Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 1, Episode 14 – “War-Mantle” – Consequences of the Empire

“War-Mantle” is a great episode that feels complete even with it being a cliffhanger. We have fantastic action and the threat of the Empire is more fully realized and what that means for Kamino and the clones. This was episode was a favorite and I highly recommend it.

The episode is directed by Steward Lee and written by Damani Johnson.

Rex sends Clone Force 99 on a secret mission to save a captured Clone as on Kamino the Empire’s plans unfold.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – We have the Kaminoans attempting to escape Kamino as the Empire sends all the clones to an unknown location and Clone Force 99 saving a clone from a top secret highly armed facility. We get great gun fights and a fun ship battle in Clone Force 99’s escape.

Rex’s Mission – Rex appears to send them on a secret mission he can’t give intel on that divides Clone Force 99 on with Echo and Omega saying they should go and Tech saying they shouldn’t. Hunter decides to go with the mission for Echo since Echo trusts Rex and it unfolds from there as they must free a clone from a secret Imperial Base in a Mountain.

Gregor – The clone is Gregor from “Rebels!” It is great seeing him again and all his joking around. He quickly understood that he was training his replacements and tried to escape only to be captured. He is wonderfully cynical and I loved his dynamic with Clone Force 99.

Clone Force 99 – Rex and Omega help free Echo, Tech and Gregor as they are at the ship as Echo, Tech and Hunter are the ones saving Gregor. We see all of them in action and great tactics. I was surprised they kept stunning people though given who they were fighting.

Kamino and Consequences – Admiral Rampart orders Crosshair to track the Kaminoans which leads to him discovering their escape. He keeps Nala Se since Rampart needs a scientist but Crosshair’s squad kills the Prime Minister. The Empire is in full control of the planet and clones, which I didn’t expect. I thought the Kaminoans would have a fail safe built into the clones at the very least or experiments they could unleash on the Empire.

Hunter Captured – Hunter is captured and isn’t able to make the escape with the others as the Empire overwhelms Clone Force 99 with the sheer number of troops and ships. It is good at showing how serious things are and of course Crosshair shows up to greet the captured Hunter in the final scene.

The Cons:

Nothing Happened with Nala Se’s Betrayal and the Minister – Nala Se and the Prime Minister act as if nothing happened after all that went down with their bounty hunters facing off. Did Cad Bane not tell the Prime Minister what happened?

This is a fantastic episode that illustrates just what Clone Force 99 and the galaxy are up against and I can’t wait to see how the season ends. This episode had some of the best action and some wonderful character dynamics that were explored. This episode was a favorite and one I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Doctor Who – The Doctors’ First Adventures from Worst to Best

With the 14th Doctor most likely to be announced in 2022 I thought it was time to update this list as the initial list was created before Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor’s time. I’ll post the original list at the bottom of this review but until then this was fun to come back to. There have been such a variety of introductions and I look forward to doing a list like this for regenerations when it is time for the 13th Doctor’s final episode. Until that time, I hope you enjoy this updated list.

13th Place

Twin Dilemma

The 6th Doctor – “The Twin Dilemma”

This episode is pretty insulting on a lot of levels (The 6th Doctor’s physical abuse of his companion) and there is not really anything good to say about it beyond the fact that it sucks less later on. The villain is also one of the stupidist bad guys in “Doctor Who” and believe me, that is saying something. He doesn’t ever feel threatening and is a complete joke, also we have two Wonder Boy/Wesley Crusher type characters we’re supposed to sympathize with, and who can’t act. Yep…this episode is one of the worst of the worst in “Doctor Who.”

1 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 6th Doctor – Season 21, Serial 7 – “The Twin Dilemma” – Everyone is Terrible or Boring

12th Place

doctor-who-96-tv-movie-cast

The 8th Doctor – “Doctor Who the Movie”

So, after the show was off the air, they tried to bring it back with a movie. “Doctor Who the Movie.” It is pretty bad, pretty much the only redeeming qualities of this film are Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor and Sylvester McCoy appearing before he gets killed as the 7th Doctor. The Master is the bad kind of hammy and none of the Doctor’s companions are worth mentioning in this, beyond the fact that they are terrible people. This is a tragedy too given that Paul McGann owns this role and really deserved a series as the Eighth Doctor.

5 / 10. Was a bad action movie elevated by Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy.

12 Days of Doctors – The 8th Doctor – “Doctor Who The Movie” – Paul McGann Should Have Got a Series

11th Place

An Unearthly Child 13

The 1st Doctor – “An Unearthly Child”

Things didn’t start out well for this series, they started out okay, but not great. The “Doctor Who” Pilot begins with two teachers talking their student Susan until they meet her strange Grandfather who kidnaps them because he doesn’t want to be revealed to Earth. He is great as the gruff Professor type but the teachers and Susan aren’t very good and the Doctor played by William Hartnell isn’t given enough to do. This should have been a longer episode.

6 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 1st Doctor – Season 1, Serial 1 – “An Unearthly Child” – An Okay Start

10th Place

The 13th Doctor – “The Women Who Fell to Earth”

The 13th Doctor’s introduction is fun but flawed. We get some really interesting characters and the cinematography is great but the pacing is extremely slow and the villain is a joke which hurts this episode from being good. I did enjoy the energy Jodie Whittaker brings as the Doctor though and her companions get some solid introductions in this episode that really could have been shorter.

7.2 / 10

The 13th Doctor – Series 11, Episode 1 – “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” – Strong Character Introductions Brought Down by Pacing and the Villain

9th Place

Robot 4

The 4th Doctor – “The Robot”

Tom Baker is a fantastic Doctor, and Sarah Jane Smith is a great companion…it is a shame the episode they appear in together for the first time doesn’t get to use their talents fully. The episode tries to be a morality play with The Robot of the title but the organization that wants to kill everyone is not fleshed out really well and in the process, the Robot they created isn’t either. There are a lot of good ideas here, they just aren’t fully realized. Seeing the Brigadier in action along with Harry is another plus though.

7.4 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Serial 1 – “The Robot” – An Attempt to Explore the Formation of Morality Through a Robot

8th Place

christmas_invasion-1

The 10th Doctor – “The Christmas Invasion”

David Tennant was my first Doctor and the one who got me into my love of “Doctor Who” as a whole, both the new and the classic. His episode is good but it has a major problem. The companions are useless and the Doctor is a super hero who must save them and the world. I hate this…part of what makes “Doctor Who” so great is the fact that the Doctor needs his companions, if they aren’t used, it would be better if they never appeared in the episode at all. I still recommend this episode though, even with this big problem.

7.8 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 10th Doctor – Christmas Special 2005 – “The Christmas Invasion” – The Doctor as a Super Hero

7th Place

Castrovalva

The 5th Doctor – “Castrovalva”

This is an episode where the biggest issues are too many companions (Mostly Adric) and the fact that the Doctor is out of it for most of it. The Master is great though with his two plots to try and destroy the Doctor, especially in how his creations are actually interesting compelling beings who are related to the world that is the title. Nyssa and Tegan are great companions too. Could do without Adric though, even though he isn’t as bad as he is in later episodes. Kids who can fly the TARDIS and know everything don’t lend themselves well to good stories…

8.5 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 5th Doctor – Season 19, Serial 1 – “Castrovalva” – The Manipulations of the Master

6th Place

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space

The 3rd Doctor – “The Spearhead From Space”

This episode for me, had the same score has “Castrovalva.” What makes it better slightly and why it rated higher on this list is the lack of Adric and a slightly more coherent plot. In this episode we see the Doctor with UNIT face off against the Autons sent by the Nesetene Consciousness to take over the world. It is here we see him with the Brig and Liz having to invent things to stop the Nestene and to investigate to find out that the Nestene is behind all the issues in the first place. It is a lot of fun and well worth a watch. Jon Pertwee is amazing.

8.5 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 3rd Doctor – Season 7, Serial 1 – “The Spearhead From Space” – The Beginning of an Exile

5th Place

doctor-rose1280

The 9th Doctor – “Rose”

Christopher Eccleston is fantastic and Rose is a great companion on her first outing. She works with the Doctor and we get to see a great Doctor and companion dynamic. This is also the first Post-Time War Doctor, and it shows. Eccleston does the PTSD Doctor so well that you can see how driven he is to save lives. He gives the Nestene Consciousness a chance and he has some great strategies for trying to stop the Auton invasion from the Nestene. Also Rose is a great character and very worthy of the companion role. She embraces the adventure, even with having a life and reasons to stay. I highly recommend this episode.

9 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 9th Doctor – Series 1, Episode 1 – “Rose” – The Consequences of the Time War

4th Place

time_and_the_rani

The 7th Doctor – “Time and the Rani”

This was an episode that nearly made the Top 3. There is only one factor that keeps it from being there, and that is the consequences the Rani forcing a regeneration into the 7th aren’t fully explored. It is a great episode, and one of my all time favorite “Doctor Who” episodes…both because of the Rani played by Kate O’Mara and Sylvester McCoy owning the role as the more wizard like Doctor (and the costume designs and alien civilizations are fantastic). Her plan is pretty cool and it takes a lot to defeat her in the episode. The thing that doesn’t really help it though is the fact that Mel isn’t all that memorable as companion. She is okay and has personality but isn’t as memorable as some of the ones before. Still a favorite that I very much recommend.

9.2 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 7th Doctor – Season 24, Serial 1 – “Time and the Rani” – The Rani is Awesome

3rd Place

Deep Breath

The 12th Doctor – “Deep Breath”

This story makes the top 3 for a few reasons. The biggest being Clara is finally a human being and an interesting companion (we see her trials as a teacher and trials with the Doctor), the Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Strax and Jenny) are great and we get to see more of their dynamic and how they grow with Clara and the Doctor, the villain of The Half-Face Man and Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. There is a lot to love, the only issue is how everyone keeps bringing up Clara and having a romantic partner. How many times does she have to say she wasn’t and isn’t interested? Can’t that be respected and why was that written in? Besides that, great story and one of the Top 3 First Adventures of the Doctors.

9.3 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 1 – “Deep Breath” – Finding the Doctor

2nd Place

Power_of_the_Daleks

The 2nd Doctor – “The Power of the Daleks”

This is one of my favorite episodes for a reason, and it’s one that you can only watch via audio, pictures and what little film remains…it is worth it though. In the link I post you can see some of the recreations that fans did. This episode is great because it shows the Daleks manipulating humans against each other and only arriving when they’ve pretty much won anyway…Polly and Ben each help the Doctor in their own ways and the Patrick Troughton is a great Loki like Doctor. He is the trickster who manages to manipulate his way in a position to help by playing the buffoon. This is one of the best “Doctor Who” episodes and one of the best Dalek Episodes as well. This episode really establishes why they are so dangerous. I highly recommend watching the footage and audio of the full episode to really get apprecation for this Doctor, the Daleks, Polly and Ben and this story.

9.5 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 2nd Doctor – Season 4, Serial 3 – “The Power of the Daleks” – The Daleks’ Manipulation

1st Place

Doctor and Amy

The 11th Doctor – “The Eleventh Hour”

This is the episode that is the best of the First Adventures. The reasons for this are it establishes the Doctor as a Time Lord and time traveler (visiting Amy as a child and an adult and not being aware of the time change) a great baddie who plays with your mind (Prisoner Zero in the corner of your eye…the boogey man of childhood) and continuity (when facing the Atraxi they can the Doctor and find all his past numbered incarnations in their data bank as defenders of the Earth). It is wonderful and Rory and Amy are great companions. The Doctor isn’t a super hero and actually needs their help since it is only together they win. For people new to “Doctor Who” this is generally the episode I recommend. It is also visually amazing. This Doctor, is pretty cool.

10 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 11th Doctor – Series 5, Episode 1 – “The Eleventh Hour” – The Time Traveler

Here is the original list I made back when it was the lead up to Peter Capaldi’s first adventure as the 12th Doctor.:

The Doctors’ First Adventures – Worst to Best

The 13th Doctor – Series 11, Episode 1 – “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” – Strong Character Introductions Brought Down by Pacing and the Villain

With the recent announcement of both Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall leaving “Doctor Who” after this next series and specials I wanted to go back and review the first 13th Doctor episode in preparation for the eventual first episode that the 14th Doctor will have. I also wanted to compare it to the other Doctors and their first stories, which I’ll be posting next with the updated list. This was enjoyable to go back to and has a lot going for it but it is sadly brought down by pacing and the villain. Still, this is a fun introduction to the Doctor and her companions and I do recommend checking it out.

The episode was directed by Jamie Childs and written by Chris Chibnall.

The story follows the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) when she falls into the city of Sheffield and must uncover the mystery of two alien threats without her TARDIS.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – This is a beautifully filmed episode and the show is the best it as ever looked. You have wide shots of landscapes and shots that capture how trapped characters feel. It helps capture the mystery of the episode really well.

The Initial Mystery – Why are two aliens in Sheffield attacking or killing people? This is a good set-up and gives a reason for all the companions something to do in both solving the mystery and fighting the threats. The premise keeps the story moving too.

Yaz – We meet Yasmin Khan who is a police officer in training who was high school friends wtih Ryan. They stumble upon the enemy transportation ship and get called to the train where the Doctor is when Ryan’s Grandma Grace calls him where she and Graham are. Yaz is the one keeping the peace between characters and she is introduced solving a parking dispute. She is quick to action as well in helping the Doctor. All in all a great introduction to her character and Mandip Gill is good in the role.

Graham – Graham and Ryan have a rough relationship at first as Graham is his step-Grandpa though their love of Grace and the Doctor’s adventure brings them together. Graham is a cancer survivor and the reluctant hero of the story as Grace is first to act and he follows her lead. In the end he and Ryan’s relationship begins to heal after Grace dies stopping the villain’s biotechnological weapon. Bradley Walsh is great.

Ryan – Tosin Cole’s Ryan frames the story as he talks about his inspiration who we learn is his Nan Grace who raised him after his dad left. He has dyspraxia so is challenging himself to ride a bike. It is doing this he discovers the signal that calls the villain to Earth to hunt. Throughout the story we see him facing his fears and he gives the eulogy for Grace for her sacrifice online in his video and at her memorial. He is good in the role and I liked how his perspective frames the story.

Grace – Sharon D Clarke’s Grace is the heart of the episode as she is first to take action and her courage saves Ryan and Yaz when she stops the biotechnological weapon. We see how she supported Ryan growing up and her love for Graham. She is a great character and hero and her death matters as her impact is felt in the series long after this episode.

The Doctor – Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor has the energy of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor as we see her attach to Grace, Graham, Yaz and Ryan quick as she sets out to solve the mystery of the attacks and who she is. We see her invent her own screwdriver after the past one was likely destroyed and reason with the villain as she tries to send him home. She is driven by her connection to people and learning about who she is now as well as her connection to the past as at Grace’s memorial she mentions how her past family is who she carries within her now that they are long gone. It is a solid performance and a good introduction to this Doctor.

The Cons:

Pacing – This episode is slow and you feel it. It takes a long time before we even see the villain and some of that time is just showing us characters who the villain kills the moment they are shown. This episode did not need to be an hour long and would have worked better as a standard 40-45 minute episode.

The Villain Reveal – The villain has an awful name and is not good at it’s mission. His is named Tzim-Shaw and called “Tim Shaw” and is hunting a target to be the leader of the Stenza. The Stenza hunting culture sounds horrifying but Tzim-Shaw is just a cheater using advanced technology and doesn’t even neutralize the Doctor and her companions when he knows they are trying to stop him. He’s dumb and for the creepy deal of wearing teeth on his face as trophy he stops being scary the moment he says his name and does nothing to stop the heroes from stopping him. He’s a terrible and wasted villain as the Stenza sound like a potentially interesting threat. We just needed a better version of them for this story.

In the end this was an enjoyable episode that is a solid introduction to the Doctor and her companions that is brought down by the pacing and the villain. If either had been fixed this episode could have been good or great. Still, I do recommend checking out the introduction to Jodie Whittaker’s first outing as the 13th Doctor. There is a lot that makes this episode fun and enjoyable.

Final Score: 7.2 / 10

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 (2021) – Brought Down By Holes in Part 1

“Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2” doesn’t solve the issues of “Part 1” but it is the better film. When they are edited together I’m curious if they’ll take anything out or add some more scenes in as “Part 1” does not set-up “Part 2” well in regards to the mysteries well at all. This Part does have some great action though and it is enjoyable. So if you liked the first part I do recommend completing your watch and watching “Part 2.”

The film was directed by Chris Palmer and written by Tim Sheridan.

As Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles) is being controlled by Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff) for Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver), the Holiday killings continue as Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) continues to grow more unstable.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action is one thing this adaptation has done well as we get a great fight when Catwoman saves Bruce Wayne from Poison Ivy’s control, when Batman fights Scarecrow and the Mad Matter and in the final fight of the film. The action is kinetic and you can see what everyone is doing clearly.

Scarecrow – Scarecrow hits Batman with the fear toxin and with the Mad Hatter gets Carmine more of what he needs for his operation. I also suspect he and the Mad Hatter might have helped make the acid for Sal Maroni as that seems like a concoction they’d make. This version of Scarecrow looks haunting and we see him and he usually succeeds in causing chaos at least once before being taken down.

Poison Ivy – Katee Sackhoff’s Poison Ivy shows why she is easily the most powerful of Batman’s rogues. From mind controlling Bruce Wayne to sign over his assets to Carmine Falcone and later working with Two-Face to take out Falcone. She is a great threat and she ends up controlling Bruce Wayne for months.

Harvey Dent / Two-Face – Josh Duhamel is a better Two-Face than Harvey as I never believed his love for Gilda and Two-Face has a rough voice and is ruthless. This is the identity who only believes in chance and he is a great threat after Sal Maroni completes his birth into Two-Face with the acid in the court. He recruits Grundy, Joker, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy and takes out Carmine Falcone in the end before taking responsibility for the Holiday killings. He’s not as tragic as in the comics as he is fully another being while Two-Face in the comics was about revenge and it was personal. This Two-Face doesn’t believe in revenge, he simply is.

Selina Kyle / Catwoman – Naya Rivera continues to be an amazing Catwoman. Her arc in this is protecting Carmine Falcone until on his death bed she learns Louisa was her mother as Falcone was her father. It was a good arc and I liked how she saved Batman a bunch. She was the most successful hero in this. In the end she opens up too as both Bruce Wayne and her shared their secret identities and are shown to be a couple at the end. R.I.P. Naya Nivera.

The Final Fight – You have Carmine and his daughter Sofia against Two-Face and the rogues with finally Batman and Catwoman arriving to even things out. It is a fantastic fight and begins with the rogues causing chaos in Gotham, which was a nice touch and in character for them. It was a great fight and the reveal of Catwoman’s origin was neat.

The “Holiday” Reveal – We learn that Alberto Falcone was a “Holiday” like in the comics as was Gilda and Harvey as the final. The difference is Gilda was with Alberto until Carmine broke up the relationship and forced her to get an abortion. In the end she kills off the Falcone line as revenge. I liked that her motivations were explored more but none of this was setup in “Part 1” and “Part 2” the reveals of it being here were very obvious, but I liked the different lore.

The Cons:

The Batman and Harvey Dent Friendship – Batman says they are friends but all they did was burn Falcone’s cash together once. They never became friends that we could see so it took me out of the film when Batman called them friends. They were co-workers at most.

The Dent Marriage – Gilda says she loved Harvey but I never saw love fully from either of them. Them getting divorced is referenced in this film too. Gilda saying she fell in love with Harvey was never truly shown.

“The Roman” and his Arc – Carmine Falcone met a young Bruce and told him “All you have is what you take.” This is apparently the message? It is a mess and Carmine was never shown to have ever loved his son Alberto and his past of what he did to Gilda was never even hinted at prior. He dies but because of all the added story holes it becomes a mess rather than a clear revenge story like in the comic.

Batman is Still Dumb – Batman is still dumb in this and is playing catch-up to even Carmine who figured out Gilda was “Holiday.” This was annoying and I hate that we only see Batman is good at fighting. He also just lets Gilda stay which seems counter to what we had seen before. We needed more time with him letting Catwoman be a thief and him being okay with it for it to work.

“Part 2” is an enjoyable mess. I like the voice cast a lot. Ackles makes a great Batman and I hope he can voice him again. Duhamel also has a great Two-Face voice. R.I.P. Naya Rivera who voiced an extremely memorable Catwoman. This cast is great and I wish the story had worked better. The new lore needed more setup and certain characters more exploration for this 2 Parter to work. Still, if you are looking for a fun adaptation I would say it is worth checking out.

Part 1: 7 / 10

Part 2: 7.5 / 10

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 1 (2021) – Adaptation That Isn’t Quite Working

Descent II – Greater Boss and World Variety But Less Difficult and Fun

“Descent II” fixes some of the issues with the first game (mostly length and Boss variety) but is weaker in almost every other way. It is still a good game that I’d recommend but it is more flawed than the first game. It did come out in 1996, a year after the first game so I think it was most likely rushed given some of the flaws. I’ll get more into what I mean further in.

The game was created by Parallax Studios and released by Interplay Productions.

The story picks up with the mercenary from the first game, the Material Defender being forced to warp into deep space by Dravis and the PTMC or forfeit his reward as he must clear out their deep space mines.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – This game opens up the world of “Descent” and does so in a compelling way. First we have deep space and an experimental warp drive and finally aliens as the last planet is a space ship. Your warp drive also is destroyed on your arrival home fully setting up PTMC as the main enemy moving forward.

Guide-Bot – I had issue with how complicated some puzzles and maps were in the first game and the Guide-Bot fixes that as it guides you to where you need to go next. The bot isn’t smart so you do need to find ways to open passages and doors but it pushes you along if you ever feel stuck. It is a neat bot.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is just as fun as the first game and there are new weapons to that add more strategies for defeating bosses and enemies. Some bosses are only vulnerable to certain weapons or only when shot in certain areas that adds another level of fun to the game.

The Boss Variety – There are 6 bosses and each of them are themed around the type of planet they are on. You have a “Red Boss” (level 4) in the classic mines a “Water Boss,” (level 8) “Fire Boss” (level 12) “Ice Boss” (level 16) and 2 Alien Bosses (levels 20 and 24). The hardest for me were the “Ice Boss” who blinds with flash missiles in his dark map and the last boss who has Earthshaker Missiles and can only be hurt from the back. This variety was better than the only 2 bosses in the first game though these were all much easier than most of the first games bosses.

Okay:

Enemy Difficulty and Variety – This game is substantially easier than the first game. I didn’t feel challenged by any single enemy units until the final planet and there are no enemies as difficult as the larger Hulks and Drillers of the first game. This was where the game felt rushed and even enemy designs are more simple than the first game though they still feel like they are of that same world so not putting them as a con.

Boss Difficulty – There are more bosses and most are easy. Even the boss on level 20 isn’t hard it just sucks the world it is on takes your energy. The fact that only 2 bosses were memorable in difficulty after how hard the only 2 bosses in the first game are it is definitely a step down.

The Cons:

Soundtrack – While the other soundtrack has a calm and haunting ambiance this game is much louder. It feels like it is trying to take metal meets sci. fi. but it doesn’t work and is distracting. The soundtrack didn’t compliment the worlds all that well which was a shame. It just sounded the same.

Cliffhanger Ending – The game ends on a cliffhanger with the Material Defender falling into the sun. It promised it would be continued. This was a mistake as there was no reason to believe it would have been able to continue. This is also my bias against cliffhanger endings coming out.

“Descent II” is step down from the first game while adding some cool things like diverse worlds and the Guide-Bot that give the universe character. It is a shame that the bosses were mostly so easy and that hardly any of the standard enemy robots were difficult. Still, as someone who enjoys this world this is a game I return to just not as often as the first game. This game is good, the first game is a favorite.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Top 5 Favorite “Star Trek” Villains

It has been a while since I’ve done anything “Star Trek” related on the blog. So this was fun to return to as the villains are part of what helps make so many of the stories of the “Star Trek Franchise” memorable and have brought about so many compelling stories both in the show and films. Some of these villains were so memorable future writers would attempt to create that same magic in other films and largely be unsuccessful with it. I’m considering all the shows and films for when I made the list and these were the 5 favorite that have always stayed with me when considering the “Star Trek Universe.” Also there will be story SPOILERS for all the characters on this list.

5) General Chang

Christopher Plummer’s is a warrior driven by a fear of change as war is always known and what it means for what it means to be Klingon. He frames Kirk and McCoy for the death of Chancellor Gorkon and nearly succeeds in stopping the peace process of the Khitomer Accords as the only reason he loses is he didn’t bring backup and his Federation conspirators were discovered before they could assassinate the Federation President. Chang is ruthless but also has a respect for Kirk as a soldier as he is clearly enjoying the final battle against Kirk and Captain Sulu as he quotes Shakespeare and pummels them both from his cloaked ship. Like most of the adversaries on this list his cleverness is part of what makes him stand out as well as his ideology built on war that he is unable to grow past. To him there could be no Klingon Empire without war and it blinded him to the suffering of his people. He was powerful both at getting under the Federation’s skin with words and in battle. R.I.P. Christopher Plummer for playing one of the best villains in “Star Trek” and made the film “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” so memorable.

4) Gowron

Gowron is a character who is driven by personal ego and honor versus the societal honor that guided the ideology of General Chang. When we first meet Gowron he shows how crafty he is as he is willing to trade a seat on the High Council to become Chancellor and his working with the Federation against the Duras family in the Klingon Civil War. Robert O’Reilly captured the joy this character has in both the political and personal battles. He loves combat and all moves he does are to build himself up and diminish potential threats. We see this in his doing away with the Khitomer Accords to go to war with Cardassia, believing they were taken over by Changelings and his taking all of Worf’s families money and land when he refused to support the Klingon Empire in their war. He later does this again when General Martok’s star is rising and so he takes control of the Dominion War to send Martok on impossible missions. This leads to his undoing as Worf who is now of House Martok challenges and kills him. Gowron own personal honor and ego are what make him so compelling and crafty are also what end up being his undoing as it was putting himself before his people that lead to Worf’s challenge, that was tactically backed by the Federation. O’Reilly created a memorable character and he is probably my favorite Klingon besides General Chang lasting through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

3) Weyoun

Jeffrey Combs’s amazing Weyoun (all the ones we meet) is a character driven by ideology like General Chang. Though Weyoun’s is religious as it is his worship of the fascist Founders that drive his diplomatic and military actions in the Alpha Quadrant. He is the face of the Dominion and the enforcer of their will and Combs does it beautifully. He can act kind and is curious about the worlds the Dominion is to conquer. He is limited in what he can see and taste but can hear extremely well and navigates the Alpha Quadrant politics extremely well. He really only loses when the Female Changeling’s hate for solids overrides her tactics when combined with the deadly virus against the Founders. Weyoun brings in the Breen and the Cardassians and if his cautiousness had been bettered adhered to by egos like Dukat and the Founders the Dominion probably would have won the war. In the end the line of Weyoun is ended after Damar destroys his cloning facility and Garak kills the last Weyoun. He was a memorable villain who truly captured the complexity and threat of the Dominion throughout “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

2) Khan Noonien Singh

Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh is an icon of “Star Trek.” Appearing first in “Space Seed” in “Star Trek: The Original Series” he bested Captain Kirk and his crew and won enough to the point that he was given his own planet with his augments as Kirk thought Federation rehabilitation of this past Earth tyrant impossible. The augments of which Khan is one of caused World War 3 and you feel their influence through “Trek.” Sadly, this comes back to bite Kirk as the planet Seti Alpha VI shifted orbit leading to much of Khan’s crew and family dying. He succeeds in revenge to as even though he doesn’t defeat Kirk it is only through Spock’s death he failed. This is the best revenge story in “Star Trek” and we see all the failed attempts to replicate it in Shinzon, Nero, Alternate Khan, Krall, etc. Most films tried to create this same magic but none are as personal as the losses Khan faced and his ego and rage are incomparable. All he does is to hurt Kirk and the Federation, even to his dying breath. Khan is a Shakespearean tragic figure and I can’t wait to review “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” He is easily one of the best and compelling characters to come out of “Star Trek.”

1) Gul Dukat

Mark Alaimo’s Gul Dukat is the most compelling villain to come out of “Star Trek.” This former Prefect of Bajor is responsible for the occupation that killed millions but fails ever to see how he is responsible. Dukat’s ego is what drives him and his need to impress those he respects (as a way to show he is right to himself). This is most apparent in his relationship with Captain Sisko and Major Kira as he sees their validation of him what he needs to be right and understood. This villain is wonderfully complicated to as he takes in his half-Bajoran daughter Zyal leading to his family and the Cardassian Government exiling him to him becoming a rogue fighter against the Klingons in the Klingon-Cardassian War. It is in this war he finds his out by negotiating with the Dominion to rule Cardassia after which he retook Deep Space Nine, from where he had ruled Bajor prior. Eventually it all comes crashing down when the Federation retakes the station and his second-in-command Damar kills his daughter. He breaks with reality at this point and after escaping Federation captivity starts a Pah-Wraith cult as he attempts to destroy Bajor once and for all. He nearly succeeds again but Kai Winn’s change of heart and Captain Sisko’s arrival stop him as he is trapped forever with the Pah-Wraiths as his final fate. This villain had so many rises and falls and never stops being interesting, charming and narcissistic. He is an intelligent villain even after he psychologically breaks and is set-up as a threat from the very first season of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” He had a great arc and Marc Alaimo gives such an amazing performance as the best villain in all of “Star Trek.”

I’m curious who your favorite villains in “Star Trek” are too. This was a fun list to make.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011): Letting Go of the Past and the Quest for Inner Peace

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is easily the best of the “Kung Fu Panda Trilogy” and of the best animated films out there. This is a film that deals with the themes of trauma, loss and found family as well as giving us some amazing action and character arcs. This film is a favorite and I think shows just how great animated stories can be. So without going into spoilers, this is one I highly recommend.

The film was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

The story follows Po (Jack Black) and the Furious Five when they must stop Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) and his new weapon from conquest.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Opening – We get a great opening with Michelle Yeoh’s Soothsayer saying how Lord Shen used the invention of fireworks to come up with weapons leading to his exile after he heard a prophecy of a black and white warrior defeating him. This lead to his hunting down all pandas and his parents exiling him. After we see him return to Gongmen City, his home an defeating the martial arts masters with his new weapon. The stakes are immediate and we see what is at stake when Lord Shifu gets the message of what has happened and sends Po and the Furious Five to stop Lord Shen.

The Animation – The animation is almost realistic in the forest and some of the city settings with the details of ships looking almost lifelike. It is beautiful and plays into the dark tone of the film.

The Action – The action is great in this with memorable sequences being attacking Lord Shen at the palace and the docks where we see is cannons on full display as well as how great our heroes are against his wolf forces. There are slower moments too that add impact when the action sequences happen.

Wolf Boss – Danny McBride plays Lord Shen’s second-in-command and he is a good threat too as we see him hold his own against Po and how well he works wit his pack. He also isn’t all evil too as when Lord Shen says he should fire on their men to take out the Furious Five and their allies he refuses, leading to Lord Shen killing him.

The Furious Five – The Furious Five get more to do in this and we see how well they work as a team as they shout out tactics they use. They are there for Po in his identity crisis they use and each of them have their moment to shine in fighting Lord Shen or teaching Po in the case of Tigress. I loved them in this.

The Soothsayer – Michelle Yeoh’s Soothsayer is a character full of regret as we see she tries to help Lord Shen let go and heal but can’t though sh is able to help Po heal. We see the regret she feels for sharing the prophecy that lead to the hunting of Pandas and how much she wishes Lord Shen could heal. She is compelling andshines in every scene she is in.

Mr. Ping – Mr. Ping in this shares how he found and adopted Po and we see his arc as at one point he fears that Po has left him forever when Po doesn’t say “I love you” when he says good-bye. It is a heartbreaking scene and I’m glad one of the last scenes is Po returning to say Mr. Ping is his dad. James Hong is once again great and one of the most memorable characters. He never planned to b a dad but embraced it when it happened.

Lord Shen – Gary Oldman plays the best villain in this series. Shen is a villain with so much rage and regret who can’t accept love and it has driven him to hate everything. He is a brilliant inventor but in the end he can’t see anything beyond that which he can take. He is broken and alone and it makes him a fascinating villain. All he has is his ego, pride and resentment. Just like Tai Lung.

Po – Po’s arc is powerful in this as he figures out who he is as he never new his biological parents (though we see his dad survived Lord Shen and his wolves at the end) and his need to know puts the Furious Five at risks. He becomes driven for outside validation like Lord Shen and Tai Lung until he remembers his past and his mother saving him during his time with the Soothsayer. It is a powerful arc and with Inner Peace he is able to free his friends and defeat Lord Shen and his forces.

How the Past Can Consume – Lord Shen and Po are both consumed by feeling abandoned by their parents (for different reasons) and this leads to them acting out and ignoring those who care for them. Shen only has his hat and rage and Po only in accepting himself realizes the friends and family he has, finding peace in the present. They are contrasted in the message of the film.

Found and Created Family – Master Shifu, the Furious Five, Mr. Ping these are Po’s found family and it takes him nearly dying to realize it as he comes to understand that he may not have the family who saved him but he has a family who love him. These relationships illustrate why this Trilogy is one of my favorites.

This is the best film in the Trilogy and one of the best animated films out there. It has so many characters and they all have a chance to be amazing and nuanced. I love this film and each time I return to it I notice something new. I highly recommend this film and of course the Trilogy as a whole.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Kung Fu Panda (2008): Finding the Power Within and Accepting Yourself

I’ve been planning to finish up my reviews of this Trilogy as it is one that I come back to given how great the action, themes and characters are and once again I was not disappointed. Really the only weak part of the first film is First Act pacing and some of Po’s jokes early on. Besides that the core conflict and arcs are fantastic and without getting into spoilers I highly recommend this film.

“Kung Fu Panda” was directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

The story follows noodle cook Po (Jack Black) when he is chosen as the legendary Dragon Warrior and must face himself and the trials of martial arts as the feared warrior Tai Lung (Ian McShane) breaks out prison to get revenge against his master and the valley.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – There is beautiful comic book stylized 2D animation when Po is telling his story of joining the Furious Five in a dream and after the main colorful 3D for the rest of the film. The animation looks amazing and captures the beauty of the valley and the isolation of Tai Lung’s mountain prison well. The animation is smooth too leading to some great action sequences.

The Action – The action is amazing in this with Tai Lung’s escape, Tai Lung against the Furious Five and Tai Lung against Master Shifu as the best action sequences. We have a prison falling apart, a fight on a bridge and at the top of a mountain temple. You feel the punches and action and it establishes how powerful the Furious Five, Master Shifu and eventually Po are.

The Characters – The characters are what make this film work as especially for comedy they have to. All the main and supporting cast I cared about and I’ll go into a few here.

Mr. Ping – Mr. Ping is Po’s adopted dad and owner of the noodle shop in the village. He is traditional in that he wants Po to carry on the family trade but he supports Po when Po discovers being a martial art master is what he wants. James Hong gives him so much empathy and he is one of the reasons this Trilogy works so well.

The Furious Five – The Furious Five are fantastic though they exist more as the great team with their base personalities being Mantis is voiced by Seth Rogen and grumpy but open minded, Jolie’s Tigress is distrusting and the leader, Jackie Chan’s Monkey is the jokester, Lucy Liu’s Viper is kind and Cross’s Crane is sarcastic. They are the main protectors of the village in the valley and are Po’s idols and eventual friends.

Tai Lung – Tai Lung is a snow leopard voiced by Ian McShane driven by the expectations he places upon himself and his master Shifu that eventually drive him mad with rage. He believes himself the best and it made him entitled and unwilling to have any self-reflection. It is this that leads to his undoing when Po takes the message of the Dragon Scroll that the answer is within yourself that defeats Tai Lung who never grows beyond outside expectations, ego and rage. He is a great villain and easily one of the best animated villains. He also has all the best action sequences in the film showing just how dangerous he is.

Po – Po’s arc is to accept himself and the power that is within. It is a great hero’s journey that works well because of his mentors of Oogway, Shifu and his father Mr. Ping. Jack Black gives the character so much humanity and I liked his arc of learning martial arts and coming to accept himself. It is organic an made sense as did his starting out as an outsider among the Furious Five and earning their respect.

Master Shifu – Hoffman’s Shifu is the heart of this film as his relationship to Tai Lung gives us some of the best drama. After his failure to teach Tai Lung humility he stopped complimenting his students. He becomes strict and it is only after Oogway’s death and him passing on leadership of the Temple to him that he learns and grows and finds how to play to Po’s strengths. He has a great arc and I like how he finally finds the inner peace he’d always been seeking since Tai Lung’s betrayal.

Accepting Yourself – A huge theme of the film is self-acceptance and we see it Shifu and Po who do and in Tai Lung’s failure to do so. The Tao and martial arts are used as the means of teaching it and it is done really well.

The Cons:

Slow Start – The beginning is all set-up from Po’s perspective, which is fine but the greater story is really that between Shifu and Tai Lung which is a lot slower to kick off than I remember. If Tai Lung had been made part of the story sooner the film would be better.

Some of Po’s Jokes – Po’s fake confidence is grating and I felt like Master Shifu in some scene of just wanting the action to move forward. When bad jokes happen and Po jokes too much the story stalls.

The first 2 “Kung Fu Panda” films are easily 2 of my favorite animated films and it was great returning back to the beginning of this amazing trilogy. If you haven’t seen it and want animated films with a deeper point and great action and characters than this is the film for you.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

“Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 – Solid Characters, Comedy and Animation Made This Memorable

“Masters of the Universe: Revelation” Part 1 is a sequel series to the classic 80s “Masters of the Universe.” The 80s show is a show I know mostly through cultural osmosis as it is before my time. I was drawn in though due to the voice cast and how neat the premise looked. This is a beautifully animated show that Netflix did good work on.

The show was created by Kevin Smith.

The story takes place after a final showdown at Castle Grayskull that leaves magic sapped from the world and our heroes exiled from the Royal Family as Leeta (Sarah Michelle Geller) must uncover the reasons why magic is disappearing as she finds herself in unlikely alliances after Adam / He-Man (Chris Wood) and Skeletor (Mark Hamill) and the Sword of Power are gone after that final battle.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of magic leaving a magic filled world and technology rising to fill that hole is compelling. The world feels broken after the final battle which sets the stakes really well and gives a reason for Leeta to work with Skeletor’s former allies.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful and brings the world to life. I loved how it illustrated the darkness of the underworld Subternia and the vibrant colors of the paradise of Preternia. All the people of Eternia feel distinct too and I loved the classic designs from the buildings and ships from the 80s.

The Characters – Most of the characters work, especially those core relationships to Teela. I liked how nearly all the supporting cast had their moment to shine and got some good character development.

Duncan / Man-At-Arms – Liam Cunningham is wonderful as Duncan, Teela’s father who is exiled after Adam’s death in the final battle. He lives with that guilt until Teela and his creation with his personality Roboto remind him of his responsbility as he protects his wife the Sorceress from the Techno Cult that is trying to destroy all magic in Eternia.

Teela / Man-At-Arms – Teela’s arc is becoming a hero again after she is living a life as a mercenary with her friend Andra until Evil-Lyn pulls her back into the quest to restore magic as she shows her people can change. Eventually she confronts Adam in Preternia after facing her fear of power in Subternia and they resolve things as he leaves Heaven to join her in the fight to restore magic in the world once more. Teela didn’t know Adam was He-Man and that secret hurt their relationship and her relationship with all their friends (Duncan, Cringer, Orko) who knew and never said. Sarah Michelle Geller was so good I didn’t even recognize her voice for the character.

Adam / He-Man – Chris Wood’s Adam’s arc is choosing to return to the world and risk permanent death as he’s been granted a reprieve in Preternia for saving the universe. It is a good and small arc that ends with him mortally wounded when Skeletor’s trap is revealed. I doubt he will die and will probably become He-Man or be healed by magic now that it is back in the world.

Skeletor – Mark Hamill is great as Skeletor. He is in the beginning as he destroys the source of magic that causes the conflict and later mortally wounds Adam and takes the Sword of Power as he had been hiding in Evil-Lyn’s staff. I liked the flashbacks where he clearly just loved being evil and I wonder what he’ll do now that he is a Master of the Universe and won at the end of Part 1.

Orko – Orko is the heart of show as he is dying from the lack of magic and we learn he might be the last Trollen. He grows to form a friendship with Evil-Lyn as she helps him overcome his parents lack of faith in him as he holds off Scare Glow in Subternia giving time for the heroes to escape to Preternia. I loved this character and he was my favorite besides Evil-Lyn. Griffin Newman did a great job.

Evil-Lyn – Lena Headey gives us the most compelling character in the show as Evil-Lyn is left to question her assumptions as she sees the selflessness of heroes and realizes that Skeletor caused the problem of magic dying in the first place. In the end she does rejoin Skeletor but I suspect she will betray him. She left her crown at Orkos tombstone so she’s been changed by all that she’s experienced. She and Orko were my favorite characters.

Okay:

Tri-Klops – Tri-Klops has a techno cult and has taken over Snake Mountain and believes technology will fix people and the world. He is the primary antagonist and I wish we’d seen more of the influence of the cult. I’m also curious how the Royal family and their forces interacted with his.

Andra – Andra is Leeta’s engineer friend who wants to be a hero which in turn inspires Leeta to be a hero. She has a lot of moments she helps but we never learn her backstory, which was a shame.

Roboto – Roboto is Duncan’s creaion and the being who reforges the Sword of Power and gains a soul in the process as feels the fear of death. I wish we’d had more time with him. The arc is interesting but we needed more time and backstory like Andra.

Beast-Man – Like Andra and Roboto I wanted to know why Beast-Man was still loyal to Evil-Lyn and Skeletor as all the other minions went rogue. Kevin Michael Richardson is great but I wish he’d gotten some development.

The Cons:

More Skeletor Set-up Needed – Skeletor hiding in Evil-Lyn’s staff needed more set-up. I had no idea what is overall plan was and not one of his former minions says what his plans were before his “death.” Given how key he is to the plot this story development was needed.

The Missing Royal Family and Their Power – King Randor exiles Duncan for failing to protect Adam and outlaws people from Castle Grayskull. Given Leeta and her group were going against the Royal Family I’d like to have seen their power. They are shown to be so core at the beginning but never come up again beyond being referenced.

Part 1 is promising and I like how it ended in tragedy as Part 2 has Skeletor with his ultimate power as the main threat. I do think Skeletor’s plan and agenda needed more set-up but the core character relationships are what made this show good and I’m looking forward to Part 2 of the series. Kevin Smith has done a good job on the show so far.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Werewolves Within (2021): Good Once the Mystery Starts

“Werewolves Within” is a film that is a solid version of it’s premise. It is based on a Ubisoft VR game of the same name, which in turn I believe came from the Mafia style “One Night a Werewolf” game. I’ve played “One Night a Werewolf” and it is a fun game so it was cool to see a version of it brought to film here. I’d say the biggest thing keeping the film from being great is the comedy doesn’t always work and comedic writing doesn’t usually make for good character development. Still, this is a good film largely due to the final reveal and the core mystery so without going into spoilers, I do recommend the film.

The film was directed by Josh Ruben and written by Mishna Wolff.

The story follows Forest ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) when he is assigned to Beaverfield, a small town in crisis as the potential building of an oil pipeline is tearing the town apart. When murders start occuring the town begins to suspect one of them might be a werewolf.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – This is a beautiful looking film that captures the terror and isolation of a werewolf in a small town really well. The fear of the people is captured in the darker grating and mist really well. Matthew Wise did a great job.

The Setup – Murder in a small town where everyone is given motive to hate as we have pro and anti-pipeline factions and interpersonal reasons why the murders could happen. It works well and Finn as the outsider gives a great perspective as well as us not fully knowing his backstory.

The Action – The action does tension really well as we never see the werewolf until the end. This leads the setup of if there even is one given we see some characters are just murders. Once everyone leaves the Inn and characters are going there seperate ways is when the action doesn’t stop and really works.

The Reveal – In the end the mailman Cecily played by Milana Vayntrub is the werewolf. She is setup as one of the kinder people in the town and Finn’s somewhat love interest so the reveal works as we see for her it is all survival. It is a cool reveal and I almost wondered if she’d turn Finn into a werewolf too.

The Cons:

The Character Introductions and First Act – You have the conservatives who hate outsiders with the obsessive driven wife and the cheating husband, you have the rich oil man who is trying to buy out the town, the gay couple who are liberal tech. millionaires, the dysfunctional and paranoid mechanics couple, the isolated hunter who hates people, the mailman Cecily, the kind woman who owns the inn and of course Ranger Finn. All are presented comedically by Cecily and it doesn’t work. I get it is setting the stage but we don’t get to know the characters beyond them liking or hating the pipeline. I would have just had them introduced at the Inn when the power goes out as the dynamic nature and complexity to them doesn’t come out until then. I disliked playing the town as a joke from the start as the drama with some comedy was when the film worked. This is the problem with the first act and keeps the film from being great.

This is a film that could have been great if it had done more to get to the action quicker and used that to explore the characters as it was at that point it was shining. The film does a good job establishing motives which make it a good mystery and when it does get to the action it is great. For this reason I would recommend it and Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub do a good job carrying the core story.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solidly good action and mystery film.