Terminator Salvation (2009): When Redemption Means Death

Terminator Salvation

    We continue the “Terminator Franchise” review with “Terminator Salvation.” “Terminator Salvation” was a decent film. It had a consistent character arc and kept the theme of redemption and change going on throughout it. I also enjoyed a lot of the casting choices they made, though it wasn’t perfect and I’d still rate “The Terminator” and “T2” above this film because they were much more focused so didn’t feel long at any point. This one does drag at times and doesn’t do as much as it could have with those reflective moments.

    The film was directed by Joseph McGinty “McG” Nichol, written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris and produced by Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek and Jeffrey Silver.

    The story begins in the past with Dr. Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) giving Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) another chance at life after death if he donates his body to their cause. He agrees and wakes up in the future where the Terminators are fighting to annihilate humanity. John Connor (Christian Bale) is seeking Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) to protect him and the Machines are too. When Reese runs into Marcus he becomes his protector and later when Reese is captured it is Marcus who is the best bet to infiltrate Skynet when they discover that he is a Cyborg.

The Pros: The Terminators – The Terminators are great in this! There a whole variety of them from HK’s that fly, T-600s, Tanks and even the T-800 makes an appearance and nearly kills John and Marcus. They feel like a threat and it takes human ingenuity to defeat them as they can take a lot of hits and fight until they are dead. The designs and their actions were some of the best part of this film.

The Resistance – The resistance is torn between those who believe in John as a Messiah and those who think he is a false prophet (mostly those in leadership) this could have been explored more but I’m going to give them a point for the idea as no group has full unity.

Kyle Reese – Anton Yelchin is great as the teenage Kyle Reese! We see him taking care of a mute girl and that he has traps set in the city that help him kill Terminators. He also gets Marcus to care about anyone outside of himself as Reese is always protecting the mute child Star. They are the heart of this as it is their resistance that keeps others going who are also trapped and they are why John Connor attacks Skynet so he can rescue them.

Blair Williams – Blair is a pilot who saves Marcus and is saved by Marcus and it is due to her rescuing him after the Resistance plans to kill Marcus that he becomes good. She is trusting and is one of the few good people in the world as we see her never seek to kill, only to protect herself and others. Moon Bloodgood does a great job.

John Connor – Christian Bale is fantastic as John! In him we see a man wrestling with his destiny while also trying to keep his humanity as people lose theirs all around him. He is desperate and paranoid but changes when Marcus shows him that not everything is as hopeless as it seems and people risk it all as in the end Marcus risks his life for John and John ends the film talking about the long fight ahead and how there is hope.

Marcus Wright – Marcus is a blank slate for a lot of the help as he just lashes out and is angry and full of guilt. That changes when Kyle Reese and Blair remind him that he has a second chance to be a better person and he takes it and becomes a protector, even protecting the Resistance who tried to kill him and torture him. In the end he finally gives his life to save John too as he found his purpose for having a second chance at life. Sam Worthington does a good job. In the end redemption means death for him. As it turns out the entire film he’d been seeking redemption for the crimes he’d been killed for.

The Cons: The Resistance Leaders – They mostly yell and tell John Connor “no.” They are just there to show that the leaders have lost their humanity so when the Terminators find them using their own weapon against them I didn’t mind. They were just there to be a threat to John Connor and not actual characters.

Meaningless Minor Characters – John Connor’s wife Kate and his second in command Barnes are just kind of there. They are there to hate on Marcus for being a cyborg and that is about it. They could have been replaced by anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered, which is a shame as they are connected to John and I wanted to learn why and what their relationships to him meant.

Skynet and Marcus’s Free Will – Skynet tries to get Marcus to kill John and tells him he was a plant, but he was a plant with free will so it just ends up being a stupid plan. We see Dr. Kogan who was one of the early creators of Skynet apparently but I never believed she had any hold over Marcus and him being a machine without free will was never established earlier. This was a weak thing that really brought down the film and kept it from being good.

Slow at Times – There are a few action scenes that drag, especially early on when Marcus is exploring the wasteland. The film could have been half and hour shorter and that would have made it a good film as the drag would not have happened.

Plot Armor – Kyle Reese is captured by Skynet at one point, I guess they didn’t kill him because they wanted John…but if they had just killed him John wouldn’t exist anymore. This was an issue I had as if Kyle was going to be captured it should have been at the end, the machines had him for days and did not kill him.

Gratuitous Nudity – At one point it is raining and Blair takes off her shirt. Marcus looks and that is the entire scene except him saving her from a rape later. Really? It is just poor storytelling and gratuitous sexualizing of a pretty cool character.

   This was an enjoyable film and for any fan of this franchise this has the heart an soul that “Terminator 3” never had. It still has issues such as Skynet and the Resistance leaders not being fully fleshed or feeling like real characters, and Blair’s gratuitous naked shot was annoying and is far too common in films…but the main characters work. I cared about what happened to Kyle Reese and John Connor and even managed to care about Marcus Wright so has sacrifice at the end to save John Connor actually meant something. When I return to this series it will be for “Genisys” and later a rating of the films from Worst to Best. So far it has been a good adventure.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Advertisements

“Supernatural” Season 10 Retrospect – Terrible Writing, Pointless Deaths, Dropped Arcs and Codependency Continues

Supernatural_Season_10_Poster_HD

    First I have to admit that “Supernatural” has always been a schlocky show, most of what has elevated has been ideas in fan fiction or fan induced subtext to relationships. Beyond that it is really a show that has depended far too much on the charisma of Jensen Ackles (Dean), Misha Collins (Castiel) and Mark Sheppard (Crowley) to carry it, and it shows. So often this show retreads old ground and doesn’t go anywhere new or when it does go somewhere new it doesn’t give any leadup so it feels like an idea that was pulled out on the spot in a list minute writers meeting (Leviathans, Souls as Energy Power, The Mother of Monsters, Demons as ex-humans, etc.).

        Honestly the show should have ended at the end of Season 5, I watched the Apocalypse arc (the filler annoys me most of the time) and that brought what had started in Season 2 or 3 to a close really well. It was complete and there wasn’t anything else that had to be done. At that point the show had gotten so popular though, and this is the CW we are talking about…so they kept it going and now we are where we are now with a Season 11 on the way.

SPOILERS AHEAD

      The series has been through a few showrunners with Eric Kripke in charge up until Season 5 followed by Sera Gamble for Seasons 6 and 7 and ending with Jeremy Carver who has headed the show to current day.

       The story of this season has been that Dean was turned into a Demon since he received the Mark of Cain and was killed and the Mark brought him back to life. This season has been dealing with the consequences of this, as well as how the human blood has affected Crowley in his becoming more human (and the arrival of his mother Rowena) and Sam and Castiel (mostly Sam) going to any means to get rid of Mark of Cain as they watch as it continues to make Dean more unhinged and violent.

The Pros: Dean and Crowley – The Season kicks off with Dean and Crowley having a roadtrip hitting up all the dive bars and drinking and talking while Dean usually gets laid or gets in fights and sometimes Crowley is a part of them. It’s a lot of fun and we see after that there is a friendship and respect there that wasn’t before. Even at the end of the Season, Crowley will always come through to help Dean because of that time they shared together and what they risked prior in getting the Blade to get there.

Castiel and Claire – This relationship is great as Claire and Castiel come to respect and enjoy being with another. Claire even goes into the Hunter business and forgives Castiel for taking over her Father and being his Vessel. These episodes had some really wonderful moments versus the Hannah moments which were okay, but seemed to be trying to hard to force a romance.

Dean and Charlie – Dean and Charlie are bros and it’s wonderful when they nerd out, talk women and life. Charlie has also become a Hunter like Claire and I get why her death would set Dean off. She was the one holding him accountable and holding onto hope, it’s one reason I didn’t believe that she would have backed Sam’s stupid “Book of the Damned” plan. R.I.P. Charlie, like Kevin and Ruby before you…the writers didn’t know how to write you and wasted what you brought to the show.

Dean and Castiel – I am a Destiel shipper and would love a romantic arc with these due to the sexual and romantic tension that often happens between these two. Sadly I don’t see the writers doing that. This season saw more of that with Castiel calling Dean out on his recklessness and how Dean embracing the mark is going to leave Castiel to deal with it for an eternity and Dean wails on him contrasted with Dean helping him out with Claire and being a good guardian to her.

Dean and Death – In the finale Dean and Death talk and they are in agreement that Sam needs to die. Death tells Dean the Mark is holding back the Darkness and that Lucifer gave it to Cain and that’s what corrupted Lucifer and that it is needed to prevent the end. Dean was okay with it until his codependency kicked in and the problems of “Supernatural” came out in full force.

Okay: Metatron’s Potential – Metatron becomes human and is human right now since Castiel took his grace, he brings Castiel back to his grace and is on the run with the Demon Tablet. Metatron has always been fun, I just hope he isn’t wasted and them keeping him around goes somewhere. Right now he is just potential.

Crowley’s Potential – Crowley has put himself out there but still hasn’t fully gone “good” or as much as he can. I’d like to see this happen, even if this ends in death. Mark Sheppard owns this role and he needs better writing as his arc with Rowena was wasted as she is just a terribly written character, doesn’t matter if she’s his mother.

The Cons: Filler – Too many episodes of pointless filler that does nothing for character relationships or growth or even compelling monsters. It is one thing that’s been killing the show for me for years and I’ve rarely been impressed.

Lack of Focus for an Antagonist – Rowena was an antagonist for a while but never felt like a threat, she was only a threat in how she could get Crowley to act stupid. She gets magic at the end but by then her potential was wasted as she had no real motivation. Metatron was an antagonist for a while but forgotten about, Dean was the antagonist for a while too and arguably should have been the antagonist this season, but they un-Demoned him and from there it was just him wrestling with anger. What a waste. Cain also could have fulfilled this role but they turned his potentially Season rampage into an episode where he rampages against his line and gets killed. Again, waste.

Killing Off Characters Pointlessly – This season we saw Cain and Charlie killed off, and with no point in their deaths either. Charlie didn’t die a hero and Cain could have been the main antagonist as his arc with him killing those descendant from him was interesting and compelling. He drove the story far more than any person this season did as an antagonist. Charlie was killed by the Stynes (Descendants of Frankenstein and into dark magic and using body parts to become stronger) they were in it for no point than to push Dean further to the edge by Fridging Charlie, when he already was on the edge. Her death was pointless and Felicia Day deserved a better exit, just like Cain.

   This has been a problem in the show too, with the death of Kevin, Jo, Ruby and countless other characters who are in most cases far more interesting than Sam and Dean.

Sam and Dean’s Codependency Dance – Dean kills Death because once again his brother is more important than the safety of the Universe. They’ve done this so many times that I’m not even going to list them here. If you’ve watched the show you’ve seen every little and big (killing Death) moment of this. It’s tired and old and way overdone. Character means change and these two don’t in regards to one another and dealing with the Apocalypse. Season 5 worked because Dean let Sam go and moved on and had a family. All of that was wasted when he came back and we had soulless Sam. Enough with this, just get rid of Sam and end this dance.

Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner – These two writers are terrible. At one point there was an Angel Civil War going on, they didn’t flesh out any of the players and just did random acts of stuff. They also were the ones who fridged Kevin and Charlie…they are not good writers and taking them out of the show as writers would vastly improve the writing and character arcs.

The Ending – The Darkness is like Leviathans all over again. Leviathans were so dangerous and predated God that he created Purgatory to trap them, the Darkness was around in the beginning and the Mark was created on Lucifer to keep them from destroying the Universe. Purgatory is opened after Castiel devours all the souls of Purgatory and they destroy him to be in the world…the Darkness breaks out when Rowena, Castiel, Crowley and Sam’s plan comes true and destroys the Mark letting The Darkness into the world and it devours everything with horrible CGI…episode ends, and this after Sam and Dean’s codependency dance where Dean spares Sam because baby pictures (really?) and he kills Death.

  Early in the Finale episode Dean talked about how trouble follows them and they cause trouble and maybe them leaving will make things easier. I agree, everything they’ve done has just made problems worse and they don’t have the maturity to admit that because self-righteousness. Dean even goes back for whatever reason and we see the same story that has played out since Season 6 (and earlier ones) played out again. There is no growth, no change…I was only watching for the side characters of Castiel, Crowley and Charlie in the end just like Kevin was a major reason I’d watched when he was still around. The brothers can’t carry this show as their dynamic doesn’t change. I don’t have hope for Season 11, I might watch sometimes for Crowley and Castiel but this season was just terrible and I can’t recommend it. It is more lost potential than can be fully quantified since it has been 10 years.

Final Score: 3 / 10.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985): Power Plays and Safeguarding the Future

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

      “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was enjoyable but not great. I think a big reason for this is there isn’t a clear antagonist a lot of the time, way too many child actors which changes the tone and takes a lot of the dark out, which this film has. The Feral Children even don’t fully feel like Feral Children. They speak like they had an education, these are some of the things that took me out of it, even though Rossitti’s, Turner’s and Gibson’s performances are phenomenal and the story is enjoyable for what it is.

The film was directed, produced and written by George Miller and also directed by George Ogilvie and also written by Terry Hayes.

The story involves Max’s (Mel Gibson) arrival in Bartertown searching for his stolen supplies fifteen years after the defeat of Lord Humungus. From here he is pulled into the power struggle for control of the town between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto). He is asked to kill Master’s bodyguard Blaster (Paul Larsson) but after being asked to kill him in the ring and learning that Blaster is mentally handicapped he calls out Aunty Entity and is kicked out of Bartertown where he ends up with a tribe of Feral Kids looking for a Messiah and must stop their delusions and save Master and Blaster from Aunty Entity.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a power struggle in a post-apocalyptic town that an outsider is pulled into is a cool one. I also like that the antagonists aren’t wholly good or evil. They are each despots in their own way and both have a sympathetic aspect to them which helps drive the story.

The Power Struggle – I really liked the power struggle between Master and Aunty Entity. They are both compelling characters with Master being a small person who is best friends with a mentally handicapped man who is super strong who is his protector and helped him build the machines that provide energy to Bartertown, and there is Aunty Entity who controls the trade and is the law of the town and wrote the strange rules that govern the location and keep the populace sated in their blood lust. She wants Blaster taken out and Max almost fulfills it until he sees that Blaster was never evil nor Master wholly bad which leads to his exile as Aunty Entity takes over.

The Action – The action of course is fantastic! The most memorable action being the chase at the end where Aunt Entity’s forces are chasing Master, the Feral Children and Max who are on a train as they attempt to surround it and take it out and later when all except Max make it onto a plane and Max once again takes on the hoard giving the good characters time to escape and make a future.

The Characters – I liked the characters in “The Road Warrior” more, partially because they were just so much more compelling to see and there was more you could read into them. Here is is pretty concrete and depends too much on tropes, especially with the Feral Children not speaking like Children which took me out, besides the child actors, I did enjoy the characters.

The Collector – The Collector is the first we meet and he lets Max meet Aunty Entity after Max proves how dangerous he is. He is the one who measures and trades and is a slimy character. He is also connected to everyone in the town making him dangerous. We don’t truly see how dangerous though as Master and Aunty Entity take over once they are introduced. Frank Thring is great.

Blaster – Blaster is threatening and scary as long as you don’t see his face, but once his helmet is knocked off he is the most lovable character in the film and you see how deeply his friendship with Master runs as Master holds him when he is knocked out. He protects the kids too and has affection for Max for sparing his life. Paul Larsson is wonderful in this role.

Aunty Entity – Tina Turner owns this role and I wish she’d been given more to do than just lay down the law. She is in the final chase sequence but isn’t very smart as she unattaches the cart too early and Max rescues Master from her. She is honorable though and spares Max’s life as well as never actually killing him. She exiles him when he disobeys the laws of Thunderdome and she never kills Master as she wants to provide the energy so her people can live better. She is someone who was nothing before the apocalypse, but made the most of it to become the leader and ruler of Bartertown. She is the potential that exists in the new world, but also shows the ability of power to corrupt.

Master – Angelo Rossitto plays a character who is both bully and victim. We see him as a bully when he cuts the power before the attempt to kill Blaster by Max and later on we see him cradle Blaster and work with him in protecting the Feral children. He also salutes Max at the end for rescuing him. He is one of the brightest minds but he doesn’t do as much in his own escape as I would have liked. Gyro Captain used his machine a lot in the battle, while Master doesn’t use the Methane Factory much at all against Aunty Entity’s men.

Max – Mel Gibson is back and has “Braveheart” hair. When he arrives he is looking for the camels and supplies the Pilot stole from him but he is soon sidetracked when Aunty Entity hires him to take out Blaster. He succeeds but doesn’t kill Blaster and reveals her plan leading to his exile. From here he guides the kids out of their worship of the dead Boeing 747 pilot and through his fighting for them helps them bring about a better world, as Savannah the leader of the tribe mentions at the end. In this way his arc is similar to the arc “The Road Warrior” but with much less loss. Still great, but I hoped his character would change more. Maybe part of his point is his disconnect from others and sacrifice because he can’t live in any society? After watching more of the Franchise I’ll do an analysis of Max, might have to wait for the films after “Fury Road” though, no idea how that film and the future films will change him, if at all.

The Message – The message is safeguarding the future by dealing with the reality of people. The kids were the few good people left so Max risked everything to protect them, and with Master no longer being a bully they had a good person to guide them towards a new future. In this way he safeguards the future that the narrator and leader of the tribe expresses to us at the end. No matter how horrible the world may look, there are those worth saving who can make it better, and those people exist in each new generation.

Okay: The Ending – The action is great but their escape is too easy. The pilot who stole from Max has little to no reason to help them beyond survival and he changes from a selfish father to someone willing to risk everything for strangers. It struck me as too inconvienent and felt Spielbergian not like George Miller. Too whimsical and not enough crazy.

The Cons: The Feral Children – The Feral Children didn’t work. The idea of them worshipping a pilot who would return was cool and interesting but they didn’t talk like children. The Feral Child from “The Road Warrior” only barked, grunted and howled and it was only after he found civilization in the North that he could speak. This clashed with that, they felt fake and didn’t seem wild at all. The fact that none of them died also took me out, it just made Aunty Entity weak, especially after how the Humungus killed most of the cast from the last film.

The Pilot – He functions more as a plot device and is a different character from the Gyro Captain even though it is still Spence who played the Gyro Captain. He only exists so our heroes can make their escape. He is “The Eagles” of the Tolkienverse in this film and I wish they’d had a way to depend on their brains and working together to get out, especially since Master is supposed to be one of the most brilliant minds in this Universe.

The Tone – I really liked the dark tone that the movies have had, this one had moments of it but felt like a Spielberg film the moment we ran into the Feral Children Tribe as they were protected from all damage by virtue of them being kids and nothing bad happens to them. It took all the risk out of it and made it more of a family film, which clashed with the insanity, brothels and mortality of Bartertown.

This was a really fun film, though I have issues with how the Feral Children were handled and the tone though the power struggle and the main characters really carry the film for me. It is enjoyable and I would recommend this film, it was a lot of fun and though I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked “The Road Warrior” it is a fun different direction the series went in, even if I don’t like the direction (less death more child actors)…the world is still amazing. I am looking forward to “Fury Road.”

Final Score: 7 / 10

Sleepy Hollow – Season 2, Episode 12 – “Paradise Lost” – The Angel of Death

Sleepy Hollow Paradise Lost

“Sleepy Hollow” returns and at this point I’m not sure what to think about it. Suffice to say, I was impressed with most of the character beats this episode though, which I think is something “Sleepy Hollow” has always excelled at. Now the question is if they know what they’re doing since they ended part of the reason for the show’s existence last episode (preventing Moloch’s Apocalypse). I like the new character introduced though, and I’ll get into him later in the review.

“Paradise Lost” was directed by Russell Fine and written by M. Raven Metzner.

The premise of the episode is that we pick up where we left off. Henry Parish, the Horseman of War is missing and the Apocalypse has been averted. We skip forward 6 weeks to see that Katrina and the Headless Horseman Abraham are developing their relationship as she tries to save him and a new character arrives, Orion who was trapped in purgatory and is hunting down demons like Ichabod and Abbie. But all is not as it appears to be as we soon learn he holds other purposes for his vendetta against the Horseman of Death.

The Pros: Jenny Mills – She has a small role in this as helping find the demons and where they are located as well as organizing a night on the town, which is all wasted as we have Nick Hawley arrive and try to get back with her. I hate that this guy is still around on the show.

Ichabod Crane – Ichabod is great again as usual as Abbie is trying to help him integrate into a world where he no longer has to be a hunter. We see that hunting is his escape from not having to deal with his relationship with Katrina who is spending lots of time with Abraham and they both realize that they need to redefine their relationship in the end when Katrina saving Abraham is shown to be the right thing when Orion wants only destruction of all evil in humanity by any means necessary. He grows a lot in this episode.

Abbie Mills – Abbie is taken in by Orion when he appears and he gives her a charm in which she can use to call on him. They are both soldiers who have lost people to the war against Evil but Abbie soon learns that she is no zealot and works with Ichabod to save Abraham when she learns of Orion’s plans.

Orion – This angel is awesome and I hope we see more of him. He is the Angel of Death and whenever a city was destroyed in the past for being “sinful” he was the angel to do it. This is why he was locked in purgatory. He loses his weapon but is still a threat as gunshots and spirit weapons had no effect on him. Can’t wait to see where they take this character and explore Angels. Angels were one of the few good things about “Supernatural” and “Sleepy Hollow” generally has better writers.

Abraham / The Headless Horseman / The Horseman of Death – This guy is still just as prideful and angry, but like Illidan in Warcraft III he seems to genuinely love Katrina so much so that he will wait until she finds a way to make him human again and no longer the Horseman of Death. This shows depth but I still hope he stays bad, just like Henry Parish. War and Death are the best parts of this show since Moloch was shown to be a waste and I hope they aren’t wasted in turn. Also it was great that he killed Orion the first time around and almost did so again. This guy is someone you don’t mess with in a fight.

Okay: Katrina Crane – Katrina isn’t bad in this and we can see that guilt motivates her relationship with Abraham. She actually had a little depth this episode but I don’t really consider her good and she and Ichabod are still a bit naive when it comes to the Horsemen.

Detective Irving – Is alive? Maybe it was from Death’s power being released when Orion’s weapon got destroyed. Curious where this will go. I’m glad he’s back but that was sudden. God, Moloch was useless as a baddie.

The Cons: Nick Hawley – Guy is like nails on the chalkboard in every scene he is in. Can one of the demons or creatures out there just kill him already? He lends nothing to the script and is a contrived romantic interest.

This was a good start, and I’m hoping we see things get big again. I would not mine seeing more Heavenly Hosts and the Devil and have them go “Supernatural” in “Sleepy Hollow” fashion. I just don’t want them bogged down in Monster of the Week and trying to redeem everyone. Part of what makes Henry Parish and Abraham great is that they are complex villains, but still villains. If that is lost I doubt I will watch onward. This show needs good antagonists of which they are.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solid start.

Delicatessen (1991): A Surreal Exploration of the Desperate and the Strange

JDelicatessen poster

     “Delicatessen” is a great surrealist French film. The film by the directors’ own omissions said it was inspired by Terry Gilliam, and you definitely get that feel as Gilliam’s work is extremely surreal.  But, because it’s surreal it does make it a little harder to review, especially as the story functions as an ensemble story, so a few arcs get lots in the process of the exploration of different characters. This is the only thing that keeps the film from being great since the rest is very solid.

    “Delicatessen” was directed by Marco Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet who also wrote the screenplay along with Gilles Adrian and produced by Claudie Ossard.

     The story takes place in post-apocalyptic France in a rundown apartment where the Butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) sends a call out for help and kills whomever arrives in order to feed the tenants and keep the peace. Things change though when the former clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) arrives and the Butcher Clapet, his daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac) and tenants become charged by Louison, causing tension to rise as each knows that they all still need to eat and worry that the Butcher will choose them instead.

The Pros: The World – The apartment that the story takes place in has a wonderful dark humor to it. Everyone there has been driven mad by the world ending and it comes out in different ways…From a man harassing a woman to make her think she hears voices, to a deaf woman walking around with cans tied to her so she can be found, to the newest tenant who is a clown and the fact that most of them are cannibals. There are also the Troglodistes who are vegetarians living underground who take on missions for people who may them in corn.

The Humor – There are some great comedic moments in this film. From the butcher having sex and the springs springing in time to Louison painting and other people working around the apartment building. There is also a moment where it looks like Louison has been be-headed but you soon learn he was just preparing for a performance he was going to put on (made all the more ironic in how most people there want to eat him).

Cinematography – This film is beautiful in how it was filmed. The scenes are desolate and dark while at the same time keeping true to the name. Red is a common color showing that the Butcher is the one who keeps the peace and does it by murder and the tenants eating his kills. Even in desolation there is hope though as seen by how the Louison and Julie relationship is portrayed, showing romance in the dark. Darius Khondji did a great job.

The Butcher – Jean-Claude Dreyfus plays a wonderful mad man who reminded me so much of Sweeney Todd. He is a man who has embraced his madness but still has some good in him deeply buried. Sadly we only see that good in relation to his daughter but all that changes when he gives into social pressure to kill Louison, which in the end leads to him killing himself accidentally in his attempt to kill Louison. This was a tough role to do as he has to be terrifying and sympathetic, just like Sweeney Todd.

Louison – This actor was also in “Amelie” and Dominique Pinon was perfect in this role. He isn’t attractive but he is adorable and his face is the perfect face for a clown, as he has a wide mouth and his head is a little big. This in turn fits with the surrealist feel of the apartment and time and time again he shows the world around him kindness even when he rarely receives any. He is kind, though doesn’t think things through. We see his kindness in creating soap bubbles for the kids in the apartment and how he’ll listen to anyone but how he isn’t all that aware that everyone is a cannibal for the most part and when the mistress asks him to dance he does it without thinking about Julie which leads to Julie walking in on them. Regardless, he is a complex character and a fun character to watch.

Julie – Julie is shy but can be hard and driven when she needs to be. She is the only one who stands up to her father and is the one who tries to save Louison. She is haunted by what her father does and wants to live in a different world. Her greatest escape is through music and she is talented in it as well as being a much more active agent than Louison who is passive. Marie-Laure Dougnac is fantastic!

The Romance – Jean Pierre-Jeunet is one of my favorite directors and one of the few who can pull of romances well. He did it in “Amelie” and he does it here with Julie and Louison. They are both innocent in their own way and figuring things out as romance is so new to both of them. They act (Julie on her Cello, Louison as the clown) as a way to connect to themselves and others and from this their romance blossoms as they have respect for one another too. This is powerful and ends with Julie seeking to Troglodistes to save Louison from her father.

The Troglodistes – The Trogs are great. They are also insane, but good and run like a military operation who great fear the landdwellers as they live in the sewers. They have some great scenes with Julie and we see how desperate they are for supplies when she convinces them by telling them her father has corn in his room. This is enough to convince them to save Louison. They are the only good humans in this world besides Julie and Louison too.

The Flood and Final Scene – When the Butcher and tenants are trying to kill Louison he ends up flooding the bathroom and when the door is open all the water washes away the people trying to get to himself and Julie. It’s a great scene that symbolizes the washing away of the old mentality…and in the end there is a new beginning after the Butcher is gone as Julie and Louison play music on top of the apartment building.

Okay: The Other Tenants – Most of the other tenants don’t feel fleshed out. There is the working class guy whose grandmother gets eaten, the man who makes devices that create animal sounds (he is the one harassing the mad woman) and his son and also the mistress of the Butcher. None of them really change though, which is why I can’t put them as a pro. They are unique characters, but in an ensemble show characters must change to keep it interesting. Even surrealist stories still need an arc for their characters of some kind.

The Cons: Plot Holes – At one point the Butcher is thinking about redemption and how circumstances made him what he is based of what he heard Louison telling Julie. This is never picked up again and the next time he’s trying to kill Louison. The other major plot hole is Julie sees Louison dancing with the Mistress, but they never address it. Both these issues are never touched on again which makes the ending and final fight come on suddenly. This was a major con as they could have gone somewhere, the movie wasn’t long so this wasn’t left out due to lack of time.

     This was a really good film that I definitely recommend. It does have issues, like the plot holes but it is still a very fun ride and the cinematography and strangeness of the tenants make for some wonderful experiences. Jean-Pierre Juenet has done it again and after seeing this I want to see more of his films and more of the surrealist films from France and elsewhere in the world. This film was beautiful, even with the plot hole issues and it is worth checking out.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great in the end.

Interstellar (2014): Creating a Future

interstellar-imax-movie-poster

      We complete the First Sci. Fi. Movie Week with “Interstellar.” “Interstellar” is by no means the greatest film of the year, or the greatest science film I have watched…but it is great and a favorite. The themes it explores with humanity at the edge as explorers and as a dying species speak volume to problems that exist or could arise and the possibility of something more. The folks in charge of this did their research as well, of course there are science fiction elements since this is a fictional film, but a lot of how they present ideas are solid. I’ll get into more of what I mean in the assessment.

    The film was directed by Christopher Nolan who was also one of the writers and producers. His brother Jonthan Nolan was the other writer and the other producers were Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst.

   The premise is the not so distant future where the death of crops has turned society into an agrarian society with limited means. This has lead to extreme environment devestation and dust storms are a usual occurrence. In this world former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is raising his children with their grandfather (), after tracking a strange occurrence he stumbles on the last of NASA who have a plan for discovering a new planet to settle since Earth is dying. He decides to take the mission, and the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – “interstellar” is a beautifully visual film. Be it the desolate wasteland Earth is becoming, or the Black Hole that they pass through or any of the different worlds…each feels large, unique and powerful. Hoyte van Hoytema really did an astounding job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful and great. It is Hans Zimmer so it makes sense. My one issue with it was sometimes it was difficult to hear the dialogue because of how loud the music could become. The techno rhyme throughout the film gave it a very real high science fiction feel though and Zimmer is once again amazing.

The World – The world is rich in this Universe. From Earth being a dying world where climate is making crops unsustainable, to a planet of Water, a planet of Ice and the planet Amelia settles and how Space is shown as well as Cooper’s Station at the end. It is a Sci. Fi. Universe that feels real and close enough to our own to inspire us to try and make that reality (the good parts anyway).

The Science – We are presented different scientific concepts that strengthen the film. From the bend of space and time in regards to Black Holes or theoretical wormholes would work, to planets with greater gravity where time is faster or slower than on Earth. These ideas haven’t really been tackled all that well in modern cinema (that I can think of) except this film.

The Main Cast – The main cast is fantastic. I’ll get into the details of the characters and their arcs next, but I found the drama rich and the dilemmas real.

Amelia – This is not Hathaway’s greatest role as her motivation is one of the simplest ones…to find her boyfriend. She has other aspects to like love of exploration but when it comes down to the final choice that is her focus and is part of what leads to her ending as she heads off to Edmund’s planet at the end. Hathaway does a good job with what she’s given though, and she does survive.

Tom Cooper – Is the son who becomes stuck in the mindset of the dying Earth as he has lost children but refuses to leave as his home is all he has left. When Murphy calls him out on it he asks he never come back again leading to her burning his crops and attempting to save his children. He is the one whose scars are the most blatant after Cooper left as he sends his father a video of him saying good-bye. He moves on and becomes a part of the world destroying himself and his family. Casey Affleck does great.

Doctor Mann – Matt Damon plays a character who has gone mad and sees the only end because of how Doctor Brand used him. He wants humanity to die because he’s stared into the abyss and seen only humanity’s destruction. He nearly succeeds too and it’s only due to TARS, Amelia and Cooper that he doesn’t. His story is a tragedy as he had to live alone with his fears on a strange world with no way of getting back and knowing he was sent to die…all he had was sorrow.

TARS – Is the Artificial Intelligence that travels with them. TARS is pretty cool as it has personality and wit and the ability to make choices and withhold information. It builds a relationship with Cooper by the end and saves Cooper and Amelia a few times. I like it’s design as it’s like dark metal Tetris cubes all put together, and the voice is human but alien sounding. Glad that it survives the film.

Professor John Brand – Michael Caine’s character is the one who sets everything in motion and who didn’t have all the answers. In this way he was sending the crew off on a suicide mission which Murph finds out later as he’s on his death bed. She takes up her father’s and Brand’s work and makes sure he doesn’t die in vain as all of his character drive is for the salvation of humankind. He’s idealistic, flawed and very human.

Donald – John Lithgow play’s Cooper’s Father-in-Law and is our glimpse into the past/our present as he talks about everyone owning electronics and devices and how people get anything. His view is a reaction to this as he is fine with the way things are and values being a farmer and having a family. He’s let go of the past and moved on.

Murphy Cooper – Murph is our main protagonist on Earth as she joins Brand’s team to try and find a way to get off of Earth or reach the team that went through the Black Hole. We see that even as a young child she is curious and really attached to her dad as she is unable to talk to him after he leaves and only talks to say that he isn’t there when he said he would be. Resolution is reached in this as she works with her dad to solve the equation that makes colonizing space possible and finding her Dad. In end they meet and she’s an old woman, but they are finally at peace. The Coopers saved the human race. I really liked her character.

Cooper – Cooper is the one who is reluctant, but goes when he learns how bad Earth is getting since it would be the last chance he has to save his kids. His story is sad as his actions destroy his relationship to his son and for his daughter for a lot of her life. In the end all he has is the mission until the Black Hole placed by the Future humans gives him a way to communicate the equation or Murph which leads to his eventual rescue and the colonizing of the Solar System. He is there as his daughter dies and in the end takes off to go and search for Amelia as he fixed TARS who he became friends with and the adventure is all he has left. It’s bittersweet but awesome as it captures the essence of his character and how living his dream…no matter how costly it was, shaped him to forever be that explorer.

The Messages – There are a few messages in this film, the greatest of which is our ability to create a future. The Black Hole that’s a Wormhole was created by us to make certain that we would have a future in the first place. We see this in how Murph working with her father through space and time is able to figure out the code which makes human colonization of space possible and we see it in how TARS, Amelia and Cooper work together to get the ship back and stabilize it after Mann attempts to destroy it and in the afterword where we see people worked together to create Cooper Station off of Murph’s vision.

Okay: Red Shirts – There are two crewmen who die, but they are so unmemorable that they aren’t really worth mentioning. There’s the one who knows the science and math who Mann kills and the other guy who dies on the water planet because Amelia tries to do the mission to the point of stupidity and puts them all at risk. Their deaths only exist to raise the stakes, so they are at least successful at that.

The Cons: The Beginning – I really didn’t like the beginning. It was showing interviews with old people who are implied to be the people we’ll be seeing (and we do) and this shows that everyone lives. We don’t know how the characters live, but they live. This takes away from what could have created good tension, since there already is so much tension in the film.

Doctor Mann’s Story – I wish we could have got more of his story…be it from Professor Brand, who was his friend…or more of his story when we meet him and find out he’s an antagonist. I get why he is mad but I still don’t fully get it…What was his life on Earth like? We know how Amelia’s and Cooper’s life was, why not Mann?

   This was a great film and a wonderful way to end the First Sci. Fi. Movie Week. I highly recommend this film if you like Nolan, High Concept Science Fiction and space travel as it executes all of these really well. The minor characters don’t get justice done to them, but the main is given good exploration in what motivates them and in how they relate to one another.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10. A few things could have got more exploration, and I would have cut out the spoiler beginning.

Sleepy Hollow – Season 2, Episode 11 – “The Akeda” – Where Will It Go From Here?

Sleepy Hollow The Akeda

“Sleepy Hollow” has just put itself into a bit of a predicament after this episode. Without giving away spoilers (That’s for the assessment) they just changed things drastically and shook up the game. Where this goes remains to be seen but I’m a bit worried. Much of what gave “Sleepy Hollow” strength was it’s Myth arc and unless another Myth arc comes in to continue down the path of the Apocalypse (and are we going to be preventing them every half season now?) I’m not sure what this show can do, or if the writers know what they’re doing given the choices they made this episode.

“The Akeda” was written by Mark Goffman and directed by Dwight Little.

The premise is Moloch has risen and it’s up to the Team (Abbie, Jenny, Ichabod, Katrina and Nick) to stop him after Abbie and Ichabod save Katrina from the Headless Horseman who tells them Moloch’s plot as he expects victory. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Jenny – Jenny gets Nick to help and we see her as a major fighter when War and Moloch’s demons arrive. I really like her character and hope we see more of her later. She’s tough.

Ichabod – Ichabod rides a motorcycle with Abbie and wants one after. This was a fun comedic moment at the beginning and we see him willing to lay down his life for everyone but accept their sacrifice too since they choose to fight and die to stop Moloch. This was a huge growth moment for him as it happened after Irving had died defeating War’s Avatar. We also see him call out Katrina on her lies and their relationship ends. Curious to see where this will go as their identities have been so tightly wound in this series. Ichabod also stands strong against Henry which leads to Henry killing Moloch because he is unable to kill Ichabod.

Abraham / The Horseman of Death / The Headless Horseman – He is still very close to Katrina and takes responsibility for trying to take away her free will in the ritual. You can tell that he still cares greatly for her though is super dark and a bad guy (reason Moloch was able to convert him). With Moloch dead I wonder what he will do, especially if he can be with Katrina and not have to worry about Ichabod.

Abbie – Abbie is the one who calls Ichabod out on his martyr complex and says that this is tied to all of them. This leads to her being the first to carry the sword and also she ends up being right about Katrina and Ichabod was too trusting.

Detective Irving – Orlando Jones…you will be missed. His character escaped from the asylum and is able to carry the sword of Methusela since Henry has his soul. This leads to him defeating Henry’s Avatar of War but dying in the process. I wish he could have stuck around, at least he makes Jenny promise to look over his family. Why couldn’t it have been Katrina or Nick? Irving was one of the most active characters an Orlando Jones was one of the best parts of the show. RIP Irving.

Henry / Horseman of War – Henry realizes in this that he meant nothing and is expendable according to Moloch. This leads to him capturing his parents and Team Abbie and Ichabod but not killing them as no matter how much he hates them, Moloch’s words make him hate Moloch more. With the sword he kills Moloch and the episode ends. I don’t think Henry is good (most folks aren’t on this show) and I hope he still remains a threat since hate for Moloch does not mean love for his parents or humanity…and besides Abraham they are the best antagonists on the show and a big reason I watch. He’ll just need to rethink his plans. Still don’t want a redemption though, it would be far too contrived.

The Cons: Nick and Katrina – These characters are useless. Nick doesn’t care until his life is on the line and Katrina is loyal to the Horseman of Death and her marriage with Ichabod is dead. I could still see her do some interesting things with Abraham but with Ichabod, for all intents and purposes their story is dead. I get why Katrina’s alive, but Nick is unnecessary and shouldn’t be around. Wish he had made the heroic sacrifice instead of Irving. RIP Irving…Orlando Jones will be missed greatly.

Moloch – We finally see his face and he isn’t scary at all. He was much better with the flesh color and mask. Now he loos like a lesser Pied Piper. His raising his army was cool, bu he wasn’t very bright and got killed by Henry because he said Henry was nothing…dude you are a Demon Lord, feed others egos since that’s how you got them in your pocket in the first place. He was not very smart. So his death felt pointless as he did as a threat. War and Death are much more threatening this season.

There seems to be a theme going on now in televisions dramas where mid-season finals have to be big. This revealed how this can be bad as it leaves things pretty much done unless another big bad comes out of the already established bads or a new baddies comes along. The other problem is apathy as characters get killed for no reason since the end game of the Apocalypse hasn’t even arrived yet. Detective Irving defeated War’s Avatar but War still lives. Moloch is dead but the 4 Horsemen weren’t even present, only one was. What now? How they handle things going forward will be a big deal and the fact that they killed off one of the strongest characters on the show (while letting the weakest characters of Katrina and Nick live) doesn’t give me much hope in regards to that. Still, Season 1 was fantastic and so far this season is good but not great. Even this mid-season final could be described that way.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Was good because there was cost but now things are up in the air and the writers might not know what they’re doing…which means this could end up being the last good score for the series.