains to come out of Diablo. You see his minions destroy Westmarch and your saving it can’t prevent the destruction, he nearly destroys the world and everyone you saves he takes away. He is a really deadly villain and he nearly wins at the end. I never got that from Diablo, Belial (Though he at least kills Cain via Maghda) or Azmodan in the last game. Diablo especially was underwhelming for being the big bad of last game…not enough was done to show the threat of what destroying the High Heavens would mean or what it would be doing on our realm…it was too far removed, and even though it was fun and I liked the Angels and was invested since my personality can be a Paladin type in games, it wasn’t enough. Westmarch is personal and everything Malthael does is personal as well as the confrontation with Adria. That is what the last game lacked and took away from the villains comparing to Malthael, who is directly hurting everyone you try and help and is always out of your reach.

Kengin Witch Doctor

    Rather than writing a concrete con I’m going to write what I would have done differently since it does relate to why I won’t be giving this game a perfect 10 / 10. The main thing I’d change in this game is I would have added another class. We got two new classes in “Lord of Destruction” and as Epic as Act V is, it was also epic in “Lord of Destruction” too but we got more characters out of it. I also would have done more to explore the other Angels and their relationship to Malthael and Tyrael as Imperius is the only one who interacts with Tyrael really and Tyrael is the only one who interacts with Malthael. There were so many great character opportunities here, as well as a chance for us to meet and get to know the rest of the Council more fully. There is also no explanation of why Diablo (and no mention of the other Evils) is now free after the Black Soulstone was destroyed. Blizzard hasn’t explained that yet at all. These are the things that I would have changed and that would have made it a perfect game. This is still one of Blizzard’s great expansions and it does solve a lot of the problems of “Diablo III.”

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Kengin Witch Doctor 7252016

“Stranger Things” Season 1 – A Powerful Sci. Fi. Coming of Age Story Reminiscent of the Best of the 80’s Sci. Fi. Films

Stranger Things Poster

   “Stranger Things” is a show born out of love and appreciation for so many great films during the 80’s. You can see elements of Stephen King, “John Carpenter’s The Thing,” “E.T.” “Goonies” and countless others that were clearly inspiration for a show that in the end isn’t any of them and clearly stands on it’s own as a drama and show. Non-spoiler thoughts, if you like any of the things I listed above you should watch this show. Netflix has once again created gold and if you are looking for a timeless and classic story, this is the show for you.

Their will be some SPOILERS coming up.

     The series was created by the Duffer Brothers for Netflix and produced by Shawn Levy.

     The story involves the mysterious disappearance of Will Byers in a small town in Indiana and what his family (his mother and brother) and friends do to find him as a mysterious entity is on the lose and government agents hunt a young girl with superpowers named Eleven, who joins Will’s friends Mike, Lucas and Dustin to find and rescue Will.

The Pros: The World – The world has the small town feel with the greater mystery as we have a small town where everyone knows everyone yet the threat from both El, the State and the alien entity making the small town threatening beyond the bullies who already inhabit the town.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and captures both the fun of Dungeons and Dragons when the boys are playing it, to the alien nature of the Upside Down where the alien entity comes from and is breaking through into our world.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is awesome and has wonderful 80’s songs littered through the entire show with a haunting 80’s synth for the opening. It is a film level soundtrack. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein did a great job on it.

The Writing – The writing feels real…the characters don’t speak contrived dialogue and the kids sounds like kids, teens like teens and adults sound like adults. It is surprising how rare this is in shows and films but this series doesn’t have that problem.

The Alien – The alien looks like a misshapen grey human from the back with long arms and am mouth like a Venus fly trip. It is terrifying in that you hardly ever see it fully. It is also deadly too as it kills Nancy’s friend Barb and has pumped Will full of it’s possible young even after he is rescued and it is defeated.

The Characters – The characters drive the story and each of them are more compelling than their stereotype or trope they represent in 80’s film.

Nancy Wheeler – Nancy is the nerd who joins the popular kids but after sees they are bullies leaves them. This is her trope that she goes beyond by building a relationship with Jonathan after both of them lose people to the alien and they take the fight to it. She becomes a leader and shows that she is awesome with a gun.

Jonathan Byers – Jonathan is the awkward creeper outsider who we learn is actually sensitive and respectful. That is his trope and how he goes beyond it is building a relationship with his mom when he learns she was telling the truth of talking to Will through the lights and seeing the alien. He’s also a cool older brother to Will and introduces him to great rock.

Chief Jim Hopper – Jim Hopper is the alcoholic divorced Police Chief who lost his daughter and never recovered from it. He changes in that he is the first to back Joyce when he discovers the State base and the area where the alien has made it’s home and the government wipes his memory. He is a dealmaker who doesn’t want to lose people and makes a deal for the State to get El back if he can save Will since he doesn’t want Joyce to lose a child too. For the bitter Police Chief he has a lot of compassion and empathy, and is quite good at his job.

Joyce Byers – Joyce is the main character besides Will’s friends. She is the one who is seen as crazy and in many ways did crack after Will went missing. She is also the one who sees the unknown and takes the risks and discovers the alien entity first. She is great in that she is someone who is doing the best she can with so much working against her. When she helps rescue Will we also see her begin to heal from her past abusive relationship and now having good relationships with her sons. Winona Ryder is wonderful in this role.

Dustin – Dustin is the guy who perceives a lot. He guessed the lunch lady was hiding the chocolate pudding, he knew when the State was coming and to get away and in the end it hints that he knows greater threats are on the horizon too. He is also the one who helps Lucas and Mike resolve their issues and brings the group back together. He is a pretty awesome kid with a lisp.

Lucas – Lucas is the member of Will’s friends who is the most driven and connected to those in the group. He distrusts El when they meet her partially out of fear of losing Mike but also because he wants to protect his friends. In the end he comes around though and even after he and Mike fight he warns and protects them and Eleven from the State as he sees who the real threat is.

Eleven – El is a character with superpowers who was taken from her mother in a government experiment and was being used to spy on the Russians during the Cold War before she escapes after she ends up opening the portal to the world the alien comes from. She is an amazing character who is learning how to control her powers and discovers what having friends is actually like and what it means. In the end she uses her power to hold away the entity and to keep it from our world after she and Mike basically admit love for one another. It is powerful and sad and we get the idea she is still out there fighting the entity.

Mike Wheeler – Mike is the main character and his arc is healing his relationship with his friends, his love for El and saving Will. He is a cool character and we see him willing to risk his life to protect those he cares about. He is also the DM for the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons game.

Coming of Age and Loss – This is the town’s coming of age and Nancy has sex for the first time and discovers her sexuality, Will discovers attraction, El discovers her own beauty and wants for the first time and Joyce and Jim confront their grief and loss and in it come together to heal as they try to save Will. It is powerful and these themes are always their below the surface in the many events and confrontations that take place through the show.

The Cons: The State and Their Motivations and Execution – I get they are fighting the Russians during the Cold War but beyond a faceless entity there was no depth to them at all. Even El’s “Papa” was just a monster who had no depth. This was a major con as every good show needs a good villain.

Leaving the Ending Open – The series could have ended and even though I want to see more I’m putting it as a con since they could have easily wrapped everything up and had the perfect show.

  This was a series that could have ended amazing with just 1 season and not setting up future seasons. I like that there will be more of this show, but like any story that keeps going, especially with television…I fear how it could bring around the overall quality of the show if it isn’t handled well. After defeating the alien things could have ended and it would have been perfect. Leaving it open brought it down a little for me. This is a world well worth your time though and the acting and writing is absolutely amazing. I have yet to have a bad experience with Netflix shows and this one is easily one of their best.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

“BoJack Horseman” Season 3 – Individually Great Episodes But Overall Narrative and Ending Bring it Down

Bojacks3

   “Bojack Horseman” Season 3 is probably the weakest of the 3 seasons so far. It isn’t bad, by all means it is still great…but after the levels met in the last two seasons this one doesn’t cut it as it ends up suffering from a disjointed narrative and a strange end that feels slightly contrived and doesn’t answer any questions in regards to Bojack and the choices he made this season (or only in the vaguest sense answers those questions). There are some amazing stand alone episodes that are the best of the show so far (that I’ll talk about further down) but overall this season never reached the heights of last season.

      The series was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and is a Netflix original show…showing that only does Netflix get drama but it gets animation too as I’ve been watching this season for 3 seasons now and have yet to be dissapointed.

     The main drama this season is Bojack’s destruction of his relationships and his pursuit to win an Oscar for “Secreteriat” all the while dealing with his own inner demons as his friends face theirs and deal with the new relationships in their lives and Bojack.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is easily one of the things that keeps me coming back to the show. The visuals are smooth and there are a few episodes that illustrate this beautifully.

The Dark Comedy – The dark comedy is still fantastic as our characters are put into and put themselves into awkward situations that reveal their darker sides or the cynical hopeless world they are a part of.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this show and even though I found some character decisions that were chosen to be a little contrived, there was a lot of good especially for characters like Todd.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter deals with loss for the first time when his brother goes in for surgery, and his kindness finally pays off when a random idea he had of buying a bunch of strainers leads to him rescuing Ocean City and with it getting everything and being a hero in this world. (is next his fall like Bojack’s and Carolyn’s?)

Sextina Aquafina – Is more than just a quick talking pop star…in this we see her use the popularity of her getting an abortion (not really getting one but faking one, Diane Nguyen is the one who is getting one) and in the end when she gets pregnant we see she wants a kid. This character grew on me a lot. Also her music video is hilarious.

Princess Carolyn – Carolyn is pretty much running in circles this season but I like seeing her backstory and how it was in relation to Bojack that she first got inspired to be an agent and it is when he leaves her agency and their friendship ends that she starts it up again after it ends.

Emily – Emily is Todd’s friend and is wonderfully sarcastic and weird. I really like their dynamic as she is explorative and really like Todd and they are similar. You see why they are so close but also how they are so different. Emily has awareness, Todd doesn’t.

Todd – Todd finally calls Bojack out and leaves him after all of it (the last betrayal was sleeping with his best friend Emily) and we learn that he isn’t gay or straight and doesn’t know what he is (sex freaks him out). He is oblivious and overall pretty sweet in this.

Ana Spanikopita – Ana is a powerhouse who is only out for success but is also normal and vulnerable and it makes her relationship with Bojack interesting. She is good at letting go, where he can’t…

Diane Nguyen – Diane like Carolyn is shafted this season. I didn’t feel like she had an arc. Most of what she does is reacting to and being there for Bojack. I like that she helps Mr. Peanutbutter grow and that she shows she is great at social media…but we don’t really learn anything new about her. I still put her as a pro though, I like how she interacts with characters.

Sarah Lynn – In this we see Sarah Lynn’s fall as she eventually dies from a drug overdose after going on a drug and alcoholic rampage with Bojack. This season really showed how alone she was and that because of how popular she was so young…she never got the chance to form real relationships and in the end her only real friend was Bojack after he saw himself as having lost everything.

Bojack – Bojack hurts his friends and loses them and goes on a drug fueled rampage with Sarah Lynn leading to him reopening old wounds, living in his guilt and shame and finally running away. I liked it when he tried but I hate the spiral largely because it hasn’t ended…

You Can’t Fix Everything – Sarah Lynn stays an addict, Bojack regresses to where he was before, Princess Carolyn repeats and Diane treads water…all our characters are broken and can’t be fixed.

“Fish Out of Water” – This episode has no speaking in nearly the entire episode. Everything is told through music and sound and it is beautifully done as Bojack tries to make up with Kelsey for never talking to her after “Secreteriat” failing each time he tries to communicate.

“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” – A fantastic abortion episode that reveals Sextina has more awareness than she’s given credit for and the power of music and humor to empower against fear as well as the power of narrative as it relates to media. One of my favorite episodes in this entire show.

“Stop the Presses” – This is a great episode exploring Bojack’s selfishness as he sleeps with Todd’s best friend Emily and we see how afraid he is to tell Todd and how that fear dominates him and how for him each new mistake and failure is tied to past ones and it is the reason why he’s forever digging his hole.

The Cons: The Ending – Bojack runs away after it is revealed he was never nominated for an Oscar. His possible daughter calls Carolyn’s new firm and Mr. Peanutbutter is a hero for saving Ocean City from a giant thing of pasta. T

The Way Things Fell Apart – Things seem to be going alright initially but he starts pushing people away after Princess Carolyn fails to get him one of the things he wants for future acting jobs…from here it just spiraled as he couldn’t answer the question of what he’d do after he won the Oscar…I get his guilt complex but this felt contrived.

Pacing and Focus – The pacing felt off this season as it felt like Bojack’s toxic choices didn’t make much sense given the characters around him helping to push him to focus (whether Ana or Carolyn) and even though he didn’t listen and was consumed by guilt…I felt more could have been done to show him doing the work. This felt like Season 1 Bojack and it made the pacing disjointed as it felt like they wanted focus wholly on Bojack or more focused on those around him.

   This season had a lot more cons than the last few seasons of the show but once again, this is a show worth checking out and Season 3 is still gold in so many ways. If you’ve been here this long you’ve gotten to know the characters and some of the ways they change or deal with pain is fascinating as it reveals so much about them. This is also the season we get the most into Bojack’s head, which in many ways made the series weaker in my opinion, but I at least understand why…it’s just a shame that they’d undo all the progress he made last season to show how toxic he is. Much like Walter White or Francis Underwood…he’s a bad guy who has some level of good in him buried under so much bad that you just want him to capture that good and live it more than the bad…given the nature of this show, I don’t know if that will ever happen. I can’t wait to see how it ends though, this season is well worth your time.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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