Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3, Episode 14 – “Heart of Stone” – Forging a Separate Identity

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  This is a review that was inspired to honor the life of Aron Eisenberg, who died September 21st, 2019 of this year. I know him largely because of his role as Nog, who is easily one of the most well rounded character in “Star Trek” to have one of the most well developed arcs. I’m grateful I got to hear more of his story and the lives he touched in the “What We Left Behind” Documentary. Aron was amazing in this role and his podcast he formed after is amazing too. The world lost an amazingly talented individual this year and my heart goes out to his family. I chose this episode because of how well it captures the arc Nog goes through and the choice he makes as well as the sheer range of Aron Eisenberg had as an actor. Before I get into spoilers, this is a good episode you should watch.

The episode was directed by Alexander Singer and written by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe.

The story follows Odo and Kira as they pursue a Maquis Raider leading to Kira becoming trapped in a collapsing cave, as on “Deep Space Nine” Nog wants join Starfleet and finds himself up against his past and Federation prejudice.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Odo and Kira Plot – The Odo and Kira plot is really an exploration of Odo and one of the core reasons why he hasn’t rejoined his people in the Gamma Quadrant. It is here we see it is due to his deep friendship and love of Kira. At one point when he believes she will die he stays with her, willing to risk his own life because being with her matters that much. We can see how much their relationship has grown over the years too, as the episode starts out with them bickering like a married couple. It is a well done plot that is only made less by the reveal and us having to wait for the true payoff later.

Nog and Starfleet Prejudice – The B Plot involves Nog and his coming of age. It begins with him in Ferengi custom giving his earnings to in Ferengi society would be his mentor to train him in whatever art of business he is seeking. In this case Nog gives his gold pressed latinum to Commander Sisko. Sikso at first doesn’t believe him and it isn’t just him. Even Jazdia who is one of the more open minded members of the crew even doubts now genuine Nog is and it not being some trick. It is sad given that Federation prejudice is so strong that even a culture that is open minded isn’t trusting someone who is giving everything to be a part of them. For Commander Sisko this is explored deeper as we learn that the reasons behind Nog wanting to join Starfleet is because he wants a future and he knows he “doesn’t have the lobes” for business, like his father Rom. After this confession he is accepted and Nog’s story in Starfleet begins.

Forging a Separate Identity – The theme of this episode is one of forming a separate identity beyond what is forced upon you. The Founders want Odo to join but he constantly rejects them. It is here where the reveal is Kira was never in danger is discovered and it was the Female Founder all along. Odo’s denial of his people’s desire to control and his attachment to solids is the point of his arc, where in the case of Rom it is his rejection of Ferengi business society and him seeking to be appreciated for his talents for the greater good are there. He forges a separate path, but unlike the Founders who reject Odo’s path…Rom is proud of Nog for the path he chooses.

Nog and Rom – The best arc in this episode is Nog’s arc as we see someone already judged for the mistakes he made as a child and for being a Ferengi opening up and forging his own future. He is the first Ferengi to join Starfleet and this is the episode where it happens. All of this is driven by his father. Rom is abused by his brother Quark and though he is a genius when it comes to tech. Quark doesn’t admit or see it at this point. Nog, is the only one who does and in turn Rom sees the potential that exists in Starfleet for Nog so supports his choice. It is a small scene but the scene Nog and Rom have together when Rom supports his choice is just as powerful as when Commander Sisko does after Nog tells him why he wants to join in the first place. This is the heart of the episode and what makes it so great.

Okay:

The Reveal – The Founders do so much manipulation and this felt like another base Founder Plot. It wasn’t bad but they must have known that Odo cared for the crew as his family too. Making the love for Kira makes sense given what we saw in prior episodes but I fail to see how that is useful to the Founders unless they are going to use Kira to bring Odo back to them. During the “Occupation of Deep Space Nine,” I didn’t see that level of thinking things through. Kira was used but it seems like Odo staying played a bigger factor in them influencing him than Kira. That is why this reveal is fine, but it isn’t great. I would have preferred Kira saying she loved Odo being real. Once you have that confession it just gets weaker when it is the real thing. Don’t do fake outs in shows unless it means you’ll do it in a better way.

If you are a fan of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” you probably loved this episode. This is a great ensemble piece that develops Odo and Nog as well showing that the Federation has prejudice that this episode never really addresses. Why can’t a Ferengi join Starfleet? It makes me think that Worf probably experienced similar prejudice because of the Klingon and Federation Wars. I enjoy episodes that critique the Federation and show that it still needs to grow. This is true to human nature and part of what made “Deep Space Nine” work is because of how it did call out xenophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry, even as the show itself was still maturing in that growth and did vary by writer. The progressive future of “Star Trek” is one of hope and where I hope someday humanity can be, even if won’t be within my lifetime. “Star Trek” is about the goal of the better future and within the show we see that in the individual fights our characters face, such as what Nog faced in joining Starfleet.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This was a great episode in “Deep Space Nine.”

R.I.P. Aron Eisenberg. You touched so many lives and this review is to honor you and the amazing life you lived.

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Detective Pikachu (2019): A Film That Captures the Heart of Pokémon

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        “Detective Pikachu” was not a film I expected to enjoy as much as I did. I grew up with Pokémon Blue and Yellow on the Gameboy, saw some of the original show and traded some cards in Elementary School. I was a casual fan who enjoyed the zoology aspect of it. Pokemon are a cool concept and this film explores the relationship as mutual versus what can easily be interpreted as “dog fights” of the games. This film truly honors the show where Pokémon love the humans they work with.

The film was directed by Rob Letterman who co-wrote it along with Benji Samit, Dan Hernandez and Derek Connolly.

The story follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) as he uncovers the mysterious death of his father, with his father’s partner Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – This is a world that explores the relationship with Pokémon and people. Tim is the base of this, as he doesn’t want his father’s Pokémon since he blames Pokémon for why his father was killed. From this, we get fighting rings, labs trying to control them, mutual relationship in the city and wild in the forest. There is so much diversity to Pokémon that it shows it is far more complicated in this world than at first glance. Most of the action takes place in Ryme City, which is the city where Pokémon and humans live in unity together.

The Pokémon – The Pokémon are easily the best part of the film. Each of them have distinct personalities with Pikachu and Mewtwo being the most distinct. In this world Pokémon and humans have bonded together and each person has a Pokémon of their own. It is a really neat concept and I like how it shows they are intelligent animals. They fight, they get angry at one another but they also care for each other and their humans too. I’d love to see more of them within this universe if we get a sequel.

The Side Characters – The side characters are who really carry the plot. Whether it is Ken Watanabe as Detective Yoshida or Bill Nighy as Howard Clifford…it is these side characters that make the film interesting as they bring a lot of depth to the roles, where our leads by contrast are pretty bland.

Detective Yoshida – Detective Yoshida knew Tim’s father Harry and serves somewhat of a mentor role for Tim, who doesn’t want to be in Ryme City. His Pokémon is a grumpy Snubbull who’s gruffness mirror’s Yoshida’s kindness. I wish we’d gotten more time with him as Ken Watanabe steals every scene he is in.

Mewtwo – Mewtwo is initially presented as the antagonist, as from all appearances it looks like it was the thing responsible for the death of Tim’s father. Over the course of the film we learn it is quite the opposite though as Mewtwo was the one who saved Harry Goodman from the evil machinations of Howard Clifford and his goal to control and rule over Pokémon.

Howard Clifford – Bill Nighy is the big bad and the setup of finding out his plan is great. From all appearances it looks like he is trying to stop his son who appears to be the one experimenting on Pokémon. The reveal comes when Tim finds Howard’s son tied up in the closet and Howard’s Ditto is shown to have been the one manipluting things on Howard’s behalf. It is brilliant as well as this broken man seeking to become a God by putting his mind into Mewtwo and combining people with their Pokémon so he can rule over them. It is very well done and I loved his final fight with Detective Pikachu.

Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu – Ryan Reynolds voices Pikachu and also plays Harry Goodman who we learn was combined with Pikachu by Mewtwo in order to save Harry’s life. Pikachu doesn’t remember what happened that night so we get to see how his relationship forms with Tim, who never had a good relationship with his dad. It is really well done and in the end he fights Howard’s possessed Mewtwo so that Tim can rescue Mewtwo from Howards subjugation. It is really well done fight and Reynold’s sarcastic and cute humor works so well as Detective Pikachu.

Okay:

The Leads – The leads are super bland. Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, though he is at least sympathetic as a kid trying to form a relationship with his dad through his Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Same goes with the other lead Lucy Stevens who is most memorable in that she has an anxious Psyduck while she isn’t afraid of anything, so is always making her Pokémon panicked. They aren’t bad, but they are very one-dimensional and easily the weakest parts of the film.

This was a good film. It is hard to call it great because the leads are so bland. The core reveal in the mystery was touching though. If we return to this world in sequels, chances are I’d be giving it a chance. This movie was far better than it looked like it would be in the trailers. Ryme City is fascinating and I’d watch more Reynolds and Watanabe interacting with Pokémon. If you are a fan of Pokémon, I think you’d love this film.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Top 5 Netflix “Defendersverse” Seasons

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    The Netflix Marvel “Defendersverse” is an experiment I wish had gone on. Outside of “Umbrella Academy” this is the only quality superhero content on Netflix and here they gave us so many amazing characters and storylines. I don’t know if Disney will take those same risks and given Disney’s growing corporate monopoly I’m not all that inclined to support Disney Plus. This was a series that I overall enjoyed. “The Defenders” season 1 was even great in how bad it was, but because it was bad it did not make this list. Every season on here is a season I would come back to re-watch or have gone back to re-watch. Also, I feel Disney taking these characters back probably won’t work. I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe but we have not seen them take the kinds of R rated risks this series or really “Deadpool” took. So hopeful but doubtful we’ll see these characters again as great as they were before, if ever again.

Slight spoiler warnings here. If you want to watch “The Defenders,” “The Punisher,” “Daredevil,” Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” and haven’t yet this review isn’t for you. I have to talk about the content on why I enjoyed these shows or didn’t enjoy them, and that involves spoilers so…

SPOILER WARNING for all the shows I just listed.

 

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5th – “Daredevil” Season 2

Finding 5th place on this list was somewhat difficult. I felt “Iron Fist” Season 2 solved many problems I had with Season 1 and “The Punisher” Season 1 is great when it doesn’t get distracted.  What ended up being the deciding factor for me were the side stories. Frank Castle is introduced in this season and his face-off against Daredevil is perfection. It is a fight I’d love to see Batman have more against a friend or ally who crosses his line. This season did that. We also see how Matt’s obsession wad destroying his relationships. From Claire to Foggy, Matt when he was all in as the weapon Stick had built him to be, he was screwed. This could have been more if “The Hand” was written as a more compelling villain but them not being more compelling is a reason this isn’t higher on the list and had to be debated on to get here. The Karen and Castle story is far superior to the Matt and Elektra story and that is where the side stories being stronger made me appreciate this season. Frank Castle’s arc in this season is better than either seasons of “The Punisher.” This is a season worth a re-watch for the B plots.

 

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4th – “Jessica Jones” Season 1

This is a season that didn’t make the best use of Killgrave as a villain for the climax of the story. Throughout the story he is a great threat, but when he has the power to control anyone who here’s him with his voice we get nothing interesting. I blame lack of creativity for this. What works though is Jessica Jones and her relationship. Her relationship with her adoptive mother and adopted sister are where she first stands up for another due to her adoptive mom abusing her and Trish. This leads her doubting herself later on due to her isolation from them and Kilgrave’s using of her and all those around her she cares for. Krysten Ritter is absolutely amazing as we see her work through how she was abused and gaslighted by Kilgrave. From here her arc is the slow building of community and fighting to stop Kilgrave. Most episodes are good to great, it is just the climax and Killgrave’s powers being so underutilized in that climax that keep this season from being higher on the list. David Tennant as Kilgrave and Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones carry the show and the more time away from the show more the story grew on me. There is so much good here.

 

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3rd – “Luke Cage” Season 2

“Luke Cage” Season 1 had one of my favorite villains in Cottonmouth. He didn’t last but due to how villains and antagonists are used this time around, and Luke’s own ego growing lead to an exciting season that I loved. Mariah makes up for the amazing threat of her brother “Cottonmouth” not being around. “Shades” is a great villain beginning to question what he is doing and his loyalty and “Bushmaster” shows up and his war against Maria hurts Luke Cage’s protection of Harlem forcing him to change further and make some difficult decisions that only make him more compelling. Like Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, Luke Cage is someone who is someone who pushes others away. In this case it is different though because he feels invulnerable and that feeling never really leaves as he realizes he has to make tough decisions to keep Harlem safe. I loved that. He ends almost as an anti-hero and it works. He was a character who is good at the core but also human and has an ego that ruins his relationships. In the end he is all about the big picture and like most heroes in the “Defendersverse,” this makes him isolated. This season was great. The flaw on why it wasn’t higher is Mariah should have been used more and been longer lasting in power.

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2nd – “Jessica Jones” Season 3

“Jessica Jones” Season 3 builds on what worked about Season 1, but has a better conclusion. One of the only reasons this season is better than “Luke Cage” Season 2 is because this season has a level of hope the other prior ones don’t have. I get that Netflix is walking a line of dark R “Marvel Cinematic Universe” which I feel should still go on, Netflix has more than earned it. This season goes fully dark but the fact that it ends with hope and our heroes like Jessica and Malcom choosing the good gives me that perfect bittersweet. This season is where we see Jessica become the hero while dealing with Trish and her abuse like Matt Murdock’s leading to her becoming a weapon akin to Daredevil and The Punisher, except Trish does kill. What helps with this dilemma is them facing off against a serial killer named Sallinger. He like Jessica and Trish was also abused and used it to become a monster who targeted Inhumans believing them to be cheaters for having abilities. The season arc is powerful and I loved where everyone ends up. Luke Cage post his own Season 2 meets up with Jessica and reminds her of her choice and responsibility to stop Trish. It is great and I miss that as far as we know right now, we won’t see more of their relationship.

 

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1st – “Daredevil” Season 1

“Daredevil” Season 1 is still the height of the show. We get to introduced to amazing villains like Wesley, Madam Gao and the Kingpin. This is a show that is truly carried by the villains as they are on top for most of the film, which gives Matt Murdock so much he has to fight against and work for. This is a season with cost. Season 3’s Kingpin is never as threatening or effective as he is this season. This season is also where Matt is most human and we come to understand his obsession through his backstory and the murder of his father. It is powerful and Kingpin’s story mirrors it in the killing of his father to protect his mother. Both of them were shaped by those around them and came to have a warped view on what it means to protect what they believe to be theirs. This mirroring of one another and the war against Kingpin who has united the gangs is beautifully handled. I also love Claire and Matt’s relationship far more than the Karen and Matt relationship of later seasons. This was the season that kicked off the entire “Defendersverse” and still remains the best of them all.

I know “Disney+” might bring some of these stories and heroes and villains back. I’m just less likely to trust it. Unless they are the same writers who have clearly shown an ability to learn and also giving “Disney” some competition…I don’t want a monopoly. I want competition and so far I have seen nothing from “Disney” to show they will be putting out original films and shows the way Netflix is. Support competition and indie films and show please. This subset of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” being absorbed is not something that gives hope in the corporate game of control of “Marvel” or any other franchise.

Brightburn (2019): An Enjoyable Horror Take on “Superman”

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    “Brightburn” was a film I enjoyed. It is good but it could have been great if it had been willing to explore the deconstruction of Superman and Smallville further. This is clearly what it takes inspiration from and gives us a horror alien invasion story in the process.

The film was directed by David Yarovesky and written by Brian and Mark Gunn.

The story follows the Breyer family after a mysterious ship crashes near their farm carrying a mysterious child they name Brandon. This dream soon finds itself becoming a nightmare as Brandon begins to discover he has powers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Family – The family is the best exploration within this premise. We see a mother who hasn’t been able to have kids now having a son she loves and a dad who wants to be a father too. Elizabeth Banks is great as Tori Breyer and David Denham (Pam’s former fiance from “The Office”) does the distrusting anything new as a threat really well. There isn’t a happy ending for either of htem but the fact that this is a horror movie, I’m not going to spoil it. Watch their relationship with Brandon, which is the best part of the film.

The Horror of Power – We see Brandon go from someone who hurts people for revenge and to cover up things, to killing the ones he loves. This arc for his character made sense given the alien technology telling him to take over. It isn’t good in regards to “Superman” mythos, but I can see where they were taking that mythos when they were making this horror film. I might look more fondly on this film I enjoyed, depending on where they take a potential sequel.

Okay:

The “Kryptonite” – The one thing that is implied to be able to hurt Brandon Breyer is metal from the ship he came on. We never fully see this though and the reason why this is, isn’t explored. This was a major loss. This was originally going to be a con, but there are enough implications that the parents know it hurts him in how they act around him in relationship to the ship. This isn’t great but it isn’t a total loss of developing Brandon’s “kryptonite.”

The Corruption of Brandon Breyer / Brightburn – Brandon Beyer’s corruption is shown in two ways. The first is when he realizes he can’t get hurt after putting his hand in the blade of the lawnmower after throwing it, and the second are the visions of an alien voice telling him to “Take control.” The idea of him becoming a bully because of his power is far more developed than the alien side of his story. It is in the way he uses his ability to not get hurt to hurt and kill others once he realizes he can. The alien side needed to be developed more. It is clearly something driving him but we never get the purpose behind it. The alien side calling him to take control simply exists, which is why I only rate his corruption as okay.

The Cons:

Developing the World – The small town and characters overall feel underdeveloped. They experience events but we never get their deeper thoughts on things. In this way like “Us” this works almost better as an episode in a show. This is what makes it a con. I had no favorite character in this film but I did find the idea of the film appealing. There is potential in this world but beyond Michael Rooker appearing as a paranoid tv announcer talking about other superhumans who are causing problems elsewhere. I loved that bit of world building, but Brightburn needed to feel more lived in, and it didn’t. Same with the alien species that Brandon Breyer came from. We know nothing about them beyond Brandon’s desire to take control. This was an easy chance at world building that should have been explored more.

This is a film worth checking out, if you were a fan of super hero films or horror films. The film isn’t great but it is enjoyable. Even with the story needing to be longer and more developed it still kept me drawn to the screen through the run. If they make sequels I would most likely see if they keep this quality, though I hope they can be better. This is a premise that deserves to be more and if has sequels, there is the chance to do so. As someone who only got into horror films in the last few years, I saw this as promising.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Worth it for the Monsters

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   “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a lot of fun. I’m a huge fan of monster films and this film does the monsters very well. Some of the human characters are a bit weakly written but the overall themes of the movie never change. I enjoyed this more than both of the other American Godzilla films (1998 and 2014). It doesn’t touch the original “Godzilla” though in quality. That film is one of my favorites to this day and I’ll be surprised if lightning strikes that again for any monster film. For non-spoiler thoughts it is worth checking out for how the monsters or Titans as they are called in this, are handled. So much personality is given to each creature and they really are the stars of the film.

The film was directed by Michael Dougherty and who co-wrote the film with Zach Shields.

The story follows the scientific organization Monarch as they seek to stop a terrorist organization lead by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) from releasing King Ghidorah and the Titans upon the world.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – Whenever the monsters it fight it is some of the best action on the screen. Whether it is Rodan taking out Monarch’s ships while facing Ghidorah and the last few fights of Godzilla against Ghidorah are simply beautiful. Cities are destroyed and we see just how entrancing these Titans (as they are called) are.

The Soundtrack -Bear McCreary is one of my favorite composers and he did a fantastic job here. Each monster has their own theme that captures the true epic scale of each of the Titans. He also captures a sense of forboding that permeates the soundtrack and plays into the themes of destruction and balance that give the film it’s strength.

Alan Jonah – Charles Dance is an amazing actor and this film is a great example of this. We never get his personal reasons for wanting to destroy the world but he still manages to give empathy even as he is wreaking destruction everywhere around him with the releasing of the Titans. He survives the film so I hope we get more of his backstory as I enjoyed the scenes he was in.

Dr. Serizawa – Ken Watanabe has always been one of the strongest characters in this Franchise. He is a scientist obsessed with the Titans and hoping that they can bring balance to the world. Here is sacrifices his own life to bring Godzilla back to life after humanity nearly kills Godzilla with an oxygen bomb. It is a touching scene and it completes his arc beautifully as he’s always been rooting for Godzilla and been right about Godzilla overall being a Titan protector rather than a destroyer.

The Monsters – The monsters are the best part of this film. They are given so much personality and their dynamics with one another are powerful. We have Ghidorah who has three heads, each with a different personality, you have Rodan who is aggressive but values staying alive that it will submit after a fight and you have the guardianesque Mothra who seeks to protect Godzilla and the planet even at the expense of it’s own life. Rodan was my favorite and I’m glad he survives the film. Watching them fight is leading me back to the Toho films post the original “Godzilla” and I can’t wait to review them later.

Balance versus Destruction – The main theme of the film is that between balance and destruction. Balance comes through union of humanity with the Titans which in this case is through Mothra and Godzilla while destruction is alien King Ghidorah who wants to destroy all life on Earth. This is expressed in our characters such as Madison, Mark and Monarch who seek to keep the balance and help Godzilla against Ghidorah and destruction is through Alan Jonah and his organization who bring death wherever they go. This illustration is beautiful and I loved how the people mirrored the monsters they represented.

Okay:

The Russells – The Russell family is really where we see a lot of the core themes of balance versus destruction. Emma is part of Jonah’s group and causing destruction until the end she embraces balance that her daughter and husband were following in seeking to protect and save Godzilla. The arc itself is alright but I felt the Russells were the weakest human characters. They at least got arcs though. Mark forgives Godzilla for killing their son in the last film and his actions along with their daughter Madison help Godzilla eventually defeat Ghidorah…along with Emma’s final sacrifice in her distracting of Ghidorah from going for the killing blow.

The Cons:

When the Action is Hidden – There are a few action sequences where the action is hidden and it is annoying. When Ghidorah is first released in Antarctica so much of the fight against Godzilla is hidden by snow and darkness. This was a major problem in “Godzilla” 2014 and I’m glad it isn’t as bad here, but it is still present.

The Comedy – The comedy is bad. The jokes are cringy and I wish they’d avoided humor all together. The only scene I kind of laughed at is when Alan Jonah is trying to help Madison relax after his men have slaughtered a bunch of people and she flips him off. The rest felt like them trying to shove in jokes when they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

This was a film that I enjoyed. The monsters and themes are well executed and the only things that really bring down the film is the fact that some human characters could have been developed better in regards to their motivation. This film should have stayed away from comedy as well and I hate how studios get around showing action by covering it in snow or mist. Here it doesn’t happen a lot but the times it does hurt the great action we do see. If you are a fan of monster films or any of the “Godzilla” films I’d say it is worth your time. It is definitely the best of the American Godzilla films and I hope more of the monsters we see get explored further.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solidly good monster film.

The monsters in this film made me want to check out their originals from the Toho films, which will definitely be reviews in the future as out of all the Toho films I’ve only seen and reviewed the original “Godzilla.”

 

“The Umbrella Academy” Season 1 – Great Character Arcs With More to Tell

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    “The Umbrella Academy” is easily one of my favorite shows. I read the original volume it is based on years ago and the show captures the zany characters and character relationships that made the book so memorable. Gabriel Bá and Gerard Way truly created a beautiful world and Netflix did an amazing job bringing it to the screen. The cast is fantastic and I can’t wait for season 2 to come out, given how season 1 ends.

The series was created by Jeremy Slater and Steve Blackman and as said above based on the comic series of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá published by Dark Horse Comics.

The story follows the members of the Umbrella Academy who were all born on the same day when 43 women around the world gave birth without any sign of being pregnant. The seven adopted by the billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves would become the Umbrella Academy. After years away his death brings them all back home and the apocalyptic plot unfolds from here.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – The cinematography feels like a comic book. Color is made to stand out and some scenes slow way down, such as when Cha-Cha and Hazel are high on Klaus’s drugs and destroying a lab. The film is beautiful all the way through and focuses on characters the way a panel would. Craig Wrobleski and Neville Kidd clearly have an eye for their craft.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography keeps that comic book feel while capturing so beautifully how all the characters are isolated and outsiders. Gerard Way’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” and Morcheeba’s “Blood Like Lemonade.” This is a soundtrack that goes between so many styles of music while keeping an undercurrent of rock to it. All our characters are healing and going through trauma and the soundtrack expresses it.

The World – The world of “The Umbrella Academy” is amazing. You have the Commission in the future making sure bad events go according to plan and who want to end the world. There are the members of the Umbrella Academy itself and also the ones hunting them being the duo Hazel and Cha-Cha who are enforces for the Commission the way Five once was. The characters are what make this world and I’m curious to see what the show does with them moving forward.

Hazel and Cha-Cha – These two are one of the best parts of the show. Hazel is played by Cameron Britton and is fed up with the work of being a killer. Cha-Cha is his closest friend and fully devoted to the Commission. Mary J. Blige is amazing as her. Over the course of the series we see that even when they are set against one another by Five or the Commission we see there is always more going on. Whether it is regret from Cha-Cha for attempting to kill Hazel and vise versa or her rage at Hazel for moving on with another person. I hope that there story isn’t done as I really like these two.

The Umbrella Academy – The Umbrella Academy is the super hero organization created by Sir Reginald Hargreeves from the 7 adopted children who were born during the event. Each of them has powers and are used by Reginald to take down villains. I’m going to give special time to Five and Klaus as they were the most interesting and fleshed out of the characters, but it is important to mention the other members of the family. I’ll also be including the guardians that Reginald created for them.

Grace, the robot created by Reginald is the mother of Academy while Pogo is the Reginald’s butler and together they hold the secrets of what was done to all of the members of the Academy and how Sir Reginald died. Over the course of the series they go from being the most trusted by the surviving members of the Academy to in the case of Pogo killed for hiding Vanya’s power from her. They are fascinating characters and I wanted to know so much more about them.

Of the Academy members who I won’t be giving a special paragraph to. First there is Ben, the one member who is dead and can summon a tentacle monster from his body. He is still around though as his spirit talks to Klaus. There is Diego (whose power is the ability to hit anything with his daggers) who is a wonderful Punisheresque vigilante who deals with his trauma through rage but comes around the caring for the team and seeing them as a family again. There are Luther (the leader of the team whose power is physical strength) and Allison (the only character with a family outside of the team and one who controls people through suggestion) that love each other romantically and come to terms with that and how they’ve changed as people. Allison is also Vanya’s biggest ally and the one who was used by their father to hurt her the most and repress Vanya’s powers. Vanya is the one who believes she doesn’t have powers through most of the series. It is only through a creepy stalker who is manipulating her that she discovers how great her power is and kills him. Her power is energy both psychic and otherwise that she can channel through music. After the Academy turns on her and traps her she goes full bad and we soon learn is the one who causes the apocalypse leading the Academy to make a choice and time jump with her away from the end of the world that she caused.

Five – Five is the member of the Academy who can jump through space and time. Because of this he ends up going missing when he jumps and ends up in the future. Here he lives a full life working for the Commission before returning back to the present time and in turn appearing as the young kid he was once before. He is great as he is an old man in a teenage body so he doesn’t want to be with people. His arc is his coming around to his family and his work against the Commission comes to a head as at one point he works for them again as he secretly tries to stop the apocalypse and in the end he is the one who saves them all after Vanya causes the end of the world as they jump to a time and place we haven’t seen yet. His arc is also dealing with the fact that he’s seen how it all ends so wonders if it is set in stone and can’t be prevented. He’s dealing with the possible inevitability of the end and it changes his outlook as he fights against it.

Klaus – Klaus is the best character on the show and Robert Sheehan does such a fantastic job as him. Klaus’s power is that he can speak to ghosts and the dead and because of this Ben is with him counseling him. Klaus before the events of the show has been through so much abuse from Sir Reginald that his only escape has been through drugs and alcohol (he would be locked in a room with the dead as a child and was never let out). Because of this he is detached from everyone and his arc is his sobering up to the point that he can speak to their father and learn about why they were brought together. At one point he serves in the Vietnam War and loves a fellow soldier after he uses Cha-Cha’s and Hazel’s briefcase to travel back in time. He resists torture from the two of them and even manages to turn Hazel more to the good when he calls upon all those Hazel and Cha-Cha have killed. His greatest moment of awesome is making Ben corporeal which saves the Academy from an attack by Cha-Cha and the commission as Vanya is bringing about the end.

Family and Sibling Relationships – People aren’t perfect. People are dysfunctional and all of us are going through different trials from past hurt. “The Umbrella Academy” explores these relationships through the characters. We see Diego and his rivalry with Luther. Allison and her reaching out to and protecting of Vanya. Five being cared for all by all the others and the reestablishment of relationship after how long he’s been gone. We also have Vanya, who dealt with being the one without powers by doing a tell all book and how they all have to confront the hurt they’ve caused to each other that their father had brought down upon all of them. The family dynamics are fascinating and I can’t wait to see how they are developed further.

The Cost of Trauma and Abuse – All of our characters are survivors of Sir Reginald’s abuse and we see what it has done to them. They are cut off from another, escaping into drugs and alcohol (Five and Klaus) and in turn they abuse one another. The cost of trauma is constant and ongoing and we see hints of healing near the end but only after the characters have had those moments of honesty with one another on all that they’ve been through. I’m curious to see how the show explores this further as I feel like our characters are really only starting to face it and the consequences it has had upon their lives.

The Cons:

The Cliffhanger – In the end Vanya’s power wrecks the moon causing the apocalypse. Five realizes the only way out is to time travel with Vanya to prevent the end from occurring. As the city was destroyed they manage to make the time jump. This is a great cliffhanger but it is a cliffhanger, if the show had gotten canceled this ending would have sucked.

I highly recommend both the comic and the show. “The Umbrella Academy” explores trauma, abuse and sibling relationships in such a compelling way that even though I hate cliffhangers I was grateful that the show would probably get renewed. I want to spend more time with these characters and this world and I can’t wait to see where the story ends up. Definitely worth checking out for any fans of the super hero genre.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 A great start to the show, even with the cliffhanger.

Batman: Hush (2019) – Missing the Point of the Comic

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This is a film that had the potential to say so much more in adaptation, but wasn’t willing to take that chance. Maybe it was because they knew kids might check this out or maybe it was just wanting to play it safe…but I appreciate the comic so much more after. This is a film that captures the base events of the comics (minus one major one) but isn’t willing to go deeper. Without giving away spoilers that is all I’m going to say. If you are fan of DC animation it is worth watching for the animation and the voice actors as always do a great job, but if you read the comic I think you should skip this and save yourself the disappointment. I really enjoy DC animation and as someone who liked the comic but didn’t think it was good or great. This film did nothing to improve on a great premise.

The film was directed by Justin Copeland and written by Ernie Altbacker.

The story follows Batman as he faces a new enemy named Hush, who knows all his secrets and seeks to unravel his life.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Animation – The animation flows and is beautiful…I just wish there’d been a better script. I’ll get into cons below but this a very well animated film, as can be said for most DC Animated films. The action is seamless, emotion is well portrayed in facial expressions and the colors make each scene stand out.

The Bat Family Moments – There are some good moments with Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne and Barbara Gordon. In each case you see why Bruce is fighting for them and why he trusts them. They are all small moments. It is a check-in or a training, but you see how much he cares. I appreciated this and as it was here we had a bit of levity the film needed.

The Selena Kyle Romance – This romance was handled better than expected. Batman saves her from Poison Ivy’s control and she saves his life at the end. In-between they date but it doesn’t lead anywhere due to Batman’s baggage. He does reveal his secret identity, like in the comics so I appreciated that. It made their more have more even if the film failed to grow on that. I think the film wanted this to be the focus but missed so much. We needed more with Selena or the Bat Family and their thoughts on one another. We got base happy for Bruce or distrust of Selena but nothing deeper. That was a disservice to all the characters.

Okay:

The Rogues – The rogues are underused. You have Batman and Catwoman fighting a Poison Ivy controlled Superman and Batman going to Lex Luthor and it not meaning anything. I’d say that is a theme. Thomas Elliot is used and unless you’ve read the comic or other sources just how important he is. Here he is an underutilized puzzle piece that leads to the function of advancing another’s plot. We fight Bane, Scarecrow, Riddler, Harley Quinn, Joker and Poison Ivy but in the original where Killer Croc was the the kidnapper not Bane who sparked everything off, it meant more. The villains are here to show up. Beyond the Joker scene which is lessened because of how Thomas Elliot is used we get an empty hate scene of Batman punching him. I get he was meant to kill him here like in the comics, but everything that happens after makes this moment mean nothing. In the comic it was still horrifying but at least Batman’s rage was understandable.

The Riddler – The Riddler is the big bad. He is saved in a Lazarus pit as he was dying and from it realizes that Batman is Bruce Wayne. This is true to the comics but unlike the comics where Thomas Elliot is a serial killer who functions as his hand (who is a famous surgeon so he can become Jason Todd and others due to plastic surgery). Riddler he is revealed and he falls into fire. If he lives I’m asking how as Catwoman saves Batman to stop him from saving Batman and that is why they break-up. The core of the comics was Bruce’s obsession but here it is over the top. There is no nuance’s to Bruce Wayne’s rule and that is the ending we get.

The Cons:

The Use of Hush – In this case I’m referring to Thomas Elliot. This film uses him as another friend to use not as another sociopathic killer who wanted Bruce’s life like in the comic. He is a plot device and nothing more. This is a shame as Hush is a great villain. This film does him wrong. He isn’t even Elliot, in the end the Riddler is behind the bandages which makes him look silly and bald with a scar of a question mark. It is all the gritty and edgy with none of the point. Elliot in the comics was set up leading up to his rivalry with Wayne and him being used by the Riddler made sense. Making him the Riddler is just a waste.

The Point is Weaker Than the Comics – The point of the comics that I got is that is that obsession can lead to self-destruction. We see this in how Thomas Elliot kills his parents to be like Bruce Wayne, The Riddler setting up everything to destroy Bruce Wayne’s life just to know knowing his identity means nothing and Bruce Wayne loses the relationships he’s developed with Selena Kyle. The film does the third point and that is it. I get animation can be expensive but making Riddler Hush is stupid for multiple reasons. We never get Riddler’s backstory in this for one and Elliot exists only for another person for Bruce to lose. This means nothing. There is no Hush as Jason Todd. This film made me appreciate the comic so much more. What a waste.

You really have no reason to watch this. Go watch the fights on youtube. This story could have made Thomas Elliot more complex, gone more into the Riddler, Selena Kyle or even Bruce Wayne. We got less than the comics. This movie is a waste and not worth your time. Just get the comic on comixology. You’ll get a story that actually means something and not something pretty that means so much less. This is a DC animation film that isn’t worth it. I’m sorry to all the voice actors and animators. Check out their better stuff. They deserved a better story.

Final Score: 6 / 10