Onward (2020): Pixar’s exploration of Brothers and Family

Onward (2020) - IMDb

    “Onward” is Pixar that is on the level of “Monsters Inc.” and “Monsters University” as it primarily a relationship between two guys that drives the story. This story once again has the depth I’ve come to expect in Pixar in the relationships between the characters that are explored. I really wish we’d gotten more of that exploration as it would have pushed the film to great. Suffice to say, if you are a fan of Pixar, definitely check this film out. I rented it off Amazon.

The film was directed by Dan Scanlon who co-wrote the screenplay along with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin.

On Ian’s (Tom Holland) 16th birthday he and his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a wizard staff that belonged to their father. From here they must find the Phoenix Gem to restore their father fully as on Ian’s initial attempt at summoning he only manages to summon his father’s legs. They have 24 hours before the spell ends.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Modern Fantasy World – I’ve always been a fan of urban fantasy. Modern fantasy creatures put into the modern world leads to fun and interesting situations. In this this is best expressed in The Manticore who was an adventurer who ran a tavern but  turned it into a more Chuck E. Cheese type joint in order to survive. We also see how Unicorns dig through the trash and you have a Pixie motorcycle gang. This world is so much fun and I’m glad Pixar made this film, simply for the world alone.

The Manticore – The Manticore is the one who gives into the quest and is reborn in the brother’s quest for the Phoenix Gem to bring back their dad. She ends up raging and burning down her restaurant and teaming up with Laurel Lightfoot to get her sword back as we learn that the Phoenix Gem is tied to a curse and only the sword can destroy it. Octavia Spencer is absolutely fantastic in this role. By the end of the film her Tavern is more traditional and she is once again the storyteller recounting her past adventures.

Laurel Lightfoot – Julia Louis-Dreyfus does an amazing job as the mother of the brothers. Her quest to get to them is the B-plot and I really enjoy how we see her taking more control of the situation over time. In her we see both the improvisation to solve problems that Barley has and also her nervous and overthinking nature that her son Ian inherited. She is key to the final battle and I really liked how she plays off her sons and the Manticore.

The Lightfoot Brothers – The core relationship is that between Ian and Barley. Their arcs involve Ian developing courage and confidence in himself, and Barley taking responsibility and opening up about how he ran away from his dad on his death bed because he was so afraid. This arc ends with Barley finally getting to say good-bye to his dad and Ian getting his confidence and realizing it was from how his older brother Barley raised him that he found it. After this magic is back in the world and Ian is now a wizard as we see him use all the spells from Barley’s game…that are real life spells and not just cards.

Death and Saying Good-bye – Barley’s relationship to his dad is the heart of the story in that it is his trouble letting go that I think feeds off how he always trying to escape into games and getting into trouble. In the end he does get to say good-bye and we see how each of the family members are connected to their father in the final shots of the film. All the characters get to say good-bye in their own way as Ian is able to accept his dad’s death because his brother raised him in the ways he’d always wanted his dad to and like his dad he inherited his magic so part of him will always be carried on in Ian.

The Cons:

Action Over Character Moments – This is very action heavy film. This is largely due to it taking inspiration from a Dungeons and Dragons style quest. For this reason it never stops being fun but it also means that we don’t get to see the relationship between the brothers develop as much as it should. They have moments of conflict and opening up to one another, but the film needed more of that. This was a script where the action of the quest took precedent over the character moments at different points.

The Minor Characters – Besides the Manticore most of the minor characters aren’t very memorable. I didn’t care about the Pixie gang beyond them being antagonists. The cop characters are just kind of there, even though the Centaur is set-up to become the Lightfoot’s step-dad. This was a shame as we don’t really get any motivations of these characters. Another draft could have changed this and in turn brought the film to great.

This is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year, and I’m glad it rentable from home given all that is going on with Corvid-19. Please stay safe everyone. This film is about family and the relationships that define us. Hold those relationships close and know just how important you are to so many others both friends and family. If you get the chance definitely check out this film. I hope we see more original projects like this from Pixar in the future.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10 Really good due to the core Lightfoot Drama.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 3 – “Brothers” – The Legacies We Leave Behind

   “Brothers” is the best exploration of Soong and his creations that we get in “The Next Generation.” I wish we’d gotten more of this. This is one of the best episodes of “The Next Generation” and is an amazing story. Brent Spiner plays both Soong, Lore and Data in this episode and he gives quite the performance. I’ll get into more of what I mean later on but this is easily one of Spiner’s greatest performances.

The episode was written by Rick Berman and directed by Robert Bowman.

When Data takes control of the Enterprise, he takes them off course to a mysterious planet. The crew must get control back of the ship before one of the children under their care dies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Taking Back The Ship – The main storyline for the crew involve them taking back control of the ship after Data locks them all out. It is very well done as we see all the main crew involved. O’Brien gets to use the transporter to trick the ship thinking Data has returned and we see the crew working together to solve Data’s hacks of their system. I could watch an episode of the crew taking back the ship any day of the week. The crew has such a great dynamic and I love seeing them problem solve.

Stories of Brothers – This episode is a story of brothers. The episode starts with one brother scaring his brother leading him him getting poisoned and their arc of making peace with another. On the other side you have Lore arrive when Soong calls Data and the resentment Lore has towards Data as Data makes peace that he is not lesser than Lore. We see how complicated relationships between brothers are and it is handled really beautifully.

Lore – Lore is called back by accident and that stings him. Soong believed that Lore was dead so his thoughts were only ever on Data. Even with Lore present though he cannot fix Lore and this feeds Lore’s resentment of Data and their father Soong. This leads to him stealing the emotion chip meant for Data and killing Soong. Lore is shown to be capable of some level of care though as he empathizes with Data at one point and his desire to be fixed shows he knows that there are problems in the actions he has done.

Data – This is Data’s story as he returns to his creator to be given an emotion chip. Over the course of the episode we see Data naturally develop more human like traits. He calls Soong Father before he dies and asks to be alone with Soong. These are all things that he would not have done before and show that even without the emotion chip he is still developing in his humanity. We also see how Data outmatches the entire crew as he locks them off the bridge and the episode is solving the problems he put in place while being controlled by Soong. This is a plot point I wish had gotten more exploration later.

Soong and Legacy – Soong bring’s Data to him in order to fulfill his legacy as his creator. He creates an emotion chip that is meant for Data but the mistake of his legacy in Lore leads to him getting killed. He was chased out by the Colonists and Lore was always trying to hurt and kill others. Soong never takes responsibility for Lore’s actions and his relationship with Data is him wishing Data would be a scientist like him. In the end Lore and Data live on as he dies from his illness and Lore and we see the parts of Soong in his children. Lore has his disconnect from others and selfishness while Data has his inquisitive nature and desire to be more.

Okay:

Urgency of B-Plot – The need for the little brother to be healed and get to the starbase loses the sense of urgency once the crew has taken back the ship. I felt a line or two as to why this was would have strengthened the end of this plot.

Brent Spiner does a truly beautiful job playing all three characters and is really the main reason to see this episode. You learn more about Soong, Data and Lore and you also get to see the crew be competent and problem solve. I love how this story explores legacy and family through Soong’s relationship to his children and their choices and actions. This lends an emotional weight that makes the episode perfect.

Final Score: 10 / 10. An amazing exploration of family and legacy.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” – New Societies and Potential

Image result for Sutra and Soji

   “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” is the weakest episode in “Picard thus far. We are introduced to some cool new characters and dilemmas, but not enough questions are answered. I still enjoyed the experience of this episode and the callbacks to classic Trek. If you have been watching thus far, you should watch this episode though. This episode is very much a “Part 1” of 2 and it needs the second part to complete the story.

The episode was Akiva Goldsman with teleplay by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman who wrote the story with Akiva Goldsman.

The story picks up with the crew arriving on Soji’s homeworld of Coppelius. From here they must make first contact as the Romulan fleet approaches.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Synth Society – The Synth society has designed giant plants that can defend their world, explores their different interests and is a planet of twins since that is how Soji and Dahj were created. The society feels like a culture out of “The Original Series” or “The Next Generation” and it works perfectly. They aren’t a big society and feel like an ancient Greek society in many ways. They are ruled by a council and because their culture is so young are easily influenced by others…which Sutra uses to her advantage.

Sutra – Sutra is are Lore type and Isa Briones does a fantastic job as her. She hates organics because of them killing her sister (Rios’s Captain specifically). The only thing I found strange is she learned how to mind meld? This was strange and struck me more as a plot reason to establish the overwordly big bad other dimensional synths. I hope she shows up more in the future as she is a great character and you can see the reasons she hates.

Altan Soong – Brent Spiner is playing Noonian Soong’s unknown son who has never been mentioned before. He is a fascinating character and was Maddox’s partner who created this Synthetic Civilization. He designed the bodies while Maddox designed the bodies. He is very much the mad scientist who goes along with whatever his children want to do, and it works as his father also cared far more about his creations than others.

Seven, Elnor and the Ex-Borg – Seven, Elnor and the xBs are the B-plot and honestly they really work for what time they have. We get more time with Elnor and Seven and their budding mother and son relationship and Picard drops by and we see them all connect, and Picard release Elnor given he knows he’s dying after the close call at the beginning of this episode.

Soji – Soji is conflicted in this episode and it works. She was nearly killed by Romulans, the humans she met don’t entirely trust her and if the episode delved deeper into it…Starfleet covered up the murder of her sister. All of this leads to someone Sutra can easily manipulate, much like the time Lore manipulated Data. This worked for me, Soji was easily one of the strongest parts of this episode.

The Cons:

The Romulans Were Right – I’m putting this as a con as Picard’s entire argument in this episode is that Starfleet will listen to him and protect them when we saw Starfleet kill their Ambassador they had sent years prior and no one in Starfleet is listening to Picard. For this reason the Synths are ready to bring about the end of the organics and it makes sense from their point of view, but it also proves the Romulans right. They bring back the “Reapers” from “Mass Effect” and the universe starts over. Also, given the experience with Synthetics in the “Trek” universe this is par for the course, which is why this is a con. I just hope there ends up being a good explanation why I’m wrong.

Pacing – This episode felt all over the place. We are introduced to many characters and not given much of an explanation as well as re-introduced to Picard dying, which hasn’t been touched upon for a long time. This episode needed more time to both develop the world and the new relationships. If they had done this it would have solved the pacing where at times it felt rushed or slow.

This episode was all over the board in pacing. We are re-introduced to the fact that Picard is dying, the xB’s are briefly touched upon and we are introduced to a new society and introduced to the ancient Synth threat that inspires the Zhat Vash to fight. This episode had to do a lot and I wish it had answered more questions. I wanted to know more about Altan Soong for one thing as he gave me immediate Lore vibes when he talked to Picard.

7 / 10. This episode is setup and needed to explain more. It should have been longer. I enjoyed it, but it is the weakest episode of this series.

Superman: Red Son (2020) – A Great Adaptation That Captures the Heart of the Comic

Image result for Superman red son poster

     Superman: Red Son is one of my favorite comics from back in college. I’ve always liked the Elseworld alternate world ideas where the characters we know are put in situations that shape them along different paths. “Red Son” is in both the comics and film, a great example of this for the heroes and villains within the DC Universe. This adaptation is great. It isn’t exactly like the comics, but I overall was a fan of the choices they made.

The film was directed by Sam Liu and written by J. M. DeMatteis based off the comic of the same name by Mark Millar.

The story follows Superman if he crashed within the Soviet Union. From here he must face his power versus the responsibility he feels to others, the State and himself while facing off against Luthor and the United States.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – DC Animation has once again crafted a beautiful film. The colors and details in the scenes and faces bring the story to life. We also have Soviet Style Propaganda in the opening credits that are wonderfully crafted and brought me into the film really well.

Lex Luthor’s United States – Lex Luthor rises in power in the United States as he is the only one who has plans and inventions to deal with the threat of Superman. Like in the comics, most of the challenges he sends to Superman are ones he made…with the exception of Brainiac, who is his own power in this and not ever in an alliance with Luthor, unlike the comics. The United States that is presented isn’t stable and is true to the historical United States. The oppression through the 40s and 60s is talked about on screen which is where you can see overall where Superman’s perspective is to fix things. Luthor doesn’t see anyone outside of himself until the end, which is meant to mirror the United States as it grow’s in it’s relationship to the world.

Diana  / Wonder Woman – Diana in the comic goes from admiring Superman to having their friendship end in them as enemies. Over the course of the film we see her lose faith in man’s world and agrees with her mother as their nation once more goes into hiding. This is the first turning point for Superman in the film, where he begins to question his actions. It isn’t enough at this point but her arc of losing faith in Superman is powerful as she saves his life but Batman’s killing himself and the breaking her Lasso of Truth helps her realize the dictator Superman has become.

Superman’s Corruption Arc – Superman’s arc of power corrupting is realistic. We see him go from a tool of Stalin, find the Gulagz and his childhood friend dying and this leads him taking control of the Soviet Union. From here expands Soviet Power to end oppression of workers around the world. As Lex Luthor sends Superior Man, and Brianiac attacks we see Superman lose his ability to trust others. He uses Brainiac to mind control dissenters (he does in the comics as well) and each attack against him makes him more certain in his revolution. It is very well done and I like how the film captures those key turning point, and with it his disconnect from humanity.

The Freedom to Choose and Superman’s Return – The turning point for Superman, when he realizes people should be able to choose their own future is after Wonder Woman leaves and First Lady Lois Lane brings him Stalingrad, the city that Brainiac had shrunk into a bottle in his initial attack. It is after this Brainiac reveals his true intentions to conquer and it is only through Luthor and Superman working together that he is finally stopped for good. It is after Superman’s “death” that we see him return in the classic Clark Kent gear to watch Luthor’s resignation as Luthor also realizes his own obsession has hurt others as Superman’s did.

Okay:

Brainiac -In the comics he uses both Lex and Superman and I think it is stronger having him use both of them at different points. He just shows up in the film, which is fine but we never really see what the overall goal of Brainiac is. He is still a good threat but his presentation and arc is only okay.

Lex’s Arc With Lois – Lex’s arc with Lois is how his obsession with destroying Superman feeds his ambition and leads to him not being aware in his relationship at all. We can see hints of how he’s changing, such as when he kills Superior Man and Lois is disgusted by him…but we don’t see the next steps. It is only when he shows up to save Lois at the end and ally with Superman that we see a changed man. There needed to be another step inbetween for this to be a pro. It wasn’t badly done, but it needed more.

The Cons:

Svetlana – Svetlana shows up at the beginning as Superman’s childhood friend and is the one who tells him he should give his power to the State. She is later dies in the Gulag because she knew who Superman was before he was Superman, so had to die. She could have been a Lois Lane type character but the relationship between her childhood and death didn’t exist and that is really the only con. She is important but isn’t given enough scenes for how much she inspires Superman in her life and death.

This was a great DC Animated film of one of my favorite comics. If you are a fan of DC, animation or the original comic…this is a film well worth your time. The biggest comic has a huge twist that I will not spoil here, really you should read the comic, it is amazing.  This is a film that could have been longer and it would have worked and that in the end is the only real con against it. There were certain characters and plots that deserved more development. I highly recommend this film and the comic.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 5, Episode 15 and 16 – “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” – The Temptation of the Borg

   “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” is one of the best stories to come out of “Voyager.” This is a story that explores Janeway, Seven of Nine, the Borg and gives us consequences of Voyager and their need to get home. I’m reviewing “Part 1 and 2” as a single episode since Netflix had it as one single watch and even Memory Alpha lists both episodes together rather than as a “Part 1” and “Part 2.” I think this worked for the narrative and really strengthens the story. This is easily one of the best episodes in “Voyager” and is one of my favorites.

The episodes were directed by Cliff Bole and Terry Windell and written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky.

When Janeway discovers an injured Borg Sphere she sees an opportunity to get them home faster with the Sphere’s transwarp coil. Things are not as they seem as when she puts her plan in motion Seven begins to hear the voices of the Collective as she investigates her parent’s research into the Borg.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Threat of the Borg – The Borg feel like a constant threat in this story. We see this first in how the crew who are supposed to hijack the transwarp coil from the Sphere keep failing. It is this failure of the Borg adapting too quickly that really raise the stakes and lead to Seven delving into the research into the Borg that her parents did into the Borg. These flashbacks presented with her parents also establish this threat as it is in them remaining off sensors that keep the Borg from assimilating them for a long time. We also see the threat in how Seven willingly gives herself up to the Borg in order to protect the crew and during her time on the Cube, an assimilation of a species. This story is really what I wish “First Contact” could have been. There are stakes in the Borg tempting Seven to come back and the stakes remain focused and high.

Janeway’s Plan – Janeway’s plan makes sense. Her ultimate goal is to get her crew home and a transwarp coil would cut down there time in Borg Space and in the Delta Quadrant immensely. This being a high stakes heist kept me engaged and I could see why Janeway came up with the plan in the first place. It was risky, but feasible and the pros would outweigh the cons.

The Temptation of Seven of Nine – Temptation has spent more of her life in the Borg Collective. We see this in that she was assimilated as a child and her parents were assimilated too…so in that way their voices were still always with her. This twisted connection is what the Queen uses to tempt Seven back to them and from here she offers Seven more of what she’s always strived for on Voyager, to be more and to grow. The Queen is lets her keep her free will but connects her to the Collective as she attempts to re-indoctrinate her and train her….it is never said outright, but I think to become a future Queen.

The Borg Queen – The Borg Queen feels like a threat in this. This is the first time watching her where she has felt like one. This is done through us seeing the crew fail in their holographic runs to take the transwarp coil, the fact that the Queen knows about their plan and her ability to use Seven’s empathy against her. I wish we could have seen her do this with Picard and Data in “First Contact.” She is Seven’s evil mentor in this, opposite of Janeway and she makes a good argument for the Borg by demonstrating their power and the Collective knowledge that they are. For this reason I can see why she has so many scenes with Seven. If only “Voyager” could have kept her this smart and cunning after this. I’m not a fan of the Queen and like the Borg as Collective Mind that is otherworldy and “We,” but I salute this episode for making the Queen compelling and a threat.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is both mentor and mother figure for Seven in this. In this we see her deal with the conflict of the need to protect the crew as a whole versus her overall connection to any single one member…like Seven. In the end she of course chooses Seven as it was her decision to go forward with plan and let Seven be a part of it that lead to Seven going back to the Borg in the first place. I thought this was handled well and Janeway never felt overpowered or smarter than everyone else. She was flawed and human while also being courageous and cunning. This is a great Janeway episode.

Seven of Nine – Seven’s arc is what drives the story as we see her face the temptation of the world of the Collective she knew before versus her desire for freedom and individuality she’s been exploring on Voyager. Jeri Ryan is fantastic as we see her tackle her inner conflict as well as her complicated relationship to her parents, who were assimilated like her and where the reason she was assimilated because of how obsessed and reckless they were in relationship to the Borg. It is because of them most of her life was spent in the Collective and it is this temptation that the Queen uses to bring Seven back to them. From here we see the Queen seeking to mentor as Janeway did, except it is mentoring in how to become a Queen. It is the immoral act of assimilation and destroying species that lead to them clashing and why Seven returns back to the crew when they come to rescue her. I loved this arc. Seven and The Doctor are my favorite characters on “Voyager” and this story is a big reason why.

Okay:

The Ensemble Cast – The rest of the cast has things to do for Janeway’s heist and the later rescue of Seven, but we don’t really learn anything new about them. I’m not putting it as a con though as I appreciated everyone was given something to do over the course of this story. If some minor characters had been explored a bit more, whether pushing against Janeway’s plan or providing an alternative plan it would have been a perfect episode.

This is “Voyager” at it’s best. We have an amazing threat in the Borg, Seven and Janeway get developed and the stakes remain high through the entire 2 episodes. The only thing it needed was a little more exploration of some of the ensemble cast and it would have been the perfect 2 parter. It is a shame the Borg Queen will never feel this threatening or smart after this, as this is the only episode that I really saw the potential of what that character brought to the Borg Collective. If you are a “Voyager” or “Star Trek” fan this story is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A near perfect “Voyager” story.

 

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Broken Pieces” – When the Past Returns

Image result for Broken Pieces Picard

      “Broken Pieces” is one of the best episodes in “Picard” thus far. We get information on what inspires are baddies, the crew of the La Sirena gets development and we get some of the best character development for Seven of Nine. This episode is full of a lot of moving character pieces and has to give us a fair amount of lore and it manages to achieve it amazingly. If you’ve been watching the show up to this point, chances are you will at the very least, enjoy this episode.

The episode was directed by Maja Vrvilo and written by Michael Chabon.

The story follows Soji’s arrival on the La Sirena, triggering memories in Captain Rios, leading to an investigation by Raffi into his past. Seven also arrives on “The Artifact” searching for Hugh.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Elnor – Elnor gives us one of the purest perspectives on “Star Trek.” Due to being raised in a culture where emotion is always shown and expressed fully his hugging Seven when she saves him at the beginning was perfection. He is also there to bring her back too when he asks her if she’ll assimilate him when she’s connected to the Collective and controlling them. It is well done and I like the dynamic he has with her.

Raffi – Raffi’s arc involves investigating Rios’s backstory and discovering why he reacted so painfully to seeing Soji. It is done really well as we see her talk to all the Holograms, that each have Rios’s face and puts together what happened on his ship. Michelle Hurd does a fantastic job and I liked seeing her and Rios together, she’s clearly the First Officer in this mission and helping Rios put the pieces of himself back together was handled beautifully.

Zhat Vash Inspiration – In this episode we see what inspires the Zhat Vash as “Narissa” meets with her Aunt, the Ex-Borg Ramdha who Soji talked to. It is here we see that an ancient civilization left a warning that creating synthetic life will eventually lead to the end of all organics. This is why the Zhat Vash are so driven in their quest. It gave dimension to “Narissa” seeing her with her aunt and her wishing that her ship had been assimilated instead. This was development that was badly needed. It was also in the flashback we see Oh is the leader or one of the leaders of the Zhat Vash and that the Romulans are responsible for hacking the synths and the attack on Mars.

Captain Rios’s Backstory – Captain Rios’s backstory is powerful. We learn that Starfleet security ordered his Captain to kill the Synth diplomats. He does all this and kills himself too. Captain Vandermeer was like Rios’s father and what his Captain did to innocents was too much for him to take. He buried this trauma and it is only in Raffi’s investigation and learning the truth for herself that leads to him opening up. Santiago Cabrera really shows how amazing of an actor he is in this…from playing the different Holographic versions of himself, and in his opening up about the trauma from his past.

Soji and the Synths – This episode gives us the issue fear versus trust and Soji is at the center of it. We see it in Raffi questioning Picard’s trust of her and also in Soji’s taking over of the ship until Captain Rios stops her. In this we see the potential danger that is posed but also the potential for peace that is there as Soji gives us a unique perspective. She’s been betrayed by organics but has also found allies and friends too. She represents the same potential in her people.

Seven of Nine and the Borg – This episode sees Seven of Nine take control of the Borg cube in order to fight the Romulans. In this we see her questioning even doing this as she questions she might enjoy being part of the Collective too much and not want to give up those she’s assimilated. When she does become “Queen” of the Cube it is powerful and we see her speak with one voice. In the end she comes out of it as either her individuality was too strong or the Borg on that Collective see her having a future role but that can only be achieved later. “Annika still has more to do” are the Collective’s parting words to her. It is chilling and I think sets up that their next evolution might be through some role Seven is to play later.

The Cons:

Starfleet Resistance – When Picard reveals to Admiral Clancy all he has figured out she says she will be sending a fleet to Deep Space 12. This help is still offered with so much resistance to Picard that it felt ungenuine. My thoughts hearing it were that Oh was going to use this opportunity to use Starfleet against the Synths as they had been used against them before when Rios’s Captain killed the Synth diplomats on his old ship. More scenes with Clancy could have solved this and seeing things from the Starfleet perspective as we did before with the Oh reveal in the early episodes.

Agnes’s explanation – Agnes killed Maddox because she saw hell coming and Oh apparently put up a mind block? I felt this was a cop out so that she wouldn’t have to take full responsibility for what happened. I’m still rooting for her character having some sort of redemption but getting away from having her take responsibility via Oh’s actions is not the way to do it.

This is my favorite episode besides “Absolute Candor” and the Pilot in “Picard.” We get amazing character development, the lore gets deeper and the action doesn’t stop moving. This story stands strong on it’s own and I can’t wait to see how the different plot threads payoff in the end. The Romulans are one of my favorite races in “Star Trek” and I’m a huge fan of Borg stories when they are handled with respect. This episode gave both of these groups the exploration I’d been wanting from “Star Trek” for a long time. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Guns Akimbo (2020): Great Action That Needed a Better Plot

Image result for guns akimbo

      “Guns Akimbo” is a fun movie. I wouldn’t call it good or great but there is a fair amount that worked. During this time of quarantine with the Coronavirus I’ll be only reviewing films that can be rented until it is over. Please, stay safe and stay in everyone if it is at all possible. I hope this review and blog can bring some enjoyment through all of this. Thanks for reading and the conversations the reviews have sparked. Now without further ado, here is the rest of the review.

The film was directed and written by Jason Lei Howden.

The story follows Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) trolls an underground fight club organization called Skizm and is kidnapped and forced to take part in their game.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Fight Sequences – How the fight sequences are filmed are like a video-game or the fights in “Scott Pilgrim.” They are really entertaining and very kinetic. You feel the tension of whomever is being followed in the fight to the death and the stakes always feel high…until the final fight.

The Loser Protagonist – Miles is an interesting character. I can see inspirations of Neo from the Matrix in that he lives so much of his life online and sees himself as a rebel while at the same time is working for a pay-to-play mobile game job that he hates. His arc involves standing up to his job after Skizm has bolted guns to his hands and the one they sent after him (Nix) shows up. His arc of developing courage is handled well, it just sucks that the world around him wasn’t developed further.

Nix – Nix is the most famous killer in Skizm and we soon learn that it was setup by the owner of Skizm when he killed her mother and brother. She is drug addicted and has no human connection besides Miles. When Miles tells her the truth about Skizm and all they have done she works with him to take them down. Samara Weaving was fantastic in the role. She played the broken anti-hero turned hero really well and was more compelling than Miles.

Okay:

Nova – Nova is Miles’s girlfriend? This is ambiguous at first and is never fully explained. They have a history together and he ends up saving her but she isn’t given enough to do on her own besides protect Miles briefly at one point and after be saved. This character could have had so much potential if we learned more about who she was.

The Cons:

Miles’s Job – The pay-to-play game for kids who have cell phones is never explored more than a joke. We don’t see the details of Miles or his co-workers’ work. This was a shame as it felt like this game could have made a point about these types of games beyond a joke.

Skizm – Skizm goes worldwide by the end after Nix and Miles take out their leader. This made no sense to me. They owned the cops…how? How did everyone have an app of illegal fights going on? None of this explained. They were an interesting idea that was not explored well at all.

This movie was solidly fun. Nix and Miles were fun characters and the action sequences draw you in. The film needed to develop Nova, Skizm and the world more but it wasn’t bad. This movie had stakes and that is what made it work. If you are looking for an enjoyable film to check-out, this one is worth your time.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Enjoyable action with ideas and characters that should have been more.